NFL season is underway. NBA starts soon. MLB is winding down. Sounds like fall is here…but don’t you worry, we still have the last of what was a great summer in music. 19 picks from your favorite writers ranging a wide array of genres. What’s not to like?
Rundown: Nashville artist, REMMI, proves to be a dreamy artist with silky-smooth vocals. Chaz French stayed true to himself making music the way he wants to. gnash got fucked up. First time a London rapper has ever been on Best of? Congrats to Chip! Lostboycrow goes rogue this month with a dark release. RKCB continues the consistency in putting out music to flood your ears.
The surprise album drop has been a popular trend for the past couple of years. I think the concept is a boatload — maybe ever many boatloads — of fun. The problem is it often keeps music media in the dark, and music media doesn’t like being in the dark. This forces them to speculate a lot. As a result music media has been flat out wrong more this year than any other year in its history.
How many times recently have you seen Pitchfork or Fader report false information and then apologize for it? The answer is way too many times, but the media is a reflection of the people. We are the worst speculators of all. We are constantly speculating on Twitter — like 24/7. It’s all we do. Bro, one of Drake’s… friends… instagrammed… fake artwork of a Drake-Future collab, and people lost their shit. Now, that rumor happened to be true, but as this constant speculation transforms into obsession, it becomes a totally unhealthy behavior.
Speculators is a 21-track tape. The original idea for the tape came from 19th century oil speculation à la There Will Be Blood. Somewhere along the way it morphed into the rant above. With this tape I made an effort to include more indie rock songs, like the older Tape Tuesdays.
There are so many discoveries on this one. I hope you take the time to listen.
Now I could die today and the world won’t change, so I’m not ready
Providence, RI isn’t exactly a hip-hop hotbed, but when you have MCs as gifted as Khary you only need a few to get on the map. His Swim Team EP dropped last year, and Khary turned heads with his outstanding wordplay and top notch production.
His latest single, “Ambidextrous,” premiering right here on Sunset in the Rearview, proves that the artist formerly known as Khary Durgans has only gotten better since then.
Over a deconstructed jazz beat, Khary spits quotable after quotable, showing off not just his writing ability but also his skilled delivery and songwriting talent.
The instrumental from Tedd Boyd is understated in the best way, providing Khary the perfect backbone to shine on the mic.
A pure rapper with charisma to spare, Khary is gearing up for the release of his next record Intern Aquarium that is sure to be another win for the captain of the swim team.
Check out the lyrics to “Ambidextrous” after the jump. Trust us, you don’t want to miss a line.
I like to think all great ideas are born from a spark of inspiration and that we all have mentors or people to thank for our accomplishments. For many of us, it might be our parents, who afforded us the opportunity to dream. For others, it might be a friend who encouraged you to do what you love. For many artists, it’s artists who came before them and crafted sounds that inspired their art.
As much as I love searching for new music, I’m a firm believer in slowing down and listening repeatedly to the music that you love the most. Have a playlist of your all-time favorites and play that on repeat (mine is always growing, it lives here*). Learn about artists from the past who might have inspired modern day sounds you love (recently I watched a documentary called 20 Feet From Stardom, definitely recommend watching that). Do some research on the artists who have inspired your favorite artists of today.
The artist I’ve loved getting to know the most during the time I’ve run Sunset is Chance the Rapper. I’ve written countless stories, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. about my love for Chance and his music. He’s a perfect example of an artist who inspires me to take a break from hunting for new music. Most Thursday mornings on my way to work I’ll turn on some hip-hop music to get myself excited for what’s arguably one of the best days of the week. It tends to be Chance I’m listening to on repeat.
In the spirit of learning more about inspiration, and because I can’t get enough of Chance, I dug a little deeper into many of the songs that Chance has sampled. I have this idea in my mind of artists and producers finding a neighborhood record store and spending a full afternoon dusting off old records, putting them on the turntables, and listening for inspiration in some classic pieces. That could or could not be how it actually happens, but no matter the method, I think it’s just as important to learn about and understand wheresounds in the songs you love come from as it is to interpret the words and stories they’ve pieced together. So I’ve put together this Spotify playlist below that features songs Chance has sampled in his portfolio of songs on 10 Day and Acid Rap. Hit the jump for a tracklist that maps the samples to Chance’s original songs.
*Note: many of my favorite songs are not on this playlist because they’re not yet available on Spotify. Almost all of Chance’s music would be on here if it could be.
If you haven’t heard of High Rule yet, it’s time you familiarize yourself. We’re living in a time when artists need to do whatever they can to make themselves stand out. The landscape is crowded and competitive, so any unique spin helps groups gain recognition and familiarity. High Rule found their niche in blending harmonious pop vibes with electronic and hip hop.
The duo is made up of Seis and Buoy, two friends who grew up in the same hometown and met in elementary school. They bonded at a young age over a video game, The Legend of Zelda, which features a world called Hyrule, which is the origin of their name High Rule. They started making music together in college at Wisconsin, and after graduation they moved to Chicago and began down the 3 year path of developing their brand, style and sound that we’re hearing today. “Lowkey” is their fifth single to release as a group. Their debut single, “Touch,” was a huge success, earning itself a feature on Spotify’s popular New Music Tuesday (or shall I say Friday?) playlist and peaked at #2 on their Global Viral 50 Chart earlier this year.
“Lowkey” is a self-produced song about a closeted relationship in which each verse tells a different side of the story. There’s one person who wants to keep things under wraps and another who wants to celebrate love. Seis is on the verses and Buoy brings the story together on the hook, crooning “Shh, I want you lowkey.” Sonically, I love the blend of sounds in this song. My favorite part is the background harmonies in the beginning of the song (right around the 0:30 mark). The soft layering warmly lures you into the track, which then breaks down into a simple baseline beneath vocals that tell an alluring story that many of us may relate to in the modern world.
Hit the jump for the lyrics, and download the track via the SoundCloud widget.
There was a time when female pop stars were practically assembly line products, and the mere existence of a teal-haired, college-educated singer who writes her own tracks would have been noteworthy. But today, the field has more dynamism and diversity than ever. So if it isn’t her appearance or even her story that makes Phoebe Ryan a standout, then what is it?
To find the answer, one doesn’t need to look any further than the song that made her a star in the first place: her combo cover of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” and Miguel’s “Do You…” The track pushed her into the national consciousness, showcased her sheer creative prowess and even got a hat-tip from the Pied Piper of R&B himself.
“I was out at dinner and my manager showed me his phone for a second and I saw that R. Kelly tweeted it and called it a ‘gem’ and I started crying in the restaurant,” Ryan gushed.
The two songs blend together perfectly over producer Kyle Shearer’s tasteful flip of Kesha’s “Animal,” but it’s Ryan that really sells it. In the hands of a less talented artist, the track would’ve come off as a gimmick, but she owns every bar. You don’t even smirks as she sings, “Runnin’ her hands through my ‘fro bouncin’ on 24’s,” because once the verses kick in the record simply stops being a cover.
On her original tunes, she boasts an accessibility and self-awareness which proves undeniably endearing. Songs like “Dead,” and “Mine” were highlights of her Mine EP because of their duality. The sound is synth-heavy and shimmery – it’s quintessential radio-ready pop – but the lyrics are earnest and genuine.
“I’ve made mistakes, been dishonest/Self-estranged, did what I wanted/I was a fake, I slept just the same/I’m not a saint, no, I’m not a saint,” Ryan opens with on “Dead,” and the lines flow so smoothly it takes a few listens to get their true, darker gist.
That’s the power of Phoebe Ryan, and we owe her rise to musical prominence in part to the higher education system.
Ryan’s story, like so many other aspiring singers, begins in New York, though from there it takes a bit of a left turn. She didn’t arrive starry-eyed and start banging on record label doors. Instead, Ryan enrolled in NYU’s prestigious Clive Davis program to learn audio engineering.
“I think in my heart I always knew that I wanted to be a recording artist, but at the same time I just was really open to learning everything I could possibly learn and soaking up information I couldn’t get from anywhere else,” she said.
While her classmates were aspiring to a life behind the boards, Ryan had designs on a career behind the mic. She joined bands, and “played pretty much every venue you could think of in New York except for Madison Square Garden” as an undergraduate, soaking up plenty from the city outside the classroom.
“Just living in a huge city where you’re a very small person, and there’s a lot going on, you’re kind of at the whim of everything else that’s happening around you. There’s something powerful about that, I think,” she said.
Along the way, she picked up a few writing credits for acts like Oh Honey and Tritonal, and actually left school more focused on penning others’ tracks than crafting her own. However, that didn’t stay the plan for long, as irony intervened and “Ignition/Do You…” spread like wildfire across the digital grapevine, attaining No. 1 status on Hype Machine along the way.
After that, the snowball started rolling. She inked her deal with Columbia, dropped Mine and performed at Bonnaroo all in less than three weeks. Understandably, Ryan still sounds a little stunned by it all, especially playing one of the nation’s biggest stages despite never even having attended a music festival before.
“I was so nervous to play just because when I was in the little backstage tent and I was like, ‘No one knows who the hell I am, there’s going to be like twelve people standing way far back. It’s going to start raining I’m going to be depressed about it,” Ryan confessed. “But I got on stage and there was a little sea of people, and it was like one of the bigger crowds that I’ve played to. It was just amazing.”
Ryan’s currently on tour with Say Lou Lou, and said that while performing her music is still quite fresh, she’s been able to find some zen and comfort on stage.
She’s focused on writing original tunes right now, but won’t rule out a return to the cover well, either.
“I feel like covers have been so important, just throughout history, they’re the best things ever, everyone loves a cover. I’m definitely not opposed to doing more…,” she said. “…Right now it’s just Phoebe Ryan, but you never know.”
After running through her background, creative process, and reaction to all her recent success, there was only one question left to ask Ryan: What’s the story behind the hair?
“I had never done anything before with my hair, I’d never even gotten highlights. It just overcame me, I was like, ‘I need to change something about myself, I need to try something new.’ I don’t know if I was going through some sort of early 20s crisis, but it just happens,” she said.
What was a spur of the moment, post-grad decision may well become the visual calling card for one of 2015’s brightest, and most gifted breakout stars.
Check out Ryan on tour:
Adelaide’s own Tom Gaynor, better known as Allday, has been a mainstay in Australian hip-hop since 2012. The 24-year-old rapper recently signed with the U.S.-based Wind-up Records and released his 7-track Soft Grunge Love Rap EP for free download. We had the pleasure of chatting with Allday, as we discussed his brief stint as a stand-up comedian, his breakthrough single “You Always Know the DJ,” and the new EP, which is one of our favorites of the year.
31 days up, and 31 days down. Per usual, the team over at Sunset has gotten together to bring you the best new songs to be put out in August. Phenomenal list, as always!
Highlights this month:
Kygo released not one, but two random piano tracks. Chance The Rapper made an appearance this month. Skizzy Mars keeps on releasing dope remixes. Oh, he also hopped on his buddy, Allday’s “Grammy.” Oh, Be Clever flexed their muscles with their latest release, “River.” The recent out pour of Gallant’s “Weight in Gold” remixes is intimidating, but we decided to give you a standout from Sweater Beats. Sol dropped some wise knowledge on us.
Hit the jump for the Soundcloud stream and download!
Let Civil Twilight’s Steven McKellar tell it, and the worst thing a band can do is let things get too complicated. Unfortunately, midway through recording their third studio album that was exactly where the South African band was. Cutting track after track, they couldn’t find a sound suited for sculpting a record around.
“You should hear the other demos that we’ve made, you’ll have a five-minute song that’s like six different musical styles,” McKellar joked. “You’ll go to the bridge and it’ll be a jazz-fusion breakdown and then the chorus is a slash metal thing, it’s all over the place.”
As the writing process wore on, the band, comprised of McKellar, his brother Andrew, Richard Wouters and Kevin Dailey, found themselves consistently circling back to one rough, soulful track that began with skittering hand drums and flashes of guitar, before opening up to sweeping synths and guitars that gleamed like an unobstructed horizon.
That record, “Story of an Immigrant,” wound up being not only the title track for their third full-length, which was released by Wind-Up Records in July, but also the project’s inspiration.
That a South African band now living in Nashville (humorously McKellar described as a “…land of milk and honey where the rents are cheap and the beers are cheap”) would make an album called Story of an Immigrant might seem almost too on the nose, but the meaning is not as literal as appears.
“[It’s about] where we’ve came from, the journey that we’ve taken to get here, what it means to be an immigrant. Not just within borders or physically, but just people when you’re trying to discover a home or a place of comfort and peace,” McKellar explained.
It’s been three years since Civil Twilight released Holy Weather, a solid album that is much darker than the rest of the band’s discography. It’s very of-the-moment, fitting in perfectly with other strong, yet sullen indie rock releases like Local Natives’ Hummingbird or Half Moon Run’s Dark Eyes.
“The second record’s got this feel of vagrancy, and timelessness to it. Like we’re vagabonds roaming, this one’s a bit more stable,” McKellar explained.
A lot of that, he says, came from the writing process. Where Holy Weather was written on the road out of necessity, the band made a concerted effort to get back to their roots on the new album, composing and recording as a unit in a stationary location. That openness is felt throughout the album, and is a major reason why Story of an Immigrant is Technicolor to its predecessor’s grayscale.
According to McKellar, a lot of the cohesion can be chocked up to the addition of Dailey, who they’d played with in the past. Dailey wrote a lot of what ended up on the album, and also brought a self-awareness that was instrumental.
“On a social level he brought in a sense of humor, reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously and just to have fun,” said McKellar. “…The style of his writing is from a place that I felt like I couldn’t get back to anymore, and it helped me as a songwriter get back there. That’s sort of the theme, is getting back to the old thing.”
One of the tracks that Dailey contributed is “Love Was All That Mattered,” the album’s ghostly acoustic closer. It’s the furthest sonic left turn on Story of an Immigrant, as synths sweep across the soundscape like a stiff breeze while McKellar reflects wistfully on a past relationship gone awry.
“It’s a sad song, but it’s got elements of hope to it,” said McKellar, who noted that it was the first song he’d recorded without writing the lyrics. “I think we wanted to end with that song because it wasn’t like going out with a bang, it was like leaving a little question mark.”
While “Love Was All That Mattered” is a solemn exit note, the rest of Story of an Immigrant beams with joy and a welcome sense of relief. “When, When” has shades of Vampire Weekend’s “Everlasting Arms,” and with its frenetic production and scratchy guitar showcases Civil Twilight at their freewheeling best.
Elsewhere, “Holy Dove” harnesses some of the harsher energy of Holy Weather into a hard-driving anthem, and the hook bursts to life in a way that practically forces you to stomp your feet and nod your head.
Front to back, Story of an Immigrant is a confident, infectious record that showcases Civil Twilight’s comfort with not only their place in music, but also as artists themselves. The album is a testament to the power of cohesion and simplicity, which McKellar believes are two of the most fundamental aspects of keeping your head above water in the music world.
“For me a band’s not anything if the members aren’t loving each other, it doesn’t mean anything. I hate seeing bands like that, that get up on stage and don’t even want to acknowledge each other,” he said. “[It] shouldn’t get any more complex than four dudes playing music together.”
Elderbrook is a U.K.-based singer-producer who has been churning out stellar minimalist indie electronic tracks for the past year. With sharp lyrics, an engaging baritone and production that thrives on live sounds, he’s crafted two tremendous EPs, 2014’s Simmer Down, and Travel Slow, which came out today.
We got the chance to speak to the university student-turned-boundary-pushing musician in the week leading up to Travel Slow’s release about his musical background, love of folk music, and creative process.
We already gushed over “Good Enough,” the second track released from the EP, and the whole project is absolutely stellar from start to finish. If you enjoy Fyfe, Jamie Woon, Jamie xx or any kind of smart, well-produced downtempo music Elderbrook is surely a name to watch.
You can stream Travel Slow below:
I used to have a friend named Paul. I used to always joke about having crazy, wild sex with his mom. I haven’t spoken with Paul or seen his mom for about six years. Two days ago I moved into my new apartment. We were playing music pretty loudly and heard a knock on the door. It was Paul’s mom. It turns out she lives below us and wanted to complain about the noise. We exchanged numbers and told her to let us know if we’re being too loud. The Internet guy says we should text her and complain about her being noisy even though she is not noisy. He also suggested we shit in front of her door. Anyway. This was the song that was playing when we got the noise complaint.
Familiarize yourself with some of Nic.‘s other tracks.
So, in case you missed it, Meek Mill decided to take a shot at (instead of with) Drake. Why? Who the hell knows. Maybe it’s because Drake and Nicki have been linked together in the past (Meek and Nicki are dating)? Maybe it’s because Drake is jew-ish? Maybe it’s because he pretended to be in a wheelchair for so many television years? Or maybe it’s because Drake didn’t buy Meek’s new album (in stores now, go out and cop it before shots are coming your way). Whatever the reason may be, Meek was thirsty. Some think it might of simply been a terribly thought out PR move. Again, who the hell knows, and I’m at the point of this. Even WWE got involved in the beef and took Drake’s side (sidebar: I’m a closet WWE freak). Hit the jump to figure out what exactly happened.