Listening Post #39

Monday 29th January 2018

1. Rejjjie Snow, Aminé, Dana Williams, KAYTRANADA – Egyptian Luvr

There’s something so phenomenally nostalgic about this song. You hear it and immediately you’re back somewhere – for me, I’m on a balcony last summer, nodding my head to some GoldLink and sipping on some fresh lemonade. KAYTRANADA, one of the most unique producers of the 2010s, brings his A-game, dripping the track in a smooth-as-butter funk that has you nodding from the first second. Rejjjie slides onto the beat with ease, opening with a throwback to the “breakdance and boogie” of 1971 before gliding through his equally smooth verse. Dana Williams’ hook fits perfectly with the gentle oohs and light claps of KAYTRANADA, adding to the mood before Aminé’s second verse. Of course, he shines just as bright, delivering some fantastic bars before fading into the warmth (“We parted ways like she cheated with Moses” is already one of my favourite lines of the 2018). This song is just so effortlessly smooth – give it a spin and let the summer roll on back.

2 + 3. Son Lux – No Crimes + Slowly

Chances are, you haven’t heard of Son Lux. You’ve probably heard one of their songs, though. They’ve been afflicted with what I’ve begun to call Son Lux Syndrome, where other artists continually elevate their careers with a band’s material, without letting the band share the spotlight. Look at Halsey’s Hold Me Down – the beat is a simple, unaltered cut and paste of Son Lux’s Easy. Likewise, have a listen to Fall Out Boy’s Fourth of July, then Son Lux’s Lost It To Trying. These examples are emblematic of one of sampling’s greatest problems: for most, Halsey and Fall Out Boy add nothing to the songs, replacing interesting horn sections and phenomenal haunting vocals with bland pop. Yet it’s the Halsey and the Fall Out Boy songs that become well-known and celebrated for their value – you’re unlikely to see Son Lux’s name anywhere near the single cover.

So, with this week’s post I’d like to give some attention to a phenomenal group that truly deserves the spotlight. The first track is an old one – No Crimes. No Crimes may not be Son Lux’s most popular track, but it’s surely one of their greatest. The track begins eerily, before a pounding drum brings it to be one of the most exciting tracks the band has produced. This frantic energy transforms into pure power, with Ryan Lott’s unique vocals diving in and out as the track continually reaches new crescendos. No Crimes is an absolute masterpiece, and a criminally underrated track. The second track I’d like to promote is their latest single, Slowly. Slowly begins, well, slowly, with a warm synth giving the track its airiness. Lott’s vocals are more prominent here, pushing through the drums, guitars, and synths to deliver some incredibly emotionally-charged lyrics. This is all wrapped together by powerful silences, which allow the track to soar and settle over its 4-minute length. If you listen to anything new this week, make it Son Lux.

4. Drake – Diplomatic Immunity

When Drake releases, the world stops to watch. After one of the most successful pop runs in recent history, the industry titan has been relatively quiet since the early 2017 release of More Life. It’s about time for Drake’s return, and 2018 brought it. The smash hit God’s Plan has made waves, smashing streaming record after streaming record as it makes its way to the charts. In this hurricane of success, it’s easy to lose sight of Scary Hours’ other track – Diplomatic Immunity. It doesn’t feature soulful crooning, failed relationships or a dancehall-inspired beat. It’s a simple rap song. And it’s fantastic. While other rappers have trended towards radio appeal and instant consumption, Drake has laced Diplomatic Immunity with the one-liners that he’s been so sorely missing – “Billboard awards, I claimed 13 out in Vegas like Sureños” is a personal favourite. Don’t miss out.

5. Johnny Jewel – Digital Rain

If there’s one thing Johnny Jewel excels at, it’s crafting an atmosphere. His work on numerous soundtracks, alongside his storied career in groups such as Chromatics and Glass Candy, have produced in Jewel an exceptional talent for mood-making. On his latest LP, Digital Rain, this talent in on full display – Jewel’s creations effortlessly conjure up sentiment. While many of the tracks across this LP deserve the spotlight, the album’s titular opening track is a fantastic place to start. The track begins with cold, tinkling synths, slowly progressing into a digital soundscape akin to that of a videogame. But what truly elevates Digital Rain is its grandeur – amongst the punchier sounds hides a continually shifting mosaic of synths that soar, fall, and fizzle out.