Now, throughout the the bulk of this site’s eight year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed New York-based dance music outfit Escort,which features their indomitable frontwoman and bassist Adeline Michele, and as you may recall she released a solo album a few years ago — but her forthcoming self-titled, full-length effort slated for a November 9, 2018 release is something of a reset button; in fact, the Morgan-Wiley-produced “Emeralds” found the Escort frontwoman’s sound moving towards slinky 80s Quiet Storm-inspired synth soul reminiscent of Prince and others, centered around a sinuous bass line and Adeline Michele’s sultry vocals.
“Before,” the self-titled album’s latest single is centered around a funky, disco-like bass line, twinkling keys, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and Adeline’s effortless and self-assured pop superstar vocals — and while the song sonically nods at Chaka Khan and Rufus‘ “Ain’t Nobody,” Mary J. Blige’s “Be Happy,” Patrice Rushen‘s “Feels So Real” and classic Chicago house music, it possesses a soulful and disco-like ecstasy.
Comprised of founding member, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mathew Ajarapu, Khayle Hagood (bass), Khori Wilson (drums) and Cam Cunningham (guitar), the Chicago, IL-based soul outfit The Devonns (pronounced De-Vaughns) can trace their origins to when Ajarapu dropped out of med school, and found himself unemployed and aimlessly drifting through his life. As the story goes, at the time, Ajarapu was listening to music constantly and found himself drawn to the classic soul sounds of the late 1960s-early 1970s, best known for steady grooves, carefully crafted songwriting, impeccable production and gorgeous arrangements.
While sonically and aesthetically drawing influence from the work of The Impressions, Leroy Hutson, The Bar-Kays, Carole King, Raphael Saddiq and Jamie Lidell, the band’s primary focus was on exploring the elements of songwriting, arrangement and production made popular from about 1965-1973 or so. The act’s debut single “Come Back” was released earlier this year through Italian soul label Record Kicks Records — the label home of Hannah WIlliams and the Affirmations, Marta Ren and the Groovelets an others, and was reportedly written in 10 minutes on a $300 Danelectro singlecut guitar. Recorded at Chicago’s Kingsize Sound Labs, the track features arrangements by Paul Von Martens, who has worked with Mavis Staples, Paul McCartney, and Elton John, and the guitar work and percussion of multi-instrumentalist Ken Stringfellow, who has worked with R.E.M. “Come Back” received attention across soul music circles, and building upon a growing profile, the Chicago-based soul act’s latest single “Think I’m Falling in Love,” is breezy and up beat track centered around a gorgeous string arrangement, a bluesy guitar line and a classic horn line, and while the song and its arrangement is heavily y indebted to Smokey Robinson, The Impressions and Leroy Hutson, the song also will remind some listeners of Mayer Hawthrone. According to the band’s Mathew Ajjarapu, “The song actually came to me pretty quickly; I was driving to work one day and suddenly the entire guitar lead riff popped into my head, along with the bass line and chords. I instantly knew it was kind of special.”
Currently, the band is in the studio with Paul Von Martens working on their highly anticipated full-length album, which will also be released through Record Kicks next winter.
With the release of their Basel Prize-winning Spagat der Liebe, the Swiss electro pop duo Klaus Johann Grobe, comprised of Sevi Landolt and Dani Bachmann quickly received national and international attention for a difficult to pigeonhole, genre-defying sound that meshes elements of electro pop, electronic dance music, komische and others while centered around slinky jazz fusion-like grooves. Adding to a growing profile, the duo with their live backing band have toured with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The Growers and Temples, and have made festival stops in the US, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Spain and their native Switzerland.
Interestingly, the Swiss duo’s forthcoming album Du Bist So Symmetrisch is slated for an October 26, 2018 release through Chicago-based Trouble in Mind Records — and the album reportedly continues in a similar vein as its predecessor. The album’s second and latest single “Discodanken” is a breezy arpeggiated synth-led track centered around a sinuous motorik groove and metronomic beats to create a hypnotic, dance floor friendly yet lysergic feel that brings to mind Vinyl Williams, Kraftwerk, Air and Phoenix; but with a retro-futuristic quality.
The recently released video by Jonas Baumann is equally retro-futuristic, featuring visuals that remind me quite a bit of the classic computer animated video for Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing,” but while also appearing like cells growing and attacking it other.
With the release of The Boy Who Spoke to the Wind, which landed at number 26 on Bandcamp Daily’s 100 Best Albums of the Year, the Chicago, IL-born, Los Angeles, CA-based emcee Lando Chill quickly received national attention for crafting hip-hop that freely encompasses elements of funk, gospel, jazz, indie rock, psych rock and folk music — although Boy Who Spoke to the Wind featured an even more abstract, experimental sound than his previous releases.
Lando Chill’s forthcoming album Black Ego is slated for an October 12, 2018 release through Mello Music Group, and the album continues the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based emcee’s ongoing collaboration with multi-instrumentalist and producer The Lasso. And interestingly, Black Ego’s first single features a lysergic take on West Coast-inspired hip-hop as its centered around a production consisting of shimmering hi hats, wobbling synths and thumping beats — and while trippy, it’s roomy enough to give Lando Chill, Quelle Chris and Rey the space to spit self-assured, swaggering bars. Sonically, the single bears an uncanny resemblance to Black Up and Lese Majesty-era Shabazz Palaces with a grittier vibe.
Born Thomas Wesley Pentz, Diplo is a prolific and acclaimed Los Angeles-based producer, DJ and electronic music artist. As a solo artist, he’s managed to see a fair degree of commercial success with 2013’s Revolution EP, which debuted at #68 on the US Billboard 200 — and the EP’s title track was later featured in a Hyundai ad campaign and on the WWE 2K16 soundtrack. Diplo is also known as the co-founder and lead member of the electronic dancehall project Major Lazer, and one-half of electronic music production and artist duo Jack U with Skrillex. And as a producer, the Los Angeles-based producer, DJ and electronic music artist has collaborated with M.I.A., Gwen Stefani, Die Antwoord, Britney Spears, Madonna, Shakira, Beyonce, No Doubt, Justin Bieber, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Trippie Redd, Chris Brown, CL, and G-Dragon.
Mark Ronson is a London-born and-based multi-instrumentalist, DJ, singer/songwriter and producer and although his debut effort, 2003’s Here Comes the Fuzz failed to make the charts, his sophomore effort, 2007’s Version landed at number 2 on the UK charts, thanks to the fact that the album had three Top 10 singles — and as a result, he won a Brit Award for Best British Male Solo Artist. Building upon a growing profile, 2010’s Record Collection peaked at #2 on the UK Charts.
Ronson also won Grammy Awards for Producer of the Year, Non Classical, Best Pop Album and Record of the Year for his work on Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and Back to Black. He also produced “Cold Shoulder,” off Adele’s critically applauded and commercially successful debut 19. And unless you’ve been living in a remote Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas, Ronson’s first UK and US #1 single was his collaboration with Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk,” and as a result of the single’s massive commercial success, Ronson won the Brit Award for British Single of the Year, as well as Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The London-born and-based producer, DJ, multi-instrumetanlist and singer/songwriter’s fourth full-length album Uptown Special was his first #1 album in the UK and peaked at #5.
Ronson’s and Diplo’s collaboration together Silk City can trace its origins to the duo’s long-time friendship, a friendship that dates back to the early 2000s. Their debut single “Only Can Get Better,” featuring Daniel Merriweather was released earlier this year, ahead of their Governor’s Ball set, and they’ve already made several other appearances across the international festival circuit with sets at Bestival and Treasure Island Music Festival among others. The duo’s second single “Feel About You,” a collaboration with Mapei was a slickly produced and soulful track with arpeggiated synths that subtly nods at Robin S’s “Show Me Love” — but with a clean, hyper modern sheen. The acclaimed duo’s latest single “Electricity” find them collaborating with multi-Brit Award-winning Albanian-British singer/songwriter and model Dua Lipa, and The xx’s Romy Madley-Croft and Diana Gordon, who co-wrote and contributed lyrics and melodies, and much like it’s predecessors, “Electricity” is a slickly produced, anthemic banger. However, the piano-led, hook-driven track draws from classic Chicago house, complete with an irresistible sensual ecstasy at its core.
Directed by production duo Bradley and Pablo, the recently released video for “Electricity” is set during the Blackout of 2003 and stars Dua Lipa, who hosts a loft party that contains so much sexual energy that it keeps the lights on in the apartment. Of course, two of the guests — guess who, y’all? — wind up being stuck in an elevator and completely missing the party.
Born to a Baptist pastor father and a gospel singing mother, Tolliver is a Chicago, IL-born, Los Angeles, CA-based electro R&B artist, who played in a number of Stax Records-inspired acts, including Black Diet, an act that received best new band nods from a number of publications and filmed a nationally syndicated PBS special at the end of 2014. Since then, the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based pop artist has been supporting himself by editing Mormon gay porn while his solo work — notably his solo debut EP Rave Deep received attention for focusing on late night partying, getting high and anonymous sex; however, his forthcoming EP Rites reportedly focuses on the sacred and the profane, capturing who had a deeply religious childhood and now is living in a sin-filled, ungodly present, and is tormented by his guilt.
Now, as you might recall earlier this year, I wrote about “I Gotchu,” an atmospheric and moody track that draw from gospel, neo-soul and jazz and centered around an aching expressing of guilt, shame and vulnerability that felt all too human and familiar. The EP’s latest single “Emmanuel” is centered around an atmospheric production featuring fluttering, arpeggiated synths and Tolliver’s aching falsetto soaring over the production — and in some way, the song expresses and evokes a longing for someone and something just out of reach and perhaps in some way forbidden.
Much like the visuals for “I Gotchu.” the Kellen Malloy-directed video for the song employs the contrasts between light and dark, as it features Tolliver sitting alone in an empty studio — except for the cameraperson — as he puts on a bright jacket, preens in front of a mirror and distractedly cuts an onion, and spends the rest of the video in front of a flashlight. And while possessing a feverish and surreal logic, the video evokes a man trapped in a vacillating cycle of loathing and guilt.