Mid-Summer Review

Emma Gase | Medium Talk Co-Creator

We’ve had a rare string of uninterrupted sunny and warm days here in Chicago. In order to capitalize on the few days a year where I achieve significant Vitamin-D absorption, most of my hours have been spent outside, doing such vigorous activities as sitting on my porch, lying on my porch, reading People Magazine on my porch, and, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, writing a Medium Talk post on my porch.

During these recent porch-sitting leisure activities, only one thing has been preventing this from being a perfect-enough-to-forget-winter summer week: I’ve noticed a decidedly serious lack of freshness in my music choices.

Why so stale? Now that my staring-at-a-computer-screen-while-browsing-the-Internet hours have been drastically reduced (I recently quit my desk job in order to attend graduate school), so has my connectivity to new music releases and all pop culture in general. So I decided to dedicate a morning to buckling down and getting in touch with my roots, a.k.a. The blogosphere. What happened in my absence? Quite a lot. 

 

THE CURRENT

What’s happening in the pop music world at this very moment, you wonder? Well, the Song of Summer has yet to be established.* Bumbling pop stars are feuding on Twitter about the highly prestigious VMA’s (cue eye-roll). “New Music Tuesday” is now “New Music Friday.” 

Dej Loaf: “Hey There”, “We Winnin”

Since I first heard “Try Me,” I’ve been predicting Dej Loaf is the Next Big One. Sounding like a combination of Future, Jeremih, and Tink, she brings a fresh tomboy sensibility and distinct flow to every track she sing-raps on. The female Drake? Perhaps. She certainly has the regional loyalty (Detroit), the pop instincts (“Try Me”),  a slew of carefully curated features (“Ryda,” “Tied Up”), and the intangible X-factor (her androgynous and warm vocals are unlike any other).  Her debut EP, #AndSeeThatsTheThing dropped today. Jury’s out until I’ve had a thorough listen, but Dej has done everything right so far. 

YG, “Twist My Fingaz”

It’s only been about a year since YG’s debut My Krazy Life dropped and made waves in the rap world. “Twist My Fingaz” is a lovely and unexpected change of pace from the rapper who brought us such iconic lines as “My dick work girl/ I don’t need no mic check.”

Unmistakably Californian, the production sounds like if Bay Area  Hyphy and So-Cal 90’s Snoop Dogg mated with Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta.” The funky, loping beat sees YG’s flow sounding more relaxed and cohesive than ever before.  

BJ the Chicago Kid, “That Girl” (feat. OG Maco)

A pure summer jam. Uncomplicated, breezy, retro. Sometimes it is just that simple. 

Chvrches, “Leave a Trace”

Chvrches are one of, if not the, original purveyors of the heavy synthesizer and bass pop aesthetic, stepping away from the EDM community in favor of traditional song structures and hooks. Their debut, The Bones of What You Believe, was highly excellent and to this day is in my semi-regular rotation.

I’ve seem Chvrches live twice (once at Lolla, once at Pitchfork), and their shows are force-of-nature, ear-splitting, bass-in-your-stomach spectacles--exactly what you would want to see at a big open-air festival. “Leave a Trace,” fits nicely into the Chvrches canon: heavy on the synths, with a retro-80’s vibe, and a booming chorus that begs for driving with the windows down. Their new album Every Open Eye will be released on September 25th (I may or may not have marked this as an event in my iCal). 

*I don’t know what’s happening on the radio anymore since I sold my car. All analysis is Internet-based.

 

LATE ON THE UPTAKE

Even I, chronic Internet hound and general know-it-all can miss out on the good new stuff sometimes. That said, there is something exciting about discovering an artist after the fact. It feels like a gift--here’s this song that you didn’t even know existed for six months, and now it’s all yours! In my re

Kehlani, You Should Be Here EP 

Where have I been? Bay-Area-bred Kehlani is twenty years old, sounds like a blend of Tinashe’s sultry R&B and LIZ’s 90’s throwback production, and has an entire EP of veritable hits. I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. 

Murlo, Gemma Dunleavy, “Deep Breath”

I have no idea who Murlo is, what their other music sounds like, or even how to accurately describe this fantastically weird pop song. I actually just Googled “Murlo” as I’m writing this, and from the extremely limited search results, I have gathered a few essentials. Murlo is a man, from the UK, a DJ/ producer, involved in the Grime scene. Gemma Dunleavy is a singer, also from the UK. Immaterial details. This song came on shuffle a few days ago on Spotify, and I must have listened to it roughly twenty seven times since then, with another ten predicted for today.

MYSTERIOUSLY LURKING ON THE HORIZON

We know what’s out now and what I’ve been sleeping on for the past few months. But what about the future? With artists pulling “Beyonce’s” and dropping surprise albums left and right, there are still a handful of releases that have been hyped 

Frank Ocean, TBD

By far my most anticipated release of 2015. But wherefore art thou, Channel Orange follow-up? Signs of life are thin right now. Yes, he put out an Aaliyah cover. In January.  We know a few things: He’s working on his album. He’s putting out a magazine called Boys Don’t Cry. And...that’s about it. 

Rihanna, #R8

The long-awaited #R8 sadly continues to elude us. Here’s what we do know: Kanye is executive 

producing (which is a good sign, at least aurally). According to multiple sources, RiRi has been “reaching out to the dancehall community” to help finish the record (confirming the recent “dancehall” obsession is just in its infancy). But other than that, we are left with three singles to tide us over: “American Oxygen” has some interesting, post-industrial Yeezus vibes. “BBHMM” is a tired, recycled trap anthem that Future could do better. “FourFiveSeconds” is charming in its way, but it’s no “We Found Love” or “What’s My Name?”

Kanye West, Swish

"All Day" was a solid single, but where is the follow up?  We all know Yeezy wants to focus on his place in the fashion world (cue eye-roll #2)*. But enough with his dalliance into the fashion world. I respect that he is attempting to break boundaries in the design sphere, but when you're a musical genius and produce the best pop music of anyone in the industry, stay in your lane. 

*Eye-roll aside, he did have the right call on that leather jogging pants craze. Hows’ that for being a visionary?