Running Hot by Aera

Aera - Running Hot

Hop aboard the Crystalline Express, a mobile club that traverses through the center of this planet’s most impressive crystal mines! Patrons file into the glass chamber, the doors close behind you, and the engines rumble with life. You ride the rail into a massive opening in the mountain’s jagged surface, and you are plunged into darkness. Suddenly, you are surrounded by glistening, colorful crystals, accompanied by a tantalizing beat, bassline, and melody . . .

At its core, house music is formed by varying concoctions of three ingredients: drums to establish underlying rhythms and tempo, synth leads to create character, and basslines to marry the two by bolstering both the beats and melodies. Contorting aspects of these pieces is where we get sub-genres, but greatness comes from careful attention to each of them. Running Hot is the newest release from Berlin producer Ralf Schmidt as Aera.

Consisting of four original tracks (and two stellar remixes from Dutch producer Steve Rachmad), this EP is a prime example of minimal house/techno done oh so right. These compositions focus on slow-burning beauty, complete with buoyantly propulsive beats, enticingly groovy basslines, and vibrantly fluorescent synth melodies that glisten like polished crystals. Although brief, it’s gorgeous, enthralling, and dripping with color.

These arrangements are ripe with instrumental intricacies, but they also sound incredibly playful, and this dichotomy between stringent house music configuration and enthusiastic experimentation is what makes it such a joy to listen to. Running Hot is a wonderful illustration of a seasoned producer reveling in his element without reinventing the wheel. If you’re seeking polished, melodic house, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

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Running Hot by Aera

Scattered Thoughts 2 by Chubby Jag

Chubby Jag - Scattered Thoughts 2

You step through the front door of large house, and are greeted by a thumping beat billowing down the stairs. You steadily ascend the steps, and peak into open doors to find the sound’s origin. You knock on the only locked door. Someone knocks on the opposite side, and you copy the rhythm of the knock. The door swings open, revealing a musty room filled with people surrounding a DJ and a pair of turntables. A man with glasses grabs the mic . . .

The mixtape has long been regarded as the undisputed format by which listeners can get to know their favorite rappers transparently. Emcees are able to grasp the reins of their favorite beats, and verses often play out like stream-of-consciousness ciphers, but it’s difficult to locate that combination of instrumental and vocal greatness. Scattered Thoughts 2 by South Central’s Chubby Jag has no problem finding that perfect formula.

With an impressive batch of instrumentals from the likes of The Cratez, Mic West, Pampitrou Music and others, plus tasteful collaborations from Dave East, James Fauntleroy, and Suzie Soprano to name a few, Jag reinvigorates the concept of a hip-hop mixtape. Instead of a hodgepodge of tracks, here are 17 lyrically outstanding songs that are as melodic and catchy as they are hard-hitting and hype-inducing.

To call this a heartfelt release would be a vast understatement. The imposing vocalist and the company he surrounds himself with delve into tales of origin, anthems of encouragement, familial ties, homages to fallen comrades, and the raw realities of growing up in harrowing environments, without sacrificing any amount of head-knocking energy. If you’re seeking lyrical, hype-inducing hip-hop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Scattered Thoughts 2 by Chubby Jag

Oh No by Jessy Lanza

Jessy Lanza - Oh No

Strings of colored lights rapidly blink like a fluorescent snake, illuminating the dark room and all the sweat-drenched patrons that inhabit it. The glistening lights are accompanied by swift melodic blips, as an indigo hue steadily fills the space and reveals a hooded woman onstage. She begins to contort and sway her limbs to the sounds in swirls of wispy fabric. The indigo slowly transitions to a deep cerulean, and finally a glimmering gold as she starts to sing . . .

In a world infused with countless contrasting electronic influences, the lines that define exactly what “pop music” is are increasingly blurred. Euphonious vocal melodies may still be the standard, but instrumental palettes can be anything. This freedom allows compelling singers to surround themselves with experimental elements while retaining the “pop sound”. Oh No is the newest full-length from Canadian artist Jessy Lanza.

The seraphic singer teams up again with Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan to craft another album filled with eclectic pop perfection. Greenspan returns with his versatile electronic arrangements for which he’s known, traversing genres including minimalist r&b, house, and footwork. The most prominent divergences from the previous album are Lanza’s highly refined vocal skill and a distinct shift towards a more glistening, buoyant mood.

Although sadness remains a prominent topic in these songs, the way that it’s conveyed is vastly different. Where Pull My Hair Back communicated the sorrowful subject matter in a predominantly icy, subdued tone, Oh No translates it into gorgeous compositions that focus on glowing aspects of vulnerability and triumph. Lanza is redefining what it means to be a pop icon. If you’re seeking eclectic, electronic pop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Oh No by Jessy Lanza

Paradise by White Lung

White Lung - Paradise

An explosion rings through the air, the sky splits open, and fire rains down upon the ground. You jump into the driver’s seat of the nearest vehicle, and slam your foot on the gas pedal, speeding down a crumbling road towards a bridge over a body of water. You swerve to avoid the jagged asphalt and streams of magma. You ascend the rising bridge that steadily splits in two, and launch into the brisk air. You slam down on the other side, and speed away . . .

Let’s talk about feminism; a buzzword, unifier, and divisive term all rolled into one. What does it mean to be a feminist in the world of music? How can artists best utilize their voices to empower women in a male-dominated industry, and promote gender equality in a realm where misogyny runs rampant? Paradise is the newest full-length from Canadian band White Lung, a group that possesses the answers to these questions.

Praise be to riffs that tear the sky asunder, the ones dripping with liquid fire, the kind that this record is chock full of. Here are ten blistering punk rock songs clocking in at under thirty minutes, crafted by the trifecta of Anne-Marie Vassiliou on drums, Kenneth William on guitar, and one of the most intensely charismatic frontwomen in Mish Barber-Way. The extreme energy never lets up, and there are catchy melodies abound.

Previous White Lung albums displayed the trio’s unmatched ability to spit poison all over an oppressive system, but Paradise is quite different. These are songs about grasping life by the balls, about taking control of an existence unhindered by suppression, about stepping into the minds of individuals (including Barber-Way herself) who live life fully and fiercely. If you’re seeking blistering, riff-heavy punk rock, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Paradise by White Lung

Infrared by Dawn Richard

Dawn Richard - Infrared

You stand within a dim chamber, adorned with minuscule hatches along the walls. A single bar stool rises from an opening in the center of the room. The hatches surrounding you open simultaneously, followed by a faint metallic sound that rings in your ears. Suddenly, countless microscopic organisms fly from the tiny openings, convening upon the stool. They fly back to their homes, leaving a solitary naked woman in their place. She raises her head, and sings . . .

The story is as old as time: artist stands out from her group as the supremely talented component; artist departs from said group to pursue a solo career; artist finds equally talented personnel with which to collaborate; artist shifts gears and crafts her most impressive creation thus far. The collaborative personnel in this case? Kingdom. The group? Danity Kane. Infrared is the newest release from singer Dawn Richard.

Across four stunning tracks, producer Kingdom shows off his unparalleled ability to construct spaciously captivating instrumentals, while Richard fills those spaces with one of the most soulful, awe-inspiring voices in r&b. The striking cover art is emblematic of the record’s overall “nakedness”, with Kingdom reveling in sparse, genre-fluid arrangements and Richard soaring above them with powerfully raw vocal melodies.

Ever since she escaped the pop confines of Danity Kane, Richard has had a string of spectacular releases with various collaborators, but none achieve quite the level of sonic perfection found on Infrared. Richard lays her soul bare for all to witness, complete with personal confessions, biblical imagery, and the perils of dancing upon the threshold between hate and love. If you’re seeking powerful, soulful r&b, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Infrared by Dawn Richard

Kindness For Weakness by Homeboy Sandman

Homeboy Sandman - Kindness For Weakness

You knock twice upon the door in front of you. A small panel slides to the side, revealing a pair of purple eyes. You knock three times upon the door, and it swings open. You step through the billow of smoke pouring from the opening, and into a leather-clad lounge filled with patrons of all sizes and species. A jazz quintet performs on a small stage in the far corner of the room. A hood figure jumps on the stage, grabs the microphone, and speaks . . .

Possessing a fresh style is integral to obtaining success in the hip-hop world, and many artists skirt this requirement by subscribing to the collective style(s) of cultural regions, whether it’s the West’s rhythmic musicality, East’s boom-bap lyricism, South’s bouncy funk, or some mixture. However, this particular MC is a jack of all trades. Kindness For Weakness is the newest full-length from Queens rapper Homeboy Sandman.

Armed with a slew of versatile instrumentals and collaborations from RJD2, Eric Lau, Edan, Until The Ribbon Breaks, Aesop Rock, Kurious, and Stones Throw heavyweight Jonwayne, Sandman puts on a clinic that runs the gamut of flexible hip-hop methodology. Rather than stuffing as many word-heavy phrases into his verses as possible, the sagacious MC specializes in small morsels of wisdom that hit like bombs.

Sandman owns a distinctive technique that’s nigh impossible to pin down, and he utilizes his compelling flexibility to craft emotive hard-hitters (“Seam by Seam”, “It’s Cold”), rapid-fire lyrical exercises (“Real New York”, “Keep It Real”), collaborative cipher sessions (“Earth, Wind, Fire, Water”, “Speak Truth”), and spoken-word oddities (“Talking (Bleep)”, “Sly Fox”). If you’re seeking versatile, intelligent hip-hop, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Kindness For Weakness by Homeboy Sandman

Will by Julianna Barwick

Julianna Barwick - Will

A woman stands in a blank world, head down, eyes closed. She lifts her head and starts to sing, projecting her voice into the boundless nothingness. She begins to gently sway from side to side, as she’s steadily wrapped in the solitary sound. Her singing becomes a patch of grass upon which she stands; her singing becomes a lake that extends outward from the grass; her singing becomes the sky above everything. Her singing fills the world, like watercolors . . .

We all possess a musical instrument from the moment we enter this world, the first instrument to birth any trace of mellifluous sound: the human voice. Some singers simply translate the potency of emotions, while others fall into a rarer category of artists that create their own emotional realms with endless exploration and innovation. Will is the newest full-length from Brooklyn-based vocal experimentalist Julianna Barwick.

Armed with a bevy of synthesizers and a voice as piercingly pristine as an icy lake, Barwick constructs undulating swirls of achingly gorgeous sound that envelop listeners, transporting them to vast new worlds where loneliness becomes a communal experience. She loops and alters her wordless singing with effects, creating angelic harmonies that swell like ocean waves over atmospheric synth and piano melodies.

Although it’s more sparse and raw than her previous releases, Will excels because of those exact same components. Like Grouper, Barwick is a mastermind with building a sense of space in her compositions, and this record shows off her unique ability to fill that space with elements that appear as natural and organic as the world that surrounds us. If you’re seeking meditative, vocal-centered experimentalism, this album is for you.

– stasi (@stasisphere)

Will by Julianna Barwick