New Release Watch: Made in Heights

The West Coast duo consisting of former wedding singer, Kelsey Bulkin, and local Seattle-based producer of Blue Scholars, Sabzi, released the single “Slow Burn” on Tuesday.  It’s the second single off their upcoming album (out May 26th) Without My Enemy What Would I Do. And I’m a little disappointed.  

I want to start off by saying Made in Heights is an amazing group. Attempting to label their sound as a whole proves difficult, seeing as they have yet to accept any one genre themselves.  Continuously welcoming suggestions from fans, the current official description includes: mythical filth, pop fiction, beauty slap, goon lit, artisanal (c/t)rap, and west coast gothic. To put it as simply as I can, they are known for pairing soulful vocals with crisp electronic beats and atmospheric soundscapes.  At times even incorporating elements of rap into their bright and ethereal sound, Made in Heights weaves an intricate and special sound under the ever-growing umbrella of synth-pop. The only way to truly experience the sound is to hear it for your self, something I highly recommend.

Slow Burn turns its back on this complexity of genres and heads straight for the dance floor.  Let me get one thing straight – this track is completely infectious and a solid dancy-synth-poppy song.  The track begins with a catchy synthesized staccato baseline with Kelsey’s simmering vocals drifting atop. By the end, snapping and groovy instrumentals layer in, creating an intoxicating, sparkly-smooth pop track. I would be lying if I said I didn’t bob my head to “you give me that burn, burn, burn, burn, burn”.  It’s received good reviews from several sources and is now one of their most-listened to songs on Spotify, it just isn’t what I was hoping for.

Listen for yourself in the stream below:

It might be a personal taste issue that turned me off the new single, seeing as the airy female vocals and snappy dance beat of Slow Burn kicked in some post-traumatic stress from my days working in retail.  Once you imagine a song bursting from the cheap speakers of a former employer at the mall, it’s hard to listen to it without feeling a little bit guilty.

It also could be the high expectations I hold for the duo, set by their stunning previous work. Ever since first hearing "All the Places” and “Wildflowers” off of their 2012 self-titled album, I’ve been craving more.  Even their opening act for TOKiMONSTA I attended in LA last October reflected their original aesthetic I adore, the pair performing synchronized 60’s backup singer dance moves throughout the set. I just hold them up to a higher creative standard than what this newest track has produced. With sporadic releases and no single website to find their collective work (scattered throughout Soundcloud, Spotify, Bandcamp and their website), I was overjoyed to hear about the new album coming out in late May.

Now I’m just hoping that this single follows the rule of singles, and is the lone shamelessly-dancey track of the album; the rest hopefully following more in suit with the innovative sounds I’ve come to expect from Made in Heights.

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Cassie Lynch

Celebrate, celebrate: Holiday Mountain

New musicians are back, let’s dive in and straight up dig it. Holiday Mountain, anyone?

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Holiday Mountain is a band that is completely out of the realm of genre. Synth pop fused with dubstep fused with the meaningful lyricism of soul? It’s trippy.
Which is not a bad thing, we need some more unique eclectic sounds in our lives. Based in Austin, Texas, Holiday Mountain dub themselves as musicians that push musical boundaries, mixing dances beats, unexpected melodies, and airy vocals.

And it’s true, they’re unconventional for sure.

Taking a look at their recently released EP You be You, Part 1, there is a lot going on that you almost wonder, and “How did they come up with this?”

Number one track off their EP “My Body” is so bizarre sounding with a mix of front woman Laura Patino half rapping her lyrics “Don’t need no hates/If you ain’t down, I’ll see you later,” to underlying synth beats and heavy percussion. This group does their own sound, and they make that known to you straight up coming to the album, regarding their unconventional sound.

But you come to get used to the way Holiday Mountain mixes their sound by the time you get to sweet tracks like “Slow Motion Things,” with tangy vocals, poignant instrumental riffs, and musical timing that ironically parallels the theme of the song.

There are funky beats, and there are rich vocals for sure. You’ve got hints of Diplo and M.I.A. with the electronic dance groove and hip hop influence, but Holiday Mountain does have one distinction.

Although their sound is crazy, the themes behind their lyricism are beautiful and empowering. With lyrics like “It’s my body/Don’t need no haters” and “Equal freedom for woman and man,” you can’t help but feel inspired regarding gender equality and female empowerment. Not something typical to normal synth-pop right?

My favorite track off the entire EP is “With You” (featuring Wild Child), and that isn’t due to just the slower tempo and more ethereal sounding vocals. It’s about self-love, but it’s also about love in general and the beautiful feelings that comes with love. There is a very airy feel to the entire track as Patino sings “With you, I am young/With you, I am free.” The layered vocals with the softer percussion and overlay of violin is beautiful. It’s a little hippie, with the underlying chorus and synth, but it’s a beautiful end to the EP, and makes you wistful for just a little bit more. 

It’s nice seeing the versatility of these musicians, purely because not everyone can necessarily automatically groove to Holiday Mountain’s aggressive dance jams. But at the same time, not everyone may not want to sit and mellow out to a more airy, acoustic tune either.

They’ve got a little bit of everything, and that’s what matter when they’re singing about themes of self-love, empowerment, and overall acceptance—something we can all relate to.

You Be You, Part 1, available here to jam to. Go groove.

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Ariana Rivera

Quick, what’s cool? JUNGLE

We should kick it with Jungle.

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So these guys are not what I usually cover, lots like Doja Cat. They’re
funky and psychedelic and have this element of retro, disco dance pop, but they’ve
got soul. This isn’t all natural acoustic, it’s very artificial, but they’ve
got these reminiscent elements of other funky co cats like Electric Light Orchesta,
MGMT,
the Bee Gees, and maybe even Prince.

It’s hard to categorize. They are hard to put into a box. What do I want to say? Indie electro R&B? Modern
soul? I don’t you know, you decide for yourself.

“Time,” a track that I particularly like on
their 12-track debut album, Jungle
(which released just this past July), is on the lighter dance pop side of their
album.  I think their best part is their
chorus of  “Say it again/Just hold on tight/Don’t let in,
yeah/I’ll run alright/Don’t let me/Oh just let it out,” but not for their
lyrical creativity. This song, like every other song on the radio is computer
generated, filled to the brim with pinched falsettos, slap bass, and crazy
instrumentals. It’s euphoric and filled with funk.

These guys also just make great music videos!

And for the most part, that’s how a lot of this album works. I’m not
getting the sense that these guys really dig their fake horns and electric
funk. They like getting people to want to get up and groove. And  I dig that. What they do lack, however, is a
sense of creativity. Lyrically, it’s very repetitive, and even composition
wise, “Busy Earning” is so similar to “Time,” as is “The Heat” and “Platoon.”
It gets to all be the same.

Is this bad? Yes and no. Jungle is new duo, made up of childhood friends, Tom
McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson. They’ve been kicking it since they were nine
years old. I can sense the chemistry, and I’m glad the two are working
together, I like their vibe. Creatively, they have a long way to go,  but they’re old enough producers to realize
that the debut album that they do have is solid and work their way up

We do get a little something different when we hit tracks like “Drops” and “Julia.”
There’s some more bass in there, and instead of just dance funk, it’s gets a
little soulful and mournful. I love when “Drops” hits, “I’ve been loving you
too long.” I’m getting some tastes of Paolo
Nutini
-esque blues in there, and I like the turn from dance pop to some
serious soul.

“Julia,” is the best track on their debut in my opinion and I think a track
they put some serious effort it. I love the overlaying, faded vocals, that
goddamn organ playing in the background, and the rhythm they’ve got going. It’s
a little darker, it isn’t really a song to groove to, but it’s a lovesick,
lovelorn track where I can fully see where these guys are going. They’ve can do
downbeat jazz.

And their video, choreographically is amazing. These guys like modern
dance. Check it.

They’re disco, and they’re not really disco. They’re funk and soul and
electric. They’re party music at times, and then at other times, they’re jams
you have existential conversations to. They start their South American tour soon and I’m bitter I won’t be in Santiago, Chile jamming out, but I hope when they release some new grooves, I’ll be with them live.

Check out their album on Spotify. It’s a solid debut, they’re solid
Londoners. And they make solid music videos, which is what’s important, right?

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Ariana Rivera



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Marina and the Diamonds – Froot

Welsh songstress Marina and the Diamonds has just graced us with a brand new gem to sink our teeth into. The disco-y “Froot”—stylized as “FROOT”—is the new title track from her upcoming album of the same name. Always the generous spirit, Marina, born Marina Diamandis, released the song 10 days ago, on her birthday, October 10th. “Froot” sees Marina comparing herself to a ripe fruit, ready to be picked by the man she’s been waiting for. The song’s organic and lush lyrical imagery is in sharp contrast to the shimmery, digitized synths washing in and out of the five and half minute-long track. With tongue-in-cheek rhymes, elastic vocal runs, and catchy hooks, Marina has struck a happy medium between her indie-pop debut LP from 2010, The Family Jewels, and 2012 electropop concept album, Electra Heart. Whether or not “Froot” has enough juice to propel itself into stateside radio, as her single “Primadonna” could only graze, is yet to be seen. Regardless, the song is gaining traction and hype in the blogosphere, and has certainly earned itself a cozy place on my regular rotation.

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Jamie Coughlin