TDP Recommends: M83 – “Wait”

You know what’s worse than getting rejected from a college? Getting waitlisted. The wait list is the purgatory (or limbo, if you’re into Inception) of the college admissions process, and last weekend I found myself hanging out in this very purgatory. After going through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, I have reached the last stage of the five stages of grief: acceptance. Maybe something good will happen, and if it doesn’t, c’est la vie. Because in the end, all I could do is to, well, wait.

And what better way to celebrate the waitlist than by listening to the fittingly named “Wait”? Behind the cryptic, sparse lyrics is an ethereal piece of music, so much that “Wait” has transcended its status as a song – it is a journey. The accompanying video takes “Wait” even further: it becomes an experience. “Wait” is so immersive, all sense of time and space is lost, leaving you with a sense of calmness – you might as well be floating in a cumulus cloud. And when the cloud dissipates, maybe the wait will be over. Dig it, Devils!

TDP Review: Lee Bannon – “Alternate/Endings”

Alternate/EndingsI’ll be honest: I only listened to this album because I thought it was a parody of Lil B’s God’s Father, considering the similarity between the artworks.

Alternate/Endings falls within the genre of breakbeat and big beat: hip-hop beats infused with ambient sound, reverbed to death. Because both breakbeat and big beat are creations of the late 80s and 90s, it’s interesting to see Lee Bannon revisit these genres in 2014.

Bannon is a versatile producer. His hip hop origins might be lost among the listeners after the opening tracks, “Resorectah” and “NW/WB.” The arrangements in these two tracks are of the in-your-face sort one second, distant and atmospheric the next. The juxtaposition works in Bannon’s favor, as it keeps the music sonically interesting, a must in hour-long instrumental albums.

Lee Bannon applied that formula throughout the album, and is fully aware of the duality in Alternate/Endings. The LP itself has two titles, along with “NW/WB,” “Prime/Decent,” “Bent/Sequence,” “Perfect/Division,” “Cold/Melt,” “Readly/Available,” and “Eternal/Attack.” Unfortunately, Alternate/Endings proves to be hit-or-miss. While “Resorectah” and “NW/WB” are bangers, many other tracks fell flat. There aren’t any duds on the album, but some felt dragging; “Shoot Out the Stars and Win” and “Bent/Sequence” outlasted eternities. “Readly/Available” was even boring. Many tracks featured infighting between breakbeat’s industrial and ambient sides, which made much of the album a conflicting listen.

Alternate/Endings really is about keeping the two styles in balance. This is an album that combined the industrial sounds of Kanye’s Yeezus and the ambient sounds of Burial’s Kindred EP. When Bannon keeps the balance in check, Alternate/Endings flourishes. But when the scale is tipped, it begins to feel derivative and loses authenticity. Lee Bannon mostly succeeds in preventing the latter from happening, but it still isn’t enough to keep parts of Alternate/Endings from collapsing under its own weight. Ultimately, Alternate/Endings is an interesting album, with an interesting dynamic, for a nomadic artist still looking for a genre to make his mark in. 3.0/5

13 for ’13: Electronic Playlist

jamesblakeIt’s been another good year for electronic music. Here’s my top 13 electronic tracks of the year, in no particular order:

James Blake – Retrograde 

Retrograde is beautiful. The sudden burst of synths is beautiful. James Blake is beautiful.

Burial – Rival Dealer explicit

Burial likes to make these 2-3 track EPs that last about 30 minutes with crazy reverbs and strange samples, but they all end up as must listens.

Jon Hopkins – Open Eye Signal

Hopkins tortures some synths for about 8 minutes.


Daft Punk – Get Lucky

How Daft Punk can manage to make a single guitar loop tireless and timeless is beyond anyone’s guess. Pharrell sings and, for once, doesn’t actually ruin a song.

Martin Garrix – Animals

Martin Garrix is 4 months younger than I am, a popular DJ, and has a global hit. I listened to this and had an existential crisis after.

Zedd – Clarity

The drop just doesn’t do it for me, but Foxes’ vocals more than make up for it.

Charli XCX – You (Ha Ha Ha) explicit

It’s like a Cher Lloyd song, but better.

Arcade Fire – Afterlife

The only song that stood out from that entire Reflektor LP.

CHVRCHES – The Mother We Shareknife

Female-sung synthpop is making a comeback and I have no problems with that.

The Knife – Full of Fire explicit

This song drags a little in the last 2 minutes, but the first 7 is so good. Always trust the Swedes for a nice jam.

Icona Pop – I Love It explicit

Icona Pop justifies arson, reckless driving, and symptoms of antisocial personality disorder with the catchiest chorus of the year.

Cedric Gervais & Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness (Remix)

For me, Cedric Gervais makes Lana Del Rey easier to digest. For fans of the Gatsby movie, Gervais also has a remix for Young & Beautiful.

Sky Ferreira – I Blame Myself

Sky blames herself for her bad reputation. I don’t blame her for this song.

TDP Recommends: “Feel it All Around” by Washed Out

Washed_OutErnest Greene likes to call himself “Washed Out,” which doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, but to each his own. Washed Out specializes in a genre called chillwave; it’s a mix of synths, filtered vocals, and simple melodic loops. If that doesn’t sound 80s enough to you yet, most chillwave songs are lo-fi. Chillwave is really a genre of hit-or-miss songs; they are either memorable or serve as less than adequate background music. “Feel it All Around” is certainly the former, however,  and so is the rest of the EP Life of Leisure. “Feel it All Around” has a summer feel, but listening to it in midst of winter won’t offend anybody.

When it’s snowing out, put on this song. Feeling the 6-12 inches of snow all around? Feel it All Around.

TDP Review: Jon Hopkins – ‘Immunity’

For fans of: EDM, techno, house; in particular Boards of Canada, Brian Eno, Flying Lotus

Despite his rather expansive discography, Jon Hopkins was still a relative unknown prior to his “big break.” Yet, what he lacks in recognition he makes up for in talent. A frequent collaborator of legend Brian Eno, Hopkins was enlisted by Eno to co-produce for the Coldplay LP Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Hopkins’ contributions can be heard, particularly, on the tracks “Life in Technicolor” and “Violet Hill.” In fact, Coldplay loved him so much, Hopkins was the pre-show DJ for their subsequent world tour.

Viva la Vida served as a springboard for Hopkins’ career, and four years later he has released his fourth studio album: Immunity. At 60 minutes, each of the 8 tracks average 7.5 minutes, but don’t be intimidated by its length. These 60 minutes exemplify what Jon Hopkins does best: manipulate sound. Through his meticulous tinkering of various samples, synths, drums, and whatever else at his disposal, Hopkins is able to create something most other producers cannot: a full hour-long composition that, despite its ups and downs, never gets boring.

In the end, Immunity falls under the broad umbrella genre we refer to as “house,” yet the album succeeds in convincing the listener that it is so much more than the typical house LP. Like many of its brethren, Immunity consists of several layers of sound that interplay, but Hopkins sprinkles dashes of ambient sounds throughout the album (a clear Eno influence), and in doing so, adds another dimension to his music. A prime example is “Sun Harmonics”, a track that would’ve been less than nothing without the different ambient sounds at work. Although Immunity does not deviate much from the established house formula, it finds a way to stand out.

There are times when Jon Hopkins reverts from his ambient ways, and lets his synths and bass do the heavy lifting. Examples include “Open Eye Signal” and “Breathe This Air,” both highlights of the album. “Breathe This Air,” in particular, features some striking piano notes, the defining moments of the album. Other personal favorites: the aforementioned “Sun Harmonics” and “Collider,” a 9 minute long banger that is arguably the climax of the album’s narrative.

Interestingly, the album comes to a halt with “Abandon Window.” It is everything the three tracks that preceded it (“OES”, “BTA”, “Collider”) are not: a (possibly too) slow, piano-driven, ambient-heavy track. I suppose every party ends some time or another, and maybe that is what Hopkins is trying to convey here, by having “Abandon Window” follow the trio of synth and bass-driven, rather club-like tracks. However, the change in pace proves to be too much to overcome, as there just isn’t enough in “Abandon Window” to keep itself from standing out like a sore thumb. Consequently, “Abandon Window” is, quite literally, the low point of the album.

Immunity will appeal itself to both the dancefloor and the audiophile; it is a danceable, well-crafted, layered, and sonically interesting album. It doesn’t try to do too much: it isn’t trying to be groundbreaking, it isn’t trying to create a new genre or spark a new movement; but it takes itself seriously. The man behind the album, Jon Hopkins, is a talented producer, and Immunity has proven to be his best work yet. There is no such thing as a perfect album, but Immunity comes close. 4.5/5