Music for the Masses
by DJ Ron Slomowicz
A roundup of great electro, trop house, 8bit, deep house, progressive, and trance tracks.
LA Riots - Burn It Down - [DIM MAK]
2014 was quite a good year for producer Daniel LeDisko, aka LA Riots, with two massive vocal records ("Kamikaze" and "Let You Go") which gained both club and radio play around the world. Ending the year with a bang, "Burn It Down" is a full-on festival banger, or more accurately, bouncer. While the Melbourne bounce and the nineties flashback memes have generated a plethora of soundalike records, "Burn It Down" blends the two sounds in a way that is fresh, interesting, and most importantly, energetic enough to pack a club dance floor. The incessant, almost neverending, builds are reminiscent of classic Moby ("Thousand") and Sash ("Intercontinental Invaders") with the break taking you back to old school raver days with hollow synths, gospel diva wails, big beats, and the omnipresent crowd noises. With a few dirty words in the mix, this clearly isn't a radio record, but DJs will be slamming this in clubs all winter long. It also makes a perfect gym record, with the phrases perfectly time for the exertion and rest phases of your workout.
Swick & Lewis Cancut ft Tkay Maidza - "Wishes" - [SECRET SONGS]
Watching the Triple J Hot 100 video, the playful vibe of Tkay Maidza will pull you in. The Aussie singer/rapper is being compared by many to Azelia Banks, and it's easy to see why. She can sing and rap in multiple voices over tracks that change just as frenetically. For "Wishes," she sings in a pretty little girl voice, talk-sings with a bit of a rasp, and stutter raps over the bridge. All of this is over an addictively kitschy 8-bit LoFi glitchy synth pop track. If you think that's good, check out her recent "Switch Lanes" track that is a mix of Bmore house and trop house, which just sounds wrong in idea but works perfectly in execution. Tkay's lyrics are intelligent yet playful, with the contrasting vocal tones adding many layers to the catchy pop song. You've heard of open format DJing, well this is an open format song with it changing radically, just about every 20 seconds. So rather than comparing her to Azealia Banks (without the Twitter storms), let's just say fans of M.I.A.and Azealia, as well as Clean Bandit, Kygo, and Mnek should check out the Secret Songs compilation as well as her Switch Tape EP which has both "Switch Lanes" and the sickening "Finish Them."
Nicki Minaj ft Drake & Lil Wayne - "Truffle Butter" - [UNIVERSAL]
Taking a house track and turning it in a pop or rap record isn't the most original idea. Most of Flo Rida and Pitbull's biggest records start as dance tracks with them adding a topline. Creativity comes when the singer/rapper can transform the original music into something completely different. Nicki Minaj takes Mary Jane Cole's deep house anthem "What They Say," slows it down about twenty beats per minute and uses it as a bed for a typical boast about her sales and credibility and for Drake and Lil Wayne to brag about money, sex, and drug use. Yeah, those lyrics are quite typical, but if you dive in deeper there are some revealing lines about her rumored bisexuality when she says she "might kiss the baddest bitch" and "ain't never need a man." Not exactly feminist theory, but it's just one of the reasons why the iTunes exclusive album track is catching such a buzz. Note to Flo Rida and Pitbull, this is how you rework a deep house track. The lazy bastardization of Infinity Ink's "Inifinity" that y'all released as "Can't Believe It" is the worst record that either of you have ever done...
Avicii - "The Night" with RAS [ISLAND]
Avicii - "Divine Sorrow" with Wyclef Jean [PRMD]
Madonna with Avicii - "Rebel Heart" - [LIVENATION]
Over the past month, Avicii has unleashed three productions which show the depth and breadth of his production. His recent EP featured the '70s rock-vibed "The Days" (written up here) and a more countrified second single, "The Night." Sounding like it could have been another massive pop hit from the "True" album, the story of following a father's advice to live life to the fullest brings the emotional vibe which Avicii is known for. Singer/songrwriter RAS' dynamic vocals take the song to another level. On "Divine Sorrow," Wyclef Jean brings a bit of the reggae vibe in the downbeat intro which leads to an uplifting chorus. The darkly optimistic song is their collective contribution to the Coca Cola/Red campaign for AIDS awareness and funding, and if Red Hot + Blue was still making compilations, "Divine Sorrow" would be the lead track. While most of the dance world is looking back to the '90s for inspiration, it's clear that Avicii was inspired by the '80s for his track with Madonna, "Rebel Heart." While unsure if it is a sample or an interpolation, the hook is clearly inspired by Nik Kershaw's "The Riddle" (infamously covered by Gigi D'Agositino in the '00s). Even in the leaked unfinished version, Madonna's heartfelt story combined with Avicii's production make it the most moving and probably best song she has recorded in the past ten years (and this is coming from a long-term Madonna fan).
Shogun - "Laputa" - [ARMADA]
Choosing a favorite song from Shogun's new album 'Dragon' is like asking a mother who her favorite child is - you simply can't. The title track is just one of many strong pop-leaning vocal trance tracks with "Fly Away," "Find Me," and "When I'm With You" all competing for similar attention. However, it is the instrumental "Laputa" (with accent on the first syllable) track that keeps drawing me in. The break to a solo piano line is hauntingly beautiful and sounds incredibly fresh yet oddly familiar. Playing it for a friend of mine, we realized it was the theme to "Castle in the Sky." No, not the Ian van Dahl europop song, but a mid-'80s anime film from Japan's revered Studio Ghibli about the search for a magic island in the sky, called Laputa (probably taken from Gulliver's Travels). Shogun's track captures the magic and wonder of anime and transforms it into a stomping trance track.
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