What’s What on SoundCloud

Hello friends. Welcome back to “What’s What on SoundCloud”! The following are some of the noteworthy tracks I’ve been listening to recently and feel that you should be listening to as well.

This week’s artist spotlight: Sam Gellaitry and KAYTRANADA

Sam Gellaitry is an electronic music producer out of Scotland who found his success on Soundcloud thanks in part to the underground music conglomerate, Soulection Radio. With goofy synth leads, quirky jazz chord progressions, and an overarching cinematic feel that invokes a sense of nostalgia, Sam G is one of my favorite artists to date.  After he tweeted “gonna release all this stuff I’ve been sitting on in the next couple of days” last week, I knew we were in for a treat.

If you listen to only one song from this blog post, “want u 2” should be the one. The instrumentation on this track is incredibly well executed. Gellaitry knows how to create compelling syncopated melodies that leave you with no option but to nod along with the beat in satisfaction. Whether you’re at a huge party or listening on your own in your room, this groovy track is sure to please your ears and your soul.

“Pyrotechnic” is a little more quirky. Sam is super liberal with the chops, creating a sense of anticipation as you wait for the beat to come back in after it cuts out. He slaps this track in the face with his distinct eccentric style. If you haven’t given Gellaitry’s discography a listen, I highly recommend it.

To conclude this week’s discovery, I’m throwing it back to 2014. “At All” is, without a doubt, my favorite Kaytranada track of all time. This funk-house banger is the perfect thing to listen to on a late night drive around town, or really any time you just want to dance. Kaytranada’s distinct bass lines and combination of bump and groove give this track the perfect balance between the funk of yesterday and the house music of today.

Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!

On Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 masterpiece, To Pimp A Butterfly, we heard him calling out to the world, “We want the funk.” It seems like Childish Gambino heard him and indulged his request because Awaken, My Love! is oozing with soul. Donald Glover unveiled this newest project at a three day album-listening event called Pharos in Joshua Tree National Park, CA. This was in September and many fans were prepared for the upcoming release then, only to be disappointed until December when we received another iconic album from a hip hop demigod.

Donald Glover picked up right where he left off on Because The Internet. Towards the end of his 2013 LP, Gambino focuses a little more on his singing and introduces some voice augmentation, which are staples of this new record. If you are a fan of Donald’s rapping, this new album might be a little disappointing for you.

I’ve been a sick boi (fan of Childish Gambino. Girls are called Gambino girls) ever since I heard “Crown on the Ground” in 2009. To give you an idea why, check out KaptainKristian’s video about why Donald Glover is the ultimate modern renaissance man (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgQ3Hpj-CBU). One of the reasons I’m such a big fan of Donald Glover is that he never seems to shy away from who he is. He is impressively authentic and it’s what draws so many adoring fans to his shows. For much of his career as an entertainer, he has been an oddball: a token character trying to find his way in a world where not a lot of people look like him. It seems like this type of isolation plagued him as a child as well but his art has been a lovely side project in what I’m sure is a very confusing life. Donald Glover has been many things in front of his audiences: Goofy, mature, unfiltered, closed-off, the list could go on. But the one thing that Childish Gambino has always skirted around is his blackness. He has always poked fun at it in his raps and stand-up shows and he was never being disingenuous when he did acknowledge his skin color. He was simply being Donald. But it seems in this latest LP that he is ready to declare his ethnicity to the world. Instead of it being the reason why the kids at school made fun of him or why he is automatically given a pass to rap as an actor, it is the reason for his deep love of life and his fellow humans. He doesn’t even talk about him being black specifically on the album. He just is. And it’s beautiful.

If you like good, energy-filled, touch-your-soul type of music, this album is for you. My dad raised me on funk and soul music so I am definitely a little biased in my opinion of this record. It’s not perfect by any means but damn is it fun to listen to.

Score: 7.6

Motet – Totem

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The Motet’s new album Totem is the self-described ‘future of funk’, and while it’s not a bad album, I would personally just call it ‘more funk’.

The songs on the album are fun and upbeat for the most part, with strong bass lines and a beat that makes you want to dance. My only complaint is that it’s forgettable. I’m coming back to my notes about the album and I can’t remember what half of them are talking about. The tracks sound very similar to each other for the most part and I found myself losing focus on the song even though I was sitting at my desk explicitly to listen to this album. The problem is how repetitive the songs are, which isn’t to say sound bad, but they didn’t manage to keep me engaged.

As far as how the album was mixed I have a few questions. In some of the songs the bass guitar is very muddy, and at first I just assumed it was just to help cover up cheap recording equipment or and inexperienced mixer, but then in other songs like ‘Damn’ the bass was much crisper and easier to listen to. So why not just use that same strong clear bass for every song? I don’t know if they were going for a stylistic choice or something, but whatever the reason is, I’m not a fan. That’s nitpicking though, and to be fair the vocals were always very clean and the singers timbre stood out well. Speaking of the singer, I like him a lot. His name is Lyle Divinsky and I have to say, I could listen to him sing all day. He does the whole ‘funk’ theme very well, while not over performing.

This album is a professional piece of art, don’t get me wrong. If you’re at a party and this album shows up on spotify, there’s no reason not to put it on. But I can’t give you a reason to look for it either. If you want to listen to a solid funk albums with no real issues, this fits bill. I think The Motet should be proud of what they’ve made.

Review: Talia Keys “Fool’s Gold”

Talia Keys’ Fool’s Gold album is soulful collection to be reckoned with. With songs she has developed and created over the past 8 years, each has unique tone, while seamlessly working together. In other words, none of her songs sound the same. Keys’ powerhouse of a voice has the range from grind and grit to the soft and soothing, which can be heard of in each of the songs. The convictions of emotions are heard right off the first track Help Me, and a softer tone is heard in Intergalactic Crime Scene. Politics combines jazz and rock, and to close out Fight With Love uses everything from trumpets and sax, to classic guitars and bass. Her lyrics express her opinions clearly with a variety of topics and issues. She is now pursuing a solo career, and with that she is able to connect more through her music. Openly bisexual, she uses her talent and artistry to make a name for herself and a figure for the LGBT community. In the song Help Me, she describes discrimination in its forms of sexuality, gender, and even race.  No Justice No Peace also equally shows her fighting activist spirit. From the lyrics, to the recordings which are basically live, everything you hear Keys’ soulful magic. Some of her lyrics can be explicit, however they add to the expressive emotion. Keys’ entire album is raw. Fool’s Gold is a progressive, soul-rock album and worth a listen. 

REVIEW: DIGITONIUM BY TURKUAZ

Over the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of listening to Digitonium, the latest album from the Brooklyn funk/soul collective Turkuaz. I had never heard before but now I am fan. Overall Digitonium is playful yet complex record featuring a whopping 24 tracks. Clocking in at seventy nine minutes total run time, it can seem to be bit of a behemoth, though this is not to discourage the average listener, as the songs are very digestable individually. Turkuaz’s Digitonium is a foot taping good time.

As previously stated Digitonium is unmistakably a concept album from cover to cover. Coming in one of my favorite album cases of the past few years. The album plays as if it were the soundtrack to a retro video game with songs that are equal parts infectious and driving in a similar fashion to the soundtracks of Mega Man, Castlevania and that ilk. Particularly I found Murder Face, European festivity nightmare, Digitonium, and King of Computer impossible to at least bob your head to. Songs flow into on another like as if they were to rivers merging, the changes in rhythms can be seamless at time and honestly it can be hard to discern if the song has changed or just switched up its melody. If you have the time, give this thing its seventy nine minutes in one straight run through, you will not regret it, but you will see the records flaws.

This album could use an editor. Not because it is just long, a work should never just be judged by length, unless we are talking about solely commercial success. Rather several of the tracks do not seem complete, well thought out, or even necessary. Mostly these are the smaller tracks that add transitions between songs, they carry no weight and disappointingly add little effect to the album, these small pieces of polish are what a good record to a great record and Digitonium does not do them. This complaint is mainly seen near the end of the album specifically in tracks such as The Time Has Come and Bermuda just leave so much to be desired in both the suspension and overall power, it seems as though they could have been left out and nothing would have been lost or gained. Similarly this problem is glimpsed at just briefly in the track Zynth where there just does not seem to be enough material to warrant its 5 minutes length.

Wholly, Digitonium is a fun album, it is groovy, bouncy, and has had me awkwardly breaking into dance all around campus. As whole it is a good album just could have used a couple more coats of polish. Individually Turkuaz has made some exciting funk songs, and it’s great to see another band giving its hand to an under indulged genre. I am giving this one an uplifting 9/10