Albums + Tracks

Denim Blù Releases New Single, “I’ll Die (With Lizzy Clarke)”

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Denim Blù, the Toronto-based pop artist with Chinese roots, released his new single, “I’ll Die (Ft. Lizzy Clarke)” an emotional song that explores the depths of rock bottom. This track will be his second of 2021, following his recent single “Extraordinary Feel (Ft. Lizzy Clarke)” and adjoining remixes.

“I’ll Die” is inspired by the fallout after heartbreak and the emotions of needing to fall before you rise. The song begins with “I’m drowning in thick liquid without a desire to resist” – a sentiment of falling so deep into a state of despair that death seems closer than life, that death seems more tolerable than life, that life and death are indistinguishable. The theme repeats throughout the song – the harrowing feeling portrays the real emotion experienced after gut-wrenching heartbreak:

“The song is heavy and dark, but these are real emotions.” – Denim Blù on his new single “I’ll Die (with Lizzy Clarke)”

Although suffering is usually an emotion you experience in solitude; this duet between Denim and Lizzy expresses the universality of the message – it shows that even at your lowest point, you are not alone. Denim croons in his smooth tone and Lizzy dazzles with her agile vocals. Together, they deliver different but complementary vocals over this power ballad.

Denim Blù is an emerging Toronto-based singer-songwriter whose identity and music reflect the cultural mosaic that makes Toronto’s music so universally appealing. He’s a Chinese-born queer artist whose inspiration is born out of rebellion. Denim Blù is not supposed to be Chinese and making pop music; he is not supposed to be gay; he is not supposed to emote sex. Well, he does. His music training and influence spans three continents having studied and composed in China, the UK, and Toronto. The product of his music is pure pop fantasy with emotional intrigue, drawing from blues, dance, electronica, and R&B elements, all while being unapologetically queer. His music delivers new-age pop with a story to tell.

For more info on Denim Blù:

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For all press inquiries please contact mavery@gramophone.media

P!nk Speaks Her Mind With “Hurts 2B Human”

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The fierce and bold P!nk released her 8th studio album Hurts 2B Human this past Friday and it’s nothing short of what we expected. This album gives us a glimpse into her mind as it is centered around love, hardships, and relationships. Featuring several guest artists and song-writers like Sia, Teddy Geiger, Chris Stapleton, Cash Cash, and more, Hurts 2B Human  is stacked with some pop anthems, and some slower ballads.

    The album kicks off strong with “Hustle”, an upbeat banger that basically warns anyone not to mess with P!nk. Through years of overcoming adversity, P!nk has learned to not put up with anyone’s nonsense. Another upbeat, dancy song would be “Can We Pretend” featuring Cash Cash, where P!nk explores what life would be like if we could pretend everything was the way we wanted it. Besides these two songs, most of the others have a slower tempo with a more delicate message.

    “Happy”, co-written by Teddy Geiger conveys a message of acceptance, for everyone out there afraid to be themselves. Whereas, songs like “Walk Me Home” and the album title, “Hurts 2B Human” relay how life can be unpredictable and how it’s comforting to have someone by your side, a tribute to all the friends and family members that stick around. Relationships are a big theme in this album, how comforting but also scary they can be. “Attic” tells the story of a person scared to let someone into their metaphorical attic where all their secrets are hidden.  

    Most of the album is right on par with what we expect and love from P!nk, but a few songs on the album were less than favorable. “Love Me Anyway”, featuring Chris Stapleton, has a beautiful message but the lyrics are repetitive and their two voices don’t mesh very well. It doesn’t fit very well with the vibe of the album. The echoes and the vocals on “The Last Song of Your Life” also don’t mesh well with the album, and just don’t sound like the P!nk we are used to.

    Overall, P!nk produced a very deep and personal album that fans are responding well to. Her passionate voice and her thoughtful lyrics are what make this album great!

 

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P!nk Speaks Her Mind With “Hurts 2B Human”. Features Image Credit: RCA Records

Billie Eilish: Pioneering A New Wave Of Teen Pop Music

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Since her debut EP in 2017 “Don’t Smile at Me”, Billie Eilish has been a pioneer in the music industry. At the age of 17, she’s been taking risks and reinventing the pop music scene. Her hauntingly different sound has everyone wanting more. Friday, March 28, she released her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and her fans are going crazy for it. Billie Eilish has produced a different type of music than most pop stars, and this album is nothing short of what we would expect.

The album begins with a short 14 second intro titled “!!!!!!!” where she introduces the album by taking out her Invisalign; a short, funny intro to pull in her fans. Then the album dives into her song “bad guy” which has an eerie feel to it, like a horror movie. This song depicts Eilish as the bad guy who’s going to mess around and wreak havoc.

One of the defining qualities of the album is that most of the songs are really bass heavy and have a slower tempo. “Xanny”, which touches on the struggles Eilish has with her anxiety, is a slow, almost ballad type song where Eilish pours out her soul to her listeners. Another slow, yet lighter song is “when the party’s over” which Eilish released before the album itself. The lyrics to this song spell out tale of a relationship. Fans loved this song when Eilish released it and it fits in well with the rest of the album.

The album has some lighter feeling songs including “8”, “i love you”, and  “my strange addiction” which has audio clips from the hit show The Office throughout the song.

Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell write all their own songs and Eilish performs them. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? definitely has an eerie, vibey feel to it, like most of Eilish’s music. Her new style of music has fans wanting more, but for now they will be satisfied with this album.

 

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Billie Eilish: Pioneering a New Wave of Teen Pop Music | Photo Credit: https://www.billieeilish.com/ 

New Music Roundup ft. Lykke Li, Snail Mail, and Kids See Ghosts

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Nothing says new music like a Friday, and this week was no exception. From the fiercely poignant indie rock of 18-year-old Lindsey Jordan, better known as Snail Mail, to the crisp comeback pop of Swedish singer Lykke Li, to the long-awaited collab from Kanye and Kid Cudi, this week we truly saw it all. Keep up with our top picks from this weekend’s releases below with Cliché Magazine’s new music roundup.

 

The Debut:

Lush by Snail Mail

Lindsey Jordan made a name for herself long before the release of her first full-length album, which is pretty indicative of the level of talent to be expected from Lush. Her overwhelmingly well-received first album taps into the melodramatic well of adolescent feelings known to all — her lyrics often cutting open time-worn cliches with her biting sarcasm, while her vocal lilt conveys all the peaks and valleys of serious emotion. Only 38 minutes in length, Lush is a concise and carefully curated work, letting no minute go to waste. Jordan has definitely been one to watch since releasing the Habit EP in 2016, but Lush discounts her from being some sort of one-hit-wunderkind. If she isn’t on your radar already, you better start paying attention, otherwise you risk falling head-first off a very fast bandwagon.

Favorite tracks: “Speaking Terms”; “Golden Dream”

 

The Comeback:

New Music Roundup ft. Lykke Li, Snail Mail & Kids See Ghosts: Featured image courtesy of Snail Mail

so sad so sexy by Lykke Li

It’s been four years since the Swedish alt-pop sensation Lykke Li released an album, but so sad so sexy may just have been worth the wait. The tender release teases trap influences, while staying true to the danceable soul that Li has become known for. Featuring the first collaboration of her solo career with Good For You rapper Aminé, this album is, in many ways, a fresh start for the singer. Since 2014’s I Never Learn, she’s become a mother. When releasing the video for the closing track “Utopia,” she added the caption “Utopia is all my mother ever wanted for me and all I ever want for him,” referencing her son, Dion. She’s also flirted with other endeavors, trying her hand at acting, collaborating with other artists on their projects, and joining supergroup liv. In short, so sad so sexy lives up to its name completely, and shows Lykke Li reinvented, holding her head high.

Favorite tracks: “deep end”; “utopia”

 

The Highly-Anticipated:

New Music Roundup ft. Lykke Li, Snail Mail & Kids See Ghosts: Featured image courtesy of Snail Mail

KIDS SEE GHOSTS by KIDS SEE GHOSTS

Even if the discussion of Kanye West’s politics (specifically, his penchant for certain red hats) was completely tabled, it’d still be safe to say he’s had his highs and lows this summer. His highly-anticipated ye album, while receiving mixed reviews, left fans and critics alike missing the experimentation he’s made his name with. Regardless of whether or not you liked it, it’s hard to argue that he took any risks musically. And then in comes KIDS SEE GHOSTS. This high-energy collaboration with Kid Cudi shows West’s production at its best, while Cudi’s verses hit hard.

Favorite track: “Reborn”

Disclaimer: It’s important to note that this album, like ye, once again interrogates the way in which people separate artists from their art. This album makes it tempting to separate West from his politics, but that is not always the right thing to do. While West has proven he is on his game musically, this in no way justifies any problematic behavior. The choice to separate West from his art, or not, in an increasingly volatile political climate is a decision that can only be made by each individual listener.

 

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New Music Roundup ft. Lykke Li, Snail Mail & Kids See Ghosts: Featured image courtesy of Snail Mail

CHVRCHES Find Their Remedy In ‘Love Is Dead’

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Love Is Dead is the third studio album from the Glasgow-based synth-pop trio CHVRCHES, and the group’s latest project since 2016’s Every Open Eye. It’s also one of their sharpest releases to date. Featuring the refined and glittering production of Grammy award winning Greg Kurstin (whose previous credits include Adele, Sia, and Beck, among many others) on 9 out of 13 tracks — marking the first time CHVRCHES has worked with an outside producer on an album — Love Is Dead is a step in a different, remarkably self-assured direction for a group that has been consistently delivering infectious and wry pop since their 2013 debut, The Bones Of What You Believe.

Despite the fact that the process of creating this album was unlike any other, one constant that any CHVRCHES fan can count on from any track is a catchy chorus. From opening track “Graffiti,” which chronicles a distant but intense young love, to the introspective closer “Wonderland,” Lauren Mayberry’s vocals soar effortlessly and unconditionally. Repetition has always been the trio’s best friend when it comes to writing their memorable and sing-a-long-friendly choruses, and the simple lyrics are always bolstered by lush and electrifying beats. While this has remained true for all their releases, on Love Is Dead they’ve truly found the sweet spot — evidenced by leading single “Get Out,” an arena-ready, certified banger with a chorus made up mostly of just a repetition of the title.

Another first (and highlight) of the album is the unexpected, but completely welcome collaboration with The National’s Matt Berninger, who alternates singing verses with Mayberry on “My Enemy.” Berninger’s signature croon cools down Mayberry’s hyper-intense soprano, blending beautifully into a one-of-a-kind pop anthem.

CHVRCHES Find Their Remedy In ‘Love Is Dead’: Photo courtesy of Headline Planet/Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

CHVRCHES Find Their Remedy In ‘Love Is Dead’: Photo courtesy of Headline Planet/Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

Not to say that Mayberry needs any help on vocals, though. This she has proven time and time again to be unnecessary. On “Graves,” her recitation of the lines “I will stop at nothing” becomes more and more powerful each time, as if they are a prayer she is physically willing into existence. It’s only a few tracks later, on “Really Gone,” that she slips into a breathy falsetto, ushering the listener into an airy and ephemeral world of realization. A world that looks vaguely like a room full of mirrors, reflecting all the insecurities and uncertainties that usually stay hidden. And, to quote Robert Frost, “the best way out is always through.”

From top to bottom, Love Is Dead is one band’s exercise in facing reality and working through it. It’s a solution to the ever-looming question of how to create authentic art that stays true to an artist’s integrity, while also creating something relevant to the cultural climate. In short, it’s a lesson in not selling out. With the lofty production of Kurstin by their side, CHVRCHES have stepped into a new realm of artistry — one that couldn’t have been possible without a proper period of self-reflection, followed by a few creative risks.

 

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CHVRCHES Find Their Remedy In ‘Love Is Dead’: Featured image courtesy of CHVRCHES

‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’: How Courtney Barnett Bears It All & ‘Turns It Into Art’

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Although comparing artists to each other commonly brings up complaints among artists and critics alike (there will never be a new Beatles!) there are certain situations where this side-by-side is unavoidable. Like when Patti Smith invited Australian punk-folk-rocker Courtney Barnett up on stage last April at Melbourne’s Festival Hall. Whether it’s the hair, the fact that Smith is one of Barnett’s favorite artists, or the way both women write with such a sharp wit (one that recognizes its shortcomings, and doesn’t take itself too seriously,) there’s something strikingly similar about these two voices–especially on Barnett’s most recent release, Tell Me How You Really Feel.  

There’s an underlying kinetic energy present on this album–one that drives the tracks through the storm, that relishes in the emotional swells instead of trying to avoid them. In the first verse of the first track, entitled “Hopelessness,” Barnett sets up expectations for the emotional work that this album is going to do: “No one is born to hate / We learn it somewhere along the way / Take your broken heart / Turn it into art / Can’t take it with you.” This track begins with an eerie slow burn, the powerful guitar licks picking up speed before they explode in a beautifully screeching finale—a pattern that can describe the album as a whole. Barnett has become known for strumming with her fingers rather than a pick, a technique she first developed on the acoustic guitar and later translated to her (lefty) electric guitar. Not only does this not hold her back, it seems to actually give her a sort of edge.

“No one is born to hate / We learn it somewhere along the way / Take your broken heart / Turn it into art / Can’t take it with you.”

Lead single “Nameless, Faceless” acts like scar tissue—showing Barnett dissecting her own theme and feeling the full extent of the pain before letting it go. The interaction between the verses (which all end in the repetition of “I’m real sorry / ‘Bout whatever happened to you,”) and the no-holds-barred chorus (“I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them / I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them”) is a negotiation of her reaction to this learned hate. This moment comes across as particularly Patti-esque, the deadpan critique of gender-power relations evoking memories of Smith’s poetry (think “seventh heaven.”)

After this, the soon-to-be-punk-anthem “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” snaps into place. It may not even be necessary to discuss how this song relates to Smith, who has been given the title “godmother of punk.”

Courtney Barnett is not a carbon copy of Patti Smith, but she is doing the same legwork. She’s unabashedly intelligent, unafraid of addressing herself and her shortcomings, and fully prepared to go against the conventions that usually relegate singer-songwriters to Adult Top 40 stations and movie soundtracks. Through her lyricism and performances, she is embarking on an important project: carrying Smith’s energy forward to a new generation of listeners, who are eager to listen and learn. At the very least, they are kindred spirits–something I, as a young woman, can’t help but be very thankful for.

 

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‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’: How Courtney Barnett Bears It All & ‘Turns It Into Art’: Featured image courtesy of Courtney Barnett

Arctic Monkeys’ “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” Album Review

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Deciding where to begin when describing this album is no easy task, as it really doesn’t fit into any already designed boxes. The initial thought upon beginning Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino written by Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner was, “This reminds me of that song the blob guys sings in Rick & Morty?” After finishing the album and re-listening to the blob guy song, it became evident that this was for good reason: both take quite a bit of inspiration from David Bowie. Listen to “Goodbye Moonmen” here: 

Tranquility Base is written on the premise of a former moon-resident reminiscing on his home planet from a cocktail lounge on Earth. Moon has a great hotel, boasting “Four Out Of Five” stars. Like most sci-fi works, this is based on the last few years in the United States, the effects of technology (“Have I told you all about the time that I got sucked into a hole//Through a hand-held device?”) and fame. “American Sports” is one of the more obvious social commentaries on the album (“Breaking news, they take the truth and make it and fluid”).

From a listening standpoint, this album is not to be listened to in the shuffled mess or out of context songs on Spotify playlists – it’s an all or nothing kind of deal. It is by no means easy listening, and unlike a lot of their catchier albums, Tranquility Hotel requires a certain kind of focus if the listener is really going to enjoy it.

Image credit: Zackery Michael

To call this album a failure would be flawed. To call it a success would be too. In all likelihood, Tranquility Base won’t see a lot of commercial success, but it’s a demonstration of just how far Turner’s writing can go. As a band that has made a career out of consistently producing radio-ready hooks regardless of whatever genre they are in, an album like this, which admittedly consists of no such hooks, could be damaging. This of course, depends on the band’s intentions with the album. There are many who suspect that this album, in addition to its purpose as a social commentary, is also an attempt to ditch the fans who just jumped along for the ride with the rock success that was AM in 2013.

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Arctic Monkeys’ “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” Album Review. Featured image credit: Domino Recording Company

‘A Sea of Undefinable Stuff’: Sitting Down With Brooklyn’s O Mer

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When I met O Mer—or Omer, something we’ll get more into later—for the first time, he was performing in the back room of Alphaville, a trendy bar in Bushwick that doubles as a venue. The spot has become a fan-favorite among emerging NYC-based acts, hosting eclectic three- or four-band bills on a nearly daily basis. He was the closer of the night, following the notably more indie-rock oriented Secret Crush and No Ice. By the time he began playing, everyone was sweating; it was the middle of July and the back room lacks air conditioning. But, somehow, there was something chilling when he and his band took the stage. The semi-electronic band pulled together soulful and eastern influences to create a performance unlike anything I had ever seen before. He only had a couple of singles out on SoundCloud at the time. When I sat down with him again in anticipation of the upcoming Refugee EP release, we reminisced about that night.

How long has it been since that Alphaville show?”

“That was when I had just started interning, so I think it was May or June.” Actually, I was wrong; it was definitely in July. But the rapidity of time passing was evident, regardless.

“Wow, it’s been a sec,” he laughed.

The passage of time was surely more noticable for him than it was for me; we discussed how I had been away at college, while he had been working on his music amidst record label complications that derailed his progress multiple times. We were still on the topic of Alphaville when he brought up the road bumps: “The album [Refugee] was supposed to be released then; that was the initial plan.”

'A Sea of Undefinable Stuff': Sitting Down With Brooklyn's O Mer: Photo Courtesy of O Mer

‘A Sea of Undefinable Stuff’: Sitting Down With Brooklyn’s O Mer: Photo Courtesy of O Mer

When he began telling me about why the release was postponed so severely, it turned into a story that—unfortunately—many artists know all too well.

“We wanted to release it independently, and we released the first single in February.” He was referencing “Now I’m Alive,” the breakout single that led me to his show in the first place. This is one of the more electronically grounded songs he’s released, making heavy use of looping and vocal distortions to create a mesmerizing and anthemic track with soulful sensibilities. Currently, the single has nearly half a million streams on Spotify.

“The album was supposed to be all out by May. But what happened was that we released that single, and then we were approached by a record label. We signed with them, and they wanted to push it back a little, so they had extra time to re-release that single. And then the release was pushed to August.”

I vaguely remember the mention of an upcoming EP release at Alphaville, but little concrete detail. It seems this show took place right at the peak of this battle between himself and his label. He called the situation “a bummer,” recalling the initial excitement that came with the prospect of major label distribution and the subsequent disappointment that resulted from realizing “they just did a bad job.”

By now, O Mer and his manager, Ron Shpindler of Tron Management, are back to releasing the project independently. But this was not without the loss of an immense amount of time, an unfortunate consequence that I lamented on his behalf. He responded to my sympathizing with surprising positivity, calling it “an experience worth having when you are first starting out.”

“I don’t know why, but it felt like the more zen I got about it, the more I learned about it, and the more comfortable I got being a musician, which is a messed up job to have. It lacks structure, you know. Structure has to come from you.”

'A Sea of Undefinable Stuff': Sitting Down With Brooklyn's O Mer: Photo Courtesy of Ron Shpindler

‘A Sea of Undefinable Stuff’: Sitting Down With Brooklyn’s O Mer: Photo Courtesy of Ron Shpindler

Internal structure seems to an important aspect of who O Mer is as a musician. He’s meticulous about how he comes across as an artist—he produces and perfects all of his own beats—and as a performer. But he’s also bent on sometimes relinquishing this structure at certain key moments, especially when performing. He bounces back and forth.

When I asked him how he came about his stage name, he said plainly, “Well, it’s just my name.” But then, he began elaborating on the space between the letters—the structure of the word.

“It comes from a bunch of different places. First of all, mer is like the ocean in French. And I’m not sure that I’m getting this right, but O in psychoanalysis can mean the undefinable—so a sea of undefinable stuff.” A sea of undefinable stuff. This seems to be an accurate way to describe his art, as every track bounces between rhythms and melodies, manipulating styles to create something unrecognizable to any specific genre. Before I could truly let that sink in, though, he quickly followed up with a second answer—explaining that splitting the syllables also encourages correct pronunciation: “I mostly get called ‘Omar’ or ‘Omir’ or whatever else… I get a lot of ‘Omen’ too. But that’s more what it is. It’s just a pun and I like the way it looks. It’s a way to stay me without being completely myself.”

O in psychoanalysis can mean the undefinable—so a sea of undefinable stuff.”

Like a lot of artists, he is looking for a way to separate the person from the performer: “if you are performing…it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s you that’s doing it. You kind of—especially when performing—you have to have another personality be the ambassador of whatever it is you did. And that split, I think, is necessary.”

This can be tricky territory to navigate for some, but he’s far from being a method actor. It’s more a matter of shedding one’s own artificialities, rather than adding on new ones. He noticed that, when he is performing, he allows himself to be “a little bit more vulnerable” and “not as aware of [his] physicality.” In his opinion, as a performer, this is essential, “otherwise, you’re just getting in the way of the music. You have to give up the security of your elegance.”

The idea of a split came up time and time again. Besides the obvious split in his name, there are many other points where this idea of an intentionally fractured sense of self becomes crucial to understanding him. His nationality is another relevant example. He moved to Brooklyn nearly six years ago to pursue music, although he was already gaining recognition for being a session guitar player in Tel Aviv. He was very clear in explaining that this move was integral to his reinvention as an artist:

“The goal wasn’t to become what I was in Israel, here… New York was kind of—I should say Brooklyn—was kind of the way to get a clean slate. To be unknown. Israel was so small that I was known. It’s so tiny that I was just ‘the guy that does the thing’ by the time that I was 21, playing guitar with singers.”

It’s no surprise that he chose to come to Brooklyn of all places to find himself as an artist. Combine the excitement of living in the city, which all but defines itself as the mecca of DIY music in the Northeast, with the promise of mainstream success and what you get is a manifestation of a musician’s American Dream. As if on cue, he said one of the main reasons he was excited about coming to New York “was the whole independent scene going on in Brooklyn—Terrible Records, DFA, all that kind of stuff. Those labels. They seemed to be doing something that was really helping art be art, rather than commercial.” I could explain what happened on the label-front again, but then we would just be moving backwards. Besides being the location of some type of “a cliché dream” for catching a ‘big break,’ New York can also be a centrifuge for talent. It separates the impassioned from the passive, without any regard to external forces. O Mer commented that, for him, “mostly what it did is it created an urgency [within himself] to make music. By the nature of life in Israel, where it was a little bit more slow and mundane… New York is just ten times more intense.”

“otherwise, you’re just getting in the way of the music. You have to give up the security of your elegance.”

But living in the city that never sleeps, the home of all dreamers, is overwhelming in more than one way. Anyone that’s ever stopped for a second in the street, and then been immediately bumped into can attest to this fact. That’s what makes it so paradoxical; terrifying and beautiful all at once.

“There’s something to be said about living far away from your home—just that basic parting. You kind of get this strange perspective about who you are that you would not have had otherwise, because you are so out of your depth in a lot of ways. And I think that’s what happens to most people who come to New York. I might be wrong. Even if they come from within the United States. You’re just being thrown into the deep water.”

He’s come a long way since this initial move, hanging up his session guitar in exchange for various electronic instruments. Another split appears, this time between the acoustic and the electronic, but he does not see this one as being as defined as other aspects of his life. He began working with electronic sounds in New York “out of necessity.” That’s essentially the only important difference he sees between the two genres of music; while the ability to perform with a band or in a studio is limited, the possibilities of working alone on a computer are “endless.” But that doesn’t mean he’s ever going to go completely solo, either.

Even though he describes himself as a micromanager when it comes to his sound (“I certainly lead this band,” he told me at one point) he also views the experience of playing with a band as extremely collaborative:

“It’s my project and they just have a lot of room in it, and the place they have in my music, I don’t have in my music. It’s theirs. But it’s my music. So that’s the way it has to be. I have to let them have this wiggle room and go wild, and then I have to kind of massage it into something that I feel makes the song work. That’s the fun of it.”

This quickly shifted into a conversation about the experience of watching a band perform, in general, and how remarkably different this can be from seeing a solo artist. In many ways, this is a difficult opinion to argue against. We both agreed that there is something cosmic about the moment where a band is able to come together—despite all of their split identities—and smile about hitting a note the right way.

“That’s why I perform with a band. Basically, technology-wise, practically every artist can go on tour without a band. A lot of pop artists do that… You perform with a band so that you can have that moment with people, and then let people see it. I think it’s fucking beautiful, to be honest. I get really excited just thinking about it. It’s so worth the economical downside of moving around with a band and just the hardship of it. I think I need that. I need people to constantly criticize what I’m doing, even just with their faces, you know.”

It seems that this is the point where all of the different ends meet—in the music, itself. This is where the contradictions lie—alongside all of the questions, the answers, the personas, the risks, the consequences… you name it. The desire to be the leader meets with the need for external input. The performer collides with the producer, and the splintered selves must finally meet. New York becomes home, but Tel Aviv does not stop being home. The list goes on. But can that come as a surprise to anyone, really?

O Mer described this notion of music performance as the safe space for the self-contradictory—the hyper-malleable—as intentionally inexplicable. He compared it to “[looking] at something, and [letting] your eyes go out of focus” until something “floats up to the surface” and “hits you from this totally unexpected place.” To him, “it’s not concentrating on yourself, being isolated, or feeling everyone else. It’s letting yourself get lost in what is happening.”

“You perform with a band so that you can have that moment with people, and then let people see it. I think it’s fucking beautiful, to be honest. I get really excited just thinking about it.”

This process of getting caught up in the moment is analogous to how O Mer views the term genre, which means little to nothing to him. When I asked if he would ever try to move away from the type of music that he’s been making, he gave me an answer that perfectly fell in line with what I expected from him:

“I’m definitely interested in doing different genres, but for me, what that means is just changing the instruments—changing the tools. I’m not going to write as a different person or try to fit a different genre. I want keep being myself. I just want to maybe try other things.”

He also mentioned that there “there isn’t one artist that [he likes] that doesn’t do it every album.” This ability to transition it seems, for him, is reflective of talent. He brought up Elvis Costello as one example, and then I mentioned Bon Iver. We agreed once again; these artists are great not because they have perfected a sound, but because they do refuse to let the dust settle. Obviously, a conversation regarding chameleon-esque musical genius had a naturally progression towards Kanye West—an artist that O Mer considerations one of his biggest admirations.

We talked about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at length and how Kanye operates so unapologetically in his work. He compared him, briefly, to Dostoevsky when talking about art that functions under extreme anticipation:

“I’m drawn to that type of art, generally. The type of art that gets you almost on the verge of exploding, where you’re like I have to know where this is going. Like with music. I think Kanye has that, to be honest. All of his music is a lot of anticipation and a lot of pressure, and then a little bit of release. There something very dramatic about it.”

The Dirty Projectors also came up—Swing Lo Magellan, specifically. O Mer was completely in awe when talking about this work and how “precise and aware of what it’s doing it is, but also free and naturally occurring.”

Ultimately, these are the types of works where all the individual threads meet—in this sea of undefinable stuff—and create large, inseparable tangles. It is at this moment that the whole band smiles. It’s something that cannot be rehearsed, and it’s the reason why artists like O Mer create music.

Stream O Mer’s Refugee EP below, and watch him perform these tracks live at New York City’s Berlin on May 25.

This article originally appeared in the April/May issue of Cliché Magazine.

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‘A Sea of Undefinable Stuff’: Sitting Down With Brooklyn’s O Mer: Featured image courtesy of Gaya Feldheim Schorr

Post Malone’s “beerbongs & bentleys” Album Review

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Since the release of “White Iverson” in 2015, Post Malone’s rise to fame was a relatively short journey. Three years later and Malone has already released his sophomore album, beerbongs & bentleys on Friday, April 27. The 18-track LP is already topping charts with his catchy hooks and relatable lyrics.

At first glance, beerbongs & bentleys doesn’t show much growth since Malone’s first album Stoney, which was incredibly successful commercially, but critiqued heavily for its simplicity. After some closer listening, it’s clear that Malone didn’t completely brush off all of those critiques. With more complex beats and a wide range of genre influences, beerbongs & bentleys demonstrates a lot of growth for Malone. It’s musically diverse, drawing influence from rap, pop, and indie rock, which are all tied together with the constant presence of Malone’s soulful voice.

While Malone has been able to internalize musical critiques and grow in that department, his personal maturity is still lacking. He is a part of an industry rooted in black culture, and in the past has faced several accusations of cultural appropriation. He addresses some of these concerns on this album, but he doesn’t do so in particularly graceful fashion. On “Over Now,” he declares, “Won’t apologize, don’t give a fuck if you offended.”

The thing that has always distinguished Post Malone from other rappers, though, is his ability to use a combination of genre influences and vulnerability in his hip hop. Malone seems to know he is nowhere near the best in the game with his rapping, and he is shown up by all of the features on this album. In particular, Nicki Minaj absolutely dominates “Ball For Me.” But, he doesn’t need to be the best; he just needs to be good at doing something different. The stark contrast between his gruff exterior and vulnerable music is perhaps the most interesting thing about Post Malone. He is a prime example of how you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Photo courtesy of www.postmalone.com

The vulnerability in the lyrics doesn’t always evoke a whole lot of sympathy and the album is heavily inundated with a “I do drugs, I have money and I’m sad” theme. The chorus of “Rich & Sad” (a title that literally encompasses this idea) breaks this down in the chorus with “I just keep on wishing that the money made you stay.”  While his lyricism isn’t exactly poetic (“Spoil My Night” boasts, “I ain’t even seen the face but she got beautiful boobies – wow!”), no one can deny that Malone knows his way around a hook. It is impossible to hear his songs without singing them a couple days later. All in all, Malone is no lyrical prodigy, but he’s an interesting guy who knows how to make a chart-topper.

 

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Post Malone’s “beerbongs & bentleys” Album Review. Featured image credit: Republic Records

J. Cole’s “KOD” Album Review

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J. Cole hasn’t featured any artists since his 2013 release Born Sinner. His two most recent albums, 2014 Forest Hills Drive and 4 Your Eyez Only both topped the charts without the help of anyone else. This feat became a bragging point for several Cole fans, who may be disheartened to see that Cole opted to include someone by the name of “kiLL edward” on his latest release. But, these fans need not worry too much. Several are speculating that kiLL edward is just Cole using some pitch adjustment. Cole is likely just making a show for some of the haters who have turned his lack of features into a joke. While reaching such a high level of success flying solo is impressive, just because Cole can top the charts without any features doesn’t necessarily mean he should. Going it alone is a dangerous route and can lead to some boredom, especially on a full-length album.

Cole has stated that the acronym “KOD” holds three meanings: Kids On Drugs, King OverDosed, and Kill Our Demons. All of these meanings are addressed throughout the album, as it focuses heavily on Cole’s own struggles with drug addiction.

As for the music itself, this album is not to be enjoyed at a party. You can’t really bop to any of these tracks, but the storyline is a valiant effort at exposing the realities of drug addiction. While several rappers appear to romanticize Percocet and Xanax, J. Cole is here to remind the listener that it isn’t all fun and games. Cole also goes into a few other topics, including guilt, familial issues, death, the struggles of low-income communities, and love in the digital age. Addressing all this in a 12-track, 42-minute album is no easy task, but to say Cole did all this successfully would be giving him too many accolades.

While there are several stand-out tracks on the album and plenty of applaudable themes, simply put, the album is nothing special. We’ve seen rappers recently putting out five-star albums from top to bottom—Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN, Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory, etc.—and this release is not that. Despite his efforts to address some serious things, this album is Cole’s worst.

There is no one track that has it all—lyrics, flow, beat. The stand out tracks are the ones that have at least one of those things, but there are none that have all three. The title track opens up the album with a solid beat and leads to listener to believe that this album is going to show some development in Cole’s style. Sadly, this foreshadowing is completely misleading. “ATM” is the next stand-out with probably the most interesting beat on the album.

The most disappointing track on the album by far comes early on in “Photograph.” This track sounds very similar to those on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, but the similarities stop short in everything but style. “Photograph” is the track that discusses the difficulties of love going digital and falling in love with a photograph—basically just a song about sliding into the DMs. Cole has called out SoundCloud rappers on many occasions, including a couple of times on this album, but this track is ironically reminiscent of some of the angst and simplicity that defines the famous SoundCloud rappers.

The second half of the album is far better, with “Kevin’s Heart,” “BRACKETS,” and “Once An Addict (Interlude)” all exploring particularly intimate themes with better flow. “BRACKETS” dives deeper into themes of racial discrimination. “Once An Addict” is the most intimate track on the album and provides insight into Cole’s relationship with his mother and his difficult, guilt-ridden childhood.

All in all, this album is unimpressive and repetitive. Cole hints at new styles, but fails to follow through. The themes are a solid effort at doing something bigger with his stardom, but Cole simply doesn’t manage to present them in an interesting and manner. Some tracks showed potential, but nothing was really enough to make the album notable.

 

 

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J. Cole’s “KOD” Album Review. Featured image credit: Dreamville Records

Hot or Not? Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” Review

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Cardi B is the true representation of starting from the bottom. Her rags-to-riches story begins quite conventional to the new age of fame. The Bronx-born rapper gained notoriety as a social media celebrity who posted funny videos of herself before landing a spot on Love & Hip Hop, where she used her screen time to push her aspiring music career. It wouldn’t be long before she dropped two mixtapes, and broke out into the mainstream with “Bodak Yellow.” Many were skeptical of how long Cardi’s reign would last, and some even questioned her apparent talent. On top of that, there’s still a few people that refuse to give a woman credit where it’s due in the area of rap music.

Invasion of Privacy is that middle finger to Cardi’s skeptics as she proves yet again that she is more than just a pretty face and a one-hit wonder. The upbeat album features Cardi spitting on different beats, varying from pop-trap music to ballads. Cardi knows that her personality is intoxicating, and she uses it to bring you into her life. Her music remains equally as unapologetic as she is and displays different layers of who she is.

The introduction sets the tone for the album with “Get Up 10,” an explosive tune that nods to her rise to fame. She reflects on the struggle she faced in order to get to where she is now, and the song upholds the empowering feel of the album. She gets in tune with her Latina side with “I Like It,” featuring Puerto Rican singer and rapper Bad Bunny and the Colombian reggaeton star J Balvin, a badass revision to Pete Rodriguez’s “I Like It Like That.” It is without question that Cardi drops empowering and relatable tracks for women throughout, including the upbeat ballads “Be Careful” and her “Ring” collaboration with Kehlani. The Cardi confidence that we know and love shines in both “Drip” featuring Migos, as well as in her collaboration with Chance the Rapper, “Best Life.” Her emotional ballad “Thru Your Phone” contrasts with her boldness and shows off a much more vulnerable side of herself.

Cardi B lets her fans into her world and allows them to, essentially, invade her privacy. The album was executed well, and has had amazing numbers since its release last week. Invasion of Privacy was certified Gold by the RIAA the same day it released, selling over 500,000 units. It also debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. Cardi B is doing her thing in the rap game, giving it a playful, yet bold side. She successfully displayed her ability of being versatile, and it’s without question that this is not gonna be the last we see of her.

Stream Invasion of Privacy now on Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and other music streaming platforms.

 

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Hot or Not? Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” Review: Featured Image Credit: Atlantic Records

Kississippi Dives Into Pop With ‘Sunset Blush’

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Listening to Sunset Blush by Philadelphia’s indie darling Kississippi—otherwise known as Zoe Reynolds—feels like sitting shotgun in the summer, windows rolled down halfway, a lukewarm breeze passing by your shoulders. It gives the sonic effect of goosebumps. A fairly big step away from 2016’s EP We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed, this release has pulled the project into a much more pop-influenced direction. This move comes across as extremely natural for Reynolds, who is diving into her own sound following the departure of former bandmate Colin James.

Her vocals are more confident than ever, and her songwriting is tender and sharp all at once. She bares it all on the breakout track “Cut Yr Teeth,” with lyrics that tap into the anxiety of realizing someone may not actually be who they appeared to be (“The​​ ​​person​​ ​​you​​ ​​made​​ ​​yourself​​ ​​out​​ ​​to​​ ​​be​ / would​​ ​​feel​​ ​​sorry​​ ​​for​​ ​​what​​ ​​you have​​ ​​done​​ ​​to​​ ​​me​.”) There’s something about the distance created by the use of the second person—that biting “you”—that makes it even more intimate. It’s almost as if she’s having a conversation with the listener, like they’re tapping into something they shouldn’t be. But then, in a way that only she knows how to, Reynolds brings you back into her world mere minutes later on “Red Lights” with one use of the word “we.” One of the sweeter tracks on the album, “Red Lights” is the unmistakably slow burn of a blush you can’t shake, with simple lyrics that say more than words usually can (“Red lights / Kisses on the nose / Hope we hit traffic on the way home.”)

There’s an energy present on this album that we haven’t seen before from Kississippi—partially thanks to anthemic tracks like “Easier To Love” and “Adrift,” which both drip with synths, while retaining an edge. With saccharine harmonies and upbeat, driving guitar parts, both tracks appeal to her new pop sensibilities. They are also undeniable highlights of the album, giving her vocals a chance to soar. Not only does Reynolds avoid the cheesiness that is often symptomatic of indie rock artists experimenting with pop flirtations, but she does so triumphantly. She creates a novel sound, a possibility which is always questioned in our ever-skeptical-of-pop world.

Sunset Blush is rare and remarkable, unearthing a ferocious femininity that has been there all along. It shows a clear progression for the artist, who is (unsurprisingly) seeing well-deserved success in the wake of its release. It’s already surpassing older releases on streaming platforms and showing no signs of slowing down—especially not after her tour with Dashboard Confessional.

 

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Kississippi Dives Into Pop With ‘Sunset Blush’: Featured image courtesy of Kississippi

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