Song Exploder

Something a little different for you to dive into today. Song Exploder is a podcast that gets artists to open up about a track they have made. It goes deep on why and how they made it. It will honestly add a whole new layer of appreciation to some of your top tracks and artists.

At the time of writing there are 194 episodes, each at about 20 minutes in length, so plenty to choose from. Scroll through to find your favourites, including: Phantogram, Fleetwood Mac, Tame Impala, Robyn, Bon Iver, Little Gradgon, Gorrilaz, Bonobo, DJ Shadow, Mobb Deep, and whole load of others. The best I’ve listened to so far was Caribou, explaining both the message behind Home, and the techniques he employed in the production.

You can subscribe via your favourite Podcast provider here. Shout out to Ollie Lyth for the recommendation.

We Should be Free – Mark Hawkins

Dear reader, I have an apology to make. This track came out in 2018 and came into my life hard. And I’ve just been sitting on it. It’s not good enough from me. No excuses. You come here for quality music, and I’ve let you down by taking 24 months to serve it up. Please accept my apology.

Now, what do we have here? It is a house track with massive energy that walks the line between sweet and sour. It’s screwy, it’s pumping. Huge vibes. A real monster. Enjoy.

Interesting sidenote: in much the same way as The Black Madonna rebranded to become The Blessed Madonna during the BLM movement, Marquis Hawkes has switched to his birth name – Mark Hawkins. He explained his original choice of artist name as a nod to the legendary late house producer Kenny Hawkes. However, he has been criticised for co-opting black culture for his own gain, and with the additional scrutiny and awareness that the BLM movement has created, decided to go with the name his mother gave him. Fair play.

Freedom (Never Let Me Go) – Karma Kid

It took all of 2 seconds for me to know that this was going to be a banger. Strong Sizzling energy. It would have been the track of the Summer if we had one. Soak it up all the same.

Bonus track: if it feels like Karma Kid has been around an age now, you may be surprised to hear that he is only 26. He came onto the scene with this, when he was just 18, with strong Michael Cera vibes. Nuts.

Hyper Romance – Jadu Heart

The last real proper gig I went to was on the 14th March, to see these guys, and it was fucking awesome. (God I miss it so much). Since then Diva and Alex have been busy, and last week they came out with their second full album, Hyper Romance.

Since Melt Away a lot has changed. They have moved from London to Bristol. Gone are the masks and the alter egos – in comes stripped-back intimate honesty. Gone is the electro-pop sound they became known for – in comes a grungy style that occasionally borders on shoe-gaze. They built up their new sound in their basement studio, using cheap amps and distortion pedals. If nothing else, the album is a showcase of their enormous potential as a duo. Plenty of promise to keep developing and growing.

But are they living up to this potential in Hyper Romance? There are some notable highlights – Metal Violets and Burning Hour are up there with my favourite JD tracks – but in general I think the release falls short on spark. The creativity and originality of their former releases aren’t quite hit with the same regularity. Granted I’ve set them a high bar, but hey, I think they are good enough. Looking forward to the next one. Also I hope they don’t read this because I would like to be their friend.

Notable mention to the title track Hyper Romance which samples the 1984 documentary Streetwise (about homeless kids in Seattle) in a subtly beautiful and incredibly emotional way. Definitely worth a listen.

Heartbreak – Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs & Bonobo

It’s a big day when two of your favourite artists come together to release new music. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Bonobo. What a combo. The track they have come up with is Heartbreak and it has each of their fingerprints all over it.

I like it. In fact I really like it. It’s the kind of track that will blow up a Printworks set. Nice ravey 90s drums and a soulful vocal sample. What’s not to like really?

Free Love – Sylvan Esso

Put simply, Sylvan Esso are the band we all need right now. Let them take you to your happy place with their hotly anticipated third album Free Love which dropped on Friday. Ferris Wheel, Frequency, Free and Rooftop Dancing were all released before, but my pick is Numb (and Frequency is also bit nice).

To present the release they hosted a virtual album launch. It is full of live performances, behind the scenes content, bits of art, and little previews of things to come on the album. Also a sensationally dodgy DJ mix by one of their mates. But anyway, all wholesome. All lovable.

More of my gushings on the band here, here and here. ❤

Syncopated City – London Elektricity

Some history: founded in 1996, Hospital Records are pretty much responsible for bringing drum & bass out of the shadows and into UK mainstream dance music. Hospital is known for popularising a sub-genre of drum & bass called ‘liquid funk’*. It is now thought of as the mother of Hospitality events, and the home of Netsky, Danny Byrd, Camo & Krooked, Logistics, etc. but basically it is founder Tony Colman’s baby. When Tony isn’t being the label boss, he produces under the name London Elektricity. London Elektricity is one of the most important drum & bass producers of the last two and a half decades. With me? Basically, Tony Colman is one of the most important people in the history of drum & bass.

Syncopated City is one of LE’s most famous albums – but I don’t think it will it go down as his best, or most impactful – but it is really interesting, and broad stylistically. Anyway, I wanted to post this one because: i) it has some bangers and; ii) it came out in 2008 so has some serious iPod-era nostalgia value for me.

For the tl:dr crew, listen to Just One Second with Elsa Esmeralda. Proper goosebump material. From South Eastern Dream to The Point of No Return (tracks 5-7) the album picks up momentum with some really nice jungle loops. See what you think, and don’t miss the final track – Syncopated City Revisited – which brings the album to a nice jazzy conclusion.

Bonus track: taking Just One Second onto the dancefloor, with the help of Apex. Iconic. RIP Rob ‘Apex’ Dickeson.

*personally, that descriptor really annoys me, but hey, what am I gonna do about it?

Keira – Susso

Just in time to capture the last of the UK summer sun, here is some Afro goodness coming for your ears. What’s more, Keira means ‘peace’ which is probably something all of our brains could do with right now.

This one-off album is the result of an unplanned collaboration between London resident and bassist, Huw Bennett, and a group of traditional Gambian musicians from the Mandinka people. Huw was originally travelling to broaden his musical horizons, but was so welcomed into the local musical community that he was inspired to infuse his own sound, and to try and showcase Gambian music to the world.

My two picks are Ansumana and the final track on the album, Son Kunda. Enjoy!

Laurence Guy

Laurence Guy always delivers. Two 2020 EPs on Shall Not Fade consisting of 7 tracks for your listening pleasure today.

First up, the wonderfully titled, The Sun is Warm and Directly Above You. My pick is Untitled Needs – it wanders and sprawls, all the while punctuated beautifully by Laurence’s trademark piano chords. Healing and heartwarming. The title track is equally picturesque. What stands out for me is the gentle chatter sample that lives in the background – it gives me the feeling of being surrounded by people I like, having a good time – a feeling that is seemingly tough to create in 2020.

Your Good Times Will Come – how sweet is that? My favourite is The Spirit. It has, you guessed it, stunning piano chords, and also a bass section that resonates and vibrates with warmth and beauty. Also a shout out to Experience Health which somehow manages to create a meditative acid vibe; strings and gurgles combine in a way that I didn’t think was possible.

More of my favourite LG here and here. I’m a bit of a fanboy. Sue me.