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"Subversive To Care" comp released to benefit AAPI communities

In today’s fast-paced modern era of music streaming and profligate playlist making (not to mention Twitch DJing and all the other means of assembling original musical mixes) the notion of an old-school compilation album (or “comp”) may seem hopelessly out of date. But comps can still be wonderful things, and Subversive To Care (referred to as Sub2Care forthwith), which has been released to coincide with the launch of Paul Is Dead Records, checks off many of the boxes that make them good things.



For one thing, comps are often assembled to raise money for charitable/activist organizations and this one fits the bill with proceeds going to several AAPI organizations—The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (www.NAPAWF.org), Asian Mental Health Collective (www.ASIANMHC.org) and The Tibet Fund (www.TIBETFUND.org)—in response to alarming levels of hate crimes and ongoing struggles against prejudice against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

What’s more, a good comp is a great way to discover new music and new artists without having to continually troll Spotify’s Teen Beats playlist (granted, SyKo’s “#BrooklynBloodPop!” has its pleasures). And with 60 original songs by the original artists Sub2Care should keep you occupied for a while as you make your way from the start (Wake Up’s “Hurricane” in exclusive demo form; the band is pictured above) to the finish (Squires’ “Tombstoning”) so you basically have got a conceptual theme here of moving from wakefulness to the Big Sleep—not that you can’t skip around within and between individual tracks which is another one of the nice things about comps. They’re basically sampler platters in musical form.

Sub2Care was put together by the new LA-based label Paul Is Dead Records (with satellite offices in New York and Wisconsin apparently) and is likely named either after the notorious Beatles urban legend, or the recent death of Paul Van Doren, patriarch of the Van’s sneaker empire. And while LA artists predominate on the comp (speaking of Vans some of these LA artists no doubt look a lot like Jeff Spicoli or perhaps Phoebe Cates) there’s also a decent number from other locales including New York/New Jersey like Frankie Rose, New Myths, Mevius, Dahl Haus, CITYGIRL, Skyler Skjelset (Fleet Foxes), The Natvral (Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), and Shana Falana (featuring Shana Falana).

Across musical history, comps have occasionally played a key role in defining the sound of a nascent genre or a new record label—like the Lenny Kaye-compiled Nuggets (1972) that set an early template for punk rock, or the 1988 Sub Pop 200 comp that was a who’s who of future grunge all-stars—and while Sub2Care isn’t strictly speaking a “label comp” since it’s made up of tracks donated by “artists who are close friends and family members of our label” quoting label head and co-founder Evan Mui, it’s still got a certain vibe or aesthetic, if you will, while being pretty darn eclectic at the same time.

I would prospectively call this vibe or aesthetic Twilight Music. By Twilight Music I mean songs that’ve got a certain hazy/dreamy/slightly off-kilter quality whether they’re upbeat or downbeat or mid-beat. And in this way it’s good music for putting on around twilight say when you’re pregaming for a Saturday night out (tracks #13 and 14 are two good examples: Smirk’s “Do You?” and Eternal Summers' “Belong”) or waking up Sunday morning trying to recall what happened the previous night (rewind to tracks #10-12: Four Dots’ “I Left My Heart Pump In San Francisco,” D.A. Stern’s “Funky Holocaust (Drunk Demo),” and Big Nitty’s “Chemical Plant”) or songs that fit equally well for either scenario (for example, tracks 32-34: Dahl Haus’ “Silhouettes and Alibis,” Black Needle Noise’s “And Nothing Remains,” Built Like Alaska’s “Ran Into A Coroner").

So throw a few bucks in the Bandcamp bin for Paul Is Dead Records if you like what you hear. And in return you may discover a new favorite artists or two--whether one of the ones mentioned/displayed here or some other deserving object of your musical admiration. (Jason Lee)









 




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VIDEO: “It’s All Right” Finds DIY-er Tatiana Hazel Working on Herself

Photo Credit: Yanin Gzv

L.A.-based Chicago native Tatiana Hazel’s latest track/video, <i>It’s All Right</i>, is a preview of her latest EP (after 2020’s <i>Duality</i> EP), and it’s difficult not to enjoy the track’s laid-back danceable groove and breezy vocals, while also being touched by it’s casual honesty about facing mental health challenges.

At points throughout the song, Hazel delivers some sobering lines about facing ones mental illness as well as general disillusion with “truths” presented by the larger world: “maybe i should take a good look at myself / and mirror check on mental health / couldn’t be clearer that I’m not doing well, darlin’ / and maybe everything you told us was a lie / maybe all we gotta do is pass the time / maybe everything is gonna be all right.”

Ultimately, though, the chorus takes solace in the idea that, as crazy as this life can be, having someone who loves you along for the ride can make things somewhat more tolerable: “It’s all right / It’s all right / as long as I know that you love me / as long as you are thinking of me.”

Listeners will find Tatiana Hazel’s pleasingly unaffected voice similar to other electropop chanteuses such as Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso. However, if one looks past her admittedly polished, Top 40-ready public image, one will quickly realize that, with Hazel not just singing, but writing, producing, recording, mixing, and mastering all but one of her EPs tracks herself, she’s a one-person indie pop dynamo well on her way to bigger, better things. Gabe Hernandez

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VIDEO: Ah-Mer-Ah-Su Drops “No One,” 2021’s Summer Empowerment Anthem

Self-described L.A.-based “poptronic princess” Ah-Mer-Ah-Su has released “No One,” a track from her upcoming Hopefully Limitless EP, due late this summer, along with an accompanying music video filmed in collaboration with filmmaker Roge Stack. Judging by the track’s life-affirming lyrics and club-ready sound, she may have released this summer’s first big Alt Pop empowerment anthem.

The track starts with a tropically psychedelic keyboard flourish, before Ah-Mer-Ah-Su’s effervescent, nimble lead vocal enters in full, buoyed by impactful, elastic bass and fizzy but hard-hitting electronic drums, making for a formidably danceable rhythm section. Later, saxophone and chorused lead guitar lines deliver a refreshingly non-clichéd dose of carefully-arranged 80s pop bliss.

The lyrics are seemingly self-addressed and allude to the challenges the black trans artist has undoubtably had to face on her career path. With lines like “you dont’ got it easy / you’ve always had to work / for it and so / work it you do,” it’s clear that the challenges, although formidable for Ah-Mer-Ah-Su (the name is a paraphrase of Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun in Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan) have been taken on with the same deftness and grace as her songwriting and vocals.

Overall, “No One” delivers the kind of catchy vibes that fans of Laura Mvula, Robyn, and Whitney Houston will enjoy, while also delivering a glimpse of an artist on the rise. Gabe Hernandez

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Nation of Language speak in tongues on new single

On their debut single released in 2016, Nation of Language asked “What Does the Normal Man Feel?” and it’s a question that's become all the more relevant in the five years since, given, you know, the five years since--five years which has made our brains hurt a lot. But “normal” itself doesn’t feel so desirable anymore anyways (if it ever did) and N.O.L. already understood this when they distanced themselves from normal man feelings (“free from it...can not find it in myself”) backing up this sentiment with a neo-Devo meets Human League meets Howard Jones sound, a sound harking back to men (and women) who didn’t exactly scream normalcy either back in the day despite penning many hits between them. 

In the interim Nation of Language put out a bunch of singles and one full length called Introduction, Presence, exploring a range of musical tributaries without deviating too far from their core sound. For instance, just listen to the band's stark coldwave cover of “Gouge Away” which evokes the Pixies’ extreme dynamics but in a whole different fashion.

On their most recent single, N.O.L. acknowledge how we’ve crossed “Across That Fine Line”  (see the video up top) and go full-on Motorik throb a la Krautrock/Kraftwerk which fits perfect with the notion of being in transit/transition from one state-of-being to another whether literally or figuratively or due to falling in L-U-V or whatever. And they manage to work in an anthemic chorus which is not really native to Krautrock so it makes for a cool push/pull dynamic which even comes across in the song’s opening lines, alternately comforting and disconcerting:

“Reach out, call my name
Whenever you want
Faced with the final convulsions
Contorting my tongue”

 

It’ll be interesting to hear what other new accents and dialects Nation of Language work into the mix on their next full-length, A Way Forward, scheduled for towards the end of this year, no doubt to be made available at your local record and tape outlet. (Jason Lee)

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VIDEO: “Am I Alive” Finds MINDY Taking On A Tough Crowd

Electropop singer, songwriter & producer MINDY (Mindy Song) has released “Am I Alive,” the first single/video for her upcoming debut solo EP Version 1.27, premiering July 23. The new track/video provide an intriguing glimpse into MINDY’s sonic and visual world.

“Am I Alive” begins with a grungy bass/drum intro before MINDY’s breathy but confident lead vocal takes the stage. When the chorus crashes in shortly after, it’s with a flood of 90s electronica/dance sounds, but without any of the cliches that those sounds typically bear. Overall, the track is a full-bodied electro pop banger, but with lyrics that suggest there’s an perceptive artistic soul behind things.

Meanwhile the accompanying music video (directed by Adrian Pruett) adds precious context to MINDY’s enigmatic lyrics, cutting between the singer performing her heart out for the jaded and image-obsessed denizens of a blue-lit nightclub, and striking scenes of self-harm. It’s a delicate balance to keep things both serious and entertaining, but it works.

About the video, MINDY states in a press release: “‘Am I Alive’ is about my struggles with violence and the relentless cycles of murder, pain, and healing. Director Adrian Pruett and I turned my internal agony into a performance in which we ask, ‘what does it mean to be alive and engage with others when so much suffering continues right before our eyes?’” Certainly, a prerequisite for being alive is being moved by MINDY’s well-crafted, emotive new track. Gabe Hernandez

 

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