CD Review

I like Phantogram for their crunchy synths and metrical structures that kind of push and pull at you. Also, I’m more than a little bit in love with Sarah Barthel’s voice right now, it has this slight moan to it that’s super appealing. Check out my playlist for a sampling of their music.

More electronic goodness today. ex guru is based in France and is “the project of a girl and a boy,” apparently. The adventurous synths sometimes remind me of the 80s cartoons I watched as kid, tapping into something at the core of my personality; no joke, this music brings me back to the time when I was obsessed with the evil prince from Unico. I chose these three songs for the playlist but really I like everything they have up on soundcloud right now. Their covers are completely new creations, which I dig.

Track listing, all by ex guru:

“La Mort”

“The Hunt”

“Genesis (Grimes Cover)”

We all know what day it is, so let’s cut to the chase—check out my playlist, called “You Are Mine”, which I like to think captures several ways of feeling about L-O-V-E. Speaking of, loving all these bands right now, particularly Phantogram. Also, making this list introduced me to Body Language, so, yay!

Track listing:

“Recover” by CHVRCHES

“You Are Mine” by Mutemath

“Fall in Love” by Phantogram

“I’m a Mess” by Body Language

“Heart : Release” by Neon Indian

Crystal Castles makes my preferred variety of electronica: The beats are danceable and the synths are nice and full, but we get a lot of variety in texture and form. And I like how the vocals are mixed in equally with the other tracks (and not brought to the front as is often the case with vocal tracks). Plus, they did a song with Robert Smith! How cool is that? Check out my Spotify playlist, which features a few of my favorite tracks.

Grimes for me is that music that I hear in my dreams and think this is exactly what I want: really creative synths, sweet beats, experimental vocals. As a 90s kid, to me she’s like an unangry version of NIN (cos you know like The Downward Spiral changed my life, ok?). Also, she makes these incredibly addictive videos to go along with her singles (see my fave below). Anyway, check out my Spotify playlist, which I think is a good introduction to her music.

Childish Gambino

I’ve listened to Childish Gambino’s recently released because the internet several times over the last two weeks, and one track that stands out for me is “flight of the navigator”. The harmonies as well as the vocals really get to me.

The first 48 seconds contain an alternation between the two chords F#M7 and EM7, each of which get two measures. From 0:48 til the end of the nearly six-minute song, this chord progression repeats (each chord getting one measure):

AM7 / F#m / G#m / C#m

Both of these progressions appeal to me because of their impressionistic stasis, with the one exception being the move from G#m to C#m at the end of the second progression, where we get this one satisfyingly “final” sounding interval (the fourth up/fifth down from G# to C#). But for the most part we get to sort of float around in the music, which goes along with the dreamscape lyrics. I also like his use of major seventh chords, which add to the major chord this bittersweet dissonance between the root and the fourth note of the chord (e.g., A-C#-E-G#).

The vocals progress from distortion to clarity, with the opening spoken-word section highly distorted, becoming clearer but still grainy-sounding at 1:37, then at 3:36 much clearer and closer as his voice soars in shapely contours.

Check out my clumsy attempt at demonstrating the guitar chords here.


I’ve spent half the morning reading the Brothers Grimm and researching Bauhaus (the architectural style, not the band) and trying to remember that time Shoreditch was mentioned on the Mighty Boosh. Why? Because of the press email I got from London-based German singer NINA’s record company.

NINA, part of whose new record you can hear on soundcloud, grew up in Berlin (hello Bauhaus), loves the Grimm tale Frau Holle, and was lured away from a life of modeling and dancing in central London to a life of singing and synthy song writing by producers based in the East London ‘hood Shoreditch (which has the same kind of hipstery vibe as Williamsburg in Brooklyn; this site kind of clarifies what I mean). 

“Waste of Love” is full of round bouncy synth sounds and beats, and has a catchy hook. But for all that it has depth and a tinge of sadness.

“My Mistake” is more urgent, and has an interesting mixture of major and minor modalities, static third relations in the verse sections and more forward-driven traditional tonality in the choruses.

“We Are the Wild Ones” showcases NINA’s pure, agile voice, her melodies in the chorus having a curvy contour, while the verse vocal line is punctuated by rests and is more angular.

On the surface, NINA might appear to be another generic electronica act, but listen to her songs and you hear something much more actively creative. Definitely someone to watch.

glitch mobThe Glitch Mob first popped up in my [redacted] online playlist a few months ago and their music immediately caught my attention. I’ve always gravitated towards “big” sounding music (from Muse to Mahler), as well as “futuristic” sounding music (think Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack), and The Glitch Mob is definitely both.

I particularly like “Warrior Concerto” from their EP We Can Make the World Stop for its angularity: musical fragments powerfully cut across each other with the well coordinated movements of machinery.