HyperGear – Buzz

Music is a thing of beauty. Making expressions available through music is awesome. And preserving that certain raw feeling to your sound is what makes the new track of Milan based HyperGear outstanding.

The synth rock trio states that “Hypergear stands for the overwhelming and unstoppable development of techonology, way too fast for the human being to handle it” which is one of the points of chosing their band name a couple of years ago. Taking a closer look at tracks like today’s pick “Buzz”, but also on faster paced tracks like “I Am The Dead“, I’m feeling their intention. The distorted guitars alongside sometimes desperate sung vocals, and with added piano tracks and kind of outer-space synth effects, they are using electro elements with handmade analogue instruments, making the human/electro struggle feelable.
The mix of “Buzz” isn’t that great, but that is not intended anyway, I think. The raw cut and somewhat harsh recording underlines the seriousness and authenticity of the band’s sound. I guess having a clean mix without the multi-mic recording of the drums for instance would have taken away a ton of credibility of the track. I know, nowadays everybody is expecting a super clean compressed mix with the lastest plugins and brick wall limiting, but listen closely to this arrangement, guys. This mixing work alongside an very unconventional approach to the audience (for example, it stated “don’t listen to this band. you’ve been warned!” in the email sent to us) helps building a specific signature sound and unique look-and-feel. I wonder what those guys do live on stage to keep being unique.

To add things up, although the alternative rock sound of HyperGear might not fit in everybody’s music taste, it’s handmade, it’s unique, and done with passion and the courage to step outta line once in a while, be it with raw mixes, not very harmonic harmonies or sometimes even crazy chiptune ideas or something. Make sure to check out those other tracks available on Soundcloud, you’ll get my point very quickly.

Sarah Sellers – Gone Through Hell

This one flooded the room with feelings. Carefully mixed backing tracks meeting soulful emotive vocals. “Gone Through Hell” is a song where emotion is mixed in as if it was an additional track.

First time I listened was with studio speakers. Second, third and fourth time with closed headphones. This track made me lose track of time for a couple of minutes while I was listening. Dallas based Sarah Sellers creates a huge emotional stage while using her voice. She’s got that certain “it”-element while singing, you just believe that she’s giving you a little piece of her soul while telling her story. And this isn’t a story full of joy, happiness and “hey, it’s alright” moments. This is how she describes the process she went thorugh until now:
I might have burned everything down around me but I eventually started to rise from the ashes. I’m bruised. I have deep scars. But for the first time in my life – I’m finally me.
And, to be honest, you can read exactly that between the lines when she sings with that careful tones, bittersweet melodies and an almost hurting amount of feelings. You realize that the beautiful singer/songwriter Sellers doesn’t play a role while singing, it’s her essence she brings to the table. For what it’s worth, it never sounded better when someone went through hell and told the story afterwards.
Speaking of the mix, she had an awesome crew working with her. Mixed by Bradley Prakope and mastered by Tom Coyne/Sterling Sound, those guys just knew how to place her vocals into the right setting. Beautiful soft soundscapes, very defensive synth lines, outstanding downtempo beats with no glitches or misplacement in the eq band whatsoever…there’s nothing those guys missed to create this piece of art. Also, the music video (see below) created by Cold Fox Films was done with passion and the sense of understanding that making a music video isn’t just switching between two or three takes but telling the story in a meaningful way.

So, you could say that this is the right way to start the musical journey of 2017. Here’s a great artist who makes you feel something while listening, who shares enough of her soul to make you think about, who doesn’t need high energy dance tracks nor aggressive background tracks to do her thing. I strongly recommend to check out her other available tracks on Soundcloud or Youtube.

Noréll – Damage Done

Today’s pick is a lightweight scandi-pop tune which makes you groove, smile and maybe even look at everything in a different way.

What attracted me the most with this track were those female vocals you won’t hear everyday. The danish trio Viktor Hagner, Marìe Louise Persson Bjarnarson and Nichlas Malling, better known as Noréll, took a pop based idea with a defensive and clean synth line and also clear bass synth layers, and they layered those awesome crisp, slightly high pitched vocals on top of it. This alone makes you lift your head or raise an eyebrow. See what just happened? You got curious. That’s creating signature sound 101, folks. Inventing something no one else comes up with is already half of the bargain to be successful out there. Also, the official video coming along with this track is dance oriented, and although this isn’t really my cup of tea, so to speak, it is sticking to my head since I saw it yesterday. See? That’s creativity at it’s best.
The mix of the track is solid. The vocals are placed front and center, and all additional effect layers and one-shots are not disturbing the flow or anything. The created room reverb (put on headphones, guys) is chosen with great sense of detail, one bit less, it would have come out flat, too much, and you got a too big cave effect. This track is something to make you move, although it’s more of a groove feeling than a dance feeling, at least for me. Base theme is happy, I almost was reminded of some japanese pop I heard recently, but without the hectic drive attached to it.

Overall, I found myself listening to this track on repeat, constantly moving my head from left to right. Noréll brings their signature sound to the table, and the lightweight track “Damage Done” is a multi-purpose track no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Take your time to check out their other works on Soundcloud or Spotify as well, it’s really worth it. Attention, competition out there: those guys are a force to be reckoned with in the pop genre.

Emmit Fenn – Blinded

With the new year just starting, here’s a soft chillout tune to actually feel, to relax to, to ease your mind and to move to with closed eyes.

After all those party days during the christmas season and new years eve, I just felt like taking some time off. Relax. Let the thoughts go wherever they want to go. The new track “Blinded” created by Berkeley based Emmit Fenn helped me doing exactly that.
Introduced by a soft synth line and something that could be identified as the sound of waves hitting the shore, the song picks up the main theme right away with down pitched vocals. At first I thought the pitching wasn’t necessary, but later I realized that this actually helps the downtempo intention of the song a lot. I guess normal pitched vocals would have brought some unwanted extra drive with them.
As the track progresses, there are several synth tracks added, creating some space and working perfectly with the vocals to make you just close your eyes, to actually feel the music and to relax while grooving slowly to the very defensive beat of the song. You can’t put “Blinded” in the minimal genre, although there weren’t many doubled or tripled tracks used, which in my opinon is very refreshing. The less tracks are used, the more you can concentrate on the essence of the track, and Fenn did put a lot of thought and effort in creating a very intelligent mixture of synth, vocals and percussion. The final mix is ground solid, I couldn’t locate any glitches or anything.

Keeping his way of creating soft chillout with a certain style and signature sound, and being present on Spotify and other music distribution platforms, I guess this by far wasn’t the last time we heard about Emmit Fenn. In a time where everybody wants just to release the next pumping, over-compressed dance hit, we urgently need “counterparts” like Fenn who bring back those intricacies and details into music. Who are able to make us dream, who trigger emotions while not rushing anything.

Erin Pellnat – Dream In Color

Imagine an audience, sitting silently at small round tables, with a candle on every table being the only light sources in the room, except one spot on stage where a singer sits and just takes her time to deliver a glimpse of her mindset. See it? Welcome to the stage of “Dream In Color”.

Brooklyn based Erin Pellnat created a very deep tune. It’s a slow track with a great mixture of guitar tracks, held back percussion and soft reverbed synths backing the voice of Pellnat. Her vocal range allows her to sing with a dark, deep base yet her voice has that drive, stating “if needed, I’ll get really loud, so be careful what you wish for”. (I know, I’m not a genius in describing, but you know what I mean, right.)
In these hectic, fast times where you have merely seconds to spare, she forces you to slow down, to reflect and to take your time while doing so. While the song uses almost jazzy elements with a certain played bass and the way Pellnat “fools around” with the backing music (not following static patterns when singing), “Dream in Color” stays within indie rock/pop boundaries. Her other tracks are sometimes scratching the surface of being psychedelic (heard in other tracks of her EP you’ll find on bandcamp). I said it numerous times before, I really like when the songs aren’t strictly following one certain genre but mix up several elements, best of every genre, if you will.
Erin Pellnat isn’t a newbie regarding music. She played in several earlier projects, Glitch Mouth and Jean Fight, while nowadays being a part of Caretaker, a rock band from Brooklyn that – in their own words – “formed from the ashes of several other popular Brooklyn bands”. Makes perfect sense to me, since not many things are meant to last in the industry, and as a musician you’ll find yourself in a constant move to get out what is important to you. While Caretaker delivers more uplifting, energetic songs, the solo project of Erin Pellnat seems more settled and reflective to me. Hearing several tracks of the projects Pellnat is part of, I found out she really is capable of adjusting to her environment, blending into all the projects right from the start.

The song was mixed and produced by Chris Pellnat (some of you might remember him from the recent spotlight we did here) who also did the instruments work of “Dream In Color”. There’s nothing bad to say about the mix whatsoever, there’s an exact balance of music and vocals, with the music being defensive enough to give the vocals some room (eq-wise) while also creating that deep room atmosphere I mentioned before.
Overall, this is a remarkable track of young singer Erin Pellnat. With all her projects at hand, I see nothing more than a bright future for her on stage. Although it’s a mighty struggle to be someone out there as a musician, she brings everything to the table to succeed with what she does. Listen for yourself.

Anna Fogel – In The Midst

Melodic, dreamy,  soft, calm, mature, emotional, fragile… there are so many attributes for this track, you have to decide for yourself which of those fit best.

Anna Fogel has the ability to make you evaluate what music is all about. While listening to “In The Midst”, I just froze for a couple of minutes, being charmed by her voice. After only four seconds, she somehow found my emotions trigger, making me feel melancholic yet comforted. And she did all that with a minimalistic piano/voice setting which is backed by very, very defensive backing tracks and reverb effects.
Her matured soft vocals are bringing that special calmness to the table which is in my opinion the secret ingredient to all of her songs. With the year coming to an end, you find yourself reflecting on all what was happening and looking forward to all that will happen. Maybe I did exactly that when I listened to Fogel’s new track…or maybe her tracks triggered me to do so. I know I’m repeating myself here, but the ability to make the listener feel something is the essence of being a musician. With her voice, the singer/songwriter from Sweden manages to caress your soul for a couple of minutes. For me, music that makes you stop whatever you were doing at the time you are listening to it can only be classified as awesome. And Fogel doesn’t need anything but her voice and a piano for this. This track just was developed and mixed in the perfect settled, calm way.

Working with other projects like Meadows with Christoffer Wadensten, and with a tour through Germany coming up in 2017, I guess the beautiful Fogel already made up her mind as a musician. She decided to share her work with us, to go out there and let us know about her. I’m glad I heard what she is able to bring to the table, and I strongly recommend to give her EP “Vretstorp sessions” on Spotify or Soundcloud a listen.

Shy Luv – Joyrider

This felt light and soft on my mind. With drive and flavour, the new track “Joyrider” from Sam Knowles and Jake Norman, also known as “Shy Luv”, lights up your day.

With an intelligent bassline and a beat that feels like leisure jogging at the beach, the new electro track of the Manchester-based duo takes the groove right to your brain. There’s something to this track that makes me want to order cocktails while I’m slightly grooving. The vocals are sung and mixed mid-to upper eq band, which adds up perfectly to the beat, the added female one-shots and the percussion. But, the secret ingredient to this track in my opinion is the bass which is created with a perfect mixture of disco bass and up-to-date electro pop bass. Whenever you think the main synth is too linear, the bass comes to save the day.
Another highlight are the vocals, lightweight and flanked by several vocal effect layers. They’re going great with those female vocal one-shots and the shimmering synth tracks. This track is a no-brainer for dancefloors, if you ask me. I guess you have to be deaf if you’re not starting to move to “Joyrider”.

Knowles and Norman have been working on their new EP “Shock Horror” which will be released in 2017. If the other tracks are similar to this one, I can imagine the sales numbers going straight up from the start. These guys certainly found their way to create a unique dance sound.

Megan Landry – Screaming Sun

After I heard her last song “Questions (on the Cliff)“, there was no question for me to follow up the works of Canadian singer/songwriter Megan Landry, this time with her last months release “Screaming Sun”. If you wonder if she is delivering like she used to, the question is yes. Oh hell yes.

Once again, she just fires away with her lyrics like an automatic machine gun, and if you actually listen to what she sings, some of her words almost hit you like bullets. She manages to paint pictures in your head, she compares, she is questioning and doubting what is given as facts, and she does all of this with a portion of sarcasm and humor behind it. There are so many facettes of what the track is about that it took me several plays on repeat to get a couple of the points she wants to make. These colorful, almost poetic lyrics alone (without having a closer look on the music) would be enough to keep the listener hanging on her lips.
Speaking of the music, she used a basic setting for this, there are some synths, some reverb effects, and a rushing drum beat that really supports her way of firing away her lyrics. (‘Staccato’ is probably something she eats for breakfast, every other second there’s another curveball she throws at you.) As she did in other titles, she doubled and tripled the vocal tracks for harmonies you won’t hear in your everyday pop song. I love that. Thinking outside the box is one part of her signature sound. I’m not really a fan of what she did with several vocal effect layers though, like chopping and slowing them down for a break. But that’s just me, it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the song nor emphasizes on anything else but the track as a whole. The mix of the track doesn’t need any review, it’s solid as usual.

Megan Landry is still picking up speed with what she does. She has an incredible momentum going there which she earned by herself, creating unique music that makes you think for a change. Heck, even those who don’t want to think are at least entertained by her works. Be it for the deep thoughts behind the music, or be it just for the music itself, Megan Landry is an outstanding artist you should keep in mind. And on your permanent playlist.

Hugh Macdonald – On My Way

This is a song for those moments when it seems hard to even lift your head. Filled with feeling and emotion, “On My Way” eases your mind.

Boston based singer/songwriter Hugh Macdonald did an outstanding job with this track from an EP released in November. He chose to just add a guitar to his vocals, and a couple of reverb effects. And believe me folks, this doesn’t make the task easier for the singer.
But hearing him sing, you realize that he’s not playing a role behind the microphone. He’s living what he’s doing there. What you get from Macdonald is genuine, and even if you’re not listening to the lyrics, the song and melody themselves transmit emotions. I don’t quite get why he decided to leave the intro and outro part unedited (in my opinion, this takes away something from the songs’ feeling), but besides that, the listener’s treated with a soulful track that is leaving you without knowing if to stay down or get up, so to speak. It’s rare when you’re getting hit by a glimpse of what the songwriter wants to tell you on an emotional level. “On My Way” manages to do so. The minimal setting (being backed only by a guitar) supports the feel of the song, if there would have been a full band added, it probably would have killed the intention of the song.

Hugh Macdonald released his solo EP called “MÅNGATA“, but he also has worked on a project with Olivia Barton called “Think of England” where he shows that whatever the setting might be, he just blends in just great with his style and vocal range from “soft” to “you haven’t heard anything yet”. I recommend to check out those available tracks on Soundcloud and Spotify to get what Hugh Macdonald is all about.

FRND – Sticks And Stones

Today I clicked through the submissions hoping to find something different. And boy, did I find something different.

The track starts with a wide open reverbed setting, the minimalistic music being a perfect base for the vocals. Those are sung quite soft with a little effect chain added here and there, making it interesting throughout the whole track. If you think the whole idea of the track is simple…well, then I dare you to try produce a track like this. The Los Angeles based producer developed a golden recipe here, using trap elements alongside pop and breakbeat methods. I love the concept of the whole track being in sort of a flowing state, you never know what to expect, and the progression isn’t linear at all. It takes a certain amount of bravery to just go ahead and play with those different variations. Even when listening to the song on repeat, there are always new little elements to find for your ears, a chiptune one-shot, pitched vocal samples, layered reverbed synths…you name it.

This one is a solid, very balanced track. No glitches or clips with the main mix although there must have been dozens of different tracks used. You’ll find emotion, atmosphere and the right amount of smack in it with those huge chorus beats. (I’d love to see what happens when this track is used as an opener on a dancefloor.)
After “Friend”, another great track available on main media sources everywhere, the producer from LA continues his journey through different music styles and variations with “Sticks And Stones”. Boys and girls, we’re very lucky to be a part of his journey. After all, his curiosity to create new blends and mixtures of music is what creates awesome tracks for us listeners.