WORDS BY MICHAEL VAUGHAN ('16)
1. 7 Days of Funk - N My System
7 Days of Funk is comprised of L.A. synth funk specialist Dam-Funk and Snoop Dogg. “N My System” begins with Dam’s trembling voice crooning overtop smokey G-funk synth lines that pay homage to their West Coast heritage. Programming the groovy synths and singing the verse in a robotic, vocoded voice, Dam takes a backseat for Snoop’s chorus. Snoop brings in his knack for writing infectious vocal hooks as he sings, “You are in my head and brains, baby you my everything, U R N my system.” It’s as though Snoop is mustering up a lovably-stoned robot impression for each chorus. You can nearly hear the blunt being passed around as he and Dam laugh between takes. It’s clear they had fun. For the song’s entire 5 plus minute duration, they effortlessly toss around this bouncy, laid back groove. The track would prove flawless if it weren’t for Daz Dillinger’s half-assed verse.
2. Julio Bashmore - Let me Be Your Weakness
“Let Me Be Your Weakness” is a dancey, vocal-driven track from Julio Bashmore, a house producer from Bristol, England. The tune represents the ideology of Bashmore’s most recent album Knockin’ Boots—an attempt to bridge classic American house with pop music. Bashmore can write a killer melody, and he doesn’t hide his affection for catchiness here. Right from the start, he filters in a bassline that is just ambiguous enough to come from a Michael Jackson album or a Frankie Knuckles 12”. As the track progresses, BIXBY nails his vocal delivery, sounding both triumphant and affected—somewhere between Aretha Franklin and Dev Hynes. The lyrics are strange. BIXBY asks you to “treat me like a credit card.” And by virtue of their strangeness, like a lot of awkward 80’s pop, they end up sticking. Housed on an album that caught a lot of flak from the underground for being too mainstream and caught a lot of missed glances from the mainstream for being too underground, this might be a tune that slipped through the cracks. Nevertheless, it deserves praise. Bashmore confidently strays into the unknown and does his thing.
3. FKA Twigs - In Time
After LP1’s haunting songcraft, FKA Twigs pushed her sound even harder for her new EP M3LL15X. Her vocals are soft and tender, but the production behind her has gotten darker, more modern. The warbly vocal processing seems as much of a nod to modern american hip-hop as it does an extension of her sound. And with a producer like Boots behind her, a man who’s worked with everyone from Beyonce to Shlohmo, Twigs’s voice finds a comfortable pocket. Boots takes the hi-hats on an acid trip in this track, de-tuning and panning them for an incredible, dizzying effect. As the ambience whizzes behind her, Twigs nearly screams to her past lover, “You’ve got a goddamn nerve. You’ve got a goddamn nerve.” The arrangement on the song makes it all the more tense, with stark moments of Twigs’ voice fading away, melding into distorted drum samples before coming back to a haunting chorus. Exemplifying the power in a well-matched vocalist and producer, this is easily one the most impressive tracks of 2015.
4. George Fitzgerald feat. Boxed in - Full Circle
Full Circle is the result of sadness. George Fitzgerald came back from a long string of touring clubs with a distaste for four-on-the-floor club music and a relationship that was crumbling. In this tune, Fitzgerald translates his house and techno influences into a melancholic track that argues for hope after despair. Altogether a brilliant headphone listen, Fitzgerald’s trademark synthesizer stabs cushion the vocals of Boxed In, who sings about painfully domestic problems with a lover. The tune borrows the language of dance music, but as it’s heard from outside the club—muffled melodies from inside as you stand alone in the rain and ask “what’s the point?” Despite the sadness, there’s a maturity to Fitzgerald’s production. As the track moves on, he offers a triumphant energy. Driven more by melody than the stripped down drum beat, Full Circle is one of the most poignant things to come out of clubland in a long time.
5. Galcher Lustwerk - I Neva Seen
“Walkin’ home, all alone. Lost her mind. Lost her phone.”
With “I Neva Seen” Galcher Lustwerk writes a house ballad. We see a girl falling down the streets of Bushwick at 4AM. She stumbles. She struggles to find her apartment. She’s crying. But somehow, there’s a touch of comfort in the scene. The repetition in Galcher’s sultry chords, the confidence in his gruff poetry allude to a grin on his face. This shit happens all the time. And no matter what happens on this particular night, we know the music will keep playing. Through the repetition everyone gets home. As though he were the poet laureate of New York nightlife, Lustwerk perfectly captures the vibe of a misguided night out.