A Different Kind of Dub Step

Everyone is into dub step music nowadays.  It’s pretty cool, but I really have to be in the right mood in order to enjoy it.  The same goes for this week’s artist: Pendulum.

Pendulum is an Australian-British band that started around 2002.  They have three studio albums: Hold Your Colour (2005), In Silico (2008), and Immersion (2010).  I listened to all three of these this past week.

Hold Your Colour (2005)

1) Prelude

2) Slam

3) Plastic World

4) Fasten Your Seatbelt

5) Through the Loop

6) Sounds of Life

7) Girl in the Fire

8 ) Tarantula

9) Out Here

10) Hold Your Colour

11) The Terminal

12) Streamline

13) Another Planet

14) Still Grey

In Silico (2008)

1) Showdown

2) Different

3) Propane Nightmares

4) Visions

5) Midnight Runner

6) The Other Side

7) Mutiny

8 ) 9,000 Miles

9) Granite

10) The Tempest

Immersion (2010)

1) Genesis

2) Salt in the Wounds

3) Watercolour

4) Set Me On Fire

5) Crush

6) Under the Waves

7) Immunize

8 ) The Island – Pt I (Dawn)

9) The Island – Pt II (Dusk)

10) Comprachicos

11) The Vulture

12) Witchcraft

13) Self vs Self

14) The Fountain

15) Encoder

 

Pendulum classifies itself as having a drum and bass, electronic rock, electronica, and alternative rock fusion sound.  To me, it really all just seemed like a bunch of dudes playing heavy metal music with electronic instruments.  They use a lot of heavy, sharp synth sounds of all varieties.  They have similarities to dub step music, but they don’t seem to drive it as much with the bass drum and there isn’t usually much sense of a “drop.”  There are little to no vocals on the first two albums, but vocals begin to become more prominent on the third album, Immersion.  Here’s a video of one of their earlier, more dub-steppy songs.  Also, enjoy the awesome dancing fat guy in the video.

 

All in all, as I stated above, I really needed to be in the right mood to enjoy me some Pendulum.  Honestly, that didn’t happen very often throughout the week, so I should say that I’m not the biggest fan.  I’m not saying they’re bad, they’re just not my style.  If I had to pick a favorite album of theirs, it would definitely be Immersion.  The songs with vocals were more interesting to me than the pure instrumentals.  I’m sure this stuff would be awesome for parties and such, but not so much for my general listening purposes.

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Summer Sun

This week I looked into singer/songwriter Matt Wertz.  He is originally from LaVale, MD, but he finds his home in Nashville, TN.  He actually studied industrial design at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and developed his affinity for music while living in dorms with other students.  He gained a large part of his initial fan base performing at Young Life camps.  His first three albums, SomedaysTwentythree Places, and Everything in Between, were all self-released, and he has since released a fourth album under Universal Republic Records since his signing  in 2007.  This past January, he released his single Feels So Right for his album Weights and & Wings that was later released on March 15, 2011 (My birthday!).  He also has done a lot of work with his best friend and fellow singer/songwriter Dave Barnes.

Wertz has toured with several other musicians such as Jon McLaughlin, Jason Mraz, and Gavin Degraw.  His music has also been featured on the shows Brothers and Sisters, Wildfire, and One Tree Hill, as well as in the movies Employee of the Month and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

To get my taste of Matt Wertz, I listened to Everything in Between and a few songs on Under Summer Sun.

Everything in Between

1)  The Way I Feel

2) Carolina

3) Heartbreaker

4) Over You

5) 5:19

6) I Will Not Take My Love Away

7) Like the Last Time

8 ) With You, Tonight

9) Naturally

10) Capitol City

And the songs I listened to on Under Summer Sun were:

Everything’s Right

Red Meet’s Blue

Keep Faith

Summer Sun

Back in June

I enjoyed what I listened to for the most part.  He has sound somewhat similar to Jon McLaughlin or Eric Hutchinson, sometimes seeming like a John Mayer meets Jason Mraz kind of artist.  A few of the songs are really catchy.  My favorites were probably Heartbreaker and Over You.  Carolina is also a great one.  Carolina is the song where you can definitely hear the John Mayer/Jason Mraz style, and the other two have a more electric feel, throwing them farther into the realm of pop (even though when I put his album into my iTunes, it classified the genre as folk-rock…).  Listen to Heartbreaker below.

The only song that I really didn’t like was Summer Sun.  I don’t know what it is, it just didn’t do it for me.  Otherwise, I would recommend Matt Wertz.  I won’t say he’s my favorite, but I could definitely listen to him fairly regularly.

Good Things from Odd Future’s

The artist I looked into last week was an R&B singer named Frank Ocean.  Ocean is a member of the Los Angeles based hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) along with eleven other members, including rapper/producer Tyler the Creator, rappers Hodgy Beats, Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, and Mike G, producers Left Brain, Syd the Kid, Matt Martians and Hal Williams, as well as non-musical members Jasper Dolphin and Taco.  Each member can contribute to any of the other member’s writing or production efforts and the resultant tracks are released and listed under the name of the main artist involved with the project.  Many of the members of Odd Future release their own solo tracks, often featuring others in the group.  There are also a few groups within the collective: MellowHype (Hodgy Beats and Left Brain), The Jet Age of Tomorrow or The Super 3 (Matt Martians and Hal Williams), and EarlWolf (Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler the Creator).  Odd Future evenly promotes all of its members’ efforts on its website here.

Frank Ocean is the only listed as a singer in OFWGKTA.  His style is noticeably different from those of many of the others.  Breaking away from the more traditional underground rap efforts of the others, his music brings a smooth, easy-listening R&B variety to the collective.  He came to Odd Future after he was evacuated to Los Angeles from University of New Orleans just before it was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2006.  In the group, he was featured as a vocalist in a number of songs released by Tyler the Creator and MellowHype.  He has also written songs for Justin Bieber, John Legend, Brandy, and Beyonce.  He has also worked with Nas and Pharrell Williams.

His first release was initially put out as the Nostalgia, Ultra Mixtape, but was later slated by Def Jam Records to be have seven of its tracks released on iTunes as an EP on July 26, 2011 (Tomorrow!) under the name Nostalgia, Lite.  Obviously, since the EP is not available yet, what I listened to this past week was the mixtape.

Nostalgia, Ultra Mixtape

1. Streetfighter

2. Strawberry Swing

3. Novacane

4. We All Try

5. Bitches Talkin’ (Also known as Metal Gear Solid)

6. Songs 4 Women

7. Love Crimes

8. GoldenEye

9. There Will Be Tears

10. Swim Good

11. Dust

12. American Wedding

13. Soul Calibur

14. Nature Feels

As a whole, I was very satisfied with the whole mixtape.  Ocean has a very distinct, smooth R&B voice, and his songs are all very interesting both melodically and based on subject matter.  When listening to the whole thing straight through, one comes across recordings of the sounds of changing a tape deck every couple of tracks, which really gives it the mixtape feel (This happens on Streetfighter, Bitches Talkin’, GoldenEye, and Soul Calibur.)  When asked, Ocean said that he called the tape “Nostalgia” because it is just that: a nostalgic account of past heartbreak and interpersonal relationships.  “I wasn’t trying to make a record that people could relate to. I was just trying to make a record with the shit that I wanted to express. The shit that I wanted to get off my chest.  A lot of this record is influenced by one relationship, but I don’t owe that whole project to one situation. It doesn’t matter what the details of it are.”  Many of the songs deal with heavy subjects, most notably in track 12, American Wedding, which deals with the sometimes flawed image of marriage in the US and the issues involved (Read the lyrics to this song here).

Novacane was released as the EP’s first single on May 31, 2011.  It climbed to number 65 on the US R&B charts its first week, and later rose to number 48.

Four of his tracks on this tape are either covers of songs by other artists, or songs in which he simply penned over the lyrics, rewriting them to suit his own songwriting ideals.  Track 2, Strawberry Swing is a song in which he penned over the song Strawberry Swing, released by Coldplay on their album Viva la Vida.  In American Wedding, he penned over Hotel California, by the Eagles, and in Nature Feels, he penned over Electric Feel from MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular album.  There will be tears is a cover of a Mr. Hudson song.  Being a longtime Coldplay fan, I was instantly interested when I heard the instrumental from Strawberry Swing on this tape, and Ocean definitely did it justice.  I enjoyed it, just as I enjoy the original.  He added these really cool vocal harmonies to several parts that really pop out of the song.  As far as American Wedding goes, I think I might venture to say that I like it more than Hotel California.  I’m not saying that the Eagles are bad (I love the Eagles!), but Hotel California is just so cliché and overplayed on classic rock stations.  It’s also just such a long song, and it gets kind of old.  American Wedding brings out an emotion that allows one to not get tired of the song as it draws on for the full seven minutes.

I would say my favorite song on it would have to be We All Try.  The runs that Ocean employs in this song seem so effortless and his overall pleading tone along the simplicity of the background instrumental do a perfect job expressing the lyrics that he wrote for it.  It’s also very catchy, and just a pretty song altogether.  Read the lyrics here and watch the video below.

All in all, I give the Nostalgia, Ultra Mixtape two thumbs up and will be looking forward to the release of the EP tomorrow!  Also, look for him on the upcoming collaborative studio album between Kanye West and Jay-Z that will feature Frank Ocean on two tracks!  It’s slated to be released on August 8, 2011.