This is the last week of summer (in the southern hemisphere, that is). Suddenly everyone’s stores of LSD have been drained to the bone, and are slowly being replaced with Xanax and early David Lynch films. Keeping in mind, the weather doesn’t drop 20 degrees as soon as the clock ticks over to March 1. That being said, the change is symbolic. Haven’t you ever wondered why Radiohead sounds so much better in July, rather than January? Haven’t you felt a stronger inclination to throw away Late Registration and start smashing 808s & Heartbreak? I don’t know about you but Take Care certainly seems more relatable when your heater and gas bills start to skyrocket. This week’s Bars is a little less sunnier than the last. The main focus is a young experimental artist whose journeys through dark ambience will keep you awake at night. It’s not all doom and gloom, but sometimes it’s best to acknowledge the timeless creations that come with deterioration. I suppose it’s also best to make the most of this last week.
Arca, Calvin Harris, Future, Steve Lacy, and Marika Hackman have the game under control
01. Arca - 'Piel'
It’s like the calm before the storm. With ‘Piel’, Venezuela-via-England producer, Alejandro Ghersi (aka Arca) has crafted the perfect semblance of what it means to edge closer to a world of shit. The vocals are piercing in the physicality they convey. And while Ghersi does sing the entire song in Spanish, each syllable and twist of the tongue is perfectly comprehensible in its humanity. But what’s perhaps most alluring about this piece is the juxtaposing of background ambience. While Ghersi’s vocals are tempered, and composed, there is both a piercing squawk and head-shattering bass line which threatens to sneak up on Ghersi at any moment. Given this unlikely balance in atmosphere, it’s not surprising that Ghersi’s ethereal vocals can create order amongst a flurry of varying soundscapes.
02. Calvin Harris - 'Slide [feat. Frank Ocean & Migos]'
Having Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean, and Migos in the same recording studio is a once in a lifetime event. And it should be treated as such. The result of these pop culture monoliths clashing heads is ‘Slide’ which is already the best dancefloor-filler of 2017. The opening piano signals something distinctly Frank, while the accompanying autotuned sample is vintage Migos. The strangest aspect of ‘Slide’? It sounds nothing like a Calvin Harris track. Rather, it’s the perfect combination of Frank’s cunning tenderness and the distinct volatility of a Migos deep cut. “Do you slide on all your nights like this? Do you try on all your nights like this?” Frank’s crooning is vintage in execution and yet still comes off more formidable than any cut from Blonde. However, it’s Migos’ most underrated player in Offset who steals the show. His verbosity takes a giant step outside the pre-conceived notions of what it means to make trap music. The poise, the groove, the attack; these all make for one of Harris’ best production credits to date. Ironically, it’s one in which the supernaturally talented features are given both the canvas and the brush.
03. Future - 'Draco'
The samples from Future’s latest track, ‘Draco’, are uncharacteristically warm. Where the famed Atlanta MC is known for rapping over icy twilight grooves, the shimmering character of these notes echo a synth-heavy, k-pop influence. It’s refreshing, particularly when the indoctrinated double-kicks and autotuned vocals have their inevitable say. To cut a long story short, ‘Draco’ is an exercise in hip-hop braggadocio, one that Future maintains strict control over at every turn. Lines such as “You ain’t never get your bitch back” or “You know I got a pimp degree” may warrant a roll of the eyes from the more elitist listeners. But for the rest of us, ‘Draco’ shows Futures versatility in being able to throw bars over, well, just about anything. In the case of DJ Spinz’s glimmering, left-of-field production, Future knows how to lose control and reclaim it in an instant.
04. Marika Hackman - 'Boyfriend'
Many a songwriter from Liz Phair to Best Coast have penned guitar hymns decrying a clueless male partner, or lack thereof. British singer/songwriter Marika Hackman has taken this long-standing target of unsatisfied vitriol and moulded it into something fresh and contemporary. The fact that Hackman – who is often the lone performer – is here backed by London band The Big Moon shows a progress from bedroom folk and to alt-rock poetics. ‘Boyfriend’ begins rather timidly, explaining the situation as a love-triangle of sorts before suddenly turning a knife on the unsuspecting focus. “I held his world in my hands/I threw it out to see where it would land.” Of course, anyone would sigh at the weathered use of soft-loud transitions – itself an alt-rock staple – but here, Hackman curveballs the transition into something which resembles her past rather than her future. It’s a hook that can both pierce and enchant in a single, fell swoop.
05. Steve Lacy - 'Dark Red'
Steve Lacy is the lead guitarist from The Internet. He’s also helped produce his band’s Grammy-nominated opus, Ego Death. And finally, he only just graduated from high school. I know, right? What the hell are the rest of us doing with our lives? Turns out Lacy is deserving of his young success. The singer-songwriter has just dropped a new track, one that, hopefully, leads to a debut solo album. ‘Dark Red’ is perhaps the best introduction to this young artist. It’s a pop song, and thus heavily reliant on hooks. That being said, his lovely vocals and rustic guitar tones – which recall some of Mac DeMarco’s deepest cuts – is exactly what pop music should be; catchy, effortless and timeless. While both Syd and Matt Martians have dropped their share of impressive solo efforts, it’s the dark horse talent in Steve Lacy which is most deserving.