After a long hiatus, A-Trak and Armand Van Helden reunited on record as Duck Sauce last year with two delightfully quirky singles in “Captain Duck” (which prominently sampled Captain Sensible’s “Wot”) and “Mesmerize” (which has one of the strangest animated videos). “Nonchalant” isn’t as much of a novelty as either “Barbra Streisand” or “Captain Duck”, as it builds an extremely catchy, soulful vocal chorus around a retro-sounding Latin melody that is lifted from British group Modern Romance’s 1981 disco/dance release “Queen of The Rapping Scene (Nothing Ever Goes The Way You Planned)”, a minor but memorable dance record (I still am proud to have my original 12″ import of it!!). That makes it a sure dance floor draw, with the slick-sounding sample in direct contrast to the fierce vocal. “Nonchalant” is a pretty irresistible, highly creative slice of fun. You can peruse the ‘duck takeover’ in the odd video above, or check out the track below. Quack!
NIGHTRO, PHIL PHAULER and ALEKSANDAR VIDA, “Don’t Like It”
“Don’t Like It” is a short but notable new dance release by NYC-based Indian producer Nightro in collaboration with fellow producers Phil Phauler and Alexandar Vida. It’s got moody, dirty rhythms and dark, edgy vocal effects which surround a well-sung vocal by an uncredited female singer. “Don’t Like It” doesn’t waste time in packing musical punches early on in the song, and it could lift up just about any set during a club evening. Nightro is receiving particularly strong reaction to “Don’t Like It” in India, so it’s now time for the rest of the world to show up and embrace this one.
“Peace” is a celebratory anthem for everything that is good in the world, that I’m counting on the dance community to embrace. Reteaming for this banger are dance diva and Broadway star MOYA and UK/Canadian producers Future Kings, who kicked off 2021 with the memorable “Laser Beams” with Moguai for Spinnin’. The only other belters to come along this decade that I can think of who hold their own with MOYA’s fierce voice are fellow Broadway star LaChanze (from “The Donna Summer Musical”) and Glee’s Alex Newell (currently blowing the house down with “The Feels” with Cash Cash). “Peace” is bouncy and jubilant and bubbling with old school disco flavours, with everything that you need in a magnificent summer anthem.
“Arms Of Another” is the latest single by Bright Light Bright Light, otherwise known as Rod Thomas, but it’s not a new song. The NYC-based, Wales-born singer, songwriter and producer is about to release an album of “B-sides” called So Gay, So Dramatic (due June 25), and “Arms Of Another” is certainly one of the key highlights of that selection. Originally released in late 2014 and newly remastered, it peaked at #6 on my chart, was in my Top 40 of that year, and has been popping up regularly on my stereo over the years. It’s a timeless track featuring additional production by Jon Shave (who has worked with Darren Hayes among others), and harmonies by Millicent Blue and Sophie Galpin. Do check out the new video up top, as well as my original blog post below (my original words still stand).
My 10/10 feature returns with edition #17. I can’t believe it’s been six months since I wrote the last one. But the time has come where very good songs for consideration for this blog are overwhelming the weaker ones, so I want to make sure the good ones get their due. And as usual, the choices are a global cornucopia of releases.
For those not familiar with10/10, I write about 10 hot and fresh songs in no particular order, for your kind consideration and attention.
I continue to write individual blog posts about certain songs. That does not mean that songs in the 10/10 lists are any less than those featured individually, and they are not listed in any particular order.
Writing 10/10 posts means I can cover more songs in one shot. So you get to learn about more new music that I hear but don’t always get a chance to write about.
NUELA CHARLES, “Space”
Singer/songwriter Nuela Charles has been prominent in her native Canada, conquering the Adult Contemporary genre with Juno Awards nominations three years in a row for that category. “Space” is a welcome change of pace for her, showcasing her effortless classic R&B-influenced voice with a sassy and funky backdrop. While “Space” was written as a response to the pandemic, it’s clear that we all need space from each other, even those closest to it. “Space” sails away with that idea and Nuela flourishes in this setting.
KISLAW and VICTOR PERRY, “Slip Away”
NYC singer/songwriter Victor Perry continues to be one of the most prolific independent performers, releasing new music every week where possible and showcasing it with different collaborators. “Slip Away” is a unique partnership with new Africa-born French producer Kislaw, who embraces a sophisticated backdrop where you’ll hear the underutilized flute among other sounds. And a funky edge allows Victor’s brilliant vocal – which reminds me of when either Michael or Janet Jackson are at their most playful – to lilt through the story and soar in the ad libs too. Released by Bonfire Records, this one is very deserving of a follow up soon.
ANZANO and ROBBIE ROSEN, “Waves”
Like Victor Perry, “American Idol” Top 16 contestant Robbie Rosen is on a mission to release music every week right now (yes, it’s no surprise with similar ideals that the two collaborate as well). Robbie’s recent songs and performances are so consistently strong it’s hard to pick out what are the strongest ones. “Waves” finds Robbie working with Belgian producer Anzano for a chipper-sounding song that recognizes when you’ve lost a friend or partner to a better relationship or situation (“forever you’ll be one with the waves”). It’s a quick mix of classic pop and bright, friendly electropop that goes down easily.
CRASH ADAMS, “Symphony”
Your friendly neighbourhood Toronto pop/rock duo Crash Adams are back with another song to make you think while putting a smile on your face. “Symphony” is about that instant state of attraction when all of the vibes and conversation just seem oh so right. It’s another tight production with a winning vocal, and another cool video (above) to boot. Crash Adams continue to release quality songs, and their talent and flair for spot-on visuals will take them far.
THE PRIZM, “Darkness Is A Friend”
“Darkness Is A Friend” is the centerpiece song of L.A.-based producer The Prizm’s latest album New Beginnings. In fact the album is a third chapter to a complex story, but focuses on new beginnings for anyone who’s experienced recent hard times, whether they be through relationships, the pandemic, and more. The uplifting melody and vocal will help you realize that there is a way out of the darkness if you embrace it and move on. The album is a significant progressive stretch when looking back on last year’s catchy electronic dance single “I Don’t Wanna Go Home” (with ARTFCAL), but The Prizm (Gabriel Garcia) is taking his time to create stories and atmosphere that will have a deeper effect on the listener.
KEN BAUER, “Free”
Sweden’s Ken Bauer is hardly a new name to the electronic dance music scene, releasing regular music since 2016. Though he’s had support from big names like David Guetta, Sam Feldt, and Nicky Romero, all it takes is one song that could open more doors internationally. “Free” has that potential, with complex synths surrounding a basic but infectious hook. The uncredited vocal helps the song soar, and “Free” would go over very well indeed at festivals.
FEB & LEXIE, “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life”
Though it’s a far cry from the funky classic grooves of the 1982 Indeep classic, Italian producer Feb and British vocalist Lexie spin “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” into a slick Eurohouse track. Lexie’s alluring vocal makes it perfectly pronounced that she’s moved on and looking for someone else who won’t break her heart. Feb’s production captures the essence of the song, making it a fitting surprise that works well.
DEGA, “Bad Burn”
Italy’s Dega brings us some dreamy, trance-soaked Europop with “Bad Burn”. The song effectively mixes in thoughtful vocals, an underlying and very catchy melody, and a build up to a swell drop for cohesive results. “Bad Burn” is definitely one of those songs where you might not know the artist, but the song solidly stands steadfast on its own and has festival anthem potential.
TOMMY NEWPORT and EARTHGANG, “Stargazer”
“Stargazer” is a cool slice of alternative rock that’s laced with hip hop that is out to challenge listeners while sublimely drawing them in with its warm hook. At only 20 years old, Manchester-born singer/guitarist Tommy Newport has already acquired fans through not only his music, but appearances on TV and internet shows as well as movies. His voice has a soulful undercurrent beneath a weary, journeyman kind of approach. His collaborators on “Stargazer” are recent Grammy Awards nominees for Best R&B Song, Atlanta’s EARTHGANG, who continue to show why hip hop and soul are so welcome in an alternative rock-oriented release, and how much more pliable the genre walls need to become.
CHRISTOPHER DAMAS, “Tekila”
Get that big plate of nachos ready because some “Tekila” is about to infiltrate the mix! It’s a tidy and spicy song that should easily fit into sets next to “Despacito” and “Mi Gente”, but there is a twist. The “k” in “Tekila” might give it away, but it’s brought to you by veteran Russian electronic dance producer Christopher Damas, which continues to prove that the boundaries within dance music itself are extremely limited. My only gripe about “Tekila” is that it’s way too short at only 2:10, making it a bit of a novelty. It flies by so quickly that listeners will be begging to know what that “Tekila” song is!
There’s always room in my book for a dance banger of some sort, and 2020 and 2021 are good years for memorable ones in the deep house genre. Norwegian electronic dance producer Dunisco gives “When I Lost You” all the sheen that’s needed, with punchy synths and memorable drops which work in tandem with a killer vocal from NYC singer/songwriter and “American Idol” Top 20 contestant Robbie Rosen. And it follows up some great songs by both artists, those being Dunisco’s fervid “Heaven In A Heartbreak”, and Robbie’s “Fantasy” (with Saxity and Victor Perry) and the electro-ballad “Last Breath” (with Kacey Fifield), all of which I’ve written about. The dynamite chorus of “When I Lost You” will have you singing and the beats will keep you boppin’ along.
The prolific Victor Perry offers his first solo release since last year’s EP Rewind with “Stories”. It’s a charming and hopeful ode to past relationships that weren’t meant to be. We can only think that those past friends and lovers that we will never see and who aren’t connected to anyone else we know will speak about us in our favour. It’s a cool observation and Victor conveys it with his always welcome earnestness and eloquence. Victor’s vast talents can traverse almost any style and genre, but his solo pop/R&B releases open another very inviting door which we otherwise don’t get to see through. Collaborating with German producers/songwriters Cal1 and l’essay has delivered a seamless execution. Like Victor’s songs on Rewind, particularly “What I Deserve”, “Stories” is one grower to soak in and let linger.
“Push Up The Fader” has got a vibrant, contagious enthusiasm about it, as brought to you by the singer/songwriter who knows NYC dance music the best, SIRPAUL! It follows up last year’s retro-sounding “Out Of Our Minds”, which was his first song in four years, and will also appear on his upcoming album Escapist Behavior. And there’s good reason for the giddiness in “Fader”.
SIRPAUL says: “I heard all of this really loud noise happening outside. I realized it was 7 pm and that the sound was everyone cheering for the essential workers. After feeling so isolated during [lockdown], 7 pm had become a moment I looked forward to every night. It was one of the only times when I felt connected to the rest of the world during such a difficult time. I stopped recording and ran out to join in. It was unusually loud that night and some people were banging pots and pans together. Some of my neighbors must be musicians as well because they were playing some really dope beats! I grabbed my phone and started recording while we all were cheering. You can hear that moment in the breakdown of “Push Up The Fader“. It gives me the chills every time I hear it.”
Music is here for you to release and put your head (and feet) in another space. “Push Up The Fader” is guaranteed to do just that, and I look forward to what’s next from the upcoming album!
BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT and ANDY BELL, “Good At Goodbyes”
A week ago, Bright Light Bright Light’s fourth album Fun City was released, and today it ranked as the #1 album on the UK Dance Chart. Despite its title, and while the album has ‘fun’ at its core, with several upbeat dance tracks, there are also a number of learned-life stories, as one can often expect from the unique perspectives of Rod Thomas. Having toured with Erasure in the past few years, it’s still incredible to hear the amazing Andy Bell in duet with Rod on “Good At Goodbyes”. Whether his voice is intended to be that of a past lover or an inner-conscience, Andy’s vocal offsets Rod’s lead story-teller just beautifully. The song keeps you on edge about a guy who’s trying to be strong after a relationship has ended, while resigning himself to his memories and sadness with lack of closure. Fun City has many other glorious collaborations including those with Sam Sparro, Brendan Maclean, Jake Shears, KAYE and several others who you should get to know. It also includes the previous diverse singles “This Was My House” (which reached #5 on my personal chart), “Sensation”, “I Used To Be Cool”, and “It’s Alright, It’s OK”.
In 10/10, I write about 10 hot and fresh songs in no particular order, for your kind consideration and attention.
I continue to write individual blog posts about certain songs. That does not mean that songs in the 10/10 lists are any less than those featured individually, and they are not listed in any particular order. Songs by Yello and Jazz Mino that were featured in edition #13 are currently moving up on my personal chart 🙂
Writing 10/10 posts means I can cover more songs in one shot. So you get to learn about more new music that I hear but don’t always get a chance to write about.
BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT and CAVEBOY, “It’s Alright, It’s OK”
“It’s Alright, It’s OK” is the fourth preview from Bright Light Bright Light’s upcoming fourth album called Fun City. This time collaborating with the noted all-women Canadian trio Caveboy, the song is a reassurance for anyone who is having trouble with their identity that everything will work out in the end if you just be yourself. It’s another joyous delight from NYC-based Wales-born Rod Thomas, more of a pop/house workout like the initial single “This Was My House”, full of great synth work and vocals that truly compliment each other. “It’s Alright, It’s OK” is also available on an EP chock full of remixes.
APOLLO LTD, “Patient”
The Nashville duo of Jordan and Adam produced one of my favourite albums of 2019 called Out Of Sight, which demonstrated a range of different styles, from ballads to anthems. Apollo LTD are back with “Patient”, more anthem-styled power pop as a plea to the singer’s partner to help him be patient to get through whatever troubles are ailing him. It’s a logical successor to songs from Out Of Sight like “On The Way Up 2.0” which dazzle your ears with seamless production and vocals. Why a major label has not yet snatched up Apollo LTD for their roster is a mystery. The duo consistently provides well-written, quality songs that deserve radio exposure. Check out the new lyric video for “Patient” above.
HVNNIBVL, “Worth It”
Now based out of Los Angeles, Buffalo NY singer/songwriter HVNNIBVL quickly follows up his cheery slice-of-life single “Who’s Gotcha” with “Worth It”. Like “Who’s Gotcha”, “Worth It” sends positive vibes in your direction, particularly aimed at people with depression or anxiety whose condition constantly makes them ask themselves if they are good enough. Everyone has their moments in life, so it’s time to step out and shine. “Worth It” is self-produced and showcases HVNNIBVL’s great voice to the max. Sometimes the synth effects are too razzle dazzle to me for this kind of song, and less can often be more. But “Worth It” will certainly move HVNNIBVL more steps forward and I’ll happily be listening for the next one.
KID BLOOM, “Blood Sugar”
The L.A.-based singer/songwriter follows up “Wounded/Surrounded” (featured in my 13th “10/10” blog post) with “Blood Sugar”, which is also the title of his recently released EP. After a long relationship, thoughts and feelings always linger, and in Kid Bloom’s take, it’s like being inside your blood. So he sings about emotional entrapment set to a bass synth rhythm which pulsates like whatever is stuck inside his head. His invested vocal and an arrangement that shakes the mix loose of its dark trappings from time to time all make “Blood Sugar” a captivating listen.
CALVO, “Broke In Amsterdam”
German producer/DJ Calvo’s latest single “Broke In Amsterdam” has caught my ear with its shiny production that creates a delightful pop/dance confection. Co-written with the always amazing Daniel Volpe, “Broke” is a happy slice-of-life story reminiscing about younger days where life seemed more carefree. It’s just the kind of tonic we need to help us continue to get through these strange times. Calvo has numerous listeners in Europe, who have brought his song stream tally into the 50 million range. Perhaps “Broke In Amsterdam” will expand that audience further into North America.
EGZOD, “Ride The Wave”
“Ride The Wave” continues the evolution of Florida-based electronic dance producer EGZOD, about whom I’ve written several times since he arrived on the scene in 2016. More than around 20 million streams later, EGZOD – otherwise known as Carlos Carvalho-Martins – can shift flawlessly between the heaviest trap/dub step and much lighter fare, the latter applying to “Ride The Wave”, which I would call ‘mid-summer beach pop’. The spry uncredited female vocal is appealing and distinct, while EGZOD weaves more harmonies into this song than usual. “Ride The Wave” has some bold singalong moments and washes down as easy as gliding into shore from one of those waves. Watch for EGZOD’s new EP The Revolution next month!
KAI STEVENS and EMILY McNALLY, “Hero”
As Summer-themed tunes ride out the last sunsets of the next month, the arrival of a softer song or two for Autumn is always becoming the new season. Kai Stevens is a 17 year old producer and multi-instrumentalist from NYC who has emerged over the last year with songs that keep getting better and better. While this release is nowhere in the league of big productions by Illenium or other similar artists, “Hero” strikes the emotional chords that you would find in the progressive ‘sad boi’ electronica sub-genre. It’s sung by another young New Yorker, Emily McNally, whose graceful and delicate voice is compelling and convincing amid the bigger synth breaks within. “Hero” is a promising song most deserving of electronic dance music fans’ attention.
FETS, FORMAL CHICKEN & STEVE VOID, “Pushing On”
Don’t let the billing fool you – I think that “Pushing On” is entirely a Steve Void production. The talented young Dutchman has produced quite a variety of house and dance/pop releases on his Strange Fruits label over the past few years, and he has even opened his own restaurant! While he’s been mainly dabbling in covers of late, “Pushing On” is a brisk, deep house update of a more obscure 2014 track by Germany’s Oliver $ & Jimi Jules. It’s slick and goes down easy, with pitched-down vocals giving it qualities you’d normally find in a soulful UK house track.
PAWL & DISCRETE, “Type Like That”
“Type Like That” is a snappy, tautly-produced house single in a partnership between two Swedish producers, Pawl and Discrete. In tandem with direct support from LoudKult Records owner Lucas Estrada, with whom he has also recorded, Pawl’s music has acquired over 20 million streams across platforms since he emerged five years ago. Discrete is newer to the genre, having released an EP and a few singles thus far. But the guys have released one super-catchy, sultry song in “Type Like That”, which is a good bookend with last year’s release by Revelries and Oktavian called “Don’t Think Twice”. The song-writing here is spot on, calling out a long line of so-and-so’s who all behave the same, hence “you’re just a type like that”. This one will stick with you with repeated listens, so don’t say you weren’t warned!
KiNG MALA, “sugarblind”
KiNG MALA is the moniker for L.A.-based singer/songwriter Areli Castro, and her music will appeal to fans of Ashe, Bishop Briggs and Maty Noyes. It’s complex alt.rock with a tough exterior (“Mala” means ‘bad bitch’ in Spanish, hence “King Bad Bitch”), underneath which you will find infectious hooks and melodies that will take older fans back to the time of heyday of Kate Bush and Siouxsie Sioux. KiNG MALA is relatively new on the scene, with “sugarblind” her third single release and most streamed one to date. Great talent takes time to develop, so she is definitely one to watch in the coming years, and alt.rock radio should welcome her unique style.