1. “Zeek and Axl Rose” – Automotive High School. The softer side of AHS’ fuzzed-out pop/pop-punk is just as hooky in a completely different way. The band is quickly moving up my “to-watch” list for 2013.
2. “Graveyard” – LVL UP. I keep a special place in my heart for video-game inspired music, and LVL UP’s punked-out geek pop is right in that space.
3. “Not a Riot” – Permanent Makeup. A wiry, low-slung, yelled punk tune with a neat guitar solo. No, for real.
4. “An Inter-dimensional Spat for the Right to Walk Away the Victor” – Hectorina. Not for the faint of heart or ear, this is a math/garage/post-punk/pop tune that is complex and almost entirely unique. If Queen and The Mars Volta got together, they’d both agree on this. Maybe.
5. “Hurricanes, XO” – Beat Radio. Is there ever not a market for enthusiastically fuzzed-out pop tunes?
6. “Come On. Stand Out.” – 7Bit Hero. A giddy slice of Australian electro-pop.
7. “Fame is for Assholes (Feat. Chiddy)” – Hoodie Allen. It finally happened.
8. “Tiny Kiss” – Hey Anna. This indie-pop tune is whimsical and propulsive, with memorable guitar work.
9. “Sandblonde” – The Bear & The Sea. I am here to state that I never stopped loving chillwave.
If the next big thing exists, it’s Icona Pop. (With the fickleness of the Internet, the “next big thing” is a pretty fluid concept.) But for those who are chasing good tunes instead of hipness, I’ve got a prescription for you: “Nights Like This,” off the EP of the same name.
Yes, “Manners” took over everything when it was released – it even got appropriated by Chiddy Bang. But “Nights Like This” is even better. It’s more adrenalized, catchier, and more fun. There’s less cold, Age of Adz-esque pretension and more party-bangin’ beats and synths, followed by a euphoric rush of wild “whoa-oh”s. It’s the sort of thing that must have sounded absolutely monster when they were writing it, because it’s pulled off with an assertive confidence that sells that which was doing just fine on its own. You know when you know, you know?
“Manners” is awesome as well, what with its slithering rhythms and squelching bass synths. The chanting vocals that everyone’s been humming are still awesome. “Lovers to Friends” is a pretty standard synth-pop tune, absent of all the unusual rhythms that make Icona Pop so unique and interesting. Unsurprisingly, it’s the least effective tune here.
“Sun Goes Down” features The Knocks and is a return to the dark, spacious, clubby tunes. Low, modified male vocals contribute significantly to the creepiness of the track, and the whole thing comes off as proof that Icona Pop could have more staying power than two magnificent singles.
I sure hope they have staying power, because anything even resembling the thrill of “Nights Like This” would be enough to keep them on my high rotation. Hear all the audio here.
Hoodie Allen has by now pretty much surpassed Chiddy Bang in my book as standard-bearer for the indie-rock sampling rap subgenre. Yes, Drake and Chiddy have higher profiles, but Hoodie Allen just does it better.
He just dropped a video for “You Are Not a Robot” off his mixtape “Pep Rally,” and it’s a pretty polarizing little video. Check the comments to see the effects its had on his listeners, which range from “U ROCK LOLZ FO REEL” to “What the fuck was that?”
It is a bit strange. It doesn’t exactly make sense, as a bunch of kids dressed as robots chase Hoodie under the auspices of catching him and presumably making him a robot. I won’t ruin what happens, but Wes Anderson is smiling somewhere, I think.
Worst comes to worst, you’re reminded of Hoodie Allen, and that’s never a bad thing.
I’ve been enjoying the new school of rappers throwing down lyrics on top of indie-rock tunes. From Chiddy Bang to Drake to Hoodie Allen (and, ok, the WTF Childish Gambino), they’re popping up everywhere. I love it.
G-Eazy is a rapper in that style. He has two singles kickin’ about the interwebz: The Tennis-sampling “Waspy” and “Good for Great Remix” of Matt and Kim’s track off Sidewalks, which I raved over a couple weeks ago.
“Waspy” is more of a production job than “Good for Great,” as G-Eazy (who produces his own beats) chops up “Marathon” by Tennis and puts a heavy beat behind it. It’s still recognizable as “Marathon,” which is cool, but the production leaves enough space for the rapping without the song seeming cluttered. The lyrics present a romance between a “punk kid” and a rich “WASPy girl.” The breezy Tennis track evokes an air of Ivy League privilege, making it a perfect fit for the lyrics.
G-Eazy’s rhymes are solid, and his flow is just ragged enough to be interesting. It’s not too erratic, but it keeps attention.
“Good for Great Remix” scrubs most of the vocals from the track and drops G-Eazy’s lyrics in. There is some extra rhythmic production, but it mostly beefs up what was already there. I love Matt and Kim, so I like the remix, even though the lyrics aren’t my favorite. It’s your standard “fuck school, go live life” set, which isn’t my favorite rhetoric (woo grad school!).
G-Eazy has some solid production skills, but I could stand to see his lyrics move above the standard rap motifs. Right now his production talent far surpasses his lyric choices (but not his rapping ability; the boy can rap).
Since Drake, Chiddy Bang and even Jason DeRulo (okay, not really a rapper, but hear me out) have been rhyming over indie music backing tracks, I’ve been a lot more interested in rap. While I don’t seek it out (yet), I do enjoy it when it falls in my lap. And that’s exactly what Pep Rally by Hoodie Allen did.
Awesome name aside (I love hoodies), this white boy can rap. He spits fast, and he can hold complicated rhythms and rhyme schemes together for several lines. His lyrics are quirky, fun and winning the “who can drop the most pop culture references in one album?” contest. His voice is smooth enough that you can tell what he’s saying, but not so flaccid that there’s no bite. His flow by itself is pretty impressive.
But that’s not all you get with Pep Rally. Allen’s producer, RJ Ferguson, knows indie music really well, and elevates Allen’s game substantially. When a dude’s rapping over Marina and the Diamonds, Cold War Kids, Black Keys, Death Cab for Cutie and Two Door Cinema Club (among others!), it’s pretty hard to completely dislike any track, even if the rap isn’t your favorite.
Ferguson’s beats actually work with the chosen tracks/samples to make new pieces of art (as opposed to Childish Gambino’s “turn down the track and turn up my vox” approach), and it’s incredibly impressive. My favorite instances of this are “You Are Not a Robot” and “So Much Closer,” which use “I Am Not a Robot” by Marina and the Diamonds and “Transatlanticism” by Death Cab for Cutie, respectively. “You Are Not a Robot” screws with Marina’s voice and turns her into Hoodie’s personal hook singer. You will have that stuck in your head, trust me.
But “So Much Closer” is the best track here, as Ferguson and Allen transform the glacially-paced anthem into a pep rally-worthy anthem without making it feel like sacrilege. The song also namechecks Death Cab (see title) and Hype Machine, which made me smile. That’s totally where I heard the album first. Things just got meta.
If you’re into the whole indie-rock + rap = yesyesyes fad that’s been going on, Hoodie Allen’s Pep Rally is for you. I like the whole album more than Chiddy Bang’s The Swelly Express (my previous standard for this genre), although Allen has not yet produced any song as solid gold as Chiddy’s “The Opposite of Adults.” This is more of RJ Ferguson’s coming out party than Hoodie Allen’s, as I’m far more impressed with his half of the work than Allen’s. But I suppose that’s because I’m still getting in to this whole rap thing.
In mixtape fashion, you can get the whole eleven-song album for free right here. Go! Go get it. Go, Go, Go get it.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.