Cassorla‘s The Right Way is a quirky vision of pop music that draws on ’80s radio pop, skittering lo-fi electro-pop, and early ’00s bedroom pop like Aqueduct (new album coming soon!). I’ve already compared the title track to Steve Miller Band (and found out via Twitter that indeed, SMB is an influence); similar to ’80s pop giants, Cassorla creates wide sonic spaces by playing with reverbed vocals, electronic rhythmic elements, piano (“Our Power”), and herky-jerky starts and stops.
The electronics here, though, aren’t huge synths, but low-key beats reminiscent of The Postal Service et al. This isn’t electro-pop in any modern sense: it’s pop music that happens to engulf elements of electro, along with guitar, piano, and miscellaneous bouncy noises (“Be On”).
The four-song set passes by warmly, capped off by “Start Your Engines.” The closer elevates the beats (humorously, but not entirely incorrectly, tagged as “trap”) to the prime spot of the tune, with a laconic guitar line taking a backseat. Cassorla unspools a Beck-ian speak-sing on top of the brew, giving another lens through which to read these songs. Regardless of inspiration or point of connection, those with a yen for mid-tempo, unassuming pop music will enjoy The Right Way.
My love affair with chillwave is somewhat my like my continued dedication to the reverse-chronological blog form: I loved it when everyone else loved it, and then I still loved it when it wasn’t cool anymore, and then I loved it when most people had stopped talking about it either way. Haring‘s Late Night Dream almost certainly has been assigned cooler descriptors than chillwave, but it fits so squarely in the sonic center of what the genre was/is about that I can’t help but say so. From the loopy, warm synths to the gentle underlying beats to the patient melodies to the overall summery mood, this could have been right there with Washed Out in the heyday.
The title track plays with needly synth notes in a way evocative of Teen Daze; “Floating Out to Me” inserts a section of frantic rhythms before dropping back to tubular-sounding synth grounding. The opening of “All I Can Give” turns trumpeting, grainy synths from celebratory to hazy/pensive with a neat arpeggiator crescendo. It resolves into a but of a thumping beat, which is cool–this is where whatever term people are using these days may get applied. Vocals are given a turn in closer “Time (feat. La Petite Rouge),” which returns to the sonic equivalent of floating on your back in a sunny pond. All the tunes here are commendable, but this one’s layering and vocal melodies make it particularly memorable. Haring’s Late Night Dream is a luscious, relaxing EP.
1. “Take a Dive” – By Day By Night. Big, friendly synth-pop that’s a mix between M83 dusky drama and Chad Valley exuberance.
2. “You’ve Got Somethin‘” – Air Bag One. I don’t know if it’s just my vantage point, but it seems like we’ve moved from big synth-centric ’80s jams to big vocal-centric ’80s jams. If so, Air Bag One is on point with this tune.
3. “Time (feat. La Petite Rouge)” – Haring. Wavering chillwave synths create a blissful mood before a neat and tidy beat comes in to give the song motion and structure. It grows from there, without ever overwhelming the initial mood. Beautiful.
4. “A Berry Bursts” – Twin Hidden. This enthusiastic, difficult-to-classify track sits somewhere between gentle indie-pop, low-key electro, and Tokyo Police Club’s giddy pop-rock attack. It’s way fun, whatever it is.
5. “Kangarang” – Casual Strangers. This psych-rock tune explores the more ambient, experimental, almost electronic vibes of the genre–eschewing huge guitars for a deep groove, this song is a burbling, thoughtful instrumental jam.
6. “Start Again (ft. Amy)” – Stefansson. I can’t resist an EDM song that is tasteful and restrained with the more stereotypically brash audio elements of the genre.
7. “Lackluster No.” – Nova Heart. A stark, sparse landscape gives way to an elegant, pristine, magnetic body of the song. It fuses electronic elements and live bass in a surprising way. It grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
8. “World Government” – Heptagon Heaven. Do you need six minutes of arpeggiated synths, great sound washes, and general “cool” vibe? Of course you do.
9. “Indian Summer” – Jai Wolf. The stuttering optimism of Gold Panda fused to ODESZA’s artsy, high ideals post-dub makes for a deeply impressive track.
1. “All I Can Give” – Haring. Chillwave forever: bright synth washes, gentle beats, and burbling melodies. Chillwave forever,
2. “Petrol Station” – Sorcha Richardson. Right when I think that I can’t take one more downtempo electro-pop tune, Sorcha Richardson renews my faith in the genre. This is slinky, groove-laden, and funky in all the best senses of those terms. Her vocals are just so smooth.
3. “Outro (Entry Code, Dial Tone)” – Heart/Dancer. Warm, refreshing, and intimate electro pop; the male/female vocals remind of Chairlift or Mates of State.
4. “Everything” – Wall of Trophies. Brittany Jean and Will Copps return as Wall of Trophies, showing off their particular skills: whirlwinds of artsy electronic/acoustic sound marshaled by Jean’s acrobatic vocals and passionate delivery. The sonic conclusion at the end of the tune will raise your eyebrows.
5. “Surrender” – Briana Marela. Somewhere between the intimate voice morphing of Imogen Heap and the cinematic vocal loops of Julianna Barwick lies Briana Marela. “Surrender” is a burbling electro/acoustic track that relies on complex beats, layers of sounds, and delicate/feathery melodies.
6. “Ready 2 Wear” – Loveskills. What would dance music sound like if there were no drum machines or synths? That’s the question Loveskills admirably tackles here, creating a bouncy, infectious track out of piano, finger snaps, strings, and intriguing vocals. This is a great pop song.
7. “Wavering Down” – Kasey Keller Big Band. Starts off as an abstract, outsider electronic piece, ends in a bit of a hooky electro jam–all in under 90 seconds.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.