Gramatik has always been my quintessential god of grooviness, but Mocean Worker may be overtaking that throne after his newly-released self-titled album. With a tasteful blend of electronic, funk and jazz elements–a little house here, a sprinkle of synth there, handfuls of hunky horn over yonder–Mocean Worker stirs a pot of sizzling, spicy Electro Swing (yes, it is a thing).
Hearing “Soul Swing” was like hearing Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” for the first time–it’s fiercely upbeat, techno-textured and vibrantly optimistic, but yet there’s a goofiness riding the track the whole time; It never takes itself too seriously. Jam-packed with piano and an old timey-feel, the vibe this first track sets for the party record shows depth and off-the-charts mixing.
“I Told You Twice The First Time” has carnival-like mockery to it. Colorful electronic incorporations, repeated female vocals, Richter-scale rhythm, rollercoaster synth and subtly dense bass build a groove that wraps itself in circles.
Tracks such as “The Actual Funk (Featuring Sweetpea Atkinson),” “Savoy Strut,” and “Clap Yo Hands (Mtune)” are techno-charged and sleek. “Clap Yo Hands (Mtune)” has an especially duskier vibe to it compared to others on the album: it begins slow-paced, ping-ping-pinging until an upbeat funk unleashes and fat bass guitar strums along, ultimately creating a warehouse party feel. Dubstep elements gently tug the rope that the opposing happy-groove buzz has a firm grip on for the majority of the album.
There is a good amount of abstraction that Mocean Worker slips in casually. “Julius,Irving,Berlin” gives Mocean Worker a distorted edge, playing up distant-sounding, quick bits of piano, warped tads of techno, and female vocals that sound like chopped television recordings. The opening on “Rubberband” harps and pulses like it’s beating from below water, an undersea horn-heavy dance party for the first few seconds. The beginning of “Now That’s What I’m Talkin’ Bout” also stole my heart with its slow-to-build swing dance, finger-snapping, bass-heavy groove.
While “Ralph and Marcus” is meant for a private striptese–with all of its confident sultriness, clinking percussion and teasing instrumentals–it’s “PunkDisco (Jaco)” that got my hips swaying with wooden percussion and Latin elements. And the title of True Romantic track goes to closer “Collete Ma Belle Femme.” Serene piano adds newfound lightness to the record, making it a sleepy, beautiful surprise. This one plays like a romantic serenade or a lullaby, and I could almost picture the misty mountain ranges as the album comes to a close.
Mocean Worker is for all of those hard-to-pleasers out there; it’s got enough tasteful fun to put a smile on the faces and sway in the hips of even the most snobby listeners. Because, simply put, Mocean Worker is a natural at creating ambiance. He has done for our ears what Feng Shui has done for rich people’s living rooms–harmonized us with our souls. But instead of through our surrounding environments, he has done so via a groovy, funk-inspired, kaleidoscope lens. —Rachel Haney
I just spent the better part of two weeks going through a house move and a computer crash. (Why do these things so often tag team?) As a result, I’ve got a very eclectic mix of tracks that I’m into right now. Usually I try to put some sort of theme together, but this one has it all. Good luck!
The New House Highs and Lows
1. “Icarus” – Silver Firs. If Grizzly Bear and Givers joined forces, I still don’t know if they could pull off this track. It’s like a more woodsy version of Architecture in Helsinki, which is my way of saying, “A+ LISTEN IMMEDIATELY.”
2. “Dean & Me” – jj. If you want to know what the world has come up with in 70 years of pop music, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example track than this one that incorporates vintage songwriting skills (even with a throwback reference!), traditional lyrics (with some existential twists) and sounds that are completely now. Just brilliant stuff.
3. “Blue Eyes” – The Rosebuds. You probably need some giddy, jangly, ooo-filled guitar pop in your life. The Rosebuds provide.
4. “You’ve Already Won” – Slow Buildings. Classic garage rock bass line, tambourine, and half-speed/mopey chorus make for a way fun tune.
5. “Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving” – Cayetana. If you’re not on the Cayetana train, that’s because it’s quickly becoming a bullet train and it’s hard to jump on those. But seriously. Cayetana’s female-fronted punk is blowing up just about as fast as they can get their sound into ears, so you should be on that.
6. “Hold Me Like the Water” – The Radio Reds. You want some churning, claustrophobic punk rock? You got it, chief. The Radio Reds’ latest track makes me feel like I’m in a cramped basement getting my younger self’s demons out through moshing and yelling all the words that the Radio Reds actually are singing. You know what I’m saying.
7. “Valkyrie” – CURXES. If the brittle tones of Sleigh Bells got somehow danceable, CURXES would show up at that party fashionably late and with a slightly higher-end alcohol than was expected of the soiree.
8. “All I Want” – SW/MM/NG. Remember in the ’90s, when one version of indie-rock was rock’n’roll music made with no pretenses of being radio-friendly or traditionally poppy? SW/MM/NG’s earnest, endearing, yelpy slacker psych is a band that escaped the Pavement vortex and made it forward in time 20 years.
9. “Another” – Greylag. Led Zeppelin had that way of sounding wild and adventurous in their acoustic tracks, and Greylag has that same feel. This exciting acoustic-fronted tune has that rolling, ongoing feel of travel.
10. “Rise Up For Love” – Sister Speak. I love dance-pop and EDM in moderation. I would love to see more classic pop songcraft on the radio, starting with Sister Speak’s beautiful, mature, classy, catchy tune right here. It just feels right in my ears, and it would sound so right on my radio.
11. “Pop Ur Heart Out” – Salme Dahlstrom. Have you ever wanted a female Fatboy Slim? Doesn’t matter, Dahlstrom fills the role with aplomb. Seriously, try to not think about “Praise You” during this tune. It’s impossible. I love it.
12. “Everlasting Arms” – Luke Winslow-King. Southern gospel is kind of like Western swing: distinct sound, not that many adherents. Luke Winslow-King is makin’ that traditional sound cool again, and I’m fully on board with this.
13. “Together Alone” – Hollie April. You ever have that moment where you hear a voice for the first time, and it knocks you back a little bit? Hollie April has one of those amazing voices that make me sit up and take notice. Keep watch.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.