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The continuing influence of The xx’s debut 5 years on

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2009- a year in which Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors ruled the internet and The Black Eyed Peas and Kings of Leon ruled the charts. It’s always hard to revisit these memories. Boom Boom Pow in your head is never a kind gift and Sex On Fire only reminds us of the time when we ‘almost’ had the next U2. Five years later, The Black Eyed Peas are seemingly over and Kings of Leon are no longer on their rock n’ roll pedestal.

Fortunately there is fonder memories of that year. There’s one release from 2009 that has spread a subtle yet lasting web over the music world. The xx’s self-titled debut. While the band had an auror of hype surrounding them thanks to the blogosphere and NME, the album only reached number 16 on the British charts upon its release. Chart success never felt like the goal for the band, but it seemed like an inevitable byproduct of the minimalist, melodic music that quickly spread its influence by providing the soundtrack to shows like 90210 and Misfits.

While not so much an immediate chart success, it was a critical darling. Pitchfork called it “nuanced, quiet and surprising” while The Guardian said it “will win many friends for its beautifully haunting, understated charms”, further labelling it the best album of 2009. It took a while, but the “many friends” eventually gravitated towards the record. In 2010 it won the prestigious Mercury Prize over records by La Roux, Florence and the Machine and The Horrors.

Following the win, album sales rose by 448% in the UK to take them to a new chart height of number three. When their less critically-lauded second album, Coexist was released in 2012 it shot to number one, much off the merit of the first album, one would presume.

However, the legacy of the xx’s debut five years on is detached from sales. Rather it’s left a prominent impact on the face of music today with many artists making music that is a little more minimalist, has more space and breathes more vocally. Their debut was a record that relied solely on delectable melodies, coated in subtle emotion. When Romy and Oliver flip between telling each other “sometimes I still need you” on Heart Skips A Beat it’s not forced. It’s a statement of sincerity born in the darkness of the early morning when the club music mutes and the lights begin to blur.

The record always sat in the pocket of electronic music but further than that it was difficult to define. Looking on five years later, it shares many qualities with the recent outburst of future RnB. The vocals are placed on top of beats that are given adequate space to breathe. Guitars and synths are left to provide the emotional lacing for the music. In many ways the record championed an RnB revival far before critics and the public alike were talking about its emergence.

It’s a testament to the band’s ability to hold back and Jamie xx’s nuanced beatmaking that even pop remakes of the tracks were unable to make them sound more commercially appealing. Rihanna’s use of Intro fell far short of the xx’s stormy album opener and Shakira’s latin-flavoured version of Islands proved the songs always grew better in darkness than in sunlight.

Below are five artists that have taken a little something from the xx’s debut whether it was intentional or not.

London Grammar

Fellow British-band, London Grammar’s lead-vocalist, Hannah Reid, undoubtedly has more of a booming voice than Romy but there are definite instrumental comparisons between the two. While London Grammar’s brooding debut errs more to alternative-pop that electronic music, the delicate guitar plucks and use of space hark back to the xx’s discovery that melody could be crafted out of little to nothing. Place crescendoing beats and more immediate piano-work on top of the xx’s minimalist soundscape and you’ve got London Grammar’s Wasting My Years.

Reid recently told Gigwise, “I think we’re in a kind of post-xx era where a lot of people are quite influenced by that atmospheric pop vibe.” It’s a pertinent comment that very much reflects the state of alternative pop right now.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/londongrammar/london-grammar-wasting-my[/soundcloud]

Drake

Jamie xx held production duties on tracks from Drake’s Take Care record so it makes sense that he would be directly influenced by the xx. The title-track with Rihanna takes Jamie’s remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s I’ll Take Care of U,  with Drake singing and rapping over it. It’s arguably one of the first times Drake truly embraced his singing voice, delicately cooing over the track in a similar way to the xx’s Oliver. While Jamie didn’t have a hand over Drake’s latest effort, Nothing Was The Same, the influences still remain. Own It is hauntingly minimalist and also sees the rapper sing while From Time, has him add Jhene Aiko to the mix with the two flipping back and forth vocally a la Romy and Oliver.

FKA Twigs

Could it be that the most innovative artist of 2014 is in fact influenced by the biggest innovators of 2009? It doesn’t seem Twigs’ notable xx influence is something she is conscious of, but it’s hard to imagine her debut existing without the xx breaking down some walls before it. LP1 is impossibly sparse with Twigs rarely having to raise her voice to convey her point. She said in an interview recently that she didn’t like the RnB genre-label and she’s right, she’s not an RnB artist. But neither were the xx, explicitly. By making music that is so minimal, both artists carefully traverse a line of many genres including RnB, electronica, pop and hip-hop. You can’t really sit comfortably inside a genre and be innovative, can you?

Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware is a product of a time in music when Sampha was toning down SBTRKT’s dance music and RnB and electronica were beginning to combine, partly thanks to the xx’s debut. While she has a huge, booming voice, we never truly heard it on her debut Devotion, which was part of its sophisticated charm. The title-track is perhaps the best indicator of the xx’s influence of the record. Subtle jabs of guitar lay beneath Ware’s breathy vocal. Synths sit underneath simply for substance with not much else used to convey the smokey, lovelorn atmosphere. Tell me that description doesn’t also work to describe the xx’s Infinity.

In fact, only weeks ago Ware released a cut, Share It All, from her upcoming album, Tough Love, written with Romy.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/jessieware/jessiewareshareit-all[/soundcloud]

Beyonce

Beyonce’s latest self-titled effort is very much a thoughtful and educated take on the current wave of future RnB. As we’ve discussed above, the xx have had a part in formulating that genre and the minimalist nature of it. Much of the appeal of Beyonce’s latest album is the way she creates delectable melodies from very little at all. On Superpower with Frank Ocean her only real-backing is vocal harmonies Ghost/Haunted is born from a thumping bass and haunting synths. It’s a far cry from the brass-laden, pop/RnB of her previous albums. As Spin said, Haunted is “Janelle Monaé’s delivery meeting the xx’s reverb-y stare”.

In an example of how meta the world is becoming, the xx covered Beyonce’s Frank Ocean-penned I Miss You which is the first track of hers to show obvious similarities to the xx. I Miss You dims the lights, clears the clutter and sees Beyonce in the most gentle vocal display of her career. When the xx covered it, they barely had to do a thing to bring it into their lane.

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Review: FKA Twigs- LP1

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Only two years into her recorded career, London artist and producer, Tahliah Barnett, better known as FKA Twigs, is yet to put a foot wrong. From visually breathtaking videos to sporadic, oddball pieces of pop, she’s both divided and captivated audiences with a flair for innovation not seen yet this decade.

There’s a certain fragility to the clown-like, album cover for LP1 and it’s a perfect visual companion for an album which is sexually-loaded and confidently feminine yet also gentle and soft. While some of the lyrics could be considered controversial (“my thighs are apart for when you’re ready to breathe in” from Two Weeks for instance) she washes them in synths and sings in a whimsical tone, almost as to enter your subconscious rather than affect you immediately.

Such is the presence of LP1. There’s a chance that the first listen will wash over you but it hovers with unconventional melodies and vivid soundscapes that are too remarkable to be forgotten. The first tracks, Lights Out, is a choice example of this. On the surface it’s a minimal, one-dimensional track but dig a little deeper and you’re exposed to dripping percussion, soul-rendering double bass and lyrical poignancy. It’s an after-dark tune that traverses issues of sexual self-confidence and intimacy, at that.

The whole album is sexually charged in the most graceful of ways. On Two Weeks she delicately places a microscope on the most intense of sexual attractions while Hours is a frozen snapshot into a passionate embrace, lips on lips. While the lyrics are the most vivid portrayal of that, the instrumental is equally effective in building those moments. In Hours the music rushes with intensity and then backs off, creating gradual climaxes that are quickly dispelled by a glitchy beat.

Away from sexual prowess, she also delivers on autobiographical tunes. Video Girl details her history as a dancer for the likes of Britney Spears, N’Sync and Christina Aguilera. The elongated, wobbling synths and whimsical vocals have the same fluid motion as that of a dancer, with the 808s adding an RnB flavour.

The way that Twigs marries the instrumental with the themes of the album, is one of its greatest triumphs. Pendulum sees a gently undulating beat underneath lyrics like “So lonely trying to be yours/ What a forsaken cause”. It’s both heartbreaking and fascinating listening to the beat teeter on an awkward edge, a pendulum, if you like.  While at times she’s a broken woman, at other times she’s defiant. On Give Up she digs her toes into the sand, singing “I know that sometimes you’d wish I’d go away/ But I’d wish that you’d know that I’m here to stay”.

Time could be given to dissecting her different influences from modern hip-hop to Sade-inspired RnB, but ultimately LP1 is more than that. It’s a pocket of music that has only been explored by Twigs thus far. It’s one of melodic twists and turns, intimately personal lyrics and industrial beats. She perhaps sums the album up best on Closer when she taunts, “closer, I’m here to be closer”. That she is, with LP1 giving a vivid insight into her life. Artists have been honest and personal before, but not with the same effect as Twigs. LP1 doesn’t only live up to the hype, it sets a precedent for music in 2014.

twigs

 

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First Impressions: FKA Twigs, SOPHIE, Kate Boy + more

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Four people holding one rose each and yet there are six songs to choose from. Among them are some of the most eligible artists in the music world* with feisty females like Jessie J, arty types like FKA Twigs and the sentimental kind like Porter Robinson and #1 Dads. While some will be left brokenhearted, two artists in particular win the adoration of the interns.

*We can’t guarantee all these artists are eligible but they sound like they’re up for a good time.

Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj- Bang Bang

Sam: Ugh. I’m all for a big diva anthem but nothing sticks with this one. The hook is like something from a Michael Buble meets the songs of Hairspray album and throughout I hear a lot of screaming cats. Nicki’s verse is fire, of course, but it feels like Ariana knows it’s shit and Jessie is way too into it. 1

Bianca: Jessie, Ariana AND Nicki? As suspected, three wrongs do not make a right. Excuse me while I go bang bang into my head. 0

blam

Lizzie: Although it pains me to say it, this song is going to be a hit. Ergh. 2

Hannah: Remember when Xtina jazzed up her sound in the most appropriate pop-diva way possible and released that killer cover of Car Wash with a verse from Missy Elliot…? Yeah that’s not what’s happening here as much as they wish it was. 0.5 

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/dafrican/jessie-j-bang-bang-ft-ariana-grande-nicki-minaj-2014-world-premier[/soundcloud]

FKA Twigs- Pendulum

Sam: After the above song I feel like I’m back in my happy place. I already decided off Two Weeks that Twigs is my favourite artist of the year so all this is just a bonus. Pendulum undulates with intricacy and Twigs takes all the time she needs with the melody. She’s the queen of subtlety and yet also a master at theatrics. This is supreme. 4.5  Sam‘s Pick  

Bianca: FKA Twigs is easily one of the most interesting artists right now. Pendulum is weirdly beautiful and manages to maintain power and intensity through the most delicate of nuances. It’s her ability to make these contradictions, to gently oscillate between subtle and intense, that keeps me coming back for more. 3.5 

Lizzie: Ain’t no one going to rush FKA Twigs through this one. Not too dissimilar to Two Weeks, the soft pops of her to-die-for angelic voice, blended with the slow pattering back beat make for yet another mesmerising track. I have no idea what she is saying, but I’m ok with that. 4

Hannah: This is a heart melting lullaby sung out in the heart of industry. As the pendulum cranks and croons all around, FKA Twigs’ melody is all centring and all soothing. She is simply undeniable. 4.5  Hannah‘s Pick  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw6H9YsTLek

SOPHIE- Lemonade

Sam: Oh I love dem candy noises. The trickle at the beginning of this track is total ear candy, literally. From there it’s just full of runaway melodies, Eurotrash synths and popping beats. I guess the whole experience is all a bit like eating popping candy. It doesn’t match the expertise of Bipp, but it comes close. 4

Bianca: There just seems to be no substance to this song, apart from way too many colours and preservatives. It’s a sickly-sweet, hands-rubbing-on-balloon headache of a song, although, admittedly, listening to this after I spent all day at a kids’ birthday party probably hasn’t worked in its favour. 

Lizzie: Straight out of Willy Wonka washing machine! Please go back to Oompa Loompa Land, SOPHIE. Not even Veruca Salt wants you. 1

Hannah: This sounds like Alvin and The Chipmunks found on their way to a DDR machine and now can’t decide if they want to battle it to the sounds of drum and bass or J-Pop. 2

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/msmsmsm/sophie-lemonade[/soundcloud]

Kate Boy- Self Control

Sam: I am pretty pissed that I had to wait almost two years after falling in love with Northern Lights for Self Control, but hey, I suppose it’s worse for fans of The Avalanches. That aside, Self Control has absolutely none of what its title suggests. It’s a big, bombastic pop song with a chorus that would make Dr. Luke salivate. From this point onwards pop music should only be made by the Swedish. 3.5 

Bianca: I’m enjoying the tribal beat and poppy synths but the vocal melody, particularly in the chorus, leaves a lot to be desired. 

Lizzie: Love the thump of the start. If only this was an instrumental version I could be left bopping awkwardly by myself for hours. There must be something in the water in Sweden, because they just keep churning out hit after hit! 3.5

Hannah: There really is something in the water over there in Sweden. Want to make a great pop record? Make like Kate Akhurst, hope a flight over and take one long glassy sip from the closest crystalline lake. This is exactly how all pop music should sound. 3

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/kateboy/self-control[/soundcloud]

#1 Dads- So Soldier

Sam: Right off the bat that guitar riff hits me right in the heart, then Ainslie Wills comes in with this Cat Power-esque vocals and continues to just chip away at me. Tom Iansek and Wills sound so perfect together on the chorus. 3.5

Bianca: What a combo! Iansek’s strumming guitar has this essence of familiarity from the get-go, while Wills’ dreamy voice manages to transport me somewhere, far, far away. 3.5 

Lizzie: Definitely a Summer road trip kinda track – pack a picnic and set off! Ainslie’s voice is broody and seductive, but what truly shines in this track is the guitar, it’s just so floaty and nostalgic. 4

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pieater/1-dads-so-soldier-feat-ainslie-wills-about-face-lp-2014[/soundcloud]

Porter Robinson- Flicker

Sam: Finally Porter just goes screw it with subtlety and includes the most explicit representation of his Japanese influences yet. This is a crescendoing, textural, dynamic soundtrack to an anime game that conveniently doubles as a great electronic track. 4

Bianca: ヽ(=´▽`=)ノ ♪♬  ☆*・゜゚・*(^O^)/*・゜゚・*☆ ♪♬ ヾ(。◕ฺ∀◕ฺ)ノ

I’m digging everything this song is throwing at me. It’s so multi-layered and kept me enthralled the entire time, first with the funky, almost disco-inspired guitar riff, punctuated by anime-inspired spoken word, before dramatically reaching its glittery finale. I feel like I’ve just successfully completed the final level of a Sega game.  Bianca’s Pick  

Lizzie: I am a bit torn with this song. Half of it sounds like my Furby keeps turning on and off. The other second half however, in typical Porter style, opens up to be a grand, layered big room sound we I know and love. He drops the bass like no one else around the 2:50 sec mark, but with his Japanese twang – genius. Not my fav on the new Worlds album, but still pretty damn good.   Lizzies Pick  

Hannah: A novice when it comes to the world of EDM and its producers, I’ve been listening to this track all week on Hype Machine (what was that about first impressions?) unsure if admitting to this kind of Porter Robinson over all others would have me vilified by those in the know. That said, as long as Sam likes it, I’m happy to admit I do too. 3.5

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10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week

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For those of you still coping with post-Splendour depression, you’re not alone. As such we’ve made sure we’ve included no Splendour 2014 acts in this week’s 10 Songs You Need To Hear so you can deal with it in the best way possible- denial.

Azealia Banks- Heavy Metal and Reflective

It’s been a damn long time since Azealia Banks became the most hyped rapper of 2012 with 212. In that time she’s fought every other artist on the planet, chucked dummy spits at shows and parted ways with her record label Universal. Heavy Metal and Reflective is the first we’ve heard from her since the split and it’s a bit of alright. She’s aggressive and confident over an industrial beat that is a bit of a runaway train.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/yung-rapunxel/heavy-metal-and-reflective-azealia-banks[/soundcloud]

FKA Twigs – Pendulum

Pendulum is the second track to come from FKA Twigs’ forthcoming record LP1 and is further proof that it will be one of the best of the year. As the title suggests it’s a gently undulating track bound by cascading beats and sporadic vocals. There are definitely similarities between this one and Water Me although this one feels like it’s got more melody to attach itself too. Go home everyone, Twigs wins 2014.

Laura Welsh- Bound

It’s hard to believe, given the attention it’s received, that Kanye’s Bound 2 never received any chart love. Even stranger when you think that Sigma’s drum n’ bass version of it, Nobody To Love, has commercial radio in raptures. One version that will rightfully have you in raptures is this cover by Laura Welsh. Taking the main hook, she transforms Bound into a smokey, love song that’s perhaps one of the most poignant things she’s done to date.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/laurawelsh/laura-welsh-bound-cover[/soundcloud]

Lil Silva- Don’t You Love (Feat. BANKS)

BANKS and Lil Silva have already worked with each other on several occasions, the most successful being BANKS’ Goddess. This dark, skittering Lil Silva cut provides the perfect playground for BANKS to lay down her brooding vocals. We don’t get to hear her though until the last third with a vocal sample occupying much of the earlier stage, helping it remain more of a Lil Silva song than a BANKS one.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/lilsilva/lil-silva-dont-you-love-feat-banks/s-IEUAF[/soundcloud]

Thrupence- Don’t You Mind

Future Classic has their finger on the pulse when it comes to snapping up the best electronic talent cc: Flume, Jagwar Ma or Wave Racer. It comes as welcome news then that they’ve snapped up 23 year-old maestro, Thrupence. Don’t You Mind comes from his debut album Lessons which will be his first release on Future Classic. It samples blues singer Son House’s Grinnin In Your Face, laying it atop a retro hip-hop beat that shows Thrupence’s clearly extensive music knowledge and his finessed production.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/futureclassic/thrupence-dont-you-mind[/soundcloud]

Black Vanilla – Smacks

Black Vanilla is a Sydney-based supergroup of sorts. It’s made up of Marcus Whale (Collarbones), Lavurn Lee (Guerre) and Jarred Beeler (Mareseilles) and separately they’ve released some pretty spectacular material. As a trio, however, they offer up something very different- RnB/Hip-Hop flavoured tunes that are arguably more straight-forward than any of their solo material. Case in point, their new track, Smacks. Smacks really have one intention- to make people dance- and it does so effortlessly. Beginning with what could be confused as a banjo it enters territory of deep, throbbing bass with a voice saying “are you willing to give in”. It harks back to the days of Beastie Boys and Basement Jaxx and is a fresh take on the 90s nostalgia genre.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/blackvanilla-1/smacks[/soundcloud]

Fantastic Fantastic – Houses

This is the second song to feature from funk-pop duo since Never Enough and it further verifies Fantastic Fantastic as a fun, bright addition to the world of music. Sunny synths and licking guitars combined with softly-spoken, rapid vocals force you to take those firmly-planted feet right off the floor.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/sofantasticfantastic/houses-1[/soundcloud]

cln – Dayum

Brisbane-born cln (formerly known as Callan Alexander) set tongues and ears wagging back when his EP’s lead single, Better Than, reached no.1 on Hype Machine in the matter of days. cln has now released his entire Sideways EP, with Dayum as one of the unheard singles. The track is peppered with Oriental-inspired instruments, held together with lulling synths with your focus broken every now and then by the almost-unwelcome vocal: ‘Dayum!’

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/callanalexander/cln-dayum-1[/soundcloud]

Chance The Rapper- Wonderful Everyday: Arthur

Probably the biggest treat of the week was this flip of the Arthur theme song by Chance The Rapper. He’s been playing it at a few live shows but this recorded version which pulls in Jessie Ware and Wyclef Jean is definitely more affecting. It treads through gospel, hip-hop and soul ending with a stomping beat that takes it straight to church. You’d be forgiven for shedding a nostalgic tear or two.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/chancetherapper/everyday-wonderful-arthur[/soundcloud]

Diplo & Alvaro – 6th Gear (feat. Kstylis)

Ready to get a little bit low with a bit of dutty dancing? Self-proclaimed ‘random white dude’ Diplo, this week released a mixtape of his most popular singles, remixes and a few new ones as well. 6th Gear is one of those new ones and sees Diplo traverse trap and dancehall genres. It’s all a bit chaotic as you would expect from a Diplo track erring more towards Major Lazer’s style.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/maddecent/diplo-alvaro-6th-gear-feat?in=maddecent/sets/diplo-random-white-dude-be-everywhere-1[/soundcloud]

And one more for good luck (…and because we can’t count)

Porter Robinson – Flicker

Porter is once again showing is love for all things Japanese on Flicker, the fourth track to be released from Worlds. A Japanese sample is sliced atop an epic, cinematic instrumental that is synth-heavy, bass-heavy and altogether climatic. It sounds a bit like the final challenge of a video game and as such rounds out our 10 songs for this week in fine style.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/porter-robinson/flicker[/soundcloud]

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Hear FKA Twigs’ ‘Pendulum’, her favourite song from her album

FKA Twigs has dropped the second taste, Pendulum, from her debut album, LP1. Premiered by Zane Lowe, Twigs describes it as one of her favourite tracks off the album and it’s easy to see why. As the title suggests it’s a gently undulating track pushed by sporadic beats and vocal coos. She has a knack for finding melody in the most innovative of spaces. Can we just leave the best album of the year slot open for this London singer now? We’ll get to see if the album is as good as presumed when it’s released on 8 August.

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The New Future of Future R&B

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The Nineties gave us many things. Scrunchies, light-up sneakers, Sister Act 1 and 2 and the weird assurance that high waisted, terry towelling shorts were always appropriate attire. A Golden Age for all things Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin, it was also an explosive era for R&B with artists like D’Angelo responsible for crafting out the genre as we now know it. Undeniably, that R&B sound so synonymous with the glimmering decade, has outlived many of the artists producing it. It’s since become somewhat of an amorphous, chameleon genre, snaking its way through hip-hop, rap and new soul, as per the patron saint of all we do here at the interns, Solange.

Future R&B is the genre’s most recent and progressive survival tactic. It takes that sonic perfection Timbaland and Aaliyah were once working towards and pushes it further. It’s a movement heavily influenced by the underground with producers like James Blake, Kaytranada, Cashmere Cat, Bondax, Ryan Hemsworth and Jamie XX, all considered integral to reinvigorating the classic, gossamer sounds of Mariah, Janet, Lauryn and Brandy. With access to warm gooey synths, glitchy stilted samples and banging drums, producers have been integral to its arrival come survival on the club scene. While it was initially a genre dominated by male artists nudging open the doors to the new-world possibilities of R&B such as The Weeknd, Drake, Frank Ocean and Miguel, since 2012 ensuring the survival of R&B has been a charge placed firmly in hands of emerging female artists such as Tink, Tinashe, FKA Twigs and Kelela. Now less amorphous than defiantly all-encompassing, it’s a genre open to sparse, minimal beats, dark industrial instrumentals, spoken word, rap, and of course, a whole lot of the electronic synth we know and love. It’s fair to say the honey-drippin’ R&B of the early nighties just got a whole more abrasive and a whole lot more modern.  

Read below to solve your perfect future R&B equation and click here for some serious Future R&B sounds.

Tink

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Chicago + Lauryn Hill + How to Dress Well = Tink

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/tink_g/treat-me-like-somebody[/soundcloud]

At not even 20 years old, this Chicago-based rapper, come certified songstress has been working for everything and then some, steadily carving out a name for herself over the last two years. Eluding easy categorisation, Tink’s honey-flavored narratives oscillate from emotionally-charged R&B vocals lamenting a lover’s infidelity turned unexpected pregnancy (sound like Usher anyone?), to flat out drill raps and get-low hip hop traps. Like 2013’s brash announcement of arrival, Fingers Up, Tink is constantly challenging the gender expectations of Chicago’s male dominated hip-hop scene and is  a unique hook in a city where sky rocketing crime rates and explicit drill music usually hold the limelight. Although Tink’s production choices lack predictability, she moves seamlessly between genres with a matured self assurance, telling of an artist going after what she wants. Having made the decision to remain unassigned Tink has worked with the likes of Chicago locals Lil Durk and Sasha Go Hard, Jeremih, Tom Krell from How to Dress Well and New York’s Future Brown, in addition to releasing four killer mixtapes of her own, from 2013‘s Boss Up to this year’s Winter Garden 2 which attracted a 7.6 from Pitchfork (take that Lana Del Ray).

Described as: A potential long lost member of TLC

You’ll like if: Scrubs aren’t your thing either.

Tinashe

5

LA + Christina Aguilera + Ryan Hemsworth = Tinashe

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/tinashenow/tinashe-vulnerable-feat-travi[/soundcloud]

Young gun Tinashe, cites James Blake, Little Dragon and Bon Iver among her major influences and grew up in a Californian household filled with Sade, The Jacksons, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey while learning how to sing by mimicking Christina Aguileria’s vocal runs. At first encounter, her voice is yet another light and airy treat, encased in a smooth, oozy post-production caramel, befitting of any young LA hopeful with a girl band history, and a couple of obligatory  TV appearances under her belt. Here however, is where you can check any further assumptions about the trajectory of this girl’s career at the door. Despite being signed to major label RCA Records, Tinshe’s last 3 projects have been almost entirely self-produced, free, downloadable mixtapes, either aided by social media’s infinite connections, or a crowd-sourced effort. With her first official RCA Records debut, Aquarius, a year in the making, she’s made over 100 tracks in the refining process. Dedicated and determined, Tinashe’s music emerges from a dichotomous desire to showcase  her languid, down tempo R&B vocals and the dark, grit of her lyrical content. As she says “I always like to play with stuff that’s more on the darker side of the spectrum… Because I consider myself to have quite a ‘sweet’, quote unquote, voice. It’s high, it’s soft, and so I want to contrast that, have some juxtaposition in the beat. I like there to be a lot of bass, a lot of grit, I like it to be really dark and heavy.” A girl who clearly knows what she’s doing, Tinashe is at the forefront of the future R&B sound and is constantly finding new ways to resurrect  that classic 90s sound through the electronic sound popular today. Tinashe has worked with the likes of Ryan Hemsworth, producer XXYXXA$AP Rocky, Future, Mike WiLL and Travi$ Scott.

Described as: Reminiscent of Cassie or Aaliyah

You’ll like if: You know what’s good for you.

FKA Twigs

FKAAA

London + Septum piercings + sex = FKA Twigs

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/talea_color/fka-twigs-two-weeks-2014[/soundcloud]

Unless you run scared at the thought of feeling a little tingle between your thighs, or are having an enduring dry spell, you’ve undoubtedly heard of, slash shuddered to, the sounds of Young Turks artist FKA Twigs. Carnal like no other, Twigs’ catalogue, EP1 and EP2, is filled with sparse, stripped-back, down right naked and staccato pulses that quiver below a perfected whisper of superhuman falsetto. Unlike the narrative turns and story telling of Tink, who similarly debuted in 2012, FKA deals with the deed less plot fillers and supplementary characters. Water Me, Papa Pacify and most recently Two Weeks, are straight up sex jams to rival the pinacle of all sex jams, R. Kelly classic Bump N’ Grind.

Described as: A contemporary Aaliyah, as remixed by the xx or the Weeknd,

You’ll like if: Sex. Just sex.

Kelela

7

Washington D.C. + Faith Evans + You have a subscription to Beyonce’s blog = Kelela

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/fadetomind/kelela-cherry-coffee-prod-jam[/soundcloud]

Kelela remembers hearing Aaliyah’s 1 in a Million for the first time, while driving down the streets of her home town and becoming instantly obsessed. Obsessed in a way, that from that moment forward, Aaliyah, Faith Evans, Mariah, all divas of the day, would infect, and take over her production. Mixing and melting within her to form a unique take on an already contemporary sound. With a desire to be deliberately off-putting, interrupt the space and baffle people in the best way possible, Kelela’s brand of Future R&B, is like an ice-cream melting with the promise of a brain freeze: In your face, and jarring but irresistible and totally undeniable. Having released her mixtape The Cut 4 Me, in September 2013, Kelela has  been signed to Solange’s label Saint Heron, worked with the likes of Night Slugs, Jam City, Tink and Girl Unit, and, keeping it in the family, has featured on Beyonce’s blog.

Described as: Brandy but weirder

You’ll like if: Kelela has said “If nobody likes the mixtape, I’ll be pretty comfortable with that, honestly, because I finally got out what I meant to say.” So maybe, you like if you don’t like to like? Like totally? 

Head to page 2 for a playlist featuring the future of RnB

Pages: 1 2

FIRSTIMPRESSIONS_JUNE20

First Impressions 30 June

FIRSTIMPRESSIONS_JUNE20

Lust at first sight is all the rage in this week’s First Impressions. This week features a steamy collection of songs moving from the club to the bedroom. We move from The Weeknd‘s bedroom, to Shabazz Palace‘s kitchen and to the club with Jamie xx. This week we play the fly on the wall.

Jhene Aiko- To Love & Die

Sam: It’s difficult to be straight-up impressed with this one because Aiko’s charm is so effortless. Major throwbacks to Ashanti and I’m completely ok with that given that I’ve spent the last decade clinging onto Murder Inc.’s back catalogue. The bridge before the third chorus delivers straight-up attitude. 4

Hannah: Doing Rihanna better than RiRi herself and brimming with a serious injection early 2000 RnB, this is a sound I’m totally ok with. 3.5

Lizzie: Ooft just like slicing hot butter, this song melts me. I’d like to slip into something more comfortable, pour myself a bath and be serenaded by Aiko’s sweet tones. 3.5

Bianca: A silky-smooth RnB gem that’s bringing flashbacks of a much simpler time when hair was accessorised with butterflies and couches were made of poppable plastic. My head bounce increased ten-fold at the fervent 56-second mark. 3.5

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/jumpoffhiphop/jhene-aiko-to-love-die-feat-cocaine-80s[/soundcloud]

Jamie xx- All Under One Roof Raving

Sam: It’s winter in England, everyone’s checked their coats at the cloakroom and is now surviving off each other’s body heat in a club in East London. It’s also 4am. Jamie xx just gets this one so right. It’s such a vivid homage to rave culture in London with nuanced additions like those British vocal samples. The beat? Sparse brilliance. Hannah, if you don’t like this, I’ll eat my hat, literally. 4.5

Hannah: As much as I’d like to see you eat your snapback Samos, Jamie xx and steel drums? Just 5. Just 5. 5 Hannah’s Pick

Lizzie: Very interesting. 4.5 from Sam & a 5 from Hannah? I was almost ready to pack it in and give up on this track but then the 4 minute mark crept up and made much more sense. Thank god – I didn’t want to ever hate him. 3.5

Bianca: Jamie xx has just transported me to an underground, tin-walled club in London. Between the hectic cockney-accented vocal samples and the always-welcome steel drums, I am in love. TUNEEEEEE. 5 Bianca’s Pick

FKA Twigs- Two Weeks

Sam: How can I put it more eloquently than Twigs herself? I can’t but I’ll try given it’s the nature of First Impressions. Two Weeks is such a dignified take on something that is often delivered in such a trashy way: sex. Her voice builds intensity and then lets it all go with a detour into her higher register. All the while, the beat just shudders in the background with the bass working the track into a steamy climax. Absolute, experimental perfection. Show me something more impressive than this, this year. 5 Sam’s Pick

Hannah: This is quivering perfection. A score of pure staccato moments vibrate and bounce below FKA Twigs insane vocals. At once Aaliyah and Mariah at her best, this song knows exactly what it wants, and how to tease and toy with you until it gets it. I have a feeling FKA Twigs has even more to give, but she ain’t gonna give it up easily. 4

Lizzie: What a cheeky lady – the moment I thought I could pass this song on to my Mum for some light listening, she brings out “motherfucker” in the most majestically elegant way. I am hypnotised by her tomfoolery. 4.5 Lizzie’s Pick

Bianca: Had this been released just a week earlier than it did, I’d have no doubt it would feature in the top 10 section of our Top 20 Songs of 2014. The way she so eloquently slips in a few ‘fucks’ and ‘mother fuckers’ into this piece of art makes me think this song could slide its way onto commercial radio without the ACMA blinking an eye. 4

The Weeknd- Often

Sam: And if Twigs deals with it in a dignified manner, then The Weeknd does the opposite. The Weeknd has gone from being one of the pioneers of modern RnB to being sleazier than R.Kelly. “Make that pussy pop and do it how I want it?” Really? The track is slick but he’s just too much for me. 2

Lizzie: “I can make your pussy rain often?” What would your mother say!? I feel like I want to give him a slap on the wrist and send him to his bedroom without ice-cream. Such a beautiful voice but such a dirty mind. 3

Hannah: If the last couple of weeks have been all about disco fever, this week is about thumping, pulsing, quivering, teasing and down right sexy slow jams. I’m totally ok to be used and abused by this latest offering from The Weeknd. 3

Bianca: Umbrella sales have just gone down dramatically. 1

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/theweekndxo/the-weeknd-often[/soundcloud]

Shabazz Palace- #CAKE

Sam: In Shabazz Palace’s world you can have the cake and eat it too. It’s such a psychedelic, woozy take on the hip-hop genre that almost skews your immediate view for four minutes. I love the middle-eastern influences and the melodic change-ups that waterfall back into that M.I.A-like beat. 4

Lizzie: I hate it. But I do crave cake for some reason. 0.5

Hannah:I don’t think this cake is gluten-free. I’m out. 1.5

Bianca: This cake did not rise. 0.5

Calvin Harris- C.U.B.A

Sam: Let it be known, I find Calvin Harris more unbearable than a world without cronuts, but I’m going to challenge myself to be positive about this. I like that he’s detoured from slick, pop-based EDM, to deliver what is a banging big room-track. It builds well with assaulting if not slightly-predictable synths and it drops like a mutha-f***ker. My only issue? I hate it. 2

Lizzie:

Simple Recipe for an EDM song:

3 parts equal serving Heavy bass and crash

3 parts unrecognizable twangy sound

1 part moment which makes you nostalgic about those fun times in Summer

300 minutes of build up to the drop

2 parts “Drop”

1 part realising that this song is like every other EDM song

C’mon Calvin I love you man, but it’s an Invention Test and your recipe is just so pedestrian. 2

Hannah: Picture this. The sun is setting over Coachella 2014, Calvin Harris has just walked on stage to a 45,000-strong crowd and just as that first jarring note reigns out over a sea of sweaty EDM heads, you realise Little Dragon is also walking out on a stage somewhere else and would have been a far better option. Through the sea of meat, there is no escape and for the next hour not only will you be subjected to aural torture but you will forever have to live with the knowledge you, for whatever brain-fart of a reason, chose Calvin over Little Dragon. I just can’t even go there. 0.5

Bianca: I feel like I have to dance otherwise someone is going to shoot me. 2

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/calvinharris/calvin-harris-cuba[/soundcloud]

 

10songs27june_2

10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week

10songsJUNE27

What a week for new music. It felt like music was gushing from every surrounding channel and we’re yet to fix the pipes. These 10 are the 10 we managed to stop in their tracks in order to chuck them on repeat and revel in their brilliance. If you haven’t heard these songs this week, here’s your chance to before your friends are all 10 steps ahead of you and you’re #oldnews. If you just want to jump straight to the Soundcloud playlist, click here.

FKA Twigs- Two Weeks

British singer/producer FKA Twigs is months away from releasing her debut album, LP1 and Two Weeks is the first single from it. If the Papi Pacify video taught us anything it’s that Twigs isn’t afraid to take on taboo subjects. Once again on Two Weeks she’s bold and revealing with her subject matter. The lyric, “My thighs are open for when you’re ready to breathe in”, should give you a few clues about what we’re dealing with here. Coming from Twigs, however, it doesn’t sound trashy. Rather she does it with the utmost grace and confidence. Slinking around the melody with sexual prowess.

Grimes- Go

Grimes loves a bit of T.Swizzle and the Biebs so it should come as no surprise that she originally wrote this one for Rihanna. Rihanna turned it down but it’s her loss. Go, produced with Blood Diamonds, is a trap-driven, ethereal pop song. It’s undoubtedly different from anything she’s released in the past and probably won’t be on her next album, but it’s a welcome detour into banger territory. Watch out Miley.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/actuallygrimes/go-1[/soundcloud]

Ryn Weaver- OctaHate

When Benny Blanco, Cashmere Cat and Passion Pit combine on one song, there’s really only one way it can go. American newcomer, Ryn Weaver, is introduced to the musicsphere with a cracker of a pop song. The choruses scream Passion Pit, the pop-forwardness says Benny Blanco while the synths have Cashmere Cat’s fingerprints over them. Meanwhile, Weaver is the perfect host, sounding like a seasoned pro.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/rynweaver/ryn-weaver-octahate[/soundcloud]

Lido- I Love You

Like Cashmere Cat, Lido is a Norwegian producer, who last week dropped a stunning remix of BANKSDrowning. This week he’s dropped his EP, I Love You. The title track is the most impressive of the set, it’s a skittering, unpredictable affair that dazzles with a sonic-adrenalin rush hook. The funky bass undertones ensure that we stay around in between choruses.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/lidogotsongs/lido-i-love-you[/soundcloud]

Bondax- All I See

British duos making house music have a good track record. Just look at Disclosure. Bondax have been tracking along for about the same time but are yet to drop an album. All I See is the latest track from them and the sound is planted in the tropics. It’s perhaps their most accessible tune to date and is no doubt aimed towards a Mediterranean Summer.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/bondax/all-i-see[/soundcloud]

Kyan- Cold Friend

Ever since we featured Kyan’s Shuttle we’ve been huge fans of British singer. Fresh from playing Wembley Stadium with Duke Dumont, he’s dropped the second single from his forthcoming EP, Life In A Triangle. Cold Friend is far more of a casual affair than the first single, Taking The City but it’s no less effective. Frosty tones and isolated drums make it quite a melanholic track warmed only by Kyan’s soulful voice.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/kyanmusic/cold-friend-1[/soundcloud]

LUCIANBLOMKAMP- Help Me Out

And the brilliant Australian producers just keep coming. LUCIANBLOMKAMP as well as being a mouthful to pronounce, is a Melbourne-based producer who’s gearing up to release his debut LP Post-Nature on 15 August. Help Me Out is taken from that. It’s a dark track with building intensity delivered by crescendoing beats and short stabs of synth.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/lucianblomkamp/help-me-out[/soundcloud]

Zola Jesus- Dangerous Days

This may be one of the most surprising releases of the week. Zola Jesus is known for her dark, experimental music that has often blatantly stayed away any pop-influences. Dangerous Days, the first release from her forthcoming LP, Taiga, sees her let her card down. It has a big hearty chorus and beat-driven verse that doesn’t stray too far from M83’s sonic aesthetic. Taiga suddenly just got a whole lot more interesting.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/zolajesus/zola-jesus-dangerous-days-official-audio[/soundcloud]

Nao vs. AK Paul- So Good

I’d imagine AK Paul is feeling slightly like Solange right now. Why? His brother is enigmatic producer Jai Paul who is a hero to many although he’s only really released two official tunes. On So Good he pairs with Hackney singer Nao. So Good is all about holding back. Paul only plays with a few layers, creating a sparse yet effective backing for Nao’s popping vocal. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait as long as Jai Paul for a follow-up.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/thisnao/nao-vs-a-k-paul-so-good[/soundcloud]

Billie Black- I Don’t Need Another Lover

Two weeks, two songs and London artist, Billie Black has ensures that she’s one to watch. Following the spectacular, I Waited For You, she’s released I Don’t Need Another Lover. The new track takes a similar, minimal formula to I Waited For You, but it kicks the pace up a notch with a gentle beat. It works the song into a subtle yet welcome groove showing that Black can be more than a Sade-like balladeer.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/billie-black/i-dont-need-another-lover[/soundcloud]

 

Listen to the full Soundcloud playlist below: 

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/the-in-terns/sets/10-songs-you-need-to-hear[/soundcloud]

 

fka-twigs-water-me-thrld-magazine-video

Ellie Goulding debuts new FKA Twigs track, ‘Two Weeks’

fka-twigs-water-me-thrld-magazine-video

Ellie Goulding, of all people, has debuted the first track off FKA Twigs LP1, Two Weeks. Goulding plays a valiant radio host as she drops the track and then has a little chat with the oddball singer and producer. It’s perhaps Twigs’ most accessible song to date whilst still incorporating the sparseness of her earlier tracks. This time around she’s called upon cascading beats and a much richer synth to transform the song into a moody number. Following this, there should be no doubt that LP1 will be one of the finest debuts of the year.

The track comes in around 30:00 mins.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/yocxi/ellies-bbc-radio-1-takeover[/soundcloud]

UPDATE: Watch the video below-

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