Tag Archives: EDM

Country Music and My Mom

If you have read any of my reviews on the E-Fix, it is easy to see that my musical interests lie primarily in rap, hip-hop, pop, and EDM.  I have been trying to broaden my horizons, but at the end of the day I always come back to the familiar sound of hip-hop and rap.  It has not always been this way though.  This might be surprising to some, especially to people I know.  Before the days of my more recent musical tastes, I used to be a big fan of country.  I can attribute this to my mom.  She was the one that introduced me to country.

I started listening to country back when I was living in Frederick, Maryland.  I was in elementary school at the time, around third and fourth grade.  I was young and did not necessarily have a choice in the type of music I was listening to.  This was a time where I was not allowed to use the internet.  Digital music was not a thing.  Physical CDs were the norm.  I was not able to pick up the latest Lil Wayne album, even if I wanted to, because…well, I was in third grade.  What I listened to was usually whatever my parents were listening to.  My mom was a big fan of country and I can recall countless road trips where country was coming out of the car’s speakers.  Alan Jackson, Dierks Bentley, Toby Keith, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Big & Rich, and Tim McGraw, to name a few, were some of the staples that we would listen to time and time again.  We did a lot of traveling back in the day.  When you are living in Maryland and the rest of your family lives in Pittsburgh, frequent road trips occurred around the holidays.  I would sit in the backseat of our mini-van, listening to songs about summer, small town nostalgia, pick-up trucks, and America as I slowly developed a taste for country music.

An album I considered a favorite back in the day was Sherrie Austin’s Streets of Heaven.  This is probably a deep cut to most fans of country.  Sherrie Austin was not a big name in country, but this album resonated with me.  Songs like “Singin to the Scarecrow,” “Small Town Boy,” and “Streets of Heaven” were some of my favorites, songs that I would play over and over again on my handy-dandy portable CD player.  Ah, the days before smartphones and MP3 players.  I continued to listen to country music for a couple of years, but times slowly started to change as I got older and moved on to middle school in Smithsburg, Maryland where I was introduced to new friends and different music.

It was in Smithsburg where I was introduced to hip-hop and rap.  I knew the genre existed, but I was never able to listen to it because of my age.  However, the friends I made in Smithsburg listened to rap, so through osmosis I started to pick it up and I quickly grew a liking for it.  Remember middle school socials?  Those (often awkward) experiences also opened up my musical horizons, introducing me to both classics and newer hits in pop, hip-hop, and rap.  It was also around this time when I asked for Chris Brown’s debut album, and a Rihanna album, for Christmas.  Yes…Chris Brown’s debut album was my first physical hip-hop album.  You can laugh at me all you want, but Chris Brown was one of the first artists that I grew a liking for in my early days of hip-hop listening.  Since then he’s gone south, but he was still important to me.

Time went on and I started growing up.  I moved from middle school to high school and from Smithsburg back to Pittsburgh.  As I grew older, my hip-hop and rap tastes became more seasoned as I broadened my knowledge of the genre.  I still kept up with Country music, usually because my mom would always show me the newest Carrie Underwood track.  She was my only connection to country music.  Even though my musical tastes started to diverge from hers, I still felt connected to country music in a weird way.  I stopped listening to it on a daily basis, but it was still a part of me.  

Then my life took an unexpected detour.  In the words of Carrie Underwood, “Jesus took the wheel.”

My mom was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  It was the summer of last year when she started to experience symptoms like throat pain when eating.  At the time we thought it was just some sort of indigestion or acid reflux, but after countless doctor visits and consultations, we were not getting answers.  After ruling out everything else, they decided to test for cancer…and that is when they found the cancer…which was already in its later stages.  There was still hope, but things started to look grim as time went on.  This was one of the toughest times in my life, and it only got tougher as her health started to degrade.

I will never forget one of the nights I spent with my mom in the hospital.  At this point, we knew she wasn’t going to make it.  After countless rounds of chemo and radiation, the cancer just did not want to go away.  We were sitting by her bed, me and other members of my family, and we started to go through the songs she wanted to play on her funeral slideshow.  To give you some background, the funeral home that took care of us put together a DVD slideshow that would play on the TV’s in the room.  The slideshow was comprised of pictures from her life and the DVD version would have an audio track with her favorite songs.  We were going through the list of songs she wanted to have on her slideshow, and one of them was Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.”  We played the song in the hospital room, which might have been the most bittersweet moment I have ever been a part of.  She was slowly starting to fall asleep as the song played on; family surrounding her.  

At the time the song meant so much to me.  In the song, a man in his early forties gets word that his father has a mysterious life-threatening illness.  The song’s a bittersweet story about taking life as it is and living each day to the fullest.  My mom lived her life the same way, taking each day and living it to the fullest.  I could not think of a more perfect song about her life.  She later passed away in March, surrounded by our family in the hospital.  It was the toughest moment in my life.  Losing a loved one is always tough, but when you lose parent it is on a whole other level.  When you lose someone that has played a big part in raising you through your most formative years, you life changes drastically when they are gone.  My mom meant so much to so many people.  She was my best friend.  She was also my connection to country music.

Just like all things in life, everything moves on.  I took the rest of my college semester off to help around the house.  It was a taxing time for me, so I thought it was best that I took a break for myself, while at the same time I was back at home to help out my dad and my little brother.  I later went back to college in the fall and that is when life started to become more “normal.”  I was back at school, but I always made sure to go back and visit whenever I could on the weekends.

It was on one of these trips back home when a flood of nostalgia hit me like a tidal wave.  I usually like to have something on during my road trips, whether it is a podcast or music.  This time around I decided to change things up and I found the country music station on the radio.  It was a while since I had listened to any sort of country music, so my tastes were out of touch.  My mom was my only connection to country music, so my tastes had lapsed.  After a couple of songs or so, Carrie Underwood’s newest song, “Church Bells,” came on the radio and that is when it hit me.  That is when the nostalgia hit me hard.

I started to think about what my mom would have thought of the song.  She was one of the biggest fans of Carrie Underwood I knew, so I immediately knew she would have loved it.  It was then that I looked up into the sky and I started cry.  Yep, there I was, crying in my car going down the highway with a Carrie Underwood song on the radio.  I probably sound like a middle-aged woman fresh off an ugly break-up, but I could not get through the full song without crying.  I started to think about all the times I listened to country with my mom on our various road trips across the country.  I did a lot of reminiscing on that trip back home and it was on this trip that I rekindled my taste for country.

On my weekends where I was home, I started to dig up my mom’s old country albums and I started to look at their tracklists.  I didn’t recognize most of the songs, but there were still a ton of songs that I started to put into my music library.  Country music now started to populate my library, taking a seat next to the other genres of music that had a handle on my library for the longest time.  I also started to seek out new country music.  There was a time where I scoffed at country music, but I quickly realized how silly I was.

Although my musical tastes still tend to lean towards hip-hop, rap, and EDM, I have gained a rekindled appreciation of country music.  These days I still find myself mostly listening to country songs from my childhood, but I am always broadening my horizons.  Country music has always been a part of me, despite my lapsed frandom of the genre, and this is all thanks to my mom.  I have tons of memories that I will always remember my mom by, but country music is something I will always remember her by.  She is probably up in heaven giving me her latest country music recommendations, and I could not be happier.  

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Review: Aa

aa album cover
via Consequence of Sound

Aa (2016)

Baauer

Electronic / Trap

LuckyMe


When the viral trap hit “Harlem Shake” first released, it made the internet go bananas.  The guy behind the track, Brooklyn-based producer Baauer, created a song that had an addicting beat and a crazy “drop.”  The song spawned a seemingly endless stream of (inheritably stupid) YouTube videos with people going crazy during the song’s beat drop.  The craze went on for weeks, earning the producer who has been honing his craft since the ripe age of thirteen, a new-found status.  Unfortunately, that status was one-hit wonder.  If you mention the name Baauer in the street, people will likely point to “Harlem Shake,” and that’s about it.  Now, with the release of his first studio album, Aa, the trap and bass producer gets a chance to prove that he is just more than “now do the Harlem Shake!”

aa 1
via Seleb

The album, which features a healthy mix of thirteen tracks, is a relatively short affair, clocking in at around thirty minutes of music.  Within that short time frame we get a sampling of different sounds with the producer’s signature dosage of underground bass and grime.  Each track, some shorter than others, features intricate production and some unique sounds.  People coming just to hear more tracks like “Harlem Shake,” might be a little disappointed.  There are some tracks that might please your fancy, but this time around most of the songs favor a slower more chopped up beat.

An example would be the album’s intro track, “Church.”  It begins with some rudimentary instrumentals and then evolves to a slow-rising bass buildup that leads right into the next song.  Later on there’s a reprise of the track that features some electric guitar riffs that complement the track nicely.  There’s also “Pinku,” which is another slower song…but with a complex beat.

aa 3
via This Song Is Sick

The album is largely a solo affair, with some features sprinkled here and there.  This is where Aa shines.  The song “Temple,” which debuted at an Alexander Wang fashion show earlier this year, features M.I.A. and Korean rapper G-Dragon.  The song can best be described as a bass-boosted traditional Western folk song with some rap.  The combination might sound a little weird but trust me, the song is actually one of the strongest offerings from the album.  There’s also “Kung Fu,” a EDM-rap track about cocaine, featuring none other than Pusha T and Future.  These two songs are pretty much the album’s essential tracks.

Although you can tell there was a lot of work put into the different songs, not all of them hit home.  A portion of the tracks were either too bland or just not really pleasant to listen to.  For instance, the album’s title track “Aa” is a grab-bag of different sounds that don’t really amount to much.  I admire the effort that Baauer put into some of the more experimental tracks, but they just don’t really add much to the final product.

aa 2

In the end, Aa succeeded in showing Baauer is more talented and diverse than just one song.  The producer knows his way around a sound board.  The album features some standout tracks and some cool sounds, but also contains some boring and rote tracks as well.  As far as first albums go, Baauer did a pretty bang-up job, but it’s a little rough around the edges.

aa score

Review: Anti

anti cover
via D4 Premiere

Anti (2016)

Rihanna

R&B

Westbury Road / Roc Nation


It was late last Wednesday night when I somehow ended up with Rihanna’s newest album for free.  Anti, the singer’s eighth studio album, was released for free through Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal.  I was just clicking around on Twitter and a few links later, her entire album was downloading to my computer.  I was already excited for Rihanna’s new project…but this put the cherry on top.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, since the idea of a “surprise album release” is now commonplace in a music industry that is changing every day.  Rihanna always strives to be different from everybody else and in true Rihanna fashion, Anti is supremely different from her previous work.

rihanna-anti-album-cover-party-2015-billboard-02-650
via Wiki Starz

Gone are the high-octane hip-hop beats and fiery pop sound.  Anti is more of a slow-chopped R&B affair and it also happens to be one of Rihanna’s most personal records yet.  This creative freedom might be the result of RiRi’s label change, moving from Def Jam to Roc Nation.  The album consists of songs of reflection on relationships of the past.  In fact, most of the album gets personal about her love life, including her highly public (and probably abusive) relationship with Chris Brown.

The album opens up with “Consideration,” featuring singer SZA.  The song is about Rihanna’s music career and how there should be a bigger emphasis on being an artist rather than an entertainer.  Rihanna has writing credits on the song, as well as all the other songs that appear on the album, which is a big deal for her.  This is one of her first forays into songwriting and it pays off in big ways.  To give context, Rihanna’s album Loud featured zero writing credits from the artist.  She’s come a long way in terms of being an artist, which is what the song is all about.  It’s a strong opening for an album.

anti 2
via News AU

Anti then continues to get deeper and deeper.  The desperate “Kiss It Better” dives into the emotions of someone who just got out of a relationship but want’s their lover back, laced with some nice guitar riffs in the background.  “Work,” the lone single from the album featuring, teams up with Drake to deliver a lust-filled narrative of two lovers.  There’s an exotic reggae beat that goes along with the track that gives it it’s laid-back quality.  The album is incredibly diverse in terms of sound, dipping it’s toes into genres like dancehall and soul.

Taking a break from the moody offerings on the album, “Desperado” is an energized and powerful track about being in a relationship with someone “on the run.”  There’s also “Woo,” a collaboration with rapper Travis Scott, Rihanna’s first track with her esteemed lover.  It’s a pointed track that delves into Rihanna’s feelings about an old flame.  However, the best track on the album is not even Rihanna’s.  “Same Ol’ Mistakes” is a cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”  The song is essentially about her work towards not releasing songs that are “burnt out.”  It’s a smooth track that is top-notch.

anti 3
via Pigeons and Planes

There is some first-rate writing on the album thanks to Rihanna, making Anti an experiential experience.  This experience is complemented with some great sound production and engineering.  In order to achieve the moody sounds that Rihanna wanted on the album, she teamed up with producers like Hit-Boy, DJ Mustard, Brian Kennedy, Timbaland, and No I.D., among others.  Anti is a far cry from the EDM club and dance projects of Rihanna’s past, but this album’s distinct sounds is one of her best.

If songs like “FourFiveSeconds” and “American Oxygen” were any indication, Rihanna has seemingly changed her musical course of direction and delivers an album in Anti that stands strong on its own.  Rihanna opens up with a collection of moody and love-infused tracks that will have you feeling all sorts of emotions.  Although I loved the Rihanna of the past, I applaud her for the changes that she has made in order to deliver this fine product of her creativity.

anti score

The Weekly Drop: 4/18/15

This week saw the release of Tyler, the Creator’s album Cherry Bomb along with a mix and match of other singles as well.  Trey Songz delivered a surprise mixtape Intermission, and Rihanna released her newest single from her upcoming album, “American Oxygen.”  Here is what came out this week…


via Zumic
via Zumic

“American Oxygen”

Rihanna

Buy

Technically the song came out on April 5th on the new Tidal Music platform, but I was not really a fan of Tidal, so I decided to wait till it was available everywhere.  With that being said, this patriotic and energetic song is actually pretty good.  It is pretty significant because Rihanna, the island girl herself, is a black immigrant of the United States.  The song, which served as the theme song for March Madness, is about achieving the American Dream.  The song also has some obvious influences from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”  “American Oxygen” gets me pretty excited for what is to come with Rihanna’s #R8, her highly anticipated next album, but this should do till then.


via Deezer
via Deezer

“Addicted to a Memory”

Zedd (feat. Bahari)

Stream

“Addicted to a Memory” is Zedd’s second offering off his new album True Colors which comes out on the 19th of this month.  It is a “what could have been” type of song, which has Bahari reflecting on a relationship that probably did not go as planned.  It has a deep techno kind of feel with a drop that will shake any dance club.  It started to run a little long towards the end, but overall it felt like a Zedd song.


via Josepvinaixa
via Josepvinaixa

“Darker than Blood”

Steve Aoki (feat. Linkin Park)

Pass

The other EDM track to come out this week came from the rage inducer Steve Aoki himself, along with the surprise help of Linkin Park.  This is not the first time that we have had rock mixed with electronic music, but it did not feel quite right with “Darker than Blood.”  The song, which supposedly has been in production for almost two years, did not quite have the effect that I thought it would have.  The song sounds like Steve Aoki, as well as Linkin Park.  It just made me realize that the song probably would have sounded better separated.  I would have rather had Steve Aoki release the song by himself, with Linkin Park doing the same.  Then we could have had a comparison.


via Dj Booth
via Dj Booth

“So Many Pros”

Snoop Dogg

Pass

Bush is on its way, and Snoop seems to be making a comeback, albeit with a new sound.  His second single “So Many Pros” has similarities to his other single “Peaches and Cream,” which makes it apparent that the album is going to have a smooth and more “pop-y” feel to it.  “So Many Pros” has production from Pharrell Williams, and some back up vocals from the talented Charlie Wilson.  It brought me back to Snoop’s earlier ballad “Sensual Seduction,” but “So Many Pros” failed to do it for me.  It just sounded like a tired and lazy pop song with little to no rap at all.  If I did not know better, I would not have guessed that it was a Snoop Dogg song.


via Rap Dose
via Rap Dose

“Best Friend”

Yelawolf (feat. Eminem)

Buy

I have a strong feeling that Yelawolf has a good album coming our way to add to the collection of great hip hop albums that have come out this year.  “Best Friend” is his latest single from the upcoming release, which includes the only feature on the album; and no one better to fill that role than Slim Shady himself.  The two sound great together on the track, with Yelawolf getting a little more spiritual while Eminem delivers his trademark aggressive rhymes.  There’s a overarching spiritual tone to the song, which makes me excited for the kind of territory that the southern rapper will cover on Love Story.


via MWM Forum
via MWM Forum

Intermission

Trey Songz

Stream

Trey Songz noted on his Twitter that he feels like he is at his best whenever he releases surprise music for his fans.  The mixtape, which could be called an EP, features a small collection of songs from the R&B singer.  Some of my favorites from the release are “Don’t Play” and “Talk About It.”  They both do the job of being pretty alright R&B songs.  The others on the EP are not knock-outs, but they were not bad.  Intermission was not Trey Songz at his absolute best, but he gives his fans something to grapple to during their wait for his upcoming project.

Review: The Inevitable End

the inevitable end album coverThe Inevitable End (2014)

Royksopp

Electronic

Dog Triumph


The electronic music duo from Norway is back at it again one final time, with the help of Swedish pop-superstar Robyn.  Royksopp’s newest and final album, The Inevitable End is another fine piece of work from the duo that continues to stay relevant in the electronic music sphere.

With this being their final studio album that the group plans to work on, they made sure that it went out in a bang.  The album, which is split into two parts (the prologue and the main album) offers a wide variety of sounds and beats that keep things fresh throughout the whole entire album.  Each song shares a similarity with the next but they all sound unique and one on their own.

the inevitable end 1

Tracks like “Goodnite Mr. Sweetheart”, “You Know I Have To Go”, and “Compulsion” offer a hypnotizing sound and an ebbing flow.  The technical brilliance of the album shows itself on each and every track.  The pace also quickens in songs like “The Sordid Affair” and “Something in my Heart.”

However, the best parts of the album are when Robyn offers her voice to the production.  The duo and Robyn work very well together, and their songs that they do together just sound like they were meant to be together.  “Monument” and “Do It Again” are two of my highlights from the album.  They are energetic trance songs that are impossible not to move to.

the inevitable end 2

This is their final album though, so some of the songs are a sad farewell.  The one that comes to mind the most is the simply titled “Thank You” that comes at the end.  It offers a sad, but warming closure to the project as a whole.

As Svein Berge puts it, the album has “a dark energy” to it.  When asked to describe The Inevitable End, Robyn said “It’s sad, but it’s not cold.  It’s very warm.”  Any fan of the electronic music genre should give Royksopp’s final piece of album work a listen, because it is well worth your time.  There is a lot to this album, and all of it’s working parts come together and deliver that final bang that Royksopp can walk out on.