articles about pop culture

Month: April, 2016

Billie Eilish – ‘Ocean Eyes (Astronomyy Edit)’



The term ‘EDM’ is too broad to really refer to anything anymore, and this is a great thing.

It’s a sign of the eclecticism of electronic music these days. Genres are cross-pollinating like never before, spawning things like folk trap, abstract hip hop, aquacore, and the list goes on.

No better example of genres coming together is Astronomyy’s remix of Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish.

Don’t get me wrong; the original’s good too. Eilish’s vocals feel like ice crystals: so close to breaking apart, but never quite doing so. The themes of love and loss feel understated and elegant – and somehow even sadder for it. But Astronomyy’s edit takes what was good about the song – heartfelt lyrics, pristine vocals, dreamlike melody – and turns it into something closer to an incantation.

The line ‘You really know how to make me cry’ becomes almost primordial. The echoes feel angelic. The trap-inspired drum hits buoy Eilish’s voice, making it seem even more urgent, more spooky than before.

The song’s effectively a tutorial in the power of subtle production. The aquatic sound effects (bubbling water, Eilish’s vocals seeming to fade under an ebbing tide) are perfection.

This is most noticeable in the song’s ending. The chorus of ‘Your ocean eyes…’ fades into the sounds of shifting water. It sounds like Eilish is vanishing to the bottom of the sea. But it also feels like EDM shifting into new realms of possibility.


Stephen King – ‘Joyland’

I have a weird relationship with Stephen King books.

They’re kind of more than books to me these days, since I’ve read so many of them. When I was 15, his memoir On Writing blew me away. At 16, Carrie destroyed and rebuilt my ideas about genre fiction. At 20, Bag of Bones made me sleep with the bathroom light on.

There’s a specific pleasure in a good Stephen King book (although not all of them are good; I’m looking at you Maximum Overdrive). He’s an interesting writer in that, when he gets it right, you barely notice his prose. You just get swallowed up into the story.

But that isn’t too say he’s just a storyteller. His books – even the ones about haunted cars or vampires attacking small towns – tend to have an emotional grace. He touches upon serious themes: dealing with loss (Pet Sematary), morality versus the rule of law (The Green Mile), the power of hope (The Shawshank Redemption). He handles these ideas with depth and conviction. You get the sense that he really believes in what he’s saying.

Which is why it’s becoming harder for me to love Stephen King books the way I used to. There’s just such a high standard to compare them to every time I crack one open.

This month, though, I took a look at one of his newer ones, Joyland. Although published under a crime fiction imprint, the novel is classic King: an eerie setting, a mystery involving a murdered girl, a young man dealing with his first heartbreak.

It’s not as epic as the The Stand or as nail-biting as Cujo, but the story hit home for me. It reminded me of what it felt like to read King for the first time. It’s a charming book, and sweet, and a little scary. In other words, a master of his craft at work.

But more importantly, it reminded of what I like most about King’s work: you can tell just how much the dude loves writing. He’s said in the past that he needs it to function, that his art is a support system for his life, rather than the other way around.

And that, I think, remains his biggest strength.

Track Review: Proleter – ‘April Showers’



In French, proleter means proletarian, a person from the lower classes. Interesting then that French hip hop producer Proleter adopted it as his stage name: when he’s not crafting deliciously swinging beats, he makes a living at a factory.

Proleter specializes in abstract hip hop, fusing interesting soundscapes with hip hop structures. His beats incorporate a range of sounds – from jazz to swing to reggae. This sonic curiousity was borne out of his frustration with rock music, which he’d been playing before trying his hand at hip hop.

This particular track embodies the best of his style: a quirky retro sample and a thumping hip hop bassline. It sounds like something Timbaland could have produced – had he been alive in 1920s Paris.

Echoes of Proleter’s influences show up all over the song: the rich bass of DJ Premier, the crate-digging of DJ Shadow, the genre-mashing of Danger Mouse. Yet the track still feels fresh and vital.

In other words, April Showers is a treat; I can’t help but smile when I hear it. It’s an oddity, sure, but if interesting mash ups are your thing, give it a listen. You won’t regret it.

New Music: Drake – ‘One Dance’ and ‘Pop Style’

Brace yourselves for the 6.

Ahead of the alleged release of Drake’s long-awaited ‘Views from the 6’ this Friday, two new tracks have dropped.

Pop Style features a guest verse from Kanye West and (bizarrely) two lines from Jay Z. The ghostly beat is the earwormiest of Drake’s since Know Yourself. Likewise, One Dance is also more nocturnal and experimental than previous Drake efforts.

The hype surrounding Drake’s next LP is palpable. After the acclaim of the sort-of-mixtape If You’re Reading This Its Too Late, a lot of fans hope that Views may be Drake’s magnum opus. Then again, a lot of good albums have been done a disservice by too much hype.

Time will tell. Until then, we have these tracks to get us through the wait.

Listen to them here.


New Music: Kanye West – ‘Saint Pablo’

Only a few weeks after the release of The Life of Pablo, a new Kanye West track has hit the web.

It’s called ‘Saint Pablo’, and features a nocturnal hook from Sampha. It continues the TLOP trend of minimal boom bap, with a marching drum loop and spooky synths. In it, West addresses a number of issues from the last few weeks: his personal debt, the mass piracy of his new album, his erratic behaviour both online and off. He also references the opening track of his first album, The College Dropout, compares himself to Einstein and refers (inexplicably) to “the Jews” (it is a Kanye West song, after all).

With the very of-the-moment lyrics and unfinished feel, it’s too soon to say whether this is just a throwaway track or a song from West’s next album, currently titled Turbo Grafx 16 (after his childhood gaming console).

You can listen to it here.