Mildly Obscure New Music That Will Enrich Your Spotify Playlist

If one of your resolutions was to make 2019 the year you listen to new music and broaden your Spotify playlist, this is for you.



New Music That Will Make Your Ears Happy In 2019
PHOTO | MC Hamper
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With so much to look forward to in the next year from heavyweights like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Whitesnake – yes, that Whitesnake – it’s fair to say 2019 is going to be laden with some big releases. But what about new music? Are you looking to expand your sonar sensitivities and Spotify playlists?

From dipping my toes into pools of new music, I’ve tried to find some wheat amongst the chaff, the stuff that stands out a bit more than the rest.

Giant Swan: “Pax Britannica”

Techno with an underlying punk-edge, Giant Swan is into pounding filth. It has to be said, they’re one of the more interesting acts to emerge from the re-energized techno scene. They encompass the energy, but they throw in chaos as well, mainly controlled and to great effect.

If you fancy having your ears drums blown out so they vibrate like loose lips blowing strawberries, I’d recommend listening to last years’ “Pax Britannica” from Whities. It gets the heart going, that’s for sure.

Describing their sound, imagine if there was an incident on a motorway and both vehicles involved were traveling at such a speed that the passengers were all just a big ball of each other. Imagine those passengers are Factory Floor and Death Grips and this ball of mega-bodies is somehow granted the ability to make, release and perform music.

Solid Blake: “Tissue”

Electro, in the classic sense of the word, is a term stretched so much these days that the real stuff seems overlooked.

I loved the Two Lone Swordsmen back-in-the-day. The up-tempo nature of their brand of Electro always sat wonderfully with me. What’s more, they always had this aqua-marine thing going on buried deep in their rhythm tracks. Little bleeps and fizzes coming from a long forgotten underwater beacon, still emitting its sound for whoever hears it.

Glasgow-born, Norway based. Solid Blake has seemingly resurfaced from a deep-water dive and brought the sound source to ground. Here, she presents them more directly, reducing the distance.

This is exactly the sort of Electro I like. Last year’s Warp Room 4-track is a much more developed sound compared to the earlier Mario E.P. The beat, pads and those lovely first-beat-of-the-bar touches do the bulk of the work on this release. But don’t let that give you the idea that this is empty sounding music. Settling between the beat and the thin, precise lead synth parts are very well-rounded and full productions. The way Blake allows her sounds to develop and grow as the tracks play out has the guidance of a grand shepherd, resulting at times in a pretty ferocious snarl. This great producer will be on a few lists this year.

Matmos: “Plastic Anniversary”

Matmos’ new album, Plastic Anniversary, is not so much an anniversary than a celebration of one of mankind greatest double-edged swords: plastic. I think plastic is one of those divisive things; you can’t really say you like it, because environment, and you can’t really like it, for the same reason. Truth is, although not a huge consumer, most of what I hold dear is made largely of plastic. My wife and my family the only things that are completely free of it.

Matmos delve into their basement to drop an album made entirely of plastic. For those familiar with their work, you’ll not find this anything more than just Matmos being Matmos. For those who aren’t, I can tell you they make some great music. They always use the most insane sound sources. One album is made from anatomy parts, liposuction, and other bodily weird shit. They can be like techno, they can be really glitchy, but always interesting.

It’s out on Thrill Jockey, which now houses some of the artists I’ve followed for years, namely Mountains and Black to Comm. The latter, incidentally, has a new album out next year as well… and he’s just fabulous. Give Seven Horses for Seven Kings a blast when it comes out. In the interim, you can sample a track “Lethe” here.

Another Sky: “Avalanche”

One might say Another Sky are just another Goldsmith’s band. And while you’d be correct, there is something a bit special about them. Borrowing heavily from Radiohead, their sound is defined mainly by the unusual voice of their vocalist, Catrin Vincent. Enough of a thing in itself to make a band interesting, but there’s no holding back in terms of sonic dynamism.

Musically, the mix of real and synthetic instruments drift in and out, acoustic guitars and beats that keep the spirit of early-Four Tet alive and fuzzed out almost post-rock euphoric swells. “Avalanche”, in particular, is quite the diddy.

Hopefully, Another Sky won’t be another example of a good British band not getting the exposure it needs to flourish – Lunacre, I still hold out for you. But we’ll see. With Alt-J still making waves, one could argue this kind of music is represented all-the-well.

Kim Petras: “Close Your Eyes”

I was introduced to this pop starlet by my wife, who, knowing my penchant for a good pop song, sang it repeatedly at me until the time came to hear it properly. Petras is a famous transgender model, completing her transition when she was 11 years old. One would’ve thought that that would be enough to get tongues wagging and create a press frenzy without having to release anything.

The truth is, Heart To Break is a damn good pop song. Written with Dr. Luke, it has all of the tropes of the Max Martin factory of hit-making, which regardless of how you feel about the genre these guys wade, and no matter how ashamed you may feel in admitting it, they write some seriously good songs.

Anyways, if the ’80s is your favorite genre, but prefer contemporary production tricks, with blatant Daft Punk leanings, then give Petras a go. It’s shameful. It really is! You should be ashamed of yourself.

Flohio: “Wild Yout’”

Since the British government tried to clamp down garage music in the early 2000s, forcing the genre underground, the scene’s momentum has re-ignited. At the time, there were occasional breakout heroes such as Dizzy Rascal and Wiley, but neither generated enough enthusiasm in the mainstream to garner a real second chance for good U.K urban music.

That’s all changed now. But, like all scenes, the main voices in the populous aren’t always the most representative of the genre; Giggs and Stormzy. Thankfully there are artists like Flohio who… flow yao. And not a mumble in range. She kicks!

Quarter Mirrors

I’ll end with the reason I’m going to flagellate myself for the next five hours. Have you heard of Quarter Mirrors? You haven’t? Excellent. Allow me to explain.

The moniker of this writer, Quarter Mirrors is electronics in every guise. Slow building, noisy, at times unsettling, but always interesting. You’ll be hearing it in offices, in muzak renditions, busked and copied from 2019.

Seriously, though. There’ll be a spate of releases in the coming year. For those who like noise, ambient, drone, soundscapes, pretentiousness, etc, check it out. The sound has matured since the 2017 release of A June in May/Strait of Mast split. And that’s my self-promotion quota for 2019 used up! Have a listen here.

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‘It Feels Good’: Snoop Dogg Buys Death Row Records



Death Row Records
PHOTO | Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Wonderbrett

Snoop Dogg is now the owner of Death Row Records. The purchase brings his career full circle, as the legendary rapper now owns the label where his career in the music industry began.

“I am thrilled and appreciative of the opportunity to acquire the iconic and culturally significant Death Row Records brand, which has immense untapped future value,” Snoop Dogg said in a statement. “It feels good to have ownership of the label I was part of at the beginning of my career and as one of the founding members. This is an extremely meaningful moment for me.”

Snoop Dogg added that he was “looking forward to building the next chapter of Death Row Records.”

Blackstone, Inc. BX, -8.15 percent, a private-equity firm that held the remnants of the record label as part of MNRK Music Group, announced the sale on Wednesday. The terms of the agreement were not made public.

In a statement to People, Blackstone’s Senior Managing Director David Kestnbaum said of the deal, “We at Blackstone are strong supporters of the artist and creator community in our entertainment investments. We are excited to put the Death Row Records brand back in the hands of a legend like Snoop Dogg. We wish him success in the years ahead as the brand moves forward under his leadership and vision.”

Dr. Dre and Suge Knight co-founded Death Row Records with record executive Dick Griffey in 1991. Snoop’s debut Doggystyle was released in 1993.

Death Row Records fell on hard feet after a remarkable run in the 1990s. In 2006, the label declared bankruptcy before being purchased by WIDEawake Entertainment Group in 2009. Due to WIDEawake’s insolvency, the label was sold to eOne Music in 2013. Until eOne was purchased by Blackstone in 2021, Death Row Records was a branch of Hasbro.

The Doggfather is set to release his new album B.O.D.R., an acronym for “Bacc On Death Row,” on the 12 February ahead of his appearance alongside Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J. Blige at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show on Sunday. He called “a dream come true” during a recent interview with the Associated Press

“I’m still thinking I’m in a dream because I can’t believe that they will let a real hip-hop artist grace the stage in an NFL Super Bowl LVI,” the rapper-turned-mogul explained. “We’re just going to wait for that moment and put something together that’s spectacular, and do what we’re known for doing and add on to the legacy.”

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Major Record Labels to Become Carbon Neutral by 2050



Three major record labels — Sony, Universal, and Warner — have made a pledge to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, joining a slew of independent labels that have set similar or more aggressive goals. Following the Secretly label group’s pledge last week to be “climate positive” by 2026, the major labels joined indies like Beggars Group, Warp, and Ninja Tune to sign the Music Climate Pact, which addresses activities like touring, vinyl manufacturing, and music streaming that are currently unsustainable in terms of carbon emissions.

Aside from the emissions reductions, the signatories pledge to track and reduce subsidiary emissions related to music listening and fandom, encourage artists to discuss the climate crisis, and collaborate with streaming companies to track and reduce subsidiary emissions related to music listening and fandom.

Beggars Group and Ninja Tune made similar commitments earlier this year, with the latter aiming towards carbon neutrality by the end of 2021. Massive Attack completed a climate analysis in September, recommending “an immediate and major reassembly” of the industry.

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Billie Eilish Makes History at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards



62nd Annual Grammy Awards
PHOTO | Frederic J. Brown

A cloud of sadness hung over the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, as news developed of the tragic deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on January 26. Outside the Staples Center, home of Bryant’s team the Lakers, arrivals took place on the red carpet as mourners gathered outside the arena to pay their respects.

The night kicked off with a solemn Cappella tribute to Bryant of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by host Alicia Keys and Boys II Men.

Billie Eilish dominated the night, winning Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album categories. Eilish, 18, is the youngest Album of the Year winner in Grammy history. She is also just the second artist in Grammy history — and the first woman — to take home the Big Four awards.

Lizzo took home the Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Traditional R&B Performance, and Best Urban Contemporary Album trophies.

Lil Nas X picked up two awards for Best Music Video and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Tyler, the Creator took home his first Grammy award for Best Rap Album.

The late rapper Nipsey Hussle was recognized posthumously with two awards for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung Performance.

Record of the Year

Billie Eilish, “Bad Guy”

Album of the Year

Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Best New Artist

Billie Eilish

Song of the Year

Billie Eilish — “Bad Guy”

Best Rap/Sung Performance

DJ Khaled feat Nipsey Hussle & John Legend — “Higher”

Best Rap Album

Tyler, the Creator — Igor

Best Pop/Solo Performance

Lizzo — “Truth Hurts”

Best Pop Vocal Album

Billie Eilish — When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

Elvis Costello & The Imposters — Look Now

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Lil Nas X feat Billy Ray Cyrus — “Old Town Road”

Best R&B Album

Anderson .Paak — Ventura

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Lizzo, Cuz I Love You (Deluxe)

Best R&B Song

PJ Morton feat JoJo — “Say So”

Best Traditional R&B Performance

Lizzo — “Jerome”

Best R&B Performance

Anderson .Paak feat Andre 3000 — “Come Home”

Best Rock Album

Cage The Elephant — Social Cues

Best Rock Song

Gary Clark Jr — “This Land”

Best Rock Performance

Gary Clark Jr — “This Land”

Best Rap Song

21 Savage feat J Cole — “A Lot”

Best Rap Performance

Nipsey Hussle feat Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy — “Racks in the Middle”

Best Music Film

Beyonce — Homecoming

Best Music Video

Lil Nas X feat Billy Ray Cyrus — “Old Town Road”

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Dan + Shay — “Speechless”

Best Comedy Album

Dave Chappelle — Sticks & Stones

Best Song Written for Visual Media

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper— “I’ll Never Love Again”

Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper — A Star is Born

Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media

Chernobyl — Hildur Guðnadóttir

Best Song Written for Visual Media

“I’ll Never Love Again” (Film Version) — Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey & Aaron Raitiere (Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born)

Best Spoken Word Album (Includes Poetry, Audio Books & Storytelling)

Becoming — Michelle Obama

Best Instrumental Composition

“Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite” — John Williams, composer (John Williams

Best Remixed Recording
“I Rise (Tracy Young’s Pride Intro Radio Remix)— ” Tracy Young (Madonna)

Best Dance Recording

“Got to Keep On” — The Chemical Brothers

Best Dance/Electronic Album

No Geography — The Chemical Brothers

Best Country Solo Performance

“Ride Me Back Home” — Willie Nelson

Best Country Song

“Bring My Flowers Now” — Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth and Tanya Tucker (Tanya Tucker)

Best Country Album

While I’m Livin’ — Tanya Tucker

Best Rap Performance

“Racks in the Middle” — Nipsey Hussle featuring Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy

Best Rap Song

“A Lot” — Jermaine Cole, Dacoury Natche, 21 Savage & Anthony White, (21 Savage featuring J. Cole

Best Recording Package

Chris Cornell — Barry Ament, Jeff Ament, Jeff Fura & Joe Spix, art directors (Chris Cornell)

Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package

Woodstock: Back To The Garden – The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive — Masaki Koike, art director (Various Artists)

Best Album Notes

Stax ’68: A Memphis Story — Steve Greenberg, album notes writer (Various Artists)

Best Historical Album

Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection — Jeff Place & Robert Santelli, compilation producers; Pete Reiniger, mastering engineer (Pete Seeger)

Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical

When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — Rob Kinelski & Finneas O’Connell, engineers; John Greenham, mastering engineer (Billie Eilish)

Best Immersive Audio Album

Lux — Morten Lindberg, immersive audio engineer; Morten Lindberg, immersive audio mastering engineer; Morten Lindberg, immersive audio producer (Anita Brevik, Trondheimsolistene & Nidarosdomens Jentekor)

Best New Age Album

Wings — Peter Kater

Best Bluegrass Album

Tall Fiddler — Michael Cleveland

Best Traditional Blues Album

Tall, Dark & Handsome — Delbert McClinton & Self-made Men

Best Contemporary Blues Album

This Land — Gary Clark Jr.

Best Folk Album

Patty Griffin — Patty Griffin

Best Regional Roots Music Album

Good Time — Ranky Tanky

Best Reggae Album

Rapture — Koffee

Best Children’s Music Album

Ageless Songs For The Child Archetype — Jon Samson

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album

Mettavolution — Rodrigo y Gabriela

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella

“Moon River” — Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier)

Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals

“All Night Long” — Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier Featuring Jules Buckley, Take 6 & Metropole Orkest)

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

“Sozinho” — Randy Brecker, soloist

Best Jazz Vocal Album

12 Little Spells — Esperanza Spalding

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Finding Gabriel — Brad Mehldau

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

The Omni-American Book Club – Brian Lynch Big Band

Best Latin Jazz Album

Antidote — Chick Corea & The Spanish Heart Band

Best Gospel Performance/Song

“Love Theory” – Kirk Franklin; Kirk Franklin, Songwriter

Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song

“God Only Knows” — for King & Country & Dolly Parton; Josh Kerr, Jordan Reynolds, Joel Smallbone, Luke Smallbone & Tedd Tjornhom, songwriters

Best Gospel Album

Long Live Love — Kirk Franklin

Best Contemporary Christian Music Album

Burn The Ships — for King & Country

Best Roots Gospel Album

Testimony — Gloria Gaynor

Best Latin Pop Album

#ELDISCO — Alejandro Sanz

Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album

El Mal Querer – Rosalía

Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano)

De Ayer Para Siempre — Mariachi Los Camperos

Best Tropical Latin Album

Opus — Marc Anthony (TIE)

Best Engineered Album, Classical

Riley: Sun Rings — Leslie Ann Jones, engineer; Robert C. Ludwig, mastering engineer (Kronos Quartet)

Producer Of The Year, Classical

Blanton Alspaugh

Best Orchestral Performance

“Norman: Sustain” — Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Best Opera Recording

“Picker: Fantastic Mr. Fox” — Gil Rose, conductor; John Brancy, Andrew Craig Brown, Gabriel Preisser, Krista River & Edwin Vega; Gil Rose, producer (Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Boston Children’s Chorus)

Best Choral Performance

“Duruflé: Complete Choral Works” — Robert Simpson, conductor (Ken Cowan; Houston Chamber Choir)

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

“Shaw: Orange” — Attacca Quartet

Best Classical Instrumental Solo

“Marsalis: Violin Concerto; Fiddle Dance Suite” — Nicola Benedetti; Cristian Măcelaru, conductor (Philadelphia Orchestra)

Best Classical Solo Vocal Album

Songplay — Joyce Didonato; Chuck Israels, Jimmy Madison, Charlie Porter & Craig Terry, accompanists (Steve Barnett & Lautaro Greco)

Best Classical Compendium

The Poetry Of Places — Nadia Shpachenko; Marina A. Ledin & Victor Ledin, producer

Best Contemporary Classical Composition

Higdon: Harp Concerto — Jennifer Higdon, composer (Yolanda Kondonassis, Ward Stare & The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra)

Best Musical Theater Album

Hadestown — Reeve Carney, André De Shields, Amber Gray, Eva Noblezada & Patrick Page, principal soloists; Mara Isaacs, David Lai, Anaïs Mitchell & Todd Sickafoose, producers (Anaïs Mitchell, composer & lyricist) (Original Broadway Cast)

Best Metal Performance

“7empest” — Tool

Best Alternative Music Album

Father of the Bride — Vampire Weekend

Best World Music Album

Celia — Angelique Kidjo

Best American Roots Performance

“Saint Honesty” — Sara Bareille

Best American Roots Song

“Call My Name” — Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’donovan & Sara Watkins, songwriters (I’m With Her)

Best Americana Album

Oklahoma — Keb’ Mo’

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