Orlando 5 piece Ambient/Experimental rock group Europa are due to release their debut album Small Steps on 13th November. To celebrate we got the band to put together a playlist of what they’re currently listening to.
Agent Fresco: Dark Water
This song probably has the highest play count on my Spotify this year, I’ve been obsessed with it since I learned about this band a few years ago. The rhythmic theme keeps on repeating for almost the entire song but It manages to stay interesting as it manifests itself in different ways. Of course, the vocal performance is immaculate and unique and the instrumentation, especially the drums and piano, are very creative and super fun to follow. To top it all off, “Dark Water” is lyrically beautiful; dark, abstract, thought-provoking, makes you ask deep questions about humanity. Add a brilliant keychange, you’ve got a masterpiece.
Dawn Golden: Discoloration
Sometimes it takes many listens to appreciate a song; I think most of my favourite songs probably didn’t make a substantial impression on me on the first few listens. This was not the case with “Discoloration”. I remember listening to the first few words a couple of seconds into the song and thinking “Wow I love this song already”. The problem with songs that hit you in the right place right away is that they usually don’t stay up there for very long; again, this song is an exception. Simple, repeating chord progression, simple melody but with the tendency to leave you hanging and needing more, needing resolve. One of my favorite things in this song which directly influenced our writing, was the use of pitch shifted melodies to create a second and a third harmony; a process commonly shrugged off as “undesired” but brilliantly used in the last repeating line.
I’m very particular when it comes to instrumental music; even when I listen to the instrumental bands I do like, I find myself longing for vocals or at least a leading melody type instrument, which is a little bit ironic since I am very instrumentally driven and think of voice as just another instrument. This song gives me everything I need, and more; every single instrument is captivating, entertaining, challenging but extremely fun to follow. These dudes really get creative when writing these guitar parts, man! It’s really good to see these virtuoso types take a step back and stop focusing so much on speed and instead creating something so unique while still showcasing incredible skill. Very impressive stuff all the way around and presented with such pristine quality, I cannot get enough of this noise.
Artifex Pereo: No Stranger To Worry
This might be my favourite record released in the past five years or so and this track is probably my favourite in it. A couple of years back, I remember being a little bit frustrated, looking for new music and thinking “there has got to be something out there for me, something deep, dark, impressive, challenging, unique and beautiful”. Damn if I didn’t find it here! Haunting vocal melodies and creatively unique chord progressions and cool riffs paired with interesting drumming, groove and time signature changes! And the keys and organ! So appropriate and well thought out. This song is an example of many instruments, all playing uniquely ambitious parts, coming together like a well-oiled machine to form this complex and incredible piece of art.
The Dear Hunter: The March
Maybe the most talented man in the universe, Casey Crescenzo, really outdid himself with these choruses. This song was actually my most played of all of 2017, according to my Spotify. If you don’t know The Dear Hunter, I suggest taking off a few days, getting a nice pair of headphones and looking up act I. Of course, this song is from the fifth and final act of the absolute masterpiece that is this project. This might be obvious and expected for many or most songs but my favourite thing about “The March” is its choruses, the explanation however, reveals unique harmonic work. Let’s first point out the small interlude in between the verses that musically hints and foreshadows a chorus; brilliant and classy, gets you ready for what’s coming, It’s no wonder Casey uses this underestimated technique throughout his projects. The chord progressions for the choruses are long and do not ever really repeat, the first chorus tends to favour minor chords while the second opts to tap in their major counterparts seamlessly. With the melody staying mostly the same, this change in chords creates a mood change from chorus to chorus that as a listener, you cannot explain but you absolutely feel.
The Japanese House: Still
I love the idea of chill electronic music with pretty vocals but finding good songs that fit that description tends to be tougher than it seems. There’s not much to say about this song; It’s so sad and beautiful. Harmonically, “Still” is very interesting because both the verses and choruses are in major musical modes which should theoretically yield a “happy” feel, and yet what you get from the presentation, lyrics and melodies is a devastating sadness that’s almost hard to bear. It’s almost like the “happiness” that usually comes out of major chord progressions is ironic or even sarcastic in this case; it feels to me like the speaker is trying to lie to themselves about being ok.
Tides Of Man: New Futures
Tides is an example of a band that can handle change. Although I always enjoyed their pre-instrumental days, I feel like they became who they were always meant to be with their release of “Young and Courageous”, their first instrumental album. “New Futures” comes from their newest release “Every Nothing” and has been on my constant rotation since it came out. Tides has a remarkable ability to take a repeating chord progression and a simple but deep melodic idea and grow it into a journey for the listener. I respect and admire this song’s composition and arrangement because It gets deeper and more intense without getting heavier or louder, which is what I tend to do to achieve desired build up in a piece of music.
All Get Out: The Season
For the life of me, I can’t remember how I found this song but I do remember sitting in my car, listening to these verses for the first time and thinking how perfectly every syllable, every inflection and every note seemed to fit and flow. I don’t know much about this band but this track showcases an amazing ability to distribute an ever increasing energy throughout the piece; it seems like it keeps growing and growing until the last chorus hits you harder than anything in your life. Their hometown shows must be insane!
Thrice: Wood And Wire
I’ve been listening to Thrice for almost half of my life, they’re my all time favourite band and my biggest influence. “Wood And Wire” Is from a period when the band was reinventing and freeing themselves from any kind of genre or style that may have been attached to their name. This track comes from “Beggars”, one of the band’s “softer” records. Interestingly enough, this song, although timid and tame on the surface, is in my opinion one of their most powerful. Telling a story about an innocent man on death row, this song is deep and dark in its instrumentation; the verses are simple and their melodies effective. The choruses, although still dark, provide a brilliant contrast with the use of the relative lydian, 7/8 meter and three vocal harmonies.
Hamilton: Alexander Hamilton
Honestly, I’ve been listening to this musical more than anything else on this list. I’ve never cared for plays, musicals, show tunes or anything theater related. I’ve also never cared for hip hop or R&B, but I sat down one day and gave this entire show a listen and it honestly changed my life. So many genres of music, so many forms of art, so many talented people led by Lin-Manuel Miranda, came together to create something truly spectacular. Some have called it the best piece of art ever made, and I would not argue against that. This is just the opening track but I would recommend the entire musical to anyone, no matter what type of music you enjoy, not even just as a theater piece but as a music record, which is how I enjoy it.
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