Singles Grab Bag #4

Singles Grab Bag features reviews for recent singles in a local sampling of various genres. Specifically, this fourth installment looks at synthrock, lo-fi acoustic, pop, rap, and experimental music.

"Future Escape" by Softaware

This second teaser track follows the band’s stellar lead single from last month, “Tender”, which concluded on the proclamation of “We wanna feel good” as synthrock fireworks punctuated the mix. “Future Escape” picks up where that song left off, further exploring the same themes of intimacy in the modern age in an encounter behind closed doors. As if to directly echo “Tender,” its chorus questions, “It’s so good / How could we forget?”

Draped along the smooth keyboards, soft guitars, and sturdy drums, the vocals begin in a solo male voice but are joined later by a female vocalist. The musical choices continue to draw conceptual parallels in a bridge that features dreamy saxophone and a foreign language dialogue sample. Both were once more prevalent tropes in sensual shorthand, and Softaware is keenly aware of this.

Spearheaded by electronic meistro Colin Nance, Softaware is something of a concept band, a project that recognizes the emptiness in the ongoing retro, vaporwave trend in music. While many bands use the sound with a sense of surface-level irony or self-awareness, Softaware draws from that retro aesthetic to recall a time when intimate human connection was less ambiguous and ran deeper. There is similarly more depth to the band’s songs, and it all makes for an incisive view of art, society, and the 21st Century.

The boys also just know how to make great music. To hear more of it, pick up the full-length album Networks, which releases tomorrow. It will be available for download, streaming, and limited edition cassette, the trifecta of which couldn’t be more appropriate.

"Serial Love" by Daniel Eischeid

It takes a verse or two of perceived normalcy before “Serial Love” reveals that it’s written in character, specifically that of a psychopathic kidnapper. Its sinister concept doesn’t ever supplant the love song’s smitten tone, however, and that is the key to why it succeeds so well in melding with the 90s alternative pop rock that Edmond-based Daniel Eischeid creates.

Over a feel-good melody, the opening line sets that tone, reminiscing that “It all started with a mystery on the night you blew a kiss to me.” As the story plays out, the narrator takes his love interest home…forever. The lyrics drop details about how this person now lives locked in his basement, hinting perhaps at even death, but those are explained away by moments like the strained “I love you” in the song’s bridge.

“Serial Love” appears on his new album, Surreal Killers, as a full band recording, but it’s just as sonically rough around the edges as his initial version, which features only guitar and overdubbed vocals. Perhaps it’s a matter of personal preference, but the acoustic singer-songwriter feel of the first version feels more attuned to the isolated perspective of the song’s narrator and is the version linked below.

"Roll" by SALLI

Hot on the trends of pop radio hits, this catchy lead single from SALLI’s freshly-dropped EP XLIV is as slick and fine-tuned as the car referenced in the song. Trigger phrases like “keys in the ignition” and “put that foot on the pedal,” combined with the specific use of bass in the first verse, give “Roll” the feeling of a joyriding anthem. That’s not actually what it’s about, though.

On closer listen, other phrases like “If you need me, I’m closed today” crop up and resonate with the chorus, which asks the subject to “roll away from me.” All of this is voiced to a specific guy, not the world at large, which keeps it from coming off as antisocial and occasionally finds mild traces of empowerment along the way. But this isn’t really what it’s about, either.

“Roll” is, more than anything, about a strong beat, a good hook, and big production. Make no mistake; this is a radio hit, whether it makes it that far or not. It is stylistically on the crest of 2016’s wave of EDM-influenced pop music, thanks in large part to the carefully tailored sonic choices from the studio. Like most songs in this vein, it gets more infectious with every listen.

"Don't Be So Koi, Fish" by ZuneAfish

This one-off rap plays like a side note, using a minute of its 1:45 runtime to fire a round of smart rhymes and leaving the rest to indulgent speech samples at either end. For its offhanded presentation, however, “Don’t Be So Koi, Fish” is stuffed with slick lyrics, painted by a sample that features a low warble in a minor key.

The opening line showcases some internal rhyming:Β  “I try hard not to make it look all suspicious / Because walkin’ through walls is breakin’ the laws of physics.” ZuneAfish proceeds to dish out tightly-wound stream-of-conscious topics. There is plenty of boasting, as is expected for the genre, but his frequent references to mythology and science are an interesting angle that begs repeat listens.

When the rap segues into the closing sample, a dialogue exchange from the film Kick-Ass, it feels more like a midpoint to a fuller track. It’s somewhat jarring when it ends, but that’s a positive reflection on the entrancing nature of “Don’t Be So Koi, Fish”.

"The Going Prayer" by Annie Ellicott

This impressive experiment in unsettling whimsy combines thin ukulele and jittery percussion with haunting undercurrents of organ, providing a moody soundscape that artfully sets the tone for Annie Ellicott’s unorthodox vocal arrangements. The opening verse alone has two voices softly singing over each other. Sharing different lines of thought, their notes wander independently for a spell before meeting in unison on a key phrase that plays into the song’s oceanic meditation on passing from this life to the next.

Ellicott goes on to meld nonverbal vocal arrangements with the track’s off-kilter ambience for a good stretch before coming around to a conclusion. The meandering comes more from the song’s tone than from its structure, and this is further conveyed by its dreamy use of steel guitar that slips in midway through “The Going Prayer”.

This recording has actually been floating in cyberspace for nearly two years, but next month, it will be finally be available as the opening track on Ellicott’s full-length album, Lonesome Goldmine. In the meantime, check out the music video for the single below.

This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.

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