City of stars,
Are you shining just for me?
City of stars
There’s so much that I can’t see
Is this the start of something wonderful
Or one more dream
That I cannot make true…
Gert Taberner is a folk music singer-song writer who has roots in Germany and recently moved to New York after the release of his first album. With the debut of the “Fallen” EP, Gert Taberner is conveying the concept of intimacy, which is something that he believes is lacking or often miscommunicated in the millenial era. His style is Folk Rock meets Pop, which is a rare mix of music genre. The first song which came to mind when listening to “Fallen” was the track “Let Her Go” by Passenger. Taberner’s style is influenced by artists like Damien Rice and Paul Simon.
His debut EP “Fallen” was intended to convey feelings of disillusionment, which I felt by watching the music video. The video was shot at the University of British Columbia and as a local, there is a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity. I believe the warmth of familiarity is what Taberner was trying to convey in his work. Furthermore, the actors in the video conveyed the feeling of loss and hopelessness, however in contrast, the song did not convey these feelings.
The technical elements and vocal range of the song fell short of the depth that Taberner was attempting to convey. The sounds of the guitar is strange because there is a strum or pluck almost every second of the song, which might be an intentional stylistic choice. Furthermore, the electric guitar added in the background doesn’t fit with the ambience of the rest of the song. The melody is excessively repetitive as the song progressed and the chorus was repeated at least three times.
The production was a little bit dry because “Fallen” didn’t include many effects. The entire track is just the raw instrumentals playing in the background. He kept the drums dry with not much effect, which makes the track a little bit lack-luster in the technical elements. In comparison with the guitar, the drums sounded extremely like paper instead of having a more rounded effect.
Taberner’s vocals is lazy in this song because he adds no strength to the beat. He might be masking his singing abilities because the lyrics were repetitive and he seems to possess and limited vocal range. Moreover, he added reverb to his vocals which made him sound very echo-y.
At the end he repeats “oh oh oh oh” and the song abruptly ends. Overall, the song is something that has been heard before and lacks the depth needed to be inspiring. “Fallen” feels like a song that’s been sung many times in the past.
Listen to Gert Taberner’s single “Fallen” here:
GEA’s third album “Pink” is the result of her collaboration with music producer Mikko H. Haapoja. GEA is an experimental, indiepop artist who attempts to signify the richness and coolness of the singer’s native landscape of Finland. She brings about an interesting atmosphere of mysterious airiness. GEA has the potential is become the cascading, serene, and quality artist she aims to be, however “Pink” misses the mark in both technical achievement and vocal ability.
The title track “Pink” has several major problems in terms of composition and the lack of basic technical elements. The melody she’s singing in the song is too high as she suddenly goes up an unexpected octave during the progression. Moreover, in the chorus, there is a disturbing wailing sound which drones on until the listeners get annoyed.
The balance of the song is strange because there was barely any sound coming out of the left speaker. The “airiness” that GEA is aiming for in “Pink” causes her voice to slur and listeners will find it difficult to discern or even understand the lyrics. Truthfully, I thought she was singing in a foreign language and not English because of the intense slurring.
The production of “Pink” is dry because there isn’t any production except for the fact that Haapoja brought all the instruments to the front of the song, which in turn, construes the quality of GEA’s singing. There is a lot going on in this track and some foreign instruments were implemented. However, Haapoja and GEA bring all the instrumentals to the front of the song and that makes it challenging for any listener to focus on other elements of the song. “Pink” sounds chaotic and almost headache-inducing. Not to mention, the instrument in the background sometimes gets out of tune.
Listen to GEA’s single “Pink” here:
Further Listening: Bjork, Kate Bush and Sigur Ros
New York’s Dark Model (Tetsuya Oe) has the distinction of being a producer in beat-oriented, electronic music. The second album “Saga” follows its predecessor in the style of progressive, dramatic electronica.
The lead track of the album “Survivors” is reminiscent of an epic, progressive anime theme. For instance, “Survivors” reminded me of an opening for the Legend of Zelda, which doesn’t surprise me because Oe’s work has appeared in numerous advertising campaigns such as Xbox’s “Forza Motorsport 5”. Tetsuya’s roots in Hiroshima, Japan revealed itself prominently in this track as there is a great deal of traditional Japanese instrumentals woven delicately into “Survivors”.
Despite the prominent Japanese influence woven into this lead track, the melody sounds extremely disjointed. The electronic bass is too arresting and upfront. Moreover, the violins sound awfully electronic which suggests that it is not the genuine instrument, but instead the sound is actually done with a synthesizer. The purpose of electronica is for the artist to experiment with different sounds, however, “Survivors” sounds too artificial and crowded. Oe tried to pack too much into a song and it ended up sounding chaotic. The first listen made me think that it was definitely not an actual orchestra which produced this strange mix of instrumentals. I can sense a desperation from the Oe to make the sound as exciting as possible for his listeners. As a result, all of these prominent instrumentals confront one another which creates an immense distraction for listeners instead of a harmonized beat.
Moreover, the song’s production sounded dry (in a sense chalky) because of the apparent lack of effects in the music. In “Survivors”, there is a lack of reverb which makes the song “sound extremely close to the audience” when the audience is listening to it. The song has an “in your face” quality, which is not necessarily a positive when music should be harmonized to an easy listen. The beat would have sounded substantially more powerful if the snare at the beginning was not so prominent. As a result of this prominence in the snare drum, it made the song sound more fuzzy than tight.
The second lead track of Saga, “Storm Goddess” fairs a little better in terms of the input of technical elements. For instance, the song sounds tighter than “Survivors”, the snare isn’t as prominent, and the melody is clearer. The blending of these elements is better than “Survivors”. Oe tries to follow the actual placement of the instruments in an orchestra during the production process. An instance of this is when he trumpets solo starts further back than the violins and drums, which creates the illusion of an actual orchestra. However, at around the 2:50 mark, there is a disagreeable key change, which doesn’t mesh well with the overall aesthetic of the song. “Storm Goddess” is still a disjointed effort on Oe’s part because there is a clash of instrumentals and questionable transitions between the different sections of the song. The indiscernible background instrument does not help the composition of this disjointed effort either because it fails to give listeners a break. Unfortunately, Saga does not possess much to engage the listener’s heart and soul.
Further Listening: In Uchronia, Valentin Wiest
Listen to Erich Mrak’s “Think About It” here
Toronto-based, upcoming artist Erich Mrak releases his debut single “Think About It”. The track has a laid-back feel reminiscent to a few of Macklemore’s more composed songs.
Erich Mrak’s 2017 debut single is bathed in Bento’s richness in production value. Bento’s (Mrak’s in-house producer) choices of mellow beats fit well with Mrak’s assertive vocals. Despite the richness of Bento’s production, Mrak’s rap felt pale in comparison. Lyrically, he chose to rap instead of sing his lyrics and that makes it easy for any artist with a basic sense of rhythm. However, Mrak’s choice to double his voice in his single was an exceptional choice because it makes his voice richer. His voice rings deep within our ears, despite the lyrics being crowded by his aggressive rap style.
Overall, “Think About It” sounds messy because there is too much going on in this song. This trait rings especially true during specific parts of the song. For instance, in the instrumental section, the sounds were all mixing together which makes the track muddy. The bass and the beat is extremely prominent in this track. Then Bento (or whoever was responsible) added in the keyboard effect on top of the already prominent sounds. Unfortunately, this mix takes away from the clarity of the track; leaving his audience with a headache. The underlying beat broods in the background of Mrak’s rapping, but never seems to build on that towering epic that it seems to want to deliver.
A strange difference in momentum intensifies the tension between the underlying beat, lyrics, and Mrak’s rap. Mrak is assertive in this track, but the beat is laid-back and chilled. It’s like mixing water and oil together. The lyrics are also much too simplistic and repetitive, especially with his constant repetition in the vocal riff, “Do ya, Do ya, think about?”. It can get annoying really fast. However, this is first of many of his singles this year so his fans will be on the lookout for more fresh music.
Mrak offers this single as an unexpected change of pace and style, which presents itself as a 180 degree shift from his previous works. I wonder if fans of his previous style appreciate this dramatic change in his music. Only time will tell.
Erich Mrak and his debut single is on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Apple Music.
All photos and cover art is designed by Martin Nombrado.
Further listening: Macklemore, Lays, Grimes