Kygo develops his tropical house sound with ‘Stargazing’ EP

If one was to look a bit too deeply into the name of Kygo’s new EP, then you may think that Stargazing is a nod to the Norwegian DJ’s inspirations. After all, with U2 – one of his favourite bands – featured on You’re the Best Thing About Me, and country-style guitars appearing on This Town (which may be seen as an homage to Avicii), what’s not to say that the producer’s latest release sees him gaze at his ‘stars’ with admiration?

Though, first and foremost, the name of the EP comes from the title of the opening track, which sees Kygo (real name Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll) collaborate with American singer, Justin Jesso. Once again, whether it’s the delicate chords in the verses which intertwine with the Jesso’s rhythm, or the bouncy stabs underneath the choppy vocals in the chorus, Kyrre’s talents with the piano shine through once again. Add this to Jesso’s voice – which has the ability to be both soft and soulful (with a slight rasp to it) – and imaginative vocals, then you have a successful first track which certainly sets the tone and lives up to its name.

What follows next is two tracks we’ve heard before: It Ain’t Me (feat. Selena Gomez) and First Time (feat. Ellie Goulding), so there’s a possibility that a few people will be annoyed at the lack of new material on the EP, but at last, we have the release which includes these previous singles. Kyrre’s collaboration with Gomez sees a brief guitar melody before quickly descending into the traditional piano tune with slight vocal distortion. It’s fitting that it follows on from Stargazing, as there’s certainly a few similarities.

Compare this to First Time and you have a more minimalistic sound from Kyrre. Yet again, the producer paves the way for the vocalist (in this case, Goulding) to take centre stage in the verses, before slowly progressing into the drop. Yet, the build-up this time around feels calmer and more stripped back. Rather than a melody playing before the main tune, Kyrre relies on Ellie’s vocals in the pre-chorus before introducing the interlude. It’s a movement which makes an interesting change from other tracks, highlighting a lighter tone from the DJ.

However, by far the most intriguing track of the five is This Town. The second new song on the EP, Kygo ditches the heavy, plucky synth and piano for a more chill, country vibe. It was something the artist flirted with a little in his track with Kodaline, Raging, but now it has a much stronger influence. The tempo is slow and in a sense, it feels more like a Sasha Sloan track than a song by Kygo, as yet again, Kyrre places heavy emphasis on the featured vocalist.

It’s a track which moves away from the Cloud Nine era whilst also building upon it, but it’s not the only song on the EP to do so, as the record comes to a close with a collaboration with U2 for a remix of their track, You’re the Best Thing About Me.

Whilst Kygo has always preferred piano or acoustic guitar in his tracks, he can now have a bit of fun with a grittier guitar sound that Bono and co. like to use in their music. In that regard, Kyrre does a great job of preserving the best parts of the original (including the smooth guitar and, for the most part, Bono’s unique sound) whilst adding a bit of a spring to the tempo and some slight distortion in his melody.

As an EP which shows off Kygo’s remixing capabilities and his new direction alongside his traditional sound, it may not be just the stars which the Norwegian is looking at, as it’s a release which shows that the DJ is very much looking onwards and upwards.

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Musical Discovery: ‘Message’ by Audien

As the name suggests, Some Ideas – the latest EP from the American DJ Audien – contains three songs all completely different from each other. From chill house to hazy synths, it’s a release which sees the musician flex his producing muscles. Yet, by far the most traditional-sounding song of the lot is the EP’s opener, Message.

After all, there’s the repeated lyrics – message from my heart/too loud to stay apart, taken from the 2010 dance track by Yuri Kane, Right Back – alongside Audien’s signature beat drops (be it a bass drum or sudden pause in the song) and delicate piano. It follows the usual structure, too: minimalistic piano chords guide the track all the way up to the main lead, which is complete with the occasional off-beat note and a satisfying rising and falling melody. Yet again, US artist sure knows how to create a euphoric dance hit.

Whilst part of this song is down to sampling and the repeated lyrics may come across as simplistic, it must be remembered that this is quite an experimental assortment of songs. Message, Resolve and Rampart see Audien try out new sounds, with each track different from the other. Simply put, it’s a pick-and-mix EP, and there’s a high chance you’ll like at least one of the three.

Musical Discovery: ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ by Sam Smith (Robin Hustin Remix)

For any DJ, remixing ballads is always a tricky move. Aside from the fact that people like Whitney Houston, Adele and Sam Smith are household names and boast strong fanbases, pushing a slow tempo and finding a unique melody to place on top of the track could take away from the original aspects of the song. Much like how artists were quick to work on Adele’s Hello when she returned in late 2015 (to various success), following Sam Smith’s return last week, DJs are now working on remixes for his latest single, Too Good At Goodbyes. One such artist is Robin Hustin.

It’s a remix which is structurally sound throughout, following the usual rise and fall expected of a dance track. In the verses, Hustin steps back to let Sam Smith take centre stage with his vocals. That is, up until the pre-chorus, which the Danish DJ uses as the perfect build-up to a pulsating drop full of sharp club synths. Whilst the original purposefully – and rightfully – didn’t contain many instruments, Hustin has filled the gap with subtlety and flair with his own creative remix.

Update: Since publishing this review, the remix is no longer available due to ‘copyright issues’.

Musical Discovery: ‘Silence’ by Marshmello feat. Khalid

We all remember when The Chainsmokers dominated the UK charts. Andrew Taggart’s mumbling and groaning vocals defined their style as DJs and meant that any other track by another artist with the same low vocals would be labelled repetitive or ‘samey’. It’s since been used by Frank Ocean (in Calvin Harris’ Slide) and OneRepublic (in Rich Love), but now the hit DJ Marshmello has offered his take on the more chilled side of dance with his track, Silence.

Every now and then, the masked musician (whom everyone has now assumed to be Chris ‘Dotcom’ Comstock despite no official confirmation) lurches back into the mainstream and moves away from the snappy trap and electronic vocals. The last track to do so was the 2016 single Ritual, which saw the singer Wrabel step up to the mic with high-pitched emotion. Now, Marshmello has done the complete opposite, adopting a slow tempo and low tone for his with release of the year.

This sudden shift could very well be part of what makes it distinctive, but there’s no denying that Khalid is the centre of attention on Silence. There’s a sense that Marshmello’s backed away this time around, sticking to soft piano chords, pulsing synth and plucky guitars which underlie the 19-year-old’s soulful lyrics.

Described by the American singer as being ‘a sad song… about being content with loneliness and turning it into a positive’, it makes sense that the vocals are raspy and the instrumental aspect of the track is stripped back. Lines such as ‘love only left me alone, but I’m at one with the silence‘ and ‘I found peace in your violence‘ demonstrate the reflective nature of Silence. It’s far from being a song for people to dance along to, but it’s certainly one for fans to wave their phones in the air for when the DJ gives it a spin during his August and September shows.

Silence is now available on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube.

Musical Discovery: ‘Hometown (Radio Edit)’ by Jack Wins feat. Raphaella

There’s something liberating about being on the brink of making your debut as an artist. Yet to be defined by a single sound from a breakthrough single, DJs, bands and singers are free to experiment with different genres and styles before that one moment comes. For Jack Wins, previous releases ranged from poppy piano stab tracks such as Good Love to hazy synth and deep house vibes as heard in I Used to Love You. Now, with plenty of singles to his name and a brand new EP, Hometown is a wonderful mix of his past work.

Look no further than the introduction to the track – a series of haunting synth notes that hold a striking resemblance from Years and Years’ Shine that taps into the more mainstream side of the Dutch DJ’s style. Add in some light, soft vocals with a hint of soul from Raphaela and you have the typical low scene-setter to build up from.

As a drum beat grows in the background, it halts two lines before the end of the verse to create a smooth acapella with the vocals and a satisfying drop into the main melody of the song.

Cue the club vibes, with the common underlying bass notes mixed with high-pitched synth. As much as the song’s structure makes this sound euphoric, credit must also go to Raphaella, who is no longer constrained to the calmer side of her vocal range. Now, the bottled-up soul bursts out, merging perfectly with Jack’s constructed instrumentals.

If, surprisingly, this fails to get the crowd pumped or the bedroom listener excited, then the fact that the producer slips in a brief nod to tracks such as Good Love and Give it Up with sharp piano stabs should do the trick. After all, it’s an instrumental element included in tracks by artists such as Blonde and Sigala that have smashed the UK charts.

Yet, with a timecode of 2:40, there can be a sense of disappointment that comes with the end of the song. In amongst all the excitement packed into such a short duration, it’s easy to abandon that sense of structure we look out for in songs (with most songs, we know when it’s the final verse). With smooth transitions from verse to chorus, it certainly doesn’t feel like two minutes, but time flies when there’s good music playing, and there’s always the longer full house mix to listen to.

Musical Discovery: ‘Rich Love’ by One Republic with Seeb

It was only a matter of time before OneRepublic returned with another summer smash. Before the rise of trap and tropical house, the pop-rock five-piece joined forces with Alesso to create the club track, If I Lose Myself. Now, the band hook up with hit remixers Seeb for the upbeat and exotic bop, Rich Love.

Two years since their number one remix of Mike Posner’s I Took a Pill in Ibiza, the trio (formed of Simen Matre Eriksrud, Espen Berg and Niklas Strandbråten) have secured what can be described as their most high profile collaboration yet. By working with the group behind Counting Stars, Rich Love is more than likely to be the next single to propel the DJs into the spotlight once more.

It’s a combination of catchy lyrics and a fluid melody which really sells the track. Lines such as broke as a bottle of a wine stand out amongst fast-flowing vocals. Then comes a tune typical of Seeb (bouncy, trickling and with some hazy synth in the background) which offers a new style of anthemic pop for OneRepublic to play across their summer tour.
Rich Love is available now on iTunes and Spotify.

Musical Rediscovery: ‘Play the Game Boy’ by A*M*E

It was in 2013 that we first heard A*M*E (real name Aminata Kabba) on the No.1 club hit by Duke Dumont, Need U (100%). Her latest appearance was on the track My Love 4 U with Marc Kinchen, but in terms of standalone singles, the 22-year-old singer made her debut with the heavy pop single, Play the Game Boy in 2012.

It’s a track which plays on the theme of gaming throughout, from the album cover showing Kabba in a toy box, to the arcade synth undertones. As the music video starts, Korean text appears in what is no doubt a nod at the artist’s music being influenced by K-pop (as A*M*E references in this interview with Digital Spy). On the whole, whether it’s the K-pop style which will give you flashbacks to PSY’s Gangnam Style, or the video game feel to the track which will remind you of the last time you played Super Mario Bros. 3, it’s certainly a single full of nostalgia.

If that wasn’t enough, the repetitive nature of the lyrics and melodies in both the chorus and verses does a good job of making the track as catchy as possible. This, combined with sassy but soulful lyrics, forms a well-rounded single bursting with creativity and groovy pop vibes. It’s the perfect reminder of what the popular music genre used to be.

So with a few successful collaborations under her belt, what’s next for A*M*E? Last week, she posted on Twitter that it will ‘take another year to finish [her album] properly’, but that ‘there will be singles’ as well. Whilst hit releases with the likes of Duke Dumont and MK leave her name lingering in the minds of music lovers, a debut album in the future will remind them of the singer’s bubbly K-pop style.