Wednesday, January 1, 2014

One Nation, Under Dance

Hello and welcome.  I’m here to educate the loyal readers of Breakfast at Jimothy’s about perhaps the biggest year in dance music history.  I would just like to first give a big thanks to one of my dear friends, Jim Kirwan (aka the head honcho of Breakfast at Jimothy’s) to let me write this blog.  If you are reading this blog because of me for the first time, do yourself a favor and check out some of his own posts below  because he is a much better writer than I am.  And if you are reading this and are one of those people who hate on dance music for being electronic based and not real instruments, you should give me a chance to change your mind!  Anyways, dance music is a big part of my life and I’ve been wanting to get my thoughts out there for awhile.  So here we go…  
2013 was a big year for music in general, but in my humble opinion, dance music won.  It’s hard to go anywhere without hearing an electronic dance music song. From the gym, to commercials, to ESPN, to movie trailers and soundtracks, to mainstream radio stations, there is no denying that “EDM” took over the world this year.  I even now wake up on Saturday mornings to thumping beats coming from my living room from either my mom or dad listening to the dance/electronic station on TV while they do errands around the house.  

I have been listening to dance music since 2010 when I downloaded Laidback Luke’s bootleg of “Show Me One” and then began to randomly download other similar songs.  However, it wasn’t until Skrillex’s remix of Cinema surfaced in 2011 that I really fell in love with dance music, so I caught on right when the scene first exploded.  I’ll never forget those nights of partying at 112 Pinehurst, going crazy with all the homies inside of Club Generation when Cinema came on.  What is Club Generation you may ask?  It was the nickname Ricky Mansfield gave to his bedroom at 112.  Filled with blacklights, weird posters, and a mattress without a frame or headboard, this club was bumping all night.  I guess you could say this is where my love of dance music was born.
Club Generation: Where every night was Ladies Night
Before I get to the many good things about dance music in 2013, I want to discuss a disturbing trend.  You see it at every major festival, and it is giving my beloved music a bad name.  No, I am not talking about Molly.  I am talking about the BIG ROOM DROP.  For some reason, lots of producers discovered that if you make a crazy intense drop in your song, it will be a hit in a main stage setting.  While it may be a hit during a festival set, it’s the same damn thing over and over.  I can totally see how some people think that dance music all sounds the same if they listen to these types of songs.  I didn’t even bother seeing Hardwell, who used to be one of my favorites, at Electric Zoo this year because I didn’t want to listen to the same kind of drop for an hour and a half.  The kinds of people that go around festivals and shows screaming “I LIVE FOR THE DROPPPPPP” usually fill up the main stage and are the worst kind of people.  These are the bros who go to these shows as an excuse to roll face and usually are not interested in the actual music.  But there is a silver lining to the big room drop trend. It got old real quick for me, and it led me to explore other genres of dance music, which I’ll get into later.  To understand what I am talking about by the drop sounding the same, please take a minute out of your life to listen to this mashup of 16 different songs, that you will probably have a hard time distinguishing.

That minute long mix is everything wrong with dance music. I would also like to take this time to shout out to the guy in his late twenties on the Electric Zoo ferry that my friends and I met who was jacked out of his mind, in a tight tank top, and kept saying in a thick New York accent “Yo Showtek, Main Stage, 3:15. Be there, gonna be the best set of the day.” Sorry dude, you were wrong about that and I hope you enjoyed listening to the same drop all day long.  

"Showtek killed it!"

Now you know what I hated about dance music in 2013, so here are the producers/events/labels/songs that I think won in 2013:

-Zedd- he released his debut album in 2012 but rode the success of his smash hit, “Clarity” all throughout the year.  He also released a song with Paramore’s Hayley Williams, “Stay the Night” which has received heavy radio play.  His remixes for Empire of the Sun’s “Alive” and Miriam Bryant’s “Push Play” were some of my favorite tracks of the year. (PS- Watch out for Miriam Bryant to explode next year, she has a killer voice.)

-Daft Punk- Obvious choice here.  They created the ultimate hype machine by slowly dropping hints at their return and then dropped Random Access Memories.  A really great album but unfortunately for bros everywhere, there were no big drops 
Daft Punk also hung out with Ron Burgundy this year, which is kind of a big deal.

Armin van Buuren- the Trance God released his album “Intense” which had one of the biggest hits of the year, “This is What it Feels Like.”  You’ve probably heard this song on the radio.

Krewella- The Krew took the world by storm this year.  From releasing their debut album, seeing their hit single "Alive" go platinum, appearing on daytime talk shows, having Carmen Electra rave about them on national TV, to performing live on FOX's "New Year's Eve Live" show to ring in the new year, this likable trio from Chicago was everywhere. 

I'd party with these girls any day. 

“Giving It All” by Bondax- Bondax is a dance music duo consisting of Adam Kaye and George Townsend.  Neither are 21 years old and yet they produced one of the most mature sounding garage tracks of the year in “Giving It All.” Not happy I missed these guys at Electric Zoo this year as they rarely play in the States.

-Avicii- His biggest success (Levels) is also his biggest downfall.  He gets so much hate because he wrote an absurdly popular song.  This year at Ultra Music Festival, he premiered much of his debut album, TRUE, which sent a shockwave through the world of dance music.  Does he really think he can combine folk music with electronic dance music?  The crowd at Ultra didn’t think so, but as time went on, his single, Wake Me Up, has become one of the biggest hits of the year, and not just in dance music.  I have to give the man credit, he had the guts to produce music that he wanted to produce, and it seems to have worked for him.  Maybe I have a soft spot for him because he turned my little Catholic college upside down for a couple of hours my senior year at the peak of the Levels hype, but the man can produce. “Lay Me Down” off of TRUE is a jam.

“Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat” by Fatboy Slim feat. Beardyman- Mr. Slim hit gold with this release, as the catchy lyrics were soon to be uttered at festivals across the world.  Besides the fantastic title lyric, the song features a story of one man’s drug induced quest to party for days and days.  I mean I think he’s on drugs?  At one point, he says he’s dancing to the hum of a diner refrigerator and I don’t know many sober people who could pull that off.  I knew this song was a hit when my father started coming home from work saying, “eat, sleep, rave, repeat, eat, sleep, rave, repeat.”  Were you really at work dad?  Calvin Harris made a pretty good remix of this song too.
How Beardyman probably felt during his week long party.

“Without You” by Dillon Francis feat. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs- Dance music’s resident funny guy took a step away from his usual moombathon, dance hall type track with this emotional song about a breaking up with a girlfriend but ultimately knowing (or hoping?) he will be just fine.

-Who knew this goofball could write such an emotional song?

-Diplo- Miley Cyrus can thank this man for the twerk revolution 
Somewhere, Miley is smiling. 

-Skrillex/Dog Blood- At first glance, one may think that Skrillex had a quiet year in 2013. And I heard many uneducated dance music fans say so.  But that is not the case.  Aside from releasing a remix of “International” by Chase and Status and an original with Alvin Risk, “Try It Out,” he released an EP and had a worldwide tour under the guise of Dog Blood.  Mr. Moore teamed up with techno fun guy Boys Noize to create some of the most unique sounding tunes of the year.  Dog Blood released the “Middle Finger Pt 2” EP this past year and it was a hit.  Using elements of acid house, techno, and even some heavy metal, this EP knocked me off my feet.  Skrillex is unfairly criticized for being the poster boy of dubstep, but he is so much more than that.  He has one of the most forward thinking minds in dance music, and his label, OWSLA, is proof of that.  Constantly pushing the boundaries of dance music, OWSLA puts out release after release of a wide range of different genres that are always fresh.  Skrillex also released an Essential Mix in June that further displayed how he can play more than just dubstep.

Skrillex also had a big year because he met this group of people at Electric Zoo

Electric Zoo- This past Labor Day I attended my second Electric Zoo, which is New York’s premier dance music festival.  The beauty of this festival was overshadowed by the unfortunate deaths of two young people (RIP Olivia Rotondo and Jeffrey Russ) which led to the cancellation of the third and final day.  I was only planning on going to the first two days so that did not affect me but it was still a big downer.  Besides that, this year’s festival was off the hook.  The production, the venue (NYC’s skyline in the background), the people working the event, the food, the diversity of the artists, are all something special.  On the first night, my brother Chris, Ricky Mansfield, my festival girlfriend Paula Tran, and myself all lined up against the rail, front and center for what would not only be my favorite set of the weekend, but perhaps my favorite set of all time.  Dog Blood closed out the OWSLA/BNR tent and with an hour and fifteen minutes, of the most intense, heart stopping, seizure inducing music I have ever heard.  This was one of the few 3D sets of the weekend, meaning we were all wearing glasses which turned the production set up into 3D.  This got pretty freaky when LED zombies started reaching for us while we were standing front row.  Besides almost getting eaten alive, the lights and sound in this tent combined with the music to create an atmosphere unlike which I have ever experienced.  At the end of the set, we all looked at each other with the same “What the hell just happened??” look on our face.  Also a huge tip of the hat to Bassnectar, who closed out the less crowded Main Stage East on Saturday night with a bang.  Seeing Bassnectar live is something every dance music fan should experience.   

-Dog Blood. Now THIS was a rave!!

-“Live” dance music- What’s this? Live dance music? But all they do is make sounds on computers and push play!  Not so fast…2013 saw a big push for live instruments in dance music.  All you have to do is look at the recently released Ultra 2014 lineup and see that 17 headliners are under the “Live” category.  Producers like Disclosure, Keys N Krates, GRiZ, Gramatik, Goldroom, Daft Punk, Big Gigantic, all continue to give double freedom rockets to people who look down on dance music because it is not “real” music.    

GRiZ presses buttons AND plays the sax.

-“Technicolor” by Madeon- Madeon doesn’t release music very often, but when he does, it never disappoints. His lone original production of 2013 is one of his best yet.  Clocking in at just under 6:30, this track was a breath of fresh air during the summer months where it seemed like every other song featured that BIG ROOM DROP.  Madeon is another one of the young guns in the dance music scene who is wise beyond his years, and is destined to have a bright future.

-“Strangers” by Seven Lions and Myon & Shane 54- Dubstep meets trance.  Seven Lions, who is already known for his melodic and dare I say it, beautiful dubstep, joins forces with the Hungarian trance duo to create one of the songs of the year.  Give this a listen and tell me the lyrics and that second drop don’t make you feel all tingly inside.

-The drop at 3:42=pure joy

-Trap- Who said trap was dead!? Most people wrote off trap at the end of 2012, but not this guy.  For those of you who do not know, trap combines electronic music and hip hop and packs some serious punch.  Nobody does it better than my homie RL Grime, and even though it came out in 2012, I’m sure if you spent any time at Whiskey Republic in 2013 you heard his remix of “Mercy.”  RL Grime also released an EP, High Beams, and a softer song “Because of U.” Baauer also puts on one hell of a show and should not be only associated with that viral hit you may know as the Harlem Shake.  He made a killer remix of Disclosure’s “You and Me” that I was jamming to all year.  Also quick shout out to Flosstradamus for running the trap all year long too.
This is a bunch of white people at a Baauer/RL Grime show. 
Killer albums from 2013-  These albums challenged the status quo of dance music in 2013, and stood out from the rest because they were so different from what everyone else released.

Aleph- Gesaffelstein.  This album came out right before Halloween and it could not have had better timing.  It’s creepy, kind of disturbing, and giving this album a listen just doesn’t make me feel right, but I can’t stop listening.  It honestly could be a soundtrack to a horror movie.  Not one of those shitty horror movies either, I’m talking a real effed up and twisted movie, one that makes you cringe.  Just this past weekend my brother and I were driving in the middle of nowhere in Vermont, in a snowstorm, on a long windy road, in the dark while listening to this album.  Needless to say, I thought we were goners.  I fully expected our car to break down and a chainsaw wielding maniac to have his way with us.  If you do not believe me, just take a listen to a couple of these songs-

 - Pursuit
 – Obsession 
 - Aleph
– Hate or Glory

If you know me at all, you know I am obsessed with horror movies, so it should be no surprise this was one of my favorite albums of the year.  Gesaffelstein owns French techno, and each song on this album displays his creativity and mastery of the genre.  Even the slower tracks make you feel like someone is watching you, sending a shiver up your spine.  

Please listen to “Obsession” starting at 2:30 while watching this GIF if you want nightmares for weeks

Damage Control- Mat Zo

Mat Zo released this album in November, but he made headlines earlier in the year when sampled a portion of Mat Zo’s track, “Rebound” for one of his songs with Chris Brown, without Mr. Zo’s permission.  I’m not sure if this motivated Mat Zo even further to create one of the albums of the year, but what Mat Zo released was a truly unbelievable album that I have a hard time explaining.  You simply have to listen to it over and over to appreciate what he did.  Mat Zo set out to make an album that didn’t have to be heard in a club blasting on speakers to enjoy.  He wanted to make an album that you could just listen to and he accomplished that. Here are some of my favorites-
  Time Dilation (Bonus track but probably my favorite)
 –Lucid Dreams
 – Only For You
 – Caller ID


Settle- Disclosure
Well folks here we have it, my undisputed pick for dance music album of the year.  The two brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence are barely legal but have taste and maturity way beyond their years.  Classified as UK Garage, House, Deep House, this album really kicks.  If you were in Ibizia this summer (dance music capital of the world) then you were sure to hear one of these tracks booming through the speakers into the summer air.  I somehow only discovered these guys this year when I heard their infectious “When A Fire Starts to Burn” on some random mix and decided to check their album out in mid June but boy am I glad I did.  I have listened to this album countless times, and it never gets old.  From the songwriting to the collaborations, this is almost flawless.  I was lucky enough to see these guys perform at a free show in Boston over the summer, which was plagued with bad sound and bad vibes but seeing these guys perform live is a treat.  Like I alluded to earlier in this post, they use live instruments and sing while performing.  These guys are super talented, and will continue their dominance over the scene in the years to come.  Rolling Stone named this as their 13th best album of the year, which is no small feat.  Lorde may have put it best when she recently tweeted at Disclosure saying listening to the album makes the soul feel real feels.
Some of my favorites-
–When a Fire Starts to Burn
 –Latch (The biggest hit on the album)
 –White Noise
 –You & Me

Disclosure, living proof that the button up all the way up is in!

Looking ahead to 2014-
-“I Got U” by Duke Dumont feat. Jax Jones- This song hasn’t been officially released yet so I will throw this in the 2014 category.  Listen to it, feel good, and look forward this being the song of the summer in 2014.

-Porter Robinson’s untitled album-  Porter Robinson is my favorite DJ. Hands down.  His sets are packed with songs that you’ve never heard of, leading you to try to Shazam a cool sounding song only to fail because he switches to the next song so quickly (and seamlessly.)  He has not really released a ton of original tracks, and did not release a single one in 2013, but hopefully that will change in 2014 if he finally releases his long awaited album.  Don’t expect this album to be filled with festival bangers, as he has said many times that it will be filled with beautiful music, much like his mega hit, “Language.”  I think this will be a lot like Mat Zo’s album, and something we can all just listen to without having to be at a club to enjoy.

So there you have it folks.  Perhaps I went a little overboard with this post but that just goes to show you how big of a year dance music had in 2013.  I look forward to seeing how dance music continues to evolve in 2014, and hope to attend just as many shows and festivals as I did this past year.  Thank you to everyone who I attended an event with this past year, as you all made it so much more enjoyable. And I hope I turned some of you on to new music that you will enjoy well into the new year.  Until next time,

-Matt Rizzini

1 comment:

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