Fair Friday: Yumi Zouma “EP II”

New Zealand trio Yumi Zouma recently released a follow up to their positively received self titled EP. Consisting of five beautiful tracks, the group continues to captivate audiences with their infectious dream pop  anthems.

As a fan of smaller dream pop acts fronted by female vocals, I simply can’t get enough of this EP. Hit play and half an hour of lush, dance inducing music soothes every ache. The EP is a natural extension to the band’s previous releases and it’s exciting to see them maintain a sense of consistency, while pushing their capabilities as musicians.

Although all 5 tracks are solid, my personal favorite would be Alena. Released in November, it finds itself at home basking in the sunlight of early spring. Opening with breezy, snow melting vocals, the song gradually builds into an all out dance party. Not quite the “throw TVs out windows” level, but something much more tame, while maintaining an unmistakable energy.

Overall the EP is pure, plucked straight from the now softening spring ground. It couldn’t have been dropped at a better time, as the sunlight continues to become a daily blessing in Chicago.

Fresh Start Friday: Purity Ring “Bodyache”

Having seen Canadian duo Purity Ring do their same set three times, it’s refreshing to know that next time they’ll have some new material. Of course no hate on their debut Shrines, a beautiful yet dark foray into the realms of psych pop. In fact quite the opposite, for listening to the album in its entirety is a journey, as the songs seamlessly blend into one another.

Bodyache displays a tone of desperation, but is conveyed with a much lighter hearted sound than previous work by the duo. This juxtaposition makes for a truly brilliant track, not only catchy but maintaining some depth. Stripping the song of its lyrics leaves an addictive beat laced with mystical keys and club throbbing EDM style bass.

Topping Shrines may be difficult, but after hearing Bodyache, it seems that Purity Ring has already begun their evolution and are off to a familiar yet fresh start. Be sure to check out their full album, Another Eternity, which dropped earlier this week.

(Look to the) Future Friday: Big Sean Ft. Kanye West and John Legend “One Man Could Change the World”

As a sophomore, my career at UIC is dangerously close to being halfway done, and it makes me stop and ask, “What have I accomplished?” Grades are average and aspirations are low, so running into this track caused reflection, as well as inspiration. Rap/Hip-hop/R&B/whatever this is considered, is an area that I couldn’t be less educated in. Currently enrolled in a hip hop aesthetic class, I’m in the midst of exploring an entire new world of music and culture. One of my favorite aspects of the genre is the use of common references to convey a different meaning:

Standing next to Jim Carey, we traded stories then laughed
I said you not the only one I know got rich wearing masks

Assuming I survive the rest of college, I hope to pass this song down to the next wave of students. It’s often easy to lose steam in the midst of everything going on at once, and stress about the future. This song takes the(sometimes unbelievable)perspective of having it all, and reflecting on the struggles that made it possible.

But when you’re gettin fast money slow down, don’t crash
With all the drive in the world swear you still need gas

Haunting yet hopeful, this track and its refrain of “one man could change the world” is enough to get out of any slump.

Fall Down Friday: Lyves “Shelter”


Typically my music repertoire is severely lacking in the soul department, so it was nice to stumble upon Lyves. Based out of London, the group considers themselves “ambient alt soul,” so I was about half right on that one. A definite departure from my primarily pop driven posts, Lyves does more than just slow down the tempo.

The opening notes of the piano drives a solemn stake into the heart, followed by the first line of “Bring Me Quiet, Bring Me Into Shelter,” enveloping the song in an icy sheath of desperation.

“See Me Crumbling, Crumbling is Just the Start”

Rich vocals make you fall down face first into a pit of introspection, while thoughts trickle down into a waterfall of emotion as the song gradually adds more and more layers.

Altogether it’s a beautifully produced song, and the inclusion of beats and synths adds an extra dimension. However, even without all the extra fluff, the piano and vocals could still freeze a tear. Worth mentioning is Lyve’s debut track “Visions,” from a few months ago. A much more atmospheric venture that gives a look into the band’s versatility for vibe making.

Frantic Friday: Elseware “Anxious”


Why am I so anxious? I’m sitting here watching the minutes tick by, synchronized to the clap snare of this track. It’s interesting because it lacks a chorus in a way and builds up to, basically nothing, and that gets me kind of anxious. Until the song breaks down into something entirely different, that is. Que the rewind button. Again.

Yet another new NYC duo, delivering a kind of out there pop music. It’s a really solid debut, and only time will tell how they follow up to it. Overall, vocals that are easy on the ears, infectious drumbeat, and interesting structure. Give it a listen or two, or five.

Fade Off Friday: Dear Tracks “Wildflower”

The sweet aromas of a carefree weekend are but a few hours away for the majority of students(hopefully). The scent of this “wildflower” will send you into a deep shoe gaze daze delivered by Dear Tracks. Their debut EP is out February 23, but this track should easily suffice till then.

Immediately the song sets adrift on hazy guitar riffs and soft spoken snares. Adding onto the dreamy vibes, airy vocals beckon you to ask yourself, “Why are you so far from home / Living in a distant world.” After glancing out my window I did begin to wonder.

You too will bloom

Don’t let it get to your head

The beautiful music video captures the essence of the song, or perhaps the other way around. Shrouded in an orange haze, endless fields of (you guessed it) flowers fade in and out of perception. Play it outside and I dare say it could melt the snow.

With only 544 likes on Facebook, Dear Tracks is just beginning to blossom. Their flowery motifs are an evocative escape from the confines of any city. Start your weekend with a shot of Spring–and forgive the wordplay while you’re at it.

Feel Friday : My Pain Goes Away

After sending a ripple throughout the music scene with their debut earlier this week, NYC duo Refs certainly has a future ahead of them. Featuring Zachary Andrew of Black Light Dinner Party, it’s clear where the duo  finds its roots.

Easing you into a somber burial of thought, you might expect this song to accompany a funeral procession. Just when you think you’ve died, the beat kicks in, and its simplicity carries lively vocals accompanied by chime like keys.

Call me anytime you want
Cause my pain goes away

It’ll probably get thrown into that “sad” category on the first listen, and can definitely bring down your mood a bit. But being down means you can only move up, and the song gives a sense of empowerment and hope. Much like Chicago winters, pain also eventually goes away.

Pain Goes Away just might get you over the syllabus week ending blues, and it fits in nicely with the grey clouds these days. They’ll be there for a while, but with aspiring artists like Refs, there’s always a silver lining.


College @ The Empty Bottle : A Real Deal

Wednesday December 3rd. It was a brisk night that served as a reminder that the worst was yet to come. I trekked over to West Town to catch a show at The Empty Bottle, positioned quaintly on the corner of Western and Cortez street. At first glance there really wasn’t much to see, in fact I actually had difficulty finding the door to get in. I posed the question to what could only be described as the most casual hipster, who took a drag on his cigarette and motioned to the door almost hidden behind him. I nodded and strode in, and as I did, fell into the void of dark walls, graffitied with names and posters of shows past.

The venue makes a clear distinction between cramped and cozy, which became more and more evident as the place filled up. The diagonal positioning of the stage makes for easy viewing from any spot, so no one was pushing or shoving to get some air. I sat against the wall pondering a canvas lined with the heads of many plastic dolls, as the fog machine monotonously gushed a purple haze into the room.

The first act was Replicant, drawing their name from the dystopian sci-fi Bladerunner, and had a sound that wouldn’t be out-of-place in the film either. Red lights synced with a heaving synth began to fill the room, as heads began bobbing to infectious drums that had a zip and a pop sampled straight from the 80’s. They did a swell job at opening the floor to My Gold Mask, an art pop group that had a considerably lighter sound, but a good one nonetheless. Their synth laden tracks sounded like a less brooding sibling to that of Replicant’s.

The clock spun to 11:00, and David Grellier, known to many as College, nonchalantly stepped onstage out of nowhere, as if a member of the audience. He was on the cusp of balding, wearing a Dartmouth sweater, and had eyes adorned with horn rimmed glasses. His setup consisted of two laptops and a mixer in between, a contrast to the bands before which featured at least a few instruments. This was soon forgotten and the crowd was captivated, for in that moment it didn’t really matter what the textbook definition of a musician was. Images that sometimes looked made on Microsoft Power Point were projected on a sheet behind him, featuring the face of a woman gradually morphing, or a cityscape with an infinite checkered floor, making for something truly atmospheric. Standing in the front row, I was almost crushed by the sound blasting from the speakers overhead. The multilayered synth tracks were easy to get lost in as they looped on throughout the night.

Hailing from France, it was interesting to see how David had made his way to such a small venue. His song “A Real Hero,” was featured in the 2011 film Drive, both of which have since gained cult followings. It’s sometimes a shame to see an artist applauded for only one song, and it became evident what song it was when everyone in unison stopped to pull out their phones and film it. A guy wearing the trademark scorpion jacket from Drive even managed to climb onstage, but not before being pulled off, as this was the second time he had done it that night. I looked over at David who stood grinning as he mixed his tracks, well aware of the effect “A Real Hero” had made in pop culture. Although I couldn’t say that I wasn’t also there to see that song performed, it’s always a moving experience to see an artist in their element, and for only $10, it was well worth it.