Few moments are more sacred than the reprieve Saturday night provides from the daily grind of school and work. Its importance is meant to be emphasized, and thus, a feature dedicated to “doing the night right” was born. Saturday Night Sessions are set around energizing mixes meant to get the party started. New or old, each episode has one cornerstone thing in similarity: they serve as the perfect backdrop for the weekend pregame.
Challenge Troy Hinson and Jared Piccone to create a heavy metal track, and they could do it. Challenge them to create a hip hop track, and they can do it. Challenge them to create an electronic music track, and they can do it. The list goes on.
Few musicians have lived out careers quite as versatile as Hinson and Piccone have. The New York-based duo, who make up Black Caviar, have spent their years producing music in these respective genres. Although they have now shifted focus to a more electronic leaning sound, listeners never quite know what they will get from the group, which keeps things exciting.
The duo shed some intriguing light on how the fans of the different genres can contrast. They note, “Electronic music fans are so much nicer and well behaved… they are also a lot better looking than a metal audience.”
Hinson and Piccone’s latest project continues with their electronic music focus, and it is their first self-released EP ever. Titled Caviar Chronicles Vol. 1, the three-track compilation highlights their affinity for a good upbeat house tune, with all three tracks adding a unique flair. The EP is made up of “A Little Bit of Ecstasy,” “Glory Box,” and “Power Of Love.”
The duo speak on their decision to self-release, stating, “Being on a label is great but sometimes there is a lot of nonsense involved… it’s also becoming a lot easier to release music on your own. We really liked these songs and the package of an EP so we decided to give it a shot doing it ourselves.”
Caviar Chronicles Vol. 1 follows their first single of the year, “Mr. Vain.” Hinson and Piccone are off to a strong start to the year with four total tracks out before the end of January, but 2019 will be a big year to live up to. Black Caviar was enlisted to produce a track for the Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, and this ultimately led the duo to their first Grammy nomination.
Hinson and Piccone speak on the opportunity, saying, “It was amazing to be part of such a spectacular movie. It was a lot of fun for us to take a swing at doing a theatrical hip hop song, and it seemed it worked. We could never have imagined our song ‘What’s Up Danger’ would have resonated with people as much as it did. Having the record go gold and being nominated for a Grammy was bonus.”
In honor of the release of their EP, and in anticipation for Grammy night, Hinson and Piccone have produced a one-hour Saturday Night Session mix. When asked what kind of a Saturday night their mix would get listeners ready for, they state, “It’s a mix for everyone who loves house music. Whether you are getting ready to go out, relaxing taking a bubble bath, or mowing the lawn, we’ve got something in there for you.”
You guys have worked with such a diverse range of genres throughout your lives… metal, hip hop, and now you are known primarily as electronic musicians. How do people from your past lives (metal and hip hop) react to your current project as Black Caviar? I don’t think they are too surprised because even though we have played in different metal/ hardcore and hip hop projects, we have always loved all different genres, including dance music. I am sure they also know with metal and hardcore you can’t keep carrying on like a lunatic forever. It becomes so exhausting.
How does the electronic music scene differ from the hip hop and metal worlds that you used to be more of a part of? Electronic music fans are so much nicer and well behaved… they are also a lot better looking than a metal audience.
What inspired you to self-release Caviar Chronicles Vol 1 as opposed to signing the EP to a label? Being on a label is great but sometimes there is a lot of nonsense involved… it’s also becoming a lot easier to release music on your own. We really liked these songs and the package of an EP so we decided to give it a shot doing it ourselves.
What was it like being a part of the Spiderman: Into The Spider-Verse soundtrack? It was amazing to be part of such a spectacular movie. It was a lot of fun for us to take a swing at doing a theatrical hip hop song, and it seemed it worked. We could never have imagined our song “What’s Up Danger” would have resonated with people as much as it did. Having the record go gold and being nominated for a Grammy was bonus.
What are each of you most excited for in 2020? We have a stack of music that we are excited about releasing including a few hip hop tracks. Jared just got his real estate license, the market is super hot right now, so he’s excited to get in it. I have been working on my stand up comedy. I have been doing weekly guest spots at New York Comedy Club so if you are in NYC, come check me out sometime.
What kind of a Saturday Night is your Saturday Night Session going to get listeners ready for? It’s a mix for everyone who loves house music. Whether you are getting ready to go out, relaxing taking a bubble bath, or mowing the lawn, we’ve got something in there for you.
Dexter’s Beat Laboratory is a weekly collection of songs from DA managing editor Robyn Dexter. With a taste that can only be described as eclectic—to say nothing of a name that lends itself to punnery—DA is happy to present a selection of tracks personally curated by Dexter for your listening pleasure.
Essenger‘s forthcoming album on FiXT Neon has been full of surprises. In his latest single release, “Lost Boys,” he recruits synth-rock trio Young Medicine. The nostalgia-inducing tune is full of twists and turns, creating an air of mystery in the beginning before building to include a plethora of dramatic rock elements.
Foxhunt‘s new album, Unhallowed, is an intense journey from start to finish. From hard-hitting “Macabre Magnifique” to the emotive “Memorium,” this 11-track LP has it all. As someone who loves electro-swing, a track called “1932” caught my ear. A pounding bassline contrasted with retro vocals and horns makes for such a fun listen.
Flite just continues to get better and better. His new two-track Liquicity EP is one of his finest releases to date, with the first half bringing “Joy” to the listeners’ ears right away. A dreamy melody drifts leads into a relaxing drum ‘n’ bass pattern, topped off by powerful vocals that proudly proclaim “I give you love / you bring me joy.”
Party Ghost takes a subdued approach to his newest piece of work, “Awake,” capturing the first waking moments in a delicate and contemplative manner. The producer says he was inspired to incorporate guitar elements into the track after playing consistently, and the result is peaceful and soothing.
I first fell in love with Matt Van‘s “Conifer” upon its initial release in early December and wondered how other producers would interpret his beautifully wistful tune. Summer Was Fun follows Direct and Mr FijiWiji in reworking “Conifer,” adapting the song in an upbeat and refreshing manner.
Perennial cruise festival Holy Ship! is returning with new bearings in 2020. The flagship affair in the dance music macrocosm is docking at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for its first iteration on land. Holy Ship! Wrecked has resolved to keep its resounding legacy on the high seas alive with the new amenities of Hard Rock’s prolific resort grounds and the benefit of offsite excursions into the Dominican Republic now in the picture.
Before the madness of Holy Ship! Wrecked descends, Dancing Astronaut asked some of headliners to share their happiest or wackiest memory from past iterations aboard Holy Ship! Yotto, Big Wild, Lane 8, and Gorgon City heeded our call, looking back on some of their most blissfully rowdy experiences.
Yotto: “I returned from my honeymoon and went straight to Holy Ship! I was shocked by the energy so I had to party even harder to keep up with everyone. Some dude gave me a bottle of whiskey after my b2b with Lane 8 because we looked too sober.”
Big Wild: “One memory I have is after watching Lane 8’s sunrise set and then heading back to my room and looking out over the balcony to an amazing sunrise with no music or talking, just silence. It was one of the most relaxing moments I’ve experienced.”
Lane 8: “Although there have been a lot of funny moments on Holy Ship! over the years, I have to say my sunrise set in 2018 is far and away the craziest memory I have of the festival. Seeing a couple thousand people going completely bananas, deep into the morning, in the middle of the ocean really did feel like a life-altering experience. It was one of those rare moments where everything comes together perfectly—setting, people, music—to create magic, for lack of a better word. I had a big smile on my face for a long time after that one.”
Gorgon City: “A few years ago we had docked back in Miami at the end of ship and we were all supposed to get off the boat at 7am, but us and a couple of mates ended up in the VIP jacuzzi on the roof of the boat, still partying with a mini-rig and listening to techno until around 4pm. Finally we got thrown off but by that time the next group of customers had already come on board for some jazz cruise so we were coming down on the elevators and people were looking at us like we were completely crazy. Apparently that’s the latest anyone has ever stayed on the boat.”
Upon streaming “Ashley,” the biological, self-titled opening number of Manic, one gets the feeling that they should sit down. It’s by Halsey‘s design that “Ashley,” and by extension, Manic, elicit this reaction. The response is a natural byproduct of the vocalist’s visceral approach to self-expression: It’s altogether contrived and reflexive, a complex sonic paradox. This aspect is only a fraction of the contentious character of Manic, which offers the rawest look at Halsey’s inner life to date.
“Ashley” represents what seems to be an inevitable collision: Ashley Frangipane, the woman behind the Halsey anagram and the vocalist’s performative persona. Both identities mesh with unprecedented force on Manic. The LP is hardly pop’s first introduction to a confessional concept album, yet Halsey’s approach to the format is distinctly fresh and inventive. She uses her own name as the title of the LP’s introductory cut in what is a full-frontal claim of the manifold emotions and experiences that she will delineate across Manic’s 16 inclusions. They are hers and hers alone, and yet, they’re not. Halsey uses film, specifically, 2004’s Charlie Kaufman-scripted Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, to shape and express the sentiments of “Ashley,” and in doing so, aligns herself with the production’s female protagonist, Kate Winslet’s simultaneously frenetic and lucid portrayal of Clementine.
An excerpt from the film’s script provides the finale to “Ashley”: “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. I’m just a fucked up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind. Don’t assign me yours.”
This identification magnifies with Manic’s next cut, “clementine.”
If “Ashley” was the moment of Ashley and Halsey intersection, then “clementine” is the result of their union. Lines are blurred. It’s difficult to discern just who is using music as the medium to speak on this track, and there’s the sense that it’s all three entities at once.
The introspective melancholy that characterizes “Ashley” and “clementine” is a cohesive thread that ties together each of Manic’s inclusions, from the first track to the last. Admittedly, the aching confession that occupies a large part of Manic is more glaring in its presence on some songs than on others. “Finally // beautiful stranger” is an example: “I know that beautiful strangers only come along to do me wrong,” Halsey sings. However, neither “Finally // beautiful stranger” nor Manic is wholly anchored in despondence. Case in point, the vocalist’s ending admission, “But I think it’s finally finally finally finally finally safe / for me to fall.”
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a filmic accessory to Manic that acts as a vessel to help Halsey lay the emotive foundation of the songstress’ third LP. Its influence is an integral part of the album’s beginning and Halsey’s definition of the concept album’s concept, but it need not carry through to color the whole production. After “clementine,” Halsey sheds the film, allowing the sonic reigns to rest firmly in her own hands, without the aid of allusion. She’s made her statement; by now, listeners understand her position and where this is going. She’ll take it from here.
Sadness lit by careful, tempered optimism is a lyrical motif of Manic that seems to extend beyond words to the album artwork, which pictures Halsey with a glimmering, teal-hued black eye. The heart of the symbolism, it appears, is not so much in the makeup-provided black eye, but in its sparkle. It’s an arresting visual embodiment of resilience, and of Manic’s lyrical and artistic synchronicity. In all, it’s possible to read the flecks of glitter that add dynamic to the look as a physical extension of the slight, cautious sanguinity that sporadically runs through Manic in hopeful punctuation.
The title of Halsey’s project concords with its form. Manic makes frenzied switches between genres and sonic styles. On “You should be sad,” streamers see Halsey tint pop with country; on “clementine,” Halsey undergirds her fervent, shouted declarations with placid piano chords. On celebrated Manic staple, “Without Me,” Halsey pursues a downtempo pop route, and further disrupts the notion of cohesion on the guitar-aided “Finally // beautiful stranger,” the most singer-songwriter-centric selection on the album. These are just a few of the inclusions that evidence Manic’s structure to be, well, manic. It leaps from one musical aesthetic to the next, in a decisive frenzy.
Manic is an all encompassing trial of self that does not end with a neat little resolution. But if anyone expected one come Manic’s 16th track, “929,” it’s safe to say the album’s intoxicating emotional crests and valleys were somewhat lost upon the listener.
A galvanizing concept album oriented around personal growth and regression, despair, blockades–some of which, Halsey puts forth, are of our own creation–and the resolve to move ever forward, scars in tow, Manic poignantly and pointedly explores the human condition. Halsey’s undertaking with Manic and its ultimate ethos could distilled in a single inquisitive lyric from “929”: “Well, who am I? / I’m almost 25.” We still aren’t quite sure—and evidently, neither is she. But if she told us, the confession would leave Manic devoid of its relentless depth. What’s steady through the inexorable emotional turbulence is the inquiry itself; it alone moves the music forward.
Few moments are more sacred than the reprieve Saturday night provides from the daily grind of school and work. Its importance is meant to be emphasized, and thus, a feature dedicated to “doing the night right” was born. Saturday Night Sessions are set around energizing mixes meant to get the party started. New or old, each episode has one cornerstone thing in similarity: they serve as the perfect backdrop for the weekend pregame.
There is an increasingly small contingent of successful artists who can claim that a growing popularity on myspace was part of their beginning. Breathe Carolina can, and their continued relevance is a testament to the group’s evolution and ability to craft a catchy tune despite changes in group members over the past 13 years. Breathe Carolina currently consists of founding member David Schmitt and Tommy Cooperman.
Despite Breathe Carolina seeming like a name inspired by one of the states, Schmitt mentions the group’s name was actually decided after he woke up from a dream about calming a woman down named Carolina. In November of 2019, Schmitt and Cooperman released the group’s fifth studio album, DEADTHEALBUM. The 10-track compilation came as a surprise. This is because, earlier in the year, the artists spoke about a renewed interest in focusing on singles and the story around them through music videos as opposed to releasing full studio albums. The surprising nature of the release is further cemented when the duo talk about their high and low points of 2019.
Schmitt and Cooperman comment on this, saying, “High point, releasing our album! Low point, writing the album and doing all the content for it within five weeks! Talk about tired!”
Despite putting the album together in five weeks, DEADTHEALBUM was received warmly thanks to the dynamic collection of feel good and club-ready releases. If there is one thing that characterizes the group’s output, it is energetic. Breathe Carolina know how to craft a track that will translate well into their heavy tour schedule, and this is undoubtedly part of why they have been able to maintain a steady fanbase and global bookings.
When asked about what their passions are outside of being musical artists, the duo respond, “David loves to cook and Tommy used to be a pro BMXer!” Cooperman’s outside of music interests are seemingly as high energy as the music he puts out with Schmitt.
The group crafted a one hour exclusive mix for their Saturday Night Session, and when asked what kind of a Saturday night their mix will get listener’s ready for, they respond that, “it’s full of energy, full of fun, and a ton of party vibes!”
Given you are Denver based, why the name Breathe Carolina?
The name comes from a dream David had about a girl named Carolina, it’s actually a person and not a place!
In a recent interview, you spoke about how you’ve been more focused on releasing singles and putting videos, artwork, and everything into those individual releases in order to give them their own life. Then, at the end of 2019 you released DEADTHEALBUM, a full length album. Can you talk to us about your change of heart or what went into this decision?
It wasn’t planned, honestly! We went in to do a single and it had a certain vibe. We decided to write more like that, and the next thing you know, there’s 10 songs! Haha.
High point and low point for each of your 2019’s?
High point, releasing our album! Low point, writing the album and doing all the content for it within five weeks! Talk about tired!
Now that you have just released a full length album at the end of last year, what does 2020 look like for you?
Lots of touring! Lots of writing! Lots of content!
What is one thing fans don’t know about each of you?
David loves to cook and Tommy used to be a pro BMXer!
What kind of a Saturday Night is your Saturday Night Session going to get listeners ready for?
It’s full of energy, full of fun, and a ton of party vibes!
Rewind 13 years to 2007, a British-American producer known as Mark Ronson was just at early stages of his imminent rise to international stardom. The previous year won him widespread recognition for his production on Christina Aguilera‘s Back to Basics, Amy Winehouse‘s Back to Black, Lily Allen‘s Alright, Still, and more. However, it was 2007 that cemented the dawning of Ronson’s electronic legacy—seeing the release of his second studio and No. 2-charting album Version, his highest-peaking single (with the exception of “Uptown Funk”), “Stop Me”, and his first Grammy-nomination. Even living under a rock, anyone could tell: Mark Ronson was the next big thing.
Now, we look back to Mark Ronson’s 2007 Essential Mix days after its 13th anniversary. Reflective of his penchant for disco, hip-hop and electronica, Ronson’s selections inject retro-inspired covers like Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, beat-heavy hip-hop picks from Notorious B.I.G. “Nasty Boy” to Rhymefest’s “Devil’s Pie”, and tracks from collaborators including Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, and Robbie Williams. Two hours of high-funk energy cut with doses of nostalgia-inducing sounds, Ronson’s Essential Mix traverses the electronic playground through elements of blaring brass, guitar riffs, rap, and more, driven by an insatiable appetite for the dance-floor and an eclectic taste for good music that undeniably foreshadowed Ronson’s status as one of the most prolific producers today.
The return of the LP is upon us—full-length album plans have positioned themselves to dominate the conversation this year. From our binoculars, delays not withstanding, everyone is releasing a record this year. Many of these projects have been in the works for so long they’ve acquired mythical properties. So as 2020 begins to unfold, we compiled a list of some of the most anticipated electronic, hip-hop, and pop projects of the year. It’s also worth bearing in mind that as a new decade opens, some of the projects turned in this year might come to define the next 10. With that, Dancing Astronaut is waiting with perked ears for this year’s album agenda. Presented, in no particular order, see our list of the 25 most anticipated albums of the year below.
For a star of Whethan’s scope and experience, it’s almost hard to believe that the young producer has not yet released his debut album, though 2020 will change that. Following his widely-celebrated 2018 debut EP, Life of a Wallflower Vol. 1, his impending first full-length LP, FANTASY is pegged for later this year, accompanied by a limited four-show run to introduce the album. Having brought his carefree dance-floor-and-beyond sensibility to massive festival stages while continuously molding his musical identity, the 20-year-old artist is expected to deliver his most exciting project to date in early 2020. —Jessica Mao
Charli XCX is forging a new pop star archetype. Following last year’s Charli, the British vocalist’s self-titled third studio LP, which featured Lizzo, Big Freedia, HAIM, Troye Sivan, and more across 15 tracks, Charli XCX is ready to come out swinging in 2020. Riding a wave of inspiration from last year, the “Boom Clap” singer has ambitious plans to record two full-length albums in 2020, though she concedes that releasing them both might be a bit more than she can chew. For now, it’s safe to assume that we might have a fourth studio album from Charli XCX sometime this year. —David Klemow
i think i want to release 2 albums next year… or at least MAKE 2 albums next year and then if one has to come out early 2021 that’s ok too. i feel very inspired at the moment.
While the electric bass virtuoso hadn’t announced any details regarding a new album outside of an apt three tweets, “album,” “coming,” and “just thought I’d let y’all know,” Thundercat did previously announce a North American tour, and that’s more than enough to get us excited about a 2020 release. Now, he’s officially announced It Is What It Is, produced by Flying Lotus, landing April 3 via his longtime home label, Brainfeeder. At it’s release, Thundercat’s third studio LP Drunk stood out as an album with consistently clever melodies and a strong cohesion, and it’s certainly withstood the test of time. If Thundercat can capture any of the magic of Drunk in 2020, It Is What It Is will be an album well worth your attention. —Mitch Rose
Mac Miller‘s final offering, the posthumous Circles, should prove to be one of the more emotionally charged releases of the year. Written to be a companion piece to 2018’s Swimming which was being recorded at the time of Miller’s death, Circles will undoubtedly capture the musical macrocosm’s attention. Sadly, Swimming was received in the wake of Miller’s passing as some of his most creative work to date, so the upcoming Jon Brion-produced edition should follow suit, and thus cement Miller’s legacy as a brilliant emcee that had a lot more to prove but just didn’t have the time. Circles lands in full on January 17. —David Klemow
Even though the title of Caribou‘s new album, Suddenly, is the antithesis of the manner in which it has been shared with public ears, the amorous reception attached to the two exquisite indie-dance singles from the album so far, “Home” and “You and I,” proves those ears were content with the wait. In traditional fashion, Caribou has announced more than 30 tour dates across the globe in the first quarter of 2020 including at slot at this year’s iteration of Coachella. After a five-year hiatus Caribou is surely primed and ready to get you dancing with Dan Snaith’s electronic-tinged acoustic grooves. Suddenly lands in full on February 28. —Harry Levin
Boris Brejcha had his breakout year in 2019, signing his upcoming LP Space Diver to Ultra Records, and touring a hefty international schedule, topped off with a main stage set at dance music’s crème de la crème, Tomorrowland. For many, Brejcha’s explosion came spontaneously, but the truth is, he’s a veteran of the game with a half-dozen full-length albums under his belt. What sets his 2020 effort apart though, is that within the past year and a half, the German-born producer has found his sound, dextrously inside a frenetic combination of several genres. The result is as familiar as it is refreshing, disregarding what’s trending today and simply focusing on what works. Listen to Space Diver in its entirety on January 24. —Josh Stewart
Ekali has been steadily gaining traction since his emergence, though 2020 sees the producer poised to take his presence to the next level. Following years of successful catalog building and his own headlining tour in 2019, Ekali is primed to not only turn in his debut full length LP, A World Away, but he’s also promised to launch a side project in 2020 as well, hinting at two full-length albums in a single year. The Canadian producer has proven his sound cannot be put into a box, and it is expected his album will only cement this sentiment by keeping listeners guessing from front to back. With the bar already set quite high, Ekali is looking to outdo himself in 2020, officially planting his flag with an LP that promises to be an engaging listen. A World Away lands via Big Beat/Atlantic Records on January 24. —Farrell Sweeney
On top of “A World Away”, the solo album I have a side project album almost done as well for 2020.
Behind the critical success of his debut album, Irene, Medasin planted his flag as one of electronic music’s brightest new torch carriers, earning his designation as Dancing Astronaut‘s Breakout Artist of 2018. Medasin’s first full-length LP was a deeply personal inside look at the producer’s complexion, born in the struggles he faced as a teen. Now, he’s primed to offer his follow-up, RIPPLS, which will likely continue to give listeners a firsthand perspective on what makes Medasin tick. The Texas-native’s sophomore LP promises 14 tracks in total, slated for the first quarter of 2020. —David Klemow
Lido just keeps getting better and better. It’s been nearly four years since his last full length album, Everything, but he hasn’t slowed down since then a bit. His Spacesuit, IOU1 & 2 EPs proved Lido has the musical chops to back up his ambitious ideas yet again. On his upcoming full length project Peder, which has been teased since summer of 2019, Lido will tell the story of a child raised on a spaceship, and the ever-improving producer’s concept should come to life in an extraordinary way. Watch the video for the record’s lead single “How To Do Nothing” for an inside look at the upcoming album. —Mitch Rose
Initially hinting at his sixth studio album on KOD‘s final track in 2018, J. Cole officially confirmed that his next album The Fall Off was set to drop in 2020. The Dreamville boss teased the upcoming album briefly at his headlining Day N Vegas performance with a faux political campaign-like slogan. Despite no word on release date, singles, or features (if any), with his repeated track record of critically-acclaimed projects like KOD, 4 Your Eyez Only, 2014’s unforgettable Forest Hills Drive, and most recently, his Dreamville compilation album Revenge of the Dreamers III, J.Cole may very well be poised to grab his seventh consecutive number-one album in the country with The Fall Off later this year. —Jessica Mao
Electronic chameleon Calvin Harris has changed colors many times over the course of his career. Harris’ title as one of the most versatile producers in all of electronic music is not just incontrovertible—it’s also well earned. With a broad catalog of collaborations that includes Frank Ocean, Migos, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani, and Katy Perry, Harris’ inventive work has enabled him to sonically rub shoulders with no shortage of pop and dance music’s most esteemed artists. Last year, news of major Sony releases leaked, bearing Harris’ name next to Tyler, The Creator, Mark Ronson, BTS, and more. 2019 came and went without a release from the Fly Eye helmer, though, ahead of his Coachella 2020 performance, Harris has promised new material is underway. Poised to make his first long-form outing since 2017’s Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, Harris is positioned to reclaim his dance dominance, but then again, he’s never really lost it, has he? —Rachel Narozniak
It feels like yesterday that Justin Blau, known to the masses as 3LAU, delivered his ultra ear-catching Ultraviolet LP. Fans who have gravitated to the producer’s feel-good brand of electro over the better part of a decade are in for a treat as 3LAU has promised another album due sometime in 2020. With another album underway, fans can likely expect another headlining tour with state-of-the-art production catered to the album. On top of a full-length project, 3LAU has also promised an EP on the way as well, and while neither has an official release date as of yet, something tells us we won’t be going deep in 2020 without new music from the “Down For Life” producer. —Farrell Sweeney
Few names have been as prevalent in the electronic scene as long as drill n’ bassist Squarepusher, which is part of why his return to analog equipment for the upcoming Be Up A Hello is so damn alluring. With the album’s first two singles oozing the adrenaline-soaked Squarepusher appeal that fans fell in love with back in the 90’s, it’s clear that the UK-based indie dance pioneer hasn’t missed a beat in his five year hiatus. Be Up A Hello drops on January 31 before Squarepusher embarks on a stateside tour this spring. —Josh Stewart
Masters of minimalism, The xx know better than anyone that silence can be violent. The trio’s maintained a low profile since the resounding success of their 2017 album I See You, while Jamie xx has maintained a successful solo DJ career and Romy Madley Croft has lended writing credits to a variety of other artists. Little is known about their fourth studio album except that the group is currently at work, and that they officially extended their contract with Universal Music Publishing Group (UMG). On New Year’s Eve, the group took to Instagram to confirm the new project was indeed underway. —Bella Bagshaw
Since 2017, rumors of Rihanna’s mysterious ninth album have kept the world incessantly on its toes, journeying from whispers of a reggae project back to the unknown, with Skrillex, Diplo, Pharrell, and Calvin Harris rumored to be tied to the elusive project. While the pop icon has expanded her empire in other pursuits including Fenty Beauty, Savage x Fenty, and more, the dearth of her music activity has only exponentially built up the anticipation for her long-awaited Anti-follow up. Even Rih herself recently teased up the never-ending wait for R9 in an instagram post which she captioned: “me listening to R9 by myself and refusing to release it.” Something tells us that won’t be the case this year though. —Jessica Mao
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
There is no band that has clung to relevance with the same tenacious vigor as The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Over 30 years past their initial formation they still have an eager fanbase awaiting the next drop of news surrounding the defining Los Angeles rock band—whether it be yet another shift in their lineup or the promise of a new album on the way. In 2020 it’s both, as John Frusciante, the band’s most notable guitarist, is rejoining for the third time and contributing his impeccable guitar prowess and vocal work to The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ impending twelfth studio album. —Harry Levin
The Weeknd‘s new album, Chapter Six, may reside behind a surreptitious veil of speculation, but one thing’s for certain: Abel Tesfaye is still violently at war with himself. Pop/R&B’s most delectable, self-demonized figurehead has thus far shared two vastly contrasting fragments from the upcoming LP. The first, “Blinding Lights,” is a glitzy ’80s-inspired anthem wherein the singer can croon freely about his half-whole benevolent heart. But Dr. Jekyl makes his surrender in “Heartless,” and the Party Monster rears his head. Listeners can continue to expect much of this thematic tug and pull from the Starboy singer. —Bella Bagshaw
It’s been nearly a decade since Caleb Cornett, better known as Amtrac, delivered his debut album—the memorable and summery Came Along. Capping at 13 tracks deep, many of which feature Amtrac’s own vocals, the indie-electronic introduction highlighted the producer’s artistic nature as well as his heaping ambition. With his sophomore album Oddyssey on deck, fans can expect Cornett to return to his artistic approach for another full length, but now through the lens of a more refined, mature producer. Oddyssey is out in the early part of 2020, with singles “Between the Lines” and “Radical.” —Josh Stewart
Jack Ü‘s inescapable, Justin Bieber-assisted “Where Are Ü Now” was a massive turning point in the Canadian pop star’s career, ushering in his fourth studio album in late 2015. Then, after the smash-hit Purpose, Justin Bieber went silent on the album front. After cancelling dates from the tour in support of the album, Bieber pressed pause on the long-form format as he took a hiatus from production to focus on his health and life offstage. Gradually, Bieber began to lend his voice to series of high-profile releases. As Bieber ramped up his feature game, year by year, gracing Post Malone, Billie Eilish, and Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee originals, it was possible that the vocalist might have only consigned his voice to fellow artists’ efforts. Not so, however, and with the confirmation that his next studio album will arrive in 2020 in tandem with a multi-city tour, the “Sorry” vocalist engaged his “Bieber Fever”-stricken following with a newly launched YouTube series, and an upcoming record that’s expected to chronicle Bieber’s growth over the years. —Rachel Narozniak
In 2019, Flume had his foot on the pedal perhaps harder than ever before—he released his mind-bending full-length mixtape Hi, This is Flume, relaunched his live production at some of the world’s top festivals, and was nominated for yet another Grammy. Best of all, he has no intention of hitting the brakes in 2020, having recently revealed in a Billboard interview that he expects to drop another album in 2020. Although it’s too early to say which direction the Skin producer will take his next project, Flume’s artistic growth and innovative moves ensure his next album album will be nothing short of a masterwork. —Jessica Mao
When Lorde speaks, the youth listens, and when the Australian vocalist speaks on her next album, expected sometime this year, the youth will be hearing something different from her than ever before. After delivering a heartfelt ode to her late dog Pearl towards the end of 2019, the “Tennis Court” singer made it clear that her feelings of loss, melancholy, and emptiness would play a much more pronounced roll in her upcoming LP, despite being the cause of the record’s delay. While her music was certainly far from naive optimism in the past, this will be a new side of Lorde, one that will open her music to an at this point unexplored listening base. —Harry Levin
Frank Ocean‘s solo debut, Channel Orange, succeeded in introducing a new R&B star archetype, though it was his long-awaited sophomore follow-up in 2016, Blonde, which came to define the decade. Now, following a surge of new music in 2019, a series of NYC club nights, and a Beats 1 radio slot, a new project from Ocean seems imminent. Though, if Ocean’s track record tells us anything, it’s that he’ll only move when he’s ready, and we likely won’t have much notice before he does. —David Klemow
After striking sonic gold with his debut album, Clarity, in 2012, ZEDD further asserted that he would be a force to be reckoned with in electronic circles with his sophomore offering, True Colors, in 2015. All eyes were on ZEDD after Clarity, and True Colors arrived as proof that the forward-thinking concept album wasn’t a fluke, but proof of Anton Zaslavski’s unique and ingenious approach to dance production. After showing that the album format could be one of his strongest musical suits, ZEDD altered his style, favoring a one-off release pattern defined by singles such as “The Middle,” and “365.” With just about every release in the stream of singles that ZEDD began in 2016 with “Candyman,” the superstar producer expanded his style, progressively gravitating further away from his electro roots and closer to dance-pop hybrids. His embrace of different genres of music, such as house and pop, has enabled him to continuously reinvent his sound, and his third studio album, fondly referred to as “Z3” by fans, will further define his sound. With ZEDD’s 2020 album, listeners will hear who he has grown to be since he got his groundbreaking start in the early 2010s. —Rachel Narozniak
Kevin Parker continues his championing of modern psychedelia in digestible fashion for the masses with the extended rollout of The Slow Rush. It’s clear Tame Impala‘s upcoming album isn’t to arrive as a drastic departure from his lysergic synth work and cornerstone bass jaunts. The wistful Currents-esque melancholy broods and bubbles through “Lost In Yesterday,” while Parker’s will-I-won’t-I lonerism walks tall along the pop-primed “Borderline.” Tame Impala’s fourth studio album is due to land on February 14 via Interscope Records. —Bella Bagshaw
March will mark six years since Skrillex delivered his seminal debut LP, Recess. At the height of the EDM boom, the album was an intergalactic thrill ride through genre-hopping collaborations, chock full of electronic instant-classics. Skrillex’s pivot into hip-hop and pop products since his sole full-length project reached shelves has proven to be a more than fruitful endeavor, though in 2020, all signs point back to a return to form for the OWSLA head honcho. Rumors of multiple projects in the works have swirled for months now, though one thing is certain—whatever Skrillex gives us this year, it’ll be reflective of a more seasoned, more creatively ambitious producer before us, and somehow, likely the same old Skrillex we’ve come to know and love at the exact same time. —David Klemow
Run The Jewels
It has been a long time coming, but the wait for RTJ4 is likely winding down now. EL-P and Killer Mike have been teasing their fourth studio endeavor for more than two years now, though the former has recently confirmed the record will land ahead of the group’s appearance at Coachella 2020. The timing couldn’t be better too—with Rage Against The Machine expected to bring a raucously politically charged headlining set to Indio this year, Run The Jewels should be primed to ride the same wave with their own new material. RTJ4 is understood to be capped at 11 tracks total, with a lean runtime of 40 minutes or so, now due to land before April 10.
It may not seem like it through the lens of an Instagram filtered helicopter ride, but that doesn’t negate the fact. Artists require honest feedback on their work for the sake of progress. But they equally require encouragement from peers, critics, and consumers. When they’re receiving both, the music scene is at its healthiest.
The union of encouragement and appraisement invoke a sense of balance under the critical microscope. Honest feedback is well-rounded and multi-pronged: pointing out well-founded shortcomings, areas of oversight, regression, or misguided efforts, while real encouragement resides in helping the artist make use of critiques. Too much of either and the scene stalls.
Power like this, on both ends of the artistic experience, is frequently abused, often unknowingly—with people wielding words like weapons, either unaware or irreverent of their impact. Apathy, in this particular regard, in both fan response and critical exegesis is starkly embodied in Getter, who months after being abused about the shift in sound on his latest album Visceral is once again playing shows, producing music, and contributing to social media.
“No matter what you think, we are all humans with the same emotions and thoughts,” Getter tells Dancing Astronaut. “You have to remember that musicians aren’t here to serve you music sculpted by fans on a platter. There’s shit you’ll like, and shit you’ll hate, with every artist.”
An excess of encouragement means lackluster music permeates through the helm of the industry unchecked. On the inverse, too much criticism can stifle an artist’s creativity, curbing their hunger to try new things.
This illusive balance puts artists, critics, and fans in a precarious position. Unfortunately baseless detractors are often the loudest. And critics and fans, now equipped with the ubiquitous social media mouthpiece, have to be conscious of the power of their input.
Those familiar with Getter know that Visceral is a glaring shift in both sound and style from the jarring dubstep upon which he carved out an indelible niche. The album came out on deadmau5’s mau5trap label housing—known for its ghostly and symphonic approach to dance music.
“I’ll always be proud of Visceral,” Getter says. “Moving forward, I want to put out all kinds of music and mix it up. That way everyone’s happy.”
Getter was admirably trying to expand his musical range with Visceral; yet the most pervasive feedback he received from listeners on his album and tour was vile, hurtful, and downright destructive. So much so to the point that he eventually cancelled the remainder of his tour dates.
In an emotional address to his social media, Getter said,
Consider the gravity of Getter’s statement. Visceral long stood as the focal point of his life, albeit a luxurious life that’s coveted by many and shared by few. However, the razor-tongued naysayers who opted to use this fact to excuse their myopic comments are egregiously misguided. Money and VIP vacations don’t assuage robbing someone of their professional resolve.
Those who have spent a minimal amount of time on the internet know that its inherent separation from face-to-face interaction invites cruelty to run rampant. Because the chances of tangible retaliation are practically non-existent, it’s an open door to proceed without caution.
“At the end of the day, social media is enabling a part of your mind that you wouldn’t normally notice,” Getter says. “It inflates your insecurity.”
For the most part, it’s not against the law to type hateful things. If Getter was someone’s dubstep idol, and that person spent money to watch his Visceral tour only to discover that he wasn’t going to play any dubstep, that person has a right to be disappointed in the show.
That person does not, under any circumstances have the right to attack Getter personally. That pushes the needle nowhere and incites progress for no one. Not Getter. Not the person posting. Not the dance music community as a whole.
Getter’s a professional, though, and he audibly attempted to hear the concerns from his detractors and act on them. He understands that he needs to take feedback seriously if he’s going to succeed as an artist, and he tried his best to do so:
“Been thinking about the criticism of the visceral tour so far and have started to adjust a lot of shit in the performance,” Getter wrote to Twitter. “It doesn’t make sense for me to expect everyone from previous shows to be 100% down w the new stuff. Ima make this super special thanks for the pointers”
He acted professionally. Made adjustments to his set. But the trolls whittled his patience thin.
When he canceled his tour, he emphasized the importance of honest criticism:
“Criticism is healthy. My friends and I frequently critique each other’s work and it helps the final product. However, the constant hate and the disgusting attitudes I’m faced with are destroying me.”
As Getter noted, artists are not hired guns, paid to deliver a singular product to an eager, esoteric fanbase. Art is too often reduced to a commodity, and the state of music suffers.
The only reason to be so upset with an artist’s performance that it merits condemnation is if they’re too intoxicated to perform, show up late, or bail on the show. Other than that, it’s mutually understood that they’re doing their best to deliver for the crowd and themselves.
“I think that sometimes people forget what a concert, or a live performance is. For a lot of musicians, you go in, do the job, and leave. It’s a paycheck, it doesn’t have to be a well thought-out performance. But… you should remember that you are going to see them… if you truly appreciate an artist, you’ll know if its done for money or for the art. And if you’re going see your favorite artist or any artist for that matter, rather than thinking about how much it sucks or if they are selling out cuz of a new style, think about what they are giving the crowd. Maybe you don’t like it, but maybe someone around you is really attached to it.”
Again, there is a balance to consider here between criticism and encouragement. If negative comments can have such a staunch and lasting effect on him, then positive comments would theoretically do the opposite to a similar degree. It’s possible to share a negative review while praising an artist’s will to experiment in a single stroke of communication.
If every artist were condemned when they wanted to try something new with their music, the scene would go nowhere. Everyone would be stuck making the same songs over and over again, and dance music would die. Consumers need to understand this fact. But this is also why critics also have a necessary place in music, as Diplo recently articulated.
music journalists gotta eat too even if they dont like our music. we need critics
Among critics, Visceral was a modest success. Some reviews were more critical than others based on the more concrete musical merits of the album (which is commonplace given their subjective nature). But most of them were complimentary based on Getter’s willingness to expand his sound and express his emotions through his music.
Being a frequent habitué of digital critique in music, most critics are inclined to praise artists who try to expand their sound with verve. They often understand that is how the scene moves forward; how new sounds come about. This level of praise for Getter was probably one of the reasons he threw himself into his Visceral tour with as much vigor as he did, and in that sense, the critics did a good job. They encouraged Getter to continue on his musical journey.
“Critics stir shit up. They tell you what they think. And that’s fine, the world needs people to be real sometimes. I always appreciate constructive criticism, or if someone calls something ‘trash’ that’s fine too. But the understanding of why is a little more satisfying. There’s no comfort point you get to as a musician, you always want to move forward, good or bad, movement is key. Trying new things, innovating.”
Unfortunately, critics can often be too encouraging, as represented across every genre of music in the modern scene. When critics stop doing their jobs properly, commercialism has its way with music, and that’s exactly what’s happening right now.
This is why Instagram personalities are signing record deals. The general public has meshed the ideas of what sells and what’s good which is a result of critics cowering to offer honest and well-founded opinion.
Believe or not, people still listen to critics. People hear about albums that are widely praised like To Pimp a Butterfly and Lemonade because those albums deserve every bit of admiration they receive. So when critics let cookie-cutter party tracks pass unchecked, it devalues authentically brilliant music, it inflates the egos of the artists, and it erodes the role of critics themselves thus opening the door for the debate Lizzo started recently.
After receiving a few lukewarm reviews (alongside an influx of exceedingly positive ones) on her album Cuz I Love You, the steadily ascending pop artist tweeted:
“PEOPLE WHO ‘REVIEW’ ALBUMS AND DONT MAKE MUSIC THEMSELVES SHOULD BE UNEMPLOYED.”
The fact is, it’s better for non-musicians to review music. That way they focus on the product itself rather than the process. When critics review an album, they aren’t reviewing the effort the artist put into the album. They’re reviewing the album itself. If an artist were to do that job they would be inherently biased simply because they understand how hard it is to produce an album.
Critics understand the effort in the abstract, but their job isn’t to pat the artist on the back for trying. Their job is to explain the merits of the final work. In a perfect world, every album would be the best of the best, and the artists who made the best music would be the most successful. Of course, the world isn’t perfect and the music business will never work that way, but the critics are obliged to do their best to make it that way.
That includes being truthful when a piece of music isn’t up to par. Think about it. Just like when critics universally praise album, if critics universally denounce an album there’s a considerable chance that the album simply isn’t good. This is how inspired artists are separated from the contrived. A true artist will take that criticism and work harder as Getter did. Untrue artists will point fingers and find fault in critics.
It’s not right for any artist to have to cancel a tour, as Getter had to, after receiving endless vitriolic pelting for taking a chance. That is not the dynamic this industry needs. The artistic reward system for thoughtful risk is, frankly, off-kilter as it is now.
Music is, of course, subjective. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and no piece of music is loved by literally every human being in the ear-having macrocosm. But objective elements of quality are inseparable from music as well. That’s how songs like “Imagine” by John Lennon can actually change the world. Regardless of whether one or two people (including your humble author) don’t like the song, it is expertly written, exquisitely performed, and culturally galvanizing to the point that it helped inspire a generation to do the just thing.
This may come as a surprise, but talented artists are making music of that caliber every day, and with the right support system from fans and critics that music will come to light and change the world all the same. We here at Dancing Astronaut are fans and critics alike, and we do our best to support artists like Getter in this way because they are people, too.
The third iteration of Romania’s coastal, fun-in-the sun (and long thereafter) festival, NEVERSEA, proved a particularly impressive production this past year—considerably so for a young festival still trying to find its footing in a swarming European event market.
With tens of thousands of attendees, primarily from Bucharest and surrounding Eastern European meccas pouring in to the relatively quiet, though densely populated beach town of Constanţa July 4-7 for NEVERSEA’s multi-national electronic, hip-hop, and pop roster, success was a tall order, made taller with one of the aural agenda’s top-sellers, DJ Snake, rescinding his lineup spot in a last-minute heartbreaker of an announcement.
But NEVERSEA rose to the occasion, largely due to its audacious artist acumen, which spanned UK-bred Sub Focus’ whiplash-inducing drum breaks, to the mellow electronic/live instrumentation synergy of Bob Moses. Saturday, the four-day affair’s busiest night, drew over 60,000 festival-goers, NEVERSEA reports; and while by 7 pm there was little room to move about freely (particularly near the main stage), let alone secure an opportune spot, most of the all-ages attendees hardly seemed to mind. The remaining three days saw much of the same congestion near the main stage, though mostly confined to the riper hours of the evening during the most prominent performances, like that of Alesso and G-Eazy.
The varied and immaculately decorated subsidiary stages offered ample refuge from the often-overflowing headlining performances. The kaleidoscopic Temple Stage, for example, with the elevated Constanţa strip as its beckoning, spotlit backdrop, hosted a lustrous litany of club-centric house and tech-leaning talent, including early-morning majesty from the likes of Jamie Jones, Boris Brejcha, and Dubfire. Faithful observers in the art of four by four, with penchants for surreptitious low-lit after-hour locales were sure to be found worshiping at the Temple.
The Ark Stage offered dance digs of the most brash and unbridled variety. A walk past the vessel-themed stage could proffer either serrated drum ‘n’ bass displays from Andy C or Sub Focus and their razor-lipped MCs, or perhaps up-to-the-moment four on the floor from NERO‘s Dan Stephens. By all accounts, a rendezvous under The Ark is not for frightful ears.
‘Til the break of dawn
A stroll through the sandy grounds at daybreak proves NEVERSEA can hold an audience. Even at 5 am, as the orange glow of sunrise kissed the Black Sea coastline, and the delicious and delirious madness of Boris Brejcha’s “high-tech minimal,” an amalgamation of progressive, techno, and trance, began winding down, it was clear attendees were in it for the long hall—as hundreds remained camped around The Temple stage, wide-eyed and enthralled. The intensity of the Eastern European people is no myth, personified in hordes of young people dancing at 8 am with 8 pm vigor. They gathered restlessly, striking coquettish poses with the flowered festival foliage long after dawn stretched into day.
In just a few short years, NEVERSEA has solidified its spot as a must-attend on the Romanian festival front, really only contending with its Transylvanian sister soiree, UNTOLD. The robust beachside gathering is an impressive mid-sized mounting on the Eastern European festival mantle.
For veterans holding more than 12 years of music-making, Camo & Krooked continue to ignite the drum ‘n’ bass scene with the fresh energy of newcomers. The Austrian duo consisting of Reinhard Reitsch and Markus Wagner have proved an indomitable force since their formation in 2007—signing to mammoth Hospital Records and winning the Drum&BassArena’s Best Newcomers DJs Award just three years after their debut. After captivating listeners with their explosive debut album, Above & Beyond, Camo & Krooked went on to assert themselves as ambassadors of multi-genre productions in their colorful exploration of d’n’b and its relationship to electronic music as a whole.
If d’n’b were a canvas, the color palette would be sub-genres and the painters: Camo & Krooked. Fundamentally loyal to their d’n’b roots while welcoming intuitive influences from dubstep, house, techno, grime, electro-house, and more, the d’n’b influencers have made it their standard to challenge the boundaries of genre-centric lines and push the sonic expectations exceedingly further.
They have embraced dubstep in their hit single “All Fall Down,” emulated disco in Zeitgeist, played off hip-hop in their 2019 single, “Set It Off” featuring Jeru The Damaja, and recreated their d’n’b sound with ever-cinematic expressions in their latest UKF10’s “Atlas” VIP remix. Now, with two massive orchestral Vienna shows locked in, a highly anticipated Rampage performance, and a pipeline of new music, Camo & Krooked are poised to take on 2020.
Dancing Astronaut sat down to catch up with Camo & Krooked on their pivot to single releases, insights into their Red Bull Vienna show, and the creative process behind “Set It Off.”
For a while, you were quiet on the music front, but 2019 was a massive year of releases with “Atlas,” “Sidewinder,” and recently “Set It Off” among other tracks. Will 2020 be a music-centric year as well or focus more on the tour side?
We are completely back on track musically so 2020 will continue along the lines of 2019 with lots of new music, trying to evolve in music production skills and find new directions. Really loving writing music at the moment!
You mentioned that the two of you went into studio hibernation to concentrate on new music. Do we have a new album in store?
We are planning on working single-based, as it leaves us more freedom of creativity and we can fully concentrate on one track at a time. Writing an album of 12 tracks you have to apply new learned techniques on each of the tracks while writing over and over again, it takes lots of power and we really like the ease of releasing one tune after another at the moment, feels more up to date.
What inspiration came first for “Set It Off”—wanting to produce a hip-hop/funk-infused track or wanting to collaborate with Jeru The Damaja?
As always, we tried to make a drop that is different to what everybody is doing at the moment, because that is basically what excites us when producing music, reinventing ourselves over and over again. After nailing it we thought that adding hip-hop flavor would give the tune more character than just your usual DJ tune. After nailing the halfstep part we approached some ’90s hip-hop legends and Jeru got back to us, being totally excited about the project!
Coming up on 12 years since you started releasing music, how has your respective approaches to the creative process evolved?
When you start making music you imitate and recreate your favorite producers, learning all the techniques needed to find you own niche to explore. Now we feel like being in a position where, with every tune we make, we want to learn something or use new techniques, what makes the tune feel more special and valuable for us. Making simple sounds sound as pristine and big as possible and including new influences in each track.
Speaking of milestones, UKF’s decade anniversary saw your track “Atlas” on UKF10 and the release of its VIP counterpart. What elements did you want to add in remixing the cinematic aspects of the original?
The VIP got even more cinematic actually and been influenced by the techniques we learned for the Red Bull Symphonic Show, C&K orchestra shows in Vienna beginning of February, at which we perform our biggest tunes with a 70-person symphony orchestra.
We’re just a few weeks away from the Vienna orchestra shows. How did this collaborative concept come alive and what type of experience would you like attendees to take away?
Red Bull approached us with this project and we loved the idea from the very first second. We have been working hard on it for the last three months and its going to be a really special event that no one really can say how exactly it will turn out in the end. We reworked most of our tunes to make space for the orchestral elements, so it’s not just the original tune with another layer, it’s a melting pot for both genres creating something completely unique.
Learn more about the Feb. 1 and 2 Vienna shows here.
What can we expect of your first ever back-to-back with Mefjus at Rampage 2020?
This back-to-back was on our minds for very long already and what better platform than Rampage could you ask for as Introduction of Camo & Krooked b2b Mefjus. We will have lots of exclusive material and looking forward how the set will turn out, will start preparing soon!
Rampage 2020 has locked in an incredible program including you all. Who are you excited to see?
Lots of our friends are there and its going to be good times! Special acts are the Noisia farewell tour and the Pendulum Trinity Show!
You’ve mentioned that Tame Impala and Flume are musical influences for you, respectively (Krooked the former, Camo the latter). They both had returned this year with some pivotal releases. What did you think?
We are huge fans from all their recent output and took some influences from Flume especially as his sound is always changing and very exciting!