“Get Refreshed” is a weekly column by Billy Bugara covering all things digital in the music world. Refresh yourself here.
Cover by Brixton Yorker
Before last week, the prevailing notion behind Ecco2k’s inevitable return after 2019’s still-unparalleled E was already set in stone: when it happens, it’s going to be something new, unfounded, and rooted in this magnificent creative’s ever-evolving artistry. And with the surprise release of “PXE” – a brief, 5-track EP with an accompanying short visual by Japanese-based artist Freddy Carrasco – that’s exactly what we got in every sense of those terms. But based on how dramatic of a departure most of this project is from something as clear and defining as his debut album, we were given an even more nuanced experience than we could have ever asked for.
We certainly weren’t expecting such a clean slate to be presented to us here, but it’s safe to say that we’re better off for it. Ecco himself has dubbed the sounds both heard and felt on this project as “pixie music” — music that conveys something of a “live” atmosphere about it, yet transcends that simplistic description into something completely beyond that scope. It’s music that represents the idea of “comfortable imperfection,” which can be heard in the rough demeanor the music carries in its sound and structure, as well as Ecco’s deeply personalized songwriting and overall attitude towards the themes presented from top to bottom here. What’s being conveyed is this newfound depiction of what “perfect” stands for in Ecco’s own mindset, and being that the EP comes together as seamless as it does, there is no doubt whatsoever that this was a successful attempt at introducing yet another defining period in this modern icon’s already-storied career.
Chach can do quite a lot with his presence on the mic; there’s a reason he’s among the most definitive pillars that the now-burgeoning digicore scene was built upon. But towering over every single one of his talents is his consistently masterful penchant for writing hooks. It’s difficult to find someone who comes through with as much pure pop intuition in their songwriting than he does when crafting these passages; the sheer amount of hits he has to his name in this light proves that fact beyond any doubt whatsoever.
Of course, you have your classics: the ever-connecting refrain on “talk shit,” the rapid and purposefully simple “don’t move,” the emotionally biting “trying.” These are all incredibly well-known offerings by themselves that would absolutely suffer without their outstanding choruses. But even look at a track like “promise” — featuring a hook that fits almost too naturally into the track’s pacing and compulsive sonic makeup. It doesn’t even matter what type of style is presented to him in a given instance; the hook will always be effective, memorable, and exemplary at that.
There’s no better time than right now to bring this belief to the forefront of discussion, and it’s based on two distinct reasons. For one, his latest single “as of lately” features what might be the hook that trumps them all. Almost nothing has come out this year that can quite match the level of sheer pop appeal that he so deeply embeds his performance in here; it hits all the right buttons in creating a positively contagious set of lines. It’s downright inspiring, even. But we must also bring up his work in this light because… well… Chach is just the most underappreciated presence in digicore today. He’s one of a select few who built this scene from the ground up, and in knowing this, it becomes entirely unsurprising as to how he’s mastered such difficult areas of artistry like effective pop songwriting down to an absolute science — a science he can lay claim to almost entirely on his own. That’s the mark of a legendary figure, something that Chach is and always will be.
Maybe “slow jam r&b” has yet to see a full renaissance in the online music world, but that doesn’t mean a damn thing to someone like Mon. The gifted vocalist and instrumentalist alike not only sees the potential this style holds if it were to be revived on a far grander scale than what we presently have, but they’re actively diving straight into this direction in a valiant attempt to be ahead of the game. If their latest single “Addicted To You” isn’t stone-cold proof as to how the Peruvian creative is setting the bar as high as can be in this light, then I have no idea what could be. Driven by a delicate, downright soothing cast of instruments throughout the track’s entirety, Mon absolutely belts their way through this tried and true ballad with all the intimate passion one could ever ask for.
Be it trends, styles, or even entire genres in some cases… these things never truly “die” in a sense — they just dwindle in the public consciousness until someone or something brings them back in an artful or simply relevant manner. What’s great about Mon’s role in doing just that with this approach to r&b is that the approach itself is timeless in its own right, and it’s currently begging for yet another period in the limelight. With that being said, they’re certainly doing the right thing, in the right place, with all the right tools at the very best time; it’s all going to pay off for someone as naturally brilliant as they are.
Many of you know the name C2D from their TikTok-driven smash single “With My Hoe!” that made waves throughout the majority of 2020. Most of you at least know the song itself. And as sad as it may be, almost none of you truly know who this C2D really is. What a shame, because they just dropped an album that spells out everything that needed to be said in the most ideal way imaginable.
MISSPEND is a deeply personal excursion into the life of an individual that deserves so much more directed recognition than they currently receive. The proven-hitmaker – one who has crafted their own distinct pocket of the highly-diverse alternative-r&b landscape – is known at the very most for one single offering, when in a perfect world, their talents would earn them a distinct spot in the limelight for each and every release they come through with. This project certainly proves that notion in full, and it even takes an extra step beyond just that by centering in on the Graveem1nd mainstay’s internal struggles and experiences alike, all under a cloak of their most refined self-production to date. For someone who has been left out of countless conversations they’d otherwise be included in if not for the unfortunate realities of viral success, this album defines the term “must-listen” as it stands right now.
Anyone who adequately understands the level of sheer influence that Red Mirror holds would agree with the following notion: as an ever-dynamic label, they’re practically matched by none in regards to the sheer scope of sounds they feature. They have been the underground’s jack of all trades for quite a long time now, and not only have they come to master some of these trades to their fullest extent, but they’ve all but defined some completely on their own.
The label’s latest release is a clear-cut example of this sentiment put in motion. The team’s central figurehead Fifty Grand pairs with the ever-consistent production force of ninetyniiine to create an absolutely spotless modern hip-hop cut — fit with equal-parts intensity and grime as it is with structurally dynamic passages and embellishments. The instrumental is a stand-alone experience in itself for how simultaneously ambitious, yet fine-tuned it really is, but how fitting is it that they’d tap an act like d0llywood1 to provide all the vocals here. She’s someone who is just as diverse in her sonic pallet as the rest of Red Mirror’s roster — an inarguable fact to say the very least, and her inclusion and proceeding performance over this raucous beat gives all the closure one could ever ask for as to the validity of that statement.
How unexpectedly good can a song be from an artist that already exceeds expectations with their past discography? Underscores dares to answer that question on their newest project fishmonger. Their single “Kinko’s field trip 2006” is an exemplary track for the rest of the album. The first listen sounds like an orchestrated avalanche, from the disk-rot vocalization to the grimy, glitched guitar chords. As the beat builds, it explodes just as heavy as the realization underscores builds up to in the lyrics; they’re full of it, tired of it, done with it. The tiptoeing that comes with self-doubt turns into a full-on sprint in the chorus, immersing the listener in an ocean of beautiful production, hard-hitting song lyrics, and an understanding that they’ve felt this way before, too. It’s rare to see a song that approaches a familiar subject matter in such a unique and impactful way, yet underscores does it with ease on this track and so many others.