Review of 2015 pt.2 - Label focus

Label focus

The nature of the 'netlabel' extinguishes the anxiety of financial concern and soulless advertisement from which physical labels suffer. A netlabel can release music as it pleases and, because the label's music and online presence are inextricable, an emphasis is placed on the aesthetic value of the label. Rather than merely being a means for a release to see the light of day, a netlabel's image is a part of its sound, an vice versa. But the act of releasing music freely doesn't signal a lack of quality control. If anything, records are more likely to be released because of their quality, not because they are expected to make money.

Tasty Morsels

Its design is minimal (as is, sometimes, its music) and its releases are free. Tasty Morsels has a beautifully distinctive identity made up of pastel colours, low-key media presence and understated, somewhat spiritual music.

Eleven minute mini-album trees etc. is a divine and peaceful minimalist work. This morsel's ingredients are clarinet, keyboard, and some perfectly placed field recordings. The record progresses seamlessly, more of a continuous piece of music than individual songs.

There is something very vulnerable sounding about 'The Past Tense'; its gentle vocals (bent in pitch on the word 'strong') and understated melody kept from collapse by a keyboard ostinato.

Activia Benz

In contrast with Tasty Morsels' soft spirituality is Activia Benz, a label that is bold and loud. Its Soundcloud page is seemingly infinite library of distorted dance music, ranging from bubblegum pop to trap. The label's graphic design is consistently stunning: each release has its own visual 'set' consisting of perfectly composed and electrically-coloured objects.

Late Ride's 'Swear' centres on a sample from Pink-E-Swear's kinda-mainstream criminally overlooked pop failure 'Swear'. Its bouncy synths and kick drums pitch it in the middle ground between bubblegum pop and juke.

This track is a boy-girl duet about finding love in a fairground. It is almost sickeningly cute but there is something so appealing about it. The lyrics are wordy and sung in a breathless manner, vocalising a hugely catchy, theatrical melody.

PC Music

The much talked about and seemingly confusing, given the misconceptions about it, label PC Music was far and away the greatest musical success of last year for me. Since this time last year the label has evolved massively, signing a deal with Columbia Records in the Autumn of 2015. With its success has come a great influence on underground pop (see Activia Benz, just above!), unsurpirisng considering the label/collective's incredibly distinctive sound (high-pitched vocals, restless synths, big melodies). Still, its releases vary greatly - some are abstract experiments, others are straightforward chart bangers.

Hannah Diamond is PC Music's popstar, the past and future combine. A throwback to the commercial of the 1990s and early 00s but equally so forward-thinking and revolutionary. Her song 'Hi' is to me, like 'Laplander', sad - a song about loneliness! The song's strength lays in its chord progression (there is one particular chord in the chorus that melts me) and in Diamond's non-linear, acrobatic vocals.

Probably my favourite song of the year, easyFun's 'Laplander' is totally deceptive. Journalists and Soundcloud commenters alike label it as happy or fun, but I hear things differently. To me it is crushingly sad. The lyrics read like an argument ("baby if your life's just a love affair count me out", "don't say I didn't warn you in advance") and the song reaches this absolutely breathtaking cathartic climax where it descends and ascends and descends and ascends. The melody is awesome but the emotion takes it to another level.

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