In recent years, Soundcloud has become one of the foremost music streaming sites, launching new and emerging artists at a rate unmatched by other hosts. From this crowd of talent, music critic Tess Michaelson chose her picks for the best of 2015.
5. Joomanji — Touched the Ground
With no shortage of Latin flair, drums and a jazzy melody sweep through Joomanji’s “Touched the Ground.” An almost baby-like voice, half-swallowed, pronounces words like they are instruments in and of themselves. It is smoooth yet crisp as tip-toeing melodies encircle a surprising rap. The song is nicely layered without feeling thick. It is flirting. And ends with a velvety plea.
4. Capital Steez — Emotionless Thoughts
Capital Steez, who committed suicide at the age of 19, is the revered lost member of rap group Pro Era. “Emotionless Thoughts” seems to capture a bit of the tortured grittiness of the artist’s mind while remaining cool. With a melodic, swaying under-layer, Capital Steez delivers a tune that feels as much like a high school rap-battle as it does a deeper depiction of the triviality of living. His raps are smooth yet confrontational. The song feels at once fresh and common, boastful and self-aware. It is smart in its juxtaposition of sounds and layers, ending with interludes of speech that seem to turn the song inside out. An old TV plays cartoons in the back of an old, run-down deli.
3. Seramic — People Say
It starts eerily, almost ghostly. Then comes a tumble of weight as a slippery, soulful voice breaks through. The song feels intimate, taking you in, creating corners in which to cower against the exaggerated world. It is strong and rugged but also warming. Lyrically and sonically, it caresses the fringes of uncertainty, leaving nothing else to say. Both modern and soulful, Seramic’s “People Say” feels like an anthem to the everyday.
2. Babbit — Painting Greys
Babbit’s “Painting Greys” is slow and shadowed. It begins simply, with a single voice and a constant beat. Stripped of all else, it immediately punctures. Slowly, a more voluptuous sound creeps in; a soft nest forms. Purely techno interludes break in like a burglar, turning yearning sound into a choppy escalation. The melody falls and rises as singular, drop-like beats emerge at the moment of a breath, then glide into an emotionless plea. “Painting Greys” feels at once cold and deeply emotional. It is heavy and singular — clean, exact and inconsolably sorrowful.
1. PLC — Sunday
PLC’s “Sunday” is easy but thick. It is slow like the summer and dances between happy and sad. It is jazzy yet careful, wrapping you in an air that is so sweet it cries. An earnest voice mumbles its everyday, tragic beauty through a delightfully cool melody. “Sunday” tops this list not because it is the most dramatic or unique, but because of its ability to seamlessly seep and swim into the fragility of flesh — holding you without touching you.
Of course it feels strange to order something that is all about disorder, but here you have it. Unbridled by fame and attention, these Soundcloud finds feel more resonant than better-known tracks. They are not merely a picture of life but living itself. I like these songs; I like listening to them when the world feels loud.
Contact Tess Michaelson at Tess18 ‘at’ stanford.edu.