Other Music of 2017

On computermusicblog.com I did my year-end roundup of the best EDM of 2017. Like any of these lists, it’s a very opinionated list. In this post I want to mention a few other albums I really liked that didn’t make the cut.

There are a few albums that I really enjoyed this year, but weren’t really striking in any way. They were enjoyable to listen to, but they didn’t stand out. Biggest amongst them is probably the new album from Odesza. It’s a fine album, but it nothing in it is unexpected. For me, one of the biggest surprises of the year was the amazing live show Odesza put on to support a relatively mediocre album. Another album that was good, but not great, was Float bySlow Magic. I really enjoyed listening to The Invincible EP by Big Wild, but in the end it just sounds kind of generic.

There are a few other albums that I discovered in 2017, and listened to a lot, but were actually released in previous years. I somehow missed Braincase by Electric Mantis when it was originally released. It’s a dope album of instrumental trap. Also great is the Kindred Spirits EP by Jai Wolf. I managed to see Jai Wolf twice in concert this year because he was coincidentally playing at events I wanted to see. His pure, old-fashioned turntable mastery absolutely dominated festivals crowded by much bigger names, and his EP is worth a few dozen listens.

Last up are the albums that BARELY missed the cut. There were hundreds of great albums released in 2017. Even focusing on EDM exclusively leaves more great albums than I could possibly list. I listened to Full Circle by Oliver probably twenty times. It’s great for getting psyched up for a hard job, or just for getting your hips moving. The new album from Giraffage is also great. It’s an album that really lives up to his previous releases. It feels mellow, sexy, and fun all at the same time. When I saw him live in San Jose, the show was filled with college kids, and that made me feel old. But I think it’s an album that has wide appeal to all listeners to EDM.

And that’s all the other albums from 2017 that I want to talk about.

Okay, obviously that’s not true. I loved so many more albums. LCD Soundsystem made a triumphant comeback. Bonobo released a very solid album earlier in the year. Bonnie and Clyde were the darlings of the internet for a week or two. I thought Sofi Tukker was over-hyped, but then they were terrific live. BVD Kult released a pretty paint-by-numbers pop/EDM track that I absolutely adored. Vitalic released a disappointing album. Jerry Folk released an album that I have very mixed feelings about. Some people from YouTube released some really good music. And someone named Andrew Applepie made a bunch of music that is actually really great in a quirky kind of way.

There was so much great music in 2017. Looking forward to 2018, there is a lot to be pessimistic about. Vladimir Putin seems intent on starting a war. Trump and the Republicans seem intent on destroying democracy in America. But still, it’s going to be a great year for music, and for human culture generally.

DIY Music Branding

Branding, marketing, advertising … they’re necessary evils. Whenever I start a new project I take time to think out the image I want to project. I wish that music could just be music. I wish it could just be sound heard and not seen. But that’s naive. We live in a post-MTV world where music listeners connect their music with a lifestyle, an image, and a brand.

When I started a new beat-driven music project, I was thinking of making trancey electronica under the name of Fynix. So I created a sleek, futuristic logo based on similar designs on groups such as Odesza, and Armin van Buuren.

I’m pretty proud of it.

But after making more music, I have drifted away from trance into a more soul-influenced, keyboard-based style. So the old branding makes no sense.

So how can I connect my image with soul music and soul-inspired electronica? I started by looking at similar acts. I like this art from Faking It by Calvin Harris.

Faking It by Calvin Harris

I also like the branding for Charles Bradley. The image for Spotify Sessions is particularly nice.

Charles Bradley Spotify Sessions

I also want to connect with older soul artists like Sam Cooke and James Brown. Even though my music may not share many qualities with theirs, I want my imagery to put me in the same bucket.

Sam Cooke Wonderful World

After looking at a bunch of images of Sam Cooke, James Brown, Charles Bradley, and some electronica acts, I came up with a few guidelines.

  • Warm colors. James Brown and Sam Cooke use a lot of oranges, browns and reds on their album covers. Using the same color palette will help.
  • Cosmopolitan. Charles Bradley and other funk artists use a lot of images of the city. Maybe this is an artifact of the association with Detroit. Whatever the cause, I’d like to project a cosmopolitan image.
  • Natural Fabrics. Leather jackets are big in the Charles Bradley and James Brown branding. I don’t want a picture of myself in my branding, but if I could connect with something physical that would be good.
  • Sans Serif Fonts. Flat-colored text using basic fonts.

The funk and soul branding also prominently features portraits. Mostly artists looking at or near the camera, with strong lighting. Often the artist is wearing a suit, or a leather jacket. I might do something like this in the future, but I would need a photographer.

For now, I executed my branding guidelines pretty directly. I am from Pittsburgh, so I found a warm-colored picture of Pittsburgh on Wikimedia Commons. Then I wrote “FYNIX” in the middle using a Sans Serif font. Then I applied the newsprint effect to associate my brand with newspapers, which have a real-world physicality that unifies the ideas of the city and natural fabrics.

Here’s the result.

Fynix Branding

I like this because it is legible even when scaled very small, and it looks like the Calvin Harris branding, while subtly calling to mind soul acts of the past.