Hey guys, just wanted to introduce myself and share the short version of my story ☺️.
My name is Michael and I've started out as a songwriter for BMG Publishing in Germany. When I realized that "a signature sound" had the same high value as a great hook, an awesome line of lyrics or melody and was perceived as a significant part of songwriting (especially if you try to pitch a whole production 1:1 in EDM for example) I digged deep into the rabbit hole called sound design.
I essentially began creating sounds for my own daily production work. I decided to share what I've learned over the years regarding songwriting, music production and sound design and to bundle presets and wavetables in sound packs. These are a few reasons why I launched a sound&sample label called SparkPackers last month.
You find a "link in bio" where you can download a Free Sound Pack for Xfer Serum.
In the following weeks I'm looking forward to put out a "7days ON..." series with articles about different stuff I've always be interested in (like creativity) and Tutorials about Serum and music production.
Let's connect and follow me here on Instagram.
Back in my kitchen finally! Cooking an authentic beef goulash. Had a fantastic two days away, had a lot of fun, naturally! Happy as a bean! 😉😎😁
Just three days to go before our third appearance at Southampton Pride! As ever, we are extremely excited and humbled to be a part of such an important and inclusive event! We'll catch you there Preachers and until then #KeepSpreadingIt! #soproud
There is transformative power coursing through the 12 songs on Emily Alone, the new album from indie-folk project Florist. It’s not loud or showy or self-serving or generous. It’s just there, simple and plainspoken, waiting to be engaged and willing to move through anyone who needs it.
Presumably, that’s what happened to Emily Sprague, the singer-songwriter named in the album’s title. Last winter, she wrote and recorded Emily Alone during a period of isolation and personal reflection spurred by the death of her mother and a move across the country.
On Emily Alone, Sprague strips down her songs to their barest elements, leaving only her voice, words and plucked acoustic guitar to carry the message. What’s left is not just bedroom-recorded confessional music, but pure introspection, confusion, and emotion rubbed raw and exposed to the world. These songs are not sad so much as they channel the ebbs and flows of life lived inside a human brain with startling accuracy.
“I write and I read / I spend time in the sea, but nothing brings clarity to what makes me me,” Sprague sings in “As Alone,” the album’s opener. She knows enough, though, to comfort herself from the second-person point of view later in the song: “Emily, just know that you’re not as alone as you feel in the dark,” she sings over and over as her guitar seesaws back and forth between two chords.
The songs on Emily Alone sound similar to one another. But listen closely and you’ll find their subtle differences. There are tracks that are more melodic, such as “Moon Begins,” with its hypnotic finger-picking and airy chorus about death and love, and “Now,” which pairs the album’s catchiest melody with a traditional-sounding folk-guitar pattern. On “Ocean Arms,” Sprague hangs the faint drone of a synthesizer behind her whispered vocals: “Why do I feel so happy when I stare at the ocean?” she sings. “Then devastated when I stare at the ocean?”
Does this sound like something that would appeal to everyone? Perhaps you have to be in the right place for Emily Alone to impact you fully. But if you’re there, you’ll feel it. And if you’re not there, that’s OK. When you’re ready, Florist will be there waiting for you.
“I got high expectations. You’re gonna have to get this right”. On her highly anticipated debut album, Mabel opens with what seems to be a sentiment aimed at herself more than anyone else. A rising star in the UK’s music scene, the 23-year-old comes from a musical dynasty so the pressure to perform comes down on her twofold and, thankfully, she doesn’t let us down.
There’s a natural coolness to Mabel. Raised in Sweden by her parents Neneh Cherry – yes, the Neneh Cherry of Buffalo Stance fame – and Cameron McVey, who produced albums for Massive Attack and All Saints, and carrying a north London twang, she had no chance of being anything but compelling. Where most artists her age would have had to cut their teeth on cutesie tunes for a younger audience, she cuts straight to the chase with this slick and very mature R&B album.
"Don’t Call Me Up," a dancehall-inspired pop rocket, is undoubtedly one of the songs of the summer – nay, the year – with its anthemic chorus and cataclysmic, bass-heavy breakdown that causes a tremble on the dance floor. Using attitude as armour, she delivers an all or nothing stance on the pulsating and self-destructive "We Don’t Say," which sounds like a response to the narcotically-charged music of The Weeknd, and running off a recharged playground chant and clap beat, she taunts a lover into giving her more on "Selfish Love."
On ballads like "Trouble" and "I Belong To Me," she lets down her guard and gives an insight into her more sensitive side. In these raw moments, she cuts back on the low-slung, slurred affectations – ones that Ariana Grande favours on her latest albums – and puts more power into her vocals.
Very much a zeitgeist pop star, Mabel has tapped into the unfazed pop style that singers like Dua Lipa, Rihanna and, more recently, Billie Eilish have been flooding the charts with for the last couple of years. Unfortunately, this means that the production on the album feels too safe or too familiar at times. Few songs on the record pound as hard as "Don’t Call Me Up" but as she progresses in her career, hopefully she’ll stop riding the popular chart trends and will soon be the one who creates them.
“Slow Mover” is more than just one of the titles on Australian singer-songwriter Angie McMahon’s exceptional debut. It also describes her measured and deliberate career so far.
But despite the simmering burn it took to get here, and the unhurried roll out that makes Salt one of the most anticipated releases by a new artist, the final product was worth the wait. On the opening track, you get a microcosm of McMahon’s approach to her career and music. It starts with the ragged unaccompanied strumming of an electric guitar as McMahon whispers the lyrics immediately enticing the listener into her sphere. Drums and bass then gradually enter as momentum builds and McMahon’s husky yet reserved voice raises like a ghost taking human form as the track closes like it began. It’s an unexpected way to open an album. But as these unusually constructed songs unwind and McMahon’s vocals take the spotlight, it’s clear she’s an artist forging her own path.
It takes until the third track, “Keeping Time,” for the pulse to increase into a more indie rocking style as she nearly howls “I’ve done me harm” as the band thumps behind her. Her songs twist, turn, revolve and unwind eschewing standard structures; it’s music played by traditional instruments never quite assembled this way. There’s drama and power that’s never forced or affected.
McMahon’s songs are about relationships, not exactly unique subject matter. Still, the way she expresses herself lyrically and especially vocally forges fresh, introspective and painfully personal ways of addressing the topic.
The ten tracks lead up to a closing, seven-minute epic “If You Call” where McMahon again dissects a romantic entanglement with “I’m putting down the habit … of looking back on all of it and wishing I had done better” as she both whistles and moans the words against raw acoustic strumming. It’s a practically solo performance that feels as if you’re sitting in her bedroom as she unravels the tune for you only.
This is clearly an album to be absorbed, perhaps alone, as you read the words and let the music wash over you, taking you places few singer-songwriters dare to explore, let alone those on their first albums.
Hip-hop's good guy has a confession to make. Yes, Chance the Rapper — the church-going, gospel-inclined, typically chipper MC — has learned the hard way about being a better husband. On "We Go High," a key track from new LP The Big Day, Chance reveals fresh blemishes on his seemingly squeaky clean image. Over forlorn horn samples and high-pitched percussion that pops and clunks in grippingly distinctive fashion, Chicago's golden boy spits about transgressing and drifting far enough from his wife that she treats him like she's "celibate" before nimbly rhyming that word with the "elephant" haunting every room of their home.
It's but one of the many fearlessly soul-bearing, sonically unique highlights on this 22-track LP. Chance spits unflinchingly vulnerable bars on "Do You Remember" and "5 Year Plan." He also balances the trouble-in-paradise revelations of "We Go High," with the martial bliss of "Found A Good One (Single No More)," making for a viscerally relatable narrative.
Not merely one, but two indie rock gods grace "Do You Remember." Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard offers a reliably earnest and heart-wrenching chorus, while the alpha to his omega, Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) serves up distorted snippets of backup choir singing, like gusts of wind that'll send shivers up your spine.
Megan Thee Stallion steals the show on the mellow "Handsome" with gleefully empowering lines like "Bad bitch with a lot of options / After me, it's really hard to top it."
The guests offer a vast spectrum of sounds to The Big Day, ensuring its hour-plus runtime never bores. En Vogue's turn on "I Got You (Always and Forever)" brings '90s New Jack Swing back to life with an elegant vengeance, while the aforementioned "Do You Remember" would fit snugly on both any indie rock and hip-hop playlist.
So yes, 22 tracks is a lot. But unlike other lengthy recent rap albums (*cough* Scorpion), The Big Day has enough ideas, sounds and flows to justify its vast breath. What's more: it finally gives us a glimpse at Chance's multitudes, letting us accompany him to the altar and the confessional, instead of restricting him to the pulpit.
The singer-songwriter’s debut LP, Freya Ridings, combines six previously released singles and six new offerings. Ridings showcases the fact that she’s written all 12 songs herself, collaborating along the way with in-demand producer Greg Kurstin (Maggie Rogers, Adele) and others. Ridings’ admirable creative control gives the album a cohesive tone and thematic scope, but it also permits stretches of repetition and the occasional cliché. Though she explores heartbreak and longing by probing surprisingly dark corners of her psyche, the album’s steadiness of vision renders the product of that exploration somewhat monochrome.
Opener “Poison” greets the listener with a coy fake-out: Ridings begins with a delicate piano melody hinting at a somber, stripped-down track in the vein of “Lost Without You,” but after a suspended chord at the end of the first verse, the track exhales into a tantrum of thudding drums, anxious string bowing, and dramatic keyboard chords.
In Ridings’ songs, love is torture, and crushing on someone is a form of noble suffering. Motifs of fire and blood run through her lyrics, conjuring a gothic atmosphere that draws the listener in but also starts to feel predictable. “Castles” and “Love Is Fire” create upbeat self-empowerment anthems out of this intensity, while “Blackout” and “Ultraviolet” find Ridings in her comfort zone, dwelling in romantic angst at the piano.
Although Freya Ridings suggests room for growth, it also hints at the artist’s willingness to tread new ground, even if it feels a bit shaky at first. The striking “Holy Water” suggests an instinct for stylistic experimentation that remains latent on some of the album’s more monotonous tracks. With handclaps, tambourine shakes, and energetic backing vocals, the song references religious revival music to conjure a satanic vision of romantic obsession: “You keep me holding on / To the devil that I love in you.” Ridings possesses plenty of innate talent but, equally as important, a willingness to take risks that are necessary for creative evolution.
Inner Monologue II is filled with tales of insecurity and despair which are set against uplifting melodies, clever and witty arrangements.
The extended play opens with "17" where the singer-songwriter muses on how life and love is easier when you are at that ‘in-between’ age.
The track sets up the feel of the rest of the virtual disc. By the time you reach the end of track three, "Hurt Again," you find yourself feeling so much empathy for the voice you are hearing and the stories it tells.
In "Body," the fifth track, Julia explores the warped perspective of one’s self and emotional fallout when your view clashes with that of others, especially those closer to you. It’s heart-wrenching.
As the EP Steam rolls towards the closing, the tide starts to turn and you get a glimpse of the singer’s anger. With "Priest" and "Shouldn’t Have Said It" you feel the fury and ultimately the remorse. The collaboration with ROLE MODEL, "Fucked Up, Kind" is the most commercial of all the tracks with its beat and chord progression. It is perfectly placed, but Julia still doesn’t stray from the theme of her inner voice.
The lyrics are centred in self-deprecation and are defeatist in nature, which plays perfectly with the soft and understated tone of the vocals. Julia, or the character she may be embodying, has had a tough time, but those turbulent conditions and a perfect emotional storm has given birth to true musical inspiration. There is youthful angst without screaming or shouting, there is sadness without tears and there is a sorrow without bitterness.
The feel of the eight tracks is very much a reflection of the title; there is a feel that, at times, you are privileged to hear the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist. It’s not always an easy rider, but the journey is worth taking.
This is in no way your typical paint by numbers chart hit assured mix, not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s rooted in pop, but it is much more. Greyer and colder than you’d expect from the genre. Julia Michaels smashes you against her rocks with siren songs and as you slip below the surface you are submerged by the dark side of pop.
Late Night Feelings does exactly what it says on the tin, as it elicits reminiscent feelings of past affairs and heartbreaks over the course of the album. Simply lie back, dim the lights and listen alone, as a sense of longing shrouds you in a haze, and memories of lost loves lazily float to the surface.
Aptly described as a collection of “sad bangers," the project is a series of lyrically heart-wrenching tunes backed with powerful beats and complex guitars, plus a touch of Mark Ronson’s infamously eclectic mix of sounds and effects.
"Late Night Prelude" ripples fancifully with a menagerie of far-flung strings into title track "Late Night Feelings" with Lykke Li, the already much-loved groovy number, comprising of steel drums, pan-pipes and funky bass. "Find U Again" introduces Camila Cabello for an oozing, cheese pop number. "Pieces of Us" is a woozy tale of subtle limerence backed by distant, ethereal synths as King Princess croons, “All of my love, swing and a miss when we talk”.
YEBBA brings honeyed, gospel-funk infused harmonies on "Knock Knock Knock" before launching into the wistfully soul imbued ballad "Don’t Leave Me Lonely." She continues her journey of desire and muted despair on "When U Went Away" before Alicia Keys and The Last Artful, Dodgr pack a poignant punch, trading verses on "Truth." "Nothing Breaks Like a Heart" is an infectious, country-tinged track reminiscent of First Aid Kid, and melds flawlessly into the eerily upbeat "True Blue" with Angel Olsen’s indie folk hums.
Whilst the album alone is a standout piece of work - and perhaps some of Ronson’s finest to date - particularly in its stunning composition, richly diverse sound and endemic melodies, what is most notable about this record is his choice to work with such a beautifully divergent range of female artists from all walks of life; this creates the project’s uniquely divine temperament.
Ronson’s ability to tap into each artist’s strengths and dig out their particular prowess allows each voice to shine through and own each individual track.
This is what elevates the record to a guaranteed award winner and a truly empowering listen.
Banks has always used her own pain to create art. On her debut album Goddess, the US singer laid her emotions so bare that it made for an often uncomfortable listen. Her 2016 follow-up, The Altar, explored how much of the pain Banks experienced was her own doing – a battle between self-love and self-criticism.
On her third album, III, she opens with a battle cry. “Till Now” is backed by sinister, alien sounds and a dramatic drum rattle that cuts through the tension like a knife: “I let you push me around til now,” she asserts. You wonder if she’s talking about another person, or her own internal conflict.
The record frequently switches in tone: Banks can be both formidable and vulnerable, accusatory or filled with regret. “Gimme” demands sex and refuses to be shamed for it; “Contaminated” mourns a toxic relationship that can’t be saved; and “Stroke” is a bitter riposte to a man emulating the Greek figure Narcissus – laid over a funk guitar riff.
Production is lush, from the rich piano and hip-hop beats on the Paul Epworth-produced “Hawaiian Maze” – a track that reminds you that Camila Cabello’s hit 2018 debut probably owes a lot to Banks – to the Latin-influence on “Alaska." For “The Fall," she emulates her former touring partner The Weeknd and enlists R&B crooner Miguel – his light, effeminate vocals intertwine with hers so they become virtually indistinguishable.
III is Banks’s most cohesive album to date because she’s no longer restricting herself to exploring one feeling at a time. The way she has structured this record takes the listener through the complicated yet nuanced emotions of a woman who has recently learnt to accept everything she feels. She embraces her pain, and as a consequence is able to let it go.
Will Young gained respect by not doing predictable covers and by forging his own path with the career solidifying single "Leave Right Now" and his second album, Friday’s Child. He gained creative control and freedom by stepping away from Simon Cowell’s dated approach.
After years of almost-great albums and some striking singles ("Leave Right Now," "Who Am I," "All Time Love," "You & I"), Young finally put out an album that justified his talent show survivor status with 2011’s Echoes. It was a classy mix of moody electro-pop ballads and heartfelt sophisti-pop upbeats. Teaming up with genius producer Richard X was a smart move, and it accentuated Young’s talents. After switching labels, Young returned four years later with the muddled 85% Proof — an album that felt like a backwards step, despite a few highlights and some great videos.
Young is back with Richard X and some of the songwriters he worked with in the past. Lexicon shares some similarities to what made Echoes so rewarding.
Recent single, "My Love," sets yhe tone with its funky wobbling bass-line, bubbling synths and infectious chorus. As before, he takes his cues from some of the greatest pop music, old and new. The spinning synths and balearic atmosphere on "Forever" is another strong single candidate. Young’s impressive falsetto on the chorus is joined by a delicious house-piano line.
The subtle funk on "Ground Running" is a nice shift, with its gritty guitar-line and bouncing rhythm. Young sounds cool and confident as he sings,“trying to drag me down, trouble gonna come my way, we can hit the ground running." "Freedom" is a standout thanks to Young’s lovelorn voice — it recalls Erasure at their most naked. The chopped up vocals and sliding keyboards in the chorus are an inspired bit of futuristic pop. The rolling piano-led rhythm on the gospel influenced "Faithless Love" blends with Young’s confessional lyrics — “I sold my soul when I took the wrong road home”.
Lexicon isn’t quite the revelation that Echoes was, nevertheless it’s a strong release from someone who has battled depression and anxiety to find musical passion again.
Kylie Minogue’s pop prowess is unquestionable. Back in 1987, few would have imagined the fresh-faced Neighbours star would embody the mass commercial appeal necessary to sustain a long-term career in a fickle music industry. Yet, 32 years and 14 studio albums later, Minogue is releasing a "definitive collection;" from the early SAW-drenched "I Should Be So Lucky" to the mature, country-inspired sound of more recent singles such as "Dancing," this was always going to be a gloriously joyful, if not slightly incoherent, anthology.
Step Back in Time is Minogue’s 13th compilation album and by far the most comprehensive with 42 tracks. It is testament to her enduring success that there are literally no fillers and no deluge of new singles, the only one being the excellent "New York City." This truly is a compendium of pop success – a "How To Ride The Unsteady Waves of Popular Music for Dummies" if you will.
Nothing symbolises Minogue’s ability to sustain and reinvent like opening number, "Can’t Get You out of My Head," the biggest selling single of her career. Released 14 years after "I Should Be So Lucky," the song continued the commercial revival that followed the wilderness years of the late 1990s, in which Minogue pursued a different, more indie-inspired sound to limited commercial success before reverting to type, complete with impossibly tight golden hot pants (we’re looking at you, "Spinning Around"). Ironically, it is precisely on tracks from the Impossible Princess era of 1997-8 that Kylie’s most intimate, reflective and critically-acclaimed work is found. It is, though, largely absent from Step Back in Time, the only exception being the outstanding "Breathe." This feels like a missed opportunity to demonstrate the Australian’s versatility; "Did It Again" sandwiched between "2 Hearts" and "Red Blooded Woman" now, that would have been pop precision with an edge.
Step Back in Time has something for everyone. This, combined with the sheer volume of Minogue’s 32-year repertoire inevitably makes any compilation album somewhat incongruous. It’s best not to overthink or overanalyse what is essentially a joyous retrospective of some expertly crafted pop creations.
With his butter-smooth two-octave vocal range, megawatt smile, and candid, sincere commitment to portraying millennial love—replete with boozy Uber rides and text-message mind games—Khalid has swiftly become a pop fixture, carving out a place on the Billboard charts. But there’s a sense of guardedness, an almost antiseptic quality, to the 21-year-old singer’s produced-to-perfection R&B. And on his sophomore effort, Free Spirit, he can’t seem to shake that predilection for playing it safe, despite the album’s calls to lose our inhibitions and be free.
Whereas his 2016 debut, American Teen, played like the soundtrack to teenage romance and misadventure, Free Spirit sees Khalid embracing more mature self-inquiry, albeit to hackneyed effect, as he does on “Self”: “I’ve ran away for miles, it’s gettin’ hard for me to breathe/‘Cause the man that I’ve been runnin’ from is inside of me.” And no less inspired are lyrics like “So if you’re gonna love me/You gotta love all of me” (from “Bad Luck”) and “Life is never easy when you need it to be/Try to knock me down, but I get back on my feet” (from “Hundred”).
Free Spirit brims with potential radio hits, like the broody, laidback “My Bad.” The Disclosure-produced lead single, “Talk,” is bright and electric, with a galaxy of heavily textured synths underpinning the track’s buoyant chorus, in which Khalid shows off his seemingly effortless falsetto. Multiple tracks, however, feature the same reverb-drenched guitar and airy synths, sucked dry of vitality by too-pristine production. For a burgeoning artist still establishing his signature style, Khalid settles into a surprising complacency here, failing to experiment with the template of his debut.
Perhaps it’s because, at 21, his journey is just beginning. But with all of the lyrical platitudes that abound on the album, the cover art of which depicts the artist overlooking a desert from the top of a dusty van, Khalid’s coming-of-age odyssey feels more like an American Eagle ad than a documentation of an authentic transformational experience.