Once a week at roughly 12pm Pacific Standard Time on Monday, a gentleman by the name of Clark Dinnison releases a mixtape of 10 carefully curated songs that are making big waves on his radar. This is Noon Pacific.
Noon Pacific // 202
- “Leo Islo” by Golden Grave — Big squelchy synths, a smooth, bumpin’ bass line, and… jungle noises? R&B type vocals, sultry and smooth. Background vocals are affected and ethereal. You’ll find yourself bobbing along to the mix, but it’ll end without you realizing it and not leave you feeling particularly fulfilled.
- “Grey Luh” by Berhana — This song makes me think of a more pop-minded Soulive. It’s a relatively sparse track, dominated by the vocals, drums, and piano (and bass later), with relatively few accoutrements. It’s downtempo, groovy, and sexy. And yet, despite being such a different song from the previous, it’s basically the same — it plays, you bob, it sends, you go on with your life.
- “daydream (ft. JOBA)” by medasin — Throbbing organ-like synth and falsetto vocals (which are quickly autotuned) start this track. The first chorus there’s a breakdown of sorts — the organ gives way to dubstep-esque synths and, interestingly, some gorgeous marimba work. It’s really quite a nice juxtaposition. Unfortunately, this song goes the same route as the other two, fading into the background and ending without making any real impact.
- “Gold Feeling” by Golden Suits — Straight off the bat I’ve got my ears perked up at this song. Whereas all of the previous were electronically minded, with R&B or R&B-like vocals, this track has a decidedly more rock-like aesthetic here that sticks out. The vocals are rich, almost throaty, and free and clear of any effects. Piano and synth bright, sunny synths are the major players otherwise.
- “3AM” by Bad Wave — Squeaky, almost 8-bit synth, steady rock drums (plus a touch of cowbell percussion), and strummed electric guitar open this track. Another bright and sunny track, this one leans toward the synthpop side of things as opposed to a more indie rock vibe. The surprise breakdown about two thirds of the way through really helps this tune stand out.
- “Park That Thang” by XAXO — A heavy bass line relying heavily on couplets underscores what really is very much an ‘80s inspired tune. The vocals are heavily Michael Jackson-esque — I mean heavily. It’s a good tune but, in the end, it doesn’t really do anything. If you heard it at a club you’d enjoy dancing to it, but you won’t be able to describe it to somebody the day after. Oh, also — the lyrics are crazy sexist.
- “West Cost” by Junior Empire — Big classic hip hop drums open this track, but inspiring piano joins it and totally shifts the dynamic. There are two vocalists (apparently) with very different style — one a measured, almost spoken word sort of hip hop, the other a higher pitched, very pop star crooner sort of job. The song is actually very pop in the chorus — inspirational lyrics and vocals, string section, wailing fuzzed out guitar. It all comes together in a really, really nice way.
- “Riding On Your Love (Acoustic)” by J CHURCHER — The song title here definitely tells a little bit of a lie — while there is undeniably an acoustic guitar strumming along sadly, there’s also an electric guitar (possibly a lap steel), plucking and sliding along (also sadly). It’s almost a stereotypical lost love country song by way of a more indie scene.
- “Superman” by KINGDM — This song is a lot like a lot of other easygoing, downtempo synth pop songs. R&B-style vocals (with occasional autotune), steady programmed drums, and a world of synths. It’s a nice tune but, as can often happen, is nearly indistinguishable from any number of others. Not this band’s most inspired Noon Pacific offering.
- “Loves Gone” by Haarlo — The first female vocalist this week (or for a number of weeks, if I’m remembering correctly). The gorgeous vocals — rich and full, with a touch of a nasal tone — are laid over a backing of overlapping, choppy synths and steady drums. Things start to come to a dramatic head at a faux-conclusion about two thirds of the way through, before rebuilding to a final, if somewhat unsatisfying, climax.
Stand Outs: Golden Suits and Bad Wave stand out thanks to their rock-minded tracks “Gold Feeling” and “3AM,” respectively. On “West Coast,” Junior Empire blends genres — pop, hip hop, soul, gospel, rock — and end up with a real gem. And though it ends on a bit of a flat note (figuratively speaking), Haarlo’s “Loves Gone” is a powerful, moving song that mixes traditional pop elements with modern synth sounds.
Let Downs: Like last week, I’m not going to name any let downs today. A lot of these tracks fail to make their own mark, but there’s nothing that I could call “a bad song.”
Verdict: Noon Pacific // 202, like Noon Pacific // 201 before it, drops the ball without actually dropping the ball. There’s a lot of recycled sounds, a lot of songs that kind of just make do with doing the bare minimum. There are a few gems, but most of this mixtape is firmly nestled in the middleground.
Noon Pacific, a labor of love, is updated with a new 10-track mixtape every week. Sign up here — it’s totally free, and you’ll get an email notification every Monday when the new tape goes live.