Weekly Staff Picks #1

kssu staff pick

Welcome to KSSU’s inaugural weekly staff picks! This is where our DJs pick their current favorite song and artist from recently released music. We will feature 5-6 songs that are currently on our radar. Stay tuned every week to see what we pick, maybe your favorite track will be selected.


Staff Pick 1: Lucy Morales

Boss Selection – Wouldn’t it be wild, Volume 1

Boss Selection is the moniker for the seasoned world wide producer Sunny Levine. With Quincy Jones as his grandfather, he certainly is no stranger to living up to large expectations. Under Boss Selection, he has produced a mixtape inspired album with 12 different artists successfully using crowdfunding for all the costs. My personal favorite from the album is “wouldn’t it be wild” featuring Orelia. It’s an unboastful chillwave like track that becomes infectious without even being conscious about it. It’s the best kind of song to pop into your car to relax after a long day.


Staff Pick 2: Jerel Labson

Kanye West – Ultralight Beam, The Life of Pablo

Of course this has to be somewhere on the first KSSU’s Picks Of the Week! Hearing this first track play at the Yeezy Season 3 fashion show really set the bar and got me ready to hear the rest of TLOP. The instrumental is beautiful. The occasional drums also really get me going. Having The Dream, Kelly Price, and the choir literally taking us to church was amazing to hear. Chance the Rapper’s verse was possibly the BEST verse on the album as well. Donnie Trumpet backing the second half His flow and biblical references (“Got my ex looking back like a pillar of salt”), just DOPE. I could go on, but I have no more words. Just listen to it. One more note… Can I consider this as a Christian song??


Staff Pick 3: Cole Nelson

Stone Sour – Love Gun, Meanwhile in Burbank

My song of the week comes from the album Meanwhile in Burbank… by Stone Sour. Released in April of 2015, this album features hard rock covers of classic rock and metal artists. My favorite out of the album is their rendition of KISS’ classic song, “Love Gun.” Stone Sour’s version features heavy use of a grunge sounding guitar along with a strong drum line while still retaining that classic rock/disco vibe that KISS is known for. “Love Gun” is one of the better covers of a song I’ve heard recently and recommend it to those who like the original tune with a bit of a kick to it.


Staff Pick 4: Angelina Rios

Bomba Esteré – Soy Yo, Amacer

Bomba Esteréo is a Colombian band that formed in 2005. With the recent release of their new album Amacer, the track Soy Yo is nothing short of excellent. With a catchy beat, its traditional Colombian instruments have a contagious effect and it’s hard to resist dancing in your chair. This track represents respecting and accepting one another for who they are. While the band does not wish to conform to one genre of music, they can best be described as having an electro base with Cumbia and dance elements as well.


Staff Pick 5: Anne Thorp

Daughter – New Ways, Not To Disappear

Daughter is the name of a three-person, London-based indie rock group, together since 2010. Their EP ‘Not To Disappear’ came out in 2014, and this March they start an already mostly sold-out North American tour in major cities across the U.S. and Canada. New Ways is the first track of the EP, and soundly embodies all that is good about the entire album. It’s moody, the vocals ethereal, with an edge of grit in the guitars and drums that speaks of the kind of disjointed, worn cynicism modern life frequently brings. It reminds us, as singer Elena recites, that sometimes we all feel we need new ways.  


Staff Pick 6: Claudia Rivas

Charlie Hilton – 100 Million, Palana

Charlie Hilton, lead singer for Blouse,  released her debut solo album Palana on January 22 via Captured Tracks. The album was produced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait. The album includes “100 Million”, which I’ve been playing on repeat for much of this week. The track was produced by, the band Woods’, Jarvis Taveniere. The song features vocals and music by Mac DeMarco. The track sounds folk-like, similar songs by Beach House and She & Him. Hilton’s vocals are much like Zooey Deschanel in this song, light and dreamy. Lots of simple guitar chords and settle drum background occur as well. Reminds me of a tune that would play at a modern Woodstock, hippie festival. It’s a song that will keep most fans of this type of music in a good mood.

Charlie Hilton’s solo-debut “Palana”

charlieThe line between a musician’s work and themselves, their stage persona and their identity, can often be hard to discern. It’s something that can even become unclear for the artist themselves.

For singer Charlie Hilton, the decision to give her birth name to her debut solo album was a way to maintain her identity instead of merely shoving it “under the rug,” as she told SFGate. “I was running away from this other version of myself – at least that’s how you feel when you change your name,” referring to her birth name “Palana.”

“Palana” as an album is a clear extension of independent label Captured Tracks’ recent success with the laidback music of acts such as Mac DeMarco, DIIV and Blouse. The New York-based label has previously released two albums with Hilton and her band Blouse and, in some ways, “Palana” feels like it could be a continuation of the band’s work.

In terms of tone, Hilton agrees that the album is melancholy and goes on to say that it deals with “inner-conflict.” But, “Palana” ultimately takes on the tone of a relaxing mid-morning as it incorporates dreamy synths over either a drum machine or live drums and a multitude of guitar tones. The whole album ebbs and flows between feeling upbeat and sleepy.

With “Palana,” Hilton and Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait achieve 11 tracks of nostalgic sound in their production.

Beginning with its title track, “Palana” instantly becomes a dreary reflection-of-self before launching into track two, “Something for Us All.” Here, the tone of the instrumentation immediately picks up with three drum-driven beat changes, including a breakbeat in the middle of the song. Hilton’s lyrics, however, maintain their somber tone (“If happiness is something for us all / Then go ahead and tell me what it’s like”).

The following track, “Pony,” contains a very straightforward metaphor (“Get off my back, I’m not your pony / I’m getting tired of what you’re handing out / You think you know, but you don’t know me”), and serves as a good representation of the album’s simplicity. It’s a simplicity that mainly works to Hilton’s benefit when expressing such heavy subject matter.

There are moments on “Palana” where the album’s simplicity begins to work against itself, most notably during tracks four through seven, which feel lackluster compared to such a strong opening and ending. Track seven, “Let’s Go to the Party,” ultimately becomes the repetition of the line “I’m only happy when I’m dancing for you.” Although it is a strong statement when contrasted against the earlier “I’m only happy when I’m dancing with you,” the line itself doesn’t properly sustain the last half of the song.

Hilton and Portrait quickly regain their composure with the following track, “Snow.” At a much needed moment in the album, a saxophone is introduced to the instrumentation providing an interesting jazzy quality to the song and giving the album a renewed sense of energy. Track nine, “The Young,” also implements a saxophone, but to less success; here, it almost sounds out of place in various moments.

“Palana” ends on a more carefree note with the track “100 Million.” It features Mac DeMarco on guitar while howling his backing vocals. The track cements Hilton’s words to SFGate, the sentiment that her melancholy tone isn’t a problem and that it is, in fact, “just natural.”

Despite its flaws, “Palana” is overall a well-put-together album. It is an introspective look at the identity of an individual and a confident solo-debut. And, like any good individual, its positive attributes outweigh its missteps.


Emiliano is a dj on KSSU