The key: Just do what you want
Filip Nikolic and Jeffrey Paradise of Poolside try not to take themselves too seriously (the band's name comes from a small backyard pool house in Los Angeles). The duo converted it into a recording studio in 2011.
"We just made the tracks we were in the mood to hear for ourselves," Paradise told me. Nikolic had previously played bass in Junior Senior and Ima Robot, while Paradise DJ'ed in San Francisco after leaving a band that would eventually become The Rapture. After coming together, they coined the term "Daytime Disco" to describe their sound.
Sunny and effervescent, yet cool and minimalist, the duo's funky guitar riffs, thick synthesizers, and congruent production made for a sound that was both hypotonic and nostalgic. Poolside represents how everyone wants to feel in the summer: confident and relaxed, joyful yet introspective. "It's just become the lens that we get to interpret all of our favorite sounds through," Paradise said of the self-proclaimed genre.
The duo's first project Pacific Standard Time was full of swagger and emotional musing. "These thoughts they keep on dancing, dancing in my head," Nikolic sings on "Just Fall In Love." "They're right here on the surface, but still remain unsaid." After the project's release, the band toured for two years straight, slowly building up their fanbase. As more people started to listen, Poolside began to pull away. "We began this project for fun and once it took on a lot of significance to us and our fans, it was honestly pretty tricky to write music that was relaxed and carefree," Paradise said. The duo took a year off to see if this was something they truly wanted to continue. "After that year, we felt almost like we were a new band and that we didn't have to chase that momentum." Poolside released Heat in 2017, a project that seemingly encapsulated what they always wanted their sound to be. The production was tighter, but still conveyed the feeling that comes with lounging by the water all day. "We had to consider the people who supported [us] and [our] art," Paradise said. "And keep in mind that we have to deliver them something authentic and real from the heart."
Poolside is all about the particulars, but at times their undeviating identity has been prone to criticism. "There is ostensibly nothing wrong with writing lifestyle music, wrote Pitchfork of PST, "even if the lifestyle is so narrow that you actually call yourself Poolside." But the specificity of the band is what makes them so reliable. "Some clichés are true!" Paradise said. In "Can't Get You Off My Mind," the slow, brooding track only has one lyric: "I can't get you off my mind." While ocean waves lap in the background, the duo sings this phrase in a harmony that, while quite literal, is still cathartic. At the moment when summer ends, we yearn to relive those experiences; but when all that remains are foggy memories, is there really anything else left to say?
Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area, Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.
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Every year, there are more than 100 songs that are worthy of being included in a Top 100 Songs of the Year pop list, but once you get through all the songs you have to include from all of your major stars—your Taylor Swifts, your Rihannas, your Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl Citys—100 just isn't as big a number as it seems like it should be. Therefore, there are always a handful of artists and songs that get unjustly snubbed in a Top 100 list.
Here's a playlist of ten awesome songs we just couldn't find the room for this year. Sorry guys—it wasn't you, it was us.
DANNY BROWN, "GROWN UP"
A short, sweet look back from one of hip-hop's greatest characters of recent years on his truant younger days, reflecting on how things turned out way better for him than anyone could have imagined (concluding on the song's hook, "Who ever thought I'd be the greatest growing up?" One of the year's most adorable music videos helped this one seem even more charming.
BRAD PAISLEY, "SOUTHERN COMFORT ZONE"
NASCAR broadcast and Jeff Foxworthy samples kick off Brad Paisley's epic ode to his land below the Mason-Dixon line, which both pays tribute to the region's many virtues and (duh) comforts, but also acknowledges that Paisley "can't see this world unless I go / Outside my southern comfort zone." (Though he qualifies that by saying "I know the road I leave on / It will always bring me back." At over five minutes in length, and encompassing gospel choirs and guitar solos and a steadily crescendoing emotional swell, "Zone" is one of the most ambitious country songs of recent years, and also one of the most satisfying.
BAT FOR LASHES, "LAURA"
The lead single and theatrical centerpiece of Natasha Khan's (a.k.a. Bat for Lashes) acclaimed The Haunted Man, "Laura" is an absolute showstopper, with dolorous piano and strings providing the appropriately dramatic backdrop as Khan wails "You're the train that crashed my heart / You're the glitter in the dark / Oooh Laura / You're more than a superstar!" Is it about Laura Palmer, murdered vixen from '90s TV show Twin Peaks, as theorized by some? Doesn't really matter all that much.
FUTURE FEAT. DIDDY & LUDACRIS, "SAME DAMN TIME" (REMIX)
How 'bout Future? How 'bout Diddy? AT THE SAME DAMN TIME! Future already had one of the hip-hop hooks of the decade with his "Same Damn Time" single, but the Diddy-and-Ludacris-featuring remix—always a good idea, by the way, even for the latest Train or Karmin single—just takes it to the next level. "See sometimes in life, these motherfuckers take your kindness for weakness," Diddy rhapsodizes on the intro. "So sometimes in life, you just gotta blow their motherfuckin' faces off." Too true, Sean.
PORTER ROBINSON, "LANGUAGE"
One of EDM's most talented wunderkinds—they just make 'em younger and younger these days, don't they?—20-year-old Porter Robinson crafted one of house's great opuses this year with "Language," with gloriously contrasting layers of synth and piano hooks making the vocal that eventually comes in halfway thorugh the song's six-minute runtime totally superfluous. Look out for this guy in 2013.
For more jams that just missed our Top 100, including Kirko Bangz and the best new song from a TV show this year, click NEXT.
POOLSIDE, "SLOW DOWN"
As intense and uplfiting as "Language" is, that's about how laid back and chill-inducing Poolside's "Slow Down" is. The song's sparse lyrics are very explicit towards this message—"Slow / Don't move so fast / Slow down / Let this feeling last / Relax..."—but you don't even need the lyrics to tell you that, the song's synths and screwed-down beat are so fucking tranquil. "Slow Down" the audio equivalent of one of those dumb Corona commercials—no matter where you are or what you're doing, you're unwinding at the beach (or pool, we suppose) whenever listening.
ELLE VARNER, "REFILL"
One of the year's most indelible and singular R&B singles, largely thanks to the presence of an extremely unconventional instrument providing the song's main hook—is that actually a fiddle buzzing away on Elle's slow jam? Against all odds, it works beautifully, helped by Elle's ecstatic, loved-up vocal, and a predictably excellent, lush beat from the underrated Andrew "Pop" Wansel. Perhaps 2013 will be the year of the Hot 97 Hoedown? We're excited.
CONNIE BRITTON & HAYDEN PANETTIERE, "WRONG SONG"
The music on Nashville has been generally up and down between convincing would-be country hits and obvious fictional creations missing a crucial element or two for legit 21st-century mainstream country, but best of all was the first duet between the series' two stars, Rayna James (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), the kiss-off anthem "Wrong Song." Somewhat ironically, Panettiere (who plays the show's ambitious-but-unproven up-and-comer) far outperforms Britton (the show's established elder statesman), but the song is good enough to carry both artists, a believably clever and exhilarating tune assuring a cheating ex that if he's expecting the two to sing a "Stand By Your Man" type ode, "you've got the wrong song."
KIRKO BANGZ, "DRANK IN MY CUP"
An appropriately woozy, hypnotic jam given the subject matter, Kirko Bangz already seems to be something of an afterthought in the hip-hop community, but "Drank" will always guarantee him a place in the hearts of 2010s hip-hop fans, with one of the year's most enjoyable stoner jams. "I ain't trying to love you, baby, just fuck you instead." Honestly always appreciated, Kirko.
WALK THE MOON, "ANNA SUN"
If you wanted to bet on a pop/rock group to break out in the Neon Trees or fun. style over the next few years, Walk the Moon would probably be a good value, with an enormous sound, an impressively refined pop sensibility, and perhaps most importantly, the backing of a major label in RCA. "Anna Sun" shows how close they already are, with one of the year's most rousing choruses: "Do you know this house is falling apart / Can I say this house is falling apart / We got no money but we got a heart / We're gonna rattle this ghost town!" They'll be used a lot on whatever MTV's next I Just Want My Pants Back-type attempt at original programming is, anyway.
Got another couple songs you were angry were excluded from our Top 100? Think "Same Damn Time" should've been top 20, minimum? Tell us about it in the comments section.