Kat Reviews Some Tunes: January 2022

Hiya! I am someone who has been a fan of Monstercat for a really long time; I first discovered the label back in like, 2012, then rediscovered it around 2016 and remembered that it slaps. Furthermore, much of the music that got me through some difficult and dramatic life changes a few years ago came from Monstercat, so I have a great deal of gratitude for them. I originally thought to do this project at the start of 2021, primarily as a way to keep track of stuff I particularly like. Each year, a "Best of" album is released, and the tracks on it are determined by community vote. I voted in 2020 and, because I didn't keep track (and also because that year you could only vote for 10 and I can think of at least 15, maybe even 20, from that year that I voted for or should have voted for), it was hard to choose! However, near the beginning of 2021, they acquired Silk, and with Silk came a METRIC CRAP TON of songs. It was too much for me to keep up with, so I shelved the idea. Until now.

Why are you blogging about music on a gaming forum?

Well, first and foremost, so that IAN will stop bugging me to write posts and earn that sweet "Wrote a Blog Post" badge. Kidding! But in actuality, I'm doing this because one can indeed find Monstercat music in games like Rocket League, Beat Saber, and Just Shapes and Beats (there are others; one of which is actually mentioned below). So there's a relationship here! This totally counts!

Some disclaimers

I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert reviewer, critic, or musician. I have never written anything like this before. I have not performed as a musician since high school band. I have had, in college, one music history class. It was about rock and roll; neat course. I might still have my notes somewhere, but that's about it. So, uh... please don't judge my use of phrases like "cool bass stuff tm," as seen below. Haha. What I can say, though, is that I enjoy actively listening to music and thinking about what I'm hearing.

All opinions expressed are my own. I am not affiliated with Monstercat or any of their artists (although I should really restart my Gold subscription so you can hear these bops for yourselves on my Twitch streams; hashtag self-promo), and I am not getting anything out of this other than keeping track of my faves (and also that sweet writer badge).

My lists will probably be pretty heavy on Uncaged, since that's what sucked me in, in the first place (and it's closer to my taste in music in general). It will also likely be light on Silk, because I personally don't often get much out of an attentive listen to music from Silk. It does happen! But mostly, I think it's great music for studying, working, etc.

By design, the number of songs I review in any given month will be fluid. For instance, this month I've got nine. Next month I could have four, or I could have, like, 14.

Lastly, the list is in order of release.

What on earth are Uncaged and Silk??

Monstercat releases under three different imprints. Uncaged is the first (and the original), and it's for heavier, more energetic stuff. The next, which I haven't mentioned yet, is Instinct. Its primary focus is on more melodic, emotional stuff. And Silk was formerly its own thing but merged with Monstercat in March 2021. Silk's thing is big chill vibes, generally speaking. Of course, like many creative works, there is a lot of overlap and these labels are fluid.

Now, on to my picks!

Conro, "find u."

1. Conro, "find u." (Instinct, 1/7)

On first glance, this song may sound like mid-2000s alt-rock, circa, say... 2007? And almost, like, mainstream and a little pop-y? idk I'm old. But anyway, my point is there's more to this than meets the eye at first. Dude's got a great voice. The instrumentals are very strong as well; they complement each other nicely. And honestly? I've listened to this like four times since starting to write this post and have picked up on different elements each time. According to the artist, he wrote this during a particularly dark time in his life, and that's the core idea in the lyrics—but also, that one might find that light in the dark... very relatable. And this isn't the first time he's tackled this topic. (I also really identify with "The Small Things," which he released in 2020; there's a bonus for ya. :) )

Aether, "Airborne"

2. Aether, "Airborne" (Silk, 1/7)

This tune starts out pretty chill for the first, like, 30 seconds, as Silk songs tend to do. But don't let that deceive you! It's actually a drum and bass song in disguise. (I may or may not have realized when compiling this list that it's like 80% drum and bass lmao) Yet still somehow nice and chill. The way everything comes together is truly impressive. I also particularly appreciate the middle section, from about 1:35. The keyboard-percussive sound really adds a lot to it, I think.

Sophon and Pegboard Nerds, "Shine"

3. Sophon & Pegboard Nerds, "Shine" (Uncaged, 1/10)

New-to-Monstercat Sophon teams up with long-beloved Pegboard Nerds with this absolute delight. The initial buildup is just lovely in a way that feels, well, happy (and honestly, that feeling carries throughout the entire track for me). Then it goes into some Cool Bass Stuff (tm). Just all-around a fun track. Very similar vibe to a lot of other Nerds stuff, which could maybe be because one of the Nerds is also a member of Sophon. Neat, huh?!

Fransis Derelle featuring Saysha, "Shapes"

4. Fransis Derelle feat. Saysha, "Shapes" (Uncaged, 1/17)

According to Fransis (I paraphrase him here), this song is about getting through the hard parts of life, letting go of trauma, and remembering that everything is going to be OK. 2021 was a particularly difficult year for me, and I must admit that I teared up the first time I heard this. I think the message is really going to resonate with a lot of people. I know I needed to hear it. Additionally, Saysha's vocal style for this piece has a very anthem-y feel to me, which just makes it even more powerful. The instrumentals do a great job at not crowding out the vocals, yet the breaks keep you tuned in.

CloudNone and Direct, "Arms Race"

5. CloudNone & Direct, "Arms Race" (Instinct, 1/18)

My first thought upon loading this track was "Wow, this should be in a video game!" Like, I don't know how to explain why I feel this way other than "vibes lol." The first, oh, 30 seconds or so just feel like select-screen music to me. And then about 45 seconds into it, the bass starts and it's so interesting. How it builds on the motif established in the first 30 seconds. By the way, CloudNone and Direct collaborate a lot, so this song may sound familiar: It feels to me somewhat similar to "Margarita" (released 2020), which was on the Forza Horizon 5 soundtrack.

OddKidOut and Marlhy, "Bittersweet"

6. OddKidOut & Marlhy, "Bittersweet" (Uncaged, 1/24)

Big, big fan of the melodic line in the chorus. The song goes light on the instrumentals in a few places—but they are still clearly defined and well done—and when combined with the vocals it almost sounds spooky in places. And I am HERE FOR THAT. But what's really cool is the way the song messes with your expectation of what you might hear. For instance, the lower pitched response near the beginning might sound like it's leading to something that'll go REAL hard. And it does go real hard—but first, there's the light-yet-spooky vibe I described above. My only complaint with this song is that it's so short! It packs a LOT into those 2 minutes and 37 seconds though.

Caster, "Shadowblade"

7. Caster, "Shadowblade" (Uncaged, 1/27)

So... is this one in osu! yet? But seriously, this track goes places. Listen to the first minute, minute and a half. Rhythm game challenge mode vibes, no? Keep listening. Still has that vibe, but with distortion now. So, OK, we have a banger. Gotta clear the air, cut the tempo in half for a bit. What could possibly come next? You know what, I'm not going to spoil it. Go listen. You'll know it when you hear it. (If you don't know it when you hear it, the PLOT TWIST is at around 3:24.) Of course, all of this is not to say this isn't a cohesive track. It is, and it's also a banger. A banger that goes places. Face-meltingly good stuff here.

A.M.R and Lumynesynth, "Unfinished"

8. A.M.R & Lumynesynth, "Unfinished" (Silk, 1/28)

This song opens with a really nice section that almost sounds like it could be from an old movie (disclaimer: this could be because the visual that goes along with the song looks like it is from an old movie). Either way, it's just such a nice touch. The vocals fit in well, too. Almost ethereal, kinda reminds me of the vocalist in "Skyline" (Karma Fields, released 2015). The drum work is subtle, but I like it. It nearly escaped my notice! And lastly, the final minute or so of the song—moving from "feeling so unfinished" into "so much more to finish"—evokes a lot of emotion.

hayve, "Between the Lines"

9. hayve, "Between the Lines" (Uncaged, 1/31)

Everything about this song is so intense! I love it. Even before the drums kick in, there's just this sense that something big is coming. What I think is really cool is that the concept of the song sorta goes through two iterations; the second half is somehow even more intense than the first. Also: A riff snuck its way in there that reminded me a little of Protostar (if you're familiar with his work, check out about 1:40 and let me know what you think!), and Protostar is awesome (so if you're not, check him out!). I recommend listening to headphones with this one in particular, just as an aside.

So there you have it! Some bangers (and some bonus bangers). Hope you enjoy. See you in early March for the next set of delicious, delicious tunes.

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