Salme Dahlstrom is a marvel. She not only writes, performs and produces dance music that is irrepressible, but she licenses virtually everything she does to TV or movies, so you have probably heard her music even if you don’t know it. Which means that chances are, Salme Dahlstrom is a part of the soundtrack of your life.
And that’s a good thing. Her music can hum in the background while you go about your day with a little extra energy and bounce, or it can shimmer in the foreground as you notice it’s 4 am and you are still dancing. Either way Salme’s tunes are is not only the best party music on the air today, they are also the creation of an experienced artist and as such they demand attention on that level as well as on the dance floor. Salme is a woman so confident in her talent that she long ago transcended pop’s angst to produce music that is intelligent as well as hooky, sophisticated as well as accessible, and always fun to listen to. And with the release of Pop Propaganda 2: Retro Funk Soul Junction, there is even more Salme to enjoy.
Pop Propaganda 2’s hooks and beats and courageous mixes are non-stop fun for both your feet and your mind. Salme transcends pop and takes us to a new planet of musical addiction. Hooked is an understatement.
And there is much to enjoy on PP2, starting at the top with a love song with attitude, Love +Shine, carried with signature 60’s rock guitar riffs, steady, sophisticated drumming, efx guitars and her precisely modulated and tuned voice, including a falsetto, which raises the ceiling of whatever room you are in. This is Salme at her most glorious: trippy, precise, confident – even cocky by her own admission - and a bit psychedelic. You can parse the words, you can analyze the effects, you can delve into the inspiration, but one thing you can’t do is sit still.
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The next song is the single, “Pop Yr Heart Out”, but I am going to leave that until the end because of a courageous experiment she does with it on the album. “Superfunky Babes” a seemingly pure dance number celebrating summer party time, was written to be the “ultimate summer song” invoking visions of rooftop dancing in the sunshine. But, as with all things Salme, there is more. The genesis of the song is convoluted – the title came first, then the verse melody with the line “Superfunky babes walking the street”, then the chorus, a lyrical work-around. The result is a song about women dancing and walking sensually that is not sexual – a neat trick and one necessary to keep the song a celebration of summer and not a riff on female body parts. She pulls it off with intelligence and fun.
“Bodies in Motion” follows and is exactly what it claims. High energy funky drums, tuned lyrics , Cole Williamson backing vocals; it does what is says – keeps your body in motion with pure fun funk. “Rocking the Spot” upshifts the energy, downshifts the funk and swirls in the 60’s. Intricate drums, fast-paced lyrics, a call and answer partying vibe colored with a 60’s na a na na, nan na come together expertly. The production is spot on, as is the production every song on the album, very layered, very high gloss, very professional but accessible.
The bonus track, “Barcelona Babe” comes at us from a seeming other world, as Salme’s pure, feminine voice beckons us with hey, hey, hey there. When we come she seduces us with sound effects and a three-layered drum beat heavy on the lower end kick and toms. Lots of fun, both for her, as she played with her new Nexus 2 for the effects, and for us tapping our feet and whirling under the flashing lights.
The heart of the album to me was “Pop Ur Heart Out”, done four different ways. Taking up almost half the album with the same song done in different styles is a risk than only the supremely confident Salme could or would take. But even riskier was how she did it. She sent the initial single to three other artists: the San Francisco-based glitchhop duo Spekr Freks; the wildly prolific music producer DJ Phunkae; and Eugeny Lobanovsky, the dubstep artist known as Quadrat Beat. What she got back – and put on her album – are three very different, and very entertaining versions of “Pop Ur Heart Out” ranging from the glitch hip hop style of SpekFreks, to a very sexy rendition by DJ Funkae, to a totally unique and wonderful sped up dance take by Quadrat Beat. An act of courage on her part that paid off in great dividends for her fans.
But that is what you get with Salme – courage, talent, excitement, energy and everything done to the highest standards possible. She is pure New York. Pop Propaganda 2 radiates the city’s diversity and energy; you can hear the rooftop parties, the basement raves, the living streets of New York in every song. It’s no wonder; Salme is quintessential New York energy and work ethic; he plays every instrument, writes and sings every lyric and produces every song herself, pouring her essence and her ethic into each line and note and riff.
Taken individually, each song on Pop Propaganda2 can stand alone as either a rock-‘till-you drop dance number, or a joyfully listenable social commentary. Taken together, they combine into what should be at very least the dance album of the year.
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