The American electronica underground is experiencing a bit of a renaissance right now, and it’s undoubtedly because of artists like Seattle-stationed CEEM, whose mixture of electronic pop, club music and emo makes for a groundbreaking sound in his latest single, the sensibly dark “Better Than That.” In this song, CEEM takes DnB textures and melds them into his silky synthpop melodies to create an anthemic, but wholeheartedly emotive, soundtrack for the summer. While “Better Than That” isn’t the easiest single to categorize by conventional genre standards, its dynamic amalgamation of stylish beats and flamboyant vocal harmonies just might be one of the most original combinations that you’re going to encounter this year.
From a lyrical perspective, this song has a lot more in common with classic emo in the style of Embrace and Sunny Day Real Estate than it does the somewhat artificial wave that dominated Top 40 radio in the 2000’s. CEEM never goes beyond self-awareness here; I get the impression that he’s not trying to play us an elegy with “Better Than That,” but instead introduce us to a surreal commentary with an emotional bend. This isn’t the misanthropy of AFI or The Used – on the contrary, what CEEM has made in this track is substantially more thought-provoking.
These synth parts have got to be among the most organic that I’ve heard in 2019, and though they aren’t the only melodic component in the instrumentation here, they’re probably the most defining. There’s no hollow echo in their harmonies, nor any tinny tonality that they contribute to the big picture; there’s just an even-keeled cadence between a singer and a cerebral sound that seems to have been destined to find him during the recording of this most recent composition. It’s not often said about pop singles that lack string instruments, but “Better Than That” is an endearingly warm listen, regardless of the setting in which it is consumed.
I would have adjusted the EQ on the vocal to make it pop a little more in the chorus, but I suppose that I can understand why CEEM decided to go with another formula instead. If he indeed wanted to set himself apart from the crowded talent pool of indie electronica artists this summer, I can see where he wouldn’t want to put as much (if any) serious gloss over his verses in this single. That’s essentially what everyone from New York to Los Angeles has been doing this season, and had he done the same, “Better Than That” might not have been as memorably unique as it is in this state.
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Though I wasn’t very familiar with the extensiveness of CEEM’s work before hearing “Better Than That” for the first time recently, I can guarantee you that this won’t be the last occasion on which I review his material. CEEM demonstrates so many skills both in front of and behind the soundboard in this song, and for an artist that hasn’t been active in a number of years, that’s nothing to scoff at. I’m excited to hear more from his forthcoming sophomore album this fall, but in the meantime, this track is one heck of a summer spin.
The music of CEEM has been heard all over the world due to the radio plugging services offered by Musik and Film Records. Learn more – https://musikandfilm.com
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