Katz: 8 Amazing Piano Moments In Modern Pop
MELBOURNE musician Katz’s debut EP Waterfall represents his first foray into “hazy” electronic music – but his roots are in jazz.
“For me it always starts at the piano – my instrument of choice and writing companion for over 20 years now,” he says. “I’m a sucker for harmony, and I don’t think there’s a solo instrument around that can articulate it better. It’s therefore no surprise that I’m drawn to pop/electronic music that features, or cleverly uses the piano.”
From Kllo to James Blake, Sampha to Lorde – these are just a handful of his favourite piano moments in modern pop.
Since their second EP, and to my delight, Kllo have been using increasingly more piano in their music. The piano is simultaneously the backdrop and the feature of this ballad. The drums don’t even enter until two or so minutes in, and when they do, it’s with a degree of restraint that few artists wield as well as Simon [Lam]. Couple that with Chloe [Kaul’s] floating vocals and you’ve got me.
‘Green Light’ is ultimately about a breakup, but boy is it uplifting. The verses and pre-choruses feature a couple of sparse, three-chord piano progressions, which ardently support Lorde’s compelling vocals, and then things get really interesting. The choruses are super dance-y and I think that has as much to do with the piano as the four-to-the-floor kick drum. The piano is perfectly bouncy, and depending on how nerdy you want to get, may or may not constitute a key change.
This is probably the gold standard for me in terms of electronic music with piano – and it’s a cover. The trip-hop drums and sub-bass come in and out, but that piano holds the whole track (and me) together. As for the seconds of near silence between verses? That’s confidence.
‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’ might have been the obvious choice, but I think that ‘Indecision’, off Sampha’s Dual EP, is some of his finest piano work. There’s no hiding when a song is fundamentally just piano and voice, and Sampha need not try. The smokey vocals in the bridge and the ad libbed outro seal the deal for me.
Engineer/artist/wunderkind Andrei Eremin (aka Ghosting) made an entire mixtape reimagining the soundtracks of classic Studio Ghibli films. Fortunately, those soundtracks feature some stunning piano themes. It’s Miyazaki meets J-Dilla, and it’s pretty genius.
Jack’s instant-classic piano chord progressions over a hip-hop drum break. I couldn’t ask for more. Jack writes the kinds of chord progressions of someone who has, but choses not to flaunt, some serious jazz/gospel chops.
I love so many things about this “emo-hop” song. The ingeniously simple, filtered beat, the way Drake can turn a phrase, and of course, that piano. A four-chord loop that seamlessly turns on itself. It’s unwavering for the pretty much the entire song, but it seems to never get stale.
This track just feels really good. Plain and simple. There are at least two piano parts playing at the same time, there’s Jack’s heavily Auto-Tuned (in a good way) vocals, there’s live bass with some gnarly runs, and there are these infectiously syncopated claps over the hip-hop backbeat. For a song about leaving, it certainly makes me want to stick around.