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Source Material 

August's best in music features two young forces of pop and a surf-rock-meets-spaghetti-western instrumental album

When worlds collide in music the stakes are high. You have multiple fan bases involved, which means more people to please. Sometimes your sounds or styles don't mix. That's why choosing collaborators is an important and risky task. This month two gigantic names of pop music pulled together for a successful and exciting rework: Sir Elton John and Britney Spears went and flipped some of John's older classics, "Tiny Dancer" and "The One," into a thrilling and danceable duet that is actually pretty fun to listen to. This mashup is Spears' first piece of new music since her 13-year conservatorship ended in November. I'm not sure if this marks a full-fledged return to music for Spears, but it's a moment a lot of people are taking joy in, and the reception to "Hold Me Closer" has gone over really well.

With so much pop music in the air, it seems fitting that two of my local selections for this month's Source Material are from young singers following in that line. Check out these local highlights from August below and a few other albums you should listen to.

Locals Bin

"Surf Yachats" - JJ Haaga

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The latest instrumental project from JJ Haaga is a collection of surf rock mixed with a bit of country western vibes. Throw this on and you'll find yourself yearning for a kickback on the beach or to take on the biggest wave of your life. "Swell" in particular is one of the more relaxing-sounding tracks, whereas album-opener "Coral '22" makes you feel like you're going James Bond-mode on a surfboard while escaping from an evil doctor chasing you on a boat. Whatever movie this album is, I want to see it. On the album's closer, "Chair," Haaga throws in natural sounds of the ocean and air blowing by—I can practically taste the salty winds.

"Flying" — Olivia Knox

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When it comes to dreams and chasing passions, sometimes you just have to go for it and let go of your reservations. Oliva Knox's latest track, "Flying," is the ultimate pop-anthem for finding that self-confidence. Knox wrote this about "Flying" on Instagram: "It's about going after something knowing you might fail. It's about focusing on the dream instead of the things that might be holding you down in the moment. This song is about believing in yourself."

The song is bursting with optimism and energy, all while Knox's sincere lyrics are backed by peppy guitar and drums. "Flying" shows that Knox is continuing to experiment within her sound, this time utilizing what sounds like a vocoder to play with some really cool vocal effects at the beginning of the chorus. This song premiered on 107.7 The Beat last week, and I'm sure we'll be hearing it on the Central Oregon airwaves for many more weeks to come.

"Bad For Me" - Austn

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The last time I wrote about Austin Brown (artist name Austn) was to cover his debut EP back in 2019. Talking to the Bend native back then revealed his love for unique songwriters in music and how he was excited to be in L.A. releasing music. He was just 16 at the time. Since that EP Brown has released a few other singles, his latest being the bouncy "Bad For Me." In it he details a relationship that might not have the best track record, but it's still a love that's hard to let go of. You can hear more maturity in Brown's voice as his smooth tone and vocal range feels even more powerful than before. It's his most polished release yet.

Five Other Albums You Should Listen To:

• "Cheat Codes" by Danger Mouse & Black Thought - Boom bap rap from a pair of legends

• "Get F*cked" by The Chats - Aussie punk from the Sunshine Coast

• "Pre Pleasure" by Julia Jacklin - Soft alt-rock filled with compelling songwriting

• "Reset" Panda Bear & Sonic Youth - Psych pop with influences from the '50s and '60s

• "90 In November" by Why Bonnie - Indie rock, shoegaze and Americana

About The Author

Isaac Biehl

Isaac is living proof that "Iowa Nice" is actually a thing. A journalism graduate from Iowa State University, he regularly writes about music, the outdoors and the arts/culture scene. Isaac loves the Trail Blazers, backpacking and a good IPA. He plans to one day win Survivor. Your move, Jeff Probst...
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