Grow Up is a new single from Alexandria, VA-based hip hop artist, Woazy. Woazy has a decent flow and youthful delivery, while his lyrics are clever, catchy and engaging. Featuring a mellow, end of summertime vibe, the ambiance is chill. The pacing is still has enough juice to where you can dance to this jam if you’re in the mood. I really enjoy the beat, which has a very old school and pleasant tone. It really frames the track nicely and matches Woazy’s reflective, stream-of-consciousness style. Grow Up takes some creative twists and turns, incorporating some rather choice snippets and samples about 3/4 of the way through the song. Woazy has a lot of releases under his belt. He has a memorable name, and his authentic and unassuming demeanor will win over audiences who prefer enjoyable, artistic songs over superficial hype.
Eleven Women is a new solo album from artist, Steve Kilbey. The songs feature some unique musical backings, which oscillate between melodically bright and broodingly mysterious. It’s difficult to even characterize the overall tone. It’s just very enigmatic and thought provoking. In terms of mainstream comparisons, the “ambiance” is adjacent to that of artists like Chris Isaak or Leonard Cohen. It’s not quite alternative but not quite pop rock. Eleven Women has more of a polished, post-punk feel, yet with a mellow, coffee-house rock pacing. As the title suggests, the album features content-rich songs about 11 different women (give or take a woman). The artist is best known as the singer-songwriter and bass guitarist from an Australian band called The Church. He’s also a poet, writer and painter, which explains how these songs contain such fascinating and coherent narratives. He really hooks you in, and I found myself wanting to listen to this album multiple times to gain a deeper understanding of these women and their situations.
The Sand Reckoner is a new album from the group, Last Charge of the Light Horse. First off, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the beautiful album cover, which caught my eye immediately and is a genuine work of abstract art. I would hang this album cover in my living room. Musically, the album has a classic rock’n’roll vibe. The vocals are reminiscent of garage rock legends like Lou Reed, while the guitars are organic and have a slight “bluesy” and occasionally psychedelic quality to them. Last Charge of the Light Horse basically blends the heart, spirit and songwriting talent of iconic 60s-70s rock albums with improved production values and a 21st century, approachable sound. The performances are strong. This is one of those albums that college radio DJs would fall in love with. It’s a great, grass roots release that has enough creative surprises in store to distinguish itself stylistically from its inspirations and influences.
Look Out Below is a new single from Nick Sumner and the Assistance. The song is basically alternative rock but with a nice clean sound and excellent vocals. The fact that the singing on here is so good almost catapults this out of the gritty, alternative genre and into something more refined like adult contemporary, and yet,it still manages to rock. Featuring a rich blend of melodic guitar riffs, dynamic vocals and a robust beat, Look Out Below is powerful and invigorating. The vibes really kick into high gear about 3/4 through as we’re treated to some elaborate guitar interludes and deliciously crunchy tone. Really, this is a solid, straightforward song that’s professional and ready for prime time radio. These guys know what they’re doing.
Vanilla Parfait is a new single from The Pierce Project, and which appears on the recent album Songs for Emi. This beautifully quirky indie pop song features catchy melodies and charmingly innocent vocals. It’s like one of those jingles you’d hear in a breakfast cereal commercial during Saturday morning cartoons, only with a little more avant garde cred. The lyrics express a playful fondness for the iconic actress, Marisa Tomei. The song is instantly memorable and could easily become a viral indie classic, in the spirit of jams like The Moldy Peaches’ Anyone Else But You. Although, Vanilla Parfait strikes me as being more advanced musically and impressively complex in terms of songwriting. Delicate piano playing, a likable voice and an overall bright ambiance will carry this song a long way. I definitely think Marisa would appreciate Vanilla Parfait, if she hasn’t fallen in love with the track already.
Dictators Die is a new album from Denver-based producer, Meace. What distinguishes Meace from a lot of hip hop and chillwave oriented producers is that he has a lot of classical/traditional music training, which he incorporates into his recordings. The songs on Dictators Die demonstrate a heightened level of musical competence and creativity. With the blending of so many elements and styles, it’s difficult to even pin down this music’s particular genre. Acoustic guitar is combined with “loungy” piano melodies, stylish beats and profound vocal samples. My favorite component to the sound landscape is the synth elements. The synths are just very ethereal and and enchanting and enhance the songs with an analog, retro-futuristic quality wherever they appear.
Despite the provocative title, the album’s messaging is more subtle and abstract, allowing the music and samples to do the talking through mood, tone and ambiance. According to Meace, the album “tells the story of my own journey to music production competence, but in a larger sense it tells the story of me becoming my own person and escaping the traumas of my childhood.” In this sense, the term “Dictators Die” isn’t necessarily referring to a literal dictator, but could be interpreted as escaping the forces that have controlled us or kept us from reaching out potential since we were young. These forces could be represented by actual individuals that have oppressed us in our lives or merely our own “mental” limitations we’ve imposed upon ourselves, or perhaps even some combination of both.
One of the more intriguing tracks is Patterns, which features a kind of dreamlike, 70′s scifi intro that pulls you in like a tractor beam. The intro actually reminds me of soundtracks from films like, Android (1982) and Saturn 3 (1981). It’s reflective and desolate in a charming way. The action slowly builds, and the mix becomes more involved the song is energizing and vibrant. Choose Your Family is one of the few recognizably “hip hop” jams on here, and it spices things up just at the right time and rounds things off nicely.
While this album could technically be considered lo-fi, the production quality is pretty advanced. It sounds more like a solid and stylish stereophile-tier recording than something that was recorded on an old, garage sale purchased Fostex 4-track. Having said that, it does have that authentic, avant garde appeal that’s typically associated with lo-fi music. There’s genuine artistry and structure as well. This isn’t just a hodgepodge of stuff thrown together in a musical collage. Meace’s instrumental training and technical skill allows the musical aspect to keep pace with the album’s intellectual momentum.
Beast is a new single from critically acclaimed artist, Yolanda Arrey. The song has an epic, almost theatrical style of presentation. With it’s creatively complex songwriting structure, elaborate production elements and impassioned performances, this was clearly an ambitious project. This makes sense when you realize the video for this jam is intended to be a tribute to Michael Jackson’s iconic classic, Thriller. It succeeds wildly in this endeavor, both in the theatrics as well as the musical substance.
Yolanda’s vocal style is incredibly distinctive. It’s like if you were to cross Enya with Whitney Houston, and throw in a bit of The Temptations’ wholesome charm. Bottom line though, is that Yolanda Arrey is a phenomenal vocalist and performs to a very high standard. While there is a plethora of musical variety in the mix, Yolanda’s powerful voice drives the song from start to finish.
In terms of content and aesthetics, Beast incorporates slightly dark undertones and seemingly “demonic” motifs as part of Yolanda’s underlying message, which is that “we should embrace our whole selves, even the parts we find a little scary, to be our best.” Thematically, this is achieved by coupling visually ominous imagery with the song’s bright and uplifting tone. This same duality exists in the title itself, as the term “beast” can conjure images of vicious animals but is also associated with boldness, and even the most beastly creatures have a sentimental and loving side. Anyway, this entire musical escapade is impressive, professional and I predict it will be extremely well-received by the general public.
Can Do is a new single from Atlanta-based afro-fusion/afro-pop artist, CtrlT. Released hot on the heels of his recent track, Star, this latest effort explores the concept of human potential. The song was inspired by a dancer whom CtrlT came across on social media and thought was extremely talented. This experience manifests itself in the song’s narrative, which consists of the artist asking a talented dancer what she “can do.” Thus, it is not really just about what moves she can currently do, but about getting people to think about aiming for the limits of what is possible for them to achieve. You have to respect how CtrlT strives for emotional and intellectual depth in his music, rather than just settling for superficial and cookie-cutter pop creations. This is genuinely poignant material. Can Do is slated for official release on 9/23 and will be available on all major platforms.
Fire and Ice is a single from international artist Wendy Halo. The song—which has already amassed more than 50,000 plays on Spotify—blends elements of pop, R&B and dance and is quite catchy. The mix is energizing and packs a little more musical punch than the average pop song. It has an underlying “smooth groove” to it well. This is a romantic track, as the fire/ice dichotomy serves as a kind of yin and yang metaphor for how opposites attract and engage with one another. Wendy’s vocals are passionate, charismatic and brimming with an electric vibrance. Her spark will definitely “fire up” audiences. Ultimately, this is a solid and straightforward pop song with enough creative aspects to give it its own distinguishable identity.
Hittin Chicken Skins is a new single from hip hop artist, Trileon ThaGod and appears on his latest mixtape IAmTrileon. This jam is smooth. Trileon has a casual flow and his voice has a naturally pleasing tone. His performance is actually a great example of how you can immediately tell when some rappers have a high skill level even with they’re not backed by millions of dollars and mega corporations. Trileon has great timing, which is especially impressive as he amps up the intensity at certain points of the song. The beat is fresh, melodic and has a classic, analog cassette quality reminiscent of those you hear on the most respected hip hop tunes. Trileon has really good taste in my opinion and this is top-tier underground hip hop. He has apparently been making music since the late 2000s, and his experience shows here.