When Worlds Collide is a new album from Sacramento-based artists, Quentin Quarantino and Snazzzy D. With names like those, you really can’t go wrong. In fact, “Quentin Quarantino” might be the best rapper alias to come out of 2020. While the songs mostly blend elements of soulful R&B and hip hop, there’s quite a lot of content here with plenty of variety in terms of samples and genre artifacts. Some tracks also have an old school analog, organic quality. The bright and melodic Shark Tank sounds like something straight from the golden age of hip hop. It’s just dreamy. The backing music in general on this album is rich with classic warmth and subtle tape hiss/noise.
Snazzzy D and Quentin Quarantino prove themselves to be versatile and capable performers as well. On songs like Financially Stable the vocal delivery has a fluid, conversational feel. Other jams like Social Media Girl contain more straightforward singing (this somewhat humorous track is one of my personal favorites). LoSt TrAcK is another memorable song. It has one of the best melodies on the album, and the performances are stellar. It’s a true gem. There are 13 full tracks on this release, and each one has it’s own distinct musical vibe and narrative theme. I would like to see these artists get a lot more exposure. There are a lot of other decent hip hop artists who can rap or sing well on a technical level, but these guys also have great musical taste and aesthetic sensibilities.
Leave Tonight is a new single from Australian artist, Vyblektro. Based in Sydney, Vyblektro has an eclectic musical background, having played drums in a metalcore band, produced boom bap hip hop albums for various artists, produced complextro tracks, and recorded his own hip hop poetry. This latest jam is an electronic dance track, which has an ethereal and euphoric ambiance. “Vyblektro” is really an appropriate moniker for this artist, as Leave Tonight is brimming with positive vibes. The music has an abstract, meditative quality that’s hard to describe in any terms but as a “vibe.”
The female vocals that front the mix are dreamlike and spiritually soothing. Leave Tonight manages to be energizing while also inspiring feelings of tranquility and harmony. It’s mood music you can dance to. Vyblektro is clearly a versatile and talented artist. You’d almost never guess that this was made by someone who produced hip hop tracks and played in a metalcore band. Great stuff here, cerebral and satisfying.
Pretty Eyes and Blue Levi’s is a new single from Mexican-American alt hip hop artist, Shrt_Lyf. This is actually one of the most creative indie hip hop releases I’ve encountered. Shrt_Lyf oscillates between using English and Spanish throughout the song. The processing and effects on the vocals are unique on this recording in that they are used in a way that they transform the artist’s voice in an avant garde way, rather than simply serve a “production” function.
Shrt_Lyf’s performance is exotic and entertaining. The song has a “performance art” quality, and the accompanying video reveals a complex, abstract narrative. Ultimately, it’s a romantic themed song, featuring sincere, lyrical expressions of passion, inner fears and unapologetic love. This isn’t all a big costume show either, Shrt_Lyf raps rather well and demonstrates poetic prowess. The musical side is enjoyable and engaging. Pretty Eyes and Blue Levi’s is genuinely original, and I think the world is destined to be hearing a lot more about this artist in the years ahead.
Roentgen is a new single from Dallas-based artist, Sonic Radiation (the brainchild of electronic music artist, Todd Last). This latest track is high intensity techno/trance with a pulsating beat and laser beam-like energy. If aliens exist, this is the kind of music I’d expect them to be listening to as their crafts are cruising through deep space. Roentgen is futuristic in every sense of the word. The music blends the energies of atmospheric, antimatter powered engines and mechanical, satellite industrial sounds, while retaining enough ethereal ambiance for the track to retain its spiritual liveliness.
The recording itself is extremely polished and meticulously constructed. Todd Last has been making electronic music for decades and clearly knows what he’s doing. This is the work of a veteran of this genre, not a mere “tinkerer” experimenting with some software he just downloaded. It’s interesting that Sonic Radiation is based in Dallas, as this reminds me a lot of European style techno, both in terms of music and the techno-futurist aesthetics.
While listening to this intellectual jam will give you an instant brain boost, let’s not forget you can also dance to it. The stargate quick pacing will definitely make for a great aerobic workout on the dance floor. You have to admire just how visionary and inspiring this kind of music is, at a time when many people seem less excited about the future and the wonders of the universe. Roentgen is overflowing with energy and musical voltage. This is definitely not “chillwave” music or for the faint of heart. It is powerful and stimulating.
Live: The 2020 Sessions is a new album from San Diego-based band, Tribal Seeds. I’ve reviewed a number of releases that were recorded during quarantine (there have been many, as people have had quite a bit of time on their hands). What’s unique about this album though is that it was recorded live, in studio, in front of cameras for three whole days. So there’s audio and video footage. It’s a fairly substantial release, too. There are 14 full and complete tracks, almost all of which are over 4 minutes long. There’s no filler or padding here.
These guys are all pretty impressive musicians as well. I’ve never been much of a fan of “live” versions of albums, but you’d almost never even suspect this is a live recording. The skill level is very high, and the audio quality is excellent. The band managed to combine the best of both worlds. The songs retain the organic realism of a live performance without sacrificing sonic appeal.
As far as the music itself, it’s basically reggae in the roots style, though creatively presented. The songs often incorporate unique sounds and effects. There’s a surprising amount of instrumental variety and some wild twists and turns. The song Blood Clot is one of the most rock’n’roll jams on here, and even ascends into the realm of “tropical futurism.” Another memorable tune is Fallen Kings, which has a string quartet! My favorite track is probably Rude Girl which has a dreamy, ethereal ambiance. Every song on this album is good, though. You really have to marvel at how much effort was put into this project and just how perfectly everything came out. You can’t ask for much more than this.
Devotion is a new EP from Austin-based artist, Josh Mosier. This album has a very personal and intimate feel, like a live studio performance. The backing music is smoooth, groovy and relatively minimalist. It almost reminds me of soft jazzy rock. Atmospheric synths and retro organ sounds create the perfect environment for Josh Mosier’s vocals to thrive in. His stylishly expressive and soulful delivery channels the energy of classic artists like Hall and Oates (though these recordings obviously have a bit more indie flair and an avant garde ambiance).
The production is better quality than you’d expect from a home studio. It’s organic and rich with analog-like warmth. Devotion is a great example of what can be achieved if an artist/producer has a great ear for audio and doesn’t overwhelm the mix with excessive processing plugins and autotune that contemporary artists feel are necessary for a “good” recording. This is a cozy little EP. With this release, Josh Mosier demonstrates that he has artistic depth, technical ability and great aesthetic instincts.
Lockdown is a new single from artists, Smash and Krishane. This collaborative effort combines elements of R&B, hip hop and reggae to create a richly melodic sound. The track has an upbeat, energizing tone and a tropical vibe. Combined with dynamic vocals, Lockdown’s rhythmic precision gives the song a catchy quality. Brimming with jovial atmospheric bounce, this jam will put a spring in your step. The performances are professional and pop-friendly, yet the music is ultimately exotic enough to carve out a distinctive identity. The mix is smooth and non-abrasive, with processing that maintains sufficient clarity and hits all the sweetest frequencies. It’s not surprising, given that one of the artists, Smash, teaches music production and audio engineering at the Academy of Contemporary Music. You can check out this release on Spotify and follow the artists’ on Instagram to stay up to date with any upcoming projects.
World’s Burning is a new single from Chicago-based songwriter and producer, Brandon Shere. The song blends elements of alternative, hip hop, trip hop and dance. It’s difficult to classify. Brandon grew up all around the US and was likely influenced by a lot of different styles and scenes. While the ambiance is dark and the vibe is mellow, World’s Burning is ultimately a positive and inspirational track with a message of determination and resilience. He leaves it somewhat open for the listener’s interpretation. One could read the song’s message as referring literally to contemporary events (riots, cities burning, COVID, etc), or it can just as easily be related to overcoming any traumatic event or setback in one’s life.
Owing to their presentation and framing, the lyrics are quite catchy, as Brandon proves himself to be a capable songwriter. His voice seems well-suited for this style of music and gets the job done. It comes through nice and clean, too. It’s not all loaded up with autotune and abrasive effects. The recording is robust, and the backing music actually kind of rocking. This is a pretty straightforward and solid jam. You can check out the video below and visit Brandon’s website for more info.
Year of the Tyrant is a new album from Denver-based artist, White Devil. It contains mostly brand new tracks, although a couple of songs appeared on the artist’s prior release, Blame it On the Goat and were moved to achieve “conceptual continuity.” It doesn’t really matter though, because as far as album’s go, Year of the Tyrant is overflowing with action and artistic originality. There’s really so much energy and variety in these recordings, which are both entertaining and wildly unpredictable. The music is satisfying as well.
White Devil claims that the title was inspired by various “tyrants” he encountered during the writing process, which included a combination of those he crossed paths with on a personal level, as well as those public tyrants associated with the year 2020 in general (which has been a rather tyrannical year by almost any metric). The opening track, BLS (It’s Gettin’ Kinda Heavy) is a rave-paced, high intensity dance jam, which reminds me a lot of the early 90s techno I listened to as a teenager. It’s really a solid, attention grabbing opener and will get the juices flowing. Other tracks like Let It Drip have more of an esoteric, collage-like feel. He does a good job of connecting various components, vocals and samples to get a sound that’s coherent and continuous. It’s like the musical version of one of those ransom letters where they piece together various letters and words to form a message. The closest artistic equivalent I can think of to this type of style is Wayne Butane. However, White Devil incorporates more hip hop flavor as well as his own actual vocals, monologues etc.
As in his previous work, Year of the Tyrant includes a hodgepodge of social commentary, and the songs themselves reference contemporary news items and subcultures. For example, he has a track called Boogaloo Boogie which is related to the “boogaloo boys” anti-government movement. The song uses snippets of such individuals explaining their ideology, with a groovy disco style jam serving as the musical backdrop (and a damn good one). The final track is Between The Lines (A Special Message from QAnon) which obviously references the popular QAnon conspiracy. 10 years from now this album will make an excellent current events time capsule for 2020, and it will still be just as enjoyable to listen to.
Decimated Days is a new single from Australian rock band, The Drunk Monks. I honestly could tell I would like this the moment I saw the band’s name. The group was apparently formed just this year, but by listening to their music you would assume they’ve been playing together for decades. They have great chemistry and are obviously musical veterans. Decimated Days is difficult to classify, as it blends elements from a variety of genres. Basically, it combines classic alternative, with retro-futuristic synthwave and subtle hints of R&B style.
Indie bands typically hate comparisons, but the singer sounds a bit like Billy Corgan. The vocals are dynamically delivered and have just the right amount of brooding angst. The lyrics are strangely catchy. Rather than using simple repetition, the vocal delivery methodically creates suspense and anticipation, leading the listener to sense the phrases that are coming up.
The music and pacing of the track are very much reminiscent of 90s alternative and progressive rock, though this recording has obviously been upgraded for 21st century appeal. The synths on this track are simply incredible. From the moment they kick into high gear, they absolutely electrify the mix, creating a powerful and psychedelically rich atmosphere. The song has an impressively complex and fungible structure, while maintaining a cohesive, discernible identity. It never descends into “sound collage” territory (not that there is anything wrong with sound collages). All in all, Decimated Days is an excellent indie rock release and a metaphorically fitting song to close out the year 2020.