The first thing that came to mind when listening to Rikke Norman’s Fragile is that stylistically, Rikke represents a kind of avant garde, indie pop equivalent of artists like Vitamin C, though perhaps Princess Chelsea would be a better comparison. Fragile consists of a quirky, superball bounce beat, swell guitars, midi-like synth sounds and some excellent, twee vocals. The song also features grammy award nominated singer, instrumentalist and songwriter, Jarle Bernhoft. It’s a pretty pop song that just gives off really good vibes. The video matches the delightfully innocent tone of the song and mixes in some groovy, psychedelic visuals. Rikke has plenty of releases under her belt, and this one is terrific. Why doesn’t someone like this ever win Eurovision?
Taken from his latest album, RainWater Project,Jonah Melvon’s new single, What’s Good For You kicks off with an artful piano intro. It leads into a loungy number with elements of soulful jazz until finally metamorphosizing into a full blown hip hop jam. The seamless blending of all these components is what makes the whole a good song. The artist here really seems to take pride in his creation and revels in the prospect of advancement of broader community goals. Issues like culture and identity are never far from the surface here. What’s Good For You has an elegant aura about it which elevates the track musically and intellectually above standard hip hop fare. This recording serves as a great representation for the Oakland music scene.
Only Love is a single from Charlottesville based band, Pale Blue Dot, from their album Anatomy. Really just an all around good production here. Only Love at first glance has a pretty straightforward progressive rock sound, based around the solid songwriting talents of Tony LaRocco and musical craftsmanship of the other members. What really distinguishes this particular track is the trumpet (credited to John D’Earth,) which accentuates the song and gives it a soothing, jazz-like quality. Only Love combines passionate, serious lyrics with a cerebral, dream state ambiance while giving the listeners a boppin’ backbeat and rhythm they can still get down to on the dance floor.
I Don’t Care is a club banger from southern style hip hop artist, Marcus Christ. The single makes use of echo and dramatic synths to create an escalated sense of excitement throughout the song. Marcus’ delivery is characterized by a laid back and methodical demeanor, like when someone speaks slowly but with an intensity that tell you they absolutely mean business. It’s a pretty straightforward and high quality club jam, but I could picture people enjoying this on a late night drive through the neighborhood with friends lookin’ for the next kick back and just having a ball. One gets the sense that stylistically there is some 90′s west coast influence. What began as a hobby for Marcus has evolved into an illustrious career. Previous time spent in jail has only served to be a source of renewed inspiration for this determined and seasoned hip hop artist.
The term “freestyle” gets thrown around a lot nowadays in hip hop and is frequently misused to refer to “freedom of thought” or simply “free form” such as unstructured, free verse poetry. However, rapper Thuggizzle freestyles in the true, authentic sense in that he raps without pre-written lyrics. He simply delivers lyrics off the top of his head on the fly. Creating coherent hip hop songs in this way is a kind of a lost art and has always been seen as a metric of credibility. So it’s great to see Thuggizzle embracing it. His new jam,Get Cha Hustle Up has a smooth flow and makes creative use of vocal layering. The backing music consists of a synth driven, groove-shakingly danceable beat of light drama and medium intensity. It’s a solid release with better production than what you’d expect with most indie hip hop songs. The song mixes 90′s style musical artfulness and authenticity with contemporary production values and futuristic flavor.
Well, this sort of thing is right up my alley. Indie, DIY, avant garde cover art and great overall aesthetic. Close Enough to Fix is an EP released by Color School, an indie rock band from DC. The sound is classic garage pop but with a bit of a twist. Camille Miller’s vocals are delightfully perfect and add a bit of folkish sparkle to the mix. The members of this band are longtime veterans of underground music going back to at least the eighties, (having played in groups such as Velvet Monkees, High Back Chairs, Young Caucasians, Dream Kitchen, The Dispensers, Revellaires.) Their experience shows. The songs are peppy, polished and well written….really just beautiful. The lyrics are lightly romantic and genuine. The album actually reminds me a lot of 90s indie albums in that the recording isn’t dressed up with a lot of unnecessary effects and processing. It sounds very clean and authentic, and the musiciansmanship on here speaks for itself. In fact, the track Own reminds me of the sort of song they would have used as the theme song / intro in early 90s teen tv shows like “California Dreams.” Listening to this EP has actually made me want to check out some old releases from the bands these guys were in.
In a Minute is a single from Mobile, Alabama based hip hop artist, Brazil Hill. Though In a Minute is classified as a hip hop song, it should be noted that Brazil Hill does more than just rhyme when she delivers her lines, she sings. She has good vocal timing, which helps the sound pop and bounce neatly. Lyrically, the song chronicles the strain and genuine longing involved in long distance relationships, something that should resonate with a lot of people in the internet age. The song’s romantic content combined with the melodic vocals and groovin back beat make this a solid all around release.
Because I Turned You Down is a new single from vocalist Sarah May, who can actually sing. Her smooth voice charms the listener even as her straightforward lyrics give a thorough scolding to the male target on the receiving end. The fact that there’s minimal music only serves to reinforce the confidence in Sarah’s delivery. True to the theme, there’s nothing to obscure May’s voice, and her singing is good enough on its own to carry the entire song without any tricks or production gimmicks. That’s not to say the entire song is done a capella. On the contrary, the song kicks into high gear revealing a club worthy, danceable beat and dialed up vocal intensity. A brutally honest song that’s bolstered by authentic musical merit.
Edward St. Martin’s new track, Lullaby combines classical elements with pop to create a symphonic ambiance. The orchestral into sets the tone for high drama as the song transitions into a sparkling, dreamy synthpop escapades. The best way to describe the sound is cinematic. The dynamic female vocals emotionally engaging backing music conjur up powerful visuals in one’s imagination. This song feels like it should be part of a soundtrack of a movie we haven’t seen yet. Lullaby maintains a certain softness while turning up the emotional intensity. It’s a worthy pop song that breaks away from contemporary mass market music cliches and goes off in its own unique direction.
One of the more creative releases I’ve come across is HELLTOWN’s faerytalesaretoorealtobear. This surprisingly avant garde jam blends hip hop with indie alternative music to create a truly unique sound. If you just casually heard this song playing somewhere, you might assume it’s just emo coffee house music, but if you listen closely it’s actually hip hop which is adapting a certain aesthetic. The song is slightly creepy but in a good way. The romantic undertones present themselves as a kind of sick love, a madness screaming for more. This is one of the better hip hop songs I’ve had the chance to review. It’s kind of a shame something this artful will likely be relegated to obscurity, but hey that’s the real sickness of the world we live in.