I Am a Free Woman: Poems For a Little Girl

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Shavonda Robinson’s book, I Am a Free Woman: Poems For a Little Girl uses poems to chronicle the struggle of women who have suffered abuse, often at the hands of their own family. Shavonda describes herself as a “poet activist for abused women.” Poetry is a useful medium to deal with the subject of abuse, because it allows for people to discuss subjects they might otherwise be uncomfortable expressing in straightforward conversation. While the subject matter of the book is somewhat dark, Shavonda Robinson wisely choose to give the book an inspirational tone. Her poems serve to motivate these women and help them to reclaim their confidence.

I Am Beautiful Like Me

By Shavonda Robinson

I am not beautiful like you
I am beautiful like me
And what makes me beautiful
My scars, My mistakes, My opinions
My struggles, My fears, My insecurities,
My Confidence, My learned lessons

Her book can be purchased here:
Barnes and Noble
Amazon

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LUURK – Ain’t Coming Back

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A self described “multi-genre artist from Arizona,” LUURK showcases his production and songwriting skills with his latest release, Ain’t Coming Back. Had the song been released as an instrumental and without vocals, it could easily pass as a pretty decent summertime EDM jam. The vocals manage to transform the track into more of a pop/R&B/dance combo song. True to his form, LUURK does in fact span different genres with his music, and Ain’t Coming Back succeeds in walking the line between remaining accessible to a wide range of listeners and alienating those who may favor one style heavily over another.

Production and mixing on this are top notch. While the lyrics are not very extensive, the vocals that exist are performed well. LUURK is also wise enough not to ruin them with a bunch of over-processing and auto-tune. The song also does something interesting in that it combines an uplifting musical arrangement with a seemingly ambiguous or negative lyric, “No, we ain’t coming back.” I’ve noticed this is fairly common in EDM, creating a positive experience and celebrating optimism as a mood regardless of what life throws at you. If you’ve ever attended an EDM event, one thing that stands out is how happy everyone is compared to other concerts. This song radiates with positive energy, but just as importantly, it is very well put together musically.

For more info:
https://fanlink.to/ACM_

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J. Sariah – The Journey

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Singer/songwriter J. Sariah’s eleven song release The Journey
Musically it reminds me a lot of old school TLC, but with a lot less negativity and hostile attitude. While relatable songs like Friendzone give voice to the familiar feelings of heartache, The Journey’s tone is more inspirational than confrontational. Even tracks like Revenge reveal more of a genuinely afflicted sorrow of a woman yearning for someone who understands her pain than a vengeful soul that truly wants revenge. The “revenge” is just the desperate means to extract empathy from the one she cares for.

In fact, The Journey takes the listener through a wide range of emotions, featuring everything from recklessness to sorrow. In addition to demonstrating some dynamic vocal ability (she is quite a good singer) J. Sariah also manages to convincingly convey an array of emotions through her tone and diction, even when one doesn’t take into account the actual lyrical content. The instrumental backing displays a similar versatility as each song is musically distinct from the rest in a substantial way. This isn’t just someone singing to several variations of the same generic beat.

J. Sariah has a lot to be proud of with this release, which in every sense qualifies as a “full album.”

For more info:
https://www.jsariah.com
https://soundcloud.com/j-sariah

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Tiiiger – Circle

tiiiger

Circle is a new EP from Montreal based artist, “Tiiiger” (the new alias of musician Mikey Dorje.) The album’s unique sound stems from its successful amalgamation of acoustic/synth. This creates an almost “electro folk” atmosphere. The opening track, Space is an ambient, mostly electronic intro that functions well to get you in the meditative mood to experience this kind of music. The songs are all instrumental by the way, something which actually enhances the songs. Vocals would have I think detracted a bit from the sense of quiet mystery one feels when listening to this EP. Home is personally my favorite track of the bunch. This is going to sound like a bizarre thing to say, but the way I would describe Home is that it made me think of what an avant garde, instrumental version of LFO’s Summer Girls would be like, (minus any of the frosted tips fueled, boy band cheesiness.) The EP closes out with Movement,an appropriately titled, relatively fast paced jam that left me feeling energized after checking out with this nifty little release. One final remark is that the song names are each single words, and they do a successful job of abstractly conveying the emotion/experience relating to the word each track corresponds with.

For more info:
https://tiiiger.bandcamp.com/

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Phteven Universe – Space Parachute

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A while back I reviewed the single, Space Parachute which had initially been released by Francis Nally under the moniker “King Trode.” Well, now the song is officially out in the form a the title track of a new EP, falling under the umbrella of Nally’s Phteven Universe project.

There’s no point in re-reviewing the song Space Parachute, since my original remarks on it still stand:

What a sparkly little synth hook this jam has! It’s as if someone threw something together really quick, chucked it at a wall and it bounced in my direction and stuck in my head like a superball to the brain. Basically, this track is the little orphan Annie of hidden indie pop hits. King Trode’s Space Parachute is exactly what it would sound like if you took Sega Genesis video game music and added vocals that sounded eerily similar in style to those of Dal Winslow of The Trashmen singing the 60′s classic, Surfin Bird (aka “The Bird is the Word” song.)

However, it’s worthwhile to discuss the other content included on the EP. The second track, Ralph Was a Homosexual is an electronic dance jam based around a sample taken from a bizarre 1961 PSA titled Boys Beware, which warns against the dangers of “homosexual predators.” There are no lyrics to speak of other than the voice from the sample saying “Ralph was a homosexual” at various speeds (and sometimes abbreviated.) It reminds me of techno songs from the early 90s, which used samples from old movies during a brief break in the music, followed by the beat kicking back in. L.A Style’s hit, James Brown is Dead is a classic example of this, as well as Euphoria’s I like Noise. However, Nally’s song is more of a laid back, hypnotic space synth than any kind of intense opera techno. My favorite part of the song is the Simon Says / Close Encounters styled synth that makes an appearance at the 1:36 part. I wish it had come earlier in the song, but it’s worth the wait.

The next song, MACH!NEZ is a brief one, clocking in at just less than a minute, but it makes good use of panning and the beat is impressively memorable. I could actually see MACH!NEZ being used as some kind of techno-futurist or transhumanist national anthem, to be played before animatronic basketball games someday.

The EP rounds out with a 9 minute live recording of Phteven Universe performing at The Sound Hole in Philadelphia, PA. For a live venue performance the music comes through surprisingly crystal clear. I was expecting it to sound kind of shitty with a lot of drunk normie voices and feedback in the background. So, even though this EP is technically four tracks, it actually includes several “bonus” songs within the live performance track, each of which are of excellent listening quality.

Space Parachute is a solid EP in its totality, but it is worth it even for just the opening song.

EYES ACUTE, SPACE PARACHUTE,
WAS WONDERING, IF YOU LIKE TO DO IT AGAIN!

Yes, I think I will listen to this again. Don’t mind if I do.

For more info:
https://choamcharity.bandcamp.com/album/space-parachute

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Chedda Cheese – Growing up in the 90s

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Canadian based rapper “Chedda Cheese” came out with the song Growing up in the 90s a few years ago. It should have been a huge hit but didn’t really get the attention it deserved. It’s a “backwards alphabet” styled song, which lists things which were popular in the 90s, incorporating them lyrically into the track. I’m more of an 80′s kid, but I came of age in the 90s so I can relate to most of this stuff (whether or not I actually “grew up” in the 90s or ever for that matter is up for debate.) Also there is some decade overlap here with certain items like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Metroid, Unitards and Zelda, each of which first gained popularity in the 1980s (though unitards actually achieved a level fashionability in the late 1970′s.)

Anyway, I heard this song a few years ago when it was first released, and it was so catchy that I still have the chorus in my head frequently, even though I’ve barely listened to this song since:

The snapbacks with those rims so shiny
in track pants watching Friends is where you’ll find me
This is what it’s like growing up in the nineties

I never was a fan of the show Friends. In fact I hated it, and I don’t recall ever sitting through a full episode in the entire run of the series. However, I did wear the shit out of plenty of pairs of Adidas track pants back in those days. Nowadays if you rock tracksuits, people assume you’re LARPing as a Slav (especially if you’re prone to squatting.) Not so in the 90′s. Almost everybody sported such attire. Enough about my personal wardrobe history and television show preferences though (for the record I watched Melrose Place and Party of Five.)

Bottom line, Growing up in the 90s is a rad jam and should have made the Billboard Top 25 at least. Chedda is a talented guy and deserves some recognition for creating this underground, retro-thematic classic.

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The Blankz – White Baby

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You wouldn’t know from their music that The Blankz (a Phoenix based band) formed as recently as 2017. Their new EP/single, White Baby, is so tightly put together musically that if I had been too lazy to read the group’s bio, I would just have assumed they must have been playing together for at least a decade. Their music falls somewhere within the realm of “weirdo pop punk.” It has a very 90′s vibe to it, not in a gimmicky kind of way, it’s just that you’d almost have to go back that far to find this style of music being put out at this level of quality. In a deeper sense though, White Baby brings people back to a more innocent era, the pre-9/11 days before confrontational politics and war dominated the discussion in our everyday lives. I’m talking about those 105 degree summer nights spent skateboarding and loitering at suburban Phoenix strip malls (yes I’m from here as well,) when our most heated arguments were over bands and girls. Our tense confrontations were mostly reserved for our interactions with the security guards about to kick us out of the same spot for the millionth time.

White Baby features solid playing, quirky lyrics, and perhaps most importantly…substance. Yes, wrapped up in White Baby’s musical bundle of joy is a theme about the songwriter’s identity. Tommy Blank is white but was apparently adopted into a Mexican family. The song subtly relates his struggles with identity growing up within this unconventional familial arrangement. It is all presented in an upbeat, fun and energetic musical context. The lyrics are extremely catchy, and if you listen to this song even once, the chorus will stick with you. The video for White Baby takes on a kind of desert rockabilly aesthetic, interspersing vintage home movie footage with present day shots of the band around town.

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There is a second jam on this release as well. The song Sissy Glue boasts some killer synth, the vibrato of which resonates throughout the song. The tone is reminiscent of action oriented battle music in old school games like Double Dragon. Sissy Glue contains lyrics concerned with huffing, but really the track is about so much more. It’s sort of a coming of age story told in a very creative way. The synth on this EP is notable because it is what separates the band’s sound it from so many other bands in this genre.

White Baby/Sissy Glue is quite simply, badass. Living in Phoenix, this is easily one of the coolest current bands in the valley, and I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard anything about them until now.

For more info:

http://theblankzband.com/
https://soundcloud.com/theblankz
https://www.facebook.com/theblankzband/
https://www.instagram.com/theblankzband/

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The Exquisite Music of Deryo

deryo

Already established for his roles in classic groups like “The Headhunters” back in the 1970s (and since then working with legends like Carl Carlton and Rick James,) Deryo has been around the block musically. These days he’s flying solo, making his own jams, which he describes as being “funk mixed with pop and r&b.” His solo tracks carry the precision marks of a old pro, with backing music that manages to be creatively quirky in expressing its retro grooviness. I’ve always thought that the test of an instrumental backing is whether you’d want to listen to it even if there were no accompanying vocals. Deryo’s songs easily pass that test, and I can’t help but think how great they would sound on vinyl. His 2013 track, Anytime is an excellent example of this, and I just love the futuristic synth hooks on it, which wouldn’t seem out of place on a Buck Rogers soundtrack.

Deryo’s vocals are passionate and delivered with an unpretentious charisma. They are really the driving force in his songs. The lyrical themes are usually positive, romantic and upbeat, though tracks such as I Must Quit convey a sense of melancholic humility. This is in every sense “mood music,” in that it gets you in the mood to enjoy life’s experiences and get in touch with your emotions while dancing to some smooth jams with your significant other…whether in the club or in his/her apartment living room.

For more info:
https://soundcloud.com/deryo/

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Dirk Schwenk & The Truth – Along the Road

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Along the Road is a new EP from Dirk Schwenk & The Truth. the album has been freshly released for the summer of 2018. Apparent;y it was inspired by a sadness Dirk felt while watching the documentary Marley in 2012 and a subsequent desire to make sure he got his own music out there for audiences to hear, perhaps before it might one day be too late. Along the Road is a blend of Americana, light rock and folk. It has elements of Southern rock and roll but these are subtly expressed through tone and mood, ultimately avoiding the trappings of lyrical cliches and managing to resist conforming to cartoonish archetypes of the genre. Dirk’s vocals are mellow and contemplative as he weaves a story for the listener. He stays within his singing capabilities and is wise enough not to try to do too much, which would distract from the lyrical narrative. The album also features quite a bit of excellent guitar playing (at least some of which is credited to Matt “All Day” Asci) on these songs. I was struck by how dynamic the playing style was between songs while still retaining album sound cohesion. All in all, this is a pretty impressive release and the authentic backstory gives it a heartfelt quality.

For more info:
https://www.dirkschwenk.com/
https://twitter.com/DirkSchwenk
https://soundcloud.com/dirkschwenkmusic

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