Downtown Girl (ft. Soundingblue) is a single from Calgary-based artist, Tre Digga. This guy is one of the most prolific artist in recent memory. Just in the past two years he’s built up a massive catalog of releases (EPs, singles, etc), more than any artist I’ve ever seen. This particular song blends elements of R&B and hip hop with exotic instrumentals and a romantic vibe.
The track oscillates between sentimental, expressive vocals and fresh rapping interludes. The transitions between various segments are smooth, as a tight and colorful beat balances with the melodic chorus. Juxtaposing nicely with the video footage, the brisk pacing really does capture the downtown nightlife energy. Downtown Girl has pop sensibilities and mainstream potential, as the song’s romantic theme should resonate universally. Be sure and follow Tre Digga on Instagram to keep up with his latest releases. I’m certain there will be many more to come.
Web Ghost is a new single from artist, Wigwolf. Suffice to say, this sort of thing is right up my alley. This experimental, eerily psychedelic and avant garde track is an instant lo-fi classic. True to its title, the song’s ambiance is strangely haunting. The guitar effects combined with the quaint vocals really do give the impression that you’re listening to an entity communicating directly from the spirit world. Musical gems like this recording are becoming rare in an indie scene that is largely dominated by electronic music and hip hop. In the 90′s, when every musician had a 4-track recorder, oddities like Web Ghost were plentiful. The song itself is incredibly catchy and definitely memorable.
It’s difficult to find direct comparison’s to Wigwolf’s style because it’s so unique. It’s like a cross between Daniel Johnston, Modest Mouse and something from the 60s like The Seeds. The lyrics can be difficult to make out at times but are quite brilliant, as Wigwolf incorporates a “spider web” metaphor into the song’s lengthy narrative. This is further enhanced by the guitars, which subtly resemble the kind of insect noises you’d hear in an old Vincent Price horror film. I honestly love this song. In a just world, Web Ghost would be number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. For now though, let’s just be thankful that it exists.
Apparitions is a new album from London-based guitarist, Joe Hodgson. Originally from Northern Ireland, this ultra-prolific artist somehow manages to crank out high quality releases left and right. This latest one contains 15 full-bodied tracks. While the songs initially might appear to be just awesome and bluesy rock jams, they actually have a deeper and more personal meaning to the artist.
Apparitions was apparently recorded during a difficult time period, when Joe had returned to Ireland in order to take care of his ailing mother. “It was soul-destroying to see the person I loved most in the world just wither away in front of my eyes, and it had a profound effect on me and my music,” he says. “Playing guitar proved to be my savior though, and writing and recording the album was an incredibly cathartic experience.”
However, the music is by no means downtrodden or bleak. Rather, Apparitions incorporates a wide range of emotions in its soul-searching examination of the human experience. There’s sadness and sentimentality of course, but also anger, excitement, love and optimism. It’s all passionately expressed here (and entirely through instrumentals, I might add). Joe Hodgson is a fantastic guitarist and lets his music do the talking.
There’s so much variety and imagination in these songs, too. This is not just another generic rock guitar album. For example, the song Disruptor opens with a tender sampling of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and transitions into high energy and impressively technical guitar playing. It’s heavy duty stuff, both musically and in terms of the emotions it evokes. Other tracks like Long Hard Look have a smooth grooving, bouncy, almost 80′s quality. My favorite song on here is probably The Player, with its “hot rod” like, adventurous melody and poolshark ambiance. If I was in the middle of an exciting drag race for the pink slip on my car, this is the song I’d want playing on the stereo as I was cruising toward the finish line.
You can really appreciate how good this music is by how catchy the melodies are even without any lyrics. It’s more than just guitars, too. The vintage organ sounds really add a lot of vitality and dynamicism to the recordings. They give the songs a zestful personality, livening up the action while lightening the mood. The drums also play a big part. They create a robust, practically Earth shattering framework, really dialing up the rock’n’roll power level. Apparitions is quite frankly, a masterpiece on every level. The fact that the project has such a deep personal connection to the artist must make that all the more satisfying.
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.