Million Birds is a new album from Minnesota band, Six Mile Grove. One lesson I’ve learned over the years is that this style of music, which blends elements of roots, country,and rock’n’roll is difficult to classify to anyone’s satisfaction. A band once angrily wrote to me after I reviewed them and insisted that they were “not a country band, they were “a blue and roots Americana band!” Six Mile Grove’s music similarly blurs the line between genres, and the result is awesome. Million Birds is really good. It’s mellow, emotive rock’n’roll with vintage, 1950′s vibes and a bit of backwater goodness. The singer reminds me a bit of Buddy Holly (both in vocal tone and appearance.) The performances on this album are excellent all around. This is honestly some of the best music I’ve ever heard from an “indie” band. In a just world or a different time, their song Not My Fault would be a top ten hit. Unfortunately we live right now though, so bands like this have to go through a lot of hoops just to be heard by anyone. The good news is that now you know about this album and get to listen to it. Million Birds is authentic, avant garde and evokes a sense of nostalgic innocence from beginning to end.
Two Young Kids is the third single from Atlanta based artist, Eric Abel. It blends elements of EDM, pop, and R&B to create an ambiance which is both contemplative and energetic at the same time. The song touches upon the bittersweet nostalgia for young love, which is interesting because Eric still appears to be quite young himself. I can relate to this though because I’ve always been a nostalgic person. In fact, when I was a junior in high school I was already nostalgic for the things I did as a freshman.
The mellow backing beat for Two Young Kids is on the slower side for most EDM, but still on the danceable side. The music though is bright and strangely uplifting. Abel’s vocals are passionate and emotive. This kind of music is difficult to sing well, but his voice gets the job done and conveys a believable sincerity. This song really goes beyond a stroll down memory lane. The lyrics paint a picture not just of someone merely reflecting on the past but actively seekling to rekindle what was lost. He’s not just talking to himself here, but reaching out to see if the other person might feel the same way. We can only speculate as to whether or not the feeling is mutual, but simply by expressing himself, the song’s prtotagonist has dealt with the past in a way that he can begin to move forward.
The Gospel is a song Ero Seagull (an artist who won the judges’ round in The Peoples Music Awards in 2011.) What makes The Gospel interesting is that it blends hip hop and EDM with a religious message, a combination we don’t see to oftem. The song is also rich with content, managing to pack an incredible amount of lyrics in its 3:10 run time. Seagull’s delivery is dynamic and funky, at times reminiscent of a slam poet. It has a very old school hip hop vibe against a nice backdrop of futuristic synth beats. There’s a good chance listeners will engage with the material of this track because it is well presented. Ero Seagull is set to release her debut album, Evolution. Stay tuned and check it out.
Snake is the second single slated for inclusion on Stephon Foster’s upcoming album. Stephon remains coy about the title of the new album, preferring to preserve a bit of the suspense. However, Snake is a song which certainly cuts right to the heart of the matter. The track deals with the theme of calling out and removing toxic people from our lives. Stephon’s “tell it like it is” vocal delivery gives this song a feeling of empowerment, almost like it’s part of a motivational, self-help dance cassette. A combination of the reptitive use of the term “snake” and an impressively complex musical framework make this jam quite catchy.
Pretty much anyone could relate to this song, whether we’re the naive person with a loved one taking advantage of us, or we’re the concerned friend trying to convince someone we care about to remove a toxic person from their life, or even if we’re the snake itself. At one time or another, most us have will have played out one of these roles, and some of us may have even experienced all three.
Once again, we have Stephon’s charismatic personality and entertaining vocal presence elevating the song’s appeal. Songwriting and production here is very nice, and in particular the vocal layering is done quite exquisitely. One thing I really enjoy about this artist’s work is the passion in the lyrics. You get the sense when listening that these songs are inspired by genuine experiences and events. They are actually about something that actually happened or someone that really exists. That ups the intensity factor for the listener. We engage with the material, because we know it’s personal and real. Cutting toxic people out of our lives is an ongoing battle, as we must remain vigilant to prevent others from slithering their way in.
White China is a single from Hro Palyan, an Armenian-American hip hop artist based in Granada Hills, CA. He definitely has the west coast rap style down pat. The track contains smooth delivery of expicit, occasionally humorous lyrics, while still maintaining a respectable seriousness. Production is slick, definitely radio quality. The backing synth beat provides an “edge of the seat” ambiance of high drama, which contrasts well artistically with Palyan’s casual yet calmly serious demeanor. Maybe it’s just me, but this artist seems really marketable. He has a somewhat unique aesthetic and personal brand. White China is a very good hip hop song, one which has charting potential and is lyrically accessible enough to have mainstream pop appeal.
Better Days is a new single from Hen-Dawg, a Vermont raised musician / producer who is currently based in North Carolina. The track is a very unique hip hop jam in that utilizes an ethereal, ambient almost dreamy backing music rather than just basic or traditional beats. The music really blends well with the nostalgic theme of the song as Hen-Dawg looks back at the old times dwells on some of his bittersweet memories and wonders where it all went. Finally, in a bit of a plot twist he looks toward the future with a realization that the better days are ahead.
Hen-Dawg’s delivery comes across as unconventional and displays a refreshing sincerity not normally found in these types of songs. His lyrical creativity is apparent throughout the song, as he consistently takes the listener in clever and unexpected directions rhyme-wise. Check out Hen-Dawg’s website for more info on this and other upcoming releases.
Quién da Más is the second single from Mexico City based artist, Labán and is part of his debut album, Todos Somos Dueños de Aquí. The lyrics are in Spanish but deal with a subject that people from all walks of life could relate to. The central theme is the frustration one experiences from not being able to do the things that make them happy. Most of us at one time or another have found ourselves stuck in a dead end job or suffocating relationship, unable to pursue our dreams. The artist finds salvation in the fantasy of leaving things behind and taking to the road, willing to be at peace with the outcome.
Musically, Quién da Más is a mellow and contemplative jam. The song has a delightfully delicate construction, with groovy guitars and a steady drum beat providing the ambiance. The track is ultimately driven by Labán’s vocals though, which are casual in tone yet emotionally expressive. His soft spoken voice has a calming, reassuring effect even as it delivers words which convey frustration. Everything comes together very cohesively, and it’s clear that Labán took his time to get all the pieces to fit just right. Nothing about this recording feels rushed. Production quality is pretty solid, and the vocal/guitar/drum mix has everything in its proper proportions.
I highly recommend taking a look at the video for this track. In addition to being a decent, artfully done music video, it also features a lot of great urban visual scenery (mainly in terms of architecture) from what appears to be the streets of Mexico City.
Labán is obviously a talented individual who cares about his craft. Refreshingly, Quién da Más is free of ego-centrism and aggression. Rather, the song is an authentic chronicling of genuine relatable experience, communicated to the listener both in musical tone and lyrical substance. You should check out his other songs if you get the chance. There’s more where this came from.
My Own Thing is a new single from RED RED LIPS, taken from the group’s recently released, self titled EP. It’s tough to even know where to begin, but this song delivers on multiple levels. The sass driven, “girl power” vocals are absolutely perfect, reminiscent of indie legends like Le Tigre, occasionally utilizing creative processing in the vein of bands such as Garbage. The backing music consists of assertive guitars (which totally rock,) basically a female garage band sound with extra polished production. The band isn’t relying on marketing gimmickry or smoke and mirrors. This is competent and solid rock’n’roll music, with no corners cut. As you might have guessed, My Own Thing is about “doing your own thing,” feeling empowered and taking charge of one’s own destiny. Not only is the song good quality, but it’s very catchy (particularly the Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh… part.) If this band ever sells out like Of Montreal, I could see this song in a restaurant commercial or something. My Own Thing is epic, and that’s why I’m giving it a more enthusiastic review than what I normally give on here. Be sure and check out the video also, which includes a hodpodge of aesthetics (including vaporwave) and is engaging in its own right.
Sacrifice is a new release from singer/songwriter, Carolee Rainey. Her sound is very organic, blending quality production with a grass roots indie style. One listen to Sacrifice though and you can tell she is an excellent, professional singer. Carolee can do amazing things with her voice, and just as importantly, she sings with passion. You get the sense that she feels a deep emotional connection with the content of her songs, projecting an authenticity which resonates with the listener. Sacrifice mixes elements of pop, R&B, blues and classic rock. The best way to describe the style is that it is like a “coffee house” activist version of Fleetwood Mac, brimming with an empowering (she also has a song called Empower) yet honest emotional energy. You can check out this jam below on Spotify, and I recommend you do.
GOLD is a melodic new single from Wavii (co-founder of the Yonkers, NY based collective The Fly Go Gettaz.) It’s a solid effort, rhythmically tight with a musically lustrous backing beat. This track makes good use of alternating speeds and lyrical pacing. There are a lot of “start-stop-fast-slow” transitions, which are handled flawlessly. I actually found myself boppin’ along with this jam. There are more effects on the vocals than what I’m used to, but the rapping itself is stellar, really a nice flow and crisp delivery throughout. I enjoyed the backing istrumentals as well, which reminded me a bit of older Wu-Tang style beats. Anyway, I’m sure Wavii and The Fly Go Gettaz are just getting started and will have all kinds of good stuff coming down the pike.