Star of Wonder is a new single from Singapore based (but originally from Melbourne, Australia) artist Jamit. The song draws from a range of electronic musical styles and is characterized by a bright and hypnotically uplifting sound. This track has enough of a pulse to be a party jam but it’s still mellow enough to be enjoyed alone in a moment of meditative reflection. Emotionally, something about it gives off very positive vibes. The synths are very chime-like and cerebral. Star of Wonder is mostly instrumental, although vocals (credited to “Bassa”) occasionally make unexpected appearances to accent the song. Anyway, I came away from this song with a good feeling about Jamit’s music. It has an energy to it and a sense of openness.
Though it was apparently “recorded using legendary audio equipment from Abbey Road and Capitol Records,” Luxury Eviction’s Master of None would have sounded great even recorded on 4-track in someone’s closet. Blair B’s vocals are just that powerful. Her songs could almost be described as avant garde, alternative, and ultimately more substantive versions of James Bond film theme songs like For Your Eyes Only and All Time High. The tracks on this album just have a very epic, symphonic feel to them, but with some edgier, brooding undertones. The songs are very meticulously put together and well crafted. Though they were recorded on top notch (analog?) gear, there isn’t a bunch of processing or post-production tinkering with the sound. It’s mostly left in its fresh and undisturbed form, accented with traditional reverb and delay. My favorite track on this album is probably Dragonflies in Hurricanes, which features some radically retro synths.
A while back I reviewed the lead single for SEDA’s then upcoming EP, Wonderchild. Well, the anticipation is over, and now the full EP has been released. The songs often feature medium paced hypnotic and ambient background music, occasionally spiced up with samples and string synths. The sound has a minimalist vibe, basically singing over light instrumentals, though the tone and nature of the instruments displays some variation over the course of the release. Aside from the opening single, my favorite track on this album is probably Crush, a number which can best be described as what would happen if someone were to combine vaporwave with R&B / pop vocals. Another stand out song is Brave, which pleasantly surprises with bright and poppy guitars. It has a great hook and is the kind of warm and fuzzy track you’d hear during a romantic jewelry commercial.
Wonderchild shows versatility both musically and emotionally. The songs take a humble approach to the subject of love, touching on themes ranging from from initial infatuation and curiosity to regret, perseverance and admiration. SEDA’s dynamic vocals get the job done well enough, but just as importantly the listener comes away with the impression that when SEDA sings these lyrics, he actually means every word of them.
All Night is a follow up single to an EP released earlier this year (at only age 17) by Grayson Word, a “soul/pop singer & multi-instrumentalist based in Nashville.” The verses in All Night delight with a loungy, funky pop sort of quality, but where the track really shines is the chorus. Out of nowhere, Word’s voice casually reaches unexpected highs with considerable ease. This dynamic quality is reminiscent of songs like Billy Joel’s The Stranger. It’s evident from listening to even one Grayson Word track is that this kid is no poser. There are tons of aspiring young pop stars out there with recordings which are gummed up with autotune and horrible effects processing to mask deficiencies in skill. All Night doesn’t have any of that and Grayson’s musical chops are confidently displayed in full force. These recordings cut through the BS that infects much of contemporary pop music. On top of all that, this guy is only a teenager and probably hasn’t even reached his full potential yet. The only thing standing in the way of All Night being played in nearly every department store is a lack of industry connections. Hopefully, that will change as the “Word” gets out.
eSensuals is a full length album from Vegas based (originally from Oakland) duo, “Fans of Jimmy Century” (FOJC for short.) The sound is an impressive combination of loungy female vocals, quirky lyrics and “indiewave” dance music. It’s an eclectic concoction that I’ve personally never heard before, (and I’ve listened to a lot of wild stuff over the years) but which this group performs expertly. There are so many detectable musical trace elements here it would be a struggle to name them all (disco, mod, 80s synthpop, vaporwave etc.) There’s quite a bit of variety among the songs as well. They’re not just doing the same thing over and over on this album. Architecturally, each of these songs has its own personality. True to the album title itself, the tracks on eSensuals are memorable for their clever and catchy names, revealing the wit and creativity of the creators. It’s not all a front or a gimmick though, songs like Liquid Chill and Cherry Drops musically live up to their powerful names in every sense. This album is just a really solid representation of indie music in that it finds the perfect balance between skill, aesthetics, humor, and the avant garde without ever coming across as pretentious or ego-driven.
Runaway is the debut single from “Divine,” an up and coming artist from the Philippines. Her mother and sister are both singer’s also, so the passion to perform runs in the family. One listen to Runaway is enough to realize Divine is a talented singer. She sings on key and has a dynamic vocal range. Unlike with other pop artists, the effects in the song are used to accentuate her voice rather than conceal flaws. Take away the beats, the synths and everything else on the recording, and she could still manage to captivate the audience with her vocals alone. She also sings with expressive emotion and a touch of attitude to match the tone of the lyrics. In particular, her rendition of the chorus is where she really shines.
Runaway is a professionally produced pop song of label quality with a video to match. The lyrics center around a love interest whom Divine is advising and pleading with him to run away, so that she won’t have to break his heart. Basically, she has feelings for him but thinks he should stay away for his own mental health. It’s a contemporary spin on a classic romantic theme. I could see this artist rising in popularity if she continues to surround herself with a good team. All of the framework is there. It’s important to mention that Runaway is not officially available yet. It will be available for pre-order on Nov 2nd, and the official release is scheduled for Nov 9th.
I’ve been doing these reviews for a long time, and it’s pretty rare that I come across something new or that I haven’t seen before. Syzl Lytnin’s H8taBlockaz is one of the rare exceptions. In addition to being a musical artist Syzl Lytnin actually has her own line of sunglasses. Not only does she use her music to promote her sunglasses, she actually combines these two things conceptually and artistically. Her sunglasses (called “H8taBlockaz”) are designed to shield one from the sun and also from negativity. Her musical single with the same name also shares these elements. H8taBlockaz features quirky synths and some lightning fast paced rapping coated with positive energy. The song is upbeat and lyrically confronts themes of keeping one’s head up and deflecting the negativity others throw at you. It’s an impressive release on its own but earns bonus points for being enveloped within such a unique creative context.
Struggle With Me is the latest EP from Tampa trio “Phantom Phunk.” Even though the band currently has three members, additional appearances are made on the album by rapper Cloud Master Price. Struggle With Me is an interesting release because it experiments with a combination of punk, neo-alternative, funk and hip hop. The first track, Mediphorical is my second favorite song on the album. It features a terrific, minimalist guitar presence and is fronted by the assertive vocals of Alexa Toro. The song is a great choice for opening track because the energy really gets the album off the ground. Every Where You Go gets into more experimental territory. It’s almost like if you mixed a hip hop jam with a Tegan and Sara song and somehow managed to make it work. No Hard Feelings makes creative use of timing and pauses to set up Toro’s vocals, which display a lot of echoey dynamicism in this song. Something Certain People Say is the best track on the album. It’s got a catchy chorus, the best guitar tone and has potential to be a legit indie hit song. Cheap Thrills is the loudest, hardest rocking song. Cloud Master Price makes another climactic appearance on this track and provides the link it needs to round out the album.
Dandy is the eclectic debut album from Matty Marz. It blends romance, fashion, and pop culture into a record that oscillates between pop and indie rock. I thought I had the sound pinned down with the first track Dirtbag, which is kind of a sassy indie rock song with a sound vaguely reminiscent of mid 00s bands like Franz Ferdinand (Do You Want to.) However, after this the songs transition into much more poppy territory. They are often romantic, soft and musically bright. The backing beats and background music has kind of that early 90′s, funky, summertime Caribbean sound. All these elements are combined in a way which lends itself to an ultimately contemporary feel. Matty Marz’ vocals come across as sincere and tonally are a good fit for this style of music. My favorite track on the album is probably We the People (Interlude,) which is catchy and features an amazing, retro-futuristic beat.
Jet Lag Super Drag is an energetic and soulful rock release from Atlanta based band “Last Chance Riders.” The album has a features a classic rock inspired sound with contemporary flair. The guitars really assert themselves, something which becomes apparent in the first few seconds of the opening track, Downright Disgusted. Whenever the guitars kick in on these songs, they just really have a bite to them. This is not “light rock.” Their sound reminds me a bit of The White Stripes in that it’s very loud and has an analog quality.
Vocalist Jessie Albright does her part with vocals which match the intensity of the guitars and give the band its distinct identity. It would be easy to get away with a less capable singer with this kind of music because the guitars are such a powerful driving force, but Jessie Albright turns out to be a phenomenal vocalist. She really knocks out these songs, balancing emotion, musicality and maxed out rock n roll. Her accent gives it away that you’re listening to a “southern rock” band, but the group’s appeal is by no means regionally limited. The eclectic mix of detectable musical influences ranges worldwide. There are shades of everything from David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” on here to AC/DC. This is a really solid, professional album.