Real Life is a new single from hip hop artist, Z-Gang. The track maintains a moderate pacing, yet thematically carries a subtle intensity which slowly builds throughout the song. Z-Gang’s laid back delivery doesn’t detract from the fact that you can tell he means business when he’s speaking. The backing music primes an atmosphere of suspense, juxtaposing nicely with Z-Gang’s chill demeanor. His vocals take center stage. This isn’t one of those rap songs with a heavy, thumping beat. As one might ascertain from the title, this jam is about “being real” as it relates to various aspects of life. This is exemplified by the music video, which doesn’t contain flashy lifestyles or outrageous costumes. Rather it’s just Z-Gang and his friends, humbly kicking it in everyday sitations as he casually and confidently spouts his rhymes. Production quality on this track is the way I like it, crisp, clean and clear, without excessive processing or effects. What gives this song potential in my opinion is that it’s catchy. I found that the chorus and various phrases got stuck in my head after only one listen. This is one of the most important ingredients to a succesful rap song, and this jam has it.
Gods Calling is a new single from Apex Mees (also featuring his cousin Par$ha who raps in farsi). Having made music together since they were only 13, the two have pioneered a blend of American and Persiab hip hop. When paired together, they do have a rather distinctive sound. The backing music is theatrical and ethereal, at times resembling orchestral church music with an added intensity. Both performers have a natural and fluid delivery flow, as the lyrics roll off effortlessly. As with many rappers, the skills are even more apparent at moments where the rapping speeds up. Gods Calling is also well produced. Nothing in the mix sounds harsh, which is especially important for this song, as the soft clarity of the music makes the sound so classically enjoyable. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from these guys.
Workin On Fighting Social Injustice Vol.3 Police Drive By (Prod. by Plather) is a new release from Richmond based artist, djradtipptoppp. As is obvious from the title, the song makes a social statement about profiling and police brutality. However, the music itself isn’t what you’d expect and not your typical “in your face” protest song. It’s more of a synth driven, avant garde, ambient collage that’s both thought provoking and quite enjoyable to listen to. The message doesn’t focus specifically on racial profiling but rather takes aim at police profiling of all kinds (height, tattoos, etc). This makes the track more accessible, since a wider variety of people will be open to hearing the message. By enveloping his ideals subtly in the musical mix, the words have a subconscious effect. This trippy and atmospheric “Joker” style of anthem I believe will become more prevalent in this younger generation, whom this form of communication resonates well with. Be sure to check out this artist’s other releases on Bandcamp. Some good stuff there.
Into The D.A.R.K.NESS is a new album from the hip hop artist known as YT (real name Austin Arndt). The album lives up to its name, offering up a dark and atmospheric ambiance. It’s like hip hop with the sounds of a haunted mansion in the background. Musically, it ranges from quietly suspenseful to lively and crisp. YT has a tight, clean delivery at the climactic points of the songs and otherwise maintains a chill and strategically eerie rhyming presence. It’s easy to focus on the backing music, which is refreshingly and unusually unique for a hip hop album, but what’s incredible is that YT is such a talented rapper that his skills manage to outshine the hauntingly thematic backdrop. While the album is dark, it isn’t depressing. YT makes what is known as “recovery music,” which helps people (and himself) cope with issues they may be struggling with, though this is done in a very subtle and non-preachy way. The production and mix on this release are also top notch. This guy knows what he’s doing.
Last Night Was Hell is a new EP from LVSTNIGHT. First off, let me just say that I love the awesome, retro album cover art. It’s the best I’ve seen so far this year (I realize it’s still only January but I see a lot of album covers). Thematically, this release is coherently structured, with consistent track names like Potion, Yellow Pills, Lock Jaw, etc, it’s like a musical trip to the drugstore after a wild night out. The style is minimalist, with sparse but engaging beats and LVSTNIGHT’s casual delivery driving the action. His vocals are noteworthy in that he utilizes his voice to make creative sounds while spouting lyrics, giving him a dinstinctive and memorable persona. This album excels in style and aesthetics, and the lyrical substance lives up to the imagery. While this is technically classified as an EP, it does contain 8 fun filled songs and satisfies like a full length album.
Tundra is a new single from Canadian singer/songwriter, Goldie. The song is a prelude to the artist’s upcoming album Blind!, (which is available to pre-order and is set to be released on March 23rd of this year). With an uplifting tone and bright guitars, Tundra impresses as a well executed adult contemporary song. This remarkably peppy and organic acoustic rock jam is fronted by Goldie’s capable vocals. This isn’t your typical “coffee house” style track. There’s a clean and energetic rock’n’roll vibe. The natural ambiance and feel good sentiment makes me think this song would work well in a commercial. Its catchy chorus leaves the listener in a refreshed mood and ready to take on the great wilderness of life. Tundra is professionally produced, proficiently performed and ready for prime time.
XI:XI is a new album from avant garde artist, Annabelle. The Roman numerals XI:XI (11:11) take on a personal meaning for the artist, symbolizing that she is precisely “where she needs to be.” The music itself displays an elevated consciousness, brimming with spirituality throughout. Often minimalist and meditative, these quietly sentimental tracks kick into high gear periodically, dialing up the intensity. Annabelle’s vocals are magnetic and comforting. In fact, this artist could probably make excellent ASMR videos if she wanted to. She has a great natural voice that takes the listener along on her delightful spiritual journey. Tender and sincere, this is indie music in its purest form.
I’ll Pray For You is a brand new single from the indie band Stereosight. It literally just came out a few days ago. The band’s style has often been descibed as “cinematic.” In fact this jam does have a very theatrical feel to it and would fit well on any contemporary, avant garde film soundtrack. The sound is classy and atmospheric, while the ambiance is brimming with emotional energy. Expressive vocals and softly dramatic synths drive much of the action. The song maintains a moderate pacing throughout. While the lyrics touch upon some delicate subjects= matter, the tone is uplifting and never overwhelms the listener with excessive intensity. The vocals are powerfully and passionately delivered but sit neatly blended into the mix, not too far out front. I’ll Pray For You is a great example of next generation indie rock, which combines elements of emo, alternative, rock and synthpop, but in the end manages to carve out its own distinct and professional manifestation. This song is artistic enough for the indie crowd but musically accessible to mainstream audiences.
UNBREAKABLE is a new full length album from artist, Dejhare (pronounce deɪ-Jhar). The release blends a variety of musical styles and is difficult to classify in terms of genre but could best be described as avant garde, professional pop. The tone ranges from upbeat and danceable to quiet and sentimental. While many tracks feature a peppy, optimistic ambiance, others are more delicate and express a sincere longing. Dejhare is an incredible singer. Her voice is so impressive it could stand alone even without any backing music at all. Really just a flawless vocal performance throughout the entire album. There’s plenty of creativity on display musically, with a ton of variety in these songs. No two tracks sound the same. The synths are often dreamy and ethereal, reflective of the artist’s hopeful outlook and persona. My personal favorite track is What is Love. It has a catchy, sparkling beat and all the ingredients of a hit in the making. The Best We Have Now is another memorable number and contains a first rate chorus. I can’t think of anything to constructively criticize about this album. It’s just excellent and very well put together.
Days of Our Lives is a new single from Kentucky based artist, Philly Blocks (aka “The Team 563 Boss”). Though he was born in Louisville, he uses the moniker “Philly” because he was heavily influenced by east coast rappers and often spent a great deal of time in Philadelphia with relatives who lived there.
The song chronicles the thrills, trials and tribulations of Louisville life. Production quality on this track is excellent. There’s great clarity in the mix and sonically the whole thing is just very pleasing. Philly’s vocals are at the forefront and his updeat delivery drives the action. He has a powerful stage presence which you can feel through the recording. This guy absolutely knows how to write a catchy rap song. His lyrics are both serious and entertaining, peppering memorable pop culture references here and there (Hulk Hogan gets a mention!) The backing music features light synths, occasionally intensified for dramatic effect, with occasional backing vocals adding an air of mystery to the ambiance. Days of Our Lives is a solid hip hop jam.