Look Out Below is a new single from Nick Sumner and the Assistance. The song is basically alternative rock but with a nice clean sound and excellent vocals. The fact that the singing on here is so good almost catapults this out of the gritty, alternative genre and into something more refined like adult contemporary, and yet,it still manages to rock. Featuring a rich blend of melodic guitar riffs, dynamic vocals and a robust beat, Look Out Below is powerful and invigorating. The vibes really kick into high gear about 3/4 through as we’re treated to some elaborate guitar interludes and deliciously crunchy tone. Really, this is a solid, straightforward song that’s professional and ready for prime time radio. These guys know what they’re doing.
Vanilla Parfait is a new single from The Pierce Project, and which appears on the recent album Songs for Emi. This beautifully quirky indie pop song features catchy melodies and charmingly innocent vocals. It’s like one of those jingles you’d hear in a breakfast cereal commercial during Saturday morning cartoons, only with a little more avant garde cred. The lyrics express a playful fondness for the iconic actress, Marisa Tomei. The song is instantly memorable and could easily become a viral indie classic, in the spirit of jams like The Moldy Peaches’ Anyone Else But You. Although, Vanilla Parfait strikes me as being more advanced musically and impressively complex in terms of songwriting. Delicate piano playing, a likable voice and an overall bright ambiance will carry this song a long way. I definitely think Marisa would appreciate Vanilla Parfait, if she hasn’t fallen in love with the track already.
Dictators Die is a new album from Denver-based producer, Meace. What distinguishes Meace from a lot of hip hop and chillwave oriented producers is that he has a lot of classical/traditional music training, which he incorporates into his recordings. The songs on Dictators Die demonstrate a heightened level of musical competence and creativity. With the blending of so many elements and styles, it’s difficult to even pin down this music’s particular genre. Acoustic guitar is combined with “loungy” piano melodies, stylish beats and profound vocal samples. My favorite component to the sound landscape is the synth elements. The synths are just very ethereal and and enchanting and enhance the songs with an analog, retro-futuristic quality wherever they appear.
Despite the provocative title, the album’s messaging is more subtle and abstract, allowing the music and samples to do the talking through mood, tone and ambiance. According to Meace, the album “tells the story of my own journey to music production competence, but in a larger sense it tells the story of me becoming my own person and escaping the traumas of my childhood.” In this sense, the term “Dictators Die” isn’t necessarily referring to a literal dictator, but could be interpreted as escaping the forces that have controlled us or kept us from reaching out potential since we were young. These forces could be represented by actual individuals that have oppressed us in our lives or merely our own “mental” limitations we’ve imposed upon ourselves, or perhaps even some combination of both.
One of the more intriguing tracks is Patterns, which features a kind of dreamlike, 70′s scifi intro that pulls you in like a tractor beam. The intro actually reminds me of soundtracks from films like, Android (1982) and Saturn 3 (1981). It’s reflective and desolate in a charming way. The action slowly builds, and the mix becomes more involved the song is energizing and vibrant. Choose Your Family is one of the few recognizably “hip hop” jams on here, and it spices things up just at the right time and rounds things off nicely.
While this album could technically be considered lo-fi, the production quality is pretty advanced. It sounds more like a solid and stylish stereophile-tier recording than something that was recorded on an old, garage sale purchased Fostex 4-track. Having said that, it does have that authentic, avant garde appeal that’s typically associated with lo-fi music. There’s genuine artistry and structure as well. This isn’t just a hodgepodge of stuff thrown together in a musical collage. Meace’s instrumental training and technical skill allows the musical aspect to keep pace with the album’s intellectual momentum.
Beast is a new single from critically acclaimed artist, Yolanda Arrey. The song has an epic, almost theatrical style of presentation. With it’s creatively complex songwriting structure, elaborate production elements and impassioned performances, this was clearly an ambitious project. This makes sense when you realize the video for this jam is intended to be a tribute to Michael Jackson’s iconic classic, Thriller. It succeeds wildly in this endeavor, both in the theatrics as well as the musical substance.
Yolanda’s vocal style is incredibly distinctive. It’s like if you were to cross Enya with Whitney Houston, and throw in a bit of The Temptations’ wholesome charm. Bottom line though, is that Yolanda Arrey is a phenomenal vocalist and performs to a very high standard. While there is a plethora of musical variety in the mix, Yolanda’s powerful voice drives the song from start to finish.
In terms of content and aesthetics, Beast incorporates slightly dark undertones and seemingly “demonic” motifs as part of Yolanda’s underlying message, which is that “we should embrace our whole selves, even the parts we find a little scary, to be our best.” Thematically, this is achieved by coupling visually ominous imagery with the song’s bright and uplifting tone. This same duality exists in the title itself, as the term “beast” can conjure images of vicious animals but is also associated with boldness, and even the most beastly creatures have a sentimental and loving side. Anyway, this entire musical escapade is impressive, professional and I predict it will be extremely well-received by the general public.
Can Do is a new single from Atlanta-based afro-fusion/afro-pop artist, CtrlT. Released hot on the heels of his recent track, Star, this latest effort explores the concept of human potential. The song was inspired by a dancer whom CtrlT came across on social media and thought was extremely talented. This experience manifests itself in the song’s narrative, which consists of the artist asking a talented dancer what she “can do.” Thus, it is not really just about what moves she can currently do, but about getting people to think about aiming for the limits of what is possible for them to achieve. You have to respect how CtrlT strives for emotional and intellectual depth in his music, rather than just settling for superficial and cookie-cutter pop creations. This is genuinely poignant material. Can Do is slated for official release on 9/23 and will be available on all major platforms.
Fire and Ice is a single from international artist Wendy Halo. The song—which has already amassed more than 50,000 plays on Spotify—blends elements of pop, R&B and dance and is quite catchy. The mix is energizing and packs a little more musical punch than the average pop song. It has an underlying “smooth groove” to it well. This is a romantic track, as the fire/ice dichotomy serves as a kind of yin and yang metaphor for how opposites attract and engage with one another. Wendy’s vocals are passionate, charismatic and brimming with an electric vibrance. Her spark will definitely “fire up” audiences. Ultimately, this is a solid and straightforward pop song with enough creative aspects to give it its own distinguishable identity.
Hittin Chicken Skins is a new single from hip hop artist, Trileon ThaGod and appears on his latest mixtape IAmTrileon. This jam is smooth. Trileon has a casual flow and his voice has a naturally pleasing tone. His performance is actually a great example of how you can immediately tell when some rappers have a high skill level even with they’re not backed by millions of dollars and mega corporations. Trileon has great timing, which is especially impressive as he amps up the intensity at certain points of the song. The beat is fresh, melodic and has a classic, analog cassette quality reminiscent of those you hear on the most respected hip hop tunes. Trileon has really good taste in my opinion and this is top-tier underground hip hop. He has apparently been making music since the late 2000s, and his experience shows here.
Band-Aid is a new single from Cincinnati-based singer-songwriter, Frankly Speaking featuring Kelsey Ray. The song blends elements of folk, alternative, indie pop and even a bit of light hip hop. The vocals of Kelsey Ray are phenomenal. She has one of the better voices I’ve heard in recent memory and gives a technically strong and endearing performance. The tone of the track is balanced out nicely with Frankly Speaking’s casual, sentimental and creative delivery.
In terms of songwriting, the track has a rich and complex structure, making use of vocal layering and a plethora of organic instrumentals. While the lyrical content reflects fallout of a bittersweet romance, the ambiance is pretty and bright. This is a classic folk duet, updated stylistically for 21st century appeal. Production quality is top notch, and the mix is brimming with sonic detail. Frankly Speaking is obviously a gifted songwriter, and everything is weaved together here masterfully.
Not All There is a new single from artist Lil Wondr Boy. The song exists as part of a growing new genre that blends emo and UK drill music. Indeed, the song is brimming with emotion as Lil Wondr Boy passionately lays it all out there. His vocals really are in that authentic tone of “emo” that I would recognize anywhere. It’s odd to hear it combined with hip hop style beats, but the sound works. Musically, it’s melodic with a hint of synth sparkle, while the rhythm has a healthy pulse to it. You can dance t this. In terms of ambiance, Not All There has a sentimental, rainy day vibe. The lyrics are reflective, sincere and ripe with anguish. It’s a pretty decent release, with bonus points for creativity. Lots of budding potential here.
The Murdercrows is the second album from experimental hip hop artist, Billy Blackgoat. His non-traditional approach incorporates rock, alternative, metal and even spoken word to create in genuinely unique sound. The ambiance is delightfully delightfully brooding and the music has a Tales From the Darkside vibe. Billy has one of the most distinctive voices I’ve ever heard in hip hop. His delivery is emotionally expressive in a manner not typically associated with hip hop. There are traces of despair, urgency and anguish int the vocals.
The songs dive deep into spirituality and symbolism. Listening to this album is almost like listening to a fantasy adventure, as we feel like we’re right there in the parallel netherworld the artist has constructed for us. Motifs such as insects, crows and various mythological creatures serve as metaphors and set the scene. My favorite track on the album is Pesticide, which I think is the catchiest jam on here. Billy’s vocal delivery is somewhat jarring (in an artistically effective way) initially but really starts to grow on you after you get used to it. It’s great to see hip hop like this that takes a more avant garde approach, rather than be centered around cliches and ego. Billy Blackgoat has released a total of two studio albums, as well as a live album. His third album is set to be released later this year.