19 year old musical prodigy Stephon Foster is back from a two year hiatus with this “comeback” single, Boy, I Quit. It’s a smooth and heartfelt R&B jam with a quick enough pace and crisp enough beat that you can still dance to it. Passionate emotions are cloaked within the songs laid back ambiance, as deep seated feelings brim just below the surface. Like the cover art and title suggests, this single is essentially a love / break up / last chance letter to someone, but really it can be a metaphor for almost any situation where you might me ready to give up on something or someone, even yourself. The assertive, life affirming message is delivered in a very lovely and non-aggressive musical tone. The song is very bright actually and doesn’t come off as depressing at all. Stephon has a pretty voice that’s easy on the ears. I’ve often said that R&B / pop is one of the most difficult genres to sing (except maybe opera) because of all the fluctuations and dynamicism required within individual words. The artist manages to pull it off here. Evoking feelings of empathy and understanding, Boy, I Quit is a respectable second act for Foster and lest we not forget…Stephon is only 19 years old. There will be plenty more in store for the future.
This sort of thing is my bag, baby. No Clashing Egos is a full length album from a musical project known as hooyoosay (they prefer not to be referred to as a band or be credited individually.) The music speaks for itself though. The album is quirky, fun, and avant garde. Unlike a lot of experimental music artists, these guys can actually play their instruments, sing and put together some really impressive arrangements. They remind me of a bit of The Aquabats, if you were to replace the SoCal ska element with a roots Americana vibe. These songs are also a little bit more artistic and abstract. It’s like if you combined 1940s-1950s stage musical acts with contemporary synths, beats and a hodgepodge of other instruments. No two songs on this album are the same, which ultimately makes genre classification challenging. There’s an endearing mix of comedy and sincerity in the lyrics, in the same way that dialogue in a play or a song and dance number in a musical can present as “goofy” but still convey genuine emotions and explore substantive themes. As the title implies, No Clashing Egos disarms and dazzles the listener with its whimsical innocence. My favorite song on this album is Mountain Air, which is a 60′s style psychedelic, indie pop masterpiece. These guys (and girls) are great. I love this!
Still Alive is the latest record from singer/songwriter Fred Argir. A prolific artist, this marks Argir’s 6th album release in just 8 years. The music is guitar driven, classic alternative combined with with blues and gritty rock’n’roll vocals. You get the idea right away with the statement-making first track, The World Isn’t Round. It’s much heavier than what one would expect from a solo “singer/songwriter” album. This isn’t a folk acoustic night at the local coffee bar. This is rockin’ and practically grunge. Other songs like The Meditation are a more mellow, providing a dark and brooding ambiance. You have to listen poke around a bit to find them, but tucked away on this album are some thrilling guitar solos. I also really like the mix on this release. The vocals aren’t too far out front, and the recording doesn’t sound overly polished. It really does sound like authentic alternative rock, as good as you’ll ever find it.
San Diego based, Houston born hip hop artist Lew Houston has a new jam out called Safe. He has a southern style for sure, with a crisp, clear delivery and a “very matter of fact” way of speaking. The song features some choice lines, such as Last place cause you’re too soft, sandman get booed off, red nose like Rudolph… The track mostly has a slow, chill beat, though Houston occasionally picks up the delivery pace at certain moments for maximum effect. Production on this track is very good for an indie hip hop song. One thing I really like about it is that Houston doesn’t use a ton of processing and annoying effects on his vocals the way many rappers do. He demonstrates solid vocal presence, and I get the sense this guy is all about handlin biz.
Awakeness is a single from bilingual, Oklahoma City based hip hop artist Luckydabo$$. It’s part of his musical project The Me$$age, which was released in 2018. The artist’s “message” in this case is one of positivity and optimism for contemporary society. Awakeness features lyrics of light encouragement related to everyday life (Gotta put some food on the table, got a kid to feed) and Luckydabo$$ has a rather jovial disposition. His delivery style consists of a laid back yet constant stream of consciousness. When I first heard this song, my first impression was that his vocals had a slight Caribbean quality to them, but in actuality he is descended from the Ashanti Kingdom in West Africa (known to us as Ghana and the Ivory Coast.) Luckydabo$$ just has a great attitude about life and seems genuinely all about helping people. He seems like a natural when it comes to hip hop, and listening to his jams you get the sense that this guy could rap in his sleep.
Soul City is a single from Mozambique based artist, Gentlebeatz. The song is the title track of an EP of the same name. Mozambique is known for its high culture and refined aesthetic. I’ve gotta say Soul City is a really groovy jam. This (mostly) instrumental track is packed with analog warmth and that nostalgic tape hiss / scratchy vinyl record noise goodness. Technically I suppose it falls somewhere in between jazz, LoFi and chillwave, but the best way to describe it to me is that would not seem out of place in the quiet scenes as part of an early 1970′s film soundtrack. It utilizes a mix of organic, non-musical sounds and combines them with light (electric?) piano, synths and beats to create something which feels just right. It’s music you’d listen to in deep contemplation while snuggled up to a warm fireplace. I don’t have enough space here to discuss the rest of the songs that appear on the full EP, but I checked them out and recommend you do the same. You won’t be disappointed.
Actor Rodrigo Rocha is set to appear in a new film “SSW Of The Border.” The movie is scheduled to begin production in April 2019. A tentative release date is slated to be around February in 2020. With direction by Felipe Bretas and Bruno Vieira, the movie centers upon an individual attempting to cross the US border illegally. From the dangerous journey to the cultural challenges upon arrival the film deals with hot button contemporary political and social issues. In addition to Rocha, the film features a number of other actors, both known and unknown including: Kayky Brito, Zhubin Rahbar, Eduardo Magalhaes, Dani Antunes, Eben Reinhardt, Joao Gevaerd, Dimi Papas, Kenzie Dodds, Rhaina Rodovalho, and Juliana Amador.
The Girl From Cherry Valley is an album from Croatian based musical outfit, Jas Frank and the Intoits. The music is avant garde and eclectic, drawing inspiration from a variety of styles and bands from various genres. Some songs on this album like In a Hole and When the Rain Stops have a harder rock quality, with powerful guitars and a very assertive energy. These bring to life an unexpected versatility as the first few tracks had a kind of dance oriented / alternative synthpop aesthetic (especially the opening track High in Space.) There are elements of the 60′s, 80′s, and 90′s in these recordings.
Jas Frank is a charismatic vocalist, and her voice at times reminds me of Nena (of 99 Red Balloons fame) while at other moments bears an incredible resemblance to that of the members of iconic indie pop duo, Tegan and Sara. There is substantial musical variation on this album. What’s consistent though is that these songs are quirky, creative and artful. The lyrics are complex, and occasionally catchy in that “indie sodapop” kind of way, even while they manage to explore darker, more emotionally personal themes. The Girl From Cherry Valley is just a really neat little album from one of those indie bands that has a difficult to pinpoint yet familiar way of making you want to root for them.
Guadalupe River is a new single from Todd Barrow, a Texas based country music artist. It’s a laid back, low drama, country jam all about having a blast on the Guadalupe River after a long hard workweek. Relaxing in an inner tube with a cold one, checking out cute girls in bikinis, fishing for rainbow trout and basically just livin the good life. What this song does a fantastic job of is painting a vivid image of the setting. You almost feel like you’re there hanging out with this crew. I live in the desert suburbs, but this track can resonate with anyone because we all have our own equivalent to the Guadalupe River, a place we associate with taking a break from our problems and letting loose for an afternoon. The music is very clean and polished. This isn’t rough or “gritty” country song. Production on this track is of radio quality and Barrow’s a good singer. His voice has an affable, unpretentious quality to it. You can just tell this guy would be a good fishing buddy. This song will make you want to bust out a roadmap and figure out where the nearest river is. Just don’t forget to pick up the margarita mix on the way.
Sugar On Demand is a new album from Leo Salom, an Italian DJ and producer who’s currently based in Los Angeles. Salom is a fairly well known DJ and has a substantial following, resulting from his extensive experience performing the night club circuit and at prominent music festivals. Sugar on Demand is more interesting than the typical electronic music record, because it represents something new. Stylewise I haven’t heard anything quite like this (and I’ve listened to a lot of EDM over the years.) Some tracks have the feel of a kind of “tropical futurism,” combining fast paced irregular beats with summertime sparkling vibes.
What’s innovative about these songs though is how versatile they are and the flavorful elements which are incorporated into the sound. Salom doesn’t fall back on the familiar synth samples you’ve heard in 1000s of sample packs and techno and dance party jams. It seems like anything this artist does touch turns into something better. I enjoyed this incarnation of Unshakable much more than the Trip 40, TWIIG or Sound Rush versions. It just comes through so crystal clear and melodic. In fact, the songs on this album manage to sound futuristic and musical without coming across as overly robotic or mechanical. The closest to that sort of retro cyberpunk style of futurist song would be Summertime Fling, but even that metamorphosizes into something shinier and more musical, catching the listener off guard and pleasantly surprised.
The beats in these songs inventively make use of “strategic erraticism” while somehow fitting neatly within the structured framework of each track’s overall musical architecture. The tone of the album is generally very bright and upbeat, leaving you feeling like you’ve just won a game of Candyland. That’s one thing which is amazing about electronic music. All other things being equal, you can take two mixes from different artists, and they will evoke completely different emotions in you, just on the basis of their artistic choices. The “feeling” is a reflection of a DJ’s personality, their essence. The sense one gets from Sugar on Demand is that Leo Salom has a deep dedication to love, positivity and a vibrant free spirit. The album certainly has the potential to inspire people, and may very well carve out some uncharted pathways for this genre.