“Bearzerk” is a Los Angeles based artist management / music company. They also operate their own record label. They tend to focus on EDM, House, Hip Hop, Techno, Trap, R&B and Dancehall genres of music. Bearzerk has also been known to be involved with events and afterparties, usually featuring well known DJs and hip hop artists. Though the entertainment company is headquartered in LA, Bearzerk also operates in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and The Caribbean. Recently they promoted a one-off show in New Zealand featuring R&B icon, Nelly. I don’t know much else about this company, but I have to admit they have a cool logo. They seem to be at the forefront and cutting edge of 21st century musical promotion.
666 is an EP from Paris based hip hop artist, Sauveur Eloheem. True to the album’s title, the songs have a spooky and darkly ambiant synth vibe (one of the tracks is even called Halloween.) Many of the lyrics appear to be in French, but the music could be appreciated by anyone regardless of language. Eloheem’s voice is deep and his delivery is authotitative and commanding. He displays a charismatic vocal presence througout the EP. A good way to describe this album is that it’s creepy in a good way. Eloheem has put together a cohesive and avant garde release. My favorite track on 666 is Serpent à Sonnette, as the song’s hauntingly magnetic intro pulls the listener in and sets the tone for the music ahead. It’s worth noting that all of the songs on 666 have captivating intros. I recommend you check out Sauveur Eloheem’s other releases if you get the opportunity.
Double life liver Louie Lahana is a schoolteacher during the day and describes himself as a “musician after midnight.” His music is a rather unique combination of acoustic alternative and hip hop. I’ve heard other artists classify their music in this way, and usually it just turns out to be someone rapping loudly over rock music, basically like “rapcore.” However, in Lahana’s case his music really does sound like alternative music. A big part of this is his vocal delivery, which sounds more like John McCrea of Cake or Bright Eyees than Ghostface Killah or even Fred Durst. In other words, this is the good stuff.
One of Lahana’s latest singles, Taxi, reassures the listener almost immediately with its earthy and vibrant accoustic guitar tone, rhythmically performed and pleasant to the ear. Lahana’s comfortable singing voice and dynamic delivery elevate these recordings beyond the realm of mere spoken word slam poetry. It kind of reminds me of some of Lou Reed’s post Velvet Underground material like Walk on the Wild Side. The backing / harmony vocals contributed by Tehillah Henry manage to take the song even further. The lengthy and comprehensive lyrics in Taxi supposedly tell a tale of “nostalgia and trauma in a cab on the way to work” (hey who can’t relate to that?) The song ultimately tells us much more though, as we realize that Louie Lahana isn’t just a school teacher who tinkers with music on the side. He’s someone who releases top tier, chartworthy indie songs, and who just so happens to also be a teacher.
Musical artist, producer, performer and composer Howard Herrick has just released a self titled solo album. He’s no stranger to releasing music though, boasting a lengthy and impressive resume, which includes writing / producing scores for film and theater productions. He also was a member of the New Jersey rock band, “Minister Hill.” One of Herricks more well known credits involves composing music for Shaquille O’Neal’s video game, Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn.
Given Herrick’s eclectic range of talents and influemces, I really wasn’t sure what to expect stylewise from his latest album. There is in fact, plenty of variety. It opens with the light synth pop jam, Hold My Hand. The next track is an emotional, piano driven, adult conteporary song, Show Me That One Again. Then the album really lets loose with the ethereal rock opera number Go and Hear. This versatility continues right on down the list. However, the songs are all thematically consistent and feel like compatiblie ingredients in a cohesive concoction. I should mention that Howard Herrick sings on these tracks, and he is quite a capable vocalist. This style of music is very difficult to sing well. I certainly couldn’t do it. It’s impressive the way Herrick fully belts out these emotional lyrics, and his voice more than gets the job done. My favorite track on the album is probabaly New Heart, which has a brooding synth backing and features alternative-like vocals.
Visions is a new single from hip hop artist, fadetheblackk. Featuring a jazzy, piano driven backdrop, this soulful jam is colorfully upbeat and peppy. Fadetheblackk doesn’t merely spit rhymes, there is a melodic musicality to his delivery. He also keeps the posturing and attitude to a minimum, coming across instead as humble and open. Lyrically, the song combines bittersweet ruminations on life with a motivational spirit. Production quality is good. Unlike so many contemporary hip hop tracks, this one doesn’t utilize any obnoxious vocal processing effects. Visions is a lively and uplifiting springtime pop song. Definitely worth a listen.
One thing that distiguishes Keys and Vices from typical indie rock bands is the quality of the singing. Most indie groups tend to substitute creativity and artful authenticity for whatever they may be lacking in technical ability. It’s a tradeoff a certain type of listener accepts. However, in the case of Sacramento based outfit, Keys and Vice, Jennifer Valdez (the group’s frontperson,) has a better voice and is more talented than most millionaire pop stars, many of whom are known only for the their vocals (and sometimes looks.) In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that the vocals on Keys and Vices’ new album Chronic Nostalgia are among best of any I’ve ever reviewed in any genre.
One might find it surprising that Jennifer (measuring in at a height of 5’0) is inspired by the “Rocky” movies. I would have guessed that for today’s young people, the Rocky franchise might be deemed too “problematic” and socially dated to appreciate. These kids are all right I guess. Like Rocky, Jennifer perceives herself as an underdog, and her performance in Chronic Nostalgia demonstrates that, if not the ‘eye of the tiger,’ she has the heart of a champion.
Lending to the band’s vaguely 60′s, moddish aesthetic (at least in the cover art,) part of me assumed the first track Out of My Head would be a cover of the classic Little Anthony & The Imperials’ classic, Going Out Of My Head. But no, I was wrong. This is a completely original song, yet with equally moving, dynamic “energy.” The retro-styled, innocently charming backing music on this track is my favorite on this entire album. It immediately fashions a context for the listener to immerse him or herself in the nostalgic ambiance of these recordings. This song also introduces us to Jennifer’s voice, at which point we’ve offialy made up the mind the album is good. Talk about a first impression! I should also give credit to to bass player Kevin McCarty and Kris Ayala on drums, both of whom solidly wield their skills to roundoff the sound.
There’s plenty of musical variety in Chronic Nostalgia. The instrumental backing music is distinct in every track (piano driven, guitar driven, synth driven etc.) Some tracks are danceably upbeat and groovin’ while others like Box of Keys and Ghost Love are touchingly haunting. All are consistently and passionately performed though, in a manner which convincingly conveys the genuine emotions behind the words.
In a way, listening to an album this good is kind of depressing, knowing that the artist may never receive the recognition that is afforded to so many less-deserving artists so easily. Nevertheless, even if they never manage to get a shot at the title, Keys and Vices have proven themselves worthy with this flawless, indie mini-masterpiece.
Grindin’ is a new single from Lawless Blaze, a hip hop artist from South Louisville, KY. This jam has a low-key and delightfully eerie musical intro, consisting of xylophone styled electric piano melody. It builds tension for the song nicely for the first 30 seconds of the song. The backing music also reminds me of the sort of thing you’d hear in old school Wu-Tang or The Pharcyde classics.
When things finally kick in, Lawless Blaze’s vocals take things into high gear. His delivery often alternates between quick and slow, maintaining a good sense of timing relative to the minimalist back beat. He rhymes mostly in the style of what could be described as a “fast talkin hustler.” Some of the quick-witted lines he rattles off whizz by you so fast you wonder if just bought a car from this guy without knowing it.
The lyrics here are rich with substantive content, much more than the average mainstream rap or pop song. There are some memorable catch phrases and choice lines like pistachios… I’m goin nuts! Most of the song though is inspirational, as the artist charismatically muses about getting things done and working hard. It’s all about struggling and saving to achieve your dreams. “Grindin” is really the right word to describe the daily grind people have to go through to better themselves and often just to survive. It’s a great term to illustrate that nothing comes all that easily or smoothly. You’ve just gotta go out and keep a laser like focus on getting that money.
Lawless Blaze manages to incorporate a genuinely positive and future oriented message without it coming off as cheesy or patronizing. It also must be said that Lawless is actually a very skilled rapper, with a natural flow that is always on point. Nowadays anybody with a computer can record and release a rap song, and it’s tough for artists to stand out among so much competition, but I’m telling you this guy has done his homework and can deliver with the best of them.
Grindin’ is available on Spotify. Feel free to check it out and listen for yourself.
Comin Acha Hot Vol. 2 is a new release from hip hop artists, Pretti Boi & Cashman The Babysitter. It features an epic 23 minutes of full filled rap jams brimming with ironic humor. The darkly ambiant backing beat provides a serious backdrop for the songs. If you were listening to this without paying attention to the lyrics, it would sould like any standard “hard” hip hop music. However, with lyrical gems I’m in the ocean. I’m in your face! If you have a boat, then let’s have a race! you recognize that these songs are in the same spirit as those of similar outfits like Grand Buffet. Whether or not this music works or not is entirely dependent upon the if the artists are clever or not. Luckily, in the case of Pretti Boi & Cashman The Babysitter, they are. Even some of the song titles will you pull you in. When you seek a track named Wait Til’ She Get A Fupa, how could you not immediately skip to it?
All humor aside, when it comes to the musical side, these dudes aren’t fooling around. They can actually rap. They both have a solid delivery and project their voices well. Production on the album is also surprisingly good for such a limited release. I’d recommend people check out Comin Acha Hot Vol. 2. The whole thing is available on youtube for free. Get it now before they jack up the price due to insane demand.
The songs on Christian singer/songwriter Christa Deánā’s new self titled album focus on her religious journey and convey a total dedication to her faith. The Philadelphis based artist originally sought out music as a means of coping with depression and bullying. The opening track, My Story is just what the title advertises. In a spoken word, piano driven monologue, Christa tells her story, honestly and powerfully. She just lays it all out there for the listener, providing valuable context for the rest of the music which follows. The songs on this album though reflect an overwhelmingly positive attitude, consisting mostly of hope and optimism. The mood of the album is very bright and almost beaming (there is even a song titled Shine.)
It’s easy to get lost in the message and meaning of these personal songs, but it must be said that Christa is an amazing singer. Her voice is absolutely terrific. I think what makes it extra special when you hear her sing, is that you realize that if she wanted to, Christa’s talented enough to be a big name pop star, but rather than sing superficial pop songs, she chooses to sing about her faith and use her music to bring hope to others.
Stay In My Dreams is the third single from Stephon Foster’s highly anticipated comeback album (which has been discussed here in previous reviews.) This endearing track is bubble gum sweet and projects feel good vibes throughout. The surreal, dreampop backing music sends the listener straight to candyland. Stay In My Dreams is notably of a lighter nature than some of Stephon’s songs. It retains all of the emotional authenticity, but overall seems a bit softer and more playful in tone than other jams from this artist.
The track is also a duet, featuring prolific hip hop artist “Steady Creating.” Steady’s casual delivery style and sincere, upbeat voice adds a balancing dimension to the song. On the parts where both artists sing simultaneously, their voices contrast well together. The addition of Steady’s performance enhances the song’s narrative, painting a clearer picture for the audience.
While Stay In My Dreams is fun and danceable, the song has more going for it than just the cuteness factor. Like Stephon’s other releases, the lyrics here are heartfelt and passionately delivered. The impressively interwoven layers of musical complexity also make this track particularly satisfying. It just feels very complete and is evidence of Stephon’s continued advancement as an artist and songwriter. Realism and authenticity aren’t qualities we normally associate with pop music, but Stephon is willing to really lay it all out there emotionally in a gentle wave of geunine expression. Despite the song title containing the word “dreams,” nothing about this song is contrived. The lyrics are personal. The energy is real. Stephon Foster’s “comeback album” seems to be coming along nicely.