Originally from Pittsburgh, and having walked away from a career in engineering, Matt Westin would have seemed to be an rather unlikely prospect for country music artist. Yet here he is. Admittedly I was expecting something rather cliche when I came upon his new single Our Redneck of the Woods, (from his debut album, Legacy) but while it does contain some familiar country music tropes about what rednecks like, the song and lyrics are much more detailed and actually pretty epic. With choice lines like “If a politician came out here right now, we might hook his ass up to a plow,” this track has potential to be a hit. It is just one of those songs where you listen and could imagine it being played everywhere, due to the catchy zingers. Musically speaking, the guitar work here is very good, as it is on most country albums, with lots of delightful twang and note bending. Westin is a capable singer, his relatively deep and authoritative voice matching the confident tone of the song. This is a worthwhile country song with highly entertaining lyrics.
Wilmington, Delaware based gospel and R&B singer Dan Kenneth’s latest song, From the Heart is aptly titled work of passion. Kenneth really does sing as if he means it, and you can feel the emotion in every note. With the vocals out front up against a minimalistic piano backing, he doesn’t hide anything in this mix. He lays it all out there for you. Like most gospel singers, this guy has a great voice and uses it to its maximum potential. What’s really refreshing about this release though is that there are no gimmicks, no fake attitude and no posturing. From the Heart has a genuine quality about it that’s missing in so much of today’s music.
Skeletons is a new single from Ezla, (an artist originally from Texas but now based in Nashville.) Ezla describes her music as “hypnotic pop,” and Skeletons absolutely lives up to this characterization. I would add that the both the song and video have a certain lounge music quality. In fact, Ezla’s style comes across as that of a 21st century, indie lounge singer. Her music is assertive and delivered with the sass of a strong female personality, yet always with a smile. The atmosphere is dark and brooding, like an out of the way night club you visit when you’re up to no good. Her voice is naturally sensual, and easy on the ears. It would in fact be very easy to be hypnotized by this music.
At first glance, you might think contemporary singer/songwriter Ashley J is just another pretty pop music performer, but she actually earned a BA degree in Business Law. She really can sing, too. Her latest single, “Satisfied” is a kind of elegant pop song, featuring a light and cerebral backing track. It has an avant garde quality, aided by her celestial voice and Aphrodite-like command of the heavens. This song has more in common with Björk than with Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears, and that is a good thing. Ashley J exhibits some real potential here.
Jarel Portman’s new track, Runaway Blues (from the album, Supersonic) is an awesome rock/blues song which has a psychedelic quality to it, particularly the backing instrumentals. The guitars have a late 60s-early 70s kind of tone, reminiscent of bands like The Pretty Things. Seriously, the vibrato on this jam is killer. The song features some solid vocals also, especially considering this kind of music is difficult to sing well. Performed with passion and impeccable timing, Runaway Blues comes off like the work of veteran musical pros. Expect to hear more stuff from this guy.
Fiesta is a new single from Canadian bass/house duo, Diemetic. It’s an upbeat, party jam that mixes elements of hip hop and dance. It kind of reminds me of a lot of those old 90′s dance mix cds like Club Mix 96. The music is just very fun and lively. It actually gives you energy and puts out a very positive and carefree vibe that’s lacking in so much of today’s artistry. The production on this track is impressive, pretty much major label quality. The song also isn’t overly repetitive. It’s fairly dynamic, with a lot frequent changes throughout the track to keep things fresh and keep the action going.
Band of the Hawk is back with another impressive jam and great example of collaboration done effectively. Dunno Wut To Believe In is a politically charged song which deals loosely with the current political climate and some of the hot button social issues of our time that never quite seem to go away. Setting aside the song’s message, these are all very skilled rappers. There are multiple artists affiliated with this song, so it’s tough to tell who’s who to give proper shoutouts and recognition, but what’s interesting is that they each have distinctive delivery styles, and even the tone of voice is substantially different…which adds something to the song. My favorite section is probably the middle one which features lyrics like Livin’ in the screenshot culture, snakes and vultures. The rapper in this segment is particularly crisp in his timing and diction. These guys all work well together though, and each adds a component to the track giving it another dimension.
Singer-Songwriter Nina Söderquist has released a new ballad. It’s performed as a duet featuring Nina and fellow singer Björn Skifs. As you may be able to ascertain from the title, it’s a song about a couple breaking up, with the mistakes having made by each partner being too much for the relationship to overcome, and it’s time to call it quits or “see it through” (to its conclusion I imagine.) One great thing about this song, is that these are two very talented, professional singers. This type of music is not easy to perform unless you really know what you’re doing. You just can’t fake your way through these kinds of vocals, the way one can with other styles of music. The pacing of the song is mellow but not depressing (even with the song’s bleak theme.) This track reminds me of the great light rock classic duets of the 70′s and 80′s. Nina and Björn have done an excellent job with this.
Orange County based artist Luke Fox has a new album that drops today, January 9th, 2018. When I say album, I do mean full album, as The Art of Sound contains over 25 tracks. Are all of these on the final release I wonder? If so then score. He doesn’t cut any corners on quality either, with each jam having a comprehensive and mostly professional sound.
One pattern that emerges is the artist seems to focus on a number of recurring emotional themes in his songs. Loneliness, romance and dreams feature prominently in the lyrical content. It is tough to categorize this music as The Art of Sound doesn’t quite fit neatly into any one genre. It has elements of indie, piano driven coffeehouse music. The tone, pacing and overall ambiance seem to gravitate in that direction. The vocals however have a pop, or even lite hip hop quality to them, both in delivery style and effects selection. I couldn’t help but think that with different backing track instrumentation, this could be marketed as a completely different style of music. This is what makes Fox’s album interesting. He really does have a unique, recognizably distinctive sound.
Since there are so many tracks on this album, it seems appropriate that I should talk about some of them individually. My favorite song on this release is Spell, which sports a haunting, minimalistic melody and memorable hooks. It also has one of the best vocal performances. Not a Regular Guy is one of the catchier songs. It’s in the form of a peppy and fun, singsong format, almost like an updated, contemporary incarnation of 70′s pop sing along classics like those of The Partridge Family or The First Class. It may be a stretch, but it does reach. Rhythm Rhyme is a song you can dance to, despite it’s relatively measured pacing (these songs are all fairly mellow.) It has a bouncy feel to it, enough to play at a dance club in between EDM bpm blitzkriegs.
Ultimately, I have to say that The Art of Sound lives up to its ambitious title. Luke Fox provides an epic experience. There is just an incredible amount of musical content for one to sift though here. I can’t help but be astonished at the amount of work that must have gone into this project. It would be impressive enough for this reason alone, but the artistry itself is solid, too.
Multi-talented entertainment personality, Keldamuzik (AKA Diva,) thrives as a recording artist, actress, TV Show Host and producer. Her music is animated and exuberant. It combines her lively personality with some pretty catchy beats. One of my favorite jams of hers is That’s Why which has a musical backing track that’s reminiscent of video game “chip tune” music but which features Keldamuzik’s epic lyrics such as:
“up top, I’m blessed with a c cup, down there I keep a lil’ peach fuzz”
These are enhanced by her delivery and “matter of fact” tone. It should be said also, that Keldamuzik isn’t all attitude. She’s also a decent singer and her single Queen For A Night showcases her vocal abilities and reveals a side of tender sincerity. Keldamuzik comes across as an ambitious and more than capable performer.