Sherise is an eclectic vocalist and songwriter who draws from a wide variety of musical influences, including everything from classical to country to indie pop. She’s set to release her upcoming album, Dimensions of Beauty, sometime in the near future. She can certainly sing, having come through a substantial choir and musical performance background. Her vocals kind of remind me of a cross between Sheryl Crow and Ace of Base, with songs like On the Dance Floor representing the conventional dance music style and other tracks like Unfinished Business demonstrating alternative rock sensibilities while retaining a danceably pop dynamic. It’s my favorite of the songs I listened to. Divided utilizes some creative structure and probably the most dynamic vocal range. Alone is surprisingly peppy and upbeat musically, in contrast with it’s rather somber title. Sherise is clearly a talented songwriter and performer, and there is definitely an established market for what she’s offering.
Spiritual is a 16 track mixtape from 4 Wheel City, a rap group featuring two charismatic motivational speakers and hip hop performers (Namel “Tapwaterz” Norris and Ricardo “Rickfire” Velasquez.) The twist is that they are both in wheelchairs as a result of gun violence. As you might ascertain from the title, Spiritual is geared to inspire. Their stated mission is to “use hip-hop music and culture to create more opportunities for the disabled and inspire people not to give up in life,” but this release isn’t just for the disabled. It could really be helpful to just about anyone who needs a little encouragement and motivation, or even anyone that just enjoys listening to hip hop music.
What’s striking about this release is the fullness of it. It contains 16 unique tracks, each filled to the brim with lyrical substance and musical depth. Even the spoken word intro, the thinnest of the tracks, serves a vital function as a piece of the puzzle. There are some attention grabbing samples, such as those in Noah.
The backing music is very ambient for a hip hop album, occasionally even resembling Native American style music, (which is somewhat fitting for the album;s message of finding peaceful determination and courage from within oneself to overcome adversity.) There is quite a range even here though, with other songs having more conventional house beat backing, and still others featuring groovy, retro analog vibes. One of the best tracks on here is Disabled Lives Matter. It has a hypnotic, old school hip hop feel. Lyrically it goes deeper than you might expect for a song with a bumper sticker slogan title. The song in explicit detail captures the feeling of “not being able to escape,” which is something I hadn’t really considered as being central to a disabled person’s struggle. The sentiment, conveyed very well here, can be taken literally and figuratively. Being disabled makes it physically more difficult to evacuate or get out of harm’s way. Psychologically, one must come to terms with the fact they cannot “escape” their condition. However, Spiritual inspires disabled people to confront their conditions in a positive way, and reminds everyone that each of us has physical and mental barriers that we must overcome to achieve our dreams.
Book Me For a Show is a brand new solo mixtape from Erie, PA based artist, Mucho Dinero. At 11 tracks, the listener is sure to get their time/money’s worth out of this release. It comes jam packed with all sorts of flavorful jams like Day 1 and No Snake Zone. What jumps out at me about Mucho Dinero is that he has a distinct sounding voice, which will make him recognizable. He’s soft spoken and has a laid back delivery, but the actual tone of his voice is very unique. A lot of indie rappers sound almost exactly the same as one another, but I really can’t think of another rapper that sounds quite like Mucho Dinero. That is something that works in his favor. I’ve reviewed quite a few mixtapes before which had featured multiple artists, and it can be difficult to tell the who’s who and what’s whats. That’s not the case on Book Me For a Show. The pacing of the songs is somewhat varied. The opening track, Have Ya is chill and subdued, almost coming across like spoken word poetry at times. Other tracks like 2 More are a little more peppy and fast paced. Anyway, this release should definitely be enough to get this dude booked for some actual shows.
Más Allá is a new single from Los Angeles based artist, Caesar Osiris. It was created with the intention of inspiring environmental awareness. The song’s aquatic ambiance and sea breeze aesthetic illustriously showcase the beauty of the oceans Osiris seeks to preserve. Musically the track could pass as a fairly decent pop single, bio-fueled by Caesar’s more than capable singing abilities and some energizing tropical synths. The production value is very good, on par with a professional label release. The video also features some choreographed dancing as well as some creative costume choices. This is a solid effort by a determined artist, and it’s for a great cause. We all need to do a better job of taking care of our oceans. Not only is water necessary for our lives, the sea creatures do not have anywhere else to go if we ruin their home.
Breaking Away is a pretty smooth and straightforward pop song from up and coming vocalist, Cody Daniel. It comes from his EP, The Calm. Cody has a few releases under his belt already in which he has already established some talent. Breaking Away hits all the marks in terms of what makes a contemporary pop song a hit. It’s catchy, competently produced and performed by an artist that fits the mold of a pop star while retaining some stylistic originality. Cody Daniel’s energetic yet laid back persona gives his music both a relaxed and upbeat feel. The quick witted lyrics flow nicely,the whole song just has a nice ring to it. The only missing ingredient here is a label to back this project with some heavy marketing (and money.)
Singer/songwriter Richard Wadsworth gives new meaning to the term “prolific.” Claiming to have created over 1,300 songs since the age of 19, his latest album, Eternity is stocked with a whopping 77 tracks. You might think that with an album which contains so many songs, the tracks themselves would be very short to compensate. That’s not the case though. The opening track, Heavenly Starway, clocks in at just over 77 minutes. The remaining 76 songs average between 3 and 5 minutes each.
Wadsworth describes his music as “Christian-themed rock and roll featuring angelic vocals and gentle electric guitar strums.” Religious themes aside, musically his songs remind me a lot of obscure 90s indie folk and avant garde LoFi artists. The sound is very raw, almost like a live recording. There is very little editing. The songs consist of some rather creative strumming of out of tune guitars, with accompanying vocals in various forms and tones. The lyrics can be difficult to make out at times, but I don’t think it really matters. This is an experimental recording, so pretty much anything goes.
I could find almost no info on this artist other than what is listed in the press release except that he may be from Philadelphia. There’s no website or social media presence to speak of. Eternity is one of the most bizarre recordings I’ve ever listened to, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was all an elaborate troll. Icy Love is probably my favorite track, though admittedly I did not listen to all 77 of them. The “album cover” is just a 19th century painting by William Rimmer titled Evening (The Fall of Day.) The same painting was also the basis for Led Zeppelin’s label, Swan Song. If you’ve got some time to kill, give Eternity a listen.
HOFFEY, a male/female pop twosome from Vancouver Canada, recently released their debut single, titled Love is Wild. The often synchronous yet contrasting vocals of Erika and Jordan Toohey complement each other well enough. There are a couple of ways in which this track differs from a conventional pop track though, both of which are positive. For one thing, the artists are genuinely partners in a romantic relationship, which gives added sincerity and meaning to the lyrics and how they’re expressed. This is unlike most common pop songs, which typically are written by third parties and just simply manufactured for public consumption (there are a few exceptions.) The other noticeable distinction here is the unique synth backing on Love is Wild. It has more of the feel of an artistic collage than a standard pop/dance beat. In fact, if this song were released without vocals it could pass for a very good chillwave track. True to the song’s theme, the interesting pacing and unpredictable breaks almost seem calculated to correspond to the tempestuous, yet beautiful wildness of the relationship experience itself.
Shavonda Robinson’s book, I Am a Free Woman: Poems For a Little Girl uses poems to chronicle the struggle of women who have suffered abuse, often at the hands of their own family. Shavonda describes herself as a “poet activist for abused women.” Poetry is a useful medium to deal with the subject of abuse, because it allows for people to discuss subjects they might otherwise be uncomfortable expressing in straightforward conversation. While the subject matter of the book is somewhat dark, Shavonda Robinson wisely choose to give the book an inspirational tone. Her poems serve to motivate these women and help them to reclaim their confidence.
I Am Beautiful Like Me
By Shavonda Robinson
I am not beautiful like you
I am beautiful like me
And what makes me beautiful
My scars, My mistakes, My opinions
My struggles, My fears, My insecurities,
My Confidence, My learned lessons
A self described “multi-genre artist from Arizona,” LUURK showcases his production and songwriting skills with his latest release, Ain’t Coming Back. Had the song been released as an instrumental and without vocals, it could easily pass as a pretty decent summertime EDM jam. The vocals manage to transform the track into more of a pop/R&B/dance combo song. True to his form, LUURK does in fact span different genres with his music, and Ain’t Coming Back succeeds in walking the line between remaining accessible to a wide range of listeners and alienating those who may favor one style heavily over another.
Production and mixing on this are top notch. While the lyrics are not very extensive, the vocals that exist are performed well. LUURK is also wise enough not to ruin them with a bunch of over-processing and auto-tune. The song also does something interesting in that it combines an uplifting musical arrangement with a seemingly ambiguous or negative lyric, “No, we ain’t coming back.” I’ve noticed this is fairly common in EDM, creating a positive experience and celebrating optimism as a mood regardless of what life throws at you. If you’ve ever attended an EDM event, one thing that stands out is how happy everyone is compared to other concerts. This song radiates with positive energy, but just as importantly, it is very well put together musically.
Singer/songwriter J. Sariah’s eleven song release The Journey
Musically it reminds me a lot of old school TLC, but with a lot less negativity and hostile attitude. While relatable songs like Friendzone give voice to the familiar feelings of heartache, The Journey’s tone is more inspirational than confrontational. Even tracks like Revenge reveal more of a genuinely afflicted sorrow of a woman yearning for someone who understands her pain than a vengeful soul that truly wants revenge. The “revenge” is just the desperate means to extract empathy from the one she cares for.
In fact, The Journey takes the listener through a wide range of emotions, featuring everything from recklessness to sorrow. In addition to demonstrating some dynamic vocal ability (she is quite a good singer) J. Sariah also manages to convincingly convey an array of emotions through her tone and diction, even when one doesn’t take into account the actual lyrical content. The instrumental backing displays a similar versatility as each song is musically distinct from the rest in a substantial way. This isn’t just someone singing to several variations of the same generic beat.
J. Sariah has a lot to be proud of with this release, which in every sense qualifies as a “full album.”