Charleston based singer/songwriter Chris Sullivan’s new EP Dog Days dazzles immediately with its surprisingly fast paced opening track, By the Light of the Radio. This song is instantly recognizable as a masterpiece, and I’m not someone who typically even listens to much Americana or Adult Contemporary music. Sullivan carries the song with so much speed, energy and emotion. The best way I could describe the sound is if you took 90s pop rock like the BoDeans or Del Amitri, sped it up a bit and gave it more of an Southern feel. Other tracks like The City That Never Sleeps and Black Clouds are slightly slower paced but every bit as rockin’. Sullivan can really belt out the lyrics, too. He has the perfect masculine yet emotive voice for this style of music, and he projects it well. This is just an all around talented guy who puts his heart and soul into these recordings, and it shows.
I didn’t quite know what to expect with Danjul’s Origin of Times EP as the cover doesn’t provide a lot of clues to the music. In a pleasant surprise, the cd comes across almost like an avant garde opera, with elements of hip hop and r&b. The production is very good. Executive producer Matthew A. Nelson did an excellent job at ensuring the framework would augment the music. The tonality gives off a somewhat dark vibe, like a pop musical that’s willing explore more shadowy themes.
The intro track effectively sets the stage for the rest of the album. It slowly builds from ambient sounds and strange effects until it kicks in as full blown pop jam. Each song itself has a rather unique intro, but my favorite is probably Chapter of Love which opens with a chimy, eerie bit that is attention grabbing and slightly disturbing.
The vocals on this album are much better than what is typical for this style of music. They are very clear, and mostly left unmolested by needless effects or excessive processing. There is some legit singing done here by Danjul (and others?)
It’s difficult to compartmentalize Origin of Times into any one genre. I actually think this has potential to be performed live, perhaps as an underground art-house version of one of those ice skating musicals.
This is not merely some hobbyist’s demo or vanity recording. Origins of Time is a full and cohesive work of art.
The Original MegaMen have been in the game in one form or another since the 90′s and have quite a few releases under their belt. Their latest track, 2AM Night Cap(Ghetto Soul Project Mix, featuring J-Murk and X Madueno) is a high energy electro house jam. It is very well put together, and I especially like the samples and effects choices, which often sound like lasers and spaceship sounds, giving the song a subtly futuristic ambiance and adding to the overall vibrance. The beat is fast paced and infectious, my first thought being that I could definitely dance to this. The chorus, ain’t nothing like a 2AM night cap is catchy and I found myself singing it casually, hours after listening to this. Like other songs in this genre, vocals are kept to a minimum, and the beat is ultimately the focal point. However, the vocals here are used very effectively, even in the limited capacity they serve. At the end of the day, this is a solid production from a couple of guys that have been around the block and know what they’re doing.
The Pagliaci, an Italian DJ known for his interest in break beat music, has a new track out featuring Alaska MC. It’s titled Beats, Breaks & Bass. What’s notable about Pagliaci’s style is that he combines dance music and break beat with hip hop. The sound is often reminiscent of the best of 90s music, and I have to admit it awakened a bit of nostalgia for me for a simpler, much more carefree era of music. The professionalism in the production is quite evident to even a casual listener, as The Pagliaci demonstrates the skills of a longtime veteran of the DJ scene who cut his chops on turntables back in the day and kept up with technology over the years. Beats, Breaks & Bass is a party jam, filled with energy and with a chorus that’s surprisingly melodic. I would recommend this jam to the kind of person that just loves to go out on the town, have a good time and avoid drama.
DJ Ice Creme is back with another cool and krispy jam. His new track Stay Frosty captures the same positive and uplifting dance music vibe as his other releases. I would describe the ambiance of this song as being similar to that of a child’s birthday party in 1991. It is fitting that the artist goes by the name of “Ice Creme,” since his music is often like an EDM version of the music that emanates from an actual ice cream truck, complete with the excited voices of the children roaring as the vehicle makes its way into their neighborhood. The elevated pitch of the song is maintained throughout, and the music has a brightness quality that could lift the mood of the most cynical among us (this reviewer included.) I really appreciate the way Ice Creme has established his own recognizably distinct and consistent sound. Stay Frosty is terrific and refreshingly free of the kind of unnecessary attitude or assertive egomania that often permeates through contemporary dance tunes. Production quality is solid, this is an all around feel good kinda song.
Can’t Back Down is a new single from Philadelphia based alternative rock project, “Sightline Heights” (which is set to release its debut EP in June.) Though a lot of bands and artists have casually adopted the label of alternative as a descriptor of their music over the years, Sightline Heights’ Can’t Back Down strikes me as actually capturing the essence of the “alternative” music sound (as I imagine it anyway.) The tempo is slow to moderate, and the drums have a nice kick to them. The guitars have that nice, classic distortion, creating a coveted tone which really is the heart of this song. In addition to his guitar work, singer/songwriter Marc Eimer also does a decent job as vocalist, especially considering his parts are not particularly easy to sing. It’s difficult to actually “sing” at the volume required for this type of music while retaining artful clarity and without devolving into gravelly shouting or screamo type vocals, but Eimer manages to hold his own. Production quality on the track is excellent, right up there with any standard label release.
All in all, this is a pretty solid alternative rock song. I don’t really have any criticisms, but it would be interesting on some future releases to experiment with the sound a bit by adding in some unusual instruments, a synthy bridge or maybe even a surprise female solo. I wouldn’t really mess with it too much though as the artist has a pretty good formula so far.
Diveyede refers to himself as a “Style of No Style.” His latest release There is no Cure//They Will Be the Death of Me occupies an interesting niche somewhere between hip hop, chillwave and spoken word poetry. Despite having a rather calm and pleasant voice to listen to, what stands out to me about Diveyede’s delivery is his impeccable sense of timing. It’s so on point that it almost seems like even a machine couldn’t have done a better job. The tracks themselves are very ambient. The best song on the album is I Lost My Mind in Seattle, which features some killer retro synth and very high quality rapping. Though my personal favorite is the first track, Midnight Thoughts on Alki which strikes me as the most creative and unconventional stylistically (for this genre anyways.) Diveyede is like a hip hop version of the classic lo-fi, avant garde, experimental alternative music, and his music is greatly enhanced by the small collection of talented artists and producers that also work on his projects. Shoutout to “Son the Rhemic,” Siggy and Noob. Their contributions to this did not go unnoticed by the reviewer.
The Space Between is the latest album from LegoHeads (“a one-man ambient pop band” from Vancouver, Canada.) It’s apparent right away with the first track, Headlights, that this really is ambient pop. My first impression was that it reminded me of bands like Erasure, but with a slightly more avant-garde and almost alternative indie feel. You get the idea though: lucid dreamy electronic backing music and passionate vocals out front, coming through with crystal clarity. Not all the songs are the same though. Some of the songs after the first one are less “dancy” and have more of an atmospheric, late night coffee house vibe.
Landon Trimble’s (the artist’s real name) voice does a great job of carrying these songs, especially considering how minimalist some of them are. They can’t simply be hidden away in the mix. His vocals are quite pleasant to listen to. In fact, my favorite track on here is Who Would Run, which is my opinion also features his best vocal performance. In terms of the ambient digital musical backing, I like Here at the Edge (the outro,) which I can only describe as being vaguely reminiscent of cutscene music from old school Final Fantasy games.
Anyway, this album is a quality effort from LegoHeads that left me with enough interest that I will probably now go back and check out his first album.
Alternative hip hop artist Diveyede’s latest single, Pale Moonlight, is taken from his upcoming EP There is no cure//They will be the death of me. The production is pretty solid, but not so great that it takes away from the raw, organic feel of the recording. If production is too good, sometimes it can commercializes out the avant-garde authenticity. Diveyede’s style is somewhat unorthodox in that it blends spoken word slam poetry with conventional hip hop musicality. There are even some emo elements here. Pale Moonlight is filled with angst and displays a willingness on the part of the artist to confront his own sanity and vulnerability. There is a kind of madness to it all (“This is my Van Gogh!” he shouts despairingly.) More importantly, Diveyede displays a self awareness that is uncommon in these genres. The end result is that Pale Moonlight avoids the trappings of superficial posturing and hip hop cliches, managing to be something genuinely experimental.
Released on Valentine’s Day, Ups & Downs of Love is a new mixtape from a Buffalo, NY based hip hop artist going by the name Conscious. As the title suggests, the songs thematically alternate between the high, euphoric aspects of love and the downtrodden episodes of heartbreak and depression. The production quality here is pretty good, though I prefer the vocal effects on some tracks more than others. Let Me In particularly stands out as one of the best tracks on here, with the vocals coming through smoothly and crisply and not tinkered with very much. That’s the point in listening to this where I felt like, “Wow, this guy really has something here.”
As far as the instrumental backing, the final track You & Me is my favorite. It features a bouncy, dreamlike synth beat, reminiscent of video game music. This mixtape fuses elements of hip hop, R&B and pop. Conscious seems like he’s on the right track with this mixtape. Artistically, creating a themed album in which the songs act as components within an overall structure which itself is part of the art, is a good move. It adds a dimension of vision and thoughtfulness that you don’t often see in any plain old mixtape.