Morty Shallman’s “Pop Fiction” is sort of a blend of spoke word storytelling, light rap and pop music. What differentiate it from other similarly esoteric and indie avante garde projects is that it’s incredibly well produced. Typically this kind of jam would be lo-fi, recorded by some guy with a turtleneck and a tape recorder, but Morty went all out on production and his songs are meticulously constructed. In addition to being highly creative, “Pop Fiction” also energetic, fun and poppy. It never comes off as dreary, creepy or self-indulgent. There’s some real potential here for Shallman to break out.
Manhattan based singer/songwriter Aprilann’s latest release is “Crown and the Girls.” It’s striking how well-produced it is (credit Artie Skye of Skyelabs in NY.) The chorus is catchy and repetitive in that “department store pop music” kind of way that gets the song stuck in your head for days. I could easily see this becoming a hit pop song. Aprilann is a terrific young singer and has more genuine vocal talent than many pop stars (who are often hired merely for looks and dancing ability.) She will have a good future in this genre if she continues to surround herself with the right people in a competitive field.
The video for “Gold,” an intriguing, dream-like track by “First Blush,” looks almost like it could be short David Lynch or Cronenberg film. Just seeing the First Blush logo/color scheme, I assumed this would probably be a straightforward vaporwave song. It isn’t though. It’s more of an arthouse, blended synthpop style jam with influences ranging from The Who to The Flaming Lips. Jam probably isn’t the best word to describe this music, as the song and video evoke more of a captivatingly brooding atmosphere than a Technotronic “Get up get busy!” dance party. Creative and unpredictable, “Gold” retains your interest while remaining musically coherent throughout. Charles Sekel, the man behind First Blush, also has some great skills on piano. So kudos to him for taking the time use his talents to experiment and create interesting material. “Gold” is reportedly the second single for First Blush’s debut LP, Monologic (which is scheduled to be out July 14th.)
Indie-pop outfit “Planets” has a single out called “Reflections” which will also appear on their upcoming EP, Colors Alive. It’s somewhat rare for an indie pop band to pull out all the stops as far as production, but I have to say that the video for “Reflections” is incredibly well done, both in terms of production values and artistic direction. It features rising young starlet Elyse Dufour from The Walking Dead in the lead, she somehow manages to give a memorable visual performance despite not having to utter a word. No complaints about the music either. Planets’ singer Rae Anna Beauford has one of those voices that seems like it was genetically tailored specifically for the indie genre. It was an extremely wise decision for the other members (Matthew Morgan, Christian Haberkern and Tim Morgan) to bring her on board. She adds a dynamic which elevates the song’s emotional aesthetic, even though the music itself was already good on it’s own. It just rounds everything off nicely. “Reflections” is the kind of indie pop song that cool people would still like even if it became the radio hit it has the potential to be.
Singer-songwriter Reid Lee describes his latest track “Arrowheads” as “soulful and sweet Americana with a country heart.” It definitely comes across as a blended style derived from a variety of influences. The song really showcases his vocal ability and I found his pleasant and voice contributes to the calming, reassuring ambiance of the music. “Arrowheads” transitions from minimalist verses to epic chorus, and Reid’s emotive presence carries the song steadily throughout. This is very high quality stuff here, and Lee’s musical training at UCLA’s music school really paid off. Reid’s target audience will be thoroughly moved emotionally by this music, and more people deserve a chance to hear it.
The Judex, a rock n’ roll band out of Philadelphia, has just released a double A-Side single. It’s their only release so far, but it’s apparent after listening to it that these guys are focused on quality. My first thought while listening to the track “Witchface,” was that this music reminds me a lot of the kind of punk rock that you’d hear in 80s horror movies like Return of the Living Dead. The recording has that polished, 1980′s analog engineer professionalism that you just don’t hear anymore. It’s the sound of musical and recording pros that know what they’re doing. Mark Plati did a fantastic job mixing/mastering this and capturing the ambiance the band was going for perfectly. There are no corners being cut here.
The guitar work on here is incredible and the singer can really sing. You can’t really fake it with this kind of music. One of the reasons a lot of the bands from the 70′s and 80′s resented the grunge and “alternative” music of the 90′s was because a lot of the bands were not very good technically. For example, when I was a kid, people would often have debates over “who was the better guitar player” or “who is the better drummer” in popular punk or metal bands. In the 90s though, people never cared or talked about that stuff anymore. They just talked about personality or “meaning.” The Judex marks a return to the tradition of well crafted songwriting and superb technical execution in indie rock’n’roll. They have a new EP coming out in August. I recommend you check it out, because they are legit.
Atlanta based artist King Saylee has a new EP out, titled “Elevation.” The second track “Saucin” is the prominent single of the album. Saylee’s style is very vocal oriented, with the backing music and aesthetics lending itself to an almost psychedelic style of hip hop. Vocals are cleverly and smoothly layered to create a “hearing voices in my head” effect, adding the the cerebral nature of the song. King Saylee flows nicely, and there is some good potential here.
Florida based solo artist Nate Utley has a new single out titled “What Up,” off his new EP, “Infinite Potential.” Utley describes his music as “a combination of Rock, Reggae, RnB and Pop.” He also sports a rather impressive full beard, which is worth noting in itself. Though his music is acoustic guitar oriented, after listening to “What Up” I would have to concur that Nate’s artistic style is a blended one, which is more flavorful and peppy than what one would expect from the typical acoustic driven song. The track starts off making you believe it’s going to be a straightforward, Earthy vibed indie rock song, but it slowly intertwines elements of RnB and even light hip hop. It does this very skillfully and more importantly subtly through delivery and attitude so that nothing feels forced or out of place. The acoustic rings with a full, bell like, “chimey” tone and the backing drums give the song a substantive framework, that more minimalist indie guitar jams often lack.
The video is colorfully and beautifully shot in areas like Flagler Beach along the Florida coastline. Nate has clearly worked very hard on this release and accompanying video, and it all comes together nicely. If the rest of the songs on his new EP are even half as effortful as this one, it will be worth picking up a copy.
Wow and Flutter is a new album from Amilia K Spicer, a well established songstress with quite a few accomplishments so far in her career. If I had to describe her style it would be something like avant-garde country. Her music is very organic even while being flawlessly performed. The first track, “Fill Me Up” sets the bar pretty high for the rest of the songs on the album. Musicians often lead with their best foot first, but in Amilia’s case every song on the album is just as good as the opening one. There’s plenty of variation and some pleasantly creative surprises in these songs as well. This isn’t just your run of the mill “girl with an acoustic guitar” album. There’s some genuine artistic genius floating around in these songs. You just have to listen to them. She has a uniquely precise style of picking that creates a distinctive sound. My favorite track on the album is probably Windchill, which was so good it literally gave me goosebumps.
If you’re looking to catch a live performance, Amilia is currently on tour with John Gorka in Michigan from June 1-5 and in Massachusetts on June 9 and 11. Check out her website and social media to stay up to date with her upcoming performances.
Former American Idol contestant Jerome Bell is still pushing forward. He has a new single out called “Helpless.” The singing is as good as you would expect from someone who was able to pass through the rigorous and brutal audition process of a network talent show. Wisely, Bell limits the musical backing to some minimalist piano playing, allowing his well trained voice to lead and carry the song. Jerome’s vocals are brimming with complexity and emotion, creating a top shelf quality soul/pop ballad. Good stuff here.
On iTunes: https://itun.es/us/65jhjb