All posts by Anastim Ducray

Keys and Vices – Chronic Nostalgia

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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.

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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.

For more info:

Website: https://www.keysandvices.com
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/keys-and-vices/1129310810
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KeysAndVices

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Lawless Blaze – Grindin’

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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.

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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.

For more info:

https://www.facebook.com/REALlawlessblaze

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Pretti Boi & Cashman The Babysitter – Comin Acha Hot Vol. 2

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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?

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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.

For more info:

https://twitter.com/PrettiNCash

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8XELypP52LfpWjUJZL8KzQ

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Christa Deánā

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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.

For more info:

https://christadeana.com/
https://www.instagram.com/christadeana/
https://open.spotify.com/album/3F32bVjpNZpjzdau3yYQxv

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Stephon Foster – Stay In My Dreams

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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.

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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.

For more info:

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Glocck Vee – IDGF ABOUT YO HITTAS

Albuquerque based hip hop artist “Glocck Vee” has a new single out called IDGF ABOUT YO HITTAS. In addition to having a snazzy name, this pimp tight jam cruises smoothly from start to finish. Glocck delivers nonstop lyrical action. His superhuman delivery will leave you wondering if he even needs to breathe more than a once a minute. He seems to be influenced by the “gangsta” lifestyle, but the song isn’t all business, as he and “Mike Beezy Bad Azz” manage to occasionally show a humorous side as well. I honestly haven’t heard very much from the Albuquerque hip hop scene. I’m not familiar with it, but Glocck has some decent skills and is very prolific when it comes to recording and releasing music. I have a feeling he’ll continue to crank out a steady stream of new tunes for quite some time.

For more info:

http://outthepot.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/glocckvee/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/glocckv

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Silas Luster – W.A.V.

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W.A.V. is a new EP from Silas Luster, a filmmaker and hip hop artist based in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The album was produced by @TmacTheDJ and recorded locally. Silas is a member of a creative collective known as “The BuLife,” which claims to value honesty and transparency.

W.A.V. is pretty solid musically. The eerie, synth driven backing beats provide a heightened tension for the songs. Silas has a crisp delivery and impecacble timing. While other rappers “spit rhymes,” Silas Luster delivers them clearly and melodically. His voice can be subtly emotive and dynamic as well. This isn’t a guy who yells and postures into the microphone, and yet still you can tell he means business.

One of the best songs on this EP is What’s Love? It’s a flawless spoken word poem with only light “waves” in the background. Other notable tracks are 2004 (it was a great year for me actually) and Moldamensions. Moldamensions the backing music for which sounds like something you’d hear in an episode of Tales From the Darkside. Anyway, W.A.V. is an impressive little release, and you should probably check it out for yourself.

For more info:

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/w-a-v/1458083136

Youtube Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lNo12hShoemGKHGgwjsrJA8BNU0ABJZws

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The Don Kap – Cannot Listen (Fake Friend Diss)

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Cannot Listen is a new single from rapper/filmmaker The Don Kap. Though it is done in the style of a “diss track,” the song fuctions as a more general diss toward fake friends rather than targeting a fellow rapper or specific person. It was however, inspired by The Don Kap’s ending of a 25-year friendship with someone he finally determined to be a fake friend.

Cannot Listen is very direct and straightforward. The Don Kap lays it all out there in a simple equation “No love = insecurity = jealousy = fake.” When I saw the title “Cannot Listen” I assumed it would be in reference to a friend who was unwilling to listen. In actuality, The Don Kap uses it to refer to himself. He “cannot listen to you” because he “ain’t got time for fakes.” He recognizes that false friends are time wasters. Even genuine friendships can be taxing and time consuming enough, but when you discover the friendship was nothing but a house of cards, you start thinking about all the time you’ve lost that you will never get back. This kind of refreshing lyrical clarity pervades thoughout the song.

The Don Kap’s delivery skills are decent, and his voice has a commanding presence, holding its own during the parts of the song where backing music is minimal. He also has a laid back charisma about him without displaying a lot of flash or excess. Cannot Listen is actually quite catchy and continues to grow on you after a few listens. The accompanying music video for this song is well produced and features some terrific shots of the city of Tel Aviv.

For more info:

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/thedonkap
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/19Dx2TZbHTDc6OTjVVei7o

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Jonah Kue – Midnight Oil

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Midnight Oil is a new full length album from artist Jonah Kue. With its ethereal and ambient backing, I would describe the musical style here as “dreampop.” Occasionally there are some elements of hip hop and light rapping. Jonah’s voice is soothing in tone but energetic enough so that it won’t put you to sleep. The hip hop interludes are well placed and neatly intertwine with the rest of the music adding another dimenstion to the songs at just the right time and transitioning out smoothly.

In fact, the word “smooth” is a great way to describe this album from start to finish. Everything flows cleanly througout, with Jonah’s laid back, contemplative lyrical delivery providing a poignant and enjoyable listening experience. The Dance Floor in particular is a track which has an excellent beat. It’s like elevator music you can dance to. Jonah is a pretty talented singer, and this is one of those genres where you definitely can’t fake that sort of thing. The song Brendan is the catchiest and from a marketing perspective probably has the most pop appeal. It just packs a little more punch and grabs you more than some of the other songs.

For more info:

https://song.link/album/i/1456388338

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Keren Botaro – Again

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Again is a new EP from Keren Botaro, a Tel Aviv born artist who currently lives in the US. I expected this to be a rather standard “pop” release, but it turned out to be much more impressive and interesting than anything I anticipated. Keren’s (and her fellow performers’) eclectic range of rock influences and keen sense of style are on full display here.

Botaro may photograph like a pop star, but the music blends elements of psychedelia, lounge, blues and even mod. The awesome Farfisa sounds incorporated into these songs are the stuff of a combo organ fetishist’s dreams. Everything just sounds so authentic. If I heard this album on the radio, I would genuinely think these songs had been recorded in 1968. These people really have nailed the vintage tone and classic rock essence flawlessly. The guitars are awesome and made me feel like I was listening to a Jefferson Airplane record in an old coffee house. I highly recommend watchng the videos for these tracks because they really do a great job of conveying the ambiance.

Keren’s vocals certainly keep up their end of the bargain as well. Her voice is excellent, and stylistically she’s like a rock’n’roll version of a lounge singer. She projects passionately and belts out the songs with confidence and emotion. Her voice is full and combines with her dynamic visual stage presence to really make a performative statement. Really, not enough can be said about what a fine vocalist Keren Botaro is. Style, substance and technical singing ability, most singers tend to find ways to compensate for whichever one they lack, but she actually excels in all three categories.

The first two tracks Fire and Free Bird are guitar driven and the most hard hitting (rock wise,) while Drops in the Rain and Again are more mellow paced and indie pop, kind of like The Velvet Underground and Nico if I had to make a comparison. All in all, this is a powerful little EP that punches well above its weight musically. I don’t even have any criticisms or nitpicks of it, but I will say that I’m jealous when I watch the video and see the room full of amazing vintage musical gear these guys have at their disposal.

For more info:

Website: https://kerenbotaro.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KerenBotaro/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kerenbotaro/

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