The Girl From Cherry Valley is an album from Croatian based musical outfit, Jas Frank and the Intoits. The music is avant garde and eclectic, drawing inspiration from a variety of styles and bands from various genres. Some songs on this album like In a Hole and When the Rain Stops have a harder rock quality, with powerful guitars and a very assertive energy. These bring to life an unexpected versatility as the first few tracks had a kind of dance oriented / alternative synthpop aesthetic (especially the opening track High in Space.) There are elements of the 60′s, 80′s, and 90′s in these recordings.
Jas Frank is a charismatic vocalist, and her voice at times reminds me of Nena (of 99 Red Balloons fame) while at other moments bears an incredible resemblance to that of the members of iconic indie pop duo, Tegan and Sara. There is substantial musical variation on this album. What’s consistent though is that these songs are quirky, creative and artful. The lyrics are complex, and occasionally catchy in that “indie sodapop” kind of way, even while they manage to explore darker, more emotionally personal themes. The Girl From Cherry Valley is just a really neat little album from one of those indie bands that has a difficult to pinpoint yet familiar way of making you want to root for them.
Guadalupe River is a new single from Todd Barrow, a Texas based country music artist. It’s a laid back, low drama, country jam all about having a blast on the Guadalupe River after a long hard workweek. Relaxing in an inner tube with a cold one, checking out cute girls in bikinis, fishing for rainbow trout and basically just livin the good life. What this song does a fantastic job of is painting a vivid image of the setting. You almost feel like you’re there hanging out with this crew. I live in the desert suburbs, but this track can resonate with anyone because we all have our own equivalent to the Guadalupe River, a place we associate with taking a break from our problems and letting loose for an afternoon. The music is very clean and polished. This isn’t rough or “gritty” country song. Production on this track is of radio quality and Barrow’s a good singer. His voice has an affable, unpretentious quality to it. You can just tell this guy would be a good fishing buddy. This song will make you want to bust out a roadmap and figure out where the nearest river is. Just don’t forget to pick up the margarita mix on the way.
Sugar On Demand is a new album from Leo Salom, an Italian DJ and producer who’s currently based in Los Angeles. Salom is a fairly well known DJ and has a substantial following, resulting from his extensive experience performing the night club circuit and at prominent music festivals. Sugar on Demand is more interesting than the typical electronic music record, because it represents something new. Stylewise I haven’t heard anything quite like this (and I’ve listened to a lot of EDM over the years.) Some tracks have the feel of a kind of “tropical futurism,” combining fast paced irregular beats with summertime sparkling vibes.
What’s innovative about these songs though is how versatile they are and the flavorful elements which are incorporated into the sound. Salom doesn’t fall back on the familiar synth samples you’ve heard in 1000s of sample packs and techno and dance party jams. It seems like anything this artist does touch turns into something better. I enjoyed this incarnation of Unshakable much more than the Trip 40, TWIIG or Sound Rush versions. It just comes through so crystal clear and melodic. In fact, the songs on this album manage to sound futuristic and musical without coming across as overly robotic or mechanical. The closest to that sort of retro cyberpunk style of futurist song would be Summertime Fling, but even that metamorphosizes into something shinier and more musical, catching the listener off guard and pleasantly surprised.
The beats in these songs inventively make use of “strategic erraticism” while somehow fitting neatly within the structured framework of each track’s overall musical architecture. The tone of the album is generally very bright and upbeat, leaving you feeling like you’ve just won a game of Candyland. That’s one thing which is amazing about electronic music. All other things being equal, you can take two mixes from different artists, and they will evoke completely different emotions in you, just on the basis of their artistic choices. The “feeling” is a reflection of a DJ’s personality, their essence. The sense one gets from Sugar on Demand is that Leo Salom has a deep dedication to love, positivity and a vibrant free spirit. The album certainly has the potential to inspire people, and may very well carve out some uncharted pathways for this genre.
Plato’s Stepchildren is an album from Miami based band, Crosstown Chameleons. The group describes their music vaguely as being “rock oriented,” but that is actually a very apt characterization for the band’s sound, which isn’t east to compartmentalize.
Plato’s Stepchildren (possibly named after the iconic episode of the original Star Trek) is very chameleon-like in that it stylistically varies from song to song, occasionally even within the song. If I had to classify it though in the general sense I would say that it has a very 90′s rock sound, somewhere between grunge and avant garde alternative. The opening track, Summer has a peppy and bright power pop feel to it. Musicians are always taught to put their best stuff first because otherwise people will stop listening. I have no idea if Crosstown Chameleons are intentionally following that advice, but Summer immediately left a great impression. It’s probably my favorite song on the album, but I haven’t made up my mind completely.
The most comprehensive jam on here is Leather, which shapeshifts impressively throughout its 4 minute runtime. It begins with kind of arthouse, brooding performance art vibe and flashes to a heavier, amped up sound featuring a lot of warm guitar distortion and maximum crunch. The song continues transitioning through various styles. I’m not sure how they managed to make this collage work, but it comes out cohesive and memorable, a small masterpiece. I think this is the song which best embodies the band’s 90′s avant garde aesthetic.
Hope For the Universe has more of a hair band rock sound, with epic vocals and glam guitars. The best way to describe it is it’s the kind of song that would be playing during the climactic scene in a late 80s teen movie. Earth and Sky has a straightforward, adult contemporary rock ambiance, reminiscent of works by The BoDeans or even Third Eye blind, while Blackjack has a funky, night club, rock’n’roll lounge vibe.
Part of the reason the band is able to effortlessly incorporate aspects of different genres into their songs is that they appear to have achieved such a mastery over their instruments. There are so many killer guitar parts on this album, that you start to take them for granted. For example, Back to Life has some of the most colorful and vibrant guitar tones on here, and if I were writing about a different group these would be the highlight of the review, but as it is they’re just footnotes here. There are just too many interesting things happening on these recordings to mention them all. The vocalist on here is also pretty impressive. He displays a ton of versatility and range, really pushing the limit. At times, just when it seems like he’s about to bite off more than he can chew, he manages to pull back and hold steady right to the line.
Overall, this album provides a very panoramic and fulfilling listening experience. It’s a worthy enterprise from some skillful veteran musicians who seem to have no shortage of darkly creative energy.
Truth Syrum is a new single from RnB pop singer, Nikia. Born in NY and raised in California, she has a substantial musical background and got her first record deal at age 15. As is hinted by the title, Truth Syrum is a song about honesty and potential reconciliation. Being truthful about your feelings and not trying to hide your pain can become an antidote to your relationship problems, regardless of whether the relationship is ultimately saved or not.
Nikia’s vocals and earnest lyrics lend an authentic quality to the song. She’s clearly a professional singer, so she’s able to handle the high level of difficulty this music presents. The musical backing is pretty straightforward RnN, mellow and smooth but still poppin’ enough to get down to. The video for this jam also does a decent job of adding realism and allows the listener to visualize the narrative Niki’s trying to get across. We see the dynamics of the relationship and are able to connect it with the lyrics. The video even ends with an intriguing “to be continued” cliffhanger, indicating that there may be a few more chapters to this story.
Ride Wit Me is the lead single from Harlem based hip hop artist Soup Black’s new album, S.O.O.P.“S.O.O.P.” stands for “Started Out of Poverty,” which is a running theme on this release, as Soup Black wants the listener to understand the struggles hes gone through (beginning with early childhood) on the journey to where he is now. This is what makes Ride Wit Me significant as an opening track. Soup Black is essentially inviting us to ride along with him on the journey. Rather than simply complain, the song has a very positive and encouraging tone, and the message conveyed is one of perseverance. To Soup Black, he isn’t bitter about his trouble because he sees how they were a source of inspiration, and that adversary is just a part of life that everyone must go through and try to hold their heads up and stay strong.
Ride Wit Me is a properly produced song, and Soup Black has a very clear delivery and commanding vocal presence. This guy could probably tour the college circuit as a motivational speaker. The jam itself is musically sound though. His lyrics really do have some substance there as well. Unlike many rappers, who deal in the superficial, Soup’s not afraid to open himself up a bit and share his personal struggles. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you listen to Ride Wit Me, it will probably want to make you stick around and check out the rest of the album.
Trifilin is a new track from hip hop artist, “Names Not Andy,” taken from his cleverly titled upcoming album, thepits.exe.Trifilin is largely a jam about authenticity. The artist calls out those he deems as false friends and fair weather acquaintances who only come around when they need something. The backing music on this track is really rad. It has some “Asian” vibes, but honestly I can’t quite place it. It really gives the song a bit of character and distinguishes it from other hip hop music. Names Not Andy’s delivery is crisp and assertive. He manages to come off strangely likable even while aggressively berating the fake friends around them. Trifilin is much more creative than the average rap song that comes across my desk.
Masala Bazaar is a novel new electronic music track. It’s a collaborative effort from Jamit (who provided the arrangement) and Kroissenbrunner (who resides in South Africa and contributed the sounds.) The vocals are in Zulu language but apparently represent the names of various spices. Masala Bazaar is a palatable jam all right. The song’s retrofuturistic beat combines with flavorfully subliminal vocals to to function as a kind of musical morse code. The pacing on this track is fast enough for a high energy dance party, but the tone is mellow enough to hypnotize you on a long drive. I’ve reviewed multiple jams from Jamit, and each one has delivered in its low-key unassuming style. Just quality electronic music without any hype or attitude.
Love Ya constitutes the first major release of 2019 for artist Tanya Nolan. Featuring Kirko Bangz, this heartfelt jam really demonstrates the prowess of Tanya’s vocals. Her confident delivery and the effortless way she seems to belt out these lyrics makes it almost look easy. Tanya’s vocal performance on this song is so strong it would have even impressed Simon Cowell. Her powerful voice simply drives the action here, all the way through.
Love Ya is a soulful / pop / r&b style song, notable for a lyrical depth and narrative that’s refreshingly substantive for this style of music. The track deals with couples struggling through their relationship issues. Romantic parties articulate their grievances and frustrations. In one instance, ultimately there’s a realization that the girl must shut this person out of her life, even while she freely admits she still loves him just the same. Rapper Kirko Bangz takes on a role in a hip hop interlude as a romantic interests, where he acknowledges he can never be all that she wants him to be. The video for this song is impressive not just because of the production but because it manages to deal us an engaging story of how love endures hardship. A lot of people clearly worked very hard on this track, and it shows.
This Love is a new single from New York City based singer, songwriter and producer, Kendra Black. The top tier production on this track and impressive pop vocals make this song just about as good as any major label hit currently playing on the radio. With her simple, stylish look and polished performance, Kendra has the contemporary pop music aesthetic down to a T. It’s really just a matter of whether this jam or her new album The Fire receives enough exposure in the right circles. On this single, Kendra has demonstrates a dynamic, full voice and sings with passion over a high energy synth backing that’s ripe for the dance floor.