Musical artist Audiovascula hails from Montego Bay, Jamaica, and his latest track, Buss Di BassLine showcases an intensity that we don’t often get a glimpse of within reggae inspired genres. Audiovascula’s style can be described as combining the ferocity of hip hop with a tonal backdrop of EDM and the rhythm of reggae. His vocals have an assertive presence and bring the song to attention. This a dude that means business, and I must say the production quality is quite good compared to the average indie hip hop track. It’s fitting that the artist has “vascula” in his name, which is related to “vascular” as in “cardiovascular system.” This music has the passion and energy that will definitely get the blood flowing through the listeners veins.
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.
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.
Originally from Pittsburgh, and having walked away from a career in engineering, Matt Westin would have seemed to be an rather unlikely prospect for country music artist. Yet here he is. Admittedly I was expecting something rather cliche when I came upon his new single Our Redneck of the Woods, (from his debut album, Legacy) but while it does contain some familiar country music tropes about what rednecks like, the song and lyrics are much more detailed and actually pretty epic. With choice lines like “If a politician came out here right now, we might hook his ass up to a plow,” this track has potential to be a hit. It is just one of those songs where you listen and could imagine it being played everywhere, due to the catchy zingers. Musically speaking, the guitar work here is very good, as it is on most country albums, with lots of delightful twang and note bending. Westin is a capable singer, his relatively deep and authoritative voice matching the confident tone of the song. This is a worthwhile country song with highly entertaining lyrics.
Wilmington, Delaware based gospel and R&B singer Dan Kenneth’s latest song, From the Heart is aptly titled work of passion. Kenneth really does sing as if he means it, and you can feel the emotion in every note. With the vocals out front up against a minimalistic piano backing, he doesn’t hide anything in this mix. He lays it all out there for you. Like most gospel singers, this guy has a great voice and uses it to its maximum potential. What’s really refreshing about this release though is that there are no gimmicks, no fake attitude and no posturing. From the Heart has a genuine quality about it that’s missing in so much of today’s music.
Motivation is the product of former pro basketball player Ugonna Onyekwe, who is now “releasing music with his sister under the name SYBS.” It’s a high quality R&B/pop song, with elements of hip hop as well. The video features Coss Marte, a former inmate who developed a prison style workout, which he now performs in an NYC gym and livestreams the sessions. Reese Scott also appears in the video. She was a Creative Director for a publishing company to start Women’s World of Boxing ten years ago, in order “to offer women a safe, comfortable and uplifting environment.”
As you can tell, the song Motivation deals with individuals struggling with doubts or a troubled past, who seek and eventually find motivation to improve their life and pursue their dreams. The track transitions effortlessly between several cultural styles of music. If you just skipped to a random part of it, you might think it’s a completely different musical genre. The transitions are done extremely well. The female vocalist is particularly impressive, absolutely nailing her vocal parts and elevating the song to another level. All in all, this is a very cohesive release, and the video is shot professionally. I feel like this song could actually motivate people.
Roadtrip is a new single from award winning country singer, TJ Leonard. He’s Swedish, but I swear you’d never guess that from hearing this song, as it sounds as authentically American country as you can get. Roadtrip chronicles in detail a trip throughout the southeastern United States, and I do mean in detail, with play by play lyrics like We bought a gift for my mother in law at a place called Quilt Connection.
The production on this track is excellent, and Leonard is a real pro performer. His voice is easy on the ears and his overall vocal presence carries the song well. Roadtrip is a solid single by an artist with major label potential.
Band of the Hawk is back with another impressive jam and great example of collaboration done effectively. Dunno Wut To Believe In is a politically charged song which deals loosely with the current political climate and some of the hot button social issues of our time that never quite seem to go away. Setting aside the song’s message, these are all very skilled rappers. There are multiple artists affiliated with this song, so it’s tough to tell who’s who to give proper shoutouts and recognition, but what’s interesting is that they each have distinctive delivery styles, and even the tone of voice is substantially different…which adds something to the song. My favorite section is probably the middle one which features lyrics like Livin’ in the screenshot culture, snakes and vultures. The rapper in this segment is particularly crisp in his timing and diction. These guys all work well together though, and each adds a component to the track giving it another dimension.
Crooner Steven Chera’s new album, The Classic Standards, features him performing classic songs from the early part of the 20th century. Inspired by Sinatra, Martin and the rest, Chera keeps the spirit of the Rat Pack alive. One can almost wonder if he is being channeled by Old Blue Eyes himself. Both musically and aesthetically he successfully captures the style and ambiance of this era with these songs. He does not merely mimic or emulate these legendary artists though, but rather he incorporates his own personality into the tracks, giving them a bit of personal flair. The result is that the album does not come off as overly derivative. This is a high quality production by an artist who has clearly spent quite a bit of time and effort in mastering this genre.