It was only recently that we wrote about The Blankz’ instant Arizona classic, White Baby. The impressiveness of that release set the bar pretty high. Bands often change, experiment and grow, which isn’t always a good thing if what they already have is working. So when I discovered I had something new to review for The Blankz, I was curious if they had retained the magic that was captured in White Baby.
Thankfully, their brand new EP, (I Just Want to) Slam wisely sticks with the same formula of weirdo pop punk + synth, which won them some small scale critical acclaim. The first thing that came to mind when listening was that (I Just Want to) Slam would have been a perfect for one of the obligatory slam section parts of just about any 90′s skateboard video. It’s kinda too bad they don’t really make those kinds of skate videos anymore, and it’s all pretty much on youtube now (or maybe they still do, and I’m just too old and out of touch to know about it.)
One thing which defines The Blankz’ songs is how catchy they are. Even after only a single listening sesh, I find myself repeating the choruses in my head over and over. Hell, i’ts been almost a month since I heard White Baby, and that’s still annoyingly stuck in my brain. Time will tell what kind of mental staying power (I Just Want to) Slam has. It’s like they put drugs in these songs or some kind of MK Ultra style, subliminal mind control messaging. Anyway, potential listeners beware: these songs will stay with you.
I suppose I should talk about the actual substance of the music here. The title track (I Just Want to) Slam is fast paced right from the opening bell and maintains the same level of energy throughout. The vocal performance is among the better I’ve heard for this genre of music. Vocals are clear, on key and delivered with balls. What more can you ask for? This is music for moshing, just letting loose and having a blast in the pit….but of course it can be a metaphoric anthem for how to approach other areas of life.
There is a second song on the album, called Baby’s Turning Blue. It’s a short but punchy jam which gives a brief and peculiar narrative of a punk rock “baby” growing up to fall victim to drug abuse. The guitars in this song are awesome, tonally and technically. The timing here is great, with frequent breaks and pace changes which all go off without a hitch. This band is tight. Everyone is on the same page. If I have one criticism it’s that I wish this song was a bit longer and elaborated more on the interesting lyrical premise. The vibe of Baby’s Turning Blue reminds me of early 90s Orange County or San Diego punk music, even though there is nothing explicitly retro about this music, and I can’t think of any specific examples of bands these guys sound like. It’s more of a feeling.
Listening to The Blankz is like if you were to resurface a fond memory of being at the Warped Tour sometime before it started to suck. The good news is that The Blankz are in the here and now… and continuing to crank out cool stuff. Cover art has a great aesthetic by the way.
Console Clone is a synthwave electronic music artist from the United Arab Emirates. The jams from his debut album Rewind Mankind wouldn’t seem out of place on the Cherry 2000 film soundtrack in 1987. What that should tell you is that this guy does synthwave very well. The title track, Rewind Mankind, is the archetypal, action packed synth sound. It’s one of the most straightforward songs on the album, high energy and engaging to the max.
The album features a lot of samples and references to science fiction, which listeners may or may not pick up on. For example, The Video Dead contains well placed samples from the film, Night of the Living Dead. Klendathu is presumably titled after the bugs’ planet in Starship Troopers, while Electric Sheep is a nod to Philip K Dick. You get the idea. Almost all of the songs are fairly fast paced and maintain a consistent level of cinematic intensity. Yet, musically there is a lot of variation in terms of sounds utilized, as well as the often unpredictable structuring. You really are not quite sure what you’re going to get with each track you click on. You just know when you push play that it’s going have that familiar, darkly energetic ambiance in some enticing new form and that it’s going to be good. These recordings are just phenomenal. They sound very 80s but authentically 80s, unlike when a store tries to bring back some old clothing style but everyone who was around then can tell it’s just a tad off. This guy has the genre and aesthetic nailed down and also manages to incorporate some structural originality.
San Diego born singer Brielle Monique’s new single, Hallucinate (scheduled to be released on August 31, 2018) showcases her classically trained and well curated vocal abilities. Her voice certainly doesn’t have anywhere to hide in the mix. Musically, Hallucinate is a very minimalist jam, and Brielle’s vocals really do carry the tune. The track slowly builds from a near acapella beginning and blossoms into a sprightly intricate pop song. It’s a trick to maintain the balance between displaying soft emotion and demonstrating vitality, and Brielle Monique manages to accomplish this both lyrically and musically. What instrumental backing there is does an excellent job at complementing Monique’s voice rather than obscuring it.
HOFFEY, a male/female pop twosome from Vancouver Canada, recently released their debut single, titled Love is Wild. The often synchronous yet contrasting vocals of Erika and Jordan Toohey complement each other well enough. There are a couple of ways in which this track differs from a conventional pop track though, both of which are positive. For one thing, the artists are genuinely partners in a romantic relationship, which gives added sincerity and meaning to the lyrics and how they’re expressed. This is unlike most common pop songs, which typically are written by third parties and just simply manufactured for public consumption (there are a few exceptions.) The other noticeable distinction here is the unique synth backing on Love is Wild. It has more of the feel of an artistic collage than a standard pop/dance beat. In fact, if this song were released without vocals it could pass for a very good chillwave track. True to the song’s theme, the interesting pacing and unpredictable breaks almost seem calculated to correspond to the tempestuous, yet beautiful wildness of the relationship experience itself.
A self described “multi-genre artist from Arizona,” LUURK showcases his production and songwriting skills with his latest release, Ain’t Coming Back. Had the song been released as an instrumental and without vocals, it could easily pass as a pretty decent summertime EDM jam. The vocals manage to transform the track into more of a pop/R&B/dance combo song. True to his form, LUURK does in fact span different genres with his music, and Ain’t Coming Back succeeds in walking the line between remaining accessible to a wide range of listeners and alienating those who may favor one style heavily over another.
Production and mixing on this are top notch. While the lyrics are not very extensive, the vocals that exist are performed well. LUURK is also wise enough not to ruin them with a bunch of over-processing and auto-tune. The song also does something interesting in that it combines an uplifting musical arrangement with a seemingly ambiguous or negative lyric, “No, we ain’t coming back.” I’ve noticed this is fairly common in EDM, creating a positive experience and celebrating optimism as a mood regardless of what life throws at you. If you’ve ever attended an EDM event, one thing that stands out is how happy everyone is compared to other concerts. This song radiates with positive energy, but just as importantly, it is very well put together musically.
Circle is a new EP from Montreal based artist, “Tiiiger” (the new alias of musician Mikey Dorje.) The album’s unique sound stems from its successful amalgamation of acoustic/synth. This creates an almost “electro folk” atmosphere. The opening track, Space is an ambient, mostly electronic intro that functions well to get you in the meditative mood to experience this kind of music. The songs are all instrumental by the way, something which actually enhances the songs. Vocals would have I think detracted a bit from the sense of quiet mystery one feels when listening to this EP. Home is personally my favorite track of the bunch. This is going to sound like a bizarre thing to say, but the way I would describe Home is that it made me think of what an avant garde, instrumental version of LFO’s Summer Girls would be like, (minus any of the frosted tips fueled, boy band cheesiness.) The EP closes out with Movement,an appropriately titled, relatively fast paced jam that left me feeling energized after checking out with this nifty little release. One final remark is that the song names are each single words, and they do a successful job of abstractly conveying the emotion/experience relating to the word each track corresponds with.
A while back I reviewed the single, Space Parachute which had initially been released by Francis Nally under the moniker “King Trode.” Well, now the song is officially out in the form a the title track of a new EP, falling under the umbrella of Nally’s Phteven Universe project.
There’s no point in re-reviewing the song Space Parachute, since my original remarks on it still stand:
What a sparkly little synth hook this jam has! It’s as if someone threw something together really quick, chucked it at a wall and it bounced in my direction and stuck in my head like a superball to the brain. Basically, this track is the little orphan Annie of hidden indie pop hits. King Trode’s Space Parachute is exactly what it would sound like if you took Sega Genesis video game music and added vocals that sounded eerily similar in style to those of Dal Winslow of The Trashmen singing the 60′s classic, Surfin Bird (aka “The Bird is the Word” song.)
However, it’s worthwhile to discuss the other content included on the EP. The second track, Ralph Was a Homosexual is an electronic dance jam based around a sample taken from a bizarre 1961 PSA titled Boys Beware, which warns against the dangers of “homosexual predators.” There are no lyrics to speak of other than the voice from the sample saying “Ralph was a homosexual” at various speeds (and sometimes abbreviated.) It reminds me of techno songs from the early 90s, which used samples from old movies during a brief break in the music, followed by the beat kicking back in. L.A Style’s hit, James Brown is Dead is a classic example of this, as well as Euphoria’s I like Noise. However, Nally’s song is more of a laid back, hypnotic space synth than any kind of intense opera techno. My favorite part of the song is the Simon Says / Close Encounters styled synth that makes an appearance at the 1:36 part. I wish it had come earlier in the song, but it’s worth the wait.
The next song, MACH!NEZ is a brief one, clocking in at just less than a minute, but it makes good use of panning and the beat is impressively memorable. I could actually see MACH!NEZ being used as some kind of techno-futurist or transhumanist national anthem, to be played before animatronic basketball games someday.
The EP rounds out with a 9 minute live recording of Phteven Universe performing at The Sound Hole in Philadelphia, PA. For a live venue performance the music comes through surprisingly crystal clear. I was expecting it to sound kind of shitty with a lot of drunk normie voices and feedback in the background. So, even though this EP is technically four tracks, it actually includes several “bonus” songs within the live performance track, each of which are of excellent listening quality.
Space Parachute is a solid EP in its totality, but it is worth it even for just the opening song.
EYES ACUTE, SPACE PARACHUTE,
WAS WONDERING, IF YOU LIKE TO DO IT AGAIN!
Yes, I think I will listen to this again. Don’t mind if I do.
Canadian based rapper “Chedda Cheese” came out with the song Growing up in the 90sa few years ago. It should have been a huge hit but didn’t really get the attention it deserved. It’s a “backwards alphabet” styled song, which lists things which were popular in the 90s, incorporating them lyrically into the track. I’m more of an 80′s kid, but I came of age in the 90s so I can relate to most of this stuff (whether or not I actually “grew up” in the 90s or ever for that matter is up for debate.) Also there is some decade overlap here with certain items like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Metroid, Unitards and Zelda, each of which first gained popularity in the 1980s (though unitards actually achieved a level fashionability in the late 1970′s.)
Anyway, I heard this song a few years ago when it was first released, and it was so catchy that I still have the chorus in my head frequently, even though I’ve barely listened to this song since:
The snapbacks with those rims so shiny
in track pants watching Friends is where you’ll find me
This is what it’s like growing up in the nineties
I never was a fan of the show Friends. In fact I hated it, and I don’t recall ever sitting through a full episode in the entire run of the series. However, I did wear the shit out of plenty of pairs of Adidas track pants back in those days. Nowadays if you rock tracksuits, people assume you’re LARPing as a Slav (especially if you’re prone to squatting.) Not so in the 90′s. Almost everybody sported such attire. Enough about my personal wardrobe history and television show preferences though (for the record I watched Melrose Place and Party of Five.)
Bottom line, Growing up in the 90s is a rad jam and should have made the Billboard Top 25 at least. Chedda is a talented guy and deserves some recognition for creating this underground, retro-thematic classic.
You wouldn’t know from their music that The Blankz (a Phoenix based band) formed as recently as 2017. Their new EP/single, White Baby, is so tightly put together musically that if I had been too lazy to read the group’s bio, I would just have assumed they must have been playing together for at least a decade. Their music falls somewhere within the realm of “weirdo pop punk.” It has a very 90′s vibe to it, not in a gimmicky kind of way, it’s just that you’d almost have to go back that far to find this style of music being put out at this level of quality. In a deeper sense though, White Baby brings people back to a more innocent era, the pre-9/11 days before confrontational politics and war dominated the discussion in our everyday lives. I’m talking about those 105 degree summer nights spent skateboarding and loitering at suburban Phoenix strip malls (yes I’m from here as well,) when our most heated arguments were over bands and girls. Our tense confrontations were mostly reserved for our interactions with the security guards about to kick us out of the same spot for the millionth time.
White Baby features solid playing, quirky lyrics, and perhaps most importantly…substance. Yes, wrapped up in White Baby’s musical bundle of joy is a theme about the songwriter’s identity. Tommy Blank is white but was apparently adopted into a Mexican family. The song subtly relates his struggles with identity growing up within this unconventional familial arrangement. It is all presented in an upbeat, fun and energetic musical context. The lyrics are extremely catchy, and if you listen to this song even once, the chorus will stick with you. The video for White Baby takes on a kind of desert rockabilly aesthetic, interspersing vintage home movie footage with present day shots of the band around town.
There is a second jam on this release as well. The song Sissy Glue boasts some killer synth, the vibrato of which resonates throughout the song. The tone is reminiscent of action oriented battle music in old school games like Double Dragon. Sissy Glue contains lyrics concerned with huffing, but really the track is about so much more. It’s sort of a coming of age story told in a very creative way. The synth on this EP is notable because it is what separates the band’s sound it from so many other bands in this genre.
White Baby/Sissy Glue is quite simply, badass. Living in Phoenix, this is easily one of the coolest current bands in the valley, and I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard anything about them until now.
Already established for his roles in classic groups like “The Headhunters” back in the 1970s (and since then working with legends like Carl Carlton and Rick James,) Deryo has been around the block musically. These days he’s flying solo, making his own jams, which he describes as being “funk mixed with pop and r&b.” His solo tracks carry the precision marks of a old pro, with backing music that manages to be creatively quirky in expressing its retro grooviness. I’ve always thought that the test of an instrumental backing is whether you’d want to listen to it even if there were no accompanying vocals. Deryo’s songs easily pass that test, and I can’t help but think how great they would sound on vinyl. His 2013 track, Anytime is an excellent example of this, and I just love the futuristic synth hooks on it, which wouldn’t seem out of place on a Buck Rogers soundtrack.
Deryo’s vocals are passionate and delivered with an unpretentious charisma. They are really the driving force in his songs. The lyrical themes are usually positive, romantic and upbeat, though tracks such as I Must Quit convey a sense of melancholic humility. This is in every sense “mood music,” in that it gets you in the mood to enjoy life’s experiences and get in touch with your emotions while dancing to some smooth jams with your significant other…whether in the club or in his/her apartment living room.