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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Canadian based rapper “Chedda Cheese” came out with the song Growing up in the 90s a 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.
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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.
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Along the Road is a new EP from Dirk Schwenk & The Truth. the album has been freshly released for the summer of 2018. Apparent;y it was inspired by a sadness Dirk felt while watching the documentary Marley in 2012 and a subsequent desire to make sure he got his own music out there for audiences to hear, perhaps before it might one day be too late. Along the Road is a blend of Americana, light rock and folk. It has elements of Southern rock and roll but these are subtly expressed through tone and mood, ultimately avoiding the trappings of lyrical cliches and managing to resist conforming to cartoonish archetypes of the genre. Dirk’s vocals are mellow and contemplative as he weaves a story for the listener. He stays within his singing capabilities and is wise enough not to try to do too much, which would distract from the lyrical narrative. The album also features quite a bit of excellent guitar playing (at least some of which is credited to Matt “All Day” Asci) on these songs. I was struck by how dynamic the playing style was between songs while still retaining album sound cohesion. All in all, this is a pretty impressive release and the authentic backstory gives it a heartfelt quality.
Kedi is a 2016 documentary about feral cats, or street cats as they are called in the film, in Istanbul. This makes it seem more niche than it is. It is a foreign-language film, but it will be of interest to anyone who likes anthrozoology or observing the psychological relationships between humans and other species.
The film is at pains to point out at the start that the cats have been native to the area for a millennium or more. This suggestion of the depth of time elucidates a premise of the film which is expounded upon in detail later, which is the way the local population seem to deify the cats just as Hindus revere cows. There is talk in the interviews of acting as intermediaries between the cats and God as they feed them and shelter them. At one point, a man says he believes dogs think that humans are God, but cats recognise that humans are just the middleman.
As one would expect, this is accompanied by a good deal of anthropomorphising, and just as equally one sees the cats behaving in ways that seem to imitate humans with no external prompting in that direction, such as watching TV, which shows how much the city environment has changed them. One could compare it to the disposition of foxes in the UK, which become bolder and more acclimatised to the urban ecosystem with every passing year.
The camerawork is masterly and fun. A good deal of the time, maybe three-quarters of the time, the camera hangs at the eye level of the cat. You do not see human faces often apart from the interviewees. The narrative plays out as a series of vignettes about the individual cats profiled in the film, told from the perspective of their human caretakers for whom the cats have become part of the texture of daily life. In fact, the cats seem a universal therapeutic mechanism for the inhabitants of the city. One woman says she came to love a huge troupe of them after recovering from some unnamed sickness. Someone else says that his fondness for them came after one of them pointed him towards a discarded wallet on the ground with just the right amount of money, so he says, when an unfortunate series of events bankrupted him.
Seeing the interactions of the interviewees gives the viewer some idea of the constancies of life in the city as well, such as one incident where people at a cafe were playing backgammon. As ancient as the game is, I have never seen anyone play it in real life, so this was a novel stimulus.
Some viewers would doubt the existence of consciousness in nonhuman sentience, but most of the people interviewed for the film would contest that. As they say, the cats have their distinctive character traits, which you can see in their facial expressions, hence the specialised camerawork style.
The cats receive names usually based on these personalities, such as one “Psycho” who was apparently so brave that she would chase around local dogs, including pit bulls. Another cat is in the employ of a restaurant-owner who needs him to chase away rats. Briefly, the film shows one example of such a chase. Although captivating superficially, it is also in its own way grim, and makes you wonder if we ought to begin the process of deprogramming predators and making progress toward a peaceful, post-Darwinian biosphere as some have called it. When the technology is ready, anyway.
The foreign language is in some ways useful. When a man is shouting, “Come, girl,” to a cat in Turkish and you just hear gobbledygook, you are hearing as the cat does, or at least closer to it, since they do not really understand anything people say; they just know that those sounds mean either attention or food. It is noteworthy that on two occasions in the film, the phrase “Erdo-gone!” can be seen on a wall in plain view with little else in the shot apart from the cat(s). This seems an unlikely coincidence, but who knows if it actually means anything in the context of the film.
The soundtrack is understated and atmospheric in all the right ways even if it is nothing unusual for this type of film-making – light, jangly percussion as the human characters (it seems fair to regard the cats as characters in themselves) are describing the cats, while the cats do as they do – fighting, being territorial, chasing and eating, etc. Whereas, it retreats into a more contemplative, ambient sounds when the narrative is drifting and between the vignettes. Like many 21st century documentaries, there is no narrator, but rather, each of the interviewees narrates in turn, which gives the narrative an easygoing, freeform style – although it is by no means directionless.
The last 5-10 minutes – the ambient soundtrack and basically a grafted-together compilation of all the cats – dragged on a little much, but that aside there is little to complain about where length is concerned since the film is only 78 minutes.
One could take some of the statements near the end as either poetic or platitudinous, such as:
“It would be easy to see street cats as a problem and handle them as a problem, whereas if we can learn to live together again, maybe we’ll solve our own problems as we try to solve theirs. In fact, I‘m sure that we would even regain our sense of humour and rekindle our slowly dying joy for life.”
But take from it what you will.