Australian musical icon Diana Anaid returns to the scene with a new album, My Queen. This LP doesn’t feel like a side project or casual effort either. This a full blown, chartworthy alternative/pop/rock record. She must have spent her downtime recharging her crystals because there’s a lot of energy in these songs, which contain trace elements of 60′s psychedelia, 80′s new wave, punk, pop, alternative and even country. The music is very fast paced and upbeat and shouldn’t be confused with the more “dreary” styles of alternative rock. Positivity appears to be one of the major themes of the album. An entire essay could probably be written about the lyrical meaning behind so many of these songs. They tend to focus on rather serious issues, but do so in a way that allows the listener to choose whether they want to explore social consciousness, rock out, or both. Diana’s vocals display such universal appeal and versatility that they could be adapted to almost any genre or era, which probably explains why she’s seen success in 3 different decades of music.
Clean is a single from Zion Antoni, a fairly well known grassroots journalist / recording artist / producer from The Bronx. Zion’s sound is notable for displaying a level of authenticity that’s not typical of many of today’s hip hop artists. Refreshingly, he doesn’t go in for a lot of flashiness and posturing. Both Clean and another of his songs, Rain Soon Come, feature magnificent old school backing tracks. He foregoes gaudy materialism in favor of a more retro, avant garde aesthetic (I liked the cover art so much I included it in this review.) The songs have a very analog sound, reminiscent of the golden era of early 90s hip hop. This is of course one of the best compliments you can give to a rapper. This guy manages to capture the delicate balance between style and substance. Unlike so many others, Zion Antoni gets his point across without ever coming off like somebody who is trying too hard.
If you’re like me, you might have assumed that a song called Bustin’ Seams is a hip hop song and that JMI is a rapper. Well, you’d be wrong on both counts. Bustin’ Seams is actually the fourth single from New York City-based artist, Junk Made Ill (JMI.) Far from being hip hop, JMI’s music is actually avant garde, dark, brooding and somewhat abstract. Stylistically JMI’s sound reminds me a little bit of 90′s bands like Garbage (specifically Garbage’s song I Would Die For You comes to mind as a distant relative.)
Bustin’ Seams isn’t just music though. It’s also performance art. The video for the single is well produced and choreographed. Shot on “an undisclosed deserted island,” it features a set and costumes which wouldn’t seem out of place in films like Beastmaster or the original Clash of the Titans. Both the song and video emit a darkly subversive, yet intriguing ambiance. The viewer feels hypnotically drawn to the island, even with the realization that something bad might happen there.
Forever is the ambitious debut single from LAVAHI, an up and coming singer/songwriter from Atlanta. For just being a “single,” the song is extremely comprehensive and contains a lot of musical variety even within the track. The music ranges from subtle, haunting chimes with delicate neo-soul vocals to the upbeat, vibrant, musical electricity which defines the final third of the song. LAVAHI is clearly a more than decent singer, but what’s more interesting is the dynamics at play here. There are many twists and turns and layers behind layers. It’s almost like with Forever, LAVAHI is attempting to use musical experimentation to open a door to another dimension. She may have even succeeded. If nothing else, Forever is a great example of how music with pop appeal can contain intellectual aspirations and still be fun.
Ocean of Emotion is a track from Songs With Venissa, a new 6 song EP from Afro-futurist producer “djpe” and Pew Award winning Cuban American jazz vocalist Venissa Sant. It is very difficult to pin this music down into a category. It defies compartmentalization. The best way to describe the sound is that of an avant garde, jazz-folk futurism. Though the songs develop in unpredictable ways, the excellent musiciansmanship is apparent throughout. djpe and Venissa managed to bring in some talented guest soloists who contribute trombone, flute trombone and saxophone playing into these songs. This is the kind of music that can’t be faked. I mean, either you can play the flute or you can’t. These people are the real deal.
Some songs, like Ocean of Emotion start off gently, with Venissa’s phonogenic, soothing, spoken word-like vocals leading the way, as the track slowly adds elements, building into a complex piece of musical machinery until before you know it you’ve got something you can dance to. With other songs, such as The Edges, are action packed from the opening bell and retain the same level of energy for the duration of the recording. If I Could Write You a Letter probably has the grooviest musical backing on the album. It gives off a trippy, kind of Halloween party vibe. My favorite song on the album, is My Schwinn, partly because it features some great lyrical depth, but also because I had a Schwinn bicycle when I was a kid. In fact I feel somewhat guilty that I didn’t appreciate it. Being a bratty 80′s kid, I always wanted something like a dirtbike or BMX. I didn’t recognize the superiority of the Sparkly Schwinn’s aesthetic and the comfort of the banana seat until I got much older.
Anyway, Songs With Venissa is a nifty little EP. It’s one of those albums that will receive instant critical acclaim and recognition for it’s artful mastery from anyone who stumbles onto it. In a just world these recordings would be broadcast to the masses. We don’t live in that just of a world, but if you’re reading this at least you’ll know how good these songs are.
Low On The Dough is a new single from AMARU’s debut album, Champagne Attitude. The song utilizes a lot of symbolism and conveys the emotional fallout one experiences emerging from a toxic relationship with a with a partner with materialistic gold digging tendencies. Champagne Attitude is an apt title for AMARU’s album, as he delivers this touch of bitterness with class and charisma. It’s hard not to be drawn in by his upbeat and energetic persona. AMARU takes bad relationship experiences and romantic drama and translates them
into party fun dance tunes. His original fashion style and precision trimmed beard distinguish him as an artist and recognizable personality. Low On The Dough documents a genuine struggle of being with someone that values commercial brand names over caring and affection. You can feel the impeding doom / sense of frustration in these lyrics:
Dolce & Gabbana
Coco Chanel, Prada
Trinkets you buy at the store
I wanna dress you up in my love
But that’s not enough
Now you’re running to the door
I have no doubt that the rest of AMARU’s album is every bit as entertaining and passionate as this jam. What separates AMARU from many aspiring pop artists is that AMARU’s personality is part of the music, and he is willing to share a more vulnerable side with his audience…while more generic artists work to sweep their romantic mistakes under the rug.
Sherise is an eclectic vocalist and songwriter who draws from a wide variety of musical influences, including everything from classical to country to indie pop. She’s set to release her upcoming album, Dimensions of Beauty, sometime in the near future. She can certainly sing, having come through a substantial choir and musical performance background. Her vocals kind of remind me of a cross between Sheryl Crow and Ace of Base, with songs like On the Dance Floor representing the conventional dance music style and other tracks like Unfinished Business demonstrating alternative rock sensibilities while retaining a danceably pop dynamic. It’s my favorite of the songs I listened to. Divided utilizes some creative structure and probably the most dynamic vocal range. Alone is surprisingly peppy and upbeat musically, in contrast with it’s rather somber title. Sherise is clearly a talented songwriter and performer, and there is definitely an established market for what she’s offering.
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.