Summy – Sus


Rising popstar “Summy” (aka Summer Ferguson) has all the ingredients to reach the next level. She’s pretty, has a great voice, use a catchy one word name as a moniker, all of which she combines with some very well produced pop music. This girl is just oozing with star quality and has more substance to offer than most artists currently on the radio. Summy’s new single Sus differentiates itself in a subtle, yet brilliant way. Summy’s lead vocals come through crystal clear, without being hampered or drowned out by annoying effects processing. The effects are instead applied to background and “side vocals,” which in effect act an additional synth instrument.

Summy’s versatile voice carries the song well with impeccable timing. This song also has a seductive quality and is filled with jealousy and sexual intrigue. People will connect with this jam, and Summer Ferguson is going places. Forget voting for Pedro. Vote for Summy, and it will be summer all year round.

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Danjul – Origin of Times


I didn’t quite know what to expect with Danjul’s Origin of Times EP as the cover doesn’t provide a lot of clues to the music. In a pleasant surprise, the cd comes across almost like an avant garde opera, with elements of hip hop and r&b. The production is very good. Executive producer Matthew A. Nelson did an excellent job at ensuring the framework would augment the music. The tonality gives off a somewhat dark vibe, like a pop musical that’s willing explore more shadowy themes.

The intro track effectively sets the stage for the rest of the album. It slowly builds from ambient sounds and strange effects until it kicks in as full blown pop jam. Each song itself has a rather unique intro, but my favorite is probably Chapter of Love which opens with a chimy, eerie bit that is attention grabbing and slightly disturbing.

The vocals on this album are much better than what is typical for this style of music. They are very clear, and mostly left unmolested by needless effects or excessive processing. There is some legit singing done here by Danjul (and others?)

It’s difficult to compartmentalize Origin of Times into any one genre. I actually think this has potential to be performed live, perhaps as an underground art-house version of one of those ice skating musicals.

This is not merely some hobbyist’s demo or vanity recording. Origins of Time is a full and cohesive work of art.

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The Original MegaMen – 2AM Night Cap


The Original MegaMen have been in the game in one form or another since the 90′s and have quite a few releases under their belt. Their latest track, 2AM Night Cap(Ghetto Soul Project Mix, featuring J-Murk and X Madueno) is a high energy electro house jam. It is very well put together, and I especially like the samples and effects choices, which often sound like lasers and spaceship sounds, giving the song a subtly futuristic ambiance and adding to the overall vibrance. The beat is fast paced and infectious, my first thought being that I could definitely dance to this. The chorus, ain’t nothing like a 2AM night cap is catchy and I found myself singing it casually, hours after listening to this. Like other songs in this genre, vocals are kept to a minimum, and the beat is ultimately the focal point. However, the vocals here are used very effectively, even in the limited capacity they serve. At the end of the day, this is a solid production from a couple of guys that have been around the block and know what they’re doing.

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Ice Creme – Stay Frosty


DJ Ice Creme is back with another cool and krispy jam. His new track Stay Frosty captures the same positive and uplifting dance music vibe as his other releases. I would describe the ambiance of this song as being similar to that of a child’s birthday party in 1991. It is fitting that the artist goes by the name of “Ice Creme,” since his music is often like an EDM version of the music that emanates from an actual ice cream truck, complete with the excited voices of the children roaring as the vehicle makes its way into their neighborhood. The elevated pitch of the song is maintained throughout, and the music has a brightness quality that could lift the mood of the most cynical among us (this reviewer included.) I really appreciate the way Ice Creme has established his own recognizably distinct and consistent sound. Stay Frosty is terrific and refreshingly free of the kind of unnecessary attitude or assertive egomania that often permeates through contemporary dance tunes. Production quality is solid, this is an all around feel good kinda song.

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Watching eccentric low-budget films is a gamble. The writer and director, one and the same in this case, is at liberty to avoid using formulae in his creative process, the result of which is about as likely for the viewer to be either rewarding or punishing.

Wikipedia says Thoroughbreds is a thriller. It does have faint echoes of something like Rear Window thematically, but thriller is still not the word I would use. It also says comedy, but I remember laughing on only a couple of occasions while watching it. Despite this, I still found it enjoyable, and odd in a positive way.

The film is about two teenagers from a rich area of Connecticut. One of them, Amanda, appears to be psychopathic. Lily, Amanda’s friend, is not, but Amanda’s personality gradually impresses itself upon Lily throughout the film, eventually culminating in their plan to kill Lily’s obnoxious stepfather Mark. First they intend to blackmail a third party into doing it for them. When that fails, they speak of doing it together, and finally Lily just kills him herself.

From the outset, the soundtrack is remarkably good at setting a tone, particularly those parts that were ambient or just sounds rather than songs, e.g. discordant violins and what sounded like a guitar string snapping, along with odd jungle-music percussion, which was appropriately unnerving during tense moments, or character-establishing moments such as Amanda’s arrival at Lily’s house near the beginning as she explores all the bizarre, quaint finery within; Roman busts, a katana, etc, which gives an impression of Mark as an obsessive of some sort who likes to enrich himself with various aspects of Eastern and Western culture. This goes alongside the camerawork, the most striking example of which, and recurrent all through the film, involves following the subject just behind and above the head, with an attendant unsettling effect.

The only song I remember enjoying greatly was one made by an obscure French singer, and it plays while Lily experiences doubts about going through with the plan. This uncertainty later dissolves.

One will find that the aforementioned house, although aesthetically pleasing, is irrelevant to the plot. It is not, as far as I recall, made clear whether it belongs to Lily’s stepfather or to her biological family, but I would not think too much of it since it just serves as a backdrop and as a vessel for the eccentric outward expressions of Mark’s personality. That and the noisy contraption he keeps upstairs, on which he is killed by Lily near the end of the film. Similarly, the various shenanigans of Lily’s school life are barely worth paying attention to and only come up fleetingly, although it is implicit that she too has psychological problems.

The film depicts, in a way that reminds me somewhat of The Crush, a particular, unusually modern instantiation of WASP culture, which is as fascinating as it is charming even though it seems quite divorced from present reality. The most clear and obvious common thread is the convention of horse-riding in prestigious schools, which comes up at the start of Thoroughbreds when Amanda gets in trouble for gruesomely killing her horse. This is apparently what the title refers to.

The handling of Amanda’s psychopathic personality was fun; it becomes the subject of a lot of talk between the two protagonists, and Amanda remarks at some point that her diagnosis consisted of the psychiatrist’s “throwing random pages of the DSM-V at her”, briefly mentioning schizoid symptoms and other illnesses. She acts out her “feelinglessness” in an engaging manner, such as winning £300 (or whatever) in an online game and having no reaction whatsoever. This is what leads to, arguably, the climax of the film when Amanda allows Lily to drug her and then land her in a situation most people would obviously not willingly submit themselves to. Amanda does not care, because she lives, as she says, a “meaningless life”.

The division of the film into chapter headings, what would normally be called “acts” I think, seemed superfluous even if they did not noticeably detract from the experience; this was an effort to appear quirky that the film could easily have waived. Do most books have 4-5 chapters? The runtime I definitely appreciated, however. It is exactly as long as it needs to be; I normally have to go looking for pre-Code films  to find stuff shorter than two hours, and Thoroughbreds is 90 minutes, so I at no point felt bored.

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Sightline Heights – Can’t Back Down


Can’t Back Down is a new single from Philadelphia based alternative rock project, “Sightline Heights” (which is set to release its debut EP in June.) Though a lot of bands and artists have casually adopted the label of alternative as a descriptor of their music over the years, Sightline Heights’ Can’t Back Down strikes me as actually capturing the essence of the “alternative” music sound (as I imagine it anyway.) The tempo is slow to moderate, and the drums have a nice kick to them. The guitars have that nice, classic distortion, creating a coveted tone which really is the heart of this song. In addition to his guitar work, singer/songwriter Marc Eimer also does a decent job as vocalist, especially considering his parts are not particularly easy to sing. It’s difficult to actually “sing” at the volume required for this type of music while retaining artful clarity and without devolving into gravelly shouting or screamo type vocals, but Eimer manages to hold his own. Production quality on the track is excellent, right up there with any standard label release.

All in all, this is a pretty solid alternative rock song. I don’t really have any criticisms, but it would be interesting on some future releases to experiment with the sound a bit by adding in some unusual instruments, a synthy bridge or maybe even a surprise female solo. I wouldn’t really mess with it too much though as the artist has a pretty good formula so far.

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Diveyede – There is no Cure//They Will Be the Death of Me


Diveyede refers to himself as a “Style of No Style.” His latest release There is no Cure//They Will Be the Death of Me occupies an interesting niche somewhere between hip hop, chillwave and spoken word poetry. Despite having a rather calm and pleasant voice to listen to, what stands out to me about Diveyede’s delivery is his impeccable sense of timing. It’s so on point that it almost seems like even a machine couldn’t have done a better job. The tracks themselves are very ambient. The best song on the album is I Lost My Mind in Seattle, which features some killer retro synth and very high quality rapping. Though my personal favorite is the first track, Midnight Thoughts on Alki which strikes me as the most creative and unconventional stylistically (for this genre anyways.) Diveyede is like a hip hop version of the classic lo-fi, avant garde, experimental alternative music, and his music is greatly enhanced by the small collection of talented artists and producers that also work on his projects. Shoutout to “Son the Rhemic,” Siggy and Noob. Their contributions to this did not go unnoticed by the reviewer.

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Ice Creme – Cotton Candy


DJ Ice Creme’s new electronic music jam Cotton Candy really hits the spot. No, but seriously this is awesome. In the 90′s people used the term “candy raver” (or “kandi raver”) to describe a certain type of raver who wore kids’ backpacks, bright multi-colored bracelets and just gave off the vibe of friendship and childhood innocence. Now, I won’t say that Ice Creme’s music is any kind of direct throwback to that culture, but Cotton Candy definitely has a retro feel to it and abstractly recaptures much of the aesthetic from the early 90′s. Vocal effects and sample wise, it actually reminded me of early techno cassette tapes I owned in 1993 (if you were to replace the standard old school techno beat with something…well like this.) The best way to describe the unique sound of Cotton Candy is that it’s like someone mixed circus music, sounds of people being at the circus, and EDM. It is all very artfully done, and the end result is one of the coolest pieces of dance music I’ve ever heard.

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Natalie Lucassian – 12:26


Natalie Lucassian’s new EP, 12:26 is light years ahead of most indie albums in terms of quality and artistry. Natalie’s sound has been described as “Amy Winehouse reincarnated as Adele’s indie rock little sister.” However, I don’t think that characterization does her enough justice. Her music seems refreshingly original. In fact, I like it more than the music of either of those other two artists. Natalie has a natural voice for emotive indie rock but is a more talented singer than most indie artists, whom tend to substitute authenticity for technical ability. Natalie Lucassian represents the best of both worlds.

Restless is a brooding track with psychedelic undertones and a light beat that’s slow enough to chill out to but peppy enough that you could dance to if you felt like it. 12:26 is a tad more upbeat and rocking. It’s my favorite song on the album and stylistically reminds me a bit of the music of a band called Magic Wands.

All in all, this EP punches above its weight class, and I can’t think of anything negative to say about it. 12:26 is awesomely haunting.

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RANZEL X KENDRICK – Texas Sagebrush


Having done thousands of music reviews over the years, I have discovered a lot of interesting or good music, but not too much of it stands out. I have to say though that country artist Ranzel X Kendrick’s new album, Texas Sagebrush is exceptional. The first track Any Ole’ Song, should leave no doubt to the listener that this guy’s music is right up there with the country legends. This shouldn’t be surprising given that he apparently is the nephew of Grammy award winner, Roger Miller.

Kendrick describes his sound as Texas Roots / Americana, and he has become a pretty much a master of it, so far as I can tell. His style features mellow but articulate acoustic guitar, in a fairly minimalist context, along with sincere and quietly contemplative vocals.

Ambiance wise, the songs on this album would not have seemed out of place on the classic soundtracks of films like “Every Which Way But Loose” (which featured hits from Eddie Rabbitt and Mel Tillis.) They are just very professional and have the feel of someone that has been around the block a few times. Texas Sagebrush is very authentic and evokes memories of the last era of pre-popcommercialization of the country sound. This isn’t to say that the music itself is dated though. What a Pretty Day retains the artful authenticity while demonstrating appeal to mainstream contemporary audiences. Rebecca White’s stellar vocals combine the best of indie folk and country elements. At times on this album I even found myself questioning whether what I was listening to was a Greenwich Village coffee house folk tune or a country western song.

Just about anyone who hears this music will instantly recognize it as being in the top-tier of its genre.

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