A Cave in the Inside is the latest album from Present Paradox, an artist located in Dortmund, Germany. This music could best be described as avant garde pop or maybe ambient pop. The songs have a warm analog quality to them, featuring some subtle noise and hiss that enhance the recording and contribute to the overall ambiance. I could tell right away with the psychedelic intro to the first track, Nightwalk, that this album was going to be right up my alley, and the rest of the song did not disappoint. In fact, the song builds into something even better as it goes on, adding drums and vocals into to the mix. Lots of times this kind of music can be ruined by out of place or obnoxious vocals, but in this case the vocals had just the right tone and effects. The singer has the right voice, without any annoying quirks or attitude. The artist took the song exactly where I expected (and wanted it to go,) right smack dab into a psychedelic, kaleidoscopic dreamland.
The album has a very 60′s feel to it, with theatrically titled songs like Magical Twist and Masquerade, which musically could be compared to bands like The Pretty Things. I suppose younger people might relate it to a more contemporary sound like early Radiohead or even Muse, but I’m not a huge fan of those bands, and in my opinion these songs are better and have a more authentic artistic feel. The title track, A Cave In the Inside definitely gives off a contemporary, European flavored indie pop vibe. I very much enjoyed this album, and I highly recommend it.
Skeletons is a new single from Ezla, (an artist originally from Texas but now based in Nashville.) Ezla describes her music as “hypnotic pop,” and Skeletons absolutely lives up to this characterization. I would add that the both the song and video have a certain lounge music quality. In fact, Ezla’s style comes across as that of a 21st century, indie lounge singer. Her music is assertive and delivered with the sass of a strong female personality, yet always with a smile. The atmosphere is dark and brooding, like an out of the way night club you visit when you’re up to no good. Her voice is naturally sensual, and easy on the ears. It would in fact be very easy to be hypnotized by this music.
At first glance, you might think contemporary singer/songwriter Ashley J is just another pretty pop music performer, but she actually earned a BA degree in Business Law. She really can sing, too. Her latest single, “Satisfied” is a kind of elegant pop song, featuring a light and cerebral backing track. It has an avant garde quality, aided by her celestial voice and Aphrodite-like command of the heavens. This song has more in common with Björk than with Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears, and that is a good thing. Ashley J exhibits some real potential here.
Jarel Portman’s new track, Runaway Blues (from the album, Supersonic) is an awesome rock/blues song which has a psychedelic quality to it, particularly the backing instrumentals. The guitars have a late 60s-early 70s kind of tone, reminiscent of bands like The Pretty Things. Seriously, the vibrato on this jam is killer. The song features some solid vocals also, especially considering this kind of music is difficult to sing well. Performed with passion and impeccable timing, Runaway Blues comes off like the work of veteran musical pros. Expect to hear more stuff from this guy.
Fiesta is a new single from Canadian bass/house duo, Diemetic. It’s an upbeat, party jam that mixes elements of hip hop and dance. It kind of reminds me of a lot of those old 90′s dance mix cds like Club Mix 96. The music is just very fun and lively. It actually gives you energy and puts out a very positive and carefree vibe that’s lacking in so much of today’s artistry. The production on this track is impressive, pretty much major label quality. The song also isn’t overly repetitive. It’s fairly dynamic, with a lot frequent changes throughout the track to keep things fresh and keep the action going.
Singer-Songwriter Nina Söderquist has released a new ballad. It’s performed as a duet featuring Nina and fellow singer Björn Skifs. As you may be able to ascertain from the title, it’s a song about a couple breaking up, with the mistakes having made by each partner being too much for the relationship to overcome, and it’s time to call it quits or “see it through” (to its conclusion I imagine.) One great thing about this song, is that these are two very talented, professional singers. This type of music is not easy to perform unless you really know what you’re doing. You just can’t fake your way through these kinds of vocals, the way one can with other styles of music. The pacing of the song is mellow but not depressing (even with the song’s bleak theme.) This track reminds me of the great light rock classic duets of the 70′s and 80′s. Nina and Björn have done an excellent job with this.
Orange County based artist Luke Fox has a new album that drops today, January 9th, 2018. When I say album, I do mean full album, as The Art of Sound contains over 25 tracks. Are all of these on the final release I wonder? If so then score. He doesn’t cut any corners on quality either, with each jam having a comprehensive and mostly professional sound.
One pattern that emerges is the artist seems to focus on a number of recurring emotional themes in his songs. Loneliness, romance and dreams feature prominently in the lyrical content. It is tough to categorize this music as The Art of Sound doesn’t quite fit neatly into any one genre. It has elements of indie, piano driven coffeehouse music. The tone, pacing and overall ambiance seem to gravitate in that direction. The vocals however have a pop, or even lite hip hop quality to them, both in delivery style and effects selection. I couldn’t help but think that with different backing track instrumentation, this could be marketed as a completely different style of music. This is what makes Fox’s album interesting. He really does have a unique, recognizably distinctive sound.
Since there are so many tracks on this album, it seems appropriate that I should talk about some of them individually. My favorite song on this release is Spell, which sports a haunting, minimalistic melody and memorable hooks. It also has one of the best vocal performances. Not a Regular Guy is one of the catchier songs. It’s in the form of a peppy and fun, singsong format, almost like an updated, contemporary incarnation of 70′s pop sing along classics like those of The Partridge Family or The First Class. It may be a stretch, but it does reach. Rhythm Rhyme is a song you can dance to, despite it’s relatively measured pacing (these songs are all fairly mellow.) It has a bouncy feel to it, enough to play at a dance club in between EDM bpm blitzkriegs.
Ultimately, I have to say that The Art of Sound lives up to its ambitious title. Luke Fox provides an epic experience. There is just an incredible amount of musical content for one to sift though here. I can’t help but be astonished at the amount of work that must have gone into this project. It would be impressive enough for this reason alone, but the artistry itself is solid, too.
Gerard Edery’s descriptively titled double-album, Best of Gerard Edery is noteworthy in it’s versatility. Like a musical chameleon he manages to impressively switch back and forth from a wide variety of ethnic folk styles, seemingly at will. He demonstrates a mastery of these various styles rather than coming off as someone with merely a “jack of all trades” level of competency. What’s remarkable is how authentically he is able to incorporate folk sounds from throughout Europe and the Middle East. Some songs have a distinctly Arabic vibe, while others like Los Ejes provide a Spanish ambiance. There is a certain blend to many of these tracks where they transcend boundaries to form a Pan-European / Middle Eastern sound. Music is one of the few areas where people are able to set aside differences and discover mutual appreciation. Gerard Edery achieves this with his compilation, and the result is an eclectic masterpiece. The pacing on these songs is very relaxed and tempered, and much of this music has a meditative quality, almost New Age at times. I would certainly recommend this music to anyone who appreciates exotic and esoteric folk music, performed at a very high skill level and professionally produced.
Boomerang is a new album from Itamar Borochov, a world renowned jazz trumpet player. The listener will immediate recognize aura of professionality that is apparent immediately with the poignant first track, Tangerines. The sound is incredibly smooth and soft while maintaining a lively pulse. The pacing is more fevered and animated in later pieces like Jaffa Tune. Part of what Itamar celebrates in his music is the eclectic blend of different cultural influences and fashions which give take a little bit of the best of everything. The tracks are a musical representation and culmination of his experiences and absorptions. The result of this is an incredibly radiant recording, which is excellent at all levels of production and performance. Usually I can find something in a musical release to criticize, but every composition on Boomerang is top tier for this genre of music, in which there is little margin for error. These songs are meticulously constructed and performed with style.