Stories is a new single from musical duo, “The Jon Johns.” The track appears on their freshly released album, Road Trip Mixtape.Stories, with it’s deep reverb and earthy ambiance, has a recognizably vintage, 60′s folk rock sound. It reminds me a bit of old school Simon and Garfunkel or Jake Holmes. The tone is bright and upbeat, as the song projects a lot of feel good vibes. The reverb/echo has an added effect of giving a kind of “openness” to the music. It’s like the band is performing on mountain top in the middle of nowhere. Stories fits well within the framework of the overall album, and does a good job of conveying the free spirit of travelers on the open road. Right now this band is totally independent and loving it, but if they ever decide to get big and sell out, this song would work very well in a car or airline commercial.
Singaporean multmedia artist, filmmaker and pianist Lhu Wen Kai has completed a musical project, High School Musical Piano Medley. The project is an homage to the movie, High School Musical, a movie which Lhu credits with being his inspiration to make music. The components of the medley are arranged in such a way as to mirror the emotional journey of the film itself. Believe it or not, I’ve actually never seen High School Musical, so I’m not in a position to pontificate as to whether Lhu’s medley successfully captures the “spirit” of the film. However, his piano playing is exquisite in its own right. Lhu navigates the keys with finesse and attention to detail. The performance is crisp and meticulous. It’s important for an artist to foster a connection with artifacts from his/her formative years, as these things are intertwined with one’s identity (for better or worse.) We must revisit our inspirations from time to time and acknowledge them. Not all of us are as gifted as Lhu Wen Kai, who is able to pay tribute with such skill and technical precision.
Borders is a new album from UK based composer and producer, Dr Optimiser. There’s quite a bit of variety on this 12 track release. The songs range from retro-futurist synthwave to house to electro-acoustic. The opening track The Theorist sounds like something about of early 90′s science fiction film, while Dementia reminds me of the music in SNES RPG classics like Secret of Evermore. The final track Memories serves as a lovely acoustic finale and is the least “electronic” sounding song on the album.
Maybe it’s because the production is so pristine and the composositions are so meticulously precise, but I feel like Borders has the feel of a film/television soundtrack. One gets a sense they are not just listening to a record but are experiencing various stages and scenes in some kind of tale or overarching narrative. The songs are aesthetically cohesive while retaining their individual uniqueness. Atmospheric clues are often provided in the brief titles, many of which are associated with border disputes (Crimea, Damascus, County Lines, etc.) Don’t expect overt political commentary or banter on any of these hot button issues though. The album is strictly ambient and abstract in its approach. Borders is an excellent conceptual album and will provide the listener with a lot to meditate on.
Moment is a new track from PaperFace, a producer and masked DJ who’s been on the scene for a while. The song has an ambient and surrealistic backing, sporting a chill beat and futuristic synths. This isn’t some EDM, pulsepunding Eurobeat jam. It’s a low key, hip hop song (featuring E. Berrios.) The lyrical delivery is contemplative rather than confrontational and takes on an almost dreamlike quality. The pacing is laid back but the tone and material are engaging. Everything blends together nicely. There’s nothing abrasive about this mix at all, and the echoey reverberations bring the listener further out into the ether. Lyrically and thematically, Moment articulates the struggle and uncertainty involved with trying to “make it” and forge a better life. The song is a mental journey, and we soon recognize the artists are working out their own inner demons and seeking to motivate themselves just as much as inspire the audience.
Eric Schettl is an actor who transformed into a hip hop artist for a role he’s set to play a in an upcoming movie called The American Dream. Presumably he’s a kind of method actor. There’s a video below where he performs over a beat by producer “TRAV Tha God.” Schettl received instruction and mentoring from Trav and B.I. Beats in preparation for his upcoming role. It may not seem like much at first, but Schettl’s performative transformation is impressive when contrasted with his prior film roles and skits, many of which present radically different characterizations. Her certainly has the aesthetic down. Anyway, there’s not much in the way of actual releases available from this guy to comment on, but watch for him in the upcoming film, The American Dream where we’ll get a chance to further assess the fruits of his ventures into the world of hip hop.
Pizza Rolls and Coca Cola is a jam from White Prospect, a 17 year old hip hop artist from Indiana. Not only is the cover epic, (actually featuring a pic of Totino’s Pizza Rolls!) but this dude has actual skills. He displays a distinct delivery style, impeccable timing and a solid flow. His freshly pubescent voice conceals what otherwise is a very mature hip hop release. Seriously, though. This track is pimp tight. It also has a groovy, early 90s aesthetic beat and all around old school vibe. This kid’s releases are probably going to get even better as time goes on if he sticks with it and doesn’t burn out too quickly.
Light Me Up is the latest single from Enzo, a self-taught musician based in Boston, MA. It’s an ethereal, electronic dancepop jam. Brimming with energy, Light Me Up remains musically lustrous and illuminating throughout. The listener can visualize the EDM lightshow which would accompany this song in a live setting. The chillwave backbeat provides a great atmospheric framework. Enzo’s vocals are soft-spoken and upbeat, a great fit for the tone of the music. He also sings rather well and is not afraid to show a little emotion in the lyrics. Overall this is an uplifting genre which captures the positive spirit of EDM.
Don’t Know Don’t Care is a crafty new single from Los Angeles based musical artist, Charly (ft. The Characters.) It’s a poignant indie blues jam that teases, dazzles and finally rocks when the chorus really kicks in. The song straddles the line between blues/lounge and alternative. Charly’s emotive and charismatic vocals drive the song. I can’t stress enough what a dynamic vocal performance this is . The lyrics touch upon themes of openness, acceptance (“don’t know, don’t care if you’re a boy or a girl,”) and the search for reassurance and greater fulfillment. The song stands on its own, but I recommend watching the official music video, which is one of the best produced infie music vids I’ve seen over the last year.
666 is an EP from Paris based hip hop artist, Sauveur Eloheem. True to the album’s title, the songs have a spooky and darkly ambiant synth vibe (one of the tracks is even called Halloween.) Many of the lyrics appear to be in French, but the music could be appreciated by anyone regardless of language. Eloheem’s voice is deep and his delivery is authotitative and commanding. He displays a charismatic vocal presence througout the EP. A good way to describe this album is that it’s creepy in a good way. Eloheem has put together a cohesive and avant garde release. My favorite track on 666 is Serpent à Sonnette, as the song’s hauntingly magnetic intro pulls the listener in and sets the tone for the music ahead. It’s worth noting that all of the songs on 666 have captivating intros. I recommend you check out Sauveur Eloheem’s other releases if you get the opportunity.
Double life liver Louie Lahana is a schoolteacher during the day and describes himself as a “musician after midnight.” His music is a rather unique combination of acoustic alternative and hip hop. I’ve heard other artists classify their music in this way, and usually it just turns out to be someone rapping loudly over rock music, basically like “rapcore.” However, in Lahana’s case his music really does sound like alternative music. A big part of this is his vocal delivery, which sounds more like John McCrea of Cake or Bright Eyees than Ghostface Killah or even Fred Durst. In other words, this is the good stuff.
One of Lahana’s latest singles, Taxi, reassures the listener almost immediately with its earthy and vibrant accoustic guitar tone, rhythmically performed and pleasant to the ear. Lahana’s comfortable singing voice and dynamic delivery elevate these recordings beyond the realm of mere spoken word slam poetry. It kind of reminds me of some of Lou Reed’s post Velvet Underground material like Walk on the Wild Side. The backing / harmony vocals contributed by Tehillah Henry manage to take the song even further. The lengthy and comprehensive lyrics in Taxi supposedly tell a tale of “nostalgia and trauma in a cab on the way to work” (hey who can’t relate to that?) The song ultimately tells us much more though, as we realize that Louie Lahana isn’t just a school teacher who tinkers with music on the side. He’s someone who releases top tier, chartworthy indie songs, and who just so happens to also be a teacher.