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.
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.
Shavonda Robinson’s book, I Am a Free Woman: Poems For a Little Girl uses poems to chronicle the struggle of women who have suffered abuse, often at the hands of their own family. Shavonda describes herself as a “poet activist for abused women.” Poetry is a useful medium to deal with the subject of abuse, because it allows for people to discuss subjects they might otherwise be uncomfortable expressing in straightforward conversation. While the subject matter of the book is somewhat dark, Shavonda Robinson wisely choose to give the book an inspirational tone. Her poems serve to motivate these women and help them to reclaim their confidence.
I Am Beautiful Like Me
By Shavonda Robinson
I am not beautiful like you
I am beautiful like me
And what makes me beautiful
My scars, My mistakes, My opinions
My struggles, My fears, My insecurities,
My Confidence, My learned lessons
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.
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.