Chris Sullivan – Dog Days – EP


Charleston based singer/songwriter Chris Sullivan’s new EP Dog Days dazzles immediately with its surprisingly fast paced opening track, By the Light of the Radio. This song is instantly recognizable as a masterpiece, and I’m not someone who typically even listens to much Americana or Adult Contemporary music. Sullivan carries the song with so much speed, energy and emotion. The best way I could describe the sound is if you took 90s pop rock like the BoDeans or Del Amitri, sped it up a bit and gave it more of an Southern feel. Other tracks like The City That Never Sleeps and Black Clouds are slightly slower paced but every bit as rockin’. Sullivan can really belt out the lyrics, too. He has the perfect masculine yet emotive voice for this style of music, and he projects it well. This is just an all around talented guy who puts his heart and soul into these recordings, and it shows.

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Ezra Jordan – 10 Miles a Minute


Singer/songwriter Ezra Jordan’s latest single 10 Miles a Minute almost defies categorization. It has elements of indie pop, funk, mainstream pop, soul, with the background music at times giving the song an almost Caribbean, tropical vibe. Jordan’s clearly a skilled vocalist, with his voice demonstrating some impressive dynamicism at certain points of the track. In spite of the song’s title, the music starts off at a slow pace but builds into a funky and energetic little dance number. This is a respectable recording with a solid vocal performance. I’m most impressed with how well the song is put together. There are a lot of musical components to it which are delicately placed in the mix. This song is a complicated piece of musical machinery, and somehow nothing seems out of place.

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Grayson Erhard – Earthship – EP


They say not to judge a book by its cover, but they never said anything about albums. When I saw the aesthetic artwork for Grayson Erhard’s new EP, Earthship I already had a good feeling about the music. It’s pretty straightforward indie folk / alternative but very well performed and produced professionally. This is not lo-fi coffee house music. It’s interesting that the EP is titled Earthship as the music itself has an earthy quality to it, like the artist is in tune with nature (which could be explained by his growing up in a small Colorado town.) The video for his song I Will was filmed on location at Great Sand Dunes National Park. What’s memorable about his style is that his songs often start out mellow, to where you think they will be quiet, with soft spoken vocals and acoustic strumming for the duration, and then everything slowly builds and kicks into high gear, both emotionally and musically, where it all rocks hard.

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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.

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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The Pagliaci featuring Alaska MC – Beats, Breaks & Bass


The Pagliaci, an Italian DJ known for his interest in break beat music, has a new track out featuring Alaska MC. It’s titled Beats, Breaks & Bass. What’s notable about Pagliaci’s style is that he combines dance music and break beat with hip hop. The sound is often reminiscent of the best of 90s music, and I have to admit it awakened a bit of nostalgia for me for a simpler, much more carefree era of music. The professionalism in the production is quite evident to even a casual listener, as The Pagliaci demonstrates the skills of a longtime veteran of the DJ scene who cut his chops on turntables back in the day and kept up with technology over the years. Beats, Breaks & Bass is a party jam, filled with energy and with a chorus that’s surprisingly melodic. I would recommend this jam to the kind of person that just loves to go out on the town, have a good time and avoid drama.

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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.