Hip hop artist J7 (short for Judah7) has a lot of projects cued up. His song, VIP is set to be released in January 2019. Also he has a mixtape coming out in January (pictured above) and a single for his official album is dropping in March. J7 began as a poet and later became a battle rapper, eventually converting his poems into songs.
You might think someone this busy would cut corners on quality and rush things. However, with VIP J7 demonstrates that he’s a very capable rapper. The song comes across as smooth, well structured and professional. I’ve noticed that “battle rappers” tend to be very impressive, because they’re quick on their feet with improvisation and able to perform under pressure. VIP has a crisp sound, like it just popped right out of the toaster oven. J7’s delivery is dialed up but cool and sleek, set to a darkly groovy beat backdrop. This is a solid song from one of the hungriest and most prolific young hip hop artists I’ve covered in a while. This dude is also a fashion designer, actor, model and “illuminated speaker.” The music speaks for itself.
Love is Gone is a new single from a pop artist known as Junior. As the title suggests, the song is a relationship narrative, that deals with the protagonist lamenting over a breakup with his girlfriend and reminiscing about the good times. The video even features some great shots of the protagonist wearing vintage Tommy Hilfiger and cooking dinner for / with his girlfriend.
Singing to some well chosen synth beats (Bowdown by Mantra) Junior comes across as a worthy pop vocalist. His dynamic voice manages to live up to the production quality of the video (which is very professional and clearly had a decent budget.) Junior’s vocals could hold their own against probably any pop singer currently on the radio. He really manages to carry the whole song, and you start to forget there’s even a beat at all. What makes this a decent pop jam though is that it’s catchy. After only a couple listens I felt like I would recognize this if I heard it while in a clothing store or something. Junior just needs to find a way to get this video to a few million views, and this should set him up nicely for his next release.
The Ghost of my Father is the 2nd album from artist, Trey Wonder. The sound is very organic, with punk and psychedelic musical influences. Some songs are mellow and emotive while other tracks like Building Up and My New Spine are peppy and vibrant. Trey’s vocal and musical style reminds me a bit of Lou Reed from The Velvet Underground. He even sounds like him somewhat.
The lead song Microbe has over 30k streams on Spotify. It’s one of the more creative and avant garde songs on the album. Trey occasionally breaks into (subtly humorous) spoken word interludes, at one point busting out with “I’m not saying it was aliens, but it was probably aliens.” Trey definitely has a knack for writing genius lyrics and composing them into an unexpectedly cohesive narrative. The guitars on Microbe have a warm and vintage tone, delightfully clangy. Microbe is just he right length, too. It leaves an impression as a mini avant-garde epic, which doesn’t ramble on too long or overstay its welcome. This is especially good since it is only the first song on the album.
The Ghost of my Father has a lot of variety and is a great example of what can be accomplished when a punk musician matures and starts experimenting artistically.
Close To The Ground is a new album from Barcelona based artist/producer, Plastic Teardrops. Set to be released Jan 1, 2019, the album features a trip hop oriented sound, influenced by artists like Massive Attack and Portishead. The music is brooding and darkly ambient, occasionally evoking some wonderful David Lynch vibes. The mix of indie acoustic/electric guitars, synths and loungy vocals creates an eclectic, chilled out atmosphere with moody hints of underlying tension. My favorite song on here is probably There is No Escape, which could best be described as a combination of a John Carpenter movie instrumental soundtrack, Bjork and late night acoustic coffee house music. Close To The Ground is just a really well put together album, produced and performed at a level far beyond what’s expected of most indie music. When I was a kid, a common question when you meet someone was “What kind of music do you listen to?” Usually people preferred only one style. Since people now grow up being exposed to and influenced by many different genres of music, we see more and more artists concocting these creative blends. This album is an example of it being done successfully.
Miami based Hip hop artist, RawJxw’s new jam Rawcula is something else. Set to a backdrop of Draculian thematic elements, the slow and methodical beats combine with his quick witted delivery to create a unique and darkly effective track. Rawcula is appropriately titled as the lyrics are often unpredictably humorous in a very and raw kind of way which will leave the listener laughing uncomfortably throughout the song. The tone is very ominous and low key, but one thing that’s apparent is that this guy can really rap. His ability to maintain precise timing while delivering in short quick bursts is impressive. He also has something many indie rappers lack, which is his own distinct sounding voice. I feel like it would be easy to recognize if I heard it again. That should help this guy stand out. Rawcula does a great job creatively incorporating the dracula gimmick into a talented hip hop song for maximum effect.
Maze is a new single from Spida Collins. Drawing from an eclectic range of musical styles, Maze contains elements of hip hop, pop and EDM. These are blended synergistically to create an energetic and vibrant sound. Approached from a positive perspective, the lyrics center upon the theme of perseverance. As the title of the song suggests, our lives are often analogous to a maze. The walls represent problems that we run into, which we must bounce back from and keep moving, as we attempt to find our way out of the maze. The maze can also be seen as the obstacles in our own mind toward achieving inner peace and harmony.
The production on this track is very impressive for an “indie” hip hop song. I don’t just mean the recording quality but also the arrangements and complex juxtaposition of complementing musical vocals, rapping and various synths and beats. Some great musical craftsmanship here which makes for a genuinely effective and emotionally uplifting song. Maze manages to strike the right balance between being a song with intellectual depth and a cool party track that people can get down to on the dance floor. The music allows the listener to experience the message of the song, even if they’re just having a swell time dancing and not even listening to the words.
Set to be released on January 18, 2019, Pretty Noise is the debut album of Connecticut based band, The Twelve AM. The title of the album itself serves as an apt (if minimal) description of the sound. It’s a noisy kind of alternative power pop with delightful melodies and occasionally romantic undertones. The distortion laden but impressively precise guitars compel the listener to take the album seriously from the get go. With the opening track, Punk Drunk one can immediately detect the instrumental skill here combined with top tier production quality and mixing and realize these aren’t just a bunch of kids playing around. Many of the songs have a pretty straightforward 90s alternative, post-grunge vibe, but the 6th track Guitar Boys pleasantly surprises as a crystal clear, pop gem. It’s the best song on the album in my opinion and has the most potential to be a hit. Empty is a later track which has a similar feel and is also very good. What’s notable to me about this album is how dynamic the songs are. Every song on the album seems to have its own musical personality. Even tracks which are done in the same style are still distinct and display a lot of variation in pacing, rhythm and content. Nothing here seems redundant. The vocals sound pleasant and emotive, and most importantly they are clean and haven’t been processed into oblivion (unlike many contemporary recordings.) This is a pretty solid debut album. There are indie bands out there who end up putting out 20 albums which may never come close to being as good as this.
Mango is the debut EP from Austin based artist, Jony Shelby. It combines elements of pop, hip hop and electronica to create a very contemporary and accessible sound. Unpredictable usage of synths and samples keeps the listener on their toes, never quite knowing which direction a track is going to go. The songs on Mango are notable for their attention grabbing intros. Lobby Party, which gives off a darkly haunting, trip hop vibe, is a good example of this. Faux is closer to a more straightforward pop song, yet with with a delightfully dreamy and surreal synth backing throughout. Ash Heart on the other hand seems more like an indie dance track, where industrial electronica is at the forefront and hip hop merely accentuates the song. Production wise, Mango is very good. All in all I’d say this is a fairly solid , genre transcending debut entry that grows on you after each listen.
The artist behind the project known as “Feather Thief” grew up in a cold and wooded area of Northern Minnesota. He had played in a band for many years, and when it broke up he considered quitting music altogether. Well thankfully that didn’t happen, and Feather Thief was born. His impressive new single is Slip-Dodge, a calmly emotive and cerebral indie jam. The song blends light guitar with synths and vocals set to a dreamlike reverbial backdrop. The pacing of Slip-Dodge presents itself as slow and methodical. Clocking it at over 4 minutes, the track is always engaging, with the synths positioned for dramatic effect at strategic moments of the song. Feather Thief’s vocals are almost haunting in their authenticity. You can sense the genuine emotion in his tone. Just a sold effort all the way through. Feather Thief is scheduled to release an EP in 2019.
The Blankz continue to crank out quality releases at an impressive rate. Their latest is Getting Over You a two track single, which also features a song called Barfly. One might expect a song called “Getting Over You” to be a dreary and sappy romantic number, but in fact this song is energetic and action packed. It does in fact deal with the theme of getting over heartbreak, but in an upbeat and triumphalist kind of way. The sound could be described as “pop punk,” but musically these songs are much more sophisticated. This band more or less has its own style which combines golden age punk authenticity with genres like new wave.Getting Over You features a killer organ/synth bridge about two-thirds into the song. What’s interesting intellectually about this track though is the way love is described in terms one would normally use to describe experiences with drugs. With lyrics such as “when your love was pumping through my veins and “once I had you in my brain” we get the sense that getting over this particular instance of love is the equivalent of finally making it out of the withdrawal phase of having to give up any kind of vice. The language is very clinical, thus further illustrating his growing detachment from the failed romance.
Barfly deals more with the creatures of the nightlife and their hunger to keep busy (“gotta find something to do!”) and find reprieve from the drab day to day and mundane punching of the clock. Even the term “punch the clock” evokes imagery associated with the most boring and soul crushing jobs…the ones where you can’t wait for the day to end so your actual life can begin.
Both of these songs are musically phenomenal and the production is excellent. The Blankz are quickly becoming one of the most prolific bands in Arizona. I’ve reviewed several of their releases now and have been impressed every time.