Abracadabra is a new jam from hip hop artist, HeadKrack, featuring Big Steve. The music video doubles as a short film (directed by Michelle G.) At first glance it might seem like an ordinary hip hop song/video, but there is actually a fairly in depth and creative narrative at play. Abracadabra centers around the story of a magician named “Kracko the Great” (described initially as a “street hustler”) who is attempting to perfect that elusive trick of creating the perfect woman. The twist at the end is that he never noticed the girl was already there all along. So it’s basically like a magical hip hop version of 80s movies like Teen Wolf and Weird Science (this film is actually listed as one of the inspirations.)
The cinematography is very good. I’m not sure what the budget was for this video, but I’d say they got their money’s worth. It’s really a lavish production, comparable to videos which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. Musically speaking, the song is very catchy and more experimentally structured than most hip hop songs. It’s almost like a narration, intertwined thematically with the film but occasionally transitioning into more straightforward hip hop territory. Really this song and the video are artistically a cut above. This strikes a nice balance between entertainment and the avant garde.
G STAR is a new album from Gio, a Los Angeles based artist who’s originally from Kansas City. The album blends elements of hip hop, pop and R&B, with various tracks taking on characteristics of one style more than the other. The songs are primarily vocal and harmony driven, as Gio doubles as both a rapper and singer. The album is very top 40 friendly. It actually sounds like the kind of contemporary pop you’d hear playing in clothing stores. Gio is a capable performer, but what I find really impressive about G STAR is the selection of beats. The backing music is colorful and genuinely top tier. Nearly every song has a light and grooving intro that just sparkles. This debut album is well produced and has some genuine potential to make waves.
12 Weeks of Summer is a new EP from artist Chad Rico. Due to his being a certified scientist, Rico is frequently referred to as “the rapping math professor.” That is a fairly uncommon day job for a musician. Combining four full singles 12 Weeks of Summer packs a lot of punch into it’s lean runtime. The opening track, Legend In The Coup is a minimalist jam that provides a chill intro as Rico offers lifestyle commentary while cruising around, pulling up into various scenes. The beat is very hypnotic. Charge It To The Game utilizes conversational delivery and layered vocals. Notably, there is also an OJ Simpson reference, (which is actually something that’s relatively topical since OJ has been in the news for recently joining Twitter.) Don’t Trust You is probably my favorite track ont he album, with it’s Lo-Fi, analog style intro. It has a very old school feel and deals more personal subject matter. Pure Highbury is more of a fun and easy going song. Again he makes good use of layering, creatively positioning narration about his experience with a female in the background. All in all, this is a slick and compact EP, which displays a knack for creative production techniques and presentation.
Lakeland Plaza is a new song and music video from artist, TheKunig. It’s a romantic pop jam (although the song itself deals with a failing relationship.) The female vocals are surprisingly top tier for such a relatively unknown song. The singer is really good, pasionately belting out lyrics with a soft crystal clarity. Lakeland Plaza is an emotional song that isn’t afraid to delve into the depths of melancholy and longing. The emotional sincerity expressed is a refreshing change from what is often a genre filled with arrogance and plasticity. The synth beat is quite surreal and has an 80s dance feel to it. This song is really a much higher quality endeavor than its meager level of exposure would suggest. Let’s hope that changes as word gets out. Even is this particular genre isn’t really targeting guys like me, I can still recognize that this is a major label caliber recording.
We Outchea is a new single from hip hop artist, Lyricast. It has a fresh and funky, southern style beat, at times even sounding almost like 90s industrial music. The track makes good use of vocal layering and lively conversational delivery. The rhyme pacing alternates between fast, action packed and mellow, drawl intervals. The song builds suspense and concentrates its lyrical intensity in the final third of the song. We Outchea could be characterized as a party jam or somethine more serious, depending on how much attention the listener pays to the content, but it also has a certain deep, trippy quality to it. This is one of the more uniquely styled rap songs I’ve heard in recent memory. It has a more experimental and avant garde sound than most indie rap songs.
When an obscure musician going by the name of “Y. Bhekhirst” released Hot in the Airport in 1986, perhaps he thought it might lead to fame and fortune. Indeed, though it may not have arrived in the form he expected, he has if nothing else, achieved a significant level of infamy from a moderately sized cult-like following of individuals, both amused and intrigued by his music. I suspect however, that he would not have predicted that the search to uncover his true identity would be the inspiration for a novel by Ben Arzate. The Story of the Y is that novel.
Maybe I’m low maintenance, but even just an earnest story about a researcher/reporter following a trail of clues through Mexico in a quest to solve the riddle of who “Y. Bhekhirst” really was would have been satisfying to me. The gritty and tedious work of going through files, questioning locals and piecing together evidence would have been interesting enough for me. As a hobby, I have been involved in the Zodiac killer research subculture for many years, so this sort of thing is right up my alley. For those of you who require something a little more tantanlizing, you’ll be relieved to know that Ben spices up the story with elements like brutal cartel violence and various supernatural phenomena. The basic gist of the plot is that an aspiring young reporter travels to Mexico with some friends (one of whom happens to be a ghost in a record) to locate and interview Y. Bhekhirst. I won’t spoil much of the rest for you, but let’s just say that when they arrive there, all hell breaks loose. The story had a somewhat Tarantino-esque feel to it, in that a group of characters starts off on a rather mundane quest and suddenly find themselves in a world of gruesome violence, torture and other freaky shit (along the lines as films like From Dusk Till Dawn.)
Ben Arzate has a very unpretentious writing style. He seems to have no use for the elaborately poetic, John Updike style prose when contextualizing scenes and describing settings. He narrates scenes in a very “matter of fact” way. I noticed this before when reading his book of short stories, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Saying Goodbye, but could not tell at the time if this was characteristic of his actual style or a gimmick which was unique to that particular collection. This deadpan, no-nonsense approach makes for a breezy read and keeps the action easy to understand at all times. Ben is also very consistent throughout the book. It has a very cohesive and slightly polished feel, unlike so many indie “novels” which convey interesting ideas but are haphazardly thrown together. The Story of the Y is just the right length. Many budding young writers for some reason feel compelled to write 400 page epics their first time out, but Arzate keeps this thing short and punchy. You could probably read the whole thing in just a couple of hours. I actually read it in the bathtub over the course of maybe 6 or 7, thirty minute hot baths (and managed to do so without significantly ruining the pages of the book.) One last thing I must note (SPOILER ALERT) is that Ben wisely avoids “selling out” on the ending, keeping things ambiguous in a way which will prevent the book from potentially seeming painfully dated at some point in the distant future. I don’t really have a final “verdict” on The Story of the Y. It just isn’t that sort of book. It’s a well written, low-key adventure novel that’s entertaining, intriguing and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
For his part, Ben has been slowly transforming from a prolific reviewer into a prolific writer of his own original (and growing) body of work. If he keeps cranking out material at this pace, I guarantee that everyone will be hearing a lot more about this guy.
How Do You Know It’s Love (ft Brianna) is a new single from Fission. It’s a bright, upbeat track with an elaborately melodic EDM beat. The complexity of the music and the way it shifts and alternates makes this song lively from start to finish. The lovely female vocals are softly passionate and emotionally expressive. How Do You Know It’s Love successfully balances sentimental lyrics with a high energy beat to create an action packed dance track. It’s really a pretty song that recaptures a bit of innocence in a bottle.
The Deep End is a new single from Northern California based artist, Obe In Space. It’s a hip hop jam, but the ethereal backing music and lightly processed vocals make this work just as well as an electronic dance track. It’s just very chill and melodic. The beat itself is minimalist low-key, but it’s enveloped by chimey and magical synths that create the ambiance. In fact, it has vaporwave style cover art. Had the song been released as an instumental, it could have easily fallen into that genre.
The delivery is interesting as the artist doesn’t simply bust rhymes. In addition he uses his vocals as kind of instrument. The result is a very unique and distinct sound which can help establish a memorable artistic brand. The Deep End is well titled because the song has a hypnotic, peaceful underwater atmosphere to it. It really is very relaxing to listen to. Take a dive into this track and hear for yourself.
I Am EmmanPelumi is a new album from hip hop artist Emman-Pelumi. Clocking in at over 1 hour, this album is long. It must have taken quite a while to compleye and Emman didn’t cut any corners or sacrifice for quality. The record opens strong with the upbeat, fresh and full track, All Day. Many of the songs feature sparkling, 80s style synth beats. I must say this artist has a certain talent for choosing really great backing music. The ethereal dance beats definitely enhance the experience. My favorite tracks on on here are Acercate Pt.1 and Pt.2. which boast some stellar female guest vocals. As an album I Am EmmanPelumi has everything: a plethora of guest artists, synthwave instrumental tracks, hip hop pop. Even with this much variety to spice things up, the sound remains cohesive and consistent. Nothing seems out of place. This release is definitely worth the price of admission.
The Mask is a new single from Oakland based singer/songwriter, Tess Posner. This is no ordinary indie track. The vocals were recorded at the iconic Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco, and Tess also worked with CA Grammy-nominated songwriter/producer Sal Oliveri. The Mask has a warm, analog-like sound with record crackle and tape hiss for avant garde effect. The music is darkly electrifying. The Mask is a synthpop jam which explores the struggle to find authenticity and inspires listeners to confront the fears and demons which function as obstacles to outwardly displaying our true selves. Tess’s voice is delightflully haunting. Her tone conveys an emotional depth we don’t often seen in this genre of music. This song is an example of how pop music can break out of the constraints of superficiality when it wants to.