Lies is a new single from Pittsburgh based R&B vocalist, Shawna Roxanne. She’s a veteran musician with a lengthy resume of live performances and a number of past releases under her belt. This latest jam features a futuristic and surreal backbeat. Melodic and minimal, the music allows Shawna’s vocals to take center stage where they flow in sync with the irregular yet playfully hypnotic beat. There’s some light vocal processing but not enough to detract from the artist’s dynamic and beautiful natural tone. As the song kicks in, the catchy chorus and danceable rhythm make this peppy track ideal to groove to. There’s an unexpected rapping interlude midway through the song (Gallo Locknez,) adding another dimension to keep things fresh. Despite the subject matter, which deals with dishonesty in relationships, the musical vibe is positively upbeat and energetic, as the aesthetic cover artwork suggests. Shawna definitely delivers the goods with this single. It’s professional and hits all of its target marks, musically and emotionally.
Course of Things to Come is a new single from the Minnesota based trio, “West of Corey.” The sound is an organic blend of acoustic, blues and rock, with hints of psychedelia. Production wise, the recording gives off a warm analog vibe and has a vaguely avant garde 1960s quality to it. With a mix that’s fairly minimalist, the song sparkles and surprises with some enchanting effects. Skillful vocalist Janine Taft’s charismatic voice drives the action against a deeply melodic guitar backdrop. Janine belts out the lyrics with a passion and power reminiscent of the some of the more iconic folk/blues/lounge singers. Exotic guitar riffs and a haunting, Jefferson Airplane style backbeat round things off nicely. Course of Things to Come is a quietly professional masterpiece, positioned neatly under the radar.
This contemporary classic from over a decade ago remains one of my favorite tracks from Los Angeles based dreampop duo, Magic Wands. As far as I know, there are two versions of this jam: the original and then the one which actually appeared on the EP (Aloha Moon.) Both are incredible, but I prefer the original for some reason. It’s slightly more minimalist and haunting. It has more of that vintage cassette sound and slightly deeper bass…though that may just be my imagination. I love the lyrics of this song, especially the chorus (Our love is blue..all hearts are blue…) which really resonates with me and corresponds with my longstanding abstract identification with the color blue. This song really does capture the spirit of its subject matter, teenage romance, which is conveyed with strikingly accurate realism. Maybe it’s kind of pathetic that I still relate to these kinds of emotions and relationship dynamics as old as I am, but listening to this track will re-awaken the forsaken madness of youthful passions in listeners and lovers of any age.
Sicko is a new EP from trap metal artist SLUG THE SICKO. He’s a enigmatic performer who leaves a lot to the imagination, which I like. Very little is known about him other than he’s been creating music for about 4 years. The songs on the EP are dark and hypnotic, with backing music that takes on mechanical and industrial sound characteristics. It’s like you’re overhearing performance art at an abandoned haunted factory in the rust belt. The vocals utilize a 90′s style metallic horror-like processing, reminiscent of Folk Implosion’s Daddy Never Understood and Natural One. An expressive anger dominates the delivery and emotional ambiance, though the track Like You departs from this, demonstrating a softer and more vulnerable side. Overall, this is a good creative effort. The artist’s personality really manifests itself in the music. I think this would make a good cassette release.
I Love You Close is a new single from San Francisco based artist, Rae du Soleil. The sound is a unique blend of lounge and alternative neo-folk. Her vocal tone reminds me a bit of The Cranberries. She delivers the romantically driven lyrics with a soft assertiveness and heartfelt sincerity. Though the mix is relatively minimalist, the song is complex in its structure and layout. There are a lot of hidden musical surprises that crop up for the listener. Some of the “Flight of the Conchords” style guitar hooks on the track are really nice. Somehow Rae manages to say “I love you” in a million different ways in this song it never gets old.
It Never Ends is a new single from a Pennsylvania based artist known as TheWolfPrinceKane. The best way to describe the sound is that it’s like if you combined emo vocals with Super Nintendo style “chiptune” synths and a mellow backbeat. It works quite well, actually. This song is super catchy and well written. The lyrics largely consist of chronicling the mundane daily struggle of life and lamenting the lack of money. Yet, this jam is strangely uplifting. The synth tones are really nice and could probably stand on their own as an instrumental, but this artist does have the perfect voice for this style of music. TheWolfPrinceKane may not expend a lot of energy on hyping himself up or carefully crafting an image through tedious marketing material, but when it comes to quality music, he does deliver.
Strip Me Down is one of two new singles from Nashville singer/songwriter, Mark Henes. The sound fits broadly within the “Americana” umbrella, but there are elements of full blown rock in this track. I started listening to it before even looking at his bio, and the guitar intro made me initially wonder if this might even be an indie pop punk release, mostly based upon the pacing and tone. It actually kind of is! As the song revs up though, the southern rock vibes casually kick in and you get the idea of the blend at work here. This jam is peppy and catchy. This isn’t coffee house style folk Americana on poetry reading night. This absolutely rocks. Mark is really a fantastic singer too. He belts out these lyrics without any autotune or other processing, making it look easy. Everything on this recording comes through crystal clear. Henes claims to want to “reimagine Americana for the 21st century.” Strip Me Down has the energy to do just that.
In demonstrating the artist’s versatility, the second single Ghost Train has more of a classic country rock sound, with some organic and twangy guitars that are played with delightful attention to detail. There’s nothing at all hidden from the listener in the mix, and that is a good thing. Even in this case, Mark shows his willingness to experiment as the song takes on a number of notebending twists and tonal turns. The structure is very fluid and dynamic. He doesn’t seem to settle on formulas and keeps it creative. Top notch production here as well. This guy obviously has a lot of talent and gives a charismatic performance. Both of these singles indicate he has the means to stand out artistically in a crowded and competitive field.
Be on the lookout for his upcoming full length album Crystallized Reﬂections, which I guarantee will be worth listening to.
Star is a new single from French born singer/songwriter Estelle California. She changed her last name to “California” after moving to Oakland and falling in love with the state. With extensing training in opera, piano and saxophone, she demonstrates her musical prowess on this recording. The song has a beautfully dark and salacious ambiance. The exotic melody and chorus payoff is reminiscent of classic James Bond intro songs like those of Shirley Bassey. There’s a classy, lounge atmosphere
to this track. It’s very intimate yet builds with passionate energy. Toward the end, the track lets loose with some groovy guitar riffs. Estelle establishes herself as a musical force with this instant classic.
Get Down is a new single from the artist/producer known as Gual. The nu-disco synthpop beat blends with charismatic female vocals to create a vibrant dance experience. The tone is bright and infectiously energetic while the lyrics playfully coax the listener to move. This song really captures the authentic disco sound but has enough contemporary flare and top notch production so as to not appear dated or campy. It can fit nicely into an EDM set. The music has a nice bounce to it and the mix makes effective use or harmony and vocal layering to increase the sensation that action is coming from all directions. This is a solid jam.
Magic (Connie’s Song) is a new single from Toronto based R&B artist Queen Pepper. The song appears on her latest full-length album True Stories, Vol. 1. Her soft and delicate vocals carry the song against a colorful and lightly ambient musical backdrop. The singer demonstrates an impressively dynamic range as her voice does maneuvers others can only dream of. The sound comes through with brilliant clarity and without any abrasive processing. I haven’t really heard an indie R&B song in a while that was this pristine and innocent. This release is quietly sentimental and the work of a true professional.