The Lookout is a new release from hip hop artist, Saralyn More. Production quality on both the song and the video is very good (Rodzilla is credited as the video director). You can tell from her delivery and demeanor that Saralyn is not playing around. Her tone is brimming with confidence, and her performance lives up to it. The tone is crisp and clear, and she demonstrates an attention commanding presence. This track is very well mixed and the charismatic vocals are kept nicely in the forefront. There is no autotune or excessive processing to dilute the powerful diction of this woman’s voice. This jam isn’t for the faint of heart, but is geared for those who are getting ready to handle business. The Lookout makes a bold statement musically. Visually it’s very professionally shot, with scenery and symbolism getting the message across loud and clear. Regardless of gender, The Lookout sets a high standard for indie hip hop production.
The Wild One is a new EP from Seattle-born artist, YellaCatt. First off, this girl can really sing and does so with style. Her vocals are like a combination of lounge, pop and alternative electronica. She delivers her lyrics with the sultry, angsty attitude of 90s alternative bands, but she clearly has superior vocal ability than many of those artists. The synth driven backing music is trippy and futuristic, with a mellow pacing and dark, brooding ambiance. This release only contains 4 songs, but you don’t need to hear much from this girl before realizing she has what it takes to go all the way to the top. Wild Horse is probably my favorite jam on here, but they are all good. Honestly, the film producers should have hired this girl to write and sing the theme to the next James Bond film. Better yet, they should just use one of the tracks from this EP.
Satanic Mechanic is a new single from Bay Area garage/punk band, FUKM. This is an established group that has been around for over a decade, yet still maintains a fresh sound and youthful enthusiasm. The song combines elements of metal, punk and good old rock’n’roll. A good way to describe it would be if you combined heavy metal guitars with old school punk/hardcore vocals. It’s subtle, but I can even detect a hint of surf tones here and there on the periphery. There’s some really excellent guitar and bass playing on this track, much more technical and polished than what one normally expects from this genre. This demonstrates the band’s experience and professionalism, with the slick solos and razor sharp timing. Vocalist Joe Fink delivers his catchy lines with vitality and charisma. These guys aren’t your typical, “dime a dozen” hardcore band. Their music is a cut above. The video for this jam recently premiered a few days ago and features FUKM performing and basically rocking out. It’s professionally edited and looks pretty solid. You can check it out below.
Love Now, Cry Later is a new EP from Turkish born/New York based artist and producer, MobBeatz. The release is modestly referred to as an EP, but at 8 songs it’s practically a full length album, and you definitely get your money’s worth of content. You wouldn’t necessarily expect romantic jams from an artist called “MobBeatz” but sure enough, some of these tracks showcase a surprisingly sentimental and tender side. Often, songs begin with a mellow, acoustic style intro and you begin to wonder if MobBeatz is going to bust into some sort of coffee house indie folk jam. However, then the beat kicks in and we’re treated to some lively, high octane hip hop as the song switches gears. Sometimes the vocals have a lot of processing, which transforms them into the equivalent of a bonus synth instrument, while other times the effects are lessened and we essentially get MobBeatz rapping in something closer to his au naturel voice. He does have some delivery skills and demonstrates versatility in his presentation throughout the album. He oscillates between confident assertiveness and heartbroken despair, and the emotional changes are manifested both musically and through the artist’s demeanor. I’m not even sure if he’s consciously trying to achieve this, but either way he has great instincts and a feel for how things should go.
One thing I will also mention is that this guy has a unique songwriting style. The backing music is more creative than what I’ve come to expect with indie hip hop, and he makes bold creativee choices by incorporating instruments (whether simulated or not) and tones not typically utilized in this genre. I especially like all the intros of the songs. Each is distinct, and they all really leave a good impression as they pull you in. The beats are also pretty crisp and overall the mix is fairly high quality, with all the levels being where they need to be. I’m not generally a fan of a lot of effects and processing, but this is now standard in most hip hop productions and MobBeatz employs the effects creatively to enhance the song, rather than cover things up. My favorite track on this album is probably Medicine, which features an ethereal ’80s synthpop intro and a minimalist beat. It’s also one of the catchier tunes on here. MobBeatz has a good thing going here.
Deep Purple Sage is a recent holiday release from Sundance Jump with W. Dire Wolff. Recorded in Joshua Tree, California at Skylab Studio, the album combines elements of Psychedelic rock and alternative. Suffice to say that this sort of thing is right up my alley. The songs have a very late 60s/early 70s sound, with guitar tones on par with iconic groups like The Raspberries and Iron Butterfly. The vocals have that great, classic American rock’n’roll vibe, with an assertive, slightly angsty swagger and far out chamber reverb. The production so authentically captures the psychedelic acid sound that if you heard this on the radio, you would actually think it came out in the 1960s. The lyrics are poetic but also contain surprisingly complex narratives, with tracks like Johnny’s Too Young almost qualifying as audiobook short stories.
This comprehensive full length album features 11 songs, and every one of them has that warm analog tone that audiophiles crave. Deep Purple Sage is an impressive work of art and achieves a level of quality that stands the test of time. There’s a great combination of musical talent, technical execution and meticulous artistic vision. If you’re a fan of classic psychedelic rock/folk, 90’s indie or even just straight up American rock of any kind, you absolutely will enjoy this album.
Space Between the Leaves is a song from Ithaca based singer/songwriter, Sandra Esparza. She plays acoustic guitar and sings, and does both quite well without any pretensions. It’s impossible not to like this music. The song is performed with the kind of innocence and delicate sincerity that really make you want to root for this artist to succeed. The song itself is minimalist and beautiful, giving off a coffee house, folkish vibe. While Space Between the Leaves is a somewhat melancholy song, demonstrating heartfelt vulnerability, listening to it will leave you feeling better about humanity.
Ice is a new EP from artist Nuell Martin. The synth driven sound on these recordings contains elements of retrofuturism and has a warm analog quality. The best way to describe this music is that it reminds me of synth oriented soundtracks of scifi films like The Thing, Saturn 3 and Logan’s Run. The songs are professional and connoisseurs of electronic music and vintage synthesizers will instantly recognize that this guy has great taste. The tracks range from haunting to ethereal in ambiance, though Hyperborea is a little more action packed and high octane than the other songs, rounding things off nicely. The album captures the cold, emptiness of space, a man alone with his thoughs out in far flung regions of the universe, yet Ice also presents the quiet and reflective beauty, a sense of excitement and awe that supercedes the loneliness. This is powerful stuff here. When it comes to instrumental synth, it doesn’t get any better than this. The album really deserves to be a film soundtrack, but I don’t even know if they make movies worthy of something like this anymore.
Fire Me Up is a new single from Philadelphia based band, Gemtarra. This song absolutely rocks. The sound is best described as female performed alternative rock/pop, with a peppy pace. Stylewise it’s vaguely reminiscent of 80s and 90s girl rock and new wave bands (think Kim Wilde’s Kids in America). The guitars have that warm, rock’n’roll tone that really hits the sweet spot, but the stellar vocals really elevate this track to the next level. No autotune. No BS, just catchy hooks and a melodic voice that rivals the best of them in the genre. Fire Me Up is a winner, and this band is brimming with talent. Gemtarra (which got its name by creatively combining two Italian words, ‘Gemilli’ which means twins and ‘Chitarra’ which refers to guitar) is clearly going places.
Generation Distortion is a new single from hip hop artist, MC Tempo. The sound is distinctive, combining elements of church worship music and hip hop. The backing music almost has a vintage James Bond quality, evident on tracks like Troubled Youth The lyrics often have a traditional hip hop delivery, while peppered with a Christian message of salvation. There are a lot of experimental processing and effects on the vocals, which moderately transforms them into a separate instrument that blends with the beat. Frequent usage of echo and delay gives the album a dreamlike ambiance. My favorite song on here is the opening track, because of the incredible backing music, which gave a wonderful first impression. All the tracks on here are pretty good though in that regard. Apparently MC Tempo has released at least 7 albums and has quite a bit of experience performing and freestyling. There’s not much in the way of flash or hype or hip hop cliches in his presentation. The sincerity and down to earth persona he puts forward is a breath of fresh air.
Prolific “black metal/bass music” outfit LUNA13 is back with a video for their new release, Toxic Black. It differs from some of their previous work aesthetically in that it utilizes animation rather than demonic comstume/horror live action performance. The animation is top notch, practically Pixar quality (but a little bit cuter.) The imagery and colors combine visual elements of goth, emo, halloween and casual demonry, with some pagan vibes thrown in for good measure. Doomsday lyrics demonstrate hypnotic horrorism, laying things out plainly with lines like “Your God will not save us.” The “guitar” sounds are particularly intense and foreboding. Although, as it turns out this band actually doesn’t use any stringed instruments, and that sound is created by creatively wrapping sub bass in distortion. Musically I’ve already grown accustomed to this band’s professionalism. Their releases are a cut above the kind of “basement metal” bands I grew up listening to. LUNA13 has perfected their own sound and niche, but still show a willingness to experiment with presentation.
Toxic Black effectlively conveys a sense of impeding doom throughout. However, it accomplishes its apocalypticism not with nukes and 99 Red Balloons style super high tech jet fighters but with the forces of the natural world itself coming together in a perfect storm to consume us: trees, wolves, black widow spiders, mystery birds. The backdrop, even when kaleidoscopically colorful remains ever bleak. The hoplessness of resisting is continuously driven home to weaken our morale. And yet, it’s all so enjoyable. Like the scene where the tree comes alive in Poltergeist, you can’t look away! I hope this group can continue to crank out releases at this impressive pace.