Broken Year is the 4th studio album from Pennsylvania based artist, Jake Haze. Blending elements of pop, R&B and hip hop, these songs are smooth and professional. This guy clearly has some legit musical experience under his belt. The backing music is bright and colorful, even as the lyrics explore sentimental realities that aren’t always cheery. The songs often chronicle working class struggles, personal troubles and racial dynamics from the artist’s perspective. These issues are always conveyed with healing in mind as the end game. Broken Year is indeed a full album, featuring 14 distinct tracks, which Jake claims “encompass all human emotions.” One thing is for certain, there’s a real passion detected in this work. It is more heartfelt, substance oriented and expressive than what is typical of this genre. Jake’s delivery is lyrical delivery is relaxed and approachable but still serious in tone. There’s a lot of material here. Broken Year is competent musically and comprehensive in content.
Bye London Bye is a new single from singer/songwriter Matthew Austin Hunt. It’s an acoustic/electric jam that rings through clear as a bell, featuring a bright, clean sound. The recording quality is excellent, really. The song itself is exactly what the title implies, as the artist sings about leaving London and reflects on what he will miss. Of course, he’s not talking about the weather or tourist traps like Big Ben. Rather, this is about a girl he fell in love with “in the streets of London.” His performance is heartfelt and romantic, and the theme is one I can personally relate to, having fallen in love with girls from faraway places more times than I can count. Matthew’s a great singer as well. There’s no autotune or annoying processing on the vocals. Listening to this song, I get the sense this is one of those guys who can pick up an acoustic guitar and perform a song like this without missing a beat. Bye London Bye is minimalist in terms of instrumentation but still has a full sound. This track is quite good.
Freakshow is a new single from artist, MRIZ. The song appears on the album, Chimera, which was just released yesterday. Set against a piano/synth and harpsichord (!) powered musical ackdrop, MRIZ’s emotionally expressive vocals manage to combine elements of affliction and empowerment. “You called me a freekshow. You’re not wrong, but I’d rather be a freakshow than what you are,” she proclaims profoundly, but with an underlying sense of having been hurt. The song has a certain tender angst that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt out of place or misunderstood. Freakshow is less edgy than it appears. It’s a very sincere and quietly moving song that really cuts through and gets to you. MRIZ gives an impressive performance and manages both to convey and evoke genuine emotion.
Lay Low is a new single from artist, Lily Frost. Not only do we have yet another example of fantastic, stylish cover art, but the actual song is refreshingly creative and structurally unpredictable. A synth-driven track with a modest pace, Lay Low is artfully enchanting. This is an incredibly complex song musically, and it’s impressive how all of the components and layers fall perfectly in place. Lily’s vocals remind me a lot of Debbie Harry, and as with songs like Rapture, this has subtle elements of hip hop incorporated into the mix. Stylewise, I could see this being adjacent to Tegan and Sara or Le Tigre but with its own distinct vibe. Ultimately, Lay Low has energy, attitude and really just stands out as being something different and worthwhile.
Let Me Know is a new single from artist, Creeping Charlie (real name Julia Eubanks). The track appears on her freshly released EP, Asymmetrical. First off let me just say how much I love the cover art, which has a colorful, retro avant garde aesthetic. The song itself represents the best of what indie pop/rock has to offer. Featuring light guitars and pleasant vocals that go far beyond the level of skill required for this genre, this is just a delightful jam to listen to. If this had been released in the 90’s or early 2000s, Creeping Charlie would be an indie household name. There are elements of alternative, twee, and folk, but honestly this is just a beautiful indie rock song. I love that music this artistically pure and good still exists. Let’s hope it gets the exposure it deserves.
Mistakes is a new single from Italy-based artist, Ed Golfo. It’s actually his debut release, but you’d never guess from listening to it, as this song’s very well written, polished and professionally put together. The complex and dynamic electronic backing music has been compared to artists like Daft Punk, but it also gives off a somewhat retrofuturistic “Buck Rogers” vibe. The tape recorder on the album cover hints at the vintage inspirations of Golfo.
Contentwise, the song concerns itself with how mistakes “can weigh people down” but ultimately the right path for each person will reveal itself. The vocals have a lot of processing, but it is mainly done to give the voice a robotic, synthesized quality for artistic effect, rather than for pitch correction or EQ reasons. The track also contains what I believe is a spoken word sample from Alan Watts’ The Inevitable Ecstasy, Part 9: The Aversion to Death, which really accessorizes nicely with the song’s underlying message. Above all, the tone of this song is fun and uplifting. The backing music is fantastic and I could totally picture myself (and many other people) dancing to this.
UberDriver is a new single from Chazz G, a producer, engineer and recording artist from the DMV area. His experience in production really shows on this recording, as the sound quality is pristine, and the mix is fantastic. The song is very advanced, both technically and in terms of performance. Featuring a melodic and slightly groovy, retro sound, this track blends elements of golden age hip hop, R&B and maybe even a little disco. The vocals are dynamic and stellar, somehow managing to live up to the ultra impressive musical backdrop. The rapping interludes that feature “Mouse Sucks” enhance the song further, giving it a pleasant, mellifluous vibe, often summoning the energies of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.
Though the keen attention to quality and musical fundamentals in UberDriver sometimes makes it sound like it’s from a superior era, it’s very much a relevant, contemporary song (just look at the title). It combines a relatable 21st century lyrical “adventure” narrative with great music and performances that bring it all to life. The best of all worlds. Seriously, this jam is so good, better than anything you’ll hear on the radio in 2020.
How You Say is a recent single from hip hop artist, LOCK DA DON, (which also features CEO Elchapo). The beat has a summertime, tropical vibe. That same ambiance is conveyed visually in the video for this jam, which appears to have been shot in both Miami and Atlanta. LOCK was actually born in Bainbridge, Georgia. His primary motivation is not just notoriety but also that he doesn’t want his family “to experience the average struggle any longer.” As a rapper, he has excellent timing, a slightly southern delivery style and a distinct voice. The title How You Say refers to when people make bold claims about having money and status that aren’t backed up by the facts. LOCK DA DON calls these people out throught the song in a very no-nonsense manner. I really like the beat used on this track. It’s super crisp and succinct. Production on both the song and the video are good as well. The often repeated phrase How You Say becomes quite catchy after a few listens. Be sure and check out the video below.
ROT IN PISS (RIP DISS) is a new “diss track” from Texas-based artist, “Rich Cholo.” It’s a response to local rap outfit, RIP THE CLIQUE and is part of an ongoing social media feud between the artists. I’m not familiar with the precise nature of the dispute, but the song itself seems pretty legit. Rich stays on message throughout, getting in as many digs as he can at these guys. He has a decent flow and manages to pack a lot of lyrical material into this 3 minute tune. It’s definitely not for the squeamish or faint of heart, but for those who thrive on keeping up with these intense back and forths, this song delivers the goods. The local news report samples that feature in the backdrop were a nice touch and definitely upped the coolness factor on this jam.
Us is a new single from Oh Well, a Chicago based “anti-pop” project. This is rad and definitely superior to contemporary “normal” pop music. The song mirrors the vapid nature of pop music, while at the same time offering up a refreshing ambiance of realism. This is like one of those pop songs about a situation not working out, but the artist basically just says “Oh Well.” When he ramps up the emotional intensity and expressiveness, he’s still not really saying anything substantive. It’s actually kind of brilliant, in a quirky and avant garde way. One thing I will make note of is this guy sings better than most actual pop stars, which lends this project more credibility than if it existed merely as experimental performance art. He really has a good voice and doesn’t add a bunch of abrasive processing and cheap autotune. I could totally see this guy gaining some traction underground.