Love Yourself is a new single from Atlanta-based artist, Buddha Man IV. This smooth and uplifting jam delivers a message of self-affirmation. Brimming with positive vibes, Buddha Man IV’s warm and jovial expressions feel like they’re just what the doctor ordered. As the lyrics tell us, self love saves the day. It’s hard to imagine anyone listening to this song and not seeing an immediate improvement in their mood. Buddha Man IV can actually sing, too. His bright and soothing vocals drive the track, and he doesn’t rely on any smoke and mirrors. Framed by a light beat and fresh electric piano, his voice conveys sentimental reassurance, and the listener can sense that every lyric is sung with a smile. The backing music is mellow, with a sweet, summertime and vaguely tropical ambiance. Instead of reading a 500 page self-help book, just play this song on repeat a few times, and you’ll be good to go.
Dwell is a new single from Joe McCann. The track is off of his latest album, Chase the Sunset. This grooving instrumental features clean percussion, melodic guitars and beach vibes. It actually reminds me vaguely of surf music but has a contemporary rather than retro feel. The guitars are delightfully saturated in dreamy reverb and delay, while not being so drenched that the tone is overwhelmed. Joe’s obviously an accomplished guitarist, and his dynamic, note-bending style makes for a meditative and chill listening experience. Just imagine yourself relaxing on a boat off the coast of Catalina while this is playing in the background. Good stuff.
Breathless is a new album from Maryland-based rock band, The Sidleys. Fronted by excellent vocals, these songs are brimming with melodic beauty. Style-wise, the sound strikes me as reminiscent of iconic bands like The Pretenders and Fleetwood Mac. Passion, emotional depth and sentimentality radiate throughout these recordings. Listening to this release made me really want to root for these artists. There’s just something about the raw emotion conveyed in the delivery that connects with the listener. The guitars have a nice warm tone and are played with meticulous precision. In fact, all performances on here are as professional as they come, and the mix is crystal clear. Seriously, whoever handled production and mastering on these tracks should be up for an award. True to its title, this album will take your breath away.
Product is a new single from Canadian-based rock band, Lucid Ending. The song offers up a subtle commentary on the consumerist hellscape we live in and the pressures of the inorganic, “modern” world. Aesthetically, it’s vaguely reminiscent of the vibe in John Carpenter’s They Live, which may or may not have been an inspiration. Yet it incorporates more contemporary elements like the quest for social media validation and dopamine hits. People are living their lives as commodities and metrics. In this sense the phrase “product of one’s time” takes on a dual meaning, hence the title. In the video, imagery of nature hints at a possible escape.
Musically, the song is pretty straightforward and robust, with crisp, assertive guitars and vocals that get the job done. These guys know how to play their instruments, and that’s always a plus. It fits pretty neatly within the realm of alternative rock, but there some subtle artifacts of pop punk as well. It’s clean and catchy, without any excess processing or a bunch of annoying autotune. More importantly though, this track should resonate with a lot of people as it accurately captures the spectre haunting millennial and zoomer life. Overall, Product is a solid single with quality production and a coherent message geared toward a certain audience.
Kenotic is a new single from artist, William S. Baek. It’s off of his latest album Humanity. Featuring laser like synths that seem like they appeared in an 80’s SciFi dream, this jam is like the musical embodiment of the future we’ve been waiting for. Repetitively catchy vocals are strategically placed and perform their needed function, but the real star here is the synth backing, which falls somewhere in between energetically invigorating and totally mesmerizing. The sound is colorful, and the pace is lightning quick. This is the EDM that our ancestors envisioned.
Solidarity Song is a new single from The Castlebuilder. This jam is an instant indie classic. Featuring the kind of eerily delightful chord changes that make you feel all funny inside, this song reminds me of a lot of great tracks from the early 2000s. The vocals are really stellar. They’re passionate and more on-key than almost anything I’ve ever heard in this genre. Production quality is on point and the mix is full and all-encompassing, especially considering the minimalist nature of the recording (it’s basically just guitars and vocals.) I love this song. Imagine how great it would sound on freshly printed vinyl.
Annie is a new single from the Jeff Michaels Band (off the album Better When I’m Older). The strength of Jeff’s vocals is immediately apparent and carries this track a long way. He has a really great voice, both from a technical perspective and just his overall natural tone, which seems tailor made for this style of music. Featuring bright guitars and a clean professional mix, this song seems like it’s ready for the big leagues. I could see this being used in commercials, as it seems to hit all the right emotional marks for that market. While the song starts off rather mellow, it builds into a surprisingly rocking climax. Anyway, it’s clear this guy has the chops to make it big. This song is already pretty much there.
A Week Ago is a new single from Tampa-based collaborative project, Phantom Phunk. The track creatively combines elements of hip hop, funk, and R&B to create a vivacious and cutting edge sound. Featuring a variety of vocalists and zestful layers, somehow everything comes together cohesively. Solid vocals drive the action, only occasionally to be upstaged by some ultra cool synths. The backing music is fresh and melodic, with a beat that oscillates between minimalist and full-throttled. The intro is pretty far out and not what I was expecting. It really grabs your attention. These artists have successfully demonstrated how you can create an “experimental” song that’s still mainstream friendly and approachable.
Dope is a new EP from James Aubrey 3 Experience. Though it was only released a week or two ago, the album has already amassed more than 50k streams. The songs chronicle the ordeal he went through as a military recruit, where he was allegedly the victim of a scam and ended up being sentenced to jail for 3 months (he wrote a book about the whole experience as well). He definitely has spent some time cultivating his skills. James has a lively and charismatic delivery style and has mastered the ability to transform his vocals into an instrument in their own right. In addition to demonstrating a solid R&B-style singing ability, he also creatively employs vocal layering to give the tracks a multi-dimensional and reflective conversational feel. The backing music is vibrant, upbeat and ethereal. Lyrically speaking, there’s a lot of substance here, as James Aubrey 3 really does convey a detailed narrative of what he went through.
However, he comes off as surprisingly positive and resilient, and the energetic tone of the music reflects this. It’s worth nothing also that James Aubrey 3 is a signed professional drummer (Soultone Cymbals, Collision Drum Sticks & SJC Drum Customs). Dope is a dynamic 21st century released, fueled by the time-tested combo of technical skill and pure passion.
The Valentine Sessions is a new album from Seattle based Folk/Americana duo, BackYard Living. The group is comprised of highly experienced musicians, Kelly Kristjanson (guitar/drums) and Vicki Ault (violin). These two artists met in 2005 while taking a songwriting course at the University of Washington. Vicki, a retired music school teacher, has some impressive credentials, having backed up iconic musicians such as Kenny G and Luciano Pavarotti in live performances. For his part, Kelly Kristjanson has many solo releases under his belt and a long history of successful musical endeavors. Kelly and Vicki also worked together previously on the album, Granite Falls in 2007.
As you may or may not have guessed, The Valentine Sessions were mostly recorded live on Valentine’s Day (though some parts were added later). It should also be noted that although this is group is a duo, banjo player Lyle Ronglien performs on the track Pike Place Market, (named after a local Seattle tourist attraction). The Valentine Sessions is scheduled to be officially released this Fall.
The album’s first single, Pike Place Market, is awesome, and the banjo gives it a bit of an “Old West” vibe. I could easily have seen this track being used in classic Clint Eastwood films like Every Which Way But Loose. Another stand out entry on this album is Thunderbird, which is carried by Vicki’s stellar violin play. I’m not sure if it’s an effect or what, but the tone of the violin also strikes me as vaguely futuristic and surprisingly rocking. Everything has its place in a recording, but make no mistake, Vicki’s violin is the magic ingredient in at least a few of these tracks. The vocals have that classic folk quality. Kelly is a solid singer, and his voice is just rough enough around the edges to work with this genre. My favorite performance of his is on Puerto Rico, a genuinely powerful song that really pays homage to the place. The emotional aspect is subtle, but you can still feel it. Little Dove is another notable jam. It has some nice hooks, a long runtime and one of the catchier choruses. Overall, this is a very heartfelt, “earthy” and sincere album, made by veteran artists who demonstrate great artistic synergy.