Lockdown is a new single from artists, Smash and Krishane. This collaborative effort combines elements of R&B, hip hop and reggae to create a richly melodic sound. The track has an upbeat, energizing tone and a tropical vibe. Combined with dynamic vocals, Lockdown’s rhythmic precision gives the song a catchy quality. Brimming with jovial atmospheric bounce, this jam will put a spring in your step. The performances are professional and pop-friendly, yet the music is ultimately exotic enough to carve out a distinctive identity. The mix is smooth and non-abrasive, with processing that maintains sufficient clarity and hits all the sweetest frequencies. It’s not surprising, given that one of the artists, Smash, teaches music production and audio engineering at the Academy of Contemporary Music. You can check out this release on Spotify and follow the artists’ on Instagram to stay up to date with any upcoming projects.
World’s Burning is a new single from Chicago-based songwriter and producer, Brandon Shere. The song blends elements of alternative, hip hop, trip hop and dance. It’s difficult to classify. Brandon grew up all around the US and was likely influenced by a lot of different styles and scenes. While the ambiance is dark and the vibe is mellow, World’s Burning is ultimately a positive and inspirational track with a message of determination and resilience. He leaves it somewhat open for the listener’s interpretation. One could read the song’s message as referring literally to contemporary events (riots, cities burning, COVID, etc), or it can just as easily be related to overcoming any traumatic event or setback in one’s life.
Owing to their presentation and framing, the lyrics are quite catchy, as Brandon proves himself to be a capable songwriter. His voice seems well-suited for this style of music and gets the job done. It comes through nice and clean, too. It’s not all loaded up with autotune and abrasive effects. The recording is robust, and the backing music actually kind of rocking. This is a pretty straightforward and solid jam. You can check out the video below and visit Brandon’s website for more info.
Year of the Tyrant is a new album from Denver-based artist, White Devil. It contains mostly brand new tracks, although a couple of songs appeared on the artist’s prior release, Blame it On the Goat and were moved to achieve “conceptual continuity.” It doesn’t really matter though, because as far as album’s go, Year of the Tyrant is overflowing with action and artistic originality. There’s really so much energy and variety in these recordings, which are both entertaining and wildly unpredictable. The music is satisfying as well.
White Devil claims that the title was inspired by various “tyrants” he encountered during the writing process, which included a combination of those he crossed paths with on a personal level, as well as those public tyrants associated with the year 2020 in general (which has been a rather tyrannical year by almost any metric). The opening track, BLS (It’s Gettin’ Kinda Heavy) is a rave-paced, high intensity dance jam, which reminds me a lot of the early 90s techno I listened to as a teenager. It’s really a solid, attention grabbing opener and will get the juices flowing. Other tracks like Let It Drip have more of an esoteric, collage-like feel. He does a good job of connecting various components, vocals and samples to get a sound that’s coherent and continuous. It’s like the musical version of one of those ransom letters where they piece together various letters and words to form a message. The closest artistic equivalent I can think of to this type of style is Wayne Butane. However, White Devil incorporates more hip hop flavor as well as his own actual vocals, monologues etc.
As in his previous work, Year of the Tyrant includes a hodgepodge of social commentary, and the songs themselves reference contemporary news items and subcultures. For example, he has a track called Boogaloo Boogie which is related to the “boogaloo boys” anti-government movement. The song uses snippets of such individuals explaining their ideology, with a groovy disco style jam serving as the musical backdrop (and a damn good one). The final track is Between The Lines (A Special Message from QAnon) which obviously references the popular QAnon conspiracy. 10 years from now this album will make an excellent current events time capsule for 2020, and it will still be just as enjoyable to listen to.
Decimated Days is a new single from Australian rock band, The Drunk Monks. I honestly could tell I would like this the moment I saw the band’s name. The group was apparently formed just this year, but by listening to their music you would assume they’ve been playing together for decades. They have great chemistry and are obviously musical veterans. Decimated Days is difficult to classify, as it blends elements from a variety of genres. Basically, it combines classic alternative, with retro-futuristic synthwave and subtle hints of R&B style.
Indie bands typically hate comparisons, but the singer sounds a bit like Billy Corgan. The vocals are dynamically delivered and have just the right amount of brooding angst. The lyrics are strangely catchy. Rather than using simple repetition, the vocal delivery methodically creates suspense and anticipation, leading the listener to sense the phrases that are coming up.
The music and pacing of the track are very much reminiscent of 90s alternative and progressive rock, though this recording has obviously been upgraded for 21st century appeal. The synths on this track are simply incredible. From the moment they kick into high gear, they absolutely electrify the mix, creating a powerful and psychedelically rich atmosphere. The song has an impressively complex and fungible structure, while maintaining a cohesive, discernible identity. It never descends into “sound collage” territory (not that there is anything wrong with sound collages). All in all, Decimated Days is an excellent indie rock release and a metaphorically fitting song to close out the year 2020.
Speranza is a new single from Italian singer-songwriter, Don Pasquale Ferone. A Catholic priest in the province and suburbs of Naples, Don Pasquale Ferone makes Christian-inspired music. This latest track, Speranza, features elegant guitar rhythms with sonically pleasing tones. The ambiance is rich, energized and spiritually uplifting, as the music maintains a consistently engaging pace. The vocals are dynamic, and Don demonstrates himself to be quite a capable singer without any production tricks or gimmicks. This isn’t all that surprising. I’ve noticed that many church singers and musicians are able to give fantastic performances with nothing more than a microphone. Speranza is a very professional release. The song is meticulously crafted and skillfully executed. While this is a Christian-themed release, the music is enjoyable and could be appreciated by anyone.
Wasted is a new single from New Orleans-based alternative hip hop artist, Rockstar Marcus. It’s an eclectic “afterparty” jam that blends elements of rock, hip hop, trip hop and a host of other genres. The ambiance is mellow and almost hypnotic, with a beat that’s still vibrant enough to keep a dance floor alive. The backing music has a groovy, almost neo-psychedelic quality. If it weren’t for the robust beat and hip hop components, one could easily imagine this as a straightforward alternative rock/emo pop song.
Despite the title, Wasted isn’t merely about being inebriated (though that aspect is there). It’s actually more of a romantic track, that’s expressing something deeper about the euphoric reward of being in love and sharing a bond. Rockstar Marcus’ vocal delivery is casual, cerebral and quietly expressive. The video for this track is rather avant garde, like a short film. The visuals are unconventional for this style of music, contributing to the psychedelic and hazy atmosphere. It’s quite an eye-catching vid. Ultimately, Wasted is more than it initially appears to be, and Rockstar Marcus demonstrates some promising artistic sensibilities.
Love Me, Love Me Not! is a new EP from artist, Kii. This R&B/Crossover release blends elements of pop and hip hop with classic R&B. The sound is colorful and bright and will immediately fill you with positive vibes. Musically, the songs stir up feelings of nostalgia for innocent times and youthful anticipation. The beats have that healthy and vibrant springtime bounce and Kii’s passionate vocals are brimming with sweet sincerity. In addition to being a good singer technically, she has a voice that’s naturally pleasant and captivating. The mix also makes excellent use of backup vocal layering, which fills out the sound nicely and adds harmonic richness.
On tracks liked Whipped she demonstrates an ability to rap with impressive speed and timing. This is actually probably my favorite track on the album. With it’s retro-futuristic synth backing, vocal intensity and action oriented ambiance, it’s a very cutting edge song. All in all Love Me, Love Me Not! is a concise, compact EP that delivers an emotional impact. Kii also has a single titled, Me & Bey. It’s a romantic jam that with a light and tropical feel, backed by a beat that just sparkles. You can check out the music video for it below.
BA LEE DAT (feat. Barry Black) is a new single from hip hop artist, Kiron. Backed by a theatrical and high intensity musical track, this jam is action packed from beginning to end. The beat is thick and rich with fresh bass. Really, the mix has a nice full sound, with great sonic clarity and audio frequencies that stay within the goldilocks zone. The music sets a high bar for power and energy for these rappers to meet, but Kiron and Barry Black both have commanding voices that manage to be up for the challenge. Their charismatic vocal delivery even manages to increase the overall power level of the song. While the pacing of the song is fairly modest, the vocal timing is on point, and the flow is consistent. There’s actually great synergy between these two artists, whose vocal presences and styles complement each other’s well. There’s no awkwardness or obvious talent imbalances. If I didn’t know any better I would assume these two have been performing together for many years. The conversational back and forth dynamic between them just works.
The lyrics themselves are catchy and have mainstream pop sensibilities. The repetition really drives the title phrase into the listener’s brain. I could easily see BA LEE DAT becoming one of those viral hits that comes out of nowhere, especially since the recording sounds so professional. The production quality is better than what you hear on 99% of indie (and even most major label) hip hop songs. What really animates the song though are the lively performances. These guys don’t just go through the motions of “spouting rhymes.” Every lyric is delivered with a spark of delightful enthusiasm. This release is overflowing with personality. Kiron and Barry Black have created something here that’s worthy of your attention.
No Rainy Days (Jiffthegeneral Garage Mix) is a UK garage remix of the single released in the summer by artist, Shana. The original song itself was already quite beautiful, but this version is definitely spiced up a bit and primed for the dance floor. Featuring a fresh, groovy beat and a tight flow, this jam moves at a brisk and energized pace. By incorporating the classic UK garage sound (which blends elements of house, R&B, jungle and dance-pop) this track is truly transformed into something distinctive. Unlike with many remixes, the changes here aren’t merely superficial. They’re creative, elaborate and brimming with action. This remix is downright exciting. Shana’s vocal talents remain front and center (she’s a very good singer), but are enhanced and given a new twist in this imaginative and vibrant structure. The remix is a solid dance track, but I highly recommend listeners check out both versions of the song for the complete experience.
Take A Ride (Feat St3ph) is a new single from rising French artist, TENNIN. It’s actually a new version of her recently released track of the same name. This time she combines forces with UK rapper, ST3PH to create a sound that blends alternative pop, R&B, trip hop and hip hop. Featuring an exotic beat and dynamic song structure, this jam well choreographed and invigorating. TENNIN’s an excellent vocalist, and her voice is charismatic and emotionally expressive. Refreshingly, the recording has great clarity, allowing the listener to appreciate the intricate details and sensitivity in her delivery, which would probably been lost to over-processing in most contemporary hip hop/R&B songs. Also, her voice is stylishly unique and recognizable with its subtle accent. She reminds me a bit of the popular 80s and 90s R&B vocalists I grew up watching on Mtv and VH1, who were all incredibly talented.
For his part, rapper St3ph’s natural flow and exquisite timing add a critical dimension to the track. Everything balances neatly and juxtaposes well in this collaboration. None of the puzzle pieces seem out of of place. The action is quick, and there’s never a dull moment. We Take A Ride is definitely a chart-worthy song. It’s only a matter of time. TENNIN is also working on a new EP, which is tentatively slated to be released in early 2021.