Get Stung is a new EP from HIVEKICKER, a Raleigh-based rock duo comprised of John Flude (Dragstrip Syndicate) and drummer John Crouch (Caltrop/Black Skies/Solar Halos). They describe their sound as being “fiercely rock’n’roll,” and indeed it is all that and more. Released on Boxer Face Records, this 3-track EP packs a solid punch. I swear, after reviewing so many hip hop, pop and R&P albums lately it’s refreshing to listen to something with this level of musical prowess, and which is in line with my own personal aesthetic sensibilities. Even the retro-inspired cover (modeled after the 1973 Topps football card design) adds to the tasteful ambiance.
The guitars are sleek, high energy and powerful, with the drums bulking up the mix nicely. These guys can really play their instruments. Guitar amp aficionados will appreciate the vintage/classic guitar tones, which many musicians spend years tinkering with gear in order to achieve. The shouty vocals are charismatic and surprisingly melodic, reminiscent of old school punk (before the “whiny” pop punk trend set in). HIVEKICKER’s music is loud and invigorating while maintaining its avant garde, indie credibility and never venturing into obnoxious “bro rock” territory. This little EP rules. Get Stung was mixed by Track and Field Recording owner, Nick Petersen (Bon Iver – For Emma) and was mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering LLC.
Shining Out is a new album from Minnesota-based singer/songwriter, Elisha Martin. Slated for release on June 18th, 2021, this folkish album is soulful and sincere. The guitars have a delicate and organic sound. Thanks to the stellar recording quality, you can hear every intricate detail in the strings as they’re being played. Elisha’s vocals are what really “shine” on this release. He’s an excellent singer, much better than what is typically expected in genres like this. His delivery is creatively dynamic, and he really hits those notes. Perhaps just as importantly, he also sings with sensitivity and authentic emotion. The lyrics seem spiritually oriented and the sentiments are well-represented musically. Apparently, Elisha Marin is also an art teacher. He definitely knows his stuff when it comes to music.
Sovereign is a new album from singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer, Chris Murphy. The full album is a officially scheduled for release on June 30, 2021, but some tracks like Till The World Lifts Its Head Again are already available to check out. The music is powerful and professional. It’s basically folk with elements of Americana and rock. The artist is well known for his violin playing abilities, and he delivers the goods here, with a meticulous performance that’s filled with energy and spirit. There’s a full band rocking along with him, and everyone seems to be having a blast. You can tell these guys just live to making music. It’s in their bones.
The lyrics have a contemplative and almost mysterious feel to them. There are parts which seem to relate to the struggles the world was facing with quarantine, but the principles could be applied a lot of difficult situations in life. The music is fast placed and action packed. Sovereign is an absolutely solid release. You can actually view a “behind the scenes” mini documentary where Chris talks about the album and gives a brief overview of his creative process.
Day 7 is a new album from Toronto-based artist, Jaz Valentino. Blending elements of R&B, hip hop, pop and a plethora of other genres, the songs are very eclectic. The synth-driven beats are ethereal and meditative, yet still have enough power to get your pulse going. Jaz Valentino’s delivery is melodic, smooth and often sentimental. His lyrics tend to center around themes like romance, loneliness, day to day action and philosophy of life. There are hints of spirituality as well. The ambiance of Day 7 is dreamy. It’s almost like you’re listening to someone’s thought processes play out in their head. The artists’s sincerity is admirable. Musically and cerebrally, these recordings are pleasantly satisfying.
Luved & Lost is a new single from Bex & Bright, a Baltimore-based musical duo with over ten years of combined experience in the music industry. This latest track features colorful synth melodies and an uplifting, peppy beat. While the music can’t be confined to any specific box, I’d say it’s basically dreampop, with a slightly retro, avant garde ambiance.
Even though it’s a song about having your heart broken and still being in love with the person who dumped you, the tone isn’t depressing. This music will definitely make you feel something inside. The sound is just very pretty. It sparkles actually. The synths have an 80s quality to them while the vocals have kind of an early 2000s (which was a “mini” golden age of bedroom pop in my opinion) indie vibe. The singing is perfect for this style of music. There’s a lot of energy and passion in the tone but with an underlying innocence and vulnerability. The artists aim to create a “real connection between artist and listener.” I think this song achieves that. It’s emotionally sensitive and artistically pure.
This is the type of indie music I always loved. If Bex & Bright had been making the scene in 2004, probably every person I knew would have heard of them and been a fan. The still has plenty of modern/contemporary appeal though. Production quality is solid, the performances are fresh and the content speaks to the timeless tumult of young romance. I think Bex & Bright can probably land a small showcase gig at SXSW if they put in the effort. Luved & Lost is ethereal and dreamy, but it’s a good dream, the kind you’ll still be thinking about after you wake up.
Like A Child is a new single from Austin-based singer/songwriter, Ranzel X Kendrick. He refers to his musical style as “freestyle folk.” It basically blends elements of pop, rock and Americana. The recording for Like a Child contains excellent sonic clarity. You can hear every delightful detail is the guitar strings as they’re being played. This gives the sound an intimate quality, even as the song captures innocent and free-spirited atmosphere of the open road. Ranzel X Kendrick is an exceptional vocalist, much better than one typically expects in a genre like this. His has a gritty, rock’n’roll voice, yet his delivery is melodic and conveys sensitivity. The mix is rich and colorful, with miscellaneous instrumentals filling things out nicely.
Like the Sun is a new single from NJ singer-songwriter, Alex Julia. Heartfelt, powerful and competently performed, you really can’t ask for much more than this. This is one of those songs that retains indie artistic credibility but is a major label caliber release. The production is high quality, without a bunch of annoying processing or autotune. It’s a contemporary track with elements of pop and rock, but the authenticity and general vibe gives a classic 90s songwriter feel. You just don’t hear this kind of sincerity, sensitivity and clarity in most modern pop songs. The cover really has a great aesthetic, with its retro fonts and colorfully aged look. Interestingly, Alex is influenced by astrology and—being a Libra—strives to create balance and harmony. Like the Sun certainly achieves that and a lot more.
Oh My Heart is a new single from Pepper Gomez (featuring Tacboy) released on the label, Wake Up! Music. This peppy and ambient “Nu House” jam has a slightly retro-futuristic feel. It almost sounds like a blend of house music and 80′s synthpop. The song just has a really awesome vibe. It’s instantly catchy, with attractive melodies and emotive vocals. The beat is positively invigorating, with it’s energetic pacing and vibrant synths. At the very least, Oh My Heart has the potential to be an indie “club classic,” but a song like this really belongs on a film soundtrack,
All Kinds of Crazy is the first full-length album from from The Blind Pilots, a band from the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. It was apparently recorded in July of last year, during the Covid pandemic. The album has a bluesy, 90s rock’n’roll vibe. It actually has a very American sound, and I would have never guessed these guys are from Australia. The guitars really drive the action, with classic tube amp tones and swanky flavor. This is like the kind of music you hear at a random bar and think “wow, these guys really rock.” You can just sense how good this would be live.
The title track is pretty solid and makes a statement, but my personal favorite jam on here is the memorably named, Mood of the Dude. It’s catchy and has robust, extra-thick mix. The singer of this band has a dynamic voice that seems tailor made for this style of music. All Kinds of Crazy is an impressive debut album. You can tell these guys work well together and have plenty of experience performing.
Let The Light In, Vol. 2 is a new EP from San Francisco-based singer/songwriter, Chris Donohoe. The songs have a mellow and ambient indie rock vibe. Featuring colorful melodies, groovy riffs and emotive vocals, this EP offers up a slice of social commentary on the political division in the US. The track, Cut to Deep explores this from subtly cynical perspective and ponders whether the damage has been done and it’s too late to bridge the divide. Chris Donohoe is obviously a talented musician, and he manages to convey his sentiments within songs that are actually enjoyable to listen to. His presentation is sincere, yet artful. He recognizes the sensitivity to these subjects and approaches them in a way that isn’t abrasive or alienating. This EP is actually quite soothing and meditative.