You can tell right in the first few seconds that Aria and Assieme Edizioni’s new release, A Christmas Letter, will be an instant classic. This Motown/gospel track is meticulously crafted and hits all the right notes. The vocals are powerful, capturing the sensitivity and good will of the holiday spirit.
The melodically rich and full sound of A Christmas Letter isn’t surprising when we look at the top notch production credits and impressive ensemble of performers. A global effort, A Christmas Letter was recorded in South Africa at the historic Downtown recording studios in Johannesburg. It was mixed by Jack Rouben out of Los Angeles. Well known singer Sherita-O provides stellar vocals. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Macedonian children’s choir, Heruvimi also make an appearance on the recording. The lyrics were written by Nicolette Turner, an author from Cambridge.
The song is primarily dedicated to women and children, as well as people who are in occupations (hospital workers, travel employees, etc) that keep them away from their families during the holidays. It’s important to remember that the holidays are often a time of sadness for those who are alone. A Christmas Letter acknowledges that while offering a touch of hopefulness and optimism. The song is timely and will resonate with many during these precarious times we live in. However, it also has that timeless Christmas appeal that’s so often associated with our favorite holiday tunes. I’d be willing to bet that people will listen to this 50 years from now and still experience the same magical feeling. This song would work well on a motion picture soundtrack.
Class Clown is a new single from artist, DJMSK. Despite the title, this jam is no joke. Featuring a methodically booming, synth back beat, the song is intriguing and ambient. DJMSK employs a stream of consciousness delivery style as he reflects on his experiences being labeled a “class clown” in school. Of course, the song is ultimately about how people change, and the narrator (assuming the lyrics are autobiographical) expresses his determination to overcome his past and not be pushed back into the person he once was. He is ambitious and going places, he assures the listener.
One of the great things about this track is that the title leads you to believe it might be a goofy hip hop song. Instead, we’re treated to a personal, diary-like monologue that is both engaging and itself a successful fulfillment of the artist’s desire for people to begin to take him seriously.
Nature Unimposed is a new poem from Los Angeles-based poet, Marie Helen Abramyan. An accomplished lyricist, songwriter and classically trained pianist, Marie Helen is also a member of the avant garde indie band, Lyrics of Two.
Her latest poem, Nature Unimposed, was inspired by a walk through her garden on a summer day. The last couple of years have undoubtedly been a stressful and tumultuous time for many people. Through observations and sensations Marie Helen experienced while venturing in the garden, she became reassured by the resilience of nature on full display. The poem’s positive theme relates to how nature finds its balance, and thrives (seemingly unfazed) under harsh circumstances.
Like a true lyricist, Marie Helen effectively utilizes rhyming patterns to create an enchanting cadence. This can be even better appreciated by listening to her reading of the poem. She really has an ideal voice for this kind of reading. It is both confident and sensitive. Nature Unimposed is a very well-crafted piece of poetry, with rich, descriptive verses that manifest exotic and vivid visual settings.
To baffled minds mounding thoughts, like sand dunes
Better days ahead, sing the sparrow’s tunes;
There is in fact, no line in this poem that is wasted. The mantra “better days ahead” recurs throughout, reinforcing the theme of optimism, positive reassurance and the inevitability of nature finding its way (and showing us the way) forward.
The release of Alex Genadinik’s Girl With A Pearl Earring Song comes at a timely moment, as the iconic Johannes Vermeer painting the track was inspired by recently made worldwide headlines when a couple of activists attempted to deface it in a museum. The song has nothing to do with those events however, and is in fact a beautiful and innocent homage to the painting’s female subject.
Crafting an elaborate narrative around the captivating girl and exploring her mystique, this folkish rock tune is sentimental and even somewhat romantic. It’s also a duet, with Emily Kay Shrader’s voice representing the girl’s perspective and inner monologue. Emily’s a lovely singer, and she believably brings the curious young woman’s “story” to life.
For his part, Alex Genadinik conveys an impressive degree of heartfelt sincerity in expressing his fascination with the girl with a pearl earring. He is not the first person to be enamored by this painting. It is famous for a reason, but when we listen to the song, we understand and in the process gain a greater appreciation for the girl.
Almost in a bashful way, this track is also relatable to any of us who may have developed sentimental feelings toward a video game character or even just someone on tv whom we would have no possibility of ever meeting or knowing. This is the song’s beautiful tragedy, how the girl in the painting evokes sentimental feelings from so many, and yet we will never truly have the chance to know her.
1985 is a concept album from artist Jake Haze (often stylized as “JKHZ”). This musically and intellectually ambitious release stands as Haze’s 8th studio album. Just from glancing at the title, one might assume that this was a simple retro 80’s nostalgia album. However, 1985 is much more advanced than that. This thematically unique collection is centered around the political scandals involving the country of Honduras.
Peppered with occasional media samples, the songs blend elements of groovy hip hop and robust beats with cultural commentary. You get the idea pretty quickly, with titles like Imported Everything and American Dreams, and the attention-grabbing intro itself is one of my favorite jams. Featuring a plethora of guest artists, the quality and vibe remain consistent on the album throughout, though it’s worth noting that some tracks (such as the catchy banger, Ode to the Federales) are actually in Spanish.
The performances are lively and the production is crisp. Clocking in at 17 songs, 1985 is rich with lyrical content. There’s just so much substance here, enhanced by the auto-biographical anecdotes in the narrative and a personal touch. In addition to appreciating the socio-political undertones and being impressed by the music, I have to admit that I actually learned more about Honduras than I knew before listening. So it also offers an educational experience, the kind you can’t get in school.
In My Bag Na is a new single from hip hop artist JackLyfe Pat. The artist’s intriguing moniker has a dual meaning in that JackLyfe Pat is from Jackson, Mississippi and “comes from a family that took what they needed in order to survive.” He cites Wu Tang, Three Six Mafia, OutKast, Prince, and even MGMT as being among his musical influences.
In My Bag Na is creatively hypnotic and more avant garde than what we’ve come to expect from contemporary hip hop and pop. That’s not surprising though, given that JackLyfe Pat has always been a very inventive individual. As a child, he claims to have experimented with different bathroom cleaners and was creative in all sorts of quirky ways. In terms of delivery, JackLyfe Pat maintains a conversational, and poetic flow. Vocal layering effects give the feeling that we’re listening to a reflective, inner monologue. He really does have his own style, and it works. Having opened up for prominent artists like Mello T Da Godfather, Moe3, and Post Malone, JackLyfe Pat is a fairly well established performer already. We expect to hear more releases from him in the future.
Memphis-born hip hop artist Qtip Loc lays it down eloquently in his new single, I’m a P.I.M.P. This flavorful jam features a groovy, robust beat and ambient backing dialogue gives the track a cerebral, contemplative quality. The music is full and melodic, reminiscent of songs from the golden age of hip hop. It takes a lot of confidence to title a song I’m a P.I.M.P., but at least from a musical perspective, the artist’s skills back it up. After hearing even the first few seconds of the song, I didn’t even question the claim. His commanding delivery and songwriting ability demonstrate pretty quickly that he is all about handling biz and putting first things first.
According to Qtip Loc, he’s known for more than just music though. “I’m a hustler and getting to the money is my main objective.” Gotta respect a man who keeps his on the prize and still finds room in his schedule to produce crisp tracks like this that will keep listeners in the mood and ready to bust a move at all times.
Amor Nostalgico is a new single/video from Sitwell, Bonesy, DAP, also featuring Ramon. Anime visuals combine with soulful music to create a beautifully emotive ambiance. The vocals are particularly impressive, with their soft, melodic expressiveness balancing against the robust backing music. The singer’s voice really has a nice range.You really have to hear how well constructed this mix is. It’s refreshing that it isn’t packaged with a lot of hype or flashy aesthetics. The song retains its innocence while at the same time delivering high quality, almost meditative experience. The recording features a subtle “noise” effect which gives it a retro, analog feel. Amor Nostalgico delivers sonically, visually and emotionally. Great stuff.
Sumcrazyinlife is a new single from Minneapolis-based artist, Kelvino. This emotive and ethereal new track blends soulful R&B with a touch of hip hop. The song has an intensely personal and reflective feel. The backing beat is sparkling with musicality. It’s pleasantly dreamlike, and the audio clarity gives it an almost retro R&B vibe.
Kelvino’s lyrical delivery is both passionate and sentimental, as he expresses romantic thoughts and contemplates the state of his own mental being. He also laments the fakeness in people, their propensity to copy him and how they often act like they’re playing roles in movies. Ultimately, I think the song deals with perseverance, the struggle that life entails and the determination to continue pushing forward in the face of chaotic adversity, without losing the essence of one’s self in the process.
PMF is a new EP from Portland-based singer/songwriter and rapper, Natnikole. The title is a twist on Big Meech’s BMF (Black Mafia Family), with the P representing Portland in this case. You get the idea right away with the opening track, Mama Stay. It’s peppy and melodic hip hop that’s brimming with personality. The distinctive, entrancing, and synth-driven backing beat gives the sound a surreal quality.
Claiming influences like Eminem and Mac Dre, artist Natnikole’s delivery is crisp, charismatic and occasionally witty. Creative employment of vocal layering and echoing effects creates a conversational atmosphere and enhances the avant-garde quotient of the songs. Both the lyrics and the persormance are very contemplative, even conveying elements of expressive sentimentality, particularly on Dead Presidents. One wouldn’t expect much from a track called Outro, but I was pleasantly surprised by how substantive and biographical it was. Don’t be fooled by the fact it’s labeled an “Outro.” It is very much a complete song.
There’s a lot to appreciate about PMF. Natnikole has created something sincere here. This 3-track album qualifies as a compact package of personal reflection, poetry, and solid rapping skills.