Mare Tranquillitatis is a new single from artist, Decoding Jesus. I use the term “single” loosely here, because the track is over 11 minutes long and would more appropriately described as an odyssey. As the title suggests, through its hypnotic, spaced out ambiance, this electronica song offers an escape from the madness of our contemporary world. This music does indeed induce a calming state of tranquility, allowing one to “check out” by gazing into the cosmos and soaking in the ethereal beats. Mare Tranquillitatis has plenty of intensity though. While the atmosphere is often haunting and slightly mysterious (like the moon itself), when the beat kicks into high gear, it’s actually pretty high octane and powerful. There’s some serious dark matter dance energy here.
The sound is largely driven by futuristic synths and haunting background vocalizations. This song strikes me as more spiritual, meditative and entrancing than similar jams in this genre, which often have a “mechanical” or industrial feel. There’s a genuine sense of mystery and wonder here. Mare Tranquillitatis is a standout track, which isn’t surprising since Decoding Jesus is a seasoned professional who has been making dance music for over a decade. It’s a shame we can’t actually escape to the moon, but this kind of musical astral projection is the next best thing.
Just To Be With You is a new single from Saint-Etienne, France-born artist, Aneessa. A highly educated performer who has traveled and lived around the world, Aneessa has an impressively lengthy list of song credits (spanning many genres) to her name. This latest release is a smooth jazz track about interfaith romance and long distance relationships. It emphasizes the lengths two people are willing to go to find common ground and be together when they are in love. Musically, the song is professionally performed, featuring a light beat and delicate saxophone melodies that are rich with sonic detail.
Aneessa is obviously an accomplished, well-trained vocalist, so it’s no surprise that she is able to sing well from a technical standpoint, in a genre like this which has a high degree of technical difficulty. However, she also brings genuine emotion to the table. Her performance is heartfelt, and this is clearly a very personal song for her. While Just To Be With You is a romantic “couples song,” it’s surprisingly peppy and invigorating. The beat has a refreshing bounce it, and you could actually dance to this jam. The song creates an atmosphere that’s positively sparkling. Wonderful.
Death Is Trying is a new single from 14 year old producer, singer/songwriter and rapper, Phoenix FYA. Something of a musical child prodigy, he got his start playing leads in school play productions of The Lion King and Aladdin. He considers himself to be environmentally and socially conscious and a lover of nature.
Musically, he definitely has some skills, which are evident in his latest jam. In fact, I would never have guessed he was only 14 from listening to the recording. It’s very professional, and his performance is surprisingly mature. He has a distinctive vocal style, which combines elements of pop, R&B and hip hop. It’s like if you were to take a classic R&B style singing voice and throw in a bit of Gen Z hip hop flavor. A good singer, Phoenix FYA also shows some dynamic ability as he alternates between narration, rap, etc… all within a single song.
The backing music features some piano to set the appropriate emotional tone of the track and provide some stylish ambiance. There’s also some subtle analog-like tape hiss to give the track an organic, retro vibe. The beat is fresh but light, which is good because the overall music is engaging and hypnotic. Death Is Trying is a sophisticated release in both performance and production. Phoenix FYA has a lot of potential, and I’m sure people will be hearing more about him in the coming years.
Serena Sonata / Bareback Blues is a new, “double A-side” single from Northern Irish guitarist, Joe Hodgson. We’ve covered some of Joe’s work before, so we’re already familiar with the fact that he’s a phenomenal guitar player. In addition to a high technical skill level, on these latest tracks he demonstrates some musical versatility and eclecticism.
Serena Sonata has an exotic, almost Spanish or Americana quality for much of its duration. It starts off light and festive, rich with melodic detail. The song slowly builds in intensity until the guitars become so powerful they become positively supersonic. It reminds me of scenes in those 80′s movies where a band would play, and the guitarist would rock so hard in the finale portion of a song that it simply left the audience speechless, totally in awe of the performance. Joe Hodgson can really “shred” on guitar, but he does so artfully, enhancing the song’s sentimental passions rather than merely jamming out. There are stylistic elements in this track that might evoke comparisons to Santana, but the speed, intensity and magnitude carries this track into its own uncharted territory. This is truly one of the most radical sonatas I’ve ever heard.
Bareback Blues has more of a bluesy, rock’n’roll vibe. The sound is robust and the guitar melody are quite catchy. This is like the solid, organic rock you might hear live at an out-of-the-way bar somewhere, only in this case the skill level is highly advanced. The pacing on this track is more modest, and the riffs have a more full-bodied character. However, Hodgson still reveals his power level from time to time, as the song eventually culminates in the meticulously fantastical guitar finish we’ve grown accustomed to look forward to.
Joe Hodgson has delivered the goods once again. It’s even difficult to think of this release as a “single.” There is so much musical material and so many notes packed into the recording, that even though it consists of just two songs, this “double A-side” single feels as satisfying as listening to an entire rock opera.
Going Insane is a new single from Memphis-based artist, Cris Cola. In this track, he reflects about his frustrations about the world around him, both on a personal as well as societal level. Despite what the title might suggest, it’s actually a very positive song about encouraging families and communities to put their best foot forward and come together to face the struggles of daily life.
Cris Cola’s delivery is charismatic while retaining its sentimental sincerity. The beat is tight, and the music, which features some powerful female backing vocals, is mesmerizingly melodic. It’s also worth noting that Cris doesn’t merely rap but also sings on this track, and does so rather well. Even the way he delivers rhymes has an R&B-like musical sensibility to it. His performance defies a lot of conventional hip hop stereotypes and caricatures as he displays a genuinely reflective attitude and does a great job of outlining life’s struggles in very real and human terms.
Cris Cola describes Going Insane as “good riding music,” in that it’s a good jam do listen to while driving around the city. While the subject matter is deep, the musical presentation is such that it makes for a relaxing, enjoyable listen and will help put your mind at ease about your troubles for a little while.
Tax Free is a new single from Portland-based hip hop artist, Tony Ro$e. An prominent figure in the Portland music scene for nearly two decades, Tony Ro$e has inspired countless young artists in the area. He has a lengthy musical resume, having released several mixtapes and appeared on songs with well-known artists like Mac Dre, Mista F.A.B. Mitchy Slick and many others.
In his latest single, Tax Free Tony demonstrates his veteran hip hop sensibilities and acquired skill set. His delivery style is relaxed but maintains consistent timing and maximum potency. Lyrically, he doesn’t pull any punches. He keeps it real and raw with a no-nonsense approach to pressing economic questions, while somehow managing to make things fun in the process.
The backing music is enjoyably exotic and has an Asian instrumental quality to it. It really gives the track some flavor and juxtaposes favorably with the robust beat. Basically, this is a solid hip hop jam that’s straightforward and has all the marks of a seasoned pro. There’s not a lot of flash or hype. Tax Free is an example of good, fundamental hip hop that finds just the right balance of performance, production and social commentary.
BEEP is a new single (and music video) from artist, BROCK. Basically it consists of high energy, cutting edge dance music. The sound is extremely polished, with state of the art production and a 21st century vibe. Musically, it’s a very sleek and glossy form of EDM. The video matches the beat intensity, with extremely attractive girls and some rather precarious activities involving heavily armed individuals and their exotic getaway car. It’s an impressive video, pretty much major label caliber, which indicates that this is an ambitious musical/visual project. The video is well shot, includes an engaging narrative and some fairly daring vehicular stunts. BEEP is a top of the line product. BROCK actually has several videos lined up to be released in succession. Keep your eyes peeled for BHEVY, DAHOE, and DAMARO which should all be worth checking out if they even close to the same level as this.
For Your Eyes Only is a new album from New York-based singer/songwriter, Nikia. This release contains some of the best contemporary R&B/pop songs I’ve heard in recent memory. Nikia is a phenomenal singer. There’s no autotune. No production tricks or abrasive processing on her vocals. The singing is just pure and pristine. Her vocal ability is so high caliber that she should be performing at Madison Square Garden.
The songs themselves are romantic, sincere and sentimental. The opening track Boomerang is meticulously well choreographed and incredibly catchy. It’s so polished and artfully magnificent, I could picture it being used in a title sequence to a James Bond film (which is an interesting coincidence given the title of this album). Boomerang is a perfect song. One of my other favorite tracks on here is I Don’t Care (Interlude), which is a brief, two-minute jam with a uniquely toned, minimalist guitar backing. Nikia’s layered conversational delivery gives the song a classic, almost innocent feel, stylishly reminiscent of artists like The Shangri-Las. However, the guitars have a rich and robustly futuristic sound. Running Out of Time is more of a synthpop dance track, with a colorful, ambient beat and energetic pace. The pacing of the song matches up well with the theme of a romantic couple whose relationship is “running out of time.” Nothing about the music feels rushed though. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, and the candy sweet backing beat induces a subtle euphoria.
One of Nikia’s best performances is saved for last, with Forever. Not only does she end things on a positive note lyrically (this song is more of a romantic celebration than a story about two lovers working through their relationship issues), but the music is upbeat and has a dazzling, jazzy vibe. It’s like an upscale lounge track. This entire album is satisfying on so many levels. It’s classy. It’s sincere. It’s performed to a very high standard, and the production quality is exquisite. There are probably several songs on here that are worthy of awards.
B & W is a new single from Boston-based pop/electro singer, songwriter and producer, Angelo David. His songs frequently aim to raise awareness to issues like social inclusion, mental health awareness, and individuality, which relate to his own experiences growing up. At 18 years old, Angelo David (who actually began writing songs at the age of 8) is something of a child musical prodigy. Listening to this recent track, it becomes immediately clear that he is a top-tier pop performer. The song itself blends elements of pop, electro and R&B, but it’s ultimately Angelo David’s vocals that really stand out. He’s a genuinely good singer, but just as importantly he sings expressively and with a distinctive style. The lyrics are delivered with a personal, emotive touch, with each word being accented with a little twist or hint of personality, as great pop artists are known to do.
The backing music is also more imaginative and dynamic than what we hear in most contemporary pop songs. Angelo keeps things interesting and engaging with strategic breaks and a slight unpredictability. Beginning with B & W, he is releasing a substantial collection of songs in 2020. Angelo David already has racked up quite a few impressive achievements, and he appears to be just getting started.
Cosmic Rings is a new single from power metal band, Kosmic Dragon. First of all, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the retro-futuristic late 1970s-style covert art, with its vintage Battlestar Galactica/Star Crash vibe. The guitars on this jam are powerful, correlating beautifully with the galactically ambitious lyrics.
The level of intensity combined with the surreal space opera/fantasy narrative channels the thematic spirit of classic Iron Maiden songs like Caught Somewhere In Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I actually love this kind of music, especially when it’s performed as well as it is here. This track has it all: time travel, imminent destruction of the galaxy, deep space cryonic temperatures, a hero’s journey, etc. The vocals are great, too. This is probably the hardest genre of metal to sing convincingly, and the vocalist pulls it off. Solid technical guitar work combines with grandiose theatrics and charismatic vocals, setting the stage for an epic boss battle for control of the universe. It doesn’t get much better than this.