Category: Single Review

DJ Manipulator and Louie Gonz are a Massachusetts-based hip-hop duo, who have recorded together in a variety of ways over the years; however, 2014’s Private Stock was the duo’s debut as a collaborative unit.  With “This Sound,” the silky smooth, looped jazz flute and xylophone-based first single off the duo’s highly-anticipated, soon-to-be released sophomore effort The Loops, the duo intends for the single and the album to be a bold reintroduction to the duo, whose DJ Manipulator-based production draws from golden era hip-hop while being a slick and self-assured collaboration with renowned Los Angeles-based emcee Blu.  It’s no bullshit, no frills hip-hop — two dope emcees adeptly trading quote worthy bars over a slick and soulful production.

 

 

Last month, I wrote about the anthemic, remarkably self-assured, Snow Patrol-like debut single “Can’t Go Back,” from the rather mysterious indie rock duo Essx Station. Building upon the initial bit of response from their debut, the duo compared of Winter and Blunda have release their second single, the atmospheric and swooning “Awake or Dreaming.” And while still drawing some influence from Snow Patrol, the duo reveal that they can craft sincere, pop-leaning indie rock with anthemic hooks.

As the band explains “Awake or Dreaming” is “about the moment when you realize that your reality has finally exceeded your dreams. It’s about being happy with what you have so that you’ll have enough. As Lao Tzu said ‘If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. if you are at peace, you are living in the moment. This song is about the power of now.”  Considering the increasingly terrible news of the past few weeks, including the reprehensible terrorist acts in Manchester, this song should be a reminder of how we all must live, living to enjoy this very moment, complete with the knowledge that the next moment may not be guaranteed.

 

 

 

As I’ve mentioned a number of times on this site, I frequently multitask while writing about the various songs, videos and other materials I post — and while at lunch, I was eating, writing about a particular band and once I was finished I stared to tweet about something or another when I came across “Here Comes The Light,” from the Birmingham, UK-based rock duo Glass Cut Kings. Comprised of Paul Cross (vocals, guitar) and Greg McMurray (drums, vocals), the Birmingham-based duo specialize in arena rock-friendly, power-chord based rock that sounds indebted to Silversun Pickups, The Black Keys, Foo Fighters and others, complete with rousingly anthemic hooks. Naturally, what caught my attention was the fact that for a duo, they create an enormous and forceful sound — and those guitar riffs remind me of 70s glam rock.

 

Last month, I wrote about  the Leeds, UK-based shoegazer quintet Colour of Spring and their 120 Minutes-era MTV-like single “Echoes,” a single about “losing the innocence of youth..” The up-and-coming British band, which is comprised of Shane Hunter (vocals, guitar), Robin Deione (guitar), Tom Gregory (bass), Mark Rochman (drums) and Charlie Addison (keys) have receive praise from NME and The Line of Best Fit for a sound that has been compared favorably to Wild Nothing,  Beach Fossils and others. Continuing to build on the buzz they’ve been receiving both in their homeland and elsewhere — including this site — the band has released their latest single “Love,” a towering and swirling bit of classic-leaning shoegaze that while seemingly drawing from RIDE and A Storm in Heaven-era The Verve, manages to also nod at Finelines-era My Vitriol.

As the band’s Shane Hunter explains, “‘Love’ is about the initial prospect of being in love, where everything is confusing, awkward and exciting all at the same time. You’re learning someone else and they’re learning you, all of your idiosyncrasies that you daren’t share with anyone else. There’s so many prominent, strong emotions that it can get really overwhelming. You don’t want to to blow it being your usual stupid self!” And as a result, the song feels like the anxious self-talk of someone trying to psych themselves out and not try to fuck something up — but on a certain level, they’re human and they’ll inevitably find a way to fuck it all up and do it again, as we all do at some point.

Kat Leon is a Connecticut-born singer/songwriter, whose musical career started in earnest as one half of the Los Angeles, CA-based indie electro pop act Sad Robot, with Long Beach, CA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based multi-instrumentalist Nick Perez — and throughout her stint with Sad Robot, Leon developed a reputation for crafting material that was largely inspired by death and the occult.

With both of her parents suddenly dying within months of one another, Leon was plunged into a period of profound and heartbreaking grief. And after taking time to grieve the loss of her parents, Leon began her latest solo recording project, Holy Wars, which is deeply and profoundly influenced by some of the darkest days of her life; in fact, the project in many ways is to her an extrapolation of the tumultuous feelings and thoughts she had felt during that period — an the result is her debut double EP Mother, which is slated for a June 30, 2017 release and Father, which is slated for release later on this summer.  Both EPs are dedicated to her respective parents and while being understandably dark, the material isn’t completely nihilistic, and as you’ll hear on Mother‘s first single “I Can’t Feel A Thing,” the material is meant to be a cathartic release paired within a rousingly anthemic, arena rock-friendly sound reminiscent of Paramore — but with a hint of profoundly adult angst, the sort of angst that comes from recognizing  that death is a permanent parting, that there are no real answers, and that the only thing anyone can do is figure out a way to move forward to the best of their ability.

 

 

 

Now, if you’ve frequenting this site over the past four years or so, you’ve come across a number of posts featuring the Seattle, WA-based JOVM mainstays Shabazz Palaces. Comprised of Digable Planets‘ Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire, the son of Dumisani Maraire, the project continues Butler’s long-held reputation for being uncompromisingly different and for crafting material with pro-Black messages.

The duo of Butler and Maraire quietly released two albums in 2009 — their self-titled debut and Of Light, which caught the attention of renowned indie label Sub Pop Records, who signed the act, and released 2011’s Black Up, an effort released to critical applause for its kaleidoscopic and hallucinogenic production paired with Butler’s witty and incredibly dexterous flow. While continuing to cement Butler’s and Mariare’s reputation for crafting incredibly weird, psychedelic hip hop, 2014’s Lese Majesty was a decided change in sonic direction with much of the material possessing an eerie cosmic glow with even heavier low end — intergalactic trap, perhaps? Along with the decided change of direction, the duo offered a bold challenge to contemporary hip-hop artists. As Butler told NPR during an interview about Lese Majesty, “This endeavor that I pursue, that we all pursue in Shabazz Palaces, make no mistake, this is an attack. We’re trying to show off and really stunt on all other rappers and let them know that this is our style, this is what we do and we’re ready to put it up against anybody else’s stuff.”

Some time had passed since I had last written about Shabazz Palaces; after all, both Maraire and Butler had been busy with their own separate creative pursuits — in 2015 Maraire and a group of collaborators wrote and released material with his side project,  Chimurenga Renaissance and Butler has been on a reunion run with the members of Digable Planets, which has continued through this year with several stops in NYC. (Digable Planets played a free show at Greenpoint Brooklyn’s House of Vans earlier this month and they’ll be playing a SummerStage later this summer.)  Somehow, Butler and Maraire managed to set aside some time to write new material and record material for two albums —  Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star and Quarzarz vs. The Jealous Machines, which will see a simultaneous release on July 14, 2017 through Sub Pop Records.

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Shine A Light,” the first single off Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, and while continuing the duo’s long-running collaboration with soul outfit Thadillac, who contribute a lush, dusty, old-school soul-leaning arrangement featuring shimmering strings, a strutting bass line, warm psychedelic guitar blasts, shuffling drum beats, and a retro-futuristic-like hook consisting of distorted, vocoder-filtered vocals, the single thematically is part of a surreal yet politically-charged concept album that introduces the listener to and then tells the tale of Quazarz, a sentient being from far away, who’s sent to be an observer and musical emissary with a mission to explore and chronicle the things he sees and experiences,subtly echoing the  cult-classic film The Brother From Another Planet and Alexis De Tocqueville‘s Democracy in America; however, what our otherworldly emissary finds is a bizarre, cutthroat landscape of brutality, conformity, alternative facts, hypocrisy, greed, suffering, selfishness and death masquerading as patriotism and connectivity. And as result, Quazarz finds himself feeling increasingly horrified and out of place and within a world that is unfathomably hellish and unfair.

Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines is for all intents and purposes, a spiritual and thematic twin of sorts. Produced by Butler and Sunny Levine and recorded at Seattle’s Protect and Exalt Labs: A Black Space and Dror Lord Studios in Marina Del Rey, CA and featuring guest spots from Chimuregna Renaissance’s Fly Guy Dai, Amir Yaghamai, John Carroll Kirby, Thaddillac, Morgan Henderson, The Shogun Shot, Laz, and Purple Tape Nate, the album continues with the tell of our otherworldly musical emissary Quarzarz and in his further explorations of modern life, he discovers a world in which humankind’s relationship with technology has become both co-dependent and strangely sensual, as it seduces people to be sedentary, thoughtless, uninspired to do anything to change their individual plight, let alone change the world, and having their creativity and life stolen from them. Along with a bunch of misfit cohorts, the protagonist leads a rising collective “hell no,” to the device and the guilds that proliferate them. The album’s first single “30 Clip Extension” was arguably one of the strangest songs that Butler and Maraire as the song featured a minimalist producing consisting wobbling and tumbling low end, stuttering drum programming, enormous beats and shimmering synths paired with Butler’s imitable flow alternating between surrealistic poetry and rhyming — while describing an arrogant, vain, ostentatious, drug addled rapper, who’s controlled by an unseen conspiracy of exterior and interior forces.

“Since C.A.Y.A.,” Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star‘s latest single continues on a similar vein as the preceding singles, in the sense that it’s trippy and odd as hell but with an elastic-like looseness that nods at the Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — although just under the surface is a subtle sense of menace. Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner contributes wobbling hyper-futuristic bass lines to the sparsely minimalist production that allows Butler enough room to rhyme both about his narrator’s  legendary and surreal past and present, but in which he sees himself as a black person in a dangerous and weird world that fetishes and abhors him.  And they manage to do so while nodding at the weirdness of Beck and The Flaming Lips.

 

Depending on what you’d count and how you’d count, Amy Oelsner, best known as Amy O has contributed to and recorded somewhere between two and nine albums, which would paradoxically make her an old pro and a relatively new artist. But let’s begin with some background: Growing up in Fayetteville, AR Oelsner taught herself guitar and began writing songs, eventually recording a series of lo-fi albums while moving around the country for school and for work. Each album, whether solo or with a band was released independently and with little regard for sales, promotion or radio airplay, and according to the Bloomington, IN-based singer/songwriter, at the time, the endeavor was more about the entire experience, including learning the thrill and discipline involved in creating. “Songwriting,” as Oelsner explains “became a way for me to process things and make sense of my life. I got hooked on it emotionally.”

After stints residing in Ohio, Massachusetts and Brooklyn, Oelsner relocated to Bloomington to work at Rhino’s Youth Center, which offers creative-leaning after-school programs to teenagers — and in many ways it’s a school, art gallery, music venue, a community theater, a community center and a whole host of other things. Oelsner took a job leading the Zine Writing Program, a program which encourages local teens to share their stories, to engage with the public in creative ways, to define and address the issues that affect their lives on a very granular level. Interestingly, the Bloomington, IN-based singer/songwriter’s professional life influences her creative life, as the deluxe edition of her forthcoming album Elastic will be released by her own zine Yoko, Oh Yes, which will feature interviews from a number of women musicians and artists — including The Roches’ Terre Roche, Frankie Cosmos’ Greta Kline, Free Cake for Every Creature’s Katie Bennett and others discussing songwriting and technique, early experiences, gear, the recording business, money, inspiration and advice. Certainly for any aspiring female artist, hearing from those who have been where you have been, have made mistakes and learned from them and have achieved success and renown will be a transformative and inspiring experience.

As far as the actual album, which is slated for an August 4, 2017 release, Oelsner performs with a backing band of friends and collaborators including Madeline Robinson (bass, vocals), Justin Vollmar (drums), Damion Schiralli (guitar) and Aaron Denton (keys, vocals) and from the album’s first single “Lavender Night,” possesses an infectious exuberance, the easygoing self-assuredness and craft of old pros and razor sharp hook — a hook that’s paired with zigzagging guitar work and a propulsive, chugging rhythm section. While sonically drawing from Sleater-Kinney, The Roches and others, the track as she explains “came to me quickly and without fuss. I wrote it after a little scare I had at the doctor with a mysterious lump. It’s about the constant (and often invisible) line of fragility that we walk upon in life, leaning how to follow trails of light throughout difficult circumstances, and resisting the black hole-like vacuum of negative thought patterns.” And as a result, the song has the urgency of one who has recognizes that they’ve dodged a bullet — and that good turn of luck could quickly end.

 

Comprised of Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, Norlan Olivo, Mary Regalado and Victoria Ruiz, the Providence, RI-based punk rock quartet Downtown Boys have developed a growing national reputation for writing protest music centering on their own experiences as young, queer, Chicana and Latino artists, musicians and people within an extremely whitewashed, cis-male, heterosexual world — especially within rock; in fact, throughout the course of the band’s first two albums, they’ve called on their fans whether newfound or diehard to join the struggle to smash racism, homophobia, queerphobia, exploitative capitalism, fascism, ignorance and boredom and more that have closed people’s minds, hearts and souls off to themselves and others.

Produced by Fugazi‘s Guy Picciotto, the band’s forthcoming third, full-length effort Cost of Living, which is slated for an August 11, 2017 through Sub Pop Records will further cement their reputation for crafting serious, incendiary and cathartic yet fun music in which their youthful, urgent and passionate energy is paired with their sociopolitical ideals.   Lyrically inspired by Assata Shakur’s poem “i believe in living,” Cost of Living‘s opening track and first single “The Wall,” finds the band sonically drawing from The Clash, Wire and others while the chorus and hook is repeated mantra-like “A wall is just a wall/A wall is just a wall . . .” boldly calling out Donald Trump’s “Great Wall,” and his supporters for its blatant stupidity; but it also serves as a righteous and powerful reminder that though the wall is symbolically meant to crush the humanity, dreams and desires of an entire groups of people, that as long as people are people, brick and barb wire can never crush their humanity.

As much as we all may want and need to have mindless fun, the members of Downtown Boys are actively creating some of the most forceful and necessary material of the resistance.

The band will be on tour throughout the entire summer and fall and it includes two NYC are stops — June 9, 2017 at the Pitchfork Northside Festival Showcase at Saint Vitus and July 12, 2017 at House of Vans. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Tour Dates
6/9: Brooklyn, NY @ Pitchfork Northside Fest Showcase @ St. Vitus
6/16: Ashfield, MA @ The Ashfield Lake House
6/17: Providence, RI @ Aurora
7/12: Brooklyn, NY @ House of Vans
8/19: Omaha, NE @ Maha Festival
9/2 – 9/3: Philadelphia, PA @ Made In America Festival
9/15 – 9/17: Chicago, IL @ Riot Fest
9/23: Los Angeles, CA @ Summer Happenings at The Broad
10/9: Leffinge, Belgium @ Cafe De Zwerver
10/10: Paris, France @ Le Point Ephemere
10/11: Brighton, UK @ The Haunt
10/12: Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
10/13: Edinburgh, UK @ Sneaky Pete’s
10/14: Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
10/16: Dublin, Ireland @ The Workman’s Club
10/17: Liverpool, UK @ The Shipping Forecast
10/18: London, UK @ Dome Tufnell Park
10/19: Sheffield, UK @ Picture House Social Club
10/20: Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute
10/21: Bristol, UK @ Simple Things Festival
10/22: Birmingham, UK @ All Years Leaving Festival
10/24: Munster, Germany @ Gleis 22
10/25: Berlin, Germany @ Urban Spree
10/26: Hamburg, Germany @ Hafenklang

Deriving their name from the classic astrological meaning of sextile, an astrological aspect that is made when two planets or other celestial bodies are 60 degrees apart in the sky, the Los Angeles, CA-based quartet Sextile (comprised of Melissa Scaduto, Eddie Wuebben, Sammy Warren and Brady Keehn) specializes in a sound that draws from 70s punk, 80s New Wave, and synthwave and early industrial electronica. In fact, “One of These,” the latest single from the Los Angeles-based quartet’s forthcoming sophomore album Albeit Living manages to sound as though the band were drawing influence from The Jesus and Mary Chain, A Place to Bury Strangers, Wire, Public Image, Ltd., early Ministry and early Nine Inch Nails as the band pairs a propulsive stomp with scorching feedback, chilly synths and an anthemic, fairly dance floor-friendly hook with an explosively feral intensity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the last year or so, you’ve likely come across a reference to Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, a highly acclaimed, Chicago, IL-born, Brooklyn-based classically trained trumpeter, who has been mentored by Wynton Marsalis and Ramsey Lewis, and has collaborated with an incredibly diverse array of renowned artists including Santigold, Ski Beatz, John Legend, Talib Kweli, Cee-Lo Green, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Musiq Soulchild, Tedeschi Trucks Band (with whom he won a Grammy in 2012 for Best Blues Album), Wyclef Jean, Santana and a growing list of other equally impressive artists. And although he may be classically trained, as a solo artist and bandleader, Brown’s work draws from contemporary hip-hop, funk, neo-soul while nodding at jazz’s classical tradition — namely the work of Louis Armstong, as Brown will freely rhyme and sing during his compositions, essentially pushing the sound of contemporary jazz towards new directions without forgetting its origins.

The Mood is Brown’s latest album of original compositions and the album’s second and latest single, album title track “The Mood” is a swaggering composition that manages to draw from contemporary soul, smooth jazz, Miles Davis’ famous modal compositions — in particular, Kind of Blue, Davis’ jazz fusion period and hip-hop in a seamless and funky composition that allows enough room for each musician to strut, show their stuff and expand upon the composition’s smooth flowing melody. And if the one that that’s certain, Brown will cement himself as arguably one of contemporary jazz’s most exciting and ambitious composers and artists with an imitable sound and approach.