Tag: Single Review

ARoc is an up-and-coming emcee from Inglewood, CA, who started rhyming at 16 before he eventually linked up with Neiman Johnson of YFS and 300 Entertainment in 2004. ARoc spent the next few years developing his sound and voice — but 2015 may be the year he explodes into the national hip-hop map as he’s been featured on guest spots on  Eric Bellinger‘s “Turn Down For You” and “Gina” and a collaboration with up-and-coming singer/songwriter/emcee Jhene Aiko “Team Us.

I recently received a Soundcloud link of ARoc freestyling on his latest single “The Future” and admittedly, I was impressed by his flow complete with a ridiculous amount of braggadocio and playful wordplay over a variety of beats.


Originally, known as the frontman of pop act Throw Me The Statue, Scott Reitherman’s solo recording project Pillar Point has received attention for a melancholy yet bouncy electro pop sound primarily comprised of vintage, analog synthesizers, drum kits and sleek bass lines. As the story goes, Reitherman was planning to write and record his sophomore full-length album in his Seattle home when he received an unexpected invitation to record the album at Kevin Barnes’ home studio, while Reitherman was opening for of Montreal during their US tour.

Once the tour wrapped up, Reitherman spent a few months crafting demos of the material that would wind up comprising Marble Mouth before spending a month at Barnes’ house refining and recording alongside of Washed Out‘s drummer, Cameron Gardener and Kishi Bashi‘s percussionist Philip Mayer.

Reithernan then spent a six period in New Orleans writing and refining both the album’s lyrics and vocals. And as Reitherman explained in press notes, “New Orleans was the most meditative and mysterious part of making the record. I wanted to sink into that city and scrutinize the romantic southern sojourn.”

Marble Mouth‘s first single, album opening track “Part Time Love” pairs layers of twitchy and cascading synths with propulsive, four-on-the-floor drumming and Reitherman’s ethereal cooing to craft a sound that’s reminiscent of The Talking Heads, Tobacco and others, while subtly nodding at Top 40 pop; in other words, the sound is tense, neurotic and incredibly danceable and accessible pop with infectious hooks.

Since their formation three years ago, the Washington, DC-based duo GEMS, comprised of Lindsay Pitts and John Usher, have developed a reputation for crafting material that’s intimate and confessional, and expresses heartache and longing paired with eerily atmospheric and hypnotic synth pop that’s subtly influenced by contemporary R&B.And the duo’s forthcoming full-length debut, Kill The One You Love, which takes its title from a line in Chuck Palahniuk‘s Fight Club will not only further cement the duo’s reputation for their take on contemporary pop, it will also help expand their already growing national profile.

Kill The One You Love‘s latest single “Soak” is a haunting song that pairs ominously swirling electronics, Nile Rodgers-like guitar played through gentle layers of reverb, a shuffling yet sinuous bass line, stuttering and skittering yet propulsive drum programming with aching boy and girl vocals expressing desperate loneliness, heartache and longing that comes as a relationship splinters apart. In particular, the song focuses on that feeling that life being irrevocably different after a breakup — that in some way just trying to move forward and live one’s life without that other person seems as impossible as breathing underwater or walking upside down. And yet, there’s a subtle ray of hope as the narrators of the song blindly attempt to accept the uncertainty of their lives. It’s an emotionally raw song that evokes yanking a bandaid off a barely healed wound — and it does so in a way that’s incredibly sensual.

With singer/songwriter Victoria Celestine having spent a significant portion of her childhood growing up in France and in San Antonio, TX, music became a refuge and one of the languages she was most fluent in was music; in fact she first learned the piano and upon her return to States, she learned guitar, both of which helped her as a songwriter.

As the story goes, Celestine was at an open mic in downtown San Antonio when Gordon Raphael, best known for his work producing The Strokes, Regina Spektor and others had discovered her and invited her to record some of her then-more acoustic-based material. In fact, with her acoustic material, Celestine placed highly in the International Songwriting Competition, was nominee in the International Acoustic Music Awards, and as a result she’s had several songs hit the iTunes Charts. (From what I understand, some of her acoustic material will be released on a 3 song EP, produced by Blake Harnage of VERSA sometime next year.)
In the meantime, her debut EP, which is also slated for release sometime next year is a slickly produced collection of crafted pop songs that’s remarkably contemporary; in fact, the EP’s third and latest single “As We Grow Old” manages to be reminiscent of the likes of Little Boots, Chelsea Lankes, Phoebe Ryan and others as it pairs Celestine’s sultry cooing with a bouncy, upbeat production featuring gently cascading synths, skittering drum programming and swirling electronics. But lyrically the song stands out from a crowded field as it openly discusses how difficult it is to be what you think you might want to be when other people are forcing you to be and do things that you’re not — or that you’d hate. But it also suggests that the only way to live is to be unabashedly you because you don’t want to be old and live a life of regrets. Imaging popping in an actual message in between catchy hooks, eh?

Robin Paul Braum is a Berlin, Germany-born, London-based electronic music artist and producer, best known in electronic music circles under the moniker of Ballerino. He’s also a founding member of the London-based production and artistic collective squareglass, a collective known for a focus on unconventional production techniques. As a solo artist, Braum has developed a reputation for hypnotic house music with an artsy sheen.

Much like A side side “Wet,” it’s B side “Coward” according to Braum delves into something that would be familiar for all of us — desperate, embarrassing crushes, the fact that most of the time love is either unrequited or unwanted and the fact that love at first sight is often an illusion.  The production reportedly pays homage to house music’s origins as the song is comprised of shuffling and wobbling bass line, undulating synths ebbing and flowing about the bass, skittering and stuttering drum programming, led by hot, explosive blasts of cymbal and a chopped up vocal sample that reminds me of the fluid production style of Octo Octa‘s Between Both Selves  — in particular “Please Don’t Leave” and “Work Me.” And from the release of this single, Braum adds himself to a list of producers creating carefully crafted house music and electronic music that is clearly artistic, but hasn’t forgotten how to move a crowd.

Long Island-born, Brooklyn-based DJ/producer/emcee J57 is probably best known among hip-hop heads as a member of the Brown Bag All-Stars, one of the more prolific and underrated crews in contemporary hip-hop. And over the last couple of years in particular, J57 has received attention and critical praise for a production style that channels the sound of hip-hop’s golden age — i.e., big, boom bap beats, heavy synth-based orchestration paired with ridiculously tight, catchy hooks. As a result of being mentored by the legendary DJ Premier, the Brooklyn-based producer, DJ and emcee has assisted Premier on production work with the likes of NasEd Sheeran and Sam Smith. And naturally, those contributions have directly led to collaborations with Joey Bada$$Action BronsonMethod ManRaekwonMack WildsThe Roots and others; in fact, if you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past few months, you’d likely remember that J57 produced “The Purple Tape” off Method Man’s recently released The Meth Lab.

Also, if you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past couple of years you’d also be familiar with local emcee Koncept, who like the aforementioned J57 is a member of Brown Bag All-Stars. Over the past few years, there have been few emcees who have been as productive, prolific and consistent as Koncept, who has released a number of impressive singles and albums. Of course because of their connection in Brown Bag All-Stars, it shouldn’t be surprising that J57 and Koncept have been frequent collaborators, including for Koncept’s forthcoming EP The Fuel, slated for a November 20 release.

EP title track “The Fuel” featuring guest vocals by Akie Bermiss features Koncept dexterously rhyming about having the desire and determination to succeed in even the most difficult of situations, including desperate, hand-to-mouth poverty, working soul-crushing jobs with you dignity and sense of self intact. And he does so over a soulful production that features soaring organ chords, Akie Bermiss’s earnest vocals, and boom-bap drums. It’s conscious and thoughtful hip-hop based around deeply personal experiences and hard-fought wisdom — and it clearly draws from hip-hop’s glory days, when a song like “The Fuel” would dominate even mainstream radio. But no worry, real hip-hop featuring emcees actually saying something important over dope production is still alive and well; sadly, we all have to make more of a concerted effort to find it and support it.

2015 has been a busy year for Detroit‘s Guilty Simpson as Stones Throw Records released his latest full-length effort Detroit’s Son earlier this year, and he’s released a couple of incredible, non-album singles featuring collaborations with a number of internationally-based producers. Simpson’s latest single “Greatness” is a collaboration with London-based producer Stone Tone, and it’s comprised of Simpson’s gruff baritone rhyming about being determined to succeed in the face of all odds, haters, duplicitous snakes and others over a production featuring a looped, twisting and turning piano sample, soaring synths and strings, which give the song an inspirational feel, while being bolstered by boom-bap drums. Simply put, the track is real hip-hop and not that bullshit you’d hear on your conglomerate mainstream hip-hop radio station, as the song features an incredibly talented emcee actually saying something relevant and meaningful over dope beats. Certainly, after playing the song you should feel as though you could (and should) go out and there and achieve your own dreams — right this very second.

Fronted by primary songwriter David Childs, the Philadelphia, PA-based rock band Manwomanchild can trace their origins to when the band originally formed in Rhode Island, back in 2008. With a lineup comprised of David Child (vocals, guitar and synths), Mason Neely (drums) and Craig Gifford (bass), the trio recorded their self-titled debut EP in February 2010, and they received international attention after the release of “Chile, La Roja,”a song specifically written to show support for Chile’s Men’s National Soccer team during the 2010 World Cup; in fact, the song was featured in 4 national newspapers and 2 national TV stations across Chile.

A couple of years after the release of their self-titled full-length debut at the end of 2010, the band relocated to Philadelphia, and since their relocation the band wrote and recorded the soundtrack for Decidedly’s mobile game, Floyd’s Worthwhile Endeavor — and the band’s last single “The Difficult Years” was released to praise from the music blog Surviving the Golden Age.

The band’s latest single “Return to Ithaca” sounds as though it were inspired by early 60s mod-era British rock — in particular, think of The Kinks — as the song pairs a pretty and hummable little melody with a bubblegum pop-leaning wistful hook reminiscent of “Video Killed the Radio Star” and The Kinks’ “I Go To Sleep” but somehow a little bit breezier. At the song’s core is the sort of wistful nostalgia that should be familiar to most of us — a familiar and beloved part of our lives and pasts getting torn down in the face of relentless progress. But the song also suggests that all things must pass and that life does as it always does — push you forward.

More important, “Return to Ithaca” is an time-specific example of finely crafted pop, complete with vivid novelistic imagery — you can practically picture yourself walking along the Charles River in Cambridge, MA with the same observations and thoughts of the song’s wistful narrator.

RITUAL is a London-based production and electronic music trio, who have quickly risen to both national and international attention with the release of the “Low Season,” the first single off the band’s recently released EP, The City To The Wilderness, as the group has seen airplay and praise from BBC Radio personalities Annie Mac, Huw Stephens and Jo Whitley, as well as airplay from KCRW and praise from Hot 97‘s Peter Rosenberg. Adding to a growing profile, EP single “Josephine,” which features Lisa Hannigan recently surpassed 1 million Spotify streams, and was adding to the BBC Introducing playlist on BBC 1 XTRA.

“Too Deep,” the EP’s last single, which features vocals by up-and-coming vocalist Delilah, the members of the group is largely influence by the band’s fascination with the inherent duality of male-female duets. “We’ve always been fascinated by dual female/male vocals on records — the electricity of the connection between two people, two different takes on the same emotion and the tension and harmony this creates.” Throughout “Too Deep” there’s a tension through the song that’s palpable and yet mesmerizing as Delilah’s vocals express an aching desire but with a steely confidence and an angst-filed vulnerability; after all, there’s the acknowledgement that one’s desire may well be unrequited or not taken seriously. The male vocalist expresses need but with a plaintive urgency. And this is paired with a sparse, minimalist production of skittering and stuttering drum programming, gently undulating synths, swirling electronics and bleeps and bloops that emphasize the song’s tension between fiery sensuality and hyper modern iciness — while  being a moody marvel of modern production techniques.