Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kimbra - Vows

"We'll call her Nebraska
Nebraska Jones
She'll have your nose
Just so you know"

I never wanted children before now, but I have to have a child named Nebraska Jones now and I can thank Kimbra for that.  How cool is that verse.  I think that it says so much about Kimbra's debut album, Vows. The lyrics are clever and full of charm all the way through.  I realize I am slow at getting to this album, but apparently it took me a bit to get around to her.  I was first introduced to New Zealand based, Kimbra Johnson months ago when a friend showed me the video for "Cameo Lover" but I just let other music get in front of her.

You have to be careful of listening to just single tracks off this album because you can get easily fooled.  It's not a situation where you've been hit with the old bait and switch but you have to realize that this whole album is like a giant sampler platter that showcases her range beautifully.  Every song is punctuated by her gorgeous voice but the ease and grace she jumps from genre to genre is almost mind boggling.  For someone that is so young to have the control she has over her instrument is incredible.  She has been compared to Bjork, Florence Welch and Nina Simone and it is very easy to see how those comparisons can be made.  This album is a treat because it's one that you can start at track one and play all the way through without skipping a song, yes it's that good.  For me all the tracks are strong, but I think "Settle Down", "Good Intent", are stand out tracks with the rest falling very close behind them.  There isn't a bad track and each song seems so carefully crafted to give the listener something new around each corner.  "Cameo Lover" is a mix between a modern R & B song smashed together, beautifully I might add, with a song from the Motown Era.  Make sure you listen closely to "Call Me" because she samples "Electric Relaxation" by A Tribe Called Quest.  Bravo, my dear! Well played.

I am going to compare this album, in scope and concept, to The Arch-Android by Janelle Monae.  Much like Janelle's album, it is far reaching and broad but it never over extends itself.  It knows when to take itself seriously and when to take a step back and let it's hair down.  I honestly think that this album is easily one of the best I have heard in a long time because it touches every part of my senses, from smoky, sultry jazz to pop and everything in between and because of that I leave feeling satisfied.  The American version of the Settle Down EP is now available and I think we are going to be hearing a lot more from Miss Kimbra.  She has only just begun and with collaborations with groups like Miami Horror and Goyte, she is on the way up. Catch her now before she is a mega superstar and you will not be disappointed.

Amy Meredith - Restless Summer

This cements in my mind just how amazing Amy Meredith is.  Not only did they reinvent the tracks off their album as something brand new and and reinvigorate songs that were tremendous to begin with; but they gave the album away for Free.  That's right....a free download of 12 brand new tracks, because they are totally separate from the original tracks.  The lyrical content is the same but that's it.  Not even the way Christian sings the songs is the same, therefore they have to be brand new.  The tempos are different, the instrumentation is new, the mixes and arrangements are stellar and this album is just an brilliant complement to the already brilliant Restless.  These are more than remixes, they are more than covers.  They have been carefully crafted with new sets of emotion to be invoked.

"Black Eyes" starts off the album (just because there are no track numbers and no real ID3 information on the MP3s so you may want to do a bit of clean up on them) and it immediately sets the tone of the album.  It's lazy and its breezy and it's a bit melancholy and I think the rest of the album has a twinge of heartbreak attached to it.  The summer has come to an end and it's time to go home but first, one manic adventure to mark the closing of the season and then it's back to your lives and responsibilities and all the frivolity has to be put on the shelf for another year.

Each and every song is so great and I can't say they are better or worse than the originals because they are totally different in the best way.  Songs like "Kiss Me Quick" and "Late Nights" have been updated with more of an electro-pop feeling that adds to the over all carefree attitude of the songs while the update to "Lying" just adds more punch and sting to an already heavy song.  The slowed down tempo makes the lyrics stick and are totally punctuated by the strings section.

I think this was a great move by the band because it keeps their music relevant by making something new out of it and at the same time makes you want to listen to the originals side by side to make a comparison.  Go grab the album from www.amymeredith.com/restlesssummer before they realize they could be making millions off it and start charging.  Hell at that point, go buy it.  Support the artists that support you.

Elephant - The Let-Go (featuring Yo! Majesty)

Jackson and Coleman are back but I think the addition of Shunda and Shon from Yo! Majesty have mellowed them out and thrown a healthy dose of funk their way.  Don't get me wrong, the raw lyrical content is still here, it's just smooved out.  Let's talk about taking information that has been shoved down our throats all out lives and diluting out so that as adults we have the ability to make up our own damn mind.  That's what's at the heart of this track.  Being able to use that thing between your shoulders for more than hair products or hats.  Think about what you are being sold and use the free will you were given to do with it as you see fit.

I've always been a huge believer in some form of higher power, whether its my belief in myself and my powers to navigate this life on my own or belief in an all mighty deity controlling the heavens above; it is my own decision to make and with a little knowledge, I can make a decision to be proud of.  

Combining Elephant's flow with Yo! Majesty's smooth style is an awesome combination because it gives both groups something to vibe off of.  The chorus is sick and the rhymes are on point.  I think this is going to get a lot of heavy rotation my my library once the EP comes out.  With other releases by Elephant, this song isn't a tool in which they are trying to ram a belief down your throat; it's about empowering you to make your mind up with information that is available to you.  It is a very strong song and you know how I love songs that have a point of view and are unapologetic about it.  

Watch the video, give it a thumbs up or down (it's your decision) and talk about it.  Small independent artists are so rapidly becoming what I want to hear on a daily basis because they will stand up for not only themselves but for you as well.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Jhameel - Waves (Track by Track)

Waves was a conceptual project Jhameel created to get more of his music out to the world.  For five weeks he released a new track.  Each track seemingly couldn't be better than the last but it was.  He collected all the tracks on one volume and released it for free on his website (where it is still available for download) and he had a limited number of CDs pressed that could be purchased with his autograph.  What option did I take?  The physical copy so that I could support his art.  And I have said it before, what he does is art.  The sounds are so rich and lush.  The arrangements are gigantic and playful and his voice is so charismatic you are immediately swept up and taken on an amazing journey that you don't want to end.

The first track on the CD is "Collision" and you are assaulted with wave after wave of pure funk awesomeness. This song is just so big and it blows my mind to hear every piece of it and how it all comes together as something so ambitious and so relevant.  This song is the mayor of Funkytown and all other citizens in the town are happy to do it's bidding.

If "Collision" showcases how Jhameel can mesmerize you with his audio trickery, then "White Lies" is flow hypnotism that shows his mastery over rhythm and breath control and takes all the frenetic energy that was stored up and focuses it into a laser pointed edge that makes your head bob along with an ease and carefree abandon.  The content of the songs are deceptive because he gets you hooked with his amazing skills and then you come back and listen to the lyrics and you're like, "Oh Damn!"  Not only has he entertained you, he has given you things to think about.

"Waves" conjures just that, a mental image of the tides being pulled and pushed by nature.  The song is organic and doesn't force anything on you.  You just get caught up in the propelling movement of the song and before you know it, you're knee deep in it.  It's an easy song that just carries you along to the next destination.  DO NOT misunderstand, I am not saying this song is lacking substance.  It's not, it is breathy and deep and is as strong as the force of nature it invokes.

Next stop is a dirty, grungy, electro-pop pit stop in the song, "Wicked".  It doesn't matter what elements he works with, he is able to work magic.  Electric guitars and synthesizers bow to his will just as easy as a cello or a piano.  The composition of this song is raw and edgy and has some danger woven through the lyrics and arrangement.

If "Wicked" is the climax of our journey then "Pursuit of Glory" is quite easily the denouement.  We have had a grand adventure and now it's time to bring everything together and draw our story to a close.  It's an easy song that just feels right and helps to settle us in.

This man has quickly become one of my favorite artists and it's all because you can see where he is coming from and you can feel his point of view.  It's impossible not to and for someone to have such faith in the work they are sending out into the universe, I can only thank them profusely because they are making something that will last well on into the annals of history.

Support this man so that he can continue to produce this art.  It's important because like all good art, it invokes feelings and makes you realize that you are in fact part of something larger than yourself.

Foxy Shazam - The Church of Rock and Roll

I feel there has been a gap in the music industry for pure, unadulterated rock and roll.  I'm talking about over the top, balls to the wall, unapologetic American Rock and Roll.  The type of music that just takes over and makes you forget all your troubles.  So when I started listening to Cincinnati based Foxy Shazam's new album, The Church of Rock and Roll I totally felt like I had been welcomed home by an old friend.  From start to finish, this album is nothing short of amazing.  There wasn't a whole lot of room for improvement on their last album being as it was one of the best albums released in 2010 so to say this album seems more polished and refined is a bit weird to actually say, but it's true.  I don't think I can fault this album at all.

From the opening riffs of "Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll" to "Freedom", this album is a rollicking romp through musical excess and only in the best sense of every note.  The composition of every song is so strong and full of every best intention that it's hard to pick any faults at all.  The album is packed with songs like "Forever Together" and "(It's) Too Late Baby" show that the band has grown and matured and are totally comfortable standing on their feet as balladeers but other songs like "I Like It", "Holy Touch" and "The Streets" accentuate the their ability to rock your face off with heavy guitar riffs and mind blowing choruses.  This isn't a concept album or anything experimental, it's just a great example of what unfiltered rock and roll with a point of view sounds like.

You hear all the time that Eric Nally and the guys have picked up where Queen or The Darkness have left off and it is so easy to see those comparisons can be made but I need to make it clear, Foxy Shazam is in no way a one dimensional band that is just mimicking those other groups.  They have their own sound, their own feeling and more than anything they are their own group.  If there are influences taken from the other bands, it is a only done in the most humbling manner possible to pay homage to the history that is so rich.  I can't say enough how good this album is.  There is enough content packed into these 11 songs to make the album feel twice as big.  If you get a chance to see them in concert, do so; especially their upcoming tour with The Darkness.  It's going to be massive and just so full of bad ass rock and roll you will not be disappointed.

The album is available on Vinyl, CD and Digital at all reputable audio outlets and you should pick it up in one or more format because it needs to be in your collection.  This album is already going in my Top 25 of 2012, most probably one of my Top 5.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kendall - Truth Changes (Track by Track)

It's been a minute since I broke a record down but I feel like I have to with this album because every song needs to be discussed. One of the things that has always impressed me about Kendall is that he is unwavering in his dedication to his beliefs.  He has a point of view and he is passionate about it.  And it's this passion that is exuded in everything he does and you can see and hear it without a shadow of a doubt.  His music has always been an unconventional mix of pop, hip hop, rock and a little bit of anything else he can fit in.

His subject matter has ranged from super serious to quirky and esoteric but something has changed in Kendall between his previous release and Truth Changes.  I don't know what it is, exactly but his sound has matured so much and the songs have a depth of character that I haven't seen out of him yet.  In my opinion, this is by far his best outing as an artist and I am excited to call myself a fan.

The Limousines - Scrapbook

The first EP released by the Bay Area duo, The Limousines was put out in 2009 and titled Scrapbook.  They made the decision to rerelease it in Vinyl and CD format at the beginning of the year and because the album had so much history and meaning to the band, they wanted to add an additional layer of importance to the disc by allowing their fans to add a dedication to the liner notes.  There was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity so I thought about it.  How did I want to leave my mark?  What was important enough for me to inscribe forever?  How about the 2 most important men in my life? Yeah, that's where I wanted to go with it so I thought about it and decided I would do it like this:

Sean W. Charles III

It allowed me to have us all together in one name and it recognized both of the guys in my life that mean more to me than my life itself.  To my left is Sean, the man who made me who I am as an adult.  And to my right is Charles, my best friend in the whole world.  The one that knows me better than I know myself these days.  And adding the Roman numeral III, we are all together as one unit.  So I submitted my dedication and today I received the CD and much to my happiness, there it is; printed for all the world to see and for those in the know - probably one of the most important pieces of writing in my history.

"So, how's the album?", you ask.

It's everything I wanted and more.  I'm not sure if it's because I know have a piece of real estate claimed in the liner notes, but the album has so much meaning and heart.  Their most recent release, Get Sharp is a fantastic journey through excess and has this exuberance that I haven't heard in many other artists.  And while that album is full of an extravagant attitude that makes you take notice, Scrapbook has a quiet strength that doesn't need fanfare.  It's understated and honest.  It's nostalgic and it's comfortable.  It's sitting down with a box of memories and remembering all the good that has happened but never forgetting the trials that make the memories bittersweet.  It's not jarring and it doesn't take unnecessary risks.

Eric's vocals are solid and full of the smallest nuances that just pull you in and makes you part of something bigger and Gio's production is nothing short of stellar.  I really don't know why they aren't major superstars but I'm glad they are on the level they are because they don't forget their fans and they make sure we are given more than 100% with everything they do.  If you get the opportunity to see them live, do it.  I saw them with The Sounds and it was an experience that I am never going to forget.  They have quickly and easily become one of my most favorite bands of all time and this EP only cements that decision. I just have so much emotion now wrapped up in this album, I think to write about each song won't properly do them justice.  It is an amazing piece of art and I will cherish it more than you realize.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Zelliack - Hargrove

What do you get when you allow every bit of you to be inspired and let your creativity just flow?  You get Hargrove by Zelliack.  This song has a bit of everything thrown in and all you can do is get swept up in the tide.  It's got Rythym and Blues.  It's got Funk. It's got Soul. And it has a cross between Salsa and a Bossanova.  And it just makes me want to throw my hands up and blame it all on the boogie.  It's a smart song that just makes you want to move.  It's a sexy song that makes you want to get down.  And it's a classy song that makes you want to have an Old Fashioned or a Martini with your best girl/guy. 

What makes this band even more exicting is knowing this is a side project consisting of Zack Ordway and Elliot Coleman,  two of the guys from Sky Eats Airplane.  If you aren't familiar with SEA, they are a pretty hardcore rock band that plays balls to the wall and has a damn good time doing it.  So to hear these smooth sounds coming out of Zelliack, it's kind of mind blowing at times.  As their versatility is so apparent, Zack and Elliot are pretty incredible.  They have an album coming out soon and you should run out and pick it up when it becomes available.

You should also become a fan of both bands on Facebook and you should support them any way you know how because they are worth your time.

Zelliack - http://www.facebook.com/Zelliackband
Sky Eats Airplane - http://www.facebook.com/SkyEatsAirplane

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jay Brannan - Beautifully

This is the second single from Jay's upcoming album, Rob Me Blind but I first heard it as one of the original songs off his album, In Living Color.  When I first heard it, I fell madly in love with the song because I think that at some point in my life, more often than not, I had these exact feelings.  How is it that you can be so in love with someone but they can't or won't return the feelings.  You know that you are the right person for them and you know how much better your life would be with them in it, but they just don't see it.  On the other side of the coin, how does it feel to have someone so in love with you but no matter how hard you try, you can't return the feelings.  The emotion this song evokes is so powerful and real it's impossible not to be moved.

The video is an amazing take on the song and I love that it's a period piece.  The treatment adds so much character to the song and I think that it was an amazing choice all around.  The actors all do fantastically in their parts and it adds another layer of complexity to the song.  I can't wait until the album comes out because this year has already been a great year for independent artists and Jay is one of my favorite artists.

Kendall - Living in My Headphones

I love hearing Kendall sing but I think he shines even brighter when he raps. His voice is amazing either way but there is a presence about his hip hop style that gives more weight and power to his words. I think it may be the staccato rhythm he deftly maneuvers around or it's his precise pronunciation and invocation of a verbal dialog. Living in My Headphones is one of the singles off his newly released album Truth Changes and it borders on profound. For me, its a song about being able to be in control in a world where nothing is in place. It's about taking back what is yours for just a few short minutes when you have no alternative. Everything is safe and righteous when you have to decompress and detach from a society that is far too connected.

The video is a perfect compliment to the song as it takes you through a new genesis of sorts all the way to images of corruption and societal unrest. It's been my belief for years that Kendall is an artist. Not someone that simply records music but someone that has to invoke a feeling in the audience. It doesn't matter what feeling he creates as long as you feel something. This, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing short of amazing in my eyes.

Truth Changes is out today on all major music outlets: iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby. If it was my choice I would tell you to get it through CD Baby because we love supporting the Indie Artists through Indie ventures. Nothing wrong with Amazon or iTunes, just like making sure the money goes where it should.

Meet Blue Heart Hour

I think the first thing you notice about Blue Heart Hour (aka Jessie F) is her voice.  It's lush, it's vivid and it's expressive.  In a vast sea of Electro-Pop artists ranging from Little Boots, Pixie Lott, La Roux and Ellie Goulding, Blue Heart Hour has what it takes to stand up beside them and give them a run for their money.  For me, she's a local girl residing in Nashville after bouncing across the globe and that makes me even more enamored with her because of how expansive her sound can be.

Her command over the elements that make up her sound are precise and decisive and she knows exactly what needs to be done to make her equipment hum and whir in the best possible.  Her lyrics are catchy and poppy and the songs are perfectly matched with all the content.  Her layering of tracks is impressive and you never get bored while listening to them.  You can hear the global influence in her tracks with a bit of down and dirty Drum & Bass from the European clubs mixed with more progressive house beats from New York or LA.  She currently has 3 tracks available on her Facebook and her ReverbNation page.  I need more from her because my whistle has been whetted.

If you are a fan of solid electropop and super strong female leads then you are going to definitely fall in love with Blue Heart Hour.  Support the Indie Artists because they are going to give you 150% of their all.

Main Website: http://bluehearthour.com/
FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/bluehearthour
ReverbNation: http://www.reverbnation.com/bluehearthour

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Miles Fisher - Don't Let Go

Miles Fisher is an actor/musician born in Dallas Texas that got his break by posting several videos on youtube and landed several small supporting roles in numerous movies until he was cast in a leading role in Final Destination 5.  This is the third single off his self titled EP and the third full length music video for him as well.  In his first video for the song, "This Must Be The Place", he takes on the role of Patrick Batemen from American Psycho paying tribute to not only the iconic character but Christian Bale's spot on performance.  The next track, "New Romance" ties into Final Destination and skews Saved By the Bell with Miles conquering Zach Morris next.

With "Don't Let Go", Miles takes on his biggest challenge yet, a poisonous and disastrous relationship with Phoebe Tonkin even though he knows it's doing nothing but killing him.  The video is brutal in it's execution and you feel every well placed intention that goes astray.  Miles has a knack for delivering videos that are as creative as his tracks.  The cinematography and the overall video concept are incredible and it shows how regardless of how hard Miles fights to keep the relationship together there are forces fighting to tear it apart (that would be Phoebe).  To say these two aren't easy on the eyes would be an understatement and the stunning editing and story direction absolutely mirrors both of the stars.

He is has talent and the skill to make it as a recording artist on his own merits and his acting resume is continuing to grow.  You can purchase his EP on iTunes and it is well worth it for $3.  I love each of the videos for what they are but I think that I like this one the best because of how striking the visuals are.  His particular brand of  pop is amazing music and his original songs are full of win.  If you haven't given him a shot before now, you really should.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Scissor Sisters - Shady Love

Defiant, unexpected, reinvention. All words that are absolutely appropriate when describing the first single off the 4th album by the Scissor Sisters. Shady Love, produced by Boys Noize, seems to be a departure from the norm that has been the Sisters bread and butter but I think it's a progression of the sound. With dueling raps by Jake and guest rapper Krystal Pepsy (ne Azealia Banks), this track is an all out party from the get go. There are so many influences from electroclash to latin inspired lyrical content and style and it all seemlessly mashes up into a fusion that is totally Scissor Sisters. The track was released today on Radio One with no real defined American release date...thank the gods for a global music community thanks to the internet.  Take a listen and keep an open mind.  On my 3rd listen through I totally got where I needed to be with the song and I can't wait for the new album!

Video is here!