Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter League - Une Fois

The music industry has become very "open sourced" in the past 10 years as software and engineering equipment is more accessible to the general public and that has unleashed a deluge of artists on the world; some of them not so good and some of them mediocre but every now and then you'll find one that's a shining example of what music can be with the right direction and guidance and Winter League is one of the latter.

The song doesn't have the traditional setup with a discernible chorus that is repeated through the song so there's much more of a purpose behind their instrumentation and lyrics.  They have a place where they are going with the song and it's determined early on that they are going to bring you along with  them.  Building a non-traditional style song is a risky proposition because when you have a verse, chorus, verse type of set up, the audience has a basic outline of what to expect out of the song and you can potentially deny them the opportunity to get caught on the hook and all that but it doesn't seem to be a problem with this track.

Alex's vocals just grab you and you don't need any tricks or magic to make it to the end of the song.  There's nothing derivative or forced here.  It's solid indie rock that has a heart and body to it and it's all grounded around Alex.  As the leader of the band, it's his charisma vocal delivery that cements it all together.  It would be exceptionally easy for a less talented singer to let these tracks overwhelm him and overtake the vocal all together but Alex easily shows a maturity in his leadership by holding his own and letting his passion for what he's singing come through.

The production value on this song and others on their Reverbnation page just blow me away because the songs do not sound like anything from a local indie band.  The songs are polished and sound ready for mainstream release.  I am beyond blown away by the overall quality of this group and I hope they don't stay a small hometown band for long because that would do them an utter disservice.  They deserve to be heard by the world and they absolutely need to be snagged by a major label soon.  I could easily see them touring with groups like Fair to Midland or Tame Impala or Grizzly Bear.  There's enough art house/progressive to their sound that they could mix in with that crowd or they could get down with the indie dudes without question.

I certainly keep track of this group and bring more to you as I get it.  They have the potential for doing amazing things in the very near future.

Winter League on the Web


Slow Knights - Without You

To appropriate a quote from the Batman franchise, "Slow Knights isn't the pop group the world wants, it's the pop group the world needs."  The members of this group just get it. Rod Thomas, Bridget Barkan, Mykal Kilgore and Xavier all come together on this track and it's so good.  When all the pieces of a song come together and the lyrics work and the vocalists are singing the hell out of it and the production is on point, you create magic.  Del Marquis does that every time he sits behind the board with this super group of amazingly talented artists.

This track is a full on, dreamy duet that has such innate longing and desire between Rod and Bridget on lead vocals.  Both of them are tapping into a serious place of experience and feeling that you just feel every word they say and know it to be true.  The song echoes those feelings we've all had of being without someone and how it effects every aspect of what we do and who we are.  It builds into a controlled fever pitch of emotion between them both that leaves you just spent.  If this is an example of the work they are going to be releasing in March, then please....bring it on.

Stormby - I Can't Stop (Loving You)

Restraint.  That's the first thing that comes to mind when listening to this track.  The restraint and patience that Stormby had creating this track is Herculean.  The slow, deliberate pace of the song pulses and throbs until the end never feeling like he wanted to get ahead of himself or the track.  You never feel rushed or like you're being forced to finish.  You just take your time and savor and luxuriate in every second of the song.  Much like how you feel when you're in love.  When you're wrapped up in it with everything you have, you never want it to end.

You're immediately my friend when you throw a sax into any track and his use of that glorious horn in this song elevates it to new heights because of how it punctuates the beats and rhythm.  The song has a very 90s club feel to it and I think that era of music produced some stellar tracks so if he was paying homage to those producers and divas of the time, he hit it right on the mark.  This is a track that would slow the dance floor down into a sweaty, sexy mass of bodies just living for the moment.

Stormby is a favorite of ours around here and a good friend so it's incredible to hear great tracks from him as often as possible.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

James Leon - I Love The Music (The First Night)

I think the thing I love about James is that everything he does, he does it with such unabashed joy that it's tangible over the airwaves.  When he sings about going out and having a good time, you know it's going to happen.  He throws every bit of himself into the recording and you are left with this product that just resonates so deeply with what he's giving you.  With this track, you so easily connect with what he's singing about because we've all been there.  We've all looked at our lives after a long, grueling week and realized that if something doesn't change, there's a chance we may break.

So we throw on our best gear and take off to drink and dance our cares away.  We've called everyone and let them know that they damn sure better be at  the club or they are dead to you and you just let it all wash away.  He's growing as an artist and you can hear it in not only his vocals but the orchestration and the audio treatment.  It's big and bawdy and it's a song that's going to get you off your ass and out the door.  If James keeps this pace up, there won't be a disco in the world that doesn't know his name.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Meet KIT

Talk about sleeping on an artist.  I've had a bit of a rocky time with my blog lately and there was a period of time I was away from my music and my music social media.  I had to spend time working on me and determining where I stand and where I need to stand in the industry and I've come back to writing and tonight I logged into SoundCloud and much to my surprise I found that at some point in time, I started following Kit Walters and I'll be damned if I'm not extremely happy that I did.  I started listening to the tracks on SoundCloud and then moved to YouTube to watch the videos and have even purchased the EP from Amazon.  What amazes me, in the most "I can't believe they aren't megastars" way possible, is that they only have less than 2000 likes on Facebook.  This group should be huge.  I mean, OneRepublic, Maroon 5, Shiny Toy Guns huge.  They should be burning up mainstream pop radio.  Their tracks should be being played on The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf and every other CW style show.

The combination of pop, rock, EDM, and a smattering of dubstep heralded by Kit Walters' vocals make for a dynamic combination that is nothing but stellar.  Kit has this edge to his voice that elevates the tracks to something hovering between rock and pop and it's that rawness that will make you continue to the next track.  And then the next after that.  What really stood out to me was the cover they released on their Soundcloud of "I'm on Fire" by Bruce Springsteen (which is by far one of my favorite songs ever) and the treatment they've given it takes it and cranks up the heartache by about a million percent.  They've created something that encapsulates so much longing and regret that physically hurts.  I've felt this in the pit of my stomach before.  This feeling so strong that you just don't know how to deal with it.  I can't speak highly enough about this cover.  It's what hooked me and will probably be the "gateway drug" I use to hook other people.

But moving beyond the cover, you start unraveling the layers that are KIT.  The next track I listened to was "Your Ghost", another track plagued with heartache and longing.   The track reminded me of an Australian band, Appeasing Lindsey and I am enamored with them so I was primed and ready to go when the song started.  What I wasn't expecting was the hardness to the vocal on the chorus but that's what sealed the deal.  It's what makes this more than a mere pop song.  It's the elevating point that makes it more than the sum of it's parts.

They are a relatively new band, formed in 2012 but they already have a sound that's mature and fully thought out.  It's not an easy task for a new group to find their footing so quickly.  And it gives the illusion that they've been doing this for a long time.  That's important because it gives them room to grow into the industry without spending time trying to find out who their listener is.  I think right now, their listener is someone that has some life experiences under their belt and knows that life isn't all sunshine and rainbows but isn't willing to give up yet.

Go out and spend the $5 on the EP and support them on all the social media you can.

KIT on the Web

Monday, December 1, 2014

Kendall Kelly - Manifest Destiny

This album left me speechless for quite some time after listening to it.  So much so that it's taken me this long to sit down and write about it.  Without a doubt, with every ounce of clarity I can muster; this album is hands down the most personal that Kendall has released.  This album is full of honesty and heartfelt, earnest emotion that it would simply be impossible to not be touched by it.  Not only that, to date, this is the best work that Kendall has released.  From his inflection and the choices he has made in the vocal delivery of the lyrics to the subject matter that he tackles on this album the songs have an incredible depth of character to them.  The production is full and rich and sounds easily like it was crafted in a massive studio with the top of line producers and equipment.  The instrumentation is gorgeous.  Every note, every beat, every synth is amazingly placed with precision and care.  The way that it's all stitched up proves that the people working to bring this album to life all believed in the message that Kendall had to express.

There are tracks that are fantastically commercial and there are songs that are soft and independent that need to be be handled with care on this album.  The way the songs are arranged on the album almost have a polarizing quality to them.  It's as if they are a mirror of the dichotomy of the human condition.  The duality of ourselves as we move through our days.  The first half of the album is comprised of very daytime songs while the last half of the album are the songs that reflect our thoughts and emotions that we are faced with in the deep dark of the night.  It's evident that this album tells a story but it's up to how these songs touch our lives and how our life experiences play into the tracks that determine the overall outcome of how we are affected by these tracks.

It's that quality, an artist's ability to touch us and hold a mirror up to our own thoughts and feelings that differentiate art from simple entertainment.  Now, don't get me wrong.  There's a place for entertainment in our lives.  It's an important distraction from the day-to-day that helps us escape for a few minutes and forget ourselves for a minute, but for an artist to be able to touch upon the fabric of our being and express our own feelings is magic.  Not everyone has that ability.  I think it takes an artist to be his most raw self to be able to tap into that primal portion of his psyche and be able to share his most vulnerable self with us.  And when they have lowered their guard and are standing there, emotionally or sometimes physically naked, for the world to see; we are then able to look into our own lives and reciprocate what they are giving us.

Kendall spent the better part of the creation of this album working on himself and discovering how he fit into the world and it's evident that his journey is mapped out with clear precision in vivid technicolor.  You hear the heartbreak and the pain.  You feel the frustration and the incomprehensible hopelessness that we face when not knowing your purpose but what runs through each song in the track in this sliver of hope that culminates in the last track, "Space Age" in an almost forward thinking ideal of what is yet to come. But even as such, there's still damage and a bit of unease to the uncertainty of the future. You feel each and every moment of indecision as he carefully and artfully weaves these moments into lyrical bliss.  It's no secret that I am a huge fan of his work but it's rightfully justified as he has grown as an artist and a performer over the course of his career.

Pick up this or any of his albums and don't just listen to them.  Take the time and hear him.  Hear what he says and let it reflect onto your experiences.  It always astounds me when an artist expresses something that I never knew needed expressing but when it happens there is an epiphany and you know in that exact moment that you aren't alone in the universe.  Kendall shows us that despite the hardships and struggles and late nights full of doubt and indecision that we are far from alone in the world and that if we just reach out there is someone out there experiencing the same thing we are.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Graingerboy - Silent Universe (Track-by-Track)

Simon Grainger, aka Graingerboy, is by far one of my favorite independent artists that you don't know.  He's released an EP titled, "Silent Universe" and it's one of the best indie releases I've heard in a long time.  There's a sense of ease that a lot of music is missing these days.  Even though this album would be considered electronica or EDM, the production of each track is very organic and nothing is overproduced.  It all falls together effortlessly as one beautiful collection.

It's almost like this EP serves as a sampler of what Simon can do.  Each track stands on their own within their own carved out niche in the genre and could easily be released as a mainstream radio play ready single but when you put them all together, they make this incredible product that shows off all the best that Simon has to give.

The EP kicks off with "Cheaper Than a Taxi Home", a banger of a track with a this really cool static bass line that just drives the track forward with this clear purpose and reasoning.  The vocals ride on top of it without ever being over taken or trampled on.  It's a fantastic opener to the album and sets the mood for what's to come.

"Trainsurfing" is a bit dark and melancholic that draws you into the images that he's painting.  His voice is just so subtle and the track is a bit thick like syrup and it just pulls you along like a lazy river.  You never feel rushed or hurried; you'll get to where you need to go on your own time and he's just walking beside you the entire time.

Sticking with a dreamy, easy sound "Summersend", makes you want to put the top down on your classic Mustang and drive on a Sunday afternoon with the breeze blowing in your hair.  The ambiance and touch of ambivalence on this track come together to build into this kind of mournful song that makes you think of the hurried romances that have to end when the summer ends and you have to go back to your life.  There wasn't anything before and there won't be anything after so you're pleased with the experience but you are left with a bit of a sting as things have fallen apart.

My favorite track on the album is "Flying Solo" because of how beautifully he's channeled all the greatness of the New Romantics into three minutes and eight seconds of pure synth pop heaven.  I cannot get enough of this song.  The beginning of the second verse:
"We were sitting down / at some bar in town / talking baby talk talk / with your head held against my chest"
makes me swoon so hard.  This simple progression of lyrics, the way he's written them and how he delivers them makes me so hopeful for romance and love but I can hear how guarded they are at the same time.  You have an idea of how this relationship was the absolute best and worst of it all at once.

"Be Forever" continues with this idea of taking the synth of  the past and making it into something new.  It's still got this fantastic retro feel but it's also very forward thinking so that it takes on this whole new idea of thoughts and feelings being presented in a very fresh way.  It's not a pushy track and makes no demands on you that you aren't willing to oblige.  You just dance along with it in your seat.

And the last track, "Vintage" closes the EP out in the best possible ways.  It's a stand up track that fully melds this idea of Retro New Wave in a way that you are very familiar with the building blocks and how it's built but there are still surprises to be had.  It makes me think of what David Gahan would sound like if he was happier every now and then.  It fits beautifully somewhere between Erasure and Depeche Mode but it's new and inventive.

Simon Grainger has a way of crafting music that challenges your ideas of what is synth pop and how retro is new again and never once does it come across as trite or tired.  It's exciting and fresh and could easily be played on the radio now.  Give him some social media love or buy this EP because it's that good.

Graingerboy on the Web

Twitter: @graingerboy
Amazon: Graingerboy's Store

Monday, August 18, 2014

Go Wolf - Talk to You

Belfast Indie pop group, Go Wolf have released possibly one the most infectious songs I've heard in a while.  It's a super easy, laid back track that just makes you feel good.  I feel like these guys are going to be huge soon.  They are opening up for The Killers and I think that's only the beginning.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eli Lieb - Zeppelin

Eli Lieb has this amazing grounded, earthy quality to his voice and performance that makes him stands apart from the other young make vocalists out there.  He's got a bit of a harder edge to his voice that makes him a little more rock and a little less pop and that's great because I think it's important to do what it takes to make you noticeable.  He makes the music you want someone to dedicate to you on the late night call in show on your local radio show.  He makes the music that will be the soundtrack to your relationship with it even meaning to.  His music is the music that makes you want to be loved and in love.

"Zeppelin" is an absolute summer song that makes you just want to throw the top back and take off on a gorgeous summer night with that person beside you.  It's idealistic and it's hopeful and it's just an easy song to get swept up in.  By the time it's over, you're hitting the replay button to listen to it over and over.  The chorus is infectious and it's just an incredibly written, incredibly sung and fantastically put together song.

Eli makes music for the masses while being exceptionally true to himself and his artistic vision.  Never once do you feel like he has an agenda or he's shoving anything in your face.  His videos are just matter of fact about his sexuality and they don't scream a need for activism.  It's this type of quiet idealism that is going to be turning point in this chapter of the civil rights movement.  Because the images are so innocuous and there aren't over the top visuals, it's very easy to accept the story of the video and move on. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Matt Fishel - Radio-Friendly Pop Song

It was probably around 2003 that I learned the importance of gender appropriate terminology in music.  Until then, every love song or breakup song or relationship song I ever listened to on mainstream radio had to have their pronouns switched in my head to make the song work for me.  So when the crooner was expressing his love for his one and only, I would make the switch from "her" to "him".  And I can remember Mark Weigle, the first openly gay musician I can remember listening to singing to him and expressing emotion and love for him and a light was flipped on.  Never had I had that freeing revelation that I did with that first song.  To hear a man singing his heart out to another man made all the difference to me.  It was at that point I learned that pronouns did matter and it was important to have someone singing a song to me so that I was actually about me and the man that I would eventually fall in love with. 

I've talked about this for years.  About how important it is to have the freedom to have artists make music that will touch the heart of someone halfway across the globe.  Now, it's much more prevalent across the board to hear artists singing about their preferred gender.  Granted, you still aren't hearing them on mainstream terrestrial radio, but honestly who really listens to that anymore?  With the internet and streaming services, radio has all but gone by the wayside.  On top of that, record companies are really relics of the past with people being able to publish to iTunes, Amazon or even Bandcamp and SoundCloud.  So you're an unsigned artist, publish your music on your own.  And I think that's giving a voice to a whole new generation of artists.

I don't really know much about Matt Fishel, yet.  I know that he has lifted my spirits higher today than they have been in a long time.  This song is so incredibly infectious and it makes me want to just jump up and dance like an idiot because I feel amazing listening to it.  It's fun and it's funny and it's poignant.  It's political without being pushy and it's affirming and it makes me feel validated.  And I hope that young people around the world just rock out to it and have an amazing time doing it.  This song has the potential to make a huge impact on the world, not just the music industry but people all over.  I cannot stress how much this song just makes me smile.  I am glad that it exists and I hope it does amazing things for Matt.

Nick D' & The Believers - Bang Bang

Columbus Indie rockers, Nick D' & the Believers have quickly become one of the bands I am most likely to stalk for the rest of the year in order to see them in concert because they are just incredible.  They call themselves Garage Soul and I get that genre and I would say they were very close to other indie groups like Walk The Moon, Young The Giant or The Black Keys.  This song is just full on fun.  The falsetto in Nick's voice is a perfect compliment to the crunchy bass line and indie sensibilities.  There's a spot where the harmonies come together around 2:56 that solidified my love for this group.  When the harmony is that solid for even 2 seconds, it's an even win for everyone.  Not to mention they continue to harmonize through the rest of the track.

I've got Paul Reynolds of myfizzypop for the heads up on this group and it always cracks me up when a UK blogger introduces me to a band that's based in the US.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Matt Zarley - Fucking Perfect (with Jeb Havens)

I'm really proud of this cover.  I'm proud of both of these men singing the hell out of this song.  I am proud to know that they took this seriously and just made a damn fine recording while putting their all into it.  This song is important and to have 2 out gay artists doing one of the finest recordings to date means a tremendous amount and will make a huge difference to the young men and women that find themselves on the other end of the track.  P!nk's version will always and forever be the go-to version of this song and it's one of my favorite songs hands down but the impact this cover will have to it's not only a niche market of young gays and lesbians but to anyone that comes across it on the internet will hands down be staggering.

Matt and Jeb's vocals flow seamlessly together and they gorgeously compliment each other.  The earthiness to Jeb's voice is totally grounded in Matt's soulful tenor and they play to each other's strengths - never over powering each other and totally giving each other the space they need to stretch their legs as it were.  But then they come back and harmonize beautifully with each other like it's totally old hat.  They both bring enough attitude and atmosphere to the track that enables the song to not come off as just a patronizing rant but more like the advice of an old friend when you need it the most. 

These guys are fantastic and they make me adore them a little more each time they step out of the gate.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Shadowboxers - Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

There's really nothing I can say about this that the guys can't say for themselves.  When the harmonies are this strong, it's only a matter of time before they blow up and win all the awards.  I cannot get over how amazing they sound, especially when they aren't mic'd.  This is nothing but pure genius.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Josiah Carr - Love is Love

Sometimes you have to step away from all the production and synth and just cleanse your palate.  Piano driven pop music is one of the methods I use to reset all of me when I just get overwhelmed by all the technology driven music that I listen to day in and day out.  I've recently become acquainted with a new artist that sounds amazing and does a fantastic job of stripping away all the noise and pollution in my head.  Nashville based Josiah Carr is a new artist that is currently making his rounds in the clubs and smaller venues paying his dues to the music gods.  And he's doing a helluva job.

I saw him at Louisville Pride perform to a decent sized crowd and easily hold their attention through his set.  What he didn't see was how the venue was set up and the acoustics carried was that not only did his music touch those that were in front of the stage, but it also carried all across the park so that everyone that was attending the event heard him.  He performed mostly cover songs and that's totally understandable.  The audience was vibing off his set so he went with what they wanted to hear.  This shows that he's learned to read off the crowd and keep the energy level where he needs it to be.  There are artists that have been in the industry for years that haven't learned this and they just barrel through a set and the audience never even bothers to care.  I've been to shows like that and it's a miserable experience for everyone.

I want you to take a listen to the original track I've attached, Love is Love and let me know what you think of Josiah.  I think he's got a bit of John Mayer mixed with a little Jason Mraz but I've also heard more of his music than you have.  I think with the right production and the right guidance, there's nothing this young man can't do.  I'll keep you informed of what's going on in Mr. Carr's music life and when that CD drops, you can bet I'll be all about it.

Ponychase - Parade of Youth

I cannot properly express how much this album has already impacted my life. I had the distinct pleasure to see them preform live at Nashville Pride on June 14, 2014 and this album has not left heavy rotation in my library sense.  As soon as Jordan sings the first note in Parade of Youth, I was immediately hooked.  Her voice is so dreamy and just takes me right back to the New Romantic era.  I could easily see her hanging out with Dale Bozzio and Aimee Mann just becoming best of friends.

I don't see how anyone couldn't fall in love with the ease of this album.  There's nothing forced.  It's all put together in a manner that belies the band's age.  You would think that something that has this production this tight would come from a band much more mature than Ponychase but I think that is going to be a huge plus in their favor because it doesn't sound like a fledgling artist trying to find their feet.  They have a voice and they have a clear idea of who they are as a band so it's only getting that message out to the public from this point forward.  That's light years ahead of so many young bands out there and it's incredible.

I don't hear any missteps in the album; from the lyric choice to how the songs are structured to even the track order.  When Running with the Pack comes up in the line up, you're ready for that part of the journey.  You're ready to dance a bit and have a good time.  It's easily one of my favorite tracks on the album but the stand out is when you get to Resurrected. I mean, come on; are you kidding me.  This song should be played at every prom across the country.  It should be mandatory, without question.  Without fail.  This is the quintessential slow dance song and it just fills me with an insane sense of happiness.  I just can't properly express how amazing this song is.  The rest of the album isn't full of filler either.  The songs are solid.  Each one building on the next.

When you sit back and close your eyes, this album just builds a soundtrack in your mind.  Whether it's to a movie you've seen before or it's to your own life, there are so many moments that are relatable.  The album has this uncanny method of promoting peace as well.  Everything just slows down and becomes easier to handle.  There's a physical reaction as well that causes your body to just let go of it.  Whatever it is.  It just leaves and is replaced with moments of clarity.  There aren't too many albums that have that ability.

I want this group to be megastars because the world needs them right now.  There's too much manufactured music proliferating the industry and when something is as honest as this is, it deserves to be heard.  It deserves to be supported and it deserves attention.  Go buy their album.  Buy their EP.  Go see them at a show.  Share the sampler with all your friends. 

Ponychase on the Web

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Meet Classy Mongrel

Generally when I think of music that describes itself as chill or ambient or chillwave, I always expect that I need to have some form of pharmacological assistance to get me into the headspace that I should be in to fully appreciate the art put out by the artist.  That's not to be said for Kentucky performance artist, Classy Mongrel.  His music has teeth.  It's got flavor.  It's not simply beats and loops over and over at 89 bpm to lull you to sleep.  It's a fully realized musical endeavor with a beginning, a middle and an end.  If I were to compare him to anyone it would be artists like Grimes and Penguin Prison or City Rain.  He's been to the same places that Hercules and the Love Affair have been and he's not simply some guy sitting in his room learning a craft.  His music is fluid and it's full and gives you something to work with.

All that being said, it's not something that you can't groove to.  You can absolutely start at square one and let him take you to where you need to go.  Just close your eyes and the beats and synths will easily wrap you up in the deliciousness his music provides.  When you come across a track with vocals, they aren't used as a stand apart feature that you are supposed to give all your attention; they are another instrument in the lineup.  The vocals enhance the overall track and don't take away from your enjoyment.  You don't have to stop grooving to hear what's being said, you simply integrate it into your experience.  Another artist he brings to mind is British Dream Pop group, Fuse.  I love the Dream Pop genre as much as I dig Shoegaze and I would more faithfully put Classy Mongrel in that category quicker than I would just call him an ambient artist.

Something he does in a lot of tracks is there maybe a four or an eight count where things are just a bit off.  Just a bit broken.  To my ears, that's almost an homage to life itself.  Things aren't always perfect and you hit a rough patch and then you process it and move on.  It's a testament to the resilience of human nature at it's core.  It's not being bogged down by the small stuff.  It's the glitch in the Matrix. It's the deja vu.  It's acknowledging that things can get back on track if you let them.  He's able to incorporate these little moments of unrest into his tracks and they don't take away from the overall product.  In some instances, they may be a little unnerving but that's part of learning and growing as a human. 

The production on the tracks is solid.  There's a ton of depth and range to his music.  His synths are tight and are all pulled together into a cohesive product.  I don't hear any "store bought" samples or loops (or if I do, he's done a good enough job at disguising them that they don't come across that way).  It's well thought out and as professional as any other artist making this music today.

Classy Mongrel on the Web
Twitter: @classymongrel

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Christian Lee Hutson - No Apologies, Please

I've been trying to write about Christian Lee Hutson since I met him at the Communion tour but I've never been able to just sit down and write what I feel would do him justice.  He was the first act to go on that night and that's a precarious position to be in but he took the stage and made it his own for that set.  We talked for a couple minutes after he played and I got to learn a little more about him.  I found out that he travels the country most of the year gigging his heart out and trying to just make that connection with fans that get what he's trying to express.  His message is that of someone much older than him but his experience is far from lacking.  He's paying his dues and putting in his time and that's making him into a true artist, unlike the manufactured pop artists or reality show contestants that have fame shoved into their lap.

What I don't know about classic country music could fill a library so there's no way in the world I can say he sounds like this person or he's channeling this person.  What I know is that his music is honest.  It's raw and at the heart of it, it's got teeth.  Country and Western music was created to tell the stories of the people affected by the day to day life in rural America.  It's built on stories and experiences that at one point in time or another in our lives, we have had the opportunity to experience.  It's edgy and it's angry and it's heartbroken and it's human.  Classic country music that hasn't been influenced by the more suburban influences of today is about as hardcore and punk rock as those genres.  There's killing and there's loss and there's all form of emotion and anti-establishment messages.  Christian pulls a lot of those same ideas into his music as well and he's created a platform in today's pop/rock country world where that storied history and those traditions of picking yourself up off the ground and knocking the dirt off your jeans and moving on is as rich today as it ever was.

Let's talk about this song and video now.  First and foremost, you cannot deny his charisma and his stage presence on video.  The man knows how to sell his performance and when you're dealing with the dichotomies of the two characters he's playing in the video, the range of emotion is staggering.  There are times when he flashes a look at the camera or something slides across his face and you just have to stop for a minute because you can see there's actually something happening there.  It's not forced, it's not acting.  It's a connection to his music and his message that allows him to just give you all he has to give.  There are expressions he gives through out the video that tear right into the heart of you and leave you going.....damn.

The song itself is full of hurt and resentment but it holds no one at fault.  It's fells like a melodic exercise in Shit Happens or "Well, we tried that.  It didn't work.  Let's acknowledge and move on."  So many of our relationships happen this way.  We start out thinking that everything is going to be one way and we hope that this is going to be exactly what we want but as we get into the thick of it we realize that it's nothing like we wanted.  There's no one to be blamed in the long run when the layers are peeled back and we just realize we aren't compatible so we part ways and move on. 

I can't express how much this song has affected me and the video for that matter.  I don't see the two characters in the video as a man and a woman but more as the person you are and the person you outwardly project to people when you're up to your neck in a relationship that's only dragging you down.  You're polished and put together for everyone to see.  You're charming and you smile easily but when you're alone, your makeup is a mess and you can't seem to pull yourself together.  You're as fragile as glass and can break if someone looks at you hard or you've cobbled together enough gumption to smile and move on.

I own his full length album and I've listened to it many times but when the composition and the structure of the music carries as much weight as his does, you simply don't sit down and write a fluff piece about track four.  You have to dig in and experience it.  I plan to cover him more in the future, and want him to become an amazingly successful artist because I think the emotional territory he's willing to tread is about as deep as you can go and it's done with just him and a guitar.

Christian on the Web
Twitter: @chrisleehutson

Eric Himan - Everything To You

Eric Himan has one of the most engaging personas I've ever had the opportunity to get to see grow and mature.  This is probably one of my favorite songs he's recorded and I think it's a sentiment that we all want in our lives.  I love the song structure and the way the chorus kind of has this deconstructed feel that's very rhythmic against the verses.  We want to find that person that will be able to be the protector and the comedian and the lover and the fighter.  We want to know that no matter what, there will be someone there that's willing to have your back and go the extra mile for you.  Someone that's going to scramble you eggs and help paint the house when you need it.

Eric's voice is sublime.  It's one of the most distinctive voices in my daily shuffle of music and it makes me smile because more than anything you can hear the heart and soul that he's put into these labors of love.  The song is an easy song to get into and it sticks with you for quite some time.  It's got a gentleness to it that makes you want to just bob along with the track.  The video has that exact same feeling to it and you can see that he had a great time filming it as there are parts when you know he's not taking himself seriously at all.  We all tend to do that too.  We take ourselves far too seriously and forget to laugh at the small things.  I think "Construction Worker" Eric is my favorite in the video because he does take the time to laugh at himself and that makes me smile.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Adore Delano - I Adore You

Adore Delano should come correct with a proper pop song. Not a gimmick or a song that is off the coattails of the television show she was on. She should be able to do this because she's a tried and true singer. A performer and an entertainer. And she absolutely delivers on the first single off her album.  The video is stunning.  Her vocals are stunning.  The rap-ish chorus is brilliant.  I am so glad that I pressed play because this song is fantastic and if this is what's to come from her recording career, girl.... you don't need that crown because this shit is good and with the proper promotion, you could be gracing awards show stages all across the globe.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Miss Coco Peru - Show Me Your Pride

With the start of Pride season upon us, a slew of new anthems are going to vie for position for the newest to take the crown.  And all I can say is that all those other upstart bitches need not apply because the title has been securely snatched (yes I said that) by Miss Coco Peru.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen; only on the second day of June and she's already got it.  I generally don't post much when it comes to songs like this but I couldn't pass this one up. But I do love to cover people that I've looked up to for a while.  I don't think there are many queens in the industry that can hold her gaff let alone a candle to the start power that is Miss Coco Peru.  It's an actual song, it's not a gimmick.  It's not some flash in the pan or something thrown together to get some publicity for an up and coming queen. 

What Coco has is a standpoint backed with a storied career.  She's worked in the business for some time now (it's never polite to reveal a girls age) and has seen her share of people move to the big city and struggle with where they fit in.  This song isn't about forcing anyone out of the closet, it's about helping them realize that once they're out of the closet, there's a whole world of people waiting to greet them with open arms and help them to realize that they aren't fundamentally wrong and they aren't broken.  They've just been trying to fit their puzzle piece into the wrong puzzle for too long.

So go grab you a cup of Tension Tamer and sit back and let the history and the reverence of one of the industry's finest performers wash over you.  And don't forget to show her yours.....

Friday, May 30, 2014

Magic Man - Out of Mind

Not going to do a whole lot of talking about this other than to say that Magic Man is simply one of the best Indie Pop bands around. They are constantly evolving and adding new influences to their sound to show how incredibly mature they're overall understanding of their music and their art is.  This is the lead single off their new album, "Before The Waves", that will be out in July.  It's an amazingly summery song with a strong bass line and superb synths that just make it soar.  Being around artists like Walk the Moon and Young The Giant has certainly rubbed off on their music and it's for the better. 

Philip Bonneau - Once Upon a Time

Starting this portion of the audio mix for his mixed media project, Brave New Secrets; with Lana Del Ray's lovelorn version of "Once Upon a Dream" sets the tone for this piece. It's haunting and it's a bit broken up but it's still a very hopeful song about that chance meeting so there's a sliver of a silver ling shining through. We then progress into "One Step Too Far" by Faithless with the gorgeous Dido on vocal duty.  This song almost seems like Philip is leading us down a path through a forest of his imagining.  We are looking for that person that is going to come along and sweep us off our feet but we are getting to the point that waiting for them is becoming problematic and almost not worth the effort.  Missed Connections.

Coldplay always brings the emotion and the drama.  Continuing the waiting, the longing.  The pang of loneliness and sadness coloring the edges of the mental images.  A short interlude brings us back to the empty path in the forest where the trees loom too heavily and the air is too thick and we find ourselves all alone.  And even though we are alone and our breath is too shallow, there's still a resolve that can't be quashed.  If we look into ourselves and steel our reserve of self worth and courage, we can make it to the other side of this.  And when we do, the forest opens up to a glade where all manner of Fae and creatures are dancing and frolicking in the moonlight.  With a soundtrack provided by Bastille.

Philip is building an allegory about the human condition through visuals and auditory stimulation that is simply brilliant.  The feelings that he's able to invoke through his musical selection are incredible.  He paints these images with a brush that's so colorful and infectious that it's impossible not to see what he's building.  Stick with him on this journey of self reflection and you may just learn something about your own experience.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Kendall - It Ain't The Rain

There's never been any type of secret about my love affair with Kendall Kelly's music.  Doesn't matter if it's performance art or hip hop to pop or dance, if this man creates it; we are guaranteed that it's going to come from a place of importance to him.  I don't think he's ever done anything superfluous or just because he could do it.  I strongly feel that everything he's done in his career has been calculated perfectly to not only affect healing within himself but to his friends, fans and family. 

And as much as I love esoteric Kendall, this minimalist, Spartan Kendall is my favorite iteration of his persona.  When it's just him and a bare backing track, you really get to see him for who he is and what it is that he's been going through.  You are then able to take that in hold it up against your life and find reflected in his performance some truth about your own existence.  We've all been at a point in our lives when we realize that for better or worse, there are times when we just have to give into the plans the universe has for us.  Doesn't matter what we were thinking about at the time, when it comes down on us; and it will, in buckets or droves... we have to submit to it and let it wash over us.

How far do we let ourselves go, though? If we submit wholly to it are we ever going to get ourselves back or have we gone too far? Is it enough to lose our sense of self to let this change happen? Are we conscious enough of our decisions to be able to be able to find our way back if we have to?  Kendall has this magic about him that causes these questions to be asked and it's then our responsibility and our right to do enough self reflection to answer them.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cars and Calories - To The Extreme

At first I was hesitant about this track because the title made me relive the 90s and Vanilla Ice but I got over that once I heard Jim Bergsted start to sing.  The falsetto he commands is incredible.  He's been compared to Owl City and it's easy to see that.  So if you're a fan of Owl City or The Postal Service, you are going to have an exceptionally easy time sliding into this track and this group.  These two gentlemen from Oslo have a sound that's more pop/rock than EDM so I think that's going to give them an edge over some other artists that are coming out of this area but that being said, Scandinavia is one of my favorite places for music because for whatever reason, more consistently good artists are created there than anywhere else in the world.  I don't know if it's the water or the climate but something is helping mold these incredible pop stars. I want to be there when they blow up because they're going to do big things.

This song is just so catchy and easy to get into.  There isn't too much production and it doesn't sound overworked.  Between the lyricists and the production team, they have created a track that focuses on the best qualities of everyone.  There's no way in the world you're going to get the chorus out of your head with anything but a crowbar or a song from the Frozen soundtrack.  The way the instrumentation swells during the chorus and the hook just pulls you right along with it.  It's got all the elements to just own not only dance charts but pop charts as well. It's fun song that will have you listening on repeat for quite a while.

This was my introduction to Cars & Calories and after going back and listening to the other tracks, they have a consistent quality to their music that assures me that they aren't simply a flash in the pan.  Their particular brand of pop music just builds into this huge ball of energy that can't be denied.  Because they're so high energy, it wouldn't be unheard for them to play huge stadiums or smaller club style venues with everyone in the audience just partying their butts off.  I think the consistency between their three tracks bodes well for a fantastic debut album.  I want to say that they've tapped into two of my favorite things, Cars and Calories.  But I now have to just add them to my list of favorite things too.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pentatonix - Love Again

This song. This song. This song. I just.... Firstly, their makeup is SICKENING!  Mitch looks so good and Ari is killing me.  I've been a fan since they were on The Sing Off and they are growing every time they release a new track.  I actually forgot on several occasions through this song that they were an acapella group and the only instrumentation is done with their voices.  I just cannot express how much I am in love with this song.  Ari and Kevin have one of the heaviest low ends in music today.  I actually had to turn the volume down because I was getting distortion from how deep the bass was hitting.  And don't get me started on their range as a group.  Scott, Kristie and Mitch don't slack on their end of the arrangement at all.  For this being an original track, I say stop with the covers and give me more of this.  With songs that are this good, they could easily dominate the charts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Shadowboxers - Not A Bad Thing (Justin Timberlake Cover)

This is a cover of Justin Timberlake's "Not A Bad Thing" from "The 20/20 Experience".  To be honest, this was my first experience with the track and I can honestly say, unless JT's version is mind blowing, I don't want it.  I had the opportunity to see The Shadowboxers as part of the Communion Tour with Johnny Stimson.  These Atlanta boys know how to build an amazing song, cover or not.  Their harmonies are inspired and their musicality is bar none.  They know exactly how to work with each other so that they aren't competing for lead at any point in time and they know what it means to be part of a team.  It's honestly incredibly refreshing to hear the cooperation in their vocals.  It makes for such a full song.

I'm going to be covering them a lot more because they are simply stellar.  For now, run out and grab their debut album, subscribe to their youtube channel and support them.  The more support they get, the more amazing recordings they'll bless us with and the world needs more of their art.

The Shadowboxers on the Web
Twitter: @theshadowboxers

Kiesza - Hideaway

Nothing makes me happier than 80s Nostalgia.  I love the Freestyle movement and I love how this taps into everything I need it to be.  She is giving me Cathy Dennis and D-Mob.  She's giving me the Running Man and the Bus Stop and she's done it all in one take.  A Calgary native, Kiesza started out as a folk artist before realizing that she had a penchant for house music.  Recorded one hour before getting on a flight, "Hideaway" shows her flexing her considerable vocal muscles in one of the most inspired throwbacks I've seen in a long time.  It's a super fun song and it makes me happy to listen to it.  Will be back with more Kiesza info as I get it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Foxy Shazam - Tragic Thrill

People are so fickle.  If something doesn't match the predefined ideals they have laid out in front of them, it has to not be good.  "Gonzo", Foxy Shazam's latest album is nothing like their previous outings and I, for one, am grateful.  This album shows so much growth and maturity.  It's stripped down, it was recorded in one take, from start to finish and it shows that Eric Nally and crew have the ability to reign in the chaos that makes their stadium rock so big.

So it doesn't surprise me that the video for the first single, "Tragic Thrill" also shows that same restraint and forethought the album does.  It's simple, it's not flashy, it's just easy.  Whatever it was that was pushing the guys through the creation of this album resonates with me because life isn't always loud and rawkus.  It's got sharp edges and is pointy sometimes and causes hurts and times of healing.  If you're a fan of the message Foxy has been giving all along, you can set aside all the petty bullshit the internet gives you and appreciate this album for the lighter side it gives us.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Kevin Zack - Wanna Go

Leave it to a Swede to make amazing pop music.  I don't know what it is that enables them to make music this good but it's mind blowing.  Kevin Zack is my newest Swedish obsession because his music just leaves you feeling good.  With his piercing blue eyes and boyish good looks, this young man has amazing potential to easily become a matinee idol.  When he's in front of a camera, he gives it all he has and you'd never know he was new to the music scene.

If you listen to his cover of "Be Still" or "God Bless the Broken Road", you can certainly hear he has the ability to deliver the emotional caliber these songs call for but then when you jump into his latest single, "Wanna Go", you are able to hear that side of his voice but the overall pop potential of the track takes over and makes you dance along with him.  I think he has the power and ability to become a massive star if he continues to work with the right producers and has the right people in his corner.

"Wanna Go" has a little JT swagger to it and it's got a bit of a hard edge to his vocals that make the song just a little dangerous.  It's got a lot more depth to it than a lot of pop songs and when the chorus hits, the song just explodes.  It's the dichotomy of the slow jam style of the verses against the uptempo chorus that gives this song it's bite.  It's a beautiful mix of hard and soft that keeps you easily interested through the whole track and the thought of hearing this on the radio or in a club is massive.

Kevin Zack on the Web
Twitter: @KevinZackAustin

Lovestarrs - Get Your Sexy On

In one of the most catchy, uplifting songs I've heard in a while; the newly branded Lovestarrs (formerly The Good Natured) do an amazing job of creating an atmosphere of fun and sexiness without pandering to the listeners.  Sarah's voice is deliciously amazing and the production provided by Hamish and George provide her the perfect vehicle to help all the couples in the video find love.  It's just a fun track that will stick with you for quite some time.  For some reason, this is the second time the video has been uploaded to Youtube and I'm ok with that.  I know the original video had over 50,000 views and now we just have to help this one get up there too.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tom Kiesche - I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues

Actor, Performer, and Closet Singer Tom Kiesche first appeared to me as Clovis in season 2 of Breaking Bad (which I am currently binging) and even though his appearance in the show is minor compared to other actors, there was something that drew me to him.  I then checked his IMDB and his Facebook and was pleasantly surprised when I came across this video.  His version of Elton John's, "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" is simply amazing.  He gives more in the 3:50 of this song than most modern pop artist give in an entire album.

When you watch him sing this stripped down, bare version of the track and you see the expression and emotion on his face it's near impossible to not have an emotional response to what he's giving.  You see on his face that he's pulling from somewhere, there's someone that he's singing to and he means every word that comes out of his mouth.  Every nuance of his performance is purposeful but not forced.  He's not acting, he's just being.  When the edges of his mouth curl into a smile at "laughing like children, living like lovers" you see that means something to him.  You know that there is a connection to a memory and that comes through in his gorgeous masculine voice.  I listened to this track earlier today and it's been with me since and it's more than likely going to be with me for quite a bit longer.

Some people have made a "Brokeback" reference based on the denim shirt that he's singing with/into which is an easy mark to make and if that's what sells the song for you then so be it.  It's the emotional depths and authenticity he's willing to dive into that make this video everything to me.  I got to know more about Tom Kiesche in this video than I will ever get to know many pop stars.  It's an emotional vulnerability that so many people, men especially, are terrified to let out.  The look of longing in his eyes, the way his voice wavers; this is what pop music should sound like.  Don't get me wrong, I love my dancing girls and synth pop but an album of this would sustain me for so much longer.  I guess it's like comparing cotton candy for dinner versus a porterhouse.  They both taste good in their own right but one is going to stay with you for a lot longer and you'll be more satisfied in the end.

All I know is whoever is the focus of this song is a lucky person to have someone be this honest with them and to that person, You have a damn good man.  Don't fuck it up.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hurricane Love - Nowhere To Go

If these people can't evoke a feeling from you with their talent and their passion, then you just may be a robot and you need to be checked out.  They are one of my favorite bands of all time and they are relatively new.  They need to compile all this amazing music they've been putting on youtube into an album so that I can throw all my money at them.  They deserve to be supported because of the sheer talent they possess.  My god, when all their voices come together, it's chilling.  There's just so much they have to offer and they know exactly how to put all the feeling and emotion into their music.  It's just so big and it fills up the entire space and just lifts you up as part of it.

I can not express how amazing they sound and the power they have in their words.  I don't want to sit here and squawk about it, it's distracting you from listening to the song.  Please listen and post some comments.  You know you want to.

Grant Terry - Silent Warrior (Track by Track)

If you think Nashville is just where country music is made, you're sorely mistaken.  With production values that rival any studio in the country, Grant Terry and crew have created one of the most sincere and honest pop albums I have heard in a long time. It's an amazing examination of the human condition and what we all go through at some point in our lives.  When you sit down and listen to what Grant has to say, it's easy to hear that he's been through some stuff in the creation of this album and the end result has got to be an extremely cathartic experience for him and further more, for the listener as well.  It's heartfelt and it's been heartbroken.  But even though there are times when we feel like we're at a loss Grant is able to inject positivity through his words and his intonation and the subtleties his voice carries.

The album opens up with "Rise Up", appropriately the first single to be released off the album, a song about coming into your own and standing up for what you believe in.  Not letting anything stand in your way in your own personal growth and development.  We spend so much time worried about all the small stuff that we get bogged down in our daily lives.  We hold ourselves accountable and to do that we have to stand on our own two feet.

The synth on "The Fire" was totally unexpected and it grabbed me immediately.  The chorus is already amazing and super catchy, but throwing that hardcore synth vibe under Grant's vocals added that It factor that makes this song soar.  It's smart decisions like this that show maturity in choices and production.  And then at the end of the track, there's a part where they strip everything back to just Grant and a guitar.  This small quiet moment was incredibly smart.  It's like a palate cleanser.  It gets you ready for the song to wind up.

The synth carries over on "Go" and I'm hooked again.  His voice is so honest.  It's clean and it's strong.  There's no clean up in post and it doesn't sound trampled on.  The chorus and hook are fantastic.  It's a song that so many people can relate to.  Being stuck not knowing where you stand, getting mixed signals.  The dreaded Friendzone.  We've all been there and you do want that release.  You want to just be let go.

When the title track, "Silent War" comes up in the line up, you're ready for something a little slower; a little stripped down.  It's a bit beaten up and put through the ringer.  It's ready to just sit down and take a breather because of all the emotion that's not been said.  It's heartfelt and it's a bit heartbroken.  It's vulnerable and ready for a resolution.

It seems that Grant has been through it.  It's not necessarily the tracks that are a bit melancholy, it's Grant too.  "Another Home" sums up what it feels like to be on the left behind end of it all.  When things are done and there's no reparation to what we had.  You've made your mind up to leave, so let's just be done with it.  If our home isn't good enough for you then you're free to go.  It's not a pity party song though, it's the realization that what was good is gone and the only way forward is through.

And what a wonderful segue into "Desire", you just have to push through.  Understanding what your fellow man has experienced and offering that bit of knowledge that while everything that's happening sucks right now, it's not always.  You may feel at a loss or you may feel totally overwhelmed with your circumstances, but you have everything you need to accomplish your dreams. You just have to believe in yourself to make it come true.

These songs are written from such a place of hope that even though the subject matter is a bit on the heavy side, they still have that silver lining.  That dream that things are going to get better.

"Step By Step" is a cautionary tale about how we interact with one another and the path of destruction we are capable of leaving in our wake.  But more than that, it's more about self redemption and how we stand up for ourselves and just say no.  We aren't going to let the conditions of our happiness be dictated by someone else.

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others and being the best version of who we can be are at the heart of "Better Man".  It's got an incredible pop sensibility to it that makes it perfect for radio play.  It's an exceptionally hopeful song that is an brilliant follow up to "Step By Step".  It leans on the lessons we've learned and pushes us forward in our growth.

When it feels like we are the only ones fighting the good fight, it's easy to think that "The World's Against Us", and that's the theme of the next track.  This sounds similar to a OneRepublic track (I've compared Grant to Ryan Tedder before and I think that's an amazing thing) so I could totally see this making huge waves on the radio.

"The Pond" isn't necessarily a sad, going away song because of the innate hope built into it.  There's a bit of a silver lining wrapped around this track.  It's saying goodbye for now but not forever.  

When life gets in the way and so much comes between us it's easy for two people to become "Strangers".  We all get caught up in our own lives and end up somewhere other than where we planned.  We look around at where we are and who we've walked away from and it's really hard to get it all back.

As we come to the end of the album, we are treated with an amazing acoustic performance of "Ain't It Like A Woman".  We've been through it.  We've been heartbroken and we've been redeemed and now we're hopeful about the near future but standing in the way is the fantastic frustration of never really knowing where you stand.  If Grant with full production is amazing, then stripped down, Grant with a guitar is even better.  It's solid and it's soulful.  It's a fantastic way to walk away from this album.

This man has a bright and brilliant future ahead of him.  He's got an incredible voice and he's made very intelligent decisions regarding his career up to this point.  His videos are fantastic and he knows who he is and who his demographic is.  If he keeps this up, there's no stopping him.  And I for one and glad that the universe decided to have me hang out at Mafiaoza's and get to meet him in person.  It's funny how it all seems to work that way.

"Silent War" releases on May 6 on major online retailers.  Make sure you get your copy because it's going to be worth it.

Grant Terry on the Web

Twitter: @grantterrymusic 
Band Camp:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Titus Jones - Clarity Kids

This epitomizes how well Titus knows his craft. It's been a minute since we heard new music from him but this shows that he hasn't been away for any time at all. He knows how to disassemble things and how to put them back together.  He has laser like precision in his ability to make the parts  and make them into something so much larger than when they started.  I had not heard the Echosmith track prior to the mash up but it's fantastic.  MGMT and Zedd are two of those artists that are so exposed that this is a refreshing take on tracks that I felt were nearing the end of their shelf life.  Like most of his tracks, it's huge and got a tremendous sound to it that would only sound better in a club with 80,000 watts pushing it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Meet Cattivo

I'm generally hesitant when I find an unknown producer because sometimes the work sounds like an arts and craft project, but when I came across Montreal based producer, Cattivo I put all those doubts aside.  Born in Montreal in the 1980s, Patrizio Rapagnetta is a classically trained pianist that first was bitten by the music bug when he heard a fellow classmate playing piano.  His parents supported his dreams and he started learning more about his craft and his ability to create.  As a teen he stretched his creative muscles and tried heavier sounding music in a heavy metal band and he went the opposite with a pop band trying to find where he fit and all the time, he was soaking in all those influences.  Influences that would later come in handy as he started crafting tracks out of thin air.

Cattivo released his debut album and has a new project coming out May 6.  If you listen to the tracks on his Soundcloud, this man seems fearless.  Whether it's a hip hop track with thunderous beats and one of the coolest flows on top of it or a lush, atmospheric piano driven piece with a presidential monologue capping off the vocals - it seems there's not a genre he's unwilling to tackle. If you're in the mood for some dream pop or some synth, he can hook you up.  If you want something more filling and a bit more moody or hardcore, he can fill the bill with that as well. When you are dealing with an up and coming producer, it can sometimes sound hollow and the sound isn't fleshed out but there are amazing highs and deep, rich bass notes that round out his production so it's not so "made at home".  As he continues to grow and mature with his abilities, I can only see better and better things for this young man.

Where I think he really shines are his piano based tracks.  They are played beautifully and they don't seem to be lacking in the risk department.  I would love to hear how he would fuse that beautiful piano playing with other styles, show an even broader array of influences.  Throw in some international beats, some heavy beats.  Do something next level that is going to catch em all off guard.  I'm gonna keep an eye on this young man and wait until I go, "DAAAAAAM!"

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Indiana - Solo Dancing

Driving beats, sultry vocals, production that lifts this track to the heavens, "Solo Dancing" is the newest single from UK pop star, Indiana.  I've been trying to get some background on her but she's very mysterious.  I know she's from Nottingham and this track has been picked up and played on Radio 1.  That says great things for her, I think. It's got such a cool synth vibe to it that just gets inside you.  The video has some very interesting themes to it that I will leave to your own imagination.  It took me a minute but I was like, ohhhhhhhhh I see now.  I am going to do more research into Indiana, the girl; not the state and report back with my findings.  Until then, spend your own time solo dancing.

Indiana on the Web

Twitter: @Indianathegirl

Thursday, April 17, 2014

FemmePop - Not That Kind

On the frontlines of the New Wave revolution is Irish songstress, Femmepop aka Margaret O'Sullivan.  She is already making a name for herself in the synthpop community and when the songs are as good as this one, there's no doubt this is right where she should be.  If you were to compare her to other vocalists in the genre, she is going to stand out heads above the rest because of the sheer volume of emotion she is able to pour into her music.  So much of the music in this movement sounds soulless and just mass produced.  This song is not one of them.  There is a soulful resonance that takes this song and elevates it to new heights.  Robert Parker built a track that just floats right beside her, never taking over - never overpowering her performance.  It's a beautifully done song and I think it's easily one of my favorites this month, probably this year so far.

After you get through being astounded to how the track sounds, you sit back and pay attention to the lyrics and what she's actually saying.  It's a break up song.  It's honestly one of the most heartfelt break up songs I've heard.  You can tell that there was something to lose but she just couldn't stand there and take it anymore so she made the difficult choice to walk away from the life they'd built together.  You have to do what's right for you even when it's the hardest choice to make.

Femmepop on the Web
Twitter: @femmepop

Janelle Monae - Heroes (David Bowie Cover)

Sheer Perfection. When you take an amazing song and have a brilliant artist cover it, it only stands to reason that it is going to be amazingly perfect.  This was recorded for the Pepsi Beats of the Beautiful Game album so I can only assume that it's a soccer based album since soccer is the beautiful game.  I don't want to talk to much about it.  Just listen to the beautifulness that is this track.

Anastacia - Stupid Little Things

I initially missed the release back at the end of march, but I've made up for it with severe obsessing over this song.  I have been a fan of Anastacia for a while but where she hasn't been as embraced by the industry in America we haven't had nearly as much exposure to her work as artists the labels throw money at.  But she hasn't forgotten about us and has been releasing albums regularly since her debut back in 2000. She has had an amazing career overseas and that's amazing for her but like the Scissor Sisters, sad for her American fanbase because with imports and the internet, we really didn't have nearly enough exposure to her.  Her voice hasn't faltered over her fourteen year career.  She is only getting better with time and the maturity shines through in her overall sound, performance and overall attitude. 

This video is gorgeous, she's gorgeous and the song is so indicative of what makes her amazing.  Her voice is so distinctive that you can't help to be drawn in.  It's powerful and it's got a raw edge that makes it more than a simple pop song.  It's got a rock vibe that gives it depth and range that are grounded in her vocals.  Her performance in the song and video just takes center stage and isn't overwrought by the production or the backing track.  The song is all about getting over all the little things that we allow ourselves to get tripped up on.  We all do it, we end up making mistakes and can't seem to put them behind us to move on.  It's a massive track and I wish it would get the airplay it deserves because the world, America included, needs more Anastacia in our lives.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Matt Zarley - Gravity (Sara Bareilles Cover)

Longing.  The power of desire and need that you feel and experience when the feelings are just too strong.  Being drawn in and to feel so powerless is something that even if for the briefest of moments we've been a victim of.  That sorrowful feeling of knowing that what you want above all else; what makes you whole is the very thing that's poisoning you.  Those relationships that no matter what you do you just can't shake them.  Even when you're away from them, they are in your thoughts and everything you do.  The idea of them sends you into a tailspin of emotion.  This pattern of behavior is how we end up with no where to go and no one in our corner.  But it hurts so damn good.

Matt Zarley was built for this song and it was built for him.  Sara Bareilles created the boiler plate for this song and set the bar exceptionally high and Matt destroys it in his cover. This cover hits every feeling you have.  The raw power of emotion he conveys in this performance is staggering.  I've always known his voice was gorgeous but this... this is just powerful.  When he holds the "down" at the end of the song, you just want to crumble onto the floor because it's that good.  This is what music is supposed to do.  This transcends a simple song.  It's art. It invokes feelings and memories and washes over you and makes you part of something more.  I am honored to have had the opportunity to hear this cover.

Rosie and the Velvet Bullet - Beautiful Everything

Future Noir Soul...  Taking everything that is beautiful about the 50s and adding a pop sensibility mixed in with R&B and EDM production, Rosie & the Velvet Bullet are serving up a fresh style that will turn heads.  "Beautiful Everything" is made exquisitely possible thanks to Bridget Barkan's gorgeous voice.  The track is fantastic and exceptionally well put together but if it wasn't her sultry swagger and soulful style, the two pieces would be discordant and wouldn't work right.  It's not just an homage to artists from the past, it's new and it's fresh.  It's exciting to hear two young people making music that is this innovative.  She has a bit of Rosin Murphy in her voice that makes me flash back to Moloko.  That's a good thing too.

This duo is going to be massive.  I can't wait to see where they go next.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Grant Terry - In My Head

If Ryan Tedder had been influenced by the muddy Mississippi river, he might come out sounding a little like Nashville based singer/songwriter Grant Terry.  Growing up in Northern Louisiana seems to have given Grant a soulful, earnest grounded sound that resonates through his writing and his vocals.  Moving to Nashville in 2010, Grant quickly garnered a modicum of success when his 2012 debut album, "All She Wrote" landed at number 3 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart.  Letting his environment shape his sound, Music City USA has added another layer of honesty and deep rooted thoughtfulness to his voice.

Between his talent and a crack production team, it's crazy to think that he's just now breaking into the scene.  There were some really amazing choices made with this record.  It's got a flawless sensibility that makes it perfect for mainstream radio play but there's a vulnerability to his performance that keeps him accessible to his fans.  It's easy and it doesn't attempt any theatrics that will take away from what is already so good about it.  It's a song that is going to appeal to male and female fans alike; guys will marvel at the fact he's singing about places they've been in their head space and girls are going to appreciate knowing they've made that much of an impression on the guy she likes.  The song is built in such a way that you will be humming or singing it long after you've listened to it.  It would be easy to see him touring with other singer/songwriters or opening up for Jason Mraz, Colbie Calliet or even OneRepublic.

Grant Terry on the Web

Twitter: @grantterrymusic 
Band Camp:

Johnny Stimson Feature

This blog has given me the opportunity to hear a tremendous amount of great music.  I've been able to interact with singers/songwriters, producers, record label execs and everyone in between.  What I still get star struck about is when artists take the time to read what I've written and comment or repost it and to make it even more of an overwhelming experience is when you are at a show and the artist you are there to see takes the time to acknowledge your work and spend time talking to you. I am in awe when you talk to someone that you admire because their art has transformed you and they reciprocate that admiration for the what I've done or said about them.

I had one of these interactions last night at the Nashville edition of Ben Lovett's Communion tour.  I've been a fan of Johnny Stimson for quite some time because his music is expressive of the experiences that we have all felt at one time or another in our lives.  He sings about love and loss and aspects of the human condition we've come in contact with.  His vocal range is uncanny as he hits notes that are incredibly difficult for most male artists, his honesty and heart shine through the tracks like a beacon.  He may be singing about loss but it's done in such manner that as much as it stings and as much pain you have to experience, things will be better.  You just have to push through it and don't give up.  There is a hopeful optimist inside all of us, we just have to have a little help to find him and Johnny has the ability to draw him out.

His music style has matured and shifted over the course of his career as he learns more about himself and who wants to be.  You can hear so many influences in his work from early British Invasion stuff like the Beatles that's very mod.  Very buttoned up and polished to more of his newer material that's very blue eyed soul meets funk with thunderous rhythm and percussion.   It's not a huge leap because you can hear how much soul he has weaved all through each and every track.  It's a lot of the same feeling, just in a funkier, get up and boogie package.

Now, let's talk about his stage show.  The man commands a room.  It's just a 3 piece band but every inch of that stage is filled with every bit of his personality.  It's infectious and it's a party and it's impossible to not dance.  Without a shadow of a doubt, you know that he is doing what he loves and there's no place he'd rather be.  His exuberance is palpable and you can't help to immediately get where he's coming from. You look around and there's not a person standing still.  Everyone is on their feet, dancing and becoming part of something larger than themselves.  Getting caught up in the emotion and forgetting their own lives for a minute.  I've always been of the opinion that a live show is a make it or break it for an artist because the audience is able to hear just how much production has gone into the work.  How much doctoring has been done to the artist's voice and I overwhelming pleased to say (not that I ever questioned it) that the Johnny you hear in the recordings is what you're going to get live and in person.

The man has the talent and the ability to be a megastar.  We're just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.  Another defining trait that he has is his humility and his just general good nature.  I never once felt like I was in the presence of a star that was bothered by me.  We talked, we laughed, we hugged.  The man is the real deal and if you don't believe it...go see him live.  He took and honest to good interest in my life and my opinion.  And I am damn glad that I will be able to say that I knew him when.  In the next couple of years, he is going to be so huge and I can't wait for everyone to fall for him.

Johnny on the Web
Twitter: @johnnystimson