Thursday, May 26, 2016

Meet PJ Hopper.

When I find that I'll be seeing a new artist for the first time, I do my due diligence and see what I can find about them online. Check their social media, look for anything salacious or outrageous. Check their YouTube and listen to their music to get familiar with what I'm about to experience so that I have a general understanding of where they're coming from.  It was business as usual as I set to the web to learn just who and what PJ Hopper was all about. I fell deep into his YouTube channel watching video after video and was swept off my feet by the earnestness he is able to encapsulate in a 3 and a half minute song. It's pretty common knowledge that the art a musician puts out into the world is a reflection of their experiences and their life in general and with what PJ has released you immediately know him. You hear honesty and a life that's been lived in his lyrics, in his vocals and even the way he strums his guitar.  He's got nothing to prove and he's not trying to be someone he's not. He's just PJ and you can take him or not.  He's got this soul that is kind and a smile that happens easily - especially when he's talking about how important his music is and what it means to him to be able to share it with people.

So imagine how much more I was moved when I learned that his live performance was so much more than what I'd seen in recorded performances. Generally, it's the other way around. You hear a recording and fall in love and the live version doesn't live up to your expectations but this was totally the opposite. He has a stage presence that is massive but contained. He takes up the whole space and brings you into the world he's fabricating for the time you've got him. I had the opportunity to hang out with PJ before the set and he was a bundle of nerves that dissipated as soon as he was behind the microphone. This man comes to life as a storyteller when he steps on stage and it was amazing to watch the subtle transformation he underwent as his nerves fell away.  PJ was in Nashville for the Bingham Cup, an international gay rugby tournament where he was not only one of the featured performers but also as a member of the Kings Cross Steelers Rugby Club (playing in his last tournament before retiring) and he was able to take a crowd of rowdy rugby players in a bar and hold their attention for his whole set.

The venue wasn't built for fantastic acoustic performances as the sound system was overwrought by years of punishing EDM but he easily overcame any audio inconsistencies with just a stellar showing.  He did several of his own tracks, "Jesus Doesn't Play Rugby", "Cracks", "#youjustlostthegame" as well as absolutely destroying covers of "Jolene", "Hello", and "Hit Me Baby (One More Time)".  I wanted more of his music. I wanted more of his experiences and his stories and I can't wait to get to know more about him and his life through his music.  What I want to do is buy his music. I want to throw money at him because he's much more than a mere pub performer. He's channeling greatness in his music and you feel it when he's singing. I hope someone out there hears him and sees what I know is there and gives him the opportunity to make records because it would be amazing to see him do amazing things with his music.

It's been my distinct and utter pleasure getting to write about this man. I'm one of the lucky ones. I've gotten to see him live and I can honestly say that it's an experience I'm damn glad to have had. His song, "Cracks" is easily going to be one of my favorite songs ever and being able to have seen him do it live makes it that much more poignant of a song.

PS. Go watch is 6 year old video cover of "In For the Kill" by La Roux and let the be amazed. version is NUTS. The amount of emotion he's able to pull from that song (which is already an amazing track to begin with) is off the chart. This is where he excels. When it's just him, his conviction and a guitar.

PJ on the Web
Twitter: @musicpj

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sky Ferreia - You're Not The One (Freak Island Remix)

It's no secret that I have a passionate love affair in my mind with Sky Ferreia's music. I think she, Charli XCX, and Grimes make up this coven of witches that use sound as the way they cast spells. This remix is pretty damn cool. It's retro, it's new and fresh and it's just fun. Give it a listen and see what you think.

Blair - Liquid Courage

This song is going to be massive. Mark my word. It's already getting a lot of critical appraisal from the blogosphere and once you hear it once, you know it to be true. Blair is going to be one of the next big things in pop music.  His voice is amazing. The production is fantastic. It's got an deliriously delightful chorus that easily works it's way into you.  You find yourself bobbing along with Blair as he does his thing.  The whistle on the track just cements the deal as you're just happy listening to the song because you know where he's been. You take that last swig before making your way across the bar to talk to the object of your affection.  You've got all the swag you'll need and you do the thing.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Silent Gloves - One for the Money

Silent Gloves is one of the most talented synthwave producers that you've never heard of. He and a handful of other artists are pioneering this genre and creating music that harkens back to a much simpler time. Well a time full of beautiful synth textures and layers.  Synth pop is generally my go to genre because I love everything New Wave. I love the sounds, the ambiance, the overall feeling that music that has been artfully crafted like this gives you. Some people may look at synth pop not as "real music" but I've always considered it much deeper in some aspects because everything has to be created from the ground up. The programming of the track and the placement of the loops borders on an enigmatic puzzle as the producer is putting everything in place to make music.

"One for the Money" is the latest track from Dayton, Ohio based Silent Gloves and it is just an amazingly cool song that you just get lost in. It's funky and cool and fills you with an amazing nostalgia that feels right. Throw the talented Dana Jean Phoenix on vocals into this mix and you've got a delicious gem of a track that makes you feel like you're racing down the pixelated streets of a 16 bit animated action adventure. There aren't many vocalists like Dana Jean encapsulating the retro feel these songs require and she's quickly become the go-to when you need someone to do justice to the lyrics and take the song to a whole new level.

Keep up with Silent Gloves on his Soundcloud for more amazing tracks and remixes.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trenton - Ghost Runner

I'm always amazed at how far technology has come when it comes to music production. "Ghost Runner" by Nashville based singer/songwriter Ryan Courtney aka Trenton is incredible. It's polished. It's full. It's finished. It doesn't sound like something that has been thrown together or rushed. It's got a melancholy, languid feel to it that just floats along. You get caught in it's riptide and are gently pulled along through the journey that Ryan is leading you on. His vocal delivery boarders on syrupy as it just pours over you. I know he's been compared to Rufus Wainwright but I hear some Ben Gibbard around the "I Will Follow You" time period and even some of the smaller, softer moments that Brandon Flowers is capable of. The instrumentation is a lot like a stream moving you along as you just ride through and occasionally get swept up in faster moving currents.

I think there's something about Nashville based songwriters that give them an innate abilty to tap into some emotional reserve that we all share and they are able to help us understand more about what we are feeling. It may not be the exact emotion and it may not be the exact words they say but through several of these songs; "Found", "Unanswered", and "Show Me How" - I had an emotional response. Not some grand sweeping gesture but I was like... I feel these things. I have a place from which to pull an experience similar to the one that Ryan is capturing for me in a beautifully melodic fashion. "Awake" could easily stand up to anything Coldplay has released. And you find yourself closing your eyes and just bobbing along to it as you let everything else fade away. "Show Me How" made me gasp the first time I heard it because of the gorgeous quality of Ryan's voice and breath control on the opening lines. Then the track kicks in and I was like, "Damn. That's how we're gonna do this" and I was won over effortlessly.

Pick up this EP and support this guy because he's got amazing potential to be something huge. Trenton is definitely one of my go to groups now. It's just a very easy project to get behind and support. I think he's going to go places and it's cool to sit back and watch him.

Trenton on the Web
Twitter: @trenton_Music

Friday, May 20, 2016

Meet Hydrogen Child

I wrote about Ansley and company way back when they were known as Super Water Sympathy. "Uh Oh" was this super cool track that I stumbled across and then I kind of lost track of the band but I also let life get in the way of my writing and lost my way.  Last night, I found that they had evolved into Hydrogen Child and all I can say is DAMN.
Their sound has evolved so much and Ansley sound AMAZING.  This EP is so freaking good. It's got a new wave attitude wrapped up tightly in this cool romantic vibe. It's the EP that you can throw on and each song will fall right into where you need it to be.  They are far too cool to not have a million followers by now. They could easily be headlining shows around the country instead of just doing regional shows.

You don't get production/vocal quality like this on what would be considered a first EP. I know they had a full album as Super Water Sympathy but as Hydrogen Child, the Sirens EP is where we have to start. And it's a damn good start. I can't say how great this album is so I'll just let them do it for me.  Listen to it and go to Amazon or iTunes and spend the $5 on it because it's magnificent.

Hydrogen Child on the Web
Twitter: @hydrogenchild

City Rain - Me Without You

It feels good to be inspired again. It feels good to have new music that challenges me.  Ben Runyan has been doing that since 2011 for me and this new track that he's released, "Me Without You" is probably one of the most raw and vulnerable lyrically imposing records he's released.  In the past, it's almost as if Ben has hidden behind a bit of production trickery on his voice but this has a very unfiltered quality to his voice. It's honest. It's hurt. It's trying to regain it's footing and it echoes where we've all been at sometime in our lives. Even though he's got scuffs and scrapes to show for it, he's still there. Still wanting to offer a hand if he's needed. He knows that there's nothing left to salvage but he's puzzling it through and the way the track ends..... I mean, come on. How much more genius can it be.

City Rain has always been in the back of my mind as one of those groups that circles the fringes and pops up when you need them in your life and right now, I apparently needed a jolt from these guys. It's good to have a single and it's even better knowing there's an album right around the corner.  Will keep you informed.

Meet Panama Wedding

I had the distinct honor to see one of what I consider the best Indie Pop bands I've seen in concert in a long time this week. Drove down to Nashville to see The Griswolds and Magic Man (Two bands that I adore) but I honestly have to say that their opening act, Panama Wedding stole the entire show.  Whether it was the ease in which Peter Kirk flowed across the stage as easily as his vocals filled the room or the fact that they had absolutely no pretense about them. These 4 guys from New York City came to spread the good word that is Panama Wedding to the masses and they did.

As an opening act, it's tough. Most of the time you are the least known of the groups at the gig.  You've got the smallest amount of time to get your message out and you've got to absolutely woo the audience into becoming fans. I had no idea who this small group was. I'd never heard them before and I had no preconceived notions.  What happened before their 30 minute set was over, however; was that I had already purchased both of their EP's from Amazon and I lit my social media up extolling the virtues of this group.

Comparisons aren't something that I like doing but it does make it easier to help people break into a sound. Musically, their sound is easy; laid back and very mellow. Vocally, Peter Kirk could be compared to Paul Simon and thems some pretty big shoes to fill but his voice is one that you know. You've heard it before and it makes you exceptionally comfortable. His range is fantastic and he's not attempting to be Paul Simon, he just could be compared to him. Lyrically, this group has some of the tightest lyrics about the life and times of the average person trying to get by in the world today. Put all of this together and you have a sound track to an amazing day. It's easy to listen to and it's got some familiarity to it but there's enough new and challenging stuff with the production and how the whole thing is tied together that you aren't going to get bored.

There's a great balance between the use of synth and keys to the instrumentation to the guitars, bass, and drums. The EPs have an amazing production value and it's no surprise since they've come from Glassnote Records (home to artists like CVRCHES, Phoenix, and Mumford and Sons). They are full and very fleshed out. Sometimes you get an EP and it sounds like it's been produced in a garage; which can be very cool, but in this case these sound like these guys have been around for many more years than they have. I think I'm on about my 12 listen through both EPs and all 9 songs are amazing.

'Into Focus' would be the "banger" of the two tracks and it's just this really cool track that's got an uptempo beat and the lyrics talk about how things just come together ater you've been working toward your goal. There's a rad guitar solo just a really bitchin vibe to the song. It's easily one of my favorites but the one that really gets me is "Uma". Another amazingly put together track that's just fantastic. It's got this lazy vibe that is a juxtaposition to the tempo of "Into Focus". The chorus is really great and sits with you and you find yourself singing it hours later and you don't mind. There's a joy to the song that comes through even though it's a bit of a rocky type relationship song.

I know I keep talking about how easy this group is and I think that's the best selling point of them. You throw on an album and there's no learning curve. It just happens easily and you don't need to take time getting to know them because you've been pals with them for as long as you can remember. They need to be headlining their own tour (which I told them after the concert) and I can't wait to see them again. There's a rumor that now that they're off tour they're going to be focusing on their first full length album which would be great but I don't mind more EPs either. With music being digital, mostly now, an EP is a pretty cool way to grab a handful of songs since the artists don't have to fill 74 minutes on a CD. I'll absolutely be keeping up with these guys because I dig the shit out of them.

Panama Wedding on the Web