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Showing posts from December, 2019

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Elise Hayes, “Giving Up”

“You never wanted me to get that tattoo,” sings Nashville recording artist Elise Hayes . “I’m going to get that tattoo.” This the start to her new single “Giving Up,” (co-written with Johnny Mo ) which is about not giving up, an ode to post-relationship defiance. There is freedom in being your own person again, even if you were the one dumped. The music itself is a tapestry of sorts: sonic styles patchworked together into a compact yet pleasing mix. Pounding drums and sitar give way to softer guitar, then back to drums, which sometimes beat rapidly as a door knock. A wake up call. The song often stops and starts as if her thoughts are coming to her in jagged fits as she’s singing them. “You never wanted me to have that haircut / Well, now I do…”   It’s a hard style to pull off but Hayes does it effortlessly. She is a strong singer/songwriter, doubtlessly helped in her confidence from being featured in TV shows, such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” MTV ’s “Siesta Key,” and other

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Ethos, “V: Parents”

Ethos is the stage name for Alex Hlavna, a 19-year veteran of the Cleveland, Ohio music scene where he played guitar , bass, and drums on numerous recordings. He has now released his own song entitled “V: Parents” from his new album Ten Commandments. The V is the Roman numeral for 5, as in the 5th Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother.”  Each track on the album is titled this way, named after a commandment. Is this some type of “religious rap” or is Ethos being metaphoric? The actual definition of “ethos” is “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.” Judging from such a moniker and from statements he’s made in interviews, it seems his goal is more about making observations, rather than instructing us that “thou shalt not whatever.” It’s a more provocative approach. The song is a funk-bassline over an electronic beat and soft synths. Meanwhile Ethos ’ voice is anything but soft as he raps about honoring your

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Jules Walcott, “Déjà Vu”

Born in New York, singer-songwriter Jules Walcott has experimented with just about every musical genre imaginable, even opera, even classical music. She once fronted a Long Island-based hard rock outfit. Considering this, it’s no wonder that Walcott’s newest single, “Déjà Vu,” is hard to pin down. She calls it “dark alternative pop.” We’ll go with that. The song begins with a pounding piano line backed by soft strings. A warbled electronic voice struggles to be heard. That’s when Walcott’s voice comes in:  “I was happy by myself,”  she sings.  “Single in my life. / You looked at me and told me that / You were single just the same…” It’s easy to see where this is going.  “I can’t believe I fell in love / To be single again.”  Walcott’s voice sounds wounded but never weepy. This is where the  déjà vu  comes in. The song is about the futility felt when trying to find your soulmate. Just when you think you’ve left the single life behind you for good— poof! —here it is aga

INDEPENDENT ALBUM RELEASE: Sundogs, “Legends In Their Own Minds”

Sundogs is the Seattle songwriting/musician/producer duo of Stan Snow (Guitars, Vocals) and Jed Moffitt (Keyboards, Vocals), both veterans of the industry. Legends In Their Own Minds is their sophomore effort and is being billed as an audio and video album. The videos were filmed simultaneously with the recording sessions using a combination of green screens and CGI. The music we hear during the video is the actual music being played. Or 90% of it is anyway. This is made believable since they are often wearing the same clothes from one video to the next. It’s evident from even viewing the video for the song “Johnny”—a dive-bar rock jam number—that this isn’t a band that takes itself too seriously. The title of the album should have been a clue as well. “If it sounds good to us and it’s something that we like listening to over and over,” says a statement on their website, “that is the driving force in how we write, arrange, produce and record. We are doing it for the pure joy

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Jay Hype, “Trending Topic”

There’s a movie being played, but its projector struggles to show it. An underwater piano warbles along to a movie’s soundtrack. That’s how Jay Hype ’s song “Trending Topic” starts. It’s a haunting intro.  When Ms. Hype’s vocals come in, the song snaps into focus. It’s actually not a scary a song at all. She sounds happy, like someone who knows everything she wants, like exactly everything. Twenty two-year old’s shouldn’t sound so knowledgeable. There’s a trance-y hypno-beat layered over a distant female chorus. Ms. Hype raps fast, but remains in-step somehow with the slower beat. She’s addressing a person she has just laid eyes on, but doesn’t mind telling them how she feels about them pretty much immediately.   “Got me changing all my plans / Got me feeling like a fan / Okay, I’m just talking shit now, all right?”  Her coyness is adorable. She’s basically portraying the perfect girlfriend:  “Tell me what’s bothering you, baby / Tell me what you’re trying to do /

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Best Intentions, “At the Ocean”

Best Intentions is a cherry-faced, four-member pop punk band busting out of Nashville. Their new single "At the Ocean" is from their forthcoming as-yet untitled album, which they’re hoping to release this summer. The song's music video (above) finds the guys playing in a house that seems half-suburban, half-Gothic with lots of interior wood paneling. The lights are off and the boys are illuminated starkly by multiple flashlights playing over them, as if they were playing in the dark before being discovered. Interspersed with this are shots of a cute girl on the beach, exuding nerd-girl sensuality, her hoodie kept over her head because she’s shy and because she's a flashback. The boys in the band look like guys you would want to have a beer with and talk about how much Bukowski and Shakespeare actually have in common. However, they retain a Seth Rogen-ish Everyguy appeal. No big hair or studded clothing here. Just close friends rocking out in their parent

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Riley Smith, “Earthquake”

Riley Smith is an actor who has played an oncologist in the TV series  Life Sentence , a vampire in the final season of  True Blood , and Sheriff's deputy Steve Mercier (Rachel McAdam's boyfriend) for HBO's  True Detective .  However, the role which perhaps came closest to Smith playing himself was the one in which he played a singer/musician for the ABC show  Nashville . He was able to combine his love for both music and acting, recording the singles "In the Name of Your Love" and "I Want To (Do Everything For You" for the show’s soundtrack. The music video for his first ever single “I'm on Fire” made it to number one on CMT's Taste of Country Countdown. Smith has now placed a total of six original songs in television and film, demonstrating that he’s not just another actor trying their hand at music because, well, ego.   Smith is for real and has even released a new single called “Earthquake,” co-written with Brad Irby and Kevin L

INDEPENDENT ALBUM RELEASE: American Authors, “Seasons”

The Brooklyn alt-pop band American Authors first made their presence known with their first triple-platinum hit song “Best Day of My Life,” which made it to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track appeared in film, television, video games, and sporting events. It was literally everywhere. Their 2014 album debut,  Oh, What A Life , went gold. Two years later, their sophomore effort,  What We Live For , featured the song “Go Big or Go Home,” another Top 20 hit. They’ve played every music festival from Lollapalooza to Reading to Leeds.  Now it’s time for the band to write the rest of their story (Get it?)  American Authors consists of four members: Zac Barnett [vocals], James Adam Shelley [guitar, banjo], Dave Rublin [bass], and Matt Sanchez [drums.] To record their third and newest album, entitled “Seasons,” the band holed up in a Tennessee mountainside studio surrounded by wilderness. “It was so inspiring,” said Sanchez. “We put our emotions and visions through this disti

INDEPENDENT EP RELEASE: Versal, “Self-Titled”

By age 17, Versal (aka Javier Velez) could already play the piano, organ, trumpet, trombone, and guitar (both electric and classical.) By 18, he was arranging a famous hand bell choir in his native San Juan, followed by numerous TV and live show appearances. Versal now works as a composer, CGI artist, and programmer, except now he’s added even more instruments to his talents. The guy is a one-man orchestra.  He’s almost a one-man film crew, too. Versal has been editor, colorist, visual FX artist, director of photography, composer, and director on several films and documentaries. Still, the dream has been this EP, which he has released this month. This collection of instrumentals contains ideas from as long ago as childhood. The need to make a living and a thirst for global travel were previously in the way but no longer. The album is  “self-titled”  and starts with the track “Eternal,” a soft piano piece ushered in by an angelic chorus. Swelling strings swoop in, creat

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: The Urban Renewal Project, "Shake Those Hips"

The history of rap music fused with a big band sound goes all the way back to the late Eighties/early Nineties with such artists as A Tribe Called Quest and Del La Soul. Miles Davis’ last album even included a few hip-hop beats. The trend seemed to fade, only showing up during college football halftime shows where rhythm brass and breakbeat drums thundered behind shako-hatted band members dancing along with lots of pelvis thrusts. Though the instruments were live, there was still a hip-hop beauty to it.    The Urban Renewal Project , while sounding like the latest eco-positive, city redevelopment deal, is also a sixteen-member musical collaboration. It involves core-member Elmer Demond writing with newcomer Slim da Reazon. The band’s bassist, Dustin Morgan (a.k.a. Yung Jinja), raps in there as well. Helping out, Alex Nester balances it together with a liquid voice born for R&B. Or any other genre he pleases. The gentlemen throw quick rhymes and smooth grooves over the b

INDEPENDENT EP RELEASE: Mikkel Cloud, “Transistor_1”

Mikkel Cloud is the music production and songwriting team of Whittney Mikkel and Jaren Cloud. They’re debuting with a 3-track EP release of Radiohead covers, which they’re calling Transistor_1. Mikkel sings and Cloud plays keyboards. To release an EP of covers is daring enough on its own, but to do so covering only one band and that band being the music snob, hipster-worshipping Radiohead is an even larger task. Personally, I was a Radiohead fan since the early guitar-heavier days of  Pablo Honey . The manner in which  OK Computer  wiped out the boundaries between rock and electronica made that album a revolutionary masterpiece. However, by the time  In Rainbows  was released, they lost me. Or I lost them. To me, it seemed the experimentation in Radiohead’s music became too arty and showy. What happened to simply writing a good song? In other words, for me, Radiohead became pretentious.  Fortunately, the 3 tracks chosen here by Mikkel Cloud are from before things got

INDEPENDENT SONG RELEASE: Tess Posner, “Supernova”

Singer/Songwriter Tess Posner has released her new single “Supernova” on International Woman’s Day . She’s done this in honor of those who identify as women (trans or otherwise) and who have been victims of sexual abuse. She states on her website that 1 out of 3 women have experienced sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. Often times it feels like this stat is probably more like 3 out of 3. “Supernova” begins with a slow electric guitar played over what sounds like ethereal keyboard notes played backwards. Posner’s voice is somehow both strong and soft as she sings: “ One summer evening, August 31st/ Your anger swelled like a cloudburst / You hit me hard, this time the worst / I let out a hum, and became the Universe… ” The naming of a specific date causes me to worry that she is either singing about an actual incident, taken from either the headlines or from her own experience. (Eerily enough, a Google search turns up a  Washington Post  article about Philippine P

INDEPENDENT ALBUM RELEASE: Kynn, “Road to Carnegie Hall”

Dutch rapper Kynn was born Kevin van Geffen in the small Netherland town of Leiden . As a child, he started writing poetry to cope with an unsettled home life. His father wasn’t around much and his step-father was around too much. When Kynn turned 15, he dropped out of school. However, instead of getting gloomy, pissed-off or destructive, he became creative, soaking up and learning whatever he could: Marketing, website development, graphic design, videography…even hip hop. The progression from poetry to rapping seemed inevitable actually, and now here Kynn is releasing his first album, “Road to Carnegie Hall.”   It begins with a smooth trumpet, appropriate since the intro is called “ Carnegie Hall .” Already we know that we’re in for something different. Not that there’s never been a trumpet in a rap song but from the first notes, there’s a sophistication and thoughtfulness you don’t find enough of in hip hop lately. The mellow 4am jazz is soon joined by Kynn rapping then sing

INDEPENDENT ALBUM RELEASE: Liz Cirelli, “Awakening”

I could see this album being performed in a meadow surrounded by lush forests and grad students in turtle necks, just as well as I could imagine it performed in a nightclub, Cirelli ’s frame engulfed in fat, dry-ice smoke banks with crisp cones of colored light. A lot of this has to do with her voice. It has a delicate strength, if there is such a thing. She makes me believe so anyway. (And I say this even though her singing doesn’t appear on every track.)  The album’s first song “Shape of My Heart” is a slow burner with a light electronic beat and swelling orchestra. This opener is a statement of identity.  “I’m not a girl of too many faces, no,”  she sings.  “The mask I wear is one.”  The shape of her heart is a polygon. “Let It Rain” is Trent Reznor meets Peter Gabriel with some death thrown in. It’s one of the more powerful songs in the entire lineup, especially when the tribal drums take over. “Dining on Stones” is an instrumental, a moody blending of classical and e