Canada has been producing some really exciting
talent this year, and among the brightest stars that I’ve had the pleasure of
taking a look at lately is none other than Rebecca Binnendyk, the sultry singer/songwriter
whose 2016 album, Some Fun Out Of Life, won the hearts of critics
and fans across the country and beyond when it first debuted. 2019 sees
Binnendyk returning to the spotlight once more with the release of her brand
new single, the lovesick power ballad “Brick by Brick,” ahead of the
long-awaited follow-up to her acclaimed greenhorn LP. I got the opportunity to
give “Brick by Brick” a listen ahead of its premiere recently, and to say that
I was impressed with what I heard would be putting it very mildly.
Every component of this track and its music
video is used to stimulate the mood created by the harmony between Binnendyk
and the foundational piano parts that are beneath her in the mix. From the
crumbling bricks that we see on our screen to the supple recoiling of the
percussion as the melodic wallop of the other instruments comes crashing
through the silence during the chorus of the song, there’s nothing unnecessary
or nonfunctional in this recording, and that’s not something that I can say
about most of the pop singles that have landed on my desk this month. It’s
obvious that some serious work went into making “Brick by Brick” the
masterfully produced video (and tightly arranged title track of Binnendyk’s new
album) that it is, and I’m not surprised in the least that it’s been garnering
the critical praise that it has been this August.
If this song is a fair representation of what we
can expect to hear out of Rebecca Binnendyk’s sophomore LP, then I can’t wait
to get ahold of my own copy as soon as it comes out. “Brick by Brick” is
overwhelmingly multifaceted, and though some listeners might find it to be a bit
cerebral when juxtaposed beside the singles that have been gracing the top
slots on the Billboard charts lately, I think that’s exactly what makes it such
a uniquely fetching listen. Binnendyk’s got my attention, and I doubt that I’m
the only music journalist saying as much right now.
“Flooded Field” from the album Symbolism is
the work of an engaged and top notch recording artist intent on providing
listeners with a worthwhile listening experience and abundant entertainment
alike. Caracol has enjoyed a career a little over a decade long and, rather
than repeating herself with each successive release, This new single continues
tilling much of the same fertile ground that has paid enormous dividends for
her on previous releases, namely shaping her songs along electronic and
quasi-reggae lines, but she is fearless recruiting artists far removed from her
wheelhouse, like Detroit hip hop performer Illa J, to reinforce her efforts.
These choices help keep her music fresh and moving forward and “Flooded Field”
is no exception.
vocals keep you involved from the first and never settle for the lowest common
denominator. Instead, I am impressed from the first with how she navigates her
way through the verses filling each one with an abundance of emotion without
ever slipping into melodramatic filler. Instead, she takes a measured approach
from the first and inhabits the lyric with the feeling of someone who has
genuinely lived through these experiences rather than someone just trying to
interpret another person’s words. Even Illa J’s rap vocal brings an added, if
short, dimension to the performance.
video for the track reflects the same contrasts inherent in the recording, but
it is further distinguished by the high sheen finish present throughout each
part of the video and how the footage reflects the same emotions present in the
song through different means. The use of color and sharp editing help set the
video for “Flooded Field” apart from similar efforts and raises the song’s
profile without ever overshadowing it in any way. Much like with the song,
Caracol obviously went into filming this video with a firm idea of what she
wanted to visually convey and does an exceptional job.
“Flooded Field” is musically on point and the only real fault I can find with
the track is how the admittedly fine lyrics could be fleshed out a little more
with no visible drag on the song. Choosing this as a single is clear indication
she regards the track as one of the finest entries on her latest album release Symbolism. Being
unfamiliar with Caracol before hearing this song, I can say it impressed me a
great deal and prompts me to further investigate her talents.
With a mild rattle at the center of its rhythmic swing, “Give in 2
Me” is easily one of the more seductive songs for us to behold on
Ronnue’s Introduction 2 Retro-Funk, but it’s not the only sexy set
of bass-driven beats in this tactful funk twelve-pack. The vintage “You Tried
Me (The Man’s Anthem)” and “Do It (The Remix),” the latter of which features
Roc Phizzle and Soultry stepping up to the microphone with Ronnue, are just as
fun and devoid of the robotic frills that have come standard on records of this
kind for far too long now. Introduction 2 Retro-Funk isn’t
about trying to meld a bunch of different influences together or simply
appealing to as many open wallets as possible – this is Ronnue’s message
of funk, and it’s as far away from commercial classlessness as an
LP can get.
Other than the humorous skit “Bathroom vs Studio” and intro track
“Rated M.A.,” this record is nothing but content, which has become increasingly
hard to come by in full-length R&B albums as the 2020s have neared. “I’m a
Lesbian” doesn’t repeat the same verse to us over and over in some
pseudo-cerebral swirl of textured vocals; it’s a real composition, with a beat,
a melody and a heroic harmony that inspires as many slow dances on the
dancefloor as it does in the bedroom. Other tracks like “17 Days (The Hood
Mix)” employ heavy instrumentals in making an intrepid statement (and further
demonstrating Ronnue’s matchless style of play).
While “17 Days (The Hood Mix)” has a stealthy grind, “In Love” is
a little more liberal in its stylization and could absolutely make as strong a
single as its predecessor in the tracklist, “Something About U (The Retro-Funk
Mix),” does. “Something About U (The Retro-Funk Mix)” was my favorite song when
I first got a copy of the Introduction 2 Retro-FunkLP, but as I’ve
gotten more acclimated to the rhythmic framework of every track here, it’s
difficult to give one song more critical favor over another. “Why” (featuring
Figuz on guest vocals) is just as hooky and memorable, as is “Be Your Freak”
and “If We Stayed 2gether,” the first charismatic tune that we find at the
start of the album following “Rated M.A.”.
As an MC, a singer and a songwriter who has yet to slow down since
first coming onto the scene nearly five years ago, Ronnue knows no equivalent
in the local music culture that has raised him to be the strong sonic titan
that he is today, and if we are to take his music in Introduction 2
Retro-Funk at face value, then I believe it is to be interpreted as a
declaration of independence from the muted market that he has now grown too big
to remain in. An artist of Ronnue’s pedigree doesn’t have to play along with
the irreverent bickering of scene politics, but I don’t know the he’s looking
to change the system in this LP. He’s making his own way in this world, which
in itself deserves to be extolled by everyone who loves rock-hard funk.
Remixes, particularly when they’re boxed
together in a single disc, allow for us to look at a song from a litany of
different angles, but the new extended play centering on ooberfuse’s “Call My
Name” composition goes well beyond that. From the abrasive sounds of “The
Noise” remix to the fundamentally simple “Hal St John Radio Edit,” each version
of “Call My Name” gives us a unique insight into the musicality of this
incredibly skilled British duo. Ooberfuse are delivering an electronic/indie
pop hybrid for the ages here, and though I’m not typically one to go for this
style of music, Call My Name is simply too captivating to be
The synth parts that we hear in the “Patrik
Kambo Radio Edit” aren’t all that different from the ones that we hear in the
“Push The Frequency Festival Mix” in that they both utilize textured melodies
to create a narrative for us. The lyrics are the same in both versions – though
the vocal serenading us with them is a lot more pronounced in Kambo’s cut than
it is in the festival mix – but that said, they’re never the main focus here.
In essence, it’s all about the instrumental prowess in these two mixes, with
everything cosmetic element in the tracks taking a backseat to the grooves
In Call My Name’s “Paul Kennedy
Radio Edit” the synthesizers, percussion and bassline are stoic, colorless and
totally blinding in a couple of crucial moments, but despite the dreary
backdrop, the consistent crooning of our singer warms up the atmosphere just
enough to make it a palatable listen. It’s a rather interesting choice for
ooberfuse’s new music video, but I suppose that the contrast in tonality gels
with the visual concept better than, say, the passionately dark “The Noise”
would have. While I can admit that I don’t completely understand the method to
their madness, there’s no debating whether or not this pair clearly know what
they’re doing both in and out of the studio.
Hal St John’s mix is the most straightforward of
this bunch, but it’s doesn’t play out like a boring radio version of an urbane
experimental track at all. On the contrary, the “Hal St John Radio Edit”
replaces the crushing blows of the synths with rollicking guitar rhythms and a
string melody that complements the vocal in a way that an augmented harmony
never could. This is my favorite version of “Call My Name” by far, and it’s reason
enough to pick up this awesome mixtape this July.
Call My Name was
tailor made for hardcore electronica connoisseurs, but there’s no reason why
occasional pop fans shouldn’t also be able to dig its intriguingly experimental
foundation, which is derived as much from alternative rock, indie pop and
post-punk as it is EDM, house and modern club music. Littered with more sonic
sundries than one would expect to find in a five track, sixteen minute long
extended play out of the European underground, ooberfuse’s latest record is a
lovely listen this summer, and a noteworthy step forward for a duo that has
already done so much to impress both critics and fans in the last few years.
In his latest album, the long-awaited Vertigo,
Nicholas Altobelli delivers an eclectic collection of alternative Americana via
songs like the brilliant “Runaway Trains,” “Red, White, And Blues,” and “Don’t
Let the World Get You Down” whilst redefining his artistry with an experimental
aesthetic that just wasn’t present in previous offerings bearing his moniker.
Altobelli pulls out all of the creative stops to make Vertigo as
unflinchingly honest and endearingly melodic as possible, and though it’s
definitely got the look and feel of a basement tapes compilation piece, that
could be the biggest reason as to why it stings with as much emotionality as it
The opening riff in “Runaway Trains” (which we
find in a more surreal setting later on in “Trains”), as well as the string
arrangements of “Midnight Songs,” “Tell Me What I Got to Do” and “Go to Sleep”
provide an unparalleled foundation for every verse that Altobelli sings, and
though his words are quite communicative in their own right, the guitar parts
in this album are often just as evocative an element. “Look out the Window”
features a chilling acoustic melody that, while not quite as bold and flowing
as what we hear in “Everybody Knows the Truth” is, significantly adds to the
cinematic feel of the LP’s second act, but the same could easily be said for
many of its neighbors in the tracklist as well.
“Don’t Let the World Get You Down,” “Look out
the Window” and “Go to Sleep” have a really vulnerable lyricism as their
primary linchpin, and I think that they show us a side of Nicholas Altobelli
that he’s been rather reticent to share with us in the past. You can tell that
he’s being completely genuine with us in these tracks, and to some degree, he
sounds a little more relaxed and at peace in all of the aforementioned songs
than he did in anything on 2015’s Searching Through That Minor Key.
This mix is really well-polished, but there’s
never an instance where it sacrifices the raw emotion in Altobelli’s
performance in order to live up to some artificially-modeled pop pedigree.
Though he’s definitely maturing as a songwriter, and thus adapting his style to
suit the direction that he’s going in, I don’t get the impression that this
artist is looking to sell out anytime soon on Vertigo; on the
contrary, it would seem to me that he’s more committed to the concept of
originality now than he ever was before.
Despite spending some time away from the
recording studio, Nicholas Altobelli sounds as sharp as any of the stars making
headlines in 2019 have been, and I think that Vertigo may well
be the most well-rounded album to see widespread release so far in his career.
He’s demonstrating a lot of growth in its tracklist, and if he can continue to
cultivate his difficult to categorize sound with the same kind of personal
touch that he has in tracks like “Thunderstorms” and “Red, White, And Blues,”
then I haven’t any doubt in my mind as to whether or not he’s going to continue
being one of the most revered singer/songwriters in his scene.
Plunging percussive thrusts are joined by a gush of distorted
melodies in “Butterfly Joint,” one of the eight songs comprising King Ropes’
exquisite sophomore album, Gravity and Friction. In “Butterfly
Joint,” and really all seven of the tracks that it’s accompanied by on Gravity
and Friction, a mind-bendingly surreal soundscape is utilized as a forceful
canvas atop which the band can colorize the otherwise simplistic beats. The
music is unrepentantly experimental, but despite its grizzly finish (and, more
often than not, angular complexities), I think that rockers aren’t likely to
find anything as authentic as they will in this stellar new LP.
“California Stars,” the title track and “Brown” possess a dirty,
almost blues-rock style grit that’s melded with the atmospheric textures in the
bass parts beautifully, while in other songs like the cerebral “Mouth Full of
Bees,” King Ropes get so lost in the hypnotic nature of their harmonies that
it’s hard to tell whether they were recording a pre-rehearsed composition or
simply a flat-out jam session. In either case, I can’t say I’ve heard a record
with quite as many unrefined attributes that still managed to remain palatable
and, on occasion, even a little bit pop-friendly (the album-closer “These
The lyrics in Gravity and Friction are pretty
enigmatic from song to song, but they’re never so absorbed in provocative
poeticisms that we lose sight of the central narrative in tracks like
“Giacomo’s Assistant,” “Saint Peter” and the brilliant “Brown.” The first time
that I sat down with this tracklist, it actually reminded me of early 2000’s
fringe alternative rock, but at this point I would term its sound as being much
more eclectic and left-field than anything that era’s mainstream produced. King
Ropes aren’t repeating history here, but instead drawing inspiration from the
unfinished experimentations of their predecessors.
I absolutely love the guitar tones in “California Stars,”
“Butterfly Joint,” the title track and the fiercely balladic “Giacomo’s
Assistant,” and I found their warmth to be remarkably refreshing to hear in
2019. So many of rock n’ roll’s most reliable beat-makers have been moving away
from the visceral intensity of the genre’s past in favor of embracing something
more augmented and aligned with the advent of modern technology, but King Ropes
are doing the exact opposite here; they’re using contemporary recording
techniques to maximize the effect that their ripping sound can have on
listeners, and sounding incredibly inventive in doing so.
True blue rock fans can’t go wrong with King Ropes’ Gravity
and Friction, and I think that this album absolutely has the potential to
break the band’s music into the mainstream once and for all. This record is a
tremendously creative effort that doesn’t remind me of anything else I’ve heard
this year, and though their debut LP – 2017’s Dirt – was
definitely one of the best records of its kind to see release two years ago,
its substance pales in comparison to that of this stunning piece. King Ropes
mean serious business with Gravity and Friction, and anyone who
doubted their legitimacy is in for quite the wakeup call in its eight
a part of the creative music scene in Los Angeles is cool. There is a
network of us indie musicians that gravitate towards each other in
different areas of town. I’ve got my singer-songwriter clan in the
Valley, the rock ’n rollers in Hollywood, my EDM & hip-hop crew in
K-town, and the chill surfers down in Venice. We all work together to
make events happen, support each other during album releases, and press
our homies to stretch further for themselves. A good friend of mine who
is a producer and sound engineer just finished a festival-house remix of
my song, “Sucré Mon Cherí”. He goes by cnotebythelayer. Look for that
release on Spotify and in a club near you soon.
Please explain your creative process.
creative process right now for me begins with the element of fire. I
light the red candle by my desk that I painted the words, “Productive
Creativity” on to; I then light some incense. Right now, I am working
with Jasmine. Jasmine opens the heart to success in dreams and
prosperity. From there, I grapple with whichever aspect of my creative
self is pining for expression. Last night, I wrote a few pages for the
novel-memoir that I am currently writing. It is titled, “Friend of the
Level”. It is my third book.
What drew you into the music industry?
the greats. All the characters that spoke to my soul. A big spirit I
look up to is Jerry Garcia. He has such a sunny disposition grated with
knowing a dark before the dawn. Today is his birthday, July 1. I like
looking up to role models that are clearly unique in who they are day in
and day out. When I listen to an artist, I want to hear where their
soul is singing from. I may hear traces of what legends influenced them,
connect the dots, and know where to look next for sonic guidance.
If you could have your fans remember only one thing about you, what would it be and why?
question. If I could have listeners remember one thing about me, it
would be that I care. I compassionately look at life with eyes of
grateful service. How can I influence the person next to me, positively?
I ask myself how my actions, creations, and offerings are effecting
others. I think through everything. What did I mean by that glance to
that stranger? What does that mean about my current state of being? How
can I compassionately work towards portraying a joyful spirit on a
blessed planet? I would like this to be embedded in my lyrical
composition. I ultimately want to be remembered for my poetical
phrasing. Kind heart, stellar penmanship.
What is the overall message you want to deliver to your fans?
My overall message plays into my answer previously mentioned. Every one of our actions, even thoughts, create a ripple effect in our environment. When we think of our own character on a grander scale, we become more than an actor in our current scene, we become an agent for positive change in the universe. Who are you? What would you like to bring to the table? How can you adjust to align with where you would like to go? “Be the voice you wish to hear on the wind… Listen.”
Tell us about the NEW MUSIC & New Videos!
would love to! My first album, “of Vinyl”, debuted on July 5, 2019.
This album is about the psychic inner-heartlands of love. Following this
is the current EP I am recording. It is titled, “of Always”. It is an
ode to my muse in the moon, expressing love, gratitude, and explanation
that I will always be my best for them. Following that is my second
full-length album that has already been written. That is titled, “of
Thank You”. It is a call from the native healer within to take a look at
where we are going as a socio-ecological, politically charged society.
On the same basis, my first music video was released on July 20, 2019.
It is an aestheticly pleasing nature-filled landscape design for my
song, “World Peace a Thing”. In this video, I dance my healing dance. It
Please list all links you would like us to share with our readers.
If you want to get to know more about me & stay in touch with my upcoming albums, books, & other projects,
Though its sway can be, at times, both
nauseating and cerebrally entrancing, Jaco’s “Say Goodbye” is nonetheless one
of the most evocative tracks that you’ll encounter in the debut solo affair
from the noted Birmingham scene stalwart, You Know. Released this
past July 19th to critical acclaim, You Know is
built around stylishly heavy tracks like “Say Goodbye,” the crushing “Shoe” and
monolithic “For Myself,” all three of which contain as many pop facets as they
do dreamy, seemingly double-amplified rock riffage, and while some songs – like
“Shoe,” for example – owe more to fuzzy proto alternative heroes like Dinosaur
Jr. than they do anything contemporary, there’s scarcely a moment in this album
where Jaco comes across as anything but a modern musical magician. “For Myself”
sees him fusing elements of mind-bending psychedelia, jangle pop and
ultra-heavy guitars into a cocktail that, ultimately, yields more melodicism
than most any rock song I’ve listened to this summer has. There’s a lot for us
to unpack in this LP, but one consistency that I found throughout the whole of
its tracklist is undying emotion, which in my opinion is something that has
been wholly absent from the pop music lexicon in 2019.
Chugging guitars and a bushy bassline form the
perfect foundation for Jaco to unleash some intoxicating vocal harmonies in
“Blackboard,” and much like “Your Way” (a song that instantly recalled an Uncle
Anesthesia-era Screaming Trees when I heard it for the first time), it uses
a glowing hook to trap us in its spell amidst a backdrop of sheer chaos and
electrified discord. “I Don’t Mind” is probably my favorite track from the
first half of You Know (although the streamlined “Lavabo”
definitely gives it a run for its money), but not because of its fiery riffs
alone. Even when Jaco is riding an understated rhythm into a brick wall of
feedback and distortion, he’s utilizing the fabric of the instrumentation as a
canvas atop which to paint a lyrical showcase with his pointed variety of punky
alternative poetry. He’s a really masterful songwriter, and for the first time
in his career, I think we’re getting to see what he can do when there’s nothing
to hold him back in the studio.
More grinding guitars await us in the somewhat
relaxed “Reservoir,” but they’re not nearly as excitement-inducing as what we
find in the distinctive closing numbers “Again” and “All Your Love,” which
despite being a little formulaic on the surface, are still two of the more
solid compositions on this album. “On the Ground” is the only song that didn’t
really affect me on You Know, but even though I felt like it comes
up short in terms of substance in comparison to the other material here, it
doesn’t even come close to qualifying as throwaway filler. All in all, Jaco
hits a homerun with his first solo LP, which I can confirm as being quite the
worthwhile listen this season. He’s still got some room for improvement in the
future, but I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes with this sound next.
With a fierce gallop of the
drums, Chris Douglas welcomes us into his incredible new single “Ain’t Getting
Any Younger,” the juggernaut debut release from one of the season’s most
discussed young songwriters. Right off the bat, we’re hypnotized by the chic
stylization of the percussion, the marvelously melodic crooning of Douglas, and
the fiery tonality of the guitars, which have a much sportier, hard
rock-inspired depth than what I would have expected to find in a newly-minted
Nashville track. We’re carried away by the gargantuan grooves, which don’t
waste a stich of sonic space as they plow through the stoic silence from which
the song first came stampeding into head-first. There’s nothing in the master
mix to come between Douglas and his adoring audience, most of whom will likely
agree with me when I say that his brand of country/rock rhythm isn’t just among
the hottest vibes of the summer thus far; it’s possibly the most exciting new
swing not bearing an alternative labeling to see release all year long.
Nashville has grown
indefensibly stagnant due to a lack of youthful external influences, but that
isn’t an issue for Mr. Douglas in this track. If anything, he embraces the
experimental side of songwriting more than most any of his peers east of the
Mississippi have in a great deal of time; there’s no getting around the
rock-themed construction of the main hook in this song, nor can we try and
describe the guitar as anything other than a powerhouse, arena-style riff
distributer. Douglas doesn’t stop at amplified overdrive though; there’s a bit
of a conventional pop aesthetic incorporated into the way that he delivers the
lead vocal to us, and though it’s hardly a product of the so-called Americana
revival movement, there’s also a touch of folkie humbleness to his prose that
really makes the lyrics feel all the more relatable and anti-commercial in
nature. Even in the few moments where he’s wearing his influences on his sleeve,
he’s never recycling anything that we’ve heard in past hits from either side of
the dial. Chris Douglas is a true original, and that’s one thing that I think
every critic checking out his debut is going to unanimously agree on.
Personally, I’m very excited to
hear more music cut from the same cloth that “Ain’t Getting Any Younger” was in
Douglas’ 2020 extended play of the same title, and once you give it a spin for
yourself, I’ve got a feeling that you’re going to be inclined to feel the same
way. His energetic style of attack alone makes this song quite the worthwhile
acquisition for diehard country music enthusiasts, and even if the genre isn’t
your very favorite, I would still recommend taking a listen just the same.
Songwriters with the attitude and charisma that Chris Douglas has come around
only every once in a great while, and although there’s a case to be made that
he’s got a lot more talent than most of the first-timers that make their way to
my desk throughout the whole of the year, his is a sound that is difficult for
even the most discriminating of audiophiles to decry as inauthentic.
Silence. And then, out of
nowhere, we’re smacked in the gut by the first in a tizzy of boldly arranged
beats. The bass and the percussion are fused together in “Chemical Smiles,” the
new single from Ronin, and they’re likely to leave anyone and anything
that gets in their path humbled (and hobbled) by their devastating thunder.
“Chemical Smiles” is a song that can be described as a sonic juggernaut which
is just melodic enough to win over the mainstream pop crowd, and it’s a
uniquely physical offering in a season that has been underwhelming to say the
least. Ronin isn’t pulling any punches in the raucous, rock n’
roll-influenced rhythm that comprise his debut studio cut, and something tells
me that this is only a taste of what’s to come from his camp as the decade
The tension in this track is
generated solely by the bassline, but I wouldn’t say that “Chemical Smiles” is
lacking in elaborate stylization. There’s a ton of textures to the synth parts,
as fleeting in presence as they are, and the vocal is riddled with an
emotiveness that has become all too hard to come by in electronic pop lately.
Unlike the bulk of his contemporaries, he doesn’t bask in the surrealism of an
atmospheric melody here; in fact, quite the contrary indeed. Everything in
“Chemical Smiles” is built to make a big impression, and even at moderate
volumes, its bottom-end was designed to quake the floorboards and induce chills
Although the bass is, in my
opinion, the biggest star in “Chemical Smiles,” the vocal track packs plenty of
wallop as well. The melodic facets in Ronin’s delivery of the chorus are
balanced out by his carefree, uncompromisingly abrasive approach to the verses
that lead us into it. You could make the argument that the master mix is so
tightly arranged that it doesn’t leave much room for the melodic verses to
spread out, but I think that was Ronin’s intent all along. I get the
feeling that he wants us to be on the edge of our seats here; with his audience
as tense as possible, we’re vulnerable to his fierce lyrical lashings in all of
their relentless, neo-noir grandiosity. It’s conceptual for sure, but not
overly intellectual at all.
Smooth, darkly seductive and
thoroughly addictive – “Chemical Smiles” is a smash if I’ve heard one this
season, and I hope to sample from more tracks of its supreme quality in the
future. Ronin isn’t an artist that I had any knowledge of before
getting a copy of this single recently, but I think that he shows a lot of
untapped potential in this track that, if properly exploited, could bring him a
lot of fame and financial gain with both electronica and pop aficionados alike.
There’s a couple of rough edges here and there, but by and large, I think that
his 2019 debut is a solid offering from a songwriter who has the chops to
satisfy a diverse group of fans with this melting pot of melodies.