Mike Ra releases new single “Dogs”

“I’m so proud of my dogs, I don’t care if I’m not what you thought” Mike Ra announces in his single “Dogs,” out now courtesy of the masterminds behind DXB Studios. In a slowly unfolding chapter play of verses that swing and slide along the lines of Desiigner without the glaze of neo-G overproduction. I hear a lot of Future and early Young Thug when I listen to Mike Ra, but at the same time, I feel like there’s something so uniquely refined about his style of rapping that comparing him to other artists (especially American ones) seems a little unfair to both parties.

Everyone who pursues a career in the arts wants to sound a little different than everyone else around them. Sure, wearing influences on your sleeve can be a wonderful homage to one’s roots and background, but who ever wanted to be compared to someone else, or worse, someone else’s archaic recordings of the past? I could try and compare Mike Ra to a litany of rap artists that you’ve heard in the past, and try to sell you on the idea that his work is similar to whatever you’ve fallen in love with on the radio, but wouldn’t that all be a little silly? The best part about discovering new music is being able to bask in the glory of knowing that you’ve found something that is totally different than what anyone else is doing, and if you’re of the hipster persuasion, knowing that you’ve found something that no one else has discovered yet. If you’ve been around the Toronto rap scene lately, Mike Ra and his new track “Dogs” aren’t anything new, but if you’re a part of the American hip-hop community south of the border, this is quite the find. And now is the chance to get in on the ground floor of Mike Ra’s platting.

One thing I would have probably done differently if I were in charge of mixing the finished product that is “Dogs” would have been to emphasize this killer bassline a little bit more than what we end up with. There’s a smoky quality to this song that reminds me of classic black and white movies where you don’t need complete Technicolor to appreciate all of the varied textures and elements that make each of the scenes particularly piercing. And just like a movie, each of the carefully arranged tones in “Dogs” feels like an individual character with a story to tell. As if to try and steal our attention away from the competing sounds, each one of these minutiae exemplifies a shade of color that Mike Ra has to offer us in his work, and if you spend enough time looking closely, the abundance of tones can be almost overwhelming to process. All of that withstanding, you don’t have to be an arts expert to be able to get into “Dogs” and embrace its almost avant-garde sense of self-exploration. What you do have to have is a sense of adventure and a craving for originality, which I’ve found tends to come standard to today’s music enthusiast.

YOU TUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdQ644An6HjqSy_AOmosMYg

Kim Muncie

 

Cat Dail releases Fight For Love

Although I just recently became familiar with her work, I must say that singer/songwriter Cat Dail’s discography has been becoming a bit of a regular in my playlist lately. Her sixth studio album Fight For Love grabbed my attention immediately the first time that I gave it a spin as an indie pop/rock record easily in contention for album of the summer, and for good reason. Its excellent fusion of elaborate, mind-bending funk and quaint folk-rock guitar makes for quite the soundtrack to any lazy bonfire as well as it does a collection of anthems for those long hot summer nights that we come to relish during this time of year. Continue reading “Cat Dail releases Fight For Love”

Cathy Hutch release LP

It’s not the easiest task in the world to balance soft lyrics with loud, unruly guitar driven music, regardless of the general manner in which an artist chooses to deliver their craft. Rock music, country, punk rock, heavy metal, whatever you want to call yourself; the tantalizing equilibrium of music that can move us emotionally as much as it can physically is one that every artist seeks out from the very beginning of their careers. And although she’s no stranger to the road nor the studio, Cathy Hutch has all of the energy of a rookie black and white songwriter embarking on their first full color venture mixed with the poise and indulgent confidence of seasoned veteran on her new album Free Wheelin’. I’m not sure precisely how she’s navigated the cutthroat industry that is Canadian country music as well as she has in the last ten years, but her follow up to 2008’s Not Goin’ Back proves to be well worth the decade long wait in its inimitably kind and heartfelt artistic patchwork. Continue reading “Cathy Hutch release LP”

The Refusers – Disobey

Disobey is the third album from the Seattle band The Refusers and solidifies their position as one of the more politically active rock bands in recent history. They’ve garnered considerable renown as a band opposed to vaccinations, distrustful of virtual any organized institution in American life, and clearly of the opinion that we are getting the collective shaft as a nation. They bring us into their world from the first track, “Playing with Fire”, and it’s a blood-shot eyed howl of rage about living in an unjust world where the masters of our race treat impending disaster for our world and the masses with a cavalier attitude. Michael Belkin’s guitar work is edgy enough and never takes any extended lead breaks. Instead, the band opts to build around straight forward guitar riffs and steady, no frills drumming. The title song is one of the best reflections of that approach, but the main riff driving the tune and the vocals possess an inspired energy different than we hear from any of the other already fine songs. “Eruption” succeeds thanks to a similar groove oriented approach and some stellar bass playing from Steve Newton. They subvert expectations a little by pairing a volcanic title with a relatively low-key, lightly funkafied performance.

 

“Fake News” marries some post punk spirit with hard rock fundamentals for a powerful arrangement, yet the song tackles such a divisive issue that it might have been a mistake to include it. Balancing the need to draw as wide of an audience as possible with saying what you need to say as an artist must be, at least, a  light but constant struggle for the band and the band does as good of a job as possible positioning the message against an impartial and ballsy rock and roll attack. “My Baby Loves Rock and Roll” is a welcome respite from the band’s concerns about modern life and embraces pure rock and roll bawdiness in a familiar musical and lyrical setting. Despite this song clearly not remarking the wheel, The Refusers prove they do have a talent for pouring old wine into new bottles.

 

“Free the Captives” returns the band to their customary subject matter, but they slow things down compared to most of the tunes on Disobey and clearly focus more on making the most of the track’s dynamic shifts from light to shadow. You may not expect it, but there’s a lot of surprising nuance heard on this release and the musicianship is higher than we hear on many of the already exceptional earlier tunes. The final number on Disobey, “Emancipation”, is a perfect choice for the band to make an emphatic last statement on the album and highlights the deceptive hopeful message that’s a significant part of the band’s revolutionary rhetoric. The Refusers’ nine song album Disobey is another fine entry in the band’s growing discography and has a lot to offer even if you disagree with its politics. Eight years since their formation, it’s becoming increasingly clear The Refusers can lay claim to being one of the best indie rock bands working today.

SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/therefusers/sets/disobey-pre-release/s-BKaMx

Pamela Bellmore

 The Refusers – Disobey

ShaQ:Muzik – “Get Down”

In his first single “My One & Only Love,” ShaQ:Muzik gave us an incredibly intimate and wildly sonic love song that got R&B and electronica fans very intrigued with his unique blend of slick, stylish grooves. The track shimmered with what seemed like a million different colors colliding into one another like a reckless but loving embrace. It was a feast for our ears, and he made sure to keep us interested when he cut “Let Me in Your Heart Again,” a slow, churning psychedelic ballad that erotically captured the affections of critics throughout the European market and even found its way to the shores of the American indie underground. Which brings us to his latest, most polished release yet; “Get Down,” a track that shows us that ShaQ:Muzik knows how to dance and throw down some up-tempo beats in addition to his trademark soulful crooning.

Continue reading “ShaQ:Muzik – “Get Down””

Conor Gains – Compass

Conor Gains has earned a well deserved reputation as a singer/songwriter on the rise thanks to his work with the Conor Gains Band, but his first solo release Compass is a ten song collection representing how his expanding ability for realizing his musical and lyrical vision has taken a quantum leap forward. The process of assembling Compass has been a lengthy one and Gains pared down nearly a hundred songs down to ten that he felt best embodied what he wants to accomplish with Compass. It’s a particularly appropriate title for this release as the ten songs here point towards Gains’ ever brightening future with confidence and a wide ranging ambition that few of his contemporaries or peers can hope to match. There’s commerciality and substance alike here and this is far from a purist niche album but, instead, a melodic ride capable of reaching the widest of possible audiences.

 

Casual music fans will find just as much here to love as the hardcores ever will. “I Know”, the album’s first song, is a great choice for that slot because it presents important parts of Gains’ talents in an easily digestible way. There’s never any time listening to this album that I felt like Gains and his collaborators came off as too showy for a song’s good, but it’s clear from the first that the musicianship working here is several cuts above the norm and they definitely take some chances with later songs that they don’t here. “Walking Alone” takes a familiar theme and turns it in a way that feels accessible, yet more personal, to Gains and ends up hitting all the usual marks we’d expect from a song with this subject matter. Much of Compass is concerned with time honored subjects like love and how we relate to one another, so its doubly appropriate we get a plethora of emotional tones with this release that mimic our own fickle affections and deeply held passions. “Dance Like It’s Your Birthday” is one of the, hands down, most enjoyable numbers on Compass and the go for broke, seize the moment spirit of both the playing and Gains’ singing makes this an early peak on the release.

 

“Ordinary Love” and “I’ve Been Looking for Your Love” share certain similarities in subject matter and are both quite excellent, but there’s no question the musical reach of the former exceeds the latter. Both tunes draw attention to Gains’ talent for writing a strong, punchy chorus that wastes no movement in getting the song over with listeners’, The latter tune blends minimalist qualities in the arrangement during the first and final halves of the song with a light country blues air while the remainder of the song skirts free-floating jazzy inflections and intelligent percussion laid out through the entirety of the tune.

 

“Miracle” and “Mexico” seem like the self-conscious peaks of the album, much longer than the surrounding songs, and take very different approaches. The finale “Mexico” is the more nuanced of the two while “Miracle” only brings in a little added rock muscle to underscore its near purist blues pedigree. The closing song is, instead, much more of a look back to the near fusion jazz, albeit never played in a strident or pseudo-virtuosic way and has a cinematic air lacking from many of the earlier songs and definitely not as developed as it is here. Conor Gains is a fantastic performer on every level but it’s his writing, ultimately, that’s giving him the needed foundation to entertain thoughts of a long musical career ahead of him.

 

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/conorgains?lang=en

URL: https://www.conorgainsband.com/

Scottie Carlito

Rob Alexander – Long Road Coming Home

Forget the Super Bowl, if you can figure out a way to predict who is going to dominate Top 40 radio in the next decade, you’re going to be one incredibly rich individual. It’s true, there is perhaps no other facet of pop culture as totally and unreliably volatile as popular music. Society’s taste in music changes a lot faster than its taste in politicians or trite sitcoms, and when we’re done listening to something, we’re really, really done listening to it. Sure, Van Halen kept making records in the 90s, but can you name any of them? In that same sense, when we’ve found something special, something truly unique and awesome, then we run with it, blow it up into larger than life status and allow it to shape a big part of the culture that we live and work in every day. Florida’s own Rob Alexander wants a part to play in the grand theater that is pop music, and he’s doing a great job and placing his stake and marking his territory with his new single, “Better Than That,” from his debut album Long Road Coming Home. The message behind this offering to the masses? Repetitive beats of overproduced hip hop acts and auto-tuned pipes of plastic stadium singers be damned; here’s music that can make us feel something again.

 

Love songs, regardless of their stylistic origins or context of genre, make for the most consistently marketable theme in the music business. Whether we’re singing about how glad we are that we’ve found that missing piece of our hearts, lamenting losing it, or wondering how to even find it in the first place, love songs create a special relatability for listeners that is recession-proof for one simple reason; everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to be loved. I don’t think that Rob Alexander was thinking about the marketability of a track like “Better Than That” when he sat down and penned it, but what’s exceptional about the song isn’t just its highly relatable subject matter or extremely catchy chorus; it’s the fact that Alexander earnestly and endearingly makes us believe in love along with him when he sings. The lyric “Some loves comes, some love goes, I guess it’s just whatever flows” in the opening stanza sounds like a ringing echo through the deserted Canyonlands of loneliness. Indeed, like the Top 40, love is desperately unpredictable to a fault, and Alexander’s demand for a better, higher kind of intimate relationship is like a rallying cry for all of the solitary people of earth.

 

Much like Billy Joel’s The StrangerLong Road Coming Home dives right into the pool of reflective self-examination, but doesn’t fall into overly indulgent pity and megalomania. Rob Alexander is focused on crafting complete songs that don’t focus exclusively on one aspect of his artistry, instead allowing the audience to experience all of the colors and diverse accents present in his delicately woven stories. If he’s able to keep up with the pace of momentum that “Better Than That” is creating for him, I have no doubt that he will become a fixture of the pop charts for a long time to come.

 

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Long-Road-Coming-Home/dp/B079TGZB5L

ANGHAMI: https://play.anghami.com/song/33360046

Trevor Grey

Greg Jacquin – Hudson River

New York’s Greg Jacquin has released the full-length album, Hudson River. According to his biography, Jacquin traces his roots and inspiration to the Hudson Valley. He was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, in 1970. Jacquin’s release is one of the more impressive Americana albums to come along in 2018 – his pulse putting to music feelings of being alone, depression and even people watching make Hudson River a two-thumbs up record.

Jacquin is the son of a Cuban immigrant, which makes his strong command of the Americana and folk genre all the more interesting. Surprisingly he doesn’t have any of the Cuban influence in his music, but you can tell he grew up on The Beatles, Cat Stevens and probably Jim Croce. His voice stays within his comfort zone for the most part and his delivery takes you in.

In “The Station” Jacquin pleads, “you won’t recognize me maybe, you won’t throw me a line.” I really liked this song and I loved how it set the stage for the rest of the album. His lyrics get a lot sadder and strangely beautiful. I loved how in “Station” (and in most of the other songs), the violin is the undertow to his voice. You can still hear the presence of acoustic guitar, and the percussion is just perfect.

“Floating” is also a great song. The violin is breathtaking. What a gem – this song truly feels like you’re a raindrop or that you’re making your way down the Hudson River. “Floating” will get you ready for summer’s sun kissed days and starry nights.

My next favorite song is “Hopeless Entrance.” Jacquin turns up the darker button a notch. I have a feeling he wrote this song in the early morning hours, or while being in bed all day surfing social media. At one point I felt like his voice dove lower like Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode) or even Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam).

Honorable mention goes to “Scratches and Bridges.” Jacquin receives mad props for changing things up some with including a trumpet. I loved the added flavor the horns provided. Perhaps this influence comes from his Cuban roots.

If you’re a die-hard Cat Stevens fan looking for the pop-sounding tracks like “Peace Train” or even “Moonshadow” you will need to look elsewhere than Greg Jacquin’s Hudson River. What you will find instead are eight tracks that an artist gave everything for – Jacquin’s lyrics might be heavy-handed and a bit on the sad side, but he triumphs. Hudson River will be a great addition to your musical library, especially for rainy days and when the foliage starts to fall.

As a listener I never felt too sad or too lonely to finish the tracks. In fact, I hit repeat several times. If the mark of a true artist is to connect and have their listener feel something, then Greg Jacquin not only accomplishes this, he masters the technique. Like a master painter, he brushes the dark and the light to create a chiaroscuro Americana pallet.

BANDCAMP: https://gregjacquin.bandcamp.com/album/hudson-river

Julie Griffey

Twindows – Valkyrie 2.0

If you thought the Pacific Northwest was the only place that grungy music could be cultivated, The Twindows are here to tell you to think again, with their debut album Valkyrie 2.0, out now on CD and digital download. Perhaps just as grimy as the I-5 corridor that links Seattle and Portland is the gritty industrial graveyard that is central Pennsylvania. Once the center of the western world’s steel industry, the advent of technology and declining number of labor jobs in America has left much of the region in economic and social peril, similar to many other blue collar parts of the United States. But in times of trouble, it seems that one thing can always be counted on; good music will always emerge and get us through. And after listening to Valkyrie 2.0 today, I can attest that these devout Penn punks are doing more than their fair share to relieve the burden of American life in 2018 (not that life abroad doesn’t look a little stressful, too). Continue reading “Twindows – Valkyrie 2.0”

Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite – Electrified

The Grand Brothers & Dee, both important presences on the modern pop scene growing in reputation and ambition with each new release, are teaming for a new project dubbed Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite. The first single “Electrified” from the collaboration’s forthcoming debut Canyon Diablo illustrates the production talents of the brothers while also illustrating the talents that have allowed Dee to land coveted spots like a Ford auto commercial during the most recent Super Bowl programming, but the scope of the new single reaches far beyond the confines of mere popularity. The project is clearly aiming to craft modern pop music with genuine substance and lasting value while still providing listeners with ample entertainment value for their money. “Electrified” personifies the best elements that each half of this creative partnership bring to the table without ever seeming hollow or pretentious. It’s a powerful first outing that reminds listeners what great pop music can accomplish. Continue reading “Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite – Electrified”