Victor Pedro’s “Call Me, I Miss Ya!,”

Making R&B that stands out in the crowded and competitive market that the genre’s biggest scenes have been enjoying the last decade is no easy task no matter how talented the artist, but in Victor Pedro’s “Call Me, I Miss Ya!,” the Nigerian singer/songwriter makes it look incredibly simple. Following collaborations with some of the biggest stars in the South African circuit, Pedro has truly come into his own as both a composer and a vocalist, and he demonstrates everything that he’s learned in the six years that have passed since his debut single was released back in 2013 here.


The vocal track is the centerpiece of “Call Me, I Miss Ya!,” and though the rhythm is studded with a synthesized groove that is as intoxicating as anything from behind the bar at your local nightclub is, it’s but a drop in the bucket compared to the evocative nature of the lyrics that it acts as a foundation for. Pedro’s voice slides between the ridges in the percussion and paints us a supple but moving picture of heartbreak, yearning and the uncontrollable desire to be with the one we can’t seem to get out of our minds, no matter how hard we try.

“Swagger” is the first word that comes to mind when trying to describe these beats that frame the elegant vocal in the master mix, but that swagger never devolves into pure arrogance in the course of the song’s three and a half minutes of running time. There’s a lot of expressive textures in “Call Me, I Miss Ya!,” starting most prominently with the vocal and the bassline and trickling into the drums, particularly when they’re at their most muted in the transition from the first chorus into the next stanza. This could be the most multifaceted piece of music that Pedro has debuted under this moniker, but it isn’t an exercise in eccentricities by any stretch of your imagination.

Pedro harmonizes with his backing vocalists in “Call Me, I Miss Ya!” in such a seamless delivery that I’m half tempted to ask who these nameless agents of evocation are. In many ways, I think that this track was designed to exhibit his duality as a singer, but moreover, his ability to tackle virtually any melody that producers could throw his way without ever flinching in the booth. For what I look for in a slick R&B single, he hits it out of the park in this song, and I think that the genre’s most dedicated students are likely to agree with me.

If you’ve somehow never heard the music of Victor Pedro prior to now, I’d highly recommend checking out his latest track on the next occasion that you’re shopping for new tunes this April. There’s no one on the American side of the Atlantic working with nearly as refined a skillset as his is, and although he’s still got his trademark rough edges – which wholeheartedly separate him from his closest rivals in the best way possible – I’ve got a gut feeling that this could be the single to put his name in the primetime spotlight after years of putting in his dues within the underground.


Kim Muncie

Kingdom of Birds are finding a nice niche in their latest record Glitz

Millennials can be a tough crowd to please, but Kingdom of Birds are finding a nice niche in their latest record Glitz that appeals to their generation in a uniquely surreal way. Kingdom of Birds are a band of musicians whose ages range from eleven to sixteen, but were you to miss the video for Glitz’ leadoff single “Goodbye” (in which they star), you might be disinclined to realize how young they really are. They distribute some devastating riffs in “Dotted Lines” and “Waiting,” and while they shy away from meticulous arrangements in this EP, they prove unafraid of exploring their depth of artistry in a way that they hadn’t previously demonstrated being capable of.


Some of the grooves in this record would be a lot more danceable if they were given just a little bit more electricity from the drums, which shine brightest in the calculated “Your Friends.” “Waiting” puts all of the emphasis on the relationship between the vocal track and the strings, but there’s a lot of adrenaline in the bassline that shapes the narrative of the song as much as the lyrics do. “Your Friends” and “Dotted Lines” have the most agile constructions, but “Unknown” is the track that I found to be the most thought-provoking both in its instrumentation and its words.

“Unknown” is an identity song for Kingdom of Birds. The string parts are slightly out of sync. The drums are visceral and have a chilling reverb attached to their swaggering beats that makes our hearts race as we approach the opening verse. The melody is studded with a noisy radiance that balances out the tender bonding between the vocal and the bassline. We’re overwhelmed by the textures, but at the same time, the music is simple, familiar and easy to swing with. I think if they hammer out a few more tracks like this one, Kingdom of Birds will have a blistering sequel to Glitz.

I hear a lot of emotion in this band, and I don’t think that they’re very far from where they need to be in getting primed for mainstream attention. Kingdom of Birds have a lot going for them, and considering how young they are, there’s really no limit to what they could achieve if they keep pursuing this medium with as much zeal as they do in Glitz. I’m confident that this isn’t their swansong, but in the next few years, I fully expect to hear something along those lines from their camp.


Kim Muncie

Cleveland International Records returns to the cities roots

The blast of bass and guitar brutality that comes roaring out of the amplifiers in The Boyzz’ “Too Wild To Tame.” The rollicking riffage of “Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive)” from Iron City Houserockers at the peak of their creative prowess. Meat Loaf’s theatrical crooning in “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” Ronnie Spector’s lush lyricism in “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.”  The only place that you’re going to find all four of these classic tracks and many more this season is the freshly recut Cleveland Rocks from the new and improved Cleveland International Records, and anyone who isn’t familiar with this staple compilation should make a plan to do so upon its release this April. You’ll recognize some of your favorites, cherish the gems you’d long forgotten, but more than anything else, you’ll be reminded of how this label garnered its fabled status so long ago.


Jim Steinman’s “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through,” Essence’s “Sweet Fools,” The Rover’s “Wasn’t That a Party” and Just Us Girls’ “Time Warp” don’t oversimplify anything – in fact, they do quite the opposite. These are some of the most indulgent offerings from each of their respective artists, and there’s no attempt made by the producers of this reissue to smother their vintage excesses with modern technique and technology. Every stitch of melodicism here is larger than life and more mammoth than I can even recall it being to begin with, and if anything, we’re getting a much more grandiose stylization of the material than we have ever been treated to before.

This physical master mix brings out all of the colorful sonic nuances in Mike Berry’s “I Am a Rocker” and Ian Hunter’s title track (which, despite not being the same rendition, will instantly trigger flashbacks of Drew Carey leading a mob of angst-ridden Clevelanders through the city streets for anyone who remembers 90’s television with fondness), and that’s not a simple task by any stretch of your imagination. All of the tracks that Cleveland Rocks boasts are transcendent in their presentation and resonate with the current musical climate quite well, despite their rigid aesthetical definition and conventional construction in comparison to some of the more surreal fodder that we hear out of the American indie underground these days.

Though currently stationed in Nashville – a city that afforded founder Steve Popovich Sr. some pretty remarkable success in the past – Cleveland International Records plans on returning home to its namesake city in the future, but that isn’t the only thrilling milestone looming over the horizon for this revitalized label. In 2019, they plan on reissuing about a dozen or so different albums from the most coveted corners of their discography, many of which, I might add, have never been available in the digital age prior to now. I’m not the only critic and music fan who will be getting chills when givingCleveland Rocks a well-deserved spin this April, and if you’re as keen on music’s past, present and future as I am, then you’re going to want to acquire a copy of this LP as soon as it becomes possible.


Kim Muncie

Brandon James – So Emotional

On So Emotional, Brandon James is able to link together a tremendously charismatic set of vocals with taut instrumentation. The song brings in hints of soul, funk, and 1970s R&B with James impressing his own unique vocals into every note. The dynamic between Brandon’s vocals and the horn is the focal point of the single’s second minute before a more contemplative sound begins to dominate. We’re absolutely in love with the chunky bass that plays at the bottom of the track, which provides a solid counterpoint to the higher register that Brandon hits at around the three minute mark. A twinkling production ensures that each element is able to work alone or as a contributor for something much greater than the sum of the song’s constituent parts.

We first took a look at Brandon James back in 2015.

Brandon James – So Emotional / Domain / Facebook /

The Strumbellas – Rattlesnake (Glassnote Records)

With their latest release, Rattlesnake, Canadian six-piece The Strumbellas have pivoted a bit away from their original neo-folk/alt country sound for a more pop sheen. And while this may cause some early adopters to walk away, it’s hard to ignore the charm and appeal of many of the tracks here.

The album opener and lead single, “Salvation” is probably one of the band’s catchiest, most optimistic songs yet and a step away from the more introspective music that dominated the band’s earlier work. And while the band’s exercises their extroverted sides, the subtler, more vulnerable moments here, like “We All Need Someone” or “High” tend to be the songs that stick with the listener much longer.

Four albums and a decade into their existence, The Strumbellas can’t be blamed for wanting to veer off the established path a bit. Thankfully, they don’t stray too far off on Rattlesnake.   

The Strumbellas – Rattlesnake/9 tracks/Glassnote Records/2019 / Domain / Facebook

Jasper “Jazz” Myers

I Meant To Tell You I Loved You is completely engrossing in the sheer vocal range that CoCo lays out here. There is a cogent story that is weaved through this composition that is highlighted through a very laid-back, Prince-infused synth. The vocal and instrumental elements during the track push each to a higher level than if they were alone; by the end of the time I Meant To Tell You I Loved You concludes, listeners will be on the edges of their seats.

How Much Longer is another strong track from Jasper “Jazz’ Myers. The presence of a pair of vocals – male and female – and the numerous dynamics that are established between them and the twinkling backing beat will keep listeners finding new twists and turns even five or ten plays in.

Special Kind of Lover is a focused R&B track that needs little more than a sultry set of vocals and a Spartan sort of instrumentation to have listeners perk up. This erotic, seductive track parallels lovemaking in its deliberate approach, allowing listeners to hear how much control that Myers ultimately has over his own musical output.

My Heart Wont Brake is an effort that feels destined for radio play. The in-your-face percussion, the more touching vocals, and a considerable amount of range shown fans by Myers are all indicators of primo quality. With a bit of bass playing at the background, this is an effort that will continue to shine as listeners put more time into it.

Im Still a Believer in Love is absolutely amazing. During this track, Myers steps back just a bit and allows a funky bass line, plinking pianos and a robust instrumentation to bring listeners to the promised land.

Top Tracks: I Meant To Tell You I Loved You, Special Kind of Lover,
Im Still a Believer in Love

Rating: 8.4/10

Jasper “Jazz” Myers / Domain /

SynthetikReal – Vaya Con Dios

Vaya Con Dios provides a heck of an introduction to SynthetikReal. The track soars on its engaging arrangements as well as a hopeful, Latin-inspired flair that calls forward comparison to Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin. With nods to both the traditional and modern pop genres, SynthetikReal is able to create a crossover hit that feels equally at home no matter whether on the pop, dance, or Latin charts. A robust production ensures that each side – the electric-tinged drums, very traditional strings, and shuffling, jingling sounds at the periphery of the track – is able to shine alone or as part of a unitary element. The presence of Monet Esbee and Matias to the mix further increases the replay value of Vaya Con Dios while maintaining a considerable cohesion to the cut.

Ready To Go begins with a bit slower of a tempo, but has
SynthetikReal continue to ramp up the momentum with sweeping synths and a drop that will appease all the festival goers this year. The vox laid down by Deja Settles are able to pull double duty here in that they can tell a coherent story while providing further complexity to the instrumentation. With nods to Rihanna, Leona Lewis, and Nicole Scherzinger in her own unique style, Deja makes this effort shine.

Fight Of My Life is touching and draws back upon the soaring vocal style of the early 1990s. Monet Esbee is again able to put SynthetikReal’s composition into the stratosphere. Assertive, epic drums are paired masterfully with Esbee’s choral-meets-R&B style to give that much more gravitas to the effort. This trio of songs is precisely what is needed to give listeners some semblance of education about SynthetikReal, all while stoking up fans’ desires to hear more from the performer.

Our recommendation: Fight Of My Life

Rating: 8.6/10

SynthetikReal – Vaya Con Dios (featuring Monet Esbee & Matias) / 2019 Self Released / Bandcamp / Instagram

Chyrstian Lehr – Friends / Hit My Line


Chyrstian Lehr comes forth on Friends with a tremendously intense R&B track that touches upon the last 20 years of the musical style. That means that there are hints of Jodeci present alongside Jason Derulo, The Weeknd, Neyo and Trey Songz. In this cut. Chryrstian is able to both weave a cogent narrative and add mightily to the overall melodies established on the track. The tempo rises and falls during the track, ensuring that listeners are on the edges of their seats until the last note. A booming bassy drum keeps fans firmly focused on the track. Coming forth with such confidence during this cut bodes well for Lehr; one could easily imagine Friends garnerning massive airplay and playlist placement.

Rating: 8.1/10

Hit My Line

In terms of pure passion and raw sexuality, Chrystian’s Hit My Line may be top of the heap. It is during this effort where listeners will hear the rich vocals and tremendous range that Lehr has developed over the course of the last few years. During Hit My Line, the backing beat flitters in the background and continues to highlight Chrystian’s vocals at all points. While Hit My Line runs just up against the 3:30 mark, the energy of the track will make the song seem much, much too short. Repeat spins may be required to get one’s fill of Lehr during this outing.

Rating: 8.4/10

Final Thoughts

Taken together, Friends and Hit My Line will introduce listeners nicely to the innovative performer that is Chrystian Lehr. For additional information about Lehr, samples of his music, and any further updates, visit his social media and main domain. Let us know what you think about the pair of songs that we have covered in this piece in the comments section below.

Chyrstian Lehr – Friends / Hit My Line / 2019 Self Released / Domain / Facebook / Twitter /

Hoozbah – ‘Kneel to the Power’

On Kneel to the Power, Hoozbah is able to make a tremendously engrossing rock track that builds upon Frank Zappa and Bennie and the Jets-era Elton John to create one of the deepest and most emotionally complex tracks we’ve heard. The backing instrumentation rises and falls with the shifts in momentum enough to firmly lock listeners to their seats. The charisma of Hoozbah’s vocals are paralleled quite nicely with the keys and drums that begin at the 2:20 mark. Kneel to the Power is technically amazing, catchy as all get out, and the song’s lyrics will enter one’s mind never to leave. Give it a spin below and let us know what you think about Hoozbah’s latest.

Hoozbah – ‘Kneel to the Power’ / Facebook / Instagram

Hogz in Dandyland – Dr. Grimm’s Parade

Dr. Grimm’s Parade is the latest effort by Hogz in Dandyland, following up on some of the themes and styles initially broached on 2009’s
Across a Miracle. Leafhopper begins the album, showcasing a measured and sedate approach that is able to tell a story through the instrumental interactions that wash over listeners. A focused guitar line and brooding sound pulled out of 1980s goth imprint a certain set of expectation for listeners. The vocals that are front and center during Clock-Eating Dragon provide a further layer of depth to the cut, bolstered through instrumentation that draws upon The Replacements and The Mekons.

Elephants Strolling has a bouncy beat urged on through the presence of a pair of vocals. With a constantly changing backing instrumentation, fans will be ferried into a place that is considerably different from where one was at the beginning of the song. Kite Without A String ties together Bauhaus and the Violent Femmes with Brad’s vocals standing boldly front and center over the composition. Trace My Thoughts is extra-ordinarily strong given its late-album placement. The highlighted vocals initiating the track gradually give up ground to a thrushy, dense instrumentation that will require listeners to strap on their headphones to hear every dynamic, each interaction, and everything that the band has secreted away here.

Dr. Grimm’s Parade (the track) concludes the album, having a bit of an edge to its sound. Guitars reverberate loudly while the bit of echoing vocals imprint the track with just the slightest hints of Bob Dylan and alternative rock. All in all, what Hogz in Dandyland have here is a song that is a bit Lou Reed, a bit early Goo Goo Dolls, and a whole heck of a lot of fun.

Top Tracks: Kite Without A String, In the A.M., Trace My Thoughts

Rating: 8.2/10

Hogz in Dandyland – Dr. Grimm’s Parade / 2018 Self Released / 10 Tracks / Domain / Facebook /