Thursday, September 6, 2018

AV Super Sunshine’s “Time Bomb”



AV Super Sunshine’s “Time Bomb”


The two mixes of AV Super Sunshine’s “Time Bomb”, the club and radio DJ version respectively, offers a powerful example of how an ace collaborator can shape material in a compelling way. Famous DJ and producer Michael Bradford transforms the already fine track into something entirely new, a forceful and dynamically structured EDM masterpiece with accompanying regular instruments like guitar and piano humanizing, in a sense, the musical attack. It runs five plus minutes in length and it’s just this range helping to make it one of the more impressive club aimed released in recent memory. It isn’t difficult to imagine a building teeming with sweating bodies exhausting themselves to the lengthy groove Bradford establishes with this mix thanks to a monumental sound system and the inherent talent going into this release.

AV Super Sunshine is based out of the state of Wisconsin, but the music has universal vintage. AV has a number of well-received and popular releases to its credit and much of the responsible for its reception can be laid at the feet of the idiosyncratic, yet recognizable, swirl of electronic musical elements and more commonplace instruments like guitar and piano. Piano doesn’t play nearly as much of a role in the club  mix as it does the version intended for radio, but AV and Bradford nonetheless find a place for this sound in the aforementioned take on the song, albeit in radically different fashion than before.  Guitar, however, plays a key role in making this club version fly for listeners and adds aesthetic value as it varies up the music’s sound without ever moving it away from its intended target.

The presence of melody in the club mix is a nice touch, but it might be lost on an ocean of writhing bodies. Appreciated from the hearing point of one’s own living room, however, it raises the musical stakes for the song in a meaningful way – meaning it engages the imagination more than an already creative tune might have missed out on. The synthesizers and pre-programmed drums lead the way, however, from the dense flair of sound opening the song through an ear-popping array of changes scarcely allowing the listener time to keep it up. It’s a dazzling display of talent, however, and worth every second.

The radio mix is positively demure in comparison. Make no mistake, however, AV Super Sunshine achieves notable results with this version – there’s definitely a strong electronic instrument presence in this song, but there’s much more outright musicality in a traditional sense. We hear the lead vocals coming through better than the club mix ever allows and the highlighted backing vocals sync up quite nicely with the main voice. The piano mentioned earlier, as well, has a more prominent role than before and, while it is a distinctly different offering than the earlier cut, many of the same      qualities distinguishing Bradford’s club mix are fully evident in this performance. “Time Bomb”, both the club and radio version, are superb, substantive entertainment from an artist only continuing to grow in talent and stature.


Joshua Beach

Monday, August 27, 2018

Conceptz makes a “Splash”



Conceptz makes a “Splash”
With a great deal of respect dished out to the old school pioneers who paved the way for them while also fronting their own concept, style and visually stimulating persona, Conceptz lives up to their name in the single “Splash,” providing us with a whole new look into the minds of the two skilled artists behind its creation. 

Conceptz have been making noise in the American hip-hop underground for nearly a decade, and their name has become synonymous with originality and the unselfish inventiveness that is now influencing a burgeoning generation of indie rappers. “Splash” is what their most loyal fans have come to expect from them; clear, concise lyrics that don’t mince words or rely on metaphors to make a statement. But in addition to that, there’s something decidedly different about “Splash” that sets it apart from all of their professionally released discography to date. “Splash” is a crossover into electronic pop that many of their closest rivals have pursued but almost universally come up short in achieving. “Splash” takes the band, and their appeal, and brings it into full-color realization.
For a little over twenty years now, the biggest rule in this game has been as follows: don’t step on anyone’s toes, but don’t be anyone’s kicking post, either. Conceptz skirts the line with this one, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Splash,” to me, plays out and unfolds like a war cry aimed directly at the corporate figureheads the control the mainstream commercial flow of hip-hop. The underlying message is that Conceptz is here to stay, and not only will the industry cooperate with their masterplan, but they’re actually going to need to mold their structure around what Conceptz is seeking to create. It’s an intrepid threat, but it’s so desperately needed right now in hip-hop and pop music in general. 

For an era that has been supposedly dominated by artist-powered decisions and a collective agreement that major labels and corrupt promotors need to be downsized and cut out of the future direction of our music, this is one of the only times that I can endorse the way an artist has chosen to go about finding their independence.
Conceptz doesn’t have a big agenda in this thing, and there’s no sociopolitical ramifications hanging in the balance with their releases to create pressure on their artistic process. In many ways Highrowglyphfix & Short Fuze are living the rock n’ roll ethos in the most traditional sense imaginable. They’re living just for the music and its complete cultivation, and whatever they have to go through to get their mission accomplished, so be it. That’s what makes these guys so special, and moreover, “Splash” as significant as it really is. If anyone was confused about Conceptz place in the hierarchy of pop prior to now, this track should pretty much clear up any misconceptions. Conceptz is the top boss right now, and rather than trying to figure out how they climbed the latter so fast, I’d worry about trying to keep up with the pace they’re setting.
Joshua Beach

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Naurea - New Zombie Generatio



Naurea - New Zombie Generation


Naurea has intermittently produced music since 2002, but they’ve managed sixteen years without any appreciable advance in technique or skill. The latest twelve song release from the project, New Zombie Generation, is so singularly bereft of inspiration experienced listeners will ask themselves what Abel Oliva Menendez, the project’s mastermind working under the nom de plume Olimann, hoped to accomplish with its release beyond satisfying his own ego. Many of the tracks sport musical arrangements hardly different from their counterparts and others are bald faced imitations of their betters in this style. His songwriting expends a lot of energy aping genre tropes from horror and fantasy fiction, but with no discernible effect on the songwriting quality or entertainment value. Instead, they are ramroded into a mishmash with fragmented and melodramatic pseudo-musings. It’s often offensive, as well, thanks to its total lack of any meaningful sense of humor.

“Sugar Sun” opens the album on a less than promising note and previews an approach we’ll hear for the entirety of New Zombie Generation. Menendez opts for the path of least resistance with each of the album’s songs and makes previous little attempt to meaningfully vary any of the album’s first three tunes. The following tracks “Boygirl Vampire” and “Welcome to Monsterland” essentially follow the same musical path with little variation. Naurea doesn’t build the entire collection around its guitar work, but it plays a significant role and fails at every turn thanks to its lack of imagination and poor production values. The former quality is more fully in evidence over the course of the album’s first three songs and gets New Zombie Generation off to a distinctly inauspicious start.

“Hello Mr. Bull” is another nadir as Menendez continues plundering the catalogs of greater composers for his inspiration and produces nothing of any individual note. Some performers are adept enough to build long and successful careers on the back of outright mimicry, but Menendez can’t because he never properly understood what he heard to begin with. “Mama Cadaver” has a particularly gruesome point of view Menendez does nothing to redeem with any saving grace of humor and, instead, hits listeners with much of the same musical nonsense we’ve heard with earlier tunes. “Dead I Am” leans more on Menendez’s industrial rock influences and comes off as little else than an unmitigated rip off of Nine Inch Nails and other such fare without a single transformative quality to be heard.

The jagged synthesizer propelled attack of “Fast Food is the New Religion” might signal, to some, a chance for Menendez to actually shine, but he disappoints once again with depressingly one note arrangement that could have been something more in the hands of a composer with any discernible evidence of creativity. More blatantly mimicry comes with “Nail in the Eye”, a virtual paean to Downward Spiral era Nine Inch Nails, but sadly lacking any lyrical or musical ingenuity. Few musical experiences in recent memory pretend to be more than Naurea’s New Zombie Generation, but there’s nothing here beyond the sound of an inferior talent aspiring to competence and falling far short.


Joshua Beach

Monday, August 13, 2018

Crack of Dawn release new Music




Crack of Dawn release new Music


Surfacing from the darkness of an extended hiatus with one of the most superb offerings of the last calendar year, Crack of Dawn’s Spotlight isn’t just captivating the critics, but it’s earning one of Canada’s most legendary and critically underrated groups a whole new legion of modern, youthful followers. The way they’re going about their comeback wasn’t devised in some marketing boardroom somewhere or engineered with a big financial interest at hand. 

Crack of Dawn is doing what they’ve always done best, and that’s deliver signature grooves that eliminate the pain and replace it with a warm glowing comfort that is only possible through the majesty of earnest, authentic soul music.

Songs that are able to make us feel and experience the same love, the same pain, the same yearning that an artist is describing to us transcend the physical boundaries of our earthly connections in favor of something much more ethereal and divine. In the church of music, the minister that Crack of Dawn collectively forms isn’t a strict one that wishes to stress the ire of hell that awaits us should we step out of line, but one that encourages us to engage with all of the spectacle of emotions that this life and this world have to offer us in the relatively short time that we’re a part of it. Tracks like “Ol’ Skool,” “Booby Ruby,” the title track and “Keep the Faith” don’t make us question the firm ethos that this style of music was built on, but instead reinforce the iconic allure that helped make soul the most relatable genre in pop. If you can listen to that opening smackdown of rhythm that “Keep the Faith” lays on us in its first thirty seconds, I’d seriously have to question whether or not you’re human or some sort of Apple created cyborg who can’t understand our concept of art and its relatability to the planet as a whole.

Spotlight has a very anthological feel to it, and because Crack of Dawn spent the time that they did selecting this particular group of songs to present to us in one place, we’re able to jump head first into its magnetizing, cinematic qualities without any hesitations or preconceived notions about what we’re getting into. While everyone, in every medium of art, wants the kind of passion and devotion that this group of guys has when they come together in the studio, or anywhere else for that matter, it isn’t something that you can teach in a schoolroom, or even on a stage. Some things you’ve just got to be born with, and there isn’t a single doubt in my mind that Crack of Dawn are blessed with many god given gifts that allow them transcend the barriers between us and connect with us in such an awe-inspiring way. While I’d love to hear them tackle some slightly more stripped down material, I’m not going to complain about anything that this band does moving forward. Honestly, I think we should all just be grateful to have them back, and Spotlight is the perfect disc to celebrate their return.


Gustave Carlson

Friday, August 3, 2018

Jeremy Parsons - Things I Need To Say



Jeremy Parsons - Things I Need To Say


Jeremy Parsons’ exponential growth as a performer is apparent on his latest release Things I Need to Say in both the durability of its individual arrangements and lyrical excellence. Many of the songs on this thirteen song collection tackle weighty themes, but there’s nothing unfamiliar and Parsons delivers songs about life and hope with both a distinctive presence and turn of phrase. The songs are beneficiaries of top notch production touches and highlight Parsons’ occasional desire to upend listener’s expectations. He’s accompanied by a first class crew of supporting musicians on Things I Need to Say who clearly share his ethos of serving the song at the expense of individual glory. The Texas born singer/songwriter has made significant strides with this outing and it likely ranks as his most satisfying artistic achievement yet.

Things I Need to Say is one of those albums, any genre, where each of the individual pieces are exceptional, but fit together in a wider mosaic of sound and meaning that shows off an artist’s full range of talents. Certain characteristic stand out from song to song. The opener “Makin’ It Up as I Go”, “Life”, “Burn This House Down”, and “Lisa’s Lost” move along for listeners with such profound inevitability that you soon understand Parsons has mastered the form and, from this point on, is refining its elements and expanding its reach. “Burn This House Down” and “Lisa’s Lost” are particular highlights, the former adeptly bringing the traditional Americana song of heartache into 2018 and the latter arguably the finest storytelling on the release, but the opener and second song “Life” make for an excellent contrast thanks to the nuanced resignation of “Makin’ It Up As I Go” and the second track’s moody elegance.

The songs “Hope” and “Purpose” incorporate more of a rock influence, particularly the latter, and a big part in making that element of the album work is the inclusion of organ playing riffing away in the mix. Its contributions are enormously important to these two songs, but the volleys traded by harmonica and electric guitar in “Purpose”, coupled with its aggressive drumming, make it one of Things I Need to Say’s most memorable works. Another nod to traditional country balladry comes with the calm and brooding saunter of “After All These Years”. There’s some reproach in these lyrics, but there’s a dollop of forgiveness to, primarily coming from one of Parsons’ more moving singing performances. The release culminates, in a way, with the title song and he flashes his musical imagination for a final shining moment thanks to the shrewd stroke of including unusual instrumentation, albeit common to the genre, with this song and the sort of staggered, yet seamless, way the song develops for listeners. It’s the resonant final punctuation mark on Jeremy Parsons’ latest message to the music world and there’s little question in my mind that Things I Need to Say is his greatest achievement yet.


Joshua Beach

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Honest me release EP



Honest me release EP

If you’ve been following underground music lately, then you’ve probably been hearing the name Honest Men being thrown around a lot in critic circles, and for good reason. Their eponymous follow up to their self-released extended play Okay Dreamer officially drops this May, and it’s already got everyone in college radio buzzing with anticipation. Featuring six songs led by three hot singles, Honest Men looks to take this band onto the next level of stardom and into the next decade of popular music.


Formed in Waco, Texas in early 2015 by three Baylor University students (vocalist Seth Findley, guitarist Brooks Whitehurst and drummer Zach Solomon), Honest Men evolved into a four piece when they added bassist Nate Wallace that winter and rounded out their sound before heading into a Nashville studio for their debut recording. Now with a lot of tour mileage under their belt and an overabundance of energy to expend, they’ve gone back into the studio, this time a little closer to home in Austin, and the growth in their craft is very apparent. Where Okay Dreamer saw the band lay out their template for making relevant synth pop that could still play well with big guitar riffs, Honest Men sees the band escalating their aural capabilities to an entirely different level of professionalism. If Okay Dreamer was essentially a well-mixed demo, then Honest Men is its matured successor, ready to go deep and get personal while still knowing how to have a lot of fun.


The three singles from this extended play are all great standalone recordings but mesh perfectly together on the full record as well. “Mad Love,” the first single, is about as authentic as it gets in its strutting coolness that could have fit well on the GTA Vice City soundtrack in a lot of ways. In an effort to remind us that we should save our sorrows and constantly push forward to bigger and better things, “Mad Love” is as much a festive song as it is a commentary on self-analysis. The second single, “I’m Okay,” is also laced with an important message that people, especially in the last couple of years, have desperately been in need of: chill out, we’re going to be okay. These days, when it seems like everyone has to take a pill or smoke something to be able to function and get through the simplest, most mundane aspects of life, it’s refreshing to hear singer Seth Findley just cut through the noise with these biting lyrics. The third and final single off of Honest Men is “Rose,” an ode to the raw power of love that can overtake any person when they find exactly what, and who, they’ve always been looking for. I don’t think I can decide which of the three is my favorite, honestly because they’re all too catchy to choose from. Honest Men have got a way of doing everything the right way while still making compelling, wistfully unorthodox music.


To find out more about Honest Men and preview their upcoming live schedule, check out their official Facebook and Instagram pages, and look for their eponymous EP at the end of this May.

Joshua Beach

Ben Rice releases “The Getaway”


Ben Rice releases “The Getaway”
There is music that makes us dance uncontrollably. Music that is so heart-throbbing that we’re forced to get up and move to its rhythm. There is music that makes us cry without inhibition; it moves us from somewhere deep inside, somewhere sacred that can only be reached through pure, unfiltered emotion. And of course there is music that makes us love, feel love, open ourselves up to love for what is often the very first time. The vulnerability is scary, but somehow music always has a way of making any situation a little easier to tackle, consume and digest as part of this crazy world that we live in. Sometimes the emotion can be too raw and we get lost in the translation of an artist’s feelings. But then there are the times when an artist is so deeply connected to his or her audience that we become synchronized with their soul to the beat of their song. Ben Rice’s “The Getaway” reaches out and grabs us by the core of our being, carrying us away on its unique journey of contemplative observation of the world, the life and the people who make our existence on this planet real.
Ben Rice is a storyteller in every sense of the term. His music isn’t made with the singular goal of making us move or feel love. His music is inspired by the feeling of being alive itself, encapsulating all of the joy, sorrow and at times irreverent discontent that each day tends to bring in some way or another. In certain respects, he’s not just telling us his story, but he’s telling a bit of ours as well. “The Getaway” applies to his own point of view, but it could just as easily be applied to a lot of our own viewpoints as well. How often do we find ourselves trapped in a life that we never planned on, searching for some kind of outlet from all the noise? And in that search, how often do we end up finding that the solution to our woes, the calm to this storm, was within our reach the whole time, if only we stopped panicking long enough to see it for ourselves?
There usually isn’t a lot that we can learn about an artist from a single alone. “The Getaway” is Ben Rice’s virgin offering as a solo artist, and without delving too deep into his highly acclaimed work as both a producer and a band member, we can still deduce that not only is he talented as a performer, but as a songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist as well. He has such an intense connection to his craft, such obvious love for the work that he produces, that it isn’t hard to conclude that whatever his upcoming extended play contains aside from “The Getaway” is highly likely to be amazing. If he continues to make music that is as evocative and emotionally relatable as what he has done with this single, he’s almost guaranteed to have even more success in this highly competitive business.
Joshua Beach