Wednesday, June 24, 2020

“Habibi” by Ilyah




Chic and cosmopolitan in the surreal “The Only One,” cutting and full of a brooding emotionality in “Miscommunication,” it’s impossible to ignore the warm vocal of Ilyah no matter which of his songs is playing. In the last couple of years, this pop singer/songwriter has been steadily gaining steam in the international underground on the strength of his vocal prowess, and having been introduced to his music a little while ago, I can understand why he’s getting another wave of buzz this spring. On the heels of his latest release, the single/video combo “Habibi,” Ilyah has been attracting some renewed interest from the indie press, and based on the growth he’s displayed over the course of the last few years, he’s more than worthy of the hype for sure. 

While Ilyah’s music videos have always been sparkling with polish, his most recent visual dispatch in “Habibi” is perhaps his slickest piece of material to see widespread release thus far. Where “Girls Like You” and “Miscommunication” sampled from the same indulgent influences that this release does, there’s more of an attention to the relationship between shots and songcraft here than I was initially expecting to find. He’s got so much he’s trying to get off of his chest via the harmonies in the master mix, but beside them, we’ve got a smorgasbord of stimulating frames that keep our attention glued to the screen as much as it is the speakers. It’s very well-rounded material, and a great look for its creator. 

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/ilyahofficial/?hl=en

I absolutely love the use of melodic contrast in the tracks “The Only One,” “Girls Like You” and this latest cut “Habibi.” Borrowing some elements from avant-gardism but avoiding the pitfalls that come with sounding overly experimental, Ilyah strike an interesting balance between alternative aesthetics and pop simplicity (which is no easy feat for any artist to tackle). He’s got quite the gift for amalgamating texture and tonality together, and if there were any critics not lauding his skillset in this department prior to now, I think they will be in the next year. 2020 is already off to a tremendous start for this player, and with a little more airplay on the college radio format through the summer, he’ll be ready to enter the autumn season as one of the underground’s premier voices. 

You don’t have to be a pop fanatic to dig the direction that Ilyah is taking his music in at the moment, but for those of us who carefully follow the genre’s every movement, this is definitely an artist that you need to be paying special attention to moving forward. Ilyah doesn’t have a particularly theatrical presence in his studio recordings – he’s raw, real and, frankly, never hesitant about putting his emotions out there through both his melodic attack and the words it’s designed to convey unto us. He’s come a long way in an incredibly short amount of time, and if he keeps his nose to the grindstone through 2020, he’ll see even more success in this decade than he did the latter half of the last. 

Joshua Beach 

Friday, May 29, 2020

“Head in the Clouds” by Reverse Mechanic


In his new single, “Head in the Clouds,” the musician known simply as Reverse Mechanic explores string-born harmonies with more of a rambunctious moxie than he’s ever displayed in-studio before. Whether we’re listening to the song by itself or taking in its fun-loving music video, its core hip-hop aesthetic comes to us flanked with a pop/rock melodicism that I can’t recall hearing in the genre before. It would be untrue to suggest that other rappers haven’t tried to fuse elements of rock or pop into their work prior to now, but among those who have experienced any degree of success, Reverse Mechanic’s effort is definitely among the more interesting.

Official Website: https://reversemechanic.com/

The concept behind this track comes almost entirely from the idea of preserving the melodic relationship between vocal and verse. Whether he’s rapping or harmonizing with the guitar parts here, Reverse Mechanic sounds very relaxed and unflustered, doing everything in his power to maintain a fluidity in the hook that wouldn’t be possible with a more rigid performance. Even the verses he spits out with a furious intensity later on tin the song have a tonal warmth I haven’t come across in a long time, let alone in material out of the American hip-hop underground.

I really love the guitar element to “Head in the Clouds,” and I think that, in more ways than just the obvious, it accents the beat here better than anything else would have. There isn’t any sort of bassline indulgence for us to sift through in this song; in fact, I actually think it’s a little thin on the low-end of the spectrum. That said, there hasn’t been a single quite this crisp to bear a hip-hop categorization label in all of 2020, and that alone makes it a rather interesting listen for those of us who follow the scene.



Reverse Mechanic was smart to go with a streamlined mix over anything super bombastic here for a couple of reasons. First off, it helps for us to retain focus on his vocal virtuosity, which is on display from beginning to end in “Head in the Clouds” for all to hear and appreciate. Second of all, by avoiding the surreal glow that so many of his peers have been trying to capture in their own work lately, he not only distinguishes himself as an anti-establishment rebel, but more importantly, as a player who wants to make his own brand of musicality in 2020.

If this is on par with what Reverse Mechanic is going to be doing throughout the next chapter of his career, I doubt “Head in the Clouds” will be the last time he winds up in the headlines with his work. There is certainly a lot to get excited about in modern hip-hop; the genre has reached an apex of sorts that is resulting in a diversification unlike anything many critics would have predicted just a decade earlier. Artists like Reverse Mechanic are ushering in this next era marvelously and, mostly, because of the indie ethos they adhere to so well.

Joshua Beach

Thursday, May 28, 2020

“Greyhound Bus” by Jefferson Thomas

For the last few years, singer/songwriter Jefferson Thomas has been building up quite the following on the underground side of his scene. In his new single, “Greyhound Bus,” and its eclectic music video, Thomas swings for the fence with a robustly rhythmic rock tune and ends up scoring as big as he could have hoped to. “Greyhound Bus” has all the makings of a classic heartland rock song, but its contemporary edge and lack of political lyricism give it a unique quality few tracks of its kind possess. This is a good time to be following indie music, and right now, this is one of the month’s best new releases. 

Official Website: https://www.jeffersonthomas.com/

I really love the clean-cut stylization of the master mix here. Both the music video and the single feature a lot of instrumental detail that feels textured and highly contributive to the overall narrative in the lyrics. There’s never an instance where it’s difficult for us to discern one element from another, and for the most part, Thomas’ vocal harmonies dominate every angle in the arrangement. He’s got such a charming energy about him in “Greyhound Bus,” and between his words of wisdom and the melodies that accompany his every utterance, he’s sounding like a seasoned pro at this medium. 

Part of me does wonder if “Greyhound Bus” would sound ever better in a live setting than it does in this studio recording. There’s a jam energy to Jefferson Thomas’ recently released material that sounds inspired by freeform sessions spent alone with his own thoughts, and on stage, I think we could potentially get just as powerful a performance from him. He has all the cards on the table with us in this single, and whether meaning to or not, I do believe he has raised the bar for both his own future output and that of his scene in general.

 

You don’t have to be a big heartland rock fan to appreciate what Jefferson Thomas is piling on our plates in “Greyhound Bus,” but those who are will probably regard this as one of the sweetest new songs of 2020. With the immense division the nightly news discusses on a daily basis, it’s always nice to find some untainted Americana that reminds all of us of what really matters most in the American identity. This is a fantastic new single and music video, and more than enough to bring me back to Thomas’ work in the future.

Joshua Beach

“Antherius" releases "Midnight Cowboy"

Living amidst a pandemic hasn’t been easy on any of us, but for cities like New York, the cultural difference is indescribable to say the least. The once bustling metropolis has been reduced to ghost town-status in the last few months, and in the music video for Antherius’ cover of “Midnight Cowboy,” we see just how barren its streets have become. A reminder of the city’s persevering identity transformed into a blushing ambient soundtrack, Antherius’ “Midnight Cowboy” is a commentarial look at the state of society as we see it today, and moreover, the optimistic future still sitting on the horizon ahead.   

Tonality is the primary channel of communication in any instrumental ambient track, but that’s all the truer in this single. The synth play melds into the distorted guitar parts, reverberating percussive grooves and understated bassline beautifully. Though he’s not singing, Antherius is articulating a story through little more than texture and musical presence, which, as any critic will tell you, is no easy feat for even the most talented of players to pull off. The production quality here is top notch, but even with its stylish polishing, “Midnight Cowboy” glows with a cerebral tension you don’t find very often on the FM dial.   

Official Website: https://www.antherius.com/

The synthesizers in this song are some of the smoothest I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in 2020. There are no examples of tininess nor hollow melodic faceting here that I can point to as shortcomings, and better yet, the synths never sound particularly artificial in the grander scheme of things. Much like the lights that dot the numerous skyscrapers high above the Hudson, they feel like the perfect adornment to the foundation of harmonies here, which is a lot more than I can say for some of the other synthetically-stylized instrumentals I’ve heard recently.  

Although I would probably describe “Midnight Cowboy” as being an ambient single in spirit, there’s an underlying jazz sensibility to Antherius’ delivery here that can’t be discounted. Unlike other adaptations of this legendary track, there’s a diversity to the framework of this particular recording that sets it apart right out of the gate. Whether intending to or not, he’s put a unique stamp on a piece of musical history that feels strangely appropriate this May, 2020 (with the ultimate irony being that this was first recorded about three years ago as a standalone single).  

 

If you’re looking for something totally different than what the status quo in pop calls for this season, Antherius’ “Midnight Cowboy” is a great addition to your favorite ambient playlist. Its music video is a stellar optical view into the uncomfortably silent street activity of New York City these days, but more than that, it offers us a one of a kind insight into the artistic soul of its creator. Antherius is a deep-thinking musician, and though he didn’t write “Midnight Cowboy” himself, he makes this song sound and feel like something as original and unrecycled as anything topping the Billboard charts in the past couple of months. 

Joshua Beach

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Andy Michaels releases “Darling it Hurts” (single)


Two people stand atop a mountain, their hands joining as they look upon the peaks and valleys set out before them. We suddenly cut to another scene, this one set at a dinner table, as the pair exchange vacant stares and sip from large wine glasses. The scene shifts again to an open-air venue, but much of the same sentiments from the previous sit-down have carried over to this one. Andy Michaels is crooning in the background, his voice accompanied by a beautiful string melody, as tears are shed and headaches find little comfort on screen in this video for the all-new single “Darling It Hurts,” and though we are not in the physical presence of its two characters, their emotion is tangible to us nevertheless.


“Darling It Hurts” boasts one of the more spellbinding videos I’ve seen from an independent artist this March, but its real allure is the music it delivers to us, packaged in a light pop polish but left relatively unchanged from the form we find it in on the critically-acclaimed Incendiary Heart, Michaels’ latest album. The first half of the song is dominated by Andy Michaels and the strings that shelter every emotional statement he makes, but as we get deeper into the track, another voice decides to join him in what will become, at least in my opinion, one of the best duets you’re going to hear this spring. Their connection is as intimate as the players on screen, and they convey the mood of the unraveling imagery perfectly.

I wouldn’t change a thing about the production style Michaels decided to go with in the video for “Darling It Hurts,” and frankly, the same goes for Incendiary Hearts as well. All of his music is defined by its intricate detail, but in this latest release, I get the feeling that he wanted the simplicity of his songwriting to steal the show away from any of the minute elements that make-up the melody here. He’s got a lot of talent, and given how short his time in the spotlight has been, he’s truly come a long way (especially when comparing his development with that of his mainstream competitors) both in the studio and as a composer.


Though it’s marred in melancholy and occasionally difficult for the recently brokenhearted to digest, pop and adult contemporary fans would be crazy to pass up the new music video for Andy Michaels’ amazing “Darling It Hurts” single. Melodically, I’m not sure if he’s ever sounded quite as on-point as he does in this latest release, and if there’s any chance he makes it over to the States to carry out a proper tour in support of Incendiary Heart’s release, I definitely plan on being there to see what he can do in person. Michaels seems determined to climb through the underground ranks this year, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s earned a place on my personal ‘Artists You Have to Hear to Believe’ list without any need for reanalysis.

Joshua Beach

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Little King releases Occam’s Foil (EP)


Occam’s Foil from Southeastern based power trio Little King is your antidote to the bland paint by numbers rock prevalent in a moribund genre and has a level of ambition surprising for an EP release. The short form release is often an early teaser for full album releases to come but this five song collection is obviously a complete work built with a certain amount of thematic scaffolding yet is never outright conceptual. 

The band, led by singer/songwriter and guitar Ryan Rosoff, is a mainstay of the El Paso music scene since the late 20 th century and has seen members come and go, but Rosoff sounds like he has discovered the ideal configuration for taking the band into the future. Drummer Eddy Garcia is a longtime collaborator and Delaware friend Manny Tejeda completes the trio on bass. It is easy to imagine, listening to this release, the sort of power they pack in a live setting. The production is crisp and balanced between the three, but Rosoff obviously leads the way in some respects. They take some genuine musical chances over the course of these five songs further distinguishing them from their peers and contemporaries that are far from mere window dressing. 


“Hate Counter” sets a tone. This all out blast of musical wrath against building a wall between the United States and Mexico and putting children in jail cells has an almost bulldozer effect at first with Rosoff’s juggernaut riffing, but the band soon takes listeners through a variety of hairpin musical curves with breathtaking skill. This is no ordinary rock band. Rosoff’s vocal embodies all of the visceral anger thinking individuals feel at the song’s subject matter without ever succumbing to histrionics. 

They take a chance with the track “The Skin That I’m In” inviting violinist Christina Hernandez to contribute to the performance and her classical chops isn’t just meaningless tinsel added to the performance. Instead, she adds another layer to an already fine arrangement further demonstrating the band’s unusual compositional approach and Rosoff’s songwriting skill. Alternating between light and shade is something they do exceptionally well. 


“The Foil” will impress many, though some many find its finger pointing at society a little predictable. The musical identity of the song, nevertheless, has immense creativity and the arrangement will never cease to surprise you. Despite the finger pointing, it is Rosoff’s best moment on the EP as a lyricist as he throws in a number of devastating lines cutting through the arrangement and capturing listeners’ attention. If the EP has a title track, this is it. “Nerve 8” is another instance showing the band is at home on the stairway of surprise as they conclude the EP with a hard hitting instrumental track. Like the opener “Hate Counter”, “Nerve 8” twists and turns through a number of ear and eye popping changes without ever hitting a single clich├ęd note. 

Little King’s Occam’s Foil covers a tremendous amount of musical territory over the course of five songs and reveals this band is cut from a different cloth than most.

Joshua Beach

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Interview: Alonzo



Hey Alonzo! Thank you for your time today! Fill us in and tell us what 2020 has been like for you this far! 

Hey! Thank you!

There’s this old saying called the 5 p’s it says that “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Presentation” I live by this. 2020 so far has been a lot of preparation for me. I have been nonstop in the gym preparing my body and in the recording studio finishing my music. We’re really trying to finish my project by March so we have been working nonstop to meet this deadline. 


Can you recall the moment when you knew you wanted to be a musician? What do you think motivated you day in and day out to continue on the path? 

Really good question, I honestly can’t remember an exact moment that I decided I wanted to be a musician I feel like it was always a part of me. I remember vividly the moment I decided I wanted to dance and entertain. It was that moment I won my first talent show in 7th Grade that I often speak about. I’d say it was definitely before that. I had already been singing in my grandfather’s recording studio. I honestly feel like it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember which is why I can’t remember an exact moment. My biggest motivation has just been to take care of my mother. I watched that woman work her ass off to raise my brother and I. When I want to give up she’s literally the only person I need to think of and I’m ready to keep fighting. 

How do you think your hometown has influenced the kind of music that you make? If not, why is that?

Well I definitely grew up in church so a lot of my soulful choices come from my gospel roots. I also grew up around a lot of R & B so singing with emotion comes easy to me as well. The thing is I really love Rock & Pop music so that’s the type of music I sing. We call my personal music genre Rock Pop Soul. 

Growing up, how important was music in your life? It can be a tough road, have your family and friends been supportive of this career choice? 

Music was always important to me. My mom always played music while cleaning and driving and I really loved it. My grandfather had his recording studio and my uncle played a few instruments and sang as well. They were definitely my biggest supporters when they started to notice that I had taken after them and began to develop talents too. Other family and friend’s kind of took longer to support because they had seen me having so much success as a dancer. They weren’t sure if I could have the same success as a singer. Either way the people who really love me supported me no matter what I decided to do. Today I believe everyone is on the same page and has actually begun to believe that I can do this. 

What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music in your career? Have you had an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?

Omg so many surprises. It’s funny because from the outside looking in it really looks like this glamourous thing. I think the biggest surprise is coming to reality the true amount of hard work that goes into having a career in music. I heard over the years that “The Music Business was the toughest business”. I can honestly confirm right now that this is true. Rejection was a huge challenge for me before, as I grow I am learning that rejection will ALWAYS be a part of this journey. Some will love me and some wont. That’s just the reality and I’m okay with that. There are people out here that HATE Barack Obama. No idea how any human being can hate that man but it just speaks to my point. Everyone can’t be loved by everyone. I accept the facts. 

Let’s talk about the new music you are going to be putting out. What has been your inspiration for new material? How involved are you in what you put out? 

Yes! I’m very involved. I have a small management team and a few friends that I always seek guidance from but overall its always my decision on the official next move. My recent inspirations have had a lot to do with encouraging myself, pushing myself to greater heights and reminding myself that I am enough and that I’ve had enough with holding myself back. I truly believe that this project will be the start of some real momentum in my career. This moment is long overdue and I feel in my heart that its coming. 

You have shared the stage with many incredible performers so I am curious which one really stands out the most to you? Who have you learned the most form? 

Wow! Amazing question I’ve never been asked this before. As of today, I’d definitely say “Tarralyn Ramsey” she’s really popular in the gospel world. Working with her was to this date one of the most magical jobs I’ve ever had. Just watching her sing in rehearsal brought me to tears daily and it really helped me begin to understand the true power that a REAL SINGER can possess. 

Share with us where we can find you on social media and any shows coming up! 

As of this interview I don’t have any shows scheduled but I everyone PLEASE follow me on Instagram @StoryOfAlonzo! 


Also feel free to subscribe to my mailing list at IAmAlonzo.com

End of Interview

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Interview: Joey Stuckey



Hello Joey! Thank you for your time! We would love for you to share with readers who may not know a little about your story of where you started and where you are now.

Thanks for having me!

I started my musical journey when I was around 17 years old with guitar lessons and haven’t looked back.

I got started in what I would call the recording sciences when I was around 13 years old and started getting paid to record people and work in sound by the time I was 15 years old.

Music has always been an important part of the Stuckey household with both my parents being music fans, but I never really considered having a career in music as a child as I was focused on survival as I am a brain tumor survivor.

The brain tumor took my sight, sense of smell and also left me with a host of other health challenges, like no adrenal function.

Despite these challenges I have been able to do all the things I have wanted to do with my life and career. 

I realized at an early age that music was a beautiful force for positive change and that I would tell my story of overcoming adversity through that vehicle! 

Over the years, I have done many exciting things and you ain’t seen nothing yet! 

We just finished a great show at the famous Whisky A Go Go and played some great GRAMMY parties in LA and I am about to expand my studio space by around 9,000 square feet.

For someone just getting into the music business – what is your best one line advice?

Don’t give up.

Trust yourself, but be willing to entertain other people’s ideas and opinions.

Work hard.

In your opinion do you feel like an aspiring musician needs to be in LA to “make it”?

You don’t have to live there, but you do need to visit LOL. Of course where you should be depends upon a number of factors including where your fans, or potential fans, are and other things you will need to make your music/brand work. But you will have to go to LA and NYC and Nashville at some point!

Okay so your live show looks like such a good time from the snippets we have seen on IG – tell us what we can expect when we come out to see you.

It is about 30% comedy and 70% music—and all heart! 

We promise to make you think but also to make you groove, and we most certainly will entertain!

We love meeting new people and love shaking hands and kissing babies, so come out to a show and we’ll be glad to meet you and spend some time with you!

Do you have a song that you play every time you do a live show no matter what, if so why that song?

We most always do “Take A Walk In The Shadows” which was one of the first songs I ever wrote. It is a great opener with high energy. We also almost always play another original called “Truth Is A Misty Mountain” because it is a band and fan favorite. And we mostly close with the Allman Brothers’ “Whippin’  Post” for the same reason—and our version is cookin’!

If you could be remembered by only one song, which one are you picking?

Oh man I don’t know. My answer will most likely change depending upon the mood I am in LOL, but I think my song “Aint It Good To Be In Love”, co-written by my dear friend Charlie Hoskyns, is a good one that folks really have responded to. It is also dear to me because Charlie passed away in 2017 and I like to think I am keeping his musical legacy alive!

Tell us where we can catch more of you online and listed to your music!




Booking: Bsquaredmgmt.com
Press:  Bsquaredmgmt@gmail.com

End of Interview

Darren Michael Boyd’s smashing instrumental debut, Lifting the Curse



Like divine drums ushering us into another dimension typically inaccessible by mere mortals, the brutality of “Little Toad” is inescapable from the moment we press the play button on the track, which together with eight other opulent guitar-driven gems comprises the whole of Darren Michael Boyd’s smashing instrumental debut, Lifting the Curse

Sizzling leads assault us just shy of ninety seconds into this song, but much like the melodic thrust of strings that we find in the album’s title cut (which immediately follows it in the tracklist), the complexities of the play are only as powerful as the harmonies that they conjure up virtually on the spot. Songs like “Was it something I said?” and “Tails & Entrails” employ entirely different methods of seducing listeners into a world of infinite sonic possibilities, but through the dynamic craftsmanship of Boyd’s arrangements, they share a continuity that isn’t often found in albums of this particular variety. Darren Michael Boyd has made an instrumental LP that isn’t just a sexy offering to his fellow axe-wielders; truth be told, this record makes sense to anyone who loves an impressively fluid approach to songwriting.


Lifting the Curse opens up with the demonic string melody of “Circle of Sixes,” which, coming in at slightly under four minutes in total makes it one of the longer tunes on the LP, but it by no means feels like a bloated exercise in self-indulgence on the part of Darren Michael Boyd. One of the coolest things about this record is the fact that, while most of the tracks sound metal-inspired, there’s such a diversity to the construction of each composition that it never feels like we’re listening to one consistent formula being reapplied and modified for tempo and tonality over and over again. The blustery fuzz of a rock n’ roll swaying “This song won’t get played on the radio” is as fresh as the heavy metal thunder of “Music in the Murder House,” and although I wouldn’t necessarily say that every song here will be a homerun with the post-metal crowd, there’s enough of a surrealism bend to atmospheric ballads like “Notational Witchery” to satisfy spillover fans of Southern Lord artists.


From the eruptive, chest-beating hard rock of “The Earth is B flat” to the decadence of the progressive closing title track, Darren Michael Boyd’s Lifting the Curse is a charming instrumental album that demands a reaction out of anyone who gives it a spin, and while I wouldn’t say that it features an artist fully exploiting his capabilities in the studio for everything they’re worth, it offers us a sneak preview into what could absolutely become one of the more interesting underground heavy rock follows of the 2020s. 

Boyd demonstrates a rare talent that few of his contemporaries have been as bold as to boast in their own work in recent times, and if you’re as big a fan of guitar worship as I am, it’s about as solid a listen as you can expect to hear out of a non-mainstream LP this February.

Joshua Beach