Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Rob Alexander - Long Road Coming Home

South Floridians know Rob Alexander as a well-regarded doctor, a faculty member at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Medicine, and an all-around amiable man and member of the community. Music fans have been getting to know him in an entirely different way this year thanks to his debut album Long Road Coming Home, which so far has spawned four singles, the most recent of which being the title track. “Long Road Coming Home” capture’s the same good-natured character that members of Rob’s family and community have always known him to be, but in the most defiantly soulful way possible. His music is an amalgamation of the softer side of classic rock and adult contemporary, and alongside producer and multi-instrumentalist mastermind Gabe Lopez he unleashes pure pop magic in this bitterly emotive gem.

Long Road Coming Home is a very complex record, but its centerpiece title track is actually one of its simpler and on-point offerings. It isn’t as sprawling and textured as some of the other material on the album, but it’s by far the most riveting. Rob croons tender words against a slow churning beat, each one of his lyrics spilling through the speakers like immaculate paints onto a canvas. He’s got every opportunity in the world to go over the top as he lumbers towards the chorus, but he restrains himself, allowing for the song to go on at an even tempo rather than suddenly flying off the rails. His discipline is something to be marveled at, especially considering that we’ve been living in somewhat reckless times for pop music.

Rob’s an amazing singer and songwriter, but his harmonies are what grab my attention more than anything else in this single. “Long Road Coming Home” isn’t particularly elaborate, as previously stated, but what makes it so magnetically alluring is its boldly orchestrated harmonies between Rob and the music. Gabe Lopez did a fine job of cleaning up the track to make every nook and cranny of the verses intoxicatingly inviting and earnest, and I think his work on this single is just as attentive as the artist’s is. I seriously hope this is the first of many collaborative adventures that they embark on together; they have awesome chemistry in this song and throughout the entirety of Long Road Coming Home.

I would love to hear this track live, particularly in an acoustic setting with just Rob and a guitar or a piano to assist him. He possesses a kind of raw skill that you can’t teach in a school or practice into existence; it’s something that comes naturally. He’s making the most of his abilities in this single, and I think he’s definitely on the right trajectory towards accomplishing what he set out to do with Long Road Coming Home in general. Singles, especially early on, are crucial to getting an artist the exposure that’s required to warrant making more than one album, and I think this one gives listeners a full-fledged sampling of what they can expect out of Rob Alexander in his future recordings.

Bethany Page approved and posted by Mindy McCall

The music of Rob Alexander has been heard all over the world due to the promotional services offered by Danie Cortese Entertainment & Publicity. Learn more here -

Monday, November 5, 2018

Abby Zotz drops some Honey

These are songs examining human experience with a balanced eye rather than making hay from its despair alone. Abby Zotz’s Local Honey never overindulgences listener’s good graces and the focus Zotz brings to exploring those themes makes this songwriting an even more invigorating experience. The extensive history she has working in folk and traditional music traditions has primed her to branch off from its narrow purist formula and make something unique from its inherent strengths. There are a number of effective turns throughout the album, never filling any one song too heavily, and varying from song to song. “Stability” has fewer of those moments than many of the later songs, but it gets Local Honey off to a solid start and builds momentum that sustains listeners all the way until the end. The smooth, gliding beauty of Zotz’s vocal performance is one of its most remarkable moments.

“Stability” gives this album an effortless uplift from the first and the orchestration of its various musical elements proves to be a well shaped frame for its writing. The songwriting explores a familiar theme, but she weaves it together in her own language without regard for past songs covering the same area. You can hear, in the space of one song, the passion she has for this material. The next song “Big Hope” carries that to another level and it’s tailored well to the expanded possibilities of its arrangement. The organ playing running throughout the song even takes a moment in the spotlight with a brief solo and sets this song far apart from the other material on Local Honey. It may be my peak moment for the album.

The growl of electric guitar and organ embellishments disappear as soon as they arrive, but we’re rewarded with the near 180 turn into the gospel trappings of “Peace Sweet Peace”. There’s no preaching in this tune, instead, it’s a heartfelt cry, and Zotz gives herself over to the song with just the right amount of commitment. The later tune “All Through the Night” has a distinctly old fashioned melodic flavor, but the venerable swing of the vocal melody and its accompanying piano hooks me in to follow along. There’s a cinematic quality to the way the piano leads us, heads up, through emotional tailwinds elegantly stated throughout. “See Your Face” is an abrupt shift and has a much stronger commercial pop edge, but it never takes short cuts or relies on overly obvious melodies.

“You’ll Never Know” has a retro feel, bluesy without ever laying it on too thick and Zotz delivers a stylized vocal throughout every line. There’s a light amount of humor running through the song, but it’s balanced well against a strongly human element in the writing and performance alike. Local Honey brings the extent of Abby Zotz’s talents into keener focus than any of her previous work and shows she’s one of the best singer/songwriters working in the traditional/Americana music scene today. It’s not difficult to imagine this solo debut represents the first chapter of a rewarding new phase in her musical career.

Zachary Rush

Monday, October 8, 2018

Del Suelo releases Book and Record

“Second Encore” kicks off Del Suelo’s second studio release The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme with a swell of live audience. It provides the perfect curtain rising atmosphere for a song collection that takes life as a musical act for its subject matter; the artist behind the Del Suelo name, Erik Mehlsen, has literary ambitions as well and the album comes with an accompanying novel. You can’t claim Mehlsen aims small. Despite his ambitions, however, the album consistently maintains the fully realized composure we hear with its second song and impressive single “Pack Rats”. It’s a truly multi-media experience, in some respects, thanks to Mehlsen filming a music video for the song and the likely existence of some narrative antecedent in the novel as well. The video, obviously a thoroughly conceived labor of love and professionally shot, nonetheless shows off Mehlsen’s under the radar sense of humor. It’s easy to lose, unfortunately, a bead on the sheer fun he seems to be having here as both a songwriter and performer when we’re so wide-eyed over the project’s high aspirations.

The bright lights and dissipation of city night life runs through the album’s next two songs, albeit expressed in very different ways. “Berlin Calling” is all punk rock rush and straight to the point, but it’s never a throwaway despite running less than ninety seconds. “A Lust Supreme”, however, is a lush, luxurious tune with style to burn and deserves consideration as one of the album’s best cuts. It’s a marvel to me how so many tracks on this album feature Mehlsen reaching unlikely, at least on the surface, soulful heights and the writing puts a spotlight on that facet of his talent without ever overstating the influence in his music or coming off as imitative.

The last song on the album with any sort of explicit lyrical content is “A Panic! at the Disco/the Fulsome Prison Blues” and the artful shape of this song moves through a variety of moods without ever seeming disjointed or uneasily matched. Maintaining a narrative over the course of a concept album, particularly an linear narrative, is a tricky proposition, but Mehlsen succeeds concentrating on character development first and foremost and Devon, the main character of Mehlsen’s story, has a convincing point of view thanks to the power of the character’s “voice”. Another confident and melodic jewel comes with the song “Caress of Steel Wheels” and it’s notable how the exhausted and rough hewn qualities of Mehlsen’s story and themes contrast with the cool sweep and sway of the song arrangements. There are some musical suggestions of those aforementioned themes, but Mehlsen focuses more on orchestrating compelling dynamics for the collection.

The focus pays off in a large way with the longest track “Darn that Dream/Stairway to Eleven”. Structured much like the earlier pairing of “A Panic! at the Disco/the Fulsome Prison Blues”, this nearly seven minute long song has ample drama and character development packed into its running time and the musical exploration never tires you or tests a listener’s patience. It’s the ideal big finale for The Musician’s Compass, but “Walk the Plank” ends the album on a note of uneasy endurance and the atmospheric musical performance provides an apt sonic conclusion for this stunning second album. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Wave 21 releases LP

I love the spirit behind this album. Wave 21’s debut is the sort of album capable of acknowledging life’s adversities but, ultimately, preserving through them with the knowledge a better day will come. Wave 21’s songwriting celebrates life’s virtues and marks down its inevitable failures. The tandem behind these songs, sisters Mary Lynn and Emmy Lou Doroschuk, open the release with the song “Ya Ya Ya” and it gets things off to a rowdy start. The rowdiness, however, has a high stepping sound, a first rate singer with Wave 21 lead vocalist Mary Lynn, and a band full of backing vocalists who bring a spirit of their own to the music. If you think the song title sounds too poppy, don’t close down and fail to give it a chance. The second song “Here We Go” is even more life affirming, I think, and has a sense of life’s adventure at its heart. There’s none of the electric guitar work heard in the opener; instead, acoustic guitars lead the way as they across much of this album.

“Love Shouldn’t Make Me Cry” is one of the album’s musical highpoints. I keep waiting and waiting for the song to come to some big time chorus, but it never quite does and the closest thing we get to any sort of classic style crescendo comes with and around the bridge. There’s a number of musical highlights during the recording and Wave 21 more than amply demonstrates their musicianship. This is definitely a cut above you’re average modern country rock fare. “It’ll Be One of These Days” is tailor made for mass airplay and hopefully gets it; the Doroschuk sisters really outdo themselves here with a song that touches on universal themes in a style and way any listeners will connect with. It’s one of the best acoustic guitar tracks, as well, on the whole album.

“Pink Party” is another of the more clear cut country rock cuts on the release. Mary-Lynn throws herself into this track with particular relish the musical arrangement has a lot of the same subtlety they bring to this style in order to make it more their own. The duo of “The Fun Times” and “Come To Me” couldn’t be more different, but they represent two of my favorite points on the entire album. The first song is a much more far reaching track, musically at least, and can be considered an unplanned showcase of sorts for the band to show off the full extent of their musical chops. The shift in tempo coming with the song’s second half really drives the song home.

“Come to Me”, however, is an unfettered, open-hearted love song and difficult to shrug off as fluff thanks to an exquisite vocal and beautifully melodic arrangement. The final song “Far Away” is, also, the longest tune on the album and Wave 21 more than live up to its place in the running order with a palpable sense of its importance. There are some hints in the song, for attentive listeners, of where they may go from here musically. I know I’ll be joining them wherever they may travel. 

Missy Engelhardt 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

AV Super Sunshine release Time Bomb

AV Super Sunshine release Time Bomb

The musical time bomb driving the verve and gusto of AV Super Sunshine’s latest song “Time Bomb” takes the form of two distinct mixes. The club mix is the longer of the two songs, clocking in over five minutes in length, but it’s an overwhelming tour de force of electronica without a single extraneous musical movement. Much of the credit for this, naturally, goes to AV Super Sunshine for penning such a convincing synthesis of EDM and rock, but AV’s longtime collaborator Michael Bradford definitely deserves the spotlight as well. He turns a dynamic radio track into a full throttle, careening blast of electronic musical genius while retaining the elements making the radio version so effective., yet utilized in a different fashion.

The mix rarely skirts the edge of distortion and, instead, puts an “overdrive” effect on AV’s vocals only sparingly. One thing that leaps out, among others, about this particular version is how Bradford resolutely refuses to push the envelope too far. He has a clear vision of what a club mix of this song must sound like and, as a result, his take on AV’s radio mix has confidence and artfulness many other such efforts lack. It’s interesting, when juxtaposing this against the radio mix, which elements Bradford chooses to accentuate and those he chooses to submerge into the heavy synthesizer thrust of the song. Nonetheless, this is obviously an apt track for a club setting, but even more intimate settings will receive quite a kick in the pants from this mix. It should be played loud – it DEMANDS to be played as loud as your system can handle.

AV Super Sunshine’s radio version is a much different animal, but clearly cut from the same cloth. The synthesizers are understated here, in comparison to the other version, but their presence is strong throughout and it’s apparent how many of the building blocks this take on the song supplies for the club mix. Overall, the radio vision for this song is much more “traditional” than we hear from the club version. The melodic strengths of the track are framed much more decisively and the vocal has a much different flavor with the female backing vocals contrasting well with the lead vocal. The presence of piano cascading through the mix lightens the song’s touch a little without ever sacrificing its modern edge.

‘Time Bomb” has a fantastic sound in both versions and the varying takes on this tune never lose sight of the great song beneath all of the glitz and flash. In the end, that’s what it comes down to – AV Super Sunshine is more than just a gripping performing unit for modern audience, it references the current and past in a highly charged balance that sets it apart from virtually anything else out there in 2018 or, even, in recent history.

Matthew Johns

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Conceptz “Splash (featuring Benny Blanco)”

Conceptz “Splash (featuring Benny Blanco)”
When you’re as good at your profession as the brothers in Conceptz are, the people who depend on the quality of your work come to expect a lot out of you, whether your business is medicine, fabrics, or in Conceptz’ case, making earth-shatteringly good music. If you’re a big fan of their style, you won’t be let down by what they’ve put together in their brand new single “Splash (featuring Benny Blanco),” which has taken the pop music world by storm is collecting more attention on the pair than they could have ever dreamed of coming up in Orange County, New York. 

Emerging from one of the most diverse and competitive scenes in the entire world, Conceptz have been relentlessly producing, recording and writing since 2011 and now have a notorious reputation as one of the hardest hitting names in east coast hip-hop. Now they’re dead set on conquering the rest of America and bringing their sound to an international audience, and “Splash” is effectively facilitating their conquest.
The thing is, hip-hop as a DIY identity actually died about 20 to 25 years ago. The flames of its implosion, brought on by the violent feud between the east and west coast scenes, smoldered for almost a decade and produced a myriad of acts whose level of talent ranged widely. As the smoke cleared around the ash heap that remained once the last embers remaining from the war were completely extinguished, a lot of wannabes started picking the bones of legendary hip-hop moguls with the aspiration of creating, or maybe even becoming, something similar to what Biggie or Tupac represented. For the most part, their efforts were in vein. But recently, out of the ashes, we’ve started to see a reincarnation of the aesthetical ghosts who gave birth to records like The Score. It isn’t that groups like Conceptz are trying to look or sound like their heroes, but that they’ve adopted their free-spirited outlook, and that is what is giving life to the phoenix that is modern indie hip-hop.
In the 2020’s, pop music is going to be completely rife with the experimentalism hinted at in “Splash,” and the artists who are going to experience the highest level of success are going to be the ones who aren’t scared of change but embrace it with luster. That is why I’m positive that Conceptz are going to continue to produce hit after hit in the next couple of years, and will most likely end up being one of the landmark hip-hop acts of their time. 

Record sales have nothing to do with, and honestly neither do the reviews or critical analysis that my colleagues and I are going to pen. All that really matters is the effect that they have on the artists around them, whether it be in their native New York scene, elsewhere in the United States or even abroad. That is the true measure of their artistic worth, and judging from where they currently stand, their own legend has only just begun being written.
Drew Blackwell 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Crack of Dawn release Spotlight

Crack of Dawn release Spotlight

Crack of Dawn’s new record Spotlight opens with a song titled simply enough, “Crack of Dawn,” a track that immediately jumps right into the same, reliably charming funk that gave this group their infamous start in the 1970s and is keeping them pumping as hard as the heart of a young lover in 2018. “Wake me up at the crack of dawn, we gonna get it on” we’re told, and never have I felt so eager to break into this new day that’s awaiting us in the nine tracks to follow; this is the long overdue trip that fans Crack of Dawn have been waiting to take for some time now, and at as “Somebody’s Watching” starts up, it’s clear that our moment has finally arrived.

“Somebody’s Watching” gets us lit up with some white hot guitar riffing that’s punctuated with a bass that goes for a walk around the vocals and driving drum beat. It’s a great buffer and intro into the equally spellbinding and funky “Booby Ruby,” a boisterous number that evokes Stevie Wonder’s grinding keys and methodical pitch attack. Even with the shifts in the tempo between the first three songs, Spotlight features an ambiance that remains the same throughout its entire play, without getting too monotonous or stuck on a certain theme. Take for example the way we practically catapult from “Booby Ruby” into the thumping, ambitiously agile “Keep the Faith,” a song that I think needs to be a single up for consideration at this year’s Grammy Awards if the judges manage to develop any sort of sense. Unlikely, but we can still dream can’t we?

If there were anyone worth their wits in the American music establishment, a song like “It’s Alright” would already be towering over the charts as we head into the summer season – which has pretty much always been the primetime for sensuous love songs of its high caliber. It’s matched in creativity by “Ol’ Skool,” my favorite song on Spotlight. “Ol’ Skool” is a very autobiographical song for the band, but not once does Crack of Dawn give us the impression that they’re lamenting how much time has gone by. Actually, I think they’re in love with the history they’ve been able to make, and they’re still down to keep the party going into the next generation and beyond. “Seasons Change” keeps up with this theme, and makes for a very welcoming melodic break from all of the strenuous beats we’ve experienced up until this point of the record.

The title track from Spotlight is easily the most relaxed moment of the entire album, dimming the lights and letting the illuminating pipes of our lead singer direct our attentions further towards the opulent and sumptuous. It’s the perfect segue into “Your Love” and it’s all out eroticism that’s planted right into the melodies it so proudly boasts. As the LP draws to a poignant close with the enchanting “Changes,” everyone who has been listening might take away a slightly different interpretation of Crack of Dawn’s intentions with Spotlight, but one thing remains universally agreed upon; their reemergence really is the best thing that could have happened to pop music right now.

Thomas Patton, III