Thursday, June 15, 2017

Paul Childers - Naked Poetry

Paul Childers - Naked Poetry 

The thirteen songs on Paul Childers’ debut album Naked Poetry are an emphatic musical statement. It’s a reverberating opening salvo for a career seemingly certain of longevity and leaving behind a meaningful influence for performers who follow him. Few singers and songwriters land in the public consciousness with such resounding effect and it virtually assures anyone listening that this is an artist who intends to produce high caliber music for years to come. The dominating style on Naked Poetry, nuanced R&B typically boasting a brass section, There are some interesting variations occurring over the course of thirteen songs, but Childers moves from one approach to another with unshakable confidence. It’s not the sort of thing musical performers typically possess so early on, at such a young age, but Childers has the sort of poise that comes along once in a generation. This is a potentially iconic career in the offing. 
His self-assurance comes through from the first. “Music Will Pull You Through” and “The Art of Being Twenty” are a fantastic one-two punch that serves notice Naked Poetry aims to be a substantive artistic statement. The first of the two songs concentrates more on conveying a sense of universality through storytelling while the latter song hits on much more personal sounding sentiments and strikes a nice contrast with the album’s opener. “Why Don’t You Stay?” shows that Childers has a remarkable talent for inhabiting the slow drag of a real R&B burner. It’s all the more remarkable how well Naked Poetry holds together when you consider Childers’ willingness to take different directions from song to song. The track “At Our Own Pace” moves from a patient R&B style with an emphasis on blues to the deep pocket and slinky sounds heard on “At Our Own Pace” and do so without missing a step. He projects the same vocal confidence on this song that’s stamped on the album’s other ten tracks and it makes it quite an entertaining ride. “My Love of the Rain” comes at an excellent place in the album’s procession – near the mid way point – and works better than you could ever expect as the album’s cinematic heart. It does a superb job with only a few essential musical elements and builds to all of the right crescendos without ever cheapening the moment. 
“Emma” has a very different flavor from the other songs for a variety of reasons but the curious rhythms of the song differ most noticeably from his approach in the other material. It doesn’t compromise his vocal, however – time in, time out, on Naked Poetry, Childers gives evidence that he can handle any style. “No One Goes Dancing Anymore” is one of the high points of the album’s second half and blends stylish R&B with pure pop strengths in a way that’s sure to win adherents. “Disclosure” is a different kettle of fish as well. It recalls the personal touch we heard on the album’s second track, but there’s a much cloudier tint hanging over the track than we ever heard from “The Art of Being Twenty”. “Throwing Shade” is the album’s last moment of pure glorious invention. The incongruous marriage of the upbeat musical arrangement and the darkly comic, somewhat cynical lyric is quite dramatic. There’s an embarrassment of riches on this album – Paul Childers has clearly harnessed all of his powers to make this a meaningful initial album that will stand the test of his sure to be long career.

Michael Saulman

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Jupiter in Velvet - In2 the Arms of Love

Jupiter in Velvet - In2 the Arms of Love 

Jupiter in Velvet has continued adding to his writing, performing, and recording legacy with In2 the Arms of Love, a ten song collection, another full length studio release. He’s proven to be one of the most fecund musicians working today since his 2012 debut and turns out new songs and albums with such stunning regularity that one might assume there’s an inevitable fall off in quality. It isn’t the case. Jupiter in Velvet does a superb job of sustaining both the inspiration and energy his songs demand over each of his previous releases and In2 the Arms of Love is no exception. He comes out swinging from the first and the stylistic mix bringing In2 the Arms of Love to full bloom is something sure to appeal across a wide fan base. The songs are simply that good and the passion Jupiter in Velvet brings to the performances makes them even better.  
As title cuts come, “In2 the Arms of Love” nicely balances accessibly and ambition. It has a great melodic hook that grabs our attention from the first, but it also has the electrified weight to make us sit up and take notice. This is a powerful outing that gets the album off to a fast start and it shoots even higher with the second track. “’Till the End of the World”. The guitar work on this song is among the strongest on In2 the Arms of Love and seems to elicit an inspired vocal response from Jupiter in Velvet. It’s quite amazing to hear how he brings emotion and raucous energy together in each vocal without it ever sounding too samey. The hot streak continues with the third track “I’m So Ready” and it’s refreshing to hear Jupiter tackle a truly clinched fist, out and out rock and roll song. The swagger he brings to the performance is a great match for the musical arrangement and it’s a real sleeper pick for one of the album’s best songs. 
“Supercharged” is a riled up, brawling pop rocker with just enough attitude to set it on fire yet an equal amount of focus to utilize its energy in the best possible way. Electronic instruments play an increasingly large role in the performances on the second half of In2 the Arms of Love, but it’s all kept in balance with the other musical colors at his disposal. “Carry On” has a decidedly modern, precise quality, but it comes off with percolating rock and roll energy that unleashes itself in memorable fashion. “Mars Ain’t That Far” is one of the album’s surprisingly humorous moments, but it isn’t a track exclusively devoted to humor. His songwriting manifests many different aspects of his personality and some songs, such as this, reveal just how thoroughly conceived his musical point of view is now. “Bang On” is a surprising track so late in the album’s running time thanks to its irresistible melodic lift and how seamlessly they bring the disparate sounds of electronica, pop, and rock together without it ever sounding stitched together. There’s immense naturalness in each of the tracks on this album that’s a result of many things. The primary thing, however, is his freedom. Jupiter in Velvet sounds like an artist working without fear and near the peak of his powers.  

Gilbert Mullis

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

We The Dreamers - We all Need Time

We The Dreamers 

The latest EP from We The Dreamers "We all Need Time" is a seven song outing that announces the arrival of an important unit on the scene. This is an unit that, fortunately, never relies on following one line of musical attack – instead, they base everything from their ability to pivot between different musical styles while remaining essentially true to their talent for incorporating a variety of musical elements into a single package. The production brings everything into vivid relief without ever emphasizing one element at the expense of others. Vocalist Myke Wilken emerges as the primary musical force here thanks to his role as the lead singer and his voice is more than adequate to carry these songs. Moreover, he varies his approach enough that it gives each of the EP’s seven songs a distinctive character. We The Dreamers come out of this studio effort as an immediate force to be reckoned with.  
“Crystal” has understated dramatic power even on first hearing. It takes a while to fully show its hand, but when its melodic ideas have been fully developed, “Crystal” reveals itself to be a composition of rare depth. Wilken’s singing distinguishes itself here for the first of many times and really gets under the skin of the track without ever making a production of itself. He takes a different tack on the second song “Parasol” and the extended treatment they give to the musical arrangement varies so much from the first song that it stands as an entertaining contrast. The melodic powers of this song are more considerable as well while the vocals meld nicely into the movement of the song. “A Spark” is, ironically, the most delicate track on the album and the use of a second voice, female, to contrast Wilken’s singing works exceptionally well. It has dramatic qualities quite unlike any other song on the EP, but it doesn’t overexert in that area. 
“Wiser” is a definite highlight on the EP. This is one of the release’s best example of bringing Ethan Rose’s guitar, keyboards and synthesizers, alongside consistent melodic excellence, into one performance that has an impressive live feel. We The Dreamers brings that aspect of musical performance to everything they touch and the last song on this EP embodies that principle better than any other. “Time” is a natural first single for the duo because it pictures for audiences the band’s ambitions in such a way that any listener will relate to where they are coming from. It’s Wilken’s best vocal yet and he throws himself headlong into the performance in such a way it elevates, even further, an already fine lyric to its position as one of the best moments on this EP release. They have vast territories to conquer from this point forward and the seven songs on their debut prove they have the skills to do whatever they like.  

David Beals

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Spiders - Another Mile

The Spiders Another Mile
The Spiders are an authentic band with real people. Watching their video Another Mile you see four regular guys jamming out. They are not dressed in leather or spandex. They play in an American flag t-shirt and a pair of jeans or a bowling shirt. One of them even wears a Spider-man T-shirt. They could be your neighbors. In that music video you also get the feeling from these guys that they’re close and that they really care about the music they make. Their biggest concern is their lyrics and the sound of the song.  
One of their newly released songs is Another Mile. This song is all about being able to overcome difficulties in life and making it to that next mile. The video on YouTube features scenes from the American Classic movie, Forest Gump. It also has sections of the video containing bits of the band itself. The song is very much about the American spirit and running towards your dreams. Election Day is their better known song. It was played all over radio stations for awhile. The song is about the working class. It’s about Americans who work at minimum wage jobs, like Starbucks and fast food to get by. The song is also about those who fought for their country. The Spiders are including all people who pay taxes in this segment of the song. It’s also critiquing those who are paid by those taxes. It’s about those who run the country and whom we elect, or rather who we have to choose between. This band is definitely a band about America. They are pointing out obvious flaws which almost everyone sees with these elected officials. However, the song is still from a Patriotic viewpoint. It’s about the choices you have on Election Day and how even though there is a choice when you vote you still don’t feel like there is much of a choice. This is because voters only get to choose between two bad candidates.  
This band originates from LA. Their lead guitarist and Vocalist, Nick DeStefano was in a few videos which were featured on MTV. He’s played pretty much everywhere in the US and he also was signed for a solo career in his earlier days. The sound of the band is rock is a quick pace and easy to listen to. Their songs are relatable and have a real AC/DC feel to them. Also the instrumental parts of the songs have a country sound, soft and nice. 
This vibe the music gives off goes well with their style of music and the lyrics they are writing. It gives The Spiders an authentic feel and watching and listening to them just makes you feel good. These guys are writing and playing these songs in a way which you don’t see any more, without the need for a flawless image. They could be your neighbor or uncle. Also they really look like they’re having fun while they play. All of them wear a smile at some point in their videos. Jamming out with friends and singing a great message.
Kevin Hardy

Monday, May 22, 2017

Swaylex - Raging Rapids

Swaylex - Raging Rapids 

Swaylex’s “Raging Rapids” is probably the hardest and heaviest of his recent YouTube uploads.  Swaylex’s warm, yet crunchy, Ibanez guitar sound is the primary mover for this tune, but he also shows the same tendency for interesting drummer complementing this track that listeners can hear on his other upload “Scrale”. To Swaylex’s credit, he avoids the same over-indulgence plaguing many of his contemporaries – everything here is focused and streamlined to the best possible effect. The composition and performance, likewise, exude a confidence you can detect in both the music and video presentation – there’s a swagger here that never stretches the boundaries of taste and, instead, draws you deeper into his musical world despite the song’s brief duration. Swaylex, even at his crunchiest, gives listeners numerous melodic hooks to hang onto. “Raging Rapids” is a powerful performance and composition from the first. 
There’s a lot of power in this song. Swaylex structures it just right – from the opening wash of wailing guitar notes, the seamless segue into the song’s primary riff, and the perfect accompaniment from rhythm guitar, bass, and drums, “Raging Rapids” has an impressively full sound that never dips in quality or intensity. His home recordings might strike some, without taking a listen, as doomed to amateurish. That isn’t the case. He has full command over each instrument and weaves the different parts together with the sort of clarity we expect from longtime musical veterans, not relatively newcomers to the scene. It is obviously that this is a young performer who has worked mightily to polish his skills and presentation alike in such a way to make the best possible impression on his listeners.  It has a surprising horror or thriller movie character with its sustained, sharp guitar notes and the menacing riffing accompanying those touches underscores this effect in a memorable way. 
It never reaches too far either. He knows what he wants the song to accomplish, seemingly from the first, and it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the song has been well rehearsed before he ever dared commit the performance to recording or film. Fortunately for us, however, it has a live and off the cuff quality that sounds like he hasn’t lived with the song too much or too long and, instead, is striking while the iron of inspiration is hot. This is the central factor that sets his work apart from similar musicians promoting themselves in such a way. Swaylex’s music is alive with a passion that is quite impossible to fake and it comes across with a very first take feel. There’s no sloppiness here however. Instead, it’s a direct and powerful track that grabs listeners’ by the ear and forces them to listen. Never under duress – instead, you will be grateful to hear every note and it never threatens to overwhelm you. 

William Elgin

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Chameleon Project - Funk ‘n’ Space

The Chameleon Project - Funk ‘n’ Space  

The Chameleon Project is based out of the Toronto, Canada area and has established a growing reputation as one of the most inventive young acts working today. The four piece’s eight track (excluding two remixes tacked on at the end) release Funk n Space shows them to be one of the foremost units today in terms of creating a fusion of various styles into a distinctive and highly unique sound. They are just as adept with the traditional elements of great music, like melody, as they are at invoking heady atmospherics with their use of electronica and spoken word passages in conjunction with one another. There is a strong underpinning of tradition making these songs go, but the surfeit of experimentation that colors the songs is equally key to making these tracks work. It’s never self indulgent however. Even at their most daring, there’s a mastery of fundamentals that makes this material fly.  
Few songs better exemplify that than the opener “Milky Way”. The aforementioned atmospherics are a big part of its success, thanks especially to the even handed manner with which they are handled, but another key part of the success is the chemistry struck between the band’s instrumentals. The rhythm section, above all else, makes the groove manifest itself deeply and instantly. It isn’t a track, however, that browbeats listeners into submission. Instead, it’s spacey overtones and a well defined funk sound that never overstays its welcome. “Playhouse” takes things in a different direction. It’s much more superficially simple, but there’s clear evidence for their versatility They are capable of bringing out a strong layered disco and funk influence in their music without ever overburdening the song with too much action. “Steppin’” certainly beefs up the customarily streamlined approach of reggae music and the form’s influence is quite heavy in the song, but The Chameleon Project is able to bring that influence to the fore while still embellishing the track with a number of their signatures elements – sounds that would have been quite foreign to the genre’s bygone icons. 
They go down the electronic dance music road in the biggest way yet with the song “Reactor”, but tweak listeners’ expectations by bringing rock overtones into play. The often beautiful guitar lines, however, never sound out of place with the synthesizer work. The following song, “Bigfoot”, steers the band toward much more definite rock music territory thanks to the thunderous rhythm section, but The Chameleon Project fortunately avoids the bash and thud so often associated with attempts to bring these influences into play. “DiMiTri cOde” recalls the earlier “Reactor” in its invocation of EDM elements, but things are played much straighter here in that regard and there’s little of the rock guitar poses here that we heard in the earlier tune. Funk n Space ends with the album’s seeming centerpiece – the six minute twenty six second “Wako”, a cinematic and bold confluence of all the aforementioned sounds into a stunning last curtain that stakes the band’s claim as one of the foremost instrumental acts (sans the aforementioned spoken word bits – not a significant amount of the album’s duration) working today.  

Montey Zike

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Round Eye – Monstervision

Round Eye – Monstervision  

The self-proclaimed “loudest band in China” are Round Eye, from Shanghai, and they’re making their way around the globe, having toured with UK greats like The Boys, and US legend the Paul Collins Beat. These tours are constantly going, and many have had the opportunity to play on these packages with the likes of Paul Collins. They are usually punk or pop punk bands, but Round Eye are a different animal. They have everything from 50s jazz to ska and R&B to blend with their punk intentions. You can’t keep that bottled up in one country, so away they’re sailing with Monstervision on their plate.

Joe Bob Briggs(John Bloom of the Daily Show) narrates in the house of monsters to get the blood flowing, and he does by letting the “Commie Blues” loose. And it quickly passes into the deeper thinking “Billy” which almost verges on horror-punk with its shock rock tactics. But there is much more to meet the eyes with a video that gets pretty graphic in its delivery. It’s nothing to be scared about, but Round Eye also aren’t playing to the bubble gum chewing pop punk crowd either. This is a troupe of seasoned players with a horn section, which even puts Joe Bob in his place as he pleads for a lighter shade. But it is not found on that or the following two, in the shape of “Sifter” and “Troma.” As they too, burn the candle at both ends with no slowing down as the guitars take over and the pogo dancing comes directly to mind, body, heart and soul. This is mostly found on the former, but the latter rocks more along its own lines. Then Joe Bob comes back with the funnies and throws John Goodman into it, to double take an ear or two. The music is much better than the spoken word is funny, but it doesn’t take away from the program as it serves the purpose for the taking. Getting lost in the music still happens, and that is all there is to really shake a stick at while you play along.

“Hey Dudes” could even be reminiscent of “All The Young Dudes” if it weren’t about culture being in a tailspin. But glam isn’t the strong suit of Round Eye or anything. You just feel some influences where they come on strong. The last thing they’re up to is being serious, but that doesn’t mean they don’t tackle serious topics. They do occasionally go into them, but they get out of it in some places on Monstervision to contrast that. “Pink House” is one of those times you fall or you don’t, but it’s one of the more well-crafted songs, so there is no ignoring it. They have a good repetitious go at the government with some fine jazz tones to back it. And it plays out very nicely with a howling tone. And that has Joe Bob Briggs telling female jokes before “Cats” and “Richie” get by with upper marks, to still leave Briggs bewildered. But the listener is then treated to “Curami” and gets whisked off to another place, where the outdoors are felt and even smelt for a few long minutes on a thing of beauty which captures one of the best efforts on the whole LP. It just sways with the breeze and takes you away and leaves you wanting more. This is where it pays to get into Round Eye and their eclectic pieces of Monstervision. With the rest coming in as the last, but not least, as it should be. 


Todd Bauer