Friday, December 28, 2018

Ted Hajnasiewicz – This is What I Do (LP)


Singer/songwriter Ted Hajnasiewicz blends country twang, rock n’ roll volume and folk simplicity in his new album This Is What I Do, an 11 song collection of his most popular songs to date. Spanning years of songwriting, This Is What I Do packs a robust, well-rounded punch that is tempered by the smooth vocals of Hajnasiewicz and the contemplative lyrics they dispense in such classics as “Wedding Coat,” “My Heart is in Memphis,” “If I Could Leave This Place Tomorrow” and “Burning Bridges.” In these songs he takes us on a journey into his heart and through all of the treachery that has forged its scars, but the content is anything but self-righteous or non-relatable. This is Hajnasiewicz’ finest balladry and it dutifully represents the high caliber songwriter that he really is.

Over the course of 11 tracks, Hajnasiewicz’ mood ranges from confessional and introspective (“Longing for the Northern Wind,” “You Will Find Him on a Mercy Seat,” “Go Easy on Me,” “This Town is Not for Me”) to reverent and surreal (“Wedding Coat,” “Stars and the Sea,” “Oh! Sweet Love”), but the material doesn’t feel fragmented or thrown together. Though these songs were originally released on different albums, they flow incredibly well as a cohesive piece here, with “If I Could Leave This Place Tomorrow” rising right out of the ashes of “This Town is Not for Me” and providing an emotional bridge to enter “Wedding Coat.” As a complete album, This Is What I Do demonstrates the conceptualism of Hajnasiewicz’s work, and moreover his total rejection of formulaic predictability.

There’s an insular feel to the master mix of these songs, to the point where I would even go as far as to call it suffocating in the versatile guitar-driven trio of “Longing for the Northern Wind,” “Oh! Sweet Love” and the brittle “Go Easy on Me.” The strings are utterly divine in these tracks, reaching through our speakers and striking us with their sharp ends and effortless swagger. Hajnasiewicz’s voice is delicately woven in between the grooves, creating this supple contrast that is intoxicating to say the least. You can tell he spent a lot of time poring over the smallest details in the production of this album; even though I’ve heard these songs before, I don’t think they’ve ever been quite as radiant or full of vitality.

Whether you’re riding high in life at the moment or rolling lower than ever and in need of a friend, Ted Hajnasiewicz has got a song that you’re bound to relate to in This Is What I Do. Personally I think that this compressed collection of songs portrays Hajnasiewicz better than any of his previous work has; it’s all-encompassing of his broad musical palate, doesn’t exaggerate his buzzworthy aesthetic and puts the emphasis squarely on the relationship between his words and the stunning music that accompanies them. This Is What I Do is as engaging a singer/songwriter record that you’re likely to find in 2019, and it’s my opinion that you’d be hard pressed to hear anything quite like it in this year or any other.


Scottie Carlito

Monday, November 26, 2018

Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite release Canyon Diablo


Every once in a while we come across an album that makes us confront things about ourselves that we wouldn’t readily admit to the world. As human beings, we’re incredibly complacent to our own faults, but sometimes all it takes is a collection of immaculately conceived songs to stir something within us that aids in our journey towards self-realization. Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite might not have set out to create the most cerebral pop/rock release of the last decade, but they’ve delivered it nevertheless in the form of their debut album Canyon Diablo, which is out now everywhere that independent music is sold and streamed. I had the chance to give Canyon Diablo a spin before its official release and was quite taken with the high caliber of content I discovered.

Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite collectively bring a lot of experience into the studio with them, despite the fact that this is their first full length recording under this moniker. Consisting of multi-instrumentalist brothers Dominque and Sylvain Grand alongside mononymous vocalist Dee, the power trio sophisticatedly utilize every aspect of the instruments at their disposal in Canyon Diablo. The resulting product is extremely well polished and produced with exquisite precision and care, with even the most muted nuances of their sound receiving VIP treatment and magnification from the concise high definition quality of the final mix. If these songs were a little more bass-heavy one might be inclined to classify them as shoegaze, but in their current state they would best be described as avant-garde pop or loosely adapted alternative rock.

There isn’t a song on the pop music spectrum today quite like “Everything Under the Sun,” the stellar mid-album psychedelic ballad that stuck out to me as one of Canyon Diablo’s more poignant tracks. Opening with an indulgent, lush sea of synthesized feedback, the song erupts out of nowhere into a blistering pop jam right around the time it reaches its halfway point. It shows off how nimble Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite can be when they’ve got a crazy idea that they’re serious about executing, and from what I can tell in the plethora of gorgeous material that their debut contains, there are few compositions that they would be intimidated by – if any at all.

Progressively styled and richly framed by ethereal play from the band, Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite’s Canyon Diablo is the most fascinatingly original rock album of 2018 bar none, and honestly I don’t think you’ll be able to find a more intriguing LP released this year, no matter what genre of music you explore. It speaks volumes about what kind of a sound we can expect out of the threesome in future releases, but it also shines a spotlight on the gaping void that has been quietly expanding in pop music over the last fifteen years. We need more experimentally vivid music that grabs us by the collar and wistfully takes us into new and exciting uncharted territory, and Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite prove committed to satisfying our unrestricted thirst for adventure in their first studio album.


Tyler Schatz

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Rob Alexander’s Long Road Coming Home


From the melodies created by the timber of his voice making contact with the glistening notes of a piano or guitar to the organic tonality of his compositions themselves, adult contemporary artist Rob Alexander’s music is all about harmony. In the fourth single and title track from his album Long Road Coming Home, audiences are treated to an intimately crafted exhibition of Alexander’s knack for harmony in high definition audio that is cushioned by a lush production that doesn’t smother any of the singer’s rich textures in unnecessary frills. Unlike many other pop songs released in 2018, “Long Road Coming Home” isn’t a ballad that focuses on where we’re going, but rather where we’ve been. Contemplative and personal, this track strikes me as one cultivated in the emotions of its composer and not the commercial side of his medium.

Rob Alexander’s latest single is stylishly produced with a colorful polish that allows it to blend in well with contemporary pop music, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it doesn’t stand out in a lineup. Alexander’s vocal performance is driven by the heartfelt prose in the words of the song, which at times feel more like an internal monologue than they do lyrics. It’s almost as if we’re seeing things from his point of view, watching a black and white reel of his experiences and are inevitably led to agree with him that it is indeed “a long way down this rocky road.” As tough as the journey he describes may be, the comforting sway of his voice reminds us that he’s going to be right there by our side from beginning to end.

There’s a cosmopolitan, streamlined feel to the mix of “Long Road Coming Home” that makes it feel much more relevant and modern than it would if it had received less elaborate treatment behind the soundboard. There’s never any doubt that Alexander’s gilded vocal track is the star of the show, but the mix doesn’t sacrifice the contributions of the additional instrumentation to give his singing the spotlight. I like the evenness of the bass and the middle; too often pop singers favor more of a scooped EQ when they record soft rock and end up cheapening their sound as a result, but that isn’t the case with this song.

He’s proven himself to be a great singer and songwriter, and in “Long Road Coming Home” Rob Alexander adds another splash of character to his evolving musical persona, which has been quite fascinating to watch develop. It may not be the most exciting breakout song of 2018, but it’s unquestionably a true original from an authentically gifted performer who is picking up quite a positive reputation in his local Floridian scene and nationally as well. If you enjoy smooth vocal music that is accompanied by easy listening instrumentals that put more emphasis on tone than they do on vibrato and sheer volume, I’d recommend checking out this track and the record it takes its name from the next time you’re in the market for new music.


Anthony Silver

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 – The Honey Has Arrived


The title Local Honey implies a level of personal engagement the album’s eleven songs deliver. Abby Zotz’s first solo album comes after a two decade long career journey from playing as part of a traditional music duo with former collaborator Bryan Williston and playing a key role in an assortment of other folk music themed outfits. Local Honey has a much more expansive range than we experience with her earlier work, however, as Zotz is making a clear effort to incorporate a variety of sounds into her musical presentation. It makes it a much richer ride from the first and never missteps. The core foundation of these songs is, invariably, acoustic guitar, but she’s joined by some great musicians to make this a memorable roll on a song to song basis.

“Stability” has an enjoyable sweep with a steady drumming pulse soon pushing it along, but never pressuring listener in an intensely physical way. If she’s going to rely on this sort of style for her album, you can rest assured from the first that she’s mastered the form while still bringing her own stamp to it and the convincing muscle behind the performance never over-exerts its presence. She doesn’t rely on that style alone but “Big Hope”, the album’s second tune, underlines it. Organ makes it only appearance on Local Honey and the lead electric guitar work coming into play as the song progresses gives sharp teeth to an already impressively strong experience. “Peace Sweet Peace” goes in a very different direction from the album’s first two songs and the near-acapella build of the song with its minimal musical backing still invokes a strong gospel and blues flavor. It has a little jazzy bounce too that makes it all the more irresistible. Make no mistake; this may initially sound like a throwaway, but it’s one of the best songs on Local Honey.

The later three some of “Pirouette”, “Good Bones”, and “Be Here Now” is the peak of the album for me, but I’m much more of a dyed in the wool folky than most. These are the finest lyrics on the release and spotlight the superb talents Zotz has in that area to complement her musical skills. These songs are obviously the product of a life intensely lived, but Zotz transforms it into something uniquely her own that’s accessible to all. “Good Bones” probably has the strongest positive vibe while the first and last songs cut deeper with the mix of direct language and poetic flourishes in the lyrical content. They never waste a single syllable and that same focus on the writing that defines the music makes these songs especially strong.

“Sea Change” is a remarkable but low key achievement thanks to its ability to reframe familiar lyrical and musical themes in a creative musical environment. There’s an interesting island feel to the song, or the suggestion of it, and that feature alone is enough to distinguish the song from the other material. “You’ll Never Know” has a wistful sadness tied up in its arrangement, but it’s never hamfisted and has underrated charm. It’s a perfect easy going way to wrap the release up lyrically, vocally, and musically and has an entertaining flair unlike anything preceding it. It’s a spot on ending for Local Honey, one of the best first efforts in recent memory.


Brian Weeks

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Del Suelo releases The Musician’s Compass: a 12 Step Programme

Del Suelo releases The Musician’s Compass: a 12 Step Programme


The Musician’s Compass: a 12 Step Programme is, if nothing else, bold and brave even if it isn’t your musical cup of tea. All but the harshest, most unreasoning critic must concede Del Suelo, a nom de plume for Canadian songwriter and guitarist Erik Mehlsen, has ambition to burn and a willingness to take chances few of his contemporaries would dare try. The dozen songs on his second album with this project constitute a concept release chronicling the life of a musician on tour over the course of 24 hours, from the end of one show into the next day, and Mehlsen’s skill invoking character brings his protagonist Devon to life within a musical framework. He’s likewise set this narrative down in novel format, released along with the album, and this broad based artistry is like few working today. Fortunately for us, he finds his mark
“Second Encore”, “Pack Rats”, “A Lust Supreme”, alongside two later songs “Enter the Tempel” and “Caress of Steel Wheels”, are among the smoothest guitar driven soul and light funk compositions you’ll hear in recent memory, but he brings a surfeit of six string supported rock muscle to the party as well. During songs like the first two, Mehlsen’s guitar work is often mind-blowing and never comes close to any of the same masturbatory excesses we might hear from his lessers on the instrument. “Pack Rats”, especially, sparks to fiery life thanks to the song’s instrumental interplay and Mehlsen proves time and again how he’s a musician who feeds off other musical voices. The choruses for each of the aforementioned cuts are simply stellar and put one of his songwriting strengths front and center for listeners; one might expect such a high flown conceptual work to be less accessible, but Mehlsen’s songwriting makes every effort to draw listeners in and keep them with the album until the end.

Some of the riskier highlights of the album come with the songs “Nightstream”, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” and the album’s opus, a nearly seven minute long “Darn that Dream/Stairway to Eleven”. The smirking reference in the last title there, alluding to both an iconic hard rock song and the movie Spinal Tap, is all the more coy considering there’s none of that customary musical bluster to be heard in either part of the latter tune. “Nightstream” is one of most artful moments on The Musician’s Compass: a 12 Step Programme and carries itself with an understated elegance. “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” has faded elegiac regret stamped on each section of the song and Mehlsen’s vocal performance is oddly, but pleasingly, reminiscent of David Gilmour’s singing. The chiming guitars give way to some rousing lead work late in the tune and the instrumental breaks take some interesting turns without ever losing the plot.

Del Suelo’s second studio album establishes this project as one of most compelling acts working on the indie scene today and it’s truly tantalizing to imagine how Erik Mehlsen might, eventually, follow up a release like The Musician’s Compass: a 12 Step Programme.


Scottie Carlito

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Conceptz “Splash” feat. Bennie Blanco

Conceptz “Splash” feat. Bennie Blanco


The clock strikes midnight, and Conceptz wants to know where you’re at. In this life, only a couple of things are certain; we’re all going to die someday, we’ve all got to eat, and we’re all compelled to be drawn towards each other in the most primal ways possible. Conceptz is confident that sexual sparks can be ignited if you open yourself up to the idea, and “Splash” saturates us in an aphrodisiac that is one part mammoth bassline and another part cocky self-awareness. It doesn’t matter if we used to be together and it didn’t work out. We made a connection and it fizzled? It’s back on tonight. We’re going for a dip in the ocean of sensuous sonic grooves that Conceptz is unleashing at us with ease.

“Splash” isn’t as vulgar as some of you might infer by its humorously literal title, instead letting us paint our own imagery of two becoming one inside our own dirty minds, although it should be said that Conceptz gives us a healthy nudge in the right direction from the jump. The backing track sparkles and drones on in the foreground, powerless to dull the sharp rhymes that Conceptz and Benny Blanco are trading back and forth. There’s nothing to stop the anticipation from building to a fever pitch and finally releasing in an elegantly appointed chorus that fades in and out of the ethers like steam rising from hot springs in the dead of winter. Does Conceptz realize the imaginative supremacy they wield? My guess is yes, considering how relaxed and composed they remain in the grit and grind of “Splash.”

The music starts to blend into the lyrics towards the latter half of this song, and if you’re not moving to the churning descent of its patterned beat by this point, I seriously have to question whether or not you have a pulse. “Splash” is as intoxicating as a designer drug and has a high that lasts ten times as long, demanding repeated listens from even the most hardcore of anti-rap music fan. We’re spellbound by the glittering tones and melodies lingering in the rearview mirror as we blaze through verse after verse, and trying to resist the glamour of “Splash” soon becomes understandably pointless.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of hip-hop. I like a lot of classic rap ala late 80’s political hip-hop and early 90’s G-funk, but most of the output from 21st century rappers usually leaves a lot to be desired for my personal pedigree of taste. 

Conceptz has made me reconsider whether or not its modern hip-hop that I dislike or just the artists that major labels have chosen to highlight above all others. If a song like “Splash” can stay on permanent rotation in my head for well over a week after first listening to it preparation for writing this review, then maybe there’s a chance that my perception has been askew this entire time. Whatever the case may be, anyone who digs hardcore beat should do themselves a favor and check out Conceptz at the soonest opportunity made available to them. “Splash” is the best rap song I’ve heard in a long time, and my money says that it’s probably better than anything most of you have listened to this year.


Scottie Carlito

Thursday, September 6, 2018

AV Super Sunshine - Time Bomb

AV Super Sunshine - Time Bomb


Dubbed as “New American Rock”, the latest single from Wisconsin’s AV Super Sunshine “Time Bomb” makes that case without ever sounding too ambitious or hyped too hard. Instead, the two mixes coming with this release, a club and radio DJ version respectively, each offer something unique for both casual listeners and more serious music fans. It’s frequently said there is something for everyone when you read music reviews and sometimes it’s true, but rarely is it more substantiated than it is in the hands of AV Super Sunshine than we’ve heard from similar acts. The club mix of “Time Bomb” is full of fury and energy, but there’s more musical strength we hear in this song than we might expect. It begins with a blast of synthesizer gradually intensifying until it erupts into a full on reflection of Michael Bradford’s contributions to the song. This famous DJ and producer has worked with AV Super Sunshine before and discerning listeners will hear why; the two artists possess a clear chemistry perks you up from the first.

The more customary elements of a track are subverted to the electronic instrumentation, but never so much so that they come off as afterthoughts. AV’s lead vocal comes roaring out of the thick, yet bright, mix with assertiveness that commands your attention and the song’s backing vocals merge with the primary vocal in a raucous mashup that will get listeners involved. Other instruments are all but hidden, but they come through at important moments – both melody and guitar make their presence felt in flashes and those points in this five minute+ song tie the track to a needed musical foundation that keeps this mix from being just a ferocious electronic driven number.

The radio DJ mix of the song is bare bones, but equally effective in its own way. It has a lot more focus placed on the lead and backing vocals than we ever hear in the club mix, but it works especially well when placed in a clearer musical landscape like it is here. The synthesizers, of course, do have a strong presence in this version, but the guitar, piano, and drums gives the song a more natural feel than we ever hear in the earlier take on the song. It is, also, much shorter and features the sane fixed gaze on its musical goals. This is, nominally, more closer to the aforementioned label of “New American Rock”, but it still has a lot of the same daring we hear with the earlier mix. AV Super Sunshine’s “Time Bomb” definitely blows up in a big way during both versions and ranks as the best single yet from this exponentially improving rock/EDM master It’s one of the best songs in this style that’s been released in recent years and opens the door to an even more brilliant future

Michael Crowder