Friday, July 19, 2019

AV Super Sunshine releases "Are You Happy?”

“Are You Happy?” from Wisconsin’s AV Super Sunshine is released in three different mixes, a radio, club, and rock version, respectively. The radio version has the same rock and electronic hybrid edge defining many of their past releases. It is fascinating to listen to a band so skilled at balancing the past and present in a single package, but it is all the more impressive to hear them do it and never lose their way or reduce the song to a mishmash of sound. The contrast between the synthesizer driven melody and live drumming facilitates a connection between the song and its listeners that crackles from the first and never loses you. The song is cut to an ideal length making it an easy choice for radio play.

Other musical instruments are present in the radio mix. The guitar and keyboards are a little lost in the radio mix, but nonetheless are present in the song. They combine in a dense way, but “Are You Happy?” retains a fleet footed musicality despite the density. The entire track isn’t that way however. AV Super Sunshine change things up at all the right points and the musical push of the song track dissipates into atmospheric bridges and instrumental breaks that round off the tune in a satisfying way. The vocals are twofold. There is a lead vocal coupled with band member Philomena’s contributions on backing vocals. She isn’t present in every line, but she comes into the song with a refreshing vocal tone that juxtaposes well with the lead vocal. 

The two vocalists do a five star job of adding a lot of oomph to the track and those aforementioned atmospheric moments and they are clearly singing with the music rather than positioning their voices against the music. They do an exceptional job of making the lyrics come alive for listeners without ever outshining the music. The club mix is an extended treatment of the radio track, a little over six minutes long, and AV Super Sunshine takes the chance to stretch the song out to its limit. The same dynamics at play in the radio mix are present in the club mix, but this version obviously pushes more percussive elements of the song and develops the melodic elements of the song in a much slower fashion. The rock mix is cut from a different cloth. There are none of the frills present in this version we hear from the other mixes, though the presence of keyboards obviously nods in a way to their electronic influences. The drumming, guitar, and vocals possess a lot of bite.

AV Super Sunshine is continuing their ascent into the musical consciousness of music devotees around the world and “Are You Happy?” will only hasten their rise. It is a memorable single that doesn’t take shortcuts, shows discipline and focus alike, and sparks with fire and passion. It bodes well for the entirety of Candyland Vol. 1 and will undoubtedly leave a mark on anyone encountering AV Super Sunshine for the first time. 

 Jodi Marxbury

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Fenix & SM1LO release hot new music


Beats rain down on us like devilish sonic daggers as we find our way through the fog of Fenix’s “House Remix” of “Where We Begin,” the darkest mix of the title track on his all-new album. This record isn’t his artistic baby alone, though; SM1LO is on board for this affair, as well as Llexa, and they’re dead-set on creating an electronic-tinged quicksand with tracks like this one, “Where We Begin (Radio Edit),” Fenix’s “House Radio Edit,” and the instrumentals “Club Radio Dub MIX,” and “House Dub Mix.” 

 If there’s something that you don’t like about one mix, there’s another almost guaranteed to ignite a passion within your soul that only premium EDM can, and despite the fact that there’s a repetitiveness to some of the content here, all of these mixes – instrumentals included – sport something more unique and brooding than what any of the headline artists associated with this project have dispensed on their own. Good things come to those who wait, and if you’re one of the millions of pop fans that has been eager for some virtuosity in 2019, Fenix & SM1LO have you taken care of with Where We Begin. BEATPORT: Fenix’s “Club Radio Edit” is my favorite of all the tracks in this record. 

Unlike other versions available to us in this collection, this take on “Where We Begin” has a torturous overtone to it, partly influenced by the shimmering, yet melancholy-soaked, acoustic guitar parts that play such a prominent role in the ascent towards the chorus. Llexa’s vocal has a lot of reverb on it, more than I probably would have used, but it definitely makes her words so much more haunting than they are in SM1LO’s remix or the standard “Radio Edit” version of the song. The melody is evocative, and its interplay with the percussion is reminiscent of a torrid love affair that has suddenly been met with an impasse. The house mixes were built for the world of runways and supermodels, but these club cuts have something much more intelligent and artistically savvy about them. Some legitimate emotion went into making these tracks, and that’s easy for even the most novice of pop aficionados to pick up on.

There have been only a couple of electronic acts to really impress me this year, but this record is certainly among the best pop music that I’ve been rocking out with this summer. Since its release last June, outlets that wouldn’t normally cover EDM have been taking an interest in Where We Begin, and specifically, Fenix & SM1LO. I haven’t a doubt in my mind that there are going to be a lot of calls for a follow-up to this fourteen-track wonder, and whether they bring Llexa back into the fold for another go-round or not, I hope to have the chance to review the finished product when all is said and done. Their charismatic studio techniques alone would be enough to warrant even more experiments together, but even without considering that, there just isn’t another electronica record out right now with the kind of spunk that Where We Begin has. FENIX 


 Matthew Huber

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Integriti Reeves releases new Single

Latin jazz crooner Integriti Reeves is stunning the critics in her new single, the swinging “Eu Vim Da Bahia,” from her debut extended play Stairway to the Stars. In “Eu Vim Da Bahia,” Reeves draws from old fashioned jazz influences while flanking her stylish grooves with a sleek, cosmopolitan sway that is anything but uncontemporary. There’s a lot of grandiosity in the composition of the instruments, but even at their most attractive, they’re never potent enough to steal the limelight away from her lead vocal, which stands out as one of the most seductive that I’ve personally listened to this summer. Much like the record that it was spawned from, “Eu Vim Da Bahia” is an exotic, multidimensional offering that will leave you begging for more from this sensational new singer.

I hear a lot of Django Reinhardt in these guitar parts, and anyone who knows jazz will tell you that this is no small statement to make. They’re so incredibly colorful, and yet enjoy an understated presence and simplistic construction. It doesn’t take more than a single listen to see why there’s been so much buzz around this track – from the get-go, every stitch of audio is awash with a supreme polish that emphasizes the emotion underpinning every note the strings emit. It’s almost overwhelming in a couple of spots, but Reeves is careful to curb the more indulgent moments in “Eu Vim Da Bahia” with a clean-cut vocal track that holds everything here cohesively together. I dig the approach she’s taking in this song, and would like to see her expand on the formula a little more in future efforts. 

The rhythm in this single is quite intoxicating, and when combined with the soft serenade occupying the top of the master mix, they yield an unbeatable hook that I’ve admittedly become addicted to. There’s a lot of excellent pop music being made on the mainstream side of the dial at the moment, but I don’t know that I’ve heard anything with the sultriness, not to mention impressively-appointed complexities, that “Eu Vim Da Bahia” has. It’s a fascinating treat for jazz fans, and moreover, anyone who has been in the mood for something a little more stimulating on their stereo this summer. It’s a far cry from the pseudo-vocal pop that frequently draws comparisons to the vintage jazz that Reeves takes inspiration from, and perhaps one of the few Latin singles I’ve heard this season that would appeal to audiences across the board. 

July just got a lot sexier with the addition of the string play contained within “Eu Vim Da Bahia,” and I for one am very excited to see how Integriti Reeves follows-up on its release in the years to come. She’s got a lot of momentum behind her, and for being a relative unknown to most of the world, she’s already got quite a following building around her brand right now. I have a feeling that we’ve yet to see what she’s fully capable of as a performer, but at any rate, this is a great way to familiarize yourself with her enticing style of jazz. 

Kevin Huber

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Victor PEDRO drops hot new Single

Hip-hop is having a really incredible year, and independent rappers like Nigeria’s Victor PEDRO are the reason why. In PEDRO’s new single “Call Me, I Miss Ya!,” he sets his sound apart from everyone else on the eastern side of the Atlantic by incorporating elements from American R&B as well as Jamaican mento, ska, and melodic rap, yielding one of the most diverse sonic profiles of anyone in the underground today. “Call Me, I Miss Ya!” isn’t his most multilayered material ever to see international release, but it can be said that it’s perhaps his most emotive and direct by a landslide. 

 Hybrid tonality is the name of the hip-hop game in 2019, and no one seems to know that better than Victor PEDRO does. As previously stated, his sound is an amalgamation of a lot of worldly influences, and even though it might be hard to cohesively structure a song that includes every stitch of the patchwork comprising his style, he makes it look remarkably easy here. There’s a touch of R&B in his vocal, a little reggae in his bass, and a cosmopolitan rap groove holding all of the intricate pieces together like a superglue that was designed to last forever. PEDRO is still pretty much the new kid on the block for American and British rap aficionados, but he’s grown so much since his debut hit the airwaves all the way back in 2013 (which, for those of you who are as bad with time as I am, was an astounding six years ago now). An exercise in maturity in the style of “Call Me, I Miss Ya!” simply would not have been possible during his initial campaign in the early/mid-2010’s, and I think that most anyone who is familiar with his early work would be inclined to agree with me. 

 The bass isn’t nearly as loud and boisterous as the percussion is in this single, but it doesn’t hurt the harmony in this dirge in the least. In addition to being a killer songwriter and master arranger, PEDRO proves himself a worthwhile harmonist in “Call Me, I Miss Ya!” by cultivating one of the smoothest melodic duets of the spring with his bassline in the track. It’s something that I heard Seattle’s Ronnue do earlier this year in his remix of “Something About U,” but other than him, I don’t know that there’s anyone else with the depth of vocal talent to pull off something as elaborate in tone as this charming example is. I don’t think we need to argue about this one; Victor PEDRO is an artist that R&B, rap and pop fans alike need to be following right now, and he’s giving audiences around the globe something to get turned on by in his most recent studio cut. 

“Call Me, I Miss Ya!” is emotional but sure of itself in the most important of ways, and in today’s cold and calculated pop culture, it’s a rather unique track to come across. I definitely can’t wait to hear more from PEDRO in the future, as he’s yet to disappoint me with his music so far.


Melissa Pratt

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Respectables release The Power of Rock n Roll


I went into this album not knowing what to expect really. I wasn’t familiar with this band, despite their lengthy history, and only recognized names like Waddy Watchel and producer Bernard Fowler from their association with The Rolling Stones. In all honesty, the title made me giggle just a little. However, I was wrong to harbor any suspicions. This isn’t some hackneyed rock and roll cliché; instead, this album, even at its most down and dirty moments, is a celebration. 

The Respectables may travel some well trod paths, but they always opt for traveling in their own unique way. The celebratory side of their music is what I like best; there’s nothing ironic or kidding about their approach, they go after rock and roll, blues, and even a smattering of country music with wholehearted vigor and make it work each time out. That joyfulness in their performances seldom hits the same stride it does on the opening song, the title cut, and the video for the song totally reflects that. It has some strong guitar work thrown in for good measure from guest player Waddy Watchel, a respected veteran who’s played with Bob Dylan and Warren Zevon among others, but what really makes this song a fun hearing is that joy you hear in their music making. It’s unrestrained, yet artful. Watchel appears on “That Girl” as well, though his presence isn’t as strong as we heard in the first song, but it nonetheless enriches an already fine tune and the second track’s chorus is definitely just as delectable as what we heard with the opening number. 

“Give Some” riffs away with the heaviest guitar work on the album, but the band never crunches for the sake of crunching; it’s a melodic guitar riff that hooks into your brain and pulls you along for the ride. The vocals are every bit as melodic despite the more rugged feel, overall, from the arrangement and it just brings another strand into the musical thread of this album. It’s a welcome addition. I love when they latch onto the bluesy vibe sustaining the whole of “Wheel in My Hand” and it’s another of the band’s songs that uses movement and cars, in particular, as a metaphor of sorts for describing the songwriting point of view. There’s a bit of a storytelling side coming out here, never overemphasized, and the conversational style of the lyrics and vocals helps it stand out even a little more than the album’s other fine tunes. “As Good as Love Gets” takes a decidedly unexpected turn as the band brings in a full string arranged courtesy of Jeff Bova to compliment an already exceptionally fine song. Despite the surprise, it doesn’t ever feel untrue to the band’s spirit. 

The second to last and final songs, “18 Wheeler” and “Highway 20” respectively, are great tunes to feature near the end of the release as they move in a more country direction, never anything like modern “country”, and sound equally true to the band’s character. Instead, you get a sense of the band slowing things down a little as the conclusion draws near, and it’s reflective of the thought they’ve put into the album’s construction and track listing. The Power of Rock ‘n’ Roll, risking cliché, has something for everyone and anyone who hears it will undoubtedly agree


Missy Hogan

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina - Little King and the Salamander


The second studio release from New York City based The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina, Little King and the Salamander, is what I dub a “hybrid” song collection. The mix of demos, unreleased material, and “b-sides” has a retrospective quality as it clearly looks back on the burst of creativity producing the band’s previous studio release Act 3, but the fourteen song release likewise stands on its own rather than coming off as a musical curiosity. Led by guitarist, singer, and songwriter Ryan Shivdasani, the same eclectic imagination powering the aforementioned Act 3 is evident here as well. I’m quite taken with this collection, perhaps even a little more so than Act 3 as Little King and the Salamander somehow captures the initial burst of creation in a much more intimate manner than even its illustrious predecessor. 

It is impossible to ignore the uplift of album opener “Hey Everybody”. It is an instrumental track, for the most part, and builds from Shivdasani’s funkafied electric guitar lines, evocative echo, and swinging drums that hook listeners in from the outset. The rambunctious celebratory feel of the song and Shivdasani’s scat-style vocals add much. There are a number of understated dynamic shifts in the trajectory of “What Fools We Can Be” underlying the emotional gravitas of the song, but it is ultimately Shivdasani’s melodic yet emotive vocal that brings palpable humanity to the song. The touches of acoustic guitar throughout and the careful manipulations of pacing make the arrangement all the more interesting. “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina” has an unusual vibe, but nonetheless remains accessible. It has a strong jazz influence bubbling to the surface of the song, especially the guitar, but the sound is skewed in a much more individualistic direction rather than pursuing purist ends. The lyrics are closer to performed poetry than traditional pop song words and, despite the flood of imagery, achieve impressive coherency. It is evidence, if more is needed, for how well rounded Shivdasani’s talents are. There’s a 3am dark night of the soul feel to the track 

“White Light and Lullabies”, an elegiac sense of burning candles at both ends that grabbed my attention quick. Shivdasani’s restrained near shuffle arrangement for the cut and its accompanying echo are among the keys to the song’s success, but the fatalism of its lyrical content plays a critical part as well. The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina presents “Particle Craze”, a highlight on Act 3, in an earlier and leaner form on this release, but the song retains its power to enchant even in this comparatively spartan form. It is fascinating to hear how Shivdasani’s vision for the song is essentially complete, even in a rough early draft, and the additions distinguishing its Act 3 counterpart now seem more like crowning touches more than ever before. “Jeepers Creepers” is an outlier, a far different expression of Shivdasani’s songwriting acumen than any of the tracks discussed in this review. It does share some superficial similarities with the earlier “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina” thanks to the sheer delight in wordplay Shivdasani exhibits and the jazz influence casting a shadow over the musical performance. 

The jazz overtones of this song, however, are far more free form and spontaneous than anything we heard during “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina”. Another flavor in the band’s mix rises to the surface with the acoustic track “Slip Away”. It is another track that emerged in different form on the Act 3 release and, like “Particle Craze”, illustrates how Shivdasani’s designs for the song are essentially complete even in an earlier take on the track. Despite its “hybrid” qualities mentioned earlier in this review, multiple listens to Little King and the Salamander reinforce the unique hallmarks of a release that has archival strengths, yes, but that does stand as an independent release rather than marking time until Shivdasani amasses a backlog of new songs for the band’s next studio release. The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina are an unique band in the modern music world, mainstream or indie, and their penchant for invoking retro and modern elements in the same musical breath sets them far apart from business as usual. 


Brian Childress

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Makes My Blood Dance are dishing out the mighty melodies


Mainstream metal has, admittedly, given us some hit and miss results this season, but deep within the American underground, Makes My Blood Dance are dishing out the mighty melodies that fans have been demanding since the start of the year. In their rookie single “Beaming Right Up,” Makes My Blood Dance exploit a danceable beat with a visceral riff-rocking aesthetic that is soaked in distortion and compressed to sustain a harmonic for as long as audiologically possible. With a powerful groove inspired by first gen NWOBHM meshed with the lyrical bite of the modern progressive era, “Beaming Right Up” is one metal single that no one is going to want to miss this April.

There’s an old school tonality in the guitars here, but make no mistake about it – there’s nothing about this song that would lead me to using words like “throwback” to describe its content. There are the bells and whistles of an 80’s glam metal unit left intact in the chorus, but they’re melded with a crude, punkish segue into the refrain that opens up so much room in the master mix for the bassline to fill with colorful texture. It’s not avant-garde, but “Beaming Right Up” has a provocative stylization that doesn’t fit in with the current atypical metal model at all (in a good way).

I don’t see any need to hide the obvious here – Makes My Blood Dance are as cinematic a heavy band as they come, and honestly, I get the impression that they’re very proud of that aspect of their sound. The lyrics, the production value, the arrangement of the strings; everything here is about celebrating the gluttony of rock n’ roll at its most unrestrained, but instead of coming across like an arrogant group of party boys, this band sounds very deliberate in their use of the concept and, dare I say it, intellectual in their compositional style. That’s a rare find in this genre – or for that matter, anywhere in contemporary western pop.

Not a lot of bands in Makes My Blood Dance’s scene are working with the level of melodicism mixed with raw physicality that they are in “Beaming Right Up,” but that isn’t the only reason why I think that their music is so memorable for more casual metal fans like myself. There’s a diverse group of influences in play here, and while the metallic fireworks are the centerpiece, they’re bolstered by the club beats that drive the rhythm of the song. The band calls it “disco/metal;” but I think it’s a lot more inventive than such pedestrian terminology could account for.

You don’t have to be a hardcore heavy metal buff to end up headbanging to Makes My Blood Dance’s thriller of a debut, “Beaming Right Up,” but for those who live and die by the genre’s most enthralling artists, this is a single that will haunt your dreams long after hearing it for the first time. They show off some serious charisma in this track and back it up with a skillful handling of complicated riffs and blistering beats, and after finding myself hooked on the song’s signature grooves, I plan on keeping a close eye on their upcoming releases as well.


Scottie Carlito