Friday, January 15, 2021

HEWAS (feat. AFROMAN Release "WHOLEthing" (SINGLE)

Boston’s Hewas, has collaborated on a new single with the high and mighty, Afroman, called “Wholething.” Hewas’s previous single, “Lemon'' went viral on Tik Tok, with 300 million views, so this is something of an anticipated follow up. Hewas, has an incredibly diverse ethnic makeup, consisting of Dutch, Spanish, and South African, just to name a few. He grew up, listening to Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, both of whom have had a substantial influence on his vocal style. Hewas has achieved that rare soulfulness in his voice, most typically associated with Motown greats. 

“Wholething” is something of a novelty piece. It isn’t likely to be the touchstone of an artist’s career, but it can be a quantifying addition. Things get started with a tropical style keyboard riff, and some console seasoning. The track has something of a swing to it, and a sardonic swagger, that is especially prevalent during Afroman’s part. Hewas shows his love for Michael Jackson, by singing in a tightly controlled falsetto. His vocal abilities are in top form, here, as harmonizes with Afroman and himself. It might be somewhat understated, just how signature Afroman’s sound is. The moment you hear the faintest na na na’s, in the mix, you would know who it is, even if he weren’t already credited. He’s the lovable emperor of indolence, with a touch of raunch, here. Afroman’s cameo is brief, but due to the content, is likely to be the most memorable. He dives deep, and completely embraces the rather dubious character of the song. The synergy, and intermingling that Afroman and Hewas have is exceptional, for two people who likely met on the day of recording. There’s certainly the “boys will be boys” aspect to “Wholething.”

That expression; or more accurately, that concept, is no longer considered as innocuous as it once was, though. One might argue that releasing a song that might be considered misogynistic in 2020/2021, is a risk not worth taking. Others would say that “Wholething” will fly under the radar of most potential scrutiny. It’s entirely conjecture at this point, because as to where Afroman has his fanbase, Hewas is still developing his. What is certain is that “Wholething” is a well written and slickly produced pop/hip hop hybrid style track. The performances are strong, and Hewas shows off his vocal chops. It leaves you wanting more too. I was genuinely surprised at how quickly the song passed by, looking forward to at least one more chorus. This is equally as likely to be intentional or accidental, but it doesn’t make it any less effective. 

“Wholething” is fun and simple. It does have the potential to raise the discussion in regards to “toxic masculinity” and how the entire premise of that term is firmly rooted in subjectivity. Afroman’s character in the song is a married man, who is addressing the boundaries of an intimate relationship with a woman, who is certainly not his wife. Yet, while some might be quick to condemn him for this, we also emphasize acceptance for alternative lifestyles, such as polyamory. The takeaway from a song like “Wholething” is that it can still exist in a time of great sensitivity, and moral debate, opening the door to discussion, for everything. 

Scottie Carlito

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Broken Past release “Some Gave All”

Broken Past may play much different music, but they are looking to join the same roster of high quality popular music talent emerging from New Jersey since the mid-20 th century. Their metal and hard rock chops are second to none, the result of innate skill and touring as much as possible since their 2015 formation. Their single “Some Gave All” from the EP Time for Change shows how far the four piece band has traveled since first hitting the scene and hints at even greater glories to come. It has an undeniable message, not a typical one however, and lead vocalist Frank Acee communicates his heartache and appreciation for the sacrifices of those who served the United States in a way you cannot ignore. His voice matches up nicely with the instruments and arrangement alike and he has the rare skill for singers in this style to deliver a credible vocal in more than just a single range.

They pluck their sound from a basketful of varied influences. Broken Past cite Bret Michaels, AC/DC, Overkill, and Black Sabbath, along with some other incongruous matches, as their musical touchstones and the impressive thing is you can, indeed, hear touches reminiscent of those artists. It is further impressive those influences are detectable without compromising the unique nature of Broken Past’s feel for the style. They are not imitators; they play, write, and perform with their own twist on time-tested styles. It makes the listening experience all the more enjoyable. 

They opt for a more extended approach regarding song length. There’s a hint, just a sliver, of progressive metal running through this track. You can hear it in the band’s willingness to tackle potentially thorny tempo changes and their ability to demonstrate their playing gifts without ever sounding ostentatious. The track boasts commercial edges, but its near six and a half minute duration precludes it finding much favor on radio due without a judicious editing job.  

 I love the way this band understands the value of light and shadow in their music. The alternating sections of this track fit in lockstep with one another and Broken Past moves in and out of the transitions without straying off path. Guitarist Wayne White leads the way to these ears as he moves between outright juggernaut riffing and artful atmospherics with equal skill. It’s a fantastic all-around performance from a band nowhere near the peak of their powers. Adding a great video just rounds things off. The music video revolves around three central motifs – funeral clips full of aging veterans honoring their dead comrades, folding flags, war footage from over the last century, and footage of the band playing the song for viewers. It is, in some respects, a classic music video, but the addition of the war footage makes it stand out more than it otherwise might. 

Some Gave All” is a heated and intense musical tribute to the fallen who fought for our beliefs and throbs with meaning. If this single is your introduction to Broken Past, you couldn’t meet them in a better way.

Scottie Carlito

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Paul Mark & The Van Dorens test "Gravity"

NYC-based Paul Mark & The Van Dorens test the Gravity of the situation on this great new LP, with songs about everything from thoughts of the day to thoughts of yesterday. Gravity is an album that floats any boat down the stream of the unknown while it takes the scenic route to get there and has tons of fun on the way, along with some heartfelt sentiments. These musicians are not only good but they’re as fun as they are serious, especially the featured man up front, Paul Mark himself. And not being familiar with him, the great thing is he has a vast back catalog to delve into from here. 

 Gravity runs prolific, and it runs in a succession of songs that fit the title which is about losing ground and going with the rocky flow. The artist reminds me of various songwriters of the past who mixed a bit of comedy with a serious songwriting approach, not unlike Warren Zevon and others. “Gravity Is Failing” begins the album with some tongue in check lyrics that challenge feeling well grounded. It’s very cool and contains some excellent violin. This might be the best track on the LP, but that can also vary the more I hear it. The lovely piano playing of Paul Mark dominates most of the songs and comes on heavy as “Forever” takes you away and it’s only “I Spin When You Grin” that can change the mood. And change the mood it does, and if I had to call a second favorite track it would be this one, as it goes very well with the opener. And that means all-the more to come must be worth sticking around for, so I did and “The Next Fight” is what I got. 

Another marvelous song with everything that’s good about this band. “Coronation” stands out to be a token instrumental and a very commanding studio performance by all. Hat’s off to another top shelf effort serving as a highlight in the Gravity of the situation. “Con Man VIP” is next and could get some attention or not for the subject matter but either way it’s out forever and will be heard. But the mood changes all the way up on “Friend Gone Astray” but you can add it to the amount of world class ballads on the album and they’re all really soulful and gritty to the max. 

“You Can Take It With You” is where more comedy come into the lyrical picture but it’s all very lighthearted where needed and more heavy handed in the right places. The point is there either way you slice it. “OTB” is the track I listen to the least, so far, and it still has something I am sure that will ultimately click. But things pick back up with a respectable cover of the classic Yardbirds song “Heart Full Of Soul” which is faithful to the original but not without the stamp of Paul Mark as it leads out the last couple of song on what is a brilliant 2020 release. 

 Scottie Carlito

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Dizzy Box Nine’s Faster Than Anticipation LP

If you’ve ever wondered what happens when fiery guitar licks, wild pop hooks, smooth vocal harmonies and radio-friendly rhythms get thrown into a post-millennium blender, getting ahold of Dizzy Box Nine’s Faster Than Anticipation LP should be a top priority this summer. Outfitted with fourteen party-starting tracks, including the feel-good “Friday Night,” “If This Is Real,” the distortion-packed diary entry “Near You” and single-caliber “This Is All For You,” Faster Than Anticipation never gives us a chance to catch our breath – it just keeps rocking harder and harder as we go. Valuing melody as much as they do the virtuosity of speed and efficiency, Dizzy Box Nine give us an album that is everything Pop Fantasy was and more in this latest release, and for those of us who were swept away by that LP’s sizzling tracklist, this couldn’t be hitting record store shelves at a better time this July. Rockers needn’t look any further for a cathartic good time than this album’s content, and something tells me that I’m not going to be the only critic remarking as much this season. 

There definitely a raw, punkish element to “Phone Bill,” “The Sun Came Out The Other Day,” “Little By Little” and “If This Is Real,” but there’s nothing in Faster Than Anticipation that I would say qualifies as being particularly abrasive or inaccessible to the casual rock fan. The framework behind the majority of the music here is steeped in pure pop aesthetics, with songs like “Near You,” “OK, OK,” “It’ll Be OK,” “Let’s Go Skating” and “Friday Night” exhibiting as much of The Beatles as they do Blink-182, but it’s worth pointing out that they share little – if anything at all – of their faceting with contemporary radio pop. Personally, I’d really like to hear all of the aforementioned songs in a live setting, if for no other reason than to hear how Dizzy Box Nine would broach performing them outside of the studio environment. The compositional integrity behind Faster Than Anticipation’s best moments is more than flexible enough to support multiple medleys and extended jams, and that much is obvious even to the most novice of critical ears. 

I fell in love with Pop Fantasy the first time I listened to it, and I will say that Faster Than Anticipation doesn’t disappoint as its sequel by any means. One of the reasons why I have a lot of respect for this group is because of their ability to evolve their sound without abandoning any of the core aesthetics that gave them an edge over the competition to start with. They’re still the same band they were when they recorded their debut, but they’re refining the skillset they began with exponentially through consistent creative chemistry (which I don’t see going anywhere anytime soon). They say it’s a rough time to be a rock n’ roll group right now, but from the looks of how Dizzy Box Nine feel about life, they aren’t experiencing any of the stresses their closest rivals have been.

 Scottie Carlito

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Makes My Blood Dance’s “Power of the Lightside”

Heavy as they come but not devoid of a signature melodic charm that is pretty difficult to work into something as metallically menacing, the fretwork in Makes My Blood Dance’s “Power of the Lightside” is, as one would imagine, the main draw in this flamboyant new hard rock tune. In the video for “Power of the Lightside” or in the song by itself, the guitars don’t glide - they crash into one another, demanding a response from anyone who happens to be within reach of the angst-ridden harmonies. Rock isn’t dead in 2020, and if someone told you it was, they clearly weren’t listening to Make My Blood Dance. 


The vocals here are really sharp from start to finish, and through their defined presence in the mix I think they give the lyrics they convey a little more heart than what would have already been present in “Power of the Lightside.” There aren’t a lot of hard rock or metal groups known for their powerful lead singers anymore, but in more ways than one, this is part of the reason why Makes My Blood Dance are such a standout. They’re melodic enough to be called a retro act, but their music is hardly the product of icon-worship alone. There’s definitely a pretty strong stadium rock influence that’s easy for even the most novice of critics to pick up on in “Power of the Lightside,” but all of the indulgence that this invites into the music is rather refreshing beside the minimalist trends of the American rock underground at the moment. Lately it’s felt as though no one had the desire, nor the mere courage, to commit something as large and in charge as this song to master tape, but with the arrival of Makes My Blood Dance in the spotlight, maybe some of their contemporaries will feel inspired to take the leap into positive aural excess. 

The video for “Power of the Lightside” is a simple one, dissing conceptualism in favor of sticking with something that exudes raw power and reestablishes what we already could have guessed about these guys - they’re party animals with a penchant for introspection and surreal artistry if given enough time and space for it to develop. This is a group that is in love with the rockstar persona in the best possible way, and if that leads them into more creative writing sessions together, I for one encourage the idea of staying with this present trajectory. Makes My Blood Dance are rockers in an age of electronic harmonies and forced synthetic grooves, and for some of us, they’re exactly what the doctor ordered this summer. Rock n’ roll has been suffering, along with its most loyal fans, for well over a decade and a half now, but instead of picking up another pseudo-Queens of the Stone Age album or something dreadful bearing the Imagine Dragons moniker, I would instead recommend trying out what this group is cutting from deep within the annals of the American indie underground. 

Scottie Carlito

Friday, May 29, 2020

Reverse Mechanic releases new single “Head in the Clouds”

Outfitted with a rollicking guitar melody and a spitfire set of rhymes from Reverse Mechanic himself, the new single “Head in the Clouds” might not be an easy track to classify, but that’s exactly what makes it such a hot listen. Reverse Mechanic combines Say Anything-style pop-rock with a loose, unflinching hip-hop attack that is on-point from beginning to end here. His delivery is quite fiery, but make no mistake about it; this is a show of melodic strength more than it is anything else. “Head in the Clouds” is as cerebral as its title would imply, yet more centered than anything its creators has produced before.

 The vocal is the main star of the show whether we’re listening to the song on its own or watching the music video. While Reverse Mechanic varies his speed, customizes his flow and maximizes his showmanship in a couple of key junctures here, one thing he never does is invite overindulgence into this mix. He appears to have no interest in riding a fat beat into the horizon here; there is no monstrous bass breakdown, nor any looping sample for him to straddle. He’s thinking like a composer in “Head in the Clouds,” and not like some random rapper off the internet.

I hadn’t heard very much of Reverse Mechanic’s music before getting ahold of “Head in the Clouds” just this past week, but I can tell you now that I’m definitely going to be listening for more in the future. He’s got a lot of confidence in himself here, and whether that swagger is sourced from within or from the instrumental prowess he affords this track and its video, it’s something I’m dying to hear more of. Reverse Mechanic isn’t looking to reinvent rap in “Head in the Clouds,” but he’s definitely making his own mark on the genre regardless.

Scottie Carlito

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Jefferson Thomas releases “Greyhound Bus” Single-Video

A vocal harmony as potent as a roaring Midwestern wind. Rollicking acoustic guitars that meet their perfect match in an electrified lead. A swinging beat that rocks with as much passion as any of Jefferson Thomas’ verses ever could. Wearing his heart on his sleeve like few others in his genre are able or willing to, Thomas offers up one of the brightest jams of spring 2020 thus far in “Greyhound Bus.” Whether enjoyed in its music video form or in its original incarnation on the recently released Sixteen Sundays LP, “Greyhound Bus” is one song you definitely want to stop and spend some time with this May. 

The compositional framework here is very rock-centric, but I will say that the pastoral sensibilities make it just as accessible to country fans as well. There’s a blend of themes and aesthetical components in this track that would seemingly be straight out of the 80’s heartland rock playbook, but I wouldn’t deem “Greyhound Bus” a throwback to the old school. This feels more like a celebration of influences than it does the watering-down of a familiar sound, and for what I look for in Thomas’ style of music, his is a tough brand to beat.

I was admittedly impressed with what I heard in Jefferson Thomas’ debut album Play Hurt back in 2017, but his most recent work shows a tremendous amount of growth I wasn’t anticipating I’d find so early on in his career. There’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s cultivating his craft at the right pace in 2020, and with a little more exposure on the college radio front, his momentum is going to increase a lot sooner than later. Indie rock fans everywhere should take notice – this is an artist you need to have on your radar. 

Scottie Carlito