Reviews (75)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 01:06

"Solstice" - Lazarus

Was checking out the profiles of my twitter followers; many are artists - writers, singers, rappers. I like it. It gives me a well of artistry to dip into. Today, I stumbled across Lazarus and his album "Solstice."

He hails from Raleigh, NC, but the flow, the beat, and the vibe made me think Chicago. This is definitely not your Southern-style of rap. And while the album isn't new - it's dated 2012 - it noteworthy. The production, the lyrics, and the vocals are on-point.  

The tagline is "released in the spirit of the holidays with year round reverance." Maybe that's why the lyrics seem more about creating a "New Life" as opposed to bragging about the current one. 

Don't sleep on the winter solstice. "Solstice" by Lazarus

Saturday, 15 February 2014 04:54

"Baby Luv" - Jade

I have a soft spot in my heart for 80's and 90's R&B. Those two decades were rife with big voices, smooth soul, and a bevy of beautiful and talented female groups: En Vogue, SWV, Xscape, TLC, and Jade.

In the early 90's, Jade racked up their fair share of Gold and Platinum, while appearing in movies, on talk shows, and television. As a matter-of-fact, they own the sole distinction of being the only artist to release a BET "Listening Party" album - an album that garnered them rave reviews.

Alas as it happens far too often to beautiful girl groups, (need I reference the list above again?), Jade's reign on the charts ended too soon admist rumours of internal turmoil.

Fast forward twenty years later and Jade returns to the music scene with a new song called "Baby Luv."

The question for artists who have been away from the music scene for a while is: How do you say true to yourself while still sounding relevant and current? How do you step back into a genre you've led?

Jade has chosen to do it by offering the bouncy "Baby Luv" that is a current as it is retro. Profoundly in "girl group" form, this song is fun and frolic.  It's an ode to Martha and the Vandellas; it's reminiscient of yesterday but completely today. 

So here's to hoping the song will get the airplay it deserves. In the meantime, welcome back, Jade!

Saturday, 01 February 2014 16:20

"Little Darling" - Paper Cranes

One of my dilemnas is that I'm not always able to find information on the artists I stumble across. My guess is that if it's a dilemna for me, it's a bigger dilemna for them. How does an independent artists get his or her name out there (the universe) without major backing? There are scores AND SCORES of talented artists grinding out quality music that will get heard by very few people. (Just as there are wonderful writers who will never have a best-seller.)

All that brings me to Paper Cranes and their song "Little Darling." The song is a blend of folk and alternative with an emotional and soulful undercurrent. The lead singer's tenor beckons for a repeat listen as he admonishes his little darling how to save her soul. I compelled to believe he's referring to her emotional soul, not her spiritual one. 

And that's all I got for you. I don't know much about Paper Cranes. This is the first single from their second album, (wild guess there!) and they are from New Zealand.

But hey! My job is to point out the good music I hear. It's up to you to go out buy and support ... 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014 02:03

"Trampoline" - The Unlikely Candidate

The Unlikely Candidate and their "Trampoline" is a bouncing (no pun intended) happy-go-lucky rock song. It's rock ala Fall Out Boy (circa "From Under the Cork Tree") and like Fall Out, the song is a blend of pop/rock/and maybe a bit of punk.

It's a fun ditty with a catchy hook and a thoughtful message about owning your own happiness. Although, owning happiness is often easier said than done.

At the end of the day, and the end of the song, the Unlikely Candidate is wishing for a positive outlook. To tell the truth, how can you not have a positive outlook on life when you're bouncing on a trampoline? And this is a "Trampoline" worth jumping on. 

 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014 03:31

Avery Sunshine

Meet the "artist" called Avery - a singer of formidable talent whose vocal warbling recalls Ledisi, Erykah, and Jill while weaving in the incredible gospel intonations of Lisa McClendon and Sherri Jones-Moffett. This project is her journey, and on it she delightfully guides the listener. Sit back and enjoy, you are in able hands.

On her album, Ms. Avery walks with confidence into her music, with attention to the mood, lyric, and delivery necessary to touch her listener. Avery's voice is intentionally and seductively controlled, housing a purposeful restraint. You know this gospel trained artist has vocal power - evidenced by "All In My Head" and "Blessing Me" - but that power is only released when required due to either lyrical interpretation or by emotional demand.

Her voice is intriguing; it demonstrates personal strength and independence while addressing the truth of being plagued by human frailty and realities. Contrasting Aretha, whose classic music tends to showcase strength with seldom self-reflection or investigation, Avery rather follows in the footsteps of the likes of Anita Baker whose music can bear to admit mistakes without self-degradation, but rather maintaining dignity.

An amazing project from an talented artist, the standout track is "Ugly Part of Me," a song which, quite frankly, is better in long form than in radio edit. The radio edits removes too much of Avery's quality and skilled interpretation. The long version is sultry, with restrained emotion, solid storytelling, and layered, lyrical interpretation. The track uses an excellent blend of delightful "churchy" chords and references. (IE: Hammond B3 organ reference, BGV arrangements, etc). Love the horns. The vocal and music grove is solidly 'in the pocket' with great restraint and emotional focus. Avery pulls the listener into each lyric with ease and finesse. The lyric break at 3:42 mins is a huge component of the song (and missing from the radio edit). During this lyric break, the use of vocals to 'wail' in agony related to the poor decision of causing her lover to walk out - is brilliant! Simply magical!

Related to overall the project, big snaps to the vocal arrangement. Lead and BGV's on the project are quality. They fit each other like call and response fits spirituals and field songs. With a quality band laying the cornerstone of each track, this is a well-balanced project with a variety of tracks showcasing genuine ability; the project has an authenticity that feels true to the soul and prowess of Avery Sunshine.

Highly Recommended: "Ugly Part of Me" "Bags Packed" "Blessing Me" "All In My Head."

Friday, 03 January 2014 00:09

"Just Because" - Body Language

I've been sleeping, and I hate when I do that.

A few months ago, I heard "We Got Enough" by Body Language on SIRIUS radio. I thought, "Damn, cool song!" I bought it on iTunes, placed it on heavy rotation on the workout mix, and kept it moving.

People, I was sleeping. Because today I was out and about and heard "Just Because." And I realized, I really like this group. No, wait, hold it. I mean, I really REALLY DIG THIS GROUP. (Of course, you know that means I bought it.)

"Just Because" has this 80's retro soul-pop sound. As if Philp Oakley (the Human League) decided to do a duet with Five Starr, and then they all relocated from London to Brooklyn. The vocals (including the background), the groove, and the video make me smile. I've been hearing more soulful synth of late; this groups commands it better than most. 

You know how I feel about indie; it's overlooked and ignored. But this is great stuff. It deserves to be heard. And not "Just Because .." 

Thursday, 26 December 2013 17:41

"Feels Like Home"- Melissa Polinar

Melissa Polinar strums the guitar, her vocals are crystal clear,and her lyrics are introspective and thoughtful. She's akin to India Arie; her lyrics about growing, about positivity, and self-reflection are as important as the music itself.

On "Feels Like Home," she laments, "Tried using credit cards to fill my empty heart. And now, my wallet is empty ..."

On "Happy," she chooses to "live life and just be happy."

On "Never Change," she shows off some of the many colors of her voice. 

This is a fine collection of songs, served as well in a coffee shop as they would be over the radio. They are designed to make you feel warm and comfortable. And really, that's how home should feel. 

 

Saturday, 21 December 2013 21:33

"Peace of Mind" Cash Bilz

Smoothly produced and flawlessly delivered, Brooklyn rapper Cash Bilz is asking for "Peace of Mind" on his mixtape.

I'll admit, I'm a bit picky about my rap music. Do I love the genre? Yeah. But there's a tendency for rap artists to deliver the same gangsta shit, the same boastful shit, and the same sad stories over and over again. I get it. Those stories represent some lives. Yet, if those are the stories an artist is sharing, deliver them to me with some nice beats and tight lyrics.

I'm a writer. Lyrics mean everything.

Fortunately, Bilz delivers both on this joint. He's struggling; he's frustrated; he's got no support. But the rhymes are on point, mixing both timeless references - "I'm underground like Harriet" - to more current - "And I dunk on your hoop dreams."

As in all poetry, there are simple rhymes and there are more complex ones. Bilz has deferred to the more complex ones; and he doesn't miss on his delivery. 

The song is short. Too short. And that's a compliment to what he's done. I was nodding my head the entire song, and you will be as well. 

Friday, 20 December 2013 02:20

"What Is To Be Major" - Barsheem

Barsheem's EP "What Is To Be Major" is a compelling mix of party, throw back,and intimate tracks. As a singer-songwriter, he shows his musical range and his ability to stylize.

The lead single from the EP is "If This World Were Mine," originally recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, then classically rerecorded by Luther Vandross and Cheryl Lynn.

Barsheem's take on the song provides a nice luscious 70's vibe. The instrumentation is good and his voice has a light, smooth, clean characteristic. His voice is a gift - one that he stayed within the pocket on.

Both earlier versions of "If This World" were duets, and it is difficult to turn a duet into a solo piece. Barsheem's vocals are good. Sometimes, though, the beat overtakes him. Nevertheless, the performance is well worth the listen.

The best song on the project is "No One." The song shows off his voice without competition. There's a strong balance between the writing and the vocals, and Barsheem's emotional connection is evident.

Honestly, Barsheem's connection to his music and his musical history is evident throughout the entire project. He is a talented singer-songwriter who doesn't compete with or repeat the past. He honors it.

In a time where there seems to be a dearth of soul singers, Barsheem's voice is needed and refreshing. Kudos to him for what he has brought with this EP; I look forward to seeing what else he has in store.

Special contribution by Anthony Johnson 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 18:41

"Right Mistake" - Shawn Mayer

Shawn Mayer is based in Nashville, which gives her some country roots. But that doesn't mean she can't rock. Because rock is what she does in "Right Mistake." 

Seemingly addressed to a potential lover, Shawn Mayer proclaims that "the sweat from the heat of the night" is rolling off her skin. Her tone is reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge as she wrings primal passion from the tune.

Check out the youtube link; you'll love the bass.

Check out the iTunes single; you'll love her voice. 

And remember, support your indie artist! They've got some great talent. 

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