Sunday, March 18, 2018

Monsieur Job - Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow


Monsieur Job - Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow
 
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Chow-Eyyy-Pow/dp/B07416MPBK

“Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” is a revelatory single from Latin and urban pop masters in the making Monsieur Job, a four piece unit fronted for this effort by the vocal talents of No Mercy lead singer Martin Citron. This union of talents has produced one of the most notable cross-genre blends in recent years and Monsieur Job has paired the single with a “B-side” remix that will appeal to many as well. They’ve definitely captured a thoroughly modern sound while never betraying the fundamentals that make songs great in any genre – in this case, the performance never forsakes a live aesthetic that, despite the electronic nature of the music, suggests anything can happen in this song and unexpected twists will come. It definitely isn’t a paint by numbers EDM track in either incarnation – instead, songwriters Toby Holguin and Stan Kolev have crafted a winning formula for Monsieur Jobs’ music that’s full of color, physicality, and imagination. 
 
Kolev’s remix is a blistering, punchy EDM track with Citron’s vocal chopped up in a very staccato, percussive way. It’s much more streamlined and to the point than the quite direct radio edit and works like a clenched fist compared to the more expansive, relaxed attitude of the radio edit. It’s ideally suited for a club setting. The radio edit, on the other hand, falls into more traditional territory despite its glaring modernity. It opens with varied percussion that the song adds to as it progresses deeper into the track and the prominent bass and other instrumentation key themselves around the song’s drumming. There’s an impressive mix of sounds surrounding the percussion. Some of it is quite conclusively pre-programmed in origin while other drumming sounds strike me as much more natural, if not entirely live. It speaks to the backgrounds of the band members – to a man, Monsieur Job is well versed in both electronic and live, traditional music performance and their ability to unite those two aesthetics in “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” is one of their more notable achievements.
 
Martin Citron’s vocal in the radio edit is Spanish language from first word to last, but exclusively English speakers will pick up on the emotion and spirit he infuses into the lyric and enjoy it despite not quite understanding the content. They will, likewise, respond to the confidence he conveys with his performance and appreciate his efforts to tailor the vocal to the musical needs of the song. The coupling of Toby Holguin and Stan Kolev’s songwriting with his experienced singing are the primary ingredients making “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” one of the more memorable singles from the Latino and EDM genres in quite some time. Monsieur Job are poised to be one of the powerhouses in this scene for years to come and we may soon point back to this track as the moment their musical journey first traveled into the stratosphere of public notice.  


Raymond Burris

Friday, February 16, 2018

Sule - Love Me (Country Swing)


Sule - Love Me (Country Swing) 


Sule’s new single “Love Me” is the next logical step in a career that’s seen this great Quebec based singer move from being a valued collaborator with some of pop music’s best performers, a high profile appearance on Canadian tv’s equivalent of The Voice, La Voix, and now another important peak in his solo career with the release of this latest single. The single recalls a clear strand of Americana influenced by classic country, particularly the once wildly popular swing style, while still manifesting aspects of jazz and blues throughout the entirety of the song. There’s palpable confidence coming off this tune and it never strains for its effects – instead, it’s tailored to a perfect length and there isn’t a single false musical or vocally note struck throughout the song. “Love Me” is a wonderful single for Sule to open 2018 and promises his year will be a big one in his burgeoning solo career.  
 
The song, on the whole, seems a little unassuming, but that’s part of its charm. Sule definitely occupies a big chunk of the song’s imaginative and emotional space, but his vocal performance is definitely delivered with an ear towards complementing the track rather than leading the way and bending the sonic elements to his singing will. It’s really pleasing to hear his voice bob and weave through the emotional terrain generated by the arrangement and he sounds sure of himself throughout rather than relying on over-cooked theatrical moments to earn the listener’s attention. His voice is obviously very powerful and certainly capable of showstopper moments, but he never falls into the trap of laying on the histrionics and obscuring the rich instrumental backing he benefits from. Few singles, ever, are as well rounded as “Love Me” while still touching on an universal theme and narrative that anyone can relate to. 
 
Anyone will relate to this musical arrangement despite the rarity of the style in modern pop, Americana, or country. It has an affability that you don’t often hear from any form and, thus, makes it instantly relatable on a variety of levels and, despite its Americana influenced pedigree, this is a solid pop song as well that happens to utilize an unusual style. Much of the musical value for this song is built around its melodic strengths and the acoustic guitar that’s a constant presence in the song from the first, but there are other elements as well that make it an even more appealing listen. While the players are obviously top shelf talents, they are working for the song from the first rather than trying to garner the listeners attention with misplaced skill and everything they do enhances and play off well against Sule’s vocal. Few songs you hear in 2018 will present such a complete experience like Sule’s “Love Me” and its revisiting of the country swing style is wholly credible and entertaining.  


Dale Butcher

Monday, February 5, 2018

Universal Dice - birth, love, hate, death


Universal Dice - birth, love, hate, death


The latest album from Gerry Dantone’s Universal Dice project is extravagantly titled birth, love, hate, death, but Dantone’s songwriting and conceptual ideas more than live up to the album title’s grandiose implications. Dantone, a man of many talents, is a songwriting talent clearly cut from a traditional cloth, but he nonetheless knows how to bring those foundational influences into perfect accord with a modern sound an audience of today will enthusiastically respond to. It’s accessible, but never achieves that accessibility at the expense of an intelligent presentation. This is music that doesn’t take short cuts and never cheats the listener will still ably depicting Dantone’s storyline for the rock opera. The story advances through songs structured as voiced by particular characters and, while things are never quite told in a A-Z sort of way, attentive listeners will be able to follow along without straining their attention. 
 
“Welcome to the World” is a note perfect vehicle for bringing audiences into Universal Dice’s imaginative world and it comes across with loose-limbed confidence and sharpened musical instincts. It’s hard to not enjoy how well Universal Dice weaves a lot of musical activity into an unified whole while it never seems unduly cluttered. This is particularly apparent on the second song “I Wish I Could Tell You This”, one of the album’s best ballad-like songs. There’s some real musical drama in the jangling line of musical attack Universal Dice takes with “Your Son” and it puts a bright early spotlight on some of Dantone’s best work writing “In character”.  One of the album’s best moments in a rock vein comes with the track “The Prophet” and it’s largely thanks to hammering drums that maintain an impressive pattern throughout. There’s a lot of vocal harmonies making birth, love, hate, death’s songwriting extra memorable but few, if any, songs present that so well as the track “My Hands Are Tied “ and, despite the obvious studio construction behind such parts, they come across like they’d be convincing in a live setting.
 
“Take Me Home”, befitting its status as the album’s lengthiest track, likewise has a constructed feel that, thankfully, never comes off ultimately sounding like a put on. Dantone doesn’t have a classically schooled voice, but the production almost always frames his singing quite well on birth, love, hate, death and this song is probably the best example of the nuance he’s capable of bringing into a piece. “Danielle” is about as classic as rock and roll songwriting gets while still sporting a distinctly modern flair that’ few of Universal Dice’s contemporaries could hope to pull off. “Better Man” brings out the guitars bigger and brasher than before on the album and the punishing drumming characterizing a couple of the earlier songs returns here with dizzying authority. “I’m No Good for You” is another track where the drumming makes a big difference, but the most significant musical relationship in this song is established between the percussion and acoustic guitar. The start-stop nature of the arrangement provides a perfect framework for the tune. birth, love, hate, death comes to a refreshingly hopeful, yet intelligent and clear-eyed, ending with the songs “One Day at a Time” and “Forever” that underline, without ever becoming heavy handed, the essentially personal nature of these songs for Gerry Dantone. It never comes off as a solo effort though. Universal Dice definitely come across as a band and their fourth album is their finest recording yet.  


Scott Wigley

Friday, December 22, 2017

Kelly McGrath - O Holy Night


Kelly McGrath - O Holy Night 


With two recent successful singles, it’s easy to assume that Nashville based singer/songwriter Kelly McGrath might opt for the path of least resistance when turning her eyes and ears towards a holiday single. McGrath, instead, sets her sights higher and scores big with a take on the classic “O Holy Night” that glows with lasting value. She avoids the typical overproduction and schmaltz typical to Yuletide themed tunes thanks to a focused musical approaches eliminating any potential sideshows and, instead, intent on providing McGrath with a beautifully wrought, nearly crystalline, sonic landscape to inhabit. Kelly McGrath is definitely a singer and performer with immense commercial appeal, but her version of “O Holy Night” proves, once again, that she is much more – she’s a powerhouse vocalist with transformative talents who, a little ways into a rewarding career, shows no signs of having yet peaked.  
 
These sort of musical experiences are increasingly rare. Everything comes together with Kelly McGrath’s performance – it isn’t the case, as it too often is, that the musical arrangement serves as a glorified vehicle for a star-turn vocal. Instead, McGrath’s performance finds an ideal match with the musical arrangement. Even the addition of reverb to the guitar sound doesn’t detract any from its overall effect thanks to the sure touch, the careful selection of notes, and warmth that doesn’t sound forced in any way. The song certainly has a pensive mood, but it never seems inert and has a dynamic movement through its changes rather than sounding like some staid recreation. Touches like the aforementioned reverb on the guitar serve to give it extra flavor. Much like in other arts, McGrath’s performance of “O Holy Night” gains more from what it doesn’t do rather than the musical notes passing by listener’s attentions. The creative imagination working on this performance is fully realized  
 
McGrath is a fantastic, once in a generation vocalist. Too many technical singers lack the talent for infusing emotion into their performances in a credible way, but McGrath is quite different – she has a total mastery of fundamentals while still bringing a spectrum of interpretative strengths to her singing that takes great lyrics and makes them performed poetry – as she manages here. Even the somewhat old fashioned language of the lyrics becomes more malleable in her hands than what you might remember from earlier versions of this stalwart Christmas tune. Kelly McGrath may have a profile that’s fast on the rise with numerous live and television appearances like she’s scored on CMT, but “O Holy Night” is great evidence to prove that she’s never sacrificing quality along the way. This may prove to be a song she can revisit as the holidays approach each year and certainly deserves a spot in her live show for the indefinite future. In this recorded state, it’s an absolute showstopper.  


Scott Wigley

Friday, December 1, 2017

Ian C. Bouras - Absence (live looping)


Ian C. Bouras - Absence (live looping) 


Absence (live looping), the latest release from New York City based guitarist and songwriter Ian Bouras, demonstrates a potentially neglected side of his skill set – his talent as an engineer and producer. Bouras has an understanding of sound quite unlike many other musicians of his generation and it finds unique reflection in his highly atmospheric and melodically substantive compositions. It is obvious that Bouras put a great deal of thought into the individual tracks and overall running order, but it isn’t the sort of attention that inevitably robs the songs of their spontaneous spirit; instead, it gives these performances a surprising level of intimacy. Absence (live looping) is the next fourteen song chapter in a career that, since first beginning in the early years of the century, has consistently maintained an enormous capacity for satisfying surprises. Ian Bouras’ latest solo album is his best yet and sets the table for his run at future albums.  
 
“While You Were Gone” lays down one of the album’s key templates with absolutely no discernible fat on the performance. Instrumental music, sometimes, has a tendency to meander when placed within a popular music context, but Bouras’ compositional approach makes no such distinctions. This opener and the next two songs “Trappings of Oblivion” and “The Cruelty of Dreams” live and die with this take on Bouras’ musical vision and provide evidence of his ability to sharpen and elaborate on those elements. “Silent Life” is one of the album’s braver numbers in terms of manifesting an unique feel removed from typical considerations of melody and structure. The guitar effects that are a hallmark of his work on the album are definitely capable of creating distance for listeners unfamiliar with the style, but Bouras always leaves varying degrees of melody throughout the collection. “Words Never Whispered” is the album’s longest track by quite a bit and the extended running time doesn’t challenge Bouras’ ability to hold the audience’s attention. If anything, it gives him a chance to stretch out and strengthen this relatively epic number with even greater musical substance and tangible atmospherics. 
 
“Fear of Sleep” has a strong structure and a growing sense of dread conjured through the playing that Bouras never cheapens. The deft touch he uses in bringing about such a mood is a signature quality of the release on a whole, but finds its greatest expression with this number. “Haunted by the Memory of You” continues a theme of the songs addressing lost love of some variety and the hazy romanticism of the playing and melodic ideas certainly suggest vulnerability and often exquisite sensitivity. “Touch the Heart (Ocean Blue)” manages to balance delicacy with a welcome degree of forcefulness and the album’s final song “Until We Meet Again” closes Absence on an expected elegiac note with just enough ambient grace to tie it with some of the album’s other experiments with sound. This is a substantive and unusual musical release from a musician whose career clearly indicates he’s capable of playing any style that captivates him. Absence (live looping) is another involving release from a fantastic creative force in the indie music world.  


Scott Wigley

Sunday, November 19, 2017

FXRRVST - May XXVI



FXRRVST - May XXVI 


The powerful dramatics of Toronto’s FXRRVST come across effortlessly on each of their debut’s nine songs. May XXVI in a way that will likely prove surprising to many listeners. Matching up the atmospherics of guitar fueled alternative rock with a strongly melodic character unlike anything else currently on the scene. They are just as convincing presenting the lyrical side of their character as they are guitar muscle and their abundance of both qualities is well defined by a production mix that seems to coalesce organically rather than as the result of time consuming effort and thought. The intimacy of these performances is a significant part of their appeal. Many of the tracks prominently feature acoustic guitar and it invariably provides a sturdy spine for Matthew Fuentes’ electric guitar excursions. There’s some flashes of extra instruments, some unexpected, a few nods to ambient textures, and a willingness to slightly subvert listeners’ expectations about melody.
 
There’s a classic singer/songwriter feel surrounding the opener “Road to Nowhere” spiked with a brisk pace and some unusual rhythms for this kind of material. While there is definitely a sense of the familiar with this song, Forrest and Fuentes bring a fresh quality to the style with this song’s character and Fuentes’ lead guitar has some fiery moments alternating with brief lyrical runs. “Picture Frames” highlights Forrest’s talent for an emotionally affecting lyric. There’s little question that her words pick up added force thanks to the superior phrasing she puts to work in this song and others, but the writing stands on its own as well. “Drown Me” might not be the most uplifting lyrical fare, but coupled with the closest thing on May XXVI to a straight ahead rocker, the rather dark sentiments make for a punchy tune, especially on the chorus. “Tidal Wave” is cut from similar commercially minded cloth, but it sports its appeal without ever pandering to listeners. It’s little wonder that Forrest and Fuentes chose this number to be their first single as it is both representative of the album’s deceptive ambition while also presenting their accessible musical character in the best possible light. 
 
There’s a slightly elegiac quality to the song “Lovely” and the slow wind of both the music and Forrest’s vocal accentuates that vibe, but the following song “Safe House” takes on a much less whimsical tone and, instead, impresses listeners with a restrained, deeply melancholy acoustic guitar line whose repetition will definitely stick with listeners. There’s a basically equal mix of the duo’s folksy, singer/songwriter side and their rock inclinations on the album’s last cut “Roofs”, but they sweeten the pot further with an air of daring quite unlike anything else earlier on the release. This is a restless song, musically, and Forrest’s singing seems genuinely inspired by its creative energy. It ends May XXVI on the best possible note and poises this remarkably satisfying tandem for further future success. FXRRVST (pronounced forest) might seem initially unusual based on their band name alone, but even a cursory examination of their talents points to uniqueness of a whole other order. 


Montey Zike

Friday, November 3, 2017

Phil Varca and the SlamJammers



Phil Varca and the SlamJammers 


Phil Varca and the SlamJammers are aces in a blues genre that’s built largely around the talents of its respective singers and guitar players. That’s no different with Phil Varca and his band mates – Varca is ably supported by Tom Porter on bass and Russell Stone on drums. It’s the latest and longest standing iteration of a band that’s been gigging and recording since 1989 – they’ve established themselves as one of the fiercest and most soulful practitioners of this classic form working today. There’s never any overly reverential treatment of blues from these musicians. The pedigree of performers they’ve opened or shared stages with like Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, and Robin Trower illustrates their own direction as a hard-hitting unit keyed around Varca’s dramatic guitar and vocal style surging with passion that’s all their own. Their new singles “Don’t Push Me” and “Cash” embody all the best qualities of their music and point the way towards an even brighter future for this veteran trio. 
 
The years of recordings and live performances come across in their new music – few studio recordings could claim to harbor the same visceral live feel that you hear on the band’s new songs. “Cash” and “Don’t Push Me” are cut from a distinctly different cloth, both in pace and feel, but remain close enough together that they sound very much part and parcel of the same band. “Cash” has a more straight-forward, average bent, particularly in subject matter, and is a much busier musical piece than the second song. Despite the busier nature of the recording, Varca and his band mates never overwhelm the listener and there’s a laser-focus to the arrangement that maximizes its impact. Varca’s vocal brings its customary gritty realism to the singing, but he also bites deep into the song’s inherent lasciviousness without ever laying it on too thick. 
 
There’s a jagged knife edge thrust to the mid-tempo blues rock of “Don’t Push Me” that musters more energy and power than the earlier song ever quite manages. This isn’t intended as a slight to “Cash” – it’s a great song, but “Don’t Push Me” is even more powerful and has a muscular force generated by both the drumming and guitar alike that makes this a crisp, hard-hitting musical experience. Varca’s vocal is more than up to the challenge and builds great drama on top of the foundation provided by bassist Tom Porter and drummer Russell Stone and, all the better, he gets over the indignation of the lyric without ever straining for effect. It’s an impressive combination from this longstanding musical unit. Phil Varca and the SlamJammers have scored again with “Cash” and “Don’t Push Me” and shows no signs of slowing down almost three decades into their career. The ride is still streaking along at this point, so if you’ve never heard the band before, there’s still time to take a trip on their musical roller coaster.  


Shannon Cowden