Reviews
Hell of a Night
"Hell of a Night"

Sanghera is a San Francisco based rapper who writes music unique among rappers today, exuding talent and confidence (read: not cockiness) on his latest album Hell of a Night. The lack of biographical information on Sanghera’s various social media sites seems to be making a statement: Sanghera wants you to focus on his music...and nothing else.

The meaning behind his stage name is the word gotra, meaning "clan" in Hindi. This clan is associated with the Jat people, a group in Northern India and Pakistan. While Sanghera’s music does not have any influence from these regions, his songs have energy and Hip-Hop stylings that give his music appeal. His tracks feature varied instrumentation, including pianos and trumpets, which adds an acoustic feel to an electronic-dominated genre.

On “Hottest Thing Around,” strings and bass surround the beat, and Sanghera uses different voices that add to the song's texture and flavor. “I’m Sanghera” begins with a trumpet that hints at a possible jazz influence, and demonstrating that Sanghera's music eschews labels—stepping across the boundaries of rap, jazz, Hip-Hop—merging multiple styles into one that is boldly and distinctively his own.

“Summer Nights” relaxed, urban feel features a female vocal, as well as Sanghera's own. While the beat drives the song, a touch of piano adds a surprising beauty.

Hell of A Night is a strong EP that bridges different styles together effortlessly, and Sanghera has done a great job making sure that each song can stand on its own. You can listen to Hell of a Night in its entirety at iamsanghera.com.

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CitySpeak
"CitySpeak"

Do you remember the 1982 film Blade Runner? You know, the film with Harrison Ford and Edward James Olmos—it took place in Los Angeles in the year 2019 with flying cars, organic robots, and mega structures. No? In a way, Jesse Mason creates that reality to life through his music.

New York’s Jesse Mason goes by the name “CitySpeak” who picked up a fascination for musical tones from early video games. He is quite similar to electronic bands like The Chemical Brothers, Neon Indian, M83, and Washed Out. When you listen to his songs you can garner futuristic and atmospheric like sounds that take you into a different world. Jesse produces unusual beats that oddly sounds like something off of a sci-fi film. Coincidence? Mason provides his audience with reverb effects, computerized sounds, mesmerizing synthesizers, and high energized drum loops throughout the album.

“Momentum” showcases his ability to produce a song that consists of slow repetition, but with a kick! The song starts in a slow, calming trance, which slowly increases in intensity while the synthesizers and drum supercollide with one another. By song's end, Mason degrades back from whence he came, ending the song soothingly. Trance-like. The entirety of CitySpeak travels across peaks and valleys like "Momentum," staying fresh and unique in their own right.

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Gumbo du Jour
"Gumbo du Jour"

Kagero's Gumbo du Jour pretty accurately describes itself—a speciality blend of sounds and genres that flows from the band's "Japanese Gypsy Rock" roots. What 8½ Souvenirs did with Django Reinhardt's music in the late 90's and Hot Club of Cowtown did for Western Swing, Kagero does for its own interpretation of small-combo gypsy swing.

Tight, astute, and plenty of fun, Gumbo du Jour cleanly captures what must be an all out funfest at live shows. As a genre, Swing brings people together, helps them drink more freely, and fuels feelings of love, pure-hearted lust, and nostalgia. In the case of this effort, Kagero's fans did come together, financing the album through the band's Kickstarter campaign in early 2012. You can just feel the love throughout the record.

Lead singer and bandleader Kaz Fujimoto effuses his own gypsy-like sense of style, which translates well into his songs. While the swing tunes on the album are fun and danceable, there is a more mature, dramatic side to Gumbo du Jour. "My Freedom" takes on a bit of a late-era Beatles dreamy sound, with some Bowie-esque harmonies, and chords that could just as easily fit in Elton John's "Madman Across the Water." I suppose that's where the "rock" joins with the "Japanese gypsy."

Kagero's musicianship is spot-on. From the vocals to the composition, the band's clearly got talent. But a lot of bands are talented. It's what Kagero does with their skills that makes Gumbo du Jour a delectable delight. It's an album of many moods—dance to it, relax with it, play it at your next dinner party, or head out to their next show (perhaps The Bitter End on Saturday, June 8th?) and get schnockered while you have a night you wish you remembered. Really, other than serving as a soundtrack for Fast and Furious 6, Gumbo du Jour a wildly versatile collection of songs that could be served up with most any combination of side dishes.

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Soldier (single)
"Soldier (single)"

J Almighty's faith in God unashamedly inspired the rapper to record his latest single, "Soldier." While some rappers hesitate to profess their Christianity for fear of being labeled 'soft' or in some way 'gospel,' J Almighty embraces it, and pulls strength from it.

I have no problem expressing my faith in God through my music.

Coincidentally, the production on "Soldier" takes on a deliberate march vibe a la Kanye's "Jesus Walks." But producer Marcus "Seige" White put his own mark on the song through techniques like the reverb-heavy, haunting, high-pitched voice heard over the verses.

"Soldier" is really about J Almighty, the person—his rhymes, rhythms, and delivery—sending a message to fans about his own priorities. While many artists front one reputation and live according to an entirely separate set of rules, J Almighty puts it all out front with "Soldier."

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Stanford Hazy
"Stanford Hazy"

Finland’s Stanford Hazy have released a self-titled album which sounds heavily influenced by some of rocks biggest and best including Metallica and Korn. The group came into being when Antti (guitar), Matti (vocals), and J-P (drums) got together to share their creative influences and start a rock band. The group has also collaborated with Helsinki based rapper Joona to bring a hip hop element to the group, and the collaboration worked so well that he has become part of their current lineup.

“Play” is the opening track on the new album and the driving guitar and bass lines let the audience know that Stanford Hazy is ready to rock with their Guns N’ Roses style vocals and the pounding drums reminiscent of Pantera.

“Survive” begins with electronic sounds and rapping that is softly mixed into the background to kick off the songs’ explosive core.

“Did You Notice” kicks off with a tribal beat on the toms from drummer J-P that blasts into a head banging metal anthem, complete with crashing china cymbals, and the driving trash can sound adds to the song’s darkness. The guitar riffs are pure speed metal as Antti shreds fearlessly, and channels his mentors of decades past.

While Stanford Hazy’s work isn’t entirely original, their passion and drive to succeed combined with their competent musicianship will likely propel them to bigger and better things.

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"Plastecene Terrain"

From a very young age KonstantinAS (London, UK) found a true affinity for music. He loved both Arabian and Indian music and the work of great musicians such as Jimmy Page and Ravi Shankar. He saw a vast, untapped realm of creativity and mind expansion within the works of these artists.

KonstantinAS’ latest release Plastecene Terrain is an otherworldly, mystical journey of guitar and keys which spontaneously spaz through your sense and cross every genre you’ve heard and haven’t heard. It’s a painting of your mind, beautiful and graceful then swiftly bashed into a billion pieces. This work of art is as incredibly striking as it is utterly frightening—a full sensory blast off, brilliantly packaged as a DVD with video for each track that carefully corresponds with imagery.

The tracks on Plastecene Terrain are instantaneous compositions, literally written and performed in the moment allowing you the listener to experience firsthand the creation. Every song is dramatically sensory with outlandish guitar leads and rhythms coupled with an ambience so strangely undefined it’s insane.

This album will catapult the listener’s senses into a spiritual eruption, challenging you for your full attention. Experience it the way it was intended with the accompanying imagery or find your own images to soak up—but either way look at something while you listen and experience a musical trance. The damn album is named after a popular Soviet children’s animated film—sorry but that sold me right away.

Absolutely mind blowing.

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"The Corner of My Eye"

Okay, here we go. To begin to make an attempt at putting Dan Hazlett’s musical body of work in a box would be an act of musical treason. His work in studio whether it be behind the boards, in the vocal booth, or playing guitar, he truly has the ear and brain for this music thing.

A skillful and refined performer in his own right, Dan has entertained and uplifted his fans with his unique, expressive voice and elegantly written song structure. On his latest release entitled The Corner of My Eye, Dan charms music lovers with songs of everyday life and joy—those feel good tunes when you’re cruising around on a beautiful day.

The opening track on the album, “Alchemy of Fish,” is a light and cheerful tale with peaceful lyrics about a sunny day that form into a greater lesson to be learned, “all things must change.”

Dan offers a little bit of something for everyone—a total Elvis Costello vibe on the song “Empty Room.” Lyrically the song tells various stories of different folks and what they are dealing with on an ordinary day. Hazlett’s very soft and unique voice is really brought to the listener’s attention on “The Other Side of Dawn.” An upbeat tempo with interwoven horns and a steady array of piano licks compliment his voice.

This album marks Hazlett’s ninth studio release, a truly remarkable accomplishment and a testament to this extremely talented and well-rounded individual’s accomplishments.

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"Armed and Dangerous"

The EDM group Many Are Connected (M.A.C.) have recently released their single “Armed and Dangerous” off their full album titled Dream, which drops on May 25. The Marysville, Washington collective offers the song with a Dubstep remix and instrumental remix. The sound provides you with a little taste of Dubstep, Trap, Trance, and Hardcore beats.

The production is full and aggressive, yet the vocal track seems a bit underproduced compared to the rest of the record, lacking some compression and reverb that might integrate the vocal into the instrumental tracks more seamlessly. And though generally autotune is decried and slammed throughout the music industry, it would help MAC's vocal better fit the electronic vibe of the rest of their tracks.

Keep an eye out for the rest of MAC's tracks, available later this month!

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El Valiente
"El Valiente"

Piñata Protest's new album El Valiente begins in epic fashion: an ominous futuristic synthesizer underscores a deep, mysterious voice broadcasting:

Presentando los mas chingones en la música Norteño punk
tocando la musica que tu abuela no quiere que oigas.
Los mas chingones de San Antonio:
PIÑATA PROTEST!

You can run that through Google Translate if you only speak Gringo (I may or may not have needed to consult a band member, myself), but suffice it to say that it serves as a warning. You are about to listen to some badasses from San Antonio play their own blend of Norteño music melded with Punk. It's a sound the band's lead singer and accordion player, Alvaro Del Norte, envisioned when the band first came together—Piñata Protest takes a traditional music enjoyed by grandfathers throughout their hometown and injects with with the punk movement also deeply rooted in The River City.

El Valiente's era and genre-bending goes so far as a cover of the 1976 Fernando Maldonado ranchera "Volver, Volver," that Del Norte describes as "a real panty-dropper." They appropriately rock the fuck out of the plaintive waltz, ultimately building it into a double-timed mosh-inducing frenzy. The album contains one other cover—the traditional folk corrido "La Cucaracha"—in which the band takes some poetic license with meaning of "the roach." As with "Volver," "La Cucaracha" is shot full of electricity, adrenaline, and a dash of mescaline for good measure.

The six original songs on the album will define Piñata Protest for years to come. Their first two records (2010's Plethora and 2012's Plethora Reloaded) spread the band's sound regionally and helped garner opening slots on tours with Reverend Horton Heat and Girl in a Coma. But it appears as though El Valiente is taking the band nationwide. Already, NPR has taken a liking to Piñata Protest, and The New York Times threw them some props during this year's South By Southwest festival.

As you visit with the band—the aforementioned Del Norte, drummer JJ Martinez, and brothers Matt Cazares on guitar and Marcus on bass—they are humble and unaffected by their recent explosion in mainstream media. The guys are in this for the music and genuinely appreciate the opportunity to spread their unique sound formed from the music they were raised on.

Piñata Protest has CD release shows lined up this month in San Antonio and in Austin, with their label mate Hickoids. They will then head out on the road, again supporting Girl in a Coma. Catch Piñata Protest now, while ticket prices are still manageable and so that you can honestly say, "I saw them before they were famous."

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Hazard of the Die
"Hazard of the Die"

Colorado’s Andy Palmer set out to create a blues-rock inspired record and titled it Hazard of the Die, which has earned him comparisons to artists such as Nick Cave, Johnny Cash, and Tom Waits. On Hazard… the Tom Waits influence is most apparent with gritty vocals and a variety of sounds that create Palmer's distinctive style. His songwriting pulls from his background as a law school student, a New York City public defender, and living a short time in solitude with a focus on mediation and spiritual searching.

The opening track “The Monk” is a true story about Palmer walking past a monk on two separate occasions, alluding to his deep sense of spirituality. This song has an Elvis Costello influence, taking flavors from Costello’s album When I Was Cruel—following it in its experimental nature.

“Broken Down in Bellevue” is a Tom Waits influenced track with raspy paper thin vocals that are used as a vehicle to express Palmer's songwriting skills. On “The Defendant," Palmer illustrates his gift of wordcraft, penning this song about a man being wrongly accused of a crime, who's seeking justice.

Done some time more than what's mine
So I can guess what's down the line
Give me the island my concrete beach
and I'll get harder and harder and harder each week
The cards are stacked ‘gainst me being nice
and a man in a robe is rolling my dice

Palmer’s guitar skills are strong in spite of taking a hiatus from music—pursuing those previously mentioned ventures—on two separate occasions before recording Hazard of the Die. Palmer's music is convincing because of its depth. With instrumentation centering around his acoustic guitars, the beauty in his songs comes in large part from the compelling stories he tells.

Named as one of “Denver’s best” by Westword Magazine, it is not hard to understand why Palmer earned this title. With his honest songwriting and interesting subject matter, Andy Palmer is sure to be a hit in his home base of Denver and beyond.

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"Borealis"

Richard Murray's solo debut album Desert Wind was released in 2007 to an appreciative and enthusiastic response from his fans. Fast-forward to 2013 and the Irish singer has done it again! His new album Borealis is set for a May 6th release and continues to deliver his signature sound, incorporating acoustic guitar, mandolin, ukulele, and harmonica. Genre-wise Borealis is best described as a melding of Alternative Country and Folk with a heavy dose of good ol’ Americana.

The opening track, “Ease On,” starts off with some light guitar 'shredding' and a little drum roll that hints of hardcore/rock, but quickly morphs back into a more appropriate feel. Almost oddly, Murray's vocals evoke the sounds of Lucero's Ben Nichols, in their crackling, raspy, punk rock feel. But as opposed to some gruffness, most of Murray's lyrics are gracefully written and convey vivid imagery, allowing the listener to clearly experience the stories he tells.

On Desert Wind, Murray displayed his brilliant musical skills with his impressive vocal, compelling melodies, creative instrumentation, and carefree lyrics. Similarly, if you liked Desert Wind or are an Alt Country or folk fan, then you are in good hands with Borealis. After the first few songs you'll wish you were enjoying a nice cold brew as you listen along. So do yourself the favor and have one at the ready when you press Play.

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"Banksters"

Absoloot is smart. His Banksters album is a Hip-hop analysis of politics, crooked big-bank business practices, and an attack on the Countrywide mortgage scandals. While much of the mainstream rap game revels in sex, drugs, and spending ridiculous amounts of money, Absoloot is paying attention to the big picture. His rhymes offer advice and a warning to us regarding what happens around the U.S. that many of us miss while singing along with mindless Top 40 songs.

Writing conscious lyrics is not new to Absoloot, nor is his concern for the welfare of his community, and country at-large. "Keep Dreaming" has been chosen as the theme song for the Men2Boys mentoring program, based near his hometown of Pompano Beach, Florida. And beyond just contributing a well-meaning song, Absoloot also received the Volunteer of the Quarter Award from the organization in March 2013 for his work and dedication.

But the music industry doesn't revolve around nice people doing good deeds. It all comes back to the music. And even the most well-intended socially conscious rapper isn't going very far if their rhymes are weak. The strength of Banksters comes from Absoloot's crisp, witty delivery laid over brilliant, fresh tracks. For the music, Absoloot enlisted JeeJuh Productions, whose tracks now back thousands of artists whose sounds range from soul and R&B to rap.

Banksters is a responsible album, without preaching. Informative, without going infomercial. Absoloot brings back the essence of Hip-hop, creatively crafting language around beats. He doesn't get lost in trying to create a front—Absoloot raps his life, which he lives as an alert, astute citizen, not easily taken by white collar crime and financial swindling. Look for Banksters' release—it's coming soon!

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"Bridgeburner"

Northeast Mississippi native Thomas Jackson is steeped in the rich cultural heritage of his home state—playing a traditional and humbling brand of country music. His latest effort entitled Bridgeburner, is a collection of country-folk songs that tell the tales of Jackson’s life as a storyteller and performer.

Recorded at the legendary Studio In The Country in Bogalus, LA—which has housed recordings from cultfolk, mega-stars Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros to shock-rocker Marilyn Manson to Austin’s own country music star Willie Nelson. The studio sessions for the album helped paint the backdrop and touch the soul of Jackson—as anyone can imagine the production quality on this record is top notch.

Jackson has something to offer for every country music fan on this record, lyrically he vividly paints the picture of his past experiences—staying true to the roots of country. The title track is a story of a man downtrodden by a seemingly careless female individual, the Bridgeburner.

The third track on the album entitled “My New Couch” gives the listener an upbeat and likable tune with some smooth guitar licks and playful lyrics of a situation of adultery. The song is topped off with a Boss-type guitar solo and the repetition of the hook:

Don't come unless you plan to stay all night,
Don't come unless you plan to get it right.

It's the type of song that’ll make a cougar with a buzz dance the night away!

From his catchy vocal arrays on songs like “One Trick Pony” and the fiddle driven “Bang!” to the straight up country-western sound on the track “Don’t Be Sad,” Thomas Jackson provides the listener a truly euphonic array of songs. So dust off your finest boots, have a few beers and find the prettiest little lady in the bar because you're gonna want to dance!

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"The Heavy Guilt"

Sometimes timing can be the heaviest influencer in our success rate as people looking to achieve our goals. Timing couldn’t be any more perfect for San Diego’s, The Heavy Guilt. With the current state of affairs in popular music this bands arrival of new material is perfect.

The group’s latest self-titled release comes with hard-hitting, bluesy riffs and well-placed, well-timed (time is a theme with this band apparently!) organ licks—such as on the song “Goin’ Home,” giving the listener a Black Keys meets the Doors vibe. Much of the same can be heard on the track “Before The Fall,” with a killer-distorted opening riff and beautifully placed organ—this track will take your soul on a joy ride.

The Heavy Guilt takes influence from artists whom they truly have a high regard for and are keen on—weaving together flawlessly their sound. However, to describe The Heavy Guilt as super-original would be imaginary. Lets be honest though, who cares? This band fucking rocks and they play what they like in a time when our music scene is begging for more ballsy, hard-hitting acts to stray away from the norm of straight folk-rock.

Attention rock music fans, get off your ass and go check out The Heavy Guilt, it’s okay to be thrilled about new music.

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"Paris | New York | Port-Au-Prince"

Paris | New York | Port-Au-Prince, the latest release by Haitian/French artist Karlex, displays a broad spectrum of musicality representing both his island and metropolitan cultures. Dubbed "the Bob Marley of Haiti," Karlex approaches this album with an international sound, including singing about half the album in French and the other half in English.

Stylistically, Karlex chooses not to stay put long enough to pin down to a particular genre. The album opens with a dreamy, sensual "Sleepless in Bandols" that blends elements of Al Jarreau with Sade—a slow, funk groove, airy vocals, a Rhodes keyboard tinkling over the jazz bass lines.

But from there, Paris | New York | Port-Au-Prince travels through genres just as the title moves through Karlex's home cities. The album incorporates some essence of rap, pop/rock, smooth jazz, world music, funk, and much more. What remains consistent with Karlex's sound is the groove—each song, independent of its genre, brings its rhythm to the forefront—and Karlex's thick French Creole accent, which seems to mold his low, rough vocal tone into his French and English vocal melodies.

Appropriately, Karlex has brought a worldly appeal to this internationally influenced record. With subjects ranging from love and sensuality to revolution and political persecution, Karlex does not stagnate lyrically. His sound and message accurately convey the thoughts and inspiration of an artist who comfortably makes his home on multiple continents. Paris | New York | Port-Au-Prince would seem at home on the radio waves in each of the three cities found in its title.

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"Invitation"

Portland, Oregon’s Matthew Heller has gained praise and comparison to the likes of the Smashing Pumpkins tumultuous frontman Billy Corgan, both in lyrical sound and style. Heller writes songs that are far from lacking passion and realness, something rarely heard today—gritty, dirty folk songs that are rotten and raw to the core!

Heller’s latest effort titled Invitation tells grizzly and courageous tales from within—a winding journey through his personal angst and experience, songs that speak for themselves. He’s unapologetic with “Drone Strike,” a politically driven 'fuck you' of sorts. Heller tells an account that’s much closer to home on the song “Howdy From Hades,” a slow-moving tale of heroin addiction and the battle of soul and inner demons.

So there’s the Billy Corgan comparison, but where the hell is the Jack White comparison? Insert the track titled “Another Dose.” Awesome, just awesome—starting off with some fast, choppy acoustic guitar licks before eventually smacking the listener with a short-tempered, explosive tenacity.

Score it 8.5/10

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"Whitecaps on the Hudson"

Jamie Block needs no sentimental, ceremonial introduction. The gent has seen it all, from opening for indie star Bob Mould (among others) to being dropped by a major label—taking a Wall Street job to being called-out on the air by an NYC disc jockey. It has been a long and precarious journey but surely Block wouldn’t change it for the world.

The flight is what helped shape the unhinged spoken-word style and poppy melodies that pervade Block’s latest release, Whitecaps On The Hudson. Block spans all class and genre on this album with his upbeat sound on tracks like “Henry” to the purely haunting and awkwardly mundane vocals on “My Head.” The listener may even get a bit of bluesy feel from the title track with some smartly woven guitar licks.

So call it what you will, however classifying this work would do it no justice—purely original, purely real. Block has grit. Block has balls. And he tells distressing but real tales of life, love and the callousness of what our minds can sometimes create.

Bravo!

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"Tall Tales & Tiny Fables"

Hattiesberg, Mississippi’s own ‘Oh, Jeremiah’ is the moniker of singer/storyteller Jeremiah Stricklin. His debut EP shrewdly titled Tall Tales & Tiny Fables is a wholly constructed work of personal occurrences and fairy tale stories.

The EP features clean acoustic guitars, weeping strings and a beautifully constructed rhythm section—complete with ear-catching vocals filled with passion and genuine vulnerability. Songs like “Better Man” and “Happy Now” are perfect examples of Jeremiah’s stories of acknowledging defenselessness for a period of time but ultimately digging yourself out.

Oh, Jeremiah justly brings bliss and beauty to the listener’s ear through song, from start to finish Tall Tales & Tiny Fables will truly pick at the blood pulsing through your heart with written song and experience that surely anyone can relate to.

Whether you enjoy clapping, shaking, singing or just hollering—you will surely enjoy the homegrown Americana found on Tall Tales & Tiny Fables. So gather and sing along in communion with friends and strangers alike because Oh, Jeremiah is coming to a scene, barnyard, or dive bar near you!

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"Fatback Circus"

Fatback Circus is a four-piece ensemble who resides in the city of Austin, Texas. Their style consists of a southern rock, folk-pop, and soft acoustic combination that’ll take you back into the good ol’ days! If you ever enjoyed bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Buddy Holly, and Richie Valens, then you will really take pleasure in Fatback Circus because they have a similar sound. For you modern aged kids and hipsters, they give off a Band of Horses meets Jose Gonzales and share a bill with Gogol Bordello vibe. Basically, they’re an old-school-meets-new-school type of band that gives listeners the best of both worlds.

In the song "Summertime is Boring," the mandolin chords playing in the beginning sound similar to something from Gogol Bordello. The guitar playing towards the end of Angel-Ess has the whole folk-punk feel to it. However, they flip the script with "Baby Don’t Leave Me," which has a more soft, acoustic style and "Let It Go" with its classic, southern rock feel. What connects all Fat Back Circus' songs together is Nathan Campbell's lead vocal—a phenomenal voice with a widely appealing tone and singing style.

As musically talented as Fatback Circus is, they also are capable of creating great music videos. Their videos for “Summertime is Boring” and “Brain Damage” were featured in the 2013 South By Southwest music video showcase. While their videos are viewable online, take it upon yourself to go see Fatback Circus live. Witness the magic with your own eyes.

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"Three Cities"

Jason Daryush's Three Cities is a mellow, serious, acoustic-guitar driven EP. As a collection, the songs create an an air of concern, a reflection on life and society. Production-wise, the EP is reminiscent of Duncan Sheik's 1996 debut in its mix, array of chords, and Jason's vocal style.

Three Cities offers something new with its atypical harmonies, melodies, and myriad of guitar leads dancing across the songs. Vocally, Jason's harmonies in "Aurora" are to the singer/songwriter genre what Alice in Chains' Layne Staley's harmonies did to mainstream rock—something different, a bit odd, but ultimately separating themselves from other performers in the same genre.

With the musical challenges Three Cities offers, it is also easily palatable. The songs could easily be the background music in a local coffeehouse or the songs between the hits you sing along with on a random playlist.

Jason Daryush hasn't revolutionized songwriting with this EP but Three Cities is also far from unremarkable. He writes non-traditional melodies, laid over creative chord progressions, and makes the most of his voice on the album by laying down compelling harmonies. Three Cities is available for download via bandcamp.com, iTunes, and other major online music sources.

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"Soul Sonic Stimulation"

Motion Plus’ latest album Soul Sonic Stimulation is an honest and passionate Hip-hop record that will resonate with rap fans as well as fans of other genres. His decent rhymes and fusion of typical Hip-hop staples—drum machines, thumping bass, and piano and strings—round out his sound. With a lyrical wit akin to Eminem but a style more mellow along the lines of Nas, these rhymes flow effortlessly, further dispelling the old notion that white guys can’t rap.

Though Motion Plus writes honest lyrics, often dealing with his difficult life experiences—including being born to a teenage mother and losing his grandmother who raised him at an early age—there is no tough exterior to his music. And while deep and difficult, Motion Plus avoids the senselessly violent and misogynistic lyrics that too frequently seep into a lot of Hip-hop and rap.

Aside from the album's intro, the first song “Sol Seeker” has various samples, combined with piano and guitar tracks, which bring an instrumentally original side to this album. This instrumental incorporation makes Soul Sonic Stimulation more appealing to the average music fan, while breaking up the often monotonous beats heard in a lot of electronic-based music. Tracks like “My Experience” offer an autobiographical portrait of Motion Plus’s upbringing in Quincy, Illinois. The lyrics deal with his love of Hip-hop and living in a poor environment, but are quick to point out that this is his experience and he wouldn’t change it for the world.

A refreshing thing about Motion Plus and Soul Sonic Stimulation is that he deals with tough topics without resorting to lyrical violence. Tough life experiences are presented without blaming anyone or harboring resentment.

Motion Plus is a talented emcee who will win many new fans with his honest and true-to-life songwriting. You can purchase Soul Sonic Stimulation on Bandcamp.com.

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"Unconditional"

Brave Circle Song consists of two talented musicians, Dustin Morris and Lauren Gale. Dustin called Dallas, Texas "home," where he played with his band Dustin Morris and Songbird, before leaving the Lone Star State to meet Lauren in Denver, Colorado. After a single gig together, Dustin and Lauren decided to play with one another, creating a folk/indie/psychedelic/ska type of duo that delivers solid songs, one after another.

Lauren’s vocals intertwine perfectly with Dustin’s as they swap leads on their newest release, Unconditional. Their duets convey both elegance and rock at the same time. Their harmony shines in “Stop The World,” which expands instrumentally toward the end, bringing in some trumpet and clarinet for good measure.

Brave Song Circle brings a lot to the table with this album. Primarily an acoustic duo live, Unconditional incorporates harmonicas, jazz bass, blues -like guitar riffs, brass, and woodwinds that add brilliant variety.

Dustin's vocals have been compared to “Jeff Buckley singing along with Arcade Fire.” His range stretches from delicate in “Snakeskin” to near-screeching in “The Long Haul”. Similarly, Lauren's mono-EQ'd screams in "Critical" are downright haunting, followed immediately by her spot-on harmony in the same song.

Brave Song Circle balances each other with their playing and singing—a mish-mash of pretty, sweet, morose, and impressive. Having heard their debut a year or two ago, Brave Song Circle has taken a leap forward with regard to their production, songwriting, and performing. With Unconditional, the duo has created a musical vibe that you need to be a part of.

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"Funkspatial"

Limelight. That's what 45trona Ut's (pronounced "Astronaut") album Funkspatial brings to my mind. Throughout the 80's, 90's, and early 2000's, when you wanted to dance in NYC and didn't feel like heading into midtown, Limelight was where you went. Once an old cathedral, Limelight used its multiple rooms to suit your dancing needs. The cavernous sanctuary was home to an all-night rave vibe. There were also rooms down various halls that catered to Hip-hop crowds and 80s music fans. But stepping into the sanctuary is what Funkspatial does to me.

Upbeat. Dance. Trance. Space. 45trona Ut puts a blend of dance sub-genres into this album. The sounds overall are crisp, clean, and tight—mostly keyboard-generated sounds and samples, rather than samples of Top 40 hits or obscure old funk songs.

Where you might want more out of your dance is in the realm of intensity. Funkspatial is not a raging, dubby hardcore album of dance remixes. The loops don't attack you with their aggression. On the contrary, parts of "Stardust" have a Casio-like 90's-video-game feel.

45trona Ut is worth picking up, for those looking to find a new dance/EDM artist whose music can slip easily into their music collections. And when I think back on the nights at Limelight, Funkspatial is likely going to be the trigger for the memory.

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"Twenty-Something"

Paul Koudouris, is an independent self-taught singer-songwriter from San Antonio, Texas. After studying music and theatre at Point Park University Conservatory Program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Regents College in London, England, Koudouris has decided to pursue music on his own by sharing his own unique pop rock songs on his album Twenty-Something that will appeal to fans of Matt Wertz and Jack Johnson.

Songs such as “My Kind of Girl” provides a great soundtrack for a day at the beach as the song has a Jack Johnson feel that gives the listener a chance to daydream the day away. Koudouris’ musical abilities are strong, possibly due to his musical education which comes through in his large voice and fun guitar parts. His lyrics are also relatable. Ditching complex imagery, Paul’s lyrics tell stories that everyone can relate to, whether it is chasing your dreams or finding the perfect significant other. The lyrics pull you into the song. While Koudouris’ music is on the lighter side, it isn’t just beach tunes. Koudouris also draws influences from the blues genre with “Better Off With the Blues,” channeling Johnny Lang vocally throughout. The subtle percussion adds a nice touch to the track.

“Passport to London” is a tune that heads in the direction of rock and roll as Paul brings in electric guitars and a gospel like singer to craft a catchy song that rouses for a sing along once the chorus hits. While the singing is mixed softly into the background, it works well as it fits in comfortably with the rock influence that Koudouris is trying to share with his audience.

It’s too bad that Kouidouris has not been discovered by a record label yet as his easygoing songs could definitely do well on the charts. His music has massive commercial appeal and his records will find a home on the shelves of listeners who enjoy Jason Mraz and John Mayer.

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"Wait (single)"

Diane Dous vocalist, Diane, shares some vocal qualities with Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson—a sultry, full voice with a bit of a pop lilt. The tone of Diane's voice lends itself well to the band's psychedelic pop rock sound. Diane Dous' single, “Wait,” melds the group's spacey lyrics with Diane's voice, creating a mellow, soft, sonic vibe.

The lyrics deal with someone missing the person they love, and how they wish for someway, somehow to come back into their life...or perchance even just to run across the other’s mind. One can actually feel the pain and hurt through her voice. Lyrically, this longing is easily identifiable to anyone who's been in a heartfelt relationship that came to an unwelcomed end.

Guitarist Lemon k. maneuvers deftly in the background, providing a landscape and setting an appropriate mood. "Wait" has a soft feel, connecting lyrically with its listeners, while maintaining a unique, experimental resonance.

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