Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CD Review: BluRum13's 'Inverted'


BluRum13 was born in New York and based in Maryland, but his verbose beauty represents many different genres and world fusion styles. However, the primary genre revolves around rap/hip hop, and jazz. The lounge music is rather urban, too. The poetic verbal flow of "Venga" is relatively trance-heavy with jazzy interludes of punchy brass, languid electronics, and an atmospheric beat that echoes and reverberates with underground liveliness. "Cereal" is another exciting track, but the verbal wordplay is a bit more energetic and the instrumentation is much faster. "TLO" contains a lot of electronic swishy sounds, rap vocals, and progressive rock beats. "Distortion" is a rather languid down-tempo masterpiece with glittery sounds, fluid soul elements, and swishy noises with urban vocals. "Quixotic" is punchy and rhythmic with Eminem-like tendencies with much more intelligence and creative juices shining through. The diverse, urban creations of BluRum13 are something to ponder, since each listen reveals something new and fresh. ~ Matthew Forss   

CD Review: NMercer's 'Crossroads' EP

Crossroads EP [explicit]

Raised near Seattle and based in South Central, California, Naomi Mercer (aka NMercer), presents us with a fine compilation of hip-hop and electronica-tinged songs with an urban edge and soulful mix of fanciful lyricism and quirky percussion. "DB" is a jazzy, edgy, and urban track with swishy percussion and miscellaneous electronic elements. The emotive vocals are rather hip-hop oriented overall. "Why U Gotta Be So Fine" opens with an electronic concoction of sounds before a slightly-hip hop-influenced vocal section picks up. The smattering of electronic embellishments and punchy percussion are most evident throughout. "Steal It" opens with drippy and blurby keyboard sounds that move into a hip-hop instrumental masterpiece without losing its electric showers of charm. "Crossroads" is an urban joint with swishy electronic adornments with assertive vocals and symphonic blips and beeps that scream hip-hop-electronica. You're guaranteed to find yourself at a 'crossroads' and it starts and ends with NMercer. ~ Matthew Forss      

CD Review: Sandy Asirvatham's 'Mobtown Moon'

Sandy Asirvatham
Mobtown Moon

Based in Baltimore, Sandy Asirvatham's skills resound in arranging, singing, songwriting, composing, and playing piano. Trained as a journalist and writer, Sandy takes an eclectic approach to music-making with her latest release, Mobtown Moon, which is a re-imagined tribute to Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. Sandy's co-creator and Emmy-nominated singer/songwriter, ellen cherry, provides a soothing vocal presence that is both relaxing and magical. The entire album contains progressive jazz, rock, classical, spoken word, and experimental sounds based on Pink Floyd's aforementioned album. The music hints at the originals, but Sandy, ellen, and company produce such a great album that seems to wander off into its own musical territory. Tom Hall, Cris Jacobs Band, Todd Marcus, Scott Smith, Brian Simms, Bryan Young, and Vincent Dion-Stringer are some of the contributing musicians on this album. "The City Speaks" contains a few voices and industrial, motor sounds with a range of environmental sounds that are arranged in a mish-mash manner. "On The Run" features a folksy sound with an ambulatory jazz beat and an absence of vocals. "Time" is a progressive rock anthem with nostalgic vocals and throbbing keys. "Any Colour You Like" is a progressive jazz winner with swishy cymbals, punchy sax, light drumming, and a jazz vein that hangs on tight without accompanying vocals. "Brain Damage" is more of a gospel-esque and R&B anthem with classic vocals and a soulful piano melody with jazzy accompaniment. The twelve track-release contains most of the songs on Pink Floyd's original release. Obviously, fans of Pink Floyd will like this one and anyone seeking good tribute albums that do not sound cutesy or fake. This one is professionally produced with careful attention to sounds. Sandy knows how to make memorable music and catchy tunes based on a classic album. ~ Matthew Forss      

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Song Review: Alan B. Salisbury's "Dream To Believe"

Alan B. Salisbury
"Dream To Believe"
Jabberwocky Books

Alan's new book, The Legend Of Ranger: The Reindeer Who Couldn't Fly, is about a reindeer with a dream to dream big by being part of Santa's sleigh team. The book is accompanied by a splendid story-telling folk and pop song describing Ranger's story called "Dream To Believe." The three-minute-and-forty-six-second song was recorded in Nashville by producer Paul Busdiecker and includes a quartet from the Nashville Symphony with soothing and emotive vocals by Mary Allen. Mary's vocals are akin to England's Katie Melua, but the song is more neo-folk and neo-classical with a direct and rousing melody. The song is perfectly fitting for children of all ages. In fact, even parents will be singing along to this one. Dream big and listen to Alan's recent holiday creation. I give it five North stars out of five! ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, October 18, 2013

CD Review: Yasi's 'Bullet Through My Heart'

Bullet Through My Heart
Yasi Music

Canada's electro-pop princess, Yasi, brings us a set of three songs that traverse the electronic worlds of pop, down-tempo, and dance with lush, sensual vocals and industrial, frenetic, and heart-pounding beats. The pulsating, cinematic, and dance-friendly tune, "Bullet Through My Heart," is a swishy percussion tune that is matched with dreamy, electronic embellishments that are heavenly to say the least. With vocals akin to Hooverphonic and Alpha and a beat resembling Lady Gaga and Katie Melua, Yasi makes her mark with these three tunes. "Dressed To Kill" is amore industrial-esque tune with metallic sounds, spirited vocals, and loud, swishy percussion sounds that are magnificent and entrancing. The dance tune contains showers of metallic sounds and soaring vocals that are sweet, yet commanding. The final tune, "Forever More," contains pizzicato sounds and chiptune elements with frenzied percussion. The edgy vocals and metallic noises are more abstract than the other tunes, but there is still a dance element throughout. At any rate, Yasi is a voice to reckon with in the dance genre today! If you want more substance in dance music, you've come to the right place. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: R. Michael Rhodes' 'Please Remember Me'

R. Michael Rhodes
Please Remember Me

R. Michael Rhodes is a Colorado-based singer and songwriter armed with a Southern voice and guitar in hand. The six-track album is only about twenty-minutes long, but the sounds emanate long after the tunes stop. The heartfelt, "Please Remember Me," is a classy, country song with a touch of folk and pop. "Special Place For Me" is more of a ballad than a folk or country song, but there are still these aforementioned elements that permeate the music. "A Little Bit Tighter" is a roots-driven folk song seemingly taken out of The Wallflowers' line-up with distinct B3 and rougher vocals. The dreamy, "Where Are You Now," is a soulful ballad with droning guitar sounds and ballad-esque vocal arrangements. "You'll Never Know" is a catchy folk song with both male and female vocals in a guitar-driven track. Please Remember Me does not plead for acceptance, nor is it egotistical. R. Michael Rhodes knows how to get your attention with every repeated listen. ~ Matthew Forss

Song Review: The ConSoulTant's "Hit It Out The Park"

The ConSoulTant
"Hit It Out The Park"
Raging Sky

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Selita Boyd (aka The ConSoulTant), cooks up a lyrical storm with the baseball-themed, "Hit It Out The Park." The song opens with swishy percussion and hip hop instrumental embellishments that contain blurby sounds, electronic buzzes, and whistles. Selita's vocals are rather fluid with an R&B delivery. There are electronic bells, cinematic orchestrations, and punchy keyboard sounds with mechanical whirrs and repetitive lyrical displays. The song is about three-and-a-half-minutes long with a family-friendly message and upbeat instrumentation. The tune is rather catchy and it's made for playback over and over. The ConSoulTant 'hits it out the park' with this one! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Yuca's 'Rebuilding The Fallen Empire'

Rebuilding The Fallen Empire
Rising Empire Records

The British Columbia-based band, Yuca, is an anthemic rock and roll group with loud instrumentation and fresh sounds. The anthemic opener, "Skeletal Desires," adds a little brass to the anthemic, Trans-Siberian Orchestra-esque medley. The vocals are emotive and alternative. "Maybe We'll Riot" opens with blurby showers of sparks and brilliant displays of orchestrated slices of rock heaven. The punchy guitars, percussion, and vocals are showy and mesmerizing without an element of false reality. "Give Up My Ghost" begins with a sauntering rock beat and radio-esque voices with a throbbing, yet eerie guitar sound. The vocals kick in and provide a perfect accompaniment to the instrumentation. "Where Are My Soldiers At" is another fine rock anthem with big vocals, big guitars, and big sounds that do not necessarily take a pop path, but the result is still very catchy and memorable. "Sparrow" is a languid, cinematic, and experimental rock track with entrancing sounds and orchestral beats. There are ten tracks in all that prove Yuca knows how to create, compose, and perform beats with a purpose. ~ Matthew Forss     

Friday, October 11, 2013

CD Review: Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica's 'Where Here Meets There'

Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica
Where Here Meets There

American-based and globally-derived, Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica brings us a chilling romp through world jazz, chamber music, Middle Eastern percussion, and classical music with an instrumental ability that almost rivals the works of Gershwin, Bach, Tjader, and Gillespie. Actually, those greats have music on here, but Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica reinvents various preludes, songs, and dances with a contemporary spin. Musicians Brian O'Neill, Geni Skendo, Shane Shanahan, Jason Davis, Tev Stevig, and Noriko Terada provide a wealth of instrumental accompaniment. The final result is intriguing, but not overdone in any way. The glistening vibraphone melodies, Arabic percussion, fluid flutes, and various overdubs make Where Here Meets There absolutely amazing no matter where you are. Fans of global jazz, instrumental music, classical, percussion, dance, and easy listening will find Mr. Ho's Orchestratotica very enthralling. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Marula's Shade'

Various Artists
Marula's Shade

TRIAD Trust is an educational outreach program revolving around HIV education programs. Marula's Shade brings together a variety of South African singers and musicians proclaiming the plight of HIV and hope for the survivors. The music troupe represents a local compilation of artists with contemporary pop, rock, down-tempo, jazz, and urban hip-hop elements. As a way to activate the youth, music bridges gaps between social and economic contrasts. TRIAD Trust provides a great musical foundation of eighteen different songs that are highly enthralling, catchy, and provocative. Almost no genre is left out here, but there is a positive voice of hope, struggle, and love. South Africa's vocal traditions are known worldwide and Marula's Shade continues in that vein. Some songs contain spoken word elements, while others are clearly intelligent Afro-pop anthems, such as "Money For Love." Fans of motivational music, jazz, pop, dance, urban, rap, hip-hop, spoken word, and social activism will find Marula's Shade most appealing. ~ Matthew Forss 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

CD Review: Kelley James' 'The Pattern Transcending'

Kelley James
The Pattern Transcending

Californian, Kelley James, creates a hit album with catchy riffs, licks, and chords that cover the pop and rock genres quite nicely. There is a mix of witty lyrics, poignant rap sections, and scintillating roots reggae with a dash of alternative. "Stalker" is a bouncy song with Jason Mraz-type vocal calisthenics and a gospel, reggae, and pop-esque beat. "The Legend of Rip Venice" opens with a smooth bass line, jazzy guitar backing, punchy horns, and poetic vocals. "Secret Lover" is a jaunty tune with rap vocals, punchy bass, and urban hooks. The Maroon 5-esque tune is very catchy with a strong hip hop edge that is very understandable. "California" is a breezy tune with party-like enthusiasm and fun vocals. "Brother" is a solemn acoustic guitar and piano song with light vocals and wavering classical strings. The song is fitting for the final track, as it is very pleasant, calm, and memorable. The entire album is not only worthy of a listen, but it ranks high up on the list of must-have contemporary pop albums. It contains a high degree of substance, which is great if you are not seeking a boring, ho-hum album. Kelley is a cross between Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, and Xavier Rudd. ~ Matthew Forss     

Friday, October 4, 2013

CD Review: Guinea's Fode Baro Releases a "Mandingo Afro Zouk" 'La Verite'

Fode Baro
La Verite

The Afro-pop stylings of Fode Baro stems from a combination of Afro-pop tunes and energetic zouk infuences. The rippling guitars are akin to Congolese constructions, but the compositions seem to exude the entire continent of Africa in song, voice, and instrument. La Verite is an eleven track release with catchy, stirring, and energetic tunes with a contemporary vein. This is not a dance or rap album. Instead, Fode explores various sounds and rhythms that create moving melodies from France, as well as his homeland of Guinea. There are lively synths, drums, electronic voicings, and brass sounds that create nothing but a happy response. The real highlights come from "Fago" and "Pourquoi Me Quitter." However, all of the songs are rousing and memorable. Fans of Afro-pop, Guinean contemporary music, and zouk-tinged music will love Fode Baro's latest release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ted Brown's 'An Unwide Road'

Ted Brown
An Unwide Road

New Zealand-native, Ted Brown, presents us with a country, alt-folk, and pop album that brings together a variety of influences on guitar, percussion, and strings. The candid vocals and witty lyrics are trademark folk compositions that are not steeped in traditional melodies and rhythms of Maori music. Instead, the recording is more akin to American folk music. Moreover, the vocals are in English and represent an earthy approach throughout the ten tracks. "Beginners Skin" opens with a few guitar chords and a pensive vocal medley. The song is rather laid-back and it does not vary too much. "Raining Roses" is a similar tune with a laid-back presence and emotive vocals that drift along. "Love Is.." is a poetic guitar tune with vocals akin to Paul Simon. The tune meanders along with light percussion and guitar accompaniment. "Blue And Grey" is another guitar tune with great vocals and a solitary guitar lead. There are back-up singers near the end of the song. Overall, Ted creates an engaging and thought-provoking album that does not disappoint. ~ Matthew Forss      

CD Review: Chaser Eight's 'At The 426'

Chaser Eight
At The 426

Chaser Eight, a Connecticut-based band, follows up with a new EP that continues to explore honest, wholesome, and meaningful vocals and catchy melodies. The entire project was recorded, mixed, mastered, and produced at 426 Studios. "One Love" opens with an acoustic guitar and the sweet, emotive vocals of AUDRA. There are symphonic strings that accompany the vocals and guitar throughout. Drum percussion and jazzy sounds kick in mid-song. The last few moments of the song merge into a rock guitar frenzy that does not last too long. "Run, Run" is a more rock-centered tune with female vocals and an upbeat guitar tune that is grungy and attitude-driven. "Without Love" is a previously-released track that takes on a blurby, electronic, and swishy tune. There are down-tempo, electronica elements that provide a more mysterious and experimental approach. "Heart To Heart" and "Never Enough" are both similar in terms of pop/rock beats and tempos. The earthy sounds are genuine and very moving. Nothing is off-key or off-kilter here. ~ Matthew Forss     

CD Review: Jitterbug Vipers' 'Phoebe's Dream'

Jitterbug Vipers
Phoebe's Dream

The Texas-based Jitterbug Vipers are a group that revives the swing music of the 1930s and 40s. However, this is not your typical upbeat swing music. The group gets its name from viper music, which was sung by Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, etc. According to the band's website, viper gets its name from the "sssssst sound made by a viper being onomatopoeic for the sound made by an inhaling pot-smoker." Whatever it is called, the music if relatively laid-back with a good degree of quirky. The lazy, "When You're High," meanders with heavenly vocals and a jaunty, crystal clear guitar in hand. "Viper Moon" opens with a slow guitar tune and smoky vocals that are sweet, delicate, and sensual. There is some additional instrumentation, but it is largely reserved for percussion. "Stuff It" picks up the pace with a more energetic tune and sassy vocals with an almost spoken word presence. "Phoebe's Dream" opens with relaxed vocals and a sauntering guitar melody that is rather quirky, but the song picks up momentum with a swishy percussion set and classic arrangements. The twelve tracks are rather addictive and a seldom-heard mixture of viper tunes inspired by American swing music of the 1930s and 40s. Kick back and check it out today. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Escaping Pavement's 'Uprooted'

Escaping Pavement

Escaping Pavement is a Michigan-based band that explores classic Americana blues, rock, roots, soul, and country with anti-pavement tunes with an Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and Stevie Nicks' sound. Lead female vocalist, Emily Burns, sets the tone with a classy voice that centers around folk, pop, and Americana. The crystal clear vocals and instrumental arrangements contain a heavy 1970s feel that is nothing to laugh at. "Daydream's Haze" opens with a jingly guitar intro and throbbing B3 organ with upbeat drums and a classic vocal lead. The song is folk-tinged and country-cured without any deficiencies. "Part Of Goodbye" contains a folk-centered, rock-tune with vocals akin to Heart throughout. The song is rather punchy, grungy, and infectious. "Winter Homecoming" contains a jaunty guitar, mandolin, and banjo-tuned folk song with both male and female vocals. The Americana song is classic with scintillating strings and varied vocals that do not stray too far from the country roots. Anyone with an interest in Americana folk and rock with a country vein will love Escaping Pavement's latest tunes on Uprooted. ~ Matthew Forss  

Song Review: Jonus Preston's "Heaven To Hell"

Jonus Preston
"Heaven To Hell"

The New York-based singer and guitarist, Jonus Preston, gives us a pop/rock-based composition that borders the likes of John Mayer and Jeff Buckley. The tune opens with a few punchy guitar chords accompanied with drums and Jonus' soulful vocals. The chorus contains a little piano, bass, and lively drums. After the first chorus, there are spritely pizzicato sounds and a smooth, yet punchy bass-line. Jonus' vocals are somewhat akin to Coldplay and John Mayer, but not as robust as Switchfoot overall. The second chorus contains a little more active rock guitar solo akin to a symphonic Oasis band tune. At any rate, the soulful vocals and some back-up vocals at the end of the song build to a great crescendo that is catchy, infectious, and unforgettable. Jonus Preston brings us a top-rated song that is purely good music without any unnecessary embellishments or distortions. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss