Founder of the Toronto-based indie rock blog Aside/Beside, Est. 2009. Currently home to a team of five primary contributors , Aside/Beside aims to shed an international spotlight on otherwise lesser-known or regionally popular indie rock artists.
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On "Air Busking" by GrayBeat, the great electronic experimenter starts things off slowly, with a meandering old school hip-hop influenced jam. Heavy on the beat and light on melody, this song is all about setting a very specific mood: a laid back, easy going vibe. There are jazz influences at play here, but they are not necessarily immediately obvious. "Air Busking" sounds like a song that could have been constructed entirely out of stacks of old record samples, yet somehow is organic enough to feel like it was entirely hand-made from scratch. Regardless, the end result is entirely satisfying and offers a great initial taste of what's to come from GrayBeat.
"Crucible" by GrayBeat is the most menacing song that the electronic producer has committed to tape to date. Dark synths and a pulsing electro beat set the stage for a four-and-a-half minute sonic murder mystery. Given the instrumental nature of the music, its hard to pin down a specific narrative here, but the overwhelming theme is one of sheer terror and suspense. GrayBeat's greatest strength is minimalism in approach: never letting any one instrument crowd out the rest, and always allowing each musical element enough room to breathe on the song. Things take an unexpected turn in the song's final minute when things seem to be heading towards some sort of resolution; however, almost as quickly the song returns to its original theme leaving the listener on the edge of their seat until the final seconds of the track bleed out.
"Airship" by GrayBeat is perhaps the most ambitious piece of sonic architecture undertaken by the electronic artist to date. Clocking in at nearly seven minutes and featuring more diverse instrumentation than the average GrayBeat track, its easily the most adventurous material in an already significant body of work. Synths are still the dominant instrumentation, but the inclusion of some meandering electronic guitar during the song's intro sets a perfect tone for everything that follows. Once all the musical elements line up, everything falls into a pretty consistent groove for the duration of the song, but the changes are subtle enough to keep the average listener engaged beyond the four-minute mark. There is a distinct feeling in the song's second half that some sort of resolution is being achieved, and there is an overwhelmingly optimistic quality to the melody. As with the majority of GrayBeat's material it tends to fall into one of two camps: upbeat and cheery, or dark, moody and contemplative. Either way, the songs are compelling enough to keep fans wanting to hear more. The song's outro is the only real deviation from the song's core theme, but it does provide a welcome transition to ease the listener out of this seven-minute groove.
On "Element G" by GrayBeat, the self-made sci-fi beat-maker lays down a five-and-a-half minute hypnotic groove. As always, the instrumental choices are subtle: a simple synth melody, a drum machine back-beat, and little else. The sonic journey here is very circuitous, less about the end destination and more about taking in the views on a sonic spin around the solar system. Definitely a soundtrack for celestial space travel, GrayBeat plays to the strength of transporting the listener to other worlds. Another standout track in a much broader narrative on sonic extraterrestrial space exploration.
"Fisherman's Gambit" is probably the most rock 'n' roll song that experimental artist GrayBeat has ever produced. The drums are live off the floor and front and centre, the bass and guitar work is likewise authentic and menacing as hell. Synths are still an important part of the song, but they help flesh out the rock solid rhythm section that's already been established by live instrumentation. There are time where this song straddles the line between rock and electro the way Radiohead so masterfully achieved this delicate balance between 1997-2000 when the gradually moved away from rock and embraced electronic arrangements and instrumentation. Perhaps more so than any other track, "Fisherman's Gambit" shows off the full range of what GrayBeat can bring to the table musically and dynamically. An absolute banger of a song without a doubt!
On "Waterlogged" GrayBeat produces his most hypnotic, mesmerizing track to date. Relying on little more than a simple repeating synth melody, the song immediately pulls the listener in and takes them on a journey. Easily the most slow-burning song in the GrayBeat catalogue, its definitely a song to get lost in. GrayBeat's greatest strength has always been making the most out of the least: a few synths, a drum machine, and imagination. Its a simple recipe but its the very simplicity of "Waterlogged" that makes it so appealing.
On "Rocks" by experimental electronic outfit GrayBeat, listeners are treated to five minutes of synth-heavy instrumental bliss. Decidedly upbeat and cheery, "Rocks" is your go-to feel-good listen for self-imposed quarantine, not to mention an undisputed jam in its own right! Melodically, things stay pretty consistent throughout the duration of the song, there are many subtle sonic changes that keep the listener on their toes. Subtle addition of electronic elements likens this song to watching a skyscraper being erected by way of time-lapse video footage. By the song's end, it is infinitely more epic and fully-realized than its humble beginnings, yet that change is somehow so subtle that it is never jarring or abrupt for the listener. A true exercise in hearing a sonic masterpiece being painted live and in real time!
On "Ferris Wheel," experimental sonic architect David Rosen returns with yet another evolution of his already complex sound. Pulling the listener in with moody synths and little else, the beat doesn't kick in until nearly the two-minute mark. To say that this is a slow-burner or a song would be the understatement of the century! However, this low-key gamble pays off in spades: by forcing a strict attention span from the listener, the end result is hypnotic and calming. By the time the well-placed acoustic guitars arrive in the song's second half, time itself seems to have stopped altogether, and the listener is transported to a place that is entirely cerebral, beyond the confines of their self-imposed quarantine. This is truly music to get lost in, where imagination is the invisible final sonic element at play!
On "Samurai" by Magic Seis, the smooth-flowing rapper lays down three-and-a-half minutes of pure swagger. Over a slow, down-temp beat, Magic Seis masterfully tongue twists his way through bilingual Spanish/English rhymes like a lifetime veteran of the rap game. Best lyric: "Bruce Wayne mixed with Baine... Purple Rain." Some very clever wordplay abounds throughout "Samurai," proving that this is in fact Magic Seis' calling card: a modern day rap samurai for the 2020's!
On "Short & Sweet" by Wil Deynes, the singer-songwriter channels all of his pop sensibilities to craft a delicate ballad that is instantly accessible. Structured around a simple beat and a few chords, the appeal is immediate. Likewise, lyrically the song is both simple and direct, as song's title suggests. The female lead vocal in the second verse provides a welcome accompaniment to the main lead vocal, creating a perfect synthesis between male and female perspective. There is a timeless quality to "Short & Sweet" that defies current musical trends and production techniques. This song could easily sit alongside any pop staples of the last thirty years.
On "Romp" by the All Canadian Soundclash, this self-described musical mosaic ensemble marries country, folk and rock into something edgy and dark, and without a doubt captivating. Socially, the song propels itself forward with a hypnotic repeating acoustic rhythm guitar and back-beat heavy rhythm section. Vocal harmonies abound, adding layers of depth to the lyrical narrative and bringing the song into full three-dimensional glory. Repetition is key to the success of "Romp," and the All Canadian Soundclash play to this strength extremely well.
On "Anthem" by Ari, the country-tinged troubadour croons sweetly for four beautiful minutes, commanding the full attention of the listener. Recalling modern indie folk acts such as Timber Timbre and Father John Misty, Ari's music has a haunting beauty that keeps it from becoming even the slightest bit corny or old-fashioned. The production is clean and precise, allowing each instrument room to breathe and be appreciated fully, but never burying the lead vocal in a sea of noise. Of particular note are the outstanding vocal harmonies during the chorus sections, which really elevate "Anthem" to a level worthy of its title.
On "Trust" by The Tale, the ska-leaning rock outfit lay down a perfect three-and-a-half minute groove with punchy lyrics and a sing-along, single-lyric hook: "Trust!" Its a clever songwriting trick, and it pays off in spades. Keeping in the tradition of band like Madness all the way to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Tale are finding their place in the ska landscape, but delivering their own unique take on the genre, ultimately avoiding treading the same old musical terrain. The musicianship is tight and punchy, as is expected of the genre, but the songwriting and musical arrangement is what makes "Trust" a truly memorable tune!
"A Modo Tuo" by Natalie Bancroft finds the soulful singer returning with a delicate four-and-a-half minute piano ballad. All language barriers aside, there is a deeply emotional quality to the vocal delivery that transcends all language barriers. The emotion is real, and that's what translates on the song. The instrumentation is varied enough to keep things interesting for the listener: guitars take the place of keys in the song's second half, sweeping strings dominate the song's third quarter. There is a very orchestral quality to the arrangement, but it doesn't feel overproduced or too lofty. Somehow the song retains all the endearing qualities of its simple, unassuming beginnings. Through all the instrumental changes, Bancroft's voice remains the sole guiding light carrying the listener along on this musical journey, the only constant in a song with a lot of moving parts involved.
On "You're Going Down" by Jay Clark, the self-styled country-tinged classic rocker delivers just shy of four minutes of well-directed fury. Riffs reign supreme here, pulling the listener in and taking them on a journey down a winding unknown road full of surprise twists and turns. The lyrical content here is pretty standard fare, but the true highlight is the musicianship on display. Case and point, the blistering guitar solo that comes out of left-field like a surprise smack to the face that stings in all the right ways. If this is the first taste of what Jay Clark has to offer, I'm ready for seconds!
On "She's Got Love" by up-and-comers Pulsating Radiostars, the straight-shooting rockers lay down four minutes of raw, dirty southern-tinged rock 'n' roll of the highest caliber. A sound at once refreshing and nostalgic, it immediately recalls a time when rock reigned supreme on radio airwaves across the globe. Indeed, the inherent genius of the music being made Pulsating Radiostars is that they are intentionally not trying to re-invent the wheel of rock 'n' roll, but rather take the existing one for a ride. And they do so very effectively, pulling out all of the stops: tasty lead guitar licks, soloing, a pummeling rhythm section, and killer vocal delivery. In short, Pulsating Radiostars give you exactly what you want to hear from a rock 'n' roll song, and they don't mess with a time-tested formula.
On Natalie Bancroft's cover of "Jealous," fans are treated to a three-and-half minute stripped-down piano rendering of the song. Comprised of little more than a lead vocal, piano melody, and a supplemental string section, this cover is a slow-burning crescendo if ever there was one. Deeply emotive and moving, this sparse arrangement keeps the listener's ears fine-tuned on the lead vocal, which ultimately rises above the rest of the instrumentation as it rightly should. Bancroft's ability to tug on the listener's heart strings is uncanny, and has been proven time and time again on her previous musical offerings. Undoubtedly the best is yet to come from this fresh-faced up-and-comer.
On Natalie Bancroft's cover of the Bill Withers classic "Aint No Sunshine," fans are treated to a decidedly more Latin-infused take on the timeless song. Delivered by a female lead vocal as opposed to the more immediately familiar male take on the song, Bancroft reinforces the universality of the song's central theme, one of loneliness in the absence of one's lover. The Flamenco guitar work elevates this cover to new heights, ultimately pushing it into sonic territory that Bill Withers likely could never even fathom. Putting this unique twist on "Aint No Sunshine" also further goes to show that all that is old can indeed be made new again, and the proof is in the quality of the end result that Bancroft has brought to life.
On "Silently" by Emma and the Fragments, fans are treated to four minutes of moody indie-rock in the spirit of Paramore and countless female-fronted rock outfits to come before them. An impassioned lead vocal elevates this song to new heights, channeling an internal turmoil and committing it to melody and giving it a life of its own. "We must stop measuring our worth against others" is perhaps the standout lyric of the song, which also serves as a thesis statement of sorts for the song's narrative arc. Giving a voice to the voiceless, Emma and the Fragments are true underdogs. The loud-quiet-loud musical dynamic further serves to drive this message home, further emphasizing the inherent struggle built into the DNA of "Silently."
On "Aint No Sunshine" by Natalie Bancroft, the sultry singer lays down an immaculate Spanish-flavoured cover of this classic song. Her lead vocal sits front and center in the mix, with Flamenco guitar providing much of the instrumental underpinnings of the song, while an understated rhythm guitar and simple percussion hold the song together at the foundation. While Bancroft's cover doesn't deviate too far from the original, her vocal delivery exceeds it both in depth and range, proving once and for all that all that is old can indeed be made new again.
On "Tocando Em Frente" by Natalie Bancroft, fans are treated to three-and-a-half minutes of Spanish ballad delivered in a style reminiscent of early Shakira, complete with Spanish language lyrics. Impassioned and emotive with every component of her vocal delivery, Bancroft hones in on her voice as her greatest instrument, the one that rises above all others on this song. Complimented by acoustic guitar and a string section, the absence of a traditional bass/drums rhythm section allows the lead vocal to soar in the greatest way possible.
On "Wild Women Don't Have The Blues" by Natalie Bancroft, fans are treated to a five-minute piano-driven blues number that speaks directly to late night escapades and misadventures. An honest blues song of ever there was one, the instrumental arrangement is rounded out by horns, a walking bass lines, and some very restrained yet effective piano playing. In keeping with the tradition of the blues, Bancroft is not necessarily mining any new thematic territory here, but rather putting a modern twist on a time-tested tale. She delivers her narrative honestly, giving legitimacy to her songwriting and thus putting her in a league of increasingly hard to come by modern songwriters.
On "Red and Blue" by Mettle, the rocking female-fronted four-piece lay down four minutes of emotional rock music that recalls Paramore and countless other early 2000s indie rock outfits. The spare instrumental arrangement in the verses allows the vocal to soar above the rest of the track, whereas the chorus allows all instrumental elements to explode in perfect harmony, ultimately balancing out the battle for prominence with the lead vocal. The breakdown in the song's mid-section is the most pleasant surprise on this song, offering up a subtle and understated guitar solo that suits the song's mood perfectly. Definitely a sleeper hit if ever there was one.
On "Start Starting" by Carla Stark, fans are treated to three-and-a-half minutes of feel-good pop music with jazz instrumentation peppering the track for variety. With a positive message to boot, this is a self-empowerment anthem if ever there was one. Stark's lead vocal is unique, recalling no immediate comparisons, while the instrumental arrangement is a perfect compliment to what is already an up-beat composition. Like a cup of sonic sunshine, Stark taps into good feelings like a miner panning for gold, and seemingly succeeds with every attempt. Definitely a soon-to-be hit that you have yet to discover.
On "Problems" by Parlor. fans are treated to three-and-a-half minutes of synth-heavy pop balladry that exceeds all expectations. Sounding like an instant radio hit in the current pop music climate, the competitive advantage that Parlor. possess is legitimate songwriting prowess, relying less on gimmicky production techniques than their peers. The production values are indeed very high, but they at no point detract from the song or draw the listener's attention away from the underlying melody of the song. This is indeed the greatest strength of "Problems," the fact that an immaculately written pop song can be produced in a fashion that is perfectly in keeping with the production values of the day.
On "Once in a While" by Deezystep, fans are treated to three-and-a-half minutes of rapid-fire rapping laid atop chill, low-key beats. The lyrics are clever, witty, and on point, always refreshing in an era characterized by nonsensical overproduced hip-hop. Deezystep seems to be channeling a golden age of '90s rap, an experience that is both nostalgic and refreshing at the same time. "Once in a While" also succeeds in leaving the listener wanting more, cutting out just when you are ready for another verse. Well done, Deezystep.
On "Holding Guns" by Pulsating Radiostars" fans a re treated to three minutes of jangly garage rock with arena rock aspirations. A beautiful hybrid of rough-around-the-edges rock and anthemic ambitions, this is exactly the sound that the seemingly near-dead genre demands in the year 2018. Loose yet tight, the Pulsating Radiostars seem to favour the group effort over any one individual standout musician, ultimately creating a more cohesive sound. The lead vocal is largely buried in the verses, only pushing through front and centre in the choruses, allowing the lead guitar to provide the song's narrative, a narrative that largely centers on the concept of Rock 'N' Roll itself.
On "Diamond" by Winchester, the hard-rocking outfit lay down four minutes of power-chord chugging riff-friendly rock 'n' roll in the spirit of the early 2000s nu metal bands that came before them. Nostalgic and refreshing in the same breath, Winchester are a reminder that rock is indeed not dead, and that there is still hope for the genre at the dawn of 2018. Combining screamo elements with a surprisingly melodic chorus, Winchester have managed to fuse several disparate genres to create a new hybrid, perhaps the underlying reason why they sound familiar yet unlike anything that you've ever heard before. Easily the best rock song to be released in 2018, "Diamond" might just be the anthem for a new era of rock 'n' roll.
On Oddnote's "Money Comes, Money Goes," the rockers lay down two-and-a-half minutes of Southern Rock in the spirit of many great rcokers who have come before them. The power-chord heavy track chugs along with brutal precision, quickly locking into an unrelenting groove that carries the listener to the song's conclusion. This song is as streamlined as it possibly could be, without an ounce of fat or a wasted note to be found anywhere. The song's only shortcoming is that the guitar solo at the song's conclusion is more of a tease than anything, being cut mercifully short as the song ends.
On "Shadowpasser" by Voxsomnia, fans are treated to a slow, brooding track that at times sounds like a reprise of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters." A beautiful, delicate melody threads its way through the song, while a sparse instrumental arrangement holds everything musically together by a thread. One gets the feeling that a great amount of restraint is being exercised by all musicians involved here to create a very specific sombre atmosphere. Hauntingly beautiful, they are indeed successful in this venture, striking a perfect balance between vocals and instrumentals.
On "Feet on the Ground" by Samira, the powerful vocalist lays down three minutes of sheer power and beauty. A delicate piano melody dances underneath a serene vocal melody to great effect. The sparseness of the instrumental arrangement works to the song's benefit, keeping the primary focus on the song's powerful, delicate vocal narrative. Ultimately, the song commands the listeners utmost attention, as the beauty in the details is quickly missed if only given a cursory listen.
On "All the Reasons" by Jess Suilenroc, the soulful singer lays down three minutes of pure heartbreak atop a simple beat, allowing her powerful voice to float atop all other instrumentation on the track. Melodically sparse, "All the Reasons" reads more like a diary entry read aloud than a traditional verse-chorus-verse song structure. Nonetheless, this downtempo song does capture the raw emotion of a breakup, and does so without any hint of artifice.
On "Part Stoner" produced by CXDY, fans are treated to two-and-a-half minutes of low-key hip-hop influenced soulful pop music that is indeed as much of a stoner experience as the title suggests. The song is equal parts swagger and contemplation, the kind of next-level thought process that only occurs when one gets high. Thematically the song relies heavily on the "part stoner" theme established in the song's title, there are nonetheless hints of deeper themes residing just below the song's hazy surface. Overall more of an "experience" song rather than a straightforward narrative, "Part Stoner" is just trippy enough to warrant repeated listens.
On "Incompleted Neighboring" by Austin, the listener is treated to two-and-a-half minutes of serene multi-layered vocal harmonies atop minimal ambient instrumentals that recall early Broken Social Scene. The effect is both hypnotic and enticing, lulling the listener into a peacefully pacified state. In the song's final thirty seconds, the hypnosis is broken by abrasive up-tempo synths that serve to bring the song to a dramatic finish, while at the same time breaking the initial spell that the song holds over the listener. A mini-masterpiece to be sure, there are a lot of creative ideas packed into a small sonic space.
On "1991 VHS Tape Nostalgia (Law of Love)" by Austin, fans are treated to the outfit's trademark brand of hypnotic synths and looping instrumental passages laying directly underneath a sea of reverb-laden vocals that are mostly incoherent but are nonetheless used to great effect. The end result is both dreamy and beautiful, the kind of cinematic treatment that one would expect to see on the silver screen, or at the very least in a television commercial. Austin also stretches time and treats it as yet another medium within his creative pallet, using the nearly eight-minute running time to both condense and expand time as required. The song's mid-section is peppered with spoken word audio samples, which ultimately serve to enhance the disorienting effect of the song, a treatment that ultimately works well. By the time the song hits its final minute, it is already amid a transition into something laregly unrecognizable from the song's first half, playing out like a VHS tape or audio mix tape of different song samples recorded in tandem.
On "Sleeplessnessjesus's" by Austin, the experimental artist warps traditional instrumentation to paint a vivid and hallucinatory three-and-a-half minute sonic painting. Akin to a warped vinyl record spinning at the wrong speed, the effect is disorienting yet strangely soothing. A masterful exercise in bending time and space through music, Austin transports the listener to another place effortlessly. This song is further evidence that Austin's approach to music-making is far from straightforward, which might just be the reasons why he is at the cutting edge of something entirely new that defies traditional genre categorization.
On "Pull-Over Blac" by Donas, the French singer-songwriter lays down four-and-a-half minutes of Serge Gainsberg meets Johnny Cash meets Leonard Cohen spoken-word country art-folk. Never raising his voice above a near-whisper, Donas commands his audience with his inherent bravado and inherent sense of "cool," an intangible quality that radiates from the very essence of singer's persona. Instrumentally sparse, little more than an acoustic guitar rhythm section and driving drum beat keep this song propelling forwards. Likewise, the backing female vocals bring some much needed melodic backing to what is admittedly not the most melodic song, but then again its not trying to be. "Pull-Over Blanc" succeeds in every measure in increasing the shroud of mystery and cool around the largely unknown Donas.
On "Life Begins" by Winchester, the rock-tinged outfit lay down four-and-a-half minutes of melodic 90s-influenced balladry of the highest caliber. The vocal delivery is both wordy and dense, almost delivered in a near-rap cadence, but the inherent melody keeps the song firmly footed in the sphere of rock music. The heavy chorus recalls much of the hard rock and nu metal of the late 90s and early 00s, bringing a sense of nostalgia to this song. The rap rock delivery only becomes more apparent in the song's second half, when it morphs into a full-blown nu metal anthem, complete with screaming and rap-rock vocal delivery. Overall, "Life Begins" recalls a long lost era in rock music that is as overdue for a revival.
Electronic artist David Rosen is back with another instant classic, the instantly memorable "Secrets." Less overtly EDM influenced than much of his early work, this song features more traditonal instrumentation, such as piano, keys, and even guitar. This is arguably Rosen striking his most effective balance musically in his career thus far, creating a piece that is compelling for both fans and non-fans of the increasingly broad umbrella of EDM. Paired with a titillating and scandalous music video, Rosen has created the perfect pairing as a means to transmit his musical message to the masses. If ever there was an artist worth keeping an eye and an ear on at the end of the prolific year that has been 2017, it is indeed David Rosen.
On "3rd of a Kind" by SP Presley, the Classic Rockers lay down three-minutes of pure instrumental prowess in the spirit of every 80s prog-leaning hair metal band that came before them. A tapestry of influences, one can detect Van Halen guitar work colliding with Rush melodies, all underpinned by a sound so familiar that it instantly transports the listener back in time to an era when rock reigned supreme on FM bands across the continent. A perfectly constructed instrumental piece, "3rd of a Kind" sounds like the intro to an epic album, a battle cry for future material yet to come. To be sure, SP Presley are a band hell-bent on bringing classic rock back at a time when it is most severely needed. In this cause, I can only applaud them and say Godspeed!
On "Higher Than Sweet Heaven" by Gumshen, the electronic outfit lay down three-and-a-half minutes of undeniably dance-friendly EDM that recalls early Daft Punk and more contemporary electronic influences simultaneously. Sounding akin to the world's greatest New Years Eve dance party, one gets the sense that Gumshen aim to bring this celebratory dance party to every day of their fans lives, in an instant turning the daily slog into one big party. A lofty and noble aim, Gumshen effectively pepper this song with enough variety to avoid the EDM trap of falling into overly repetitive, boring, or dull musical structure. Indeed, this dance party offers something for everybody, and all are invited. Lace up your dancing shoes and hit the floor to the sweet, sweet sound of Gumshen.
On "Youthful Fancy" by Clark, the EDM artist lays down four minutes of high-speed electro bliss rounded out by a complete vocal narrative, a rare feet in the electronic music community. The instrumentals are varied enough to keep the listener guessing where the song will go next, while the lead vocal takes the song to an entirely new level. This fusion of the traditional song format with an otherwise instrumental EDM track is a territory that has not been explored nearly enough, and is indeed a wide open field for exploration and discovery. Imagine Bob Dylan roaming through Greenwich Village with a KORG synth and a laptop and you will find artists like Clark pushing the envelope of what the EDM genre has to offer.
On "The Night Will Stand Back" by Fred Burdey, the French singer-songwriter offers up a three-minute EDM jam sung entirely in French except for the songs refrain. A compelling song nonetheless, Burdey delivers an impassioned vocal that transcends all language barriers. The man clearly has serious vocal range. As the song reveals more of itself to the listener, fans are treated to a bridge section sung entirely in English, making the song a true French-English fusion for fans in both language. Underpinning all of this is the underlying truth that the music itself is the universal language, and in the case of "The Night Will Stand Back", the music is truly memorable.
On "Black Mirror" by Wave the Flag, the pop-punters deliver a surprisingly upbeat pop song that subversively serves as a social commentary on the current state of affairs in the world, namely the crossroads of social media and real life concerns. It speaks to the surface-level vanity of a generation glued to Facebook and Instagram. The black mirror itself may be the most reflective surface of all, the one that reveals the inherent flaws in our present society. Musically, the song is an accessible sing-along that is bound to go over well when performed live by Wave the Flag at their shows.
On "One Step at a Time" by Donna Balancia and Vince Conrad, they duo lay down three-minutes of pure throwback classic rock power-pop, keeping the chord changes fun and ever-changing. Oddly enough, the song seemingly should be subtitled "One Drink at a Time," as this refrain is repeated more frequently than the song's actual title. While the song in its own right is so nostalgic that its challenging to derive anything new from it, the pure energy that is brought to the table is raw that the end result can't help but be anything less than memorable. Relying on a time-tested songwriting formula to be sure, Balancia nonetheless makes the listener sincerely believe that there is still a place for this classic music in today's increasingly bleak musical landscape.
"Delirious" by Nightpulse delivers on the promise of EDM by fusing the genre with accessible pop music. Equal parts sultry and dance floor-friendly, Nightpulse have tapped into a sound that sounds equal parts nostalgic and fresh. Carefully crafted hooks find their way deep into the listener's mind, resulting in uncontrollable fits of toe-tapping and head-bopping. Better than the strongest over-the counter medication, Nightpulse are easily the best cure for whatever is ailing you right now!
On "Betty" by Ten Minute Detour, the band channel their inner Cage The Elephant while brining their own entirely unique energy to the long-established indie-rock genre. The sound of early Black Keys likewise rattles around all over this song, primarily insomuch as both bands are characterized by the same frenetic energy that propels their songs forward. Ten Minute Detour cannot be faulted on their songwriting or musical ability, as they deliver both in spades. Rather, if there is a single fault that can be found in a song such as "Betty," it is simply that it sounds like material that has already populated the airwaves in recent years. Luckily, it is likewise a sound that is time-tested as rock 'n roll itself, and thus remains equal parts nastalgic and refreshing.
On "Motionless Move" by Bam Hatson, the singer-songwriter weaves a delicate lyrical narrative with an equally restrained yet beautiful instrumental melody. Horns and wood winds dance in perfect harmony, while a simple rhythm section underpins the entire song and holds each of the disparate musical elements together. The vocal delivery is simple and understated, matching the muted intensity of the instrumental arrangement. Beautiful in every sense of the word, Bam Hatson has tapped into something most artists spend a lifetime trying to discover, namely the strength in simplicity and understatement.
On Amateur Night at Club Stupid's long-overdue full-length offering, the aptly-titled Better Late Than Whatever, the experimental outfit deliver their trademark hip-hop flows atop meandering jams reminiscent of The Grateful Dead. When this experimental genre-bending approach works, as it does on the album's opening number, it elevates the genre to new heights. Likewise, the songs that place the instrumentals front and center tend to fare better than the primarily vocally-oriented song, which is not to sleight the vocals in the least. Rather, it is to highlight the understated importance of the live instrumental element in the Amateur Night at Club Stupid's musical equation. Experimental doesn't even begin to describe the sonic terrain that the group are plowing here, and the fact that comparable musical groups for comparison are hard to come by speaks volumes about the uniqueness of Amateur Night at Club Stupid have achieved. The fact that the songs range from jangly garage rock, as on the standout Pixies-tinged "Where is my Gun," to the straight-up spoken word hip-hop of the album's opening song demonstrates the true range of the group. Things even get jazzy at times, recalling soundtrack contributions to Cheech & Chong films of years gone by. While it may seem goofy at times, it is important to remember that even stoner anthems are as integral to the cultural fabric in the year 2017 as they were at any point in the 60s and 70s. Indeed, if there is one underlying cultural theme holding this diverse collection of songs together, it is that of the cannabis culture, and the anything-goes aesthetic that accompanies it. There are moments that sound like they could have been lifted straight off an early Santana record, not so much because of any specific guitar virtuosity, but rather because of the psychedelic mind-expanding quality that they conjure in the listener. In short, what Amateur Night at Club Stupid have managed to achieve with this LP is nothing less than the synthesis of over four decades of musical influence, from classic rock psychedelia to modern-day hip-hop and various indie-rock influences for good measure. While no one element musically stands head-and-shoulders above the rest, this says more about the group's ability to play off of each other's strengths, rather than using this musical vehicle to showcase individual talents over those of the entire group. Given that the group have opted to explore such singularly unique sonic terrain, the future is wide open with respect to future possible musical direction for the group. Ultimately, a more stream-lined and genre-specific approach would yield a wider audience and a more mainstream appeal, but it's safe to say that Amateur Night at Club Stupid likely don't concern themselves too much with either of those factors. If anything, the group are likely to keep pushing the sonic boundaries further with each successive release, finding pockets of die- hard followers along the way, who with any luck will stick around with the group for the duration of their sonic journey. Ultimately, Amateur Night at Club Stupid are a group for the musically open-minded, so when things get heavy towards the albums conclusion, it is no more surprising than the decision to open the album with a hip-hop number. If mainstream appeal was the goal for the group, they likely would have opted for a different name and a genre-specific sound. In the year 2017, adhering to a single genre is probably the most stagnant approach a musician could take to their career, so Amateur Night at Club Stupid might surprise everyone and sell multi-platinum units of Better Late Than Whatever, but if not, at least their fans will know that they never compromised their sound for any record labels, radio stations, or hipster online music publications. Long live Amateur Night at Club Stupid.