SINGLE REVIEW: Something Else by Cap’n Richie

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Cap’n Richie is the moniker of dance producer/songwriter Richard Richter, who hails from the Netherlands. His music is essentially in the EDM category, but he combines genres of EDM in his own inimitable style. So far this year he has already released High & Higher Volume 1 and an EP of old school DnB (drum and bass) called Instead of Words.

He has also released High & Higher Volume 2 from which this track, Something Else, is taken. This release has already reached 123,000 streams on Soundcloud alone. Something Else is a mixture of house, glitch and DnB, an unusual combination which works very effectively. It notably features the female lead vocals of Odilia Carmen, who gives a charismatic performance.

It begins with a mind blowing, almost psychedelic array of glitch and DnB beats melded with constantly morphing synths and atmospheric effects. Olilia’s soulful vocals enter, also put through all manner of production tricks. After a short section of complex vocal refrains, the rhythm shifts to a more regular four-to-the-floor house beat along with the very catchy title hook. The rest of the track alternates between these two rhythmic styles, balanced with great control and expertise.

Overall, this a very well produced EDM track in the DnB/Glitch house genre by a writer/producer who has become a master of his craft. It manages to perfectly balance the opposing styles involved so that it is both danceable yet sonically inventive and different to most EDM. With his popularity growing exponentially with each new release, Something Else might be the track that gets everybody talking about Cap’n Richie and deservedly so.

 

VERDICT: 8.5 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Butterfly by Sofia Evangelina

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Official website: http://www.sofiaevangelina.com

Sofia Evangelina is a singer/songwriter from Canada. Despite only being the tender age of fifteen, she has already accomplished a great deal in her musical career. She has won numerous talent competitions including Canada National Overall Talent at Talent INC 2014, Canada Teenfest and TheMics amongst many others, as well as performing live at various festivals.

She has worked on her first album, Butterfly, with Beverly Delich and Bryant Oleander, known for their work with Michael Bublé. She cites her major influences as Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé and all time great female singers of the past like Etta James, Arethra Franklin and Nina Simone. In particular, you can hear the influence of Christina Aguilera. This debut album consists of ten tastefully chosen cover versions that range across numerous genres including soul, RnB, pop and gospel.

The album starts with a superb version of the evergreen Etta James classic At Last. Set to a beautifully performed and produced musical backdrop featuring synth strings, bluesy piano and picked acoustic guitar, it provides a perfect backdrop for Sofia’s voice. With a naturally strong tone, she gives a compelling vocal performance that captures the emotive resonance of the original. It also showcases her considerable vocal range and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

The soulful vibe continues with the second track, an upbeat cover of Sam Cooke’s timeless Wonderful World that retains the charm of the original but gives it a more modern pop sound. Sofia shows that her voice is just as suited to this kind of material, and her performance is nicely counter-pointed by male backing vocals which makes for an effective combination.

Third track All I Could Do Was Cry was originally released by Etta James but was brought back to mainstream prominence by Beyoncé in 2008 when she played Etta James in the film Cadillac Records. Sofia once again gives a fine performance, and a slow ballad like this allows her to extemporize the melody with vocal inflections in the style of Christina Aguilera, her idol. She hits the high notes with ease, and captures the emotion of the song well.

Next comes a powerhouse performance of the well known song Feeling Good, originally by the late, great Nina Simone. Starting with some gorgeous jazzy piano, it builds into a musical tour de force featuring a biting brass section, with a well crafted arrangement. Sofia steals the show with some versatile vocal acrobatics, and really let’s rip at the song’s climax. A fantastic interpretation of a perennial classic.

Then comes a real change of pace with a rendition of The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back. This song allows Sofia to express the more ebullient and joyous side to her character, which is delivered in abundance on this infectious performance. Musically, it captures the groovy rolling piano melody and strings of the original along with the skyscraping lead vocal melody which Sofia handles well. The call and response vocals with the backing singers is also highly effective.

Sixth track Hello is, for me, the centrepiece of the album. It’s not a cover of the huge hit by Adele, but in fact the romantic 80’s classic by Lionel Ritchie. Sofia gives a wonderfully sensitive and controlled performance that captures the tender poignancy of the lyrics. The arrangement, which builds from sparse and minimal to huge across the duration of the track, helps bring out the haunting and melancholy nature of the music and these two aspects converge to produce this standout track.

The final four songs on the album are all loving, positive and uplifting in nature. First is a fine cover of Bill Withers’ well known ode to friendship Lean On Me. It’s built around a simple arrangement consisting of strident, concise piano and the softer tones of Rhodes electric piano and organ. Sofia delivers another strong vocal near the top of her range, then the music modulates up a key towards the end for a climactic finish. She performs some very impressive vocal runs and riffs at the very end, which is truly worth listening out for.

Next is one of the more ambitious covers, Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing, originally written and sung by Stevie Wonder on his epochal 1973 album Innervisions. It’s an excellent choice of a song to cover, with the Latin-tinged feel of the music providing some nice stylistic variation. Sofia sounds like she’s having fun singing this one.

Perhaps more familiar to modern listeners will be the following cover of Coldplay’s melancholy but moving ballad, Fix You. Sofia gives an almost angelic performance of touching warmth and intimacy, capturing the empathy that lies at the heart of the song. The sparse arrangement allows her voice to take centre stage and the harmonies are gorgeous.

The last track is another song originally by The Jackson 5, I’ll Be There. This one is actually performed as a duet with a male vocalist, whose voice complements hers well. Sofia gives this one 110% vocally, often at the top of her range. They take turns singing alternate verses before joining together for the final section, bringing the whole album to a satisfying and emotional denouement.

Overall, this is a highly impressive debut from a gifted young singer who can convey deep emotions and make a song truly her own, an impressive feat for a singer of any age. Cover versions are a way for new artists to reach the public but Sofia is not resting on her laurels, currently working with prominent Canadian songwriters on original material.

That is what will decide whether she can emulate the huge success of her favourite singers, but this album is an excellent introduction to her versatile vocal talents and will make her many new fans. Butterfly is out now and available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music and all major streaming services.

 

VERDICT =  8.6 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

IG: @sofiaevangelinaxoxo

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sofiaevangelinaxoxo/

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SINGLE REVIEW: No Regrets by Ben Green

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http://www.facebook.com/bengreeenmusic/

Ben Green is a nineteen year old Rap/Hip Hop and R&B artist hailing from Venice, CA. As an artist, he has always had a deep passion passion for songwriting, in particular the genre of hip-hop. He cites various artists as musical inspirations and influences including Eminem, Lil Wayne, Kodak Black and Mac Miller, amongst others. This year, he has already released the track Change Up, and plans to release a series of singles culminating in an album release.

This single, No Regrets, is an R&B track with a strong EDM influence in the cutting edge production. It’s the perfect showcase for his talents as a singer and lyricist. Starting with a short synth based intro, the vocals enter and his distinctive voice and smooth lyrical delivery become immediately apparent. Over an intricate, skittish R&B groove and deep dub bass, he conveys a positive message about making the most of your life.

He eloquently references how difficult it can be becoming successful in the era of detractors on social media: “When yo life starts getting amazing, them haters be trying to take it, gotta make a decision like matrix, be a boss or be a basic“. Vocally, his performance is somewhere between singing and rapping, combining melody with a strong command of language and wordplay that is equal to the best rappers out there. The inspirational tone is emphasized in the final lines: “You can have it all, you can have everything…”.

Overall, this is a very fine single from a young R&B/hip hop artist who has his finger on the pulse musically. His unique fusion of genres and combined talents of singing/rapping give him the edge over his contemporaries, aided by slick modern production that makes it suitable both for radio and a potential hit on the dancefloor. With further releases of this quality, soon Ben Green will be the rising star on everyone’s lips and this track will be a big stepping stone to his success.

VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

 Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Somewhere Far by Matthew Schultz

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Matthew Schultz is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and performer who started out playing guitar in Chris Daughtry’s first band.  He has already made a strong impact on the music industry with his previous releases. His first single, Money or Me, was produced by Armando Guarnera and earned him a nomination at the 2013 EOTM Awards, as well as one for best new male artist.

He followed this up with Crazy Heart (ft. Alessia Guarnera) in 2014, then in 2015 he released We Own The Night (feat. Jim Jones). Last year saw a house remix of this track by Follow The Moon gain considerable popularity. These releases were all widely acclaimed and he has accumulated a huge following on Facebook and Twitter in the process.

This year has seen a plethora of successful releases for Matthew Schultz. In January, he released the single Promise For Keeps, following up with a version featuring Jamaican reggae singer Gyptian and an Electric Bodega remix in the following months. All these were given glowing reviews by me and have been massively successful, with combined streams of over 3.5 millions plays on Soundcloud. Also hugely popular was another single, All Night Long, featuring Gyptian and Rico Tayla.

This latest track, Somewhere Far, is solely a Matthew Schultz affair, having shared the spotlight with other artists on recent releases. It’s essentially a continuation of what is now the Matthew Schultz signature sound: chilled pop/EDM with elements of reggae, dancehall and Afro Beat blended into the mix, catchy melodic hooks and cool lyrics.

Starting with mellow vibe-esque synths and a pulsing bassline, Schultz gives an understated but charismatic vocal performance, with all manner of stylish production tricks giving his voice that cutting edge pop/EDM sound. The track builds gradually across the verse and bridge, working up to a slinky calypso-influenced beat, underpinned by a pumping ‘four to the floor’ kick that drives the momentum of the music.

Lyrically, it’s perfect for these summer months, about craving freedom and adventure with your lover: “She says ‘Take me somewhere far, let’s just jump inside the car, it’s the summer and no wonder I’ve been working way too hard….”. The words and music combine to create an evocative soundscape that captures the magical feeling of summer and chasing after the good times, a feeling everyone can relate to.

Overall, this is another slam dunk of a track from the prolific Matthew Schultz. It’s another anthemic, instantly memorable pop EDM song that will work equally well on radio and the dancefloor. With Schultz’s popularity snowballing with every new release, there’s every reason to think that Somewhere Far will take his success to the next level and become the soundtrack for the second half of the summer.

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Gangsta Rabbi’s Thrash Opus – Year 1812 Fest. Overture In EbMAJ by The Gangsta Rabbi

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http://gangstarabbi.com/

The Gangsta Rabbi, a.k.a. as The King of Jewish Punk, is the moniker of the multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, composer and producer Steve Lieberman. He was born in Brooklyn, New York to a working class Jewish family and now resides in Freeport. Perhaps more than most artists, his work needs to be understood in the full context of his life.

He has been considered an ‘outsider artist’, partly attributed to his lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder which began for him at the age of just eleven. He has been releasing studio albums since 2002 and has now released over thirty, along with live albums and countless cassettes. He has shared the stage with Weezer, Andrew WK, Glassjaw, Ryan Dunn and The Misfits, but had to retire from performing in 2011 owing to having to battle an advanced form of leukaemia, returning briefly to the stage in 2016.

He has been fighting the disease for the last seven years, which has had a pronounced effect on his artistic output. Every album has become progressively heavier to reflect the internal struggle of living with this terminal form of cancer. This year, he was admitted into a hospice and remarkably has carried on creating, producing his most challenging works including completely covering Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick (a major influence) and a thrash version of the British Opera, The H.M.S. Pinafore.

This work is based on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and preceding Opus numbers, with Lieberman playing every instrument himself. The instruments involved cover a wide range including thrash guitar and basses, alto, tenor and bass trombones, flutes, trumpet, clarinet, euphonium and melodica as well as drums and percussion.

The first track is a riotous sonic explosion from the very start. Dense layers of low-end distorted guitar and bass are augmented by double-kick drum patterns and frequent cymbals, proving the thrash element. A plethora of orchestral instruments create a fierce wall of sound, carrying the main melodic theme in unison or in octaves.

For the most part, the melody is submerged yet discernible amongst the onslaught of distortion and instrumental texture, yet towards the end we clearly hear the recognizable theme of the finale to the overture, an effective dynamic. The music is undeniably challenging, walking the tightrope between order and chaos in a way that reminded me of the more extreme and avant garde works of rock like Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music or Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart.

The following tracks maintain this essential approach, with Opus 44 – Russian Folk Song and Opus 45 – 2nd Solennelle pushing the envelope even further, the latter particularly manic yet strangely cohesive in its melodic dissonance; with less distortion it could pass for one of the more far out instrumentals of Frank Zappa, another outsider artist.

It is also apt in a sense that Lieberman has chosen to reinterpret Tchaikovsky in this way. The great Russian composer was also a rather tortured person who struggled all his life with emotional turmoil and depression. For Tchaikovsky, composing and performing music was a cathartic emotional release which reflects in the intensity of his music, and this intensity is magnified exponentially in the hands of Lieberman.

The Battle of Borodino stands out for the stridency of the low end brass that has just as much bite as the wall of guitars and 3rd Solennelle continues in the same vein. Theme Aus Overture somehow finds another gear, giving the music a sense of fierce momentum and climax, with the theme from the finale emerging through the howling storm of sound.

The finale, Battalion Closer/Fanfare is an epic fifteen minutes that ramps up the relentless intensity to immense proportions. The drone of the guitars sounds like a jet taking off and the recognizable theme of the finale emerges at the same point as the first track. This time, it expands into another nine minutes of anarchic dissonance melded with melody, which goes through countless permutations before the two main themselves combine in a kind of tumultuous fugato.

Overall, this is an uncompromising and completely unique artistic reinterpretation of a well known classical work that is visceral yet compelling. The Gangsta Rabbi has forged a musical style entirely of his own, one rooted in his own life experiences and unique approach to music making. The fusion of thrash and classical is not one I’ve ever encountered and this will be appreciated by aficionados of the avant garde, in particular. It goes without saying that to have created and recorded this in a hospice with advanced leukaemia is a heroic feat in itself.

 

VERDICT =  7.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Bears Always Party the Exact Right Amount by Fake Teak

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https://www.facebook.com/faketeak/

Fake Teak are a four-piece alternative rock band based in London. The group was originally the musical brainchild of lead vocalist and bass player Andrew Wyld, evolving eventually into a range of musicians with eclectic styles and tastes. They belong to a rich lineage of left field, alternative artists and you can hear the influence of groups like Roxy Music, Talking Heads and Sparks, along with more modern influences like Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem.

This track, the wonderfully titled Bears Always Party the Exact Right Amount, encapsulates their unique brand of inspired lunacy. Starting with just drums and bass, an infectious, descending keyboard riff sets the stage for Andrew Wyld’s charismatic, idiosyncratic lead vocals. In his vocal style you can hear the influences of great pop eccentrics like David Byrne of Talking Heads and Russell Mael from Sparks, along with traces of Bowie, Bryan Ferry and Scott Walker.

Another strong influence that doesn’t seem as immediately obvious is Julian Cope from The Teardrop Explodes; not only the vocal inflections and tongue-in-cheek humour, but also the quirky, unpredictable lyrical content. Cope was also a bass player, and Wyld’s driving melodic patterns that propel the music along here recall the snaking, restless basslines of The Teardrop Explodes’ classic debut Kilimanjaro.

Lyrically, as the title implies, it is designed to put a smile on your face, with one-line gems such as: “However much fun a bear is having, that’s the exact right amount to have….”. Special mention should go to the musical synergy the group conjure up together; Joanna Wyld’s distinctive vintage synths give the music a distinctive flavour, while Andrea Adriano’s drumming is both rock solid and restlessly inventive.

Overall, Fake Teak are the torchbearers of an alternative, left field musical tradition that enriches the cultural landscape and deserves to be kept aflame. Hugely entertaining whilst bringing together a wealth of influences in a masterly way, Bears Always Party the Exact Right Amount is the musical equivalent of someone putting LSD in the punch. It is the perfect taster for their forthcoming album and I for one will be listening.

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Spiritual by 4 Wheel City

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4 Wheel City are a hip-hop duo with a remarkable backstory. The two members are Namel “Tapwaterz” Norris and Ricardo “Rickfire” Velasquez, and they met in unique circumstances. As teenagers growing up in the Bronx, they were both injured by gun incidents and left wheelchair bound, one caught in the crossfire of a shootout, the other an accidental shooting.

They were brought together and found they shared musical interests as well as a desire to inspire others with disabilities, which led to the formation of the 4 Wheel City movement. They have already collaborated with Snoop Dog on Welcome 2 Reality G-mix, made the national news and pioneered a new brand of rehabilitation called “rap therapy”.

This mixtape, Spiritual, consists of sixteen tracks that combines hard hitting hip-hop with a positive, inspirational message. The soul/gospel influenced intro Angel (feat. Takiyah) sets the mood perfectly, immediately showing the emotional depth of their music. The following Saved By God then captures their unique lyrical approach and verbal dexterity: “Deeper than Jesus Christ resurrecting on Easter or a song with Louis Farrakhan on the feature…”.

Third track Bump That (Blunt Facts) is an even better showcase for both their emcee skills, taking turns delivering blistering rhymes with effortless flow. It also highlights their original style, with the spiritual message underlying their words a constant through the album. Musically, it’s just as slick; a simple but effective piano chord progression and speaker-rumbling rubberband bass set to a slinky beat.

Long Time Coming is another strong track, based around a lilting Lose Yourself-esque piano riff and featuring an anthemic chorus hook, which would make it a suitable single. Leaders Of The New World is one of the powerful tracks lyrically, setting out their anti-violence and anti-guns message, aided by moving sung vocals with lines like, “You die for your brothers, you don’t kill your brothers….”.

Sixth track Time To Wake Up is one of the more cutting edge productions, with some hip vocal effects on the title hook. Lyrically, its about racial unity: “White people, black people, time to wake up, we were all created equal from the same stuff….”. God Gives Blessings is the first of several longer tracks, with this one an expression of their deep-seated religious faith.

Noah is the epic of the album at six minutes long, starting with a spoken word intro, quoting from Genesis in the Bible. With a languid vibe and beat, the biblical allegory continues with a comparison to Noah, which I took to mean how they are starting a new spiritual era (“build this ark…”.) Ninth track My Day Ones is a nice contrast, based around a funky, low bassline and a playful tone that brought to mind the similarly spiritual De La Soul.

Music is another of the more modern sounding tracks, with an inventive arrangement and superb production. Full of restless, jittery and highly addictive rhythms with  syncopated bass, it features a memorable hook and a charismatic lead vocal from guest singer Tabitha Haly. Rickfire performs the rapping on this one, as well as the following track (he also performs the lead vocals on Saved by God, Leaders of the New World, My Day Ones, God Gives Blessings and Noah) .

I’m Only Human is actually very original, combining a gospel choir-style vocal hook with a breathless, rapid-fire rapping performance over an aggressive beat to create one of the most incendiary moments of the album. Twelth track Disabled Lives Matter is perhaps the most heartfelt message here, as the title implies. It’s another exhilarating, passionate performance about a subject close to their hearts.

Burning of The Tiki Torches is a real highlight, set against a musical backdrop of orchestral instruments and Beethoven-esque piano samples. Lyrically, it’s a rant against white nationalists who have used Tiki torches to light up their marches, bolstered by a powerful title hook. It shows how 4 Wheel City use their art to confront the deepest, most significant issues such as racism.

What Do You Believe continues the depth, a reflection on the big existential questions of life like believing in God. The Foundation starts with another Bible quotation, which underlines the importance of their faith once more, the cornerstone of their spiritual inspiration.

Final track Sometimes I Feel is a great way to finish the album. Over a toy piano sample and a crisp, funky hip-hop groove, they expound upon the various conflicts of belief and scientific theory with some real wisdom in the catchy chorus: “Sometimes I feel like I’m on something, I get these thoughts and my heart starts pumpin’, as a young boy I was told something, a man that knows anything knows he knows nothing….”.

Overall, this is a classic modern hip hop album from a very gifted duo whose struggles and experiences have forged their characters. With the lyrical potency of Public Enemy and the spiritual depth of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, 4 Wheel City deserve to be among the pantheon of great hip-hop artists. This album should help them reach a deservedly much bigger audience.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10  

Alex Faulkner