ALBUM REVIEW: Summer In Jersey by Various NJ Artists

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Summer In Jersey is a compilation album consisting of artists based in the New Jersey region. It was curated by The Garden State Hip Hop Hour’s Richard Scott and consists of twenty three tracks. It features an array of NJ hip hop artists including exclusive tracks by Chad B, Trophy Hitta Sadge, Grooveboyput And Doms. It also includes a three part skit by The Infinite Nudist.

The compilation begins with the first part of this skit and sets the playful tone and upbeat vibe for the rest of the album. Chad B’s exclusive Valentino then gets the music rolling, a laid back hip hop/RnB track with a fine vocal from Chad. The following Bad Girls Only by Melo V is based around a descending synth riff and lyrically captures the hedonistic, sensual feel that much of the compilation has: “You gonna have fun tonight, you gonna get drunk tonight...”. A great track.

Another exclusive, No Way by Trophy Hitta Sadge is even more hedonistic in its content and a little X-rated in places. It’s a super catchy RnB track with a swinging rhythm and an infectious memorable chorus hook. The vocals are slick and smooth as honey on this one, and a radio friendly version would make a great single.

Invited by Bumppro is a little different, starting with a crisp 70’s style disco beat before breaking down to a pulsing four to the floor beat on the verses. The vocals are strong and distinctive, with a title hook that you soon find yourself humming. A fine pop/EDM track about gatecrashing a party with plenty of commercial potential.

Sixth track Act Up by Rich Smiles takes things back to a languid tempo, this one a chilled dancehall track about chasing after the ladies. The title hook is incredibly simple and effective with an addictive quality and you can imagine this going down a storm in the clubs.

This style continues with Intentions by Ganja Killz ft. Favo X Melo which features bilingual lyrics, alternating between Spanish and English which gives it an exotic, multinational vibe. The track is produced to perfection and epitomises the summery vibes of the whole compilation. Answer by Zara proceeds at a similar tempo and stands out for a superb lead vocal performance with a seductive melody that draws you back for repeated listens.

Mexsicko Bity by Killer Kherk Cobain is a distinct contrast with an upbeat calypso rhythm that is guaranteed to get people on the dance floor. The rapping is assured and entertaining with a gleefully hedonistic content to the lyrics. Things are broken up nicely by The Infinite Nudist’s second amusing skit.

Next comes Jersey Anthem, the second track by Grooveboyput with a coterie of guest artists coming to the party. It’s a potent piece of hip hop about New Jersey with the differing rapping styles giving the track a real vitality and variety. For The Low by Super Drugs ft. Threat Digga is harder hitting with an aggressive beat and delivered with great conviction. The title hook is immediately infectious and the ‘bad boy’ vibe to the lyrics gives the track a real edge.

All Summer by Dollar Sign Malc is more innocent fare, a chilled out RnB track with a lilting, toe-tapping beat and an understated but effective title hook: “We outside all summer, top down when we ride all summer, we getting fly all summer, the sun won’t  be the only thing that shines all summer…”.

Fourteenth track, Najir’s Can I Call You, is a masterclass in dexterous, super fluent rapping set to a gorgeous acoustic guitar motif that recurs through the track, providing a real highlight. There’s some more fine guitar work on Maria by Smooch, about a desirable Spanish girl. The classical style Spanish guitar gives this slinky track a decidedly exotic vibe.

This continues with Te Fallo, a track in partly in Spanish by Lilskrt4k ft. Chris Cruz. It’s another sensual and seductive reggae-tinged dancehall track that is currently all the rage. We Jus by Bulletproof Belv is another high quality RnB track with a dirty dub bassline that will sound great in the clubs. Again, it’s lyrically x-rated but that adds to the spice.

Sorry Not Sorry is the third exclusive track from Grooveboyput (ft. Smooth The Rapper) and it maintains the same high standard with an instantly memorable chorus that you soon find yourself humming along to. See This by Dom’s is one of the more understated tracks here with a laid back, almost drowsy feel and a deep dub bassline that grooves the whole thing along.

To The 6IX by A-Money$ features one of the best rapping performances on the compilation with some tongue tripping rhymes delivered with panache and style, the content typically about having a good time with various substances! Can’t Be by Honey is one of the only female sung tracks and it’s a good one; Honey has a fine Rihanna style voice, though the lyrics are rather more graphic than you’ll hear on the radio. Her distinctive and strong voice points to a future with big commercial potential.

Black Pool Party by Clicquot Geno is a super mellow hip hop track with some slick production effects including vocoder vocals and a smart filter sweep towards the end, depicting going underwater. An understated gem. The compilation finishes with the final skit by The Infinite Nudist, completing this highly entertaining compilation in the same lighthearted way it began.

Overall, this is a superb collection of hip hop and dancehall tracks curated by Richard Scott. Featuring several exclusive tracks and a slew of potential hits, this is the most summery and sexy album you’re likely to hear during this year. Highly recommended.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: The Weekend by IAmOaks

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http://www.iamoaks.com

IAmOaks is a hip hop/RnB artist hailing from New York City. His previous releases include the singles Boom, Undaunted, Kickin It and Trap Goals (feat. Kridakal). His music is essentially a laid back form of hip hop with RnB elements, vocally delivered with his own unique style that lies halfway between rapping and singing.

This track, The Weekend, is a chilled hip hop track featuring the vocals of Tamara Nekola. It starts out with a brief spoken word intro before a languid but infectious hip hop beat kicks in. IAmOaks delivers the verse in an assured and relaxed style, with a natural talent for eloquent and free flowing rhymes.

His strong self belief shines through in the lyrics: “Confident…took my ego and polished it”. However he cleverly undercuts this with the instantly memorable sung chorus: “These times that I feel so good, only on the weekend, only for the weekend….”.

It’s a sentiment that most people will be able to relate to and will connect with quickly. The second verse maintains the high lyrical quality of the first, with some entertaining lines: “I’m like a diamond in the rough or you can call me Nemo…”. Besides the slinky beat, the track is nicely grooves along by the subtle but effective bassline and given a nice sonic shimmer by the synths in the background.

Overall, this is a fine hip hop/RnB track by a charismatic artist with his own natural style. The Weekend has that killer combination of a great hook with a relatable message and the summery vibe to the sound means it’s the perfect time of year to release it. I expect this track to exponentially expand the fan base for IAmOaks and bring him to a deservedly wider audience.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Badd Blood by Sepsiss

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Sepsiss are a six-piece metal band hailing from Manchester, New Hampshire in the United States. They were initially founded in 2011 by lead vocalist Melissa Wolfe and guitarist/vocalist William Savant. Together, they formed the blueprint for the band’s sound; hard-hitting metal inspired by the great hard rock and metal bands of the past with powerful female lead vocals. They have been compared to Evanescence but their music is both heavier and more versatile in its musical range.  You can also hear the influences of bands like Sepultura, Avenged Sevenfold, Killswitch Engage and Bullet For My Valentine, to name but a few.

This EP, Badd Blood, was mixed by well known producer Glen Robinson (Annihilator, GWAR, Queensryche). The track Fair To Say is a good introduction to the band’s unique sound. Starting out with eerie synths, it bursts into life with interweaving guitar riffs and crunching low-end chords, setting the scene for Melissa Wolfe’s powerful, high register lead vocals.

Amy Lee is an obvious comparison to make, but as mentioned, Sepsiss are a more visceral band than Evanescence. She delivers a memorable vocal melody over a meaty Killswitch Engage-style guitar riff and the lyrics mirror the tumultuous music perfectly: “Your fears will make me stronger, I’m just as fucked as you, so cry away..…”. The constantly shifting rhythms and syncopations give thee track a fierce momentum that it maintains till the end.

To Write Hate On His Arms again starts with synths then breaks into a full pelt Avenged Sevenfold-esque rapid beat in conjunction with pulsing Bullet For My Valentine-type riffage. Vocally, they really capture the yin/yang dual vocals of Melissa and William, a stellar lead performance from her counterpointed by William’s guttural, bloodcurdling screams that are a common feature in metal music. He also contributes some more regular vocals, sounding a little like Faith No More’s Mike Patton in places. It contains another cathartic and anthemic chorus, with Melissa giving a towering lead vocal near the top of her impressive range.

The Swarm begins with an unexpectedly exotic sounding guitar riff and sets the tone for a track that expresses a more sensual and sexual side to the band (Melissa is also an adult entertainer). On the verse Melissa and William sing in tandem to great effect over tribal tom tom patterns (the drumming from Chris Saw is excellent throughout) and the music builds to an epic chorus with apocalyptic lyrics. It’s one of their shorter tracks at two and a half minutes, but packs a real punch.

Eyes of Empathy is twice that length and is a song with an extraordinary back story. It’s about a murder that took place in New Hampshire and in researching the subject, William Savant interviewed the protagonists then wrote the song from the victim’s point of view. Knowing this certainly adds real intensity to what is a blistering metal track and it begins with growling guitars augmented by haunting synths.

The music switches seamlessly between half and full time, with Melissa’s infectious vocal melody intertwining with the surging riffs to synergistic effect, William contributing some unsettling screams that add further dark drama to the sound. This is the track where the band truly shine with whirlwind round-the-kit fills and machine gun double kick combining with incredibly mellifluous lead guitar work that seems to encompass every note on the fretboard.

Overall, these four tracks provide a perfect taster for the Badd Blood EP, proving Sepsiss to be a force to be reckoned with. They have synthesized a myriad of influences into a potent and coherent musical vision, fronted by Melissa Wolfe’s charismatic,  skyscraping lead vocals. They will undoubtedly become hugely popular with metal fans and could go on to become the biggest female fronted metal band since Evanescence.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Imperfect Art(ist) by Showtime Shegz

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Showtime Shegz is a hip hop/rap artist originally from Lagos, Nigeria but who grew up in South East London. He has released two albums prior to this, Caution! Before the Show there was Rage! in 2012 and last year’s seven track album Apologies For The Delay. He is a product of London’s strong urban scene though incorporates some elements of world music into his art, which helps to give him a unique sound.

This album, Imperfect Art(ist), is somewhat of an epic and consists of nineteen tracks, written and produced by him (he also did the album artwork). It begins powerfully with Important Poem, a spoken word monologue that addresses the issues the youth face today growing up in the rough areas of London, which is becoming increasingly violent and blighted by crime.

Shegz immediately grabs you with an arresting, distinctive rapping style, delivering an inspiring poem that acknowledges the difficulty of the situation with realism but points towards a better way: “You have been fooled to think you’re wasting your time in school, you’ve been conned to think it’s cool to be a con….but the truth is there is no limit, not even the sky…..your journey might be tougher but that will make you stronger”. It’s a strong opening statement to the album and a vital message for today’s troubled youth.

Second track Furi! is more representative of Shegz’s signature style. Over a bed of sparse, pulsing percussion Shegz delivers a masterclass in rapping, packed with entertaining rhymes that contain no lack of pugilistic braggadocio and his own brand of unique humour: “I have a way with the words, young Mike Tyson…I have a way with the birds, I always stay strapped when I stick my stick in…”. This catchy track has been released as a single and understandably so.

Everything Good is also single material, another infectious track with some killer lines (“I’ve been fly since Marty McFly”) and perhaps the most instant chorus hook on the album. “Everything good, I look good, I feel good, I smell good, I taste good, everything good…”. The production is first rate, with intricate percussive touches over a slinky, toe-tapping hip hop beat.

Wham Wham is much more sparse with a clever, slow building arrangement while Matrix is an unexpected detour, a haunting ‘a capella’ track with a spiritual feel and quite powerful despite its brevity.

This is contrasted by the following KO which shows the more aggressive side to his artistic persona. Built on a blistering beat, Shegz gives an incendiary performance laying down rhymes thick and fast with customary flair (“When I explode, the Richter scale can’t measure”...). The addictive title hook grabs you on first listen and won’t let go: “Knock him out the ring, knock him out the box...”.

Ketchup is a little light relief, one of his more laid back playful tracks featuring some amusing lines (“I’ve got more sauce than the condiment aisle”). The title hook is again naggingly catchy and this could be a further future single. Stone is another minute long track that captures his Nigerian roots and leaves a strong impression with the line, “Home is where the heart is but I have no home….”.

Collect The Bag stands out due to the superb rhythmic complexity of the beat and how Shegz weaves an intricate rap over the top, perfectly in sync. Inventive and highly skilful. Night School is relatively much simpler with a reggae feel to the vocal melody and lyrically it is an entertaining, none too subtle metaphor for Shegz’s love of bedroom antics.

Catfish is another showcase for his rhythmic genius, angular syncopated rhythms creating a potent musical tension. Lyrically, it feels very current, with Shegz depicting the perils of online dating with characteristic humour, especially the spoken word monologue in the middle. A Drowning Man’s Warning (Ripples) couldn’t be more different, another a capella track with only sounds of lapping waves behind his haunting vocal performance. These constant contrasts are a real strength of the album.

I Luvem is a hilarious ode to Shegz’s love of the ladies, featuring some gloriously politically incorrect lines that might have him in trouble with radical feminists. 419 is a reggae-tinged track full of exotic rhythms and sounds and with a noticeably more romantic vibe than the previous track: “If I have you baby, I’m the richest….”.

Emotion Ocean is another soul searching song where Shegz wears his heart on his sleeve: “I’m drowning in the emotion ocean, I’m struggling not coping….”. The following God Flexn is devoted one particularly fine lady and the sung chorus hook soon latches in the memory: “God must have been flexin’ when he made you…”.

Pagan is one his arresting, hyper-aggressive tracks that packs a considerable punch into its two minutes. Built around a demonic descending riff, the urgent hook of “Put the pagan on the pavement” is highly effective. By now, the album’s sharp contrasts are expected but it’s still remarkable how he can veer from this to the tenderness and bleakness of Spiralling, again consisting of just his voice which depicts his emotional isolation and depression.

The album finishes with Dear Group Chat, an eight minute track that’s an epic in itself. It charts his life with a poetic poignancy: “Been partying with angels but inside I’ve been going through hell…”. It’s another strength of his artistry that behind the fighting talk, he reveals himself to be a sensitive soul who struggles with life’s problems as most of us do. The final verses express his need to make things better through his art. It’s an apposite way to end an album that feels like an emotional journey being completed.

Overall, this is a superb alternative hip hop album that takes the listener through almost every emotion in the human condition, Shegz portraying his problems with searing honesty and hard earned wisdom. The music is constantly inventive, full of eclectic twists and turns from track to track and his rapping is consistently electrifying. Showtime Shegz has made a major artistic statement with this album and deserves to be recognized for it.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Random Plagues of the 21st Century by No Resemblance

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No Resemblance are an electronica/hybrid pop act hailing from Sweden. They comprise two members, songwriter and producer Jonathan Jarl and vocalist Julia Nygard. They derived their moniker as they feel their music bears no resemblance to the music of this era. This is largely true with several distinctly unique qualities to their sound and style though you can detect various reference points and perhaps possible influences such as Bjork, The xx, Florence & The Machine and even the more experimental and melancholy late material of Sweden’s own ABBA (a compliment!).

This album, Random Plagues of the 21st Century, consists of thirteen tracks. It starts out very artistically with vocalist Julia Nygard delivering an evocative spoken word monologue that depicts the beginning of the universe. The opening lines give a sense of mystery and awe that one feels looking up at stars on a clear night: “A spark ignites, expanded space into atom’s formation, a spark ignites, stars and galaxies emerged”.

From here, Julia’s crystalline, delicate lead vocals enter with subtle piano before building into a synth pop epic with layers of synths and cinematic percussion. The music constantly morphs and evolves (resonating with the subject matter) with unexpected chord changes and all manner of production effects that give it a cutting edge yet uncategorizable sound.

The following Blueprint is one of their more instant and accessible tracks, full of pulsing Giorgio Moroder style synth melodies underpinning a beautiful vocal melody sung to perfection by Nygard. This would make the best introduction to the group’s music, making it a natural choice as a single.

Verge Pandemonium takes on another epic theme, this one dealing with a political issue that is affecting many places and stirring debate all over the world; the issue of immigration. They deal with the subject thoughtfully and sensitivity, captured by powerful lines such as: “ Imagine a world without this despair, of leaving your home and not knowing where, you’ll cross every border to a distant land, lay your life in a stranger’s hand…”.

Herd Mentality is another example of their signature sound with chugging Depeche Mode-esque rhythmic synths and some wild, mind bending production effects. The lyrics deride the lack of individuality and groupthink that has taken over sections of society. The ethereal Release Me From Darkness returns things to the word of the personal. Jonathan Jarl creates a magical, mystical soundscape which melds perfectly with Nygard’s enchanting lead vocals.

Sixth track Looming is a complete contrast; it’s an intense and dark electronics track with an insistent beat and a dark, almost claustrophobic sonic atmosphere that brought to mind Massive Attack. The lyrics mirror the music perfectly with an alarming message: “Fear will tear us apart, divide us and divert, polarize an image of despair.”

Diversion carries on a similar mood and maintains the impressive level of quality while All That I Have Left turns up the epic levels to max with Nygard delivering an angelic vocal performance.

Money Makes The World Go Down is one of their more succinct alternative pop tracks, this one deriding the capitalist system and the world’s obsession with money. Some of the synths sound like electric guitars which gives the sound a harder edge. Another potential single.

Wish is one of their more tranquil tracks with an almost translucent quality to the music while Finally Free? is a Jean Michel Jarre style instrumental for the first half, before heading back to more familiar sonic territory with an 80’s pop vibe emerging from the synth melodies.

Twelfth track Holding On is a powerful track (a cover of a song by Vnv Nation) that lyrically lays the soul bare: “I woke to find the future had no place for me….”. Despite the darkness of the lyrics it’s another one of the album’s highly melodic pop moments that brought to mind Eurythmics in this case.

The album finishes on an even more powerful message, with the subtle epic synth pop of Before We Fall returning to the political fray and ending the album with a ‘call to arms’ to stand up to what’s wrong in society: “The time for revolt starts now, before we fall..”.

Overall, this is a unique and fascinating electronica/pop album that inhabits it’s own sonic universe and seamlessly blends the personal with the political to great effect. Not many artistic projects develop something truly unique and original but No Resemblance have achieved that with emphatic style.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Buzzy Bees Are Everywhere by Deltiimo & The Grandkids

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https://www.facebook.com/DeltiimoMusic/

Deltiimo are a dance/EDM music production and songwriting team led by veteran British songwriter/producer Gary Louca. They formed in 2017 when Gary Louca teamed up with international songwriter and producer Bradon Grobler. Their first song Lazy Summer Days (ft. Lisa) was a success and they followed it with Now Sing Out Loud (ft. Amba Tremain & Devin Jade) which hit no. 1 on several DJ Pool charts. Deltiimo have now produced an album’s worth of material which will feature an eclectic range of EDM styles from Tropical House to Future Bass.

This track, Buzzy Bees Are Everywhere, is an interesting and unusual collaboration as it features the vocal and lyrical contributions of Gary Louca’s granddaughters! It’s an infectious and incredibly catchy pop/EDM song mostly written by Gary Louca, with the music produced by Bradon Grobler (from Holland).

With its tropical sounding, pulsating synths that begin the track it immediately captures a summery vibe, backed by a languid ‘four to the floor’ beat. The verse contains an entertaining spoken word monologue delivered by Louca’s granddaughter but it’s the chorus hook that grabs you on the first listen, with some cute lyrics: “Buzzy bees are everywhere, playing with their friends, floating in the candyfloss field”. This is made even catchier by a refrain of “bama a lang alanga ding dong”.

The effect is gloriously addictive and after a couple of listens you will find yourself humming the melody. It naturally brought to mind the immensely popular children’s song Baby Shark, a song about a family of sharks that went viral and has now racked up billions of views on Youtube.

Overall, this is a charming and deceptively catchy pop/EDM track that has massive commercial potential. With its numerous vocal hooks and easy to learn lyrics, you can imagine it becoming enormously popular with both children and adults alike. The success of the aforementioned Baby Shark has set a precedent for this kind of fun dance track, and this could well turn out to be the biggest success of Deltiimo‘s career.

 

VERDICT = 8.6 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Apollo Asteroids by Mohican Joe

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Mohican Joe is a synthwave/retrowave artist and the artistic moniker of keyboardist/composer and producer Jocke Roberg. He is currently best known for being the organ player in the Swedish hard rock group Astral Doors who have been very successful in their field and released seven albums. The artistic project of Mohican Joe developed due to Jocke’s love of electronic synthesizer music and he has already released two tracks this year previous to this, Deep Space Travelling and Under The Influence Of…

This track, Apollo Asteroids, was inspired by a group of near-Earth asteroids discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth in the 1930’s. It’s a five minute synthwave instrumental track with strong use of spoken word vocal samples. It starts with a wash of spacey-sounding synths and a female voice describing the Apollo asteroids. It then breaks out into a punchy dance beat, driven along by an instantly catchy high-end synth melody and punctuated by the well known retro “orchestral hit” sound.

There is an acknowledged 80’s influence to the music and that is an undoubted part of its appeal. As the track progresses the layers of melody are underpinned by a hypnotic bassline and male vocal samples describing the various asteroids, giving it the vibe of an 80’s action program theme tune.

The concept is fully realised with a superb level of synth programming and mastery of production techniques that belie many years of experience. Around the halfway mark we start to hear some virtuosic keyboard playing that showcases his instrumental skill, though it’s the melodic hooks that keep you gripped until the end.

Overall, this is a quirky and highly enjoyable synthwave track full of infectious melodies by a keyboard wizard with a strong love of 80’s synth music and production. He has honed his style and sound to a fine pitch even though this is only his third release under this moniker. His years of experience are made manifest and there’s a light hearted playfulness to the whole project that adds to the listener’s enjoyment. I expect Apollo Asteroids to be a huge success amongst fans of this genre and should convert plenty more along the way.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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