SINGLE REVIEW: Two Hands by DreamState

josh hilton (2)

 

https://www.facebook.com/itsdreamstate1/

DreamState are a music group based in Maryland, consisting of Josh Hilson, Tyler Gagnon and Kyle Santos. The three members have diverse musical backgrounds ranging from country to hip hop and R&B, and they have fused these elements to create their unique sound that lies between R&B, pop and electronica. The genesis of this musical project led to the formation of their own music studio, DreamLabs and the group have now released their debut EP, Take Care.

This track, Two Hands, is taken from the Take Care EP and is essentially anthemic R&B/pop with cutting edge production. Starting with a brief intro, the track launches into a simple but effective 2/4 groove before we hear strong male lead vocals in a low register over sparse but evocative layers of synth. After a well crafted verse it launches into an instantly memorable chorus with touching lyrics: “Let me put two hands on you, baby and I will be careful with you….no, you’ve got nothing left to prove so I’ll show you what to do….”.

As the track progresses, you start to hear elements from other genres incorporated into the music such as the subtle lead electric guitar lines that are interspersed through the song. This lends another colour to the sonic palette and enriches the overall sound. Lyrically, its a sincere expression of wanting to love and care for someone, with a depth and subtlety expressed that transcends cliché and sentimentality.

Overall, this is an excellent release that showcases the DreamState signature style which should find huge popularity with fans of artists like Drake and The Weeknd. They show a real skill for well crafted songwriting and memorable hooks, made manifest with first rate lead vocals and slick, commercial production that manages to sound different from the rest of the R&B/pop scene. With this, DreamState have already proven that they have huge commercial potential and Two Hands could well be their breakthrough track.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Chutney Chasers by aVIE

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aVIE is an RnB/electronica artist hailing from Houston. He had an itinerant childhood, which is partly the reason for the eclectic range of styles and genres that have influenced his music. He describes his music as Psychedelic/Punk RnB, which is accurate but he also incorporates dubstep, DnB and trap into his musical vision. He regards his influences as The Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Radiohead, amongst others.

This EP, Chutney Chasers, is his debut release and he describes the EP as a “story of a young colored man’s struggle with exotification, identity, addiction, anxiety and role”. It starts with the title track, a languid yet intense concoction of falsetto lead vocals with aVIE’s smooth-as-honey rapping style. Not many artists can claim such versatility as both singer and emcee, and aVIE’s gifts are the equal of similar artists like Frank Ocean. A fine start to the EP.

Tapwater shows another side to his oeuvre, starting out as fairly conventional RnB before developing into a fantastic hybrid of dubstep and DnB, with aVIE delivering his skills as a rapper once more for good measure. This is cutting edge 21st century pop, a futuristic meld of modern styles which aVIE pulls off effortlessly. The Self is another contrast, a hymnal, reflective track with some almost angelic lead vocals counter pointed with distorted spoken word sections.

New Feathers is another excellent track which again shows the influence of Frank Ocean. It’s exquisitely produced RnB with avant garde touches that lift it out of conventionality. Lyrically, it’s an inspiring song about personal transformation: “I’m cleaning the system, creating religion….”. A potential single.

Midnight Oil further consolidates his essential signature sound, an intoxicating melee of skittish rhythms and inventive production touches that somehow remains cohesive. The final Take Care is a beautifully melancholy acoustic ballad, beginning with strummed acoustic guitar and aVIE’s tender lead vocals, containing some troubled lyrics: “I’m drowning in alcohol…”. It builds gradually into a dark epic, reaching a cathartic climax at the end. A beautifully crafted and performed finale to the EP.

Overall, this is an absolute slam dunk of an EP by an artist who is fresh on the scene but whose artistic identity and style is fully formed. With soul searching, intelligent lyrics set to music of eclectic style, emotional depth and restless invention, aVIE has a lot to offer the music world and I expect Chutney Chasers to make a strong impact. I also predict that aVIE is going to be the next big thing in RnB, he’s simply destined for the world stage.

 

VERDICT: 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Origin of Times by Danjul

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Danjul is a singer songwriter and performer based in Los Angeles. He has been developing his music since 2008, when he started searching for producers to collaborate with. In 2010 he started working with Matthew A. Nelson, who intuitively understood him as an artist. He cites his influences as Michael Jackson, Brandy and Justin Timberlake, and I can also detect the influence of Prince in his work. However, Danjul has created his own unique style/sound during the three years he’s taken writing and producing his debut album Origin of Times. It’s a musically ambitious piece of work that consists of eight diverse tracks.

It begins with an atmospheric, minute-long spoken word instrumental that sets the tone for the whole album. Over echo-drenched piano and choral synths, Danjul lays his heart bare immediately, stating, “My life began surrounded by darkness, yet I’m still determined to find my light…..therefore, I share with you my greatest sacrifices……”. It’s a gripping and powerful way to begin an album.

City of Chaos, the second track, is a remarkable piece of songwriting and production. A fusion of electronica, rock, dance and RnB, it’s the musical equivalent of a rollercoaster ride. It’s the first taste of Danjul’s versatile vocals, leaping from a verse delivered in a low range to the heights of his falsetto. Yet it all seems effortless. The track is packed with hooks, the catchiest being the “Hell yeah!” refrain, augmented by gritty low electric guitars. It’s the most futuristic sounding song I’ve heard for a while.

Third song Chapter of Love has already been released as a single/lead track and understandably so. It’s an emotive RnB ballad that showcases Danjul’s extraordinary vocal talents. The music has a stately grandeur and classiness that brought to mind both Prince and Michael Jackson in their pomp, especially the rich falsetto harmonies. With its instantly memorable chorus, it was an obvious choice for a single and could be the song that breaks him into the big league.

Fourth track The Path is unique as a sonic experience as well, another fusion of dance and RnB with an almost cinematic vibe from the superb production. It’s a heady cocktail of synth strings, dreamy lead guitar and inventive percussion. There’s a slight Latin feel to the intoxicating and exotic rhythms that brought to mind the infectious tribal pop of Shakira. The central hook is simple but hugely effective, a spiritual call-to-arms: “Come on, follow me….walk the path…“.

Story of She is another slice of perfectly executed pop, from the inventive and nuanced arrangement to the vocal performance which is restrained yet emotive. It is one of the more mainstream moments on the album, which provides some stable ground for the more experimental and daring songs that surround it. Both The Path and Story of She are potential singles and perfect for radio.

Magic Carpet is another fantastic track with an exotic sounding intro. It launches into a hypnotic 2/4 beat and sounds like The Weeknd in a really blissed out mood. The title hook has a mesmeric quality that increases with every listen.

Tower is perhaps the deepest song on the album, seemingly about the struggles and difficulties of completing this artistic project. Starting with a minute of strings and swirling synths, Danjul confesses, “It took me years to build this, my blood and tears carved it…”. It builds gradually to a cathartic and hugely uplifting sonic tour de force.

Final track Madhatter’s View is a fine way to finish; another Prince-influenced piece of RnB that sounds like its been sent back to 2018 from twenty years into the future! The electronic grittiness brought to mind the cutting-edge production style of Taylor Swift’s recent Reputation album. Aptly, it finishes in a flourish of strings and harps to complete the journey.

Overall, this is a dazzling debut album from a unique artist. His vocal talents alone would guarantee a certain level of success as a singer, but his original and versatile music should help to catapult him into similar realms of success that his musical heroes achieved. Credit should also go to his visionary producer and collaborator Matthew A. Nelson, who’s produced this with his finger on the pulse. It’s a strange quirk of nature that some people simply seem born to be stars, and, on this evidence, Danjul could well be the next big thing in the world of pop.

 

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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