Mon'Quez "Q" Pippins is an artist who has performed worldwide for companies such as Disney, Universal, Carnival Cruises, Hardrock Casino, and most recently he was a part of the cast of The Color Purple National Tour. He also recently released a five-song EP entitled Fine By Me.
This EP is a mix of soul, blues and a little bit of funk and rock. The first thing that stood out to me were just the exceptional vocals. Mon’Quez' voice is as smooth as velvet when it needs to be but also feels energizing and fresh. That being said there are also some other fantastic background vocals.
The EP starts with a slower and mellow number called “Backstabber.” I thought the mood here was reminiscent of B.B. King. Even more, generally it has that midnight blues type of feel. It’s for the evening and goes down very smoothly.
“Fine By Me” really amps up the energy but not too much so that it felt jarring. The song and style is still smooth but there are some ’70s funk elements which make you want to hit the dance floor. Mon'Quez adapts his vocal style to the energy the song brings. He sounds great. This is also a song where we have some additional vocalists which by the end really rev up the intensity. There is also a legit guitar solo in the middle.
The album reverts to a smooth blues flavor on “Gossip Folk.” The organ, guitar and drums create a canvas for a dynamic vocal performance. There were some moments in this song that blended elements of gospel and soul.
I could feel the energy immediately rise again with “Letter From The 810.” This song brings about a sense of revival and rejoice. It’s powerful and also empowering. The horns were an integral part of the song which made the dynamics explode. Last up is “Too Sexy, You Lied” and took me a little by surprise at first. It sounded a bit like The White Stripes but quickly started to fuse elements of funk and soul.
This album to me felt very traditional in a lot of ways and I liked that. There is definitely a tip of the hat to a lot of artists from the ’70s and Mon'Quez pulls it off. I never felt like Mon'Quez was trying to make a 2.0 version of these genres but instead gave it his own unique signature stamp. This is an impressive way to start and I hope this is just the beginning for him.
Triúr is a hard rock power trio from Jersey City, New Jersey composed of George Stritter (guitar), James Dower (bass/vocals) and Patrick Conlon (drums). The band released Now's The Time which is a four-song EP.
I’m old enough to remember what popular music sounded like in the late ’80s and early ’90s and I promise you that a lot of what was happening in rock at that time sounded like the songs on Now's The Time. These songs sounded like an amalgamation of bands from the era including Guns N' Roses, Van Halen, Journey and plenty of others. The songs feel like carefully curated pieces of nostalgia to those of a certain age.
The band gets rocking with “Zarathustra” which starts with an explosive and anthemic riff. There is a touch of prog but for the most part it felt like a hard rock band. The vocalist even has the affectation that was used by David Lee Roth like when he says “oohhh come on.” The song moves forward and feels nostalgic to me. Even the end of the song ends in such a specific way that it was reminiscent of a certain sliver of time.
Up next is “Razors Edge” and there were two specific bands that came to mind while listening to this song. It’s dynamic rock and seems to achieve what they want. The band, while still embracing the vibe they initially presented, seems to mix that with a Black Sabbath ’70s aesthetic. Last up is “Swamp Thing Riders” and again it is similar in style but well executed.
I’ve been involved with music long enough where I’ve picked up a couple things. One of those things is that the music you love when you’re a teenager and your early 20’s is the music you play later in life if you happen to be a musician. I could be wrong here but my guess is that the aforementioned bands and genres are what this band grew up on. It really feels to me like this music is in their DNA. It’s embedded in there deep. Suffice it to say this music will appeal to that demographic. If you’re a person of a certain age and enjoyed popular rock this might bring back some memories. Enjoy.
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Jeremy Boone is an artist hailing from San Antonio, TX. He grew up making music but his life took a detour when he joined the military. After years of hiatus he started to focus on music again. From my own experience working with music for over twenty-five years it’s not as easy as remembering to ride a bike so I give him kudos for even attempting to do so.
His release Hearts on Fire is a straightforward album to my ears that blends rock and pop. There is a hint of new wave and he does mention The Cure as an influence but this really didn’t seem like it was similar. The music has a lot of big choruses, distorted guitars, some atmospheric synths and more which felt a lot more pop oriented.
The album starts with “Inside Your Eyes” and it should give you a good taste of what to expect. Boone embraces a familiar structure of a softer verse and loud chorus that perhaps Nirvana is most recognizable for inventing. It grabs your attention and thought he nailed it.
There is a hint of country on “Midnight Blue” at least on the verse. The song more or less follows the same structure as the previous track with a much more intense, explosive chorus and an atmospheric verse.
“Watch Me Run” might be a highlight. I thought the vocals were memorable on this song and there was more of a new wave type of vibe. You can actually say the same thing about “Avalanche.” As the album progressed I thought there were a couple more highlights such as “The Underground” and the more emotionally resonant “Waiting For.”
Boone is a talented musician. That being said I think there is more he can explore as he gets back into the groove. These songs revolved around 4/4 time, major and minor scales and a narrow range in the dynamics which go from soft to loud almost instantly in most cases. Additionally, I think a little more experimentation here and there would benefit his sound in that it might feel more singular.
Overall, I thought this was a solid album from beginning to end. He’s a good singer, instrumentalist and I appreciated the aesthetics he brought to the table. I would say he creates music that has mass appeal.
Hopefully, this is just the beginning and I hope to hear more as he evolves and refines his craft. Recommended.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Pierceton Hobbs Fawn 3.8
Gray RAW 4.0
Mi Luz Mi Luz 3.8
Reveal Party You Stole A Year
Of My Life 3.7
The Lotts We Are The Lotts 3.9
My Manic Mind is an indie rock band from Watertown, NY founded by singer/songwriter and pianist Quory Soluri. They recently released their second EP entitled Jumping Ship. The band has shared the stage with several national headliners including Eve 6, Rusted Root, Red Sun Rising, Dirty Honey, Kurt Travis and Jocelyn and Chris Arndt.
The first thing that stuck out to me was how young Soluri sounded. I’m not sure how old he is but because he sounded young it gave the album a certain type of quality. I was reminded of pop punk in general because singers in that genre typically have higher pitched, often nasally voices. The actual music on Jumping Ship is a little more varied and although pop punk is certainly in the mix here it’s not the only genre.
These qualities are perhaps most noticeable on “Dead Weight” which starts with strummed acoustic guitar and vocals. Soluri is also a dynamic singer as you can hear on this track. As the song progresses it gets more intense and more instrumentation is added.
“Watch Me Swim” revolves around a more robust step of instrumentation. The bass and piano actually take the lead here which I enjoyed. I was reminded of the band Rusted Root on “You Got This” and I thought the energy on this song was fun and festive.
“Who You Can Trust” features a more subdued vocal performance as well as harmonies. I liked this approach and it sounds quite good when he’s pushing his voice. “What It Takes” is perhaps the most pop punk sounding song while “Walk The Plank” is a very dramatic piano led song. “Embrace Existence (b-side)” and “Telescope (b-side)” felt similar in feel to the previous songs to me.
The other thing about this album was the pop-punk and emo style of lyrics. Soluri really puts himself at the center of these songs and almost always uses “I” instead of “you,” “we” or other perspectives. It’s a mix of sadness, frustrations and hope seen through his eyes and sometimes it felt hard to empathize because the focus doesn't go past that.
Overall, this is a solid album with well-written songs and good performances. I think it will appeal to a large demographic because of the cross pollination of genres. Take a listen.
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Tristan Clark (guitars/vocals), Adam Jackson (drums/percussion/vocals) and Gregory Jones (bass/percussion/vocals) are The Tristones. The band recently released Camaro which is an eclectic album combining elements of funk, jazz and rock.
They get going with “Love Avenue” which starts with warm acoustic guitar and keys. The song is slightly melancholy but also about escapism and romantic love. As the song progresses it gets more exuberant with a soaring chorus. There was a classic ’70s sound to my ears.
Up next is “First World Problems” which has this sort off-kilter funky flavor. It’s again ’70s flavorin terms of the tone and color. There is a juxtaposition between the lyrics and the mood however. He sings about not getting enough likes on pictures posted, not getting tagged and again very first world type problems.
The ’70s funk comes in smooth on the title track “Camaro.” I loved the flavor on this song and the chorus is fantastic. They unleash some blues on “Break Her Down” along with Pink Floyd type vibes. They have a rock oriented approach on the “Premutation” which has a good amount of attitude. “Trump'' is pretty self explanatory. This song is atmospheric and glistens which I wasn’t expecting.
There is some more attitude which added insight on “Everybody's Got Their Two Cents” while “Sick Man” felt somewhere between ’70s and ’80s aesthetics. They close with “Tamarindo '' which had a more of a country and even bluegrass vibe. I liked this song quite a bit but it did sound a little out of place.
The band does bounce about a bit when it comes to genre but there is no denying the exceptional songwriting and delivery. Recommended.
Noswal is a one-man instrumental progressive post-metal/post-rock project from Portland, OR that comes from the mind of Nick Lawson. Lawson recently released Pangaea which is a thirteen-song album. It’s very much in a hybrid of post-rock and post-metal.
I have to admit this is a genre that I think is very hard to pull off as a one-man band. Some of my favorite acts like Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Deafheaven and many others sound like they are playing live in a room together. Lawson captures a lot of what I love about the genre on this album.
“Trilobite” is the opener and a good indication of what to expect . The song starts off in post-rock territory and finds its way to metal with distorted major and major chords, and impressive lead guitar.
“Resolve” is a different aspect of sound but certainly fits within the post-rock domain. It’s ambient, serene and atmospheric. It creates that pensive feeling and quite seamlessly transitions into “Sacred Waters” where he explores more metal tendencies.
As the album progresses it mainly keeps with these genres but there are also elements of prog and math rock. Take for instance the album highlight “Zawn” which has some complex and interesting melodies.
Noswal is just getting started. There is a lot of material and sonic territory to explore. The album ends on a high note with two other highlights called “Shores of Pangaea” and “Elixir of Life.”
This is a solid album from beginning to end that forms a foundation for his sound. It was consistent and cohesive and felt like I had a good impression of his sound after spinning his album. I think fans of the aforementioned genres will enjoy what he has created.
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Bradtholomew, comprised of Brandon and Dom, is a two-piece rock duo from the Metro East of the St. Louis area that recently released Gin Sun Rising. They make straightforward rock with a good amount of attitude, but not always.
The music consists of guitars, drums and vocals. They start with “When I Hear My Voice” which is an arguable highlight in the batch. The vocalist has a sort of aggressive snarl and it adds to the overall mix of emotion.
I thought the band also sounded solid when listening to “Fish” which embraces a clean sound and the vocalist here sounds different. He doesn't push his voice on this song and I enjoyed the tonal quality on this song.
As the album progressed there were some other moments which stuck out such as the bluesy and tormented “Nobody There” as well as “Daydreams.” Gin Sun Rising has a good amount of heart. The performances aren’t always perfectly in time and the vocalist doesn't always stay in pitch but that could be some of the allure.
As an engineer myself I have to admit these recordings were so lo-fi at times it was hard for me to get past it. There were a lot of things that could have been done in the process that didn’t make it feel like such a home recording but again some might consider that part of its charm.
Gin Sun Rising has some solid moments and a good amount of spirit. Bradtholomew relies on a lot of styles like blues and rock and borrow from that playbook in terms of the moves. Take a listen.
Les Fradkin is a veteran musician who recently released a single called “System Crash.” On his Soundcloud page he mentions, "The songs were written in 2003. And WE are living thru it NOW!!...Together.”
The song reminded me of something you would hear in a play or musical. It’s very theatrical in a lot of ways from the vocal delivery to the instrumentation. The whole time I was listening to the song I felt like I was listening from a seat in a theatre.
The song starts off with an airy wooden flute. It’s atmospheric and serene but once the keys come there is a lot more grounded energy. The vocals are slightly in the vein of David Bowie but perhaps with even more affectation. There are certain vocals that are punctuated with harmonies and this is where the song really starts to sound like a production. There are cinematic drums and by the time you are halfway through the song explodes almost as if it has nowhere to go down after the lead guitar.
I think my favorite part was the chorale style vocals that come in around the three-minute mark. The song actually felt like it was going to end after the chorale style vocals but there is more of a roller coaster ride ahead. There is another longer guitar solo which leads to another round of the chorus but it feels even more epic and lively this time around.
Everything in this song felt huge. As I mentioned the theatrical elements really take over the vibe so much it was hard for me not to think I was missing some kind of visual accompaniment.
I think it’s fairly obvious who this will appeal to people who enjoys musicals and plays. There is a lot more material so if you enjoy this you will most likely appreciate the album.
Suffused with vulnerable vocals that narrate the tender lyricisms that provide an introspective journey through the consciousness, Vina After Dark laces loopy guitar work with driven drums and funky bass lines to create a haunting space in which listeners can proactively work, dream and play in on Us Vs.
Vina After Dark initially started out in 2018 as a solo project led entirely by singer/songwriter Vina Nguyen. Right from the get-go, audiences recognized in her an artist with an unresolving style that paired minimal guitar playing with sweet, honeyed vocals that really take you there. By 2019, the band acquired a more full-bodied sound with Dav James’ deft musicianship on the guitar and bass and Deifante Walters’ pulsating rhythms on the drums.
Their current EP is a departure from their previous EP From the Basement and it dives into a solo set of live and raw single takes recorded in the basement by their sole singer/songwriter Nguyen. Us Vs EP is an after-hours adventure through nostalgic angst, sleep, war and ennui.
With a sound that traces influences from Portishead, Lianne La Havas, Kan Wakan and Chet Faker, the sound on the EP is lush and fabricated with swaths of dream-like electronic-inspired layers loosened over dark guitar riffs and rippling bass lines. What comes across is in parts celestial and otherworldly, while the other part pins us to the earth with poignant lyricisms that ground us.
Us Vs EP eases us into angelic vocals flowing through the recording as eerie guitar work filled with funk and groovy rhythms get actualized on “Not Enough.” Nguyen’s vocals are at once smoky and broody. It will awaken emotions deep within audiences. Next is “Stardust,” where the band brings it with silky, smooth vocals. The track surrenders to sparse guitars with a hip hop-inspired beat. The sounds are very chill.
The band’s cool sound also surfaces on “City Sleepwalker (Remastered).” On “Belief,” bongos add a driven island element to this song. I felt greatly comforted by Nguyen's smooth style. On “After The War,” Nguyen’s vocals, edged with reverb, dances over this track which is entirely supported by the stark instrumentation of just the lone guitar. The album closes with this stripped-down number.
With music that is at its core contemporary pop, Vina After Dark also mixes in a smattering of hip hop, trip hop, soul, R&B and even folk. In addition, they have a funk-based sound in the blend that I could detect as well. This recording has left me curious of Vina After Dark’s previous work. I think there is a lot to discover here.. Us Vs is an introspection on Us Vs Love, Us Vs Ourselves, Us Vs Loneliness, Us Vs Belief and Us Vs War that aptly encapsulates the world we are living in today. Be sure you have a listen today!
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