Dustin Robert Taylor – ‘No Vacancy’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze onto ‘No Vacancy,’ an EP that Dustin Robert Taylor has recently released. The five track endeavor is concept album-esque in its execution, as Taylor pens songs about his move from a small town in Oklahoma to Seattle. Recorded in Chicago, the collection does a wonderful job of eclectically melding Taylor’s inspirations with tact and prowess. Let’s dig right into it.

As a professional independent music critic, I have no shortage of singer songwriter material on a near-daily basis. It’s the new thing, and has been for four or five years now. Right off the bat, ‘No Vacancy 1’ does set a very positive tone for Taylor’s debut release. It’s very slickly produced and well performed, accenting Taylor’s songwriting with a fine mix and mastering job. The creative decision to back Taylor with a full band doesn’t go unnoticed; it was the right one. There are enough acoustic singer songwriters in the scene right now, having the backing adds some flair to Taylor’s musical persona it would have otherwise lacked.

I like the instrumentation to ‘No Vacancy 1.’ The song’s electric guitar musings, tight percussion, and the splendid acoustic guitar solo that closes out the piece are all in perfect harmony. The lyrics are a bit void of any real expression at this point in the record – It’s a catchy singer songwriter pop-infused effort. That’s an admirable talent; it’s very hard to write a good hook and maintain a pop-like piece with enthusiasm. ‘Meet the Sun,’ however, does a finer job of stretching Taylor’s songwriting wings. His imagery on the album’s second recording is far richer. Also, the instrumental depth of the track is more poignant. I love the soundscapes that rise and fall around Taylor like passing trucks on the latter half of the tune. He dabbles in a few genre stylings to great success here, and it’s the defiant highlight of the opening sections of ‘No Vacancy.’

‘Your Land’ is the album’s most complex effort. Grounded in a hauntingly beautiful electric guitar riff, Taylor’s reverberated vocals dance about the landscape in a stunning fashion. I love the percussion pieces. Hell, they should have mixed them out even heavier, because the deafening effect they have amidst a rather minimalist atmosphere is absolutely phenomenal. The song feels like a turning point for Taylor in many ways; he expands out of singer songwriter, folksy territory and enters an indie rock persona that is immensely appealing.

‘No Vacancy 2’ is the eclipse of this transformation, dramatically outshining the album’s opening tune in every possible way. The sensational drum and guitar banter teased on ‘Your Land’ are back in full form, really exuding a unique sound that differentiates Taylor from his independent genre counterparts. I particularly like how the instrumentation accentuates his vocal style as well. He’s a very soft-spoken personality, and the music embodies him like a wall of sound as he croons through it.

‘Fade Away’ articulately combines all of the sounds on ‘No Vacancy’ into one coherent finale. It has a bit of a Jack Johnson feel to it. (Coincidentally, he also has a song called ‘Fade Away’ that’s quite excellent.) The harmonica sections on ‘Fade Away’ are exceptionally good and a superb device to further the sonic capability of Taylor’s music. I really dig his lyrical strength on the track, too. In many ways, the song closes out the album in a beautiful way because Taylor feels so far from where he began, which he now is. (Both metaphorically and physically.)

‘No Vacancy’ is an effort that grows on you the more you listen to it. I’d argue it gets stronger as it progresses, with the only truly weak track being the opener. ‘Your Land’ and the finale, ‘Fade Away,’ are the highest peaks of the endeavor, but ‘Meet the Sun’ and ‘No Vacancy 2’ offer rewarding insights into Taylor’s talent as well. He’s walking a thin line right now – He doesn’t want to end up in territory where he sounds like every other indie artist doing what he’s doing. If he keeps making music like ‘Your Land,’ that won’t happen. If he makes more music like ‘No Vacancy 1,’ he may wander into some predictable territory. It’s so early in his development, it remains to be seen which path he’ll take.


Nastasia – ‘Unwound’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on over to a New Yorker creating some rather fascinating content. Nastasia is a pop artist and songwriter in the Big Apple who just dropped ‘Unwound,’ a four track studio EP produced by Verdoe (Pablo San Martin) alongside Jason Strong and Giulio Cercato. The EP, Nastasia describes,  “displays honest and universal lyrical themes blended with the sonic soundscape of strings, pad and subtle voice samples, to create an emotional and ambient feel.” Let’s get right into it.

Nastasia’s new album was immediately one of the most compelling pop efforts I’ve heard this year when I began to delve into it. It’s refreshingly performed, immensely well produced, and hauntingly beautiful. ‘Don’t Forget Me,’ the absolutely jaw-dropping opener of the record, combines Nastasia’s stunning vocals and lyrics with the rise and fall of electronic influence combined with dramatic, but subtle string sections. “Please don’t forget me,” she croons as some of the most intriguing beats I’ve heard this fall music season cascade over like waterfalls of eclectic sound.

‘∞’ is another interesting track. At first, I thought it was an infinity symbol. I believe it’s actually representative of a figure eight, which is what Nastasia articulates throughout its execution. “How can you leave me spiraling into the dark?” she questions over a soundscape worthy of a Phil Spector comparison. (It’s a wall of sound.) At times, Nastasia’s vocals remind me of Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries. Their wit and vocal presence are similar in execution.

‘Unwound’ is a masterful track, one that suavely navigates its soundscape in a ghostly fashion. The song, along with its counterparts, is the embodiment of what I like to call “intelligent pop music.” Yes, it’s pop music, but it isn’t spoon-feeding you tropes and themes that’ll create sales or hype. Rather, ‘Unwound,’ along with the rest of these songs, is as sharply written as it is performed and produced. The best pop music has a deep level of complexity to what sounds like a simplistic sound. Nastasia has mastered that, and these songs are deeply personal and worthy of massive accolades in regard to their sonic quality.

‘Heavyhearted’ closes out the EP with a definitive statement of Nastasia’s talent and potential relevance. The song is infectiously catchy, very personal and relatable, and equally as poignant as its three predecessors. In fact, this entire EP is a statement of Nastasia’s industry potential. She’s proving that pop music can be more than dull, small-minded Top 40 crap. ‘Unwound’ is a pop record with so much depth and insight. I absolutely adore it; check it out below.



iTzANN3X – ‘Chemicals’ Remix

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

Currently Spinnin’ Records is running a remix competition for Tiësto and Don Diablo, two artists opening up their latest single, ‘Chemicals,’ for interpretation from producers worldwide. Like many contests, the internet will be voting the artists up the ranks until a final winner of ten is chosen by the two artists. One of those producers in contention is iTzANN3X, and his remix of ‘Chemicals’ has shown some incredible promise. It’s spreading quickly on SoundCloud and Spinnin’ Records’ website is chock-full of 270+ comments and supporters. Is iTzANN3X worth the buzz? Let’s find out.

Now, iTzANN3X has released his interpretation of ‘Chemicals’ in the form of a danceable house remix. It’s party music to the extreme, best suited to a blaring sound system at a rave or nightclub. The sonic quality of this remix is compelling, though, because it’s very, very well mixed. iTzANN3X dances about the mix with electronic influence, heavy organ-like synthesizers, and intricate beats. The rise and fall of this remix is climactic in the most unique sense of the word. Sometimes this genre falls victim to stereotypical production and lackluster creativity. iTzANN3X doesn’t fall into either trope, and remains consistently entertaining and tactful throughout his remix.

The song originally featured vocalist Thomas Troelsen, whose contributions are still featured on iTzANN3X’s remix. He sparsely occupies the soundscape, but when he does explode through the chaos, it adds a wonderful sense of harmony to the piece. I particularly dig the mix’s multi-faceted approach to composition. It bounces between thick, almost industrial-esque synthesizers and beats to pop infused electronica. Around 3:20, the song evolves into a wonderland of synthesized instrumentation and remarkable detail.

There is a lot going on in this tune. Fortunately, it holds itself together with a wonderful elegance and it’s very worth both your time to listen to it and your time to vote for it. Head on over to Spinnin’ Records site and cast your vote; help a rising producer continue to exhibit his potential.


Vote! https://www.spinninrecords.com/talentpool/itzann3x/track/details/40221

Runaway Scotty – ‘Rock My Heart’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Runaway Scotty, an indie musician whose real name is Christopher Scott Carter. The moniker serves as an outlet for his tunes, and his latest studio endeavor, ‘Rock My Heart,’ is an eclectic jaunt through pop rock musings and infectious stylings. He’s a singer-songwriter with a distinct flair. At the same time, however, he does embrace familiar themes, giving his music a firm grounding in its sound. Let’s dig right into it.

Runaway Scotty cites artists like The Killers and Imogen Heap as influences, which is definitely telling of his musical direction. From the opening notes of ‘Change Change Change,’ he defines himself as a quality songwriter. There’s an elegant art to the execution of a pop rock song. In fact, that art is often overlooked or cynically disregarded as unimportant. Go try to write a good hook; I’ll wait. Then, structure that hook around an equally inviting soundscape that isn’t trope-laden or boring. That’s measurably more difficult. ‘Change Change Change’ proves right out of the gate that Runaway Scotty has a wonderful grip on that outlet of songwriting.

Now, a potential pitfall of a pop rock musician can be predictability. After a few tunes, many albums like this fall into territory they’re too comfortable residing within. When ‘Pool of Love’ kicks off with its gorgeous acoustic guitar followed a dynamic, thrilling full band presentation, I was immediately reassured that ‘Rock My Heart’ wouldn’t fall into stereotypical obscurity like its industry counterparts. ‘Pool of Love’ is a particularly good song, if not just due to its absolutely superb delivery, especially in the choruses and guitar banter.

Runaway Scotty continues to define himself as a compelling composer with ‘Lose Control,’ a piano-driven ballad with especially excellent lyricism. As aforementioned, the album’s guitar banter is very notable. Thus, let’s give credit where it is most certainly due – Anthony Cusenza is the man behind those riffs, and goodness, do they define songs like ‘Lose Control.’ Carter is backed by a variety of talented musicians and vocalists, all of which accentuate the album’s vision with tact.

‘Anyway’ is another delightful track, truly embracing Carter’s ability to pen a quality chorus. His falsetto vocals and varied delivery gives the song a nice layer of complexity. At the core of many of these songs, he’s writing love ballads and ditties. Now, before you, dear reader, get all jaded about that – let’s never forget Sir. Paul McCartney’s sage advice. There will always be a place for silly little love songs.

In order for a song to occupy that space, however, it does have to be good. A poorly executed silly little love song can be a horribly predictable, cringe-worthy endeavor. Fortunately, Runaway Scotty’s ‘Rock My Heart’ pulls out all the stops to maintain a quality experience very much worthy of McCartney’s original enthusiasm for the style. ‘Rome Is Burning’ steps away from that formula to an extent, instead offering a pop rock pursuit that borders classic rock influence. It’s a soulful tune with masterful backing vocals that accent Carter well.

There is something I’d like to touch on, something that ‘Far Behind’ does exhibit. If there is one noticeable pitfall of this record, it’s that Runaway Scotty ditched some of the typical pop songwriting tropes for some of his own. Several of these tracks begin with hauntingly beautiful sparsity, something that is immediately forgone within thirty seconds for an increasingly larger production. ‘Far Behind’ would have been a better song if it had maintained the speed and style it kicks the ball off with. I would have adored seeing a more intimate side of Runaway Scotty that isn’t so polished or “full.” Stripping yourself down sonically can be amazing and ‘Far Behind,’ like many of these songs, hints at the potential of that approach for Runaway Scotty.

‘Seriously’ isn’t particularly notable – I found the song a bit too predictable and formulaic, harkening back to my original concern about the genre that Carter had previously navigated better. ‘The Circle’ returns with a rather intriguing performance, especially instrumentally. That trend is even further exemplified with ‘Follow You Home,’ a track that really stretches into complex directions instrumentally. Those synthesizers? Bloody brilliant, and entirely complimentary to the record’s potential.

‘Long Way From Home’ is as close as you’re going to get to that soft intimacy I think would have suited ‘Far Behind’ far better. This track reinforces that criticism for me, especially in regard to how beautiful that piano and acoustic guitar composition is. ‘Show Me The Way To Heaven’ is an epic culmination of everything that makes ‘Rock My Heart’ a good record – it’s a fitting finale.

‘Rock My Heart’ is a very admirable and solid pop rock effort. At times, it does feel like Carter drops traditional formulas in favor of new ones he has created, and quite honestly, that probably just trades one evil for another. You never want to be overly formulaic with your music. For the vast majority of the record, however, this isn’t the case, and ‘Rock My Heart’ stands true as an indie effort very much worth your time if you dig pop rock. The album drops this December.


Stolen Rhodes – Their New EP

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Stolen Rhodes’ self-titled EP that was released around this time last year. The band describes themselves as “American or Americana Rock” with a tendency to turn things up to eleven. The genre classification they may be seeking is actually “Southern Rock,” pioneered by the same bands they cite as influences: Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, and the like. Let’s dig into some of their new tunes to discern whether or not they do that lineage justice.

The sound of southern rock is widely classified as vintage classic rock at this point in the mainstream. Outside of the nightclub circuit, the popularity of the style has waned in recent years. Stolen Rhodes is immediately within its realm, both in look and sound. They look like a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band. Now, I’m not a fan of most southern rock, particularly because I’m not a fan of Skynyrd toting Confederate flags all over their stages. Stolen Rhodes’ music, however, embraces a much higher level of class. It’s slickly produced and quite well performed, something exemplified in the single, ‘Keeps Me Alive.’ That’s a really terrific rock tune. It’s one of those songs you could crank on a road trip driving down an empty, endless highway.

‘Gone’ may be an even stronger track than its predecessor, if not just due to its instrumentation. The song is insanely well performed; I imagine this music has to be absolutely stellar in a live setting. It is indeed “turned up to eleven,” driving Americana themes hard. At times, the outfit also feels like certain acts from the late 1970s and early 1980s – ‘Gone’ could be a track right out of a Foreigner session. ‘50 Miles To Richmond’ is an equally excellent song; I love these hard rock bands when they slow things down and strip their songs down. The acoustic outing here is immensely rewarding.

‘Down In Flames’ is very similar to ‘Gone.’ It’s basically a party song. I bet it’s awesome live, and it’s fun to blast. On any serious basis, the song may be a bit stereotypical or mundane. That’s okay, though, because it doesn’t seem to take itself seriously, so we shouldn’t either. ‘Life Was Never Finer’ is an elegantly executed track, exhibiting some of the best songwriting and guitar performance on the entire record.

‘Stolen Rhodes’ is an EP that enthusiastically holds onto a genre that is long past its heydey. It doesn’t feel desperate, though; it isn’t clinging onto dead themes. Rather, the EP is a celebration of what makes southern rock so fantastic. It has everything the genre has excelled in over the years, minus the Skynyrd-racism. That’s the way I like it; check them out below. They’re great.


Randolph Bush – Press Release – November 21, 2015



Randolph Bush Releases Dynamic New Gospel Effort, ‘All Grown Up’

Randolph Bush, an industry performer and vocalist, has a new studio endeavor, ‘All Grown Up.’ The eclectic collection of adult-oriented gospel and contemporary soul is twelve tracks of slickly produced, elegantly refined prowess on behalf of Bush. Thus, he concretes the idea that R&B isn’t just Rhythm & Blues… It’s Randolph Bush.

In his early years, Bush made a name for himself opening for a variety of now-legendary acts. Based in Los Angeles, he aided groups touring through such as the Whispers and the O’Jays. His infectious grooves, smooth, soulful vocals, and unique blend of an array of genres have all concreted Bush as a versatile talent. His music is often defined as new school influence melded with the old school and contemporary gospel. Fans of classic soul and R&B, Motown, and the like will find familiar territory on ‘All Grown Up.’

One of the intriguing factors of ‘All Grown Up’ is its masterful execution of both secular and nonsecular ideas in one space. ‘Living In A Place (Where There Is No Sin,) a haunting ballad that incorporates the very best of gospel influence, is one of the key tracks of the release. Critics are lauding Bush’s soft-spoken, but entirely beautiful vocal delivery as one of the more compelling efforts of 2015. ‘It’s A Long Way Back,’ the other gospel track on the record, goes hand in hand with ‘Living In A Place.’

“If crooning is your thing, once you hear the sounds of Randolph Bush, you will be hooked! A voice so warm and tender that anything wrapped within its embrace makes the songs irresistible.” – Rick Jamm of Jamsphere Magazine

Bush is currently located in Honolulu, Hawaii. Below listeners can connect with Bush via social media and on his main website. The latter has ‘All Grown Up’ and the individual singles, including ‘Living In A Place (Where There Is No Sin,) available for stream and purchase.










Michael Reddington – ‘You Find Out On Your Own’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we delve deep into an eclectic little EP that has dropped recently in the indie scene. ‘You Find Out On Your Own’ is the three track debut of Michael Reddington, a rocker hailing from across the pond in England. He describes his sound as one that “channels the aggressive, yet melodic sound of Noel Gallagher, Neil Young, and Ryan Adams.” That’s a pretty tall order to fill – How does Reddington handle it? Let’s dig into the EP and find out.

Reddington’s life was changed when he had a toe ripped off by an escalator. Music became his solace during a hard time, especially since he had to teach himself to walk properly again. Since then, he’s been performing a regular live circuit in Nottingham to packed clubs and pubs. I imagine his musical style is particularly inviting to this kind of setting – it’s rocking and rollicking, but it has an intimacy to it, a singer-songwriter aura that strips down any ostentatious walls that form around some independent rock acts.

Speaking of ostentatious rock acts, regular readers of the Independent Spotlight are very familiar with the acts I poke at for comedic effect on a regular basis. Oasis, Rush, and U2 to name a few. Fortunately, Reddington takes everything that is right about Oasis’ music and doesn’t manifest any of the pretentious egotism. All of the solid jingly, English pop rock songwriting styles are at play here to great success, something Oasis definitely pioneered into a new generation.

The album opens with ‘You Find Out On Your Order,’ a slickly produced, excellently written song that could most certainly stand on its own as a single. Reddington’s vocals are akin to Gallagher’s, or perhaps even an act like Robyn Hitchcock. He’s accented by sparse harmonies, driving electric guitars, tight percussion, and jangly electric riffs. I’d argue you could trace that lineage pretty far back – those guitar riffs sound like something Roger McGuinn would pen for a Byrds song back in the day.

As long as we’re addressing the acts that one could relate Reddington to, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the newcomer to the mainstream, Jake Bugg. Reddington is distinctly more rock and pop oriented, whereas Bugg is more folk inspired, by the comparison in their songwriting styles and vocals stands. Plus, Bugg is actually from Clifton, a small town within Nottingham. That specific comparison clicked with me when listening to the second track on the EP, ‘Monotony Labotomy.’ (Editorial note – I’m fairly certain ‘Labotomy’ is stylized with an ‘a’ instead of an ‘o’ on purpose.) The song is particularly witty, and I love Reddington’s lyrical style on this piece. He exudes personality and potential.

‘Uniform’ is a track that deals with conformity, though it’s arguably the least interesting of the three lyrical endeavors. Rather, what makes ‘Uniform’ so spectacular is its production and instrumentation. There are actual string sections on the latter half of this piece that nothing short than stunning. They clearly aren’t synthesizers, and the entire composition is hauntingly beautiful. Combined with Reddington’s infectious chorus, the chemistry is undeniable.

Thus, there aren’t many criticisms I have for Reddington’s work. His compositions are elegantly organized, his band is very tight and on mark, and his performances are flawless in their execution. That may come to bite him in the back, later, though. He cites Oasis and Neil Young, for example. The latter will always remain more poignant and important because he ventured, and continues to venture, far outside his comfort zone. ‘You Find Out On Your Own’ does feel like a very comfortable record.

When your record gets into that zone, it can lose a sense of spontaneity, and it can also lose a level of passion. At times, I did feel this with Reddington’s debut. It’s a fine debut, perhaps one of the stronger, more concise efforts of the year. I actually appreciate his brevity in comparison to the countless indie acts that load up an EP full of poorly executed material. For his next effort, though, I think Reddington would be well-served by embracing some greater leaps in experimentalism and creativity. The talent, potential, and prowess are all there. I just have a good feeling that Reddington’s output will, and should, change drastically over the course of his future releases.



Smoking Martha – Their Self-Titled EP

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze onto Smoking Martha and their self-titled five track EP. Ironically, no one named Martha is in the band; rather, the intense powerhouse frontwoman is Tasha D. Backed by an eclectic, traditional four piece set-up, Tasha is the recurring ‘it’ factor of Smoking Martha. Let’s delve into the music.

Since their 2012 inception, the band has been very active, releasing music and touring extensively. Their live repertoire is very impressive for an independent outfit, and that may definitely contribute to the cohesiveness of their studio output. Immediately, the eponymous record’s quality is abundantly clear, both on the production and performance ends.

‘Bad Choices’ introduces Smoking Martha as a force to be reckoned with, one that harnesses the best bits of classic rock into its sound. At times, Tasha D. harnesses a bit of Janis Joplin in her bluesy musings. More directly, I’d compare Smoking Martha to Heart. Their style of rock is very similar, and if I was to align Tasha D. with one prominent female rocker, it would most definitely be Ann Wilson. She’s got pipes very akin to Wilson’s legendary chops.

While ‘Bad Choices’ is an excellent excursion of rock and roll, the band seems to find their sound much better on ‘Fake Promises,’ a truly wonderful track. From the searing guitar solo to the infectious choruses and driving percussion, ‘Fake Promises’ stands tall as one of the best efforts of the EP. ‘Heavy Heart’ does contend for that position, however, with its bluesy, dark themes delving through a sound immensely suiting to Tasha D.

Finally, ‘All Lit Up’ is a straight up drive-rocker. There isn’t anything that’s going to surprise you, but man, I bet it’s a delightful tune in a live setting. On the record, though, it does stand shorter in comparison to dynamic efforts like ‘Heavy Heart.’ ‘Sweet As Honey’ doesn’t suffer from that, though, and it’s probably the most well-realized exhibition of Tasha’s blues vocals. The track evolves into a superb garage rocker, too.

Smoking Martha has immense potential and this album is a defiant statement of that. They could use a bit more depth; at times, their sounds blend together and I never found myself too taken aback by any lyrical content. As a stepping stone to even more exciting efforts, I think this album is very exciting. On its own, it’s a fun romp through classic rock, perhaps one that’ll go down best live. Check them out below.


Website: www.smokingmartha.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/smokingmartha
Twitter: www.twitter.com/smokingmartha

Lunar Woods – ‘Hey, Doc!’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Lunar Woods, a Russian alternative rock outfit producing some really compelling content. They’re a younger group, one that has already defined themselves as rather prolific, releasing a huge amount of content since their inception in 2013. For our purposes here on the Spotlight, we’re going to take a peek at ‘Hey, Doc,’ a tune dropped around that era of their music.

Right off the bat, ‘Hey Doc’ isn’t a ‘Back to the Future’ reference, nor is it a ‘MASH’ reference. (Both of my impressions after seeing the release title, but that’s probably just because I’m a geek.) Rather the lyrics are a dark, atmospheric romp through the lead vocalist continually appealing to ‘doc.’ There is a distinct vintage flair to Lunar Woods’ music; they classify themselves as alt-rock, but their roots are definitely within classic rock. There are tinges of progressive influence, 80s rock, (Good 80s rock, not hair band 80s rock.) and classic themes. This would have been a sound just at home in 1968 as it would be in 1981 and it is today. I love that, because it shows a culmination of influence that clicks. Sometimes, indie acts can’t discern originality out of that and end up meandering around obscurity.

‘Hey, Doc’ is remarkably well produced, and it’s a joy to listen to on a quality stereo system due to its intricacies in the panning. Compositionally, the instrumentation is tactfully performed and Lunar Woods’ prowess is abundantly obvious throughout the excursion. I love the sparse harmonies and piano pieces – all of those little things help flesh out the song more than if the group just performed it traditionally.

Lunar Woods make a compelling statement for their relevance and potential with ‘Hey, Doc!’ It’s a sharply executed exhibition of their raw talent and compositional strength. Also, the three click on a collaborative level – nothing ever feels misplaced on ‘Hey, Doc.’ It’s an organic sound that gives the group plenty of room to grow. In fact, I’d argue its a strong stepping stone more than anything, opening up gateways for the outfit to experiment into even deeper, more complex landscapes. Keep tabs on them; they’re worth watching.




Danitto Kruz – ‘Go Hard’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze onto Danitto Kruz, a singer, songwriter, and producer living in Red Deer, Alberta. He’s scored some modest success in recent years with remixes and several notable live performances, and thus, he’s really stretching his wings as an artist. Born in 91,’ he’s a relatively young artist. It’s always compelling to see guys like him delve further into their creative legacy. Let’s dig into his latest single, ‘Go Hard,’ a song featuring Ace Lucky.

Right off the bat, I adore how Kruz isn’t just creating these masterful beats and soundscapes, but he’s also singing and rapping on the piece. He’s accented wonderfully by Ace Lucky on the choruses, but Kruz is the true standout of the two. ‘Go Hard’ elegantly combines electronic rock-infused influence with hip hop. Guitarist Santiago Cercavins contributes some sparse, but incredibly effective guitar pieces, and instrumentally, the song is sonically simplistic, yet perfect in its design.

From Lucky’s defiant choruses to the very brief saxophone piece Kruz sampled into the track, you’ll continually find yourself delighted by the diversity of ‘Go Hard.’ As I mentioned, it does feel like a hodgepodge of genres and influence, but it does so with such enthusiasm and tact that it evolves into one of the finer hip hop efforts of the year. Kruz is an especially strong witted lyricist and his sly and quick rap delivery accentuates that. The tune is fairly short, which is nice, because it pulls out all the stops within its 2:20 without overstaying its welcome and becoming ostentatious.

‘Go Hard’ is a superb single, one that will continue to define Kruz as an artist as he explores different sonic and genre avenues with his music. For a producer in his early 20s, he’s got a nice sound that’s evolving into a unique place. The production quality is pro-level as well, which allows Kruz to exhibit himself as a well-rounded talent. All he needs to do is continue to explore these ideas and get some better album art. (His album art is terrible.) He’s a talent worth watching.