Maini Sorri – ‘I Fall To Pieces’

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.

For over a year now, Maini Sorri has been a semi-regular feature here on the Independent Spotlight. I’ve delved into a broad spectrum of her work and her ability to harness an array of genres in a seemingly effortless fashion has kept me in a position of lauding her creativity. In particular, her production techniques are fascinating. Her latest effort is ‘I Fall To Pieces,’ a straight-up rock and roller. How is it against her impressive catalog? Let’s find out.

To preface, it’s worth reminding readers that Sorri is uniquely prolific. She’s got twenty-four CD’s in her catalog now, spanning pop, rock, dance, and techno. Within each of those spheres, Sorri experiments a bit to make each track her own. On ‘I Fall To Pieces,’ she’s opted for a bombastic, anthemic track that slams the listener with a whole lot of heavy instrumentation.

That instrumentation was performed and recorded by Orlando Mestre, who lives in the US. (Remember, Sorri is based out of Sweden and collaborates with artists all around the world to achieve her sound.) Mestre’s performance is good, though the atmosphere he’s created does feel a bit dated. The solo at 2:25, for example, feels like it was pulled out of a 1980s Bon Jovi track. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not contemporary. (Thus, this is only a problem depending on how Sorri wants the track to feel.)

Sorri’s vocals are solid, as usual. She’s got a signature style that one becomes accustomed to as they spend more time with her catalog. I’d actually align her vocal style to that of Yoko Ono. I mean that as a compliment, too. Ono has produced some exceptional work. (Just listen to ‘Season of Glass.’) Sorri’s typical pop sensibility is infused into ‘I Fall To Pieces’ as well, and it’s a catchy tune.

It’s hard to put out music… period. It’s dramatically harder to do so at the expedited rate that Maini Sorri does, and maintain any level of quality. She does that, though, and ‘I Fall To Pieces’ is a nice entry into her rock portfolio. In the future, I’d be very interested in hearing Sorri in a more stripped down soundscape – perhaps with acoustic instrumentation. For now, though, listen to ‘I Fall To Pieces’ below.

(Oh, and I’d recommend spinning the track with vocals. The instrumental version feels a bit void of emotion, as Sorri is the catalyst for the personality of the track.)

Press Release – TJ Da Hustla – May 23, 2016



TJ Da Hustla Releases New Mixtape, ‘Life of a Hustla’

Nashville, TN – Terrance Banks, known by his stage moniker of TJ Da Hustla, has released his latest studio endeavor, a mixtape entitled ‘Life of a Hustla.’ The record, which dropped on March 30, is an intense insight into the Banks’ personal journey to hell and back again. The nineteen track effort is available to download for free now on popular mixtape sites.

TJ Da Hustla has been out on the streets since before he was a teenager. He’s been to jail, he’s been shot, and he’s been through his share of bad times. Now, though, the man has three daughters, and as he puts it, he’s got to be there for them because “we all we got.” He’s written rap music for all his life, but now he’s in the scene to make his mark and make his family proud of him.

Earlier this year, DJ Scream entered TJ Da Hustla’s life and home to better understand the complicated artist. This intimate look shows Banks working on chasing his dream at home, in the studio, and out in his own community. It can be watched here.

‘Life Of A Hustla’ can be downloaded on Spinrilla or Indy Live Mixtapes, both of which can be found below. Fans can connect with TJ Da Hustla on his website and social media. For press inquiries or more information, see his media contact.

Media Contact:

Trea Day Management & Publicity


Fennario’s Wolf – ‘Catch The Spirit’

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 review, I’m going to be exploring ‘Catch the Spirit,’ the debut single from a new independent outfit that goes by the name of Fennario’s Wolf. Lead by mandolinist Edwin Lightner, the group bills themselves as ‘newgrass,’ meaning they infuse bluegrass, Americana themes, and experimental instrumentation to create a cohesive musical experience. How does their new single hold up, and are they worth keeping tabs on? Let’s explore ‘Catch The Spirit.’

Bluegrass is fascinating territory in the independent scene. Many of the performers walk precariously on a line between talent and ostentation, and often, they fall into the latter with solo sections that rival the length of progressive rock’s most rambling performances. There’s an argument to be made for brevity, however, and for embracing the simplicity of the American folk heritage. Fennario’s Wolf does this quite elegantly.

‘Catch The Spirit’ isn’t a long song, clocking in under three minutes. In this sense, it takes a noticeable cue from early folk music. When exploring the band’s Sound Cloud, this shouldn’t be surprising, either. The band has a killer rendition of Leadbelly’s ‘In The Pines’ that very much falls within a similar vein. ‘Catch The Spirit,’ of course, feels much more contemporary.

‘Catch The Spirit’ exudes personality, with each of the band members performing in harmony perfectly. There isn’t a missed note in this tune. It’s an upbeat number as well; something that could be danced to nicely. Perhaps most importantly, it’s well produced. All too often, acoustic instrumentation comes across my desk that is poorly mic’d and produced. I’d actually argue music like this is far less forgiving in the studio than a loud rock band – so hats off to the producer.

There’s a lot to love about ‘Catch The Spirit.’ It’s an infectious little number that makes a strong statement for all upcoming work from Fennario’s Wolf.

Keep tabs on them.

A.S.H.E.S The Chosen – ‘The First Call’

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 morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be shining our gaze onto an up and coming up hip hop artist,  A.S.H.E.S The Chosen, and his new mixtape release, ‘The First Call.’ Over the last few years, he’s been described as ‘eccentric and ‘uncompromisingly passionate about his craft’ as he’s risen to be quite a prominent act in the indie scene. Does he stack up to that kind of hype? Let’s explore the first half dozen tracks of ‘The First Call’ and find out.

A.S.H.E.S’ (Shortened to ASHES here on out.) new record opens with ‘The First Call (Welcome 2 the Game,)’ a poignant track that hits the listener in the face right out of the gate with the sound of a lone gunshot in the night. Essentially, ASHES welcomes the listener to the world of, presumably, a black American amidst the increasing racial chaos in the country. He veils references to Trayvon Martin and the like, and does so effectively.

There are a few musings I have right off the bat with this. Firstly, it’s very well written and very well produced. I love the sparse, dynamically interesting beat behind ASHES – it accents him beautifully. Second, I appreciate his passionate delivery. His quick-witted phrasing and howling remind me of Kanye West quite a bit; West performs similarly. (See the recent track ‘All Day’ as a good reference point to that.) Thus, the tune sets a high bar for the subsequent mixtape.

As long as the contrast to West is on the table, it’s worth mentioning that the bombastic, cinematic landscape of ‘Not 2 Blame’ is similar Yeezus, too. (Or perhaps Jay Z.) The song doesn’t open with a gunshot like its predecessor, but it grabs your attention just as well with a Malcolm X excerpt. Infused with an ample dose of soul music, the intense track is a fine excursion through an elegantly produced composition.

‘#SayHerName’ continues ASHES’ mission for social justice with featured guests Sae Monea and Brynn Elyzabeth. The track explores how the Black Lives Matter movement has rallied around black men who have been killed by police brutality, even though there are just as many black women struggling with similar strife against the police. Obviously, the inclusion of female artists was a good thing on the track, and they’re quite excellent.

‘Hear Me Cry’ is probably the best jaunt through poetry in the first half dozen tracks. ASHES is one hell of a wordsmith, and he stretches his wings particularly powerfully on the track. ‘Make It Right’ then jam packs some soulful pop influence into the record, something that dances nicely with ASHES’ powerhouse style.

The first half dozen tracks of ‘The First Call’ are some of the strongest indie hip hop efforts I’ve heard this year. If they’re indicative of the rest of the following tracks, it’s a must-listen. Check it out online now; it’s worth your time if you’re a hip hop fan.

Stream on Spotify:

Stream on Google Play:

Stream on DatPiff:



Twitter & Instagram: @ashesthechosen

Damson Blaze – Jealousy

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 Damson Blaze, an indie outfit formally known as Dragonfly. The hard rocking trio from Virginia has dropped their latest single, an endeavor entitled ‘Jealousy.’ It’s a punchy, hard-hitting romp through in-your-face rock and roll that means business. Is it worth checking out, though? Let’s dig into the new single and find out.

‘Jealousy’ would probably be best described as heavy rock – it isn’t metal, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s a female-fronted band, which is always refreshing, and Valerie Lloyd really commands a unique presence on the tune. Oddly enough, her powerful delivery reminds me a bit of Patti Smith. She performs and emphasizes her phrasing very similarly. (That, of course, is a complement. Who doesn’t love Patti Smith?)

As one might expect given the title, the track is about the trappings of jealousy, aligning it with a dark, brooding ‘green-eyed monster.’ Lyrically, the track is brief, almost written in a punk-esque fashion that emphasizes Lloyd’s epic declarations over a cinematic soundscape. A critique, though – Lloyd is mixed very dry. A little bit of reverb or atmosphere on her vocals would blend her into her surroundings far better.

Instrumentally, the track is sound as could be. Guitarist Patrick Gates and drummer Dakota Gutierrez have a good musical rapport, and the track is executed rather flawlessly. I like Gates’ intermittent solos spaced around the song rather than a traditional, elongated ‘solo section.’ It’s a tiny thing, but it’s enjoyable, nonetheless. Gates’ stylings border into metal territory, but they perfectly accentuate the other pieces of Damson Blaze’s puzzle.

‘Jealousy’ is a fine track. It’s slickly produced, very well performed, and a good excursion through heavy rock and roll. To be blunt, most indie bands in this territory fall flat on their faces, burdened by tropes and poor production. Not Damson Blaze, though, and that’s admirable. My only real critique is the vocal mix; I think it could have been organized into the landscape of the track a bit better.

Thus, check it out if you’re a heavy rock fan! Links below:

Press Release – Saint Denson & Heavy Records – May 19, 2016



Saint Denson Launches Heavy Records With A ‘Gift’ For Fans

Atlanta, GeorgiaSaint Denson, a rising producer and artist, is preparing to launch his new label, Heavy Records, with a special release this summer. On July 15, Denson will be releasing his debut album, entitled ‘The Gift.’ The record, which includes performances from an array of the label’s artists, will indeed be a gift for fans. Upon release, it will be free in its entirety.

Denson was born and raised in Detroit, where an eclectic taste for hip hop in the 80s and 90s lit a fire of passion to become involved for himself. As a DJ, emcee, and producer, Denson has found notable success both as an independent artist and as a collaborator. Records like Style P’s ‘A Gangster and a Gentleman’ and Trick Daddy’s ‘Thugs Are Us’ have Denson’s creative mark – a unique talent that will now fuel the launch of Heavy Records.

‘The Gift’ is primarily a hip hop album, with each track being host to the unique twists and talents of its featured performer. These new artists, who are signed to Heavy Records, all have their individual aesthetic and sound. Thus, Denson has elegantly crafted each track exclusively for its corresponding artist. Under his umbrella, ‘The Gift’ houses a myriad of voices that, together, are surprisingly harmonious.

‘Bahd Mahn,’ a track featuring Widda Wop and Carhyme, recently dropped as a music video, offering the first insight into ‘The Gift.’ Two more music videos are scheduled for release before July 15: ‘Take Off,’ featuring Creech, and ‘Murder,’ featuring J. Guiness.

‘The Gift’ will be available free on Heavy Records’ website, which is available below. Fans should check there for continued updates. Saint Denson’s discography can also be found below, along with the label’s social networking.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube: @HeavyRecordsUSA

BandCamp Will Stream The Album:

Saint Denson Production Credits:

Press Release – Nic Nassuet – May 16, 2016



Denver Mayor Declares May 22 ‘Nic Nassuet Day’

Four years ago, the critically lauded independent musician, Nic Nassuet, left Denver in pursuit of a career in music in Los Angeles. On May 22, the performer will return to the Mile High City for his first show in Denver since his departure. As such, Mayor Michael B. Hancock of Denver has proclaimed May 22 ‘Nic Nassuet Day.’

In the early stages of his career, Nassuet got his start with an all-disabled theatre company called ‘Phamaly’ in Denver. After he had moved to Hollywood, he released an album that netted him 24 awards and 26 nominations – all in the last year! Nassuet has found significant success in recent years exploring gothic, alternative, and indie rock music.

“Nic Nassuet draws on his life-experience to produce melodic, mysterious, and sometimes dark tunes that capture the despair and hope of life with power and conviction,” Mayor Hancock details in his proclamation. “The City and County of Denver wishes to join the fans and music community in congratulating him.”

On Nic Nassuet Day, the singer songwriter will be performing at the Three Kings Tavern on 60. S. Broadway at 9 pm. Nassuet will be joined by a violinist also hailing from Hollywood, Brandon Wallace. They will be accompanied by two Denver natives – Eryn Swisdorf, a female vocalist, and Justin Vaughn on bass. Tengger Cavalry will then perform at 10 pm.

On the weekend following the show, Nassuet will travel to Rome to receive a Diploma of Merit and admission into the Association of the Knights of St. Sylvester. To contact Nassuet, or to keep up to date with his endeavors, visit his website or contact Dropout Management below:

Matt Bacon, Dropout Management: 610-390-4084




Exclusive Interview – JAWZ

The following is an Independent Spotlight exclusive interview with the indie hip hop artist JAWZ.

Your look and personality has been aligned more with icons like Kiss and Mr. T, as opposed to icons like Lady Gaga. How did this come about? 

I was never a major fashion enthusiast, but I could never be a follower, either. The idea started popping into my head years ago in San Francisco, during the recording of some of my earliest work. It kind of started taking form during some time I spent in New York, and finalized in Los Angeles. Los Angeles makes everybody a space case. I look up to guys like Mr. T and want to be like them somewhere inside. I want to be a hero. I want to be me, and me is very specific.

Several years ago, you met Dr. Dre and he turned down your work. In your frustration after the fact, you lost control and torched ten years of work. Is this true?

Yes, it’s true. It’s certainly one of my biggest regrets in life. I don’t blame Dr. Dre for my actions; I take full responsibility. In fact, Dre was incredibly kind to me. Most MCs will never meet Dr. Dre face to face. I spoke to him face to face several times. I thought it was a sign that it was finally my time. To find out it wasn’t was just devastating. Keep in mind, this was after years of looking for a shot in the industry. I immediately interpreted it as a sign that maybe I should hang in the towel. In a fit of anger at the universe, I set fire to my entire box of raps, poems, and ideas. I may never get over it completely.

A large part of your persona, both inside and outside of music, is that you’re an American who is half black and half white. You want to blur the line between those cultures – how do you go about doing that?

America was never strictly a European culture; it has always been more or less a combination of the two. I’m showing the world that I am a product of these cultures embracing each other. Instead of looking at our accomplishments as separate, I symbolize something both the cultures can equally take pride in. I believe it will go a long way towards a more inviting playing field for all other cultures looking to contribute as well.

Your youth was fraught with drugs, illegal activities, and street gangs. How did you elevate yourself out of that to pursue music full-time? What did you learn from those experiences, and have they affected your creative process?

I elevated by getting rid of those aspects of my experience. Those experiences don’t affect my creative process whatsoever. I don’t pride myself on those days, even though in many ways those were the best days of my life. If that makes any sense. I’m a Gemini.

Unlike most hip hop musicians, you actually have a background in musical performance outside of the genre. Talk a bit about your experience as a metal guitarist and how it impacts your work as a hip hop artist today – if at all. 

I got my first guitar, a Squire Strat, when I was in sixth grade. I was self-taught. I drove my mother and all of our neighbors peanuts. Me and my first band did a lot of local performances. I won’t lie – I pushed for my band at the time to wear lipstick and tights, because I was completely obsessed with Twisted Sister. In a lot of ways things are still the same. I get a vibe from some that I’m not white enough and others that I’m not black enough. It drives me forward.

You’re no stranger to the stage. You’ve performed live more times than you can count. Does this change the way you create music in the studio? Do you strive to create content that can translate well to the stage?

To me the studio and the stage are the same thing. If what you’re creating is cool to begin with, the translation is seamless.

You clearly have a moral motivation to bridge cultures here in the US. Can art really do that? Where is art’s place in racial politics and strife?

Art has always had a place in politics. I believe art can do anything. Art touches people; it makes them think. If man can think, he can change.

Tell us about your new single that’ll be dropping soon. 

My new single, “White | Black” couldn’t be a more perfect introduction for me. The song isn’t about my race as much as it’s about breaking the limitations of it. It opens the doors of freedom and possibility for me, as well as emphasizes my ability as an MC and a vocalist. 

Furthermore, tell us about the music video accompanying it upon release.

The video shot by Spanish director, Guillermo Pollo. He’s going to be huge. We filmed in Hollywood. It was my first time ever filming in a real Hollywood studio. The concept came out of me wanting the video to represent the limitations I describe in the song. The surprise ending was all done in Spain. We decided not to introduce my get-up in the first video. We felt it would be difficult for an audience, not knowing who I am, to receive it all point blank. It also didn’t fit the theme… but we littered the video with clues. We’re really gonna let them have it on the second release off the JAWZ, self-titled EP. The “White | Black” single is actually out now. The release date of the EP, introducing me to the world, will be announced soon.

Finally, we always ask the same closing question of our interviewees to gain insight into you not only as a music creator, but a consumer, too. If we were to shuffle your iTunes or Spotify, what five songs may pop up?

Well, you’d be shuffling a CD player, so I guess right now all five songs would be Steely Dan. They’re pretty much all I’ve been listening to for months. I admire their creativity so much that I wouldn’t be caught dead listening for free or even close to free.

Jreasn – ‘The Love Hate Album’

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 morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to shine our gaze onto ‘The Love Hate Album,’ a new six track EP by Jreasn, a hip hop artist who hails from Buffalo, New York. It’s an interesting endeavor chock-full of passion and intense production that consistently flirts with other musical styles. Is it any good, though? Let’s dig into it and find out.

‘The Love Hate Album’ immediately differentiates itself from the tidal wave of independent hip hop critics like myself are constantly inundated by. The opening track, ‘That Way,’ traverses an acoustic guitar opening, a slick beat, and an eventual build that explodes into a cacophony of energetic hip hop pop music. The harmonies are absolutely infectious, the atmosphere is lovely, and Jreasn commands fantastic presence over his sound.

My only quip about the opening: don’t utilize the word “synergy” in lyricism. It’s one of those words best left at mandatory corporate weekend retreats.

The pop sensibility that Jreasn introduces on ‘That Way’ remains a mainstay for the rest of the album. ‘Girl To Love’ continues that theme, but does focus more heavily on Jreasn’s prowess as a rapper instead of catchy pop choruses. His delivery is stronger on ‘Girl To Love,’ even if some of the track’s lyrical themes feel forcefully recycled from popular culture.

(“Sit back and relax as I speed in my Maserati…” This kind of lyricism just feels awkwardly derivative nowadays.)

‘Woosah’ begins to take a rather different turn on the record as Jreasn’s opening two tracks feel compromised by a woman who is, essentially, a gold digger. This is good, because it offers some emotional depth to the album, something that’s absent when Jreasn is rhyming about fast sports cars and hot women.

‘Milk & Honey’ continues Jreasn’s descent through relationship turmoil. It’s likely the lower point of the record – Jreasn re-emphasizes his love of money, raps about his “royal oats,” and muses about how “these hoes never love you,” they just end up somewhere sunny, probably on your dime.

‘The Love Hate,’ the song, continues Jreasn’s love affair with his stacks of cash and getting head, and then the finale, ‘Keep Going,’ has the finest instrumentation of the album – it’s a fantastic beat. It’s also a track with some remarkably slick lyricism and delivery. It ends the album powerfully.

‘The Love Hate’ alludes to Jreasn being a remarkably talented hip hop artist. There are glimpses of excellence throughout. What starts off as an endearing effort, however, devolves into a narcissistic jaunt through piles of hypothetical cash and sports cars. Twenty five years ago, this may have passed as interesting subject matter. Nowadays, it’s painfully derivative and the hip hop scene has largely moved past it. It feels even more bizarre from an independent artist, who frankly, isn’t sitting in the position of power his music makes him out to be. 

Thus, Jreasn’s new album is a decent record that could have been a good one, if it hadn’t been bogged down in its own false grandeur. The best track is ‘That Way.’ The production is quite good, too; so it’s worth checking out, but its subject matter drags it down more and more as the album continues.

Los Giles – Press Release – May 13, 2016



Los Giles Bands Together Columbus Music Scene For Admirable New Effort

Los Giles, a musician and songwriter in the Columbus, Ohio music scene, has banded together several notable personalities from the area for the release of ‘Co-Laboratory Music,’ a charitable effort in support of Bridgeway Academy, a local school that caters to children with autism and other learning challenges. Proceeds from the endeavor are being donated to the school.

Giles’ decision to work on the new project was rather freeing for him, since he didn’t have to work within the constraints of a band. “I just started writing and recording any and every song idea without fear of if it fit,” he says. “Autism hits home for me. My son Gus is on the autistic spectrum.”

The album was painstakingly constructed over the last eight months and Giles wrote and performed the songs, while bringing in other local talents to flesh out the corners of his sound.

Happy Chichester, a popular indie personality of the Columbus scene for several decades now, contributed to ‘Co-Laboratory Music’ as well. The partnership was something Giles had long awaited for many years, and it was well worth the wait – Chichester’s involvement in the project helped concrete its powerful mission with elegant tact.

Aside from Chichester and several local musicians, a number of local singers were also called upon by Giles to fulfill his vision for the album. “Getting singers to commit was by far the hardest part,” he says. Giles’ work on the album extends outside of its creation, too. He designed the album art and is distributing the project with Lost Weekend Records.

‘Co-Laboratory Music’ can be found on BandCamp, where fans can purchase both physical and digital copies of the album. It’s also available on all major music distribution platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, and more.