Endsightt – ‘The Music Demo’

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’ll be shining our gaze onto Endsightt, a rising new indie hip hop act with a fascinating new record entitled ‘The Music Demo.’ The album is a fifteen song excursion through Endsightt’s musical style, one that he describes as “a concept album with his own genre called art rap.” Well, right off the bat, I’ll give him one thing – It’s one hell of a different experience. Let’s dig into it.

Like many albums of similar length, ‘The Music Demo’ is daunting to dig into. It’s an hour and a half long, with most tracks ranging well over five minutes. Fortunately, it’s an insanely eclectic experience that probably justifies its length – something that certainly cannot be said for similar experiences. ‘The Music Demo’ is a remarkable showcase of perseverance, perhaps even proving the most ambitious indie project I’ve seen in the last year.

The titular introduction is somewhat indicative of what the listener is in store for on ‘The Music Demo.’ The well-produced opening is unlike any other hip hop I’ve heard recently – it’s infused heavily with rock. Distorted electric guitars, cacophonous percussion, and compellingly deep composition all create a basis for Endsightt to slide through the sonic landscape effortlessly. His delivery is tactful, and his presence is undeniably refreshing.

Off the bat, ‘The Music Demo’ seems to challenge the listener. You’re used to 99 cent radio singles? Here’s a record that’s an hour and a half long. You’re used to hip hop that’s self-indulgent and braggadocious? Here’s a seven minute opening that croons frustrations over the lack of poetry in contemporary music. Hey, we’re ripping poets apart. But… he’s got a shiny car! It’s a win-win, right? Wrong.

‘The Music Demo’ is a slap in the face to anyone that’s complacent about the shallow nature of modern music. ‘The Plight’ opens with one of the most hauntingly wonderful instrumentals I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s worth noting that the album is best consumed with a really solid pair of headphones – the panning on that opening guitar will send a chill down your spine if you’re wearing some.

‘The Plight’ is a ‘hip hop’ track in vocal presentation, I suppose. I’d argue it’s closer to Howlin’ Wolf than most hip hop. It’s lathered in blues, emotion, and quite literally, howls. It’s a blues track of a frustrated artist at the end of his string. ‘Wolves’ shortly follows with one of the more eerie tracks on the album. When Kanye West annoyingly tweeted about “fixin’ Wolves” earlier this year, he probably should have just spun this track instead of his own. ‘Wolves,’ the Endsightt track, aligns those that would compromise his artistic creation with ravenous wolves circling their prey.

‘Truth’ toys with a borderline funk influence for Endsightt. It continues his righteous crusade for the truth and individuality. For one of the shortest songs on the album it’s filled with more content than most songs thrice its length. Endsightt’s ability to slide from verse to verse, line to line, is impeccable.

‘St. Peter,’ a sublime spoken word pursuit, seems to spiritually succeed ‘Truth,’ continuing with the same themes. As the track evolves, it turns into a pop song that met a ska song and evolved into a hip hop song.

‘Tabula Rasa,’ perhaps true to name, seems to be the point in the album where Endsightt’s music evolves into entirely foreign territory. It’s basically smooth jazz instrumentation matched with Endsightt’s characteristic delivery. He’s slowed down on this song as well, though, which makes for a nice atmosphere, though it does drag a bit too long.

‘White Devil,’ of course, adds yet another genre into the mix – gospel. It’s one of the absolute best songs on the album, and the singers that accentuate Endsightt on it are absolutely magnificent. The funk influence then returns in powerful force for ‘Powers That Be,’ a track that commentates the current racial crisis in the US.

‘John Proctor’ proves a simple, but vastly important item – Endsightt and his band extend their prowess to a live setting. Thus, one could argue the production on the album is actually rather barebones, because they sound the same live as they do in the studio. ‘Merit’ and ‘False,’ in particular, are fantastic vehicles for that prowess, too.

‘5/5’ is a deeply experimental, surreal, exhibition that combines into three or four songs broken into ‘acts,’ if you will. If I was to align it with anything historically, I’d say Lou Reed’s ‘Street Hassle’ is similar, at least in structure and spirit. For an eleven minute song, I had to listen to it twice to absorb it properly, and you will, too.

The final tracks of the album are an existential crisis of sorts – ‘The Test’ deals with insecurities and internal strife, ‘Girl or the World’ struggles with the idea of being a ‘man,’ especially in regard to having a significant other. ‘The Sign’ then offers a sense of stunning finality, ending ‘The Music Demo’ with a truly beautiful movement.

I’ve lauded artists on the Independent Spotlight. I’ve sat back in my studio chair at times and said to myself, “I’ll probably hear this on the radio in a few years.” I don’t know if I’ve ever, in the two years of doing this, felt the way I felt after listening to ‘The Music Demo.’ It’s an independent masterpiece. It’s absolutely, unequivocally, mindboggling. Also, Kendrick Lamar is all over this in spirit – There’s no way Endsightt wasn’t spinning his music when he made this album. ‘The Music Demo’ is an independent ‘To Pimp A Butterfly.’ Listen to it, then listen to it again, then send it to a friend.



Ryan Pennatune – ‘Recess’

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 onto Ryan Pennatune, an aspiring indie songwriter who just dropped his explosive debut EP, ‘Recess.’ The four track excursion through Pennatune’s musical psyche is an intriguing one, making for a solid foray into the scene for the performer. Let’s explore ‘Recess’ and determine whether it’s worth adding to your playlist.

Pennatune cites a huge variety of music when describing what culminates into his sound. Power-pop, alternative rock, and classic rock are all key players in his style. It’s worth noting that the man records everything himself, too. He played all the instruments, produced the record, and has put it out alone. Thus, it is as he describes, “pure Ryan Pennatune.”

‘Anyone Seen Kyle?’ is the opening of the EP, and it pistol whips in you the face with an intense force of indie power-pop. The thunderous percussion is absolutely enthralling, and drives home a heavy hitting endeavor quite unlike anything else in the indie scene. Pennatune’s musical style is straight out of 1979, perhaps even a bit reminiscent of Stiff Records content from the era. ‘Anyone Seen Kyle?’ is as punchy and slick as a Nick Lowe tune. Spin the track, then head on over to ‘Marie Provost’ or ‘Rose of England.’ There’s a lineage there.

The production surrounding Pennatune has a very raw feel to it, as if he recorded it in a garage or home studio. Sometimes, this does result in his vocals being undermixed – as is the case in ‘Golden Boy.’ These are issues that could probably be ironed out with some simple remixing and mastering, though, and don’t really detract from the experience of the EP. ‘Golden Boy’ has a punk feel to it that lends itself well to a gritty, powerhouse rock and roll ride.

If there’s one thing to take away from ‘Recess,’ it’s that Pennatune does one hell of a job convincing you he’s performing with a band. There’s never a missed note in the instrumentation, and the prowess he injects into each instrument breathes life into it like it’s a whole new musician. ‘Apricity,’ for example,’ has some superb guitar riffs that bounce off one each other elegantly like there are two guitarists. He’s nailed the ‘one man studio band’ act.

‘Convince Me’ closes the album with some of the most eclectic and exciting riffs on the EP. Pennatune’s harmonies with himself and quite good, and his songwriting is fairly sharp. The songs are well penned and don’t get lost in unnecessary verses or bridges. They’re wham, bam, thank you, ma’am tunes.

Ryan Pennatune is an artist worth keeping tabs on. He’s going places, and his music a whole lot of fun to check out.





BK – ‘Everything Is Changing But We Are Forever’

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.

Earlier this year, I was highly complimentary of an aspiring young hip hop artist who called himself BK Forever. Now, just under the alias of BK, he has put out a full nine track album. The whole endeavor was written and performed by BK and recorded, mixed, and mastered by Carm, an engineer in Ontario. Does it hold strong to the promise of his last single in January? Let’s dig right into ‘Everything Is Changing But We Are Forever’ to find out.

In the spirit of his previous work, BK has accented himself on this record with a number of guest producers. If you’re spinning the record on Sound Cloud, it’s worth leaving the playlist to actually read the lyrics in the descriptions of each song. BK’s mastery of sly pop culture references and slick verses is poignant on ‘Everything Is Changing,’ and that’s definitely exhibited in the opener, a track produced by Alexander Lewis entitled ‘And The Time Is…’

That song may be the perfect introduction to BK’s album. It’s a resolute statement of authority and independence, essentially casting aside all of the superficial elements of the hip hop scene in favor of artistry. He’s not on a label; he’s not controlled by anyone; he’s not a completely mindless millennial drone like Jaden Smith. Lewis’ production is really thick, heavily pulling upon an electronic style that suits the sound well.

The best part of ‘Everything Is Changing’ is that BK has surrounded himself with an array of guest producers. This results in the sound remaining pretty varied. ‘Trouble,’ for example, wasn’t produced by Lewis, but rather, Troy Samuela. While harkening to the former’s production, Samuela does have a distinct style that’s signature to the track and BK’s performance within it.

There’s a level of internal strife on ‘Trouble’ that definitely offers a stark contrast to its predecessor. “I’m facing the bottle for all of my problems,” BK sings. “I don’t wanna’ keep running, but I’m nothing but trouble.” This is the beginning of a bit of an existential journey through BK’s perceived place within his own life and music.

‘Memories,’ a track featuring production by Cecil, may be one of the absolute strongest pursuits of the collection. I adore Cecil’s production. The minimalistic piano riffing is such a different atmosphere to accent BK, and it works splendidly. BK’s elegant wordsmithing stands out even more as a result of the production’s brevity. The track is powerful, calling upon imagery of a man with a foot in the past and the future, unsure where he stands or why.

‘Alright,’ produced by ‘Mura Masa,’ is one of the more peculiar songs on the album. The autotuned R&B opener is surprisingly gorgeous, offering a variation on BK’s established soundscape. Productions like ‘Alright’ are reminiscent of someone like Chance the Rapper. The track’s emotion is similar to that of ‘Trouble,’ as BK works through imagery of his past colliding with his present in an effort to remain ‘alright.’

When Troy Samuela returns for ‘Told You So,’ so does his bombastic production style. The tune is a really hard-hitting song, akin to Kanye West’s ‘All Day’ or the like. The track exudes personality and confidence, which is interesting, since tracks like ‘Trouble’ and ‘Alright’ show insights into a very different BK. This bouncing about makes the album an emotional roller coaster.

If Samuela’s production is bombastic, then KRNE’s is cacophonic. KRNE backs BK with an all-out electronic production with hints of EDM. This actually suits the sound very well, because it’s one of BK’s most enthusiastic tracks. “We came up from the bottom, greatness is the only option,” he declares over an inspirational track of epic proportions.

NEETs production on ‘Moonwalker’ is very similar to that of Mura Masa on ‘Alright.’ NEET lets the piano take the reins and guide BK forward into a landscape of surrealness. The track is poignant, and even pseudo-samples the first half of the line of ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love.’ The track continues to echo BK’s loss of direction amidst his own peers.

Despite BK’s existential musings about the people he surrounds himself with and his life choices, he seems to find resolution in all of that by the time he greets the listener with ‘Forever.’ There is a sense of finality to his emotion on the song, and in honesty, it could have been an excellent finale. BK chooses to end the album with ‘Tides,’ another Lewis produced song – a strong song, but perhaps not as good of a finale as ‘Forever’ could have been.

‘Everything Is Changing But We Are Forever’ is an astonishingly good independent hip hop album – maybe even the strongest I’ve heard in 2016 so far. BK has remarkable promise, and this album fulfills a lot of the hopes I had for him after being introduced to one of his early singles in January.  He needs to keep propelling himself forward with lyricism like this – he can’t let himself fall victim to stereotypical hip hop tropes.




Nick Mueller – ‘Culture in Flames’

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’re met with a rather fascinating artist. Nich Mueller, an alternative jazz pianist and vocalist, has recently dropped a new studio endeavor entitled ‘Culture in Flames.’ The ten song excursion through a remarkably dynamic soundscape is, in some ways, the album the independent scene desperately needed. Let’s dig right into it to find out exactly why that is…

The independent scene doesn’t have much jazz – plain and simple. I struggle to represent it here on the Spotlight and on the Jukebox Podcast. The musicians that are popular within the jazz scene are fairly underground, appealing to different subsects of jazz fans. Nich Mueller, I think, has the ability to break out of that box. ‘Culture in Flames’ is a diverse, eccentric, and even erratic experiment. It’s also an accessible one, though, which is very important.

‘Culture in Flames’ was inspired heavily by Mueller’s immersion in the culture of New York City. He cites themes such as “digital age confusion, living in corporate America, travel and self-discovery, the evolution of religion and spirituality, and personal trifles resulting from an increasingly distracting culture.” That’s a lot to consume, but it basically breaks down into Mueller working toward a contemporary jazz record that feels fresh and authentic.

‘I.D.I.C.’ is a stunning opener, exhibiting the prowess of Mueller’s intense backing outfit. His soft crooning harmonies are perfectly placed, his brass and percussion section dance in elegant harmony, and his piano’s musings are the backbone of the performance. This, more or less, is the structure for the rest of the album. Each track, however, offers a variation of that structure in an effort to make the experience consistently compelling.

‘Top Of A Tree,’ for example, infuses Mueller’s vocals far more, even toying with pop musings over a classical landscape heavily dominated by what sounds like a cello performance. Mueller’s experimentation of attaching followable melodies and vocals to his jazz instrumentation is effective, and I think it may prove invaluable in creating that aura of aforementioned accessibility.

‘Somnambularmy’ trades an acoustic piano for what sounds a whole lot like a wurlitzer. The performance actually feels a bit electronic, as if the live orchestration is attempting to mimic the sound of a hip hop beat. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard in the indie scene, and the track following it, ‘If Only,’ toys with similar creative direction. Also, it’s worth noting that Mueller’s song structure doesn’t feel bogged down in age-old jazz tropes. ‘If Only’ feels like jazz for a new generation.

‘Continuity for the Clarification Crisis’ is an excellent landscape for the saxophone, piano, bass, and drums to accentuate one another in varying tempos as the song whirls around the listener. The track is probably the best showcase of the performers on the record, which is why I think it’s good that it’s also an instrumental.

Mueller’s lyrics are probably the ironically unsung hero of the tracks they occupy. They’ve very understated and sublime – even surreal. Thus, you get lost in Mueller’s smooth croons and they blend effortlessly into his production. There isn’t a better song on the record for that than ‘Nature Boy,’ which also boasts one of his stronger piano compositions. ‘The Ultimatum,’ which is the following track, is actually the most hard-hitting vocal journey of the album, probably because for the first time on the album, Mueller’s vocals take the reins away from the instrumentation, especially in the final moments of the song.

‘Beauty, Shakes Itself’ has a lot of meat on its bone. I listened to four or five times here in my studio, and there’s a few takeaways from it. First and foremost, its execution is incredible. The song explodes out of a proper studio set-up splendidly. Second, the poetic musings of Mueller on the track are cryptic, but existentially intriguing. “Earth goes round again, fooling minds from finding what’s inside of them,” he sings before the track explodes.

‘Universe to View’ strips Mueller of his thick productions in favor of instrumental brevity, with accents his best foray through lyricism on the album. The cascading piano is so chock-full of gorgeous emotion, and in complete honesty, could have been an unforgettable finale on its own. Mueller decided to top himself, though, by offering up ‘Something to Take With You’ as a finale. Its final minute is a cacophony of alternative jazz in the best possible way.

I’m in awe of ‘Culture in Flames,’ which says something, since about fifteen records come across my desk every day. It’s a versed, intensely deep jaunt through jazz that will surely be accessible for Mueller’s own peers. It doesn’t make the genre feel antiquated or ‘retro,’ but rather more contemporary than most music. It feels ahead of itself.

(Whenever I give a gleaming review like this, I must emphasize reading the preface above. I didn’t have to.)

Website: www.nichmueller.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nichmuellermusic/

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/nichmueller/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nichmueller/

Luanne Hunt – ‘Texas Tears’

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’re going to be shining our gaze onto Luanne Hunt for the second time. Previously, I lauded Hunt in January for her single ‘Bluer Than the Bluegrass,’ which was a splendid excursion through original style country folk musings. Now, her tune ‘Texas Tears’ continues that lineage with wonderful elegance. Let’s dig right into it.

The most important aspect of Hunt’s music, which I emphasized earlier this year, is her authenticity. This feel like country music straight out of the heart of America; something sorely lacking in the popular modern avenues of the genre. Hunt’s production is always so slick and she harnesses that classic style while also attaching it to a wholly contemporary vehicle.

‘Texas Tears’ was written by Hunt’s husband twenty years ago and they’ve waited two decades for the right ‘moment’ to release it. Former Righteous Brothers keyboardist, Hal Ratliff, came up with the piano arrangement. His prowess is beautifully understated, never overpowering Hunt’s presence in the song. The instrumental highlight of the piece is actually the superb electric guitar that dances in and out of the soundscape. It’s reminiscent of the famous Bill Kirchen’s performance style.

Hunt’s husband penned a song that fits his wife like a glove. It’s a very clean, organized song bound to create nostalgia for a bygone era of country. I’d align the writing with that of perhaps Tom T. Hall. It’s always important to remember that early American country was essentially blues. (To be entirely frank, it was blues that white people related to.) ‘Texas Tears,’ at its core, is absolutely a blues song.

‘Texas Tears’ is a modern ‘That’s How I Got To Memphis.’ From the lovely harmonies to the excellent production, everything accentuates Hunt’s presence as an interpreter perfectly. It’s very much worth spinning on Sound Clound below. Check it out and follow Luanne Hunt on social media and her site, too!