Al-x – ‘Fearless’

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 on a songstress who goes by the moniker of Al-x, (pronounced Alex) and her new single due out today, September 30, entitled ‘Fearless.’ Longtime readers of the Independent Spotlight may remember when we last delved into Al-x’s music in September of 2015 with an in-depth interview. Now, she’s back with her new comeback single. How does ‘Fearless’ stack up against its counterparts in the indie scene? Let’s dig into the new tune and find out.

A particularly laudable aspect of Al-x’s repertoire is her prolific nature. When I conducted that interview last year, Al-x has hundreds of songs to her name. Now, one of the most direct avenues to becoming a successful songwriter is to keep writing. Excellent lyricism doesn’t arrive overnight, and an artist may trash several dozen ‘bad’ songs before the perfect piece arrives unexpectedly. In Al-x’s case, I’d expect her singles to be of an especially high quality because of this. She has many notches on her belt.

There’s a misconception that pop music doesn’t have to be well written. It absolutely does. There is an art to writing a pop track, and it’s one that’s very difficult to master. Al-x is very close to doing this, arguably closer than the vast majority of pop artists in the indie scene. Her verses are sharp and elegant and her hooks are undeniably infectious. ‘Fearless’ is a powerhouse inspirational track that would likely occupy a hard-hitting workout playlist quite nicely.

‘Fearless’ is essentially Al-x’s declaration of triumph over her inner demons. “We all have our struggles and our demons,” she muses. “There was a time I didn’t know if I’d overcome mine, but now I am fearless.” This track is designed to inspire and ignite hearts in a positive, meaningful way. In that regard, I suspect this track will be very successful in its endeavor.

Al-x’s vocal performance is on mark throughout the track, and the production is solid, too. Everything is well mixed. My only critique, if it even is one, is that I’d love to hear Al-x’s voice without such an intense production. She has a great voice and a more minimal approach to the instrumentation would let it shine through properly.

Fearless drops today, September 30. Connect with Al-x online and give it a listen. It’s worth your time if you’re a fan of good pop music!


Press Release – After The Blackout – September 26, 2016



After The Blackout Debuts New Eponymous EP

Boston, Massachusetts – One month ago on August 26, the independent punk rock outfit After The Blackout debuted their latest studio endeavor, a self-titled EP with five new tracks. The short collection is a compelling insight into the four-piece band’s effort to further define themselves as a notable group in Boston’s music scene.

All four members of After The Blackout are veterans of the independent music industry. Mike Derusha, Walter Labree, Evan Desmarais, and Justin Leduc have been performing in different bands throughout the Worcester/Boston area for over two decades, and together their chemistry is undeniably infectious. In August of 2015, they exploded onto the scene as a uniquely energetic live act. The band has previously shared the stage with national acts the likes of Tommy Lee, Static-X, Wyclef Jean, and more.

After The Blackout traces their lineage back to the early days of punk, citing acts like The Ramones as influence. Their niche, however, is developed around the punk rock of the early 2000s. Acts like Blink 182, Rise Against, Green Day, and Bad Religion are akin to After The Blackout, and their nostalgic yet contemporary take on the style has won them over fans at every show they’ve taken the stage at.

After The Blackout’s self-titled EP is the band’s first real foray into the studio. The EP was written and recorded at Studio 420 in Worcester, and the five tracks exhibit the group’s range in a masterful fashion. These songs will get feet tapping, audiences moving, and fans rocking out – especially when spun at max volume! Fans can connect with After The Blackout on their website and social networking for continued updates on new projects and releases, and the self-titled EP is available now on all major digital music platforms.



Twitter: @aftrtheblackout

Instagram: @aftertheblackout

YouTube Channel:

Scott Warren – ‘A Way of Life’

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 Scott Warren, a forty-five year old musician that recently took to the studio to record eleven new tracks that he has been writing for over three decades. Thus, one could most certainly argue that the album, entitled ‘A Way of Life,’ has been much longer in the making than most of its indie counterparts. In order to fulfill his vision, Warren also teamed up with a new vocalist on each track, all of which he collaborated with from all around the world. Is ‘A Way of Life’ worth adding to your music collection? Let’s dig in and find out.

‘A Way of Life’ was released last week on September 16, so it’s easily accessible via platforms like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, and so on. Right off the bat, I want to pose a compelling question that I always have with artists like Warren: does his collaboration work to his advantage or disadvantage? I’ll often get artists across my desk that collaborate around the world via the internet instead of in a physical studio together. More often than not, this is to their detriment. The idea is intriguing, but the execution usually falls flat.

Fortunately, I think Warren has pulled it off surprisingly well. For the most part, these tunes feel organic enough to not make one question whether or not they were recorded in the same room. As I delve into each of these tracks, I apologize to the vocalists for not crediting them. Warren hasn’t credited them as feature performers on the track listings, so I have no idea who recorded what. (Something he should probably remedy.)

‘Peace of Mind’ opens up the album with a male vocalist that has some serious edge to his presentation. There are a few laudable elements of the track. The instrumentation is well executed, and in particular, the thunderous percussion performance is stellar. Warren’s songwriting is solid, too, and ‘Peace of Mind’ is one of those tracks that squares itself on the whole “inspirational anthemic rock’ type style. It’s suiting to Warren.

‘All On Your Own’ would likely align with a late-in-career Eagles track. Seriously, it sounds like something straight out of ‘The Long Run.’ In some ways, the track eclipses its predecessor. It’s a sharp rocker that’s foot-stomping and catchy. The male vocalist is very good, but he is very under-mixed, and would have been served better by a tighter mixing job. ‘The Other Side,’ the following track, then explores some of the ‘soft rock’ elements of the album with its first female vocalist. Again, her vocal mix has gone a bit awry level-wise, but it’s a decent enough performance overall.

I suspect that the varying quality of vocal production has something to do with Warren working with artists around the world. Quality control can be hard when you’re essentially outsourcing your vocal sections. One of the finer tracks in this regard, however, is ‘The Train.’ This funky rocker is mixed perfectly, and the lead vocals really kick the track into gear. (That, and the infectious brass sections.)

‘Your Sweet Stuff,’ the album’s second female-fronted track, handles itself much better than the record’s first. The woman’s vocals on this track are much better mixed. Furthermore, the actual track offers some more diversity than ‘The Other Side.’ The searing lead guitar solo is incredible, and the hard-hitting atmosphere of the track is akin to perhaps, The Black Keys’ ‘Gotta Get Away,’ if one were to align a contemporary parallel. Warren’s songwriting style is very pop-oriented, especially on tracks like this. What it lacks in depth, though, it does make up in intensity and pop sensibility.

‘Just Between You And Me’ does offer a bit more depth – that’s worth noting. It’s likely one of Warren’s more insightful compositions. It’s still essentially a ballad, but it’s a well-penned ballad that doesn’t feel inundated by tropes. ‘In Between’ follows, and one could argue it’s the finest track of the collection. There’s some clear Beatles influence here and it’s absolutely lovely. ‘In Between’ is the album’s most interesting track and its most organic.

‘What A Bash (Oh What Fun Tonight)’ is the only track of the album that does fully suffer the main issue of having a disconnect between the vocalist and the rest of the production. The female vocalist on the tune doesn’t seem to be in step with the music, and the beat feels awkwardly rushed underneath her. It’s a complex beat, though, and I’m glad Warren did attempt the track. It just needs some further refinement.

‘Everlasting Love’ is a soulful rock ballad that plays with synthesized brass sections to great effect. On the flip side, ‘In The Night’ toys with electronic instrumentation. It’s great that Warren experiments sonically in these final tracks. The finale, which is also the title track, walks a border between classic rock and country rock, perhaps never falling into either or fully embracing either. It’s an interesting finale, though, and one worth exploring.

‘A Way of Life’ is a flawed album. There are sections where the vocal production has noticeably gone awry, likely due to long-distance collaboration. For the most part, however, the album is an exceptional insight into Warren’s lifelong pursuit of songwriting. Tracks like ‘The Train,’ ‘Your Sweet Stuff,’ and ‘In Between’ are highlights, and worth checking out. The full album has something to offer each listener, though, and I’d recommend spinning it in its entirety if you’re a fan of lighthearted indie rock with classic elements.


Press Release – Madd Hatter – September 22, 2016



Madd Hatter To Release Debut Album This October

Chicago, Illinois – On Thursday, October 6, the independent hip hop artist Madd Hatter will debut his first full length studio endeavor. Entitled ‘Mental Skillness,’ the album comes on the heels of the artist’s last EP which was released eight years ago. Thus, ‘Mental Skillness’ has been a labor of love and emotion over nearly a decade as it has come to fruition.

Originally from Palm City, Florida, Madd Hatter is a lifelong hip hop fan. Artists like Common, Nas, Eminem, Ghostface Killah, and more have all inspired his own take on the craft. In the years during his absence in the music scene, however, Madd Hatter has grown somewhat disillusioned by the genre’s contemporary leanings. “A lot of rap tends to talk about the fame and the glory, the money and women, the expensive clothes,” Madd Hatter observes. “This album does none of that.”

For many years, mental illness has been a societal issue that’s often swept under the rug. There is an inherent stigma against those who suffer from it, and in actuality, a great many people do struggle with it every single day. Nevertheless, it remains undiscussed and ignored. Madd Hatter’s ‘Mental Skillness’ is a deeply personal excursion through the stages of mental illness. “This album became my therapy,” he says. “Each song takes the listener through periods of my life as I learn to cope with different maladies.”

Hence, many will notice that ‘Mental Skillness’ is structured much like a concept album. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the collection will be best listened to as a whole rather than segmented pieces. Upon its release on October 6, it will be available on all major digital music platforms, including iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, and more.

Madd Hatter is currently based out of Chicago where he is a “copywriter by day and a rapper by life.” Fans can connect with Madd Hatter on social media below.

Omar Bowing – ‘Creature’

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.

Quite some time ago, I was introduced to the independent progressive alternative rock musician, Omar Bowing, with a single entitled ‘Amen.’ I lauded the piece as a “championing of meticulous recording and composition,” and I loved all of the fascinating elements Bowing has compiled together to craft a unique sound of his own. Now, Bowing is back with a new tune: ‘Creature.’ Does it stand as tall as its predecessor? What can you expect from this new release? Let’s dig deep into it and find out.

Very much in the fashion of ‘Amen,’ ‘Creature’ is another especially excellent production. The sonic landscape of the track is three and a half minutes of surprising intricacy and creative decisions. It’s most certainly fueled by a harder, alternative rock influence, but there’s so much more at play as well. Acoustic instruments, for example, pepper the landscape as harmonies rise and fall in a folk-esque way. ‘Creature’ reminds me of the grand, intense Celtic folk ballads.

Alongside that acoustic instrumentation, however, there is an expansive presentation of rock and roll with bass riffs, thunderous percussion, and the like. All of this is then tightly wrapped up in brief, but fairly effective lyricism. There’s a misanthropic attitude at play in the piece as Bowing muses about losing faith in the human race and society being inundated by selfishness and hypocrisy. Bowing also declares that “romance wins” at the end of the track, though, so there is a light at the end of his tunnel.

Some context to the track can also be lent by the music video, which is illustrated by a variety of original manga pieces of art. My only quip is that the art-style of the manga seems very out of place with its musical counterpart. The two just don’t meld very well. (But I do think the inclusion of so much original art is impressive.)

Omar Bowing continues to create authentic, worthwhile creations that are worth the time of any connoisseur of the independent music scene. ‘Creature’ is another solid chapter in his continuing creative journey. As always, I eagerly await whatever Bowing tackles next. The continuing experimentation and diversity of his music is most important; he can’t ever lose that.

G.H. Hat – ‘Primal’

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 G.H. Hat, a multi-genre composer and remixer that specializes primarily in the EDM genre. He also remixes popular works within the classical, pop, rock, and electronic scenes. Thus, G.H. Hat is a fairly versed producer. His latest endeavor is ‘Primal,’ a single that’s out now and available for download. Is it worth adding to your music collection? Let’s dig right into the tune and find out.

I should first preface this review with the following: I receive an immense amount of indie producers that create electronic and EDM style instrumentations. Perhaps behind ‘singer songwriters’ and hip hop artists, this community of artists is one of the most saturated in the independent scene. As a result, most of the work within the realm of EDM that comes across my desk is very poor, lacking consistent quality or artistic vision. I think G.H. Hat, however, does a fine job avoiding those stereotypical pitfalls that his peers fall victim to.

There’s a misconception that EDM – electronic dance music – should be mindless. As long as it gets people moving on the dance floor, it works, right? Wrong. EDM, like any other music genre, is best approached in a compelling, artistic way. It shouldn’t be a slog through trope-driven production. ‘Primal’ is an excellent example of a EDM production gone right. Its varied musical styles are actually compelling to dig into; you don’t necessarily have to be on the dance floor to enjoy them.

‘Primal’ is built upon a heavy, crunchy beat that’s borderline industrial – it sounds like a newspaper press. On top of that, G.H. Hat has built a soundscape of eccentric synthesizers and mesmerizing melodies. You could surely dance to the track, but there’s an inherent darkness to ‘Primal.’ It doesn’t feel lighthearted; it feels weighty. At times, listening to ‘Primal’ evokes one’s childhood of playing ‘Goldeneye’ on the Nintendo 64. (If you grew up in the 1990s, that is.)

‘Primal’ is good enough to be worth paying for. It’s one of the better indie EDM pieces I’ve heard all year. G.H. Hat, however, is offering the track for free. I’ll put a link to that below. It’s very much worth streaming or downloading if you’re a fan of EDM. If you aren’t a fan of the genre, I’d argue this song is accessible enough to explore, too!












Press Release – Kilo Jones – September 6, 2016



Kilo Jones Releases Dynamic New Single Ahead Of New Mixtape Release

Kilo Jones, an up and coming independent music artist, has released the first single off his upcoming studio endeavor. ‘Mexico,’ which is now available on all major music streaming platforms and on SoundCloud, is the first insight into Jones’ upcoming mixtape, ‘6 Nights In Vegas.’ That release is due out November 28. Fans can also immerse themselves in the new single via its music video, available now on YouTube.

‘Mexico’ elegantly blends a variety of compelling sonic themes to craft a sound that’s wholly unique to Kilo Jones. The track has hip hop stylings and production, soulful, contemporary delivery, and R&B-like presentation. Perhaps akin to Frank Ocean or the like, Jones has developed a sound that blends some of the most successful and intriguing elements of the modern music scene.

Jones is often described as “a breakthrough from the box of expectancy.” His music boasts a raw authenticity that not many independent performers can harness. He paints musical landscapes chock-full of relatable concepts melded with self-analysis and complex energies. This approach is a fascinating one, and it’s become a style that Jones’ fan-base are constantly eager for more of.

“People are going to love ‘6 Nights In Vegas,’ and that really means a lot to me,” Jones says in regard to his new release. Fans should dig into ‘Mexico’ now in preparation for the November release of the mixtape, and they can connect with him via Twitter for updates and news on future releases and projects.

Official Music Video For ‘Mexico’

Pauline Frechette – ‘Love in the Afternoon’

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.

This last July here in the Independent Spotlight, we shined our gaze on Pauline Frechette, a classical pianist who had recently released a stunning original song, ‘Song for Michael.’ I lauded the track for its passion and prowess, and we even spun Frechette’s track on the Jukebox Podcast that month. Now, she has another song available, and it recently hit #30 on the SoundCloud jazz and blues chart. It’s called ‘Love in the Afternoon.’ Does it reach the high bar its predecessor set? Let’s dig in and find out.

‘Love in the Afternoon’ features Stanley Clarke on bass, an interesting collaboration since his performance is quite prominent throughout the piece. (Typically bassists aren’t featured performers.) Clarke accentuates Frechette’s presentation in a splendid manner, making ‘Love in the Afternoon’ a particularly lovely excursion through contemporary jazz stylings. Plus, Frechette sings in the tune! (‘Song for Michael’ was an instrumental song.)

Frechette’s lead vocals are beautiful. They’re soft, articulate, and perfect for the soundscape they occupy. The vocal performance blends into the instrumentation with elegant ease, blurring the line between the two. Frechette doesn’t showboat at all; the vocals live within their space in a gorgeous way. It also helps that ‘Love in the Afternoon’ is a well penned song. It has a traditional jazz atmosphere that balances perfectly with the contemporary presentation.

The rest of the instrumentation is compelling, too, and Frechette employs the usage of some very sparse strings. (She did this on ‘Song for Michael’ as well.) The result is a superb arrangement. In fact, everything about ‘Love in the Afternoon’ is equally superb. The performance is stellar, as is the capturing of it in the production. There isn’t a lot of music like Frechette’s in the independent music community, and as such, it’s a complete joy to receive such excellent tracks as this across my desk.

I’m more than happy to again recommend the music of Pauline Frechette. ‘Love in the Afternoon’ is a song very much worth adding to your music collection. It’s wonderful that it’s charting on SoundCloud, too, since that means the indie community is taking notice of Frechette’s efforts. I eagerly anticipate her next! In the mean time, spin the new track below on SoundCloud to help it keep rising up those charts!

Blue Flamez – ‘Rez Life’

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 Blue Flamez, an indie hip hop artist that’s getting honored as we approach award season this fall. His most recent EP, ‘Rez Life,’ is nominated as one of the top five finalists for this year’s NAMMY Awards. (The Native American Music Awards.) Voting has already started, and the ceremony is set for September 17 in New York. Thus, let’s explore the titular single from Blue Flamez’s ‘Rez Life’ to find out what the hype is all about!

‘Rez Life,’ the track, is fully equip with an excellent music video – a rarity in the indie music scene as a whole. The video is a superb portrayal of Blue Flamez interacting with his community. There’s an inherently authentic atmosphere to the video. The comradery between Blue Flamez and his friends and community feels particularly lovely, and it provides a wonderful visual basis for his aural ideas. (Though the video doesn’t make it especially clear who each performer is. ‘Rez Life’ seems to employ a variety of featured artists.)

‘Rez Life’ is a very well produced hip hop endeavor, and to my glee, doesn’t seem to have been created with Garageband presets. (The bane of the indie hip hop music scene.) The mix is sharp, the beats are unique, and the presentation is fresh and compelling. The lyrical content of ‘Rez Life’ is intriguing as well. Blue Flamez delves into the red tape and oppression that Native Americans work through in their lives every day.

I must be blunt – it’s never occurred to me that Native Americans would have logistical conflict with the government over, for example, hunting their food as they traditionally have. ‘Rez Life’ as a track seems to lend some insight into the contemporary Native American societal struggle. It’s no secret the United States has an awful track record with the land’s native people. ‘Rez Life’ does make one think: aren’t there some things that can be improved for these communities that seem to be being neglected?

I’m not Native American, nor can I pretend to be steeped in their culture in any capacity. As someone like that, however, ‘Rez Life’ caused me to stand back and think about the lives of Native Americans living in my country and how they could be improved in a way that allows Native Americans to honor their culture and traditions. Since that was my response to this track, I’d argue Blue Flamez did a fine job articulating his ideas.

It’s so fantastic to see a Native American hip hop artist infusing his music with his heritage. Native Americans are so underrepresented in every facet of the entertainment industry. When they are represented, it’s often offensive appropriation. Blue Flamez is the real deal, and I love that he’s creating music like this in the indie hip hop community. Check him out below and be sure to cast your vote for this year’s NAMMY’s.

Music Video:


Check out more info on Blue Flamez

Sam and the Black Seas – ‘Agata’

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 once again shine our gaze on Sam and the Black Seas, an impressive indie rock outfit that debuted their phenomenal song ‘The Game’ this last July. Upon the release of that track, I lauded the four piece band for their remarkably good production, compelling instrumental make-up, and superb music video. (Seriously, the video for ‘The Game’ dwarfs any other independent video.) Now, the band’s got a new track out called ‘Agata.’ Does it reach the high bar its predecessor set? Let’s find out.

Immediately, ‘Agata’ offers a very different glimpse into the musical stylings of Sam and the Black Seas. ‘The Game’ was a bombastic epic, one that clocked in at over five minutes no less. This new tune, however, is just over two. More so, that brevity isn’t just embraced in the track’s length, it’s also embraced in the track’s execution. ‘Agata’ is centralized around an acoustic guitar and not a whole lot else. Some varied instrumental musings slide into the track in its latter half, but it’s very much a soundscape of minimalism.

The folksy nature of ‘Agata’ does align with ‘The Game,’ and I love that this is the tune they’ve decided to follow it up with. It displays some further versatility on behalf of Sam and the Black Seas. ‘The Game’ exuded prowess and intensity. This track, while beautifully performed, doesn’t showboat. It occupies its own space marvelously well, and it’s a stunning piece to compliment the heavier parts of Sam and the Black Seas’ ever-growing catalog.

The lyrics of ‘Agata’ are pretty solid. They do align with your typical “introspective Mumford & Sons-esque acoustic ballad,” but they’re intriguing nonetheless. They’re not too derivative.  The track is simply…. pleasant. You could spin ‘Agata’ a dozen times over and not realize it. That is the mark of an excellent soft acoustic track. As always, I remain immensely excited for the future of Sam and the Black Seas. Perhaps we’ll see an album this year or early next?

You can spin ‘Agata’ on Spotify now. Check out Sam and the Black Seas on their social media and website below!