CJ2Much – A Selection From ‘Club Feelin’

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.

Here on the Independent Spotlight, I get quite a bit of hip hop and club music across my desk each and every week. It’s one of the more inundated communities in the indie scene, and frankly, a very large chunk of it is best left buried in the recesses of the internet. With that style of music, artists often fall victim to stereotypical production and lyricism. On occasion, though, there are performers doing it right. CJ2Much is on his way toward doing that.

CJ2Much, a Louisville, Kentucky based artist, has released his latest studio endeavor, an album entitled ‘Club Feelin.’ The record, which maneuvers its way through club, R&B, and hip hop stylings, is a dozen tunes long. For the purpose of this review, I’ll be exploring half of the album through selections offered by CJ2Much.

‘2 Much,’ is one of the singles off the record that has garnered CJ2Much notable attention online. It does what it does very well: it’s an infectious, well produced single that would be perfect for the dance floor. Is the lyricism stereotypical? To a degree, yes. It doesn’t try anything drastic or different. CJ2Much’s voice is in fine form, though, and he handles himself well within the realm he occupies.

Similarly, ‘LIT’ finds its feet in providing a very danceable, anthemic atmosphere. It does, however, offer a more dynamic, layered production than ‘2 Much’ does. The album is further accented by a quality feature with Antonini on ‘Top Shelf.’ Antonini’s inclusion on that tune is superb, and he complements CJ2Much’s vocals perfectly.

One of the better club tracks, ‘It’s Going Down,’ has another feature, this time highlighting AyeTeeM. It’s another exhibition of CJ2Much picking the right collaborators, because AyeTeeM helps flesh out ‘It’s Going Down’ into the full track it is. With that said, the soulful, R&B-tinged nature of ‘Waterfall’ makes it the best of these six tracks. I’d love to see CJ2Much explore that musing further, perhaps in the vein of Frank Ocean or the like.

CJ2Much takes the mic to rap on ‘Do With It,’ offering some further diversity from his end. It’s a quality performance, and like the rest of the five tracks, the production matches CJ2Much very well. (This track was produced by Grits N Gravy.) Thus, is ‘Club Feelin’ an album worth picking up based on this selection of its songs?

For the most part, yes. CJ2Much has done what many indie artists try and fail to do: he’s put out a record of pop-tinged club and hip hop tracks that are ideal for the setting they’re designed for. Is any of the lyricism notable or poignant? No, absolutely not. Will these songs get people dancing? Surely. Hence, CJ2Much has succeeded in doing what he set out to do, and that’s worth lauding.


Monsta Mash – His Three New Singles

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.

As an independent music critic, I’m no stranger to aspiring hip hop artists. In fact, they’re the bulk of what comes across my desk on a daily basis. The vast majority of it, however, is inundated with poor production and stereotypical lyricism. Many artists’ beats sound like they were stripped out of the presets in Garageband, and it often results in music best left untouched on their hard drives. I’d argue Monsta Mash, a performer from Santa Barbara, has broken that mold and released some music worth taking a listen to.

Monsta Mash has three singles available streaming now, all of which are preceding his five track unplugged EP due out later this year. The first of which, ‘Stay on Edge,’ has hints of Monsta Mash’s acoustic stylings, with a guitar elegantly accented by a thick, tactful beat. The musical style on ‘Stay on Edge’ is unlike anything I’ve heard before in the indie scene: it balances punk, pop, and hip hop in a surprisingly coherent way.

‘Stay on Edge’ has a few fascinating elements that make it as effective as it is. Monsta Mash’s delivery is absolutely compelling. He’s quite a personality, and as he injects his poignant personal story of overcoming substance abuse into his music, one can’t help but feel like they know Monsta Mash. His music exudes authenticity. Furthermore, ‘Stay on Edge’ has an inspirational element to it, best exhibited in the infectious hooks sung by a female vocalist.

‘Waitin for Tha Rain,’ the second single available from Monsta Mash, also incorporates an acoustic guitar in the backdrop of an intense production. Of the three tracks, the rapper is in his finest form on ‘Waitin for Tha Rain.’ His sly wordsmithing is unbelievable, and the whistled riff in the backdrop is one that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks.

‘One Day U’ is likely the most pop-infused track of the bunch, a ballad with quirky lyrics the likes of “I’m thinking your face should be my next tattoo” and “just like new wave hit the 80s, driving me crazy, I want you to be my lady.” It’s a fantastic entry in Monsta Mash’s catalog, perfectly complementing the other two offerings available right now.

I adore Monsta Mash’s sound. It’s wholly unique unto itself, and I’m very eager to see what he does with a fully unplugged EP. It’s hard to break through the rap scene, and part of that is developing one’s artistic identity and preventing it from being derivative or ostentatious. Monsta Mash avoids both of those pratfalls, and his music is very worth keeping close tabs on moving forward.



Press Release – The Pretty Fingers – Jan. 30, 2017



The Pretty Fingers To Release Dynamic New Single, ‘Just Say Go’

On Monday, February 20, the Australian alternative rock band The Pretty Fingers will release their latest studio endeavor, a new single entitled ‘Just Say Go.’ Due out on all major digital music platforms to stream and download, the track explores the outfit’s continued pursuit of furthering their sound into new and unique territory. The hard-hitting tune is sure to enter The Pretty Finger’s catalog as one of their hardest rocking efforts yet.

Since their inception in 2011, The Pretty Fingers have debuted a series of rather prolific releases, constantly infusing their sound with a creative energy unlike most independent groups. ‘Just Say Go,’ which was recorded at Airlock Studios in Samford Queensland last December, offers one of the band’s grittiest, rocking sounds to date. The single is also one of four tracks recorded during that session, all of which are scheduled to release throughout 2017.

The alt-rock trio has become a mainstay on an array of radio stations around the world. From 4ZZZ FM in Brisbane to Gashouse Radio in Philadelphia, The Pretty Fingers can be found being spun on stations across the globe. Inspired heavily by British guitar rock and Australian pub rock, the outfit has often been compared to the likes of Spy Versus Spy, Midnight Oil, and Powderfinger.

The Pretty Fingers have a simple goal: to create authentic, impactful, and exciting rock and roll music. ‘Just Say Go’ is due out February 20 and fans can connect with The Pretty Fingers on their social networking below for continued updates on new releases, tour dates, and more!

ThePrettyFingers.Bandcamp.com | Facebook.com/ThePrettyFingers

ReverbNation.com/ThePrettyFingers | Soundcloud.com/The-Pretty-Fingers

Twitter: @Fingersroc

ULYSSES – ‘Entendre’

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 shine our gaze on ULYSSES, an enigmatic new endeavor that just released their debut effort, an EP entitled ‘Entendre’ with seven new tracks. Since this project has very little social media or online presence, it is indeed forced to stand on its own two feet without any significant context from its creator. Designed to be a concept of sorts, ‘Ulysses’ is a genre-bending journey worth taking a look at. Let’s delve into it.

Tagged simply with “sex,” “drugs,” and “rock and roll,” ULYSSES’ first foray in the indie scene is one that doesn’t beat around the bush. There’s an ethereal sound to the record, a stye that has its creators comparing it to ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ That parallel is surprisingly apt, but ULYSSES has jam-packed that sound with hip hop influence as well. The first track, ‘Sputnik,’ is a wonderful excursion through fascinatingly atmospheric production and tactful hip hop lyricism.

It’s refreshing to hear an independent hip hop-focused act with such a heavy emphasis on quality composition and song structure. As an indie critic, I’m all too familiar with lackluster hip hop. ULYSSES even goes as far to further pad the atmosphere of their concept record with hauntingly beautiful interludes like ‘Entendre.’

‘Bend’ is one of the EP’s seemingly more experimental jaunts, focusing the beat largely around cascading, jittery synthesizers. The production is remarkably well done, and I love the amount of creative energy that went into scoring each of these songs. ‘Bend’ houses some sharp lyricism about relationship strife, too, but it manages to avoid cliche territory.

To a degree, ‘Fake It’ does fall victim to that stereotypical lyricism, though, and the hooks in particular are fairly unoriginal. “You basic – too good for you, let’s face it,” ULYSSES rhymes in the choruses to little weight. The musical interlude at the the two minute mark is intriguing, but the song’s lyrical content falls short of its production. It is, however, quickly redeemed by ‘Neil,’ another superb, short interlude focused around a vocal sample of Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

‘Doubts,’ a much more introspective track, is one of the better lyrical efforts on ‘Ulysses.’ The delicate piano composition elegantly backs it, and the song may stand tallest as the best song of the seven. ‘Horizon’ then ends the EP with the collection’s finest composition. The instrumentation is simply stunning. ULYSSES is in remarkable form in the EP’s final two entries.

This is an EP worth picking up. It’s not perfect – it could do without ‘Fake It.’ But by and large, it’s far superior to its indie hip hop counterparts. The production and lyrical content of ULYSSES’ music screams attention to detail, which there is never enough of in this scene anymore. Given its the project’s first release, one should expect more good things in the future, too. Give ‘Entendre’ a stream above and connect with ULYSSES below!




Black Astronaut – ‘Uppercutting Juggernauts’

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 Charles Luck, an independent hip hop songwriter writing under the alter-ego of Bad Luck, which is part of the collective Black Astronaut. We’ve featured Luck’s music a bevy of times here on the site; Luck has, in more ways than one, redefined what it means to be a ‘prolific’ artist. His latest excursion, ‘Uppercutting Juggernauts,’ is one very much worth taking a listen to.

The last time we featured Luck’s music, it was for a track called ‘Corn Cob,’ which too featured InZane as the personality behind the mic. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Luck’s music lives or dies on the talent he chooses to execute it. Fortunately, he’s chosen wisely. InZane’s inherently classic delivery is absolutely fantastic. He has a true ‘rock and roll’ sound to his rapping, which is particularly useful on ‘Uppercutting Juggernauts.’

Lyrically, ‘Uppercutting Juggernauts’ takes a cue from the Kanye West songbook. The song boasts about writing masterpieces, Luck’s large member, and makes several allusions to being Christ. Fans of ‘I Am A God’ will probably find similar lyrical banter at play on this single. There’s a playfulness to Luck’s style, however, that makes the track absolutely hilarious. He isn’t taking himself seriously when comparing his “microphone rants” to the work of a messiah, and that’s what’s great about ‘Uppercutting Juggernauts.’ 

Like some of Luck’s finest work, this new tune utilizes a very recognizable sample in a very unique way: it’s Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child.’ At first, I thought the sample was actually of Stevie Ray Vaughan performing the track, but after several listens, I’m more inclined to believe it is indeed Hendrix, perhaps even the ‘Electric Ladyland’ cut. It’s a terrifically creative reimagining of the iconic guitar riff, and InZane’s presence matches it perfectly.

The production work does a fine job combining InZane’s bombastic delivery and Hendrix’s fiery guitar. Luck does a particularly good job with working recognizable elements into his songs in a very natural way. It’s difficult to create a track around a talent like Jimi Hendrix and not have the song either pale in comparison to its sample, or feel forced. ‘Voodoo Child’ on ‘Uppercutting Juggernauts’ sounds like it was written for the song. That’s a high compliment to sampling done right. 

There’s a lot of quick-witted lyricism jam-packed into ‘Uppercutting Juggernauts,’ and it’s one of Luck’s coolest creations. It’s a track of raw intensity and rebellion, something that, of course, Jimi Hendrix was, too. It’s one of Luck’s best tracks, and certainly his strongest in the last month or two of his releases. Give it a spin above and connect with Luck below!



Contact: astronaut.black@gmail.com
Twitter: @BlackAstronautX

Tae Zu – ‘Def Tones And Beautiful Smellz’

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 Tae Zu, an independent hip hop artist and producer hailing from El Paso, Texas. The performer has a new single out, ‘Def Tones And Beautiful Smellz,’ and it was released with an accompanying music video as well. Thus, let’s delve into it and discern whether or not this entry in Tae Zu’s catalog is one you’ll want in your indie music collection!

I’ve said this before on the Independent Spotlight, but it bears repeating – I get an immense amount of hip hop across my desk, and the vast majority of that is a sea of monotony and derivative styles. It’s arguably the hardest music community to break out of because of this. There is a lot of noise. Fortunately, Tae Zu has a sound that’s not only fairly unique, but versatile, too.

The entirety of ‘Def Tones And Beautiful Smellz’ is centralized around a vocal sample that’s repeated within the main beat. It’s a compelling production, and it does well to separate Tae Zu from his counterparts churning out Garageband presets. Lyrically, ‘Def Tones And Beautiful Smellz’ is quite strong; it’s an anthem of self-determination and drive that manages to not stray into cliche territory.

‘Deft Tones And Beautiful Smellz’ was released with a music video as well, and surprisingly, it’s an excellent video. (We’ll embed it above.) It’s well shot, the black and white is color corrected beautifully, and it far surpasses most indie music videos that get sent to the Independent Spotlight. It’s well worth a watch.

‘Deft Tones And Beautiful Smellz’ is available on all major digital music platforms now, and it’s an early insight into Tae Zu’s album ‘P.L.A.N.’ due out February 23. He’s also planning to announce a tour next month, so keep tabs on his social media below. If this single is indicative of the quality of the rest of the album, it’s going to be a record worth spinning.



Calvin Rainwater – His Newest Songs

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 Calvin Rainwater, a proud Arizona native who is preparing to release his latest studio endeavor, a six track country EP that he stresses is ‘real country.’ This, of course, means that Rainwater is striving for a more authentic, rootsy sound. That’s something the mainstream country scene has avoided for some time now in favor of pop music with a twang, and thus, true fans of the genre may find these new tunes quite refreshing.

Right out of the gate, one will immediately notice Rainwater’s gruff, deep voice that’s absolutely perfect for the type of music he’s releasing. He’s accented further by a slick, well-produced sound with stellar instrumental performances. The poignant ‘If We Could Go Fishin’ One More Time,’ for example, is a terrific excursion through Rainwater’s brand of personal country. Rainwater’s ode to his late father is beautiful, and ‘If We Could Go Fishin’ One More Time’ is wonderfully genuine.

Rainwater’s continued jaunt through frank, but nevertheless lovely personal lyricism continues on ‘God Sent Me An Angel.’ “Lord there’s just no forgiving myself,” Rainwater croons on the track. “God sent me an angel, and I drug her through hell.” This, I’d argue, is the beauty of what Rainwater calls ‘real’ country: it’s a different form of blues music. (Which is why artists like Ray Charles, for example, traversed that divide from time to time.)

‘Sinners And Saints’ houses some of Rainwater’s best lyricism in this set of songs. Tinges of gospel influence and outlaw country stylings are very apparent on the tune, and Rainwater stands tall on ‘Saints And Sinners’ as a particularly insightful wordsmith. ‘Chloey Marie’ feels less polished, and this may be due to it being the oldest of the tracks, but it’s a nice ballad nonetheless. (Rainwater’s vocals and instrumentation feel more natural in his more recent creations, but this terrific tribute to his daughter is very worth spinning all the same.)

‘Tonight I Told My Dreamgirl Goodbye’ is a song that sounds like it’s right out of the classic country songbook. Hank Williams Sr. could have sung this song with conviction, and that’s a high compliment. Rainwater also includes ‘The Boulevard’ on the EP, a collaboration with Dave Patterson in support of veterans who suffer from PTSD and homelessness. It’s an excellent track, one that will hopefully drive some awareness and funds toward the issues its championing. (It’s a fully nonprofit track.)

Calvin Rainwater’s upcoming EP is one of the better country releases I’ve heard in the independent scene in the last twelve months. It’s very much worth your time, and I’d keep close tabs on Rainwater’s music moving forward, too.



Jacko Suede – ‘Summer Nights’

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 Jacko Suede, an alternative punk rock band hailing from Texas that debuted last year to significant praise with their EP ‘Abandon Ship.’ Moving in 2017, the group has released their latest studio endeavor with an accompanying single, ‘Summer Nights.’ Is the tune worth having in one’s indie music collection? Let’s delve into it and find out!

Though Jacko Suede coin themselves ‘alternative punk,’ they really align more with what is typically called ‘pop punk’ nowadays. It’s a sound very reminiscent of the early 2000s, an era in which bands like My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco reigned supreme. The music has an edge to it, but it’s also very pop-oriented, which is what separates it from more traditional punk music.

There’s been a contemporary resurgence in pop punk over the last few years. The bands are filling larger venues, the ‘classic’ outfits of the era are reissuing music or going back out on tour, and groups like Jacko Suede are finding their niche. ‘Summer Nights’ is a track right in the vein of this movement: it has a pop sensibility that makes it infectiously catchy, but it’s also accented with a certain degree of angst and edge.

The production quality of ‘Summer Nights’ is excellent. For a band that’s ostensibly coming up on their sophomore release in as many years, the high bar they’re setting for themselves in the studio is impressive. The band clearly has a level of camaraderie, too, and that’s apparent in their music video, which is well shot.

Musically, ‘Summer Nights’ is exactly what it advertises itself to be. It’s well executed pop punk with good production, instrumental performances, and lead vocals. My only quip about Jacko Suede would be that their music doesn’t step too far outside of the box. I’ve heard pop punk many times before, and thus, I’ve heard Jacko Suede. Their lyricism and musical s tyle doesn’t experiment much outside of the box it has put itself in.

I’d love to see Jacko Suede try something more original than what you’ll hear on ‘Summer Nights.’ With that said, the band does do what they set out to do very, very well. ‘Summer Nights’ is a good pop punk track, and it’s arguably better than most of its counterparts that come across my desk each week. The band is only just now coming up on their second release, so there’s certainly room for them to grow in the future. They’ll be worth keeping tabs on.



Maini Sorri – ‘Parting Of Our Way’

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.

Dating back nearly two years now, Maini Sorri has been a continued feature here on the Independent Spotlight. The intensely prolific songwriter, who now has 25 albums in her discography, has proven to be a resilient and compellingly creative talent. A veteran of the indie music scene, Sorri has traversed a slew of genres with ever-increasing prowess. Her first release of 2017, a single entitled ‘Parting Of Our Way,’ is out now. Let’s dig into it.

Predictably, Sorri has jumped genres since the last time we delved into her tunes. ‘Parting Of Our Way’ has a decisively rock and roll oriented sound, one that walks a line between 1980s nostalgia and contemporary pop sensibility. Written by Gary Cornman with instrumentation by Orlando Mestre, the powerhouse track is arguably one of the more driving, bombastic efforts in Sorri’s catalog. It’s a huge sound, which is contrasted in an intriguing way with Sorri’s signature soft-spoken croons.

Vocally, I’d perhaps align Sorri with a performer like Yoko Ono. She has a very expressive, unique voice, and it’s a good one, too. It is, however, unconventional. The included lyric sheet will help guide listeners through their first few listens of this track. After that, though, the song will slowly seep into one’s mind with its infectious hooks and explosive production. I adore how Sorri harmonizes with herself; it’s a great sound.

‘Parting Of Our Way’ is a wham, bam, thank you, ma’am sort of track. Clocking in less than three minutes, the song is a perfect ‘radio single.’ As per usual, Sorri has included an instrumental version of the track as well. In truth, it feels very empty. Sorri’s presence and personality is what makes her music excellent. Without it, the music just feels like a shell of its former self. For fans who would like to explore Mestre’s composition without Sorri’s vocals, however, it is available.

‘Parting Of Our Way’ is an excellent track. I love that Maini Sorri is continuing to experiment within her sound. It’s a great pop rock single that offers some classic sensibility that’ll be nostalgic for fans of 1980s rock and roll. Stream it below!









Press Release – JudgeMetal – January 24, 2017



JudgeMetal Releases Sophomore Studio Effort

On Friday, February 17, the English heavy metal band JudgeMetal will release their highly anticipated sophomore single, ‘Belong.’ The track marks the second entry in a series of song releases leading up to the outfit’s first full length record. Due out on all major digital music platforms, the track continues JudgeMetal’s conquest of the independent metal scene, a journey that has captured fans from around the world since their debut last December.

After the release of ‘Quenelle,’ JudgeMetal received overwhelmingly positive feedback on their unique sound. The group’s fanbase is quickly realizing that JudgeMetal is more than one’s average metal band: they stand for something, and they’re dedicated to their listeners and their goals. ‘Belong’ offers an entry into JudgeMetal’s catalog that highlights their belief in equality and rebellion. Everybody has a place, and ‘Belong’ is a poignant reminder of that.

Influenced by groove metal, thrash, punk, and nu-metal, JudgeMetal have formulated a sound that’s particularly singular to them, and them alone. Their brand of metal is intense and genuine, anthemic and rocking, and lyrically compelling and tactful. The band is a rising talent worth keeping close tabs on, especially as their impending full length debut comes ever closer to its release.

‘Quenelle’ is available now on all major digital music platforms, and ‘Belong’ is due out February 17. Connect with the band on their social networking to keep updated on their releases and latest announcements!