Sault – Their Debut 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.

In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Sault, a rising hard rock outfit from Richmond, Kentucky that was formed in 2014 by bassist Sean Tibbetts. Originally conceived as a solo endeavor, Sault later expanded far beyond Tibbetts, bringing on three other members to round out a full band. Their debut album, ‘Seeds of Power,’ is on the horizon. Here on the Spotlight, we’ve been given access to several singles that’ll be released on that LP. Let’s explore the tunes and see if they’re worth paying attention to.

Right out of the gate, one of Sault’s new singles, ‘A Peaceful Moment,’ makes a strong case for the band’s musical prowess. As an indie music critic, I’m often sent hard rock and metal that’s inundated in endless stereotypes and poor production. It’s a genre that seems to be fairly hard to break into and do something fresh and unique. ‘A Peaceful Moment’ is a superbly produced track that exhibits the band’s musical chemistry very well. Furthermore, it highlights Ben Riggs as a particularly excellent lead vocalist who’s a real powerhouse.

‘Adonai’ is a single that’s much darker in nature, both sonically and lyrically. The vivid, apocalyptic imagery of the single is rather impactful, and Riggs’ delivery of the material is absolutely ferocious. Musically, it’s worth lauding the bass, guitar, and drums on each of these tracks. They’re thunderous, exuding sheer intensity. No performance overpowers another, though, and I appreciate that.

The third single, ‘Guilt,’ enters some intriguing territory. It aligns more into metal than hard rock, something that’s especially apparent when Riggs devolves into screamo-esque grumblings at the end of the hooks. It works, though, and it doesn’t over extend itself in that regard. I will say, however, that ‘Guilt’ is a four minute long song that feels far too long. It slams you in the face from beginning to end, and it’s a song that could have been far punchier and digestible in two and a half minutes, not four.

Finally, ‘Save Myself’ offers a soundscape that feels very similar to ‘Guilt,’ though not quite as quick tempoed. The vocal harmonies are a fantastic element that’s sparsely used to great effect. The song houses the best, most dynamic guitar solo of the four tracks, and at the three minute mark, the weight of Sault’s sound seems to explode all at once. It’s great.

I’ve had hard rock and metal features here on the Spotlight loaded with constructive criticism… it’s a scene that needs better acts. Sault is going to be one of them. This is well produced, well performed music that’s worth taking notice of if you’re fan of these genres and itching for new music. Connect with the band below.

https://www.facebook.com/saultband

Twitter: @SaultBand

William Elvin and the Circus Tour – ’10/23′

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 William Elvin and the Circus Tour, the moniker of Hong Kong-based Filipino singer songwriter William Elvin Manzano. The acoustic performer has released a new single available to download for free on Bandcamp. Entitled ‘10/23,’ the tune is well worth a listen. Let’s dig into it a bit.

Elvin’s new single embraces a lovely level of musical brevity, scored only by a bright acoustic guitar performance and some light, but particularly gorgeous string and piano arrangements. As a result of this, the song has a very raw, authentic feel to it. At times, Elvin’s vocals stray into territory they probably shouldn’t, and his voice falls flat on occasion. That doesn’t detract from the track, however, because it adds to its emotional intensity and honesty.

At its core, ‘10/23’ is a love ballad, the type of song I probably get across my desk most often from singer songwriters with a folksy vibe like this. Elvin’s performance is a moving one, though, and that places it on a different level than its counterparts. ‘10/23’ perfectly captures the essence of a brand new relationship in that beautiful honeymoon phase. The only thing that matters in the world to each person is the other, and that’s a relatable feeling that’ll make ‘10/23’ an emotional listening experience for many.

There’s a uniquely somberness to ‘10/23,’ too, I’d argue, because as many of us know, that honeymoon period never lasts forever. (Even though it always feels like it will.) I could absolutely see someone listening to this after a relationship and having it be as impactful as listening to it at the beginning of one. That’s tough to do as a songwriter and I laud Elvin for that.

‘10/23’ is a touching single that’s much more compelling than the vast majority of ballads that come across my desk. Give it a spin below; it’s worth a download.

http://www.williamelvinmusic.com

https://welmrealmmusic.bandcamp.com/track/10-23-free-download-single

JJ McGuigan – A Selection From ‘Dissociative’

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 JJ McGuigan, a Austin-based singer songwriter that has recently released a new record called ‘Dissociative.’ The performer, who was diagnosed with OCD and depression in his teenage years, is an outspoken advocate for mental health. He was a finalist in VH1’s ‘Save the Music’ songwriting competition, and his new effort is very much worth paying attention to. Let’s explore a selection of five tracks from ‘Dissociative.’

‘Home,’ the first track I delved into of McGuigan’s, is a compelling lyrical effort that resides largely in the comfort that home and familiarity gives the songwriter. There’s an ethereal quality to the writing that is particularly lovely; it feels honest and true. McGuigan’s music feels lived in… worn. He has experienced these songs, and it shows.

True to its name, ‘In All Honesty’ is an authentic tune to its core, resounding powerfully with a landscape of Americana-esque instrumentation. The band backing McGuigan on these recordings is particularly sharp, and not a note is missed. There’s an edge to ‘In All Honesty,’ though, so much so that it’s slightly reminiscent of a tune someone might hear on ‘Nirvana Unplugged’ or the like.

‘Forces I Cannot See,’ is an interesting track that does a rather good job chronicling the struggle of someone dealing with mental illness. It’s chock-full of self-doubt and frustration at losing a battle of internal strife with invisible, but nevertheless powerful forces. I’d argue it’s a very relatable track, as are many of these tunes. In contrast, the atmosphere soaked ‘Letter’ is more uplifting – even inspirational, facing those fears head on.

Instrumentally, the highlight of this selection of tracks is ‘Desperate Eyes,’ a passionate performance that houses a warm, reverberated soundscape that’ll send a chill down one’s spine. It’s very powerful; his emotional vocals seep into one’s essence in a compelling fashion.

All of McGuigan’s music is free on his website. It’s worth downloading and kicking a few bucks his way, too, because he’s writing solid singer songwriter music with particularly insightful introspective lyricism. Check him out below!

https://www.jjmcguiganmusic.com

http://www.facebook.com/jjshredder15

http://www.twitter.com/jjmcguiganmusic
 

0wl – Press Release – February 25, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE – FEBRUARY 25, 2017

0wl Releases New Studio Endeavor, ‘Not My Problem’

0wl, a rising hip hop artist hailing from Oakland, California, has released his latest studio effort, a single entitled ‘Not My Problem.’ The dynamic new track, which is available on all major music platforms for streaming and download, is an insight into an emerging performer that is reminiscent of classic acts with a contemporary flair.

The style of music 0wl strives to create, which he has dubbed “glyph hop,” is an elegant culmination of several generations of hip hop. His music harkens back to the golden age of the genre with its smooth, warm vibes straight out of the 80s and 90s. 0wl’s tactful production highlights his poetic musings and lyrical prowess, something that’s often missing from the modern landscape of the hip hop scene.

Immersed in music of all genres since diapers, 0wl has fostered a lifelong passion for his art that’s embodied in songs like ‘Not My Problem.’ The suave new single centers itself around 0wl’s ability to shrug off the troubling parts of life in favor of pursuing his ambitions. 0wl advocates for being a solution to one’s own problems, not a person who laments their troubles in life to everyone around them.

Fans can connect with 0wl below on his official website and social networking. ‘Not My Problem’ can be streamed on YouTube below and it is now available on all major platforms, including iTunes, Google Play, TIDAL, and more!

http://www.wise0wl.com

https://youtu.be/-PF9T7SM_Bw?list=LLVKg__p1JOGzmcJMDbMdSVQ

http://www.twitter.com/glyphhop

http://www.facebook.com/wise0wl

http://www.instagram.com/glyphhop

http://www.soundcloud.com/wise0wl

Julian Kelly – ‘Fish of Plenty’

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 American singer songwriter Julian Kelly, a performer with a brand new record out entitled ‘Alive.’ Her music is chock-full of introspection, political and social commentary, and particularly unique vocals performances. Let’s delve into the single from ‘Alive,’ a tune called ‘Fish of Plenty,’ and see if its indicative of a record worth listening to in full.

Kelly cites influences the likes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, and those roots are immediately apparent in ‘Fish of Plenty.’ The single is a vehicle for her voice, first and foremost. A frequent criticism that I levy at modern independent vocalists is their inability to let their own voices shine. Their music often gets weighed down in intensive production and processing. Kelly, however, avoids that entirely and presents her song the way a tune like this deserves to be showcased.

‘Fish of Plenty’ is scored by a delicate, lovely piano. That’s the extent of the instrumentation, and I absolutely adore that. Kelly doesn’t hide behind walls of sound or extensive post-production. Her vocals are stunning, and the brevity of the musical performance allows them to shine. Her falsetto croons, which are reminiscent of Houston’s signature style, are steeped in emotion and passion. She’s living the song, and it’s a powerful performance as a result.

Lyrically, ‘Fish of Plenty’ is equally splendid, if not somewhat bittersweet. “I think you are strong, you say you are weak, but you are a treasure that’s not for me to keep,” Kelly sings in the finale of the track. It’s a farewell of sorts to a relationship, but one that isn’t hostile or aggressive. The song’s tone, oddly enough, reminds me of ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.’

This is a gorgeous single worth taking a listen to. If this track is indicative of the quality of the rest of ‘Alive,’ it’s very likely an album you’ll want to take a peek at, too. Kelly’s raw performance on this single is immensely refreshing, and I’d love to see more of that from artists in the independent community.

https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/juliankelly?_ga=1.51829290.209029698.1485413316

https://www.facebook.com/JulianMKellyMusic

JU Major – Press Release – February 23, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE – FEBRUARY 23, 2017

JU Major Releases Explosive New Single, ‘Yeah About That’

The independent Atlanta-based hip hop artist JU Major has released his latest studio endeavor, a dynamic new single entitled ‘Yeah About That.’ Released on Grind Authority Entertainment, one of the city’s quickest rising indie record labels, JU Major’s new club banger is jam-packed with personality and intensity.

Hailing from a blighted area of Little Rock, Arkansas, JU Major discovered his love for performance at a young age. By fifteen, he was a member of a Da Lyricals, a well-known local dance outfit. JU Major’s small hometown couldn’t contain his ambitions, however, and he eventually packed his bags to move to center of American hip hop music: Atlanta.

Citing an eclectic range of influences from Kanye West to Lauryn Hill to the Temptations, JU Major draws from an array of sources to create his wholly original sound. His slick production, tactful lyricism, and fiery delivery have won over crowds small and large. JU Major has taken the stage with the likes of Soulja Boy, K. Michelle, and many others.

Surrounded by supportive family, friends, and fans, JU Major has utilized his craft to steer clear of traps that lure many ghetto youth into dead-end lives. This, combined with a firm faith, has made JU Major one of the most grounded and compelling new artists in the hip hop scene. His electrifying live performances and raw, powerful studio cuts are worth paying close attention to.

‘Yeah About That’ is available now on iTunes. Fans can connect with JU Major through Grind Authority Entertainment and stream new music from the label on Soundcloud!

GrindAuthority.com/Artist/JUMajor

‘Yeah About That’ – iTunes.Apple.com/album/id1204791340

Soundcloud.com/GrindAuthorityEnt

Charles Luck & Addie – ‘Gems of Zen’

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 return our gaze to Charles Luck, the leader of the Black Astronaut music collective. His prolific releases have been a recurring theme here on the website in the last few months, and Luck has spent quite a bit of time recently jumping between genres and collaborations. His latest endeavor, a tune called ‘Gems of Zen,’ was co-written and performed by one of the Black Astronaut artists, a female vocalist who goes under the name of Addie.

Though Black Astronaut have their new release classified as ‘ambient’ on Soundcloud, it’s really more a pop song with a house influence. With that said, there is a level of ambiance to the new single; it’s doused in a nice dose of reverb that washes over both Addie’s vocals and the instrumentation surrounding them.

Instrumentally, ‘Gems of Zen’ isn’t a terribly dynamic song. It follows the formula of a typical pop song, so much so that the predictable rises and falls in the soundscape can be eyeballed from the track’s waveform. The song slowly builds, subsides in the mid-section, and then grows to its largest point in the finale. It’s a fairly unremarkable sonic experience, albeit one that’s also not invasive, either.

Lyrically, ‘Gems of Zen’ is actually quite beautiful. It’s very well-written, arguably one of the most lovely creations in the Black Astronaut catalog. “We are skeletons that have entered the gates,” Addie sings in a verse loaded with gorgeous biblical imagery. The vivid songwriting in ‘Gems of Zen’ is splendid.

That songwriting is somewhat buried by a forgettable production. I know that Black Astronaut specializes in hip hop and EDM, and those influences may have been best left at the door with ‘Gems of Zen.’ This song could be infinitely better if the production scrapped the synthesizers and drum machines, slowed the tempo, and scored Addie with a piano and some light string sections.

This tune is well-written enough to offer a fascinating performance. This particular rendition of the song attempts to push it into the corner of being a pop song. What if it had taken less pop influence and more soul influence? That would have been compelling. As it stands, though, ‘Gems of Zen’ is a perfectly likable inclusion in the Black Astronaut repertoire, even if it does leave the listener wanting a more intimate, meaningful version.

https://soundcloud.com/blackastronautx/charles-luck-addie-gems-of-zen

http://www.luckonmars.com

Christine Saadé – ‘Get Together – Twisted Dee Remix’

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

This morning on the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Christine Saadé, an independent pop artist with a notable level of success internationally. In recent weeks, she’s landed at #18 and #24 on the Billboard “Dance Club Songs” charts, riding high alongside acts like Sia, Bastille, and The Weeknd. The song that put her there is ‘Get Together,’ a tune recently remixed by Twisted Dee. Let’s delve into it!

I must confess, when I heard the opening notes of ‘Get Together,’ I braced myself for another stereotypical jaunt through radio-friendly pop music with kiddie pool levels of substance. Saadé deserves much more credit than that, though, because ‘Get Together’ actually has quite an intriguing message wrapped inside its electronic dance presentation.

“You wanna make a change?” Saadé sings in the verses of the single. “You know that it’s time to rearrange. They can’t hold us down when we come around.” I never thought I’d say this, but a dance pop single reminded me quite a bit of John Lennon. When the Beatle wrote ‘Revolution,’ he was frustrated with people talking about “changing the world” but not going about it the right way. In a more simplistic way, ‘Get Together’ comes from the same school of thought.

Saadé may not have been driven by the contemporary political climate when she wrote ‘Get Together,’ but one can’t help but draw the parallel. Here in the United States in particular, political activism is reaching heights akin to the 1960s. People feel that they’re being held down. Saadé’s music is offering a rallying cry of sorts, which I found pleasantly surprising when hidden inside of a punchy electronic dance tune.

That rallying cry can be for anything in life, too. One could listen to ‘Get Together’ and become inspired to change their life for the better in a myriad of ways. It doesn’t have to be political. I give Saadé credit for that; it’s well-written, even if it is somewhat repetitive. (Which, to her credit as well, dance music has a tendency to be.)

Musically, there’s nothing extraordinary going on in ‘Get Together.’ The synthesizers and beats do sound a bit like they’ve been plucked off the Garageband preset wheel. I can also see the song getting a dance floor moving, though, and that’s what it’s ultimately meant for. It’s an anthem of unity that’ll make for a good spin in dance clubs around the world. Connect with Saadé below!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Christine.Saade.FB

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/christinesaade

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChD_pqrOOhb1dOk13YyvFWA

Website: http://www.christinesaade.com

James Patrick Morgan – ‘Art + Work = Love’

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 James Patrick Morgan, an Atlanta-based pop-rock artist who recently released a new studio effort, an EP entitled ‘Art + Work = Love.’ The new collection of songs was inspired by the likes of Sam Cooke and Dave Matthews, suggesting Morgan has a fairly eclectic set of influences. Thus, are these five new tunes worth your time? Let’s find out!

The opening track of the EP, ‘Alone,’ is fairly indicative of the album’s sound: it’s pop music, albeit pop music that’s well-penned and infectiously catchy. “A girl like you should never feel alone,” Morgan sings in the hook of the chorus as waterfalls of electronic instrumentation rise and fall around him. The sound is well-produced, but its strongest elements are when glimmers of instruments like the acoustic guitar shine through the landscape. Those are hints of a sound that’s a bit different than traditional pop.

‘Expected’ is a much more ambitious effort than its predecessor. It incorporates much more soul influence with an instrumental landscape that’s far more compelling than that of ‘Alone.’ The brass section is especially good, and the personality of ‘Expected’ will get people up out of their chairs and grooving. ‘Fly Like An Eagle,’ the album’s only cover, follows with a pop-tinged take on the classic Steve Miller tune. It’s actually a song that’s suited very well for Morgan’s style of music.

Morgan continues his journey through pop ballads with ‘Right Mistakes,’ a cute pop song, even if it’s something we’ve all heard in varying capacities dozens of times before. The conviction of the performances make it worthwhile, however, and that goes for the finale, too, a track called ‘Sign Language.’ It’s another ballad, but in this case, the Dave Matthews influence really seeps through Morgan’s sound.

None of these songs are especially profound. There aren’t any songs on this EP that are going to be catalysts for quality discussions. They don’t attempt to do that at all, though. It’s pop music. You can dance to it, it’s well performed, and tracks like ‘Expected’ allude to an artist who may evolve beyond entry level pop music at some point in his career. Hence, ‘Art + Work = Love’ is not an effort to scoff at. It’s good pop music worth hearing if you dig the genre.

Website: http://jamespatrickmorgan.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/JamesPatrickMorgan

Twitter: http://twitter.com/thejamespmorgan

Instagram: http://instagram.com/thejamespmorgan

Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/thejamespmorgan

Jackson – Press Release – February 17, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE – FEBRUARY 17, 2017

Jackson To Release New Studio Endeavor This April

This April, the independent artist and producer Jack Baldus will release his third studio effort under the moniker of Jackson. The four track EP, entitled ‘Push Through,’ will delve into conceptual territory and continue Baldus’ exploration of his unique sound that elegantly melds together funk fusion and psychedelic musings.

Jackson is a solo pursuit with music and lyrics both penned by Baldus. When performing live, however, the songwriter is backed by an eclectic seven piece outfit that includes DJ Asian Hawk on turntables and vocals, a five-time UK DMC champion. Launched in 2015, the Jackson project’s first record, ‘Time,’ was mixed by drum and bass legend DJ Die. The following year a sophomore record, ‘Reality,’ was released.

Baldus’ career in the music industry has proven to be prolific and multifaceted. As a producer, he has recorded for the likes of DJ Die, Christophe, and Bailey Brown. As a musician, Baldus is a versatile session player and on stage he has performed with legends such as Don Blackman, Pee Wee Ellis, The Sugarhill Gang, The Yellow Jackets, and many more.

As a songwriter, Baldus’ songs have been featured on a bevy of albums by signed recording artists in an array of genres. Jackson marks his first solo project. “Intricate, full of texture, and displaying virtuoso levels of songwriting and performance,” the Curious Music for Curious People music blog raved after hearing the music of Jackson.

Jackson is available to stream and download on all major digital music platforms. Fans can connect with Baldus and his work on his official website and social networking, and listeners that subscribe to the Jackson mailing list will receive a brand new single, ‘Take My Hand,’ free of charge. Push Through’ is due out this April!

JackBaldus.comFacebook.com/JacksonUK

Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud: @JackBaldus

Contact: Jack Baldus at jackbaldusmusic@gmail.com