Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dynamics Plus - "Dynamic Universe Volume 9: Rocket Science" + "Mark of the Griffin"



Dynamics Plus presents his latest musical release Dynamic Universe Volume 9: Rocket Science in conjunction with the web series/comic book Mark of the Griffin.


This is going to be 2 part review so that I can focus on the music and the visual elements of the Dynamics Universe separately. As this is a music blog, let's first talk about the music. Dynamics Universe Volume 9: Rocket Science is a futuristic hip-hop project with numerous nerd references. The title for the album Rocket Science is fitting. At first, you'd think this name seems a bit derogatory as the normal colloquialism associated with the term "rocket science" is to indicate that something is easy, a la "it's not rocket science." But it's clear that this production is both complex and thoughtful and thus why Dynamics Plus used the term for the album. The first few tracks start out a bit too aggressively for my taste. But once "A Perfect Night A Perfect World" kicked in, I was into this album. Rocket Science has a strong focus on lyricism almost to a fault. As a result of the focus on verses, we don't hear a lot of "hooks" on any of these tracks. There's always a chorus or a refrain of some sort, but I never feel like these resonate and thus they don't embody the true essence of a hook. "Plenty to Say" is an exception with a soulful and sultry female vocal on the track for a true chorus. Dynamics Plus' lyrics are dense, thoughtful and very narrative. Natural storytelling is a big part of the entire composition of Rocket Science. The casual listener may have a hard time getting into these tracks on the first listen. As a result, I focused on the beats and was pleasantly surprised again and again by this album. The beats range anywhere from dance floor electronic to soulful, funky hip-hop. The hip-hop elements of this album are what really draw me in. The last third of the album, starting with "Taxi All is Fair" really has the sound that hooked me on Rocket Science. I fully enjoyed this album for the depth of the narrative, the variety of musical influence, and the technical prowess of Dyanmics Plus' lyricism. Dynamics Universe Volume 9: Rocket Science is available for purchase through the Dynamic Universe website: http://www.thedynamicuniverse.com as well as iTunes and all major digital music retailers.

On top of this album, I also had the chance to read a comic book from The Dynamic Universe collective, Mark of the Griffin issue #1 written by Drew Spence. This story is presented in a web series as well. After viewing the web series and reading issue #1 of Mark of The Griffin, I have to say that the web series is a far superior presentation of this story. The story overall is very well written and captivating, and the one major plus that the comic has over the web series is that as a reader you can consume the narrative with the aid of your own imagination. Reading the prose, which is basically an internal monologue, has a certain effect that you just can't get from watching the web series. The major failing of the comic is the art style. The comic is composed of actual shots from the web series that have some sort of Photoshop effect applied to them. As a comic book nerd, I just couldn't get into this style. I applaud the creators for taking an unorthodox approach and really investing in a multi-media platform for their storytelling, but the comic just doesn't work for me. By comparison, the web series still carries the gravitas of the prose and the production value is just much, much higher. The story basically revolves around one man, Marcus Griffin, as he undertakes a high-stakes heist and has flashbacks along the way to his very first kills. It's a captivating story and well told. If you are interested in viewing it yourself, I would recommend the web series. It is truly quite good. Check the links below.

Mark of the Griffin Issue #1
http://issuu.com/producersedge/docs/1st_failure_of_an_angry_man
Mark of the Griffin Webseries:
http://youtu.be/KW0c0hWSInA



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Arjun - Core



Arjun present their latest album Core. A trio of Eddie Arjun Peters on guitar, Lamar Myers on drums, Andre Lyles on bass form the jazz fusion group. This isn't your Herbie Hancock brand of fusion. The guitar-driven group also falls firmly in the rock genre. The sound the band creates is equal parts progressive, cinematic, jazzy and jammy.




"Rocks" starts the album right off in the emotional side of things with a heavy, triumphant intro that leads into upbeat, plucky progression worthy of something Bela Fleck might write. While it's clear that Eddie Arjun Peters is the band's namesake for a reason, drummer Lamar Myers gets a pretty big piece of the action on this track. His fast and technical playing with his drumsticks immediately hooks you into the song.  There is some wild variation throughout the composition, but "Rocks" wraps up right where it started. "Deep Impact" is an excellent follow-up to "Rocks." This track digs in and keeps the progressions in minor mode and the performances feel like there's more jamming going on. The rhythm section seems to breathe in sync to the rise and fall of Peters' improvisations. The title track, "Core," has an exciting guest musician. John Medeski (yes, that John Medeski) steps in on organ duties and helps elevate this track to a different level in a couple of different ways. His addition to the rhythm section throughout most the song creates a glue that ties trio together. But alternatively, his solo is a welcome counterpoint to Peters' lead guitar.


"Crystalline" slows the album down and takes us toward more progressive and blues-y territory.  "Lavalust" takes no prisoners starting out hot with a funky slap bass intro. This is probably the funkiest song on the album. Syncopation takes the spotlight, feeling like something George Porter or Leo Nocentelli wrote. Things get pretty psychedelic for a minute and the track opens up, giving a chance to feature the drums. This track is an overall down-home, barn burner with great riffs that stick in your mind after one listen. "Within You" feels very much like a jam band. Both the composition's progression and the style of Peters' guitar solos remind of Umphrey's McGee or possibly even Phish. Arjun is a band that fits firmly in the jam band/jazz/soul/funk circuit but they are also more progressive and deserve comparisons to bands like El Ten Eleven or The Sea and Cake.

The guitar work of Eddie Arjun Peters is highly lyrical and that musical property is a high priority to the success of a purely instrumental group. The combo of a solid and expressive rhythm section in the form of Myers and Lyles and the artistic vision and technical prowess of Peters come together to create a very unique listening experience. The aesthetic the band creates will have an appeal to fans of many genres, but these days, aren't we all fans of many genres. It's a testament to Arjun's ability to transcends genres and styles that they understand both their music and the modern listener's taste. They are able to take a combination of many sounds and fuse it into one new sound that remains simple and pure.

You can pick up their newest album, Core, at their website http://arjunmusic.com or any major digital music retailer. Find out more about Arjun and pick up a free copy of "Crystalline" at the following social media sites:

Free download of single "Crystalline": http://www.arjuncore.com
Buy "CORE" album: http://www.arjuncore.com/core
Website: http://arjunmusic.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ARJUNmusiclive
Twitter: https://twitter.com/arjunmusic

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Joe Wentz Project - A Blue State of Mind



The Joe Wentz Project present their latest album, A Blue State of Mind. This album is a solid blend of rock and blues. While the blues influence is heavy on every song, especially the title track, the rock sound dominates.


The first track, "All I Want To Do" is heavy, jamming rock song. It feels like it should have been cut for an AC/DC album. The title track "A Blue State of Mind" is basically a 5 minute guitar solo. A blues progression worthy of any jook joint holds down the groove and Joe Wentz shreds through the entire song. It's an impressive display of technical prowess matched with soulful expression. "Lost and Found" gives us a more sentimental track. The pace slows down for the first ballad on the album. Things pick up with "A New Horizon." This is an instrumental track that I would almost call cinematic. The progression is a bit more complex than anything else on the album. "Just Go To Him," the closing track, takes us back into ballad territory.  This is a heartfelt track with a narrative that elaborates on the idea of loving someone by letting them go.

Overall, A Blue State of Mind is a great escape into a sometimes bluesy, sometimes shred-y trip down rock and roll lane. Feel free to pick up The Joe Wentz Project latest release on iTunes and all major digital music retailers.

Also, you can find more info about Joe Wentz at his website: www.thejoewentzproject.com and on his Facebook page. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Shid Latta - "How It Is" prod. by Evolution MS



Shid Latta presents the single, "How It Is" produced by Evolution MS, in anticipation of his 30 track double album, Love and Other Drugs.

https://soundcloud.com/shidlatta666-1/how-it-is-prod-by-evolution-ms

This track is a heavy hitter with an excellent blend of hip-hop styling and modern electronic production. The beat opts for a more square wave sounding bass patch than the whomp-y stuff of dubstep producers. I highly appreciate this choice. It adds a presence to the beat that stands above a lot of the hip-hop AND electronic music that is coming out these days. The lyrics are real and speak on some serious stuff, thus the title "How It Is." As far as I can tell Shid doesn't have any desire to hold back about details of his life in his art. The song may touch on more serious matters, but the overall sound still keeps your head nodding. After several listens to the track, I still found myself getting down to this track. Check out Shid Latta on Soundcloud or any of his other sites and social media listed below:

WEBSITE
http://www.shidlatta.com/

FACEBOOK
https://www.facebook.com/SHIDLATTA666

TWITTER
https://twitter.com/SHIDLATTA666

TUMBLR
http://shidlatta666.tumblr.com/

INSTAGRAM
http://instagram.com/shidlatta666

SOUNDCLOUD
https://soundcloud.com/shidlatta666-1

REVERBNATION
http://www.reverbnation.com/shidlatta666

YOUTUBE
https://www.youtube.com/user/SHIDLATTA666

LINKEDIN
https://www.linkedin.com/pub/shid-latta/72/564/866

GOOGLE+
https://plus.google.com/116822141599882323006/posts

Sunday, October 5, 2014

F.O.C. - Color Blind



San Antonio, TX based F.O.C. present their second independently released album, Color Blind, coming in early 2015.


F.O.C. is an interesting blend of rock music, taking influences from classic rock, 80's shred guitar, and 90's alternative and fusing it all into their own new thing. Their music wouldn't necessarily fit firmly into the classic rock genre but the influences of Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty, or Van Halen can be heard throughout this six song album. With that being said, the majority of these songs harken back to the sound of the early 90's heyday for alternative rock and grunge.

The album starts on a mellow vibe, but doesn't waste anytime kicking things into high gear on "Desperation." The opening of this song reminds me of a Jimmy Paige ballad with a subtle acoustic guitar movement that leads us immediately into the meat and potatoes of F.O.C.'s sound. The song picks up with chugging electric guitar and matching bass line. This track is pretty good snap shot of what F.O.C. does well and it serves them well as the first track on the album. "Desperation" is a upbeat and catchy rock song with big vocal arrangements on the chorus and a perfectly placed guitar solo before the final chorus and verse. This is what F.O.C. is clearly setting out to create and the track is a great way to set that mood to carry us through the rest of the album.

The third track is a cover of Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way." This is the only cover on the album but it's an excellent feel for F.O.C. The band gives an updated take on the instrumentation while still maintaining a nostalgic 80's feel. While the original song is something closer to new wave, F.O.C. takes their version about 10 years into the future losing the synth-y sounds and letting the guitars do most of the heavy lifting. When it comes to an album, I would have to say I am the most critical of cover songs, but F.O.C. soundly pulls of the cover on this album.

"Summer of No Regrets" is a great example of how F.O.C. blurs the line between classic and alternative rock. The rhythm guitar drives the song with a feel that is reminiscent of a Foo Fighters' song while the backing vocals, cascading "ahh ahhs" reminds me of something right out of a Tom Petty track. The lyrical content here is also more similar to a classic rock song than alternative.

The following song, "Sleepwalker" falls much more firmly into the alternative rock category, with a heavy, thumping bass line leading us into the song with a highly affected rhythmic guitar falling in soon after. The track reminds me of early 90's alternative rock that I love. The drum beat holds the song together as the rest of the instrumentation bounces from driving and upbeat to sparse and moody. The chorus on this song isn't quite as strong as some of the other songs on the album like "Desperation" but it still has an interesting and relevant narrative.

"Love Sex" is one of the best riff-based tracks on the album. From the very start of the song, you're pulled in by a tight and catchy riff. The lyrics are not my favorite here though, at least through the verse. The phrase "love sex letters" just feels a little forced. But the chorus is quite excellent in lyrics and performance. The outro of "Love Sex" is one of the more dynamic parts of the album with some pad synths coming in and everything just kind of spaces out for a bit. It's a great lead in to the final track "Whisky + Wine."

The band really shows us another side for the first time on "Whisky + Wine." This is the first and only time the album really slows down with a ballad-worthy composition played on the acoustic guitar. The track is mostly an outro for the album, clocking in at only about a minute and a half, but ending the album on this track is a bit of a double-edged sword. It's the first spot in the album where the music gives us some breathing room, and I feel myself waiting on the rest of the band to come in with the guitar, but it never happens. It leaves us wanting more. And that's not a bad thing. Here's to another play of Color Blind.

Stay tuned to F.O.C.'s Facebook page for more news about when their second album will be available for purchase in early 2015.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Xander Demos - Guitarcadia



This might sound like a strange comparison, but I like metal for the same reasons that I like jazz. Both of these genres appreciate the level at which an artist can perform more than almost any other aspect of the music. Jazz musicians are know for their chops, their technical skills, and their deep knowledge of every part of music theory. This is also where seasoned metal musicians shine. Guitarist Xander Demos has chops for days. His technical prowess is undeniable, but I also believe that his artistic vision for his sound is what makes Guitarcadia stand out.

I usually have a hesitant approach when it comes to metal, because so much of metal these days falls into the death or emo-ish sub genres. But Xander Demos' particular flavor of metal is anything but dark. While it could be called serious and possibly epic at times, its a triumphant sound that is honestly more uplifting and just straight rocking than anything else. Surprisingly, much of this album is based in major chords and progressions. This was a really pleasant change from the norm. I found Xander's sound to be a blend of prog rock and hair metal in the most delightful way. I say prog rock because Xander's guitar lines are always very fast and complex. In fact all the compositions for the most part are pretty complicated. On top of that, the progressive rock sound of Yes or Rush can be heard in the accenting instrumentation of mono synth solos on a few different tracks. The guitar tone constantly has distortion and overdrive on it, but not in a grimy way. The overall guitar tone is fiery yet clean.



This is a dense album with 10 tracks that often come in at way over the 5 minute mark, but the content really lives up to the name Guitarcadia. From the first note of the first song we are being dropped head first into a landscape of guitar, and it's excellent. The longest song on the album, "Under a Darkened Sky," is one of my favorite original songs. I love this track because it's huge and epic. It reminds me in subtle ways of the artists who gave metal it's name, Led Zeppelin. While this song really doesn't sound anything like Zeppelin, the narrative of the lyrics gives me that feel of an epic story. Nostalgia for 90's video games is strong when listening to this composition as the rhythm guitar harkens back to F-Zero and the wailing lead melodies remind me of Mega Man X.

Another one of his originals that really stuck me was "Woodshed Sonata" as it was one of the few times on the album that the tempo dropped and gave all the instrumentalists some room to breathe and bounce around the composition. Additionally, I am a sucker for Back to the Future, so when a sample of Marty McFly kicks in saying "watch me for the changes and try to keep up," I lost it. It was  a perfect transition out of the down tempo portion of the song back into a wailing finish.


It may feel like a cop out, but my favorite songs on this album are the cover songs. The cover songs work exceptionally well, because the songs structures force Xander to reign in his skills to fit the overall composition. This is when we actually get to feel a bit of contrast between the amazing technical skills and the more subdued artistic choices that really make an artist worth listening to. It's hard not to love Demos' cover of "Boys of Summer." I think that I would say this is my favorite song on the album. This cover is an interesting choice, but it makes a lot of sense. I feel like music from this era is a major influence on what Xander is creating in his music. To hear this song covered by him somewhat encapsulates all the different influences I can feel flowing through his music.

The final track, "Lady in Red," really caught my attention as it is the only song that uses a drum machine. The choice to use a drum machine makes sense as it recreates the same feel as the original song, but here it was especially refreshing as it opens up the sound of the album for the first time. I think Xander Demos could definitely open up the overall sound of future albums by taking some risks with more decisions like this.

You can pick up Guitarcadia on iTunes and all major digital music retailers.

You can also find more fro Xander Demos at his website www.xanderdemos.com, his Twitter, www.twitter.com/xanderdemos, his YouTube Channel, www.youtube.com/xanderdemos, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/xanderdemosmusic.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Marshall Dane - One Of These Days



Marshall Dane's latest album One Of These Days is infused with some of the best aspects of classic country music that is so rarely present in the modern country music of our times. Too often country music is watered down and/or highly over-produced to play to a mainstream audiences. On top of that, the lyrics of modern country music are too often cliched, stereotyped, and just unoriginal. While this album still sounds very produced and polished, the "shiny finish" of the recordings doesn't detract from the exceptional heart and soul that Marshall Dane brings to his compositions.



Another side of this album is the rock edge that comes through so much of the excellently performed instrumentation. The first track on the album, "Take You Home to Mama," is immediately reminiscent of Bob Segar or CCR with a guitar riff worthy of any of your favorite classic rock songs. Marshall's crisp and strong vocals are backed by an impressive set of harmonies at the very first note and it sets the tone for the rest of the album. It should be noted that Marshall is a Canadian artist which results in an unexpected voice for country music, one that has just the right balance between twang, rock n' roll and soul.

"Stay Up Late" has lyrics that fall a bit too far on the "mushy" side of the spectrum for my tastes, playing somewhat like a rom-com for country music fans or country's answer to "Your Body is a Wonderland." That being said, the composition and and melodies are very infectious. As soon as the melody kicks in, it's pretty hard not to fall in line with this upbeat and romantic tune.

The title track, "One of These Days" is a very hopeful and powerful ballad with a carpe diem like message. The title is a bit misleading as you would think they're using this trope as a common colloquialism, but instead, the lyrics are saying that today, right now is "one of these days." It's a clever usage of such a common figure of speech, turning it on it's head to mean something totally different.

"Alcohol Abuse" is one of my favorite songs on the album. It is essentially a spin on Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere" but instead of places, Marshall does a superbly entertaining job of listing every type of cocktail or alcoholic drink in existence.


"Work It Out" is one of the more soulful tracks on the album channeling some of my favorite artists like Otis Redding or Al Green. Clearly, the sound is much more of the country influence than either of those artists, but the lyrics, the instrumentation, and Marshall's subtle crooning on this song set it apart from much of the dominant sound (country and rock) on this album.

Overall, this album still has a bit too much material on the sentimental side to stay in rotation in its entirety for me. But there are a few stand out songs like "Take You Home to Mama," "Alcohol Abuse" and "Work It Out" that I would revisit again and again. Marshall brings soul to his particular brand of country and it really makes this release stand out in the saturated market of modern/pop country coming out these days. I love that Marshall doesn't need to lean on twang to do country his way.

Marshall Dane's One Of These Days is available on iTunes and all other digital music retailers.