Azarias, Nabuddah and Sudo Black Collaborate on the Striving and Aspirational Zen of Avant Polyrhythmic Hip-Hop Track “Cross Continental”

Azarias, photo courtesy the artist

The striving bravado of the lyrics of “Cross Continental” flows with confidence and profane creativity while delivering a Zen-like mantra about aspirations and the folly of attaching too much value to the financial currency of society. These are the kinds of lyrics one hears in plenty of hip-hop tracks but not often enough with the incredible musical backdrop on this track. Azarias, Nabuddah and Sudo Black worked together to have a song that utilized a palette of tropical sounding percussion on top of a more industrial aesthetic which of course in the early 80s was directly influenced by hip-hop production. The call-and-response vocal aspect syncs perfectly with the truly unconventional polyrhythms as the main vocal lines gives a focus and solidity to at beat that on its own is imaginative but together there is a dynamic that completely sets this song apart from a lot of hip-hop you run across day to day. Using more robust percussive sounds in the beat and not the predictable trap sounds immediately brings a vital quality worthy of the commanding and deft rap performance. Fans of turn of the century alternative hip-hop will appreciate how the song incorporates earthy subject matter with avant-garde arrangements in an incredibly accessible fashion. Listen to “Cross Continental” on Spotify.

DARLING.’s Poignantly Falling Out of Love Shoegaze Song “Midnight” Has a Sound Like the Inversion of Nostalgia

DARLING., photo by Laing Goostrey

DARLING. seems to let all the tones linger into a hazy horizon on its single “Midnight.” The song feels like it was conceived of as echoing in a large space with shadowy ceilings and walls too distant to immediately discern. This has the effect of being melancholically reflective and feeling cut off from familiar people and places and left to process complicated emotions around a relationship that appears to be dissolving with nothing to fill that eroding place in your heart. What makes the song especially poignant is how how the lyrics aren’t angry, they don’t point in any directions, they just describe the sensations and the feelings of uncertainty and confusion when things don’t seem to be working the way they once were. The creative use of piano and then an emphasis on synth and rapidly shimmering, pitch shifted guitar swells and the dual vocals give a depth of expression to the song that lingers with you long after its over such is cumulative expression of sliding into a resigned loneliness that isn’t painful in a way that has an easily processed immediacy but something more common in adulthood and that is the unexpected drift that can happen in relationships that have gone on for some time and there is an inertia that has kept them going but the spirit to maintain it just isn’t there and there may not even be good, logical reasons why. Mood-wise it’s reminiscent of early Beach House but cold and sorrowful rather than warm and affectionate, like an inversion of nostalgia. Listen to “Midnight” on Spotify and follow DARLING. at the links below.

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Allison Lorenzen’s Video for “Tender” is Like a Dream of Darkly Prophetic Rural Noir

Allison Lorenzen, photo by Reid Fioretti

Allison Lorenzen’s 2021 album Tender is the kind of record you take in and get transported to a place beyond time and outside linear logic. Like dream pop from beyond the Wardrobe to a reconciled, peacetime Narnia. But in Lorenzen’s deep atmospherics are moments of mystery and darkness and Jack Manzi tapped into that for his video collaboration with Lorenzen and the treatment of the song “Vale” through Silver Island Studios. Cast in black and white with stylized movements, some seemingly ritualistic with the trappings thereof as well, and set in a wooded area per the song title, the grainy and hazy drone of guitar perhaps provided by musical contributor Madeline Johnston (Midwife) offering an immediate emotional lens alongside Lorenzen’s own solemn, processional piano and the sparest of percussion, the video is reminiscent of Maya Deren’s 1945 avant-garde film classic A Study in Choreography for Camera. Like if Deren had collaborated with Georgia O’Keefe on the visual design and produced a film rural mystical noir. Lorenzen’s enigmatic lyrics are like a dark prophecy that fades with the sustained gloom of the song like a dream that isn’t a nightmare but imbued with a sense of menace nevertheless. It’s the kind of mood that is somehow worth visiting to give voice to the feelings that haunt you in moments of heightened anxiety as a way to gain comprehension of them and loosen their ability to grip your psyche. Watch the compelling video for “Vale” on YouTube and follow Lorenzen at the links below.

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Walshy Celebrates the Dream of Summer Now Ended With the Dreamy Trippy Vibes of “Long Time”

Walshy, photo courtesy the artist

Now that summer is over, Walshy gives us a reminder of the early morning energy of that season with “Long Time.” In the video a woman wakes in a wooded glen and we see a green caterpillar crawl casually over her hand whole she looks at her hands as if they are new parts of her body while around her natural colors turn strange and the sonics of the track warp and wash out for moments before going back on track in warm tones but with a dynamic a little collage and a little like the tape upon which it’s recorded is melting. But she dances on from the green and purple landscape morning into sunset like all of these tripped out color changes are a dream and in the end when she writes on the screen the name of the artist in green paint the whole presentation gets even more meta but in a playful way that suggests that even when life gets a little weird and unsettled we can have fun and get through it if we don’t get too caught up on when things go off the rails a little. Watch the video for “Long Time” on YouTube and connect with the Dublin-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Walshy at the links below.

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Hoagie Reignz Genre Bends Rockabilly and Rap Musically and Visually in His Video for “Ridin”

Hoagie Reignz, photo courtesy the artist

Borrowing elements of Chuck Berry’s 1964 hit “No Particular Place to Go” Hoagie Reignz finds a way to suffuse hip-hop bravado with rockabilly with his song “Ridin’.” In the video our hero further mixes imagery with a leather jacket with spikes and his ride looks to be a white, 1979 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue Edition. His lady friend is dressed in a red and white polka dot dress and also looks like she stepped out of the late 50s. But the lyrics are like a transposition of today’s lingo to the Chuck Berry style with a few words swapped in so it isn’t wack. And yet while there is plenty of humor underpinning the song it isn’t simply a gimmick. Hoagie Reignz makes this work and his genre bending is inspired and creative with an astute blend of visual signifiers in the video as well. Who doesn’t love a little sly subversion? Watch for yourself on YouTube and follow Hoagie Reignz at the links below.

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Dea Nammu’s “I Can’t Breathe” is a Darkwave Chant For Primal Human Rights

Dea Nammu, photo courtesy the artists

The granular distortion on the cycling electronics at the beginning and throughout Spanish post-punk band Dea Nammu’s “I Can’t Breathe” really enhances a pervading sense of dread and menace. With the measured electronic percussion and minimal guitar work and almost chanted lyrics the song is reminiscent of something Nitzer Ebb might do if it emerged today and came up through the more industrial end of darkwave. But instead of that urgent pacing, this song traces a slow and tortured path as suggested by its lyrics that seem to describe life under an authoritarian order. But it’s more complicated than that though the lyrics are very repetitive and simple. How many people being oppressed directly by state sanctioned violence have declared they can’t breathe? A simple right essential to survival and one that is threatened by air pollution. But that statement in this song and the chorus of “breathe and die” with breath as a metaphor for freedom and life works as the shouted words in Nitzer Ebb’s “Join in the Chant” where the words take on a mythological and symbolic rather than a face value significance and as such the song feels like something much bigger than its individual spare elements suggest separately. Listen to “I Can’t Breathe” on YouTube and follow the Madrid-based Dea Nammu at the links provided.

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SV’s “How Did It Feel” featuring Ariana Celaeno is a Cinematic Trip-Hop Denouement to a Dramatic Romance

You can all but see the end credits of a moody action thriller scroll with overcast sky and gentle rainfall from the very beginning of SV’s single “How Did It Feel” especially once Ariana Celaeno’s breathy vocals drift into the song to linger such is immediate cinematic quality of the song. Celaeno’s voice is like a figure we see wandering off into the foggy distance, dropping lines like “tell me how did it feel/crushing my heart into pieces without any fear” and outlining the various hurts she’s endured from someone that supposedly loved her. Not in an accusatory way, nothing that aggressive, but almost matter of factly and in that way more affecting. Perhaps one could think of it as a summary of the movie that had just happened, though never was, and reflecting on the experience with a mixture of regret and resignation. A lonely piano figure seems to trace this path and synth drones carry an ambient melody in the background, all accented by precise, downtempo percussion lending it lush trip-hop flavor an enigmatic quality that tops off a song that ends on a more satisfying note than many movies these days. Listen to “How Did It Feel” on YouTube and follow SV at the links below.

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Sex Park Sets Self-Soothing Existential Anxiety on the Darkwave Synthpop of “Without Reserve”

Sex Park, photo courtesy the artists

“Without Reserve,” the latest single from Sex Park’s forthcoming full length album out on Dowd Records later in 2022, showcases the trio’s elegant songwriting in the realm of post-punk. The group’s debut LP Atrium (on Denver-based post-punk band Voight’s Vacant Decade imprint 2018) revealed an ability to craft ebullient darkwave tracks with urgent guitar hooks and early No Age-esque lo-fi aesthetics. The vocal accents and layered rhythms and melodies lend the song an emotional nuance worthy of its lyrics sketching vividly a headspace of someone doing what he can to cope with the anxieties and unresolved emotional traumas that can build like a persistent specter always on the edge of consciousness. Yet the soothing sounds and energy of the song which has a flavor reminiscent of Technique period New Order and wouldn’t sound out of place on a a Future Islands record minus the guitar. As for the latter, the delicate arpeggios hang perfectly off the synth lines tracing the paces like something you might hear if Depeche Mode had guitar on Speak & Spell in that it would never be the focus of the song, just another element to create a deep mood that itself is the goal of the song as a vehicle for expressing feelings and ideas that can be heady but delivers well with a mix of minimalist elements. At a time when many modern post-punk and darkwave bands have settled into stylistic predictability, Sex Park gives us a song that reconciles its influences with a modern sensibility apt for conveying a complexity of thinking and feeling in a way accessible without downplaying struggle. Listen to “Without Reserve” on Spotify and follow Sex Park from Portland, Oregon at the links provided.

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Laveda Nails the 2022 Vibe of Embracing What You Love in a Time of Crushing Uncertainty on the Shoegaze Pop Single “Surprise”

Laveda, photo courtesy the artists

The images of the band at play and frolicking in the sunshine and the upbeat hooks of Laveda in the music video for “Surprise” serve as a great contrast to deep spirit of melacholy of the lyrics. Even the imagery of the video shows a place where not all the grass is green, where the playground equipment looks well worn and the buildings show signs of the kind of urban decay that used to be a major feature of all American cities of size and is starting to again if you’re not too dazzled by the veneer of “development.” The song’s lyrics really do get to a social phenomenon that has been at play in the USA going back thirty years when generations of students and young people in general are told to manage their expectations in the richest nation on earth and to just accept that all the lies we’re told growing up about working hard and getting educated and that anyone can be anything they want but when you get there it’s more challenging than you’ve been led to believe. “Thought I’d give away my youth/To something better used/And I need it babe/It’s just part of the day” really articulates that feeling of being beat before you’ve had a chance. “I don’t know/never talked much/Sometimes feelings not enough/There’s a deeper pain/It’s empty” later in the song maybe isn’t about how if you keep up your spirits that you’ll get through the tough times but there’s nothing on the other end of those tough times but more of the same. And “Get up/I know we just made it home/I’m not surprised that I’m not sober/Being alive is just getting old/I’m not surprised that I’m not sober” has to be one of the more poignant lyrics that addresses the fatigue, the overwork, the sudden realization that hustling may not be a temporary situation for your generation and that self-medication is one of the only ways to cope when all other paths to changing things seem to be closed to you. And yet in the irresistible haze of Laveda’s guitar work and propulsive rhythm there is a sense of hope and perseverance against the tide of history because what else are you going to do but at least do some of the things you love and not give your heart and soul to a system that will crush everyone under to perpetuate its destructive funnel of all the goods of society to fewer and fewer hands. Watch the video for “Surprise” on YouTube and follow Albany, NY’s Laveda at the links below. The band is currently on tour with a stop at Denver at Lost Lake Lounge on September 25, 2022.

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The Lunar Year’s Psychedelic Dream Pop Song “Mist of the Team Mara” is a Short Journey Into Lucid Dream States

The Lunar Year, photo courtesy the artist

“Mist of the Teal Mara” begins with The Lunar Year sounding like a lost track by Cocteau Twins or Drab Majesty in the unconventional melodic progression but then eases quickly into more psychedelic territory as the song progresses to the halfway point. Languidly wailing guitar reminiscent of a gentler Bardo Pond get lost in the mist suggested by the title intertwine with the contemplative flecks of melodic drift that course through the song sits between vocal passages that seem to wander amid dream imagery and logic. The lyrics are a bit mysterious yet point to a yearning for focus and direction but only able to discern what that might be in symbolic language. Lines like “cat dream killed by sunshine” and at the end with “going to bed to find the thing I killed” appear to be clues to how dreams can offer answers to elusive aspects of our psychology and when interrupted we can feel cast adrift in our own minds and in perhaps returning we can rekindle that spark of psychic energy that reconciles the inner life with its disparate elements again. But even despite these attempts to make sense of the song’s resonant, impressionistic imagery it works as a condensed work of expansive, vital dream pop that feels like you’ve been on a real journey by the end of its all too brief one minute, fifty five seconds. Listen to “Mist of the Teal Mara” on Spotify and follow The Lunar Year on Soundcloud.