LP Giobbi – Light Places: Review

I often come across artists that capture my attention to the fullest, furthering my pursuit to listen to their discography or a short collection of songs before an impending release. Recently that has been the case with LP Giobbi, a Piano House star in the making, precisely as she continues to establish an identity beholden to who she is and more. As noted through her Instagram and interviews, Giobbi grew up a Dead Head, i.e., a core group of superfans who used to travel just to watch The Grateful Dead perform, and that has stuck with her today, specifically in her craft. As Evan Sawdley of PopMatter.com noted, “The idea of mixing the music of the Grateful Dead with contemporary dance trends sounds sacrilegious on paper, but for LP Giobbi, it is nothing short of a dream.” We’ve heard LP make remixes of the music of The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia’s music and deliver Dead House sets, blending the music of the former with house; now she’s giving us her debut solo album that continues to highlight her strength as a pianist and electronic musician.

There is no denying the limelight from the effervescent piano notes aligned throughout LP Giobbi’s debut, Light Places. It’s a secondary protagonist on this journey that sees Giobbi channeling Deep House and Jazz notes as she buddies these sounds together with pure rhythmic bliss. It’s like she’s transporting us back to when House and EDM weren’t constrained on particular scales to get magnetic energy from the chorus-drop combo. As it progresses, you hear how focused Giobbi is at weaving the production where you can forgive the two moments the featured vocals aren’t as gripping. Though slightly glaring hiccups, it has a continuous streamlined consistency within the sounds, which gives us a smoother passage that funnels its themes through these interesting starting points, like with the only interlude. “All I Need” begins as this piano-driven interlude that establishes the feeling of support, wherein one’s confidence remains high and focused, knowing each corner of the ring has someone to have your back. When it gets to the actual song, we see those barriers break as Giobbi performs vocally, which isn’t as common here. 

With the occasional guest vocalist, LP Giobbi has an album that tackles consistency considerably. It’s why these featured vocals from Sofi Tukker, Caroline Byrne, and Monogem, the latter two are independent vocalists who get their talents bolstered by Giobbi and her co-producers work, have an emotional consistency with the trajectory of the production. As fantastic as these collaborations are, it’s moments Giobbi takes a step back and works around developing something intricate and mesmerizing with pure instrumentals. On “Follow The Loop,” as told to Apple Music, “I started with one note from a Grateful Dead guitar line and repitched it and replaced it until this loop happened, which I just couldn’t stop playing and following through the song.” And that loop takes Giobbi through interesting avenues that show rich world-building, keeping it far from one-dimensional, like how the varying layers of Post-Disco, House, and Techno are beautifully entwined as it gets a little funky with the bass and piano keys and letting the rest establish it further. The same goes for the smooth cadence of “Georgia,” as it brings in heavy drum patterns to boast the elegant and nostalgically nuanced house synths and bass lines.

Light Places isn’t without faults. As noted earlier, there are two moments where the features aren’t as great, even when the production doesn’t fall flat. After a strong opening two tracks, the album takes a vocal down pivot with “Can’t Let You Go,” which does feel more one note, specifically in the chorus. This similarly reflects in “All In Dream,” where featured artists DJ Tennis & Joseph Ashworth don’t help give the track more than a rudimentary EDM direction that loses focus the more it gets into the weeds of being slightly more tropical and intimate. It doesn’t stand out, specifically with its piano rhythms, carrying a constant motif that we hear a few times – on the following track, “All My Life,” it starts with similar keys but gets explored further as featured artist Sofi Tukker brings this melancholic and melodically blissful performance. Sometimes the vocals carry contrasts to the production, burgeoning this hypnotic trance where you can get lost in the details and forget the subtleties that make the music danceable.

I’m not the most privy to the Electronic/Club scene, primarily because of the financial limitations I’ve imposed on myself, where you won’t find me at a set on a Wednesday night at the Brooklyn Mirage or traveling to Europe just to party, I have a 9 to 5. But I know about music, and as I’ve spent a lot of time digging through more archives and exploring emerging DJs/Musicians, I’ve come to find greatness in the spacious array of sounds getting created. And I can say LP Giobbi’s debut is one of these emerging artists I couldn’t recommend more. What she does with the piano envelops into these luscious overtures that steer her debut album greatly. It is a fantastic musical journey that truthfully lets the sounds keep you zoned in and focused from start to finish.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Overmono – Good Lies: Review

Overmono’s debut album Good Lies is full of rich textures, encapsulating breakbeats and some fluid songwriting as they continue to showcase the range and potency of their music. Like most dance/electronic music, there’s usually a bridge between tones, allowing sonorous self-reflections to exist within a zone of dance fever. The synchronistic connectivity the two have comes from this notion of dancing your problems away, and it does so without being so black and white. There’s depth and nuance within the productions that you’re inhabiting a new sphere of music where vibes are there to get you elevated, but at the same time, intaking these rich layers of sounds that make the whole electronic genre more than just something to dance to. Avalon Emerson’s debut & the Charm (2023) is a great, recent example of that, and Overmono continues to reflect that notion with Good Lies, along with past songs and EPs like “Bby” and Cash Romantic. Though more partial to the Emerson album, Good Lies comes and stays graciously, bringing more sumptuous flavors and an overall immersive vibe that you won’t want to shut off quickly, despite shortcomings.

Overmono has consistently taken various directions to much effect, shifting from the bombastic to the more rhythmic and melancholy, the latter of which is naturally effervescent on Good Lies and Everything U Need EP. Retrospectively, it’s also Overmono’s most personal work, and it’s for reasons outside of some introspective lyrics. It knows how to maneuver repetition for a vast worldview inhabiting the flow of sounds, allowing for these sentiments to carry retention within one’s love for them. It separates a lesser track like “Is U” from something as timidly profound as “Feelings Pain,” creating stumbling drawbacks within its cruise-like progression in the production. Good Lies has fluidity from start to finish, with some sonic components becoming motifs within a song’s distinctive use of electronic instruments. Ranging from the faintish and intimate vocals on tracks like “Good Lie” or “Cold Water.” It transfers through this conceptual bravado, where lies feel equated through its vocal performances and vocal samples. It’s how Overmono can shift between the Dance mode of tracks like “Feelings Pain” to more of a push with a breakbeat core in “Arla Fearn.”

It’s similarly reflective in the transitions between “Cold Blooded” and “Skulled.” Though both add additional flair to the rhythms created with the percussion and synths, they balance a distinct tempo and keep contrasting sounds feeling more connected than maligned. It’s part of an ever-progressing vibe, like if it were getting this mixed live in front of you, but the old fashion way without the different cuts between songs, shortening or lengthening them, more so vinyl to vinyl. Overmono, unfortunately, skips a slight beat by adding a separate track outro to “Good Lies,” extending its exposure and creating a bridge to a more dynamic creative palette. Though there is a fluid transition from “Good Lie (Outro)” into the radiantly techno-savvy “Walk Thru Water,” the former still feels like an afterthought as we get to hear the individual strengths of the Welsh Duo elsewhere on the album. Tom Russell comes from a Hard Techno background, while Ed Russell has worked more with breakbeat and the embodiments of dance-rave music. Bringing those two together offers a distinct palette that meshes – when reflecting in hindsight, were snugger within the contextual dynamic, they become slightly excessive in the long run.

For its synchronicity transitions, there can be both positive and negative in Electronic/Dance music – positive, like how Beyonce orchestrated the crossfades on Renaissance, or negative, like other instrumentation-heavy Electronica, where the vibe becomes engrained in the aesthetic that, for some, it may not gel till later, like on the latest album by The Blaze. At first, I felt it with “Is U” and “Calon,” which feel too enclosed within the vibe that you readily get lost flowing with the tracks near the end. “Calon” isn’t as immersive and more streamlined like “Is U” – never taking the extra step to take it to auspicious directions like the track that precedes it, “Sugarushhh.” It leaves you disappointed when reflecting in hindsight as they don’t bring the same bravado as they do with the atmospheric melancholy or the luscious breakbeats. There’s a synergy between Tom and Ed Russell, where, as brothers, they are tuned to the soundscapes as they get placed and steered in different directions, like the dynamic “Sugarushhh” or the atmospheric breakbeats on “Skulled,” where it has this spacey like backing akin to something from an alien Sci-Fi film. You can sense how they easily find purpose within the styles the other has worked more in.

Overmono’s debut shines through the rough patches as it delivers beautiful soundscapes, which get stuck in your head in the long run. You’re getting something resonant and potent, keeping that aesthetic of dancing feelings away pertinent through the transitions. It stumbles a bit, but it isn’t a pure deterrent, more just middling spaces that lingers on its smooth pacing for a few seconds, but you’re getting something great. I didn’t love it as much as the Avalon Emerson album, but something I know I won’t stop replaying. Definitely check out Overmono, as they come with the Juice, and make sure it’s known as the album closes on a powerful note.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Zombie Juice – Love Without Conditions: Review

Like his rap partner Meechy Darko, Flatbush Zombie, Zombie Juice has come into 2023 with a debut that speaks wonders to the character development written within the crevices of the bars. Love Without Conditions is viscerally tight, keeping itself focused on the task at hand instead of losing itself within the aesthetic; it can work for some, but Zombie Juice predominantly placates that joyful wordsmith and give fans something more genuine. The production shifts from the overstated druggy-laced synths or other electronic notes over potent percussion like another Zombie record. It’s tempered, keeping itself centered on divulging character. It gives us more of a direct proponent of the non-esoteric sounds within the beats, allowing us to coast through the 34-minute album easily. Unfortunately, that swift breeze can feel flummoxing as Love Without Conditions doesn’t feel as long as it is or keeps itself centered on the emotional complexities of Zombie Juice and the creative path paved for him since childhood. Listening through a few times brings out the dimensions of the songs, specifically through the lyricism, which stays strong even when it transitions to slightly obtuse sounds comparatively, surprising me significantly.

To call Love Without Conditions surprising isn’t without merit, as it’s been rarer for Zombie Juice to get this way, as when Flatbush Zombies flexed written linguistics, Juice never stood out as consistently. He is this jovial foil that kept it going hard when others took it to the inner depths of the oceans with these multi-stacked bars, all contributing to lavish-druggie lifestyles while retaining composure as an everyday human. LSD’s slight reemergence within the prevalent drug cycle became more and more pertinent, especially during my college tenure; it began to infiltrate and blend with the more boisterous weed raps. As someone who has done LSD, the focus it brings to one’s mind, driven by mood, gets mirrored on the album, specifically how you let it lead your mind through varying avenues of reflection, except at the beginning when the visuals are more potent. Instead, Zombie Juice is tapping into his thoughts rather than full colorful writing, creating a distinct reflection cycle that kept returning to LSD and other hallucinogens, but as the days go on, like Zombie Juice, all one has left is their thoughts, reflecting on their growth since the first time they jumped headfirst into the world they inhabit. Juice makes that more pertinent with the first few tracks, especially the first two, “Melancholy” and “Hikari.”

Love Without Conditions feels like a lucid trip, except in reverse, as the contemplative work comes at the beginning and end; the midway point brings more of that aggro-druggie typicality we’ve heard from the Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers prior. Though I could call this a two-track pivot in the middle more of that heightened visual pretense that you get told about when it comes to LSD, but not as unique. It’s what happens when it becomes habitual, or more recurring, that its visual effects aren’t as potent like the first time. They have a leveled balance that would make fans of the groups rejoice with delight as these two groups were significant cornerstones in the shift of NY East Coast Hip-Hop in the early 2010s; it just doesn’t all work here since they feel more like blank slates to flex over. It’s like they are the visuals, coming late to the party, letting the listener/user feel engulfed in their thoughts. It’s a downturn from the intricate and intimate balance within tracks like “Hootz” or “Say Enough,” where the piano becomes a vital component, fleshing the base of the beat by Tyler Dopps to new heights. It directs the tempo, the flows, and the mood, even boasting the effects of its chorus, as Zombie Juice sings, “Gotta say enough, it’s been a long year/Hope y’all remember me, so I wrote this song here/Years of memories, up and down the road/Years of memories, goin’ up in smoke.”

There is an emphasis on Zombie Juice’s narrative, but as is the case with some, their occasional push for the known, in conjunction with, usually fails to hit the mark. It gets jumbled trying to find ways to deliver a bridge between the more somber sections, even when it’s lyrically typical to Juice’s colloquialism in the druggie world. The lyricism continuously shows Juice’s authenticity to stay consistent; it’s just that the bridge doesn’t feel like it belongs, as they are more of the antithesis of some themes, like love and family, leading into and upon finishing “Drizzy” and “Dr. Miami.” As I’ve noted before, it’s a distinct pivot in the complexion of the front-to-back directive. It isn’t to discredit the quality of bars from his features on both, but they don’t feel that entrenched with the standards expected after listening to the smooth cadence on the first two tracks. A significant difference comes from its style, as others tread more straightforward narratives, weaving a story into the confines of a 16-to-24 verse.

That top-tier quality shines with the other rap features, Curren$y and Devin The Dude, who get put on tracks more akin to their flow and rhythm and still follow the assignment with the delivery of their verses. But as it steers the conversation Zombie Juice wants to have with us, it shows the discrepancy in effectiveness. It’s what helps fully round out the album to be this fantastic exploration of the mind of Zombie Juice, taking the opposite approach to the gothic nature of Meechy Darko’s album last year. It’s as if I never felt the need to press pause, like with others. This is a lax cruise. Much of it has to do with its swift pace, which allows you to cycle over and over without feeling like time is getting wasted as it has been with many of the Beast Coast rappers releasing solo projects, from Nyck Caution to Issa Gold and CJ Fly. It’s definitely one of the better hip-hop releases this year so far, and I mean that so wholeheartedly. Go spin Love Without Conditions and hear for yourself.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Feist – Multitudes: Review

Singing from the heart, Multitudes by Canadian Singer-Songwriter Feist offers a glimpse of her journey since her adopted daughter’s birth, where different moments have relayed powerful, emotional reflections. Some are awe-inspiring, while others get trapped within the circumference of sounds that have a lesser consistency; Feist’s vocals elevate these Alt Pop-Rock complexions on these sensibly attractive constructions that can sometimes feel meek compared to others. Though Multitudes incorporates different instruments that allow the orchestration to have a more realized worldview, when you get more tempered, ballad-like, and broken-down production, it doesn’t always reflect this visceral vividness heard on the opening track “In Lightning.” It doesn’t have an expansive purview sonically, but as it subtly aligns and balances the powerful writing and vocals from Feist rounds the dimensions to make the production feel more potent through its purposefulness. That purposefulness is due to the instrumentations giving space to let Feist shine over these modestly complex instrumentations, where the tenderness reflects the melancholy within Feist, even when most songs aren’t as profound.

Guitar strings glide through Multitudes with character, almost taking control of the directional production it takes. The acoustics bleed beautifully through the layers, guiding the tones of other instruments like the Electric strings (guitar & bass), cello, drums, and more. The way it deconstructs the production keeps us more centered on Feist’s writing and performance as she speaks with so much viscosity you’re bound to feel her vocals more powerfully, which can be beneficial. We get to hear the rawness in her voice as it reflects themes of identity, relationships, love, etc., through intricate storytelling and visually vibrant wording, like in “Become the Earth.” In the song, Feist takes on the perspective of a tree, giving us a look at how people close to you change, especially their relations to you over time. As she would sing, “Flee ’til you’re free, and stay loving me/Some people have gone and the people who stayed/Will eventually go in a matter of days,” visualizing the reality of life, especially when it comes to the connections made, and the history shared. Think about The Giving Tree and how it reflects its themes; Feist does so here, though more illustrative through words.

Feist’s writing is an essential guiding force that makes Multitudes feel emotionally invigorating, especially compared to the more colorful Pleasures, where there are lesser broken-down acoustics and more atmospheric and melodically driven performances. We hear more broken-down composites and fewer tendencies to let non-natural atmospheric backing harmonies become a defining principle. It wants us to feel the energy she imbues through her performances, like the feeling of loneliness in “Sad Song for A Friend,” which brings togetherness through a composite of emotions piling from the pandemic. Most of these feelings come from the era where I bet many of us spent time reflecting on ourselves and where we’re going less, as seen through people leaving jobs to chase something they love. We hear it beautifully and vividly in “Hiding Out In The Open,” an oxymoron title where Feist reflects on a connection she made with someone because there was no hiding amidst a pandemic where you got limited with many outdoor activities. We hear it when she sings, “Hiding out in the open/Maybe I’m gonna let you down/Nothing’s gonna make us new/What’s done is not gonna undo,” making us feel complete exposure.

With past albums having balanced acoustics blending within a current of Alt Pop-Rock rhythms, incorporating more synths and bass, Multitudes takes it to another level where the essence of background depth gets displaced for a more enriching experience. It pushes Feist’s vocals down different avenues, like on the astute “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You,” which plays a lot with shiftiness in vocal levels and harmonies. It further boasts the depth of its chorus, bringing grainy and ghostly electric harmonizations that bridge the meat of the verses. Though it can be slightly more downtempo, its use of the instruments offers a balanced platform that boosts the performative attraction of Singer-Songwriters. Keying into unique minimalist production with some songs, it still carries depth within the crevices like violin and piano notes on “Of Womankind” and “Love Who We Are Meant To,” or the subtle backing drums on “Martyr Moves.” 

However, Multitudes does take turns where its production adds some vibrant notes, weaving unique sounds reflective of Feist’s self. Aside from the opening track, we get the enigmatic “Borrow Trouble,” where the production takes its instruments and pushes more than just a few notes to the forefront, unlike some slower-tempo songs. It has distinctive moments of grandeur to showcase her vocal range, but more so reflects this explosion of emotion. On them, she weaves these pop cadences over these beautifully layered instrumentals. Sometimes you’ll get a powerful twist with culturally Irish instrumentations, like what we get midway through “In Lightning” or the wonderfully simple but captivating “Calling All The Gods.” But many times, it’s more tempered and free-flowing with the emotional weight of what is getting reflected by Feist. It’s the essence of being that we hear how poignant the writing ends up being. Feist constructs it through first or third perspectives that embolden its themes further, letting you feel immersed, like with this sensation of a different life and worldview on “The Redwing.” 

More intimate and metaphorically direct, Feist truly lets us in with Multitudes. A lot is working for the album, but sometimes it can get muddled as the minimalist instrumentations aren’t always as compelling. With enough oomph from Feist’s vocals, it levels many songs toward the side of fantastic, and as I sat there, enthralled, I can likely guarantee you will be too.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Daughter – Stereo Mind Games: Review

It’s been seven years since the last time Indie Folk/Rock UK trio Daughter released an album, and that absence has been felt; exponentially so, as I went through listening to Stereo Mind Game. They have returned, bringing visceral orchestrations and vocal performances centered on atmospheric tendencies without diluting the lyrical depth driving its poignancy. Thematically focused on directional emotions deriving from moments you reflect on loved ones you miss or separation of self when balancing who you are, for example, taking you on a smooth and respective retrospective journey of enriching sounds. In some ways, the album covers niche grounds where it blends aspects of alternative rock, shoegaze, and dream pop into a lyrically heavy concoction while leaving out catchy pop conventions so you’re engaged through other avenues. It delivers these profound moments where you can stop but keep it playing on repeat as you get entrenched within the confines of its fantastic production and relatable songwriting that will have you returning again and again through that connectivity.

Softening the listener with a melancholy instrumental as the intro, Stereo Mind Game quickly grabs your ears and pits you against a concurrent run of deep songs where its themes come to life like popping out of a book. We’re hearing Elena Torna, lead singer of Daughter, sing about these moments where you feel sullen, unknowing how the world shifts around you as time passes, and the feeling of displacement while motionless on “Dandelion.” We hear her sing about contrasting emotions that come with loneliness, like the peaceful feeling on “Be On Your Way” or the depressive longing that comes from not seeing certain loved ones on a regular on “Isolation.” It continues to build and build with the production elevating the senses further. Reflections of these themes are resonant through differentiating directions and unique constructions where originality becomes a dominant positive. It allows you to dig deep and listen carefully, getting through these auspicious themes that carry semblance from track to track. It extends beyond this, as there are roots within them that build character depth and growth.

Those positives are also definitively true within the production, as Daughter plays around with varying instrumental connections, weaving new sounds on top of its rock/pop core. Sometimes other musicians incorporate particular notes of influence that are more direct and less fun references, like dream pop notes on “Party” or alternative pop on the final track, “Wish I Could Cross The Sea.” These tracks have more of a finite construct as they weave layers to boast Elena Torna’s emotional depth in her vocals fluidly. The production reacts as this component, which flows with enough balance to keep the performances moving steadily. The synthesizers are a constant that keeps it in tow, getting used sometimes to subvert thoughts of tracks treading toward more remedying acoustics. On “Neptune,” its shift from the acoustic strings to a more broken down direction with simple drum patterns and vibrant synth notes – with “Future Lover,” the synths guide the bridge between more enigmatic drum patterns from the drum machine and some subtle guitars playing in the back.

Stereo Mind Game doesn’t overly play with genres but instead with soundscapes that embolden its inner core to keep it molded well. Sometimes they play with sounds that juxtapose perspective, especially with a given context of the song, like with “Party,” which sees Elena Torna sing about inner growth as she seeks to stay sober from alcohol, using the surroundings of a party to paint astute visuals. Unlike what one thinks of when it comes to parties, the production and performance are more somber in contrast to the colorful and loud, like Torna is leaning against the wall in the living room, alone and reflecting on habits she’s bettering herself from. At its definitive core, the music drives behind the wheel of more dream pop and shoegaze elements beneath centralized indie rock percussion; however, there are varying moments where it takes a dip into deep waters and comes out with something distinctively grand. Within the second half of “Dandelion,” it plays with more pedals, shifting from the apropos, like with “Junkmail,” it blends juxtaposing drum beats from Remi Aguilella, drummer of the band, and the drum machine. 

Daughter has constructed a finely tuned album within a great composite of writing and production where each track gets to breathe and feel entwined within the bigger picture, even when the sonic motifs aren’t as open and eloquently subtle. It has this balance where, as long as the atmospheric sensibilities never deter in zones where it’s most effective. It’s significant how the tracks seamlessly transition between each other, like when you get a more typical but exuberant indie rock production in “Swim Back,” leading into a more tempered and contrasting production in “Junkmail.” Unfortunately, there are little moments where I didn’t find myself vibing, loving so much of this album that it’s easy to get lost in some weak moments. For example, “To Rage” comes off as calming and safe, doing little with the synths and feeling a little hollow compared to what has gotten heard leading to it. As you keep this on replay, it camouflages within the vibe that its placement doesn’t feel like it overcooks what Daughter wants to deliver.

Stereo Mind Game is fantastic, for lack of a better term, but where it triumphs is in the synergy and synchronization between vocals and production. It’s like this vast, relaxed, and loudly intimate moment where the music reflects what you’d hear at venues that embolden that bar basement vibe, where one expects nothing but introspective lyrics. It may be a little niche for some, but the music speaks wonders as it pushes beyond their style and expand to new horizons, especially as it sometimes juxtaposes sounds beautifully. Highly recommend the album, even if this is your first time hearing about them, because I can hopefully guarantee this is one great album.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Blondshell – Blondshell: Review

After finding unhappiness with the direction of her pop music career, Sabrina Teitelbaum took the time to grow, ridding herself of addictions, finding herself musically and mentally, and started writing music that speaks more to her being than what professional writers could provide. Beginning when she was cooped up in an East Los Angeles apartment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, it eventually became a fantastic debut under a new name, Blondshell. Unlike the pop music Teitelbaum made prior, the sound of her self-titled debut is a complete 180 from what indie fans would’ve expected when she released “Olympus” last year. Blondshell comes and goes ferociously, bringing resounding depth lyrically while expanding the horizons of apropos Alternative Rock, adding some edge to make the emotional complexities feel heard. As one to never hold high standards for debuts, Blondshell was a sheer surprise, not because it fits within the musical sphere that my sensitivities are privy to, but because it’s different. It has clear direction, and as it rounds the bases from beginning to end, captivating pivots will have you returning, especially between the tempos and vocal performances.

After giving Blondshell a few listens, one element of the music’s appeal became evident, the lure it uses to grip the listener. It keeps us hooked by letting the songs flow on repeat without focusing on forcing something to be catchy, whether it’s the hook or lightly layered melodies and rhymes. It’s centered on the performance and the multi-faceted layers beneath the vocal performance, where the instruments elevate and evolve the music exponentially. It makes it known instantly with the riotous “Veronica Mars,” placing a stamp on a type of aesthetic that will get heard again later in a listen-through. In between tracks of that ilk, Sabrina Teitelbaum brings some tempered balance with these downshifts, letting us hear the depth of her artistry with some stripped-down but layered instrumentations that balance modest pop vocals with its indie rock core. As we listen to her deliver themes of heartbreak, anger, toxic relationship dynamics, addiction and substance abuse, and social anxiety, there is this rich sense of understanding amongst varying levels. Though it may be a lot of themes, Blondshell never feels bloated or over-sizzled, as Teitelbaum keeps a steady balance between performances. 

Much of the album’s greatness comes from a consistent balance between vocal performances and production, especially when the leading artist is more of the singer-songwriter as someone else produces. Though Sabrina Teitelbaum’s input into the composition is here and pivotal, producer Yves Rothman brings it to life, allowing us to hear these multi-dimensional songs carrying viscerally raw emotions. Whether it’s dreary and dark like “Salad,” where Teitelbaum sings about contemplating murderous revenge on a friend’s abusive partner, or somberly speaking on sobriety and relapse on “Sober Together,” the way these tracks’ production contrast each other shows depth between styles. Though these have their own sense of being and flow, keeping in tow a consistency of sound, the more rockified pivots with “Veronica Mars,” “Sepsis,” and “Joiner” boasts the angst within, letting feel entrenched with her emotions, allowing us to feel the kinetic synergy between the two as you fall in love with captivating aesthetic and melodies that are occasionally more deadpan than vibrant, but fits her true sense of self.

Though the originality stays nigh to it, one gets two songs that aren’t as profound: the second and second-to-last, which don’t feel as refined, tiptoeing some standard indie rock complexions without teetering too far into being unique. With “Kiss City,” the mood stays strong, and the performance is sheer mellow-gold; however, the production doesn’t seem to carry steam, like the love Sabrina Teitelbaum writes about, until the last 20 seconds when the chorus gets a kick from louder instrumental arrangements. “Tarmac,” the second-to-last song, parallels its deadpan-like performance with an equally simple indie-pop layout that offers little to the imagination. They aren’t inherently poor songs, but sometimes the delivery feels slighted, as the production can sound more hollow than not. Its construction tempers beautiful insight into the effect of addiction and how seemingly it can overcome the levels of importance. As Teitelbaum sings, “I can’t stay away from my new friends/I think that I’m losing myself/I’m in love with a feeling/Not with anyone or any real thing.” We hear and read her as she laments how much she loves the high, losing sight of the world around her, reflecting a sentiment carried throughout.

An outstanding debut, Blondshell is a breath of fresh air amongst the many indie rockers debuts these days. It’s more that Sabrina Teitelbaum has found a composite direction that relays the potency of her vocal strengths, levying a profoundly smooth falsetto between the deadpan-ish delivery and the melodic rock avenue. The writing is the strong point, as we hear Teitelbaum weave different perspectives and stories to relay what she’s feeling and what she’s overcome. It’s all interconnected within her sphere, even when she sings about her close friend’s relationship. It’s further bolstered by gripping parallels and connections between similar themes, like drug use or abuse, and its effects on life, as she beautifully composes with Yves Rothman on “Joiner.” Ultimately, Blondshell gets one of my more enthusiastic recommendations, especially if you were big on the Boygenius debut.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Larry June & The Alchemist – The Great Escape: Review

Within Rap music, we have artists with the viscosity to deliver many projects throughout a 12 Month span. There’s Curren$y, Boldly James, Papoose, Termanology, and G Perico, to name a few, but on the opposite end of the LA coast where G Perico hails from, there’s Larry June from the Bay area of California. Entrenched within soulful vibes, it becomes a guiding principle that boasts the production’s eventual turns as we get hints of refined melancholic sounds, which places a board for June to deliver visceral lyricism akin to his world. That’s what we get with the resoundingly beautiful The Great Escape, an album collaboration with famed Hip-Hop producer The Alchemist. Considering the hype behind both artists, it’s safe to say that the album delivers and then some; it keeps a smooth vocal cadence throughout, immersing the listener within the transparent sounds that push the writing to the front. It fits within June’s repertoire of music that follows a similar aesthetic; however, between less engaging choruses, there is so much to love about the album, especially Alchemist’s production.

As it opens to the sounds of rain crashing against the window in calming fashion, horns begin to blare as the percussion subtly forms, and that’s when Larry June comes in and flows fiercely and seductively. It’s a robust strength of his as he brings a slight casualness to his reflections of life, noting his own stigma with distrusting banks and reminding us to do our taxes appropriately; it shifts the luxurious content which shines like the cars and watches June flexes to something more rounded. Like the artists mentioned, June is part of a collective where the subjects can overlay from album to album, but his creativity has shown us a consistent shift in delivery. For example, he raps about the fundamentals of saving and hustling on “89 Earthquake,” named after the famous Earthquake during the 1989 World Series. The music speaks to common topics relayed through varying artists; however, June keeps it straight and humbling, never fully taking on excess as a means of having it all. Instead, he’s seeing it as this plus where he can spend time buying over $1,000 worth of candles at the Palisades in California. 

Larry June’s lyrical content is reminiscent of Jeezy in the late 00s, where we’d hear him flex while retaining a sense of accordance with minor laws, like speeding, so he could enjoy what he’s showing to the fullest without setbacks. One example that comes to mind is Jeezy’s verse on “I’m So Hood Remix,” where he flexes his expensive luxurious whip while reminding us he doesn’t speed or use tints, which turns into less hassling from police enforcement. Though June is far from that, he’s one to keep it genuine in between feeling enriched with his success. There’s “Summer Reign,” where June notes how a true man looks to keep pushing toward success while remaining true to their family. As the first verse closes, we see this incredible parallel where taking chances can take you as June raps, “Spendin’ money on assets for rainy days/I’m more focused on ownership, not the fame/Grab an oolong tеa, then jump in this thing/We just touched down, but right back on thе plane.” It shows this sense of fiscal responsibility and comfortability. 

It’s captivatingly relaxed, and with its lyrically explosive nature, the nuances of life and humbling successes have compelling depth. June keeps it so that the balance between lyrical content never teeters too far to each side. Going through the music, you get enough to understand the depth beneath these fantastic braggadocio tracks, like “Porsches In Spanish” or “Barragán Lighting” featuring Joey Bada$$ & Curren$y. Sometimes you’ll hear him talking about the hustle on “Left No Evidence” or reflecting on how some anecdotes and notions amongst musical mutuals aren’t the same as before with “What Happened To This World?” It’s one of the two Wiz Khalifa features of the weekend, and for both, the verses are fantastic, especially on the June verse, as he flows over production with the nostalgia of that Kush & OJ flows. And as it continues to formulate and deliver, it’s mesmerizingly smooth from front to back, making some of the lesser choruses blend in to create a more seamless listen-through.

It’s all boasted by The Alchemist’s production, which brings a fundamental understanding of June’s style, assimilating and pushing boundaries to let particular instruments shine amongst the base percussion. We get the string sections of “Exito,” bridging guitar with classical, which slightly becomes reminiscent of folk music or the bridging boom-bap of “Orange Villiage,” June’s track with Slum Villiage. He brings sheer brilliance, opening the floodgates for June and the featured artists to take command and deliver with their distinct sense of greatness. It rounds out an excellent album that will see heavy rotation in the summer breeze. It fits the summery aesthetic and more, but beyond that, it’s a beautifully coordinated and written album you’ll find more than just the aesthetic to love. 

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Boygenius – The Record: Review

Entwined with the seismic grasp of indie rock’s guitar-centric oeuvre, Boygenius has found a way to bring more value than some systematic construction, especially within the areas of the choruses and bridges. Much of that comes from members Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers, who are equally adept at writing these auspiciously poignant songs that turn into something expansive from common themes it imbues, bringing dynamic lyrical and melodic depth over whimsical strings. What separates Boygenius from others is their ability to create polished production through this subtle rough studio aesthetic that pushes the instruments toward an individualized spotlight. They continuously showcase the elements of rock, conjoined through the motions of the trio’s collective musical characterizations. It gives fans a sense that each brings this unique touch, whether coming from the slower emo textures of Baker & Bridgers or the more nuanced singer-songwriter vocal aesthetic from Dacus. The vision Boygenius has is evident as it gets delivered powerfully on their debut album, the record.

The Record starts and continues innate consistency, but a little after the midpoint, some songs become modestly underwhelming. It downplays the emotionally stimulating indie vibes you’ve been vibing throughout. Though Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, and Phoebe Bridgers can carry a song solo, they bring their flavor to differentiate the aesthetics and let them all explore different sonic foundations. We hear it potently on the dynamic slowcore/garage-rock production of “$20,”  containing a more punkish vocal aesthetic; the immediate shift from the melancholic performances that precede and succeed the track comes through naturally. Though it has its taste of melancholia with Baker’s performance in the first half, it eventually leads to a whirlwind of chaos. Becoming the opposite with many other songs, “$20” is an antithesis to the calming sense behind the buoying theme of togetherness, empathy, and individualized growth. Through it, they are using specific aesthetic bases to boast the content of the music, like with “True Blue” and Lucy Dacus’s more decompressing, and journey-weary vocals, as she laments on her journey through music and loyalty.

It’s a testament to the trio’s gifted writing, which extends beyond its emotional textures, weaving stories through beautifully direct narrative structures. Like “True Blue,” we’re given these stories that personify Dacus’s life in and around music. With “Emily, I’m Sorry,” we hear the empathy of Bridgers as she laments about a past love. “Anti-Cure” relays a story surrounding trauma as Julien Baker reflects on her near-drowning incident in Malibu. On “Satanist,” the trio looks to bring that sense of togetherness outward as it asks, “Will you be a Satanist with me?/Mortgage off your soul to buy your dream/Vacation home in Florida.” The unique tongue-in-cheek lyrics allow you to get the feeling of communication between performer and listener. It leaves us hearing these auspicious directions the music can take, especially in the one it gets intaked from listener to listener. Usually, it’s more of a one-way street, with the performer looking like the reader in your library circle and telling you these stories that offer a sense of connectivity. That connectivity allows us, as listeners, to bridge these interwoven rock styles that sometimes shift in sonic complexions, like when it goes from something more classical and poppy on “Leonard Cohen” to the more punk-infused “Satanist.” 

Unfortunately, as you’re gliding through such rich songs, you feel a pivot at “Revolution 0,” where the music becomes more of an underwhelming reflection of a slower indie rock aesthetic, except it gets carried by the writing. These songs, “We’re In Love and “Anti-Curse,” don’t always adequately reflect the gravitas of the vocals or boast the production forward, despite resoundingly deep writing, where it comes down to whether the production works for you. They become more of an embodiment of what has been heard, except not as impressive or innovative. Whereas “$20” does something intricate with the guitars and vocal arrangements, “We’re In Love” doesn’t do much beyond the ballad conjectures, as its construction isn’t as refined and more self-reliant on the acoustic strings. “Anti-Curse” goes from this decent pop-rock production (comparatively) to a more toned-down instrumentation that feels lesser than other songs following similar tempos. One of these songs is “Letter To An Old Poet,” which beautifully builds character as it balances ballad-like melodies and is more refined, especially at the end with these twinkly and fiery notes.

At 12 tracks, and 43 minutes, the record flows with a crisp and smooth pace that your first few listens will feel insightful and rewarding. This sentiment goes tenfold for fans that get these artists’ styles, especially as you hear about their growth since their self-titled debut in 2018. It doesn’t matter who you are when approaching the music because it speaks for itself in quality and through poignant and resounding poeticism. Whereas they construct these narratives with clear prose, the way it bridges together allows it to have these defining moments within the vocal performances, especially in the choruses, which balances the performers on the production and lets them feel enriched as they deliver it to you. But as you sit there, reflecting through all of it, you see the brilliance within the music as Boygenius produces a fantastic debut.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Aly & AJ – With Love From: Review

Aly & AJ’s return to music hit a momentous high on their excellent follow-up to some remarkable EPs: a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun, and that consistency shined through and through. It keeps us fans, but as fans, we also understand what we like and don’t, so for their follow-up, With Love From comes with incredible highs, continuing that consistency with potent new directions that elevates the craft beyond pop. Shifting from the more summery pop-rock to pop that carries the influence of Americana and Country music on its sleeves. Unfortunately, the album doesn’t stay with this throughout, sometimes shifting back to a more pop-rock-focused sound, even when they aren’t as bad. These pop songs woven within the tracklists feel like it panders to the pop music fans have gotten to love when they could have had more consistency by keeping the aesthetic constant. But With Love From is one solid album that expands beyond the acoustic-driven fortitude of its sonic influences, creating an emotionally potent album.

The music of With Love From isn’t devoid of pop sounds as it plays a vital part in its central core as it guides the varying melodies that lavishly coat the occasionally twangy production. There’s a softening cadence, which heartens the slower tempo rhythms of the strings, allowing one to get engulfed within the twinkling acoustics and slow, methodical percussion that makes you feel like you’re in the room as it’s performing. It’s their liveliness within the performances, which eloquently contrasts the emotionally rich array of sounds. Though it’s a little more direct and nuanced with the first two tracks, Aly & AJ take it a step forward with the beautifully captivating “After Hours.” It powerfully balances styles, allowing the pop-rock notes to engulf the melody while the instrumentations elevate the twangy, danceable moods to keep the spirits high. It’s like a slight anti-thesis to the music getting presented prior and immediately after with the elegant, stripped-down ballad “Blue Dress.” This fantastic four-track run is one of the ones to remember within the album, as some short strings of pop-rock take away from the heavy influence overhead.

“Love You This Way” and “Talking In My Sleep” are the two that don’t feel suitably resonant in the track list as they lean too much into pop, taking away from the remarkable Americana/Country influence and a consistent ride from front to back. “Talking In My Sleep” feels more akin to something from their last album – more glitzy and poppy, the slight identity shift in the strings can’t boast it further, making one lost within the flow. The former is more standard, never seeming to find strength on either side of the musical aisle as the songwriting and melodies aren’t as strong as others. But as they come into your musical stratosphere, they detract from the strength surrounding it through other songs like “Sunchoke,” which audibly brings you front and center with the aesthetic influence behind the lyricism. It’s all reflective, talking about emotional aspects of relationships and life; they give us a take on closing time, delivering an anthem about allowing yourself a moment to reflect and stay positive through the nights. 

With Love From is a harmless but radiant and vibrant pop album that shifts the dynamic from what fans have gotten to hear from them, giving us something different than what one would expect. It isn’t your typical pop-rock album, so the more it progresses, the more you get entrenched in the fantastic melancholy of the string rhythms. Though Aly & AJ are the primary instrumentalists behind the strings, the producers bring forth the dimensions to round out the songs in these songs within the fantastical Americana/Country vibes that have slowly gotten reflected amongst some indie pop artists, like Clairo and Angel Olsen. A lot of credit goes to Aly & AJ’s producers, especially recurring collaborators Ryan Sparker and Yves Rothman, whose resume within this sphere isn’t vast. But they deliver exemplary work with an understanding of the direction taken by its lead artists, and it shows from the giddy-up catchiness of “Tear the Night Up” to the more classical take “Baby Lay Your Head Down.” It’s a continuous feat of great music that gets stumped along the way through more pop-like songs.

There was much enjoyment in listening to Aly & AJ’s album, With Love From; the music gets adjusted to work potently within the confines of its sonic sphere and excel beyond. It left me with surprises and an enjoyable trip to return to whenever the vibe calls for it, considering one can do worse. I’d recommend this highly; fan or no fan, what they build and deliver is beautiful. You’ll leave satisfied without feeling bloated, and that’s all one can ask, as it does change the pace from more loaded hip-hop and pop albums.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

The Blaze – Jungle: Review

It’s been five years since the release of Dancehall, the debut album of French Electronic duo The Blaze. Since, they’ve remained predominately quiet, almost seeming to calculate the direction of their follow-up Jungle, which takes form as this antithesis to the livelier, more dance-driven work of Dancehall – creating a space to delve into differentiating emotionally resonant performances that formulate beyond tonal vibes. Whether vocally or through sound, the music carries some thematic depth beneath these atmospheric complexions reflective of Electro-Pop and French House of the 2000s and early 2010s, letting recent nostalgia elevate their craft as they build around it with exponential bliss. The visceral layering of the instruments keeps Jungle afloat through the rangy and mystifying vocals coated with mirroring leveled synths, amplifying the direct delivery of these tracks and letting you feel the impact of its words. The writing isn’t spread out and detailed like most narrative-driven music in pop and Hip-Hop – their identity rings differently. It holds everything together through the dainty trips; even when the writing is more simplistic, it remains potent in its delivery.

Like their first album, Dancehall, it doesn’t take long before the production puts you in a zone without shifting toward something more obtuse beyond a consistent breadth developing through the percussion and synths. You get this quick whiff instantly as Jungle opens to a track resembling something from an early 2010s Bon Iver or STRFCKR album; however, its production shifts the parallel further from it. The vocals are airy and coated behind this screen of atmospheric electronic textures, which creates a nuanced take on pop and French House, almost taking it as a guiding principle and establishing sounds that accentuate with cadence. Whether it’s on the opening track “Lullaby” or the subsequent “Dreamer” and “Lonely,” it separates itself from the production, becoming its own thing where the landscape shifts between being more percussion or synth focused. While it establishes its core direction, one can easily get lost in its vibe, but as you swim through the ten-track album, it’s like exploring new avenues of rich sounds.

Jungle opens strong and continues to build in the middle before ultimately petering at the end as the journey guides you. There is so much to take away, especially its use of synthesizers, which can shift in expression at any moment. Whereas “Madly” brings a louder, glitchier approach with synths flow in BPM with some erratic, consistent tendencies, “Haze” is atmospheric toward its construction as the synths shift between the overlay or underlay. The use of live instrumentations within the construct of its production helps these seamless switches between different sounds; whether it’s more Electro-Pop or more of a derivative of House/EDM, the ambiance is the potent component subtly shrouding the album. “Bloom” is one of many that imbues this sense remarkably, teetering into this captivatingly sonorous moment where the vocals become more of an add-on to balance the luscious electronic oeuvre notes that keep you in this great daze that is as effective.

Unfortunately, all good things aren’t meant to last, so as Jungle comes to a close, it starts to readjust poorly. “Dust” closes the album – it’s a five-and-a-half-minute doozie that encapsulates everything heard, triangulating the strengths, making them all blend, hearing especially through particular, sometimes subtle percussion notes. However, it becomes lost in some repetitive, timid synths, slightly diluting the effectiveness of “Eyes” as a lead-in. It’s as if “Haze” was turned on its head and became a repetitious sound with a singular focus, never playing around to create something more grandiose. It’s a disappointing downturn that makes you appreciate the work coming prior, relishing in these starry components and becoming a sort of skeleton to show us what got taken and explored, just not as dense. Having a weak closer doesn’t hinder it, as there is some semblance of a song, specifically with that slight uptick in the second half. It’s a slow start that gets slightly redeemed at the end. Additionally, it left me wishing they’d build on the songwriting more instead of treading within typical vocal structuring and styles. It’s close to blissful equilibrium, but the minimal imbalance pushes me to feel as entrenched as their debut, but the happiness of these remains intact.

Listening to Jungle was a thrill that builds as sounds expand visually and create unique twists from more apropos Electronic-Pop complexions. It’s a little simplistic, as it’s a more direct, streamlined album that hits many of its notes. I was left vibing and continuing to replay without hesitation. It may not be effective for some, as they don’t delve into more bombastic catchiness and keep it consistent with their identity. Give it a spin; you’ll definitely feel the rich emotional vibes they deliver and more.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.