Kuri Hypnotizes on Unflinching “Human Nature” Visuals

British Columbia singer-songwriter Kuri recently released a video for his single “Human Nature”, a cut from an EP with the same title. Before I break down the visuals a little bit, this is my first exposure to Kuri’s work and plenty needs to be said for this song as well.

“Human Nature” is a gorgeously delicate, intricately woven patchwork quilt of airy folk that begins in a rustling whisper of leafy harmonies and culminates in sunshine-washed waves of strings and percussion. My first thoughts immediately fly to Damien Rice’s 2014, often-cinematic My Favourite Faded Fantasy for the song having that same pastoral ambition (as well as a knack for words of gut-dropping melancholy slipped within the breaths of the melody).

That lyrical introspection is given life in vivid illustration via the video for “Human Nature”, which captures the thin-railed frailty the title hints toward. We seem to be witness to an almost typical whirlwind of a romance in this story, but not is all as the perfectly arranged scene seems. A tender embrace includes a lost, rigid look into the distance. Moments of connection are sought with a passion, but fall apart like dreams become smoke become the unrelenting reality of one person who just can’t let release the unattainable.

But, as Kuri’s words fall out so appropriately, “it’s human nature to need some impeccable force”. Sometimes we’re that Jim Carrey character from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind simply refusing to forget a mountainous presence no matter how much we try to erase it. Or how it might lead to our own self-destruction. And much like the film, the visual’s end remains open… uncertain.. flawed…. yet still willing to fight even if only to end in doom.

And what could be more human than that?

JANOS is No “Zero” on New Single

Swedish singer-songwriter JANOS recently released a new single entitled “Zero” that grooved its way into my ears this week. Much like this month’s forthcoming shift into May, the summer-teasing, synth-drenched anthem of the track is an appropriately upbeat, well-timed recipe to kick off the occasion. Especially as we begin to shift from the gloomy days of dull grey to the radiant rays of a new time of the season.

The lyrical mood of “Zero” reflects that same shiny, glass half full look as it tackles the negativity of people and how to not let them bring you down in pursuing your passion. And indeed it quickly becomes difficult to remain in a subdued state of mind as the song exudes a buoyant, Rachel Platten pump-your-fist mood that perceives how to rise above instead of getting dragged below. “Zero” has an infectious dance hall sheen reminiscent of Terence Trent D’Arby while still maintaining an organic heart and meaning beneath the layers that’s akin to a musician like Joseph Arthur.

It’s that fusion of funky yet defiantly honest that sets JANOS apart here. What really struck me is that while he does lean more heavily electronic on the track, there are still winding guitar lines and the gentle keen of violin keeping the orchestration from flying too heavily into the 1’s and 0’s.

So go get in your car on a beautiful sunny day, pull onto a highway or long country road, and throw this on with the windows fully rolled down and the miles streaming out behind your wheels. “Zero” deserves to be in a playlist with some horsepower.

Give it a listen below via the Spotify app.

.Paak Hits Old Stops, Travels New Places with Endearing “Ventura”

Anderson .Paak has been feelin’ it lately with an ever-versatile, high-stepping vengeance.

In case you’ve been stuck under some rocks, the Malibu singer/songwriter/rapper/drummer/producer helped end 2018 on a strong note with his Dr Dre-collaborated, rap rave-up Oxnard. The record drew mixed reviews soon after release, though I suspect that was due to it being an album that required time and repeated listens to level up.

It would also have flowed much better without the skits that don’t age well after a lot of repeats. But I digress.

That’s why, as someone who’s written about music the last several years, I often hesitate to talk about new work the day it releases or soon after. There’s certainly a high associated with those initial listening experiences, but taking the time to study the puzzle pieces has a way of expanding the angles of creativity being brushed into this mix of many melodies.

So when the announcement for Ventura inevitably came along… that mental battle began. Especially with how quickly I’ve enjoyed the record since it dropped earlier this month.

“Come Home” is a retrograde-groove, come to attention album-starter that almost smells like an old LP sleeve and benefits from .Paak’s time-and-again sense of flow (not to mention slapping drumwork). The whiplash of a blistering second half verse from Outkast’s Andre 3000 certainly adds to its case, helping to put this one straight into the “Winner’s Circle” (Ventura song title joke, it happened, let’s move on).

“Come Home” brilliantly melds the warm R&B vibe that was promised in early Ventura teasers with the story Oxnard began late last year, and the theme threads throughout the album. Because in many ways the pair are a double album to each other, just speaking separate sides of the same coin. One that ran hard to chest bump and bass thump, and another… that just had to talk about love a little bit.

Speaking of love, tracks like “Make it Better” just make me smile. A slow-swaying ode to lost affection featuring a crooning .Paak backed by the velvet voice of Smokey Robinson, the singer who helped make the torch song croon what it is today? That’s a kind of magic you can’t deny, especially when you’re encircled by that chorus. I get the same vibe from .Paak’s back and forth with the vocals of the departed Nate Dogg on “What Can We Do?” Try not to belt along when you know musical church is in session.

“Reachin’ 2 Much” feels like a drum and horn-floated, tempo-chopped cruise down the coast of Miami Vice with a touch of .Paak’s own tune “Lite Weight” scattered in for tempo-switching flavor. While “Winner’s Circle” samples the classic “A Bronx Tale” before proceeding into a Thundercat-assisted slapping punch of rhythm that slips with satisfaction into “Good Heels”.

While I would say .Paak’s far from alone in creating these genre fusions, his songs always speak in their own voices. Some in certain seasons, others with connection to particular moments. And while I won’t go making the exhausted “is Ventura better than Malibu?” comparison, it is a VERY fine addition to the .Paak library.

And something tells me he’s still just getting started.

Owen-Glass Adds Anticipation With “Saint”

The music of Owen-Glass gives me a new kind of rooster-necked, bobbing kind of flow I didn’t know I needed in my life until now. The mix of guitar, horns, and gently shaken percussion in the intro to the band’s new single “Saint” give way woozily to the gently gritty vocals of Kelly Wayne Conley. Conley, a singer-songwriter from East Texas, and his “trusty sidekick” guitarist Cole Humphrey have chemistry like a breaking wave. To stretch thin a basketball metaphor, Conley provides the perfect, soulfully moody vocal alley-oop toss to Humphrey’s heavy jam of guitar lines, and it makes “Saint” shine as a result. 

There’s a bluesy gloss in the heartbeat of this track, though it doesn’t stop the shape of the song at just that parameter. Humphrey’s at times shreds with a reckless abandon I’ve only heard in several extremely proficient Japanese players, and a well-honed organ solo straight out of a song by The Zombies adds to the track’s direction of descent into lyrical madness. A saxophone also appears, and it bears mention simply because the presence of a sax is always enjoyed in my mind (and it works well on “Saint” too). 

For only having formed so recently, Owen-Glass musically attack from multiple angles with a confident balance suggesting musicians who’ve played together for a much longer period of time. The amount of instruments that appear on “Saint” never become cluttered though, and instead suggest an intriguing potential portrait of what their upcoming May 10th debut album “The Rope & The Rabbit” may be painted on. 

As the song here says I’m certainly not a saint by any means. But I am a follower and believer of what Owen-Glass has made here. Put a bookmark in this one folks, “Saint” is an appetizer for an album that’s already logged on my “one to watch” list. 

Take a listen to the single below!

Cubbi Anything But Ordinary On “nothingspecial”

Dark and foreboding. That’s the opening melodic spread of the paintbrush on “Lose a Love”, the first song off Cubbi’s upcoming April 19th EP nothingspecial.

The South African producer, songwriter, and artist’s opening piano strokes on the song build into an unsettled, murky scene of barely contained emotional wreckage. Combined with the undertow of Cubbi’s eerily swaying vocals, “Love” holds a gentle wave of shape somewhere in the spiderwebbed, machine organic world of a James Blake or Bon Iver.

The track has an apt name for the aching it creates. The loss of what our heart dares to hold onto in this world can be a gossamer, fragile thing. It can be as solitary as the back attic closet and as wide open as the ocean floor. Especially when shattered. And this song feels those moments in its roots.

Some can dismiss the element of electronic sound in the art of music with sentiment. That true cathartic release can only come at the expense of showing off the barest broken bones under the most unfiltered circumstances. But songs like “Love” demonstrate the truth of what molding one’s fingers into that digital clay can create. There’s still plenty human to be found beneath the 1’s and 0’s.

“GTFO” trades in the solitary gloom to roll on a dance floor of shiny hip-hop rhythm, while “Fall Out Boy” adds a shot of X Ambassadors with a chaser of club remix throwing down the gauntlet of a hopping bass line. “Rippling” meanwhile sounds like Ed Sheeran in a blender with Radiohead’s “Faust Arp”. And when that quiet acoustic intro chops and spreads out into an ink bloom of an earworming groove… you’ll stay well-attached to the repeat button.

“White Lies, Like Flies” closes nothingspecial like a slow breath as it returns to the dwell introduced by “Lose a Love”. It’s haunting lines evoke Perfume Genius, but this world belongs purely to Cubbi as he reflects on a broken relationship. It may be one of humanity’s most well-known plot lines at this point, but there are few things on the planet more evocative than someone that can truly sing of pain, turmoil, and loss. Especially when love goes… and you have to learn to go with it.

Listen to singles “Buzzkill” and “White Lies, Like Flies” below, and check out Cubbi on Facebook!

“The Great Divide” a Straight Shot of Skillfully Sliced Americana

JD and The Straight Shot’s “The Great Divide” begins on the strength of its title track, which is a catchy, folk-rock anthem incorporating a woozy, 60s-sounding build of a chorus. The band’s got an immediate chemistry for melody and harmony on the track, which makes for a unified contrast against the song’s subject matter of growing division in America. 

That’s a topic certainly-not-unfamiliar to the folk realm, and “Dead Men Tell No Tales” stays squarely in that wheelhouse as a grooving tavern sea shanty throwing a wink and a nod to the classic murder ballads as much as Davy Jones. The Straight Shot’s swivel of vocalists add to the unsettling nature of the track as baritones dwell uneasily against the sultry storyteller like a dark fog heading down to run amok on the innocent scenery below. 

“The Great Divide” functions at its best when it settles comfortably into those rootsy, Americana elements that attack with an acoustic edge. “Invisible” feels like another retro return to an almost Crosby, Stills, and Nash vibe on a classic music revue show, while “Anything But Love” evokes James Taylor within its opening six-stringed pluckings. The music’s arrangement is a well-honed, close up affair, which adds to the intimacy level a record like this needs in order to hit the right notes. JD and The Straight Shot sound as though they’re sitting just around your headphones, different voices arcing and waning in a songwriting circle of different motions and ideas. 

“Walkin On A Wire”, other than reminding me of the Richard and Linda Thompson song, brings to mind latter-day Mark Knopfler and Elvis Costello tacked to a backwoods backdrop. While covers of “Happy Together” and “Jessica” are faithfully interpreted with just enough flair to bring this album home on the band’s own terms. And while I recently learned the JD in JD & The Straight Shot is New York Knicks’ owner James Dolan, I chose to leave that until the end of this review because of that very thing: letting this album speak on its own terms. And in this non-basketball realm, “The Great Divide” does very well in accomplishing that.

The Inoculated Canaries “Who Are You” A Crunchy Good Time

The Inoculated Canaries are a four-piece rock outfit from New York City with influences they describe as including Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, The Black Keys and Pink Floyd. That Whitman’s Sampler of artists is certainly on prominent parade in the group’s straight up, grass-fed approach to the rock-n-roll realm’s thumping beats and six-string gymnastics. And I found the same to be true with the music we’re talking about next.

As I listened to TIC’s recently-released single “Who Are You?”, I found my mind drifting to that crossover cocktail mixture of famous bands and melodies I mentioned a moment ago. The Nirvana aspect jumped out particularly hard in the case of this track. Not because “Who Are You?” embraces its grunge roots so much as its gleeful joy as an energetic 90’s alt-rock sendup. Sublime’s “Jumper” also came to me in traversing the song’s opening strums, which adds to the single’s overall level of ear-worming foot-tap.

Lead vocalist Mike Rublin adds to that effect with a vocal tone somewhere between Sublime’s Bradley Nowell and the gentle hiss of the Smashing Pumpkins Billy Corgan. That’s a compliment both to the riff-ripping enthusiasm of the era and TIC’s adaptation of it. Because in the end no matter the bands you listen to or emulate its about making the work your own signature in the world, and that’s the case here. “Who Are You?” joyfully chews at the scenery in its lyrical search for identity, while simultaneously not taking itself too seriously in the pursuit of a group growing in its sound.

You can also check out the band at theinoculatedcanaries.com!

Host Bodies New EP a “Diamondfruit” in the Rough

I love when its time to write reviews about up and coming talent in the music world. I’ve never asked around to get an opinion, but I’ve always been on the fence about whether to write about whatever music I’m listening to (popular or not), or to purely focus on that independent landscape. There isn’t exactly a binding contract stopping me from both I suppose. But, I enjoy it just a bit more when I get to try in-my-tiny-little-blog way to help someone get their art out there by using my own form of creation. So with that being said, let’s talk…. Diamondfruit

James Collector and Nick Hess are the San Francisco-based musical outfit Host Bodies, and together with Ryan Kleeman and Count Eldridge have created a new EP called (as you may have guessed) Diamondfruit. It’s an entirely instrumental creation, which isn’t a style I immerse myself in as often as I should. This was a nice way to be reintroduced. Music without words can speak just as loudly as a set of lyrics if the creators assemble it properly. Diamondfruit paints the scenery of its seven tracks with easily nimble fingers that leave plenty of room for the crafting of the melody. 

“Stories” is a ghostly, woozy sway of an opening track that quickly sets a mellow mood with a Portlandia-sounding intention that slowly twists shape. Guitars fade in and out and grow and diminish with a relaxing hypnotism that doesn’t evoke sleep so much as… satisfying balance. The moment they start to drift in on the back of an organic acoustic arpeggio brings the space of this track just a little bit closer to Earth. 

“Wildcat Beach” meanwhile returns more to the electronics of the constellations as it feels like the scene implied in the title, standing in the white dunes staring at the expanse of an infinite universe above. Guitar and drum kick in another layer to the party and spiral out with thematic elegance before spinning left into the ukulele strings and jittery zip of “One Under Won Over”. The pace and tempo of Diamondfruit never seeks to break the speed limit, but here you’ll go farther riding with the groove than speeding to the finish line. 

The first line of a description for Diamondfruit calls it “a dreamy electronic EP that finds calm and clarity amid hectic times”. I quote that line because by the time “A Humble Student” and “Outro” roll around and hit the final fade, it feels like there’s just a little bit less stress in the world. Fewer harsh vibrations and more reminders of the truth to power earnest, thoughtful music can bring.

For more on the band visit hostbodies.com, and to listen to Diamondfruit for yourself, click here.

Eliza and the Organix present funky-fresh bop on “Road Home” video

Eliza and the Organix is, to quote their website, “a funky female-fronted rock band based in Brooklyn centered around the songwriting of vocalist and guitarist Eliza Waldman”. And today marks the release date of their new music video for the song “Road Home”, which you can take a peek at down below.

The very first thing that draws my interest in this music video is the slap of the car’s wiper blades in the opening scene. A minor detail in the scheme of things, but the that initial, almost metronome-like groove acts like a neat little slide into the ear-worming drum rhythm that buoys this song forward. “Road Home” is a tight, fun bounce of a single that uses plenty of synonyms from the funk handbook. That guiding beat’s soon paired with a slinking guitar line, Waldman’s bluesy vocal, and a pacing horn backdrop that altogether bends the line between jazz and punkish Pavement rock-pogo. This fluctuating tempo creates a layer of tension well-illustrated by the music video, in which our main character (played by Waldman herself) is on the run from deer/panda-headed representations of… time’s ceaseless pursuit? The anxiety of life’s constant obligations? Some combo of both perhaps?

A very serious set of questions to consider. The ending in either case represents inevitability. “I don’t know the road you’re on, I don’t know how much time is gone, how much remains?”, Waldman croons in a well-honed echo of the quiet desperation we have for one of existence’s biggest questions.

But this song doesn’t just spend time mired in its thoughts. If anything it considers those philosophies and decides to greet them with a sly smile and the timeless joy and abandon trademarked in the shape of rock and roll.

Both a song and a video worth keeping in your playlist!

Check out the band at elizaandtheorganix.com!

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