E.P. Review: Flying Rabbit – Eclectic Playground

Artist: Flying Rabbit

EP: Eclectic Playground

Genre: Psychedelic Rock/Jazz/Garage Rock

Label: Self-released

Rating: 8/10

 Describing “Flying Rabbit’s” debut E.P. Eclectic Playground is difficult. On one hand the music is contemporary “Psychedelic Rock”  breathing new life into the stagnant genre. The soaringly theatrical vocals with immense personality are a great addition to a genre that tends to breed “Beatles” worshippers or obvious “King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard” influenced bands trying desperately to emulate their sound. On the other hand the music is just as Jazzy as it is psychedelic with frequent double bass and horns that will teleport you to a big city Jazz lounge. Eclectic Playground is the perfect title for this E.P. The band have built a world rich in eclecticism for us to play in, and they have no interest in being pigeonholed. Based in Oslo, Norway, “Flying Rabbit” combines the members’ various influences in a successful way that doesn’t sound scatterbrained or incohesive, all while maintaining a frequent “Psych Rock” style with enough acid soaked trippiness to make you wanna light up some incense and open up the curtains for your suncatcher. However, at the same time, the music even laughs at its reflection like on the opening track “New Age Witch.” There’s no doubt New Age spirituality is something that the band knows a thing or two about. “New Age Witch” comments on the claims of individualism from people who delve into metaphysical spirituality when ironically the lifestyle is more commonplace than ever. However, the track by no means shines a negative light on the lifestyle, instead, it informs those who feel like they can become this person overnight that it takes a lot of work and time to fully immerse yourself in the lifestyle and you won’t always find the answers to life by simply meditating or doing yoga. This track could have easily been heavy in gatekeeping elitism, but instead is quite thought provoking and insightful. The following tracks undoubtedly offer the same energy of genre blending and bending with powerful and at times zany vocals that playfully guide us through shifting emotions ranging from dark, to comedic, and to tongue-in-cheek like on the track “Don’t Oppress Me,” which is sung from the point of view of a self-absorbed brat who thinks they’re brilliant and never wrong. This track definitely has the most fun instrumental while the fusion of “Jazz” and “Psychedelia” erupts into an all-out finger-wagging jam. Tracks like the environmentally conscious “Keep on Digging” that forces us to think about how we’re truly making things worse by damaging the planet, which is based on a poem written by lead singer Emily C. Brannigan’s father, and the upbeat “Garage Rock” groovy “Running From Water” offer the variety the band promises us. They definitely deliver on that promise. The band are currently working on their debut full-length album, so this is merely a taste of what’s to come. 

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Album Review: Viagra Boys – Welfare Jazz

Artist: Viagra Boys

Album: Welfare Jazz

Genre: Post-Punk/Jazz/Blues/Synth-Pop

Label: YEAR0001

Rating: 7/10

 It’s been clear from the start that Swedish Post-Punk outfit “Viagra Boys” don’t take themselves too seriously. I mean, just their name alone is an indication of that, but that isn’t to say their music doesn’t have its place in contemporary Rock. Ah yes, “Rock.” What does that name mean anymore? It’s a vague term indeed. In this day and age where fusions and genre bending are commonplace, there’s enough proof for me that this is the most exciting time for music, and contrary to popular belief, I feel that “Rock” music and its countless sub genres are doing something exciting spawning younger bands drifting further and further away from traditionalism and music elitism. The spirit of “Punk” resides in “Hip Hop” in this day and age, the days of pristine and clean pop stars are fading away and now we’ve reached a more realistic “Pop” world that isn’t afraid to celebrate sexuality in its many forms, and just about anyone can produce their own music in the comfort of their own home. How is that not exciting? “Viagra Boys” in spirit are a celebration of modern music. However, I highly doubt the band see themselves as that. The band that once was considered the resurgence of “Punk” are so “Punk” that they don’t give a flying fuck about “Punk.” They just want to make noise, and making noise is what they do best, so that’s why it’s no surprise that they explore new territory on their new album Welfare Jazz, combining their signature rough and raw dive bar Art Punk with elements of “Jazz,” “Electronic” music, and “Country.” This album truly represents the idea of genre bending. Their uncompromising “Post-Punk” is still present, but the band cleverly incorporate elements of “Jazz” with woodwind instruments, dominating bass grooves that are both bluesy and funky, and southern twang that surprisingly fits quite well in the chaos, even going as far as covering John Prine’s “In Spite of Ourselves” with Amy Taylor of “Amyl and the Sniffers.” This album can even be considered the band’s most mature effort yet. Lead singer Sebastian Murphy gets a little more personal lyrically, jumping into self-realization and working out the flaws of someone who recognizes his wrongdoings. “I’d  stop drinking and gambling to earn back your love,” laments Murphy on “Into the Sun,” and following this up with the synth-heavy “Creatures” is a moment that perfectly sums up this album. Likening his old self to a creature, he views himself as someone who’s at the bottom of the barrel. It takes courage to be completely honest about yourself like that. I don’t know the man personally, but whether or not he really was this person, or if he’s just singing from the point of view of a character he’s created, it’s impactful either way. As mature as this album is, well, whatever “mature” means in “Viagra Boys” world, this album is still fun from beginning to end, because at the end of the day, we do need to frequently work on ourselves yes, but we can’t forget to have fun. I think the band even knows that when they reach a point where they take themselves too seriously, that’s when it’s time to call it quits.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

King Krule Shares New Music Video for “Comet Face”

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Apparently it’s “Horror” day, and hey, this “Horror” nerd ain’t complaining. On the same day as the 40th Anniversary of Lucio Fulci’s classic film City of the Living Dead, King Krule has shared a new music video for his song “Comet Face” which is heavily inspired by Horror, more specifically, zombie films. “Comet Face” is taken from his recent album Man Alive! which is by far his finest work. You can watch the music video for “Comet Face” below:

Pragnya Wakhlu Shares New Music Video for “Fallin'”

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It’s been heartwarming seeing all of the music videos compiled of video submissions from people all over the world during lockdown. Today Pragnya Wakhlu has released her own music video featuring lovely video submissions and it is a lighthearted watch that will keep you going if you’re feeling down about this whole situation. About the video, Pragnya asked fans to send a video representation of what love means to them, and it’s interesting seeing different interpretations from people all over the world. You can watch the music video for “Fallin'” below:

Track Review: Pragnya Wakhlu – Fallin’

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Artist: Pragnya Wakhlu

Song: Fallin’

Genre: Jazz/Blues/Folk/Soul

Label: Self-released

New Delhi based singer songwriter and activist Pragnya Wakhlu is not the kind of artist who wants to be pigeonholed in one category. She recognizes the endless possibilities of having an eclectic style, and her refusal to be categorized is at it’s most evident on her new single “Fallin'” which finds her departing from her previous work and exploring the realms of “Jazz” and “Soul,” and it goes over stunningly well. Featuring New Delhi born “Jazz” musicians, “Fallin'” is a more personal track about an unrealized relationship and unrequited love. We’ve all been there before right? We’ve at some point faced the pains and uncertainty of a one-sided relationship as we fall in love with someone who doesn’t reciprocate the love-driven actions you give them, and Pragnya beautifully expresses these feelings with a smooth and infectious voice that will soften the hardest hearts and make anyone swoon. While the subtle but captivating saxophone and piano soar, Pragnya questions if the person she desires will ever be hers as she sings with a bit of hope regardless of her uncertainty. You’re definitely on her side when hearing this track as you cheer her on. It’s a beautiful tune. “Fallin'” will appear on her upcoming third album Lessons in Love, which will be released later in the year.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

 

 

Album Review: King Krule – Man Alive!

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Artist: King Krule 

Album: Man Alive!

Genre: Art Rock/Post-Punk/Jazz

Label: True Panther Sounds/XL Recordings/Matador 

Rating: 9/10

When going into a King Krule album you can always expect to be emotionally and mentally exhausted when coming out of the album, and I mean that in the kindest way possible. Archy Marshall under the “King Krule” moniker has had quite the evolution in recent years. Going from his early Jazz-oriented sound to his smooth Trip-Hop style of his music under his real name Archy Marshall to 2017’s critically acclaimed The OOZ, one thing has remained certain, Marshall will always wear his heart on his sleeve and be uncompromisingly honest, resonating with countless people whom find solace in his moody introspective reflections and worldview, people including myself, but that doesn’t exempt him from criticism. As a matter of fact, I was quite critical of his last album The OOZ. Though the album featured some of his best work, it was frustratingly bloated and extensive, and would have been a more solid and cohesive effort had he trimmed the fat. The length and unfinished filler tracks that littered that album are what keeps me from listening to the album in it’s entirety whenever I revisit it, but where that album faltered, Marshall took those misfires and improved them immensely on his new album Man Alive! This album is a massive improvement and has a reasonable length. Marshall continues to experiment with the abstract, the genre blends of Post-Punk, Jazz, and Hip Hop, and his lyrics are as introspective and poetic as ever. Following the birth of his son, Marshall is naturally in a different spot in life right now, which explains the more optimistic tone that combats much of the album’s despondence. For those moments where Marshall delves into the pains of solitude, he carries a light of hope. The blend of saxophone-driven Jazz but not your Father’s Jazz and artistic Post-Punk with Marshall’s rough and gruff vocals is what we’ve come to expect at this point, but where much of the tracks that found him going in that direction on The OOZ sounded like unfinished vignettes, that sound is perfectly honed and fully-fleshed out on Man Alive! and like I said earlier, this album is filled with introspection, poetry, and swagger that evokes the same cool spirit of artists like Tom Waits or Nick Cave. Lyrically the album deals with themes of losing connection with people, solitude, the state of our technology-driven world, addiction, and most importantly, the love he feels for his partner and his newborn son. That’s where the optimism lies, and it’s nice to see Marshall acknowledging the light after much acknowledgement of the melancholy. This is by far his best work.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

 

Album Review: The Comet Is Coming – Trust In The Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery

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Artist: The Comet is Coming

Album: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery 

Genre: Jazz/Nu-Jazz/Electronic/Psychedelic Rock

Label: Impulse! Records 

Rating: 7.5/10

Listening to London based trio “The Comet is Coming” is like having an LSD infused spiritual journey that is both meditative and exhausting. The attention to instrumental detail whether it be the spacey “Electronic” inspired keyboards, the crisp drums, or the sharp skittering saxophone which takes front and center, one thing is for sure, something in their music will resonate with you and pummel you with both tumult and melodic beauty. Self-described as “apocalyptic space funk,” the band fully introduced us to their world on their 2016 debut Channel the Spirits, now the band have returned with their follow-up Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery. This album focuses even further on the themes of apocalypse and chaos completely through improvisational instrumentation. It’s darker in tone but no less melodic and immensely jam-filled. However, not much has changed from their previous work. This album is more of the same, but as of right now that’s okay, because the music still captivates and immerses you into their beautifully chaotic world, and to be able to do that with instrumentation alone and only one track that has spoken word vocals is no easy feat. Upon hearing them, it’s inevitable to yearn for a live experience of the band, and they have impressively captured what it must be like to see them live on record. This album is a reminder that “Jazz” infused improvisation is still alive and well, with the genre exploring new territories, and in the wake of this new-found interest in “Jazz,” this album couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 03/19/19

Album Review: Angel Bat Dawid – The Oracle

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Artist: Angel Bat Dawid

Album: The Oracle

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz/Improvisational Jazz

Rating: 8/10

When drive overcomes the derailment of tough obstacles, the achievement of personal success is that much more rewarding. Clarinetist, pianist, and singer Angel Bat Dawid overcame rough obstacles to see her dreams of recording an album through, the result, her debut album The Oracle is an enlightening spiritual journey through the empowerment of being African American, but this album also recognizes the many hardships African Americans face. “What should I tell my children who are black of what it means to be captive in dark skin?” asks Dawid on the track “What Should I Tell My Children Who Are Black (Dr. Margaret Burroughs)” a track filled with moody keyboards and choir-like vocals most likely comprised of overdubs of Dawid herself, seeing as how most of the album was recorded entirely by her, and this line is probably the most pivotal, because much of the album speaks on the subject of race, and it’s done in a vain of “Avante-Garde Jazz” filled with Dawid’s bellowing clarinet, melodic keys, and wailing vocals, often improvisational. The lo-fi nature of the production adds a rawness and humanity to the album, with Dawid’s complex clarinet playing that goes astray but somehow still manages to compliment the other minimal backing elements of the instrumentation. Much of the album’s lyrical content is often short and repetitive, but it works well and bluntly gets the point across. Dawid comes from an improvised Jazz scene in Chicago, and she has impressively captured that atmosphere on record with The Oracle. One can only imagine how enthralling it must be to see her live and feeding off of other fellow improvisational musicians. That spirit is incredibly captured on the track “Capetown,” where Dawid and drummer Asher Simiso Gamedze have an all-out jam session that creates such a discombobulating but captivating experience. This is an album that showcases how less is more, with lyrical content that gets straight to the matter at hand, and instrumentation that fully utilizes minimalistic production to emphasize the invigorating and impressive multi-talented skill of Dawid. Hopefully this is only the beginning of a fruitful career of vast experimentation for Angel Bat Dawid.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 02/10/19

https://intlanthem.bandcamp.com/album/the-oracle