Morning Commute: SHIELDS – Evidence

Prefer Spotify?

How catchy is that hook? I mean, this is the kind of track that’ll make a pope dance… until he realizes that the song is about looking for evidence. Ouch. Too much? So is 4 billion dollars, but that’s a topic for another day. This is a post about SHIELDS’ new song, Evidence, an alt-pop dance tune complete with their signature harmonies, ethereal instrumentation, and complex but easy to remember/catchy song structure. It’s everything we have come to love and expect from the Newcastle based quintet.

While the song itself is light and airy, the lyrics are anything but. With a very pointed and clear message, the song delivers the time tested saying dating back to the 17th century, “actions speak louder than words,” in a new and polished package. This song is something that lyrically holds universal truth for everyone. If you’re like me, you know that actions are the key to change and honesty, but sometimes that can get muddled in selfish pride or even just being scared of what the truth actually means for your life. This is a really good reminder that the people around you don’t actually give a fuck what your reason is behind lying, they just want the truth.

I don’t believe a word you sound absurd 
I don’t believe a word you sound absurd

No one will go first, this feeling’s the worst
Waiting it out, building it up, feeding itself
No one will go first, this feeling’s the worst

You go, I go, I go, you go

You can tell me anything you want 
It’s time now to show me the truth

Follow them here.

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New Release Friday: Saba Abraha, Caleb Kopta

Hey guys! Happy New Release Friday. We have two new tracks for you today from some amazing artists! Check back every Friday for new releases. Don’t forget to support all the artists if you like what you hear!

Saba Abraha – “Utopia”

I absolutely love this song. It grabs me immediately with the interesting spoken word intro, followed by uncanny syncopated beats. The artist describes the lyrics as “a new world where an empress loses her crown and is forced to battle the harsh realities of the world on her road to redemption. “Sweet Mirage” awaits…”

To me, the production on this song is some of the best I have ever heard. It perfectly blends elements that sound modern and classic, in an absolutely unique creation. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the EP: Sweet Mirage.

Caleb Kopta – “Anything”

“I’ve been passing out with the ashtray,
I’ve been choking on the cavalier
we were two kids finding love inside of the hallway,
isn’t it a shame,
We didn’t make it anyway,”

This song has such a classic vibe to it. It reminds me a lot of high school, and how intense every emotion and relationship seemed at the time. When he repeats in the pre-chorus, “I’d do anything for you,” I don’t know how you can’t relate to that. We’ve all been in that spot where we desperately thought that if we just loved someone with everything we had, that would eventually be enough. As we age, we see that sometimes it’s not that simple, but this song reminds me of the times that we wished it was.

Bio: Inspired by the Rock and Roll greats that came before him, and motivated by the stories that we all encounter on a daily basis, Caleb Kopta is crafting a niche for himself in the modern alternative rock landscape with honest lyrics, driving guitars and a desire to craft the soundtrack to life’s everyday experiences.

Born the son of a music minister in small-town Pennsylvania, music has fueled Caleb as long as he can remember. From attending his first concert at only two months old to sharing the stage with such bands as Motherfolk, PHANGS, Michigander and Corey Killgannon, Caleb has devoted his life to creating meaningful, resonate music that can impact the world around him.

Often drawing comparisons to The Killers, Bruce Springsteen and Bleachers, Kopta’s music is a unique blending of the Rock, New Wave and Singer / Songwriter genres. He excels at delivering powerful, anthemic choruses while still allowing the song to feel personal and complementary to the story at hand.

 

-Caleb (the blogger, not the artist)

Want to hear more? We’ve added both these songs and more to our August Spotify TOTD Playlist.

 

The Flock: Hip-Hop and Soul – Hendrix Harris, Deacon, The Hashassins, DNyse, AV, MastaPiece, Nostalgia, Radioplay Reach

Guys, we are so sorry about the hiatus. We’ve been active with the podcast and interviews, but had to pump the breaks on the blog for a few days to handle real life business. We are back on it though, and we figured the best way to get things back in motion is to have an infectious hip-hop flock.

Let’s go.

*Click on the artists name to go to their website*

 

Hendrix Harris – New Chains

From the second the song starts and you hear that slick little riff, you know it’s going to be one smooth ride. What follows is four straight minutes of what’s easily going to be one of the smoothest things you’ve heard this week. Hendrix flawlessly switches between three different voices: his normal register, his falsetto, and his rap voice. I honestly can’t tell you which one I enjoy the most.

Fuck. I usually try not to get meta with my writing and act as polished as possible. I was doing research on Hendrix, and I just got blown away. I knew I had heard the name and been impressed with his stuff before, but I couldn’t place it. The reason I couldn’t place it is because the song we posted of his before and this song are worlds apart. Are you ready for this? He also does this song.

You can find the blog post here.

That’s versatility. To go from a smooth track that lands more in soulful r&b than hip-hop in one song, to head busting chopper rap in another is absolutely absurd.

 

DEACON – Negritude

You guys know we like to dig into lyrics on the blog, but sometimes we shouldn’t be the ones to discuss the lyrics. With this song, you can put a broad brush across the canvas when trying to figure out what the song is about, but the root of the song is better than anything we could ever come up with. We are painting in large strokes while DEACON is as specific as da Vinci.

DEACON says, “Negritude is a word I discovered on my travels whilst in Los Angeles. I stumbled across an establishment called “Psychiatry – An industry of Death Museum”. Whilst exploring their numerous accounts on the history of mental health practices, I found their section on Racism within psychiatry’s earliest stages. “Negritude – a term used by Benjamin Rush (Founding Father of American Psychiatry) defines “blackness” as a skin disease akin to leprosy, thus deeming segregation a “medical necessity”. The song is my way of flipping that idea on its head, and claiming negritude as the “funk” inherent in the soul of the music. If you don’t want to catch the funk, you better turn off that radio…”

As you guys know, I love digging into a song and figuring out what it means to me personally, but when it’s something this heavy, I like to leave it to the artist.

One interesting line is when they’re talking about ring around the roses, an allusion to the children’s song, Ring Around the Rosies. I don’t want to get into the etymology of the lyrics of the song, but a very common thought as to the roots of the song is that it talks about The Great Plague of London. This is a really cool easter egg in a song about black people being a plague. The lyricism throughout this song was on point for me.

 

The Hashassins – C’Mon

William Wallace (best rap name ever) and Sincere make up the hip-hop duo, The Hashassins. Sometimes a flow and beat come across our radar that is so smooth that we have to stop and take notice even if the lyrics typically aren’t our style. First off, don’t get me wrong about the lyrics, they’re clean. We just usually focus on things that are a little left of center, and the lyrics to the song are pretty straightforward. They’re witty, the cadence is nice, and they change up the rhyme scheme, but they’re talking about very similar ideas that a lot of hip-hop focuses on.

The beat and their flow are both so good that they elevate this song to another level, separating it from similarly worded songs. The piano chords at the beginning combined with the turntables let you know you’re about to be in for one hell of a ride. I’m not talking crotch rocket ride, I’m talking slow-rolling Cadillac with the top down, cruising down Main Street.

DNyse – Now Until Forever

Most hip-hop artists think they can sing, but very few can actually make it happen. DNyse has some pipes. He has this crazy mixture of singing and speaking straight to your soul.

A song about chasing your passion and making stuff happen through action and perseverance, Now Until Forever is a song that anyone who is on the cusp of pursuing something great should listen to. It’ll give you that bump you need to get you moving in the right direction.

 

AV – The Rising Son

The chorus you hear throughout this song is something that you’d hear in a movie as the gladiator steps into the arena, and that’s exactly what AV makes me think of with the lyrics to The Rising Son too. A chesty and bold rapper, he has an aggressive cadence, and doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind.

What does it mean to put her before you 
What does it mean to have faith, to be loyal 
What does it mean 
to rise up for your queen 
Rise up for the teens, lying dead in the streets 
Politicians giving in to they greed 
Make a speech for a fee worth retiring 
You think they could afford to be inspiring 
Placing blame on a groups backfiring 
Blame them blame them, they complacent 
No matter where they stationed, our space taken 
Grab em up, line em up, get em out 
You don’t belong here, show your proof if you brown

With a hook that hits hard, strong lyrics, and a tough flow, the Montgomery Sisters really bring it back to a more digestible level with their beautiful harmonies, making this a song that is making its way onto many of my personal playlists.

 

MastaPiece – Endless Night pt. 1

This song is the song that’s perfect for literally any part of a night where you are wanting to party. Pregame? It lets you know the expectation for the night. Heading to the second spot? It implores you to pick a spot you haven’t gone. Get into something new. Everyone on the cusp of calling it a night? This is the perfect rally song. Seriously. This song fits every part of the evening.

A three piece collective out of Houston, Texas, MastaPiece is turning heads in a major way. Not only are these guys hip-hop artists, but they are notable artists in everything from acting to design. These jacks-of-all-trades have a great future in art ahead of them, they just get the luxury of picking which art(s).

Nostalgia – Alone

Soulful crooning isn’t usually what we share on the blog, but there’s no way we were going to pass over this one. This Australian vocalist is essentially The Weeknd of the Eastern Hemisphere. With a similar sound to some of the most popular artists of today and a music video that had me wondering what was going to happen next from the very beginning, this is the song that would be playing in an adult version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Stick around to the end for a Shyamalan-esque twist.

Radioplay Reach – Big Money

Radioplay Reach hits us with the song, Big Money, a hard flowing song that was written behind bars in memoriam of a friend who lost his life. The words drip with emotion as he laments the loss of a friend while realizing that this loss only fuels his drive to be successful.

With a heady beat and honest lyrics, Radioplay Reach has a familiar hook in a totally new package.

Morning Commute: Big Sam’s Funky Nation – Pokechop

Even before they started singing about Mardi Gras, it was very clear these guys were here to represent NOLA. There isn’t another city like it on this planet, and the inhabitants are the same way. The video and the sound screams Big Easy. New Orleans is a proud and distinct city, and the only thing that doesn’t fit is the 76ers hoodie in the back. Good thing this isn’t an article about the 76ers and their squad they’ve assembled in Philadelphia that’s led by a man with two left knees. That article wouldn’t be so kind. This is an article about something way better than the Sixers. I’m a Hornets fan, so this is obviously all in good fun. I root for a team that seems content with being a 10 seed in a weak conference. My team also cheated on me and left for the Big Easy a long time ago, which is a perfect segue back to this funk track that is the epitome of the city it was born in.

Everyone feels like funk music is about the hard popping bass lines, the cadence of the vocals, and a powerful brass section. Funk is just as much about the negative space in the song, and Big Sam’s Funky Nation know how to work their negative space perfectly. I know that seems weird, but stay with me. If there’s constant sound to create a “fuller” track, you sacrifice the aspect of funk that is just as synonymous with the genre as the music itself: dancing. Having the negative space, that millisecond between bass lines, is what gives you a paint by numbers guide to exactly how your body should move to the song. It lets you know when to step, stomp, and shake, as witnessed by the men and women in this song. Funk music is about bringing everyone together, having fun, having a few drinks, and dancing until your legs feel like jello, either from the dancing or the drinks.

The perfect picture of New Orleans, Pokechop shows what the city is all about: robust music, a new twist on classic style (except for that 76ers hoodie), beautiful people and architecture, and a penchant for the good life. The Big Easy is known for their parties, and Big Sam’s Funk Nation knows how to throw one hell of a party.

TOTD: Isak Thomas and The Stoop Boys – Old School Walk

Spotify, if you prefer

This is such an appropriate song to wind down your Thursday night with. It is a great way to end a date night, and it’s that perfect groove track to get your weekend moving in the right direction.

This is a song of old school chivalry and a feeling of how things used to be, which is really strange considering that Isak and the other two stoop boys are so young. I don’t have an exact age, but let this picture speak for itself.

Image may contain: 1 person, sunglasses and closeup

That’s Isak. The same Isak who sings about going way back like a ’69 Cadillac. I am sure that people talk about the discrepancy between his lyrics and tone, and the picture he presents, so I don’t want to linger here too long. The point I wanted to make is that Isak and his fellow Berklee grads have a sound that’s refined well beyond their years,  bringing that old school soul vibe with harmonies cusping on doo-wop to a new generation with soulful ad-libs along the lines of a Hozier-esque vocalist at times, and some really smooth guitar riffs.

The lyrics speak for themselves, so I don’t want to touch on them too much. I did want to point out that the lyrical route they take is important because the robust flavor of the love songs in old school soul are almost as synonymous with the genre as the vocalists who made it famous. If you start singing 60’s soul with lyrics centered around politics, rambling stories, or any other off-brand topic, it loses a lot of the power. That’s coming from someone who relates to political dissidence and rambling tales of rail workers a lot better than I relate to love stories like this.

Follow these guys on Facebook to stay up to date on everything they have going on.

Also, if you’re interested, check out our podcast Here.

The Mashup Flock: The Rungs, VON GREY, Dan Lyons, CONDORE, Darren Jessee, Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite, Basement Revolver, Reza Cage, Dylan Seamus, J Pee, Feiler, mA’RouGe, Wanderingted, Savannah Gardner, Marie Nafah, Wayne Graham, Jordan Max, MALMØ

*Check out these artists and every other artist we’ve featured on the blog this month on our Spotify playlist for this month.*

Let’s start off August right! This is a HUGE edition of The Flock. Usually The Flock focuses on one specific genre, but sometimes we throw all the rules out of the window. The goal is to give you enough music to make it through your work week and beyond. We’ll hit quite a few genres, subjects, moods, etc. so that you can have a soundtrack for whatever this week throws at you.

*click on the artist’s name to go to their page*

 

The Rungs – Trees

With 18 new artists on The Flock today, I wanted to start off with an energetic and fun song. Lyrically, Trees is the synth-pop equivalent to The Lorax. With fun, off-beat cadences and a structure that feels new and fun, The Rungs have made a song that is a taste of familiarity mixed with something exciting and different. We posted a song a few weeks ago that revolved around the idea that your bed sees so many pivotal moments of your life, and this video captures that same idea sans beds, and replacing them with trees.

Bio: The Rungs are a female fronted alt-pop project who blend rock with synth pop. They record and produce everything in their home studio and draw inspiration from the sounds and stories that surround life in Brooklyn NY.

VON GREY – 6 AM

Sometimes you hear harmonies in a song, and think, “If they aren’t related, they’ve definitely been friends for a while.” I mean, that might just be me, but some harmonies are so cohesive and symbiotic that it feels like the artists have all played off each other for years. That’s definitely the case with VON GREY, three Atlantan sisters who created a seamless layered blend that seems two steps away from a Harmonix Voice Box. With very direct and pointed lyrics, these sisters arranged the song in a way that the instrumentals take a backseat to their voices and words. It’s a very mature move considering the fact that no sister is even 25 years old yet.

CONDORE – Love Zombies

It’s hard to make a complete song in less than two minutes. There’s usually something missing that makes it feel incomplete. That’s not the case for CONDORE’s “Love Zombies.” Coming in at 1:38, the song has much more heft to it than the time stamp would tell you. In fact, it almost seems like it meanders at its own pace, never cognizant of the time, only worried about the journey. CONDORE’s voice is interesting and has this beautiful tone that could be in an indie folk track, but could also just as easily take on a Joanna Newsom vibe and haunt your dreams.

Dan Lyons – Gargoyle

Dan Lyons hits with a track that has some of the most interesting imagery I’ve heard in a long time. With instrumentals that swim upstream and fight the current of typical composition, Dan tells a story of being a cog in the machine. Reminding us that most of us are being worked by invisible hands, guided through our life with the illusion of free will.

Darren Jessee – Anything You Need

If the name Darren Jessee is familiar to you, it’s because he was the drummer for Ben Folds Five, and carried a good bit of the songwriting responsibilities as well. With a morose voice, and similar lyrics, Darren keeps the focus on his intent and keeps the accompaniment sparse and solely there to provide support for the bigger picture. His first solo album releases on August 24th, where it will solely be Darren’s voice, and string arrangements from Trey Pollard.

The vibe’s gonna be
him and Trey
giving everything we need

Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite – Electrified

Right now we are in the middle of a 4 day thunderstorm, and all I want to do when the rain stops is roll my windows down in my car and listen to this song as I hug sharp turns and drink a Fanta (or an equally happy drink). I mean, the lyrics fit the current rain too, with a message that says no matter what happens, you have to keep pushing. I mean, I know a rainstorm seems trivial in comparison to what the song is about, but I’ve been wrapped up in my feelings lately. Once this rain stops, I’ll definitely apply this song to the bigger picture.

Basement Revolver – Knocking

If you are new to the blog, you may not remember the last time we shared a Basement Revolver song. If you weren’t, CLICK HERE. Even if you were, it’s a pretty good refresher. One word that immediately came to mind when I listened to Knocking after listening to Baby was “versatility.” I mean, you can tell it’s the same band (mainly because of the unique and gorgeous timbre of vocalist, Chrisy Hurn), but the songs are worlds apart. Baby is the grandiose display of what the band can do when they crank it to 11 while Knocking is a more intimate song that drips with pain and beauty, hurt and redemption. I don’t want to butcher such a personal song with my interpretation, so here are words of Chrisy on the meaning behind the song.

Knocking is probably the heaviest song on the album for me, personally. I often still can’t sing it without crying. I wrote it after writing my family a long letter that came clean about my past, and about some of the shit that I have been through. Hard things that left me feeling shameful, or like a disappointment to them – things that made me feel like I wasn’t the “good Christian woman” that they had hoped I would one day become. The letter came after a few years of hardcore wrestling and rebelling against what I believed in response to a traumatic event in my life. I got to a point where I didn’t recognize myself, or all the anger that I was holding inside. I basically kept telling myself that I was garbage, broken, unlovable, used and a whole other slur of things.

This hits so close to home for me, it’s unreal. Dealing with the expectations of family is one of the most brutal things you can put yourself through, and Chrisy lays it all out on the table for everyone to see. I probably grew up in a very similar household as Chrisy if she has a family who is disappointed in choices she made that steered her away from Christianity. There was a single event that made me think, “If this is what the church is, they suck, and I don’t want to have anything to do with that.” It turns out that it was solely the people involved in the event, and they were just shitty human beings. I didn’t realize it until years later though, and by that time, I had already “strayed from the path.” It’s a very hard thing to reconcile when you have these people who are objectively great people telling you that the way you are doing your life is wrong. I mean, granted, a lot of the things I was involved with were objectively wrong and it leaves you feeling bitter and broken. After years of fighting and resisting, my mom and I are very close now, and my sister is one of my best friends. I still don’t live up to their Christian expectations, but we have all figured out our best way to maneuver around each other. It seems that Chrisy is on the right path, at least with her own healing. Nobody should have to go through this pain over someone else’s religious beliefs.

Reza Cage feat. Telfair – velvet drapes

Everyone has that one ex. At least. A lot of people have way more than that. They never seem to go away. The memory always lingers, and you see them in your day to day life. I don’t mean that you see a ghost or anything, but a song reminds you of a time you guys danced in the kitchen together, the smell of a bakery reminds you of the time you guys attempted to make your own bread and failed miserably. The problem is that it’s definitely a one sided affair. They aren’t concerned with you, and when it seems like they are, it’s a facade to get what they want. This song is imploring the ex to be real, and just give the singer a pardon so he can move on.

you love a trivial game 
stopping my heart so i can’t feel pain 
one touch, you’re flipping your shade 
like the velvet drapes 

Dylan Seamus – Flying

Dylan didn’t know this when he asked us to check out his music, but I am a huge fan of music where the protagonist is someone you want to root for. You want this guy to win. He doesn’t quit, and he finally achieves his goal of flight. I think there are a lot of really cool lessons here, and I want to touch on two of them. First, there’s the obvious one; if you really want to accomplish big goals, you’re going to fail, and you’re going to fail a lot probably. Keep pushing through the shit until you come out on the other side. Second is the more nuanced lesson. Think outside the box, be unconventional, and whittle away until you succeed. The attempts at flight that ended in failure were all band-aids for an idea that required stitches. The guy throws on angel wings, tries to build a plane, and gets in a spaceship when the answer the whole time was to build an infinite ladder, one rung at a time. It may not be flying, technically, but the goal was to touch the sky. Do whatever it takes for however long it takes.

J Pee – To The Kids That I Might Never Have

J Pee pours his heart out into a letter addressed to his possible children, but it’s more of a song that focuses on the idea that we are absolutely destroying the future for the younger generation. Overpopulation, pollution, political dissidence, wars, and the battle of heart vs. head are only a few of the things discussed in a letter that tries to open up eyes to the fact that our choices today impact future generations.

Feiler – Ruse

There is so much to love about Feiler’s song, Ruse, and for me personally, it’s only partially due to what is presented in the track. A huge part of what I love about the song is the backstory behind it. When Austin Smith, the man behind the music, was asked about the creation of Ruse and the EP that it’s on, Dry Rot, he said,

When I finished college I packed all my gear into the back of my car, got on I-80, and drove 3500 miles to a very old house in the rural woods of Northern Georgia. I’d been living in LA for the previous four years and had a couple of different musical projects but nothing really stuck. This project had been sort of coalescing in my mind for the previous year or so and I had some vague ideas about the kind of music I wanted to make out there, but mostly I was looking for something. I made a little DIY studio and spent five months out in that house, covered in vines, from summer to fall. That’s where I started this project and made most of Dry Rot. Expect another single and an EP in the next couple of months.

What I love about this is that he took a step back to assess what he was doing in LA, didn’t like what was happening, and made a robust step to fix that. I love homespun projects, and this is a perfect example of when that goes right. Feiler creates a morose and tangible soundscape, putting thought into every piece of the track. I’m usually not a fan of “oohs” in songs because they’re usually an afterthought or a space filler. This song wouldn’t be complete without them, and that’s a testament to the forethought put into every piece of the track.

mA’RouGe – Put It On Your Phone

There are very few songs that surprise me anymore. This is one of the few. There’s just such a perfect groove in everything from the bass, to the celestial synth background, to the offbeat cadence that the vocalist sings with. There isn’t one choice in this song that is expected, and they’re all beautiful choices. The sample at the end, even though I understand very little of it, goes perfectly with the funk provided by the instrumentals.

Wanderingted – The Water of All My Days

It’s nice when a love song doesn’t follow the tropes of love songs, but it still has the same weight as hyperbolic ballads. I would much rather hear a song about how the thought of a person and their idiosyncrasies puts a smile on my face than to hear about how a person’s eyes are bluer than the bluest ocean and their voice could make angels cry. The former is what love is, the latter is what a stalker writes.

Wanderingted has a voice that walks this wild line between familiar folk and operatic classical. It’s new, it’s fun, and the timbre of his voice isn’t something that any schmuck can replicate (we all know the kinds of bands I’m talking about). The new voice combined with a creative writing style has me excited about the future of Wanderingted.

Savannah Gardner – Blake

Savannah Gardner has this alto rasp to her voice that only has one comparable sound that comes to mind: Zooey Deschanel. Savannah Gardner could easily play the Will Ferrell counterpart in Elf, nailing Baby It’s Cold Outside just as well as Zooey. Anyways, Savannah has written a song that is part affirmation and part hesitation. She knows she is strong, but she doesn’t try to pretend that the world and the current she’s swimming against isn’t strong too. With empowering lyrics and a powerful voice, Savannah sings a pure song of resilience that will be making it onto my personal playlists for quite a while.

Marie Naffah – Bones

I have no idea what to say about Marie Naffah. Seriously. I write 20-30 reviews of artists/tracks every single week, and this one got me. I knew a girl in high school who had the most beautiful voice I had heard to that point. She had this really strong and rounded out alto voice that had this resonating body on the end of every note. When I first heard Marie’s song, Bones, I immediately thought of my high school classmate. When Marie sings, “I would tear my lungs,” I smiled due to familiarity, but when Marie flips to her falsetto and says, “if the air wasn’t shared with you, my love,” my eyes literally got big, and my smile curled to a stink face that I usually reserve for exceptional hooks in hip-hop songs. The falsetto that Marie has, flawlessly flipping between her diaphragm and her head voice, is something that still gives me chill bumps even after multiple listens.

Her lyrics tell a story of dependency. When the song starts out, I thought I was in for another love story about the depths that someone would go to be with their partner/lover/muse; I mean, building bone homes and tearing lungs out is a pretty big commitment. Then it takes a different direction, talking about how the protagonist really doesn’t want to need the partner, and they’re only going to bring them down. It honestly started reminding me a lot of “Cigarettes” by Noah Gundersen. Hell, this song could definitely be about cigarettes just as easily as it could be about a person. The point of the song is that there is a dependency, an addiction, and ultimately, two parasitic relationships dependent on the other one to survive. I mean, that’s what I pulled from it. I could just be projecting.

Either way, stop smoking cigarettes, people. If you’re under 55, you don’t have an excuse. Science has been pretty definitive in the fact that it definitely leads to early death in a lot of cases. I got in trouble for hopping on that soapbox fairly recently, but I don’t care. It’s a bad habit that can kill you. This wasn’t supposed to turn into a post about cigarettes. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Wayne Graham – Bloody Montana

When I first saw the video, I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about it. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a raccoon getting some food from a trash bin for almost four minutes. It took me watching the video twice to really realize what wasn’t sitting right with me. I actually really enjoy the video and I enjoy the simplicity of it. The raccoon is the star of the show, and an adorable one at that. The part I felt weird about was the fact that the raccoon is digging around in a City of Knoxville receptacle while the song talks about bloody Montana. I know they don’t shy away from that fact, even labeling it at the beginning, but I still found it weird. Now, I said all of that to say this; once I figured out what wasn’t sitting right with me and I could listen to the song in earnest, I absolutely fell in love.

The track is this meandering new Appalachia sound that is somewhere between country and folk. If you’ve read the blog or listened to the podcast at all, you may think, “Well I’m not sure that’s a good thing considering you guys aren’t really into country.” I would respond to you, “Well, you’re right, and I honestly can’t tell you what it is about this song that has me pining for more.” I think it’s part track, part video, part backstory, and part personal connection that has me so invested in these brothers from southeast Kentucky. Let’s break my enjoyment down into quick little bullet points.

-The track takes the few things that I like about country, and wraps them in a folk timbre. Storytelling, saloon piano, and honestly, this is a weird one, but it’s a personal quirk, songs with geographic locations in them. Don’t ask me why, but country musicians are the kings and queens of writing songs about geographic locations.

-The video keeps it simple, letting you focus on the tune itself.

-Their backstory is interesting. First off, I’m always a fan of family member bands. We’ve featured plenty on the blog, and they always hold a sweet spot for me. Also, I was looking through the ideas behind each of their songs, and these guys write about their lives. When I say that, I don’t mean these guys are writing love songs about exes. These guys are writing songs about everything from cassette tapes that belonged to their grandfather to a theoretical (and quite literal in some towns) apocalyptic wasteland caused by coal mining companies taking advantage of towns and their inhabitants.

-That last part about coal mining leads me to the last point of why I love these guys: personal connection. My wife has a lot of extended family that lives in coal mining country in western Virginia in a little town called Wise. They all live on huge family lots that are all part of this communal property. It’s one of the most picturesque places on the planet. We have visited her family countless times, and each time, I have been welcomed in like I’ve been in the family forever. They are the most selfless and thoughtful people you can come across. The town of Wise is a coal mining town, and while none of my wife’s family works in that industry (to my knowledge), it is a huge industry that keeps many families in their homes. The stories that these brothers tell are the same stories that the people in Wise have because Whitesburg Kentucky, the hometown of the brothers in Wayne Graham, is less than 45 minutes from Wise. That may not be an ending fit for a Shyamalan film, but I thought it was pretty neat.

Jordan Max – War

Children of Men. That’s what this song and video makes me think of. I know that seems really out there, but stay with me. It’s a song about being terrified of the future and what it will bring, the music video is all taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, and the whole video was done in one continuous shot. If you haven’t seen the movie, watch THIS CLIP for a frame of reference, and then go watch the movie. Then go back and watch these two clips that you may not have realized were done in one take. CLIP 2. CLIP 3 (my favorite).  Anyways, now you have some kind of an understanding of my connection between the song and my favorite movie, let’s get back to the song.

With vulnerable vocals and an instrumental track that gives you the powerful yin to Jordan’s yang, War gets into the mind of millions of soldiers all around the world. They aren’t stoked about going to fight and risk their lives, but if it means that the people they are about the most are protected, then sleep and time aren’t such difficult things to give up. Now, I don’t know if they lyrics are as on the nose as they seem. At the very least, they can apply to a plethora of other things in someone’s life. The song is just about the general feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty of the future.

One thing to keep in mind when listening to a track like this is that there’s not a single person who has it all figured out. We’re all just making this shit up as we go along.

MALMØ – You

What do you get when you cross Joanna Newsom’s timbre with Ingrid Michaelson’s range and vocal acuity? You get something pretty damn close to MALMØ vocalist, Maria Malmoe. She has one of those voices that you hear long after you stop listening to the track.

The song lyrics are fairly ambiguous, but the overarching theme seems to be a lesson in polarities. The first verse is all about being lost in a world of green, while the second verse is about being lost in a world of grey. Both verses have the main character being lost until “I found you.” The main feeling I get from this is that this is talking about the seasons of a relationship. You go through new growth, and you go through dead times, but the key is that you always keep searching for the other one. Keep chasing them even when things seem bleak.


As always, support these guys. Follow them on tour, buy merch, keep up with upcoming releases. All of these things can be done by clicking on the name of the artist above.

We also have a Spotify playlist that puts all of the songs featured on the blog that month into one convenient package.

Check out Episode 17 of the podcast

The Flock: Hip-Hop and Soul – D. Hart, Noah Slee, Tim Harrison, HighKarateJu, The Sir Duke, KB Devaughn, Daygo Fatts, Rafa Selase, Audrey, DemarcoTheMan, Godz Chyld X Jordan River Banks, Psychodelicate

*Check out these artists and every other artist we’ve featured on the blog this month on our Spotify playlist for this month.*

This is a HUGE edition of The Flock. People who love hip-hop and soul are going to find so much good content in this post. What is The Flock, you ask? The Flock is an idea that we had to help fans of a specific genre find multiple bands they love in one post. It helps us provide value to you, the reader, by putting more of what you want in one place. It also helps the artists. Fans of their music come to the page and become fans of other similar artists, growing their fan base more efficiently. It also helps artists connect with other artists who have a similar feel, so they can help each other out, work together, play shows, etc. Our goal here is to help promote artists that we believe in and want to see succeed. The Flock is a great way to help with that, and we’ve seen some really cool things happen because of it. Let’s get into this edition of The Flock.

*click on the artist’s name to go to their page*

 

D. Hart – Get To Know

It took me way too long to place where I knew that background female vocalist from. Not the feature soulful female vocalist, but that delicate, chopped up, “I would like to,” in the back. I was never a Brandy fan, but my sister was. That’s from her track “I Wanna Know.” If someone is using Brandy samples, it’s someone I want to find out more about. It’s not exactly common to use something from her in your new track, but then again, this isn’t a common song. D. Hart’s style is reminiscent of old Jay, and the soulful voice of Empara is a weird and beautiful mix of Noname and Blige.

I love honest rap. Don’t talk about your fast cars and faster spending habits if you’re shooting a music video leaned up against your ’99 Impala. I mean, dream, go big, do all of that, but it seems so phony when you rap about something you know nothing about. D. Hart feels the same way based on the lyrics of Get To Know. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, so let me rephrase that; that’s how I feel, and I respect the lyricism of D. Hart because he’s an honest guy.

I’m an introspective 
ass and 
blast from the past 
cash makes me mad because i don’t have, cant cope with it 
my bank account has been fasting since i opened it 
I go on some loco shit 

He doesn’t try to pretend he’s got a bunch of money in the bank. He wants you to know that he’s grinding, and he’s hustling to feed his bank account. The guy also has some really witty lines, throwing in allusions to politics while (possibly?) taking a jab at the current regime. If you have read or followed along for anytime at all, you know that’s the way to our heart. D. Hart is taking hip-hop back to an era where people wrote truth and did it with scratchy beats, varying cadences, and not novelty tricks.

so I build wall a up and get caught up 
in trumping those who might love me 
yeah i know its kinda ugly 

 

Noah Slee – Stayed

I wasn’t familiar with Noah before hearing this song, and judging from the millions of plays he has on Spotify, I’m in the minority here. Better late than never when it comes to a party like this though. Noah has one of the most interesting and beautiful voices that I can recall hearing in my lifetime. He has a vulnerable falsetto that resonates from life experiences he is carrying with him. I know this may be a bit of reading, but I think that the idea for the video and the idea behind the album are both things that need to be shared.

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT:

Stayed’ is a solo, hallucinatory comedown set in Berlin. The music video aims to invoke that particular sense of isolation and loneliness one can feel, even when surrounded by other people. We also wanted to explore the late night/early morning end-of-the-party atmosphere, when things get a little strange. There’s a decelerated, surreal feeling that occurs when you’ve had no sleep and are in the grey area between two different mental states.

I played around with visual juxtaposition to add a subtle psychedelic element to the imagery. Berlin can be very bleak in the Winter, which is when the video was shot, and we didn’t want to let that control the tone of the video. We used tropical plants, human movement/dance and as much colour as possible to create contrast in dark, icy settings.

The project itself was a challenge. The outdoor scenes were shot guerilla-style, in temperatures sometimes as low as -20˚C. We were often working without a crew or a confirmed location. Noah and I spent many nights alone in the freezing cold grabbing whatever shots we could. Other times, our talented friends assisted…making things feel a lot more cosy. 

This collaboration was an experiment for both of us. I’ve always appreciated music videos that can build a new layer on a song without manipulating the song’s original theme. We attempted to create something that highlighted the introverted nature of the song, whilst leaving the lyrics etc open to interpretation. – cobraswan.com 

ALBUM BIO:

Focusing on many life-changing moments, the album put Slee on the world stage while remaining painfully authentic, as Noah comes out as gay, explores the Berlin nightlife, ponders on religion, pays homage to his Tongan roots, and grapples with his artistry across the incredible 17-track body of work.

 

Tim Harrison – Love is a Drug

If you have been following the blog for any amount of time, you know there’s one thing that immediately receives my immediate disapproval when it comes to hip-hop music: aggressive autotune. Sometimes something is so good you have to make an exception to the rule. Tim Harrison, or Analogy, has made a track that has made me open my mind a little bit. This song is so smooth that I can’t look it over. The main thing that pulled me back in is Analogy’s hard-hitting verse at the end, making me pause and reassess the whole track. It causes this beautiful cohesion between Bamm Bamm and Analogy that makes me groove through the autotune instead of grit my teeth. That’s an insanely hard feat to accomplish, and it’s a testament to how good this song really is.

 

HighKarateJu – Hey Dreamer

With a wordy flow and a clear message, HighKarateJu fits almost as much into each line as he does into his name. The content of this song is on point, too. We make it a point to regularly talk about how you need to pursue your passion, live in the clouds, and do whatever it takes to make your dreams happen. While that all is true, this brings up a piece that is often overlooked.  The song tells you that you need to dream, but you also have to put in work too. Dreams without work are going to be dreams forever. You have to hustle and grind if you want to get to the point where dreams become reality. Caleb and I have dreams about our place in the music industry, and they are nothing without us grinding every single day. A really nice track from HighKarateJu to remind us that work ethic beats out an idea 9 out of 10 times. When you have the work ethic and the idea, that’s when you’re a one in a million product.

The Sir Duke – Eradicated and Rise Up

I’m really liking the direction of The Flock so far today. The Sir Duke and D. Hart need to get to know each other. The Sir Duke’s gut-punch lyricism and old school flow matches up really well with D. Hart. Seriously, in my mind, these guys together could sell out arenas full of people longing for the hip-hop of days gone by. We want rappers who have something to say, and The Sir Duke knows exactly what we want.

Guys, I usually break the lyrics down separately, but these two songs are essentially one long song with one of the smoothest transitions. Seriously, I found Eradicated a while ago, and didn’t even realize that it was a new song when it transitioned to Rise Up after the gunshot. I thought it was a hard break and then the telling of the other half of the story when a race has been pushed to the brink of what they’re willing to take. I’m so interested in The Sir Duke as a human being and an artist. The guy is writing songs that could be anthems for black culture. I mean, we’re very careful not to say things that may be misconstrued since we are two white guys, but these two songs are extremely powerful and empowering.

Side note: Rise Up isn’t about any kind of physical takeover or anything like that. It’s more about the fact that a culture with such strong diversity can’t be held down by narrow-minded ideas, and something is going to change. He’s not trying to start a riot. Calm down, Trumpers.

KB Devaughn – For Me

You know how I was talking about loving honest lyricism? Fuck. This song is nasty. KB Devaughn writes one of the best examples of honesty in music that I’ve seen in a long time. For Me is a song that KB wrote while he and his girlfriend were homeless. The song essentially wrote itself one night as KB watched his girlfriend sleep in the car. He writes about the pressure of the situation, the pressure of their relationship, and then made sure she knew that everything is going to work out for them. Maybe it was more a song to himself to let him know that he would work it out. Either way, I can’t stop listening to this track. As someone who lived out of his car for a while, this song hits hard.

Daygo Fatts – Ride Away

If there’s one word to use to describe Daygo Fatts’ flow, it’s “smooth.” This is exactly what we look for in rap even without the lyrics. The guy has the perfect combination of keeping it straightforward while also mixing up his cadence and rhyme scheme. We listen to so much rap every single day from people who want us to check out their stuff, and I’ve had this idea where I want to compile a list of artists that fit what we do. For example, if the beat is too repetitive or boring, send them a link to an artist that we love the beats of. If they’re going for MC lyricism but the lyrics are fairly generic, send them a link to someone who says a lot through their music in that UK b-boy fashion. If they want to create the new school smooth, but their rhyme scheme and cadence are lazy, I’m going to show them Daygo. It’s really hard for artists to send us something that stands out from everything strictly because we get so much music, but when I listened to Daygo for the first time, I literally stopped everything I was doing, and listened to it three times in a row with my eyes closed, lip curled up the entire time. The dude is good.

Rafa Selase – The Revolution Will Be On Facebook and Chasing Demons

Rafa definitely has something to say, and we love it. There’s something very cathartic about listening to him talk about Gil Scott Heron, government corruption, and the pursuit of money hurting the pursuit of man. I usually don’t post the full lyrics to songs, but these have to be shared. Caleb and I talk regularly about the need to have uncomfortable conversations with people who understand something more than you do, and this is the perfect case of that. We’ve reached out to Rafa about doing a live interview, but understand that he is insanely busy. I just feel like not getting his side of the story would be a complete disservice to his music.

As Gil Scott Heron said 
The Revolution will not be televised 

The evolution is a revolution 
The world is changing 
We no longer praying 

We idolizing 
Selfie posterizing 
Troll seeking sodomizing 
Avatar making 
Tumblr rolling 
Instagram snapping 
We some self idolizing zombies 
You playing 
But Google is playing you 
NSA watching 
FBI profilin’ 
CIA strategizing 
Civil Liberty snatching 
But you still playing 
Gil Scott Heron told you 
The Revolution will not be televised 

Beautiful Jill Scott said 
Why you spend yo time hating 
Trolling? 
Instigating? 
Manipulating? 
Why you playing 
The Revolution will be on Facebook 

Facebook will watch you 
like you 
but not love you 
nor believing or 
supporting you 
won’t pay you 
or even hug you 
you staring face to face 
as the Revolution 
takes place 
friending 
commenting 
on nothing 
ignoring and snoring 
as the Revolution takes place 
The Revolution will be on Facebook

Dead presidents 
Dead presidents don’t matter 
When you’re dead 
Dead presidents don’t matter 
When you’re dead 
Most high forgive me 
Lord forgive me 
For chasing dead presidents Dead presidents don’t matter 
When you’re dead 

Lord I know you said 
Seek me and all these things 
Shall be granted 

He didn’t understand what that meant 
He was chasing 
Social validation 
Dangerous spiritual experimentation 
Sexual exploitation 
Trying to escape toxic romantic relations 
Maintaining false expectations 
He was chasing demons 
Demons wasn’t even messing with him 
He was chasing demons 
They say demons are scared of the righteous 
It’s only when we seek the fleshly desires 
That demons have power 

He was a corporate assassin 
Paper chasing 
Ken and Barbie lifestyle 
Lord forgive him 
False reality 
Creating the illusion 
Of perfection 
For who … like a peacock 
Colorful and showboating 
Peacocks look good 
Walk better 
But can’t fly 
Creating a false reality 
Which causes unrealistic expectations 
And Perceptions 
All while trying to maintain control 

Never realizing 
the more you pursue 
This false reality 
The less control you have 

Dead presidents don’t matter 
When you dead 

Lord forgive me 
The he realized forgiveness is a gift 
Unforgiveness is a burden 
He chose to be forgiven 
Blessed are they which do hunger 
And thirst after righteousness 
For they shall be filled 
He prays “lord forgive me, with my whole heart have I sought thee: 
O let me not wander from thy commandments 

Dead presidents don’t matter 
When you dead 

Audrey – Party

This is a “turn out the lights and sink into the sofa” groove, but don’t sink too far, or you’ll find the bodies.

smile like you’re the joker then you hide your bodies in the sofa 
count cards playin poker 
whatever you like 
bacardi with the soda and your gold teeth and your coca 
hot tub and pagoda 
whatever you like

Audrey started out singing the National Anthem at sporting events, but soon realized that there’s absolutely no fun in that (I would assume. I don’t actually no her reasoning.) and soon started making her own music. I love the National Anthem as much as the next guy, but thank god she stopped doing that and gave us groove tunes like this instead.

DemarcoTheMan – Bike Ride

Bike Ride is an interesting track. It’s a single from his upcoming release, Bland Boy, and on it’s own, its a wordy flow that doesn’t break any kind of walls for me lyrically… at first. His cadence and rhyme scheme are something fresh, and they kept me into the song long enough to figure out what the lyrics were about. On their own though, they didn’t exactly line up with what we usually share on the blog.

Spinning revolving
I keep the barrel tucked.
Auto tune and money
you niggas basic as blondie bitches wearing birks.
Lil B the B for bitch i lift the curse.
Know i’m too diverse for you to get a verse.
Cut the verdict my vertic circuit can jump a bus
and probably lift a hearse.
Who said i couldn’t actually spit.
Suck on my dick.
Until the sack is salty like a bowl full of grits. 

This is why it’s important to read into the songs you listen to. On the surface, this seems like another hip-hop track trope where you want people to know you’re better than the guy beside you. What’s actually happening on the album though is that Demarco is battling with the guy beside him. The album is told from two different perspectives within Demarco’s mind. One side is the side of everyday problems and the dark side of Demarco, and the other side is his confidence and his ego. This song is from the perspective of the latter. This is supposed to be a song about being better than the guy next to you, but that’s not what the album is about. He already had the flow, the beat, and the style, my only hesitation was the lyrics. Then you tell me it’s a really smart concept album that talks about the inner-struggle of man and tells stories from different parts of the same brain? I’m sold.

Godz Chyld X Jordan River Banks – Heavens Pt. II (Look Around)

You know how I mentioned us being fans of lyrically savvy MC’s with something real to say? Enter Godz Chyld. With a song that talks about heaven being a state of mind vs being an actual place, Godz Chyld hits with a wordy flow, big concepts, and a really smooth beat that knows it’s place in the background. So many artists try to hide generic lyrics behind a slick beat; Godz Chyld has both. This is definitely a midnight cruising song. Roll the windows down, and let the song take you to whatever state of mind leads to your heaven.

Psychodelicate – Wine

These guys have one of the most interesting tracks on this list. First off, this is their debut. They already have a great chemistry, and are coming up with something really cool. Secondly, they do everything themselves. Writing, beat production, recording, everything.

One thing that can get lost in the flow when new artists start collaborating together is the fact that they sound fairly similar. All three of these guys have very distinct voices, and it makes the track something that works really well. These guys are definitely someone you need to be watching for now, so you can be that guy who knew about them from the beginning.

Side note: The dude with the growly voice had me making a stink face every single time he started on the track. The dude is sick.


As always, check out all of these guys through the links above. Follow them, buy their stuff, see their tour dates, etc.

We also have a Spotify playlist you can check out to see all the artists we’ve featured this month.

Want to add a podcast to your list? Check out ours.