Charles Luck & Tino Red - 'Pray'

Luck’s lyricism, in particular, often has two sides: intense levity or elegant poetic prose. More often than not, his work lands on one end of that spectrum or the other. On ‘Pray,’ Luck and Red explore a rather destitute landscape of hopelessness and societal strife. The two songwriters solemnly refer to areas like the South Side of Chicago as “barren gallows of pain” in a country where “hope was sold and us hopeless souls got roped and rolled into the hole again.”

Dried Arrangement - 'Sunset'

‘Blip,’ the introductory track, calls to mind, perhaps, Oasis. Dried Arrangement boasts a very surreal, bubbly dream pop style that’s certainly evocative of some of Oasis’ biggest hits. The hints of soft, subtle synthesizers add a beautiful layer to ‘Blip’ and its sonic complexity. The song opens the album with a very strong, well mixed and mastered production, an element that is a mainstay on ‘Sunset.’

Elmont - The Self-Titled Debut EP

With a strong early single like ‘Home,’ Elmont had a high bar set for themselves. Fortunately, it’s immediately clear on the EP that they’ve not only reached that bar, but exceeded it in several ways. The introductory track, ‘Waiting on a Phone Call,’ harnesses a perfect suaveness that ties together Elmont’s brand of alt rock. The slick production is, similar to ‘Home,’ incredibly strong, and the lead guitar musings have hints of Southern influence, drawing parallels to, perhaps, the Allman Brothers or the like.

Black Astronaut - 'The Walrus, The Ninja, and The Gypsy From Sydney'

One of the most frequent features here on the Independent Spotlight is Charles Luck, the driving creative force behind the Black Astronaut hip hop collective. His release style, at least until now, has consisted primarily of dropping random singles every few weeks, some incredibly thought-provoking, some incredibly loony. Now, Black Astronaut has released their first full EP, an endeavor entitled ‘The Walrus, The Ninja, and The Gypsy From Sydney.'

Charles Luck ft. Tino Red - 'Don't Give A Shit'

‘Don’t Give A Shit’ is one of Luck’s most carefree lyrical efforts to date. His songwriting on the track is exceptionally witty as Red muses about a squirrel that bit him, his burnt toast, a relationship in ruins, amongst many other rather bizarre items. There’s something so freeing about the track: Luck is shamelessly self-deprecating in his songwriting and Red’s delivery exudes the perfect amount of apathy necessary to make ‘Don’t Give A Shit’ immensely amusing.

A.J. Harrison - 'One Voice In Two-Part Harmony'

A.J. Harrison performs on a twelve string Ovation, his primary instrument aside from the occasional exploration into MIDI instruments. The latter is in full abundance on ‘One Voice In Two-Part Harmony,’ something exhibited immediately on ‘Long Distance Love Affair,’ the album’s opening tune. It’s doused in bubbly, bright synthesizers and drum-machine beats. Aside from Harrison’s vocals, which true to the album’s name, are in a two-part harmony, the song is populated primarily with what sounds like MIDI production. The intense nature of the synthesizers is becoming of Harrison, though, and makes ‘Long Distance Love Affair’ a bit infectious in its own way.

Jesse Morgan - 'Give Me Faith'

To put it bluntly, I don’t receive contemporary gospel/Christian music across my desk often, and when I do, it’s usually generic, cookie-cutter praise music that sounds like every other popular song spinning on K-Love. The community has created a very specific, incredibly recognizable sound that its own artists struggle to break away from. That is the key component of Morgan’s music worth lauding: he sounds like he’s crafting his own style by utilizing his faith as an authentic device for inspiration. That’s what makes him excellent.

Fiberoptic, Pastor C, and Charles Luck - 'The Stairway'

Luck, ever the fascinating songwriter, wrote ‘The Stairway’ after receiving a poem from a suicidal girl at a Waffle House early in the morning last year. The track explores the idea of climbing up or down the ‘stairway to heaven,’ and what doing so means for someone. One’s actions lead to their judgement at the end of the path, the song argues, and only they can take control of that. Oddly enough, the sample at play here isn’t ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ but rather, ‘Dream On.’ Yes, Black Astronaut has made the only cool sampling of Aerosmith under the sun. It’s a beautifully executed sample that fits the song perfectly.

The Lovepools - 'Animal Instinct'

The title track of the ‘Animal Instinct’ EP is indeed brashly sexual, but in a particularly lovable way. It’s chock-full of cheeky, zoo-themed imagery and innuendo. The punchy, infectious atmosphere of ‘Animal Instinct’ sounds like, perhaps, Mini Mansions or The Kooks. The aforementioned Oasis influence is abundantly obvious, and the suave nature of the Arctic Monkeys is present, too. (Though The Lovepools take themselves less seriously than Alex Turner and company have a tendency to do these days, which is very welcome.) The synthesized brass sections are brilliant, too, pairing perfectly with the thudding piano and organ.

Press Release - Fennario's Wolf - July 15, 2017

On Thursday, July 28, the well-respected independent bluegrass outfit, Fennario’s Wolf, will perform a free concert at the City Dock in Annapolis, Maryland. The show, which kicks off at 6:30 pm, is the first of a series of performances Fennario’s Wolf has slated this summer influenced by bluegrass legends, The Del McCoury band. The group will be joined by Dave Brumberg of The Brummy Brothers on upright bass.

Brice Sedgwick - 'Pacifico'

It’s not often a debut like ‘Pacifico,’ the first release from the alternative pop artist Brice Sedgwick, comes across my desk. The nine track endeavor isn’t just a polished sonic excursion through some fascinating themes, but rather, a solo artist’s surprisingly cohesive journey through combining a bevy of unlikely genre influences. While ‘Pacifico’ is “pop” in its core, it’s doused in alternative and psychedelic rock, hip hop, industrial, and so much more.

Mike Bee and the Dead Soldiers - 'Jane's Gone Into The Shadow'

Mike Bee and the Dead Soldiers is a solo act, despite its name, and it draws influence from classic psychedelic, freakbeat, and acts the likes of David Bowie and Pink Floyd. There’s a whole lot at play in Mike Bee’s music, and that’s perhaps best exhibited by his newest single, ‘Jane’s Gone Into The Shadow.’ The punchy, powerful track embraces psychedelic rock influence, but it also has the brevity and tactfulness of a pop track.

Press Release - ALTOSPIN Records, Astraer - July 3, 2017

Joseph Papadopoulos, a member of Mood Krafterz and Psychic Ströpharia, will continue to expand his diverse repertoire as a solo artist under the moniker of Astraer with a brand new release from ALTOSPIN Records due out later this summer. Entitled ‘When The Sky Turns Grey,’ the artist’s new EP includes six tracks that delve into his diverse sonic explorations as a melodic techno and neo trance-producer.

Jett Allen - 'Good Night'

Similar to the last track of Allen’s we explored here on the Spotlight, ‘Good Night’ is doused in synthesizers that make no apologies for being intensely artificial sounding. The single sounds like it may have been recorded entirely on one electronic keyboard utilizing various presets. Even the basic percussion beat that enters later in the track sounds like it could have been inside a basic Yamaha keyboard. That, though, is exactly what I love about ‘Good Night,’ and more so, Allen’s music as a whole.

Harry Sproat - 'Meditation'

For an artist that just turned twenty, Sproat’s music is surprisingly well-realized and cohesive in its unique style. ‘Meditation’ seems to pull from a variety of influences: alternative rock, electronic, and shoegaze are all mixed into the amalgamation that is ‘Meditation,’ and the long, wandering verses have an ethereal, even psychedelic or Asian-influenced sound. (Sproat says that ‘Samurai Jack’ was an influence on the tune, which makes complete sense.)

Vin Ryan - 'Childhood Dream'

Ryan has previously described ‘Childhood Dream’ as having a “James Blake kind of aesthetic,” which is actually a fairly apt parallel to make. The song is doused in reverb and soul influence with Ryan softly crooning, sometimes entering delicate falsettos, in very melancholy fashion. Even though Ryan has segmented his “electronic” music off into ‘BLUE,’ ‘Childhood Dream’ still has hints of pop influence scattered throughout. Ryan’s suave vocal performance is emotive and compelling, especially considering his impressive range as he effortlessly maneuvers through various octaves.

Press Release - Rommel Tha Youngsta - June 23, 2017

Miami, FL - Rommel Tha Youngsta, best known for his contributions as a member of the rap group ICESQUAD, has released his debut solo endeavor. Entitled ‘They Don’t,’ the performer’s eclectic first single is chock-full of insightful social commentary, compelling production, and memorable rhymes and musings. The track is available now on all major digital download and streaming platforms.

Barrett Staples - 'That Yonder'

Staples’ brand of indie music is indeed doused heavily in jazz, soul, and R&B. He doesn’t cite hip hop, though, which is odd, because his sound is ultimately rooted in it. The opening to ‘That Yonder,’ a tune entitled ‘Nova,’ is a hip hop song in the vein of Frank Ocean. It’s atmospheric, highly suave, and tinged in dream pop musings. Staples is entirely natural and swift-footed in his execution, making the tactful lyrical content of ‘Nova’ entirely enthralling to dig into.

Rizo - His Three Dynamic New Singles

All three of these new singles from Rizo can easily be classified into the dance and EDM genres, boasting bombastic production, danceable, funky beats and infectious samples. ‘Too Much Booty’ is a rather fascinating excursion through this; it’s a highly repetitive sample, but one can’t help but dig it. The song has an ability to naturally get one moving. It reminds me, both in lyrical and instrumental style, of New Orleans bounce music. It may prove annoying to listen to for extended periods of time, but in its brief four minutes, ‘Too Much Booty’ offers just the right amount of intensity to be enjoyable.

Nick Driver - 'The Drunken Buddhist'

The introduction to ‘The Drunken Buddhist’ sets the tone beautifully for the record, with the album’s other two collaborators, the bassist and the engineer, disowning themselves from the effort while an announcer muses about the difficulties of obtaining prescription drugs. It prepares the listener for the most rambling, bizarre journey through cocky lyricism and punchy, infectiously ridiculous hooks.