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The Jellybeans, Look At Us Now

20 Sep, 2013 Alexa Spieler

Returning with their third release entitled Look At Us Now is the young group of girls The Jellybeans. Collectively, the members of The Jellybeans recorded their third release when they were eighth graders at Our Lady of Mercy Academy. Following the group’s motif of themes featured throughout their previous releases, Look At Us Now illuminates a theme of conclusions, but also beginnings. Picking up where their prior release ended, Look At Us Now highlights The Jellybeans’ journey from middle school conclusions to bright futures, together, in high school. In a more mature, thought-provoking album, The Jellybeans employ a sense of growth with an audible, admirable innocence. Ultimately, the six song release is enjoyable, full of talent and potential.

Starting off Look At Us Now is the uplifting, up-tempo composition titled “Look At Us Now.” The title track features remarkable blending and harmonizing within the girls’ vocals, as they narrate with confidence. Though there’s a sense of maturity, in the way the girls express how they will “spread their wings,” the youthfulness in their voices mixes maturity and innocence perfectly. With a twangy, melodic guitar and punchy, light percussion creating an enjoyable atmosphere, the title track serves as a solid way to introduce and portray The Jellybeans. Following the title track is the nearly four-minute track, “This Place I Go.” Straying from the previously introduced uplifting composition, “This Place I Go” features a hint of heaviness, gearing more towards the group’s maturity. Instead of solely showcasing the group’s remarkable manners of harmonizing, “This Place I Go” features a greater generation of solos. With a light drum groove supporting the ballad, “This Place I Go” is simply a tranquil, aurally-pleasing addition to Look At Us Now. The song is a shift in dynamic for The Jellybeans, but serves purposefully as a demonstration of maturity and progression.

The Jellybeans snap back into upbeat creations with the successor track, “Forever Alone.” Formulating more of an ominous, darker tone, “Forever Alone” serves to resonate with the younger audience experiencing similar emotions as The Jellybeans’ members. With a shuffling percussion groove, the composition grooves along in an up-tempo pace, but the groove doesn’t halt any semblance of ominous tones. The narrators appear frustrated over not having boyfriends at such young ages, the darker tone carrying and resonating thoroughly through the girls’ guidance, heavier vocals and ominous instrumentation.

As for a standout track that showcases The Jellybeans’ ability and diversity, “If He Only Knew” demands attention. Highlighted by the staggering instrumentation, “If He Only Knew” isn’t the typical production from a girl group. As so, the composition features elements unlike most of those for The Jellybeans. The rocking standout track doesn’t command for all attention to be on The Jellybeans, but does display with its driving rock anthem elements that the girls do possess the power to control such an upbeat, rock composition. With masterful percussion fills and catchy, sharp guitar strumming leading the way, The Jellybeans deliver with “If He Only Knew.”

Concluding the six song album is “How Do I Walk Away Now?” More of an emotionally-heavy composition, “How Do I Walk Away Now?” embodies The Jellybeans’ journey. Dedicated to the Our Lady of Mercy graduated class, “How Do I Walk Away Now?” ensures listeners of an emotionally-heavy, thought-provoking conclusion. Only a simple, light drum accompanies the girls’, once again, strikingly remarkable harmonies, along with the occasional joining of guitar strumming and keyboard performing. In them reluctantly departing from the school they’ve attended for years, The Jellybeans face such with fortitude. Though their departure is inevitable and friends will migrate to different schools, as shown through the song’s lyrics. As the concluding composition, “How Do I Walk Away Now?” is a rock ballad that ensures its audience of a promising future for The Jellybeans.

Inevitably, Look At Us is an impeccable title for the release, achieving in representing the girls of The Jellybeans. Following two previous releases, Look At Us Now showcases the progression that The Jellybeans have made, along with demonstrating the progression the New Jersey girls will continue to make.

Review by: Alexa Spieler
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

The Mailman’s Children, “Undercover”

27 Jun, 2013 Alexa Spieler

Hailing from both Minneapolis, MN, USA and Winnipeg, MB, CANADA, The Mailman’s Children (TMC) delivers with their song, “Undercover” off of their release entitled Supply & Demand. The Mailman’s Children features front-man Eric Labossiere, who lives in America, while Joel Couture (bassist) Joel Perreault (guitarist and backing vocals) and Eddie Vesely (percussion and electronics) reside in Canada. Only a couple hours away from each other, The Mailman’s Children haven’t allowed distance to be a prevalent obstacle in determining their success, consistently pushing TV and radio appearances and tours throughout most of North America. Distance hasn’t hindered The Mailman’s Children nor precluding them from producing solid music, as “Undercover” demonstrates.

The Mailman’s Children easily lands “Undercover” within the pop-rock genre with a heavy emphasis placed upon soft rock influences. Opening the track is a soft underlying bass line combined with a simple drum beat that provides sufficient support for the song to build itself upon. Shortly deeming its entrance is the intricately performed guitar strumming, persisting as one of the track’s highlights. The exceptional guitar performances provide an impeccable environment for Labossiere to assert his soothing vocals that echo of tranquility, yet with a softness that manages to demand attention. The song maintains a relaxed tone, employed throughout the prevalent vocal consistent, striking but never overpowering percussion performance, meticulous guitar playing, and supportive bass. Overall, “Undercover” isn’t a song that is necessarily ground-breaking or significantly unique. However, with its positive atmosphere and relaxed feel, various audiences will find themselves grooving along to The Mailman’s Children’s creation.

The lyricism for “Undercover” exhibits passion and glimpses of hope. While Labossiere delivers “And I wish that I could be there, and I wish that I was leading you to safety,” with devotion and echoes of genuine sincerity, the employed tone is nothing short of authenticity. The lyrics simply click with the conveyed tone, appearing to enhance the sincerity audible through The Mailman’s Children’s instrumental and vocal performances. The arrangement may be of simplicity, but the lyricism evokes an emotional response, showcasing The Mailman’s Children as a band built off of genuineness and originality: both of which are rarities with a multitude of modern artists.

For The Mailman’s Children, “Undercover” may not be something extraordinary, but it certainly is a solid release. The Mailman’s Children step into a musical experience of relaxation, but their demonstrated talent isn’t ignored. “Undercover” reveals The Mailman’s Children as a group of musicians who persist with passion and deliver masterful, intricate performances. There may not be anything earth-shaking with “Undercover”, but for those seeking to delve into sincere music, The Mailman’s Children “Undercover” is the track to listen to.

Review by: Alexa Spieler
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

ItsYaBoiH2, Bigger Fish

20 Jun, 2013 Alexa Spieler

The 26-year old rapper Anthony Brown may perform under the name “ItsYaBoiH2” but as a kid at heart, he’s proudly represented his adoration for music since his youth. After growing up in Tennessee, ItsYaBoiH2 constantly found himself listening to the likes of Tupac, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys. A rapid piling occurred in which Brown transitioned from simply listening to rap music to connecting with the music to writing lyrics of his own. Now, after embarking on an impressive journey that has featured multiple mix tapes and other releases, ItsYaBoiH2 continues to successfully deliver with his latest release, Bigger Fish.

While his music personifies various influences, there’s an evident commonness throughout his compositions: rawness.  As Bigger Fish begins with “Rickety Boat” ItsYaBoiH2 presents a solid first impression. Immediately beginning with a hypnotic beat, “Rickety Beat” is a strong start. There’s a definite groove to the song that makes for a smooth entrance the vocals. ItsYaBoiH2 delivers lines consistently with such an admirably smooth flow. In some ways, “Rickety Boat” is the ideal song for the album to begin with, portraying and presenting everything ItsYaBoiH2 is inclined to demonstrate musically. With the addition of TopGun as a featured rapper, “Rickety Beat” reveals a sense of energy that’s fully enjoyable and danceable. Following the strong start is the three minute track “Clap for ‘Em.” Rather than maintaining the previous faster tempo, “Clap for ‘Em” doesn’t feature as loud instrumentation, but rather softens the beat and is of a slower tempo. Synth lines echo louder over the supportive backing beat another beat which is highly accessible, but showcases the lines ItsYaBoiH2 reveals so impeccably. The lyrics are certainly not to be heard without parents’ attention, but “Clap for ‘Em” fuels the hip hop vibes that ItsYaBoiH2 strives to achieve. However, what makes the composition stand out isn’t necessarily the lyrics, but the driving beat underneath the powerful synthesizer. Considering the song has to follow such a strong beginning, “Clap for ‘Em” does the release justice.

Marking the third track on Bigger Fish is the title track. Sounding similar to Ariana Grande’s current single “The Way,” questions may arise concerning the composition’s originality. Both songs feature such similar beats; however, ItsYaBoiH2 opts to rap over the beat instead of Grande’s vocal performance. It may appear to be a similar track, but aside from minuscule hints in the song’s beat, “Bigger Fish” takes on al life of its own. The featured beat results in a perfectly fitted, but repetitive drum sequence. Though the beat is unique and provides the ideal support system, the continuing beat sometimes becomes of an annoyance due its repetition. More impressive is ItsYaBoiH2’s vocal delivery. There seems to be an effortless attack whenever ItsYaBoiH2 holds onto the microphone, an evident ease and confidence conveyed through his voice.

While the easiest route for ItsYaBoiH2 to take would include maintaining strong, fast-paced beats with smooth delivery, the rapper opts to differentiate himself from amongst the pact. Certain songs are relied on to voice that uniqueness and “Where I Wanna Be” tops the list. The longest song on the album, “Where I Wanna Be” isn’t anything like compositions heard prior. Embracing differentiation, “Where I Wanna Be” trades synthesizers for acoustic guitars and exchanges fast beats for a slower pace. In an emotionally-driven track, “Where I Wanna Be” is when ItsYaBoiH2 has his moment: his moment to depart from the rest; his moment that changes everything. The softer instrumentation constructs an impeccable environment for ItsYaBoiH2 to provide listeners with a strong performance. A pattern for the release, the delivery remains fresh and smooth, as ItsYaBoiH2 pours his heart out, “After I got out of school I was so nervous, just questioning my purpose.” He isn’t just another rapper to discuss partying, girls, and money – but represents the minority that immerse themselves in the music and the passion and the meaning behind the music, not for monetary or popularity purposes. A hopeful message conveying sincere message of dreams, ItsYaBoiH2 exclaims, “I just want to be the man. Looking at over a million fans hiding in the stands, and I’m reaching out to ‘em to the point that they can even grab my hand: that’s where I want to be.” With genuine expressions, music doesn’t appear as a game for the rapper.

Concluding the album is the five minute composition “Sink.” Again, ItsYaBoiH2 delivers with something richly different, providing different perspectives and musical representations for listeners. “Sink” strays away from the usage of too powerful beats or instrumentation, allowing for ItsYaBoiH2 to recall the earlier days, when he focused solely on acapella deliveries. Instrumentation remains limited, aside from the soft, supportive beat that takes its time accompanying the vocals and the light piano melody. The performance on all ends is quite captivating and aurally pleasing. “Sink” strips down the project’s usage of heavy instrumentation on previous songs, making for a beautiful, passionate composition. It’s refreshing to hear music that’s limited in instrumentation, not allowing for ItsYaBoiH2 to fall victim to overproduction. There’s an audible rawness that no amount of technology can achieve.

Considering that ItsYaBoiH2 does have more work to do, Bigger Fish shows development and improvement. Bigger Fish creates a reflective piece for the rapper to look back on, demonstrating his growth, hopeful that he’ll continue to apply his knowledge. Most importantly, Bigger Fish reminds listeners that hip hop isn’t only about parties, girls, or money. The release serves as a reminder that thought-provoking hip hop exists, as ItsYaBoiH2 lives to instill that mentality.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bigger-fish/id655100722

Review By: Alexa Spieler
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Harlequins Enigma, champagne pop at chimp champ`s pop corn party

12 Jun, 2013 Alexa Spieler

The Norway-based eclectic, essentially one-man band, Harlequins Engima, delivers yet another masterpiece with Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party. Åge Riisnes stands as the man behind the band’s success, accredited as a synth musician, composer, and video producer; Elin Berge, Katie Leung, and Sara Jensen also contribute. Harlequins Engima’s latest release resonates of Riisnes’ brilliancy and musicianship that simply isn’t showcased by any other artist. After releasing a multitude of albums of the previous years, Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party delivers another accomplished full-length, displaying that Riisnes is as innovative as artists come, focusing the attention on his abilities to create music that isn’t necessarily heard frequently.

Harlequins Enigma attempts to achieve musical diversity with the beginning track, “Will.” The song stands as intriguing with its introductory hip-hop styled beat, which grows into an off-beat with sporadic strikes. Though initially enticing, “Will” resonates of underlying, clashing synthesizers. The spacey, eclectic tones seem to clash at times, providing listeners with too much at once. The haunting tones initially draw listeners in, along with the steady, yet uniquely supportive beat, but continually progress into a danceable, yet disorderly composition.  “Will” is a risk, but not necessarily the risk to take on a first song. However, with the following track, “Sun Moon Stars,” Harlequins Enigma distinguishes something of an audible, aurally-pleasing composition. The underlying tones continue to mix, presenting an up-tempo track echoing of higher, louder synthesizer tones atop the darker ones. Nevertheless, this mixture of elements seems to work. Pushing through the first song, “Sun Moon Stars” holds true to its title with its spacey atmosphere, allowing Harlequins Enigma to prove its musical diversity and musicality.

“Basis of Pop” seems to serve as the perfect follow up to “Sun Moon Stars,” appearing as the extended continuation of that composition. As a supportive beat introduces the song with a hypnotizing synth line, Harlequins Enigma establishes its pattern of building up a composition with the frequent additions of different synthesizers. Though the original beat and frequent high-pitched melody act as the steady rhythm section, sonically, infrequent placed tones stream throughout the composition. There’s a trustful infrequency, but reliability within “Basis of Pop” that prepares listeners for Harlequins Enigma. Every opportunity listeners think they’re prepared for what Riisnes has prepared, this composition alters patterns. What remains consistent is this additional tone, providing an impeccable build-up that allows for a hypnotizing, enticing sound.

Harlequins Enigma establishes that this release isn’t something steady and that listeners will be caught off guard. No track proves that more-so than “Lake Frog,” where the album in its entirety changes pace. Transitioning from an album that appeared to only resonate of modernity, “Lake Frog” combines early jazz influences with a twist of the modern synthesizers. While the drum beat holds true to jazz with its infrequent appearances and strikes on downbeats, the synthesizers clash in shockingly beautiful way. Surprises frequently exist while this steady drumbeat echoes and underlying darker eighth note synthesizer pattern continues. This song won’t drive listeners to a dance floor, but will leave them remarkably intrigued by its frequent changes. Even as the song drives towards its coda, “Lake Frog” transitions alter its previously steady percussion, only to move back towards its originality. Concluding with the ominous underlying tones that initiating the track, “Lake Frog” embodies everything Harlequins Enigma seeks to achieve.

While many producers are expected to produce only of dubsteb elements and provide danceable tracks, Harlequins Enigma makes it a point to not entrap itself in genre constraints. Several tracks do exist purposely to intrigue listeners to dance, but that isn’t the point in the musical journey. Harlequins Enigma establishes that Riisnes isn’t simply another Avicii or Skrillex, but rather, a composer with individuality and originality. “3 Footsteps” is a composition that marks individuality. Stepping away from up-tempo numbers, “3 Footsteps” drives towards both a slower and darker route, unusual for Harlequins Enigma. Tributing modernity, “3 Footsteps” contains an occasional, infrequent bass drum strike that associates itself with dubstep; however, that’s the only calling to the genre. Nicely putting together a composition filled with different mallet instruments, the layering is to be praised. “3 Footsteps” is hauntingly thrilling, engaging listeners due to its ominous nature, proving that a composition doesn’t need to be filled with overproduction or clashes to obtain listeners’ attention.

Concluding the album is “Strange Noises of Dance,” where the title directly associates with the instrumentation. Audible are essentially the “strange noises of dance,” where Riisnes throws together multiple clashing synthesizer tones, recalling similarities to the album’s first track. While within the first track the mixture didn’t work, “Strange Noises of Dance” isn’t perhaps the most aurally-pleasing, but summarizes the musical journey. The pieced together jumble continues to clash in a similar way, but the method works. It would’ve been easy and predictable if Riisnes finished with a stereotypical danceable song. However, Riisnes decides to show more depth and expand his artistry, continuing to demonstrate that Harlequins Enigma is a musical journey no one is prepared to take.

Expect the unexpected with Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party. Harlequins Enigma presents something remarkably extraordinary and vehemently enticing. Some tracks may take time to adjust to, but Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party marks a release that’s simply atypical, and still, enjoyable. A musical experience, a journey – Champagne Pop At Chimp Champ`s Pop Corn Party is commendable for its attempt at attempting the unattempted.

Review by: Alexa Spieler
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Morning Fame “Open Your Eyes”

12 Mar, 2012 Alexa Spieler

Originating from Toronto is the four-piece band, Morning Fame. The band has successfully managed to utilize all of their different cultures and life experiences to formulate their eclectic sound. Consisting of Vik Kapur on vocals, Joe Liranzo on guitar, and Alan Dennis on drums, Morning Fame is a force to be reckoned with. Their single, “Open Your Eyes” off of their album A Lasting Place, represents the epitome of what all soft-rock, lyrically driven, and passionately performed compositions should sound like.

Unlike other music Morning Fame has created, “Open Your Eyes” is of the slower type. Rather than focusing on a fast-tempo, forceful drums, and volume — “Open Your Eyes” successfully manages to showcase the talent all the members of Morning Fame possess. Liranzo’s guitar playing is quite exceptional, demonstrating his true creative abilities. Overall, “Open Your Eyes” is a beautiful composition and is collectively fantastically performed. Liranzo’s electrifying guitar playing comes off more as a ‘peaceful singing,’ rather than anything overpowering. His beautifully crafted guitar leads reflect the passion Morning Fame puts into their music. Kapur’s vocals add another layer to the music, and in doing so furthers the tranquil nature of the composition. On the drums, Dennis adds the right fills at the perfect moments, never letting the song drag. His perfect timing manages to add a driving-force behind the generally soft rock track. As the song heads into its coda, Liranzo emphasizes his smooth guitar playing, while vivaciously leading a solo. Kapur chimes right back in and sings beautifully, as expected. The musicianship contained by all three members of Morning Fame is overall something quite difficult to come across in today’s music world.

Overall, “Open Your Eyes” is a consistently smooth and calming song. Liranzo, Kapur, and Dennis all utilize their own individual talents to collectively create a magnificent sound. Any minor faults are simply overlooked, due to Morning Fame’s passion, delivery, musicianship, and talent. Whether it be Kapur’s simply astonishingly passionate vocals, Liranzo’s melodious guitar parts, or Dennis’ ability to place perfect fills, Morning Fame fully showcases their remarkable talents in “Open Your Eyes”.

Review By: Alexa Spieler
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)