Claiming Neptune: In Times of Change

Everything I’ve learned about the band Claiming Neptune so far says “laid back”. I got this vibe as soon as I read their bio page and it started with, “We like to play rock n roll. We’re also from the planet Earth…the Austin, Texas part of it.” It shows they have a good sense of humor and are, well, down to Earth. It’s nice to see a band that is very straightforward and simple in their approach to making music. However the band is full of interesting characters judging by the little blurbs I read with some of their interests.

Their frontwoman is Lisa Borjon whose style is a product of her parent’s musical influences from the 80s and 90s as well as her brother’s classic rock albums. Derrick Yeomon, a lover of the oldies but goodies of music, and Robert Jenkins, a fan of hip hop and rock alike, both play guitar. Joshua Wuensche plays the drums, which he learned to play around the age of 16. Adam Barone, who once spent nine months traveling the Americas by motorcycle, plays bass and keyboard.

Claiming Neptune band pic

They released an album this year called In Times of Change which features a song called “Apparition”. This track is a fan favorite, with its steady beat and soothing vocals. It is about a woman who has become engrossed in a relationship to the point it’s all she knows and he is all she wants. Yet because of the manipulation she needs to let him go and focus on her own happiness.

But I won’t play these games no more
It’s time to throw you out and close that door
I see right through your apparition
From these chains I will break free
Consider me part of your collection
But it’s something that won’t change me
2X Your love is what I needed

 

The time has come for me to end it
So me and all my girls will have some fun
Sip a little; dance some more til the night is done
Now that I know better for myself
I won’t change a thing for anyone else
Cause I won’t play these games no more
Otherwise I’ll throw you out, and close that door!

In another of their popular songs called “Happening Now” we get some more background info about why she had to let this guy go. Apparently there was another lady in the mix.

And even though I don’t know her
It’s like I know her
Because you can’t forget her
Why can’t you just forget her?
Won’t you just forget her?

I feel like I’m reading someone’s diary that is going through a rocky relationship. There is an honesty and intimacy about them that I like. The album is definitely not a ruckus of guitar and drums but instead a mellow rhythm and dreamy tone. It reminds me of an acoustic rock version of Lana Del Rey and it also feels like it would fit right into the soundtrack of a coming of age movie starring Michael Cera. Those are my two cents, if it sounds like it’s up your alley then check out their album In Times of Change on SoundCloud or iTunes.

Jocelyn and Chris Arndt: Edges

If you’re like me you like music with soulful and gritty vocals backed by classic rock-inspired guitar and a thumping drum beat. This is just some of what you’ll get when you listen to the New York based rock-duo that are Jocelyn and Chris Arndt. With so many shows under their belt from The Hard Rock in Pittsburgh and Myrtle Beach, Rockwood Music Hall in New York, to The Viper Room in Hollywood these siblings are no strangers to the live stage.

At first listen their new album Edges has a contagiously fervent passion and bluesy-rock feel. The first song off the record is called “Shame” and it really demonstrates their raw energy. I love it for its relatable subject matter too as is exemplified in these lyrics:

“I used to think you understood,
We used to think alike
But now you’ve traded
sweet for bitter, guts for glitter,
Safe instead of right

And was she worth it?
How happy are you now?
Do you think about the night you lost me,
And do you wonder how?”

This is the perfect breakup song, the type of song you blast in your car and sing along to when you’re moving on from someone who did you wrong. There’s also something badass about a strong female lead.

“Ooh, I lost your number,
Ooh, you lost my trust,
I see the ashes in your eyes,
You turned our love to dust

But now I’ve got a story,
Now I’ve got a song
And music makes you
miss me more with every chord
You’ll know you’ve done me wrong”

Another song I enjoyed is called “Cinderella” because it is such a realist way of seeing love; It’s not a thing that just happens one night when we lose our glass slipper. Her empowering attitude is apparent when she sings, “So I’m checking myself out of fantasy / I gotta fight for what’s ahead of me.”

While “we can’t all be Cinderella”, I guess it’s true what they say, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your handsome prince.

The latest single is “Where’s the Rain” and the band is now on tour in various cities across the country this month including DC, Nashville and Las Vegas. Hopefully we’ll get to see them live in Salt Lake City if they decide to take a detour! Fingers crossed.

Westward: The Deadly Rapture of Space

The Deadly Rapture of Space is the first album released by a band that goes by the name of Westward. Studied and experienced musicians in their own right, the band was created by some of our own Salt Lake City locals: Andrew Marshall as lead vocals and guitar, Karl Grimm on bass and Matt Morrison on drums.

The intro to the title track is the static sound of astronauts talking to each other over a radio intercom and an announcer saying, “Most of the world waited 100 miles below, the crew had completed final preparations, the cabin was depressurized and the hatch open.” It immediately sets up the space odyssey that you are about to take part in. I imagined the guitar and drums breaking in as soon as they leave the atmosphere and enter the dark depths of space.

I can tell by the vibrato of the song “Drive’m” that their live shows are not something to miss. The chanting of the chorus, the electric guitar and the way Marshall delivers the lyrics sounds like a very theatrical and lively performance.

To give you an idea of the inspiration behind Westward’s sound, their musical influences are rock artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Jack White. Their fans have coined the term “cowboy space rock” to fondly describe their music and I can hear why. I felt like I was being transported to a distant rock n’ roll western with awesome instrumentals and sexy vocals. Case in point, listen to my favorite song on the album called “When I Give You Control”.

The guys have been working over the last three years to make a name for themselves, opening for various bands in different states and even went on their own 2015 Deadly Tour. Westward has played gigs at venues like the Utah Arts Festival, the Sundance Film Festival’s Indie Lounge and The House of Blues in Las Vegas.

They are now working on new material as they go on the 2016 West Coast Tour. If you want to check them out live they will be making a stop in Salt Lake City on Saturday August 6, 2016 at The Urban Lounge 241 S. 500 E. 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm.

Earth Tiger

“I had a vision I could fly around the world with a girl with blonde curls who swapped energy for pearls.” To anyone who visits Earth Tiger’s Soundcloud page, this will be the first thing you hear if you play their first track “Holiday.” Earth Tiger is a duo from New Zealand that doesn’t’ sound like your typical hip hop output—combining the flows of traditional rap with beats intertwining pop, rock, and electronic dance music. Their song’s infectious—the melodies will get stuck in your head until you have no choice but to play the songs again. While they only have two tunes available on their Soundcloud it’s more than enough to satisfy for the time being.

Earth Tiger was conceived on Christmas Eve around a campfire by friends Cruz Mathews and Tom Taylor who had a mutual love of old school hip hop. After collaborating with producer Alex Wildwood in a series of week-long recording sessions, the duo set up a home studio in a swamp house in the rainforest of Byron Bay. The natural surroundings of the rainforest invoked songs inspired by the energy it gave off. In their makeshift studio, they funneled their collection of earthly hip hop into an EP entitled Holiday set for release hopefully later this year. It is now in the mixing and mastering process via Nathan Sowter of La Petite Maison Studios.

The title track of the EP alone is an accurate representation of their music with its soothing beats with Mathews’ and Taylor’s smooth flows emulate the feeling of trekking through wilderness of the Down Under. The second track on their soundcloud that was released some months prior to recording the music of Holiday is the song “King Like Jordan.” While it doesn’t contain the same style of earthly ambience that “Holiday” does, it’s still just as catchy and laidback with a hook that goes “This my jam. This my jam. This, right here, my favorite jam.” The rest of the song consists of lyrics that express its listeners to stay motivated in exercising the mind, body, and soul.

To put it blatantly, Earth Tiger is straight up feel good music and as the first hip hop group I’ve heard out of New Zealand I pretty much got what I expected and then some. They may find themselves on the playlist of any outdoorsy types who go on nature hikes and attend the gym regularly.

Digisaurus: No More Room for Love

In 2015 artist and producer James Allison collaborated with local Ohio musicians and visual artists to start a project called Digisaurus, a futuristic synthpop and rock band with funk and R&B influences. Allison dove in head first when he decided to sell his house, shut down his recording studio and quit his job to go on the Solo Spring Tour of 2016. With great risk comes great reward and now after the tour’s successful completion, he is doing a summer tour across various cities in the U.S. with shows booked through the fall.

The opening title track on the debut EP, No More Room for Love, begins with a robotic voice that asks, “how am I going to get over this?”. The song suggests the attitude of someone who has been so heartbroken they can’t bring themselves to love again so instead they are out to “get some” in an attempt to get over their heartache. From there it jumps right into a self-described “60’s pop to modern day funk, while dealing with the dismissal of love and conflict within the human psyche.” If the record title and bleeding heart cover art weren’t enough to clue you in, the theme deals with the turmoils of love.

Their first single, “Make a Move”, describes the dynamics of the relationship. It’s a funky tune with the singers falsetto woven in, “Finally I’ve found some room to breathe / Wrapped around your finger.” Although the lyrics aren’t necessarily the clearest indication of what’s at play it denotes that he is infatuated with this person. A super cool baritone voice comes in at the bridge saying, “he is feeling smooth”, emphasizing just how suave this person makes him feel.

Their latest single, “Without Me”, starts off with a contagious guitar riff and draws you in with a beat that makes you want to dance. The song’s lyrics are telling of a tug of war taking place in the singer’s head as he tries to make sense of his relationship.

“I’ve been told common tales about me / I’m not sure where they’re coming from / I’ve been told stranger things corrupt me / I don’t know what they’re coming for.” I get the sense in this verse that he is feeling bitter over the gossip he hears about himself because he knows he tried to make the relationship work.

“Without me / the future pounds / and you can’t bring yourself to take it back.” This verse sounds like he was taken for granted and the person now misses him but can’t admit it. Then again, I may be reading into it just a little bit. The lyrics are definitely up for interpretation but the instrumentals and vocals are a solid combination.

The end of the record winds down to a slower pace and dreamy groove. “Them fools ain’t got nothin’ on me / I’m the baddest human being.” He is really feeling himself in this song even if I’m not totally sure what he is getting at. Whatever the case, Digisaurus is paving their way across the country to get their futuristic vibes heard from coffee shops to rock venues. You can see them live in Salt Lake City on August 15-16 at the Dawg Pound.

King Push’s Royal Entrance

One of the highlights from the Twilight Concert Series this summer is Pusha T, otherwise known as King Push. Born in The Bronx, New York City, NY and raised in the state of Virginia, the rapper initiated the label known as “Re-Up Records,” and later on in life, he signed to GOOD Music and Def Jam. He will be performing on Thursday August 18th, 2016 alongside the alternative hip-hop group Digable Planets.

This rap druglord released his studio album King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude on December 18th, 2015. The album features tracks like “Untouchable,” “M.F.T.R,” and “Crutches, Crosses, and Caskets”. He samples the legendary Notorious B.I.G. from his verse on the 1995 single “Think Big” on the song “Untouchable,” and in the music video, Push strolls through the dark night in a Rolls Royce Phantom, his dream car. While growing up, he and his homies used to recite Biggie songs in the car, and him rapping this track in that Phantom with his homies, in the back, is reminiscent of those times.

A couple of his more politically and socially conscience songs on the album are “M.P.A.,” where he analyzes the main themes of a typical rapper’s life in a sarcastic yet so honest manner, and “Sunshine,” where he highlights the unjust treatment of blacks in the United States by utilizing repetitive clever word play. Similar to Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T sheds light on the institutionalization of blacks and how the rest of American society perceives and treats blacks. He uses clear references and intricate word play to get his point across. For example, in the song “Sunshine,” he delivers the message, “In Fox eyes, we the dark eyes, so they tell you lies, through a TV, C-N-B-C.” This is a concise and intelligent way to put into perspective the false information given to us through the media. To a rap genius contributor like myself, this line could be interpreted as dark-skinned people being the evil-like enemies of Fox News, so when it comes to news about brown or black people, Fox News and other media outlets mislead the public with false information and lies. Furthermore, “C-N-B-C,” could be a creative acronym meaning “Could Never Be Correct,” which additionally emphasizes the continuous errors and faults of news and media here in America.

Pusha T’s conscience and truthful lyricism speaks to many across the country. His entrance to Salt Lake City is much anticipated by the hip hop community, and hopefully he performs all ten songs off of his Darkest Before Dawn album.

 

Link to Pusha T’s show at Twilight:

http://twilightconcerts.com/shows/august-18-2016/

Review: Hamilton, An American Musical

How is there not a review for this on here yet? You should know what Hamilton is by now, and if not you’re in for a treat. The show is the the best musical to grace broadway since Wicked.

The show follows the historical figure Alexander Hamilton. A man I’ve admired since I took APUSH back in highschool. The man is the reason why we say “United States is” instead of “United States are”. The actual musical is very different for broadway, seeing as it’s hip-hop, or at least as hip-hop as broadway will ever get. Personally I had never listened to any actual hip-hop before this, but it acts as a sort of ‘gateway drug’ to harder songs.

The show was written by the genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, and he takes you on the emotional rollercoaster that is the life of Alexander Hamilton. The show’s first act has a feeling reminiscent of the last act of Les Miserables, with a ragtag group of young men starting a revolution but spoilers, this time the rebels win. There’s also a romance story mixed into the battles, filled with it’s own complications of love triangles, cheating, and having a family. The second act begins with the end of the revolutionary war and the creation of the United States constitution, and the show ends with the tragic death of Hamilton at the hands of his friend and rival Aaron Burr (which is stated in the first 5 minutes, so I’m not spoiling anything).

The only drawback about the show is that tickets are sold out until late next year, and it will be a good long time before the University will be able to do it.

It’s so good, I’m listening to it as I’m writing this and the only left to say is that it’s the best thing I’ve heard in a long time, and you NEED to hear it.

Twelve Reasons To Die

Dr. Cassells – Audio Rx

Twelve Reasons to Die, A fusion of opera and hip hop by Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and the composer of Black Dynamite,  Adrian Younge. The duo work to tell the story of Ghostface’s alter ego, Tony Stark, operating as a hit man for the De Lucas crime family and ultimately his transformation into the infamous Ghostface Killer. Ghost’s gritty rhymes are complimented by Adrian’s composition making the bloody drama that is Twelve Reasons to Die.

Ghosts heavy handed exposition works in his favor. It allows the listener to follow the story without having Rap Genius up through the album. Ghost wastes no time in introducing what Stark is capable of on the first tracks Beware of the Stare and Rise of the Black Suits.

I want bodies, DeLucas, spread into the waters
I want mothers and sons, I wanna murder they daughters
Revenge, all I see is blood in my eyes
Like the rise of your worst nightmare come alive
Ghostface Killah, let’s see who’s gonna survive

A lack of specifics allows your imagination to envision the atrocities Stark commits, the paranoia he feels as war erupts between the families, and the pressure that takes hold as he separates from the DeLucas family to lead his own operation. That paranoia is not unfounded as refuses to acknowledge threats he hears from his closest lieutenants.

How you prepare for war? Grab your guns and your hardware
Never close your eyes in the barber chair
The heart of a lion, that’s what got him here
Bulletproof the car, yo, we outta here

The tension escalates into the second act whereupon the seemingly invincible Stark falls from a betrayal close to home leading to his death. Lesser men remain dead, but the rage that lies in the villainous Stark resurrects him as the Ghostface Killer in search of redemption.

Colombian neckties I’m a black Gambino
Bodies get dumped in the black El Camino
It’s Reno, gangster wars, money, power, respect
Revenge is felt like the heat from a Tec
Tommy guns are irrelevant, I’m bulletproof now
I could fly through the air and duck your chick-a-pow
Black superhero, crime boss arch nemesis
Good vs. Evil since the first book of Genesis
Battle to the end that’s the way of the thriller
And Starks is reborn as the Ghostface Killah… no one could get iller

Ghostface’s internal monologue changes with his new persona. The macabre descriptions of his revenge are one of the highlights of the album. Drawing from his past works, he doesn’t fail to deliver a diverse catalog of violent obscenities.

First things first, I chop your head to your fingertips
Butcher knife your torso, chop up your ligaments
Make sure it’s legitimate, conceal all my fingerprints
Chop, chop your body up quick then get rid of it
A hole in the desert, body bag, just polluted it
Your miss was a snitch too? Shotgun killed the bitch
Leave her in the wilderness, suffocated and scarred up
Your brother want more too, blow his fucking car up

Stark fully becomes Ghostface Killer after murdering crime families responsible for his death. Pacing in his room he momentarily contemplates the punishment for his past love, and source of his downfall, before relishing his current state as the unstoppable force he has become.  

Unable to become immortalized in life
Ghostface became immortalized in death
Creating a mayhem so vast
That the tale of his rampage would be passed down for generations
Gangsters told their children to never double-cross a man
Who’s will is so strong that he can cross the planes of existence
To get his revenge
And there you have it
The story of the Ghostface Killah

The story is simple, but succeeds in delivering a narrative with just enough pulp fiction cheese to balance out the outlandish claims Ghost makes. Adrian’s production was essential in supporting the story’s gravitas. Young’s touch stands out on Rise of the Black Suits and Center of Attraction. The backing track on Rise of the Black Suits creates an air that I can only describe as sounding like a mature Scooby-Doo. The track’s use of piano and strings creates a sound that is both eerie and incredibly catchy. It is one of the biggest reasons I continue to return to the album. Center of Attraction’s mournful sound acts as a counterbalance to the relatively light hearted descriptions of Ghost’s love. The dissonance between the lyrics and the production act as an additional sign of the coming troubles to be found for Ghost at the hands of his love.

 

This album is special for it’s unique premise and execution. Listening to the album on a rainy day is like escaping into your favorite book. While not suited for casual listening, it comes with the tradeoff that given the time, immersion comes naturally. A venn diagram of  projects appealing to fans of hip hop, horror films, and classical music would proudly display this project at the dead center.

 

Label 12 reasons die

Author’s Notes: The album was later re envisioned by Apollo Brown on the “Brown Tape” and while not bad, I found that the change in production only deepened my appreciation for Adrian’s composition while also creating a need to listen to the original.

 

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