#ATPYICAL SOUNDS

Ads on Tumblr: Is Nowhere Safe?
November 17, 2016 1:18 pm

Earlier this summer, Tumblr, the common blog of choice for painfully hip and melancholy teens, decided to dip their toes into the realm of commercializing their user base by enabling the option of slathering ads site wide. The move allows for Tumblr users themselves to monetize their blogging hobby by running their own personal ads and allows sites like Yahoo to run advertisements. The decision came on the heels of Verizon purchasing Yahoo earlier this summer, with Yahoo itself having purchased Tumblr in the summer of 2013.

The practical decision was at first met with the usual reaction from those who are used to being provided a service with little to no catch: derision. But it hasn’t been all bad; Tumblr allows users to switch off the ads in their settings menu, a step that is more about maintaining good will with their user base than becoming money hungry. The ability to switch off ads usually comes at a price to the everyday consumer, most commonly in the form of a premium account.

The decision came shortly after one of the largest internet mergers in its history. Verizon added the social media website to their ever growing list of content sites that it has steadily consumed over the years. As Tumblr has been traditionally regarded as a bastion for those who feel cast aside or otherwise different than mainstream internet consumers, the strategy from Verizon, as harmless as it may seem, opens the door for future changes in a capitalistic direction. Hence the reason why internet activists fight so hard to keep what privacy rights they are given; once begun, it’s a slippery slope.

Monetizing previously free service websites has always been a compulsory first step after a previously agreed amount of time. Popular sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit made the jump long ago, sacrificing a small piece of community goodwill in order to serve the very concrete problems and issues that face internet companies. With the ease and familiarity that users navigate the web, it can often come as a shock to find things not only different, but to be thought of as the product instead of the consumer. It’s within that discomfort where a company can move in one of two different directions: to either appeases the users or appease the board and/or the stockholders. It takes a brave spirit to attempt both and time will tell whether Tumblr can keep its outsider shine amongst the gold.

ARON MCFAUL: JUST GETTING STARTED
August 9, 2016 11:43 am

Aron McFaul is a Swedish DJ/producer currently repped by West Coast Recordings. With only one 4-track EP to his name, McFaul is a relative unknown in the sea of electronic/EDM. With fairness given to him as a new artist in a field that is tough to break through, there is clearly more work and change needed before McFaul makes a decent impression. His album Pallas Garden is uninspired and redundant to a fault, with glimmers of a solid musical ear shinning through every once in a while. If there was more work to comb through I might be able to put together a better first impression, but with only four tracks to base him on, McFaul comes up lacking.

In first and second tracks on the album (Intronational, Jam in Circles), I discovered to be entirely placeholders for the other songs. Granted, McFaul’s music may sound completely larger and magnificent through headphones (which I was not using at the moment) due to his style of layering many, many small teeny bleeps, bloops, and chrips.

Take for instance From Love, his most popular song so far with just under 9K listens on his SoundCloud, it essentially gathers all the different kinds of sounds you can use to notify yourself of a new text message on your iPhone, and mashes them together into a semi-cohesive ensemble. While absolutely creative, it’s just not my thing. Which may in part be due to the difference in nationalities; across the pond, the brand of music affectionately titled Eurotrash is wildly popular throughout. For the uninitiated, Eurotrash is more or less EDM, high BPM dance beats traditionally played in the discotheques with flashing lights and ecstasy. McFaul’s version is much more low key with less of a party atmosphere, but still borrows some of the same concepts: repetitive beats that loop and crescendo until they climax, and slowly decrescendo back into nothingness.

The final track, Taverna Times, was my favorite on the project. It features a guitar and drum-n-bass beat, the most melodic sounding song on the entire project. That being said, the song is still relatively sleepy, most akin to what you would listen to if you’re Ubering home from the club in the morning and still want to quietly rage.

Overall, I see tons of potential in Aron McFaul, I will be keenly looking to what he does next.

HANNAH GEORGAS: NOT JUST FOR EVELYN
July 26, 2016 6:02 pm

For those who haven’t heard, Hannah Georgas is a singer-songwriter based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Her newest album For Evelyn was released on June 24th of this year. Eleven tracks in length, For Evelyn deals with feelings of maturity, inadequacy, and the role of generations play in our psyche. Named after her grandmother, the album is an enjoyable listen that blends melancholy with smooth dance production.

Georgas first came up on the indie pop scene in 2009, when her first EP The Beat Stuff was picked up by Hidden Pony Records. After a few tweaks, the record was put out and was quickly licensed for commercial use by companies like Starbucks and Wal-Mart. That’s about as good as it gets for a fledgling artist, landing corporate behemoths that play their music on a loop throughout the week. Before long, Georgas was being featured on television shows and Canadian radio leading up to her full-length debut in 2010. This Is Good was responsible for Georgas nabbing nominations in Best New Artist of the Year as well as Songwriter of the Year at the 2011 Juno Awards. Riding the momentum, Georgas toured internationally up until 2014, dropping a second self-titled album and building credence as she went.

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Flash-forward to 2016, For Evelyn is a wandering, all-over-the-place record that flits from high to low throughout the project. Standout tracks that peaked my interest include “Waste,” “Evelyn,” and “Crazy Shit.” “Waste” rides along a groovy synthesizer beat, infectious to the ear and inducing self-inflicted head bobbing. Georgas croons along in her signature sing-song voice, nonchalant and cool as a ‘cuke.

Leading up to “Waste” is “Evelyn,” a song which fits my oh-so favorite vibe of beats that sound like they belong in the TRON universe. The hook, verses, chorus, synthesizers; all work together in just the right way that tickles my fancy. As someone who definitely appreciates good synthesizer production, For Evelyn is chock-full of alterations and atmospherically attractive rhythms that suit Georgas to a tee.

Last but not least of my favorite three tracks is Crazy Shit. In the bottom half of the album, Crazy Shit is an all-around fun dance tune that works well whether you’re dancing in your room or out driving in the fresh night air. Much of For Evelyn imbues a nocturnal feel; from the production to the subject matter, this is an album that is better suited to periods of self-introspection and reexamination.

Georgas has released an overall catchy and fun album that continues her series of musical success’s and successions. Be sure to pick up a copy on iTunes, or listen for free on Spotify. With so much to say, put simply, Georgas is worth listening to.

WAKING UP NEXT TO JON BELLION: THE HORROR
July 12, 2016 6:04 pm

Jon Bellion is a singer songwriter hailing from Lake Grove, New York. When I first came across Bellion, I admit I did not know quite what to think. Heavily tattooed with perfectly stylized hair, Bellion easily resembles the female adolescent standard of beauty; dangerous on the outside, sweet and sensitive on the inside. Within that curated image however, lies an individual deserving of critical acclaim for his hard work and true talent.

Suspending disbelief long enough to dive into the actual music, I was careful to not jump into the position of “overly critical.” After all, the most lauded critic is still well below the worst artist. What are my qualifications to raise up or bring down someone desperately trying to be heard and to find like minded people to empathize with? None at all, besides being a person with strong opinions and an old Macbook, really.

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Nonetheless, I admittedly did not like Bellion at first take. Between the heavy pandering to his fan-base in terms of appearance and musical content and the pop vibe that comes across stronger in his later works, Bellion is up there with N*SYNC and One Direction on the list of artists catering to the mainstream. But even saying that while looking at Bellion’s entire discography, he has always held strong onto his own individual core. He was more acoustic early on, as well as mixing in some hip-hop and electronic. Talking with my friends and colleagues about him, both male and female instantly recognized his name as well as his place in pop music history. While he may not be the number one crooner floating off the radio waves (never say never, stranger things have happened), Bellion has solidified himself in a position of authority and minor prestige.

Bellion initially rose to fame in 2013 when he wrote the chorus for the 2013 hit song “The Monster by Eminem feat. Rihanna. After that, he snagged two lengthy tours playing shows and building a name for himself. After four mixtapes, he was ready to release his first album this year.

It cannot be denied that Bellion has a sickeningly nice voice. He rides and flows over the beat, whether it be cotton candy pop, EDM, or hip-hop. The disappointing aspect of that is listening to his 2016 album The Human Condition, and bearing witness to Bellion’s prodigious use of auto-tune and tools of that ilk. It screams inauthentic in my eyes to blend a powerful voice like that in order to appeal to the many instead of the few. While his choice of song naming might not win any awards (lead singles being “All Time Low,” “Maybe IDK,” and “Woke the Fuck Up“), the actual content is easy on the ears. Incredibly catchy and rhythmic, Bellion has great studios and producers backing him.

With all this, Bellion’s music does not appeal to me due to the fact that I am not his targeted audience. Among those chosen by him, his producers, or whatever other sonic mastermind lurks in the dark corner of the studio, Bellion is wildly popular. That is my critique as well as my lament: I can’t relate to him because he chose to present himself in such a way that only those mirroring his minor Twitter trials and tribulations can relate to.

The Human Condition was released June 10th of this year. Pick it up off iTunes and give it a shot for yourself.

*Last minute edit and embarrassing confession: After writing this review I found myself repeatedly listening to “Woke the Fuck Up,” despite my feelings that it has a subjectively stupid name and sample in the hook. Its frustratingly catchy.

 

ROCK NOT DEAD: NEW DOROTHY ALBUM
July 7, 2016 1:02 pm

Dorothy ain’t in Kansas no more. Comprised of headliner Dorothy Martin on lead vocals, Zac Morris on drums, DJ Black on lead guitar, and Gregg Cash on bass, DOROTHY is rock n’ roll, pure and simple. Their debut album ROCKISDEAD is loud, proud and rowdy from beginning to end. Blending classic rock riffs with blues and metal influences, ROCKISDEAD is a thriller through and through.

DOROTHY’s journey began in 2014, when the pieces of the puzzle began to come together. Martin has an incredible voice; think Amy Winehouse minus the excess drug use. Oozing badass vibes and sex appeal, the band came together to create their brand of rock that kicks ass and takes names. They released their debut self-titled EP DOROTHY in 2014, earning worldwide acclaim. After building momentum, in 2015 they were the hot new band on the block, touring Europe and getting national ad spots from Levi’s and Gatorade. Their lead singles from ROCKISDEAD were appropriately used for Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black ads. They signed a recording deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, setting themselves up for international stardom.

ROCKISDEAD recycles a number of tracks from their original EP, but also introduces some new material as well. 12 tracks total, it provides hard-hitting jams and bluesy interludes, all backed with face-melting guitar solos. Behind Martin’s red lipstick and vintage punk-rock-princess appearance lays an incredible voice full of passion and power. The catchier songs I came across included “Raise Helland “Wicked Ones,” both of which gets the blood pumping, preparing to mosh. The whole album is sonically pleasing and easy to listen to, perfect for angrily chopping veggies for dinner as well as pre-gaming for a night of debauchery and sin.

As far as low notes go, the only constructive criticisms I have are that while DOROTHY is keenly aware of what their ‘sound’ is, it can get repetitive lyrically and rhythmically. Disappointingly, track 8, “Whiskey Fever,” is either a rip-off or an homage to Wolfmother’s classic hit “Woman,” recycling the same guitar melody more or less. I choose to believe it is an homage, as it is much too similar to be an accident. As the old saying goes “Good artists borrow; great artists steal.”

Backed by the almighty power of Roc Nation, as well as multiple tours and ad spots under their belt, it appears that DOROTHY might well be the new face of modern rock n’ roll. For a genre that has slowly disparaged and lost its soul over the years, it would be refreshing to have an iconic band to support. DOROTHY goes to great lengths to resurrect the legacy of bands like AC/DC or Black Sabbath, and comes very close. With a little more finessing in order to really nail down their signature style, DOROTHY is poised to take the world by storm.

CHASING THE HIGHLAND KITES
June 30, 2016 12:27 pm

Highland Kites is Marissa Lamar and Neil Briggs. Together they are a slow burning, melodic duo rife with dark themes and sweet sounds.

Lamar, the mastermind behind the project, began using music as her catharsis for overcoming a near fatal and prolonged bout with Lyme disease early in her life. Teaming up with Briggs in 2014 along with producer Raymond Richards, the band debuted to solid local fame. Originally from the Los Angeles area, Highland Kites has steadily built up a devoted purist fan base. They offer the soundscape a genuine and pure look at how you can transform your pain into beauty.

Their new EP, Let Me Run, is due out on July 23rd. A small work of five songs, I got an early look at the ethereally beautiful album. With a simple sound, the duo come together easily. Lamar fronts the band, clocking in as singer-songwriter plus keys and guitar, with Briggs hunkering down on drums.

Their LA-origin is apparent right off the bat with “Plastic Towns,” the first track. Lamar plays a mean slide guitar, harkening summer days at the beach under the sun. A common motif throughout Highland Kites’ works is the use of twisted lyrics over seemingly playful riffs and rhythms. Lamar uses her struggle to provide a mad decent canvas upon which the band paints their sound. As Lamar professes: “Stop pouring your heart out, you’re bleeding inside.” A message to all those bleeding hearts out there dying to be heard, take note.

In “Freckles,” Lamar shows off her folk chops, soothing the listener with a mellow vibe. When Briggs tunes in on background harmonies, the band feels much bigger than they actually are. The end result is a gorgeous melody that is entirely entrancing.

“This War Inside” features a fascinating journey through Lamar’s troubles and laments. Following Briggs’ hypnotizing drum beat, the listener is pulled into the quirky darkness that Lamar is trying to purge from herself.

The last two tracks, “Humiliated” and “Let Me Run” both feature energetic, melancholy melodies full of apt guitar and drums. Not eloquent but better: honest. Highland Kites is not a band that is pretending to be anything other than themselves. Taking a full year after their previous EP All We Left Behind, Highland Kites is finally ready to take the stage again.

When Highland Kites decide they want to do something, they take their time and do it well. I encourage anyone inspired by this article to check out and purchase their EP for $5 when it drops on 7/23. They are performing a show in LA after the EP’s release in order to fund their next tour, so if you want to catch them on the road, put your money where your mouth is.

LIANNE LA HAVAS: SOOTHING THE SOUL
June 24, 2016 3:13 pm

Lianne La Havas is a bright soul based out of London, England. Born to a Greek father and Jamaican mother, La Havas is the embodiment of the new England. Multi-cultural, worldly, and absolutely lovely, La Havas is methodically carving out her own space in the aural atmosphere.

Her album’s Is Your Love Big Enough from 2012 and follow-up Blood in 2015 both sit in that tender spot involving love, passion, and soul. La Havas operates where great artists like Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu first strode, crooning and layering smooth neo-soul with jazz and funk.

With two full length albums in three years, moving from background vocals with Paloma Faith to touring with artists like Bon Iver and Coldplay, La Havas is killing it at 26. She had a song on Alt-J’s latest and greatest hit 2014 album This Is All Yours, where her silken voice meshes perfectly with his in between soft acoustic guitar. Is Your Love Big Enough won iTunes Best of 2012 Album of the Year, boosting La Havas’ musical profile and allowing her to take bigger risks on Blood.

Recorded in Jamaica during a coming-home trip the singer went on with her mother, Blood’s title alludes to the cultural influences her heritage contributes. The album, which would end up being mixed at the legendary Electric Lady Studios in New York City, showcases La Havas’s strength in growing into her true self. Moving temporarily from the intimate acoustics she curated on her first album, La Havas experiments with bigger sounds and words. From brash brass, funky bass, and homeland reggae, the album swings hard behind La Havas’s direction.

The first four tracks off Blood give a good impression of the art La Havas creates. “Unstoppable,” her hit solo, is a smooth, swinging tune full of energy. The second, “Green and Gold,” references her Jamaican heritage and reflects the comfort La Havas has relishing in her own journey. The third, “What You Don’t Do,” was quickly made clear by La Havas in an interview to not have been written by her. It’s definitely loud and fun, not exactly the vibe La Havas usually cherishes, but still a great summertime song you can blast full tilt. Last, “Tokyo” brings on the funk, returning to rainy-day, soul-aching, heart-wrenching croonings. Her sweet and broken voice is almost cruel to listen to, reverberating between the ears of the listener with no help in sight.

In February 2016, La Havas released the EP Blood Solo, a bare-bones acoustic version of her album Blood. It seems as if La Havas can’t resist lighting some candles, grabbing her guitar, some dear friends, and melting hearts. Sounding heart-broken, La Havas enchants the listener deeply and purely over time, drawing those in with siren-like seduction.

From initially being discovered in 2008 on MySpace, to touring around the world and making her sound known, Lianne La Havas is a unique and inspiring individual. Currently touring in 2016 with Coldplay, keep your eyes peeled and your hearts open.

SIRI? WHERE IS MY ORGASM? 2.0
June 14, 2016 1:26 pm

A year ago, LELO dropped the worlds (allegedly) greatest vibrator. But first, some backstory; time for a cis white male to tell you about the elusive female orgasm.

A long time ago in a land far away, the Swedish intimate lifestyle company LELO designed the original personal assistant. SIRI 1 dropped in 2010 to thundering applause. As part of a trio of releases including LELO Ella and LELO Mia, the little vibrator was tremendously successful. It had women around the world coming to fruition right off the bat. The next year, a little company called Apple introduced their own SIRI, a non-corporal semi-AI to help you keep track of your life. Similar yet different, both Siri’s ease the stress out of day to day life.

Flash forward to 2015, and LELO introduces the SIRI 2.0. It widely improves on the functionality of the previous model, with many extras to boot. Retailing for around $130-200, SIRI 2 is a hit.

shumFirst, the bad news. No, this will not replace having a real life flesh and blood partner. It’s close, but no cigar. SIRI 2 is apparently not as waterproof as previously advertised, as some intrepid users discovered. Some testers had issues with the music mode (more on that in a second), claiming that there was no in between; it was either ON or it was OFF. It can pack quite a wallop, so being interrupted by blast buzzes on your hoo-ha might break you out of the mood.

Okay now the juicy good news. In just a USB charged 15-20 minutes, you’re good for 2 hours of intimate, happy, fun time. The smooth silicon is ergonomic regardless of hand orientation. For such a small device, the rumble can be anywhere from overdramatic to whisper quiet. It comes in stylish red, purple, or black, perfectly suited to match lingerie of any occasion.

Now the unique portion. SIRI 2 comes equipped with 8 functioning ‘music’ modes: different pulses and vibrations based on pre-set beats. In the catalog is everything from Classical (A lady’s night in) to Jazz (Just feel it) to Rumba (self-explanatory). Some experimentation might be needed in order to find your spirit genre, but the additional 9th mode is the most exciting. SIRI 2 can pick up on ambient noise through a little mic hole in the bottom of the device. Meaning, this toy works great with a partner, as the device will vibrate based on your partners voice, in theory.

Therapeutically speaking, the SIRI 2 can also be used as a personal voice masseuse, since it operates in the frequency between 110 and 120 hertz. This range matches that of the human voice, so it can be used by actors, singers, and chatterboxes of all professions who need some throat action. University of Alberta professor David Ley has been doing much experimentation on this, to positive results so far.

All in all, if you can stomach the price tag, the SIRI 2 might be the last clitoral vibrator you will ever need to buy. It’s got it all: fast, slow, noisy, quiet, masseuse, and ability to respond to your partners rasps and moans. It’s been out for a year and the reviews are in.

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