ryterband, undefended

ryterband, undefended

Close your eyes and press play. The lush, tranquil sounds that burst forth from your speakers make it feel like there is another layer to your reality. And that is all before the smooth-as-honey vocals cut in, compliments of Los Angeles-based songwriter & producer RYTERBAND. In a world where everyone’s timelines seem to be upside-down and inside-out, this is the type of music we need. Songs like “Stay Awake” have the propensity to offer an escape, as well as a reminder on how to handle yourself in your current atmosphere.

As his debut offering, Undefended boasts catchy hooks, a vibrant disposition, and twinkling after-effects. Lines like “You move like dust in the sunlight” – found at the beginning of second track “Brilliant Eyes” – are absolutely drenched in poeticism. But delve into how RYTERBAND plays with dissonance in “Lighthouse,” and I dare you not to be moved to tears.

Take a dive into any one of these tracks. The layers that exist, the way the sound seems to encapsulate you and carry you around on its back. There’s something primal somehow entrenched within this electro-infused set of tracks that tugs at you, something that makes it clear that if this is just the beginning, there is simply more intrinsic beauty to come from this talented musician.

local nomad, local nomad

local nomad, local nomad

Here to write anthems for future generations, multi-instrumentalist Michael Desmond inspires the people of the world to march to the beat of their own drum with his forthcoming EP Local Nomad. The EP is part of Desmond’s project, also called Local Nomad. He gives insight into the dichotomous name by saying “Local Nomad is the resistance of sedentary life. It’s about seeking the strange and embracing the unknown. Wondering. Wandering. Young and Old. Everywhere and Nowhere.” Desmond plays every instrument on the EP excluding drums. He draws from a variety of sources including Tears for Fears, Elvis Costello, and Phil Collins to produce a fusion of indie-pop and alt-rock with soulful vocals, heavenly synths, and lustrous drum beats. Originally from Long Island, NY, Desmond began his career as the frontman of the orchestral indie rock band Gabriel the Marine. The band found success and performed with bands like Taking Back Sunday, Glassjaw, Mew, Jacks Mannequin, and The Dear Hunter. However, after going through a period of rapid change in which he graduated from college, ended a long term relationship, and watched a family member tragically pass away, Desmond’s mind was racing a mile a minute. The only way he could slow things down was to write, and thus Local Nomad was born as a snapshot of life during this unstable time.

While Local Nomad is worth listening to for Desmond’s expert and fascinating use of instruments to create an array of idiosyncrasies within each track, there are also captivating overarching qualities that will intrigue even those who might want to listen passively.

The anger-fueled opening bop “Love is Gone” and rueful “Young Vampires” are “explosion” songs. “Love is Gone” keeps things chill with an alluringly groovy bassline in the verses, before erupting into sound in the chorus. It’s vocal line is compelling and surprising, you find yourself listening intensely to see what will come next. “Young Vampires” is about a toxic relationship, turning each other into vampires– monsters. It displays wistful guitar in the verses but also has a sonic explosion in the chorus.

“Gates” and “Getting Old is a Bitch” are more self-contained, but each have a quiet, yet powerful energy. The contagious beat in the chorus of “Gates” leaves you no choice but to jam along. All of the instrument parts in “Getting Old is a Bitch” are pertinent to the feeling of getting old. It also has a dominant bass beat and riff that hits you hard, much like growing up does. The “do-do-do”’s in the background almost sound like they’re taunting each of the melancholic main lines. Turmoil and instability in the distorted guitar solo reflects how it feels as the world seems to be moving on without you.

Finally, we have those songs that “clash,” although their conflicting elements end up working to their advantage. “Gates” elevates the sound to a celestial sphere with ethereal synths, but at the same time, the hearty guitar brings things back down, adding a wholesome, down-to-earth quality. A great guitar riff comes in towards the end, but it has that heavy rock sound to it, providing a deep contrast with the synth. The clash in “Summertime”, on the other hand, comes from the happy-go-lucky synth harmonies set against the wistfulness of days gone by in the lyrics. It’s about young adults trying to keep up with life and thinking back on the naivety of their youth. With the beat, sunny harmonies, and fluttering synths, you find yourself thrown back into a summer from years ago, tinged with nostalgia and regret. These tracks are dichotomies, much like the name Local Nomad itself, and the crunch between their conflicting qualities make them ever-so satisfying to listen to.

There’s a lot of potential in Local Nomad to discover more unique elements in the tracks, but no matter what you’re guaranteed to hear some anthems with great beats, full, well-rounded choruses, and colourful instrumentation. The EP will be released on July 10, 2020, but some of the singles are available to stream now!

toby, the outside

toby, the outside

Rapper ToBy is back with his new six track EP, THE OUTSIDE. ToBy incorporates daydreamy lo-fi beats mixed with booming trap sounds, similar to the likes of Travis Scott, in this release. He is not afraid to dive into his personal life and create something completely true to his style. He explains, “It achieves unity through specificity … In the hope that my life and my interests resonate with the next artistic soul or creative pundit trapped inside the every-man; yearning to escape, yearning to taste life’s cool breath, yearning to finally go outside.”

Inspired by Frank Ocean’s “Pyramids”, “Osiris” dives straight into the EP and ToBy’s style.

With a natural soundscape, the rapper’s flow fits perfectly and complements the different sounds. The track chronicles the mythic tale of betrayal and murder of the Egyptian god at the hand of his own brother. Meanwhile, his track “New Car” deals with freedom and yearning. The flow is more relaxed here, where his voice floats through the song. In an attempt to escape monotony, he comes out strong with the productions and vocals in this track.

Coming from dangerous upbringings can be a struggle, but if you do take on success, there is a psychological toll it can have. “Southside” is a think-piece about all of this, tackling issues that typically aren’t covered in music. But, in “Play Out,” ToBy’s single off the EP, he glorifies all things that come with the high life. Whether it is sex or money, he praises the fun lifestyle. With a constant flow and a well-rounded beat, ToBy has a hit on his hands. “Cascades” has a similar sound that you might hear from Rex Orange County, showing his versatility. It feels intimate and poetic, a switch up from some of the other tracks on the EP. Finally, “Wishes” is a solid choice to end the collection. Written and recorded on his 26th birthday, ToBy opens up about death and the fears he has relating to it. When you open up like this, there is nothing anyone can have, but respect for honesty. His thoughts may be in the clouds, but he brought his a-game here.

Blending tranquility, chaos and dystopia, ToBy has created his best collection yet. Dealing with a mix of emotions and other feelings, his tracks contain many different layers. Take a look into his life by giving this album some of your time. Take a walk outdoors.

malikonmusik, sparring sessions

malikonmusik, sparring sessions

There are always tons of artists putting out new music every day, but what makes someone stand out from the crowd? Their ability to put themselves into their music. Up-and-coming artist MalikOnMusik did just that with his debut EP Sparring Sessions. The EP consists of six tracks that show the Philadelphia native’s true vocal ability and music ventures. With inspiration from artists like Whitney Houston, Kehlani, and John Legend, MalikOnMusik is ready to pave his own path.

It’s always hard to start out an album because most people tend to judge a book by its cover. “Don’t Think Too Much” and dive into this EP. The track is your first impression and you easily can appreciate his vocals. Followed up by “I.W.M.H.B”, which stands for I want my hoodie back, one of the singles off the EP is based on his real experiences. The production on this track could be the best out of this collection of songs. Each of the songs is different in its own way, but one thing that remains the same is the quality of MalikOnMusik’s vocals. With a similar sound to Miguel, his voice floats effortlessly from start to finish.

In his most personal track, “Consolation”, the pop/R&B artist goes deep into his life. We take a look into his soul and how he is all about being real. “Kicks (Bruce Lee)” and “Me And My Musik” have beats that will get you vibing with all your friends. Although the two aren’t very similar, they somehow seem to fit together and each chorus could easily get stuck in your head. “Saw You In My Dreams” has the most pop elements and stands out from the rest. All the elements in this track fit together just right and give off a happy vibe, a fitting ending to the EP.

These six tracks are what set him apart from other artists in the genre. He is honest and putting his all into his dreams, and it shows. Step out of your comfort zone and check out an artist like MalikOnMusik, who you might not have listened to before.

Listen to MalikOnMusic’s debut EP Sparring Sessions now.

michael mcarthur, oh, sedona

michael mcarthur, oh, sedona

Dive into the raw innermost thoughts of Michael McArthur with his profoundly personal EP Oh, Sedona. Over a decade ago McArthur gave up his stake in the bistro he owned with his brother and left to pursue music. His career launched swiftly, but as he was playing cross-country tours, alone or with an ensemble as large as the Imperial Symphony Orchestra, he grew closer to losing himself, and farther away from his wife. After 8 active years he brought things to a halt to rebuild his marriage and himself. Incidentally, he sparked one of his most creative bouts thus far. The result was his acclaimed 2019 album Ever Green, Ever Rain, which was the first release on his own label, Dark River Records.

On Oh, Sedona and his other EP that is still to come, How to Fall in Love, McArthur offers some acoustic renditions of songs from Ever Green, Ever Rain such as “We Live & We Die”, and “Wild in the Blood”, but keeps things fresh with new tracks as well. A man who has always used songwriting as a form of therapy, McArthur’s music is a lifeline that he is tossing out into the world for anyone who might need a hand, especially in a time when the physical connection of a live concert isn’t possible. That being said, he also wanted the recordings to imitate how songs take shape in a live setting: “Performed in the way that I wrote them, there’s something about the uncovering of a song that invites you to reach down a little deeper. To listen with both ears. To be at ease.” The introspective artist says that the integrity of the songs depends on them being revealed in their most fundamental form. The title track, “Oh Sedona”, is written in remembrance of his recently departed grandmother and her influence on his life, whose funeral has unfortunately been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. The song puts this immeasurably mournful experience into a different light. McArthur says “You can’t know the importance of a funeral, of that collective remembering, the final farewell, until you’ve attended one, or until you’re unable to.” It’s this kind of heavy emotion that unifies the EP, and invites the listener to dig deep.

While emotion is the glue that holds Oh, Sedona together, McArthur’s voice is undoubtedly the crowning feature. It is in many ways the quintessential American folk voice, tinged with vibrato, earthy and absolutely gorgeous. Honestly, I could go on and on about it. “Oh, Sedona” first showcases the powerful conviction that is ubiquitous in the vocals of all of the tracks. The ends of his falsetto lines in “We Live & We Die”, “Wild in the Blood”, and “Elaine” diffuse into the silences, like a breath of relief. “We Live & We Die” as well as “Elaine” also highlight his lower, more robust voice which is equally potent.

Despite being closely intertwined, each of the four original tracks have something unique to offer. The idea of not being able to say goodbye in “Oh, Sedona” gives it a heartbreaking intimacy that intensifies in the middle of the song before coming back down to rest, quietly melancholic. The entire tune is so down to earth, from the unplugged sound to the harmonica to the open-hearted subject. “We Live & We Die” begins with some intriguing rubato guitar picking and yearning suspended chords that build the tension until the pain consumes McArthur at the end, sending shivers down your spine. “Wild in the Blood” sneaks up on you. It has this sweeping sadness that you don’t notice is building up until it overtakes you. “Elaine” features touching lyrics whose intimacy and tenderness is deepened by the name in the title.

The cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” deserves its own consideration. Piano, drums, synth strings, and various other instruments create the grand slow-jam feel of the 8 minute long original tune. It features a guitar solo, soulful harmonies, and Prince’s unmatched voice. McArthur completely strips it down, cutting out 4 minutes and trading in all the instruments for acoustic guitar. It’s completely his own take. The soul is still there, but instead of McArthur trying to simulate Prince’s soul, it’s McArthur using the original song’s words and melodies to bare his own soul. He exchanges the epic slow-jam feel for his token sincere and intimate sound, allowing the cover to adopt the same tone as the rest of the EP.

Oh, Sedona is a raw, genuine expression of poignancy, and worth feeling vulnerable for. It’s available on all major streaming services, as will How to Fall in Love on August 14th, 2020.

Keep up with Michael McArthur here.

emily duff, born on the ground

emily duff, born on the ground

She was born in Flushing, Queens and raised by a pack of cigarettes. With only four chords to remember her mother by, she took her love of vintage guitars, muscle cars, and old man bars and pursued music without ever looking back. She sang lead vocals for Gary Lucas’ Gods & Monsters, and opened for Bob Dylan and Paul Simon at Jones Beach Amphitheater with her band Eudora. After taking a break to grow, get married and raise some lovely kids, she turned once again to music in 2015 to release her debut solo album Go Tell Your Friends. She is Emily Duff. A wife, mother, and artist who managed to find happiness and become a role model despite never really having one herself. A couple more albums and some TV and film projects later, she is now looking back at the past with the confidence and wisdom from motherhood and marriage in her new record Born on the Ground.

This illustrious musician sings nine “love” songs that represent nine different breakups from her past. With time and self-love, she looks back on these experiences without anger, instead, she wants to examine them with the maturity she has gained. While the songs on Born on the Ground refer to Duff’s past relationships, she points out that breakups aren’t always romantic, one can break up with friends, careers, and even bad habits. They’re hard, but they can be the seed that turns into a better understanding of yourself. The universality of what Duff is discussing is reflected in Born on the Ground. Her songwriting shows an expert command over the genres of country, roots, soul, and rock and as a result, the album is a well crafted, classic set of accessible songs. Rock and blues are established by the drums, country is brought in by Duff’s voice, and the bass, guitar, and keys drift in between. Her sensitive lyrics are graced with sophisticated metaphors, and there’s a guitar solo in every song.

Some tracks are more straightforward, like the opener “We Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, with the line “Oh honey get off the train, we ain’t goin’ nowhere” talking about a dead end relationship. It has a bluesy-rock sound to it from the piano and underlying harmonies, but it also has a kind of deep earthiness to it. “There Is A Way Out” urges someone to deflate their ego, telling them that they don’t have to be so self centered. Lines from “Knuckle Sandwich” such as “how ‘bout my fist down your throat” and “how’d you like if I opened up a can of whoop-ass” make her message crystal clear. “Forever Love” tells of a supposedly undying love that ended anyway. But accessible as they are, these songs are far from boring. “There Is A Way Out” has a fun piano solo and the bridge is almost anthemic with its full harmonies, cymbal crashes, and guitar solo. “Knuckle Sandwich” is just an explosion of energy, driven by the spirited guitar, supported by the drums and ornamented by the lightning-fast piano glissandos. It contains itself just for a moment towards the middle of the track only to come back stronger, with unbridled energy that persists right to the end. “Forever Love” is pretty classic in its blues/country sound. Yet it has almost gospel-like harmonies in the chorus, which has this congregational sound to it that compels you to sing along with it. The clarity of these songs creates a sense of knowing between you and them.

The rest of the songs on Born on the Ground are more puzzling. The title track has some ambiguous lyrics such as “Put on my favourite red party dress, and dance with the devil in five-inch heels” and “when you’re born on the ground, you’re dead inside.” The bass in particular but also the mood of the song in general has a darkness to it, suggesting that something may be going on underneath the surface. In a similar way, “No Escape” hints at something alluring, from the 1920’s blues club feel of the music to Duff’s sultry voice. But the electric organ and lyrics like “I would do most anything if you would only disappear” denote something sinister– right down to the expressive ending. “Something Sexy” has a classic rhythm guitar part and a strong country vibe, and the lyrics chide someone for not understanding a “phenomenal” girl. Perhaps the girl in question is Duff herself, looking back at a relationship with a renewed sense of self-worth… but perhaps it means something else entirely. “Killer” still has the same kind of sound as the others, but it also has a wistful quality from the fuzzy bass, electric piano and held chords that soften it. Duff sings “there’s a killer among us, tearing at this happy ending.” It’s unclear what exactly is going on, but seems as though there’s something poisoning her relationship. The final track, “Easy Go!” has a fun rhythm in the guitar, which is great for bringing ‘er home. The lyrics seem to be about warning someone not to love her, “lovin’ me’s like diving into flames,” but at the same time implores her lover not to haunt her.

The songs that you find puzzling and straightforward might be different from mine, but no matter how you interpret it you can expect Born on the Ground to be both relatable and thought-provoking. There’s more to this album than meets the eye, much like Emily Duff herself.

Produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, and recorded live in Brooklyn featuring the Emily Duff band and guests Eric Ambel on guitars and vocals & Syd Straw, Mary Lee Kortes & Tricia Scotti on background vocals, Born on the Ground will be released on June 26th. You can also see Duff doing her “virus escape” live stream from her Hudson street fire escape every Sunday at 4 PM EST on her Facebook page, and watch the video for “We Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” here.