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.

dan croll, “hit your limits”

dan croll, “hit your limits”

Sometimes we face challenges in life and these struggles tend to be portrayed negatively or stereotyped. Artist Dan Croll is no stranger to the feeling and is upfront about how mental health has affected his life, showing the struggles he has faced. “Hit Your Limit” emphasizes the need for each of us to offer empathy to anyone who has run out steam. Now, artists are more open about their struggles, but not many tend to tackle these issues in their songs like Croll does. Not only does he give us these songs, but he has a Dial Dan line which provides an outlet for those who need help easing the pressures of loneliness. Embracing his emotions has created such a positive environment for not only him but for a whole community of people.

Croll’s soothing voice makes for easy listening, in addition to the light instrumentals. The track sounds like it could be a part of a coming of age movie when the main character is reaching their breaking point. “Everyone succumbs, everyone’s got their point/everybody bends and breaks/believe me when I say it’s as clear as night and day / you’ve hit your limit” These personal, yet encouraging lyrics are meant to calm people’s fears. Everyone needs this reassurance, especially in a time like the one we are in right now.

heartless bastards, “revolution”

heartless bastards, “revolution”

Cincinnati, 2003. “Heartless Bastards” was incorrectly answered when a multiple-choice trivia game question asked, “What is the name of Tom Petty’s backing band?” From this amusing origin Erika Wennerstrom’s band “Heartless Bastards” was born. It began as a recording project but eventually evolved into a live band backed by a revolving collection of musicians. After playing regularly in the Midwest, Heartless Bastards got into the game when Patrick Carney of the Black Keys was taken with the band and passed on their demo to his label at the time, Fat Possum Records. By 2009 David Colvin, Jesse Ebaugh, and Mark Nathan had joined on drums, bass, and guitar to complete the group. Between 2009 and 2015 the 4-piece recorded several critically acclaimed albums, but for the last 5 years, fans have been craving something new. Well, some good news: the wait is finally over! Heartless Bastards are back in the studio to record an album featuring the same tried and true musicality that their fans have come to know and love: Wennerstrom’s paradoxical vocals that simultaneously exist in the planes of sweetness and intimacy but also grit and depth, and the band’s smoky blues sound.

Wennerstroms describes “Revolution” as a lesson in self-love and how it’s the key to a more tolerant society. She believes that humanity needs to learn how to be satisfied with less and to stop needing to feel like they’re better than others in order to validate themselves. For her, “Revolution” is both a mantra and a reminder for herself to avoid playing the commercialism-driven game and to focus on connecting and helping people rather than “beating” them at this game. She states “Dave Chapelle said at a show years ago “Poverty is a state of mind.” That really stuck with me. I was in the Amazon several years ago, and it struck me how little people had materially, and children were running around and they all seemed so happy. Aside from the basic necessities of sustaining our lives I think giving and receiving love is really what we need the most. All the rest is just a bunch of noise.”

“Revolution”, however, is anything but noise. It begins with a soft acoustic guitar that rivals the passionate title. Then it builds steadily, layering heavy guitar and marching band-like drums under Wennerstrom’s unique vocals that remind one of Colin Meloy (The Decemberists). It continues on like this until it revolts into this classic blues-rock song decorated with short guitar licks. The chorus’ recurrent phrase “the Revolution is in your mind” recalls the quote from Chapelle, “Poverty is a state of mind,” perhaps nodding to its sentiment. This is a song that is immediately gratifying on the first listen, but if you dig a little deeper there’s a whole lot of insight to be found.

The track is out on Bandcamp, and a portion of the proceeds will be going to the ACLU in support of civil rights. Listen here!

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.

kennen, “city lights”

kennen, “city lights”

Toronto-based producer, songwriter, and singer Kennen first wrote “City Lights” at 16, but recently decided to use his production talents to really bring the song to life. It depicts an idealistic romance– the picture-perfect relationship that eludes him even now. Thick textured, soft-edged samples create this sense of complete ease under city lights and the night sky. The young artist shares that as someone who feels like he’s missing out on those “main-character moments” you see in coming-of-age films, that “City Lights” is a chance for himself and his listeners to immerse themselves in a life of young and carefree moments, if only for 3 minutes. One thing that caught my ear is that the music, even Kennen’s voice, sounds somewhat removed, creating the dreaminess of an imagined scenario. Aside from the imagery and mood, there are several features in the track to listen for, one being the stop and go music around the chorus, creating a beat in the silences. It gives the effect of a Tokyo street, at peace in the nighttime, and basking in the soft glow of the stars.

Don’t miss out on this charming piece of musical cinema, and listen to “City Lights” on your preferred platform.