Reviews

Oberry – Void Offering

By 44faced on Oct 18, 2020 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

Nihilism and existential dread gain expression through a lo-fi, drenched, punk, emo and trap single by Oberry, “Void Offering.” The track contains a blend of varying energies from a walking-pace arpeggiated clean-guitar three-chord classic punk riff through a riding trap beat verse with its characteristic 808 bass, punching kick and snare, and flamming hi-hats, drawing out to sparse clean-guitar arpeggiated bridges, as well as unexpected snare fills leading into angst-filled four-to-the-floor headbanging-worthy hooks. The distorted vocals and heavily filtered sound throughout, drowning the clarity of the lyrics, successfully express a nihilistic existential dread.

Stream Oberry – “Void Offering”:

Subscribe to Oberry on YouTube: www.youtube.com/channel/UCN9Y4Ti1RUvH3Vk8ZPt8_wQ

Thom Bullitt – The Cooler King 2 [Album Review]

By 44faced on Oct 07, 2020 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

After the power of Thom Bullitt’s previous EP release, Roses, comes a whole new level of depth in his new album, The Cooler King 2. Hustle, introspection, individualistic uniqueness, yearning for the other, the drive for success and the alcoholic taste of failure, Thom Bullitt opens up another chapter of his life in a more mature outpouring of ten tracks of mostly over four minutes each (bar three of them).

Kicking off with the two more radio-friendly and radio-ready tracks, “The Cooler King” and “Ramblin’ Man,” Contrary to the solemn and calm opening of Roses, “The Cooler King” busts in with an upbeat confidence. Bullitt flexes his uniqueness at the world, with pinpoint-precision understanding of how he differentiates himself from other artists, and masterfully carves our his own space musically, lyrically and artistically from everybody else.

“Ramblin’ Man” is a superb second-track follow-up, where from the immediate strums and licks of the guitar, and the opening hook—”Ridin’ all along, on this long and lonely road, no cash in hand, I’m a ramblin’ man”—it feels as if a mixture of emotions are seeking their way from Bullitt’s heart out to the listener. I expanded on “Ramblin’ Man” in another post, and it still remains my personal favorite on this integrative artwork that blends varying emotions and life experiences into a masterful tapestry.

“Ordinary Average Guy” opens with a hypnotic polyrhythmic hook of classic tube-distorted guitar licking together with a widely-panned vocal delivery. Bullitt expands on his life in Oklahoma, partying with friends in “no fucks given” atmosphere, getting high, listening to music—a steady riding track with a classic feel. Also, look out toward the four-minute mark for a downtempo change-up that catches a completely different wavelength.

The fourth track, “Outlaw,” fills out the instrumental space from the get-go with pianos, string and pad synths, together with the constantly irregular stabs of the hats panning around the audio space while the kicks and snares keep a driving regularity, and Bullitt hooks the listener through the opening with another emotion—fearlessness. The slowed-down gear change in “Outlaw” makes for a wavy new kind of experience. The constant piano ostinato throughout blended with reverberated cymbals, together with guitar and clap entries, all harmonize a new image and feel together with Bullitt’s new angle.

“Oklahoma Sky” reels in an optimistic tone with an experimental approach compared to Bullitt’s other output. Splashes of delayed piano, guitar and string stabs, instruments float around Bullitt’s delivery like clouds in the Oklahoma Sky while Bullitt takes off from his usual rap output to a wide-melodic ranging singing line, doubled and tripled through the spectrum, opened out over the space like the vastness of the sky itself.

The sixth track, “Town Car Muzik 3,” starts much more modestly than every other track on the album. A much more stripped down instrumental synth, bass and kick opening. By the time it develops to more arpeggiated synths, Bullitt once again amazes to show yet another aspect of his delivery, not confining himself to any genre or style, he takes off on a melodic vocal trip, with his characteristic slightly-off-pitch bends that give his unique character to every note. Before you know it, you’re in a full-fledged atmospheric hook that drifts the listener into another planet for a moment, “Let’s ride all night under clear skies, feeling just fine while we ride,” before dropping down to the road for the stripped-down verses once again, where Bullitt’s life-experience rapping rides its own way before take-off again.

“The Devil Went Down” emphasizes Bullitt’s storytelling and suggestive abilities as he unfolds a tale with an instrumental accompaniment that carefully allows the vocal delivery to stand out to absorb Bullitt’s story. Chill guitar licks together with an ostinato of two synth chords throughout and punching kicks undertone Bullitt’s delivery, together with smooth guitar solo bridges to give space for processing the story, before Bullitt gets back into it time and again.

“Ain’t Changed” opens like a chart-topping alt-rock song from the very beginning, supported by Bullitt’s now signature opening hook of a deliberately pitch-bent melodic hook complementing an invention two-lines of clean guitar riffing, before launching in and out of verses that ride Bullitt’s emotional perspective of changes in his life.

“Empty Bottles” brings to the forefront Bullitt’s taking one too many drinks to deal with the stress, and reflecting on the losses against drinking, all the while outpouring his experiences over a steel-stringed acoustic guitar strumming an ongoing chord progression sets the foundation for Bullitt’s heart to open on this one.

Rain and distant thunder dominate the first minute of “Whiskey Sunrise” until an introspective solemn steel-stringed acoustic guitar riff fades in while the storm fades away. Just when you think this is some kind of instrumental outro to the album, at around one minutes and fourty seconds, Bullitt enters with one of his fastest verses on this album in an unexpected verse. Structurally, “Whiskey Sunrise” is the most unique song in the album. From his fastest verse, he shifts into possibly his slowest hook, emotionally engaging a new kind of atmosphere, almost giving the feel of the end of a long, lonely and rainy night. The song and album fades out once again with the rain that opened it up, as if going to sleep in a haze at the very end.

Once again, Bullitt masterfully balances between different emotions from full confidence, to retreat, partying with friends, loneliness, and alcohol and weed always show their face, if only for a little dabble, or extending them more than the blood stream can take and getting faded into a haze.

Stream Thom Bullitt – The Cooler King 2 on Spotify: open.spotify.com/album/6efFHsaIwzpmgBMzGmGQxd?si=o8TFiBVpSdKEmYBlmqkg6g

 

Thom Bullitt – Ramblin’ Man

By 44faced on Aug 26, 2020 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

Bearing witness to the development of artist Thom Bullitt is truly a rewarding experience, as he releases his unique hybrid of raw guitar-centric rock ‘n’ roll, blues and pop with hip hop in his new single, “Ramblin’ Man,” the lead single from Bullitt’s upcoming album, The Cooler King 2.

As experienced in his multifaceted album, Roses, it feels as if emotion and passion is brimming at the seams in Thom Bullitt, as from the immediate strums and licks of the guitar, and the opening hook—”Ridin’ all along, on this long and lonely road, no cash in hand, I’m a ramblin’ man”—it feels as if a mixture of emotions are seeking their way from Bullitt’s heart out to the listener.

From the track’s outset, Bullitt opens with a brief outback-feel acoustic guitar-driven ostinato-strumming with two leading broken ascending chords, setting an open road scene aided by wide reverb and widely-spread vocals on the hook that masterfully carves its way in neural pathways to the heart in an instant. Moreover, Bullitt’s vocal bends that slightly off-pitch from the song’s key are performed with such conviction and consistency throughout the song, adding a wavy and nomadic vibe to the song’s feel.

The lyrics and vocals riskily head into rap territory in the verses, but Bullitt pulls it off with utter musical confidence. The hook’s shape plays throughout repetitively throughout, if not in segments of the vocal parts of the verses, then in the instrumentals that loop with additives and subtractives over the course of the song, and all elements operate harmoniously in order to sweep the listener into a fluctuating, unsteady, rolling and riding atmosphere, skillfully communicating Bullitt’s messages about heading out into unknown new domains.

Although cloaked in a rather pop structure, this is a song for those who have stepped outside their boundaries, who have entered a zone of danger as they head into uncharted domains all alone, looking for something more or different to what they had before.

The fusion of almost-opposed genres together with the wavering ups-and-downs throughout distinctively succeeds in passing on such sensations.

About Thom Bullitt: Born April 1, 1994 in Houston, Texas, Thomas Rodney Oates, Thom Bullitt was raised not on Hip-Hop, but Rock & Roll, Blues, and Pop. He moved to Oklahoma in 2004 which is when he discovered and fell in love with Hip-Hop. He began writing songs in high school and was even labelled “Most Likely To Move To Houston And Become A Rapper” by his classmates. He began recording his own Hip-Hop songs shortly after graduating high school in 2012, and released his first full-length EP in December 2015 titled ‘The Cooler King’ under the moniker Thom Bullitt. He would go on to release 2 more EPs – Bricktown Nights & NIGHTRIDER – under this moniker before taking a 2 year hiatus from 2017-2019 to rediscover himself and return to music as Papillon – the French translation of butterfly, which he deemed fitting based on his mental and physical growth and self-comfort. He released his first EP as Papillon in September of 2019 titled Roses, which features a more Country Rock influence than his previous endeavors. During his career, he would become one half of the Oklahoma City based group Bacardi Gang, and still carries that mantle today along with his own lifestyle brand ILLNEZZ – accompanied by the catchphrase LIVIN IT. Returning to his Thom Bullitt moniker, he continues striving to make good music on a regular basis.

Stream Thom Bullitt’s “Ramblin’ Man”:

Follow Thom Bullitt on Instagram: @thombullitt

Purchase Thom Bullitt’s music/merch: illnezz.bandcamp.com

Thom Bullitt’s music is available for streaming on all major streaming services (Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, TikTok, etc.)

Strangely Arousing – Rain

By 44faced on Aug 10, 2020 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

“Rain” is the first single off Strangely Arousing’s upcoming EP. It is a unique blend of reggae/dub and hip-hop that can only be described as the love child of a threesome between RHCP, Sticky Fingers, and Fat Freddys Dub, and it has a message about being selfless, and the progression into socialism to ensure everyone has enough.

Lush production with a wide range of depth, fat punching kicks, rock-like snares and shimmering cymbals, as well as deep and full piano with eerie synth and electronic work, subtle trombone and trumpet licks smoothing in-and-out, and vocals that span wide like the instruments blending in a middle point between reggae and hip hop emceeing, Strangely Arousing display instrumental, vocal, production, and engineering prowess as they musically communicate a high unified energy through their careful attention to detail and ability to build on a masterful flow.

About Strangely Arousing: Strangely Arousing is a five-piece progressive reggae/ska band from Aotearoa, New Zealand, effortlessly blending other genres and styles of music to create their own unique sound, laced with brass, synth, dub, and guitar. Strangely Arousing straddles the line between the bizarre you know you love and and the weird you don’t know you love yet like old pros. Whether you come to marinate in dubs and bass, or simply to melt into a puddle on the floor, Strangely Arousing offer a new wave of music inspired by New Zealand’s legendary hip-hop and reggae dub forefathers.

Stream Strangely Arousing – “Rain” on Spotify: open.spotify.com/album/2qRNUw6pITGyhw7HoI5qmD?highlight=spotify:track:7EIqzby3IfEkh5QH98Pa3J

Optimus – Who Am I

By 44faced on Aug 02, 2020 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

Who Am I is an album by Optimus, which expresses what he has been through in the past five years. It also gives a vision, with every track, of how he lived his live up until now. Optimus describes himself as an artist by being driven, and that he strives forward for his kids, showing them to never give up on a dream, no matter what your age is.

Who Am I spans 13 tracks, for over 41 minutes, including a short introduction in “Probation” before the album’s title track, “Who Am I,” hits in epic orchestral fashion: strings stabs and choir shouts coupled with hard-smacking boom bap beats underlie Optimus’ lyrical statement track that peels away layer after layer about his life.

Each following track highlights different aspects of Optimus’ being and shoots from different angles of mood and perspective, but it is all held together with a special glue that runs consistent throughout the album: a feeling of perseverance, striving on, and constant motivation.

The instrumental counterparts of orchestral elements add a characteristic bigness to Optimus’ sound that provide a perfect mood accompaniment to the driving energy that Optimus brings to the rap world.

Two out of the 13 tracks, “King of Rap” and “Eating Good,” include features by Travis Gero, who adds a different flavor into the mix, albeit strengthening the general atmosphere of confidence that builds throughout the album.

Optimus’ Who Am I is an album to put on in the morning to get a boost for the day, to motivate our striving forward to discover our dreams, and to give the energy to push every next harder rep at the gym. Optimus successfully communicates dedication, discipline, hard work and the motivation to progress throughout the album, definitely a solid effort carved in audio that acts to give stamina and tenacity to its listeners.

Stream Optimus – Who Am I on Spotify: open.spotify.com/album/6WWzKakChQaTF99lL2HYYi

 

Kevin Toqe – Shadows

By 44faced on Jul 10, 2020 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

Kevin Toqe’s “Shadows” radio edit has all the nuances of a professional production, together with the powerful emotion of an R&B/pop anthem, while also setting off on an experimental tangent in its structural songwriting scope.

A tranquil synth-pad soundscape filling in the mid- and background audio space opens up the scene for a subtle-yet-confident R&B vocal entrance of Kevin Toqe. From an ambient calmness, Toqe drives in a four-to-the-floor kick at around thirty seconds in, and continues building up the energy through additional instrumental and rhythmic layerings at about fifty seconds, dropping into a sparse bridge section at around 1:10 to 1:30, and then climaxing into a short hook after a minute-and-a-half into the song.

After the hook, Toqe once again drops out the beat completely, holding the pace with his continuous vocal outpouring over an ambient sparseness, and the song interplays between verses, bridges, and two more hooks that further express the climactic energy from its preceding sparse sections.

Toqe successfully weaves together production complexities into a simplistic vibe that any person could vibe to.

In terms of the song’s content, Kevin Toqe explains: “Shadows is a calling. It’s about being comfortable with obscurity and comfortable with being known. It’s learning to trust God’s protection in a world that can feel like a jungle of cynicism and fear. Living in His shadows is a place of protection and a place to thrive.”

About Kevin Toqe

With his unique and soulful blend of folk-R&B, Kevin weaves lyrics into a solid groove with depth and texture. He’s a singer, songwriter, and producer who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kevin, who is 50% Albanian and 100% Alopecian, now resides on the Central Coast of California with his spicy wife and two children.

Stream Kevin Toqe – “Shadows” (radio version, and music video of “Shadows At 25th Street”):

Salvatore De Nardo – Tempo

By 44faced on Jul 08, 2020 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

“Tempo” is the latest single by Salvatore De Nardo, a new German/Italian singer, songwriter and producer, originally from Naples, Italy, and currently living in Frankfurt, Germany. 

“Tempo” is driven by a passionate piano ostinato and a delayed or echoing rhythmic guitar lick. The song soon reveals Salvatore’s full-yet-subtle, and sweet-yet-manly voice, and then gradually unfolds more and more instrumental layers—delicate cymbal splashes, ethereal synthesized pad strings, and a rising flute—leading into a climactic chorus that adds a bold kick in the drums, and a fuller layering of pads and guitars. The chorus comes after a significant bridge section build-up, after nearly one-and-a-half minutes of the song, successfully guiding the listener into its climax.

After the chorus, “Tempo” continues with additional drive, helped along with more hi-hat, snare and synth pad involvement. If the initial build-up to chorus was a rather long one, the second time around, Salvatore reels in the chorus very quickly after a verse, and then leads out the track.

“Tempo” displays a very careful and subtle treatment of all instruments and voice throughout, both in performance and production. The music video equally is done very tastefully, showing how genuinely and passionately Salvatore performs the voice for the song. In Salvatore’s words, “music is my passion”… and it definitely both sounds and shows.

“Tempo” is a very emotional song that was self-composed, written and produced. The song is about older generations / older people who are neglected in everyday life because they are excluded from society, because people are too old and nobody really cares about the elderly. The song is also about the older people going back to the past every day in their thoughts and thinking back to their memories, because the old people have no choice but to remember the past in order to recharge their batteries and live on.

Stream Salvatore De Nardo – “Tempo”:

Follow Salvatore De Nardo:

Thom Bullitt – Roses [Album Review]

By 44faced on May 02, 2020 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

Sometimes, music comes along where it feels as if the instruments are strumming away at an inner emotion, and where it feels that the kick and bass are beating the heart, and that the voice penetrates straight through the ears, through the mind and heart, and then send shivers through the entire body.

As much as we try to break down the elements of those songs, they escape us, because there is a more powerful and enveloping emotion that is at play, which lurks behind and beyond the intellect that tries to make sense of it.

This is the situation I’m faced with when approaching Thom Bullitt’s new album Roses.

I don’t want to write down some genre titles, because having it shelved like that in your brain would provide an incorrect context and would do the album no justice. However, common themes to literally any human being, whether living in the outback or in the heart of the urban rat race, conglomerate in Thom Bullitt’s lyrical outpourings: finding ways to deal with life’s problems, seeking motivation to keep moving forward in life, relationships gone bad, and dabbling in a bit of drink and drugs.

The album opens with a solemn and calm “Cutting Roses,” where a lightly distorted guitar establishes a introspective repetitive motif, with embellishing atmospheric tinkles, bends, and sweeps, setting the scene for an edgy kick and 808 and punches straight in the center. “Cutting Roses” bleeds the pain of detachment, alluding to the artist’s reflection on a broken relationship.

The second track, “Angels Cry,” ups the tempo, toning up an epic ballad with a passionate female hook. Bullitt displays his rapping prowess throughout the verses, opting for a tone where he excretes what is on his heart in a raw fashion.

“Back in the Saddle” is the album’s third track, pulling the tempo back, for a “boom boom bap” undertoned anthem instrumental track, with string build-ups to the hook capable of lifting your chest. Together with low piano drones sounding throughout, the lyrics suggest come back and associating with friends, already more aligned with a motivating voice to keep going, but also threaded with statements that suggest the opposite, for instance, in the hook, “I’m coming back from the fire, and I’m burning down.”

“Wasn’t Enough” is a blend of outback and urban, with a mellow acoustic guitar riffing throughout together with piercing 808s, and Thom Bullitt builds on the higher-tempo energy of the instrumental to pour out his feelings of regret, as if the same emotion relates to people in both scenarios.

The last three tracks of the album show “Town Car Muzik II” continues Thom Bullitt’s deluge of feelings through a cultivated rap style over a sentimental sound pallet that leads to explosive full-stringed hook sections. “Bad Motherfucker” is Thom Bullitt’s self-affirmation, doing what rappers have done since its beginnings—finding ways to boost himself up, and pumping the self-esteem. “MMF (Lit)” ends the album on a high note, arguably the album’s most optimistic track, where Thom Bullitt flows verses about how he lives his week between an unexpected male R&B hook that illuminates, and you could say, summarizes, the deeply emotional experience that one is left with after listening through the album.

About Thom Bullitt: Born April 1, 1994 in Houston, Texas, Thomas Rodney Oates, Thom Bullitt was raised not on Hip-Hop, but Rock & Roll, Blues, and Pop. He moved to Oklahoma in 2004 which is when he discovered and fell in love with Hip-Hop. He released his latest EP in September of 2019 titled Roses, which features a more Country Rock influence than his previous endeavors. During his career, he would become one half of the Oklahoma City based group Bacardi Gang, and still carries that mantle today along with his own lifestyle brand ILLNEZZ – accompanied by the catchphrase LIVIN IT. He plans on releasing his next EP, The Cooler King Vol.2, in 2020.

Stream Thom Bullitt Roses on Spotify: open.spotify.com/album/2QVNoMJ9NhM6GeneFhk1Er

Follow Thom Bullitt:

KF Greatness – Mark of the Beast

By 44faced on Mar 05, 2020 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

KF Greatness, 21-year-old rapper from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, continually fuels his music with a relentless drive and hunger of the come up, and it’s no different with Mark of the Beast

Following the artist for the last few years, I have seen no backing down on his output. He has the formula for success, i.e., determination + discipline + hard work, as well as raw talent and a very natural sound, as if he’s been rapping for dozens of years, and it’s just a matter of time before the opportunity arises and KF Greatness experiences an exponential boom of success.

“Superstar” places his vision of greatness at the front, illustrated clearly in the song’s hook:

“24/7, I’m working hard,
I want to be the next superstar,
niggaz hate me because I’m going far,
these niggaz still trying to up the par”

It acts like a self-affirmation, something every upcoming artist could use, but probably especially much more pertinent when you need to find that self-drive in an environment like Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

The second track, “Can’t Sleep,” discusses the struggle of trying to make it in the game. KF Greatness shines his stream-of-consciousness blended storytelling style in the verse conjuring numerous images of his life along the overtone of a yearning to break through to a level where music fills his entire life, including getting paid for it professionally.

“Stupid,” featuring Shotta Gee, is the third track on the release, adding a different perspective to KF Greatness’ striving to the top, where through a discourse about the mistakes and experiences with women, he lays down, in his honest and down-to-earth way, how music remains as a consistent source of inspiration and progress, and no girl can stand in the way of that. It might not be the main message of the song, but just a few words throws this gem out from within the stream: “I’m not that dude who’s paying tuition, I’m stacking the bread, I’m focused instead, and chasing the blues, avoiding the reds.”

“Bigger Picture” opens up the vision KF Greatness sees of living his dream, where basically music and money match to provide for himself and those dear to him. Another affirmation-style track showing how KF Greatness is keeping his dream alive in his music, and it’s waiting to spark aflame in this way.

“Never Lost,” a hip hop ballad with a catchy rap hook:

“I never lost, I only learn to do better,
I got to capitalize on every single letter,
A different breed, but they label me the same,
The same game, but with me, I’m thinking change”

Once again, KF Greatness makes hunger for success his direct theme—”I gotta make it, I gotta succeed there’s no other options”—showing how he’s giving it his all to rise up the rap ladder to success, and with his history of output to date, it’s clear that we’re discussing a real hunger with real direction. “Different Route” explains the different way of life that targeting rap as a career and lifestyle brings about, and how no matter what the surroundings say about that road, KF Greatness maintains his decision, direction and goal to make it up that route.

“Menace” is a unique lyrical banger, with various layers of repetitive rhythmic motifs running across the vocals and throughout the synth, bass and drum parts of the beat. Shotta Gee, the track’s featured artist, continues the motif that KF Greatness establish from the hook through the verse. “Effort” is an image of the future with a dream partner KF Greatness pictures to himself, fitting into the vision of the future that KF Greatness has been establishing throughout his other output.

“Day Ones Remix,” which features MC Money and Deezy Dee, is my favorite track on the release. A mix of chill and epic, with deep reverberated piano layers filling out a sonic tapestry where each rapper adds a different flavor to the track, precisely in the point in the release where some different taste works perfectly. It also arguably has the catchiest hook on the release, “All of my niggaz, those are my day ones, all of my friends, those are the fake ones.”

“Ambition” closes the release with decisive statement from KF Greatness to the rap world about what he plans to do with it: to take the game. There is a purposeful tenaciousness that rides throughout the song, a strong ending to a release that rounds out KF Greatness toward music, his life and making it to the top of the rap game. The more KF Greatness’ years and releases pile on, and seeing an ever-growing hunger build more intensely within, it’s just a matter of time now before some click happens and KF Greatness’ name takes off throughout the rap world.

Stream KF Greatness – Mark of the Beastaudiomack.com/album/KFGreatness/mark-of-the-beast-1

Marans – FYGA

By 44faced on Dec 22, 2019 in Music , Reviews - 0 Comments

Although I don’t understand Italian or French, I understand a unique party vibe when I hear one, and Marans’ “FYGA” is just that. A superimposition of melodic-percussive digital steelpan attacks, chordal piano stabs and occasional orchestral synth hits, mixed with enveloping trumpet licks, weaving tropical a feel upon a four-to-the-floor, full-bodied kick made to shake subwoofers, chests and bootys as it drives the pace throughout the song.

However, all that pulsating and enveloping soundscape serves as an accompaniment to the elegant, soothing and manly voice of Marans, who with a deep-yet-RnB-esque quality, flows and weaves through the musical elements with a blanket that beds the listeners ears and heart.

Starting off in Italian and switching to French, Marans lays out lyrics about a girl he met in Milan, and tells the story of a trip he would have liked to have taken with her. The emotion of opening to the opposite sex with a desire for connection is felt throughout, and the track lives both on the level of partying and dancing, as well as on the level of listening and contemplating. Of course, Italian and French listeners would get the added advantage of the story itself, but even without the language, the musicality lives and breathes from the ears straight to the heart.

Stream Marans – FYGA:

 

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