SPZRKT (pronounced Spazzy Rocket) is Xavier Adams, a 24 year-old R&B singer who three years ago, auditioned for The Voice, America’s Got Talent and American Idol but never made it past the first round. Now under his moniker, his eclectic debut album Bonfire is drawing comparisons to artists like John Legend, Gnarls Barkley and MGMT.
The Artwoods were an English rock, R&B and freakbeat band that were active between 1964-1967 and was fronted by Arthur Wood, the brother of Ronnie Wood (of the band Faces and later The Rolling Stones). The band released seven singles and one studio album on the Decca and Parlophone labels, including “What Shall I Do” and “In The Deep End.” They also put out a handful of R&B/blues covers like Leadbelly’s “Sweet Mary” and Sam & Dave’s “I Take What I Want.” But they never landed a hit despite having a formidable reputation as a live attraction. …
Run River North is an indie pop group with strong folk influences. Guitar-driven at heart, their sound is fleshed out by soft vocal harmonies and a variety of instruments, including…
Recently called “Your Next YouTube Crush” by BuzzFeed, 19-year-old singer-songwriter Niykee Heaton’s claim to fame came in her early teens when she began posting pop covers on YouTube. This was followed by acoustic versions of popular hip-hop tracks from artists like Chief Keef, ASAP Rocky, Lil Wayne and Pusha T. She was later handpicked by Snoop Dogg to accompany him onstage at the YouTube Brandcast in 2013. Heaton is set to release her debut album from Russell Simmons’ All Def Music / Capitol Records. This will include the buzz-worthy R&B ballad “Bad Intentions,” which has already had over a million views since its January release.
Marc E. Bassy
Fans of 2AM Club will be happy to hear Bay Area MC Marc E. Bassy has launched a solo career with his Only the Poets Mixtape (Vol. 1). Featuring guest appearances from artists like IamSu and Skizzy Mars, this vibed-out mix provides a fresh new take on the West Coast sound. Mixing spacey R&B with animated lyrics, Marc E. Bassy spins tales of barbecues, cigarettes, dreams and relapsing.
The frontman of the motivational metalcore band Memphis May Fire, whose latest album Between The Lines debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 chart, Matty Mullins is set to release his self-titled debut album this fall. He branches off into a more melodic and pop sound, as heard on the lead single “My Dear,” taking cues from some of his influences like popular CCM bands the Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, MercyMe and Petra.
If peanut shells surround your feet; someone is rag dolling on a mechanical bull and, most importantly, patrons are two-step dancing to country music, you’re in a honky tonk. You can find honky tonks all over the United States, but the term may have originated in 1889 in Fort Worth Texas where locals petitioned the re-opening of “The Honky Tonk Theater” on Main Street. Listening to the Honky Tonk station on Pandora takes me there.
When early country music started to go electric, an amplified lap-steel guitar (often the same kind played in Hawaiian music and western swing) and a punctuated two-beat rhythm section was added to the already existing template built on acoustic guitar, fiddle and high-lonesome vocal harmonies. Add to this a dexterous electric guitar picker like the late, great Don Rich who could make a Fender Telecaster bend, squawk and snarl. Before they became legends, artists like Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn would originally play this style of music in seedy old roadhouses and dive bars called “honky tonks” (which were likely named after the first one in Fort Worth). …
Los Inquietos Del Norte are a conjunto norteño, known for their aggressive style of corridos and high energy performances. Their sound is characterized by the vocal duo of brothers, José and Rosalio Meza and features rapid accordion lines, driving bajo sexto licks and a high-powered rhythm section. Other artists that play on their Pandora station include Gerardo Ortiz, El Komander and Voz De Mando. They came by the office and played “Caiga Quien Caiga” off their album Los Psychos del Corrido los Psicópatas. …
After the Norwegians forged black metal in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, their Swedish neighbors in the death metal scene were quick to pick up on it. They kept the howling vocals and buzzing melodies, but favored more expansive arrangements and better production values over the lo-fi punk aesthetic of their Norwegian forbearers. Dawn is one of the best examples of this style, sometimes called melodic death metal. Their highly influential album Slaughtersun evokes the harsh landscape and grand sweep of the Scandinavian epics.
LA-based singer, songwriter and keyboard player who has recorded five albums and has performed and toured with artists like Chicago, Boz Scaggs, Al Jarreau, Christopher Cross and Tracy Chapman. Her latest release Scarecrow Sessions is a collection of jazz standards inspired by songs from the life and career of her late father, Buddy Ebsen. Tracks include the swinging “St. Louis Blues,” “Over The Rainbow” and “If I Only Had A Brain” – which is a touching nod to her father’s almost-famous role in The Wizard of Oz (he was replaced by Jack Haley as the Tin Man after he developed a severe allergy to the silver makeup). The album was released on Father’s Day this year in his honor. …
A few years ago, after I completed a large, exhausting album, I stepped back and tried to get some perspective on my own work. By observing my own process, it occurred to me that I’d fallen into a pattern of how I wrote songs. It was almost always lyrics with a hint of melody first, followed by chords, and ending with the arrangement, orchestration, engineering and studio production. I felt, however, upon finishing that big album, that I’d played out the possibilities of that particular approach and more or less knew what would happen if I set out to write more songs in that same way. So I determined the songwriting element I usually focused on least of all – rhythm – and decided that for my next project, I would start there.
Collaborating with a percussionist, I built rhythm tracks and wrote music to accompany the beats, recording and producing as I went, essentially composing straight to tape. The very last thing I did was add lyrics. I effectively inverted my songwriting process and came up with extremely different sounding material. Even the types of words I used changed – fewer syllables, less ornate or metaphoric language – since they occupied such a different place in the creative process than they had before. The music I wound up making was something I never imagined I had in me.
Songwriters often vary the types of songs they create and broaden their spectrum as songwriters, simply by varying their creative process. Bob Dylan famously headed down to Nashville and worked with a completely new group of musicians to come up with Nashville Skyline. The Talking Heads sought to break down the perceived relationship of David Byrne as frontman supported by a backing band. They experimented with new techniques and expanded instrumentation to create what many consider their best album, Remain in Light. Paul Simon first split with his writing partner, Art Garfunkel, to alter his sound, then later travelled to South Africa seeking new sounds and different creative approaches to write the wildly successful album Graceland. …
Lia Rose is a singer-songwriter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending some time performing in the bands Or, The Whale and Minipop, Lia branched out on her own…