If there’s one thing everyone has in common, it’s that we’re all halfway through the year. This is the point in time when we all usually begin to assess what we’ve accomplished so far. For some, it’s particular objectives, and for others, it might be tossing a bunch of things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Moving through 2021 hasn’t been as difficult as the previous year and a number of artists have astounded listeners with a wide array of music, some good, others really not so much. We take a look back here at some of the acts that have released exceptional songs.
SUB*T “Boxing Day” Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Made up of Jade Alcantara and Grace Bennett, Sub*t is the little band that could. A long distanced musical connection that stretched to opposite ends of the country, the two began writing songs through text messages and voice memos. That’s what they say, and after a couple of years knocking around ideas, the duo dropped its first release in the “Boxing Day” single. The track builds around a melody and easily remembered chords, which soon change dynamics with fuzzed-out guitars and loud vocal melodies. It’s all that and a bag of Rap Snacks. Sub*t strikes hard with its first initial release.
Off of the duo’s Urban Sportsman EP (Culture Power45) just released last week, NYC rapper L.I.F.E. Long & production wizard FATCATHAYZE 156 included a masterpiece in “48 Winds.” The beat is classic Boom-Bap era Hip-Hop while L.I.F.E. Long directs all his attention around metaphoric twists at every turn. Both producer and emcee mesh and blend together as if they were always supposed to go together like peanut butter & jelly, hotdogs and mustard, hamburgers and ketchup; you understand. This literally is one of the greatest Hip-Hop tracks this year.
Life isn’t always so clear-cut as black & white, but sometimes it is. Andrew Bailie is a singer/songwriter out of Omaha, Nebraska who can work his guitar much the same way Prince once did. On this bouncy R&B-induced track, he turns the table with his own political angst on “Fuck The OPD. On the song, Bailie revolves lyrics around his distaste for the Omaha Police Department’s for turning a blind eye in the situation surrounding a 22-year-old protestor, James Scurlock. Like Marvin Gaye, Bailie utilizes his talent to blend protest & music together perfectly. As a white male, Bailie chooses to be on the right side of history.
It isn’t difficult to pull a song off of Blood (American Laundromat Records), from former Blake Babies’ Juliana Hatfield’s album Blood. What might be hard is trying to decide which song to yank out because the album holds a ton of great songwriting. But “Splinter” is probably just the second song I’ve found where a recorder is utilized, along with other instruments, to create a magical moment (The first song would be Dinosaur Jr.’s “Thumb”). I mean, it could be a keyboard, but I’ll stick with the assumption of recorder. As pop songs go, this is the way we should all be heading.
My editor tells me there are two sides to Chris Conde musically, and I tend to agree. Seems you never know which one you’re going to get; it’s either the body pumping Conde with hard distorted beats & rhythms & venomous rhymes or the more subdued version of himself, cool, calm & collected. Fortunately, on his latest, Engulfed In The Marvelous Decay (Fake Four, Inc.) we get both. But “The Summer Of Our Discontent, we kind of get both because if you really listen to that chorus you’ll hear the howled vocals over the softer ones in the foreground. Conde & Ceschi volley rhymes here that echo how everyone felt the last couple of years. Rewind over again and again.
Sean Tillman (Calvin Krime, Sean Na Na) has always been an anomaly that never gets the credit he deserves but on the new Roseville (Love OnLine) he takes big pop strides and succeeds in creating songs we didn’t know he was capable of, or at least I didn’t. One song that always seems to stick out is “Where We Began” he puts the “Superstar” in “Har Mar,” with horns blaring, catchy melodies, and a rhythm that harks back to the great days of Disco without the trivialities or nostalgia of the era. I’m willing to bet this is the song of the decade. Prove me wrong.
The Juggaknots own Breeze Brewin steps out on his own for his full-length debut Hindsight (Matic Records). After an assortment of singles, EPs, etc. his track “Bumpy Johnson” doesn’t conform to the norm, with a frenetic beat that never lets up and the Brewin’s straight-baritone delivery, which is unique and always recognizable. The music matches his delivery as both move seamlessly throughout, as Breeze shares his maddening story-telling skill!
This yeah, no one lands further on top than Pharoahe Monch and his cohorts in th1rt3en. Blending Hip-Hop and Rock isn’t something new and no one did it better than RATM, until now that is. Off of the band’s politicized & racially motivated A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism (Fat Beats), with “Fight” feat. Cypress Hill, there are new masters at work. As Pharoahe rhymes truth through his lyrics as the band continually blasts through the track. B-Real embellishes the track with rhymes that add fuel to the fire. This song tops it all.
Someone pushed this one on me saying again and again “just listen and tell me you hate it,” which I can’t. Listening under duress, the song is quite fascinating. The horns that linger in and around “Sad Song” truly are infectious and the chorus is reminiscent of something I just can’t put my finger on but you have to ignore that lingering feeling of nostalgia and listen to it like it’s the only thing you’ve every had in front of you. The song is off East Of Eden;” it’s a love song that has no comparison in its majesty.
I’m sure there are some that would disagree with me over the best song off of Dark Time Sunshine’s (Onry Ozzborn & Zavala) Lore (Fake Four Inc.) but this one has the right beat, the right lyrics, and delivery overall. It’s catchy, it’s addictive, and anyone can find solace in the competition. Ozzborn always delivers thoughtful lyrics and when combined with Zavala’s unique beats, they both find their superpowers as Dark Time Sunshine.