One of Phoenix, Arizona’s favorite sons’ Bag Of Tricks Cat, who everyone calls Felix, has been consistent with releases; whether solo (Cat’s Out The Bag, Felix Chevrolet) or collaborative (Emerald Knights w/ Mega Ran), but his consistency is everything. Out today is his new The Bad Luck EP, the Cat’s latest collection of music. With the melancholic title track, Felix puts all of his anxiety into one song, as he searches for brighter days or at least brighter moments. But it isn’t all about focusing on negative energy, just listen to “Wanna Act Hard” where he volleys rhymes with both Rockness Monsta and his Emerald Knights cohort Mega Ran. The three emcees rhyme over a funky head-nodding beat and toss-around lyrics to dead all opponents. The track is hard, far from being overly cautious, and just plain ill. The R&B-tinged “Stay Safe (feat. Whitney Peyton)” is filled with more of that same anxiety from earlier but continues to search for the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s what many feel, only here it’s put to song, as he shares vocal duties here. You can always look forward to just about anything from Felix because he always has more tricks in the bag.
Have you ever listened to something and it reminded you of something that wasn’t such a good thing but not so terribly bad either? Yeah, I’m hit with a sense of nostalgia, as I searched the catacombs of history to find what was that THING that I was reminded of. Nashville’s Tayls just released its new Have You Ever? (I’ve Always), and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The multifaceted band delivers punchy numbers from beginning to end, with an over-indulgence of strings, which again, isn’t a bad thing. The denseness of the songs are welcomed and to be expected with the 8-member band. It’s downright explosive which hits like a freight train right from the get-go with “Like A Bullet.” But that train is covered with pillows for comforting explosiveness. From this point on, the band’s energy and delivery is much like early guitar-ridden Bryan Adams, early Hooters, and possibly Mellencamp, when they called him Cougar. This is a compliment because “Just Fine” is punchy with loads of infectious melody. There’s a lot more to the group and you don’t have to dig in too deep to find its southern charm along the rock aspect of it all.
As introductions go, they don’t get as expansive as what we have here, two individuals that come together to form one. That one being, not his, not hers, but My Idea. The charming pop duo of Lily Konigsberg and Nate Amos both move as one, no matter what direction My Idea goes in. The band’s debut effort, cleverly entitled That’s My Idea (Hardly Art), gives listeners a first impression of folksy, jangly pop with the opening “I Can’t Dance,” with Konigsberg’s overtly sweet and sugary vocals. Guitar harmonics bounce repeatedly around it although it does seem to drift away in the background until it vanishes. But then My Idea flips the script with its twitchy glitch of “Birthday,” which moves maniacally like an electronic Son Lux wonder but Konigsberg’s vocals that reels it all back in to identify it as My Idea. The duo is adept at blending both styles together as one and even allowing the separation between the two allowing the group to keep its own identity.
They continue the electronic movements, to a lesser extent, on “Keep Lying To Me.” It combines the electronic drum machines, aligned with piano, but Konigsberg takes a different approach here with her mechanized vocals, using Auto-Tune as a challenging effect. We won’t confuse her with T-Pain but it moves across the song like a shifting wave, occasionally doubling up for harmonies over the frantically paced drums. It’s clever, it’s well done, and we can applaud the duo here for it. But it’s about the songs after all, and My Idea has them, strong with melody and utterly catchy. “Stay Away,” they return with organic-sounding percussion/drums, chunkier guitar chords, non-effected guitar notes, and lush harmonies. This is completely captivating. Whichever mode My Idea is moving though makes no difference. The closing title track, with its light mechanical drums, jangling guitars, and cooing vocals are so infectious, it’s hard to find fault with My Idea. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with the band. The band hits everything it does perfectly.
That’s My Idea is currently in rotation and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to put it down because Lily & Nate are doing something here that pretty unique and delectable. When was the last time you heard something like this? That’s what I thought too.
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The years pass and it seems everyone has forgotten or at least has attempted to erase the past. Decades of music have all been left to wallow in dusty bins, must-filled basements, and left eroding in your grandparents’ garages. Fortunately, there are those that have never ceased to covet those beautifully recorded artists of decades past to take up the mantle themselves, giving a new generation a taste of what they’ve been missing.
We haven’t heard from Durand Jones & The Indications since 2019’s American Love Call, for obvious reasons, but now the five-member group out of Indiana returns with a slightly different album in Private Space (Colemine/Dead Oceans). This time around, the band’s retrofied soul is outfitted within contemporary R&B but Durand Jones & The Indications take things even further this time around. With vocal duties shared between Jones and drummer Aaron Frazer – a fact I mistakenly made last time around – both vocalists balance out one another with the shifting dynamics of styles. The outfit opens with “Love Will Work It Out,” which is out of 2021 instead of what we’d all probably imagine was recorded in 1978, with a Mike Montgomery’s bass groove as if channeled off a Caldwell track. But here, it’s Jones’ vocal ease & strength that keeps the band from losing its identity, although blending in xylophone tones gives the track an added charm in this love song that’s fitting in just about any situation. But those background vocal harmonies…oh those harmonies! It’s easy to say the band truly is on some next-level shit.
While the band is firmly fitted within soul and R&B culture, it has expanded, stretching its proverbial musical wings that no one should even question. Call it dance, disco, club music, it doesn’t matter; it seems everyone is welcome on the dancefloor on “Witchoo.” Here Aaron Frazer’s signature falsetto takes front stage behind the funky rhythm the band shakes around but keyboardist Steve Okonski shouldn’t be ignored here, as his organ and keyboard work underscores this track. This truly is that illness most never reach but The Indications get there with ease. It’s not the band’s only moment grooving, the group hits 70’s era dance culture with “The Way That I Do,” riddled with imaginative sounds that could fill listeners with nostalgia as well as giving young fans something new to dig into. Aaron Frazer’s breezy vocals are all over this as the band takes listeners on a magical fantasy. Now expanding on the group’s sound doesn’t mean the group plans on shifting its sound. No, there’s plenty more. On “More Than Ever,” the band plays with its movements. One may expect the group to go in one direction but instead, they take a different route. Horns, wood instruments, and the sound of strings that surround the song are unmistakable and carefully arranged as to not overtake the track or Jones’ thick vocal delivery. This is thrilling, to say the least, and majestic to offer the most.
When you see the song title “Ride Or Die,” you may have images of DMX pop up within your imagination but this is no Ruff Ryders anthem. This, is something more. It’s something with a more classic feel as Frazer sings about his partner, working hard, believing in one another, struggling together. It’s a beautiful ride-or-die anthem filled with more harmonies than you can throw, an edgy sultriness; all around this love song. But I keep going around to “Reach Out,” with that classic 80s feel but consistently aligned with the rest of the album. Here it’s Black Rhein’s guitar, along with Okonski’s piano that I’m drawn to. Both are heard but never dominate the song itself, leaving Jones for that.
Private Space is challenging, challenging in the sense that Durand Jones & The Indications is willing to step out of its comfort zone to find itself in a new one where they’re snuggled up just right within it as well. I don’t know, Durand Jones & The Indications just may be the greatest band in the world right now.