Saturday, February 18, 2017

Muddy Cult Monthly Favorites - January 2017 Pt. 1

Welcome to our first entry to Muddy Cult Monthly Favorites!
This new feature to Muddy Cult was inspired by AramaJapan and Akidearest of YouTube. Hopefully, this new segment will further implement our opinions and recommendations to our Cult followers like are usual postings. Please feel free to leave a comment below on what you think of this new feature and perhaps share some of your favorites from January!

BlipMasta5's Favorites

Favorite Anime Related Video:

TeamFourStar's Broly Abridged

TeamFourStar has had a fan in me since their start. Their writing, editing, and comedy has continued to improve over the many years and this demonstrates that in spades. As a fan of the original series, they show a great balance of love and exploiting the holes in the plot. If you haven't heard of the allstars of the abridging community, I highly advise you take a look at this and the rest of their channel.

Favorite Music Video:

Broken - Denace & Dispencery7

Many have dealt with depression and just as many have tried to be the depressed's support. I think this song embodies both sides so well that it must be shared. You try your best to keep your head up, but emotions can control your thoughts so thoroughly that it's unshakeable. Plus being a constant support is tiresome as well, but its importance is vital to bear in these situations. Just take a minute to watch the video and it'll all be explained.

Favorite Dance Video:

These Walls (Cover) Choreography

When I saw that one of my favorite Kendrick Lamar songs had some of my favorite crews dancing to it, I had to give it the instant click. I was pleasantly surprised to hear an even jazzier cover of the tune by the female vocalist, Moss Kena. The movements were so clean, I had to share this as a favorite of the month! Witness poetry in motion...

Buonaventura's Favorites

So I have spent pretty much every night of January binging on the No Sleep Podcast trying to get current.  Stories are taken from Reddit's No Sleep community and read on the podcast by a crew of voice actors.  The showrunner/main narrator is David Cummings and he comes across as a lovable dork.  On the Christmas episodes, he tries to impersonate Santa and it's like watching a puppy try to do something and fail adorably.  You can tell he's really into what he's doing.

This podcast hits all the bulletpoints on my horror checklist.  There's a variety of authors so there's a ton of different types of horror.  There's a warning at the beginning of the show and you should heed it if you don't like certain aspects of horror.  Some stories can be pretty intense, involving child-rape and the like.  Because most of these writers are amateurs, even the particularly gruesome stories are still pretty hokey.  There are a few really legit creepy tales but most of the stories fall under b-movie horror where the dialogue is off or the story has glaring plot holes and is too verbose.  It's a fun exercise in critiquing and learning from others' mistakes (y'know, if you ever want to write horror fiction).

The actors do a great job and represent a wide variety of English speakers from North America and Europe.  I swear one sounds exactly like Daniel Day-Lewis.

The podcast is free but you can pay for a longer version with more stories and bonus episodes.  I haven't splurged for the extra content and I find what is offered for free does the job.  The No Sleep Podcast is actually on their first tour right now and they'll be in Houston at the House of Blues on February 18.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Two More January Reviews

Central Standard Time - Stik Figa
(Genre: Hip Hop/Rap)

When this project was announced, I instantly lit up with joy. If you don't already know, Stik Figa is one of my hometown legends and has been carrying the torch for Topeka in the underground for a while. When I heard that this project was another one backed by Mello Music Group, I became even more ecstatic because these connections would push their music even further than before.

Speaking of the music, Stik Figa puts you in the mind of the everyman in Topeka, Kansas. He displays his skills as an emcee as he delivers punchlines and paints you pictures of his surroundings and how that environment has affected not only himself, but the fellow townsfolk as well. This is all placed over a generally classic boom bap soundscape with the one experimental rap entry, "James Lemonade" featuring independent stars Homeboy Sandman & Quelle Chris. Other featured artists, such as Elzhi & Rappin 4-Tay, bring their full set of skills, too, adding to the project's enjoyment factor.

In conclusion, anybody who digs the roots of hip hop should find this album a quality buy. Its runtime is concise and doesn't lend itself to any filler, so every song definitely hits its mark. Yet, my personal favorites would have to be "Cold", "James Lemonade", & "The Ends & Outs". The lyrical prowess of this emcee is on full display with this release and it's certainly capable to make it Stik's time in the limelight.

Links to the central, if you have time:
Pardon the Interruption (Music Video)
Cold (Music Video)
Shade45 Radio Freestyle ("I do the rap thing")
Passion of the Weiss Interview
Prey (A music video from the Shame the Devil EP)

SweetSexySavage - Kehlani
(Genre: R&B/Pop)

I became privy to Kehlani a long while back due to a collaboration with one of my favorite artists, Dyme-A-Duzin. They did a R&B track that brought me back to the days I grew up with the genre. I soon decided to look her up and found her rather talented, but the You Should Be Here project grabbed me the most. That was a few years later and since then, I kept up with her single releases on the road to this major label debut with anticipation.

This album reinforced what I believed she had the potential to achieve. She writes and performs songs with a very clear and honest voice. It's all delivered in a way that fuses the throwback feel of 90's/early 00's R&B and today's contemporary take on the sound. This brings a very nice ride with variety as she embodies the album title with each topic. She tells tales of love, lust, trust issues, her musical ambitions, & more. The only gripe may be the length of the track list, despite there not being many misses.

To me, she's an artist that reminds me of heavily hip hop infused R&B artists like Mya, Ciara, Aaliyah, & Amerie. Some tracks that have entered my heavy rotation are "Undercover", "Personal", "Not Used to it", "Everything is Yours", "Do U Dirty", & "In My Feelings". Honestly, this is a very solid debut and warrants a listen for any contemporary R&B fans. I would find it hard not to become infatuated by this sweet, sexy, savage debut.

Ride the Kehlani Tsunami:
You Should Be Here (Playlist of the album)
Gangsta (From Suicide Squad) (Part of the deluxe album)
Sway in the Morning Interview ("Young Sway got the answers")
Nardwuar Interview (Doot Doola Doot Doo)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fair Shake Review: Sky - Riplon

Sky - Riplon
(Genre: Hip Hop/Rap/Trap Rap)

Riplon is a Brooklyn, NY born emcee that I've crossed paths with down here in Florida. After seeing him perform down here, I knew he was an artist to watch as he truly is a wordsmith. His style is written in such a way that emotion is clearly emoted and versatile to fit any mood. This was confirmed by the 7th Day EP & the At Home EP. Hence, the announcement of his first full length album, SKY, had me anticipating its release.

This LP traverses a wide spectrum of hip hop production from east coast boom bap to the moody trap sounds of the south and even an experimental track in the mix. Riplon tells you stories of his past that makes him the man he is today, his current ambitions & struggles to make them realized, as well as displaying his lyrical prowess. He seizes the opportunity to show off his traditional use of poetry (i.e. "The Idea of Dying Alone") amidst his witty wordplay and skillful storytelling. This creates quite a dynamic listen throughout the project.

You really get a sense of his upbringing in tracks such as "Pop Off", "Sunset", & "Do it for Love" which both have drastically different styles. He continues to broaden his rhyme style while promoting the message to never limit yourself with songs like "The Conscious Mind" & "Sky feat. Prince Golden". Then insight behind his psyche are displayed in "Searching for My Soul" & "Man of the Cloth". The former has a chorus that I personally couldn't care for, but the verses are standouts on the project. My own favorites would include the aforementioned "The Conscious Mind" & "Pop Off" along with "Killin' it feat. Richie Guapo" & "Sunshine".

In summary, I would say that this is a masterfully crafted LP. The naturalness he brings to each style of genre is impressive enough, but his way with words leave little to be desired. The sequencing of the tracklist are also very well done, making it a very cohesive listen sonically and thematically. I recommend this to fans of other versatile rappers such as Kendrick Lamar, Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole, & maybe Big K.R.I.T.  Riplon is certainly an artist to watch as he has the trajectory to continually expanding his skill set while maintaining a high standard for lyricism. Honestly, the sky truly isn't his limit!

More on Riplon:
Killin' it (One of the singles)
The Idea of Dying Alone (The a capella interlude)
Mieux Magazine Interview (Promo for SKY)
Riplon Live at the Market (The first time I saw him perform)
I Can't Breathe (From the At Home EP)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Two January Album Reviews

The Good Word - New Midwest Entertainment
(Genre: Hip Hop/Christian Rap/R&B)

New Midwest ENT has held a group of artists that I've always been a fan of. Over the past year though, they have gone through some changes in roster and general content. Therefore, I was interested to see what these events would yield. The occasional singles were signals of the new direction they were heading. This focus was more clearly Christian and the announcement of a new compilation intrigued me.

This new project delivers the usual standard of great lyricism now with God more in mind in the writing. The production still matches much of what contemporary music has to offer, along with a splash of G-Funk here and there. Each track presents one or more of the faces from the label and their synergy is honestly fluid in spite of the new additions. This presents the crew very well by allowing them to flex their individual styles and how they all can work together as well.

I, personally, have to say that my favorite tracks would be "B Loved", "Loss for Words", "Pray 4 My City", "Old School Love", "Blast Off", "Sacrifice" & "Tomorrow". In my opinion, some of the songs with the throwback G-Funk sound could come off dated at times though. In conclusion, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys the Christian rap genre or hip hop in general. They may not vibe with every song, but there's definitely a good handful they'd be able to take away from it.

The Good Links:
Free Download (Datpiff link of the project)
Money Can't Buy You Everything (One of the singles w/ PeeBee)

Slow Love and Bangin' - Brian Puspos
(Genre: R&B)

Brian Puspos is someone I have been following for quite some time, but as a dancer. On occasion he would upload covers on his YouTube channel, but eventually he announced that he was going to release his own R&B project. This piqued my interest as I always believed he had a decent voice and I wondered what his own writing style would be like. Then the title dropped, Slow Love and Bangin', and it explained it all.

"Murder She Wrote" preceded the EP's release and I was instantly ready to see what else was in store. The Houston raised crooner brought a production style that is clearly influenced by the area. The writing spans a few different aspects of love and relationships from heartbreak to making up in just the six tracks offered. Brian's voice gets the job done as it's not entirely impressive, but easy on the ear akin to Justin Bieber & Chris Brown. This creates a project that's great to throw on to vibe to for a good 20 minutes.

My absolute favorite track is "Be Ready" with it's very smooth groove, yet dynamic progression. Each song is worth a listen if you enjoy contemporary R&B like Chris Brown and Trey Songz. It's banging production with an intent for seduction. Brian Puspos certainly shows that he can create the dope music to step to.

Bang these related links:
Starting Line (Official music video)
Murder She Wrote (Unplugged version)
Be Ready (My favorite)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bonaventura Introduction

Hello all! I’m pleased to join this group of reviewers! You can call me Bonaventura, Good Adventure in Italian, and that’s exactly what I see this as. I love to read and I like to share my thoughts about what I read in the form of reviews on goodreads. I’m excited to extend my reviews to this medium as well!

I love horror and suspense movies but I don’t like gore or “torture porn.” Atmosphere is important to me and I much prefer to be creeped out than grossed out.

I also like terrible horror movies. You know, the ones that have half a star on Netflix. Thanks to streaming sites, the market is flooded with tons of cheap, dumb, and unintentionally hilarious horror movies. I look forward to sharing some of these special gems with you in the coming months.

Have any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: Suicide Squad: The Album

Various Artists - Suicide Squad: The Album (2016, USA)
Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Heathens, Standing in the Rain, Gangsta, Slippin' Into Darkness

After seeing Suicide Squad, a movie I've surprisingly haven't reviewed yet but will, I had to hear this awesome soundtrack everyone was talking about. It's not very often that I hear positive commentary about more mainstream movie soundtracks. It also helps that a certain little song I had been repeating a lot was on it and I wanted to own it. So, here we are with a soundtrack review for a movie I look forward to sharing my thoughts on...after I see that extended cut.

The first track on the album, "Purple Lamborghini" by Skrillex and Rick Ross, was a song I first heard on a Rap Critic review. Not being a big fan of either of them, I was curious what he had to say about the song, especially with a title like that. I also thought it was an interesting mash-up of talent, so that added to my curiosity. For an opening track, it definitely presents some good build up and energy to get you into the feel for the movie and the album. For the most part, I agree with Rap Critic's opinion on the content of this song. Rick Ross's lyrical content kinda doesn't understand its subject matter, but Skrillex's beat backs up Ross's cocky delivery with an intense fusion of hip-hop and almost grungy dubstep elements, especially when the beat drops and the chorus kicks in. Yeah, I totally understand that feeling of wanting to headbang to that; it's practically the best part of the song. I think without Skrillex's addicting beat, this song would've fell flat and simply be another brag rap with no connections to the movie. Of course, if you watch the music video, it does pull you into the moment of Joker in the club and being a boss for sure.

"Sucker for Pain" by Lil' Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Imagine Dragons, Logic, Ty Dolla $ign, and X Ambassadors is the next track on the album. Most of these artists I'm not that thrilled about, meaning I don't care for their music much. There are a couple I'm not familiar with, meanwhile one of them disappointed me quite a bit when I went to explore their sound beyond what was airing on the radio. Much like the first track, I was curious how all these different artists would sound like together. The song has a surprisingly smooth rock sound that doesn't overpower the rap verses from each rapper, but emphasizes the chorus sung by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds. The melody softens just enough during the verses, except a bit of the bass, but doesn't distract from the content. Paying attention a little more as I watch the music video for this review, some of the transitions in the later half of the song seem kinda off to my ears. After Lil' Wayne's verse, it goes to Wiz and it just sounds kinda off to me like something was cut to make the song shorter, then there's that last part that leads to the fade which seemed a bit random to me.

Now for the reason I really wanted to check out this album: Twenty One Pilots' "Heathens". Honestly, I think this is the first song I heard from the soundtrack and it made me really curious what this hot new-ish band had to offer and why they were so damn popular last year. All bias aside, I think this song represents a perfect balance of darkness and melancholy that the movie offers for certain characters. There's something about this song that just really knows what's appropriate for a movie. Even looking at the music video, it just matches it so perfectly. Not only is this song earwormy as hell like their other hit songs "Ride" and "Stressed Out", but for me being a new listener to the duo, it just seems like a slightly different side for them. I love the soft, uncertain vocal delivery and the nice balance between all the instruments. Clearly, a very solid song that you just can't get enough of.

Next up is "Standing in the Rain" by Action Bronson, Mark Ronson, and Dan Auerbach. I've heard of Action Bronson through best of lists by Rap Critic and commercials on Viceland, but never searched out his music, while Mark Ronson is someone who most people, including myself, have only heard of because of his collaboration with Bruno Mars. I've also haven't heard much from Dan Auerbach's group The Black Keys, but the little I've heard was alright. I must say the tone of this song kinda matches the feeling of the movie, like "Heathens". Action Bronson has a pretty confident and enjoyable flow to his words and I like the retro sound and perfectly balanced sample from Oran "Juice" Jones' "The Rain" I'm sure Ronson provided. I also enjoy the hard hitting sound of the verse transitioning to this Pulp Fiction-esque vibes I get from the vocals. It's really chill and I should probably listen to this song more often.

A surprising gem I've quickly grown to love quite easily was Kehlani's "Gangsta". Taking the role of Harley Quinn in the music video, I feel like this song is very appropriate for that point of view. I really love this music video and how it interlaces Kehlani's relationship with her mysterious gangsta with Harley and Joker. I feel like the tone of the song doesn't completely glorify this kind of relationship; it's almost like a dangerous addiction that she probably needs to get away from, but can't because it feels so right. I love the contrast of her confident vocals with the hard hitting trap beat during the verses and then it softens to this vulnerable, dream-like singing in the chorus. It's quite a treat that's definitely too short. Every time I listen to it, I keep wondering where's the rest of the song! The good thing about this song is that it made me check out more of Kehlani's work and I learned a little something about her from BlipMasta5 as well.

"You Don't Own Me" by Grace featuring G-Eazy is another sampled track featured on this album. I think the first time I listened to this song, I passively listened to it simply thinking it was a cover and kinda is. It has a few modern musical tweaks to it, adding more bass and vocal reverberations...oh yeah and unremarkable rapping by G-Eazy. Now I know what Todd in the Shadows meant in his Worst of list for last year. The video isn't anything special, just the two of them performing in a sound studio. Listening to this song for the second time and looking up to see that this video exists on YouTube made me understand why a no rap version exists. Grace's voice is quite pleasing to the to the ears. Her vocal styling is very similar to the original singer Lesley Gore, but she does manage to try to put a little of her own personality in it as well. In short, pretty good cover sans G-Eazy.

By using Grace's cover as a gateway or divider for new and old material, the album presents an Eminem gem from 2002. "Without Me" is a good song for chaotic superheroism, if you go back to the music video. It remains an enjoyable and amusing song from Eminem and gives me flashbacks of TRL and the days when MTV played music videos in the day time. I guess this could represent the fun vibes of the movie and the video does parody comics. I'm sure not many young people will understand some of the references in the lyrics or even the pop culture mockery in the video, but for people around my age will still find amusement and even a bit of nostalgia from listening to this off beat track from our favorite white rapper Eminem.

Next up is Skylar Grey's "Wreak Havoc" with a hard hitting electro-pop track. It definitely fits the chaotic and aggressive tone of the movie and kinda goes well with our first track. I've heard of Skylar, but I don't think I've explored her music very much. Judging by this one song, her voice is quite nice during the lead up to the instrumental chorus. I kinda like the chasing feeling she has to her voice in the verses. At times she kinda reminds me of Natalia Kills. The song has a very predatory feel to it and it makes me want to start a battle or something, which I think is appropriate for the soundtrack. Another female artist I'm somewhat familiar with, Grimes follows up with "Medieval Warfare". Unlike Skylar Grey, I have listened to her music beyond her contributions to this soundtrack album. I honestly should listen to more of her stuff beyond the few music videos I've watched on YouTube. Anyway, this song is a heart pounding electronic track with some very angelic and subtly haunting vocals from Grimes. I love the hurried feeling of the instrumental, the taunting guitar sounds, and the slight bump of bass. The song kinda gently pumps you up with the contrast of soft vocals and aggressive beat. I kinda wish I could hear more of her voice on top of this hard sound, but overall it's quite an enjoyable track.

I want to say that the cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Panic! At the Disco was used in some of the movie's promotional material, but it's possible that the original by Queen could've been used instead. I must say that this was very good cover to the iconic Queen track. Yes, cover, children! Panic! At the Disco did not write this song. Anyway, they did a very good job keep the integrity of the original while subtly making it their own, especially in the vocal department. Good job, guys!

Since this album wants to bring the old with the new, we have War's "Slippin' into Darkness". This was an almost surprising track to reminiscence on while listening to this album, but I could see this fitting with Deadshot or Killer Croc's characters to some extent. Of course, this song is a classic and I remember hearing this track as a kid. The funk soul beat never fails to make me feel like a badass from the 70's while walking down the street like Jackie Brown. Another oldie, but a goodie comes from Creedence Clearwater Revival with "Fortunate Son". This classic rock track always makes me think of dusty roads, motorcycles, and bar fights. I guess I could see this as a song for our squad to band together, getting ready for their fight, or Rick Flag gathering the squad together and shouting out orders. This short track is appropriately placed toward the end with the psychedelic funk that War has given us previously.

Lastly, the soundtrack closes out with "I Started a Joke" by ConfidentialMX featuring Becky Hanson, which I think is a cover from the Bee Gees. It's definitely a softer and more orchestral oriented version with Becky's vocals softly echoing throughout the song. Her voice is almost drowned out by the gentle swelling of the music, which is kinda unfortunate because her voice is quite nice. It doesn't quite mesh too well with the previous tracks sound wise, but as far as old songs and covers go, it does belong in this section of the album.

Suicide Squad: The Album is a pretty enjoyable soundtrack. I like that they divided the new from the old and gave people familiar with the older tracks some relief if they didn't enjoy some of the newer stuff. The collaborations featured on this album were very interesting and I can't see them working together outside of anything like this, in my opinion. They did manage to produce some quality tracks that I could mostly confidently recommend to my friends and family, but I know that there are some tracks I know I won't be returning to for a while. On the negative end of the spectrum, the rappers I'm familiar with musically that I don't care for produced the quality what I expected, but their collaborators made up for their flaws. Also, the couple tracks that I enjoyed musically, I wished didn't drain out their singers (i.e. Grimes and Skylar Grey). Nonetheless, I think the album fits the tone and attitude that is Suicide Squad.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Quick Anime Review

Food Wars: The Second Plate (2016) | Rating: 4/5

They gave us a second plate, guys! And I was very happy about that, since I really enjoyed the first season and I'm currently enjoying the manga as it is being published in America. The second season immediately picks up where the first season left off with the Fall Classic, which is pretty intense and well adapted from its source material. This second season stays consistent by being entertaining, funny, and a bit tense at times. The story also surprisingly doesn't become predictable for our main characters either, which is a nice change of pace. It still makes you want to root for the good guys and let the bad ones learn from their mistakes. Lastly, the character development is very steady as well, since I know some people feared that certain characters' growth would be stunted. I'm looking forward to delving more into the OVA, whenever they become available with subtitles, and hopefully a third plate.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2016) | Rating: 3.5/5

Sadly, I have not had the pleasure of playing this mystery solving game, but I really want to at some point. I know when this show was airing, people had mixed opinions on it. Fans of the game felt like the anime was a bit of a disservice to the processing of investigating and interrogating and others, like myself, enjoyed following our main character from case to case. Sure, it felt like certain elements were kinda missing or weren't explained as well as it would in a video game, but I still found it amusing and entertaining to see the resolution of each case. As someone who relies on subtitles, I had issues with certain translations concerning character names. Sometimes the subtitles matched what was spoken when they needed Naruhodou and other times it was changed to Phoenix (or Nick). I know both names are right, but it annoyed me when it kept switching. Personally, I prefer the original Japanese names, but I guess the English names fit in with the comical aspects of the show as well. This show was fun, I was entertained, despite its imperfections, and it did make me want to play the game even more.

Death Parade (2015) | Rating: 4.5/5

Somehow I missed this gem in 2015, but I'm glad I added it to my list after hearing some reliable praises from a couple of my favorite YouTubers. I have not watched the short that it originated from, but I'm glad this has become the beauty of a series that it is. Without graphic imagery or excessive profanity, this is a series you can say isn't for children. It is a very mature and almost oddly colorful show that explores the life, death, and afterlife. You know, really deep subjects that'll keep you contemplating for a few hours. Of course the show and its characters keep you involved and invested in what's going on. Almost every episode explores a different pair of characters trying to figure out where they are and why they are there. It's an interesting character study of sorts that makes you self reflect on your own life. The story is really topnotch and handled the subject matter very well without giving one definite answer to their situation. Lastly, the animation is stunning and vibrate with just enough darkness. I love the various characters we meet and the spaces they occupy. I must admit it was really hard to finish the show because I enjoyed everything so much and that's saying something!

Cheer Danshi!! (2016) | Rating: 3/5

If you were ever wondering if I'm still watching sports anime, I'm sure this post would answer your question. I was a little skeptical about this one, much like a lot of characters in the show, but it ended up being fairly entertaining. Of course, in my top five list of sports anime, I don't think this would quite make it, but it wasn't terrible. This group of young men had a big obstacle to get over and the show focused more on their journey to become a strong team as opposed to working up to a tournament like Haikyuu!!, Kuroko no Basket, or the series below, Yowamushi Pedal. No, this show is about finding enough young men that are interested in and dedicated to all things cheerleading. There are plenty of ups and downs with this new bunch and it was fun watching each member grow and overcome their own obstacles. Although the team does participate in a tournament, it's kind of an afterthought in the end as their routine begins to fade into the credits.

Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road (2014) | Rating: 4/5

Since I enjoyed the first season so much, it was obvious I was going to jump into the second season. This show remains intense and entertaining. I love cheering on Souhoku and watching each member struggle through the long treacherous road together. Even though the race is stretched out for more than 30 episodes, the story and tension keeps things interesting by not always letting the main characters win. This factor also keeps the viewer on their toes and waiting to see what the final outcome of stage three may be. Aside from the story, the characters remain great and fleshed out. The story takes its time giving us background on everyone that matters and giving us enough information to work with for the viewer to gather opinions on them. I was surprised to see that there is a third season airing around this time and of course I'm going to be checking that out. I'm currently reading the manga and I must say that so far it's pretty faithful to the source material, granted I'm not as far as season two.

If there's something you want me to review, check out this post on how you can submit requests.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Top 10 Recommended Music Videos

"DARK PANDA" by Hyolyn, Zico, & Paloalto
Being a long time Zico fan, I've been really enjoying everything he touched last year. He also introduced me to the talents of Paloalto through a little bit of Show Me the Money I saw and this song. I've also slowly fallen for Hyolyn's beautiful vocals last year. This smooth, subtle electro-hip-hop beat has just enough catchiness to make you want to rock your hips, especially around the chorus, and at the same time let's each vocal talent stand out on their own. I like the mysterious and sensual sound of this song and the abstract, dark visuals presented in the video. There's something charming and mature about this video that haven't seen in many Korean hip-hop videos and I like that. It features the usual hip-hop visuals of b-boying and gold, but intertwines it with artistic set pieces as well.

"Dumb Dumb" by Red Velvet
Say what you will about this group, but so far I'm enjoying the little bit of heard from them. This earworm of a song definitely stuck with me and solidified my intrigue with the group. Unfortunately, I still haven't listened to any of their album releases, but this single definitely made me excited to delve further into their budding catalog. I love the manufactured, vibrant, and creative visuals. It's definitely different than anything else SM Entertainment has put out since that point. The sound and style reminds me vaguely of f(x) and maybe a little bit of Orange Caramel, but it's different enough to peg this as a Red Velvet sound. Also, I love watching their 2x sped up version on Weekly Idol, which is a definite must see.

"Crazy For You" by G.Soul
The beginning of last year, I really wanted to make a post dedicated to JYP Entertainment winning 2015 among the Big 3. G.Soul was their ace in the hole as being an innovative and stand out performer for the label, at least for me. This soulful voice, quirky appearance, and deeply visual debut of a music video really stood out to me. The song is wonderfully delightful and I love rewatching and listening to every minute of this masterpiece. I almost want to say it's on caliber with Sunny Hill's production. I'm hoping that G.Soul's appearance isn't a brief one like San E's, but if his path leads to something bigger and better without JYPE's backing, then I'm all for it. I would love to see and hear more of this man's gorgeous vocals and seeing more unfiltered visuals stuffed with mesmerizing symbolism.

"So, Dangerous" by UP10TION
This group is one I really want to try to get into, but they really don't have anything that makes them stand out from the other rookies from the past couple years or so, which is quite unfortunate. Of course, I'll probably elaborate on this more in their own respective post of notable rookies for the fellas. The reason I'm putting his video on my list is for the killer choreography. Their moves are extremely mesmerizing and they know how to keep your gaze focused on every sharp and fluid movement they hit together and alone. The song is catchy in its own right and I enjoy the chorus quite a bit. It definitely fits with what's trending during these tie period, but it really doesn't stand out as anything special. Of course, that doesn't make them bad in the least, because the song is quite fun and I could see fans easily chanting/singing along to the chorus and swooning over those pretty faces.

"As Long As You're Not Crazy" by INFINITE H feat. Sanchez (Phantom)
This sub-unit was clearly a blessing for me as I feel like DongWoo needs more spotlight in my opinion. He's not my only bias in the group, but it just makes me happy to see more of him and hearing his vocal talents shine just a bit more, even though Infinite is very much a vocal group with ridiculously sharp choreography. But I digress. This song has easily became one of my favorite tracks from this mini-album. I love the melancholy R&B beat with just a hint of hip-hop/trap elements strategically placed throughout the song. I enjoy that the first verse is so effortlessly rapped and smoothly transitions to Sanchez's sweet voice. He was the perfect feature for this track, even though the video's title doesn't acknowledge him but I know those vocals from anywhere. As far as the video goes, it really matches the tone of the song and lyrics. It's black and white, full of melancholy, highlights each member in their own turmoil and tragic story of love and loss, and has some pretty fantastic and smooth choreography.

"Carousel" by Melanie Martinez
Sadly, I was late to the "pity party" and discovered Melanie's music last year. There's a very good chance that I'll delve into my discovery and full feelings about her in a promo post later, but for now I want to talk about one of my favorite music videos of hers. I had no idea that American Horror Story: Freakshow used this as part of their promotion, but it definitely fits the haunting mood with a hint of romance. I personally enjoy it for that very reason: the dark, melancholy, but morbid whimsy of the visuals and music. Melanie's soft, shy, and sorrowful vocals really match the tone of this missed opportunity of romance and youth. Out of her earlier videos, this one has easily become one of my favorites and definitely solidified my enjoyment of her as an artist and begging me to go down the rabbit hole of her music.

"Borders" by M.I.A.
Without getting too political, how appropriate is this song right now in America. Who would've thought that this would be so relevant globally right now. If I remember correctly, around this time Beyonce's "Lemonade" was being highly criticized for being "anti-police" and just all sorts of unnecessary controversy. Yet, this song and video does about the same thing, but with a different issue. Of course, M.I.A. is no stranger to taking world issues and causing controversy with how she expresses her opinion through her music videos. Keeping her sound consistent with mixing hip-hop and Middle Eastern elements, the song is easily a hit with me and I admit that I repeated this video a lot. I had to take in the catchy beat, then the lyrics, and finally the imagery. Once I got through all of that and combined all these great elements, I understood nearly every point she was trying to hit. So, I highly advise paying attention to those lyrics; it's more than just physical borders and walls separating people. Never change, M.I.A.!

"Enemiez" by Keke Palmer feat. Jeremih
As long as I've known of Keke's singing career during her True Jackson VP days, I never really checked it out until last year. The thumbnail to this video intrigued me, so I clicked it and I didn't regret it. The little bit I've heard of her voice, she has definitely matured and strengthened her range. I also never knew she was such a fierce dancer. If I knew that, I wouldn't have been as surprised about her being casted in that Lifetime TLC movie, which was actually not that bad considering. *coughs*Aaliyah*coughs* The song is an easily enjoyable pop/R&B fusion of sexual tension. Of course, visually it's not as obvious of an adult theme as the lyrics make it seem. I love watching Keke move along to the music, but I admit that her outfit is a little over the top for this story and her acting is...underwhelming. Fortunately, the music, vocal chemistry with Jeremih, and fierce choreography make up for that. Sidenote: I really love her hair!

"L.C.S." by FEMM
This duo of mannequins have been killing it with their catchy music and mesmerizing visuals, since their debut. This music video plays with the various options technology has to offer in the visual effects department. From deconstruction to manipulation, it really takes its liberties with the girls' bodies and choreography in this simplistic blank space. It's definitely a different way to utilize motion capture for sure. The beat and chorus is as catchy as ever and stays consistent with the duo's aesthetics by being playful, confident, and a bit assertive. I urge you not to skip out on this one and if you haven't done so already, check out more of FEMM because they're definitely a rising talent.

"Cry & Fight" by Daichi Miura
Daichi Miura never fails to excite and amaze me with each release he has, especially visually. I love seeing his sharp choreography and natural chemistry he has with his dancers. This time is a co-ed effort with some very smooth transitions between each set of dancers. Of course, the music never fails to put a smile on my face. Miura's voice remains alluring and powerful as it effortlessly echos during the bridge and pounds itself into your head during the chorus. This is definitely a video to be watched over and over for the amazing dance moves each performer displays and the infectious music.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Four More 2016 Reviews

4 Your Eyez Only - J. Cole
(Genre: Rap/Hip Hop)

Ever since 2014's Forest Hills Drive, I officially consider myself a fan of J. Cole. Born Sinner was the first project I felt warranted buying, but FHD was excellent from start to finish. Therefore once the two promo tracks, "Everybody Dies" & "False Prophets", along with the documentary, "Eyez", I was one of the many giddy with anticipation. I looked forward to seeing how all the live instrumentation and composition would lead to that was so heavily focused on in "Eyez". Yet, the final product surprised me.

4 Your Eyez Only is a generally soulful ride through the eyes of Cole and one of his close homies. The perspectives blur from time to time, but is easily forgivable by the production and flows that suck you in. The final title track really brings the purpose of the album to light by explaining how the LP is a message dedicated to the close friend's homie who he lost to the street life he couldn't escape. Though sometimes the lyrics can be polarizing by the word choices, the sentiments can be endearing enough to make it enjoyable. I, myself, like the project although I don't feel it topped his last major release nor met the expectations given from the promo singles. Regardless, I still have to recommend this to hip hop heads who dig the average man's story with soul. Personal favorite tracks include: "Immortal", "Ville Mentality", & "Neighbors".

Get Used to Me - T-Rell
(Genre: Rap/R&B)

T-Rell is an artist I have kept a slight eye on ever since I met him at an event he threw in my hometown. As a fellow Topekan, I felt obligated to give him a chance and I continued to keep tabs on him since I saw his talent as a singer. Many years after the event passed, I soon began to see his buzz rise and I finally understood where his creative direction was heading. Following the passing of his close friend in a car accident T-Rell survived in, it inspired the song that ignited his ambitions and popularity. "My Dawg" and its remix featuring Lil' Boosie was the indication of just what I could expect from the singer.

Get Used to Me is the confirmation of T-Rell's sound and mass appeal. The project is a compilation of tracks that embody his determination to make it in this industry for the sake of his kids and the love of creating music regardless of the naysayers. The feature list seems to prove he's well on his way to make it out of the city as he has many hood superstars supporting him (i.e. Boosie, Kevin Gates, Montana of 300, Kirko Bangz). The production is radio ready and could easily be spun on urban radio making his potential rather high. I would recommend giving this a listen if you're a fan of artists of the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Tory Lanez, & PARTYNEXTDOOR. Unfortunately, this is a style that I don't listen to regularly unless I can find something I can relate to or find entertaining about it. In conclusion, many of these tracks have hit potential, but I personally would only return to "I Got To".

The Storm - Tech N9ne
(Genre: Rap/Alternative Hip Hop/Rock)

Tech N9ne is the independent juggernaut who many near the Kansas City area admire whether musically, business wise, or both. I'm no exception, being exposed to his music during my preteen years through Absolute Power. I reached the point to anticipate his yearly output once Everready dropped. Being one of the most consistent emcees, I continue to expect a certain level of lyricism, range of topics, and relative soundscape from Tech. This can be a turn off for some listeners, but I personally enjoy seeing the yearly expansion of experimentation in each project.

The Storm is no exception to this DLC-esque style of releases from Tech N9ne. With this album, Tech pushes his inventive flows and patterns over more hard hitting production whether it's haunting hardcore rap, metal influenced hip hop, club bangers, or hood hop. It's split into sections (a common Tech N9ne practice) starting with Kingdom going into Clown Town and ending at the G Zone. Each section transition without a hitch just as the eclectic mix of features also blend smoothly. The way Tech N9ne is able to be the true "Most Known Unknown" draws in names like Logic, Jonathan Davis of Korn, & even Boyz II Men.

Even though he is able to be sonically versatile, I still wouldn't recommend this to just anyone, because I also never like every single song on a Tech project due to his wide spectrum he explores. The Kingdom section will contain the most commercially viable tracks like "Erbody But Me" & "Get Off Me". Yet, his honesty lyrically might be what's appealing in songs such as "Starting to Turn" & "Poisoning the Well", both in the Clown Town portion. If you're into hood tracks then in the G Zone, your songs might be "Buss Serves" & "No Running to Your Mama". It all depends on your preferences, so I always say to go in with an open mind and then take your pick. Ultimately, my picks would be along the lines of "Godspeed", "I Get it Now", "The Needle", & "The Long Way" from the deluxe version.

RTJ3 - Run the Jewels
(Genre: Alternative Rap/Hip Hop)

The emergence of the Run the Jewels duo instantly had me hooked. The incredibly hard, yet unique beats El-P produced with him and Killer Mike trading bars over them were infectious. The first project had punchlines galore with impeccable flows. RTJ2 provided that alongside even more concepts. The anticipation of the third installation grew as we waited patiently for more of this duo's unmatched synergy.

Now that it's here, as it was dropped on Christmas as a surprise, us Jewel Runners all cheer in satisfaction. El-P and crew continued to bring instrumentals that is perfect for the festival energy they've started to become accustomed to. Yet, Killer Mike and El-P spread their sound to include more topics, namely socio-political statements due to the chaotic year 2016 has been for our society. This addition of serious subject matter is easily welcomed as it comes naturally for both emcees and never detracts from the energy their projects have managed to exude. The combination of both rappers differing, yet compatible styles is easily recommendable for those who love wittiness, banging beats, and an occasional conscious message. I wouldn't take away anything from the tracklist, but some standouts for me would be "Legend Has It", "Stay Gold", "Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)", "Panther Like a Panther", & "Everybody Stay Calm".