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Vashaun set the alt-rap scene ablaze with ‘Lit Matches’, ft VHC

Few artists defy genre constraints with as much fire and fervour as Vashaun. At this stage in his career, his unflinchingly expressive discography, which focuses on visualising emotion, exploring phenomena, and welcoming listeners into his worldview and the streets that raised him, almost spans the entirety of the sonic spectrum.

From rock to emo to rap to Afrobeat to acoustic pop, it’s anyone’s guess where he will take his fans next. With his latest single, Lit Matches, the Chicago-born-and-raised artist collaborated with VHC to deliver one of his most expansively affecting singles to date.

Lit matches ignites with the grungy discordance of alt-90s indie before the first verse drifts into an organically melodic acoustic pop verse. But Vashaun doesn’t settle there; in the next progression, fans of Lil Peep and Juice Wrld will be able to get their emo rap fix, but Vashaun makes the style his own with the overdriven guitars, melodic Latin infusions and dualling rap verses that could rival ICP.

It’s a rarity to find a hit that gets better with every listen, but discernibly, we’ve stumbled on sonic gold with Lit Matches. Vashaun is a firebrand that will leave the alt-rap scene ablaze.

Lit Matches was officially released on May 24; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

 

Spotlight Feature: Baby T Reclaimed Hip-Hop’s Roots in His Soulful Renaissance LP, Prodigal Son

Baby T’s sixth hip-hop LP, Prodigal Son, blends deep-rooted soul influences with a hard-hitting lyrical flow that will leave you instantly attuned to his ability to live up to hip-hop heavyweights and alongside them, matching the stride of the giants that many attempt to emulate, but few succeed as well as Baby T. Instead of painting by numbers to replicate an urban portrait, with every brushstroke on the canvas of this LP Baby T embodies their authenticity while revisiting the foundational elements of hip-hop and channelling the raw, emotional energy that has defined his career.

The Flint-born artist ensures that each of the album’s 17 tracks reverberates with a sense of purpose and passion, reviving the luxurious aura of classic hip-hop through modern expressions and candid narratives. The LP is a vivid exploration of Baby T’s personal journey, marked by his philosophical reflections, life’s vexations, and his confrontations with fear. His dual role as both creator and curator allows him to finely tune every element, ensuring that his tracks not only resonate on a sonic level but also connect on a deeply human one.

The single MISUNDERSTOOD, a fresh take on Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, stands out as a powerful testament to Baby T’s ability to connect with listeners through relatable and potent storytelling. Meanwhile, ICON hits with the force of a seasoned lyricist, packed with dynamic energy and undeniable swagger.

As Baby T gears up for a summer tour and rolls out music videos to bring his tracks to visual life, Prodigal Son is already shaping up to be a pivotal release.

Stream the Prodigal Son LP on all major platforms, including Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Ana & Gene scribed a modern love story with retro tones in their power-pop hit, Narcissistic You

Ana & Gene, the dynamic duo behind the fresh and invigorating EP, Uh-Oh Who Do You Love, have struck gold with their single Narcissistic You. The earworm is an infectious paradox through its synthesis of sticky-sweet retro power-pop and modern fusionist and lyrical touches.

The song is a masterclass in blending genres, contorting classic rock riffs into pop hooks without losing an ounce of their retro charm. Ana & Gene’s commitment to live elements in their recording process shines through, promising an electric replication of this energy in their live performances.

What sets ‘Narcissistic You’ apart is its playful yet piercing commentary on the modern lexicon and societal shifts. The lyrics cleverly weave in the increasing awareness of narcissism, striking a chord with contemporary listeners. The dual harmonies between Anastacia Bella and Gene Roberts are nothing short of magnetic. Their voices intertwine with a natural chemistry, elevating the song’s playful, tongue-in-cheek nature.

The track is a testament to Ana & Gene’s ability to craft music that appeals across generations. Their aim to reach audiences through radio, TV, commercials, film, and social media is not just ambitious but achievable with such a universally appealing sound.

Stream Narcissistic You with the rest of Ana & Gene’s 4-track EP, Uh-Oh Who Do You Love on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Indie RnB Meets Jazzy Neo-Pop in JOSÉ’s debut single, In Love With You

JOSÉ wore his diehard romantic heart on his indie RnB meets jazzy neo-pop melodies in his debut release, In Love With You, which makes no bones about flooding the melodiously succinct score with the hazy hues of affection and proclamations of unbridled passion.

The hit that boasts swathes of cross-over appeal wouldn’t be out of place on a prom dancefloor, a Hollywood OST score, or your easy-listening playlists. As soon as you hit play, the lush layers of reverb which swell around the seductive instrumentals and hushed-with-luxe-style harmonies envelop you in a dream-like atmosphere, which you’ll want to revisit time after time for the way the head-over-heels aesthetics remind you that there’s no other drug like love.

It’s an incredibly strong debut for the Chicago-born and raised singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. With the promise of more releases in the pipeline, we can’t wait to hear the next installation of soulful candour from JOSÉ.

In Love With You was officially released on February 2nd; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Becky Raisman wears empowerment as armour in her hyper-pop hit, Warrior

The lead single from Becky Raisman’s latest EP, Warrior, is a fiery encapsulation of the essence of self-empowerment. The track, defined by its alt-pop sensibilities, strikes as a battle cry for personal liberation. The song’s construction is a clever fusion of hyper-pop and melodic dubstep, creating a soundscape that is both anthemically charged and reminiscent of 8-bit tunes. Raisman’s bubblegum pop vocal lines serve as a conduit for listeners to plunge into a metaphorical rabbit hole, emerging empowered and steadfast.

Warrior is not just a personal triumph but an invitation for all to don their armour of empowerment and to stand their ground. Regardless of how many times the chaos of reality tries to tear the rug from under you.

Raisman’s background as a Columbia College Chicago alumna, her experiences in the Chicagoland area, and her vocal and keyboard training under notable mentors like Tamara Anderson, Jeffrey Morrow, and Randy Buescher add depth to the musical prowess which oscillates through Warrior and the subsequent singles, Live Your Life and Summer Nights.

Her journey from recording at Omnisound Studios in Nashville to her latest collaborations illustrates a dynamic and evolving career. Her dedication to her craft is further evidenced by her continuous education, such as taking music business classes through Yellowbrick at NYU’s Clive Davis Recorded Music Institute. As Raisman continues to collaborate and create, she will be a name to watch in the alt-pop universe.

Stream the Warrior EP on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Torch the Hive defined the future of punk with ‘deku’

Taken from the brand-new EP, chemical thoughts, which mainlined a potent shot of punk rock adrenaline into the airwaves, the latest standout single, deku, from Torch the Hive reaffirms the sonic powerhouse’s position at the forefront of the genre.

The track is a masterful blend of intensity and technique, featuring an indie rock prelude and a bass line that wouldn’t be out of place in a Queens of the Stone Age record—heavy, relentless, and undeniably catchy. This foundation sets the stage for the song’s explosive dynamics, with tension-filled, augmented verses that build into anthemic heights, ensuring that when the crescendos hit in the choruses, it’s nothing short of cathartic.

Torch the Hive, consisting of the formidable trio Mike Fruel, Tyler Sanders, and Kevin Amaro, has proven with this new EP that they’re not content to rest within the confines of traditional pop punk. Instead, they’ve taken a page from the playbook of punk luminaries such as Rocket From the Crypt and Social Distortion and echoed the introspective angst of Bad Religion and the defiant energy of Pennywise. Yet, Torch the Hive bend these influences to their will, creating something fresh and fiercely their own.

Since their formation in 2017 in Chicago, Illinois, Torch the Hive has consistently broken the mould, surpassing what fans and critics expect from aural antagonists. Whether selling out shows across the Midwest region or embarking on national tours, the band’s reputation for delivering an uncompromising punk rock experience is well-earned. deku is a continuation of this ethos, a musical juggernaut that cements Torch the Hive’s status as a band that not only understands the heritage of punk but is also determined to define its future.

Watch the official music video for deku on YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Negate your way through the chaos with Midamerican Elevator’s jangle pop compass, Turn Left

With jangle pop guitar melodies reaching the epitome of effervescence under the dreamy vocal honey which tastes just as sweet as the harmonies that ensured Debbie Harry’s name would never be lost to history, the latest single, Turn Left, from the Chicago Indie Rock outfit, Midamerican Elevator is a resonant revelation.

By lyrically tracking how hard it can be to keep pace with the tumultuousness of modernity and how easy it can be to go around in circles, Turn Left speaks volumes to anyone who knows how it feels to be consumed by the franticness of society that leaves so many of us without a compass.

Between the killer chord progressions which elucidate that Midamerican Elevator will never be pedestrian at best and their capacity to fuse soul with style, they’re ones to watch out for. We’re stoked they’re back on the airwaves following the successful launch of their 2022 debut LP, Moon Ruler.

Turn Left will give indie rock fans a sense of direction on November 17th; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Coyote Fire came in electrifyingly hot in their garage rock revival ‘Klepto’

Coyote Fire

Coyote Fire will steal the show with their latest electrifyingly hot garage rock revival, Klepto. Fuelled with the noisy nuances of grunge and reverent to the insurgency of rock n roll, the Chicago fourpiece became the sum of all parts while ticking every conceivable garage rock box with their ferociously infectious track that puts the devil on your shoulder and compels you to fall in line with the kleptomaniac tendency of the lyrical protagonist who makes no apologies before taking what they want. Starting with the track with a voice of contempt in the medium of a voicemail, the tongue in maniacal cheek energy doesn’t hang around before asserting itself in the riled with raucous flavour single.

The ensemble’s roots trace back to the former band of Louie Kertgen and Miguel Contreras, Yard Sale, which couldn’t endure the loss of their leading voice, Jimmy Dooley, who passed away in 2018. As the calendar pages turned, Louie and Miguel’s paths diverged, only to be rekindled when Louie traded his drumsticks for guitar strings, finding solace in six strings and a new beginning.

The spark reawakened; Louie dialled Miguel’s number with a proposition that set the stage for rebirth. They coaxed Austin Yurasek into the metamorphosis from guitarist to bassist, and his conviction to the cause was absolute, “The vision was clear, the purpose was calling, and I was all in,” he affirmed after the pitch of the idea. Yet, their symphony lacked its final note—a drummer. Enter Victor Aguirre, the percussive wizard whose hands could converse with any rhythm. Louie, through a twist of fate and a friend’s recommendation, sent Victor some rough cuts. Victor heard the call, and like a moth to a flame, was enchanted by the vision.

Coyote Fire isn’t about the vanity of uniqueness, the complexity of sound, or the chase for flawless execution. Their creed is to forge a visceral bond with their audience. If the crowd’s pulse matches the beat of their music, their mission is accomplished. They aim to weave an intimate tapestry of emotion, attitude, and raw power. Influenced by the likes of Jack White and The Black Keys, Louie adopted a philosophy where music serves as a bridge to the soul, a raw yet simple channel to convey their stories, and a performance that teleports the listener into the band’s collective consciousness.

Klepto will be officially released on November 15; stream it on Bandcamp and Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Embrace our transhumanist future with Skylnz Ablze’s electrifying synth wave single, Memory Empty

Even though synth wave is all the rage in 2023, the Chicago-hailing songwriter, producer, and engineer Skylnz Ablze, rode his synth lines into a cut above the rest with the seminally animatronic single, Memory Empty, from his sophomore LP, Born from Electricity, which was crafted to exhibit a new perspective on pop.

By taking influence from electronica pioneers The Human League, New Order and Gary Numan and synthesising the new wave pop aesthetic into one that fizzes with oscillating ingenuity, Skylnz Ablze allowed the transhumanist future that awaits us all to embrace the listener from the very first ensnaring 808 kick to the last.

Memory Empty hit the airwaves on October 13th; stream it on Spotify as part of Skylnz Ablze’s sophomore LP, Born from Electricity.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Cali Ave Lo delivered lyrical wit so sharp you will get whiplash in ‘Way I Feel’ ft. Monie$

The lyrical wit in Cali Ave Lo’s standout rap track, Way I Feel, is sharp enough to tear a hole in the airwaves, even if the blows of the Machiavellian bars are softened by the jazzy and groove-deep old-school instrumentals, which allow the single to drip in luxe magnetism. He wasn’t playing when he warned he is a beast that can’t be tamed.

The single, created in collaboration with Monie$, is just one of the fresh-with-innovation-and-intellect singles found on Cali Ave Lo’s latest album, Untitled. Uncut. 3, which is already going down a storm with the Chicago-hailing artist’s legion of fans which is growing by the day thanks to his commitment to being one of the most thought-provoking artists on the underground. If your playlists are already filled with hits from Kanye, DMX, Lil Wayne and Jay Z, you will want to make room for Cali Ave Lo.

Way I Feel dropped on September 27; stream it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast