Artist Recommendation – Equals

EqualsEDM meets Soul in the musical duo hailing from East London named Equals. James Low and Ade Omotayo (which has to be one of the coolest names I have ever forced myself to utter out loud) come together to make music that finds a way to focus on both thick vocals and complex beats.

The blend is hardly standard but has a sense of familiarity for me, mostly due to the similarities between this group and fellow Brit MNEK. These two are not inexperienced in the music industry, however, as Omotayo has worked with the likes of Mark Ronson, Basement Jaxx, Amy Winehouse, and recently moved to teaming up with Low to create a mellow and entrancing style of music.

Equals released an EP titled Single Soul, whose tracklisting included two of my favorite songs by the duo: “Trap” and the title track, “Single Soul”. However, their new release “Black On Gold”, which goes in a more upbeat direction, feels to me like their best song to date and resembles the vocals of Aloe Blacc.

Overall, I would rate the sound of Equals at:

8.25/10

The music seems to be developing still and finding its balance between focus on vocals and the beats’ intensity. The songs all have a catchy yet elegant tone to them, and provide beautiful harmonies. While the transitions from Soul into pure EDM can be a bit too quick on Single Soul, “Black On Gold” seems to be a step in the right direction when it comes to resolving that issue while still tempting me to go from a foot-tap to a full-body dance-out.

You can check out Equals on SoundCloud to hear their Single Soul EP and new single, and learn about the duo’s collaboration history since their formation in the summer of 2013. I recommend at least checking out my favorites below:

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Album Review – John Haesemeyer, “Three Mirrors”

john-haesemeyerJohn Haesemeyer’s soft-rock-esque/kind-of-Country-ish music sounds immensely professional, between nicely-worked deep vocals and rich instrumentals. His work on sophomore album Three Mirrors is an impressive follow up to the debut album Come Along Quickly, and might even trump it. The seven-track album was created with focus and energy stuffed into each individual song. San-Francisco-based Haesemeyer shows a high level of dedication and effort put forward in creating this album and each song.

But what happens when songs are given the proper time and energy, yet do not come forth as beautiful as imagined? If we are using baking terms, let’s say each cookie is cut right and a snowman does not end up looking like a mis-shaped ding dong, but do they come out of the oven soft and delicious?

Well, in order to see how “scrumptious” Three Mirrors is, we should break down the album track-by-track:

1. “Three Mirrors” – The title track of the album gives a general sense of what to expect throughout. At first listen, I almost assume I am listening to a Country album. I believe the production and tuning is so well-enforced, however, that it is safe to call it Soft Rock. The melodious track is calm and only changes tempo at the long-note for a chorus. The bridge features a beautiful amount of string instruments that form together superbly. The song is made to be elegant and a slow ballad, and it pulls this off quite well. My only disappointment is how the vocals sound a bit rough to start the album. The song gives vibes of a calmer Imagine Dragons.

9/10

2. “Two Of Me” – While the first track is a solid start, Two Of Me follows it up with an even better hit. It takes any vocal issues from the previous song and fixes them, along with adding its own twist to the title track. The hard work on production is incredibly apparent on Two Of Me. This is my favorite song on the album, and reminds me a lot of Bread’s music and emphasis on soft guitar and piano.

9.75/10

3. “Think I’m Going Down” – The guitar in Think I’m Going Down brings more nostalgia in similarity to Bread’s instrumentals, but Think I’m Going Down has a bit more of a Soul-y vibe than the previous two. The hook is simple but not overly-boring, and is made to be sung out loud after a couple of listens. It reels the listener in to finish the album, which is the third song’s role on an album of such few songs. Another great song on Three Mirrors, and one of the best.

9.5/10

4. “Church Of My Childhood” – I get a much-more Country feeling from Church Of My Childhood, which comes off as emotional and heart-felt. The pace picks up as the song progresses, though sadly a bit late. Hearing the song in full will definitely give it the fullest appeal, though I do wish the song had picked up a bit earlier. Otherwise, a solid follow up to three great songs.

8.75/10

5. “Back To College” – Again, the vocals get a bit rough and flow starts to break down. The song is passionate, and features impressively-tuned notes from Haesemeyer. The lyricism is intriguing in its story and emotion, but the song as a whole just feels a bit awkward when putting the instruments against the more intense voice of Haesemeyer on Back To College.

7/10

6. “Vancouver’s Shore” ft. Leah Tysse – I was glad when I saw this album had a feature, as I hoped it could be a turning point that made the last song worth hearing. Every song is important in keeping an album worth listening, and song number six had an important role. Both voices compliment each other well, but have little-to-no overlap and make the song feel hardly like a duet. At the points when they come together, the sound is lovely and instruments back up each voice nicely. While the overlaps are predictable in timing, they are worth hearing and both voices coming together sound excellent (though each is enjoyable alone, especially Tysse).

9/10

7. “Bright White” – I could see anyone finishing off the album after the previous song, so Bright White closes it out for listeners. The pace picks up a bit quicker than previous songs, and the sound is similar to the soul-like feel of Think I’m Going Down. The lyricism is not as impressive, nor are the vocals. The song is a nice ending to the album, especially when we hear the strings on the bridge again. However, it seems to repeat problems of previous songs. That being said, hard work on production is evident and the song’s humming caps off the album as a whole smoothly.

7.75/10

So overall, the album averages out to be about:

8.25/10

Basically, the cookies came out nicely, though they became a bit dry after a couple of days. The album has some beautiful moments, but I feel a sense of disappointment in re-occuring mistakes. Artists like Aloe Blacc, Imagine Dragons, and Bread come to mind when I hear Haesemeyer perform. My biggest hope for a follow-up album would be a better flow in lyrics to the music and a better transition in pace (or any on some songs, which hold a sound a bit too similar at times). Of course, Haesemeyer does pull off the Soft-Rock and Country feeling excellently and any fan of the genres should tune in.

You can go over to MuzicNotez.com and hear the full album, along with getting some know-how on Haesemeyer and his music:

http://www.muzicnotez.com/magazine/2014/09/john-haesemeyers-new-album-three-mirrors/

-Austin Heath

57th Grammy Awards Predictions And Thoughts

grammyI will be going through every Grammy category and post my predictions for the winners. This will be a bit long, so I am adding a “Read More” tag below this paragraph. Keep in mind, just because I post the predictions, does not mean I agree with them. So without further ado, let’s get started:

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Music Recommendation – Single – Aloe Blacc, Together (RED)

Aloe Blacc’s combat against AIDS (I am not using this for any sort of joke, I swear this is part of a line of music by Coca-Cola to boost the awareness of the disease) is his song Together. The brand new release features an uptempo mix of Pop and Soul.

Aloe Blacc’s lyricism has always stood out, but this song is truly inspirational. It stays on point pertaining to overcoming an obstacle, and the meaning in itself is enough to give the passionate work a listen. However, the song itself is actually really good.

Most people tend to compare Blacc’s music to his hit The Man, which was good, but not just a template to base other singles by the artist to. Together has its individual appeal, with a pace closer to his appearance in Wake Me Up. His voice can be trumped by the background “la la la”, but the atmosphere remains, making the song enjoyable.

I like the song, but the repetition is a bit disappointing when aware of the incredible lyricism that Blacc’s music normally possesses. The “la la la” constantly kills the mood a bit, but otherwise the song is a fun and motivational listen. Overall, I would rate it at 8.5/10. Go ahead and listen to the song below:

-Austin Heath

Music Recommendation – Single – Dilated Peoples ft. Aloe Blacc, Show Me The Way

I felt like I had to give this song a listen when I saw an Aloe Blacc feature. When was the last time you saw an Aloe Blacc feature (without counting Wake Me Up)? I had yet to hear Dilated Peoples as well, so this song had a little bit of pressure to perform. So does it do the trick?

I was impressed by Show Me The Way, which features both a catchy Soul-type hook and deep Hip-Hop verses. This song looks like it is the most popular track on the Directors Of Photography album that Dilated Peoples just released, with good reason. The flow on the first verse felt a bit off, but improves by the bridge and finale verse.

Aloe Blacc’s voice is very muffled, which is disappointing. When you have Aloe Blacc on the hook, you might want to emphasize it on his voice and not the beat. Just my own (un)professional opinion, but regardless the song pulls it off well. It appears that this song has been given some praise from Hip-Hop listeners as well, and feels less like mainstream rap and more like true Hip-Hop in its sound.

Overall, I would rate the song at 9.25/10. A few of the lines are a little too stereo-typically rap while others are creative and contemplative. I wish I could hear more of that, but whatcha gonna do? Give the song a listen below:

-Austin Heath