On-Demand Music Content May Actually Save the U.S. Recording Industry

An article featured on the website Music Think Tank discusses how online music streaming is actually resulting in increased revenue to the recording industry in the U.S. in recent years.  More consumers are now embracing online streaming, while physical sales of recorded music continue to sharply decline. Interestingly, sales of vinyl albums have increased significantly in recent years as vinyl has enjoyed a resurgence, however, it represents a tiny fraction of all music sales.

Click here to read the full article:  http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/on-demand-music-content-now-stands-at-the-center-of-us-recor.html

Top 10 Songs for March 27-April 2, 2016

1. PRETTY PIMPIN – Kurt Vile
2. TRIP SWITCH – Nothing But Thieves
3. RIDE – twenty øne piløts
4. SPIRITS – The Strumbellas
5. GENGHIS KHAN – Miike Snow
7. 7 YEARS – Lukas Graham

iLLPHONiCS – “Gone With The Trends” Album Review

Let me say up front that I was not previously familiar with the St. Louis hip hop fusion band iLLPHONiCS, despite having lived in that city from 1995 to 2011. With that in mind, I was blown away the instant I listened to their new album “Gone With The Trends,” the fifth released by iLLPHONiCS in the past 10 years. This band is amazing! Their highly infectious music incorporates elements of hip hop, R&B, soul, pop, jazz and funk, with lush, stylish instrumentals and harmonic choruses that call to mind Earth, Wind & Fire and Kool & the Gang. That explains why I like them so much.

Band members include lead singer/emcee Larry Morris, Keith Moore (keyboards), Kevin Koehler (lead guitar), Simon Chervitz (bass), Chaz Brew (drums) and Lena Charlie (vocals). In an interview with Tracy Heck for the website AXS, Morris explained that the album title was conceived in response to society’s preoccupation with today’s social media trends, “with everything trending and short attention spans and no longevity.” He added that what distinguishes iLLPHONiCS from other bands who have come and gone is their ability to stay true to themselves. “This album was us saying to the world that we’re going to continue to go against the trends” and “keep being consistent in the way we know how. We’re taking it back to a time where playing musical instruments was the thing. This is hip-hop before the sampler and the drum machine. It’s going back to when funk was really at its height and hip-hop was starting to come alive.”


“Gone With The Trends” skillfully employs transitional interludes to connect some of the songs in a manner similar to the groundbreaking album Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814. The opening track is a recording of a man buying the album at Vintage Vinyl, the landmark record store in University City, a St. Louis suburb which happens to be the home town of iLLPHONiCS. (I personally spent many hours perusing the store’s extensive collection of vinyl and CD recordings of every conceivable genre of music.)  When he unwraps the CD and places it into his car CD player, the first song “Everything (Jammin’ For You)” begins.

This awesome, upbeat jazzy track introduces the band as if performing at a sophisticated nightclub. It features Morris as emcee and Lena Charlie on vocals, with gorgeous, soaring horns played by DJ Nune aka Lamar Harris. The song’s arrangement is perfection, with beautiful, tinkling piano, gentle percussion and smooth guitar.  It ends with a phone call interlude, then immediately segues into the funky, guitar-infused hip hop track “She,” which channels Kool & the Gang in style, arrangement and the harmonizing chorus. These two are my favorite songs on the album.

The first single released from the album is “What D’Ya Like,” an energetic, funked-up and incredibly catchy hip hop track that also features the smooth, sultry vocals of Lena Charlie.

The song “96 to 99” is an ode to the early days of hip hop and the strong influence it had on the band members. “Hip hop, man, just where do I start? At 11 years of age, you infiltrated my heart. I knew my career path, I had to be an emcee.”  The song’s jazzy textures, funky basslines and rippling horns of DJ Nune aka Lamar Harris, not to mention the smooth vocals of Lena Charlie, make it one of the standouts on the album.

The R&B infused “Take You High” opens with smooth synthesized chords, and features the incredible harmonic vocals that are iLLPHONiCS’ hallmark. Lena Charlie vocalizes on the bluesy “Han Purple,” and the band amps up the beat on “Liquid Spaceships,” a great, lively track with delightfully funky guitar riffs and rapid-fire rapping.

“Sweet Missouri” – pronounced “misery” – is a dramatic, somewhat unsettling song about the struggles of being a middle child. It has a hard rock vibe with crushing hip hop beats, distorted guitar and a barrage of rapping and Kristeen Young’s eerie, high-pitched vocals.

The most provocative tracks on the album are “8/9/14” and “The Brown Frequency.”  “8/9/14” is an audio compilation of news reports on the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, used with great dramatic effect to introduce “The Brown Frequency.” The song is a protest anthem that addresses the recent spate of police shootings of unarmed Black men, and the Black Lives Matter movement that grew from years of grievances. The song’s refrain “What do you do when you’re sick and tired of bein’ abused? Fight back!” is an emotionally charged call to action.

The album closes with the title song “Gone With The Trends,” a bluesy hip hop tune that addresses the subject of the album itself – “People going crazy trying to keep up with their friends, everybody, everybody goin’ with the trends.”

This is a great, solid album, especially for those who prefer their hip hop fused with R&B, funk, jazz and rock. Show The iLLPHONiCS some love by following them on  Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram.  Subscribe to their YouTube channel, and stream their music on Spotify and Soundcloud. Purchase it on Bandcamp,  iTunes and other sites offering music for purchase.

Top 10 Songs for March 20-26, 2016

1. PRETTY PIMPIN – Kurt Vile
2. TRIP SWITCH – Nothing But Thieves
4. RIDE – twenty øne piløts
5. SPIRITS – The Strumbellas
7. GENGHIS KHAN – Miike Snow
10. 7 YEARS – Lukas Graham

Artist Spotlight – YELLOW SHOOTS

If you like your music smooth, sultry and sexy, then Yellow Shoots is definitely your go-to artist.  He seamlessly fuses R&B, soul, jazz and hip-hop to create gorgeous songs that immediately envelop you in raw sensuality and emotion.

Yellow Shoots is actually Greg Matthews, a singer/songwriter from Philadelphia who is now based in the growing music scene of Brooklyn. His artistic name was born from his experiences with synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway, such as sound, leads to an automatic, involuntary response in a second sensory or cognitive pathway, such as sight.(Wikipedia)  Greg sometimes sees vivid yellow colors when hearing music (a common form of synesthesia is known as chromesthesia, for sound to color), hence the name “Yellow Shoots.”

He attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he studied guitar. He began honing his music skills playing guitar for Noel Terrel’s gospel band, and later collaborated with Ryan Toby of City High, and played back-up for R&B/pop singer GoGo Morrow at Jay-Z’s Made in America music festival in 2013.  After relocating to Brooklyn in 2014, Yellow Shoots started writing and producing his own music, and released his stellar debut single “Pieces” that October. His lushly produced music is mostly synthesized, and he records almost every instrument featured in his songs.  His silky-smooth, sensually breathy vocals call to mind the jazz singer Michael Franks.

In “Pieces,” warm, jazzy textures and multi-layered vocals, including sounds of a child singing, contrast with the darker lyrics of disillusionment and deceit: “All the ways that you show me that you care, turn into lies.”

After “Pieces” dropped, he continued working on additional songs, eventually releasing his EP More Alive in 2015. That EP contains five songs, all of which address love, lust, and relationships, set to slow, soulful electronic hip-hop infused vibes. Other singers collaborated on two of the songs – Mayo for the title song “More Alive” and Faja for “Soul Find Me.”

In an interview with Josh Messer for the weblog pressplay, Yellow Shoots explained his inspiration for his highly seductive music style. “Honestly, I think society has some serious polarity in the arena of sexuality. Sex in America is either massively overdone, overcompensating to grab people’s attention, or it’s considered completely taboo. I think this EP has a naturally seductive nature because I explored what sex actually does to people. I think it’s capable of driving people to insanity, euphoria, freedom and knowledge. It can be liberating as well as damaging. Most of the music here demonstrates sex as a quest for knowledge, to learn about others, expand one’s mind. So I explored this side of sex. It’s much less about about the instinctual side.”

Here is a live performance of another song from the EP – “Tame You” – performed with a back-up band on the roof of a Manhattan highrise for Balcony TV in 2015:

With his latest release, the bluesy, ethereal “Stormy Weather,” Yellow Shoots vocalizes the emotional agony and sense of loss that comes with the break-up of a relationship. He told The FADER magazine, “‘Stormy Weather’ is about a person losing a relationship or separating ties with someone. It talks about how one doesn’t actually feel the depths or significance at the time they lose a relationship. I tried to demonstrate that I get hit with that wave of loss at an unexpected time, which is often triggered by an unexpected event. Life is odd and awkward for a bit and all of a sudden you get smacked in the face with everything that’s missing, everything you had before.”

Yellow Shoots is currently working on his follow-up EP, scheduled to be released in 2016.

If you dig his music, support this guy and check it out on itunes, Spotify and SoundCloud.

Top 10 Songs for March 13-19, 2016

1. MOUNTAIN AT MY GATES – Foals (4th wk at #1)
2. PRETTY PIMPIN – Kurt Vile
3. TRIP SWITCH – Nothing But Thieves
5. RIDE – twenty øne piløts
6. SPIRITS – The Strumbellas
7. SMOOTH SAILIN’ – Leon Bridges
8. STRESSED OUT – twenty øne piløts (25th wk in top 10)
9. ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME – Coldplay (18th wk in top 10)
10. GENGHIS KHAN – Miike Snow

Artist Spotlight – David Oakes

David Oakes is an exceptionally talented musician and composer of electronic alternative rock instrumental music.  He was born in England and spent part of his early childhood in Dubai, and currently resides in Wales. David says his musical skills – which are quite impressive – were self-taught, though he earned a degree in 2012 from the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, England. Through his intricate compositions, David compels his listeners to envision the beauty of a sunrise or the fury of an approaching storm or menacing dinosaur.

In the early 2000’s, David was a member of the British rock band Kotow, with whom he played drums. For his own classically-oriented-rock instrumental music, he plays some pretty amazing guitar, and the rest of his music is synthesized. In just the past three years, he has produced a tremendous output of music, and his discography is quite extensive. I’ll highlight a few different compositions to provide a glimpse of the breadth of David’s music talent and styles, which range from gentle guitar-driven melodies to aggressive hard rock.

Two of David’s albums I especially like are The Calm and the Storm and The Dawn and the Dusk. Although very different in sound and music style, both are like Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite in that their songs tell a story in a complete cycle from beginning to end. “The Flood” from The Calm and the Storm, released in 2014, has a decidedly more synthesized sound. Scratchy guitars and multi-layered riffs provide strong imagery that evokes the coming flood from a storm-produced cloudburst.

“Don’t Let Go,” the most upbeat and rock-oriented track on the album, has some really formidable guitar work.

The album ends with the lushly beautiful “The Calm After the Storm.”

“The Dawn”, from The Dawn and the Dusk is a gorgeous tract that coaxes your mind’s eye to envision the glory and hopeful optimism of a new day.

David’s style also has a darker side, most evident in “The Drop,” an intense song with an equally intense, horror film-like video, the only live-action video that David has starred in. The song has a strong repeating bass line, with staccato guitar and unrelenting drumbeat that propels the mysterious chase scene forward in the video. The video was produced by Dark Fable Media.

A recent effort, and one of my personal favorites, is “Fire Up The Centrifuge!,” a real tour de force done in three movements like a mini rock symphony. From the album More Primitive Weapons, the track begins with a simple and rather somber guitar riff and drumbeat. At 1:15 minutes, the pace abruptly quickens, with rapid, more aggressive and complicated guitar riffs, backed by pounding drums. At approximately 6:10 minutes, the song slows down with a repeat of the opening riff, only this time with more emphatic guitar and percussion.

David’s music is available on iTunes or https://davidoakes.bandcamp.com/

Top 10 Songs for March 6-12, 2016

2. PRETTY PIMPIN – Kurt Vile
3. TRIP SWITCH – Nothing But Thieves
4. STRESSED OUT – twenty øne piløts (23rd wk top 5)
7. RIDE – twenty øne piløts
8. SMOOTH SAILIN’ – Leon Bridges
9. SPIRITS – The Strumbellas
10. MESS AROUND – Cage the Elephant