Its been a big 12 months for Moog Music. The electronic instruments company has purchased a new $2.5 million property to house new offices and serve as a musical tourist attraction in Asheville, NC, and it also won the MIX Foundation TEC Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement, Musical Instrument Category. The award joins a long list of Moog achievements, including Guitar Player’s Reader’s Choice Award, Electronic Musician‘s Editor’s Choice Award, Popular Science‘s Best of What’s New Award and NAMM Best In Show honors. And while rambling off a list of accomplishments similar to these is probably very exciting for industry insiders and instrument enthusiasts, there’s another list from Moog that this festival-goer for one is more excited about.
This past Tuesday, Moog was supposed to release the official lineup for 2010′s MoogFest, a 3-day festival slated for Halloween weekend celebrating the life and vision of the sonic pioneer and grandfather of Moog Music, Robert Moog. The festival has since moved the deadline back to August 10th, saying that still “need a little more time to put it all together”. Headliners Massive Attack, MGMT and Thievery Corporation were announced earlier this year and set the stage for such a synthesizer-heavy gathering, a genre quickly revolutionizing the indie roots of rock and pop. It makes sense, as Moog was one of the first companies to develop the synthesizer and went on to develop some of the most popular synthesizers ever.
MoogFest will take place at multiple venues across downtown Asheville, among them being the Asheville Civic Center Arena and renowned, world-classclub The Orange Peel. According to Moog’s site, the buck doesn’t stop with late-night sets coupled with the undoubtedly stunning lazer shows that accompany this kind of music. Patrons will also be able to attend workshops, engage with artists in panel discussions, take in visual art exhibitions, installations and film screenings and indulge their own musical creativity using an array of Moog instruments. No doubt a weekend providing a stimulating assault on all the senses. Tickets for MoogFest we also supposed to go on sale tomorrow (July 30th) but have been pushed back to August 13th. As always, we’ll keep you posted.
Every recording artist out there knows about “mastering”. You want to bounce down your audio and create a final “master” to duplicate the track to your CD’s so that it is of similar volume and quality to the rest of the tracks on that album. Today, though, “mastering” is a broader topic. Whether for an album or an MP3 download, mastering is a means for preparing a file for its distribution and final format destination. If you recall the Generation DIY post about mastering, you know that it is an art. It’s very tough to master but there are resources for artists that aren’t comfortable doing it themselves. This week, we’ll focus on how to make your final track sound better within the mastering phase. We’ll give you some clear-cut steps to mastering your audio, explain some of the formulaic techniques behind the process and, finally, give you some insight into the different approaches when you’re mastering material for different applications. If you aren’t experienced in the mastering phase and require more of a “step-by-step” process beyond this discussion, please access this great article.
Without getting too complicated or hypothetical, mastering has a few key steps and some simple tricks. While you may not be a professional mastering engineer, the steps can be used to simply put the final touch on your mixes. Our top three steps are compression/normalization, equalization and reverb. As far as the tools are concerned, it’s common to go with software. Whether you choose an audio editor or a DAW, you’ll achieve similar results. DAW’s seem to work a little better because you can assign real-time plug-ins and adjust them to taste during playback.
Equalization is usually the first step when to improve the quality of a final mix. Even after all of the notching, panning, boosting and shaping done in mixing, the tracks can often lack a little punch. Therefore, it’s good to have a nice graphic EQ with a lot of bands so that you can use some subtle shaping on the final mix (i.e. make it a little more bass-heavy, or a little brighter, etc).
Compression and normalization for rock/pop applications will essentially just make your track louder. In today’s music industry, tracks are compressed and normalized so much that they are as loud as possible for the entirety of the song. Compression basically sets a volume threshold on an audio file, and any time a signal comes in at a louder volume than that threshold, it dampens it to the volume you specify. Therefore, it flattens out the dynamic range of a file, allowing you to boost the entire thing even louder without clipping. This boosting to maximum volume is called “normalization”. See pictures of both an uncompressed and compressed audio file for the same portion of the same song below:
Our final step is usually adding a touch of reverb on the final mix. Even if ambient spacing and subtle reverb was added during the mixing phase, it’s good to apply a small amount to the final mix to give the entire song a “space”. This isn’t a common practice with some “do-it-yourself” mastering engineers, but we think it gives songs a bit of an edge (especially in a band or singer/songwriter setting). Be careful here; a little goes a long way because too much will muddy things up.
Applications and Technical Information:
Even if you already know about these steps, you might still be unsure how it all works. You may also be wondering the best way to master a free Mp3 download. First, let’s briefly clear up the difference between MP3s and CD-quality files. Traditionally, CD’s utilize uncompressed, raw audio files. Whereas, MP3 files are compressed and altered using an algorithm that eliminates certain parts of the spectrum. Let’s go further. An MP3 utilizes “critical band” information to determine which parts of the audio file can be eliminated without losing much quality. Simply put, our ear picks up certain frequencies within the same range (think about a band on an EQ). Therefore, if a loud frequency and a quiet frequency are heard by our ear within the same band, we won’t hear the quieter one that well anyway. So, the MP3 algorithm eliminates it entirely.
What does this all mean for the final song? While the difference is sometimes tough to hear unless you have high quality speakers, MP3s have a decidedly thinner sound. They don’t have all the dynamic range and nuance of, say, a WAVE or an AIFF file (for the algorithmic reasons specified above). So, we need to take this into account when mastering and bouncing the mix. As is the case with many technical topics, this could become an extremely lengthy explanation. However, we’ll give you a few tips. When mastering a WAVE/AIFF file that is, in fact, going to remain in its original format, be sure to record, edit and master at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz for CD quality. You can also master intuitively. What you hear while mastering is what will be heard on a CD since the format won’t change.
However, if the final file will be in MP3 format (and in today’s industry, chances are it will be), record the raw audio at a higher bit-depth or sampling rate to help compensate for the lost data when converting to MP3 (making sure to keep it at the highest possible quality until the last conversion stage). We would also recommend some more compression and a higher boost in bass, as many people will probably listen to your track on ear buds and you need to compensate for their frequency/dynamic shortcomings.
Overall, when you get to the mastering phase of your recording, there is a lot to it by way of “tech-related” information. Do some Google searches or check out the article that we linked you two in the first paragraph. There are many people out there writing other articles but keep in mind that mastering is the final stage. Whatever you do here will be heard. So compress it as much as you like, add as much high-end as you want. It’s the final touch before sending it off into the world.
Although Twitter has only been around since 2006, it’s becoming hard to think of a celebrity, store or brand that isn’t tweeting. For bands, Twitter can be an incredibly powerful tool for promotion, networking and keeping in touch with fans.
Let’s take a look at some artists who are experts in the “Twitterverse.”
Boston’s self-proclaimed “piano slayer” and singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer is a prime example of a musician using Twitter in all the right ways—and she has more than 400,000 followers to prove it! In addition to being able to get hundreds of fans to secret shows and last-minute meet-and-greets, Palmer also discovered how to make money on Twitter.
At 9:15 p.m. on May 15th, 2010, Palmer tweeted a call to arms for “the losers of Friday night on their computers.” Thousands of fans responded to her and sent Tweets ending with “#LOFNOTC.” Within minutes, the phrase became the number one trending topic in the world.
One of the tweets that started it all.
Taking a slogan suggestion from a fan, Palmer took out a marker and designed a T-shirt for her legions of fellow “losers” that read: “DON’T STAND UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT, STAY IN FOR WHAT’S WRONG.” Her web designer created a simple PayPal site to order the shirts, and more than 400 were ordered in merely two hours. In the same week, she made over $7,000 by hosting a Webcast auction and a “twitter donation-only” gig.
OurStage artist Andrew Belle is also a tweet fiend. Belle keeps his Twitter page filled with continuous updates on where he’s playing next, links to his videos and photo updates from his tour. A few weeks ago, Belle was selected as MTV’s Needle in the Haystack. He joined OurStage via Twitter for a “Tweet & A” interview, which was broadcast to his thousands of followers.
Andrew Belle gives advice to new artists during his OurStage "Tweet & A"
Andrew tweeted about his plans for the future and his touring schedule and he even tweeted a picture of himself bumping into Dave Matthews while having lunch. The “Tweet & A” not only gave Andrew’s fans an update on his musical career, but also allowed them to get to know him better as a person.
Having a Twitter account can be one of the best free marketing tools for your band. Make sure to keep your page updated and use your tweets not only to promote, but to reach out to your fans. Follow Amanda Palmer’s lead and create an engaged fan community around your music.
Leave it to Samantha Kirshtein to make you feel like a real lazybones. She plays volleyball and tennis. Likes to garden and cook. Fishes and surfs. Gets good grades. Plays the guitar and sings like a dream. And, on top of that, she’s only 13. The South Carolinian was raised on a wholesome diet of classics like Bob Dylan, The Eagles and Hank Williams. But, when you listen to her music, it’s evident that the girl is a Taylor Swift fan at heart. Kirshtein’s voice has a lovely, natural huskiness complemented by her even and pure singing style. It’s simple, but instantly likeable. Her material is made up mostly of bright and sunny folk songs, like “Love Birds”—a punchy, much younger cousin to John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane.” “All of the Above” is a similarly upbeat, pop-country ditty with a radio-ready melodic hook. But this teenage ingénue is also capable of tackling serious subject matter while avoiding schmaltz. “I Do Too,” is a delicate, grassy homage to Kirshtein’s grandfather, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s rare to find this kind of poise in an artist so young. Expect big things from Kirshtein in the years to come. We do.
The judges have made their decisions and finalists have been chosen for the “Andre Harrell Superstar Soul Search” competition. The competition took place in 6 regions (Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.), in addition to a national contest. There was so much talent that some cities had multiple finalists! Ten artistsare about to get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strut their stuff in front of music mogul Andre Harrell, the man responsible for discovering such acts as Sean “Diddy” Combs and Mary J. Blige. The competition was fierce for contestants at every step of the way and each finalist rose from a pool of some of the nation’s best undiscovered talent. All 10 artists will compete this Saturday in Atlanta for a shot at becoming the next soul superstar. The grand prize winner will receive a digital single deal with Andre Harrell Records/Atlantic Records, online promotion from Interactive One, and a $10,000 check! You can check out all 10 finalists and their music below.
“My experience in this contest has been great; I truly appreciate the opportunity to expose my talent to the world. To be a participant in the soul search has been an educational and mind-opening experience.”
I have to say it, I adore Alicia Warrington. She never ceases to amaze me—always cropping up in the most unexpected places. Not only that, she is one of the most kick-ass drummers around.
I first met Alicia back in 2004 when she was drumming for Kelly Osbourne’s band. She had just appeared on the Osbourne’s reality television show. A few years later she popped up with the Canadian all-female band, Lillix. Then I read she was playing drums for Hannah Montana and Selena Gomez.
The next time I saw her, she was on television, sitting in the front row cheering on Kelly Osbourne on Dancing with the Stars.
I have a feeling that I—and you—will be hearing a lot more from this talented lady. Alicia is now half of the duo The All-Girl Boys Choir with Marlene Hammerle of The Gore Gore Girls (another band Alicia drums for). But this time around, Alicia is the front person as well as the bass player, drummer, songwriter and engineer. There’s much more to Alicia, but I’ll let her tell you all that.
CD: You are well known as a go-to drummer for so many artists. What’s it like fronting a duo for you?
AW: I’m definitely still getting used to it. It’s very different from my usual, comfortable, hiding spot behind the drums Now, I have to try to entertain people up front and do most of the talking and singing, which isn’t necessarily my favorite thing.
When we decided that The All-Girl Boys Choir was going to be a duo, Marlene wasn’t sold on being a lead singer, so that left one person—me. It feels a little weird to be running around with a guitar instead of pounding out the beats, but I’ve actually played guitar longer than drums so it’s cool to be able to show people that I’m not “just a drummer.”
CD: How did The All-Girl Boys Choir come to be?
AW: Detroit garage rockers Gore Gore Girls (Bloodshot Records) hired me as a drummer for their 2008, 10-country, European tour. They had this crazy guitar/harmonica slinger named Marlene “The Hammer” Hammerle, who caught my attention right away. She was a maniac on stage yet super quiet and cool off stage.
We clicked and decided to work on a new project together after the Gore tour. Marlene moved from Detroit to join me in Los Angeles and we started writing new tunes within the first week of her being here. It was something fresh and exciting for both of us. We concluded that we just didn’t feel like adding more members, dealing with more personalities, scheduling conflicts and trying to keep another band together. Thus, The All-Girl Boys Choir was born.
We recorded most of 2009 and released our debut EP Walking Miracles in the fall of 2009. We are now touring for that.
CD: You’ve been in quite a few all-female bands. Is that intentional? If so, why?
AW: You know, I laugh at that often when thinking about my resume. It certainly isn’t intentional. I just happen to get most of those calls. I’ve been in bands with boys but the tour bus usually smells better with the girls.
CD: How did you start playing drums at age 11?
AW: My uncle Kevin bought this amazing 1970s, stainless-steel, 16-piece, Ludwig monster of a drum set. I fell in love with it immediately. He built a stage in my grandparents’ basement, installed colored track lights, had a smoke machine and a giant stereo system that he would blast, playing drums along to ’80s hair metal bands.
One day, he threw on a couple of songs by Dokken and Bullet Boys and told me to try and play along. It just came to me naturally. I sat in that basement for hours, teaching myself drums along to cassettes by Queensrÿche, Mötley Crüe, Metallica and Faith No More. I begged and begged my mom to buy me a drum kit and one Christmas, she did.
CD: Your first All-Girl Boys Choir tour date is the Girls Rock Camp in Austin. Any particular reason for that?
AW: Emily Marks, who runs the Austin Girls Rock Camp, wanted us to play last year but we weren’t doing shows at the time. This time, we happen to be rolling through during the week of camp and it’s something that we really wanted to do. I think it’s really important to give young girls more options and to get them involved in music at an early age. Young girls need to see that they can play instruments like drums or guitar and that they have more options than becoming one of these Disney-created popsters. We actually have two shows that first day. Later that evening, we’re playing in Austin with The Bluebonnets, Kathy Valentine’s (The Go-Go’s) new band.
CD: Did you book your own tour?
AW: Yes! Back to basics! This time around, it is a completely independent thing: no record label, no management. It’s self-funded and self-everything, which means it’s a lot of work.
We would like to be working with a booking agent but everyone was treating us like a new band, as if we haven’t toured 20 countries before. Yes, The AGBC is a new project, but it’s kind of a slap in the face after doing so many tours for so many years, to have to continually prove yourself and get “more tours under our belts” with this current band, before getting any help from agents.
Well, that certainly wasn’t going to keep me home! I’ve booked tours before so I just picked up the phone and sent out those e-mails myself. Situations like that don’t discourage me, they simply fuel the fire and make me work harder. Now we will be touring through December!
CD: What is your favorite music to listen to?
AW: I seriously listen to absolutely everything. On any given day you will hear me play something like En Vogue followed by Lamb of God. I am a true metal head to the core, but I’ll rock some Dixie Chicks and Loretta Lynn in the car. This week, I’ve been listening to a lot of Heart, The Bangles and Slipknot.
CD: What is your favorite music to play?
AW: On guitar, my favorite music to play is metal. On drums, I dig pop/rock and hip hop beats.
CD: What were the Selena Gomez and Hannah Montana crowds like?
AW: I only worked on video stuff with Selena—no live audience. Hannah Montana crowds are pure insanity. I remember playing a taping for the TV show with her at the Anaheim Convention Center. I couldn’t even hear the stage monitors because the kids were screaming so loudly. I did the Hannah Montana “Live in London” tour, which was pretty crazy as well. Parents bring their kids from all over the place and camp out at the venues.
CD: Have you ever been the front person for a band before?
AW: I was still in the back of the stage on the drums, but I was the singer in a couple of death metal bands as a teenager.
CD: Ever hear any of those back-handed “good for a girl” compliments?
AW: Oh, it enrages me. Sometimes it’s not so much the “good for a girl” compliments as it is the tone that you detect from people. Marlene and I had to go into a chain music store recently and on the way out, this older guy at the door said, “Did you have fun in there, girls?” Now, I can be a bit quick-tempered, but I’m pretty sure they don’t ask guys if they had fun looking at all those pretty instruments in the store. You know?
Another recent example: I went amp shopping and had a guy friend with me. The workers kept asking him how they could help HIM and if HE wanted to try anything out. I took my money elsewhere. It just shows how incredibly stupid some guys still are about ladies being musicians and about taking them seriously.
CD: Are there more or fewer female drummers now?
AW: I think there are many more female drummers now. I definitely didn’t have too many female drumming influences when I was a young drummer. I listened Debbi Peterson and Roxy Petrucci during that time period. I didn’t really know about Mo Tucker, Gina Shock and the others until a bit later. When I was growing up, ladies weren’t getting the same recognition that the males were. So although there might have been some out there, I didn’t get to see as much of them.
I found Sleater-Kinney when I was around 16 and was completely in love with Janet Weiss’s drumming style. She was really the first lady drummer that I was truly inspired by. Her style was so creative. When I’m listening to Janet’s music, I find myself waiting to see what she’s going to do next or where she is going to take the song. It’s usually to a place I wouldn’t have expected.
Young female drummers today have a lot of ladies to look to for inspiration: Cora Coleman-Dunham, Stefanie Eulinberg, Sam Maloney, Yael, Torry Castellano, Jen Schwartz, Mercedes Lander, Nikki Glaspie, Kim Thompson, Hannah Blilie, Melissa York, Patty Schemel, Kate Schellenbach, on and on.
CD: Is there a goal you haven’t achieved yet?
AW: Oh yeah. God willing, you’ll see me for a while.
The All-Girl Boys Choir Tour Dates:
07/27/10: Girls Rock Camp – Austin, TX
07/28/10: Tulsa, OK
07/29/10: Outland Ballroom – Springfield, MO
07/30/10: White Water Tavern – Little Rock, AR
07/31/10: The Way Out Club – St. Louis, MO
08/01/10: Vaudeville Mews – Des Moines, IA
08/03/10: The Mill – Iowa City, IA
08/04/10: The Revolution – Toledo, OH
08/05/10: Melody Inn – Indianapolis, IN
08/06/10: Mac’s Bar – Lansing, MI
08/07/10: White’s – Saginaw, MI
08/12/10: PJ’s Lager House – Detroit, MI
08/13/10: Buckham Gallery – Flint, MI
08/14/10: The Cave – Chicago, IL
08/17/10: Cosmic Charlie’s – Lexington, KY
08/18/10: The Rutledge – Nashville, TN
08/20/10: The Double Wide – Dallas, TX
08/26/10: Super Happy Fun Land – Houston, TX
08/27/10: Riverside Warehouse – Shreveport, LA
09/02/10: Lenny’s Bar – Atlanta, GA
09/20/10: Trash Bar – Brooklyn, NY
Check out the video for The All-Girl Boys Choir tune “Western Star.”
Pepper packs laid back, easy-going attitude. While this may seem to be a contradiction of terms, the band’s sound drives the point home. With rhythmic, chest-pounding bass, complex, evolving guitar effects and a thick, reggae backbeat, Pepper’s live show is the perfect outing for any Sublime or 311 fan. Throw in the fact that they hail from Hawaii, and you’ve got a three piece with a sound that simply oozes “summer”.
The band has toured around the world on Warped Tour, 311′s Unity Tour and even their own headlining trips. They just wrapped up this year’s installment of the Unity Tour, with other support act The Offspring. We got in touch with drummer Yesod Williams to pick his brain about the band’s dub style, recording techniques and touring schedule. Check out what he had to say.
OS: Being a dub-influenced band, guitar effects and processing play a big role in your sound. How much of an influence do these effects have when you’re writing songs?
YW: I think it’s more that the songs have an influence on whatever effects are used, in terms of that vibe. We’ve been blessed that one of our best friends we grew up with does all of our dub effects. That all comes from growing up around reggae music and whatnot. Being from Hawaii, UB40 is one of the biggest influences in our music. They’re one of the biggest bands in Hawaii, and there were a lot of them on the radio growing up. I think it’s just more that the music has the main influence on the effects.
OS: So it’s kind of inherent in the sound?
YW: Yeah, and it’s like the music comes first and all of the effects, the icing on the cake, comes from the sound of the music.
OS: Your albums each have their own distinct character. What is your technique when going into the studio?
YW: We really have no technique. People ask us what have influenced our albums or sound, but we’re so “spur of the moment”, whatever we’re feeling at the moment is what’s going to happen.
OS: Along those lines, you also have a really organic flow to your live show. How do you develop a set list?
YW: Well, that’s another thing. Getting back to the “spur of the moment” concept, there is no set list. We kind of go off the crowd every night. We let them choose what they want to hear. When it comes down to it, they’re responsible for Pepper. There’s no other way we could exist if it wasn’t for them. We usually plan out the first four songs. Then we let it go from there.
OS: The band has played the Warped Tour several times. How do you fit in with a punk crowd playing a main stage like that?
YW: I think we fit in perfectly. We play reggae influenced, dub music, but we fit in perfectly with the whole attitude of punk. We’re all about the vibe and everything that goes with it, even though you may hear us and it doesn’t sound like punk rock music. I just think we’re on that same wavelength.
OS: You guys tour a lot with 311. Why is that and what is your relationship with the band?
YW: For one thing, we grew up listening to them. They’re a big influence for us. We’ve worked with Nick Hexum who produced about half of one of our albums for us. That’s kind of where the whole relationship got started. We worked with them on the production side, and then it lead to us touring with them, and then we realized that they’re such great people. They’re really good people to hang out with and tour with. They’ve got great friends in the industry. Like Slightly Stoopid or The Expendables. We just hold them in high regard.
OS: So how did you get introduced to them?
YW: It was actually during our album In With The Old which came out in 2005 or 2004. The guy who produced that album, Ron St. Germain, he had produced a few albums for 311 before. So we started to work with him, and he was like “I know this great studio.” It happened to be the studio that 311 owned. So, we ended up recording that album at their studio and that was where the initial introduction was.
OS: Does Pepper have any onstage surprises planned for the upcoming Unity Tour with 311 and The Offspring?
YW: Yeah, we have a huge theme for these first bunch of stops, and I’ll let everyone come out to the show and figure out what it is.
OS: You haven’t released an album since 2008, are there plans to hit the studio after this summer tour?
YW: We’re actually almost done working on our album. We just built our own studio and now we have our own record label, Law Records. So we can release our own albums and whatnot. We’re almost done and the album should be out this fall. We also have a new single coming out on the radio in the middle of the summer. It’s called “Wake Up”.
Stay tuned for the new single and catch them at this year Xclamation Festival in Modesto, CA on 8/7/2010.
As discussed in last week’s post, online radio can be a useful tool for artists. Listening to music online is continuing to increase in popularity, and although this business model is likely to change as the industry continues to fluctuate, these resources are worth taping into for the moment. Today, we’ll continue the discussion with Pandora and Jango.
We’ll begin chronologically with Pandora, one of the first online radio sites to generate a significant level of popularity. Pandora has been fighting the good fight—making their business model both free of both cost and advertisements. They’ve recently added short 10-second ads to the non-paying users experience. Like most of the online radio streaming sites, Pandora recommends new music based on your previous selections and caters your recommendations based on your ratings of each song.
As an artist, this is something worth trying to get involved with, as it allows music listeners that like your genre and style of music to hear your songs. Besides the popularity of this platform, and the ability to align your music with similar artists, perhaps the best benefit is that it’s free to have your music played in their rotation. However, there is a slight catch. Pandora has a more fortified entry barrier than both Jango and Grooveshark since they listen to every song that is submitted before deciding whether or not it will be accepted. The submission process is extensive and requires that you sell your physical album on Amazon, and requires that you send your entire record to Pandora for review if you’re accepted.
Jango is everywhere in the music business. If you’ve ever signed up for an online music service, there is a good chance they’re a partner of Jango. Jango offers an affordable solution to getting your music plays and helps your connect with potential listeners. You’re able to message users that become fans of your music through the Jango platform. When listening to your music, the fan can read more about you as an artist and click your Facebook, MySpace or Twitter links to deepen the connection.
The return on investment (ROI) for Pandora is obvious. If you have an album that you believe is worthwhile, why not submit it? It’s free. As for the ROI of Jango, I would recommend purchasing 1,000 plays for $30 and see what comes out the other end. See how many fans you gain, and what you can make happen from connecting with those fans.
In the next few posts we’ll be discussing topics including Social Media, Gig Tools, Distribution, Web design and many more! So please let us know if you know any companies worth mentioning within these areas.
With the help of GRAMMY-nominated producer Luigie Gonzalez, Calise’s new album In Avanti serves up dark and powerful electronic rock, reminiscent of Flyleaf and Evanescence.
In Avanti opens with Calise’s crunchy guitar playing, backed by ringing synths and programmed drums on “Anything Goes.” “Break Me” continues the industrial tone of the album, with angsty lyrics that create the perfect anthem for any bitter break-up.
Though ballad “Cry” stops the album’s energetic momentum, it showcases Calise’s vocals against a no-frills background. The song is the only quiet track on the album, which picks right back up with “Get Used to It” and hits a high note with the dancey “My Song.”
With its undeniable radio-readiness, it’s no surprise that Calise’s music has already been featured on One Tree Hill and The Discovery Channel. She is definitely an artist you’ll want to keep on your radar…if you can keep up with her.
If you’d like to pick up In Avanti, you can visit Calise’s official web store here.
The time and effort it takes to make it big is in no way negligible. That’s why, when an artist who’s been trying to break through for 5 years and finally thinks they see light at the end of the tunnel suffers a heartbreaking setback, it’s usually too much to overcome and the dream is dead. Emcees Kjae and Traxx of 2 Grown Kidz are a little too familiar with that scenario. Remember MTV’s brief Top Pop Group series in the fall of 2008? 2 Grown Kidz (back then under the name S1) made it into the series and were on their way to the top when they were notified that the series was being canceled after only 6 weeks. But, true to the boundless energy and resilience associated with their name, these big boys didn’t let it hamper their outlook on the future. That same energy is still evident in their sound.
A quick foray into their OurStage catalogue will reveal that despite officially labeling themselves as “Hip Pop,” their hearts are still very much anchored in the pop arena. In “Hollywood,” which is, by the way, a much better Californian response to “Empire State of Mind” than Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” 2 Grown Kidz not so surprisingly pay tribute to the city they have come to call their own. Sleek cymbal swipes and a black-tie tinkling piano combine with layered Usher-esque vocals to open the track, which transfers from lush R&B to rap as soon as the first verse enters the picture. The twosome’s tone here adopts an amiable brand of hedonism, because as irritating as it may be to listen to what boils down to gloating, we somehow find ourselves caught between being proud and jealous of them for singing about the life they lead without rubbing it in our faces. Rhyming about big city lights, warm weather and beautiful women, the song avoids gaping clichéd traps throughout its entirety to retain a sense of class too seldom found in pop oriented hip hop.
“Grinder Harder,” perhaps their strongest rap song, takes a step away from their traditional themes of women and nostalgia and allows the duo to spend some time on themselves. Opening with enveloping strings that swirl like storm clouds on top of a marching beat that only adds to the building pressure, precipitation finally falls in the form of a confessional from the two emcees on their motivating forces and goals in the game. Said goals and motivations may not be intellectually stimulating, but they do provide a platform for the young emcees to voice their passion through what at times can be best described as a stressed tone (sounding in parts reminiscent of Lil’ Wayne’s indescribable vocal acks and scratches) and playful wit, notable in lines like “Oh yeah I make hits/ just like Sosa/ over the fence/ a home run hitter/ I’m a go-getter/ so if I see money/ I’m runnin’ home with her” and “If it ain’t about a dollar then homie don’t say shit/ boy I’m on that money like my name was George Washington.”
They must be telling the truth, because to do what they’ve done to date takes quite the work ethic. Having started their very own production company and added the titles writer, producer and arranger to their resumés, Kjae and Traxx have developed enough talent to make a name for themselves well into bonafide manhood. Check out their sound in the player below, and let us know where you think they place on the boy/man spectrum in the comments!