Last Giant – Album Review

Last Giant has recently released its sophomore album “Memory of the World.” Check out the the opening song “Living in Photographs” here:

Last Giant began as a solo project by bandleader Ryan Heise (ex- System and Station) who collaborated with a group of touring musicians to take his “Heavy Habitat” debut album out on the road. He has since teamed up with Palmer Cloud on bass and Matt Wiles on drums to create “Memory of The World.”

The opening song “Living in Photographs” starts with a techno greeting before diving into the alternative rock sound that fans have come to expect from Last Giant. The riff is poppy and fun sounding, perfect for upbeat car rides. The chorus is catchy and the vocals by Heise are top notch, coming together to form a proper introduction to the album. The song is about the social media lifestyle many people live and how everyone is living in the pics they post online. “Diamond Decade” follows up with a heavy riff that is edgier and rocks harder than you would expect, truly being a representation of their louder inspirations such as Led Zeppelin.

“The Comedian” features some interesting keys in the beginning that soon delves into their trademark Jane’s Addiction style grunge with a breakdown featuring satisfying drums rolls that play off the guitar-work well.  The next song “Toys for the Devil” has a very 70s groove riff that can make anyone start head-bobbing and the song’s guitar solo adds substance to the overall album that has so far lacked any standout solos.

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Photo via Last Giant

After the four opening rock songs, “Inventory” slows things down with thought-provoking lyrics and a sentimental melody. This song shows Last Giant can go beyond the expected rockers by adding textures to their recordings and allowing their instruments to propel their message forward. Next up is “Drastic Plastic,” the fastest composition that is anchored on a strong rhythm section that carries everything along at quick pace. This track seems to have punk-inspired influences but mixed in a 90s alternative atmosphere.

“In the Calm” continues on with the trademark Last Giant sound of heavy groovers layered with clear, and determined vocals. The songwriting follows the pop format of catchy hooks yet has unexpected twists and turns that are reminiscent of the best progressive acts. Also, the end of the song is intense and one of the most aggressive performance heard so far. “Coverz” has the most bizarre opener with distorted vocals over a couple of guitars playing. It’s a welcome surprise and offers a change of pace to keep listeners on their toes. This hybrid track is part a loud-banger and part introspective toward the end, and illustrates their progressive influences well.

The electro vibes kick in to start “Blood on the Road” when suddenly the slow pounding drums introduce the guitars that sound straight from Soundgarden with head-banging riffs along the hard-jamming drum and bass. At this point the album has already proved its worth and any additional songs of high quality are just the cherry on top. “All the Same” features passionate screaming that demonstrate Last Giant’s dedication to their craft while the closer “Saint Paul” brings it all to a close with a bluesy riff that underlines the narrative about the murder of innocent Philando Castile at the hands of police officers. The song ends the album with an explosive finale.

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Photo via Last Giant

Mixing engineer Paul Malinowski (Shiner, The Life and Times, Riddle of Steel) and co-producer Larry Crane (Sleater-Kinney, Pavement, Tape Op) did a phenomenal job at putting the great talent that is Last Giant and making the instruments and vocals stand out while blending in. “Memory of the World” is a recommended listen to anyone who enjoys heavy jams and raucous riffs fronted by a legitimate singer who knows how to pen songs and bring us the rock.

To stay up to date with everything Last Giant, check them out on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, and their official website.

Avery LR – Mixtape Review

Avery LR is back at it again with a new single for his 2017 “Surviving” mixtape that features more than 20 underground and gangsta rap tracks. Listen to his latest single “They Don’t Like That” here:

The “Surviving” mixtape could draw comparisons to works from Avery’s inspirations such as Jay-Z and his contemporaries. He often raps about real issues and doesn’t shy away from topics that others are too scared to talk about. The mixtape features no holds barred lyrics throughout with occasional glimpses of softer, inspirational tracks.

The opener “What U Know Bout Dat” is a true Hip-Hop staple with its quick spitting rapping, sleek beats and haunting piano melody that all combine to form a song that recounts the tragic day-to-day reality of living in the streets. “They Don’t Like That” follows up as an anthem that puts the haters on blast. It’s an “us against them” narrative that is empowering and makes the listener want to take control of their own sense of justice.

The mixtape is a combo of hard core tracks that eviscerate the naysayers while also having calmer songs that hit straight through the heart. “One Dream” features 10asee and is a softer, humble tale that tells of the struggles they both had to endure to get their families ahead. Avery raps about how he never takes a day off for the benefit of his kids and how he wishes his grandma was around to see his successes. This song is a nice break from the heavier tracks and shines a different light on both Avery and 10asee, showcasing their fight to overcome the challenges they have faced along their rapping careers.  In the same vein, the song “7 Years” featuring Avery’s son Aries is an uplifting rap with verses about being a good dad and chasing dreams.

The mixtape goes back and forth between the tough and the delicate so you’ll be getting a varied listening experience every time. “Fight Night” is a standout track that has an addicting keyboard bassline with aggressive lyrics and “Loose Yourself” is an Eminem throwback that uses sampling in a unique way making it a highlight.

“Never Surrender” was previously reviewed by ETV, and it goes to show that Avery LR goes above and beyond the status quo of what is expected from rappers and tells the trials and tribulations he went through without holding anything back. This ability to be open about his experiences is really Avery’s calling card to who he is as a rapper as well as a person. You know that when listening to any one of his tracks you’re going to get the most honest interpretation of narratives that are wrapped up in clever, provocative and in-your-face lyrics.

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Photo via Avery LR

There’s a lot of songs on the “Surviving” mixtape and if you like any iteration of rap, Hip-Hop, or underground gangster rap, then every song will be tailor made just for you. Be sure to check out what Avery LR is up to in the coming months while listening to the sprawling mixtape available now. To stay up to date with all things Avery LR, be sure to check him out on Facebook and Twitter.

Gestures & Sound – Concert Review

The Mint showcased a variety of talent on its June 21 bill from pop-influenced singer-songwriters to hard rocking folk quartets. There was something for everyone on a busy night. The venue itself is very intimate with an up close and personal stage where patrons could enjoy a variety of food and drinks mere feet away from live performances.

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Emily James. Photo by Isiah Reyes

Singer-songwriter Emily James, originally from New York, opened the night by playing songs from her latest EP as well as some to be featured on an upcoming release. As she started singing her first song, it was apparent early on that her voice is the driving force behind her music. Along with bold lyrics and stellar performances on both guitar and keys, she used all her talents as she shared stories stemming from personal places in her life including the tale of “A Boy in Memphis” (which may or may not be based on a true story). Emily is a well-rounded musician and her voice alone is enough to get hooked on with striking similarities to the likes of Adele. She put on a good set that was well received by a full bar by the time she was finished. We look forward to seeing her again on stage and in the meantime, we have the recently released and tender “Emily James – EP” to listen to, which she collaborated with Grammy award winning producer Jacquire King and producer Ian Fitchuk.

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James Taugher. Photo by Isiah Reyes

Following up was the Bay area-native James Taugher, a Motown, funk extraordinaire who brought a full band to stage to rock out. The five-piece was a solid group that excelled with soaring guitar solos, groovy keys, eclectic drums and sure-fire basslines. James is very comfortable on stage as he was dancing and showing off his Hip-Hop inspired vocals that are tinged with soul. At one point, he split the venue down the middle and got one half of the packed venue to sing the first part of the catchy chorus and the other half to finish it off. His way with crowds could only have been refined through years of performances, and on this last date of his band’s tour, everyone was in for a treat. James’ energy was contagious as it flowed from himself to his bandmates and ultimately to the audience. It was a high-octane set that went far above all lofty expectations.

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Gestures & Sounds. Photo by Isiah Reyes

Folk indie rock band Gestures & Sounds took stage with the anthemic “Coach” that showed everyone what they were capable of. The mostly-Wisconsin band had moments of introspection followed immediately after by moments of rocking out, a combination not often seen by bands not sporting an electric guitar. With an acoustic guitar, melodic keys, and an intense rhythm section (not to mention the occasional harmonica), Gestures & Sounds managed to be louder and larger than the sum of their parts. Especially impressive was the drumming performance, as it took songs that would perhaps be considered tame in nature to the next level. The atmosphere at The Mint was lively and welcomed Gestures & Sounds, who returned the appreciation by putting on a solid set that shows what a group of guys who love for music can do.

Overall, the night was a fun time to be had by all. Attendees who stayed longer had the opportunity to enjoy Cult of Positivity and Nicholas Braun, establishing once again that The Mint is the go-to place for experiencing young, upcoming talent.

Easy Star All-Stars Concert Review

The Echoplex welcomed reggae bands The Elovators, The Late Ones, and Easy Star All-Stars on Memorial Day 2017 as the three bands embark on their West Coast Tour.

Opening the show was The Elovators from Boston, Massachusetts, who brought the beach sounds from the east coast to this side of the country on their first ever performance in California. They performed songs from their recently released album “The Cornerstone,” setting up for what would be a very funky night. Throughout their set, the band was friendly, even asking everyone to step in closer to the stage to create a more intimate setting. From clean vocals to the groovy trombone, The Elovators successfully brought their authentic sound to the Echoplex and showed what their hometown was all about. Overall, they were a great opening band and enjoyed themselves on stage just as much as the crowd enjoyed watching them perform.

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The Elovators. Photo via Isiah Reyes

The Late Ones came out onto the stage next with a different approach. They brought a lot more energy and instantly got everyone hyped. Based out of Laie, Hawaii, brothers Tui Avei (lead vocals), and Tau Avei (vocals), along with cousin Josh Brunson (vocals) brought their rapid-fire rhymes and rap-infused style to give everyone a chance to let loose and truly enjoy the night out. Some of their songs were full of high-octane ferocity, while others were slower jams. Either way, The Late Ones managed to get their new fans swaying to their hypnotic rhythms in no time. The youthful band is taking hold of the reggae torch and infusing its flame with dashes of Jazz and R&B in new and exciting ways. They got everyone pumped up for the final act and the headliners for the night’s show.

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The Late Ones. Photo via Isiah Reyes

Before the Easy Star All-Stars took the stage, there was an undeniable energy in the air. I believe those in attendance had an idea of what to expect, but no one was prepared for just how hard they would rock out. A thunderous applause followed as each member finally stepped out. The opening song started as a long instrumental that allowed for everyone to get accustomed to the band’s versatility. Soon after, the collective force of all eight members on stage playing off each other began to shine and they started playing their reggae cover hits by legendary acts Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson. The highlight of the night was when they performed Pink Floyd’s “Money” leading into “Billie Jean” and just when you thought it was over, they went back into “Money,” with a flourishing end that had everyone head-banging to the dynamic rhythm section and outstanding vocal harmonies from the multitude of vocalists on stage. This performance proved the Easy Star All-Stars are indeed one of the top reggae performing acts in the world right now. As someone who doesn’t listen to reggae regularly, the entire show for me was a gateway into a new sound that I’ll be keeping an ear out for.

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Easy Star All-Stars. Photo via Isiah Reyes

If you’re ready to experience The Elovators, The Late Ones, and Easy Star All-Stars, three reggae bands that know how to put on a good show, be sure to check out their tour dates to know when they’ll be coming into your town so you can enjoy it all for yourself too.

JOMO – EP Review

Hailing from Atlantic City, JOMO is no stranger to the Hip-Hop and rap scene. He released his “What I Want” EP on May 1 and it has already taken off. Check out the lead single here:

The self-titled lead single starts things off with a chill beat and hot rhymes that lets the listener get a feel for what’s about to come as well as providing a solid representation of the EP’s overall sound. The track has an uplifting message told through a Hip-Hop rhythm that would sound dope blasting through the car stereo. Following up is “Jersey Strong,” a track that contains a vocal loop that moves along with the beat. This track is perhaps the most experimental, a product of what can be accomplished in the studio by creative minds. Let JOMO remind you of the G-stack tales while chilling with this one.

“Cocky” is JOMO is at his best, as his mad verses flow into his bass-heavy magic chorus to balance attitude with soulful vocals. He can’t stop tooting his own horn on this song, and he wouldn’t stop if you told him to. The next track “LaLa” is a street-inspired club staple that would get everyone onto the dance floor, continuing with the attitude and swagger that JOMO knows how to deliver. The distinct synth that slides along would make your subwoofer vibrate your car and your pad.

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Photo via JOMO

The slower “Clap” has JOMO telling his listeners to clap along to the beat if they feel his words. He spits truth while keeping the party going. It’s a track that bridges together the EP along. “Wanna Be My Freak” is more subdued compared to previous songs, but it’s still gonna keep you feeling the beats. Featuring WhiteKeys, the rap duo’s lyrics on this one are the wittiest on the EP with some inventive wordplay on a subject matter that has a lot of material to work with. The double threat is strong here and you’d have to step up your game to keep up with this one.

Perhaps the best track on the EP, “I’m SO Ole’ School” is a 90s-inspired street and perhaps the most instrumental track, with a melodic flute during the chorus and even a heavy distorted guitar thrown into the mix for good measure. JOMO’s swag on this track is bananas and he really does take us back to the old school. Check out the music video here:

Closing up the EP is “25 To Life,” a track discussing how many young brothers need to put down the guns and put away dealing to live a more responsible life (while still keeping it real). JOMO promotes his obligation to inspire those to make better choices in life to avoid 25 to life.

Overall, JOMO is the kind of rapper you listen to for a good mix of beats and vocals that are fun, authentic, and accessible to many who like rap and even good for those who don’t. Give it a listen, and let JOMO take over your world for a bit. To stay up to date with everything JOMO, follow him on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube and his official site.