From Brooklyn, New York, Hints’ long awaited debut EP is everything you’d expect and want from these talented new-wavers. No Regrets in Old English truly sounds like something lost from the mid-’80s, with rhythmic and hypnotic instrumentals that any fan of The Church or The Smiths could appreciate, and vocals that can rival Morrissey’s. Picking only one song to highlight is tough because No Regrets in Old English sounds like a greatest hits album. All of the tracks are that bit of comforting darkness you’d welcome with open arms. Though, if I had to pick just one song to listen to, it would be “Swans.” It starts with a haunting buildup and bursts into an energetic piece of art with beautiful vocals and memorable guitar riffs. Hints are coming out strong with their first EP—No Regrets in Old English is a modern new wave masterpiece. –Connor Brady
Just For Fun
3P (Properly Puffin’ Productions)
Sequence = Twista + Fabolous
After only entering the music industry two years ago, Sequence has a lot to show for it in growth, both musically and in knowledge of music as a business. As the newest member of Properly Puffin’ Productions, he has shown extremely wise methods in starting out, learning early to rely on himself, Sequence purchased his own music equipment with a humble sum and learned to be a songwriter, rapper, producer, sound engineer and designer, all while cutting out the middle man.
With drive and a self-starting ability, you may think his newest album is all business, but it is anything but. Just For Fun is a rap album that has the fun, party vibe that embodied rap in the mid-2000s. It’s full of songs that are fun to have a few drinks to as they don’t garner any deep meaning in them. Unlike much rap and hip-hop today, Sequence doesn’t seem to want you to dig deep into your soul to relate with his music—he just wants you to hear it and have a good time. The track “Dance Close” is a great embodiment of the feel of this album: It features multiple references to songs and rappers from the ’00s era and has an excellent mix of rap beats with a bump-and-grind kind of feel.
I can’t fully review this album, though, without mentioning my favorite track, “Drunk Checklist.” This track is produced perfectly and doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it also gives a perfect bit of advice, which is checking your drunk checklist: your keys, phone and wallet, items I am sure all of us have lost at one point or another while out drinking.
All in all, Just For Fun is perfectly titled in that is exhibits excellent production and I can feel the drive that Sequence puts in while also having a good time with the music. Sequence himself had an excellent quote for going into this album: “I hope you have as much fun listening to the album as I had making it.” After all … it’s Just For Fun.” You can check out Just For Fun at sequenceactivated.bandcamp.com. –Connor Brady
Reaper The Storyteller
Surprise the EP
Reaper The Storyteller = 2Pac + Big Boi
It’s rare that I come across an album as unique as Surprise The EP, which features Reaper the Storyteller’s raw and thought-provoking lyrics. Also, this album’s beats are all and only beatboxed. Surprise The EP bolsters an appreciation for hip-hop at its rawest form by proving that less can be more—sometimes, all you need is your mouth and something to say.
Reaper offers an interesting concept within a scene that is often instrumentally driven. He strips that away from his own music, entreating the listener to focus on what he has to say and less on how it sounds. And you want to hear what Reaper has to say. Tracks off this album act like PSAs from an activist who tells stories of almost being assassinated and warns the listener to watch what they say so as to not end up six feet under. The opening track, “Deathsend,” stands out and explains the rapper’s Storyteller moniker. He gives a detailed account of a man surviving an assassination attempt, only to witness the police not follow up on the information correctly in the story—a commentary on law enforcement’s relaxed approach when it comes to responding to calls in under-served neighborhoods. The story is accompanied by a bass-heavy beatbox, which generates a true heartbeat to the lyrics.
Reaper possesses a unique, story-driven style of rapping that stands out from the crowd in a genre that is usually full of artists stroking their egos. Innovation and experimentation are vital to keeping variety alive in a scene, and Reaper’s lyrics do just that, illuminating stories that no one else is talking about. I recommend that you check out Surprise The EP via Reaper The Storyteller’s Soundcloud (soundcloud.com/reaperthestoryteller) if you are looking for an organic hip-hop style that is nothing else like what is happening in the local scene. –Connor Brady
[ there are a lot of thunderstorms I have to go through to get to you ]
zonekidd = Flying Lotus + SAINT PEPSI
Mysteriously spacey and energetic, zonekidd provides a unique style of samples and beats that either keep you grooving or put you into a trance. What I love about this release is its range in style and sound from tracks with an atmospheric, spacey yet watery synth, with soothing Japanese lyrics and anime samples (“in the end, it was all 4u.”) to future-funk-inspired tracks like “kawaii :: girlfromhonduras.”
Continuing this album’s beautiful mix is the track “death of flora,” a silky smooth track featuring a beautiful string section sample paired with a beat that gives it the perfect bit of life. The track that surprised me was “[ baby. ] :: girl i want u.” It comes across as two different tracks, starting with some guitar plucking and faint vocals before slowly turning into a more cloud-rap style beat as the track progresses.
This album is a great introduction to zonekidd, and despite only being five tracks long, it packs a ton. The album closes with a 32-minute clip of what sounds like a counseling session. I’m not going to go and dissect this track, but I do think it was an interesting way to close the album, giving one a look into the thoughts of zonekidd. This album is very different from what I’ve seen come out of the local scene. zonekidd’s use of trippy beats and anime vocal tracks, dating his albums as being released in the year 2000, and glitch-art-heavy visuals bring many Internet-based genres to life here in our salty city. I highly recommend checking all of zonekidd’s music out via zonekidd.bandcamp.com. –Connor Brady
finale = Netsky + Tycho + Flite
Producing a unique brand of ambien electronic/liquid drum and bass, finale’s newest EP, Proverbs, shows that he is not messing around. Five songs long and with a runtime just under 20 minutes, this effort will leave you wanting more, while still providing quality in where the album lacks in quantity. Finale creates pulsing atmospheres throughout this EP, allowing hushed riffs and samples to slowly build and linger on their own or to be accompanied with a classic drum and bass breakbeat.
Proverbs opens with “Copy/Paste,” a track that builds with drowning violin and sub bass that is later accompanied by echoed guitar, which carries a soothing pace through the rest of the track. As “Copy/Paste” fades out, the bass and piano riff of “Autophagy” is catapulted by a glitch-effect heavy breakbeat. The echoed effect of the piano as the track progresses adds so much space in the track and counters the beats beautifully. The following track, “Loves Notes,” comes across very similarly to the opening track, but builds more aggressively with lightly distorted bass that leaves the final half of the song with an added texture. As “Love Notes” fades, the liquid-sounding ambience grows as the lead piano riff in “Swans” starts. The riff is accompanied by a countering backbeat that creates a beautiful symmetry. The echoed piano keys throughout this track really pull it all together.
The final track, “Wax Poetic Youth,” opens with a slowly building bass and echoing piano you have become familiar with throughout the album. As the track progresses, it slowly gets more and more distorted with static as a vocal sample about worship tries to fight through the noise. I will say, at a point the static can start to make the track a little obnoxious compared to the rest of Proverbs. That said, this latest effort by finale is fantastic with its ability to create an atmosphere and use distortion to an advantage. I recommend checking out Proverbs and the rest of finale’s catalog on Soundcloud. –Connor Brady
Linus Stubbs = Pen Pointz + Ant + Hieroglyphics
Linus Stubbs’ newest release is an album consisting of eight instrumental beats created for the film Degenerate Art: The Art And Culture Of Glass Pipes, and with its mix of calm instrumentals, masterful sampling and ’90s underground hip-hop feel, the album couldn’t fit the film and its subject matter more if it tried. The album’s true standouts are “Low Light,” with its calming xylophone and mesmerizing beat; “Revenge” and its use of Eastern European–sounding brass horns; and “How I Feel,” which beautifully samples Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” These instrumentals would sound great with any hip-hop artist, but what really makes Degenerate Beats stand out is that each track can stand alone without lyrics. For anyone reminiscing over the ’90s underground hip-hop scene or just looking for something to relax to, head to linusstubbs.bandcamp.com and download Degenerate Beats. –Connor Brady
Just For You
B.C. Einstein = Nujabes + J Dilla + Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician
Every once in a while, I will hear a whole album that I find to be fully complete with a timeless sound, and B.C. Einstein’s Just For You is exactly one of those albums. This seven-track offering boasts a small collection of some of the best instrumentals I’ve heard in a long time. With a mixture of calm samples and hypnotic beats, this album is exactly what the Salt Lake City hip-hop scene needs. Tracks “Sh*t,” “Yo” and “Japan” rival the likes of producers such as Nujabes and Fat Jon. It is refreshing to hear such quality production coming from Salt Lake City and to know that albums like Just For You will continue to push the quality of hip-hop emerging from our salty city. –Connor Brady
Le Voir = CHVRCHES + Grimes + M83
It felt like a dream: I stood as the clouds danced in and out of the hilltops of Heber and the spacey, hypnotic sounds of Le Voir echoed throughout the valley as rain subtly fell from the sky above the crowd. I was fortunate enough not only to review Dualities but also to see the album performed live twice by the Salt Lake locals. The mastermind behind Le Voir is singer, songwriter and producer Gillian Chase, who, after finishing Dualities, is now accompanied by Rob Lyons on guitar and Clifford Moon on drums to complete Le Voir’s live lineup. Chase’s attention to detail and infectiously dance-driven synth and production, paired with the added organic elements of rock-style guitar and live drums, gives a uniqueness often lacking in current synth pop music. Dualities carries a tranquilizing tone with trance-inducing vocals and instrumentals that are bound to get you moving. Standout tracks “The Park” and “Gravity” well summarize the overall sound of Le Voir and open up Dualities perfectly. “The Park” truly starts this album off with a bang with a synth beat that could rival those from acts like CHVRCHES and vocals comparable to Lauren Mayberry’s. “Gravity” on the other hand, starts off with a soothing, The xx–esque guitar riff accompanied by a simple synth line that eventually explodes with energy with the chorus. Le Voir are not only one of the electronic bands I’m most excited for, but also arguably the band I am most excited to hear more from in Salt Lake City. Do yourself a favor and check out Dualities at levoirmusic.com, and if listening to the album isn’t enough, check the website for upcoming live shows, where you can dance the night away with Le Voir. –Connor Brady
Cosmic Arena = Purity Ring + Lauren Mayberry
With an otherworldly atmosphere and an overwhelming backing on Kickstarter, Cosmic Arena creates a feeling not of this earth with her music. Their heavy interest in space comes out with her synth-heavy tracks, accompanied by a hauntingly soothing voice. Her music provides a feeling of relaxation and drifting through time. Cosmic Arena was given life by almost 50 backers on Kickstarter, giving Amber (Cosmic Arena) what she needed to make her music a reality. After realizing her self-titled EP, I can definitely see what those backers saw in the potential of this project, as Cosmic Arena is one of the more unique and experimental pop albums I’ve heard in a while. With this album, you get a mix of futuristic melodies and a nostalgia for the ‘80s, like on the track “Surface of the Sun,” with its drifting and creeping synths and slow-tempo drum machine, giving the track a neo-‘80s feeling. This feeling is carried over immediately into the next track, “Enter the Void,” making this an excellent album to throw on when you’re driving through the night pretending you are the mysterious Ryan Gosling in Drive. For me, Cosmic Arena is an exciting album in that it could not only mean the growth of Salt Lake City’s pop scene but also the possibility of artists and fans coming together to create. Cosmic Arena has a tremendous space pop vibe that fits in perfectly with the vast nothingness just beyond our city’s limits, and I am excited to hopefully hear more from Amber in the future. This EP makes a technical huge statement, and her experimental galactic sound is truly unique. To check out the EP in its entirety, go to Spotify or cosmicamber.com. –Connor Brady
Man vs Music
Grits Green = Hoose + Beastie Boys + Rhyme Time
Grits Green are back with their usual brand of funk-inspired jam hip-hop in their new release, Water. The album kicks off with “Criticize My SD Card,” which boasts a fantastic buildup with its tapping percussion, funky guitar, powerful keys and vocals. I immediately get the sense of an organic performance among the jam band and the chemistry between the emcees. Next, “What’s in Your Pocket” is a track with a mellow looping guitar riff and easy-going percussion, in which the energy comes from the vocal delivery with the lyrics being pushed out at what feels like double speed compared to the accompanying beat. There’s syncopation between the emcees’ vocal progression against the percussion of each track. “Same” exemplifies this dynamic, with each emcee going word-for-tap against the drums, but the lyrics don’t get lost in the rapid delivery.
The standout is the title track, which starts with a creeping bass and subtle keyboard work. Its overall flow aligns with the album’s title, as it seems to come organically and fluidly. Grits Green are the kind of group whose tracks make me wish I could hear and see them live. With such energy behind the lyrics and funky live-band beats, I can only imagine the atmosphere of one of their shows. If funky bass lines and dueling emcees sound like your cup of tea, then you should check out Water on either iTunes or Spotify. –Connor Brady