Ali Awan – “Climb”
-From the first time I clicked play on this song I was surprised by it. The energy is good with a groove that makes me move every time. But the vocal is just perfectly nestled into the instrumentation. You can really lock in and understand the lyrics or just let them vibe in the background. The overall groove pops, especially with an interesting electric guitar riff every here and there. This reminds me of something that might have come out in the mid 90s in the era of Cake and Garbage. It’s a little bit poppier than that age of alt rock, but it’s more about the groove and the understated bluesy rock style of the track. As the kids say, “this slaps.”
JSteph and Ben Lawrence – “the cool kids”
-I’m not always a huge fan of the strummed uke at the beginning of a track, but this one seems to be good. Really, after the rest of the group joins, the overall song really picks up. The lyrics were, honestly, a bit reason this track resonated with me. As a member of the chess club, marching band, and eventual Ph.D., I have had my brushes with being “not popular.” This track really pulled some memories from life that I was not anticipating here. All I can say is that these guys are right; be yourself, whatever that is. Find your people and don’t work too hard to “fit in.” You already have a place in the world; just exist and enjoy.
Thomas Bowles – “Waves”
-The atmospheric energy of this track is really something unique. It’s really easy to compare Bowles’ vocal style to someone like David Ramirez, but Bowles does a great job on his own account. The poetic phrasing here shows careful lyrical writing. The overall energy of the track is mysterious. I appreciate how the vocal soars on the “long way down” section of the track; it’s unconventional in the best way possible. I really appreciate the artistic risks taken here. They pay off with some really fascinating ear candy moments that make the lyrics pop in unexpected ways.