We now postpone our usual electropop indulgences (and tonight’s dinner) to bring you word of some new performers and releases which might be slightly under the radar, but not for long…
Matthew Kurz – The Mixtape
I’m fully aware that the Internet is absolutely clogged with free downloads and mixtapes, but there is one that comes along once in a while that JUST STOPS YOU and compels you to listen (and then, for me, to write about it!). Such is the case with LA pop/R&B singer Matthew Kurz, who has been working with rising producer MdL (Justin Bieber, Keri Hilson, Chris Brown – and he’s only 20!).
The great thing about Matthew’s Mixtape is that it not only floors you with his smooth and slick vocals (no autotune really needed), the crisp and snappy production, but also the lyrical content and how it is delivered. The songs within truly move you. There may not be many dry eyes left after hearing “Fix Me”, “Ghost”, or “Take My Hand”. You can visualize these songs being placed at key moments on some reality TV shows or in movies.
The songs within Matthew’s Mixtape have everything that a pop or R&B fan can ask for, so hopefully this is the first huge step in the right direction for him, and we’ll find out more about him as more people hear his Mixtape.
Be prepared to be overwhelmed. Download his Mixtape for free right here.
Mojo Stone – Hatchet (EP)
Also from the LA area but in a completely different and rocking bent is Mojo Stone, a quintet which recently released its debut EP Hatchet. I was gonna talk about how much the music in the EP sounds like it was made by a bunch of old souls, but the band outdid me by referencing 1853 on their Facebook page ;)
In any case, combine the grit of The White Stripes and Pearl Jam with bluesy and folk influences that might come from the likes of Fairport Convention, Jimi Hendrix, and early Fleetwood Mac, along with incredible vocals by Natalie Meadors that somehow find their way through most open pores in your body, and you know you’re on a worthwhile trip through the six songs on the EP. My favourites thus far are the epic “Gritty Love Blues”, the soaring “The Amazon”, and the punchy “Wait It Out”.
The rest of the band is comprised of the electric/rhythm guitar battery of Henry McGill and Dave Donaldson, bassist Neil Wogensen, and new drummer Pedro. If I was to book a club tour, I would put them on the same bill as April Smith & The Great Picture Show (who I blogged about last Spring). You can listen to Hatchet on the band’s website, and then purchase it on iTunes. Mojo Stone’s music begs live performances, so try to catch them at a show if you’re in L.A.
Resident Scout “Garden”
Resident Scout is a nom-de-disque for Nashville’s Hobey Kuhn, but has recently morphed into quartet for live performances. The free download of “Garden” from the album My Greatest Symphonies came to my attention recently, and I particularly enjoy it for the sharp ska-oriented guitar melody which simply doesn’t leave your head for the song’s 2:12 duration. You can download the full album (and I will too) from Resident Scout’s website.
Young The Giant “My Body (Two Door Cinema Club remix)”
“My Body” by Young The Giant is just one of those songs whose chorus stays in your memory long after you’ve heard it the first few times, and the Two Door Cinema Club endorsement behind this remix is helping to take the L.A. quintet (who are signed to Roadrunner Records) to another level. They’re going to be playing on this year’s MTV Video Awards, which is no mean feat. You can download this remix for free right here.
Austen Leadley “Firework” (Katy Perry cover)
In the wake of so many You Tube phenoms as well as some excellent voices (such as Nick Hagelin) choosing some tasty recent hits and non-hits to cover, is there room for another terrific voice? I don’t know too much about Austen Leadley, other than that he leads a Windsor, Ontario band called The Brilliancy and looks a little like a young Jackson Browne. But this young man’s affecting acoustic cover of Katy Perry’s “Firework” is well worth your attention. Watch the video below.
Ronnie Spector “Back To Black” (Amy Winehouse cover)
Ronnie Spector’s cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black” is an incredibly fitting tribute to the late singer. Who better than to sing it than the former lead singer of classic 60’s girl group The Ronettes, who found her career revived in the mid-80’s after being featured on Eddie Money’s hit “Take Me Home Tonight”. She actually sang “Back To Black” live in December (see video below) but released it as a charity single on iTunes last week in the wake of Winehouse’s sad fate. I was fortunate enough to see Ronnie sing live at a promo gig for her solo release Siren (not meaning to age both her and myself, this was in 1980, and I also got to chat with her briefly). Despite the circumstances “Back To Black” is the perfect song to raise her pop profile yet again.