Ben Rector : Neptune Theater sells out

When we were offered the opportunity to cover a Ben Rector
show, we couldn’t pass up the chance. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 29 year-old
musician began playing piano at a young age, picking up guitar additionally
later in high school. After becoming the youngest person to win a pop award
Grand Prize of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest due to a self-titled EP in
2006, Rector knew he had a shot. After playing 200 shows and releasing two
full-length albums during his college career, Rector made the transition to Nashville
to give his career the full effort.

And it’s worked: releasing three more albums after that,
Rector has recently topped Billboard 200 charts and has sold out shows across
the country.


But what makes Ben Rector so likeable and so popular? His
music stylistically is simplistic and predictable with expected catchy tunes
and lyrics we can all relate to. And within the last 10 years Rector has been
in the industry, he hasn’t made waves of unique change among the pop
singer-songwriter genre. With a pretty standard voice that can sometimes reach
heights in his range (in tracks like “Paris” on the most recent Brand New album), Rector is a
boy-next-door sort of artist.

What makes him memorable, however, seems to be just that. His
ability to combine American folk rock, jazzy soul, and piano pop into one
feel-good pie of feelings for the heart is exactly
what makes Rector top the charts. Versatile in terms of range and skills, the
Tennessee-based musician is able to switch easily from catchy pop tunes with
echo-ey vocals, like popular song “Let the Good Times Roll,” to more heart felt
ballads, like new track “The Men Who Drive Me Places.”  

And his versatility and heart shows. When Ben Rector steps onto
the stage at a sold out Neptune Theatre,
the crowd roars. When we looked around the famous Seattle venue, we couldn’t
believe our eyes to see a completely jam packed theatre, with each crowd member
joyously grinning from ear to ear at the sight of the Nashville artist.

Beginning the show on the piano, the indie pop singer-songwriter
plays renown track, ”Brand New,” a piano pump-up song that hypes up the entire audience.
Throughout the entire show, Rector switches back and forth between guitar and
piano, moving around the stage, and engaging the crowd the entire time,
grateful and in awe of so many people in front of him singing his songs.


“It’s awesome that you’re singing my songs,” he says
grinning. “These aren’t on the radio, which means you had to go out yourself and
find my music. Thank you for that.”

And it’s true, track after track, both slow and fast,
everyone joins in on lyrics. He plays a repertoire of songs on his setlist,
including popular songs, “The Beat,” “Make Something Beautiful,” “Fear,” and of
course “Let the Good Times Roll.”

It isn’t just originals however, Rector, with his boyish
preference for jazz sneaks cover songs into his performance, stating, “I get
bored doing my own stuff after a while, sometimes I like to mix it up.” Yet, regardless
of whether he plays own music or not, he is still loved among the crowd of
listeners before him, and he reciprocates that love fully. As he plays, both
guitar and piano, we see the passion and joy he derives, not just from the
music, but from performing. And as he engages his audience members, teasing,
laughing, and exchanging jokes, we see an artist who is driven by the love of
performance. At the end of the show, as Rector discusses how impatient he gets
at encores because he just wants to be back out with the audience, we almost
feel enveloped by his presence, as if in this hour of time with him and in an
theater full of other people, we’ve become close friends with the artist

Rector dances his way out of the crowd, leaving everyone on
a high, joyful in anticipation of his next album to come.

And although this artist isn’t experimental in his
composition or melodies or lyrics, we have come to the conclusion he does
create feeling for the listener, and since that’s good for everyone
else who’s helped him top charts, that’s good enough for us to give him a
thumbs up.

Take a listen to his latest album Brand New and follow his tour now.


Ariana Rivera

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Kacy Hill- Quirky new artist takes Barboza

When 21-year-old soulful artist Kacy Hill was 16, working as a wedding
photographer in Scottsdale, Arizona, she probably never expected she would
become the face of American Apparel, and a common face in Kanye West’s music
videos and stage tours.


 But when Yeezus heard the incredible subtle and versatile voice the
young artist had, he couldn’t resist signing her to G.O.O.D. Music—a label with
renown artists such as Malik Yusef, John Legend, and Pusha T.  

And although young, Hill has a mature voice, and as a new artist, has
definitely hit the jackpot by touring with fellow prominent artist, Jack Garratt.

Coming out onto the stage of small bar venue Barboza Monday night, the tall, slender,
and beautiful redhead dons a red velvet jumpsuit bedazzled at the neck and ankles.
Although Hill looks very mature, she exudes a childlike joy, giggling at the
audience members, still unsure of how to properly control a stage.

 “I feel like I’m performing in my living room,” she exclaims, as the 200
participants of her show cheer her on in the small but cozy basement of the
Barboza stage.

Hill’s band is a three-man band, consisting of only her at the mike, her
keyboardist Max—a tall hipster with purple hair and incredible style—and her
drummer Val, an incredibly talented woman with the same amount of style as the
other two, both donning a white turtleneck sweater and black blazers.

Hill’s bandmates are obviously older than her and smile
affectionately at both Hill  and each
other as the young artist stumbles awkwardly through track introductions and
audience banter, giggling, “Seattle, you are just so pretty, it’s so nice to
see your pretty faces.”

She is cute yes, but there is no denying the incredible power Hill holds on
stage with her voice.

Singing tracks off her EP Bloo,
including her famous single “Foreign Fields,” Hill’s voice is almost the exact
same as on the EP—a quality almost never found in artists that delve into the
electropop genre. It’s excitingly refreshing to see such a young artist , although
lacking of clear and confident stage presence, still maintain so much control
and soul in her dreamy voice. Her modeling past also shows, because even if Hill
can’t sweet talk her audience with suave charm, she does consistently look beautiful,
knowing her angles and light.


And although on a label that has had and still has artists that are big
in the hip-hop world, Hill’s soulful voice, reminiscent of Florence Welch (Florence & the Machine), James Vincent McMorrow, and even FKA Twigs, is a huge stepping stone for
G.O.O.D. Music. And maybe Kanye West signed her with an intent, adding her and
fellow singer songwriter Mr. Hudson, hoping to have artists like John Legend
influence these new artists to create more soul in their sound and diversity of
genre within the label.

Whatever the reason, we’re glad for it, because Kacy Hill is on the
come-up. With the announcement of the progress of a new album in store with the
collaborative assistance of fellow touring artist Jack Garratt (who helped her write the infamous song “Foreign
Fields” on Hill’s EP thanks to producer Rick
), the artist still has a lot to show us.

We see a lot of potential for an excellent debut album, especially using
her current EP as a marker for her composition style. Music-wise, Hill knows
what she’s doing, or at least how to use her resources, combining well-executed
electronic production with soft, delicate vocals.

Are we converted to this model turned-singer? We think so, and once you
listen to her EP, we’re sure you will be too.


Ariana Rivera

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Jack Garratt – British artist blows up Barboza

Last year when we talked about Jack Garratt with his newly
released EP, we were in love. There was something about the vibe of music that grabbed us, maybe in the way Garratt labels himself as “neo-modern.” Nonetheless, we liked the hints of R&B in his electropop
indie rhythms and his multi-instrumentalism, linking in electric guitar
with piano to add a sense of funk and blue to the synth he overlays in his

And with songs like “The Love You’ve Given,” we see other influences in Garratt’s
work —Disclosure, Mumford and Sons, and James Blake, especially in
terms of the falsetto Garratt executes under the atmosphere of drawn out piano

With the release of Garratt’s debut album Phase, this artist has been swept up in
a sea of praise, winning awards including the British Awards Critics Choice
prize and the BBC Sound of 2016 (an award prominent artists Ellie Goulding and
Sam Smith both won early in their careers).


And seeing the one-man-band in the flesh work his magic on
stage Monday night at Barboza is a cerebral experience, flitting around between the three instruments
he plays and the microphone into which he croons and sometimes screams into.
His vocals live are a more gritty, throaty, and almost harsher version of the smooth
soft vocals on his record, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing—everything is
merely heightened and made more raw. As he sings fan favorites on the record,
like “Breathe Life,” “Weathered,” and “Chemical,” the crowd is invested. As Garratt
dances around on stage, with a vibe similar to Michael Jackson or Prince, the audience grooves around on the floor, equally as emotional as him.

Garratt takes a moment during his show to chit chat with the
small 200-member audience of Barboza, and point out that he was at the smallest
venue on his tour, highlighting how big he is already. As the British-born
artist swaps between up-beat and slow tempo tracks, the mood of the room
oscillates, as well, between happy-drunk and somber thoughtfulness.

A moment occurs in which the artist sets down everything, to
inform his audience his intent to play a new song never recorded before. The
new track that Garratt continues to unfold for his fans is not memorable in
terms of lyrics or melodies, but is in the emotions Garratt exudes in the song’s
execution. As he closes his eyes and powerfully plays chord after chord on his
keyboard, we see how much this yet unnamed song means to him. The audience
stands silent, no whispers in earshot, swaying in awe to the range of the
artist’s vocals and the way he performs his composition.


Not a fan of encores, Garratt plays his most popular track
as his last, the 2014 “Worry” that he played after winning the Critics Choice
Prize, and happily exits the stage. He’s an upbeat guy, giving into the
audience banter, teasing them about the British jokes they make, and telling
anecdotes about each track he plays.

The new album Phase? It’s well written, well-produced and
exactly what we would expect of Garratt with heavy drops and synthy electronic
in track likes ”Coalesce (Synesthesia Part III)” and “Lonesome Valley,”  and powerful vocal switches in “Fire,” and “Surprise
Yourself.”  A bit generic, the album almost
makes us wish Garratt experimented a little more in terms of composition, but
it makes sense why he wouldn’t want to with a debut.  Yet, there is no doubt Garratt knows how to
perform and with good reason, playing festivals and shows in the UK and acting
as a BBC favorite in the in-studio videos.

We can only wait and hope now with anticipation to see what
Garratt throws at us next in the coming years, because it’s only a matter of
time before he starts following in fellow UK artists Sam Smith and Adele’s
footsteps and accepts a Grammy for his talent as an artist and producer. We
also hope to see a second album soon with a little more to show in terms of
experimentation with his skills.

Check out the album Phase
and be sure to follow his tour, both in the US and UK.

Ariana Rivera

Women and Alternative Genders in Rap

Kari Faux

Kari is super self-aware and it shows in everything she makes. She gained internet traction after working with Childish Gambino; he remixed her song “No Small Talk” on STN MTN and she featured him in her video for “Gahdamn”.  Even so, she mocks internet fame on her track “On the Internet”: “Doing the most for a little fame / But one thing remains the same / When you log out you’re still a lame.” Her videos are stylistic and sarcastic too and definitely worth checking out.


Junglepussy hits on all the subject matter that a strong modern woman cares about – self-love and care, looking good, and keeping lame dudes away from you. Her flow is sexy and smooth yet commanding. Her new album Pregnant with Success is a continuation of her unique style. She also has one of the best Twitter accounts of all time IMO.

Babeo Baggins + Barf Troop

Babeo Baggins is a genderfluid member of the rap group Barf Troop. The group has gained recognition in the press most recently for being seen with Drake and some other members of the OVO crew. Babeo’s latest album Positive highlights their cheeky and playful style. With a flow that reaches lightning speeds, Babeo’s clever lyricism will blow you away.

Mykki Blanco

From the start Mykki’s music has addressed gender, sexuality and queer culture. She’s made a name for herself with her bold, aggressive sound. She’s also made headlines for coming out as HIV positive, being best friends with the OG riot grrl Kathleen Hanna and reportedly pursuing a career in investigative journalism. In any case, she continues to make waves in the rap scene.


Chloe Hagans

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New Twin Peaks Song, “Walk to the One You Love”


If you’ve been following Twin Peaks you know them as the up and coming garage rockers from Chicago. Their previous 2 albums established their sound as laid back, youthful and just the right amount of messy. But now a third album titled Down in Heaven is set to release this spring and it might just break your expectations. At the end of last month they shared the first song off the album, “Walk to the One You Love”. 

It features so many great new things – horns! Harmonies! Rock n roll guitar solos! It seems like the boys might be moving away from the signature lo-fi sound of their earliest days and towards a more crisp classic rock vibe. It’s clear that there are some new musical influences in play like blues (possibly inspired by their Chicago heritage?) and maybe even rockabilly. At the same time, “Walk to the One You Love” definitely sounds like a Twin Peaks song. Uplifting guitar riffs and gritty vocals act like musical fingerprints for the band.

This new song is undeniable proof that there are cool things in store for the Twin Peaks dudes. Down in Heaven will be released on May 13th by Grand Jury Music.


Chloe Hagans

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