UNKNWN811 – “Confident – Extended Version”: Listening to the production of this release, the first thing that comes to mind is Alt-J’s RELAXER album. My favorite song that record was “Deadcrush,” no doubt. Imagine taking that dark, heady production and layering a deadpan flow on top. “Confident” is the result. Don’t take deadpan to mean laxadaisical. That isn’t true at all. As I listen to this song on headphones, I get the feeling the true way to experience would be live, standing next to a subwoofer, with the bass so loud I feel nauseous. I actually did that at a festival once. I’m confident I could do it again with this song (see what I did there?).
Zoo Trippin’ – “Any Way I Can Get It”: Zoo Trippin’ might be best known as a party band at festivals catering more to the jam band scene, but they know how to write a mean hook. Not that they have ever not been a straightforward rock n’ roll outfit, but with each single release, the band seems to lean further and further into sunny sing-along rock territory. I need for this song to chart on alt rock radio. I have to say, I like how the song doesn’t waste any time ramping up—it just gets right to it. Other ZT songs, classics as they are, have long buildups that sometimes get in the way of instant memorability. But, hey, that’s one dude’s opinion.
Jay Joseph – “Steppin'”: It feels appropriate to follow up Zoo Trippin’ with another song with a big riff and bombastic production. “Steppin'” is the follow up to the Drywall EP, one that has garnered a buzz in Clique circles. This song reminds me of a less cheesy version of Manafest (though let’s be honest—he had some bangers. “No Plan B,” anyone?). At times sarcastic, the song showcases a ‘tude that many will find on point. There’s a break at the end of the track that aims to get you even more amped up, before an abrupt drop off.
Phangs / Phoebe Ryan – “Product of the 90s”: Honestly, I’m a bit lost for words because I’ve written about many Phangs singles on this site, and he’s proven to be one of the most consistent artists on the Tuned Up radar. At the risk of sounding corny, I do need to say that a line in the chorus resonated with me today. While at its core, its a nostalgic love song, “Product of the 90s” is about embracing who you are—baggage and all.
“Maybe we’re a product of the 90s
We’re just tryna get it right so let’s dial it up
You know I’ll be right here beside ya
We don’t need to hit the rewind or rеstart”
Did you know how much I needed to hear that today, Phangs and Phoebe? No, I don’t think you do.
Notelle – “Sufjan Stevens”: You know what artist from Nashville is also really, really consistent? Why, nightmare pop artist Notelle of course! I need more pop artists to incorporate angry, slightly off-kilter bass in their songs, stat! And when I read the pitch for this track, I literally threw up my hands and yelped a bit when I read that MUTEMATH is an influence. Am I surprised? A little bit. You’re probably not surprised at all that I reacted that way, though. Another thing I’ll add is that Notelle has a great sense of humor in some of these lyrics. The song’s namesake is dropped in the opening lines: “I want to write like Sufjan Stevens / Make em’ cry with a mandolin / Sing a song in a tone I don’t speak with / Get it down with a silver tipped pen.” The shade, Notelle. The shade! Or is it a compliment? Maybe both?
Bird & Byron – “In the Clear”: The first product of the band’s time with producer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes) in the studio is out! The band may be young, but they sound like they were born in the wrong era. That comment might sound a bit superfluous, but it’s how I feel. One gripe I have with some soulful rock is its accessibility (or lack thereof) to pop-minded people. “In the Clear” exists to reel in the popsters with shorter attention spans into a classic sound, and I believe Bird & Byron will succeed. Their popularity on TikTok is a good indicator of this hypothesis coming true.
Poetic Descent – “Close Encounter (Reimagined)”: Poetic Descent does a phenomenal job mixing nü-metal and old-school, alt radio–rock here. Listening to this takes me back to being a teenager, sitting on my bedroom floor, large posters with the faces of Disciple and P.O.D. leering down at me. Does anyone reading this remember the band Dizmas? After listening to this, I had “Riots and Violence” stuck in my head.
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