Chicago’s JC Brooks attracted major critical acclaim for his band’s soulful music following two superb releases on Bloodshot Records. Now, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound are working under the title of their frontman and they’ve moved over to Rock Ridge Music for a new album, The Neon Jungle, that ratchets up the rock side of their sound. On “Drive”, we see JC Brooks blending soul and funk with post-punk and rock. It’s a broad sound freely drawing from multiple genres in popular music, you know, kinda like Prince. Heading for Prince territory offers the band a rich terrain to experiment and further develop their unique sound. JC Brooks says, “I feel like we carry that ethos with the genre-mixing blend of soul music we write, and the punk aspect is more about our DIY determination to get out there onstage and engage with our live crowds on a visceral level.”
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For those who prefer the melodic pop side of rock music, Cotton Mather has surely been a source of much fun over the past 27 years. Austin’s Cotton Mather plays irresistible Beatlesque pop crossed with an early Elvis Costello sneer. Frontman Robert Harrison’s voice has always reminded me a bit of John Lennon, who as my original musical hero makes me instantly swoon when I hear a Cotton Mather track. Cotton Mather’s Kontiki is their 1997 pop masterpiece, and if you’ve never heard it, I highly recommend listening to it right after this track. But what impresses most about Cotton Mather is that they continue to make relevant, exciting, brilliant music to this day.
Elisee Akowendo hails from the Ivory Coast and grew up singing gospel music, developing a deep love of music that would come to define his life. Elisee traveled to Israel with his church group to perform, and after that, he was set to begin his master’s degree back home. But he took a chance on music, stayed in Israel and hooked up with local beat-maker Tamir Muskat. Together, they collaborated on Elisee’s new single “I Dey Shina”, an addictive banger of a tune that announces the arrival of a major new musical talent. “I Dey Shina” means “I’m Shining” and indeed it does as it’s warm message of love and peace is uplifting and thrilling at the same time.
Andrew Paschal: In the grand scheme of things, there may yet be a place for sentimental music. Who hasn’t wallowed in songs like this just to indulge in the sheer emotionality of it all? Listening to “Hypnotised”, I often couldn’t decide whether I was genuinely moved, agitated, or distracted by its unabashed commercial sweetness. Commercial in the sense that it sounds like it’s trying to sell you something, like an ad promising a beautiful, fulfilling life if you just book a particular vacation or buy a certain piece of jewelry. Coldplay cast the spell effectively in places, but the song’s greatest error is its six-minute length, more than enough time to catch onto the band’s ruse. The effect wears off before the song is even over. [5/10]
Adriane Pontecorvo: There’s a fairly standard Americana twang to John Moreland’s latest track and a fairly standard catchy chorus, but oh, that voice. Whiskey-tinged and tear-stained, John Moreland’s voice turns a standard into a standout. He has an earthiness beyond his years on “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)”, a reflective song that proves you can be a seasoned pro even at the age of 31. There’s a depth here that belies the happily bouncing melody, a melancholy, a shadow. A good tune with some good, good grit to it. [8/10]