Though this is admittedly a gross oversimplification of one of the most complex genres of music ever, jazz can generally be separated into two camps. In one is the sedate, steady groove of early Davis and Coltrane, poised and collected over technically masterful solos and iconic melodies. In the other is the wild, kinetic funk of Mingus and Hancock, the kind that continues to exert massive influence on artists like Flying Lotus and his Brainfeeder cohort. Lucky Chops fits pretty solidly into the second camp. Their pelvis-swinging style of funky horn music is a genuine joy, present and hungry. “Buyo” waltzes forward with a rump-shaker of a sousaphone line, the upper-register instruments chorusing brilliantly on top. Topped off with a ripping baritone sax solo, it’s the kind of fiercely alive jazz which appeals to almost all music fans, regardless of jazz taste.
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For the better part of these past two years, Rochester native Adam Clark has crafted a cracking relationship with renowned producer David Schuler (P!nk, John Legend, Ricki Lee) and has been continuously growing as a varied artist in the lane of overarching pop/rock ever since. Whether one considers the sweeping chorus of “King of the Sky”, with tinges of an exotic epic pervading its backing harmonies and portions of its instrumental, or the tinges of electronic R&B influence in “With You”, one would be hard-pressed to describe Clark’s ongoing collaboration with Schuler as anything less than a continued success. The two offer themselves well to each other’s strengths in producing a catchy song time and time again, and the passion in Clark’s vocal delivery keeps it from sounding karaoke each go that he has at the mic.
“Can’t Help It” is exactly what you’d expect from a scuzzy stoner rock song. Detuned guitars riff low and riff hard (with the exception of a crystalline treble solo midway through), cymbals crash like there’s no tomorrow, and vocalist Wes McDonald doesn’t so much sing into the mic as mumble noncommittally. In other words, it’s everything you could want from the style. Nicely, the video picks up where the audio leaves off, showcasing heavy beards and nonchalant performing over a backdrop and editing job straight out of David Hasselhoff’s playbook. When all is said and done, it’s alternative rock done traditional, which—for many—is alternative rock done right.
FEVER HIGH is exactly what it says on the tin: they advertise breezy synthpop, and breezy synthpop is what you get. “Spit It Out” is a rigid, bouncy piece of robotic pop music, tight square waves and vocoder-sounding edits coexisting among a stadium cheer of lead vocals. It’s very Charli XCX, if you were to swap out her quasi-punk for a geeky alternative sheen. The catchiness is very metered, the careful house beat with just the right amount of snare splash, but you can feel the track bursting at the seams, ready to coast into glory on the chorus’ bloom. With characteristic synthpop cheeriness, singer and multi-instrumentalist Anna Nordeen describes “Spit It Out” as “a new song about just saying what you want!” (Exclamation point hers, not mine.)
Durand Jones and the Indications hearken back to a time when soul was recorded, performed, and (if possible) heard live. Their music is markedly different from most stuff of its ilk coming out today in that, if there is some electronic wizardry going on under the hood, it’s kept very far away from the musical performance—it’s the kind of thing which should be completely reproducible live, all performed and no sampling or remixing. Durand Jones and the Indications, in that sense, is a bit of a temporal aberration—soul’s remarkable in how stylistically malleable it has been over the years—but there’s always space for some smoothly pained crooning and trumpets in our musical lexicon.