After rising to critical acclaim for their high-energy live performances all over the Hudson Valley and their high-praised fourth full-length record, Silly Girl, New York based sextet The Big Takeover are, in fact, taking over. In late July, the pop-reggae fusion band are embarking on their “Silly Girl” summer tour, putting on over 14 shows and stopping in over 9 states, from New York on the East Coast all the way to West Coast Cali locations.
The Big Takeover are fronted by Jamaican-born singer-songwriter NeeNee Rushie, soulful velvet vocals floating above complex arrangements of ska and reggae rhythms, courtesy of deep bass and trombone efforts, sizzling saxophone solos, steady guitar lines, and explosive percussion, all of which maintain the unity of the instrumentation. On their single “Come Before Five,” The Big Takeover team up for a beautifully vibrant five minutes of pure sonic magic. Sparkles of pop beats, low rumbles of blues, fast-paced ska tones, and tropical shimmers of reggae combine for a rich experience, your next earworm you won’t want to get rid of.
See The Big Takeover’s full tour schedule here and scroll down to watch their performance of “Come Before Five”:
Before Kenneth Whalum came into his own as a solo R&B artist, the NYC-based musical genius spent years touring the world as an accompanying saxophonist to fellow rap legends Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, and more. On his newest album, Broken Land, Whalum ventures deep into the sonic landscape, wrangling his emotions on a carefully crafted, genre-defying record.
Broken Land opens with “Last Words,” a dreamy, otherworldly tune led by insistent military-esque percussion, upon which soul singer India Shawn’s breathy vocals croon. Next is a new cut of “Ghost Town,” initially released as one of Whalum’s first solo singles a few years ago. “Ghost Town” echoes with wistful pulses and smooth falsetto overlapping for eerie harmony. Wisps of woozy saxophone float through “Empty,” and classic piano sneaks in over Whalum’s resigned vocals. The middle of Broken Land finds “Motive,” a standout track. Blending soft rock melodies with haunting harmony, “Motive” melts into sonic slush. “Try” comes next, a warbling, fantastical instrumental. Creeping strings and dizzying chimes provide a theatrical introduction for over a minute before Whalum devastates with his gorgeous falsetto, words tumbling out of his mouth with accidental urgency.
On “Might Not Be OK,” Whalum enlists iconic rapper Big K.R.I.T. to give an impassioned, aching vocal performance, laying down quick wordplay referencing the tragic, unfair frequency of police brutality. Laden with layers of varying vocals — switching between Whalum’s soft R&B and K.R.I.T’s in-your-face delivery — the song’s heartbeat is its light, unending piano rhythm. Next, “Lay It Down” combines wildly different elements (tropically-influenced guitar with hints of prog-rock rhythms) for a schizophrenic sonic experience culminating in soulful vocals and synth beats. Finally (and sadly), Broken Land comes to an end with “Don’t Look Back.” The shortest song on the album, it’s just over two minutes long, a dreamy, buttery ballad. Here, Whalum sings with conviction, a beautiful delivery atop sparkling Spanish-style guitar, ending the album with such a blushing, spinning conclusion that it feels like we are waking up from a dream in which we concocted Broken Land in our sweetest reverie.
On Broken Land, Kenneth Whalum confronts his emotions head-on. He does this with a masterful vision, artistically crafting melodic arrangements that toe the line between the soulful R&B we all know and love and the music of a celestial plane we did not know existed. This is art, in its purest, most bewildering form. Kenneth Whalum is a magician, curating mystical music that does a number on the heart, soul, and the mind: an accomplishment unmatched by most other artists today.
Listen to Broken Land here:
Long Island based songstress SydneyRay knows what she’s doing and she’s doing it with passion, grace, and talent. After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 11, she turned to music, seeking empowerment from chart-topping female artists like Pink and Sara Bareilles. Now, just a few years later, she is more similar to them than she could ever imagine. SydneyRay began writing and recording her own original music, further giving a voice to adversity through her lyrics. In the last few months, she has released two equally powerful pop singles.
Her debut single “Big,” released just a few months ago, is a soulful anthem confirming that we’ve only got one life to live and we better live it big. Her voice is beautifully developed, smooth with a hint of R&B influence. Explosions of percussion swell in the background, crafting a cohesive tone made up of the exact elements that can make this track a radio hit (which it certainly should be).
Most recently, SydneyRay released “Outcast.” In the same vein as “Big,” this single dwells on overcoming struggle by remaining original. “Outcast” opens with thick rings of colorful rhythm as SydneyRay’s steady, intense voice gives an impressive performance, navigating between a sweet delivery and a soaring roar. Distant clapping and twinkles of percussion pad the song with bubbly rhythms, filling every empty space between the lyrics with buzzing electric beats. “Outcast” ends with SydneyRay’s best vocal work, singing with breathy intensity, “I’m an outcast / Watch me fly / Out of the cage I was trapped inside,” the power-pop single culminating with an empowering don’t-you-forget-it message.
Since his stint on Australia’s singing competition The Voice, singer-songwriter Ben Hazlewood has been hard at work releasing some killer singles, all of which have gotten major traction on social media. Ben has all the makings of your next big popstar crush: a breathy voice at times tender and at times powerful, intense explosions of rhythm, and lyrics with positive messages. Last month, Ben released a music video for “Darkest Hour.” The sweet ballad doubles as a celebration of queer culture, its accompanying video featuring a montage of related clips of love and identity: in all its many different forms. “Darkest Hour” begins with the gentle glimmer of a piano rhythm, Ben’s airy voice smooth against the insistent rhythmic pulse. Later, light sparkling percussion and swells of strings join the arrangement as Ben belts emotional lines confirming that there is, indeed, light at the end of the tunnel and it will find you in your “darkest hours.” On his new track, Ben Hazlewood celebrates an entire community, putting together a powerful pop anthem dripping in replay-worthy melody with a message that will certainly live on.
Read our exclusive Buzz Artist Q&A with Ben Hazlewood right here:
Buzz Artist: First, can you tell Buzz Artist a little about yourself and your music?
Ben Hazlewood: It’s a powerful, vocally-driven sound, and anthemic with angst and emotion.
BA: You were a finalist on The Voice Australia. What was that experience like?
BH: The experience was really good! I had a great time. My mentor Joel Madden helped me to see that it was a stepping stone in my career.
BA: Your new song, “Darkest Hour,” is a beautiful celebration of queer culture. Can you talk a little about the track and its accompanying music video?
BH: I wanted to create an empowering video to celebrate how much the LGBT community have achieved throughout the years. Also to pay homage to those who paved the way for a more accepting life for the next generation. The song is a message of hope that I wrote for a close friend; seemed fitting in its lyrical content and the song inspired my idea for the video.
BA: You’ve got another music video coming out soon for “Sail Away.” What was the production process like for that track?
BH: “Sail Away” was one of those tracks that took a while to get right. I worked with a couple of different producers — it was hard to find the right sound for the vibe and emotion, but we got there in the end and I am super happy with it.
BA: Many of your songs are deeply poetic and emotional. What is your songwriting process like?
BH: I write music from my personal experiences. It’s a cathartic moment for me to go through things that have been happening and turn them into music.
BA: If you could collaborate with 5 musicians, living or dead, who would they be?
BH: Freddie Mercury, Stevie Nicks, Ryan Tedder, Diane Warren, and Bishopp Briggs
BA: What has been your most memorable musical moment so far?
BH: Last year going on a 32 show tour through the US was a great time — it’s amazing to play so many live shows.
BA: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a young musician in the industry today?
BH: It’s such a tough industry with so many talented people [who are] now able to release music — it can get a little overwhelming. I do this because I love telling my stories, writing and performing, so I try to just focus on the music and not let the “industry” become overwhelming.
BA: Social media is an amazing tool for musicians today. How has the digital age contributed to your career?
BH: As an independent artist, the platforms I have to release and showcase my music are amazing. The fact I can reach fans and interact with them around the world is the only reason why I can do what I am doing.
Buzz Artist: Finally, what’s next for Ben Hazlewood?
Ben Hazlewood: I am still writing and recording and planning on touring and releasing new music soon!
You’ve probably already danced around your room to Young The Giant, spent a few hours swooning over Kings Of Leon’s discography, and maybe you’ve even got a couple Moon Taxi songs dotting your summer playlists. But there’s a different band ready to nestle its way into your fond musical heart: The Essentialists, who we imagine to be the product of those three bands, the group we’ve been dreaming about forever. It seems almost too good to be true, but we found them. The Essentialists are a 4-piece alt-rock group hailing from Birmingham, AL and they are propelling themselves forward into the world of slick indie with their last few singles. The Essentialists, formed just last year, are made up of lead vocalist Anderson Gore who’s got a signature swoon-worthy voice, August Baumann’s mature rhythms on lead guitar, Phillip Snyder on complex bass guitar, and drummer Alex Hoogland’s flurry of percussion. Together, the guys deliver rich alt-rock anthems with major earworm tendencies.
Their very first single, “Shake,” secured a well-deserved spot on a Spotify featured playlist, garnering thousands upon thousands of plays. “Shake” is thick with layers of instrumentation, each member of the band sneaking in to add their solo talent until the whole track sizzles with intricate arrangement. Anderson’s voice is smooth and steady, a gentle croon atop electric strums and involved percussion.
On The Essentialists’ second single, “Magnolia,” a slapping drum beat pulses before a full-band beachy surf-rock arrangement completes the introductory instrumental. Once again, Anderson’s soft drawl acts like a near lullaby, singing abstract lines like “Good morning, sunlight, let me down slow” before belting a passionate chorus. Throughout “Magnolia,” strings slide and drum efforts gain vibrancy, constantly pulsing with instrumental fervor.
The most recent track to be released from the band is “Employees,” available only on Soundcloud and still not in its final form (the guys are re-recording it in the studio). Despite its demo status, “Employees” feels rounded and cohesive, an insistent indie-rock jam. Percussion here rumbles with low tones, bass and rhythm guitar vibe off each other, and vocals are at their most matured and versatile. The track ambles with a quiet urgency, navigating unpredictable (and therefore delicious) rhythmic licks and woozy, otherworldly beats by the end.
The Essentialists have talent far beyond their years. The guys have an unrivaled ability to combine sonic intricacies with melodic details, designing the perfect alt-rock sound. Now that you’ve discovered for yourself just how talented these guys are, we’re going to let you in on a little secret that will blow your mind: Minus Anderson who just recently graduated (big congrats!), The Essentialists are still in high school but they perform with the camaraderie, charisma, wisdom, and talent of seasoned professionals.
Read on for an exclusive Buzz Artist Q&A with the guys right here:
Buzz Artist: First, can you tell Buzz Artist a little about yourselves and your music?
The Essentialists: We’re just four guys who like to make music that involves each of our creativity.
BA: Describe each band member in 5 words each.
The Essentialists: Anderson – He is a cool guy. Phil – He is a quirky lad. August – He is a funny man. Hogey – He is a wee boy.
BA: What is the music scene like in Birmingham and how has it influenced your work?
The Essentialists: You don’t have to search very far to find good music in Birmingham. There are lots of great artists that deserve to be heard — collaborations with other local musicians have influenced all of our playing throughout our time as a band.
BA: Can you talk a little about the production process for your last few singles?
The Essentialists: It was our first project as a band. We recorded four songs with a good friend of ours but decided to only release two of them. The four tracks were a great starting point for the making of our first EP.
BA: What can fans expect from your upcoming EP?
The Essentialists: They won’t be disappointed.
BA: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a young band working the music scene today?
The Essentialists: Anderson just graduated and the rest of us are still in school, so sometimes things get in the way of the band. Being young musicians in any city, you’re going to have people who don’t take you as seriously as you would like, but we get the high school crowds and college students at our shows and it fills up pretty quick.
BA: Your work has gotten major success on Spotify, rightfully so. What has the experience of that recognition been like?
The Essentialists: It was weird at first because we had only been a band for 6 months when we released the singles. They gained success fairly quickly and people started to notice.
BA: If you could collaborate with 5 musicians/bands, living or dead, who would they be and why?
The Essentialists: Rush, Foo Fighters, Hippo Campus, Catfish and the Bottlemen, and Vista Kicks
BA: Finally, what’s next for The Essentialists?
The Essentialists: Big things soon to come!