Posts by jeffwbaird
Posted by jeffwbaird on June 9, 2015
A little more than three years ago, Dylan Owen grabbed the ear of just about every blogger within reach. His EP, Keep Your Friends Close, was—in almost every way imaginable—the antithesis of the content we typically receive from relatively unknown artists. He had really taken his time on the writing, it was clear, and put a lot of thought into making sure each song was intricately connected to the next.
But what was maybe most impressive about Dylan was his ability to impressively coexist in two worlds that often didn’t often have a link between them—he was a skilled enough lyricist to make freestyle videos that drew considerable attention, but then also could step back and write a potent, beautifully described song about his most private fears; a sound much more in the vain of an accomplished, alternative songwriter.
It’s been three years because Dylan has made another atypical move: to choose quality over punctuality. Because he chose to stay off the grid and figure out what he wanted his next effort to be, rather than put something out half-baked that he was half-committed to. There’s More To Life is a product of patience, and it’s the first project that truly sounds like his voice through and through. It also benefits greatly from some of the richest and most precise production we’ve heard from longtime collaborator Skinny Atlas. This may not be the project record execs would’ve encouraged for his next step, and it may not contain the songs that punchline-rap fans were waiting for—but that’s precisely why we love it. There’s More To Life is available now. Stream it below, or support his run into the top thirty on the iTunes Hip Hop Charts here.
Posted by jeffwbaird on May 20, 2015
If nothing else, Dylan Owen is a storyteller.
Rap may be the genre stamped to all of his artistic pursuits (for lack of better terms to distinguish between the varying complexity of our artists), but he is a poet at heart. It’s why his music resonates so deeply with his listeners. Why even when more than three years come and go between releases, his core audience is still waiting. It’s why he’s never too far out of mind.
In his new promo video, leading up to the June 8th release of There’s More To Life, director Brian Petchers beautifully constructs a collage of shots evoking the stories and scenes that make up the new EP. It ends with Dylan walking across an open grassy field, journal in hand, with a camera gradually creating distance until it’s fully overhead, giving a sense of Dylan’s diminutiveness amongst the world around him.
For a writer who we’ve watched spend so much time grappling with the internal, it’s a powerful image. In his only single release distinct from his last EP and his new one, “The Window Seat,” Dylan wrote: “Maybe all I need, is the view from the window seat staring back at me.” That desire to look down upon his life from ten-thousand feet isn’t one he’s abandoned, but rather, its the fabric of this song—which he created solely for this promo video—and the EP on its way.
As always, though, Dylan’s work is rewarding even for the more surface-level fan. Those without all of the context will still marvel at the seemingly effortless poetics of his writing, and his innate and singular ability to leak in dabs of his unmistakable talent as a rap lyricist. There’s also maybe the best play on 50 Cent’s oft-referenced line from “Wanksta,” which he turns into “what the fuck happened to youth.” But there’s much more to this work than that. And there’s much more of the story to come on June 8th.
Posted by jeffwbaird on May 11, 2015
I could write for days about my routine admiration for Dylan Owen and his art. Every project cycle his work reflects a deep sense of self that is constantly under revision; each release serving as a time-stamp in his ongoing development as a thinker, vocalist, and young adult. With this latest song, “The Best Fears of Our Lives,” off his upcoming EP There’s More To Life, Dylan has again proven that he has a very singular ability to write about some of the most trying parts of life, always doing so with eloquence and a keen sense of how to make his personal stories speak for others in a way that is genuine. Listen to the new single, beautifully produced by Skinny Atlas, and stay tuned as he prepares to release his EP on June 8th.
Posted by jeffwbaird on April 24, 2015
I’ve been really impressed by the way CJ Holland has kept this cover series fresh and compelling. This week he covers another song on the rise, Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance”—a record truly emblematic of pop radio today with its dense, up-tempo, formulaic production and heavily-processed sound. CJ, joined by frequent collaborator One Love, has given it new life before listeners even knew it was necessary. CJ’s vocal here is as smooth as it has been anywhere, and paired alongside the vocals of Nick Petricca it’s even more clear that CJ has a great texture to his voice and overall style.
One Love again provides the perfect supplement, never commanding the attention, but always helping the vocalist thrive. He’s a master of different styles, and has been able to create interpolations of big beats that are equally catchy, but have a new flair about them. His riff on the original here has a subtle melodicism to it fueled by synth pads, but it never sounds over-produced or solely slated for club speakers. He’s stripped away just enough layers to find a vibe for the song that is equally fitting, if not even more so.
Posted by jeffwbaird on April 2, 2015
CJ Holland is back with his latest cover, this time adding some soulful flavor to his acoustic cover of Nick Jonas’ hit “Chains.” As he’s continued to amass a steady following and work towards his debut album, we sat down with him to learn more about his work and what we can expect next.
Catch the interview after the jump!
READ ON >>
Posted by jeffwbaird on March 31, 2015
Hip-hop—more so than any other art form—seems to cause tremendous apprehension about aesthetic. It stems from the 90s gangsta rap binge, and the repeatedly glorified imagery displayed by prominent rappers. New York City rapper Maxxx Flair has struggled to find the proper balance over the course of his past four projects, but now on “Kiln Shelves” seems to have finally found his most authentic, genuine sound yet.
While the EP spans just fifteen minutes, it’s a remarkably intimate and revealing listen. The production, too, is decidedly more fluid, with the full project handled by the talented duo The Hittas. Maxxx has ditched the caricatures and employs his storytelling ability solely to tell his own; “70 West” vividly details his Upper Manhattan upbringing, and “Six Degrees” creatively describes the feeling of being just one connection away from someone who could give you your big break.
Check out the EP in full below.
Posted by jeffwbaird on March 19, 2015
CJ Holland is back with his latest cover as part of his new #CJWEEKLY series, and it’s the most fully articulated display of his sound and aesthetic that we’ve gotten thus far, for sure. While the cover game isn’t kind to many, and has lost some of its charm as a whole due to congestion in the form, CJ has found a way to extend his releases beyond karaoke; his influences and style here are clearly in effect, and One Love’s original production, too, adds a new flavor to the track is a definite help to his cause.
Derulo’s “Want To Want Me” was last week’s most added song to radio, so here’s where song choice comes into effect. His last cover was of “Tuesday,” a song that really was on its way out of radio, so while his unique approach to it still made it compelling, it wasn’t able to capitalize on the song’s catchiness since the melody’s interest had all but faded. Here, though, CJ makes his mark on a song that he knew was bound to be successful, and yet hasn’t already been engrained in its listeners in a particular way. Cover artists take notice.