We last heard music from Joel. (aka MaG) on his 2013 release (via RCRDLBL) Freedom, a soulful slice of American hip-hop. He didn’t go silent between then and now – those who follow him on Twitter know that Joel is a poet and a non-stop thinker, with an eye toward social progress and absolutely no patience for bullshit.
It’s no surprise to find that same spirit in the music he’s been working on. songs for charles is an independent release dropped just last month, and it kicks off with a short audio clip from Jay Z in the studio, taken from the film Fade To Black. This track, titled “what Hov said…(intro),” captures Jay discussing young rappers coming up; artists who believe they have to write about things they don’t feel and don’t know. He tells the cameraman to put the lens on him before saying, “See what y’all did to rappers? They scared to be theyself.”
Being true to himself, then, serves as Joel.’s mission here. “I can’t speak for no one else / but I’m gonna keep on being myself,” goes one of the refrains on the first song, “creston and 188th.” What follows is a personal catharsis. The next eight songs are all at least rooted in the past, even while facing the present. He looks back on his upbringing, his family, lessons learned and carried forward. “We was young / we was reckless,” he says, in the frank and unsentimental “hash browns.” The chilled out, hypnotic loop of the song keeps the mood static and, as much as the lyric, creates a vivid atmosphere, if not an especially warm one. It actually feels like a carefully constructed sound collage, pieced together from ‘70s-‘80s AM radio dials, video games, cassettes rewinding…the sounds of a childhood, running in the background.
“new, new york” brings us into the present, or at least the very recent past. But each track here, just like real life, builds on what came before. That’s why, even though this is an eight-song collection (nine tracks), I take songs for charles as a real album. It’s not a mixtape, nor a collection of singles. It’s a thematic, narrative flow. And, like a lot of Joel.’s work, it’s densely filled with imagery and wordplay, and almost has the feel of a stage play. With only a few listens so far, I have not absorbed every nuance, but I look forward to trying.
“better late than never (intermission)” is a dreamy flight, with a backing that sounds like recent Radiohead; droning chords bracing syncopated, jazz drums. The lyric is equal parts past, present, and future, and how they are helplessly intertwined, with a hook that declares, “I’d rather die than let go of one of my dreams / one foot forward, all I gotta do is proceed…It’s never too late to dream.” Hope continues to be a central theme here – aspirations for a better life, one that’s more fulfilling, one that is free from the troubled past, and one where glory is attained on no one else’s terms but your own.
Certainly Joel. knows there’s no complete escape from what came before. But songs for charles is at least an attempt at exorcism. Facing pain in stark terms, he describes a present in which personal reconciliation is already under way, and this music – in all its expressive, subtle complexity – is the conduit.
Here’s a preview of some of the artists who will be featured on the next installment of “OurStage on Amazing Radio,” an online and terrestrial radio show broadcast out of the UK to hundreds of thousands of listeners. Last month’s show is streaming now and features some really great, undiscovered acts. Below are your January Top 5. Listen to a direct playlist of these songs by clicking here.
“Taking Me Under” by Austin Renfroe
One of the winningest artists on OurStage with this fan favorite song. Meticulously constructed pop with a soulful delivery.
“Drunk and Unemployed” by Wes-tone
The #1 track in the Folk channel also took the top of the Roots finals channel. The novel of this song’s title belies an earnest and sad lyric.
“Fake This” by The Upset Victory
Catchy-as-hell modern rock from a great band.
“Why It Wasn’t Me” by KParker
R&B takes top honors again this month. Mellow, grooving, smooth…everything modern R&B should be.
“Wake Up” by Project KF
Another mellow entry, with ambient and chill elements, but riding over a driving rhythm.
December’s winners (and more) are featured on the OurStage show streaming now on AmazingRadio.com. Listen in to hear music from Adios Mafia, Jesi Jones, Ju’not, Jillian Valentine, Space Walk, The Delta Riot, Sho Skrilla, Summerlyn Powers, Late Cambrian, Annalise Emerick, Yellabird, The Figgs, Kat Robichaud, and Shotty.
We’re closing the books on 2014, with a batch of quality winners, as ranked by our fan community over the month of December. These artists (and more from the top of our charts) will be featured on our next installment of OurStage on Amazing Radio, an online and terrestrial radio show broadcast out of the UK to hundreds of thousands of listeners. If you haven’t heard the previous show, it’s streaming now. Below are your December Top 5. Listen to a direct playlist of these songs by clicking here.
“It’s Your Love” by Jillian Valentine
A soulful, intimate song that’s still universally accessible.
“How To Be Good” by Jesi Jones
With a thoughtful lyric and a voice as clear as a bell, Jesi Jones rises above the folk fray.
“Dirty Bomb” by Adios Mafia
Great to hear some punk take the top spot in rock. Cross Raw Power-era Stooges with Eagles of Death Metal. NSFW, as punk should be.
“A Little You And Me” by Ju’not
Classic R&B, straight out of 1974, but just as vital-sounding as anything on Top 40 today.
“Strings Of Serenity” by Space Walk
A sweeping, genre-melding mini-epic, incorporating ambient, classical, and Latin.
Our November artist spotlight show is now available for streaming on AmazingRadio.com. Listen in to see who hit the top of the charts and made our picks for the month. If you’re an artist yourself, enter your music in a channel to be considered for next month’s show. If you’re a fan, judge now to help us pick the upcoming featured artists.
With our new, leaner channel line-up, competition was tight last month, and we’ve got a new slew of winners to announce. These artists will be featured on an upcoming program on Amazing Radio, our terrestrial and online radio station, broadcast out of the UK to hundreds of thousands of music fans. Let us know your faves.
“The Art of Art” by Daily Noise Club
Recalls Bon Scott era ACϟDC with even more riffage.
“Keeps Me Alive” by Sheila Star
Modern production invigorates this piano-pop song with a great melody.
“Wasting My Time” by Erdal Kemahli
A hypnotic groove with some cool chopped up loops.
“Lonely” by Terri-J (feat. Sylver)
Low-key R&B focused on the voice and lyric.
“48 Times Around The Sun” by Tom Riccardi
A simple and touching acoustic-based tribute.