Part of what we do here at SFCritic, for the music submissions at least, is to compare new and/or obscure artists to those you are more likely to have listened to once or twice. This time around, the comparisons were called out so prominently in their submissions that we felt compelled to let you know right off the bat. So, without further adieu, here are this weeks entries.
Ashton Nyte – The Valley
This could also be considered our World Cup-themed A&R submission. Nyte, an indie rocker with enough morose tracks to make an early 80s Morrisey fan draw their curtains and cry, hails from Johannesburg. Something of a sensation, apparently, on his home turf, The Valley formally debuts on our shores on June 15. The title track “Jennifer” has lovely, if not complex, instrumentals, but the vocals sound pretty much exactly like “China Girl” and boy is it distracting! On other tracks, such as the echo-filled “Window” or the slightly undone and sexy “Sick of This”, the album appears a bit more original and less like a carbon copy from post-punk’s golden years. Unfortunately, the overwhelmingly darkness, as well as it’s lack of variety in style and rhythm, makes it hard for any one track to jump out as a particular, and to imagine anyone but the most ardent fan, making it through the whole thing. Does he sound like Bowie? Yes. Does he exhibit any other Bowie-like characteristics? Nope. Not a one.
Listen to: Jennifer, Murder Me
Sounds Like: “An Afro-Funk O.A.R”
Frank Viele and The Manhattan Project – Neon Lights
Now, my personal feelings regarding O.A.R. aside, I was highly skeptical when this came into my inbox. While young white men with a little jazz or soul influence have done exceedingly well in the music industry (John Mayer? Dave Matthews? Jason Mraz, anyone?), one has to wonder if ANYONE backed by an extremely talented, diverse band, could be a hit? Personally, I’m going with no. And Frank Viele seems to support my theory. Afro-Funk this is not. However, his husky voice and both the musical strength of the band and their skilled arrangement makes the album come alive, and makes it worth listening to. The title track “Neon Lights” is a sort of sweeping, Western-influenced epic. It draws you in, stops just short of taking itself too seriously, and doesn’t draw on too long. The sax-heavy “Right in Front of Me” starts out syrupy, but opens up into a pleasant little light jazz love song. The band is currently touring extensively on the East Coast supporting the Wailers, but anyone who is a fan of the artists mentioned above would do themselves a favor to make a point to seek out Viele and crew. It’s a fresh and frankly higher-quality take on the phenomenon.
Listen To: Neon Lights, Bein‘ Lonely Together