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Album Review

“Milky Way Rising” by Hourstone

When it comes to making pop music that isn’t all about the tired stereotypes that have driven so many of its most ardent supporters away from the genre, few do it better than Hourstone does. The solo artist and frequent indie collaborator has been cutting some magnetic music in the last few years, and in his most recent effort “Milky Way Rising” featuring none other than the talented Amanda Kang, he arguably goes bigger than ever. Conceptually speaking, Hourstone is determined to expand on a fluid style of arranging introduced to us in previous releases by incorporating additional elements of instrumentation into the fabric of his sound, rendering what can only be described as a new strain of techno-inspired pop that is as rooted in balladry as it is an old school club beats. 

With Kang by his side to emotionally colorize the lyrics in the song, this player tears through the rhythm of the track with a swagger that is unlike anything we’ve heard from him before, proving himself to be one of the most confident and charismatic performers of his currently-exploding scene along the way.

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Produced with exquisite attention to detail, Hourstone ensures that every intricate facet within the tonality of the music is given VIP treatment behind the soundboard in the song. Every part of the mix is contributing to the larger narrative in “Milky Way Rising,” starting with the soothing radiance of the synth-born melody chasing the bassline in the background. 

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It helps to keep the intensity in Amanda Kang’s sensuous lyrics firing on all cylinders by breaking down some of the ominousness in the beats, but moreover, it adds a layer of melancholic undertow to the mood in the verses that wouldn’t be there otherwise. When Kang takes over the epicenter of the groove, the bass is toned down a bit, and the space that it leaves behind in the master mix is quickly filled by an exotic serenade which is as much of a reason to pick up “Milky Way Rising” as Hourstone’s definitively clever arranging is.

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If you’ve yet to hear the music of Hourstone, this single is an optimal way to familiarize yourself with his skill set and the enthralling charm that he tends to unleash in every track that he shares with the public. I’ve been keeping a close eye on his career for a minute now, and I must say that, while I was expecting a lot out of this song, I never anticipated being as enamored by the highly stylized cosmetics of either as I was. The concept for “Milky Way Rising” is, much like the single itself, a kaleidoscopic effort from all angles that focuses on the might of its melody more than anything else. Neither Hourstone nor Amada Kang have submitted anything of a subpar quality to the fans to date, and with “Milky Way Rising,” this pair takes an evolving sound to a level of engagement that I cannot wait to hear a lot more of shortly.

Bethany Page

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Album Review

Music Review: HeIsTheArtist’s “Sympathy Sonata (Rock Rhapsody)”

Contemporary Christian R&B artist HeIsTheArtist is making waves yet again with his new jazz-rock single, “Sympathy Sonata (Rock Rhapsody).” Scheduled to be released on May 24th, 2024, the track is a part of his upcoming rock album set for release later this year.

HeIsTheArtist, renowned for his unique melding of Christian R&B with modern melodies and rhythms, continues to delve deeper into his craft with this single. Inspired by the legendary Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Sympathy Sonata (Rock Rhapsody)” explores self-reflection themes and the conflict between self-pity and the need for personal growth and healing.

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From the opening lines, the song is suffused with raw emotion. It resonates with the listener’s profound lyrical depth, drawing from the melancholic line “I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy” from Queen’s masterpiece.

The lyrics reflect a day in the life of someone wrestling with internal struggles – a universal experience made even more relatable through the artist’s venturous exploration of his sound. The song encapsulates the spectrum of human emotion, from sorrow and frustration to fatigue and resilience.

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HeIsTheArtist’s vocal delivery is both powerful and sensitive. The pitch and tone convey the song’s core sentiment, making each word feel personal and affecting.

In an interview, HeIsTheArtist revealed that this song is intended to promote self-reflection in listeners, especially during times when falling into a state of self-pity seems easier than facing the problem and healing from it. This intention is beautifully captured throughout the track.

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His commitment to maintaining his faith’s message is revealed in his music, giving it an additional layer of depth and making it a source of strength and solace for many listeners.

“Sympathy Sonata (Rock Rhapsody)” is a testament to HeIsTheArtist’s continued growth as an artist and his exploration of broader musical themes while remaining grounded in his Christian roots. The upcoming release of his full-length rock EP, as hinted by the artist, will undoubtedly continue this trend.

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In a world where superficiality often dominates, HeIsTheArtist’s earnest exploration of human emotion and spiritual themes serves as a breath of fresh air. His music reaches out, offering understanding and solace in turbulent times. “Sympathy Sonata (Rock Rhapsody)” is a splendid addition to his discography and an exciting hint at what’s to come in his forthcoming rock album.

For more on HeIsTheArtist and his music, visit his website at [www.artistecard.com/heistheartist](http://www.artistecard.com/heistheartist)

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Album Review

Stephanie Bettman’s Latest Single “Beautiful Day”

You don’t have to be the biggest folk-rock fan around to appreciate the depth of emotionality in Stephanie Bettman’s new solo single “Beautiful Day,” as its plethora of melodies give us everything that listeners need to know in its running time. Like the other songs found in her growing discography, “Beautiful Day” sees Bettman experimenting with palatable pop sounds, blending influences from the folk spectrum whilst providing us with a familiar rhythm that doesn’t get flimsy by the second stanza. It’s among the more straightforward singles that I’ve heard in the last month, but if you’ve got an ear for toned songcraft, you’d be seriously pressed to find another track like this one.

The instrumentation is telling us a story all its own in “Beautiful Day,” and I think that, were it not presented in such high-definition clarity, this single probably wouldn’t be as engaging as it is in this form. Bettman is a very talented singer, but the soundscape that she uses as a sonic canvas to apply her acrylic vocal textures is quintessential to getting her point across here. There’s something to be said about the players that she’s gathered together for her backing band, and I hope that they continue to work together as she creates a full-length album with this song’s emotive template at the foundation of every composition. There’s a wholesomeness here you don’t find very often anymore, and I want to hear what it can produce with more creative breathing room.

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I am more than curious about what Stephanie Bettman would sound like in a live setting after hearing “Beautiful Day.” She’s got a fetching and rather approachable charisma in this song, and in many ways employs her microphone as a gateway into the storied past of 70s singer/songwriters. Bettman channels a lot of Joni and Melanie here, but even though she’s wearing her influences on her sleeve, her stylish musical persona isn’t rooted in the throwback/retro culture that has gotten a little tiresome in the last few years. It’s one thing to be inspired, but unlike some of the artists making big mainstream gains this spring, this is one singer who isn’t looking to live her life in a time machine.

I haven’t been able to put this song down since I first picked it up, and once you give “Beautiful Day” the chance to sink its hooks into your chest, I think that you’ll share my sentiments. It’s an intoxicating meld of old and new, both retro and surprisingly modern where it matters the most, and even taking into consideration its nonconformist design, it’s still more accessible than the more commercial folk/pop that you might have come across this season. Stephanie Bettman’s career is picking up a healthy amount of steam at the moment, and if this song gets into steady rotation on the college radio airwaves this summer, it’s going to be a lot harder for her competitors in the American underground to keep up with her momentum heading into the latter half of 2024.

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Gwen Waggoner 

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