Music Review: Dhana – Confessions of Lily Rogue EP

Hi all…

More than a year ago, I reviewed Taxi Doll‘s album Here and Now and loved it. I’ve always had a soft spot for electro-synth-pop and Taxi Doll scratched that itch beautifully. Now lead singer Dhana Taprogge has released a new EP of solo material called Confessions of Lily Rogue. Deeper than Here and Now, Confessions offers a slower, more reflective approach to the music and lyrics.

In this slower, solo context, Dhana’s voice provides a textured, emotive counterpoint to the contagious dance beats of her work with Taxi Doll. Don’t let that statement fool you into thinking there’s no bite here. These songs deal with the fact that relationships aren’t always wine and roses…

Love is funny. Sometimes one person loves another and that causes tension. But what happens when someone you think of as just a friend finds another lover and you find there’s a spark of jealousy there? “Not Enough” focuses on this odd kind of love affair that happens every day. “You had a thing for me, but you faltered…” and “Today, you broke a piece of me, you had to leave me for another…” Smoothly orchestrated with strings, keyboards, and a heartbeat drum beat throughout, it’s Dhana’s voice that connects the threads without being trite or overly dramatic.

The video for “Not Enough” has a trippy, kaleidoscope feel:

“Wanted” moves on with more keyboards and strings, again keeping it slow as Dhana sings of love and loss. “What you wanted / is gone…” and the person left behind is struggling. “Little pieces of broken glass / just a memory, time has passed / tiny puzzle of tears and sorrow / what you gonna do tomorrow…” where “breathing is a painful thing…” Most people I know have had those moments where love has faded away and they’re not ready to let it go. But the chorus speaks of hope – “Probably better this way / you’ve had enough / now go and make the change…”

The next song, “Low”, has a bit faster beat as Dhana sings of someone seeking to lose themselves as a friend wonders “how low / can you go / love how low / can you go…” No matter how far you run, you can’t run away from yourself. This one has another beat and melody that reminded me more of Taxi Doll’s infectious beats.

And “Feel Right” deals with that tough spot in a relationship when you want to be with someone, “but it just don’t don’t feel right.” It’s that moment when the conflicted heart pulls and pushes and your head has to step in – “my head is straight when I’m far away” but “when I’m far away I’m still wanting you / and it just don’t feel right…” But when you’re with that person, for a while you can forget things don’t feel right – eventually though, the regrets and doubts pile up.

Also included is an acoustic version of “Not Enough,” which unwinds a bit of the electronic vibe of the track in favor of a stripped down feel. Dhana’s voice comes through loud and clear and the piano and strings don’t overwhelm her at all. That said, I think I like the version with electronics a bit better with its fuller sound.

I love Taxi Doll, but have to say I was impressed with Dhana’s solo work. The EP takes her voice in different directions focused on a darker side of life than the typically upbeat electronica of her band. I think if you like Taxi Doll, you’ll love hearing Dhana’s solo work with Confessions of Lily Rogue. Though I love the EP, I’m hoping Taxi Doll will releasing great music as an ensemble for many years to come and we hear new music from them soon!

For more about Dhana’s music, visit her website at DhanaMusic.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Also check out Taxi Doll’s release here:

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Music Review: ((Un)) – Dan Black

Hey there…

Who is Dan Black? Apparently he is a master of mixing musical elements and styles from multiple sources to create something unique. It’s as though the world of music provides an infinite variety of sounds for him to choose from and he simply arranges them to suit his needs for a particular composition. I’ve heard other electronica acts, but nothing quite like his. ((UN)) is “one” in French to signify his debut album, but the title provides a variety of other meanings according to Black starting with the fact that he wanted the album to be “un-rock, un-hip hop, un-everything…” I think he’s succeeded.

Black managed to write, play, program, and produce every note of every track on the album. Add to that the fact that he handled his own artwork and videos and you have one heck of an artistic and productive individual. These are not your average pop, rock, or hip hop songs. But they certainly hold together nicely. The blend of styles and influences is seamless across the board.

From the opening strains of “Symphonies” to the last notes of “Let Go,” he’s managed to collect, capture, and synthesize his own world in these tracks. It’s taken two years of writing, tinkering, and adjusting but he’s created a heck of a masterpiece for his first release.

Though the whole album is rich with rhythm, harmony, and lyrics, I found myself drawn to three songs in particular.

The maddeningly addictive baseline of “Alone” was immediately stuck in my mind bouncing around. And like the lyrics of the song, it “would not leave me alone.” This isn’t the pop music of today and hearkens back to almost a disco feel while staying current.

Then you’re hit with the insane guitar and percussion of “Yours” which again rattled around my braincase and wouldn’t fall out. In some ways, this one reminded me of classic Duran Duran from the 1980s.

Lastly for me, there’s something about the industrial beats and keyboards of “I Love Life” which continues the hypnotic effect of the album. More hip hop than I usually finding myself like, there’s something about the rhythms that wouldn’t let me go.

Perhaps Dan Black’s name rings a bell for you? It might be because it was shouted from the rooftops by folks such as Zane Lowe and Perez Hilton raving about “HYPNTZ,” the Notorious BIG cover which put Black in the limelight in 2008 before he was signed by A&M. It was the success of the “HYPNTZ” experiment on MySpace that spawned the songs of ((UN)).

Black has done an amazing job pulling together a fantastic array of music I’d expect to hear on any number of different stations. It’s the synthesis of rock, pop, hip hop, with a bit of fusion jazz thrown in for good measure. If you are tired of the humdrum, homogeneous pop/rock album, be sure to give Dan Black’s ((UN)) a listen.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this album at Amazon below!

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Music Review: The Besides EP by J.Viewz

Hey all…

Once again, a fusion of musical styles strikes when I least expect it. Never in my life have I heard a Michael Jackson song done as a jazz tune. And that was just the start of this strange journey into the world of J.Viewz. It’s like stepping into a pool filled with color. Each song lays out just so with elements of electronica, jazz, unique vocals and keyboards, all seamlessly blended together.

Jonathan Dagan established J.Viewz while working with his band Violet Vision on their 2nd album back in 2002. Muse Breaks, Dagan’s first album with the group, was released worldwide in 2005 by Deeplay Music. Since then, it doesn’t seem like he’s taken much of a breath, working to create remixes with artists like Nina Simone while producing soundtracks for the BBC, National Geographic, Fox Kids, and Discovery channels, while touring to support J.Viewz. Though Dagan hails from Israel, there are definitely no language barriers for his music as it travels the world.

The Besides EP was released overseas in 2008 and is just gaining ground in the U.S. with tour dates at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City and the Bohemian Caverns in Washington, D.C. in November.

The EP starts off with a jazz cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” which absolutely snuck up on me. As a child of the ’80s, I certainly had heard the original version but somehow must have blocked the lyrics from my mind. So when I heard the vocals of Noa Lembersky I simply got lost in the song until I heard “You’ve Been Hit By / You’ve Been Hit By / A Smooth Criminal”. After that I was just along for the ride.

Each song grooves right into the next, smoothly transitioning us through a jazz landscape I wouldn’t mind exploring for a while longer.

The band is made up of Dagan, who handles production, the computers, and turntables; Lembersky on vocals; Urijah on vocals and guitar; Eran Asias on drums; and Daniel Koren on keys. As a lifelong fan of jazz, especially where a fusion of rock sensibilities is mixed in, I have to say I love their style. They manage to bridge multiple gaps without missing a beat.

When the last strains of the live version of “Under the Sun” ends and the EP fades away, I immediately started it over again not wanting it to be over. Lembersky’s sultry vocals with the horn, bass, drums, and the ’70s guitar in the background had a groove that didn’t want to let me go. These guys must be a joy to see live.

If you want to hear more from J.Viewz, check out their MySpace page and look for The Besides EP. It’s worth more than one listen if you like jazz.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out other J.Viewz albums:

Besides Ep

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