Monarch Music Minute: AFI, Nicky Jam, Nathan East
AFI – ‘AFI (The Blood Album)’ 💿💿💿💿💿
Goth punk veterans AFI (A Fire Inside) have returned with their self-titled release also subtitled, “The Blood Album.” A solid offering by the Ukiah, California quartet, the compilation incorporates their signature punk, alternative sound with darkwave and straight-ahead rock elements, while adhering to the “all killer, no filler” approach as described by AFI guitarist, Jade Puget.
“AFI” represents the “back to basics” sound that helped propel them onto the music scene since their inception in 1991. Ten studio albums, 10 EPs, one live album and a DVD have chronicled a band that appears to be entering a new era under their old musical premise taking control of their sound. The album launches listeners on a journey throughout the 14-track offering.
Within the roaring heights of “White Offerings” to the melodramatic “Snow Cats,” released Oct. 27 via Spotify, both tracks attest to the anthemic aesthetic the rest of the album possesses. Frontman Davey Havok continues to moan and belt out trademark vocals in dynamic fashion to the punk, alt-rock, post-punk soundscape employed by multitalented musicians Puget, Adam Carson and Hunter Burgan.
Other tracks, such as the exposition “Dark Snow,” the spatial mind meld “Aurelia” and the guitar-laden bombastic rhythms of “Get Hurt” round out a record that continually cycles on an emotional energy overload.
The new record, released on Jan. 20, is quickly rising on The Billboard 200. Their previous releases, 2013’s “Burials” and 2009’s “Crash Love,” have fans conditioned to expect lengthy periods between the band’s volatile music explorations.
“The Blood Album,” in conjunction with new record label Concord Records, includes the LP issued on four limited edition vinyl hues correlating with the four blood types: A, O, B and AB.
Nicky Jam – ‘Fénix’ 💿💿💿💿💿
Singer-songwriter Nick Rivera Caminero, better known by his stage name Nicky Jam, brings his reggaeton party back after a 10-year studio hiatus with “Fénix.” A generous 26-song setlist, which dropped on Jan. 20, provides his transnational, multigenre-infused sound to emanate reggaeton’s second global wave embedded in his savvy and resilient musical persona.
Reggaeton, a fusion of hip-hop, Latin American and Caribbean music interlaced with rapping and singing, typically in Spanish, has been a major part of Caminero’s sound since his youth.
Born to a Puerto Rican father and a Dominican mother, he worked illegally in a grocery store to help support his family as a minor while honing his craft by improvising while bagging groceries. A homeless man jokingly gave him his stage name.
“Fénix” is not only an extended set for fans of the Latin music superstar, it is also an A-list of collaborations with some of the biggest names in the industry, to include Enrique Iglesias and Daddy Yankee.
An album predominantly in Spanish, “El perdón (with Enrique Iglesias)” and “Hasta el amanecer” define Caminero’s signature vocals with that addictive, reggaeton vibe. “El amante” digs into the singer’s seductive baritone range while English tracks “I Can’t Forget You” and “Without You” propel the singer further against an infectious, electronic accompaniment.
Opening track “El ganador” was recently complemented by its music video chronicling Caminero’s rise to fame despite a troubled past that saw him jailed for substance abuse. Nicky Jam’s “Fénix” rises to new heights and it also finds him with a stronger sense of purpose today, reconnecting with and generating new fans of reggaeton.
Look for Caminero’s acting debut alongside Vin Diesel in “xXx: Return of Xander Cage.”
Nathan East – ‘Reverence’ 💿💿💿💿💿
Considered one of the most recorded bass players in music with more than 2,000 recordings to his credit, legendary jazz, R&B and rock bassist Nathan East offers “Reverence,” the follow-up to his Grammy-nominated, 2014 self-titled debut solo album.
East has a unique place within the music industry. His decades of gigs with the likes of Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Kenny Loggins and Daft Punk established him as one of music’s most in-demand bassists. His own band, the Grammy-nominated supergroup Fourplay, has been at the forefront of smooth jazz for more than 25 years.
While his 2014 solo effort earned him a Grammy nod for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, the vast amount of charts recorded created leftovers for “Reverence.”
“We had so much material, there was a point where we wondered if we should make a double album. So [“Reverence”] is pretty much a continuation. We just went into this second one with a running start, which was great,” East said in a recent interview with Billboard.
The new album features an all-star lineup of guest appearances such as jazz pianist and fusion keyboardist Chick Corea, jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum and gospel, R&B and soul vocalist, Yolanda Adams. East employed Adams’ vocal prowess on his rendition of Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home.”
Tracks such as “Why Not This Sunday (feat. Ruben Studdard)” and “Love’s Holiday (feat. Philip Bailey)” shine in simplistic, yet elegant presentation and form. “Lifecycle” exemplifies East’s monster bass chops bringing the instrument to the forefront of the mix as a melodic voice.
“Reverence,” released on Jan. 20, is a welcome addition to any jazz collection taking the listener on a ride through fresh arrangements and improvisations.
💿 — Face palm.
💿💿 — Eh…
💿💿💿 — We’re getting there.
💿💿💿💿 — I’ll listen to it twice, even.
💿💿💿💿💿 — Hell yes!