Album Review -- Levphonic "The Urban Jungle"



Disclosure:
This is an album from a good friend of mine, I received my signed copy in the mail a couple weeks ago...
Busy with changing items in my life to be discussed in a blog this coming week, I am just now getting to finishing the review.


Different from my usual fare, this is what one might categorize as Electronic music, though I know full well that Mike is just as capable of hip hop, even raps a bit himself. All songs written, produced and arranged by the big name on the front of the disc.

As I live with a seething hatred for iTunes, I had to name and tag all the tracks myself in order to rip them using Windows Media Player, which I have learned to hate less.
[Phlip note - feel free to ask me how it is I am syncing my iPod in private and I will share]

Now with the introductions out of the way, let's get down to business.

1 - Heavenly Bodies
We start things off here with a very interesting string arrangement. This is followed a couple bars later with the introduction of more elements to the production, including drums that you just can't dislike. In fact, the sheer number of items used in this song is pleasing. There is nothing to hate about it. Not necessarily life changing, but I find no place to complain. In fact, the keys are quite damned pleasing in how they grow to drive the song as it progresses.
Sure, I am waiting on someone to sing or rap over this, but that is me. I like how things have begun here.


2 - 77
This one comes across very similar to some of the UK stuff I have heard.
Knowing who Mike knows, and what they are into, I am not in the least bit surprised. Luckily, however, he pulls this one off well. A very busy drum line with the hats and snares, but that is how it works. Bass line is nice, and the kick drums normalize things. Energy on the song is good without being described as "busy," which would clash with my lack of an attention span, or as "frenetic," which means this song is safe for my blood pressure these days in my advancing age.


3 - Devine
This one, I found to be a bit repetitive until late in the song, like to say the song was kind of winding down before I shook the feeling of that. I guess I am the type who needs to see brains and blood early on in a movie to hold my attention fully. No, this is not to say I dislike the song in the least, just that in the grand scheme of things, this one will be my least favorite so far.


4 - Blacklite
Okay, not far into this one, but I like it already... It reminds me, somehow, of a time back when our parents listened to R&B and it didn't suck.
At least at the beginning of the track.
It begins to take on different elements after a few intro bars...
AND THEN!!!
VERY big drums come into the selection and it is absolutely on. So far, this is my favorite song on this album. I will need to play this in the car.
Wow, multiple changes in the beat, I like where this is going. Each change is more like an addition to the last, and then it begins to cycle back through each. That is one way to keep the attention of the short attention-span theater.
Good shit.
If I came across as excited about THIS song, know full well that I ABSOLUTELY was, this is my favorite song so far on this album.


5 - Time for Love
Okay, the middling songs on this are likable, very much so at that. The drums at the start of this, followed by some string synths, then a bit of melody and (again) with the adding of elements is very pleasing to me.
I am the type who needs his senses catered to in order to hold my attention. Entertain me, make me wonder and want for what might be next. This song does this much in the same manner as the last, except without needing to employ high energy.
[Phlip note - I said I had a short attention span, not that I was fucking retarded]
You know, I might even call this song "sexy," so yeah, I guess I do like it.


6 - Time Peace
The clock sound... Hmm, I like that touch, as I do the keys.
Drums are big without being too big for the track.
I like this so far, and the ticking clock serves as a metronome that you might otherwise remove from a production after it has done you it's intended service of keeping time.
Leaving it in, though, was a great touch.
I would have been fine with this song being about twice it's only 91-second run time.


7 - Urban Jungle
Jungle?
Get it?
There are some kettle (sounding) drums on a very busy track. I like this, it moves itself forward well.
Wait, wow, now it changes a bit, but is no less entertaining, as it manages to stay very busy.
In so many words, I really like this song.


8 - Innerciticruze
Hmm...
I don't know what I was expecting in this song. What I am GETTING, though, is a pleasing mix of elements that put me in the mind of a mixture of city/country living. The sounds employed remind me of livestock in the morning at one point, then reversing field to something more urban not much later -- like in the next bar.
Pleasing as it were, giving a sonic comparison of two worlds I have grown up and around, this song was also too short, at only 85 seconds... Only gripe.


9 - Sonic Souljas
No fair! I'd heard this song over a year ago and loved it then.
I guess my history with this one places it back into the lead as my favorite song on the album. It is a new-jazzy feeling keys-driven track with hip-hoppy drums and a cool horn employed.
Weird thing, though, is that I recognized this song from the instant of the intro bars from having received it before and it still plays like it is new to me. I guess the increased attention owed to an album review lends to the discovery of things possibly missed before.
None of that last sentence contains a hint of complaint, I love this song.


10 - Goodlife
4 bars of drums and I like this one.
Okay, strings and a wealth of sounds I will not name right off, and I STILL love this song.
The drums are big, the synths are big, the other instruments are big, but none are so huge that they take from anything else on the track. This is another of those jazz-meets-hip hop-meets-electric moments that makes albums like these accessible to fans of all 3 mediums.
We'll call this my third favorite on the album.


11 - Sunset in Brazil
The flute reminds me more of Asia than Brazil, but I will ride this one out.
Okay, when the drums arrive, I begin to like this song more. I still don't quite "love" it, but that is in no way to be taken as a slight of it.
Good-bye flute, hello piano, and now Phlip REALLY likes this song a lot. I am still not hearing "Brazil" in it, but this is still a great song, even when the flute comes back, largely dealing with the fact that the piano stays when the flute returns and they share the stage.
This really is a song that you like more and more as it goes on... At least I do, but we all know how much I love when instruments and elements of a song are being changed/added/removed drastically without upsetting the flow of the song. This one pulls it off well.
As it began, I was unsure how this song would be worthy of finishing this album, but as I reach the end of the song -- and the album with it, I would say that our gracious host has done an admirable job of it.


*****in summation*****

I notice that somehow it is difficult for me to separate personal from professional when listening to music of someone I know personally. Unless the music just fucking sucks, then I can't allow myself to split hairs.

[Phlip note - my issue here is the former, not the latter... more on that in a second]


Luckily for me, Mike LevPhonic knows what he is doing and has put together quite the piece of work for our consumption. What can I say? I keep a very talented circle about me. At current, not all of us will be sent a personally signed copy of every album before it arrives to traditional retail outlets.

[Phlip note - you blocked the thank-yous, Mike!]


Fret not, though... You can own a copy too, available for download at current on iTunes and Amazon.com. Mike can also be found via his podcast, MySpace and last.fm pages as well...
Sometime in the near-enough future, you should be able to score it in your local FYE for $9.99 or less on single-disc albums.

[Phlip note - c'mon, FYE, I want my cut!]

The fact that I own a signed copy does not mean I am not going out to support good music.
Get out and support music that does not suck, ladies and gentlefolks.

Link up with him through various mediums, some already named above...

Velvet Music Group: velvetmusicgroup.com
Facebook: facebook.com/Levphonic
Amazon: www.amazon.com
Last FM: www.last.fm/music/Levphonic
Podmatic: levphonic.podomatic.com
Indabamusic Music: www.indabamusic.com

Read his interview with JT' Jazzy Radio Loft here, where he tells more of his own story in his own words.

I would advise you to tell him Phlip sent you, but he knows already as he reads this.
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