In my first post on the future of Music NFTs, i talked a little bit about sound.xyz, a new web3 platform that aims to build a more “collaborative music moment.” My favorite things about the team behind sound is their emphasis on genuine artist to fan connection, bringing realized value to an artists’ work, and like they say, making music feel like a moment, even when just streaming a track. The site’s UX is clean, colorful, and inviting, and i believe it can be a real game changer in music. Two things became apparent to me in the process of writing this post: sound has a very clear vision for music’s worth and record labels are the reason we have yet to universally establish the true value of the art form.
Throughout the month of December, Sound onboarded their first 20 “Genesis Artists” in which they premiered a fresh track from each of them, allotting 25 individual music NFTs to be collected, the tracks going for 0.1 ETH each. Today i will be reviewing those records and the next moves for what’s on the horizon for sound in 2022.
Oshi - Childhood
One common thread amongst these tracks is just how beautiful they are, and Oshi really sets the tone with Childhood, a downtempo electric-pop record dedicated to his son. You can feel the closeness and longing through the very first chords of the song, and it only continues in the lyrics, “now my childhoods where i stay / don’t know what’s inside my brain / why does nothing stay the same.” The hums nearly kiss the beat; the vocals and instrumental float in tandem with each other. It’s delicate and soothing.
The second half of the track picks up steam as the strings transition to a more enlivened electric guitar and Oshi switches from the internal dialogue and self-observations to speaking about the feelings of love and resolve his son brings to him. The record ends on one more beat breakdown, which adds in some subtle, yet rich 808’s, a reversed filtered synth sample, and more warm hums, this time the croons are filled with energy and joy. You can hear just how much sentiment and care went into Childhood as Oshi does a fantastic job of conveying the blissful intimacy of fatherhood.
One more important note on Oshi is found in the song’s “Behind the Music” section where he mentions entering “a period of severely exploitive label deals and poor management,” a trend that is unfortunately shared between several of the artists on this list.
Grady - The Wizard of What
Grady delivers a fun indie dance pop track that sounds like an awesome day off. With an easy drum pattern and a couple of layered guitars that drive the beat (and good vibes). Grady sounds cool and calm as he sings about those feelings of infatuation in the early moments of a new relationship. In this story tho, it’s not quite a honeymoon lol, “i saw that you called, i fixed my hair and picked up / but nobody was there i guess you dialed with your butt.” Grady’s song writing and imagery are spot on (i love: “like moonlight glistening on water, i can’t ever stand still”) as he explores and channels The Wizard of Oz theme throughout the giddy lyrics (“click your heels and come”). With a smooth bass to compliment the rest of the song’s energy, Grady takes us from Kansas to a beachside and back.
In Grady’s ‘Behind the Music’ write up, he sets the scene and tone for the record. He tells the story behind the Halloween party that became the inspiration for the track, and then writes down the lyrics in a very creative, contemporary poem that plays with formatting and adds an extra layer to the overall charm, meaning, and appeal of the listen.
Daniel Allan - Too Close
The ‘Behind the Music’ section is a great tool as it becomes an opportunity to further connect to the artist, the song, and their journey thus far. It’s a bit like when you’re in the museum, and then read the description label on the side to get a better feel for what you’re looking at. The write-ups also feel a lot more personal than what you’d typically find on a Genius about section. Furthermore, for someone like me, a producer who looks at these artists building up communities while creating really dope, powerful records, it’s easy to forget that they once may have also been right where I am. After reading the description of Too Close, I can tell Daniel Allan is an artist who has channeled everything that’s led him to where he is today into his first sound NFT release.
Too close is an electronic record that combines soft, intimate piano chords with invigorated synths and a clean sound design that feels both massive and subtle at the same time. Daniel interjects with the song’s chorus and verse, which is blended into the production nicely with just the perfect amount of robotic distortion. It makes the overall delivery feel colder, but even more honest, “don’t you get too close, i always seem to hurt the things i love the most.” Though not Allan’s first foray into the Music NFT space, Too Close is a strong addition into his ever growing catalogue.
Marian Hill - remember me
Marian Hill is one of the acts i was more familiar with before sound, so it was a little bit of shock and awe when I’d seen they’d been tapped to premiere their latest record as an NFT. I think the track I know them most well for is Got It. Marian Hill makes alternative electronic synth pop with some jazzy influences, and on remember me their sound has never felt more full and realized.
The first thing i want to talk about with Marian Hill’s first song in four years is the production because it’s really clean, it’s so well mixed. The bass just feels good, like all of the low-mid range end is very tight and resonate and for anyone who’s done any sort of sound mixing work you know how tedious and frustrating that section can be. The drums are so interesting, like magnificent, and 🤯😮💨 WOW what a snare wow what a snare. The CRUNCH and the pattern are so sick; that extra layer of texture is dope. Marian is sharp and enchanting with her vocal delivery, as she sings about a lost connection to a loved one, a lost world due to climate change, and the group’s lost connection to the music and the fans during the pandemic, “someday when everything’s under water / and all our memories are forgotten / there’s nothing / as far as i can see / i wonder in all that / will you remember me.” Also love the way she says, “you said that we’d be over / pick it up right where we left last time.”
Ibn Inglor - Lifted Demons
This is definitely one of my favorites. I wonder how many times i’ll have said that by the end of this list lol. An interesting thing about this record is the idea of intent vs interpretation, like when you think you know what a song is about, but then you find out what it really means and it’s just like ‘oh wow.’ In this case, Ibn’s “Behind the Music” completely worked to make the song that much better.
Upon the first skim through of all 20 of the tracks on this list, i thought Lifted Demons was a “we back outside” type of song. I’m sure many would get that vibe from it too and maybe not even think a second thought (which i don’t think is unreasonable given the global circumstances), however, in Lifted Demons, Ibn is pinning a letter to himself. He writes about his experiences dealing with anxiety and depression over the course of the last year and that feeling of (which is so relatable to me) turning the corner and starting to see the light, “it’s been a long time since i seen you man, f*ck is goin on?” Lifted Demons is an alternative hip-hop track that’s split into two distinct sections that directly oppose each other. The first half includes some aggressive drums and a gritty 808 that compliments Ibn’s flow. The piercing synth and Frankenstein piano notes create a rigid melody that’s both dead and alive. Halfway through the track the production resolves into an enthralling sonic landscape as those elements that were previously so haunting become rich and jovial. In the background, there’s an additional melodic electric guitar that both commands attention and then gives it back to the chorus which is now a choppy, glitchy vocal sample repeating the ultimate sentiment of the track:
“Fresh air for the kid again”
Abjo - 5:55am
I think the best way to describe this one is that it kind of feels like a painting to me. The opening breakbeat and jazzy synth plucks conjure up the piece, Nighthawks (1942) (p. Edward Hooper), and no surprise, it’s only the first way in which Abjo places the listener right into those early hours of dawn on 5:55am.
Dance Like No One Else Exists (5:55am) is an instrumental future funk track featuring a gorgeous, pondering synth pad. The tops have an amazing rhythm and is complimented on the low end with a kick and electric bass pattern that really just rides. Theres a section in the middle of the track that’s so chill and effortless, just the kick, hats, bass, and top synth that come together to create one of my favorite music moments in a while. The song is “a soundtrack to contemplate your next move,” and is dedicated to anyone “dancing the dance of the early grinder.” 5:55am takes the listener on a real musical journey with its crazy drums and even crazier bassline groove that is sure to get anyone out their beds and ready to make their dreams happen.
Allan Kingdom - Reasons
Reasons is an infectious hip-hop track written and produced by Kingdom, with its bouncy beat and high energy delivery, it’s a bop from the moment you press play. “I got so many reasons why i’m so low key,” is the exact idea coming from another artist who’s seen his fair share of bad deals and sneaky music industry practices. In Kingdom’s “Behind the Music,” he explains a few of the ways he’s been misled and under valued in his music journey, “bad deals, stolen ideas, not paid after a sold out tour,” but how those experiences have led him to learn and look for greater business opportunities outside of the traditional streams that are heavily gatekept and controlled by the industry. Now Kingdom and his label, Mogul Sound Music, look to help, “artists to be as knowledgable as possible about business and investing.” For anyone who hasn’t yet heard Allan Kingdom, Reasons is a clean introduction that’s guaranteed to bring you a good time every listen.
Josh Pan - Fragments
“This is what it sounds like when you get fucked up,” Josh pan is a madman, an evil genius, a sorcerer of sorts. The musical journey Fragments takes the listener on is something unlike any other. This is experimental glitch pop at its core.
I think being a sound designer has really developed my fondness and taste for more experimental, rhythmically challenging tracks. I think they’re so interesting, especially when executed well they frequently hide those beautiful melodic moments amongst all the chaos. It feels like flying into the hurricane and then getting to the calmness of the eye, which Josh gets the listener there to success, just to take them right back into the storm. The song is broken down into three (…or four…or five…six?!) distinct musical chapters that all come together to tell the complete story of one of Josh’s more embarrassing heartbreaks and recovery. This record emphasis the disjointed feeling as one is constantly attempting to make sense of all of the clicks and bops surrounding them. Pan cuts through with dissonant, saturated vocals and narrations as the sound design becomes increasingly all encompassing. Love all those gorgeous transitions and synth melodies hidden in this record, other worldly.
Matthew Chaim - Nice Guy
Love this passionate record about going after your passion. It’s “no more mr. nice guy,” when it comes to talking to and confronting the part of yourself that feels like they’re not good enough and could never do it. Nice Guy is a mellow contemporary indie pop record that chooses to be great.
The song opens with filtered, angelic vocal harmonies layered over a gorgeous organ synth. Chaim enters the track in a slightly distorted, almost robotic voice, singing the instantly relatable, “left my day job / just to stay up late / and wait for breadcrumbs / to show up on my plate,” a reality many of us are currently living or at least really considering banking on themselves. Chaim continues the theme throughout the lyrics, describing the sublime feelings of when inspiration strikes and confidence arises through colorful, high-spirited metaphor (“flavors keep coming into my brain, i can’t stop them”) over an equally lively instrumental. The background ooh’s and vocal samples compliment the anthemic chorus well as the energy of the track really radiates. Supported by a light drum pattern and open production, Chaim shines on the track and delivers an inspiring performance that really resonates with the dreamer.
Reo Cragun - LNRZ (Prologue)
Another artist i’ve been following for some time now, i remember delivering sandwiches for jimmy johns and riding around listening to Inconsiderate on repeat. Reo Cragun still sounds fresh as ever, delivering a strong electronic r&b record with LNRZ (Prologue). The drums on this track are CRZY (lol), they have the perfect amount of thump to match Reo’s floaty vocals and set the tone for the smooth, aggressive track. The synth bass and 808s are blended nicely as the reverb works to saturate the song on the high end, creating a spacious environment for the sound design to play. The production as a whole is deeply intricate—there’s so many bloops, and percussion hits, and chopped synthesizer samples gliding in the background—Reo creates an entire sonic world through LNRZ (Prologue), that I’m sure he will continue to explore and expand on in his newly formed LNRZ DAO.
Iman Europe - Better
I bet you 1 ETH you can’t sit still during this record. Go ahead and try…i’ll wait. Iman Europe hits us with a certified groove in Better that has a beautiful message behind the bop. “I make music for humans that are constantly evolving,” is the way in which Iman begins her song’s bio, but i felt it even more from the moment i pressed play. She explains some of the truths she realized during her personal “chrysalis phase” of the pandemic which includes how much of the music industry was completely draining her. She accredits much of her success to the “betterment [she] chose to make internally,” thus, her genesis record for sound was born.
Iman has a beautiful voice, full of character and soul and dynamic control. It grooves just as much as the Kaelin Ellis produced beat, with the part of the production that really sticks out to me being the amount of funk and freedom the electric bass has. It glides underneath the track, adding that foundational layer to generate all of the explosiveness and positive energy the song possesses. Issa real vibe with Iman and her strong, contagious song writing which is on full display here. Like she said in the bio, Better is a song for those in search of progress. Better is a song for me.
TOMI - If You Tried (ft. VERITE)
Man, the hook on this song is so, so good. “Maybe if you tried / maybe if you tried,” it’s simple but delivered with so much strength and conviction, that I immediately had to start the record over to feel that release again. TOMI is another artist who has in the past found herself stuck and stagnant due to poor record deals and uses her experience to create an alternative rock banger about, “relieving oneself of blame and moving forward—independent, wiser, and stronger.”
Tomi’s voice is so BIG and commanding, she does an amazing job on her performance. She’s very frustrated yet patient and understanding with herself, and that’s all communicated in unison with the strings which are just as front and center as the vocals. I love the chords and mix here, you can feel the punch of the guitar and it adds that extra layer of drive and authenticity to the record. All in all it builds a feeling of longing, but closeness, as TOMI and VÉRITÉ come together on a great track; a resounding introduction into a couple of artists to definitely keep an eye on.
SassyBlack - Metamorphosis
Sassy said if you goin write about me, it’s a capital S, capital B. All one word.
Yes ma’am. 😌
I’m a big fan of SassyBlack. Even before I’d heard SassyBlack I was a big fan of SassyBlack lol. Metamorphosis made me a follower of SassyBlack. This psychedelic soul track produced by Sassy herself is wavey and smooth and real. It’s a meditation on wax as she proclaims, “this is my metamorphosis.” same here.
Sassy’s warm, soothing vocals and message take center-stage, musing in front of a beat that puts you right into a 2099 jazz lounge. The trance like groove feels like a metamorphosis itself, “breathing in and out” every color you can imagine. The music is right in line with the artwork, it feels like a good trip. Sassy proclaims to make ‘weird music’ and given a bit of the inspiration for the song comes from a Franz Kafka novel about a salesman who’s morphed into a giant roach, it makes sense and becomes a fun little nod to the song’s opening sentiment, “you got me all up in my head and now i’m straight bugging out,” along with the “lil bug sounding sample [that’s her] own voice,” which all play perfectly into the themes and vibes of the record.
“Lemme breathe lemme breathe lemme breathe”
Camoufly - Innerspace
There are a few songs up here that the artists had been holding onto for some time, and Camoufly’s Innerspace is standout to me for it being one of the earlier songs in the artist’s catalogue, especially for just how well it is produced. Camoufly says he was in an experimental phase of his musical journey when he started the Camoufly project, “trying to find [his] SOUND, while trying to find [himself].” It’s amazing how realized and complete this track feels.
Innerspace is an indie electronic pop track that features a leading bottom synth that draws inspiration from Crystal Waters’ legendary Gypsy Woman before the huge drums and bouncy 808’s come crashing in. With an impressive sound design that never stops moving and changing, the track stays fresh and keeps the listener anticipating the next exciting twist. The backbone of this record comes from the minor elements hiding in the mix, like the light and subtle panned hihats and triplet clap pattern that fill in any gaps not already covered by the vocal chops and descending sfx roaming about. The bulk of the song is just over two minutes and by the time the final rims settle, i’m already hungry for more.
Giraffage - Bliss
Bliss is an electronic instrumental track that’s very unique with its production and sound design being defined by its boppy 2-step type beat and wavey, robotic synths that work completely against the title. The track came to be at the beginning of quarantine with Giraffage saying how he uses his music to “encapsulate a moment in time,” and i think he captures that early pandemic moment of universal confusion and chaos incredibly well here. I especially enjoy Giraffage’s “Behind the Music” as he takes some time to explain the process behind the making of Bliss and the way those eclectic synthesizers came together. It can be such a tedious endeavor as a producer just trying to find that perfect sound, i can only imagine what it’s like trying to create that perfect sound (me: breaks out serum). One last note is how angelic the breakdown is that comes a little over halfway through the instrumental. The new dulcet synths takeover for a few bars of actual bliss, a breath of fresh air smashed between the otherwise mono track.
Heno. - Suffer In Silence
There’s a lot to be said about this beautifully vulnerable track. Heno, an Ethiopian-Eritrean artist from Takoma Park, MD, has been through a tremendous amount of adversity leading up to the release of his sound Genesis NFT, and now, he stands above it all with a very poignant message for the world, “you are more than enough” and “no one should have to suffer in silence.”
Suffer In Silence is a contemporary hip-hop track that opens with somber, deliberate guitar chords. Heno. paces onto the track with an almost poetic flow as he speaks on his coming-of-age, a verse which touches on his struggles with anxiety and depression and an anecdote of an encounter with a deceased body on the street as a child. The production, done by Heno., contains no drums, no bass, no other instruments outside of the lone guitar, which makes the brief track all the more intimate. The record concludes on a strong, powerful note, repeating and calling back to the song’s main idea in a resounding chorus, “you ain’t gotta struggle in private / trust me i was one of them smiling / but no more will i.” Heno. is an artist who isn’t afraid to put all of himself into his music, his deep conviction and honesty are a treasure to appreciate, and his message and story are sure to inspire anyone who comes across him and his work. it definitely has for me.
The Park - Rainwater
“The Park is a group of friends, musicians, artists, producers, collaborators, instigators, and dance floor starters from the country of California,” and these friends are pulling up to web3 accompanied by smooth rhythms and therapeutic melodies. They’re here to talk about change. “The Park is here for you.”
Rainwater is a mellow indie record best experienced eyes closed and just vibing. Everything about the production comes together to make the track feel so natural and inviting. From the feathery vocal melodies and synth pads that begin the track to the hollow drums and breathy percussive elements that join soon after. Before i knew it, i was just falling into the soul of the track. Led prominently by front-woman Tess Henley’s commanding vocals and poetic songwriting (love: “i am grown in grace / bare the scars on my face”), the group celebrates the “regeneration and renewing of one’s self through life’s challenges,” which in Rainwater, the spirit is very clearly captured, conveyed, and passed on to the listener.
MoRuf - HYPNO
It’s really amazing how a track from years ago can still sound so fresh and timely, which MoRuf points out with the original scope of HYPNO coming into fruition back in 2016. HYPNO is a modern hip-hop record that puts MoRuf’s versatility and technical rap skill on full display.
“Our art holds power so let’s make sure we’re using it the right way,” are the ideals that led to the creation of a track like HYPNO and I’m sure a sentiment that MoRuf and producer MeLo-X continue to embrace to this day. I love the vinyl boom bap beat and lush analogue synth chords that run through the production, building upon itself and supporting MoRuf’s silky smooth flow. The pacing of the track slows down towards the end, leaving only an airy synth and the base layer drums as MoRuf interpolates Erykah Badu’s Bag Lady which, combined with the addition of some soft piano notes, creates a euphoric moment of warmth and tenderness. MoRuf and MeLo-X use HYPNO to celebrate the hypnotizing, emotion-altering power of hip-hop, a genre (my fave) is amazingly trance-like and emotive at its core.
Jessie Boykins III - HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Jessie Boykins III, who’s had a hand in several of my favorite projects in the last decade, is back with an ethereal downtempo electronic r&b record with HOME AWAY FROM HOME. One of my initial thoughts upon listening was imagining the song being performed in a huge stadium, its another one of those that is so large but is somehow contained to just my headphones. Part of that feeling i think comes from how clean Jessie’s vocals and the surrounding instruments are mixed; the ghostly slap delay and ‘closeness’ of the reverb work in tandem with the clear, sharp vocal delivery. Jessie sounds very comfortable and in his element as he sings about the power of “supporting each others’ space when needed,” within a relationship. Jessie’s warm, bright performance is perfect for the message behind the track and is further supported by a raspy triangle synth bass (which adds some wonderful texture and tangibleness to the record) and a cleverly evolving soundscape that provide the “transparency” that Jessie and i agree, “creates the moments that make life, ART.”
Pat Lok - Over U
Rounding out sound’s first class is Pat Lok who brings us a dope funk wav instrumental that is groovy groovy. He wants to make us smile and from the very first beat drop, you can’t help but feel that bounce and get the urge to dance. This track is loaded with fun, interesting sounds, and the one that sticks out most to me is the sort of winding whistle synth that travels in and out throughout the song. The chops are amazing, i especially love the live vocal samples that fill the space so naturally, it puts me right into a nightclub. The beat goes on, it never gets tired.
Pat Lok takes some time in his “Behind the Music” writeup to talk about his introduction into web3 and how he “realized that as artists, autonomy is all we have.” He talks of the record industry pipeline that feeds us the limited scope and one-way paths of ‘making it,’ and their associated pitfalls, “getting handcuffed and losing creative control of our vision while reducing the value of our art to pennies.” With Over U, Pat Lok will have you bouncing and jiving away any of your troubles; the party never stops with this record and i’m glad music is able to bring so much fun.
Up next for Sound is the official start of their Season 1, which, if the premiere of Daniel Allan’s latest EP, Overstimulated, is any indication of how things will be going for the rising platform, the future is definitely as bright as it is exciting. Sound is no doubt already a player to watch in the Music NFT space, and I can’t wait to discover more quality artist and see the ways in which they are able to help all of us realize the true value in our work.