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Hip Hop Speakeasy Reviews 'Leaves'

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Monday February 24, 2014

From Hip Hop Speakeasy

Sidewalk Chalk: Leaves (Album Review)
By: Stone

Hip-hop bands in 2014 are few and far between. Today, the focus relies primarily on the producer and the rapper, both of whom (generally) use but a few, if any instruments to create their music. Thus when an act like Sidewalk Chalk rolls in and creates a pleasantly polished record utilizing a band comprised of an emcee, vocalist, keyboardist, bassist, drummer, trumpeter, trombonist and tap-dancer, it’s only right to take notice. Undeniably stemming from the roots of the legendary Soulquarians, Sidewalk Chalk express their talents by producing a captivating sonic crossroads between jazz, soul and hip-hop on their sophomore effort Leaves.

The Chicago band grounds themselves with a very organic sound that lends its appeal to the vibrant melodies and simple harmonies contributed by the members of the group. Most hip-hop instrumentals find their relevance and drawing power in their ability to repeat a musical phrase over and over. In this, Sidewalk Chalk keeps harmonies and certain aspects of their music very hip-hop; repeating lines both vocally and musically, creating beats that are very much hip-hop oriented and keeping a certain familiarity present through the majority of the songs are the main ways Leaves is vibrant, yet comfortably cool and simple.

The jazz presence is felt strongly on this album. The group makes an effort to fully incorporate the horns into each and every track as they usually support the background harmonies and sometimes are the harmonies. You can’t go a track without hearing their honey-like ambiance smoothing out the background auras. The drummer also adds a bit of jazzy, quasi-improvisational rhythms to the beats to add a bit more embellishment to otherwise standard instrumentals. The soul music inspiration fully embodies its undertones through that of vocalist Maggie Vagle. Her powerful, mid-toned vocals add depth to each track and definitely glitter songs like “Grocery List,” “Nashville,” “C.B.R.” and others with a brilliance hardly matched in most hip-hop bands today.

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