Music Critic Ben Forsdick gives a shoutout to some up-and-coming Birmingham based artists

Written by Ben Forsdick

Every week (or as often as I can) I sit down to write reviews of newly releases records. Working through these new releases and jotting down my thoughts is an enjoyable way to spend Friday mornings; and since there are rather a lot of releases each week, the activity rarely fails to spill over into the weekend and following week too. However, it goes without saying that I cannot review everything that comes out because there is simply too much to hear. Similarly, there are several musicians whose music I enjoy, but do not formally review for different reasons. That is because I know these musicians personally, outside the musical sphere within which they are creating their music. With this in mind and as an alternative, I present my brief thoughts on some Birmingham based musicians. This is not intended to be a guide to the Birmingham scene. Indeed, there are countless talented musicians who I could mention in this piece and who knows, maybe there will be a part two to this. Think of this as a taster of what is on offer. So, here are three artists worth checking out, if you are yet to sample their work.

they come together to create a crossover of jazz, R&B, hip-hop and soul that is usually referred to, by the band, as spicy and spicy describes this group very nicely

Sriracha People

It is hard to believe that two years have passed since I first caught Sriracha People live in concert on a particularly overcast Valefest afternoon. That 4pm slot on the lineup is usually one that artists want to play because the sun is at its brightest. Instead the sun was at its most non-existent, not that it seemed to phase Sriracha People. Individually, each member of this group has side projects of their own, but they come together to create a crossover of jazz, R&B, hip-hop and soul that is usually referred to, by the band, as spicy. And spicy describes this group very nicely. Their live shows are oozing with personality, musicianship and the type of silent communication that prolific live artists require. Fans of Oscar Jerome and Jordan Rakei will feel at home, fans of Thundercat and Flying Lotus will feel at home and even musicians like Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot make their way into the evidently vast pool of influence that results in Sriracha People’s diverse sound. The prolificacy of this group’s live shows has taken a hit due to the pandemic, but the upcoming gigs are beginning to accumulate. Socially distanced shows are scheduled and selling fast meaning it will only be a matter of weeks before the spice returns.

Joe Webb

Multi-instrumentalist Joe Webb, is a new name to the scene in 2021. Despite the pandemic-related lack of live shows and a debut EP release as recent as April 16th, Joe has already made significant noises. Taking the brighter side of ‘80s synth pop and updating this sound to incorporate elements of dream pop, funk and psychedelia, Joe’s reverb-soaked EP Train Music is a short collection of tracks that evoke nostalgia through emotively layered instrumentals, over which vocals are delivered that would sound at home on an MGMT record. Fans of the legendary indie band Women will be at home with this, although Joe’s music is not nearly as abstract as Women’s records thanks to his definite appreciation for hooks within his songwriting. These influences come together neatly into an EP that soundtracks the modern world and the fear and excitement that encapsulates it. If you are looking for something on the instrumentally brighter side of the many genres that inspire this EP, give this one a try.

Manu Mainetti

Manu Mainetti’s beats will remind dedicated hip-hop fans of the best of the instrumental side of the genre. A while ago, I reviewed the Komfort Food project by Elaquent, BoomBaptist and Juicy The Emissary, a project that directly references J Dilla. If you liked the sound of that record but want something that more subtlety references the greats, Manu Mainetti will do just nicely. Some parts remind me of Dilla, others of DJ Shadow and others of Madlib. Alternative hip hop is a big part of the Bandcamp scene, so having a Birmingham based artist within such a scene is an exciting prospect. Perhaps most impressive about Manu’s beatmaking is his ability to combine seamlessly with other performers. His track ‘FORFREE?’ features smoothly delivered bars from DøøF, but the two musicians sound completely at one on a track like this. More music is on the way with an EP is on the horizon. If hip-hop is what you appear to be craving, Manu Mainetti is definitely an artist to check out.

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