Stuck- Justin Yates

Lake County-based acoustic musician Justin Yates released a music video last year to correspond to his instrumental single called “Stuck”. Normally, Justin Yates produces some acoustic/folk/pop songs, but he has a few non-vocal tracks up his sleeve that are worth paying attention to. The music video itself is a minimalist piece, yet it doesn’t need much (if any) pizazz or flair to get the point across in the overall production of the piece. It is shot in a white background where it alternates scenes between Justin sitting while playing guitar and him frustrated in his efforts to sketch something on a small desk. The latter scenes don’t focus on his face, but he does a good job in portraying these annoyed emotions by crumpling and throwing each failed drawing on the floor. There’s even a brief scene where he briefly readjusts his tie while standing up. Granted, I don’t know why the tie and business casual look was necessary for the video, but that’s a minor nitpick.

Despite there being no lyrics at all in this musical piece, there is a way how it all ties in to the overall mood of the video. The anxiety of Justin attempting to get that drawing just right works well since one can say that he’s “stuck” in finishing that piece of art and doing it the right way. The editing matches the tempi of the instrumental quite well. It starts out as an upbeat acoustic song, but there is a tempo change almost halfway through the song as the guitar switches between chords and brief leads that subtly change melodies throughout the duration of the piece. The video starts out with quick shots of the guitar and the drawing scenes, but the shots get a little longer after that tempo change. It doesn’t go all slow- mo since the latter section of the instrumental piece isn’t slow, but there is a subtle deceleration when watching it with multiple views. The music video ends with the completed picture of a stuffed monkey which also doubles as Justin Yates’s logo on his website, Facebook page, and Bandcamp page to name a few.

The music itself is well done. The production is crisp without being lifeless or overproduced. Justin’s guitar playing is clear and concise. From a songwriting standpoint, it has a constant formula while making subtle changes to the overall melodies with the brief leads/solos interspersed. It sounds simple to play for guitarists, but it’s the subtle complexities with the finger picking, tempo change and the quick leads that make this more dextrous than anticipated should one cover “Stuck”. Overall, “Stuck” is a solid piece that has a simple, yet effective music video to back it up.
Justin Yates

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Review by Curtis Monroe

Lower Your Tone – Justin Yates

It’s hard to do, but somehow Justin Yates found a way to make the minivan look cool in the video for his song, “Lower Your Tone.” There is pain and optimism in this tune, all sprinkled over a groove that makes you want to jump in your car (or minivan) and drive. Falling out of love is hard, and the song acknowledges that, but the hook calls attention to the fact that you can always find your “way back home” when it ends. For those of you who have loved and lost, here’s to finding your own way back home.

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Drive By – Train (Cover By Brad Cash Band)

I was already a fan of Train’s “Drive By,” but Brad Cash Band’s cover of it gave me a new appreciation for the song. What is interesting is how different it is from the original. From the slowed tempo, altered melody, and use of three part harmony the song takes on a different vibe entirely. Check out the chorus on this one, it just feels good. Also, if you haven’t already heard the original, it comes highly recommended by yours truly. I love a (good) fresh take on an already good song. Enjoy.

So What – Raffaela

Like catchy pop music? You’ll like Raffaela. Just a warning, if you aren’t wanting a song stuck in your head today, you’ll want to make sure you don’t watch this video. “So What” sounds like it belongs on top 40 radio. It’s a fun song, and with the high production quality on the track and video it’s no wonder it currently has over 200K views. This song hits on the fact that falling in love means saying “So What” to leaving your feelings vulnerable. At 19 years old, it looks like Raffaela has a bright future ahead of her in music. Keep an eye on her.

I Would Never – Adam Hambrick

In a world full of Kim Kardashian type failed relationships, sometimes the people we love need to be reassured they’re not headed down the same path, and I’m not sure there is a song to accomplish this better than Adam Hambrick’s “I Would Never.” The promise of lasting love is so often broken today it has almost lost its meaning, but Adam’s ability to turn a phrase somehow makes it believable again. Saying you’ll love someone forever is a powerful statement, and this song is fittingly powerful. This song along with his new album “Fighting From The Ground” full of similarly heartfelt songs are available on iTunes. Enjoy.

Hello – Christina Morris

One of the most intoxicating aspects of love is the initial feeling of attraction felt towards a crush. Hoping you’ll see him/her, yet praying you don’t because the jitters are too much, you walk around on pins and needles. Even simple gestures such as “Hello!” seem absolutely impossible. Christina Morris sums up this feeling of fresh love astutely in “Hello”, one of her many love songs. She wrote the song about a guy she was interested in who had no idea who she was… we’ve all been there right?

I Will Follow You Into The Dark – Death Cab for Cutie

Every good hipster knows the genius of Ben Gibbard’s music catalog. The lead singer of Death Cab For Cutie has a knack for metaphorical devices and all the other things a good lyricist should be good at. The song “I Will Follow You In The Dark” strips down love and humanity, and what it means beyond this world. The test of true devotion is following a person to the ends of the earth, no matter where it may lead.

“Killing Me” – Tyler Wilkinson and Alyssa Bonagura

I stumbled across this gem of a love song when I was on a hunt to find out what in the world happened to the Wilkinsons. If you’ve never heard of the Wilkinsons, you missed out on an amazing country group of the 90’s. Anyway, Tyler Wilkinson (brother of the former father-son-daughter trio) has been collaborating with folk-indie artist Alyssa Bonagura. They produced a beautiful tune entitled “Killing Me,” which speaks of the power love holds over the one in love, despite its ironic title. My favorite lyric is “If this is Heaven, lay me down to rest… and if it’s not it must be second best.” What a beautiful and powerful way to describe love…

Come Down To Me – Saving Jane

Have you ever loved someone who was so close yet so far? Whether you have or haven’t, this song by the Ohio-based group Saving Jane will make you feel like you have. The lyrics express the duplicitous desire to have your affection remain a secret when, at the same time, you wish this person would meet you at your level.

“I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song”

The music of the 70’s doesn’t get enough credit. There are so many hidden gems that are left forgotten from this wonderful decade. Sure, Beyonce’s current hit “Love On Top” showcases her crazy ability to change keys about four times in one song, and I applaud her. Yet, there’s something so honest and simple about the music of artists like the Carpenters, James Taylor, or one of my personal favorites – Jim Croce. If you are familiar with any music from the 70’s, chances are you probably know his hit “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” which was a top 10 single in 1973. However, I want to focus on one of his other songs, a love song appropriately titled, “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song.” Croce’s wife Ingrid tells the story of how the song came about:

I questioned Jim about our finances. After a year and a half of his working so very hard on the road, we were barely making ends meet, but Jim wouldn’t talk about it. He hated questions as much as he hated confrontation, especially about money. He stormed out of our bedroom and went down to the kitchen table to brood. The next morning he woke me gently by singing one of his new love songs. “Every time I tried to tell you the words just came out wrong. So I’ll have to say I love you, in a song.”

(Info obtained from:

The world lost Croce and his talent when he died in a plane crash on September 20, 1973. But he left behind a simple song with a simple message about love – sometimes love is so hard to grasp it cannot be expressed in words. In essence isn’t this why artists write love songs – to try to describe love in the most poignant and real way? And don’t many people (whether musicians or not) use music to express love? We can all learn a lesson from Croce and give the love songs of the 70’s a closer listen.