Joey Sandak’s latest release “Drugs in the Kitchen” makes a strong case for the most unique song I’ve had the opportunity to review. It transcends genre, a melting pot of influences so eclectic it's hard to label definitively. The song has a driving rhythm section, punctuated by a thumping bass and punchy breakbeat. The rhythm guitar is reduced to a very low-key scratchy riff, run through a thick wah-wah pedal. This prioritization of rhythm over melody is reminiscent of funk, however the use of pads, vocal harmonies, and synth leads all distinctly point towards pop music. Along with this, Sandak’s vocal delivery is fast paced, rhythmic, and doesn’t cover a wide range of pitch. This feels inspired by the contemporary r&b scene, combining hip hop deliveries with soulful vocals. Despite pulling from so many different corners of the music world, Sandak’s wide range of inspirations prove to be this song’s greatest strength. It has a new, refreshing sound that pushes the boundaries of pop music.
“Drugs in the Kitchen” starts from ambient sounds of a party with a light guitar riff, until a voice emerges from the crowd, kicking the song off with a four beat count in. The first verse is heavily reliant on the drums, providing a steady, spacious backbone within which the chords and bass can fill in. The pre-chorus sees the entry of the wah-wah guitar, giving an otherwise repetitive riff an element of change as the shifting envelope opens and closes the guitar's tone. The chorus, by far my favorite section of the song, features a massive drop off. The first beat is completely silent from the band, only to reenter on beat two, a perfect delay of gratification after the build of the pre-chorus. The chorus itself doesn't feel like much of a release of tension. It's actually the most sparse section of the song, containing only drums, bass and vocals. But what makes this work is the fact that these are the core elements of the song. By whittling the track down to its skeleton, Sandak makes the eventual re-emergence of the rest of the band that much more satisfying. The guitar, pads, and synths all feel like icing on the cake once we come to realize the song would be as infectious with just the bare essentials.
Joey Sandak comes by her music eclecticism honestly. With a love of music at an early age, Joey moved from genre to genre, picking up influences and inspirations from musical theater, rock, jazz, and hip hop. She has channeled this free expression into her releases, refusing to sacrifice her artistic vision in order to fit into a box. Though “Drugs in the Kitchen” is perhaps her most avant garde piece, it is definitely not her first time straying away from pop standards. Her debut single, 2020’s “Chanel & Smoke,” is heavily influenced by jazz, featuring an upright bass and piano riffs over 90s boom bap drums. With notes of Esperanza Spalding or Robert Glasper, “Chanel and Smoke” fits firmly into the new age jazz scene, another interesting niche not often hit by artists still trying to make a name for themselves. Just like “Drugs in the Kitchen,” Sandak’s wide base of influences is her greatest strength. She has all the tools from a wide variety of genres through which she can continue to create freely, and is by far one of the most exciting young artists on the rise today.
Written By Liam Dun
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