Anthony Valadez

Indie label Plug Research is home to an eclectic roster full of artists including Hawthorne Headhunters, Sonnymoon, Tensei and Elephants and Castles, just to name a few--a pretty natural home for the musical output of KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez. Aside from moonlighting at the West Coast radio institution, Valadez has made contributions on albums that also feature Madlib and Dilla. He has toured with the likes of Talib Kweli and Jean Grae and has opened for artists like Eric Roberson, Ben Harper and Les Nubians. It was perhaps only a matter of time before Valadez came out his own project.

Valadez’s debut, Just Visiting, is a solid effort with a host of well-conceived features from artists like Anna Wise of Sonnymoon, Damon Aaron, Def Sound and Miles Bonny. Being a DJ and having a steady gig at Temple Bar--a unique opportunity to study the mercurial trends in music--have paradoxically helped Valadez create an interesting detour from the expected.  Despite covering every music genre on KCRW and needing to move crowds, Valadez takes his cue from a more smooth and breezy production palette and has created a project that is both beautiful and atmospheric.

“Asleep,” featuring Wise, opens the album and sets the mood instantly for the laid-back vibe of the album, giving a great merger of quality production and beautiful vocals.  The lyrics of the song only intensify the feel of the album and Wise’s vocal performance flows within the production seamlessly.  The two minute “Sunny Spot,” changes the vibe of the album a little and is essentially one of the faster songs on the album evoking a mix of Jamiroquai with a little Roy Ayers.

“Under Water,” featuring Mar, was the first leak from the album and Mar’s voice sounds like perfection over the track.  The lyrics are a little boastful, yet beautiful at the same time.  Mar sings, “Ya’ll know that I’m a sexy muthaf**k/ but that's a side, of the story in mind that I want to share.” The Miles Bonny featured track, “Begins,” is an interesting experiment. Bonny doesn’t really come in until after the two-minute mark and only sings adlibs, making for a unique result.

Joya Mooi’s “Looking Backwards”  is a highlight. Her voice is beautiful, and sounds amazing over the hip-hop infused production.  For “Yolden Gears,” Valadez recruits harpist Rebekah Raff for a song that works as an extended interlude.  The production develops from a slow-tempo and eventually breaks off into a different direction as the harp becomes more faint.  The Def Sound feature, “Precious,” is the most entertaining song on the album lyrically, asking the “Question: How she smells like herbal essence, but she looking like Precious what?  How you order veggie burgers, but you wont eat the lettuce?” The production on this song is a little on the atmospheric side and blends well with the sound that Def Sound has already created for himself.  The album closes with “Waves,” featuring Anna Wise and Nick Rosen. The production is mellow with minimal lyrics and really works as an impressive closure for this excellent album.

-Erin Duncan