July 5, 2020
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Still from Serena Laurel's Unchained SCV music video.

Santa Clarita, with its proximity to Hollywood and its ever-growing list of performance venues, is not hurting for aspiring entertainers. So active is this group that former Proclaimer Community reporter Lee Uber last month started The Awesometown Sound, an interview podcast centered entirely on local musicians. Rather than places to play or people to see, what remains largely absent from the fray are organizations helping to promote the work taking place in our regional circuit.

Enter Hipified Records, a College of the Canyons-based, student-run indie label which on May 18 released Vol. II, the second in its Homegrown series.

Across its 15 songs, this omnibus album swings through an array of styles, talent and production quality. As a result, Homegrown represents something of a calling-card both for the participating artists on the label and for Hipified’s Co-Presidents, Karli Klar and AJ McCarthy, who under advisor Bill MacPherson spent nearly a year assembling, approving and hyping this most recent compilation.

Given its length and variety, Vol. II may represent an even greater challenge to casual listeners’ tastes than its predecessor. “Write ‘Em Exchanges”, the introductory fusion track (by MacPherson himself, strangely), traces an erratic line from Pat Metheny to Fela Kuti to the Buena Vista Social Club without ever sinking into a happy rhythm. It’s an audacious and difficult opener meant to prep you for the tricky road ahead. Then there’s Dippi, Lero’s “Ode to the Dream State”, a gorgeously airy meditation on altered realities, which dips too far into indie-rock psychedelia for audiences hooked on hooks.

Yet when Homegrown Vol. II allows itself to stabilize into pop comprehensibility, the songs become both a comfort and a let-down, the music equivalent of Big Macs: sure, they’re reliable, but at what cost to quality?

Serena Laurel’s “Car Talks”, a handsome vocal number with a scatty-fun guitar lick, for example, is an instantly recognizable homage to Esperanza Spalding without that exquisite artist’s lyric imagination. Taken separately, “Dear Diary” by Serenity Barter, Blue, Slick Moranis and “Falling Slowly” by McCarthy are tender ballads indebted to Ingrid Michaelson, Meiko and Norah Jones; placed up against one another, however, makes them sound like the midpoints on an acoustic SAT prep playlist.

Still, Hipified’s broader skill for assemblage (and for self-promotion) should not be ignored. If a record is meant to hit globally, it must first cater to audiences locally, a concept that the labelexemplifies in practice. That its second Homegrown release features Santa Clarita-based artists in a diverse musical dialogue with one another is a real accomplishment, considering how long-overdue such a manifestation of the many class-based, racial and ethnic voices here is.

To my mind, Vol. II is also already something of a physical success. By putting the record out exclusively as a CD through Hipified’s website or events, the club essentially demands that anyone interested in listening goes analog or goes home. It’s a brilliant, eccentric strategy – and a dangerous one in the age of Spotify.

With the album’s release party on May 18, it’s still too soon to say whether the record will earn much notice outside our valley or influence the wider world of music. It warms the heart to know that at least somebody is trying, though.

Homegrown Vol. II is available for purchase from HipifiedRecords.com or any Hipified Records staff. The track list is as follows:

  1. “Write ‘Em Exchanges” – Bill McPherson
  2. “Airplanes” – Abigail Jeanne
  3. “Car Talks” – Serena Laurel
  4. “Dear Diary” – Serenity Barter, Blue, Slick Moranis?
  5. “Falling Slowly” – AJ McCarthy
  6. “Ode to the Dream State” – Dippi, Lero
  7. “Leo” – Laiilo, kiki, IV
  8. “Obsession” – Cloud Seeker feat. Aaron Howles
  9. “Dandelion Dose” – Michael Whelan and Lana Evans
  10. “Let it Shine” – Cheryl Bain feat. Kindal Tate
  11. “What’s Wrong With Red?” – James Paul Sklena
  12. “One Kiss” – Sean Hughes
  13. “Pray” – John Krueger
  14. “The Drawing Board” – Initiator
  15. “Sleeping Well” – Samuel Kinsella
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COC-based label Hipified Records aims for indie notoriety
Article Name
COC-based label Hipified Records aims for indie notoriety
College of the Canyons-based, student-run indie label Hipified Records recently released Vol. II, the second in its Homegrown series.
Publisher Name
The Santa Clarita Valley Proclaimer
Sean Malin

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