Shinobi Ninja, a rather unique outfit hailing from Brooklyn, is an enigmatic entity to attempt to classify. Their image is a bizarre mixture of west coast surfer and Jersey Shore weight lifter, and their tunes are equally difficult to assign one specific genre to. They call their music “rock hood,” though it’s unclear what culminates into that, and they’ve also self-tagged themselves as “industrial metal,” a genre they certainly aren’t. Thus, what is Shinobi Ninja, and is their new record, Bless Up, worth listening to?
Stripping away all of the poorly assigned labels, Shinobi Ninja is a pop band. Their music is danceable pop injected heftily with infectious melodies and electronic instrumentation. That’s not worth being deterred by, though, because it’s often particularly good pop music. Programmable Animal, for example, is a very well-produced, anthemic single that incorporates electronic elements brilliantly.
The best of Shinobi Ninja’s music comes out of their experimentation, though, which actually has a surprising amount of depth. Bending Spoons, for example, incorporates some loose reggae and island influence, something that’s further accented by a borderline gospel-esque choral delivery with the vocals. Bending Spoons sounds like a song The Talking Heads would have put out. Pop music? Yes, it is. Intelligently penned and orchestrated? Absolutely.
Dancing in the Crowd falls somewhere between Programmable Animal and Bending Spoons. It’s a jingly pop song, but the vocal layering and bombastic sonic finale make the track more compelling than one might think. Subcon follows, a song that deviates from its predecessors by residing largely in the territory of hip hop. It’s very “rap rock” – the two genres have equal footing in the song. Having a rap tune alongside a soulful reggae-tinged single like Bending Spoons is what makes Shinobi Ninja so interesting, I’d argue.
Bang Bang is probably the only song of the bunch that has hints of a metal influence. Its instrumentation has some very loose metal stylings. By and large, though, the single is forgettable in the shadow of its predecessors. It’s lyrically repetitive and doesn’t offer anything fresh in the song sequence. Conversely, Funday is a fantastically unique track, a song that sounds like the love child of KC and The Sunshine Band and The Beastie Boys. Shinobi Ninja is an entity that’s definitely different . They take “eclectic” to a whole new level, for better or worse. They can be a bit hit-miss, but by and large, their sound is wholly unique unto itself and quite fun to delve into. It’s perfect spring break music for college kids flocking to either coast over the next several weeks.
Album Rating: 4 stars.
Song Rating Guide
1 Star = Don’t Bother
2 Stars = Cannot Recommend
3 Stars = Would Listen Again
4 Stars = A Solid Song/Album
5 Stars = Must Own (CD/Stream Download)
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Brett David Stewart works as a journalist in the city of Chicago specializing in covering music, the arts, and investigative pieces. Stewart was previously the editor-in-chief of Strike Magazine, a music publication in Denver, Colorado, and he has worked as a music columnist for Classic Rock History, The Guardian Liberty Voice, and many other outlets.