Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, poet, essayist, visual artist, Dum Dum Records founder and head, and JOVM mainstay Taleen Kali (she/they) has made a career out of crafting romantic punk songs with a cosmic sound that features elements of shoegaze, psychedelia, and grunge that’s simultaneously dreamy and defiant. Kali has also been influenced by melodies and imagery from her Armenian heritage and her parents’ birthplaces of Lebanon and Ethiopia, managing to fuse her cultural heritage and identity with the sounds of the modern countercultures she grew up embracing and eventually exploring as a musician. 

Her poetry, essays and visual art have appeared in digital and internationally recognized publications including The OnionSpin MagazineRazorcakeLos Angeleno, and The Bushwick Review.

Kali’s music career started in earnest with a stint in Los Angeles-based band TÜLIPS. After TÜLIPS closed up shop in 2016, she stepped out into the limelight as a solo artist, eventually touring across the US with Ex Hex, Alice Bag and Seth Bogart

Her solo debut, 2018’s Kristin Kontrol-produced Soul Songs EP was recorded at Hollywood-based Sunset Sound Studios and was mixed by Machine’s Brad Laner. The EP, which found Kali’s riot grrl ethos maturing into a polished multifaceted punk sound with elements of noise pop and New Wave, was released to praise from BUST Magazine and Stereogum, who likened her sound to a contemporary BlondieSoul Songs was also included in Pitchfork‘s Guide to Summer Albums and LA Weekly‘s Best Indie Punk Albums. 

Kali and her backing band followed up with an unplugged version of the EP and covers of The Supremes‘ “Baby Love” and Garbage‘s “#1 Crush.” She also recorded a two-song pandemic project called Changing with her TÜLIPS-era producer Greg Katz.

Taleen Kali’s Jeff Schroeder and Josiah Mazzaschi-co-produced full-length debut Flower of Life is slated for a March 3, 2023 release through Kali’s Dum Dum Records. Sonically, the album reportedly sees the rising Los Angeles further cementing her fuzzy and noisy take on psych punk paired with vocals that run the range of femme punk and shoegaze siren. 

Over the course of this year, I’ve managed to write about two of the album’s released singles:

  • Album title track “Flower of Life,” a grungy psych punk ripper centered around fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming, soaring organ chords and Kali’s sneering delivery paired with mosh pit friendly hooks and choruses that sonically was a bit of a synthesis of My Bloody Valentine and riot grrl punk. “‘Flower of Life’ was a spiritual concept I held onto for a long time before writing this song,” Kali explains in press notes. “The flower is a fractal, a cycle, ever blooming, ever decaying. 
  • Trash Talk“, a jangling Brit Pop-inspired anthem centered around a chugging motorik-like groove, fuzzy power chords, Kali’s unerring knack for rousingly anthemic hooks and a sneering “fuck off” attitude towards haters, trolls and toxic bullshit that almost anyone can relate to. “‘Trash Talk’ is a track that speaks out against haters, trolls, and toxic bullshit in the hope that it gives a voice to anybody who’s been silenced or worn down,” Kali explains. “I wanted to write a song that embodies my favorite jangly Brit-pop songs and the energy of ‘do no harm, but take no shit.'”

Flower of Life‘s third and latest single, the Too True-era Dum Dum Girls-like “Fine Line” is a gorgeous pop confection centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a forceful and driving rhythm section paired with Kali’s plaintive delivery and her unerring knack for well, placed, rousingly anthemic hooks.

“‘Fine Line’ kicks off side B of the record. I wanted to explore the ways we feel marked by love and pain. How much of an impact the smallest of impressions can make. And how they can feel when they fade,” the JOVM mainstay explains. “I wrote this song in the summer of 2018 right when the last album Soul Songs was coming out. The process of putting out my first solo record was so strange and cathartic that a handful of new songs just came spilling out during that time, and this was the first one. I really wanted there to be a demarcation for side B of Flower of Life so ‘Fine Line’ is written in a minor key, setting the tone for the 2nd half of the album.”

Red Hot has been producing great music to promote diversity and equal access to health care since 1990. The first project was the Cole Porter tribute Red Hot + Blue, quickly followed by Red Hot + DanceNo AlternativeStolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, and Red Hot + Rio. Over the past 15 years Red Hot produced two successful projects with Aaron and Bryce Dessner – Dark Was The Night and Day of the Dead – along with a tribute to Arthur Russell and several other projects. 

Yesterday, was World AIDS Day. And to commemorate the occasion, Red Hot reissued their acclaimed Fela Kuti tribute, Red Hot + Riot, which featured contributions from D’Angelo, Questlove, Femi Kuti, Talib Kweli, Sade, the late Tony Allen, Macy Gray, Nile Rodgers, Jorge Ben Jor, Baaba Maal, Meshell Ndegeocello, Dead Prez, Kelis, the late Roy Hargrove, Archie Shepp and many others 20 years after the compilation’s original release. (On a personal note, 20 years ago I was interning at FHM Magazine. I received a press copy of Red Hot + Riot Fela Kuti tribute, and that album was my introduction to both Fela and to Afrobeat.)

The 20th anniversary reissue is remastered and features two hours of bonus material, including a previously unreleased cover of “Sorrow Tears & Blood” by Bilal, an acoustic version of “Trouble Sleep” with Baaba Maal accompanied by the late and legendary kora player Kaouding Cissoko, and an extended version of Sade’s “By Your Side” by Stuart Matthewman. The original release had to be heavily edited to fit the time limit of a physical CD, and the reissue also features a wealth of bonus material, including extended versions of many album tracks, along with early mixes, acapallas, instrumentals, and much more.

And lastly, the folks at Red Hot have released the album on digital streaming platforms for the first time ever.

Just to refresh your memories a bit: Fela Kuti was — and still is — one of the most important African musicians, bandleaders and activists of his time. Sadly, Kuti died at age 58 in 1997 of causes related to HIV/AIDS, two years before Red Hot began the project.

The idea for the Red Hot Fela tribute came from Questlove during sessions for Red Hot’s Gershwin tribute compilation, which featured a collaboration between The Roots and the late and legendary Bobby Womack. Questlove suggested that Red Hot do a cover of Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin On but they couldn’t secure the rights.

The ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, along with a love of Fela Kuti’s work transformed the project into what we now know. Red Hot secured the rights to Fela’s music, as well as his master recordings, which allowed for both covers and sampling. Questlove kicked things off with a superstar session at Electric Lady Studios covering “Water Get No Enemy,” with a band led by D’Angelo and Fela’s son Femi Kuti, along with members of the Soultronics — James Posner, Pino Pallodino and the aforementioned D’Angelo and Questlove — and Femi’s backing band Positive Force. Nile Rodgers, Macy Gray and Erykah Badu joined the session, although Badu’s vocal didn’t make the final mix. Red Hot producer Beco Dranoff brought in legendary Brazilian artist Jorge Ben Jor to the session a bit too late to join in, but he recorded the basic track of what would become “Shuffering and Shmiling” in another room at Electric Lady overseen by producer Andres Levin.

Red Hot spent the the next two years recording material around the world and at the Fun Machine studio that Andres Levin built in the SoHo office of Funny Garbage, the digital design company co-founded and run by Red Hot’s co-founder and creative director John Carlin. Coincidentally, the Baaba Maal session for Trouble Sleep,” the first session at Fun Machine was on September 10, 2001. 24 hours later, the World Trade Center, which could be seen from the studio windows was attacked. It was a tragic and tumultuous time, but the recordings continued and by the end of the year, there was a joyous celebration of Fela’s music and life about to be released.


The 20th anniversary of Red Hot + Riot is a cause for celebration, but also a sober reflection on the continued devastation of HIV/AIDS, particularly as Sub-Saharan Africa is disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic: Sub-Saharan Africa currently accounts for 71% of people living with HIV, a devastating reality where 75% of global HIV-related deaths and 65% of new infections occur. I think these numbers will give you a better sense of HIVs impact on Sub-Saharan Africa: Of the 38.3 million people living with HIV worldwide, 27.3 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa. 7.8 million of the 27.3 million infected people are in South Africa, including 6,.3 million young adults and children. 11% of the global population is in Africa but it accounts for over 71% of the global impact in terms of infections and mortality.

The stigma around men who have sex with other men, women’s lack of resources and agency and the vilification of sex workers and drug addicts halt all progress that can be made to aid the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Frequently, ignorance is used to distance the culture from undesirable and uncomfortable topics like intimate partner violence, sex education, the LGBQT+ community and women’s lack of agency and access to proper care.

Tragically, young women and girls bear the brunt of the impact from cultural silence and their pain and misfortune is passed onto future generations. The HIV/AIDS epidemic’s root is the intersection of structural and cultural setbacks in awareness, acceptance, understanding and treatment. 

Red Hot celebrates the 20th anniversary reissue by sharing the expanded album’s first single, “Sorrow Tears and Blood,” off the bonus material, a joyous yet righteous, pan-African Diasporic take on the original that sees its talented crew of collaborators — Bilal, Zap Mama and Common — seamlessly meshing elements of jazz, neo-soul, hip-hop and Afrobeat. As Black folk — hell, as people — we need to be concerned with what’s going on in the Motherland, the very cradle of all of us.


New Video: Bass Drum of Death Shares Scuzzy and Groovy “Head Change”

Slated for a January 27, 2023 release through Fat Possum Records, Say I Won’t, Bass Drum of Death‘s highly-anticipated fifth album marks three major events for the punk outfit founded and fronted by John Barrett:

  • Barrett relocated from New York, where he had been based for much of the band’s run together, back to his hometown of Oxford, MS. “Moving back to Oxford was a much-needed reset,” Barrett explains. “When I started, I just wanted to play in a punk band and drink beers and travel around. I didn’t really think much past that. And I got really burned out. When I moved back home, I started writing songs again, just for fun. I realized I wanted this record to have more of a hometown feel.”
  • Say I Won’t is the first Bass Drum of Death album that sees Barrett writing, demoing and recording with the touring band, rather than Barrett doing everything completely on his own. Barrett discovered a newfound freedom working with collaborators that just wasn’t available to him before, which opened different aspects of the songwriting: a process that featured live recording, layering on different parts and overdubs and then stripping it all back to the bare bones, keeping the raw, wild heart of the music intact.
  • The album also sees the band returning to their long-time label home Fat Possum, who released their full-length debut, 2011’s GB City. “The switch back to Fat Possum was easy,” Barrett says. “It’s much better working with people I know and love and love everything they do.”

Recorded with The Black KeysPatrick Carney at Audio Eagle Records in Nashville, Say I Won’t is a groove-oriented effort batch of songs indebted to 70s rock songs with scuzzy power chords and cruising tempos. The album seems Barrett and company at their loosest, scuzziest and most tuneful while rooted in a hard-won maturity and swagger that comes from a decade of playing music on the road and surviving to tell the story. “I had to relearn that making music is fucking fun,” says Barrett, “and you should have fun doing it. If it’s miserable, what’s the point?” He laughs. “But man, when a song hits, it’s the best feeling in the world. That’s what this record is about. Getting back to that good place and staying there.”

“Head Change,” Say I Won’t‘s third and latest single is a mid-tempo, cruise-ready ripper centered around scuzzy, power chords and a forceful motorik-like groove that sounds indebted to Led Zeppelin and T. Rex. Play loudly on your car stereo and rock out hard, y’all! “We kind of wanted a mid-tempo psych stomper, and really didn’t change a whole lot from the demo,” Bass Drum of Death’s Barrett explains. “We added the dueling guitar bridge in the studio spur of the moment, and it ended up being one of my favorite parts on the whole record.” 

Directed by Joshua Canon, the accompanying video for “Head Change” is fittingly indebted to 70s horror films: a motorcycle riding bad guy stalks the video’s two female protagonists. as they meet up and get a ride from two dudes they hang out with. The video follows the cues and tropes of horror movies, with the four friends drinking beers and bullshitting in a cemetery when our stalker makes their fearsome appearance. But the video has a bloody and ironic turn.

New Video: Los Bitchos Share a Joyous and Seasonal Visual for “Los Chrismos”

London-based instrumental outfit Los Bitchos — Australian-born, Serra Petale (guitar); Uruguayan-born Agustina Ruiz (keytar); Swedish-born, Josefine Jonsson (bass) and London-born and-based Nic Crawshaw (drums) — can trace their origins to meeting at various late-night parties and through mutual friends. Inspired by their individual members’ different upbringings and backgrounds, Los Bitchos have developed a unique, genre-blurring and retro-futuristic sound blends elements of Peruvian chicha, Argentine cumbia, Turkish psych and surf rock, as well the music each individual member grew up with: 

  • The Uruguayan-born Ruiz had a Latin-American music collection that the members of the band fell in love with. 
  • The Swedish-born Jonsson “brings a touch of out of control pop,” her bandmates often joke. 
  • Aussie-born Serra Petale is deeply inspired by her mother’s 70s Anatolian rock records. 
  • And the London-born Crawshaw played in a number of local punk bands before joining Los Bitchos.

“Coming from all these different places,” Los Bitchos’ Serra Petale says, “it means we’re not stuck in one genre and we can rip up the rulebook a bit when it comes to our influences.”

Los Bitchos’ Alex Kapranos-produced full-length debut,  Let The Festivities Begin! was released earlier this year. Recorded at Gallery Studios, Let The Festivities Begin! sees the London-based instrumental outfit further establishing their reputation for crafting maximalist and trippy, Technicolor, instrumental party starting jams — with a cinematic quality. 

The album’s celebratory title is something you might say while toasting dear friends, families and even strangers at a gathering — and hopefully at the of this horrible period of despair and uncertainty, as a way to usher in a period of carefree debauchery. “It’s about being together and having a really good time,” Los Bitchos say in press notes.

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of this year, you might recall that I managed to write about four of the album’s singles:

  • Las Panteras” a funky, mind-bending jam featuring shimmering synths bongos, cowbell, cabasa and wiry post punk meets Nile Rodgers and surf rock-like guitars and a sinuous bass line. 
  • Good to Go,” another mind-bending, genre-blurring composition that begins with a decidedly Western intro with shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar twang before quickly morphing into a a trippy yet chilled out Latin funk meets Turkish psych affair with glistening synths, handclaps and a blazing guitar solo. 
  • Pista (Fresh Start),” a slick and trippy synthesis of chicha, cumbia and psych rock featuring looping guitars and dance floor friendly Latin rhythms. 
  • The Link Is About To Die,” a trippy party friendly groove featuring looping and glistening guitars, twinkling synths and shuffling rhythms.

The rapidly rising JOVM mainstays will cap off a momentous year with two singles “Los Chrismos,” their first-ever Christmas themed composition and “Tipp Tapp,” both which were released digitally and physically earlier this month on a flexi disc bundled with a red vinyl re-press of their debut album. Co-produced, by the band’s Serra Petal and Javier Weyler, the two new tracks were recorded at 5db. 

The first single of the batch, the Christmas-themed “Los Chismos,” is a celebratory party, starting romp with cheers and shouts, centered around a dexterous and looping guitar line, atmospheric synths that’s one-part cumbia, one-part psych rock and 100% unadulterated joy. Considering the continued strange and uneasy state of our world over the past couple of years, “Los Chrismos” is a much-needed joy and hope bomb.

“‘Los Chrismos’ is our ‘80s nostalgic Christmas dreamland. Shoop-shooping down the slopes into a cosy chalet strewn with fairy lights, join us for a glass of bubbly and a cosy Christmas party full of festivities!” The band shares. “We can’t wait to get dressed up and play this song on our Chrismos tour.” 

Directed, shot and edited by Tom Mitchell, the accompanying video continues the 80s vibes of the song: We the women of Los Bitchos skiing down the slopes before meeting up for a meal and bubbly in a cozy, chalet complete with fireplace, seasonal lights — and the exchanging of gifts. If you’re a child of the 80s as I am, the video is a playful and nostalgia-inducing walk down memory lane.

New Audio: Belgian Duo Portland Releases an Atmospheric Ode to Heartbreak and Resolve

Belgian indie pop duo Portland — Jente Pironet and Sarah Pepels — can trace their origins back to when the duo lived at the same student housing unit while studying at Hasselt, Belgium‘s PXL Music School. The duo also a shared the same love of music with a specific soft spot for Elliott Smith. In fact, the project’s name is a nod to Smith’s hometown. From the start, it was clear that the duo had a palpable chemistry: Their voices blend and complement each other perfectly.

The duo took part in and won several local talent competitions before signing to [PIAS] back in 2018. Their full-length debut, 2019’s Your Colours Will Stain was released to critical and commercial acclaim with the album peaking at #6 on the Belgian album charts, thanks to success of the melancholy and dreamy sound of singles like “Killer’s Mind, “Ally Ally” and “You Misread Me.” Adding to a growing profile, the Belgian pop duo made the rounds of the national and international touring circuit with sets at Rock Werchter, Pukklepop, and The Great Escape, as well as several festivals across the Benelux region (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg) and France.

Earlier this year, the duo relocated to the UK to record their highly-anticipated, 12-song, sophomore album Departures with Oliver Baystom. Slated for a March 17, 2023 release, the album reportedly sees the duo growing into their own as performers and songwriters. The material is more direct and to the point, while displaying more intricate melodies and arrangements. Casting aside the need to show off their vocal range or tricks on every song, the duo let the songs guide them to find the perfect tone and harmonies to complement the melodies and rhythms. The end result is an album of moving, beautiful and dream-like music.

Departures‘ latest single, the Sarah Pepels-penned “Stardust” is a slow-burning and beguiling song featuring an atmospheric and brooding arrangement of organ, keys and woodwinds. Pepels’ delicate vocal gently tiptoes through the arrangement, with the song and vocalist slowly growing louder and gaining confidence while getting to the song’s chorus. The song is rooted in deeply personal yet universal experience: lost love, lives turned upside down and putting the pieces of a broken life and heart back together while being a celebration of one’s inner strength and resolve.

“In January 2021, I was heartbroken, I had to leave a lot of memories and a part of my life, my love, behind,” Portland’s Sarah Pepels explains. “I didn’t know where to go, but I knew, I had to write music to put those thoughts and heavy emotions into. I needed to be alone, so I went cat-sitting at my niece’s apartment. I locked myself up for four days with nothing but the warmth and company of the furry kittens. It turned out to be a very intense and cathartic journey. And so ‘Stardust, a song that means the world to me, was born.”

Just about 13 years ago, I started what has been for me, my life’s work — this site. And honestly, when I started this site, I couldn’t have imagined three-quarters of the things I’ve done and experienced over JOVM’s history to ever happen. 

  • I’ve covered roughly 1,100-1,200 shows in NYC, with a handful of shows in ChicagoBaltimore and Philadelphia
  • I’ve covered about a dozen or more festivals, including traveling to Montreal for M for Montreal in 2019 and again earlier this month.
  • I’ve been a panelist at Mondo.NYC Festival and at New Colossus Festival, speaking about PR, promotion and press for indie artists, giving my perspective as a indie blogger. 
  • A few years ago, I made a cameo in a JOVM mainstay’s music video. It’s a very noticeable spot towards the end of the video. It was a fun experience, but so far no one has called me about acting or dancing gigs. Maybe I need to stick to the writing and photography? 
  • I couldn’t have imagined photographing George ClintonPatti LaBelleSnoop DoggBlondieNile RodgersRoky EricksonPhilip BaileyBlind Boys of Alabama and so many others, as well as this site’s countless mainstays.
  • I wouldn’t have met the countless colleagues and musicians, who have become supporters and friends.  

Now you’ll remember that during the very worst of the pandemic, things seemed — understandably — bleak. And although we’ve slowly managed to claw our way back to even greater degree of normalcy, being a working and touring musician has remained extremely bleak. Financially touring has always been a financial risk but rising inflation and COVID-19 has made touring much more daunting and complicated. 

We’re all trying to figure out how to maneuver in a new, confusing and uncertain landscape that may well be with us for an indefinite period of time. But with these past 12+ years under my belt, I have no intentions of going anywhere. 

I strongly believe that I’ve managed to carve out a unique spot in the blogosphere, a place that I feel is desperately necessary because both the music and media worlds are often so incredibly homogenous. Someone out there has to do something different. And representation in every aspect matters. So JOVM and my work with it has to continue. 

As I do every month, I want to thank the following folks and organizations. Without them this past few years — and especially this year — wouldn’t have been remotely possible: 

Sash

Alice Northover

Bella Fox

Jenny MacRostie

Janene Otten 

All of those folks have been generous Patreon patrons. Of course, feel free to check out the Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/TheJoyofViolentMovement. And if you’re able to support, your support will be greatly appreciated and continuously shouted out. Any amount really helps. 

I have to thank the folks at Creatives Rebuild New York. I’m relieved, proud and humbled to be included in their Guaranteed Income for Artists program. The money I’ll receive over the next 13 months or so will be put to good use — keeping this little dream of mine going. I don’t think there’s enough words to thank them — or to show how grateful I am. (I’ll keep trying, of course!) 

There are other ways you can support. 

You can also support by checking the JOVM shop: https://www.joyofviolentmovement.com/shop 

You can also support my following me on the following platforms:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/william_ruben_helms 

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/yankee32879 and https://www.twitter.com/joyofviolent 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheJoyofViolentMovement

And you can hire me for headshots, portraits and events. Seriously, I’m available for that, too. You can click here: https://www.photobooker.com/photographer/ny/new-york/william-h?duration=1?duration=1# or you can contact me directly.

M. Byrd is a German-born and based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalists and producer, who can trace the origins of music career, and his passion for music to when he was small: When Byrd was three, he played drums in front of the TV. Eventually, he found his dad’s guitar. Encouraged by a teacher, he picked up electric guitar and attended countless roots jam sessions at local joints. Influenced by Alice Coltrane, Tom Petty, Elliott Smith and David Lynch, Byrd began writing his own material.

The German-born and-based artist turned heads back in 2020 with the release of “Mountain” and “Morning Sun,” tracks that amassed millions of streams and praise from Ones to Watch, Earmilk, Atwood Magazine and several others while firmly cementing his sound and approach: Byrd’s work pairs intensely personal songwriting with shoegazer textures and pop accessibility.

At the end of 2020, Byrd along with producer Eugen Koop holed up in Detmold, Germany in a WWII-era British Corps squash hall, turned recording studio, where they worked on The Seed, the German artist’s forthcoming, full-length debut, an effort that sees Byrd personally playing guitar, synths and bass. The album’s material reportedly draws you in to inspire your own evolution. As Byrd says ““When you listen to the album, I hope you feel like you can grow with me. Maybe you’ll find confidence in yourself. We’re planting this thought with The Seed.

The German artist’s latest single “Over You/Over Me” features Byrd’s plaintive and balmy vocals floating over a textured, shoegazer-like soundscape paired with a motorik groove and an enormous hook. Much like his previously released work, the new single is rooted in a bright, hopeful sense of the future.

“I dreamt there were snakes all over my apartment,” Byrd recalls. “A snake is a symbol for drastic change in your life and you’re repressing it. There’s a lot of change for  me.  I’m  starting  to  be  a  full-time  musician.  There’s  still  a  pandemic.  I  tried  to  dress  up  this darkness nicely. I talked to a friend who is into interpreting dreams, and she said that snakes in dreams meant that I was going through a profound change in my life. I remembered a quote I once read in an essay by Freud:  ‘A  dream  is  the  liberation  of  the  spirit  from  the  pressure  of  external  nature,  a detachment of the soul from the restraints of matter.”

The Seed is slated for release next year through Nettwerk Music Group.