Throwback: Happy (Belated) 73rd Birthday, Mark Knopfler!

JOVM’s William Ruben Helms belatedly celebrates Mark Knopfler’s 73rd birthday.

New Audio: Emerging Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based Artist Travisslut Shares a Swaggering Banger

Travisslut is an emerging Lagos, Nigeria-born, Brooklyn-based emcee. Relocating to Brooklyn when he was 19, the Nigerian-born artist is on a quest to make spectacular and authentic rap music with thought-provoking lyrics rooted in lived-in experience and feelings paired with irresistible melodies that music lovers and hip-hop heads around the world will love.

The young, emerging emcee recently released his debut EP, the two-song Babyface. The EP’s title is derived from the fact that his friends relentlessly tease him for having a babyface-like appearance. Hey, why not take the piss out of it, right?

Babyface EP single “China” is a swaggering banger that pairs a woozy, trap meets J. Dilla-like production with the young emcee’s dexterous and densely worded lyrics. At its core, the song sees the Nigerian-born artist putting fakes and phonies in their place with a remarkable self-assuredness.

New Video: Jenny Stevens & The Empty Mirrors Share a House Music-Inspired Remix of “Beneath Smooth Waters”

Welsh-born, Finnish-based singer/songwriter and musician Jenny Stevens, a.k.a. The Ukelele Girl is the creative mastermind behind JOVM mainstay outfit Jenny Stevens and The Empty Mirrors, which sees Stevens frequently pairing dark-alt pop with quirky visuals. 

Last year, Stevens released the The Distance Between Us EP, an effort that featured “The River Rolls On,” an atmospheric track that seemed indebted to the likes of Siouxsie and the BansheesThe Cure and Cocteau Twins

Earlier this year, Stevens released “Beneath Smooth Waters” is a slow-burning and brooding track that sees the project adopting a 90s trip hop sound: glistening, reverb-drenched synth arpeggios, sinuous bass lines paired with Stevens’ achingly plaintive vocals. According to Stevens, Bjork’s “Play Dead” and several other tracks were a major inspiration on the song — but to my ears, I’m reminded of Dummy era Portishead

Stevens goes on to explain that the song is “also a literal siren song — don’t go too near the water’s edge . . . “

Electronic music producer Bobby Molloy recently gave “Beneath Smooth Waters” the remix treatment that retains Stevens’ achingly plaintive vocal but places it within an uptempo, deep house music-like production featuring glistening synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rattling thump and subtle bursts of industrial clang and clatter.

Featuring footage by Sally Haigh, and and artwork by’s Nadine Sh, the accompanying video for the Bobby Molly remix of “Beneath Smooth Waters” uses some of the imagery from the original video and adds digital animation and artwork, some footage of the creepiest doll I’ve ever seen and more.

New Video: Danger Mouse and Black Thought Team Up with A$AP Rocky and Run The Jewels on a Glitchy Roller Coaster Visual for “Strangers”

Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) is arguably one of the most versatile and prolific artists and producers in music right now: As an artist he has been one-half of Broken Bells and Grammy Award-winning Gnarls Barkley. He has recorded collaborative albums with  Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ Karen O and the late, legendary MF DOOM. As a producer, he has worked with AdeleU2The Black KeysGorillazRed Hot Chili PeppersMichael KiwanukaParquet Courts and a lengthy list of others. 

Black Thought (born Tariq Trotter) is a co-founder and frontman of Grammy Award winning, pioneering hip-hop act The Roots. Trotter is also an accomplished solo artist who has released a critically applauded album and two EPs: 2020’s Streams of Thought Vol. 3: Cane & Able and 2018’s Streams of Thought Vol. 1 EP and Streams of Thought Vol. 2 EP, which helped further his reputation among the cognoscenti — and real hip hop heads — as one of the dopest emcees to ever spit bars. Adding to a lengthy list of accolades and accomplishments, Trotter has acted in film and theater, along with having writing and producer credits.

The acclaimed duo’s long-rumored, long-awaited and highly-anticipated joint album Cheat Codes officially dropped today through BMG. While Cheat Codes simultaneously marks Danger Mouse’s first hip-hop album since 2005’s DANGERDOOM with MF DOOM and the follow-up to Black Thoughts’ solo trilogy Streams of Thought, their collaboration can be traced back almost almost 20 years earlier: Trotter and Burton first met back in 2005. They started working on material — but time went on, life happened, other projects and obligations came up. 

Following 2004’s acclaimed The Grey Album, Burton became one of the most in-demand and prolific producers of the day, helming several commercially and critically successful projects, which led to a bevy of accolades and awards. He also developed collaborations with a unique and eclectic array of artists while expanding upon and honing his own musicianship, production and writing. 

During that same period of time, The Roots released a batch of critically applauded albums and became the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon then The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Trotter released his aforementioned, critically applauded solo trilogy Streams of Thought. He collaborated with the likes of EminemJohn LegendPusha T.Griselda, and a list of others. He wrote, composed and starred in the widely-praised off-Broadway show Black No More. And adding to a lengthy list of accomplishments, he co-produced a TV series with his Roots bandmate Questlove

Each mistakenly thought that the other had moved on and their collaboration just died, but as it turned out, neither one never stopped wanting to work together. Burton had long felt an instinctive need to return to his roots and make a timeless hip-hop album. He knew that Trotter was one of the few emcees truly capable of fulfilling that vision. Simultaneously, Trotter was seeking a space, where he could express himself musically and creatively beyond the confines and structures of his own band. 

This time, Burton was a far more seasoned songwriter and producer, Trotter an even more extraordinary emcee.  So, setting aside all distractions, Burton played Trotter some new music he had had. The ideas and words quickly flowed — and the experience was liberating. 

Meticulously built over a period of several years, Cheat Codes finds Burton pushing widescreen, soul-infused hip-hop soundscapes to new directions paired with Trotter’s commanding presence, incisive lyricism and dexterous wordplay. Unlike the typical producer-meets-rapper/side project, Cheat Codes is an effort between two like-minded collaborators, who raise each other’s games to new heights. 

The album also features an equally acclaimed cast of guests including A$AP Rocky,Run The Jewels, MF DOOM, Michael Kiwanuka, Joey Bada$$RussRaekwon, and Conway the Machine

So far I’ve written about three Cheat Codes singles: 

No Gold Teeth,” which featured a warm and dusty psych soul-like production that brings RZAPete Rock, and DJ Premier to mind, that serves as a lush bed for Black Thought’s dense, rapid fire, lyrical deluge. 

Because,” which features a slow-burning, psych soul-inspired production paired with a vocal hook by Dylan Cartlidge. While being another example of the deep and uncannily innate simpatico shared between the two acclaimed collaborators, “Because” is chock full of dope bars, impressive wordplay and mind-blowing inner and outer rhyme schemes in an easy-going yet urgent cypher between Black Thought, Joey Bada$$ and Russ, that weaves in and out of the political and the personal. 

Aquamarine,” a woozy and cinematic song featuring skittering hi-hat, thumping beats and squiggling bursts paired with a soaring hook from acclaimed British soul artist Micheal Kiwanuka. The production is a lush and roomy bed for Black Thought’s imitable, hard-hitting bars. “For ‘Aquamarine,’ when I heard the music I just had a feeling to sing about standing up for something that’s unique and following that path”, Kiwanuka says. “I don’t know why but that’s what came out.  Sometimes when you’re following something that’s unique to you it’s as if ‘enemies are all around’. At times life can feel fragile like ‘everything’s burning down’. For some reason the chords and music made me feel that way.”  

“Strangers,” the last single off Cheat Codes before its release, is a neck-snapping banger featuring four of the dopest emcees out there right now — Black Thought, A$AP Rocky and Run The Jewels spitting flames on a woozy and dusty production and glitchy centered around tweeter and woofer rattling beats, sampled, B-movie-like dialogue, soulful vocals. 

“We were honored to get down with our elite and legendary friends Danger Mouse, Black Thought and A$AP Rocky on this banger,” Run the Jewels say in press notes. 

I’ve said this before, and I’m not bullshitting here: Cheat Codes may arguably be the best hip-hop album — and possibly, the best album — of this year. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Continuing the duo’s ongoing visual collaboration with video production team UNCANNY, the accompanying, grainy black and white visual is a wild rollercoaster ride that sees each of the song’s four incredible emcees, Black Thought, A$AP Rocky, Killer Mike, and El-P passing the mic — or in this case their phones for them to spit fire. The video captures the song’s urgency and dusty glitchy vibe.

New Video: Taleen Kali Shares a Fuzzy, Power Chord-Driven Ripper

Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, poet, essayist, visual artist, and Dum Dum Records label head Taleen Kali (she/they) crafts romantic punk songs with a cosmic sound with elements of shoegaze, psychedelia and grunge that’s dreamy and defiant. Influenced by melodies and imagery from her Armenian heritage and her parents’ birthplaces of Lebanon and Ethiopia, Kali has manages to fuse her cultural linage with the sounds of the modern countercultures she grew up embracing and eventually exploring as a musician.

Kali initially starting her career in earnest as a member of Los Angeles-based band TÜLIPS. After TÜLIPS went out with a bang at their final headline show at The Regent Theater back in 2016, Kali stepped out into the limelight as a solo artist, sharing bills and touring the States with the likes of Ex Hex, Alice Bag and Seth Bogart.

The Los Angeles-based multi-hyphenate’s 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 noise pop and New Wave, was released to praise from BUST Magazine and Stereogum, who likened her sound to a contemporary Blondie. Soul 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.

As I mentioned earlier, Kali is the founder of Los Angeles-based experimental label Dum Dum Records and what the The Los Angeles Times has called “cult favorite” DUM DUM Zine — and she’s a sound healer, who often leads group mediations. Interestingly, last year, she briefly pivoted from the punk psychedelia she’s best known for with the release of last year’s Songs For Meditation, a sound bath album. Additionally, her poetry, essays and visual art have appeared in digital and internationally recognized publications including The Onion, Spin Magazine, Razorcake, Los Angeleno, and The Bushwick Review.

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 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.

Flower of Life’s latest single, album title track “Flower of Life” is a grungy psych punk ripper centered around Kali’s sneering delivery, fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming, soaring organ chords paired with a mosh pit friendly chorus. To my ears, “Flower of Life” sonically, is a defiant and decidedly 120 Minutes-era MTV-like alt rock influenced song — think My Bloody Valentine meets riot grrr-era punk. So far, the track received praise from Buzzbands LA and Grimy Goods, and radio airplay from KEXP.

“‘Flower of Life’ was a spiritual concept I held onto for a long time before writing this song,” the Los Angeles-based multi-hyphenate explains in press notes. “The flower is a fractal, a cycle, ever blooming, ever decaying. 

“For our 1st music video, we wanted to honor this cycle by highlighting the cultural moments we experienced in the recent past as a way of celebrating our resilience while also looking ahead to the future. For our band right now, it means being able to perform again and tour to support our upcoming album. In the larger scheme of things, it means so much more. 

It was important to us to not only highlight resistance but also celebration in the music video. The news clips in the video range from footage of LGBTQ pride marches to recent protests, which include the recent Roe vs. Wade demonstrations, Armenians in L.A. protesting the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, Black Lives Matter, and even the 2017 Women’s March.”  

Lillian Frances is a Sacramento-based singer/songwriter, producer and self-professed “sonic collager.” Inspired by the creative and imaginative nature of children, Frances’ work generally isn’t bound to genre or style conventions. Her work frequently meshes and blurs genre and style lines, often within the same song with lyrics sung in English and Spanish.

Frances’ 2018 EP Timeism featured a sound that some have compared to LordeSylvan Esso, and Billie Eilish — and received praise from NPR’s Heavy Rotation, Indie Shuffle, and Cap Radio.  She supported the EP with appearances across the state and regional festival circuit with sets at  Sacramento PorchFest, the Davis Music Festival and the Davis Cherry Blossom Festival among others. Adding to a growing profile, Frances has opened for Sylvan Esso — and she has played alongside Shakey GravesSage the Gemini, and Lexi Panterra.

The Sacramento-based artist released her full-length debut Moonrise Queendom back in 2020 and the album featured “Raincheck Summer,” a breezy and forward-thinking, summery pop confection centered around a coquettish and mischievous push and pull — and a deep, timely sense of irony: A summertime bop for the summer in which you never actually saw anyone. Interestingly, underlying the song’s bold playfulness and irony, the song as Frances explains “explores the idea of authentic connection.”

This February, Frances did something she had been dreaming of for years: She finally moved out of her parents’ home and into her own apartment. The pandemic had been in full swing for about a year, and she was — understandably — champing at the bit to get out of the way-too-close quarters with her mother, father and sister.

When she moved, the Sacramento-based artist was overwhelmed by what she describes as a beautiful wave of freedom. She felt as though she could go anywhere, do anything, be anyone (within reason) — and so she did.

Week after week, Frances would jump into her Chevy Volt and head to some new outdoorsy location, usually revolving around rock climbing, like Joshua Tree, CA; Smith Rock, OR; Red Rocks, NV; and so on. Through her road trips, the Sacramento-based artist experienced a level of freedom, adventure and romance that reminded her of what it’s like to be truly alive and present.

Those road trips wound up informing and influencing her latest single “Direct Sunlight.” Around the time, she started writing the song, she was figuring out how to be a good plant mom — i.e., figuring out where in the house is the sunniest? shadiest? how much water? etc. — she was figuring out how much sunlight and care, she really needed.

Written, recorded and produced by Frances, “Direct Sunlight” is a breezy pop confection centered around skittering trap-like beats, atmospheric synths and glistening bursts of mandolin paired with Frances’ coquettish, come hither delivery. The song captures the feeling of being on the road — perhaps for the first time in some time — and the sense of adventure and possibility that every single trip brings with it. Add it to your road trip playlist.

New Video: Plaster Cast Share A Hazy and Dreamy Bop

Plaster Cast, which currently features members split across the country, can trace their origins back to when producer Alex Esk started the project with vocalist Cameron Wilson back in 2011 — while both were studying video art at UC San Diego. Wilson’s sister Michaela Lustig joined the project as a second vocalist. Producer/engineer Brah1m joined the band after meeting Esk, when they both worked for The Real Housewives.

And with that lineup, the members of Plaster Cast wrote and recorded their debut EP, 2016’s Permanence, which received critical praise from Gorilla vs. BearThe FaderVice, and BBC Radio. Adding to a breakthrough year for the outfit, EP which featured “Sunless,” a melancholic, downtempo pop song centered around Wilson and Lustig’s uncanny harmonizing and a warped beyond recognition Adele sample, and “Undecided,” which featured Foxes in Fiction appeared on a number of year-end lists.

The project’s sophomore EP Control is slated for release tomorrow. Understandably, informed by the vast changes of the sociopolitical climate that have occurred since 2016’s PermanenceControl EP thematically is a large, perceptive grown towards modernity with the EP’s material touching on various concepts of individualism vs. collectivism, intimacy vs. alienation, and the self-consciousness of empathy — but in an understated, largely philosophical fashion. 

The EP also sees a deeper sense of collaboration between the project’s core members, inspired by the insight that relinquishing one’s own ideas can provide both empowerment and diminishment simultaneously. And as a result, the EP reportedly feels more like a group of friends in a personal therapy session, in which all their collective fears, joys and uncertainties are shared in a way that touches upon a more expansive reflection of the human condition. 

The material is rooted within the intersection of warmth and isolation — and the band’s desire to acknowledge their own literal and symbolic closeness and distance, shaped by each member’s own reality. “The songs are connected by themes of remoteness and looking at relationships as a negotiation of what you get and what you give up,” Plaster Cast’s Wilson explains. “Ultimately the work of looking at your place in your relationships is worth the pain it can cause, as we are useless alone.”

But ultimately, the central theme at the heart of Control is the relinquishment of control in one’s life: The control of our thoughts, the control over the circumstances and impermanence of life, the control over a world that’s often confusing, uncertain and mad. And paradoxically through relinquishing control — and the possibility of it — there often comes a sense of great mindfulness and calm. 

Last month, I wrote about EP single “Waves.” Beginning with an ethereal introductory section featuring dreamily cooed vocals and atmospheric synths, the song around the 25 second mark quickly ramps up to become a relentless, disco-tinged, motorik groove-driven bop with mournful synth pads and an infectious hook as a sinuous and lush bed for those dreamily delivered harmonies. While sonically bearing a resemblance to Chromatics and others, the song expresses an aching yearning for understanding and companionship in a desperate, uncertain moment.

The EP’s latest single , the dreamy and hazy “Videotheque” much like its predecessor begins with a lullaby like introduction featuring strummed acoustic guitar paired with achingly vulnerable vocals that quickly morphs into a slickly productions club and lounge friendly, house music-like bop centered around layers of glistening synth oscillations, skittering beats and a breezy melody serving as a lush bed for dreamy boy-girl harmonies. But unlike its predecessor, the song thematically touches on the sense of dissociation, longing and ache that often comes from any relationship.

Shot by Cameron Wilson and Rachel Louie with assistance from Christopher Konecky at Hook Fabrication and edited by Cameron Wilson, the lyric video features the members in a glitchy VHS haze, which adds to the song’s dreamy and hazy air.

New Video: DJ Premier Teams Up with Remy Ma and Rapsody on a Banger Celebrating All Things Hip Hop

Founded in 1996, Mass Appeal is an entertainment company dedicated to documenting the emerging movements that influence popular ideas through the perspective of those, who shape and shift culture. Since its founding, Mass Appeal has become the self-professed elevated voice of hip hop and its ever-expanding sphere of influence.

With 2023 marking hip hop’s 50th anniversary, Mass Appeal developed #HipHop50, a massive, cross-platform initiative aimed at celebrating the momentous anniversary in the most authentic and globally impactful way possible: #HipHop50 is a multi-year celebration that includes strategic partnerships, immersive global activations and charitable elements, as well as the creation of once-in-a-lifetime moments featuring the iconic voices that have transcended culture.

Mass Appeal have teamed up with The Orchard to distribute Hip Hop 50: The Soundtrack, a collection of ten EPs of all-new, original music that will unite the industry’s most highly regarded producers and talents to look back, honor and celebrate 50 years of hip hop music and culture — all while looking forward at hip hop’s bright future. The series will feature music curated by DJ Premier, Swizz Beatz, Mustard, The Dream, Mike Will Made- It, No I.D., Hit-Boy, Take A Daytrip and Tainy. A portion of all #HipHop50 proceeds will be donated to various charitable organizations, including the Universal Hip Hop Museum, set to open its doors in 2024.

The first EP of the series, DJ Premier: Hip Hop 50: Volume 1 is a five-song EP entirely produced by the legendary DJ Premier. Featuring collaborations with Lil Wayne, Nas, Remy Ma, Rapsody, Joey Bada$$, Slick Rick, and Run The Jewels, the EP salutes and celebrates the beloved — and wildly influential — Preemo sound, while amping hip hop heads for the next releases in the series. (Personally, the Preemo and Swizz Beatz editions are right in my wheelhouse. I’m curious about the No I.D. edition, too.)

DJ Premier: Hip Hop 50: Volume 1‘s first single “Remy Rap” is a neck-snapping banger centered around a minimalist, tweeter and woofer rattling Preemo production featuring looping bursts of wobbling bass synths, skittering beats, explosive hand-claps and some good ol’ fashioned turntablism serving as a funky and sinuous bed for Remy Ma and Grammy-nominated Rapsody to trade fiery and swaggering bars and verses. While showcasing two criminally underrated — and just fucking dope — emcees, the song is a forceful reminder that hip hop wouldn’t be where it is today without the women who have cultivated, supported and performed alongside the men.

Directed by Maya Table, the accompanying video for “Remy Rap” pays homage to early 90s NYC hip hop and its related imagery: The NYC skyline, inner city building rooftops, grainy black and white footage, Kangol bucket hats, enormous hoop earrings, hockey jersys, thick Cuban link chains and DJ Premier furious scratching — and of course, two amazing emcees vibing off each other.

Fittingly, this one comes out on the 49th anniversary of DJ Kool Herc‘s legendary “Back to School Jam” at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop. So let’s celebrate and honor the pioneers, the dreamers, legends and icons of the music and culture that has become the lingua franca of the past three generations or so of young people. Long live hip hop, y’all! Long live the DJ! Long live the emcee! Long the live the breakers! Long live the graffiti writers!

New Video: Hanya Shares Surreal and Feverish Visual for “Amateur Professional”

Brighton-based dream pop act and JOVM mainstays Hanya — currently Heather Sheret (vocals, guitar), Benjamin Varnes (guitar) and Jack Watkins (drums) — exploded into the national and international scenes with the release of their debut EP, I Used to Love You, Now I Don’t, an effort that saw the British outfit quickly and firmly establish a sound that featured elements of dream pop and shoegaze. 

Much like countless acts across the globe, back in 2020, the Brighton-based JOVM mainstays had plans to build upon a rapidly growing profile both nationally and internationally: they released their acclaimed, sophomore EP Sea Shoes, which they supported with touring across the UK and their Stateside debut at that year’s New Colossus Festival. But since then they’ve been busy.

Last year, the Brighton-based released their acclaimed third EP 100 Metre Sprint which featured: 

  • Texas,” a shimmering bit of dream pop that nods at 70s AM rock, and focuses on the longing and excitement of a new crush/new love/new situationship
  • Monochrome,”a hazy and slow-burning ballad that celebrates the pleasures of life’s small things
  • Lydia,” a slow-burning and gorgeous track that continues upon their winning mix of 70s AM rock and Beach House-like dream pop. 
  • Fortunes,” a slow burning track, which featured  A Storm In Heaven like painterly textures, ethereal harmonies and deeply personal, lived-in lyricism. 
  • Logan’s Run,” which struck me as a lush and brooding synthesis of AM Rock and lush, A Storm in Heaven-like textures. Fittingly, the track was inspired by the 1970’s sci-fi classic, which the band watched a lot during the pandemic. 

Hanya’s newest single, the Theo Verney-produced “Amateur Professional” sees the rising Brighton-based outfit marrying their live show energy with their recorded sound — while further refining and pushing that sound in subtle yet decided new direction. Centered around a post-punk influenced take on shoegaze and dream pop that features shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars paired with angular and propulsive bass lines serving as a lush bed for Sheret’s gorgeous and vulnerable delivery singing ongue-in-cheek lyrics, “Amateur Professional” features the band’s penchant for rousingly anthemic hooks. But at its core, the song strikes at something deeply familiar for me — and those I’ve spent my adult life covering: The moral and mental gymnastics that creatives must grapple with when attempting to make a side-hustle viable in a consumer world that doesn’t value authenticity and constantly vies for every moment of our attention. 

“‘Amateur Professional’ was written at a time when we felt our most cynical,” Hanya explains. “Trying to remain inspired in this chaos and constantly grappling with self-doubt is something every person experiences, and we wanted to explore that in this world of a ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ mentality. The track is about attempting to be a full-time professional in whatever it is you want, even if you feel like a lousy amateur a lot of the time. It’s a fighting song, for when you’re feeling like giving up.”

Directed by Sara Azmy, the accompanying video for “Amateur Professional” is a gorgeously shot and surreal fever dream split between the office drone working at the office to support themselves and their dream until they burned out and lost their minds — and their dreams of music stardom. That balance between doing what you have to do to support yourself and living your dreams can be extremely complicated.