I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in Premier Guitar Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, The New York Press, New York Magazine's Vulture Blog, Ins&Outs Magazine, The Noise Beneath the Apple, Glide Magazine, The Whiskey Dregs Magazine and others.
Trygve Wiese is a rapidly rising Norwegian DJ, producer and songwriter, best known as Wiese. Hailing from Bergen — the same block that Kygo and Alan Walker once lived — Wiese’s sound manages to draw from similar sources. With his work amassing several million Spotify plays, the rising Norwegian artist quickly caught the attention of Warner Music, but he recently decided to release things through his own label.
2020 has been a weird and terrifying year for all of us — but in the meantime, the rising Norwegian DJ, producer and songwriting plans to release a batch of new material over the next few months, including his latest single, “I Fell.” Centered around Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, cowbell, synth arpeggios, an infectious hook with chopped and pitched vocals and Wiese’s plaintive vocals, “I Fell” is a rousing, two-step inducing club banger that hints at house music.
Jenny Logan is a Portland, OR-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who has spent the past few years being very busy as a member of grunge pop trio Loveboys, post-punk act Miss Rayon, guitar pop act Sunbathe, and her solo recording project Deathlist. With her Deathlist, Logan has released a handful of material including 2017’s S/T debut, 2018’s attention-grabbing Fun. and last year’s A Canyon and Loved, which have helped established her sound — a sound that’s influenced by New Order, Suicide and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Logan’s fifth Deathlist album You Won’t Be Here for Long is slated for a May 29, 2020 release. Recorded and mixed by Victor Nash at Destination: Universe, the forthcoming album thematically explores loss, grief, survival and love. You Won’t Be Here for Long’s latest single, album title track “You Won’t Be Here For Long” is a slow-burning and murky dirge centered around droning synths, a sinuous bass line, Logan’s husky vocals and tweeter and woofer rocking beats. And while clearly being indebted to the pulsating minimalism of Suicide, the song as Logan explained to New Noise Magazine “is about the temporariness of everything and how stranger it is what we still exist at all.” Considering how dire everything in our world is at the moment, the song’s overall theme seems both prescient and fitting.
Shot in Red Rock Canyon, outside of Las Vegas, the video is split between black and white home video recorder footage of Lewis hiking and wandering in the desert, and footage of her lying down in a bed of flowers. It emphasizes the eeriness of the song — while illustrating our smallness and fragility within a larger, indifferent universe.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about Eivind Øygarden, an acclaimed Telemark, Norway-born, Oslo-Norway-based emcee, best known as Ivan Ave. Øygarden, who grew up in an area surrounded by rugged, majestic mountains, best known for its hiking and hiking literature and for its folk music heritage is a rather unusual figure: a Norwegian-born and-based emcee, who rhymes in English. But despite that, he’s made a mark on the global, underground hip-hop scene. Interestingly, the acclaimed Norwegian emcee can trace much of his influences to his older sister’s R&B collection — in particular, The Fugees, Janet Jackson and Raphael Saadiq.
As a teenager Øygarden and his family relocated to Stavanger, where he gravitated to the city’s prominent hip-hop, breakdance, DJ and graffiti scene. Øygarden took all of those early influences with him when he relocated to New York for a self-imposed residency, in which, he spent time hanging out and collecting records A-1 Records. And through his love of hip-hop, the Norwegian emcee discovered 70s jazz and soul — and sampling as a way to create his own music and sound.
When Øygarden returned to Oslo, he met his earliest collaborator Fredfades. The duo then founded Mutual Intentions, a collective of like-minded friends and a label that became a platform that hadn’t previously existed in Oslo — and it led to work with international producers. In 2014, Ivan Ave signed to Berlin-based Jakarta Records, who released his acclaimed debut, 2016’s Helping Hands and his sophomore album, 2017’s Every Eye.
Now, as you may recall the Norwegian emcee’s third full-length Double Goodbyes is slated for an April 24, 2020 release through Playground Music/Mutual Intentions. And the album, which derives its title from a Seinfeld reference, finds the acclaimed emcee leaving the sample-heavy behind sound of his previously released work and moving towards a broader — and at times more soul influenced — sonic palette. The album also marks the first time that Øygarden took up production duties, producing the majority of the album’s material himself.
Recorded last year in Los Angeles and Oslo, and featuring guest spots from Sasac, Bryon The Aquarius, Joyce Wright and others, the album was recorded during a period of personal struggle, where the work became both the focus and the therapy. “I needed to start from scratch in my life and rebuild it step by step, the music was part of the healing process.” Additionally, the aesthetics of the Home Shopping Network and late ’80s and early ’90s new age influence some of the album’s material. ‘“It’s easy to mock, due to some of its pompous cheesiness”says Ivan.“But as I’m getting older, experiencing life’s ups & downs, the essence of it feels genuine.” (In some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that Ali Shaheed Muhammad once described the acclaimed Norwegian emcee’s work as “deeply therapeutic” on his podcast.)
“Double Goodbyes is a product of just making music that moved me, in a phase of my life where I was building from scratch emotionally,” the acclaimed Norwegian emcee explains in press notes. “I found healing in producing and singing these songs, without necessarily putting my usual rappety-rap hat on. But as the album title suggests, a lot of times we find ourselves bumping into the exact things, people and habits that we thought we had left behind. So my hip-hop roots shine through once again, in this weird blend of RnB, AOR and synth sounds. Sasac was my main co-creator on the record, along with some dope music friends such as Kiefer, Mndsgn, Byron The Aquarius, Devin Morrison and more.”
So far, I’ve written about the first two singles off the album “Triple Double Love,” and “Phone Won’t Charge,” silky smooth and slick syntheses of 80s and 90s synth-led R&B and J. Dilla-era hip-hop while revealing a wizened, self-awareness with narrators, who have come to recognize that they’ve been unintentionally and unwittingly repeating patterns that have made them miserable — or have led to their lives largely being unfulfilled. Double Goodbye’s third and latest single “Guest List Etiquette” continues a run of shimmering Quiet Storm-like hip-hop. Featuring a soulful hook by Joyce Wrice, the Norwegian emcee tells a story of a romantic meet cute on the bus that turns into a hilarious and surreal tale of the countless people who ask him for guest list spots for his shows. And of course, he can never accommodate all the requests that come his way.
Directed by Ivan Ave himself, the recently released video follows Wrice and Øygarden wandering around Oslo, getting on a bus and heading to the studio to record and rehearse and then head to the show. The entire time, they have all kinds of people hitting them up about guest list spots for their next show — guest list spots they likely don’t have anyway.
“We spent that weekend walking in parks, hiking, working in the studio, and ignoring the outside world. As you can see from the clip, everybody and their actual mother was trying to get on the list for her show,” Øygarden explains in press notes. “And the list only has so many spots. Plus Norway’s best rapper Mest Seff already had his whole entourage on there. So the struggle was real, trying to live a life while coordinating everybody’s wishes. Daniel Yul Kim filmed us during these trying times. I did all the editing, with some help from Jo Vemund Svendsen, and Mats Christian Rude Halvorsen, who made my video for ‘Nu Path.’ Hans Jørgen Wærner on the typography as per usual! I want to give a shout out to my ex-manager, who you can see at the end of the video basically dropping me as a client. The following weekend, she hit me up with a request to be put on the guest list for another party. So yeah, shout outs to her.”
I had some loose-held editorial plans for the site over the next 24-36 hours or so but when I saw a friend’s Facebook post on Bill Withers’ death, I scrapped those plans for a little bit. We’ve heard most of Withers’ work so much that it’s part of our collective consciousness — and yet, the songs hold up and resonate 40 some years after their initial release. They’re that timeless. And I suspect that kids 50 years from now, will hear the same things that our folks and we have heard in the material. Long live, Bill Withers!
I came across some live footage of Withers shot in 1972 and 1973. The 1973 footage shot by the BBC may be the most famous of the two, and as a photographer it’s intimate, capturing Withers with some tight close ups, in which he seems to explode into your living room.
Also before, I forget Still Bill is arguably one of the best albums ever written and recorded. Nuff said.
Born Ryan Daniel Montgomery, Royce da 5’9″ is a Detroit, MI-born and-based emcee, best known for his longtime association with Eminem, with whom he’s one half of duo, Bad Meets Evil, a critically applauded solo career, primarily collaborating with Carlos “6 July” Broady and DJ Premier, as well as ghostwriting for the likes of Diddy and Dr. Dre. He’s also a member of Slaughterhouse, an All-Star hip-hop act that also features Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I, and one half of PRhyme with the legendary (and aforementioned) DJ Premier.
As the story goes, Royce da 5’9″ signed his first deal with Tommy Boy Records, who offered him $1 million while Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment offered him $250,000 and unlimited beats, a decision that he described as one of his biggest regrets in a 2016 Complex interview. After Tommy Boy Records closed, the Detroit-based emcee signed a deal with Columbia and Game Recordings, with whom he began recording an album then titled Rock City, a title which referred to Detroit being the former (and best known) home of Motown Records. When the album wound up being heavily bootlegged, the Detroit-based emcee left that label for Koch to re-record the album, eventually releasing it 2002 as Rock City (Version 2.0). And although the album didn’t sell well, the DJ Premier-produced single “Boom” helped Royce achieve some underground recognition and lead to the two working more closely with PRhyme.
Their 2014 debut album together featured both artists going out of their comfort zones, and expanding upon their familiar sounds; in fact, Premier enlisted the compositional skills of Adrian Younge, whose work he sampled throughout the album’s production while Royce da 5’9″ traded bars with the likes of MF Doom and Little Brother‘s Phonte on the initial release, and with The Roots‘ Black Thought, Joey Bada$$ and Logic on the deluxe edition released the following year. 2014 also saw Royce da 5’9″ team up with Eminem on the posse cut “Detroit vs. Everybody.”
Since then, the Detroit-based emcee released 2016’s solo album Layers, 2018’s Book of Ryan, which featured another ongoing collaboration with Eminem “Caterpillar,” that year’s second PRhyme album Phyme 2 and a guest spot of Eminem’s surprise release Kamikaze. 2020 continues a recent period of incredible prolificacy with the release of his eighth album, the 22 track The Allegory, which features guest spots from Westside Gunn, YBN Cordae, Benny the Butcher, and a boatload of others.
Vevo’s Ctrl series highlights the work of hard-hitting, cutting-edge artists making an impact in today’s music scene with a focus on both emerging and established artists. The artists Vevo’s Ctrl series features are artists that the video platform believes demand attention, and the series is a way of shining a deserving spotlight on those artists. Recently, Vevo’s Ctrl invited the acclaimed Detroit-based emcee to their Brooklyn studios to perform two tracks off the album — “Overcomer” and “Thou Shall.” “Thou Shall” is centered around an eerie, RZA-like production: stuttering beats, a sinuous bass line and a looping string sample and eerie atmospherics while Royce da 5’9″ of bold and swaggering pronouncement of being doper than anyone else out there, full of pop cultural references with Kid Vishis slamming the door on anyone who may challenge them. “Overcomer” is centered around a looped and seemingly ancient soul sample and thumping beats while Royce da 5’9″ rhymes about blessings, the wisdom he’s earned, sociopolitical observations and more.
The performances that Vevo’s Ctrl captured are swaggering, passionate within an intimate yet minimalist setting.
Simon Lewis is an emerging Austrian singer/songwriter, who according to his Facebook fan page cites William Fitzsimmons, Coldplay, Damien Rice and Kings of Leon as influences on his songwriting and sound. Lewis’ latest single, is the slow-burning ballad “Heaven Only Knows.” Centered around a seemingly simple arrangement of twinkling piano and Lewis’ expressive, pop star-like vocals, the gorgeous single manages to subtly nod at John Legend — but as he explains in press notes, “this song is about this particularly harsh feeling of loss we feel whenever we have to leave the ones we love — but it’s also about new beginnings and the hope that lies beyond. It’s not just about loving someone, it’s also about allowing yourself to be loved.”
I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual covering the Gold Coast, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Emily Hamilton, the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and rising indie rock act San Mei over the years. Beginning as a synth pop-leaning bedroom recording project, Hamilton’s earliest material received attention from this site and major media outlets like NME,Indie Shuffle, NYLONand Triple J. Her debut EP Necessary found the Aussie singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving towards a much more organic, guitar-led sound inspired by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Cat Power,Feist and others.
A couple of years ago, Hamilton met acclaimed producer and musician Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND, and the pair immediately hit it off. According to Hamilton, taking Dawson on as a producer and collaborator found the duo refining ideas, exploring different soundscapes and laying down the foundation for her — and in turn, San Mei’s — sonic progression. As Hamilton explains in press notes “[Dawson and I] hit it off straight away and it seemed like he understood where I was coming from, even if I had trouble conveying certain ideas in the demos I made at home.” Hamilton’s Dawson-produced sophomore EP Heaven was a decidedly shoegazer-like affair, featuring arena rock friendly hooks, big power chords and shimmering synths that continued a run of critically applauded, blogosphere dominating material. Adding to a growing profile, last year Hamilton opened for the likes of G. Flip, K. Fly,Ali Barter and Jack River in her native Australia, went on an extensive national headlining tour and played nine shows across six days at SXSW.
Released a few weeks ago through Sydney-based etcetc Records, Hamilton’s third San Mei EP Cry continues her ongoing collaboration with Oscar Dawson – and interestingly, the four song EP finds the Aussie JOVM mainstay simultaneously drawing from the harder guitar-driven work of The Kills,Metric, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the synth-driven pop like Grimes and Lykke Li. Now, as you may recall, I recently wrote about EP title track “Cry,” a track which establishes the EP’s overall tone and tone – a hook-driven, shimmering take on dream pop centered around atmospheric synths, reverb-drenched guitars and what may arguably be her most direct and personal songwriting to date. And perhaps unlike her previously released material, the EP reveals an incredibly self-assured songwriting, crafting earnest and ambitious songwriting – all while building a larger international profile.
Earlier this week, I exchanged emails with the Gold Coast-based JOVM mainstay for this Q&A. Of course, current events have a way of bleeding into every aspect of our professional and professional lives – and naturally, I had to ask Hamilton how COVID-19 was impacting her and her career. But we also talk about her hometown (which is considered one of the more beautiful locales in the entire world), and its growing music scene, the new EP and more in a revealing chat. Check it out below.
WRH: Here in New York, we’ve been social distancing and in quarantine for the past three weeks or so. How are things in Australia? How are you holding up?
Emily Hamilton: Firstly, I’m really sorry to see what’s happening in New York right now – my heart really goes out to everyone effected. I was actually in the USA around 2 weeks ago when lockdowns starting happening there. I managed to get home earlier than planned (straight into 14 days mandatory quarantine!), and Australia started following suit with social distancing, travel bans, closing non-essential business etc. pretty much as soon as I got back. I’ve got 2 days left of quarantine which is exciting — to be able to be out in the open air is gonna feel good! We have pretty strict social distancing rules here though, so I’ll still be playing it safe and spending most of my time at home once my quarantine is over.
WRH: How has COVID-19 impacted the Australian music scene? Has the pandemic affected you and your career? And if so, how?
EH: It’s hard having shows cancel and seeing venues having to close their doors. I had some shows lined up over the next couple of months that had to be cancelled, and prospects of touring in the near future don’t seem likely. I had a massive year of touring last year, so coming to terms with the fact that this year is probably going to look different is kinda hard. I know everyone in the Australian music scene is feeling the same way – and that we’re feeling the same things in music scenes around the globe. But it’s been inspiring to see so many artists pick themselves up, be innovative and find creative ways to make the best of the situation.
WRH: Most of my readers are based in the United States. As you can imagine, most Americans know very little about Australia, let alone your hometown. I think if you ask most Americans, they’ll tell you that it’s far (which is very true), they’ll mention the Sydney Opera House, kangaroos, koala bears and Steve Irwin. So as an American, what is Gold Coast known for? Where would I go to get a taste of how the locals live?
EH: It’s true, we’re so far away! I think that’s why Australians travel so much, because otherwise we’re just so isolated. I love my hometown; to me, it’s the perfect mix of city and surf town vibes – for someone who travels a lot for music, it’s nice to be based somewhere with a more chilled pace and open spaces. The Gold Coast is known mostly for its beautiful beaches, but we also have amazing rainforests with swimming holes and a beautiful hinterland. There has also been huge growth in hospitality, and there are so many amazing bars/restaurants/cafes popping up all over the place. So for anyone visiting I’d recommend checking out all the best nature spots and the best places to get a drink/feed.
WRH: Are there any Gold Coast-based artists that should be getting attention from the larger world that aren’t – and should be?
EH: The music scene on the Gold Coast has definitely grown over the last few years and there are a lot of exciting bands coming up. Eliza & The Delusionals are an amazing emerging band – they’ve actually just finished up a US tour supporting Silversun Pickups. They’re definitely on the rise and I think they’ll soon be getting that attention! Lastlings, Peach Fur, Ivey,Hollow Coves are just a few that are kicking goals and I’d love to see continue to grow in and outside of Australia.
WRH: For a country of about 27 million or so, how is it possible that so many Aussie artists, who make it to the States and elsewhere so damn good?
EH: I think being so far away can actually work in our favour in some ways! We have to be really, really good if we want our music to get out there in the world and have the means or opportunities to tour outside of our own country. I reckon that has created the kind of drive and work ethic for a lot of Aussie artists to keeping pushing and being the best we can be at our craft, to be able to break through the noise.
WRH: How did you get into music?
EH: I learnt classical piano when I was little (much to my dismay at the time!), which I’m really grateful for now as it’s such a good foundation for music. But I didn’t really get into writing songs or pursuing music until after high school when I met a group of friends who were musicians, and I just found myself getting caught up in it. It turned out I had a bit of a knack for songwriting and I’ve been focusing on getting better and better at it since!
WRH: I’ve written about you quite a bit over the years. When you started out, San Mei was bedroom synth pop project. But after meeting songwriter, producer and musician Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND, you – and in turn, San Mei – went through a decided change in sonic direction, which is reflected on both the Heaven EP and your recently released Cry EP. How has it been working with Dawson? How influential has he been on the project’s sonic development?
EH: I’ve always so appreciated your support! It means the world to an emerging artist like me to have that consistent engagement and encouragement from someone! Working with Oscar has been amazing, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve always come to him with fully realised songs/demos. I usually write and track all the guide parts at home first. But Oscar has a way of bringing out the best in my songs and just making them sound better haha… so he has never really been pushy or opinionated in shaping my sound, but I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of refining things and making smart decisions in both the songwriting and production process.
WRH: With San Mei leaning more towards a guitar-based sound, how has your songwriting process changed?
EH: Even as my sound became a little more guitar-driven, I continued to stick with my usual writing process – open up Logic, find a simple drum groove, play along ‘til I find a good riff or chord progression… but lately I’ve been trying to challenge myself in writing songs start to finish on just an acoustic guitar. I want my songs to be able to stack up when they’re played on just a guitar or piano without relying on any production. I’ve been finding that the production falls into place a lot more easily when I write this way, because the songwriting itself has to be strong, and helps lead the way in what should be built around it. I won’t be limiting myself to this process only, but finding new ways to create has been really cool.
WRH: While possessing the big and rousingly anthemic hooks that we heard on Heaven EP, your latest EP features the guitar-led, arena rock anthem “Hard to Face,” the shimmering, New Wavey-like “Cherry Days” “Cry” and “Love in the Dark.” As much as I hear Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, Grimes, Lykke Li and others, I also hear a bit of Prince in there, too. What inspired this new sonic direction? Was it intentional?
EH: That’s really interesting! Admittedly I haven’t listened to a lot of Prince (I probably just haven’t put in the time to become a fan!), but it’s cool to hear that reference. I couldn’t tell you a specific influence for where my sound has been heading, but I have been focusing on strengthening my identity as an artist, and recognising what my strengths are in my writing, and just making sure I write whatever comes out of me naturally and not try to sound like anything in particular. I’m still a work in progress with that, but I think that’s what has been shaping my sound.
WRH: “Hard to Find” is one of my favorite songs on the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
EH: Cool! I really love this song. I called it my bratty moment. At the time of writing it, I was in a bit of a rut mentally with my music, career, future… I kept looking around at what everyone else was doing and thinking they were all kicking goals and I wasn’t. So, I just needed to let out my frustration and have a good whine in form of a song. It’s also a good reminder of me to not be that person, because we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others, and having gratitude for the present is so important in having a healthy mind.
WRH: How did the video treatment for “Cry” come about?
EH: The song theme itself is a little melancholy to me – it’s about longing for more in life or for a better day, of always wanting to get to that next stage in life or achieving that next goal. It’s good to have drive, but for me I often get caught up in the future and sometimes I worry that I’ll wish my youth and time away instead of enjoying the present. But I wanted the video to feel light, wistful and more like a daydream, and to focus on the freedom we can find by enjoying the present and finding joy in everyday moments. I think Dom the director did a great job of capturing that feeling.
WRH: What’s next for you?
EH: I’m definitely not going to be slowing down – I’ve got lots of more music to release, and as soon as we’re allowed to play shows again, I’ll be playing as many as physically possible. Stay tuned! 😀
Detroit-based multimedia and electronic music production and artist duo ADULT. — the husband and wife team of Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus — have developed a sprawling catalog of material that obscures and blurs defined genres and styles, while drawing from industrial electronic, house music, punk rock and visual art with releases through Mute Records, Ghostly International, Thrill Jockey, Third Man Records and a list of other labels throughout their two plus decades together.
Slated for an April 10, 2020 release through Dais Records, the acclaimed Detroit-based electronic duo’s forthcoming album Perception is/as/of Deception was conceived, written and recorded in a temporary black hole they created: the duo painted their windowless basement entirely black, with the sole intention of sensory deprivation so that they could question their perceptions and witness the resulting ramifications. And as result, the album’s material may be the most introspective and punk-leaning they’ve written to date: the frustration and apprehension that has long been at the center of their work are heightened — but interestingly enough, the material was written with a much more head-on approach, making it forceful and strident.
Last month, I wrote about Perception is/as/of Deception‘s second single, the club banging “Have I Stated at the End.” Centered around a classic electronic body music production featuring industrial clang and clatter, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, shimmering synth arpeggios, an enormous hook and a repetitive mantra that questions the fragility and temporality of life “Total Total Damage,” the album’s third and latest single is a tense and claustrophobia-inducing track centered around industrial clang and clatter, layers of synth arpeggios and Kuperus’ howled vocals. Thematically, the song is a dystopian anthem that focuses on the slow and painful collapse of our society and systems and the growing uncertainty and uneasiness we all feel but while expressing the desperate cabin fever.
While in social isolation, the members of ADULT. decided to build a room-like set indie their house for the Miller and Kuperus-filmed and edited visual for “Total Total Damage,” which features the duo losing their minds and destroying their room with a sledgehammer. “We’re hoping that the video speaks to a lot of people, because everyone’s feeling cabin fever and wanting to get out, get back to ‘normal’ life,” the Detroit-based duo say in press notes.
Throughout the course of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the legendary Chicago-born singer, actress, and civil rights activist Mavis Staples. Going into a deep dive into her career as a member of the Staple Singers and and a solo artist will be a bit gratuitous — but throughout her career, she has received commercial and critical success, as well as a proverbial boatload of accolades. Stapes has received eight Grammy Awards nominations with the Staple Singers, winning one — a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004. She also received a Grammy nod for a collaboration with longtime friend Bob Dylan. And as a solo artist, she’s been nominated for five Grammys, winning two — Best Americana Album for 2010’s You Are Not Alone and a Best American Roots Performance for 2015’s ”See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.”
She also has been nominated for 11 Blues Music Awards, winning nine, including Album of the Year for 2004’s Have A Little Faith, which featured Song of the Year and album title track “Have A Little Faith.” She’s also won three Soul Blues Female Artist Awards — one in 2004 and back to back wins in 2017 and 2018. Staples was also inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Staple Singers in 1999, was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2016 and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.
The legendary Chicago-born singer, actress and civil rights activist turned 80 last year and with her achievements, it would be understandable if she had begun to slow down; however, over the past handful of years, Staples has been remarkably busy, releasing three critically applauded albums with Wilco‘s Jeff Tweedy and last year’s Ben Harper written and produced, We Get By.
Fittingly, Staples’ latest single is the hopeful and upbeat Jeff Tweedy-produced, “All In It Together,” which also features Tweedy contributing backing vocals and guitar. Centered around a shuffling, Chicago blues-like arrangement of twinkling keys, strummed guitar, a rousing hook and Staples’ imitable vocals, the track speaks directly to our current sociopolitical moment, while gently reminding the listener that at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. And that if we don’t get together at this most important moment in our collective history, then we’re all doomed.
“The song speaks to what we’re going through now – everyone is in this together, whether you like it or not,” the legendary vocalist explains in press notes. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what race or sex you are, where you live…it can still touch you. It’s hit so many people in our country and around the world in such a horrible way and I just hope this song can bring a little light to the darkness. We will get through this but we’re going to have to do it together. If this song is able to bring any happiness or relief to anyone out there in even the smallest way, I wanted to make sure that I helped to do that.”
The song is available on all streaming services and Bandcamp. All proceeds from the song will be donated to My Block, My Hood, My City, a Chicago-based organization that ensures seniors will have access to the essentials needed to fight COVID-19.
Over the past handful of months, I’ve written quite a bit about The Midnight Hour, a 10 member ensemble founded and led by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammadand Adrian Younge, a Los Angeles-based composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer and Linear Labs founder. Now, as you may recall, the project prominently features singer/songwriter and guitarist Jack Waterson, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Loren Oden — and , singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and 18 year old Los Angeles-born and-based phenom, Angela Muñoz.
The 10 member ensemble released their self-titled debut in 2018 — and the effort firmly established their sound: jazz and orchestral inspired soul and hip-hop heavily influenced by David Axelrod, Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Barry White and Jazzmatazz-era Gang Starr. Since the release of their debut, Muhammad, Younge and the rest of the Linear Labs crew have been extremely busy: last year saw the release of Jack Waterson’s psych rock, solo debut Adrian Younge Presents Jack Waterson, and a lengthy tour that included a Brooklyn Bowl stop last September — and this year will see three releases from the collective and its members: the ensemble’s highly-anticipated sophomore album and solo efforts from Loren Oden and Angela Muñoz.
The young, Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and phenom has a beguiling voice and mature presence that belies her relative youth, who recalls that Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Welcome to The Jungle” was the catalyst that sparked her desire to play music and become a star. As a girl, she learned to play guitar and piano — and with practice, she began to dominate singing competitions, leaving unexpected audiences in a trance.
Interestingly, a few years ago Muñoz’s brother Brandon introduced her to the Adrian Younge-produced Something About April. Muñoz was intrigued by the quality of the music, and as a result, she found herself thinking about how it would be interesting to create music that encompassed various perspectives — similar to how Younge does so with his analog recordings. Shortly after being introduced to Something About April, the Los Angeles-born and-based phenom serendipitously found herself working with The Midnight Hour, who recorded her song “Bitches Do Voodoo” on their full-length debut. They’ve since took Muñoz on tour, where she’s blown away audiences with her self-assured stage presence, her dexterous musicianship and her soulful vocals.
Earlier this month, I wrote about Muñoz’s neo-soul meets Quiet Storm-like debut single “I Don’t Care,” which featured her remarkably self-assured and effortlessly soulful vocals over an arrangement of twinkling keys and harp, soaring strings, a sinuous bass line, wah wah pedaled guitar and an enormous hook paired with an underlying youthful brashness. “In My Mind” the second single off full-length debut Introspection is a gorgeous and cinematic track centered around a pop standard-like arrangement featuring soaring and fluttering strings, a sinuous bass line, some expressive bursts of guitar, twinkling harp and Muñoz’s expressive vocal. Sonically, the song manages to recall George Gershwinand jazz ballads. From her first two singles, Muñoz is a certifiable star in the making.
“I wrote this song thinking about the journey of love,” Muñoz explains. “Despite my age, I have an awareness of what expressing love looks like. As I was writing this song, I wanted to challenge myself as a songwriter. This led me to imagine myself in the place of George Gershwin. If I could choose anyone to interpret this song it would be Sarah Vaughan. Ultimately, love can manifest itself in many ways.”
Directed by The Midnight Hour’s Adrian Younge and based on a story written by Angela Muñoz captures the swooning idealism and hope of young love in a way that proudly celebrates it.
Muñoz’s full-length debut Introspection is slated for a May 19, 2020 release through Linear Labs.