Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in Downbeat, Premier Guitar Magazine, Consequence of Sound, 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. Support JOVM on Patreon: You can hire me for shoots here:

New Audio: Paris’ Nico and The Red Shoes Shares Euphoric “Time Is Love”

Led by a global citizen, who has spent stints living in Douala, Cameroon, Rome and elsewhere, the Paris-based outfit Nico and The Red Shoes has firmly established a sound that draws from and meshes several different influences and styles, including New Wave, electro pop, cyber pop, house music and more, paired with catchy melodies. 

With the release of 2015’s self-titled debut EP, the Parisian outfit emerged into the electro pop scene with material that drew from and meshed elements of New Wave and pop.

Earlier this year, the French electro pop project shared “Mathilda,” the first bit of new material in eight years — and the first single of their long-awaited and highly-anticipated full-length debut, Time Is Love. “Mathilda” is a sleek, slickly produced, Afrobeats-inspired, club friendly bit of pop built around glistening synths, skittering beats, tweeter and woofer rattling low end and remarkably catchy hooks paired with a bursts of funk guitar, a deep house-like breakdown and Nico’s soulful delivery. The result is a song that should make you get up and move.

Time Is Love‘s second and latest single, album title track “Time Is Love” is a late 80s/early 90s-inspired bit of dance pop built around twinkling synth arpeggios, a thumping backbeat, Nico’s plaintive delivery paired with rousingly anthemic, euphoria-inducing hooks.

“The song encapsulates the idea that true and meaningful expressions of love require an investment in time that is limited and precious to us,” the band explains. They add that Nico wrote the song during a moment of helplessness, when she thought she was going to lose her mother. “‘Time is love’ thus takes the opposite view of the expression ‘Time is money.’ This phrase encourages a perspective of love that involves shared moments, experiences and efforts to understand and be present for someone,” the Parisian outfit continues.

New Audio: The Lovelines Share Jazzy and Poppy “Low Fidelity”

Orlando-based sibling duo and JOVM mainstays The Lovelines — Tessa D (vocals) and Todd Goings (multi-instrumentalist, songwriting and production) — emerged into the scene with the late 2021 release of their debut single “Strange Kind of Love,” a slick synthesis of Amy Winehouse-like blue-eyed soul, jazz standadrs and Dummy-era Portishead-like trip-hop paired with Tessa D’s soulful crooning and a dusty production featuring twinkling Rhodes, wobbly guitars and an infectious, razor sharp hook. 

Over the past year, the Orlando-based JOVM mainstays have released material from their forthcoming full-length debut single-by-single over that period.

So far, I’ve written about two of their forthcoming album’s singles:

  • May Be Love,” a slow-burning torch song-like take on trip hop and neo-soul built around shimmering pedal steel and congo-led percussion paired with Tessa D’s soulful vocal expressing an aching longing for love — and to be loved. 
  • What Kind of Fool Would Want to Fall in Love?” a breezy pop song built around a looped, shimmering, finger plucked acoustic guitar melody and percussive percussion paired with Tessa D’s soulful crooning. On one level, the song views love with a healthy cynicism — but as the band’s Todd Goings explains, “What Kind of Fool Would Want to Fall in Love is a portrait of the fool in love. Do only fools fall in love or does love make us fools?

The duo’s latest single “Low Fidelity” is a decidedly jazz pop/pop jazz take on their firmly established trip hop-inspired jazz that’s rooted in their penchant for incredibly catchy hooks, dusty, old-school inspired production paired with Tessa D’s soulful crooning.

“The song ‘Low Fidelity’ is the band playing with the dual-meaning of the phrase Low Fidelity,” The Lovelines’ Todd Goings explains. “We like listeners to spell out their own conclusions with our lyrics, so that’s what I’ll say, I guess. With the sound of this single, we have this concept of sounding poppy to a jazz audience, and jazzy to a pop audience I think of pop music as an arrangement thing, not a characteristic instrument or sound. If you arrange a jazz composition like it’s a top 40 pop song, and you can then use chord progressions and chromatic phrases that aren’t common in pop music with this tool. We love pop… but the colors in jazz feels truer to the human emotional spectrum than pop, life sounds more like a Gmaj7 than a Gmaj, it’s more grey… than black… or white, don’t you think? We’re experimenting with the fader on the spectrum between the jazz and pop spectrum. What’s too jazz, what’s too pop? We don’t know the answer (haha).”

New Audio: CZARFACE Returns with Swaggering and Mischievous “Czarimedes’ Death Ray”

Over the past couple of years, i’ve written quite a bit about CZARFACE, the collaborative project featuring beloved underground hip-hop duo 7L & Esoteric and the Wu-Tang Clan’Inspectah Deck. 

The project’s name is derived from a fictional character that the trio created that’s patterned after comic book super villains and aspects of the personalities and quirks of each individual member, the project can trace its origins back to when 7L & Esoteric and Inspectah Deck toured together.

That tour led to a series of collaborative singles including “Speaking Real Words” off 7L & Esoteric’s 2001 album, The Soul Purpose and “12th Chamber” off their 2010 album 1212, and a number of other singles. The act officially formed in 2013 and since then, they’ve released

Since the act formed back in 2013, they’ve released a handful of critically applauded albums: their 2013 self-titled debut, 2015’s Every Hero Needs a Villain, 2016’s A Fistful of Peril, 2018 saw two collaborations, Czarface Meets Metalface with the late MF DOOM and Czarface Meets Ghostface, with Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, 2019’s The Odd Czar Amongst Us and 2021’s posthumously released collaboration with MF DOOM, Super What?

The trio’s ninth album together, CZARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE is slated for a December 1, 2023 release through Virgin Music. The action-packed odyssey continues a run of material influenced and informed by comic books, and features guest spot from Logic, Kool Keith, Nems, Frankie Pulitzer and a cast of others. “We’re back with that off-kilter, no filter,” CZARFACE’s Esoteric says.

The album sees the trio continuing to weave the unfiltered essence of OG braggadocio, introspective story-telling — and as always, the exploits of superheroes and supervillains that’s as engaging as when you used to flip through the pages of your favorite comic book or graphic novel. The album’s guests join CZARFACE on missions and side-quests — and the result is material that playful and lovingly explores the intersection of cosmic hip-hop and comic book culture. The new album comes equipped with chaos, order and everything in between,” Esoteric explains. “It’s like a swirling vortex of cosmic carnage, but we bring it down to earth in places. We are, after all, in a new era. I hope what we made resonates with the people.”

CZARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE‘s latest single “Czarchimedes’ Death Ray” is built around a trippy production featuring boom bap beats paired with woozy, reverb soaked psychedelic guitars and old-school scratching. Each of the super talented emcees spits mischievously dexterous and swaggering bars full of pop culture and comic book references, while referencing the supervillain’s unique stash of weaponry. “Czar never resorts to conventional weaponry, thus the illustrious Death Ray – a sonic homage to the Greek mathematician Archimedes,” Esoteric says.

Yesterday saw the official release of an already almost sold-out Record Store Day “Stole The Ball” version of the album. The exclusive limited edition vinyl-only RSD Black Friday version of the album features two bonus tracks and special cover with artwork illustrated by their longtime collaborator, Lamour Supreme

New Video: We Melt Chocolate Shares Trippy Visual for Dreamy “Holy Ramen”

Florence-based shoegazers We Melt Chocolate can trace their origins back to the fusion of two different bands evanicetrip and Shades of Blue back in 2012. Since then, the Italian band over a handful of releases that includes a self-released demo, and an EP and their full-length debut through Annibale Records has firmly cemented a sound and approach that equally draws from the noisier side of shoegaze — i.e.,  My Bloody ValentineLush, and even The Sugarcubes

The band has opened for a number of internationally renowned bands including The ShivasHoly WaveThe Asteroid No. 4, The Underground YouthHis ClancynessMagic ShoppeYour 33 Black Angels and GIFT among a growing list of others. 

Holy Gaze, the Florence-based outfit’s highly anticipated and long awaited sophomore album was released earlier this year through Miracle Waves and features guest spots from Francesco D’Elia, Rev Rev Rev‘s Sebastian Lugli and Sensitive Club‘s Ben Moro. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “No Meaning Man,” a song that alternates between dreamy and stormy passages built around a relentless motorik groove, layers of distorted and fuzzy guitar textures, shimmering synths, thunderous drumming paired with reverb-soaked vocals buried within the oceanic mix. Thematically, the song speaks of disillusionment with superficial people, who base their entire lives on appearances and conceal their vapidity and lack of empathy towards others. 

“Holy Ramen,” Holy Gaze‘s latest single showcases the Italian outfit at their dreamiest to date — with the song featuring swirling Slowdive and A Storm in Heaven-like guitar textures paired with a driving rhythm section and yearning, ethereal vocals. 

The band explains that “Holy Ramen” is an exhortation to overcome daily difficulties, look at the sky and allow yourself a special, sacred moment just for you. “For us (particularly for the singer), one of these moments is indulging in a good hot ramen.” The band goes on to say that for them, “it is the simplest moments that become sacred.”

The accompanying video fittingly seems inspired by 120 Minutes-era MTV and feature some lushly shot visuals of a bowl of ramen being prepared and then serving as a mind-bending backdrop for the band — both while performing and even enjoying a comforting meal of the stuff, often while the sky races behind them.

New Video: Uma E. Shares an Atmospheric Cover of 80s Synth Pop Hit

Ulriqa Fernqvist is a Swedish multi-disciplinary artist, who strongest forms of expression have always been dance, theater and singing. Over the course of two-plus decade career, she has worked on an experimental, improvisational concerts, musical installations, theater and dance performances. Along with producer and collaborator Don Gog, she runs the performing arts company Art of Spectra, a company that has been invited to perform at numerous festivals, theaters and art centers around Europe.

As a pop artist, Fernqvist is the creative mastermind behind solo recording project Uma E. Her latest single, sees Fernqvist and her longtime producer and collaborator tackling a-ha‘s 1985 song “The Sun Always Shines On TV.” The original begins with a dramatic introduction featuring twinkling keys and atmospheric synths before quickly morphing into a hook-driven, prog rock-like anthem reminiscent of Yes‘ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and Duran Duran. Clocking in at a little under six minutes, the Uma E. rendition sees the Swedish collaborators stripping the song down to the bare bones, transforming the song into a brooding and uneasy, Portishead and Massive Attack-like bit of trip hop built around thumping kick drum beats, gently twinkling synth arpeggios, grainy bass synths and atmospheric electronics paired with Uma E.’s ethereal and plaintive delivery.

“I worked in the theatre play TOUCH by Falk Richter in Germany at Münchner Kammerspiele during the pandemic. I was asked to perform the A-ha song, ‘The Sun Always Shines on TV’ and it started off quite close to the original,” Fernqvist says. “I realised after a while I wanted to express the song in a different way to make it feel right. I got very attached to this song and the lyrics as it was a song I heard a lot growing up. I felt that I wanted to express it more like a poem – slower and more intimate.” 

Changing the style of the song was planted in the Swedish artist’s mind, and came to fruition later that summer, when she returned to Sweden. Me and my producer Don Gog started to experiment with what that change  could be. It developed to what we came to call ‘a techno prayer’ and we started building this track with the idea that it was to be performed in this play. Later we reworked that version to make it more like a track without the theatrical context – even though those memories still live in the track. The challenging thing with the vocals was to keep it very fragile and honest even if we wanted the music to have this constant rise. It was also very interesting to blend the electronica with elements from techno. 

Directed by Fofo Altinell, the accompanying video for “The Sun Always Shines On TV” is a hazy fever dream, following the Swedish artist in the countryside during golden hour.