Category: Christmas music

Throwback: DMX Performs “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”

A JOVM annual tradition — DMX performing “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Silversun Pickups — Brian Aubert (vocals, guitar, keys). Nikki Monniger (bass, vocals), Chis Guano (drums, percussion, programming, vocals) and Joe Lester (keys, samples, sound manipulation, guitar and vocals) — released their Butch Vig-produced, sixth album Physical Thrills earlier this year. The album’s material came together serendipitously during a particularly dark period: The acclaimed Los Angeles-based outfit started 2020 touring to support 2019’s Widows Weeds. The pandemic halted the rest of their tour and forced the band to retreat to their homes.

With touring on hold, Silversun Pickups’ Brian Aubert channeled his energy into taking care of his son. Although his focus initially shifted from the band to domestic affairs, he found that he couldn’t escape the new melodies that had been germinating in his head. “I would sneak off and start writing these songs, and I didn’t know what they’re for because I didn’t really think about Silversun on any level. I was just doing it to keep myself calm and keep myself company,” Aubert explains. The songs were so different from what he’d previously written for Silversun Pickups that he initially thought he might have been writing a musical. He would describe them as “dream shanties” with gentler vocals, horror-inspired sounds and newer elements coming to mind. But the material isn’t meant to be somber; instead, Aubert manages to explore his own comfort — and discomfort — in seemingly indefinite, newfound isolation.

When Aubert presented the new material he had been working o to his bandmates, they readily embraced what would be a new direction for the band. They decided to continue their collaboration with Butch Vig, who had produced and recorded Widow’s Weeds at his Wisconsin home studio. Once Aubert made plans to visit Vig and play him what he had worked on, more music came. Aubert immediately began recording material with Vig, with the rest of the band joining later.

When Aubert revealed the new material to his bandmates, they readily embraced the new direction—and so did producer Butch Vig. The band reunited with Vig, who first worked with SilversunPickups on Widow’s Weeds, recording the album at the famed producer and Garbage-member’s home. Once Aubert made plans to visit Vig and play him what he had, the music began pouring out. He immediately began recording with Vig, having the rest of the band join later.

With the album arguably being the most exploratory of the band’s catalog, each of the band’s members felt much more free to explore and traverse new ground: Guanlao, who usually shies away from drum fills, took inspiration from The Beatles documentary Get Back and Ringo Starr’s drum work on Let It Be threw some in on the album. Monniger’s vocals were showcased much more than on their previously recorded material. And Joe Lester took on a larger writing role, writing the piano part for “We Won’t Come Out,” which became the backbone of the song.

Although the album features an eclectic mix of sounds and melodies, each song on the album is interconnected with each other, and meant to be experienced as a whole body of work. “All of our records are designed for people who want to listen to them all the way through and hopefully stick around with it,” says Aubert. “After a while, maybe you’ll catch on to the little things—not just the [pattern of] the dream songs, but maybe you’ll hear that, and you’ll hear a melody from the first song in the last song. There are crossover things happening.” Monninger adds, “We’ve been together for twenty-two years; it’s really interesting that we still love doing this. We know that we’re fortunate to still be together after all these years, seeking out the silver lining. I feel like we still have many more things to say, and we’re so happy with how this album turned out.”

Silversun Pickups close out 2022 with a slow-burning and shoegazey, Butch Vig-produced cover of Low’s “Just Like Christmas” that pulls out the gentle yearning and wistfulness out a bit further to the forefront. All proceeds from the song will be donated to Union Gospel Mission, a charity of Alan Sparkhawk’s choice — in Mimi Parker’s name. Silversun Pickups suggest that you should consider directly supporting and listening through Bandcamp — and based on the fact that it’s worthwhile cause, you should.

We’ve been fans of Low’s beautiful music for a long time now. When we heard the news about Mimi’s passing, we were incredibly sad. With Alan’s blessing, we decided to cover one of their Christmas songs, with hopes of raising money for a cause dear to Alan in Mimi’s name. Low’s Christmas is a classic. It was the first one I ever heard that made me feel holiday music could be cool.”

The band will resume touring to support Physical Thrills in 2023. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates
Fri, Feb 17, 2023                     Birmingham, AL          Iron City
Sun, Feb 19, 2023                   Knoxville, TN               Mill & Mine
Mon, Feb 20, 2023                  Asheville, NC               Orange Peel
Tue, Feb 21, 2023                   Louisville, KY               Mercury Ballroom
Thu, Feb 23, 2023                   McKees Rock, PA        Roxian Theater
Fri, Feb 24, 2023                     Cincinnati, OH             Bogarts
Sat, Feb 25, 2023                    Chicago, IL                   Radio Show
Tue, Feb 28, 2023                   Little Rock, AR             The Hall
Thu, Mar 2, 2023                    New Orleans, LA         House of Blues
Sat, Mar 4, 2023                     San Antonio, TX          The Aztec Theatre
Sun, Mar 5, 2023                    Ft Worth, TX                Tannahill’s
Mon, Mar 6, 2023                   Dallas, TX                    House of Blues
Tue, Mar 7, 2023                    Houston, TX                House of Blues
Thu, Mar 9, 2023                    Austin, TX                    Emo’s

Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled a copious amount of virtual ink covering the multi-Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and San Fernando Valley-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Eric Burton, the acclaimed act can trace their origins back to 2017.

Burton, who grew up singing in church and in musical theater, started busking at the Santa Monica pier, where he brought in a few hundred dollars and day and honing his performance skills. He then traveled through the Western states before deciding to settle down in Austin, setting up a busking spot on 6th Street and Congress, a prime location in the city’s downtown neighborhood for maximum exposure.Meanwhile, Quesada was looking to collaborate with someone new. He reached out to friends in Los Angeles and London — but nothing seemed to fit. Serendipitously, a mutual friend recommended Burton to Quesada, telling the Grammy Award-winning songwriter, guitarist and producer that Burton was the best singer he had ever heard. The two musicians connected but Burton took a while to respond. “My friends were like ‘Dude, you’re a mad man, you need to hit that guy back!’” Burton recalls. When Burton did call Quesada, he sang to him over the phone. “I loved his energy, his vibe, and I knew it would be incredible on record,” Quesada says. “From the moment I heard him on the phone, I was all about it.”

Back in 2019, the duo along with a talented cast of collaborators recorded and released their breakthrough full-length debut, which was supported with a relentless touring schedule across both North America and Europe that included three different stops in town: The Knitting Factory, in May 2019Mercury Lounge, in July 2019; and Brooklyn Bowl in September 2019. Additionally, the JOVM mainstays began to make the rounds of the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel LiveThe Ellen Show and a lengthy list of others.

Last year, the acclaimed JOVM mainstays released a deluxe version of their breakthrough debut which features new artwork, previously unpublished in-studio and live performance photos, a bonus 7 inch featuring three previously unreleased originals, live, in-studio versions of “Colors,” “October 33,” and “Confines;” a live version of “Know You Better,” recorded at C-Boys Heart & Soul, the Austin club, where the band first made a name for themselves;the band’s attention-grabbing covers of The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby,” Death’s “Politicians in My Eyes,” Bobby “Blue” Bland‘s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” and Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car.”

Black Pumas are currently touring Europe. And after a couple of weeks off, the JOVM mainstays will embark on a West Coast tour to end the year. 2022 sees the band playing Nashville and a couple of North American festivals. They make stops in South America before returning to the states for Boston Calling next March. Next June and July, the band returns to Europe. As always those tour dates are below — and if they’re in a town near you, I’d suggest you get a ticket and catch Black Pumas.

Initially only available as part of Spotify Holiday Singles, the Austin-based JOVM mainstays’ cover of Lou Rawls‘ “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas” is finally available everywhere for the first time.

Buried on the B-side of Rawls’ 1967 Christmas-themed album Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho!, “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas” was written by James Alexander, whose credits include Sam Cooke’s “Lost and Lookin’,” the R&B standard “I Like It Like That” recorded by everyone from Ray Charles to Van Morrison, Ben Raleigh’s “Laughing on the Outside,” “Faith Can Move Mountains,” “Tell Laura I Love Her” and “Wonderful, Wonderful,” a string of tunes for Lesley Gore, Rawls’ own “Dead End Street” and “Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing,” jazz standard “Midnight Mood” and incredibly the theme song for Scooby Doo, “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” The original is a slow-burning, minor-key funky bit of soul with profound and much-needed message: Christmas can’t be Christmas without peace, love and happiness for all.

The Black Pumas cover speeds the tempo up a bit and features a series of subtle changes — Burton keeps to his slightly higher register, the horns are replaced with the band’s incredible backing singles, the keys are a bit punchier and placed a bit more forward in the mix. The end result is a cover that the JOVM mainstays make their own while being faithful to the original’s spirit, feel and time period. It’s a difficult balance that the band has made seemingly effortless.

“We were really attracted to the message, the lyrics, the arrangement, the feeling,” Black Pumas’ frontman Eric Burton explains. “It’s a message that needs to be heard right now. I was a little nervous about singing in Lou Rawls’ low register, so I sang it an octave higher and it was nice to arrange vocals with the ladies [backup singers Lauren Cervantes and Angela Miller] as well to put our own spin on it.”

Producer/bandleader Adrian Quesada adds, “A Christmas song isn’t exactly something that we set out to do, but this Lou Rawls song is amazing. It was produced by one of my favorite arrangers and producers, David Axelrod. On that side of it I was drawn to it initially and I confirmed with Eric. I think we were both attracted to the message too, it touches on a message that I think is poignant to today’s times, that Christmas isn’t really Christmas until everyone has peace and happiness.”

Tour Dates

11/16/21 – Lille, France @ Aérone SOLD OUT

11/17/21 – Nantes, Pays de la Loire @ Stéréolux SOLD OUT

11/18/21 – Paris, France @ L’Olympia

11/20/21 – Madrid, Spain @ La Riviera SOLD OUT

12/4/21 – Key West, FL @ Coast is Clear Music & Arts Fest

12/8/21 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater

12/9/21 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater

12/10/21 – Seattle, WA @ Paramount Theatre

12/12/21 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot

12/15/21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic

12/16/21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic

12/17/21 – Los Angeles, CA @ YouTube Theater

12/18/21 – Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues Las Vegas

2/4/22 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium SOLD OUT

2/5/22 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium

2/26/22 – 2/27/22 – Tempe, AZ @ Innings Festival

3/2/22 – 3/5/22 – Cancún, Mexico @ My Morning Jacket’s One Big Holiday

3/19/22 – 3/20/22 – Mexico City, CDMX @ Vive Latino

3/25/22 – 3/27/22 – São Paulo, SP @ Lollapalooza Brasil

3/25/22 – 3/27/22 – Bogotá, Colombia @ Estereo Picnic

3/27/22 – 3/29/22 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling

6/18/22 – Oslo, Norway @ Rockefeller Music Hall

6/19/22 – Stockholm, Sweden @ Berns  

6/21/22 – Hamburg, Germany @ Fabrik

6/22/22 – Dortmund, DE @ FZW

6/29/22 – Roskilde, Denmark @ Roskilde Festival

6/30/22 – Barcelona, Spain @ Vida Festival

7/8/22 – 7/10/22 – Trenčín, Slovakia @ Pohoda Festival

7/8/22 – Madrid, Spain @ Mad Cool Festival

Throughout the course of this site’s decade-plus history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the acclaimed New York-based Grammy Award-nominated, electro pop duo and longtime JOVM mainstays Sofi Tukker. Sofi Tukker — Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern — can trace their origins to when the duo met while studying at Brown University and since their formation, they’ve been widely celebrated for crafting an inclusive, global take on electro pop/dance pop centered around self-empower, unity and liberation.

The longtime JOVM mainstays cap off 2020 with a new single “Caröl Von Holz,” which finds them collaborating with HOLZBLÄSER, a.k.a. Holz. The collaboration has rather unique origins: HOLZBLÄSER initially emerged as a mysterious member of the Freak Fam, a devoted community that has emerged around the New York-based duo’s daily DJ set livestreams.

After some time, HOLZBLÄSER began sending the members of Sofi Tukker edits of their songs, featuring his dryly German accented vocals. Hawley-Weld and Halpern loved his work so much that they began to include his edits into their DJ sets — and it eventually grew into a collaboration between the trio. The end result is a swaggering, fierce as fuck, house music take on a beloved Christmas classic — “The Carol of the Bells,” with a tweeter and woofer rocking temp. House music all night long, even during Christmas.

“Never did we ever think we would do a Christmas song, let alone a Christmas song with a mysterious stranger over email. But when in 2020!” The members of Sofi Tukker share in press notes.

New Video: Black Marble Releases a New Wave-like Synth Cover of Mariah Carey’s Christmas Smash Hit

Black Marble is an acclaimed synth pop/coldwave project founded by its creative mastermind Chris Stewart in 2012. Initially started as a duo featuring Team Robespierre’s Ty Kube, the act has released an EP and three full-length albums — with 2012’s Weight Against the Door EP and A Different Arrangement, and 2016’s It’s Material recorded as a duo.

Interestingly, It’s Immaterial reflected several major changes for the acclaimed act: the album marked Kube’s departure from the project, and Stewart’s move from Brooklyn to the West Coast. And since relocating to the West Coast, Stewart has released his third Black Marble album, last year’s Bigger Than Life and this year’s I Must Be Living Twice EP, a covers EP featuring covers of Wire, Robert Palmer, Lives of Angels, The Field Mice, and Grouper.

Closing out 2020, Stewart, along with an impressive array of indie synth pop stars took part in a charity video compilation Synthmas: A Holiday Special, which encourages donations to two important and worthy causes:

Alexandria House: Founded in 1996, Alexandria House is a Los Angeles-based transitional residence that provides safe and supportive housing for women and children — particularly women and children of color — who are in the process of moving from emergency shelter to economic stability and permanent housing, They also serve the broader Mid-Wilshire section of Los Angeles by providing educational and enrichment opportunities for their neighbors, as well as for their residents.

In response to the needs of the women and children living in Alexandria House, as well as the larger neighborhood, Alexandria House’s goal is to be community-orientated and intentionally multicultural and anti-racist.

More than 92% of the women who have moved through the Alexandria House program have succeeded in securing financial stability and permanent housing.

Save Our Stages : Created by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and its 1300 member venues, NIVA’s mission is to preserve and nurture the important ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters across the US. As a result of their efforts, NIVA was able to win crucial federal funding as part of the most recent COVID relief bill. But while the federal funding was desperately needed, indie venues across the country could still use your help during one of the most difficult economic periods in recent memory.

Stewart’s contribution to the Synthmas compliation is a decidedly 80s New Wave/New Order-like cover of Mariah Carey’s ubiquitous smash hit Christmas anthem “All I Want For Christmas Is You” that turns the song into a lonely and bittersweet ode to longing for the family and friends we can’t see because of the pandemic — and for the hope that we’ll be able to do the very human things we all miss so much right now.

“Given all that’s happened in the last year It struck me as likely that many of us are in the same boat right now and thinking about this idea of missing our friends and loved ones and wondering when we will be able to gather together again,” Black Marble’s Chris Stewart says in press notes. “I usually take it for granted that I’ll be able to see my family for instance at this time, but for me and a lot of us this year, those plans were put on hold. The original intent of the song seems more playful, but because of these ideas, it took on, for me, more of a tone of longing and wishing to be with the people you care about and not having much appetite for the usual more commercial trappings of the season in light of this thing we’re all going through. Also, I mean who doesn’t love some Mariah Carey around this time – and I thought it would be fun to do a more synthy take on such a well-known classic pop song as well as update it tonally to reflect this current reality.”

Co-directed by Ashley Leahy and Stewart, the recently released video for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was shot in Los Angeles and features Stewart unwrapping his gifts — a synthesizer and guitar — and performing the song in a bare green-walled room and in front of Christmas-themed sights across Los Angeles. Additionally, we see Stewart rocking out and passing out gifts. There’s a restlessness and boredom throughout that should feel familiar — like the restless boredom we’ve experienced over the past few months.

“For the video we wanted to get across the idea of this character who is sort of restless and longing for someone who’s not there and doesn’t really have the time or headspace for the usual holiday festivities,” Stewart explains. ”
That’s why we shot the scene of presents being passed from hand to hand and sort of discarded as if they are unimportant or an afterthought, and why we shot the exteriors all over town as if the character is in search of someone or something. Or this idea that wishing for someone or something is universal right now and not confined to one particular place.” He adds: “In addition we wanted a humorous offbeat tone and took inspiration from the classic ‘80s video ‘You Can Call Me Al’ that Paul Simon did with Chevy Chase. I wanted two versions of me and for them to have distinct personalities, with one character really feeling the sentiments of the song and the other kind of aloof and absent minded and sort of breaking the fourth wall with all these technical problems.”

Before I forget, the single is currently available through Bandcamp and additional digital retailers — and will be widely available on Christmas Day.