Now, over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about Copenhagen, Denmark-based electro pop duo and JOVM mainstays Palace Winter, and the act, which features Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Caspar Hesselager can trace its origins to Coleman and Hesselager’s mutual familiarity and appreciation for each other’s work in a number of different projects — and naturally, the duo were encouraged to collaborate together. 2015 saw the release of their debut single, but 2016 the duo saw critical praise from The Guardian, NME, The Line of Best Fit, and airplay from KCRW, KEXP, Norway’s P3, Denmark’s P6, as well as by BBC Radio personalities Guy Garvey, Lauren Laverne and Tom Ravenscroft with the release of the Medication EP and their full-length debut Waiting for the World to Turn. Adding to a growing international profile, Coleman and Hesselager have a Hype Machine #1 single under their belts, have opened for Noel Gallagher, and have made appearances across the European festival circuit, including sets at Guy Garvey’s curated Meltdown Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Sziget Festival, Latitude Festival and Secret Garden Party among others.
Nowadays, the Australian-Danish duo’s sophomore album was released earlier this year and from album singles “Empire,” “Come Back (Left Behind),” “Baltimore,” and “Take Shelter,” their sophomore album reveals an act that has managed to expand upon their sound and songwriting approach in a subtle yet decided fashion as the material is centered around Coleman and Hasselager’s penchant for pairing at times breezy, melodic and downright radio friendly pop with dark and sobering thematic concerns — with Nowadays, their material focuses on the inevitable loss of innocence as one truly becomes an adult; the recognition of the fear, freedom and power that comes as one takes control of their life and destiny; the tough and sometimes embittering life lessons that get thrown in your way; as well as the inconsolable grief and confusion of loss. Interestingly, the Australian-Danish duo’s latest single “Acting Like Lovers” may arguably be one of the upbeat songs on the album as its centered by a production that manages to be simultaneously cinematic and intimate as it features strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik-like groove and their uncanny ability to craft breezy, 70s AM rock-like melodies. The song hints at a sense of closure — but with the subtle recognition that in life there is no such thing as closure, that life inevitably shoves you forward while you make every attempt to pick up the pieces and have some semblance of normalcy.
The single features two covers — the duo’s breezy, Junip-like take on Elliott Smith’s “Christian Brothers,” that feels like a subtle departure from the original, and one of my favorite songs by The Cars, “Drive,'” which manages to maintain the song’s moody and contemplative air. As the duo’s Caspar Hesselager explains, “Elliott is someone who has influenced both me and Carl profoundly, and for me personally (growing up mostly with classical music and jazz) he became the guy that got me into listening to songwriters. We’ve often jammed his songs in the studio for fun and our cover of his song ‘Christian Brothers’ has been a favourite encore of ours on many shows. It’s from his second album ‘Elliott Smith’ which along with the debut album is him at his most lo-fi and raw. It’s almost ‘anti-produced’ but as always you can’t keep those songs from burning right through all of that.” The duo’s Carl Coleman elaborates on their cover of The Cars’ “Drive,” “This was a song that always followed me around growing up in the 80s and 90s. I’m a sucker for sad pop songs. I’ve just always been attracted to melancholy stuff and this song has it all. All that drama and mystery plus a beautiful simple melody. Hell, we couldn’t help but have a crack at it.”
Throughout the course of this site’s eight year history, I’ve written quite a bit about Berlin, Germany-based JOVM mainstay producer, electronic music artist, DJ and Boys Noize Records label head Alex Ridha, best known as Boys Noize. Now it’s been a while since I’ve personally written about Ridha, but he’s been remarkably busy as he’s released 2016’s Mayday and has spent the past couple of years collaborating with a diverse and impressive array of artists including Lady Gaga, 03 Greedo, A$AP Rocky, RL Grime and Steven A. Clark.
Interestingly enough, while working with Clark on his recently released Where Neon Goes to Die, Clark and Ridha bonded over a mutual love and appreciation of Seal and Adamski’s “Killer,” an acid house anthem that dominated European charts in 1989, appeared on Seal’s eponymous 1990 self-titled debut and covered by George Michael in 1993. Clark’s and Ridha’s cover hews closely to the original but with a punchier and harsher, industrial take on the house music classic. It’s subtly
As Ridha says of the cover, “Being a 90’s kid, I kind of grew up with this song which later became one of these tunes I’d play out at the end of the night. When I met Steven and heard his voice for the first time I immediately thought of that track and the idea of doing a cover version was born. It was initially just for fun, but it turned banging and lit the dancefloors wherever I’d drop it – so here I am sharing my industrial KILLER.”
Directed by long-time collaborator LIL INTERNET, the recently released video is a remake of the original video, shot at Berlin’s c-base, known for being “the mother of all hackspaces,” with the bulk of the video shot in a space referred to the “airlock,” with the members of the c-space crew referring to themselves as a Space Station.
JOVM mainstays Monolord release a sludgy take on a Black Sabbath classic.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, JOVM mainstay Meshell Ndegeocello– and as you may recall, the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist was born Michelle Lynn Johnson in Berlin, Germany and was raised in Washington, DC. When she turned 17, she adopted the name Meshell Ndegeocello, with the surname, as she has explained meaning “free like a bird in Swahili.”
In the late 80s, Ndedgeocello gigged around DC’s go-go circuit, playing with a number of local acts including Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence before unsuccessfully trying out for Living Colour’s bassist spot, after Muzz Skillings left the band. Deciding to go solo, Ndegeocello eventually caught the attention of Madonna, who signed the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist to her Maverick Records. Most readers will remember her commercially successful collaborative coverof Van Morrison‘s “Wild Night,” with John Mellencamp, a single that peaked at #3 on the BillboardCharts in 1994 and “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” peaked at #73 later that year. Adding to a rapidly rising profile, she collaborated with the legendary Herbie Hancock on a track for Red Hot Organization’s AIDS awareness, tribute compilation Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which was named Time Magazine‘s “Album of the Year.” Her coverof Bill Withers‘ “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)” was a #1 Dance Hit in 1996 and was briefly featured in the major motion picture Jerry Maguire, and she landed Dance Top 20 hits with “Earth,” “Leviticus: Faggot,” and “Stay.” Along with that she collaborated with Madonna, playing bass on “I’d Rather Be Your Lover,” and contributing a verse at the last minute, after Tupac Shakur had criminal charges filed against him. Ndegeocello has also collaborated with Chaka Khan, rapping on “Never Miss the Water,” a single that landed #1 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with the likes of Basement Jaxx,Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti,The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissetteand Zap Mama.
Throughout her lengthy career, Ndegeocello has managed the rare feet of achieving commercial success while arguably being one of the most uncompromising and iconoclastic artists of the past 25 years — all while being credited as being at the forefront of the neo-soul sound, thanks in part to a genre defying and difficult to pigeonhole sound that draws from hip-hop, classic soul, jazz, rock, reggae and singer/songwriter pop. Over the past few years, Ndegeocello has been rather busy — she wrote and composed a musical influenced by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, titled Can I Get a Witness?: The Gospel of James Baldwin and released a gorgeous tribute album to the legendary Nina Simone, which featured collaborations with fellow JOVM mainstay Cody ChesnuTT and others.
Ventriloquism, Ndegeocello’s later album was released earlier this year, and the album finds the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist covering songs by TLC, Janet Jackson, Tina Tuner, Prince and others, who have been influential to her and her work — but with her unique take. As the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist explains in press notes, “Early on in my career, I was told to make the same kind of album again and again, and when I didn’t do that, I lost support. There isn’t much diversity within genres, which are ghettoizing themselves, and I liked the idea of turning hits I loved into something even just a little less familiar or formulaic. It was an opportunity to pay a new kind of tribute.” Ventriloquism’s first single was a coverof Force MD‘s smash hit “Tender Love,” that found Ndegeocello turning the slow-burning, 80s piano ballad into a folksy, Harvest-era Neil Young/Fleetwood Mac track, complete with shuffling drumming, twinkling Fender Rhodes and harmonica. Though she eschews some of the song’s cheesiness, which makes it endearing in its own right, Ndegeocello’s cover retains the song’s earnestness — pointing out that a well-written pop song can reach for something downright timeless.
The album’s latest single is a cover of Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity,” that briefly nods at Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” as it’s centered around loose, bluesy guitar chords, shuffling drumming and a New Orleans brass band-like bridge — and while retaining the song’s sultry nature, Ndegeocello manages to pull out and further emphasize the song’s tenderness. Much like its predecessor, the new single continues Ndegeocello’s commentary on society’s narrow expectations on what music created by and performed by black artists should sound like and be like.
Directed by the Cass Bird, the recently released video for “Sensitivity ” was specifically released in conjunction with the end of Pride Month — and in our dark and uncertain age, the video is a much-needed burst of joy and humanity, as the video was specifically cast to focus on faces, body types and identities that are less conventional, less celebrated and often misunderstood, capturing these people at their most vital, most joyful and most human — whether dancing, tenderly embracing, kissing and loving. Certainly, the world would be a much better place if there was more love and more gentle and human moments.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the New York-based collective Brass Against the Machine, and as you may recall, the act currently comprised of founding member Brad Hammonds (guitar, arrangement), Andrew Gutauskas (baritone sax, arrangement), Darius Christian (vocals, trombone), Sophia Urista (vocals), Mariel Bildsten (trombone), Wayne Tucker (trumpet), Oskar Stenmark (trumpet), Steven Duffy (sousaphone), the New York-based collective Brass Against the Machine specializes in covering protest music but with a unique sound and approach, as their sound meshes rock, alternative rock, hip-hop and New Orleans brass — and for repertoire that features covers of Rage Against the Machine, Living Colour, Gil Scott-Heron, Jane’s Addiction, A Tribe Called Quest, Led Zeppelin and a list of others.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0kJLW2EwMg&w=560&h=315]
The band is prepping for a series of live shows in the NYC area, which you can see below — and to build up buzz for those shows, the collective released an incredibly funky brass-backed interpretation of Rage’s “Guerrilla Radio” — and with vocalist Sophia Urista confidently taking filling the vocal role of Zack de la Rocha, there’s a decided and forceful reminder that women have long been the heart, soul and moral backbone of any resistance movement against corrupt and venal power — but also serves as a reminder, that music is a powerful weapon.
Over the past year, I’ve written a bit about the Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry, whose solo recording project Million Miles is the culmination of a life-long love affair with soul music. After completing her studies at Berklee College and a stint as a recording engineer and studio musician in New York, Baudry returned to London, where she felt an irresistible pull to write music inspired by Ray Charles and Bill Withers. On an inspired whim, Baudry decided to make a trip to Nashville, where she spent her first few days wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers, as though she were saying “I ’m new here and I’m a songwriter and i’m looking for people to collaborate with.” As the story goes, Baudry wound up having chance meetings with local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson and within an hour or so of their meeting, they began writing material that eventually became the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter’s Million Miles debut EP, Berry Hill, which was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s Berry Hill home studio. And from EP singles “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” and “Love Like Yours,” Baudry quickly received attention across the blogosphere, as well as this site, for an easy-going yet deliberately crafted, Sunday afternoon, Soul Train-like soul that nodded equally at the aforementioned Bill Withers and Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.
Recently, Mahogany Sessions invited the French-born, British singer/songwriter to participate in their Covers series in which she contributes a sultry and jazzy soul-like cover of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Beggin'” that sounds as though it nods more towards Brown Sugar-era D’Angelo, giving the classic song a modern interpretation without erasing the song’s plaintive and urgent need.
Michelle Blanchard is a Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and alt pop artist, whose recording project Madyx draws from P!nk, Katy Perry, The Distillers‘ Brody Dalle and Melissa Etheridge — although Blanchard has received attention for pairing earnest and socially relevant lyrics with crowd pleasing, infectious production. Adding to a growing profile, her debut EP was recorded with Grammy nominated producer Brian Howes, who has worked with Daughtry, Simple Plan and Hedley among others. Her latest single is a bold cover/re-imagining of Modern English‘s iconic “I Melt With You,” turning the familiar song into a contemporary singer/songwriter guitar pop – and although the melody and the tempo have been slowed down, Blanchard cover manages to reveal a subtly different take, while retaining it’s essence.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about the Madrid, Spain-based indie rock trio The Parrots. Comprised of Diego Garcia (vocals, guitar), Alejandro de Lucas (bass) and Daniel “Larry” Balboa (drums), the members of The Parrots are among the forefront of a collection of Spanish artists, who sing in English and Spanish that have received attention both nationally and internationally; in fact, with the release of “I Did Something Wrong” off their Aden Arabie EP, were praised for a boozy and riotous garage rock/garage psych rock sound comparable to Thee Oh Sees, Black Lips, Raccoon Fighter, High Waisted, White Mystery and others.
Adding to a growing profile internationally, back in 2015, NME named the Madrid-based trio as one of SXSW‘s “buzziest bands” and since then the members of The Parrots have managed to be pretty busy — they followed up with a critically applauded EP Weed for The Parrots, made a repeat appearance at SXSW before signing to renowned indie label Heavenly Recordings with whom the band released their full-length debut Los Ninos Sin Miedos, which featured the shambling and swooning “Let’s Do It Again,” a single reportedly inspired by the members of the band drinking beers and Horchata, eating Moroccan delicacies and the feelings of profound friendly and loyalty they all felt towards each other — and in some way, the song evokes the sort of feelings that are brought about when you’re drinking way too much and having ridiculous adventures with your pals. Album single “A Thousand Ways” was largely inspired by that moment in one’s youth when you may be most tempted by the forbidden and unknown, and when you may drop or avoid responsibilities of any sort. “This is the moment when, along with your friends, childhood dies,” the members of the band said. And much like its predecessor, the shambling, garage rock barnburner managed to remind me of Raccoon Fighter and 60s garage rock.
Some time has passed since I’ve last written about them but as it turns out while the band is currently working on the much-anticipated follow up to their full-length debut, the members of the band have released a one-off, ramshackle, shambling, garage rock cover of Latin trap artist Bad Bunny’s smash hit “Soy Peor,” and as the band explains “We’ve always been big fans of urban music, trap and hip-hop. Not long ago, these styles started to be everywhere again in Spain, and with it we discovered many interesting new acts, both Spanish and Latin American. One of them was Bad Bunny, from Puerto Rico. The first song of his that we listened to was “Soy Peor” and we loved it. Since we started the band, we’ve always liked to cover songs that we like, usually it’s from bands that are more similar to our style — rock ‘n’ roll, punk . . . It’s the first time we picked a song in another style and tried to make it ours. The idea came up in a rehearsal, talking about choosing a new cover for a forthcoming show. People really dug it and a few weeks later we went to Paco Loco’s studio to record it. We have all been through one or several relationships where things didn’t end up well, you realize you are not the same, you go out partying and blame it on your ex but, maybe, it was all your own fault.”