Category: covers

New Audio: French Singer-Songwriter Laure Briard Releases a Breezy 70s AM Rock-like Bossa Nova Cover

Laure Briard is a Toulouse, France-based singer/songwriter, who bounced around quite a bit before fully delving into music: before starting her music career in earnest in 2013, Briard studied literature and criminology and even did a little acting. 

Signing to Tricatel Records, Briard released her debut EP. A short time later, she met Juilen Gasc and Eddy Cramps and began working on her full-length debut, Révélation, a pop-rock leaning album released through 2000 Records. And with Révélation, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter began to receive attention for a sound inspired by Françoise Hardy, Margo Guryan and Vashti Bunyan paired with modern and poetic lyricism. 

2016 saw the release of her sophomore album Sur la Piste de Danse through Midnight Special Records. But during the subsequent years, Briard’s work took on an increasing bossa nova influence — and with 2018’s Coração Louco, which featured acclaimed Brazilian JOVM mainstays Boogarins, Briard began writing lyrics in Portuguese. Building upon a growing reputation, the Toulouse-based singer/songwriter’s third album, 2019’s Un peu plus d’amour s’il vous plâit was released through Michel Records in Canada, Midnight Special Records in Europe and Burger Records here in the States. 

Continuing her ongoing love affair with Brazil and Brazilian music, Briard’s latest single  find her tackling the São Paulo, Brazil-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Sessa’s “Grandeza.” While the original was centered around a sparse arrangement of looping acoustic guitar, gentle percussion and call and response vocals, it’s a dreamy song full of a wistful and bittersweet ache. 

Collaborating with Vincent Pieuvre and Emmanuel Mario,  Briard’s take on “Grandeza” retails the wistful and bittersweet ache of the original while pairing it with a breezy, 70s AM rock-like arrangement featuring twinkling Rhodes, a sinuous bass line and shimmering guitar and Briard’s plaintive vocals. In some way the song is a wistfully nostalgic ode to the lives and the things we can’t have right now; and probably will not have for quite some time as a result of COVID-19. “I was deeply moved by the beautiful dreamy lyrics of the song, the fearless statement made with vivid imagery yet remaining mysterious and abstract in a way which people can relate to on different levels.” 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the acclaimed Bristol, UK-based soul singer/songwriter and JOVM mainstay Hannah Williams. Williams can trace some of the origins of her music career to growing up in an extremely musical household: her father  was a musician and  minister. Interestingly, the acclaimed British singer/songwriter and soul artist  learned how to read music before she could read words —  and as the story goes, when she was a young girl, her mother introduced her to  Motown and Bill Withers, which wound up transforming her life. As the story goes, Williams’ mother quickly recognized that Williams had a natural gift and encouraged her to join the church choir.

With  “Work It Out,” off 2012’s full-length debut Hill of Feathers, Williams and her first backing band The Tastemakers, emerged into national and international soul circles with the track receiving attention across the blogosphere and airplay on radio stations across the States, Australia and the European Union. At one point “Work It Out” was one of the most downloaded songs in Greece with the video amassing over 1.5 million streams on YouTube.

Building upon a growing profile, Williams played sets across the European festival circuit, including stops at Shambala Festival, Valley Fest, Wilderness Festival, Cambridge Jazz Festival and Larmer Tree Festival, as well as some of Europe’s most renowned clubs, including Hamburg, Germany‘s Mojo; Manchester, UK’s Band on the Wall; and Camden, UK‘s Jazz Cafe with the likes of JOVM mainstays  Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, and Charles Bradley, as well as Cat Power.

Williams’ 2016 Michael Cotto-produced sophomore album Late Nights and Heartbreak was the first recorded output with her current backing band, the Bristol-based soul outfit, The Affirmations — currently, James Graham (organ, piano and Wurlitzer), Adam Holgate (guitar), Adam Newton (bass), Jai Widdowson-Jones (drums), Nicholas Malcolm (trumper), Liam Treasure (trombone), Victoria Klewin (baritone saxophone) and Hannah Nicholson (backing vocals) — and the album further established Williams’ growing profile across the international soul scene.

Over the course of the following year, Hannah Williams and The Affirmations received even greater international attention, after smash hit-making producer  NO I.D. sampled the heart aching hook of  “Late Nights and Heartbreak” for Jay-Z‘s “4:44.” “It was an incredible catalyst,” Williams says in press notes, “as a change in our collective career, and getting a global audience. Suddenly, there were millions of predominantly American hip-hop fans listening to my voice, going ‘Is this from the ’60s? Is she dead?’” Unsurprisingly, as a  result of the attention they received from “4:44,” the rising soul act spent the better part of 2018 on the most extensive touring schedule of their collective careers, including stops at SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Brooklyn Bowl, the Toronto Jazz Festival and across the European Union, where they expanded their fanbase.

With even more attention on them, Williams and company were determined to make the record of their lives. The end result was their Shawn Lee produced effort, last year’s  50 Foot Woman. The album finds the band accurately capturing the visceral power of their live show on wax — white further establishing a sound that generally draws from classic soul, psych soul and funk, with a subtly modern take.

Much like countless other bands across the world, Williams and her Affirmations have been enjoying connecting with their fans and followers in a whole new way during the past few months of COVID-19 imposed quarantines and lockdowns. Putting some of their musical direction in the hands of their loyal following for the first time, the band put a cover song choice to a vote — and the result was the challenge of covering Nirvana’s classic, smash-hit “Heart-Shaped Box.”

Naturally, because the acclaimed JOVM mainstays operate in a completely different genre and style than Nirvana, they craft a slow-burning, horn-driven take on the grunge rock classic that retains the brooding and uneasy quality of the original — while putting the song into a contemporary context. Of course, what the Hannah Williams and The Affirmations cover should remind the listener of a fundamental fact: great compositions and great songs can translate across different genres and styles if embraced and adapted with care, so that the intent and purpose of the original isn’t messed with or altered too much.

Through countless back and forth with their mixing engineer and rapid advancements to each of their home recording setups, the band managed to record and sculpt the song despite lockdown restrictions. And it was done in a way that sounds as though the band were all in the studio together.

“This release is an ode to the world and its struggles” the band says, “a nod to the past but also a move into the future, and most of all a tribute to all the amazing people who continue to not only support our band but also all the important messaging and movements we try to encourage through our art and influence.”
 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Pom Pom Squad Releases a David Lynch-like Cover of “Crimson + Clover”

Last year, I wrote a bit about the rising Brooklyn-based grunge rock/punk rock act Pom Pom Squad — Mia Berrin (vocals, guitar), Mari Ale Figeman (bass), Shelby Keller (drums) and Ethan Sass (guitar)  — and the act quickly became a local DIY scene staple for a modern take on the 90s grunge rock scene that find the band balancing solemnity and whimsy, old school punk aesthetics and emotional vulnerability in which they’ve dubbed Quiet Grrl punk. They’ve also developed and honed a raucous live show while sharing stages with the likes of Soccer Mommy, Adult Mom, Long Neck and others.

The Brooklyn-based act’s sophomore EP Ow was released last year to critical praised rom the likes of Stereogum, Paste, Under the Radar, Highsnobiety and Thrillist, and EP material received airplay on SiriusXM Alt Nation — and that shouldn’t be surprising: the band’s work is generally mosh pit friendly, power chord-driven rock paired with an unhinged, feral intensity reminiscent of Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The band recently recorded a brooding and atmospheric,  David Lynch-like cover of Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crimson + Clover” in honor of both Pride Month and to support Bandcamp’s Juneteenth fundraising campaign. “This year would have been my first Pride as an ‘out’ person,” Pom Pom Squad’s Mia Berrin explains in press notes. “It took me a long time to come to terms with my identity in a true and honest way, but I am proud to meet myself where I am now. This year, the idea of walking down a street proudly, in my queerness and in my brown skin, feels particularly difficult for a multitude of obvious reasons, but this song is my small celebration of the scary, complicated, empowering process of owning my black, queer identity.” Directed by Mia Berrin and Shelby Keller, the recently released video, much like the song was produced during quarantine is a sultry fever dream. 

Now. as you may recall Bandcamp donated their share of all sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Pom Pom Squad will be donating their share of all digital downloads to For the Gworls Medical Fund, a POC-led emergency medical relief medical fund that pays for black trans folks to travel to clinics and pharmacies during the pandemic, and provide co-pay assistance if needed, so that they can continue to receive necessary — and important — prescriptions. 

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays Black Pumas Perform Their Gorgeous Cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton, the act can trace its origins back to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native  Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he eventually met Quesada.

Now, as you may recall, the acclaimed Austin-based soul act their critically applauded and commercially successful self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that featured the smash hit “Colors,” which amassed over four million YouTubeviews —and being one o the most added songs to Adult Album Alternative (AAAA) radio. Along with that, the band had gone on a relentless tour schedule that brought their uplifting live show across North America and the European Union, including three separate stops in the New York area: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the acclaimed, Austin-based JOVM mainstay act had been covering Tracy Chapman‘s  smash hit “Fast Car” during their live sets — and their rendition has quickly become a fan favorite. Unsurprisingly, the song and its lyrics resonate deeply with Burton — and although the Black Pumas cover is fairly straightforward and loving rendition, it comes from a deeply personal place, as though Burton could have written it himself. “To me, ‘Fast Car’ is a song of hope, dreams and a relentless heart to go somewhere and be someone,” says Burton. “I learned the song when I first began to busk and of the covers that I knew, it garnered the most attention from the random passerby. As a musician and artist, I’m attracted to songs that make us reflect on our daily struggles for making life worth living for.”

Recently, Black Pumas performed their gorgeous and heartfelt cover of “Fast Car” on Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Interestingly, with each repeated listen of the Black Pumas cover, I’m reminded of what a great song “Fast Car” is — and how much I loved it.  Sometimes a great song is an artist reaching down within themselves to tell the truth as they see it, paired with their voice and a guitar — or whatever instrument they feel fit. 

 

Black Pumas · Fast Car

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton, the act can trace its origins back to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native  Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he eventually met Quesada.

Now, as you may recall, the acclaimed Austin-based soul act their critically applauded and commercially successful self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that featured the smash hit “Colors,” which amassed over four million YouTube views —and being one o the most added songs to Adult Album Alternative (AAAA) radio. Along with that, the band had gone on a relentless tour schedule that brought their uplifting live show across North America and the European Union, including three separate stops in the New York area: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing  Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the acclaimed, Austin-based JOVM mainstay act had been covering Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car” during their live sets — and their rendition has quickly become a fan favorite. Unsurprisingly, the song and its lyrics resonate deeply with Burton — and although the Black Pumas cover is fairly straightforward and loving rendition, it comes from a deeply personal place, as though Burton could have written it himself. “To me, ‘Fast Car’ is a song of hope, dreams and a relentless heart to go somewhere and be someone,” says Burton. “I learned the song when I first began to busk and of the covers that I knew, it garnered the most attention from the random passerby. As a musician and artist, I’m attracted to songs that make us reflect on our daily struggles for making life worth living for.”

 

 

 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay TOBACCO Releases a Woozy and Menacing Cover of a Beloved 80s Classic

Over the past two decades, the Pittsburgh-born and based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Thomas Fec, best known as TOBACCO has used analog synthesizers and tape machines as as the frontman and creative mastermind of Black Moth Super Rainbow and as solo artist to create a boundary-pushing sound that evokes a woozy and uneasy intertwining of tension, anxiety, bemusement and pleasure.  

2016 saw the release of TOBACCO’S fourth solo album, Sweatbox Dynasty — and since then the JOVM mainstay has been incredibly busy: TOBACCO and the members of his primary gig, Black Moth Super Rainbow reconvened to write and record 2018’s Panic Blooms, which was supported with tours with frequent tour mates The Stargazer Lilies and Nine Inch Nails. He went on to produce The Stargazers Lilies’ abrasive yet trippy Occabot and collaborated with Aesop Rock in Malibu Ken, a project that released a critically applauded album. Additionally, TOBACCO penned the theme song to HBO’s Silicon Valley. 

TOBACCO’s first batch of new, solo material is the “Hungry Eyes”/”Can’t Count On Her” 7 inch, which was recently released through Ghostly International. Unless you’ve lived in a cave for the past 35 years or you’re 17, you know that the Franke Previte and John DeNicola co-written “Hungry Eyes” performed by Eric Carmen appears in an important scene of the 80s classic Dirty Dancing. The Pittsburgh-based JOVM mainstay has been covering “Hungry Eyes” in recent live sets — but before that, it appeared in a Pokemon porn parody. 

Interestingly, TOBACCO’s take on the 80s pop hit retains the original’s beloved and familiar melody and structure intact but while fucking with its texture in his characteristically sludgy and woozy style, centered around blown out bass, scuzzy synth arpeggios, analog gurgle and hiss and Fec’s heavily vocoder’ed vocals. The end result is a cover that purposelessly smudges and obscures the original’s sentimentality in a way that’s uneasy and menacing. “I did ‘Hungry Eyes; because I just love it. It’s a perfect song,” Fec says in press notes. “I play it straightforward and stay mindful not to disrespect the original.”

Suicide Squeeze Records · Death Valley Girls – Breakthrough

Throughout the bulk of this site’s ten year history, I’ve spilled copious amounts of virtual ink writing about the Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock act Death Valley Girls — founding duo Larry Schemel (guitar) and Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar) and a rotating cast of collaborators that includes Alana Amram (bass), Laura Harris (drums), Shannon Lay, members of The Make Up, The Shivas and Moaning, as well as The Flytraps‘ Laura Kelsey — can trace their origins back well over a decade ago, when they were formed by Schemel, Bloomgarden, Rachel Orosco (bass) and Hole‘s Patty Schemel (drums). Although they’ve gone through a series of lineup changes throughout their history, the JOVM’s sound and aesthetic for much of their history was influenced by The Manson Family and B movie theatrics while thematically focusing on the occult.

Slated for a June 12, 2020 release through their longtime home, Suicide Squeeze Records, the band’s two-song seven-inch EP Breakthrough finds the JOVM mainstays covering two songs that have a deep and profound connection to the band — both in their spirit and aural alignment: The EP’s first single is a cover of Atomic Rooster‘s “Breakthrough,” a song discovered through an even more obscure cover by Nigerian act The Funkees.  Centered around grimy power chords, fire-and-brimstone organ chords and an in-your-face, combative chorus, the Death Valley Girls cover, leans more towards The Funkees’ cover and although all three versions manage to hew closely to their long-held aesthetic, the song also manages to be remarkably contemporary, as it evokes an age-old desire to be free from all kinds of prisons, both real and mental.

The band was drawn to something far deeper than its melody and sound. “It spoke to me because of the lyrics about breaking free from an invisible prison… we all have invisible or visible prisons we are trapped in,” the band’s Bonnie Bloomgarden explains in press notes. Interestingly, the song’s discovery coincided with the band’s interest in The West Memphis Three’s Damien Echols and his ability to endure his lengthy imprisonment by learning to astral project through meditation.