Category: music

2017 in Review

Politically,  this year has been difficult, knowing that many dear friends, associates and colleagues will be deeply harmed by many of the vicious and downright racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic policies of this current administration. And yet, this year personally has been a life-alltering one for me. In January, I spent 6 days — 3 in Dordrecht  for business, 3 in Amsterdam — and while it was the second time I had been in Europe, it was arguably one of the more profound experiences I’ve ever known. (Of course, Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express and Kraftwerk’s Minimum Maximum were major parts of the trip’s overall soundtrack.)

My flight was delayed by weather — it had started to snow as I was on the tarmac — and I had landed at Amsterdam Schiphol International at 7am, initially confused as to how dark it was at that time, before remembering that I was much further North that I had thought. But there are several things I’ll always remember from that trip: a waitress at the Kaffe Haus De Hoek with a kind and warm smile, who let a cold and tired traveler into her establishment a few minutes early and offered some hot (and extremely necessary) Dutch coffee, before a traditional Dutch breakfast of fried eggs with ham, toast and salad. The train rides through the Dutch countryside, passing towns like Abcoude, Haarlem, The Hague, Rotterdam, etc. On my first day, the train between Rotterdam and Dordrecht wasn’t running because of repairs. Unfortunately, I spent 40 minutes that I didn’t need to spend in Rotterdam, waiting for a train that wasn’t going to come because I didn’t understand Dutch; however, Google Translate came to my rescue. I later found out that I needed to take a train back in the direction of The Hague and Amsterdam, get on a bus for about half an hour and then get on another train just to get to Dordrecht. But I mention this because at the last train station, the public transit service offered cold and weary commuters hot soup. Sadly, I never got any because I was lugging a suitcase I had borrowed from Catherine Horath and just didn’t have free hand for it; but i would have enjoyed it.

One night, I walked down a section of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, and there were scantily clad prostitutes in the windows, summoning lonely and uncertain men like sirens. “Come, come, come here,” they’d say in wildly accented English, and the men would shyly follow.

And there was the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House; long walks down the gorgeous canals, lost in the smells, sights and feelings of being a man from very far away.

I never got a chance to truly craft a post around those experiences but I did take pictures — and if you’d like, check those out below.

Dordrecht, The Netherlands and Amsterdam, The Netherlands 1/15/17 - 1/20/17

I also spent some time on the road with lengthy stints in Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia, and I managed to see my cousin Lisa Smith for the first time in over 15 years, and that was a wonderful bonus.

Musically, this year was amazing as I saw Erykah Badu, Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, LL Cool J, Gorillaz, Roy Ayers, PJ Harvey, Elvis Costello, KRS One, Digable Planets, Screaming Females, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Gary Numan, U2, Nick Hakim, Tinariwen and Lee Fields among a very busy year of live music. And with that in mind, I wanted to show you some of my favorite photos of the year to officially close out 2017.

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The mighty Tinariwen at Brooklyn Bowl back in April.
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Preservation Halll Jazz Band during an incredibly fun set at Highline Ballroom back in April.
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Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster at Brooklyn Bazaar.
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Overlake at Mercury Lounge back in May.
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JOVM mainstays Ten Fe at Mercury Lounge in June.
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Amber Arcades at The Knitting Factory in June.
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Sun Ra Arkestra’s 93 year-old Marshall Allen at Union Pool’s Summer Thunder Outdoor Concert Series.
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Stargazer Lilies at Trans-Pecos back in May.
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The Blastmaster KRS-One at SummerStage, Coffey Park in June.
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PJ Harvey at SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield in June.
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Amadou and Mariam at Prospect Park.
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In The Valley Below at Mercury Lounge.
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The legendary Roy Ayers at SummerStage Rumsey Playfield,
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Metz’s Alex Eadkins during a sweaty and furious set at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
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Gary Numan at Brooklyn Steel earlier this month.
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New Video: Lights That Change’s Spectral, Synth-based Cover of Tim Buckley’s “Songs To The Siren”

Although he never found commercial success within his tragically short life, singer/songwriter Tim Buckley has managed to become admired and deeply influential in the 40 years since his death for his innovative sound which possessed […]

 

Bloodline is an extremely mysterious production group who have received quite a bit of buzz across electronic music and electronic dance music circles for a sound that’s deeply influenced by 90s house, as you’ll hear on their slickly produced latest single “Tribute,” a song  club-rocking classic house song comprised, looped vocal samples, layers of staccato synths and tweeter and woofer rocking beats. Sonically, the song manages to bear an uncanny resemblance to a club banging, house music standard, Inner City‘s “Good Life.”

The mysterious production group’s debut effort, EP1 has received quite a bit of attention, as it reached Traxsource‘s Top 10 List, and building upon that buzz, the group will be releasing its follow up, EP2 shortly.

 

Comprised of Jimmy Jönsson (vocals), Stefan Aronsson (synths and programming) and Per Linnerblad (synths and programming), the Stockholm, Sweden-based electro pop trio Red Cell can trace their origins to when the band’s founding duo of  Jönsson and Aronsson formed the back during the winter of 2002-2003. Deriving their name from a character that appears in the TV series Nikita, the duo recorded their first demo “In Command” a few months after forming, and it was released to praise in the Swedish press for an industrial metal sound.

Stefan Aronsson, who played guitar on their first single was recruited into the band along with another member on synths and as a newly constituted quartet, the band’s sound became much more synth-based. After recording two more demos — “I Am The Way” and “Related Skin,” which received national attention, the band entered the Swedish demo-contest Quest For Fame and won a recording contract. And although the band eventually turned down the recording deal they won, with a growing national profile, the quartet toured around Sweden and started playing regular gigs in Copenhagen, Denmark, which begun to expand their international profile across Scandinavia.

By January 2005, the Swedish electro pop quartet had signed with Torny Gotberg’s Gothenburg, Sweden-based Progress Productions, who released their commercially successful full-length debut effort, Hybrid Society that September. The album peaked at number 7 on the Swedish metal charts and at number 53 on the National charts. A national tour to support Hybrid Society followed, along with the band’s first gigs in Norway.

The band’s last effort Lead or Follow was released in 2008, and as you can imagine across Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, the news of their forthcoming third, full-length release, slated for release sometime next year has been long-anticipated. Although currently untitled, the album’s first single “Taking Back The Crown” is an anthemic bit of synth pop that sounds indebted to Depeche Mode‘s “People Are People” and “Policy of Truth” as well as The Human League‘s “Don’t You Want Me?” as layers of undulating synths are paired with propulsive drumming, enormous arena-friendly hooks and plaintive vocals.

 

 

Comprised of Michael Lemmo (guitar and vocals), Benjamin Borland (bass) and Kenny Cash (drums), the Los Angeles, CA-based alternative rock/indie rock trio LEMMO specialize in radio-friendly and anthemic power chord rock as you’ll hear on their latests single “Alright,” which interestingly enough bears an uncanny resemblance to Lifehouse‘s “Hanging By A Moment” — but with a shimmering bridge that sounds indebted to The Smiths, giving the song enough of an indie rock edge to have been played on 120 Minutes.

 

If you’ve been frequenting JOVM over course of its history, you may recall coming across several posts on Brooklyn-based quintet Super Hi-Fi, who were something of a mainstay act on this site back in 2012. The core members of the band led by Ezra Gale (bass) features Rick Parker (trombone). Jon Lipscomb (guitar) and Madhu Siddappa (drums) can actually trace their origins to a rather unlikely start. Gale, who was a founding member of the acclaimed San Francisco-based Afrobeat act, Aphrodesia had relocated to Brooklyn and was collaborating with Quoc Pham in Sound Liberation Front when Gale was asked to get a band together for Pham and Gale’s then-monthly Afro-Dub Sessions parties in Williamsburg. The parties would pair the live band with several top-name dub producers and DJs including Victor RicePrince Polo, Subatomic Sound System, the Beverley Road All-Stars and others.

With the release of their critically applauded debut effort, Dub to the Bone released through Electric Cowbell Records in 2012, the Brooklyn-based quintet won quite a bit of attention locally and nationally as they’ve played renowned local venues such as the Mercury Lounge, the now-closed Zebulon and Brooklyn Bowl and have opened for nationally known acts including Rubblebucket, Beats Antique and John Brown’s Body. Over the past couple of years, Super Hi-Fi have recorded and released two 45s on Electric Cowbell, a split 7 inch with Ithaca, NY-based act Big Mean Sound Machine through Peace and Rhythm Records and  Yule Analog, Vol 1.,  a dub-inspired take on Christmas standards.

Super Hi-Fi’s soon-to-be released new album Yule Analog, Vol. 2 picks up on where Yule Analog, Vol 1. left off  — with dub-inspired takes on another batch of holiday classics and a holiday-inspired original dub composition. Featuring contributions from renowned trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, best known for his work with The Lounge Lizards, Bill Frisell and Charlie Hunter; Mitch Marus, best known for his work with Donovan, The Dean Ween Group, and Aphrodesia; as well as Adrian Harley and Alex Castle, who collaborate with Gale in the old school groove project, The Get It. And much like their previously recorded effort, Prince Polo took up production duties, recording the material on analog tape and mixed the album using vintage reverb and tape delay units — in the fashion of legendary dub masters King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry.

Yule Analog Vol. 2′s latest single, which I have the unique privilege of premiering here is a trippy, dub rendition of an old time Christmas classic “O Come All Ye Faithful” which features the trombone-led compositions that won the attention of the blogosphere — the trombone gives the song a regal, old-timey feel while the reverb and bass heavy dub pushes the song towards a funky shoegazer territory. It’s a sunny and playful rendition of an extremely familiar song that puts a completely different spin on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up and coming, New Jersey-born pop artist Donna Missal first captured the attention of listeners and the blogosphere with her sultry and bluesy debut single “Keep Lying,” which paired Missal’s soulful, pop belter vocals with buzzing power chords, a propulsive rhythm section and anthemic hooks. Lyrically, the song’s narrator pleads with an unfaithful and deceitful lover to keep the facade of faithfulness so not to ruin her long-held fantasy. Is it cynical? Absolutely. But it evokes a deeply dysfunctional relationship — the sort where lies are just as useful and good as honesty. Somehow, I’ve been there once or twice before . . .

Building upon the buzz that “Keep Lying” has received Massal recorded a sultry and bluesy cover of Drake‘s massive hit “Hotline Bling” that turns up the vulnerable and sensual need of the original, essentially taking Drake’s hit song and confidently making it her own.

 

Check out how Donna Missal’s cover compares to the original.

Born and raised in Paris, the currently Los Angeles-based keyboardist, singer/songwriter and electronic music artist Morgane Lhote has had quite an impressive musical career, which includes stints in several different locales throughout the years. When Lhote was 20, she moved to London where she spent 12 — and during that period in the UK, between 1995-2001, Lhote was a member of Stereolab contributing on several of the band’s most beloved and critically applauded efforts, including Dots and Loops and Emperor Tomato Ketchup.  From 2002-2004, Lhote was a member of The Projects and she followed that project with a Garden, a side project featuring members of Simian Mobile Disco, before she started her own solo recording project, Hologram Teen.

Citing an incredibly diverse array of influences including MF DOOM, Francois De Roubaix, The GZAJudee Sill, ABBA, John Carpenter, Goblin, Gene Clark, E.L.O., Harpers Bizarre, King Tubby, Michel Legrand, Hot Chip, Supertramp, Luke Vibert, Martha and the Muffins, Soft Machine, Suzanne Ciani, Greg Kurstin and Chic, Lhote has described her latest project, Hologram Teen as “electronic music that’s playful and groovy (mostly influenced by disco and Italian horror soundtracks) with loads of diverse samples. This is a soundtrack to a movie where John Carpenter and Boris Karloff hang out at Studio 54 with German zombies dancing to ‘Thriller’ in the background.” She’s also jokingly described her sound as being “. . . like Fabio Frizzi meets Grandmaster Flash.”

Small, renowned label Deep Distance Records, a sister imprint of The Great Pop Supplement Records released Lhote’s most recent 7 inch “Post-Apocalyptecakes”/”Tracksuit Minotaur” earlier this month. “Tracksuit Minotaur” pairs layers of glimmering, undulating synths reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk‘s “Trans Europe Express” and John Carpenter soundtracks, skittering and stuttering drum programming, ominously swirling electronics and horror movie samples to craft a song that’s tense, danceable and sweepingly cinematic — while evoking dancing your cares away in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world. “Post-Apocalypteacakes,” featuring Buddy Cop pairs a sinuous bass line reminiscent of Chic, skittering drum programming, layers of undulating synths and horror movie samples and industrial clang and clatter to craft a song that sounds equally inspired by Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk,  LCD Soundsystem‘s 45:33, and Snap!‘s “Rhythm Is A Dancer.”

Lhote specializes in what may arguably be some of the most unique electronic music I’ve heard in some time — it’s relentlessly difficult to pigeonhole into any particular subgenre and it meshes different genres and periods in an effortless and seamless fashion.