Scott Fleenor is a Midwestern-born, Denver-based producer and singer/songwriter, best known as Scott AF. From what I’ve been told as a person and as an artist, the Denver-based artist always pushes people to be their best.
Fleenor’s latest single “No Sounds” is a collaboration with Vietnamese producer and songwriter Censored X. Centered around soulful yet tender vocals, glistening synths, tweeter and woofer rattling beats “No Sounds” is a euphoric and crowd-pleasing mix of soul, deep house and pop songwriting that will rock a club.
Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering Israeli-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay MAGON. With the release of Out in the Dark, the Israeli-born, Paris-based artist quickly established a sound that at the time, he dubbed as “urban rock on psychedelics.”
Late last year, the Israeli-French artist released his critically applauded sophomore album Hour After Hour, which featured “Change,” a dreamy meditation on the passing of time, “Aerodynamic,” a decidedly glam rock-inspired take on psych rock and the No Wave meets post-punk like album title track “Hour After Hour.” Sonically, the album’s material was a decided change in direction with the material being ” “somewhere between Ty Segall, Allah-Las and The Velvet Underground” according to the JOVM mainstay.
The Israeli-French artist’s third album In The Blue officially dropped today and the album sees MAGON drawing from two different sets of influences — 70s rock like Lou Reed and Led Zeppelin and contemporary influences like Mac DeMarco and Devendra Banhart. Written around the birth of the artist’s daughter, the album is centered around what may arguably be some of the most introspective songwriting of his growing catalog — paired with a bit more assertive delivery.
In the lead-up to In The Blue‘s release, I wrote about two of the album’s singles:
“The Willow,” an introspective bit of 70s-inspired art rock, that follows its characters on a trip to Egypt, where its primary narrator sees the titular willow. But interestingly, the trip serves as a larger and deeper metaphor for its characters, who are all desperately trying to find something — perhaps themselves or a deeper, hidden truth?
“Egyptian Music,” a slow-burning vibey ballad of sorts, centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars paired with impressionistic yet introspective songwriting — with the song equally evoking nostalgia and regret.
“Forever,” In The Blue‘s third and latest single, is a vibey-mid tempo song that’s one part AM rock, one part-post punk centered around impressionistic lyrics touching upon regret, forgiveness, time and its inevitable passing, and love. But interestingly, the song’s narrator — to me, at least — seems a bit worn out and exhausted by — well, everything.
“All Mine” and “You” and “Waste My Time,” which I wrote about last month will all appear on the duo’s nine-track mixtape A001, which is slated for a February 1, 2022 release. The mixtape’s latest single “Your Eyes” is a mid tempo bop centered around glistening synth arpeggios, a relentless motorik groove, a steady backbeat with hand clapped accents, shimmering guitars, an infectious, two step-inducing hook and Brown’s aching and wearied delivery describing an exhausting and dysfunctional relationship that they’re beginning to question — and beginning to regret.
“This was inspired by a close friend’s dysfunctional relationship and observing its constantly messy nature with arguments over nothing,” ARPE’s Charlie Brown explains. “Being in a relationship can sometimes be the loneliest time in your life, when the other person is reluctant to work with you to nurture it and care for it, but it’s the scariest prospect realising that in the long-term you would be better off without them. It’s a leap of faith not many are willing to take.”
IC2 is the darkwave/post-punk solo recording project of a rather mysterious Villa Latina, Italy-based producer, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. The emerging Italian artist’s latest single, the brooding yet dance floor friendly “Falling Down” is centered around glistening synth arpeggios, thumping electronic drums, wiry bursts of distorted guitars, crooned vocals and an enormous hook. Sonically, “Falling Down” may remind some listeners of post-punk heavyweights like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure and Joy Division — as well as contemporaries like ACTORS, Bootblacks and others.
Montreal-based collective The Foundation features some of the city’s best musicians, who also play in the Canadian city’s top R&B, hip-hop, funk, gospel, soul and jazz acts. The members of The Foundation gained collective experience from production and performing on a weekly, nationally aired TV show — and they used their momentum of their show to write and record their critically applauded debut EP One Step.
The Foundation also collaborates with some of the French Canadian city’s top and upcoming R&B, hip-hop, soul and funk acts, including Mel Pacifico and Fredy V — both, who are full-time members of the collective. The collective’s latest single “On The Rise,” marks the one-year anniversary of the release of their debut EP. But song is also a bold mission statement of stops, description the group’s current direction and mindset.
Featuring glistening synths, twinkling keys, thumping beats, hand-claps, Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, wobbling bass synth, “On The Rise” is centered around a warm and roomy, New Jack Swing meets neo-soul with a hint of classic Chic-like production. Fredy V. contributes self-assured and thoughtful verses describing the sacrifices he had to take to get to where he is right now, including distancing from the people and habits that didn’t align with his goals. Pacifico contributes her soulful vocals to the song’s uplifting and infectious hook.Unsurprisingly, the new single is informed by and inspired by the collective’s experiences during the pandemic: Both individually and as a collective, The Foundation was forced to reflect on the direction of their careers in music — and their lives.
Thematically, the song touches upon self-empowerment, maturation, self-determination and accountability — that come about as someone matures and is actively attempting to make serious moves for themselves. The song — and the band — seem to say to the listener, “well, if you wanna fulfill your dreams, stop the bullshit and get to work. It ain’t easy but once you get there, it’ll be worth it.”
Allegories was a long-dormant experimental noise duo that reappeared in 2014 as an electro pop unit that experimented with genre, meshing eclectic soundscapes with pop inclinations. Gathering further, inspiration from DJ’ing house and hip-hop nights, the act began to create electronic music that often shifts between the mainstream and underground spectrum.
The duo’s latest single “Pray” is a feverish left field take on dance music, centered around `shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, euphoria-inducing hooks and pitch shifted vocals that sonically is a slick synthesis of Evil Heat era Primal Scream and Sound of Silver era LCD Soundsystem. Or in other words, it’s a bizarre yet winning mix of menace, irony and sincerity within a club banger.
“‘Pray’ feels like a tree grown out of a seed of house music, but its leaves are wild and varied,” the mysterious duo explain. “Sometimes you let gravity take over a composition; you start one way but over time music evolves naturally. At the same time, “Pray” doesn’t function in an uncomplicated fashion. It was written and recorded over many years and each new iteration added conflicting emotional layers. A menagerie of feelings. Owing as much to the overtly sincere as it does the misleading insincere. “
With the release of his full-length debut, 2019’s Counterglow, Montreal-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Reno McCarthy quickly received attention for his remarkably self-assured songwriting. The Montreal-based artist also received praise for his debonair stage presence — and for having a backing band that plays a groove-heavy live set.
Following the loss of his father last year, McCarthy wound up writing and recording a moving and deeply moving EP, Angels Watching Us Down, which found the Montreal-based artist crafting much more stripped down and strikingly sensitive material.
Late last month, McCarthy released his sophomore album, RUN UP RIVER, which features the introspective yet upbeat “Sundown,” and the slickly produced, St. Lucia-like ode to hesitation and indecisiveness, “For A Moment.” The album’s latest single, the atmospheric “Nothing Less, Nothing More” is a slow-burning song featuring shimmering and reverb drenched guitars, skittering beats with a trippy Tame Impala-like coda with glistening synth arpeggios, held together with McCarthy’s delicate croon. The song manages to evoke the uneasy swoon of a new relationship with both sides entering uncharted waters with themselves and each other.
Centered around introspective, lived-in lyrics, the song as McCarthy explains “offers an honest look at the unstable nature of early relationships. It’s about accepting both ourselves and our loved ones for who we are.”
Formed over six years ago, Antananarivo, Madagascar-based trio LohArano — Mahalia Ravoajanahary (vocals, guitar), Michael Raveloson (bass, vocals) and Natiana Randrianasoloson (drums, vocals) — have developed an incredibly unique, boundary pushing sound that meshes elements of popular and beloved Malagasy musical styles — in particular, Tsapiky and Salegy — with metal. The Madagascan trio’s sound and approach represents a bold generation of young people that are inspired by music from West, yet honors and respects the traditions of their elders, all while roaring with the fierce urgency of our moment.
Earlier this year, LohArano released their self-titled EP, which featured “Tandrroka,” a mosh pit friendly ripper, featuring rumbling, down-tuned bass lines, thunderous drumming, scorching guitar riffs and Ravoajanahary’s Karen O-like vocals, which alternate between feral howls, screeching and shouting.
The band released their full-length debut LohAmboto this past Friday through Libertalia Music. The album’s first single, album title track “LohAmboto” continues an incredible run of expansive forward-thinking, post rock/metal inspired material centered around scorching riffs, heavy bass lines, thunderous Malagasy polyrhythms and Ravoajanahary’s howls and shouts. It’s a face melting ripper, reminiscent of System of a Down and others.
The band will be playing Europe for the first time on December 3, 2021 — with an appearance at Trans Musicales in Rennes, France. They’ll embark on their first European tour during the Summer of 2022.
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.”
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.”
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
Rising Toronto-based singer/songwriter Oliver James Brooks can trace the origins of his music career to fiddling with his father’s old acoustic guitar while growing up in a small Ontario town. About five years ago, Brooks began turning those early fiddlings into fleshed out songs. And since then, the Canadian singer/songwriter and musician has begun to build a national profile: He has received airplay on CBC and has been compared to Kurt Vile and Elliott Smith by Divide & Conquer and Gordon Lightfoot by XS Noize. He has also played at IndieWeek back in 2019.
Brooks’ recently released third album Storm Chasing was recored on an old Tascam 388 8-track tape machine, at Gavin Gardiner’s All Day Coconut Studios with the exception of some overdubs here and there. Written over the course of the past five years, some of Storm Chasing‘s material was written while Brooks lived in Brooklyn. The album thematically and lyrically touches on childhood memories, sadness, love and optimism among others.
In the lead up to the album’s release last week, three of its singles were released to critical applause from Americana UK, Indie88 and The Young Folks. The album’s fourth and latest single, the breakneck shuffle “Ya Ya No” is centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a steady backbeat, Brooks easy-going vocals and an infectious hook within a song that sonically brings Tom Petty and JOVM mainstay Steve Wynn to mind.