Category: singer/songwriters

New Video: New York-based Artist Kinlaw Releases a Cinematic and Dramatic Visual for Slow-burning “Blindspot”

Kinlaw is a New York-based composer, choreographer, multimedia artist and singer/songwriter who is known locally for her solo work and multimedia productions that feature as many as two-hundred performers and contributions from Devonte Hynes (a.k.a Blood Orange), Caroline Polacheck, SOPHIE, Dan Deacon and others, as well as a number of renowned dancers and performance artists.

The New York-based artist’s full-length debut The Tipping Scale reportedly finds her showcasing her work in a new light. The album’s lyrically bridges the deeply personal with universal themes revealing a songwriter bravely exploring loss, regret, confusion, strength, identity and change. She explains that The Tipping Scale is an ideal metaphor for the record, the idea of an ever-present slipping in and out of change, and an acceptance of this kind of change.

The Tipping Scale finds her unifying her multidisciplinary practice. Writing with the goal for finding entry points for storytelling that felt honest and authentic to her practice, she often saw her music relating to motion. “I would start with a gesture and let it build into something until a memory attached itself to it,” the New York-based artist says. “The memory would become a story and the story would reveal itself as something important that needed to be expressed in this album.”

Sonically speaking, the album’s material features ornate flourishes, dance floor ruminations and slick production with a refined, compositional sensibility. The album’s first single “Blindspot” is a slow-burning, tense, and dramatic track centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, stuttering beats and Kinlaw’s ethereal crooning that reminds me of a atmospheric, synth-based take on Softspot’s dreamy Clearing — with a dark and brooding air.

Director by Kathleen Dycaico, the recently released cinematically shot video shows the adult Kinlaw in a futuristic enclosure, reckoning with her much younger self through an incredible series of dramatic choreographed moves — with the initial interaction being aggressive and forceful before going through a tender acceptance and acknowledgement between the adult and child.

“‘Blindspot’ is an excavation of the psychological mind that analyzes the link between our relationships with the people around us and our acceptance of self,” the New York-based artist explains in press notes. “I started doing a really cool therapy called EMDR while in process of developing this video with director Kathleen Dycaico and was able to recognize that the refusal to accept time, mainly myself during some of those times, was reflected in the way I was speaking about relationships. Our child selves are so brilliant — they are resilient, tricky, explosive, expressive. I needed to start off this album by giving a nod to the dynamic ways we perceive not only the people around us, but our integrated self.”


New Video: JOVM Mainstay Joe Wong Teams Up With Fred Armisen on a Lyrical and Trippy Visual for “Nite Creatures”

Throughout the course of this past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer, Joe Wong. Wong has had a lengthy career as a drummer — but he has made a name for himself for his scores for a number of acclaimed TV series, including Master of None, Russian Doll, Ugly Delicious, Awkafina is Nora from Queens, and others — and for being the host of The Trap Set podcast.

Earlier this year Wong released his Mary Lattimore-produced full-length debut, Nite Creatures, and so far I’ve written about four of the album’s previously released singles — including: the Man Who Sold The World-era David Bowie-like “Dreams Wash Away,” the Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles-like “Nuclear Rainbow,” the Scott Walker-like “Minor,” and “Day After Day,” a sobering exploration of free will versus fate that doesn’t have easy answers. Continuing an incredible run of stunningly lush yet brooding material, the album’s latest single, album title track “Nite Creatures” is a slow-burning and deliberately crafted track focuses on existential dread with a rapturous and swooning psychedelia. If Wong wasn’t a contemporary artist, you might mistakenly think that “Nite Creatures” was released sometime between 1966-1970.

Directed by Fred Armisen, the recently released video follows a brooding Wong as he enters a vaguely Eastern-styled house. As he wanders through the house, we see some deeply kaleidoscopic and psychedelic effects happen to him and to his surroundings, suggesting that Wong was going through a deeply spiritual awakening of some sort. Much like the song itself, it’s a slow-burning and gorgeously shot fever dream — but with something dark and murky on the fringes.

Interestingly, the collaboration between the duo can trace some of its origins back to the 1990s: Armisen was the dummer for Trenchmouth and Wong was a high-school kid in a math rock band named after an extremely obscure Dune reference. Wong wound up reconnecting with Armisen in 2013: Wong was drumming for Marine Stern. A few years later, Armisen asked Wong to help produce his first comedy special Standup For Drummers.

“It was inspiring to witness how he’d evolved from the drummer I met over twenty years ago to the singular talent he is today,” Wong says. “When I decided to make a video for ‘Nite Creatures,’ I thought Fred would be the ideal person to direct. Because of his sense of narrative rhythm (we’re both drummers, after all), surrealist aesthetic, and ability to make creative decisions on the fly, he proved himself the perfect director, indeed.”

“I love Joe’s album,” Armisen adds, “so when he asked me to work on the video, I was like, ‘YES!’ The song is so sonically rich, I think it makes dreamy videos in everyone’s mind. I just wanted to try to match that feeling.”

New Audio: Monophonics’ Kelly Finnigan Releases a Gorgeous and Soulful Christmas Song

Over the past year or so I’ve written a bit about the acclaimed West Coast-based soul outfit Monophonics — Austin Bohlman (drums), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), Max Ramey (bass) and Kelly Finnigan (lead vocals, keys) – and since their formation, the members of the band have developed a sound and approach that continues in the tradition of Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records. Much like their influences, the Bay Area-based soul outfit’s material is generally centered round a lush, cinematic sound that draws from classic soul, heavy funky and psych rock, recorded on vintage analog gear to give it that period specific sound. Naturally, they’ve paired that with a healthy amount of old-fashioned woodshedding, crafting and McDonald’s and Finnigan’s late night overdubs and studio work. “We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can,” the band said in press notes.

Earlier this year, Monophonics released their third album It’s Only Us earlier this year. The album further cements their reputation for being an act that’s particularly keen to creating and playing a heavier and edgier take on classic soul, while revealing a band that gently refining their sound to incorporate some warmer textures. Thematically, the album’s material focuses son much-needed messages of unity in our fractious and divisive world and of strength, resilience and acceptance.

Capping off a very busy year, Monophonics’ frontman Kelly Finnigan will be releasing his full-length album Joyful Sound through Holly Berry Red (vinyl) and Colemine Records (digitally and CD) on November 24, 2020. Produced by Finnigan, the album will be the third album he’s helmed in the past two years, including his solo debut effort The Tales People Tell and Monophonics aforementioned It’s Only Us. Interestingly, Joyful Sound finds Finnigan crafting and production an album with the elements of a classic R&B record — but with a joyful, holiday spirit.

Featuring members of Durand Jones & The Indications, The Dap-Kings, Ghost Funk Orchestra, Monophonics, Thee Sinseers, Orgōne, Ikebe Shakedown, Jason Joshua & The Beholders, The True Loves, Jungle Fire, Delvon Lamar Organ Trio, The Jive Turkeys, The Ironsides, and The Harlem Gospel Travelers, as well as Ben Pirani, Neal Francis and Rudy De Anda among others, Joyful Sound is inspired by Atlantic Records’ Soul Christmas, Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You and Rotary Connection’s Peace.

“I want people to feel joy and hope. I want the music to remind them what they are thankful for,” Finnigan says in press notes about Joyful Sound. “The songs and mood of the music should spark a feeling that it is a special time of year but also that it can also be a very difficult time for others. Holidays are about bringing people together to celebrate and I want this record to be a soundtrack for those celebrating but also a reminder that a lot of people are still struggling regardless if it’s Christmas or not. Most Importantly, I want them to hear the love and passion that went into the music. I’m lucky to have some incredible musicians and artists on the record and I hope they can hear the joy that everyone put into their performance. There’s a feeling of magic and nostalgia that lives in those classic Christmas songs and I believe I was able to capture some of that on this record. Christmas has become a grand event in most places in the world but we all have to remember that the reason this holiday is special for most is because it brings people together and reminds us that our friends and family are what’s most important.”

“No Time To Be Sad,” Joyful Sound’s latest single finds Finnigan firmly establishing himself as key producer, songwriter and producer in the contemporary soul scene. Centered around a lush, Motown Records-inspired arrangement, complete with soaring strings and brooding horns paired with Finnigan’s achingly tender falsetto and a gorgeous melody “No Time To Be Sad” is a classic, make-up tune in which the song’s couple finds a way to make up and have a romantic Christmas — but interestingly enough, the song is the sort of makeup song that can be played almost any time because the sentiment at its core is so deeply universal and so heartfelt.

New Audio: Introducing the Swaggering and Infectious Pop of France’s LMLM

LMLM is a mysterious and masked French producer. singer/songwriter and music video director. His latest single, the swaggering and infectious “hate u all” is centered around twinkling keys, thumping beats, shimmering synths, an infectious, radio friendly hook and the French artist’s equally swaggering part rhyming, part crooning delivery. Aesthetically. the mysterious French producer’s sound seems indebted to Drake and to slickly produced, Top 40 pop — but with a bit of an edge.

“‘hate u all’ is about all the things we have to fight in these trouble [sic] times: racism, sexism, global warming, etc. . . I want the best for the world. I wanna make people feel good and free. That’s why I sing ‘i hate you all’ in a groovy-catch song,” LMLM explains in press notes.

Throwback: Happy 70th Birthday, Tom Petty!

One of the greatest thrills I’ve had as a music fan, was somehow getting last-minute tickets through a broker to see Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers with Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden back in June 2008. Up until, catching Bob Dylan with Mavis Staples at The Beacon Theatre, that 2008 concert was the most I had ever spent for concert tickets — and I don’t regret it for a single second. God, hearing all of great songs live.

Petty would have turned 70. And much like Prince, I doubt Petty was capable of writing a terrible song. I wanted to celebrate Tom Petty’s birthday — and i think you should, too. I’ll be playing some of his music today, and will feel grateful for all of those songs. Happy 70th Tom. Happy birthday to you, wherever you are.

New Video: Montreal’s Eyesha Teams up with Nigeria’s Slimcase on a Sultry Banger

Montreal-born DJ, producer, singer/songwriter, choreographer, dancer and model Soph-eye Richard has spent the past 15 years either living in or performing in several dozen countries across five continents. The Montreal-based artist radically reinvents herself and her career with her latest solo recording project Eyesha.

Richard’s debut single as Eyesha, the Fancy Beats-produced “Dámelo” is centered around a minimalist production consisting of stuttering and thumping staccato beats, atmospheric synth arpeggios, and an infectious club banger meets Top 40 hook. Featuring a guest verse from emerging Nigerian artist Slimcase, “Dámelo” is a globalist, border blurring song with elements of Afro pop, electro pop, house music and Latin pop — with Spanish, French and English lyrics delivered in a sultry, come-hither coo by Eyesha and a swaggering reggae-inspired verse by Slimcase in English and Yoruba. And at its core is an irresistible yearning and desire that will have you coming back for more. In fact, so far, the track has been gaining a lot of attention: as of this writing, the track has amassed over 100,000 Spotify streams since its release.

Shot last year, the recently released. incredibly sexy video for “Dámelo” features the Montreal-based act and a diverse array of beautiful people dancing at a backyard party and a club — and while emphasizing the sensual quality of the song, the video also reveals some of the Montreal-born artist’s immense talents.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Hannah Williams and The Affirmations Defiantly Embrace Suffering and Autonomy

During the past four years or so, I’ve managed to spill copious amounts of virtual ink covering acclaimed Bristol, UK-based soul singer/songwriter and JOVM mainstay Hannah Williams.

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.
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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. 50 Foot Woman’s fourth and latest single “The Only Way Out Is Through” is a defiantly strutting song about resilience, self-determination, self-reliance, embracing suffering as part of growth and finding strength and power within yourself, centered around Williams’ powerhouse vocal, a shimmering psych soul groove and forceful horn section.

“I was going through a really tough break up and struggling with the idea of being alone when Hannah said to me ‘All you need now is you,'” the song’s writer Victoria Klewin explains in press notes. “That stuck in my head and the rest of the lyrics followed. The pain of that situation was hugely transformative for me, so I wanted to write a song about actively embracing emotional suffering in order to grow and also finding strength in your own autonomy.”

So there a couple of things you should know — if you were previously unaware:

Hannah Williams can sang. And I think she should be the most famous soul singer in the entire world — right this very second.
The Affirmations can give the Daptone crew a run for their money. They’re one of the best contemporary soul acts in the world. And if you don’t believe me, check out “Still In My Head” off Late Nights and Heartbreak and tell me that I’m wrong. That’s a hill, I’m willing to die on.
The song’s writer, Victoria Klewin couldn’t have imagined how relevant to this year and this particular period of history as she wrote it. We’re going to go through a horrible patch — and there’s no choice but to dig down deep and go through it as bravely as we can. The only way out is through.l.
Williams sings some feminist anthems, y’all.

Shot, edited and directed by Dawn Kelly, Will Nash and Bird Lime Media, the recently released video for “The Only Way Out Is Through” uses some deft video editing and effects as we see three different Hannah Williamses — one, who’s in the throes of heartache, a second, who’s defiant and proud, and the third, coolly drives the car. The video manages to evoke our innermost battle with ourselves and our psyche.

Cf Watkins is a North Carolina-born, Nashville-based Americana/pop singer/songwriter, who spent the past the past nine years living in Brooklyn, before relocating to Nashville last month. Performing since she was 14, she has shared stages with an impressive array of acts including Langhorne Slim, Futurebirds, Chatham County Line, Wilder Maker, Lowland Hum and Alpenglow while developing a sound and approach that draws from her North Carolina roots.

2016 saw the release of Daniel Goans-produced full-length debut I Am New, was recorded at White Star Sound, as well as the attention-grabbing single “Frances and Jack.” Watkins’ latest album, the Max Hart-produced Babygirl portrays its creator growing both as a person and as an artist. “When I think about my last album, I feel I was writing songs about weakness,” Watkins says. “With this album, I made a conscious effort to write songs about the power of choosing yourself.” Thematically, the album touches upon empowerment while being both a coming of age story and an ode to female friendship. “Romances have come in and out of my life, but through it all, the relationships that continue to open my heart the most are grounded in the women I’ve known,” says Watkins. “This is an album meant for other women to hear — with songs that are both vulnerable and powerful.”

Babygirl‘s latest single, album title track “Babygirl” is an unfussy yet slickly produced song that further establishes the rising North Carolina-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter’s pop-leaning take on Americana. Centered around jangling guitars, fluttering flute a soaring hook and Watkins’ expressive and gorgeous vocals, “Babygirl” reminds me a bit of Nicki Bluhm and S.G. Goodman — but while being an achingly tender declaration of devotion and fidelity to a dear friend; a devotion that’s deeper than even romantic love. “I wanted to honor my female friends and honor the beauty of female friendship– the romance and freedom of female friendship,” Watkins says. “To me, that feels like the ultimate love.”

New Video: Montreal’s Sébastien Lacombe’s Surreal Quest to Find His Old Hoopty

Sebastien Lacombe is a Montreal-born and-based bilingual singer/songwriter. And over the past decade, Lamcome has released four critically applauded solo albums, which he has supported with extensive touring across Canada, the States and Europe. 2005’s debut album Comme au Cinéma began a run of remarkable commercial and critical success — with the album being released to praise, while featuring three top 10 BDS radio hits.

The following year, Lacombe was selected as one of seven top French-Canadian artists to appear on CBC’s Sacré Talent. Building upon a growing profile, Lacombe’s sophomore album Impressions Humaines featured his fourth top-ten hit, which led to sets at a number of the province’s most prestos festivals, including Les Francofoiles de Montreal — and to a bevy of award nominations.

2011 proved to be a definitive and transformative turning point for the Montreal-born and-based singer/songwriter both personally and artistically: he spent the year living in Senegal, discovering and immersing himself in a new cultural landscape. He was touched by the people he met and their stories — and inspired by the griots he would catch perform. By the time, he returned back to Montreal, Lacombe had a different way of seeing music and life, which wound up inspiring his third album, 2012’s Territoires. The album’s material showcased a new sound and approach through the incorporation of traditional African instruments like the xalam paired with lap steel and acoustic guitar. Additionally, the album featured a guest spot from Dakar, Senegal’s Oumar Sall.

Territoires was released to critical praise and was supported with touring across Quebec, France, Switzerland and a stop in Africa for 2012’s Sommet de la Francophonie. The album’s material also received airplay from French CBC. Capping off a big year, the album received a Critic’s Choice nod from La Presse — and from Le Devoir for his set at 2013’s Francofoiles de Montreal.

Coincidentally, Lacombe was in the middle of a French tour when the shocking and appalling terrorist attacks across Paris and Saint Denis, which also included the infamous attack at The Bataclan in which 90 concertgoers were killed. Lacombe returned home with the desire to write new songs that communicated what he believed was a much-needed message of resilience and unity. And as a result, his fourth album, 2016’s Nous serons des milliers is a response to the increasing violence and divineness that he believed was destroying humanity.

Having grown up in an anglophone neighborhood with francophone parents, Lacombe was naturally drawn to writing and singing in French and English — and while he was initially releasing material in French, he was quietly working on material in English. Interestingly, that same year, he was cast as Pink in the musical The Wall Live Extravaganza. After spending two years in the role, performing in over 100 shows across Canada and the States, Lacombe was at a crossroads both personally and professionally, which led to the beginninig of a collaboration with Erik West Millette, who has worked with West Trainz and Dr. John.

Lacombe and Millette worked together on the writing of Lacombe’s fifth album FLY, which was recorded at Studio B-12 in Valcourt, QC and Montreal’s Lobster Tank Studios and released earlier this year. The album’s material thematically focuses on the universal ideal of freedom: the freedom to truly be your entire self, the freedom to try to achieve your wildest dreams — while overcoming the sturm und drang and sorrows of our lives to the best of your abilities and lastly, of renewal and hope once you’ve gone through the wringer. The album’s material also touches upon love, longing and the desire for independence.

“My Thousand Dollar Car,” FLY’s second and latest single is an anthemic track, centered around jangling electric guitar, strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering lap steel, a propulsive rhythm and an alternating quiet-loud-quiet song structure. But much like Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” “My Thousand Dollar Car” is imbued with the aching nostalgia of a seemingly simple past that you can never get back. In the case of “My Thousand Dollar Car,” Lacombe’s narrator tells a tale of trying to find his first car, a beat up ol’ hoopty that brought him a sense of freedom, joy — and memorable experiences.

Directed by Alejandro Cadilla Alvares, who has worked on CBC’s Offkilter and ARTE’s Disportrait, the recently released video was shot in the Montreal area over this past summer. The video follows Lacombe on a lengthy and surrealistic quest across town to find his shitty, beat up ol’ rust bucket. And when he does, it’s like having reunion with a dear old friend.