JOVM celebrates what would have been Aaliyah’s 42nd birthday — belatedly.
Claudia Ferme is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter and the creative mastermind behind the existential dream pop, solo recording project Claude. Ferme began crafting songs inspired by Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Angel Olsen and Weyes Blood during her senior year of college in Bloomington, IN as a way to deal with the dread and fear she felt with being finished with school and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life.
The project became fully realized when she returned to Chicago during the spring of 2018. After meeting other musicians, Ferme decided to form a backing band for the project and started playing shows locally. And since 2018, Ferme’s music has landed on a number of Spotify and YouTube playlists, including Spotify’s Fresh Finds, The LazyLazyMe, BIRP, My Old Kentucky Blog, and Hype Machine.
Ferme’s Claude debut, Enactor EP is slated for a February 12, 2021 release through Side Hustle Records/The Orchard. The EP’s second and latest single “Everything’s Great” coincides with the most recent impeachment hearings dominating the media landscape again — and it manages to tie back to the song’s origin: “I wrote this song after Trump got elected,” Ferme says in press notes. “It felt like the world was ending and I wanted to somehow poke fun at his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.” Centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, gorgeous yet brooding strings and Ferme’s plaintive and ethereal vocals, “Everything’s Great” manages to tap into the deep in the soul exhaustion of the Trump Administration. The song is a gentle call for escapism as a form of self-preservation when everything is on fire — with the song’s narrator essentially saying “turn off your phone, so you can stop doom scrolling — and take a moment to daydream.” Maybe we should all take that advice every now and then.
Joanna Connor is a Brooklyn-born, Worcester, MA-raised, Chicago, IL-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has publicly cited her mom (who I’ve actually met) and her mom’s record collection as being a major influence on her life and music. “She listed to blues, folk and rock as much as she could,” Connor recalls on her website. “So I heard Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal when I was kid, and got into the more obscure artists as I went on. And I saw all the Chicago bands, who came through town.” By the time, she was in her mid-teens, Connor was playing the Worcester and Boston club scene with her own band before relocating to Chicago in 1984.
Upon her arrival to Chicago, Connor was mentored by a number of blues legends, sitting in with James Cotton, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. After a stint in Dion Payton’s band, Connor went solo with her own band, releasing her full-length debut, 1989’s Believe It, which began a string of critically applauded albums released through Blind Pig Records. Connor’s 2002 effort The Joanna Connor Band found Connor displaying the full extent of her influences as it featured “Different Kind of War” and a funky cover of “Slippin’ Into Darkness.” But just as the buzz and accolades were growing, Connor began a touring hiatus. “There were several factors: 9/11 had just gone down, the economy was changing and clubs were closing. But most of all, my daughter was pretty young at the time. She wound up deciding that she wanted to become a big-time basketball player, so that required dedication on both of our parts,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist explains on her website. That dream has come true: Connor’s daughter was awarded a basketball scholarship at Indiana State University, and Connor has pursued her career with a renewed fervor.
Although Connor wasn’t touring, she discovered that audiences were coming out to see her play renowned Chicago blues club Kingston Mines, where she began playing a weekly three night residency most weekends, between gigs at larger clubs and festivals. “It’s become kind of an institution: You go to Chicago, you go to Wrigley Field and then you go see Joanna Connor,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist says. “The schedule is kind of brutal, but it’s great—Usually a packed house, with lots of adrenaling pumping. When it gets to be around midnight, the audience starts getting younger. And I love that—My son is 29, and he gets people looking at him and saying, ‘That’s your mom’?” (And the schedule is brutal indeed: we’re talking about 3 two hour sets between 7:00pm and 5:00pm Fridays and Saturdays — and until 4:00am on Sundays.)
The crowds increased after a video featuring a live version of “Walkin’ Blues” was posted by a Massachusetts-based fan on YouTube. “It was just a phenomenal thing that happened. I was getting calls from America’s Got Talent and movie people reaching out; I even had a Russian billionaire fly me to Spain to play a birthday party. I think people loved the combination: Here’s a woman who looks like somebody’s mom, and she’s playing like this. What I remember most was that it was 90 degrees that day, so I was wearing the coolest dress I had.”
Connor’s 14th album, the Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith co-produced 4801 South Indiana Avenue is slated for a February 26, 2021 release through Joe Bonamassa’s new blues label Keeping The Blues Alive. Recorded at Nashville’s Ocean Way Recording Studios, 4801 South Indiana Avenue derives its name from the actual address of hallowed, Chicago blues club Theresa’s Lounge — and the album reportedly finds Connor, Bonamassa, Smith and an impressive array of musicians digging deeply to conjure an authentic, ass kicking non-derivative set of good ol’ Chicago blues. “We want the listener to open that door, walk in, and feel to their core some of the magic that a place like that brought night after night. It was an honor to bring this to you, the listener,” Connor says in press notes. “This album is a homage to the blues school that I attended in Chicago,” Connor adds. “We attempted to capture the spirit of tradition and inject it with raw energy and passion.
“I Feel So Good,” 4801 South Indiana Avenue’s latest single is a boozy, breakneck boogie woogie centered around Connor’s blistering solos and dexterous guitar work and her powerhouse vocal while Lemar Carter (drums) holds his own with a rapid-fire hi-hat driven pattern reminiscent of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” For me the track not only captures a self-assured lady, who kicks ass and takes names and wants to have herself a good time, it captures a moment I miss dearly when you open the door to the club and see that it’s rocking. The booze is flowing copiously. People are sweating and dancing. The band is roaring. And everyone desperately wants it to never end.
“This is one heavy boogie tune,” Connor says. “The opening note I held was a fun challenge! This tune absolutely burns. Joe used some interesting microphone technique on the vocal and overdrove it purposely. The drummer (Lemar Carter) and I were flying by the seat of our pants so to speak and miraculously ended the fade out together. I particularly love the way the musicians come roaring back- all Joe’s idea!”
Shot in Kingston Mines, the recently released video features Connor in a white faux fur coat, green dress and silver “these-were-made-for-walking-all-over-you” boots rocking out all night. And it accurately captures her live stage presence. Simply put, Connor is can flat out play those blues.
Ojai-born, Long Beach-based vocalist Adryon de León has had a vast and varied career. de León has been a backing artist for an eclectic and impressive array of acclaimed artists including Lady Gaga, George Clinton, Macy Gray and others. She spent seven years as the frontwoman of Orgōne — and she’s currently one of the dead vocalists in Matador! Soul Sounds alongside Eddie Roberts, Alan Evans, Kim Dawson and Nate Edgar. Recently, de Leòn contributed vocals to a a track on Trent Reznor‘s score for the Netflix biopic Mank.
de Leòn’s Max MacVeety and David Tam-produced single “Ally” is funky, Motown soul-inspired strut, centered around the Ojai-born, Long Beach-based vocalist’s soulful, powerhouse vocals. And while seemingly indebted to the likes of James Brown, Steve Wonder and others, the song was inspired by contemporary events: The song finds de Leòn reflecting on the riots incited by George Floyd’s murder happening two blocks from her Long Beach home — and the messages she received from well-meaning friends the following morning.
As, a response, the Ojai-born, Long Beach-based vocalist decided to stop being precious and cute with the subjects of race and injustice. “Ally” wound up being a vehicle to process her emotions and respond to all of them — with the song being a fiery and soulful reminder and call to the arms. The fight for equality and justice is an ongoing one, the song says. this particular iteration of uprising and struggle is a small chapter in a much longer story. And as the song — and its narrator — demands of the listener: if you’re in a position of privilege, it’s your responsibility to stand up for the disenfranchised, the vulnerable and overlooked, and to be an ally for positive change.
Marie Dahlstrom is an acclaimed Rosklide-born, London-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay whose work has been largely influenced by the R&B and soul she heard in her home as a child — in particular Edwyn Collins, Womack & Womack and Gloria Gaynor and the like were on regular rotation. As a teenager, Dahlstrom discovered Dwele, Dire Straits, Erykah Badu, Kirk Franklin and Fleetwood Mac.
The Roskilde-born, London-based JOVM mainstay first gained attention as a solo artist in her native Denmark, quickly becoming a three-time Scandinavian Soul Award winner. Since relocating to London, the Danish-born JOVM mainstay has become an international sensation, crafting a warm and ethereal sound with elements of jazz, classic soul and contemporary R&B.
Dahlstrom has been extremely busy: After successful collaborations with Tom Misch and Alfa Mist, the Roskilde-born, London-based JOVM mainstay released her highly-anticipated, critically applauded full-length debut Like Sand. Recorded in Los Angeles, Copenhagen, and London, the album features collaborations with James Vickery, Jeremy Passion, Elijah Fox, Beau Diako and a list of others. Dahlstrom also continued her ongoing work with the multi-national, all-female artist collective Her Songs — with the act releasing the Toronto Vol. 1 EP.
Capping off a prolific year, Dahlstom teamed up with London-based producer Dan Diggas and Canadian emcee Aligo on a collaborative EP together 4inaRow. Slated for a a Friday release through Dahlstrom’s JFH Records, 4inaRowwas conceived around a central idea — writing and recording four-track EP in just four nights. Essentially, the EP was essentially an experiment in writing, recording and producing purely on impulse.
Each of the EP’s four songs was recorded between 8:00pm and midnight during four nights in January 2020 — and each individual song has its own story to tell. Generally speaking the process was centered around Diggas providing beats and production while the Roskilde-born, London-based JOVM mainstay and Algo shared vocal duties. “Marie and I lived in the JFH flat for a little over a year and after a few months we figured out a way for us to really tap in and make music together.” Aligo says about the creative process behind the forthcoming EP. “We told ourselves every night for 4 straight days we are going to tackle a pack of beats that Dan made while he was on tour with Mahalia. Theme-wise there wasn’t a plan at first but we knew we wanted to explore different emotions and feelings with each night that passed. By the end we noticed the songs came together in a cohesive way that demonstrated a four stage cycle of love/relationships.”
Late last year, I wrote about 4inaRow‘s first single “Fall Down,” a slickly produced yet delicate mix of soulful, contemporary pop, Quiet Storm soul and hip-hop centered around twinkling keys, skittering beats and dueling verses between Dahlstrom and Aligo. The song manages to capture a relationship in a transitional period in which the couple’s resolve and desire to remain together is being tested — and from the perspective of both people involved. “”Fall Down’ is an ode to arguments that can be common at times, but left untreated could ruin a relationship,” Dahlstrom explained in press notes. “Like autumn, this song is a transition period to a colder and more challenging part of the year and symbolic of the changes that can occur when this happens in relationships: ‘consequences get the best of you.'”
The soon-to-be released EP’s second and latest single “Rising” is slow-burning and shimmering hybrid of Quiet Storm R&B, contemporary pop and hip-hop. Centered round wobbling synths, finger snaps, skittering trap-like beats, “Rising” evokes the swooning, butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling of a new love/new situationship. And at its core, the song is a powerful reminder that love — and the desire to be loved, are all too human.
“‘Rising’ to me feels like the song you hear at the end of a good movie. It tells the second chapter of a love story after the initial spark: Honeymoons and bright flames,” Aligo says in press notes. “An ode to people in love, the lyrics definitely put you in that feel good space and remind the people that might not be in love at the moment, that there is something for everyone out there. It’s about when the moment comes and the temperature rises.”
“Dan’s beat reminded me a bit of butterflies in the stomach when I’m love, and that’s what went on to inspire my lyrics for the track,” Dahlstrom added.
20-something Aledo, TX-born, Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Sloan Struble is the creative mastermind behind the rising, critically applauded indie rock/indie pop project Dayglow. The project aesthetically is centered around a hard-fought, hard-won yet palpably sincere optimism that can trace its origins to Struble’s adolences, growing up in a Fort Worth suburb that he has referred to as a “small football-crazed town,” where he felt irrevocably out of place — and as a result, he turned to music, as a escape from his surroundings. “I didn’t really feel connected to what everyone else in my school was into, so making music became an obsession for me, and sort of like therapy in a way,” Struble said in press notes. “I’d dream about it all day in class, and then come home and for on songs instead of doing homework. After a while I realized I’d made an album.”
Working completely on his own with a minuscule collection of gear that included his guitar, his computer and some secondhand keyboards he picked up at Goodwill, Struble worked on transforming his privately kept outpouring into a batch of songs — often grandiose in scale. “Usually artists will have demos they’ll bounce off other people to get some feedback, but nobody except for my parents down the hall really heard much of the album until I put it out,” Struble recalled. With the self-release of 2018’s Fuzzybrain, the Aledo-born, Austin-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer received widespread attention and an ardent online following — with countess listeners praising the material’s overwhelming positivity.
In 2019, Struble re-released a fully realized version of Fuzzybrain that featured Can I Call You Tonight,” a track that wound up being a smash-hit lat year, as well as two previously unreleased singles “Nicknames” and “Listerine.” With the two new singles, teh album further establishes Struble’s reputation for illuminating emotional pain in a way that not only deeply resonates with listeners but while managing to make that emotional pain feel lighter.
Continuing upon that momentum, Struble kicks off 2021 with the infectious and sugary pop confection “Close to You.” Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, and a two-step inducing groove, “Close to You” sonically is indebted to 80s synth-led soul — in particular Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald’s “On My Own” Cherelle’s and Alexander O’Neal’s “Saturday Love” and other duets, but imbued with an aching melancholy and uncertainty.
“There is just a certain danceable yet melancholy feeling about 80’s pop duets that I wanted to channel into,” Struble explains. “‘Close to You’ was intended to be performed as a duet, but ended up essentially being a duet with myself (which makes sense in the context of the lyrics).The song itself is about the tension between two people at a party that never said hello. It’s about the excitement and perfect fantasy you play in your head prior to seeing that person, the mediocre and nervous reality of the actual moment you see them, and the let down that always comes afterwards it not being what had always and only been living in your head. I envision the song being played inside someone’s brain— kind of like the movie Inside Out– after they are leaving a party, thinking about what they wish would have happened. But in reality, they are actually just singing to and about themselves.”
Directed and edited by Amos David McKay, the recently released video for “Close to You” manages to dial into the 80s-inspired nostalgia of its accompanying song: we see Struble in a teal suit dancing to the song in a orange lit studio space — and singing to himself in the mirror, making the song a duet with himself. Although it’s subtly implied, the video finds its protagonist essentially attempting to pump himself up and deal with disappointment — with a smile and a positive outlook to it all.
Struble is currently working on his highly-anticipated Dayglow sophomore album, which is slated for release this year. Be on the lookout.
JOVM celebrates what would have been David Bowie’s 74th birthday.
Vernon, Normandy, France-based DJ, producer Jean Christophe Le Saoût is an acclaimed producer and DJ who can trace his career back to the 90s: After a stint as a radio host in the Paris suburb, Mantes-La-Jolie, Le Saoût founded La Formule. In 1998 Le Saoût founded Lab’Oratoire Records and continued to produce material from La Formule, as well as Break Beat compilations and a collaboration with Swedish act Looptrop.
The Vernon, Normandy-based producer and DJ started the critically acclaimed symphonic, trip-hop solo recording project Wax Tailor in 2001, first appearing on a remix of Looptroop and La Formule’s “Deep Under Water.” Since then Le Saoût has released five, critically acclaimed full-length albums — 2005’s Tales of the Forgotten Melodies, 2007’s Hope & Sorrow, 2009 In The Mood For Life and 2016’s By Any Means Necessary — which found the French producer collaborating with an eclectic and diverse array of artists from all over the world.
Le Saoût’s sixth Wax Tailor album The Shadow of Their Suns is slated for release tomorrow. The album is the French producer’s first bit of new material in five years — and album continues his long-held reputation for collaborating with a diverse and eclectic array of artists, with the album featuring guest spots from D. Smoke, Rosemary Standley, Gil Scott-Heron, Del The Funky Homosapien, Mr Lif, Yugen Blakrock, Boog Brown, and JOVM mainstays Adeline and Mark Lanegan.
The Shadow of Their Suns’ material comes as a result of a lengthy period of deliberate and deep introspection inspired by a desire to truly observe and understand life in a way that’s impossible while living in the whirlwind of it all. And considering the horrible events of yesterday, an album that encourages observation, reflection, collaborative discussion, cooperation and collective action seems more urgent than ever.