Category: singer/songwriters

Rising Jakarta, Indonesia-born and-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Afgan was raised listening to Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston and Brian McKnight — and as a very shy boy, he found solace in music, slowly gaining confidence in quiet karaoke rooms. Interestingly, for the Jakarta-born and-based artist, music has always been an equal synergy of far-flung global inspirations paired with a devotion to proudly showcasing his heritage through nods to Indonesian pop.

Since the 2008 release of his full-length debut Confession No. 1, the rising Indonesian pop artist has released five solo albums, countless number one hits and has amassed over 44 million Spotify streams with over 1 million listeners across 79 countries — just in 2019. In the past three years, Afgan has played sold-out shows across Southeastern Asia including a set at Korea’s Yuseong Hot Springs Festival in front of 30,000 and an appearance at Singapore‘s Hyperplay Festival alongside Nick Jonas. The rising Jakarta-born and-based artist has managed to score a bevy of industry awards — and building upon a growing profile, he made his Stateside debut at a Sofar Sounds show in San Francisco.

Released earlier this year, Afgan’s sixth album Wallflower sees the Indonesian pop artist making a foray into the global scene. The album derives its title from his favorite movie, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and his deep connection to the film’s soft-spoken protagonist Charlie, played by Loghan Lerman. Afgan told NME, “I just relate so much with the main character and felt like my personality had a similar quality with him.” He continues “I looked up the meaning behind the word [wallflower] and felt like okay, that’s actually a good description of me and I want to own that part of myself.”

Thematically, the album, is influenced and informed by the rising Indonesian pop artist’s own tumultuous relationship and battles with his mental health. Much of the album lyrically is inspired by some of the self-help books that have helped him in drier times. “I‘ve been battling anxiety and panic attacks for years, so I wrote “Hurt Me Like You” about it,” Afgan explains. “Nobody can hurt me more than my own self. I really want to change the stigma around mental health, and in Indonesia, it’s still considered a taboo to talk about it. If we became more happy and at peace with ourselves, I think everything would be better.”

Adding to a growing global profile, the album features “M.I.A.,” a collaboration with Hong Kong-based multi-hyphenate Jackson Wong. The collaboration can trace its origins to a chance meeting between the two artists after Afgan played at 2019’s V Live Awards in Seoul. But in the meantime, the rising Jakarta-born and-based artist has released a remix of the sultry Quiet Storm-inspired, Troy Taylor-produced “Touch Me” that features a guest spot from Robin Thicke while retaining the swooning yearning at the core of the song.

`”‘Touch Me’ is a song with a dark and sexy beat that tells the story of one’s physical attraction at first glance, and how that touch may trigger a series of feelings,” Afgan explains. “Usually, these kind of messages are hard to communicate in Bahasa Indonesia, so this is my first time translating these feelings into a song as I’m now singing in English. This was a challenge for me but I am relieved and happy with the result.”

New Video: Princess Century Releases a Yearning and Cinematically Shot Visual for “Desperate Love”

Acclaimed Canadian-born DJ, producer and songwriter Maya Postepski may be best known for her feature-length film scores, global DJ gigs and her work collaborating with AustraPeaches and JOVM mainstay TR/ST. Postepski is also the creative mastermind behind Princess Century, a recording project that thematically and sonically is committed to submersion rather than submission. 

s u r r e n d e r, Postepski’s long-anticipated sophomore Princess Century effort is slated for an October 1, 2021 release through Paper Bag Records. Reportedly, the album finds the acclaimed DJ, producer and songwriting breaking away from the purely instrumental sound and approach that initially won her international acclaim, by showcasing her own lyrics and vocal performances. The process, as Postepski readily admits has been at times nerve-wracking and uneasy: “It’s like opening up my diary and saying, ‘Have a look, there’s a lot of weird shit in there,’” she laughs. “I’ve always been hiding in the back behind a band or behind a singer,” she continues. “It’s my first step into a more vulnerable and exposed place, which I’m finally okay with for the first time in my adult life. I guess I stopped caring about being shy or being insecure, or hiding who I am. I don’t like to be in the limelight, but life is short and I guess I should share who I am eventually.”

The album’s material was written between Narva, an Eastern Estonia town, near the Russian border; a tent in the Moroccan portion of the Sahara Desert without internet; and Berlin, where she became a resident at Riverside Studios. Postepski recorded the album in her room at the studio while Brazilian artist Julia Borelli engineered the album in her own space at the studio. Inspired by Steve ReichRóisín Murphy and Jorja Chalmer, the forthcoming 12-song album is centered around a minimalist aesthetic that emphasizes the use of repetition. “It’s sort of this minimalistic, pattern-based music,” Postepski says. “I play drums and synths, so those are my worlds. I’m obsessed with finding these beautiful landscapes with synthesizers and drum machines.”

Interestingly, s u r r e n d e r‘s title doesn’t refer to a white flag or throwing in a white towel but a surrendering of the self to everything around it. Fueled by the philosophy of “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final,” the album’s 12 songs thematically sees Postepski guiding the listener to though a maze of pure, unbridled emotion: the end result is material that’s rich and visceral yet offers healing through dancing your pain away. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “Still The Same,” a dance floor friendly track punctuated with a desperately unfulfilled and swooning yearning, evoked through pulsating synth arpeggios, skittering beats and Postepski’s ethereal vocals. The song’s narrator repeatedly tells its love object “You’re still the same/But I need you now/I need you more again . . .” “‘Still the Same’ embodies the mix of emotions that arise at the end of a relationship,” the acclaimed acclaimed Canadian DJ, producer and songwriter explains. “The longing and frustration, hopelessness and desire fused into a confusing cocktail. The inescapable need to feel held and seen by the one you were closest to, but can no longer reach, then pretending it’s all ok by going out on the town in a desperate attempt for connection.” 

s u r r e n d e r‘s latest single “Desperate Love” continues a run of dance floor friendly material featuring skittering beats, glistening synth arpeggios paired with Postepski’s achingly yearning vocal delivery and an enormous hook. But underneath the club friendly thump, the song is fueled by the bitter awareness that a relationship is on the brink — and that it may be too late.

Directed by Finnish director, Laura Hypponen, the recently released video for “Desperate Love” was filmed in a gorgeous and lushly cinematic black and white in Amsterdam and stars Sofia Hoflack as a lonely and heartbroken woman longing for connection, intimacy and erotic passion.

Live Footage: Joe Wong Performs “Nite Creatures” in a Backyard

Last year, I spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering Milwaukee-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and JOVM mainstay Joe Wong. As a musician, Wong has had a lengthy career as a drummer with stints in NYC-based noise rock act Parts & Labor — and he’s toured with Mary Timony and Marnie Stern. But over the past handful of years, he has made a name for himself as a prolific composer for TV and film, crafting scores for Master of NoneRussian DollUgly DeliciousAwkafina is Nora from Queens, The Midnight Gospel, To All The Boys and a lengthy list of others. Wong is also the host of the popular The Trap Set podcast.

Written in in the years between his father suffering a stroke in 2010 and his death in 2019, Wong’s Mary Timony-produced, full-length debut Nite Creatures featured 10 ruminative and baroque, psych pop songs that thematically explored the intersection of melancholy and joyful surrender. In the lead-up to the album’s release, I wrote about five of the album’s singles — including the slow-burning album title track “Nite Creatures,” a swooning and rapturous bit of psychedelia that thematically explored existential dread and sounded a bit like Scott 3 era Scott Walker.

Wong recently shared some intimate and gorgeous live footage of “Nite Creatures” filmed last year in Pasadena, CA backyard that features Wong backed by strings and keyboard. Originally premiered as part of Flood Magazine‘s Neighborhood Sessions, the live footage serves as a bit of a taste of what to expect of Wong’s forthcoming tour with his backing band Nite Creatures, which will feature Wong (vocals, guitar); Ex Hex and Helium‘s Mary Timony (guitar); Atoms for Peace‘s, Roger Waters‘ and Beck‘s Joey Waronker (drums); Faraquet’s and Medications‘ Chad Molter (bass); Lo Moon‘s Crisanta Baker (keys); Kid Congo’s and The Makeup’s Mark Cisneros (flute); John Zorn‘s, Bjork‘s and Anthony Braxton‘s Shelly Burrgon, along with a string octet and horn quartet.

Two of the newly announced dates will feature Joe Wong and Nite Creatures opening for The ZombiesColin Blunstone — and then backing Blunstone as he plays his solo debut album One Year for the first time ever, in conjunction with the release of the expanded 50th anniversary reissue through Sundazed Music. Tickets go on sale Friday at 9am Pacific/noon Eastern. You can purchase tickets here: https://www.nitecreatures.com

Tour dates, which include a November 8, 2021 stop at The Gramercy Theatre are below.

JOE WONG + NITE CREATURES LIVE SHOWS

October 2 Dana Point, CA – Ohana Encore @ Doheny State Beach **with Pearl Jam

November 2 Los Angeles, CA – The Regent Theater **with Colin Blunstone

November 8 New York, NY – The Gramercy Theatre **with Colin Blunstone

New Video: Courtney Barnett Releases a Gorgeous and Surreal Visual for “Before You Gottta Go”

With the release of 2012’s I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Farris EP and 2013’s How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose, the  Melbourne-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Courtney Barnett quickly received critical acclaim from outlets across North America, the UK and Australia for work that featured witty and rambling conversational lyrics, often delivered with an ironic deadpan paired with enormous power chord-driven arrangements. And although her success may have seemed like it came about overnight, it wasn’t; Barnett carved out a long-held reputation for being one of Melbourne’s best guitarists: she had a stint in Dandy Warhols’ Brent DeBoer’s side project Immigrant Union and guested on Jen Cloher‘s third album, In Blood Memory.

Barnett’s full-length debut, 2016’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit, which featured “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party” and the T. Rex-like “Elevator Operator was released to critical acclaimed across the world. Back in 2017, Barnett collaborated with Kurt Vile on the highly acclaimed and commercially successful album Lotta Sea Lice, which landed at #5 on the Aussie charts, #11 on the British charts and #51 on the Stateside charts. The Aussie singer/songwriter and guitarist continued an enviable run of critical and commercial success with her third album, 2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel, which featured the motork groove-driven “City Looks Pretty.” Barnett supported the album with a three month world tour that included some of her biggest Aussie tour stops. 

The acclaimed Aussie artist’s highly-anticipated third album, the Stella Mozgawa-co-produced Things Take Time, Take Time is slated for a November 12, 2021 release through Mom + Pop Music and Marathon Artists. Centered around intimately detailed songwriting, Things Take Time, Take Time reportedly finds the acclaimed Aussie artist pulling the curtain back to reveal an optimistic and serene side. “Sometimes I try to say everything in one song, or put my whole belief system into a vox pop, but you just can’t do that — it’s impossible,” Barnett says in press notes. The album represents the realization that ideology is represented through the way you treat others, not what you say in a song — that some things are more felt than said. And yet, the album is full of the strangeness, busyness and undeniable warmth of life. 

Things Take Time, Take Time‘s latest single, the lovely “Before You Gotta Go” features a sparse and atmospheric arrangement that begins with a warm drone, before gently adding layers of twangy guitar, Barnett’s tender vocals, synths, drums and percussion in a slow-burning crescendo. But at its core the song is a deceptively complex song that’s both a frustrated kiss-off and a gracious and thoughtful love song centered around a bittersweet yet very real sentiment: that if something bad were to happen that the last words between you and your lover not be unkind. 

Directed by Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore, the recently released video for “Before You Gotta Go” is fittingly both lovely and surreal. We see Barnett, as an idiosyncratic, suit wearing ethnographer, collecting field recordings of trees, dogs, horses, mushrooms, insects and enormous statues and even plants with her own face, pushing through the ground. “Making this clip was an interesting experience for me,” Sangiorgi Dalimore says in press notes. “I love how brilliantly simple Courtney’s idea was, it brought real joy shooting part of it together, just me, her and my DOP with the other part being two long days directing over zoom across the Tasman Sea. I watch it now and feel that sense of peace, that potent calm you can only get immersed in the beauty of nature.”

New Video: Rising Pop Artist Charlotte OC Releases a Sultry New Bop

In the lead up to the release of her highly anticipated album Here Comes Trouble, rising London-based singer/songwriter Charlotte OC has released four attention grabbing singles “Bad Bitch,” “Forest,” “Bad News” and “Centre of the Universe” that have set the overall tone and vibe of an album that’s reportedly one of the honest and vulnerable albums the rising British artist has written and recorded.

Thematically, the album captures a woman whose life has been ripped apart: reeling from a bitter breakup, the material’s heartbroken and grief-stricken narrator attempts to pick up the pieces while facing her own demons and dysfunctions. “In the space of 2 months, everything that had once been, was no longer. My heart had been broken in a way I could never have imagined,” Charlotte OC recalls. “This resulted in me partying too much, not sleeping , hardly eating and smoking like a chimney. Self destruct mode, activated. I felt totally lost in space and nobody could bring me back to earth. Through this dark time I was forced to acknowledge things about myself, and sometimes not in the most positive way. This is me self-deprecating, this is me standing up for myself , this is me madly in love , horrifically heartbroken, angry , this is me praying to a god i don’t believe in about a life I couldn’t lead, because I had nothing left to lose I could not have made this album without the love and support I received from my producer, Couros, and the small bunch of co-writers I collaborated with on some of these songs. They picked both me and this album from the depths of darkness and helped me expel the demons into my work.”

Here Comes Trouble‘s fifth and latest single “Mexico” is a slickly produced, sultry bop centered around a sinuous bass line, thumping beats, shimming bursts of bluesy guitars, atmospheric synths and a soaring hook. The song serves as a lush, Fleetwood Mac-inspired vehicle for the rising British artist’s pop star belter vocals, which manage to bewitchingly express desperate longing, loneliness and heartache within turn of a phrase. Thematically and narratively serving as a precursor to the previously released “Bad News,” “Mexico” is the moment that the album’s narrator realizes that her relationship is falling apart — and that there’s no turning back. “I wrote this song when my boyfriend at the time was away with work and we weren’t speaking much,” the rising British artist explains in press notes. “I missed him a lot and wasn’t getting much from him, so this song is what I wished he was saying to me, but in reality he wasn’t saying a lot.”

The recently released video follows Charlotte OC as she sits by herself in a bar, drinking and smoking cigarettes, and full of regret, longing for her lover, who’s far away from home.

Live Footage: Neal Francis Performs “Can’t Stop The Rain” at Shirk Studios, Chicago

Born Neal Francis O’Hara, the Livingston, NJ-born, Chicago-based singer/songwriter and pianist known as Neal Francis can trace the origins of his sound and approach to his childhood: he was obsessed with boogie woogie piano and his father gifted him a dusty Dr. John album. O’Hara quickly became a piano prodigy, touring Europe with Muddy Waters‘ son and with other prominent bluesmen across the States when he was just 18. 

In 2012, Neal Francis joined the popular instrumental funk band The Heard. With the Livingston-born, Chicago-based singer/songwriter and pianist at the creative helm, The Heard quickly became a national touring act, making stops at New Orleans Jazz Fest and Bear Creek, and touring with The New Mastersounds and The Revivalists. As The Heard’s profile rose, Francis sunk deeply into addiction. By 2015, he had been fired from his band, evicted from his apartment and was inching perilously close to his own destruction. “When you get close to death like that you can feel it,” Francis recalls. An alcohol-induced seizure that year led to a broken femur, dislocated arm, and, finally, the realization that he needed to get clean. Although he identifies as not being religious, Francis took a music-ministry job at St. Peter’s UCC in 2017 at the suggestion of a friend. 

Francis’ solo debut, 2019’s Changes was released to critical acclaim with the album landing on Best-of-the-Year lists of KCRWKEXP and The Current while BBC Radio 6hailed him as “the reincarnation of Allen Toussaint.” Adding to a breakthrough year, Francis toured with Lee Fields and The Expressions and JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas. He shared a stage with members of the legendary The Meters at New Orleans Jazz Fest. And he did a live session on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic.

Despite having breakthrough success with his career, Francis broke up with his longtime girlfriend while on tour to support Changes. When the tour ended, he trend to Chicago and found himself with no place to stay. So, he ended to St. Peter’s and asked if he could move into the parsonage. “I thought I’d only stay a few months but it turned into over a year, and I knew I had to do something to take advantage of this miraculous gift of a situation,” he says. 

Francis began writing new material, a series of songs that’s both strangely enchanted and painfully self-aware, inspired by Greek myths, frenzied dreams and late night drives and a possibly haunted church. (More on that in a bit.) The end result is the Chicago-based artist’s highly-anticipated sophomore album In Plain Sight, an album that derives its title from the title of a song that wound up getting cut from the album. “It’s a song about my breakup and the circumstances that led to me living in the church, where I’m owning up to all my problems within my relationships and my sobriety,” says Francis, whose first full-length chronicles his struggles with addiction. “It felt like the right title for this record, since so much of it is about coming to the understanding that I continue to suffer because of those problems. It’s about acknowledging that and putting it out in the open in order to mitigate the suffering and try to work on it, instead of trying to hide everything.”

Continuing his ongoing collaboration with Changes producer Sergio Rios, a guitarist and engineer, who has worked with CeeLo Green and Alicia Keys, the album spotlights Francis’ reminded yet free-spirited piano playing. “From a very early age, I was playing late into the night in a very stream-of-consciousness kind of way,” he says, naming everything from ragtime to gospel soul to The Who among his formative influences. 

Recorded entirely on tape with his backing band, Kellen Boersma (guitar), Mike Starr (bass) and Collin O’Brien (drums), In Plain Sight is also fueled by Francis’ restless experimentation with a stash of analog synths lent by his friends during his early days living at the church “My sleep schedule flipped and I’d stay up all night working on songs in this very feverish way,” he says. “I just needed so badly to get completely lost in something.” 

By the end of his surreal and sometimes eerie experience of living at the church—“I’m convinced that the stairway leading to the choir loft where I used to practice is haunted,” he says—Francis had found his musicality undeniably elevated. “Because I was forced into this almost monastic existence and was alone so much of the time, I could play as often and as long as I wanted,” he says. “I ended up becoming such a better pianist, a better writer, a better reader of music.” Dedicated to a woman named Lil (the de facto leader of the St. Peter’s congregation), In Plain Sight ultimately reveals the possibility of redemption and transformation even as your world falls apart.

In Plain Sight‘s first single is the uplifting and shuffling boogie woogie “Can’t Stop the Rain.” Centered around a Southern rock arrangement reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Sweet Home Alabama,” complete with a soaring gospel-tinged chorus, Francis’ latest single also prominently features a smoldering slide guitar solo from Derek Trucks.Underlying the whole affair is Francis’ unerring knack for a crafting an infectious hook paired with lived-in, world weary yet hopeful lyrics expressing a profound yet simple sentiment — gratitude. “I wrote that with my buddy David Shaw, who came up with the refrain and this idea that even though life’s going to throw all this shit at you, there’s still so many things to be grateful for,” Francis says.

Recently Francis and his backing band stopped at Shirk Studios for a loose and jammy version of “Can’t Stop the Rain,” which I think is a good taste of what to expect from Francis and his band, when they start hitting club across the country. Francis is currently on a massive and extensive Stateside tour that included dates opening for The Black Pumas and stops at Americana FestShaky Knees, and Outside Lands, as well as several other stops on the national festival circuit. The tour also includes two NYC area dates: a sold-out Mercury Lounge show on September 20, 2021 and a Brooklyn Bowl show on 9/22/21. You can check out the rest of the tour dates below. Tickets and other information is available at nealfrancis.com

In Plain Sight is slated for a November 5, 2021 release through ATO Records.

Over the course of the past couple of years, I’ve managed to spill copious amounts of virtual ink covering North Shields, UK-born, Newcastle-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Sam Fender. 2019 was a breakthrough year for Fender: His Bramwell Bronte-produced. full-length debut, Hypersonic Missiles was a commercially successful and critically applauded effort, which was supported with some relentless international touring that included two North American tours with a festival stop at Lollapalooza and sold-out shows in Los Angeles and NYC. Fender also made appearances Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. And Fender was featured on CBS This Morning Saturday in a segment in which CBS anchor Anthony Mason chatted with the British JOVM mainstay about his seemingly sudden rise in notoriety.

Although 2019 was full of some momentous, life-changing achievements for the rising, young British singer/songwriter, the year unfortunately, ended on a frustrating and disappointing note: Fender had to postpone and then reschedule a handful of sold-out, end-of-the-year dates.

Before the pandemic struck, last year looked promising for the JOVM mainstay. Fender was hand-picked by  Elton John to play at his annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Party — and he received a BRIT Award nomination for Best New Artist.

Much like countless other artists across the world, Sam Fender’s plans were put on an indefinite pause but he did manage to keep busy, writing and recording the standalone single, the anthemic 80s-inspired slow-burn “Hold Out,” and a bluesy cover of Amy Winehouse‘s “Back To Black,” which he performed on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge series. But along with that he also wrote and recorded his highly-anticipated sophomore album Seventeen Going Under.

Slated for an October 8, 2021 release through Interscope Records, Seventeen Going Under is reportedly the most intensely personal album of Fender’s growing catalog with the material finding Fender turning the mirror on himself — particularly his adolescence and the trials and tribulations of growing up. As a result, the album is a relatable journey that careens through an often misspent youth, navigating tumultuous relationships with both friends and family and trying to figure out what comes next and how to get there. Naturally, his birthplace of North Shields serves as the setting for the album’s songs, which see him chronicling cherished memories, difficult encounters and the events that he can’t unsee. “The whole record is about growing up and the self-esteem issues that you carry into your adult life,” the acclaimed, British JOVM mainstay explains.

Seventeen Going Under‘s third and latest single “Get You Down” is a big, breakneck Born in the USA era Bruce Springsteen-ilke song centered around Fender’s earnest delivery, a soulful horn solo, strummed guitar, a sprinkle of soaring strings. While being an unvarnished and honest look at himself and his life, the new single centered around Fender’s unerring knack for crafting rousing arena rock anthems. “This song in particular is about how insecurity has affected my relationships. Definitely one of the more personal ones,” Fender notes.