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New Audio: Nana Adjoa Returns with an Atmospheric, Soulful, and Straightforward New Single from Forthcoming EP

Last month, I wrote about Nana Adjoa, an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanian singer/songwriter, who began to receive attention across the European Union and elsewhere with the release of her debut Down at the Root, Part 1. Now, as you may recall Adjoa’s was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she would study jazz (electric bass and double bass); however, she found the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would.  “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.” Around the same time, the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter began to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while outside. Adjoa began to realize that pursing a solo was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a band and record her original songs, which has resulted in the attention grabbing Down At The Root Part 1 and the forthcoming Down At The Root Part 2.

“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single was an effortless and breezy affair that seemed indebted to Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, as the song reveled a self-assured artist beyond her years, who can craft a song that’s driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody — and as Adjoa explained in press notes, the song is what she considers an “outsider track” that grew from a simple piano backing into its current, vibey, jazz-soul arrangement. “I didn’t even think it was going to make the record because it felt so different from the rest,” the Dutch-Ghanian singer/songwriter says. “I guess it’s about how people are scared of the possibility of something bad happening. And that fear is really strange because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Down At The Root, Part 2’s second and latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “Part Of It,” a track centered around a lush and plaintive melody, a sinuous and propulsive bass line and arguably the most honest and straightforward lyrics of the EP I’ve heard, as the song focuses on the desire and need to fit in when you’re a complete outsider.

 

Over the past year or so, I’ve written about the Los Angeles, CA-based post-punk trio and JOVM mainstays Second Still, and as you may recall the trio, comprised of founding members Ryan Walker (guitar) and Alex Hartman (bass) along with Suki San (vocals) released their critically applauded 2017 self-titled, full-length debut, and from singles  “Walls,” “Recover,” “You Two So Alike,” and “Strangers,” the album’s material thematically focused on decidedly post-modern subjects: depression, frustration, anxiety and alienation among a throbbing, seething mass of humanity, with a visceral and urgent emotionality, while sonically seeming to draw from Sixousie and the Banshees and the early catalog of renowned indie label 4AD Records.

Equals, the Los Angeles-based post punk trio’s much-anticipated follow-up EP finds the band expanding upon their sound and songwriting approach, pushing it towards new directions — but while retaining major elements of the sound that first caught the attention of the this site and the rest of the blogosphere. You’ll still hear the chorus and delay pedal effects-based guitar, bass driven grooves and explosive, industrial rock drum machine beats, paired with ethereal and aching vocals and razor sharp hooks; however, the members of the band have begun employing the use of a couple of analog synthesizers, which adds an atmospheric and moody element to the proceedings. Interestingly, as the band explains in press notes, half the EP’s material (the A side) reportedly finds the band leaning towards a decidedly pop-leaning direction and overall lighter sound, while the second half (the B-side) finds the band hewing towards their gloomy, goth-like roots. EP single “Opening” was a melancholy post-punk track that I think will further their growing reputation for crafting 80s-inspired post-punk with slick, contemporary production values; the EP’s second single “Automata” continued on a similar vein, bearing an uncanny resemblance Sixousie and the Banshees’ “Israel,” and “Happy House.”

“In Order,” Equals third and latest single, is centered around arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitar work, San’s Siouxie Sioux-like vocals and their uncanny ability to write a slick and infectious hook; but interestingly enough, the signal finds the band expanding upon their sound, as it’s arguably one of the most propulsive, club ready songs they’ve ever released.

 

 

Although currently comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Ripley Johnson (guitar, vocals), Dusty Jermier (trumpet, bass), Omar Ahsanuddin (drums) and Nash Whalen (organ), the renowned San Francisco, CA-based psych rock act Wooden Shjips can trace their origins back to 2003 when Johnson started the band with the intention of finding a group of non-musicians and creating music with them — with the underlying idea behind it being that untrained players would have a new outlook on what music is and how it’s played, and as a result bring something fresh to the table in a way that many of the garage punks of the early 60s and the Velvet Underground did. In fact one of the longest tenured members of the band, Jermier was originally recruited to play saxophone, an instrument he had never even picked up before while other members from their earliest iterations often had such a lack of interest in playing live for anyone that the band didn’t bother looking for gigs.

Eventually, the band settled to its current lineup — but this time, the intention was different: Johnson, a fan of seemingly impenetrable albums and arcane, small-press poetry books, was fascinated by the idea of books that went unread or became largely out of favor and/or of print that were rediscovered by collectors or some bored critic looking for something different, and praised for being lost and under-appreciated gems. And unsurprisingly, the band set about to make purposely obscure albums that Johnson envisioned leaving in libraries, thrift store bargain bins and on park benches. Eschewing a MySpace page, a Soundcloud account or a website with MP3 downloads, the band gave away a limited pressing of 300 copies of their debut 10 inch vinyl album, paying the shipping costs for out of town requests — and unexpectedly, the album received some rave reviews, including one from Rolling Stone, which raised the album’s cachet and the band’s profile, thanks in part to a sound that the band has described as “a minimal, droning kind of garage band-influenced psychedelia with a noticeable 60s Krautrock influence” with some comparing the band to Suicide, The Velvet Underground, The Doors, Soft Machine and Guru Guru.

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the members of Wooden Shjips released 2006’s “Dance California”/”Clouds Over the Earthquake,” to mark the centennial of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which sold enough for the band to break even on their investment, and “Summer of Love 2007,” a single inspired by groups, who worked to make the world the kind of place they wanted to live in, like the Diggers, a local anarchist collective that founded the first Free Store and served free meals to Golden State Park to any and all comers with the proceeds from the single going to Food Not Bombs. Interestingly, their second real gig as a band was a single release show, opening for the psych rock legend Roky Erickson.
The band’s self-produced and self-recorded full-length debut was recorded in the band’s rehearsal space on an half-inch eight-track console that Jermier found, making the album an strictly analog affair aimed at getting high-quality and high-fidelity on an extremely low budget. Some tracks were layered up demos while others were live studio jams with drum parts added later, since they only had two tracks of the drums and no way to keep instruments from bleeding into each other noisily. But despite — or perhaps because of its DIY fashion, the album was released to critical applause that lead to the “Loose Lips”/”Start to Dreaming” 7 inch released by Sub Pop Records.Since then, the band has released three more full-length albums, 2009’s Dos, 2011’s West, 2013’s Back to Land and two compilations 2008’s Volume 1 and 2010’s Volume 2 — and they’ve managed this while the band’s Johnson has been busy with his side project Moon Duo, his acclaimed dup with Sanae Yamada that has released four full-length albums and one EP.  Interestingly, V, the Bay Area-based psych rock band’s fifth full-length album and first album in over five years, finds the band reportedly expanding upon their sound while lightening the overall vibes, with the material being decidedly laid back, almost summery jams.

 

Written last summer, Johnson viewed the material as a necessary antidote to the pervasive political anxiety and apocalyptic panic; in fact, as Johnson says in press notes,
“We had huge forest fires just outside of Portland and there was intense haze and layers of ash in the city. I was sitting on my porch every evening, watching ash fall down like snow, the sky looking like it was on fire. It was an apocalyptic feeling. Summer in Portland is usually really chill and beautiful, and we were working on a ‘summer record,’ but the outside world kept intruding on my headspace.” V., a graphic representation of the Peace sign, seemed apt to an album focused on the power of peace, beauty and resistance. The music is a balm against the noise and negativity.”
 Now, as you may recall V’s first single “Staring at the Sun” was an expansive and shimmering guitar pop sound with a steady groove that seemed as though it owed a big sonic debut to Buffalo Springfield‘s “For What It’s Worth” and Psychic Ills‘ Inner Journey Out; however, V‘s latest single “Red Line” is a bit of a return to form, with the band nodding at both classic psych rock and contemporary shoegaze as the track is centered around droning instrumentation and a propulsive and hypnotic, motorik like groove. But much like its predecessor, the band emphasizes slowing, down and pressing the reset button in a world gone absolutely mad.

The band is currently touring to support their forthcoming fifth album, and you can check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates:

 

April 20 – Half Moon Bay, CA – Old Princeton Landing [tickets]

April 21 – Santa Cruz – Michael’s On Main [tickets]

April 29 – Austin, TX – Levitation Festival

May 25 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios [tickets]

May 26 – Seattle, WA – Crocodile [tickets]

June 1 – Nelsonville, OH – Nelsonville Music Festival

June 2 – Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle [tickets]

June 4 – Detroit, MI – Marble Bar [tickets]

June 5 – Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern [tickets]

June 7 – Los Angeles, CA – The Lodge [tickets]

June 9 – Sonoma, CA – Huichica Music Festival

I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based producer, DJ and remixer Rhythm Scholar, who has developed a reputation for his crowd-pleasing, slickly produced, effortless and imitable mashups and remixes of hip hop, classic soul and pop. The JOVM mainstay recently released a remix of Bill Withers‘ beloved classic “Use Me Up” featuring a backing band,  which features Marcus Horndt contributing soulful blasts of Fender Rhodes, Jason Spillman contributing a 70s soul and disco-inspired bass line, Sami Turune, contributing some bluesy guitar paired with Withers warm vocals and rhythm guitar, and some insane scratching and production from Rhythm Scholar.

In my mind, what makes this remix interesting is that it’s a lovingly anachronistic take on it that manages to walk a difficult tightrope between the 70s and contemporary production while retaining the orignal’s effortless soul and thoughtful, deliberate attention to craft.

 

 

Much like countless others, who have decided their lives to music and to art, the New Zealand-born, Melbourne, Australia-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Tom Lee-Richards can trace the origins of his music career to noisy, childhood experimentations with pots and pans, imitating and mimicking the sounds he heard everywhere and beatboxing. By the time he was 14, he had been beatboxing and accompanying himself with the guitar, picking up gigs locally.

Drawn to complex polyrhythm, scatting and the like, Lee-Richards completed his studies in jazz bass performance, and after his studies he spent some time fronting a reggae group before relocating to Melbourne; in fact, Catch Release’s EP Achieving landed in the Top of 3 AMRAP’s Charts, thanks to regular radio airplay.  But as a solo artist, Lee-Richards work has been compared to Antony Hegarty (now known as Anohni) and James Blake — and that shouldn’t be surprising as the New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter specializes in rather idiosyncratic songwriting that expresses a unique artistic vision; in fact, his latest single “Out of the Oddness,” which recounts the true story of a very young Tom breaking his arm on the first day of elementary school with a novelistic attention to detail and cinematic sweep: you can see the jungle gym, a swing set, the young Tom playing on the schoolyard and suddenly flying and crashing to the ground with a painful thud. In the pain and confusion, he glances around, pleading and hoping that someone will help him. And as it turns out, his older brother, comes to his rescues, by sweeping the young Tom in his arms and rushing him to the hospital. Now while the song is rooted around a deeply harrowing and personal experience, there’s something universal at the core of the song:  the awkwardness of school; the situations and accidents of our lives that could have us at our most vulnerable and helpless; who we turn towards when we’re at most vulnerable and helpless. And he Lee-Richards does so in an evocative and surprising fashion. Sonically speaking the song touches upon dream pop, psych pop and dub in a seamless and genre-defying fashion.

 

 

 

 

Born Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, the up-and-coming, 15 year-old, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Billie Eilish can trace the origins of her musical career to when the homeschooled O’Connell joined the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus when she was 8, where she perfected and honed her vocal abilities, and then when she was 11, she began writing and singing her own songs, much like her brother Finneas, who had been writing and performing his own original songs with his band. Interestingly, by 2015, the siblings had written and released two songs together on SoundCloud — “sHE’s brOKen,” and “Fingers Crossed,’ which were released for fun and to have their friends listen to.

As the story goes, in late 2015, Finneas O’Connell tells his sister of a song he had been playing with his band, “Ocean Eyes.” Billie recorded the song and sent it to her dance teacher, who hoped to choreograph a dance to it. Released on SoundCloud the following year, under the name Billie Eilish, “Ocean Eyes” quickly became a viral hit, and along with follow-up single “Six Feet Under,” the young, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and pop artist developed a growing fanbase. With an official release, through Darkroom and Interscope Records in late 2016 to critical applause from the likes of Stereogum and others, Eilish was sensation — an building upon a growing profile, she released an EP featuring four remixes of “Ocean Eyes.”

This year has proven to be an even bigger year than last, as she released her highly-anticipated and critically applauded debut EP, dont smile at me, which has received attention both nationally and internationally, thanks to sold out, headlining tours across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, a number of national daytime and late night television appearances here in the States, as well as being named VEVO dscvr Artist To Watch 2018, longlisted for BBC’s Sound of 2018 and a spot in Apple’s Up Next Artist campaign.

Just on the heels of an announcement of a lengthy 2018 world tour, which includes a March 23, 2018 set at The Mercury Lounge, Eilish released her latest single “bitches broken hearts,” a soulful and incredibly self-assured yet swooning track that features Eilish’s sultry cooing over a contemporary production featuring arpeggiated synths, stuttering drum programming and percussion — and while sonically, the song nods at both 90s neo soul and contemporary electro pop, the song is actually an ode to the bitterness of lost love and the excitement of fresh starts, even if its dysfunctional and fucked up.

Check out tour dates below.

EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
02/14 – Heaven – London, UK – SOLD OUT
02/16 – Petit Bain – Paris, France
02/18 – Dude Club – Milan, Italy
02/19 – Debaser Strand – Stockholm, Sweden
02/20 – Melkweg Oude Zaal – Amsterdam, Netherlands
02/23 – Botanique / Rotonde – Brussels, Belgium
02/26 – Lido – Berlin, Germany
02/27 – Jungle Club – Cologne, Germany
03/01 – By:Larm Festival – Oslo, Norway

NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES
03/07 – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
03/08 – Great American Music Hall – San Francisco,  CA
03/10 – Music Box – San Diego, CA
03/11 – The Observatory, CA
03/17 – Terminal West – Atlanta, GA
03/20 – Black Cat – Washington, DC
03/21 – Coda – Philadelphia, PA
03/23 – Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
03/24 – Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA
03/27 – Theatre Fairmount – Montreal
03/28 – The Mod Club – Toronto
03/30 – El Club – Detroit, MI
03/31 – Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
04/03 – 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN
04/04 – The Record Bar – Kansas City, Missouri, MO
04/06 – Bluebird Theater – Denver, CO
04/07 – Grand at the Complex – Salt Lake City, UT