JOVM celebrates Kurt Cobain’s 51st birthday.
Thor Partridge is a Swedish-born Cypriot, whose mother encouraged his interest in music at a very young age; in fact, it was common to hear traditional Greek, African and Caribbean music in his home. As the story goes, Partridge’s family relocated to New York when he was a child, and he eventually studied classical piano, jazz guitar and bluegrass banjo. Partridge quickly showed a penchant and interest in production and remixing, when he found that he couldn’t help tinkering with classical piano arrangements.
As an electronic music artist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, who writes, records and performs as Thornato, Partridge quickly received international attention with the release of 2016’s groundbreaking, electronic music/drum ‘n’ bass EP Things Will Change. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Partidge’s full-length album Bennu found the up-and-coming multi-instrumentalist becoming a go-to collaborator and producer, contributing to Bollywood scores, as well as playing clubs across the globe.
Friday will mark the release of the Swedish Cypriot’s latest EP Back It Up and the EP’s latest single, title track “Back It Up,” finds the up-and-coming producer, collaborating with Ghanian vocalist Zongo Abongo in a song that lovingly draws from the sounds of the African Diaspora as the song draws from several distinct genres and styles, including 90s Jamaican dancehall, Afro-pop, Champeta, and Dembow in a way that’s simultaneously seamless yet nostalgic, anachronistic yet incredibly post-modern — and perhaps most important of all, the song manages to be a breezy and infectious club banger with quite a bit of thump.
Directed by Justin Conte, the video features Ghanian vocalist Zongo Abongo and dancer Soraya Lundy connecting across the Atlantic Ocean with a bright orange landline phone, essentially sharing a sensual dance between New York and Accra.
Comprised of Sara May, Andrew McArthur, Branson Giles, Racquel Hardy, and Jason Kuschmierz, the Orangeville, Ontario-based indie rock sextet Falcon Jane specialize in what they’ve dubbed “plez rock,” music that’s inspired by nature, truth, peace, magic, life and death and so on. The Canadian indie rock sextet’s third, full-length album Feelin’ Freaky is slated for release this summer, and the album’s first single “Go With The Flow” is a shimmering and slow-burning Mazzy Star-like anthem for anxious people to slow it down and to — well, go with the flow.
The recently released video was directed, produced and edited by the band’s Sara May and features May chilling in her small, Ontario hometown doing things that make her feel relaxed — and the visuals further emphasize the laid-back vibes of the song.
Comprised of singer/songwriter Rebeca Arango and producer Grey Goon, the Los Angeles, CA-based indie pop project Oddnesse can trace its origins to when both members independently relocated from the East Coast to Los Angeles haunted by the ghosts of expensive degrees in music, several failed bands and countless gigs at Cake Shop and others. And as the story goes, Arnago and Goon bonded over a shared vision for infectious and beautiful music with a dark, heavy groove — and initially, they stopped by the studio as two friends jamming and experimenting with ideas before they began to take it as a serious endeavor.
“Are You Down,” the duo’s latest single finds the duo pairing Arango’s self-assured and coquettish crooning with a shimmering Mazzy Star-like production featuring a soaring hook. As Rebeca Arango explained in press notes, “Are You Down,” is her “Pina Colada” song, as “it’s a very confident and laid-back anticipation of my next lover, where I’m getting specific about calling in someone, who can match my energy and approach to life. The question of going ‘slow’ isn’t about romantic pacing per-se (though that is important), it’s more about generally moving slow, never rushing to pack in too much all at once or getting anxious about ‘missing out,’ and preferring to to sink in and explore the depths of all things.”
Directed by Thaddeus Ruzicka, the recently released video for “Are You Down” is a cinematically shot fever dream that subtly draws from old movies and early 80s music videos — and features a protagonist in gorgeous yet somewhat surreal settings.
With the release of their critically applauded sophomore album Wahzu Wahzu, the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo The Parlor, comprised of multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, production and husband and wife team of Jen O’Connor and Eric Krans further cemented a growing reputation for a fearless willingness to explore a variety of sound palettes and styles while crafting intimate and thoughtful pop music; in fact, the Altamont, NY-based duo have progressed from indie folk to stomp and clap trance folk to “campfire disco” as Pitchfork described Wahzu Wahzu.
Slated for an April 13, 2018 the Altamont, NY-based art pop duo’s forthcoming, third full-length effort Kiku derives its name for the Japanese word for chrysanthemum. According to O’Connor and Krans, chrysanthemum began blooming in their farmhouse garden immediately following their second miscarriage, and for the couple, the flower became a symbol of their grief, despair, resilience and faith. Sonically speaking, the album represents a continued evolution of their overall sound, as Kiku is the duo’s first foray into trigged samples and orchestral synth soundscaping. “Kiku grew into something we never anticipated,” the couple admits in press notes. As they were grieving, they turned to their art and began writing and recording material inspired by what they were feeling and thinking, as the couple says they felt themselves “reaching out across the plane of the living and the dead, where we stumbled upon the tiny hand of the soul we lost. We brought a pice of her, of Kiku, back with us.”
Understandably, the material on Kiku sounds gloomier and more anxious than their previously released work while reportedly balancing a playful and relaxed air at points that suggests that while profoundly serious, the album can be coquettish, sexy and earnest; in some way, the album is meant to be the inner world of a couple, who keep trying over and over again — perhaps, because as cheesy as it may sound to some, they have each other.
Kiku’s first single, album opener “Soon” draws from dream pop, contemporary electro pop, movie soundtracks, jazz and experimental pop in a heady and swooning mix — and while to my ears, bringing to mind the work of Moonbabies, Beacon, Softspot, Mazzy Star and Flourish//Perish-era BRAIDS, the members of The Parlor manage to specialize in incredibly slick and lush production featuring soaring hooks paired with fearlessly heartfelt lyrics and sentiment. Yes, it’s meant to break your heart time and time again, but with a deeper purpose — to remind the listener of their empathy. Grief is grief is grief. We all know this and we all experience it at various points in our lives, and we try to move froward; that is what people do after all.
As O’Connor and Krans explain in press notes, “‘Soon’ was intended as a metaphor for the stages of grief. The chrysanthemums represent grief itself. We carry grief around with us, often to unlikely places. We try at times to let it go, to fling our grief from great heights or hope it’s carried off by time — an offering to the flowing waters of the hills. But ultimately we find ourselves steeping in it, drowning in it, and ideally cleansed by it in a baptism of intentional release. Allowing ourselves to stop fighting forces us to experience things that, as humans, we often try desperately to avoid. Allowing ourselves to dance in glowing sunlight empowers us to reclaim our spirit. And we are transported to a deeper place of understanding of one’s self and of the human experience as we know it. ‘Soon’ is an expression of painful hope and illuminated heart.”
The duo directed, shot and edited the video for “Soon” and naturally, the video prominently features chrysanthemums throughout — sometimes the husband and wife duo proudly and defiantly carrying them about, at other points, the flowers are being offered to the proverbial flowing waters of time or treated as a sort of sacrifice; but no matter what the flowers and their grief is inescapable — until they accept it.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you’ve likely come across a number of posts on the Canadian post punk act Preoccupations, and as you may recall, the band which is comprised of Matt Flegel (bass, vocals), Mike Wallace (drums), Scott Munro (guitar) and Daniel Christiansen (guitar), initially formed under the highly controversial name Viet Cong. And as a result, the members of the Canadian post punk act found themselves in the middle of a furious and tumultuous debate centered around appropriation — and appropriating terms, names and symbols associated with historical groups and actions that evoke the horrors of despotism, fascism, war and genocide. Ultimately, the band decided it was best to change their name before the release of their highly-anticipated sophomore album.
Interestingly, when the members of Preoccupations reconvened to write the material, that would comprise their self-titled, sophomore album, each individual member of the band found themselves in an unsteady and uncertain position — at the the time, they all relocated to different cities across North America, which made their long-established creative process of writing material while on the road extremely difficult and impractical. Along with that, several members of the band had long-term relationships end, as they were about to write the album. Adding to a growing sense of uncertainty, the band went into the writing sessions without having a central idea or theme to consider or help guide them, making the sessions akin to a collectively blind leap of faith. The album thematically wound up drawing from very specific things — the anxiety, despair and regret that keeps most people up at night. Album singles like “Anxiety,” simultaneously focused on both the natural and forced changes placed upon the members of the band, but also managed to capture the confusing push and pull of most human relationships while “Degraded” one the album’s most straightforward and hook-laden songs was full of bilious accusation and recrimination. The album’s expansive, third single “Memory” focused on the weight of the past, and how it impacts every single relationship and aspect of our lives.
Building upon a growing reputation for crafting dark and moody post punk, centered around themes of creation, destruction, futility, the Canadian post-punk band’s third, full-length album New Material is slated for March 23, 2018 release through Jagjaguwar Records, and the album, which finds the band recording the album themselves and enlisting the assistance of Justin Meldal-Johnson on mixing duties is as the band’s frontman Matt Flegel puts it in press notes, “an ode to depression. To depression and self-sabotage, and looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred.” Much like their previous album, the band went into the process without much written or demoed — and it was arguably the most collaborative writing sessions that they’ve ever had with the band describing the process as being architectural, with the members of the band building some ideas up, while others were torn down to the support beams. Although they didn’t initially know what the songs were about, they had resolved for the material to show and not explicitly tell.
Reportedly, the writing and recording sessions led to a reckoning for Flegel. “Finishing ‘Espionage’ was when I realized. I looked at the rest of the lyrics and realized the magnitude of what was wrong,” says Flegel. To that end, it’s interesting that “Espionage,” the murky and angular Manchester/Joy Division-like single is the first single off New Material — and in some way, the song evokes a narrator, who has finally become aware of his disturbing penchant for self-sabotage in every aspect of his life — all while arguably been one of the most danceable songs they’ve written to date. New Material’s second and latest single “Antidote” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as it draws from Factory Records’ heyday, as the song features a propulsive, industrial clang and clatter-like rhythm paired with slashing and angular guitar and bass lines. And although it conjures up a sweaty anxiety, the song as Flegel explains in press notes “is about humans forgetting that we’re apes. It’s about trying to make sense out of something that we’d be better off not trying to make sense of. It’s about having infinite knowledge at our fingertips, but still making all the wrong choices over and over. It’s about trying to find a moment in your day where you can take a breath and remember that we’re basically all just animals bumbling around.”
Directed by Michael Wallace and Evan Pearce, the recently released video for “Antidote” features the use of negatives superimposed upon each other to further emphasize the hallucinogenic and murky vibes of the song.
Alice Merton is a Canadian-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and pop artist, who has lived a rather nomadic life, as she was raised in Canada, finished high school in Germany and then with the rest of her family, relocated to England. Of course, music was a major part of her life, no matter where on Earth she was; she started taking classical piano lessons when she was five and by the time she was nine, she was introduced to vocal training. As the story goes, after spending the better part of a decade being classically trained, Merton discovered contemporary songwriting during one of her high school courses in Germany. And from that point forward, she went on to study songwriting and began pursuing her dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter.
Naturally, while in school Merton would up working with a number or producers on projects and as you can imagine, finding the right producer, who can both compliment and challenge a singer/songwriter as a true collaborator is a rarity. And when she met Berlin-based producer Nicolas Rebscher, Merton quickly recognized that she finally found her musical match; in fact, the duo have managed to specialize in an anachronistic sound that features Merton’s soulful pop belter vocals over a slick production consisting of analog synths, classic soul music-inspired instrumentation paired with hook driven, contemporary songwriting.
Merton’s swaggering and bluesy debut single “No Roots,” features Merton’s self-assured and soulful pop belter vocals paired with a Rebscher production that features enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a sinuous bass line, brief blasts of funk guitar, squiggly blasts of synths and a rousingly anthemic hook that nods at Amy Winehouse, Lorde, Taylor Swift and others but while managing to feature a narrator that simultaneously expresses a wizened and resilient spirit; but just underneath there’s a visceral ache over a life frequently thrown in disarray with sudden moves before the narrator could get adjusted to a new place, and the realization that she’s never quite belonged.
Already “No Roots” has won the up-and-coming Merton an immense amount of attention across the European Union, Stateside and elsewhere, as the song has already seen millions of streams on Spotify and YouTube, and has recently been added to the playlists of several Stateside Adult Alternative Album radio stations, including stations in Los Angeles, Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, Minneapolis, the NYC area, as well as Sirius Alt Nation. Adding to a growing profile, thanks in part to the success of her debut single, Merton recently signed to renowned indie label Mom + Pop Music. Recently Merton, along with her backing band recently made their national television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she performed her viral hit.
Currently comprised of founding members Shana Cleveland and Marian Li Pino, who were both members of band The Curious Mystery, Alice Sandahl and the band’s newest member Lena Simon, the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock quartet La Luz can trace their origins back to 2012 when its founding trio, along with original bassist Abbey Blackwell formed the band when they were all located in Seattle, WA. Inspired by Link Wray, The Ventures, Dick Dale and The Shirelles, the quartet released their debut EP, 2012’s Damp Face, which caught the attention of Hardly Art Records, who released the band’s critically applauded debut It’s Alive and their sophomore effort Weirdo Shrine, which helped to establish the band’s reputation for crafting a surf noir sound with layered vocal harmonies — but with the Ty Segall-produced Weirdo Shrine, the band went for a more visceral and organic sound with the heavy use of fuzz pedal.
At the end of 2015, the members of La Luz announced that they were relocating to Los Angeles, and the band’s forthcoming third, full-length album Floating Features is heavily indebted to that move as the material thematically focuses on the city’s reputation for being a “dream factory” — a sort of mecca where dreamers converge to pursue their long-held aspirations and a city full of bizarre, hallucinogenic contradictions: gorgeous settings covered with thick, choking smog; new age spiritualists mingling with deep-pocketed narcissists, palm teams and billboards and the like. And as a result, Floating Features draws from physical and psychological landscapes — while being their most thematically and sonically ambitious albums to date; in fact, the album finds the band moving away from the gritty DIY, garage rock sound of their previous two albums for a lush, shimmering Phil Spector-like sound as you’ll hear on the gorgeous, bewitching and somnambulant album single “Cicada.”
Directed by Ryan D. Browne, the recently released video for “Cicada” is a pitch-perfect send up of soap operas and novellas, including tarot card readers, evil twins, comatose protagonists and more.
Comprised of Sean Solomon, Pascal Stevenson and Andrew MacKelvie, the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock trio Moaning have spent the past few years crafting a moody and angular sound that draws from shoegaze, slacker rock and post-punk, and over that same period of time, the Los Angeles-based trio have received attention nationally and internationally from the likes of The Fader, The Guardian, DIY Magazine,Stereogum, and others.
Building upon the growing buzz that’s surrounding them, the Los Angeles-based indie rock/post-punk trio’s highly-anticipated self-titled, full-length debut is slated for a March 2, 2018 release through Sub Pop Records, and as you may recall the Joy Division/Interpol/Preoccupations-like album single “Artificial” featured a rousingly anthemic hook while bristling with a tense, self-awareness of artifice, superficiality and ugliness. Their latest single “Tired” may arguably be their self-titled debut album’s moodiest and dreamiest song as it features shimmering synths and angular guitar chords paired with a soaring hook.
Directed by Ambar Navarro, who has worked with Stef Chura and Anna Burch, the recently released video splits between footage of the band performing the song and a surreal, dream-like (almost nightmarish) logic in which a miniature house suddenly burst into flame, a hamster takes a bath, goldfish indifferently swim in circles and other objects spontaneously combust. Along with the band, the video co-stars Casper the Hamster, Mr. Maggie the Cat and two goldfish.
Throughout the legendary Mavis Staples’ eight decades-long music career, both as a member of The Staple Singers and as a solo artist, Staples has seen quite bit of American history — including the bitter prejudice, racism, ugliness and violence of the Jim Crow-era South, the hypocrisy and wishy washines of White liberals, the Civil Rights era, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, The Black Panthers, the hypocrisy and wishy washiness of White moderates and liberals, the election and presidency of Barack Obama, the Black Life Matters movement. And yet, as the old adage says, “the more things change, the more things remain the same — and the same racial, gender and class-based animus has forced itself back to the forefront of national consciousness.
Staples latest effort, If All I Was Was Black was released late last year through Anti- Records, and the album continues Staples’ ongoing and critically applauded collaboration with renowned singer/songwriter and producer Jeff Tweedy; however, the album manages to mark the first time that Tweedy has composed an entire album worth of music for the legendary vocalist. And unsurprisingly, as Tweedy and Staples reconvened to write the album, the duo found themselves completely in sync in wanting (and needing) to say something about the current state of the country and the various fissures that had been re-exposed. “We’re not loving one another the way we should,” the legendary vocalist says in press notes. “Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.” Tweedy adds, “I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself — that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.”
Lyrically, a portion of the album’s material expresses anger and frustration but overall, the material finds the legendary soul artist balancing her renowned optimism with a realistic sensibility; the sort of realism that says “there’s hard work, sacrifice and love that’s needed to make the world truly just and right.” Interestingly album title track “If All I Was Was Black” reminded me a bit of Syl Johnson‘s “Is It Because I’m Black” as both songs are earnest pleas to the listener, imploring the listener to look into the heart and soul of every individual they may come across, and to see them for their unique and innate talents; while hoping that one day, one’s skin color can be rendered as relatively unimportant as the color of their eyes. Perhaps by doing so, one’s perspective of the people they see as “other” and don’t understand will be shifted towards seeing and celebrating both difference and universality.
Directed and edited by Zac Manuel, the recently released video for “If All I Was Was Black” features a deeply pensive Staples sitting in a local diner, drinking tea or coffee but just outside the window Confederate statues have been torn down — and a local man replaces one with a thoughtful and honest representation of a lovely sister. That sequence suggests a new reality that accepts and celebrates diversity with everyone’s story adding to the larger American zeitgeist.