JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates Björk’s 58th birthday.
Aloysius Bell is the creative alter ego of Winnipeg-born, Montréal-based singer/songwriter and indie pop artist Annick Brémault, a former member of the now defunct Juno Award-winning outfit Chic Gamine. With Chic Gamine, Brémault toured extensively internationally and appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, Vinyl Café, Radio Canada’s Studio 12 and a number of other notable broadcasts. She has also collaborated and performed with an array of artists including Damien Robitaille, Willows, Sala, and David Myles.
While the project’s name is a nod to male pseudonyms of the Brontë Sisters, the persona is informed by deep and intense soul-searching with the aim to shed light on murky, in-between spaces.
Back in 2019, Brémault stepped out into the spotlight as a solo artist with “Mountains” and “Your Heart Is Feathers” songs offered a glimpse into the Canadian artist’s introspective world and showcasing an ethereal, opened-eyed perceptive, imaginative and atmospheric pop language and a minimalist prose style.
Brémault’s long-awaited Aloysius Bell debut EP, the David Plowman-produced Warm Thing is slated for February 2024 release. The EP reportedly sees her blending her distinctive songwriting with pop, R&B and electronic influences with her ethereal delivery being at center of it all.
Warm Thing‘s latest single “That Is Me” is a slow-burning and atmospheric pop song built around fluttering synth arpeggios, Bréamult’s ethereal delivery singing deeply introspective lyrics informed by the deeply lived-in, personal experience, thoughts and feelings of a modern woman maneuvering competing societal norms and roles.
“I wrote this song in late 2021, in my bedroom-turned-studio during a cold snap. I remember looking at the painting on my wall, by the artist Louise Gill, of a woman lying alone on a bed in a dark room and thinking, “That is me,’ right now. I was feeling cozy and nothing could induce me to go out at that point. I remembered the times I’d gone out despite not feeling like it and ended up disappointed. ‘That Is Me’ reimagines myself the way I wish I’d been in my 20s: not wasting my time trying to please other people and instead doing what feels good to me.
This song is about one other thing: rest. I’m trying to get better at it, taking breaks and naps.”
Directed and shot on Super 8 by Montréal-based filmmaker Dominique Montesano and featuring choreography by the artist’s sister Kalliane Brémauult, the video follows Annick Brémault as she returns home, goes up the stairs, gets undressed and gets into her bed.
“I started putting out music with this project in 2019. Those songs were the result of a tumultuous time, so they have an intense kind of energy to me. The pandemic gave me a breather and what I wrote in that period feels a bit more relaxed and less fraught,” the Montréal-based artist continues. She goes on to add that the song — and its accompanying video — showcases a lot of bedroom imagery, since it was written and partially produced in her bedroom.
Québec City-based singer/songwriter Margaux Sauvé is the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed Canadian electro pop project Ghostly Kisses. The project derives its name from William Faulkner’s “Une ballade des dames perdues,” which seemed to her like the perfect reflection of her ethereal voice.
Sauvé has received attention both nationally and international for crafting hauntingly gorgeous and spectral electro pop that pairs her ethereal vocal with moody productions featuring gently swirling and ambient electronics, twinkling keys and propulsive drumming.
Her latest single, the swooning “Golden Eyes” sees her channeling Goldfrapp and Portishead with the song pairing skittering, UK garage beats, atmospheric house-inspired synths with her ethereal yet achingly yearning delivery.
Sauvé explains the track is “about being in love with your best friend and how gauche it feels to finally admit it. The lyrics were inspired by a revelation from a fan we met on tour, about how hard and vertiginous it can be to express our true feelings to someone that we really love.” While party about Sauvé’s own experience falling in love with her songwriting partner Louis-Étienne Santais, the song is also inspired by Ghostly Kisses’ ‘Box of Secrets’ project, where fans submitted anonymous stories to the band.
Directed by Gerardo Alcaine, the accompanying video begins with Sauvé being the subject of an intimate photo shoot before following her across the Québec countryside in some gorgeously cinematic footage. Sauvé and her songwriting partner Louis-Étienne Santais say, “We aimed to create a visual journey, inviting viewers into a crimson-hued world and a perspective framed by a lens, offering a subtle preview of the new dimension to come in our upcoming releases.”
JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates Beastie Boys’ Mike D’s 58th birthday.
Christopher Cordoba is a London-based instrumental solo artist, composer and session musician, whose career started in earnest as a member of Jack Adaptor, a band formed with The Family Cat’s Paul Frederick. As an instrumental solo artist, Cordoba has released a series of critically acclaimed, eclectic efforts that has seen him collaborating with a an equally eclectic array of artists and producers including Robert Wyatt David Watson, The Associates’ Billy Mackenzie, Phil Vinall, Propaganda’s Claudia Brucken, Robyn Hitchcock, Pascal Gabriel, PJ Harvey’s Terry Edwards, Audrey Riley, Alex Thomas, Charlie Winston and a list of others.
Cordoba released his sophomore Beach Ready Archipelago was released earlier this year through Snow in Water Records. The album’s material is darker in texture and more extreme than Cordoba’s self-titled Beach Ready debut while still being centered around Cordoba’s guitar work and penchant for atmospheric soundscapes. The album also sees Cordoba incorporating drone, glitch, Frippertronics, industrial, New Wave and New age to create a unique sound collage that imparts an urgent ambience. Fittingly, the album thematically focuses on destruction — an all too present theme in our seemingly pre-apocalyptic moment.
The album’s latest single, the meditative “Gili” is a shimmering and slow-burning dream built around glistening, reverb-soaked guitars, gently glitchy electronics paired with jazz-like percussion. It’s a dreamy bit of nostalgia, heartache and peaceful longing that seems like a bit of a respite in a mad, mad, mad, mad world.
Cordoba explains that “Gili” “is a shimmering and romantic call to keep the Archipelago (the Gili Islands in Indonesia) above water so that its beauty can be treasured for generations to come.”
The accompanying video is time-lapse footage shot in Lower Manhattan and edited by Jon Sadlier. Fittingly, the video evokes the unending passing of time and cycling of the seasons.
New Orleans-based JOVM mainstays People Museum — currently co-founders Claire Givens (vocals), Jeremy Phipps (trombone), Aaron Boudreaux (drums, keys) and Charles Lumar II (bass, tuba) — have established a sound that draws from pop music and the rich and lush musical and cultural roots of their hometown.
Additionally, each of the members of People Museum has an eclectic upbringing that informs their fresh take on electro pop:
- Claire Givens grew up in the woods of North Louisiana and has a background in choral and sacred music.
- Aaron Boudreaux grew up in Acadia and has spent the better part of a decade as a film composer with Maere Studios for a decade while touring the world as a member of a Grammy-nominated French Creole band. While touring with Tamino earlier this year, he was approached to write songs and score an upcoming film with acclaimed studio A24.
- Jeremy Phipps has been a New Orleans brass band staple since he was a kid, and Charles Lumar II have toured as a member of Solange‘s backing band for years.
Sonically, the JOVM mainstays work has ranged from haunting to joyfully cathartic and dance floor friendly and rooted in a sound that meshes electro pop soundscapes with ethereal vocals and New Orleans brass.
People Museum’s long-awaited sophomore album Relic was released earlier this month. Thematically, the album sees the band exploring and unpacking their growing anxieties about climate change and preservation, the sense of communion rooted in their hometown’s deep cultural history, family and aging among others. Fittingly, the album is a poignant love letter to their hometown. And while the majority of the album focuses on the external relationships with our environment and others, at points the album does turn inward.
The album’s latest single, album title track “Relic” is a slow-burning and meditative ballad featuring a mournful reverb-soaked horn line, a steady yet forceful backbeat, fluttering and arpeggiated synths and buzzing and wobbling bass synths paired with Givens plaintive and ethereal delivery. Sonically bringing SoftSpot and KINLAW to mind, “Relic” according to the JOVM mainstays tells the bittersweet story of two lovers, who are consciously parting ways, but cherishing the memories they’ve shared while acknowledging that there’s a happier version of themselves to discover beyond the relationship. The sentiment also manages to mirror their relationship and kinship with their hometown: After being forced to evacuate during the storms, they still felt an unwavering loyalty and devotion, which the band’s Claire Givens has described as “If I can’t go back. I will be forever be imprinted with the life I lived here.” Certainly, as a native New Yorker, I can understand and empathize with that deeply.
Directed by Nicholas Ashe Bateman and conceptualized by Bateman and People Museum’s Givens, the accompanying video features the band’s members bathed in golden light with what appears to be moonlight glistening on water behind them.
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Barbadian-born California-based reggae artist Heartafiya is well known within the global reggae scene for pairing thoughtful, earnest lyrics with soulful music. His latest single, the dance floor and lounge friendly “Don’t Leave Me” features a sleek, percussive Afrobeats-influenced riddim paired with Heartafiya’s yearning delivery and a remarkably catchy chorus.
The California-based reggae artist’s latest single reveals a songwriter, whose songwriting seems rooted in lived-in, personal experiences with the song exploring the depths of love while baring the raw feelings of fear of loss, despair and hope.
The accompanying video features a collection of gorgeous sisters wining and grooving to the remarkably catchy, hook-driven bop.
Nashville music scene darlings Those Darlings — Jessi Zazu, Nikki Kvarnes and Kelley Anderson — could trace their origins back to 2006, when they all met at the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp. The trio quickly gained an underground following for a raucous take on alt-country that was equally indebted to the likes of The Carter Family as it was the Ramones.
2009’s self-titled debut was released to critical praise from the likes of AllMusic, Consequence and a list of others. Their longtime drummer Linwood Regensburg, who has contributed to Low Cut Connie’s Art Dealers and Tristen’s Sneaker Waves joined the band as a full-time member for the writing and recording of their sophomore album 2011’s critically applauded Screws Get Loose.
By 2016, the band spent a decade touring and recording together, and each of its members felt it was time for something new. During the middle of New York’s biggest blizzards con record, Those Darlins found themselves stranded in Brooklyn, trying in vain to finish their farewell tour.
Back in 2016, in the middle of New York’s biggest blizzards on record, the members of Those Darlings found themselves stranded in Brooklyn, trying in vain to finish their farewell tour. As the snow blanketed New York and the rest of the East Coast, Zazu and Regensburg thought about their own blank slate ahead of them. They devised a plan: Take a month off. Get some much-needed rest after a grueling run of gigs. Then they would get back to work on a new album.
With Zazu, the blank page never stayed blank for very long; she was always relentlessly doing, bursting with ideas, whether she was painting or writing, mentoring young musicians in her community or leading grassroots activism initiatives. For Zazu, there were always more songs to be writing and sung, more notes to be played, more issues to shine a light on and advocate for. Sadly, just as Zazu and Regensburg were set to begin working on their next project together, Zazu was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and things understandably were put on hold.
Work on their album started in early 2017 and was done in fits and spurts. “I don’t know if she felt the same way or not,” Regensburg says, “but watching this situation play out in my head, it was like I was equating it to some kind of hero journey. This person, who I believe to be invincible, overcomes a dire circumstance and the writing and recording of the music is all just part of the legendary comeback story. But that’s not what ended up happening, unfortunately.” Tragically, though, they weren’t able to finish the album: Zazu died at the all too young age of 28.
Understandably, the unfinished album was put on the shelf. . “After she died, I didn’t want to touch it,” Regensburg says. “I didn’t want to play the songs or listen to the songs, let alone finish them. It just seemed like such a daunting task with a lot of layers—there was a lot of work left to do, but then there was also this exhausting underlying emotional component that pops in and hangs around the moment I’d open a session.”
Years passed and distance grew. By 2020, Regensburg felt ready to finish what they had started, he says “both for her sake, and for my own sanity level. I was the only person left with this project. Working on those songs again was therapeutic, even if doing so brought on a new set of challenges as he polished nearly-finished tracks and rebuilt songs out of disparate parts, from the drum track on an older, alternate recording to a simple phone demo. “It was a way of spending time with her, and kind of the only capacity in which I could,” he said. “But then, I was also left with a lot of creative choices without her. Even though I had played most of the instruments, it had still been a totally collaborative thing; if there was a part I played that she didn’t like, she was clear about that. If someone’s gone, you can still talk to them, but you can only assume what their feedback might be. So I was stuck with a lot of musical choices that I’d be working under the context of, I hope you like what I did here.”
But on February 23, 2024, the world will hear the duo’s last project together Mama Zu — and what they had been working on with the 11-song Quilt Floor. The album sees the duo stitching a sonic tapestry of punchy songs that defiantly resist categorizing or pigeonholing in any specific genre. The material deftly flits from shimmering shoegaze to hooky power pop, riot grrl-tinged punk to 60s psych rock. Working without parakeets and without outside expectations led the duo to create an album that lives up to its mixtape moniker: 11 distinct tracks that are their own entire, separate universes while never feeling disjointed. The songs seamlessly form a robust whole, a representation of someone, who has a wildly eclectic, seemingly limitless record collection.
Ultimately, Mama Zu is simultaneously a continuation of the groundwork that Zazu and Regensburg laid with Those Darlings — and sadly, a final chapter. Importantly, it’s a snapshot of an artist in her prime, who was taken too soon, but while being stubbornly upbeat, defiant and fearless.
Regensburg shares Quilt Floor‘s first single “Lip.” Built around fuzzy guitars, a relentless and propulsive backbeat paired with Zaza’s sneering delivery, “Lip” is a kiss-off with a sarcastic smirk. The song’s subject is one that should be pitied — and perhaps laughed at — than scored. “The beauty of a ‘fuck you’ song (of which there might happen to be several on this album) is that you could simultaneously find yourself singing along while also being the oblivious target,” Linwood says. “Granted I never asked Jessi what this song was actually about and it’s also quite possible I might be an unreliable narrator here. Nevertheless, in the meantime, whether you’re in the mood to raise a middle finger or perhaps deserved of one, this song’s for you.”
A portion of the proceeds will benefit Jessi Zazu, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to continuing Jessi’s work in the arts & humanities, social justice, and women’s health.
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