Category: women who kick ass

New Video: Meshell Ndegeocello’s Soulful and Atmospheric Rendition of TLC’s Smash Hit “Waterfalls”

Born Michelle Lynn Johnson to US Army Sergeant Major Jacques Johnson, a saxophonist and Helen Johnson, a health care work, the Berlin, Germany-born, American-based singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello was raised in Washington, DC where she attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and Oxon Hill High School. When she turned 17, she adopted the name Meshell Ndegeocello, with the surname, as she has explained meaning “free like a bird in Swahili.”

In the late 80s, Ndegeocello gigged around DC’s go-go circuit, playing with bands like Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence before unsuccessfully trying out for Living Colour’s bassist spot, after Muzz Skillings left the band. Deciding to go solo, Ndegeocello, has the distinction of being Madonna’s Maverick Records first signings and while achieving a fair amount of commercial success. Her collaborative cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night,” with John Mellencamp peaked at #3 on the Billboard Charts in 1994 and “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” peaked at #73 later that year. Adding to a rapidly rising profile, she collaborated with the legendary Herbie Hancock on a track for Red Hot Organization’s AIDS awareness, tribute compilation Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which was named Time Magazine’s “Album of the Year.”  Her cover of Bill Withers‘ “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)” was a #1 Dance Hit in 1996 and was briefly featured in the major motion picture Jerry Maguire, and she landed Dance Top 20 hits with “Earth,” “Leviticus: Faggot,” and “Stay.” Along with that she collaborated with Madonna, playing bass on “I’d Rather Be Your Lover,” and contributing a verse at the last minute, after Tupac Shakur had criminal charges filed against him. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with Chaka Khan, rapping “Never Miss the Water,” a single that landed #1 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with the likes of Basement Jaxx, Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissette and Zap Mama.

Ndeogecello has also had her music featured in the soundtracks of How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Lost & Delirious, Batman & Robin, Love Jones, Love & Basketball, Talk to Me, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, The Best Man, Higher Learning, Down in the Delta, The Hurricane, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom and Soul Men. And interestingly enough, Ndegeocello has managed the rare feat of achieving commercial success while arguably being one of the most uncompromisingly, iconoclastic and unique artists of the past 25 years. But perhaps more important Ndegeocello has been credited as being at the forefront of the neo-soul movement — thanks in part to a sound that routinely draws from hip-hop, classic soul, rock, reggae, jazz, and singer/songwriter/balladeer-like pop. She has also written and composed a musical influenced by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, titled Can I Get a Witness?: The Gospel of James Baldwin and she released a gorgeous tribute album to Nina Simone, which featured collaborations with JOVM mainstay Cody ChesnuTT and others, which add to her iconoclastic and difficult to pigeonhole reputation. 

The renowned bassist, singer/songwriter and rapper’s latest album Ventriloquism is slated for a March 16, 2018 release and the album will feature covers of songs by TLC, Janet Jackson, Tina Tuner, Prince and others, all of which have been influential to Ndeogeocello’s work — but with a unique take. And if you had been following this site earlier this year, you may recall that I wrote about her folksy Harvest-era Neil Young/Fleetwood Mac-like cover of Force MD”s smash hit “Tender Love,” a rendition that eschewed the 80s keyboard pop cheesiness of the original, which made it so beloved and awkward — while retaining the song’s earnestness, pointing out that well-written songs can be interpreted in countless ways and still be as wonderful as we remember.  Ventriloquism’s latest single is a slow-burning, atmospheric cover of TLC’s smash hit “Waterfalls” that manages to slow the tempo and the melody down to the point that it turns the song into something familiar yet kind of alien, all while retaining the sense of loss and confusion of the original. (I should note that Left Eye’s verse is removed — perhaps for obvious reasons.) Much like it’s predecessor, Ventriloquism’s latest single continues Ndegeocello’s larger commentary on society’s narrow expectations of what Black American music should sound like, be like and thematically concern itself with. 

Produced by Inga Eiriksdottir, directed by Damani Baker and featuring gorgeously cinematic work by director of photography Thor Eliasson, the recently released video for Ndegeocello’s rendition of “Waterfalls,” features a diverse, international cast and although shot in Iceland, the video consists of surreal yet symbolic visuals that at points nods at the original. 

New Video: A David Lee Roth Meets Fraggle Rock Party from Hell with Nicole Atkins

JOVM mainstay Nicole Atkins is a Neptune, New Jersey-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter, best known for a sound that draws influence from 50s crooner pop, 60s psych rock and psych pop, soul music and Brill Building pop; in fact, some critics have compared her sound favorably to the likes of Roy Orbison and others. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Atkins has publicly cited the favorites of her parents’ record collection as being major influences on her, including The Ronettes, Johnny Cash, The Beach Boys, The Sundays‘ Harriet Wheeler and Cass Elliot.

Now, as you may recall, Atkins’ fourth full-length album Goodnight Rhonda Lee was recorded at Fort Worth, TX‘s Niles City Sound, with a production team featuring Austin Jenkins, Josh Block and Chris Vivion and was mixed by the Alabama Shakes‘ Ben Tanner, and the album, which was written while Atkins was in alcohol rehab and afterward, and began to see her life with a different sort of clarity and honesty; in fact, Rhonda Lee was the name, she gave to her hard partying, hard living former life and self. Interestingly, the album, which was released last year was the first batch of original material from the New Jersey-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, and it marked a decided sonic departure from her three previously released albums. Goodnight Rhonda Lee‘s first single “A Little Crazy,” a duet with Chris Issak was a delicate and soulful ballad that clearly nods to some of Atkins’ earliest influences — in particular, Roy Orbison with a hint of Patsy Cline. “Darkness Falls So Quiet,” the album’s second single was a stomping and soulful track that nodded at  Dusty Springfield.  “Sleepwalking,” Rhonda Lee’s fourth single featured a shuffling early  Motown Records-like arrangement that immediately brought to mind  Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, and even Charles Bradley. 

“Brokedown Luck,” Rhonda Lee’s latest single is a shuffling and stomping 12 bar blues-based track that finds Atkins and her backing band nodding at Muscle Shoals, Motown and Daptone, as well as a smidge of Sandra Rhodes sadly under-appreciated country meets soul album Where’s Your Love Been; however, the song captures a narrator, who has reached the end of her rope and recognized that she’s spent way too much time, drinking, fucking up, drinking some more, fucking up some more — and at the end, the same empty, ridiculous rut that she began with; but there’s some clarity and the hope that this time, the song’s narrator may be able to get it right.

Directed by puppet maker/puppeteer and filmmaker Kevin Kelly, the recently released video for “Brokedown Luck” was shot at Asbury Park’s The Asbury Hotel and is essentially a David Lee Roth-like party from hell featuring Elvis impersonators, Hunter S. Thompson, Floyd from The Shinning and hallucinatory scenes with animation and puppets. As Atkins explains of the video treatment, “When I was a kid there was so much cool stuff on tv to get into. I was obsessed with puppets, claymation and animation like Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock and Gary Panter’s puppets and art in Pee Wee’s Playhouse and even the little David Lee Roth singing cheeseburger dude in the movie Better Off Dead. Those things stuck with me for my whole life. It was always a dream of mine to be able to combine some of those elements along with my music in a video.”

New Audio: Introducing the Paranoid Post-Punk of Chicago’s Ganser

Comprised of Alicia Gaines (bass, vocals), Nadia Garofalo (keys, vocals), Brian Cundiff (drums) and Charlie Landsman (guitar), the Chicago, IL-based post-punk act Ganser was formed in 2014, and with the release of their EP, This Feels like Living, the quartet received attention locally for a sound that was influenced by Sonic Youth and Magazine — or in other words for embracing art rock, post-punk and noise rock.

Ganser’s forthcoming, full-length debut Odd Talk is slated for an April 20, 2018 release through No Trend Records, and the album thematically speaking focuses on communication breakdowns — with the band seeking meaning in confusing, ugly, messiness; figuratively sorting through syllables and signals to find the right words for what they need to say. Sonically speaking, the band’s sound, as you’ll hear on Odd Talk’s first single “PSY OPS” walks a tight rope between angular post-punk, the furious and bruising punk of Memphis’ Ex-Cult and Nots and explosive bursts of discordant noise held together by a  rhythm section that’s propulsive, tense, frenzied and yet strangely danceable. And over it, the band’s Garofalo shouts and barks lyrics that feel like absurdist non-sequiturs.

Directed by the band and featuring camera work by Jason Kraynek, the recently released video for “PSY OPS” focuses on routine as a sort of absurdist and ridiculous spectacle with the individual members of the band observing and haunting the video’s protagonist as he’s preparing for his day — with the video and its protagonist (rightfully) becoming increasingly paranoid.

New Video: Falcon Jane’s Shimmering and Slow-burning Anthem for Anxious People

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. 

Deriving their name from Leos Carax’s hallucinatory 2012 film Holy Motors the Tallinn, Estonia-based quintet, Holy Motors, have cloaked much of their operation and backstory in mystery — but from what has been made publicly available, the band which features Ellian Tulve (vocals), Lauri Raus and Kaspar Kiinvald, formed in 2013 and soon after their formation began playing shows, including that year’s Tallinn Music Week Festival. And as the story goes, Merchandise’s Carson Cox saw the band and then introduced them to Florida-based label Hidden Eye, which along with renowned indie label Wharf Cat Records released the band’s debut single “Heavenly Creatures”/”Running Water” in 2015.

“Sleepydr,” the Estonian band’s breakthrough 7 inch was released to critical praise early last year from Stereogum, who described it as “psychedelic rock that hits like a dream despite undoubtedly seeking to soundtrack nightmares.” Building upon their growing international profile, the Tallinn-based quintet’s full-length debut effort Slow Sundown is slated for release this week, and from the album’s latest single “Signs,” is a slow-burning and moody bit of cinematic shoegaze that evokes long, late night drives: white lines, blacktop, highway signs, taillights and headlights, music blaring and your distracted thoughts. Interestingly, the album thematically speaking centers around motion — the celestial motions of satellites orbiting a planet, the motion of passengers in a car and so on, as it relates to larger, universal scale, while pointing out the existential isolation within all moving bodies, particularly people.

 

 

The Portland, OR-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Jenny Logan may arguably be one of her hometown’s quietly kept and most talented secrets as Logan is a member of grunge of pop trio Loveboys, post-punk act Miss Rayon and guitar pop act Sunbathe, who I recently saw open for Typhoon at Music Hall of Williamsburg (more on that later). Along with that, Logan had a stint playing bass for Summer Cannibals and keyboards for a Seattle-based Rolling Stones cover band. Amazingly, the incredibly busy Logan managed to squeeze in the time to pursue her own singular musical vision with her solo recording project Deathlist, releasing her attention grabbing Deathlist debut last year, an effort which found Logan playing almost every instrument.

Slated for a March 9, 2018 release, Fun, the follow up to her Deathlist debut was written and recorded in the aftermath of the death of her best friend, and as a result, the material focuses on the grief and despair of a seemingly solitary mourner, with its narrator finding herself contending with a harrowing and impossible to answer question: how does one continue a conversation with someone, who will never be there again? And while the ironically titled Fun may feature some of the most achingly personal material that Logan may have arguably ever released, it points to one of the most universal experiences any of us will ever know: someone we love, respect and cherish will die, and we’ll brokenheartedly fumble through some portion of our lives, desperately trying to find some larger meaning to all the lingering ghosts of our pasts — or some convenient closure, when there never really is. Yet, we find a way to push on, to find some beauty and occasionally even acceptance within chaos.

Unsurprisingly with the material focusing on death and loss, Logan’s cites Christian Death, Sisters of Mercy and Suicide as inspiring aspects of the album’s sound, and while you’ll hear hints of that on album single “Charm School,” as Logan pairs buzzing and slashing guitars with throbbing, propulsive bass, forceful, industrial-like drum machines and razor sharp hooks; but I also hear hints of Sixousie and the Banshees, The Cure and Dirty Ghosts as the song manages to channel confusion, sorrow and anger — simultaneously and within a turn of a phrase.

Over the past year or so, I’ve written quite a bit about one of the most exciting, young British indie rock acts I’ve come across in some time, the  Halifax, UK-based trio The Orielles, comprised of Sidonie B. Hand-Halford (drums); her younger sister,  Esmé Dee Hand-Halford (bass, vocals); and their best friend, Henry Carlyle Wade (guitar, vocals). And as you may recall, with a great deal of buzz surrounding them in the UK, Heavenly Recordings head Jeff Barrett caught the band opening for their new labelmates The Parrots in late 2016 and immediately signed them to the renowned indie label.  The trio followed that up with a breakthrough 2017 that included a series of incredibly self-assured and attention grabbing singles,  The Mallard‘s Finding Meaning in Deference-like “Sugar Taste Like Salt,” the psych rock-like “I Only Bought It For The Bottle,” and the funky, almost dance floor friendly freakout of “Let Your Dogtooth Grow.”

February 16, 2018 will mark the release of the up-and-coming British trio’s highly-anticipated full-length debut, Silver Dollar Moment and quickly following upon the announcement of the album, the band released the album’s first official single “Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor as it finds the trio mischievously experimenting with their sound, meshing and smashing elements of psych rock, pop and disco/boogie, in particular Luther Davis Group’s “You Can Be A Star” and Rita Lee’s “Chega Mais,” while fusing an anecdote of spotting an unaccompanied blue suitcase on a train platform, which was followed by allegorical discussions and theories about what was in it and why it was left behind — with the band touching upon Schrodinger’s Cat and James and the Giant Peach among others. Certainly, this single will further cement their reputation for crafting self-assured and increasingly genre defying material.