New Video: Watch Detroit’s ADULT. Smash a Room in Frustration in New Visual for Tense and Claustrophobic “Total Total Damage”

Detroit-based multimedia and electronic music production and artist duo ADULT. — the husband and wife team of Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus — have developed a sprawling catalog of material that obscures and blurs defined genres and styles, while drawing from industrial electronic, house music, punk rock and visual art with releases through Mute Records, Ghostly International, Thrill Jockey, Third Man Records and a list of other labels throughout their two plus decades together. 

Slated for an April 10, 2020 release through Dais Records, the acclaimed Detroit-based electronic duo’s forthcoming album Perception is/as/of Deception was conceived, written and recorded in a temporary black hole they created: the duo painted their windowless basement entirely black, with the sole intention of sensory deprivation so that they could question their perceptions and witness the resulting ramifications. And as result, the album’s material may be the most introspective and punk-leaning they’ve written to date: the frustration and apprehension that has long been at the center of their work are heightened — but interestingly enough, the material was written with a much more head-on approach, making it forceful and strident.

Last month, I wrote about Perception is/as/of Deception‘s second single, the club banging “Have I Stated at the End.” Centered around a classic electronic body music production featuring industrial clang and clatter, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, shimmering synth arpeggios, an enormous hook and a repetitive mantra that questions the fragility and temporality of life “Total Total Damage,” the album’s third and latest single is a tense and claustrophobia-inducing track centered around industrial clang and clatter, layers of synth arpeggios and Kuperus’ howled vocals. Thematically, the song is a dystopian anthem that focuses on the slow and painful collapse of our society and systems and the growing uncertainty and uneasiness we all feel but while expressing the desperate cabin fever. 

While in social isolation, the members of ADULT. decided to build a room-like set indie their house for the Miller and Kuperus-filmed and edited visual for “Total Total Damage,” which features the duo losing their minds and destroying their room with a sledgehammer.  “We’re hoping that the video speaks to a lot of people, because everyone’s feeling cabin fever and wanting to get out, get back to ‘normal’ life,” the Detroit-based duo say in press notes. 


New Audio: The Legendary Mavis Staples Teams Up with Jeff Tweedy on a Much-Needed Anthemic Bit of Uplift

Throughout the course of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the legendary Chicago-born singer, actress, and civil rights activist Mavis Staples. Going into a deep dive into her career as a member of the Staple Singers and and a solo artist will be a bit gratuitous — but throughout her career, she has received commercial and critical success, as well as a proverbial boatload of accolades. Stapes has received eight Grammy Awards nominations with the Staple Singers, winning one — a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004. She also received a Grammy nod for a collaboration with longtime friend Bob Dylan. And as a solo artist, she’s been nominated for five Grammys, winning two — Best Americana Album for 2010’s You Are Not Alone and a Best American Roots Performance for  2015’s ”See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.”

She also has been nominated for 11 Blues Music Awards, winning nine, including Album of the Year for 2004’s Have A Little Faith, which featured Song of the Year and album title track “Have A Little Faith.” She’s also won three Soul Blues Female Artist Awards — one in 2004 and back to back wins in 2017 and 2018. Staples was also inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Staple Singers in 1999, was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2016 and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017.

The legendary Chicago-born singer, actress and civil rights activist turned 80 last year and with her achievements, it would be understandable if she had begun to slow down; however, over the past handful of years, Staples has been remarkably busy, releasing three critically applauded albums with Wilco‘s Jeff Tweedy and last year’s Ben Harper written and produced, We Get By.

Fittingly, Staples’ latest single is the hopeful and upbeat Jeff Tweedy-produced, “All In It Together,” which also features Tweedy contributing backing vocals and guitar. Centered around a shuffling, Chicago blues-like arrangement of twinkling keys, strummed guitar, a rousing hook and Staples’ imitable vocals, the track speaks directly to our current sociopolitical moment, while gently reminding the listener that at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. And that if we don’t get together at this most important moment in our collective history, then we’re all doomed. 

“The song speaks to what we’re going through now – everyone is in this together, whether you like it or not,” the legendary vocalist explains in press notes. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what race or sex you are, where you live…it can still touch you. It’s hit so many people in our country and around the world in such a horrible way and I just hope this song can bring a little light to the darkness. We will get through this but we’re going to have to do it together. If this song is able to bring any happiness or relief to anyone out there in even the smallest way, I wanted to make sure that I helped to do that.”

The song is available on all streaming services and Bandcamp. All proceeds from the song will be donated to My Block, My Hood, My City, a Chicago-based organization that ensures seniors will have access to the essentials needed to fight COVID-19. 

New Video: Angela Muñoz Celebrates Young Love in Visuals for “In My Mind”

Over the past handful of months, I’ve written quite a bit about  The Midnight Hour, a 10 member ensemble founded and led by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammadand Adrian Younge, a Los Angeles-based composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer and Linear Labs founder. Now, as you may recall, the project prominently features singer/songwriter and guitarist Jack Waterson, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Loren Oden — and , singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and 18 year old Los Angeles-born and-based phenom, Angela Muñoz.

The 10 member ensemble released their self-titled debut in 2018 — and the effort firmly established their sound: jazz and orchestral inspired soul and hip-hop heavily influenced by  David Axelrod, Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Barry White and Jazzmatazz-era Gang Starr. Since the release of their debut, Muhammad, Younge and the rest of the Linear Labs crew have been extremely busy: last year saw the release of Jack Waterson’s psych rock, solo debut Adrian Younge Presents Jack Waterson, and a lengthy tour that included a Brooklyn Bowl stop last September — and this year will see three releases from the collective and its members: the ensemble’s highly-anticipated sophomore album and solo efforts from Loren Oden and Angela Muñoz.

The young, Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and phenom has a beguiling voice and mature presence that belies her relative youth, who recalls that Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Welcome to The Jungle” was the catalyst that sparked her desire to play music and become a star. As a girl, she learned to play guitar and piano — and with practice, she began to dominate singing competitions, leaving unexpected audiences in a trance.

Interestingly, a few years ago Muñoz’s brother Brandon introduced her to the Adrian Younge-produced Something About April. Muñoz was intrigued by the quality of the music, and as a result, she found herself thinking about how it would be interesting to create music that encompassed various perspectives — similar to how Younge does so with his analog recordings. Shortly after being introduced to Something About April, the Los Angeles-born and-based phenom serendipitously found herself working with The Midnight Hour, who recorded her song “Bitches Do Voodoo” on their full-length debut. They’ve since took Muñoz on tour, where she’s blown away audiences with her self-assured stage presence, her dexterous musicianship and her soulful vocals.

Earlier this month, I wrote about Muñoz’s neo-soul meets Quiet Storm-like debut single “I Don’t Care,” which featured her remarkably self-assured and effortlessly soulful vocals over an arrangement of twinkling keys and harp, soaring strings, a sinuous bass line, wah wah pedaled guitar and an enormous hook paired with an underlying youthful brashness. “In My Mind” the second single off full-length debut Introspection is a gorgeous and cinematic track centered around a pop standard-like arrangement featuring soaring and fluttering strings, a sinuous bass line, some expressive bursts of guitar, twinkling harp and Muñoz’s expressive vocal. Sonically, the song manages to recall George Gershwinand jazz ballads. From her first two singles, Muñoz is a certifiable star in the making.

“I wrote this song thinking about the journey of love,” Muñoz explains. “Despite my age, I have an awareness of what expressing love looks like. As I was writing this song, I wanted to challenge myself as a songwriter. This led me to imagine myself in the place of George Gershwin. If I could choose anyone to interpret this song it would be Sarah Vaughan. Ultimately, love can manifest itself in many ways.”

Directed by The Midnight Hour’s Adrian Younge and based on a story written by Angela Muñoz captures the swooning idealism and hope of young love in a way that proudly celebrates it. 

Muñoz’s full-length debut Introspection is slated for a May 19, 2020 release through Linear Labs.

New Video: French Emcee Flem Teams Up with Vieux Farka Touré on a Politically Charged Single — and Visual

Flem is a rising French emcee, who has developed a reputation for his fluid flow and conscious themes — and as a result, he has worked with an eclectic array of French artists includes Sages Poètes de la Rue’s DanyDan, Assassin’s DJ Duke, La MC Malcriado’s Izé Bosineau and Aethority’s Mattias Mimoun and a growing list of others. His forthcoming album Nomades, which is slated for an October 2020 release finds the rising French emcee collaborating with acclaimed Malian singer/songwriter Vieux Farka Touré — with the result meshing contemporary hip-hop and traditional African blues. 

Interestingly, the duo’s collaboration and friendship can be traced back over a decade — with Flem and Touré sharing stages at festivals at shows from Paris to Timbuktu. Some time ago, the pair were performing in Niafunké, Mali, a stronghold of the Touré family,. when Flem along with a small group of Westerners were quickly evacuated to Bamako, Mail, narrowly escaping an attack. This particular event managed to strengthen the pair’s friendship and reinforced the need for them to create a new project that was much more urgent, conscious and militant than they had done individually. 

Over the better part of the past decade, Mali has been split apart by a bloody civil war between different warring religious and ethnic factions, undermined by unbalanced international relationships, rampant corruption and terrorism. Nomades touches upon the historical and cultural link between Europe and Africa, the ethnic conflicts that have been used by foreign countries, who have economic interests across the continent, the emigration of African youth for a better way of life anywhere they can, monetary independence, freedom, love and hope and so on. 

Nomades’ first single is a perfect example of the album’s overall sound: Touré’s looping, shimmering and expressive guitar, gently padded percussion and Touré’s lilting voice are paired with an infectious hook and Flem’s fiery lyrics, which touch upon his love of Mali, its food and its people, while praying for an end to war, racism, colonial oppression and more. The song manages to bring the African blues sound to the modern day — while also reminding the listener that hip hop has become the sound and voice of resistance everywhere.

“I went to Mali for the first time in 2003 with my friend Moctar, at his family home. We stayed for a month and a half and travelled from Bamako to Timbuktu,” the rising French emcee writes in a lengthy statement. “This trip inland, which is no longer possible today, changed my life. Abdulaye, Moctar’s cousin, introduced me to Vieux Farka Touré in 2009. The artistic connection was instantaneous and after a jam at his house, Vieux invited me to the prestigious Festival au Desert stage in Essakane, in the north of Mali.

Three years later, while I was recording the arrangements for my debut album Passeport, war in the Sahel broke out at the end of my stay, in January 2012. I was staying at Vieux Farka’s, in the family home in Bamako. It was important for Vieux Farka to show me his village and invite me on stage, this time for a festival in honour of his father. It should be remembered here that the late Ali Farka Touré was first a truck driver, then an internationally renowned artist and Grammy Award winner, but also the mayor of his village: Niafunké. The day after the concert, the intelligence and security services in Mali, who were protecting the area at the time, warned us of an imminent attack on the village. The terrorists had seen on television that a few Westerners were there. They interpreted this presence as a provocation to Sharia law, which was beginning to be imposed in the north of the country. Vieux Farka woke me up in my room and said: ‘You’re leaving right now!; I wanted to go back with him, but it was too dangerous. I was evacuated by the Malian army via the river. He came back as we had come, in a 4×4. The boat trip was magnificent, I had always dreamed of doing it, but the conditions were particular. Later, the rest of the Touré family also left the village to take refuge at Vieux’s house in Bamako.

In October 2015, my first album was released. There was no tour in France, but there was a one-off concert with Vieux Farka Touré at La Boule Noire in Paris. February 2017: the Institut Français (French Institute) and the CCF (French Cultural Center) in Bamako invited me for the start of the literary season, which ended with a concert by Vieux Farka Touré and myself. I went there with the pianist Mattias Mimoun and the harpist Katell Boisneau. We had a lot of fun playing again all together.  I felt more than ready to prepare my second album.

In 2018, after the first night of recording with Ilan Sberro at the St-Ouen Auditorium, Vieux started listening to my lyrics and asked me: “Did you write a song for Mali?” I hadn’t, not intimately, not totally.  Maybe I didn’t feel legitimate to do it. I love this country; I’ve got friends there who I consider to be members of my family. And I’m welcomed there as family. This country has given me a lot of love and has taught me things that can’t be explained. I was born, I grew up and I live in France, but I’ve been going to Mali regularly for 17 years now. Here’s my song Mali on a music by Vieux Farka Touré, accompanied by the superb voice of singer Amy D.

Mali Nébifé, Mali I love you. Flem.”

Directed by Dominique Milherou, the recently released video is split between footage of daily life in Mail from kids riding bikes and kicking around a soccer ball, to women dancing in the streets — to intimately shot footage of Flem, Amy D and Touré in the studio  recording the song and performing the song. When the song hits sociopolitical commentary, we see footage of some of the Western leaders, who have helped to exploit and profit off the region’s people, resources and conflicts. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Koncept Releases a Hazy Visual for Upbeat Banger “Watch The Sky Fall 2”

Over the past few years I’ve written quite a bit about the acclaimed, Queens-born emcee and JOVM mainstay Koncept. Born Keith Michael Whitehead, the JOVM artist has led a rather remarkable life: working at Fat Beats Records, he co-founded The Brown Bag AllStars with his coworkers Soul Khan, Cold Codeine, J57 and The Audible Doctor in 2007. The collective’s 2009 debut mixtape The Brown Tape was released through Coalmine Records while the members of the act were working at Fat Beats — and they followed that up with an attention-grabbing appearance at that year’s Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival.

Building on a growing profile, the members of The Brown Bag All Stars released two EPs in 2010 — The Traveller and The Down Under Remixes. Whitehead’s full-length debut Awaken, which was also released that year, featured guest spots from Soul Khan, JOVM mainstay Homeboy Sandman, Royce da 5’9″ and Sene with production from J57 and Marco Polo — and the album established the Queens-born emcee as a solo artist in his own right. As a result of the attention he received from his debut, Koncept received an endorsement by Red Bull that helped financed his 2015 critically acclaimed J57-produced The Fuel EP.

After the release of The Fuel, Koncept went to Seoul, South Korea for a two-week tour sponsored by Miller Genuine Draft and Jameson. Those tour dates developed into more shows and bookings — and eventually a partnership with Sony Music Asia, who released his sophomore effort 14 Hours Ahead, an effort that was thematically centered around envisioning your future and dreams, growing and believing in yourself every step of the way — and then manifesting those dreams into reality. Since then, Koncept has also developed a reputation for being a go-to collaborator, who has worked with Rick Ross, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign, Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, The Roots, Joey Bada$$, Green Day, A$AP Mob, Ghostface Killah and Joell Ortiz.

Released last summer, the Queens-based latest effort Champagne Konny comes after spending two years on the road — with the bulk of it in Asia, including a sold-out tour with Scoop Deville. While on the road, the Queens-based JOVM mainstay discovered a new perceptive on his life and career, which has influenced the emcee and his work. “Watch The Sky Fall 2” is a bold remix of Awaken’s lead single “Watch The Sky Fall,” which retains Royce da 5’9″‘s guest verse while being inspired by where it all started — with a newfound zest and desire for life. Featuring a new verse from Koncept, Royce da 5’9″‘s imitable flow paired with a Wrist.the.Greatest and Keitel Jr. co-production centered around shimmering and squiggling synths and tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap beats. And while sonically bringing Too Short to mind, the song has an upbeat and almost defiantly positive message: when your life seems to be falling apart, and you’re feeling broken, scared ad as though you’re about to go down for the count, you have to hold on and try to push forward. 

Filmed and edited by Juliette Carton, the recently released video for “Watch The Sky Fall 2” is a hazy yet intimate visual that quickly cuts from scenes of Koncept in what appears to be a shower and a pensive Koncept holding an umbrella in the forest — as though the umbrella would protect him from a universe in which the sky seems to be against him. 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays El Ten Eleven Releases a Mosh Pit Friendly Ripper

Since their formation in 2002, the Los Angeles-based post rock duo  El Ten Eleven — Kristian Dunn (double-neck bass/guitar) and Tim Fogarty (drums) — have released eight full-length albums and four EPs, which have helped to establish their reputation for a steadfast DIY approach and for using a dizzying array of effect and looping pedals to create a dense, complex and incredibly cinematic sound. 

As we all know, experiencing an unexpected and tragic loss often inspires a period of deep self-reflection — a time in which one may contemplate their own mortality, as well as their own place and purpose within the larger world. El Ten Eleven’s Kristian Dunn found himself in a similar situation when a beloved family member of his died. And his own reflections on his life wound up emerging in the music he had started to write at the time. The end result is the band’s epic album Tautology, a sonic meditation on the arc of human life, composed in three parts starting from the teenage years, through middle age and then death. 

Sonically, the album echoes Dunn’s own personal experiences, veering from aggressive metal riffs to gorgeous and blissful ambient soundscapes. And while there are shared melodic and harmonic ideas throughout the album, each individual album has its own distinct qualities and character: Tautology I, which represents adolescence is reportedly angsty, aggressive and occasionally depressive; Tautology II, which represents middle aged reportedly features mid-tempo, head-nodding grooves; while Tautology III, which represents the golden years, is reportedly quiet and ambient. As a result, the 3LP album reportedly finds the duo pushing their sound into new territory, experimenting with a range of textures and soundscapes not heard on any previous El Ten Eleven effort. 

Dunn explains in press notes that there’s no right or wrong way to listen to Tautology, suggesting that a deep dive into the full project will yield rewards. “I think someone could listen to any one of the discs by themselves and have a really great experience—even if they didn’t know about the others. But if they do want to go deeper, I think there will be a lot of interesting stuff to discover. It works symbolically and it all connects. I think this is the best record we’ve ever done.”

Tautology I’s first single “With Report” is a decidedly aggressive song — and arguably the most aggressive of their catalog to date. Centered around a subtly expansive song structure, the song features buzzing power chords, thunderous drumming, a propulsive bass line and a rousing, mosh pit friendly hook, the track evokes the energy, and the piss and vinegar of foolhardy youth, “I wanted to represent what my teenage years were like, when I was full of testosterone and depression,” Kristian Dunn explains in press notes.  “When you’re a teenager everything feels so grandiose and dramatic.”

New Video: Beauty Queen Releases a Playfully Absurd Visual for Shimmering and Nostalgic “Two Of Us”

Katie Iannitello is a Maui, HI-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and the creative mastermind behind the rising indie pop act Beauty Queen. Growing up Iannitello had a distant apathy towards pop music that marked most of her teen years; however, she had instilled, an appreciation for 50s pop and doo-wop. The Maui-born, Los Angeles-based artist learned to play piano and sing as a teen — but it wasn’t until she was in her early 20s that she started writing her own songs. 

Interestingly, the material that Iannitello has written with Beauty Queen is on the sonic edges of dream lo-fi, hazy alt-pop and dream pop with the material centered around coming-of-age stories where bewilderment can turn into clarity and with narrators lost in the reveries and aches of loneliness and unrequited love. 

Last year, Iannitello’s Beauty Queen debut EP, the Henry Nowhere-produced Out of Touch was released through pronoun’s Sleep Well Records. Iannitello has started off 2020 with new material written and produced over the course of three days at Tennis’ Alaina Moore’s and Patrick Riley’s Denver-based home studio — and those sessions ended with “Sweet Memory” and her latest single ‘Two Of Us.” Centered around shimmering, analog synths, a galloping 70s AM rock drum pattern, an infectious and soaring hook, a chugging motorik-like groove and Iannitello’s expressive vocals, the song manages to sound like a slick synthesis of The Carpenters and JOVM mainstays Pavo Pavo — but while capturing a romantic couple that’s so much in love that they just escape the world. 

Directed by Budd Diaz, the recently released video for “Two Of Us” depicts the songs lyrics through the prism of the absurd: we follow two Sasquatches, who are so much in love that they’re oblivious to the Sasquatch hunter, who’s relentlessly stalking them as they go about their annual day out in the world, which includes a much-needed shave, a stop at the movies and a Beauty Queen show. Thankfully, for their sake the Sasquatch hunter is as inept and incompetent as Elmer Fudd! “This music video was an absolute blast to make. If all my future videos could be Sasquatch based, I would be pleased,” Iannitello shares. “It’s two Sasquatches on their ‘day out’ where they shave and go out in the world. Huge thank you to Budd Diaz and his team and the actors involved for making this happen!”

New Video: Rachelle Garniez Takes on a Beloved Della Reese Song

Rachelle Garniez is a highly regarded singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and grizzled New York cabaret scene vet, who has managed to work with an eclectic array of contemporary artists including Jack White and Taylor Mac. Garniez’s recently released album Gone to Glory chronicles her interpretation of songs written or made famous by a variety of recently departed, beloved artists. Interestingly, the album can trace its origins back to 2016r, a year that saw the deaths of David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen — and alongside feelings of immeasurable cultural bereavement, that year also saw an increasing climate of unrest and heightened irreconcilable division.

The first Farewell Party concert was conceived and performed at Pangea, known as NYC’s home to alternative cabaret performance. Crowds were starved for the chance to mourn with other fans and celebrate the lives of their favorite artists. The concert became so popular that it became an annual event. And while being a collection of covers, the album’s material is also about recovery and resilience, that reminds the listener that death may wreck our own, we still manage to survive to enjoy what’s been bequeathed to us.

The album finds Garniez tackling the work of Bowie, Prince, Cohen, Glen Campbell, Motörhead, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Della Reese, Sharon Jones, Mose Allison and Bea Wain — and while inhabiting the characters and worlds of each of those artists, the acclaimed cabaret artists finds a way to make the songs her own. Although she’s largely eschewed covers, she has found the album as a way to honor fallen musical heroes and to branch out into exploring other lives and characters. Interestingly, instead of choosing the most obvious songs — no “Hallelujah” or “Purple Rain” here — she makes more idiosyncratic choices.  “A lot of it has to do with if I can look at the lyrics and imagine becoming a character, or even just being my own self and being able to sing these songs,” Garniez  says in press notes. “I need to feel that I’m connected to the lyrics, that I can really deliver them in a meaningful way.”

Gone to Glory’s songs are centered around an emotional arc that deals with abject despair to acceptance. Death looms large and at points comedic. Monsters are everywhere. There’s alienation, self-delusion and even toxic patriotism. But love is seen as countervailing and multiform — hopeless and unrequited, romantic, lust, paradisal and so on. Garniez, who also contributes piano, accordion and guitar, collaborates with the Farewell Party band, Karen Waltuch (viola) and Derek Nievergelt (double bass) — with the material sonically reflecting Garniez’s eclectic influences: the material evokes klezmer, Cajun, doo wop, blues, R&B, Latin, jazz and show tunes with five of the songs featuring instrumental introductions that function as sort of mini-memorials, references Glen Frey, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and Bernardo Bertolucci.

Gone to Glory’s latest single finds the acclaimed cabaret artist covering Della Reese’s 1959 hit “Don’t You Know,” an adaptation of a Puccini aria, “Musetta’s Waltz” from La Bohème. Featuring a yearning vocal, the song is centered around a slow-burning, understated arrangement consisting of French horn and twinkling keys, viola, harp, and double bass — Garniez’s rendition manages to nod at jazz standards, chamber pop and classical music simultaneously while aching with pride, heartache, and loss in a way that feels devastating. The recently released video by Lewis Klahr features collage-based animation that tells the song’s central story of unrequited love and loss — with pop art.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Lyrical Visual for Atmospheric and Slow-Burning Single “QADIR”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim. And as you may recall, Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2: armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits. And in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad stokes — with subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. The overall aesthetic drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time. 

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Building upon a growing profile, Hakim will be releasing his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD. Slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records, the album while being distinctly Nick Hakim, reportedly represents a tonal shift from Green Twins, with the material reflecting the ideas with which he grappled while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shares the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR.”  Centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals, “QADIR” is a fever dream full of ache and longing that recalls both 70s soul and neo-soul simultaneously. Interestingly, “QADIR” was the first song the JOVM mainstay wrote for the album — and the track was written as ode to a late friend and a reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late.”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Directed by Nelson Nance, the cinematic and lyrical visual for “QADIR” finds Hakim in moments of solitude in forest and in solidarity with his community of friends and associates. The Nance-directed visual suggests that it’s the people who love and support us, who give us strength and sustenance during our most difficult times. 

New Audio: Two Posthumously Released Covers featuring The Psychic Ills’ Tres Warren

Centered around core duo Tres Warren (vocals, guitar) and Elizabeth Hart (bass), the acclaimed New York-based psych rock act Psychic Ills over the past decade or so have developed a reputation for following wherever their muses and instincts have taken them, frequently experimenting and changing up their sound and songwriting approach — seemingly at will.

The band’s fifth album, 2016’s Inner Journey Out was the culmination of three years of touring, writing and recording that found the band expanding upon the sound and aesthetic that won the attention of the blogosphere with the material incorporating subtle bits of honky tonk country, blues, gospel and jazz to their 60s psych rock-inspired sound. Whereas much of their previous material found Warren overdubbing his guitar to create a massive sound, the album’s material focused on Warren’s and Hart’s collaborations with a who’s who list of acclaimed artists including Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions and Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, their touring keyboardist Brent Cordero, Chris Millstein, Endless Boogie’s Harry Druzd, The Entrance Band’s Derek James, Charles Burst and a host of friends and associates, who also provide pedal steel guitar, horns, strings and backing vocals.

Thematically, Inner Journey Out may arguably be the most introspective of their catalog, as the material explored the interior and exterior lives of its narrators, and the difficult and uneasy pathways that unite them. Much of the material is centered around a lonely and plaintive ache for connection to something or something — but with the underlying recognition that moments of true connection are not just extremely rare, but fleeting and impermanent.

Earlier this month, Psychic Ills’ Tres Warren tragically died at the age of 41. Before his death, Warren had been busy writing new material and along with Hart and a cast of collaborators was gearing up to head to the studio to record what was supposed to be their sixth album, slated for release later this year. Sadly, that material was never recorded; however, the band did record two covers — a cover of The Beach Boys’ “Never Learn to Not Love” and  a cover of Charles Manson’s “Cease to Exist,” which Sacred Bones Records will release both digitally and on vinyl.

Originally appearing on The Beach Boys’ 1969 album 20/20, credited to Dennis Wilson and with changes to the arrangement and lyrics, “Never Learn Not To Love,” was originally written as “Cease to Exist” by a then-unknown singer/songwriter named Charles Manson. The following year, Manson’s version would appear his album Live: The Love and Terror Cult — and by that time, he was already incarcerated for the Tate-LaBlanca murders.

How the members of The Beach Boys came across the song and then have a version of it appear on an album is equal parts apocryphal and legendary — and Manson’s disappointment with the lyrical and structural changes to the song have been well documented. Considering The Beach Boys’ place in American culture, their simultaneous adherence to and departure from the original has long been a point of fascination for many music buffs, but for Warren, it was something less tangible that kept him coming back to both songs through the years. “The soulfulness is what has always spoken to me in those songs,” Warren explained, “I gravitate towards that(soul) in music, and both of these songs have it in spades. I almost shed a tear every time I hear Dennis Wilson sing.”

The Psychic Ills’ version of “Never Learn Not To Love” finds the band echoing the arrangement and feel of the The Beach Boys recording but the female gospel-like backing vocalists nod at Phil Spector and Motown. “We wanted to honor the originals, but we didn’t want to cover them note for note,” Warren said in press notes. “We wanted to bring them to where we are.” Interestingly, the end result is a cover that sounds as though it could have appeared on Inner Journey Out. 

The Psychic Ills version of “Cease to Exist” is centered around an intimate and seemingly improvised performance with very few takes. It begins with Warren asking engineer Iván Díaz Mathè, “Ivi is it rolling?” And Warren starts playing, the band falls behind him, adhering to their own intuitive cues and those of the collective whole. Reportedly, this version which brings the performance directly to the listener, is similar in fashion to the Manson original. Yes, these covers are the last bit of material Warren recorded — and as a result, they’ve taken on an eerie and spectral quality while remaining hauntingly beautiful.