With the release of her debut Down at the Root, Part 1, the Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter  Nana Adjoa began to receive attention across the European Union for an easy-going, 70s radio-like soulful sound reminiscent of Bill Withers and others. The Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter can trace the origins of her musical career to  being accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she would study jazz  — electric bass and double bass; however, she found the experience wasn’t what she imagined it to be. “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. er/“We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.”

Interestingly, around the same time, the Ghanian singer/songwriter began to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while outside of the school environment. Adjoa quickly began to realize that pursing a solo career was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a backing band and started record her original songs (which resulted in Down at the Root, Part 1 and Down at the Root, Part 2).

Several months have passed since I’ve last written about Adjoa — and as it turns out, she’s been busy working on new material that is slated for a release some time over the course of 2020. But in the meantime, Adjoa’s latest single finds her tackling the legendary Ghanian-born and-based singer/songwriter, composer, bandleader, arranger and guitarist Ebo Taylor’s “Love and Death.”

Adjoa’s take on Taylor’s “Love and Death” retains the original’s melody while being centered around an atmospheric and shimmering production and arrangement featuring a sinuous bass line, stuttering beats, twinkling keys, African polyrhythms, shimmering, angular burst of guitar — and most important, Adjoa’s easy-going yet expressive vocals.  Subtly recalling, Omega La La-era Rubblebucket, Adjoa’s take on Taylor’s “Love and Death” is imbued with the ache of inconsolable loss, while revealing an artist, who is adventurously pushing her sound in new directions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New Video: JOVM Mainstays Atmosphere Returns with the Contemplative “Bde Maka Ska”

This month will be a rather busy month in my world — and in the world of JOVM: I’m currently in Syracuse, NY for a wedding.  I return back to New York sometime tomorrow, shoot a handful of shows and then head off to Montreal for the M for Montreal Festival (more on that later, of course).  In fact, instead of getting ready for the wedding, I fired up the ol’ laptop to work . . . So let’s get to the business at hand, right? 

Throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus-year history, I’ve written quite a bit about about the critically applauded and commercially successful Minneapolis, MN-based hip-hop act and JOVM mainstays Atmosphere.  Initially formed over 20 years ago under the name Urban Atmosphere, the JOVM mainstays have developed and maintained a long-held reputation for pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop should sound like and concern itself with thematically, especially as its founding duo Slug and Ant find themselves inching towards middle age. 

2016’s Fishing Blues continued a string of insightful, mature material reflecting men that have seen and experienced more than they could possibly put into words. That album’s material found the duo transforming from wild and untamed road warriors and settling into a hard-fought and peaceful cocoon of family and art. And while that seems ideal, we all know that over the past few years, the world we inhabit has fundamentally changed in a frightening fashion. In fact, last year’s Mi Vida Local thematically found the pair grappling with their own mortality —  and the anxiety and fear that comes from the painful acknowledgment that you’re completely powerless and can’t protect yourself, let alone your loved ones from the dangerous of our world. Sobering stuff, indeed. And yet, that effort, much like its predecessors was largely centered around the duo’s deep and abiding friendship. 

The duo’s latest single “Bde Maka Ska,” is the first batch of original material since the release of last year’s Mi Vida Local and interestingly, the track sonically and thematically continues in the vein of its immediate predecessor: centered around a bluesy production featuring twinkling keys, fuzzy, wah wah pedaled guitar, a gospel choir-like backing vocal, the song finds its narrator yearning for peace and serenity in a mad, mad, mad world. And while also taking careful stock of his own life and decisions, the song’s narrator coming to a profound realization: that sometimes we have to let go and let the universe and karma handle it — and that more important, that he has a loving relationship that gives him a respite from the world. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming London-based duo Charlotte Spiral Releases a Surreal and Cinematic Visual for Atmospheric “Wide Eyed”

Up-and-coming, London-based indie pop duo Charlotte Spiral, which is comprised of Amy Spencer and Avi Barath can trace their origins to when they met at Goldsmith College and bonded over their mutual love of Rufus Wainright, Julia Holter, Moses Sumney, Patrick Watson, Susanne Sondfør and Beach House among others, all of which have influenced the duo’s work and overall sound. The duo’s debut EP Ideal Life is slated for a February 7, 2020 release through Chapped Lips Records.

Reportedly, the emerging British pop duo’s debut effort thematically explores selfhood, self-doubt and self-belief through an examination of rejection and defeat. The EP’s latest single, the Dan Carey and Charlotte Spiral co-produced “Wide Eyed” is an atmospheric and sparsely arranged song centered around Spencer’s achingly tender vocals, twinkling and ethereal piano, gently padded drumming and a soaring hook paired with a polished production, which may remind some listeners of Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp. 

“‘Wide Eyed’ is about wishing it was easy to enjoy the simple things in life, instead of comparing yourself to the people around you. It’s about wanting to be able to achieve something easily, but being frustrated by the difficulties you face to get to it,” the duo explain in press notes. “Dan’s method of working is based on making quick decisions and committing to them, which resulted in a sound that feels very instinctive and strong in its identity.” 

Directed by Morgan Sinclar, the accompanying video was shot wholly on analog film, giving the lush and dream-like visuals a cinematic and textured feel while representing the struggle to avoid distractions and find joy in simplicity. Beginning with the painting of a chair, the video follows its protagonist on a surreal journey, which manages to play on the idea that achieving something seemingly so simple can often seem like a dream. 

New Audio: Introducing the Sleek Dance Floor Friendly Sounds of Chicago’s DRAMA

Na’el Shehade is a Chicago-born and-based, Palestinian-American producer and DJ, who inherited an entrepreneurial drive from his late father, who immigrated from Palestine to the States in the 70s to build a better life. Shehade fell in love with DJ culture as a kid and as an adult took up music production and engineering. The Chicago-born and-based producer and DJ’s interest and passion led to a diverse and eclectic array of professional opportunities, including early studio work with Chance the Rapper and Kanye West and music projects for MTV and Bravo. 

Shehade’s collaborator Via Rosa grew up in a rather musical household: her parents played in a reggae band and toured as a family, homeschooling Rosa into her early teens. Although her music listening was limited primarily to oldies, Sade, Brazilian music and Afrobeat, a teenaged Rosa kept poetry journals — and by high school, she started writing songs and making beats. After relocating to Chicago in 2010, Via Roa connected with THEMPeople, a collective at the center of her adopted hometown’s sprawling hip-hop scene. 

Interestingly, the Chicago-based duo’s collaboration together, DRAMA can trace its origins to a chance meeting between them back in 2014. And since its formation, the duo have bootstrapped a subtle yet rapid rise on their own terms, centered around a sound that meshes Shehade’s Chicago house-infused production and Rosa’s soulful delivery, inspired by jazz, hip-hop and Bossa nova while managing to blur the lines between R&B, dance pop, heartbreak and bliss. Along with that, the duo have had a long-held history of a proud and bold DIY ethos, self-releasing several EPs and making multiple tours — on their own terms. 

DRAMA’s highly-anticipated full-length debut Dance Without Me is slated for a February 14, 2020 release through Ghostly International. Thematically, the album’s material reportedly finds the duo recasting romantic tragedy as moonlit self-acceptance while the material pairs  Rosa’s candid lyrics focused on expressionistic narratives about the intricacies of interpersonal relationships with sleek, dance floor friendly production. Instead of wallowing alone in their blues and heartache, the material features characters who sashay and strut, knowing their self-worth while being vulnerable. This album is dedicated to the people watching their friend’s love-lives grow and happen around them, and not having anyone,” Rosa says in press notes. 

“Gimme Gimme,” Dance Without Me’s second and latest single is a sleek and slickly produced club banger, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, Via Rosa’s effortlessly soulful vocals, twinkling hi-hats and a euphoric hook. And while seemingly being a sultry synthesis of Between Two Selves-era Octo Octa and classic, Larry Levan-era house, the track finds its love-sick narrator wobbling between aching vulnerability and proud, self-reliance, as she searches for a sign that it’s okay to love again. 

“The idea was to have a conversation with my myself about what kind of man I’m looking for,” Rosa explains in press notes. “In the chorus I repeat the line ‘I need you to stand and deliver. Cause I need a man that’s not gonna give me any any…’ The end I purposely left blank so listeners could insert what they don’t want from their next lover. Oddly enough the song was inspired by the closing scene in the movie Grease where Sandy sings to Danny ‘You better shape up cause I need a man.’ Only in my world, I’m Sandy, my heart is Danny and I’m telling my heart to shape up and give me what I want.”

New Video: Denmark’s Twin Dive Releases a Surreal Visual for Mosh Pit Friendly Single “Holly”

Over the course of this past year, I’ve written a bit Aarhus, Denmark-based indie rock act Twin Dive. And as you may recall, the Danish alt rock act formed back in 2018 when its founding duo of Robert Jancevich (vocals, guitar) and Ragnar “Raggi” Gudmunds (drums)  met and bonded over a mutual passion for all things rock ‘n’ roll. Since then, the band has split their time between the studio and live gigs honing and polishing their sound while releasing material that has been compared favorably to Foo Fighters, The Hives and others. During that same period, Charlotte Mortensen (bass) joined the band, helping the band bolster their sound. 

Building upon a growing profile in their native Denmark and across Scandinavia, the band played at this year’s Spot Festival, which caught the attention of Drowned in Sound, who picked the band as one of the best acts of the festival — and they just recently finished a tour of Finland with Finnish act Ursus Factory. Earlier this year, I wrote about the grungy “Animal,” a track that recalls 120 Minutes-era alt rock — i.e., Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and the like — while thematically, the song was about knowing and taming one’s inner animal. 

The rapidly rising Danish trio’s latest single “Holly” continues a run of grungy, power chord-driven material that draws from 120 Minutes-era alt rock. In fact, because of an arrangement centered around heavily pedal effected and jagged power chords, thunderous drumming and howled vocals the band’s latest single may arguably be the most indebted to Bleach and In Utero-era Nirvana of their entire catalog — but at its core. the song explores the unending battle between our sense of self and our ego in a way that’s partially ironic. 

Directed by Mark Vesterlund, the recently released and incredibly cinematic video is a surreal fever dream featuring a troupe of older Asian women doing traditional dances to the song — and while it’s an odd juxtaposition, the visual is meant to leave the interpretation of its message and meaning to the  viewer. 

New Video: French 79’s Intimate and Contemplative Visual for “Code Zero”

Last month, I wrote about Simon Henner, a Marseille, France-based electro pop producer and artist, best known for his solo recording project French 79. And with the release of his first two releases — his debut EP Angel and his full-length debut Olympic — Henner quickly and boldly emerged into the French and international electro pop scenes. 

Henner’s latest French 79 album Joshua is slated for a Friday release through Alter K Records, and the album reportedly finds Henner drawing from his past — in particular, his love of Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Soft Machine, the soundtracks of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner and Jacques Cousteau. Each of Joshua‘s songs are meant to evoke a lived-in moment, relationship or experience during Henner’s childhood.

Now, as you may recall, album single “By Your Side” was centered around thumping beats, shimmering synth arpeggios and Ocean Springs, MS-born, Paris-based vocalist Sarah Rebecca‘s plaintive vocals to create a nostalgia-inducing track that recalls — to my ears, at least — From Here To Eternity . . . and Back-era Giorgio Moroder, and the Stranger Things soundtrack. And while being remarkably dance floor friendly, the track is a sweet declaration of loyalty that feels delightfully old-school. 

“Code Zero,” Joshua’s latest single is lush, instrumental track featuring twinkling Wurlitzer, shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats and a motorik groove. And while subtly recalling Tour de France-era Kraftwerk, Daft Punk and the aforementioned Giorgio Moroder, “Code Zero” the track possesses an intimate quality, as it feels like a contented sigh in a rare moment of peace. In press notes, Henner explains that the track, which also references his passion for sailing is “about how I find a path, how I use my music compass to move forward.” 

Directed by Vincent Desrousseaux, the recently released video is an intimate look at Henner’s creative process, as he writes the song in a gorgeous, sun-dappled apartment with with vintage gear — and it includes a brief moment in which Henner pauses to watch the 1983 motion picture War Games on his laptop. 

New Video: The Still Tide Releases an Intimate and Mischievous Visual for Shimmering and Introspective “Keep It”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about Anna Morsett, an Olympia, WA-born, Denver-based singer/songwriter, musician and creative mastermind behind the up-and-coming indie rock act The Still Tide. And as you may recall, Morsett’s work as The Still Tide has largely been inspired by her experiences growing up in the Pacific Northwest, living in Brooklyn in her 20s and traveling the world as a guitar tech for the likes of critically applauded acts like Kaki King, The Tallest Man on Earth and The Devil Makes Three among others. As a solo artist, she has landed opening spots for Cat Power, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats and Margaret Glaspy.

Her latest Still Tide EP Between Skies is slated for a January 20, 2020 release through Mod y Vi Records and the effort is largely inspired by the duality she regularly experiences as a magnetic frontwoman and a self-described introspective loner — with the material touching upon love, loss, opportunities won and lost and the closed doors of our lives. So far I’ve written about two of the EP’s previously released singles: The shimmering, The Smiths and Pretenders-like “Change of Address,” an introspective song centered around the sense of loss and defeat after the embittering end of a long-time relationship that also managed to be imbued with a sense of hope over new starts — and the swooning “On The Line,” a song was written about her own experiences of being in a long distance relationship that managed to capture the longing, ache, hope and anxiousness at their core.   

“Keep It,” the EP’s third and latest single continues a run of shimmering and introspective guitar pop, centered around sharp and infectious hooks, and earnest songwriting rooted in lived-in, personal experience. “‘Keep It’ is about a relationship running its course and the aftermath of the split; how these two try to sort themselves out afterwards,” shares Morsett. “The hope that despite all the mess of the breakup that we keep our hearts open, keep our health and carry ourselves well. I also tried to highlight that weird feeling of watching that person who was once YOUR person go through a tough time but knowing that it isn’t your place to help them through it anymore. That perhaps it’s almost unkind to try to intervene with help in that space of a breakup as helping may just prolong emotional pain. Especially if you were the one to cause it – to break it off –in the first place.”

Directed and produced by Jonah Hart, the recently released video for “Keep It” is an intimate look behind-the-scenes of the video’s filming and of a promotional photo shoot that finds Morsett stretching and morphing from introspective and shy loner to self-assured frontperson — but with a mischievous sense of humor. 

I’ve written quite a bit about Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist producer and JOVM mainstay Sofia Härdig throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history. And as you may recall, the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay’s career began in earnest at a very young age:she began playing in bands when she nine and even began touring, eventually playing a solo set at CBGB’s. Years later, as an adult Härdig has been hailed the rocktronica queen of experimental music in her native Sweden, developing an uncompromising commitment to a truthful artistic approach. “I find beauty in flaws and that which is not perfect is what excites me, I love the unusual, the unexpected, untrained and unplanned… I hope my music portrays that in its sound,” Härdig says about her approach in press notes.

Adding to a growing profile in her native Sweden and elsewhere, Härdig has collaborated with Swedish Grammy Award-winning acts The Hellacopters and Bob Hund, BoredomsFree Kitten’s Yoshimi P-We and Belle and Sebastian‘s Stevie Jackson. She’s also shared stages with No Wave pioneer Lydia LunchIkue Mori, John Tilbury and a list of others.

Härdig’s recently released, fourth album This Big Hushfinds the Swedish-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving away from the deliberate electronic-based sound of her previous work and towards a gritty and raw, old-school rock sound. “I recorded this album with the band in less than three days live in Tambourine Studios in Malmö,” Härdig says of the recording process for This Big Hush. “The vocals were all done in one day, a lot of them are even kept from the original live take. Part of the process is that my electronic demo making has become so thorough and time-consuming that they have been good enough to be released. Since they are out in the world and out of my system, I can break free and do something different with the band, and not the same thing all over again. We never play the same tempo, same length, they follow me where I lead them… this is THIS BIG HUSH”

Infatuation,” This Big Hush‘s fist single was written to pay homage to post-punk pioneers like Siouxsie and the Banshees — but the decidedly riff driven song seemed to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie, Marc Bolan/T. Rex and Horses-era Patti Smith, complete with an enormous, arena rock friendly hook. “I built this song on a riff that I really loved, building up a groove and then adding backing vocals and playing percussion with whatever I found lying around in the studio and studio kitchen,” the Swedish-born JOVM mainstay said in press notes of the song’s creation. “I used film reels, a serving bowl from IKEA, egg, yar, a knife and fork, to creating an overall feeling of skating down Sunset Boulevard in a Mohikan with a ghetto blaster on your shoulder.”

Radiant Star,” This Big Hush‘s second single was slow-burning and jangling bit of guitar pop that brings Pretenders and the aforementioned Patti Smith to mind. “It was made during many endless nights,” Härdig says in press notes, “on my own and in my studio and also with the band on some more hectic days. Then a lot of other endless days and nights in the studio producing it. My own take of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’; a song I learned as a 3-year old on the grand piano we inherited from my grandmother.”

“Silence,” This Big Hush‘s third and latest single is a slow-burning, lush song that recalls the emotional intensity and lyricism of Patti Smith and Nick Cave with an enormous arrangement centered around jangling guitars, twinkling keys, dramatic drumming, a soaring hook and a gospel-style backing vocal section and what may arguably be one of  Härdig’s most emotionally direct vocal performances in some time.

Deriving their name from a playful, Anglophile nod towards the famed physicist Issac Newton, the Paris-based electro pop act Isaac Delusion was formed back in 2010 by its core duo, longtime friends Loïc Fleury (vocals, guitar) and Jules Paco (keys). Shortly after their formation, the project expanded to incorporate a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators. Interestingly, with the release of 2014’s self-titled debut effort, the Paris-based act began to receive attention for a sound that meshed acoustic instrumentation with electronics — while nodding a bit at dream pop.

Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them in the French electro pop scene, the act toured extensively across France and Europe to support their full-length debut. The band’s sophomore effort  2017’s Rust & Gold found the duo shifting away from ethereal and atmospheric dream pop and leaning heavily towards more soulful rhythms, tangible emotions and insightful observations on love and the human condition.

Since the release of the French electro pop act’s first two albums, they’ve amassed over 500,000 Spotify streams a month, played Pitchfork Paris, as well as sold-out headlining shows at venues like  L’Olympia and Elysee Montmarte. Now, as you may recall, the duo’s third album uplifters is slated for release this Friday through Microqlima Records, and the album reportedly is centered around a misplaced nostalgia for a long-passed youth (which is fitting for the act’s core duo, as they’ve inched into their 30s). As a result, the material is imbued with a longing for the freedom and unguarded honesty of their younger selves — and reset for the missed opportunities you can never get back. And much like its predecessors, the material off uplifters is primarily written and sung in English with a handful of songs written and sung in their native French.

Last month, I wrote about “pas habitude,” a breezy synth pop song centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, plaintive and dreamy vocals, a sinuous bass line and an infectious, razor sharp hook  — and yet, the song’s breeziness is at best superficial, as the song possesses a bittersweet heartache and nostalgia for a seemingly simpler past. Coincidentally, “pas habitude” is one of the few album tracks written and sung in the duo’s native French. Interestingly, the album’s latest track “disorder” is a taut yet breezy track centered around a disco-like bass line, shimmering synth arpeggios, four-on-the-floor drumming and plaintive falsetto vocals that finds the duo recalling Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk.

“Like natural laws, order can rise from chaos,” the duo says in press notes. “We sometimes need to follow our intuitions and desires, even when they seem to lead towards dangerous ground.”

The duo will be playing a handful of European dates in 2020. Check out the tour dates below.

 

LIVE DATES
25 February LONDON Omeara
28 February KÖLN Artheater
29 February BERLIN Bi Nuu
 2 March HAMBURG Nichtspeicher
 4 March AMSTERDAM Paradiso Upstairs
 6 March BRUSSELS Botanique
 7 March LAUSANNE Les Docks