JOVM celebrates Thom Yorke’s 53rd birthday.
I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the rising Québec-born and-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer Josie Boivin, the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded recording project and JOVM mainstay act MUNYA over the past couple of years.
And if you’ve been frequenting this site over that same period, you may recall that when Boivin was asked to play at 2017’s Pop Montreal, she had only written one song. Ironically, at the time, Boivin never intended to pursue music full-time; but after playing at the festival, she quickly realized that music was what she was meant to do. So, Boivin quit her day job, moved in with her sister and turned their kitchen into a home recording studio, where she wrote every day. Those recordings would become part of an EP trilogy with each individual EP named after a significant place in Boivin’s life: Her debut North Hatley EP derived its name from one of Boivin’s favorite little Québecois villages. Her second EP, the critically applauded Delmano EP derived its name from Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based bar Hotel Delmano. The third and final EP of the trilogy, Blue Pine derived its name from the Blue Pine Mountains in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
Since the release of her critically applauded EP trilogy, the Québecois JOVM mainstay has released a string of singles including the Washed Out-like “Pour Toi,” a single centered around the aching and unfulfilled longing of being forced to speak to a loved one from a distance. Boivin has also been busy working on her highly-anticipated full-length debut Voyage to Mars.
With a background in opera and jazz, Boivin’s life has been centered around two big dreams: to be a musician — and to go to Mars. “I love space. I love aliens. I love thinking that we’re not alone in this big strange universe,” she says. “Those things give me hope.” Naturally, that hope led to Voyage to Mars, an album that derives its title from Georges Méliès’ classic silent film Le Voyage dans la Lune. Slated for a November 5, 2021 release through Luminelle Recordings, the album’s material feels beamed in from another, more beautiful and whimsical world.
Last month, I wrote about Voyage to Mars‘ first official single “Cocoa Beach.” Deriving its title from the name of a Florida town, located about 15 miles from the John F. Kennedy Space Center, the song features a driving and funky bass line, four-on-the-floor, squiggling Nile Rodgers-like guitar, glistening synth arpeggios and Boivin’s dreamily coquettish vocals singing lyrics in English and French. The song is centered around the JOVM mainstay’s unerring knack for crafting a razor sharp, infectious hook — and fittingly, a ton of space and space travel-related imagery.
“’Cocoa Beach’ is a song about being fearless, about finding your inner force and embracing failure as your path to happiness,” Boivin explains in press notes. “It’s about pushing yourself over your limits and accomplishing the impossible through sheer force of will. It takes courage, dedication and many failures to reach your dreams…and that is the origin story of MUNYA.”
Voyage to Mars‘ latest single is a slow-burning cover of The Smashing Pumpkins‘ “Tonight, Tonight.” The cover sees the JOVM mainstay stripping some of the original’s bombast away for an intimate, bedroom pop-like production centered around shimmering and reverb drenched guitars and skittering beats paired with Boivin’s ethereal and plaintive vocals. But what the MUNYA covers does is retain the song’s melancholy and wistful air within a breezy, hook driven framework.
“My sister shared the ‘Tonight, Tonight’ video with me at a very young age, I vividly remember feeling certain emotions for the first time: longing, sadness and a hopeful melancholy,” Boivin says in press notes. “In a weird way it was also my introduction to exploring space and the infinite possibilities that humans can achieve if they embrace the urgency of now. With everything going on, I felt like it was time to share my love for this song and hopefully inspire a new generation to realize life is a galaxy of endless possibilities, as long as we don’t hesitate and act now.”
Led by highly accomplished, Los Angeles-born, Seattle-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontperson Jessica Dobson, Seattle-based indie rock outfit Deep Sea Diver can trace its origins back to when Dobson was 19: Dobson, who has had stints playing with a who’s who list of contemporary acts, including Beck, Conor Oberst, Spoon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Shins signed with Atlantic Records. And while with Atlantic Records, Dobson wrote and recorded two albums that she wasn’t completely satisfied with. Atlantic Records shelved the material and ultimately dropped her from the label.
After leaving Atlantic, Dobson wrote and recorded her official solo debut EP New Caves under the name Deep Sea Diver. The project expanded to a full-fledged band with the addition of John Raines (bass) Dobson’s spouse Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, synth), who helped to flesh out the project’s sound. The band then went on to release two albums and an EP — 2012’s self-released debut History Speaks, 2014’s Always Waiting EP and 2016’s acclaimed Secrets.
Last October saw the release of the band’s critically applauded third album Impossible Weight through High Beam Records/ATO Records, and the album followed a busy year of touring with Wilco and Joseph. Sonically and thematically, the album stemmed from a period of sometimes brutal self-examination — a process that began for Dobson, not long after Deep Sea Diver finished touring to support Secrets. “We went into the studio pretty quickly after the tour ended, and I sort of hit a wall where I was feeling very detached from making music, and unable to find joy in it,” Dobson recalls in press notes. “I realized I had to try to rediscover my voice as a songwriter, and figure out the vocabulary for what I needed to say on this album.”
Stepping back from music and the studio, Dobson focused on dealing with the depression she had been struggling with, and soon started volunteering for Aurora Commons, a drop-in center for unhoused people, most whom are drug-dependent and frequently engage in street-survival-based sex work. “I spent a lot of time with the women who frequent the Commons, and it taught me a new depth of empathy,” she says. “They’re people who don’t have the luxury of going back to a home at the end of the day and hiding behind those four walls, so they’re sort of forced to be vulnerable with what their needs are. Talking with them and listening to them really freed me up to start writing about things I’d never written about before in my songs.”
Co-produced by Dobson and Andy D. Park and recorded at Seattle’s Studio X and The Hall of Justice, Impossible Weight finds Dobson and company digging far deeper emotionally than ever before — and pairing it with a bigger, more grandiose sound. While revealing Dobson’s dexterous and powerful guitar work, the album’s lush textures and mercurial arrangements allow room for Dobson to fully demonstrate her vocal range in a way that she hadn’t before. “’I’d never produced a record before and I started out with low expectations for myself, but at some point I realized, ‘I can do this,’” Dobson recalls. “I decided to completely trust my voice and make really bold decisions in all my production calls—just push everything to the absolute outer edges.
For Dobson redefining the limits of her artistry went hand-in-hand with deeper identity issues that came up while Dobson and her bandmates were working on the album. “I was adopted and just recently met my birth mother, and found out that I’m half-Mexican and half-Jewish,” Deep Sea Diver’s frontperson explained in press notes. “Discovering my heritage and learning things about myself that I never knew before really fed into that question of ‘Where do I belong?’” Simultaneously, Dobson rediscovered the sense of possibility, adventure and joy that she first felt when she started out as a 19 year-old. “I think being signed at such a young age messed me up in terms of the expectations I put on myself,” she says. “Somewhere along the way I lost confidence in my own vision, but after making this record I feel a much larger freedom to go in whatever direction I want with my music.”
With Impossible Weight, Dobson hopes that others might reclaim a similar sense of freedom in their emotional lives. “Especially right now when the world is in disarray and there’s so much fear, I want this record to give people room to feel whatever they need to feel,” she says. “I hope it helps them recognize that it’s okay to fall apart, and that they’re meant to let others in instead of trying to work through everything on their own. Because the point is that the impossible weight isn’t yours to carry alone—that’s why it’s impossible.”
If you were following this site last year — bless you for that, seriously — you may recall that I wrote about a couple of the album’s singles:
- “Lights Out,” a track that contained multitudes, as it was deviant and anthemic yet delicate. Centered around Dobson’s expressive guitar work, a thunderous rhythm section an enormous raise-your-beer-in-the-air-and-shout-along worthy hook and Dobson’s equally expressive vocals, the song featured a bold and fearlessly vulnerable, who seems to say to the listener “It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay and that you may need some help to get you out of life’s dark places.”
- Album title track “Impossible Weight,” a track that’s one-part New Wave and one-part arena rock with enormous hooks, twinkling synths, Dobson’s expressive and explosive guitar work rooted in heart-fully-on-sleeve songwriting. And while revealing Dobson’s unerring knack for crafting an anthemic hook, the song captures a narrator on the emotional brink with an novelistic attention to psychological detail. A guest spot from Sharon Van Etten, managed to add an additional emotional punch.
Deep Sea Diver is currently on tour to support Impossible Weight. They started the tour with handful of dates opening up for Northwestern indie rock legends Death Cab for Cutie before going on a headlining tour that includes a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg with Diane Coffee. They’ll head to California for four dates opening for Aussie indie rock act Middle Kids before ending with a sold-out hometown show at Seattle’s The Showbox. Tour dates and ticket information as always will be below.
But in the meantime, Dobson and company teamed up with Damien Jurado for a cover of one of my favorite Alanis Morisette songs “Hand In My Pocket.” Instead of a straightforward cover Deep Sea Diver and Jurado make the song their own by placing the song in a completely different arrangement with the song beginning as a sort of slow-burning lullaby centered around strummed guitar that slowly builds up into some blazing, guitar pyrotechnics before gentle coda.
“One of my favorite things in the world is to cover a larger than life song and try and make it my own,” Deep Sea Diver’s Jessica Dobson says. “Growing up in the 90’s, Alanis was one of the only female artists in the rock world that I had to look up to. I’ve always felt like someone that never finds a home in the middle. ‘Hand In My Pocket’ is a song that so perfectly captured the many juxtapositions in life while making me feel like it was completely fine to be whatever I wanted to be. This cover was recorded in my home studio and I asked Damien Jurado to sing with me on it because I’ve always loved the emotion in his voice. This year marked the 25th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill and I wanted to honor this incredible song and I hope I did it justice. Much love to Alanis!”
Gold Coast, Australia-based alt rock trio boWsER — Nathan Williams, Otto Miller, Jr. and Brad Weynton – formed well over a decade ago, and when its members met, they recognized an instant connection and a desire to make music that pushed each individual member in new creative directions while crafting an enormous, power chord-driven sound that drew comparisons to Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures.
The trio quickly attained enviable and immediate success: After signing a worldwide publishing deal with EMI, they released their critically applauded debut mini album, 2007’s Modus Operandi, an effort that earned them The Courier-Mail People’s Choice Award nomination in the Rock category and a Q Song Awards nomination. Adding to a rapidly growing profile in their native Australia, boWsER were hand-selected by Triple J Unearthed to open for Eagles of Death Metal during their Australian tour.
The Aussie rock act ended a 13 year hiatus with the release of “People in the TV,” the first single off their forthcoming Steve James-produced sophomore effort Whispers From The Wickerman. The album’s second single “Supersonic” features a classic grunge rock song structure of alternating quiet verses and loud choruses, fuzz pedaled and churning power chord-driven riffs, a sinuous bass line, thunderous drumming and massive, arena rock friendly hooks that — to my ears, at least — reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf and Foo Fighters‘ One by One and Wasting Light, delivered with a similar swagger.
Formed back in the mid 80s, the Paisley, Scotland, UK-based alt rock/indie rock act Close Lobsters— Andrew Burnett, Bob Burnett, Tom Donnelly, and Stewart McFayden — first came to prominence with “Firestation Towers,” a track that appeared on NME‘s C86 compilation.
Shortly, after the release of that compilation, the Scottish alt rock quartet signed to Fire Records, who released their debut single “Going To Heaven To See If It Rains” in October 1986. Their second single “Never Seen Before” was released in April 1987 and the single managed to establish the act as one of the region’s leading emerging indie bands at that time. Building upon a growing profile, the band went on to release two albums: 1987’s Foxheads Stalk This Land, which was released to praise from Rolling Stone, who wrote that the album was “first-rate guitar pop from a top-shelf band. Close Lobsters could have been just another jangle group, but they have a lot more going for them than just chiming Rickenbackers” — and 1989’s Headache Rhetoric.
By 1989, the band’s popularity on US college radio led to an appearance at that year’s New Music Seminar and an extensive Stateside tour. After successful tours across the UK, Germany, the States and Canada, the band went on an extended hiatus. Fire Records released the Forever, Until Victory! singles retrospective in October 2009. (Interestingly, the retrospective’s title is derived from the reputed last sign-off in a letter Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who wrote to Fidel Castro, “¡Hasta la victoria siempre!”)
After a 23-year hiatus, the members of the Scottish indie rock act reunited to play 2012’s Madrid Popfest, Glasgow Popfest and Popfest Berlin, which they followed up with 2013’s NYC Popfest. May 2014 saw the band playing Copenhagen Popfest, and the release of the first batch of new recorded material from the band in 25 years, that year’s Kunstwerk in Spacetime EP, which featured the attention grabbing lead single “Now Time.” After releasing one more single in 2015, the band went back on hiatus.
Released earlier this year through Last Night From Glasgow and Shelflife Records in the States, Close Lobsters’ John Rivers-produced Post Neo Anti is the first full-length album from the Scottish indie rock band in 31 years. Recorded between 2014 and 2019, the Roberts-produced album finds them collaborating with the producer of their 1986 debut — and in some way the long-awaited album is a sort of return to form. “Godless,” Post Neo Anti’s second and latest single is a slow-burning and jangling bit of guitar pop that brings Starfish-era The Church to mind — in particular, Hotel Womb.” Interestingly, the song manages to capture the desperate, exhausting, infuriating and uncertain air of our moment, but with the hopes that we’ll able to tour our morally bankrupt world into a better, fairer place.
The recently released video is part lyric video, and part stylish and brooding mediation and part live performance footage with an eerie quality. Throughout there’s this sense of absence and longing.
Best known as the founding member, frontman and creative mastermind behind JOVM mainstays The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli has a well-established reputation as a poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire and all things dark and brooding.
Although Dulli has been involved in a number of projects during his 30+ year recording career, his first solo full-length album under his own name Random Desire is slated for a February 21, 2020 release through Royal Cream/BMG. Random Desire can trace its origins to the aftermath of The Afghan Whigs’ most recent album, 2017’s critically applauded In Spades: Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical from the band to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator and bandmate John Curley went back to school. And the band’s longtime guitarist Dave Rosser tragically died after a battle with colon cancer.
So Dulli returned to his teenaged bedroom roots, finding inspiration through the model of legendary, one-man, multi-instrumentalist band visionaries like Prince and Todd Rundgren with the Hamilton, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter writing and playing almost every part of the album — from piano and bass lines to drums. Much like he’s always done throughout his career, the music came first and the lyrics completed later. Written and recorded in several different locations including Dulli’s Silver Lake home; Crestline, CA, in the mountains above San Bernardino; and New Orleans — with the bulk of the album being done at Christopher Thorne’s Joshua Tree, CA-based studio. While Dulli handled most of the album’s instrumental duties, he managed to collaborate with an all-star cast of musicians including his Afghan Whigs bandmates Jon Skibic (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, his Twilight Singers bandmate Mathias Schneeberger, Dr. Stephen Patt (pedal steel and upright bass) and Queens of the Stone Age‘s and The Mars Volta‘s Jon Theodore (drums).
“Pantomina,” Random Desire‘s swaggering and self-assured first single is centered around layers of buzzing power chords, a handclap-led hook and lyrics that alternate between sardonic, desperately lonely, and triumphant — often within a turn of a phrase. Much like his acclaimed work with The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, the new single delves into the psyche and emotions of a deeply fucked up, dysfunctional narrator with fucked up, dysfunctional relationships — but there’s also a hard fought, world-weary wisdom at its core.
Directed by longtime Afghan Whigs visual collaborator Philip Harder, who stars as Bob Fosse, along with dancers, Paula Vasquez Alzate, Desare Cox, Elayana Waxse, Maggie Zepp, LaTanya Cannaday, Karen Yang, Mia Bird and Reyona Elkins, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “Pantomina” captures the life behind-the-scenes and on-stage with an intimacy and familiarity of performer, before going to the frenetically shot performance and the collapse, then death of its hard-living, harder working choreographer protagonist. As Greg Dulli says in press notes. the video “is a homage to the movie All That Jazz. ‘Pantomina’ feels like a show tune to me.”
Currently comprised of founding members Donita Sparks (vocals, guitar) and Suzi Gardner (guitar, vocals) along with Jennifer Finch (bass) and Demetra Plakas (drums), the acclaimed and pioneering, Los Angeles-based grunge act L7 can trace their origins back to 1985, a full year after Gardner had contributed backing vocals to Black Flag’s “Slip It In.”
Once Sparks and Gardner formed the band, they were added by Finch and Roy Koutsky (drums). Koutsky left shortly after and was briefly replaced by Anne Anderson (drums) in 1988. After Anderson left the band, Plakas became the band’s permanent drummer. Although they formed Rock for Choice, a pro-choice women’s rights group that was supported by the likes of Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, and Rage Against the Machine, they’re best known for their third album, 1992’s Butch Vig-produced Bricks Are Heavy, which featured their seminal track (and smash hit) “Pretend We’re Dead.” “Pretend We’re Dead” spent 13 weeks on the US Alternative Charts, peaking at #8 and reached #21 on the UK Singles Chart.
After the release of 1994’s Hungry for Stink, which was supported by that year’s Lollapalooza tour with Smashing Pumpkins and The Breeders, the band went through a number of lineup changes: Finch left the band during the recording of 1997’s The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum, an album that featured bass playing by Sparks and Greta Brinkman; however, Belly’s Gail Greenwood joined the band.
1999’s Slap-Happy didn’t chart on either side of the Atlantic, and sometime after the release of that album, the Los Angeles-based grunge band went through yet another lineup changes with Greenwood leaving the band to be replaced by Stone Fox’s Janis Tanaka, who later played bass in Pink’s and Bif Naked’s backing bands.
By 2001, the members of L7 weren’t touring and were on an indefinite hiatus. During that time Sparks formed a new band, Donita Sparks and The Stellar Moments while Finch was a member of punk rock act The Shocker. Simultaneously during that period, Sparks was working on a documentary on the band, which was rumored to have a 2014 release date. And interestingly enough, by the end of 2014 the band announced that they would reuniting featuring the lineup with which they achieved their biggest success — Sparks, Gardner, Finch and Plakas.
The reunited L7 toured Europe and North America with a number of stops across the international circuit in 2015 including Germany’s Rock am Ring, Riot Fest stops in Denver and Chicago, and Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Festival. The Sarah Price-directed L7 documentary, L7: Pretend We’re Dead was released in 2016 while the band was on a busy tour schedule throughout both 2016 and 2017.
Building upon the growing buzz surrounding the reunited band, the members of the Los Angeles-based grunge outfit released “Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago,” their first new song in almost 18 years in September 2017. They followed that up with “I Came Back to Bitch,” which was released in February 2018. The band’s recently released seventh album Scatter the Rats is the first album from the Los Angeles-based grunge outfit in 20 years and from album singles “Burn Baby” and “Stadium West,” the new album is sort of a return to form: scuzzy and distorted power chords, thunderous drumming, snarled lyrics and rousingly anthemic hooks. And interestingly enough, both singles reveal that the members of L7 have had a massive influence on contemporary indie rock — you can hear L7’s influence in the work of JOVM mainstays The Coathangers, Sharkmuffin, Dream Wife and others.
Currently comprised of founding members Mark Arm (vocals, rhythm guitar), Steve Turner (lead guitar) and Guy Maddison (bass), along with Dan Peters (drums), who joined the band in 1999, the Seattle, WA-based alt rock/grunge rock band Mudhoney officially formed back in 1988 although the band can trace its origins to the breakup of Green River, a proto-grunge band that at one point featured Alex Vincent (drums), Jeff Ament (bass), Steve Turner, and Stone Gossard (guitar). After releasing two EPs, and several lineup changes, Green River eventually split up with Bruce Fairweather, Gossard and Ament eventually joining Mother Love Bone. Now, if you know your grunge history, you’d know that after Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood died from an overdose, Gossard and Ament went on to form Pearl Jam while Arm and Turner reunited to form Mudhoney.
Mudhoney’s earliest releases through Sub Pop Records — namely “Touch Me I’m Sick” and the Superfuzz Bigmuff EP wound up becoming massively influential with the band being credited as being the godfathers of Seattle’s grunge rock sound, a sound that we all know is generally centered around scuzzy, distortion pedal heavy power chords. But despite their towering influence on alt rock, the band has never really seen much commercial success — although Nirvana covered Mudhoney during their legendary Unplugged, filmed and recorded a few weeks before Kurt Cobain’s suicide.
Slated for a September 28, 2018 through their longtime label home, the beloved Pacific Northwest-based grunge legends tenth full-length album Digital Garbage is reportedly, one of the band’s most sociopolitically incisive and blistering albums they’ve recorded; in fact, Digital Garbage’s first single “Paranoid Core” captures the distrust of experts and facts, the rampant fear-mongering and emotional exploitation and the very primal, lizard brained instinctual response that rules our current zeitgeist. And its all centered around boozy, old school punk rock guitar chords, a propulsive back beat and bass line. Western civilization and American democracy are about to collapse before our very eyes but goddamn it, there’s at least rock ‘n’ roll.
Earlier this month, I caught the Brooklyn-based alt rock duo Deaf Poets play on a bill featuring Chicago-based post-punk act Ganser and the Brooklyn-based New Wave act Winkie at Saint Vitus, and as you may recall, the up-and-coming rock duo, comprised of Miami Beach, FL-born, New York-based duo of Sean Wouters (vocals, guitar) and Nico Espinosa (vocals, percussion) can trace their origins to when they met in elementary school. During high school, Wouters and Espinosa went through a long process of musical experimentation, which ultimately led to their founding of Deaf Poets — and since their formation, the Miami Beach-born, New York-based duo have received attention for a sound that effortlessly meshes elements of 70s rock with 80s punk and 90s grunge.
While in their hometown, the duo cemented a place in South Florida’s indie scene, playing some of the area’s best known venues, including Churchill’s, Bardot, Gramps and Grand Central, ultimately being named “Best Band of Miami” in 2014 and one of the “20 Most Influential People of Miami” in 2015 by The Miami New Times. Adding to a growing profile, “Degenerate Mind” off their debut album 4150 was part of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 video game soundtrack and was featured as part of Classic Rock Magazine‘s 2014 compilation CD. Along with that, the duo became a regular presence at iiiPoints Festival, where they played four consecutive years on bills that have included Mac DeMarco and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Additionally, they’ve opened for Matt and Kim and shared stages with Andy Rourke, The Ettes, Pujol, Jennie Vee, The Peach Kings, The Psychedelic Furs, The Growlers, and Dorothy.
Like countless hungry bands before them, the members of Deaf Poets recently relocated to New York, and unsurprisingly, their soon-to-be released EP Change & Bloom is reportedly inspired by the events and personal experiences that have transpired before and during their move, arguably making it one of the more personal and honest efforts of their young and growing catalog — and while the EP will further cement their reputation for swaggering crafting hard-hitting, power chord-based, arena rock, the EP’s latest single “Cigarette,” features a moody and expansive alternating quiet, loud, quiet song structure centered around effortless time signature changes, tribal-influenced drumming and some impressive and forceful guitar pyrotechnics, revealing an ambitious band experimenting with both their sound and songwriting.