Tag: Amsterdam The Netherlands

Over the past 18 months or so, I’ve written quite about the Utrecht, The Netherlands-based singer/songwriter Annelotte de Graff and her solo recording project Amber Arcades, and as you may recall with the release of her full-length debut Fading Light, de Graaf received international attention for an album that thematically focused on the and the relativistic experience of it, magic, jet lag and her own dreams, which have managed to influence much of her personal and creative life; in fact, as the story goes, De Graaf used her life savings for a flight to New York and studio time to record her debut with Ben Greenberg, who has worked with The Men, Beach Fossils and Destruction Unit, and a studio backing band that included Quilt’s Shane Butler (guitar) and Keven Lareau (bass) and Real Esate’s Jackson Pollis (drums) — both of whom she had specifically hand picked because she had dreamt of working with them. Along with that, De Graaf had a long-held dream of working for the UN, and she eventually worked as a legal aide on UN war crime tribunals and n human rights and immigration law, assisting Syrian refugees.

Last year, saw the release of the critically applauded Cannonball EP, which was among my favorite releases last year — in particular, the gorgeously shot video for “Wouldn’t Even Know,” which featured a guest spot from British singer/songwriter, composer, producer and guitarist  Bill Ryder-Jones brought back memories of riding trains through the Dutch countryside from Amsterdam to Dordrecht, passing through and by towns like Abcoude, The Hague, Breukelen and others. Along with that, EP singles like “It Changes” and her cover of Nick Drake’s “Which Will,” revealed a singer/songwriter with an self-assured yet uncanny knack for a catchy hook within jangling guitar pop.

De Graaf’s latest single “Goodnight Europe” is the first taste of her forthcoming sophomore, full-length album slated for release later this year, and the single finds the renowned Dutch singer/songwriter’s sound leaning heavily towards Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, T. Rex and Sgt. Pepper and Let It Be-era Beatles, as the song features some impressive and bluesy guitar work paired with a gorgeous string arrangement — and the song manages to further cement De Graaf’s ability to craft a razor sharp hook around some thoughtful songwriting; in fact, the song is a meditation on the current state of the European Union, written from the perspective of a dysfunctional and confusing romantic relationship that’s inescapably odd. As De Graaf explains in press notes, “I guess about half of it is me actually being worried about the current state of the Union. The other half is me kind of messing around with, and making fun of, this archetype of the tiresome existentialist academic in me.”

New Video: Up-and-Coming Dutch Singer/Songwriter Nana Adjoa Releases Symbolic Visuals for Soulful Single “Honestly”

If you follow me through the various social media platforms, you’d know that I’ve had an absolutely epic time during my first two days in the Windy City — and everyone I’ve met has been a wonderful and kind ambassador to their hometown. Man, right now, I feel as though Chicago can’t do me wrong. But on to the business end of things  . . . 

Nana Adjoa is an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter, whose father emigrated to Amsterdam in the 1980s and eventually married the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter’s “very Dutch” mother. Growing up, Adjoa spent a portion of her childhood in the rough and tumble, working class Biljmer neighborhood, a section once described by a local police chief a “national disaster area.” In press notes, Adjoa describes her upbringing as being fairly liberal until her parents’ divorce and their subsequent embrace of Christianity. “The second part off my growing up was with some Christian values, but by this point, I was getting to the age of making up my own mind,” the Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter recalls in press notes. “It was a bit too late for me.” Eventually, there was a rift within her family with the Christians (Nan’s father, mother and brother) on one side and the non-Christians (Nana, her sister and the rest of the extended family) on the other. Understandably religion, as well as questions about her own gender identity and of being a black person in an extremely white environment have been regularly occurring themes and concerns in her work. “In fact, I think I still unconsciously use a lot of Christian ideas and metaphors in my music,” she adds.

Adjoa was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory to study jazz (electric bass and double bass); however, she found the the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would. “It was very much like school,” she says. “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.” Around the same time, the Amsterdam-born and-based 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. Adjoa began to realize that pursing a solo was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a band and record her original songs, which has resulted in the attention grabbing Down at the Root Part 1 and the forthcoming Down at the Root Part 2.

“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single is an effortless, neo soul affair that nods at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, as the song reveals a quietly self-assured singer/songwriter beyond her relative youth, who can craft a song that’s driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody; but as Adjoa explains, the song is an “outsider track” that grew from a simple piano backing into its vibey, jazz-like arrangement. “I didn’t even think it was going to make the record because it felt so different from the rest,” Nana says. “I guess it’s about how people are scared of the possibility of something bad happening. And that fear is really strange because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Directed by Bear Damen, the recently released video for “Honestly” features Adjoa and her backing band, as the backing musical act for a surrealistic play; but underneath that are much deeper interpretations — including, the vulnerability of having someone capture your heart, and knowing that with a cruel or thoughtless act, that they can crush it. 

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstays METZ on “The Chris Gethard Show”

Over the past three or four years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Toronto, ON-based JOVM mainstays METZ, and as you may recall the trio’s third, full-length album Strange Peace was released last year, and album found the band retaining the furious and blistering energy of their live sets, while pushing their songwriting in new directions, with the most personal and politically charged material they’ve written yet, as it captures the anxiousness, uncertainty and fear of our time; but interestingly, the album’s material manages to suggest that when things are their bleakest, that you aren’t alone, because they are others just like you.  As the band’s Alex Eadkins explained in press notes, “The songs on Strange Peace are about uncertainty. They’re about recognizing that we’re not always in control of our own fate, and about admitting our mistakes and fears. They’re about finding some semblance of peace within the chaos.”

The members of METZ have been relentless road warriors, melting faces and pummeling eardrums on stages large and small all across the world, and before  embarking on an extensive world tour that will include stops in lovely Amsterdam and Rotterdam and elsewhere, METZ appeared on truTV’s The Chris Gethard Show, where they played a face melting set featuring singles “Mr. Plague,” “Cellophane” and “Mess of Wires.” Oh and check out the exuberant dude in the banana suit, because if you had even half his exuberance, life would be way more fun. 

 

Nana Adjoa is an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter, whose father emigrated to Amsterdam in the 1980s and eventually married the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter’s “very Dutch” mother. Growing up, Adjoa spent a portion of her childhood in the rough and tumble, working class Biljmer neighborhood, a section once described by a local police chief a “national disaster area.” In press notes, Adjoa describes her upbringing as being fairly liberal until her parents’ divorce and their subsequent embrace of Christianity. “The second part off my growing up was with some Christian values, but by this point, I was getting to the age of making up my own mind,” the Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter recalls in press notes. “It was a bit too late for me.” Eventually, there was a rift within her family with the Christians (Nan’s father, mother and brother) on one side and the non-Christians (Nana, her sister and the rest of the extended family) on the other. Understandably religion, as well as questions about her own gender identity and of being a black person in an extremely white environment have been regularly occurring themes and concerns in her work. “In fact, I think I still unconsciously use a lot of Christian ideas and metaphors in my music,” she adds.

Adjoa was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory to study jazz (electric bass and double bass); however, she found the the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would. “It was very much like school,” she says. “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.” Around the same time, the Amsterdam-born and-based 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. Adjoa began to realize that pursing a solo was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a band and record her original songs, which has resulted in the attention grabbing Down at the Root Part 1 and the forthcoming Down at the Root Part 2.

“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single is an effortless, neo soul affair that nods at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, as the song reveals a quietly self-assured singer/songwriter beyond her relative youth, who can craft a song that’s driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody; but as Adjoa explains, the song is an “outsider track” that grew from a simple piano backing into its vibey, jazz-like arrangement. “I didn’t even think it was going to make the record because it felt so different from the rest,” Nana says. “I guess it’s about how people are scared of the possibility of something bad happening. And that fear is really strange because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen.”

 

New Video: Up-and-Coming British Act ISLAND Release Gorgeously Cinematic Visuals for Soaring Album Single “Horizon”

ISLAND, an up-and-coming London-based act can trace their origins to when vocalist Rollo Doherty’s solo, acoustic, bedroom project expanded to a fully fleshed out band with the addition of Jack Raeder (guitar), James Wolfe (bass) and Toby Richards (drums)  — and with the release of two critically applauded EPs, the band have quickly developed a reputation for crafting atmospheric yet anthemic, arena rock friendly material largely inspired by the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Kings of Leon, The War On Drugs, Grizzly Bear and others, and for must-see live see that they’ve honed through some relentless touring of the UK and European Union over the course of 2017.

Building upon their growing profile, the London-based quartet’s highly-anticipated self-produced, full-length debut Feels Like Air reportedly continues their long-held DIY approach to the creative process while further cementing their reputation for crafting incredibly self-assured earnest and anthemic songs; in fact, album singles “Try,” “The Day I Die,” and “Ride” have amassed a total of over 2.6 million Spotify steams — with the band earning nearly half-a-million monthly listeners.  Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Horizon” is a slow-burning, atmospheric track with enormous, arena friendly hooks reminiscent of Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree-era U2 and while self-assured, it reveals a band that’s managing the difficult balance of an ambitious desire to rock everyone’s pants off with a thoughtful and deliberate attention to mood and craft.

Directed by Claes Nordwall, the recently released, and incredibly cinematic video for “Horizon” follows the members of the band driving through the snowy Swedish countryside, with each individual member broodingly lost in their thoughts. And as the members of the band explain in press notes, the video “captures a key theme of the album as a whole — the idea of a passenger drifting through different dreams on a journey. We wanted the video to reflect the open soundscape, we feel the song creates, so we jumped at the chance to shoot in the vast Swedish countryside. Claes took us back to his snowy hometown for the video, which had an amazing dreamlike feel that really suited the ideas we wanted to convey.

Live Footage: Alice Phoebe Lou Performing the Oscar-Shortlisted Song “She” in Berlin

Alice Phoebe Lou is a Cape Town, South Africa-born, Berlin, Germany-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who has developed a reputation for a fiercely independent, almost punk rock-like DIY approach to her ethereal indie folk music. Although her parents were documentary filmmakers, Lou took piano lessons as a child and then as a teenager, taught herself to play guitar. As the story goes, when the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was 16, she spent a summer vacation visiting her aunt in Paris. Armed with an acoustic guitar, the young singer/songwriter met a number of buskers and other street performers — some who taught her poi dancing.

Upon graduation, Lou went to Europe — first landing in Amsterdam, where she made money as a poi dancer, before relocating to Berlin, where she became a popular busker, performing interpretations of popular songs and her own original material, and eventually developing her own unique sound.  With the release of her 2014 self-released debut EP Momentum, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist began receiving international attention — and as a result, she spent the following year performing at a number of TED events in London and Berlin, as well as Exponential Medicine.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Lou released her critically applauded, 2016 full-length debut Orbit, which saw her garner a nomination for Best Female Artist at that year’s German Critics’ Choice Awards, as well as a set at the 27th Annual Conference for the Professional Business Women of California, which featured keynote speakers Venus Williams, Judy Smith, and Memory Banda. Additionally, Lou spent much of 2016 on the road, touring to support her debut effort, sharing bills with Sixto Rodriguez, Boy & Bear, Allen Stone and Crystal Fighters. During the course of that year, she played three multimedia sold out events at the Berlin Planetarium — and by demand, she added two additional planetarium shows to her 2017 tour itinerary.

Along with the Berlin Planetarium shows, Lou saw a live version of “She” with the live performance video, shot during two different Berlin area shows going viral — and as of this post, the video has received over 2.5 million YouTube streams. Interestingly, the song is also featured in the major motion picture Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story , with the song recently being shortlisted for an Oscar for Best Original Song. Adding to an incredible run of critical success, Lou released her latest EP, Sola at the end of last year.

As for “She,” the song will further cement the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based artist’s reputation for her ethereal and tender soprano — but in this case, paired around what may be the most shoegazer rock-like arrangement, she’s ever produced as the song features looping and shimmering guitar chords, thundering and tribal-like drumming,  gently swirling electronics and an anthemic hook. And while at points the song is reminiscent of the likes of Wolf Alice, Lightfoils and others, it possesses a restless longing at its core.

A studio version of “She” is slated for a February 23, 2018 release, and after the single’s release, Lou will embark on a international tour that will include a Stateside run. And a new album is currently in the works, too.

 
 

New Video: Amsterdam’s The Tibbs Release Film Noir-like Visuals for New Single “Lies”

Comprised of Elsa Bekman (vocals), Henk Kemkes (guitar), Michael Willemsen (bass), Bas de Vries (drums), Paul Jonker (Hammond), Berd Ruttenberg (baritone sax), Coen de Vries (tenor sax) and Siebe Posthuma de Boer (trumpet), the Amsterdam, The Netherlands-based soul act The Tibbs formed in 2012 and within their first couple of years together, they developed a reputation nationally as one of their country’s finest soul acts; in fact, they self-released an attention grabbing demo, which was followed by a 45rpm vinyl release through German funk label Tramp Records, and their full-length debut Takin’ Over, which was released by Italian soul and funk label, Record Kicks Records, the label home of Hannah Williams and the Affirmations and Marta Ren and the Groovelets among others. Adding to a growing profile, the band has played the North Sea Jazz Club and have a live performance on Dutch national Radio 6 (since renamed NPO Soul and Jazz). 

“Lies,” the Dutch soul act’s latest single was officially released today as a 45rpm vinyl and digital download through Record Kicks, and the single will further cement Record Kicks Records as purveyors of the some of the Europe’s — if not the world’s — finest soul acts. And naturally, the single prominently features Bekman’s incredibly soulful, pop star belter vocals paired with a backing band, much like the aforementioned Affirmations could give the Daptone crew a run for their money. Thematically and lyrically, the song is  a classic soul-inspired torch burner that focuses on a narrator, who is desperate to break out of an oppressive and deeply frustrating routine, and recognizing that in order to do so, requires an almost superhuman resolve, strength and sense of independence; and that worse yet, that while necessary for her, it’ll be painfully lonely. 

Look for the Dutch act’s highly-anticipated sophomore effort, which will include “Lies” sometime in 2018 — but in the meantime, the recently released film noir-like video, directed by the band’s Ekman, features her as a bored and dissatisfied wife, who recognizes that if she doesn’t break out of a dreadful, soul sucking routine, she’ll die doing the same exact thing as she’s always done; and from the moment the performance sequences begin Ekman goes from meek and compliant to a stomping, force of nature that demands your attention.  

Initially formed as a full-fledged band featuring production duo and founding members Matteo Iannella and Jeroen van Leeuwen, the Amsterdam-based electro pop act Single Pilot can trace their origins to when Ianella and Leeuwen met while studying at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. As a full band, the act were finalists in the Dutch music competition De Grote Prijs van Nederland in 2015, which expanded their national profile; however, since then, the project has gone through both a massive lineup shuffling and a radical change of sonic direction with the act’s founding duo leaning heavily towards a contemporary electro pop sound while collaborating with guest vocalists. Interestingly, both as a full-fledged band and as a duo, the act has seen commercial success — “Miracles” was featured on Dutch Spotify’s New Music Friday, Hot New Dance Tracks, Hot New Pop Tracks, and Hip-Hop/R&B/Dancehall Flavors playlists and reached #16 on the Viral 50; along with that, the track landed at #6 on the iTunes Electronic chart.

 

“Magic,” the Dutch electro pop duo’s latest single, finds the band collaborating with Avi on Fire‘s creative mastermind and vocalist Bram Wesdorp, and the single is a slickly produced, radio friendly, club-banger consisting of tweeter and woofer rocking beats, layers of arpeggio synths and a sinuous bass line paired with the sort of rousingly anthemic hooks reminiscent of St. Lucia, Passion Pit and others.

 

 

New Video: Warhaus Returns to Cement Their Reputation for Crafting A Boozy and Decadent Late Night Soundtrack

Over the better part of this year, you may have come across a couple of posts featuring Belgian singer/songwriter and guitarist Maarten Devoldere. Perhaps best known as the frontman and primary songwriter of the Belgian indie rock act Balthazar, an act that features members, who hail from Kortrijk and Ghent, Belgium; however, Devoldere has started to receive both national and international attention with his solo, side project,  Warhaus, which has further cemented his growing reputation for deftly crafting urbane and hyper-literate material with an accessible, pop-leaning sensibility with his work managing to simultaneously nod at the surrealistic and moody art rock of The Church, Sting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun, Edith Piaf, Leonard Cohen and the poetry of William Blake, complete with a decadent and boozy slide into sinful ruin. Unsurprisingly, one of his earliest Warhaus efforts We Fucked a Flame Into Being was derived from a line in DH Lawrence’s classic, erotic novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and the material thematically focused on lust, desire, the profound inscrutability of random encounters — with a decidedly European decadence and a deeply personal, confessional nature, as you would have heard on the slow-burning and sensual “Machinery.” 

“Love’s A Stranger,” an equally slow-burning rumination on love’s fleeting and impermanent nature and on adultery was interestingly enough, the first single off Devoldere’s sophomore Warhaus album, a self-titled effort slated for release on October 13, 2017 through [PIAS]  Recordings.  The material on Delvodere’s sophomore Warhaus effort was written largely on the road, as well as on a remote Kyrgyzstan retreat with only a local shepherd for company, and was recorded back home in Belgium. But whereas his previously recorded efforts focused on sin, lust and love — with a bittersweet aftertaste, reportedly, there’s at points where the worldly cynicism gives way to sincere, honest love; while pairing his boozy baritone with the gossamer vocals of his backing vocalist and girlfriend Sylvie Kreusch throughout. “We’ve very different people,” says Devoldere. “She’s this natural force which I don’t understand at all and I’m the guy who thinks everything through. It’s an interesting combination.”

Reportedly, the recording sessions for the self-titled album was a much more spontaneous affair, heavily influenced by Dr. John’s legendary The Night Tripper period, as you’ll hear hints at voodoo rhythms and hints at jazz — and although his touring band, aren’t technically known for being jazz musicians, as Devoldere says of his band, “they’re good at faking jazz.” And with “Mad World,” the album’s woozy and boozy, late night shuffle of a second single, the backing band pair lush and atmospheric strings, voodoo and jazz-inflected rhythms with Devoldere’s boozy baritone. And while evoking something of a late night, drunken stumble, the song focuses on desperate, unfulfilled lust and desire but within an angst-filled world that’s gone mad — and Delvodere does so in a way that feels and sounds like a charmingly roguish and nasty come on. 

The recently released video for “Mad World” was directed by frequent collaborator and friend Wouter Bouvjin and Benny Vandendrissche and shot in one continuous take by Jeronimo Fantini Foradellas during some nighttime escapes in Magaluf, Mallorca, a city known for wild parting, boozing and casual sex  — and the video features Maarteen Devoldere initially dancing in neon-drenched street by himself before random pedestrians join him or jump in front of the camera. Personally, while watching the video, I was reminded of walking out of the Sugar Factory nightclub in beautiful Amsterdam at 4:00 in the morning, and as I was heading back to my hotel room near the Museumplein, I came across a group of rowdy and fun-loving kids who were dancing and chanting in the street. And although I was alone and far away from home, there was something strangely comforting and warmly ridiculous at that moment, perhaps because we were all trying to escape our own loneliness?