Tag: Bon Iver

New Audio: Lonnie Holley Teams Up with Michael Stipe on Atmospheric Meditation “Oh Me, Oh My”

Lonnie Holley is an acclaimed, Birmingham, AL-born and-based multi-disciplinary artist, art educator and musician. Holley has had a profoundly difficult life, which has been well-documented: He was taken away from his family as a child by a burlesque dancer, who ultimately left him in the care of the proprietors of a whiskey house on the state fairgrounds. He then lived in several foster homes, before spending time at the notorious juvenile facility the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, where he suffered terrible abuse.

From the time he was a small boy — about five or so — Holley has managed to work a variety of jobs: He has picked up trash at drive-in movie theater, washed dishes, picked cotton, was a chef and was even a gravedigger.

Holley’s creative and artistic life began in earnest back in 1979: Heartbroken by the death of his sister’s two children, who tragically died in a house fire, he carved tombstones out of a soft sandstone-like byproduct of metal casting, which was discarded by a foundry near his sister’s house. He firmly believes that divine intervention led him to the material — and inspired his art.

He went on to make other carvings and began assembling them in his yard with various found objects. Locally, he began to occasionally be known as The Sand Man.

In 1981, Holley brought a few examples of his sandstone carvings to Birmingham Museum of Art director Richard Murray. Murray was so impressed that the museum displayed some of those pieces immediately.

Murray then introduced Holley to the organization of that year’s “More Than Land and Sky: Art from Appalachia” exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.This led to the Birmingham-based multi-disciplinary artist’s work being acquired by several institutions including New York’s American Folk Art MuseumAtlanta’High Museum of Art and others — and he has had his work displayed at The White House.

By the mid 1980s, Holley’s work had expanded to include paintings and recycled and found-object sculptures. His yard and the adjacent abandoned lots near his home became an immersive art environment, that was highly celebrated by the larger art world. Unfortunately, that art environment was frequently threatened by scrap metal scavengers. Tragically, his work was torn down as a result of the expansion of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Holley sued and eventually won a settlement in which the airport authority paid $165,700 to move his family and work to a larger property in Harpersville, AL. (It shouldn’t be surprising that the acclaimed artist is a primary subject of Unreformed, a new podcast from the folks at iHeartMedia.)

His first major retrospective Do We Think Too Much? I Don’t Think We Can Ever Stop” Lonnie Holley, A Twenty-Five Year Survey was organized by the Birmingham Museum of Art, and eventually travelled to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, UK.

From 2003-2004, Holley created a sprawling, sculptural environment at the Birmingham Museum of Art’s lower sculpture garden as part of their “Perspective” series of site-specific installations. The creation of the installation was documented in Arthur Crenshaw’s film, The Sandman’s Garden and by photographer Alice Faye “Sister” Love.

He also installed sculptural work for the exhibition  Groundstory: Tales from the shade of the South at Agnes Scott College’s Dalton Gallery, which ran from September 28, 2012 to November 17, 2012.

2012 was a very busy year for Holley: He also released his full-length debut album Just Before Music. He followed that up with 2013’s Keeping a Record of It. His third album, 2018’s MITH, which was released by Jagjaguwar Records, saw Holley cementing a sound and approach informed and inspired by the blues, soul, avant-garde jazz and spirituals.

Holley’s fourth album, the Jackknife Lee-produced Oh Me, Oh My is slated for a March 10, 2023 release through Jagjaguwar. Oh Me, Oh My reportedly is a sharpening and refinement of the work contained on MITH, Stirring in one moment and a balm the next, Oh Me, Oh My details histories both global and personal. The album features an acclaimed collection of collaborators including Michael Stipe, Sharon Van Otten, Moor Mother, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Rokia Koné, who serve as choirs of angels and co-pilots, assisting in giving Holley’s message flight, while reaffirming the man as a galvanizing, iconoclastic force.

Holley’s creative work is much more about our place in the cosmos, than the cosmos itself. It’s often about how we overcome adversity and bitter heartache and pain with our dignity intact; about how we develop and maintain an affection for our fellow spacetime travelers about how we need to stop wishing for some “beyond” and start caring for the one life and the one rock we have. Oh Me. Oh My sees the refinement of Holley’s impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. During each session Holley and Lee would discuss the essence of the song and distill the acclaimed multi-disciplinary artist’s word to their most immediate and earnest center. And as a result, the central message of his work may arguably be the most clear and concise on this album.

The album’s first single, album title track “Oh Me, Oh My” is a hauntingly gorgeous, spectral, piano-led meditation featuring Michael Stipe’s imitable plaintive wailing and Holley’s achingly soulful crooning. Sonically seeming to mesh elements of Brian Eno‘s ambient work and Gil Scott-Heron‘s Pieces of a Man and I’m New Here, “Oh Me, Oh My” deals with mutual human understanding with a earnest yet beguilingly Zen-like profundity.

“My art and my music are always closely tied to what is happening around me, and the last few years have given me a lot to thoughtsmith about,” Holley says. “When I listen back to these songs I can feel the times we were living through. I’m deeply appreciative of the collaborators, especially Jacknife, who helped the songs take shape and really inspired me to dig deeper within myself.”

Elizabeth Woolf is an up-and-coming Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who can trace the origins of her music career to her childhood: she spent drives in her mom’s minivan singing along to Frank Sinatra — and as she got older, she found her voice belting and sobbing along to the work of Sara Bareilles and Bon Iver while driving her dad’s hand-me-down car. After finding the sounds of Stevie Wonder while commuting on BART, Woolf realized that she needed to mesh those influences into her own sound.

Over the past two years or so, Woolf has been busy developing, refining and honing her sound and songwriting. Interestingly, the emerging Los Angeles-based artist’s latest single, the slow-burning and charming “yellow turtleneck” finds her collaborating with emerging producer, songwriter kidgloves (a.k.a. Cody Aledia). Centered around dusty and soulful production featuring thumping boom bap-like beats and shimmering acoustic guitar paired with Woolf’s and kidglove’s soothing and breathy vocals, “yellow turtleneck” is an emotionally ambivalent song that’s part swooning meet-cute and part nostalgic ode to lost love, and their lingering ghosts. Sonically and thematically, the song — to my ears at least — evokes fall in New York.

New Video: Cigar Cigarette Releases a Seething Commentary on Late-Stage Capitalism and Social Media

Chris McLaughlin is a singer/songwriter, producer, sound engineer, multi-instrumentalist, who has worked with Kanye West, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Fabrizio Moretti’s machinegum collective. McLaughlin is also the creative mastermind behind the solo recording project Cigar Cigarette.

Cigar Cigarette’s debut EP, Cigar Cigar Cigar Cigarette is slated for release at the end of this year, and the the EP’s material is an industrial-tinged soundscape seething with the anxiety and urgency of our age and guided by McLaughlin’s wide-spanning ear and expansive vision.

Cigar Cigar Cigar Cigarette EP’s latest single, the swaggering “Video Age” icentered around an expansive song structure featuring boom bap-like drumming, reverb-drenched horn samples, buzzing and distorted synth arpeggios, distorted, acid dipped guitars, handclaps and squiggling electronics paired with McLaughlin’s seemingly disaffected delivery. Sonically, the song sounds like an apocalyptic synthesis of Midnight Juggernaut, Beck, and Tobacco but while being a dystopian love song about how much we should loathe late stage capitalism and social media — and how much our reality is distorted by both.

“Whether we all merge with machines in the future or end up destroying the planet and fighting with sticks and stones, I imagine people looking back at this time as the era of the screen,” Chris McLaughlin says about his latest single and video. “‘Video Age’ is about surveying our current period from the next one and recognizing how our reality became fuzzy, distorted and warped. I wrote ‘Video Age’ a long time ago, but it’s surprising because now many of us find ourselves truly living most of our lives via video. We’ve moved into the hazy and distorted world of video conference weddings and funerals.

Directed by Elyse Winn and Kelli Mcguire, the recently released video for “Video Age” encapsulates the song’s overall theme through the use of screens upon screens upon screens. And every screen serves as way to place viewer and subject at a distance, while distorting our sense of reality. What’s real? Who knows?

Genevieve Stokes · Lonely And Bored

With the release of “Running Away” and “Surface Tension,” which landed on Spotify‘s New Music Friday, Lorem and Fresh Finds Playlists, the young and rapidly rising, Portland, ME-based singer/songwriter Genevieve Stokes quickly received attention for crafting alt pop songs featuring  a lush mixture of electronic and organic instruments and centered around an insight and honesty that belies her relative youth. Inspired by Regina Spektor, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and Big Thief‘s Adrianna Lenker, the 18 year-old, Maine-based singer/songwriter can trace the origins of her music career to performing publicly as early as when she was 7 — so in many ways, Stokes is a grizzled pro.

Stokes’ is gearing up to release her highly-anticipated debut EP, which will feature her two previously released singles and her latest single, the slow-burning “Lonely and Bored.” Centered around twinkling keys, atmospheric electronics, Stokes’ gorgeous vocals and a soaring hook, “Lonely and Bored” is a self-assured yet melancholic and mediative track with a warm and effortlessly vibey air reminiscent of ’90s and ’00s neo-soul. But interestingly, the song is inspired by Stokes’ own personal experiences: I’ve struggled with derealization and depersonalization for a couple years now,” the rising Portland, ME-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “Often I find it hard to stay grounded in reality. It can be very isolating, but luckily it gets easier to manage over time. ‘Lonely and Bored’ is about a time in my life when I felt particularly disconnected from the world around me and my own emotions. I think a lot of people have experienced this sense of detachment, and hopefully this song helps them feel less alone.”




New Video: JOVM Mainstay Howard Ivans Releases a Sultry and Funky New Single Paired with Hand Drawn Animated Visuals

Throughout the bulk of this site’s almost ten year history, I’ve written quite a bit about the prolific Portland, OR-based JOVM mainstay, singer/songwriter  Ivan Howard. Howard may be best known for stints fronting  The Rosebuds the acclaimed indie supergroup GAYNGS and De La Noche, which featured Howard’s longtime friends and Rosebuds bandmates Robert Rogan and Brian Weeks, and writing Kanye West and Bon Iver. He’s also received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere with his solo recording project and alter ego Howard Ivans. 

Yesterday, Ivan Howard released his sophomore Howard Ivans album Riviera. “It feels ridiculous to release music in this mayhem, but just maybe someone will enjoy it and forget about everything that is going on for a little while, like I do when I’m listening to music,” Ivan Howard wrote in a statement. “I had a blast making this record. The songs were written with some really great songwriters while i was living in LA a little while back. We’d meet on the spot, write and sing them in a few hours, then take them home to be finished up musically. Common practice in the LA songwriting world — and both exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. You never know how a session would wind up but luckily I think these set of songs ended up pretty great to my ears! Maybe you will dig Riviera too. I give a huge thank you to my co-conspirators: Wallis Allen, Alex & Alex, and Matthew Puckett.

Cowritten by Ivan Howard and Wallis Allen, Riviera’s latest single “It’s Too Late” is a slinky, 80s synth funk-inspired jam centered around a sinuous bass line reminiscent of Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” and Cherelle’s “Saturday Love,” brief blasts of horn, four-on-the-floor-like drumming, atmospheric synths and a funky, two-step inducing hook and Howard’s achingly plaintive vocals. Sonically speaking, the song — to my ears — brings a few different things to mind: Phil Collins’ “Sussudio,” and Tears for Fears in particular, but with late night Quiet Storm-like yearning. It’s a slightly uptempo take on what has been Howard’s established sound and aesthetic. 

Kevin Moran and Ivan Howard created the accompanying hand-animated video for “It’s Never Too Late,” and the video is fittingly 80s-inspired: neon bright colors and explosive child-like energy. 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about Ivan Howard a prolific singer/songwriter,who has spent extensive stints writing, recording and touring with The Rosebuds, fronting the acclaimed indie supergroup GAYNGS, releasing material with his alter-ego Howard Ivans — and writing for Kanye West and Bon Iver. Late last year, Howard wound up in his Portland home with an unusual quiet patch in his schedule. However, as the story goes, that quiet patch didn’t last very long.

Howard found himself reconnecting with longtime friends Robert Rogan and Brian Weeks. “We met my freshman year of college. Brian heard I could sing, and cornered me in a stairway til I sang “Let Love Rule.” We ended up in our first band together, and he helped me realize that life wasn’t all basketball. I might be ok at music, too.” Howard recalls in press notes. Weeks introduced Howard to Rogan, and the three became close, with Weeks eventually joining Ivans in The Rosebuds as a touring musician, in between stints in Wilmington indie bands with Rogan. Coincidentally, around the same time that Howard reconnected with his old friends, Rogan and Weeks had begun working on a new project together. “We recorded 11 songs with scratch vocal tracks, but neither Robert nor I were completely comfortable singing on them,” Brian Weeks says in press notes. Rogan and Weeks decided to send the tracks they worked on to Howard — with the hopes of getting his take on the material.

“When they asked me to sing on ‘Run,’ I originally said ‘You don’t need me, just get Robert,’ admits Howard. “I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and I liked Robert’s voice. But they kept pushing and I figured, it’s just one song.” Of course, it’s rarely just one song.  Once Robert heard Ivan’s take, he insisted he sing them all. “It was like somebody said ‘Here’s a CD of Greatest Hits of this genre of music without vocals that no one’s ever heard,” Howard explains. “Surprise! You get to sing them!’” The end result is the trio’s latest collaborative project together De La Noche.

De La Noche can trace its origins to Rogan and Weeks’ adopted hometown of Wilmington,  NC. During the middle of 2015 Rogan found himself rudderless. He had gone through a divorce and found that he had a lot of time on his hands — with few distractions. He began playing around and writing material. Feeling isolated, Rogan contacted his pal Weeks to collaborate on material that they wanted to feel closer to the 80s synth pop they’d grown up adoring than the guitar-driven indie rock bands they’ve long played in. Unsurprisingly, Howard, whose solo work also draws from 80s synth pop and soul, found it easy to slip his imitable vocals into the material Rogan and Weeks had been working on. “I tried to let the music dictate the sentiment of each song and just created a character that could fill all these melodic parts,” Howard explains in press notes. 

When asked about how De La Noche differs from his other projects, Howard says that ‘with most of my other projects, I’m the one that usually starts the song, travels with it the long road, and grinds it out ’till it’s finished. By the end, even though I love the songs, I still get tired of them — or they take on a different meaning from the struggles I was going through at the time. With the De La Noche, I just came in 2/3 of the way there. The songs were already written, and Matt Douglas of The Mountain Goats fame had already played his guest sax licks all over it. All I did was just sing them with my slant.” That slight bit of emotional distance from the material reportedly allowed Howard to take a far more adventurous approach in his vocal delivery. 

The project’s full-length debut Blue Days, Black Nights is slated for an August 23, 2019 release through Get Loud Recordings, and as you may recall, last month I wrote about the album’s slinky opener and first single “Avenues,” a track that to my ears was one part Quiet Storm R&B and one part Manifesto and Avalon-era Roxy Music. “Dreams,” Blue Days, Black Nights‘ latest single continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor — slinky and sultry Quiet Storm R&B-inspired pop  centered by shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths, twinkling keys, thumping beats and Howard’s plaintive vocals. And the addition of vocoder effected vocals on the song’s hook completes the retro vibes.

Interestingly, the song may arguably be the most emotionally ambivalent of the album’s singles so far — while seemingly upbeat, there’s an undercurrent of uncertainty, bitterness and loneliness that gives the song a razor sharp edge. “This song was written during the darkest period of my life,” De La Noche’s Robert Rogan recalls. “It was like someone muted the sun out just over top of me. Like, ‘Fuck you, Robert.’ The only time that was really bearable was when I was unconscious and dreaming. I hated waking up. The fact that the song sounds upbeat and optimistic is intentionally ironic. Which in turn actually turned the song into something more positive in the end. Maybe I was subconsciously telling myself to hold on? Actually now I look forward to getting up every day. I just went back to daydreaming now like I used to do before that long winter.”

Live Footage: James Blake Performs “I’ll Come Too” on KRCW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic”

Born the son of musician James Litherland, James Blake is an acclaimed London-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who showed an interest and aptitude in music at a very young age: he received classical piano training as a child, eventually attending Goldsmith, University of London, where he received a degree in Popular Music. While attending Goldsmith, Blake and a friends hosted a series of Bass Society music nights that featured British artists like Distance, Skream and Benga. 

Blake first received recognition for a series of EPs in 2010 — CMYK EP and Klavierwerke and his 2011 self-titled debut, all which were released to critical praise. His sophomore effort, 2013’s Overgrown won that year’s Mercury Prize and a Best New Artist Grammy nomination. 2016’s The Colour in Anything further established Blake’s unique sound and approach, which draws from electronic music, electro pop, R&B and blue-eyed soul. 

Throughout his career, Blake has managed to collaborate with a wide and eclectic variety of contemporary artists including Mount Kimbie, Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Vince Staples, Rosalia, Jay-Z, Oneohtrix Point Never and Frank Ocean — and for his remixes under the moniker Harmonimix. His most recent album, the critically applauded Assume Form finds Blake collaborating with Travis Scott, Metro Boomin, Andre 3000, Moses Sumney, and Rosalia.

Recently, Blake was invited to perform the first-ever live session at KCRW’s brand-new Annenberg Performance Studio. The session aired on KRCW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic hosted by the station’s Musical Director, Jason Bentley.  Joined by his bandmates Rob McAndrews and Ben Assiter, Blake performed material from Assume Form, including the album’s title track, “Barefoot In The Park,” “I’ll Come Too,” and “Don’t Miss It,” as well as a live version of his song “Retrograde” and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” “I’ll Come Too” is a slow-burning and atmospheric track centered around Blake’s ethereal and plaintive vocals, shimmering synths, stuttering beats and a soaring hook — and while   bearing an uncanny resemblance to classical music, the track finds Blake expressing an achingly passionate yearning and vulnerability. 

New Video: Follow an Astronaut in Search of the Happiest Planet in the Galaxy in Adorable Animated Video for Mind of Max’s “Lost in My Love”

Max Weiner is an American-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist. His visual art is influenced by the folk and psychedelic movements of the 60s and 70s, as its centered by a bold and trippy vibrancy, while his music with his solo recording project Mind of Max has been comparably to the likes of Fleet Foxes, Paul Simon, and Bon Iver.

Following the release of his second EP, 2013’s Seasons, Weiner was invited to The Netherlands to open for Dutch folk rock act AlascA on a two-week tour of Germany and Holland. While driving to Amsterdam, AlascA’s Frank Bond played an album by the country folk act Plainsong. And as the story goes, Weiner was hooked by the melodic bend of the pedal steel, the delicate slide of the dobro and the close knit vocal harmonies of the band.

Returning home from the tour, Weiner began writing and recording demos influenced by the sounds he’d heard while on tour; in fact, he purchased a pedal steel guitar and taught himself how to play in a style that he felt would compliment his new sonic direction. Those demos would eventually inform the material on his full-length debut The Key.

Unable to secure a producer that felt right for the album, Weiner produced and performed the songs on the album by himself. Four years later, the album was finished. “Recording an album on your own can be a brutal process,” Weiner says in press notes. “At times, I felt like I was losing my mind and I wanted to call it quits. But I’m so proud of the work I’ve done on this record. I’ve grown in my ability to serve the song and not my ego. Above all else, I’ve learned to believe in and trust myself as a musician and producer. I’d like to feel that everyone can find something within these songs that identifies with their struggles as well as their triumphs. We’re all on a similar path in this world, and I hope you feel a bit of peace knowing you’re not alone on your journey.”

The Key’s latest single is the breezy, Crosby Stills and Nash-like “Lost in My Love.” Centered around twangy, country folk-like guitars paired with some gorgeous layered harmonies, the song is a tale of being so infatuated with the idea of having someone in your life that you miss the obvious red flags — and learning from it so that the next time you’re in that situation, you see it with clear eyes.

Featuring bold and colorful animation from Aishwara Sadasivan, who wrote the video’s story in partnership with the folks at The Wild Honey Pie, the recently released and adorably sweet video follows an astronaut in search of the galaxy’s happiest planet. “We pulled from design elements used on my album cover and Aish’s vibrant, colorful creatures and world building brought a real sense of whimsy and magic. Her unique narrative of an astronaut in search of the galaxy’s happiest player was a fresh approach and I’m thrilled to see it all come together so well.”