JOVM’s annual tradition: DMX performing the Christmas classic
“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
JOVM’s annual tradition: DMX performing the Christmas classic
JOVM’s annual tradition: DMX performing the Christmas classic
“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Black Marble is an acclaimed synth pop/coldwave project founded by its creative mastermind Chris Stewart in 2012. Initially started as a duo featuring Team Robespierre’s Ty Kube, the act has released an EP and three full-length albums — with 2012’s Weight Against the Door EP and A Different Arrangement, and 2016’s It’s Material recorded as a duo.
Interestingly, It’s Immaterial reflected several major changes for the acclaimed act: the album marked Kube’s departure from the project, and Stewart’s move from Brooklyn to the West Coast. And since relocating to the West Coast, Stewart has released his third Black Marble album, last year’s Bigger Than Life and this year’s I Must Be Living Twice EP, a covers EP featuring covers of Wire, Robert Palmer, Lives of Angels, The Field Mice, and Grouper.
Closing out 2020, Stewart, along with an impressive array of indie synth pop stars took part in a charity video compilation Synthmas: A Holiday Special, which encourages donations to two important and worthy causes:
Alexandria House: Founded in 1996, Alexandria House is a Los Angeles-based transitional residence that provides safe and supportive housing for women and children — particularly women and children of color — who are in the process of moving from emergency shelter to economic stability and permanent housing, They also serve the broader Mid-Wilshire section of Los Angeles by providing educational and enrichment opportunities for their neighbors, as well as for their residents.
In response to the needs of the women and children living in Alexandria House, as well as the larger neighborhood, Alexandria House’s goal is to be community-orientated and intentionally multicultural and anti-racist.
More than 92% of the women who have moved through the Alexandria House program have succeeded in securing financial stability and permanent housing.
Save Our Stages : Created by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) and its 1300 member venues, NIVA’s mission is to preserve and nurture the important ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters across the US. As a result of their efforts, NIVA was able to win crucial federal funding as part of the most recent COVID relief bill. But while the federal funding was desperately needed, indie venues across the country could still use your help during one of the most difficult economic periods in recent memory.
Stewart’s contribution to the Synthmas compliation is a decidedly 80s New Wave/New Order-like cover of Mariah Carey’s ubiquitous smash hit Christmas anthem “All I Want For Christmas Is You” that turns the song into a lonely and bittersweet ode to longing for the family and friends we can’t see because of the pandemic — and for the hope that we’ll be able to do the very human things we all miss so much right now.
“Given all that’s happened in the last year It struck me as likely that many of us are in the same boat right now and thinking about this idea of missing our friends and loved ones and wondering when we will be able to gather together again,” Black Marble’s Chris Stewart says in press notes. “I usually take it for granted that I’ll be able to see my family for instance at this time, but for me and a lot of us this year, those plans were put on hold. The original intent of the song seems more playful, but because of these ideas, it took on, for me, more of a tone of longing and wishing to be with the people you care about and not having much appetite for the usual more commercial trappings of the season in light of this thing we’re all going through. Also, I mean who doesn’t love some Mariah Carey around this time – and I thought it would be fun to do a more synthy take on such a well-known classic pop song as well as update it tonally to reflect this current reality.”
Co-directed by Ashley Leahy and Stewart, the recently released video for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was shot in Los Angeles and features Stewart unwrapping his gifts — a synthesizer and guitar — and performing the song in a bare green-walled room and in front of Christmas-themed sights across Los Angeles. Additionally, we see Stewart rocking out and passing out gifts. There’s a restlessness and boredom throughout that should feel familiar — like the restless boredom we’ve experienced over the past few months.
“For the video we wanted to get across the idea of this character who is sort of restless and longing for someone who’s not there and doesn’t really have the time or headspace for the usual holiday festivities,” Stewart explains. ”
That’s why we shot the scene of presents being passed from hand to hand and sort of discarded as if they are unimportant or an afterthought, and why we shot the exteriors all over town as if the character is in search of someone or something. Or this idea that wishing for someone or something is universal right now and not confined to one particular place.” He adds: “In addition we wanted a humorous offbeat tone and took inspiration from the classic ‘80s video ‘You Can Call Me Al’ that Paul Simon did with Chevy Chase. I wanted two versions of me and for them to have distinct personalities, with one character really feeling the sentiments of the song and the other kind of aloof and absent minded and sort of breaking the fourth wall with all these technical problems.”
Before I forget, the single is currently available through Bandcamp and additional digital retailers — and will be widely available on Christmas Day.
Kelly Finnigan (vocals, keys) is best known for being the frontman of the acclaimed West Coast-based soul outfit Monophonics. And since their formation, the act which also features Austin Bohlman (drums), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), and Max Ramey (bass) has developed and honed a sound and approach that continues the traditions of early Motown Records, Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records.
Earlier this year, Monophonics released their third album It’s Only Us and the album further cements their reputation for being an act that’s particularly keen on crafting and playing a heavier and digger take on classic soul — but while revealing a band gently refining their sound to incorporate warmer textures. Thematically, It’s Only Us may arguably be the hardest hitting of their catalog as it touches upon desperately needed calls for unity, understanding, resilience and acceptance in our fractious and divisive world.
Capping out what has been a busy year, Finnigan’s sophomore album Joyful Sound sees its official release today through Colemine Records digitally. (Holly Berry Red will be releasing the vinyl on December 11, 2020). Produced by Finnigan, Joyful Sound is the third album he’s helmed in the past two years — his solo debut, last year’s The Tales People Tell and Monophonics’ It’s Only Us. While continuing Finnigan’s growing reputation for specializing in the classic R&B and soul production and sound, the new album is imbed with a joyful, holiday spirit.
Featuring members of Durand Jones & The Indications, The Dap-Kings, Ghost Funk Orchestra, Monophonics, Thee Sinseers, Orgōne, Ikebe Shakedown, Jason Joshua & The Beholders, The True Loves, Jungle Fire, Delvon Lamar Organ Trio, The Jive Turkeys, The Ironsides, and The Harlem Gospel Travelers, as well as Ben Pirani, Neal Francis and Rudy De Anda among others, Joyful Sound is inspired by Atlantic Records‘ Soul Christmas, Phil Spector‘s A Christmas Gift For You and Rotary Connection‘s Peace.
“I want people to feel joy and hope. I want the music to remind them what they are thankful for,” Finnigan says in press notes about Joyful Sound. “The songs and mood of the music should spark a feeling that it is a special time of year but also that it can also be a very difficult time for others. Holidays are about bringing people together to celebrate and I want this record to be a soundtrack for those celebrating but also a reminder that a lot of people are still struggling regardless if it’s Christmas or not. Most Importantly, I want them to hear the love and passion that went into the music. I’m lucky to have some incredible musicians and artists on the record and I hope they can hear the joy that everyone put into their performance. There’s a feeling of magic and nostalgia that lives in those classic Christmas songs and I believe I was able to capture some of that on this record. Christmas has become a grand event in most places in the world but we all have to remember that the reason this holiday is special for most is because it brings people together and reminds us that our friends and family are what’s most important.”
Last month, I wrote about the lush Motown Records-like “No Time To Be Sad,” a classic make-up song that finds the song’s narrator pleading to his lover that they should stop their quarreling and make it a romantic Christmas — because that’s not the season to be bitter or breakup. “Santa’s Watching You,” Joyful Sound’s latest single finds Finnigan giving a strutting gospel burner by The Sacred Four “Somebody’s Watching You” a playful Christmas take in which Santa is now looking at all of us in judgement of our behavior, actions, words and deeds. So you better get your act straight and fly right — or Santa will make sure you get coal and fiery, eternal damnation.
A JOVM annual tradition: DMX’s rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
NANCY is a rapidly rising, enigmatic and rather mysterious Brighton, UK-based indie artist, who quickly received attention across the blogosphere from Stereogum, NME and DIY and airplay on BBC Radio 1 from personalities like Annie Mac, Huw Stephens and Jack Saunders and BBC Radio 6 personalities Iggy Pop, Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq.
Earlier this year, the Brighton-based artist re-emerged from a brief creative hiatus, he re-emerged with the release of the attention-grabbing single “When I’m With You (I Feel Love).” Building upon the success of that single and a growing profile in his native England, the Brighton-based artist released “Clic Clac,” a breakneck ripper — and self-described ode to anxiety — that seemed to draw equally from ’77 era punk and glam rock. Nancy closes out 2020 with the warped and dryly ironic “The World’s About to Blow (Thank God, It’s Christmas)” Centered around heavy distorted and fuzzy power chords, layers of whirring feedback and handclap-led percussion, the Brighton-based artist’s latest single is a holiday song for the exhausted and defeated — and anyone else, who has accepted the fact that everything is fucked up. We live in a hellish dystopia and it’s only getting worse.
“No matter what side you’re on, there’s one thing we can surely all agree on: everything has gone wrong and we’re going to hell in a hand basket . . . so let’s join together and find strength in the consensus that we’re all fucked, and that it’s okay to cover your eyes and ears and just get mortal to celebrate the birth of our lord and saviour: Santa Claus,” NANCY says of his latest single.
DMX performing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on Power 105.1.
Richard Swift was a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (best known as a guitarist) producer, and owner of National Freedom Studio, who was largely considered a musician’s musician as he quietly built up an acclaimed career as a member of The Shins, The Black Keys and The Arcs; Swift also developed a reputation as a go-to collaborator and producer, who worked with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, The Pretenders, Kevin Morby, Sharon Van Etten, Valerie June, Damien Jurado, David Bazan, Foxygen, Jessie Baylin, Lonnie Holley, The Mynabirds, Wake Owl, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, Gardens & Villa, Cayucas, Guster, Lucius and others. He was also a solo artist, who had released seven full-length albums through Secretly Canadian Records during his life — with his posthumously released eighth album The Hex being released earlier this year.
Back in June, Pitchfork reported that Swift had been hospitalized in Tacoma, WA, recovering from a then-undisclosed life threatening condition and that a GoFundMe had been set up to help cover his medical expenses. Sadly, this isn’t surprising as musicians work as independent contractors, who have to pay the bills you need to get by, pay for studio time, and pay for medical expenses and insurance out of pocket. If you’re a struggling working musician, you make the bulk of your living from touring or from being a session musician — and if you’re too sick to tour or get to the studio, it makes things increasingly difficult. A few weeks later, Swift died and about a week after his death, his family released a statement confirming that he had suffered from alcohol addition throughout his life, and that his death was ultimately caused by complications from hepatitis, as well as liver and kidney distress.
Understandably for those within the larger music community, who worked with him, Swift’s death was devastating. As Luicus’ Jess Wolfe recalls in press notes, “We were on tour in Europe when we lost Richard. We didn’t get to say goodbye face to face. We didn’t get to go to the memorial service. I didn’t get a chance to hear his voice. I only talked to him while he slept, hoping somehow, in his dreams, he was hearing us. We sang to him. We sang to him and it was the worst and best gift we’d ever received. Somehow, pouring out something for someone who has done so much for your musical life, is the only way to cope. This loss really messed us up, as I know it did all of us in the musical community, and we felt the need, the urgency, to make sure to do something about that.”
What initially started off as a small way that the members of the acclaimed Los Angeles-based act Lucius could personally and actively bring awareness to the impact of drug and alcohol addiction within the music community has grown into a much larger concept that they’ve dubbed THE FUG YEP SOUNDATION. Derived from a phrase that Swift coined, the idea is a 7″ record series with each release featuring 2 songs by many of Swift’s closest friends and collaborators. All artist proceeds and profits from the 7″ record series will give financial aid to the Swift family, as well as MusiCares, the charitable wing of the Recording Academy, who had Swift with many of his medical bills — and Music Support UK, who do similar work for British musicians.
“Richard would have probably hated this attention,” Wolfe continued. “But we all wanted to do more for him, we all wanted to be a part of a better way, to be helpful. I think we can all agree, the best way we can do this moving forward is awareness. What a gift that we’re able to offer what we love in honor of those we love. What better way to feature his art, and his imprint on all of us, then to share it with you.” Pure Bathing Culture’s Sarah Versprille adds “Each over features Swift’s original artwork. He was a prolific and persistent visual artist. He made work all the time and his studio was just as much a place for creating visual art as it was for making music. Shealynn (Richard’s wife) has helped us curate a collection of his pieces for each cover of this series that provide a window into this side of his genius, humor and creativity.”
The first release of the series is slated for a December 7, 2018 release through Mom + Pop Music and will feature two singles written and recorded by Lucius at Swift’s National Freedom Studios last April — the A-side “Christmas Time Is Here” and the B-side “Keep Me Hanging On.” The A-side single is a atmospheric rendition of “Christmas Time Is Here” that sounds as though it could have been released sometime between 1956 – 1965 as it pairs a lush arrangement of shimmering keys, reverb-heavy guitars and gently padded drumming paired with Wolfe and Laessig’s stunningly gorgeous harmonizing. While being a holiday staple, the Lucius version possess a weary heartache — the sort that comes with the passing of time and the gnawing reminders that loved ones aren’t around to celebrate another holiday, and the passing of another year.
As I mentioned earlier, over the years, the holidays have become increasingly difficult for me, with the season harboring many more bad memories than good ones as I got older; however, whenever I think of Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis,” I think of times that seemed far more easier and brighter, even if they may have been viewed through rose-colored glasses and the hazy nostalgia of adulthood. But along with that, what I can clearly remember was that as a child, I wanted to be like Run DMC because I thought they were the coolest brothers on the face of the earth; plus, they grew up in my home borough of Queens, which made their achievements seem plausible for a music loving black kid.
For those who celebrate, Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays for everyone else. And may there be peace, brotherhood and sisterhood for all.
Usually, the holiday season is a very difficult period for me. Many of the happy memories of Christmas were when I was much younger and those have been marred to some degree by bitterly unpleasant memories as a young man and as an adult. And while things are difficult, I try. Now, as you may recall throughout the years, there have been some semi-regular traditions including DMX’s rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” that he did while being interviewed at Power 105.1 back in 2012 and for years it was arguably one of the most absurd yet most endearing moments in hip-hop history.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you’ve come across a handful of posts featuring POND, the recording project created by Perth, Australia-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer Jay Watson — and that the project features Watson collaborating with a rotating cast of local musicians, including Kevin Parker, the multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer behind the acclaimed psych pop project, Tame Impala. And with through the release of his first three albums — 2009’s Psychedelic Mango, 2010’s Frond and his 2012 breakthrough effort Beard, Wives, Denim — the Perth-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer found his sound moving from straightforward psych rock to a decidedly pop-leaning sound. Coincidentally, Watson’s breakthrough album was released around the time that Parker released his own breakthrough effort, Innerspeaker and with growing buzz around Australia’s psych pop and dance pop scenes, Watson and his touring band had found themselves on a busy international touring schedule that included an appearance at that year’s SXSW and a one-off show with CAN‘s Damo Suzuki, a major influence on Watson and his sound.
The Weather, which was released earlier this year continues Watson’s ongoing collaboration with Parker, and as you would have heard on album single “Colder Than Ice,” Watson’s sultry falsetto was paired with a production consisting onsisting of icy and shimmering synths, stuttering beats and a motorik groove in what may arguably be one of the more dance floor friendly tracks they’ve released in some time. Interestingly enough, the album’s material finds Watson managing to balance being deeply engaged with our tumultuous world while offering a much-welcomed respite and escape from it — and the album’s latest single “All I Want For Christmas (Is a Tascam 388) is a mischievous and hazily lysergic ode to the season that features Watson’s dreamy falsetto paired with tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap beats, layers upon layers of synths that’s then given an easy-going dub-like sheen.
The recently released and appropriately kaleidoscopic video was directed by the band’s Jamie Terry and features band member “Shiny Joe Ryan” hanging out in Fremantle, Australia in a Santa suit and sunscreen, drinking beer, driving around and breakdancing until he arrives at the studio to see his new Tascam 388, which he can’t wait to play with.