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.
Comprised of Nye Todd, Adam Todd, Anna Cory and Niall McCamely, the Edinburgh, Scotland, UK-based indie pop act The Spook School derive their name from the famous Glasgow School of influential artists and designers that began to coalesce in the 1870s and flourished between 1890 to roughly 1910 or so. And within the The Glasgow School there were several groups responsible for creating the distinctive Glasgow Style — The Four (also known as The Spook School), which featured painter and glass artist Margaret MacDonald, acclaimed architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (McDonald’s husband), MacDonald’s sister Frances Macdonald and Herbert MacNair — all of who made strides in the definition of Art Nouveau; the Glasgow Girls; and the Glasgow Boys. As for their modern counterparts, the members of the Glasgow-based indie pop act have developed a reputation for songs that lyrically explore gender, sexuality and queer issues while thematically focusing on gender fluidity and the lack of the gender binary.
The Spook School’s latest single “Someone to Spend Christmas With” is an incisive and anthemic, ambivalent Christmas song that features a rousing hook, soaring synths, shimmering guitar chords and propulsive drumming — and while sounding as though it simultaneously draws from 60s pop and 80s New Wave, as the band’s Anna Corey explains in press notes, “This is a song about figuring out how you want to conduct your own relationships when it feels like the world is full of conflicting advice about the ‘best’ way to do it, whether that be monogamy, polyamory, or something else entirely. The refrain relates to the ideal of having one important person in your life with whom you’ll always spend your special occasions.”
Along with the release of their new Christmastime single, the Scottish quartet announced an early 2018 North American tour, opening for Diet Cig that will include a March 1, 2018 stop at Brooklyn’s newest music venue Elsewhere. Interestingly, the tour will also coincide with the release of the band’s highly-anticipated third full-length effort Could It Be Different? on January 26, 2018 through Slumberland Records here in the States and Alcopop! Records in the UK. In the meantime, check out the tour dates below.
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR 2018
01/29 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place # ^
01/30 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison # ^
01/31 Detroit, MI @ Marble Bar # ^
02/01 Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge # &
02/02 Madison, WI @ University of Wisconsin # &
02/03 Minneapolis, MN @ University of Minnesota # &
02/05 Lawrence, KS @ White Schoolhouse #
02/06 Omaha, NE @ Reverb Lounge & #
02/07 Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge #
02/08 Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court #
02/09 Boise, ID @ Neurolux # &
02/10 Vancouver, BC @ The Cobalt # &
02/11 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey #
02/12 Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater #
02/14 San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop #
02/15 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst # &
02/16 Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room #
02/17 San Diego, CA @ You Are Going To Hate This Fest 3 #
02/19 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress # &
02/21 Austin, TX @ Sidewinder # &
02/22 Dallas, TX @ Three Links # &
02/23 New Orleans, LA @ Hi Ho Lounge # &
02/24 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade # &
02/25 Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight # &
02/26 Charlotte, NC @ Neighborhood Theatre # &
02/27 Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle # &
02/28 Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel # &
03/01 Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere # &
03/02 Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall # &
03/03 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church # &
# = w/ Diet Cig
^ = w/ Lala Lala
& = w/ Great Grandpa
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for a while, you’ve been made familiar with JOVM mainstay Nicole Atkins, a Neptune, NJ-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter, best known for a sound that draws influence from 50s crooner pop, 60s psych rock and psych pop, soul music and Brill Building pop — with some critics comparing her sound to the likes of Roy Orbison and others; in fact, Atkins has publicly cited the favorites of her parents’ record collection as being major influences on her, including The Ronettes, Johnny Cash, The Beach Boys, The Sundays‘ Harriet Wheeler and Cass Elliot.
And as you may recall, Atkins’ fourth full-length album, Goodnight Rhonda Lee marks several major occasions in the renowned singer/songwriter’s career and personal life — the album was written during and after Atkins was in rehab, and has her looking back at her life with a clarity that she hadn’t had before; it’s also the first recorded output she’s released in over three years; and it also marks a major shift from her previous work. While Goodnight Rhonda Lee‘s first single “A Little Crazy,” a collaboration with Chris Issak was a delicate and soulful ballad that clearly nods to some of Atkins’ earliest influences — in particular, Roy Orbison with a hint of Patsy Cline. However, “Darkness Falls So Quiet,” the album’s second single was a stomping and soulful track that nodded at Dusty Springfield —with a warm and soulful arrangement that features a gorgeous string section, twinkling keys and a Daptone Records-like horn section. “Sleepwalking,” the album’s third single, continued along the soulful vein of its predecessor but with a shuffling arrangement reminiscent of early Motown Records — to my ear, I thought of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles,Marvin Gaye, and even Charles Bradley.
Interestingly, the Neptune, NJ-born, Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter recently contributed a slow-burning, Dusty Springfield-like rendition of “O Holy Night,” which features twinkling keys, a soaring string arrangement and a propulsive backbeat that will be part of Amazon Music’s “Christmas Soul” playlist. And what makes this rendition stand out for me is the fact that it’s arguable one of the more earthy versions I’ve heard. As Atkins explains of her choice for the playlist, “‘O Holy Night’ has always been my favorite Christmas song. The first time I heard it, I burst into tears because it was so powerful. I think it was the first time I cried from music taking me over. I always wanted to record this song in a style that made it more human in a way that it could bring the message to the angels from the earth rather than the song already residing up in heaven.”
I also felt compelled to continue yet another semi-annual tradition here — in which I posted John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” with the sincerest hopes that one day there may be peace, equality, understanding and true brotherhood and sisterhood among all. After all war, hatred and strife can be over — if we all want it to be.
In the meantime, I wish all of you a wonderful and peaceful holiday season.