JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates Missy Elliott’s 51st birthday.
RockLee · It’s a Feeling (feat. Mel Pacifico & Uness)
Born Frantz-Lee Leonard, Montreal-based jazz-trained, drummer RockLee started his music career as a member of Lazy Lee. Since then, Leonard has spent the bulk of his career as a hired gun, who has toured across the globe playing pop and world music. And as a result, Leonard has shared stages with Corneille and Wesli, Muzion, Claude Dubois, Paul Cargnello, Dominque Fils-Aimé and a lengthy list of others.
Recently, Leonard has transitioned to a life behind the scenes, as a producer. Drawing from his extensive experience as a performer and songwriter, Leonard quickly developed a reputation for being one of his hometown’s best kept secrets — but with the forthcoming release of a solo album, which will find him collaborating with a variety of different artists. Describing his sound as “a fusion of sounds meant to evoke a sense of nostalgia,” his goal as a producer is to offer a new generation of music listeners and fans the chance to sonically reconnect with the most important moments — with the tacit understanding that music is most often the emotional center of our lives.
Co-written by Paul Cargnello, “It’s A Feeling” the album’s first single is centered around a sultry Quiet Storm-like production featuring skittering beats, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, squiggling blasts of guitar, twinkling keys and an infectious, radio friendly hook paired with a soulful and achingly yearning duet between two of Montreal’s up-and-coming R&B artists Mel Pacifico and Uness. What seems to set RockLee and this particular song apart from countless others — to my ears, at least — is the fact that the song meshes an ambitious yet accessible production and earnest songwriting with a decided sense of purpose.
Bea Kadri is an emerging Beirut-born, London-based singer/songwriter. Much like countless young people across the world, Kadri had her Walkman and iPod practically glued to her — and she watched endless hours of MTV and YouTube to get her fix of pop, hip-hop and R&B. As a painfully shy teenager, who was afraid to express her true self and her true feelings, the Beirut-born, London-based singer/songwriter found understanding and solace through the music she was listening to at the time. And much like teens all across the world, she’d stay in her room, daydream and imitate her favorite artists in front of her mirror and jot down thoughts and lyrics in her journal.
In 2018, Kadri relocated to London to pursue a Master’s Degree in Music Business Management from the University of Westminster, with the hopes of being close to her lifelong passion and maybe landing a job somewhere within the music industry. She gradually decided to pursue a career as an artist as her confidence in her talents grew — but she can trace the origins of her career as an artist to when she put together a list of songs to show her mentor, who was writing songs for Universal Music UK. Kadri landed an opportunity to write songs and sync placements. And adding to a big year for her, she performed in the backing choirs for Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton during both artists’ BRIT Awards performances that year.
As a solo artist, Kadri’s work focuses on self-discovery, empowerment and matters of the heart — with a sultry yet chill air. Interestingly, the Beirut-born, London-based singer/songwriter’s latest single “Be Alright,” which features a guest spot from Issac B is a slow-burning and sultry track centered around a minimalist production featuring skittering beats and atmospheric synths — and while helping to establish Kadri’s sultry yet laid back sound, the track finds Kadri and Issac B reminiscing on simpler days, old loves an slower paces with an achingly wistful air that seems to say “if I had known then, what I know now . . .”
“We wrote and recorded ‘Be Alright’ back in August 2019, before the madness of the pandemic, we were just reminiscing on simpler days and pace of our past but the message behind the song resonates now more than ever,” Kadri says in press notes. “In the chorus we go ‘roll in peace yeah call it pair of dice’ to highlight the nature of how we never truly know what dice life will serve us, but whatever it is, we got to roll with it peacefully and make like a paradise (“pair of dice”) in our minds, stay chill, find the balance and keep on because, really, ‘we gon’ be alright.'”
Directed Linda Dorigo, the recently released video for “Be Alright” stars the song’s creative duo, reminiscing in their bedrooms, and continuing with the dreary and ordinary routines of their lives — Kadri heading to work at a local supermarket while Issac B goes to a laundromat. There’s also a quite a bit of nouvelle vague-like split screens, which add to the slick stylistic vibe of the video.
Global Network is a rising Paris-based electronic act — comprised of Loris Sasso and Nils Peschanski — can trace their origins back to the Parisian suburb (la banileue in French) where they grew up. Away from the pressure cooker of Central Paris, bored kids can dream, experimental and develop their own forms of expression, and as a result some of Paris’ most vital and important art got its start there — in particular rap, and techno.
Initially knowing of each other through mutual school friends, the individual members of the duo began moving closer into each other’s orbits as they began to make their way in Paris’ music scene with different creative projects. But it wasn’t until their previous groups broke up that they began collaborating together. Turning back to the spontaneity and freedom that marked their formative years, the duo of Sasso and Peschanski got together in nighttime sessions in a bid to clear their heads and refocus their energy. In 2018, the duo started Global Network, a project that draws from their mutual love of Erykah Badu, Frank Ocean, Justin Timberlake, Jamie xx, and Radiohead — with an emphasis on sincerity, simplicity, love and moments of shared pleasure. “Global Network is the sum of all the experience we’ve accrued, of our failures and our successes,” the duo say in press notes.
The Parisian duo’s latest single is the slow-burning “Your Love.” Centered around atmospheric electronics, shimmering and squiggling synth arpeggios and Loris’ achingly vulnerable vocals, the track is Quiet Storm-like R&B with an enormous hook — and paired with a slick, hyper modern production, the track sonically brings JOVM mainstays Beacon and the Insecure soundtrack.
Directed by Anh Phim the recently released video features a mix of sensually shot live footage and 3D animation that’s visually trippy and mind-bending, as the video tells a tale of aliens, who fall in love in a completely different reality and dimension. “Anh Phi, the director, is a close friend of us. He decided to leave France and return to his motherland, in order to retrace and understand his Vietnamese origins,” the members of Global Network say in press notes. “Among the group of creatives Anh Phi had met was Wiiki a budding digital artist whose mesmerizing visuals we believed were a perfect fit with our sound. Thus the wheels were set in motion for this music video. One year down the line, after relentless hard work from Wiiki and Anh Phi, we are delighted to present the official music video for ‘Your Love.'”
“The visual for ‘Your Love’ is meant to tell the story of an alien love that emerges to consume one’s life,” Wiiki explains. “The story is about the extraterritorial girl finding her way to her destination (Loris). As she walks on, the world surrounds (Loris) start to subdue and gives way to her’ ways. It is a metaphor for how a person or an idea of a person and her “ways” of love can change everything that had come before. It’s about being consumed, diffused by love and to give up.”
Denny Soloist is a rising, Maryland-born singer/songwriter and photographer — and within a week of posting “Not Built For War” on SoundCloud back in 2015, the Maryland native quickly amassed over 10,000 streams. Building upon that momentum, Soloist released his debut mixtape 2016’s Truth or Dare, which featured “Not Built For War” and his official debut single “The Funeral.”
The following year, Denny Soloist released covers of James Arthur‘s “Say You Won’t Let Go” and JoJo‘s remix of Drake‘s “Marvins Room,” which both wound up landing one Apple Music Connect’s Top 200. 2017 also saw the release of his second official single “Out The Window,” a collaboration with rapper Pro-Lific.
The Maryland native then took most of 2018 away from the music industry to focus on his other passion — photography. During that same year, which featured a period of deep, personal reflection, Soloist came to terms with his sexuality, releasing some of his most honest material to date, including last year’s BOYS mixtape.
Soloist begins 2020 with the sultry, trap-influenced banger “Selfish.” Featuring shimmering synths, rapid-fire stuttering beats, wobbling low end and Soloist’s achingly plaintive falsetto, the track details how the song’s narrator ruined a romantic relationship through his own selfishness — cheating on his lover left and right. But the song is centered by a hilarious yet realistic irony: although the song’s narrator admittedly feels badly about his own deceitfulness, he isn’t naive; he’s aware that his lover was doing the same.
Initially formed in 2009 as Sister Crayon, the acclaimed Los Angeles, CA-based electro pop duo Rituals of Mine, currently comprised of singer/songwriter Terra Lopez and percussionist Adam Pierce have received attention for a sound that draws from 90s trip hop, footwork and downtempo R&B — and for years of relentless touring up and down the West Coast, playing house shows, DIY venues and basements with the likes of The Album Leaf, Built to Spill, Antemasque, Le Butcherettes, Maps & Atlases, Doomtree and others. Adding to a quickly growing profile, the Los Angeles-based duo’s first two albums — 2011’s Bellow and 2013’s Cynic — were released to critical acclaim.
2015 was a profoundly harrowing and difficult year for Lopez: her father committed suicide and several moths later, her best friend Lucas Johnson tragically died in an accident. Reeling from the grief of inconsolable and unexpected loss, Lopez in a period of deep reflection felt the need to reassess her life and her work in Sister Crayon. She decided to put the Sister Crayon name to rest, moving forward with a new moniker — Rituals of Mine. As Terra Lopez wrote at the time, “It was a mantra that I repeated under my breath on a daily basis when the loss I was experiencing felt too heavy at times. Music, the act of creating, performing, touring, writing, singing, experimenting – all the rituals we have created to get through life.”
After years of obscuring her own story and emotions through metaphorical lyrics, Lopez felt a sudden confidence to write much more directly about her experiences and life as a queer woman of color. Lopez began fleshing out the material on what would become her Rituals of Mine debut Devoted with her longtime collaborator and producer Wes Jones, who helped turn her heartfelt writing on her trauma and personal growth into urgent and pulsating electronic tracks. Lopez then enlisted Adam Pierce to play drums, knowing that their background in metal percussion would provide an intensity that could match her own.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you might recall that last year was a very busy year for Lopez and Pierce. They opened for a handful of dates for The Afghan Whigs and Built to Spill’s co-headliing tour, including a Chicago area stop last April. They also opened for Garbage during the multi-plantium Grammy Award-winning band’s US tour. They also went on their first UK tour with JOVM mainstay Geographer and The Seshen.
Interestingly, the duo’s highly anticipated Wes jones and Neal Pogue co-produced follow-up to Devoted, Sleeper Hold EP is slated for an October 4, 2019 release through Carpark Records — and the EP will include the urgent anti-Trump anthem “No Time To Go Numb,” a track that forcefully reminded the listener that now isn’t the time to slink back from the horrors of a power mad, greedy and hateful administration; that we have to be fueled by righteous anger and fight like hell for the things that truly matter. “Burst,” Sleeper Hold’s second and latest single is a glitchy and hyper-modern bit of electro R&B that’s centered around stuttering beats, tweeter and woofer rocking low end and Lopez’s sultry, self-assured vocals. And while the track may recall Timbaland’s forward-thinking work with Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, Rituals of Mine’s latest single is driven by Lopez’s commitment to unvarnished emotional honesty. “I made a promise to myself that I’m no longer going to play small or hide behind metaphors, that I’m going to really lean into self-confidence, self-reliance and take up space,” Lopez says in a statement to Billboard. “‘Burst is the beginning of that.”
Co-directed by Kris Esfandiari and Colette Levesque, the recently released video for “Burst” features Rituals of Mine’s Terra Lopez playing basketball against a team of evil and monstrous figures. At one point, her younger self appears and helps Lopez win the game. According to the statement Lopez wrote to Billboard, the recently released video represents overcoming past trauma to effectively move on in your life, with the young protagonist representing a younger version of herself. “The opponents all represent obstacles I’ve had to face being a queer woman of color in this industry … this video was a way for me to confront both my childhood traumas and adulthood obstacles through the activity that has always grounded me,” she says. “Also, I just really wanted to create our version of a Queer Space Jam for 2019.”
Best known as a founding member of hip-hop collective Odd Future and the Grammy-nominated, soul pop act The Internet, Matt Martians, a sometimes vocalist and producer released his critically-applauded debut, 2017’s The Drum Chord Theory, which was hailed by Rolling Stone as “pleasingly eccentric.”
Slated for an April 26, 2019 release through 3qtr Records, Martians’ sophomore album The Last Party was written and recorded as a way to heal himself after going through one of the most difficult times of his life. And while doing so, he reportedly found that you have to truly love yourself before you can sincerely give it back. Featuring guest spots from Mac DeMarco and Steve Lacy, the album’s overall sound blends modern funk, soul and electro pop. Serving as a perfect taste of what you’d expect from the new album, the sultry yet playful “Knock Knock” brings Quiet Storm-era soul, Thundercat and Dam-Funk, within a lysergic song structure full of weird time and tempo changes.
Martians will be spending the next few months touring with The Internet, and it includes a stop at Governors Ball in May. Check out the tour dates below.
Live Dates With The Internet
4/27 – Niceto Club, Buenos Aires
4/30 – Circo Voador, Rio de Janeiro
5/1 – Audio, Sao Paolo
5/4 – Campo Abierto Festival, Santiago
5/31 – Governors Ball, NYC
6/15 – Smoking Grooves, Long Beach
7/11 – Summerset House, London
7/12 – North Sea Jazz, Rotterdam Netherands
7/13 – Dour Festival, Dour Belgium
Comprised of Nick Wisdom and AstroLogical, the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based hip-hop and electro pop production duo Potatohead People can trace their origins to when they first met in a high school, community baseball league in high school and bonded over their mutual love of J. Dilla and Madlib. In 2008 Wisdom and AstroLogicla began working together in the hip-hop collective Elekwent Folk; but soon after, the duo formed Potatohead People and began focusing on creating forward-thinking instrumental music.
After releasing a series of EPs digital through Vancouver-based net-label Jellyfish Recordings, the renowned New York-based label Bastard Jazz re-issued 2012’s Kosmichemusik EP and released a 7 inch, which quickly became collector’s item; in fact, the Vancouver-based production team’s association with Bastard Jazz helped land their song “Back to My Shit,” featuring Frank’n’Dank‘s Frank Nitty on a Powerade-produced Lebron James documentary. Adding to a growing profile, the duo have been championed by the likes of OkayPlayer, Kaytranada, Soulection, Nightmares on Wax, Pomo, Exmag, Big Boi and the late Phife Dawg among others.
Last year, the duo released their groundbreaking sophomore album Nick & Astro’s Guide to the Galaxy, an album that found them continuing an ongoing collaboration with Illa J, as well as a collection of other artists. Building upon the momentum of their sophomore album, the Canadian production duo will be releasing Nick & Astro’s Instrumentals, Remixes & B-Sides EP through Bastard Jazz Records on April 26, 2019 and the EP features a collection of instrumentals, B-sides and a handpicked collection of their favorite producers from around the world remixing their material. Additionally, the members of Potatohead People held a remix contest from which they picked one winner from an overwhelming number of submissions.
The soon-to-be released EP’s latest single is the New Jack Swing and Quiet Storm-inspired original track “Iced Tea.” Centered around a thumping, club friendly production featuring handclap-led percussion with thumping and shuffling beats, a sinuous bass line, layers of arpeggiated synths and a slick hook, the single reminds me of Cherrelle‘s “Saturday Love,” and “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On,” and G-funk era hip-hop. giorgi and Radina Vee contribute sultrily delivered vocals that are part late night, come hither come on, part you’ve been friendzoned — but with someone who’s actually pretty awesome.
I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based futuristic soul act and JOVM mainstays Bells Atlas over the past few years, and as you may may recall, the act which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) have received attention across the blogosphere for a lush, kaleidoscopic sound that draws from indie rock, 90s R&B, Afro-pop, Afro-futurism, jazz, electro pop and experimental pop. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the act has opened for Hiatus Kaiyote, BADBADNOTGOOD, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and others, as well as Bermuda Triangle, the side project of Alabama Shakes‘ Brittany Howard. Along with that, they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.
Last year, the act released the SALT AND SOAP EP, an effort inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you’re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is then to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Interestingly, during the creative process for the EP and their full-length effort the mystic, which is slated for release later this week, the band stumbled upon a new songwriting process that incorporated the use of sampling grainy phone memo recordings of Geneva Harrison’s drumming as the bedrock of the material.
With the writing and recording sessions focusing on spontaneity and even humor, the band aimed to craft music that managed to be cinematic yet deeply personal — all while allowing room to highlight each member’s individual skills and talent within the larger whole. Narratively and thematically, the album is a sci-fi fantasy of two first generation Nigerian-American women coming to terms with a mental health diagnosis — and at the same time, a universal exploration of how we make sense of reality. “It’s about a truth seeker and a skeptic trying to make sense of what’s mystical and what’s clinical,” the band’s Sandra Lawson-Ndu says in press notes. “The listener is made to consider the possibility of magic. Is it possible, for instance, that someone who navigates the world differently may have a deeper understanding of the universe? The mystic is a spectrum of deep emotionality, impulse, and even humour; a tool to explore the full dimension of our reality.” the mystic‘s latest single is the slow-burning and ethereal “Final Ceiling.” Centered around Lawson-Ndu’s dreamy cooing, shimmering synths and guitar and gently propulsive drumming, “Final Ceiling” evokes a hazy yet vividly remembered dream that lingers in your consciousness for hours.
The Oakland-based JOVM mainstays will be touring to support the mystic throughout May and June, and the tour includes a June 1, 2019 stop at C’mon Everybody. Check out the tour dates below.
5.9 Los Angeles, CA The Satellite
5.10 The Wayfarer Costa Mesa, CA
5.11 Starline Social Club Oakland, CA
5.16 Doug Fir Lounge Portland, OR
5.17 Fisherman’s Village Festival Everett, WA
5.18 Rhythm and Rye Olympia, WA
5.19 The Auditorium Seattle, WA
5.23 BSP Kingston Brooklyn, NYC
5.24 Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar Nashua, NH
5.25 The Diving Bell Social Club Montreal, CA
5.26 Columbus Theatre Providence, RI
5.28 State House New Haven, CT
5.30 Milkboy Philadelphia, PA
5.31 Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House Washington, DC
6.1 C’mon Everybody Brooklyn, NYC
Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Brampton, ON-born, Toronto, ON-based DJ, violinist, singer/songwriter, sync pop artist and JOVM mainstay Maya Killtron. Now, as you may recall, Killtron received national and international attention with the release of her debut EP, 2012’s Hipster/Gangsta, and as a result of the surrounding buzz around the EP, Killtron made appearances across the North American festival circuit, including appearances at Miami’s Winter Music Conference, Pride Toronto, The Halifax Jazz Festival and CMJ. Adding to a growing profile, “Back For More,” her collaboration with New York-based production duo Love Taps received praise from Stereogum and Huffington Post for a sound that possessed elements of moomba and R&B. The equally attention-grabbing video showcased a sadly bygone New York. “Back For More” also received the remix treatment from Smalltown DJs, The Slow Waves, Eyes Everywhere, Brothers In Arms and City Kid Soul — with the City Kid Soul remix being named in the Top 5 at Toronto’s Bestival.
Killtron’s latest full-length effort, Never Dance Alone is slated for a March 22, 2019 release, and the album reportedly was made specifically for dancing through your problems. The album’s latest single “Red Dress” continues a strong run of 80s synth funk/80s R&B-inspired club bangers as it’s centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, an anthemic hook and Killtron’s sultry pop belter vocals — and while much like its predecessors, the track will bring I Feel for You-era Chaka Khan to mind, the track features a disco-inspired string arrangement that hints at JOVM mainstays Escort. Interestingly, the song is an uplifting, feminist anthem, complete with a much-needed “go out and get it, girl,” vibe.