Tag: EP Review

Le Lac Long 814 — poet and lyricist Bengt Söderhäll and vocalist/musician and composer Daniel Österjö with a cast of collaborators — is a rising Swedish folk act that creates French chansons out of Swedish poetry. As a result of their internationally acclaimed full-length debut Treize chansons and a string of singles, the Swedish duo toured across Europe to support the album with stops in France, Belgium, Denmark, Czechia and their native Sweden.

The duo close out 2020 with the three song EP La bôite. Centered around an unfussy and unhurried production that allows the material’s gorgeous arrangements and Österjö’s achingly plaintive vocals to shine, the EP for me evokes a complex and confusing array of emotions, thoughts and images: I can’t help but think of late fall and early Winter walks with no apparent direction or motive; of the weariness and exhaustion of a long and difficult year full of profound loss and isolation; of the hope of a new year with new beginnings and possibilities; the fear of things somehow getting worse; the unending cycles of life and death.

Much like the music box from which the EP derives its title, the EP’s material possesses an infinitely looping structure in which songs hint at and refer to each other. “L’ombre d’un bourdon” is a delicate song centered around twinkling keys, strummed guitar, Österjö’s achingly plaintive vocals, soaring organs and a sepia-toned nostalgia that ends with an old-timey round before gently fading out. “Ils ailment,” is a shimmering and bittersweet waltz with an opening verse that prophetically hints at life during the pandemic — although it was written long before. And much like its predecessor, the song features a gorgeous yet simple arrangement of twinkling piano, strummed guitar and vocal. The EP’s last track, EP title track “La bôite” refers back to the coda of the opening track, evoking the music box concept — and the unending cycles of our existence.

With a this year coming to a close, why not be reminded that while life is painful and difficult, it can be beautiful as well?

EP Stream: Zaia’s “Reset EP”

Zaia is an up-and-coming, 21-year-old Atlanta, GA-born and based singer/songwriter, who has received attention across the blogosphere including the likes of HillyDilly and ThisSongIsSick and others over the past couple of years for a bold, genre-bending sound that draws from hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, soul and 70s funk — and has been compared to Kid Cudi and Childish Gambino. Building upon a growing profile, the up-and-coming Atlanta-born and-based artist released two critically applauded singles this year “Waste My Time” and “Blue,” which has amassed over 1,000,000 Spotify streams. He was also featured on the cover of Spotify’s Mellow Bars playlist. 

Zaia’s debut EP Reset, which features the aforementioned “My Time” and “Blue” was officially released today and the material thematically explores the vast, complex and frequently contradictory range of emotions that accompany a particularly bitter, emotional breakup with the aim of supporting others going through similar experiences. “I wrote Reset as a way to vent about the mental reset I had to go through after a long-term relationship. I went from feeling really happy to really depressed for a long period of time,” Zaia explains in press notes. “I think everyone goes through some sort of ‘reset’ after something deeply affects the way they feel and think about things. I tried to represent the moodiness of the emotions we experience with each different track, that’s why they all have different energies in the production.”  

“Counseling,” Reset’s slow-burning and brooding neo-soul inspired opening track is centered around an atmospheric arrangement of shimmering and arpeggiated Rhodes piano, a sinuous bass line and Zaia’s plaintive vocals expressing bitterness, denial and frustration — all of which he wants to desperately wants to escape from, but can’t. And while the song’s narrator briefly admits that he’s kind of fucked up — he’s selfish and a bit off, he says — he doesn’t think that therapy or counseling session with a judgmental professional will help him much. Nor does he seem to want to look very deeply into himself. Give me booze, give me drugs, let try to forget everything that’s ever happened, he seems to say.  Admittedly, sometimes that’s a pretty damn good option. “Blue,” the EP’s second track is a brooding and atmospheric track that’s one part shoegazing JOVM mainstays The Veldt, one part contemporary pop and one part old-school blues, as it captures a narrator, who can’t seem to get over and move on from the breakup — and in some way is haunted (and tortured) by the ghosts of that relationship. “Waste My Time,” is a track that owes a sonic debt to hip-hop and neo-soul as it’s centered around a sultry bass line, boom-bap-like drums while the Atlanta-based alternates between a sing-songy/rhyming and traditional vocal delivery. But unlike the other songs, it’s a sort of angry tell-off to a lover/love-interest. “On the Run” is a Quiet Storm-inspired bit of neo-soul that sounds like one-part sultry come-on, one-part reconciliation, one part desperate plea — but with an underlying tacit sense that the song’s narrator recognizes that going back to his lover may be a bit fucked up. “Grace,” the feverish psych soul meets hip-hop finale radiates an uneasy peace and acceptance with the narrator’s situation. 

While further establishing the Atlanta-based artist’s genre-bending sound, his debut EP also reveals an artist, who has an uncanny and downright unerring knack for pairing an infectious hook with earnest, lived-in songwriting that accurately captures the confusing and contradictory emotions and thoughts of an embittering breakup.

The recently released accompanying visual EP is set to specifically tell the story of the song’s narrator, his bitter breakup and gradual (and perhaps begrudging) acceptance of his plight.  “The reason I wanted to make the music video this way is because each song goes together to tell a story, or this rollercoaster of events. Visually we brought that to life, like a reenactment of the entire experience,” Zaia says. 

Comprised of the Ann Arbor, MI-born, Los Angeles, CA-based soul singer/songwriter Mayer Hawthorne, arguably one of the most unheralded vocalists and singer/songwriters of the past decade; and Jake One, a Seattle, WA-born and based, Grammy nominated producer and artist, who was best known as part of the G-Unit, production team The Money Management Group, for collaborating with Brother Ali, Young Buck, De La Soul, M.O.P., Freeway, M.F. Doom, Atmosphere‘s Slug, Keak da Sneak and others, and for contributing tracks to the soundtracks of major motion pictures such as Get Rich or Die Tryin,’ The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Gone Baby Gone, the electro funk act Tuxedo can trace its origins to around 2006 when Hawthorne and Jake One began exchanging mixtapes, which revealed that they had a mutual appreciation and love of classic funk and soul.  The duo quickly worked on and released three singles while both were working on separate solo projects — and those singles wound up on the duo’s 2015 self-titled debut, an effort, which I think was one of that year’s best party records.

Now, it’s been some time since I’ve last written about them — and that shouldn’t be surprising, as Hawthrone released his fourth, full-length effort Man About Town last year and opened for Hall and Oates during the duo’s U.S. tour and Jake One released the #prayerhandsemoji mixtape; but speaking for myself, I’m always in the need of some funk in my life and thankfully, the duo have returned with a three song EP, titled Fux with the Tux.. “Fux with the Tux,” the EP’s title track and opening track pairs Hawthrone’s vocals with a late 70s and early 80s synth funk production featuring squiggly arpeggio synth blasts, propulsive drum programming, a wobbling and tumbling low bass line, a chant-worthy and anthemic hook and a brief braggadocio-filled guest spot from Snoop Dogg. And while sounding as though it drew a some influence from Heatwave‘s “The Groove Line” – 12″ Disco Version,  Cherelle‘s “Saturday Love” feat. Alexander O’Neal and others. “Special” clearly continues on a similar vein as it’s incredibly dance floor friendly, while being a sultry come on. It’s the sort of song you’d want to play while dancing with that pretty young thing, you’ve wanted to get with for an entire summer or however long it’s been for you. Completing the three song set, “July” is a slow-burning and silky smooth, Quiet Storm-like track about unexpectedly, stupidly and desperately in love and that love changing the narrator’s life for the better — and of course, its underpinned by Hawthorne expressing a vulnerable, urgent and plaintive need that gives the song an irresistible sensuality.



If there’s one thing that listeners will instantly gleam from this new EP is that Hawthorne and Jake One have further cemented their reputation for crafting dance floor friendly, two-step, 80s-inspired synth funk and sexy, slow-burning ballads with a subtly modern take.





Formed in 2014 and inspired by Romance music, CAN and the films of Stanley Kubrick, VTCN Radio is a mysterious Parisian artist and production duo that pairs analog synthesizers with field recordings to create an eerily atmospheric sound as you’ll hear on thee “Late Night Shuttle”/”Venus Flytrap” EP.

“Late Night Shuttle” consists of a twinkling and cascading keyboard-based melody, a sultry but chopped up vocal samples and propulsive boom bap beats to craft a song that sounds like an eerie, Portishead and Sneaker Pimps-inspired lullaby, complete with a subtle bit of dread and unease. “Venus Flytrap” begins with an equally slow-burning track that has the duo pairing stuttering drum programming with electronic bleeps and bloops before turning into drum ‘n’ bass track with a subtle cosmic sheen for the song’s second half. And while clearly specializing in an atmospheric and ambient production, the duo subtly nods at drum ‘n’ bass and house with a moodily sleek and seductive, cinematic fashion.







With the release of their first three albums in five years –2011’s Shoot! , 2013’s All Of Them Witches and 2014’s Enfant Terrible — The Hedvig Mollestad Trio have managed to receive praise and attention internationally from both jazz and rock critics across the blogosphere and major media outlets, including Rolling Stone‘s senior editor David Fricke and veteran writer Richard Williams among others for a sound that meshes elements acid jazz, free jazz, jazz fusion, but heavy metal, psych rock, stoner rock and prog rock in a way that to my ears reminds me quite a bit of Ecstatic Vision, Hawkwind, Rush, and others. And as a result, the band has placed themselves on a growing list of Norwegian avant jazz ‘n’ rock/free metal/free jazz acts that have received attention across their homeland, Scandinavia and elsewhere that includes Elephant9, Grand General, Bushman’s Revenge, Krokofant and Scorch, the renowned act led by Finnish guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, who have been long considered as the forefront of the movement.

The trio comprised of Hedvig Mollestad (guitar), Ellen Brekken (bass) and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad (drums) just released their latest effort Black Stabat Mater yesterday and reportedly, the material on the album is heavily indebted to the newfound confidence and self-assuredness the members of the band found during an intense touring schedule; but also revealing a band that has expanded upon the sound that initially won them international attention. In fact, Black Stabat Mater‘s four compositions still manage to possess the improvised feel of jazz fusion and free jazz but while arguably being the most prog rock/stoner rock/heavy metal leaning material they’ve released to date, essentially crafting an album that effortlessly blurs the lines of jazz, metal, stoner rock and prog rock — and in a way that nods to the jazz fusion experiments of the 70s while being remarkably contemporary.

Considered the effort’s first two tracks “Approaching: On Arrival” is an expansive, twisting and turning composition that begins with Bjørnstad’s jazz-like syncopation, Brekken’s sinuous yet propulsive bass lines and Mollestad’s bluesy guitar chords during the composition’s lengthy introduction before quickly morphing into a stoner rock and prog rock stomp, complete with some serious guitar pyrotechnics. At the 7:15 mark the composition becomes a wildly free-flowing and kaleidoscopic array of feedback, thundering drumming, blistering guitar playing reminiscent of John Coltrane‘s late, experimental work — and in a similar fashion, the composition possesses a mind and conscious-altering quality. “In The Court Of The Trolls” is composition comprised of alternating sludgy, prog rock/stoner rock and trippy psychedelic, acid jazz sections and while much like the preceding track feels completely loose and improvised, also reveals a band that’s incredibly tight; in fact, there’s the sense that one musician puts an idea down and the rest will follow, knowing exactly where and when to take it. Track 4 “-40 is a gorgeous and contemplative composition featuring gently swirling and undulating feedback with a gorgeous guitar solo while album closing track “Somebody Else Should Be On That Bus” begins with a heavy, Charles Mingus-styled bass introduction before turning into a sludgy, power chord-heavy composition that sounds as though it were inspired by Queens of the Stone Age and others.

So far, 2016 has bee a mixed year for me as far as album-length releases but I may have stumbled across one of my favorite releases this year, as the Norwegian trio specialize in an uncompromising and exciting genre meshing and genre defying sound. But I think that the album should also reveal that Hedvig Mollestad is arguably one of the best guitarists that everyone should know right now.









Nigerian-born, Montreal-based producer Teck-Zilla emerged as an up-and-coming producer with the release of Son of Sade: An Ode, an 18 minute instrumental mixtape that was intended as a tribute to both the renowned British-Nigerian vocalist Sade and the producer’s mother, who coincidentally is also named Sade. Now, if you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past two years or so, you might remember that I wrote about the Nigerian-Canadian producer’s Afro Bootleg EP, an EP that had the producer revisiting his birthplace, as he remixed some of Nigeria’s biggest hits with a populist, globe-spanning, crowd-rocking sound that would get asses moving in clubs across New York, Montreal, LagosLondonIbiza an others.

Although it’s been a little while since we’ve heard from Teck-Zilla, the Nigerian-born and Montreal, QC-based producer has been prolific, as he’s released a number of mixtapes, including the aforementioned Son of Sade and Afro Bootleg EP, as well as Souled Off: A Dedication to Molly Molls. His third and latest instrumental mixtape Joe Jackson Kids has the producer paying homage to Michael Jackson — mostly Jackson 5-era Michael Jackson as the mixtape features snippets of interviews with Michael Jackson and his family, as he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and uncertain about his fame, and a variety of chopped up samples of Jackson 5 songs and Michael’s solo work. While reminding the listener that Michael Jackson’s ghost looms large in contemporary pop — hell, contemporary music in general — the mixtape also manages to create nuanced and empathetic portrait and interpretation of the young Michael Jackson. But ironically, the EP’s title comes from a playful, inside joke that the Nigerian-born, Montreal-based producer had with his brother. As Teck-Zilla explains in press notes “I got the title from one of my favourite Jeru the Damaja records, ‘Whatever,’ off his Wrath of the Math LP. That line always cracked me and my brother up every time, so it was kinda like an inside joke for both of us. Just remember to say ‘check it out’ after the title.”

Probably the biggest highlight on the mixtape is “Human Nature (Jackson Jones Flip)” which not only turns the original song on its head, but also reminds the listener of how influential the song has been to hip-hop and to R&B as Teck-Zilla weaves bits of Nas‘ classic Illmatic including “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” “The World Is Yours” and others songs while subtly nodding at Off the Wall.  “Letter to Michael” is a headbanging take on Michael’s work that sounds as though it were indebted to J. Dilla while “Goodbye (Last Call)” is a sensual closer that features twinkling percussion, handclaps and chopped up bits of Michael singing in a way that creates an entirely different song. “JJ Kids” features the sample that inspired the title before quickly turning into the warm, twinkling soul instrumental that’s nods to J. Dilla and Pete Rock. But perhaps most important, the entire mixtape reveals Teck-Zilla to be a remarkably playful yet thoughtful producer, whose sound has become increasingly warm and soulful.