Tag: Fleetwood Mac

New Audio: Aussie JOVM Mainstays Geowulf Release a Warmly Atmospheric and Deceptive Pop Confection

I’ve written quite a bit about JOVM mainstays Geowulf over the past couple of years, and as you may recall, the act which is comprised of Noosa, Australia-born friends and collaborators, Star Kendrick and Toma Benjamin have known each other since they were both teenagers. However, their musical collaboration began when Kendrick, who grew up in a rather musical home started to seriously pursue music a few years ago. Kendrick enlisted the help of her old friend to help flesh out some of her early demos.

After a string of successful, critically applauded singles that included “Saltwater,” which received over 1 million Spotify streams and reached Hype Machine‘s Top Ten and landed at #4 on Spotify’s US Viral Charts; the Mazzy Star meets  Fleetwood Mac-like “Don’t Talk About You;” the  Phil Spector meets Still Corners “Drink Too Much;”  the jangling, 60s girls group pop-inspired single “Hideaway,;” and The Smiths-like “Sunday,” the JOVM mainstays released their Duncan Mills-produced, full-length debut, Great Big Blue last year.

Building on the growing profile, the duo’s highly anticipated sophomore album My Resignation is slated for an October 25, 2019 release through [PIAS] Recordings, and the album finds the Aussie JOVM mainstays collaborating with acclaimed songwriter and producer Justin Parker on a number of tracks.Reportedly, the album finds Kendrick writing what may arguably be the most brutally honest to date with the album touching about loneliness — in particularly, learning to accept it and to love the space it provides; but viewed through the lens of a 20 something trying to maneuver the weight of the expectations put upon by others and upon themselves. The album also touches upon heartbreak, growth and self-actualization. In fact, in some way, the material finds the duo maturing and trying to maneuver the difficulties and complexities of adulthood.

“I See Red,” My Resignation‘s first single was a subtle expansion of the sound that first caught the attention of this site and elsewhere across the blogosphere. While employing the use of shimmering synths, the track is primarily centered around jangling guitar lines, a propulsive rhythm section, a soaring hook and Kendrick’s crooning — and while sounding incredibly self-assured, the song comes from a deeply personal and lived-in place. “‘I See Red’ was written after an argument with my sister,” the duo’s Star Kendrick explains in press notes. “The song was a realization that you are only ever your most raw, horrible self when you’re with the people you love to death and who love you.

I have been very proactive over many years in going to therapy, talking openly about mental health and have constantly taken steps to control emotions, moods and even my temper – having a family history of mental illness, this is something my siblings and I have had a lot of awareness about.This song is about that process and what I’ve learnt. The ebbs and flows of trying to be the best version of yourself.”

My Resignation’s latest single “Round and Round” continues a run of sugary  pop confections, centered around warmly atmospheric synths, shimmering acoustic guitar, Kendrick’s imitable crooning and a soaring hook — and while bearing a resemblance to the material off their debut with a subtle nod to Slow Air-era Still Corners, the track was actually written in an extremely negative headspace and environment as it seethes with frustration over the narrator’s repetitive patterns. “I was frustrated with maybe a lack of self-control and an inability to break patterns in my life… In a few areas,” Geowulf’s Star Kendrick explains in press notes. “This song is my way to poking holes in how I handled that. The rest of the album follows a similar, emotional narrative, and is all about exploring those old things & how I’ve tried to leave them behind.”

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New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Geowulf Expands Upon Their Blogosphere Winning Sound in New Single

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about JOVM mainstays Geowulf, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Noosa, Australia-born friends and collaborators, Star Kendrick and Toma Benjamin. As the story goes, although the duo have known each other since they were both teenagers, their musical collaboration began when Kendrick, who grew up in a musical home started to seriously pursue music a few years ago — and Kendrick enlisted the help of her old friend to flesh out some of her early demos. 

After a string of successful, critically applauded singles including “Saltwater,” which received over 1 million Spotify streams and reached Hype Machine‘s top ten before landing at #4 on Spotify’s US Viral Charts; the Mazzy Star meets  Fleetwood Mac-like   “Don’t Talk About You;” the  Phil Spector meets Still Corners “Drink Too Much,” and the jangling, 60s girls group pop-inspired single “Hideaway,” and The Smiths-like “Sunday,” the JOVM mainstays released their Duncan Mills-produced, full-length debut, Great Big Blue last year. 

Slated for an October release, the duo’s highly-anticipated sophomore full-length album My Resignation finds the Aussie JOVM mainstays collaborating with songwriter and producer Justin Parker, who has worked with the likes of Lana Del Rey, Bat For Lashes and Cloves on a number of tracks. Reportedly, the album finds Kendrick writing what may arguably be the most brutally honest to date with the album touching about loneliness — in particularly, learning to accept it and to love the space it provides; but viewed through the lens of a 20 something trying to maneuver the weight of the expectations put upon by others and upon themselves. Naturally, the album also touches upon heartbreak, growth and self-actualization. Or in other words, the material finds the duo maturing and trying to figure out the difficulties of adulthood — although to be honest, at 40, I’m not entirely convinced that I’ve tackled that myself. 

“I See Red,” My Resignation’s first single is a subtle expansion of the sound that first caught the attention of this site and elsewhere across the blogosphere. While employing the use of shimmering synths, the track is primarily centered around jangling guitar lines, a propulsive rhythm section, a soaring hook and Kendrick’s crooning — and while sounding incredibly self-assured, the song comes from a deeply personal and lived-in place. “‘I See Red’ was written after an argument with my sister,” the duo’s Star Kendrick explains in press notes. “The song was a realization that you are only ever your most raw, horrible self when you’re with the people you love to death and who love you.

I have been very proactive over many years in going to therapy, talking openly about mental health and have constantly taken steps to control emotions, moods and even my temper – having a family history of mental illness, this is something my siblings and I have had a lot of awareness about.This song is about that process and what I’ve learnt. The ebbs and flows of trying to be the best version of yourself.”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about London-based JOVM mainstays Ten Fe, and as you may recall, the act which, was founded by primary songwriters Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan officially expanded into a full-fledged band with the permanent additions of touring members and longtime friends Rob Shipley (bass) and Johnny Drain (keys), who are two of Duncan’s oldest friends from Walsall, and Alex Hammond (drums), who was with the band for the writing and recording of the band’s sophomore full-length album Future Perfect, Present Tense. 

Written in an East London vacant driving license office, tracked in Oslo, Norway  and finished with producer Luke Smith, Future Perfect, Present Tense thematically is a mediation on everything that has brought them all to the point of their sophomore album, and everything they’ve willingly (and perhaps unwillingly) left behind in actually getting there. Interestingly, the London-based act’s sophomore album is a decided sonic departure from its predecessor, as the material draws from 70s AM rock — in particular, Fleetwood Mac and others, while retaining an uncanny ability to craft slick and rousingly anthemic hooks.

Now, as you may recall the members of the London-based JOVM mainstays are currently finishing up their second headlining North American tour with shows across the West Coast before returning back to Europe for a month long tour across the UK and the European Union. (You can check out the remaining tour dates below.) As the band’s North American tour comes to a close, they released a mostly a cappella cover of TLC‘s smash hit “Waterfalls” that reveals a gorgeous multi-part harmony that ends with a towering instrumental crescendo. 

 

Tour Dates

09-Apr, Los Angeles, CA, Troubadour

11-Apr, San Fran, CA,The Independent

13-Apr, Portland, OR, Doug Fir Lounge

14-Apr, Vancouver, Biltmore Cabaret

15-Apr, Seattle, WA, Barboza

24-Apr, Manchester, UK, Yes (Pink Room)

25-Apr, Edinburgh, UK, Sneaky Pete’s

26-Apr, Newcastle, UK, Think Tank?

27-Apr, Leeds, UK, Headrow House

29-Apr, Nottingham, UK, Rough Trade

30-Apr, Bristol, UK, The Louisiana

01-May, Brighton, UK, The Hope & Ruin

04-May, Paris, FR, Pont FMR

05-May, Antwerp, BE, Trix

07-May, Zurich, CH, Papiersaal

09-May, Vienna, AT, B72

10-May, Prague, CZ, Café vs Lese

11-May, Berlin, DE, Musik & Frieden

13-May, Hamburg, DE, Molotow

14-May, Cologne, DE, Studio 672

16-May, Nijmegen, NL, Merleyn

17-May, Rotterdam, NL, Rotown

18-May, Utrecht, NL, EKKO

19-May, Amsterdam, NL, Bitterzoet

 

Interview: A Q&A with VALLEY’s Michael Brandolino

The members up-and-coming, Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based indie rock/indie pop act VALLEY Rob Laska (vocals), Karah James (drums), Michael Brandolino (guitar) and Alex DiMauro (bass) played in a number of various bands, initially playing in high school bands covering some of their favorite artists before getting serious enough to write their own material.  Interestingly enough, the members of the up-and-coming Canadian act can trace their origins to when the members’ previous projects were accidentally (and perhaps serendipitously) had their recording sessions double-booked at a local recording studio. The studio encouraged the band to try playing together — and as the story goes, instead of looking a gift horse in the mouth, each individual person decided to work together, eventually developing their self-produced and acclaimed debut EP, 2016’s This Room Is White, that amassed 10 million streams, partially as a result of the EP’s smash hit track “Swim,” which received airplay internationally and garnered placements on a number of TV shows. 

Last year, the members of VALLEY released the Maybe Side A EP, which featured “There’s Still A Light In The House,” a track that amassed over 1 million Spotify streams and received airplay on US College Radio. Building upon a growing profile, the up-and-coming Toronto-based indie quartet will be releasing their full-length debut Maybe through Universal Music Group later this year, and the album’s Andy Seltzer co-written and co-produced first single “Closer To The Picture”  thematically deals with the vacillating and inherent cycle of anxiety and self-reflection in the deafening digital noise of 21st century living.

VALLEY’s latest single, “A Phone Call In Amsterdam is a slickly produced bit of anthemic, radio friendly pop featuring shimmering synths, a rousing hook and a tight groove that sonically reminds me Plain White T‘s “Hey There, Delilah” and St. Lucia — while thematically focusing on an experience that should be familiar to most of us — that moment when you realize that you have feelings for a dear friend, who you desperately want to tell; but you’re afraid of rejection and ruining a good relationship.

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The up-and-coming Canadian band is currently touring with up and coming singer/songwriter and fellow Canadian Lennon Stella to support their most recent EP and new single, and the tour includes a stop tomorrow night at Irving Plaza, arguably their biggest area show to date. I recently spoke with the band’s Michael Brandolino via email about their new single, their tour, their influences and more. Check out the tour dates below, and the interview below the jump.

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MON 25 MARCH
Theater of the Living Arts Philadelphia, PA, US
TUE 26 MARCH
Irving Plaza New York, NY, US
THU 28 MARCH
Metro Chicago, IL, US
FRI 29 MARCH
The Rave/Eagles Club Milwaukee, WI, US
SAT 30 MARCH
Fine Line Minneapolis, MN, US
MON 1 APRIL
Bluebird Theater Denver, CO, US
WED 3 APRIL
Fonda Theatre Hollywood, CA, US
THU 4 APRIL
Fonda Theatre Hollywood, CA, US
FRI 5 APRIL
August Hal lSan Francisco, CA, US
SUN 7 APRIL
Wonder Ballroom Portland, OR, US
MON 8 APRIL
Neptune Theatre Seattle, WA, US
WED 10 APRIL
Vogue Theatre Vancouver, BC, Canada
THU 11 APRIL
Vogue Theatre Vancouver, BC, Canada
TUE 16 APRIL
Top Cats Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH, US
WED 17 APRIL
The Auricle Canton, OH, US
THU 18 APRIL
Cobra Lounge Chicago, IL, US
FRI 19 APRIL
Fubar St Louis, MO, US
SAT 20 APRIL
The Kio House Memphis, TN, US
MON 22 APRIL
The End Nashville, TN, US
FRI 14 JUNE
– SAT 15 JUNE
Liquid Arts Festival 2019 Hamilton, ON, Canada

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WRH: As the story goes, the members of the band met when a recording studio accidentally double- booked sessions and encouraged y’all to play together. Curiously, how does your previous project(s) differ from Valley? And when did you recognize that you had a musical and creative chemistry that couldn’t and shouldn’t be denied?

Michael Brandolino: The projects we worked on before Valley were kind of the stepping stones we needed to find our sound I’d say. We spent the years before Valley covering our favourite bands in high school and collecting our favourite sounds for the future.

WRH: How would you describe your sound?

MB: I’d say it’s very much a combination of our parents records and records that we discovered in the most formative years of our life. We’re always thinking about the overall story and how to tell it in the most honest way. We believe a lot in honesty and a freeing dynamic, while blending a lot of different sonic textures. For example, on this record we did a lot of acoustic guitar panning that sit quiet and create pads that sit under blanket under the song, which is something we learned from Coldplay but then we contrast that with a ton of drum machine samples from the 80s and 90s that glue these two different worlds together. We’re always thinking about bringing stuff like that into one headspace. It’s really important to us when shaping a record.

WRH: Who are you influenced by?

MB: We definitely have a very diverse list of influences ranging anywhere from John Mayer to Coldplay to Bon Iver and Ariana Grande. All those artists have put out records that have marked really important periods of growth for us as a band and personally. Super thankful to be living in an age where they exist.

WRH: Who are you listening to now?

MB: Currently really into Lorde’s latest record, love Bon Iver, Still Woozy, Lennon Stella of course, The Japanese House record, Fleetwood Mac, Ariana Grande! We’re all over right now. So many great albums have been put out this year.

WRH: Is there anyone in the Toronto scene, who we haven’t heard about in the States that we all should be hearing about?

MB: Hands down this band called Babygirl. They’re good friends of ours and we look up to them so much. Incredible story tellers and songwriters. We have a feeling you’ll be hearing about them soon…

Recommended first listens: “Overbored,” “Soft,” “Wish I Never Met You.”

 

WRH: You’re currently on tour with Lennon Stella. How has the tour gone so far?

 MB: This tour has been absolutely incredible. We feel so lucky and fortunate to be on this run with Lennon. It’s our first major U.S run and we’ve been learning a ton. Watching Lennon every night and seriously has one of the most beautiful voices out there right now. Her songwriting is way beyond her years in so many ways and cannot wait to see her career unfold. So lucky to be a part of her humble beginnings.

WRH: Speaking of your tour, it includes a March 26 stop at Irving Plaza. Is it your first-time playing NYC? And what should NYC music fans expect from your set and from the show?

MB: We’ve played Rough Trade in Brooklyn before, but this is definitely our first time playing the Plaza right in the heart of the city. New York is so damn special to us. We wrote a lot of Maybein the city and lots of lyrical and production soundscapes take place throughout the album. It’s gonna be a special night, we can feel it.

WRH: Your self-produced, acclaimed EP, 2016’s This Room Is White amassed over 10 million streams – perhaps a result of “Swim,” receiving placements on radio and TV. Building upon rapidly growing buzz around you, your full-length debut is slated for release later this year. So far, the album’s first single “Closer to the Picture,” which was co-written and co-produced by the band and Andy Seltzer has received over a million streams and US College radio airplay. How does it feel to attain that kind of attention in such a relatively short period of time?

MB: It’s a pretty cool feeling, although we always feel like we could do better. We’ve been pleasantly surprised that every release does better than the last. Closer to the picture now one of the smaller songs on MAYBE according to Spotify analytics. Our most recent single “A Phone Call In Amsterdam” has performed the best, and we’re brainstorming ideas on how to exceed that number with our next single titled “Park Bench.” We feel blessed with any success we’ve had but always are looking to do better. There’s always room to grow!!

WRH: Your latest single “A Phone Call in Amsterdam” reminds me a bit of Plain White T’s and St. Lucia. What influenced the song? And what’s the song about? 

MB: “A Phone Call in Amsterdam” was one of the earliest songs that we wrote for Maybe. I remember the initial idea was conceived around July/August of 2017 around the same time we also wrote “There’s Still A Light In The House.”

“A Phone Call in Amsterdam” in terms of concept came later. This one we really wanted words and feelings to flow freely in its early conception. Subconsciously the meaning came out of nowhere which kinda made me go “oh that’s what I’m writing about I know exactly where this is coming from in my life.”

It’s very much a love story set in a time and place from the perspective of a dear friend of ours. Though it’s wrapped up in distance, both physically and emotionally. The paradox of wanting someone in your life and being scared to tell them how you really feel but also not wanting to ruin something that is already good the way it is, by saying the wrong thing.

Your most current tour has you on the road for the better part of the next month, before a big festival date. After you’ve completed the tour, what’s next?

We’re planned to release another single, two music videos, and then the second half of our record MAYBE. We’ll be doing another hometown album release show in Toronto, date to be announced! We have some festivals lined up but we are also very eager to start writing and demoing again so will probably run away for a month in the summer and write.

 

Comprised of Shahanna Jaffer and Joey LaRosa, the Los Angeles-based duo Junaco can trace their origins to a mutual desire to make music for music’s sake — and to write honest songs that meant something true for themselves, that someone else may be able to make something true for them, as well. Instead of rushing through songs, the duo have a rather deliberate creative approach hat has resulted in a sound that’s moody yet anthemic.

The duo’s forthcoming Omar Yakar-produced EP is slated for release sometime later this year, and the EP’s first single — and the band’s debut single, as well, is the stunning and and cinematic “Willow.” Centered around layers of shimmering and jangling guitar chords, Jaffer gorgeous and lilting vocals, jazz-like drumming and an expansive song structure that features a sweeping, widescreen coda, the song will likely bring comparisons to Caveman, Eliza Shaddad and even Fleetwood Mac — all while possessing a swooning and lovelorn quality.

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Nashville’s Rock Eupora Releases a Lyrical and Wistful Visual Focusing on Enjoying the Moment

Clayton Waller is a Mississippi-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who through the release of three full-length albums with his solo recording project Rock Europa has developed a reputation locally for crafting infectious and anthemic indie rock centered around punchy guitars, catchy melodies, heartfelt sincerity and a defiantly DIY ethos.  Interestingly, Waller’s fourth, full-length self-titled album thematically is centered around Waller contending with the challenges of a 20 something searching for his own place in the world — and unlike his previously released albums, it was recorded in a professional studio, which has led to what reportedly may be his most polished, ambitious and adventurous albums he has worked on to date.

“Inbetween,” the latest single off Waller’s fourth Rock Europa album is centered around jangling power chords, a sinuous bass line, Waller’s plaintive vocals and a soaring hook. And while nodding at Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac, the song and its restless narrator expresses several different things — a longing to belong to something; the feeling of always rushing around and never having enough time to actually sit down and think about anything; and the feeling of being hopelessly disconnected from everything and everyone, when you’re desperate for any connection; but you don’t know how to do so. 

“Neither here nor there: that’s a tough place to be. Sometimes I only feel halfway present. It’s hard for me to live in the now — I’m always looking for the next best thing, always en route,” Waller says of his latest single in press notes. “I get so caught up trying to plan and control my future that I miss a lot of realtime fulfillment.

“It’s safe to say that most of us stay too busy – which I think is partly a reaction to what we value as a culture. We associate worth and meaning with accomplishments. I think it’s good to be driven, but I think it’s more important to be present. I’ve been trying to love myself (and others) right where I am and without qualifications or conditions. I believe that humans are inherently valuable! And if that’s the case, maybe the in-between is what it’s all about”

Shot and edited by Noah Tidmoore, the recently released video was shot on what appears to be Super 8 film and follows a group of friends, who are heading off to the lake for a boating trip — but one of them is a ghost, who lingers a bit uncomfortably on the margins, while his friends  are having a wonderful time, enjoying themselves, their youth and the moment. And once he dives in the lake and loses his ghostly sheet, Waller finds himself in the very moment with his friends. 

New Video: Visuals for Rocky Dawuni’s “Let’s Go” Offer a Small Slice of Daily Ghanian Life

Rocky Dawuni is an acclaimed Grammy Award-nominated, Ghanian singer/songwriter and guitarist, humanitarian and activist, who was once  named one of Africa’s Top 10 Global Stars by CNN and a UN Ambassador. As a singer/songwriter and guitarist, Dawuni’s specializes in a crowd pleasing sound and songwriting approach that features elements of roots reggae, soul, pop, Afropop and Afrobeat in a warmly familiar yet unique fashion. And naturally, Dawuni’s sound has proven to be immensely popular; in fact, he’s performed with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, Bono, Janelle Monae, Jason Mraz, John Legend, and a lengthy list of others.

Although, it’s been several years since I’ve personally written about him, Dawuni has been rather busy. His forthcoming and highly-anticipated seventh full-length album Beats of Zion is slated for a March 8, 2019 release through Six Degrees Distribution, and the album reportedly finds Dawuni expanding upon his self-dubbed Afro Roots sound to include the diversity of the contemporary Ghanian music scene, as well as a deeper global perspective inspired by his travels around the world. “Beats of Zion was born out of my desire to use my diverse global musical influences and exposure to various traditions to paint a multi-cultural musical vision of the world that I perceive,” Dawuni says in press notes. “The beginning of the year saw me visit Ethiopia and India. In Ethiopia, I visited Lalibela, witnessing ancient Christian rites and my journeys in India also exposed me to its diverse spiritual culture and the shared similarities I saw to Africa.” He adds, “The title Beats of Zion is inspired by a vision of the drumbeat of awareness and elevation of consciousness; a musical call to arms for my audience to be proactive in this day and age as to each person’s responsibility to be an active instrument for positive change.”

Written and recorded over a two year span in various studios in Accra, Ghana, Nairobi, Kenya and Los Angeles. Several songs being recorded at Village Studios, where Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon and Fleetwood Mac recorded albums — with Dawuni recording in the same room that Fleetwood Mac once used. As he was working on the album, Dawuni found out that Fleetwood Mac was among a group of American rock bands that visited Ghana in the 70s, making the experience much more special to him. 

Beats of Zion’s latest single is the breezy and uplifting “Let’s Go.” And while clearly sounding as though it were inspired by Bob Marley  (“Three Little Birds” and “One Love”  immediately come to mind), it focuses on a small yet wonderful pleasure — riding a bike with a friend and having the wind blow through your hair. The recently released 360º video finds Dawuni teaming up with Cadbury Bicycle Factory to celebrate a decade of turning long walks to school into shorter bike riders — and unsurprisingly, the video which is set in Ghanian countryside follows local students riding from home to school. From watching the video, it should serve as a reminder that kids everywhere are essentially the same; in fact the video reminds me of seeing kids riding bikes to school in Dordrecht and Amsterdam, as well as kids in my own neighborhood. 

Towards the end of last year, I wrote a bit about Marlene Oak, a Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up on a small island outside of of Stockholm, where she turned to music as an escape. Oak spent her teenage years busking on the streets of Stockholm’s Old Town, and was serendipitously discovered by someone, who just happened to pass by and catch her playing. After releasing a couple of singles, which helped to develop a reputation for a sound and approach that’s influenced by Bob DylanJeff BuckleyJoni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Janis Joplin, the Swedish singer/songwriter and guitarist built a following playing shows across her homeland at pubs, clubs and elsewhere, opening for the likes of Miss Li,Whitney Rose and Susto, as well as playing sets at Way Out West FestivalSTHLM Americana and Irisfestivalen.

Now, as you may recall, Oak’s “In The Evening” was centered around a hauntingly sparse arrangement featuring Oak’s soulful and plaintive vocals, accompanied by a strummed, electric guitar fed through gentle amount of reverb. Naturally, the sparse arrangement forces your attention on Oak’s vocals and lyrics — with the song thematically focusing on heartbreak, sorrow, achingly lonely nights and desperately figuring out some way to move forward with your life. Recorded in one take, the song possesses a you-were-there immediacy which helps pack a walloping emotional punch. “When I recorded ‘In The Evening’, I wanted to record everything on one take — without a click. And that’s what I did,” Oak says in press notes. “I aimed for keeping the same feeling to the song as I had when I wrote it, and I wanted to sing the words as if they were my last.”

The up-and-coming, Stockholm-based singer/songwriter will be building upon a growing national and international profile with the release of her latest EP Silver Moon, which is slated for a February 15, 2019 release and the EP’s latest single is the jangling “Slip Away.” And while being clearly indebted to Southern California rock and AM rock (Fleetwood Mac immediately comes to my mind), the song is a swooning and urgently romantic song that focuses on grabbing your lover’s hand and escaping a brutal and cynical world with each other’s company for a little while at least. Just as important, the song reveals a self-assured songwriter, who can craft an infectious, arena rock friendly hook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Meshell Ndegeocello Releases Tender and Joyful Cover of Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, JOVM mainstay Meshell Ndegeocello– and as you may recall, the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist was born Michelle Lynn Johnson in Berlin, Germany and was raised in Washington, DC.  When she turned 17, she adopted the name Meshell Ndegeocello, with the surname, as she has explained meaning “free like a bird in Swahili.”

In the late 80s, Ndedgeocello gigged around DC’s go-go circuit, playing with a number of local acts including Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essence before unsuccessfully trying out for Living Colour’s bassist spot, after Muzz Skillings left the band. Deciding to go solo, Ndegeocello eventually caught the attention of Madonna, who signed the singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist to her Maverick Records. Most readers will remember her commercially successful collaborative coverof Van Morrison‘s “Wild Night,” with John Mellencamp, a single that peaked at #3 on the BillboardCharts in 1994 and “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” peaked at #73 later that year. Adding to a rapidly rising profile, she collaborated with the legendary Herbie Hancock on a track for Red Hot Organization’s AIDS awareness, tribute compilation Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, which was named Time Magazine‘s “Album of the Year.”  Her coverof Bill Withers‘ “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)” was a #1 Dance Hit in 1996 and was briefly featured in the major motion picture Jerry Maguire, and she landed Dance Top 20 hits with “Earth,” “Leviticus: Faggot,” and “Stay.” Along with that she collaborated with Madonna, playing bass on “I’d Rather Be Your Lover,” and contributing a verse at the last minute, after Tupac Shakur had criminal charges filed against him. Ndegeocello has also collaborated with Chaka Khan, rapping  on “Never Miss the Water,” a single that landed #1 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Charts and peaked at #36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Chart. Additionally, Ndegeocello has collaborated with the likes of Basement Jaxx,Indigo Girls, Scritti Politti,The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Rolling Stones, Alanis Morrissetteand Zap Mama.

Throughout her lengthy career, Ndegeocello has managed the rare feet of achieving commercial success while arguably being one of the most uncompromising and iconoclastic artists of the past 25 years — all while being credited as being at the forefront of the neo-soul sound, thanks in part to a genre defying and difficult to pigeonhole sound that draws from hip-hop, classic soul, jazz, rock, reggae and singer/songwriter pop. Over the past few years, Ndegeocello has been rather busy — she wrote and composed a musical influenced by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, titled Can I Get a Witness?: The Gospel of James Baldwin and released a gorgeous tribute album to the legendary Nina Simone, which featured collaborations with fellow JOVM mainstay Cody ChesnuTT and others.

Ventriloquism, Ndegeocello’s later album was released earlier this year, and the album finds the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist covering songs by  TLC, Janet Jackson, Tina Tuner, Prince and others, who have been influential to her and her work — but with her unique take. As the renowned singer/songwriter and bassist explains in press notes, “Early on in my career, I was told to make the same kind of album again and again, and when I didn’t do that, I lost support. There isn’t much diversity within genres, which are ghettoizing themselves, and I liked the idea of turning hits I loved into something even just a little less familiar or formulaic. It was an opportunity to pay a new kind of tribute.” Ventriloquism’s first single was a coverof Force MD‘s smash hit “Tender Love,” that found Ndegeocello turning the slow-burning, 80s piano ballad into a folksy, Harvest-era Neil Young/Fleetwood Mac track, complete with shuffling drumming, twinkling Fender Rhodes and harmonica. Though she eschews some of the song’s cheesiness, which makes it endearing in its own right, Ndegeocello’s cover retains the song’s earnestness — pointing out that a well-written pop song can reach for something downright timeless. 

The album’s latest single is a cover of Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity,” that briefly nods at Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” as it’s centered around loose, bluesy guitar chords, shuffling drumming and a New Orleans brass band-like bridge — and while retaining the song’s sultry nature, Ndegeocello manages to pull out and further emphasize the song’s tenderness.  Much like its predecessor, the new single continues Ndegeocello’s commentary on society’s narrow expectations on what music created by and performed by black artists should sound like and be like. 

Directed by the Cass Bird, the recently released video for “Sensitivity ” was specifically released in conjunction with the end of Pride Month — and in our dark and uncertain age, the video is a much-needed burst of joy and humanity, as the video was specifically cast to focus on faces, body types and identities that are less conventional, less celebrated and often misunderstood, capturing these people at their most vital, most joyful and most human — whether dancing, tenderly embracing, kissing and loving. Certainly, the world would be a much better place if there was more love and more gentle and human moments.