JOVM celebrates what would have been Joey Ramones 70th birthday.
JOVM celebrates Grace Jones’ 72nd birthday.
Erin Fein is a Urbana-Champaign, IL-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, producer and electro pop artist. Inspired by Kate Bush, Annie Lennox and Grace Jones, Fein began writing and recording lush, synth-based solo material earlier this decade under the moniker Psychic Twin. As the story goes, Fein found that she was channeling energy that led her to believe that she was spiritually collaborating with her “other self,” a non-existent twin.
After the release of her debut single, 2012’s “Gonna Get Her,” Fein relocated to Brooklyn, where she released her second single “Strangers” and her full-length debut, 2016’s Strange Diary. Since the release of Strange Diary, Fein has relocated to Los Angeles, where she joined Empress Of’s touring band — and has been working on her long-awaited sophomore album, which is slated for release in 2020. In the meantime, “Water Meets Land” is the first bit of new, Psychic Twin material from Fein in three years, and the track is shimmering and propulsive track that balances emotional intimacy with a slick, dance floor friendly production centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and Fein’s plaintive vocals. And while recalling Madonna, Stevie Nicks and Little Boots among others, the song comes from a deeply lived-in place, as it’s about struggle, acceptance and survival.
“I have been through some very difficult experiences in the last 6 years of my life and I honestly didn’t know if I could survive,” Fein explains in press notes. “And to accompany it all, I experienced anxiety so debilitating that I considered suicide. For many years I was steadily falling apart. And then things began to change — because I began to change — because I chose to get help. I learned how to stand on my own, to trust my own resources and to look directly into the darkest and most painful experiences in my life and confront them.”
Fein adds, “I want to share with anyone out there reading this that, if you are lost, you can learn to find your way again. If you’re willing to get help when you need it, you can learn to love and forgive yourself, without anyone else’s affirmation but your own. You can take the dagger out of your own heart and you can find the resources inside of yourself to do it. It is a life’s work, but it is possible.
“Lastly, I would like to dedicate this song to Trish Nelson, Natalie Saibel , Jamie Seet, Carla Rza Betts, Jessa Blades, Christina Lecki, and Kate Horne. To ‘The Team’ — All of you helped me to confront one of the most hidden places of pain in my life, you are survivors and you are champions, and I will always be grateful to all of you . . .”
Comprised of Dean Rodney, Jr. (vocals, rapping, songwriting), Matthew Howe (guitar), Charles Stuart (bass, co-songwriter, background vocals), best known for being a member of Grace Jones‘ touring band, and Andrew Mclean (drums) with Felipe Pagani (guitar) joining in on live shows, the London-based indie act The Fish Police formed back in 2010 and is a unique and pioneering act, as it features neurodiverse personnel — Rodney, Jr., Howe and Mclean are all on the autistic spectrum, with Howe and Mclean being trained by the band’s Stuart at the London creative arts charity and label Heart n Soul. Sonically, the neurodiverse act have developed a reputation for an electronic-based sound that draws from hip-hop, soul, 16 bit era computer game soundtracks and Afro-punk among others
The Fish Police’s forthcoming EP Edging Myself to the Middle reportedly sees Dean Rodney, Jr. taking on a slightly bigger role in terms of bringing musical ideas to the creative table. Interestingly, because of his autism, Rodney, Jr. sees life through a very different angle and consequently, the lyrical themes and concepts he explores in his lyrics are humorously surreal while possessing a deceptive, childlike simplicity. After all, along with the aforementioned influences of hip-hop, soul, computer game soundtracks and Afro-punk, the band is influences by cartoons, fast food and Japanese culture — and as a result they band has built up quite a bit of buzz; in fact, the band will be playing sets at this year’s SXSW. Edging Myself to the Middle‘s latest single “Cactus” is inspired by one of the cacti in the meeting room of their label’s offices, and the song finds the band pairing Rodney, Jr’s inventively surreal and childlike lyrics with glitchy electronics and funky and propulsive groove reminiscent of Fear of Music-era Talking Heads. But the bigger point is that this band should remind the listener of the inherent value of everyone — and that everyone has a story that should be told that respects their dignity and humanity.
Maria Uzor and Gemma Cullingford are grizzled vets of Norwich, UK’s music scene, performing and recording in a number of projects before deciding to collaborate roughly two years ago in their latest recording project Sink Ya Teeth. And within a short period of time after their formation the duo of Uzor and Cullingford received national attention for a slick yet lovingly DIY electro pop that draws from 80s synth pop and early house music, as well as a broader range of influences — including Grace Jones, ESG, Nina Simone and Howlin’ Wolf.
Earlier this year, I wrote about the duo’s incredibly dance floor friendly single “If You See Me,” a single that featured Uzor and Cullingford’s coquettish crooning over a sultry and percussive synth pop production — and while on a superficial level, the song is about having way too much but as the duo explained in press notes, the song was written “the day after one of those really good nights that you probably shouldn’t have! It’s a song about feeling sorry for yourself but knowing that you can’t blame anyone else either.”
“Glass,” the Norwich duo’s latest single sonically speaking manages to nod at Giorgio Moroder’s production work with Donna Summer, in particular, “I Feel Love” and “Love to Love You Baby,” and The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” as the song features a slick and propulsive production featuring layers of arpeggio synths and mathematically precise drum programming. And while arguably being among the chilliest singles they’ve released, the duo explains that the song “is about that moment when you realise you want to break from the routine and turn a corner in life.”
Directed by Doug Merton, the recently released music video featured the duo in a darkened car driving around. “We wanted to convey a feeling of a journey from light to dark,” the Norwich-based synth pop duo explains. Merton “transferred our idea into a literal journey, complete with light show to maintain that disco vibe that runs through the track. And I guess the twist at the end questions how easy it is or how willing we really are to change things.”
Born Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws in Bristol, UK and currently based in Berlin, Germany, the British-born, German-based emcee, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Tricky is arguably one of the most influential and important artists of trip-hop — both as a member of the genre’s pioneering act Massive Attack and as a solo artist, who has also collaborated with a diverse array of artists, including Terry Hall, Bjork, Gravediggaz, Grace Jones, Live’s Ed Kowalczyk, PJ Harvey, and others. And throughout his career, both as a member of Massive Attack and as a solo artist, the British-born, German-based emcee, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer has a long-held reputation for being difficult to pigeonhole as his work and aesthetic draws from American and British hip-hop, rock, dub, reggae, punk rock, New Wave and ambient electronica while blurring the lines between each genre and style in an unrecognizable fashion.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you may recall that I had written a bit about Tricky’s musical project, Skilled Mechanics, a project that he started almost as soon as he relocated to Berlin. And while in a conventional sense, whenever a renowned solo artist would form a band it was largely considered a sign that the artist was sick of the spotlight and desperate to fade into something much larger than themselves, Tricky’s motivations for the project was the opposite — with the idea that Tricky would take more of a leading role with a series of rotating collaborators and friends.
Unsurprisingly, the renowned artist and producer has also managed to work on and release solo material, including the critically applauded single “The Only Way,” which managed to be a subtle change in sonic direction with the original version nodding towards the lush, cabaret crooner sound of Edith Piaf. He then recently, a stopped down mix of the song that emphasized the loneliness and ache at the core of the song; but along with that, Tricky had been working on the material, which would comprise his forthcoming album ununiform. Slated for a September 22, 2017 through False Idols Records/!K7 Records, the renowned trip-hop artist and producer’s 13th album reportedly finds his material reflecting a larger and perhaps more radical step forward — towards happiness and contentment, while he confront his own artistic legacy, his own family and even death. The album’s latest single “Running Wild” features Mina Rose’s husky yet soulful vocals singing over a moody yet lush production featuring strummed guitar, shimming strings, stuttering drum programming — but underneath the surface is plaintive and visceral longing that hasn’t been revealed to this extent in his previously released work.
Created by Blur frontman and founding member Damon Albarn and renowned comic book artist Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz is a virtual band, featuring animated characters 2D (vocals), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar) and Russel Hobbs (guitar) that exploded into with the international scene with the 2001 release of their eponymous debut. The BRIT and Grammy Award-winnng act has since released three critically applauded and commercially successful albums — 2005’s Demon Days, 2010’s Plastic Beach and 2011’s The Fall and with each of their four previously released albums the act has topped charts around the world, receiving millions of streams, selling millions of copies and playing arenas, clubs and festivals from San Diego to Syria. Along with that the act has won the Jim Henson Creativity Honor and have been recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s Most Successful Virtual Act.
Humanz, the virtual act’s fifth and latest album was released to critical applause last month and the album has continued the band’s incredible run of commercial successes with the album landing at number 1 and number 2 on the US and UK charts respectively, as well as topping the iTunes chart in over 60 different countries. Produced by Gorillaz, The Twilite Tone of D /\ P and Remi Kabaka, the album was recorded in studios in London, Paris, New York, Chicago and Jamaica and has the members of the virtual band — er, Damon Albarn and company — collaborating with an eclectic and accomplished array of contemporary artists including Savages’ Jehnny Beth, Danny Brown, Benjamin Clementine, De La Soul, D.R.A.M., Anthony Hamilton, Grace Jones (!!!), Zebra Katz, Mavis Staples (!!!), Vince Staples, Popcaan, Pusha T., Peven Everett and others.
Humanz’s latest single “Strobelite” features the members of Gorillaz collaborating with Harvey, IL-born, Chicago, IL-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Peven Everett, an artist whose work has spanned across R&B, jazz, hip-hop and house music. The Harvey, IL-born, Chicago-based artist received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music when he was 17 before leaving to collaborate with the likes of Betty Carter, Branford Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis. Since then Everett has contributed trumpet on a handful of jazz recordings, including Curtis Lundy’s Against All Odds while becoming a leading figure in Chicago’s house, soul and R&B communities, releasing seven solo albums. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Gorillaz collaboration with Everett is the most dance floor-friendly track they’ve released in several years — since, perhaps “Dare” off Demon Days, as the album’s latest single features Everett’s soulful crooning singing uplifting lyrics over a club banging, Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles-era house music production featuring cosmic ray-like synths, twinkling keys and dance floor-friendly beats; it’s frankly the sort of song that’s so uplifting that you’d have to dance and smile — and if you didn’t there was something deeply wrong about you.
Directed by Stoke, UK-native Raoul Skinbeck, the recently released video for “Strobelite” features Peven Everett with the members of Gorillaz and a multicultural cast of clubgoers tearing up a London nightclub and if there’s one thing that the video confirms in an increasingly unsettled and frightening world that it’s the things that remind us of our humanity that unite us — that music has the power to let us escape for a little bit, to have us fall in love, and to remind us of who and what we are; and that there’s freedom on the dance floor.
Born Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws in Bristol, UK and currently based in Berlin, Germany, the British-born, German-based emcee, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Tricky is arguably one of the most influential and important artists in trip hop — both as a member of the genre’s pioneering act Massive Attack and as a solo artist, who has also collaborated with a diverse array of artists, including Terry Hall, Bjork, Gravediggaz, Grace Jones, Live’s Ed Kowalczyk, PJ Harvey, and others. And whether with Massive Attack or as a solo artist, throughout his career, Tricky has had a long-held reputation for being uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole and for being remarkably iconoclastic as his work and aesthetic has drawn from both American and British hip-hop, rock, dub, reggae, punk rock and ambient electronica and blurred lines between each genre and style.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past two years or so, you may recall that I’ve written about Tricky and one of his musical projects — Skilled Mechanics, a project that derived its name “from a documentary about espionage,” as the renowned trip hop pioneer explained in press notes, and started almost as soon as he relocated to Berlin. In a conventional sense, when a renowned solo artist forms a band, it’s frequently considered a sign that the solo artist in question is sick of the spotlight and is desperate to fade into something much larger than themselves; however, oddly enough for Tricky, his motivations were the exact opposite. As Tricky notes, over the years, he’s received quite a bit of criticism for what fans, critics, producers and others have perceived as frustrating habit of playing second fiddle to a variety of collaborators. “People have been asking me for years, ‘Will you ever take charge vocally? Will you ever lead as the singer on one of your albums?’ On Adrian Thaws, my last album, I came to the forefront vocally. I was more in your face on three of the tracks but I wanted to build even further towards a catalogue of songs where I didn’t rely on a girl singer. But I realised it would be hard to do under the name Tricky because people would always associate that name with me using a female singer. I haven’t been alone at the front of the stage on my own since before I released my first album Maxinquaye 20 years ago. I needed to change. It is good to change and to keep on pushing yourself,” Tricky explained in press notes.
His idea was that Skilled Mechanics would be a rather loose collaborative project that would allow him to work with a variety of musicians and artists while pushing his imitable vocals to the forefront as much as possible. And interestingly enough, the project’s earliest collaborators included DJ Milo, who is not only one of Tricky’s oldest friends but also the first person the Bristol-born, Berlin-based artist ever recorded with, as well as his introduction to The Wild Bunch sound system, which eventually evolved into Massive Attack. The other early collaborator on the project is Luke Harris, who is the drummer in Tricky’s backing band — but as a vocalist. As the story goes, Harris’ vocal talents were discovered by complete accident: Harris was covering for Tricky’s regular vocalist Francesca Belmonte during a quick bathroom break during soundcheck. Tricky was so impressed by Harris that he asked him to take part in his next musical project. The trip hop pioneer and his band recorded a full-length album, Tricky Presents: Skilled Mechanics and while the album featured collaborations with with Oh Land, Ann Dao, Ivy 艾菲, Francesca Belmonte, Renata Platon, and Xdare, as well as a murky and ominous lullaby-like re-working of Porno for Pyros’ “Porpoise Head,” “Diving Away.”
Unsurprisingly, Tricky has continued to work on solo material, including the recent release of a new single “The Only Way” to critical acclaim earlier this year. Interestingly, the track managed to be a subtle change of sonic direction as Tricky pairs his vocals with a lush, 50s and 60s cabaret crooner production featuring strummed guitar, twinkling piano and a stunningly gorgeous string arrangement — all of which give the track a cinematic sweep while subtly nodding at the work of Edith Piaf. Recently, Tricky released a new mix — a stripped down mix of the song that pairs his vocals with a murky and ambient production featuring droning and twinkling keys and ominously swirling electronics that emphasizes the loneliness and ache at the core of the song. “The mix came about by accident” Tricky explains “I was working on something else, playing around on the keyboard, and when I heard the 3 chords I was playing I knew instantly it was a special vibe but it didn’t work with what I was working on at the time. So rather than finish the track I was trying to do, I carried on with this track and did vox of ‘The Only Way’ on top — it was just meant to be.”
Maria Uzor and Gemma Cullingford are grizzled vets of Norwich, UK’s music scene, performing and recording in a number of projects before deciding to collaborate together 18 months ago in their latest project Sink Ya Teeth. And in a short period of time, the duo have received attention both in their hometown and nationally for a sound that draws from a board range of influences including Grace Jones, ESG, Nina Simone and Howlin’ Wolf among others in a lovingly DIY yet slick electro pop that clearly draws from early 80s synth pop and house music — all while being reminiscent of Las Kellies’ Total Exposure, Blondie, and others. In fact, the duo’s latest dance floor-friendly single “If You See Me” features Uzor and Cullingford coquettish crooning over a sultry and percussive synth pop production consisting of off-kilter percussion, electronic bleeps and bloops and a sinuous bass line — and although on a superficial level, the song is about having a bit too much fun on night out, as the duo explain “‘If You See Me’ was written the day after one of those really good nights that you probably shouldn’t have! It’s a song about feeling sorry for yourself but knowing that you can’t really blame anyone else either.”
As Maria Uzor says of the recently released video for “If You See Me,” “We shot the video in my flat one Saturday morning and got all of our friends to pile ‘rond ready to party on the promise of free booze. We had a loose idea after sitting down with director Jo Millington a few days before, and really just ended up rolling the camera and seeing what happened.” And the end result is a free-flowing, goofy energy of a bunch of friends hanging out, playing records and fooling around together.
With the release of “Pavement” earlier this year, the Brooklyn-based songwriter, producer and electronic music artist Daniel Balk, best known as Stray Echo received attention for a breezy, Afropop and electro pop inspired production consisting of propulsive, tweeter and woofer rattling beats, a sinuous and funky guitar line and a flirtatious hook that seems inspired by Grace Jones’ “Pull Up to The Bumper” — while also talking about the role of the internet and social media in our increasingly politically charged world in an incredibly subtle fashion.
The up-and-coming producer recently enlisted the Grammy-nominated, JOVM mainstays Sofi Tukker to remix the song, a song that the duo have been enormous fans of, and their remix completely re-imagines the song as a classic house music track, complete with stuttering and propulsive percussion, shimmering synths and tweeter and woofer rattling beats, while retaining the song’s sultry flirtatiousness and its crowd-pleasing, club banging nature.