JOVM (belatedly) celebrates Herbie Hancock’s 81s birthday.
Carnavon, Australia-born, Fremantle, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jay Watson is an extremely busy and restlessly creative man: Watson splits his time as a touring member of acclaimed JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and POND. He’s also the creative mastermind the acclaimed solo recording project (and fellow JOVM mainstay act) GUM.
Spinning Top Music released Watson’s fifth GUM album Out In The World earlier this year. The album, which is the highly follow-up to 2018’s critically applauded The Underdog was written and recorded in between tours with Tame Impala and POND continues Watson’s long-held reputation for having a voracious taste for styles, sounds and different eras. Thematically, the album is fueled by the Carnavon-born Fremantle-based artist’s quest to make sense of modern life — with the album’s material being fueled by an untethered curiosity and the inherent anxiety of too much awareness and too much connectedness.
Sonically, Out In The World’s material may arguably be the most boundary pushing of Watson’s growing catalog. “This album is my attempt at making a record that combines my fascination of how other people live their lives, with my own internal desire to analyse mine and improve it,” Watson says of his latest album. “‘Out In The World’ was a phrase that conjured a lot of grandeur and ego, yet somehow felt really small and wholesome at the same time.”
I’ve written about two of the album’s singles:
“Don’t Let It Go Out,” the album’s second single, a track that sees Watson pushing his sound and songwriting in a bold new direction. Centered around a glistening arpeggio guitar riff, jangling acoustic guitar, propulsive four-on-the-floor and shimmering synths, “Don’t Let It Go Out” finds Watson pushing his sound and songwriting in a bold direction while retaining the hook-driven, carefully crated nature quality that GUM fans have loved.
“Airwalkin,” a swaggering 80s synth pop-like banger featuring tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap-like beats, squiggling synths, soaring strings and an enormous hook that sonically seemed indebted to J. Dilla. Odelay-era Beck, Future Shock-era Herbie Hancock and Kraftwerk.
Out In The World’s latest single “Low to Low” finds Watson pushing his sound into a new direction — but while arguably crafting what may be the funkiest song of his catalog. Centered around shuffling polyrhythm, explosive horn stabs, dusty breakbeats, tinny Casio-like synth arpeggios and Watson’s yearning vocals, the track sounds as though Watson had been listening to salsa, Expensive Shit/He Miss Road-era Fela Kuti, 80s New Wave and synth pop the deceptively breezy pop confection actually seems to express a fear of irrelevance and of being forgotten.
“I purchased an EHX DRM15 drum machine and the song developed from one of the preset beats, this ‘robot-latin vive with lots of spring reverb. It was the last song I recorded for the album, it’s bizarre stylistically, but I just went with it,” Watson says of the album’s latest single.
Co-directed with POND bandmate Jamie Terry, the recently released video for “Low to Low” was shot in Fremantle on grainy Super 8 or 16mm film, and the visual captures the sunny warmth of Western Australia — while following Watson walking around with an enormous plastic box. “ My mate Az gave me 16 panels of Perspex he had found, who knows where? GUM thinks outside (and inside) the box,” Watson says of the video. ““Now that the dust has settled on Out In The World,I think this is probably my favourite track from the album, and I know it is for lots of other people too, so I wanted to make a visual for it,” he adds.
The Brooks is a rising Montreal-based soul act that formed over eight years ago. And since their formation, the Montreal-based act proudly claims some of that city’s most accomplished musicians:
Florida-born, Montreal-based singer/songwriter and frontman Alan Prater has toured with Michael Jackson — and the band itself can trace much of its origins to behind the walls of the Motown Museum:
Alexandre Lapointe (bass) has worked alongside Joel Campbell, the musical director for Tina Turner and Janet Jackson.
Prater and Lapointe are joined by Maxime Bellavance (drums), Phillips Look (guitar, vocals), Daniel Thouin (keys), Sébastien Grenier (sax), Hichem Khalifa (French horn), and Phillipe Beaudin (percussion).
Developing and honing a sound that draws from James Brown, D’Angelo, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and J. Dilla, the members of The Books have a songwriting approach that eschews rules and trends, fueled by the dual missions of spreading joy and the funk. And with the release of two albums and an EP, the band, which was once named the“best kept secret of Canadian funk” by La Presse, and nominations, and award wins at GAMIQ, Independent Music Awards, ADISQ, and others has built up a provincial and national profile.
Slated for an October 23, 2020 release through Duprince Records across North and South America and Underdog Records through Europe and Japan, the Montreal-based soul outfit’s third album Any Day Now finds the band firmly establishing their unique songwriting approach and sound. Earlier this year, I wrote about the strutting and stomping party anthem “Turn Up the Sound,” a track that recalled The Payback-era James Brown, Dance to the Music and Stand!-era Sly and the Family Stone while encoring people to get up out of that seat, dance and enjoy themselves, and escape their worldly concerns for 3-4 minutes or so. “I just wanted to write a fun song to get you to escape from whatever you’re doing,” the band’s Alan Prater explains in press notes.
Any Day Now’s latest single “Gameplay” is a slick, two-step inducing synthesis of 70s disco soul, funk and psych soul centered around a supple bass line, shuffling Nile Rodgers-like rhythm guitar, wah-wah pedal -driven lead guitar, a soaring string arrangement — within an expansive, yet pop-leaning song structure. Thematically, the song as the band’s Alan Prater explains is about a fairly common experience that countless straight men have had: “This song is about a boy wanting the girl that’s out of his league, but he has to have her. I’m Sure most guys have been there…haha”
Directed by Fred Remuzat, the recently released video for “Gameplay” visually recalls the animation style of Gorillaz — but while sweetly telling the song’s central story: boy falls for girl, who may not know he even exists. And yet through music, the boy makes his earnest plea of devotion and love, which manage to move the woman. The video is a blast of something adorable that I desperately needed. I suspect y’all will feel the same.
Individually Norwegian-born and-based trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær and French-born, Brooklyn-based percussionist Mino Cinelu have had accomplished careers: Cinelu first gained attention playing on Miles Davis‘ We Want Miles and Amandla, which has landed him gigs playing with Weather Report, Gong, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Sting, Santana, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and a eclectic and lengthy list of internationally acclaimed artists. The French percussionist has also released three solo albums and has collaborated with Dave Holland and Kevin Eubanks on World Trio. With 1997’s Khmer released through ECM Records, Nils Petter Molvær quickly established his unique sound and aesthetic — one which combines the Nordic feeling of nature with Southeast Asian sound philosophies. But since then, Molvær’s work has found him pushing his sound deeper into uncharted areas, while exploring various combinations of acoustic and electronic sounds. His work has allowed him to collaborate with German electronic producer Moritz von Oswald in 2013 with reggae artists Sly and Robbie in 2018 and with Bill Laswell on several occasions.
Slated for a September 4, 2020 release through BMG’s Modern Recordings, Cinelu and Molvær’s collaboration together SulaMadiana can trace its origins back to 2015 when the duo first met at a solo Molvær played in Turkey. Quickly agreeing to embark on a joint project together, it took several more meetings in different parts of the world and a handful of years before they were able to get together for a studio session in Oslo. Early this year, the recordings were rounded off in Cinelu’s Brooklyn studio with post-production completed as a remote, Transatlantic endeavor as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns. Speaking about the process, Cinelu says “The best way to start something is to start it. So I said: ‘let’s get started’. Nils brought a groove along which I liked, we enriched it with sounds and other grooves, wanted to find a melody, and it just made ‘Bang’. It was a real trip. A lot of blood, sweat and tears, but even more love.”
Sonically speaking both artists’ work represents two completely different worlds — Molvær’s work evokes the boreal cold of his homeland while Cinelu’s work evokes the rhythms and heat of Latin America and Africa. The album, which derives its name as a tribute to both artists’ heritage — Sula is the Norwegian island where Molvær grew up and Madiana is a loving nickname for the island of Martinique, where Cinleu’s father was born. The album’s material finds the duo finding a common sonic playground initially inspired by their previous work — but while pushing each other and their sound together into completely new territories: the album’s material finds Cinelu taking up vocal duties while Molvær plays acoustic, electric guitar and various other electronics. Of course for this to work, the interplay between the musicians is key. “We are different, but what we have in common is that we like to give some space to things,” Molvær says. Cinelu adds: “It doesn’t matter who has what share in music. We both know each other’s cultures, we find bridges and crossings, and often we walk these paths that lead in the same direction. We wrote everything together and followed our feelings. There are no limits or barriers.”
The album’s first single, album title track “SulaMadiana (For Manu Dibango)” is an ethereal yet funky tribute to Cinelu’s mentor Manu Dibango, centered around a propulsive acoustic guitar line, pedal effected trumpet, shimmering electric guitar soloing, atmospheric electronics, Afro-Latin percussion and Cinelu’s dreamy vocals. The end result is an adventurous and loving Vulcan mind-meld in which a wintry breeze blows through the propulsive funk in a way that evokes late summer.
Jay Watson is a Carnavon, Australia-born, Fremantle, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who creatively splits his time as a member of acclaimed psych rock acts and JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and POND — and with his acclaimed solo recording project GUM.
Watson’s fifth GUM album Out In The World, which was officially released today through Spinning Top Music, is the highly-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s critically applauded The Underdog. Written and recorded in between his commitments with POND and Tame Impala at his Fremantle-based home studio and while on the road, Out In The World continues Watson’s long-held reputation for his voracious taste for styles, sounds and eras — paired with his ongoing quest to make sense of modern life. Driven by untethered curiosity and the inherent anxiety of way too much awareness, the album is arguably, the most boundary pushing of his growing catalog. “This album is my attempt at making a record that combines my fascination of how other people live their lives, with my own internal desire to analyse mine and improve it,” Watson says of his latest album. “‘Out In The World’ was a phrase that conjured a lot of grandeur and ego, yet somehow felt really small and wholesome at the same time.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about “Don’t Let It Go Out,” Out In The World’s second single, a track that found Watson pushing his sound and songwriting in a bold new direction with its influences blurring into something distinctly Watson. “Airwalkin,” the album’s latest single is a swaggering, 80s synth pop inspired banger centered around boom bap-like beats, squiggling and shimmering synths, a soaring string sample, an enormous hook with vocodered vocals and Watson’s plaintive vocals. The end result is a song that sounds as though it were indebted to J. Dilla. Odelay-era Beck and Future Shock-era Herbie Hancock and Kraftwerk.
“This song is trying to capture the feeling of walking around my rural town with my Discman as a teenager, completely self-conscious about the way I look but completely feeling myself at the same time.” Watson says. “3 and a half minutes of Boombox Rock inspired by Stevie Wonder, Dilla and Beck.”
Directed by Alex McClaren, the recently released video for “Airwalkin'” is a vividly colored visual that features a variety of characters — three-eyed dog, a kid’s toy robot, a walking recycling bin and a walking boom box among others — walking through some trippy yet mischievous backdrops. “I wanted to do something with Alex McClaren again. He’d worked on the claymation video for ‘The Blue Marble’ off my last album, I love his stuff. I only had quite a vague idea that the clip could be a figure moving across a landscape in claymation, a vocoder robot-man initially, and Alex went next level with it’.”
Montreal-based soul act The Brooks formed over eight years ago — and the act can claim a lineup featuring some of the French Canadian city’s most accomplished local soul musicians: Florida-born, Montreal-based singer/songwriter and frontman Alan Prater has toured with Michael Jackson and the band itself can trace its origins to behind the walls of the Motown Museum: Alexandre Lapointe (bass) has worked alongside Joel Campbell, the musical director for Tina Turner and Janet Jackson. Prater and Lapointe are joined by Maxime Bellavance (drums), Phillips Look (guitar, vocals), Daniel Thouin (keys), Sébastien Grenier (sax), Hichem Khalifa (French horn), and Phillipe Beaudin (percussion).
Developing a sound that draws from James Brown, D’Angelo, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock and J. Dilla, the members of The Brooks have developed a reputation for a songwriting approach that eschews rules and trends while spreading joy and funk — and for an energetic live show. And as a result, the band has built up a profile both across the province and nationally over the course of two critically applauded albums and an EP: Named the “best kept secret of Canadian funk” by La Presse, the band has received a number of nominations and awards at GAMIQ, Independent Music Awards, ADISQ, and others.
The French Canadian soul outfit’s third full-length album Anyway Now is slated for a release this full through Duprince Records across North and South America and Underdog Records through Europe and Japan — and the album’s first single is the stomping, strutting and funky party anthem “Turn Up the Sound.” Centered around an arrangement that nods at The Payback-era James Brown, Dance to the Music and Stand!-era Sly and the Family Stone, the upbeat song was written to be played loud and to get you to get up out of your seat, escape your daily concerns for a few minutes and dance. Everything may seem canceled or postponed but music is still there to bring you joy — and to remind you that brighter days will come in time. “I just wanted to write a fun song to get you to escape from whatever you’re doing,” the band’s Alan Prater explains in press notes.
The single is accompanied by a live footage of the band performing the song in the studio, and it manages to reveal the band’s creative chemistry while being an introduction to the band to new listeners.
JOVM chats with Detroit-based emerging synth pop artist Phaserland about his new single “Flip The Switch” and its accompanying video.
Late last year, I wrote about Northridge, CA-based multi-instrumentalist, producer and electronic music artist Scott Gilmore, and as you may recall, Gilmore has recorded a handful of critically applauded releases through SFC REC and International Feel Records. His forthcoming album Two Roomed Motel is slated for a March 1, 2019 release through Crammed Discs, the label home of Juana Molina.
Interestingly, album single “Two Roomed Motel” was a funky, retro-futuristic synth pop track that to my ears brought Herbie Hancock‘s “Rockit,” Holy Ghost!‘s Crime Cutz, Return to Forever and the Los Angeles-based, post J Dilla beatmakers to mind; however, Gilmore meshes lo-fi bedroom recording with slick, highly contemporary production that feels and sounds mischievously anachronistic. The album’s latest single “All Our Stuff” continues the retro-futuristic vibe of its predecessor as it features Gilmore’s heavily vocoder’ed vocals ethereally floating over shimmering and arpeggiated synths — and while sounding as though it could have been released between 1977-1983 or so, the song and the Gilmore-directed video “are both loosely based on the idea of attempting to inhabit a place that perpetually remains distant.” As a result, the song and the video posses a wistful and bittersweet air, full of the recognition that things are just out of reach.
Scott Gilmore is a Northridge, CA-based multi-instrumentalist, producer and electronic music artist, who has recorded a handful of critically applauded releases through SFV REC and International Feel. His forthcoming album Two Roomed Motel is slated for a March 1, 2019 release through Crammed Discs, the label home of Juana Molina. And the album’s latest single, album title track “Two Roomed Motel” is a funky and percussive yet laid-back retro-futuristic synth pop single that subtly recalls Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” Holy Ghost!’s Crime Cutz, Return to Forever and the Los Angeles-based, post J Dilla beatmakers. But unlike any of those references, the track finds Gilmore meshing a lo-fi, bedroom recording approach with slick electronic production in a way that’s mischievously anachronistic.
Directed by Scott Gilmore, and shot and edited by Kenny Gilmore, the recently released video stars Gilmore checking into a hotel room, where he jams and records the song, first using a synthesizer before he gets room service to deliver bongos, a guitar, a keyboard which he then uses to complete the song. At one point, we follow Gilmore as he wanders out on to the streets and walks into a local bar, where he pensively has a drink. It’s a decidedly lo-fi affair centered around a simple concept, much like the song itself.
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.