Tag: John Lennon

Live Footage: Nick Hakim Performs “QADIR” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut, 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2. Armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn.

As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it, making the album feel like a series of different self-portraits. Much like Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad strokes, with subtle gradations in mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press notes at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare.

The JOVM mainstay released his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD earlier this year through ATO Records. Interestingly, the album’s material manages to be distinctly Hakim while being a tonal shift from its predecessor: his sophomore album reflects the ideas with which he grappled with while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shared the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

“QADIR” is a slow-burning and atmospheric single, centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals — and as a result, the track is a fever dream full of ache and longing, partially written as an ode to a late friend and an urgent reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. ”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Recently Hakim and his backing band performed a socially distant rendition of “QADIR” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which features Hakim singing the song on a cartoon-background that’s one part hood, one part Sesame Street. 

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New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Gorgeous and Surreal Visual for Atmospheric “Bouncing”

I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay  Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s 2017 full-length debut, Green Twins was written after he had completed   Where Will We Go Part 1 EP and Where We Will Go Part 2 EP and relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. 

After getting himself settled in, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording song sketches sing his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He fleshed out the sketches as much as possible and then took his demo’d material to various studios in New York, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused one specific experiences, feelings and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composting it, and as a result the album is a series of different self-portraits that generally captures its creator in broad strokes — but if you pay close attention, you pick up on subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins was drew from a broad and eclectic array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim has also developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Now, as you may recall, Hakim’s highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records. 

Interestingly, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD reportedly represents a tonal shift from its predecessor with the album’s material reflecting the ideas that he had grappled with while writing and recording it. 

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.” Hakim writes in a statement on the album. 

“For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here — or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR,” a fever dream of ache and longing that brings up psych pop, psych soul and 70s soul simultaneously.  “QADIR” was the first song that Hakim wrote for the album with the track being an ode to a late friend, and a urgent and plaintive reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. “BOUNCING,” WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s third and latest single is a delicate and atmospheric track centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, blown out and distorted drums, gently swirling feedback paired with Hakim’s aching falsetto expressing a vulnerable yearning for companionship and warmth on a bitterly cold day — and knowing that it won’t come any time soon. “BOUNCING” is a sound bath where I wrote about one of the coldest days in New York I remember, while lying in my bed, restless by a radiator. It’s about feeling uneasy,” Hakim says in press notes. 

Directed by Nelson Nance, the recently released video for “BOUNCING” continues Hakim’s ongoing visual collaboration with the director while serving as a sequel to “QADIR.” The video follows Hakim and a small collection of attendees to a surreal event that becomes a spectacle that’s recorded by the attendees. But it asks much larger questions of the viewer: “”The ‘BOUNCING’ video asks the viewer to question our drive to find spectacles and how the pursuit of such can lead to becoming a spectacle,” Nelson explains in press notes. “There is nothing inherently wrong with viewing or being a spectacle but I think it’s healthy to question if our energy is being put in the right place when interfacing with what draws our attention.” 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Lyrical Visual for Atmospheric and Slow-Burning Single “QADIR”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim. And as you may recall, Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2: armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits. And in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad stokes — with subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. The overall aesthetic drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time. 

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Building upon a growing profile, Hakim will be releasing his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD. Slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records, the album while being distinctly Nick Hakim, reportedly represents a tonal shift from Green Twins, with the material reflecting the ideas with which he grappled while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shares the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR.”  Centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals, “QADIR” is a fever dream full of ache and longing that recalls both 70s soul and neo-soul simultaneously. Interestingly, “QADIR” was the first song the JOVM mainstay wrote for the album — and the track was written as ode to a late friend and a reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late.”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Directed by Nelson Nance, the cinematic and lyrical visual for “QADIR” finds Hakim in moments of solitude in forest and in solidarity with his community of friends and associates. The Nance-directed visual suggests that it’s the people who love and support us, who give us strength and sustenance during our most difficult times. 

Earlier this year, i wrote about the up-and-coming Bristol, UK-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Katey Brooks, and as you may recall, with the release of 2016’s I Fought Lovers EP, Brooks quickly earned a national and international profile for a sound and songwriting approach that has been compared favorably to the likes of Jeff Buckley. In fact, material off the EP received enthusiastic airplay on  BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 and  the CBC, and praise from Billboard, Pride and The Advocate. Adding to a growing profile, Brooks has shared bills with an eclectic yet impressive list of artists that includes Newton Faulkner, Ghostpoet, Martin Simpson, Deaf Havana, Lamb‘s Lou Rhodes, Mike and the Mechanics, and Mystery Jets, and has played at some of the world’s biggest festivals including Glastonbury, WOMAD, the 2012 Paralympics and Australia’s National Folk Festival. She also has appeared on a compilation with Anais Mitchell, Ane Brun and Marissa Nadler and recorded a track with The Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman and Paloma Faith

Interestingly, Brooks has a complicated and messy upbringing. She grew up in a cult, and as a child, she found refuge in music.“It was a very chaotic upbringing, full of some pretty colourful and sometimes unsavoury, characters. But when I sang, I felt free and connected. For as long as I can remember, it’s been my way of getting what I need to say out,” she reveals in press notes. She began singing gospel, old spirituals and the songs from the likes of John Lennon and Elvis Presley — but by the time she was a teenager, she entertained her peers with soul renditions.

When she turned 16, the Bristol-based singer/songwriter turned down a spot at the renowned BRIT School. “It would be interesting to know what would have happened if I had gone there, but I try not to dwell on that,”Brooks says in press notes. “I always think that you’re where you’re meant to be. And if I had gone, I probably would have ended up writing slightly less authentically to myself. But who knows, because if all the things that have happened in my life nevertheless happened, maybe I still would have written the way I do.”

When Brooks turned 20, she became extremely ill and her life was on pause as she was convalescing; but as she was convalescing she joined a songwriters group led by her friend, Strangelove’s Patrick Duff. “We would get together and play our songs to each other. It was really therapeutic.” Around this time Brooks was convinced that she had to devote her time to music. “So one day I just put on my own gig at the (Bristol) Folk House,” she laughs. “I sort of became an artist and promoter overnight,” Brooks recalls.

Sadly, shortly after making the decision to focus on her music, the Bristol-based singer/songwriter experienced a turbulent period of heartbreak and tragedy: the year she turned 22, her mother became ill and died — and shortly after that, one of her best friends went missing and died. “That’s definitely had an effect on the course of my life, and my writing,” Brooks says in press notes. “People have come up to me after gigs, particularly after songs I wrote during that time, saying ‘there’s a lot of sadness in your songs’ and it’s like ‘well, yeah.’ But I guess I’m lucky that I have songs that I can write, as a means to deal with things.”

Along with those hardships, Brooks has struggled to come to terms with her own sexuality. “In my most recent work I’ve finally been able to sing directly about women instead of using the mysterious ‘you,’” Brooks mentions in press notes. “I’m a private person in a lot of ways and I never wanted to be a poster girl for anything. But a few years ago I just thought screw it; I want to sing completely honestly. It felt like a weight lifted.”

Brooks latest single is the classic soul-inspired ballad “All of Me.” Centered around a spectral arrangement featuring a looping 12 blues guitar, a gospel-like backing vocal section, a two-step inducing rhythm section and Brooks achingly plaintive and soulful vocals, the new single will further establish the Bristol-based singer/songwriter and guitarist’s ability to mesh craft, earnestness and ambitious songwriting in a thoughtful and natural fashion. But along with that much of Brooks’ material comes from real, lived-in places — in particular, the song’s narrator bitterly calls out a lover on their ambivalence. It was inspired by a personal situation with someone I was prepared to give my world to. They proclaimed deep love, but then proceeded to behave in ways that were completely incongruent with that proclamation”, revealsBrooks. Words can be very powerful and beautiful, but ultimately, when it comes to showing someone you love them, they’re cheap and easy to deliver. Actions tell us everything we need to know about how someone feels about us, and if they respect us – in every kind of relationship.” 

 

 

 


New Video: JOVM Mainstay Rich Aucoin Releases a Gorgeous and Meditative Visual for “The Mind”

Over the course of the past year, I’ve written a lot about the Halifax, Nova Scotia-born and based singer/sgonwriter, electronic music producer, electronic music artist, indie rock musician and JOVM mainstay Rich Aucoin. And as you may recall, Aucoin spent time as a guest musician in his older brother Paul’s band Hylozoists before developing a reputation as a solo artist in his own right with the release of his debut EP, 2007’s Personal Publication, a concept effort written as an alternative soundtrack to How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Personal Publication EP was also the first of an ongoing series of collaborations with charitable foundations, as he supported the EP with a cross Canada tour made entirely by bicycle to raise money for Childhood Cancer Canada. After completing his first solo tour, he went on to join his brother’s band while they were on tour; however, Aucoin suffered a debilitating iron deficiency that cut his time on  the tour short. But once he recuperated, Aucoin went on the road again, running partial marathons between tour stops to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. During both of those early tours, the Halifax-born and-based singer/songwriter, electronic music artist, electronic music producer and indie rock musician spent time writing the material that would eventually comprise his full-length debut, 2011’s We’re All Dying to Live, an effort that featured over 500 guest musicians, including  Sloan‘s Jay Ferguson, You Say Party‘s Becky Ninkovic, The Meligrove Band‘s Michael Small and Rae Spoon. Adding to a rapidly growing profile. the album was long-listed as a nominee for a Polaris Music Prize — and the video for “Brian Wilson is A.L.I.V.E.” won a Prism Prize in 2013.

Building upon a growing profile, the Nova Scotian producer and electronic music artist released his critically applauded sophomore effort, 2014’s Ephemeral. Several years passed before the release of last year’s Hold EP, and with singles like the sprawling and propulsive “Release”, the swooning M83-like “The Middle,” the jangling guitar pop meets synth pop  “The Fear.” and the slow-burning and wistful “The Dream,” the EP further cemented Aucoin’s reputation for crafting slickly produced, infectious and thoughtful pop.

Slated for a May 17, 2019 release through Haven Sounds, Aucoin’s third full-length album  Release was co-produced by the Halifax-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music producer, electronic music artist and indie rock musician and drummer Joel Waddell. Inspired by the work of David Bowie, Holly Herndon, Fatboy Slim, Bjork, John Lennon, Future Islands, Caribou and Chic among others, the album finds the JOVM mainstay further cementing his growing reputation for his own unique blend of organic and electronic instrumentation — while thematically, the album finds Aucoin grappling with mortality, by using Alice in Wonderland as a metaphor for life’s journey. 

“The Mind,” Release’s first single is a pulsating instrumental track is centered around a slow build up of increasingly textured sounds including arpeggiated synths, chopped up and ethereal vocal samples and propulsive drumming that finds Aucoin drawing from drum ‘n’ bass and Kraftwerk-like minimalism before an explosive conclusion. “This track is about the mind and therefore has no lyrics,” Aucoin explains in press notes. “Musically, this song has two drum sets on it. The main kit is played by Jeremy Malvin (aka Chrome Sparks) and the second is carried over from the Release session by Broken Social Scene’s Justin Peroff. Ben Talmi played the very rare Therevox slide theremin on the track down at his Virtue & Vice Studio in Brooklyn. While Jenn Grant was recorded by Daniel Ledwell at his Echo Lake Studio in Nova Scotia. The vocal melody seamlessly switches from male to female vocals with Jenn and my voices being the samples.”

Directed by Meghan Tansey Whitton, the recently released video follows a mysterious and otherworldly figure covered in a metallic blanket, striding on a beach at sunset and as the video progresses, the figure is subjected to the elements, facing them with a preternaturally zen-like calm. 

With the release of 2016’s I Fought Lovers EP, the up-and-coming, Bristol, UK-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Katey Brooks quickly amassed both a national and international profile for a sound and songwriting approach that has been compared to Jeff Buckley with material off her debut EP receiving enthusiastic airplay on BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 and  the CBC, as well as praise from Billboard, Pride and The Advocate. Adding to a growing profile, Brooks has shared bills with an eclectic yet impressive list of artists that includes Newton Faulkner, Ghostpoet, Martin Simpson, Deaf Havana, Lamb‘s Lou Rhodes, Mike and the Mechanics, and Mystery Jets, and has played at some of the world’s biggest festivals including Glastonbury, WOMAD, the 2012 Paralympics and Australia’s National Folk Festival. She also has appeared on a compilation with Anais Mitchell, Ane Brun and Marissa Nadler and recorded a track with The Rolling StonesBill Wyman and Paloma Faith. Along with that Joss Stone and renowned recording engineer Stuart Bruce have considered themselves fans.

Brooks grew up inside a cult, and as child, she found refuge in music. “It was a very chaotic upbringing, full of some pretty colourful and sometimes unsavoury, characters. But when I sang, I felt free and connected. For as long as I can remember, it’s been my way of getting what I need to say out,” she reveals in press notes. She began singing gospel, old spirituals and the songs from the likes of John Lennon and Elvis Presley — but by the time sh was a teenager, she entertained her peers with soul renditions.

Interestingly, when she was 16, she turned down a spot at the renowned BRIT School. “It would be interesting to know what would have happened if I had gone there, but I try not to dwell on that,” the Bristol-based singer/songwriter and guitarist says in press notes. “I always think that you’re where you’re meant to be. And if I had gone, I probably would have ended up writing slightly less authentically to myself. But who knows, because if all the things that have happened in my life nevertheless happened, maybe I still would have written the way I do.”

When Brooks turned 20, she became extremely ill and her life was on pause as she was convalescing; but as she was convalescing she joined a songwriters group led by her friend, Strangelove‘s Patrick Duff. “We would get together and play our songs to each other. It was really therapeutic.” Around this time Brooks was convinced that she had to devote her time to music. “So one day I just put on my own gig at the (Bristol) Folk House,” she laughs. “I sort of became an artist and promoter overnight,” Brooks recalls.

Sadly, shortly after making the decision to focus on her music, the Bristol-based singer/songwriter experienced a turbulent period of heartbreak and tragedy: the year she turned 22, her mother became ill and died — and shortly after that, one of her best friends went missing and died. “That’s definitely had an effect on the course of my life, and my writing,” Brooks says in press notes. “People have come up to me after gigs, particularly after songs I wrote during that time, saying /there’s a lot of sadness in your songs’ and it’s like ‘well, yeah.’ But I guess I’m lucky that I have songs that I can write, as a means to deal with things.”

Along with those hardships, Brooks has struggled to come to terms with her own sexuality. “In my most recent work I’ve finally been able to sing directly about women instead of using the mysterious ‘you,'” Brooks mentions in press notes. “I’m a private person in a lot of ways and I never wanted to be a poster girl for anything. But a few years ago I just thought screw it; I want to sing completely honestly. It felt like a weight lifted.”

Brooks’ latest single is the soulful “Never Gonna Let Her Go.” Centered around an almost gospel-like backing vocals, Brooks effortlessly soulful vocal performance and an atmospheric arrangement of a looping 12 bar blues guitar and a propulsive rhythm section, the song nods at classic soul and The VeilsThe Pearl” as it’s a thoughtful mesh of craft, earnestness and ambitious songwriting. But at its core the song is an uplifting and powerful plea to the listener that being your true self is a revolutionary act. “We’re all going to walk this planet with different scripts in our heads, different upbringings, experiences and beliefs, and if we want to get along and be peaceful we need to accept that. Hate isn’t the answer in any situation – so I believe anyway,” Brooks said. She adds, “Judge me for my true failings, ask me to change those things that actually effect you, and I’ll hear that. But one thing I’ll never change, and one thing that is definitely not wrong with me, is my love for women”.

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. 

Comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Dan Sheron, Seth Mower, Ben Mower and Carl Osterlof, the now Los Angeles-based indie rock/indie folk quartet Balto can trace their origins back to when its founding member and primary songwriter was 21 and attempting to begin a journalism career in Moscow. After failing at that and suffering through overwhelming personal and professional heartbreak, Sheron felt that his life had collapsed. Without saying goodbye to his friends or bothering to pack his belongings, Sheron took a Siberia-bound train with a child’s guitar and a journal that quickly filled with songs. And as the story goes, at some point the idea of the project was born in a third-class train car, singing and drinking among strangers somewhere east of Novosibirsk.

Naturally, over some time and with the recruitment of Seth Mower, Ben Mower and Carl Osterlof, the project transformed from a songwriting vehicle into a full-fledged band who describe their sound as “a boozy, swaggering style of American music rooted at the intersection of Motown, Big StarPlastic Ono Band-era John Lennon and Jackson Browne” — although they have cited the likes of My Morning Jacket, Dr. Dog, Alabama Shakes, and The Arcs among others. Throughout their run together, the band has been fairly busy releasing 2011’s October’s Road, 2012’s Monuments 2015’s Call It By Its Name and last year’s Strangers, which was heavily praised by Seattle-based curators Artist Home as being “a tangle of beautiful messy emotions, wrapped in a sound that’s warmly familiar yet brimming with soul and tiny details that are touched by magic.”

During the past couple of years, the members of Balto relocated to Los Angeles and the move has also influenced their sound, with the band’s sound taking on a sunnier, more textured sound. In fact, their latest single, the shaggy, shuffling and boozy “Black Snake Mojave Blues” sound as though it were influenced by The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Allman Brothers Band as the song is centered by bluesy power chords, a big , muscular and infectious hook and a raucous, bunch of guys jamming together vibe.  In some way, it’s the perfect song for making a road trip without having a clear destination or purpose beyond just being alive and digging whatever you come across. Interestingly, as the band’s Dan Sheron says of the writing process, “I envisioned it as a slow sad song originally, but I’d left my guitar in Open G and was knocking around a blues and thought to try the song a different way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live Footage: ATO Sessions: Nick Hakim Performs “The Want”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for a while, you’d recall that earlier this year, the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Nick Hakim quietly re-emerged with the first batch of new material in some time, “Bet She Looks Like You” “Green Twins,” and “Roller Skates,” the first three singles off his recently released and highly-anticipated full-length debut Green Twins. Hakim can trace the origins of Green Twins’ material back a bit — back to when armed with the masters for his first two, critically applauded EPs, Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where Will We Go Part 2, the DC-born singer/songwriter and guitarist, relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. And as soon as he got himself settled, Hakim quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder and further fleshing them out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

As Andrew Sarlo explained in press notes about the writing and recording process for Green Twins, for many artists, a demo typically serves an extremely rough sketch of what the song could eventually become and sound. However, with Hakim, things are done very differently; in fact, the demos are seen as more akin to building a comfortable, holy temple — and as a result, as a producer and engineer, Sarlo was tasked to clean, furnish where necessary and prepare those who entered for a profound, religious experience.

Thematically speaking the album’s material reportedly focuses on unique and particular aspects and events of his life with the bulk of the songs being based on specific experiences, feelings, and thoughts had at the time he was writing and composing. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits — and in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the album’s song captures the artist sometimes in broad strokes but frequently in subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Hakim adds, “I also felt the need to push my creativity in a different way than I had on the EPs,” The record draws from influences spanning Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye and Shuggie Otis to My Bloody Valentine. We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.”

Green Twins’ fourth and latest single “The Want” features Hakim’s tender and aching falsetto over a sparse and hauntingly eerie arrangement of shimmering and gently plucked guitar chords played through copious reverb and effect pedals, soaring organ and a gently propulsive rhythm section to evoke a plaintive, vulnerable and undeniably carnal longing for someone, when all you want in this world is the electric touch of their skin against yours, to lay around in an unkempt bed with limbs entwined all morning, kissing, touching, licking, tickling, laughing and bullshitting . . .