JOVM (belatedly) celebrates Herbie Hancock’s 81s birthday.
JOVM celebrates soul legend Al Green’s 75th birthday.
I was drinking coffee, chatting with mom and watching NY1 when we both heard the news of DMX’s tragic death at 50. As an artist, DMX had unparalleled success: he’s the few artists of any genre to have his first five albums debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 — and one of the few artists, who can claim two #1 albums on the Billboard charts in the same calendar year. Paraphrasing DMX, he locked down the industry on some ol’ power shit.
If you’re a hip-hop head, you know all the songs and you know about the man’s troubled backstory. My hope is that within the hip-hop community and within the Black community that we can start having serious conversations about how abuse, mental illness and addiction reverberate and impact everyone around us. If we love Earl Simmons, we need to do what we can to save the countless other Earl Simmons out there.
My heart aches for poor Earl and his family. And I also hope that we can wrap them up in the love that we have for DMX in their time of need.
In the meantime, DMX’s music has meant a lot to me — and to countless other fans. We love you Earl. And we’re going to miss you.
I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the acclaimed covering Los Angeles-based hip-hop trio and JOVM mainstay act Clipping. The trio — production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and frontperson Daveed Diggs — released two critically applauded albums as part of a planned diptych that found them interpreting a hip-hop splinter sect through their own singular lens — horrorcore, a purposefully absurdist and significant hip-hop sub-genre that flourished for a handful of years around the mid 1990s. The first part of the diptych, There Existed an Addiciton to Blood was partially inspired by Ganja & Hess, the 1973 vampire cult classic, regarded as one of the highlights of the Blaxploitation era — with the title derived from the film.
Of course, with horror films, sequels are pretty perfunctory and perhaps even obligatory. Last year’s Visions of Bodies Getting Burned manages to hew closely to the horror film sequel tradition with the JOVM mainstays retuning with an even higher body count, bloodier, more elaborate, gorier kills and as always, unrelenting monsters that just won’t ever stay dead. The 16 song album draws from an eclectic array of sources including Ernest Dickerson, Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson, Three 6 Mafia, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Brotha Lynch Hung. Developing an abrasive, angular and downright messy take on horrorcore, centered around an industrial and goth-like aesthetic, the members of Clipping. lovingly twist familiar genre and sub-genre tropes to fit their politics and thematic concerns — in particular, those that fit our current moment: fear, the absurd, the uncanny, and the seemingly unending struggling for an antiracist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonialist world.
Traditionally, NPR Music participates in SXSW — typically through curating showcases and through covering the hundreds of showcases and sets performed at the annual festival. Last year, the festival was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year, the festival reconvened as an online festival with pre-recorded livestreams. NPR programed a virtual stage of Tiny Desk (at home) concerts, filmed in various locations and full of surprises and Easter eggs, which were presented on the festival’s final day.
The JOVM mainstays took part, offering one of the most unique, surreal and innovative Tiny Desk (at home) sessions I’ve ever seen with the trio emphasizing both an in-your-face, close-up intimacy and tininess with the trio performing with extremely tiny instruments and microphones. And at some point, one of the members of the trio even drinks a tiny beer. Clipping.’s NPR Tiny Desk (at home) session features material from their last two albums, as well as 2016’s Wriggle EP and their debut mixtape, 2013’s midcity performed with even more menacing and uneasy productions that continue to display Diggs’ rapid-fire and clever wordplay — all while being disorienting.
Norwegian-born musicians Øyind Blomstrøm (guitar) and Chris Holm (bass) have spent the bulk of their careers making a living a touring musicians, and as a result, they’ve frequently been on the road As the story goes, when Blømstrøm and Holm’s paths crossed for what seemed like the umpteenth time, they bonded over a desire to create instrumental music — and they decided to start a band together. They recruited Holm’s Bergen scene pal Kim Åge Furuhaug to join the band and to complete Orions Belte lineup.
With the release of 2018’s Mint, the Norwegian trio quickly established a reputation for crating a genre-defying, style-mashing sound that draws from 70s Nigerian rock, postcards from French Riviera, Formula One traces at Monza and 1971’s “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. It’s follow-up, 2019’s Slim EPfeatured inventive reworkings of songs they love by artist’s they love — including Ghostface Killah‘s “Cherchez La Ghost,” Milton Nascimento‘s Tudo O Que Você Podia Ser” and an original cut that pays homage to Norwegian beat group The Pussycats and the Mac Miller.
Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of last year, the acclaimed Norwegian trio managed to be productive: they released 600m, another EP of experimental instrumental music that derived its title from the name of an elevator in Tokyo that can transport 40 people at a time a maximum speed of 600 meters per minute, and found the trio continuing to push the boundaries of instrumental music as far as they could.
Continuing upon that momentum, Orions Belte’s sophomore album Villa Amorini is slated for a Friday release through Jansen Records. The album derives its name from a popular Bergen nightclub, which was the place in town where everything happened — and where you needed to be a part of it. Originally opened in the ’80s as a fine dining spot, the business eventually evolved into an extravagant nightclub where you’d see artists and DJs in loud t-shirts and oversized sunglasses. Sonically, the album is reportedly a mix of the sounds the trio likes, including underground pop, psych and world music, while continuing their reputation for their unique ability to pull in listeners of diverse genres and styles in a fashion that’s simultaneously calm and chaotic. And with that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that the album’s material manages to set up a particular scene: the energy of a busy downtown sidewalk with the instrumentation being intricately layered to draw you in and leave you wondering where it will lead. According to the trio, the album is a “homage to an era of loud music, club nights, ugly shirts and long afterparties.”
Much like album single “Mouth,” ‘Lotus” is a laid-back, hotel lounge-like bop centered around a strutting groove, shimmering guitar, a sinuous bass line and hip-hop inspired drumming. Sonically “Lotus” is a slick synthesis of dusty J. Dilla-like samples, funk and neo soul in a way that feels familiar yet alien.
The band released live footage of themselves performing the song in the gorgeous environs of Mulakamben, Norway.
Murray, KY-based singer/songwriter and guitarist S.G. Goodman was born and raised in a strict, church-going family of row crop farmers, near the Mississippi River. Goodman went from singing and playing in her local church three times a week to becoming a prominent member of her hometown’s art and music scene, as well as an impassioned voice and presence in the various sociopolitical movements she supports.
Goodman’s Jim James-produced full-length debut Old Time Feeling was released through Verve Forecast Records last year. Recorded at Louisville, KY-based La La Land Studio, because it featured three of Goodman’s favorite things — “a creek, a big porch and a kitchen” — the Old Time Feeling sessions were imbued with a down home, familial and community touch: in between the recording sessions, Goodman cooked meals for the studio staff and her backing band, which features her lifelong friends Matthew David Rowan (guitar) and S. Knox Montgomery (drums.)
The album is a brutally honest and loving look at the complexities of rural Southern life that debunks rural stereotypes while drawing from Goodman’s personal experiences as an openly gay woman with OCD in a deeply religious and close-knit community. Thematically, the album touches upon things like estrangement and reconciliation, and living your family and community despite the fact that you may completely disagree with them on political and social issues.
I’m going to tell you a bit of an unsurprising secret: I often get advanced streams of artist’s albums and songs. Goodman’s publicist sent me an advanced stream of Old Time Feeling before her first New York area show, and I was immediately enthralled by album single “Space and Time,” a gorgeous track full of heartbreaking yearning that reminded me quite a bit of Patsy Cline. And I absolutely adore Patsy Cline. (I once bonded with an ex girlfriend’s mother because of my love of Patsy. Seriously y’all.)
The JOVM mainstay recently released a live performance video of “Space and Time” featuring legendary session player and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Spooner Oldham (keys) filmed at the legendary FAME Recording Studio, a studio famously known for hosting the recording sessions for artists like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding. Featuring a stripped down to the bone arrangement of Goodman’s aching vocal and Oldham’s shimmering keys, the FAME Studio session makes the song feel like an old church hymn while pulling the heartache and longing at the center of the song, devastatingly closer.
“The highlight of getting to play one of my songs with a living legend came at the end of the night,” the JOVM mainstay says of her time at FAME Recording Studio. “The boys and I were about to make the trek back to Kentucky from Alabama, and Spooner stopped me to give me his number in case I had any trouble on the road. That told me everything I needed to know about him. ‘Call ol’ Spooner’ the note said.”
Since their formation, the Sorocaba, São Paulo, Brazil-based psych rock act WRY — Mario Bross (vocals, guitar), Luciano Marcello (guitar), Ítalo Ribero (drums) and William Leonotti (bass) — have been at the forefront of Brazil’s indie rock scene, releasing six full-length albums that have firmly established their sound, a sound that meshes elements of Brit Pop, shoegaze and post-punk with a distinctly Brazilian vibe.
After spending a stint living and working in London, the Brazilian psych rockers achieved a growing international profile, which resulted in several tours across the UK and European Union, including making the rounds of the major European festival circuit, with a notable stop at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound. Additionally. along with their recorded output, the band owns a popular club, which has frequently hosted their internationally acclaimed countrymen and friends, JOVM mainstays Boogarins.
WRY’s sixth album, last year’s Noites Infinitas thematically touched upon anxiety, despair and unconventional paths towards hope while living in our incredibly fractious and divisive world. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you may recall that I’ve personally written about two of the album’s singles:
“Travel:” Brit Pop-like single centered around a motorik groove and a rousingly anthemic hook.
“I feel invisible:” a shimmering New Wave meets shoegaze-like track featuring shimmering guitars fed through reverb and delay pedals that captures a narrator, who’s been oppressed and hemmed in by a society that won’t allow him to live his life in a truthful fashion.
Of course, much like countless acts across the globe, the pandemic has put the band’s plans to tour to support their latest album on indefinite hiatus — but earlier this year, they played a career spanning live-streamed set for this year’s (virtual) Febre Festival. Continuing to be busy and productive, the members of the band recently performed their brilliant Noites Infinitas in its entirety at their studio Deaf Haus. While featuring slightly looser versions of the album’s material, the live session reveals a band that crafted an album full of ambitious arena rock friendly yet earnest, heart worn on sleeve anthems that seemingly come from lived-in experience.
Acclaimed Reykjavik-based post-rock collective VAR was founded in 2013 as a solo recording project of its founding member and creative mastermind Júliús Óttar Björgvinsson (vocals, guitar and piano). But shortly after he started the project, Björgvinsson began to feel as though his vision couldn’t be fully realized without assistance. So, he recruited those who were the closest to him — his wife Myrra Rós (synths, vocals), his brother Egil Björgvinsson (bass) and his friends Arnór Jónasson (guitar) and Adrni Freyr Þorgeirsson (drums). That lineup wrote and recorded the Vetur EP — and in the subsequent years after its release, the band managed to built up a fiercely loyal fanbase through relentless touring.
After the release of the Vetur EP, the band went through a series of lineup changes: Ròs left the band as a result of competing professional and personal responsibilities and Sigurður Ingi Einarsson (drums) replaced Freyr Þorgeirsson. A smaller lineup forced a thorough reimagining and reworking of their sound — and the result was last year’s The Never Ending Year, which may arguably be the most ambitious album of their growing catalog.
Much like countless acts across the globe, the pandemic put the Icelandic act’s plans to support their new album with a tour on an indefinite hold. “After releasing an album and having no chance to play it live, we felt like we had to do something to give people at least a little taste of us playing these songs live,” VAR’s Júlíus Óttar Björgvinsson (vocals/guitar/keys) says in press notes. “VAR has always been about playing live and we always give everything we have to make the tension between us and the audience both peaceful and powerful. But since we could not play it live for people, we decided to make these live videos of us playing the songs at the organ workshop where we practice. We got our producer Eiður to do the sound for the videos and when he sent us the audio files Arnór brought that idea of releasing a live EP, because people had been asking us to do so. We were happy with the sound Eiður got from the session and how far it is from how the album sounds. It’s powerful, it’s raw and it’s honest. And that is VAR.”
The acclaimed Icelandic act recently released the four-song Live at Orgelsmidjan EP, which was recorded at the band’s practice space, which also manages to be the country’s only pipe organ workshop. To celebrate the release of the EP, the band released live footage of the session, which manages to accurately capture the band’s intimate yet enormous sound paired with heart on sleeve lyricism. Starting off with the gorgeous, organ and guitar-led meditation “By The Ocean,” the EP quickly picks up the pace with the enormous and rousingly anthemic “Where to Find You,” which finds the band meshing elements of shoegaze, alt rock, arena rock and post rock. “Moments” is a slow-burning and delicate track centered around shimmering guitars with dramatic drumming and Júliús Óttar Björgvinsson’s achingly plaintive vocals that gradually becomes an enormous, arena rock friendly, towering ripper. The EP’s last single “Highlands” is centered around a classic alt rock sound structure — quiet verses with atmospheric guitars and synths and loud choruses with towering power chords.
The accompanying live footage manages to be split into intimately shot footage of the band performing the material or heading to their rehearsal space to play and some incredibly cinematic and awe-inspiring footage of their beautiful homeland. The footage seems to suggest that their surroundings have a direct impact on their sound.
With the release of Out in the Dark, the Israeli-born, Paris-based singer/songwriter and guitarist MAGON established a sound that he described as “urban rock on psychedelics,” which to my ears seemed indebted to David Bowie and T. Rex.
The Israeli-born, Paris-based JOVM mainstay released his critically applauded sophomore album Hour After Hour through December Square/Differ-Ant Records late last year. Featuring tracks like Change,” a dreamy meditation on the passing of time, “Aerodynamic,” a decidedly glam rock-inspired take on psych rock and the No Wave meets post-punk like album title track “Hour After Hour,” MAGON’s sophomore album is a decided change in sonic direction: sonically, the album as the rising singer/songwriter and guitarist says is “somewhere between Ty Segall, Allah-Las and The Velvet Underground.”
Earlier this year, the rising JOVM mainstay played a live set for Groover Obsessions‘ Les Capsules sessions at La Marbrerie. Building upon the attention that live session received, MAGON filmed another live session at The Basement, featuring material from Hour After Hour. The first video sees the Israeli-born, Paris-based JOVM mainstay and his backing band playing the Jim Carroll Band-like “Shackles of the Wretched” with an insouciant and swaggering co
The first two weeks of Spring and of the astrological sign Aries is rather auspicious for music — Aretha Frarnkin, Diana Ross, Elton John, Damon Albarn, Lee “Scratch” Perry are all among an incredibly talented and legendary array of artists who were born between March 21-March, 31. Of course, we can’t forget Mariah Carey, who turns 52 today.
Carey is the voice of a ridiculous amount of smash hit songs — many which I know deep in your soul you love, and will happily sing along to in the shower or while doing karaoke. Personally, I’ve always adored her cover of The Jackson 5’s “I’ll be There.” So, to that end, Happy birthday, Mariah. May there be many, many more!