I just spent the past four days and five nights in Montreal covering the 14th annual M for Montreal Festival. And while walking and taking public transpiration from the gorgeous Hotel Monville in Downtown Montreal to the various networking events, happy hours and showcases I listened to a bit of music — some things a bit more obsessively than others. Check out this mostly Montreal-inspired playlist that features The Beat Escape, Corridor, Leonard Cohen, Jef Barbara, BRAIDS and more. Check it out.
This month will be a rather busy month in my world — and in the world of JOVM: I’m currently in Syracuse, NY for a wedding. I return back to New York sometime tomorrow, shoot a handful of shows and then head off to Montreal for the M for Montreal Festival (more on that later, of course). In fact, instead of getting ready for the wedding, I fired up the ol’ laptop to work . . . So let’s get to the business at hand, right?
Throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus-year history, I’ve written quite a bit about about the critically applauded and commercially successful Minneapolis, MN-based hip-hop act and JOVM mainstays Atmosphere. Initially formed over 20 years ago under the name Urban Atmosphere, the JOVM mainstays have developed and maintained a long-held reputation for pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop should sound like and concern itself with thematically, especially as its founding duo Slug and Ant find themselves inching towards middle age.
2016’s Fishing Blues continued a string of insightful, mature material reflecting men that have seen and experienced more than they could possibly put into words. That album’s material found the duo transforming from wild and untamed road warriors and settling into a hard-fought and peaceful cocoon of family and art. And while that seems ideal, we all know that over the past few years, the world we inhabit has fundamentally changed in a frightening fashion. In fact, last year’s Mi Vida Local thematically found the pair grappling with their own mortality — and the anxiety and fear that comes from the painful acknowledgment that you’re completely powerless and can’t protect yourself, let alone your loved ones from the dangerous of our world. Sobering stuff, indeed. And yet, that effort, much like its predecessors was largely centered around the duo’s deep and abiding friendship.
The duo’s latest single “Bde Maka Ska,” is the first batch of original material since the release of last year’s Mi Vida Local and interestingly, the track sonically and thematically continues in the vein of its immediate predecessor: centered around a bluesy production featuring twinkling keys, fuzzy, wah wah pedaled guitar, a gospel choir-like backing vocal, the song finds its narrator yearning for peace and serenity in a mad, mad, mad world. And while also taking careful stock of his own life and decisions, the song’s narrator coming to a profound realization: that sometimes we have to let go and let the universe and karma handle it — and that more important, that he has a loving relationship that gives him a respite from the world.
Throughout the course of last year, I wrote quite a bit about the Montreal-indie pop/dream pop act Anemone, and as you may recall, the act which is led by Chloe Soldevila (keys, vocals) and featuring Miles Dupire-Gagnon (drums), Gabriel Lambert (guitar), Samuel Gemme (bass) and Zachary Irving (guitar) specializes in a breezy and nostalgic take on dream pop.
Early last year, the Canadian dream pop quartet released their attention-grabbing debut EP, which they supported with a series of critically applauded SXSW shows, and some relentless touring across North America; in fact, I was first introduced to Anemone when they opened for HAERTS at Baby’s All Right.. Building upon a growing profile, the members of Anemone will be releasing their highly-anticipated full-length debut Beat My Distance on February 15, 2019 through Luminelle Records. I’ve written about two album singles so far — the breezy and sunny “Sunshine (Back To The Start)” which was built around jangling and chiming guitar lines, a propulsive, disco-influenced bass line, a steady backbeat and Soldevilla’s plaintive, ethereal vocals. But ironically, the song is centered around the hope of a brighter day after experiencing painful heartache. “She’s The One” continued in a similar vein, as it was a shimmering and ethereal track that possessed a subtly bittersweet undertone. That shouldn’t be surprising as the song focuses on two paradoxical tendencies/patterns in relationships and how they frequently work against each other: the infatuation and idealization of someone, thinking they must be “the one” until you really get to know them — and the tendency to protect yourself and stay independent, at almost all costs with the result of closing yourself off from having a profound connection with another.
“Memory Lane,” Beat My Distance’s latest single finds the Canadian dream pop act effortlessly meshing psych pop with 70s AM rock, complete with twinkling keys, a propulsive bass line, twangy guitar and trippy layers of percussion — over which Soldevilla’s ethereal vocals sing ruminative vocals. As Anemone’s Soldevilla says in press notes, “‘Memory Lane’ is reminiscent of one’s unrepairable distance from another – the other not giving enough care to a mutual romance in an opportune time, causing both people to move on in separate directions. The outro of the song acts as a lullaby; a soothing, melodic repetition that breaths a fantasy of slowly building the inner-strength to accept that those memories can no longer be the future. Passionate events that once seemed stronger than anything slowly fade away as your inner strength grows ~ it is a powerful feeling.”
Directed by Laura-Lynn Petrick, the recently released video for “Memory Lane” was shot with grainy Super 8 Film and features the members of Anemone goofing off and enjoying a summer day at the lake and at a local farm. Some of the footage is shot with a prism just over the lens, which creates a trippy kaleidoscopic effect to the proceedings — and unsurprisingly, it looks like early promotional music videos from the late 60s and early 70s.
Cardin’s latest single “Faufile,” which translates into English as “to slip or sneak away” features Cardin’s gorgeous and aching vocals paired with the singer/songwriter accompanied by a sparse yet eerie piano accompaniment, and the single will further cement the French Canadian singer/songwriter’s growing reputation for crafting hauntingly eerie pop that owes a debt to jazz. And hot on the heels of the release of “Faufile,” comes the wistful music video, which features a brooding and seemingly heartbroken on the rooftops and streets of what appears to be Montreal after a devastating breakup.
Up-and-coming Quebec-born vocalist Charlotte Cardin initially received attention as a model, who once worked for renowned Elite Model Management before deciding to commit to music full-time when she signed with Montreal indie label Cult Nation. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you may recall that I wrote about “Big Boy,” the first single off Cardin’s recently released debut EP, Big Boy. Interestingly, that single revealed that Cardin specialized in meshing contemporary electronic production with jazz, pop and soul vocal stylings reminiscent of Amy Winehouse and Melanie De BIasio; in fact, that single also revealed that Cardin’s effortlessly soulful vocals possesses a profound ache.
The EP’s latest single “Faufile,” which translates into English as “to slip or sneak away” features Cardin’s gorgeous and aching vocals paired with the singer/songwriter accompanied by a sparse yet eerie piano accompaniment, and the single will further cement the French Canadian singer/songwriter’s growing reputation for crafting hauntingly eerie pop that owes a debt to jazz.
Featuring primary and founding members Courtney Ewan (singer/songwriter) and frequent collaborator Andy Bishop, Twin River wrote the material of their soon-to-be released sophomore effort Passing Shade, an effort whose name draws from a lengthy dream sequence in Patti Smith‘s memoir M Train while they were over 3,00 miles apart — Ewan had relocated to Montreal while Bishop remained in his hometown of Vancouver. Initially, the material took the form of stripped-down, heartbroken ballads about lost love and as Ewan explains in press notes “I always write on an acoustic guitar, which I think is the vestigial influence of being 15 and playing acoustic guitar in the basement because my mom wouldn’t let me have an amp. Nine times out of ten, when we get the band together, we end up increasing the tempo.” In fact, when Ewan and Bishop got together to flesh out the original demos, the material turned into a barn-burning rock numbers with infectious pop hooks with a subtle hint of atmospherics — and done in way that manages to channel both 60s psych pop and garage rock and the contemporary fascination with that sound.
“Knife,” Passing Shade‘s latest single is a jangling and muscular garage rock song featuring gorgeous shimmering guitar chords and a classic psych rock guitar solo and a propulsive rhythm section paired with Ewan’s vocals which evoke vulnerability and heartbreak simultaneously. From this single, I think the act will throw themselves into a growing list of contemporary garage rock and psych rock acts including High Waisted, Raccoon Fighter, The Coathangers and several others — and the band does so with a cool, swaggering self-assuredness that belies the heartache, yearning and badassery at the core of the song.
Montreal, QC-based psych rock trio Elephant Stone — comprised of Rishi Dihr (lead vocals, sitar, bass), Jean-Gabriel Lambert (drums, backing vocals), and Miles Dupire (drums, backing vocals) — have developed a national profile across their native Canada and Stateside for a vintage psych rock sound reminiscent of The Beatles, The Kinks and severals as the Canadian trio’s earliest material paired elements of Eastern instrumentation — mainly, the sitar — with Western songwriting, arrangements and instrumentation. And rather unsurprisingly, over the past few years the Montreal-based trio have also become a JOVM mainstay artist.
With the 2014 release of Elephant Stone’s third full-length effort, The Three Poisons, the Canadian trio went through a major and rather decided change of songwriting approach and sonic direction in which sitar was pushed back to the background — and when it was employed, it was seemingly used to add additional texture and color. Since then, the Canadian trio have released a batch of singles including “The Devil’s Shelter,” which was released at the end of last year. That single, which featured a guest spot from The Black Angels‘ Alex Maas was yet another example of the trio experimenting with their sound as tense, undulating synths, shimmering sitar and guitar chords and a driving motorik-like rhythm were paired with Dihr’s and Mass’ alternating vocals to create an ominous and murky sound that channeled The Black Angels “Don’t Play With Guns.”
Early last month, the trio released “Where I’m Going” a single that continued the band’s most recent sonic experimentations while suggesting that the band may have been listening to Evil Heat-era Primal Scream — in particular, I think of “Autobahn 66” and “Detroit” as Dihr’s ethereal cooing is paired with shimmering guitar chords, a tight and propulsive, motorik groove, four-on-the-floor drumming and layers of shimmering and undulating synths in what may arguably be the most dance-floor ready songs that they’ve released to date. “Andromeda,” the band’s latest single sounds like a return to the vintage psych rock sound that first caught the blogosphere’s attention as shimmering guitar chords and a propulsive and driving rhythm are paired with Dihr’s plaintive cooing about the nature of the universe; however, swirling synths and a brief burst of tribal drumming manage to reveal a band that’s relentlessly experimenting and attempting new ways to expand upon their sound while retaining familiar elements.
The band will be on tour throughout March, and it includes an NYC date. Check out the tour dates below.
Nigerian-born, Montreal-based producer Teck-Zilla emerged as an up-and-coming producer with the release of Son of Sade: An Ode, an 18 minute instrumental mixtape that was intended as a tribute to both the renowned British-Nigerian vocalist Sade and the producer’s mother, who coincidentally is also named Sade. Now, if you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past two years or so, you might remember that I wrote about the Nigerian-Canadian producer’s Afro Bootleg EP, an EP that had the producer revisiting his birthplace, as he remixed some of Nigeria’s biggest hits with a populist, globe-spanning, crowd-rocking sound that would get asses moving in clubs across New York, Montreal, Lagos, London, Ibiza an others.
Although it’s been a little while since we’ve heard from Teck-Zilla, the Nigerian-born and Montreal, QC-based producer has been prolific, as he’s released a number of mixtapes, including the aforementioned Son of Sade and Afro Bootleg EP, as well as Souled Off: A Dedication to Molly Molls. His third and latest instrumental mixtape Joe Jackson Kids has the producer paying homage to Michael Jackson — mostly Jackson 5-era Michael Jackson as the mixtape features snippets of interviews with Michael Jackson and his family, as he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and uncertain about his fame, and a variety of chopped up samples of Jackson 5 songs and Michael’s solo work. While reminding the listener that Michael Jackson’s ghost looms large in contemporary pop — hell, contemporary music in general — the mixtape also manages to create nuanced and empathetic portrait and interpretation of the young Michael Jackson. But ironically, the EP’s title comes from a playful, inside joke that the Nigerian-born, Montreal-based producer had with his brother. As Teck-Zilla explains in press notes “I got the title from one of my favourite Jeru the Damaja records, ‘Whatever,’ off his Wrath of the Math LP. That line always cracked me and my brother up every time, so it was kinda like an inside joke for both of us. Just remember to say ‘check it out’ after the title.”
Probably the biggest highlight on the mixtape is “Human Nature (Jackson Jones Flip)” which not only turns the original song on its head, but also reminds the listener of how influential the song has been to hip-hop and to R&B as Teck-Zilla weaves bits of Nas‘ classic Illmatic including “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” “The World Is Yours” and others songs while subtly nodding at Off the Wall. “Letter to Michael” is a headbanging take on Michael’s work that sounds as though it were indebted to J. Dilla while “Goodbye (Last Call)” is a sensual closer that features twinkling percussion, handclaps and chopped up bits of Michael singing in a way that creates an entirely different song. “JJ Kids” features the sample that inspired the title before quickly turning into the warm, twinkling soul instrumental that’s nods to J. Dilla and Pete Rock. But perhaps most important, the entire mixtape reveals Teck-Zilla to be a remarkably playful yet thoughtful producer, whose sound has become increasingly warm and soulful.