Tag: music

Over the past couple of years, the world renowned soul label, Daptone Records. the label home of the late (and great) Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, has released a series of albums documenting and preserving the spirituals, gospel and church-based music from the Mississippi River Delta region — in particular, the small rural town of Como, MS located in the northern Hill Country, about 50 miles south of Memphis, TN. Historically speaking, the small Northern Mississippi, rural town has long struggled with the legacy of slavery, segregation, discrimination, agricultural decline; however, Como has simultaneously been known as a creative hotbed of sorts, as Fred McDowell, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Napoleon Strickland, Othar Turner, Luther Perkins (best known as Johnny Cash’s guitarist), Joe Henderson and a lengthy list of others have claimed roots in Como, MS.

Now, earlier this year, you may recall that I wrote about The Walker Family Singers’ Jesus Gave Me Water,” off the familial unit’s debut effort, Panola County Spirit. Comprised of Raymond and Joella Walker, three of their four daughters, Alberta, Patricia and Delouse and their two sons Robert and Booby, the well-regarded gospel quintet not only have a long-held history of preaching and singing the gospel that goes back several generations, the patriarch of the family, Raymond at one point was so well-regarded as a vocalist, that he was once recruited by both Fred McDowell and the legendary Sam Cooke to back them on tour for what would have been a rather significant amount of money. And although seemingly apocryphal, as the story goes, Raymond Walker refused unless McDowell and Cooke gave up singing the blues and took up gospel. McDowell refused and the rest is history. . .

Daptone Records gospel music series continues with Move Upstairs, the forthcoming  effort from the Como, MS-based gospel trio The Como Mamas, slated for a May 19, 2017 release. Comprised of Ester Mae Smith and siblings Angelia Taylor and Della Daniels, the trio have been singing together in church since they were children. Much like Como’s other renowned musicians and vocalists, Della and Angelia come from a distinguished line of musicians themselves — their grandfather would frequently play music on their porch with a group of musicians that included the aforementioned Fred McDowell. In fact, the sisters remember when the famed folklorist and writer Alan Lomax, best known for his Land Where The Blues Was Born, stopped by their home in 1959 to record some of these jam sessions.  Now, interestingly enough with their appearance on The Voices of Panola County: Como Now! and their Get an Understanding, the trio quickly established themselves as an up-and-coming, powerhouse act in contemporary gospel. Interestingly enough, I actually caught the trio play their first show outside of their hometown at the legendary Apollo Theater as part of the Daptone Super Soul Revue back in 2015, an incredible showcase that featured many of the labels top names including Charles Bradley, the aforementioned Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Antibalas and others.

Naturally, taking advantage of the ladies time in New York, the folks at Daptone invited them to the House of Soul Studios to record with a backing band featuring some of the best musicians in their immense stable of musicians — including Jimmy Hill, Thomas Brenneck, Homer Steinweiss and Bosco Mann, who came together as The Glorifiers Band for the Move Upstairs session.

Album title track and first single “Move Upstairs” possesses a raw, dusty, classic blues and R&B-leaning sound — and by that think of Bo Diddley “and Muddy Waters’ Muddy Waters Folk Singer and others — that’s so incredibly period specific, that it sounds as though it were written and recorded sometime in 1947-1954 or so and was somehow surreptitiously discovered by an obsessive record collector. As as the actual song, a churning and propulsive arrangement consisting of guitar, drums and organ that’s comfortable and roomy enough for the Como Mamas using call and response vocals, to belt and shout with joy about how God’s love set them free from life’s drudgery and suffering.  And it’s a song that shuffles and struts as it does so.

Of course, unsurprisingly, much like the Walker Family Singers’ “Jesus Gave Me Water,” the Como Mamas’ makes an obvious yet forceful suggestion — that the the Blues, Rock ‘N’ Roll, R&B and hip-hop can trace their origins in some fashion to the gospels, spirituals and folk music of the Mississippi Delta while actively preserving some of America’s musical traditions.

 

 

New Audio: The Trippy and Psychedelic Sounds and Visuals of The Seshen’s “Colors Collide”

Throughout the end of last year, I wrote quite a bit about San Francisco Bay Area-based electro pop/electro R&B/electro soul act The Seshen. Interestingly, the act comprised of founding members Lalin St. Juste (vocals) and Akiyoshi Ehara (bass, production) with Kasha Rockland (vocals), Mizra Kopelman (percussion) and Kumar Butler (sampler) have recede attention both across the Bay Area and elsewhere for a sound and aesthetic that draws from a diverse and eclectic array of influences including Erykah Badu, Jai Paul, James Blake, Radiohead, Broadcast, hip-hop, indie rock, electronica — with the result being a sound that managed to be simultaneously contemporary and retro-futuristic.

Now you may recall that I had written about the first two singles off the act’s sophomore full-length effort Flames and Figures — “Distant Heart,” a slickly produced, sleek and sensual, synth-based single that sounded as though it were influenced by 80s synth-based R&B and pop and “Already Gone,” a sultry and sensual track that subtly nodded at Giorgio Moroder’s legendary and incredibly sexy productions. However, the album’s third and latest single “Colors Collide” finds the Bay Area-based act pairing St. Juste’s nostalgic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and sultry vocals with hazy mellotron, layered rhythms, a distorted and chopped up vocal sample, swirling electronics and shimmering synths to craft a sound that nods at trippy, 60s-inspired psych pop, experimental pop and prog rock thanks to a song structure that consists of several shifting and morphing sections held together by the song’s hazy vibe and a deep longing for more.

Interestingly, as the band’s St. Juste explains in press notes, “Colors Collide is about the illusory spaces that are created for us, and how we wrestle with the identities and experiences that grow out of those creations. It reflects the journey of leaving this current space for another. Perhaps in this next place, I can be free. It’s not a physical space, but rather, the place within myself that I hope to reach.”

Directed by Jesse Cafiero, the recently released music video for “Colors Collide” employs the use of classic, stop-motion animation to create a detailed yet surreal world that adds and emphasizes the song’s psychedelia-tinged take on pop

New Video: JOVM Mainstay REMI Further Cements His Growing Reputation for Thoughtful, Conscious, and Soulful Hip-Hop

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year or so, you’ve likely come across a couple of posts on Melbourne, Australia-based emcee Remi and his producer and collaborator Sensible J. And as you may recall the duo rose to national prominence with the 2014 release of their critically and commercially successful effort Raw X Infinity, an album that was named Triple J’s Album of the Week and the Independent Hip Hop Album of the Year by the Australian Independent Record Association, and received international attention from OkayAfrica, JUICE, laut.de, NPR‘s All Things Considered, and several others. Adding to a growing national and international profile, the young Melbourne-based artist was named “Australian Breakthrough Artist of the Year” and he along with his producer and collaborator wound up touring nationally and across the UK and the EU with Danny Brown, Vic Mensa, De La Soul, Joey Bada$$ and Damon Albarn.

Last year saw the release of the duo’s critically applauded full-length Divas and Demons, an album that revealed a supremely talented emcee, who was an adept lyricist and storyteller, whose stories possessed an earnest and soul-baring honesty. In fact, you may recall that I wrote about the album’s first three singles “For Good,” a charmingly coquettish love song in which its male and female narrators have misunderstandings, bicker and fight, cheat an drive each other insane in a youthfully dysfunctional relationship featuring Sydney, Australia-based poet, visual artist and singer/songwriter Sampa The Great rhyming and singing over a warm and soulful production by Sensible J that nodded at The Roots and Erykah Badu’s “You Got Me.” “Substance Therapy,” the album’s second single featured Remi rhyming honestly about how drinking, drugging and womanizing as an escape from himself and his depression only managed to further mire him in depression. Along with provocative, soul-baring lyrics, Sensible J’s production was meant to emphasize vacillating sense of self-loathing, elf-doubt, fear, anger, and desperate escapism of the dangerously depressed. The album’s third single “Lose Sleep” was a deeply personal song that drew from Remi’s own experiences a mixed race man in Australia and in the world — and in some way, he wanted the song to be a message to other mixed race kids about that weird feeling of feeling as though you could never quite fit in; but that his experience and story, as of those of others matters in a much larger story.
“Contact Hi/High/I” is the latest single off 2016’s Divas and Demons and the as the Melbourne-based emcee explains of his collaboration with Hiatus Kaiyote’s Silent Jay, “I wrote this joint when I was living out of home. One of my friends once told me: ‘In Australia, we have it so good, we’re afforded the liberty to stay childish for our whole lives.’ Whether drinking culture, drug culture, consumerism, etc. I kinda noticed this in myself and wanted to just write about my childish mentality, and how it was being validated by my vices.” The single features both Silent Jay and Remi singing and rhyming over a warm and soulful Sensible J production consisting of twinkling keys, congo drumming and stuttering beats. Interestingly, as a New Yorker, the song captures a familiar sentiment that has come up lately in my life, especially as I inch my way into my 40s.

The recently released music video features Remi, Sensible J and Silent Jay baking cookies, goofing off and hanging out with their homies but underneath the mischief and comic antics is a more serious commentary. In fact, there’s the sense of each of the video’s subjects playing at being adults and not quite knowing how to do it properly; but if you truly consider it: no one really quite knows what to go about being an adult, they make it up as they go along.

New Video: Introducing the 90s Grunge Rock-Inspired Sound of Copenhagen’s John Alcabean

With the release of last year’s Real Time Fiction EP, the Copenhagen, Denmark-based indie rock trio John Alcabean received attention across both Scandinavia and the UK for a sound that draws from the 90s — in particular anthemic Brit Pop and grunge; in fact one website had aligned them with contemporary indie rock acts like Wolf Alice and Drenge among others, despite the fact that the trio hadn’t had a ton of live gigs under their belts.

However, the members of the Copenhagen-based trio are currently in the studio working on their much-anticipated full-length debut and while the album’s first single “Need Comfort” will further cement their growing reputation for anthemic and scuzzy grunge-inspired indie rock, the single manages to be incredibly radio-friendly yet contemporary take on a familiar sound.

Directed and shot by Hans -Jørgen Hersoug, the video for “Need Comfort” is shot in a film noir-like black and white and features a disorientating amount of superimpositions and distortions of the band looking at the viewer with a particularly Scandinavian yet totally familiar brooding seriousness, along with the band’s frontman headbanging while playing his guitar.

New Video: Introducing the Infectious Positivity of Ivory Coast-born Tel Aviv-based Elisee Akowendo

Yves Elisee Samuel Akowendo, best known as Elisee Akowendo is an Ivory Coast-born, Tel Aviv, Israel-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who grew up in a very religious and very musical home. “I come from a Christian family where music has a very important place,” Akowendo says in press notes. “Every morning, noon and evening, we sang gospel songs.” And as a boy, a young Akowendo discovered his love of rhythm as a drummer at his local church’s youth band, which paved a way of a lifelong passion for music. “I was constantly listening, composing and singing,” the Ivory Coast-born, Tel Aviv-based artist explains in press notes. Interestingly, as the story goes, Akowendo’s church group was invited to tour Israel — and while on our, he realized that he had to make a life altering choice: continue pursuing a master’s degree in business or follow his lifetime dream of becoming a professional musician. The Ivory Coast-born, Tel Aviv-based artist decided to follow his dream and remain in Israel.

Understandably, the transition wasn’t easy for Akowendo as he didn’t speak or understand Hebrew; however, his church and a growing ex-pat Ivory Coast community provided him with a great deal of support. “I met great people, made new friends, and hoped that maybe here I could live from music,” Akowendo said in press notes. Within a short period of time, Akowendo crossed paths with APE Records producer Tamir Muskat, who had discovered the Ivory Coast-born, Israeli-based musician and his band Groove Ambassadors on YouTube. As Muskat recalls, “I was surfing through videos and became mesmerized by this amazing African drummer. Then I saw him jump out from behind the drum kit, and grab the mic. It blew me away. I knew immediately that I wanted to work with him.”

Muskat connected with Akowendo and played him some beats and the duo just immediately connected over music and their mutual passion for creating music; however, for Akowendo, he hadn’t written lyrics before and it was a major challenge for him — an his latest single “I Dey Shina” is the first time that the Ivory Coast-born, Israeli-based artist has written lyrics. And interestingly enough, while he admits that he feels equally comfortable singing in French as he does rhyming in English, much of his latest single is sung in his native dialect, Baoule. “Sometimes it’s easier to express certain emotions in your native language,” he explains of his decision to sing in his native tongue.

Considering the embittering negativity of our world, the song manages to convey an infectious and much-needed positivity; in fact, as Awokendo explains the song was about him looking at his life, seeing how he was living his dream — and thanking God for the fact that he could actually live his dream, while showing others that sometimes we need to be reminded about how we should grateful for what we have. But he also adds that the song also suggests that if you have a dream that you shouldn’t give up on it; that we should invest as much positive energy as possible into our dreams every single second of every day. Additionally, he goes on to say that he hopes to pass along a much bigger message into the world — that we can all live together in peace, if we love and help one another.

Emphasizing such an infectious and positive message is a club-banging production that sounds as though it draws from British grime, soca and industrial electronica as it features stuttering drum programming, hot flashes of hi-hat, some metallic clang and clatter and ambient electronics with an anthemic hook.

Directed by Bonamaze, the recently released music video also radiates a infectious positivity as it features the Ivory Coast-born, Israeli-based artist singing and dancing with an international crew of dancers, complete with bright colors. And honestly, it’s just a ton of fun.

New Video: The Comic Visuals for Old 97’s “Good with God”

Comprised of primary songwriter Rhett Miller (vocals, guitar), Murry Hammond (bass), Ken Bethea (guitar) and Philip Peeples (drums), the members of renowned alt-country quartet Old 97s can trace their origins back to their formation in Dallas, TX back in 1993. Initially, a very popular band in Dallas’ scene, the band quickly caught the attention Bloodshot Records, who released Wreck Your Life, which later caught the attention of the folks at Elektra Records, who signed the band in the hopes that the then-Dallas-based quartet, along with bands like Uncle Tupelo, Drive-by-Truckers, Whiskeytown, The Jayhawks, Bottle Rockets and others, which were at the forefront of the alt-country sound would be the next big thing after grunge’s decline. However, unfortunately for both Elektra and the members of Old 97s, despite receiving a fair amount of critical applause, the band and its sound didn’t quite catch on commercially in the way that the label expected, and they were subsequently dropped from the label.

And although being dropped from a major label, can have a devastating impact on a band and their career, the band has managed to build a cult-favorite status and in the iTunes and blogosphere era, building up a devoted and supportive fanbase will provide you with an attainable and sustainable level of professional success. The band’s latest effort Graveyard Whistling reportedly deals with both life and mortality — but with the band’s distinctive and ironic sense of humor and heartfelt tenderness.

Graveyard Whistling’s latest single “Good with God” is a collaboration with renowned labelmate Caitlin Rose, and its a swaggering track that sonically owes a debt to Sun Records and renegade-era country and rockabilly; while thematically, the song’s narrator talks about being a wild badass, who has made a certain level of peace with his life, as he’s fucked things up and “made his bed and will lie in it,” and while he’s made peace with God, he isn’t sure if God has accepted it. So one level the song expresses the acceptance of a full and messy life, but an uncertainty of what happens once we’re no longer here.

Directed by Lee Kirk and produced by Michael Kristoff, the recently released video for “Good with God” features Jenna Fischer as an MTV-like VJ doing a prototypical 120 Minutes-styled interview; however, the band’s drummer is missing and Fred Armisen, who just happens to be at the studio is recruited to play the role of the band’s drummer. And although the show’s director tells Armisen’s character to just sit there and look like he was in the band, he can’t help himself from interrupting and eventually taking over the interview, much to everyone’s exasperation. As an interviewer myself, it’s painful and hilarious. Of course, it’s followed by a blistering studio performance of the song with Armisen actually playing drums.

Comprised of 21-year-old Sidonie B Hand-Halford, her 18-year-old sister Esmé Dee Hand-Halford and their 17-year-old best friend Henry Carlyle Wade, the Halifax, UK-based indie rock trio The Orielles have developed a reputation as one of Northern England’s “most exciting local bands of recent years” and their hometown’s best-kept musical secrets, the trio can trace their origins to when the Hand-Halford sisters met Wade at a house party and bonded over their shared love of Stateside 90s alt rock and indie rock.

With a reputation that had preceded them, Heavenly Recordings head Jeff Barrett caught the band opening for their new labelmates The Parrots in late 2016 and immediately signed them to the label. This year may be a huge year for the young British indie rockers as they played at the Heavenly Weekender Festival at Hebden Bridge last year, and they will be embarking on their first UK/EU tour next month; but in the mean time, the trio’s Heavenly Recordings debut single “Sugar Tastes Like Salt” is an expansive 8 minute track that draws influence from psych rock,  New Wave and post-punk while lyrically the band makes references to several Quentin Tarantino movies including Deathproof and the whole thing is held together by a sinuous and funky bass line that sonically reminds me of The Mallard’s incredible Finding Meaning in Deference. And much like The Mallard‘s last album, “Sugar Tastes Like Salt” possesses a surprising self-assuredness that belies their youth. It’s an impressive and forceful release that has me excited to hear more from them.