Stereonoon is an Italian neo-soul/jazz and R&B inspired collective formed during pandemic-related lockdowns that features core creative duo Verona-born vocalist Anna Polinari and cinemavolt’s creative mastermind Max Tozzi paired with a rotating cast of talented Italian players. Late last year, the act released a straightforward yet vibey cover of Joe Jackson‘s classic “Steppin’ Out,” centered around a sinuous bass line and Polinari’s sultry vocals.
The act’s debut EP Yeah. And Stuff was released late last month and features guest spots from a number of internationally acclaimed musicians including Snarky Puppy’s Mark Lettieri (guitar), Matteo Pontegavelli (trumpet) and Francesco Dondi (tenor saxophone). The EP’s latest single “Inconvenient” is a neo-soul and jazz-tinged take on trip hop centered around twinkling piano, a sinuous bass line, stuttering drumming, an expressive, jazz-inspired guitar solo and Polinari’s sultry vocals. Lyrically, the song is an unflinchingly honest view of a vulnerable narrator examining herself and her longing to be someplace she feels she belongs.
Steven Bamidele is a Brighton, UK-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, has been developing and honing his sound and approach for the better part of the past decade, beginning his career performing as Mirror Signal between 2013 and 2017. In 2017, he decided to drop the moniker, to write and record with his real given name and his Nigerian mother’s maiden name. But regardless of what he called himself, the Brighton-based singer/songwriter has focused on crafting emotionally-driven music that meshes elements of soul and pop.
Bamidele relocated to Brighton back in 2018 and over the following year, he played as many shows as humanly possible, earning a foothold in both Brighton and London. With the COVID-19 pandemic putting live music at an indefinite pause, the Brighton-based artist has been busy producing music for other artists in home studio, as well as working on new, original music — including his debut EP, which is slated for release later this year through Park The Van. (I should mention that Bamidele is the first non-rock signee to the label, as well.)
In the meantime, Bamidele’s latest single “What Happens Afterwards,” features Dave Bryce on an expansive, slow-burning, neo-soul-inspired track centered around twinkling Rhodes, shimmering synths, a sinuous two-step-inducing strutting groove, Bamidele’s achingly tender falsetto. Interestingly, the song is a heady mix of longing, wishful thinking, regret and a desire to move forward that captures how complicated and confusing love and lust can be.
Los Angeles-based indie pop act Bass Race — Steven Mertens and Laura Benack — features a highly accomplished duo: Mertens formed his first band Satan’s Rats when he was 13 with elementary school friends. That project led to two decades of tours and collaborations. After studying Studio Composition at SUNY Purchase, Mertens joined The Moldy Peaches in 2001 — and he eventually went on to direct videos for an eclectic array of artists including Regina Spektor, Lil Peep, Benee and Sheryl Crow. He has also collaborated with Blood Orange and Here We Go Magic. Benack, who started playing piano when she turned four comes from a deeply musical family: her grandfather was a bandleader, her mom is a vocalist and her father and brother are jazz musicians.
Mertens and Benack met in New York back in 2010. They started dating and immediately started a musical partnership, centered around their love of their craft — and of course, each other. With the help of friends and Benack’s brother on trumpet, they made a bunch of music videos, including for “Clowns Everywhere.” Determined to use every bit of their collective talents, they began combining their music with Mertens’ visual art in 2019 with Bass Race’s Instagram page, which fans have described as “magical” and “super amazing mega fantabulous.”
While the duo cites yacht rock, synth pop, jazz, funk and soul as influencing their sound and aesthetic, their latest single “Chasing the Sun” is a warm and easygoing retro-futuristic, neo-soul number featuring an infectious two-step inducing groove featuring twinkling Rhodes, shimming rhythm guitar, stuttering boom bap-like drumming, a sinuous bass line. Adding to the easy-going yet retro-futuristic vibes, Benack soulfully and suggestively sings lyrics full of playful space age double entendres and references.
“We were in Pittsburgh a couple years ago over Christmas to see my family and we visited our good friend Pete Mudge (Nice Rec) in his studio along with our friends Laura Herrmann and Blane Britt (GrandEar),” the duo recalls in press notes.”There was a snow storm, and it was freezing. Once we were inside, we started to warm up and Pete played us some beats he had been working on. When we heard the track that would soon become ‘Chasing the Sun,’ we all started smiling right away. The creativity started flowing and within a couple hours, I had recorded all the vocals and Steven laid down some guitars. The gray weather definitely inspired the song title, but the song lyrics detail the arduous process of overcoming writer’s block and chasing creative inspiration.”
The duo created a space-age visualizer that follows Benack and an amorphous, cosmic being traveling through space and time in a spaceship — and there’s the sense that our space traveling duo is grooving through the cosmos, as you might be while playing the song.
The duo’s latest album Tender Vittles is slated for a March 19, 2021 release.
Initially making a name for herself as the frontwoman of acclaimed New York neo-disco/dance music act Escort, the Parisian-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, bassist, producer and jOVM mainstay Adeline has developed a reputation as a critically applauded solo artist, receiving praise from Vogue, NPR, Refinery 29, Rolling Stone, The Fader and many others — and as one of the most hardworking and prolific artists in New York’s music scene:
The JOVM has opened for the Anderson .Paak, Lee Fields, Chromeo, Big Freedia and Natalie Prass among a lengthening list of artists — and has played an increasing number of headlining shows across the New York Metropolitan area
She has played a number of stops on the national festival circuit, including Afropunk, Funk on the Rocks and Winter Jazzfest.
Additionally, she also has a stint as a member of CeeLo Green’s touring band.
Last year may have been the busiest year of the JOVM mainstay’s career:
She released 21 songs, including 2 EPs.
She collaborated with Kamauu on “Mango.” The video is a viral hit, garnering almost five million views.
She had guest appearances on material by an eclectic array of artists including Pastel, Kraak & Smack, Blue Lab Beats, Jonathan Singletary and rising French emcee Likso.
Adeline continues an incredibly run — and starts off the year with a new single, the sultry and slow-burning “Whisper My Name.” Centered around a strutting and sumptuous bass line, shimmering guitars and Adeline’s smooth vocals, “Whisper My Name” sounds indebted to 80s Quiet Storm soul — but subtly imbued with the hope of a bright new future ahead. And much like her previous released work, the new single is a reminder of that this sister is a certified star — and that she’s a mesmerizing presence both on record and on stage.
She recently performed the song as part of a recorded session for A COLORS SHOW. The full live set is coming soon — and I can’t wait.
Joshua Henry is an acclaimed New York-based actor, musician and singer/songwriter best known for his Tony-nominated roles as Flick in Brian Crawley’s Violet and Haywood Patterson in David Thompson’s The Scottsboro Boys. Henry has also starred in Gerswhin’s Porgy and Bess, Green Day’s American Idiot, Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights and as Aaron Burr in the first national tour of Hamilton. Although his successes on Broadway was fueled by a lifelong passion for music and performing, Henry longed to tell his own story. “I’d been writing songs for nearly a decade, but my incredible wife, Cathryn, pushed me to not waste any time and follow that passion,” Henry recalls. “I continue to love acting, stepping into someone else’s shoes, but this year made one thing super clear to me: We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so I had to really give it my all.”
Henry’s Theron “Neff-U” Feemster-produced debut EP Guarantee is slated for a February 12, 2021 release through S-Curve Records/BMG and the effort will reportedly showcase the voice that won accolades on Broadway paired with thoughtful, intelligent storytelling-based songs that thematically touch upon vulnerability, love and hope. Written during pandemic-related lockdowns, the New York-based actor, musician and singer/songwriter found that the inspiration and creative process of art became intertwined. As his wife took on nursing shirts caring for COVID patients in the earliest days of the pandemic, Henry would sneak into the music room in the family’s apartment to record vocals. “It was an amazing exercise in watching something grow through constraints — to know what’s possible if you have the right people supporting you,” he says.
Small. intimate, daily events like walking through Central Park, a conversation over breakfast, time with his wife and son proved to be deeply influential on the EP’s material and on Henry’s songwriting. “In the past I’ve been a really private person, but they gave me freedom to break my chest open, to get into conversations about self-discovery and vulnerability,” he explains.
“This EP is full of my heart, but I also want people to jump and groove to it, to feel it cerebrally, spiritually and bodily,” Henry adds. ‘There was a blank canvas that took me back to when I was seven years old, just writing from my heart, with nothing to lose.” The EP’s lead single “Hold Me” is centered around a warm, neo-soul production featuring a rubbery and propulsive bass line, soul clap-led percussion and a spectral backing vocal paired with Henry’s plaintive yet regal falsetto. Unlike most contemporary pop songs, you’ll hear on the radio right now, “Hold Me” is full of a pure ebullient joy that feels like a great gospel tune — and as a result it gives the material a wholesome air.
And while the song may be an infectious, joyful delight, the song is intelligently underpinned by a very deep understanding of romantic relationships: Satisfying and truly adult love requires an immense vulnerability of us. But when it comes to the relentless and uncompromising pursuit of a lifelong there’s a deeper fear of rejection of the much-needed love and support you may need to continue, and of having to make a choice between love and your dream.
The recently released video manages to simultaneously evoke the infectious joy of its accompanying single while also being an intimate look into the loving relationships of a young artist with a big dream.
Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jonas (born Jonas Rendbo) has been hailed by international press as the Godfather of Scandinavian Soul throughout the course of his 20+ year music career. Renbo has managed to be remarkably prolific, releasing a ton fo his own original music, which he has supported with tours sharing stages with the likes of internationally applauded artists like Omar, John Legend, Joss Stone, Lynden David Hall and Bilal among a lengthy and growing list of others. Adding to his accolades, Rendbo won Artist of the Year and Best Video at the 2016 Scandinavian Soul Music Awards.
Since 2004, Rendbo has split time between Copenhagen and London, where he met his wife and started a family. And while in London, he started collaborating with London-based multi-instrumentalist and producer The Scratch Professor, who coincidentally is Omar’s brother. Rendbo and The Scratch Professor had an instant musical simpatico and a couple of songs they wrote together wound up on Jonas’ sophomore album 2009’s W.A.I.T.T.
Their collaboration also managed to produce a handful of songs that the Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter had kept in his vault over the past decade or so— until he released them as the four song EP EP 4ward Fast To Future. Recorded, produced, mixed and mastered during COVID-19 quarantine lockdown during April, the EP is return to the warm, neo-soul sounds of his earliest work. Earlier this year, I wrote about “Pick Me Up,” a warm, 90s neo-soul track, centered around shimmering Rhodes, boom bap-like beats, a sinuous bass line, a strutting horn line, an infectious hook and Rendbo’s sultry and plaintive falsetto. And while being a joyous, two step-inducing, radio friendly jam, the song’s narrator talks about desiring — and then having — the sort of love (and lover) that most of us dream of: that ride or die person, who’s with you and supports you through thick and thin, joy and heartbreak, sickness and health.
The EP was released to widespread praise across the blogosphere including SoulBounce.com, ScandinavianSoul.com and was a featured album on SoulTracks.com. Additionally, the EP’s material received airplay on soul music ration station across the globe. Building upon that momentum, the Danish-born singer/songwriter released teh 4ward Fast to Future (Remixes) which features remixes of some of the EP’s material by friends and musical collaborators, done inc completely different styles. But in the meantime, Renbo released the EP’s latest single, the slow-burning “What’s Cooking.” Much like it’s predecessor, the track is centered by twinkling Rhodes arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, strutting horns and Renbo’s plaintive vocals; however, the song finds its narrator wanting to simply his life and find himself in his own terms while living in a chaotic world.
Featuring video graphics and editing by Jacob Vinjegaard, the recently released video for “What’s Cooking” is shot with a grainy Instagram-like filter and follows Renbo in some intimate and trippy footage.
I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based futuristic soul act and JOVM mainstays Bells Atlas over the past few years, and as you may may recall, the act which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) have received attention across the blogosphere for a lush, kaleidoscopic sound that draws from indie rock, 90s R&B, Afro-pop, Afro-futurism, jazz, electro pop and experimental pop. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the act has opened for Hiatus Kaiyote, BADBADNOTGOOD, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and others, as well as Bermuda Triangle, the side project of Alabama Shakes‘ Brittany Howard. Along with that, they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.
Last year, the act released the SALT AND SOAP EP, an effort inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you’re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is then to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Interestingly, during the creative process for the EP and their full-length effort the mystic, which is slated for release later this week, the band stumbled upon a new songwriting process that incorporated the use of sampling grainy phone memo recordings of Geneva Harrison’s drumming as the bedrock of the material.
With the writing and recording sessions focusing on spontaneity and even humor, the band aimed to craft music that managed to be cinematic yet deeply personal — all while allowing room to highlight each member’s individual skills and talent within the larger whole. Narratively and thematically, the album is a sci-fi fantasy of two first generation Nigerian-American women coming to terms with a mental health diagnosis — and at the same time, a universal exploration of how we make sense of reality. “It’s about a truth seeker and a skeptic trying to make sense of what’s mystical and what’s clinical,” the band’s Sandra Lawson-Ndu says in press notes. “The listener is made to consider the possibility of magic. Is it possible, for instance, that someone who navigates the world differently may have a deeper understanding of the universe? The mystic is a spectrum of deep emotionality, impulse, and even humour; a tool to explore the full dimension of our reality.” the mystic‘s latest single is the slow-burning and ethereal “Final Ceiling.” Centered around Lawson-Ndu’s dreamy cooing, shimmering synths and guitar and gently propulsive drumming, “Final Ceiling” evokes a hazy yet vividly remembered dream that lingers in your consciousness for hours.
The Oakland-based JOVM mainstays will be touring to support the mystic throughout May and June, and the tour includes a June 1, 2019 stop at C’mon Everybody. Check out the tour dates below.
5.9 Los Angeles, CA The Satellite 5.10 The Wayfarer Costa Mesa, CA 5.11 Starline Social Club Oakland, CA 5.16 Doug Fir Lounge Portland, OR 5.17 Fisherman’s Village Festival Everett, WA 5.18 Rhythm and Rye Olympia, WA 5.19 The Auditorium Seattle, WA 5.23 BSP Kingston Brooklyn, NYC 5.24 Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar Nashua, NH 5.25 The Diving Bell Social Club Montreal, CA 5.26 Columbus Theatre Providence, RI 5.28 State House New Haven, CT 5.30 Milkboy Philadelphia, PA 5.31 Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House Washington, DC 6.1 C’mon Everybody Brooklyn, NYC
Earlier this year, I wrote about the up-and-coming indie electro pop/neo-soul act Seba Kaapstad, and as you may recall, the act which is comprised of founding members Sebastian “Seba” Schuster, Zoe Modiga and Ndumiso Manana along with their newest member, Philip “Pheel” Scheibel is split between Cape Town, South Africa and Stuttgart, Germany, and can trace its origins to when Schuster landed in Cape Town back in 2013. While studying at the University of Cape Town, Schuster met Modiga and Manana and began working together in an informal setting, in which they jammed playing standards and rearranged songs of their choice. And as they continued working together, the trio recognized a deeper chemistry within their work.
As the story goes, before Schuster returned to Germany, he asked his future bandmates if they’d be interested in recording back in his homeland — and over the next few months, he spent time writing and organizing sessions with the focus on what would eventually become Seba Kaapstad. After a series of phone calls, emails and trips back and forth to Cape Town, the act’s founding trio had written the material that would eventually comprise their full-length debut, 2016’s Tagore.
Thina, Seba Kaapstad’s highly-anticipated full-length sophomore album is slated for a May 17, 2019 release through Mello Music Group, and the album finds the act further expanding on a genre-mashing, globalist sound that draws from neo-soul, hip-hop, jazz, electro pop and Afro pop — while adding a new member Philip “Pheel” Scheibel. Album single “Africa” was centered around a slick and mind-melting production that features elements of smoky jazz, swaggering hip hop, soul and Pan African vibes that brings Soul II Soul,Erykah Badu, theeSatisfaction, The Roots and Flying Lotus to mind.
The album’s latest single “Bye” is centered around an atmospheric and cosmically shimmering production featuring a sinuous bass line, fluttering synths, thumping beats while Manana and Modiga’s ethereal boy-girl melodies and harmonies describe the self-doubt, anxiety and uncertainty filled moments of attraction at first blush. Splitting between the male and female perspective, the song’s central story should feel familiar: it’s the internal monologue many of us have had when we’ve encountered a new potential love interest.