Montreal-based collective The Foundation features some of the city’s best musicians, who also play in the Canadian city’s top R&B, hip-hop, funk, gospel, soul and jazz acts. The members of The Foundation gained collective experience from production and performing on a weekly, nationally aired TV show — and they used their momentum of their show to write and record their critically applauded debut EP One Step.
The Foundation also collaborates with some of the French Canadian city’s top and upcoming R&B, hip-hop, soul and funk acts, including Mel Pacifico and Fredy V — both, who are full-time members of the collective. The collective’s latest single “On The Rise,” marks the one-year anniversary of the release of their debut EP. But song is also a bold mission statement of stops, description the group’s current direction and mindset.
Featuring glistening synths, twinkling keys, thumping beats, hand-claps, Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, wobbling bass synth, “On The Rise” is centered around a warm and roomy, New Jack Swing meets neo-soul with a hint of classic Chic-like production. Fredy V. contributes self-assured and thoughtful verses describing the sacrifices he had to take to get to where he is right now, including distancing from the people and habits that didn’t align with his goals. Pacifico contributes her soulful vocals to the song’s uplifting and infectious hook.Unsurprisingly, the new single is informed by and inspired by the collective’s experiences during the pandemic: Both individually and as a collective, The Foundation was forced to reflect on the direction of their careers in music — and their lives.
Thematically, the song touches upon self-empowerment, maturation, self-determination and accountability — that come about as someone matures and is actively attempting to make serious moves for themselves. The song — and the band — seem to say to the listener, “well, if you wanna fulfill your dreams, stop the bullshit and get to work. It ain’t easy but once you get there, it’ll be worth it.”
Allegories was a long-dormant experimental noise duo that reappeared in 2014 as an electro pop unit that experimented with genre, meshing eclectic soundscapes with pop inclinations. Gathering further, inspiration from DJ’ing house and hip-hop nights, the act began to create electronic music that often shifts between the mainstream and underground spectrum.
The duo’s latest single “Pray” is a feverish left field take on dance music, centered around `shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, euphoria-inducing hooks and pitch shifted vocals that sonically is a slick synthesis of Evil Heat era Primal Scream and Sound of Silver era LCD Soundsystem. Or in other words, it’s a bizarre yet winning mix of menace, irony and sincerity within a club banger.
“‘Pray’ feels like a tree grown out of a seed of house music, but its leaves are wild and varied,” the mysterious duo explain. “Sometimes you let gravity take over a composition; you start one way but over time music evolves naturally. At the same time, “Pray” doesn’t function in an uncomplicated fashion. It was written and recorded over many years and each new iteration added conflicting emotional layers. A menagerie of feelings. Owing as much to the overtly sincere as it does the misleading insincere. “
With the release of his full-length debut, 2019’s Counterglow, Montreal-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Reno McCarthy quickly received attention for his remarkably self-assured songwriting. The Montreal-based artist also received praise for his debonair stage presence — and for having a backing band that plays a groove-heavy live set.
Following the loss of his father last year, McCarthy wound up writing and recording a moving and deeply moving EP, Angels Watching Us Down, which found the Montreal-based artist crafting much more stripped down and strikingly sensitive material.
Late last month, McCarthy released his sophomore album, RUN UP RIVER, which features the introspective yet upbeat “Sundown,” and the slickly produced, St. Lucia-like ode to hesitation and indecisiveness, “For A Moment.” The album’s latest single, the atmospheric “Nothing Less, Nothing More” is a slow-burning song featuring shimmering and reverb drenched guitars, skittering beats with a trippy Tame Impala-like coda with glistening synth arpeggios, held together with McCarthy’s delicate croon. The song manages to evoke the uneasy swoon of a new relationship with both sides entering uncharted waters with themselves and each other.
Centered around introspective, lived-in lyrics, the song as McCarthy explains “offers an honest look at the unstable nature of early relationships. It’s about accepting both ourselves and our loved ones for who we are.”
Formed over six years ago, Antananarivo, Madagascar-based trio LohArano — Mahalia Ravoajanahary (vocals, guitar), Michael Raveloson (bass, vocals) and Natiana Randrianasoloson (drums, vocals) — have developed an incredibly unique, boundary pushing sound that meshes elements of popular and beloved Malagasy musical styles — in particular, Tsapiky and Salegy — with metal. The Madagascan trio’s sound and approach represents a bold generation of young people that are inspired by music from West, yet honors and respects the traditions of their elders, all while roaring with the fierce urgency of our moment.
Earlier this year, LohArano released their self-titled EP, which featured “Tandrroka,” a mosh pit friendly ripper, featuring rumbling, down-tuned bass lines, thunderous drumming, scorching guitar riffs and Ravoajanahary’s Karen O-like vocals, which alternate between feral howls, screeching and shouting.
The band released their full-length debut LohAmboto this past Friday through Libertalia Music. The album’s first single, album title track “LohAmboto” continues an incredible run of expansive forward-thinking, post rock/metal inspired material centered around scorching riffs, heavy bass lines, thunderous Malagasy polyrhythms and Ravoajanahary’s howls and shouts. It’s a face melting ripper, reminiscent of System of a Down and others.
The band will be playing Europe for the first time on December 3, 2021 — with an appearance at Trans Musicales in Rennes, France. They’ll embark on their first European tour during the Summer of 2022.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled a copious amount of virtual ink covering the multi-Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and San Fernando Valley-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Eric Burton, the acclaimed act can trace their origins back to 2017.
Burton, who grew up singing in church and in musical theater, started busking at the Santa Monica pier, where he brought in a few hundred dollars and day and honing his performance skills. He then traveled through the Western states before deciding to settle down in Austin, setting up a busking spot on 6th Street and Congress, a prime location in the city’s downtown neighborhood for maximum exposure.Meanwhile, Quesada was looking to collaborate with someone new. He reached out to friends in Los Angeles and London — but nothing seemed to fit. Serendipitously, a mutual friend recommended Burton to Quesada, telling the Grammy Award-winning songwriter, guitarist and producer that Burton was the best singer he had ever heard. The two musicians connected but Burton took a while to respond. “My friends were like ‘Dude, you’re a mad man, you need to hit that guy back!’” Burton recalls. When Burton did call Quesada, he sang to him over the phone. “I loved his energy, his vibe, and I knew it would be incredible on record,” Quesada says. “From the moment I heard him on the phone, I was all about it.”
Last year, the acclaimed JOVM mainstays released a deluxe version of their breakthrough debut which features new artwork, previously unpublished in-studio and live performance photos, a bonus 7 inch featuring three previously unreleased originals, live, in-studio versions of “Colors,” “October 33,” and “Confines;” a live version of “Know You Better,” recorded at C-Boys Heart & Soul, the Austin club, where the band first made a name for themselves;the band’s attention-grabbing covers of The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby,” Death’s “Politicians in My Eyes,” Bobby “Blue” Bland‘s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” and Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car.”
Black Pumas are currently touring Europe. And after a couple of weeks off, the JOVM mainstays will embark on a West Coast tour to end the year. 2022 sees the band playing Nashville and a couple of North American festivals. They make stops in South America before returning to the states for Boston Calling next March. Next June and July, the band returns to Europe. As always those tour dates are below — and if they’re in a town near you, I’d suggest you get a ticket and catch Black Pumas.
Initially only available as part of Spotify Holiday Singles, the Austin-based JOVM mainstays’ cover of Lou Rawls‘ “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas” is finally available everywhere for the first time.
Buried on the B-side of Rawls’ 1967 Christmas-themed album Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho!, “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas” was written by James Alexander, whose credits include Sam Cooke’s “Lost and Lookin’,” the R&B standard “I Like It Like That” recorded by everyone from Ray Charles to Van Morrison, Ben Raleigh’s “Laughing on the Outside,” “Faith Can Move Mountains,” “Tell Laura I Love Her” and “Wonderful, Wonderful,” a string of tunes for Lesley Gore, Rawls’ own “Dead End Street” and “Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing,” jazz standard “Midnight Mood” and incredibly the theme song for Scooby Doo, “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” The original is a slow-burning, minor-key funky bit of soul with profound and much-needed message: Christmas can’t be Christmas without peace, love and happiness for all.
The Black Pumas cover speeds the tempo up a bit and features a series of subtle changes — Burton keeps to his slightly higher register, the horns are replaced with the band’s incredible backing singles, the keys are a bit punchier and placed a bit more forward in the mix. The end result is a cover that the JOVM mainstays make their own while being faithful to the original’s spirit, feel and time period. It’s a difficult balance that the band has made seemingly effortless.
“We were really attracted to the message, the lyrics, the arrangement, the feeling,” Black Pumas’ frontman Eric Burton explains. “It’s a message that needs to be heard right now. I was a little nervous about singing in Lou Rawls’ low register, so I sang it an octave higher and it was nice to arrange vocals with the ladies [backup singers Lauren Cervantes and Angela Miller] as well to put our own spin on it.”
Producer/bandleader Adrian Quesada adds, “A Christmas song isn’t exactly something that we set out to do, but this Lou Rawls song is amazing. It was produced by one of my favorite arrangers and producers, David Axelrod. On that side of it I was drawn to it initially and I confirmed with Eric. I think we were both attracted to the message too, it touches on a message that I think is poignant to today’s times, that Christmas isn’t really Christmas until everyone has peace and happiness.”
11/16/21 – Lille, France @ Aérone SOLD OUT
11/17/21 – Nantes, Pays de la Loire @ Stéréolux SOLD OUT
11/18/21 – Paris, France @ L’Olympia
11/20/21 – Madrid, Spain @ La Riviera SOLD OUT
12/4/21 – Key West, FL @ Coast is Clear Music & Arts Fest
12/8/21 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
12/9/21 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
12/10/21 – Seattle, WA @ Paramount Theatre
12/12/21 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot
12/15/21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic
12/16/21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic
12/17/21 – Los Angeles, CA @ YouTube Theater
12/18/21 – Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues Las Vegas
2/4/22 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium SOLD OUT
2/5/22 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium
2/26/22 – 2/27/22 – Tempe, AZ @ Innings Festival
3/2/22 – 3/5/22 – Cancún, Mexico @ My Morning Jacket’s One Big Holiday
3/19/22 – 3/20/22 – Mexico City, CDMX @ Vive Latino
3/25/22 – 3/27/22 – São Paulo, SP @ Lollapalooza Brasil
Rising Toronto-based singer/songwriter Oliver James Brooks can trace the origins of his music career to fiddling with his father’s old acoustic guitar while growing up in a small Ontario town. About five years ago, Brooks began turning those early fiddlings into fleshed out songs. And since then, the Canadian singer/songwriter and musician has begun to build a national profile: He has received airplay on CBC and has been compared to Kurt Vile and Elliott Smith by Divide & Conquer and Gordon Lightfoot by XS Noize. He has also played at IndieWeek back in 2019.
Brooks’ recently released third album Storm Chasing was recored on an old Tascam 388 8-track tape machine, at Gavin Gardiner’s All Day Coconut Studios with the exception of some overdubs here and there. Written over the course of the past five years, some of Storm Chasing‘s material was written while Brooks lived in Brooklyn. The album thematically and lyrically touches on childhood memories, sadness, love and optimism among others.
In the lead up to the album’s release last week, three of its singles were released to critical applause from Americana UK, Indie88 and The Young Folks. The album’s fourth and latest single, the breakneck shuffle “Ya Ya No” is centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a steady backbeat, Brooks easy-going vocals and an infectious hook within a song that sonically brings Tom Petty and JOVM mainstay Steve Wynn to mind.
If you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you may recall that Carbone and her band were scheduled to go into the studio last May to record what would be he highly-anticipated third album. But unfortunately, as a result of pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, Carbone’s plans were indefinitely shelved, much like countless other artists and bands across the world at the time.
Inspired by the lockdowns, Carbone and her band came up with an idea: “What if Rockpalast would let us release that show as a live album?” Taken from her October 2019 Rockpalast set at Harmonie Bonn, the Laura Carbone — Live at Rockpalast is a career-spanning set featuring material from her first two albums.
I had written about three of the live singles:
“Who’s Gonna Save You,” which found Carbone and her band deftly balancing menace and sultriness, while introducing a rock goddess, you need to know — right now.
“Cellophane Skin” which found Carbone and company taking the tension of the original and informing with a feral intensity developed while touring. And as a result, the song finds its narrator — and perhaps, even the artist herself — turning into a seductive, yet vengeful force of nature tearing down the bonds of poisonous social norms that have imprisoned her, while demanding that we — men particularly so — examine ourselves.
“Nightride,” a slow-burning and brooding bit of psychedelia-tinged post punk that sonically and lyrically nods at The Doors “The End” as though covered by PJ Harvey.
Each video from the live session continued Carbone’s ongoing visual collaboration wit Olya Dyer — but the visual for “Nightride” also featured The Underground Youth‘s Carig Dyer as a dark and handsome stranger, who picks up Carbone.
Carbone and The Underground Youth have collaborated on the recently released In Dreams EP, an effort that sees them tackling four Roy Orbison songs, which chart the age-old and universal narrative of falling in and out o love, and the deep yearning for romance and connection we all feel — even if we don’t want to always admit it. (As a personal note, I fucking love Roy Orbison.)
The In Dreams EP shines with its bittersweet blend of a reserved musical background that leaves space for Craig’s earthy voice and Laura’s soaring, ethereal vocals to connect, embrace and unravel again. Centered around sparse and atmospheric arrangements, the EP’s material is roomy enough for Craig Dyer’s earthy baritone and Carbone’s yearning and ethereal vocals to seemingly connect, embrace and unravel throughout.
In Dreams‘ latest single “Crying” finds Dyer and Carbone slowing the tempo down and stripping the song down to its barest elements — shimmering guitar. Dyer’s baritone and Carbone’s achingly tender vocals. Turning the song into a duet, subtly changes the song into a conversation between a couple, who both realize — with some aching bitterness — that their relationship has come to an end, and that there’s nothing much they could do to resolve it. At some point, all of us have been there, and the song’s universality and familiarity is what makes it powerfully transcendent.
Toronto-based indie outfit Dilettante can trace their origins back to 2016. During the spring, mutual dog lovers Natalie Panacci and Julia Wittman started a band so their dogs could hang out more. Along with The Black Cats’ Zachary Stuckey; Said the Whale’s, Iskwe’s, The Recklaws’ and Scott Helman’s Bradley Connor; and Candice Ng, they formed as For Jane, a “dog’ rock pop band with a Kate Bush meets Sinead O’Connor sensibility that prominently featured Panacci’s and Wittman’s contrasting vocals and mesmerizing harmonies.
As For Jane, the Canadian indie act released their debut EP, 2018’s Married with Dogs, which featured “Car,” a track featured on CBC Music and The Edge. Earlier this year, the act announced a change in name, seemingly influenced by a massive lineup change that has left Panacci and Wittman as its creative core, as well as a decided shift in sonic direction.
The Toronto-based act’s self-titled, full-length debut is slated for a Spring 2022 release — but they’ve also recently released the album’s first single, “Bonnie,” an 80s New Wave inspired, synth pop confection featuring glistening synth arpeggios, wiry post-punk guitars fed through a bit of reverb, an angular bass line and the duo’s achingly plaintive and mesmerizing vocals. The end result is a song that to my ears reminds me a bit of Til Tuesday‘s “Voices Carry” but with a sultry, coquettish air.
Post punk outfit Sei Still — Sebastián Rojas (organ, synths), Mateo Sánchez Galán (guitar), Jerónimo Martín (drums, percussion) and Lucas Martín (vocals, guitar) — can trace its origins to when the members of the band decided to take a random trip to some desolate woodlands outside of Mexico City to work on a couple of songs. Those sessions were so productive that it led to the quartet starting the band in earnest.
With just a couple of singles under their collective belts — 2017’s “Oto” and 2019’s “Tacticas de Guerrilla Urbana” — the band quickly earned a rapidly growing profile in their native Mexico, sharing stages with Stereolab, Kikagaku Moyo, Institute, and Lorelle Meets The Obsolete. As a result of the growing buzz surrounding them, the Mexican post-punk outfit signed to London-based label Fuzz Club Records, who released their self-titled full-length debut last year. The album quickly solidified a new European fanbase for the Mexican post punk outfit, while selling out its initial vinyl pressing.
The band’s highly-anticipated sophomore album El Refugio is slated for a November 26, 2021 release through Fuzz Club Records, and the album marks a number of major changes for the Mexican post-punk quartet: The band relocated to Berlin, where they wrote and recorded El Refugio. And sonically, the album represents an evolution in the now-Berlin-based band’s sound. Whereas their self-titled debut was heavily indebted to the Krautrock sounds of Can and Neu!, El Refugio reportedly sees the band eschewing the expansive and hypnotic tendencies of their previously released work for a wiry, post-punk inspired sound, that’s still centered around a motorik pulse. Additionally, the songs are shorter and unapologetically to the point, while bristling with tension and anguish.
“The biggest influence on this record was the fact that our personal lives had a radical change and we felt the need to do something different, to dig deeper into the possibilities of what the band was about,” the members of Sei Still explain. “We never wanted to make the same record twice.” Understandably, the move from Mexico to Germany would normally be a massive upheaval culturally, emotionally and personally — but the band managed to move a few weeks before COVID-19 struck across the world and forced shutdowns and lockdowns. And as a result, the material possesses a visceral unease,
More expressionist than psychedelic, the and explains that El Refugio thematically “alludes to childhood, dreams, desire, loneliness, paranoia and hope. A longing for a different reality that breaks the monotony of daily life. It’s more about sensations than something you can describe in words. I think what makes music great is that it has to be experienced so we try to part from a specific mood or emotion, which is something very abstract that people can interpret in their own way.”
Last month, I wrote about “Extraradio,”a brooding, Joy Division-like take on post-punk centered around Lucas Martín’s dry sprechgesang delivery in Spanish, an angular bass line, bursts of wiry, delay pedaled guitar and an insistent motorik pulse. The song to me managed to evoke the profound loneliness of being an Other in a foreign land and surrounded by a culture and language you can’t speak or understand.
El Refugio‘s latest single “Exilo” is a taut and brooding bit of post-punk centered around a relentless motorik pulse, wiry bursts of guitar, glistening synths, mathematically precise electronic drum paired with forceful kick drum paired with Martín’s dry vocal delivery. Reportedly indebted to Spanish New Wave, “Exilo” personally reminds me of endlessly gray, German skies, damp rainy nights in Frankfurt’s Romer and Haupwatche sections with the seemingly permanent costume of foreigner, of man from far away.
tiger lily is a rising Seattle-born, Los Angeles-based Asian-American singer/songwriter and pop artist. But she can actually trace the origins of her career to fronting a Seattle-based all-female grunge band, which built up a regional profile: That band received praise from The Seattle Times and was once named “Seattle’s Best Underage Band” by Seattle Weekly. Adding to that growing profile, the band also received airplay from KEXP.
Stepping out into the spotlight as a solo artist, the Seattle-born, Los Angeles-based pop artist has opened for Grammy-nominated duo Social House — and she has amassed over 70,000 followers across Tik Tok and Instagram. But more important, tiger lily is a vocal advocate for greater representation of Asian Americans and other POC artists in the music industry — with interviews appearing in Audiofemme, Spin Magazine and others.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of this year. you might recall that I wrote about the rising Asian American artist’s collaboration with Seattle-born and-based electronic music producer Fluencie, a collaboration that the duo can trace back to when they met as students at Ingraham High School. “juneau, alaska” was a slickly produced, radio friendly, Top 40-like confection that began with an acoustic guitar pop introduction before quickly morphing into a Taylor Swift/Phoebe Ryan-like banger centered around shimmering and wobbling synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and an enormous hook. But underneath the song’s crowd pleasing surface, the song is rooted in an aching nostalgia for a period of time that seemed simpler and can’t be had again.
tiger lily’s latest single finds her collaborating with rising Toronto-based electronic music producer and artist MKSTN. During the course of the past year, both artists have released tracks to praise from Spin Magazine, Stereofox and Earmilk and landed on Spotify playlists like Fresh Finds, Indie pop and Make Out. MKSTN also had his music played in sets by artists like Martin Garrix and JOVM mainstay Washed Out. tiger lily on the other hand, also played benefit shows, which raised money for charities that supported POC and LGBTQ+ lives.
Although the duo met virtually, their collaboration together “like we’re an indie movie” is a achingly nostalgic bop centered around a dusty lo-fi-like production featuring twinkling synth arpeggios, shimmering hi-hat bursts, a strummed electronic guitar figure, skittering beats serving as a silky bed for tiger lily’s breathily sultry cooing. Sonically, the track — to my ears, at least — reminds me a bit of Washed Out’s earlier work.
As the artists put it, “We connected over the internet. We thought it’d be cool to capture Tumblr and internet culture into our take on a modern indie movie soundtrack. The song was inspired by Spotify playlist names and distant memories of spontaneous trips to chase a summer love. As the hook, sung over Paris field recordings and lofi riffs goes, ‘kiss me in the rain like you’ll only ever love me / like we’re in an indie movie.’”