Tag: Nick Hakim

Live Footage: Nick Hakim Performs “QADIR” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut, 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2. Armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn.

As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it, making the album feel like a series of different self-portraits. Much like Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad strokes, with subtle gradations in mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press notes at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare.

The JOVM mainstay released his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD earlier this year through ATO Records. Interestingly, the album’s material manages to be distinctly Hakim while being a tonal shift from its predecessor: his sophomore album reflects the ideas with which he grappled with while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shared the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

“QADIR” is a slow-burning and atmospheric single, centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals — and as a result, the track is a fever dream full of ache and longing, partially written as an ode to a late friend and an urgent reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. ”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Recently Hakim and his backing band performed a socially distant rendition of “QADIR” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which features Hakim singing the song on a cartoon-background that’s one part hood, one part Sesame Street. 

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Her Songs · Lost a Little (feat. Dani Murcia, Emily C. Browning, Emmavie, Marie Dahlstrom & The Naked Eye)

During the course of this year, I’ve written a bit about Her Songs, a multi-national collective of women artists that features:

  • Dani Murcia (vocals, piano, guitar, production), a Colombian-American, Miami-born, New York-based R&B/pop/soul singer/songwriter, whose lush harmonies and haunting melodies has been influenced by the likes of JOVM mainstay Nick Hakim, Kimbra and Matt Corby. Her latest EP Breaking Light consists of stories focusing on grieving her father’s suicide and searching for beauty in pain.
  • Emily C. Browning (vocals, guitar), a Christchurch, New Zealand-based indie soul artist influenced by the likes of Emily King, Lianne La Havas and Nai Palm. Her work features conversational-style lyrics, that offer a deep perspective and insight into the human experience.
  • Francesca Hole, a French-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, known as The Naked Eye (vocals, guitar). Influenced by Nai Palm, Lianne La Havas, Maya Angelou, Joni Mitchell, D’Angelo, Bruno Major and others, Hole’s work as she describes it, are autobiographical songs about life experiences, relationships and overcoming hardships that meshes elements of jazz, soul, folk and R&B. Her latest EP Love’s Grave was released last April.
  • JOVM mainstay, Marie Dahlstrom (vocals, piano, percussion and production), a Rosklide, Denmark-born, London-based singer/songwriter, who has been largely influenced by the R&B and soul she heard in her home as a child — in particular Edwyn Collins, Womack & Womack and Gloria Gaynor were on regular rotation. Dahlstrom discovered Dwele, Dire Straits, Erykah Badu, Kirk Franklin and Fleetwood Mac in her teenage years.Dahlstrom first gained attention as a solo artist in her native Denmark, eventually becoming a three-time Scandinavian Soul Award winner. Since relocating to London, the Danish-born singer/songwriter she has become an internationally recognized sensation, best known for crafting a warm and ethereal synthesis of jazz, classic soul and R&B. Interestingly, after successful collaborations with Tom Misch and Alfa Mist, the Roskilde-born, London-based singer/songwriter has been busy writing the material, which would eventually comprised her long-awaited full-length debut. Slated for release latest this year, the album was recorded in Los Angeles, Copenhagen, and London and features collaborations with James Vickery, Jeremy Passion, Elijah Fox, Beau Diako and a list of others.
  • Emmavie (vocals production), a London-based singer/songwriter and producer, whose work is an amalgamation of 90s R&B and her love for digital audio experimentation. She has built up a reputation for being a highly sought-after collaborator, working with IAMNOBODI, Buddy, ROMderful, Jarreau Vandal, Alfa Mist, Nick Grant and Jay Prince. Emmavie has had her work featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network-produced series Queen Sugar. And adding to a growing profile, the London-based singer/songwriter and producer was scouted by  DJ Jazzy Jeff, who flew her out to his house in Delaware to write and record music with Mac Ayres, Robert Glasper and Redman as part of the Playlist Retreat.

The collective can trace their origins to a conversation the five women shared on social media. Their debut 2018’s Los Angeles EP found the quintet crafting material that meshed elements of 90s R&B with contemporary electronic production. The collective’s highly-anticipated sophomore EP Toronto, Vol 1. is slated for an August 14, 2020 release. And if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout this year, you may recall that I’ve written about Toronto Vol. 1‘s first two singles: the Emmavie and Marie Dahlstrom co-written “If We Try,”  a sultry 90s neo-soul-like track that manages to sound like a synthesis of Teddy Riley-like New Jack Swing, SWV, and Erykah Badu-like neo soul — and “I Wonder,” an atmospheric and contemplative song in which the collective’s five women envision worrying about what the world would look for their future grandchildren.

“Lost A Little” the EP’s third and latest track is a soulful and uplifting R&B influenced bit of pop that is simultaneously nostalgic and hopeful for the future, as the song’s narrators reflect on their individual pasts while excitedly traveling around the world to reunite with their dear friends — in this case, the collective’s overall excitement to head to Toronto to write and record music together.  The end result is an ode to wanderlust and the excitement of what you’ll learn about yourself in a new place, and of being able to experience that new place with your best pals. “After finally reuniting together in Toronto, we felt so reflective on the entire year since the previous Her Songs retreat in LA and ‘Lost A Little’ turned into a summery, feel-good wanderlust tune about traveling the world just to meet up again,” the collective’s Emily C. Browning says in press notes. The Naked Eye adds, “‘Lost A Little’ was the 1st song written on day 1 of the Toronto week. Exploring themes of creativity and travel, the lyrics describe how we meet once a year, in a new city to create with new eyes and fresh perspectives.”

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Gorgeous and Surreal Visual for Atmospheric “Bouncing”

I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay  Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s 2017 full-length debut, Green Twins was written after he had completed   Where Will We Go Part 1 EP and Where We Will Go Part 2 EP and relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. 

After getting himself settled in, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording song sketches sing his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He fleshed out the sketches as much as possible and then took his demo’d material to various studios in New York, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused one specific experiences, feelings and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composting it, and as a result the album is a series of different self-portraits that generally captures its creator in broad strokes — but if you pay close attention, you pick up on subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins was drew from a broad and eclectic array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim has also developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Now, as you may recall, Hakim’s highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records. 

Interestingly, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD reportedly represents a tonal shift from its predecessor with the album’s material reflecting the ideas that he had grappled with while writing and recording it. 

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.” Hakim writes in a statement on the album. 

“For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here — or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR,” a fever dream of ache and longing that brings up psych pop, psych soul and 70s soul simultaneously.  “QADIR” was the first song that Hakim wrote for the album with the track being an ode to a late friend, and a urgent and plaintive reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. “BOUNCING,” WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s third and latest single is a delicate and atmospheric track centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, blown out and distorted drums, gently swirling feedback paired with Hakim’s aching falsetto expressing a vulnerable yearning for companionship and warmth on a bitterly cold day — and knowing that it won’t come any time soon. “BOUNCING” is a sound bath where I wrote about one of the coldest days in New York I remember, while lying in my bed, restless by a radiator. It’s about feeling uneasy,” Hakim says in press notes. 

Directed by Nelson Nance, the recently released video for “BOUNCING” continues Hakim’s ongoing visual collaboration with the director while serving as a sequel to “QADIR.” The video follows Hakim and a small collection of attendees to a surreal event that becomes a spectacle that’s recorded by the attendees. But it asks much larger questions of the viewer: “”The ‘BOUNCING’ video asks the viewer to question our drive to find spectacles and how the pursuit of such can lead to becoming a spectacle,” Nelson explains in press notes. “There is nothing inherently wrong with viewing or being a spectacle but I think it’s healthy to question if our energy is being put in the right place when interfacing with what draws our attention.” 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Lyrical Visual for Atmospheric and Slow-Burning Single “QADIR”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Nick Hakim. And as you may recall, Hakim’s critically applauded full-length debut 2017’s Green Twins can trace its origins back to when he finished his two critically applauded EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where We Will Go Part 2: armed with the masters for those efforts, Hakim relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. As soon as he got himself settled, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder, fleshing the material out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused on specific experiences, feeling and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composing it. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits. And in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the material sometimes captures its creator in broad stokes — with subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. The overall aesthetic drew from a broad array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time. 

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Building upon a growing profile, Hakim will be releasing his highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME SOUND GOOD. Slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records, the album while being distinctly Nick Hakim, reportedly represents a tonal shift from Green Twins, with the material reflecting the ideas with which he grappled while writing and recording the album. To prepare listeners for the experience, Hakim shares the following statement about the record:

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.

For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here-or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s latest single is the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR.”  Centered around a repetitive and hypnotic arrangement featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, a sinuous baseline fluttering flute, stuttering beats and Hakim’s expressive and  plaintive vocals, “QADIR” is a fever dream full of ache and longing that recalls both 70s soul and neo-soul simultaneously. Interestingly, “QADIR” was the first song the JOVM mainstay wrote for the album — and the track was written as ode to a late friend and a reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late.”If I really sink into a recording, I don’t want it to end,” Hakim says. “[‘QADIR’] is repetitive and hypnotizing, like a trance — that’s intentional. The song is my ode to him. It’s my attempt to relate to how he must have been feeling.”

Directed by Nelson Nance, the cinematic and lyrical visual for “QADIR” finds Hakim in moments of solitude in forest and in solidarity with his community of friends and associates. The Nance-directed visual suggests that it’s the people who love and support us, who give us strength and sustenance during our most difficult times. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about Her Songs. And as you may recall, the act is a multi-national collective featuring:

  • Dani Murcia (vocals, piano, guitar, production), a Colombian-American, Miami-born, New York-based R&B/pop/soul singer/songwriter, whose lush harmonies and haunting melodies has been influenced by the likes of JOVM mainstay Nick Hakim, Kimbra and Matt Corby. Her latest EP Breaking Light consists of stories focusing on grieving her father’s suicide and searching for beauty in pain.
  • Emily C. Browning (vocals, guitar), a Christchurch, New Zealand-based indie soul artist influenced by the likes of Emily King, Lianne La Havas and Nai Palm. Her work features conversational-style lyrics, that offer a deep perspective and insight into the human experience.
  • Francesca Hole, a French-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, known as The Naked Eye (vocals, guitar). Influenced by Nai Palm, Lianne La Havas, Maya Angelou, Joni Mitchell, D’Angelo, Bruno Major and others, Hole’s work as she describes it, are autobiographical songs about life experiences, relationships and overcoming hardships that meshes elements of jazz, soul, folk and R&B. Her latest EP Love’s Grave was released last April.
  • JOVM mainstay, Marie Dahlstrom (vocals, piano, percussion and production), a Rosklide, Denmark-born, London-based singer/songwriter, who has been largely influenced by the R&B and soul she heard in her home as a child — in particular Edwyn Collins, Womack & Womack and Gloria Gaynor were on regular rotation. Dahlstrom discovered Dwele, Dire Straits, Erykah Badu, Kirk Franklin and Fleetwood Mac in her teenage years.Dahlstrom first gained attention as a solo artist in her native Denmark, eventually becoming a three-time Scandinavian Soul Award winner. Since relocating to London, the Danish-born singer/songwriter she has become an internationally recognized sensation, best known for crafting a warm and ethereal synthesis of jazz, classic soul and R&B. Interestingly, after successful collaborations with Tom Misch and Alfa Mist, the Roskilde-born, London-based singer/songwriter has been busy writing the material, which would eventually comprised her long-awaited full-length debut. Slated for release latest this year, the album was recorded in Los Angeles, Copenhagen, and London and features collaborations with James Vickery, Jeremy Passion, Elijah Fox, Beau Diako and a list of others.
  • Emmavie (vocals production), a London-based singer/songwriter and producer, whose work is an amalgamation of 90s R&B and her love for digital audio experimentation. She has built up a reputation for being a highly sought-after collaborator, working with IAMNOBODI, Buddy, ROMderful, Jarreau Vandal, Alfa Mist, Nick Grant and Jay Prince. Emmavie has had her work featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network-produced series Queen Sugar. And adding to a growing profile, the London-based singer/songwriter and producer was scouted by  DJ Jazzy Jeff, who flew her out to his house in Delaware to write and record music with Mac Ayres, Robert Glasper and Redman as part of the Playlist Retreat.

The collective can trace their origins to a conversation the five women shared on social media. Their debut 2018’s Los Angeles EP found the quintet crafting material that meshed elements of 90s R&B with contemporary electronic production. Building upon a growing profile, the collective’s forthcoming sophomore EP Toronto, Vol 1. is slated for release later this year — and the EP’s first single, the Emmavie and Marie Dahlstrom co-written “If We Try” is a sultry 90s neo-soul-like track centered around the quintet’s lush harmonies, shimmering keys, a sinuous bass line and a soaring hook. And in some way, the track will bring Teddy Riley-like New Jack Swing, Erykah Badu, SWV, Timbaland and others to mind.

”I Wonder,” Toronto, Vol. 1‘s second and latest single is an atmospheric and contemplative song centered around shimmering and strummed guitar, twinkling keys, soulful vocals, lush harmonies, and a soaring and infectious hook. While being the most straightforward R&B song the collective has released off the forthcoming EP, it’s a sobering contemplation of the act’s five women, thinking of their future grandchildren looking back at our current moment and wondering how the five women were like when they were young — and how their world was. “‘I Wonder,” the group says, “came about after a dinner table conversation on climate change, sharing our worries about what the future looks like for generations to come. It’s difficult to write political lyrics without preaching, so instead we focused on the perspective of youth and curiosity in 50 years’ time, looking back and wondering what it was like to fly in an aeroplane and see the ocean from the sky.”

 

 

 

Her Songs is a multi-national collective featuring:

  • Dani Murcia (vocals, piano, guitar, production), a Colombian-American, Miami-born, New York-based R&B/pop/soul singer/songwriter, whose lush harmonies and haunting melodies has been influenced by the likes of JOVM mainstay Nick Hakim, Kimbra and Matt Corby. Her latest EP Breaking Light consists of stories focusing on grieving her father’s suicide and searching for beauty in pain.
  • Emily C. Browning (vocals, guitar), a Christchurch, New Zealand-based indie soul artist influenced by the likes of Emily King, Lianne La Havas and Nai Palm. Her work features conversational-style lyrics, that offer a deep perspective and insight into the human experience.
  • Francesa Hole, a French-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, known as The Naked Eye (vocals, guitar). Influenced by Nai Palm, Lianne La Havas, Maya Angelou, Joni Mitchell, D’Angelo, Bruno Major and others, Hole’s work as she describes it, are autobiographical songs about life experiences, relationships and overcoming hardships that meshes elements of jazz, soul, folk and R&B. Her latest EP Love’s Grave was released last April.
  • JOVM mainstay, Marie Dahlstrom (vocals, piano, percussion and production), a Rosklide, Denmark-born, London-based singer/songwriter, who has been largely influenced by the R&B and soul she heard in her home as a child — in particular Edwyn Collins, Womack & Womack and Gloria Gaynor were on regular rotation. Dahlstrom discovered Dwele, Dire Straits, Erykah Badu, Kirk Franklin and Fleetwood Mac in her teenage years.

    Dahlstrom first gained attention as a solo artist in her native Denmark, eventually becoming a three-time Scandinavian Soul Award winner. Since relocating to London, the Danish-born singer/songwriter she has become an internationally recognized sensation, best known for crafting a warm and ethereal synthesis of jazz, classic soul and R&B. Interestingly, after successful collaborations with Tom Misch and Alfa Mist,the Roskilde-born, London-based singer/songwriter has been busy writing the material, which would eventually comprised her long-awaited full-length debut. Slated for release latest this year, the album was recorded in Los Angeles, Copenhagen, and London and features collaborations with James Vickery, Jeremy Passion, Elijah Fox, Beau Diako and a list of others.

  • Emmavie (vocals production), a London-based singer/songwriter and producer, whose work is an amalgamation of 90s R&B and her love for digital audio experimentation. She has built up a reputation for being a highly sought-after collaborator, working with IAMNOBODI, Buddy, ROMderful, Jarreau Vandal, Alfa Mist, Nick Grant and Jay Prince. Emmavie has had her work featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network-produced series Queen Sugar. And adding to a growing profile, the London-based singer/songwriter and producer was scouted by  DJ Jazzy Jeff, who flew her out to his house in Delaware to write and record music with Mac Ayres, Robert Glasper and Redman as part of the Playlist Retreat.

Interestingly, the collective can trace their origins to a conversation that the five women shared on social media. The collective’s debut EP 2018’s Los Angeles found the quintet crafting material that meshed elements of 90s R&B with contemporary electronic production. The collective begins 2020 with “If We Try,” the first single off their forthcoming, sophomore EP Toronto, Vol. 1. Co-written by  Emmavie and Marie Dahlstrom, who share a mutual love of soul and R&B, the sultry and decidedly 90s neo-soul inspired track is centered around the quintet’s lush harmonizing, shimmering keys, a sinuous bass line and a soaring hook manages to recall Teddy Riley-like New Jack Swing, Erykah Badu, SWV, Timbaland and others. 

“‘If We Try’ is about asking the person you love for a second chance,” Her Songs’ Marie Dahlstrom explains in press notes. “Sometimes people are quick to break relationships off when things get off rough, but this son his about finding strength in vulnerability. we live in a world of instant gratification and relationships can often feel replaceable. We wanted to chance the narrative: you get so much more when you try.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raymond James Mason is a Long Island, NY-born, Brooklyn-born trombonist and singer/songwriter. As the story goes, Mason picked up the trombone at a very young age, and as a teenager, he studied classical performance and jazz studies at my alma mater NYU, where he studied with Brian Lynch, Lenny Pickett, Alan Ferber and Elliot Mason. Upon graduating, Mason quickly became an in-demand musician, playing across a wide variety of genres; but he’s best known for being a member of renowned local Afrobeat act Antibalas, which eventually led to him becoming a member of the Daptone Records/Dunham Records in-house band, playing with the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields and the The Expressions and many others. Additionally, Mason has performed and or recorded with the likes of Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Randy Newman, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monae, Lukas Graham, Nile Rodgers, Tame Impala, Maren Morris, Earth Wind and Fire, Mark Ronson and and more. Unsurprisingly, he very busy Mason learned from these artists while honing his own compositional and vocal skills, patiently waiting for his moment to step out in the spotlight.

Back in October 2016, Mason reached out to Daptone Records house band member, longtime friend and Dala Records founder Billy Aukstik to set up at a casual recording session. At the time, Aukstik was recording out of an old East Village brownstone basement, equipped with only a Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder and a few old ribbon microphones. Aukstik and Mason assembled an all-star squad of local soul musicians, including Alex Chakour, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Freddy DeBoe, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Joe Harrison, who has played with Nick Hakim and Charles Bradley; and Morgan Price, who has played with Antibalas to record a couple of Mason’s compositions — two of which wound up becoming the A and B sides of Mason’s solo debut, “Back When”/”No Clue.”

A side single “Back When” is a strutting and swaggering bit of a soul pop centered around an arrangement of Arp Omni bass synth, fuzzy guitar lines and a steady backbeat — and while thematically the song is a universal tale of lost opportunity and what could have beens, it’s a decidedly contemporary take on the Dala Records sound, as it nods at contemporary soul, hip-hop and psych pop in a way that brings Tame Impala, Nick Hakim and others to mind. “No Clue,” the B side single is centered around fuzzy power chords and a garage rock vibe, while thematically the song focuses on a dysfunctional and confusing relationship. Both singles reveal an an up-and-coming artist, who’s actively and earnestly pushing the sonic boundaries of soul.

 

 

Live Footage: Rafiq Bhatia Performing “Breaking English”

Rafiq Bhatia is a Hickory, NC-born, New York-based composter, guitarist and producer of East African Indian descent. Before joining Ryan Lott and Ian Chang to expand renowned indie act Son Lux from a solo recording project to a fully fleshed out band, Bhatia released two critically applauded solo efforts — 2012’s Yes It Will and Strata. As a guitarist and producer, Bhatia has worked with an impressive and diverse array of artists including Olga Bell, Sam Dew, Marcus Gilmore, Billy Hart, Heems, Helado Negro, Vijay Iyer, Glenn Kotche, Valegir Sigurðsson, Moses Sumney, David Virelles, Lorde, Sufjan Stevens and others. Adding to a growing profile, he’s recored with the chamber ensembles International Contemporary Ensemble, JACK Quartet and Alarm Will Sound, and he’s had work appear on the soundtracks for the major motion pictures The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Air, and Afflicted.  

Bhatia’s third solo album Breaking English is slated for an April 6, 2018 release through ANTI- Records, and the album reportedly finds the renowned composer, producer and guitarist, who has long been influenced by Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Madlib, as well as mentors and collaborators Vijay Iyer and Billy Hart, meshing avant-garde jazz with textured and sculptured electronic composition and production. Because of his experience as a first-generation son of East African-born, Indian Muslim immigrant parents, who can trace their ancestry back to India, and the influence of mentors like Vijay Iyer and Billy Hart, Bhatia sees music as a way to actively shape and represent his own identity, not limited by anyone else’s prescribed perspective.  Interestingly, the album’s overall theme and its title were inspired by a 2008 trip to India that Bhatia took with his sister and parents — the first time he had ever seen the ancestral homeland. “We were driving towards the Taj Mahal, and noticed as we approached that there was an alarming number of signs advertising ‘Shooting Ranges.’ We grew increasingly curious and concerned about why these signs, which were written in English, were so prevalent — could they be targeted towards American tourists and their obsession with guns?” Bhatia recalled in press notes. “But eventually, we realized that ‘shooting’ was intended in the photographic sense. We had a good laugh about it, but then my dad turned to me quite seriously and asked ‘Eventually there will be likely more English speakers out here than there are in the West. At that point, who will get to decide what constitutes a proper use of English?’”

“’Breaking English’ is a ceremony of a song,” Bhatia continues. “Its central theme revealed itself to me in an improvised performance, fully formed, as though it had always existed. The cyclical form of the piece allows it to shed its skin and present itself anew in successive iterations, even as the core idea — or problem, or experience — stubbornly persists.”

Breaking English‘s latest single, album title track, the atmospheric and soulful “Breaking English” which features skittering drums, a sinuous bass line, blasts of bluesy guitar and a wailing chorus — and in some way, the composition nods at an incredible synthesis of the work of JOVM mainstay Nick Hakim, J. Dilla and Flying Lotus but with a soulful weariness and ache.