Tag: NPR Tiny Desk

Throwback: Happy 53rd Birthday, Rakim!

JOVM celebrates Rakim’s 53rd birthday — belatedly.

Live Footage: Tame Impala on NPR Tiny Desk (At Home) Concert

Over the course of this site’s 10 year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Perth, Australia-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Kevin Parker, the creative mastermind behind the critically acclaimed and commercially successful psych pop/synth pop project Tame Impala.

Parker’s third Tame Impala album, 2015’s Currents was a critical and commercial breakthrough: released to wide-ranging critical applause across the blogosphere and elsewhere the album was a RIAA Gold-Certified, Grammy-nominated effort that revealed a decided change in direction for Parker’s songwriting and sound, as it featured some of his most emotionally direct lyrics paired with a nuanced and textured sound that drew from and meshed elements of psych rock, psych pop, prog rock, synth pop and R&B.

Released earlier this year, Parker’s fourth Tame Impala effort The Slow Rush continued an impressive and enviable run of critically applauded and commercially material, but unlike its immediate predecessor, the album thematically focuses on the rapid passing of time and life’s infinite cycles of creation and destruction — with the material conjuring the feeling of a lifetime in a lightning bolt, of major milestones and events whizzing by you while you’re staring at your phone. “A lot of the songs carry this idea of time passing, of seeing your life flash before your eyes, being able to see clearly your life from this point onwards. I’m being swept by this notion of time passing. There’s something really intoxicating about it,” Parker told the New York Times.

I’ve manged to write about five of The Slow Rush’s singles — the upbeat “Patience,” which seamlessly bridged ’90s house and ’70s funk while being a meditation on the cycles and phrases of life; “Borderline,” a hook-driven, blissed out track with house music flourishes; “It Might Be Time,”a swaggering prog rock meets psych pop anthem featuring shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats and an enormous hook; “Lost in Yesterday,” a woozy and lysergic, disco-tinged banger that explored time’s distorting effect on perspective and memories; and “Is It True,” which continued a run of swooning yet dance floor friendly material that focused on the impermanence and confusion of love and the countless paths our lives can take with just one single decision. 

Recently, Parker was invited to do a NPR Tiny Desk (Home) Concert. By default, the presentation of Parker’s music different than what you made expect: in the studio, Parker writes, performs and records all the instrumental and programming parts of his material — and live, he has a insanely talented collection of touring musicians, who interpret the material. For his Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, Parker, got his longtime collaborator Jay Watson and Dom Simper to do an electronic jam with a shit ton of electronic gear, including samplers, sequencers and mixers and some instruments. “I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while and thought Tiny Desk would be the opportunity to do it,” Parker told NPR’s Bobby Carter. 

So for this live session Paker, Watson and Simper performed the album’s more synth-based material “Breathe Deeper,”and the aforementioned “Is It True” and “Patience.” Interestingly, the NPR Tiny Desk session is a seamless synthesis of the live and studio approaches that manages to be faithful to the album’s material while giving it a free-flowing jam-like feel. 

New Video: Kat Edmonson’s Dreamy Take on Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”

Kat Edmonson is an acclaimed Houston, TX-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, who can trace some of the origins of her musical career to her childhood: her mom adored the Great American songbook and ’40s and 50’s pop — and as a child, Edmonson grew up listening to her mom’s records. She wrote her first song when she was nine, while riding the school bus.

She spent a year, attending the College of Charleston before relocating to Austin, TX to pursue a music career. While in Austin, Edmonson auditioned for the second season of American Idol and wound up being one of the Top 48 contestants invited to Hollywood. After appearing on American Idol, the Houston-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter returned to Austin, where she spent several years performing regularly in local clubs. 

Her full-length debut, 2009’s Take to the Sky landed on the Top 20 of the Billboard Jazz Charts. Edmonson’s sophomore album, 2012’s Way Down Low was released to praise from The New York Times and NPR and reached #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart. Her third album, 2014’s The Big Picture continued an impressive run of critical and commercial success with the album reaching  #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart.  

The Houston-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter has opened for Jamie Cullum and Lyle Lovett, with whom she collaborated on a rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which appeared on Lovett’s 2012’s effort Release Me and again on “Long Way Home,” which appeared on Edmonson’s aforementioned sophomore album Way Down Low — and she has headlined the Taichung Jazz Festival in Taiwan and the New York City Jazz Festival.  In 2012, she appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series and Austin City Limits. During 2013 and 2014, Edmonson appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, playing the role of Cat Mandu for the show’s regular skit “Guy Noir, Private Eye.” And adding to a batch of high profile appearances and gigs, Edmonson has maintained a busy national and international touring schedule that has included Montreux Jazz Festival

Edmonson’s fourth album, 2018’s Old Fashioned Gal was conceived as an imaginary, classic Hollywood movie that largely took shape in her imagination,  and naturally, was inspired by the Great American Songbook. Interestingly, the acclaimed Houston-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter’s recently released fifth album Dreamers Do finds Edmonson tackling beloved mid-20th Century Disney songs — from Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Bedknobs on Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, Babes in Wonderland, familiar classics like “All I Do is Dream of You” from Singing in the Rain, Louis Armstrong’Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” and two Edmonson originals “Too Late to Dream” and “Someone’s in the House.” 

Structurally, the album’s material is meant to take place during a single night — from bedtime until morning. And as Edmonson explains in press notes, “It’s about our concepts around dreaming — all of the wonderful things and the fearful things, the things that keep us awake in the middle of the night. It’s also about the quiet power of merely having a dream . . . ” Dreamers Do’s latest single is a Edmonson’s rendition of Louis Armstrong’s beloved “What A Wonderful World” centered around a twinkling arrangement and Edmonson’s effortlessly gorgeous and old-timey vocal. And while managing to be a fairly straightforward rendition, Edmonson delivers a lullaby-like take that subtly hints at “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Directed and edited by David Shultz, the recently released video for “What A Wonderful World” follows Edmonson in an empty studio space with a 35mm film camera — and while the viewer isn’t quite sure if she’s awake or dreaming, the video reveals Edmonson to be a beguiling and sweet natured presence. 

New Audio: Acclaimed Dream Pop Act Cigarettes After Sex Release a Hauntingly Spectral Single

Currently comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Greg Gonzalez (vocals, guitar) with Jacob Tomsky (drums) and Randy Miller (bass), the acclaimed Brooklyn-based dream pop act Cigarettes After Sex can trace their origins back to when Gonzalez formed the band in El Paso. TX back in 2008. Their debut EP, 2012’s I received some attention when “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” became a sleeper hit of sorts, after it was licensed for use in commercials.

With the release of 2017’s self-titled debut, Cigarettes After Sex quickly became international sensations. Since its release the album as sold over 550,000 records to date, amassed over 360 million Spotify streams, 2.2 million monthly listeners and 350 million YouTube streams. They’ve been featured in a number of major media outlets including Vice Noisey, V Magazine, Interview, NPR’s Tiny Desk — and their music has appeared in The Handmaid’s Tale, Killing Eve and in a Ralph Lauren ad campaign. Additionally, Taylor Swift, Kylie Jenner, Lana Del Rey, Françoise Hardy, Lily Allen, Busy Phillips and a long list of others have claimed to be fans of the band’s work. 

During the week of their full-length debut’s release, the members of the Cigarettes After Sex traveled to Mallorca, Spain. And naturally, each of the band’s individual members consciously let the striking location guide what was to become the initial sessions for their forthcoming sophomore album Cry. “The sound of this record is completely tied to the location for me,” Greg Gonzalez explains in press notes. “Ultimately, I view this record as a film. It was shot in this stunning, exotic location, and it stitches all these different characters and scenes together, but in the end is really about romance, beauty and sexuality. It’s a very personal telling of what those things mean to me.” 

While the instrumentation came about quickly — often improvised on the spot — it would be another two years before Gonzalez would attempt to complete the material’s accompanying lyrics. Slated for an October 25, 2019 release through Partisan Records, Cigarettes After Sex’s highly-anticipated sophomore album is influenced by a new, burgeoning romantic relationship, the films of Eric Rohmer and the work of Selena and Shania Twain. Thematically, the material is a cinematic and brooding meditation on the many complex facets of love — meeting, wanting, needing and losing .  . . sometimes simultaneously. But interestingly enough, Cry will find the band blending the carnal subtly of its predecessor with a warmer sonic palette. 

Cry’s first single is the spectral yet lush “Heavenly.” Centered around Gonzalez’s achingly tender and vulnerable falsetto, hushed and shuffling drumming, shimmering guitar, a sinuous bass line and a soaring hook, the song sonically reminds me a bit of Mazzy Star’s smash hit “Fade Into You.” And much like  “Fade Into You,” “Heavenly” is a feverish, narcoleptic dream that expresses a wild, desperate, swooning longing — the sort that mixes devotion, obsession, love and lust into a confusing and wonderful blur.  Of course, the song finds the band managing to craft material that’s as intimate as whispered, sweet  nothings to a lover while possessing a cinematic (and larger than life) quality.  As the band’s Greg Gonzalez explains, the song was “inspired by the overwhelming beauty I felt watching an endless sunset on a secluded beach in Latvia one summer night…”

New Video: Meg Myers Releases a Colorful and Childlike Visual for Her Dramatic Cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”

Born in Nashville, the acclaimed, Los Angeles-based indie pop artist Meg Myersspent her formative years in a devoted Jehovah’s Witness household, in which a young Myers dealt with strict restrictions on what she was allowed to listen to. After her parents divorced, her mother married a comic book artist, who moved the family to Ohio, where her mother and stepfather ran a cleaning business. When she was 12, her family moved to Florida, where she spent the bulk of her teen years — and during that period, Myers began singing and writing songs on keyboard, eventually teaching herself guitar. She also played bass in a band that she started with her brother, Feeling Numb.

A few days shy of her 20th birthday, Myers moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. Living in a studio apartment with her then-boyfriend, the Nashville-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist worked as a waitress at a Hollywood coffee shop and played show whenever she could land them. Although her romantic relationship ended, Myers met Doctor Rosen Rosen, who signed her to his production company. Rosen and Myers began writing songs together, including the material that comprised her first two EPs Daughter in the Choir and Make a Shadow and her 2015 full-length debut Sorry, which featured a number of Top 15 and Top 20 alternative radio hits.

Building up on a rapidly growing profile, Myers’ sophomore album, last year’s Take Me To The Disco debuted at #5 on the Current Alternative Charts and received praise from a number of media outlets including The New York Times, the Associated Press, NPR Music, Stereogum, Billboard and a lengthy list of others.  The acclaimed Nashville-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter played an NPR Tiny Desk session earlier this year that included a fairly straightforward and intense cover of Kate Bush‘s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” that brings the song to 21st Century listeners, who may have been previously unfamiliar with one of the great, dramatic pop songs of the 80s.

“Growing up, I was never really interested in covering other artist’s music.” Meg explains, “I always wanted to write my own songs because I knew I could only sing music and lyrics that were truly authentic, from my heart (and also would have to make sense with my deep voice). Well, then I discovered Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill,’ which for years has resonated with my soul like nothing ever before. What if we could experience role reversal? What would it be like living in each other’s shoes? I think we would find a lot more compassion for one another and a passion for kindness and truth. This song to me, represents an opening of our hearts and a possibility of acceptance for all. And to me, this is an important message for the world we are living in right now.​​​​​​​”

Directed by Jo Roy, the recently released animated video for Meg Myers’ cover of “Running Up That Hill” features hand-drawn artwork from 2,130 children from around the country, including many at the Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) school — a non-profit that gives underserved children an equal chance to succeed through a comprehensive array of after-school academic, arts, athletics and wellness programs. As part of their partnership with HOLA, Myers and Roy taught animation classes to elementary school students. The frames they made during the classes were then composited together and used in the video — with the result being a visual that’s brightly colored, childlike, symbolic and ethereal. “The production process for ‘Running Up That Hill’ began with a demanding green screen shoot in which Meg climbed monkey bars, hung upside down, flew using a harness and wires, and performed her first piece of choreography!” Roy says of the video’s production process. “In post, we erased all the rigging, added animation components that were moved around using visual effects (including wings), and put every frame through a photoshop filter to define the ‘coloring book’ lines. Then, the frames were printed off into individual coloring pages which were distributed to 10 schools and various organizations in Los Angeles and Canada for children to color with real crayons also provided. Finally, the colored frames were collected and re-scanned to create one colorful final video made by literally thousands of people!”

Born in Nashville, the acclaimed, Los Angeles-based indie pop artist Meg Myers spent her formative years in a devoted Jehovah’s Witness household, in which a young Myers dealt with strict restrictions on what she was allowed to listen to. After her parents divorced, her mother married a comic book artist, who moved the family to Ohio, where her mother and stepfather ran a cleaning business. When she was 12, her family moved to Florida, where she spent the bulk of her teen years — and during that period, Myers began singing and writing songs on keyboard, eventually teaching herself guitar. She also played bass in a band that she started with her brother, Feeling Numb.

A few days shy of her 20th birthday, Myers moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. Living in a studio apartment with her then-boyfriend, the Nashville-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist worked as a waitress at a Hollywood coffee shop and played show whenever she could land them. Although her romantic relationship ended, Myers met Doctor Rosen Rosen, who signed her to his production company. Rosen and Myers began writing songs together, including the material that comprised her first two EPs Daughter in the Choir and Make a Shadow and her 2015 full-length debut Sorry, which featured a number of Top 15 and Top 20 alternative radio hits.

Building up on a rapidly growing profile, Myers’ sophomore album, last year’s Take Me To The Disco debuted at #5 on the Current Alternative Charts and received praise from a number of media outlets including The New York Times, the Associated Press, NPR Music, StereogumBillboard and a lengthy list of others.  The acclaimed Nashville-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter recently played an NPR Tiny Desk session that included a fairly straightforward yet intense cover of Kate Bush‘s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” that brings the song to 21st Century listeners, who may have been previously unfamiliar with one of the great, dramatic pop songs of the 80s.

“Growing up, I was never really interested in covering other artist’s music.” Meg explains, “I always wanted to write my own songs because I knew I could only sing music and lyrics that were truly authentic, from my heart (and also would have to make sense with my deep voice). Well, then I discovered Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill,’ which for years has resonated with my soul like nothing ever before. What if we could experience role reversal? What would it be like living in each other’s shoes? I think we would find a lot more compassion for one another and a passion for kindness and truth. This song to me, represents an opening of our hearts and a possibility of acceptance for all. And to me, this is an important message for the world we are living in right now.​​​​​​​”

 

 

 

 

Live Footage: Bilal and The Roots Perform Politically-Charged Single “It Ain’t Fair” on NPR Tiny Desk Concert

Currently comprised of founding members Tariq  “Black Thought” Trotter (vocals), Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (drums), along with Kamal Gray (keys), “Captain” Kirk Douglas (guitar), Damon Bryson, a.k.a. Tuba Gooding, Jr. (sousaphone, tuba), Mark Kelley (bass), James Poyster (keys), Stro Elliot (production, sampling), The Roots can trace their origins back to when its founding duo met while attending The Philadelphia High School of the Creative and Performing Arts. As the story goes, Trotter and Thompson would busk on street corners — with Thompson playing bucket drums and Trotter rhyming over Thompson’s rhythms, and by 1989, the played their first organized gig at their high school’s talent show under the name Radio Activity.

After a series of name changes including Black to the Future and The Square Roots, the duo eventually settled on The Roots, after discovering that a local folk group went by The Square Roots.  As they were building up a local profile, the duo expanded into a full-fledged band with the addition of Josh “The Rubberband” Adams, who later went on to form The Josh Abrams Quartet; MC Malik Abdul “Malik B.” Basit-Smart, Leonard Nelson “Hub” Hubbard (bass); Scott Storch (keys); MC Kenyatta “Kid Crumbs” Warren, who was in the band for the recording sessions for Organix, the band’s full-length debut; and MC Dice Raw, who made cameos on later albums. And although the band has gone through a number of lineup changes since the release of their debut, The Roots throughout the course of their critically applauded, 10 independently released albums, two EPs and two collaborative albums have developed a reputation for a sound that effortlessly meshes live, organic instrumentation featuring a jazz, funk and soul approach with hip-hop, essentially becoming one of the genre’s first true bands. Additionally, throughout their lengthy history together, the members of The Roots have developed a long-held reputation for collaborating with a diverse and expanding list of artists across a wide array of genres and styles, revealing an effortless ability to play anything at any time.

Of course, unless you’ve been living in a remote Tibetan monastery or in a cave, The Roots have been the house band for NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon from 2009-2014 and for presently being the house band The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, further expanding their profile into the national and international consciousness. And while being extraordinarily busy, the members of The Roots have been busy working on their 9th Wonder and Salaam Remi-produced 17th full-length album End Game, as well as contributing a politically charged track to the Detroit soundtrack, “It Ain’t Fair,” a collaboration with the renowned soul singer/songwriter Bilal.

Born Bilal Sayeed Oliver, Bilal is a Philadelphia, PA-born, New York-based soul singer/songwriter, best known by the mononym Bilal. Throughout his career, he’s received praise for his wide vocal range, work across multiple genres, his live performances and for collaborating with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Common, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Guru, Kimbra, J. Dilla, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, the aforementioned The Roots and others with his full-length debut 1st Born Second, which featured contributions from Soulquarians and production from Dr. Dre and J. Dilla being a commercial and critical success, peaking at number 31 on the Billboard 200 charts and receiving comparisons to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Sly & The Family Stone, Prince and Curtis Mayfield.  Although since then, the renowned singer/songwriter has developed an increasing reputation for his work becoming much more avant-garde and genre-defying.

Interestingly enough, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Damon Bryson, a.k.a. Tuba Gooding, Jr. of The Roots and Bilal, along with a horn section went down to NPR Tiny Desk in Washington, DC to perform “It Ain’t Fair,” a deeply reflective song that thematically and lyrically makes a thoughtful nod towards Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?, Syl Johnson’s Is It Because I’m Black? and others, as its creators unflinchingly and fearlessly call out a societal construct that denies a group of people the equality, dignity and decency that they too deserve. The song’s creators manage to empathetically offer a glimpse into the hearts and souls of those who love this country and would like to stand for the flag but simply can’t until the evils of inequality, racism and supremacy no longer exist — and when this great country actually lives up the ideals it claims it stands for. 

As I mentioned on Facebook, I was recently in Philadelphia for business related to my day job, and as I walked from my hotel in Center City through Old City, past The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, I recognized that I was walking on many of the streets that the Framers once walked on, as I’ve done several times before. I could picture ol’ Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Hancock, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and so on, in their powered wigs and wool coats during that hot summer of 1776. And the song managed to remind me of the bitter and uneasy sadness I had begun to feel, remembering that the Framers, who could write about man’s inalienable rights given to him by God, didn’t see those same rights applying to anyone, who remotely looked like I do (or anyone, who wasn’t a man, or a property owner, etc.); that their independence, their revolution was never mine. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the pledge allegiance to the flag just didn’t apply to me.

If I go back just five generations ago, my ancestors on both sides of my family were slaves. Five generations ago wasn’t that long ago in the overall scheme of things — we’re talking about the parents of my great-grandparents. And on the streets of the City of Independence, I thought of the unfathomable horror and suffering they went through to justify someone else’s desire to be superior — and naturally, the song reminds me quite a bit of a lifelong bitter pill that’s so very difficult to swallow.