Tag: Rene Lopez

Musings: A Decade of JOVM

I started this site 10 years ago today. . .

There aren’t many things in my life that I’ve done for every single day for a decade that I’ve loved as much as this very unique little corner of the blogosphere. When I started this site, I  didn’t — and couldn’t — imagine actually having readers, let alone readers across the US, Canada, the UK, the European Union, Australia and elsewhere. After all, this sort of work is deeply rewarding and yet strangely isolating.

I couldn’t have imagined the over 1,000 shows I’ve covered all across the New York Metropolitan area. I definitely couldn’t have imagined it being possible for be to cover shows for JOVM in Chicago while on a business trip for a day job; nor would I have dreamed of the possibility of covering M for Montreal last fall.

I couldn’t have imagined being a panelist on a Mondo.NYC Festival panel on PR and promotion for indie artists.

I couldn’t have imagined having a cameo in a JOVM mainstay’s video several years ago. (It’s a noticeable and prominent spot towards the end of the video, too. No one has called me up for acting gigs, so I may need more work on that. Or I need to stick to the writing and photography!)

I couldn’t have imagined photographing Patti LaBelle, Snoop Dogg, Charles Bradley  Sharon Jones, Nile Rodgers, Roky Erickson, Philip Bailey and so many others, as well as this site’s countless mainstays.

What will the next decade hold? I don’t know. If you asked me that question last November, I’d probably discuss my the very real possibility of repeated visits to Canada for festivals like Canadian Music Week, Montreal Jazz Fest and M for Montreal — with the hopes of building a deeper Canadian audience. I’d talk about my interest in music from across the African Diaspora. I’d spend time talking about my interest in covering acts outside the US. I’d also speak about my interest in wanting to cover more artists across the diverse LGQBTIA+ community  — particularly those of color. I’d probably also mention my deep and abiding interest in covering women artists and women led acts.

Live music won’t be a thing for quite some time to come. And whenever it does, the landscape will be different — and something we’ve yet to envision. So far, beloved venues have been forced to close because of economics. That will continue for the foreseeable future. What will happen to bands, who no longer have a place to play, where they can hone their sound and their live show? Who knows? After watching an industry-based panel, I don’t feel particularly optimistic about things in the short term. Some of us will figure out a way to adapt and survive; others sadly, won’t.

But in the meantime, JOVM will continue. It’s only the first decade, as far as I’m concerned!

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I also wanted to talk a bit about some of my favorite albums of the past decade. This is by no means a comprehensive list; but I think that they might give some insight into the inner world of JOVM. And

Montreal-based DJ, production and electronic music artist duo The Beat Escape — Addy Weitzman and Patrick A. Boivin — can trace the project’s origins back to a short film they collaborated on when they were both in college. “We made a short oddball work; a video piece that followed two characters through a psychedelic waking dream,” the Montreal-based said of their initial collaboration together in press notes. Interestingly, since that collaboration, Weitzman and Boivin have continued working together on a series of creative endeavors that have combined their interests in music and visual art, including a lengthy local DJ gig, which eventually led to the creation of The Beat Escape.

Released in early 2018, the Montreal-based duo’s full-length debut Life Is Short The Answer’s Long thematically and sonically found the duo returning to their origins — somnambulant, atmospheric art that feels like a half-remembered waking dream. Personally, the album’s material evokes a weird two-and-year period of international and domestic travel, in which I’d wake up in a hotel room and briefly wonder where I was, what time zone I was in and if I was even in the right place. Additionally, it evokes that weird sensation of everything being the fundamentally the same, yet different. If I’m in Grand Central Terminal, I think of Frankfurt-am-Main Hauptbahnhof and of Amsterdam Centraal Station. If I’m traveling underneath an elevated train, I’m reminded of the Chicago loop and so on.

I obsessively played Life Is Short The Answer’s Short through my time in Montreal. And now whenever I play it, I can picture specific locations, specific paths I took to get there, certain Metro stations with an uncanny precision.

Throughout the course of the site’s decade history, I’ve written quite a bit about Superhuman Happiness. The act has managed to survive through a number of different lineup changes and sonic departures necessitated by those lineup changes — and from the act’s core members following wherever their muses took them, Hands though is a joyous, mischievous yet deeply intelligent work that will make you shout and dance. Considering the bleakness of our world, this album may be much more needed than they ever anticipated.

Deriving their name from a Vladimir Nabokov short story about a traveler, who finds a place so beautiful that he wants to spend his life then but who cruelly  gets dragged back to brutal reality, the Dublin, Ireland-based act Cloud Castle Lake — currently Daniel McAuley (vocals, synths), Brendan William Jenkinson (guitar, piano), Rory O’Connor (bass), Brendan Doherty (drums), and a rotating cast of collaborators, friends and associates — received attention with 2014’s self-released debut EP Dandelion, an effort that firmly established the act’s uniquely sound: deeply influenced by and indebted to  Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, the Irish act pairs McAuley’s tender and soaring falsetto with cinematic arrangements and expansive song structur es.

Released in 2018, the act’s Rob Kirwan-produced debut Malingerer is an ambitious, challenging and breathtakingly beautiful work that’s part film score and part cosmic meditation, full of aching yearning.

A couple of years ago, I caught the Irish act play at Rockwood Music Hall, as part of the Lower East Side venue’s monthly Communion showcase — and their set was met with awed and reverential silence.

Stockholm, Sweden-based garage punk outfit Sudakistan — Michell Serrano (vocals), Maikel Gonzalez (bass), Carlos Amigo (percussion) Juan Jose Espindola (drums) and Arvid Sjöö (guitar) — have one of the most unique and perhaps most 21st Century backstories of any band I’ve ever written about: four of the band’s five members emigrated to Sweden from South America with the remaining member being the band’s only native Swede. With the release of their debut album, 2015’s Caballo Negro, the members of Sudakistan received attention across Scandinavia and elsewhere for crafting material that draws from Latin-tinged garage punk rock with lyrics sung in English, Spanish and Swedish. Interestingly, the alum is arguably hardest and most mosh pit friendly of the band’s albums to date, the album’s material found the band expanding their sound through the incorporation of non-traditional punk rock instruments — seemingly inspired by the band’s desire to make each of their individual roles to be much more fluid. . “It was much more of a collaboration between the five of us,” the band’s Michell Serrano explains in press notes. . “Things flowed differently. Carlos sings on two or three songs, and Mikael sings on one. We swapped instruments quite a lot, and because we had access to everything in the studio, we were able to use some piano, some acoustic guitar and some mandolin, too.”

Additionally, the album’s lyrical and thematic concerns draws from the band members’ everyday reality with each individual member contributing lyrical ideas. “Our first album was made over five years, rather than five months, so the themes on it weren’t as heavy as this. Now, we’re talking about a lot of the things that we’ve gone through together since we started the band, as well as personal things – like, why do I keep repeating the same mistakes. We talk about pursuing our own Swedish reality, but that’s just because we’re living in Sweden – it’s relatable in any other country, I think,” Maikel Gonzalez says in press notes.

The album’s material resonates in an age of divisiveness, xenophobia, fear mongering and strife because its an urgent and passionate reminder of what’s possible with cultural exchange, empathy and curiosity —  bold new ideas, new takes on the familiar, as well as equality for all with everyone’s story behind heard, understood and championed. One day that will happen but we will have to work our asses off to get there.

New Video: Acclaimed Alt Pop Artist Vilde Releases Tense and Unsettling Visuals for “Warm Milk”

Best known as the frontman of British-based indie act Kins, the Melbourne, Australia-born and now Stockholm, Sweden-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer Thomas Savage received attention with his solo recording project Vilde, which found Savage’s sound and overall aesthetic drawing from Radiohead, Wild Beasts, TV on the Radio, BØRNS and Tim Hecker — but with a warm take to the moody atmospherics that he dubbed “study-dance.” Now, if you had been frequenting this site last year, you may recall that Savage’s full-length debut eschewed the traditional album release format in which an artist releases a few singles, then puts out an album several months later; rather, much like JOVM mainstays The Raveonettes and Rene Lopez, he released a new single off the album every single month, and one of those singles, the Kid A-era Radiohead-like “Maintain” was a bit more of an uptempo affair with arpeggiated synth chords, a propulsive rhythm section and Savage’s plaintive, falsetto vocals floating over an icy mix.

Thud is Savage’s first proper album, and the album which is slated for a July 13, 2018 release found the Australian-born, Swedish-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer superimposing the album’s overarching themes onto the material’s lyrics — and as he explains in press notes, that was an altogether much more natural process. “I hadn’t any idea for a theme in the beginning, the conscious element in the process is quite limited. It’s mostly reliant upon feeling resonance in the words rather than a specific line of thought. Sometimes I bring in more conscious thinking, but if I really succeed, they somehow manage to fall into linear coherency. I’m in it for the feeling of experiencing and what poured out of me afterwards, rather than attempting to express any sort of certainty. If I was certain about something, I supposed it’d be better as a novel.” Interestingly, throughout the writing and recording of the album, there was a recurrent element — “our relationship to technology and social media. I feel like the record almost became a plea for people to down their phones and speak to each other, or to just sit and think,” Savage adds. “But if this is the future for us, one should just accept it right?”

“Warm Milk,” Thud’s latest single is centered around a propulsive, motorik-like groove, shuffling beats, shimmering electronics and Savage’s plaintive vocals — but unlike his previously released material, not only does the song bring Peter Gabriel 3 and Security-era Peter Gabriel, Barbarossa and others to my mind (at least to my ears), it’s a deeply unsettling track meant to evoke the creeping dread and anxiety of being alone — and yet, when we’re constantly plugged into the digital realm, we’re always alone and never truly connecting with others.

Created by Elin Ghersinich and Thomas Savage, the recently released video is claustrophobic and unsettling as its centered around imagery of liquids being poured — at one point, the aforementioned white milk but cut with footage of Savage shot in an tightly cropped closeups in a dark, almost dungeon-like bathroom, full of self-loathing, regret and desperate loneliness. When we see Savage, it’s much like seeing a man struggling with his own warped, fractured psyche and emotions — and losing.

New Video: Introducing the Retro-Futuristic Synth Funk Sounds and Visuals of The Black Seeds’ “Freakin'”

Led by primary lyricists and co-frontman Barnaby Weir and Daniel Weetman and featuring Jarney Murphy, Nigel Patterson, Ned Negate, along Francis Harawira, Barrett Hocking, Lucien Johnson and Matt Benton, the Wellington, New Zealand-based funk and dub outfit The Black Seeds can trace their origins back to 1998, and since their formation, the act has developed a reputation for music that thematically may express different things based on the songwriter, focusing on personal triumphs and failures, relationships both good and bad, as well as the personal insights and experiences of the artists involved — while being under-pinned with an underlying message of positivity and optimism, pairing that optimism and positivity with funky, dance floor friendly grooves. And as a result, the act has developed themselves as one of their homeland’s finest acts; in fact, the act has several multi-platinum selling albums in their homeland, and a critically applauded live show that they’ve taken across the world, developing a foothold in Europe and North America. 

After spending several years with an intense and very busy touring schedule that included the act playing some of the world’s largest festivals, the members of the New Zealand spent the past year or so working on their soon-to-be released effort Fabric, which was recorded at acclaimed producer/engineer and long-time collaborator Lee Prebble’s Wellington-based studio The Surgery. And although the album will further the act’s long-held reputation for pairing funky grooves with positive messages, the album will also find the band gentle expanding upon the funk, Afrobeat, soul and dub-based grooves; in fact, “Freakin,'” the album’s latest single finds the band playing the slick, 80s-inspired synth funk that reminds me of both the genre’s pioneers — i.e., The Gap Band, Cherrelle, Prince and others, as well as contemporary practitioners such as 7 Days of Funk, Blood Orange, Rene Lopez, and others, complete with a two step worthy stomp. 

Produced by Owen Watts and directed by Mark Russell, the recently released video employs some pitch perfect retro-futuristic graphics and clothing, while featuring a soul train line and breakdancers — because well, of fucking course. The only thing the video is missing is a dude with a boombox. 

If you’ve been frequenting this site over its six year history, you’ve likely made yourself familiar with New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and long-term JOVM mainstay artist Rene Lopez. And over the years, Lopez has uncompromisingly refused to be pigeonholed into one particular genre. Over the years, Lopez has managed to mesh salsa, boogaloo, old-school hip-hop, meringue and electronica into one cohesive whole on E.L.S.; salsa and 7os Brazilian music on his most deeply personal effort Paint the Moon Gold; and slinkily seductive synth-based R&B and funk, inspired by PrinceThe Gap BandRick JamesChic and others on Love Has No Mercy and its subsequent releases.

Now, much like The Raveonettes and several others, Lopez has spent the past year on a single of the month series that he’s dubbed the Jam of the Month. The last and latest single of the series “Who Stole Your Heart” is a swaggering 80s freestyle and hip-hop inspired track that pairs Lopez’s silky smooth vocals with big wobbling, tweeter and woofer rocking 808s and layers of cascading synths to craft a dance floor ready party jam that sounds as though it drew from Herbie HancockRockit” and others.

 

 

Maya Killtron is a Toronto, ON-based DJ, violinist and singer/songwriter who first came to attention across both her native Canada and the States with the 2012 release of her debut EP Hipster/Gangsta, and as a result, Killtron wound up touring the festival circuit across both countries, including appearances at Miami’s Winter Music Conference, Pride Toronto, The Halifax Jazz Festival and CMJ. Adding to a growing profile, Killtron’s collaboration with NYC-based production duo Love TapsBack For More” received attention from the likes of Stereogum and Huffington Post for a sound that meshed moomba and R&B – and for a video that showcased a sadly bygone NYC. Additionally, Smalltown DJs, The Slow Waves, Eyes Everywhere, Brothers In Arms and City Kid Soul have all have remixed the song — with the City Kid Soul remix being named in the Top 5 at Toronto’s Bestival.

Killtron is currently working on a multimedia mixtape project featuring MCP champ and producer Fresh Kills, videographer Diana Piruveska, best known for her work with Nelly Furtado and photographer Natalie Caine; however, in the meantime, her latest single “Never Dance Alone” is reportedly a return to the Canadian singer/songwriter’s roots in funk, pop and R&B — and much like the work of JOVM mainstays Rene Lopez, Dam-Funk, Tuxedo and others, the song sonically sounds as though it could have been a B side to Chaka Khan‘s “I Feel For You” as a sinuous and ridiculously funky bass line, warm and explosive blasts of horns and layers of synths are paired with Killtron’s sultry vocals. Along with that is a breezy bridge that emphasizes the song’s infectious hook. Listening to the song immediately reminded me of being out and about in the summer, whether at a house party, a roof top party or a block party desperately trying to talk up that pretty young thing you’ve wanted since the beginning of summer  — and more distinctly summer 1983.

 

Over the six year history of this site, I’ve written quite a bit about New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rene Lopez, one of JOVM‘s earliest mainstay artists. And throughout that time, Lopez has uncompromisingly refused to be pigeonholed into one particular genre — the New York based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has managed to mesh salsa, boogaloo, old-school hip-hop, meringue and electronica into one cohesive whole on E.L.S. (short for Electric Latin Soul); salsa and 7os Brazilian music on his most deeply personal effort Paint the Moon Gold; and slinkily seductive synth-based R&B and funk, inspired by Prince, The Gap Band, Rick James, Chic and others on Love Has No Mercy and its subsequent releases. This shouldn’t be surprising as Lopez has told me in an interview, he grew up in a household where salsa, merengue and disco were frequently played — and his first band The Authority was deeply influenced by his love of Prince and funk. So in some way, Lopez has come back full circle.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year in particular, you’d likely know that Lopez is among a handful of artists who has focused on a single of the month series. While on one level, such a phenomenon points to the death of the album, it also allows artists to be creative without concerning themselves with the strict thematic and lyrical structure of an album — but with fairly strict deadlines to compete and release material. Lopez’s latest Jam of the Month, “Run Run Baby,” is a sleek, slinky and sensual synth-based pop/R&B that strikes me as a modernized version of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” if covered by Dam-Funk as Lopez’s sultry crooning is paired with shimmering and wobbling synths, skittering drum programming.

 

February 2016’s JOVM Spotify playlist will likely continue the wild variety I’m so proud of but with a number of mainstay artists including tracks by Victoria + Jean, Anna Rose, Rene Lopez, Anika, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Gosh Pith, Marco Benevento, New Order, Boulevards, Mavis Staples, Sofi Tukker, Charles Bradley, Majid Jordan, La Sera, Pr0files, Atmosphere, We Are Temporary, Beacon, Elephant Stone, Caveman, Octo Octa and several others who you’ve become familiar with through this site. But you’ll also come across a couple of tracks from one of my favorite new artists of the year, Sophie and the Bom Boms, some classic blues from Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and George Thorogood, porto-metal and stoner rock and countless more. Check it out!