Tag: singer/songwriter

Cf Watkins is a North Carolina-born, Nashville-based Americana/pop singer/songwriter, who spent the past the past nine years living in Brooklyn, before relocating to Nashville last month. Performing since she was 14, she has shared stages with an impressive array of acts including Langhorne Slim, Futurebirds, Chatham County Line, Wilder Maker, Lowland Hum and Alpenglow while developing a sound and approach that draws from her North Carolina roots.

2016 saw the release of Daniel Goans-produced full-length debut I Am New, was recorded at White Star Sound, as well as the attention-grabbing single “Frances and Jack.” Watkins’ latest album, the Max Hart-produced Babygirl portrays its creator growing both as a person and as an artist. “When I think about my last album, I feel I was writing songs about weakness,” Watkins says. “With this album, I made a conscious effort to write songs about the power of choosing yourself.” Thematically, the album touches upon empowerment while being both a coming of age story and an ode to female friendship. “Romances have come in and out of my life, but through it all, the relationships that continue to open my heart the most are grounded in the women I’ve known,” says Watkins. “This is an album meant for other women to hear — with songs that are both vulnerable and powerful.”

Babygirl‘s latest single, album title track “Babygirl” is an unfussy yet slickly produced song that further establishes the rising North Carolina-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter’s pop-leaning take on Americana. Centered around jangling guitars, fluttering flute a soaring hook and Watkins’ expressive and gorgeous vocals, “Babygirl” reminds me a bit of Nicki Bluhm and S.G. Goodman — but while being an achingly tender declaration of devotion and fidelity to a dear friend; a devotion that’s deeper than even romantic love. “I wanted to honor my female friends and honor the beauty of female friendship– the romance and freedom of female friendship,” Watkins says. “To me, that feels like the ultimate love.”

New Video: Montreal’s Sébastien Lacombe’s Surreal Quest to Find His Old Hoopty

Sebastien Lacombe is a Montreal-born and-based bilingual singer/songwriter. And over the past decade, Lamcome has released four critically applauded solo albums, which he has supported with extensive touring across Canada, the States and Europe. 2005’s debut album Comme au Cinéma began a run of remarkable commercial and critical success — with the album being released to praise, while featuring three top 10 BDS radio hits.

The following year, Lacombe was selected as one of seven top French-Canadian artists to appear on CBC’s Sacré Talent. Building upon a growing profile, Lacombe’s sophomore album Impressions Humaines featured his fourth top-ten hit, which led to sets at a number of the province’s most prestos festivals, including Les Francofoiles de Montreal — and to a bevy of award nominations.

2011 proved to be a definitive and transformative turning point for the Montreal-born and-based singer/songwriter both personally and artistically: he spent the year living in Senegal, discovering and immersing himself in a new cultural landscape. He was touched by the people he met and their stories — and inspired by the griots he would catch perform. By the time, he returned back to Montreal, Lacombe had a different way of seeing music and life, which wound up inspiring his third album, 2012’s Territoires. The album’s material showcased a new sound and approach through the incorporation of traditional African instruments like the xalam paired with lap steel and acoustic guitar. Additionally, the album featured a guest spot from Dakar, Senegal’s Oumar Sall.

Territoires was released to critical praise and was supported with touring across Quebec, France, Switzerland and a stop in Africa for 2012’s Sommet de la Francophonie. The album’s material also received airplay from French CBC. Capping off a big year, the album received a Critic’s Choice nod from La Presse — and from Le Devoir for his set at 2013’s Francofoiles de Montreal.

Coincidentally, Lacombe was in the middle of a French tour when the shocking and appalling terrorist attacks across Paris and Saint Denis, which also included the infamous attack at The Bataclan in which 90 concertgoers were killed. Lacombe returned home with the desire to write new songs that communicated what he believed was a much-needed message of resilience and unity. And as a result, his fourth album, 2016’s Nous serons des milliers is a response to the increasing violence and divineness that he believed was destroying humanity.

Having grown up in an anglophone neighborhood with francophone parents, Lacombe was naturally drawn to writing and singing in French and English — and while he was initially releasing material in French, he was quietly working on material in English. Interestingly, that same year, he was cast as Pink in the musical The Wall Live Extravaganza. After spending two years in the role, performing in over 100 shows across Canada and the States, Lacombe was at a crossroads both personally and professionally, which led to the beginninig of a collaboration with Erik West Millette, who has worked with West Trainz and Dr. John.

Lacombe and Millette worked together on the writing of Lacombe’s fifth album FLY, which was recorded at Studio B-12 in Valcourt, QC and Montreal’s Lobster Tank Studios and released earlier this year. The album’s material thematically focuses on the universal ideal of freedom: the freedom to truly be your entire self, the freedom to try to achieve your wildest dreams — while overcoming the sturm und drang and sorrows of our lives to the best of your abilities and lastly, of renewal and hope once you’ve gone through the wringer. The album’s material also touches upon love, longing and the desire for independence.

“My Thousand Dollar Car,” FLY’s second and latest single is an anthemic track, centered around jangling electric guitar, strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering lap steel, a propulsive rhythm and an alternating quiet-loud-quiet song structure. But much like Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” “My Thousand Dollar Car” is imbued with the aching nostalgia of a seemingly simple past that you can never get back. In the case of “My Thousand Dollar Car,” Lacombe’s narrator tells a tale of trying to find his first car, a beat up ol’ hoopty that brought him a sense of freedom, joy — and memorable experiences.

Directed by Alejandro Cadilla Alvares, who has worked on CBC’s Offkilter and ARTE’s Disportrait, the recently released video was shot in the Montreal area over this past summer. The video follows Lacombe on a lengthy and surrealistic quest across town to find his shitty, beat up ol’ rust bucket. And when he does, it’s like having reunion with a dear old friend.

Gaspard Eden is a restlessly creative, emerging Quebec City-based singer/songwriter and musician. Eden’s full-length debut Soft Power is slated for release later this year through Coyote Records, and the album’s material reportedly finds the emerging Quebec-based singer/songwriter and musician pushing his sound in a completely new direction from his previously released work while evoking a wide ranger of emotions through melodic soundscapes and poetic lyricism. 

So far, I’ve written about two of Soft Power‘s singles: the brooding, jangle pop track “Pancakes,” a track centered around Eden’s plaintive falsetto and an achingly wistful nostalgia for a seemingly simpler past — and the ethereal, Soft to the touch-era Jef Barbara-like “Automatic Dreams,” which featured Eden’s longtime friend, singer/songwriter Gabrielle Shonk

“Baby Black Hole,” the album’s third and latest single is a slow-burning, Quiet Storm-like R&B take on shimmering indie rock, centered around Eden’s achingly tender vocals that’s a dorky come-on to an object of desire, full of goofy science fiction references. There’s also a bit of mournful clarinet, which adds to the song’s mischievous yet sultry vibe.

New Video: Rising Pop Artist Elizabeth Releases an Atmospheric Cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way”

Beginning her musical career as the frontperson and primary songwriter of acclaimed Melbourne, Australia-based pop act Totally Mild, an act that recorded two critically applauded album before splitting up, Elizabeth Mitchell has stepped out into the limelight as rising solo artist, writing and performing under the mononym Elizabeth.

By going solo, the rising Aussie pop singer/songwriter has been able to reimagine and reinvent herself — and with the release of her full-length debut, last year’s the wonderful world of nature, Elizabeth transformed herself into a sort of patron saint of anguish, heartbreak and woe, all of which have allowed her to develop a completely unique sound apart from her previously known work. imbued with desire, lust, shame, guilt, uncertainty and a glamorous debauchery.

The Melbourne-based pop artist will be releasing a deluxe edition of the wonderful world of nature on October 23, 2020 through AntiFragile Records — and the deluxe edition will feature a handful of new material, including her latest single, a slow-burning and atmospheric cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.” Centered around twinkling piano and the rising Aussie pop artist’s tender vocals, Elizabeth’s version strips everything away to the bone, revealing the bitter heartache at the core of the song.

Directed by Elizabeth and Xanthe Dobbie, the recently released video is a hazy and intimate visual that follows a brooding Elizabeth, on the verge of tears.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases an Uplifting Tune for Young Black Women

With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, last year’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a highlight-filled, breakthrough year. Some of those major highlights included:

playing a breakout performance at SXSW
making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a live session for YouTube at YouTube Space New York
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas.
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” that’s not only a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John himself, who praised the rapidly rising artist and her cover.

The British-born JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the incredibly momentum of 2019 with a handful of opportunities that many artists across the world would probably kill someone for: Earlier this year, it was announced that she was preparing to play blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, the film wound up being delayed as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns- and infamously, Tom Hanks contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia.

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay finished her first Stateside headlining tour, which included a Music Hall of Williamsburg show in February, right before pandemic-related shutdowns put the entire known world on pause. In between filming, she was supposed to play a series of dates opening for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden. The best laid plans of mice and men, indeed.

In the meantime, Yola has made her rounds across the domestic, late night television show circuit: Earlier this year she performed, album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and recently, Yola was on Late Night with Seth Meyers with a soulful, gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium.

Her latest single, the Dave Cobb-produced “Hold On” is the first bit of original material from the JOVM mainstay since the release of Walk Through Fire and the track features an All-Star cast backing her including The Highwomen bandmates Brandi Carlile (backing vocals) and Natalie Hemby (backing vocals), Sheryl Crow (piano) and Jason Isbell (guitar). The Yola penned song was recorded during The Highwomen self-titled debut sessions at RCA Studio A — and the track is an uplifting, gospel-tinged track with a warm yet spacious country soul arrangement and that incredibly soulful powerhouse vocal range. The sister can flat out sang, as they say. And along with the aforementioned cover of “To Be Young Gifted and Black,” “Hold On” comes from a rather personal, lived in place.

Inspired by many of the conversations and lessons Yola’s mother gave her about the racism, colorism and systemic unconscious bias she would later experience as a woman, the song finds its narrator imploring the listener — young, Black women, in particular — to be brash and bold, to stand up and take up place, and to to show the entire world that being young, gifted and black is where it’s at, as Nina once sang. Fuck yes, to all of this — and all the goddamn time, too.

“‘Hold On’ is a conversation between me and the next generation of young black girls,” Yola explains. “My mother’s advice would always stress caution, that all that glitters isn’t gold, and that my black female role models on TV are probably having a hard time. She warned me that I should rethink my calling to be a writer and a singer…. but to me that was all the more reason I should take up this space. ‘Hold On’ is asking the next gen to take up space, to be visible and to show what it looks to be young, gifted and black.”

A proportion of the profiles from sales of the track will be donated to MusicCares and National Bailout Collective. She also launched an accompanying line of merch with a proportion of proceeds from those sales also benefiting the same organizations. Check out the following:

https://www,iamyola.com/store

Born to Welsh and Polish parents in Stoke-On-Trent, the rising British singer/songwriter and guitarist Benjamin Belinska relocated to Newcastle when he turned 17. He didn’t settle in Newcastle for very long; eventually he drifted around Europe, spending stints in Glasgow, Berlin, and Paris, supporting himself through a series of menial jobs, ranging from museum cleaner to estate gardener. During that period. he wrote music on borrowed guitars and stolen notebooks, garnering praise from the French press and the BBC along the way.

While in Paris, Belinska met E.A.R. and the duo started the band Paris, Texas, which released two Kramer-produced albums before deciding to relocate to Newcastle together. Two things happened to Belinksa, which may have altered the course of his life:

“Rushing to get a connection, I left a suitcase in York station. It was never recovered. Most of the early songs disappeared,” Belinska says in press notes. “Some months later, I was walking from home work and was randomly assaulted by a gang of four in broad daylight. During the recovery, I decided to stop drifting once and for all. As a first gesture, I would record a new album.”

The new album Belinska recorded, his solo, full-length debut Lost Illusions was released earlier this year, and the album’s first single, the Palace Winter-like “Young in Baltimore” reveals a songwriter, who can pair breezy and shimmering radio friendly soft rock, earnest, lived-in songwriting and an unerring knack for crafting an infectious, pop-leaning hook. But underneath the song’s breezy radio friendliness, is an achingly bittersweet lament evoking the inevitable and unstoppable passage of time, of nostalgia for seemingly simpler times, the uneasy compromises that every adult has to make and live with, the forced upon conformity to make a living and survive.

“The song is about regret, nostalgia and conformity,” Belinska said in an email. “It was inspired by Robert Frank’s photo-book The Americans and The Magnetic Fields. I played and recorded it myself and it was mixed and mastered by Giles Barrett and Simon Trought at Soup Studio, London.

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay TOBACCO Returns with a Gauzy Pop Hook-Driven Single

Over the course of this site’s ten-plus year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering Pittsburgh-born and based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Thomas Fec, best known as TOBACCO. During his two-plus decade music career, Fec has used analog synthesizers and tape machines to create a boundary-pushing sound that evokes a woozy and uneasy intertwining of tension, anxiety, bemusement, pleasure, and menace as the frontman and creative mastermind of JOVM mainstays Black Moth Super Rainbow, as a solo artist and through his production work with other like-minded artists.

Since the 2016 release of Fec’s fourth TOBACCO album Sweatbox Dynasty, the JOVM mainstay has been incredibly busy: Fec reconvened with the members of Black Moth Super Rainbow to write and record the gauzy fwhich was supported with tours with The Stargazer Lilies and Nine Inch Nails. Last year, Fec produced The Stargazer Lilies’ abrasive and trippy Occabot — and he collaborated with Aesop Rock in Malibu Ken, a project that released their critically applauded debut album. Additionally, TOBACCO penned the theme song to HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Earlier this year, the JOVM mainstay released his first batch of solo material since Sweatbox Dynasty, the “Hungry Eyes”/”Can’t Count On Her” 7 inch which featured Fec’s woozy and scuzzy take on Eric Carmen‘s Franke Previte and John DeNicola co-written smash hit “Hungry Eyes.” But as it turned out, the “Hungry Eyes”/”Can’t Count On Her” 7 inch may have been a bit of a preview of the JOVM mainstay’s forthcoming full-length Hot Wet & Sassy.

Slated for an October 30, 2020 release through Ghostly International, Hot Wet & Sassy reportedly oozes with anti-love, self-hate and disappointment in others — while further refining the pop impulses that have underpinned his unique sound — blown out, bass, fuzzy analog synths, drum machines and Fec’s analog gurgle and hiss. “I feel like it’s the most I’ve been able to refine what I’m doing,” says Fec. “For the past decade I’ve had this motherfxcker on my shoulder that makes me pick away at structure and melody. Purposely covering up moments because I can. That really came to a peak on Sweatbox. So I wanted the opposite this time. Write the songs without ripping them in half. I went from ‘what would the Butthole Surfers do?’ to ‘what would Cyndi Lauper do?’”

I’ve managed to write about two of the album’s first three singles so far: Hot Wet & Sassy’s second single, “Babysitter,” a collaboration with Nine Inch Nails’ mastermind and fellow Pennsylvanian Trent Reznor, which was a deranged and unsettling lurch between a menacingly saccharine bridge and what sounds like someone gleefully running a rusty manual lawnmower through someone’s carpet paired with laser hot hi-hats, thumping tumps, scorching synths, gurgling and bubbling hiss and distortion and the most accessible, pop-leaning hooks of Fec’s recorded output. The album’s third single “Jinmeknen,” was a slow-burning and atmospheric Quiet Storm-like ballad of sorts centered around glistening synth arpeggios, bouncy beats, Fec’s heavily vocoder’ed vocals and some of the most earnest songwriting of his lengthy — and often extremely weird — career.

“Headless to Headless,” Hot Wet & Sassy’s fourth and latest single clocks in at a little under three minutes and is centered around glistening synth arpeggios,. blown out stuttering beats, brief staccato bursts of forcefully buzzing guitar, Fec’s heavily vocoder’d vocals and some infectious hooks. And while arguably being one of the album’s more gauzier songs, it sounds a bit like a mm murky and downright swampy take on 80s R&B — the drumbeats at point remind me of Cherelle’s “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” for some reason. Much like the previously released singles, the track sees the JOVM mainstay playfully refining his overall sound without scrubbing or altering the weird elements that have won him attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere.

New Audio: The Black Angels’ Alex Maas Releases a Contemplative and Dreamy Single off His Forthcoming Solo Debut

Best known as the frontman and founding member of the acclaimed Austin, TX-based psych rock act and JOVM mainstays The Black Angels — and a member of acclaimed psych rock supergroup MIEN, Alex Maas will be stepping out into the spotlight as a solo artist with the release of his full-length debut Luca.

Named for Maas’ firstborn child, Luca, which means “bringer of light,” the Mass and Brett Orrison co-produced album, which is slated for a December 4, 2020 release through Innovative Leisure was a long time coming — with some of its material dating back almost a decade and put together piece-by-piece over the course of a couple of years. Centered around a much gentler, contemplative take on psychedelia, Luca is a decided sonic departure from Maas’ best known work, showcasing what Maas says “a whole different part of gym brain.”

“I wanted to go someplace musically that I’ve never gone before,” Maas continues. Thematically, the album is driven by the nature and quiet of Maas’ home state and by his meditations about his son, his future, the often frightening world he was born in and how to navigate through the perils and frustrations of modern society. Interestingly, the album’s first single “Been Struggling” is a dreamy and shuffling waltz, centered around strummed guitar, shimmering pedal steel and Maas’ imitable falsetto that sonically nods at the melancholy psychedelia of Scott Walker and the classic Nashville sound. Instead of the menace, madness and darkness of his best known work, “Been Struggling” is a pensive meditation on memory, fate and loss from the perspective of a narrator, who has lived a messy and drama fueled life.

New Audio: Lost Horizons Teams Up with John Grant on a Slow-Burning and Brooding Meditation of Time and Loss

With the release of their full-length debut 2017’s Ojaiá, (Spanish for “hopefully” or “God willing”) to critical praise, the members of Lost Horizons — Cocteau Twins’ and Bella Union Records label head Simon Raymonde (bass. guitar, keys, production) and Dif Juz’s Richie Thomas (drums, keys, guitar) — ended a 20+ year hiatus from creating music. “These days, we need hope more than ever, for a better world,” Thomas said in press notes at the time. “And this album has given me a lot of hope. To reconnect with music . . . And the hope for another Lost Horizons record!”

The world has gotten even worse. And the possibility of a better world seems — at this moment, at least — increasingly dim. Our political, economic and social systems are in the middle of a slow-burning collapse while entire sections of the world have burned down However, one small portion of Thomas’ hopes have been fulfilled: Raymonde and Thomas will be releasing a new album, In Quiet Moments. Adding to overall sense of doom, fear, heartache and tragedy, as Raymonde and Thomas were about to buckle down and craft the largely improvised instrumental bedrock of the new album’s material, Raymonde’s mother died.

Raymonde threw himself into his work as a way to channel his grief. “The way improvisation works,” he says, “it’s just what’s going on with your body at the time, to let it out.” The duo forged ahead crafting 16 instrumental tracks that they eventually sent to an eclectic array of guest vocalists including Ural Thomas, Penelope Isles’ Jack Wolter, The Hempolics Nubiya Brandon, Tim Smith, Gemma Dunleavy, the innocence mission’s Karen Petts, Horse Thief’s Cameron Neal, Marissa Nadler, Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin, John Grant, Ballet School’s Rosie Blair, Penelope Isles’ Lily Wolter (as her solo recording project KookieLou) and an impressive list of others. When they sent the instrumental tracks to their then-prospective guest vocalists, Raymonde suggested a guiding theme for their lyrics: “Death and rebirth. Of loved ones, of ideals, at an age when many artists that have inspired us are also dead, and the planet isn’t far behind. But I also said, ‘The most important part is to just do your own thing, and have fun.”

During the writing and recording process, COVID-19 paralyzed and frightened the entire world. And while about half of the album’s lyrics were written in the middle of pandemic-related lockdowns, Raymonde in particular, saw a silver lining: people were slowing down and taking stock of their lives. Having heard a lyric written by the aforementioned Ural Thomas, Raymonde singled out one phrase “in quiet moments” and thought it would be the perfect album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful.”

While generally centered around loss, the album’s material is more specifically tied to hope — and as a result, the album is more about rebirth than death. “I think it’s more joyous than Ojalá,” Thomas says. “But both albums have a great energy about them.” That shouldn’t be surprising as both Lost Horizons albums find the duo and their various collaborators undulating across a dizzying array of moods and voices. In Quiet Moments’ latest single, the lush “Cordelia.” Centered around atmospheric synths, some gorgeous steel pedal guitar from David Rothon, elegant strings from Fiona Brice, paired with John Grant’s layered and brooding vocals, the song is a painterly (and brooding) meditation on the passing of time, the changing of seasons and of loss — but with the tacit understanding and acceptance of the fact that all things are transient.

“This was one of the last tracks recorded for the album, though it came from the ashes of one the first improv sessions Richie (Thomas) and I had,” Raymonde explains in press notes. “Listening back to what we started with, I jettisoned the drums and most of the guitars but salvaged a small part of it and turned it into something brand new. Then I had the amazing David Rothon, who I had seen play live with Marissa Nadler a few nights before — and long-time collaborator Fiona Brice add pedal steel and strings respectively. Sitting quietly in the studio with our spacey slice of instrumental swirl, I closed my eyes to imagine a voice. While much of his recent work involves synths and crunchy beats, how he magnificently handles cinematic melancholy in his own work, and specifically in the Scott Walker Prom for the BBC, I knew my dear friend John Grant would nail this. I hoped he might enjoy the freedom of creating some melodic magic alongside elegant emotional lyrics. I sent him the piece, aware that he is always so incredibly busy, and tried to keep my expectations low, in case he had to turn it down, but to my utter and continuing delight he said yes and I’ll have to admit to shedding a tear or two when he sent me back the completed vocal a few weeks later.”

John Grant adds, “I really loved doing this track with Simon. I’d had the idea for this song for a long time and when he sent me the instrumental, I immediately thought: ‘CORDELIA’ – so happy to have found such a beautiful home for this track!”

In Quiet Moments is slated for for a two part release through Bella Union. The first part will be released on December 4, 2020. The second part will be released on February 26, 2021 with the physical release of the entire album.