Tag: singer/songwriters

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.” 

I’m having a major technical issue which has screwed up my own editorial schedule — but we’ll make do with what we can.  Technology can be a real asshole y’all. So let’s get to it: Starting his career as a member of Staggered Crossing, Julian Taylor is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter, whose sound meshes country, 70s AM rock and folkas you’ll hear on his latest single, the tightly crafted honky tonk-like track “The Ridge.” 

Interestingly, the track finds Taylor, an indigenous person of color reflecting on what life was back during his grandparents day in Maple Ridge, BC and his own experience as an indigenous person of color in a primarily white world. As a Black American man, the song evokes things I’ve felt personally — as though I’m not completely accepted anywhere.

 

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about the Southern California-born, Madison,WI--based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, Trent Prall, best known for his solo recording project Kainalu, which derives its name for the Hawaiian word for ocean wave. Prall’s work draws from psych pop, psych rock, dream pop, Tropicalia, synth pop and funk, as well as his childhood trips to Oahu, HI visiting his mother’s family, coalescing in a breezy and nostalgia-including sound that Prall has dubbed “Hawaii-fi.” He further developed and expanded upon his sound with the release of his full-length debut Lotus Gate.

Interestingly, over that same period of time, I wound up writing a bit about the Quebec-born and-based classically trained pianist, opera vocalist, electronic pop producer, electronic music producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, best known for her solo recording project MUNYA. Now, as you may recall, as the story goes, Boivin had only written one song when she was asked to perform at 2017’s Pop Montreal Festival. Ironically, at the time, she never intended to pursue music full-time but after playing the festival, she realized that she was meant to be a musician.

Boivin quit her day job, moved in with her sister and turned their kitchen into a home recording studio, where she wrote every day. Those recordings would eventually become part of an EP trilogy that she named after significant places in her life. The Quebec-based JOVM mainstay’s self-released debut EP North Hatley derived its name from one of her favorite villages in her home province. Her second EP, 2018’s Delmano, which was released through Fat Possum Records derives its name from Williamsburg Brooklyn’s Hotel Delmano.

Blue Pine EP, the third and most recent EP of Boivin’s trilogy derives its name for the Blue Pine Mountains in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks — and continues the trilogy’s overall theme of EP’s being named for a significant place in Boivin’s life. The EP trilogy was then combined for the self-titled physical release.

The pair of JOVM mainstays have collaborated on the breezy and infectious “You Never Let Go.” Centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line, stuttering beats, Boivin’s plaintive and ethereal vocals and an enormous hook — and while revealing some easy-going yet, ambitious, hook-driven songwriting, the song is a swooning and seamless synthesis of the their individual sounds and aesthetics.

“Josie (Munya) and I met through the Spotify algorithm,” Prall explained in an email to me.”We both admire each other’s music and so we started messaging online and sending ideas back and forth until the song happened. Both of us are self-producing multi-instrumentalists, and so building a track together was very fluid and came easy. After about a week we had the song completed.”  

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this year, i wrote about the up-and-coming Bristol, UK-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Katey Brooks, and as you may recall, with the release of 2016’s I Fought Lovers EP, Brooks quickly earned a national and international profile for a sound and songwriting approach that has been compared favorably to the likes of Jeff Buckley. In fact, material off the EP received enthusiastic airplay on  BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6 and  the CBC, and praise from Billboard, Pride and The Advocate. Adding to a growing profile, Brooks has shared bills with an eclectic yet impressive list of artists that includes Newton Faulkner, Ghostpoet, Martin Simpson, Deaf Havana, Lamb‘s Lou Rhodes, Mike and the Mechanics, and Mystery Jets, and has played at some of the world’s biggest festivals including Glastonbury, WOMAD, the 2012 Paralympics and Australia’s National Folk Festival. She also has appeared on a compilation with Anais Mitchell, Ane Brun and Marissa Nadler and recorded a track with The Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman and Paloma Faith

Interestingly, Brooks has a complicated and messy upbringing. She grew up in a cult, and as a child, she found refuge in music.“It was a very chaotic upbringing, full of some pretty colourful and sometimes unsavoury, characters. But when I sang, I felt free and connected. For as long as I can remember, it’s been my way of getting what I need to say out,” she reveals in press notes. She began singing gospel, old spirituals and the songs from the likes of John Lennon and Elvis Presley — but by the time she was a teenager, she entertained her peers with soul renditions.

When she turned 16, the Bristol-based singer/songwriter turned down a spot at the renowned BRIT School. “It would be interesting to know what would have happened if I had gone there, but I try not to dwell on that,”Brooks says in press notes. “I always think that you’re where you’re meant to be. And if I had gone, I probably would have ended up writing slightly less authentically to myself. But who knows, because if all the things that have happened in my life nevertheless happened, maybe I still would have written the way I do.”

When Brooks turned 20, she became extremely ill and her life was on pause as she was convalescing; but as she was convalescing she joined a songwriters group led by her friend, Strangelove’s Patrick Duff. “We would get together and play our songs to each other. It was really therapeutic.” Around this time Brooks was convinced that she had to devote her time to music. “So one day I just put on my own gig at the (Bristol) Folk House,” she laughs. “I sort of became an artist and promoter overnight,” Brooks recalls.

Sadly, shortly after making the decision to focus on her music, the Bristol-based singer/songwriter experienced a turbulent period of heartbreak and tragedy: the year she turned 22, her mother became ill and died — and shortly after that, one of her best friends went missing and died. “That’s definitely had an effect on the course of my life, and my writing,” Brooks says in press notes. “People have come up to me after gigs, particularly after songs I wrote during that time, saying ‘there’s a lot of sadness in your songs’ and it’s like ‘well, yeah.’ But I guess I’m lucky that I have songs that I can write, as a means to deal with things.”

Along with those hardships, Brooks has struggled to come to terms with her own sexuality. “In my most recent work I’ve finally been able to sing directly about women instead of using the mysterious ‘you,’” Brooks mentions in press notes. “I’m a private person in a lot of ways and I never wanted to be a poster girl for anything. But a few years ago I just thought screw it; I want to sing completely honestly. It felt like a weight lifted.”

Brooks latest single is the classic soul-inspired ballad “All of Me.” Centered around a spectral arrangement featuring a looping 12 blues guitar, a gospel-like backing vocal section, a two-step inducing rhythm section and Brooks achingly plaintive and soulful vocals, the new single will further establish the Bristol-based singer/songwriter and guitarist’s ability to mesh craft, earnestness and ambitious songwriting in a thoughtful and natural fashion. But along with that much of Brooks’ material comes from real, lived-in places — in particular, the song’s narrator bitterly calls out a lover on their ambivalence. It was inspired by a personal situation with someone I was prepared to give my world to. They proclaimed deep love, but then proceeded to behave in ways that were completely incongruent with that proclamation”, revealsBrooks. Words can be very powerful and beautiful, but ultimately, when it comes to showing someone you love them, they’re cheap and easy to deliver. Actions tell us everything we need to know about how someone feels about us, and if they respect us – in every kind of relationship.” 

 

 

 


New Video: The Poignant and Heartbreaking Visuals for Mike Edel’s “Houdini”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Linden, Alberta, Canada-born folk singer/songwriter and guitarist Mike Edel, who currently splits time between Seattle, WA and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  And as you may recall, Edel can trace the origins of his music career to around 2008 — and since then he’s released two EPs, 2008’s Hide from the Seasons and 2012’s The Country Where I Came From and two full-length albums 2011’s The Last of Our Mountains and 2015’s India, Seattle.

Edel’s latest album, the Chris Walla-produced THRESHOLDS is a decided change in sonic direction for the Canadian-born singer/songwriter and guitarist, as he adopted a “consistency-is-boring” mantra before spending a year in the studio evolving his sound and working on new material. The album’s latest single, “Houdini” prominently features around pedal effected power chords, an anthemic hook that sounds indebted to David Bowie‘s “Heroes,” and a swooning, heartfelt sentiment — that in desperate times, sometimes the only thing you can do is lean on those closest to you. The song also suggests that the brightest days generally come after the darkest ones; that adversity is temporary and that things frequently can and do get better.

Written and directed by Keenan O’Reilly, the recently released video for “Houdini” follows a man, who suffers a terrible and inconsolable loss in a terrible car accident, that leaves the protagonist scarred and battered physically and psychologically. Through a slow process and the assistance of a kindly nurse, the video’s protagonist learns to overcome his fears and move forward with his life. It’s poignant, heartbreaking and profound.