JOVM celebrates Neil Young’s 75th birthday.
Throughout his career, visual artist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Jorge Elbrecht has been a prolific, restlessly creative and inventive presence: As a member of the Lansing-Dreiden collective, Elbrecht developed attention grabbing interdisciplinary work. As the creative mastermind behind Violens, Elbrecht received attention for crafting slick and anthemic 80s-inspired New Wave and synth pop. And since Violens’ demise, Elbrecht has been busy as a go-to collaborator cowriting, backing and/or producing a diverse and eclectic array of artists including Ariel Pink, Tamaryn, No Joy, Ice Choir, Kirin J. Callinan, Frankie Rose, Gang Gang Dance and No Swoon among others.
Back in 2018, Elbrecht released a wildly ambitious concept album, which contained roughly and EP’s worth of songs from four very different projects sonically and aesthetically: the shimmering and sunny pop of Presentable Corpse; 90s hi-fi ballads with REMYNYSl; the icy, full-frequency pulse of Gloss Coma; and the choral-driven, thrash metal blasts and gasps of Coral Cross. And while each project was wildly different, the entire album is held together by a subtle yet noticeable through-line. Since then Coral Cross and Gloss Coma full-lengths have been released, as well as an EP Happiness.
Elbrecht’s recent prolific period has a complicated and strange backstory, which I’ll briefly summarize: According to press notes, much of the material that’s been released since 2018 was written over a roughly decade period. At some point. Elbrecht suffered a psychotic break with reality in which he became an increasingly reclusive, barely coherent, aged husk of what he once was. During that period, the acclaimed visual artist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer still managed to prolifically write and record material with a diverse array of collaborators — but he didn’t see much of a reason at the time.
The press notes suggest that as a result of this psychotic break Elbrecht suffered, his family, friends and supporters have settled upon one unified intention — “to continue playing Elbrecht’s music, keeping his tenacity, imagination and recorded daydreams alive.” From what I understand, more material will be released as Elbrecht has a substantial catalog of material to disseminate.
Elbrecht’s latest single “Perish” is a brooding yet campy 80s-inspired industrial/goth pop banger, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios and tweeter and woofer rocking beats, alternating boy-girl vocals and a rousingly anthemic hook within an expansive song structure. And much like all of Elbrecht’s work, the song should serve as a reminder to the listener: Elbrecht has an unerring ability to craft an infectious, razor sharp hook — while evoking a large sense of existential dread. Interestingly, the song is the second time that Elbrecht has collaborated with Geneva Jacuzzi — the first being “Guillotine,” which appeared on the aforementioned Here Lies.
Directed by Zev Deans, the recently released video for “Perish” is a campy and absolutely batshit visual placing the viewer in a dystopian future with its own weird and unsettling practices and mythology. : “Upon hearing ‘Perish’ and then reading the lyrics, I felt like I was tapping into something at once ancient and futuristic,” Deans says. “There are themes of existential dread at times, while the song maintains a very campy atmosphere. The gonzo sci-fi fantasy film Zardoz came to mind, and I re-contextualized the film’s aesthetic as a backdrop to Elbrecht’s own lore and imagery. A dozen or so sci-fi films from the mid 70s seemed to deal with enclosed utopian societies in the distant future, that all have uniquely bizarre relationships with death and immortality. The aesthetic of these films seem to almost always be delightfully horrendous. John Boorman’s Zardoz is, to me, the single-most thoughtful incarnation of this trend, while boasting an absolutely batshit aesthetic that few other movies can touch.”
Twin Flames is a highly celebrated Ottawa-based husband and wife duo featuring:
Chelsey June, an Ottawa-born singer/songwriter, who is a part of the Mètis, a multi-ancestral indigenous group who can trace their descent from both indigenous North Americans and European settlers and can claim Algonquin Cree ancestors.
Jaaji, a Nunavik-born singer/songwriter who’s part Inuk and Mohawk.
The individual members of Twin Flames have had their own respective critically applauded, multi-award winning and nominated careers when they met, decided to work together, and fell in love during the filming of APTN’s Talent Autochrones Musical (TAM). Since the pair joined together personally and professionally, they’ve had an enviable run of success as a result of work l that meshes the contemporary and traditional with lyrics sung in Inuttitut, English and French:
They’ve been nominated for 25 awards, including two Canadian Folk Music Awards wins and three Native Music Award wins.
They’ve had two #1 hits on the Indigenous Music Countdown’s Top 40.
They’ve played 1000+ shows across Canada, the States, Australia and France
They were selected as artist-in-residence for last year’s Folk Alliance International conference.
The Canadian duo partnered with UNESCO to write the official song celebrating the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
“Human” was chosen as part of last year’s CBC’s Music Class Challenge.
The music video for “Broke Down’Ski’Tuuq was the first Inuttitut language video to be featured on Canadian music channel MuchMusic.
The indigenous duo’s third album OMEN is reportedly a sonic departure from their previously released material — with the album finding the duo’s sound incorporating edgier elements of alt pop, and indie rock as the duo explain in press notes is “concept-based around a dystopian reality, global warming, and humankind free of social classes, mental health, and addictions.”
OMEN’s first single, “Battlefields” is a perfect example of what listeners should expect from the album: shimmering and glistening synth arpeggios, big thumping beats, a rousingly anthemic hook, some indie rock-styled guitar lines and the duo’s plaintive boy-girl harmonies singing lyrics in English and Inuttitut. The end result is a slick, radio friendly and accessible pop anthem. But underneath the slick polish, the song possesses a gentle yet urgent plea to the listener — especially those within the Indigenous community — to seek help if they’re struggling. True strength is when you acknowledge you need help, that you can’t face it all alone. Along with that, there’s the tacit understanding that everyone struggles with their mental health at some point; being a caring, kind and thought personal in a morally bankrupt and nonsensical world is difficult as it is.
“Mental health is a battle that many people face in silence,” Twin Flames’ Chelsey June says. ““This song speaks to the stigma associated with it.” Jaaji adds, “In the Arctic of Canada, Inuit People face the highest amount of suicides in the world. ‘Battlefields’ is a song to remind our people we have to fight our own minds to survive, we are fighters, and together, we can feel less alone and win this battle.”
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.”