With the release of his debut single “Breathe,” earlier this year, a track that championed across Ireland, the UK, the European Union and the States through praise from Hotpress Magazine, Euphoria Magazine, Nialler9 and airplay from BBC ATL Introducing, the rising Dublin-based electro pop artist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Christian Cohle quickly established a reputation for a songwriting approach that often finds him walking on the knife’s edge of fuzzy and anthemic electro pop and shoegazing, contemplative electronic music.
“Ghost,” Cohle’s second and latest single off his forthcoming full-length Michael Heffernan co-produced debut Holy Trouble is an atmospheric and melancholic track featuring shimmering and atmospheric synths, a spectral yet percussive beat and Cohle’s soulful and achingly plaintive crooning. But at its core, the song is a brooding and haunting meditation on seemingly unending loss that in some way evokes the horror, unease and confusion that we all feel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic: in some way we’re all aware that we’ve lost something profound that we’ll never get back.
With the release of “Running Away” and “Surface Tension,” which landed on Spotify‘s New Music Friday, Lorem and Fresh Finds Playlists, the young and rapidly rising, Portland, ME-based singer/songwriter Genevieve Stokes quickly received attention for crafting alt pop songs featuring a lush mixture of electronic and organic instruments and centered around an insight and honesty that belies her relative youth. Inspired by Regina Spektor, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and Big Thief‘s Adrianna Lenker, the 18 year-old, Maine-based singer/songwriter can trace the origins of her music career to performing publicly as early as when she was 7 — so in many ways, Stokes is a grizzled pro.
Stokes’ is gearing up to release her highly-anticipated debut EP, which will feature her two previously released singles and her latest single, the slow-burning “Lonely and Bored.” Centered around twinkling keys, atmospheric electronics, Stokes’ gorgeous vocals and a soaring hook, “Lonely and Bored” is a self-assured yet melancholic and mediative track with a warm and effortlessly vibey air reminiscent of ’90s and ’00s neo-soul. But interestingly, the song is inspired by Stokes’ own personal experiences: “I’ve struggled with derealization and depersonalization for a couple years now,” the rising Portland, ME-based singer/songwriter says in press notes. “Often I find it hard to stay grounded in reality. It can be very isolating, but luckily it gets easier to manage over time. ‘Lonely and Bored’ is about a time in my life when I felt particularly disconnected from the world around me and my own emotions. I think a lot of people have experienced this sense of detachment, and hopefully this song helps them feel less alone.”
Fonkyson is a rising Montreal-based future house and electro funk DJ and producer, who has released a full-length album — 2016’s #followme— and a handful of singles through Lisbon Lux Records. Earlier this year, the Montreal-based DJ and producer released his latest album Falling, which featured “You Got It.” Centered around Vanes’ sultry, come hither vocals, a sinuous bass line, handclaps and finger snaps, shimmering synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rocking 808s and an infectious hook, “You Got It” was a summery, club banger that seamlessly meshed ’80s synth funk and ’90s house.
“Giving U Up,” Falling‘s latest single is a a straightforward ’90s inspired house music collaboration featuring Desiire and Kôsa. Centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking low-end, stuttering beats, soulful vocal turns from Desiire and Kôsa and an an enormous hook, “Giving U Up” is an earnest and swooning declaration of devotion that simultaneously further establishes Fonkyson’s unerring knack for crafting infectious and summery club bangers.
Sophie Allison is a Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as the creative mastermind behind the critically applauded indie rock project Soccer Mommy. Allison first picked up guitar when she was six — and as a teenager, she attended Nashville School of the Arts, where she studied guitar and played in the school’s swing band. By 2015, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist began posting home-recorded songs as Soccer Mommy to Bandcamp during the summer of 2015, just as she was about head off to New York University, where she studied music business at the University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.
While she was in college, Allison played her first Soccer Mommy show at Bushwick, Brooklyn’s Silent Barn. The Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist caught the attention of Fat Possum Records, who signed her to a record deal. After spending two years studying at NYU, Allison returned to Nashville to pursue a full-time career in music.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was gearing up to be a massive year for the young and rising singer/songwriter and guitarist: she began the year by playing at one of Bernie Sanders’ presidential rallies and had joined a list of contemporary artists, who endorsed his presidential campaign. Allison’s highly-anticipated sophomore album color theory was released to critical applause — and building upon a rapidly growing profile, the Nashville-based artist had been gearing up for a massive year: she was about to embark one a headlining tour with a number of dates sold-out months in advance, along with that, she had lined up appearances across the global festival circuit that included a stop at Glastonbury. Additionally, she was supposed to make her late-night, nationally televised debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
With touring being on an indefinite half for the music industry, the Swiss-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist recognized that this was a unique opportunity to get creative and experiment with new ideas. Combining her love of video games and performing, Allison held a digital concert on the online gaming platform Club Penguin Rewritten with over 10,000 attendees, who all had to make their own penguin avatars to attend it. The concert was so popular, that her fans crashed the platform’s servers, forcing a rescheduling of the event. Allison has also performed a number of live streams events, including NPR’s Tiny Desk At Home (which she kicked off) and Pitchfork‘s IG Live Series. And she also recently released her own Zoom background images.
Recently, Allison and company embarked on a an Bella Clark-directed 8-bit virtual, music video tour in which the band plays some of the cities she was meant to be passing through — Minneapolis, Chicago,Seattle, Toronto, and Austin. Instead of virtually playing at the more common tourist locations or a traditional music venue, the members of the band are mischievously placed in unusual locations: an abandoned Toronto area subway station, a haunted Chicago hotel, a bat-filled Austin bridge and more.performing album track “crawling in my skin.”
Continuing some wildly creative ways to maintain the momentum of her full-length debut, Allison recently launched a singles series, Soccer Mommy & Friends that sees some of her most accomplished friends and associates covering her work — and Allison covering their work. The singles series will see contributions from MGMT‘s Andrew VanWyngarden, Beabadoobee, Beach Bunny, Jay Som and a list others — with releases dropping every two weeks. The singles series first release finds the acclaimed Oakland-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte, the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed indie rock act Jay Som covering Soccer Mommy’s “Lucy.”
Interestingly, Jay Som’s take on “lucy” turns the jangling guitar pop anthem into a shimmering and brooding track, centered around atmospheric synths, thumping beats and ethereal vocals that to my ears reminds me quite a bit of Air’s ethereal remix of Beck’s “Heaven Hammer.” “I had an extremely fun time recording the ‘lucy’ cover,” Duterte says in press notes. “Sophie has such a special way of entwining catchy melodies and sometimes dark chord progressions. I feel very lucky to be a part of this comp!”
All net profits from Bandcamp sales from the series will be donated to Oxfam‘s COVID-19 relief fun. Oxfam is working with partners to reach more than 14 million people in nearly 50 countries and the US to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in vulnerable communities and support people’s basic food needs and livelihoods. As we’re all aware women and girls usually bear a disproportionate burden of care in a crises like COVID-19, and Oxfam has a proven record of helping women cope during and recover after these crises in ways that allow them to be safer and stronger than ever.
Michael Desmond is a Long Island, NY-born singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who first earned attention as the frontman of orchestral indie rock act Gabriel the Marine, an act that went on national tours with Taking Back Sunday, Glassjaw, Mew, Jack’s Mannequin and The Dear Hunter. After some significant changes in his personal life that included the death of his uncle, the end of a six-year relationship and graduation from college, Desmond was inspired to reinvent himself and his career by going solo. “The only way I was able to slow my mind down was to write. I look at this body of work as a time capsule, as it represents a snapshot of life during this period of time,” Desmond recalls.
Desmond’s solo recording project, Local Nomad derives its name from several dichotomies: “Local Nomad is the resistance of sedentary life. It’s about seeking the strange and embracing the unknown. Wondering. Wandering. Young and Old. Everywhere and Nowhere. As cliche as it may sound – when I pick up a guitar and sing it’s the only time I feel at home,” Desmond says. Sonically, the project’s sound features soulful vocals, enormous hooks, atmospheric synths and lustrous beats and draws influence from the likes of Tears for Fears, Elvis Costello, and Phil Collins.
Local Nomad’s self-titled, debut EP is slated for a June 19, 2020 release, and the EP’s material found extra inspiration from the Long Island-born singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist borrowing his friends’ gear to implement mellotron, DX and 808s to add further texture and muscle to his attention-grabbing, anthemic sound. The self-titled EP’s latest single “Young Vampires” further establishes his remarkably self-assured and anthemic take on synth pop. Centered around a classic, alternating quiet verse, loud chorus-based song structure, an enormous, power chord-driven, arena rock friendly hook with shimmering and arpeggiated synths and Desmond’s plaintive vocals, the song reveals some ambitious songwriting bringing JOVM mainstays St. Lucia and the aforementioned Tears for Fears, among others.
“This song is about becoming the ugliest version of yourself in a relationship. You’re not necessarily trying to hurt one another, but you end up forgetting the thing that once brought you together,” the Long Island-born singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist explains. “‘Young Vampires’ is kind of an oxymoron because based on various films, vampires tend to live forever. They feed off of humans to survive and ultimately live a pretty reclusive lifestyle, only going out at night and sleeping all day. I think it’s comparable to being in an unhealthy relationship.”
KOPPER is a rapidly rising London-based post-punk trio, who have begun to receive attention across the blogosphere for a primal yet melody-driven clashes of power chords and thunderous drumming paired with seemingly off-the-tongue, politically charged lyrics, inspired by the likes of Girl Band, IDLES and Protomartyr.
Last month, the British post-punk trio released the Dion Lunadon-mastered double A-side single “Fake It”/”How Can You Be Sure?” Centered around the sort of arena friendly power chords and thunderous drumming reminiscent of Foo Fighters, “Fake It,” seethes with fury and disgust, yet is probably one of the most ironic songs I’ve come across over the past few months. Based on the grifting, phoniness and influencer culture that created Fyre Festival, the band explains in press notes “We were inspired by the idea of corporations faking wealth to acquire wealth, and how few people question this.” Additionally, the song points out that there’s an overwhelming conformity in the music business, in which the presentation and appearance of the artist wind up being more important than the actual art of the artist. And if you’re doing something unusual or different from the norm, you’ll be fighting an Sisyphean battle for the attention of others.
“How Can You Be Sure” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor — but without the irony, as it’s a incisive commentary on human behavior and moral norms with the song pointing out the spectrum of shifting morality within people, when it serves them and their needs. Certainly, in the age of Trump, “How Can You Be Sure” should feel uncomfortably familiar, as we see some of our leaders’ mores and values shift whenever it’s politically necessary. But it also loudly points out that we should always be distrustful of these leaders and public figures. Fiery and forceful, both of these tunes find this rising band kicking ass, taking names with a self-assuredness and fury that sets them apart from most of their contemporaries.
Los Angeles-based psych pop act Amo Amo can trace their origins to mid-2017 when a group of dear friends — Lovelle Femme, Omar Velasco, Justin Flint, Shane Mckillop and Alex Siegel — got together for an impromptu jam session in Los Angeles with My Morning Jacket‘s Jim James. As the story goes, the individual members of the quintet had premonitions that they all shared a deep psychic bond, which would lead to a revelation creatively and through sound. Five months later, the band emerged with their Jim James-produced, self-titled, full-length debut, an effort that featured their viral hit “Closer To You,” a track that has amassed over 3 million streams, appeared in an Apple ad campaign and has received airplay on KCRW and KCSN.
Earlier this year, the members of Amo Amo signed to Poolside’s Pacific Standard Records. Last month, the band released “Canta,” a mesmerizing and breezy track that sonically seemed indebted to JOVM mainstays Pavo Pavo with a healthy dash of Tropicalia and trip hop, complete with a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitars, stuttering beats, ethereal vocals and a rousing hook. Centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, shuffling beats, reverb-tinged guitars, a sinuous bass line, ethereal vocals and an infectious hook, the band’s latest single “Missed Connections” continues on a similar path as its predecessor — and while the song seems to nod at early 80s Stevie Nicks, it expresses a longing that feels all too familiar.
“‘Missed Connection’ explores themes of isolation and the absence of human connection within our technology-obsessed culture — a message which feels especially resonant in the current climate of pandemic and social distancing,” the members of Amo Amo explain. “The song expresses a deeply felt yearning for reconnection, not only with one another but with all forms of life and with Earth itself.
Canta EP, which will feature “Canta” and “Missed Connection” is slated for a June 19, 2020 release and its scheduled to coincide with the Summer Solstice.
DJ Williams is a Plainfield, NJ-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, composer. producer, guitarist and bandleader, who grew up in Richmond, VA. Throughout his nearly two decade career, Williams has developed and maintained a reputation for being both incredibly prolific and for being a highly sought-after collaborator: the Plainfield-born, Los Angeles-based artist is the founder of the Richmond-based and DJ Williams Projekt; the hip-hop/R&B act The Breaks; the acoustic duo Williams & Jones; and he’s probably best known for playing in the critically acclaimed, San Diego-based funk/jam-band act Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.
As a singer/songwriter, composer and bandleader, Williams’ work boasts compelling melody, an eclectic musical palette and deliberate and careful songwriting, revealing his desire to push new sonic and stylistic boundaries. His latest project, DJ Williams’ Shots Fired features members of Dave Matthews Band, Lenny Kravitz‘s backing band, Slightly Stooped, Trey Anastasio Band,Lyrics Born, Soulive, Greyboy Allstars and others — including the likes of Dan Africano (bass), Kowan Turner (drums), Joe Tatton (electric organ), Scott Flynn (trombone), Nick Gerlach (sax) and André Mali (trumpet) and a rotating cast of collaborators and associates.
DJ Williams’ Shots Fired’s debut single “She’s No Good” quickly earned regular airplay on SiriusXM during the spring of 2018 and as a result, the band was named as a “heat-seeker” and “an artist to watch.” Building upon a growing profile, the act’s newest album, a concept album conceived as the four-part soundtrack for an imaginary movie is slated for an August 2020 release through Color Red Records. Interestingly, the album’s first single “Iron Fist” depicts a character known as “The Samurai,” represented through Williams’ slashing guitar work. Centered around a looping 12 bar blues like structure, the song features a chugging two-step inducing groove, twinkling and arpeggiated organ blasts, shuffling drumming and an enormous horn line, the track is as swaggering and expansive composition that meshes elements of psych rock, jam band rock, arena rock and funk that feels as though it captures the band’s live show and energy with an uncanny and unerring accuracy.
Anne Freeman is an emerging indie-folk singer/songwriter and guitarist, who grew up in Mississippi Delta, not far from Bobbie Gentry’s hometown of Woodland, MS. Although she’s starting out in her career, Freeman has already played festivals across Mississippi and has appeared on Mississippi Public Radio — and praise from American Songwriter. The emerging artist caught the attention of Fat Possum’s Graham Hamaker, who signed her to his label Muscle Beach.
Building upon the growing buzz surrounding her, Freeman’s latest single, the Matt Ross-Sprang-mixed “Days Go By” is a shimmering and hook-driven song that sounds like a slick synthesis of Nashville and Muscle Shoals, while possessing a radio friendly studio polish. Interestingly, the song as Freeman explains “is about struggling to cut ties with a toxic friend but constantly getting lured back in. Everyone has someone or something in their live that makes them feel incredible for aw nile, but eventually leads them down a dark path.”
The acclaimed New York-based artist and producer has developed a reputation as a highly sought after sound designer and producer working with Ableton and Splice.com – and she’s the co-founder of Female Frequency, a musical collective dedicated to empowering women and girls in the music industry.
Last year, Julie Kathryn released her I AM SNOW ANGEL full-length debut MOTHERSHIP. Recorded in a cabin in the wintry Adirondack woods, the album is a concept album that touched upon themes of isolation, longing, love, paranoia and the paranormal. Since, the release of MOTHERSHIP, the New York-based artist, producer, sound designer has managed to be rather busy: she gave birth to her first child, collaborated on Sophie Colette’s attention-grabbing “In Love a Little,” and continuing on the momentum of a rather big year for her both personally and professionally, the New York-based recently released a gorgeous and spectral cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song,” featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, atmospheric synths and Julie Kathryn’s vocals. Interestingly, her interpretation of the song is centered around a plaintive yearning and vulnerability.
I recently exchanged emails with the I AM SNOW ANGEL mastermind for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. For this interview, we discuss the difficult balance of one’s creative live with being a parent, her collaboration with Sophie Colette, leveling the playing field for women producers and of course, her aforementioned cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” Additionally, as a result of governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – especially on small and mid-sized independent venues and the indie touring artists, who grace their stages has been devastating. Much like the other artists, I’ve interviewed this year, I’ll continue to ask artists how they’re getting by, how they’re keeping busy and of course, how this period is impacting their careers.
Julie Kathryn’s full-length album Mothership and her rendition of “Tower of Song” – and below the jump, check out the interview.
WRH: You’re a new mommy. So before we start: Happy belated Mother’s Day. How do you balance the obligations and responsibilities of motherhood with your creative and professional life?
Julie Kathryn: Thank you! Being a mother is wonderful. It’s definitely been challenging to balance everything. Taking care of a baby feels like a full time job, as I expected it would, but I didn’t realize all the ways that I personally would be changed by motherhood – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Everything feels different now. I’m finding a way to make music in this new normal and I’m excited to see how it turns out.
WRH: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions in almost every aspect of our lives. For most of us, the seemingly indefinite fear, anxiety, uncertainty, loneliness and boredom of the past few months of social distancing and quarantines have been overwhelming. How have you been holding up? How have you been keeping busy? Binge watching anything?
JK: This is such a strange and uncertain time. I try to make a gratitude list every day to keep me balanced and thankful, particularly for my health. Also, I’m lucky that I have a clear and immediate purpose right now – to take care of my son! He keeps me focused and in the moment. I’m very grateful to be able to spend this time with him. In my free time, when I can find some, I make music, practice yoga and yes, binge watch! Dead to Me (Netflix) and Breeders (FX) are two of my recent favorites.
WRH: How did you get into music?
JK: I’ve always been very musical. I took piano lessons as a kid. I taught myself how to play the guitar during high school. For a while, I was an acoustic/Americana singer-songwriter. Eventually, I started engineering and producing my own material, and it became much more electronic. That’s how this project – I AM SNOW ANGEL – was born.
WRH: How would you describe your sound for those, who may be unfamiliar with I Am Snow Angel?
Dream pop. Melodic, electronic. Ambient and earthy at the same time.
WRH: Earlier this year, you collaborated with Sophie Colette on “In Love a Little.” As you know, I wrote about the song earlier this year – and in a lengthy statement for the song, Colette wrote:
“Working with Julie was an amazing experience – it was very hands on and communicative. We sat side by side and made decisions together from the tracing to the comping to the mixing. I learned so much about Ableton and the possibility of different soundscapes that could be created outside of traditional instrumentation.
It became apparent to me, that working with a female producer, who inherently applied these types of sounds to her own work, came with the advantage of being able to feel the same nuances of emotion without having to explain them to each other. Each session was an open-ended conversation and quite nurturing to be honest. Something about that female-to-female energy in a room is really powerful when the ego isn’t there.”
How was it like to collaborate with Sophie Colette? Do you find it easier to collaborate with women artists and producers?
JK: Working with Sophie was a lot of fun. I really like how our collaboration turned out. We were able to tease out some interesting emotional undertones in her song. I remember her showing me moody photos of an urban landscape at night in the aftermath of a storm, with the city’s colored lights reflecting in puddles on the dark streets. She said, “this is my inspiration for the bridge.” We spent the day sonically recreating this idea, and it became the soundscape for the bridge of her song. It was a really organic process. I do end up working with a lot of female artists, and I find that we often have similar communication styles and a shared experience of coming up in the music industry.
WRH: How do we level the playing field, so that there are more women producers?
JK: For me, being visible as a female producer who can do it all – instrumentation, engineering, sound design, mixing – is important. When I was starting out in production, it really helped me to see other women who were doing it. Also, when I work with other artists, I share my knowledge and encourage them to learn production and engineering, in whatever capacity is appealing to them.
WRH: What advice would you give for women artists and producers trying to make it?
JK: Have fun!! The process of producing music is intense and quite involved, so it needs to be a fulfilling one. If the production process is merely viewed as a means to an end (ie, the finished product), it’s more likely to feel like a chore or an insurmountable feat. But, if the very act of creating music is thrilling and emotionally rewarding, the finished product is just the icing on the cake – a bonus. Don’t worry about doing it “right.” There are many ways to produce music. When possible, seek out mentors and collaborators who support and elevate you.
WRH: You recently released a slow-burning and atmospheric cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” What drew you to the song?
JK: I love Leonard Cohen. His songwriting and performance style have inspired me for a long time. I first visited the song a few years back when my dear friend Gus Rodriguez (he performs under the name Silbin Sandovar and is a wonderful musician, talent buyer, and connector of artists in NYC and beyond) asked me to cover a few Leonard Cohen songs in a tribute show he was putting together. I immediately felt connected to the lyrical content of this song, to the existential themes of isolation and loneliness that Cohen associated with being a songwriter.
WRH: Instead of a straightforward note-by-note cover, you turn Cohen’s song into your song. Was that an intentional decision – and was that a difficult thing to do, considering how beloved his work is?
JK: It wasn’t really intentional. It felt very natural for me to re-imagine the song in this way, and I didn’t overthink it.
WRH: So what’s next for you?
JK: I’m working on a new EP. In some ways, it’s a sequel to MOTHERSHIP, which I put out last year. So far, it feels ambient, emotional and layered. We’ll see where it goes. I’ll keep you posted. And thank you for talking with me!!