JOVM celebrates Stevie Wonder’s 71st birthday.
Growing up in a small island community in Florida, the Florida-born, Denver-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jeff White believes the experience is imprinted onto his soul and his work. Inspired by the likes of Sublime, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Jack Johnson, Barrington Levy, and Paul Simon, the Florida-born, Denver-based artist has developed and honed what he has dubbed “acoustic roots soul” with Jeff White & Soul Taxi, The Casual Strange and as aa solo artist.
White got the vision for his latest single — a recreation of Peter Tosh‘s classic “Treat You Right” — while surfing in Costa Rica. He recruited his friends and longtime collaborators JJ Grey and Morfo‘s Todd Small, Magic Beans‘ Casey Russell and Joey Lanna to record two versions of the track with Color Red Music founder and The New Mastersounds‘ Eddie Roberts: The A side is a soulful reggae version that slows the tempo down but still manages to hew closely in spirit to the original. The B side is a shuffling Motown meets Muscle Shoals-like take on the song that makes the song sound as though it could have been released in 1972 or so. Interestingly, while both versions prominently feature White’s soulful crooning, they manage to pull the hurt and betrayal at the center of the original, even more into the spotlight.
Rian Peters is a rising London-born, Vancouver-based soul vocalist, best known in music circles as IAMTHELIVING. As a child Peters green up listening to the likes of Michael Jackson, Prince and Steve Wonder — all of which have influenced his work. Following his musical destiny, Peters relocated to Vancouver, where he’s developed and honed a distinct yet versatile sound.
Teon Gibbs is a rising Botswana-born, emcee and producer, who as a child spent time living in South Africa, Angola and the UK before eventually settling in Vancouver. As an artist and producer, Gibbs has developed and honed a sound and approach that blurs genre lines.
The duo met in their adoptive hometown and quickly started a successful collaboration that resulted in a handful of attention grabbing singles including “Puppa” and “Between The Groove” and “The Distance,” which quickly established the duo’s sound — a dance floor friendly mix of 90s R&B and 2000s British R&B. Building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the duo will be releasing their seven-song debut EP together JNGL. Slated for release in June 2, 2021 release through Tiny Kingdom Music, the EP reportedly finds the duo continuing to craft dance floor friendly pop based on a meeting of the minds between two artists from very different yet simultaneously very similar backgrounds.
“We wanted to create a project that embodies who we are, where we’re from, and shows what we can do. The word “JNGL” just seemed to capture it all. Being from Botswana, the word jungle has followed me around my entire life, and IAMTHELIVING is originally from South London, which is the concrete jungle – this project is those worlds meeting…” Gibbs explains in press notes. ” “The sounds on this project are big and diverse but at the same time we really took a grassroots approach to making it, I think that’s why even though the sound fills the room it can still resonate with the listener’s core.”
But along with making folks hit the dance floor, the duo collaboration is fueled by their desire to lead by example for other Black voices to connect in their city. “We really feel like we’ve created our own little lane and we can really shed light on how dope the Vancouver music scene is,” the duo say.
JNGL’s latest single, “Boxes” prominently pairs IAMTHELIVING’s silky smooth croon and Gibbs’ dexterous and dense wordplay and laid-back delivery over a vibey, two-step inducing production featuring a sinuous bass line, twinkling Rhodes, shimmering synth arpeggios, skittering beats and an infectious hook that may remind listeners of Montell Jordan’s “Get It On Tonite.”
Directed by Joseph Carney, the recently released video for “Boxes” is a gorgeously shot yet hilarious send-up of love, delusion (perhaps influenced by drugs and drink), longing, heartbreak and cruel rejection.
The month is flying by: Today is February 11, the 11th day of Black History Month. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past month, I’ve been proudly featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles that I think can guide you towards further understanding of the Black experience. Of course, I hope that throughout this month you’ll remember — and appreciate the following:
Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.
Simply put, Stevie Wonder is a genius and a treasure. We should appreciate him, love him and protect him for the rest of his days. This post is centered around live footage — and the live footage from the 70s is transcendent. Seriously.
JOVM celebrates what would have been Sam Cooke’s 90th birthday.
Ojai-born, Long Beach-based vocalist Adryon de León has had a vast and varied career. de León has been a backing artist for an eclectic and impressive array of acclaimed artists including Lady Gaga, George Clinton, Macy Gray and others. She spent seven years as the frontwoman of Orgōne — and she’s currently one of the dead vocalists in Matador! Soul Sounds alongside Eddie Roberts, Alan Evans, Kim Dawson and Nate Edgar. Recently, de Leòn contributed vocals to a a track on Trent Reznor‘s score for the Netflix biopic Mank.
de Leòn’s Max MacVeety and David Tam-produced single “Ally” is funky, Motown soul-inspired strut, centered around the Ojai-born, Long Beach-based vocalist’s soulful, powerhouse vocals. And while seemingly indebted to the likes of James Brown, Steve Wonder and others, the song was inspired by contemporary events: The song finds de Leòn reflecting on the riots incited by George Floyd’s murder happening two blocks from her Long Beach home — and the messages she received from well-meaning friends the following morning.
As, a response, the Ojai-born, Long Beach-based vocalist decided to stop being precious and cute with the subjects of race and injustice. “Ally” wound up being a vehicle to process her emotions and respond to all of them — with the song being a fiery and soulful reminder and call to the arms. The fight for equality and justice is an ongoing one, the song says. this particular iteration of uprising and struggle is a small chapter in a much longer story. And as the song — and its narrator — demands of the listener: if you’re in a position of privilege, it’s your responsibility to stand up for the disenfranchised, the vulnerable and overlooked, and to be an ally for positive change.
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) — each ended a 20+ year hiatus from creating music with the 2017 release of their full-length debut together, Ojaiá, (Spanish for “hopefully” or “God willing”) to critical praise. “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!”
Since the release of Ojalá, the state of the world has gotten much worse. And while many of us had begun to feel hope that things may turn for the better with a Biden Administration, the events yesterday in Washington, DC has quickly brought that sense of hope and possibility crashing to the ground. Things are dire: our socioeconomic and political systems are collapsing, exposing both the worrisome gaps in our systems. The fight for a better and fairer world continues, as it always does but interestingly enough, one small portion of Thomas’ hopes have been immediately fulfilled: Raymonde and Thomas will be releasing a new album’s worth of together, In Quiet Moments.
Written and recorded during pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, In Quiet Moments‘ material is inspired by the sense of existential doom, fear, uncertainty and anxiety of the larger world surrounding them and everyone else, as well as the same emotions and sensations of their own personal lives: Just as the duo were settling into the studio to craft the largely improvised, instrumental bedrock of the album’s material, Raymonde’s mother died.
As a response, 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 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 Peris, 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 guided 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.” Roughly half of the album’s lyrics were written during the middle of pandemic-related lockdowns but as it turns out, Raymonde in particular, saw a sliver lining: people were forced to slow down and take careful stock of themselves and their lives. Interestingly, after having heard a lyric written by Ural Thomas, Raymonde singled out on praise “in quiet moments,” and thought it would be a perfect album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful.”
Although generally centered around loss and heartbreak, the album’s material is imbued with a sense of hope. And as a result, the album subtly leans in the direction of rebirth more so 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 on a journey through a dizzying area of moods and voices.
Last year, I wrote about three of the album’s previously released singles:
“Cordelia,” a lush track centered around atmospheric synths, gorgeous steel pedal guitar from David Rothon, elegant strings from Fiona Brice, and John Grant’s brooding vocals. The song is a meditation on the passing of time, the inevitable changing of the seasons — but with the tacit understanding and acceptance that all things in our world are transient.
“One For Regret,” a dark and foreboding song centered around shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive drumming and Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin’s frantic vocals. While sonically, the song finds Raymonde and Thomas paying homage to the beloved sound and approach that won Raymonde accolades “One For Regret” is a meditation on the messiness of regret and loss, that acknowledges that regret and loss are a necessary part of life — and that the only way out is through.
“Every Beat That Passed,” an old-timey waltz centered around shimmering and arpeggiated keys, jangling guitars and Kavi Kwai’s Julia Ringdahl ethereal vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, In Quiet Moments’ third single sonically seemed indebted to Raymonde’s while being defiantly upbeat.
The album’s fourth and latest single, album title track “In Quiet Momtents” features Ural Thomas. Born in Louisiana in 1939, the seventh of 16 children, a young Thomas learned how to sing in church. His family relocated to Portland, where he would spend the bulk of his life.
In the 50s, Thomas became a professional singer, opening for the likes of Etta James, Otis Redding, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder at the Apollo Theater. But by 1968, Thomas had returned to Portland. In terms of music, Thomas fell off the map, and not much is really known until the early 2010s when Scott Magee, a Portland-based soul DJ, was informed by the owner of Mississippi Records that Thomas — whose early records he regularly spun at this DJ sets — still lived in the area.
As it turned out, Thomas had been hosting weekly jam sessions at his home since the 1970s but seldom performed live. But Thomas and Magee started Ural Thomas and the Pain, an octet that backs Thomas. The act has released two albums so far, 2016’s self-titled debut and 2018’s The Right Time. So now that we went through the necessary background, let’s talk about the track: “In Quiet Moments” is a shimmering and slow-burning bit of old-school inspired soul meets shoegaze centered around twinkling keys, jazzy drumming, gently buzzing guitars and Thomas’ easygoing and gorgeous vocals. It’s a gorgeous and thoughtful track that evokes a complex and confusing array of emotions with a simple yet profound earnestness.
“Sometimes you just have a clear vision for a song and then try as you might, it doesn’t quite hit the mark and other times, you’re not quite sure where it’s going and then all of sudden it’s like The Matrix and you’re buzzing!” Lost Horizons’ Simon Raymonde says in press notes. ” I’d been talking to Ural and his team since I heard about him earlier that year, and they were all working on a new Ural Thomas and The Pain album, but just as I finished the bass part on our piece, which Richie had started at a session in London, my inner voice was screaming ‘ASK URAL TO SING!’ Scott and Brent who are his producers and write with Ural and in his band too, responded very positively to my enquiry and said Ural was into it, and it looked like they could do it all at their studio in Portland, AND film him at the same time as they were making a documentary about him! I couldn’t believe my luck. After he was done with the first half of the song I asked if he could make the ending spoken-word in the style of Gil Scott-Heron and he did something ad-libbed which I loved. I then asked Wendi Rose who sings with Spiritualized to add some of her beautiful vocals and I think this took it all to the next level. Paul Gregory and Jonathan Wilson also played some delicious guitar parts which were the fairy dust on top!”
“When I first heard the song, I thought it was such a wonderful thing, both open and calm, with that steady, insistent groove,” Ural Thomas adds. “The chords go from looming to embracing then back again, like a sad, friendly giant. It took a quiet moment to go over it in my mind and then we were off and running with the tune. At times I feel strong and one with the world. At other times I feel tiny and solitary. In a way they’re two parts of the same feeling. That sense of being closed in and defined by walls became more real just a short while after we worked on the song. But we’re all those other things, too—connected, hopeful, with a long arc that will go beyond this time.”
The recently released and cinematically shot black and white visual for “In Quiet Moments” is split between footage of clouds passing the sun, stock footage of a slow pan of a forest, Thomas singing the song in the studio and other natural phenomena. It’s a fittingly gorgeous and thoughtful visual.
Now, as you may recall In Quiet Moments was slated for a two part release through Bella Union. The first part was released last month with the second part due February 26, 2021, along with the physical release of the entire album.
Elizabeth Woolf is an up-and-coming Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who can trace the origins of her music career to her childhood: she spent drives in her mom’s minivan singing along to Frank Sinatra — and as she got older, she found her voice belting and sobbing along to the work of Sara Bareilles and Bon Iver while driving her dad’s hand-me-down car. After finding the sounds of Stevie Wonder while commuting on BART, Woolf realized that she needed to mesh those influences into her own sound.
Over the past two years or so, Woolf has been busy developing, refining and honing her sound and songwriting. Interestingly, the emerging Los Angeles-based artist’s latest single, the slow-burning and charming “yellow turtleneck” finds her collaborating with emerging producer, songwriter kidgloves (a.k.a. Cody Aledia). Centered around dusty and soulful production featuring thumping boom bap-like beats and shimmering acoustic guitar paired with Woolf’s and kidglove’s soothing and breathy vocals, “yellow turtleneck” is an emotionally ambivalent song that’s part swooning meet-cute and part nostalgic ode to lost love, and their lingering ghosts. Sonically and thematically, the song — to my ears at least — evokes fall in New York.
Throughout the course of their wildly successful 20 year run together, which included the release of seven full-length albums — 2002’s Dap Dappin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, 2005’s Naturally, 2007’s 100 Days, 100 Nights, 2014’s Give the People What They Want, 2015’s It’s a Holiday Soul Party! and 2017’s posthumously released Soul of a Woman — the acclaimed soul act Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings built a reputation for being one of the world’s best bands live — and in the studio. (I had the pleasure of seeing them live three times, including a powerfully uplifting night at The Apollo. They were one of the best soul acts in the entire world.)
Although the acclaimed soul act have a lengthy and prolific catalog of originals, they have made forays into covers numerous times. Some of those covers were contracted or use in commercials, movies, TV shows and even samples, while others were recorded of their own volition and desire. Their earliest covers included a completely re-invented rendition of Janet Jackson‘s “What Have You Done for Me Lately, which convinced more than a few fans that Jones’ version was in fact the original after a counterfeit news article surfaced claiming that Jones was suing Jackson for copyright infringement.
Slated for a Friday release, the act’s soon-to-be released album Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Rendition Is In is a compilation of both previously released and previously unreleased covers, which showcases the act’s eclectic tastes and musicality. Sadly, the album is the second album of material posthumously released after Sharon Jones’ 2016 death from pancreatic cancer.
Three singles have been released off the album so far, but I wanted to specifically call your attention to two singles off the album: a sashaying cover of Dusty Springfield‘s “Little by Little,'” was originally recorded for a tribute album to the legendary British soul vocalist — and a strutting cover of Stevie Wonder‘s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” While both covers are fairly straightforward, they manage to be deceptively period specific while revealing the dynamism and ebullience of the act’s incredible frontwoman Sharon Jones and the band’s subtle yet deft touch.
Jay Watson is a Carnavon, Australia-born, Fremantle, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who creatively splits his time as a member of acclaimed psych rock acts and JOVM mainstays Tame Impala and POND — and with his acclaimed solo recording project GUM.
Watson’s fifth GUM album Out In The World, which was officially released today through Spinning Top Music, is the highly-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s critically applauded The Underdog. Written and recorded in between his commitments with POND and Tame Impala at his Fremantle-based home studio and while on the road, Out In The World continues Watson’s long-held reputation for his voracious taste for styles, sounds and eras — paired with his ongoing quest to make sense of modern life. Driven by untethered curiosity and the inherent anxiety of way too much awareness, the album is arguably, the most boundary pushing of his growing catalog. “This album is my attempt at making a record that combines my fascination of how other people live their lives, with my own internal desire to analyse mine and improve it,” Watson says of his latest album. “‘Out In The World’ was a phrase that conjured a lot of grandeur and ego, yet somehow felt really small and wholesome at the same time.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about “Don’t Let It Go Out,” Out In The World’s second single, a track that found Watson pushing his sound and songwriting in a bold new direction with its influences blurring into something distinctly Watson. “Airwalkin,” the album’s latest single is a swaggering, 80s synth pop inspired banger centered around boom bap-like beats, squiggling and shimmering synths, a soaring string sample, an enormous hook with vocodered vocals and Watson’s plaintive vocals. The end result is a song that sounds as though it were indebted to J. Dilla. Odelay-era Beck and Future Shock-era Herbie Hancock and Kraftwerk.
“This song is trying to capture the feeling of walking around my rural town with my Discman as a teenager, completely self-conscious about the way I look but completely feeling myself at the same time.” Watson says. “3 and a half minutes of Boombox Rock inspired by Stevie Wonder, Dilla and Beck.”
Directed by Alex McClaren, the recently released video for “Airwalkin'” is a vividly colored visual that features a variety of characters — three-eyed dog, a kid’s toy robot, a walking recycling bin and a walking boom box among others — walking through some trippy yet mischievous backdrops. “I wanted to do something with Alex McClaren again. He’d worked on the claymation video for ‘The Blue Marble’ off my last album, I love his stuff. I only had quite a vague idea that the clip could be a figure moving across a landscape in claymation, a vocoder robot-man initially, and Alex went next level with it’.”