Tag: Superhuman Happiness

Musings: A Decade of JOVM

I started this site 10 years ago today. . .

There aren’t many things in my life that I’ve done for every single day for a decade that I’ve loved as much as this very unique little corner of the blogosphere. When I started this site, I  didn’t — and couldn’t — imagine actually having readers, let alone readers across the US, Canada, the UK, the European Union, Australia and elsewhere. After all, this sort of work is deeply rewarding and yet strangely isolating.

I couldn’t have imagined the over 1,000 shows I’ve covered all across the New York Metropolitan area. I definitely couldn’t have imagined it being possible for be to cover shows for JOVM in Chicago while on a business trip for a day job; nor would I have dreamed of the possibility of covering M for Montreal last fall.

I couldn’t have imagined being a panelist on a Mondo.NYC Festival panel on PR and promotion for indie artists.

I couldn’t have imagined having a cameo in a JOVM mainstay’s video several years ago. (It’s a noticeable and prominent spot towards the end of the video, too. No one has called me up for acting gigs, so I may need more work on that. Or I need to stick to the writing and photography!)

I couldn’t have imagined photographing Patti LaBelle, Snoop Dogg, Charles Bradley  Sharon Jones, Nile Rodgers, Roky Erickson, Philip Bailey and so many others, as well as this site’s countless mainstays.

What will the next decade hold? I don’t know. If you asked me that question last November, I’d probably discuss my the very real possibility of repeated visits to Canada for festivals like Canadian Music Week, Montreal Jazz Fest and M for Montreal — with the hopes of building a deeper Canadian audience. I’d talk about my interest in music from across the African Diaspora. I’d spend time talking about my interest in covering acts outside the US. I’d also speak about my interest in wanting to cover more artists across the diverse LGQBTIA+ community  — particularly those of color. I’d probably also mention my deep and abiding interest in covering women artists and women led acts.

Live music won’t be a thing for quite some time to come. And whenever it does, the landscape will be different — and something we’ve yet to envision. So far, beloved venues have been forced to close because of economics. That will continue for the foreseeable future. What will happen to bands, who no longer have a place to play, where they can hone their sound and their live show? Who knows? After watching an industry-based panel, I don’t feel particularly optimistic about things in the short term. Some of us will figure out a way to adapt and survive; others sadly, won’t.

But in the meantime, JOVM will continue. It’s only the first decade, as far as I’m concerned!

**

I also wanted to talk a bit about some of my favorite albums of the past decade. This is by no means a comprehensive list; but I think that they might give some insight into the inner world of JOVM. And

Montreal-based DJ, production and electronic music artist duo The Beat Escape — Addy Weitzman and Patrick A. Boivin — can trace the project’s origins back to a short film they collaborated on when they were both in college. “We made a short oddball work; a video piece that followed two characters through a psychedelic waking dream,” the Montreal-based said of their initial collaboration together in press notes. Interestingly, since that collaboration, Weitzman and Boivin have continued working together on a series of creative endeavors that have combined their interests in music and visual art, including a lengthy local DJ gig, which eventually led to the creation of The Beat Escape.

Released in early 2018, the Montreal-based duo’s full-length debut Life Is Short The Answer’s Long thematically and sonically found the duo returning to their origins — somnambulant, atmospheric art that feels like a half-remembered waking dream. Personally, the album’s material evokes a weird two-and-year period of international and domestic travel, in which I’d wake up in a hotel room and briefly wonder where I was, what time zone I was in and if I was even in the right place. Additionally, it evokes that weird sensation of everything being the fundamentally the same, yet different. If I’m in Grand Central Terminal, I think of Frankfurt-am-Main Hauptbahnhof and of Amsterdam Centraal Station. If I’m traveling underneath an elevated train, I’m reminded of the Chicago loop and so on.

I obsessively played Life Is Short The Answer’s Short through my time in Montreal. And now whenever I play it, I can picture specific locations, specific paths I took to get there, certain Metro stations with an uncanny precision.

Throughout the course of the site’s decade history, I’ve written quite a bit about Superhuman Happiness. The act has managed to survive through a number of different lineup changes and sonic departures necessitated by those lineup changes — and from the act’s core members following wherever their muses took them, Hands though is a joyous, mischievous yet deeply intelligent work that will make you shout and dance. Considering the bleakness of our world, this album may be much more needed than they ever anticipated.

Deriving their name from a Vladimir Nabokov short story about a traveler, who finds a place so beautiful that he wants to spend his life then but who cruelly  gets dragged back to brutal reality, the Dublin, Ireland-based act Cloud Castle Lake — currently Daniel McAuley (vocals, synths), Brendan William Jenkinson (guitar, piano), Rory O’Connor (bass), Brendan Doherty (drums), and a rotating cast of collaborators, friends and associates — received attention with 2014’s self-released debut EP Dandelion, an effort that firmly established the act’s uniquely sound: deeply influenced by and indebted to  Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, the Irish act pairs McAuley’s tender and soaring falsetto with cinematic arrangements and expansive song structur es.

Released in 2018, the act’s Rob Kirwan-produced debut Malingerer is an ambitious, challenging and breathtakingly beautiful work that’s part film score and part cosmic meditation, full of aching yearning.

A couple of years ago, I caught the Irish act play at Rockwood Music Hall, as part of the Lower East Side venue’s monthly Communion showcase — and their set was met with awed and reverential silence.

Stockholm, Sweden-based garage punk outfit Sudakistan — Michell Serrano (vocals), Maikel Gonzalez (bass), Carlos Amigo (percussion) Juan Jose Espindola (drums) and Arvid Sjöö (guitar) — have one of the most unique and perhaps most 21st Century backstories of any band I’ve ever written about: four of the band’s five members emigrated to Sweden from South America with the remaining member being the band’s only native Swede. With the release of their debut album, 2015’s Caballo Negro, the members of Sudakistan received attention across Scandinavia and elsewhere for crafting material that draws from Latin-tinged garage punk rock with lyrics sung in English, Spanish and Swedish. Interestingly, the alum is arguably hardest and most mosh pit friendly of the band’s albums to date, the album’s material found the band expanding their sound through the incorporation of non-traditional punk rock instruments — seemingly inspired by the band’s desire to make each of their individual roles to be much more fluid. . “It was much more of a collaboration between the five of us,” the band’s Michell Serrano explains in press notes. . “Things flowed differently. Carlos sings on two or three songs, and Mikael sings on one. We swapped instruments quite a lot, and because we had access to everything in the studio, we were able to use some piano, some acoustic guitar and some mandolin, too.”

Additionally, the album’s lyrical and thematic concerns draws from the band members’ everyday reality with each individual member contributing lyrical ideas. “Our first album was made over five years, rather than five months, so the themes on it weren’t as heavy as this. Now, we’re talking about a lot of the things that we’ve gone through together since we started the band, as well as personal things – like, why do I keep repeating the same mistakes. We talk about pursuing our own Swedish reality, but that’s just because we’re living in Sweden – it’s relatable in any other country, I think,” Maikel Gonzalez says in press notes.

The album’s material resonates in an age of divisiveness, xenophobia, fear mongering and strife because its an urgent and passionate reminder of what’s possible with cultural exchange, empathy and curiosity —  bold new ideas, new takes on the familiar, as well as equality for all with everyone’s story behind heard, understood and championed. One day that will happen but we will have to work our asses off to get there.

New Video: Miles Francis Releases a Cinematic and Surreal Video for EP Single “I Could Use Your Love”

Throughout the course of this site’s almost nine history, I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Miles Francis, who has had stints as a member of JOVM mainstays Superhuman Happiness and Antibalas, and as the frontman of Afrobeat/Afropop-inspired collective EMEFE. The 26 year-old, New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter has also collaborated with an impressive and diverse array of artists including Arcade Fire,  Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and others — all before stepping out on his own as a solo artist. 

Now, as you may recall, Miles Francis’ debut EP Swimmers was released last year, and the album which was written in the back of tour vans and hotel rooms while on the road. Eventually recorded in his basement studio, the EP’s material thematically captures the mood and vibe of someone in their early to mid-20s, attempting to figure out themselves and the extremely complicated and ambivalent world they’ll continually confront as an adult; how they fit into that world; and the struggle to figure out the purpose and meaning of their own lives. Interestingly, Swimmers put the New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist on the local and national map for crafting hook-driven, left field pop inspired by Bowie, Sly Stone, J. Dilla, Talking Heads, D’Angelo, Paul McCartney, Fela Kuti and Prince among others. 

Self-recorded with Francis recording each instrumental part in an organic, old school-inspired fashion in his basement studio and released last week, Miles Francis’ sophomore solo EP Doves finds him continuing to craft hook-driven, left field pop — but with a wider emotional palette. And while each song on the EP has its own unique sound, they manage to fall under an overall thematic and creative umbrella of sorts. The EP’s latest single, “I Could Use Your Love” is centered around a breezy and infectious hook, twinkling blasts of guitar, buzzing bass synths, stuttering beats and Francis’ plaintive and sultry vocals. Sonically, the song sounds like a slick and seamless synthesis of late period Beatles, Talking Heads, Prince and Afropop, but with a post-modern sensibility. Much  like the rest of the EP is based around the inner dialogue that we all have on a daily basis that brings up and down — in this case, evoking the desperation and longing inspired by profound loneliness. 

Directed by long-time collaborator Charles Bidet, the recently released video for “I Could Use Your Love” continues a run of cinematically shot and surreal treatments — with Francis surrounded by shadowy figures, who perform with him in a gorgeous performance space. In one way, the shadowy figures can be seen as a representation of the protagonist’s neurotic fears, doubts and loneliness. 

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the New Orleans-based pop act People Museum, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of producer/trombonist  Jeremy Phipps, who grew up playing in New Orleans brass bands, marching bands and traditional jazz groups; and Claire Givens, the daughter of an operatic singer and Baptist music minister, who’s a classically trained pianist and choral teacher, who began singing in the churches of rural Northern Louisiana can trace their origins to when they met in 2016.  As the story goes, the duo were eager to start a new musical project that incorporated the feelings and vibes of their hometown but in a non-literal, sincere fashion while drawing from their own personal and professional experiences — Phipps has toured with the likes of Solange, AlunaGeorge and JOVM mainstays Rubblebucket, and Givens’ work continues to draw from  her classical music training.

The duo’s full-length debut I Dreamt You In Technicolor is slated for a September 28, 2018 release and album single “Eye 2 Eye,” which was centered around a regal horn line, stuttering boom bap-like beats, shimmering synths, Givens’ ethereal vocals and a sinuous hook managed to sound as though it drew influence from Omega La La-era Rubblebucket, Superhuman Happiness and Hiatus Kaiyote, as it reveals a duo, who have begun to receive attention for  carefully crafted and breezy, left-field pop. “Bible Belt,” Dreamt You in Technicolor‘s latest single is an atmospheric and moody track centered around twinkling synths, a wobbling horn line, a sinuous hook and Givens’ ethereal vocals fed through distortion and effects pedals. But unlike its predecessor, the song thematically focuses on the sobering loss of innocence and belief in an organization or institution that comes from having the curtains pulled back, seeing its contradictions and hypocrisy and being disgusted. As the duo’s Claire Givens explains “Loss of innocence can come very quickly when you are given the chance to see the politics behind the curtain of an organization. That happened for me with the church, and I saw many beautiful things but also many contradictions with what people said and what they really did. ‘Bible Belt’ came from a realization that I was still so much like these religious people in power that I grew up around and criticized, and I had become just as contradictory in many aspects of my own life and needed to find a way out.”

 

 

 

 

 

Comprised of producer/trombonist Jeremy Phipps, who grew up playing in New Orleans brass bands, marching bands and traditional jazz groups; and composer/vocals Claire Givens, the daughter of an operatic singer and Baptist music minister and a classically trained pianist and choral teacher, who began singing in the churches of rural Northern Louisiana, the New Orleans-based pop act People Museum can trace their origins to when the duo met in 2016. And as the story goes, they were both eager to start a new musical project that incorporated the feelings and vibes of their hometown in a non-literal, un-ironic way while drawing from their own unique experiences — Phipps has toured with the likes of Solange, AlunaGeorge and JOVM mainstays Rubblebucket, and Givens’ work continues to draw from classical music.

“Eye 2 Eye,” the latest single off the duo’s forthcoming full-length debut I Dreamt You In Technicolor is centered around a regal horn line, stuttering boom bap-like beats, shimmering synths, Givens’ ethereal vocals and a sinuous hook — and interestingly enough, the song sounds as though it draws from Omega La La-era Rubblebucket, Superhuman Happiness and Hiatus Kaiyote, as it reveals a duo, who have begun to receive attention for  carefully crafted and breezy, left-field pop. As People Museum’s Claire Givens says about the song,  “’Eye 2 Eye’ is about a one-sided relationship where one person is transparent with their feelings, and the other person hides away, restricting their emotions. The relationship could bloom if only the other person could open up and help to create an environment for true understanding of each other.”

 

 

New Video: New JOVM Mainstay Miles Francis Returns with a Tender Meditation on Love

Last week, Miles Francis, released his highly anticipated debut EP, Swimmers and as you may know, the EP finds the 26 year-old, New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who has had stints as a member of Superhuman Happiness, and Antibalas, fronting Afrobeat/Afropop collective EMEFE, as well as collaborating with an impressive array of artists including Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and others, stepping out on his own. 

Written in the back of our vans and various hotel rooms while on the road and then recorded in his basement studio, the material reportedly captures the mood and vibe of someone in their early to mid 20s figuring out themselves, the extremely complicated and ambivalent world they’re confronting as an adult, how they fit into that world, their purpose and the meaning of their own lives. As Miles Francis explains in press notes, “These five songs captured a raw time for me, when life seemed to be coming to a head. I made an effort not to touch or edit them too much once I had recorded them. I wanted to keep that intimacy in there,” he says. Interestingly, the EP’s first official single “Take It” featured a swaggering and self-assured arrangement featuring arpeggiated synths, a sinuous, funky bass line, boom bap-like drumming and an incredibly infectious hook; but despite that, the song’s narrator seemingly finds himself fighting through crippling self-doubt and uncertainty, which gave the song a tense and conflicted vibe. The EP’s second official single “Complex” featured a slowly strutting groove, undulating synths, a sinuous bass line, boom bap-like beats and a slow-burning, unexpected sultry hook — and that single will further cement the young artist’s growing reputation for crafting danceable, left field pop. 

“Deserve Your Love” is an emotionally ambivalent track — and it someway that shouldn’t be surprising as Miles Francis explains that the song “deals with the complexities and risks in a new romance. Where there’s overconfidence, there’s deep insecurity; where there’s a sweet exterior, there’s evil brewing underneath — all within one person. It’s sung from the perspective of either a self-conscious, wounded lover or an unemotional jerk.” And if there’s one rare thing in our lives that’s certain it’s the fact that love is a strange thing that can bring out both the very best of us and the very worst of us — simultaneously and without warning or comprehension. Despite the song’s emotional ambivalence, it’s a swooning and intimate song, a confession of sorts of one’s sense of worth or lack thereof in which the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter sings the songs’ lyrics with a tender falsetto before the song’s soaring hook. Throughout, he’s accompanied by gently billowing guitar chords and metronomic-like drum programming, which gives the song it’s achingly lonely vibe; but oddly enough, the song is arguably one of the more Beatles-like songs he’s released to date. 

The recently released video continues Miles Francis’ ongiong collaboration with director and filmmaker Charles Billot and as the New York-based pop artist explains, the video’s protagonist is depicted as an unemotional jerk, who has a terrible night. The threesome he enters ends unexpectedly with a slap in the face. And as he’s driving back to his place, the video switches between shots of Miles and an older man (who turns out to be Miles’ father). Perhaps the older man is an older manifestation of the young protagonist, full of his own regrets and mistakes? In any case, Miles stops suddenly when he sees a body in the middle of the road, and he gets roughed up by a gang and has his car stolen. The video ends with the protagonist stopping for an ice cream cone, and returning home seemingly unfazed over everything that’s just happened to him. 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you may be familiar with the Los Angeles, CA-based JOVM mainstays Sego. And as you may recall, the indie act, comprised of the Mapleton, UT-born duo Spencer Peterson and Thomas Carroll, eventually relocated to Los Angeles to seriously purse careers in music — and as soon as the duo landed in Los Angeles, Peterson and Carroll quickly developed a reputation for employing contemporary production techniques while maintaining an eccentric and human touch that drew upon several disparate sources. “Townland,” the first single I wrote about reminded me of Talking Heads and Superhuman Happiness, while  “Obscene Dream” off their full-length debut, Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Out was reminiscent of Sound of Silver-era LCD Soundystem.

Last December, the duo closed out 2017 with “Sucker/Saint,” which found the duo  adopting a jangling, hook-driven, 90s grunge rock-inspired sound, reminiscent of Pixies, The Posies and others while revealing some rather ambitious songwriting, as the duo nodded at psych rock, krautrock and guitar pop. “Cigarette Kids,” the Los Angeles-based duo’s first single of 2018 continues in a somewhat similar vein as its immediate predecessor as it features a jangling and shuffling hook; however, there this particular song seems to have more of a dreamy, almost krautrock vibe thanks to atmospheric synths and a motorik-like groove. And yet, underlying the dreamy vibes of the entire thing, the song reportedly dives further into Spencer Petersen’s relationship with his adopted hometown and its day-to-day culture — and in some way, it’s a bemused view an outsider, who can’t figure out why the people he’s around say the things they say or do the things they do.

The JOVM mainstays will be touring throughout March and it’ll include some SXSW sets, as well as a hometown show in Provo, UT. Check out tour dates below.

TOUR DATES
3/10: Tucson, AZ @ Flycatcher+
3/14: Austin, TX @ SXSW
3/15: Dallas, TX @ Not So Fun Wknd
3/16: Austin, TX @ SXSW
3/17: Norman, OK @ Opolis^
3/19: Taos, NM @ Taos Mesa Brewing
3/20: Fort Collins, CO @ Surfside 7#
3/22: Provo, UT @ Velour
3/26: Seattle, WA @ Vera Project*
3/27: Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar*
3/29: San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill*
4/8: Las Vegas, CA @ Emerge Impact + Music
+ with Fenster
^ with Dick Stusso
# with Pujol
* with Dante Elephante

 

New Video: Miles Francis Returns with Hypnotic and Sultry Visuals for New Single “Complex”

Miles Francis is a 26 year-old, New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who may be one of the city’s most best kept and accomplished secrets; he’s best known for stints as a member of JOVM mainstays Superhuman Happiness, and Antibalas , as the frontman for sadly defunct, local Afrobeat/Afropop collective EMEFE, and as a working musician, he has collaborated and performed with an impressive array of artists including Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and others. 
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you’d recall that the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter released his glitchy and jerky debut single “You’re a Star,” which featured  propulsive polyrhythm and, 8 bit Nintendo-like synths wrapped around cooed vocals. And while the track finds Miles’ sound still drawing from the Afropop and Afrobeat that has been at the core of most of his work. but while nodding at Fear of Music and Remain in Light-era Talking Heads.

Building upon a growing profile as a solo artist, Miles Francis debut EP Swimmers is slated for a February 2, 2018 release. Written in the back of our vans and various hotel rooms while on the road and then recorded in his basement studio, the material reportedly captures the mood and vibe of someone in their early to mid 20s figuring out themselves, the extremely complicated and ambivalent world they’re confronting as adults, how they fit into that world, their purpose and the meaning of their own lives. As Miles Francis explains in press notes, “These five songs captured a raw time for me, when life seemed to be coming to a head. I made an effort not to touch or edit them too much once I had recorded them. I wanted to keep that intimacy in there,” he says. Interestingly, the EP’s first official single “Take It” featured a swaggering and self-assured arrangement featuring arpeggiated synths, a sinuous, funky bass line, boom bap-like drumming and an incredibly infectious hook; but despite that, the song’s narrator seemingly finds himself fighting through crippling self-doubt and uncertainty, which give step song a tense and conflicted vibe. 

The EP’s second and latest single “Complex” features a slowly strutting grove, gently undulating synths, a sinuous bass line, boom bap-like beats and a slow-burning, unexpected sultry hook — and much like his preceding singles, “Complex” will further cement the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter’s growing reputation for crafting thoughtful, out of left field pop. 

The recently released video for “Complex” continues Miles Francis’ ongoing collaboration with director  Charles Billot features the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter submerged underwater as plumes of colored smoke gently drift over him and the water, before he slowly pulls his head above water. Interestingly, the visuals manage to be dream-like while further emphasizing the song’s sultry and hypnotic quality. 

New Video: Miles Francis Returns with Slick Visuals for His Sinuous and Funky New Single

Miles Francis is a 26 year-old, New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who may be one of the city’s most best kept and accomplished secrets as best known as being a member of JOVM mainstays Superhuman Happiness, Antibalas and EMEFE, and as a working musician he has collaborated and performed with an impressive array of artists including Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and others. 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the past year or so, you’d recall that the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter released his debut single “You’re a Star,” which featured mischievously complex and propulsive polyrhythm, bursts of jerky and twinkling, 8 bit Nintendo-like synths around a breezily infectious hook wrapped around hushed vocals. But interestingly, his debut single is a bit of departure from his previously released work — while clearly drawing from Afropop and Afrobeat, the song also seemed to nod at Fear of Music and Remain in Light-era Talking Heads.

Building upon a growing profile as a solo artist, Miles Francis debut EP Swimmers is slated for a February 2, 2018 release. Written in the back of our vans and various hotel rooms while on the road and then recorded in his basement studio, the material reportedly captures the mood and vibe of someone in their early to mid 20s figuring out themselves, the extremely complicated and ambivalent world they’re confronting as adults, how they fit into that world, their purpose and the meaning of their own lives. As Miles Francis explains in press notes, “These five songs captured a raw time for me, when life seemed to be coming to a head. I made an effort not to touch or edit them too much once I had recorded them. I wanted to keep that intimacy in there,” he says. Interestingly, the EP’s first official single “Take It” manages to pair a swaggering and self-assured arrangement featuring arpeggiated synths, a sinuous, funky bass line, boom bap-like drumming with one of the most infectious hooks I’ve heard so far; but ironically, the song’s narrator finds himself fighting through crippling self-doubt and uncertainty, which creates a tense, deeply conflicted vibe to the song. 

Directed by Charles Billot and shot at Brooklyn venue C’Mon Everybody, the recently released video was choreographed by Blake Krapels and features the New York-based singer/songwriter along with dancer Lukasz Zieba, whose movements evoke the song’s tense and conflicted nature — while being stunningly beautiful to look at.