JOVM celebrates what would have been Aaliyah’s 42nd birthday — belatedly.
I managed to royally fuck up something — and in a way that has never happened before in this site’s decade history. As the saying goes, “there’s a first for everything.” So, before I begin again, I wanted to apologize to the band, their PR folks and their labels for the mistake because I’m surer that it’s inadvertently created some confusion. . .
Deriving their name from the Turkish phase for “Golden Day,” the Amsterdam-based Turkish psych pop act Altin Gün — founding member founding member Jasper Verhulst (bass) with Ben Rider (guitar), Erdinç Ecevit Yildiz (keys, saz, vocals), Gino Groneveld (percussion), Merve Dasdemir (vocals) and Nic Mauskovic (drums) — can trace their origins to Japser Verhulst’s repeated tour stops to Istanbul with a previous band and a deep and abiding passion for ’60s and ’70s Turkish psych pop and folk, fueled by discoveries Verhulst couldn’t find in Holland.
But as the story goes, Verhulst wasn’t just content to listen as an ardent fan, he had a vision of where he could potentially take the sound he loved. “We do have a weak spot for the music of the late ’60s and ’70s,” Verhulst admitted in press notes. “With all the instruments and effects that arrived then, it was an exciting time. Everything was new, and it still feels fresh. We’re not trying to copy it, but these are the sounds we like and we’re trying to make them our own.”
Altin Gün’s sophomore album, last year’s Grammy Award-nominated, critically applauded Gece further established the band’s reputation for re-imagining traditional Turkish folk through the lens of psych rock and pop. The Dutch act’s highly-anticipated third album Yol is the third album in three years — and it finds them drawing upon the rich and diverse traditions of Turkish and Anatolian folk. But as a result pandemic related restrictions and lockdowns, the members of Altin Gün were forced to write music in a new way for them: virtually — through trading demos and ideas built around Omnichord, 808 and other elements, including field recordings and New Age-like ideas by email.
“We were basically stuck at home for three months making home demos, with everybody adding their parts,” Altin Gün’s Merve Dasdemir says in press notes. “The transnational feeling maybe comes from that process of swapping demos over the internet, some of the music we did in the studio, but lockdown meant we had to follow a different approach.”
As a result of the new songwriting approach and arrangements prominently featuring Omnichord and 808, the album finds the band crafting material that’s a bold, new sonic direction: sleek, synth-based, retro-futuristic Europop with a dreamy quality, seemingly informed by the enforced period of reflection. Additionally, the members of the acclaimed Dutch act, enlisted Ghent, Belgium-based production duo Asa Moto — Oliver Geerts and Gilles Noë — to co-produce and mix the album, marking the first time that the band has collaborated with outsiders.
Late last year, I wrote about Yol’s first single, “Ordunun Dereleri,” a mesmerizing re-imagining of an old folk standard and a fitting example of the act’s new sound: glistening synth arpeggios, four-on-the-floor and motorik groove — and while being an infectious, club friendly direction for their sound, there’s an underlying brooding and dreamy introspection to the proceedings. Altin Gün begin 2021 with “Yüce Dağ Başında,” a coquettish, dance floor friendly strut featuring Nile Rodgers-like guitar, glistening synths, a sinuous bass line, bursts of mellotron, copious cowbell and percussive polyrhythm centered around lead vocals from frontwoman Merve Dasdemir. Sonically, the infectious new single — to my ears, at least — reminds me of Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “I’m In Love” and “Love Come Down,” and Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots.”
\Conceptualized, directed and edited by Bregt Pepijn Verhagen and Tom Ooms, the recently released video for “Yüce Dağ Başında” is a brightly colored and stylish fever dream that seems indebted to Impressionist still life paintings and fashion shoots that features a couple of dancing ladies, several costume changes, copious amounts of fruit and a dance party, because — well, the song is a banger.
Yol is slated for a February 26, 2021 release through ATO Records/Cadence Music Group.
Claudia Ferme is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter and the creative mastermind behind the existential dream pop, solo recording project Claude. Ferme began crafting songs inspired by Joni Mitchell, Amy Winehouse, Angel Olsen and Weyes Blood during her senior year of college in Bloomington, IN as a way to deal with the dread and fear she felt with being finished with school and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life.
The project became fully realized when she returned to Chicago during the spring of 2018. After meeting other musicians, Ferme decided to form a backing band for the project and started playing shows locally. And since 2018, Ferme’s music has landed on a number of Spotify and YouTube playlists, including Spotify’s Fresh Finds, The LazyLazyMe, BIRP, My Old Kentucky Blog, and Hype Machine.
Ferme’s Claude debut, Enactor EP is slated for a February 12, 2021 release through Side Hustle Records/The Orchard. The EP’s second and latest single “Everything’s Great” coincides with the most recent impeachment hearings dominating the media landscape again — and it manages to tie back to the song’s origin: “I wrote this song after Trump got elected,” Ferme says in press notes. “It felt like the world was ending and I wanted to somehow poke fun at his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.” Centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, gorgeous yet brooding strings and Ferme’s plaintive and ethereal vocals, “Everything’s Great” manages to tap into the deep in the soul exhaustion of the Trump Administration. The song is a gentle call for escapism as a form of self-preservation when everything is on fire — with the song’s narrator essentially saying “turn off your phone, so you can stop doom scrolling — and take a moment to daydream.” Maybe we should all take that advice every now and then.
Joanna Connor is a Brooklyn-born, Worcester, MA-raised, Chicago, IL-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has publicly cited her mom (who I’ve actually met) and her mom’s record collection as being a major influence on her life and music. “She listed to blues, folk and rock as much as she could,” Connor recalls on her website. “So I heard Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal when I was kid, and got into the more obscure artists as I went on. And I saw all the Chicago bands, who came through town.” By the time, she was in her mid-teens, Connor was playing the Worcester and Boston club scene with her own band before relocating to Chicago in 1984.
Upon her arrival to Chicago, Connor was mentored by a number of blues legends, sitting in with James Cotton, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. After a stint in Dion Payton’s band, Connor went solo with her own band, releasing her full-length debut, 1989’s Believe It, which began a string of critically applauded albums released through Blind Pig Records. Connor’s 2002 effort The Joanna Connor Band found Connor displaying the full extent of her influences as it featured “Different Kind of War” and a funky cover of “Slippin’ Into Darkness.” But just as the buzz and accolades were growing, Connor began a touring hiatus. “There were several factors: 9/11 had just gone down, the economy was changing and clubs were closing. But most of all, my daughter was pretty young at the time. She wound up deciding that she wanted to become a big-time basketball player, so that required dedication on both of our parts,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist explains on her website. That dream has come true: Connor’s daughter was awarded a basketball scholarship at Indiana State University, and Connor has pursued her career with a renewed fervor.
Although Connor wasn’t touring, she discovered that audiences were coming out to see her play renowned Chicago blues club Kingston Mines, where she began playing a weekly three night residency most weekends, between gigs at larger clubs and festivals. “It’s become kind of an institution: You go to Chicago, you go to Wrigley Field and then you go see Joanna Connor,” the Chicago-based singer/songwriter and guitarist says. “The schedule is kind of brutal, but it’s great—Usually a packed house, with lots of adrenaling pumping. When it gets to be around midnight, the audience starts getting younger. And I love that—My son is 29, and he gets people looking at him and saying, ‘That’s your mom’?” (And the schedule is brutal indeed: we’re talking about 3 two hour sets between 7:00pm and 5:00pm Fridays and Saturdays — and until 4:00am on Sundays.)
The crowds increased after a video featuring a live version of “Walkin’ Blues” was posted by a Massachusetts-based fan on YouTube. “It was just a phenomenal thing that happened. I was getting calls from America’s Got Talent and movie people reaching out; I even had a Russian billionaire fly me to Spain to play a birthday party. I think people loved the combination: Here’s a woman who looks like somebody’s mom, and she’s playing like this. What I remember most was that it was 90 degrees that day, so I was wearing the coolest dress I had.”
Connor’s 14th album, the Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith co-produced 4801 South Indiana Avenue is slated for a February 26, 2021 release through Joe Bonamassa’s new blues label Keeping The Blues Alive. Recorded at Nashville’s Ocean Way Recording Studios, 4801 South Indiana Avenue derives its name from the actual address of hallowed, Chicago blues club Theresa’s Lounge — and the album reportedly finds Connor, Bonamassa, Smith and an impressive array of musicians digging deeply to conjure an authentic, ass kicking non-derivative set of good ol’ Chicago blues. “We want the listener to open that door, walk in, and feel to their core some of the magic that a place like that brought night after night. It was an honor to bring this to you, the listener,” Connor says in press notes. “This album is a homage to the blues school that I attended in Chicago,” Connor adds. “We attempted to capture the spirit of tradition and inject it with raw energy and passion.
“I Feel So Good,” 4801 South Indiana Avenue’s latest single is a boozy, breakneck boogie woogie centered around Connor’s blistering solos and dexterous guitar work and her powerhouse vocal while Lemar Carter (drums) holds his own with a rapid-fire hi-hat driven pattern reminiscent of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” For me the track not only captures a self-assured lady, who kicks ass and takes names and wants to have herself a good time, it captures a moment I miss dearly when you open the door to the club and see that it’s rocking. The booze is flowing copiously. People are sweating and dancing. The band is roaring. And everyone desperately wants it to never end.
“This is one heavy boogie tune,” Connor says. “The opening note I held was a fun challenge! This tune absolutely burns. Joe used some interesting microphone technique on the vocal and overdrove it purposely. The drummer (Lemar Carter) and I were flying by the seat of our pants so to speak and miraculously ended the fade out together. I particularly love the way the musicians come roaring back- all Joe’s idea!”
Shot in Kingston Mines, the recently released video features Connor in a white faux fur coat, green dress and silver “these-were-made-for-walking-all-over-you” boots rocking out all night. And it accurately captures her live stage presence. Simply put, Connor is can flat out play those blues.
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.
Tracing their origins back to a budding high school romance in Munich, the acclaimed indie pop act and JOVM mainstays HAERTS have evolved as its founding (and core) duo — Nini Fabi (vocals) and Benny Gebert (keys, guitar) — have evolved: the duo met their bandmates while studying at Berklee College of Music. Upon graduation, the then-quintet relocated to Brooklyn, where they quickly built up a profile and released their major label, self-titled, Jean-Philip Growler-produced. full-length debut.
After a series of lineup changes, the JOVM mainstays have settled on its founding and core duo, Fabi and Gebert relocated to the Upstate New York woods, where they wrote and recorded their sophomore album, 2018’s New Compassion. Interestingly, since the release of New Compassion, Fabi and Gebert have embraced their multi-national roots by splitting their time between Berlin and New York. During that same period, they’ve been fueled by a renewed spirit of collaboration with artists and visual artists they’ve long admired, including Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste and Julian Klincewicz, who they worked with on POWER/LAND.
The JOVM’s mainstays third, full-length album Dream Nation is slated for a March 12, 2021 release, and reportedly, the album’s material is marked by a sense of urgent intensity: Fabi and Gebert wrote the album over the course of about a month — and then they recorded most of the album with their touring band during a week-long, live recording session in New York. They then went to Los Angeles, where they put the finishing touches on the album and collaborated with Ed Droste on the album’s first single “For the Sky.” (More on that later.)
Sonically, Dream Nation finds the usual comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and First Aid Kit, making way for subtle nods at Portishead and Lamb. “We went into the studio without setting limits or parameters other than that we wanted to make a record that moves you emotionally and physically,” Fabi and Gebert explain. “We wanted it to feel like an invitation into the strange and fantastical night time world, like the songs they play just before the lights come on, when the party is almost over, and the polish is gone.”
Late last year, I wrote about “For the Sky.” Featuring Fabi’s ethereal and plaintive vocalists shimmering guitars, persistent drumming, a soaring hook and a guest spot from Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste, “For the Sky” continues a run of carefully crafted pop that references Fleetwood Mac centered around lyrics that come from lived-in experience.
“‘For the Sky’ came from a dream I had when I first found out that I was pregnant, which was the catalyst and beginning of writing the new music,” HAERTS explained in press notes. “When we finished the demo for the song I kept hearing Ed’s voice and just thought he would sound amazing on it. We didn’t know him at the time, but were such fans. When we reached out we honestly thought we’d never hear from him. But we did and we went into the studio in LA, and ended up recording it just singing together in a room. Now that feels like such a nostalgic notion. But even then it was special. It was that feeling you get when you sing with somebody and something just clicks. And it’s especially crazy when you sing with a vocal force as Ed. I wish everybody could sing together more and feel that.”
The album’s second and latest single “It’s Too Late” is a glistening, hook-driven pop confection that sonically — to my ears, at least — is a slick synthesis of Fleetwood Mac, Shuggie Otis, Avalon-era Roxy Music, and disco centered around Fabi’s gorgeous, plaintive vocals.
Directed by their frequent visual collaborator Julian Klincewicz, the recently released video for “It’s Too Late” is a lo-fi, hazy, fever dream through Los Angeles that follows HAERTS’ Fabi as she struts, walks and flirts with the camera. But as the band’s Gerbert explained to PAPER, the video captured both the sensual and dangerous energy of nighttime in Los Angeles: “We filmed the video with Julian during one of the craziest nights in LA. It was all about Nini walking through the empty streets of the city. We wanted it to be a journey through the night, both physically and emotionally, and also capture some of that night time energy of LA. At some point during the shoot I was in a parking lot with a friend, when someone came running towards us with a gun. Luckily, we were able to get away unharmed and we finished the video that night. It was definitely a huge shock. I guess we captured the night time in more ways than we set out to.”
L’Impératice — founder Charles de Boisseguin (keys), Hagni Gown (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), Tom Daveau (drums) and Flore Benguigui (vocals) — is a Paris-based electro pop sextet that formed back in 2012. And since their formation the Parisian electro pop act has been extraordinarily busy: they released their self-titled, full-length debut in 2012. their sophomore EP Sonate Pacifique in 2014 and their third EP Odyssée in 2015.
In 2016, the French electro pop act released a re-edited, remixed and slowed down version of Odyssée, L’Empreruer, which was inspired by a fan mistakenly playing a vinyl copy of Odyssée at the wrong speed. L’Impératice followed that up with a version of Odysseé featuring arrangements centered around violin, cello and acoustic guitar.
During the summer of 2017, the members of L’Impératice signed to microqlima Records, who released that year’s Séquences EP. They followed that up with their full-length debut Matahari, which featured “Erreur 404,” a song they performed on French TV show Quotidien. Now, if you were frequenting this site last year, you may recall that I wrote about “Voodoo?,” a slinky disco strut featuring a propulsive groove, layers of arpeggiated synths, Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar and Benguigui’s sultry, come-hither vocals.
Directed by Aube Perrie, the recently released video stars L’Impératice’s Flore Benguigui and is set in an alternate universe in which she kills every man in her path during a potential extraterrestrial event. She later figures out a way to have her headless victims dance and play instruments — all while she collects more victims. Visually the new video makes playful references to Mars Attacks!, horror movies and Warren G among other things.
The French act’s highly anticipated sophomore album, the L’Impératrice and Renaud Letang co-produced Taku Tsubo is slated for a March 26, 2021 release through their longtime label home. Interestingly, the album derives its name from the medical term for broken heart syndrome takutsubo syndrome (蛸 壺, from Japanese “octopus trap”). The condition usually manifests itself as deformation of the heart’s left ventricle caused by severe emotional or physical stress — i.e., the death of a loved one, an intense argument with someone you care about, a breakup, a sudden illness or the like. And while the condition can occur in men and women of any age, it primarily affects older women.
“Peur des Filles,” Tako Tsubo’s latest single is a shimmering disco floor strut, centered around a sinuous bass line, atmospheric synth arpeggios, squiggling funk guitar, an infectious hook and Benguigui’s sultry come-hither vocals. But underneath the slickly produced dance floor friendly vibes, the song is a scathingly sarcastic ode to femininity and the differences between men and women. “Vive le difference! But be careful of those men folk, they’re afraid of strong and confident women,” the song’s narrator seems to say to its listeners.
Initially making a name for herself as the frontwoman of acclaimed New York neo-disco/dance music act Escort, the Parisian-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, bassist, producer and jOVM mainstay Adeline has developed a reputation as a critically applauded solo artist, receiving praise from Vogue, NPR, Refinery 29, Rolling Stone, The Fader and many others — and as one of the most hardworking and prolific artists in New York’s music scene:
The JOVM has opened for the Anderson .Paak, Lee Fields, Chromeo, Big Freedia and Natalie Prass among a lengthening list of artists — and has played an increasing number of headlining shows across the New York Metropolitan area
She has played a number of stops on the national festival circuit, including Afropunk, Funk on the Rocks and Winter Jazzfest.
Additionally, she also has a stint as a member of CeeLo Green’s touring band.
Last year may have been the busiest year of the JOVM mainstay’s career:
She released 21 songs, including 2 EPs.
She collaborated with Kamauu on “Mango.” The video is a viral hit, garnering almost five million views.
She had guest appearances on material by an eclectic array of artists including Pastel, Kraak & Smack, Blue Lab Beats, Jonathan Singletary and rising French emcee Likso.
Adeline continues an incredibly run — and starts off the year with a new single, the sultry and slow-burning “Whisper My Name.” Centered around a strutting and sumptuous bass line, shimmering guitars and Adeline’s smooth vocals, “Whisper My Name” sounds indebted to 80s Quiet Storm soul — but subtly imbued with the hope of a bright new future ahead. And much like her previous released work, the new single is a reminder of that this sister is a certified star — and that she’s a mesmerizing presence both on record and on stage.
She recently performed the song as part of a recorded session for A COLORS SHOW. The full live set is coming soon — and I can’t wait.
Oakland-based dream pop trio There’s Talk — Olivia Lee, Kellen Balla and Young Lee — have developed and honed a sound that balances elements of experimental electro pop and reverb-drenched shoegaze in a way that has drawn comparisons to JOVM mainstays Beach House and M83.
Thematically, the tiro’s work draws from Olivia Lee’s Chinese heritage and queer identity, while specifically touching upon family, both biological and chosen — and divine coincidence. But interestingly enough, their sophomore EP, last year’s Great Falls focuses on mourning, grief, memories and longing inspired by the loss of someone very dear to the band’s frontperson. “Grief does not cease,” Olivia Lee writes on the band’s website, “It becomes a sort of friend to hold, and a reminder that we are alive to honor, to remember, to be present, to have a future and to live it as fully as you could ever dream.”
Great Falls‘ latest single “Ascension” is a hazy and slow-burning track centered around twinkling keys, shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, Olivia Lee’s plaintive and ethereal vocals and a soaring hook. Bearing a resemblance to Bloom and Thank Your Lucky Stars/Depression Cherry-era Beach House and SoftSpot’s Clearing, “Ascension” feels like a half-remembered yet vivid dream fueled by longing and life’s sad lack of closure in anything.