JOVM celebrates “It Was a Good Day” Day.
Early James is a Birmingham, AL-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and frontman of the Birmingham-based act Early James and The Latest. Along with bandmates James Mullis and Adrian Marmolejo, the act seamlessly meshes roots rock, the blues, early rock and classic country. The band is Dan Auerbach’s latest singing to his Easy Eye Sound Records — and as the story goes, Auerbach decided he needed to produce James’ work after watching roughly two seconds of the Birmingham-based singer/songwriter and guitarist performing. “Every line has to mean something to him, personally. It’s not good enough to just write a good song, it needs to have a deeper meaning,” Auerbach says of working with James. “He’s unlike any person I’ve ever worked with. He’s not writing a song to be universal; he’s writing a song for him.”
Singing for My Supper, Early James’ full-length debut is slated for a March 13, 2020 release through Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch Records. Reportedly, the Dan Auberach and David “Fergie” Ferguson-produced debut features ten-wide ranging songs that span across blues, folk and old-timey pop crooning that are influenced by Fiona Apple, Tom Waits and the Southern Gothic poets — while being deeply personal, full of world weary wisdom and informed by lived-in experience.
Singing for My Supper’s second and latest single “It Doesn’t Matter Now” tells a tale of a bitter breakup of a dramatic and dysfunctional relationship with recriminations and accusations and deliberately hurtful actions coming from both sides. Musically, the song is centered around a cinematic and brooding Chris Issak “Wicked Game” meets Mississippi Delta Blues arrangement — reverb drenched guitars, gently padded drumming, a sinuous bass line and James’ incredible vocals, which express the heartbreak, bitterness, pride, longing and ambivalence at the core of the song.
Directed by Tim Hardman, the recently released video is a Southern Gothic-influenced visual that recalls Deliverance, A Time to Kill and others, as it stars James, his backing band and a collection of sideshow freaks and primarily set in and around a creepily beaten up cabin in the middle of nowhere. But the video’s protagonist are the sideshow freak couple, who inflict pain on each other — and gleefully enjoy it. “The subject matter for this song is pretty heavy. I felt there needed to be some aggression on screen but didn’t want it to play out like a typical break up,” Hardman told Billboard. “For some reason, Sideshow Bennie, whom I worked with several years ago, popped in my head. I looked him up and learned he was now working with a sidekick, Anna Fiametta. When I read how they met, I thought it was a funny story that would fit the song. The thought of them inflicting pain on each other, and the pleasure they receive from it, was intriguing. I pitched the idea to Early and I’m grateful he got it and trusted my vision for his song.”
Last year, I spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the acclaimed folk/roots/Americana act and JOVM mainstays The Wood Brothers. Now, as you may recall, I caught the acclaimed trio at The Vic Theatre in Chicago, while they were touring to support their sixth, full-length album, 2018’s self-produced and recorded One Drop of Truth. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with them but their Vic Theatre set was so impressive that I quickly became a fan.
Last year, the Nashville-based trio released another live album Live at the Fillmore, which further cemented their long-held reputation for live shows centered around performances that defy categorization: their delivery often seem to live at the intersection of arena rock energy and small theater intimacy, while boldly blurring the lines between folk, rock, blues, soul, funk, roots music, alt-country and Americana among other things. During a busy touring schedule, the trio found the time to write and record the highly-anticipated follow-up to One Drop of Truth, Kingdom In My Mind.
Throughout the band’s history together, the trio’s creative process would generally begin with the band writing songs before they got to the studio and then deliberately set out to record them. However, Kingdom In My Mind found the band beginning the process of writing and recording without initially realizing it: When they started, they all thought they were just simply breaking in and test driving their new Nashville recording studio/rehearsal space by tracking a series of extended, instrumental jam sessions.
“If we had known we were making a record, we probably would have been too self-conscious to play what we played,” Chris Wood reflects on the writing and recording process of their forthcoming album. “At the time, we just thought we were jamming to break in our new studio, so we felt free to explore all these different ways of playing together without worrying about form or structure. It was liberating.”
“We weren’t performing songs,” Oliver adds. “We were just improvising and letting the music dictate everything. Somebody would start playing, and then we’d all jump into the groove with them and see where it went. Normally when recording, you’re thinking about your parts and your performances, but with these sessions, we were just reacting to each other and having fun in the moment.”
After listening to their jams, the members of the band realized that they captured something undeniably alive and uninhibited. Much like a sculptor, Chris Wood took those sprawling improvised recordings and began to carefully chisel out verses, choruses, bridges and solos until distinctive songs began to take shape. From there, the band divvied up the material that spoke to them most and began writing lyrics both separately and together.
Thematically the album is an extensive meditation and reckoning with circumstance, mortality and human nature centered around vivid, almost novelistic character studies and unflinching self-examination. The material’s cast of characters all attempt to find strength and solace in accepting what lies beyond our limited control, ultimately pondering how we find contentment and peace in a confusing, chaotic and frightening world. “We all have these little kingdoms inside of our minds,” the band’s Chris Wood says in press notes. “And without really planning it out, the songs on this album all ended up exploring that idea in some way or another. They look at the ways we deal with our dreams and our regrets and our fears and our loves. They look at the stories we tell ourselves and the ways we balance the darkness and the light.”
But while the lyrics dig into deep philosophical territory, the arrangements draw from a broad sonic and stylistic spectrum. Last year, I wrote about the slow-burning, Dr. John/New Orleans-like jazz ballad “Alabaster,” a song centered around an empathetic portrait of a woman, who has broken free of her old life and relocated far away for a much-needed fresh start. And while featuring an incredibly novelistic attention to detail, the song manages to feel improvised yet simultaneously crafted. Kingdom In My Mind‘s second single was the slow-burning country blues “Cry Over Nothing,” a meditation on the ego, perspective and fate told with a playfully fatalistic sensibility. Sometimes, even the sky is against you — and there ain’t a thing you can do about it. The album’s third single “Little Bit Sweet” was centered around some of the material’s first batch of improvised instrumentation from the early jam sessions that birthed it. Centered around a bouncy bass line and shimmering guitars, the song is part old-timey lament and part world-weary sigh focusing on mortality, the passing of time and getting older, and the impermanent nature of all things. And yet through the tears and heartache, there’s a sense of acceptance and awe of the things that the song’s narrator can’t understand. It just is — and sometimes it’s wonderful because of that.
The Wood Brothers begin the new year with Kingdom in My Mind’s fourth and latest single, the zydeco-tinged stomp “The One I Love” is a meditation on love, and the search for the balance between darkness and light. The song seems to suggest that balance can be found in something seemingly small yet so very vital to all of us — those we love. When our world seems so bleak, so uncertain and so devoid of hope or kindness, we should all take comfort and solace in hopefully having someone who loves and supports us, who will be by our side. It may be rare but man, when we find it, it’s special.
Cherie and Renno are an emerging Tel Aviv, Israel-based indie rock act founded by its core duo Ran Shem Tov (vocals, viola) and Shiri Hadar (vocals, keys, bass), with Guy Ben Ami (drums). Interestingly, the rising Israeli act can trace its origins to when its core duo of Shem Tov and Hadar were members of acclaimed act Izabo — but with material centered around a wooden, electronic multi-synth viola that has been built from collected vintage parts.
“Be My Baby,” the Israeli act’s latest single is a strutting and self-assured track that possesses elements of indie rock, the blues and rockabilly paired with anthemic hooks — and the end result is a mischievously anachronistic sound that’s one part Odelay-era Beck, one part Sun Records, one 60s psych rock and 60s pop. Co-directed by Nissim Farin Shtamper, Lioh Sadeh and Eliran Peled, the recently released video for “Be My Baby” is fittingly anachronistic visual: shot in an old-timey black and white, the video features stock footage of stock footage of a 60s dance show split with footage of the members of the band performing the song and some low-budget, Twilight Zone-like imagery.
The members of Cherie and Renno have developed a reputation for their award-winning music production company, The Sound Makers Productions, which specializes in original compositions and scores for film, TV and commercials. They recently wrote the soundtrack for Uri Zohar Returns, a documentary on one of Israel’s biggest cultural figures, including “Summer Smile” based on the film’s theme song.
Formed last year, Activity is a New York-based avant/experimental act featuring Grooms’ Travis Johnson (vocals, sampler) and Steve Levine (drums), Field Mouse’s Zoe Browne (bass) and Russian Baths’ Jess Rees that discard the more weary connotations of indie rock through a natural, minimalist and intelligent use of modern implements paired with organic instrumentation.
Their Jeff Berner-produced full-length debut Unmask Whoever is slated for a March 27, 2020 release through Western Vinyl. The forthcoming album’s material reportedly sees its creators’ abilities gel with one another to reach new levels of interplay and fruitful cooperation while sonically forming a menacing and uneasy framework to touch upon lyrical themes of paranoia, exposed character flaws and the broader human capacity for growth when an ugly truth is laid bare. The album’s first single “Calls Your Name” is centered around an atmospheric, uneasy and menacing Geoff Barrow-like production featuring woozy and shimmering synth arpeggios, and a relentless stuttering beat paired with half-song half-spoken lyrics inspired by C.S. Lewis’ 1945 novel The Great Divorce. In the novel, characters stuck in a grey, joyless conception of hell repeatedly deny opportunities to be taken into heaven, instead making excuses as to why they should remain in their embittered purgatory states.
The recently released video captures this seemingly unending sensation of unease as it captures the band members in what seems to be their own personal purgatory.
Throughout the course of last year, I wrote quite a bit about the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act, Black Pumas. The act which is led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Adrian Quesada and 27 year old singer/songwriter Eric Burton can trace its origins to when Burton, a popular street performer in his native Los Angeles busked his way across country to Austin, where he met Quesada.
Last year, the Austin-based JOVM mainstays released their critically applauded, commercially successful, full-length debut, and since its release, album single “Colors” saw breakthrough success when a live version of the song managed to amass over 4 million YouTube views — with the song at one point being one of the most added songs to Adult Album Alternative (AAA) Radio. That shouldn’t be surprising: “Colors” is a decidedly old-school singer/songwriter soul track centered around a looping 12 bar blues guitar line, twinkling Rhodes, some gospel-like backing vocals and Burton’s incredibly soulful and expressive vocals, which manage to express hurt, yearning, pride and awe simultaneously. As Burton, Quesada and company explained to The Fader by email, “‘Colors’ was written while the sun was going down on a rooftop in New Mexico. Finding inspiration in the multicolored hues of the night sky. The song is a message of togetherness, but there’s awareness of mortality mixed in . . .”
The band has developed a reputation for a a relentless tour schedule that has brought their incredible live show across North America and the European Union. Last year alone, the band made three separate stops in New York: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, during that same period of time the band has made begun to make the rounds across the nationally televised talk show circuit, playing Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The members of Black Pumas have continued on the massive momentum of last year with an extensive bit of touring that started off last night. Their tour finds them bouncing back and forth between North America, the UK and the European Union and it includes an October 22, 2020 stop at Brooklyn Steel. Feel free to check out the tour dates below, and if they’re stopping at a venue near you, get a couple of tickets and bring a friend. But in the meantime, the band played “Colors,” which is quickly becoming their signature song on The Ellen Show.
Best known as the founding member, frontman and creative mastermind behind JOVM mainstays The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli has a well-established reputation as a poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire and all things dark and brooding.
Although Dulli has been involved in a number of projects during his 30+ year recording career, his first solo full-length album under his own name Random Desire is slated for a February 21, 2020 release through Royal Cream/BMG. Random Desire can trace its origins to the aftermath of The Afghan Whigs’ most recent album, 2017’s critically applauded In Spades: Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical from the band to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator and bandmate John Curley went back to school. And the band’s longtime guitarist Dave Rosser tragically died after a battle with colon cancer.
So Dulli returned to his teenaged bedroom roots, finding inspiration through the model of legendary, one-man, multi-instrumentalist band visionaries like Prince and Todd Rundgren with the Hamilton, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter writing and playing almost every part of the album — from piano and bass lines to drums. Much like he’s always done throughout his career, the music came first and the lyrics completed later. Written and recorded in several different locations including Dulli’s Silver Lake home; Crestline, CA, in the mountains above San Bernardino; and New Orleans — with the bulk of the album being done at Christopher Thorne’s Joshua Tree, CA-based studio. While Dulli handled most of the album’s instrumental duties, he managed to collaborate with an all-star cast of musicians including his Afghan Whigs bandmates Jon Skibic (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, his Twilight Singers bandmate Mathias Schneeberger, Dr. Stephen Patt (pedal steel and upright bass) and Queens of the Stone Age‘s and The Mars Volta‘s Jon Theodore (drums).
“Pantomina,” Random Desire‘s swaggering and self-assured first single is centered around layers of buzzing power chords, a handclap-led hook and lyrics that alternate between sardonic, desperately lonely, and triumphant — often within a turn of a phrase. Much like his acclaimed work with The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, the new single delves into the psyche and emotions of a deeply fucked up, dysfunctional narrator with fucked up, dysfunctional relationships — but there’s also a hard fought, world-weary wisdom at its core.
Directed by longtime Afghan Whigs visual collaborator Philip Harder, who stars as Bob Fosse, along with dancers, Paula Vasquez Alzate, Desare Cox, Elayana Waxse, Maggie Zepp, LaTanya Cannaday, Karen Yang, Mia Bird and Reyona Elkins, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “Pantomina” captures the life behind-the-scenes and on-stage with an intimacy and familiarity of performer, before going to the frenetically shot performance and the collapse, then death of its hard-living, harder working choreographer protagonist. As Greg Dulli says in press notes. the video “is a homage to the movie All That Jazz. ‘Pantomina’ feels like a show tune to me.”
Featuring current and former members of acts like The Death Notes, In Isolation, Gossamer Veil, Dick Venom & the Terrortones, The Midnight Circus, Every New Dead Ghost, Arcane Winter and Tenpole Tudor, the Nottingham, UK-based post-punk act Hurtsfall — founding members Mike Sinclair (bass), Jamie Laws (keys) and Dave Perkins (drums), along with Sam Harrison-Emm (vocals) — can trace its origins back to 2017, when its founding members started a new band. The emerging British act solidified their lineup when they found Harrison-Emm after a lengthy and exhaustive audition process in 2018.
Since the band has solidified their lineup, the members of Hurtsfall have established their own sound, which pairs goth overtones with synth pop sensibilities while developing a following centered around an energetic live show. So far, the le Nottingham-based band has opened for Strange Circuits, one of the first acts to sign with Wax Trax! Records — and building upon a growing profile, the band’s recently released their latest single “12 Long Years.” Centered around angular and propulsive bass chords, forceful yet mathematically precise drumming, shimmering and atmospheric synth flourishes and Harrison-Emm’s Ian Curtis-like baritone, “12 Long Years” will immediately recalls Joy Division, as well as more contemporary acts like ACTORS and others — and while murky and brooding, the track manages to be dance floor friendly.
With the release of 2018’s full-length debut Youth Hunt, the Dokkum, The Netherlands-based trio The Homesick — Jaap van der Velde, Erik Woudwijk and Elias Elgersma — were quickly typecast as being resident tricksters, shrewdly courting spirituality under their own nonconformist whims. For outsiders, it was hard to tell whether the band was being ironic and taking the piss out of things — or genuinely unraveling themselves as starry-eyed romantics. Interestingly, even the album’s production values were quixotic and highly unusual: Elgersma and Van der Velde’s vocals were drenched in reverb and paired with warped synths and distorted guitars within hook-driven guitar pop.
Slated for a February 7, 2020 release through Sub Pop Records, the Dutch trio’s forthcoming sophomore album The Big Exercise derives its title from a passage in acclaimed singer/songwriter Scott Walker’s biography Deep Shade Of Blue, the album reportedly is a concentrated effort by the trio to explore the physicality of their music in fresh ways. “When we were on tour in 2018, I bought Meredith Monk’s Dolmen Music in Switzerland,” Van der Velde says in press notes. “Elias and I have been completely immersed in her music ever since. But also the work of Joan La Barbara for example, who also did things with extended vocal techniques, that was also quite vital to us. We discovered that the human voice offers so many beautiful elements that can still feel very physical and intrusive.”
“That’s also a phenomenal aspect of the position we’re now in as a band,” Van der Velde adds. “I consider The Homesick a pop band first and foremost. If you’d introduce a late-era Scott Walker-record to a layman, it would likely fall on flat ears. But put it in the right scene of a good movie, and that person may finally understand its potential. The Homesick is allowed to play around in that pop framework, and the goal is to explore what’s possible within it. You can do super radical and weird things, and at the same time convey it all as straightforward pop music. With this album, I hope people will hear things anew after multiple listens.”
Additionally, the album finds the members of The Homesick second-guessing their long-held core chemistry as a live unit, adding baroque instrumentation like piano, acoustic guitar, percussion and clarinet to angular post-punk arrangements. “It’s the opposite of trying to translate recorded music to the stage,” the band’s Elias Elgersma says in press notes. “We were already playing these songs live for quite some time, so for this album, we wanted to unlock the potential of these songs further in the studio.”
Youth Hunt thematically touched upon a quest for belonging, roots and provenance; however, The Homesick’s sophomore album is centered around a headstrong wanderlust, which is fitting for a small-town Dutch band, anxious to take over the world while featuring meditations on family ties, alternate realities and commonplace encounters. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Male Bonding” is a galloping genre-defying track that possesses elements of angular, Gang of Four-like post-punk, 90s grunge, Devo-like New Wave and hints of psych folk placed within an expansive, breakneck arrangement that’s wildly eccentric yet mosh pit friendly.
Directed by Karlos Rene Ayala and featuring work by Skinner Illustration andMatt Brown 3D Animations, the recently released video is surreal sort of a Dada-esque nightmare that pulsates with the song’s chugging, motorik-like groove.
Led by its Brazilian-born founder Lau Ro (vocals, guitar), who spent time living in Italy and England, along with Isobel Jones (vocals, flute) and Toma Sapir (drums), the Brighton, UK-based psych rock act Wax Machine draws heavily from its founder’s international’s upbringing. With a handful of EPs under their collective belts, the band has developed a reputation for drawing from a number of disparate genres and styles. The Brighton-based act’s forthcoming Go Kurosawa-produced album Earthsong of Silence will further cement the Brighton-based act’s growing reputation for a genre-defying, anachronistic sound, as the album reportedly finds the band incorporating elements of spiritual jazz, krautrock. tropicalia and library music filtered through a psychedelic lens.
Slated for a March 20, 2020 release through Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records, Earthsong of Silence continues where “Mind Palace,” off their last EP, Mind Palace left them — exploring English psych folk but while also touching upon the sunny tranquility of West Coast psych. As the band’s Lau Ro says in press notes, the album thematically “is an exploration into paradoxes, meditation and magic, predicated on the underlying idea of becoming one with nature and in harmony with the environment.”
“Shade” Earthsong of Silence’s latest single is a lysergic and seamless synthesis of Nick Drake-like folk, Haight-Ashbury-era grooves and vibes, Brazilian tropicalia-like breeziness and free-flowing jazz-tinged improvisation that manages to sound decidedly anachronistic — as though it could have been released sometime between 1967-1969 or so. The song — to me, at least — manages to evoke an easygoing summer afternoon, observing nature under the influence of hallucinogens.
The recently released animated video for “Shade” is fittingly mind-altering: in the background the viewer will see leaves fluttering in the wind, the rippling of water. But superimposed over that are gorgeous line animations of the band performing the song, with equally hallucinogenic imagery.