Saturday, June 28, 2014

R.I.P. Bobby Womack: The Poet

Many know his composition "Across 110th Street" from the 1972 film of the same title. It was later used on the soundtracks to Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997) and Ridley Scott's American Gangster (2007), but Bobby Womack contributed so much more to music history, not least the legendary and hugely influential 1981 album 'The Poet' which featured some of L.A.'s best session musicians, including bassist Nathan East, guitarist David T. Walker and drummer James Gadson.

For singers especially, it is vital to have a distinctive voice and Womack was blessed with an unmistakable baritone which he could effortlessly turn from honey smooth to a sandpaper rough in a nano second. In addition, he was a highly gifted guitarist who was able to create sublime riffs, chords and changes that together with his vocals give the listener a natural high.

His many accomplishments and recordings from a 50-year long career are too numerous to list here. I have highlighted 'The Poet', not only because it is a flawless, timeless album, but because it showcases Womack's immense talent for masterful genre "cross pollination", in this case seamlessly mixing soul, gospel, R&B, funk, blues, jazz, rock, rock 'n roll, and country.

R.I.P. Bobby Womack, March 4, 1944 - June 27, 2014.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mali Music: Ready Aim + Beautiful

26-year-old Savannah, Georgia based grown up wunderkind Kortney Jamaal Pollard aka Mali Music began playing the piano at the age of five and wrote his first song when he was eight. In 2008 and 2009 he independently released two gospel albums, but with his third album 'Mali Is...' this immensely gifted artist is taking a true leap of faith by focusing on secular music, a choice that is earning him scorn from a few and praise from many. In so doing he is following in the footsteps of giants such as Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin as well as others who also wisely and boldly chose to broaden their horizons and in the process brought their powerful messages to millions of people who might otherwise not have heard their music.

While the official video that accompanies the current hit single "Beautiful" is excellent, it is in the outstanding live acoustic performance clips "Ready Aim" and "Beautiful" that Mali Music truly gets to shine.

In support of the major label debut album which dropped in May, he has been busy touring this year. There are still two U.S. shows coming up August 10 (San Francisco) and August 23 (Tampa.) On August 31 he has one gig in Medway, UK and there is a date scheduled for November 14 in Hamilton, Canada.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Roskilde Festival 2014: Classixx + Vic Mensa + Mont Oliver + Moderat

It's that time of year: the largest summer music festival in Northern Europe, held since 1971 on the outskirts of Roskilde west of Copenhagen, kicks off June 29 and wraps up July 6. Some of the big names performing on the larger stages include The Rolling Stones, OutKast, Drake, Stevie Wonder, Trentemøller, Deftones, Interpol, and Lykke Li.

After looking through the full line up however, I opted to blog about four lesser known bands/artists: two U.S. acts and two European acts that all caught my attention by way of sublime music and videos.

Classixx's delicious, thumping, back-to-the-future track "Holding On" makes Daft Punk sound like Sigor Ros.  The busy production/DJ team released their debut album 'Hanging Gardens' in 2013. The simple, yet highly effective clip was shot in and around the duo's home base of Los Angeles.

On "Down on My Luck" 21-year-old Chicago artist Vic Mensa mixes hip hop with club and jazz sounds and comes up with an utterly intoxicating musical cocktail.  The brand new single is taken from his debut EP 'Street Lights" which will drop later this year. The outstanding video cleverly explores alternate scenarios during a night out on the town; it was directed by Benjamin Dickinson of Brooklyn creative production company Ghost Robot.

The stellar track "19" by Danish trio Mont Oliver is taken from their 2013 EP of the same title. The excellent video was directed and edited by Mathias Nyholm and was shot in and around Copenhagen, including the co-ed dormitory Kollegiegården.

Moderat has been around since 2002, yet last year's release, aptly named 'Moderat II', is indeed only the Berlin collaborative's second full-length album. The hypnotic clip accompanying the equally trance inducing track '"Bad Kingdom" features impressive hand drawn artwork and was produced by fellow Berlin creatives Phadfinderei.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lana Del Rey: Shades Of Cool

Lana Del Rey published a video yesterday to go with the gorgeous track "Shades of Cool" from her new album 'Ultraviolence.' The dreamy-creepy David Lynch like clip shot in Los Angeles features the mysterious Mark M. - plus Lana herself of course - and is said to be about the regrets of an older man thinking of earlier happier times and 'the one that got away.'

After touring all spring in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, Ms. Del Rey is now taking a well-deserved short break before wrapping up with four summer festival gigs: first up is a show in Norrkoping, Sweden on June 26.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rival Sons: Open My Eyes + Jordan

My fellow Long Beach, California residents Rival Sons have a new bass player, new shorter hairdos and new spiffy outfits, but most importantly, they have a new album out this week; 'Great Western Valkyrie' is their fourth full-length since 2009.  Here's hoping the combined powerful forces of (from left to right) bassist Dave Beste, vocalist Jay Buchanan,  guitarist Scott Holiday, and drummer Michael Miley will put the band on the radar of not just hard rock fans, but a wider audience with a taste for great music, period.

Currently wrapping up a string of gigs in the UK  (Saturday @ the Isle of Wight Festival), Rival Sons kick off the North American leg of their busy summer tour schedule in Nashville June 19. Starting July 31, they play the first of four Scandinavian festivals and will also be performing at the Oppikoppi Festival in Limpopo, South Africa August 9. Finally, there are two late fall dates in France: Paris (November 11) and Lyon (December 6).

The video for the excellent teaser single "Open Your Eyes" was published in April.  The sublime live version of "Jordan" - from the 2012 'Head Down' album - was recorded in London in May of last year.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tomas Barfod: Happy + Pulsing

In between producing and drumming with Copenhagen based trio WhoMadeWho which he co-founded a decade ago, Tomas Barfod stays busy with solo projects: Monday he drops his second album 'Love Me'; the debut full-length 'Salton Sea' was released in 2012.

Barfod has four summer shows lined up in continental Europe. September 13 he will be performing at Primary Nightclub in Chicago; November 7 at the five-day Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik.

Swedish-Hungarian Jakob Merky shot the "Happy" clip; British Cherise Payne directed "Pulsing". The first song is graced by the vocals of acclaimed American singer-songwriter Eddie Chacon, now also an L.A. based pro photographer; the second features Barfod's frequent collaborator, Swedish singer Nina Kinert aka Nina K.

NOTE: The track "Happy" is taken from the EP 'Pulsing', released in February. (director of "Happy") (director of "Pulsing")

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Alice Boman: What

Swedish singer-songwriter Alice Boman decided to give her second EP the straightforward title 'EP II".  Released today and recorded in a cabin in Sweden, it follows last year's debut EP 'Skisser'; the title translates to 'sketches'.  NOTE: The 11-track EP II contains six new tracks as well as the five tracks found on 'Skisser'.

Touring for great parts of 2013, including opening for Anna Calvi, Boman continues to stay busy on the concert front this year: tonight, June 10 and June 12 she performs at various London venues. Next weekend there are two shows in Sweden (June 13 & 14) and in July/August she has three festival gigs scheduled.

The beautiful video accompanying the stunning track "Wait" looks to have been shot on the coast of Skåne, in the vicinity of Boman's home base of Malmo. It was produced by Studio Pop, a graphic design studio based in Malmo and Copenhagen, run by designers Kalle Magnusson & Henric Claesson.  (video directors)