Saturday, May 20, 2017
Three years after dropping the excellent two-part EP 'Where Will We Go', singer-songwriter Nick Hakim has released his twelve-track debut full-length 'Green Twins'. The 26-year-old Washington D.C native graduated Berklee College of Music in Boston before relocating to Brooklyn in 2013 and it's here that he seems to have truly found his own voice.
On the new album, the soul influences are still there, but more layers, reverb and distortion have been added into the musical cauldron by Hakim and collaborator/Berklee classmate Andrew Sarlo. In "Roller Skates", Hakim has created a trippy soundscape with echoes of a late Beatles period/early solo career John Lennon. On "Bet She Looks Like You" he whips up a frothy, mad bartender cocktail of Motown, Hendrix with a pinch of country. The result is beautiful and gutsy.
The superb, tragic-comic animated video accompanying "Roller Skates" so perfectly compliments the song one would think Hakim and Kansas-based director/musician Micah Buzan were in the same room when it was made.
Fellow Brooklyn artist creative Terence Nance directed the video for "Bet She Looks Like You". I personally don't feel this clip serves the song well. But to each their own.
Tonight he's performing at Rock & Roll Hotel in D.C.
October 14: ALC Festival in Austin.
June 9: the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles.
June 12: Amoeba Records, L.A.
In early November he returns to the UK for five shows.
Other interesting facts: His mother is from Peru, his father is from Chile. Both of his brothers are musicians. He teaches and mentors kids and teens in NYC. He has spoken openly about struggling in school where he was placed in special ed classes from second to tenth grade, in great part due to his dyslexia.
Monday, May 15, 2017
The annual extravaganza known as The Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final took place Saturday night in Kiev, Ukraine. Portugal's contestant 27-year-old Salvador Sobral's beautiful performance of his sister Luisa Sobral's lovely composition "Amar Pelos Dois" won first place. A far cry from the uptempo pop or power ballad type of entry which usually wins the ESC, it was nevertheless an early favorite among both juries and viewers in the 42 participating countries. A soft, cabaret style, vintage Brazilian jazz flavored song (Antonio Carlos Jobim-meets-Billie Holiday), it clearly moved those listening in the arena and in front of their TVs at home. A wild card, a dark horse, but a worthy winner.
My personal favorite in the race however was the runner up, Bulgaria's superb entry "Beautiful Mess", performed by 17-year-old vocalist Kristian Kostov. Born in Moscow to a Bulgarian father and a Kazakh mother, he was singing from the age of six as well as competing in contests in Russia. In 2015 he came second in the fourth season of X Factor Bulgaria and was signed to Bulgarian record label Virginia Records.
One of the five co-writers of Kostov's almost-winner is listed as Alexander V. Blay, better known as Danish artist Alex Vargas whom I first blogged about in 2014, before he became a big name in Denmark. "Beautiful Mess" has a distinct Vargas touch to it, so much so that it's hard to believe he didn't pen it on his own. Kostov has stated he is a dedicated Vargas fan; it would be interesting to see them perform the song together live at some point.
The official clip was directed by renowned Bulgarian music video producer Liusi Ilarionov. The shoot required 35 actors and lasted more than 20 hours. The result is powerful and bears a great resemblance to one of my all-time favorite videos, "Iron" from 2011 by Yoann Lemoine aka Woodkid. It also recalls Lemoine's stunning 2012 clip accompanying "Take Care" by Drake ft. Rihanna.
My three blog entries about Alex Vargas:
My blog entry about Woodkid/Yoann Lemoine:
Saturday, May 6, 2017
In 2012 at age twenty-three, Haley Johnsen was a contestant on American Idol Season 11. Since then, the west-of-Portland, Oregon native has become a bona fide singer-songwriter, releasing the stellar debut EP 'Through the Blue' in 2014 and playing venues in the North-West.
Her most recent single is "Feel the Water". On March 8 in Portland, she offered up a sublime, stripped down acoustic version of this outstanding song as part of the ongoing concert series Sofar.
Another flawless live performance is "Broken Open", track # 5 on 'Through the Blue': the video was Johnsen's submission for a coveted spot on National Public Radio's renowned Tiny Desk Concert series. Though she failed to get accepted this time around, I'm guessing NPR host/Tiny Desk creator Bob Boilen invites her to do a set on the show as soon as word gets around about this superb artist who not only is blessed with an astounding voice, but is also a highly gifted songwriter. Be sure to listen to all of her songs on Bandcamp.
I'm also posting Johnsen's beautiful cover of one of her personal favorites, the 1971 hit "If" by L.A. band Bread, a classic which she manages to make her very own, never an easy feat when covering originals.
There are currently five dates scheduled in Oregon and Washington between May and September plus one gig at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pittsburgh June 30.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
|Albarn & Hewlett (Vanity Fair, August 2013)|
One of the most anticipated full-lengths of 2017 drops April 28: 'Humanz' is the first Gorillaz album since 2010/11 ('The Fall') from Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, both just turned 49 years old.
Five outstanding songs from Albarn and his co-writers have been released to whet our appetites: "Saturnz Barz", "We Got the Power", "Andromeda", "Ascension" and "Let Me Out".
In addition, Hewlett's superb video Spirit House featuring the virtual animated band members Noodle, Russell Hobbs, Murdoc Niccals and 2-D was published March 23 to accompany "Saturnz Barz".
The 20-track album is a cornucopia of guest performances: Vince Staples, Peven Everett, Popcaan, De La Soul, Grace Jones, D.R.A.M, Anthony Hamilton, Mavis Staples, Pusha T, Benjamin Clementine, and more. The 26-track deluxe version also features Rag 'n' Bone Man, among others. (Nearly all of the contributing artists also co-wrote their respective tracks.)
Summer and fall tour: Fifteen North American dates are on the schedule; many of the shows have sold out. Upcoming: One show at Rough Trade in Brooklyn April 25. Note: The UK 'Demon Dayz' event June 10 in Margate is apparently close to sold out.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
The eagerly awaited self-titled debut EP from Sarah McLaughlin aka Bishop Briggs dropped April 14. The six-song collection includes two new outstanding tracks, "Dark Side" and "Fire" from the 24-year-old singer-songwriter.
Born in London to Scottish parents, McLaughlin grew up in Tokyo and Hong Kong with her family, before moving to Los Angeles on her own at age 18. Enrolling in college at the renowned Musicians Institute while doggedly playing small venues for four years plus paid off in 2015 when former Interscope A&R man George Robertson heard her singing one night, an event that led to the debut single "Wild Horses".
2016 was a bona fide pinch-myself-I-must-be-dreaming time for the artist: the hit single "River", opening for Cold Play, recording "So Tied Up" with Cold War Kids, performing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, as well as countless print and video interviews.
Interestingly, in the interview clips, she comes across as a bubbly young woman with a solid Southern California intonation, a persona that contrasts with her less-than-sunny music and lyrics. And then there's that voice: belting like the best of soul/blues/rock greats, yet also at times turning it down several notches for a more spooky-alt vibe, this gifted vocalist has created a highly intriguing sound, one she has stated was essentially developed as early as during her childhood years in Japan. singing karaoke and being a member of a gospel choir.
Today and next weekend Bishop Briggs will be playing at Coachella. On her busy tour schedule are a string of dates the U.S.. She has one gig in Toronto May 3 plus two shows in Australia July 20 & 21.
No proper videos yet for "Dark Side" and "Fire", but here's hoping they're in the works.
Friday, April 7, 2017
|Alexander, Emil, Joachim, March 2017|
A video for "Deja Vu", the first single from Danish trio Scarlet Pleasure's next full-length (release date TBA), is out now. Shot in Nice, France by Copenhagen based director Ryan Løkken, the clip has the feel of a baby boomer era 8mm home movie. The track is one of the band's best, with lead singer Emil Goll once again channeling Michael Jackson, a thumping bass and synth bouncing along with his vocals.
A few shows in Denmark are scheduled for November; surprisingly, so far, no summer festival appearances have been announced for Emil, bassist Alexander Malone and drummer Joachim Dencker, but check Songkick or their FB page now and then.
UPDATE April 19: Scarlet Pleasure have just been added to this year´s seven-city Grøn Koncert bill. The popular Danish summer festival tour kicks off in Copenhagen July 20 and likewise wraps up in Copenhagen July 30. All proceeds have for 35 years gone to the Muskelsvindfonden [Muscular Dystrophy Fund].
https://itunes.apple.com/dk/album/deja-vu-single/id1214497777 (iTunes Denmark)
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Toronto based Allan Rayman dropped his debut full-length 'Hotel Allan' before getting signed to Communion Records (co-founded by Ben Lovett of Mumford and Sons); the label released his thirteen-song sophomore album 'Roadhouse 01' February 24.
Two stellar videos were made to accompany the superb tracks "13" and "25.22"; they were given the intriguing titles Verona's Obsession and The Cage, respectively. The first clip was directed by Gabriel Adelman, the second by Steph Verschuren; both are fellow Toronto creatives.
Together, Rayman's haunting music & clips take the listener/viewer to a strange and enticing place, one that might feature a modern era Robert Johnson in a David Lynch film, traveling all the way from the Mississippi Delta to Lost Springs, Wyoming from where the singer-songwriter is said to hail.
The singer-songwriter kicked off a North American tour late last month; he's playing at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana, CA tonight. One summer festival gig Friday July 28 has also been added to the schedule: the three-day Way Home Arts and Music Festival at the Burl's Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, about 40 miles north of Toronto. (On the same bill are top acts such as Frank Ocean, Flume, Imagine Dragons, Schoolboy Q, Rag 'n Bone Man and many more.)
Sunday, March 19, 2017
|Sensible J + Remi (third member Dutch stepped out for a moment?)|
REMI are an established name in their native Australia and have toured in the UK/continental Europe in the last few years, but the North American market has so far eluded rapper Remi Kolawole, Justin Smith aka Sensible J (drums/production/DJ) and Daniel 'Dutch' Siwes (beats/production). Founded in 2011 as the hip hop collective Run For Your Life, REMI are now part of The House of Beige, the small label started up by Smith and Remi in 2015.
For those in the U.S./Canada and anywhere else in the world who have not yet discovered this superb Melbourne trio, there is much to delve into. I highly recommend taking a couple of hours to listen to the entire two full-length albums 'Divas and Demons' (2016) 'Raw X Infinity' (2014) - both are utterly outstanding, there is simply not a bad track in the bunch which is exceedingly rare for most albums.
Gigs: Lucky old and new fans in France will have the opportunity to experience REMI next week as well as in April and in June: they have two shows at Comedie Bastille in Paris March 25 + April 29 + June 22 as well as at Theatre de Jeanne in Nantes April 22 and 23.
Hopefully it won't be long before they'll be booked for a big North American tour. Spread the word, people!
I could have easily posted a string of excellent REMI videos, but narrowed it down to four stellar clips: two accompanying "Livin´" and "Ode to Ignorance" from 'Raw X Infinity' plus "Lose Sleep" and "For Good" from 'Divas and Demons'. (Note: the director links are listed below.)
http://www.jamnawazdesign.com.au/index.php ("Lose Sleep" & "Ode to Ignorance" videos)
http://cargocollective.com/ruse ("For Good" video)
http://michellegracehunder.com/home ("Livin'" video)
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Hailing from Salt Lake City, singer/violinist Hannah Epperson is now based in Brooklyn. Her debut full-length 'Upsweep' dropped last fall and includes the stellar song "Story (Amelia)". She has also released titles via Bandcamp: the outstanding "Shadowless" can be found on the 2015 two-track EP 'Burn".
NOTE: The 'Upsweep' album is Volume I of a two-volume "exploration in bifurcated songwriting and production." Volume II will be out at the end of this year.
Tour: Epperson has two concerts scheduled in Brooklyn this month: March 9 and 15. Between May 26 and June 15 she will be performing a total of eight shows in Germany and Switzerland, a few of which are festival gigs.
The two excellent accompanying videos suit the intricate sound tapestry weaved by Epperson: "Story" was co-directed by the artist herself and NYC film maker Jake Saner; "Shadowless" was directed by Vancouver film maker Brianne Nord-Stewart.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Charlotte Mary O'Connor aka Charlotte OC has been poised for stardom for nearly a decade since the age of 18, but it has so far eluded her. Why some artists/bands blow up early in their career and others struggle for years to get wider recognition can seem like a mystery. A lot has to do with being in the right place at the right time, not to mention connecting with the right manager and label. A little luck doesn't hurt either.
After three EPs and a handful of singles, perhaps 2017 will be the year that the Malawian-Indian-Irish, Blackburn, Lancashire native enjoys her definitive breakthrough on the heels of the eleven-track debut full-length 'Careless People' release March 31 on Harvest Records. The acclaimed label dropped the three teaser songs/singles "Blackout" and "Darkest Hour" last year and "Medicine Man" last month.
While all tracks are excellent, a voice as powerful and emotive as that of Charlotte OC doesn't need a three-ring-circus presentation; a simple stage and a spotlight production approach is sufficient. Case in point: the highly polished studio recording of "Darkest Hour" heard in the official glossy video, versus the very simple and lovely clip capturing her raw, utterly fearless, tour de force live performance of the same song in front of a spell bound audience at a low key Sofar Sounds show in London last September.
At this point, the singer-songwriter has a few concert dates scheduled; hopefully she'll favor the aforementioned low key live setting when playing in Berlin March 21 and London April 19. A summer festival gig has also been announced: (the last!) Secret Garden Party in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire July 20-23.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
2017 is looking like a banner year for Maggie Rogers with the release of her stellar five-track debut major label EP 'Now That the Light Is Fading' February 17 and a busy tour schedule kicking off tonight in Brussels.
It's been quite a crazy time for the singer-songwriter from rural Maryland since her participation in Pharrell Williams' master class at NYU last March went viral in early summer, but she has handled her overnight fame with grace, not to mention a maturity beyond her almost 23 years. Having written tunes since the age of thirteen and dropping three EPs plus one single between 2012 and 2014 on Bandcamp very likely helped prepare her for the life of a music industry pro.
Tour: Most of the UK/continental Europe and North America February/March/April dates have already sold out, but tickets are still available for her summer festival gigs in the U.S, continental Europe, the UK and Japan.
Something about Roger's personality, music and videos reminds me of Feist, another exceptional artist. The playful clips accompanying the outstanding songs "Alaska", "Dog Years" and "Off + On" were all directed by American film maker Zia Anger.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
|Frederik, Yukimi, Erik, Håkan|
The many fans of Little Dragon were finally able to satisfy their mad hunger for new music this week when the Swedish quartet dropped the impossibly delicious single "High". The band's first release since 2014 is accompanied by a very trippy, colorful and dreamlike video directed by fellow Gothenburg creative Ossian Melin.
No official word yet on whether a new studio album is in the works, but here's hoping.
Little Dragon will be touring the U.S. in April and will be playing in Toronto May 4. Coachella (April 14 + 21) and Red Rocks (July 26) are among the scheduled festival gigs.
NOTE: My 2009 interview with Yukimi Nagano continues to be one of the most popular entries here on The Nightfly blog. If you missed it, go to:
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Drummer Richard Jupp departed UK band Elbow early last year, long before the seventh full-length 'Little Fictions' was completed. Released February 3, the album thankfully proves that Guy Garvey, Pete Turner, Mark Potter and Craig Potter are doing just fine post-Jupp.
The third single "Gentle Storm" is a master class in the less-is-more approach; spare yet hypnotic percussion plus Garvey's golden voice were the only ingredients needed to create this superb song.
The accompanying black/white video uses the post-production process of cross-fading: the male and female faces seamlessly blend into one another, creating a haunting and eerie effect that perfectly matches the music. The clip features the four band members as well as actor Benedict Cumberbatch (among others) and was directed by Kevin Godley who used the same film technique for Godley & Creme's 1985 "Cry" video.
Elbow has a string of shows scheduled this winter in Ireland (late February) and the UK (March); most are already sold out. In June they'll be part of the sixteenth Forest Live gigs which will include a performance in the Sherwood Forest Sunday June 25 (here's hoping Robin Hood and his merry men turn up.) In July and August the quartet are playing summer festivals in continental Europe and in the UK.
http://elbow.co.uk/ (scroll down for tour schedule)
Thursday, February 2, 2017
London-based Italian-Australian artist Francesca Bergami aka Lyves spent five months writing and recording her just-released flawless four-track debut EP 'Like Water' in an attic in the picturesque town of Ostra in Italy where her father and grandmother live. Her haunting vocals combined with the gorgeous, intricately layered production make for a soundscape that invites the listener into a world of pitch darkness and blinding light...plus the many lovely nuances in between.
It's a mood that is reflected in the videos that accompany "Darkest Hour" and "No Love". The first clip presents beautiful portraits of extraordinary-ordinary women and was directed by Nathanael T. Williams; the second visual features Lyves herself as she moves around the city by night.
The two remaining EP tracks, the superb "The Weather" and the outstanding "Free" are equally deserving of videos. In fact, the music of Lyves seems made for film.
No wonder then that London editing collective Homespun last year invited film makers to create a short inspired by "Darkest Hour". Thomas Ralph was one of four whose project was funded; his powerful winning entry as well as the other three stellar clips are well worth watching. (see link # 6 below)
The singer-songwriter-producer has two shows scheduled for this month: Sunday February 5 she is one of several performers on the bill at Studio Cherie in Berlin; Monday February 20 she has a show at Servant Jazz Quarters in London.
Monday, January 23, 2017
This week Norwegian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jarle Bernhoft aka Bernhoft dropped his second stellar EP in less than a year. The six-track 'Stop/Shutup/Shout It Out' was released in May 2016; the brand new collection 'The Morning Comes' contains five songs.
I generally don't post lyric videos, but last year's Alex Vargas-meets-Justin Timberlake track "Falter" is so good, I had to include it.
And speaking of lyrics: pay close attention to the powerful words penned by Bernhoft for his outstanding song "Visceral" which sadly couldn't be more topical in light of the increasing amount of xenophobia and racism shamelessly expressed on social media or in person by politicians and non-politicians. The excellent video was created by Swedish director August Segerholm and features his fellow Swede, acclaimed dancer-choreographer Fredrik Quiñones whose parents are Chilean.
As of now, only a few performance dates have been announced for 2017: two shows in Switzerland this weekend plus one concert in Oslo March 2. An additional gig in Norway is scheduled for summertime: August 18 in Harstad. (The light touring schedule is no doubt due to the fact that the 40-year-old artist and his wife are expecting their second child next month.)
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
London born producer/singer-songwriter Christopher Taylor aka SOHN ["son" in German"] lived in Vienna for half a decade before relocating to L.A. in 2015 and replacing his generic hooded sweatshirt with a dapper hat. The City of Angels however proved to be too distracting a place for the artist in which to focus on a his second full-length; 'Rennen' ["to run" in German"] therefore was both written and recorded at a friend's rural wine country ranch in Sonoma, Northern California. Since arriving in the U.S. he has also married and become a father. Big changes all 'round.
The brand new album's superb opening track "Hard Liquor" was co-written together with his pal, acclaimed singer/songwriter Sam Dew of Chicago.
The stunning video accompanying the song was shot in Belgrade by New York-based Serbian director-photographer Jovan Todorovic and features a haunting performance by Bosnian-Herzegovinian actor Dado Cosic.
SOHN has a busy tour schedule starting next month:
Continental Europe/Scandinavia February 13 - 27
London March 1
U.S/Canada March 19 - April 21 (incl. two performances at Coachella April 14 & 21)
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
|Marc Finn, Richard Dotson, Mikey Carnevale|
Founded in San Diego by three high school grads in 2012 primarily as a joke, The Frights soon grew into a bona fide band when they were signed to local label Postmark Records which released the two EPs 'Dead Beach' plus 'Fur Sure' as well as a self-titled debut full-length in 2013. The split EP 'DeathFrights' came out in 2014. In 2015 the trio signed with Dangerbird Records and last year the label dropped the second studio full-length entitled 'You Are Going to Hate This'; by then original drummer Adam Lomnitzer had been replaced with Marc Finn. Produced by Zac Carber of FIDLAR, the ten superb songs on the album combine the best of Beach Boys and The Ramones into a beautiful sound which the members themselves astutely describe as "surf-punk, dirty doo wop."
Marc Finn, Richard Dotson and Mikey Carnevale have six dates scheduled for next month in Southern and Northern California; the February 14 show at the El Rey is already sold out.
The videos accompanying the two album tracks "Afraid of the Dark" and "Kids" were published last year. (The first spooky clip was co-directed by Richard Dotson together with Peter Novoa. No notes are provided by Dangerbird Records on YouTube on who created the second very funny clip.)
Thursday, January 5, 2017
I can't think of a better way to kick off 2017 here on The Nightfly than to post three flawless live performances by Rory Graham aka Rag 'n' Bone Man. The 31-year-old UK singer-songwriter has been doing music since his early teens, collaborating with various people and releasing several EPs: Though hip hop was his first love, once he discovered he was far better at singing than rapping, he decided to shift his focus and hasn't looked back since. It's a beautiful thing when an artist finds his/her true calling.
The debut 12-track full-length 'Human' drops February 10. (A deluxe edition of the album will be released the same day and will contain 19 songs.)
Rag 'n' Bone Man will be touring continental Europe and the UK from late March to late April. On May 20 there's a show scheduled in his home town of Brighton, and in early June the festival gigs commence, among them: the Isle of Wight June 8-11. (More festival dates are sure to be added as we get closer to summer.)
The three videos:
His powerful 2016 hit "Human" was the song that put him on the map and deservedly so. The studio version is superb; the live version is sublime.
The outstanding title track from his 2015 EP 'Disfigured' was performed in London last year at the ongoing concert series Sofar [Song From a Room].
And finally: the best cover I've yet heard of Bob Marley's "Is It Love" from 1978. (Much credit must be given to the person responsible for the fantastic arrangement of this classic; quite likely it's the accompanying keyboard player whose name unfortunately is not listed in the notes for the video.)