Jem debuts “Love Me Or Lose Me”

Posted: November 30, 2022 by Kat Meow in Jazz, Jem, London, R&B, Soul

Jem is an English artist hitting the British jazz pop scene with her EP, Love Me or Lose Me.  Motifs about forbidden love come through Jem’s rich tones and smooth jazz rhythms in its four tracks.  The EP starts with “Juliet,” which introduces the more self-conscious and exploratory parts of starting a new relationship.  The red flags are waving throughout – the overthinking, the doubt, the blinders over the lover’s flaws, but that’s par for the course if you’re getting drawn in by a Romeo.  “Falling 4U,” featuring Tomi Balogh, romanticizes the falling with some 00s-type R&B flavors.

A standout track for is “1.18,” where our Juliet is caught in her thoughts in the wee hours of the morning.  Smooth rhythms with spoken-word vocals lament a deep insecurity from an unsure love.  All those red flags from the first two tracks come to a head here.  Sweet and strummy guitars illustrate that frustrating feeling of uncertainty.  It’s hard to know if her lover is giving her the runaround, or if she’s giving it to herself through that endless process of thinking and rethinking into eternity.  What strikes me is how often I’ve been down this road, and how many friends I have watched spiral, asking “what are we?”  Maybe needing to ask is the biggest red flag of all.

Jem’s voice and keys fit with the shift to cold winter tones.  Final track “Fingertips” tinkles this warm EP to a close.  A solid effort from this London-based newcomer.

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Nova Scotia’s soulful songstress Reeny Smith released smooth ballad “Amber Lights” in late September. “Amber Lights” are warning signs to slow down and heed some caution. Reeny’s gospel-trained pipes are warm to the ears. It’s a sweet track with a good message, especially if you’re the kind of person that sees an amber signal and hits the gas… a possible disaster in either a car or a relationship.

Reeny’s sound and vibe are pitch perfect for a holiday album, and as we welcome the winter season, also check out her EP of holiday tracks, Where You At Santa? It’s a low-key bunch of tinkling hot cocoa ballads and Hallmark movie R&B. I’m always down for a new version of “Little Drummer Boy” and Reeny’s is pretty nice.

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The front page of his bold bright-on-black website welcomes you with the following: “You’re finally home, my fellow weirdo.” He might as well have rolled out a red carpet for a dweeb like me.  Basic Printer (Jesse Gillenwalters) and his color-blocked universe hail from Nashville’s underground, where he has developed a small but mighty following for his catchy experimental pop with electronic twiddly sound bits.  True to the tone of the album, he succumbed to his id and set it free a week early. HAHA YEAH is 26 minutes of bright vocals over earwormy rhythms as he explores relationship drama and emotional blockage, an experience he describes as a “temper tantrum” of emotional immaturity.

The album makes an interesting choice by tossing medical terms in with its robo-imagery, giving this pop a bit of iron and gristle.  The first track is called “<3 MECHANICAL HEARTBEAT <3,” pre-emoji hearts included. This tune laments the speaker’s defensively cold heart with a pretty vocal.  Boppy “TOURNIQUET,” references tying wounds and “razors in her mouth.”  It’s a little metal for the bedroom pop but I’m not mad about it – these medical references give his candied synth an edge. But HAHA YEAH gets more dark than gooey. “EVER SINCE YOU MOVED (DOWN THE STREET)” uses its mechanical voice for a fizzy buzzy confession and then lets VGM sounds express the shame and panic that the voice cannot.  Even the end of “PATIENT ROLE” slows itself down and darkly declares that “we are conjoined,” the weightiest medical word of the tune and one that shifts its sadness into what feels like a want of control. 

“PATIENT ROLE” ends up being a stand out track.  It has this mellow descent that is so smooth and beautiful while also being powerfully desperate.  A hip hop interlude from A. J. Crew slides smoothly through extended covidian metaphors.  But the biggest draw for me is how Jesse’s cutie-pie vocal wraps around my vena cava.  We get moments of his raw insecurity coming through: “Tell me/I need to know I’m needed/I need to know I’m healthy/I’m begging for empathy/know me.”  It warbles through my mellow and pokes the buttons in my needy spots.  I like the way his voice goes high.  Get it, Mariah.

HAHA YEAH reveals a lot of turmoil in eight pop tracks.  It comes to a begrudging, maybe even petulant conclusion that makes it hard to know if its voice is maturing or just yielding.  But what it does most successfully is toss in eggs and sugar to bake these contradictions into funfetti cake.  It’s a worthy choice for the repeat button, I think.

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Funhouse Mirror is the fifth offering from Danish duo Vinyl Floor.  Brothers Daniel and Thomas Charlie Pederson share vocals and songwriting duties and play most of the instrumental parts themselves.  Supported by a handful of invited musicians, the album was recorded live in Malmö, Sweden and finished in their native Denmark.  Funhouse Mirror’s ten tracks are a plate of biscuits with buttery layers of beautiful sound and lyric.  This is really approachable and satisfying melodic indie pop with gently psychedelic qualities and stark lyrical imagery.  The Pederson’s vocals have a richness, like a tint to them that I feel like I keep hearing in other artists of Scandinavian descent (Daði Freyr and Erlend Øye come to mind). They are clear, pretty, and warm.

Funhouse Mirror is a collection of minor key melodies stuffed with soaring whooshy moments thanks to its liberal use of horns, keys, and breezy vocals.  From the start, opener track “Anything You Want” is a stomper that introduces the album’s retro “grandchild of Sargeant Pepper” feel.  Following, “Clock With No Hands” and “Between Lines Undone” really center those amazing Pederson vocals.  They’re chock full of Jellyfish-like woowoos, and I love me some woowoos.  Woowoos power the engines that keep Vinyl Floor’s melancholic songs in flight.  Like much music coming out right now, the majority of songs were written in the dark years.  Funhaus Mirror is an attempt to make that inescapable mid-lockdown “Groundhog Day” feeling into something that transcends, and somehow it manages to capture both the good and the bad without being too reminiscent of all those crappy feelings that you’d rather forget, because now they feel like funnel cake during a day at the carnival.

Around mid album we start getting heady and folky, with tracks like “Dear Apollon” and “Ever the Optimist” playing with idioms and allegories.  “Dear Apollon” prays for divine inspiration through Billy Joel-esque piano soft rock, continuing that sense of listlessness: “I long for pacific winds to shake me through, today not tomorrow.”  “Ever the Optimist,” turns this common phrasing of words into a character who seems to descend into himself.  As “Ever” rolls into a delicious jamband groove, I realize these attempts to stay skyward and jaunty are more and more desperate.  

By the last third of the album, the tracks become one long narrative diving into one’s darkness and back.  The album hits its emotional nadir during “Death of a Poet,” where it changes and molts before descending into proggy grunge in “Stare, Scare.”  This one is heavy enough for some Heavy Metal-esque mental animations thanks to its electric guitars and references to fear.  For all of its tonal darkness, this one is the most optimistic as it stares mortality in the face, and suddenly drum beats are clubs bashing the brains of zombies or Nazgûl or stalfos – pick your fantasy poison.  Its finale, “Days,” is like a reward for the vigilance of battling the evils.  If the album soars through the sky, “Days” is a dusky orange horizon and a reason to set down and rest your head.  

All in all, Funhouse Mirror is beautifully done.  It carries its triumph throughout its ten tracks and still manages to end on the strongest emotions. It’s a great offering for anyone who is looking to sit in their sads and watch the clouds.

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I think it was WFUV’s Russ Borris who first played Ibibio Sound Machine on the radio on my way to work, and I was instantly hooked.  Their fourth album, called Electricity, is an infectious mix of African percussion with electronic keys and horns for days.  It’s like Afrobeat dance punk, and it’s stunning.  Their latest album was produced by dance titans Hot Chip, who are beloved in New York and are basically cousins of hometown heroes LCD Soundsystem.  Everyone in this room would have these three on the same playlist, which made me a little irritated that Brooklyn Bowl wasn’t packed to the gills with heads the way I have seen this venue before.  This is the party.  Imagine missing this.  Nonetheless, there was a respectably sized crowd of eclectics, so I didn’t feel too bad. 

The show opened with a DJ set from Sinkane.  His music was a delicious mix of Afrobeats and funk/soul rhythms I hadn’t heard before.  I’m not usually keen on DJ sets in general because I don’t want to watch people standing behind their setups twiddling knobs and buttons – I watch Star Trek for that.  But Sinkane was actually engaging to watch.  He is as into the music he’s playing as anyone in the crowd would be, and he grooves like every minute of sound he twists and twiddles is an opportunity not to be wasted – a thought given extra weight by his ominous tee shirt that shouted “HEAVEN HELP US” in bold colors.  Dancing now is surviving Now.  The crowd swings smiles and arms around a loose floor.  One crowd-goer, I thought, was doing her whole Zumba routine.  Oh, to have that stamina.

Lights go dark, and the crowd turns forward expectantly as deep tones flood the floor.  Ibibio Sound Machine descend to the stage.  They are a gorgeous set of performers in colorful printed patterns and geometric embroidery.  Frontwoman and vocalist Eno Williams was a dream in marigold yellow, draped in layers of fabric from her powerful epaulettes, and belted, like the jumpsuit of an Afrofuturist super saiyan.  Medallions dangle from her crown of braided hair.  She is utterly, unbelievably, beautiful.  

They eased in with “Electricity,” a perfect opener that washes away the “big big English/big big grammar” of the world’s nonsense.  It grows in layers of percussion and synth and envelopes you in the song’s message of love.  That’s when guitarist Alfred Kari Bannerman pulls out an austere-looking Ghanain instrument called a “korego.”  It produces this pure plucking tone that sounds otherworldly in context of Hot Chip style synths and drums.  Bannerman chants with the korego, deepening its thick notes.  Every so often you go to a show and you see a moment of something so uniquely beautiful that you know you will remember it for a very long time.  

We are, like, 3 minutes into the show, and I’m already levitated on rhythm, bless.  

I was perched at the front of the stage beneath Afla Sackey’s drums – Sackey’s face is grinning through his concentration while his hands slap out the rhythms that make my hips twirl.  His hands are a blur during “17 18 19” and I am complete – this is the tune that first hooked me.  At one point Sackey takes the mic and shares how, when he plays, all of his problems disappear.  Yeah, when you play, mine do too, heh.

Eno addresses the crowd with love.  She reveals “Protection From Evil” was written as a ward against Corona before its wobbly electro tones begin the song’s incantation.  Ibibio is a gorgeous language I can only interpret through my hips.  The funk keeps coming.  “I Need You to Be Sweet Like Sugar (Nnge Nte Suka)” and “Afo Ken Doko Mien” give us slower grooves, and Eno gets to use a voice modulator and keys during the most gentle moment of the show.  “Wanna Come Down” and “Wanna See Your Face Again” show her love for the Brooklyn crowd.  At one point, DJ Sinkane and several of the more fabulous looking crowd members joined ISM on stage to smash some percussion.  A flautist named Domenica Fossati, from Brooklyn’s own Underground System, tore into a fiery flute solo while Williams danced in celebration.  

My poor injured feet and aching body.  At one point I held onto the stage’s barriers just so I could keep whipping my aging heft from side to side.  I had had two weeks of several low-key or just plain underwhelming shows, and Ibibio Sound Machine set me alight in the way I needed.  You know you love a band when you can’t stop listening to them, for days on days on days, after seeing them live.  I only wish some snafu hadn’t taken away our opportunity hear soulful anthem “All That You Want” as I was ready to croon along to it.  But it’s no matter, I’m sure the chance will come.  Maybe one day I’ll get to see them in their London home base.  In the mean time, Ibibio’s four albums of bonafide bangers will have to do.

Ibibio Sound Machine are Eno Williams, Afla Sackey, Alfred Bannerman, Winston Blissett, Joseph Amoako, Scott Baylis, Tony Hayden, and Max Grunhard.

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Hey everybody! I haven’t personally posted to M-S-G proper in a while. Thankfully KAT has taken the reigns and kept it going and fun and fresh. Anyways, I did a video for the new Jellyfish vinyl box, When These Memories Fade. It’s a fun view, check it out. I’ll check in again soon. Thanks. xo -Soda

KODAE – Fractals

Posted: October 5, 2022 by Kat Meow in Canada, KODAE, R&B
Album art

Ooh that groove.  Calgary modern groovers KODAE released “Fractals,” combining the efforts of five intergenerational talents into one smooth beachside cocktail.  I was thinking the mix might need a minor tweak until I learned that “Fractals” was recorded live on the floor.  Annie Da Silva’s voice is delicate and lush with spacey undertone.  This is mellow Sunday afternoon R&B for when you’re sharing laughs and sparkling drinks with friends.

KODAE are Fractals are da Silva’s vox and lyrics, Owen Mcpherson’s gospel roots on the deep five, Seyoung Lee’s lush jazz textures on the keys, Curtis Sauer’s ambitious groove on the drums and Eric Osborne’s fluid harmonies on the guitar.

Kodae

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Queens-based newcomers The Heart Attack-Acks have no right to sound as good as they do for a band who “didn’t have anything better to do.”  The duo Cody and Candace have been testing the waters with their own brand of discoey post-punk dance tracks.  Their beats are properly infectious party music with a snarky sense of humor.  Candice’s vocal has this nasal sneer, with all her vowels stretched and pulled by her Lawn-Guyland accent.  “Hit me with your love buuoooawmb” she says during their unbelievably tight track “Love Bomb,” and I’m in strum-a-dum-dum heaven.

One of their latest offerings is called “Love Me.” This tune has the flavor of Love and Rockets over Delta 5 bass, groovy and a little dark.  The lyrics are snarky camp telling of an Instachick stalking some man prey on the internet, and it makes me excited to see what they might make this character look like. In June, they put out their third track, a roller called “My Heart/My Mind,” and I am certain they could get a dance floor in motion. Let’s hope there’s a video or a show out there on the horizon so we can see how this plays on the eyes.  Their B-Movie type album art makes me think it’ll be lots of fun.

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lol

Martha Zed’s debut – Cat Song

Posted: September 21, 2022 by Kat Meow in Alternative, Indie, Martha Zed, Rock

First off, let’s start with the fact that Martha Zed is an absolutely bangin’ grunge rock name.  It’s earnest but still has that rock and roll purr, much like “Cat Song,” Zed’s debut tune.  This track is ice cream and hot fudge alt-rock, a classic slacker rhythm with cutie pie vocals.  The wailing guitar at the end is the cherry on top.  This song is dedicated to the greatest love story ever told – a human and their sweetie baby murder floof.  It’s all love, and this love is one you’ll want to gobble up over and over.  Check it out.

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Danish duo Moon Panda have brought their bonus-only track “Submarine” to streaming.  This woozy trip-hop tune was previously only available as a bonus track on Moon Panda’s celebrated March debut, What on Earth.  The vocals hiss a whispery singing of the fates, and then the melody hits that beautiful coasting-through-existence motif that comes on so well for this genre.  Maddy Myers’ tone transforms lyrics about riding the city streets into something spacious and otherworldly.  

Moon Panda just played stateside at the emerging Same Same But Different Festival in Southern California.  Here’s hoping they catch on with more USian music fans, those of us who like to lay back in darkened lounges with sounds that make the spirit glide through the plane. Great tune for those who like Zero 7 or Massive Attack.

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