Author Archives: Geoff Hong

[Music Video] Kllo – Potential

Melbourne-native cousins Simon Lam and Chloe Kaul have often been featured here on The Music Ninja, under the artist name of Kllo. They’ve returned today with their first single release since their acclaimed 2017 album Backwater, which firmly cemented their sound and identity as artists. With nothing left to prove, Lam and Kaul take some creative liberties and experiment a bit more on latest single, titled “Potential”.

“Potential” interlaces Kaul’s characteristically dreamy vocals with moody piano chords, said to have been conceived in a green room while on tour one day. You see a little bit more R&B influence come through on this track, representative of the duo’s desire to expand beyond the sonic persona that they established for themselves in 2017. The emotional track laments the loss of a love that just couldn’t work out. It comes with an accompanying music video, check it out below:

If you liked what you heard, Kllo will be kicking off a tour at the end of the month, making stops in the States before heading off to Europe. Tour dates and a ticket link are available below. Continue reading

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[TMN Interview & Album Review] The Bones of J.R. Jones’ Third Studio Album: Ones to Keep Close

 

“Listening to music is a deeply personal experience and the way one interacts with any art reflects their past.”

 

There’s something distinctly recognizable about American music– whether it goes by blues, roots, Americana, or any similar moniker. Stylistically it’s always soulbaringly expository; a reflection of our rich history of diverse musical influences. There are always those creations that are unmistakably the product of America; sounds that capture the grit of the swampy south, the loneliness of our dusty highways, and the solitude in our mountains. In his third studio album Ones to Keep Close, The Bones of J.R. Jones manages to capture all of these sounds.

 

As the production of solo-artist Jonathon Linaberry, The Bones of J.R. Jones keeps alive the flavors of genres and styles long past their original heyday. In order to better understand the man and the process responsible, check out the interview below:

 

TMN: Can you tell me about some of your influences and what you’ve taken from each of them?


My influences range quite the spectrum… but if I had to pick a handful I would say Son House for his passion and, Springsteen for his melodies, and Tom Waits for his sense of theater.

TMN: If you could get into a room with any musician, contemporary or historic, to make a song, who would it be and why?

 

JL: It would be Howlin Wolf. Nobody can write a swinging blues riff like him.

TMN: You’ve been known to find solace and inspiration in your farmhouse in the Catskills. Can you tell us more about your creative process?

 

JL: There’s not much of a process. It’s more of just sitting still and turning [off] all computers and electronic devices. Forcing myself to do that and forcing myself to be stimulated in other ways is the best to get the creative juices flowing.

TMN: How did you come to acquire your distinctively American sound?

 

JL: Can’t say why that happened. I suppose it’s just the music I fell in love with growing up. You hear something and it resonates with you at moment. It creates an experience for you. That’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

TMN: Were there any seminal moments in your life that influenced your musical ear?

 

JL: For sure, hearing Blind Lemon Jefferson in a dorm room my first year in college changed my trajectory. I wouldn’t be doing what I do now if I hadn’t stumbled in that room so many years ago.

TMN: How would you describe the Americana/blues/soul sound of today? (i.e. where’s the music coming from, what are the themes/messages)


JL: I think there’s a lot of different school of blues. Some try to stay true to their roots. I think that’s it’s own form of respect for where the blues came from. Other’s take what’s been done and try to innovate a bit… in my humble opinion many times that crashes and burns. There is the rare instance where someone comes across and something truly unique and it’s a success… but I feel like that’s few and far between.

TMN: When you aren’t creating music, what do you like to listen to? Any other genres or sounds that you’re a fan of?


JL: I listen to a lot of jazz. Roy Eldridge and Chet Baker is always in rotation these days.

TMN: On lead single “Burden”, you write that “it came out of a place where people search for someone to share the weight of the world”. How has emotional isolation, even loneliness, shaped you as a musician? As a person?

 

JL: It’s shaped quite a bit. I travel by myself. I play music by myself. Spending four weeks on the road by yourself can’t help but influence every facet of your life… socially, creatively or personally.

TMN: Is there a message behind Ones to Keep Close? What would you like to tell your friends as they listen to the album?

 

JL: There is no overall theme or message per se. The record as a whole was an attempt from me to try something a little new. To grow beyond my other records. As a result, it sounds bigger, fuller and hopefully a little more thoughtful. I don’t like telling people what to take away from my music. Listening to music is a deeply personal experience and the way someone interacts with any art reflects their past. If the music is any good it should creates it own theme with the listener. That’s what I hope to do.

Ones to Keep Close is a creation that blends together Linaberry’s diverse influences as a musician, while paying homage to the tenets and traditions of each. As Linaberry says during the interview, he stays true to his roots and his roots are his own– showing respect to his predecessors in the process. Though strictly a solo artist (playing every instrument) in the past, Linaberry incorporates the talents of his friends, artist Nicole Atkins and producer Rob Niederpruem for this latest production.

The whole album is orchestrated around making you feel something; loneliness, exuberance, energy. It has been described as a “stomp-along” experience, and the track titled “The Drop” certainly stands out in this regard. I envisioned hearing this song coming out of a jukebox in a dimly-lit bar on the side of a highway, as you hear the crack of a pool table in the back. “I See You”, a 180 bpm track that ups the album’s pace significantly, ends with classic-blues style triplets that conjure images of American muscle cars doing burnouts. The tracks “Please” and “Sister” employ the use of gospel-inspired call-and-response and hymnal organs, making you feel as though they should heard on the church bench. Ones to Keep Close sounds like the embodiment of American life and culture heard through the lens of music. As you listen to Linaberry’s latest album, think about what feelings the music invokes for you and how that could be a reflection of your past.

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Saba’s Ascension Continues @ Slim’s, San Francisco 5/3 [Event Review]

Chicago natives Saba and Joseph Chilliams came through San Francisco this past Thursday night as a stop in Saba’s Care for Me tour. The two co-founders of Pivot Gang, an independent music collective, delivered electric performances in front of an all-ages audience from all over the Bay Area. The show marked Saba’s first return to San Francisco since his Bucket List tour in early 2017. Concertgoers that had attended the 2017 show remarked upon the noticeable improvement in his stage presence and live chops.

Saba reppin for San Francisco

Early opening support for the show came from Chicago compatriot Jean Deaux (check out that wordplay), who later returned to perform the track “Photosynthesis”, a track on which she features. Joseph Chilliams, who happens to be Saba’s brother, took over soon after. Chilliams presented tracks from his debut album Henry Church, named solely for the English translation of Enrique Iglesias’ name. The rest of Chiliams’ set was similarly “tongue-in-cheek”, with plenty of references to eating “groceries”. Chilliams’ set could best be described as a celebration of self and sex. His upbeat attitude and stage presence reflected those of an artist with much to celebrate– expect to be hearing much more from this guy in the near future.

Joseph Chilliams, Pivot Gang cofounder

Donning a topically conscious Kaepernick jersey in San Francisco, Saba blessed us with a relevant display of passion and emotion, drawn from his youth in westside Chicago. The 23 year-old showed why he’s the unofficial frontman of Pivot Gang by captivating the audience with a solid hour’s worth of bars. He let on some signs of an artist that’s still really coming into his own, occasionally seeming surprised at the audience’s familiarity with his discography. Attendees responded with reckless enthusiasm for older tracks like “World in my Hands” and “Westside Bound”, while “LIFE” off of his most recent album Care for Me was undoubtedly the floor-shaking highlight of the night. After two solid album releases in Bucket List and Care for Me and resounding live performances such as Thursday night’s, you can’t help but be excited for things to come from Saba.

Don’t miss out on the chance to see Saba live. You can find the rest of his tour dates here.

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[Jazz/Soul] Ruth Koleva – I Don’t Know Why

Ruth Koléva
I Don T Know Why

Today we’ve got a jazzy new single to cap off your (hopefully) long weekend. Bulgarian singer-songwrite Ruth Koleva has shared her new single “I Don’t Know Why”, ahead of her upcoming sophomore album Confidence. Truth. Take in the soulful serenades of this new track to kick off your week!

With heavy R&B and soul influences, Koleva’s style can best be described as sensual and seductive. The talented Koleva found great early success in her Eastern European home country before eventually making her way stateside to Hollywood. Her musical stylings feature a seamless integration of many different sounds. Her upcoming album is expected to pack quite the punch. Koleva has gathered quite the ensemble– she receives help from “keys maestro” Ron Avant of Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals, Jameel Bruner formerly from The Internet, and drummer Gene Coye of Flying Lotus. Throughout her tracks, you’ll also hear the string accompaniments of the renowned Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra. Quite the collection of musical chops indeed.

Check out this new single– if you like it, keep an eye out for Ruth Koleva’s upcoming album, Confidence. Truth out on March 30th through Blackbook.

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[Show Review] The Belle Game @ Cafe du Nord, San Francisco 2/6

Belle Game @ Cafe Du Nord. San Francisco, 2/6/18

Vancouver-based indie pop band Belle Game made an appearance at the cozy Cafe du Nord here in San Francisco this week. Playing in the basement of the Swedish American Music Hall to a small yet eager crowd, Belle Game put on quite the show of passion and skill. Lead singer Andrea Lo absolutely brought the energy on a Tuesday night, holding nothing back. By the end of the show, her infectious spirit was reciprocated by the small gathering of music fans in attendance.

Guitarist Adam Nanji

Continue reading

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[Music Video] Negash Ali – Tantra

Today we’ve got a hot new video from international hip-hop artist Negash Ali. Coming to us from Eritrea by way of Denmark, Ali has had early success and acclaim from the likes of Complex and Huffington Post, and is hoping to reach new heights with his upcoming EP, The Ascension.

Negash Ali’s story is one of passion and resilience through hardship. Born in a refugee camp, Ali soon emigrated to Denmark with his mother to avoid the violence in his home country. Negash’s perseverance and emotion certainly come through in his tracks.

Check out the music video below for lead single “Tantra”. It’s a tune that’s all about shooting your shot: “’Tantra’ tells a story of me spotting a chick quite to my liking, and my efforts to seduce her after the fact. It speaks of all the sensations on this journey, the moments on earth where we feel timeless”, says Ali.

The sensual “Tantra” features vocal accompaniment from Danish singer Fjer. It was produced by fellow Dane Matias Saabye Kjødt, also known as TMN favorite Galimatias. If you like what you heard, definitely keep an eye out for Negash Ali’s upcoming EP The Ascension, due out on February 16th.

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[EP Review] NVDES – La Nvdité Vol. 2

NVDES
This High
NVDES
D.Y.T (Do Your Thing) feat. REMMI
NVDES
Everyday
NVDES
Amsterdam In My Mind
NVDES
Walls
NVDES
Where Is Your Mind

As a much anticipated follow-up to Vol. 1 released this summer, music collective NVDES has released the sequel La Nvdité Vol. 2 today. De-facto frontman Josh Ocean enlists the help of his musically talented friends once again to produce yet another energy and emotion packed EP. NVDES continues to deliver on their mission of soul-baring creative expression.

Volume 2 takes a decidedly more experimental approach than pop-heavy Volume 1. There’s a bit of everything on this latest EP, but you begin to hear some new musical inspirations come through on this production.

On first track “This High”, the EP kicks off with the familiar post-punk, distorted guitar twangs you’ve come to associate with NVDES. If you keep listening, Ocean and crew lace in some ethereal, almost spiritual crooning. By the end of the song, you’re left with a trappy banger. Quite the musical journey on this track.

Another standout is lead single “D.Y.T.”, a fun, minimalistic dance tune that we featured previously here on TMN. NVDES draws on the help of talented vocalist Remmi for this tune. The following track, “Everyday”, shows a soulful side of NVDES that we haven’t quite seen before. Alongside a distinctly retro sampling/production style, this track introduces a new funky side to the lost love that Ocean so often enjoys writing songs about.

On the whole, Vol. 2 makes it evident that Ocean is delving deeper into certain aspects of his creative repertoire, going beyond the pop-punk electro sound that NVDES initially became known for. Leaning on heavier and darker beats, and lacing in funk and soul elements, NVDES makes an unexpected yet welcome musical pivot, while staying true to their roots of free-flowing, unstructured musical exploration. 

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