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Who is Papa Jojo?

Papa Jojo is an on-air host and producer at WAWL, Chattanooga State Community College radio. He’s a non-traditional student with a corporate day job who does his show because it gives him joy.

The show is on most Thursdays 18-21h ET. Genre? Local music & new music & fun music + an occasional deep dive. Requests? ℡423.697.4406 and @papajojoradio on Twitter.

A podcast of Papa Jojo’s shows is on its way. More to come. Watch this space.

Sufjan Stevens in Vulture

Sufjan Stevens’s catalogue feels wild and untamable. In just a year span, between September 2020 and 2021, the singer-songwriter and Asthmatic Kitty Records founder debuted almost five hours of music: the pensive, electronic album The Ascension; the ambient, mournful Convocations; and the film-obsessed A Beginner’s Mind, where he and artist Angelo De Augustine wrote songs about a string of horror and action-adventure movies. In the aughts, Sufjan’s Michigan and Illinois albums earned a massive following impressed not just by his heartfelt lyrics, elaborate arrangements, and affecting singing, but by the way songs like “Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!” and “Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)” imparted a sense of geography and history, however subtle. It was then, in 2006, with Illinois sales sailing past 100,000 units, when he released a delightfully quixotic array of projects, including Songs for Christmas, a five-volume set of holiday tracks the performer had originally gifted to friends. The song selection revealed him as a sophisticated collector of carols, and the expedition in the originals — from the ramshackle folk of “We’re Going to the Country!” to the boisterous big-band sound of “Get Behind Me Santa!” and “Christmas in July” — mapped all the creative turns it took to get from the embryonic ideas in his 1999 debut A Sun Came to the big mainstream breakthrough.

Holiday albums are the back roads in Sufjan Stevens’s catalogue, the less-traveled trails joining the points of interest where the rest of the audience congregates. They’re also a place where the elaborate detail and abrupt stylistic shifts and secular-spiritual dualities in his art feel most unfettered, being products of a friends-and-family tradition the rest of us heard only years after the fact. By the time you figured this out, Sufjan was already miles away. If Illinois was your first encounter, you might’ve scratched your head at the winding, calamitous, synth-drenched tunes on his 2010 album, The Age of Adz, a sharp detour for fans pining for more “Chicago.” Another holiday package — 2012’s 58-song Silver & Gold — traced that evolution, getting from the gorgeous, rustic Dessner brothers collaborations “Barcarola (You Must Be a Christmas Tree)” and “Carol of St. Benjamin the Bearded One” to the glitchy, psychedelic epic “The Child With the Star on His Head.” It’s a strange journey, but the artist sees his now 100-song seasonal undertaking in a different light; ten years in, Sufjan Stevens, who once met Steven Spielberg and introduced himself as a Christmas songwriter, feels that it’s imperative for him to leave the project behind.

Read more here.

※ Lost In The City With The Feelies

Lost In The City With The Feelies:

Vikram Murthi at The Current:

The Feelies never quite belonged to the “blank generation,” a term coined by punk rocker Richard Hell that describes the midseventies New York punk scene. They certainly played alongside the likes of Television, the Patti Smith Group, the Shirts, and other CBGB and Max’s Kansas City mainstays, but they never quite gelled with that crowd. Their sound was more angular and percussive than the shambolic style of their peers. They were the jangly alternative to the alternative culture, exemplifying a vibrant sonic quality that strongly influenced early R.E.M. and almost every other band that critics would eventually label “college rock.” Perhaps the twin rhythm guitar and percussion sections contributed to their outsider status. Or maybe they never quite belonged because Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, the founding members, hail from suburban New Jersey.

more here.

Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving & no show this week

I know few places in the world celebrate Thanksgiving like we do here in the States, yet I wish you all glad tidings and thank you for being you.

Campus is closed at Chattanooga State for the holiday, and anyway I’m hosting the festivities at my place for the first time in about 20 years, so no Papa Jojo Radio Show this week.

Rest assured I am still working on how to get the show on even when I’m not there. And stay tuned here for news I think you can use.

Dear Friends, Happy Thanksgiving!

※ Phoebe Bridgers Releases Holiday Track “So Much Wine”: Listen

Phoebe Bridgers Releases Holiday Track “So Much Wine”: Listen:

Christmas covers queen (and soon-to-be Sally in London’s Nightmare Before Christmas concerts) Phoebe Bridgers is sharing a new holiday reimagining, as has become her annual tradition.

After recording covers of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” Tom Waits’ “Day After Tomorrow,” Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December,” Simon & Garfunkel “‘7 O’Clock News / Silent Night” (with Fiona Apple and The National’s Matt Berninger), and McCarthy Trenching’s “Christmas Song” with Jackson Browne, Bridgers has dropped a new cover of the Handsome Family’s “So Much Wine.” Proceeds from the track will go to the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Jump to the article to get to the links. I already made my Bandcamp purchases.

※ Band To Watch: Fievel Is Glauque

Keen listeners might recall I played them on last week’s show, “the Perfect Idiot” off of last year’s God’s Trashmen Sent To Right The Mess. It’s a lofi jazzy number I find enticing listening.

Band To Watch: Fievel Is Glauque:

Even if you’re finding Fievel Is Glauque through the dystopian choices made by the algorithm of your choice, it still feels like you’re unearthing something archaic and unsung. The globetrotting duo’s output sounds like it should adorn the grooves on the type of long-forgotten LP you could stumble upon in the back of a dusty record shop. It makes sense why: The band was co-founded by Brooklyn-by-way-of-Brattleboro, Vermont avant-garde veteran Zach Phillips. He spent the 2010s using his anti-capitalist, no frills temperament to shape the label OSR Tapes while he also played in underground acts like Blanche Blanche Blanche, Grendel’s Mother, and Perfect Angels. Fievel Is Glauque finds Phillips building upon this unique background, teaming up with Brussels, Belgium-based singer Ma Clément for an enigmatic band that thrives on curmudgeonly spontaneity.

Phillips and Clément were introduced by their mutual friend (and soon to be collaborator) Eric Kinny back in 2018 during a moment of serendipitous chaos. Phillips was subletting a friend’s studio in Brussels for a spell, loosely working on some music but mostly on vacation. Things took an unexpected turn when Phillips hit his temple on a pole and knocked himself out for a second. Worried that Phillips might experience a head injury, Kinny called a coworker who’d studied nursing to diagnose him. That colleague ended up being (you guessed it) Clément, who, upon meeting them at a bar, decided Phillips didn’t have any warning signs of a concussion or hemorrhage. “We met because we needed to meet. That’s my interpretation of the events,” Clément cryptically tells me over Zoom.

Phillips and Clément hit it off and started working on music together, eventually enlisting a fluid crew of collaborators to flesh out their ideas. The end result was Fievel Is Glauque’s 2021 release, God’s Trashmen Sent To Right The Mess, a 20-track, 34-minute record issued in mono. “Some of those recordings are from, like, literally the first time we all hung out and played through some songs,” says Phillips. “It’s very unprofessional.” The record sounds a bit like it was recorded with a potato (I’ve fondly described the endeavor’s sonics as cardboard box-esque to friends before), but it inventively blurs the lines between bossa nova, mid-century pop, and freewheeling jazz nonetheless. And if you’re wondering what the hell the band name means, it’s fittingly haphazard and inexplicable. Fievel is a character from the children’s animated film series An American Tale (which Phillips and Clément refuse to ever watch) and “glauque” is a French word for a dodgy shade of bluish gray. Nothing about their early music is particularly polished or sensible. But it laid an intriguing blueprint for a band whose future was uncertain, given the constraints of impending distance.

“It’s great and it’s annoying at the same time,” Clément says, when asked about the impact that being an intercontinental project has on Fievel Is Glauque’s process. “Like, we cannot really get sick of each other because it’s so short when we meet, usually. But it’s so intense. It has to all happen during those few weeks when we meet. And then nothing happens, so it’s, like, waves. It’s very unclear.”

Fievel Is Glauque’s proper debut album, Flaming Swords, came to life while Phillips was once again living in Brussels. The music was written more gradually this time around. Clément would go over to Phillips’ space once or twice a week to write. They did this around 25 times, and these sessions yielded roughly 20 songs. Clément claims to be shy, so they occasionally tried a wordless process when working on this batch of music. Over tea, she would sing melodic fragments, which Phillips would try to match on the piano. They’d communicate nonverbally, embracing a faith-based mentality that Phillips describes as “arcane.” Slowly, the snippets would line up and the structures set themselves. It helped the duo not to get too caught up in debates over themes and vibes. Clément’s verse frequently takes cadence and harmony into account more than meaning. She fills in the blanks once the vocal patterns have already been settled upon. This element of abstraction infuses her singing with an essence of idiomatic psychedelia. “As steam stays under the lid/ Rumor stays right and grammar stays hid/ By parting the leaves you meet the sublime/ And there a fake you find/ Just a comedy of bogus touch,” she sings over a rollicking, fluctuating instrumental on the single “Save The Phenomenon.”

Fievel Is Glauque walked into the sessions surrounding Flaming Swords with a more defined outline than the one they had for God’s Trashmen. The recordings present a snapshot of the frantic-but-chill energy that birthed them. After getting approved for a residency at the Brussels workspace/venue VOLTA, Phillips and Clément asked a group of six musicians (guitarist/bassist Anatole Damien, bassist/guitarist Raphaël Desmartes, alto saxophonist Johannes Eimermacher, drummer Gaspard Sicz, studio wiz Ryan Power, and Kinny on pedal steel) to be a part of the record. They rehearsed nine full times on 20 songs, going off of charts that Phillips had drawn up. After playing a couple shows, they went back to the studio and laid these 18 cuts live to tape in a single block. “That was a really long day,” Phillips says. “I got there at, like, nine in the morning and we didn’t leave until 1AM.” As a tragic nightcap, Clément ate shit on her bike on the way home from the studio. When I joke that accidents seem to follow the band, both members laugh in agreement. “We love concussions,” Clément jokes wryly.

The songs on Flaming Swords move fast. The longest, the bubbly closer “Clues Not To Read,” clocks in at just under four and a half minutes. But the other 17 tracks all hover around or below the two minute mark. “Little Bad Miracle” plays like a number from some bizarre musical meant to be staged in an old burlesque theater. “4000 Rooms” is jittery and ornate, loungey guitar chops peeking out from behind funky horns. Meanwhile, the lush electric piano burbles on “Days Of Pleasure” land in between the stylings of Weldon Irvine and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The flighty curtness that underlines the record is probably just the logistical byproduct of an unusually speedy creation process. But it’s also what keeps things digestible and gripping – a necessary contrast to the album’s trippy aural murk.

Phillips and Clément claim to be hostile to the notion that they’re influenced by other contemporary bands. Instead, they point to travel, obscure Uruguayan music, and the natural ecosystem that has arisen from members of their ever-evolving backing band as their main sources of inspiration. (After our interview, Phillips emails me a sprawling list of 28 musicians who have played in Fievel Is Glauque’s lineup so far.) While the music certainly dwells in its own universe that feels intentionally isolated from current trends, it calls to mind the hypothetical outcome of Times New Viking and Sonny Sharrock co-producing an album from an indie pop band like Crumb.

The music itself comes over every other part of being a band for Fievel Is Glauque. When I ask a question based on the new record’s liner notes, at first both members seem sort of baffled that press materials accompany the album. Clément tends to be pretty elusive and reserved. But once she and Phillips start bantering, the nurturing chemistry between them becomes apparent. He often coaxes answers out of her, which typically end up manifesting themselves as flowery, poetic tangents. Clément lived a lot of lives prior to starting Fievel Is Glauque – she attended both nursing and architecture schools, lived in Germany and France, was a painter, and wrote some melodies for a defunct hard rock band – but she was never actually a performing musician. Over video chat, it’s easy to see how much Phillips believes in her talents and gently nudges her out of her shell. Her path into the world of experimental music might not have been conventional, but she’s a gifted autodidact whose lack of theoretical knowledge helps offset the headiness of the complex arrangements that support her vocals.

※ Gladie’s Augusta Koch Got Sober And Made An Amazing Album About It

Gladie’s Augusta Koch Got Sober And Made An Amazing Album About It:

The album was produced by Schimelfenig, whom Koch originally met when he produced Cayetana’s two full-lengths. “It’s funny, because I’ve always been like, ah, I don’t wanna be in a band with my partner,” she says. “But it’s really nice, ’cause I’m very self-conscious and pretty hard on myself, and it’s nice to have someone where you can feel comfortable enough to share a song [that is] very vulnerable. It’s been a very safe place for me.” She explores their relationship across the album, on tracks like “Soda” and “Hit The Ground Running,” on which she sings: “I wanna love you in the way that you still feel free” — a mantra inspired by bell hooks’ All About Love.

“Especially since I got engaged during the pandemic and I never thought I would get married, I was like, how do I want to love people, and how do I want to be loved?” Koch explains. “After reading that book I was like, I wanna create my own ethic, and especially before I commit to marrying someone. [“Hit The Ground Running”] was me thinking about all these things, and the ways in which we show up for each other in these huge shifts. This is so funny, but I think the most romantic thing that ever happened to me was when I got sick, Matt did all of my injections for me. I really [have been] able to take a look at my relationship and how my partner does show up for me, and how I wanna be better.”

Underscoring all of these life changes, and the entire album, was Koch’s newfound sobriety. Drinking was a problem she had always been aware of, particularly having spent her adult life in the alcohol-heavy world of punk music. Since she was no longer going to shows or working behind a bar, the pandemic felt like a perfect opportunity to give quitting a try. “I think it’s mostly what all the songs are about at their core, because the one thing I wish I knew when I stopped drinking was that you would just have a lot more feelings,” she says. At one of the first shows Gladie played post-lockdown, opening for Slaughter Beach, Dog, Koch had a panic attack on stage. “That straight up had never happened to me before in my life. It was horrible, but it was like, at least I’m living in my reality,” she says. “I’m a very, very anxious person, and that’s definitely why I drank a lot, I realized. So trying to play shows again, and now I’m back working at the bar — doing that and not drinking anymore was like, holy shit, this is like a whole new person.”

She adds, “[Drinking is] a tool to get through life, and when you don’t have it you create new tools for survival. Like, never in a million years would I think I would be the type of person to read before bed and drink tea and wake up and do yoga — I would laugh hysterically at that version of myself, but I’m happier doing those things now. I always talked about mental health in Cayetana, and I think in my heart I knew that I would never be able to really work on my mental health if I was still drinking. And since I’ve stopped and I’ve found the best therapist, I’ve been able to work on my mental health in the way that I needed to for years.”

With the release of Don’t Know What You’re In Until You’re Out, Koch feels ready to embrace a new vision of her life and career. “I feel a healthier sense of self, that isn’t tied to music; I’m more secure in [myself], and feeling a better sense of personhood,” she says. “I am trying to appreciate things as they happen, instead of worrying about what other people think as much. I remember Cayetana being on best of the year lists, and I was so depressed at the time. And now I’m like, ‘I wish people liked my new band, and I wish I could be where I used to be,’ but none of that stuff really matters in the long run. I love making music, music is what saves my life, music is what makes me feel good. I wanna make music that makes people feel any type of way, and not worry about all the stuff that really doesn’t matter.”

I preordered the new album and listen to the two early release tracks on a regular basis. Happy to have the whole album in my hands.

※ The many incarnations of King Crimson

The many incarnations of King Crimson:

There are few bands who’ve gone through so many different lineups, with each incarnation having its own unique character and artistic impact, than King Crimson.

 

To tell their full story, Warren of Produce Like A Pro needed two episodes of his “Artists Who Changed Music.”

 

 

 

Bonus Track:

 

※ Mariah Carey Denied “Queen Of Christmas” Trademark

Mariah Carey Denied “Queen Of Christmas” Trademark:

In recent years, now that her days of pop-chart domination are otherwise behind her, Mariah Carey has leaned into the ongoing popularity of her holiday standard “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

^ A garbage song.

Thanks to the advent of streaming, the song — originally released in 1994 — has become a constant in the top 10 throughout the yuletide season, and starting in 2019 it has hit #1 on the Hot 100 every December.

Programmers program it to pay, lest one thinks actual DJs want to hear this song.

Renewed attention for the song has resulted in at least one lawsuit, and some of Carey’s fellow musical artists have bristled at her attempt to trademark the phrase “Queen of Christmas.”

It’s ridiculous that such “properties”, a.k.a. former artists who look to milk whatever they can of their relevance, try to trademark such broad terms. 

In August, Elizabeth Chan — who purports to be the only full-time Christmas songwriter, who was dubbed a “queen of Christmas” in a 2018 New Yorker profile, and who released an album called Queen Of Christmas last year — filed court documents seeking to block Carey from trademarking the phrase.

I both support and don’t support Mx. Chan.

Three months later, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has denied Carey’s application, noting that her legal team did not respond to Chan’s opposition. The patent office also denied Carey’s request to trademark the terms “Princess Christmas” and “QOC.”

Good, because it’s bs that ANYONE gets that trademark. The amount of existing art in this arena must be massive.

“I’m so happy,” Chan told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s my life’s work.” Chan’s lawyer Louis Tompros added, “This is the right result. If Mariah’s team had any answer to the opposition that we made, they would have made it, but the fact of the matter is, she’s not entitled to a trademark on Queen of Christmas.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d just as soon have no one anointed the “queen of Christmas” since that’s not a thing.

More important, I am not a fan of Christmas music in general.

Most important, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is a terrible song regardless of the season.