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How The Head & The Heart Were Saved By Their New Album: "We Got A Chance To Start Rewriting Our Own Future"
The Head & The Heart

Photo: Shervin Lainez

interview

How The Head & The Heart Were Saved By Their New Album: "We Got A Chance To Start Rewriting Our Own Future"

From group therapy to tough personal realizations, the indie rock group endured an emotional journey to their latest album. The group's frontman, Jonathan Russell, tells the candid story of The Head & The Heart's 'Every Shade of Blue.'

GRAMMYs/Apr 29, 2022 - 03:08 pm

In the opening verse of The Head & The Heart's song "Every Shade of Blue" — the title track to the group's fifth studio album — frontman Jonathan Russell sings, "It's been a long year, The wrong year, To be left alone."

Upon first listen, it may be easy to assume that the song (and perhaps subsequently, the album) was derived from the pandemic. Sure, the project came together during the downtime. As Russell insists, though, the story behind Every Shade of Blue is much deeper than that.

"Whether this pandemic happened or not, this record was clearly influenced by things that did happen," he says. "But based on where we're at now, I want this record to feel good."

The Head & The Heart want fans to feel good because they feel good. Russell suggests that he and his band members — violinist/co-vocalist Charity Rose Thielen, bassist Chris Zasche, pianist Kenny Hensley, drummer Tyler Williams, and multi-instrumentalist Matt Gervais — are in the best place they've been since forming 12 years ago.

But that didn't come without a lot of hard work — and the near end of the group altogether. The Head & The Heart spent the last couple of years going to therapy as a band, an experience that helped unleash Every Shade of Blue, their most ambitious record to date.

The album's 16 tracks see the indie-folk group implementing more synths and punchy beats than ever before, particularly evidenced in songs like "Hurts (But It Goes Away)" and "Paradigm." Naturally, vulnerability rings loud across the entire LP, from the forthright "Don't Show Your Weakness" to the confessional "Taking My Time (Wrong Woman)." As a whole, Every Shade of Blue is as sonically all-encompassing as its colorful title.

Russell detailed the introspective journey that led to The Head & The Heart's fifth album in a candid conversation with GRAMMY.com. Below, in Russell's own words, find out why Every Shade of Blue isn't just another album in the band's catalog — it's a rebirth.

Anytime you make a bold statement or a change of direction — which, for me, as an artist, is why I get up in the morning, to continue to explore what's out there, and just play around with different mediums, different emotions and different production styles — you just have to accept that some people are gonna always wish you made your first record again.

It's an impossible ask. I don't want to harp on that too much, because I also have respect for those fans that are just kind of purists. And God bless 'em — they remind us to always show up and remember who we were then, and that's a beautiful thing.

But I enjoy pushing into the future, and pushing the envelope a little bit. It's part of the risk that, I think, is always worth taking.

Maybe five years ago now, I did my first write with other artists. Through that process, I met Jesse Shatkin, who is a producer. He did most of the songs with us on this record, but I started making demos with him, like, four years ago. What became "Tiebreaker" was the first time we ever met. It was just one of those collaborations where I would throw something out there like, "Oh God, that was kind of weird, what's he gonna think?" and he would hit me immediately back with a response that matched it.

This man has such an ability to understand something that's out of context, and maybe a little strange, and put it within context. It champions your freak flag a little bit, as well as harnesses it.

I had these starting places of [songs] that were outside of the typical box for me. Then I started sharing [them] with the band, and based on a lot of interpersonal relationship work that we were doing as friends — through therapy and all of this time away from touring — I think we were more prepared for [boundary-pushing songwriting] than we ever had been in the past. The band was just listening to one another again, trusting one another again. We were excited and ready to go.

More so than anything else, what affected the way we made this record — which affected the songwriting, the sounds — it's all been stemming from our relationships together. We finally had the time to sit down and rip off a lot of Band-Aids, to speak to each other truthfully, hire a therapist, work on ourselves, and have a really honest, open dialogue outside of music.

Something we didn't really anticipate was — now that we're together in a room with our instruments — we're much better at being open and honest and vulnerable. And that is when you're making your best art: when your idea is 100% presented. You're not holding anything back to preserve your ego.

Because we started doing so much work together with our mental health and our relationships, and just trusting each other again, we started making these really bold statements. And it's cool to see it, because it feels like a reward.

It's something I've always wanted, and I didn't realize that our product is a reflection of who we are. I can listen to the first record and trace it all the way to now, and what I hear when I hear those records aren't lyrics, aren't notes, aren't songs. I see our relationship. How did I not realize that? It took me 12 years to realize that.

I'm glad that this record is translating in a way that I think our relationship is being represented, which is a very nice celebration. It just feels good. So yeah, therapy — I highly recommend it. And I should say, Charity, for a while, was like, "Can we get a therapist?" Unfortunately it took a lot of us longer than it should have to agree.

As individuals — and then as a collective — learning boundaries, learning to respect your own needs, learning to say no to things is something that isn't really part of the business model [for] successful touring bands. We all got a chance to sort of start rewriting our own future. Part of that comes from being fortunate enough to be in that situation — which I'm aware of, and I think my lucky stars that we are. But it also doesn't mean that you can't have your own demands and your own respect for yourself, and your own boundaries.

Like, I genuinely would rather you tell me no — let's hear it up front, and let's think of a better idea, instead of all just begrudgingly saying, "Yeah, we can make that work." It's all these little minor adjustments you're going to continuously try and work on as you move through your life and the world. That was definitely one of the silver linings for us with all the time off.

To be honest with you, I don't know that we would have been a band much longer if this pandemic didn't happen. By the end of [our last] tour, I was like, "This was not the answer."

[Our previous record] Living Mirage was the beginning of the end if we didn't take drastic measures. Making the record, and then touring the record, was the beginning of awareness for myself, of realizing, like, "This is a culmination of how not to do it."

We weren't talking. It was like half the band was fully open, and the other half was just confused, not being heard, not being represented, not really being considered. And not necessarily intentionally.

You know, the middle part of our band's lineage was pretty tumultuous. A lot of things changed. My way of dealing with it was to put my head down and f<em></em><em>ing work — turn out songs, isolate yourself, show up with as many f</em><em></em>ing songs as you possibly can. And unfortunately, I think the opposite was what was really needed at the time, which was [asking], "Hey, how are you dealing with this trauma? This is how I'm dealing with this trauma."

Trauma meaning, we had lost a band member who was a founding member. Thank God he's healthy now, but he was really not for a long time. He is no longer in the band. And then we had another member leave for a year.

It's like, any time you're acting out in school, the first thing they ask is, "How's your home life?" Home life was rocky.

So Living Mirage — and I honestly never understood what it meant; I've finally realized what I think I meant when I said it — it was a mirage that we were still living. That we were still just happy-go-lucky. It was a facade.

[And at the time, Living Mirage was] what I thought was our greatest achievement. What that says to me is that's how oblivious I was. I was thinking that this was our greatest achievement yet, and I had half a band waiting for me to wake up and realize that I haven't been listening to them.

That's a humbling thing to realize. However, I'm glad that I'm at least on this side of the fence.

I learned a lot about connection, ironically, through the pandemic. I don't know that that was necessarily something I'd really put high up on the priority list. My wife will hate me for saying this, but a stupid little thing we say is, "Better together!" Which is so corny, and so lame, but it's so true.

We brought everybody in, and we went through this together. This is the new record, and this is — I'm gonna say it again — my greatest achievement. [Laughs.]

Trying to name anything is like, my biggest nightmare. Even a song. So when the title [Every Shade of Blue] came around — well, first of all, I feel like I have to say this: I send my demos to my mom.

She had already heard a handful of the songs, and I sent her ["Every Shade of Blue"]. Before she even replied [about] the music, she was like, "That's your album title." And I was just like, "What?" Then I started thinking about it, and all of a sudden I'm now considering what the meaning was. Hearing that gave me a different perspective.

I started thinking about how we are all going to be very changed from having gone through this. The idea of Every Shade of Blue, to me, did feel like this sort of symbolism, which is a spectrum of emotions. The color blue can be a really deep ocean, which is brooding and moody, and that part of yourself that you don't always want to see. But it can also be a really perfect blue sky on a spring day with no clouds, and it's the total opposite feeling, but it's the same color.

It sort of presented itself as something that was going to work as an umbrella. Almost like a tent for all of these circus freaks to live in — which is kind of how I think of our 16-song record, it is like a traveling circus.

This is maybe the most vulnerable I've ever felt before a tour, but I'm also the most excited about this tour. I'm looking forward to getting on stage again, finding those teachable moments, and actually being present for them.

The first 12 years were a lot of fun, but I'm now actually looking for more of a connection than I am just a singular sort of like, "That was a great time!" I definitely feel like the band connection is back, which had been missing for a little while — and maybe that's why I was incapable of [being present].

The scariest thing for me is to look people in the eye when I'm singing. It scares the s<em></em><em> out of me. It feels like accountability. Like, "Yes, I believe this." Like, "Is this guy for real?" Yes he's f</em><em></em>ing for real, he's just a little scared. That, to me, is the next step — working on that.

I remember when I first started working on "Tiebreaker." It felt like a new expression. It's a completely new way of singing, but it has utter confidence in its approach. And it's very sexy, it's got a lot of swagger to it. I'm gonna have to own that s<em></em>*. In front of people!

When I'm [singing that song] alone, I'm sliding around [like] I'm f<em></em>*ing James Brown! But in front of people, I'm like, "I don't know if I can be that person." That's gonna be a challenge for me, but one that I'm also excited and ready to take on.

There's always more growth ahead, but it's a really beautiful place that we're in right now. Our intentions are good. As simple as that sounds, our intentions are good. And I don't know that they always have been.

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Global Spin: Katerine Duska And Leon Of Athens Premiere "Babel," A Bilingual Tale Of A Love Lost In Translation
(L-R) Leon of Athens, Katerine Duska

Photo (L-R): Ria Mort, Thanos Poulimenos

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Global Spin: Katerine Duska And Leon Of Athens Premiere "Babel," A Bilingual Tale Of A Love Lost In Translation

Frequent songwriting partners Katerine Duska and Leon Of Athens grapple with a relationship full of miscommunication in this emotional duet, which they debut with a powerful Global Spin performance.

GRAMMYs/Nov 29, 2022 - 06:00 pm

"Can I love you a little more clearly?" Katerine Duska and Leon of Athens sing in the emotional chorus of their new song, "Babel." "Can we get it right? Can we talk another night away?"

In this episode of Global Spin, the two pop singers — and frequent songwriting partners — effortlessly trade off between Greek and English in a compelling performance. But as beautiful as the bilingual, harmony-driven duet may be, "Babel" chronicles a fraught relationship where, ultimately, the love gets lost in translation.

"Babel" brings the two lovers back to where they started: Frustrated and failing to see eye to eye, but still invested in one another. That narrative pairs with an equally passionate, string-filled sonic backdrop in this song, which Duska and Leon of Athens premiere on Global Spin.

The song's visual component further underscores its message. Duska and Leon of Athens perform the song from a bed, surrounded by candles and rippling water. As they wrestle through their disagreements — both lyrically and physically — the two artists make an attempt to find tenderness, but their best efforts dissolve into frustration and disconnection.

The bilingual duo have co-written several times in the past, and they're no strangers to performing together, either. Their first duet, "ANEMOS," came out in 2019; a year later, the pair released another collaboration, "Communication."

Press play on the video above to get a first look at the latest collaboration between Katerine Duska and Leon of Athens, and keep checking GRAMMY.com every Tuesday for more new episodes of Global Spin.

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Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Akon And Teemanay's Favorite Tour Meal Is So Iconic That It Has Its Own Festival
(L-R) Akon and Teemanay

Photo: Matteo Vincenzo (right)

video

Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Akon And Teemanay's Favorite Tour Meal Is So Iconic That It Has Its Own Festival

Over plates of Nigerian jollof rice, global superstar Akon and Afrobeats mainstay Teemanay explain the finer points of this staple West African dish — which is also their staple meal on the road.

GRAMMYs/Nov 29, 2022 - 05:00 pm

When it comes to music, R&B giant Akon and rising Afrobeats star Teemanay (aka Young Icon) have a lot in common. Not only are they both from West Africa — Akon's family roots are in Senegal, while Teemanay hails from Nigeria – but the two teamed up on the four-song EP Konvict Kulture Presents Teemanay, which came out on Akon's label earlier this year.

The two acts have similar tastes when it comes to food, too — though they might disagree on the finer points. Jollof rice, a staple throughout West Africa, is a dish that both artists grew up loving, even though they hail from different countries within the region.

"For a meal, if they have jollof rice for me, I will give them an extra 15 minutes of free performance," Teemanay jokes in the newest episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas.

"So the rice is actually smoked, almost like when you cook barbeque," Akon details, explaining what it is that makes this particular dish so special. "When you look at jollof, it ranks in the top five of those things you just can't forget. It's a part of the meal, every meal."

The dish is so essential that Akon hosts an annual Jollof, Music & Food Festival in Atlanta, which features a lineup of music and food trucks. But the pinnacle of the event is the jollof cook-off, in which recipes from different countries compete to see which region creates the best version of the dish.

"This year, Senegal won. But we kinda expect that, because Senegal is really the creators of jollof rice," Akon proudly explains, as Teemanay shakes his head in disagreement.

"I'm in a very aggressive, fighting mood right now," Teemanay shoots back with a smirk. "Nigerian jollof is the best jollof in the world."

Whichever regional version they prefer, Akon and Teemanay can agree on one thing: There's no better post-show meal or tour bus snack out there than jollof rice. 

Press play on the video above to watch the two stars duke it out over their favorite jollof, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas.

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9 Organizations Helping Music Makers In Need: MusiCares, The GRAMMY Museum & Others

Photo: Suriyawut Suriya / EyeEm via Getty Images

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9 Organizations Helping Music Makers In Need: MusiCares, The GRAMMY Museum & Others

Are you in a position to donate to musicians in a state of financial or personal crisis on this GivingTuesday? Check out these nine charitable organizations — beneath the Recording Academy umbrella and otherwise.

GRAMMYs/Nov 29, 2022 - 03:17 pm

Imagine a world where care and concern is distributed in a holistic circuit, rather than being hoarded away or never employed at all. That's the paradigm that GivingTuesday is reaching toward.

Created in 2012 under the simple precept of being generous and celebrating generosity, GivingTuesday is a practical hub for getting involved in one's community and giving as freely to benefit and nourish others.

Since GivingTuesday has swelled not just from a single day in the calendar year, but a lens through which to view the other 364 days. You can find your local GivingTuesday network here, find ways to participate here, and find ways to join  GivingTuesday events here.

Where does the Recording Academy come in? Helping musicians in need isn't something they do on the side, an afterthought while they hand out awards.

No, aiding music people is at the core of the Academy's mission. MusiCares, the Academy's philanthropic arm, has changed innumerable lives for the better.

And through this society of music professionals and its other major components — including  Advocacy, the GRAMMY Museum and GRAMMY U — the Academy continues its fight in legislative and educational forms.

If you're willing and able to help musicians in need this GivingTuesday, here's a helpful hub of nine charitable organizations with whom you can do so.

MusiCares

Any list of orgs that aid musicians would be remiss to not include MusiCares.

Through the generosity of donors and volunteer professionals, this organization of committed service members has been able to aid struggling music people in three key areas: mental health and addiction recovery services, health services, and human services.

For more information on each of those, visit here. To apply for assistance, click here. And to donate to MusiCares, head here.

GRAMMY Museum

"Museum" might be right there in the name, but there's a lot more to this precious sector of the Recording Academy.

The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles doesn't just put on immersive exhibits that honor the legacies of musical giants; it's a hub for music education.

At press time, more than 20,000 students have visited the Museum, more than 10,000 students have participated in the Museum's Clive Davis theater, and 20,000 students have participated in their GRAMMY Camp weekends.

To donate to the GRAMMY Museum, click here. To become a member, visit here.

Give a Beat

By now, the evidence is ironclad: Giving incarcerated people access to music and art dramatically increases morale and decreases recidivism.

Give a Beat is keenly aware of this, both on direct-impact and mentorship levels.

The org hosts classes for incarcerated people, in order for them to "find healing, transformation, and empowerment" through its Prison Electronic Music Program, which helps incarcerated folks wade deep into the fields of music production and DJing.

Its On a New Track Reentry Mentoring Program initiative connects music industry professionals with formerly incarcerated individuals in order to transfer their skills into a professional setting.

To become a member of Give a Beat, click here. To donate, visit here.

Jazz Foundation of America

Despite being at the heart of American musical expression, jazz, blues and roots can sometimes feel roped off on the sidelines of the music industry — and its practitioners can slip between society's cracks.

That's where the Jazz Foundation of America comes in. They aid musicians struggling to hang onto their homes, connect physicians and specialists with uninsured artists and help musicians get back on their feet after life-upending natural disasters.

To donate to the Jazz Foundation, click here; for all other info, visit their website.

The Blues Foundation

Headquartered in Memphis, the Blues Foundation aims to preserve the history and heritage of the blues — which lies at the heart of all American forms. This goes not only for irreplaceable sites and artifacts, but the living, breathing people who continue to make it.

The Blues Foundation offers educational outreach, providing scholarships to youth performers to attend summer blues camps and workshops.

On top of that, in the early 2000s, they created the HART Fund to offer financial support to musicians in need of medical, dental, and vision care.

And for blues artists who have passed on, the HART Fund diverts money to their families  to ensure their loved ones would be guaranteed dignified funerals.

For more information on the Blues Foundation, visit here. To donate, click here.

Musicians Foundation

Founded all the way back when World War I broke out, the Musicians Foundation has spent more than a century cutting checks to musicians in times of need.

This includes financial grants to cover basic expenses, like medical and dental treatments, rents and mortgages and utilities. Submitted grant applications are reviewed by their staff and a screening committee. If approved, the money is dispatched rapidly and directly to the debtor to relieve financial pressure as soon as possible.

The Musicians Foundation's philanthropic legacy is enshrined in Century of Giving, a comprehensive analysis of financial aid granted to musicians and their families by the Foundation since 1914.

For more information, visit here; click here to donate.

Music Maker Foundation

Based in North Carolina, the Music Maker Foundation tends to the day-to-day needs of American roots artists — helping them negotiate crises so they can "keep roofs over their heads, food on their tables, [and] instruments in their hands."

This relief comes in the forms of basic sustenance, resources performance (like booking venues and providing CDs to sell) and spreading education about their contributions to the American roots canon.

Check out their website for more information; to donate, click here.

Sweet Relief: Musicians Fund

When music people are in danger, this charitable organization sees no barriers of genre, region or nature of crisis.

If you're a musician suffering from physical, mental or financial hardship — whether it be due to a disability, an affliction like cancer, or anything else — Sweet Relief has got your back.

There are numerous ways to support Sweet Relief; you can become a partner, intern or volunteer, or simply chip in a few bucks for one of their various funds to keep their selfless work moving.

For any and all further information, visit their website.

Music Workers Alliance

The Recording Academy's concern and consideration for music people hardly stops at musicians — they're here to support all music people.

They share this operating principle with Music Workers Alliance, which tirelessly labors to ensure music people are treated like they matter — and are fairly remunerated for their efforts.

This takes many forms, like fighting for music workers at the federal, state and city level for access to benefits and fair protections, and ensuring economic justice and fair working conditions.

Music Workers Alliance also fights for economic justice on the digital plane, and aims to provide equal access for people of color and other underrepresented groups in the industry.

For more info, visit their website; for ways to get involved, click here.

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."

Moniquea

Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.

L'Impératrice

L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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