New Updates Weekly & Ticket Giveaways
Sat 11/12 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
The Commonheart - Record Release
Tue 11/22 at Club Cafe
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Fri 11/18 at Club Cafe
Ted Leo (Solo)
Sun 11/20 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
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Sun 12/04 at Club Cafe
Delta Rae Winter Acoustic Tour
Tue 12/13 at Club Cafe
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Adam Torres (Solo)
Su 11/06 at Club Cafe
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Wed 11/26 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Start Making Sense: A Tribute to The Talking Heads
Tue 10/25 at Mr. Smalls Theatre
Tue 11/22 at Stage AE
There are few bands that can or will match Sweden’s Opeth. Since forming in the tiny Stockholm suburb of Bandhagen in 1990, the Swedes have eclipsed convention, defiantly crushed the odds, and, most importantly, crafted 12 stunningly beautiful, intrinsically intense albums to become one of the best bands on the planet; whether that be live or on record. Ask any Opeth fan. Enquire with any band that’s shared the proverbial pine with the Swedes. Or, get a label representative to talk Opeth. They’ll all tell you the same thing: Opeth are peerless. And they’re only getting better.
Opeth’s new album, Sorceress, their first for Nuclear Blast via the band’s imprint label Moderbolaget Records, is proof chief architect Mikael Åkerfeldt has a near-endless well of greatness inside. From the album’s opener “Persephone” to “The Wilde Flowers” and “Strange Brew” to the album’s counterpart title tracks “Sorceress” and “Sorceress II”, Opeth’s twelfth full-length is an unparalleled adventure, where visions cleverly and secretly change, colours mute as if weathered by time, and sounds challenge profoundly. Sorceress is, by definition, moored in Åkerfeldt’s impressive record collection—his one true vice—but, as always, there’s more invention than appropriation at play.
“This time around I didn’t think about what I wanted to do,” Åkerfeldt reveals. “I was forced to write. But once I started, it was easy. This record, like the last record, didn’t take long to write. Like five or six months. The thoughts behind this record developed as I was writing. The only thing I was thinking about with this record was to write that songs didn’t musically connect. I made sure if I had a song that was new sounding for this record, I’d make the next song completely different. I think the songs are very different from one another. It’s very diverse.”
Certainly, every Opeth record has had diversity. In 1995, Orchid reset the rules of death metal. Six years later, Blackwater Park hit the high note for musicality in a genre generally devoid of it. Damnation, in 2003, was the work of a band determined to upend the norm. Five years after that, Watershed closed Opeth’s chapter on death metal by visiting its darkest corners and holding its native brutality aloft. And in 2014, Pale Communion officially bridged the progressive music gap by twisting the intrepid sounds of ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s into contemporary brilliance. So, really, what’s so different about Sorceress?
“My music taste got a little wider,” grins Åkerfeldt. “I started listening to jazz. I bought a lot of Coltrane records. I never really thought Coltrane would be for me because I like ‘dinner jazz.’ I like comfortable, soft, nice, and lovely jazz. Like Miles Davis’ ‘50s stuff. Porgy and Bess, for example. I guess Dave Brubeck fits in there, too. So, that’s the only new influx of musical inspiration for me. Other than that, I’ve been buying the same type of records I always have. Prog, symphonic rock, singer/songwriter, metal, hard rock… But there wasn’t anything that set me off like The Zombies or Scott Walker. Nothing got me going this time.”
Actually, that’s not entirely true. Åkerfeldt’s always mining for progressive gold. Good, rare music is particularly good at getting his motor running. He found double-gold in one-off Italian outfit Il Paese dei Balocchi and Bobak, Jons, Malone’s ultra-obscure Motherlight album. To wit, get Åkerfeldt talking about either and he’s all too pleased to discuss the finer points of Il Paese dei Balocchi’s string-based darkness or how he fan-boyed Malone via email to get the famed British orchestrator and one-time Iron Maiden producer to contribute to Sorceress.
“I absolutely love Il Paese dei Balocchi,” Åkerfeldt professes. “They did one album. It’s insanely good. It has everything I love about progressive rock in it. This album is so orchestrated and epic. It’s got lots of string sections. It’s very moody, dark, and sad. It’s a mystery they didn’t do any more. As for Will Malone, he did the strings and stuff for the Sabbath records—Sabotage and Never Say Die! But now he does strings for pop artists like Joss Stone, The Verve, Depeche Mode. I looked him up, mostly because he was the house engineer for Morgan Studios in the ‘60s. He was also in a few bands. Like Orange Bicycle and played on the Motherlight album. He also had a solo record, which is also amazing and superbly rare. It’s orchestral. The bulk of it is strings. It’s kind of like Nick Drake.”
Åkerfeldt’s quick to point out, however, his newfound progressive music loves didn’t directly inspire him to write Sorceress. The majority of the album was penned in Opeth’s rehearsal space, where, nestled comfortably in a corner, a computer, a keyboard, and a microphone sit ready for the next Opeth epic. It isn’t plush, but it’s exactly the type of environment the frontman needs to focus his creative self into song.
“When I’m in a writing mode, I have tunnel vision,” says Åkerfeldt. “I have a really good work ethic. I go down to the studio everyday early in the morning and I work. I absolutely love it. It’s so much fun. It’s much easier now, too. I write complete demos. I sequence the songs in the order I want them to be on the record. I do mixing. I do overdubs. Once I’m done, I give copies to the guys so they can listen to the album. They practice to it on their own. When it’s time to go into the studio, everybody does their own thing. It obviously works.”
For Sorceress, Opeth returned to Rockfield Studios in Wales, where the Swedes had tracked Pale Communion in 2014 with Tom Dalgety. The experience was so positive and historical—the countryside studio was also home to pivotal Budgie, Queen, Rush, Judas Priest, and Mike Oldfield recordings—there really was no other option for Opeth and crew. Rockfield Studios or bust! The studio, with Dalgety yet again in tow, provided the necessary isolation, the right bucolic atmosphere, the best gear, and three square meals a day for Sorceress to come out the other end spitting fire. All in 12 bittersweet days, too.
“There was a time when I came out of our recordings a wreck,” Åkerfeldt bemoans. “But now I come out with a wish. I wish it wouldn’t have gone so quickly. There’s emptiness after I leave the studio. I love writing and recording in the studio. It’s lovely at Rockfield. It’s in the sticks. It’s got horses and cows. There’s lots of sheep in Wales. But the studio is just a studio. It’s so beautiful there. So quiet. It’s a residential studio as well, so we live there while we’re recording. We have chefs for us, too. So, we can just be there, playing, recording, and hanging out.”
If life is like a Peter Max poster, the lyrics to Sorceress aren’t. There’s color, but they’ve been treated, corrupted, and befouled. That is to say, they’re much darker. Some of bleak lyrical tones stem from Åkerfeldt’s personal life—and are thusly contorted beyond recognition—while others touch grimly on topics like love and what happens to people on the other side of it. In fact, some of the lyrical ideas are similar to what was happening on Blackwater Park.
“I made sure to write good lyrics,” Åkerfeldt laughs. “This sounds very old-fashioned black metal to say, but the lyrics are misanthropic. It’s not a concept record, so there’s no theme running through the record. Most of the record deals with love. The negative aspects of love. The jealously, the bitterness, the paranoia, and the mind games of love. So, it’s a love record. Love songs. Love can be like a disease or a spell.”
Luckily, for Åkerfeldt and crew—bassist Martín Méndez, drummer Martin Axenrot, guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, and keyboardist Joakim Svalberg—the lineup doesn’t have to deal with Sorceress’ main theme. They’ve been together since Heritage was completed, and according to Åkerfeldt he’s not been in a better band situation before. Not since Orchid. Not since Still Life. Not since Ghost Reveries.
“It’s the best band situation I’ve ever had. Fans will look at our eras and have their favorite lineup, but this is the best. Even the happiest days of the first and second lineups aren’t comparable to what I have now. We never fight. It’s like a good work team. We know each other professionally and personally. As much as we’re a band, we’re also friends. We hang out when we’re not doing Opeth.”
A core team is a good thing, when Opeth’s credibility is in full view of fans and critics. Åkerfeldt’s very aware of what the masses have had to say about Opeth since Watershed. While some disliked the musical shift on Heritage, most have applauded it. They’ve come to expect something new from Opeth. True to form, Sorceress will give long-time fans and weary critics reason to re-think Opeth and what it takes to be musically fearless.
“I hope they’ll like the record,” posits Åkerfeldt. “I can only talk from my perspective and taste here, but we offer diversity that’s not really present in the scene today. Whatever genre. We’ve always been a special band. We’ve gotten a lot of shit for being different. We still do. Our time will come, I think. It comes down to perseverance. It comes down to not giving up or giving in to public opinion. Music is about doing your own thing or going your own way." There are few bands that can or will match Sweden’s Opeth. Since forming in the tiny Stockholm suburb of Bandhagen in 1990, the Swedes have eclipsed convention, defiantly crushed the odds, and, most importantly, crafted 12 stunningly beautiful, intrinsically intense albums to become one of the best Read More
Love doesn’t look the way you’ve imagined it. It is about joy, but it is also about suffering and heartache. It is a choice to keep holding on to love, especially when it’s hard, especially when it hurts. This is the sentiment on which Anthony Green’s fourth solo album centers. The eleven intimate tracks on Pixie Queen, a follow-up to 2013’s Young Legs, are love songs, but they are unlike any love songs you’ve ever heard.
Anthony started writing the songs on Pixie Queen two years ago while Circa Survive was creating their 2014 album Descensus, happening on the theme almost accidentally. “I ended up with all these songs about my wife, who is the love of my life, and about how difficult it is to have a relationship and be a parent and be a touring musician and to have mental health issues and be a recovering addict,” Anthony says. “It’s really difficult to be in a relationship with someone like me. I started writing more songs about that and compiling them into a record. It’s about not being sure whether you’re holding on to a relationship or whether it’s fate. I wanted to put all those feelings into one place.”
Much of Pixie Queen was solidified in early 2016, just before Anthony headed into the studio with producer Will Yip (who the singer refers to as “his Nigel Godrich”) to lay down the tracks over two weeks in April. In the studio, Anthony enlisted the help of Good Old War’s Tim Arnold and Keith Goodwin, who played drums and keyboards on the album. The songs are primarily acoustic, with no electric guitar appearing on the album, and Anthony’s sonic goal was to create a “campfire album” where every track retains the warmth and intimacy it was written with.
“It feels like a shift away from my last solo album,” Anthony notes. “I wanted it to feel like you were listening to a real band. I wanted to keep that sense of the acoustic guitar and vocal without having it be too boring. I was nervous to put drums on it because I didn’t want to take away from that campfire feel, but everyone managed to compliment the vocals and hug the rhythm of the guitar. You can taste those elements, but they’re not overpowering.”
There is a sense of hopefulness throughout the album, despite its moments of introspective sadness. “East Coast Winters,” a soulful, stripped down number, is the last song Anthony wrote while on heroin. The musician was compelled by his tumultuous state to pen the lyrics, which deal with his wife’s steadfast support despite how badly he was going through addiction. “Will It Be,” a buoyant ballad, centers on missing his wife and three young sons while on tour. “It’s about not being sure if I’m doing the right thing by being away from them,” Anthony notes. “It is destroying our relationship or is it creating the ultimate bond?”
As the songs unfold, from chirping opener “You’ll Be Fine” to its lush self-titled closer, Pixie Queen asks questions it can’t necessarily answer. And that, to Anthony, is the point. “A lot of the record is about confusion and trying to understand whether something is worth holding on to,” he explains. “When you’re on a mechanical bull the longer you can keep holding on the easier it becomes to navigate its movements. It makes you stronger, but sometimes it’s really hard and it can be way easier to let go and get flung off. None of it comes with a clear yes or
no – it’s a choice you make. Love is the opposite of what you think it’s supposed to be. It’s about how strong you are. And when you do make it through there are moments that are undeniable and you’re so grateful.”
For Anthony, who rejoined Saosin for their latest album Along The Shadow, which came out in May, these solo albums are a place for him to delve into the most honest and most intimate aspects of himself. He isn’t interested in music as a means of showmanship or theater. Whether it’s his work with Circa Survive, who will begin work on their sixth studio album later this year, or with Saosin, Anthony wants that everything he creates comes from a place of real sincerity. That openness is especially evident on Pixie Queen, which is raw both in its lyrics and in its musical execution. “I can’t pretend about anything,” the singer notes. “The only way it feels good to write and perform music is if it feels almost embarrassing.”
In the end, Pixie Queen is a story about love in all its variations and complexities. It doesn’t sugarcoat or idealize what it means for two people to find each other in the world and hold on. It’s a reminder that we get to choose whether to stick it out through the storms – and that deciding to stay can yield the perfect moments we’ve always imagined.
“These songs aren’t just about how my wife and I love each other,” Anthony says. “They’re about how we hate each other sometimes. We don’t just help each other grow; we’ve held each other back. Love is not one thing all the time. It’s beautiful and it’s wild and it’s free and it’s hard. There’s all these peaks and valleys. It can be creative or destructive. But the only way you’ll ever feel anything remotely like the fairy tale ideas of love is by getting through the suffering.” Love doesn’t look the way you’ve imagined it. It is about joy, but it is also about suffering and heartache. It is a choice to keep holding on to love, especially when it’s hard, especially when it hurts. This is the sentiment on which Anthony Green’s fourth solo album centers. The eleven intimate Read More
It's the parabolic motion of projectiles. Or, as Isaac Newton stated, what goes up must come down — that is, everything except Clutch.
Earth Rocker created an insurmountable peak. But Psychic Warfare has altered laws of physics by elevating the smart songwriting and impressive performances of that last album, setting an even higher benchmark as their now-definitive album to date.
The eleventh Clutch studio album Psychic Warfare goes straight for the throat with “X- Ray Visions” and never lets go. Working again with acclaimed producer Machine, this time in Texas, the concise arrangements that made Earth Rocker so assertive is the same harness for the combustible musical energy on Psychic Warfare. Harder, faster... let the rhythm hit 'em.
Formed in 1991, the Maryland-based band's ability to absorb different musical styles and fabricate them into a distinct Clutch sound continues to be their forté. “A Quick Death In Texas,” overstocked with signature “Clutch heavy” Tim Sult riffs and lonesome guitar licks, and the funk undercurrent of “Your Love Is Incarceration,” color Psychic Warfare with articulate musicality and comfortable familiarity.
The overall intensity of Psychic Warfare would be self-consuming without the pressure valve of a canny rhythm section. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and bassist Dan Maines have an intuitive sense of dynamics that gives weight and contrast to the forcefulness of the vocals, steering Clutch into the straightaway out of tight, exhilarating corners.
“I listened closely to the rhythm of Neil’s vocals this time around.” Gaster explains. “The rhythms he sings, are very syncopated. It was my goal to articulate these rhythms on the drums while keeping the pulse of the music strong.”
Psychic Warfare is cinematic, a soundtrack to the plot of singer Neil Fallon's imagination. The narrative of “The Affidavit” sets the scene for an album of gunslingers, energy weapons, paranoid neurosis, and the occasional three-legged mule. It's an episodic lyrical landscape populated by abstract characterization, nuance, and clever peculiarity.
“I spent a lot of time doting over the lyrics,” Fallon says. “It was fun because I have a great luxury that I'm a professional liar — that's what a storyteller is. Or at least that’s what I try to be. It's the one socially acceptable way to completely deceive people, and that's what they want. If you sing it with enough conviction, people won't question it. I just love that escapism, the fantasy aspect of it. And fantasy doesn’t necessarily equate to dragons and wizards. It can be seedy hotel rooms and sketchy hitchhikers.”
Gaster says the band knowing Earth Rocker was such a high water mark put them in a position of needing to follow up with an exceptional album. “Looking back on the process, one thing that sticks out in my mind is the amount of rehearsal the band put in. We started each pre-production day by writing out a new album sequence and then playing that sequence straight thru as if it were a set list. I think this allowed us to get inside the songs in a way we had not done before. When it came time to record drum tracks, I had a clear idea of how I wanted to play each song.”
In the past, Clutch consciously made each album conspicuously different from the last one. “We had a sadistic fear of repeating ourselves,” Fallon admits. “But over the last few years, we've realized our strengths and what it is that people like about us. Why deny it? Clutch is Clutch, embrace what you are.”
The bar is set higher, laws of physics be damned. Psychic Warfare is the new adventure, and it has no limit. It's the parabolic motion of projectiles. Or, as Isaac Newton stated, what goes up must come down — that is, everything except Clutch. Earth Rocker created an insurmountable peak. But Psychic Warfare has altered laws of physics by elevating the smart songwriting and impressive Read More
Neon Indian (aka Alan Palomo) released the long awaited follow up to 2011’s Era Extraña and last year’s standalone single “Annie” via Mom + Pop. VEGA INTL. Night School was conceived during a period of aesthetic reinvention for Palomo, as he retooled the lo-fi and spontaneous writing style he’d developed as Neon Indian by incorporating elements of the cleaner production values and dance oriented approach of his previous recording moniker VEGA, ultimately merging the two into one fast lane. Developed over a four year period, the album brims with funk-centric guitar lines, pronounced Balearic rhythms, and the most elaborate songwriting of his career.
Composed and recorded in a variety of locations including, but not limited to, the cabin aboard a cruise ship, DFA’s Plantain Studios in New York, Pure X’s practice space in Austin, Ben Allen’s studio in Atlanta, and mixed in Brooklyn with Alex Epton (XXXchange). Upon its completion, Alan noted “most of what I’ve learned about human nature in my twenties has happened after dark. People are just kind of more honest then. More deliberate. I like to call the places I go to Night Schools.”
Music comes naturally to L.A. duo Classixx, childhood friends who began recording together in 2007, united by their mutual appreciation for shimmering melody, punk rock, disco and French house. When Classixx DJ, they do so with exceptional comprehension, a clear affinity for the music they play. There’s a kinship between the songs they select and their own original works, at once beaming, breezy and wistful, descendent from similarly pop-minded melancholics like Fleetwood Mac, Prince, and Alan Braxe.
Now one of the world’s most universally respected DJ duos, Classixx have headlined everywhere from the famed Paris Social Club to New York’s Webster Hall, touring constantly since releasing their exuberant 2009 single “I’ll Get You,” which featured Lady Gaga songwriter Jeppe. Following their breakout single with acclaimed remixes for Phoenix, Holy Ghost, Mayer Hawthorne, Groove Armada, Yacht, Major Lazer, Gossip and others, for the last two years Classixx have been intent on their debut Hanging Gardens, whittling the LP down from hundreds of sessions to a svelte 12 songs.
Their musical background is substantial. Michael David fronted a major label-signed rock band in high school, and he and one-time Berklee School of Music student Tyler Blake play a wide array of instruments on Hanging Gardens.
“It’s a very gear-heavy record. We pretty much played everything in here on it,” Tyler says, surveying their Venice beach studio, a cottage which houses six or seven guitars, a piano, various analog synths and a drum kit. One of their favorites is an indigenous Central American drum with a fuzzy hot pink mallet, which was used frequently throughout the album.
“We used a lot of Prophet ‘08, Voyager, Juno-106, a lot of [Yamaha] DX-7, the Vermona drum synth, we have a LinnDrum, a [Yamaha] CP70, which is a famous stage piano,” Mike adds. “Tyler’s dad has an old American Fender Telecaster that was played a lot, and then my old man, that’s his Ibanez Stratocaster.” The album begins with nostalgic title track “Hanging Gardens,” a reference to the Seven Wonders of the World, one of which was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The opening song’s reverie continues on haunting collaborations with Active Child on “Long Lost,” Superhumanoids singer Sarah Chernoff on the ethereal “A Stranger Love,” and the coastal, dreamy “A Fax From the Beach.” Hanging Gardens concludes poetically with “Valley Vacation,” a reference to their late-night escape from their old studio, nestled in the seedy heart of L.A.’s porn industry, to their current Venice beach sanctuary.
If the quieter moments of the album are inspired by the beach, then the upbeat tracks are clearly primed for the dance floor, from churning slapper “Relight My Fire” and gleefully catchy Nancy Whang-featuring “All You’re Waiting For,” to the French Touch-inspired anthem “Holding On” sublime chords of “Dominoes” and grooving bass and live drums of “Supernature.”
Classixx excel at cutting impossibly sunny grooves, blithe melodies bred by the coast, coaxed out by the surf, expertly crafted for road trips, pool parties and dance clubs. “I really think this is a product of the Los Angeles experience,” Mike says. “Which is also part of the reason we called it Hanging Gardens. For some reason that image just reminds me of Los Angeles.” “I feel like most people would agree that it sounds like California,” Tyler concurs. “When we’re working on a song and I look out the window it just seems like the soundtrack of this city. This beach.” Neon Indian (aka Alan Palomo) released the long awaited follow up to 2011’s Era Extraña and last year’s standalone single “Annie” via Mom + Pop. VEGA INTL. Night School was conceived during a period of aesthetic reinvention for Palomo, as he retooled the lo-fi and spontaneous writing Read More
With his new album, Are You Serious, Andrew Bird has widened the breadth of his art by directly rejecting his own human experience. With key contributions from Fiona Apple and Blake Mills, Are You Serious attains a level of expression that’s a personal, evolutionary leap. “Here I am with my most unguarded, direct, relatable album to date,” Bird says, “Go easy on me.”
“I set out to make a record that’s diferent than any I’ve made before,” he explains. “I wanted to make an album musically crafed like a Wrecking Crew session, where you have to be good. There’s less wordplay and more intention to process some brutal times that I went through. What happens when real ordeals befall someone who has always been happy writing from their imagination and the distance of the third person? Who has time for poetics while grappling with birth and death? What’s the role of sincerity for a songwriter who doesn’t really go in for the confessional thing? This is what I struggled with for this record. I suppose the title could be poking fun at my own foray into the confessional realm.”
Are You Serious is the second record Bird has made with producer Tony Berg, following 2005’s breakthroughThe Mysterious Production of Eggs. “Tony and I spent months preparing for Sound City,” says Bird, referring to the legendary Los Angeles studio where Nirvana recorded Nevermind and Neil Young made After The Gold Rush. “We went through every part of every song, every note, scrutinizing the voicing of the chords, fnding melodically interesting ways to move from one chord to the next. I decided to work with a producer because I wanted the recording process to be more rigorous. Novelists have editors and playwrights workshop their drama. Tony really played that role for me on this album.”
An up-tempo blitz addressing personal chemistry as a rearrangement of molecules, “Roma Fade” may be the album’s centerpiece. Its sense of longing – “from the tips of your fngers, every strand of hair …you may not know me but you feel my stare” – is based in part on how Bird met his wife, or rather, the times he saw her before they met. “It always seemed to be at a party, from ffeen or twenty feet away,” he explains. “‘Roma Fade’ and ‘Truth Lies Low’ present both sides of the phenomenon of observing and being observed. Desire draws a fne line between what’s romantic and what’s creepy.”
The album’s surprise revelation is “Lef Handed Kisses,” a duet with the singular Fiona Apple. With Bird playing the skeptic and Apple the romantic, the stop-start ballad portrays two lovers who are philosophically opposed but inevitably drawn together. It feels like it could be a lost Johnny Cash/June Carter classic.
“The song began as an internal dialogue,” Bird says. “At frst it was just my voice. Then this other voice came creeping in and I thought ‘this should be a duet if I can fnd the right person.’ I needed to find someone really indicting. And Fiona does the pissed of thing really well! She was totally committed. The session was a long whiskey-fueled night. We were unhinged, for sure. All worth it, of course… I can’t write simple love songs. People are complex. My inclination was to write a song about why I can’t write a simple love song.”
“My favorite songs I write are the ones that change and adapt according to my mood,” says Bird. Album opener “Capsized” is a prime example, having been in his live repertoire for close to a decade under various titles and guises. In the album’s recorded incarnation, “Capsized” is a propulsive gem evoking both the chamber-soul of Bill Withers and the backbeat of The Meters. Bird’s vocals are driven onward by drummer Ted Poor and bassist Alan Hampton. The musically expansive nature of Are You Serious is due in part to ace ensemble players like Poor and Hampton, and the guitar playing of Blake Mills. “Blake raises the bar and gets where I’m coming from like few musicians I’ve met. He’s as restless as I am and gets the odd accents and microtonal stuf that’s outside western music.”
The album closer “Valleys of the Young” encapsulates the album’s themes. This is what Andrew means of when he uses the word “brutal.” “For years now, the code I’ve been trying to crack is how to translate plainspoken real life into song and have it meet my melodic, syntactic standards. There are no riddles here. No encryption. I’ve lef the valley of the young, the small-seeming dramas, the brunch and misery, for a far more perilous place where your heart breaks from cradle to grave. The musical setting for this had to ensure that both young and old listeners can relate. Tony kept making us look at photos of the dust bowl storms raging across the prairie, the ones that made Woody Guthrie sing ‘So long it’s been good to know ya.’”
Jettisoning established methods begets reinvention. This is part of the great success of Are You Serious. See how it plays out in person on Bird’s 17-date Spring 2016 tour, kicking of March 30 at The Ryman in Nashville. “I never walk onstage knowing what I’m doing,” says the artist. “It’s a shrug-of-the-shoulders approach and people like it, it seems human to them. I began playing with the idea of reinvention, so that onstage a wild untamed thing can happen. I wanted to make a record that lets me subvert or expand my onstage personality.”A personality now ready to answer the question, Are You Serious. With his new album, Are You Serious, Andrew Bird has widened the breadth of his art by directly rejecting his own human experience. With key contributions from Fiona Apple and Blake Mills, Are You Serious attains a level of expression that’s a personal, evolutionary Read More
"I'm realizing more and more every day that you can make anything happen for yourself if you really want to," says Moon Hooch horn player Mike Wilbur. "You can change your existence by just going out and doing it, by taking simple actions every day."
If any band is a poster child for turning the power of positive thoughts and intention into reality, it's the explosive horn-and-percussion trio Moon Hooch. In just a few short years, the group—Wilbur, fellow horn player Wenzl McGowen, and drummer James Muschler—has gone from playing on New York City subway platforms to touring with the likes of Beats Antique, They Might Be Giants, and Lotus, as well as selling out their own headline shows in major venues around the country. On ‘Red Sky,' their third and most adventurous album to date, the band uses everything they've learned from their whirlwind journey to push their sound to new heights, bringing together the raw, transcendent energy of their live performances and the sleek sophistication of their studio work into a singular, intoxicating brew that blends elements of virtuosic jazz, groovy funk, and pulse-pounding electronic dance music.
"I think ‘Red Sky' is more focused than any of our past albums," reflects McGowen. "We practice meditation and yoga, and I think that we're more evolved as people than we've ever been right now. That evolution expresses itself as focus, and through focus comes our energy."
It was two years ago that the band released ‘This Is Cave Music,' an exhilarating thrill ride that earned rave reviews from critics and fans alike. NPR hailed it as "unhinged" and "irresistible," praising each musician's "remarkable abilities" and naming their Tiny Desk Concert one of the best in the prestigious series' history. The album followed their 2013 debut, which had Relix swooning for their "deep bass lines, catchy melodies and pounding rhythms," while the Wall Street Journal celebrated their "electronic house music mixed with brawny saxophone riffs." Though the band—whose members initially met as students at the New School—turned heads in the music industry as relative unknowns with a charismatic, unconventional sound (they play with unique tonguing techniques and utilize found objects like traffic cones attached to the bells of their horns to manipulate tone, for instance), they were already a familiar and beloved sight to straphangers in New York, who would react with such joy and fervor to their impromptu subway platform sets that the NYPD had to ban them from locations that couldn't handle the crowds. NY Mag once referred to their sound as "Jay Gatsby on ecstasy," while the NY Post fell for their "catchy melodic hooks and funky rhythms," saying they had "the power to make you secretly wish that the short [subway] wait becomes an indefinite delay."
While the band's busking days are behind them now, the lessons they learned from all those platform parties helped guide their approach to recording ‘Red Sky.'
"What we discovered playing in the subway," McGowen explains, "is that the more focus and the more energy you put into the music, and the more you listen to everything around you and integrate everything around you into your expression, the more the music becomes this captivating force for people."
Recorded at The Bunker studio in Brooklyn, ‘Red Sky' is nothing if not captivating. The album opens with the tribal urgency of the title track and proceeds, over the next 45 minutes, to utterly demolish any and every possible barrier that could stand between your ass and the dance floor. On ‘Shot,' Wilbur sings a stream of consciousness vocal line over an airtight groove, while "Psychotubes" channels the apocalyptic fire and brimstone of death metal, and the staccato intro of "That's What They Say" gives way to a gritty, late-night come-on of a saxophone line that's far more suggestive than any whispered words ever could be.
Though the band is heavily inspired by electronic music, they made a conscious effort to use as little in the way of "studio tricks" as possible on ‘Red Sky,' aiming instead to capture the sound of their live show, which has evolved significantly from their days underground.
"When we were playing in the subways, we were playing entirely acoustic," explains Wilbur. "It was just two saxes and a drum set. Then Wenzl acquired a baritone sax and we all started getting into music production and incorporating electronic music into our live shows."
At their performances, the band now plays through what they call a Reverse DJ setup, in which the live sound from their horns runs through Ableton software on their laptops to process recorded effects onto the output. In addition, to flesh out their sound on the road, the band began utilizing Moog synthesizers, an EWI (an electronic wind instrument that responds to breath in addition to touch), and other more traditional instruments like clarinets. Wilbur added vocals to his repertoire on some tracks (something the subway never allowed him to do), and Muschler, meanwhile, traveled halfway around the world to expand his percussion skills.
"I went to India, and the first morning I woke up, it was like 5am, and I followed this music along the banks of the Ganges," he remembers. "I eventually ended up finding this amazing tabla player, and after his performance, I asked him for lessons. He agreed, and I went for daily lessons with him and another guy for the next two weeks. After that, I took a train to Calcutta, where I met with the guru that I'd studied with in New York, and I did morning lessons with him and practiced throughout the day. It was an incredible musical immersion experience."
The band members all speak reverently of meditation and consciousness and the role it plays in their music (McGowen believes his introduction to it, spurred on in part by Wilbur and Muschler, saved his life), but equally close to their hearts are the environmental causes they champion. Moon Hooch tries to live up to their green ideals while traveling as much as possible, playing benefit shows, supporting local farmers and co-ops, participating in river cleanups, filming informative videos for their fans, and more. The band even runs a food blog, Cooking In The Cave, in which they highlight the healthy, sustainable, organic recipes they utilize with their mobile kitchen setup on tour.
For the members of Moon Hooch, commitments to consciousness and environmentalism and veganism and philosophy and peace aren't separate from their commitment to music, but actually integral parts of it. It's all tied into that same core approach that led to their discovery on the subway platform: try, even if it's just a little bit every day, even if it's just with the power of your mind, to make the world less like it is and more like you wish it could be.
"I'd say all of our songs express the essence of that kind of energy," concludes McGowen, "because before you can even think any thoughts, there exists the energy that drives those thoughts, and that energy is intention. I feel like we're putting the intention of positive change constantly into our music. While we're playing, I often see the future emerging: skyscrapers getting covered in plants, frowns turning into smiles, fistfights into hugs. I can see the energy of love and collaboration and trust replace the energy of fear, hatred and violence."
It's an ambitious vision, to be sure, but considering the band's track record at turning their thoughts and dreams into action and reality, perhaps it's only a matter of time. "I'm realizing more and more every day that you can make anything happen for yourself if you really want to," says Moon Hooch horn player Mike Wilbur. "You can change your existence by just going out and doing it, by taking simple actions every day." Read More
Mortality. It's the primary reason we don't live forever. If not for our mortality, the number of years each of us would have to roam this earth would be as infinite as the sands of time running through the earth itself. When extraterrestrials eventually make first contact with us within the next twenty years, the first glaringly obvious thing they will notice…is that we die. They will come to our planet with sinister intentions and they will immediately have the upper hand because we die…and they don't. It's a simple as that. And it's all because of our mortality.
While aliens (and the government!!!!!) will always be there to kill us, we have for generations used our cold dead hands to clutch onto whatever silver lining we could sew into the dark cloud of our everlasting mortality. Specifically, we tell ourselves that we can live forever, not in corporeal form, but through our creations of art…and our expressions of love.
Thusly, art and love are more important than ever, because they are now the conduits that preserve our life forces. If you don't create art and you don't love nobody…well then, you will be forgotten, rather quickly. No one wants to be forgotten rather quickly. No one more so…than Electric Six.
Electric Six understands all this stuff as it prepares to unveil its eleventh studio album Bitch, Don't Let Me Die!, which will be released on October 6 on Metropolis Records. The album is steeped in themes of mortality, death, discorporation and discoloration…all while it tries to convince you it is actually a work of art, a labour of love.
From the pounding, driving opener, "Drone Strikes", through the 1970s guitar anthem "Two Dollar Two", Bitch, Don't Let Me Die! reveals that Electric Six knows that it is going to die, but will not go out quietly. From there, the album moves through the pop goodness of "Kids Are Evil" and "A Variation of Elaine", the prog-rock showmanship of "Slow Motion Man", and even a tribute to Elvis Presley in his more rotund years with "Dime Dime Penny Dime".
"Big Red Arthur" is the anchor track of the album, as it emits a rock-opera bombast that is reminiscent of Radiohead sodomizing David Bowie in the center of his mind. It, like most of the songs on this record, is about death…but it's kind of funny because it's only about the death of a fake, out-of-shape drunk Santa Claus who is too fucking stupid to make it down the chimney correctly. In this case, we just end up laughing at death. And that's uplifting.
To summarize, mortality is everywhere, and this fall, thanks to their new record Bitch, Don't Let Me Die!, Electric Six will be everywhere too. Everybody gonna die someday, but with Electric Six's new album, you no longer have to worry about any of it. Bitch, Don't Let Me Die is Electric Six's brand new record for 2015 and it is available on Metropolis Records on Oct. 2. You can come see Electric Six play in your town on the I Wanna Lick The Screen tour, starting in their home state of Michigan on Sept. 25. Mortality. It's the primary reason we don't live forever. If not for our mortality, the number of years each of us would have to roam this earth would be as infinite as the sands of time running through the earth itself. When extraterrestrials eventually make first contact with us within Read More
“It’s strange to make a record of light out of a really dark year.” Foreman said with an exhale while leaning back in his chair in the kitchen of his studio in San Diego, CA “But the pain, the struggle… it’s what defines us, makes us human- the wound is where the light shines through.”
WHERE THE LIGHT SHINES THROUGH (2016 Vangard/Concord), SWITCHFOOT’s 10th studio album, is an old-soul, rock-n-roll record with new eyes. Built out of the dichotomy of what it means to be human, the album unapologetically dives into the big, honest questions of why we’re here with a broad view of both darkness and light, pain and healing, church and state. The title track “Where The Light Shines Through” is a gospel song – an open palms altar call – bring your scars and abuse and bruises with you: “the wound is where the light shines through.”
After 3 months in the studio with producer John Fields (The Beautiful Letdown & Nothing Is Sound), SWITCHFOOT is surfacing with their most focused album to date. It’s a response to a world turned upside down: from the violence in Paris to the bloodshed in San Bernardino, from the the bi-partisan madness of America to the atrocities of Isis- this record is looking for light and hope in the very wound of our own human condition.
With their 10th studio album, SWITCHFOOT asks a question that few bands ever come to: “After nine albums together, what’s worth holding on to and what’s worth letting go?” Needless to say, only the most poignant songs survived the recording process. “We want these songs to be like a knife that cuts through the darkness,” Foreman said. Even with the weighty themes of “The Day That I Found God” or “If The House Burns Down Tonight,” the album maintains it’s life, its light, its vibrant spark, concluding with the bold punctuation, “Hope is the Anthem.”
With classic and soulful tones that reach back to an era of musical freedom and simplicity, “Where The Light Shines Through” shows the influence of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin & even The Band. While “Float” merges modern dance pop with a nod to the 70’s, other songs just stand out like headlights as some of the best songs the band has written to date: “I Won’t Let You go,” “Live It Well,” “The Day I found God” & “If The House Burns Down Tonight.” True to form, SWITCHFOOT defies classification – refusing to sound like their contemporaries. The new record sounds both fresh and well-worn, wise and yet innocent: like songs that an old man buried and a younger man dug them up.
Throughout the album SWITCHFOOT is swinging for the fences with lyrics that poke at cultural boundaries, ”Ain’t we all just Abraham’s sons? We’re just sinners with a song and drums, We all fall on our knees and we bleed the same.” SWITCHFOOT has been known to push the limits before, but “Looking for America” is perhaps the most daring stylistic departure SWITCHFOOT has ever reached for. Featuring Lecrae rapping throughout the song, SWITCHFOOT takes a bold look at what America means: “between the violence and entitlement, which nation do you serve?”
After the fire, after the hurricane, after nine albums together, SWITCHFOOT comes out of the desert wasteland with hope gleaming from their eyes, holding a cardboard sign that reads, “The Wound Is Where The Light Shines Through.”
This whole story starts in a California garage with the Foreman Brothers & drummer Chad Butler. Armed with surfboards and cheap electric guitars, the plan was to finish college. But the indie record deal from RE:Think records offered the chance to go explore the world. And that’s just what they did. Three records later, (The Legend of Chin, New Way To Be Human, and Learning To Breathe (Certified Gold -Re:Think Records)), the Foreman brothers dropped out of UCSD to pursue music a bit more seriously. Enter multi-instrumentalist Jerome Fontamillas and tone-wizard Drew Shirley.
Then in 2003, this band of surfer dropouts signed to Columbia records. What started as a high school garage band, was now a band with multiple songs in the top 40. “Dare You To Move” & “Meant To Live” took The Beautiful Letdown (Columbia Records) to double platinum, climbing charts and gaining speed. But rather than lean into the newfound success, they chose to release a darker existential rock record questioning the establishment and declaring Nothing Is Sound (certified gold/ Columbia Records)
Oh! Gravity. (Columbia Records) continued the honest search, asking gravity himself, “Why can’t we keep it together?”
Then the SWITCHFOOT locomotive came to a halt. They chose to cut ties with the volatile parter that Columbia Records had become. They built their own studio. Questions swirled. Why? What do we love? Then came Katrina. The Hurricane swept through the south lands destroying homes and lives. The band underwent a metaphorical hurricane of their own, and after parting ways with Columbia, SWITCHFOOT ( launched out on their own label – Lowercase People Records. From the storm, came the anthem, “You can’t silence my love.” Hello Hurricane (LCP/Atlantic), the 7th studio album came out shooting darts, with ripping guitars and energetic melodies.
With a Grammy in hand, Jon rolled out a folksy singer songwriter solo project and a few Fiction Family albums, featuring Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek.
Shortly after, Vice Verses (LCP/Atlantic), the groove oriented follow-up to Hello Hurricane, connected listeners with stories inspired by the homeless youth in San Diego County.
Fading West, a pop alter ego and film documentary, chronicles the band’s journey through Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and parts of America looking for inspiration. The film underscores the band’s quest for adventure, belonging, and journey for home.
Instead of just looking for Hope in the form of song, the band consistently finds ways to give back to their community. Partnerships with Habitat for Humanity, TWLOHA, and most notably their annual event The SWITCHFOOT BRO-AM. The event is now 12 years old, giving hope and funding to at risk youth in their hometown of San Diego. “Of all that we’ve been able to do as a band, I’m proudest of the BRO-AM. More than any platinum album, or Grammy, or award- the past decade of celebrating our community has been the most rewarding.”
The unapologetic writing has always led the band forward, sometimes uncomfortably. The irony is that even while pop culture has embraced SWITCHFOOT from time to time, SWITCHFOOT has never fully been accepted. They’ve never been cool, and they’ve never cared. It might be the secret to their longevity. The title track on The Beautiful Letdown says it all, “I don’t belong here, I don’t belong. I will carry a cross and a song where I don’t belong.” The song continues indeed, to a bold tenth record.
Canton, Ohio's Relient K formed in 1998 and joined the parade of Christian punk-pop artists (MxPx, Ghoti Hook, Slick Shoes) with their self-titled 2000 debut, mixing catchy melodies and snotty attitude with spiritual concerns. The record was produced by dc Talk guitarist Mark Townsend, and the band was comprised of vocalist/guitarist/pianist Matt Thiessen, guitarist Matthew Hoopes, bassist Brian Pittman, and drummer Stephen Cushman. David Douglas joined up in place of Cushman by the year's end, and Relient K followed up in August 2001 with The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek. The album sold 300,000 copies and Relient K's momentum continued to build as they played nearly 200 shows in North America before the year closed out. A third full-length, Two Lefts Don't Make a Right... But Three Do, debuted at number 38 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart upon its release in spring 2003. The band didn't waste any time recording a fourth album; MMHMM, produced by lead singer Thiessen and dc Talk's Townsend and mixed by Tom Lord-Alge, was released in November 2004 by Gotee/Capitol. MMHMM scanned over 51,000 copies sold during its first week, hitting number 15 on the Top 200 and number one for Christian albums. It eventually went gold, Relient K's third consecutive album to do so, and the band's mainstream crossover was in full swing with singles "Be My Escape" and "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been" doing very well on modern rock radio and MTV.
Apathetic EPPittman left the group after MMHMM's release (later going on to play with Inhale/Exhale), and John Warne (ex-Ace Troubleshooter) filled in on bass for touring purposes, becoming a permanent member in 2005. Relient K further added Jonathan Schneck as a third guitarist (who also played banjo and bells) that year, bumping them up to quintet status. With Relient K touring constantly in support of MMHMM, Apathetic EP followed in November 2005 as another treat to hold over fans as the guys readied their next album. Five Score & Seven Years Ago (as in their fifth album in seven years), largely produced by Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Less Than Jake), was released in early March 2007. True to form, Relient K set out on a full round of nationwide dates, including spring shows with Mae and Sherwood, before releasing the Christmas-themed album Let It Snow Baby... Let It Reindeer (containing several tracks from the band's previous holiday release, Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand) later that fall. In October, Douglas announced that he would be leaving Relient K to dedicate himself full-time to his side project Gypsy Parade. He was replaced in early 2008 by Ethan Luck, who would accompany the group during its appearances on that year's Warped Tour. In July, the group released the B-side album The Bird and the Bee Sides, which was packaged with The Nashville Tennis EP. The band released its sixth studio album, Forget and Not Slow Down, in 2009.
K Is for Karaoke Two seven-song covers EPs, titled K Is for Karaoke, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, appeared in 2011. Later combined into one single LP release, K Is for Karaoke included their takes on hits from the likes of Cyndi Lauper, the Wallflowers, Cake, Toto, and Stone Temple Pilots. Their next set of original music wouldn't arrive until 2013. During recording, Luck parted ways with the band, his vacated slot filled a couple months later by the very drummer he replaced, David Douglas. The band's seventh LP, Collapsible Lung, was released that summer, peaking at number 16 on the Billboard 200. Their eighth effort would also fair well. Produced by Mark Lee Townsend, Air for Free featured the single "Look on Up" and debuted at number 44 on the Billboard 200, topping the Christian chart.
-Steve Huey for AllMusic.com “It’s strange to make a record of light out of a really dark year.” Foreman said with an exhale while leaning back in his chair in the kitchen of his studio in San Diego, CA “But the pain, the struggle… it’s what defines us, makes us human- the wound is where the light shines through.” Read More
The new Okkervil River album is called Away. I didn’t plan to make it and initially wasn’t sure if it was going to be an Okkervil River album or if I’d ever put it out. I wrote the songs during a confusing time of transition in my personal and professional life and recorded them quickly with a brand new group of musicians. I got together the best New York players I could think of, people whose playing and personalities I was fans of and who came more out of a jazz or avant garde background, and we cut the songs live in one or two takes – trying to keep things as natural and immediate as possible – over three days in a studio on Long Island that hosts the Neve 8068 console which recorded Steely Dan’s Aja and John Lennon’s Double Fantasy. I asked Marissa Nadler to sing on it and got the composer Nathan Thatcher to write some beautiful orchestral arrangements, we recorded them with the classical ensemble yMusic and then I mixed the record with Jonathan Wilson out in Los Angeles.
2013-2015 had been a strange time for me. I lost some connections in a music industry that was visibly falling apart. Some members of the Okkervil River backing band left, moving on to family life or to their own projects. I spent a good deal of time sitting in hospice with my grandfather, who was my idol, while he died. I felt like I didn’t know where I belonged. When there was trouble at home, a friend offered me her empty house in the Catskills where I could go and clear my head. New songs were coming fast up there, so I set myself the challenge of trying to write as many as possible as quickly as possible. I wasn’t think about any kind of end product; the idea was just to write through what I was feeling, quickly and directly. Eventually, I realized I was writing a death story for a part of my life that had, buried inside of it, a path I could follow that might let me go somewhere new.
“Okkervil River R.I.P.” and “Call Yourself Renee” are good emotional transcriptions of that time. I wrote the latter on psylocibin mushrooms on a beautiful afternoon in early fall in the Catskills. I wrote “The Industry” quickly after getting some bad news. “Comes Indiana Through the Smoke” is an anthem for the battleship my grandfather served on during the Pacific Theater of World War II. Before becoming a private school Headmaster, my grandfather was also a jazz musician; he paid his way through college as a bandleader, toured with Les Brown and His Band of Renown, and spent summers playing a residency at a NH lakeside gay dance club called The Jungle Room that kept live monkeys in the basement. (You can hear his actual trumpet on this song, played by C.J. Camarieri from yMusic.) “Judey on a Street” is a love song, sunny but written late at night when the woods are maximum spooky. We cut “She Would Look for Me” pretty shapelessly, with a lot of improvisation, and it’s also a love song. “Mary on a Wave” is about the feminine aspect of God but is in a very masculine tuning: DADDAD. It’s also a love song. I wrote “Frontman in Heaven” in an obsessive threeday streak of writing for 14 hours, going to bed, getting up and writing again. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I wrote “Days Spent Floating (in the Halfbetween)” by just jotting down the first sentence that popped into my head every morning in October immediately after I opened my eyes. At the end of the month I had a finished song. It was recorded as an afterthought as the last thing we did when they were about to kick us out of the studio. You can hear me flub some lyrics. But one take and we had it.
I think this record was me taking my life back to zero and starting to add it all back up again, one plus one plus one. Any part that didn’t feel like it added up I left out. Weirdly, it was the easiest and most natural record I’ve ever made. More than any time in my life before, I felt guided by intuition – like I was going with the grain, walking in the direction the wind was blowing. The closer it got to being finished, the more the confusion I’d felt at the start went away. It’s not really an Okkervil River album and it’s also my favorite Okkervil River album.
May 18, 2016 The new Okkervil River album is called Away. I didn’t plan to make it and initially wasn’t sure if it was going to be an Okkervil River album or if I’d ever put it out. I wrote the songs during a confusing time of transition in my personal and professional life and recorded them quickly with Read More
A free monthly open mic night for all performers. Signup for Performers begins at 7pm. Starving Artist Special from 7pm-8pm featuring half off food, $2 Yuengling Drafts, Free Coffee & Tea. Ages: +21. Club Cafe's open stage is one of Pittsburgh's longest running and most revered open mic events for performers of all genres. Fashioned after some of the high profile and wildly successful open stages in Nashville, New York and LA, Club Cafe's open stage provides artists with the chance to perform on a world renowned stage while fostering a friendly and supportive environment enabling performers to network with their peers, attract new audiences and extend their reach. A free monthly open mic night for all performers. Signup for Performers begins at 7pm. Starving Artist Special from 7pm-8pm featuring half off food, $2 Yuengling Drafts, Free Coffee & Tea. Ages: +21. Club Cafe's open stage is one of Pittsburgh's longest running and most revered open mic events Read More
Chicago-based MC Lupe Fiasco (born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) began rapping in junior high school and joined a group called da Pak several years later. The group signed to Epic, released one single, and split up, all before Fiasco reached the age of 20. Thanks in part to the vocal support of Jay-Z, L.A. Reid signed Fiasco as a solo artist to Arista, but before anything of significance was able to happen (only a promo single and a couple guest appearances were set up), Reid was fired, leaving the MC without a label. Fiasco eventually landed at Atlantic. Preceded by the single "Kick, Push," as well as several mixtapes and an appearance on Kanye West's "Touch the Sky," the album Food & Liquor was set to surface during early 2006, though an unfinished version leaked during the spring, pushing its official release back to September instead. The album peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 and earned the cerebral rapper three Grammy nominations; "Daydreamin'" (featuring Jill Scott) won the award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. A highly conceptualized follow-up, The Cool, was released in December 2007. Gold sales certification and four additional Grammy nominations followed.
Lasers Despite his track record, Fiasco met a number of obstacles on the way to the release of his third album, Lasers. The process culminated in a petition signed by over 30,000 followers who demanded that Atlantic release the long-delayed album, which was followed by a fan protest outside the label's New York City offices. Lasers, finally issued by Atlantic in March 2011, topped three charts: the Billboard 200, Hot R&B/Hip Hop Albums, and Hot Rap Albums. It was propelled by "The Show Must Go On" (which barely scratched the upper half of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, but went Top Ten on the Hot 100) and "Out of My Head" (number 40 Hot 100; number 11 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop). Work on the MC's fourth album, cumbersomely titled Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1, began while Lasers was in pre-release limbo. Its development and September 2012 birth was relatively uncomplicated, though Fiasco -- never one to evade controversy -- received some backlash for "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)" (for its bold use of Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth's 1992 classic "They Reminisce Over You [T.R.O.Y.]") and "Bitch Bad" (criticized so firmly by Spin magazine that it prompted Fiasco to call for a boycott of the publication). In 2015 he released Tetsuo & Youth, an album that featured songs inspired by Lupe's upbringing in Chicago.
-Andy Kellman for AllMusic.com Chicago-based MC Lupe Fiasco (born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) began rapping in junior high school and joined a group called da Pak several years later. The group signed to Epic, released one single, and split up, all before Fiasco reached the age of 20. Thanks in part to the vocal support of Jay-Z Read More
Last summer, Islands decamped to a little studio in Toronto to make not one, but TWO new albums. Don’t get it twisted: This is not a double album, nor is it a case of editing gone awry. These are two distinct, entirely unique records, each one a wholly individual offering.
Taste, Islands’ 6th record, is a muscular, crystalline affair, with the majority of the music electronic, buoyed by drum machines, programming and arpeggiated vintage synths. The songs still flirt with Islands’ bread and butter; evergreens such as ennui, remorse, and a general disenchantment with the modern world hover over the tracks, with lines like “we got so thrown, we felt lost at home” and “steal a little moment, lose it like you own it”, to hammer home the point. The songs cut a wide swath, however, and also go in directions that Islands has never tackled, including police brutality and white male privilege (!).
Should I Remain Here At Sea? (a semi-reference to Tarkovsky’s Solaris), Islands’ 7th, is, in many ways, a spiritual sequel to the debut album, 2006’s Return to the Sea; a natural, raw record, stripped down to it’s essentials, performed live off the floor. Reflecting on the decade that has elapsed, SIRHAS kicks off with a darkly funny tartness, tackling religion, race, addiction, and murderous fantasies, but by midpoint, the songs give way to a resigned and doleful melancholia, tackling heartache, numb disillusionment and emotional disorientation through the guise of stupid parrots, the Internet, sea turtles and perhaps the loneliest maritimer to ever sail the seas. It was recorded as spontaneously as could be, with some of the songs captured live in one take, vocals and all.
Both albums were produced by Nick Thorburn and Evan Gordon. Taste was mixed by Roger Levins and SIRHAS was mixed by Rob Schnapf. About the process, Nick says: “Contained on these albums are the saddest songs I've ever written, the funniest songs I've ever written, the catchiest songs, and the most satisfying songs. Excuse all the superlatives, but I honestly don't think I've ever walked away from a recording process more fulfilled and invigorated." Last summer, Islands decamped to a little studio in Toronto to make not one, but TWO new albums. Don’t get it twisted: This is not a double album, nor is it a case of editing gone awry. These are two distinct, entirely unique records, each one a wholly individual offering. Taste, Islands’ 6th Read More
In an ever-evolving universe, the art of maintaining complete and total fluidity is the most necessary key for survival. Renowned for his metamorphic capabilities and expertly crafted sonic adventures, Liquid Stranger has mastered his ability to slip in and out of genres all while honing his own personal style.
Liquid Stranger has earned his reputation for exuding incommensurable talent and taking audiences on a soul-stirring aural journey of genre-bending beats on the dancefloor. He has performed at some of the most innovative events and festivals around the globe including: Shambhala, Bella Terra, Escape from Wonderland, EDC Orlando, Summer Camp, Paradiso Festival, Beyond Wonderland, Shambhala, Inox Park, SXSW, Enchanted Forrest, Elements Festival, Infrasound Equinox, EDC Las Vegas, etc.
In his latest installment, Nomad Vol 2, Liquid Stranger seamlessly blends three tunes- Bounce, Freefall & Zenith- that radiate aqueous harmony, are dripping in luxurious bass and topped off with a splash of funk. The Nomad Series in itself is an excellent representation of Liquid Stranger as an artist as it was created purposefully to push the envelope of genres and create something that could easily satisfy the likes of anyone listening. In accordance to Liquid Stranger himself, “I travel a lot and go through phases of living a somewhat nomadic life style.” He goes on further to explain how much of his inspiration is drawn from these journeys, “and the Nomad series is about taking all these influences and blending them into one sonic stew.”
Liquid Stranger is no alien to the Beatport charts, and has held the #1 spot on numerous occasions and in several different genres including: dubstep, reggae and drum & bass. Over the course of six full-length albums, countless EPS and a plethora of single releases, he’s yielded worldwide hits as diverse as “Ripple” and “Bombaclaad Star”, which reigned supreme as the #1 reggae track of 2011. “Shake My Ass” dominated the drum’n’bass chart at #1, while his third album Private Riot has become a timeless dubstep classic, solidifying him as a force to be reckon with.
In 2015, Liquid Stranger continues to transcend musical dimensions by curating thought- provoking harmonies. This year he has also brought us Wakaan, a label pioneered by Liquid Stranger himself. With the new label he has given free-form compositions and artists a place to thrive. However, what’s next to come is simply unforeseen, as he is a jack-of-all-trades. But one thing is for certain, whatever he brings to the table will be produced mindfully and masterfully to the highest artistic standard.
Those who are unfamiliar with his music often tend to categorize him as only a heavy dubstep artist, which is anything but the truth. The most effervescent quality of Liquid Stranger is his ability to shift from genre to genre all while maintaining a sense of smoothness and consistency, which in turn makes him one of the most unpredictable artists to date. In a sense, he has ended genre barriers for the sake of musical storytelling taking whatever sounds he needs to put forward the intended vibe.
Liquid Stranger’s omnifarious approach to music has led him to stand out amongst a pack of artists desperately trying conform to a commercial demand. Proven to be a timeless staple to the world of electronic dance music by bridging the gap between mellow and heavy, what’s next can not be foreseen for this contrastive musician. In an ever-evolving universe, the art of maintaining complete and total fluidity is the most necessary key for survival. Renowned for his metamorphic capabilities and expertly crafted sonic adventures, Liquid Stranger has mastered his ability to slip in and out of genres all while Read More
A Brighter Future: These words vaulted themselves into my mind one day in a moment when I was feeling like I was unsure of myself, unsure of what exactly I was doing with my life and unsure about humanity and the volatile state of the world we live in today. As human beings, we all have low points in our lives where we question everything and are truly shown how shocking and just plain difficult the world can be. But at the same time, our high times wouldn't be as extraordinary without the low times giving us a grand perspective on our lives and the world around us.
As I sit here and write this, so many things in the world as we know it are more beautiful and incredible than we've ever known. At the same time, so many things in the world are worse than we've ever seen in my lifetime. So much fear, anger, hate, insecurity, confusion and outright evil at its most boiling point. The list goes on and on. Human beings are fighting each other on so many different fronts, and in so many different ways, its honestly hard to keep up these days.
Music is a universal language where, no matter where you are from or what language you speak, everyone can feel moved by a song or a melody. Moved to tears without a word, a smile without seeing a thing, chills from head to toe without moving an inch of your body. We can express so many emotions through the language of music and i feel like its a neutral place in our world where people can come together and get on the same level emotionally no matter what their background is.
I think now more than ever, we need to come together and work towards a Brighter Future for us, for our children and for the human race as a whole. Every single human on this earth, no matter race, skin color, religion or any other difference, bleeds the same color blood. There are so many ways to turn things around by spreading positivity, love, acceptance and understanding. Love yourself, love those around you and be kind. We need each other more than ever and we need to stick together, work together and unite with each other to bring a Brighter Future to our world today.
Dom (Production/Sax of Big Gigantic) A Brighter Future: These words vaulted themselves into my mind one day in a moment when I was feeling like I was unsure of myself, unsure of what exactly I was doing with my life and unsure about humanity and the volatile state of the world we live in today. As human beings, we all have Read More