Saturday, August 30, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
It's official: one of the best-selling female artists of our time, Brandy will be releasing her fifth studio album this November. What is most exciting is that she will be reuniting with producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins for this record, entitled Human. Countless other producing and songwriting talents will help out as well, including the Neptunes, Rockwilder, and Bryan-Michael Cox.
Missing from this list is Timbaland, who produced Brandy's last album, 2004's Afrodisiac. Though applauded by critics as her best work yet, as a fan, I found it to be a muddled mess. With the exception of the first single, the Kanye-produced hit "Talk About Our Love," most of the album is weighed down by Timbaland's overpowering beats. While Timbaland often outshines artists on songs with his loud hit-or-miss production, Darkchild and Brandy tend to bring out the best in each other. Her 1998 smash Never Say Never and 2002 follow-up Full Moon are proof of the winning tandem's versatility and consistency; the beats are tight, but so are the harmonies, and strong songwriting never gets lost in the shuffle.
Afrodisiac and embarrassing Punk'd appearances aside (don't even get me started!), Brandy rightfully holds a place in music history. Once upon a time, before hip-hop beats sounded like 10-minute sessions on my keyboard, before the synthesizer heard around the world that was Usher's "Yeah," mainstream R&B prospered, and for good reason. From old school to new school, the music we grew up on deserved its major success; Brandy, TLC, Aaliyah, Destiny's Child... these women ruled the charts with the rhythm and blues of a new generation.
Of course, things are different now, but the prospect of another B-Rocka/Darkchild collaboration is always welcome. Hopefully they can capture their chemistry of yesteryear and we will get another stylish, honest record from Brandy.
Check out Brandy's Myspace to hear the first single off of Human, "Right Here (Departed)" and for video updates from "Bran-Bran" herself.
- Jessy Bartlett
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Recently, the many users of the internet's most beloved public playlist network, were welcomed to Muxtape.com with this message:
Muxtape will be unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA.
Launched just this past spring, Muxtape was indeed far too good (and illegal) to be true. Apparently, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) finally found a way to shut down Justin Ouellette's, former employee IAC/Vimeo, creation.
Yet, we can't point our fingers at RIAA just yet. In an article on VALLEYWAG:
In an accidentally published investment term sheet, Ouellette estimated three months of hosting would cost $18,000. That's about $72,000 off the mark, enough to eat through Lodwick's $95,000 investment and shut down the site...
"Hello Goodbye" - The Beatles (1967 Capitol) Magical Mystery Tour
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Being as over half of BU's students seem to be from Long Island, some WTBU fans may be familiar with the name Vision Through Sound. Last year, Newsday's music critic named their album, Cheer Up Chap, Middle School Isn't Everything, as one of the most creative and accomplished albums to come out of Long Island in 2007. And this month, they've been named Band of the Month by Aural Fix. But true Vision Through Sound fans know that the four-piece alt. rock band's audience spans further than the suburbs, gaining them a fan base throughout New York City and other parts of the country. Rightfully so: in contrast to most bands that come out of The Island, their original sound and dark sense of humor proves they've absorbed an array of classic rock and literary influences. (They tend to attract fans who are also into the Radiohead, Nirvana, and The Smiths.)
On their new album, The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Vision Through Sound (released August 15), freaky vocals, group chants, screams that might be cries for help, and female harmonies wrap around some of the most thought-provoking and mindful lyrics that songwriters Andrew Krowlikowski and Franny Berkman have ever written. “Po-Tee-Weet?” is the band’s heaviest, angriest song to date, drenched in political bits that comment on society at large; the zombies and magic tricks that surface in “Abra” meditate on the meaning of decrepit romantic relationships; meanwhile, all tracks are soaked in the dark evidence that these guys have spent a lot of time in their heads, at the library, reading a whole lot of Vonnegut.
But the album is a far throw from a downer: Krowlikowski’s uplifting, trademark vocals return and take center stage, peeking in and out of Fran Berkman and Mike McManus’s melodic, memorable guitar riffs and bass lines (part psychedelic/dance/funk, part Nirvana/Pixies/Pumpkins) that seem to sometimes fight for the spotlight, all while the three run full speed ahead, away from Mike Sarna’s fast-driving drums. Cameos from ex-Nothing Plural members Michelle Kovacs and Chris Fleming on trumpet, flute, violin, and cello, layered over other various accompanists on bird flute, Theremin, xylophone, bells, clapping, grunting, and general freakishness, make for some of the most epic, crazed instrumentals to ever surface on a VTS record.
“Missionary Men” is undeniably the album’s defining track, a representation of the band’s ability to take a dark, terrible situation and turn it into an intelligent dance song. Listen to the song (as well as three other tracks from the new album) on the band's MySpace, here: myspace.com/visionthroughsound.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Thao Nguyen and her small back-up band, The Get Down Stay Down, drew a fun loving crowd Tuesday night at TT the Bear's. The stomps and hand claps were in abundance; it was a night of head thrusts and free spirited dance for all.
Openers Pepi Ginsberg and David Shultz & The Skyline sport a folk sound similar to Thao's. Unfortunately, I missed both of their sets, but there was no shortage of David Shultz fans in the crowd, and Pepi Ginsberg's "The Waterline" is a feel-good time (check out the music video on her Myspace).
Thao managed to sneak on stage without many of us noticing. The down to earth musician praised the opening acts multiple times and kept it casual throughout the night, making jokes with the band and the crowd between songs ("Donate to Oxfam after the show and... [bassist] Adam will give you a hickey.").
Thao's unbridled singing style is well suited for a live setting, and she didn't hold back. When she wasn't doubled over during her solos or wildly stomping her fly boots to the beat, she was passionately singing us her stories. She opened with an upbeat new song and then went right into "Geography." The heavy, soulful rhythm of the drums in the song hit particularly hard live. "Beat (Health, Life and Fire)" was especially memorable with Thao's tragic "OH NO!"s shaking the room. The crowd sang along to favorites "Bag of Hammers" and "Swimming Pools," and the band agreed that it sounded like we all had microphones.
Thao played most of the songs from her album, We Brave Bee Stings and All, along with some new fast paced songs. She ended her set with a knockout, extended version of "Fear and Convenience," and then returned for two more songs, one of them a cover (Aretha Franklin?).
Check out my interview with Thao from last month here.
- Jessy Bartlett
Monday, August 11, 2008
Our favorite Wham City, avant-garde, electronica wizard is going on tour: The Baltimore Round Robin Tour 2008!
For those who are not completely familiar with the Baltimore music scene, it is built upon the minds of geniuses and encompasses all that is good in the world. On The Baltimore Round Robin Tour, the 29 featured bands are divided into three catagories.
First, "Eyes Night," includes Beach House and Nautical Almanac, "a mixture of folk, noise, theatrics, improvisation-- music that is spiritual, dreamy etc." Second, there's "Feet Night," music that gets you moving and dancing. This catagory includes the god-graced amazingness of The Death Set and Dan Deacon himself. Finally, we have "Weird Round," which will apparently be sporadically inserted in and around the previous two.
Best part of the tour: IT KICKS OFF IN BOSTON! Can you believe it? Some one still cares enough about our sad city to play two nights!
This 14 date, seven-city extravaganza begins on October 2nd at our very own Mass Art. Check out the details below!
"Boys and Girls ( Pfunkt's Effeminate Fatale Remix )" - The Death Set
Baltimore Round Robin Tour:
10-02 Boston, MA - Massachusetts College of Art and Design ("Eyes Night")
10-03 Boston, MA - Massachusetts College of Art and Design ("Feet Night")
10-04 Montreal, Quebec - Église Saint-Enfant Jésus (Pop Montreal) ("Eyes Night")
10-05 Montreal, Quebec - Église Saint-Enfant Jésus (Pop Montreal) ("Feet Night")
10-08 Detroit, MI - Museum of Contemporary Art ("Eyes Night")
10-09 Detroit, MI - Museum of Contemporary Art ("Feet Night")
10-10 Chicago, IL - Epiphany ("Eyes Night")
10-11 Chicago, IL - Epiphany ("Feet Night")
10-13 Oberlin, OH - Oberlin College ("Eyes Night")
10-14 Oberlin, OH - Oberlin College ("Feet Night")
10-15 Philadelphia, PA - Starlight Ballroom ("Eyes Night")
10-16 Philadelphia, PA - Starlight Ballroom ("Feet Night")
10-17 New York, NY - Le Poisson Rouge ("Eyes Night")
10-18 New York, NY - Le Poisson Rouge ("Feet Night")
Saturday, August 9, 2008
This week, Jenny Lewis posted this video on her website, urging fans to call 888-717-2243 (ACID) to hear the title track of her new album, Acid Tongue. (Out September 23 on Warner Bros.)
On Acid Tongue, Jenny collaborates with Johnathan Rice, M Ward, Elvis Costello, Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes, Zooey Deschanel, Whisptertown 2000's Vanessa Corbala, one of the guys from A Perfect Circle, and lots of other big names. Jenny's family will play on the record, too. Her sister, Ana, plays strings; her sister, Leslie Lewis, does backing vocals on two songs; and her father, Eddie Gordon, plays bass harp. On the title track, Jenny sings over her acoustic guitar, and a group joins her with harmonies on the chorus.
Jenny is set to tour the country with Conor Oberst this fall, and though there are no Boston dates, I'd say it's worth making the trek to Apollo Theatre in New York on October 4. This week marked the official release of Conor major-label debut, with his self-titled album out on Merge Records. Download "Danny Callahan" here and check out the video for "Souled Out!!!" here:
Major labels or not, both artists still seem to be producing essential songs and records that are distinctly Omaha--perhaps the best music of their careers--and that is entirely worth celebrating. Wooo.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Juliana Hatfield began her career in alternative rock 20 years ago right here in Boston, and has been "shining on" ever since. Her 1994 hit "Spin the Bottle" was featured on the Reality Bites soundtrack and propelled her to mainstream fame, but she soon retreated from the hard glare of the spotlight. Hatfield has stayed busy since then, steadily putting out albums and EPs. With a new album, tour and memoir, When I Grow Up: A Memoir, coming out, the underrated star was kind enough to answer some questions about her plans, her blog, and how (little) she'll miss Manny. Haha.
- Jessy Bartlett
JB: You have a lot going on with the release of the new album, the tour, and your book that comes out in September. How is this album release different from past ones for you?
JH: I feel like more is at stake. I put everything I had into this record and book. I feel like it's a sort of make or break moment for me.
JB: You've been making music for 20 years now, through the ups and downs. Has it gotten easier? Are you feeling more at peace as you get older?
JH: It's easier to sing and play- I've gotten better at what I do. And I do feel less miserable now than ever before, yes.
JB: You've been out of the mainstream spotlight for a while. Is that partly your own doing? Are you glad that your fan base is smaller but more devoted these days?
JH: I definitely had a hand in pulling myself away from the spotlight. It was hard for me to deal with all the criticism and questions that were always being thrown at me. I didn't really have the tools I needed to navigate through all that stuff, at the time. It's comforting to know that my fans are loyal. They have stuck with me through my commercial invisibility and so I know that their appreciation isn't fickle.
JB: If you could go back in time with what you know now and communicate with your '90s self, what advice would you give you?
JH: I would ask myself, "Why do you care so much what people think of you?"
JB: I read that you haven't been listening to music lately but are more into books. What have you been reading? I just read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers and it reminded me of your blog.
JH: Books I have most recently read: Black Flies by Shannon Burke, As I Lay Dying by Wm. Faulkner, I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, The Heresy Of Self-Love by Paul Zweig.
JB: Speaking of your blog, it's really a treat for fans. How did you decide to start that up?
JH: The idea just popped into my head one day. I thought it would be a good writing exercise for me and also I wanted to correct any misperceptions and misinterpretations that random people might have/have had about me and my songs. And now it has become sort of rewarding: I enjoy giving this thing to the people that are interested in my music. They seem to really like the fact that I am doing it.
JB: How important is it for you to get How to Walk Away out there to reach as many people as possible, and what are your hopes for this record?
JH: Of course I would love for lots of people to love the album and to listen to it and to buy it but I don't really have any concrete expectations. I mean, my expectations are realistic.
JB: Lastly, the trading deadline has passed and it looks like Manny is staying with the Sox. Thoughts? (***Editor's Note: The Manny trade story broke about an hour after the deadline, after this question was asked.)
JH: Manny is gone and I'm glad. He was acting like a jerk.
That's right, our British pals have to admit: the American music scene isn't all too bad. Actually, it's freaking awesome!
That's right, we're absolutely smashing.
"Rolling Down The Hill" - Glass Candy (2007 Italians Do It Better) Beatbox
Monday, August 4, 2008
It's arrived! The first single off David Byrne and Brian Eno's new album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, "Strange Overtones!"
It's awesome, I'm so happy...so, giddy. It lacks Eno's signature strange but has a soothing early 90s sound that lulls listeners into a trance.
I am supposed to be writing an essay about how 1975's Rocky Horror Picture Show reflects American frustration of the time, but I think I am going to force listen to "Strange Overtones" into my iTunes top 25 instead. Cool!
"Heaven" - Talking Heads (1992 Warner Bros.) Sand In The Vaseline
Saturday, August 2, 2008
The sun has set on M.I.A., no one likes Britney anymore, and Feist sold out to those corporate pigs on Sesame Street. It's time took look east, to France.
Yes, our posh European allies have come to our rescue once again to revive our hearts and minds with Yelle.
Scheduled to play The Roxy on October 15th, Yelle's video for "Ce Jeu" (roughly "this game" or "this play") perfectly exemplifies just how inferior in cute and awesome our American pop icons are.
"Je Veux Te Voir (Club-Club Version)" - Yelle (2008 Caroline World Service Catalog) Je Veux Te Voir
5. Broken Social Scene Presents: Brendan Canning - Something for All of Us
July 22nd (Out now)
BSS co-founder Brendan Canning is the second to release a BSS Presents: record after Kevin Drew's Spirit If... in '07. You can now stream many of the tracks on his Myspace. The album definitely seems to live up to its title, from groovy "Love Is New" to the folky "Snowballs and Icicles." Expect another hit from the BSS family.
4. Inara George - An Invitation
Always a breath of fresh, interesting air, Inara George is set to release her follow-up to 2005's All Rise next week. This time around, George gets arrangement help from Van Dyke Parks, who adds his orchestration to George's already layered sound. Listen to "Duet" here (she "begs your time, [she] really wants it").
3. Juliana Hatfield - How to Walk Away
With 20 years in the music industry under her belt, Hatfield is gearing up for her 10th solo release on her label, Ye Olde Records. How to Walk Away will feature a more produced sound reminiscent of her 2004 effort, In Exile Deo. Already earning praise and attention from Oprah and press all over, Walk Away is looking to be another solid record to add to Hatfield's canon. Check out the wistful "My Baby."
2. Dr. Dre - Detox
It's been nine long years since Dr. Dre last put out an album. After years of rumors of the arrival of Detox, it looks like it's finally happening. The album is reportedly complete, and will include guest spots from an all-star cast: Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne, Nas, Snoop Dogg, and others. Almost a decade in the making, expectations for Detox are sky high.
1. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
After Rilo Kiley-ing it up for a while, Jenny Lewis is back with her second solo album. Acid Tongue is set to feature appearances from Elvis Costello, Jonathan Rice and M. Ward, among others. Live performances of the title track and "Jack Killed Mom" have been floating around Youtube, and it sounds like more of the country-tinged heartache of Rabbit Fur Coat. I can't wait!
Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (September 16th)
Rachael Yamagata - A Record In Two Parts...Elephants and Teeth Sinking Into Heart (October 7th) *UPDATED*
Anya Marina - TBA (September)
So... what did I miss? Am I way off? Please exercise your right to comment away.
- Jessy Bartlett