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Review – Polar Bear Club: Death Chorus

One of the most appealing things about Polar Bear Club has always been frontman Jimmy Stadt‘s guttural growl, which sounds like something that might come out of an angry boar’s mouth if it was about to gore you to death (and also had a pretty good sense of melody). But Stadt’s voice sounds different, really different, on their latest effort, Death Chorus. So different, in fact, that Stadt actually put out a statement regarding his vocals the day before the record was released, saying that his voice had changed and that his usual snarl now sounds like “pissy, hot garbage.”

The change was noticeable enough on the album’s first two singles, “Blood Balloon” and “Upstate Mosquito,” that fans started – what else? – whining about it on the Internet. If they had only waited to hear the full record, listeners could have experienced just how well Stadt’s new singing style fits in with the music on Death Chorus. While the album is somewhat of a departure for these upstate New York punks, far poppier and more digestible than their earlier material, it’s also some of the most fun, shameless rock music to come out in 2013.

Featuring triumphant guitars and speedy drums, “Blood Balloon” and “Graph Paper Glory Days” kick off the record with gusto. These tracks, like many others throughout Death Chorus, are surprisingly reminiscent of the early-2000′s pop-punk on Saves the Day‘s In Reverie, or even Something Corporate‘s Leaving Through the Window. ”WLWYCD,” another standout on the album, would have felt just as comfortable in 2003 as it does today.
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What Do Sky Ferreira and Chumbawamba Have in Common? Nudity, Of Course.

Sky Ferreira’s debut full-length Night Time, My Time garnered a lot of attention when it debuted this October, but not all of it was due to her catchy electropop tunes. Instead, some found fault with the album’s artwork, which features a damp Ferreira looking bored and a little grouchy in the shower. Oh, and also, her boobs are out.

In a conversation with MTV News earlier this week, the songstress addressed some of the criticism she received for deciding to appear naked in the album’s cover art.

“I wasn’t like, ‘OK, I’m going to be nude on my album cover,’ it just kind of happened,” Ferreira said to MTV News. “It wasn’t to sell records, because you don’t sell records by being nude and looking crazy.”

And, of course, Ferreira isn’t the first artist to feature nudity in her album artwork. Here are four other albums on which the artists, like this pop songstress, don’t find naked imagery to be “that big of a deal.”

Jane’s AddictionNothing’s Shocking

Many casual fans are familiar with this Jane’s Addiction record thanks to the poppy and inoffensive “Jane Says,” which is still played ad nauseam, day after day, on every single alternative rock station nationwide, but the album actually was pretty shocking when it debuted in 1988. With chants of “Sex! Is! Violent!” and a sample of an interview with serial killer Ted Bundy, Nothing’s Shocking created quite a stir. Of course, no one should have been surprised after seeing the album art: a pair of conjoined twins sitting completely naked in a rocking chair, hair ablaze.

Continue reading ‘What Do Sky Ferreira and Chumbawamba Have in Common? Nudity, Of Course.’

Review – Cate Le Bon: Mug Museum

Throughout the blogosphere, critics and news writers most frequently slap one of two labels on Dutch musician Cate Le Bon: singer-songwriter or folk. And while it’s true that technically her often morbid but still delightfully twee musings on life and death could land her in one of those genres, neither characterization has ever felt quite right.

Yes, Le Bon is a singer who also writes songs, some of which do have elements of folk scattered here and there. But her albums are also infused with a surprisingly danceable hybrid of psych-rock, pop, and even fuzzed-out grunge that makes the music more fitting for the soundtrack to a Sundance-nominated indie flick than the back corner of some dusty pub.

On Mug Museum, her most recent effort, Le Bon’s creations are as varied and unpredictable as ever. With a lilting voice like a spider web – somehow both delicate and strong  – she deftly traverses through a variety of musical styles and lyrical subjects, though generally the record’s content is still largely focused on the macabre. Take the chorus from “Are You With Me,” (watch the video after the jump) for example:

Well have I judged a book by how it’s bound
Am I lost or am I found
And are you with me
Are you with me now
Come back from the dead
You’ve been inside your head for too long

A preoccupation with death, while not a new element in Le Bon’s work, is both more prominent and more poignant this time around; much of the record was reportedly written following the death of her grandmother. Perhaps that’s why the album follows a sonic trajectory that reads like a person first ignoring, and then succumbing to, their depression.
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Vocabulary Lessons With AFI’s Davey Havok

AFI have gone through a lot of changes in their 20-plus years as a band. Their lineup, their sound, even frontman Davey Havok’s hair – it’s all evolved pretty substantially since these California natives started playing together back in the early ‘90s.

But the one constant on each of the band’s nine studio albums is Havok’s expansive vocabulary. While AFI’s most recent effort, the sprawling, gothic Burials, couldn’t be more different from the noisy punk on their debut Answer That and Stay Fashionable, both records (and all those that fall between them) are chock full of obscure words that never came up in English class. Today, we’re taking a look back over some of the more impressive ten-dollar words that Havok has slipped into his songs over the years.

Preturnatural (adj.): Very unusual in a way that does not seem natural, existing outside of nature
From “…But Home is Nowhere” on Sing the Sorrow

Use it in a sentence, Davey: “This is my line, this is eternal. How did I ever end up here? Discarnate, preternatural, my prayers to disappear.”

Filigree (n.): Delicate and intricate ornamental work made from gold, silver, or other fine twisted wire.
From “God Called in Sick Today” on Black Sails in the Sunset

Use it in a sentence, Davey: “Let’s admire the pattern forming. Murderous filigree. I’m caught in the twisting of the vine.

Exsanguination (n.): The process of blood loss, to a degree sufficient to cause death
From “Exsanguination” on Black Sails in the Sunset

Amaranth (n.): any plant of the genus Amaranthus, typically having small green, red, or purple tinted flowers
From “The Great Disappointment” on Sing the Sorrow

Use it in a sentence, Davey: “I can remember, I searched for the amaranth. I’d shut my eyes to see.”

Synesthesia (n.): A condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color
From “Synesthesia” on Sing the Sorrow UK edition

Enmity (n.): The state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something
From “Smile” ­on The Art of Drowning

Use it in a sentence, Davey: “Overwhelmed with a deep repulsion for sights seen so commonly, now I have come to be the walking enmity.”

Monolithic (adj.): Consisting of one piece; solid or unbroken
From “Paper Airplanes (Makeshift Wings) on Sing the Sorrow

Use it in a sentence, Davey: “Raise high monolithic statues, so fragile as they fall. I am ever enthralled.”

Requite (v.): To give or do something in return for (something that another person has given or done)
From “Greater Than 84” on Burials

Use it in a sentence, Davey: “As you overthrow, looking pale and pretty, I welcome your requite.”

Resplendence (n.): Splendid or dazzling in appearance; brilliant
From “Silver and Cold” on Sing the Sorrow

Use it in a sentence, Davey: “And now, it is silver and silent, it is silver and cold. You, in somber resplendence, I hold.”


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Review: Cut Copy – Free Your Mind

The Melbourne, Australia-based synthpop outfit Cut Copy are no strangers to how the music industry works today: if you want people to pay attention to your new record, you’d better have a kickass marketing strategy in place. They certainly knew what they were doing as they geared up to release their most recent effort, Free Your Mind. First, they pressed the album’s lead single on 120 limited edition records that were only available at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Then, in a move designed to drum up the greatest amount of press coverage while making the song relatively impossible to actually hear, they made the record’s second single available only at six billboards located around the planet.

Of course, the danger with such carefully constructed publicity ploys is that – after all the hype has been built up – the record still has to be, you know, good. And with expectations already high following the breakaway success of 2011′s Zonoscope, these Australians had a lot to live up to. Luckily, while Free Your Mind may be something of a wild card, on the whole the album is as catchy, euphoric and danceable as anyone could have hoped for. It’s also the most retro record Cut Copy has released to date; while Zonoscope may have had its ’80s influences, the band’s latest release is indisputably and unabashedly steeped in all things ’80s, from the acid house moments on “Let Me Show You Love” to the trippy, psychedelic pop on “Walking In The Sky.”
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British Royal Navy Puts a New Spin On Music Piracy

In “totally thought this was an Onion article” news, the Metro recently reported that Britney Spears’ songs are being used to prevent Somali pirates from kidnapping other sailors.

The Navy’s Second Officer, Rachel Owens, told the Metro that several Spears tracks, including “Baby One More Time” and “Oops! I Did It Again,” are routinely blared from the ship’s speakers to keep pirates at bay.

“Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most,” Owens said. “These guys can’t stand Western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect.”

While Somali pirates may not be huge fans of Western music in general, there are at least a few maritime-themed songs by American artists that would likely be more of an inspiration to marauders than a deterrent. Here are a handful of tracks that the British Royal Navy should be careful to avoid playing, lest the pirates get fired up.

Set Your Goals – “Mutiny!”

If the exclamation mark in the song’s title wasn’t a dead giveaway, “Mutiny!” by Set Your Goals is an energetic, uptempo number riddled with seafaring references. I have personally seen these San Francisco natives whip teenaged show attendees into a frenzy on more than one occasion, and I have no doubt that their anthemic pop-punk would have the same effect on pirates. With hooky breakdowns, cannon sound effects, and gang vocals galore, SYG have crafted a track that’s guaranteed to inspire some pillaging and plundering.

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Tasty Tracks And Tasty Treats

Here at OurStage there are few things that we enjoy as much as music, but one of our obsessions that comes pretty damn close is our love of food. So imagine our delight when several musicians announced new, culinary side projects. Train released a Petite Sirah wine that will finally let fans know what “Drops of Jupiter” taste like, AC/DC announced a line of fine wines named after their hits—including “Highway to Hell” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”—and former Blur bassist Alex James is now selling his cheeses in the UK.

We did a little digging and as it turns out, the relationship between musicians and foodies is very strong. Yes, plenty of artists offer ways to get your drink on like a rock star (Sammy Hagar has his own brand of tequila), but many are restaurant owners, chefs and even critics! From giants like KISS Coffeehouses and Jimmy Buffet‘s Margaritaville Cafes to smaller, quainter cafes like Moby‘s adorable Teany in New York City, artist-owned eateries have been popping up all over the place. Even J. Lo got into the restaurant game a few years ago; unfortunately, the Mexican eatery “Madre’s” closed its doors in 2008 after six years. (Still better than Britney‘s joint “Nyla,” which lasted less than a year.)

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That Song’s About Sex?!

After Lady Gaga‘s lackluster “Edge of Glory” music video, it was nice to see Mother Monster returning to truly WTF-inducing form on the video for “You and I.” Two words: Mermaid. Sex. Gags kindly explained to MTV just how, exactly, a mermaid would have sex with a human, saying, “Well, that’s actually part of what the metaphor is—you can’t… No matter what you do, there’s this giant boundary between you and someone else. So that’s what it’s about, perceiving in your imagination that there’s something magical inside of you that you can make it work.”

Okay, sure, that sounds like a plausible explanation. And as an added bonus, it got us thinking about the sexual metaphors in some of our favorite songs. So if you’re looking for tunes with sexy references that are less obscure than mermaid intercourse but slightly subtler than “Let’s Get It On”, we’re here to help.

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American Idol – “Masking” Their Gay Contestants?

Maroon 5 frontman/The Voice judge Adam Levine had some choice words for American Idol last week, saying that while he agrees the show is a “cultural institution,” it also deliberately hides the sexual orientation of its contestants. He told Out magazine that, “What’s always pissed me off about Idol is wanting to mask that, for that to go unspoken. You can’t be publicly gay? At this point? On a singing competition? Give me a break. You can’t hide basic components of these people’s lives.”

Levine went on to say that The Voice was completely open to contestants regardless of their sexuality, and added that the NBC show is “for a different type of person.” You could say that Levine is only saying this to make his show look better and win over some of Idol’s longtime fans, but this isn’t the first time the prime-time juggernaut has been called out for being less than gay-friendly. Of course, the last time the issue came up those claims of homophobia were directed at the voters (that’s us, America), not at the show itself.

When Adam Lambert lost in 2009, it was a shock; there was little question that he was more talented than winner Kris Allen. (Allen even admitted it, saying, “Adam deserves this. I’m sorry.”) Jim David wrote a feature called “Adam Lambert Loses, Homophobia Wins” for the Huffington Post where he pointed out that, while Lambert never discussed his sexuality on the show, the Internet did it for him. Photos of Lambert making out with another guy went viral, and talk show host Bill O’Reilly asked if a potential Lambert victory would be a “problem” for America.

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This Music Brought To You By…

Last week, Blink-182 devised a pretty clever way to engage their fans and promote their newest single “Up All Night”. Instead of releasing their own video for the first single from the upcoming album Neighborhoods, Blink searched the Internet for the best unauthorized fan videos that used their music, then compiled them to create a masterpiece. With toilet paper, skateboard tricks, brief claymation and kids playing brooms for guitars in a men’s restroom, the vid clearly bears Mark, Tom and Travis’s goofy sense of humor. But the band wasn’t alone as they scoured YouTube to find the best fan-made clips. As they reveal in the video’s intro, the gang partnered with AT&T to create “The Blink-182 Film Festival You Didn’t Know You Entered.”

Yes, it’s time we add music to the list of happenings, including sporting events and television premiers, that will forever be brought to you by some giant corporation. It’s evident on numerous 2011 tours—Kanye West‘s G.O.O.D. Music imprint put together a nine-date tour sponsored by Heineken, T-Swift‘s Speak Now world tour is brought to you by Covergirl and BlackBerry sponsored the Foo Fighters‘ Garage Tour.

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