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VIDEOS!

Lots and lots of new videos lately. Yesterday we brought you clips from Best Coast and Lorde, today we have Bowie, The Field Effect, Angel Olsen, and some Daft Punk. So stop working (jk, I mean stop checking Twitter) and watch some, won’t you?

DAVID BOWIE, “I’d Rather Be High”
Yes, it’s a new video for “I’d Rather Be High – Venetian Mix (Wasted Edit),” from Bowie’s recent LP, The Next Day. Unlike the lead video from the record, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” this one is mostly devoid of Bowie himself, opting instead for manipulated wartime footage. This pairs oddly well with the woozy sway of the music.

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Why Miley Cyrus’ ‘Bangerz’ Tour Might Be The Most Important Tour Of The New Year

When will the public finally take Miley Cyrus seriously? And no, I am not asking that facetiously. I will admit that she certainly doesn’t make it easy, especially considering her slew of press-baiting stunts over the last few months that sent every media outlet into a seemingly permanent salivary frenzy. Still, whether or not she is in control of her public image – the ultimate point of contention anchoring a furious celebrity blog-off several months ago – her (or her management’s) decision to bring Sky Ferreira and Icona Pop on her upcoming Bangerz tour is a totally brilliant move: one that crystallizes and enlarges the cultural impact of what each artist has, up until this point, been doing separately in order to make pop music a safer place for women to rightfully do whatever the hell they want.

The album cover for Ferreira’s new record Night Time, My Time features the melancholy singer staring somewhat crazily and vulnerably out at the audience, nude and framed by dripping shower tiles in Van-Gogh green. It’s more disturbing than it is sexy. But of course, that hasn’t stopped scores of critics from accusing her of employing nudity simply to boost album sales. The story, as she’s told it, is that Capitol, her record label, didn’t want her to be nude in the first place, and even suggested using other photos from past years for the album cover. But Ferreira was adamant. “It’s hard enough to be a woman making music at all,” she told Pitchfork. “But I’m not going to start covering myself up just to seem more credible—I’m going to embrace my sexuality because I have every right to.”

If there’s any statement that makes Cyrus’ recent salacious stunts more understandable in light of the challenges facing female pop artists, it’s that one. While the double standard of female sexuality is (hopefully) not news to anybody, it’s even more pronounced in pop music, where any display of female sexuality is commonly demonized as a PR stunt or a money grab: essentially anything that constitutes the opposite of “authentic” music, which is supposedly focused on pure form and creation. This is, of course, total bullshit. To solely attribute financial motives to a female artist’s decision to pose nude is to subscribe to the same type of thinking that circumscribes female nudity to the porn set or the bedroom. It is to place rules around where and when it is correct for women in pop to make certain choices about their bodies, and strips them (pun intended) of the ability to even have that choice in the first place.
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Ciph Boogie: Artist Of The Week

Ciph Boogie

This week’s Artist of the Week is Ciph Boogie. Ciph was the champ in our 2012 ESPN “Main Event” Competition, scoring a prime placement on the sports network’s Friday Night Fights. That was over a year ago, but the Brooklyn rapper has not been resting. He’s been writing, recording, and performing steadily, and has just released a brand-new freestyle, “Y’all Still Don’t Get It.” The track is a dark groove with a haunting, John Carpenter-esque keyboard arpeggio, punctuated with a distorted kick, and laced with foreboding samples.

Most of Ciph’s music contains an uneasy undercurrent, from his early Quiet Storm mixtape through 2008’s Black Mamba LP and the more recent Some Time In New York City EP. His wordplay sparkles on top of winding, minor-key hooks and hits, making for an irresistible yin-and-yang. Every new release from Ciph Boogie has been a remarkable progression, and we now find him at the top of his game. He’ll be featured next on the 2013 compilation from Signatrue Clothing. Check out the new freestyle below, along with a comprehensive recent interview with The Sunday Night Cook Up.

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Why Kanye’s ‘Bound 2′ Video Could Have Been Great (And How Franco And Rogan Get It Right)

Amid the avalanche of criticism aimed at Kanye West’s over-the-top, obviously green-screened, naked Kim Kardashian-featuring, fake motorcycle-riding new video for “Bound 2,” is one common complaint that just keeps recurring: the video is too damn cheesy.

And, yes, it is. Yes, it’s the visual equivalent of a romance novel you’d find in the supermarket checkout line, or a drunkenly ill-conceived artistic partnership between Lisa Frank and Thomas Kinkade. But, of course, when a video is this incredibly kitschy, it’s usually a signal that the people who created it must have done so intentionally. Other than a basic lack of self-awareness on the part of the director and star, how else could you explain why an idea so cheesy is executed so gleefully and without restraint?

And if you look at it as intentional, then maybe it’s possible to see the the video as a deliberately corny ode to the feeling of falling in love, to the understanding that the cheesy and stupid emotions that you never thought would ever possess you can be both surprisingly real and frighteningly in the driver’s seat when it comes to your decision-making; that the cheesiness of those emotions actually isn’t fabricated, but real, and might in fact be the only thing really worth championing in a world where so much else is fake and manufactured. This might explain why cheap green-screening takes the center stage in the video: as the visual equivalent of the inherent corniness that real, uncool, stupid-looking human love entails.

But, of course, according to Kanye, that’s not what he means. In an interview yesterday with The Breakfast Club on New York’s Power 105 FM, Kanye stated straightforwardly that his intention with the video was ”to show you that this is The Hunger Games. I want to show you that this is the type of imagery that’s being presented to all of us, and the only difference is a black dude in the middle of it.” Admittedly, this is a pretty vague statement, but his remarks later on in the interview clarify his position a bit, as he goes on to say: “We’re enslaved by brands…We’re controlled by peer pressure. We’re controlled by the desire for a particular car.”
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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.’

Air Traffic Controller: OurStage Artist Of The Week

Our latest Artist of the Week is Air Traffic Controller, a Boston-based pop-rock group that takes their name from frontman Dave Munro‘s stint in the US Navy as, well, an air traffic controller. Citing as a musical foundation the formidable trio of Petty, McCartney, and Springsteen, Munro and his band – including his brother Richie Munro, Steve Scott, and Casey Sullivan – expand those classic pop sensibilities into a lush orchestral wave of sound. They are often accompanied live by a string section (Alison Shipton, violin, and Kiara Perico, viola) to better represent their unique and instantly appealing sound.

ATC compliment their expansive sonic prowess with lyrical insight. In our review of their 2012 LP, NORDO, we observed:

Air Traffic Controller relates the narratives of an average life with such exuberant grandiosity that even the most monotonous aspects of a normal day seem worth celebration. As Munro sings, “Sometimes you don’t know if it’s real / Or just some kind of magic show / So all you can do / Is pretend it’s all true.” For Air Traffic Controller, it’s that type of magical belief in the splendor of every little moment that makes life not just bearable, but meaningful.

Now that album is getting a deluxe re-release for 2014, featuring new songs and remixes, as the band embarks on a quick tour of the UK before returning home to continue work on a follow-up LP. Check out the tour dates after the jump, along with the video for “Hurry Hurry,” an indie pop anthem that will get a UK single release on December 6th and will be heard on MTV’s Scrubbing In on 11/21.
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‘Why Watch This?’ Wednesday

We used to have a feature here on the OurStage magazine called Watch This Wednesday, where we would round up the videos that had been kicking around that week for your viewing pleasure. Today, we have to institute a “Why Watch This?” Wednesday, in direct response to the time-devouring clips that have been put out lately.

Let’s start with no one’s favorite ego maniac, Kanye West. He and his famous partner, sex tape star Kim Kardashian, pretend to ride a motorcycle in front of a green screen, making us recall with fondness the Alicia Silverstone/Jeremy London pairing in Aerosmith‘s dumb “Amazing” video. Kanye and Kim are either masters of subtle satire or are the two least self-aware people on the planet. Place your bets.

Why watch this? So you can tell your grandkids that you saw and recognized the signs of the decline of civilization. This is the uncensored version. Don’t avert your eyes, coward.

Next up is Katy Perry, who is, as you know, the worst. This pusher of progressively bad music also fancies herself a ‘personality,’ and, not content to confine her creative output to music, she shows up on SNL, in commercials, and as the comedic heroine of her “Roar” video. Now she returns to her glam side with the official video for “Unconditionally,” which is what we in the smart-ass-jerk business call “pointless.”

Why watch this? Perry appears to be, literally, on fire at several points, which is something.

@TheRussianJano
@OurStage

More like this:
“Watch This!” Wednesday: Jitta On The Track, P!nk, And Matt & Kim
“Watch This!” Wednesday: No Doubt, Craig Owens, And Green Day

Why No One Needs Lady Gaga To Reinvent Pop Music (And Why She Isn’t Doing It Anyway)

In the 1950s and ’60s, ‘Pop’ art upended the staid world of fine art by incorporating elements from advertising, television, and consumer product packaging. It fundamentally shifted the public perception of visual art, redefined the acceptable subjects for the medium, and subtly exposed the supercilious pretension and meaningless market forces that governed the art world with shadowy power.

In 2013, Lady Gaga released ARTPOP. It has a track called “Sexxx Dreams,” and includes lyrics like, “Cuz that bitch, she’s so thin (oh la la la) / She’s so rich, and so blonde / She’s so fab, it’s beyond.”

This is not to discount her new album totally out of hand, (because, actually, her R. Kelly collaboration is pretty damn catchy) – it’s just to say that Gaga’s self-proclaimed revolutionary pairing of high-brow art culture and pop music is actually very far from progressive, especially if you take her at her word about the motivation behind the project.

Gaga has stated that “the intention of the album was to put art culture into pop music, a reverse of Warhol.” So immediately it’s pretty obvious that she considers art and pop music to still exist in completely separate and non-overlapping spheres. This may be true, at least for the majority of serious artists who take on some projects for the sake of pure creativity, because they can’t not make art, and because even in a modern society that has devalued the role of the creators by overvaluing the distributors (ahem – the Spotify model), they still see value in the process of making stuff for its own sake.

But Lady Gaga’s understanding of art culture seems a bit different. Her obsession and collaborations with huge art world names like Marina Abramović and Jeff Koons feel a lot like her own admitted obsession with fame, a major, ongoing theme in her music and life. Coincidentally (or not), the artists that Gaga admires most are those that have been prominently in the public eye for years. They are the giants on the world stage. Koons, who designed the ARTPOP album cover, recently sold one of his statues for $58.4 million. It was a gigantic orange balloon dog.
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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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