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Riffs, Rants & Rumors: 2012 Shoulds & Shouldn’ts

Now that we’re finally finished looking back at last year, we can start looking forward and set our sights on what 2012 has in store for us. Like any other year, it’s bound to be a mixed bag, musically speaking—while there are plenty of things on the horizon that promise to put some spring in our step, a few impending arrivals are already standing out as musts to avoid. Somehow, even with the music industry in a ruinous state, there still seems to be an ever-increasing avalanche of new releases each year, so here’s a little assistance for your aural agenda-setting in the months to come, a guide to the musical routes you should—and shouldn’t—take in 2012.


Trailer Trash Tracys – Ester (Jan. 24)

If a new UK band that blends the influences of vintage 4AD acts (Kurt “Ultravivid Scene” Ralske even did the cover art) and the Jesus & Mary Chain isn’t your idea of a good time, exactly what do you do for fun?

Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas (Jan. 31)

The old master is back on the block, with an album that’s immeasurably better than its anomalously awful predecessor, the inexplicable Dear Heather.

Dr. Dog – Be the Void (Feb. 7)

Refusing to be any one thing—power-pop, indie-rock, psychedelia and Americana have all found their way into the works at various points—Dr. Dog seems to have inadvertently created a sound they can (and should) stick to.

Mitch Ryder – The Promise (Feb. 14)

One of the original architects of rock & roll as we know it today, Ryder is still rocking in 2012, and his first new US release in three decades is overseen by none other than Don Was.

Explorers Club – Grand Hotel (Feb. 14)

Everybody’s favorite Beach Boys obsessives open up the template a bit on their second album without sacrificing any of their sunshine-pop charm.

School of Seven Bells – Ghostory (Feb. 27)

Slimming down from a trio to a duo seems to have put a bit of a scare into these NYC synth-poppers, but we’re up for being spooked.

Tindersticks – The Something Rain (Feb. 21)

Nobody does melancholy like the Tindersticks, and if the deep, creamy tones of Stuart Staples don’t nab you, the elegantly moody production will.

Field Music – Plumb (Feb. 21)

England’s Brewis brothers have worked under a variety of monikers together and apart, but their brainy blend of art rock and indie pop is always alarmingly infectious.

Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light (March 19)

How can you not be curious about an album that Spiritualized mainman Jason Pierce claims was influenced by Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys and avant-jazzer Peter Brötzmann?

Lee Feldman – Trying to Put the Things Together That Never Been Together Before (Spring)

Speaking of The Beach Boys, the Brooklyn songsmith who matches a Wilsonian sense of composition with a wily wit worthy of Randy Newman is readying his fourth full-length, so don’t sleep on it.

Book bonus:

David Klein – If 6 Was 9 and Other Assorted Number Songs (Feb.)

In this endearingly obsessive, unendingly fun romp through everything from “Eight Days a Week” to “Strawberry Letter #23,” author David Klein does for numbers what The Beach Boys did for surfing and Bruce Springsteen did for the New Jersey turnpike.


February 7 must have made some kind of major karmic faux pas years ago, because it’s bearing an unenviably heavy load in 2012 as the release date for a quartet of questionable new releases.

Van Halen – TBA (Feb. 7)

Twenty-eight years down the line from “Hot for Teacher” and “Panama,” it’s highly doubtful that even Diamond Dave can wipe away the memory of Sammy Hagar and the guy from Extreme.

The Fray – Scars & Stories (Feb. 7)

Are we expected to believe that the band who makes Coldplay sound macho is suddenly a raw rock & roll machine because they hired Pearl Jam’s producer?

The Light – 1102/2011 (Feb. 7)

New Order bassman Peter Hook’s extracurricular activities have always been iffy, but a batch of Joy Division covers plus an unfinished JD-era track completed by Hooky’s current outfit, The Light, padded out with instrumental versions of each track? Pass.

Paul McCartney – Kisses on the Bottom (Feb. 7)

Look, we love dear old Macca as much as you do, but a standards album? Really? With smooth-jazz producer Tommy LiPuma? And appearances by Diana Krall and Eric Clapton? How will we even stay awake through the liner notes?





Music Sales Were Up In 2011?! Thanks Adele!

The music industry just got one more late Christmas present last week when Reuters reported that US total music sales were actually up compared to the previous year. While combined physical and digital sales were only up 1% over 2010′s numbers, that still much rosier than 2010′s 13% decline in album sales. In fact, there hasn’t been a year over year increase in music sales since 2004.

So, why the the reversal of fortunes? Innovative new marketing strategies? The success of direct-to-fan online music distribution initiatives? The continuing vinyl comeback?

Sorry, the correct answer is Adele.

Yes, the British singer-songwriter certainly had a good year. Billboard reported that, unsurprisingly, Adele had the best selling album along with the best selling single of the year with “Rolling In The Deep”. The singer’s sophomore effort, 21, moved a staggering 5.82 million units last year. Records haven’t sold this well since Usher’s Confessions—with tracks “Yeah!“, “Burn“, “Caught Up“—in 2004. The next best selling record of 2011, Michael Bublé’s appropriately titled Christmas album Christmas, which didn’t sell half as many copies, only going double platinum by years end.

It’s not fair to say that Adele is the only reason why it looks like the music industry is turning a corner this year. CD sales may have dropped another 6.5% this year but digital sales increased by nearly 20% and now make up around a third of all music sales. The vinyl market, which still make up only a small segment of all music sold, ticked up again in ’11, with about 3.9 million vinyl LPs sold compared to 2.8 million in 2010. This year also wasn’t short on other big, high profile releases from the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Jason Aldean, amongst others.

But it’s time for a reality check. Let’s look at the numbers: There were 330.57 million units sold in 2011, compared to 326.15 million in 2010. In a world where, God forbid, 21 never came out, the sales reports for 2011 would read a lot more like what they have in the past.

Based on this, would it be safe to say that the industry is turning a corner? Not quite. While it was fantastic to have a big budget release like Adele’s, hers wasn’t the only big sales story of the year. Katy Perry’s historic chart dominance continued in 2011 and whether she’ll be able to overtake Michael Jackson’s record for most consecutive #1 singles still remains to be seen. Folk rockers Mumford & Sons had their debut record go platinum stateside, proving that an indie record could be a true sales juggernaut. Finally, the streaming music revolution that players like Spotify and Pandora are propagating don’t appear to have taken a big chunk out of album sales just yet.

Only so much can be gleaned from a single year’s worth of sales data. We’ll have to wait until 2013 to see if 2012′s sales figures are indicative of a comeback or an aberration. Until then, thank you Adele for continuing to save the music industry as we know it. Keep up the good work!

Sound And Vision: What Will George Michael Do with His Second Chance at Life?

It’s been nearly eight years since George Michael released an entire album of new music, and three since he put out a single that wasn’t a cover of New Order’s “True Faith.” But in 2011, the singer-songwriter starred in what must have been one of the year’s most gripping YouTube videos, two minutes as gripping and heartfelt as anything on Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, his essential 1990 album.

There was no music, and Michael didn’t sing a note. In the clip, which was posted on December 23, Michael gave a press conference in which he discussed his recent near-death experience that began on November 21 on the Vienna stop of his forty-eight-date European tour and which he described as “the worst month of my life.” The normally robust singer, who had contracted a chest infection that was later diagnosed as life-threatening pneumonia and spent a month in hospital in Vienna (including ten days in the intensive-care unit), appeared gaunt and gray, often struggling to catch his breath.

In a year that took so many of music’s greats (R.I.P., Amy Winehouse, Nikolas Ashford, Phoebe Snow, Vesta Williams, Clarence Clemons, Dobie Gray, Billie Jo Spears), Michael is truly lucky to be alive —and he knows it. So what’s next? First, as he said in the interview, he will reschedule the cancelled dates on the Symphonica Tour that he was staging throughout Europe and the UK when his illness struck. The shows featured Michael performing his own hits and non-hits as well as select covers (including Winehouse’s “Love Is a Losing Game”) with a symphonic orchestra.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: What Will George Michael Do with His Second Chance at Life?’

Press Shuffle: Songs To Tell The Future To

Pop music always makes us feel good so why not start out the new year with a playlist of music that will cheer you up, chill you out or get you through a tough time. There are many other genre influences throughout our list, including indie, country and R&B, so be sure to listen closely and see what you can hear. Keep an ear out for these acts: they’ll be hitting the charts hard in 2012!

Keep Talking” – Hannah Rae Beale: This soothing pop ballad is tinged with country and very reminiscent of Colbie Caillat’s “Realize”. While the lyrics are somber, the overall vibe of the tune is relaxing. It’s perfect for a chilly evening indoors by the fire, snuggled up on a couch!

Take Me Home” – Alexandria Maillot: This recent addition to her catalog is bound to grab some attention. It layers a cute, kitschy piano track with punchy, clear vocals and even some tambourine. Fans of Florence and the Machine and Lenka will appreciate this vibrant tune that’s perfect for walking to class or just lounging around.

Continue reading ‘Press Shuffle: Songs To Tell The Future To’

Funk Soul Brethren



You could say that the music of CoastalRise is fueled by a love of the life aquatic and a steadfast faith in a higher power. It’s beachy, yes, but never preachy, even if a majority of the songs are about a spiritual journey. In other words, pagans are welcome. The excellent “Emergency” shows that there’s beauty in crisis. A doleful piano leads the way through reverberating, low-end expanses. Singer Timmy Whiting’s vocals sound a lot like the creaky croon of M Ward, though you’re not likely to hear the latter bring out the funk like Whiting does on “Soul Power.” CoastalRise seems to alternate between breezy, barefooted soul-funk like “Hollow” and heart-wrenching ballads like “Dear Lord.” Whether they’re playing soul or baring souls, this group can make a believer out of anyone.


Vocal Points: Voices To Look For In 2012

As great as 2011 has been, it’s time to start fresh. So, while you’re making your New Year’s resolutions, start thinking about what music will be your soundtrack to 2012. Here are some of the voices we’re looking forward to hearing more from in the year to come!

Paramore, who made news in late 2010 for their split with founding members Josh and Zac Farro, are scheduled to release a full-length album in early 2012. So far, we’ve heard singles “Hello Cold World”, “Renegade” and most recently “In The Mourning”. Still, we’re wondering how the full-length album reflects any change in the band’s style. And it’ll be particularly interesting to see if Hayley Williams‘ voice is strong enough to keep fans hooked.

We’re also looking forward to having John Mayer‘s voice back in 2012! His fifth studio album, Born and Raised, which was initially scheduled for the end of 2011, will now be coming out in 2012, as soon as Mayer’s voice has completely recovered. And since the album’s already mostly completed (just missing vocals) it looks like we don’t have too long to wait!

Mumford and Sons won’t be keeping us waiting much longer either. According to the band, their next LP will be more mature, sounding a bit like “Black Sabbath meets Nick Drake”. And after the success of Sigh No More, its hard for us to imagine the band’s follow-up being anything less than great. Our fingers are crossed. Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: Voices To Look For In 2012′

The Co-op Playlist

Everyone knows that the stars of OurStage are the artists. We would be nothing without them! However, there are plenty of unsung heroes working behind the scenes to make sure the wheels keep turning and everything is running smoothly. We are the OurStage Community Team; Co-Op students who work tirelessly answering emails, writing blogs and reviewing the songs entered into competitions. We’ve been working here for the past six months, but now it’s time to move on to new frontiers. Still, the experience we’ve had here has been amazing, and our parting gift to you is a playlist of some great OurStage music that has either flown under the radar, or is just so great that it merits a second listen. So kick back, put on your headphones and check out some of the best we think OurStage has to offer. You can listen to the full playlist right here!

The Well Reds

Cara: I spent the past six months writing Live Wired, and when I wasn’t spending the majority of my free time at venues around Boston, I discovered tons of great music while working at OurStage! My picks for the playlist include finalists The Well Reds from The OurStage Panel, who I was lucky enough to see perform, and tunes from Marie Hines, Talain Rayne and Cooper Brown—these are sure to make you smile. Enjoy!

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Sound And Vision: 10 Things to Look Forward to in 2012 (Featuring Soundgarden, the Stone Roses and Freddie Mercury — Alive Again!)

A US Presidential election, Summer Olympics mania (London’s calling—again!), Rihanna’s film debut (in Battleship, out May 18) and the possible end of the world. Those are a few of the things I won’t be looking forward to in the coming year. Fortunately, music will offer enough thrills to distract us from all that we’d rather forget. Here’s what’s topping my 2012 anticipation list:

1. Madonna makes fiftysomething fabulous all over again. Although I’m curious to hear what Madonna does with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on the final cut of “Gimme All Your Luvin’” when the single is released the last week of January, that’s not the main reason I’m excited about her upcoming twelfth studio album (due in late March), her first since turning fifty in 2008.  “Masterpiece,” a new song featured in the Madonna-directed W.E. (which goes into wide release on February 3, two days before her Super Bowl XLVI performance) and her reunion with her Ray of Light producer William Orbit, is an achingly beautiful ballad that recalls the best of ’90s Madonna while gently proving that she can still create pop magic all on her own.

2. Madonna vs. Elton John vs. Mary J. Blige vs. Chris Cornell vs. Glenn Close (!) at the Golden Globes. Too bad the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has disqualified Madonna’s “Masterpiece” from competition at the February 27 Oscars. Why? Because it’s the second song featured during the closing credits, and eligible songs must either be in the body of the film, or the tune that plays when the credits start to roll. Oscar’s loss. The January 15 Golden Globes showdown featuring five monsters of pop, rock and soul and acting will be just as star-studded—and as tough to call—as George Clooney vs. Brad Pitt vs. Leonardo DiCaprio vs. Ryan Gosling in Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: 10 Things to Look Forward to in 2012 (Featuring Soundgarden, the Stone Roses and Freddie Mercury — Alive Again!)’

Found Gems

Bella Ruse

Take Carol Channing, Joanna Newsom and some old wire recordings from the 1940s and you’ll be able to somewhat approximate the antique indie pop of Bella Ruse. Led by the whimsical warble of singer Kay Gillette, the Minneapolis band makes strange bedfellows out of their instrumentation, mixing glockenspiel with piano, guitar, kazoo and typewriter. The music that emerges is jaunty, teasing and a little magical. “Gumption & Guts” bounces along with kazoo chasing piano, as Gillette declares, “This hell I’m living is no worse than knowing / That I just never had the gumption or the guts to try.” Romantic satisfaction continues to evade the songstress on “Complicated Rhythm,” a quirky hodgepodge of tambourine, guitar, piano, trumpet and (again) typewriter that punctuates each lovelorn sentiment with a cheerful ding. There’s a lot to love about Bella Ruse, if you’ve got the gumption and the guts to try them out.



Lana Del Rey’s SNL Appearance: A Mainstream Gambit

If you have a life outside of the Internet, then there’s a good chance that you haven’t heard of singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey. In that case, consider yourself introduced.

Del Rey, the handle of one Lizzy Grant, has become a figure of infamy within the online music world with unprecedented speed. Between the highly stylized videos, the songs about video games, Diet Mountain Dew and shooting her boyfriend in the head, the accusations of her image being a well managed concoction, the hipster baiting and—most importantly— those lips, it’s hard not to have an opinion about her.

Continue reading ‘Lana Del Rey’s SNL Appearance: A Mainstream Gambit’


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