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Kind Of A Drag

Today is kind of a slow news day. And so, today, you get… rock stars in drag: the superlatives.

Most natural: Bowie

Most disturbing: Queen

Most frequent: Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones

Best homage: Blur (as Blondie)

Most dudes: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Best pout: Ozzy Osbourne

Most confusing to high school jocks in 1994: Kurt Cobain

Most committed: New York Dolls

Best looking: Bono

Exclusive Q and A: Architects Talk About Their New Album, ‘Daybreaker’

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsWith four critically acclaimed albums under their belt, Architects have steadily risen in popularity since their first record back in 2006. Now fresh off the release of their fifth full-length record, Daybreaker, the band has been playing festivals all over the world to support the new releasewhich is considered by many to be a return to the heavier Architects sound that was mostly absent from their fourth album, The Here And Now. We had a bunch of questions for the band regarding the new album and the band’s supposed return to form, and—luckily for us—guitarist Tom Searle had some answers.

OS: In most interviews you’ve done regarding the new album, you describe it as a bit of a return to form—what do you think was the biggest inspiration for this change back to your more aggressive roots?

TS: The biggest inspiration was touring a record that wasn’t heavy. During the whole cycle I felt uncomfortable playing the lighter material. So when we came to writing this record I knew that I wanted to write a heavy record. I think lyrically, the record required a heavy, aggressive backing.

OS: Daybreaker is your fifth album since 2006—that’s a lot of music in that amount of time—how do you find the time, inspiration, and energy to write, record, and tour each of these records?

TS: We’ve never found it hard to write. We started this band because we wanted to get together and write music, that’s the primary purpose of the band. All the touring just came incidentally. So it’s never been hard to make the time or be inspired because it’s a hobby. I write music because I love doing it.
Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Architects Talk About Their New Album, ‘Daybreaker’’

New Blur!

Damon Albarn has been playing with our emotions lately, first claiming that both Gorillaz and Blur were done for, then backing away from so definitive a final judgement.

Seems that he was right to do so, as today Blur has confirmed speculation (resulting from an extended teaser campaign) and debuted two new songs, “Under The Westway” and “The Puritan.” The band announced the live stream and then digital availability of the tracks via their official Twitter, @blurofficial. Check out the performances here with links to buy the tracks.

Divided We Fall

June Divided

The genesis story of June Divided isn’t that different from the vast majority of bands. Boy meets girl at college. Boy and girl write songs in dorm rooms. Boy and girl find drummer through Craigstlist; recruit college buddy on bass. But not every band immediately goes on to gigs at SXSW, Warped Tour, and mtvU. The velocity of June Divided’s career can be attributed to the band’s potent pop rock. Think Jimmy Eats world meets Thrice meets Paramore. On “Bullet” jagged guitars intersect with the candy-coated barb of singer Melissa Menago’s vocals. It’s a joyride through distortion and melody, meant to be cranked up and rocked out to. The adrenaline levels don’t dip in “Perfect Storm” where guitars are braided together, drums crash, and Menago’s plaintive voice reaches up into the firmament. “I think this might be the calm before the storm,” she sings. So do we.

Small Room, Big Sound And The Next Huge Rock Band

Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown Perform at OurStage's NMS Showcase in NYC

If you’ve looked at the Billboard Rock Charts lately you may be wondering what’s happening to the state of the genre. With chart-toppers like Grouplove, fun., and M83, it feels like the industry is in need of a good ole rock revival. Enter Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown. The Nashville quartet have made it their mission to perserve all that is holy with rock ‘n’ roll and are converting followers one live performance at a time.

Last week the audience of the East Village haunt Arelene’s Grocery were treated to an electrifying performance by Tyler Bryant (vox, guitar), Graham Whitford (rythymn guitar), Caleb Crosby (drums), and Gabe Anderson (filling in on bass). The band was in town for a few days to attend the premiere of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer (Bryant played guitar on the film’s score), to attend OurStage’s Artist Advisory Board meeting, and to showcase at the New Music Seminar. Check out their performance of “Kick The Habit” live at Arlene’s:

 

Megaupload Warrants, Seizure Ruled Illegal In NZ

The past week has seen a lot of good news for file sharing service Megaupload and founder Kim Dotcom as he fights his extradition to the US. Judge Helen Winkelmann of the New Zeland High Court ruled today that the warrants used to arrest Dotcom and search and seize his property were “invalid.” In Winkelmann’s brief on her ruling, she stated that the warrants used in the case were too vague and general. As such, their use in the arrest of Dotcom, the seizure of his assets, and the removal of Megaupload’s servers from New Zeland by the FBI, was illegal.

The ruling marks a major victory for Dotcom and his defense team. At FBI, at the behest of the RIAA, MPAA, and various trade organizations in the US, has been investigating Megaupload and Dotcom for the past two years. It is alleged that Megaupload was actively encouraging users to host copyright infringing content through the service, profiting from increased traffic and ad revenues from such content.

It seems that Dotcom also has some friends in high places. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, voiced his opinion that the case against Dotcom is “hokey.”

“Copyright violation is wrong,” Wozniak said in an email to CNET. ”So is driving over the speed limit. But don’t let that halt the progress of the digital age.” Dotcom also received some Twitter love from famous hacker Kevin Mitnick.

Police in New Zeland and the FBI have not offered comment on the ruling.

Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Peter Hammill Plays Truth or Consequences

What the hell is a Van der Graaf Generator anyway? That’s the question a lot of people were probably asking back in 1969, when the first album by a young British band of that name appeared. In fact, a Van de Graaff generator (note spelling) is a device that creates electrostatic energy, but the group named after that machine generated an electricity all their own. By the early ‘70s, after releasing such cult-classic records as He To He, Who Am The Only One, and Pawn Hearts, Van der Graaf Generator had established a musical reputation as the Richard III of U.K. prog-rock bands, reveling in the dark underbelly of the human condition and casting a crooked half-smile upon creation as something slightly sinister simmered in the background.

While the initial incarnation of the band fell apart in 1978, Van der Graaf returned to active duty in 2005 with Present, as a trio featuring original members Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton, and Guy Evans. Incredibly, the 21st century version of the group turned out to be just as vital-sounding as the original ensemble, and they’ve recorded four albums together so far, with the fourth, ALT, out on July 3. Prolific VDGG frontman Hammill also just released a new solo album, Consequences (he’s maintained an active solo career since the early ‘70s), and he’s currently busy touring America with his Van der Graaf bandmates.

“The new band album is kind of an unusual one because it’s kind of improv,” says Hammill. “I know a lot of Van der Graaf is pretty out there, but this is out there even by Van der Graaf standards. That’s coming out more or less simultaneously with the tour, but on the tour we’ll be doing comparatively normal songs. On the new album…it’s all instrumental for a start, which is not normal for Van Der Graaf, but basically it’s stuff that built up since 2005. Every time we got together for a rehearsal period or for a recording period, there would always be some element of improvisation that was recorded. We’ve got a long track record individually and collectively of doing things that are not really in any rock area, they’re more sort of musique concrete sounds, so that’s more or less what this new record, ALT, is about. Basically, the material built up over a period of years until it reached a kind of critical mass and we went, “Okay, actually, this is not our usual stuff, but it’s also part of our story and our history, so now is the right time to put it out.”

Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Peter Hammill Plays Truth or Consequences’

The Five Best Music Podcasts Of All Time (As Of Right Now)

Podcasting is the modern equivalent of pirate radio, with hobbyists and big names all competing for the same ears. It’s a medium that reward the nerdy and obsessive. It’s unglamorous. And that’s why we love it.

It seems that podcasting has been experiencing something of a renaissance as of late. The iTunes Podcast directory is rich with new programs and series that present the best in pop culture analysis, storytelling, comedy, and music at no charge to the listener. Since we’re so clearly enamored with podcasts, we wanted to share some of our personal favorites that cover music.

The Needle Drop

Anthony Fantano describes himself as “the internet’s busiest music nerd,” and that’s not hyperbole. Fantano runs the niche indie music blog empire that is The Needle Drop. Fantano specializes in audio and video reviews, covering albums and individual songs by artists big and small. While his YouTube album reviews are his bread and butter—he puts out a new one every week day—he also releases a weekly podcast covering new releases in, “rock, pop, electronic, and experimental music of the independent persuasion.” He covers a fair amount of rap and hip-hop as well. Warning: this podcast is only for the most curious and forward-thinking music nerds.

XLR8R Podcast

XLR8R describes their editorial mission thusly: “designed to break new artists and challenge cultural paradigms. XLR8R constantly strives to challenge its readers and provide a unique and inspiring experience.” Heavy stuff. XLR8R covers and tries to shed light on some of the most intelligent and left field electronic music floating in the broadband ether at the moment. Trance, house, electro, dubstep (mostly the U.K. variant), downtempo, and ambient are all on the table. For their podcast, XLR8R brings in some of the most unique, if not hottest, producers and DJs for exclusive mixes of their favorite artists. The best part? Most of the mixes feature meticulous track listings, with the artist name and a link to their relevant social media appearing as their song plays.

Who Charted?

Now for something more lighthearted. Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack are the multi-racial, mixed gendered duo that hosts Who Charted? Every episode features a new comedian or actor who joins Kremer and Vilaysack, or “”WieWie” and “KuKu,” as they discuss the charts of the week. Music charts, movie charts, if it’s in the Top 5 somewhere, they’re going to talk about it. Even though it’s not exclusively about music, the show gets bonus points for the humor, the audio of the songs included (music discovery!), and the wide breadth of comedy people they bring onto the show. If it’s not enough music or a bit too flippant for your tastes, I suggest paring an episode of Who Charted? with some of the musician-oriented episodes from the WTF with Marc Maron podcast. Example: Take Who Charted? episode 79 with Reggie Watts and follow it with WTF with Marc Maron episode 276, featuring The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne.

NPR’s All Songs Considered

This one is a bit of an obvious choice. The wide majority of NPR acolytes are probably familiar with the All Songs Considered program. Hosted by the affable Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, the web-only series began way back in 2000 as the tentpole of NPR Music. The show is still going strong to this day with Boilen, Hilton, and anybody else helping to bring the freshest new music to their subscribers. The show doesn’t really follow a set format, with weekly episodes ranging in length from around a half and hour to a full hour in length. Also the show has that NPR sound and feel, so you’re going to know if you love it or hate before you even start to listen.

Outside the Lines with Rap Genius

Rap Genius has been blowing up the lyric analysis game lately. The site has become the go-to spot for crowd-sourced and direct-from-artist verse meanings. Capitalizing on their newfound popularity, the site is expanding the brand with the Outside the Line podcast. Only a few weeks old as of the publication of this post, the show features host SameOldShawn sitting down with hip-hop luminaries. In the first four episodes, we’ve heard revealing interviews from Jean Grae, RZA, Soul Khan, and Kool Keith with more choice guests to surely follow.

Any podcasts that we missed here that you think are cool enough to include? Let us know in the comments!

Devil in the Details

Stateside

Stateside isn’t a band for the faint of heart. Made up of Mike Tarry, Chip Su, Jeff Meiers, Phil Zepeda, and Jeff Zager, the group crafts explosive hardcore that raises the hackles. “Bridges Worth Burning” combines serrated guitars, thunderous drums, and the guttural heaving of Tarry for polyrhythmic, bipolar screamo you can feel in your solar plexus. Like singers Mike Patton and Chester Bennington, Tarry tempers his barbaric bellows with melodic, plaintive singing. On “The Eve” surging guitars and drums create a tempest over which Tarry moans, “I’m wasting away.” But things aren’t always so bleak. “Make Your Move” is a motivational anthem about the city that never sleeps wrapped up in roiling guitars and semiautomatic drums. Maybe lyrics like “Broadway’s alive and calling me home” and hardcore make strange bedfellows, but even the devil gets to take a day off.

The Black Keys In A Pizza Hut Commercial? Not On Their Watch

There’s a lot of reasons why The Black Keys are one of the biggest rock bands in the world right now. Their crunchy, riff heavy and hook friendly jams are definitely a big part of it. Their clever music videos don’t hurt either. Finally, you’ve probably heard some of their songs in commercials. They’re ubiquitous. They’re everywhere.

But maybe The Black Keys are finding themselves in places they don’t want to be. Both members of the band, drummer Patrick Carney and singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach, and frequent Black Keys producer Danger Mouse, filed suit against Home Depot and Yum! Brand Foods (parent company of Pizza Hut).

The suits allege that two Black Keys songs, “Gold on the Ceiling” and “Lonely Boy,” were used in commercials without the band’s authorization. Bloomberg reports that lawyers for The Black Keys describe the use of the tracks as, “a brazen and improper effort to capitalize on plaintiffs’ hard-earned success.”

But do the Keys have a legal leg to stand on here? Here are the two commercials in question that are stuck up The Black Keys’ craw. What do you think…are these their tracks? Are they soundalikes? Does it matter?

Here is the ad for Ryobi power tools and Home Depot that allegedly uses “Lonely Boy.” The track can be heard here.

And here’s the spot from Pizza Hut that makes use of “Gold on the Ceiling,” according to The Black Keys’ complaint. For reference, the original can be heard here.

 


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