We could swear that Justin Vernon says something about shoes in at least one Bon Iver song. Honestly, we’re still trying to figure out which words he’s singing. Either way, the man behind the pseudonym has teamed up with Los Angeles shoe company Keep to produce a custom line of “Bon Iver” shoes that follow the style of the company’s preexisting Ramos line. The salmon-colored canvas shoes feature a herringbone design and a black fishbone image on the toe.
This is the second time the company has teamed up with an indie artist to create limited edition sneakers. They released a line of products designed by members of Animal Collective in 2010, the proceeds from which benefitted the Socorro Island Conservation Fund to protect the marina biosphere off the California coast. Though Keep’s press release states that both the company and Vernon “support Best Friends Animal Society,” it is unclear whether the same donation method will apply to the sales of Bon Iver’s shoe as well.
The sneakers are manufactured in a humane process that is supposedly “cruelty-free” towards animals. If only it were as considerate of our eyes. The shoes will be available for pre-order at the Keep website until Sunday, July 1, and will arrive in stores October 2012.
There’s always a question about the follow up record. What does a band do after their big breakthrough? On Zonoscope, Cut Copy’s third LP for Modular Recordings, Cut Copy faces that dilemma by not breaking stride. Each release from the band has been in forward movement, keeping in step with a logical, traceable progression. Zonoscope fits into this tradition as Cut Copy continue to refine their electro dance rock pallet.
While the record is no grand departure for the band it’s clear their sound has gotten a bit of an update for this release. The band worked with indie-superstar producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Matt & Kim, Gnarls Barkley) in making the record. The collaboration proves to be a fruitful one as Cut Copy’s sound remains wholly their own while the songs are now driven to a new arena hugeness. (For more insight into the recording of Zonoscope, check out this Behind the Scenes/ Making Of documentary for the album on youtube: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.)
The record cruises through the familiar synthpop fare and ’80s club motifs with the scale, the hooks, everything on the record sonically boosted. While cuts like “Hearts on Fire” or “Far Away” were built for the sweatiest discotheques—fast, pulsating four-on-the-floor bangers—the songs on Zonoscope hit in a different way. The kick drum on “Pharaohs & Pyramids” was meant to shake a coliseum that could fit thousands and it’s not hard to imagine “Need You Now” opening a sing-a-long set for the band at any one of the Coachellas – where they’re playing Friday, April 15th – or Bonnaroos this summer.
The greatest change for the band between this and their last album, 2007’s rightfully lauded In Ghost Colours, is the dialing down of the psychedelics that permeated that record. Zonoscope also sounds more upbeat, a change that has come hand in hand with the additional sonic clarity. There are dark nooks in Zonoscope, but they are few and far between. “Corner of the Sky” trades a bit in confusion and mystery before moving to the big chorus and there’s nothing as melancholy as “Strangers In The Wind”. However, there are still trippy, swirly moments here and there. The one nearly wordless piece on the record, “Strange Nostalgia for The Future”, twinkling abstraction that it is, is bright and effervescent. The soundscape interstitials that bookended many of the songs on In Ghost Colours are still present as well, lending the work a sense of cohesion to the record.
Zonoscope finds Cut Copy at their most reverent as the band gives big nods to the past. The aforementioned “Pharaohs & Pyramids” shows its debt to New Order and ’80s synth pop with a bass line that would make Peter Hook proud. “Take Me Over” is indebted to Fleetwood Mac; “Where I’m Going” is Rubber Soul era Beatles with a clubby Aughts update. Hell, “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat” sounds like a product of the ’70s with lyrics speaking of watching satellites, where the stars meet and electric heartbeats in the sky. All the while, singer and mastermind Dan Whitford’s voice is in fine form, sounding more confident on Zonoscope then he has in the past.
The album is closed out by “Sun God”, an epic fifteen minutes of rave-up maximalism, a sprawl of a track. To give you some perspective, the album plays around sixty-one minutes and runs eleven tracks in length. “Sun God” alone makes up about 25% of the album. But considering that Zonoscope is not an album of small gestures, it’s a fitting move. ”Sun God” sounds like what you would get if you took Phoenix’s “Love Like a Sunset” Parts I and II, turned them backwards, pumped em full of steroids and hung a discoball above it. The track also contains the choice lyric from the album, “You got to live/ You got to die/ So what’s the purpose/ Of you and I?” When you see them in concert, please bring a canteen, if only for this song.
Recorded in a warehouse outside Melbourne, the band said to have used, “all sorts of strange bongos, rototoms, congas, ten kinds of shaker, fifteen different cowbells; anything and everything” in the production of the record. All in all, it seems that artistic freedom has been good for Cut Copy as Zonoscope is another great record from the band and bodes well for their future.
Festival season is fast approaching, and impassioned fans everywhere have enjoyed obsessing over rumors and clues trying to decipher where their favorite artists will be playing this year. Some festivals have more fun with it than others, announcing various clues and misdirections, and some are downright cruel. Let’s take a look at a couple of different ways festivals have revealed their lineups this year.
Coachella announced theirs late on January 18th, but not without getting their jollies first. Rumors that KROQ would announce the much awaited list at 5 PM were dispelled as lies and left plenty of anxious fans disappointed. They redeemed themselves just a few hours later, however, by unexpectedly posting the roster online. Some of the biggest names on the list include Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, the Strokes, Animal Collective and the Black Keys. There are many, many more artists, of course, and Coachella can boast yet another killer lineup.
Bonnaroo took a different approach. Instead of teasing fans with false lineups or fake announcements, they posted a series of riddles that each correspond to an act or multiple acts. Here’s an example from last year that will help demonstrate how evasive they can be:
Clue– The one monkey who was the warmest and his offspring.
Explanation (according to Broken Mic)–First, think of the band the Monkees. The warmest Monkee would be Michael Nesmith, because of his trademark wool hat. Now, another word for “offspring” could be “son”. Put them together and you get Michaelson, or Ingrid Michaelson.
DJ JD Farmhound of Radio Bonnaroo has created riddles for the past few years and these teasers also seem to double as a marketing ploy. Here are the clues from this year:
Clue 1 – A trip to space thwarted by a speckled lad’s demise. A watershed moment otherwise.
Clue 2 – Cecilia’s dress code: Sheer
Clue 3 – Still up. A month now, maybe two. Don’t call the priest, just find my guru.
Clue 4 – A veteran and magistrate, or a character of sorts. A throne one cannot abdicate, of which a crab can make a fort.
Clue 5 – Red, White and blue are all a part of this young palette. A farm heathen disguised among giants, the only Ten I see.
Bamboozle revealed their lineup in a similar fashion to Bonnaroo. The key difference was in their delivery: they opted to post video clues on YouTube instead and the clues themselves were lengthier and a little less ambiguous. Click here to watch one of these perplexing clips and see if you’re able to decode the bamboozlement.
[Editor's note: according to coachella.com, festival passes are no longer available. Read: ya snooze ya lose!]
Ten years after forming in 1998, Junior Senior disbanded and guitarist/lead singer Jesper Mortensen left London for his native Denmark, only to realize New York was the place to be if he wanted to find someone to share in his journey to create a truly unique pop group. In a stroke of brilliant luck, Leah Hennessey was the first person he met in the city. “Jesper had written a few songs and asked me to listen and give him my thoughts,” she recalls. “Listening to the songs, I realized that he was asking if I wanted to sing and I was like, ‘Are you asking me to be in your band, because I can do that.’” Mortensen then persuaded his long time graphic designer friend Christiansen to learn to play bass and move to New York. The trio started rehearsing in the spring of 2010, and after countless demoralizing drummer auditions they finally met DIY-loving, Portland, Oregon native Olivia A. through all-girl drummer mag, Tom Tom Magazine. MAKE OUT was ready to go.
Trading on Mortensen’s manic take on pop music and the musical sensibility Hennessey developed from her own frenzied upbringing (and influence of her stepfather, The New York Dolls’ David Johansen), the band hooked up with producer Nicolas Vernhes (Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective, The Fiery Furnaces) at his Rare Book Room studios in Brooklyn. We caught up with Jesper and Leah the day after their official debut at The Mercury Lounge in NYC to hear how it went, and what its like trying to reinvent pop music.
OS: For those who haven’t heard you yet, how would you describe MAKE OUT’s music? How is it different from or similar to Junior Senior?
JM: We make rocking pop songs. And hopefully we’ll make great records. That’s what we want. Junior Senior was what happened when Jeppe and me made music together; even though I wrote the songs and lyrics and arranged (for the most part) it, I could never have done that without Jeppe. He was in my head all the time when writing music and what we wanted to do was something we established together. Now I have Leah and MAKE OUT in my head all the time and what we have established we wanna do together.
OS: Jesper, you decided to move to New York to form a new group after Junior Senior broke up. Why did you feel that New York would be the best place to start this group?
JM: I got bored in Copenhagen after I moved back there from London. And London didn’t agree with me. Even though English people are a lot of fun to be around and I love their music culture. But I couldn’t keep up with going to the pub every day, I need to get some work done too. I always liked New York, right now it’s the place on the planet that seems the least depressing to me. Also, I could not find any like minded and especially talented people to make music with in Copenhagen.. So I took a chance, like ABBA
OS: You released your first single, “I Don’t Want Anybody That Wants Me” recently. How has the song been received so far?
LH: I like the idea of a song being received—it’s like a gift. In that sense I think IT has been very well received—reports are streaming in of kids/people jumping around their rooms singing along and all that. I saw our music video director jumping around to it during the shoot, that was thrilling.
OS: You recorded your debut EP with Nicolas Vernhes (Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors). What made you choose to work with him and how did he help you realize your vision for the record?
LH: Nicolas was very open to our ideas about the record, like when we said “What about like, ESG meets Bruce Springsteen?” he was far out in space far enough to take it seriously, even when we weren’t sure what was a joke ourselves. Nicolas likes to hear what the music is saying, like, literally. He listens for words in the rythms, it’s adorable and only a little ritualistic and creepy.
OS: Your first show together was on December 16th in New York City. How did it go?
LH: Our first OFFICIAL DEBUT show, yes, was on December 16. It was great! The sound system at Merc is phenomenal. I think people were very charmed and excited, I was.
OS: Leah’s stepfather is David Johansen of The New York Dolls. What kind of influence did he have on your songwriting, live performance and musical taste?
LH: Maybe this would be a better question for Jesper, haha. David’s my mother’s boyfriend and he’s been like a father to me for a long time. I think he has the influence on me that any wildly supportive genius madman father figure would have on any young artist. I believe there’s a sort of contagion of mimicry that happens between family members and especially among performers, but I’m sure the ways in which I’ve ripped D off already are unconscious. He’s a sultan though.
OS: You’ve said that if the rest of the world were making this kind of music, you would be doing the opposite. Why do you think it’s so important to go against the grain?
LH: I think some people are blessed with artistic impulses that are completely physical, they’re headless, and maybe they don’t have to think about the context of their work, but I at least think about too much, and I have fun thinking about music especially. Of course I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing, it’s not fun. I’d rather be doing something peoplet think is awful and stupid than something passable and cool. I honestly haven’t heard any bands around going for the sugar rush of simple pop lately, and I think we’re doing it damn well.
OS: What are your plans for 2011 after the EP is released?
LH: Tour the world, write more songs, see where Jesper’s from.
The polls are closed and the ballots have been counted— Wax is back! Nielsen SoundScan released their 2009 numbers and although new vinyl only accounted for less than 1% of total music purchases in 2009, another spike occurred. Sales of new wax jumped from 1.8 million units sold in 2008 to 2.5 million units in 2009 — a drastic increase for a medium that was still in deep hibernation only a few years ago. To the multi-millionaire music mogul, the spike is promising but barely noticeable when placed against digital download sales (over 76 million for albums and 1.1 billion for songs). To vinyl junkies though, the increase in LP sales points to both record albums spinning on more turntables than ever in almost two decades and fresh faces joining the front to continue carrying the torch in favor of 12 inch discs made of polyvinyl chloride.
As live performances become more crucial to the revenue stream of the full time musician, more acts—old and new—are going on tour this summer. And you can bet your bottom dollar that this summer’s tour season is chockfull of great musical acts to blow your hard-earned recession pennies on. Sugar Ray is gearing up to tour in support of their first new album in six years. Nineties radio staples like No Doubt and Blink-182 are headlining reunion tours. If Blink-182 getting back together isn’t enough to satisfy your penchant for pop punk power chords, Green Day will be hitting the road this summer as well.
Eighties powerhouses Blondie and Pat Benatar are joining forces to co-headline a U.S. tour — with the all-girl punk rock band The Donnas as the opening act, it’s sure to be a quality girls night out for those of you lucky enough to score tickets.
There are also plenty of up-and-coming acts and college radio artists playing shows that you can enjoy without taking out a second mortgage on your home. For Wolf Parade fans, frontman Spencer Krug’s other band — Sunset Rubdown — will be kicking off a U.S. tour in June. Still smarting because you didn’t get Animal Collective tickets? Sunset Rubdown’s Jagjaguwar labelmates, Pterodactyl, will be crisscrossing the country to console you. On the local scene, Boston’s soon-to-be superstar electro-pop outfit, Passion Pit, will be touring in support of their much anticipated LP, Manners. And finally, OurStage’s New York power pop rockers, Blameshift, are playing shows you need to check out before it’s time to go back to school.