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5 Most Anticipated Music Films Of SXSW

It’s that time of the year again: gearing up for the inevitable onslaught that is the South by Southwest schedule. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. To make it a little easier to pick through the massive amount of events going on, we’ve highlighted the five best music-related films for you to check out, along with a handy “when to watch” guide to enhance your viewing experience.

Broadway Idiot & ¡Cuatro!

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It’s a two-for-one deal for Green Day this year, so we’re grouping the dual documentaries on the band into a single punktastic category. Broadway Idiot focuses on Billie Joe Armstrong’s transition to the Broadway stage for the theatrical rendition of the band’s 2004 rock opus American Idiot, while ¡Cuatro! focuses on the making of the band’s recent trilogy of albums.

Watch it after: Missing your favorite punk band’s set in favor of that “awesome new shoegaze, EDM meets post-punk” act that your friend misguidedly recommended. Continue reading ’5 Most Anticipated Music Films Of SXSW’

Oaklynn

Oaklynn

Bands of brothers—history is riddled with them. From Creedence Clearwater Revival to the Bee Gees to Kings of Leon to The Beach Boys to Kool & The Gang to Good Charlotte to Pantera to, well, you get the point. Oaklynn, a band out of Dalton, Ga., brings its own exceptional symmetry to this illustrious group. Made up of two pairs of brothers—Josh and Seth Smith and Tripp and Tate Howell—Oaklynn purveys catchy, hook-driven synth rock with gossamer vocals. Fans of Postal Service will love the band’s single “Everytime.” Over compressed beats, tambourines, digital bleeps, and reverb guitars, Tate Hollowell sings, “Every time you come around here lately, you lift me off the ground.” Oaklynn’s ethereal songcraft has a similar effect. Next time you need a serotonin surge, give these guys a try.

The EditoriaList: Top Ten Musical Crimes Perpetrated By Great Artists

“Top 5 musical crimes perpetrated by Stevie Wonder in the ’80s and ’90s. Go.

Sub-question: Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins… is it better to burn out or fade awaaay?”

– Barry, High Fidelity (2000)

I wish they’d actually discussed this in the film, especially the latter bit. For my part, I say great artists have proven that, somewhere inside, they know better, and so should be held accountable for their sins.

Stevie makes this list, but not for “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” Not even for “The Woman In Red…”

10. “Freeway of Love” – Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul abdicated her throne when, in 1985, she recorded this mechanized, synth-driven offense.

Continue reading ‘The EditoriaList: Top Ten Musical Crimes Perpetrated By Great Artists’

The Heartwarming Heartbreak Behind The Greatest Album Never Made

Named ”most famous unfinished album” by Rolling Stone, the Beach Boys SMiLE was slated to be the much-anticipated follow up to the highly-influential eleventh studio album Pet Sounds. The recording of SMiLE was strange in itself, as it marked creator Brian Wilson‘s spiral into a state of depression and paranoia, famously concerned that fires breaking out in the neighborhood of the studio where they were recording were a result of the music.

Session musicians were made to wear fireman’s hats to record songs, a grand piano was placed in a colossal sandbox in the living room and another room was decorated as a bedouin tent. Despite bizarre behavior and mental collapse, Wilson was praised as both functional and professional in the studio. “Our next album will be better than ‘Pet Sounds,’” he said in 1966.  But it never happened, and SMiLE was shelved, presumably because it was just too far out for the time and the other band members.

Now, almost fifty years later, SMiLE has been unleashed on a new generation. Wilson tells us via phone that the simple hope behind releasing The SMiLE Sessions is that “people like what we did, because it was really good music.”

And good music it is, perhaps made all the more intriguing by its twisted past. Listening to an album meant to push the boundaries of popular music forty years ago in this new strange future where Lady Gaga rules the charts is enough to make any music fan reassess the road to rock revolution. You’d be hard pressed to find a band these days that doesn’t count the Beach Boys as an influence. Daniel Rosen of Grizzly Bear “fell in love with [SMiLE] as a piece of music, even though I didn’t know quite what it was supposed to be.”

You can either be confused by SMiLE or just go with it. A sprawling, contorted work with a massive track listing and disorienting cycle of orchestral miniatures that fight each other in transition from one song to the next. But the highlight here is imagining what was, and what could have been. The sessions material provide a glimpse at Wilson’s madness-fueled-genius as he patiently discusses mood, tempo and timing, with only the occasional hash or LSD discussion. “We were quite thrilled with what we discovered in the can,” he says.  ”It was hard to remember because we were doing so many drugs, you know.”

Wilson resurrected SMiLE in 2003, and released the newly recorded version the next year. But he calls this month’s release “a more extensive and extrapolation of the theme, like many, many extrapolations of ‘Heroes and Villains’.” Almost a full disc of “Heroes and Villains” fragments, actually, with another entire CD of “Good Vibrations” available as part of a limited edition 5CD box set.

“If you’re gonna write the song,” Wilson says, “Write the whole song. Don’t crap out halfway through it.” SMiLE may never be completely finished, but its certainly more than just a collection of songs that were never fully realized. The SMiLE Sessions are a deep and disturbing relic of what may have been the Beach Boys’ magnum opus, an unanswered love letter to the psychedelic era. No crapping out here.

Buy SMiLE now and check out the extensive track listing after the jump.

Continue reading ‘The Heartwarming Heartbreak Behind The Greatest Album Never Made’

The Bolts Vs. Cage the Elephant

Rock and roll has had a profound impact on the culturally history of the United States. Beginning in the 1950s with artists like Elvis Presley, rock music has always been a symbol for youthful rebellion. From the psychedelic rock of the ’60s, to glam rock in the ’70s, to hair metal in the ’80s, to grunge in the ’90s, each new generation of kids latches on to a new variation that represents their time and experiences. And while all the various sub-genres of rock have their differences, they all share a few basic similarities: loud guitars, powerful drum beats, booming bass and in-your-face riffs. While it may seem like rock has taken a backseat in the music mainstream to pop and country, there are still successful bands out there keeping the rock and roll tradition alive. One of those bands is Cage the Elephant, who also happen to be one of OurStage’s biggest success stories. This week’s edition of Vs. matches them up against another great up-and-coming rock band on OurStage that you may not know about yet, The Bolts.

OurStage's The Bolts

Cage the Elephant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
What makes the Bolts similar to Cage the Elephant is that they both write hard rock songs with a pop sensibility. Like Cage the Elephant, The Bolts have a penchant for writing hard yet melodic riffs that are extremely catchy. One listen to their song “Walk Away” makes this perfectly obvious. The song opens with a hard biting guitar riff that blasts you in the face on your first listen, but by the end of the song you’ll be humming it back to yourself. It really is that catchy. The Bolts trade off vocal duties between four out of the five members of the band, which allows for versatility as well as great vocal harmonizations, which you can hear on the chorus of “Walk Away.” While Cage the Elephant’s lead singer is known for his distinct, nasally voice, the singers in the Bolts have smoother voices with greater range. They also show off their instrumental skill with a roaring guitar solo about halfway through the song.

Continue reading ‘The Bolts Vs. Cage the Elephant’

Music As Marketing: Dialing Up Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”

Q: If a Tweet falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

A: Who cares.

Why debate philosophical malarkey while Justin Bieber is out there hogging 3% of our Twitter servers, and Lady Gaga gets to be the belle of the MTV ball by wearing a meat dress?

The point is, marketing methods that were formerly described as DIY (social media, shock frocks) are being deployed by artists who don’t need to focus on frugality, and that makes the playing field that much more crowded for unsigned acts. What’s an indie band to do to get attention on a budget? Kick out the jams.

Songify covering 'Double Rainbow'

The latest marketing trend is… music. Yes, the actual music. Bands seem to be crafting and curating songs for maximum rock ‘n’ roll attention. That could mean anything from writing novelty lyrics (meme mentions, news-du-jour references, sentimental stalker ditties) to strategically chosen cover songs. One blog suggests doing away with a song’s bridge to get more chorus-verse-chorus pop power. Tribute songs about the “Double Rainbow” dude are charting on iTunes, we swear. Apparently, there’s a little “Weird” Al Yankovich in most every burgeoning beat group.

“Now, all to often, I’ll see an artist puttering around in something like Twitter, diligently tweeting into a fan-less void,” lamented Mike, author of a recent post at the blog GarageSpin. “Making a splash in the music industry requires a lot of hype, and a lot of artistry. Hype drives awareness. Great music creates fans.”

The indie rock/jazz duo Pomplamoose has built buzz by putting its unique musical stamp on covers of pop staples. Multi-instrumentalists Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn are not known for playing live, but Pomplamoose has garnered a huge fanbase on their YouTube channel, about 3.8 million as of October 2010.

Pomplamoose from 'Telephone' video

Join 5.3 million others and check out Pomplamoose’s cover of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” on YouTube . The band’s take on the Michael Jackson classic “Beat It” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” are also crowd pleasers.

“Cover songs are popular for a reason — familiarity attracts fans of the original work, and can breed new fans,” says Mike at the blog Garagespin.  “If you can produce a creative spin or meme from an existing popular concept or creative work, you may attract attention and fans.”  Perhaps this explains burgeoning indie rockers, The Beatles‘ rush to cover Gaga’s “Telephone” as well.

Whether you’re Joan Jett, Run DMC, Franz Ferdinand, Johnny Cash or a member of Glee’s New Directions, it helps to know the basic decision chart you will need to plot out to master the perfect cover song. There are no right or wrong answers, of course. Do you choose a crowd pleaser or an under-appreciated gem that your group can own? Pick a song you truly love or one that you loathe for fun? Perform it by-the-numbers or give it a full makeover? Another option to consider: whether the song’s lyrics, artist or any other element have special relevance now or to some event in the near future.

Up and coming Detroit duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott) have gotten a bit of attention for their moody and thoughtful cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” OK, so they also perform in dorky NASCAR-style jumpsuits plastered with the logos of Cheerios, Lysol, Hamburger Helper and other brand “sponsors,” but sometimes a band likes to make an ironic lowbrow fashion statement to contrast with its arty intellectual music.

Take that, Gaga!

[Editor's Note: Check out these great covers by OurStage artists! ]

By Becky Ebenkamp

Becky Ebenkamp is a pop cultural anthropologist and former West Coast Bureau Chief for Adweek Media. Becky has a radio show called “Bubblegum & Other Delights” that airs 7 to 9 PM PST every other Tuesday on www.killradio.org


Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Ke$ha, Ciara, Jewel, Jake Shears and more tell bullied kids, “It Gets Better”

This week, several artists took to their webcams to record heartfelt messages for Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project—aimed at bringing hope to bullied gay and lesbian teenagers. Ke$ha, Ciara, Jason Derülo, AJ McLean, Joel Madden and Jake Shears are just a few of the musicians who’ve posted their own messages. You can check them out here.

Hollerado go 8-bit for “Americanarama” video

Watch your back, OK Go. Canadian rockers Hollerado have come out with their own ambitious video choreography, and it’s pretty bitchin’. Watch them create a larger-than-life 8-bit video game with a big box, some placards and a couple well-timed sound effects.

The Bad

Weezer offered $10 million to break up

How mean-spirited and pointless can people get? Head over to www.thepoint.com and see firsthand. That’s where Weezer-hater James Burns established his fundraising campaign to come up with $10 million to offer to the band in exchange for them hanging up their guitars for good. Beard writes:

Every year, Rivers Cuomo swears that he’s changed, and that their new album is the best thing that he’s done since “Pinkerton,” and what happens? Another pile of crap like “Beverly Hills” or “I’m Your Daddy.” This is an abusive relationship, and it needs to stop now.

Tired of Weezer, too? Throw some virtual money over to Beard. He’s already got nearly $300! Who’s your daddy now, Cuomo?

Saudi Arabia Photoshops Mariah Carey

What to do when you’re an ultra conservative country promoting a concert for a scantily clad pop singer? You Photoshop the poster, duh. In this case, Saudi Arabia officials covered Mariah Carey’s whorish shoulders with extra cat. Problem solved.

The Ugly

Lil’ Wayne gets solitary confinement

Lil wayne

Most inmates get solitary confinement when they try to shank somebody. Lil’ Wayne got his for having headphones and an MP3 player charger. We’re no criminals, but seems like that would make a really ineffective shiv.

Miscellany

POP GOES THE PIANO

amycrawford

There are two ways to deal with a Magic Man. If you’re Heart, you run away with him beg your mama to “try to understand.” If you’re Amy Crawford & The Electric, you temper your emotions with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The songwriter lays down the law with a spry piano melody and fool-me-not lyrics on her song, “Magic Man”: “Don’t tell me you’ll do the best you can / You’re wasting your time unless you’re a magic man.”  It’s infectious and effervescent piano pop with vintage textures à la The Beach Boys, only fronted by a clever girl with a lot more serotonin in her system. On her self-titled debut, Crawford and her band—The Electric—dole out a collection of upbeat gems that fall somewhere between Mates of State after a nap and Feist after a couple of sodas. Crawford’s comely vocals and nimbleness on the ivories make for some bewitching listening. In other words, it’s magic.


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