While Black Friday fanatics will be lining up at the doors of Kohl’s, Sears and various malls at unseemly hours on Friday, Nov. 23, to score the latest in electronics and appliances, music fanatics will be lining up in hopes to snag limited edition vinyl, box sets, CDs, and DVDs.
So get your travel mugs ready, and clear your early morning schedule, because this year is boasting some fantastic releases. Among them are a 7” of The Rolling Stones’ first EP, Nirvana’s 20th anniversary edition of Incesticide 45RPM edition and releases by Coheed and Cambria, The Gaslight Anthem, and My Morning Jacket.
You can find the full list of releases here.
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Fans can be forgiven if they thought the Swedish garage rockers The Hives had faded away. In truth, the band’s five-year absence was spent making their 5th studio album Lex Hives that was just released in the U.S. and immediately caught the ears of critics throughout the world including those at Rolling Stone magazine. The album’s first single “Go Right Ahead,” is full of “bold riffs, blunt hooks, [and] snappy beats” wrote a critic for the Stone reflecting the general critical consensus of the entire album.
But the recorded music is only part of the story for the Swedish band. Always known as a take-no-prisoners unit, the group left critics and fans breathless with their high-energy shows at the recent Coachella festival. No small feat when you consider Coachella held the exact sameevent —down to the same set lists from the same bands at the same times— – on two consecutive weekends. “[Pelle] Almqvist is still one of rock’s most engaging front men—bringing to mind a young Mick Jagger with the way he struts around the stage with his hands on his hips before suddenly leaping in the air with a scissor kick,” wrote a critic for the Los Angeles Times after the festival.
Just before The Hives kicked off the band’s U.S. tour with a sold-out show in Washington, D.C. on June 19, the high-flying front man Almqvist took time to talk to OurStage about Coachella, Lex Hives, and more.
OS: We heard you killed both weekends at Coachella. How was it for you?
PA: Coachella was fun. It was unorthodox to say the least. I’m really glad Coachella booked us when we didn’t have a record done. We knew that if you put us in front of a crowd, it would work. It was great.
OS: Did you have any concerns about replicating your show?
PA: No, it wasn’t weird for us. My feeling was sort of, “Isn’t it weird for fans going into the second weekend if they know about the Tupac hologram? If you know it will be there, isn’t that weird?” To me, that would have been kind of a bummer but hey, it went well. It was pretty great both weekends.
“I get high with a little help from my friends,” Ringo Starr sang on the Beatles‘ 1967 classic. These days, so do many of music’s top stars. Two’s company, and so is three and sometimes four. The more the merrier, the higher and higher they get.
On the charts, that is.
In the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week ending December 10, seventeen songs were collaborations between separate recording entities. Four of them featured Drake, and three apiece featured Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both appeared on tracks with Drake and with each other. But will.i.am featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger—and debuting at No. 36 with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” which the threesome performed on the November 20 American Music Awards—was probably the one that nobody saw coming.
Old-school Rolling Stones fans must be cringing at the idea of Jagger going anywhere near Lopez and will.i.am so soon after Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera went to No. 1 by invoking his hallowed name on “Moves Like Jagger.” But for a sixty-something legend like him, hit records—even if in name only, a la Duck Sauce‘s GRAMMY-nominated “Barbra Streisand—are a near-impossible dream unless they’re in tandem with other, often younger, stars.
Bands are hard to keep together. People fight, quit, rejoin, remember, quit again, die and so forth. Sometimes that band member is so integral to the music that it’s pointless to go on—some bands realize this and pack it in. But often, the remaining members don’t want to give it up. Here is the good, the bad and the ‘meh’ of some big, post-departure acts.
The Rolling Stones
Thank you, Jeebus, that The Stones kept it going after the 1969 departure and subsequent death of band founder Brian Jones (but couldn’t they have stopped after 1981’s Tattoo You, oh mighty Jeebus?). Jones’ contributions to the band are not to be discounted, but by the time he left, he had been marginalized—for better or worse—by the Jagger-Richards power team (and by most accounts, by manager Andrew Loog Oldham, not to mention by booze and drugs). The Stones went on to produce some of their greatest work.
While some people swear by Syd Barrett-era Floyd, the mental unraveling and eventual canning of the former frontman heralded one of rock’s greatest and most unlikely metamorphoses. With Roger Waters taking the pole position (and with able assistance from Barrett’s replacement, David Gilmour), the band slowly shed their psych-pop identity in favor of spaced-out stadium rock.
Lindsey Buckingham occupies one of the odder positions in the already off-kilter business that is the modern-day music industry. Though Buckingham is the co-leader and driving force behind one of the bedrock bands of the classic-rock universe, the Fleetwood Mac singer/songwriter/guitarist’s long-standing, if sporadic, solo career is considerably more of a boutique operation. This is especially true with the arrival of his latest solo outing, Seeds We Sow, Buckingham’s first-ever release outside the major-label realm. Buckingham had been working under the Warner/Reprise umbrella ever since his band’s self-titled 1975 blockbuster album, but after his contract ran out following his last solo outing, he found the majors to be both uninspired and uninspiring in regard to his new work. “As we all know,” he says, “the model of the large record company, you might say it’s broken. But you might just say it’s insensitive to the sense of possibility, the sense of risk-taking, the sense of nurturing that it used to provide artists.” Consequently, he’s gone the indie route with Seeds.
Not only has Buckingham taken the means of production into his own hands for this album, he’s taken over responsibility for pretty much every other aspect of the record too, writing, playing, engineering and producing everything himself. How does the process of building a track work in this kind of one-man-band situation? “You may start with a melody idea, you may start with a guitar idea,” explains Buckingham, “it’s kind of like painting, you commit to one thing to make a start. You could say it’s a more subconscious process. I’m not one of those people who necessarily sits down with something that’s completely finished…the writing part of it kind of goes along with the recording part of it.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Buckingham is a world-class guitar stylist, and a number of the album’s songs are based around his unique acoustic finger-picking technique. Asked about how he developed his unconventional approach, he muses, “It was just kind of a hybrid of things. Part of it is starting really young and not taking lessons, and not knowing what was correct or what wasn’t. Early on I was listening to a lot of Elvis, so you have [Presley’s lead guitarist] Scotty Moore, who played with a pick but also used his fingers. He was a pretty orchestral player. When the first wave of rock music died away, folk music took its place in terms of my interest…and I did sort of dabble in banjo, enough to have that be a bit of a reference point. It was really just the fact that I started doing it myself and found my own way of approaching it. When I first started with Fleetwood Mac they said ‘Don’t you think you ought to use a pick?’ It’s a little late now,” he jokingly reckons.
It’s been two weeks since Amy Winehouse had to cancel a twelve-city European tour following a now-notorious meltdown in Belgrade, which one Serbian newspaper deemed to be the nation’s “worst concert ever.” Amy Winehouse continues to be the most polarizing figure in the music industry, eliciting more anger than anyone in the post-Michael Jackson universe. Expressions of anger usually fall into one of three categories.
The first category attacks her looks. Certainly, some of this is par for the course for high profile songstresses (Fergie, Britney, Courtney), but Winehouse’s propensity for having her looks attacked is simply without parallel in the music word and perhaps the world of celebrity. She has been publically called out for looking like: a man and/or tranny, a horse, Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter movies, an alien, Dr. Frankenfurter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a vampire, Bette Midler, Death, a martian, the Bride of Frankenstein, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Howard Stern, Marilyn Manson, SS-Standartenführer Reinhard Heydrich (Google it), and perhaps most frequently, a train wreck. She has been a popular Halloween costume and the subject of a porn parody.
The second category attacks her health. Winehouse has been summarily diagnosed (by people who have never been in the same room with her) as suffering from herpes, anorexia, emphysema, tuberculosis and chronic thumb sucking. Winehouse’s “sickness” is frequently cast in opposition to her relative “health” when she burst onto the scene as a white, Jewish girl from the London suburbs. And we’re not just talking tabloids. In it’s 2007 cover story of Winehouse, Spin said of her: “Three years ago she was an innocuous, girl-next-doorish, virtually tat-free, full-figured neo-jazz crooner with middling sales and no American distribution—now she’s Sid Vicious.” Even when Winehouse looks healthy the public still manages to find occasion for insult: After returning from a trip to the Caribbean, for instance, she was described as looking like “a cast member of the Jersey Shore.”
The third category of Amy-hating points to her behavior. The 27-year old’s battles with heroin, alcohol, cocaine, ketamine and marijuana are well chronicled (in fact, she’s chronicled many of them herself in songs), but the mocking scorn that accompanies their depiction is without parallel. The photograph of her wandering the streets in just her bra in 2007 became her icon’s fait accompli, the way Nick Ut’s photo of a naked Vietnamese girl in 1972 became the symbol for all that was wrong with the US’s actions in the Vietnam War. There was, of course, the cell phone video in which she appeared to be smoking crack and, of course, the video of her singing racist words inserted into a children’s song.
Since when aren’t rock stars supposed to be dangerous? The same three criteria above—bad looks, bad health, bad behavior—have been aired as protests against some of the most important musical acts of all-time—Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Bob Dylan and The Stones. They were the arguments against the value of the early punks and the forefathers of hip hop. In an era in which artists shill to their fans on MySpace and Twitter as if they were friends, isn’t there a place for one performer in the world who isn’t pussy enough to say she doesn’t give a fuck if we like her? Even ballyhooed subversive Lady Gaga—last seen giving Scotty McCreery tips on how to hold a microphone on American Idol can be bought and sold like Coca-Cola. Meanwhile, that grainy video of Winehouse with her trademark flopping over to one side, painfully mumbling through songs on a Belgrade stage communicates more in one unfinished song about the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll than Gaga could summon from inside her GRAMMY egg vessel in a lifetime.
Don’t pity Amy Winehouse. She wants you to hate the way she looks. She wants you to think of her as sick. She wants you to notice her fucked-up behavior. While some have speculated that Winehouse’s latest crash and burn has made it possible for Adele to assume her abdicated throne as the reigning British queen of soul, I doubt it. Amy Winehouse has already lived and died in that throne a hundred times before: “The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.”