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Punk On The Rocks: Punk By Association

Weezer’s new album Hurley was released this past Tuesday on Epitaph Records, a label best known for being founded by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Weezer’s new label is also home to Every Time I Die, Social Distortion and Bring Me The Horizon. The album’s release has been covered by punk news sites like Punknews.org and DyingScene.com — but why? While Weezer’s 1996 album Pinkerton is considered by many to have been a huge influence on modern emo bands, Weezer isn’t really a punk band at all. Sure. some of their older material could be categorized as “alternative,” but the more recent albums fit more comfortably into the “power pop” genre, or just straight ahead “rock.”

Weezer's Hurley Album

Weezer is part of a phenomenon I like to call “punk by association.” Punk by association artists don’t necessarily make punk music, but have a lot of fans within the punk community. Thus, they tour with punk bands, get coverage in punk press and sometimes end up on punk labels. Weezer isn’t alone in this category.

Andrew W.K. is another artist who’s frequent coverage on punk sites and blogs (like this one) falls under “punk by association.”  While his music can range from stadium party-rock anthems to experimental piano compositions, W.K. has done two stints on the Vans Warped Tour and his identity crisis was documented on both punk and metal blogs, though W.K.’s music is neither.

New wave pioneers Devo also get love in the punk blog-osphere and are often featured in “punk” articles  and books. While some of their early songs featuring analog instruments could find a home on a punk playlist (See 1978′s Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!‘s punchy “Gut Feeling”/ “(Slap You Mammy)”), the majority of their material is…well, it’s not punk, that’s for sure. In fact, when gossip site TMZ labeled the band “punk rock” in an image earlier this year, it sparked a lively discussion on the band’s message board.

So why do self-proclaimed “punk” blogs cover these artists? Why do these artists have so many fans in the punk community? In my opinion, while Andrew W.K., Weezer and others might not have the punk sound, they definitely have the punk attitude. From Devo’s muzak album to Andrew W.K.’s solo piano improvisations to Weezer’s collaboration with Lil’ Wayne—They all make music on their own terms, critics, labels and even fans be damned. In the words of Weezer “I’mma do the things that I wanna do / I ain’t got a thing to prove to you.”

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Eminem and Jay-Z rock Yankee Stadium

Part one of Jay-Z and Eminem’s Home and Home Tour, which took place last week in Eminem’s hometown of Detroit, was a success (to put it mildly). And Part two, which took place this past Tuesday at Yankee Stadium in Jay-Z’s home turf, looks like it was just as epic, if not more so. Featuring repeat guest performances by Drake, Kanye West and Dr. Dre, the concert also featured surprise guests Swizz Beatz, Nicki Minaj and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who joined buddy Jay-Z for a medley that included snippets of “Clocks” and “Viva La Vida.” Check out the clip below—goosebumps on the house.

Ted Leo + Paul F. Tompkins = “Bottled in Cork” video

Lampooning the archetypal rise and fall of a rock star, this new video from Ted Leo is a real hoot, thanks to a comically rich performance by Paul F. Tompkins, who plays the part of Leo’s would-be manager, Reginald Van Voorst. Enjoy the LOLs.

The Bad

Hootie and the Blowfish to get SC monument

It seems mean-spirited to throw this in the “Bad” section, but we didn’t have room for it anywhere else. Honest. And even if we were griping about the expense of funding such a monstrosity (your words, not ours), it wouldn’t change the fact that Hootie and the Blowfish are getting a big monument in Columbus, South Carolina. The band formed there on the campus of USC nearly 25 years ago, and went on to sell 16 million copies of their record, Cracked Rear View. The monument will be unveiled on October 21. Put that spray can down.

Weezer autotunes the news

If you have a sour Hootie aftertaste in your mouth, cleanse your palate with this video wherein Weezer autotunes current events. Catchy and informational!

The Ugly

George Michael sentenced to prison

George Michael was sentenced to eight weeks in jail and a five-year suspension of his driver’s license after he drove his Range Rover into a Snappy Snaps photo store (real name) on July 4th. Somebody won’t be singing “Freedom” anytime soon.

Miscellany

Hot in Portland: Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives

From the humble basement of a Portland, Oregon residence, upstart indie record label Amigo/Amiga Recordings has just released the self-titled debut album from Godfather artist Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives. The record dropped officially on Tuesday, September 14th, and is available on white vinyl with a digital download. The band recorded their debut full-length themselves in their home, crooning and plunking around on pianos and wooden things, singing their hearts out, and their passion is palpable.

Drew Grow–who has been making music for over 15 years–and his band play a kind of music that’s best described as “alt-gospel.” Distorted, it’s got the stomps, it’s got the holler; it’s cathartic. It’s soulful and wise; it’ll take you on a heavenly breeze to the river one moment, and punch you in the gut the next (in a good way). Rollicking; full of impassioned vocals with the feel of the album being more the buttress than musical key or precision. This album is so full of impressive melody and harmony, story, color, heart, joy, and trembling honesty that listening to it only drives you to step outside. Their harmony and choiresque lines have been likened to Spiritualized, but with Grow and his band’s breadth and preternatural sense of variation, this comparison falls short. The song “Bootstraps” is reminiscent of the ever fuzzed-out BRMC, who did dip into gospel and Americana for an album but never seemed to wrangle punk, gospel, Americana and shoegaze together as seamlessly and as fluid as Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives.

The standout third track, “Friendly Fire” harkens to the greats: Cash, Waits (circa Mule Variations) and at the same time nothing else ever recorded. Grow has an astoundingly talented group of three alongside him in Jeremiah Hayden (who runs the label too) on drums, vocals and percussion; Kris Doty, who plays the standup bass and contributes vocals, and Seth Shaper on keys, slide guitar, and you guessed it: vocals.  My two favorite tracks on this album are “Hook”, and “It All Comes Right.”

Check out the band performing “Company” live below.

By Paul G. Maziar

Paul G. Maziar is a writer and published author, newly relocated from Brooklyn to Portland, OR. His writing has been featured in BlackBook Mag, ISM Quarterly, BPM Mag, Lost in a Supermarket, Celeste Magazine (Mexico), The Tripwire, and ‘The Good Things About America’ Anthology.

HANSON Winners Meet The Band, Stream Live Performances

The second batch of winners for the Shout It Out With HANSON Competition were announced last month and are no doubt prepping for their upcoming performances. The competition has provided artists not only with the amazing opportunity to open for the band on tour, but has also yielded some pleasant surprises and unforgettable experiences. As part of an ongoing tour diary hosted by aLive@Hnet, the Hanson brothers have been interviewing each of the OurStage winners and streaming the footage live on their Web site. The interviews have not only given these lucky up-and-coming artists an opportunity to have the spotlight turned around on them, but also to talk music, perform for, and hang out with the brothers. That’s right, at the end of every interview, the winning artists are given the chance to perform acoustic renditions of their music live in front of the Hanson brothers and their online community, giving them one-of-a-kind exposure. Lucky for you, you can catch the upcoming stream for your favorite winning OurStage act right here on the site! Check out the schedule below to find out when each act will be featured with the Hanson brothers on OurStage.com. You can also check out the first batch of winners and their profiles in our original blog feature here.

Sparrow Karmina The Patchwork Quilt Fallacy Red Light Circuit
9/16 Anaheim, CA -
House Of Blues @ 5:15pm
9/17 Los Angeles, CA -
House Of Blues @ 5:15pm

9/18 San Diego, CA -
House Of Blues
@ 4:45pm

9/20 San Francisco, CA -
Great American Music Hall
@ 4:45pm
Motel Drive Eclectic Approach Tamara Power-Drutis Andrew Allen
9/21 San Francisco, CA -
Great American Music Hall
@ 4:45pm
9/22 Portland, OR -
Wonder Ballroom
@ 4:15pm
9/23 Seattle, WA -
The Moore @ 4:15pm
9/25 Vancouver, BC-
Commodore Ballroom
@ 6:15pm
Xolie Morra &
The Strange Kind
The Girlfriend Season Cameron Rafati Jen Pumo
9/27 Spokane, WA -
Knitting Factory
@ 4:15pm
9/28 Boise, ID -
Knitting Factory
@ 4:45pm
9/30 Salt Lake City, UT -
The Depot
@ 5:15pm
10/1 Boulder, CO -
Fox Theatre @ 5:15pm

Soul Searching: Lou Writer

In order to really succeed in music, one must have the will power to push through the many obstacles the biz presents. It requires a certain personality to make it, and this week’s featured artist happens to possess the required determination. Lou Writer is a soulful R&B artist hailing from Jackson, Mississippi. Ever since high school, he had his sights set on a music career and has taken a proactive approach to achieving these goals. This early focus has paid off as evidenced by his well-developed vocal and dance ability.

Writer’s music features jazzy chords and tight vocal harmonies that immediately soothe the soul. In addition to having the prerequisite skills and naural talent, Writer boasts an impressive resume. He performs consistently in Mississippi at local concerts, collegiate events and nightclubs, and has even made TV appearances on a BET commercial, the Jimmy Kimmel Show, Showtime at the Apollo and Park City TV in Utah. Additionally, Writer auditioned for and was selected to sing back up for Platinum-selling, R&B singer Lyfe Jennings. Writer also has had the opportunity to open for Robin Thicke, Drake, Lil Wayne, Pretty Ricky and Musiq Soulchild, just to name a few.

We’ve included a few songs in the player below for you to listen to. Let us know which one you like best.

Tune Up: An Introduction to Software Synthesis

We’ve all seen micro Korg synthesizers or E-mu samplers. They look awesome onstage, especially when stacked on those double keyboard racks. However, there are many live synthesizer tools that are controlled using simple MIDI controllers. These keyboards don’t work on their own, and won’t make sense without a computer to create the sound. That’s because they are controlling a software synthesizer (dubbed “Soft Synth”).

This week, I decided to introduce you to the diverse, flexible world of software synthesis. As a former music technology student, one of the best lessons I learned is to truly delve into the different components that go into sound synthesis. This way you can alter those synth plug-ins much more intuitively (or even build your own using modules and building blocks).

The techniques and concepts behind sound synthesis is an enormous topic about which many textbooks have been written. But, for our purposes, synthesis is simply the generation of sound from a computer source.  Usually, it deals with oscillators and filters that create frequency spectrums (sometimes to emulate spectrums heard in real life sounds; sometimes to create sounds that have never existed before). An oscillator simply creates a pitched sine wave (imagine the “beeping” you hear when taking a hearing exam). Some synthesis methods take many oscillators at different volumes to emulate spectrums (additive synthesis), other methods use filters to isolate certain frequencies out of more complex oscillators like noise generators or square/saw tooth wave generators (subtractive synthesis).

On the controls of a synthesizer, “cutoff” or “resonance”  are certain filter controls that alter some of these oscillators’ sounds. The cutoff frequency represents at what part of the spectrum you start filtering sounds. So, moving this control will make the spectrum more or less rich. Try automating this in real time to create sweeps! Envelope decays like “attack” or “decay” represent the amplitude of the sound (similar to the “attack” of a guitar strum or violin bow). This will help you to change how quickly or slowly a note occurs/ends. Of course the controls are endless, but they are always associated with a specific module in a synth.

Looking for a a good modular synth construction program?  Reaktor by Native Instruments can be used as standalone or a plug.  You can actually build a synth yourself by patching together oscillators (which you can have controlled by controllers or simple number values), filters, effects modules, envelopes, etc. The program is quite complicated, so I would recommend finding in-depth tutorials online (there are a lot out there). You can even get premade synth’s from their Web site. Check out the screen shot above to see what the graphical interface looks like.

This is just a quick explanation of some of the aspects of software synthesis, merely an introduction. Keep an eye out for future posts about some specific patches I’ve made, or some reviews of specific soft synths. I would also recommend trying Reaktor out. It has taught me a lot about how the other synth plug-ins work (and clarified what all those knobs do).  Basically I learned by making them myself. But, don’t be afraid to use soft synth’s in your next product. You have much more control over the sound and will be more satisfied in the end.

Behind the Mic: How to Reach the College Crowd

Even though most of them are broke, college students can make the best fans.

First of all, they probably listen to music more than any other age group. They listen to music while traveling to and from class, hanging out in their dorms, dancing at parties, eating in the dining hall and exercising at the gym. They are also avid listeners of their campus’ radio station.

Secondly, they are social media junkies. They are constantly on Twitter and Facebook, talking about the latest music, movies, television shows and events going on. They love to recommend bands to their friends and they love to promote their favorite bands by wearing their merch.

Kid Cudi performing at Bucknell University

Finally, and most importantly, they love going to shows. Performing on a college campus is a sure-fire way to get your name out there and play to a big crowd that will actually care enough to pay attention.

For these reasons, many artists choose to play free shows on college campuses; some even do full college tours. Playing at colleges is also a great way to make money because many of them will pay you, no matter how many people show up.

Start by making a spreadsheet of colleges you’re interested in playing at and include the email/mailing address  for their booking contact. We recommend using Google Docs so your band can share and edit the list together.

Students at Emerson College's WERS

Next, create a one-sheet with relevant information, including: your band name, a high-quality photo, links to your website(s), a press quote (if available) and an email address and phone number they can reach you at. Make sure your websites are up-to-date and include a full bio and performance videos. Then mail your flyer to all of the schools on your list.

When you book a show, you should then contact that school’s radio station and let them know your band will be playing on their campus. Send them a link to download your music or tell them you would be happy to send a CD to the station. This will allow students at the school to hear your music before you even set foot on campus.

Shay Sinnott of Curry College Radio relies on upcoming bands to run her show, “Hometown Throwdown,” on which she interviews the band and invites them to play acoustic sets on the air. She also books shows for venues in and around her school.  ”College DJ’s like myself like to bring new bands into the station for interviews and acoustic performances,” says Sinnott. “This gives bands the great opportunity to share their music with a whole new audience. It allows listeners to really get to know up and coming bands, and hear their music stripped down to the core.”

As with all venues, colleges in the same area will most likely scope out the acts their neighbors are hiring. Make sure that when you book a show and perform, you are professional, engaging and polite. Give out free merch (college students can’t resist free stuff!) and talk to new fans after your set. Send a thank you email to the booking contact after the show and tell the school you would love to return for another show in the future. If you’ve done all of this well, you’re sure to be back for another show!

Synth City

Fancy Me Yet

Natasha Jeanne was already a major label artist with three Latin GRAMMY nominations under her belt when she decided to start from scratch and form a new band. Fancy Me Yet is the result of the singer’s about-face, a glossy synth-rock band with influences ranging from The Killers to Phoenix. With bandmates Alex Darren (guitar/vocals) and Chris Bernard (drums/sequencers) rounding out the mix, Fancy Me Yet sets to lighting a fire under your feet. On “Middle Man,” the bubblegum crack of the chorus sends what would be a new-wave track straight into pop-rock territory. Natasha is belter, drenching her lyrics with attitude and delivering big verbal slaps. Her best delivery is on “Amusing Me”—a coy, boy-girl trade-off with searing guitar stabs that nudge you until you start moving. Big, sailing choruses rule the day here (see “Said It All” and “A Little Bit Of”). If you can’t get with girly pop-rock, then step aside. Everyone else—we’ll see you on the dance floor.

GuacaMusic: Viva Mexico!

Happy Independence Day!

Contrary to popular belief, Mexicans DO NOT celebrate their independence on Cinco de Mayo (May 5th), but rather on September 16th. In fact, los mexicanos designate September as the Mes de la Patria, which means Patriotic Month or Month of the Nation.

During this Mes de la Patria, houses, buildings and cars are decorated with patriotic ornaments. Vendors sell Mexican flags and balloons in every corner, and restaurants serve traditional dishes such as chilaquiles, chiles rellenos and mole.

Each year, on the night of September 15th, the Mexican president rings the bell of the National Palace in Mexico City and repeats the Grito de Dolores, a cry of patriotism that ends with a long and loud Viva Mexico!

This year, Mexico is commemorating 200 years of independence, so we decided that it was the perfect time to celebrate something else: Mexican music.

It would be impossible to discuss everything there is about Mexican music in a single post. La música Mexicana is so exquisite and diverse that we could dedicate a whole blog to it, and even that may not be enough. Therefore, we decided to honor Mexico’s bicentennial celebration with a list of the best Mexican songs of all time:

  • Cielito Lindo“. Who doesn’t know the lyrics to the characteristic Ay ay ay ay, canta y no llores? This popular Ranchera, written by Quirino Mendoza y Cortés in 1882 has been played by numerous artists, including Enrique Iglesias and Pavarotti.
  • La Bamba“. There are restaurants, games and even snacks named after this highly popular folk song from Veracruz, Mexico. To dance it, all you need is una poca de gracia (a little bit of humor).
  • Mexico Lindo y Querido“. Ask any Mexican living abroad to name the song they play when feeling homesick or patriotic (or both) and most will say Mexico Lindo, a mariachi song written by Chucho Monge.
  • La Cucaracha“. Even children know the words to this corrido about a cockroach who does not want to walk.
  • El Rey“. If you are curious about what Mexicans sing at weddings, cantinas and even high class bars, listen to “El Rey by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, a singer-songwriter who is considered an integral element of Mexico’s musical heritage. Play this songs and you will see why Jose Alfredo “sigue siendo el Rey” (remains the king).
  • Maria Bonita. This is a song about Mexican actress María Félix (also known as La Doña), one of the icons of the golden era of the Cinema of Mexico. Famous songwriter Agustín Lara wrote many songs for her, among them the well-known María Bonita.
  • Somos Novios.” Every romantic knows this beautiful and inspiring bolero by Mexican composer Armando Manzanero. The song was translated into English by Sid Wayne and has been recorded by many artists, including Elvis Presley and Perry Como.

Each of these songs represents something about Mexican culture. Each has a history and a future. Play these songs, learn these songs, savor these songs and get ready to roar Viva Mexico!

Artistas Latinos: We invite you to upload your best original song in the Intel Latin “Superstars” Competition. The Top 5 artists will receive prize packages including personal computers based on Intel® Core™ Processor technology with Cakewalk music software. ¡Suerte!

The Celebrity Social Network: Pop Stars on Twitter

Twitter, it gets stars into trouble. Big trouble. In March, Justin Bieber‘s manager was arrested for not tweeting to discourage fans from descending on the mob scene that was a Bieber mall appearance on Long Island, New York. That was just about the time Chris Brown was re-opening his Twitter account following three months of inactivity due to an embarrassing tweet tirade that accused U.S. retailers of conspiring against him by not stocking his latest album, Graffiti. A month later, David Archuleta was accused of being homophobic after tweeting first and thinking later. Meanwhile, Britney Spears, Lily Allen and even U.S. President Barack Obama have all fallen victim to various Twitter hackers, one of whom spread a rumor from Spears’ account that she had died.

You’d think by now celebrities would be more wary of Twitter, especially Kanye West, quite possibly the artist most likely to publicly put his foot in his mouth. Yet the rapper, and so many of his fellow pop stars, can’t stop till they tweet enough—reaching out to fans and to each other. In the last week alone, West used it to apologize to Taylor Swift (whom he “follows” on Twitter), presumably for interrupting her onstage at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards, to give props to fellow rapper Lloyd Banks and to declare his favorite unit of measurement “a shit load.” But his most revealing Tweet of all: “I just told Mike Dean put some the soulful drama juno chords on that new La Roux track … Don’t tell Elly I’m messing with the beat though.” Who knew West was down with the “Bulletproof” duo?

And what did La Roux tweet about this past week? On September 6, they, too, paid tribute of sorts to Taylor Swift, quoting one of her hits: “Today was a fairytale, you wore a dress I wore grey t shirt.” As for Swift, her recent Twitter activity includes raving about going to see Paramore and New Found Glory in concert in Nashville, sending messages to Perez Hilton, Miranda Lambert and her mom, and revealing her favorite rap song of the moment. Drumroll: It’s not West’s “Power.” “I’m so in love with that new Nelly song,” she shared on August 25th. Sorry, Kanye. Maybe next time.

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

 


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