<p>Sufjan Stevens</p>

Sufjan Stevens

Watch: Sufjan Steven makes an artsy-craftsy 'Get Real Get Right' video

This thing was made out of glitter and construction paper -- literally

Sufjan Steven's may have released his latest "The Age of Adz" last October, but he certainly couldn't have been rushed for the serious stop motion required of the music video to "Adz" track "Get Real Get Right."

And by "serious," I mean it was a real commitment to make. But I don't mean serious as in it'll be nabbing any Oscars or Grammy Awards. The songwriter directed the animated clip, which consists of paper cutouts of Prophet Royal Robertson art, glitter and confetti. God shows up a few times, predictably. It's a war on paper.

Stevens promises some more confetti, "neon gaffe tape (bring it if you got it!), balloons... x-treme dancing and sweat" at his two shows for Celebrate Brooklyn (no, not THAT Brooklyn) at Prospect Park in New York on Aug. 2 and 3. Tickets for those shows -- the only ones the New York-by-way-of-Michigan transplant has on schedule -- are up now.

Read my review of Stevens' "Adz" here.

[Jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Arcade Fire's Win Butler</p>

Arcade Fire's Win Butler

Credit: AP Photo

Arcade Fire, Destroyer, Ron Sexsmith score 2011 Polaris shortlist spot

Of the 10 artists and albums named, who deserves this indie-happy award?

Like many independent music lovers, I grow tired, bored or, often, angry at the lack of unknowns named as nominess for the Grammy Awards. But outside the U.S., there are awards shows that open the door to lesser-known albums, including the Mercury Prize in the U.K. and the Polaris Music Prize in Canada.

The latter's organizers announce this year's shortlist of nominees today, which include world-renowned Canadians Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," of course, but there's also some shockers and newcomers to uphold.

Here are the shortlist of artists and albums up for the 2011 Polaris prize:
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Austra – Feel It Break
Braids – Native Speaker
Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
Destroyer – Kaputt
Galaxie – Tigre et diesel
Hey Rosetta – Seeds
Ron Sexsmith – Long Player Late Bloomer
Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On
The Weeknd – House Of Balloons

[Jump...]

Ron Sexsmith is a perennial favorite up there, and even though the prize has been around only since 2006, it's surprising that this mark's Destroyer's first appearance on the shortlist. And Stetson's connection to Arcade Fire as a touring saxophonist couldn't have hurt him.

But perhaps the biggest shocker is the inclusion of The Weeknd's "House of Balloons," as it was released as a free mixtape through the mysterious songwriter's website in time for the eligibility period. I'd love to see the Grammys come up with a wild card like that.

Those are debut albums from Austra, Timber Timbre, Braids and Galaxie; the latter seems to be the sole French-only lyricist on the list.

I'll admit that I haven't spun "Tigre et Diesel" or "Native Speaker" ever before, so I'm certainly planning on brushing up. Arcade Fire's album was supurb, but I would love to see a lesser-known take the honor, particularly Destroyer, or, hell, why not one of the lady-led groups like Austra or Braids?

Winners will be awarded C$30,000 this year, with the winner announced on Sept. 19.

Who do you like from the list?

Read Full Post
<p>Jack White with the Raconteurs in 2008</p>

Jack White with the Raconteurs in 2008

Credit: AP Photo

Jack White reuniting with Raconteurs live for first time in two years

Watch: Rocker collaborates with John Paul Jones, Dead Weath cohort, Seasick Steve

It was just a couple weeks ago that Jack White found a new musical collaborative partner in Stephen Colbert. Now, it seems, that the ex-White Stripes frontman is reuniting with friends for his next endeavor.

The Raconteurs -- White's "supergroup" rock outfit with Brendan Benson and two members of the Greenhornes -- are playing live for the first time together in two years for the first annual MI Fest, to be held on Sept. 17 in Brooklyn, Mich. (The OTHER Brooklyn.)

The threat here, too, is that band "will be joined by several artists from the Third Man Records’ roster" for the performance, according to a release. So it looks like White's Nashville-based Third Man Records is heading up to his homestate of Michigan for the last throes of summer.

Sheryl Crow is helping to co-headline. Alto Reed’s AllStars, Bear Lake, Hot Club of Detroit, Jill Jack, Mark Farner (formerly of Grand Funk Railroad), Marnée, Mitch Ryder, The Howling Diablos, The Juliets, The Rockets, The Romantics, Ty Stone & The Truth and Whitey Morgan & The 78s are also confirmed, with more artists to be added to the lineup.

Early bird tickets are already up, and general onsale begins July 9.

The Raconteurs have no other dates on schedule and have made no announcement regarding new music or a new album.

So there's this, and Colbert: but White is obviously interested in mixing and matching his music with business (and pleasure).

[Jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Junip: Tobias Winterkorn, Jose Gonzalez and Elias Araya</p>

Junip: Tobias Winterkorn, Jose Gonzalez and Elias Araya

Interview: José González discusses Junip material, next solo album

With 600 shows under his belt, how has playing live helped with his band?

José González and his bandmates Junip have justreturned home after three dozen-plus dates in America that included stops at SXSW and Bonnaroo. Late last month, they made their way to Prospect Park in Brooklyn for the Celebrate! concert series, and then Gonzalez was led to a rooftop party in the big city for a screening of the documentary film "The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of José González" and he played solo.

The songwriter is a bit split between the two worlds of his group and his thoughtful acoustic-based solo songs. It might have never been possible for Junip to move forward as a band in large markets like America were it not for the quiet acclaim and steadfast touring he did in support of his two full-length albums, "Veneer" (2005) and "In Our Nature" (2007). It was a combination of busy schedules and "laziness," as González' bandmate Tobias Winterkorn said, that prevented Junip from even making one full-length album until starting in 2008. 

At last, "Fields" was released last year, and the band's subsequent tour may leave González' fans surprised -- not just at the quality of the effort, but that the quiet-voiced writer can rock so hard.

"From all 600 shows I've done solo, it's really helped me learn to stick to [playing] the nylon string guitar," González told me from backstage of his Brooklyn show last month. "Most people will just give up and settle for a crappy guitar sound or switch to steel stringed guitar or electric. The sound... makes it a bit unique."

It also doesn't hurt that the trio has known each other since the late 1990s, or that their previous bands were of the hard rock and hardcore variety. Based out of Gothenburg, the band has been carving out their own skills and sound as some particular scenes arose from their native city.

"Gothenburg is really well known for melodic death metal... and weird harmony indie-pop..." Gonzalez said.

"Y'know, like young boys who can’t sing, but sing loudly?" Winterkorn finished, laughing.

Junip has a handful of show dates overseas left, and has only one more U.S. stop (Outside Lands festival in San Francisco in August).

And today, Gonzalez announced he'd be playing two solo shows during that short jaunt, among his very few scheduled solo appearances this year -- which included opening for Arcade Fire in Austria. Of the two, July 26 at the Old Royal Naval College in London is his last one "for a while," according to a release.

It's sort of like his schedule for recording. Junip plans on starting to write for their sophomore set in the fall for a release in 2012; Gonzalez plans on releasing another solo album after that. Winterkorn said that the band is considering combining subsequent tours with Junip and Jose Gonzalez solo on the same bill.

"When we write for Junip, its always us three writing together. I never come prepared for those sessions. At home, I write for myself," Gonzalez said. "I have a lot of sketches, almost too many, so I'm having a hard time knowing which way to go."

Read Full Post
<p>Phil Selway</p>

Phil Selway

Listen: Radiohead drummer Phil Selway announces new EP

Title track 'Running Blind' leads off follow-up to songwriter's full-length from 2010

Radiohead are obviously hard at work organizing their "King of Limbs" 12" single remix series, but longtime drummer Phil Selway has been contending with his solo career, too.

On the heels of his full-length solo album debut "Familial" from August last year, Selway is prepping the release of an EP, "Running Blind." The tracks are culled from the "Familial" sessions and were re-recorded later.

The title track to that set is streaming below.

I've given it a couple whirls. And aside from the fact that Selway is Radiohead's drummer and can pick out some nice melodies, I'm not sure exactly how he wants to distinguish himself (other than with some expensive tracking and a little hint of theramin).

But creatively, this may be what is required for the members of Radiohead to cleanse their respective palates. Thom Yorke has hinted at more solo material, and somebody's always after Johnny Greenwood for film.

"Running Blind" will by out July 25 in the U.K.

Here is the tracklist for "Running Blind":

1. What Goes Around
2. Every Spit and Couch
3. Running Blind
4. All In All

What do you think of this new track?

[Jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Mumford &amp; Sons at 2011 Bonnaroo</p>

Mumford & Sons at 2011 Bonnaroo

Credit: Katie Hasty

Listen: Mumford & Sons play new song 'Home' for live radio rip

Track performed during British band's recent tour

Just like country kinsman Florence Welch, Mumford & Sons have fans clamoring for more beyond just the single LP. And, similarly, the crew has been taking a new song around with them on tour, though a studio version is unavailable just yet.

In a song that fans have dubbed "Home," Mumford trots out their best sad bastard side, with the usual longing and emotive peaking that have made their album "Sigh No More" such a surprising hit.

"Home" was performed live for Colorado radio station KBCO (and posted by twentyfourbit).

Mumford currently have only one tour date, overseas, on slate.

[Jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Kanye West and Jay-Z</p>

Kanye West and Jay-Z

Kanye West, Jay-Z unveil 'Watch the Throne' cover art, pre-order

The snake eats its own tail

One good thing to come out of last week's not-news of Kanye West and Jay-Z's "Watch the Throne" maybe-sorta-I-hear-rumored-release date of July 4 is that the chatter may have inspired the duo to finally launch a website and fuel new speculation of its arrival.

The West-Jay-Z pairing has new album artwork and a pre-order section for the set, which still hasn't been issued a release date. The site indicates there will be a standard and deluxe version of the full-length, available on CD and digital download.

"H.A.M." is the only single to have come from the camp, production from Lex Luger. Other helmers that may be included on the effort are frequent collaborators Swizz Beatz and No ID; Bruno Mars and Hov's wife Beyonce could also be contributing.

Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci designed the Def Jam album's gold cover.

While Jay-Z and West have combined many times on record, "Watch the Throne" will mark their first album together. The former last released "The Blueprint 3" in 2009; the latter dropped "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" last year.

Kanye West and Jay-Z's Watch the Throne

Read Full Post
<p>Radiohead</p>

Radiohead

Listen: Radiohead streams two new 'King' remixes, announces second round

12" series has round one 'out the box'

Radiohead are now streaming the first two remixes from their "King of Limbs" 12" series, and have announced round two.

As previously reported, Caribou and Jacques Greene had at "Little by Little" and "Lotus Flower," respectively, and the British group has posted both on its website for stream. Check them out below. 

The tracks become available digitally and on vinyl on Tuesday (July 5).

And on to the next one: Nathan Fake is doing his own spin on "Morning Mr. Magpie" and Mark Pritchard is providing two remixes of "Bloom," one under his own name and one under his moniker Harmonic 313.

Fake is a spinner from Reading, leaning more in the ambient-techno direction. Pritchard put out some killer mixes with Tom Middleton (Global Communication) and under the name Reload in the '90s, signed to Warp and has been incorporating a little hip-hop and a little latin into his house-loving beats since.

It looks like these 'mixes will be available on or around July 14, which -- for those playing at home -- is really soon.

[Jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>Billy Corgan</p>

Billy Corgan

Watch: Smashing Pumpkins debut two truly bizarre videos

One with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan seems to be lightening up, and seems to be interested in promoting his band again. That's why the group released a promo video and an official music video to "Owata."

The latter is culled from ongoing 44-track online album-thingie "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope." And the clip goes for 12 minutes. On underground female wrestlers. It's almost as tolerable as the song, which you can interpret as you will.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also showed up for a 20-second promo to warn the world of a new album "Oceania" from the Chicago-based rock band, erm, soon.

Does "Owata" get you excited for SP material? Does Kareem?

[Jump...]

Read Full Post
<p>The Head and the Heart</p>

The Head and the Heart

Credit: Sub Pop

Interview: The Head and The Heart on Sub Pop, bad band names, Iron & Wine

Could this Seattle band be the next Mumford & Sons?

 

The Head and the Heart’s self-titled album is one of those efforts that require no effort to enjoy. Mixing layers of harmonized vocals, the band eddies cluttered and happy rhythms around solid pop melodies. It’s folky and sometimes rock, it’s sad or memorable, and cohesive.
 
It’s what you get when it’s members all live in one house in Seattle and spend endless hours around each other in tandem: to get signed, get that backing, and hit the road in a methodical manner. The band recently toured opening for Iron & Wine; they’re beloved by iconic indie station KEXP; they were a constant every night at SXSW. It’s not the easiest way to get famous, but it’s an effective way to get people to listen.
 
With a few exceptions Josiah Johnson, Kenny Henley, Chris Zasche, Charity Rose Thielen, Tyler Williams and Jonathan Russell largely bounce around the stage, from instrument to instrument; Jon, Josiah and Charity sing with irregular, eerie similarities, but add heat and cool like it was a recipe. That was the case at the Bonnaroo music festival this year, where I caught up with Williams (and a very quiet Russell) on the sidelines of the heat and dust.
 
What was the process of deciding on a record label, and why Sub Pop?
 
Sub Pop’s  always been on my radar, ever since I was nine, looking at the back of [Nirvana’s] “Bleach.” It’s always been the label that you look to, even the logo’s cool. It shows what they’re about. So even as we were going through submissions, we didn’t even think we d hear from them.
 
But being in Seattle helped. We were talking to a lot of major labels at the time. It took [Sub Pop] a while, but I’m glad we held out for them.
 
What went into making that decision, though, particularly since there are still a few reasons left to sign with a major?
 
Our big thing was trying to maintain a lot of control and a lot of groundwork that went in to making the album, that it all didn’t become useless. We wanted a label to augment what we were already doing.
 
We put the record out ourselves in late June of 2010, started touring a bunch, lost our jobs because were touring a bunch, all living in one house. We did it all ourselves. We just hit Seattle hard. We’d keep adding cities around Seattle and got down to L.A. -- Josiah and Kenny are from L.A., so there were friends down there -- good stuff down there. It just seemed like there was a buzz building because we were making it to these big cities on our own. We were selling handmade denim sleeves with the burned CDs inside of ‘em before we had an actual pressing of it. We just wanted to do it in a way that connected people to it.
 
How’s it playing to bigger and bigger crowds, like at festivals? And I noticed you guys were definitely a sing-along band.
 
The other day, we were playing to 15,000 people at Millennium Park with Iron & Wine. That was the biggest crowd I think we’ve done yet. It’s kinda funny how we only just worry about what were doing on stage. Today felt like a small club.
 
But the sing-along thing is awesome, we’ll never not want that.
 
There’s three of you primarily sharing duties singing. How do you divvy up who sings what?
 
Whoever wrote it sings it.
 
And with everybody changing instruments on stage all the time, do you all want to become good at everything you can, or do you concentrate at being good at just one instrument at a time? I mean, you have such a limited time to yourselves, and on the road.
 
Ha, that’s something I’ve been working on for the last 15 years of my life. Going on tour with a band like the Low Anthem in Europe… they all know how to play everything. EVERYTHING. And that was kind of inspiring. When you get back to reality -- playing shows every night in America -- it’s really hard to sit down to learn a new thing or instrument.
 
Or write a new song.
 
Yeah that’s even harder.
 
Do you guys throw songs together pretty quickly? Does it help that you guys all live together?
 
I think living together… its pretty labored no matter what, it takes a while to get to a point where we feel comfortable ngouth playing ‘em live. John or Josiah will bring parts to the full band, two or three ideas or directions, bringing a little change-up. And then we all
 
How do you decide what you’re going to play on national television? Or do you stick to a script.
 
“Lost in My Mind” is our radio single, so you gotta do it. It’s what we did on “Conan” and didn’t really want to do it “Fallon.” But it just made sense. I got a lot of shit from friends who were like, “Why’d you do the same song?”
 
Now that you’ve hit some big goals, what are your personal goals, or what are your big plans for the next six months to a year?
 
We’re lining up dates for our fall headlining tour… we’re just get out to as many people as possible, and keeping this record fresh. I mean, so many people haven’t ever heard of us, or heard it. It’s more a word-of-mouth kind of thing, it’s the way we wanted it. Hopefully, we’ll have a month at the end of the year, to start writing for recording in the spring next year
 
I was gonna say, you guys have a sort of slow burn, like Mumford & Sons or Josh Ritter. And, y’know, no matter what you feel about those guys, everyone can agree they’ve worked their butts off.
 
 See that goes back to the reason why we signed with sub pop. We wanted that slow growth, and we didn’t want a huge marketing campaign by some major label that was just gonna put us in front of a million people all at once. It just seemed kind of corny, kind of fake. You know?
 
But that’s what majors do, that’s what the album cycle is. It is kind of an artificial system. But word of mouth is it’s own cycle.
 
Yeah, like, “release an album every two years! You do this this this then then then… We weren’t looking for that kind of strict dictation… and it’s working out so far.
 
You guys have played some new songs recently, do you have more in your back pocket?
 
Yeah we played two new ones today, “New Jam” and “Seat Beside Me”… we’re not married to the names, obviously, we just have songs like that don’t get names until we have to name them. “Winter Song” and “Couer d'Alene” didn’t have names until we sent them to get mastered.
 
Did you have the same stress in the moment when you had to name the band?
 
I wasn’t on board quite yet when they finally decided. I think initially we were supposed to be Ladies and Gentlemen. Very neutral. But then John called me, like, We’ve got it!” Josiah came up with it… It’s weird naming a band. You could name a band anything, and as long as the music is good, it’ll shape the words of a name in time.
 
Yeah, like, look at Pearl Jam. Or Radiohead.
 
Yeah, like the worst band. Names. Ever.

 

Read Full Post