<p>Cyndi Lauper</p>

Cyndi Lauper

Credit: HitFix

Cyndi Lauper is working on a new musical: Songwriter wins Grammy for 'Kinky Boots'

What can you expect from the 30th anniversary of 'She's So Unusual'

LOS ANGELES - On the eve of her win for Best Musical Theater Album for "Kinky Boots," Cyndi Lauper walked the red carpet for Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy gala at the Beverly Hilton.

She was sporting her wild-red half-dreads and a flirty top; I've always loved Lauper's style, and even more than that, audiences for 30 years have loved her sense of self and artistic evolution.

Speaking to HitFix before the party, we talked fashion, of course, but then delved into what it takes to be successful. Her Grammy Award and previous Tony Awards wins arrive in time for the 30-year mark (OK, 30-and-a-half) of "She's So Unusual," her 1983 debut, for which she's crafting an anniversary set. She's also already "in the process" of working on another Broadway show, but wouldn't get into much detail.

"I don't want to jinx anything," she said. "You'll hear about it."

Lauper hinted at TV work and writing more music, along with spending more time with her family. She last released a studio album in 2010, "Memphis Blues."

And she issued some advice to you creative types.

Figure out what you want to do, and if there's gatekeepers in your way, just understand that that's what that person says. Look over their shoulder and see where you wanna go, and then figure out a plan of how you're gonna get there. And in the end you'll get there. It's the guys that give up -- just don't give up. Understand what it is you wanna do. And then make a plan.

I've been told so many times how I stink that I'm not this and I'm not that and that I can't do this and I can't do that. I always think to myself, "For you, maybe."

So, yeah, here's Cyndi Lauper basically being awesome for five minutes.

 

Exclusive Song Of The Day: Scott H. Biram's 'Only Whiskey'
Credit: Bloodshot

Exclusive Song Of The Day: Scott H. Biram's 'Only Whiskey'

Punk-blues tune is only a drop of album 'Nothin' But Blood'

Scott H. Biram can't be bothered with genres. Over nine albums -- including forthcoming "Nothin' But Blood" --  the songwriter's bounded from country, rockabilly, hymns, blues, punk, metal, folk, acoustic gospel and all other colors of the rainbow.

But new track "Only Whiskey" will only have you seeing red. From the floor.

This nasty number like the others on "Blood" was recorded out of Biram's home and at Cacophony Studios in Austin; the album is out Feb. 4 and can be pre-ordered here.

"Nothin' But Blood" is lead by single "When I Die," which will also get a 7" release on Record Store Day" this year. You can hear it below. Check out all Biram's tour dates here.

Here is the "Nothin’ But Blood" tracklist:

1. Slow & Easy
2. Gotta Get To Heaven
3. Alcohol Blues
4. Never Comin’ Home
5. Only Whiskey
6. Jack of Diamonds
7. Nam Weed
8. Backdoor Man
9. Chuch Point Girls
10. I’m Troubled
11. Around The Bend
Gospel bonus tracks:
12. Amazing Grace
13. When I Die
14. John The Revelator (featuring Jesse Vain)

<p>From &quot;Under the Electric Sky&quot;</p>

From "Under the Electric Sky"

Credit: Jason "Ohdagyo" Fenmore

Sundance Review: 'Under the Electric Sky' is a long-form Electric Daisy Carnival commercial

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Music festival utopia is loud and homogenous

The Electric Daisy Carnival – one of the preeminent dance music festivals in the world – threw itself a parade in new Sundance-selected documentary “Under the Electric Sky." And why shouldn’t they? As a three-day gathering in Las Vegas, EDC was sold-out this past summer with a 115,000 cap each night, with seven stages and more than 200 DJs. It’s a festival so successful that it may launch into a second weekend, a la Coachella, with top-tier dance music superstars continually, annually gravitating toward it.

The film starts out with a countdown. The organizers lay out their plans for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the June 2013 fest will be held. Directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz begin their journey with a handful of characters and crews with A Story To Tell. There’s Jose, an EDM lover who is confined to a wheelchair, and Sadie, an outcast in her Texas hometown. There are two couples, one of which is a duo of lifelong ravers who intend to marry at the fest. A group of beer-chugging bros that call themselves The Wolf Pack plan their RV pilgrimage in order, in part, to honor their friend who died of a drug overdose.
 
These varying archetypes are presented and shaped by the constant flow of music in the film, as though the viewer is already in the parking lot and heading to the gate. The soundtrack is dotted with huge dance hits from Avicii and Calvin Harris, artists like Afrojack and Tiesto having their say, Fatboy Slim and Riva Starr's anthem “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat” repeating, and top-tier DJ Kaskade providing an energetic score.
 
Under the electric sky, there are happy tears and hugs and candy, misfits finding other misfits and dancing in a circle. All the performances are equally entertaining, all the stages are off-the-hook unbelievable and every night goes off without a hitch. No puke, no litter, no assault; it’s affordable and comes with a soft recommendation that ticket-holders stay hydrated and say no to drugs. None of the subjects take molly or get hangovers. When they wake up, they leave fulfilled.
 
“Under the Electric Sky,” indeed, is a carnival, a parade. It’s an 85-minute commercial.
 
Like at any major music festival, you can also draw at least a pretty, vague portrait of youth – pretty in this case being the operative word. Despite the banner that EDC draws fans from all walks and its lead subjects of the film so purposefully diverse, the vast majority of the doc’s B-roll and crowd shots center on fist-pumping six-packers, the most attractive bikini-wearers, so many white people between the ages of 17 and 22 representative of the hetero-normative ideal it’s like a glossy cruise pamphlet.
 
Should its filmmakers wish to give a tip of the hat at rave forebears or even contemporary maestros, then they also did a gross disservice to the gay community in this portrait. The story of EDM becoming a mainstream juggernaut is simply incomplete without acknowledging queer community. Cameras pan a dozen hot girls kissing each other – spring break forever, y’all -- and yet there’s no panning to men with other men, no hand-holding or kissing, no meet-cute like other couples’ tales. The concession is their following a group of hard-partying young guys and girls whose kinship is so strong they all wish to marry each other at the fest, their travels framed so comically that any underlying message of pride and PLUR is buried under a tapestry of conventionally attractive giggles and animal hats. The movie only barely touches on EDM and rave’s transition from underground to its international popularity, and it leaves behind some of where this “community” was actually bred.
 
And if the subject of marriage and romantic fulfillment seems like an overarching theme, it’s even weirder that hook-up culture, sexual fashion, and overt sexuality of festival-going is tamped down in favor of a safer, and frequently infantilized vision. There’s an odd shot of fest founder (“Electric Sky” exec producer) Pasquale Rotella clinking glasses of champagne with his new fiancée Holly Madison in the VIP section of the fest, like “Hey, let’s keep this thing classy,” while there’s a toothless (privates-less?) approach to the gaggle of the nearly-nudes in neon pink thongs below their raised platform.
 
This is not to judge the people in the pink thongs and the animal hats. The film does an exquisite job of creating a judgment-free environment, hand-in-hand with its advertisement for EDC’s particular brand of utopia. Its intention is to show what a festival should be. When Sadie has an anxiety attack at the festival, there is no wait for a nurse and -- lucky for her! – she’s the one fan out of tens of thousands chosen to get up on stage to drop the beat during Above & Beyond’s set. For electronic and dance music lovers, that storyline may hit the spot, especially with the non-stop throb and the colorful scenery. There is no competing version, which is “Under the Electric Sky’s” triumph, and also its problem.

 

<p>&quot;Frank&quot;</p>

"Frank"

'Frank' director says Sundance fave may yield music concerts and album

Lenny Abrahamson promises exactly zero Bono

PARK CITY, Utah - It's been days since I saw "Frank" at the Sundance Film Festival, and I'm still rolling it around on my tongue. Starring Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Domhnall Gleeson, the film is indeed very musical, but also explores where creativity comes from, mediocrity versus merit in the medium, the mythologized connection between mental illness and genius, and the clash between laughable pretension and utter likeability.

All while Fassbender wears a giant papier-mâchée head, as its titular character.

"Frank's" director Lenny Abrahamson struck me as an intense music lover, and some of "Frank" and his misanthropic band's influences tended toward what he called the academic. Frank makes nods to Beatles lover Daniel Johnston, and exploratory groups from Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, and art collective The Residents.

The mask as a performance apparatus in the film acts as a mirror, to reflect on the audience's willingness to "go there" with its creator. Abrahamson wants those curious to be interested in what Frank is supposedly "hiding."

"It's sort of like 'The Wizard of Oz,'" he told me on the red carpet, the wish for the crowd to guess at what's behind the curtain. Hint: the big reveal isn't a mega-superstar singer for a famous Irish rock band.

"I gotta choose my words really carefully: Bono's wonderful, but he's not under the mask," Abrahamson conceded.

The music in the film can have it's drones and found sounds, it's rising and cresting melodies, jagged uneven rhythms next to a plodding keyboard line. At times, it sounded like Joy Division, then maybe a dash of The Fall or some Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Overall, I wish there were more completed songs presented, though the creation of the "idea of a song" seemed even more important to driving this film forward.

Well, I may get my wish anyway. Abrahamson said that "Frank" could yield a concert evening with the film's stars combining again, a la "Inside Llewyn Davis," so long as they can "make the schedule work." He also is planning to put together a soundtrack album release for "Frank," as apparently more material than could ever be crammed into the film still was conceived specifically for the project.

Watch the full interview above for more details on a potential release.

<p>Keegan DeWitt</p>

Keegan DeWitt

Video: Songwriter Keegan DeWitt on his Sundance films, playing 'Fallon' and Wild Cub

Composer behind Oscar-winning 'Inocente' talks making friends and losing your name

PARK CITY, Utah - Keegan DeWitt is having a busy week. He wrote/co-wrote two Sundance film scores, for "Land Ho!" and "Listen Up Philip"; his band Wild Cub released its Mom + Pop Records debut "Youth" today; and they're performing on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" to celebrate. The Nashville-based writer and composer is hitting up spots like the KCRW lounge and the BMI songwriters' roundtable to discuss his work throughout the week in Park City for the Film Festival.

We caught up yesterday (Jan. 20), touching on his transition from performing under his own name to playing as a band project. I liked DeWitt's approach to this idea of stripping songs of a face, of a first and last name and a preconception of "white guys with guitars" that overrun his adoptive home base.

He also went into detail on his new scores, like for "Land Ho!": "... As though it was a late 1980s movie being scored by a top 40 band."

Sundance is a return for DeWitt, who helmed the sounds for last year's selections "Life According to Sam" and "This Is Martin Bonner." He also scored the Oscar Award-winning short documentary “Inocente" (2013). Successful formula he suggests to composers in the field is to go to festivals, see a lot of movies, stay for the Q&A, talk to the filmmakers and "make friends."

Check out our full interview above.

<p>Parade Of Lights</p>

Parade Of Lights

Credit: Kathryna Hancock

Exclusive Song Of The Day: Parade Of Lights' 'Golden' has Olympic ties

NBC includes the inspiring track in its latest Sochi 2014 promo

"Everybody get golden." The uplifting message is perfect for Parade Of Lights' upbeat dance-rock song, and especially pertinent for, say, the Olympics.

NBC noticed. "Golden" is featured in the networks' newest promo commercial for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, which first aired during the Golden Globes ceremony on Sunday. Gold all around.

"Golden" is now available via iTunes and is the title track from the quartet's EP, due this spring. Its epic lead single “We’re The Kids” is already out: watch the video here or below. Get your pumping fist ready.

Parade Of Lights is touring this winter with stop-offs at the South By Southwest Music Conference in Austin in March.


 
Headlining tour dates:

1/29       Fullerton, CA                      The Slidebar Rock N Roll Kitchen
1/30       Sacramento, CA                Harlow’s
1/3         Bakersfield, CA Elements
2/1         Los Angeles, CA                TBA

On tour with Royal Teeth and Chappo:

2/22       Denver, CO                         Marquis Theater
2/25       Kansas City, MO               Czar
2/26       Minnespolis, MN             Triple Rock
2/27       Milwaukee, WI Mad Planet
2/28       Chicago, IL                           Bottom Lounge - Small Room
3/4         Columbus, OH   Basement
3/5         Cincinnati, OH    21st Century
3/6         St. Louis, MO     Demo

<p>Feathers</p>

Feathers

Song Of The Day Exclusive: Feathers, 'Wild Love'

New EP due, Depeche Mode tour upcoming

It was less than a year ago we first checked in with Austin-based electronica act Feathers, which was prepped for a full South By Southwest sked including opening for legends Depeche Mode.

Fast forward, and Feathers -- led by songwriter Anastastia Dimou --  is readying for several tour dates with Depeche Mode, overseas, and the release of new EP "Only One." The four-song set features two fresh new tracks -- "Wild Love" and "The Only One" -- along with two remixes of tracks from their 2013 debut full-length "If All Here Now."

In our exclusive stream and premiere of "Wild Love" below, Feathers' thriving contradictions are laid bare: it's tense yet relaxed, high-minded and easily consumed, Dimou's voice restrained and yet indulgent.

The crew will be around again at SXSW in March, and in the meantime, you may catch them as they hit Europe and beyond. Tour dates and "Wild Love" stream below.

Jan 7 - New York, NY - Mercury Lounge*
Jan 9 – New York, NY – Glasslands W/Toy
Jan 15 – Barcelona, Spain – Palau St Jordi
Jan 15 & 18 – Madrid, Spain - Palacio de Desportes
Jan 21 – Montpellier, France - Arena
Jan 23 – Lyon, France - Halle Tony Garnier
Jan 25 – Antwerp, Beligum - Sportpaleis
Jan 27 - Birmingham, UK - LG Arena
Jan 29 & 31 Paris, France – Bercy
Feb 1 – London, UK – Birthdays*

*Feathers headlining

<p>Alexander Ebert</p>

Alexander Ebert

An epic interview with Alex Ebert on 'All Is Lost,' Golden Globes and Edward Sharpe

Frontman/composer on the history of cool, Oscars, Grammys and that Heath Ledger musical

LOS ANGELES - The score to Robert Redford's quiet, isolated film "All Is Lost" is, as one could expect, quiet and isolated. It's very patient output from composer and songwriter Alex Ebert, whose regular gig in the roving roots rock and psych-pop band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros features him resembling more of a tent revival preacher, a charismatic reveler-leader of a pack 12-strong musicians plus their fervent fans.

So "All Is Lost" is a reflection of alternate abilities, or a weirder, more alienated take on Ebert's knack for headstrong melodies and executions. He's stretched out, too, before in his old project Ima Robot and as a solo act, having released one album, "Alexander," as the latter. But it's this recent film music endeavor that's earned him a Golden Globe Awards nomination, for Best Original Score.

The singer and songwriter and I met in Los Angeles during this hotly contested awards season to talk about the making of the grave "All Is Lost" soundtrack and the evolution of Edward Sharpe, among plenty of other topics like the history of cool, Heath Ledger's creative strengths, derivative works, "selling out," starving art and activism. Below is our abridged Q&A.

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<p>Salaam Remi</p>

Salaam Remi

Interview: Grammy nominee Salaam Remi on 'In the Chamber,' Nas and Jennifer Hudson

Watch the title track music video featuring Akon

Salaam Remi will have a lot to celebrate about 2013 as he rings in the new year. He was recently nominated for four Grammy Awards, including one for his recent solo set “Salaam Remi One: In the Chamber,” for Best Urban Contemporary Album, plus others for his work with Miguel, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Mack Wilds. The producer, songwriter and studio instrumentalist launched his label Louder Than Life, too, for which he can hand-pick his collaborating artists.

Above, you can hear just one of his recently collaborations, with Akon “One in the Chamber” (directed by Robby Starbuck).

For 2014, Remi will be all over the next Jennifer Hudson effort, and will at least be taking phone calls with Nas; “In the Chamber” will also get the deluxe edition makeover for re-release in March 2014.

Below is an abridged interview I had with Remi, on his past – like working with the Fugees, Amy Winehouse, posthumous Michael Jackson material and “Sparkle” – and what it takes to have a successful future as an engineer and label head.

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<p>Danny Brown, Jon Hopkins and Neko Case</p>

Danny Brown, Jon Hopkins and Neko Case

Top 10 Best Albums of 2013

Listen to songs (in one case, an entire album) from My Bloody Valentine, Disclosure, Nick Cave and more.

Within my top 10, there's only one new artist. Inside my top 30, there's about 10.

Electronic music had a huge year with the return of Daft Punk, but also with new artist Disclosure, Jon Hopkins' career masterpiece "Immunity, and efforts from others like Boards of Canada, Juana Molina, Baths and Fuck Buttons.

You don't see a lot of rock in the top tiers of the Grammy nominations for 2014, and as loathe as I am to say it, I gotta say I feel almost (almost) the same way. I've loved the work that MBV, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Portugal. The Man, Bill Callahan and left of center acts like Parquet Courts and Fidlar have done. Queens of the Stone Age and Red Fang are the most rock 'n' roll of these. Beyond that, I didn't feel like I heard enough, maybe, or we had brain space only for massive pop acts like Beyonce (loved), Lady Gaga (disliked), Britney Spears (promptly forgot) and Katy Perry (great singles, exhausting album).

I'm seeing a lot of outlets put "Yeezus" in their top spots, and while I agree its an aggressive, intoxicating album, I put it far lower on my list (than, say, my 2010 No. 1, "My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy) because it's almost challenging me to give extra points for being honest. Jason Isbell takes that prize, with raw and powerful "Southeastern." Nick Cave gets in there with his twisted, sexual sneering. Danny Brown (my 2011 N. 7) got weirder, at No. 4 this year with "Old."

I'm not a Drake girl, though I think that "Nothing Was the Same" was his best-contructed album. So long as we're talking new-era R&B, I could take Blood Orange dancing all night. Good year for the veteran ladies -- for Neko Case, India.Arie, Laura Marling, Tegan & Sara and new spins (for me, at least) out of Sarah Jarosz, Savages, Feathers and more.

Dancing, architecture. Let's listen to music, shall we?