Around this time of year, music news is dominated by South By Southwest, Coachella and Record Store Day news, all of which help drive the visibility of participating artists. For acts like Arcade Fire, Metallica, the Black Keys and Feist, today is just one of those days, for the RSD retail holiday on April 21. Merge Records and Warner Bros. have announced their current crop of exclusive, deluxe and rare releases.
Check out new music videos from Robin Thicke with Lil Wayne, Chairlift, Santigold, Avril Lavigne, Grimes, Beth Jeans Houghton and more.
In Paul Van Dyk's world, if we are the last humans to survive a nuclear fallout or hostile interaction with mysterious, floating outer-spacemen, or our own science-fiction-driven evolution, then he wants it to be a dance-heavy affair.
Who knows, maybe somebody's dancing underneath that protective spacesuit in the "Verano" music video, but the veteran producer and DJ hints at a much larger scale narrative with his new album "Evolution." The trailer for the new album -- his first in five years -- is only a minute long, but some of the designs and animation is so beautiful, I wouldn't doubt that he and his handlers have many, many more videos to debut in conjunction with this release. I mean, why pay that much money for just one clip?
"Evolution" is PVD's sixth album and the follow-up to 2007's "In Between," though of course this productive German DJ (he is primarily a producer, after all) has been extremely active with the years in between, including collaboration discs, singles and installments from his VONYC Sessions compilations.
File under: "Big Mouth Strikes Again" or "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore."
Last week, when ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr joked about the band following through on a long-hoped-for reunion in exchange for a new U.K. government, most folks just laughed it off, but some seemed to have taken it to heart.
While picking up an award for Best Reissue at the NME Awards in England, Marr cracked, "We won't be reforming this week. Maybe if the government stepped down. If this government stepped down, I'll reform the band. How's that? That's a fair trade, isn't it? I think the country would be better off, don't you? I'll do it if the coalition steps down."
Former Deputy Prime Minister and Labour MP John Prescott took Marr's jest to the next level, indicating that he'll throw his weight behind a coup of the current Coalition government headed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Prescott, apparently a fan, tweeted, "Hello Johnny. Just to say we'll work really hard on that reunion! #pleasepleaseletmegetwhatiwant" and, later, "Please reform #cosheavenknowsweremiserablenow."
Marr has made plenty of great post-Smiths music with The The, Electronic, The Cribs and Modest Mouse, but has had to endure reunion questions ever since his flagship band split in the late '80s.
Despite Marr's facetious claim, getting Smiths frontman Morrissey interested would prove to be an even bigger challenge than provoking a revolution. Moz has made it clear time and again that he's not interested in re-living The Smiths' glory days, despite rumored offers of big paydays from Coachella and other like-minded music festivals.
Militant, female empowered -- those may be words to describe "The Hunger Games," and Arcade Fire's contribution to its soundtrack. "Abraham's Daughter" will be played over the end credits to the forthcoming blockbuster film, an appropriate march from your seat to the doors.
Regine Chassagne leads this one, instead of Win Butler, as she reports for duty as the fictional daughter of Father Abraham (who, you may remember, had many sons). She lightly sings on the left-right-left of the beat, a narrative that sounds almost anti-violence, a retort to the Biblical story of Abraham and his son Isaac on the mount. Its an ominous anthem that insinuates that lead Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) will have more work to do in the film's sequel.
"Our whole approach was to get into the world and try to create something that serves the story and the film,” Butler told EW. ”There’s something in the story of Abraham and Isaac that I think resonates with the themes in the film, like sacrificing children. So we made a weird, alternate-universe version of that, where it’s as if Abraham had a daughter — kind of a metaphor for Katniss."
Limp Bizkit love rap-rock, and Lil Wayne loves rock-rap, so it only makes sense that they combine. Sort of.
YMCMB head Bryan "Birdman" Williams told Billboard that the two acts will combine for a brand new single, "Ready to Go," due out some time next week.
"It'll be a great way to let the world know that [the band] is a part of us," said Birdman. "It's rock, but it's hip-hop-rock. I think we got that hip-hop-rock swagger."
Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst and Weezy hashed out the track during the week following the Grammy Awards to bang out the song. The Cash Money artists will all appear together in a music video, shooting soon.
The Limp Bizkit/Cash Money signing announcement sent a shock (confusion?) wave through music news world last week, considering that the band is YMCMB's first straightforwardly rock signing. Birdman said the label is working to expand into other musical territory beside hip-hop.
The other element to the signing is that Limp Bizkit's last album hasn't sold all that strongly: "Gold Cobra" has only moved 69,000 copies since it was released last June. The band's last top 10 album was "Results May Vary," released eight years ago. This isn't exactly Limp Bizkit's peak commercial era. Perhaps the label and Durst are readying a second act for the band?
Birdman said that a new Limp Bizkit would be out by year's end, but that this particular collaboration would just be a one-off.
What the hell is going on here.
Kid Cudi wants audiences to know that his current project WZRD -- which just released its self-titled set -- is not a side project. However, it seems his problem with Universal Republic is that the "weak ass label" is treating it as though it were a side project.
WZRD is a collab between Cudi and Dot da Genius, who has worked with the rapper-slash-rocker since 2006.
Kid Cudi Tweeted some dismay this week that Universal only shipped 55,000 units of "WZRD" to physical retailers. In a series of Tweets:
Ok so just a heads up, my weak ass label only shipped 55k physicals cuz they treated this like some indie side project tax [sic] right off.
So i apologize on behalf of my weak ass major label. And I apologize for the lack of promo, again, my weak ass major label
They tried to rush me thru this so i can just give em another MOTM ["Man on the Moon"], but guess what? F*ck that, next album is WZRD. MOTM3 on hold til 2014
So its def gonna be tough to find one in the stores guys, I'm sorry about that.
Im lettin Universal Republic have it, f*ck it. What they gon' do, spank me?? hahahaha
AND Teleport 2 Me, Jamie aint on the radio!!!! like helloooooooooo????? HIT HIT HIT!!
Cudder (real name: Scott Miscudi) was also driven to shaming some talkative attendees at the "WZRD" listening party in New York last week.
"When two individuals who are putting their life out there through song and they ask for your attention, you give it to them," Cudi told the crowd. "You came here for a purpose... to hear our music. So f*cking listen to it because we're trying to educate you on what we're doing... it's as simple as that!"
Hey, I'd hate that too, if it happened to me. But aside from his fans' inattentions at that event, Kid Cudi seems to be suffering from unrealistic expectations. Below, I outline some problems I see with his expressed misgivings:
1) It's hard to get a hip-hop following to follow you to rock. Look at Universal labelmate Lil Wayne and "Rebirth." That album sold a fraction of what his rap efforts did, and Weezy is one of the biggest names in pop recording today. Kid Cudi has plenty of rock influences in his hip-hop records, but that's what "Man on the Moon: The End of Day" and "Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager" were: hip-hop records. He's picked up guitars at his concerts, but that's not what he's known for. He may want to "educate" listeners on expanding the boundaries of guitar and urban music, but they're not forced to go there with him. Lil Wayne may start skating on a half-pipe at his shows, but that's not why folks are there.
2) Even for hip-hop fans who go with him there, they'd have to have enough exposure to the name WZRD. That wasn't even the final name for the duo until the latter half of 2011, and he'd already changed the name once. Nobody knows who Dot da Genius is, so that doesn't help with two parties earning the one visibility. WZRD wasn't mentioned through Cudi's other Twitter handle; it's being promoted by Kid Cudi himself as something different than Kid Cudi. If that's his game, how could Universal help but follow suit and treat it as a separate entity?
3) Breaking through to rock audiences from scratch is hard. Cudi earned his name because of his "alternative" status, with some material veering outside the normal rap zone. Same goes for rock listeners, and going to where they are. Certainly, it was up to Universal Republic to promote and market partly to rock audiences with this Pixies and Nirvana-inspired effort, but it's not like "Teleport 2 Me, Jamie" was going to be an instant radio hit. Has Cudder even looked at a commercial radio playlist recently?
4) There is no such thing as Universal releasing an "indie" side project. WZRD would probably do better in the hands of an indie, considering the genre and the listenership. It was up to Cudi to sign the line to a label that will support his creative endeavors no matter the genre. Universal isn't a non-profit organization: of course they want albums that sell in excess of 100,000 copies in their early weeks of release, which MotM I and II did. They've done their research...
5) …and according to a report, the number of physical copies that Universal shipped was realistic. Billboard spoke to retail experts, who agreed that buyers would be split between digital and brick-and-mortar purchase, and 55,000 sounds about right. Of course, if Universal put a ton of cash and a few extra months out for WZRD, then those numbers would be better. You could say that about any album. But Universal knows where the money's at. Cudi said that promo and release was rushed, but he at no point mentioned that its quality was compromised, only its sales. (Consider, too, it leaked six days out from release.) Cudi wants to cash a fat paycheck as much as Universal does, but the latter has done the numbers crunch and wanted to move forward, regardless of how good an album it is.
I'm not condoning how traditional major labels do business and treat art and artists. I like "WZRD," though I feel it could have been a little fleshier, a little more developed. It is a perfectly fine album, and if you like your garage rock a little loopy and you love Cudi's voice and raps, you give it a try. I'd hate to think that someone who wants to buy it would have trouble finding it (though look at what consumers have done to the consolidation of record stores already).
However, Cudi's expectations and complaints are shaped by his passion for this project, without similar consideration of its logistics. Now he's telling his fans what to expect, if he has his way: more WZRD, less MotM.
Enigmatic indie rock icon Sufjan Stevens has a history of doing the unexpected, whether it's planning (somewhat jokingly) to release an album dedicated to each of the fifty states (he's done two so far), recording multiple Christmas tunes, or composing a multimedia extravaganza celebrating the history of New York's BQE. Now the Detroit native is teaming with experimentalist Son Lux and rapper Serengeti (both on the revered underground hip hop label Anticon) for the new group s/s/s.
They'll release their debut EP, "Beak & Claw" on March 20.
The four-song release will include guest appearances by My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden on "If This Is Real" and Anticon fixture Doseone (Subtle, cLOUDDEAD, Themselves) on the likely hilarious "Octomom."
Stevens, mostly known for the hushed, folk-inflected orchestral pop found on "Illinois" and "Seven Swans," has always had an ear for the experimental, and his last full-length, "The Age of Adz," delved deep into dark, electronic territory.
Stevens and Serengeti previously teamed on a Buck 65 remix of Steven's "You Are the Blood" (which was a cover of a Castanets tune).
Here's the track listing for the "Beak & Claw" EP:
1. Museum Day
2. Beyond Any Doubt
3. If This Is Real
Didn't nab a ticket to Radiohead's U.S. tour? Here's what you might be missing. The British rock act started their American sojourn last night (Feb. 27) and bowed two brand new songs, on top of playing "OK Computer" B-Side "Meeting in the Aisle."
Thom Yorke introduced "Identikit" and "Cut a Hole/Skirting on the Surface," two fresh tracks; the first features two vocal counter-melodies, with Yorke's opposite struggling with the pitch. But it's mesmerizing nonetheless. The latter is a little more aaaaaaahhhhhhhhmbbbbeeeeeient, as the frontman meanders through some long vowels to a slow, dirge-like rhythm section. It's also led by a synth line, feeling much less organic.
Then there's "Meeting in the Aisle," which was recorded much closer to the stage. Thus, we get to see a Yorke-y silly dance.
The band played two encores, ended with "Karma Police" and performed from different time-spans in their catalog, though they stuck with a lot of current and recent work, with seven of the eight tracks from latest "The King of Limbs" plus recent outtake/singles "The Daily Mail" and "Staircase."
Below are some pull-quotes from reviews of the kick-off show, held at Miami's American Airlines Arena.
The Pitchfork Music Festival is back for a seventh year, and one of its headliners may be signalling new music on the way. Feist, Vampire Weekend and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are among the biggest names in this initial lineup announcement, in addition to Hot Chip, AraabMuzik, A$AP Rocky, The Field, Liturgy, Kendrick Lamar, Grimes, Cloud Nothings, Tim Hecker and Willis Earl Beal.
The Chicago-bound event runs July 13-15, with single-day and weekend tickets going up on March 9 at noon CST. Organizers' "goal has always been to create an affordable atmosphere with music at its focus," so ticket prices will not increase over last year's sum, with single-day going for $45 a piece and weekend at $110.
Pitchfork also says that 30 more acts are TBA, so we may not even be looking at the biggest names yet.
But confirming Vampire Weekend is at least somewhat informative: the band only scheduled five concerts in 2011, and the only U.S. stop, the Music To Know festival, was canceled. This new date may signal that the group has more U.S. touring action planned, if not offering ample opportunity for Ezra Koenig & Co. to bow some new material.
Also, interestingly, Lamar and A$AP Rocky are Drake's Club Paradise tour openers -- will they be bring any, uh, friends along?
Last year, I pointed out some of the Pitchfork batting averages of the artists that were performing at the fest, a parallel of what their rating on the site was prior to the lineup announcement. For this year: