Band Genres: From A to B (to C to D to E to F) | 34
An Interview with Xavi Forne | 44
f or t he
A look into the life & music of the late Mark Linkous, leader of Sparklehorse
On the Air: RadioBDC | 41
northeastern students on music
static king requiem
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Art & Design Chris Bowers Brian Cantrell Laura Crossin Abbie Hanright Ally Healy Stephanie Lee Cara McGrath Milan Moffatt Emily O’Brien Casey Price Wendy Schiller Carisa Tong Contributers Nicholas C. Lauren Kovalefsky Connor Russo Marketing Gus Altobello Martin Au Daniel Esmond Nathan Goldman Shreya Gurubacharya Crystal Lin Sarah Maillet Jason Moosikkamol Alex Taylor Carisa Tong Leah Zwemke
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Illustration Wendy Schiller
Meet the Staff
Tom Doherty Position Staff Writer Major Journalism Graduating Spring 2017 Favorite Venue Orpheum Theatre Tastemaker Since Fall 2012
Langhorne Slim “Cinderella” Foxygen We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
“It was just me, sixteen Koreans and four hours of Alanis Morissette radio.”
Atlas Genius “Trojans”
Leslie Fowle Position Staff Writer Major English/Journalism Graduating Spring 2014 Co-op @ PUMA North America Favorite Venue Brighton Music Hall or TT the Bear’s Place Tastemaker Since Fall 2010
Toro Y Moi Anything in Return
“I’m always sticking my face in a cat.”
James Blake “Retrograde” Ty Segall “Thank God For Sinners”
Wendy Schiller Position Designer/Illustrator Major Digital Art/Animation Graduating Spring 2015 Co-op @ dSonic Favorite Venue Paradise Tastemaker Since Spring 2012
Ben Howard “The Burren” Astronautilus “The Wondersmith and His Sons”
“They probably left it as an offering to the Linksys router.”
Against Me! “Trash Unreal”
Dinorah Wilson Position Staff Writer Major Journalism/Law & Public Policy Graduating Spring 2015 Co-op @ Smithsonian Student Travel Favorite Venue Governor’s Island (NYC) Tastemaker Since Fall 2010
Vinyl Williams “Grassy” Yo La Tengo “The Point of It” Seu Jorge “Tive Razao”
“He was like a bright little owl! J”
Table of Contents Cover Story
Requiem for the Static King A look into the life & music of the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse
Riddles Riddling Me The anonymous artists in modern music
With a Little Help From My Friends
FINS A young, local Boston band with a well-defined, beach-inspired sound
Imitation and parody in album cover art
From A to B (to C to D to E to F to G) The evolution of bands with obsessive sound reinvention disorder
And In a Strange Turn of Events
The new online radio station of boston.com and the former players from WFNX
The suprisingly awful pairing of music and sports
Great Minds Think Alike
On the Air: RadioBDC
The successes and failures of the writer/musician collaboration
Shovels & Rope, Titus Andronicus and Ellie Goulding
Reviews of Local Natives, Widowspeak, Foxygen, Christopher Owens and Brokebackâ€™s new albums
Unusual reasons for cancelling shows
An Interview with Xavi Forne Concert poster designer for Error! Design
Between the Lines Hidden messages in TSwiftâ€™s album booklets
A Love Supreme
A Primer on Wilco
Just a Taste of
A lyrical mash-up guessing game
An introduction to the extensive discography of Wilco
Calendar March Su
French Montana Brighton Music Hall
Unknown Mortal Orchestra w/ Foxygen
Milo Greene The Sinclair
Brighton Music Hall Tenacious D House of Blues
The Postelles Brighton Music Hall
Deftones House of Blues
Indians Great Scott
Animal Collective House of Blues
Might Mystic Paradise
Kat Edmondson The Sinclair
Enter Shikari Royale
Rihanna TD Garden
PAWS Great Scott
Drive-By Truckers Paradise
Coheed and Cambria House of Blues
Every Time I Die Royale
Old 97’s The Sinclair
Django Django Paradise
Tame Impale House of Blues
Jukebox The Ghost Brighton Music Hall
Tristan Pettyman Brighton Music Hall
Dropkick Murphys Brighton Music Hall
Dropkick Murphys House of Blues
Disclosure The Sinclair
Reigning Sound TT the Bear’s
José James The Sinclair
Tyrone Wells Brighton Music Hall
Todd Snider Paradise
Garbage House of Blues
P!nk TD Garden
The Dear Hunter The Sinclair
The Dear Hunter The Sinclair
Sigur Rós Agganis Arena
House of Blues
Brighton Music Hall
House of Blues
Brighton Music Hall
Jukebox The Ghost Brighton Music Hall
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Orpheum Theatre
31 Hey Ocean! Middle East
Unknown Mortal Orchestra March 2 @ Brighton Music Hall
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds March 24 @ Orpheum Theatre
After a lengthy stint opening for Grizzly Bear’s Shields tour, Unknown Mortal Orchestra comes back to Boston—this time in support of their sophomore album, aptly named II. Anyone going to see Tame Impala later this month will want to shell out the $16 to see this psychedelic trio.
With lascivious garage-rock side project Grinderman on hiatus once more, renowned Australian singersongwriter Nick Cave returns to his long-running main gig this year. Boston’s Orpheum will play host to Cave’s literate, darkly humorous musings and the chameleonic post-punk of his Bad Seeds this March.
Leslie Fowle (English/Journalism)
Ben Stas (English/Journalism)
Frightened Rabbit House of Blues
They Might Be Giants Paradise
Family of the Year w/ The Mowgli’s
The View Brighton Music Hall
Green Day Mohegan Sun
Brighton Music Hall
Eric Clapton w/ The Wallflowers Mohegan Sun
Andy Grammer House of Blues
Andrew McMahon Paradise
Netsky Middle East
Cold War Kids Paradise
The Black Crowes House of Blues
Muse TD Garden
Wavves w/ Fidlar Brighton Music Hall
Alice Smith Brighton Music Hall
Cloud Cult Brighton Music Hall
Pissed Jeans The Sinclair
METZ Brighton Music Hall
Eli Whitney Houston & the Cotton Gin and Tonics Middle East
Iceage TT the Bear’s
Fleetwood Mac TD Garden
The Joy Formidable House of Blues
Ivan & Alyosha Brighton Music Hall
Griffin House Club Passim
Bassnectar House of Blues
Mykki Blanco Great Scott
Matt Costa Brighton Music Hall
Clinic The Sinclair
Amon Tobin DJ Set Paradise
Hunters TT the Bear’s
Aaron Carter Hard Rock Cafe
30 The Neighborhood Brighton Music Hall
The Dear Hunter March 29 & 30 @ The Sinclair
Fleetwood Mac April 18 @ TD Garden
Come out to the Sinclair on March 29th & 30th for hometown heroes The Dear Hunter. The special two-night release show will celebrate the release of their new album, Migrant.
Some things (like Dropkick Murphy’s shows in Boston) aren’t exactly once-in-a-lifetime occurrences. Other things, like Fleetwood Mac tours, are a whole lot rarer for someone from our generation. The legendary rock band are touring with a classic lineup including Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and will hit Boston’s TD Garden in April.
Joey Dussault (Journalism)
Nick Hugon (International Affairs)
Reviews Shovels & Rope
Cara McGrath (Graphic Design)
Shovels & Rope February 1 @ The Sinclair It is no exaggeration when I say that Shovels & Rope put on one of the most sensational and memorable performances I have ever had the privilege to see. This is a bold statement considering the very lengthy list of concerts I’ve attended in my life, not to mention the fact that I’ve seen countless musicians that are far, far more famous than Shovels & Rope. If the folk duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael
Shovels & Rope Spring 2013
Cara McGrath (Graphic Design)
Trent keep playing like the way they did at The Sinclair on February 1, however, they will not remain under the radar for long. At this point you must be wondering, what could have set these two apart? The answer consists of several reasons, the first of which was Hearst’s priceless southern charm. She wore red cowboy boots, had an ear-to-ear smile that never left her face, and said sweet phrases like “Thank you, kindly” in her thick Tennessee accent after each song. A second reason was the sheer chemistry between the two performers; which should be expected from a married couple. But the connection between Hearst and Trent was like none I had previously seen on stage, except perhaps from Alexander Ebert and Jade Castrinos of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Their microphones were set up just about as close together as they could get, and they each spent a fair amount of time staring at the other. The third and final reason that the performance was so exceptional was the duo’s ability to sound nothing like a duo. If someone
had stood in the audience and closed his or her eyes, I am certain that they would have believed that a backing band was on stage with the pair. By alternating lead vocalists and often playing two or even three instruments at once, Shovels & Rope made much more noise than would naturally seem possible. Songs from Shovels & Rope’s 2012 release, Oh Be Joyful, occupied a bulk of the set list. After a quick set by supporting act Andrew Combs, the pair opened with the album’s title track and continued with other new tunes including “Hail Hail,” “Keeper,” “Lay Low,” and their autobiographical single, “Birmingham.” But “Gasoline,” an older track, stole the whole evening, with the vocals played up much more by Hearst on stage than on the studio recording. Shovels & Rope’s rigorous touring schedule is proving to pay off. This twopiece act from Charleston, South Carolina has recently begun to gain some national attention, performing on the Late Show with David Letterman and selling out shows even up here in Massachusetts. But whether they rise to fame or not, I’ll always be happy to have seen Shovels & Rope at such a small venue and for such a cheap price while I had the chance. Cara McGrath (Graphic Design)
Titus Andronicus January 27 @ The Sinclair Following months of delays, relocations and cancellations, the doors of Harvard Square’s new venue, The Sinclair, have opened. Titus Andronicus’ recent sold-out show may have arrived two months late, but that didn’t stop them from knocking the crowd flat with an excellent 100 minute set. Titus’ latest record, last year’s Local Business, drew decidedly mixed reactions from fans expecting another album on the scale of 2010’s career-defining The Monitor. As the follow-up to an ambitious 65 minute Civil War-paralleling punk rock epic, Local Business is certainly a downscaling. The record stumbles with the occasional misstep in length and tone, but this Sinclair show succeeded in casting the new songs in a positive, progressive light.
The band kicked off the night with the energetic one-two punch of “Ecce Homo” and “Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter,” Local Business’ opening songs. From there, the setlist navigated skillfully between the new and the time-tested. “A More Perfect Union,” “Titus Andronicus” and the ever-stunning “The Battle of Hampton Roads” raged as hard as ever, while “In a Small Body” and even the otherwise flimsy “(I am the) Electric Man” held their own as reduced-tempo breathers. This was my fifth experience at a Titus Andronicus show, and it was surely the most dynamic and fully-realized set I’ve seen them play. There’s plenty to be said for unrelenting intensity, but Titus proved themselves an equally effective live band when they
occasionally exercised the power of restraint. A sense of reinvention in the structure of the set itself extended to the interplay on stage between Titus’ five members. Frontman Patrick Stickles led a three-guitar army, backed by a solid rhythm section as well as the piano and vocal talents of intermittent guest Elio DeLuca. There was a heightened sense of interaction and musicianship at work on stage, and a remarkable chemistry, given the frequently shifting nature of the band’s lineup. Stickles’ impassioned delivery of his angry, world-weary lyrics commanded attention, as always, but the rest of the band was equally spot-on. Titus Andronicus are still a punk band for all intents and purposes, but they continue to push the genre’s limits in intriguing ways. Songs that run upwards of 10 minutes, dueling guitar solos, subdued breakdowns and tense buildups are just a few of the unpunk elements that the band increasingly combines with its righteous anger, DIY ethos and earnest Springsteen-ism to render a unique sound of their own. This show was proof that more has changed about the band than the loss of Stickles’ trademark beard, but also an indication that Titus are confident in the direction they’re heading, and we should be too. Ben Stas (English/Journalism)
Ben Stas (English/Journalism)
Ellie Goulding January 23 @ The House of Blues It’s not every day that you get to wait in line to see one of your favorite artists live for the first time in wind chills dipping into the negatives. I did just that with thousands of other Ellie Goulding fans for a sold-out show on a Wednesday night. Opening act, St. Lucia, was the perfect warm up for the evening. I wasn’t that familiar with their music (and neither was a majority of the crowd), but there were a few who knew the lyrics word for word and went all-out with their dancing. St. Lucia’s electronic sound reminded me slightly of M83, but a bit more on the dance-y side. Standout tracks were “September,” a huge synth-based banger of a dance song, and “We Got It Wrong,” where the crowd was encouraged to participate by following cues to sing “Don’t go! Don’t go away!” as loud as it could.
Leading lady of the night, Ellie Goulding, was nothing short of perfection. When she first took to the stage for “Don’t Say a Word,” she seemed bored—maybe even nervous—in her limited movement. But after a few sips from her drink and a glance at the eager crowd, she became more comfortable in dancing around the stage and showing off her talents. She brought out her acoustic guitar for one song, and bashed on a drum during others. Goulding’s latest album, Halcyon, is packed with songs that are based heavily in electronic dance music. Thus, I had expected a more dance-ready crowd than the one in attendance. Goulding, on the other hand, was having a ball strutting around the stage. She brought the energy down a notch with the piano ballads “I Know You Care,” a song she dedicated to her father, and her cover of Elton
John’s “Your Song.” The songs were painfully beautiful, so much so that I was expecting the entire venue to be reaching for tissues. Goulding finished the main set with the lead single from Halcyon, “Anything Could Happen.” Here, the crowd finally let loose, dancing and getting lost in the music. Of course, the show wasn’t over, as she still had to play the song that almost everyone came to hear: “Lights.” Although “Lights” has been overplayed to an extreme on the radio, her live performance of the song during the encore was amazing. She started with her original recording and transitioned into the Bassnectar remix halfway through. She also played the Calvin Harris-collaboration and club banger, “I Need Your Love,” during which she had a number of bras flung at her from the crowd. You know you’ve reached superstar status when girls are flinging their bras at you. Shea Geyer (Pharmacy) 9
The Used House of Blues, January 2013
Jenna Ross (Music Industry)
Bad Books (top) AfterHours, February 2013
Brian Cantrell (Graphic Design) Yo La Tengo (far right) Paradise Rock Club, February 2013
Ben Stas (English/Journalism)
Jon Foreman (right) Paradise Rock Club, February 2013
Lauren Kovalefsky (Business)
Editorial Winter 2012
RIDDLES RIDDLING ME
The Anonymous A rt i s t s in Modern Mus ic Music history surely has no shortage of recluses and oft-costumed eccentrics. From Syd Barrett to Jeff Mangum and Kiss to Marilyn Manson, artists who have obscured some part of their appearance or personality to fans and the media span genres and decades. There are certain cases, though, where obfuscation goes beyond a painted face or a period of retreat from the public eye. Some artists seize the idea of anonymity and run with it, conjuring a shroud of mystery around themselves that sometimes takes decades to unravel.
Take the Canadian post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The band’s press photos are limited to blurry black-andwhites. Their album sleeves display vaguely ominous imagery and little else. They perform facing one another during concerts and rarely even acknowledge their audience. What limited correspondence they have with the press is usually opaque or contentious. A little digging can reveal plenty about Godspeed’s members and history, but there’s no doubt about their efforts to keep their individual identities at a distance from their emotionally and politically charged instrumental apocalypses. Groups like The Knife and Black Moth Super Rainbow exist in a similar state: the identities of their members are public knowledge, but through costumes, stage names and other strategies they keep
mask and lip-synching to pre-recorded tracks at his shows began to circulate. He called these individuals hired characters, telling fans in an interview with HipHopDX, “If you’re coming to a Doom show, don’t expect to see me. Expect to hear me or hear the music that I present.” Fans more commonly refer to such ‘characters’ as impostors, and Doom’s reputation as a live act has been severely compromised by the incidents.
“It’s a natural way of presenting what you do when you make music. It’s fiction.” Illustrations by Milan Moffatt (Graphic Design)
themselves at a certain remove from their art and their audiences. Members of the experimental electro-psychedelia crew that is BMSR have been known to perform live wearing masks, or, in the case of vocalist Thomas Fec, hiding behind piled up pieces of equipment. They’re also known primarily by their stage names, which include oddities like Tobacco, Ryan Graveface and The Seven Fields of Aphelion. Swedish brother/sister electronic duo, The Knife, also employ the power of disguise, rarely appearing in concerts or press photos without long-beaked Venetian ‘plague doctor’ masks or other surreal costumes. “It’s a natural way of presenting what you do when you make music,” member Karin Dreijer Andersson said in a 2006 interview with Pitchfork. “It’s fiction. A more unnatural way would be to stand there with your own face and with your private life.” Fans are generally receptive to such acts of playful mysteriousness or macabre theatricality, but sometimes a grand artistic statement through costume and deception backfires. The antics of masked rapper MF Doom comprise one notorious example. Around 2009, reports that people who were not Doom were donning his trademark metal
Each of these cases involves an element of anonymity, but there are further examples where concealed identities come to be the defining characteristic of an artist rather than just one aspect of their image. The much-buzzed-about ‘heavy pop’ band, WU LYF, garnered as much hype for the fact that media outlets knew next to nothing about them as they did for their music. The band refused interviews, released only photos with obscured faces, performed in the dark and sported fake names for months, drawing fascination and speculation from all sides. The hype machine barreled on with the 2011 self-release of their debut record, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, and the gradual revelation of the names, faces and personalities behind the band, but November of 2012 saw WU LYF disband as inexplicably as they had appeared. A YouTube-released single was accompanied by a letter from frontman Ellery Roberts to his bandmates announcing his departure from the group, and the camp hasn’t been heard from since. Whether the mysterious games WU LYF played with the press and the public contributed to their demise is hard
Editorial Spring 2013
to say, but they’ll surely be remembered as skillful constructers of enigma in an Internet age where obtaining anonymity is more challenging than ever. A much less dramatic story unfolded behind electronic producer Burial, who had released two massively acclaimed albums before anyone had seen a photo of him or knew his real name. Speculation ran rampant as to the artist’s true identity, with fingers pointing to everyone from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke to Richard D. James of Aphex Twin. In 2008, Burial put the rumors to rest by finally revealing himself to be ordinary Londoner William Bevan via his MySpace page. “I’m a low key person and I just want to make some tunes, nothing else,” he wrote in a blog post, which explained that he was sharing his name in order to shift the focus away from his own mystery and back toward the music. Bevan continues to avoid interviews, photographers, live performances and DJ gigs, preferring to keep to himself and release the occasional rapturously received collection of songs. He’s proof positive that sometimes anonymity is actually geared toward avoiding publicity rather than baiting it. The apex of the anonymous musician phenomenon exists far outside of the modern day Internet hype machines, though. True masters of mystery, like avant-garage weirdoes The Residents and outsider-folk entity Jandek, have kept fans and critics puzzled for upwards of three decades. The Residents are more of an artistic collective than strictly a band. They’ve been around since 1969, releasing 60-plus records along with a slew of multimedia projects. Their sound ranges anywhere from noisy garage rock to experimental tape music to outlandish pop pastiche. Although
speculation and research have dredged up a few names, the identities of The Residents’ individual members have still never been officially revealed. They perform and appear only in costumes, which are often comprised of tuxedos and enormous eyeball masks. They have a management team, fittingly known as The Cryptic Corporation, which corresponds with the media through various representatives who may or may not be band members. It’s all a bit zany, but the band’s prolific output and dedication to perpetuating its own mystery have built up a cult following over the years. Jandek, the project/entity responsible for upwards of 70 self-released albums of eerie folk and blues music, has also gained quite the following since Ready for the House first appeared in 1978. For all intents and purposes, Jandek is (probably) the work of a single individual who is (probably) named Sterling Richard Smith. Every Jandek release is distributed by Corwood Industries, a record label evidently owned and operated by Smith which exists exclusively for this purpose. The first Jandek records were sent out anonymously to various stores and music publications without solicitation or explanation. They contained only stark recordings of a discordantly struck, bizarrely tuned guitar and a man singing abstract and occasionally unsettling lyrics. Over many years and many releases the project evolved, adding backing musicians and other vocalists to the mix while maintaining the outsider vibe. An unpublicized and somewhat astonishing live debut took place in 2004,
revealing that the man pictured on many Jandek album covers was, in fact, the singer/ songwriter behind the project. Fan-written histories avoid assigning the name ‘Jandek’ to this individual as a pseudonym or referring to him as the aforementioned Smith, however. He is officially known only as “a representative from Corwood Industries.” Apart from these facts, next to nothing about Sterling Richard Smith, Corwood or Jandek is officially known. Jandek live performances continue to take place on a semi-regular basis, but they are largely unpublicized, one-off, improvisational affairs involving local musicians rather than gigs that fit into a traditional touring schedule. Even in light of such public appearances, there is still virtually no information about the background of the man who appears on stage, and he does not grant interviews. The all-consuming, head-scratching strangeness that is Jandek represents one of very few pure examples of the anonymous artist in music. It seems that in the shareeverything-everywhere Internet age, research eventually can and will uncover any detail there is to know about an individual. No amount of digging, however, has yet revealed the entirety of the Jandek story. Motivations, explanations or background information are still anyone’s guess. The inscrutable Corwood Industries catalog exists at the summit of the mystery musician phenomenon as a sort of reminder that sometimes the most fascinating music subverts biographical criticism and begs something else from the listener entirely. • Ben Stas (Journalism)
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS Imitation and Parody in Album Cover Art
n announcement of the first new album in ten years from rock legend David Bowie would be news no matter what, but surprisingly, much of the talk around this upcoming album, The Next Day, focuses on a somewhat tangential aspect of the release: its cover art. The peculiar and, frankly, hilarious design is an odd play on the iconic cover of one of his most classic albums, 1977’s Heroes, simply having crossed out the old title
and covered Bowie’s face with a white box and the new title. Using art that looks like it took thirty seconds to make in MS Paint, Bowie plays with his old image, pokes fun at the idea of long-running musicians trying to recapture old glory after creative stagnation and at the same time gives us an idea of a previous era of his career (the so-called ‘Berlin Trilogy’) which may have influenced this anticipated album. Cover art that references previous albums is a long-running and fascinating tradition, which can be used to send any number of messages.
The most obvious reason for imitating another artist’s cover art is that the album itself is meant to imitate or pay homage to the original artist or album. When Beck decided to start his Record Club project of quickly recording tribute versions of classic albums along with a motley array of other musicians, he accompanied each release with a pencil sketch version of the cover art. Other tribute albums, such as those recorded by the Vitamin String Quartet, typically reference the aesthetics and iconography of the artists they focus on. In other cases, the use of the album art is part of a larger joke. Just as “Weird Al” Yankovic has been parodying popular music for over thirty years, he has also parodied numerous album covers, such as Even Worse and /Off the Deep End, which mimic Michael Jackson’s Bad and Nirvana’s Nevermind, respectively. When the British group Pulp wrote a song called “Bad Cover Version” that likened a relationship to a poor rendition of a song, they added on to the joke by having its single art reference David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and gave it a music video that features a number of famous musicians (impersonators of Bowie, Cher, Bono, Björk, and McCartney, among others) ‘paying tribute’ to Pulp. Other times the cover art is a subtle part of a joke involving a fictional album, such as the duet album Franklin
Fall Spring 2012 2013
Comes Alive! that Gob records with his puppet in Arrested Development, which refers to the similarly-titled Peter Frampton album. Cover art is more likely to be appropriated the more iconic it is, so it should come as no surprise that the most popular bands and artists ever get the bulk of this treatment. A number of Elvis Presley’s releases have been the target of parody, most notably his self-titled debut album and a singles compilation called 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong. But of course, the most often victimized group is that which seized the world like no other: The Beatles. Pretty much every Beatles release has been notably mimicked at some point, from contemporaries like The Mothers of Invention recreating the Sgt. Pepper’s scene to anonymous experimenters The Residents defacing Meet the Beatles! to the cartoon members of Gorillaz paying homage to Let It Be. One interesting thing to see with parodies of such well-known images is how they can become iconic in their own right, with The Clash’s recreation of Elvis Presley on their album London Calling remaining one of the most memorable images of the rebirth of rock & roll through punk. Sometimes, of course, these images serve to showcase a band’s major influences. Dream-pop band Craft Spells shows a bouquet of flowers on the cover of their album Idle Labor, and, while it’s
less overt of a reference than many, it seems a reasonably good guess that, the art is a nod to the similar bouquet on the cover of New Order’s seminal Power, Corruption & Lies, based on the New Wave-influenced sounds on songs such as the terrific “After the Moment”. Bowie is one of a number of artists to use an album cover to call back to a previous work. Lou Reed, for instance, used the same photo of himself from his 1972 solo breakthrough Transformer ten years later on The Blue Mask, signifying a return to his earlier styles after a decade of exploration. Other similar choices include variations on a theme. This can be used to solidify a band’s aesthetic, tie together a thematic set (such as The Weeknd’s three mixtapes, later collected on Trilogy), or show their progression over the course of their career, such as with Weezer’s blue, green, and red self-titled albums, or with Japanese metal band Boris, who released an album called Heavy Rocks in 2002, then decided they need to ‘redefine’ heavy and released another album with the same title in 2011, changing the cover’s color scheme from orange to purple. Boris has made use of more than one lookalike album cover. The cover art of another one of their albums, Akuma no Uta, is a reference to an album from Nick Drake, an English folk musician whose work achieved cult popularity after his death. This nod to Drake’s influence is given along with a reminder that they have taken inspiration from him but gone a very different direction: the cover photo’s acoustic guitar has been replaced by a double-necked electric. Cross-genre nods of respect and influence are often the most subtle allusions, and learning that they exist can show an artist’s work in a new light and dispel any illusions that performers must only listen to music that sounds like their own. Indie rock group Clinic’s album
Internal Wrangler features vivid blue and yellow letters almost identical to those seen on free jazz artist Ornette Coleman’s album, Ornette! Lil B, a self-promoting rapper who has achieved popularity through the combination of a message of goofy and earnest positivity with a prolific mixtape release schedule, received significant media attention when he decided to title an album Im Gay (Im Happy) (sic) but amidst controversy over the publicity stunt, another audacious aspect of his album went unnoticed: in the title, Lil B was also claiming the identity of R&B legend Marvin Gaye, whose album I Want You the album’s cover was based off of. This wasn’t an unprecedented move from Lil B, known for claiming to be like various random celebrities in a number of his songs (“I’m Miley Cyrus”, “I’m Fabio”, “Ellen Degeneres”, “I’m Paris Hilton”, to name a few), but it was perhaps a more meaningful statement in this instance, as can be seen by the cover image which portrays Lil B in a somewhat messianic role, living up to his nickname “The Based God” as his music delivers joy and freedom to the masses just as Marvin Gaye had done before him. With the multitude of reasons to appropriate existing art for album covers, whether as a marketing gimmick, a straightforward joke, a subversion of original themes, or a hint to the album’s inspiration, it seems a shock that such pastiches don’t happen more often. Of course, just as being too dependent on imitating another group’s sound is an undesirable aspect for a band, so too would an overreliance on visual mimicry limit artistic creativity—the key is moderation. The rarity of the use of these appropriated images, and the subtlety of many of them, make these lookalike album covers a rewarding find for fans, giving them a precious glimpse into the artists’ minds and a new perspective on their music. • Nathan Goldman (Sociology)
Cover art which references previous albums is a long-running and fascinating tradition, which can be used to send any number of messages.
What are the two greatest things in the world? Well, music and sports are, of course. And that’s a scientific fact. No, don’t bother looking it up. Just trust me. Being the undisputed best things ever, a pairing of the two should be mind-numbingly awesome, right? Wrong. Welcome to the single greatest paradox of my life.
Think of any combination of music and sports that you can. There’s Faith Hill’s oft-mocked opening song for “NBC Sunday Night Football” (formerly performed by P!nk). Major League Baseball manages to ruin—or further ruin— one song each year by playing it in every single commercial for the playoffs. The NBA once could have been commended for its valiant effort to stay musically current, but has since stooped to auto-tuning its own players for commercials. Sport or not, NASCAR shares the same proclivity to disgrace music as the aforementioned. Just listen to Tim Wilson’s “NASCAR Song.” Actually, don’t. Why do these professional sports leagues so consistently mismanage the use of music? Why do the television networks that own rights to these leagues’ games fail in the same way? Since these questions are unanswerable and make me physically ill, let’s just discuss some of the worst of the worst. You’re up first, National Football League. Look, I get it; your fan base is the largest and most diverse of all. You cannot make everyone happy. But at least make someone happy. On Thanksgiving Day of 2011, the NFL’s musical malpractice reached its nadir. The Detroit Lions were hosting the Green Bay Packers on one of the biggest family football days of the year, but it was the halftime show attracting the most attention. Picture a board meeting at NFL Headquarters in New York City. The day’s agenda includes deciding which bands
should perform on Thanksgiving. When they brainstorm who should play in Detroit, someone suggests Nickelback, and isn’t immediately fired. 55,000 people subsequently signed an online petition to disinvite the much maligned Canadian rockers. They played anyway. Kid Rock’s poor performance on an undersized stage at this past Thanksgiving Day game was actually an improvement, despite the awkward mob of dancing children around him. For the NFL, there is a long list of horrible in-game performances (and don’t even get me started on the Super Bowl halftime show*) because there are so many ways to go wrong. The choice of musician can be, and often is, just plain bad. A balance between flashy and boring has so far eluded coordinators. An entire football field leaves too much empty space to fill, leading to those packs of dancing children. But it is not only the live performances that are repeatedly disastrous. “NBC Sunday Night Football” has a classic theme song, composed by Academy Award winner John Williams. The sound of that epic instrumentation makes my mouth water at the idea of seeing Tom Brady (not in a weird way, I swear) tear up an opposing defense. How is this theme complemented? First, in 2006, there was a video of P!nk acting tough while singing a reworking of Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” retitled “Waiting All Day For Sunday Night,” from the top of a computergenerated skyscraper. P!nk’s reign mercifully ended just a year later.
For the NFL, there is a long list of horrible in-game performances because there are so many ways to go wrong.
The NBA soon distanced itself from its embrace of hiphop and became like any other league—trying to combine the mainstream and the “safe” with artists like the Gym Class Heroes and Rob Thomas. Unfortunately, NBC kept the same tacky song, but replaced P!nk with country singer Faith Hill. Faith Hill inspired a “South Park” episode titled, “Faith Hilling,” in which they parody her opening theme. “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” have also mocked the song. The NFL only seems particularly egregious in this respect because it is constantly under the microscope. The truth is that the NBA and MLB are just as bad. It once seemed as though the NBA was different. Commissioner David Stern and the rest of the administration strove to keep the league’s image as current as possible. It was marketed towards a noticeably younger demographic than any other league and its soundtrack suited that image. For years, the NBA was embedded in a culture of hip-hop.
year, the MLB uses just one song in every single playoff commercial. Every year, the MLB forces you to listen to that song over and over again until blood comes pouring out of your ears. A different Bon Jovi song was used for three consecutive years. As if once wasn’t enough! And they followed up Bon Jovi with every league’s favorite artist, Kid Rock. Of course. Trust me, I would know about ruining songs; I am a Red Sox fan. In the middle of the eighth inning at Fenway Park, “Sweet Caroline” blares through the speakers and fans smile and laugh and sing along, regardless of the score. “So good! So good! So g- oh, wait, Lester gave up eight runs again.”
Every year the MLB forces you to listen to that song over and over again until blood comes pouring out of your ears.
*Call it what you will—a wardrobe malfunction, NippleGate, whatever—the fact is that Super Bowl halftime shows have sucked ever since Justin Timberlake tore that fated piece of corset from Janet Jackson’s chest. As Jackson clutched at and covered herself and JT stared into the distance, both looking sufficiently mortified, viewers and commentators alike decried the decline of morality in our culture. Yet that moment was not a symbol for morality’s degeneration, rather it was the end of all hope for a Super Bowl halftime show that was anything but mediocre. That half second of nipple spurred debate about indecency in broadcasting, nearly cost CBS $550,000 (the fine was later appealed and voided), and has since deterred the NFL from trying anything remotely risky. That’s not to say the league was adventurous before Super Bowl XXXVIII, but here are the acts that followed that controversial duo: Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen, the Who, the Black Eyed Peas, and Madonna. That makes
Innovation and experimentation are what make music so great, yet these leagues avoid them like Barry Bonds avoids a urine sample. You hear the same cycle of played-out arena songs. You get your “Eye of the Tiger” and “We Will Rock You” and “Welcome to the Jungle” at every sporting event without fail. For in-game shows, the choices for artists are very much vanilla. Is it too much to ask for something new, something different? Please, just once, surprise us. I leave you with this: if it weren’t for sports, you would never have to hear Ozzy Osbourne’s insufferable cackle in “Crazy Train” again. Tom Doherty (Journalism)
A refreshing change of pace, to say the least, but it did not last long (long enough for Kobe Bryant to release his own album, though). In 2008, Mark Hasiuk, a writer from Vancouver, called the NBA “ghetto garbage,” and he wasn’t the only one to question its image. The NBA soon distanced itself from its embrace of hip-hop and became like any other league—trying to combine the mainstream and the “safe” with artists like the Gym Class Heroes and Rob Thomas. But if you’re looking for a league that completely lacks an edge, look no further than the increasingly dull Major League Baseball. The game that is often criticized as boring apparently wants its music to be viewed the same way. Every
Prince and the Black Eyed Peas the only performers below fifty at the time of their respective halftime shows. Now, Black Eyed Peas aside, those are some great musicians. And I want to enjoy the Super Bowl halftime show. But, please make it just a little bit easier on me, NFL. So much money goes into that show, and it is evident in the production quality, the theatrical lighting and stage antics, and the plethora of background dancers. But it is hard to say that any of those improve the quality of the performance. Here is the remedy, and it’s a simple one: stop living in fear and let the music be. It’s time to move past the fear of another Jacksonian Slip, and time to end the spectacle the halftime show has become. No more thrones with fifty year old pop singers carried by extremely buff male dancers; no more hip-hop artists dressed like futuristic gladiators. Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest football day of the year and the lowest music day, because the music has become its own sideshow. Let the music have its day. Please.
Sam Glick Guitar & Vocals Kami Sabghir-Frota Keyboard Max Weiss Drums Alec Mapes-Frances Bass Local Talent
Laid back, worry-free beach music r eco m m e n d e d t rac ks
“Blackberry Jam,” “Transatlantic Tryst,” “Baby In Blue” u pco m i n g s h ows
March 3 at PA’s Lounge (Somerville) c h e c k o u t f i n s at
Upon first listen, FINS is quite a deceptive band. Their swirling vocal harmonies, intricate layers of guitar riff upon guitar riff and delicate balancing of synthetic and live drums give off the impression of a group that’s been doing this for a long time. But reality tells quite a different tale. The history of FINS only stretches back to 2008, when two seventh-grade buddies from the nearby suburb of Sudbury, MA, Sam Glick and Kami Sabghir-Frota, joined musical forces to collaborate on a number of guitarkeyboard jams. But it wasn’t until 2011, with the addition of drummer Max Weiss and bassist Alec Mapes-Frances, that the group adopted the moniker of “FINS” and settled down to hone a persona of their own. And here, too, they prove to be deceptive. From an outsider’s perspective, much of their image seems intricately planned. From their choice of “FINS” as a name to their minimalistic, triangle-based branding to their
no-worries-sunny-beach-pop sound, the ocean seems as deep an inspiration as its beautiful stretches and sevenmile trenches would suggest. But once again, reality tells a different tale. The name “FINS” was chosen at random, says Glick, and the beautiful sound that developed to accompany the name grew out of a fusion of the group’s two primary influences – indie music and hip hop. Mapes-Frances, who is also responsible for the visual end of the group’s releases, developed the triangular graphic motifs whilst creating artwork for one of their singles. In one of those dramatic, multi-leveled coincidences that make life all the more beautiful, everything just fit into place on its own for FINS. Coincidental or not, the persona that FINS has cultivated works, and when it comes down to it, that’s all that matters. It’s refreshing to see a group with such a welldefined sense of self, especially when you consider that each member is undoubtedly just one fish in a sea of soulsearching adolescents. However it happened, it happened, and all that’s important now is that in this sea, FINS has risen to the top. And for that, they certainly deserve a listen. 23
Great Minds Think Alike
t he su cc esses and failures of the w ri t e r /m us i ci a n co ll a bo rat i o n
Lonely Avenue (2010) Author of bestselling hits (and later movies) such as Editorial
High Fidelity, Nick Hornsby adds a witty touch to Folds’s already adept lyric-writing skill. musi c i a n
Ben Folds +
n September 24th, 2010, Nonesuch Records released the brainchild of singersongwriter Ben Folds and author Nick Hornby. The album, lovingly titled Lonely Avenue, was conceived as such—Hornby penned the lyrics, to which Folds added his trademark upbeat piano-pop. The result was nothing short of mediocre.
wr i t e r
Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (2008) Sci-fi writer Neil Gaiman wrote many lyrics and liner notes for Palmer’s first
If you are blanking on who Nick Hornby is, let me digress to make a quick “Simpsons” reference and assume the voice of Troy McClure, “Hi, my name is Nick Hornby. You may remember me for writing the novels that inspired several films such as High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Fever Pitch (sort of.)” Got it? Truth be told, Folds is a good lyricist as it is. It takes a few listens or some solid Google research to realize the 1997 heartbreaking hit “Brick” is about an abortion, namely the one Folds and then-girlfriend decided to have back in his high school days. Why Folds thought he needed Hornby’s help poetically, one can only wonder. With that being said, Hornby’s lyrics do add some variety, with each song acting as a mini-story, which, like “Brick,” require some literary analysis. The song “Picture Window” induces hospital imagery also reminiscent of “Brick,” while “Claire’s Ninth” seems to be about the birthday of an unwanted child of separated parents.
Still, there have been several writer/musician collaborations before and since Lonely Avenue—many of them more successful. What makes this particular conjunction of talent successful, and where might it fail? • Leslie Fowle (English/Journalism)
solo album outside of the Dresden Dolls. The cutest part of this collaboration? They got married after. wr i t e r
Neil Gaiman + musi c i a n
“Ghetto Defendant’’ from Combat Rock (1990) Though not the most memorable song off Combat Rock (come on, it’s competition is “Rock the Casbah”), Allen Ginsberg’s words and The Clash’s classic punk make for a poignant tune of the times. Ginsberg actually performed the song on stage with the group in
musi c i a n
The Clash + wr i t e r
New York during the Combat Rock tour.
We’re New Here (2011) Jamie xx, English producer of the w r iter
Gil Scott-Heron + m us ic ian
band “xx”, remixed Gil-Scott Heron’s spoken-word album I’m New Here in 2011 to critical acclaim; Scott-Heron’s gravelly voice syncs perfectly to Jamie’s dark, dubstep vibes.
The ‘’Priest’’ They Called Him (1992) The album consists of Burroughs reading his story
musi c i a n
of a heroin addict trying to score on Christmas
Kurt Cobain +
Eve over Cobain’s subdued guitar. Even creepier is
wr i t e r
the subtle inclusion of melodies from “Silent Night.”
William S. Burroughs
Though the short album is not the most exciting of creations from Cobain’s end, but it might be worthy of a scholarly listen.
static king for th e
Written by Nicholas C. (Environmental Studies)
Illustrations by Wendy Schiller (Digital Art/Animation)
There is an uncannily familiar quiet found deep in the woods. If still enough, one may notice that what first appears to be silence is merely the low rumble of insects, birds, wind, and water. Leaves brush against branches while the songs of crickets and cicadas balance the peace against the piercing squawk of the crows. Some years ago, if one listened closely enough in Western North Carolina, they may have heard the muffled transmissions of sparklehorse. The brainchild of the enigmatic Mark Linkous, sparklehorse served as a vehicle for the late songwriter’s signature brand of musical expression: equal parts distorted pop, ambient soundscapes, and tender hymns that left no emotion unexamined. Friend and fellow musician Angela Faye Martin, whose debut album was produced by Linkous, describes him as “a Willy Wonka of Appalachian descent (and a) tinker archetype. One whose allegiance was to the beauty of (the imperfect) and dross.” Experimenting with style and subject matter, sparklehorse songs are assembled around a myriad of emotional spheres. Songs such as “Gold Day” appear to be composed with the sincerity and otherworldliness of Romantic era poetry, whereas a song such as “Spirit Ditch” draws upon the cryptically abstract.
overdose during a European tour, he was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in London. This experience, chronicled in the aptly named “Saint Mary,” left Linkous temporarily wheelchair-bound and permanently without the original strength of his legs. Sadly, the efforts he made to better his life were no match for the many agonies ultimately led him to take his own life in early 2010. Contemporary music devotees are offered no shortage of sensationalized stories and specifics. Eventually, they may frame favorite musicians in a mythical manner that further separates the art from reality. There are real people beyond the ballyhoo.
Despite the doldrums, Linkous was still a multifaceted person. Many speak of his partiality to “the unpolished.” After moving A song like “Pig,” for example, juxtaposes simple, back to Virginia (and later North Carolina) driven progressions with highly candid lyrics. after a stint in Los Angeles, his music began While blistering guitars hammer along, Linkous to reflect a distaste of the disingenuous pop screams, “I want to be a stupid and shallow hits manufactured by the mainstream music motherfucker now/I want to be a tough-skinned industry. Instead, there “is ‘rurality,’” as author bitch but I don’t know how,” giving some insight Pinckney Benedict explains, that intersects with to the inner workings of his mind. As explained “images out of a dream or nightmare.” by singer-songwriter Jesse Sykes, “it wasn’t hard to see that it took a lot for him to carry the Linkous’ unrelenting commitment to perfecting burden of existence.” a sound often meant that those involved in the recording process would find themselves It is no secret that Linkous suffered from in most unusual situations. Engineer Joel depression, addiction, and pain throughout Hamilton recalls, “We made Scott (Minor) play his life. After a now well-publicized accidental the power strip switch, and we wanted to figure 27
out how to make it swell when Mark played it. So we wrapped (Scott’s) arms in a bunch of moving blankets so you couldn’t hear the sound of the power strip being turned on. Things like that sound ridiculous. It’s clearly not automated, and you get the sense that this thing is trying its best and running out of breath rather than just turning up and down. A real ‘physicality.’’’ The end result, “Morning Hollow,” does not disappoint. The efforts of this sonic tamperer, also heard on collaborative albums with Christian Fennesz and Danger Mouse, wove ethereal patchworks of great depth and feeling. As Pinckney Benedict describes: “If you allow yourself to imagine then you can believe
it. There’s a necessary leap of faith. (His songs) resist an intellectual interpretation and they resist analysis, but they give themselves up to belief and imagination.” As any powerful record should do, the music of Mark Linkous has a surficial charm but speaks to many underlying emotional layers. You can still connect with a person admired by those so very close, but who seemed to transfer all of their available energy into crafting such vibrant songs. All you need do is pick up a record, and slip into its world.
s ong rec ommendat i ons
Tastemakers asked some folks connected with Mark Linkous what new listeners should explore.
“ I guess it would be 'Homecoming Queen'. First song. First album. It really said everything.” john parish (musician/producer, pj harvey) “That song still gives me chills. There’s something so intimate about that song and it cuts through you...It changes the air in the room for me…I think that song in particular is a classic, in the sense that the sentiment is met by the way the sentiment is presented.” joel hamilton (recording engineer) on “morning hollow”
“I think that would be 'Some Sweet Day'. Here, as a poet, he provides a concept on which to base an absolute religion! Yet, at the same time it's Shelleyan, and dressed in the clothes of an innocently and perfectly written love song.” angela faye martin (musician/friend)
“ ’Spirit Ditch.’ A corner of a blackened basement, or an old object like a gas tank on a motorcycle is given life and breath -instead of being discarded in a heap of forgotten dream imagery....” jesse sykes (musician/friend)
“I think him having something to prove was there. Him having a budget was there. Having access to sounds and musicians… all that was there. I’m a fan of a well-rounded album that you can knock it out of the park and really get your sound across.” jason lytle (grandaddy) on the album it’s a wonderful life
and in a strange turn of eventsâ€Ś Unusual reasons for cancelling shows
PRESENTS EW PORNOGRAPHERS
Written by Erica Moser (Journalism) Illustration by Cara McGrath (Graphic Design)
Fact of life: concerts, sometimes entire tours, get
cancelled or postponed all the time. And itâ€™s usually for one of several reasons. A singer comes down with bronchitis, laryngitis or some other throat/vocal problem. Rehabilitation for drug addiction becomes necessary. Ticket sales are poor. Intense exhaustion. Pregnancy. These reasons are not only common, they are also legitimate. (Though the award for Best Reason to Cancel a Tour goes to Michael Jackson for dying.)
Some shows have been cancelled for reasons that range from unusual to downright absurd: Fiona Apple In November, five months after the release of her noteworthy but too-long-toreferenced-by-name album, Apple posted an image on Facebook of a four-page letter, in which she cancelled her South American tour. The reason was that her dog, Janet, who has Addison’s disease, regularly needs injections of cortisol. “If I go away again,” Apple wrote, “I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.” She spoke of putting baking Tilapia for her “dearest, oldest friend” ahead of her career. While her reason was unorthodox and the letter theatrically stylized – not that anyone expects her to have a plebeian level of emotions – fans reached out with their sympathy and support.
“ She spoke of putting
baking Tilapia for her ‘dearest, oldest friend’ ahead of her career”
T-Pain In 2009, T-Pain cancelled a show in Guyana, scheduled for Feb. 23, due to what a promoter called “credible death and kidnapping threats.” The concert was to celebrate Guyana’s independence from Britain during the Mashramani festival. The threats came over phone and e-mail from an anonymous source. Police were investigating but there was no follow-up. A month later, Hits and James Entertainment filed a $5 million lawsuit for the show, claiming breach of contract, libel and defamation. Another R&B singer to have a Guyana show cancelled is Chris Brown, for protests on his assault of Rihanna; this cancellation occurred in November. There were also rumors that in December, Rick Ross cancelled tours dates in North Carolina over death threats but he denied these reports.
The New Pornographers Many parents fear having “the talk” with young children, but university officials typically don’t have this problem. On the contrary, Northeastern University celebrates Sex Week, gives out glow-in-thedark condoms and has the Huntington News editors demonstrate the “Sex Position of the Week.” This is far from the case with Calvin College, a “Christian liberal arts school” in Michigan that cancelled a New Pornographers show, scheduled for Oct. 15, 2010. The basis was the band’s name, which front man Carl Newman came up with after watching a 1966 Japanese film called The Pornographers. Student activities director Ken Heffner called the cancellation a “peaceful parting of ways” between Calvin and the New Pornographers, but a New Pornographers representative refused to comment. In a statement released, Calvin expressed concern about the school being mistakenly associated with pornography and said that “the irony of the band’s name was impossible to explain to many.”
Kings of Leon July 23, 2010, was a shitty day for Kings of Leon bassist Jared Folowill. After playing only three songs at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis, the band ended their concert because a pigeon left Folowill an unpleasant surprise in his mouth, constituting a “toxic health hazard.” Fans were confused, upset and booing, but Live Nation promised a full refund. The band had previously been warned that the venue had a “significant pigeon infestation” but that officials were working on a solution. The droppings were also problematic for the opening acts, The Postelles and The Stills.
The Used In June, The Used cancelled upcoming Canadian tour dates because frontman Bert McCracken was denied entry to the country for his criminal record, supposedly for ten years. McCracken claims it was for minor misdemeanors, such as trespassing. “They said not for ten years,” he told Rolling Stone. “It’s weird, they’re like, ‘You need to rehabilitate these crimes before you come back to Canada.’ I’m like, ‘What does that mean?’” Bassist Jeph Howard added that they have been denied many times but proposed a solution: border tours, in which Canadians get in shows for free with their passports. The band’s statement simply blamed “border and immigration issues.”
“ The Used cancelled
upcoming Canadian tour dates because frontman Bert McCracken was denied entry to the country for his criminal record ”
Morrissey On July 14, 2011, former Smiths frontman Morrissey pulled the plug on a show in Helsingborg, Sweden due to inclement weather. Spokespeople stated it was because of “severe weather conditions” that posed safety risks. Media outlets and music sites merely used the word “rain,” and Googling “July 14, 2011 storm Sweden” doesn’t yield any interesting results. Apparently Singin’ in the Rain just didn’t speak to Morrissey.
There remain more interesting things to be said about concert cancellations, such as how they seem to commonly pop up in Australia and Japan. And otolaryngologists—ear, nose and throat doctors— could probably rattle off a list of medical conditions to which singers are susceptible. But next time you hear that’s a reason for a cancelled show, it will probably seem rather mundane.
BETWEEN THE LINES Editorial
you’ve never looked inside one of Taylor Swift’s album booklets to read the lyrics, you’ve never seen what appears to be a sporadic capitalization of letters among lowercased lyrics. The lyrics to every song follow this pattern, which suggests that the random capitalizations really aren’t so random. I never bought Swift’s first album, so it wasn’t until I was flipping through the booklet to Fearless that I noticed the oddly capitalized letters. Naturally, I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down the capital letters to the first song, “Fearless.” They spelled: I loved you before I met you. I did this with each song and the hidden messages could have been ripped straight from her private diary. “Forever & Always,” which is a song about the demise of her relationship with Joe Jonas, had the hidden message: If you play these games we’re both going to lose. The piano version of the song from the deluxe version of Fearless took another jab at Joe with: Still miss who I thought he was. Swift’s latest album, Red, was highly anticipated before its release, not only for new T-Swift songs, but for the hidden messages within each song. Unless you follow the many relationships that Swift has had over the years, it’s difficult to pin exactly who she is targeting, but you can speculate based on the hidden messages. “Everything Has Changed,” is obviously about her (then) blossoming relationship with Conor Kennedy, not because the lyrics specifically mention
“A majority of Swift’s
songs are about her relationships...so why does she go to great lengths to hide these messages?
Conor’s name, but because the hidden message is Hyannis Port, the location of the Kennedy family’s famous compound. A majority of Swift’s songs are about her relationships, whether they are just starting or already disintegrated. So why does she go to great lengths to hide these messages in her lyrics if the songs already state how she feels? When the rest of the world expects Swift to immediately hash-out another song about heartbreak every time she and the current guy in her life part ways, it’s almost comical that she takes the time to come up with a not-so-hidden message about her heartbreak. For a girl who initially started off writing music as an escape from the difficulties of high school, it’s a shame that her music is becoming more like another faucet to feed the hungry masses of this gossip-craving nation. The integrity of Swift’s songs is compromised when these hidden messages begin to overshadow the songs themselves. We can to expect Swift to continue on this path as she is currently writing another song. From what I’ve read, Swift and that guy from One Direction ended on a nasty note. I wonder what hidden message she’s coming up with for that one… • Shea Geyer (Pharmacy)
33 Fall 2012
Answer Key: 1. Amy Winehouse – Valerie; 2. Bon Iver – Blood Bank; 3. The xx – Shelter; 4. Kanye West – Stronger; 5. Radiohead – Talk Show Host; 6. R. Kelly – Ignition Remix; 7. Justin Bieber – Boyfriend; 8. The Weeknd – The Zone; 9. Beach House – Lovelier Girl; 10. Toro Y Moi – Talamak; 11. Prince – Purple Rain; 12. R. Kelly – Bump n Grind; 13. Kendrick Lamar – Money Trees
13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
a love supreme lyrical mash-up
Dinorah Wilson (Journalism)
You’d love very much to read a diverse lyrical ode to love inspired by the likes of The xx and R. Kelly? Yes? Well then look no further than below. In the name of Saint Valentine, be a romantic human and try to guess them all correctly with your musically-inclined significant other:
e vo l u t i o n a
of bands with obsessive sound reinvention disorder e
You’re listening to the first single off one of your favorite band’s upcoming albums, officially announced just moments ago and after a painfully long gap in new material. The sheer excitement of the event provides you with a brief window of blind support for the band, but by the time the second verse comes around, your ignorance can protect you from the truth no longer. You reluctantly find the words you never thought you’d say about the band you loved so dearly: "Who the hell is this?"
The song brings you to a rare state of introspection. You begin questioning yourself, what you believe in, how many meals you should eat a day. The list goes on and on. It’s not even a bad song; no, it’s much worse than that. It’s just... different. For most fans, the thought of a band redefining their sound is borderline-traumatizing, but for the fans of a special breed of bands, the expectation with each new release is nothing less than an entire musical renovation.
Some bands do not simply evolve their sound each time a new album is written. In their writing process, the drawing board is erased, the room is quarantined, the house is torched, and the town is nuked. These bands settle for nothing less than a state of rebirth. But does it really work? • Jeffrey Curry (Behavioral Neuroscience)
Between the Buried and Me First Album: Between the Buried and Me (2001) Most Recent Album: Parallax II (2012)
Between the Buried and Me are heavy. Really heavy. If you don’t believe
m e ta l
me, take a listen to the first five seconds of “Roboturner” off 2005’s
r o g
Alaska. Point proven? Now imagine playing in the band. Heavy is good and fun, but the steaming riffage, constant barrage of blast beats and breakdowns, and harsh vocal shrills can grow redundant and exhausting.
m e ta l
The band’s solution to this issue was to space the heaviness out with passages influenced by other genres. On 2009’s The Great Misdirect, a southern ballad, a hoedown, and many quiet guitar and bass driven sections divide some of the band’s heaviest moments to date. The progression has grown only more complex on Parallax I and II. The members of the band are all incredible musicians; it’s only natural that new and more complex song passages would begin to replace previous, traditional approaches to metal, but there is a limit to how complex
w t f
a song can be before it starts to degrade its quality. In many recent
t h i s ?
instances, Between the Buried and Me have surpassed this point. WHY? Boredom. DID IT WORK? Yes and no. After the perfect balance of progressive and
metal on 2007’s Colors, the band pushed further into prog territory. The difference isn’t blatantly obvious until the second Parallax release, where song technicality is at an all time high but comes at the price of sounding uncomfortably choppy and without direction.
Brand New First Album: Your Favorite Weapon (2001) Most Recent Album: Daisy (2009)
Back in the early 2000s, Long Island bands Brand New and Taking Back Sunday were on really good terms. After a falling out between the lead singers of both bands and the concurrent commercial success
h a p p y
of Taking Back Sunday’s album Tell All Your Friends, Brand New returned in 2003 with Deja Entendu, a dark and emotional album with
a n g r y
few, if any, similarities to the band’s debut album. After the initial shock of Deja Entendu‘s complete tonal inversion wore off, the new sound was received with near universal praise and the rest (read: the band’s next two albums) was history. Angst, frustration, animosity, and fervor fill the lines of every Brand New song, but the tone only grows
m a d
harsher with each release. Their fourth album, Daisy set a benchmark for the band as it consists of at least equal parts sung and screamed vocals. Raw shrills over distorted instruments fill its atmosphere to create their most distant work yet. WHY? Anger turned trademark. DID IT WORK? Definitely. Deja Entendu, French for “already heard”,
perfectly describes the band’s debut record Your Favorite Weapon, but
a n g r i e r
the three that follow are all in a league of their own.
First Album: Parachutes (2000) Most Recent Album: Mylo Xyloto (2011)
t w o
Chris Martin is a fantastically talented songwriter. Parachutes is
r e a l ly
saturated with witty lyrics, catchy songs and more than just a few
a lt e r n at i v e
moments that inspire tears. Two years later, A Rush of Blood to
g o o d
a l b u m s
the Head expanded upon this: more electric guitars, louder piano, more drums. It worked splendidly. X&Y grew even larger with huge
choruses (“Speed of Sound”, “White Shadows”) and electronics galore. Coldplay was the loudest soft rock band in 2005, but for the first time, they showed a weakness. The quality of their songwriting seemed to diminish ever so slightly with increasing volume, but their skyrocketing popularity masked the problem. By the time Mylo Xyloto was released in 2011, the band had burst. Riddled with mundane pop songs and awkward passages, it was the band’s loudest and most disappointing production to date. WHY? Megalomania. DID IT WORK? For a while. Coldplay’s exponential growth marketing
strategy made them the biggest band around with only three albums under their belt, but the thirst for growth only grew stronger as songwriting took a nosedive by the turn of the decade.
Deadmau5 First Album: Random Album Title (2008) Most Recent Album: > album title goes here < (2012)
Joel Zimmerman is a confusing guy. He simultaneously writes popular electronic dance music and attacks listeners of the genre (which are easy to attack) for how they enjoy it. His frustrations are genuine,
p r o g r e s s i v e h o u s e
p r o g r e s s i v e ly
for the current profile of the average EDM listener is an obvious
m o r e
embarrassment to its generation, yet Zimmerman only facilitates the problem through his increasingly mainstream songwriting. Comparing 2008’s “I Remember” to 2012’s “Professional Griefers” shows two polar sides of the genre; both songs are easily accessible but for entirely different reasons. As Zimmerman loses sight of his goals as a producer, his work suffers, as evident on the mediocre > album title goes here <, an 80 minute epileptic seizure of genres, ironic given his comments about his target audience’s drug of choice. WHY? Attempting to fix things that aren’t broken. DID IT WORK? Nope. Joel’s Random Album Title stands miles
above similar progressive house albums but his other releases are all shrouded in confusion and mediocrity.
r av e c l u b Spring 2013
r a d i o
f r i e n d ly
e a dy
t u n e s
The Mars Volta First Album: De-loused in the Comatorium (2003) Most Recent Album: Noctourniquet (2012)
The Mars Volta was the brainchild of the insane songwriting genius, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. At 37, Rodriguez-Lopez has twenty-eight solo studio albums (with two already released this year) and a 2,500
p e r f e c t e x p e r i m e n ta l r o c k
a l b u m
word Wikipedia article exclusively for his discography. While his perpetual release of music rarely yields an album that isn’t a great deal of nonsense, The Mars Volta began with an album that bordered on
perfection. Omar’s apprehension with complacency pushed the band
a l b u m
further into weirdness with a pivotal turning point coming in 2006 when the appraised and well-respected drummer Jon Theodore was replaced with gospel chops maniac Thomas Pridgen. On the 2008 release of The Bedlam in Goliath, The Mars Volta became an entirely new entity, focused on the shock factor of complexity over strong a
songwriting. When the majority of the recording band was kicked and
w h o l e o f
Deantoni Parks replaced Pridgen in 2011, The Mars Volta was again
l o t
w t f
unrecognizable. The year 2012 gave birth to what may be presumed to be the Volta’s last record, Noctourniquet, a solid synth-driven record besting anything released in the last five years but not even scratching the surface of the beauty created nearly a decade prior. WHY? Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and drumming. DID IT WORK? Not really. The Volta’s two best albums came first, and
though those that followed were all at least good, the differentiation is too severe to be ignored. De-Loused and Frances the Mute will forever be what The Mars Volta will be remembered for. ga r b ag e p i vo ta l
r o c k
a l b u m
Radiohead First Album: Pablo Honey (1993) Most Recent Album: The King of Limbs (2011)
Referring to Radiohead as a band that has evolved over time could very
o k ay i s
t h i s
r o c k
easily be considered a misnomer. The band certainly hasn’t built upon their previous releases as a source of influence or foundation for their future releases, at least not traditionally. Pablo Honey, the proverbial asterisk for those who consider Radiohead’s discography to be
t h e
virtually flawless, is a mediocre 90s alternative rock album. The band’s
b e st
a l b u m
trend of genres from there forward follows an eclectic plot across the
e v e r
dimensions of complexity, instrumentation, and listener accessibility. OK Computer and Kid A are arguably the two best albums of the last
t h e
twenty years but for entirely different reasons, as similarities between
a l b u m
the albums are scarce. Radiohead moves across genres in a malignant
manner, extinguishing each as they progress. 2010’s The King of Limbs was initially ill-received, mainly because it was the first Radiohead album to distinctly simplify their songwriting approach. In hindsight, the move was logical. As cancer spreads, it overtakes its surroundings
b e st
b ac k
e v e r i i
r o c k
with ease. At the end when there is nothing feasible left, the only thing to do is to start over.
e x p e r i m e n ta l
WHY? Because Pablo Honey sucks. Okay, seriously. Time. DID IT WORK? Yes. From The Bends to The King of Limbs, Radiohead
have never released the same string of notes twice, and the effect has always been radiant.
m i n i m a l 37
a primer on
WILCO Spring 2013
Songs for American Aquarium Drinkers
When you and your friends discuss important bands of the last decade (if other people do that with their friends), Wilco is sure to come up. Wilco occupies the same space as groups like Radiohead and the Flaming Lips, a space made up of bands commercially successful in spite of their devotion to creativity.
The project is spearheaded by singer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy, and was formed after the fracturing of moderately-successful country group Uncle Tupelo. Since its beginnings in 1994, Wilco has recorded eight studio albums, a live album and various collaborations. Now, in the 19th year of Wilco’s existence, styles as diverse as folk, krautrock and psychedelia are all integral to Wilco’s sound. Wilco today is a far cry from its humble origins as an alt-country group. Understandably, it’s hard to approach all of that if you’re unfamiliar. So, when tackling Wilco, you should keep your own musical leanings in mind. Since most Wilco albums dabble in a different genre, their catalog has something to offer for almost all listeners. It’s worth noting that an odd contingent of fans prefer the band’s first four albums, because of the presence of songwriter and multiinstrumentalist Jay Bennett. However, each record in the Wilco catalog has its own merits. The best place to begin would be Wilco’s masterpiece and magnum opus, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: hardly the band’s most listenable album, but certainly its best-recieved. The last album recorded with Jay Bennett, Yankee is a lyrically subdued affair, taking inspiration from innerband turmoil and the then-recent 9/11 attacks. Production-wise, the album submerges its songs in feedback, hinting at Wilco’s future in noisy
experimentation. Yet neither of these hampers what is, without a doubt, a classic set of songs. “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” is a masterstroke of chaotic drums and keyboards, and the playful strings on “Jesus, Etc.” offer a nice counterpoint to the maudlin lyrics. I could slap on more positive superlatives, but you get the idea. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is the work of a band striving for artistry and beauty, and hitting both squarely on the mark. The logical next step is the group’s third album, Summerteeth. Released in 1999, Summerteeth is an unabashedpop album from a band not known for its accessibility. Many of Wilco’s most famous anthems are found here, like crowd sing-a-long, “Shot in the Arm,” and the propulsive rock song, “I’m Always in Love.” No particular theme pervades the album, though Tweedy’s marriage is depicted less than favorably in multiple songs. However, you’ll probably find yourself singing along to murder-ballad, “Via Chicago,” which features some of Wilco’s lushest melodies and arrangements. Summerteeth was the last album before Wilco’s stylistic shift toward fractured rock n’ roll, so consider it the band’s fantastic send-off to their country beginnings. After Summerteeth, the new listener’s path becomes murkier. Again, it really depends on what sort of music catches your fancy. To these ears, their next strongest release is
the adventurous and guitar-centric, A Ghost is Born. Ghost masterfully employs shifts between loud and soft dynamics, and features explosive guitar freak-outs (“At Least That’s What You Said,” “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”) alongside stately piano tunes (“Hummingbird,” “Theologians”). Fans also gravitate toward the double album Being There, Summerteeth’s predecessor. That record’s wide musical sprawl leads to superb highs across the board – the epic-folk of “Sunken Treasure” and the grand rock n’roll opener, “Misunderstood,” come to mind. The band’s most recent record, The Whole Love, is a strong option as well, combining the pop songcraft of Wilco’s earlier albums with the studio innovation of their later ones. There are a few pitfalls to avoid. Wilco’s first album A.M. certainly isn’t bad on a Pablo Honey level, but it’s rather unremarkable next to their highest highs. 2009’s Wilco (the Album) suffers the same fate. Even so, both albums have tracks worthy of the Wilco canon (“Box Full of Letters” from A.M., “Bull Black Nova” from Wilco (the Album)). For further listening, check out the band’s Neil Young-indebted 2007 album, Sky Blue Sky, live album, Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, and folk collaboration with Billy Bragg, Mermaid Avenue. Mike Doub (Psychology)
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on the air with
BDC Suzie Conway (Communications) T urning on the radio to hear new alternative music isn’t necessarily an instinct for most Bostonians. And in the last year, it’s become an increasingly tricky task because Boston, one of the largest metro areas in the country, is somehow without an alternative FM radio station. How is this possible? Considering all of the alternative acts that have been birthed in Boston, it seems crazy that Boston could live without such a fundamental music choice on their radios. Until recently, 101.7 WFNX was the alternative voice in Boston’s increasingly monotone radio landscape. That, however, wasn’t enough of a draw for the venerable station to stay in business. WFNX was closed down and within months an online radio station, RadioBDC, would take its place. How did this happen and so quickly at that? I chatted with the team at RadioBDC including DJs Adam 12 (who also teaches radio production at Northeastern), Steph Mangan (also of Norhteastern), Julie Kramer and Promotions and Events Coordinator Alaina Riccardi to get the lowdown on Boston’s newest radio station, how it came to be and what we all can expect from this unique take on alternative radio.
Feature Spring 2013
May 16, 2012, marked the day that WFNX, Boston’s only alternative FM radio station, folded. A 9:30 a.m. staff meeting began an otherwise ordinary day for the staffers. By the end of it, all but two employees had been fired. It was out of the ashes of WFNX that the newest radio venture in Boston, RadioBDC, was able to emerge. WFNX was the latest acquisition of ClearChannel, the monolithic media company that has been buying out stations across the country. Having such a strong following of listeners and more than a little hometown pride, the team at Boston.com saw an opportunity. Just a few days after the firings, Boston.com set in motion plans to acquire a new radio station. Recently, articles from the hardcopy version of the Boston Globe moved from Boston.com to BostonGlobe.com. In order to increase content on Boston.com, they sought out the recently laid-off team of WFNX to come back to radio—this time as an online “hybrid between a terrestrial radio station and an online streaming radio station like Pandora,” described Adam 12.
An accelerated timeline and a very tight-lipped acquisition of the station didn’t deter the transition from a terrestrial radio station to an online radio station. Alaina Riccardi calls it “a start-up within a big company” and that sort of feel is evident in the team’s laid-back but ambitious attitude towards the station. Having launched this past August, only three months after the shuttering of WFNX, RadioBDC has already begun to thrive, finding a place on listener’s homepages and smartphones instead of their radio dials. Bringing on staff and DJs from WFNX, including Adam 12 and Kramer, Henry Santoro and Paul Driscoll, RadioBDC has, to put it simply, made lemons out of lemonade.
photos Clockwise, from top left 1 Adam 12, chatting with Adam Salsman and Elizabeth Comeau of Boston.com. 2 Steph Mangan, surrounded by pages from The Boston Globe. 3 Julie Kramer, about to return to her lunch hour radio show. 4 Churchill performs at a Live in the Lab session on January 21, 2013. Photos by Connor Russo (Business/Computer Science)
The New Stuff Not only has the same talent gotten back on the air, but RadioBDC now has had the opportunity to expand on their offerings. In addition to typical programming, the team has been able to host a series of intimate musical performances right from their studio called Live in the Lab (Tastemakers Magazine sat in on the recent Live in the Lab session with Churchill). “It’s a way for our listeners to see something different—a stripped down performance for free,” said Kramer. RadioBDC has been using their connections forged at WFNX to get in touch with clients and set up these concerts. So far, some of the big-name performances have included Bloc Party, The Joy Formidable, Paul Banks (of Interpol), Dropkick Murphys, and The Gaslight Anthem. This stage, while making way for performances by big names in alternative music, is also providing a platform for new and promising talent such as Churchill.
Another popular offering from the team is the RadioBDC +1 series, a free concert series taking place at a different venue in Boston each time, which has been wildly popular for the station. Along with getting their name out there, the +1 series is cementing RadioBDC’s role in Boston’s alternative music community—getting RadioBDC team members out of the studio and onto the streets. Being online has also allowed for more creative control. Operating online, they are not subject to the same FCC regulations as radio stations (meaning also that they do not have to break for commercials nearly as frequently). Not only that, more freedom means that there’s more variety in what music is played—which is a boon to program director Paul Driscoll, according to Adam 12. Boston.com not having been in the radio business before, has been happy to give RadioBDC control, saying essentially to the team “you know radio, go do radio.” Steph Mangan reiterated this notion, saying “there wasn’t a precedent for this station, so we’ve been able to say ‘we want to put on a show, so let’s just put one on.’”
The Money Making A free radio station featuring limited traditional advertising, putting on free shows? How is the station successful? In a word— sponsorships. Julie Kramer’s “Lunch at Your Desk” program is sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts. Each of the RadioBDC+1 series also features its own sponsor, promoted along with the concert each time it’s mentioned on-air. “We make each event free but we understand the sponsor’s goal is to get the product in the customer’s hands. If we have a beer sponsor, that will be the only beer available at that event,” says Riccardi. The team also uses their parent company’s ties, advertising events in the pages of the Globe. This new take on advertising has made them a more viable option for online streaming radio, where there’s an even smaller tolerance for traditional ads.
The Road Ahead Riccardi teased at 2013 being a big year for RadioBDC. Recently, they’ve expanded their Live in the Lab series to include authors. But more than that, the team would be happy to see other stations take a cue from them as well. They see this as a “next phase” for radio both in Boston and nationally for other cities to develop. Though the relationship between the station and the Globe is enviable, they saw potential for stations in different genres and cities. “I think it is possible for another station to start like ours. You need the resources, money and connections to get something like this going. I had contacts already which certainly helped,” said Kramer.
A brand new endeavor for Boston.com and the former players from WFNX, RadioBDC is off to a great start. To listen, tune into RadioBDC on the hompage of Boston.com and download the free iOS and Android apps. 43
Interview by Nick Hugon (International Affairs) Artwork courtesy of Xavi FornĂŠ of ERROR! Design
Gig posters, if plain enough, become part of an atmosphere that aims to cater to a live music-appreciative demographic. But a great gig poster bursts the tacks pinning it to its corkboard, grapples you by your collar and tugs you close enough that you can see every printed pixel.
Xavi Forné, a Spanish graphic designer and the man behind Error! Design, is a creator of such great gig posters. His is a style charged with intricate, textural depth and dark imagery that usually features some humanoid creature. His most striking work defies bold, angular trends in modern graphic design, assigning preference to somber colors and active compositions. Tastemakers caught up with Forné to discuss the process for artistdesigner interaction, what makes an effective gig poster and his artistic influences. Tastemakers Magazine (TMM): How much input does the artist have on the initial contact you have with them? Do they seek you out or is there a particular way that you market your work to an audience of touring musicians? Xavi Forné (XF): Usually the band or booking agency contacts me through my website or my gigposters.com profile. Or sometimes I try to contact the band or the agency to make a poster for a band that I really like. TMM: How much input does the artist have on the concepts of the artwork? What information or preference, if any, do they articulate to you?
XF: Some bands are very clear about what they want, but I try to work freely and be inspired by their music. I don’t like being told what they want to show. I prefer to be more honest and real about what I feel when I listen to their albums for inspiration. TMM: What are your goals when you’re designing for artists? XF: Mainly you’re working towards a clearly defined end-result. But above all that I try to create something that has life and a message within the design. I try to create something that has its own feeling. TMM: When broken down to its most essential purpose, a tour poster is supposed to articulate names, venues and dates. Yet the most interesting tour posters give much more generous treatment to visuals than text. What is your defense of the choice to put such emphasis on an engaging visual?
Interview XF: I think the most important thing about a tour poster is its ability to grab attention. If a poster has lots of text or lots of information, people pass by and don’t see it. But if the poster visually striking, you’re much more likely to stop and look at it. TMM: Have you ever declined a job from a musician? If so, why? XF: I have never had to decline a job because the musician could not pay what I needed. As long as I can agreeably work with the artist, money is never an issue. Once, however, after reaching an agreement, the musician became very picky about the design and obviously I couldn’t stand such ignorance and disrespect, so I had to turn down that job. TMM: When you first started designing, what other visual artist most inspired you? XF: There are many artists or visual forms that have influenced me. In nature, animals, life...and in the world of design I suppose Saul Bass, Escher, David Carson, Raymond Pettibon. In the world of the poster are many who have influenced me and even now I know others: Methane Studios, Invisible Creature, Boss Construction, Decoder Ring and many more.
TMM: If you could design for any musician, which would that be?
TMM: What’s your favorite piece you’ve done for a musician or band?
XF: Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters or Pink Floyd (laughs).
XF: Two posters & t-shirts for Red Fang, I think.
TMM: Thank you very much for your time!
TMM: What bands are you particularly into right now? Spring 2013
XF: The Black Keys, Napalm Death, Cult Of Luna and Mono.
XF: Thanks to you for your support! Hugs, love and Merry Christmas!
Local Natives Hummingbird Release date January 29, 2013 Label French Kiss/Infectious Genre Alternative/Indie Rock Tasty tracks You & I, Breakers, Colombia
Despite the critical success of Gorilla Manor, the debut album from Local Natives, the band was still regarded as an amalgamation of several indie rock giants. It seemed Local Natives could not be spoken of without mentioning that they sound like part Fleet Foxes, part Animal Collective, and a whole lot of Grizzly Bear. In the (almost) three years between Gorilla Manor and any new music from the band, this impression festered and took hold with no different material to prove that Local Natives were their own entity. It took 35 months, but vocalist Kelcey Ayer and his band mates finally released something to challenge that perception. Hummingbird, Local Natives’ second LP, will disappoint those looking for the unbridled fun found on their debut. Gorilla Manor left the listener brimming with a sense of invulnerability, teeming with an impervious
confidence. Hummingbird does quite the opposite. This is a more mature group and an album full of emotion and introspection. Local Natives have done plenty of growing up during their absence. “Breakers” was the first single released from Hummingbird and it most closely resembles Local Natives of old while rivaling the arena-filling sound of anthemic bands like Arcade Fire. It starts off with handclaps amid cymbals before delving into a beautiful harmonic chorus. Although resembling Gorilla Manor tracks like “Airplanes” and “Sun Hands” aesthetically, “Breakers” also reflects a newfound uncertainty in the band (“I know nothing’s wrong, but I’m not convinced”). “Wooly Mammoth” kicks that arena style up even a notch higher with crashing cymbals and snares to complement its anthemic chorus. These two tracks are the best examples, but throughout the entire album, it is made clear that this band has expanded their sound. Even with their revamped sound, Ayer’s vocals alone take Local Natives to a whole new level. His voice is as singularly awesome as the mustache of guitarist and co-vocalist Taylor Rice (who does a damn good job himself ). His falsetto, which gets the album off to a superb start on opening track “You & I,” is tastefully
and aptly performed. It replaces Gorilla Manor’s unwavering assurance with genuine vulnerability as Ayer wails, “When did your love go cold?” Where did all of this sudden self-doubt come from? After an album so markedly confident, how did these new Local Natives come about? In nearly every song, the band is wearing its weaknesses on its sleeve. On “Ceilings,” Rice’s voice pleads, “Tell me what I know / To keep myself from second guessing.” The following track offers no relief. In what seems like a reference to long ago (say, three years or so) naiveté, the nearly whispered vocals of “Black Spot” sing “Oh no, I’m dying wrong” and “I didn’t know to be afraid.” Mortality once again appears on “Black Balloons,” where the singer proclaims that “Every day is life or death.” Finally, after more than half an hour of listening, the origin of Local Natives’ new perspective is revealed. Disregard any previous fluctuations in tempo; “Colombia” is the climax of this album. The penultimate track is a heart-rending song about the death of Ayer’s mother. The lyrics are raw and emotive as Ayer asks over and over, “Am I giving enough?” and yearns to tell his mother “If you never felt all of my love / I pray now you do.” This song also contains the album’s only mention of a hummingbird: Ayer sings, “A hummingbird crashed right in front of me, and I understood all you did for us.” Nearing the end of the song, Ayer finally sings his mother’s name, Patricia, as the music begins to pick up, reaching a heartbreaking peak. It is crushingly beautiful and devastatingly cathartic. After an elongated gap between released material, expectations were high for Local Natives’ latest release. Hummingbird did not disappoint. Local Natives have grown up and their music and their lyrics are more mature. Gorilla Manor was fun, but lacked the depth that can be found here. Local Natives turned inwards for inspiration on this album, and a band that is their own – not a combination of influences – emerged. Tom Doherty (Journalism)
If you would like to submit a review to be considered for publishing in print or online, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 47
Widowspeak Almanac Release date January 22, 2013 Label Captured Tracks Genre Indie Rock Tasty tracks Dyed in the Wool, Ballad of the Golden Hour, Locusts
Widowspeak’s Almanac is a phantom limb of a bygone age. This Brooklyn-based indie outfit’s sophomore release is nostalgic while avoiding banality, albeit somewhat narrowly. Almanac calls to mind Harvest-era Neil Young – at once cursory and profound. If the word “waiflike” had any sonic connotation, it would perfectly describe singer Molly Hamilton’s performance on Almanac. Her empyrean vocals seem to linger like vapor on the cusp of every lyric. Hamilton’s style rarely excites, but is consistently satisfying. Her lyrics are steeped in impermanence – “we could never/stay forever” – reflecting the cynicism of her generation with trademark repose.
Foxygen We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic Release date January 22, 2013 Label Jagjaguwar Genre Experimental Rock Tasty tracks On Blue Mountain, San Francisco, Shuggie, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic
Musicians are in an age of obsession with being “cross-genre,” and sometimes having elements reminiscent of Girls, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Alabama Shakes, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack all in the same album is a recipe for disaster. This is not the case with Foxygen, the California experimental rock duo of Jonathan Rado and Sam France. For starters, their transitions from psychedelic to southern to glam rock are smooth. Foxygen also builds their songs bottom-up instead of top-down, so instead of aiming for grandiosity and falling short, they piece together simple components to make something big. Then there are the sharp, offbeat and sometimes unsettlingly somber lyrics, which augment each song’s overarching theme, be it lost love, the darkness of the mind, or religious desperation.
Guitarist Robert Earl Thomas has slide guitar chops that would make Duane Allman swell up with pride. Thomas’ lofty guitar lines occupy a very particular headspace – it is easy to neglect how they fill out each song, except in those instances where he stops playing. Make no mistake; his guitar work is in no way unsubstantial. As evidenced by tracks like “Ballad of the Golden Hour,” Thomas shows that even ethereal indie pop can be guitar-driven. Widowspeak’s latest evokes the spirit of the folk rock of yesteryear. It is warm and inviting in spite of – or perhaps because of – its dreamy nature, starkly contrasting the weighty, yet misanthropic drones of indie contemporaries like Grimes and Crystal Castles. Fans of the latter two artists probably won’t find much to be excited about in this album. Maybe Almanac isn’t wholly groundbreaking, but it does recall an era where music didn’t have to shock or confuse people to excite them – and maybe that’s okay with Widowspeak. Joey Dussault (Journalism)
The latter is evident in “On Blue Mountain” during the choir’s singing of, “On Blue Mountain, God will save us/put the pieces back together.” It sounds like a rally cry, and the background grows more intense and whirling, climaxing in a bout of muted screaming. Foxygen consistently sounds like they’re building up to something, and after hitting the pinnacle, they begin the next buildup. On “San Francisco,” a cute track with a peaceful flute, France sings, “I left my love in San Francisco/that’s okay, I was bored anyway.” One of their best lyrics is, “There’s no need to be an asshole/you’re not in Brooklyn anymore,” on “No Destruction.” The album’s first single—and arguably its highlight—is “Shuggie,” which grows from disheartened and mellow with the poignant line, “But you don’t love me/that’s news to me” to rousing with, “If you believe in yourself, you can free your soul.” Don’t let the album title fool you— Foxygen is not just two burned-out neohippies who want to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” There is a certain mind necessary to make good rock music, and they have it. If a Foxygen member were to utter the cliche, “I feel like I was born in the wrong decade,” he would sound believable, not ostentatious or worthy of an eye roll. Erica Moser (Journalism)
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Brokeback Brokeback and the Black Rock Release date January 22, 2013 Label Thrill Jockey Genre Alternative/Indie Rock Tasty tracks Will be Arriving, Don’t Worry Pigeon
A dilapidated gas station, located in what is assuredly a most mystical part of the American Southwest where the horizon is nonexistent and gasoline is under two dollars a gallon. A lone utility pole supplies power to the inhabitants of a land equal parts scorching and sparse, and the road is only seen beyond the sandy pavement if one squints. The cover art for Brokeback and the Black Rock serves a fitting description of the music within. To be dubbed a mere Tortoise side project would be an unjust appraisal of Brokeback’s deft musical capability. Led by Douglas McCombs (famous as the multiinstrumentalist for the aforementioned
Christopher Owens Lysandre Release date January 15, 2013 Label Fat Possum/Turnstile Genre Indie Pop/Chamber Folk Tasty tracks Here We Go, A Broken Heart, Everywhere You Knew
Christopher Owens came to prominence as the singer/songwriter behind indie rock darlings Girls, who seemed poised to continue their meteoric rise until July of this past year. Owens effectively ended the project, which he had formed with bassist Chet “JR” White in 2007, with an announcement made via Twitter. Owens cited the revolving-door lineup of the band, which he claims included 21 different members over the course of its five year existence, as an impetus for the decision. In what seems to be an attempt at avoiding the heartbreak of losing close bandmates and the stress of properly fronting a project like Girls, Owens has decided to soldier on alone. Lysandre is the first in a promised series of solo records, and the results are mixed. Girls synthesized influences from nearly every conceivable facet of guitar-driven music into an eclectic and inspired sound across their brief discography, but Lysandre focuses squarely on the ‘60s and ‘70s folk-rock of Cat Stevens and Simon & Garfunkel. Acoustic guitars, flutes, saxophones and restrained percussion populate these songs; none of the
Chicago legends) and compiled of all new members, this lineup shows their impressive ability to paint a musical landscape. As bands such as Calexico and the Friends of Dean Martinez have demonstrated, music associated with the Southwest carries a specific quality. At the risk of putting too much emphasis on geographical origins, it’s still hard to believe that such seemly sounds can emanate from the comparatively frosty Illinois metropolis. The flamenco flavor of “Tonight at Ten,” followed by the menacing dead heat of “Gold!” and epic “Don’t Worry Pigeon” whose drums and soaring guitars reflect its airborne title, all seem to drive an underlying narrative. The album’s closer and longest track, “Colossus of Roads,” mightily tackles the task of drawing everything to a close. But instead of a closing crescendo, the music fades away until the next listen through has begun. Album-length epics and bloated rock operas tend to leave nothing to the imagination and rarely live up to their lionized
snarling shoegaze or hard-rock stomps of “Morning Light” and “Die” to be found here. Even if the sound is less expansive, Owens still has an ear for melody and arrangement that renders the album a pleasant sonic experience. Lysandre’s gentle sound reflects its delicate subject: a fondly recalled autobiographical love story between Owens and the titular French woman, whom he met during Girls’ first tour. It’s a micro concept album of sorts, unfolding an entire story of a tour, the genesis of a romance and its dissolution over the course of a scant 28 minutes. With Lysandre clocking in at two minutes shorter than Girls’ sole EP, it can’t help but feel a little insubstantial. Especially when taking into consideration the repetitious three and a half minutes of “Riviera Rock” and the amount of real estate given to the record’s recurring instrumental theme, there simply isn’t that much to digest here. The final Girls record, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, hinted at what Owens could do with grander song structures and a longer album format. This solo debut reigns in those tendencies, and not to its benefit. That sense of regression is ultimately what keeps Lysandre from measuring up to any of Owens’ prior work, and it’s demonstrated most prominently in the lyrics. Owens has always been an open book as a songwriter, but sections of Lysandre take his honesty and directness further than they need to go. “What if I’m just a bad songwriter/and everything I say has been said before?” he
classifications. Brokeback’s latest album, although not advertised as such, creates an individualized story for the listener. The reverb-laden guitars radiate above the anchors of the rhythm section like the heat off on the far horizon. Imagination will do the rest. Nicholas C. (Environmental Studies)
wonders aloud on the cringe-inducing “Love is in the Ear of the Listener.” Owens’ direct, personal lyrics were one of Girls’ many strengths, but here he veers too often past the confessional and into the maudlin. Lysandre is hardly a disaster. It’s a brief and palatable listen with hints of great songwriting. Still, its exceptionally brief runtime, questionable lyrics and general sense of downscaling prevent it from being a satisfying start to Owens’ promising solo career. Ben Stas (English and Journalism)
4 Long beaked duo 7 Band that paid homage to Let It Be 8 Worst day for the single 10 Album The Next Day’s cover plays off of 11 Best reason to cancel a tour 12 Brainchild of Mark Linkous DOWN
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______! Design Why Coldplay changed their sound Songs for American aquarium drinkers Unkown ______ Orchestra Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction One of the two greatest things in the world
ZOOMED Can you tell which six album covers we’ve zoomed in on here?
Toro y Moi Anything in Return, The Dear Hunter Migrant, Sparklehorse Good Morning Spider 2nd Row:
Foxygen We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, Coldplay Parachutes, MF Doom Operation Doomsday 1st Row:
CRYPTOQUOTE We’ve hidden Justin Bieber somewhere in this issue. Find him and maybe something cool will happen...
Unscramble the letters to complete the quote from Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
“ I am an American aquarium drinker...
L CHHCHHL J AV E J QGB COBJ MB 51