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Archive for March, 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

THEESatisfaction – awE naturalE (Album Review)

As many hacky newspaper articles are sure to tell you, 2012 is the “Year of the Female MC.” Look, I don’t besmirch newspaper editors for trying to find a way to squeeze Azealia Banks into the stuffy confines of old gray ladies, but let’s be honest: Lauryn Hill was one of the top three or five MCs of the ‘90s, and women in rap have been just as marginalized in rock. That there are suddenly a bunch of interesting rappers with two X chromosomes does not a trend make.

But at the same time, there’s certainly someone at a major label desk right now, tasked with trying to find the “next” Nicki Minaj. This is how Iggy Azalea gets signed to a real record deal, with ink and everything. And while THEESatisfaction are sure to find themselves tacked on as footnotes in articles about Azealia Banks and Kreayshawn later this year because the group features two female MCs (Stasia Irons & Catherine Harris-White), know this: their Sub Pop debut awE naturalE is, with Heems’ Nehru Jackets excluded, this year’s most artistically complete hip-hop album. Imagining a new lane between the spacious electro future-rap of labelmates Shabazz Palaces and Spoek Mathambo, the Native Tongues and the neo-soul rap of Lauryn Hill, awE naturalE is a triumph from front to back.

THEESatisfaction first made a splash last year, when their soulful voices broke through the stream-of-consciousness flow of Ishmael Butler’s Shabazz Palaces album, Black Up. Since his name has helped THEESatisfaction get noticed outside of the Seattle stomping grounds they’ve been working in since 2008, he’s unavoidable when discussing awE naturalE, particularly because it’s clear the influence was two-ways. THEESatisfaction’s own compositions bear the splintered vibes of Shabazz Palaces’: “Earthseed” and its unsteady percussion and inconsistent beat pattern being the most ample example. But Butler is hard to ignore here for another reason: He pops up a couple times on awE naturalE, lending master class verses to album standout “Enchantruss” and “God.”

But awE naturalE’s greatest strengths lie in its invocations of the conscious black empowerment that fueled the Native Tongues hip-hop renaissance in the early 1990s. Lead single “QueenS,” with its looped vocal beats, is at its heart a fun jam—it plays on the first couple of passes like Queen Latifah doing an electro rap song—but it’s really a song about turning your swag off, standing up for yourself and letting loose. On the outro verse of “Enchantruss” the duo traces a line from drinking gourds, “taking a course in white,” Black Jesus, Orson Welles, and the “war beat drum,” while on “Deeper,” they repeatedly say “my melanin is relevant.” Meanwhile, on “Needs,” they conjure a campfire drum circle as they repeatedly chant, “I need to prove myself,” while spinning twisting verses about men and defining their personalities. But there’s never direct, to the point messages here: Irons and Harris-White rap in splintered thoughts, jumping from complex thought to complex thought, while linking them together with their rich, all-encompassing production.

Considering everything, this album could have out in 1993, which puts THEESatisfaction in a rarer camp than being a female rap group: a new rap group paying honest and true homage to classic sounds with deft skill. Think about it? Did you ever think you’d hear a new hip-hop album that sounds like a long-lost Ladybug Mecca solo album? THEESatisfaction’s awE naturalE is one of the most adventurous and tradition-bending hip-hop albums of the year, and further cements Sub Pop as the place for imaginative, left-field hip-hop.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Earl Scruggs Dead: Bluegrass Legend Dies at 88

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Bluegrass legend and banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, who helped profoundly change country music with Bill Monroe in the 1940s and later with guitarist Lester Flatt, has died. He was 88.

Scruggs’ son Gary said his father died of natural causes Wednesday morning at a Nashville, Tenn., hospital.

Earl Scruggs was an innovator who pioneered the modern banjo sound. His use of three fingers rather than the clawhammer style elevated the banjo from a part of the rhythm section – or a comedian’s prop – to a lead instrument.

His string-bending and lead runs became known worldwide as “the Scruggs picking style” and the versatility it allowed has helped popularize the banjo in almost every genre of music.
The debut of Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys during a post-World War II performance on The Grand Ole Opry is thought of as the “big bang” moment for bluegrass and later 20th century country music. Later, Flatt and Scruggs t eamed as a bluegrass act after leaving Monroe from the late 1940s until breaking up in 1969 in a dispute over whether their music should experiment or stick to tradition. Flatt died in 1979.

They were best known for their 1949 recording “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” played in the 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” from “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the popular TV series that debuted in 1962. Jerry Scoggins did the singing.

After the breakup, Scruggs used three of his sons in The Earl Scruggs Revue. The group played on bills with rock acts like Steppenwolf and James Taylor. Sometimes they played festivals before 40,000 people.

In a July 2010 interview, Scruggs said in the early days, “I played guitar as much as I did the banjo, but for everyday picking I’d go back to the banjo. It just fit what I wanted to hear better than what I could do with the guitar.”

Scruggs will always be remembered for his willingness to innovate. In “The Big Book of Bluegrass,” Scruggs discussed the breakup with Flatt and how his need to experiment drove a rift between them. Later in 1985, he and Flatt were inducted together in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“It wasn’t a bad feeling toward each other as much as it was that I felt I was depriving myself of something,” Scruggs said. “By that, I mean that I love bluegrass music, and I still like to play it, but I do like to mix in some other music for my own personal satisfaction, because if I don’t, I can get a little bogged down and a little depressed.”

He said he enjoyed playing because “it calms me down. It makes me satisfied. Sometimes I just need to pick a few tunes.”

At an 80th birthday party for Scruggs in January 2004, country great Porter Wagoner said: “I always felt like Earl was to the five-string banjo what Babe Ruth was to baseball. He is the best there ever was, and the best there ever will be.”

In 2005, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” was sel ected for the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry of works of unusual merit. The following year, the 1972 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band record “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” on which Scruggs was one of many famous guest performers, joined the list, too.

Scruggs had been fairly active in the 2000s, returning to a limited touring schedule after frail health in the 1990s. In 1996, Scruggs suffered a heart attack in the recovery room of a hospital shortly after hip-replacement surgery. He also was hospitalized late last year, but seemed in good health during a few appearances with his sons in 2010 and 2011.

In 2001 he released a CD, “Earl Scruggs and Friends,” his first album in a decade and an extension of The Earl Scruggs Revue. Over 12 songs, he collaborated with an impressive stable of admirers: Elton John, Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt, Sting, Melissa Etheridge, Vince Gill, John Fogerty, Don Henley, Johnny Cash and actor Steve Martin, a banjo player, were all featured.
Scruggs, born Jan. 6, 1924, in Flint Hill, N.C., learned to play banjo at age 4. He appeared at age 11 on a radio talent scout show. By age 15, he was playing in bluegrass bands.

“My music came up from the soil of North Carolina,” Scruggs said in 1996 when he was honored with a heritage award from his home state.

He and Flatt played together in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, then left to form the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1948.

Their popularity grew, and they even became a focal point of the folk music revival on college campuses in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Scruggs’ wife, Louise, was their manager and was credited with cannily guiding their career as well as boosting interest in country music.
Later, as rock ‘n’ roll threatened country music’s popularity, Flatt and Scruggs became symbols of traditional country music.

In the 1982 interview, Scruggs said “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Beverly Hillbillies” broadened the scope of bl uegrass and country music “more than anything I can put my finger on. Both were hits in so many countries.”

Scruggs also wrote an instructional book, “Earl Scruggs and the Five String Banjo.”
In 1992, Scruggs was among 13 recipients of a National Medal of Art.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought of rewards and presentations,” he said. “I appreciate those things, especially this one.”

Louise Scruggs, his wife of 57 years, died in 2006. He is survived by two songs, Gary and Randy. Gary Scruggs says funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Check out an excellent 1972 PBS documentary called Complete Earl Scruggs Story below:

Jack White Releases 3 RPM Record

Good things come in threes. Jack White’s Third Man Records recently celebrated its third anniversary. At their anniversary party, they gave away– get this– the world’s first 3 RPM record. No, not 33 RPM. THREE RPM. That means it’s intended to spin on a record player at three revolutions per minute, which is pretty much impossible. The record contains every “Blue Series” single the label has ever released.

Here’s how Third Man describes the thing:
The world’s first 3 RPM record is a study in contradictions– it’s cut at the slowest speed yet it plays faster than anything you’ve ever heard. It’s a compilation of 7 inch records but it’s packaged like a 12 inch. But the 12 inch sleeve is made like our 7 inch sleeve (as it is one continues piece of paper folded in half and put into an acetate sleeve). A bit like a snake eating its own tail. It comes with three bumper stickers yet there is no bumper. We gave it away for free yet given what it has fetched on eBay it is proving to be fairly valuable. It’s easy to play but impossible to hear. You put your finger on it to slow it down, but this is no easy task (as evidenced by these YouTube videos) and we estimate it would take 333 days of 33 hours training per day for your finger, hand, and arm muscles to spin at a continuous speed of 3 rpm for X hours and X minutes.

Flaming Lips: Ke$ha’s Blood Will Be Used in Record Store Day Release

It wasn’t enough to play on The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, a star-studded limited-edition two-LP set the Flaming Lips will release this year as part of Record Store Day. To truly satisfy Wayne Coyne, the enduring indie band’s kooky frontman, the album’s numerous guest musicians will have to bleed for their art.

As the NME repots, Coyne is hoping to incorporate the actual blood of his collaborators — a motley bunch that includes Bon Iver, Ke$ha, Neon Indian, Nick Cave and Erykah Badu — in the Heady Fwends packaging.

“I don’t have everybody’s blood just yet, but I collected quite a few vials of blood and it’s actually sitting in my refrigerator as we speak,” Coyne said. “I’m going to try to take that same concept and put little bits of everybody’s blood in the middle of this record. Like a glass specimen thing.”

Thus far, Coyne has procured hemoglobin from Neon Indian, Prefuse 73 and Ke$ha. According to the NME, only “five or six” of these extra-special records will be produced, meaning the discs will be even more collectible than the posters Coyne printed up in 2010 using his own blood.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


He’s an asshole. That guy has $2 billion that he made from figuring out ways to steal royalties from artists, and that’s the bottom line. You can’t really trust anybody like that.

I honestly don’t want to see Sean Parker succeed in anything. I imagine if Spotify becomes something that people are willing to pay for, then I’m sure iTunes will just create their own service, and they’re actually fair to artists.

—The Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney continues to rage against Spotify—but this time, it’s personal. What Carney says here dovetails nicely with a story from earlier today on the problems Spotify faces until it’s operating on an astronomical scale. (Sidebar: Do you know how easy it is to find a picture of Sean Parker looking like an asshole? It’s very very easy!)

Lost George Harrison ‘Sun’ guitar solo on ‘Material World’ film

Tucked in among about a dozen bonus audio and video features on the May 1 home video release of Martin Scorsese’s documentary “George Harrison: Living in the Material World” is a session that’s bound to generate excitement among Harrison and Beatles aficionados: a missing George Harrison guitar solo from one of his most celebrated songs, “Here Comes the Sun.”

It surfaces during in-studio conversation between Harrison’s son, Dhani, longtime Beatles producer George Martin and his son, Giles Martin, who has overseen recordings used in the film and on an accompanying CD.

The three are listening to, and fiddling with, tracks from the original multi-track recording of “Here Comes the Sun,” one of the two Harrison songs on the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album in 1969.

Giles Martin brings up the orchestral score his father created for Harrison’s song, noting that the elder Martin hadn’t done much composing previously for songs written by “the quiet Beatle.” They’re isolating different aspects of the track — the strings, George’s voice — when Dhani pushes another button on the studio console and up comes the sound of Harrison playing a guitar solo not included on the final mix.

“That’s totally different to anything I’ve ever heard before,” says Dhani, his eyes immediately widening.

“We never used that,” George Martin responds. “I’d forgotten about that.”

“I never even knew about it,” Dhani says.

That snippet is included in the bonus DVD material, but isn’t on the bonus audio disc featuring 10 Harrison tracks from his post-Beatles career, including early or alternate takes of several songs from his watershed “All Things Must Pass” solo album, some of his latter-day material and some covers. The CD will be packaged with the deluxe DVD-Blu-ray edition of the film, and sold as a stand-alone album.

Calendar will have a more extensive interview with Giles Martin and Harrison’s widow, Olivia, closer to the release date of the package, which will be available in two-DVD set and single-disc Blu-ray editions, and the deluxe version with both formats and the audio CD. It has been released previously outside North America, but because HBO screened the film domestically, the home video was delayed in the U.S. until May.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Here’s a pretty weird quote from the guy who made the above mega-mashup of dubstep and horror movies, as reported by Wired:

“I want people to see this clip and think, ‘Hey if this guy from the Midwest can work hard and live his dream, maybe I can too,’” he said.

And the very strange contest that Wired is running:

One randomly selected commenter who correctly identifies 50 movies excerpted in “DubWars” will get his or her own 15-second mashup music video crafted by Prescott, set to the music of any dubstep artist requested by the winner.


Womack’s newest record, The Bravest Man In The Universe, was recorded with Damon Albarn and is due out June 11 on XL (you can hear a track from it below). It’s the singer’s first original album in 18 years. The sad news, via the Guardian:

On the eve of his hotly anticipated comeback album, news has emerged that Bobby Womack has been diagnosed with colon cancer. The 68-year-old soul singer is also being treated for pneumonia, according to the bassist Bootsy Collins, but remains “very upbeat about his future”.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Bloody Valentine: Reissues In May

We’ve been waiting for these, perhaps unsurprisingly, for A Very Long Time. But now it appears that My Bloody Valentine’s long-awaited reissues are to to see the light of day. Sony will release the reissues of Isn’t Anything and Loveless on Monday May 7th 2012. These will be accompanied by a compilation of the band’s four EPs, ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’, ‘You Made Me Realise’, ‘Glider’ and ‘Tremolo’, along with seven rare or previously unreleased tracks.

The two studio albums have been “painstakingly re-mastered” by Kevin Shields at Metropolis Studios. Loveless will come as a two-disc release also featuring a previously unheard and unreleased remaster of the album by Shields made from the original master tapes. We’ll have more on this soon, but for now, below you can find the details of the EP compilation version:

EP’s 1988-1991 ‘You Made Me Realise’ (from You Made Me Realise EP)
‘Slow’ (from You Made Me Realise EP)
‘Thorn’ (from You Made Me Realise EP)
‘Cigarette In Your Bed’ (from You Made Me Realise EP)
‘Drive It All Over Me’ (from You Made Me Realise EP)
‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ (from Feed Me With Your Kiss EP)
‘I Believe’ (from Feed Me With Your Kiss EP)
‘Emptiness Inside’ (from Feed Me With Your Kiss EP)
‘I Need No Trust’ (from Feed Me With Your Kiss EP)
‘Soon’ (from Glider EP)
‘Don’t Ask Why’ (from Glider EP)
‘Off Your Face’ (from Glider EP)

The Shins- Port of Morrow (Album Review)

It’s been five years since The Shins’ ‘Wincing The Night Away’ sold a record number of albums and bagged a Grammy nomination in the process. Since then, frontman James Mercer has collaborated with Danger Mouse on the hugely successful Broken Bells project. The project catalysed Mercer’s new vision for The Shins; this, their fourth album finds them operating more as a collective and features the considerable talents of Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer and former Crystal Skulls bassist Yuuki Matthews, while producer Greg Kurstin firmly imprints his pop sensibilities.

The net result is that ‘Port Of Morrow’ is The Shins’ most accomplished work to date. It is both beautifully crafted and exquisitely played. Be it the opening salvo of ‘The Rifle’s Spiral’, or the classy balladeering of ‘September’, Mercer’s songwriting is crisp and confident. Lyrically, he is new territory exploring fatherhood (on the lovely ‘Fall Of ’) and politics (‘No Way Down’ rages against the decline of America’s manufacturing industry).

The ten tracks are not completely flawless. No array of sonic pyrotechnics can hide the clunking melody of ‘Simple Song’, but Mercer’s ability to balance emotion and power in his vocal saves the track from oblivion. After breaking ties with Sub Pop, ‘Port Of Morrow’ will be distributed by the major players at Columbia. The marketing suits will be happy; this record confirms The Shins as one of the very few bands that can shift truckloads of units without compromising their aesthetic one single iota. A gigantic album.

The Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ remastered for re-release

The Beatles’ 1968 animated move and accompanying album, Yellow Submarine, has been restored to be re-released on May 28.

The team behind the new release decided against the usual practice of using automated software to digitally clean up the film. Instead, due to the “delicate nature of the hand-drawn original artwork”, the team up-dated the film frame-by-frame.

Yellow Submarine, based on the song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, follows the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, as they travel to a city under the sea to confront the music hating Blue Meanies.

The re-packaged film will also feature a short making-of documentary, audio commentaries, behind-the-scene photographs and a 16-page booklet that includes an essay by Pixar and Walt Disney chief, John Lasseter.

In the sleeve-notes, Lasseter writes: “As a fan of animation and as a filmmaker, I tip my hat to the artists of Yellow Submarine, whose revolutionary work helped pave the way for the fantastically diverse world of animation that we all enjoy today.”

Ahead of the Yellow Submarine DVD and Blu-Ray and the repackaged soundtrack, Candlewick Press will publish a book of the screenplay from the movie on April 26. The publishers promise the book will showcase “the light-hearted wit of the film’s script”.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012



Bad Brains: A Band in D.C., the first feature-length documentary about the seminal four-piece group from the nation’s capital, premiered here last week at the South by Southwest Film festival. The movie is compelling, deeply informative and expertly edited. It uses a mix of contemporary interviews, archival footage and comic book-style animated segments to tell the band’s back-story, and it augments the historical bits with fly-on-the-wall footage from the band’s 2007 reunion tour.

Fear Of A Jack Planet: The White Stripes And Public Enemy Mashed

A rock-rap mash-up, by some guys that call themselves The Bastard Brothers? It might not sound too promising, but hold fire, hang around for a minute and play this – it’s worth it.

By swiping the instrumental from The White Stripes’ most addictive track and adding a scratchy Son House recording as well as Public Enemy’s ‘Bring The Noise’ they’ve created something pretty cool. Makes sense too, as Jack ‘n’ Meg covered Son House’s ‘Death Letter’ for ‘De Stijl’ 12 years ago, and the Stripes / Enemy thing has been around for ages.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

After a closed-door sale earlier this year—which according, to the Local East Village, the ownership of the CBGB brand was apparently split between an unnamed party and the daughter of deceased owner Harry Kristal, Lisa Kristal (who had emerged from a protracted, and acrimonious, legal battle against her brother, Dana Kristal, over ownership of the brand)—the long-shuttered legend of CBGB‘s seems poised to return this July 4–8 with a multi-pronged festival of shows, workshops, films, and parties across Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. On its face the fest appears similar in scope, though not scaled, to the annual CMJ Music Marathon.

This morning we were told that festival details will be released in about four weeks. For now, we can tell you that Duff McKagan (Guns n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver) has expressed interest and could potentially be one of the headlining acts—the venue and the musician have a mutual appreciation for each other. There will also be plenty of smaller NYC-based bands, and the organizers were down at SXSW last week checking some out.

Jack White adds Tour Dates

Following a successful outing at SXSW last week, Jack White has announced a new string of dates for May. White will tour North America surrounding his gigs as headliner at the Sasquatch! and Hangout festivals, after which he’ll perform in Europe and Japan.

White’s recent solo shows have featured favorites from the White Stripes, Raconteurs, and Dead Weather songbooks, as well as new music from his upcoming solo record, Blunderbuss, out April 24 on Third Man.
05-15-16 Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium
05-18 Gulf Shores, AL – Hangout Music Fest
05-19 Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel
05-21-22 New York, NY – Roseland Ballroom
05-24 Detroit, MI – Scottish Rite Theater
05-26 George, WA – Sasquatch! Music Festival
05-27 Vancouver, British Columbia – Queen Elizabeth Theatre
05-28 Eugene, OR – Hult Center for the Performing Arts (Silva Concert Hall)
05-30-31 Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern
06-22 London, England – Hammersmith Apollo
06-23-24 London, England – Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend
06-25 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Heineken Music Hall
06-26 Berlin, Germany – Tempodrom
06-27 Cologne, Germany – E-Werk
06-29 Werchter, Belgium – Rock Werchter
07-01 Belfort, France – Les Eurockeennes
07-02 Paris, France – L’Olympia
07-05 Hamburg, Germany – Docks
07-27-29 Niigata, Japan – Fuji Rock Festival