Bastille plays new song "Hangin'"

Bastille’s New Song “Hangin'” Portends a Very Pleasant New Album

As soon as I got home from seeing Bastille live for the second time in as many years, I sat down to upload this new song – “Hangin'” – to YouTube. If this song, as well as the other two new selections they played, are a sign of what’s to come from Dan Smith & Co., then we’ll all enjoy their 2016 album very much.

(A friend asked how I’d avoid getting in trouble for uploading the song. I told her what Smith told the audience right before they sang this one: “If you feel like uploading our music to YouTube, please do.”)

Incidentally, Bastille’s shows are simultaneously high-energy and very-comfortable affairs, and I’ve had a good time on both occasions that I’ve happened to see them. But for me the showstopper tonight was Provo’s own RKDN, who will soon release an LP under the Mono Label (UMG) banner. As I tweeted from my band Ennemis‘ Twitter:

That’s a pot of honey. As in so sweet and delicious it’s irresistible.

Ok, here’s the video of “Hangin'”, a song to appear on Bastille’s new album in 2016. I tried sweetening the audio a bit, because it was taken on my phone. 😬 Enjoy.

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Betablock3r Out of Touch

Betablock3r Just Made Fresh, Fresh Music from Old, Old Sounds

Tonight, late, I had to wash a whole sink full of dishes, and I knew the only way I’d be able to make it through was if I found something super nice to make my cochleae tremble.

I pointed my browser toward a favorite go-to for new tunes, and heard some tracks that were very acceptable. One of them, an Alessia Cara track (remember Alessia Cara?), impressed me so much that I raised my eyebrows and let my lips pucker into a smile. One of them even made me dance a bit.

But next, out of the silent aether, subtly, washed over me a series of tones like I’d never before experienced. Or had I? It was disorienting: the sounds themselves were familiar, but put together in a way that thrilled me, as if this was the first time I’d heard them. It was like feeling the hand of a long-time lover take mine, but rather than the simple comfort of familiarity, the thrill and tingle of nerves that suddenly remember what pleasure I’m meant to always have in that touch.

I had the feeling that we’re gonna hear a lot more from this group.

So I thought you’d like to hear it too. I might feature it in an episode of my band Ennemis‘ new podcast. (We’re recording the first episode tomorrow.)

Without further ado, here’s LA’s Betablock3r, doing “Out of Touch”. Enjoy:

Neal Unger, a 61-year-old skateboarder, does a trick off a picnic bench in the video for "Young & Unafraid" by The Moth & the Flame.

The Moth & the Flame Goes Viral: Did Reddit Save the Day, or Fall for a Marketing Stunt?

Edit: After everything in this post happened, The Moth & the Flame held an AMA on Reddit. When I saw how vicious the redditors got I regretted writing this. Like I say at the conclusion of this post, I like the band. I like them as people, from the times I’ve met them, and I like them as musicians. They don’t deserve the level of acrimony that they’re getting on Reddit. But I’m leaving this post up because I wrote it, and I’ll own that. And because if the whole thing was planned by Elektra or WMG, or by anyone, then hopefully this story can be a lesson to others later.


You might have heard The Moth & the Flame‘s debut single, “Young & Unafraid”, here on the blog a couple weeks ago. Last week the band released the song’s video featuring 61-year-old skateboarder Neal Unger. (It’s delightful, and you can watch it below — but first keep reading, trust me.)

Well, this weekend things got weird for The Moth & the Flame, with the video going viral and the band getting no credit for it. I found what I’m about to tell you thanks to an anonymous Reddit user.

What do you think happened here? Read through it, and leave me a comment to tell me your take:

1) The video was released on May 4.

2) Sometime this weekend, maybe Saturday, a British skateboarding publication called Sidewalk Magazine posted the video on their Facebook, with the opening credit missing and no mention of the band. That meant The Moth & the Flame had no way to get discovered via the Facebook post. In fact, it appears that the magazine linked to an unrelated band for some reason. (Since then, that post has been deleted.)

3) The no-credit video went viral because Internet.

4) Sunday, Reddit user Kontiki1947 — presumably a member of the band — asked for help on the Music subreddit. Since then the Reddit post has gotten over 2200 comments and a whole mess of upvotes.

5) A mob of people took to Sidewalk’s Facebook, demanding that the band receive credit for their video and their song.

6) Apparently, the comment barrage came during a period of time that was overnight in Britain, and Sidewalk’s staff logged in to Facebook Monday morning to find a big surprise.

7) As mentioned above, the original Facebook post was deleted. Sidewalk posted an apology around midday (that’s British time — it was this morning in the US) including a link to the original TM&TF video.

8) Here’s where it gets weird and a little conspiracy-y. At some point, someone on Reddit starts saying “Hey, these guys are signed to a Warner Music Group label. Did someone in corporate decide to make this happen?” Like did WMG pay Sidewalk to post a hacked version of the video, then take to a community like Reddit to get the band’s name out there?

9) It turns out the hacked music video was also posted on Facebook by some entity called “Wild Bunch Project”. Who uses the Warner Brothers logo. Which is super insane if it’s only a coincidence. I don’t know if WBP posted it first, or Sidewalk.

10) Now that this whole thing has gone down, the original video on YouTube has a half-million views, and thousands of people are talking about the band who wouldn’t have known them otherwise. At least one Reddit commenter said that they bought all of The Moth & the Flame’s music that they could find on iTunes.

11) The story even got picked up by The Telegraph (and then retweeted by The Moth & the Flame):

So that’s what I’ve got. I really, really like the guys in The Moth & the Flame, and I don’t get the feeling that this kind of thing would be the brainchild of any of them. But were they complicit? Did they go along with a plan by WMG to leverage Reddit and reap the publicity?

Well, in the end, what if they did? Maybe this is just how marketing is done now. It’s a risk a lot of people are willing to take to get noticed and make a living in an ever more crowded, competitive music market. I’d like to think I wouldn’t do the same, but I can’t judge anyone for doing so. I mean, the whole ordeal got you to read this far.

Here’s the video (don’t forget to leave me a comment and let me know what you think about this whole thing!):

Screenshot of Alessia Cara's video for "Here" on YouTube

If You’re Between 20 & 35, Alessia Cara’s “Here” Is How You Feel Right Now

This is a debut release, a brand new track from Alessia Cara. And if she wrote the song herself we could be in for big things from her.

The song is ostensibly about not feeling like you fit in at a party. Something we’ve all felt, I’m sure. But its flowing too-familiar 21st century images, collaged together at times like modern-day McCartney lyrics, give the impression that it’s not about a single night but an entire cultural milieu – every night this whole generation seems to have gone through. The aggressively forward guys, the overly chatty girls, all burying their lack of confidence. The self-centeredness. The clouds of pot smoke. The vomit.

And still: the fear of missing out, magnified by Instagram and Snapchat, drives the herds to wherever they think they’ll be surrounded by people they think they have to know. And in the end, the fun isn’t enough. We’re tired, this whole party sucks. All anybody really wants is to go home and get themselves something real.

Cara is so new, her branding so undeveloped, that I don’t know if she’s officially going by her full name, or just Alessia — or by her username “alealeluia” on YouTube, where her lo-fi channel is apparently what got her noticed and eventually signed by Def Jam. Whatever her name, if she’s got her finger this firmly on the pulse of how her generation is feeling, she’s going to be worth listening to more in the coming months.

Hear Alessia Cara’s “Here” below.

Cover of Weezer's 1994 eponymous (self-titled) album, also known as the blue album.

#RethinkThursday: You Will Never Make Me Love Weezer

THIS IS PART OF AN ONGOING SERIES CALLED RETHINK THURSDAY, IN WHICH I REVISIT ALBUMS THAT I REMEMBER EITHER LOVING OR HATING, TO SEE IF TIME AND EXPERIENCE HAVE CHANGED MY OPINION. OR HECK, MAYBE THE DIFFERENCE IS JUST THE DAY THAT I’M LISTENING. AS I LISTEN I REVIEW THE ALBUM, TRACK BY TRACK PLUS OVERALL COMMENTARY, AND YOU GET TO THINK IT’S SO AWESOME THAT YOU GIFT ME ALL YOUR SHARES IN APPLE.

 


Today I’m listening to Weezer‘s 1994 self-titled album, which is called Weezer because it’s self-titled, but which everyone calls The Blue Album. I’m going to say some things that Weezer fans will think are mean. Know that I’m being extra caustic for effect, but that the core of what I’m about to say is still true.

I don’t get my friends’ obsession with Weezer. Every time the band puts out a new album, aren’t you kind of surprised? Like not surprised by the release, surprised by their existence. Doesn’t it always feel like a reunion album?

That’s how I feel about them. And The Shins.

That’s the truth about me.

Here’s an extra dose of truth: in my mind, Weezer is the second-most overappreciated band out there. (I still see you, Chicago.) A handful of memorable tunes from The Blue Album and what else? I can’t think of anything they’ve done that’s resonated with me.

(Except those cruises for Weezer fans to hang out with the band. Great move. Which has nothing to do with the music.)

What’s more, I’m not even convinced that the band itself has much to do with its breakout success. I have a friend, who is relatively prominent and who will remain unnamed lest I risk his reputation, who thinks that not a single one of this album’s megasweet guitar solos was actually played by any member of the band. Then who played them, you may ask? None other than producer Ric Ocasek himself, who was also frontman for The Cars.

Once my buddy told me his theory, all I could think was how perfectly power pop-y every solo was on all the singles released from The Blue Album. And all I could hear was The Cars. And my opinion of Weezer went downhill with every radio play. This is the part where we have Weezer tied up with rope and someone pulls off Rivers Cuomo‘s mask and there’s — GASP! — Old Man Ocasek screaming “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you kids and your lousy dog!”

Which is not to say these are dumb guys. Rivers Cuomo is pretty famously smart. He went to Harvard, kids. And he seems forward thinking and super creative in all kinds of free ways that I genuinely envy.

But The Blue Album. It’s always left me with a bitter taste in my mouth that wouldn’t let me take it seriously, since it was first released. Everything about it was trying too hard — its cover strikes me as a little too minimalist, too honest; the misspelled name was a little too clever; and that darn contrived Happy Days video for Buddy Holly. It was like some Wizard of Oz (Weezard of Oz?) (I’m sorry.) was hiding behind a marketing curtain, pulling levers and collecting money hand and fist. If this band was actually talented and not a flash in the pan, I wasn’t able to get past the smoke and mirrors enough to actually see that.

Anyway, look, you get the point. And you know the deal by now. I think I hate it, I think I’m gonna listen and keep hating it except for the singles that everyone loves because they’re part of our collective consciousness. Or maybe I’ll hate it all. Or maybe — just maybe — it’ll make me love Weezer.


What I think I’ll say when it’s over:

Yup. The Cars. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Track 1 – “My Name Is Jonas”: I want to play Guitar Hero. Right. Now. Actually that acoustic line at the beginning is really nice, and the fuzz and the feedback and the lead vocals work out great. The quiet-to-loud juxtaposition is to be expected on a 90s album. Great tension on the “workers are going home” buildup going into the section where the snare and high hat hit every beat, which feels super apropos for the period when 90s punk was beginning to strike hard. The guitar solo at the end sounds like a harmonica. Cool.

2 – “No One Else”: This is just enough punk to work. And (you might think I’m crazy, but) it’s also just enough Cars to be The Cars. So many knee slappers in today’s post. You’re welcome.

3 – “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here”: I like that these guys used acoustic guitars without sounding like Hootie & the Blowfish. Also, I like Hootie & the Blowfish. Actually I haven’t listened to Hootie since the 90s. Future #RethinkThursday? Watch out. Back to the music. Great-sounding generic southern-California punk-inspired drones. It’s all right. The minor B section is a nice breath of fresh air. So far this is still sounding like the very nondescript band I’ve always believed they were. Or maybe they were descript(?) until everybody else crowded the space they carved out in pop music. I would have liked to listen to it at the 2nd Woodstock in a shirt that said Dookie.

4 – “Buddy Holly”: This is a perfect track. This is 90s Beatles. (Plus Cars synths. Sorry, it’s true.) Also I’ve always loved the feedback that peppers the bridge. I can’t listen to the song without seeing poodle skirts.

5 – “Undone – The Sweater Song”: Is this really great tongue-in-cheek social commentary, or just drivel? By the way there’s no way to resist yelling “AS I WALK AWAY” and “LYING ON THE FLOOR” when this is playing. Which is admirable, and I hope to record a song with that kind of mind-controlling power. The dissonance on the last “come undone” makes you think these guys were genuinely having fun, and maybe actually embodying a punk ethos behind all the pop perfection. Jeez this is a loud album. My ears are starting to hurt.

6 – “Surf Wax America”: So we’ve gone from 90s Beatles to 90s Beach Boys. Except I like this more than the Beach Boys. Sigh. Fine, Weezer. Show that you have a real sense of musical history. And write a fantastic pop-punk chorus that’s a romping call to join the movement. Fine. Just do it all perfectly. I bet The Aquabats started out covering this song.

7 – “Say It Ain’t So”: Whose piece of genius was it to take the laid-back weekend of these verses and twist it into an outlandish faux-hair-band chorus? I’m starting to get jealous. I want to see this live so I can shout the chorus with a really big crowd. And then the bridge hits and you realize this whole thing packs a mess of gravitas and I actually need to go back and listen to the track again and again.

8 – “In the Garage”: Dungeon Master’s guide and a 12-sided die, huh? Wonder why teenagers who felt out of place loved this album. I swear Ric Ocasek could’ve written this chorus: that first change is brilliant. And I’m starting to decide that if I’m going to write any successful pop progressions I’m going to have to listen to a lot more Cars and Weezer, and I feel sad. But I feel hopeful. It’s ok man. No, I’ll be all right.

9 – “Holiday”: I’m learning that power pop requires loud, reckless, abandon. Like it needs to not care about anything or anyone, it just needs to take over your ears. The louder the guitars the better. For being one of the weakest tracks on the album, this one’s pretty strong. The changes are totally outside of my writing repertoire. Listening to this album is making me a better listener, which is something I wasn’t expecting.

10 – “Only in Dreams”: I like how the melody and the guitar go from unison rhythm to call-and-response in the verses. That modulation halfway through the chorus is great. At first I thought this track, the album closer, was going to be a sleeping pill. But in true 90s fashion, subdued gave way to garish, and I’m kind of liking it. Not one but three layers of feedback before the last chorus, in case you were wondering if it’s Weezer. Like three Jedi brothers unleashing their light sabers in turn. Because Weezer is kind of nerdy. Ok now the bass forever. Fade out? FADE OUT? … No. This song isn’t going to end, is it? I’ve been sucked into some weird Weezer universe where all I hear is this bassline while guitar lines and feedback swirl around me. Then it explodes into one last solo jam… and the bassline… and this isn’t fun anymore… ok land on DO. Thank you.

What I’m saying now that it’s done:

New found respect. I’m going to have to learn these songs. It’ll make me a better pop writer. This album takes the best from a lot of great bands and makes it Weezer’s own, which I respect — and sometimes like. Some of the tracks are still snoozefests, and I still think these guys are stuck on being whatever it is they are. Too good for the glamour, to real for the scene maybe. Which is fine, and sometimes it sounds like they’re genuinely just having fun making music. But after this listening I still feel like they wear their idea of themselves on their sleeve just enough to make their music often feel stiff and stodgy. I’m not a fan. I don’t love. But yeah, now, I can respect.

 

 

The Moth & the Flame, a Los Angeles-based band with origins in Provo, Utah.

A Band About to Hit Big: Listen to The Moth & the Flame’s Debut Single

LA-based buzz band with ties to Imagine Dragons and Atoms for Peace absolutely nails their first track recorded on Elektra.


I’ve been all hopped up on The Moth & the Flame‘s music for a while, mostly because they’re a fantastic band but also because they originated right here in Provo, UT.

You’ve heard of at least one more band that started in Provo: Imagine Dragons. And guess which band’s drummer was a founding member of Imagine Dragons? You got it: Andrew Tolman, of The Moth & the Flame.

Now I think you’re about to start hearing a lot of them too.

The band signed with Elektra Records, and their debut release on that label could drop as soon as this year. Their independent previous release, an EP called “&”, was produced by Atoms for Peace drummer Joey Waronker, and apparently some big guns have been brought in to produce this album as well.

If the rest of their coming full-length is as good as their debut single, our ears are in for some very pleasant times indeed.

Listen to “Young & Unafraid” here, and watch the video for “Sorry” below. Download “Young & Unafraid” from Amazon
or iTunes.



Top photo courtesy of Atlantic Records
Helmets of the Daft Punk robots after they send a message to Nile Rodgers of disco legends Chic.

Daft Punk Send a Message into Space for Nile Rodgers

In case you’re wondering if Daft Punk‘s valentine to early dance music was limited to the tracks on Random Access Memories: it isn’t.

In this short video, which is part of a larger documentary available at Arte, the duo’s instantly recognizable robot personas send a heartfelt message into space — but weirdly directed at Nile Rodgers, who I’m pretty sure is still walking this planet.

Rodgers’ disco project, CHIC, just released a new single on the spring equinox because karma, man. It’s actually an amazing track, totally worth a listen down below if you’ve got Spotify. This summer, Chic will release their first album since 1992.

Here’s the Daft Punk transmission. Chic’s latest single is posted below that.

Delicious: