Unstoppable artist, scenester, and icon of music David Byrne has just revealed his new art project, a building that is an instrument you can play. Of course to him it’s the most obvious commentary on the music industry, as its days are clearly numbered. I just dare him to try to get the house to a gig; even the most hardened and tour-wise roadies have their limits. I’m excited to say that Byrne’s next album, on which he is once again collaborating with Brian Eno, is due later this year. In the meantime, he did guest vocals for Fatboy Slim’s Brighton Port Authority, whose album may or may not be coming out soon, as their cryptic MySpace page is obviously full of glowing disinformation. The song, Toe Jam, also features Dizzee Rascal, and also happens to be awesome, just not in the sense that a building you can play is. —Erik Bryan, Jun. 4, 2008
Everyone who cares must have heard about the passing of Bo Diddley by now, and, quite understandably, he’s currently the most popular artist at the Hype Machine. As has been said, he was one of a handful of artists who helped create rock ‘n’ roll as we know it, and it’d be easier to list all the bands since he began recording that haven’t been influenced by him. Either by borrowing the infectious Bo Diddley Beat or by taking a soldering iron to their equipment to make it sound good and dirty, thousands upon thousands have followed Diddley’s lead in music. Memorializing such a contribution would inevitably fall short, but I thought it’d be nice to at least post the sharply self-aggrandizing song Bo Diddley sang on The Ed Sullivan Show, which ended up pissing Sullivan off. —Erik Bryan, Jun. 4, 2008
I’d hoped to mention Elvis Costello & the Impostors’ new album, Momofuku, for this month’s Leak Report, but at the time it seemed everyone in his cabal was keeping the album close; I couldn’t find a single leak. It was eventually released, a CD version made available last week, and, as to be expected, it’s pretty great. One of many credits to Mr. Costello’s style is how universally appealing it is, and how easy (for him, in particular) to reproduce. Some tracks on Momofuku also feature backing vocals by Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, which some will also find quite appealing. —Erik Bryan, May. 14, 2008
First gaining attention as the female vocalist on Tricky’s first four albums, Martina Topley-Bird has one of the most distinctive voices in trip-hop, an admittedly small group of artists. In a rare move in the music world, she cited creative differences with her collaborator and moved on to a solo career in the late ’90s. After a couple albums of her own and a guest spot on what may be the best song on Gorillaz’ incredible Demon Days, Ms. Topley-Bird wisely collaborated with the group’s appropriately ubiquitous producer, Danger Mouse, who, excepting those albums produced by Rick Rubin and Alan Moulder, may as well go ahead and produce everything from now on (like Beck! Hooray!). The resulting album, The Blue God, was released just yesterday, and from the sound of tracks like Razor Tongue, it’s hot. —Erik Bryan, May. 14, 2008
After collaborating on Coffee more than a year ago, the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle and underground hip-hop champion Aesop Rock have reversed roles and the latter has played guest to the former’s host. Which is to say, Darnielle gave Aesop the tracks to Lovecraft in Brooklyn (cf. the album version), which appeared earlier this year on the Mountain Goats’ Heretic Pride. The result is strange. Darnielle’s lyrics and vocals make it not the chillest groove, even as Aesop Rock’s mix tries to force it in that direction, which may be precisely akin to the paranoid displacement H.P. Lovecraft felt upon moving to New York. —Erik Bryan, May. 14, 2008
I’ve never really gotten over Matt Sharp’s departure from Weezer in 1998, and haven’t really paid much attention to their output since, except for deciding what singles I’ve heard were sub-par. Their third self-titled album (known as The Red Album, adhering to the tradition set forth by predecessors The Blue Album and The Green Album, and, by the way, isn’t Brian Bell looking all HOT?) is due early next month, and about half has leaked. This song, which is surprisingly aptly named, is excessive in the best sense, borrowing equally from old-time hymns and rock opera, and hopefully portends good things to come. It’s not exactly the Weezer I remember, but it’s awesome in its own right. —Erik Bryan, May. 14, 2008
According to the internet, last week New York-based electronic duo Ratatat quietly released a vinyl-only seven-inch (whatever the hell those words mean). One of the songs included is Shiller, which sounds like a film soundtrack scored jointly by Ennio Morricone and Angelo Badalamentiso, clearly Italian in provenance. Which seems something of a departure for a group better known (if that) for mixing seriously badass beats for Björk and Biz Markie and for creating their own remix collections of tracks by the likes of Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Ludacris. —Erik Bryan, May. 14, 2008
I was considering using a malaprop of sorts to introduce this month’s collection of leaked music by conflating the popular adage of April showers with these May leaks, but then I thankfully remembered that I don’t hate any of you anymore than I’d want you to hate me, so, better judgment prevailing, let’s just proceed to the business at hand and never speak of this again.
Let me be perfectly clear about this: I don’t want to read your poetry, I will not be coming to your solo acoustic performance at the coffee shop, I don’t care one whit about whichever fashion marketing undergraduate just totally messed with your mind or if you’ve ever really felt loved, and, finally, I think your haircut is stupid. All that being said, I kinda dig Ben Gibbard, and Death Cab for Cutie by extension. It’s not really fair, though, to continue to lump D.C.F.C. in with all that emo dross considering how far they’ve come, especially when considering Narrow Stairs, their seventh studio album, due out May 13. Tracks like Pity and Fear suggest a whole new direction, one that utilizes tabla and synthesizers, but retains Gibbard’s signature wistfulness. Is this prog? Whatever it is, it rocks like nothing I would’ve expected from the group.
Toward the forefront of the powerfully influential Canuck Invasion of the past few years, Islands, made up of former members of the Unicorns, are set to release a second album, titled Arm’s Way, on the 20th of this month. The album sounds appropriately sophomoric, jumping about style and only casually flirting with the indie populism that has made them critics’ darlings. Whereas I usually found the Unicorns’ halting, non-linear melodies and showy senselessness too precious, Islands have managed to smooth out the pretense, such as on Pieces of You, and the result is a genre-skipping delight delicately balancing kooky and classy with confident transitions holding the disparate parts together. Which is to say, I think it works.
When the news was released back in late 2006 that Scarlett Jo-freaking-hansson would be recording and singing an album of Tom Waits covers, not only was the music world left scratching its head, but many (in particular, I) felt license to dismiss it out-of-hand. I mean, it’s not like she’s the best actor, and I know from personal experience how persistently she refuses to date poorly financed music writers, so naturally I assumed it would bomb. Well, she wasn’t kidding, and Anywhere I Lay My Head will be upon us (officially) on May 20. Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio produced it, David Bowie sings on two songs (as on Falling Down, above), and members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Celebration backed Scar Jo up, and although I think her vocals are suspiciously low in the mix, the result is not bad. Let’s just hope she remembers who’s giving her the thumbs up on this one: this guy right here.
Sounding exactly like a cross between the cool indifference of Honda’s Asimo and the delightfully despicable abandon of human lust, Ladytron has stayed the course of savvy, sexy dance music for darkened clubs since 1999. On their fourth studio album, Velocifero (meaning bringer of speed, due June 3), the quartet from Liverpool proves that growth comes not always in the form of departure from pre-existing forms but in their refinement. Though their approach has changed little, the beats are more sure-footed, the synths more expertly chosen and mixed, and their overall tenor is a more focused professionalism. Songs like The Lovers don’t overstay their welcome. They get in, do their job, and wrap up, teasing the listener into repeated returns. If you were this hot, you’d expect no less.
Occasional rocker, soundtrack puncher-upper, and all-around heroine of the singer-songwriter form Aimee Mann has built a long and steady career out of adroitly seeing through others’ bullshit, of which, according to her music, there seems to be a great deal out in Los Angeles. To create a new approach for @#%&*! Smilers, her seventh solo album, she decisively eschewed electric guitars, turning instead to Moogs, Wurlitzers, and other analog synthesizers, as well as production by her sometime bassist, Paul Bryan (unfortunately, no relation). The result is a record every bit as personal and excellent as her previous work, but displaying a spacey bent and vaguely experimental mood. Which is not to say that her weary, worldwise troubadour style is not front and center. This is still that Aimee Mann, too. Oh, and supposedly that’s Dave Eggers whistling on Little Tornado, for whatever that’s worth.
Spiritualized, Death Take Your Fiddle (download)
After only narrowly beating a near-fatal bout with pneumonia in 2005, Jason Pierce returned to work with his rotating group of musicians that comprise post-shoegazer, post-gospel British group Spiritualized. Songs in A & E, released May 26, will be their first album since 2003’s Amazing Grace. On this most recent outing, Pierce’s voice has the same wounded frailty, his lyrics the same obsession with drugs and religion, and the music has the same American blues and gospel influences and wall-of-sound production. True to form, Pierce has described the album as the work of the Devil with a little guidance from me, but it all seems quite in line with the Spiritualized output to date, though the eerie respirator sounds on Death Take Your Fiddle” certainly add a sinister foreboding to the proceedings.
It’s getting quite late, but I must soldier on. Wolf Parade, another proud participant in the Canuck Invasion, would do the same for me. Their second full-length album, At Mount Zoomer, is due in mid-June, but was leaked on the internet just last week. After a name change (largely due to legal reasonsthe original title, Kissing the Beehive, is already a book by Jonathan Carroll) and disparate track lists, this version may not even be the same ultimately released by the band, but it bears mention nonetheless. The Grey Estates has a noticeably Bowie-like quality, mixing a handsome desperation with a smart pop hook. Let the needle on the compass swing / Let the iron in your heartsblood ring, sings Spencer Krug, with all the frantic hope in the world to be anywhere but here. Amen.
With South by Southwest already a fading memory and the glory of spring officially upon us, fans of live music across the country are turning their attention to the gigantic summer festivals looming in the distance. Artists are being added to lists every day for juggernauts like Bonnaroo, the Pitchfork Music Festival, Lollapalooza, and Coachella. From the top of the summer (All Points West) to the bottom (Austin City Limits), and even across the pond (Glastonbury), fans of all generations and genres are prepping for what should be a long, hot, loud season of music, and The Morning News has decided to get into the act.
Yes, this summer we’re proud to present The TMN Summer Festival, coming to a town near you, perhaps, though unlikely. The following is small sample of the thousands of bands scheduled to play, with more being added every day.
The opening set for all stops along the way belongs to Danish group Alphabeat, whose defiantly principled pop is just recently getting attention in the States. Their self-titled album has yet to be released here, but with tracks as plucky and ingratiating as The Hours, it’s only a matter of time before America catches on. Sure to whistle their way into your heart, the band members (three of which are named Anders, interestingly enough) are contractually obligated to give piggyback rides to anyone who shows up after their set wearing face paint, which should be a lot of people considering we’re putting the face-painting tent right next to their stage. In case you were wondering, Alphabeat’s favorite face painting is a unicorn eating butterflies.
After your young ones (or college buddies) get their faces all smudgy from the piggyback rides (and the heat. My god, the heat.), it might be time to take them over to the Kid’s Korner Stage for a performance by Dino 5, the completely unexpected hip-hop-for-kids supergroup helmed by Prince Paul (as DJ Stegosaurus; formerly a producer of De La Soul, Gravediggaz, and Handsome Boy Modeling School) and featuring members of the Roots, Jurassic 5, and Digable Planets. Basically you can dump your kids (or buddies) with Dino 5, who will keep a close eye on and entertain them, while you go pay 10 bucks for a light beer and load up on the hemp jewelry.
A big draw for fans of classic rock at this year’s Fest will be the completely reformed Who (including a reincarnated rhythm section). Just for this tour, Keith Moon and John Entwistle will join living legends Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey on the Center Stage for a daring instrumental re-envisioning of Petra Haden’s seminal a cappella album Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out in its entirety. Of course, in the hands of these seasoned professionals, songs like I Can’t Reach You and I Can See for Miles will sound like second nature, rock and roll trailblazers that they are. A word of caution: Due to the ill-conceived reanimation of human tissue, a zombie bloodbath may ensue.
Speaking of, who better to set the tone for a bloodbath than Swedish polymetric thrash pioneers Meshuggah? Playing several tracks off their recently released obZen, including the title track above, this five-piece hailing from the land of ice and snow will undoubtedly bring a dreadfully hoary chill to the hearts of everyone in earshot. And after you’ve had your face melted by their blistering hot riffssuch is their antipodal naturecome see the band as they manage the Book Bus (of course our festival has a Book Bus) and discuss this summer’s selection, E.M. Forster’s Room With a View. Be prepared to have your preconceived notions of Edwardian society thoroughly deconstructed, but not to worry. Meshuggah doesn’t want Lucy to marry Cecil any more than you do.
A fellow Swede like Meshuggah, but distant in terms of absolutely everything else, Britta Persson will be performing plenty of adorable indie popreminiscent of the halcyon days of Belly and Liz Phairfrom her recent album Kill Hollywood Me, in that order. Thrill seekers and challenge junkies will be happy to learn that after a few hits like Cliffhanger, she’ll be hosting the world’s first kissing/pie-eating booth, which combines her love of the two sports. The rule is, if you can down a pie before Britta does, you get to kiss her. Also, no one’s ever gotten to kiss her.
Glenn Gould, Chromatic Fantasy in D Minor (download)
Another dead musician touring with our whole sick crew this summer will be famed classical pianist Glenn Gould. Reprising several famous interpretations of J.S. Bach’s oeuvre from his Goldberg Variations, as well as supplementary numbers like the Chromatic Fantasy, Gould is sure to impress with his technical mastery and dexterity. Also, unlike the lazy sound engineering in the studio recordings, at our festival Mr. Gould’s voice will be properly miked so his tonal mutterings can be fully appreciated. While not performing, Mr. Gould can be found working in the face-painting tent or bare-knuckle boxing the members of Alphabeat.
Erik Bryan really likes rock and roll. He’ll listen to just about anything, but he prefers it if it rocks. Also, he knows that while many people consider pop music the most popular form of music in the world, it’s actually world music. Have an mp3 you think he should hear?
The April 2008 Leak Report; Mp3 Bio: Steve Winwood; Keep It or Delete It; The March 2008 Leak Report; Deconstructing Valentines; The February 2008 Leak Report; New Histories for New Bands; Mainstreamers Become Soundtrackers; The January 2008 Leak Report