L.A. music producer Emile Haynie released a debut album this week that follows the long tradition of heartfelt creative output spurred on by a failed relationship. He enlisted quite a collection of collabos to bring his songs on We Fall (Interscope Records)to life: Brian Wilson, Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow, Lykke Li, J. Spaceman of Spiritualized, Father John Misty, Nate Ruess of fun. and Lana Del Rey (Haynie produced her album Born to Die, along with others by Kanye West and Eninem, just to name a few). But it was "Little Ballerina" featuring Rufus Wainwright that caught my ear, instantly recognizing his warm vocals and wondering if I had missed something about a new collection from this favorite artist of mine. Haynie told GQ in a song-by-song breakdown that it was actually fellow super producer Mark Ronson who suggested Wainwright for the track, bringing a "loving, playful delivery." It's definitely found a place on my next playlist -- take a listen at the widget here.
Bowery Ballroom served as this year's site for the second annual Alt Star Party, a fundraiser for the Rock On Foundation during the NBA's All Star Weekend in NYC. New Hampshire native Matt Bonner of San Antonio Spurs fame is also a huge music fan and founding member of this nonprofit, that supports community arts and athletics via grant programs and community events. Bonner hosts The Alt Rock Star Party with his brother Luke as a way to together the alternative music scene and NBA.
Minneapolis' veteran rock band The Hold Steady headlined the event, banging out tune after tune for the packed crowd who passionately sang along, knowing far more words than the average fan and throwing their own glitter fetti. Brooklyn's power rock trio STRNGRS took to the stage in support, and there were guest DJs throughout the evening: Stefan Marolachakis of Caveman, Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend, Dapwell (formerly of Das Rascist) and DJ Windows 98 a.k.a. Win Butler of Arcade Fire, who closed the night (or rather early morning) after a team win at the NBA Celebrity game.
With Paul & Rock On Board Member Will Sheff of Okkervil River
Hanging with Caveman's Jimmy Carbonetti (left) and Matt Iwanusa
Tom Vek is the stage name of London's Thomas Timothy Vernon-Kell, a self-taught producer and multi-instrumentalist who released a third album, Luck, last fall. Performing as a electronic one-man band at Rough Trade on a frigid winter night, the beats flew to heat up the crowd in this small venue. His music is all taught layers, with mostly speak-singing for vocals (a woman introduced as Olga joined Vek for a few songs, otherwise he was on stage solo throughout the gig).
The night began with "We Do Nothing" from the 2011 album, Leisure Seizure. This is most likely when I made my acquaintance to the musician, all arty angles with a geeky nerd look behind thick frames. It makes sense that this is a guy who recorded this first collection of songs (2005's We Have Sound) while studying graphic art. He thanked the crowd and asked how they were doing before launching into the rest of the set. Colorful projections were memorable in their simplicity, such as when his face flashed as depicted on the latest album cover art (see photo below). "Chore," the single off of his second album, illustrated the time spent between albums learning more complicated production techniques. Yet the new songs are still heavily influenced by electronica and dance punk, with repeated lyrical lines keeping things in a linear thrust. For example in "You'll Stay," Vek intones, "What I want to say is everything's OK" over and over for a chorus, while a pulsating vibration serves as a percussive base.
Vek thanked the crowd again for coming to see him do his "new thing," saying "It's been fun." He ended with the synths blasts of "Sherman (Animals In The Jungle)," a song that ends up chugging along with images of humans as dancing animals. It could be said for that in the audience too, a nice warm up to returning into the cold outside. Check out the videos below.
Being snowed in is a perfect excuse to bust out another Romantic Songs Playlist as Valentine's Day rolls around -- on a Saturday night no less! I start things off with an awesome live version of "Heart It Races" by popular playlist group Dr. Dog, and let this latest personal music compilation find a balance from within. I've included some recent songs from fave band Spoon and artist Beck (with congrats on the Grammy win, even if it was for Rock Album of the Year and doesn't quite apply to this assortment of sublime music) plus older picks from my collection. I dug deep in the archives for The Cure, The Raconteurs and James to compliment the newer tunes from Dan Croll, Beach House and Band of Horses. The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" was chosen for this year's list before the Seattle Seahawks took the field with it blaring during the Super Bowl, and now that strange moment when sports coopted this anthem is embedded in our consciousness. Plus as the game ended in upset it's bittersweet indeed...
Listen up here and visit my posts from 2014, 2013 and 2012 if you need more inspiration. Happy to oblige and enjoy the holiday!
1. "Heart It Races" – Dr. Dog 2. "Lovesong" – The Cure 3. "Only in My Dreams" – Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti 4. "Compliment Your Soul" – Dan Croll 5. "What Would I Want? Sky" – Animal Collective 6. "I Saw the Bright Shinies" – The Octopus Project 7. "Crown of Love" – Arcade Fire 8. "No One's Gonna Love You" – Band of Horses 9. "Nantes" – Beirut 10. "Together" – The Raconteurs 11. "Inside Out" – Spoon 12. "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" – Spiritualized 13. "Walkabout (with Noah Lennox)"– Atlas Sound 14. "Heart Is a Drum"– Beck 15. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" – The Verve 16. "Chicago" – Sufjan Stevens 17. "Sometimes" – James 18. "Norway" – Beach House 19. "I and Love and You" – Avett Brothers
Important news about a new Gorillaz album in the works appeared earlier this week via Jamie Hewlett's Instagram account, after posts of some the virtual band surfaced. There were new depictions of the surly bass player Murdoc (far right in image from allmusic.com here) as well as teenage gal guitarist Noodle (at far left and fun fact that she has been voiced by Japanese actress Haruka Kuroda, Miho Hatori of trip-hop group Cibo Matto and Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth). These characters were joined by a beefy drummer named Russel and 2-D, lead vocalist, keyboardist and alter ego for Damon Albarn of Blur and The Good, the Bad & the Queen. The group was created in 1998 by Hewett with Albarn who had dropped hints that after finishing his solo debut, last year's lovely although mellow Everyday Robots, he would be working on new Gorillaz songs.
I remember being transfixed by the first self-titled album's "Clint Eastwood" in 2001 (or rather a year or two later as the tune caught on in the states). It was just like nothing I had heard before, a genre-crossing blend of hip-hop, rap and Blur's Britpop with Albarn's familiar vocals, plus the wacky idea of it all being played by cartoon musicians! "19-2000" was another gem, with its laid back vibe and video of one crazy car ride. To attest to my love for the band, two of my very favorite dance tunes of all time appeared on the second album, 2005's Demon Days. I can't help but move when listening to the non-stop action of "Feel Good Inc." and "Dare." Yet another top pick, "On Melancholy Hill" from 2010's Plastic Beach, is infused with hopeful sweetness, all goodness and light. There is also 2011's The Fall that was recorded entirely on an iPad to check out, and here are the videos for all my faves below.