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Halloween's greatest recent music tradition: Tim Fite

Tim Fite

Happy Halloween, Pop & Hiss readers.

As this Oct. 31 rears up, once again this year spooky music has taken a back seat to the more jolly tunes of Christmas. Already, holiday-themed albums from Sugarland, David Archuleta and Bob Dylan have found their way into the marketplace. And though Dylan's holiday growling may indeed scare some small children, it's not going to work as a soundtrack to your costume party. 

Thankfully, Brooklyn's art-rock oddity Tim Fite once again has us covered. A Halloween tradition for your local music geek, Fite today released his third free Halloween-inspired EP. The artist is signed to Silver Lake's Anti- Records, the more adventurous brand in the Epitaph empire, and his free EPs provide a quick snapshot of the multi-genre range of his recorded works for the label.

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Mary J. Blige on 'Precious' song 'I Can See in Color': 'I was damaged, in a good way'

Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige on Friday broke down the process of writing “I Can See in Color,” her original, sure-to-be award-contending song from “Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push.” Speaking at an industry conference in Beverly Hills, Blige discussed how channeling the film’s difficult subject matter resulted in a sometimes grueling recording process.

“I was damaged, in a good way,” Blige said of writing and recording the song. 

“Precious” opens in limited theatrical release Nov. 6, and the Lee Daniels-directed film tracks the harrowing story of an overweight, abused and pregnant black teenager. Blige said Daniels was present at the recording sessions, and pushed the artist to the limit.

The director, Blige said, was “very passionate” about what he wanted, adding that “everything” she would do was “not enough.” Striving to add more emotion into the song, a slow-burning, bluesy soul number, Blige said, Daniels would say to her, “If you’re about to cry, just cry.” 

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Dave Alvin headlines Amy Farris memorial concert

Amy Farris-photo credit to Loren Minnick

Dave Alvin, Peter Case, Stan Ridgway and other members of the Southern California roots music community will play Nov. 8 at McCabe’s in Santa Monica in a memorial concert for Austin-bred, L.A.-based musician Amy Farris, who died Sept. 29 at age 40.

A multi-instrumentalist accomplished on several instruments in the violin family, Farris had most recently been on tour as a member of Alvin’s Guilty Women band. In Texas she had played alongside country veteran Ray Price as well as Kelly Willis, Alejandro Escovedo, Bruce and Charlie Robison and many others. After relocating to Los Angeles to pursue her solo career,  Farris also performed with a wide range of musicians, including Brian Wilson, Ridgway and I See Hawks in L.A. 

A donation of $10 is being requested for admission to the Nov. 8 performance, and proceeds will go to Farris’ favorite charity, Hungry for Music, which provides musical instruments to underprivileged children.   A cause of death has still not been determined. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office said it is being investigated as a possible suicide. Information on the memorial concert is available at McCabe’s website.

--Randy Lewis

Photo credit: Loren Minnick

Snap Judgment: Adam Lambert, 'For Your Entertainment'

 The first single and title tAlg_adam_lambertrack from Adam Lambert's soon-to-be-dropped debut album couldn't be more of an announcement. "For Your Entertainment" strides into the room, snaps its fingers and declares 2010 the year of Our Gorgeously Airbrushed Overlord.

With a toy whip in his hand and a glittery gleam in his eye, Glambert croons familiar phrases about making it hot, getting rough and staying in control. Scandinavian hitmaker Dr. Luke wrote and produced the track, and it has that compressed, noisy rock 'n' roll circus sound he's created for others, including Britney, Pink and that other neo-vaudevillian troublemaker, Katy Perry.

Some Glamthusiasts may bemoan the restraint (and processing) applied to the song's vocal, but Lambert is making another move in this song, one likely to become a signature. He sings with an arched eyebrow, executing a come-on that wryly takes the pffft out of itself.

As on his blockbuster-movie power ballad "Time For Miracles," Lambert practices some pop restraint at first, only really letting go at the song's three-minute mark. "Let me entertain you 'til you scream," he wails, his voice fully entering the androgynous zone. It's a game that's led from the dance floor to the bedroom: seduction as a wicked parlor trick fully enjoyed by the master and his victim, the light fantasy of dominance and submission that's a metaphor for what happens between performer and fan.

Though Madonna and Britney have both traveled this ground before, Lambert does it in a way that's very male. The song's beat is definitely contemporary, traceable to early-2000s electropop artists like Goldfrapp (thanks to critic Barry Walters for that observation) and typical of work by the aforementioned female pop stars, who push the dance floor in ways that are distinctly reminiscent of rock.

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Getting to know Orianthi


She's performed with Steve Vai and Santana, and Pop & Hiss has already raved about her scene-stealing appearance with Carrie Underwood at this year's Grammy Awards.

Right now, filmgoers across the country are seeing her in "Michael Jackson's This Is It." Had Jackson's comeback concerts gone on as planned, Orianthi would be the guitar slinger next to the King of Pop. Her debut album, "Believe," was released this week, and she'll be featured in Friday's Calendar section.

Here is an excerpt of Orianthi discussing her time rehearsing with Jackson. Steve Appleford wrote the story. After the jump, view rehearsal footage of Jackson and Orianthi.

She had been drafted to re-create signature guitar parts originated by the likes of Slash and Eddie Van Halen, to stand beside Jackson onstage at the O2 Arena and deliver real playing ability through 50 sold-out nights. Then, on June 25, just weeks before opening night, Jackson was dead of heart failure.

Soon, footage of the striking 24-year-old guitarist and Jackson dramatically playing off each other in a windblown rehearsal at Staples Center was seen across the hungry media-sphere.

"It was a huge shock for all of us. Our hearts just sank," Orianthi said of getting the news at Staples, where the band already had gathered for another full day of rehearsals. "It felt like he hadn't actually gone. It was too much of a shock. He was with us the night before and he seemed so full of energy."

The guitarist (full name: Orianthi Panagaris) expected to be well into the "This Is It" concerts by now, while preparing to release her debut solo album, "Believe," which hit retailers this week.

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Film and TV licensing a music biz bright spot? Not so fast


Often hailed as one of the music industry's bright spots, the licensing of songs to film and television isn't immune to the recession or the general industry downturn, according to top music supervisors who spoke this morning at an industry conference hosted by Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter. Declining budgets for music, changing fee structures and broad single-artist deals, such as NBC's recent move to draft Bon Jovi as an "artist in residence," were cited as examples that could limit licensing opportunities in the year ahead.

As physical CD sales have tumbled, major label publishing revenues have experienced an upswing. For the nine-year period beginning in 1999, CD sales dipped 45%, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures released at the conference. Meanwhile, Warner Music Group's publishing arm Warner/Chappell saw a 19% uptake in film , TV and ad licensing revenue for the three-year period beginning in 2006.

However, ad spending for the first half of 2009 dipped 15.4%, compared with the same period in 2008, according to conference figures. Music supervisor and KCRW-FM (89.9) deejay Thomas Golubic, speaking on a morning panel about the state of music supervision, noted that music is the first item that will be cut from a production budget.

Some budgets become so low, Golubic said, that "you know you are making deals that are almost unfair."

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Live review: Claudia Quintet at REDCAT

The accordion isn't exactly one of the more common instruments in jazz. Yet in the context of the genre-shifting mix of New York's Claudia Quintet, the accordion sounded so natural at REDCAT on Wednesday night that it's fair to start questioning just why it doesn't make an appearance more often.

Of course, the same can be asked of the quintet. Composed of veterans from New York City's jazz scene, the Claudia Quintet doesn't make its way west very often. But the audience  of CalArts students and older jazz heads were treated to an evening with a versatile band that deserves mention among the top ensembles in jazz today.

Led by wily, sharp-dressed drummer John Hollenbeck, the quintet operated as a democratic platform, with each of its members given ample opportunity to shine. Ted Reichman was seated at the center of the stage,  and his accordion often led the group but rarely drifted into a conventional, Eastern European sort of sound, particularly when tangling with free-flowing vibraphonist Matt Moran on the swirling melody of the night's opener, "Sphinx."

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A survival guide to Phish's Festival 8


This coming weekend, Coachella Valley will witness a locust-like descent from a 40,000-strong horde of hippies, a scale unseen in the Golden State since at the very least, last weekend’s 40th Celebration of Woodstock in Golden Gate Park (a murky and monotonous tale for a different post).

Indeed, over Halloween weekend, Phish, the Vermont jam-band behemoths, will be throwing their first All Hallow’s Eve festival since 2004 and their first ever west of the Mississippi, featuring a staggering eight sets in three days. It all includes a Sunday acoustic performance with coffee and doughnuts, an organic farmer’s market and a 100-foot Ferris wheel.

In Phish tradition, the band will play a special Halloween set in which they cover the entirety of another band’s album. According to the most recent update to the Festival 8 website, the remaining candidates are: David Bowie’s “Hunky Dory” or “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars,” Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland,” King Crimson’s “Larks'  Tongues in Aspic,” Led Zeppelin's self-titled debut, MGMT’s “Oracular Spectacular,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Prince’s “Purple Rain,” Radiohead’s “Kid A,” the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main St.,” and Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks.”

Considering Michael Jackson tributes are trendier than Twitter, “Thriller” would seem to be human nature.

In an effort to prepare the intrepid souls trekking east to Indio’s Empire Polo Fields, Pop and Hiss has prepared a survival guide so that you avoid sunstroke, shady scalpers and bad breakfasts.

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A bit-sized Britney: Pop singer takes the Twitter approach to promotion

A total of 15 seconds of Britney Spears' "3" were released online today, all in easy-to-digest 5-second clips. It's a tease for a song that is -- for all intents and purposes -- a tease itself.

The whole shebang will debut tomorrow. Yet you'll probably be able to tell if you want to seek it out based on the little morsel above. 

A commercial in 140 characters or less, Spears has attempted to turn the release of her new clip into a three-day Twitter-fueled event. Yesterday, the artist dropped three photos from the video online.

She's taking advantage of her status as the pop music queen of Twitter. With 3.6 million followers, Spears is significantly out in front of any other artist on Twitter, according to data from Big Champagne. For those keeping track of figures that largely can't yet be monetized, John Mayer is a distant second, with about 2.5 million followers.

--Todd Martens

Related: Britney Spears' '3': Odd lyrics, but a production seduction

Live: Steve Martin at Walt Disney Concert Hall

The actor's considerable banjo-playing skills were in the spotlight, but his comedic talents pop in as well before a delighted near-capacity audience.


Were Steve Martin's instrument of choice a violin, piano or guitar, he might well have shown up in the company of several top players in the field, as he did Wednesday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and gotten by without so much as a quip about moonlighting. But Martin, who long used the banjo as a prop in his stand-up act, is all too aware of the inherent comedy that the instrument, like the accordion, holds for most listeners.

"My wife inspired the title for this next song," he told the near-capacity crowd by way of introduction. "It's called 'When Are You Going to Stop Playing the Damned Banjo?' "

Unlike Woody Allen, who can appear practically mirthless in concert when he sits down with his clarinet to play traditional jazz, Martin was perfectly comfortable and utterly engaging alternating between his two passions, humor and music. 

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