Category: New Music

Study: New York, L.A. not the most influential music cities

Win Butler of Arcade Fire performs in concert at Madison Square Garden on August 4, 2010 in New York City.
This will come as no surprise to anyone who's been to a show at the Echo where half the audience is frantically texting about the great time they're having (at the expense of watching the set): Particular cities are influential in shaping music tastes. But how exactly does that influencer-chain work, and how does it differ among genres? Two Cornell researchers have a new paper that tries to diagram how one gets from a Patient Zero with a rad underground 7-inch in Montreal to an album of the year Grammy.

The paper, by Conrad Lee and Padraig Cunningham, uses an influence-modeling method gleaned from the study of bird-flock leadership to track how taste patterns spread over geography in users. In short? Montreal, Atlanta and Oslo are the early adopters; New York and L.A. are relative bit players.

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Afie Jurvanen, a.k.a. Bahamas, leaves room to roam

Afie Jurvanen, a.k.a. Bahamas, takes a spare, economical approach on ‘Barchords,’ his new album. He is playing the Satellite in Silver Lake.

Afie Jurvanen, a.k.a. Bahamas, leaves room to roam

If indie rock were given a clinical diagnosis right now, it would likely be attention-deficit disorder. Every space — lyrically, musically and sonically — is often overstuffed with information. But there is an antidote: the cool and relaxed music of Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Afie Jurvanen (who uses the stage moniker Bahamas).

The songs on Bahamas’ sophomore album “Barchords” revel in the wide open spaces that capture a frontier ambience, a trait he shares with other Canadian musicians such as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Cowboy Junkies. The album has generated laudatory reviews in The Times, the Boston Globe, the All Music Guide and several other media outlets.

“My entire approach to songwriting and recording — and life in general — is one of economy,” Jurvanen said recently from his home in Toronto shortly before embarking on the U.S. tour that took him through Austin, Texas last week for the South by Southwest festival and swings on through to Los Angeles for his stop Tuesday night at the Satellite club in Silver Lake.

“I’m trying to get to the point as quickly as possible, but not necessarily rushing,” said the 30-year-old musician who backed other Canadians, Leslie Feist among them, before striking out on his own. “I don’t like to put too much between me and the song, or between the song and the listener.”

His curious stage name stems from “Whole Wide World,” a song on his first album in which he recounts his mother telling him that there’s one girl in the world for him, and she might be in Tahiti, the Bahamas or some other far-flung locale — putting the idea of scouring the globe for his soul mate into his head.

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Justin Bieber fans vote on the artwork for new single 'Boyfriend'

Bieber post copy

Casual Justin Bieber groupies might have found themselves in a mental tug of war on Friday as the final hours ticked away for online voting for the artwork on his new single, “Boyfriend.” In an effort to create some frenzy over the Mike Posner-produced track, out March 26, the 18-year-old pop star is allowing fans to vote via Twitter on two photo options for the single’s cover art. The voting ends Friday, though it's unclear from the website what time it officially closes.

To the untrained eye, the difference between these two nearly identical photos seems inconsequential. Wrong. Each one tells a very specific tale -- one that probably says more about the beholder than it does about Biebs himself. Behind these two equally expressionless gazes exist two very different sets of values, thoughts and fears that are worth examining.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Photo #1 (left)

At first, this pose appears to be a classic Bieber. The sight of his hand mussing through his phantom curtain of bangs that he shed long ago denotes a nostaligic feeling for the past. This look would probably appeal to a young, naïve idealist who is as passionate about ending war as about the use of quality hair care products. Unfortunately you can only focus on one passion at a time, and a bottle of Vidal Sassoon is much easier to attain than world peace. The look of confusion and uncertainty might also attract a Bieber fan who’s not quite ready to let go of the Biebs' days as the innocent, underage hearthrob. The chooser of this photo might even be apprehensive about moving forward in her or his own life — moving out of the house, getting a job, buying bed sheets without cartoon characters on them. It’s a big world out there and maybe you just want to keep your shirt buttoned up and be a kid for a little bit longer.

Photo#2 (right)

It's hard to catch the averted eyes of the brand new bad boy Bieber. With the panache and wisdom that comes with 18 years of living, this is the kind of photo you take when you’re trying to show the world your newfound independence. Casting off the shadow of an outworn, sweetheart persona, you too might be looking for a change in how people perceive you. You're also the kind of person willing to take a risk -- after all, not everyone chooses to expose a tank top underneath a collared shirt unless he's willing to be judged. Lately you’ve been easily distracted (obviously) by something new and enticing that’s come out of nowehere. A new life goal perhaps? A new love interest? A shiny object of some kind?

Results of the voting for the new artwork for the "Boyfriend" will be revealed Monday morning. Careful, there's a lot riding on this. Choose wisely.


Rihanna on Chris Brown collaboration: It 'made sense'

Ruben Studdard gets personal on 'Letters From Birmingham'

'X Factor': Seven judge-worthy divas beyond Britney Spears

-- Nate Jackson

Photo: Two options for the cover art of Justin Bieber's new single, "Boyfriend."


New music for the disbelievers: Mrs. Magician's 'There Is No God'

New music for the disbelievers: Mrs. Magician's 'There Is No God'

What if Brian Wilson had never made a teenage symphony to God and instead was a happy-go-lucky atheist? The result might sound like Mrs. Magician's new single, "There Is No God," an evil surf ditty that's barely as long as the Lord's Prayer.

Not taking it easy on us for a second, the song kicks off with the line, "You're all gonna die." Then the band goes on to spoil our day even further by singing, like the heathens they are, "There's no God." After rejecting the big guy in the sky, they cement the ridicule by merrily singing "la la la la," like a bunch of choirboys who've lost their minds.

Hailing from our sister city to the south, San Diego, Mrs. Magician is one of those bands made of members who have toiled in many other bands. For instance, drummer Cory Stier also plays for the Cults, a similarly religion-obsessed act, and will be doing double-duty when the two groups tour the country this spring. Mrs. Magician's album, produced by San Diego rock mayor John "Swami" Reis of Hot Snakes and Rocket From the Crypt, will drop digitally on March 6.

By the way, like San Francisco's Girls, there's not a lady in this band -- but we're thinking of the name as a hat-tip to all those thankless beauties who have been sawed in half onstage. Come March 22 at the Music Box, the Mrs. will be making her confessions live. Bring your holy water for dousing.



Local-centric Silver Lake Jubilee announces line-up 

PYYRAMIDS' 'Don't Go' video: Dragons, monkeys, oh my! 

New Arcade Fire song, 'Abraham's Daughter,' arrives online

--Margaret Wappler

Photo: Cory Stier, Tommy Garcia, Jacob Turnbloom and Evan Ehrich in Mrs. Magician. Credit: Big Hassle

Can Danger Mouse make Norah Jones cool?

After sweeping the Grammys with an Adele-like force in 2003, Norah Jones hasn't exactly had a disappointing career. But after three subsequent albums that showed signs of Jones stretching beyond the jazz-dusted nocturnal vibe that made "Come Away With Me" such a breakout hit, there's a nagging sense that we know what to expect from her.

Even with the occasional assistance of Okkervil River's Will Sheff and current indie darling Ryan Adams, her 2009 record "The Fall" was still, ultimately, a pretty typical Norah Jones record with low-key yet polished songs framing her gently sanded voice. Even her recent album with her side project the Little Willies earlier this year just felt like a more direct acknowledgement of the country elements that always hovered at the edges of Jones' music.

Co-written and produced by Brian Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse), Jones' upcoming album "Little Broken Hearts" could be the artistic left turn she needed. Jones' appearances on Danger Mouse's spaghetti western-informed 2011 album "Rome" added an element of danger to Jones' typically sultry vocals, and "Little Broken Hearts" seems intent on carrying that idea forward with a cover image cribbed from Russ Meyer's "Mudhoney."

The first single, "Happy Pills," came online Tuesday, and Burton's fingerprints aren't hard to see. Backed by a clockwork guitar pulse and heavy-footed drums that could be a half-speed outtake from the Broken Bells sessions, Jones sings with a mix of sass and yearning about getting over the wrong man with a classic R&B refrain of "Please just let me go now." Taken with a pinched, distant chorus of "nah, nah, nah," the song may not entirely put to rest the unfortunate "Snore-ah" Jones nickname among some circles, but it's a promising start.

Listen after the jump.

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Big Sir talks about creating a new album in the face of illness

Big Sir talks about creating new album in the face of illness

During 12 years of sonic partnership, vocalist Lisa Papineau and bassist Juan Alderete's mesh of meditative lyrics, electro-inflected boom-bap and prog-jazz has combined fury and philosophy in a way that doesn’t have to shout to be heard.

Formed in 1999, their band, Big Sir, brought together the operatic tone of Alderete's fretless bass with Papineau's penchant for soulful restraint. On Feb. 7 the band released "Before Gardens, After Gardens," their first album in six years, via Rodriguez Lopez/Sargent House.

Despite their positive outlook on an album over half a decade in the making, the inspiration it took to make it has taken a serious, very literal toll on their bodies.

Shortly after completing their previous album, "Und Die Scheiße Ändert Sich Immer" in 2006, Papinaeu and Alderete were both diagnosed with life-threatening diseases. Alderete was found to have polycythemia vera, a rare bone marrow disease that makes the body produce too many red blood cells, while Papineau discovered she had multiple sclerosis. And just three weeks before the release of the album, heavily steeped in reflections on life and death, Papineau was also diagnosed with cancer.

Despite their health obstacles, both have been incessantly busy with projects ranging from Alderete’s work as the bassist for The Mars Volta to Papineau’s solo career and collaborations with artists like Air and M83 and ME & LP with Matt Embree of RX Bandits. But even with so many other projects to occupy their time, both admit that their shared sense of humor, affinity for bass and West Coast gangsta rap creates a bond that keeps them together.

Ahead of Big Sir's gig at Harvelle's in Long Beach on Monday, Papineau and Alderete spoke to Pop & Hiss about crafting their new album and facing mortality head-on.

Pop & Hiss: What is special about the chemistry you two have with this project as a bassist and vocalist?

Lisa Papineau: Musically for me, the thing I responded to as a singer was the tone of the fretless bass and how much like a voice it sounded and being able to kind of sing along with it, not like you’re a solo singer. And with this project, all the comments about my voice are "it's whispery sounding." Well, it’s not whispery and it took a lot to find an organic tone that’s playing along with the bassline and I don’t want to disrespect the space that bassline creates. I’m going to try to slip under it.

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New: Luscious Jackson, Nite Jewel, Ting Tings, Screaming Females

Pop & Hiss takes a look at some of the week's notable new music, in handy, bite-sized form. This week: Luscious Jackson, Nite Jewel, Screaming Females and the Ting Tings.

Nite Jewel

This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

• Nite Jewel, the smooth synth project of L.A. musician Ramona Gonzalez, has released a second single from the forthcoming album, “One Second of Love.” “In the Dark” could be the score to a quiet, walking-the-downtown-streets moment in a late '80s movie for single ladies, a less hyperactive “After Hours” but with a female protagonist. From its opening blanket of synths to its few feathery guitar riffs, everything about “In the Dark” is designed to go down easy but not without thought. Gonzalez, her vocals deeply influenced by R&B sirens of the '90s but on the mellow tip, descends into her lower register to stir up the song’s inky liquid center. It’s highly recommended, along with the first single, the more club-popping “One Second of Love. -- Margaret Wappler

Though a handful of songs from the Ting Tings' 2008 debut "We Started Nothing" became ubiquitious in commercials and movie teasers, the snappy English pop duo are weirder than they let on. At their most high-spirited, the duo of singer/guitarist/rock 'n' roll cheerleader Katie White and drummer/producer Jules de Martino are a dance-rock equivalent of a cartoon pep rally, slapping together punk guitars, New Wave coldness and brassy vocals. "Soul Killing," the latest peek into the sophomore album "Sounds from Nowheresville," due March 13, shows the band's knack for bridging the familiar and the wacky. The band at first seems to be striking a reggae groove, but the rocking-chair beat and chant of "they will never hold us down" soon starts to feel more like a nod to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." Yet the Ting Tings remain all attitude. White sings, raps and chants, and the mix of hand-claps and vibrating rhythms -- the sound of a heavily synthesized vibrating metal sheet -- recalls the jerkiness of the Clash's "This is Radio Clash." -- Todd Martens

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Explore the dreamy landscape of Sonnymoon's 'Just Before Dawn'

As the May release of its sophomore full-length album draws closer, Boston-based electro pop duo Sonnymoon has revealed a stream of new single “Just Before Dawn” via its label Plug Research.

Singer Anna Wise and producer Dane Orr create a swath of shimmering synth-laden brush strokes and sporadic low-end punches -- a gentle sound with a dash of psychedelic sultriness. So far, the pair of graduates from Boston’s Berklee College of Music are staying true to the down-tempo aesthetic of such previously released tracks as "Near Me," 2009 debut "Golden Age" and an attention-grabbing take on Drake’s "Houstatlantavegas." 

Of local interest, Sonnymoon has also uploaded an alternate take of its new song featuring L.A. based mulch-instrumentalist/composer and Flying Lotus collaborator Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who superimposes graceful strings on the track. The group will soon be hitting the road with Brainfeeder beatsmith Teebs and Time Wharp from late March to early April.

Check out a stream of “Just Before Dawn” below:

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Jack White debuts 'Love Interruption' from upcoming solo album

Jack White debuts new song,

On Monday afternoon, Jack White posted "Love Interruption," a new song (posted after the jump) from his forthcoming solo debut, "Blunderbuss," which is out April 24 -- but not to be confused, mind you, with the faux film/music festival of the same name mentioned in an episode of "Portlandia."

"Love Interruption," which opens with some strumming and mellow woodwind touches, is a striking first song that shows off White's gift for tension, but without the full-throttle force of his work in the White Stripes or his latest stormy project with Alison Mosshart, the Dead Weather. If anything, "Love Interruption" sounds like what his other band the Raconteurs might make while brewing morning coffee, the regrets of the previous night leaving a bitter aftertaste.

The lyrics are plenty violent, delivered by White and a female singer who twists her shaky voice around such lines as "I want love to stick a knife inside me... walk right up and bite me... murder my own mother." So, with cheery lines like that, maybe don't expect this song to be playing over the pivotal scene in a swoony rom-com anytime soon.

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Premiere: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, 'Millie Mae'

Pop & Hiss Premiere: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, 'Millie Mae'

They may be from Brooklyn, but the fiery brass- and gospel-infused funk emanating from Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds is rooted in Memphis soul. Their rhythmic wheelhouse combines big-city grit and down-home sweetness with a little bit of Americana twang. Recently, the group snared opening slots with blues and soul revivalists such as the Black Keys and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

In anticipation of its sophomore full-length, “Pound of Dirt” (out Feb. 28 on Modern Vintage Recordings), the band premieres its song “Millie Mae.” Though the group is based on the East Coast, the new track was actually written by lead singer Sister Sparrow (a.k.a. Arleigh Kincheloe) while staying at a friend’s house in Malibu. (See? There is a local connection after all!)

A native of New York’s Catskill Mountains (along with her brother Jackson, the harmonica player and bandleader for the Dirty Birds), Kincheloe still allowed a bit of her woodsy folk influences to seep into the track. “Looking back, it’s sort of a nod to the roots I have coming from my mom’s taste in music,” Kincheloe said. “She loves singing Emmylou Harris and Patsy Cline sort of stuff.”

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