The month’s best pop updates, tour whispers, electro remixes, must-view performances, and everything in between…
Racking up danceable firepower jams, maintaining a veil of ageless cool, keeping a finger on the mystery pulse: These things are valuable.
For enthusiasts, a personal soundtrack is a life force rivaling extreme sports or extended bubble baths. Everyday minutia performed to swirly synths or buzzy riffs feels sort of cinematic, a little foggy and backlit in floofy neon pinks and electric blues. Even melancholy pouts can suddenly shift toward the pumped-up need to mirror that feeling and just make something new//do something cool.
Here, a month of fresh possibilities delivered in the form of musically focused news you can use:
This week, Billboard’s piece Are Indie Promoters Music’s Endangered Species? spotlighted the monopoly that massive companies like Live Nation (which made a cool $10.8 billion in 2018 while hiking up ticket prices) hold over the market. Owners of New York venues like Brooklyn Bowl and Knitting Factory went on record about how with the current system, “the advantage tilts toward the bigger guys.” Shortly after, Karen Bliss offered a silver lining with her post on Side Door, the new booking app that acts like an AirBNB for performers. “We want to create a really transparent and friendly marketplace where artists can interact, perform and be in dialogue directly with people who want to take out the gatekeepers,” says co-founder Dan Mangan, who’s already seeing success matching shows for bands like Broken Social Scene. Aside from ethical fees for fans, the house concert scene has the potential to create healthier, even symbiotic relationships within the industry. “A lot of hosts don’t want to take anything at all; they want to give it to the artists.”
A sort of anti-review of Tamaryn’s new album Dreaming in The Dark unfolds in this piece for Tiny Mix Tapes, but the writer’s admission that there are hints of Kate Bush in her new sound will suffice. Press play on the foggy, nostalgic music video for “Angels of Sweat” where pillowy clouds, prom dresses, glowing moons and swinging stars on strings await.
Patti Smith in the girls’ room, Blondie in the car: these never-before-seen archival images of 70s and 80s rock stars are part of photographer (and former mentee of JFK) Michael Zagaris’s new book Total Excess.
Yes, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been notoriously tone-deaf for decades, which The New York Post highlights here noting “as recently as 2016, there were no women on the list of inductees. And you only have to go back five years to find the last time zero people of color made the cut.” Finally, the Class of 2019 included some long-overdue names like Janet Jackson, The Zombies, Roxy Music, Stevie Nicks, and The Cure. In a refreshing flurry of media love letters, Vulture called Nicks “the Fairy Godmother of Rock” with a hilarious intro of “Look to the shawls; let them show you the way,” while Vogue’s Laird Borrelli-Persson wrote a romantic valentine to Robert Smith. During his induction speech for the latter, Trent Reznor announced that he’d once pondered “how can I even take this awards ceremony seriously if they’ll open their doors to X, Y and Z and not acknowledge the Cure?”
Metal gets a softer rap in a recent scientific study which found that, unlike
watching brutal content and playing graphic video games, listening to hardcore music doesn’t desensitize the brain to violence. “The dominant emotional response to this music is joy and empowerment,” claims professor Bill Thompson. For a better understanding of the genre and its overlap with opera listeners who have “similarly creative and gentle personalities,” Quartzy’s Heavy Metal Is The Thinking Person’s Music provides some training wheels.
Copenhagen natives Hannes Norrvide and Malthe Fischer are the duo behind Lust for Youth’s moody-yet-danceable pop (also described as “Scandinavian antidepressants”), and their next self-titled LP is slated for a June arrival. Still, the pair’s latest single “Great Concerns” is already sparking an instinct to hit repeat on new sounds that take “some familiar strides, though to another place.”
Discovered at 17 in rural China, Lang Lang is now a world-renowned pianist who’s played stages from the Chicago Symphony Center to the Grammys. On Friday (and World Piano Day) he released Piano Book, which is actually an album featuring his renditions of works by greats like Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven. Featuring vertical videos on Spotify (typically just tied to Top 40 genres) to help place “classics and jazz artists and composers at the center of the streaming revolution.”
In head-to-toe sequins and feathers for the first video of her fourth solo album On The Line, Jenny Lewis is back again, and the celebrity cameos follow. Jason Schwartzman circles the room with camera in hand, a masked Mac DeMarco sits at the drums, and an Arquette makes Vanessa Bayer visibly nervous as he joke-chokes Tim Heidecker with serious WCW moves.
Friday was meant to be Brexit day, but it wasn’t. Still, Damon Albarn’s 14-year-old project Africa Express, which started as a platform to encourage partnerships between western and African musicians, reunited for a night of multi-artist, multi-genre performances. “It’s not simply a neat coincidence that Africa Express have chosen tonight to put on a symbolic display of diversity, collaboration and unity,” writes Greg Cochrane. “It’s very much intended, an illustration of what more than 100 disparate performers can achieve with organisation, communication and willingness.” Woven into the 300+ minute show? The return of Blur and its live action 90s hits like “Song 2.”
Four-part Japanese girl band CHAI remains intentionally positive in the midst of their “neo-kawaii” revolution on their sophomore album PUNK (following their debut, PINK) via Burger Records. Playing against antiquated cultural standards of cutesy, precious, tiny little girls, they’re scream-chanting like cheerleaders wearing football gear in “Choose Go!” and hardhats in “Great Job” as they celebrate chores once considered “women’s work.” It’s all very easy to adore, especially the exclamation-pointed lyrics like “So nothing is stopping me! We have dreams! We have a lot of friends! This is just my future! This song, about us forever!”