Posts Tagged 'Postal Service'

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 16

{For the music I was listening to in July, click here.}

Well, once again I’m a bit tardy and we have the music I was listening to in August being posted on the first day of September. But, better late than never, and the August music, while a bit late, is pretty spectacular. The August iPod update covers 94 songs from 7 artists (yes, a lot of full album downloads this month), and stayed largely (and surprisingly) away from Hip-Hop. So, without further ado, here’s what I’m hearing lately.

As Tall As Lions, You Can’t Take it With You: Having been kicking around in various formats since 2001, ATAL has released their third album. The band, originally from New York but recording a good portion of work in Chicago, flirts with rock, Indie and folk in darker soundscapes. The sometimes low, sometimes high or falsetto voice of lead singer Dan Nigro works with lyrics often dealing with depression or anxiety over brooding tracks. Through all of these songs, a feeling of being trapped somehow persists, with snips of guitar rifts floating through deep bass lines or horns whispering in the background. But despite this, the melancholy at times reaches crescendos that speak of freedom through misery. At other points, ATAL is a runaway train of energy on a track like “In Case of Rapture,” where the drums keep a frenetic pace. Don’t Sleep On: “Sixes and Sevens,” “We’s Been Waitin,” and “Home Is Where You’re Happy”

Beats Antique, Tribal Derivations: Fusing old and new, Beats Antique uses World and specifically Eastern-inspired music while adapting it to Western downtempo, glitch and hip-hop. Indian chants, thick stand-up bass, lightly picked harps, sitars and other string instruments are thrown in the pot with tablas and hand drums, frequently to be sprinkled with drum machines and electronic effects. The result is an album with driving, lounging or club music. In some cases you can imagine the hookah smoke drifting around you as dancers move slowly to the tunes, while in others you can imagine a dark lounge. On “Derivation,” they take portion of melody from “Summertime,” and pepper it with a digeridoo and deep drums. If you’re a fan of World music, this is an album for you. Don’t Sleep On: “Derivation,” “Intertwine,” and “Discovered.”

Fruit Bats, The Ruminant Band: After working on the fringes of music, Eric D. Johnson, the frontman of the Fruit Bats, signed with Sub Pop in 2002 and have been labeled by music publications as “Zoology Rock,” “Boot-Gazer,” and “rustic pop.” The Ruminant Band is their 5th studio release and offers a sunny panoply of pastoral and easy to listen to (which is not the same as easy listening) rock tracks that feel like they could have come out of another era. Up-beat acoustic guitars back moving guitar riffs, piano dances playfully across the spectrum and Johnson’s voice, high and plaintive, is reminiscent of some of Led Zeppelin’s tracks. The tracks are on the shorter side, content to bring the listener along, get the idea across and move onto something else without brooding on one sound. An upbeat album perfect for a ride or camping trip, early mornings in the sunshine and dusty backroads. Don’t Sleep On: “Beautiful Morning Light,” “Primitive Man,” and “Singing Joy to the World.”

M.R. Shajarian, Night Silence Desert: Where Beats Antique took traditional music and mixed it with new themes, M.R. Shajarian stays strictly classic here in his World music. The tracks are light on percussion and heavy on atmosphere, with songs that feel as if they’re literally drifting away into the night of a desert. The instrumentation is skilled, an almost Middle East Béla Fleck sound permeating many of the tracks. Don’t Sleep On: “Silence of the Night (Sokout-e-Shab),” “Rain (Baroun),” and “Setar Instrumental (Torgheh)”

The Morning Benders, Talking Through Tin Cans: Berkeley natives The Morning Benders, who recently garnered “Best Of” for a local band in the yearly San Francisco round up are a pleasant mixture of rock and Indie pop without trying to be too much of either. The songs are laid back and pleasant melodically. Simple drums, guitars, a Rhodes and tambourines paint a picture of sunny California in much the same way the Beach Boys did, but with urban flare and a nod to slightly less-polished pop. Like the Shins without the depression, The Morning Benders are a group to keep an eye out for over the next few years. Don’t Sleep On: “Waiting for a War,” “Boarded Doors,” and “Wasted Time.”

Oumou Sangare, Seya: Hailing from Mali, Sangare weaves traditional African hunting songs with lyrics of social criticism attacking the position of women and marriage in the society, among others. Seya is her first album release since 2004 and it is full of sound. The rhythms and melodies of her native land meet superbly with her voice which is smooth and slightly musky. The arrangements are lively and moving, and as her voice soars over the songs, you don’t need to speak her language to hear her emotion. Don’t Sleep On: “Kounadya,” “Senkele Te Sira,” and “Wele Wele Wintou.”

Owl City, Maybe I’m Dreaming/Ocean Eyes: Adam Young is the one man behind Owl City. He started making music to combat insomnia, and the tracks carry an energized dreaminess that speaks to the line between dusk and dawn. Fans of Postal Service will recognize his electric and synth symphonies, while fans of Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service will find in Young an eerily identical voice to Ben Gibbons. Young is soothing, his melodies are light and sound pure, and his balance between sweet sentimentality and sad longing creates almost a joyous balance between joy and pain. For some, these tracks might be too syrupy, but for others, a slightly more electronic and upbeat Postal Service will be just the delivery they need. Maybe I’m Dreaming is a 2008 release and Ocean Eyes from 2009. Don’t Sleep On: “Fireflies,” (video below), “The Technicolor Phase,” and “On the Wing.”

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 13

{for last month’s new music update, click here.}

What an amazing month for music! May’s iPod update features over 200 songs of genres from shoegazing indie pop to hard core rap. While not all the artists and albums made the cut for this version of What I’m Hearing, the best things did and I’m proud to bring them to you. Furthermore, several of these albums are available for free download and I’ve included the links to them here. New music, download links?! What more could you ask for?

Au Revoir Simone, Still Night, Still Light: When I first reviewed Au Revoir Simone’s 2007 release The Bird of Music (WIH, Vol. 9), I talked about the potential that their sweet sounds could become too sticky without the proper balance. Happily, I can say that on Still Night, Still Light ARS loses none of their charm while actually increasing their skill in finding a nice balance in the electro-indie pop-shoegazer triangle. At times sounding like a slightly more fleshed out Elysian Fields and at others like a less depressed Postal Service, this trio puts out easy tracks that range from joyous to melancholy without missing a beat. The female vocals are breezy, seeming to hang over the music, which through synths, keys and drums all working together, become stronger than on the previous album. ARS seems to have found their musical niche, nicely contrasting the sweet with the bitter, and sounding more comfortable with the balance throughout. Don’t Sleep On: “Shadows,” “Knight of Wands,” and “Another Likely Story.”

Chubb Rock and Wordsmith, A Crack in the Bridge: While hip-hop and rap seems to be on a definitive futuristic trend with the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West and Kid Cudi surfing the radio waves, this duo out of the East Coast seeks to bring hip-hop back to more standard roots. Relying on tried and true production and lyrics that are more about having a good time than sporting bling, Chubb Rock and Wordsmith have crafted a mixtape prelude to their June release Bridging the Gap that strips away the pretension of hip-hop in favor of sounding good and having fun. Chubb and Wordsmith have a nice contrast to their voices and delivery, an important part of a hip-hop duo. With a deep voice and an almost trudge-like delivery, Chubb Rock sounds patient on the microphone, willing to move with a beat easily. On the other hand, Wordsmith’s voice is higher and his delivery quicker, allowing him to change the feel and tempo of a song simply by rapping. I’ve been listening to Bridging the Gap for about a month now, but you’ll have to come back in June for that review. For now, A Crack in the Bridge provides a sampler of the type of music you can look forward to. Download it by clicking on the album name above. Don’t Sleep On: “Back In,” “Top of the World,” and “The New Street Kings”

Cunninlynguists, Strange Journey, Vol. 1: Cunninlynguists have to be one of the hardest working and simultaneously one of the most under-appreciated hip-hop groups today. Hailing from various parts of the state, the trio of Natti, and producers Kno and Deacon the Villain have released 6 albums since 2001, only actually having them released through a distribution company in 2003. But that hasn’t changed their approach which relies on interesting and introspective lyrics, excellent production and a splash of a grim feeling that it’s not ever going to happen for them mixed with a sense of humor that seems like it doesn’t matter if it does. On the first of two Strange Journey albums, the group looks at life on the road and the state of the music scene among other topics. The retro hooks combined with the modern beats provide the three with a solid foundation for their words, which whether talking about music, women or rapping far outshine anything available on the radio today. Whether you like loops or lyrics, this CD is a hit. Don’t Sleep On: “Don’t Leave (When Winter Comes)” featuring Slug of Atmosphere, “Spark My Soul,” and “Lynguistics,” a live version of one of their most well known songs.

Del the Funky Homosapien, Stimulus Package: The good news? Del’s got a new full-length album out, and it’s free (click on the album name above for the download link.) The bad news? For fans accustomed to the cohesive whole of Future Development (production help from Opio and A-Plus), the visionary approach on Deltron 3030 (produced by Dan the Automator) or the stellar lyrics that grace his work with Hieroglyphics, Stimulus Package is going to fall short. And the problem is that this kind of collapse is completely avoidable for Del. When at his strongest, Del’s intensity on the mic and ability to craft ridiculously great lyrics make him one of the best rappers on wax. However, all too often (this album and The 11th Hour as examples) Del isn’t content to just be on the microphone and opts to pursue the full musical production on the album as well. This is a mistake. It’s not to say that Del’s production is bad, but it is stagnant. There’s nothing much new in the beats here. For the most part, the tracks feel like repackaged West Coast beats from the ‘90s. Now if that were the case and the rapping remained vintage Del, the beats wouldn’t make a difference. But instead, the focus on production seems to detract from his focus on his rapping, and Del comes off sounding almost generic as a result. One need only look to his best work to see that he’s at the top of his rapping game when the lyrics and flow are his focus. His rapping on last year’s N.A.S.A. album outpaces anything contained here, and my hope is to see him collaborate with other producers on future work, because when he’s at his best lyrically, he’s virtually untouchable. Don’t Sleep On: “Hardcore Punks Can’t Take It,” “And They Thought That Was Hell,” and “Get It Right Now!”

Eminem, Relapse: I’ve read a lot of press both positive and negative on this album. Fortunately for my review, I had been listening to Relapse for about a week before it came out, so I was able to form my own judgments without extra media input. There’s no question that this album isn’t Eminem’s best work, which could be construed as a letdown following a four year hiatus that saw him become entangled in drugs and struggling through a lengthy rehab process during which he OD’d and almost died. But there are tracks here that showcase Eminem at his lyrical best. What’s important to consider on this album is that Eminem has found his own perspective stuck between the Slim Shady and Ken Kaniff characters. At times, he’s clearly being silly because he thinks there’s nothing else he can do. But the ridiculousness on this album in such tracks as “3 AM” and “My Mom,” actually serve to attempt to draw attention away from the other tracks. On “Medicine Ball” and “Undergound,” Eminem is back to his full bark, maniacally working his way through outrageous tongue twisters at breakneck pace. And on “Déjà Vu,” Eminem produces one of the most poignant and introspective songs of his career in dealing with his overdose. With a second album slated for release sometime in the next few months, it will be interesting to see which side of Eminem gets more exposure. One can only hope it’s the real Eminem, the one from the freestyle battles, ferocious intensity and introspective lyrics. It is this Eminem, stripped away from the silly accents, high-pitched lyrics and juvenile ideas that produces the best work, and there are certainly glimpses of that on Relapse for anyone ready to look past the radio singles. Don’t Sleep On: “Déjà Vu,” “Underground,” and “Old Time’s Sake” featuring Dr. Dre.

Hanne Hukkelberg, Blood From A Stone: Hailing from Kongsberg, Norway, Hukkelberg continues the trend of obscure Scandinavian singer-songwriters finding a home in the musical lexicon of the States. In contrast to her Swedish counterpart Lykke Li, Hukkelberg’s sounds are less playful and much more subdued, serious and sparse. With light percussion and haunting melodies, Hukkelberg lets her voice drape over the tracks like a singer in a smoke filled jazz club. Her lyrics are emotionally gripping and in combination with the music make the listener feel as if they’re being personally addressed. Don’t Sleep On: “Seventeen,” “Bandy Riddles,” and “Blood From a Stone.”

Kid Cudi, Dat Kid From Cleveland: Normally, I’m not a fan of mixtapes. Seemingly half-thrown together beats, freestyle lyrics that typically fall short of par, and the main question: what does this have to do with anything? For the most part, you can count on one or two excellent tracks and some filler on these outings. This is why I was pleasantly taken aback with Dat Kid From Cleveland. I had heard of Kid Cudi through the usual street/radio buzz, and so when a friend sent me this mixtape, to say I was skeptical would be an understatement. But here, on well-crafted and nicely sampled beats ranging from Dr. Dre to De La Soul to trance music, Cudi brings a sense of energy to his flow. The result is a collection of tracks that could easily be a full album release with a little polish. And the best part? It’s free. Also good to know is that Cudi is talking about a collaboration with Evolving Music favorite Ratatat. Stay tuned. Don’t Sleep On: “Rollin'” featuring Jackie Chain, “’09 Freestyle,” and “She Came Along” featuring Sharam.

Meanderthals, Desire Lines: In the case of the Meanderthals, the album name of Desire Lines could easily have been the band name as well. While the tone of this disc is certainly relaxed, the group has a little more focus in their musical direction than one might think from their name. This is a collection of tracks featuring a wide array of instrumentation from acoustic guitars to steel drums to drum machines and hand claps. The result is a mash-up that I can only think to term “Lounge-Tropic,” a meeting place of sounds that could easily be found in a smoky backroom of a cocktail lounge or drifting calmly across the beach on an island resort. While only 7 tracks, Desire Lines provides a set perfect for the lazy days of summer. The music is light and airy, and despite the variety of sounds, never feels overly dense or impenetrable. Grab your favorite boat drink, find your most peaceful place in the sun and enjoy. Don’t Sleep On: “Andromeda (Prelude to the Future),” “1-800-288-Slam” and “Bugges Room.”

Passion Pit, Manners: Taking generously from dance, pop and electronica, Passion Pit has emerged from Massachusetts and released a very solid product that can play in the great outdoors of summer or the confines of a dance club. New Rave, 80s power pop and electro-synth all find a home here to give lead singer Michael Angelakos delicious mosaics to howl over. Up-beat drums, crunchy bass lines and frolicking sheets of synthesizers all join forces to create simple and energetic songs that carry vocal and chorus parts that feel like they’re going to break free at any moment from their Earthly anchor and find the stars. While I wouldn’t listen to this album on repeat simply because the pop motif might wear thin, as a tempo change or a dance song in the right context, any song on this album can bring a sense of joy to the listener. More importantly, with sporadic listening, the songs reveal a few new tricks each time through. Don’t Sleep On: “Little Secrets,” “Make Light,” and “The Reeling.”

Rhymefest, Man in the Mirror: More surprising than one hip-hop mixtape in a monthly music update? Two. But here, Rhymefest has succeeded in creating a collection of songs that overflow with positive vibes and solid rapping. The premise here, as indicated by the album title, is a salute to Michael Jackson, as various songs from his history are sped up, slowed down or otherwise mashed to provide the backdrop for the rap. This is a must listen for any Michael Jackson fan, if only to see how the old classics sound freshened up with hip-hop, and a necessary mixtape for any hip-hop aficionado for the creative use of something else to form a breathing set of tracks. Mark Ronson provides the production. Don’t Sleep On: “Man in the Mirror,” “Foolin’ Around,” and “Coolie High” featuring Camp Lo.

11 Songs to Be Thankful For, Vol. 2

For last year’s 11 Songs to Be Thankful For, click here.

I know you’re in pain. The music industry, no less than last year, is inundated with made for radio pop songs meant to burn brightly in the minds of middle schoolers, sell millions of copies and then fade quickly into the one hit wonder used CD bins. Some will make club playlists and stay relevant for another year or two, but most will be either forgotten or turned into the butt of some future musical joke. But these simplifications overlook a large cross section of musicians from all genres that are producing quality music that not only can get stuck in your head, but won’t make you want to put a loaded revolver to your temple to get them out. In fact, months later, these songs are still gripping and enjoyable.

Thanksgiving is over, but while you’re eating some leftovers, there’s still much to be thankful for in the way of music. For each month, a main song that stood out above the others with the album you can find it on, and a second song that I give honorable mention to for being generally kick ass. But since life isn’t a one man affair, I invited my roommate, who receives the same monthly iPod updates (see the “What I’m Hearing” posts… the links in the month names will get you there), to give her input on what songs grabbed her focus this year. 11 months, 1 main song, 1 honorable mention and 2 recommendations from the roommate will give you about 44 fantastic songs you haven’t listened to yet. I say about because in some cases you may have heard a song, and in others, we picked the same one. Enjoy!

Jan: “Breathe Me (Mylo Remix)” (Breathe Me EP) by Sia. Most people had their first introduction to Sia’s heartbreaking song through the final 5 minutes of the HBO series Six Feet Under. The song, steeped in lament and longing, is nostalgic and only further inundated with emotion from Sia’s haunting voice that at times seems to whisper. On this EP version, Mylo remixes the song by fleshing out a lush electronic sound with bass and digital flourishes around the vocals and speeding up the main melody. The result is a moving and dance-able, yet still emotional track. Honorable Mention: “Way Down in the Hole” (The Wire Soundtrack) by The Blind Boys of Alabama

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Nudez” (Rainydayz Remixes) by AmpLive. “Mushaboom (Postal Service Remix)” (Open Season) by Feist.

Feb: “Campus” (Vampire Weekend) by Vampire Weekend. When this album came out, I positively reviewed the whole thing, and now, many months later, it hasn’t lost its luster for me. With “Campus” the group uses simplicity in the vocals and instrumentation to evoke the feeling of days at college and crushes (if your college crush happened to be a professor.) The staccato lead up to the frenetic chorus is an instantly attainable indie pop that also brings to mind a Killers tune on Xanax. With the line, “In the afternoon you’re out on the stone and grass/and I’m sleeping on the balcony after class” the song takes me back to my own college balcony naps. Honorable Mention: “Weightless” (Lucky) by Nada Surf

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (Vampire Weekend) by Vampire Weekend. 2) “The Chills” (Writer’s Block) by Peter Bjorn and John

March: “Front Steps, Pt. 2 (Tough Love)” (Absolute Value) by Akrobatik. This song is haunting both lyrically and musically. The solid production includes a piano sample and string overtone that sound like they’ve been submerged in water. The murkiness is then combined with scratches and a bass and drum line that provide it with a depth that comes off simultaneously polished and street rough. All of this is so that Akrobatik can provide an incredible song about the economic and social plight within the project communities, the current state of hip-hop and the need for change within the criminal justice system. He exhorts the youth to avoid the drugs and black on black violence that help oppress them, and strive for something better by offering them his honest take in the form of “tough love.” His lyrics come from a seriously educated perspective as he recognizes that the format of the ghettos allows the upper middle class to ignore riots and financial losses inflicted by them (“And when we riot they won’t care about the dollars lost/they’re sipping cocktails while we’re throwing Molotovs“) and sees the difference between a middle class white education and the education provided in inner city schools. The entire song is filled with lines that are both mentally stimulating and potent in rhyme scheme (full lyrics here). One of the best hip-hop lines of the year comes from this song, “This ain’t a war on drugs, it’s a war on thugs/they supply the guns, we supply the bodies with slugs.” Easily in the contention for my top 5 songs of the year. Honorable Mention: “Live 4 Today” (Break A Dawn) by Zion I

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Opening Act” (Garbage Pail Kids) by Sene and Chief 2) “Muddy Water Stomp” (Garbage Pail Kids) by Sene and Chief

April: “The Things That We Could Share” (Soundboy Rock) by Groove Armada. Here’s one the roommate and I agreed on. In an age of Craigslist Missed Connections and the disconnect between people, this joyous song about the potential connections is a love song for the person you haven’t met yet. Starting with a groove bass, handclaps and “SB” chant, the electronically strained vocals through the verse beg for a balance with another person (“I need a warm hand to cool me down/I need a soft voice to drown me out”) moves into the chorus about a boy on a bus watching a girl, who is simultaneously telling her friend that he doesn’t care. When the bass line undulates and crashes into the triumphant refrain of “the things that we could share,” if you’re not dancing, you’re not breathing. Honorable Mention: “Far Away” (In Ghost Colours) by Cut Copy.

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “The Things That We Could Share” Groove Armada, Soundboy Rock. 2) “Watch As They Go” (Other People) by American Princes

May: “Winds of Change” (The Show) by EMC. Leave it to a super-group of hip-hop mainstays to write a love song to hip-hop that can surely stand as a classic. With an old static laden and sped sample singing, “Winds of change, that blow forever” EMC rips off a masterpiece devoted to the past, present and future of hip-hop, while never forgetting the overall perspective of fleeting life and inevitable change. Subjects like evolving music (MJ to Usher), technology (Beta to DVD), and clothes (Osh-Kosh to Phat Farm) are all well and good, but the highlight of this track is the last verse that takes a sad hindsight view of a hip-hop career from an old age perspective (“Holding the picture frame wishing that we didn’t age”) and the unfortunate decay that it can bring (“At 55 started forgetting lines, mumbling rhymes.”) As the rap moves to talking about freestyling with his grandchild, the song becomes both melancholy in its reminiscence and happy in the remembrance of the experiences. Honorable Mention: “Mathematics” (The Fashion) by The Fashion

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “27” (Butter and Gun$ EP) by Blue Scholars 2) “O Samba Tai” (Carolina) by Seu Jorge

June: “Watch Out (Remix)” (The 3rd World) by Immortal Technique (click here for exclusive interview). Sounding incredibly sharp over a beat that samples from the Apocalypse sounding symphony from the central battle scene in Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith and polished Green Lantern production, Immortal Technique barks through this track that cements his status as one of the most lyrically intelligent and delivery potent rappers around. Starting with his album sales off just a Source magazine quotable and moving onto direct attacks on the music industry (“they push pop music like a religion/anorexic celebrity driven, financial fantasy fiction”) and American government, Tech doesn’t take pause for a chorus here, but why bother when you can deliver like that for two and a half minutes straight? When he ends the song with, “I need more than advancements and a rented mansion,” you know that he means it, and doesn’t care who he pisses off in the process. Honorable Mention: “Let the Beat Build” (The Carter III) by Lil Wayne

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Reverse Pimpology” (The Third World) by Immortal Technique 2) “Dance Dance Dance” (Youth Novels) by Lykke Li

July: “Sittin’ On Chrome (Mr. Flash Sittin on Cr02 Remix)” (Delicious Vinyl: Rmxxology) by Masta Ace. This revamped version of the old school Masta Ace song is given all sorts of synths and electronic overtone. The verses get a video game-like sound backdrop with a fast dance beat. When the hook drops, the whole song slows down and the sample carries it. Honorable Mention: “Built to Last” (Coup de Theatre) by Haiku D’Etat

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Desperada” (Jeanius) by Jean Grae. 2) “GFC” (Como Te Llama?) by Albert Hammond Jr.

August: “Zhaoderen Nana” (Introducing Hanggai) by Hanggai. Another point of agreement with the roommate, Hanggai’s mixture of traditional Mongolian folk music and Western influences gripped us at the end of the summer and made for great lake music. The use of a an upbeat throat singer here and a rollicking strumming are contrasted with moments of full percussion. You’ll have to listen to get it. Honorable Mention: “Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You (The Twelves Remix)” (Partie Traumatic) by The Black Kids

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Zhaoderen Nana” (Introducing Hanggai) by Hanggai 2) “Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You (The Twelves Remix)” (Partie Traumatic) by The Black Kids

September: “Transitional Joint” (The Preface) by eLZhi. (full interview here) Beautiful production and a perfectly placed “just because of love” sample back Detroit’s eLZhi as he dissects relationships and the process of moving on from a failed one. Without ever losing a positive outlook, the lyrics don’t dwell on the past, but always look forward to that next glow. eLZhi acknowledges the sour experience of “rolling snake eyes” without losing sight of the feeling of “missing her like when the summer’s gone.” The delivery from verse to chorus are sensational and the beat is addictive. Honorable Mention: “Ship” (Purpleface EP) by Throw Me the Statue (interview)

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Girls and Boys In Love” (Girls and Weather) by Rumble Strips 2) “Honeybee” (Purpleface EP) by Throw Me the Statue

October: “Please Believe” (unknown) by Longshot. I’d give you a breakdown of this very solid hip-hop track, but you can click on this link and go listen to it yourself! Huzzah! Honorable Mention: “Electric Feel” (Oracular Spectacular) by MGMT

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Sadie Hawkins” (Doomtree) by Doomtree, (interview) 2) “Electric Feel” (Oracular Spectacular) by MGMT

November: “Trail of Lies” (A History of Violence) by Jedi Mind Tricks. With a South American melody and lo-fi beat, this offering from JMT’s sixth studio album examines lies perpetuated by the government and mass media, among others. The gruff voice of Vinnie Paz and the lyrics about a system in severe trouble make for a socially conscious song steeped in conspiracy theories. Honorable Mention: “Signs” (Intimacy) by Bloc Party

Jessie’s Picks: “Don Julio” (Vulture’s Wisdom, Vol. 1) by Opio 2) “Trail of Lies” (A History of Violence) by Jedi Mind Tricks

Throw Me the Statue Interview

TMTS

TMTS

It’s always nice to see the story of a local person doing good, and in the case of Evolving Music and MixMatchMusic, two entities growing into the music industry out of the Peninsula Bay Area, seeing our long time friend, Scott Reitherman, grow in success with his new group Throw Me the Statue out of Seattle has been an excellent journey. From the first show we saw as an opening act for Jens Lekman at Bimbo’s 365 club, the inclusion in the Take Away show phenomenon, to his Rhapsody commercial and now a music video for their song “Lolita” on MTV2, the growth of the band and the potential for them to turn into actual stars has reached a high pitch. Following positive reviews of their debut album Moonbeams on Stereogum and Pitchfork Media, Scott sat down with me to talk about the transition from a self-started label to an Indie label, the process of making music and the new and changing landscape of the current music industry. Enjoy!

AC: The music on Moonbeams has a wide variety of instrumentation and genre influences in there. Talk for a minute about your musical influences and what you listened to growing up that still speaks to your music writing today.

SR: With Moonbeams I was in a spot where I was trying to make a debut record that would show that I do listen to a variety of music. I didn’t want to make a record that was going to be easily typecast, I guess not typecast, but I mean to say I didn’t want to make something that would fit in a box easily. I also wanted to make a record that various people might be able to hear because they might like a song here or a song there, and sort of give something for everybody, if that wasn’t too lofty of a starting point to attack it from. So that’s what I did, and I tried to make it a collage of aesthetics because I do listen to a variety of stuff.

When I was first starting out buying CDs in the 3rd or 4th grade, I definitely had a strong pop mentality. At first it was a serious obsession with New Kids on the Block, which transitioned into Beastie Boys, Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, Bobby Brown… Bobby Brown being a part of the record collection.

AC: Some of our readers are rolling their eyes right now.

SR: Yeah. When you’re a kid, that stuff just hits on an instinctual level. You don’t realize how overprocessed it is, but it was a while before I finally started listening to what people think of as Indie music or stuff that falls underneath that umbrella. More in college I guess I started finally getting turned on to the bigger Indie bands of the day and doing some homework and going back in time, catching up on stuff I needed to know about or needed to understand the history of Indie. I think looking back on high school, I wish I had listened to a wider variety of stuff, but I think that’s a product of coming from the California peninsula and having a slightly homogeneous cultural background with that.

AC: Talk a bit about your musical development in terms of your instrumentation. Did you start classically with a piano or guitar, and how have you gone about learning new instruments and incorporating them into your style?

SR: I learned how to play guitar at summer camp when I was in the 6th grade. Basically I stuck with that for probably 6 or 7 years. Along the way, my brother started taking drum lessons and for a couple years, my brother, who’s younger than me, had a drum kit in his bedroom and I immediately took to that and started playing his drums a lot more than he would play them. When he stopped taking lessons, the drums went away and I didn’t pick back up with drums or any other instrument until college when I started fooling around and teaching myself piano through my knowledge of guitar.

From there, learning and playing other instruments just became a necessity to make your own recordings and be able to have different instrumentation on there if you didn’t have a band with a bunch of multi-instrumentalists behind you. So drum machines were also a product of that, because when I write songs, I usually do it with a drum beat off of an old keyboard just as a backbone to help facilitate the whole creative process of trying to write a song. You put something like that down and then you just sort of play and riff on whatever it is you’ve come up with that afternoon. So leaving the drum machines in the recording was something I had grown accustomed to and really liked, but was also a way to reveal the process. Did I miss anything there?

AC: Well you covered the drums, the piano and guitar. You’ve got some really interesting instruments on Moonbeams. How did you pick some of those up.

SR: Well some of those like glockenspiel are just based off of piano key configuration, so piano to glockenspiel is a pretty short jump. Some of the other stuff I had friends help with. Like horns, we hired some horn players…I can’t play anything on the horn. Melodica is on there a lot, melodica is also based on the key configuration of the piano, so blowing through that and playing the keys was a short jump from piano. I don’t know if this is how most people go about it, but having a foundation in guitar and piano leaves you with a pretty good skill set to pick up other things and have it sound acceptable.

AC: What people that have picked up TMTS in the last couple months as you guys have grown in popularity probably don’t know about is your previous work in bands. Talk a little bit about your history when it comes to the groups you’ve played with and how have those experiences helped shaped your direction with TMTS.

SR: I guess it started out, aside from a short stint in a band that wasn’t really a band in middle school that probably sounded a lot like Bush, in high school we got more into eclectic instrumentation, playing with guys that played the horns and doing music like ska and funk and more straightforward rock laid the foundation for really appreciating various instrumentation and how you go about orchestrating a handful of sounds on one song. But I would say that the stuff that I did in high school with bands was really influential in certain realms like how do you exist in a band, how do you navigate that familial relationship with other people and group creative process. All of that is something that definitely takes practice in figuring out the harmony and the balance. So that was really good in the sense that it prepared me to play in bands later. But musically, there was a big shift in my taste once I got to college. TMTS has made me acceptable to some peoples’ ears because it sort of pulls from both of those periods from me. One would be the rooted in pop accessible kind of mainstream stuff, and the other would be the recent shift in the last 5 years or so of listening to avant garde and more Indie music.

I read a couple things where people said that Moonbeams sounds like it could be a ’90s rock band, I think that’s kinda funny because I didn’t really anticipate that, but maybe it is sort of accurate because that was the period of rock music that I was listening to a ton that was my first roadmap to figuring out what I wanted to do musically.

AC: What would you say stylistically the change was for you between Moonbeams and Liberty Market Summer.

SR: Wow.

AC: Come on, you gotta bring up Elephant Blend here.

SR: Yeah, you brought it up! That album had a more homogeneous sound from song to song, and it was rooted in a feel good California setting. Both the lyrics and the tone of a lot of those songs was a little bit sunnier and maybe a little bit more naïve. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because young people are usually a little bit more naïve than they turn out to be later. Not to say that Moonbeams is a cynical version of that record, but I would say that Moonbeams felt more mature, and lyrically I would hope it is much more mature because Liberty Market Summer was the first record that I ever sang on. I was always timid of being the singer.

When you start bands in high school, it was like a revolving cast of people who were the singers and I always played guitar. At some point I finally made the shift in courage to sing the songs that I was writing already. I think that settling into that and figuring out how as a singer I was going to establish my voice in a way that felt authentic and earnest and accurate was the biggest challenge in doing Moonbeams. For me, if I were to, and I haven’t in a while, listen to Liberty Market Summer, I would probably at first cringe to hear myself sing because it would sound like a very different version of my self. Not because that was disingenuous or inaccurate, but it wasn’t as thought out.

Scott Reitherman

Scott Reitherman

AC: You guys came out on Baskerville Hill and obviously that was a pretty big step for you because you had to basically launch the label yourselves and not only record, but promote and put out these albums. What was the process of getting signed to Secretly Canadian like, and how did the preparation for getting signed differ from putting out the album and doing the work yourself on Baskerville Hill.

SR: In terms of the preparation for getting signed, there wasn’t really much preparation at all. We were in the midst of releasing Moonbeams on Baskerville Hill in the first couple months and were fully intending to put it out ourselves just like we had done with our other releases before it when Secretly came out of the woodwork and approached us about it. So we were hiring a publicist for the first time to work with Baskerville Hill and help spread Moonbeams further and in the process of doing that, I think it was two months after we had put it out on Baskerville that we got an email from Secretly.

I don’t mean to gloss over the fact that I had given a friend of mine who plays in a band on Secretly Canadian a handful of copies and said, “give these to whoever you want,” and one of the ones he gave out was to those guys. So we knew that it had at least landed on their incoming mail desk, but having not heard anything for two or three months after that, we weren’t thinking much of it at that point.

AC: A lot of people who are musicians and getting into it, hoping to make some sort of career and life out of their music, they probably think that once you get picked up by a label, everything changes. How has your day-to-day life actually changed from releasing it on Baskerville Hill to now being a part of Secretly.

SR: Well, I do less mailing at the post office everyday. That was probably the biggest shift. Everyday at about 4:45 I would rush off to my local post office and get in line before 5pm when they closed the door and mail out the orders for Moonbeams. And that went on for what seemed like a very long time. I was always doing the mailing of our orders up until then, but with Moonbeams the packaging upped a little bit. We started including posters with it, and we were getting a fair amount of orders at the beginning. So a chunk of my afternoon was devoted everyday to wrapping up the orders and shipping them out.

That was fun, I liked writing messages on each one to the people that would order them, and the amount of personal connection I felt with these envelopes going out into the world was special. But it’s also nice to not have to deal with that end of the process of releasing records anymore, at least for now, it’s nice to just concentrate on the music itself and steering the band in a direction that’s going to be happy and good for us. So now I do more emailing. I get a fair amount of email from the label each day regarding various things that we can say yes or say no to. Like, “Do you want this BMX video to get your song in it? It won’t pay you anything, but it’s kinda a cool thing to do.” So we’ll say, “yea, that sounds cool, I used to watch videos like that as a kid, I think it’d be totally hilarious if one of them used one of our songs, I think that’s cool.”

Once in a while they’ll say, “Do you want us to try and pursue this advertisement on television for you guys and maybe get you some actual money?” And we’ll say, “Well, depending on what it is, we would love actual money.” You don’t get paid as often as you do when you receive the credit cards over your own record label’s website and mail them out yourself. Now we get paid every 6 months from the label, so we have yet to be paid anything and I think July is our first pay cycle, so hopefully we’ll get some small sliver of a check because it’s the whole thing about how they have to recoup the budget that they put into it first before we get paid anything. So I would say, at least this summer, my day to day life is pretty good. I’m just working on music, trying to get the next batch of songs all sketched out and demoed and then soon we’ll get together as a band and start to move on to track final versions that will end up on the next record before we go out on tour. We’re also working with a new band member right now, so part of our time is spent getting him in the loop.

AC: Talk a bit about touring and what goes into it. What does the average fan not know about a musician’s tour?

SR: What it’s actually like to spend weeks on end in a 15 passenger van with your band mates without showering. What it’s like to get your morning coffee at a gas station more often than not. How hard it is to get up early and get back on the road for another 8 hour drive after you played a show the night before and didn’t get to sleep on time. I would say what people think or what they anticipate that they would like about the touring process are the exciting parts of it, which are playing that many shows and meeting that many new people and engaging with real people through your music is way more amazing than I could have even imagined. But the constant travel and the element of the road trip sometimes being a lot less laid back than you get to make your other road trips in life is the element you don’t quite expect.

AC: You’ve obviously, the past couple months, gotten a good deal more recognition with publications like PitchFork Media and Stereogum, you had “Lolita” in a Rhapsody commercial and now you’ve got a music video for it on MTV2. What has this process been like and has it changed the way you looked at the music industry when you were in high school and college?

SR: I think that even when we were in high school and college, MTV was on its way to phasing out music videos and phasing in reality shows. But I would say that now, when we heard we were going to get our video for “Lolita” on MTV2 it was still a trip, and then they were like, “It will be on once at 1am on Sunday.” And we were like, “Oh… ok.” So it’s pretty fun, and it was fun to make the video. We had a lot less to do with the production of it than the director and the actors that were in it did, but it’s an interesting glimpse into how the Indie music industry still maintains this sliver of MTV’s attention. It’s sort of funny, it seems like too small a niche within MTV’s programming world to even matter at all. But this one Sunday night show where they show Indie music videos is a hanger-on and I hadn’t really paid attention to this show Subterranean before, but they actually have pretty awesome videos each week. It’s kinda sad I guess, but I guess it is what it is.

AC: You were saying earlier that you have yet to see your first check from Secretly. Could you discuss the difference in terms of sales and profits between your self-promoted efforts, Secretly Canadian, and sales on iTunes. Do you have any way of quantifying or describing that right now? I think a lot of people, and specifically the record labels are pushing this point of view that if you’re buying a 99 cent song on iTunes the artist is getting a good portion of that or somehow the artist is not being stolen from when really the reality is the amount that the labels give artists of that is slim. So anything you could talk about the difference in your experience in terms of revenue and sales.

SR: As far as I understand the iTunes business model, when you buy a .99 cent song, the artist, if they’re with a label, hopes to get about a third of it. iTunes takes a third, first and foremost, and of the remaining .66 cents, the label hypothetically takes a third and the artist takes a third, in the case of the kind of label that we’re on which is a pretty artist friendly situation. There’s digital distribution company that may be a middle man there and may be taking a cut.

With us, Secretly has a pretty unique arrangement where they own their own distribution company as well as their own record label and they’ve built that up over the dozen years that they’ve been in business to a pretty good place. So they’re able to maintain some of those percentages that otherwise they might have had to pay out to another distributor. As far as the difference between releasing your own record and having someone else release it and how the shakes down, it’s no surprise that a record label, especially an Indie that doesn’t have huge money bags lying around, they’re going to have to pay you every so often, so for us, it’s on a 6 month pay cycle. If people think that when they buy a song on iTunes that the artist is getting a bunch of those .99 cents, that’s probably not true. It’s hopefully more true if they’re buying from an Indie artist versus a major label artist, but what is that really worth because a major label artist is probably selling more one-off mp3s on iTunes and in the end they’re probably making significantly more money if they’re a good selling major label artist than a medium selling Indie artist.

AC: Moonbeams just being released, and you being relatively new to the industry, but for a few years now we’ve seen a very vicious downward cycle in terms of actual physical CD sales, and the major record labels have started to freak. Have you, being a part of the music industry, seen this type of erosion, and what’s it doing in your mind to the traditional record industry?

SR: That’s a really good question. I guess I don’t know how much interest I have in the decline of the major label record industry. I think what will be interesting to see is how musicians figure out a compelling way to release their music that will re-engage people who love music. I mean, everyone loves music, but what it’s up to the record labels to do now is to figure out a way to bring that new music to the people. It’s not pirating’s fault, but the information age and the internet have ushered in a huge variety of new variables with how you sell art and obviously it’s turned out that people are de-valuing music left and right.

And again, it’s not pirating’s fault, it’s just one of those things that major labels didn’t react quickly enough to. So if it’s not the CD and it’s not the vinyl record, what is it going to be that will get people to financially support artists again? I think that would be interesting. I would love to see bands start releasing books that come with download links to the mp3s themselves. If people don’t care about these little 3.5″ in diameter floppy plastic discs anymore that we call CDs, and there’s no reason they should because it was a crappy format to begin with, then give them something else, something more, maybe a collection of photographs or writing. Just more content that’s going to re-engage people on a personal level with their favorite artists so that they do feel they want to have a hard copy as opposed to the mp3 download that any person with any amount of sense can figure out how to get without paying for it.

AC: I think that on that same note, a large portion of the problem is that maybe consumers got fed up with the fact that these record labels for so many years, while I wouldn’t want to say overvalued music at $17-$18 dollars a CD when it took a buck and a half, two dollars to make, but they certainly fought pirating and mp3s with this passion that somehow the consumers were stealing from the artists. But when you look at the kind of royalties and shares that the artists actually got off of those sales, the record labels were taking a huge chunk out of that and maybe the consumers got sick of hearing how they were stealing from the artists when really they felt they were only stealing from these multi-billion dollar corporations.

SR: Well I would love to think that that’s true in certain peoples’ cases, but I think that’s a little too generous to attribute to the masses. It’s sort of like if there were a riot and the police were the major labels and everyone else were the people rioting, and some people had the consciousness to go to Best Buy and break in and steal stuff that they wanted to because they saw it as an evil corporation, or better yet they went to KMart and they broke in and looted Kmart because it was political for them to do that. The vast majority of people that would follow suit get wrapped up in the energy of that riot, or the mindset of it, or the carelessness of it, they would loot from whatever was easiest which would be the Mom and Pop stores, or maybe in this case the Indie labels because there are many more Indie labels than there are major labels. So once you set off that kind of chain reaction, it’s hard for people to care whether or not what they’re doing anymore is right or wrong because it’s just so easy and everyone else is doing it.

AC: As the Internet becomes more collaborative with greater access worldwide, not only in terms of more economic classes being able to access it, but also in terms of the speed with which you can do things online, do you see a shift coming where more music will be made online, and how do you envision that happening? Obviously the focus of this question is what the folks over at MixMatchMusic are working on.

SR: Definitely. I think it’s a no-brainer to see that kind of thing on the horizon. There’s been so many successful examples of that type, if not specific collaboration in music these days, at least the mixing of cultural sounds and cross-cultural musical aesthetics. There’s a lot of bands and artists who have a foreign sound mixed with an American pop backbone like MIA or Santogold, who’s American. Postal Service is a great example of a couple of guys who are living states apart mailing each other beats and vocal overdubs and came up with a platinum record. The Internet is going to make things like that so much easier, well it already has, it’s kinda silly to talk about it in the future tense, but for MixMatch and companies that are trying to facilitate that even further, I hope that it’s going to revolutionize the way that strangers are able to make music together, or people who are coming from really various backgrounds collaborate. But I do think that the other element of that is what you’ve seen with Radiohead recently where they commissioned a remix series and offered up the different parts of one song to their fans to fill in a blender and spit out as they wish a new version of the song is a really fascinating example of what the Internet can do these days if they present it to the people in the right way.

AC: Is that a type of remixing project that you could see yourself getting involved in?

SR: Maybe down the line. Right now, I’m too busy and self-absorbed with the next record, not to sound like a jerk, but I’m trying to focus right now on a new batch of work and we just participated in a couple of cover projects already, so we’re kinda coming off of that and refocusing our energies.

AC: To finish up, in terms of refocusing your energies and your efforts, what kind of stuff are you working on now and what is your writing process like in general?

SR: Well this time will be different from the last time. Last time was a solo effort and took a while to build up the songs and having complete control over how they turned out is something that I don’t want to do this time around. It’s different in that this time around, I’m basically coming up with demos or sketches of the songs that I’ve been kicking around and working on since Moonbeams got completed, and I’m in turn giving burned CDs of those to the guys in the band and seeing which ones they respond to and which ones they want to work with and figuring out how we’re going to whittle it down to a workable track listing to pursue for the initial stages of tracking the record, then go from there. Not write all the parts this time, write the parts that I have been coming up with then leave it there and let them add on to it which will make it more of a group effort. So it’ll be interesting, it will be the first time in a while that I’ve done something like that, and I think it will be better because of it.

AC: Now is that process something that is made even more comfortable by the fact that one of the guys you deal with, Aaron Goldman, is someone you’ve been working with musically for quite some time now?

SR: Definitely. He and I went to high school together, and we connect very easily on a lot of levels, and in regards to the songs this time around it’s going to be really fun to see what he comes up with. I know the rest of the guys are going to be coming up with a lot of brilliant stuff, and I’m really excited to step back from the construction of these songs a little bit and really see which direction they end up finding their way.

AC: When can we expect this album… any sort of time table yet?

SR: I think it’ll be middle of next year.

AC: I’ve had one person close to me suggest that you should title it Sunrays.

SR: {laughter}

AC: {more laughter}

SR: I hope you didn’t land any money on that.

AC: No, absolutely not, I didn’t think it was a winner. Scott, we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us over here at Evolving Music. Do you have anything you want to talk about or plug, any upcoming concert appearances or anything you want your fans to know about?

SR: We just did a Huey Lewis cover tune. I recommend people check it out if they want a dose of ’80s nostalgia.

AC: Which one did you cover?

SR: “If This is It.”

AC: Where can they find it?

SR: Ye olde myspace page, www.myspace.com/throwmethestatue.


Copyright © 2007-2009 MixMatchMusic, Ltd. All Rights Reserved