Angst goes in waves, and surely there has been an outpouringof angstabout music recently. People want to pay less and less for music, at the same that it’s becoming more and more important to us via portable listening that allows integration of music and daily life with unprecedented ease. However, Soundsupply wants you to pay for music. Granted, it’s 10 albums for 15 dollars, which is less than one CD was going for in the heyday of the big major label. Still, I can guarantee bands get paid better than $0.06, which is what 10 streams on Spotify will get you. If you’re lucky. When you go buy one of Soundsupply’s bimonthly Drops, you’re paying for hand-picked music from the guys who introduced me to The Felix Culpa (Tim and Eric Mortensen ran Common Cloud Records, which released Commitment all those years ago) instead of ripping off bands. I’ll take that every time.
Tim graciously responded to a request for an e-mail interview, where he expounds on how Soundsupply is doing its thing to help out in the crazy world of the new music industry.
My brother Eric and I started Soundsupply after closing down the record label we had been running for a few years. We wanted it to be easier for bands to be discovered. The old days of buying an album you picked up in a store simply because you liked the cover art are almost over. Soundsupply is our attempt to bring back music discovery through ownership.
2. How do you find/pick bands for Soundsupply?
A lot of the bands we’ve worked with so far have been friends (or friends of friends), which made it easier to get started. Pitching the idea without any evidence that it would work is less difficult if it’s to someone who has slept on your floor when touring.
We choose bands who have enough similarities that there’s a chance that if you like one of the 10 albums in a Drop, you’d probably like most of them. We like to spotlight hard-working bands who tour a lot and are doing something unique.
3. What’s in the current drop?
Drop 3 is our widest variety of artists so far. We’ve got some more well-known bands like Hellogoodbye, The Dear Hunter, The Get Up Kids and Asobi Seksu. There’s some under the radar bands like The Small Cities, Young Statues and Tall Ships, who all NEED to be heard. We’ve got some heavier stuff like Pianos Become The Teeth. Some lighter stuff with Via Audio. And Gobotron continues a trend from Drop 2 of an album made by a member of Manchester Orchestra. There’s also two amazing, potential bonus EPs by Wildlife Control and Bearcat.
4. What is your payment model for consumers?
We try to keep it simple. You can purchase the Drop for $15 and it comes with both MP3 and FLAC formats, or you can purchase a Year Supply, which is the next 6 Drops (or 60 full length albums) for just $75. With the Year subscription, you also get all Bonus releases included and you can download each Drop a day before it goes on sale to the public.
5. How do bands get paid?
Each bands make an as-large-as-possible cut of the purchase price. It’s definitely a deep discount from their normal gain from an album, but given the quantities we deal with in a 10 day period, it’s a good experience for everyone. The main goal is exposure. Each band gains the chance to get their album in the hands (or iPods) of a bunch of music fans looking to discover their new favorite band.
6. How have the previous drops gone?
The first two Drops went really great. The bands we got to include were all fantastic. The biggest thing for us is the community that is starting to develop around the idea of Soundsupply. Anytime someone comments that they can’t wait for the next Drop or that they’re going to see a band on tour that they discovered through downloading from our site, we feel that we’re accomplishing what we set to do.
7. How do you see this business model working in the future? Do you hope that this will affect the industry at large?
We hope to continue introducing new bands and growing the music community around discovery. Anything that helps an artist get their music out on the internet, while also seeing money in their Paypal account is good progress. If it does anything for the industry, I hope it allows bands to do things on their own and make decisions that are best for their art and their careers. I don’t think we’re setting out to disrupt the industry, but if it happens along the way we wouldn’t hate to see it get better.
8. What’s the most important good trend in music right now (other than Soundsupply)?
I think the best thing lately has been when bands embrace technology. The music industry typically isn’t the first onboard for new and inventive things, so when a band releases an iPhone app or live streams their practices, it’s the fans that win. The access a fan can now have to a band can be almost constant. The artists that harness that are the ones that are going to succeed.
9. What’s the most important bad trend? How do you propose we stop it? (We can be anyone from consumers to bands to labels or beyond)
In my opinion, the toughest trend I’ve seen lately is the disconnection between listening to music and supporting a band. With the amazing things that technology brings, it also makes it easier to be passive towards the artists that are creating the music we listen to everyday. In the past, “liking” a band would mean purchasing their album, buying tickets to see them on tour, making a mix to give to friends. All these very active things. Now, you can experience a band by clicking a link on your cell phone. There’s very little investment on the listener that it sometimes means massive disengagement. The solution is that everyone needs to be more creative. Bands need to work harder to create opportunities for listeners to support them. Music fans should be getting more creative, too. I heard some people the other day talking about taking their most listened to artists on Spotify each month and buying a piece of merch from their website. It’s small, but a start?
“Another Circle of Fifths” starts off Michael the Blind‘s Are’s & Els with jaunty fingerpicking and swooping violins, signifying that there will folk. But shortly thereafter, Michael Levasseur (not actually blind, as far as I can tell) starts strumming his slightly distorted guitar. If that wasn’t a tip-off that something slightly out of the ordinary was about to happen, second track “Instead” starts off with a definitively distorted guitar and a snare-heavy, punk-styled drumbeat. The history of folk and rock coming together is indeed long and storied, but in Levasseur’s hands it still sounds interesting and unusual.
Levasseur sounds comfortable in garage rock howl mode and pensive folk mode, and that duality allows his crossover moves to break ankles instead of land flat. “Can’t Stay” is a paranoiac rock’n’roll tune that kicks the guitar autoharp into even higher overdrive for the chorus, while the very next tune (“Metaphor Life”) is a rollicking folk/country tune with fingerpicking and incredible lyrics. There are seven other tunes on the album, but those four encapsulate the diversity of talents that Levasseur possesses. He can sing, he can holler, he can turn phrases, he can rock, he can folk out. His band backs him up with panache. There you have it: a recipe for a good album.
“Who Is She?” busts out some ’90s guitar-rock vibes but maintains Levasseur’s easily recognizable vocal tone to give it character, while “All and More” is a dark rumination on the state of the world. (If I had to grade it, I’d say tht modern life gets about a C- in this song’s estimation.) “Sympathies” is a long, flowing piece that will get the fingerpicking fans out in force. The only real downside is “Have It Out,” which sees Levasseur repeating the title phrase at the top of his lungs 37 times. (I counted.)
From the opening tip to the final parting blow, Are’s and Els is an engaging listen. Fans of folk will find some unexpected twists and turns in the album, and fans of rock may find themselves not disliking folk as much as they usually do. With standouts “Metaphor Life” and “Can’t Stay” keeping the folksters and rockers happy (respectively), there’s not much to knock in Michael the Blind’s effort, and much to praise.
Zula’s “Technocrat Motorist Coping” is all the weirdest moments of Death Cab for Cutie’s work jammed into one song. The slightly psychedelic indie-pop track is oddly endearing and engrossing, as all the parts come together incredibly well. I like!
Guess what! Another Australian band is fantastic! This time it’s Hey Geronimo on a return single, after conquering my psyche with “Why Don’t We Do Something” last November. “Carbon Affair” is a summery slice of hand-clappy, tom-crazy, Vampire Weekend guitar stealing, pop/rock goodness.
Only Starlings, TN could make a song called “(Tonight) I’m Just Looking To Get Laid” into a depressing tune. Combining weeping guitar, aching strings, and Steven Stubbefield’s down-and-out vocal musings, the band manages to do just that. If you’re into Americana, check it; if you’re into seeing how such a hair metal sentiment can go into “tears in my beer” song, also check it.
Bermuda Bonnie’s “Shimmer” is the sort of party jam I love: it has elements of ubiquitous hip-hop and/or house (in this case a persistent, vaguely tribal beat that sounds like you should dance to it) but it takes those things in weird directions that people don’t realize until they’re on the dance floor (in this case, flutes, weird electronic noises that kind of sound like animal/insect noises). Totally cool track.
And it’s not one track, but a bunch of tracks next: Chris Lawhorn over at Run Hundred has put together the top running songs from May. –Stephen Carradini
With summer nearly upon us, there’s a mess of new music bumping in a gym near you. The singles from Usher and Linkin Park’s new albums are out now—along with Pitbull’s contribution to the Men in Black III soundtrack. Also, on the movie tip, Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” returns to the top 10—albeit in a dark, retro remix that works the American Idol veteran into a groove straight out of the Scarface or Drive soundtrack.Lastly, the top 10 is rounded out by trio of collaborations wherein Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, and Cee Lo paired up with Wiz Khalifa, B.o.B., and Slaughterhouse.
Here’s the full list, according to votes placed at Run Hundred–the web’s most popular workout music blog.
To find more workout songs, folks can check out the free database at RunHundred.com. Visitors can browse the song selections there by genre, tempo, and era—to find the music that best fits with their particular workout routine. —Chris Lawhorn
I’m going on my last summer road trip today, so here’s the video for my summer jam, Here We Go Magic’s “How Do I Know?” It includes a ton of sweet dancing, which I am totally on board with.
Cory Branan‘s grim, stark “Survivor Blues” is the exact opposite of the previous video in everything except its gripping quality. I can’t take my eyes or ears off this one. Branan’s album Mutt just came out in May.
Continuing my obsession with all musical Australians, The Griswolds’ Strokes-meets-Generationals indie-rock is plenty helter-skelter and technicolor to make you move after that downer.
The Buddies’ “All the Beer is Gone” is a song that I can hardly imagining existing without a video. Check the garage-rock goodness and see what I mean.
The best stuff I hear always takes the longest to review. When something is good, I can quickly explain why it’s good, compare to similar bands, edit for commas, then send some positive vibes out into the world. When something is great, it’s harder than that. There aren’t as many things to compare it to, for one thing; it’s also harder to explain why they songs are great because the songs often excel because they aren’t doing what other tunes do, lyrically and/or musically.
The Lovely Few has put out two great releases in a row: their full-length The Perseids and a follow-up EP The Orionids. (The namesakes are both meteor showers.) I’ve listened to them largely back-to-back, but they do have individual goals: Orionoids was intended to be the more user-friendly version of the Lovely Few sound that is fleshed out in Perseids. The former was necessary because the latter is a full and complete artistic vision that has few compromises or easy comparisons.
The only things I could think of as touchstones were sadly underappreciated Ithica and a way more artistic Postal Service. What The Lovely Few does could lazily be called electronic indie-pop, but that term also encompasses hyperactive stuff like Matt & Kim and Math the Band that have literally nothing in common with The Lovely Few. But the ideas that fall under the indie-pop umbrella are there: soft digital loops, moving vocal melodies, layers of electronic and organic instruments, strong control of space. The things that differentiate the album from indie-pop: an unusual optimism in minor keys that invokes the wonder of staring into space, flowing instrumentals, chorus-less tunes, liberal use of theremin.
Those instrumentals are important because they signal that the The Perseids is more than just a collection of songs: it’s a full-album experience, meant to be heard as a thing. There are highlight tracks, like gentle opener “Smoke in the Field” and the beautiful “Gorgon,” but those two songs are even better when heard in context. The placement of the ominous, mournful “Intrepid” directly before “Gorgon” accentuate’s the latter’s fluidity and reveals a corner of the tune that could be missed or underappreciated in a standalone listening.
The 11 songs of The Perseids create an elegant yet weighty whole. Even though the songs have a lot of space to let sounds echo in (sometimes literally), they never feel empty or undercooked. The tunes gel, and the mood holds. “Swift-Tuttle” is a glacially slow tune built on pad synths that would be rarely heard if considered on its own (except perhaps by ambient enthusiasts), but in the context of the album it makes perfect sense and pulls its own weight. No track here falters when the whole album is listened to at once.
The Orionids EP is not that much different than The Perseids, but it is different enough that I can see how it would achieve the goal of socializing and contextualizing The Lovely Few’s sound. “Orion” sounds just a nudge removed from the mood of Postal Service’s “This Place is a Prison,” what with the distant drumming and electronic loops. The song is more linear, in somewhat of a verse/chorus/verse structure. “Sci Fi Novels” features an electric guitar with its bass knob turned way up as the basis of the song, while reverent “Hunter” is the tune that can segue perfectly into enjoying The Perseids. (Aside from the :24 closer “Celestial Chord,” which is exactly that; you can run it straight into Perseids opener “Smoke in the Field,” and hardly know the albums have switched.) The one exception to the “knocking the pointy edges off” strategy is the glitchy “Try Again,” which is a weird outlier in many ways.
The Lovely Few’s beautiful music is some of the most enveloping that I’ve heard this year. I get lost inside The Perseids, checking out all the nooks and crannies and little sounds that have been lovingly placed inside it. It’s a fully-realized musical vision that often eschews the sure pop moves for the album consistency ones. I love the sound, I love the albums, and I fully recommend these releases to adventurous listeners who still love full albums.
I don’t listen to a lot of guitar rock. I liked the singles when guitar rock was big in the early ‘00s, but when the crop of “The” bands died down, I was left with a lot of second-rate stuff that didn’t do it for me. So it was much to my surprise when Palace Amusements by The Brixton Riot (check the “the”!) fell into my lap. It’s straight-up guitar rock, but I couldn’t get the songs out of my head. From the catchy opener “Signal to Noise” to the slow-burning “Pinwheel” to the crunchy “Losing Streak,” I just loved it and I couldn’t really explain why. So I went to the source: Jerry Lardieri, vocalist and a guitarist for the band.
I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that the band is composed of long-time friends who just fell into a rhythm after playing together for a while. “When we started out, it was a lot more jangly. When Matt joined the band–he’s a big Husker Du fan–he brought a much louder drum style,” Lardieri said. There is still some jangle to be had, as “Hipster Turns 30” dials back the distorted charge for a mid-tempo tune. But on the whole, the drums and guitars go hard: their attack on “Canvas Shoes” is matched by a passionate vocal performance, while rambunctious performances are posted for both in the country-flavored “Carmelita.”
“ We’re big Wilco fans, from before Wilco got into the experimental stuff. We’re big fans of A.M. and Summerteeth,” explained Lardieri. But through the course of our talk, Lardieri mentioned The Jam, The Buzzcocks, Curtis Mayfield, The Afghan Whigs, Dinosaur Jr. and even Oasis—which gets a humorous shout-out in “Carmelita.”
That track plays a pretty pivotal role in Palace Amusements. The song numerically kicks off the second half of the album, and it’s a big connector track.The powerful “Pinwheel” and wry “Hipster Turns 30” don’t flow neatly into the upbeat rockers “Ocean Avenue” and “Strange Matter,” so “Carmelita” fills the gap. “There was a lot of argument about how to organize the record,” Lardieri said, noting that the band went back and forth with a number of configurations. They each made changes to the order before settling on a “definitive mix,” and it shows: the album flows neatly through moods while keeping an earnest, passionate feel throughout.
It’s detailed touches like that one which ultimately draw me to Palace Amusements: from easter egg lyrics to song order to repeated revisions of the songs (including cutting a whole intro to a tune because it didn’t work in the context of the album), the band put an unusual amount of effort into making the album work. It’s one thing to have great songs, like Brixton Riot does; it’s quite another in this fast-paced media age to thoughtfully, painstakingly, carefully perfect an album.
There’s plenty of great hooks and guitar riffs to be had within the twelve tracks of Palace Amusements, and that was what hooked me. But the members of The Brixton Riot appreciate the album experience, and that’s what keeps me coming back to this satisfying experience.
As a blogger, I’m near-constantly thinking about whether I put something new into the world or whether I’m just adding to the noise. I’ve hosted a compilation before, which included the “Carradini Mix” of a tune (Thanks, Friendly Psychics crew!). I’ve helped out tons of bands, which indirectly helps put new music in the world. But still, I always want to make sure I’m creating instead of broadcasting.
Travis Langworthy, who runs the songwriting contest SpinTunes, will never worry about this. Instead of artists submitting tunes that they’ve already written to SpinTunes, they have to write new ones four times to win the judged contest. There are prompts (write a song using only sounds from your body, write a love song for someone other than your significant other, etc.), there are judges, there are winners and losers. But most of all, there’s a TON of original music on display.
Langworthy has run SpinTunes four times, and the fifth contest is open for entries now. Whether you’re an artist hoping for the honor of being SpinTunes champ (and being a judge in the next SpinTunes!) or a listener wanting to hear some hot-off-the-press tunes, this should be on your mind. It’s a cool way for music to get out into the world. And for, real, this is a song written for Julia Nunes. I mean, it doesn’t get cooler than that.
I was traveling for the better part of six weeks recently, in which I did almost no writing. You’d think that my chops would appreciate a three-fortnight vacation after two years of near-daily use, but I just found that they were less enthusiastic about this reprieve than I expected. A few minutes ago I found myself 400 words into a “review” of Amy Correia‘s excellent You Go Your Way without mentioning her once, but I had linked to an Amy Grant music video (?) and a Malcolm Gladwell piece. No one will ever read that article.
But I hope a whole bunch of people read this one and are inspired to purchase You Go Your Way. Correia has an enveloping voice and a unique take on the singer/songwriter genre, making her 11-song collection riveting listening. She kicks the album off with a rather astonishing three-punch combo of the title track, “Love Changes Everything,” and “Powder Blue Trans Am.”
“You Go Your Way” grooves hard on a staccato piano rhythm, unusual percussion, dramatic strings and sassy alto vocals; Correia arranges the song so that it’s a powerhouse of a tune without resorting to vocal theatrics. “Love Changes Everything” carries over the strings and Correia’s alto, but everything else is different. Correia is plaintive and earnest in vocals and arrangement here, dropping the sassy piano for a gently romantic acoustic guitar. The strings and percussion augment the melodies perfectly, and the song soars to become my favorite on the album. “Powder Blue Trans Am” shows off the character-development/storytelling aspect of Correia’s songwriting, as an acoustic honky-tonk vibe underscores the tale of an aging woman “way past 21” who “can’t get a man, doing everything I can, comin’ round the corner in my powder blue Trans Am.” The details are gripping, and the dramatic vocal performance sells the whole thing perfectly. In three tunes, she’s conquered three distinct sounds. Wow.
Correia spends the rest of the album bouncing through these genres and playing with these sounds. She’s fond of strings (“City Girl,” “Old Habits”) and gospel vibes (“Oh Lord,” “Celli Singing to Us”), which are both things I’m 100% behind. The one lowlight is when she takes her strings and guitar playing into a classical vein on “Rock, Tree, River”; the starkly serious tune doesn’t really fit in the off-the-cuff vibe of the album. That’s not to say that these songs aren’t intricately constructed: Correia just pulls them off with such ease that they feel casual and inviting. “Rock, Tree, River” doesn’t have that vision.
You Go Your Way has a rare spark. The album glides along at its own pace, unfurling interesting characters, insights and melodies along the way. It’s an album of surprises that sounds instantly familiar; I feel like I’ve been listening to it for far longer than I have. Fans of folk, singer/songwriter and strong female voices would do well to check out Amy Correia; I look forward to hearing her make waves in the near future.
I’m showing up late to The Naked and the Famous’ album Passive Me Aggressive You because I agreed with the naysayers who thought “Young Blood” sounded like second-rate Passion Pit. But since I ran across the much more subtle and interesting “Girls Like You” and “Punching In,” I’ve been hooked on the band’s sound. I even like “Young Blood” more, because I know that it’s backed up with nuance, as opposed to cash-in, rip-off glee. Official apology complete.
Bands that can pull off glee and nuance with equal passion are of deep interest to me, which is why TNATF and I Used to Be a Sparrow both have been piquing my interest recently. The duo named I Used to Be a Sparrow hails from Sweden, composed of IC fave Andrea Caccese (Songs for the Sleepwalkers) and Dick Pettersson. Caccese brings thoughtful post-rock/dream-pop influences from his previous work to their debut Luke, while Pettersson contributes an upbeat indie-rock aesthetic reminiscent of Frightened Rabbit. The result is an optimistic, energetic, beautiful album with plenty of room to grow.
The album has a lot of musical touchpoints: the churning post-rock of Sigur Ros has some pull on the sound, while the heavily rhythmic beauty of their lead singer Jonsi’s work figures in (“Lovers on the Moon”). The optimistic mysticism of ’80s U2 (optimysticism?) influences some of the guitar work (“Cambodia,” especially), while the passionate charge of Scott Hutchison’s Frightened Rabbit is unavoidable to mention (“Cambodia,” again). Their more anthemic turns call up Kings of Leon and U2 again.
So is this a derivative mess? No, not at all. The touchstones never devolve into aping another’s sound, because the dream-pop, post-rock and indie-rock ideas are all pulling on each other at the same time. The best example of this is the title track: “Luke” starts off with a wall of squalling guitars and feedback before fading the noise into a dreamy, patterned electronic rhythm and four-part vocal chorus. The background drops out, leaving just the transcendent vocals. It’s an odd tune, but an endearing one, because the vocals are just so good. The song ends, seguing into “Give It Up,” which is an acoustic track of sorts.
The best of the tunes here are idiosyncratic like “Luke.” “Smoke” starts off with a chiming mellophone, introduces some interesting rhythmic patterns, and then augments the construction with a stomping, four-on-the-floor drumbeat. “Lovers on the Moon” builds from an acoustic guitar and distant “ooo” into a unique tune complete with shakers, toms, and screaming guitar. “Give It Up” builds an acoustic track out into a darker mood, again with fitting drumming and evocative guitar.
When I Used to Be a Sparrow pushes the “anthemic” button too often, though, things start to get less easily discernable from each other. “Copenhagen” and “Life is Good” sound a lot like each other; “Hawaii” is not that far off. The songs aren’t bad, but they’re repetitive. (Of the three, “Life is Good” sounds like the original, and the other two the copies.) “Moby Dick,” one of the more memorable vocal melodies on the album, owes a debt to the Passion Pit/The Naked and the Famous school. (Which, I suppose, is a good or bad thing, depending.)
Caccese is starting a habit of doing one-off projects, but I hope this is one that he sticks with. The things that he and Pettersson bring to the table make for a unique blend of nuance, passion and enthusiasm. With some more songwriting under their collective belt, I Used to Be a Sparrow could be something really great. Tunes like “Luke” and “Lovers on the Moon” already prove that their vision is an interesting and unique one. Here’s to hoping they refine and mature it, because I would love to hear more of this.
Growing up on punk bands, I was initially wary of artists that only used their name or used their name plus the word band. (“How uncreative,” I thought. “They don’t even pick a band name.”) Once I fell in love with Damien Jurado, the initial fear began to drop off. I now understand the differences between the three: a named band is an ostensibly equal effort between all players, a “my name band” very clearly spotlights one person but has valuable contributions from other band members that can’t be easily replaced, and a solo artist’s band has largely interchangable instrumentalists. Of course, there are exceptions (The Silver Jews and The Mountain Goats come to mind), but in a perfect world, that’s how it would roll.
The Andrew Luttrell Band is one of those middle type of bands. Luttrell has picked himself out a pretty excellent group, as the unit throws down a tight amalgam of frantic alt-country and Hendrix-esque psychedelia on Paint by Numbers. The 6:30 of opener “Landscape Plains” establishes the sound well: a wide-open, desert-country intro gives way into a traditional country rhythm section–with a Luttrell’s winding guitar solo on top of it. Luttrell’s vision of country is slightly different than the rest of ours, and that’s to listeners’ good. “Sara Sota” and “Sister Goes Bad” are ominous constructions that split the difference between grim country and ripping psych, and they register as some of the most memorable tunes on the album.
Luttrell’s inspired vocal performances help; he can sneer with the best of them, and that only exacerbates the edge inherent in these tunes. “Draggin’ That Line” pushes over into full-on psych mode, but Luttrell’s matter-of-fact, incisive vocal delivery reins in the instrumental enthusiasm. His earnest performances aren’t quite as compelling, but “Landscape Plains” and “Three’s a Crowd” both are improved by passionate but non-angry vox. Ballad mode is out of Luttrell’s vocal comfort zone, though, making “Blink” one of the few low notes on the album.
The Andrew Luttrell Band covers a lot of ground in 10 songs, going from traditional country (“Thursday Morning Two Forty Five”) to glint-in-his-eye alt-country (“Sara Sota”) to full-on psych (“Draggin’ That Line”) to weird sonic interludes (“Abstract Recessionism”) and more. It’s a fun ride, made especially so by the tunes where the band just nails the space between psych and country that few have memorably explored recently. Adventurous listeners, take heed.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.