Keyboardist Matt Johnson and drummer Kim Schifino are the driving force behind the musical perpetual energy machine that is Matt and Kim. The two came together in 2004 while attending the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and sessions for their debut album began two years later after a spring tour with Meneguar. Featuring vocals from both members, the self-titled album was released by the I Heart Comix label in fall 2006, and several festival appearances (including stints at Lollapalooza and the Siren Music Festival) kept the band's profile high in 2007. Matt and Kim continued touring throughout the following years, taking a brief break to record material for their sophomore album, Grand, which appeared in early 2009 on their new label Fader and cracked the Billboard 200 at number 165. Sidewalks followed one year later and, helped by a video that saw the pair stripping down to their birthday suits in the streets of New York City, charted much higher, peaking at number 30. Their fourth album, Lightning, was self-produced by the band again and saw the light of day in November of 2012. A year later the duo released an album of remixes from Lightning titled, naturally enough, Lightning Remixes. For their next record, New Glow, which was slated for release in early 2015, the duo moved to Harvest Records. ~ MacKenzie Wilson
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For over twenty years, Marc Maron has been writing and performing raw, honest and thought-provoking comedy for print, stage, radio, online and television. A legend in the stand-up community, Maron has appeared on HBO, Letterman, Leno, Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Real Time with Bill Maher, John Oliver's New York Stand-Up, The Green Room and two Comedy Central Presents specials. He has appeared on Conan O'Brien more than any other comedian.
On the small screen, Maron's critically acclaimed half hour scripted series, Maron was just renewed for a third season by IFC. The show was created, written, and produced by Maron and he also directed episodes in season 2. The first season of Maron can currently be found on Netflix.
Maron's first book based on his solo show, The Jerusalem Syndrome: My Life as a Reluctant Messiah, is available on Amazon.com. Most recently, Maron has penned a collection of essays titled Attempting Normal which was released by Spiegel and Grau in 2013 and made The New York Times' Best Seller list. His first three CDs, Not Sold Out, Tickets Still Available and Final Engagement are comedy cult classics, while his most recent album, This Has To Be Funny (Comedy Central Records), which was recorded live in Brooklyn, was named #1 Comedy Album of 2011 by LaughSpin.com and named in The AV Club's Best Comedy Albums of 2011. Marc released his newest special, Thinky Pain, on Netflix in 2013 and as an album this year.
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A band whose music has matured from pop-punk to emo to indie rock, Tigers Jaw have earned a growing following for their melodic but insistent music and emotionally powerful lyrics. Tigers Jaw were formed in 2005 in Scranton, Pennsylvania by guitarist and vocalist Adam McIlwee and guitarist and vocalist Ben Walsh. The two began working up material and recruited bassist Dennis Mishko and drummer Mike May; a keyboard player dropped out before the group's first show, and through mutual friends, Brianna Collins was invited to join the lineup. Several months later, Mike May left the band, and Pat Brier took over on drums, solidifying the band's membership. In 2006, Tigers Jaw recorded their first album, Belongs to the Dead, on a portable recording rig in an attic where the band rehearsed; the album was released by Summersteps Records, and in 2008, the band went into the studio with producer and engineer Joe Loftus to cut their second full-length, simply titled Tigers Jaw, for Photobooth Records. Tigers Jaw's popularity began to spread, despite the group's touring opportunities being limited by the members' academic commitments, and in 2010, they signed with Run for Cover Records, who brought out their third album, Two Worlds. (Run for Cover would also reissue the band's first two albums.) A split EP with the group Balance & Composure was also released the same year, and Tigers Jaw would release split singles with like-minded bands the Sidekicks, Tiny Empires, and Code Orange over the next few years. In 2013, Tigers Jaw released a new single, "Hum" b/w "Cool," but the group soon made the announcement that Adam McIlwee, Dennis Mishko, and Pat Brier were leaving the lineup, and the band was going on hiatus. While many believed Tigers Jaw was breaking up, Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins made it clear they were keeping the group together, and they set out on a tour with the help of guest musicians Derrick Sherman (guitar), Andrew Fisher (bass), and James Fisher (drums). McIlwee, Mishko, and Brier agreed to rejoin Tigers Jaw in the studio to complete their fourth album, and Charmer was released in the spring of 2014. ~ Mark Deming
Spirited and quirky Cincinnati, Ohio-based indie rockers Walk the Moon formed in the late 2000s around the talents of Nicholas Petricca, Kevin Ray, Sean Waugaman, and Eli Maiman. After independently releasing their 2010 debut album, I Want! I Want!, the band signed on with Brooklyn, New York-based boutique management company Mick Management and began work on its follow-up LP with producer/mixer/songwriter Ben Allen at Atlanta, Georgia's Doppler Studios. The resulting eponymous sophomore outing arrived in 2012 on RCA Records. The following year saw the release of the Tightrope EP, and in 2014 the band issued its third long-player (and major-label debut), Talking Is Hard via RCA. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Formed in New Orleans, Louisiana, Royal Teeth are an indie pop band whose effervescent sound captures the exuberance of youth. The sextet, made up of singers Gary Larsen and Nora Patterson, guitarist Stevie Billeaud, bassist Joshua Wells, keyboard player Andrew Poe, and drummer Josh Hefner, met while playing in different bands around New Orleans before finally coming together in 2010. With a soaring sound that seems to exude positivity, the band made their debut in 2011 with the EP Act Naturally. After signing with Dangerbird Records, Royal Teeth made their full-length debut in 2013 with Glow. ~ Gregory Heaney
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Formed in 2010 around the talents of Michael Vincze, David Applebaum, Spencer Trent, Matt Di Panni, Josh Hogan, Andy Warren, Colin Dieden, and Katie Earl, Los Angeles-based musical collective the Mowgli's blend the Laurel Canyon retro-folk of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros with the quirky indie pop of bands like Fun. and Grouplove. Steeped in the rootsy West Coast pop, folk, and country traditions of bands like the Byrds and the Beach Boys, but able to hold their own amongst more expansive, stadium-ready indie rockers like Arcade Fire and the aforementioned Sharpe, the Mowgli's released their full-length studio debut, Sound the Drum, along with an EP, Love's Not Dead, in 2012. In 2013, the Mowgli's returned with their sophomore album, Waiting for the Dawn. ~ James Christopher Monger
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First establishing himself as an influential poet, and then as an award-winning screenwriter/actor, Saul Williams then went on to establish himself as an MC. His approach to MC'ing, though, wasn't exactly in line with the traditional school of hip-hop. His rhymes weren't really rhymes but rather his poetry delivered in a frenzied spoken word manner that was more rhythmic than alliterative. His first major recording was a collaboration with KRS-One, "Ocean Within," which appeared on the soundtrack to Slam, the award-winning film he not only co-wrote but also starred in. Around this same time in the late '90s, he began collaborating with other musicians, one of the more notable and impressive being the title track to drum'n'bass producer Krust's Coded Language album. These one-off performances, along with the attention that Williams garnered thanks to Slam, led to a deal with Rick Rubin's American Recordings. In late 2001, the long-awaited and much-hyped Williams solo debut album, Amethyst Rock Star, hit the streets. The album featured a full-scale band and Rubin's production, with Williams' manic vocals taking the fore. It wasn't a straight-ahead rap album, more rock-rap in the style of Rage Against the Machine than anything. Critical opinion wavered, though Williams indeed seemed to impress many; he was not only invited to the 2001 Detroit Electronic Music Festival but also found himself to be a popular concert draw in Europe. The 2003 release of Not in My Name on Synchronic found Williams being remixed by Coldcut and DJ Spooky. His 2004 self-titled release appeared on the Fader label. Three years later he would return with The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust, an album recorded with Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and initially offered as a free download from Reznor's website. The album was released on CD in 2008. Williams continued to tour and collaborate with artists from all over the globe. He eventually signed to Sony's Columbia imprint in 2010. He recorded Volcanic Sunlight -- his debut for the label -- in Paris with renowned producer Renaud Letang and engineer Thomas Moulin. The album was released in November of 2011. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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With a sound that's as exuberant as it is infectious, Athens, Georgia dance-pop quartet Reptar have been scuffing up dancefloors since they formed in 2008. Featuring the talents of Andrew McFarland, Ryan Engelberger, Graham Ulicny, and William Kennedy, the band brings danceable electronic rock into the modern era with a sound that evokes the classic synth-drenched funk of Prince and densely layered dance-pop of bands like Passion Pit. The band toured for a couple years, delivering buzzworthy performances at showcases like South by Southwest, before bringing the party to the masses with its debut EP, Oblangle Fizz Ya'll, in 2011. Reptar joined forces with producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Washed Out) for their full-length debut, Body Faucet, which arrived the following May on Vagrant. ~ Gregory Heaney
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After nearly a decade of making a name for himself singing other people's songs, virtuosic guitarist and worship leader Lincoln Brewster stepped out of his comfort zone with Today Is the Day, his fifth Integrity Music album. Brewster always knew how to write his own material, but somehow that output always took a backseat to his rollicking reading of praise standards, including high-energy takes on "Lord I Lift Your Name on High," "Shout to the Lord," and "Everlasting God." But Brewster is a glorified covers artist no more: Today Is the Day is his tour de force, his vindication after years of conforming to youth-worship stereotypes. Only one song attests to that past, a freewheeling rendition of Hillsong United's "Salvation Is Here." Everything else marks a fresh start for Brewster -- an opportunity to display the breadth of his instincts. Though unwaveringly worship-centric from start to finish, Brewster stretches beyond the confines of CCM-geared praise music into the realms of rock & roll ("Let Your Glory Shine"), blues ("Arms of My Savior"), gospel-rock ("Give Him Praise"), and even John Mayer-esque alternative pop ("This Love"). Some of the approaches are more populist, like the arena rock of "God You Reign" or the radio-readiness of the title track, but these centrist moves are meant to serve as pacesetters, bringing balance to a disc that, on the whole, reveals that praise & worship need not play it safe to remain worshipful. By drawing outside the lines while preserving the vertical spirit of worship, Brewster has proven with Today Is the Day that music that points heavenward can venture outside the church walls and still be respected for what it is: good music. ~ Andree Farias
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Ariel Pink is a Los Angeles-based one-man band. His lo-fi, Baroque music was first discovered and then distributed by indie group Animal Collective, who began releasing volumes of Ariel Pink home recordings on their Paw Tracks label. In 2008, Pink formed a new band with keyboardist/guitarist/backing vocalist Kenny Gilmore, drummer/vocalist/guitarist Jimi Hey, and guitarist Cole M. Greif-Neill, who became known as Haunted Graffiti. Drummer Aaron Sperske later replaced Jimi Hey.
Ariel Pink was born Ariel Marcus Rosenberg in Los Angeles on June 24, 1978. By age 10 he was writing songs. His early influences were pop acts such as Hall & Oates, Michael Jackson, 10cc, Fleetwood Mac, and David Bowie. After a stint studying visual art at the California Institute of the Arts, Pink switched his artistic focus to songcraft for good, recording over 500 songs for a vault's worth of music. In 2003, while attending an Animal Collective show, he passed a disc of his recordings on to the band via future Graffiti drummer Hey. The group soon began releasing Pink material on their Paw Tracks imprint. First up was 2004's warped The Doldrums, which gained Pink both critical acclaim and a cult following. Worn Copy (2005) and 2006's House Arrest followed. After the Paw Tracks releases, Pink emptied his backlog of recordings on various limited-edition/low-profile releases: Lover Boy in 2006; Scared Famous and Underground in 2007, and the compilation Oddities Sodomies, Vol. 1 in 2008. As the lo-fi movement became more fashionable and gained popularity, Pink's influence grew. He signed with indie label 4AD late in 2009 and, the next year, released his first album for it, Before Today -- his highest-fidelity recording -- as a four-piece band. It's Pink's highest-selling effort to date. In 2011, Pink released the 16-minute song "Witchhunt Suite for WWIII," which was previously featured on 2007's tour-only album YAS DuDette, as a single to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He also reteamed with R. Stevie Moore on the double album Ku Klux Glam, which appeared early in 2012. In August of that year, the third Haunted Graffiti album, Mature Themes, arrived, boasting a darker, more eclectic approach that spanned '60s bubblegum homages and a cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson's 1979 soul-pop song "Baby." In May 2013, Human Ear Music reissued Thrash and Burn, a 94-minute long collection of musique concrete pieces Pink recorded in 1998 (the label had issued the set as a cassette-only release in 2006). The double album Pom Pom found Pink returning to his solo moniker and featured songs co-written with Kim Fowley. ~ Vincent Thomas
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Luis Vasquez never intended for The Soft Moon to reach the public's ears; for him, music has always been about self-actualization rather than self- aggrandizement. Nevertheless, the bleak, hushed sounds he created years ago in his small Oakland apartment bubbled to the surface and 2010 saw his debut LP, The Soft Moon, released on Captured Tracks rise to critical acclaim. Pitchfork's 8.1 review stated that Vasquez made "oblivion seems like an enticing prospect" and, indeed, listeners were immediately drawn into his murky musical wasteland, swathed in the moody atmospheres of jagged dark wave and wayfaring post-punk. For them, and for Vasquez, there was no turning back. The Total Decay EP and Zeros emerged soon after, and now Vasquez returns with The Soft Moon's most introspective and focused album to date: Deeper.
Following live line-up changes and a lull in the The Soft Moon's constant touring schedule, the year 2013 found Luis Vasquez lost in the void. Though he fatalistically stated that 2012's Zeros would be the last album where he was the sole songwriter, Vasquez realized that The Soft Moon has always been one man's vision. Over time, it's been the one place where Vasquez can express himself, totally and singularly, on his own terms.
Thus, in July of 2013, Vasquez decamped from Oakland, CA to Venice, Italy, unsure of where The Soft Moon would land. While Zeros was written and recorded between long days on the road, Deeper was begat from an almost primal urge to recoil from the world and experience total solitude. During the writing process, Vasquez pushed himself to discover the reality and nightmare of living with yourself, in entirely foreign surroundings with nothing and no one to fall back on.
Stepping back and letting inspiration fall where it may, Vasquez only had one goal in mind for his third album: to pen his most emotional record yet. Between frequent visits to Berlin, Vasquez retreated to Venice's Hate Studios, located in the mountains near electronic guru and spiritual anchor Giorgio Moroder's hometown.
At Hate, he worked for almost a year with producer Maurizio Baggio to piece together Deeper, only completing the album in August 2014. While maintaining the stark sonic formula so indicative of The Soft Moon's music -- that bass that reeks of chorus, those unrelenting, mechanized beats, that wailing synthesizer and those eerily, angular guitar lines that worm into your ears and never leave --
Baggio also worked to refine the album's gothic palette, leaving Vasquez to concentrate more intensely on songwriting and singing than ever before:
"I've never worked so closely with someone before. Working with Maurizio felt right and I completely opened up to him during the entire process. I finally felt the urge to express myself more verbally with this record and I was able to focus more on songwriting rather than just experimenting with soundscapes."
The voice of The Soft Moon has never been more clear and honest than it is on this record. With eerie, immersive tracks like the dogged "Far" and slow, beautifully melancholic "Wasting" (the first track written for Deeper), the album is a penetrating portrait of Vasquez as he wrestles thoughts of suicide, vulnerability and what it means to heal. By facing the most hopeless parts of himself without illusion and putting his past demons to bed, the creation of Deeper was an intense personal exploration of existence for Vasquez -- old wounds were forcibly opened, deep anger and paranoia were manipulated into song -- and he did not emerge unchanged. Deeper may have delivered Vasquez back to the waking world, but it willingly drags us further into The Soft Moon's dark, euphonic universe once more.
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Venomous Maximus is a Metal band from Houston, TX. The sound combines intense, unabashed metal riffing that locks into heavy rock grooves featuring interjected dual leads and surprisingly darkened atmospheres. Add to it the distinctive voice of towering front man Gregg Higgins and his unorthodox, unsettling tone, and unholy sinister laugh.
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On February 3rd, the San Francisco based guitar-drum duo Two Gallants are set to release their 5th studio album, We Are Undone, on ATO Records. While singer and guitarist Adam Stephens and drummer Tyson Vogel have stayed true to the two-person format since their acclaimed 2004 debut, The Throes, their sound has evolved considerably over the intervening years. Following 2012's The Bloom and the Blight, We Are Undone is the band's second release on ATO. Thematically, the album ranges from songs that attempt to make sense of the dramatically shifting social landscape of their home town, to the illusion of authenticity, impending environmental collapse, and romantic estrangement. Sonically, the thrash blues of songs such as "We Are Undone" and "Some Trouble" is balanced by the austerity of ballads such as "My Man Go" and "There's So Much I Don't Know."