Moving from Sonic Youth-like art punk to eclectic pop over the course of their decades-long career, Blonde Redhead remained one of indie rock's most creative acts. The band formed in 1993 after Japanese art students Kazu Makino and Maki Takahashi randomly met Italian twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace at an Italian restaurant in New York. (The name was taken from a song by the '80s no wave band DNA.) With Makino and Amedeo on guitars and vocals, Simone on drums, and Takahashi on bass, the band's chaotic, artistic rock caught the attention of Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, who produced and released the band's debut album, Blonde Redhead, on his Smells Like Records label. Shortly after the album's release, Takahashi left the band. The remaining members continued as a trio, releasing a second album, La Mia Vita Violenta, on Shelley's label in 1995.
For their 1997 release, Fake Can Be Just as Good, recorded for Touch & Go, the trio was joined by guest bass player Vern Rumsey from Unwound. By 1998, the band eliminated bass and scaled back to guitars, drums, and vocals for In an Expression of the Inexpressible. Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, and the Melodie Citronique EP followed two years later. The band's first for 4AD, Misery Is a Butterfly, was released in spring 2004. For 2007's 23, the group opted for a mix of dream pop and delicate electronic textures. Three years later, Blonde Redhead delivered Penny Sparkle, a more stripped-down, even more electronic-leaning set of songs the band recorded in New York and Stockholm with Alan Moulder, Van Rivers, and the Subliminal Kid. In 2014, Blonde Redhead returned with Barragán, featuring production from Drew Brown (Beck, Stephen Malkmus, Radiohead). ~ Tracy Frey
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Those who have followed mewithoutYou's music in recent years will likely see their new, self-released Ten Stories as a return to old form. Their previous record, It's All Crazy!, etc. had been a drastic and intentional departure. Aaron Weiss' manic, unorthodox hollering was nowhere to be found, deliberately giving way to a more conventional melodic vocal approach. The explosive, schizophrenic drumming and swarthy, tempestuous low end (Rickie Mazzotta and Greg Jehanian, respectively) were accordingly subdued, relegated largely to keeping basic time. Chris Kleinberg had jumped ship for med school, leaving Mike Weiss reluctantly alone on electric guitar, feeling like a session player embellishing his little brother's folk songs, no longer part of a coherent unit.
In short, due largely to their singer's creative wanderlust, the band had entirely forsaken whatever they'd become; in an effort to spurn the familiar, they had grown unrecognizable, alienating no shortage of fans in the process. Those fans, and whoever has come to miss what was most distinct about mewithoutYou, will welcome Ten Stories as the rightful follow-up to their 2006 release, Brother/Sister, and 2004's Catch for Us the Foxes. To be sure, the band hasn't altogether renounced the psychedelic-rustic-pop elements of It's All Crazy!; rather, they have renounced the scrupulous control inherent to its renunciation. Simply put, they seem to have let go of the steering wheel, and are back to writing music, well, ‘naturally.'
"They're not quite children's songs," vocalist Aaron Weiss explains, "with not quite coherent storylines, but there is an overarching and kind of child-like narrative: a circus train crashes in 19th century Montana. Some animals escape, others stay in their cages. The traveling menagerie re-rails, stays its course, and struggles to fill in the missing attractions. Meanwhile, freed from institutionalized life, the rice-cake rabbit takes to a peripatetic fortune teller, the monastic walrus is tempted by a hedonistic owl, a fish falls for an eggplant. Other songs describe a contemplative Fox's prophetic dream, a starving Bear's vision of a martyred saint, and an indecisive Peacock & gnostic Tiger learning the virtues of megalomania from an ego-annihilated Potter Wasp."
This bizarre, character-heavy lyrical approach let the band revisit their perennial leitmotifs of romantic disaster & quasi-mystical speculation, without the self-pity/indulgence of direct autobiography. Reflecting recent, devastating personal losses, practically every song addresses our inevitable dying, apparently easier to face when projected onto anthropomorphic animals. This zoological ventriloquist act allows them to explore abstract philosophical themes and draw on finespun literary sources with a profound goofiness that deflates whatever danger of pretentiousness. The story-teller elements are obscure enough to avoid the short-lived rock opera aesthetic, leaving most plot details and potential moralizing to the imagination; and this without succumbing to insincerity/irony, overt relativism, or outright nonsense.
The ever-odd Daniel Smith's production and veteran Brad Wood's mixing combine to improve upon the best sonic elements of the band's past releases. Musically, Ten Stories is a mix of the brazen noisiness, hypnotic soundscapes, and derelict shouting of their old songs, the dead-level melody and extravagant orchestration of recent years, and a newfound reliance on ethereal harmonies, courtesy en masse of female guest vocalists (most notably, Paramore's Hayley Williams). Whimsically morbid as an Edward Gorey alphabet, simultaneously self-abnegating and -aggrandizing, defying simplistic musical or intellectual categorization, mewithoutYou's new collection of songs is the fabulously vivid outgrowth of an ongoing religious and irreverent eclecticism, a ‘decade-plus narcissistic scramble for artistic affirmation' (their words), and the even longer-running and peculiar friendship of four not-so-younggentlemen from nowhere in particular, apparently at the height of their mutual affection.
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Formerly of the band Hail Social, Davye Hawke makes wistful electronic pop as Memory Tapes. After his previous band ended, Hawke began composing two different types of music under two different names: borrowing the title of a Hawkwind bootleg, he issued dance-oriented instrumentals under the Weird Tapes moniker, and atmospheric pieces with vocals as Memory Cassette. He released music from both projects for free, including Memory Cassette's 2008 The Hiss We Missed EP. After signing to the Acephale and Something in Construction labels, he released one more EP, Rewind While Sleeping, as Memory Cassette. In 2009, he combined his projects' names and approaches into Memory Tapes for the critically acclaimed Bicycle single, which was released that July. It was the first taste of Memory Tapes' debut album Seek Magic, which appeared that September. When he began working on Seek Magic's follow-up, Hawke imagined a blend of psychedelic and girl group music; in January 2011, "Today Is Our Life" heralded the slower, trippier sound of that July's Player Piano. In 2012, as chillwave music started to come into its own and expand, so did Hawke, and with his third album Grace/Confusion he attempted to bridge prog rock and atmospheric synth pop to carve out a unique niche for himself in the genre. ~ Heather Phares
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Superjoint Ritual was an American heavy metal band formed by Phil Anselmo, Joe Fazzio, and Jimmy Bower in the early 1990s, later to be joined by Hank Williams III, and Kevin Bond. Their style can be considered a mix of Pantera's style of groove metal and hardcore punk. A small trace of black metal can be heard too. Bands like Venom, Slayer, Celtic Frost, Voivod, and Darkthrone have been noted as influences also. The name Superjoint Ritual comes from a lyric in the Darkthrone song "The Pagan Winter". According to Bower, Anselmo wrote 70-80% of the group's music.
Despite their early '90s establishment, it wasn't until a decade later, after the folding of Pantera, that the group recorded any albums. It was then that Superjoint Ritual garnered significant TV exposure on programs such as MTV2's Headbangers Ball and Fuse TV'sUranium. However, the group's time in the spotlight would prove short lived. A dispute between Anselmo and Fazzio led to the band's eventual split in late 2004, which was confirmed by both Hank Williams III and Jimmy Bower.
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Son Lux is a post-rock project helmed by Ryan Lott with releases on Anticon and Joyful Noise. The youngest of three children, Lott spent much of his childhood moving from place to place. Born in Colorado in 1979, he lived in California and Connecticut before landing in Atlanta for high school. He had been playing classical piano since age six; he also played the guitar, and in Georgia he picked up the drums and began learning pop and jazz piano as well. While studying composition and piano at Indiana University, Lott first explored writing for dance choreography. He continued in that vein not only after graduation when he was living in Cleveland -- where, as the recipient of an arts grant, he was able to spend time working on his own music and its interaction with other media -- but also after he moved to New York City in 2007 for a job as a composer at an ad agency. There he continued his collaborations with the Gina Gibney Dance Company, an all-female modern dance group.
During this same time Lott also decided to pursue his solo work, using tiny samples and his own voice to make ethereal, nocturnal music that drew both from hip-hop rhythms and experimental rock and electronica arrangements, and decided to call himself Son Lux. He won a songwriting competition that gave him the opportunity to perform (for the first time under his new moniker) at the Festival of Faith & Music in Grand Rapids, Michigan, opening for artists like Emmylou Harris and Sufjan Stevens, and soon he was playing in New York City and remixing songs by artists like Beirut and Castanets. Signed to Anticon, Son Lux released his debut album, At War with Walls and Mazes, in March of 2008. For his second album, Lott had to completely upend his normally slow and careful creative process after being invited to participate in the 2011 RPM Challenge, in which musicians attempt to completely write and record an album in the month of February. This was a major change for him, as At War with Walls and Mazes took four years to create, but Lott stepped up to the challenge, releasing We Are Rising in 2011. Two years later, Lott returned with the third Son Lux studio album, Lanterns. In 2014, Lott appeared on the album Sisyphus, a collaboration with Sufjan Stevens, and Serengeti; he released an EP, Alternate Worlds, featuring contributions from New Zealand singer/songwriter Lorde. ~ Marisa Brown
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Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas are a wide-ranging, high-energy rock & roll band from Detroit. Their mercurial, often gritty sound reflects all of the Motor City's musical traditions as well as some outside its geographical and multicultural boundaries. In its thoroughly modern, driving mix are traces of Motown, tough vintage R&B, Latin grooves, raucous surf, neo-psych, roots rock, cinema jazz, and retro '60s girl group pop. Hernandez is the first-generation American daughter of a Mexican mother and Cuban father. She grew up working in her family's bakery and restaurant, singing in choirs, performing in plays and musicals in school, and soaking up musical influences from the area and her family's heritage. While her first love was design, music was soon to follow.
She briefly attended Columbia College Chicago, where she studied design and music. She returned to Detroit, where she began writing her own songs and designing her clothes and even her own performance space above her family's business. Hernandez began playing solo as a singer/songwriter. After accepting a gig at Detroit's annual Dally in the Alley festival she decided to form a band, and the Deltas were born: Hernandez, rhythm guitar, keyboards, synths, and percussion; Gordon Smith, guitar; Ben Sturley, bass; and Steve Stetson, drums. Their first EP, Live at the Magic Bag, appeared in 2009, followed by Weird Looking Women in Too Many Clothes in 2010. The band toured nationally, playing showcases at SXSW and at Bonnaroo in 2012. In 2013 they signed to Richard Gotteher's Instant Music label and recorded the Demons EP in El Paso and at home with veteran Mexico City producer and musician Milo Froideval and an expanded cast of contributors including horn players and backing vocalists. The set was released in November of that year. ~ Thom Jurek
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Death Grips is a difficult yet enthralling project, where the glitched-out productions of blastbeat drummer Zach Hill and keyboardist Andy Morin accent the violently yelled raps of vocalist Stefan Burnett. The experimental hip-hop project started out in Sacramento, California, and put out its first mixtape, Exmilitary, in 2011. Despite the album's raging intensity, it became a favorite among critics upon its release. Following a signing to Epic, Death Grips released The Money Store in 2012. The label planned on delivering the follow-up album, No Love Deep Web, that same year, but when Death Grips released it themselves as a free download, the group was let go from Epic. An official release of No Love Deep Web appeared in 2013 on the group's own imprint, Third Worlds just as the band released their third album, Government Plates, as a free download. ~ Jason Lymangrover
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A seasoned drummer who has performed in various countries, Vik Montemayor is now the mind and soul behind George West. As producer of George West, Montemayor extends his passion for music to new ventures fueling his tracks with hints of abstract yet solid drum patterns. The diversity of growing up between a small town outside of Monterrey, Mexico and Houston, TX has influenced his music, creating an eclectic mix.
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It's been a good few years for the relentlessly hard working six piece rock band from Durham, NC, whose sophomore album After It All will be coming out on April 7, 2015. Since the release of their debut album Carry The Fire in the summer of 2012 and 2013's follow-up EP Chasing Twisters, Delta Rae has been profiled everywhere from NPR and Time to Forbes. Rolling Stone proclaimed that "if Fleetwood Mac came up in North Carolina, they might resemble Delta Rae." VH1 hand selected them for their "You Oughta Know" Artist Of The Month program, and they performed not once, but twice on both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Conan. Live is where Delta Rae truly flourish, having spent the last year and a half playing to sold out venues from coast to coast, even sharing the stage with First Lady Michelle Obama when they performed during a Democratic rally at UNC Chapel Hill. They've played pretty much every festival under the sun, including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and Voodoo, and are excited to be hitting the road again this spring.
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The Lonely Biscuits formed in the Fall of 2011 in a dorm room at Belmont University. Founding members Grady Wenrich (Vocals/Guitar) and Sam Gidley (Drums) were random roommates when they started making music together the first week of school. John Paterini (Vocals/Guitar) came into the picture in September after hearing some of the tunes from across the hall. Two months later, Nick Byrd (Bass) joined the group, rounding out the band's sound and solidifying their unique style.
The band began gaining traction over the past few years while releasing four EPs, two of which reached the top of the Billboards Heatseaker's Charts, and playing different college shows across the country to their loyal and growing fan base. During their sophomore year in school, the band was nominated for and won the 2013 MTV Woodie Award for College Band of the Year and were then invited to play the Woodies at SXSW along with artists including Macklemore, Alt –J, Tegan and Sara, Jake Bugg, and more.
Over the years, the band has become known for it's high energy live show, which they have been evolving and focusing on since day one. In 2014, the band played their first headlining tour where they found large and often sold out crowds in every city. They also were able to score great slots at Hangout Music and Arts Festival, Bonnaroo, and Austin City Limits and brought crowds of thousands to their small side stages.
As far as new material, The Lonely Biscuits have been spending a lot more time writing and focusing on making sure everything they release is the best they can create. Pulling new inspirations from the Nashville rock scene and other upcoming bands, the band has been evolving their style and with this new music, they finally feel that they are exactly where they want to be. "We always wanted our recorded music to capture the raw energy and feeling that is in our live show, and we feel that we have accomplished that with our new songs."
The band is currently writing their debut album and are between a few different labels as they plan to graduate this year and take their music to the next level. They plan to do a North American headlining tour this summer along with other festival dates and are preparing for what is going to come next.
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Tanlines -- singer/guitarist Eric Emm and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Cohen -- will release their sophomore album, Highlights, on May 19th, 2015. Produced by the band and Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, Highlights began in a basement in Pittsburgh and ended in a church in Brooklyn. It trades world music sounds (as heard through YouTube) for a more alive, realized approach, the result of Emm and Cohen wanting to break from their ‘two guys, one screen' writing style. The transition came suddenly: when they sat down to write Highlights in Emm's childhood home in Pittsburgh, their computer blew up, quite literally, "with a burst of sparks and clouds of smoke. Whatever had just happened felt like some kind of omen," says Emm.
Stranded without the samples and sounds that had previously defined their musical palette, they spent the rest of the week in Pittsburgh writing songs the old-fashioned way -- with a guitar and drums. They found themselves falling back on facility they'd gained with their instruments over the previous two years of touring, and an alternative, simpler process evolved, one that set the tone for Highlights immediately.
Influenced by their time spent on the road touring Mixed Emotions, primarily in the States, they reached for the sounds of 90's New York hip-hop drums, Detroit techno synths, and lots and lots of guitars. The results of which would lead them to call this their 'American album', "though it may only sound that way to us," says Emm. Instead, let's just call Highlights "the album where things started making more sense." Whereas before the band had wandered their way through foreign musical landscapes and the existential ‘what am I doing with my life' wasteland of post-youth, Highlights finds the band settled and at home, comfortable in their own skin.
Indeed, one listen to Highlights shows this change in subject matter has brought Tanlines to a more evolved, sophisticated place. Themes of love and desire replace questions of the unknown. Partnerships are celebrated while relationships grow and change and give way to safe-distance reflections on the past without the trappings of nostalgia.
Between working in Los Angeles with producer Patrick Ford, and their hometown of New York City with Chris Taylor, they eventually settled on the ten songs that make up the album. Taylor brought them to record in a 100 year-old church; the unfamiliar settings and Taylor's energy and enthusiasm pushed the band to new heights. Most noticeable are Emm's powerful vocals, broadcast from the balcony of the empty church, and thankfully, captured warmly and beautifully by Taylor across the whole album.
In many ways, the resulting music feels like a renaissance for a band that began in 2008 as a one-off remix project. The upbeat dancefloor-ready Tanlines lives on in songs like driving set opener "Pieces", the dream-inspired "Slipping Away", and the seductive "Bad Situations", but the colors and emotional range of the album go much deeper than ever before, with Emm's vocals and lyrics, at once personal and observational, taking center stage on songs like "Running Still" and "Invisible Ways."
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In recent years, STRFKR has transformed from solely representing the work of principal songwriter Josh Hodges into a trio rounded out by bassist Shawn Glassford and drummer Keil Corcoran.
After the release of their 3rd proper album, Miracle Mile, in 2013, the band rose to new heights, with highlights including: debuting on the Billboard Top 200 for the first time, making their network television debut and playing Coachella Music Festival in 2014. As well, their single "While I'm Alive" was featured in the hit movie The Fault In Our Stars and was also included on the film's soundtrack.
The past two years have also seen STRFKR's live show grow to become one of the most talked about live performances of any band on the road—a non-stop dance party that features costume changes, streamer guns, astronauts, aliens, and sumo wrestlers in addition to a giant inflatable raft that the band and their dancers ride through their sweat drenched crowds.
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Musician and horror aficionado Joseph Poole embarked on his career in music in 1992 with Maniac Spider Trash. He left the group in 1996 and formed Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13 with fellow "Spider Trashers" Abby Normal and Sicko Zero. The band managed to release five full-length albums and six EPs over the span of five years before calling it quits in 2003 as a result of Poole's rising success with his Murderdolls side project. In 2004, Poole formed Wednesday 13, releasing the EP 6 Years, 6 Feet Under the Influence. It was followed in 2005 by the full-length Transylvania 90210: Songs of Death, Dying, and the Dead. In May 2006, Wednesday 13 put out a six-CD/DVD box set called Little Box of Horrors, followed by Fang Bang later that September. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Milo Greene represents an impressive evolution in many ways. What began as a collection of friends is now a four-year musical partnership about to release their second album. In 2009, Andrew Heringer, Robbie Arnett and Marlana Sheetz began making music together and added Graham Fink into the mix after moving to Los Angeles shortly thereafter. As the group made their cinematic debut album, released in 2012, Milo Greene shifted into a fully tangible being, a force created by four distinct songwriters and musicians whose collaboration consistently remains its center.
Last summer, after touring extensively and playing festivals like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Outside Lands in support of Milo Greene, the musicians came home and began writing new music. The band wrote separately, each constructing their own ideas, bringing in varied, individual influences, putting the pieces together as a collective. There was a unified focus on percussion and on creating more up-tempo tracks, specifically ones with rhythmic, dance-inducing grooves.
The four songwriters came in with a wealth of material, eventually whittling 17 songs down to the 13 that appear on Control. There was an unintentional through line in the songs as many of the band members were grappling with the end of relationships and with what it means to come of age in a band on the road. The dark, angst-tinged subject matter is juxtaposed with the buoyant sensibility in the music itself, building a dynamic tension between what is said and how it is conveyed. The title of the album represents a spectrum of ideas, reflecting the give and take of control and the shared sense of control within Milo Greene itself.
In the studio, the musicians wanted to ensure that each singer's individual voice had its moment. Where the four voices had always combined on Milo Greene, Control reveals each musician alone and how they all come together as one. "On The Fence," the album's debut single, reflects this aesthetic as the singers play off each other over the soaring, propulsive indie pop melody. "White Lies" relies on a soulful groove, its surging chorus driven by the song's percussive elements, while "Lie To Me" balances a thumping beat with a lush, orchestral melody. These songs represent a more recent facet of Milo Greene's ongoing evolution: Control combines the haunting, cinematic expanse of their debut with new, energized elements, urging a more upbeat tone overall. Milo Greene has become something else entirely.
"This feels like a new beginning in some ways," Robbie says. "We learned so much on the first album – about how to tour, about songwriting, about being a band. Now we've had these experiences and everything feels like it's aligning more completely. We've grown with our experiences. We're at a place right now where it feels new and it's exciting to see the next stage of Milo Greene."