David Byrne Finds New Musical Playmate in St. Vincent

by kel 4. July 2012 16:06

David Byrne and his Talking Heads were, no question, one of the most eccentric and interesting bands of the 1980s. Once the group dissolved in 1991, Byrne went his own way. Or, perhaps, he continued on his way. Even before that, though, Byrne sought collaborative partners in other fascinating artists. Brian Eno was his partner in crime for My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (circa 1979) and again for Everything That Happens Will Happen Today in 2008. Following that release, the two embarked on the Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno Tour.

Another Byrne collaboration found him teaming with choreographer Twyla Tharp in 1981. For this project, Byrne reworked material from his Catherine Wheel release for a ballet. He found himself in a similar situation in 1991 when some of his classical instrumental compositions for a 1988 theatrical production by Robert Wilson found their way onto an official album, The Forest. Then, in 1999, Byrne crafted the score for a Wim Vandekeybus-choreographed piece titled Ultima Vez.

Working with filmmakers has also been a part of the Byrne tradition. Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor found Byrne working with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su on the Academy Award-winning score. Young Adam, True Stories, Stop Making Sense ... all of these collaborative projects are listed among Byrne's accomplishments along with partnerings with Celia Cruz, Fatboy Slim, and others.

All that is to say ... David Byrne plays well with others.

This year, Byrne's latest playmate is Annie Clark, known more commonly as St. Vincent. After scratching the collaborative surface on two prior projects, the quirky pair have been chipping away for more than two years at a song cycle dubbed Love This Giant for some time now and its release is finally coming to pass on September 11 via 4AD and Byrne's Todo Mundo imprint. Of the 12 tunes, 10 were penned in tandem and both artists share in the lead vocal duties.

Tracklist for Love This Giant

1. “Who”
2. “Weekend in the Dust”
3. “Dinner for Two”
4. “Ice Age”
5. “I Am an Ape”
6. “The Forest Awakes”
7. “I Should Watch TV”
8. “Lazarus”
9. “Optimist”
10. “Lightning”
11. “The One Who Broke Your Heart”
12. “Outside of Space & Time”

Recruiting a horn section from the Dap Kings, Antibalas, and others, David Byrne and St. Vincent used the brass tacks to anchor their sound rather than rely on the standard guitar-bass-drums fare. What they got, according to Clark, is “a collaboration I’m truly proud of.” She even went so far as to call Byrne “the pinnacle of who I want to work with." Of course, Byrne didn't get any kind of short stick in the deal, either, as Clark was recently voted the Sexiest Woman in Indie Rock by NME readers

When they strike out on tour this fall, the duo will be supported in kind by a keyboardist, a drummer, and, count 'em, eight horn players. The 24-date trek gets underway on September 15 with Byrne and Clark in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the State Theatre.

After that, Byrne and Clark hit Milwaukee, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and Boston. Then, it's a two-night stand in New York City for Byrne and Clark at the Beacon Theatre. Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Bethesda, Nashville, and Atlanta follow.

Down in Texas, Byrne and Clark play Austin, Houston, and Dallas for a triple-header in the Lonestar State. A hop over to California for five shows lands Byrne and Clark in San Diego first, followed by Santa Barbara, Costa Mesa, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The tour finishes up with three dates in the Pacific Northwest — Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver where things wrap on October 20.



Bon Iver: From Medford to Madrid in Five Short Years

by kel 28. June 2012 13:59

It's hard to believe that Justin Vernon's Bon Iver project originated a mere five years ago. What started as a solo flight has become more of a group effort with Vernon being joined by Sean Carey (drums, vocals, piano), Michael Noyce (vocals, baritone guitar, guitar), and Matthew McCaughan (bass, drums, vocals). That helped solve the problem of replicating the layered vocals for live shows — no long necessary was the audience participation that Vernon encouraged early on.

Within a few months of Bon Iver's July 2007 independent debut of For Emma, Forever Ago, the band had caught the favorable ear of Pitchfork and had landed on the CMJ Music Marathon stage, followed in short order by a deal with Jagjaguwar Records for an official release in the U.S. in early 2008 with 4AD handling Europe come May.

Critics from near and far fell over each other in their attempts to boast about the record. Mojo, Metacritic, Uncut, The Village Voice, Stereogum, Rolling Stone, and others all shouted Bon Iver's praises from their respective rooftops. Film and television placements — the likes of House, The United States of Tara, One Tree Hill, Chuck, Grey's Anatomy, and others — helped push things along,

With the live band fleshed out even further with Rob Moose (violin and guitar) and Mike Lewis (bass), as well as a horn section including Reginald Pace, Colin Stetson, and C.J. Camerieri, Bon Iver hit festivals like Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Coachella, Sasquatch, Glastonbury, South by Southwest, and more.

In 2009, in the midst of all the hullabaloo, Bon Iver issued the Blood Bank EP which is comprised of four tunes that counter For Emma's wintry goodness with a sort of pulsing warmth. Then, as if they needed more street cred, Bon Iver collaborated with St. Vincent on “Roslyn” for the New Moon soundtrack in 2009. On top of that, to gain some truly mainstream recognition, they teamed with Kanye West on a couple of cuts in 2010 — “Lost in the World” and “Monster” from West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

By 2011, it was time for a new release and so was born Bon Iver, Bon Iver via the GOOD Music label. Each song of the cycle represents a place and a coinciding vibe, from “Perth” to “Calgary.” Vernon built the basic tracks and then allowed top-tier session players to fill them out as they would. The result debuted at number two on the Billboard album charts and earned Bon Iver four Grammy Award nominations — Best New Artist, Best Alternative Music Album for Bon Iver, and both Song of the Year and Record of the Year for "Holocene." The group took home trophies in the first two categories topping stellar acts like Radiohead, My Morning Jacket, and Death Cab for Cutie.

As 2012 wears on, Bon Iver has a bunch of tour dates in both Europe and the United States. From early July until mid-August, they will be overseas. Among the cities, Bon Iver plays Hamburg, Cologne, Paris, Luxembourg, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Lyon. Stuttgart hosts Bon Iver to close July, with Vienna, Helsinki, Gothenburg, and Oslo standing as the only dates slated for August.

The U.S. leg kicks off on September with Bon Iver in Providence. Boston, Columbia, Philadelphia, and Cooperstown get Bon Iver over the following five days.

Then comes a four-night stand at Radio City Music Hall as Bon Iver takes New York City by storm September 19-22. After about a month off, it's back to Europe for Vernon and the gang for performances in Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Zurich, Antwerp, Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Manchester, Glasgow, and Dublin, where they wrap up on November 12.

The Palacio Vista Alegre in Madrid, Spain, may be a long way from the cabin in Medford, Wisconsin, where Justin Vernon first visioned Bon Iver, but it's along a natural trajectory for someone so phenomenally talented.



Journey Keeps Their Great Songs Alive for Another Tour

by kel 25. June 2012 10:15

Great songs stand the test of time and can survive — even uplift — the sorriest of singers. But when those songs are built on the back of a great singer in a cool band, replacing said singer can throw the songs' into peril. Imagine the Rolling Stones doing “Satisfaction” or “Brown Sugar” without Mick Jagger. Or even the Bangles putting a voice other than Susanna Hoffs' on “Manic Monday” or “Eternal Flame.”

Still, time and again, rock bands replace their front men and hope no one notices. Some have worked out — think AC/DC, Alice in Chains, and Faith No More. Van Halen did okay bringing in Sammy Hagar to fill the gaping hole left by David Lee Roth ... until Diamond Dave made his return much to the delight of the purists. Same goes for Judas Priest using Tim Owens in Rob Halford's wake — it's just a better band with the original voice.

But some, like INXS, have pretty much missed the mark. Michael Hutchence's charisma can't be replicated. Sublime's replacement of Brad Nowell with Rome Ramirez after Nowell's death even crossed into legal implications, forcing the band to bill themselves as Sublime with Rome.

Another questionable recasting involves Journey. Despite all the best efforts, Steve Perry's soaring voice just can't be touched. Steve Augeri was the initial recruit in 1998 when Perry had to back out of a planned reunion tour due to an injured hip. During a 2006 tour with Def Leppard, Augeri got the boot and took his chronic throat infection with him. (Perry made it look easy, didn't he?)

Jeff Scott Soto served as a temporary fill-in voice for a year. Finally, in late 2007, Arnel Pineda signed on. Guitarist Neal Schon found him on YouTube covering Journey tunes with his band The Zoo. Although the band's first album with him, Revelation, debuted at number five on the Billboard album charts, the Filipino's presence at center stage brought out the racists among the fan base even though the very black Randy Jackson (yes, he of American Idol fame) had played bass with the group for a couple of years in the mid-80s with little backlash.

By most accounts, Pineda has done a decent job filling Perry's shoes. Revelation went platinum and their 2008 supporting tour was one of the highest grossing of the year. Eclipse followed in 2011 and entered the album charts at number 13. And, so, the songs endure, new and old, alike, as Journey carries the torch forward well into the 21st century.

Judge for yourself in Pineda is up to Perry's standards with these comparison performances:

Though next year will mark 40 years since their 1973 founding, Journey is pulling out quite a few stops this year by plotting a tour with Pat Benatar and Loverboy. The trek kicks off on July 21 and hits 24 cities. All three acts are on all but one date; Benatar will not appear in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Among the stops for Journey are San Bernadino, Stateline, and Paso Robles in California. Quite a few state fairs show up on the itinerary — five, actually. In addition to the California Mid-State Fair gig in Paso Robles, Journey hits Indianapolis, Louisville, Des Moines, and Saint Paul for state fairs.

Betwixt and between those performances, the Journey/Benatar/Loverboy tour plays The Gorge outside of Seattle on July 28, Jones Beach in Wantagh on August 10, and Waterfront Park in Bangor on September 29 as just a few of the very cool venues on the slate.

On October 13, West Palm Beach hosts Journey and company for the final show of the tour. No doubt the set lists for all of the concerts will feature such classic Journey tunes as “Don't Stop Believin',” “Open Arms,” “Girl Can't Help It,” and “Send Her My Love” because they are also great songs.



Fiona Apple Breaks Seven-Year Silence with 'The Idler Wheel...'

by kel 24. June 2012 11:07

A week ago on Twitter, LOST and Prometheus writer Damon Lindelof, among others, issued a barrage of tweets under the #BelievableFionaAppleRumors hashtag. Things like “Fiona Apple has a PC” bumped into jokes about the Garden of Eden. Lesser-known Twitter users chimed in with jabs about Fiona's son marrying Chris Martin's daughter, Apple, and the like.

It was all in good fun and all in response to the flurry of press and buzz marking the release of her new album — the succinctly titled The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do —and tour. It seems this song cycle was recorded a number of years ago and languished on the shelves of Sony Music. The Idler Wheel... follows on her last release, Extraordinary Machine, from seven years ago. Apple claims that an abundance of housework — vacuuming and laundry, specifically — keep her too busy to write and record very often. After all, she's only offered up four albums in a career than spans 16 years.

Melancholy, if not outright torment, has always defined Apple's music and The Idler Wheel... is no exception to that rule. American Songwriter used words like “brutal and true” to describe the collection that includes, in fact, at least one brutal truth buried in the tune “Valentine” — Fiona Apple used to cut herself to feel something. In an interview with Interview, she also confessed to biting her lip until it split and scratching her neck until it bled.

Despite — or, perhaps, because of — the darkness, The Idler Wheel... has been garnering glowing reviews as Apple has always been something of a critical darling. In addition to “brutal and true,” descriptors such as exquisite, confessional, temperamental, and eccentric dot the album's reviews.

And her upcoming Fall tour has her legions of fans standing at eager attention. Most certainly, Apple has come a long way since her 1996 debut at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. The shy, awkward 18-year-old has matured into something of a powerhouse, fearless and true. Come September 9, she'll sway any remaining doubters in the crow.

The trek begins with Fiona Apple in San Jose and ends 21 shows later with Apple in Pittsburgh on October 11. In between, she'll return to Austin — where she previewed some songs earlier this year at the South by Southwest Festival. This time, though, Fiona plays Austin City Limits at Moody Theater on September 20.

Among the other stops, Fiona Apple hits San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Oceanside in California, broken up only by a swing out to Las Vegas on September 15. Then it's across the lower regions of the U.S. After Mesa, Austin, and Thackerville, Fiona lands in New Orleans. She'll then jaunt up to North Carolina for two gigs before dipping back into Florida for three.

Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Buffalo host Fiona Apple just prior to her closing in Pittsburgh. Huge swaths of the country remained untouched by this round, including the Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest. It should be safe to assume that if all goes as well as hoped, those markets will get a taste of Apple soon enough.



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