TORRES knows the darkness. The Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter otherwise known as Mackenzie Scott waits until anything???an idea, an emotion, a memory???gnaws at her, tearing at her fingers and throat until she releases it in song.
Scott escaped the confines of her churning mind in order to find herself by recording Sprinter in the market town of Bridport in Dorset, England; and then at the Bristol studio of Portishead's Adrian Utley. With his guitar riffs and synthesizers lingering in the background like a lowland mist and PJ Harvey's Robert Ellis and Ian Olliver on rhythm???the two fortuitously reuniting 23 years after the release of Dry, and in Scott's 23rd year of living???she crafted a "space cowboy" record. "That's as simply as I can say it," says Scott, who cites inspirations as diverse as Funkadelic and Nirvana, Ray Bradbury and Joan Didion.
"I wanted something that very clearly stemmed from my Southern conservative roots but that sounded futuristic and space-y at the same time." It seems like an odd thing to look for in the picturesque seaside green, rolling hills in the south of England, but Scott had never been there before, and as a stranger in a strange land she found what she was looking for: a lost childhood. Sprinter was recorded in a room that had formerly been used as a children's nursery, which combined with the alien landscape fuels the self-searching that roils TORRES' music.
Following her self-titled debut in 2013, TORRES pushes herself to even noisier extremes on Sprinter, a punishing self-examination of epic spiritual and musical proportions.
Bob Schneider has reigned as a de facto king of the Austin music scene for a couple of decades now, and while no one stays on top forever, the man shows no signs of decay in quality or creativity. Schneider is the city???s genius chameleon, mixing pop, hip-hop, folk and biting humor with essential melodies and bloody brilliant lyrics. His joys and heartbreaks, laid bare in song, help us understand our own.
Schneider has been a recording artist for 25 years, putting out his first record (???Party Till You???re Dead???) in 1991 as frontman for Joe Rockhead, a funk-rock combo in the vein of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That band was followed by his best-known group, Ugly Americans, which toured with the Dave Matthews Band and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Ugly Americans was a kind of alt-rock supergroup, with former members of Cracker, Poi Dog Pondering and Mojo Nixon???s band.
Schneider also fronted a full-on funk ensemble that played around Austin in the late 1990s called The Scabs, at the same time he was establishing himself as a solo artist. His first solo project, ???Songs Sung and Played on Guitar at the Same Time,??? came out in 1998, and he???s gone on to record an almost inconceivably diverse and eclectic array of songs since then, with his work making it onto the soundtracks of seven major motion pictures (and one indie film).
All told, Schneider has been the singer and main songwriter on nearly 30 studio albums, and he has been named Musician of the Year six times at the Austin Music Awards. Considering the renowned strength of the music scene in Austin, that???s saying something. His artistry coupled with his movie-star looks and boyish charm makes it a wonder he???s not a household name around the rest of the country the way he is in Austin.
His prodigious musical output is a result of a songwriting challenge group he started 16 years ago while touring. At first, the challenge was to write one song a day, and the people doing the writing were on the tour bus with him. They???d come up with a title each morning and at the end of the day play the songs they came up with for each other.
The pace of the songwriting challenge has eased up substantially since its beginnings, going to one song a week, but the scope of the participation in the group has widened to include a lot of widely known musicians.
???We???ve had lots of famous folks in the game from time to time, but they usually don???t last very long,??? Schneider says. ???The exception would be Jason Mraz, who has been in the game on and off for six or seven years and is one of the most consistent songwriters in the group. Very talented and will always turn a song in. At the end of the day, though, I really only have the group as a motivation to get me to write a song each week. Otherwise, a month might go by without writing anything and that would be a shame.???
The past few years, Schneider has grouped the songs he???s written in a year under an album title, just to kind of keep track of when they were written. Titles for recent years have included
???Here???s the Deal,??? ???The Ever Increasing Need to Succeed,??? ???Into the Great Unknown??? and ???Mental Problems.??? This year???s theme (and the name of his current concert tour) is ???The Practical Guide to Everything.???
Schneider has a fantastic website where fans can listen to all of the songs from the three five- song ???King Kong Suite??? EPs he released last year, with humorous commentary from Schneider himself between songs. The website also has the 10 videos he created for ???King Kong??? songs using public-domain found footage, including the menacing ???Black Mountain??? video that culls scenes from Francis Ford Coppola???s directorial debut.
The website also offers a chance to stream his regular Monday evening shows at Austin???s Saxon Pub.
???The Saxon Pub shows are unique in the fact that I play a lot of material there that I don???t play anywhere else,??? Schneider explains. ???New stuff that I wrote that week or in the last few weeks. Really old material that we haven???t played in a while. I hardly play any of the stuff that you???ll hear on the road, which is a mix of the best of everything. The best new material alongside the best of my last 20 years of writing songs.???
???He has an almost Dylanesque reputation for keeping things fresh, with shows so different from one another that for years he [has] recorded every show and???[sold] copies for people to purchase right after the show.
???I play a lot of cities twice a year, and I like the fact that a lot of my fans will come see me play every time I come to town, knowing that I???ll be playing material they???ve never seen me perform and might not ever perform again,??? Schneider says. ???I don???t have any of the banter planned either, so that stuff is usually unique to that night as well. It keeps things fresh for me and allows me to play crowd favorites that I???ve been playing for years, but still makes the whole thing feel new overall for me and hopefully for the audience.???
Evan plays the banjo, Taylor plays the guitar and together they slam stages as the power duo, Caamp. The longtime friends have been writing songs since 2012 and have been performing as Caamp since 2015. March 8 of 2016, the duo released their self-titled, self-produced, debut record that has since done more than put them on the map. Their original song "Ohio" charted at #4 on the US Spotify Viral Chart and currently has over 600,000 streams. Caamp is known for their heartfelt sound, and authentic live shows that leave their loyal crowds with hearts pounding.
???Cleromancy??? isn???t a word one normally finds in rock lyrics. Then again, In Spades ??? the forthcoming album by The Afghan Whigs, from which the new song ???Oriole??? hails ??? is defined only by its own mystical inner logic. The term means to divine, in a supernatural manner, a prediction of destiny from the random casting of lots: the throwing of dice, picking a card from a deck. From its evocative cover art to the troubled spirits haunting its halls, In Spades casts a spell that challenges the listener to unpack its dark metaphors and spectral imagery. ???It???s a spooky record,??? notes Greg Dulli, Afghan Whigs??? songwriter and frontman. ???I like that it???s veiled. It???s not a concept album per se, but as I began to assemble it, I saw an arc and followed it. To me it???s about memory ??? in particular, how quickly life and memory can blur together.???
On the one hand, In Spades is as quintessentially Afghan Whigs as anything the group has ever done ??? fulfilling its original mandate to explore the missing link between howling Midwestern punk like Die Kreuzen and H??sker D??, The Temptations??? psychedelic soul symphonies, and the expansive hard rock tapestries of Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. At the same time, this new record continues to push beyond anything in the Whigs??? previous repertoire ??? another trademark, along with the explosive group dynamic captured on the recording.
Indeed, the chemistry of the lineup ??? Dulli, guitarists Dave Rosser and Jon Skibic, drummer Patrick Keeler, multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson, and Whigs co-founder/bassist John Curley ??? set the tone for In Spades??? creation. When it came to follow up the band???s triumphant return to recording ??? Do To the Beast (Sub Pop 2014), which was the band???s first ever Top 40 album, ??? the die was cast. ???This is the first time since Black Love [the Whigs??? 1996 noir masterpiece] that we???ve done a full-blown band album,??? Dulli says. ???As the last tour wound down, Greg and I realized we wanted to keep the momentum going and roll that energy into making a record,??? Curley explains. ???I???m old school in that way. Having a band seasoned in playing together was how we made [classic Whigs albums like] Gentlemen and Congregation and it just felt right.???
In fact, In Spades??? crushing closing track ???Into The Floor??? had actually evolved out of an onstage jam that concluded Whigs fan favorite ???Miles Iz Dead??? every night. ???People would ask all the time why don???t you record that?,??? Dulli says. ???One day we were like, ???Well, why don???t we???? And we nailed it in one take.???
Material continued to come fast and furious. Two months after the Whigs??? 2015 tour concluded, the band members reconvened at Nelson???s studio Marigny Sound in New Orleans; within a week, half of the ten songs that would make In Spades final tracklist were laid down. Something heavy clearly hung in the air. Standout ???Copernicus??? rocks with a thump evoking T. Rex meets Jesus Lizard, while ???Arabian Heights??? exudes the gutbucket exoticism of Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti writ large, driven by Keeler???s bravura, muscularly tribal cadences. ???Rick [Nelson, who engineered the album] got incredible drum sounds, and what Patrick does on that song is a master class in drumming,??? Dulli says. ???It was like watching a Formula One racer move through the gears. And the combination of Rosser???s Southern grease and Skibic???s guitar acrobatics kept astounding me. Skibic is a master of atmosphere: the sounds he makes on ???Oriole??? are like a cosmic smoke machine.???
The Afghan Whigs??? soul side also rises to new heights on In Spades, largely inspired by the lush productions of R&B genius Norman Whitfield for The Temptations and Undisputed Truth. Throughout his oeuvre, Dulli has employed horn sections to tantalizing effect since 1965, the 1998 swan song LP from the Whigs??? first incarnation ??? and yes, that???s a young Kamasi Washington playing on ???Esta Noche??? off of Dulli???s post-Whigs outfit The Twilight Singers??? 2003 opus Blackberry Belle. However, on In Spades he truly harnesses their soul power on songs like ???Toy Automatic.??? ???I brought the horns in on ???Toy Automatic??? for emotional devastation,??? Dulli explains. ???The horns pulling those long lines gave me so much power: when they come in, the song takes off, and I sing with everything I have. It might be the most unbridled vocal I???ve ever done. Every record I have a favorite child, and ???Toy Automatic??? is that here.
In Spades also reveals a new, brutalist minimalism to Dulli???s wordplay: lines like ???Don???t you cum when they come for me??? and ???Taste your fear/They rely on volunteers??? (both from ???Arabian Heights???) succinctly distill the vivid, paranoiac eroticism he???s become famed for. ???Greg???s reached a place where he can now say more with less,??? Curley says. ???The lyrics stand on their own as written, even on the page, separate from the song.??? A renowned lyricist, here Dulli revels in the play of phonetics, letting the sounds lead to imagistic, often surreal wordplay, like the provocative couplets enlivening ???Copernicus???: ???Listen in the distance/As the sky begins to fall/Raining down like crystalline/Apocalypse in thrall.???
According to Dulli, his recent lyrical obsessions reflect the period spent ???writing these songs alongside some of the most peculiar upheavals in history??? ??? both personal and global. Mortality was never far from his mind: ???I Got Lost??? was written in the wake of Dulli learning that longtime collaborator Dave Rosser had been diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer. As well, Dulli found himself profoundly affected by the recent passing of many of the icons that inspired him to make music in the first place. ???It was a year of unrelenting death,??? he says. ???The reaper was hungry in 2016. Prince???s passing perhaps affected me the most. He was my North Star. Watching him upped my quality control, and opened my eyes to the absolute joy and necessity of self-evolution.???
As such, while tracks like ???Light As a Feather??? exude the rhythmic tension and psychosexual aura of signature Whigs numbers like ???John the Baptist,??? other songs fearlessly enter completely uncharted waters. ???The way the album sounded as it took direction was a surprise, but then with Greg, it always is,??? says Curley.
In Spades in fact features some of Dulli???s catchiest material yet ??? yet pointedly eschews simple verse-chorus-verse structures for ambitious arrangements and soundscapes laced with irresistible hooks, riffs, and textures. On ???Arabian Heights,??? Rosser thrillingly mirrors Dulli???s vocal melody with winsome slide guitar; elsewhere, ???Into the Floor??? suggests ???The Boys of Summer??? chopped and screwed with shoegaze???s lysergic sway. Most startling, though, prove the innovations of widescreen piano ballad ???I Got Lost??? and especially of album opener ???Birdland,??? with its jazzy, syncopated changes and Jimmy Scott-influenced vocal melodies.
In name and aesthetic alike, ???Birdland??? seems to pay homage the iconic New York jazz club that provided a crucial venue for greats like Charlie Parker and Lester Young. However, its title actually serves as a literal reference to a neighborhood in Ross, Ohio where Dulli went to school in his youth, so named because all the streets are evocatively named after birds: Finch, Cardinal, Oriole, and so on. ???Birdland??? commences In Spades with the line ???I was a child,??? placing the listener firmly in primal psychological territory. It???s a zone that Dulli has explored previously: ???If I Were Going??? off Gentlemen refers to a book of the same name that piqued his childhood imagination to other worlds, and Do To the Beast explored this theme as well. In Spades, however, goes even further, probing the unconscious self to its fullest metaphysical extent. ???There???s a difference between nostalgia and connecting with your past,??? Dulli notes. ???For the last few years, I???ve been in touch with the younger me: I clearly don???t want to get too far away from that kid. I had a lucid dream about my childhood: I was watching myself as a boy in Birdland, playing basketball with my friends. I knew exactly where I was, and when I woke up from that dream, I wrote ???Oriole.??? I thought a lot, too, about these distinct memories of when I used to ride my bike through a field near the river. I would see a place I didn???t understand, or know where it was ??? but I???m in that place now. I was here before I got here; I was already waiting for me.???
The joys, sorrows, and upheavals of innocence and experience echo throughout In Spades: it powerfully documents where The Afghan Whigs have been, and where they might go next. For Dulli and Curley, it???s a journey that has spanned decades ??? from their origins as one of the first Sub Pop acts to be signed from outside the label???s Pacific Northwest base up through the present day, and beyond. Dulli notes they were barely in their twenties when they first started the band, and yet here they are, fulfilling dreams long held and frequently realized. ???Having a break from the Whigs helped me remember what made it so rewarding,??? Curley continues. ???When we broke up, we were burnt out and ground down, but I never stopped being friends with Greg. Over the course of a lifetime, there are constants, and there???s also change. You see who???s dropped off the vine ??? who???s going in reverse, and who???s still by your side. It???s interesting to see where life takes you, and where it doesn???t. That???s the journey and it hasn???t stopped.???
RL Grime is a distinct voice in a sea of monotony. He has found a way to conquer the electronic space without compromising his identity, and therefor evokes an unrelenting independence in a world where independence is the utmost rarity. His live show has been celebrated as "an unparalleled force" and has graced the biggest festival stages across the world (Coachella - LA, Lollapalooza - Buenos Aires, STORM - Shanghai etc) With only 1 album out, over 100 million plays on his songs, rave reviews and magazine covers, he has quickly become the darling of the dance world. And at 25 years old, with his next LP on the way, he is on the verge of becoming a household name.
Mutemath or energetically stylized as MUTEMATH on artwork, initially named MATH, were officially formed in 2003 after Paul Meany and Darren King spent two years collaborating and sharing ideas on various pieces they were working on. The pair recruited Greg Hill and Roy Mitchell-C??rdenas to help record a demo in New Orleans, and Meany took the resulting tracks to friend and producer Tedd T. Between the two of them, it was decided to set up an independent label through which Mutemath could release their material, and so Teleprompt Records was born.
Mutemath's sound is, in some ways, an extension of that of Earthsuit's, since all the Mutemath members (apart from Greg Hill) were members of that group. Though they only ever released one full-length commercial album, Earthsuit mixed genres such as rock, reggae, funk, jazz and electronica. Mutemath take this blend a step further and aim for a more experimental and atmospheric sound, with fans dubbing their style as electro-alt rock, incorporating a strong rhymthic component, as well as featuring Meany's infamous keytar and a home-made theremin-inspired guitar. The band has been quoted as saying that they do not write with any conscious thought of how their music will translate to the stage, however, this hasn't stopped Mutemath's live shows becoming renowned for their energy and live improvisation.
In April 2011, the band announced on their website that Greg Hill left the band in October 2010.