Season 3 Artists

Season 3 Artists

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers

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It is not New Year’s, and it is not a political convention. It is neither a prime time game-show, nor a music video countdown, bloated with fame and sponsorship. What you are hearing is the love for a music. It is the unbridled outcry of support for a song that sings to the heart, that dances with the soul. The jubilation is in the theaters, the bars, the music clubs, the festivals. The love is for a band.

The songs are honest: just chords with real voices singing real melodies. But, the heart and the energy with which they are sung, is really why people are talking, and why so many sing along.

They are a reality in a world of entertainment built with smoke and mirrors, and when they play, the common man can break the mirrors and blow the smoke away, so that all that’s left behind is the unwavering beauty of the songs. That’s the commotion, that’s the celebration, and wherever The Avett Brothers are tonight, that’s what you’ll find.

The Avett Brothers
Scott Avett – Vocals, Banjo, Kick Drum
Seth Avett – Vocals, Guitar, High-Hat
Bob Crawford – Vocals, Bass
Paul Defiglia – Keyboard, Organ
Joe Kwon – Cello
Mike Marsh – Drums

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Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper

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Over an incredible thirty-year career, Cyndi Lauper has consistently managed to inspire, provoke, and surprise. With her astonishing four-octave voice and inimitable style, she was one of the earliest female icons to harness MTV’s influence to become a global star. Her eleven studio albums have racked up worldwide sales of over 50 million and earned 14 Grammy nominations (the most recent just three years ago.) The timeless songs on those albums, many of which were cowritten by Cyndi, have been covered by dozens of artists, from Miles Davis to Katy Perry.

Music has been Cyndi’s abiding passion ever since she was a young girl growing up in Ozone Park, Queens. At nine, she got her first guitar, which she named Athena; at eleven, she wrote her first song, a protest number called “Sitting By The Wayside” whose lyrics are sadly lost to time. As a teenager in the early 70s, she immersed herself in the thriving New York music scene. By day, she and Athena would take the subway from Queens to the West Village to busk for pocket money; at night, she’d catch shows by Blondie and the Ramones. By the time she was 19, she’d been recruited as a lead singer by the New York band Doc West, singing cover songs by Jefferson Airplane and Led Zeppelin in dives around Long Island. When she moved on to another cover band called Flyer, word spread among New York clubgoers of the girl with the extraordinary voice, which could do things other human voices could not. After meeting songwriter John Turi in 1978, Cyndi ditched Flyer, and she and Turi formed Blue Angel, a rockabilly outfit that soon caught the ear of A&R folk at Polydor. Two years later, they found themselves opening for the Kinks. Preeminent rock critic Robert Christgau wrote of the album, “the selling point of this uptown power pop is Cyndi Lauper’s zaftig voice.”

Other labels began to notice, and in 1983, Cyndi landed a solo record deal that would change her life. She’s So Unusual, released the following year, made her instantly famous and landed a Grammy for Best New Artist. It also earned her the distinction of being the first female artist in history to have four Top Ten singles from one album— “Time After Time,” “All Through The Night,” and “She-Bop” (which received bonus publicity after it made the list of the Parents Music Resource Center’s ‘Filthy Fifteen,” alongside tracks like “Into The Coven” by Mercyful Fate.)
And of course, it featured the now-classic empowerment anthem “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” Originally penned by New Wave artist Robert Hazard, the song was told from a man’s point of view (one verse involved a woman coming into his room at night in search of “fun” as he brags to his father they are the fortunate ones.) Cyndi changed up the arrangements and rewrote it from a female perspective. With celebrated lines such as “I want to be the one to walk in the sun,” it became a rallying cry for women, and resonates with just as much force today as it did three decades ago.

The songs on that album have endured for decades, and will for decades to come: Last year, Rolling Stone anointed She’s So Unusual as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

True Colors followed in 1986, which went multi-platinum, spun off three more high-charting singles, and garnered two more Grammy nominations. Cyndi continued to grow artistically with her third album, A Night To Remember (its all-star roster included legendary producer Phil Ramone, and Eric Clapton dropping by to help out on guitar.) The Top Ten single from that album, “I Drove All Night” won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. 1993’s Hatful of Stars tackled subjects such as homophobia and racism; 1997’s Sisters of Avalon addressed similarly substantial themes, reflecting her urge to delve more deeply into issues that moved her, such as the AIDS crisis. Avalon earned a pile of stellar reviews, among them People magazine, which declared it. “90s nourishment for body and soul. Lauper sets a scene, makes us care, gives us hope.”

Then–typically— Cyndi changed direction. This fearlessly innovative, forward-thinking artist has always balked at being pigeonholed. Fittingly, during the past decade, she released a quartet of amazingly disparate albums: 2002’s At Last, a collection of classic covers was nominated for yet another Grammy for arranging (Cyndi has been a skilled arranger since the days of She’s So Unusual.) She then pivoted with The Body Acoustic, accompanied largely by dulcimer, which she taught herself to play. Just when fans thought she had fully embraced quieter material, she hit them with 2008’s Bring Ya To The Brink, a raucous dance album with a glittering roster of cutting-edge producers, from Axwell to Basement Jaxx.

During that period, the longtime social activist also found time to spearheaded the True Colors tour in 2007 and 2008, which benefited LGBT charities and featured a wide variety of artists, from the B-52s to Debbie Harry.

Cyndi finished off the decade with another bombshell, in the form of her eleventh studio album— the triumphant Memphis Blues, which boasted some of the blues’ biggest names, from B.B. King to Charlie Musselwhite. It had been a longtime dream of hers to explore traditional blues—the “musical Holy Grail,” according to Cyndi, and the root of all rock and jazz. Despite the fact that she was completely new to the genre, the album debuted on the Billboard Blues Album Chart at No. 1—and remained there for a stunning fourteen weeks.

But more surprises, as usual, were to follow. After writing her autobiography, a New York Times bestseller, Cyndi opted to follow the path of rockers from Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day to Elton John and tackle Broadway. In 2011, her friend Harvey Fierstein phoned her up to float the idea of writing the score for Kinky Boots, an adaptation of a British film he was doing. She had never written for Broadway, but this is a woman who runs toward a challenge. Fast forward to this past June, where a tearful Cyndi accepted a Tony for Best Original Score—the first time in history a woman without a writing partner received the honor. (She has won an Emmy, too, so all that’s missing at this point is an Oscar.)

Today, Cyndi Lauper continues to influence a huge number of musicians, from Lady Gaga to the Arcade Fire (who performed with her at the New Orleans JazzFest) to superfan Nicki Minaj, who burst into tears when she met her idol. Her fans have only grown through the years: during Cyndi’s latest sold-out tour, she was gratified to look out over the audience and see three, and even four, generations enjoying her music together. As one of the most accomplished and versatile artists in music, her legacy is assured. But these days, Cyndi’s much too busy to sit around and ponder her place in history. As she puts it, “Even though I complain about how busy my manager keeps me all the time, after all these years, I’m still singing, I’m still viable. I really do live a magical life.”

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After scoring success with their chart topping single “Tongue Tied” and spending over
two years on the road supporting their 2011 debut Never Trust A Happy Song, Grouplove took
less than a week’s break before beginning work on their new album, Spreading Rumours. Where
most bands might opt to take more time off, the LA-based quintet found themselves invigorated
and inspired by the energy shared with their fans and, perhaps more importantly, with each other
whenever they took the stage.

“On the first album, we probably only had about 10 shows under our belt, explains
drummer Ryan Rabin. “This time, we had over 600 and were playing as well as we could
individually and as a group. We wanted to transpose that energy into the studio.”
“And whatever that intangible is that happens when we get in the studio or on stage, we
just become one unit. That’s what’s special about it,” continues bassist Sean Gadd.
For two months, the entire band – Christian Zucconi (vocals, guitar), Hannah Hooper
(vocals, keys), Sean Gadd (bass, vocals), Andrew Wessen (guitar, vocals) and Ryan Rabin
(drums) – lived together in a Hollywood Hills house, complete with an adjacent studio and its
own musical legacy.

“It was built in the 60’s by [Motown founder] Berry Gordy,” relates Zucconi. “The
Jackson 5 would come to town and stay there. Diana Ross would stay there. And right up the
hill was this old house that the Beatles rented in ’64. So it was amazing in a historical context to
be in such an artistically rich place.”

This new living arrangement also allowed them to be both continually creative and highly
productive. At any given moment, Gadd might be experimenting with some bass lines in the
studio, while Hooper and Zucconi worked on lyrics in the living room, and Wessen sketched out
guitar parts on the patio. As with all of Grouplove’s recordings, Rabin took the helm as the
album’s producer. The band would jam all night, working on songs until the sun came up. After
sleeping for just a few hours, they’d go straight into the studio to record while the ideas and
excitement were still fresh and inspired.

“I think that’s why the songs pop and have that energy,” says Wessen. “Because they
were recorded with that excitement. We tracked almost everything live and in as few takes as
possible, before it became ‘take number 400’ and the soul was gone. We captured that youthful
exuberance and that spontaneity, and it’s impossible to do without giving yourself fully to the
album like we did.””We woke up every day and lived and breathed the album,” recalls Zucconi. “It never
ended. The album absolutely consumed us. Even after a day’s work in the studio, we would
retire into the house and, still, all we could do was talk about the new music.”

While the chemistry between the band members and even the house itself were conducive
to Grouplove’s creative output, it was also a source of tension that made its way into the songs.
“We’re really deep friends, but going straight from two years in tour bus to living
together in a single house felt like being trapped sometimes,” explains Hooper. “It was
liberating and suffocating at the same time. We put ourselves in this situation where we were all
stuck together and there really was nowhere else to go. For me, that’s why the whole album
straddles this line of being really fun but also having a feeling of hectic rebellion.”

That dichotomy can be found throughout Spreading Rumours in both its lyrics and sound.
“Ways To Go” disguises a journey of thoughtful self-discovery – full of questions and doubt – in
a sparkly package of synth-based pop. Thematically similar but much darker sonically, opening
track “I’m With You” starts the album with slowly building piano arpeggios, evoking an almost
melancholic feel before breaking into an eerie soundscape steered by driving rhythms and a
melodic bassline. The progressive “Borderlines and Aliens” is a display of the band’s musicality
and heaviest song to date. The schizophrenic “Shark Attack” takes you on a wildly psychedelic
ride, incorporating steel drums into its sunny verses before exploding into an electronic infused
chorus. There’s a vulnerability displayed in the folk-tinged “Sit Still,” a song that the band cites
as one of the album’s many examples of how the anxiety of living in the house translated directly
into a song. And later on, “Raspberry” charges into a soulful groove, combining wavering
rhythms and soaring guitar trills in an unabashed nod to the Pixies.

The band’s own origin is a story of spontaneity, fate, and self-discovery, reflecting many
of the album’s themes. On a whim, after knowing each other for a matter of days, Zucconi, a
struggling musician in New York City, accompanied Hooper – an accomplished painter who
remains responsible for all of the band’s visual art – to an arts colony on the island of Crete.
Drawn to one another by a shared creative spirit, the couple met Angelenos Wessen and Rabin,
and Gadd, the band’s lone Brit. An impromptu reunion in Los Angeles a year later resulted in
recording sessions that became their 2010 self-released EP. Response to the music was
overwhelmingly positive – completely unexpectedly, the five friends became a band. Released in
2011, Grouplove’s full-length debut Never Trust a Happy Song served as a buoyant and beautiful
introduction to the world, wound together by irresistible choruses, radiant harmonies, and cheery
bits of pop-rock perfection. Buoyed by a trio of singles “Colours,” “Itchin’ On A Photograph,”
and the aforementioned “Tongue Tied,” Grouplove became a mainstay on Alternative radio.
Meanwhile, live in concert, the band was harnessing a growing energy. And as their popularity
grew, it paid service to this success by building up a live show that would come to define
Grouplove as a band and result in back-to-back, sold-out headlining runs in the U.S. and high
profile sets at the biggest music festivals in the world.

Spreading Rumours sees Grouplove elevating from a band of friends jangling together
music and words without much direction into focused artists making a beautiful album together –
standing behind one vision and a sound that is uniquely their own. And, when it came time to
determine the album’s final track listing, they went back to what inspired the new songs in the
first place – which songs would convey the spirit and vitality of the band live.

“People who come out to our shows expect a certain level of energy; that craziness that we bring in our performances and in our songs,” says Zucconi. “You just see the reaction of people coming out and you see how much they need it.”

“We all need it,” he continues. “That’s how the five of us are going to feel happiest in our lives.
It’s survival by song.”

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James Blunt

James Blunt

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‘I have never been a beautiful boy.
Never liked the sound of my own voice.
I wasn’t cool when I was in my teens,
I never slept, but I did have dreams.’ – Bones

Moon Landing is the fourth album by James Blunt. It’s an album about dreams, longing, first love. About looking in the mirror and seeing the boy you were, the man you are – and learning to be comfortable with that, flaws and all. About getting back to basics and rediscovering the power of music to communicate emotion directly and honestly, without too much polish or complication.

‘There’s just something romantic, old-school and lonely about the moon landings,’ he explains. ‘A nostalgic memory of something huge that we can hardly believe we once achieved, and for some sad reason, can’t achieve again – like first love.’

We all think we know about James Blunt, of course. But those who’ve been off-planet, here’s a recap on the story so far. Born in an army hospital in Tidworth, Wiltshire. Educated in Harrow, then Bristol. Signed up for four years in the Army. Ended up serving six, in Canada, Kosovo and then London. Spotted playing at the South by Southwest Music Festival, signed up by Linda Perry to her new label Custard. Recorded an album, Back To Bedlam, with Tom Rockrock in LA. Released it to universal indifference. And then the third single, You’re Beautiful, came out.

And so there it was: one big hit, two more albums, three world tours, four number one singles, five Grammy nods (plus two BRITS, two Ivor Novellos and a host of MTV awards), a six-piece band, seven whole years on the road, eight kiss and tells, and then the numbers spiral out of control: nearly 17m albums and 20 million singles sold worldwide. Plus over 5m Facebook ‘likes’, 250m plays on Spotify and an astonishing 257m YouTube views.

What do those figures mean? Some amazing experiences – some youthful excesses. The chance to use his high profile to do some good, supporting charities such as Medicines Sans Frontiers and Help For Heroes (including three foiled attempts to play in Afghanistan for serving soldiers), and to draw attention to the issue of climate change.

But to a lad who picked up a guitar and wrote his first song at 14, wrote his university dissertation on the music industry, took that guitar to the war in Kosovo, and always dreamed of making music, what success has meant, more than anything, is freedom. ‘What it allowed me to do was go on tour with a band. That was absolutely amazing, and so I recorded our second album, All The Lost Souls, with that band, and make a deeper, richer album. Then I recorded the third album, Some Kind Of Trouble, in the UK with lots of musicians and a fancy studio, and enjoyed making a more upbeat album. I picked up an electric guitar and did the kind of songs that I’d heard as a teenager but couldn’t replicate on my acoustic. It was fun playing catch-up, exploring all the things I wanted to do and be – all the other musicians I wanted to sound like.’

But for Moon Landing, he wanted to go back to sounding… like himself. Initial sessions saw him working with a real musician’s producer – Martin Terefe, and these recordings have an undeniable freedom and celebration in their sound. ‘I was playing a lot of ukulele – mainly because it makes me look bigger,’ says James. ‘We got on so well we could easily have done a whole album together and more.’ But then James chose to strip it back further – he went back to LA, staying with his friend Carrie Fisher as he did for the first album (Back To Bedlam was her title suggestion, and the vocals for Goodbye My Lover were recorded in her bathroom). He also returned to producer Tom Rothrock, and to working with just the two of them in the studio, occasionally bringing in selected musicians from the Back To Bedlam sessions to fill in where James’ own skills weren’t enough. ‘I’m a useless drummer,’ he says cheerfully. ‘And I didn’t play the bass much, either. But I can find my way round almost anything else.’

It was meeting between two old friends, making music for more than just the joy of it – but for the need. ‘Tom and I just sat in his studio for a few months, feeling our way. He has an array of old vintage instruments, and I went around playing them one at a time. It’s a much more personal album, between him and me: about us finding where it all started, and where we are now. I’m not trying to prove anything, I haven’t been trying to second-guess the audience or over-thinking things. It’s just me alone in a sound-booth, looking through the glass at Tom, trying to express myself simply and honestly. This is the album I would have recorded, perhaps, if Back To Bedlam hadn’t sold anything.’

The result is a collection of songs that are raw, direct, and emotionally honest. There are songs of searing self-examination (Always Hate Me, The Only One), and others that sound like soundtracks for films not yet made, like Miss America – a song inspired by the tragic death of Whitney Houston, to explore the idea of how fame makes us feel like we know that artist personally. From unabashed declarations of love (the jaunty Postcards, the yearning Blue On Blue), to what must be one of the most tender break-up songs ever, the achingly lovely Face The Sun, Moon Landing is a thing of pure, understated beauty. And, as an introduction, and like all of James Blunt’s best work, the melody for first single ‘Bonfire Heart’ will quickly etch itself into your consciousness, and you’ll soon be humming along to the sweetly reflective verses, and anthemic chorus.

You can never go back to the start, but some things you can rediscover. ‘In my teens, I found freedom in music. It’s a way of dreaming, a way to express who you are to the audience, but just as importantly, to yourself. It has taken me a while to understand it, to feel it again – and start dreaming again.’

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Christina Perri

Christina Perri

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Atlantic recording artist Christina Perri has announced the release of her hugely anticipated new single. “HUMAN” arrives today at iTunes and all leading digital retailers. You can hear the song here:
Produced by Martin Johnson (Avril Lavigne, Gavin Degraw), “HUMAN” heralds Perri’s eagerly awaited new album slated for release in Spring ‘14. The as-yet-untitled album – which follows the acclaimed singer/songwriter’s breakthrough 2011 debut, “lovestrong.” – was recorded over the past year, with further production from Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, One Direction), John Hill (P!nk, Mayer Hawthorne, Santigold), and Butch Walker (Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco). The album was mixed by GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer Manny Marroquin (Kanye West, John Legend, Alicia Keys).

Perri will introduce her fans to “HUMAN” with a special release day live performance today on the nationally syndicated Queen Latifah Show, (check local listings)

Named as iTunes’ “Breakthrough Pop Artist of 2011,” Perri earned critical applause and an increasingly fervent fan following with her extraordinary debut, “lovestrong.” Highlighted by the 3x-platinum certified smash, “Jar of Hearts,” the album – produced by Grammy-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli (White Stripes, My Morning Jacket) – entered the SoundScan/Billboard 200 among the top 5 upon initial release, while also proving an unqualified international sensation with top 5 success in Australia and Ireland as well as top 10 sales in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Perri followed “lovestrong.” with the RIAA 4x-platinum certified hit single, “A Thousand Years,” exclusively featured on Summit Entertainment/Chop Shop/Atlantic’s “THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 1 & 2– ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACKS.” The track was a multi-format radio favorite, with top 10 airplay at Hot AC and top 25 spins at CHR/Top 40 outlets nationwide.

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Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker

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Legendary rock drummer, Ginger Baker, renowned for his work with Cream and Blind Faith, is returning to the UK for a jazz fusion tour. Teaming up with tenor saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth, and African percussionist Abass Dodoo, the quartet will be performing as ‘Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion’.

You can expect progressive jazz originals in a Thelonious Monk style with exciting African rhythms!

Ginger Baker’s recognition as a drummer began during the Graham Bond Organisation in the early sixties. The band toured with The Who, The Troggs, The Moody Blues and Chuck Berry, attracting press interest for their outrageous behaviour and riotous fun. In 1964 Baker was considered ‘one of Britain’s great drummers’ by Melody Maker journalist, Chris Welch.

While Baker, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1992, Modern Drummer Hall Of Fame (2010) and Classic Drummer Hall Of Fame (2011) and whose awards include a Grammy Life Time Achievement Award (2005) and Zildjian Top Drummer Award (2008), was impressing music journalists, he was also attracting attention from other musicians, one of them being Eric Clapton. The two met, jammed, saw one another play in their then- current bands, added bass player Jack Bruce and formed Cream. In Baker’s own words they created ‘instant magic’ and began touring earning £45 per show, to later smashing box office records previously set by The Beatles.

After Cream, came Blind Faith. Baker and Clapton were joined by Steve Winwood and Rick Grech to make just one album. When Clapton and Winwood left to further their own projects, the remaining members went on to form jazz rock fusion band ‘Ginger Baker’s Airforce’ adding sax, flute, organ and extra percussion to the band.

During a trip to Africa Baker found himself moved and inspired by Nigerian radio. Despite the war zone in that part of the country he was adamant about visiting Nigeria and pushed to set up a recording studio in Lagos. When it opened as ‘Batakota Studios’ Paul McCartney arrived with Wings to record part of his ‘Band on the Run’ album. Music aside, Africa gave Baker a wonderful climate to live in and a healthier lifestyle than that of rock n roll and touring. He discovered his love for polo and rally driving.

Baker’s work with Airforce and friendship with Fela Kuti pathed the way for Baker’s next musical project: to work with African musicians. A live album was recorded in Abbey Road studios under the name of ‘Fela Ransome- Kuti and Africa 70 with Ginger Baker’.

He then went on to form English rock group The Baker Gurvitz Army in which Baker was also involved with providing extra sounds for their debut album. The wheel spins from his Jensen FF were used for their song ‘Mad Jack’. He also rode a wheeled swivel chair backwards down a flight of stairs for a second track on their debut album.

After setting up a second recording studio, this time in North London, Baker formed ‘Energy’. Since
then he’s performed at various live events such as Verona’s Percussion Summit and his own
unmissable 70th birthday party with special guest, Steve Winwood, at Camden’s Jazz Café.

But now he is back in the UK and formed the quartet, Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion…..featuring Pee
Wee Ellis, tenor sax, Alec Dankworth, bass and Abbas Dodoo, African percussion.

They debuted in April 2012 at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London, and followed with performances in
Europe, the UK, and Tokyo. They will be playing more UK dates from February 2013.

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Tom Odell

Tom Odell

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Classically trained on piano, Tom Odell has been obsessed with music since he was a small child. He recalls the night he was watching television and saw Blur perform at the BRIT Awards. That clinched it for him. “I remember thinking: ‘I wanna do that.’” In early 2013, Odell made BRIT Awards history, becoming the first male artist to win the coveted Critics’ Choice award, which in previous years has gone to such artists as Adele, Emeli Sandé and Florence and the Machine.

“I started writing songs at 13 and I haven’t stopped since,” says Tom, who would return home from school every afternoon and practice piano for hours on end. Such dedication has clearly paid off. At 22, he’s an accomplished musician, as his debut album, Long Way Down, which debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums chart, demonstrates. Yet what’s most remarkable about Odell is his gift for rendering messy emotions, for ripping songs out of his soul and slamming them onto a record without stopping to tidy up after himself.

“Another Love,” the first single from Long Way Down, paints a portrait of a man so emotionally spent after a previous relationship that he has nothing left to give a new love, much as he tries. “Hold Me” begins with a raucous count off and is filled with buzzed admissions, beginning with the notion that the narrator really shouldn’t be blurting out his feelings to a new companion just yet. Distinctive choral backing vocals are heard throughout, but perhaps never to greater effect than on the chilling “Can’t Pretend.” On “Sense,” the contrast between the delicate, jazz-era style piano and Odell’s raw vocals is striking. London’s Sunday Times, describing a video of Odell performing the track at home, said: “he sits hunched at the keyboard, his descending chords almost Tom Waits-like in their alchemical anguish, his voice rising from tentative whisper to feral roar…It is a one-take recording and it’s breathtaking.”

“I hope the music feels human and real and that there are some flaws – because the flaws help make it what it is,” notes Odell, who draws inspiration from Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Arctic Monkeys, Hunky Dory-era David Bowie and early Elton John.

Odell grew up in the West Sussex city of Chichester, located in southeast England, and later moved to Brighton, attracted by its music scene. “I used to stroll around Brighton with this massive keyboard and just go to these open mics all around town – and it was so demoralizing, but also really good for me,” he says.

Eventually, Tom moved to London, seeking a wider audience. His plan was not immediately successful – Odell wound up playing sparsely attended shows, running out of money and sleeping in a car borrowed from his grandmother. But along the way, he formed his band, which he credits with adding a heightened sense of power to the songs. A demo found its way to Lily Rose Cooper, who quickly signed Odell to her In The Name Of record label after seeing him perform.

With the label’s blessing, Odell spent the next nine months holed up in a tiny east London room, outfitted with simply a piano and a desk, penning the songs for his debut album. When he wasn’t writing, he was devouring the works of others – a list with a preponderance of American authors and filmmakers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Woody Allen, Ernest Hemingway, Hal Ashby, Jack Kerouac and Wes Anderson.

In addition to having already collected a BRIT award, Odell was shortlisted in the BBC Sound Poll of 2013. Long Way Down debuted atop the album charts in the U.K., Netherlands and Vietnam and within the Top 10 across most of Europe. While these are certainly notable achievements, Odell is after something even more ephemeral than recognition: he’s out to capture life’s peak experiences and deepest valleys.

“I’d love to live in a time when music felt uncontrived and imperfect and gave people a real sense of elevation,” he confides. “When it’s sad I want it to be really sad. When it’s happy I want it to feel euphoric…I suppose I want the record to express the heightened feelings and emotions we all get in our lives.”

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alt-J (∆)’s name takes a little explaining. Pronounced “alt-J”, the delta sign is created when you hold down the alt key on your computer keyboard and punch ‘J’ on a Mac computer. The symbol has a deeper meaning for the band, as guitarist/bassist Gwil Sainsbury notes, “in mathematical equations it’s used to show change,” and the band’s relatively new name came at a turning point in their lives.

Gwil, Joe Newman [guitar/vocals], Gus Unger-Hamilton [keyboards] and Thom Green [drums] met at Leeds University in 2007. Gus studied English Literature; the other three Fine Art. In their second year of studies, Joe played Gwil a handful of his own songs inspired by his guitar-playing dad and hallucinogens, and the pair began recording in their dorm rooms with Gwil acting as producer on Garageband.

Needless to say, the response to Joe’s hushed falsetto yelps and Gwil’s rudimentary sampling skills was good. When Thom was played the tracks he joined the band straight away. “I hadn’t heard anything like it,” he says. “It was music I was looking for, I just didn’t know I was. I just loved it.”

Gus completed the band’s lineup and together – first as Daljit Dhaliwal and then as Films – the four friends spent the next two years playing around town, developing a precise and unique brand of alt. pop that draws on poignant folk verses, crushing synths, smart hip hop syncopations and tight vocal harmonies. They dropped the moniker of Films in 2007, largely to avoid confusing the band with Californian punk troupe The Films. alt-J (∆) gave them a unique name to go with the unique ‘folk-step’ that they now concoct in the basement of a terrace house in Cambridgeshire.

Admiration and favourable comparisons have come thick and fast for alt-J (∆). Before the release of their instantly sold out debut single on Loud And Quiet last October, the band were described as “Nick Drake meets Gangsta Rap,” and they were likened to Wild Beasts, ‘In Rainbows’ era Radiohead, The xx and Anthony & The Johnsons – acts acclaimed for their ability to create the kind of patient, sophisticated, intricate music that alt-J (∆) do.

An early demo of the skittish, euphoric ‘Breezeblocks’ gained healthy radio play without even being released and alt-J (∆)’s Soundcloud generated over 70,000 plays in its first 6 months with little to no promotion.

From Joe’s high soul cry and Thom’s refusal to drum with cymbals (he started with saucepans because he couldn’t fit a full drum kit in Gwil’s bedroom where the band first practiced), to the sparse guitars and Gus’ delicate key clunks on songs like ‘Bloodflood’, a neat sound-bite for ∆’s music is yet to be coined, and perhaps never will be. And by challenging what constitutes folk, hip hop, indie and pop music, the band have quickly found themselves in the studio at the beginning of 2012, recording their debut album for Infectious Music with long-time producer Charlie Andrew (Micachu & The Shapes, Eugene McGuinness).

Veering wildly from psychedelic avant pop to skeletal folktronica, the finished album promises to trade in understated beauty one minute and epic oddities the next, just as you’d expect from a debut album that tackles everything from love to bullfighting to the heroic life of 1930s war photographer Gerda Taro, crushed by a tank on the frontline. Other tracks are inspired by cinema, including ‘Matilda’ (about Natalie Portman’s character in Luc Besson’s Leon) and the Good The Bad And The Ugly-referencing ‘Tessellate’.

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Goo Goo Dolls

Goo Goo Dolls

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After more than two decades as a band, with nine albums, a catalog of songs that have
become ingrained in the pop consciousness and countless concerts for millions of fans, the Goo
Goo Dolls are feeling particularly good about their new album: Magnetic.

More to the point, the Goo Goo Dolls are feeling particularly good. Period.

“This album was really upbeat and fun,” says John Rzeznik, the trio’s primary singer,
songwriter and guitarist since it was founded in Buffalo in 1986. “I don’t think we’ve made a
record like this in a while. Just had a great time doing it.”

It’s a great time overall for the musicians. Bassist Robby Takac, whose partnership with
Rzeznik has been the band’s foundation since the start, and his wife have just had their first
child. And Rzeznik is getting married this summer.

Not to mention that recently three of the band’s songs placed in Billboard’s Top 100 of
1992-2012, with “Iris” standing at No. 1. That song has also connected with a new generation, as
Dolls fan Taylor Swift has been performing it in her concerts.

That joy is all there in the spirit of the 11 new songs on the album, for which Rzeznik,
Takac and drummer Mike Malinin — the lineup steady since 1995 — recorded in New York,
London and Los Angeles with Gregg Wattenberg (Train), Rob Cavallo (Green Day), John
Shanks (Bon Jovi) and Greg Wells (Katy Perry). From the celebratory single “Rebel Beat” to the
love-rediscovery ballad “Slow It Down,” from the blue-collar anthem “Keep the Car Running” to
the meltingly romantic “Come to Me,” Magnetic is an album bursting with a spirit of renewal.
And nowhere is it more explicit than in one of two Takac-penned songs: “Happiest of Days.”

“All the writing is an extension of ourselves,” Rzeznik says. “My life’s amazing. When I
sit and think about my life, it really has been incredible.”

No argument from Takac.

“It’s pretty amazing to me,” he says. “All these years now we’ve been playing in this
band together and we still somehow manage to grow. That allows us to keep making it happen.
We never denied what the situation was at the moment. Right now we’re here and living this
moment, and some cool things are happening in our lives.”

It’s a contrast from the poetically introspective tone of 2010’s Something For the
Rest of Us, which reflected some personal turmoil.

“This album feels like this is where we came out the other side and are in the daylight
again,” he says. “Got a little dark on the last record. But that was something I needed to do, where I was at. This is where I am now. Yeah, you know — I got myself up, brushed myself off
and looked around, and things were fine. Why not celebrate?”

Even a dark-sounding title, such as “When The World Breaks Your Heart,” reveals a
world of happiness.

“That’s a song about friendship,” he says. “Real friendship. About when you find out
who the people are who really care about you and love you, like on moving day, or times of

With that in mind, the making of the album represented a break from past methods too.
Rzeznik first worked with those collaborators on writing and pre-production of the songs.
“I approached it a lot differently this time,” Rzeznik says. “Rather than writing a whole
bunch of songs and then going into the studio and recording them and seeing if it worked, as
we’d done before, I would write a song, make a demo, then Robby and Mike came in and we
played it. Wound up being much quicker. And I did some co-writing with Gregg Wattenberg and
John Shanks, tried to let go of the outcome.”

Inspiration came from many sources.

“A lot of it got cut in a recording studio that sits 12 floors above Times Square, full of
windows,” he says. “You’re at the cultural epicenter of Western civilization. It was unbelievably
stimulating. In a lot of ways this is a real New York record.”

Opening song “Rebel Beat,” co-written by Rzeznik with Wattenberg, sets that tone,
growing out of a summer stroll the singer took in Lower Manhattan, coming across an Italian
neighborhood street party.

“Everyone was having a great time, little kids, old people — and the smell of everything,
and it was so hot. I just wanted to be part of it so bad!”

Such scenes are evoked throughout, the music carrying the spirit as much as the lyrics.
For “More of You,” Shanks and Rzeznik experimented, subtly, with electronics, the anthemic
sound portraying a resolute pursuit of love. The two painted the “complications” of relationships
with equal flair with the elated-yet-tumultuous sound of “Caught in the Storm.” Takac brings
another rock twist to “Bringing On the Light,” with piano and organ giving a feel that he says is
in part inspired by the great English band Badfinger.

And for “Bulletproof Angel,” a soaring ballad co-written by Rzeznik and long-time
friend Andy Stochansky, producer Greg Wells brought in orchestrator Joel McNeely for a full
strings arrangement, the latter recorded at London’s legendary Abbey Road.

At the core throughout is the Goo Goo Dolls’ blue-collar Buffalo origins, the same
energy that fueled the group when if first garnered buzz on the local, then regional and then
national club scenes. Nowhere is it more explicit than on “Keep the Car Running,” a song about
the disillusionment of youth, about wanting to escape, but also an earnest love-letter to home.
“Buffalo had its own unique sound,” Rzeznik says. “I think we definitely retain that.

When I pick up an acoustic guitar and start singing, it’s me. We can’t be anybody else. I like
what I sing. We like what we write. And if we don’t like it, we don’t play it.”

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Here Come The Mummies

Here Come The Mummies

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It’s been a long and dusty road since 1922 when, at a dig in the desert south of Tunis, Professor Nigel Quentin Fontenelle Dumblucke IV (1895-1973) unearthed the ruins of an ancient discotheque to find a dozen undead Egyptian mummies inexplicably throwing down what he dubbed, “Terrifying Funk From Beyond the Grave.”

From these hovering souls, who called themselves Here Come The Mummies, Professor Dumblucke learned of the powerful curse that doomed them to wander the earth, seeking the ultimate riff, the one that may allow their spirits to rest after eons of, as they put it, “banging out solid fly grooves, y’all.” This so-called curse may have been retribution for the deflowering of a great Pharaoh’s daughter, but the story has become somewhat murky over the centuries.

What is clear is that these saucy specters resurfaced around the turn of the Millennium. Without so much as a hot bath, HCTM would open for P-Funk and Al Green, rock Super Bowl Village 2012, become regulars at The Bob and Tom Show and massive festivals like Summerfest, and make themselves the darlings of sell-out crowds over wide swaths of North America. Maybe that’s why the ladies (and some dudes) can’t stop losing their minds over these mayhem-inducing mavens of mirth.

Now Eddie Mummy, Java, K.W. Tut, Mummy Cass, Spaz, The Pole, Midnight, Mummy Rah, and The Flu have again “pooled” what remains of their hearts, brains and dusty, withered appendages to make Cryptic, their new collection of songs. According to Java, “Cryptic is sexy, scary, funny, sweet, low-down, hiked-up and basically kicks ass, baby,”

The new songs are some of HCTM’s most infectious to date: “Chaperone” is an ode to sneaking off for a little nooky and is super-hooky; “Petting Zoo” drips with animal attraction providing a meteoric, metaphoric good time; there’s a super-fly paean to HCTM’s favorite pastime called “You Know the Drill” and “Never Grow Old” is a soul-set piece that will… well, never grow old.

These un-dead charmers began foaming at the mouth (and elsewhere) at the notion of taking Cryptic on the road. It’s happening now. Get ready to rock like an Egyptian.

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Jon Batiste and Stay Human

Jon Batiste and Stay Human

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“I’m always about trying to fill a need with what I do in my artistry,” says Jon Batiste, an artist whose ambition is nothing less than to transform the very lives of his listeners. “There is definitely a need in the performing arts world for a movement to come along that seriously connects with a next generation audience while still maintaining the timeless artistic objectives present throughout the history of the American music tradition.” It’s a goal Batiste is steadily achieving with every performance, every interview, every song, every album.

Those two essential criteria – peerless artistry combined with all the uplifting pleasure of entertainment – exist squarely at the heart of Batiste’s musical vision. And they are both fully evident in every exultant note on Social Music (Razor & Tie), the new album by Batiste and his irrepressible musical collective, Stay Human. Both the title of the album and the name of the band are telling. Now a quartet (with Batiste on piano, vocals and melodica, which he has renamed the harmonaboard; Eddie Barbash on alto saxophone; Ibanda Ruhumbika on tuba; and Joe Saylor on drums), Stay Human has evolved over the past eight years, running the spectrum from a jazz trio to a quintet to a big band with horns.

Social Music reflects that extraordinary range. On “D-Flat Movement,” the album’s opening track, you can hear Batiste elegantly dueting with the sounds of thunder. Meanwhile, “It’s Alright (Why You Gotta)” slinks along on a seductively funky cha-cha groove, and “Express Yourself” jitters on an angular harmonaboard riff, its encouraging message balanced precariously all the while. Throughout the album, elements of jazz, classical music and Americana nuzzle up against beats that could light up a club dance floor, and standards like “St. James Infirmary” and “Naima’s Love Song” nestle in alongside spoken-word samples like “The Jazzman Speaks” (featuring the voice of jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton) and statements of spiritual yearning like “Let God Lead.” “This album is the latest evolution of the band,” Batiste says.

In Batiste’s view, however, making such distinctions among styles of music and varieties of sound is helpful but perhaps unnecessary. “The purpose of this music is to bring people together from all walks of life by creating a montage of many different music traditions and playing it with the spirit of inclusiveness,” he explains. “That intent is what gives these different styles cohesion, and that’s why I decided to call it ‘social music.’ We are in a technological age and Social Music aims to reflect that spirit of advancement, collaboration and connectivity while still remaining ‘human.’ And Stay Human, then, is a reminder of what connects us all. It’s our mantra. With so many ways to communicate at our disposal, we must not forget the transformative power of a live music experience and genuine human exchange. ”

Now 26, Batiste has defined a vision based on the most profound aspects of what has already been a rich artistic journey. He was born in New Orleans into a family whose deep musical heritage is part of the inspiration for the HBO series Treme, in which he has appeared. Over the last decade he has forged his own artistic path by indelibly fusing himself within the fabric of New York City culture. After attending the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) Batiste moved to New York and graduated from the Juilliard School earning a master’s degree in jazz and classical piano. He has collaborated with the likes of Prince, Cassandra Wilson, Lauryn Hill, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Buffet, Eve, Lenny Kravitz, ?uestlove, and Asher Roth. He has also recorded extensively, most recently putting out the EP MY NY with Stay Human in 2011, a set that was recorded live in the Manhattan subway system.

On the rough-and-tumble polyglot streets of New Orleans and New York, Batiste absorbed a musical language that disregards genre distinctions as long as all the musicians are up to the game and everyone is locked in and feeling the inspiration of the moment. At NOCCA and Julliard he was solidly grounded in the importance of standards and tradition, the conviction that the best of what has come before us must be kept living and taught to future generations. To further that lofty aim Batiste often lectures and gives master classes, and he also serves as Artistic Director At Large of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

But Batiste strongly believes that people must have their minds opened in the streets as well as in schools and museums. “Music always reflects the culture it comes from,” he says. “The world is connected more than it has ever been. In such a globally connected world, musicians now have the unique opportunity to express all of the cultural ‘mash ups’ we are experiencing these days. Akin to the blend of cultures that occurred in early 20th-century New Orleans that led to the birth of jazz, I believe that the world has reached a similar cultural turning point.”

Using Twitter and Facebook to announce their plans, Batiste and Stay Human would ride the New York subways with their instruments playing music from many different music traditions and playing at the top of their talent all the while. It was a way to have some fun and to startle people out of their preconceived notions – about jazz, about where it’s appropriate to listen to music, about what it might mean to hear top-notch players blasting away purely for the purpose of entertaining and connecting with you as you go about your day. Once people receive and accept that positive energy – and cracking the stoicism of New York subway riders is no mean feat – there’s no telling what further transformations it might effect in their lives and in all of our lives. Batiste calls these spontaneous efforts to play in nontraditional places “loveriots,” and aptly so.

“If you’re going to call it social music then you have to figure out ways to bring your music to the people,” Batiste says. “You want to play for people who might have never considered going to a concert. You want to destroy their stereotypes of what they might think a live music performance is all about. You also want to bring the music to those who might not ever hear it and share the culture with them. Ultimately it’s about breaking down the walls between the musicians and the audience and showing them that we all share the same humanity. ”

As strong an album as Social Music is, Batiste believes that live performance is where his vision can most truly be set in motion and realized. His goals are of the highest order. “For me, what we’re doing is a calling, bringing people to an understanding that loving one another is how we are called to be,” he says. “I want to help people find truth. I can give you a picture. When you go to a show to hear us, the venue is one way when you get there, but when you leave it’s totally transformed. It’s become almost like a religious ceremony, a communal experience. People leave crying and laughing – there’s a buzz. People stand around when it’s done because they just don’t want to go home. Hopefully this experience will bring them to a greater understanding of the truth. That response is ideal.”

Ideal and potentially there to be realized every day at every moment. It’s a fully three-dimensional emotional response – the highly desirable result of staying human and allowing for the full spiritual impact of Social Music to settle into your soul.

– Anthony DeCurtis

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