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Walking into the Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel in New York City last night, the intimate room was balmy with a thick haze of smoke. As the setting for the immersive play Sleep No More, the venue already exuded a mysterious air. The wonder continued to build for over an hour as the audience stood staring at the glow of a neon “Crush Palace” sign hanging onstage and listening to a creepy continuous track of what sounded like breaking waves and ghost machinery.

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And just when the anticipation was about to be unbearable, musicians Holly Miranda and Moses Sumney appeared from the mist and began plucking gently on their guitars. Thus started Karen O’s live show for her new solo album, Crush Songs, a collection of lo-fi songs she’s been developing for the past several years.

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As the Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer stepped on stage and began singing, most of her set was like a hypnotizing lullaby filled with the fuzzy coos and whispery vocals of songs like “NYC Baby,” “OOO,” “Indian Summer” and “Rapt.” Nick Zinner, her self-proclaimed “musical soulmate” from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed on a few numbers throughout the night as well.

 
Towards the end of her set, Karen O occasionally shifted from an understated delicate delivery to reveal isolated moments of her cheeky characteristic punk side in the song, “Body.” Someone in the audience yelled, “You’re adorable!” which made her smile and giggle.

Overall, the haunting, dreamy performance truly captivated a soundtrack that ranged from feelings of loneliness to hope as echoed in the double entendre of the word “crush” in her album title. The live songs felt warmer and more intimate than on the minimalistically recorded tracks on the album. You still have a chance to catch her on the following live dates:


Sept 12 - Le Poisson Rouge (New York)

Sept 17 - The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Los Angeles) 

Sept 18 - The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Los Angeles) 

Sept 19 - The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Los Angeles)

Sept 22 - Great American Music Hall (San Francisco)

Oct 4 - Bush Hall (London)

Oct 5 - Bush Hall (London)

Oct 7 - Heimathafen (Berlin)


About the author: Jin Moon has been affectionately writing about music and the arts since 2002 on her blog, Jinners.com. She also currently runs her own agency, On the Moon Arts. Tweet salutations to @jinners.

Music from this week that channels your feelings and speakers from 0-100 like the famous words from your boy, Drake.


“Polo Tee” - Eyedress

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There is no doubt the legendary DJ Rashad’s passing from earlier this year affected people around the world. While there are many tributes and tracks dedicated to Teklife’s founder, Filipino experimental pop artist Eyedress ventured into the footwork territory and crafted a track ghetto housing those collared golf shirts that are making a comeback into the club scene called “Polo Tee."



“Difficulties” - Ryan Hemsworth ft. Trim

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As a track on DJ Oneman’s Solitare Vol. 3 mixtape coming out in September 29th, “Difficulties” is the alliance of Internet’s favorite sensitive music curator Ryan Hemsworth and London Grime MC Trim. Their result is a three-minute bittersweet moment of self realization and a brilliant combination of emphatic wordplay and beautiful pacifying beats.



“Try Me” - Dej Loaf ft. Wiz Khalifa

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Coming up quickly from Detroit’s hip hop scene is rapper Dej Loaf and on Wiz Khalifa’s 27th birthday (Tuesday night), he threw in a verse to her original song titled “Try Me." With rumors of Drake potentially remixing this track, check out Khalifa’s smooth contributions to “this new gangsta music.” according to a Soundcloud comment.



“Black Widow” (Darq E Freaker Remix) - Iggy Azalea ft. Rita Ora

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Australian superstar Iggy Azalea recently put out a mix pack of “Black Widow," a fierce collaboration with Rita Ora from The New Classic album. Three engineers worked on the remixes for “Black Widow” and one of them is from London producer Darq E Freaker who's worked with Danny Brown in the past. Freaker contaminated the track with raging dance music filth with fun synthetic warps in and out -- a club appreciated turn up.



About the author: Briana Cheng has a lot of feelings that she sometimes writes about but mostly she takes twitter screenshots of online dating apps, follow her @banacrisp.

You could argue regionalism in pop isn’t what it used to be, but location continues to affect the meanings of a record in this age of instant access, social media and globalization. 

San Francisco and Sylvester cannot be imagined without each other. The singer is remembered as a disco superstar, but his legacy is trickier than that tag. Sylvester went from a fraught youth to being a key player in the gay counterculture, but didn't belong to the first waves of disco. He went through a brief, unsuccessful rock period, before channeling his gospel background into the sound of the moment - disco. He retooled his approach and sound to appeal to fans of the massively popular genre and soon pointed the way towards a post-disco dance music landscape.

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Rejecting both the drag queen descriptor and record company directives to tone down the gayness of his image, he was a stridently original performer. Sylvester brought to the forefront the burgeoning genre of Hi-NRG, a more frantic and feverish version of disco. Traits of Hi-NRG would later be picked up by the more modern genres of electronic music such as house and techno.



Club and pop smashes like “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “Do Ya Wanna Funk” were pulsing, urgent anthems, which broke from the soul-based tradition of earlier disco. Sylvester’s falsetto-only style of singing rivaled the energy of more technically gifted divas like Loleatta Holloway and Jocelyn Brown. The quantized kick drum thump and robotic, octave-straddling basslines of his turn-of-the-decade hits raised the stakes for body music. His collaborations with the cutting edge club producer Patrick Cowley resulted in new sounds – spacey and synth-heavy but with soulful, powerful vocals.

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Sylvester not only helped San Francisco carve out its own iteration of dance music, but his personality coalesced with the identity of SF in the 70s and 80s. Originally from LA, Sylvester became entrenched in San Francisco’s culture, which allowed for a wider range of identity options. This inclusivity carried over into the music of the era as Sylvester and his anthems became associated with the Castro district, Harvey Milk and gay liberation in general. Though his songs had universal appeal, they took on extra, deeper meanings to San Franciscans. The era immediately before the rise of house music proper is often overlooked, but San Francisco’s dance music culture remained vital in the early 80s, long after the nation-wide disco backlash.


About the author: Luke Bradley is an arts and culture writer living in Toronto. He's written for The Classical Magazine, Esquire.com, Myspace, Consequence of Sound, DJ Mag and This Recording. Tweet to him @Sloganear.

He's been a musical chameleon since the late 60s, and has become a legendary icon in popular music. We are of course talking about the one and only David Bowie! He's releasing a greatest hits collection called Nothing Has Changed on November 18.

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Though he's also been known for his ever-changing fashion sense and his occasional acting roles, Bowie's unique brooding vocal style has delivered songs that echo edge and intelligence all in one. Here are some noteworthy faves from his genius career:

 


Bowie's first major charting UK single, "Space Oddity" threw him into the spotlight in 1969 with a folky vibe. A few years later in the early 70s, his artistry was born again as Ziggy Stardust - oozing androgyny and popularizing glam rock -- with his songs "Starman" and "Suffragette City" on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. This is also around the same time he released "The Jean Genie" as a single, inspired by rockstar Iggy Pop and author Jean Genet and written while he was hanging out with Warhol superstar Cyrinda Foxe. His new gender-bending persona really revolutionized rock music at the time, and his influence didn't stop there.


“Rebel Rebel” on his album Diamond Dogs in 1974 is referenced as Bowie’s most covered song. As an artist, he was transitioning from glam rock to a more raw rock’n’roll sound. Diamond Dogs itself was a concept album imagining the glam rocker living in a post-apocalyptic George Orwell-esque 1984 world.

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Leaving his outrageous Ziggy Stardust behind, Bowie fearlessly reinvented himself again with his album Young Americans in 1975. Both the album and its lead single "Fame" hit #1 on the Billboard charts in America. (Fun side fact: John Lennon is cited as a co-writer with Bowie and Carlos Alomar on this song, but the lyrics were actually inspired by a conversation they had about the effects of celebrity, all while Lennon sung "Fame!" over Alomar's guitar riff.) Years later in 1990, he released multiple remixes of "Fame" for his Sound+Vision Tour and Changesbowie album release on EMI. There's even a remix that features Queen Latifah!
 


After Young Americans, he retreated a bit to a quieter side working with Brian Eno on three releases: Low, Heroes, Lodger -- dubbed the “Berlin Trilogy” after his time spent creating there. These received praise from critics but didn't reach as much commercial success as his previous efforts. Over the years, however, "Heroes" did grow to be one of his most notable songs, inspiring countless covers. Bowie also later worked with Eno on his experimental concept album, Outside, in 1995.

By the time the 80s rolled around, Bowie revived his pop music success with "Ashes to Ashes" on his album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) as well as his collaboration with rock band Queen for the song, "Under Pressure." Bowie kept the momentum going with his 1983 album Let's Dance, which spawned hits like "China Girl" and its title track.

 
In 1999, he released the album Hours with the single “Thursday’s Child”, the title of which was inspired by his love of Eartha Kitt’s autobiography of the same name. The song’s lyrics bleakly mourn of someone feeling lost in the wrong time until they fell in love. Bowie then released Heathen and Reality in 2002 and 2003, respectively, and subsequently waited a decade to release the ironically titled album The Next Day in 2013. The gray, emotional surge in his songs continued with the single "Where Are We Now?"

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We look forward to his new retrospective, Nothing Has Changed, which will include hits, previously unreleased tracks and two new singles, "Sue (or in a Season of Crime)" and “Tis a Pity She’s a Whore” (a B side to the “Sue” single).

Bands (probably) influenced by David Bowie: The Cure, Arctic Monkeys, Buzzcocks, Pixies, Pulp


About the author: Jin Moon has been affectionately writing about music and the arts since 2002 on her blog, Jinners.com. She also currently runs her own agency, On the Moon Arts. Tweet salutations to @jinners.

From the underground to the inescapable, our roundup of new music that must be heard. This week, downtown legends Karen O and Julian Casablancas release new music alongside a couple of Brooklyn bands just hitting their prime.


Album: Crush Songs - Karen O

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A while back, Karen O teased her new album, Crush Songs, with “Rapt”, a modest but affecting breakup confessional that came complete with a video of Karen slowly sinking in icy water and apparently loving it. As a metaphor for lost love, drowning may be a little heavy handed, but now that Crush Songs has arrived in full, the watery-grave footage makes more sense as an introduction to the record’s muted sound: Karen O consistently sings at one step removed from the spare, mostly acoustic instrumentation of her songs, many of which sound like they were recorded in the shower. It’s a strange mix of intimacy and withheld emotion--raw-sounding, but also unfinished and weirdly restrained, as if the hurt behind these songs is still too hot to handle.


Track: “Human Sadness” and “Where No Eagles Fly” - Julian Casablancas + The Voidz

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Karen O’s L.E.S. compadre Julian Casablancas is also out with new music this week, though sadly for the nostalgic among us, his work with The Voidz draws more on the dread and paranoia that defined 2009’s bummer of a solo record, Phrazes for the Young, and less on the cocky-as-hell, lick-stealing irreverence of The Strokes. Even as he attempts to go full Metal Machine Music on his fans, Casablancas remains a figure of such good will that anything he puts out deserves a listen. “Human Sadness” (clocking in at 11 minutes!) is available on Youtube and “Where No Eagles Fly” can be heard at the 45-minute mark of Sean Keveany’s BBC Radio 6 podcast. The new album, Tyranny, is set to come out September 23. 


Video: “Bodies Made Of” (Live at Sugar Hill Club) - Parquet Courts


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Parquet Courts enlisted veteran concert video directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard to film them performing at the Sugar Hill Supper Club and have released a video that sets the show footage and some shots of off-hours hanging to their new album’s first song, “Bodies Made Of”.


Track: “Empty Faction” - Cult of Youth

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Brooklyn’s Cult of Youth are officially set to release their new record, Final Days, in early November, but for now, those of us who were won over by the band’s 2012 Love Will Prevail LP can stream their new single, “Final Days”, on Soundcloud. Frontman Sean Ragon’s gutter-goth wail is in peak form here, and now that he has a proper band behind him, there’s little doubt that another record of genre-expanding music is on its way.


About the author: Spencer Shawcross is a freelance writer in San Francisco. He hearts the TL and its many music venues. 

Whether you're a born and raised local or a lost Bay Area transplant looking to find the best tunes in the city, we've picked out this week's best live shows in our home town of San Francisco for you to check out.



The Rentals + Ozma at Slim's (Monday)

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After 15 long years, The Rentals return with a new album, Lost in Alphaville, along with a new band all surrounding mastermind Matt Sharp. The record was recorded with an all star collection including Patrick Carney (The Black Keys), Ryen Slegr (Ozma), Lauren Chipman (The Section Quartet), and Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig (Lucius). If that's not enough, another flagship of late '90s/early '00s indie-alternative kicks things off with the help of their latest nerd fueled rock release in 7 years.


Wild Ones + Phosphene at The New Parish (Tuesday)

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Wild Ones have made the trek from Portland a respectable number of times to play small clubs on either side of the bridge from Bottom of the Hill to the Night Light. This round they headline a night in Oakland with the siren sounds of front woman Danielle Sullivan. The band has been touring heavily in the past year in support of their acclaimed debut full length Keep It Safe. Opening is a fresh to the scene Oakland indie four piece, Phosphene, who has already quietly released their first album in July.


Tomas Barfod + Cathedrals + Grizfolk at Rickshaw Stop (Thursday)

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Aaron Axelsen spins this week of Popscene acts that layer themselves across the indie-electronic spectrum. Hopefully you took our recent advice and checked out Ghost and Gale so you can discover the diversity of vocalist Brodie Jenkins as she makes up one half of CATHEDRALS' lush electronica. Emotive vocals coupled with flashes of guitar have led them to build an early buzz before their first EP (out today). Headlining is Danish producer Tomas Barfod who goes beyond his main house influences by jumping between elements of trance to disco.


Fishbone + Con Brio at The Independent (Saturday)

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Angelo Moore and Fishbone have become legends after over 25 years, and in a time heavy with throwback tours and reissues have continued to pump out new music and quite possibly have never been off the road. Simply watching the funk and ska pioneers do what they do on stage becomes a workout. Local soldiers of soul Con Brio go beyond being the warm up act by inspiring enough sweat and passion from the stage antics of vocalist Ziek McCarter alone.


A Million Billion Dying Suns + Seatraffic + Foli at El Rio (Sunday)

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When's the last time you have spend $5 on a great cause and were awarded a killer rock show? Two growing local acts will perform as part of a benefit for Alzheimer's at your favorite deep mission watering hole. Seatraffic will be releasing their album of shoegazey pop and putting $1 of everyone sold to the benefit (Double Cause Points!) AMBDS follows, bringing with them a fury of psych-rock jamming complete with an excess of hypnotizing guitar work.


About Mike: Habitual Bay Area show-hopper and new music junkie. Currently Artist Relations at DeliRadio and occasional DJ at KALX. Follow the music based ramblings on Twitter.