The music industry has always been characterized by its community. Artists, record labels, and even fans are always coming together sharing ideas, songs and experiences. Perhaps was there no place where this community was on fuller display than on this year’s Honda Civic Tour featuring Grouplove and Portugal. The Man. As Hannah Hooper (AKA Lady Grouplove) put it during the tour’s September 12th stop at the historic Merriweather Post Pavillion, “All of us here on the stage are a bunch of best f**** friends just doing what we love to do.” Read the rest of this entry
Sylvan Esso is a band that is very hard to lump into one genre. With songs that span from slower ballads to those that are fit for a nightclub, it is not difficult to understand how their show at The Howard Theatre (originally at the much smaller Rock & Roll Hotel) sold out long in advance. Sylvan Esso, a duo comprised of singer Amelia Meath of Mountain Man and Nick Sanborn of Megafaun, had the crowd dancing and singing along to every song during the final performance of their US tour.
D.C dream pop trio The Walking Sticks (composed of Chelsea Lee and brothers Spencer and Max Ernst) are coming off the excitement of having released their album Send The Night in December of last year, and are now ready to drop a new five track EP. The band has been finding great success within The District’s music scene, having just played the 9:30 Club two weeks ago, and Black Cat previous to that. Now, amid a schedule of festival and club dates, The Walking Sticks are planning a pre-release show on September 27 at DC9, complete with a live music video shoot for their new song “One Sweet Thing”. WRGW catches up with them outside of The Library of Congress, where they are taking a break in between sets of a private gig.
Elliot Greiner: How long have you guys been working on this new EP?
Chelsea: We’ve been writing these songs for a year. We started writing last July, and started recording in April.
Max: We actually just wrapped up the songs a couple weeks ago.
EG: Have you released the name for this new EP yet?
Max: Oh yeah, yeah we got it.
EG: Can I hear it?
Max: Yeah, you ready for it? It’s Pop Dreams. We don’t have an answer to why we’ve called it Pop Dreams quite yet though do we?
Spencer: Sort of do.
Max: I mean the obvious answer is that dream pop is the genre of the album- but then a good buddy of ours in MH and His Orchestra, he was like “You guys are ‘Pop Dreams’ and we thought it was kinda funny. Then we had this concept for our EP cover- I’ll show you now.
Max pulls out his phone with a picture of the new cover.
EG: Wow that’s pretty cool.
Max: Yeah, you’re the first to see it. We really wanted Chelsea’s eye make up to pop out, the make up artist went crazy on us. Do you want to know the track listing?
EG: Yes that would be great.
Max: Okay. The first song is called “Bang”, the second is “Senorita”- which is our Justin Timberlake cover, and then the third song is “One Sweet Thing”, the fourth is “Take Me Up to The Sun”, and the fifth is “Name on It”.
EG: How would you compare Pop Dreams to Send The Night?
Chelsea: We solidified our sound. We were just starting out with our new equipment on the Send The Night EP, and now I think we have final honed in on our sound and figured out how we are going to move forward.
Spencer: It’s a little dreamier I’d say too.
Max: I think we really upped our drum game. In our last EP the backing tracks were sparser, and in this one we’ve kind of filled it out a little more.
EG: When you’re making these albums- and I mean look, you’ve already covered JT- are you more influenced by past or contemporary artists, or is it a mix of both?
Chelsea: It’s a mix of both. I’m really influenced by the eighties and they’re really influence by the seventies as far as past influences go. But we are always hearing new artists that we really love, like recently we found Jungle and we are obsessed with them; Tame Impala is also a great band. Really we are always looking for new artists, and they are always inspiring us just as much as the old songs.
EG: Do all three of you weigh in equally on the song writing?
Max: I’d say yeah we do, we all kind of contribute differently in terms of the writing process and how the song is produced.
Spencer: The key is that all three of us are always involved in the process, and everyone’s input in respected. We all shape the songs.
EG: Do you guys have a tour planned?
Max: Not currently, we are definitely going to play New York. However our first priority is to promote the EP.
Spencer: We’d like to hype it up in D.C.
Max: Yeah, we’re going to do a big cd release show. And for right now we are just really trying to get our music out on YouTube and online and just try to get a buzz going.
More information on the September 29th show and video shoot can be found here: http://www.dcnine.com/event/the-walking-sticks-2/
And for those interested in being a part of the music video, this tutorial will come as a bit of help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mU0Fev3BhQ&list=UUn5dK9BqMQ6FuW-fZXq-gPw
Only the Rolling Stones can claim an evolution as variable as U2’s; Bono himself has gone from baby-faced new waver to long haired 80’s rocker to international rock star to tongue in cheek pop shocker, and now in this past decade, to sunglass wearing celebrity. Some criticize bands like U2 and The Stones for continuing to play music well into their years, but why should they? Proper rock musicians have only been around for the past fifty years as it is; there has never been a precedent for retirement. At 95 Chuck Berry still plays a regular once a month gig at a local venue in St. Louis, and B.B King has never stopped touring despite having already surpassed the average American life expectancy by ten years. In comparison U2 is still youthful at 38, and despite rumors of splitting the band has just come out with an album of post-apocalyptic proportions in every aspect. As of yesterday it stands as the only record in history to have been owned by 500 million people at the moment of its release, and as the band’s first album in five years its unexpected arrival could not have created more of a global flurry. In a letter to fans Bono wrote that U2 is “collaborating with Apple on some cool stuff over the next couple of years, innovations that will transform the way music is listened to and viewed.” If this is truly the case, then the album might be the impetus of a new direction for U2, albeit a currently foggy and unknown direction.
As a free, preloaded download on ITunes, Songs of Innocence represents the largest album drop of all time, and is now theoretically owned by every ITunes customer in 119 countries. In recent years U2 has attracted the misguided dissent of millennials who claim Bono’s extensive humanitarian work to be something akin to a long-played publicity stunt (which is an argument for another time), however it would be foolish for even them to ignore what has been done by both the band and Apple. Music is losing its viability as a commodity with applications such as Spotify and Pandora about; this move on U2’s part regards the future of music sharing to be something far more accessible than what the previous decade has let on. It may only be a matter of time before Apple starts to revamp the role of ITunes as a music provider -or perhaps creates a more ‘Spotify-esque’ player- and of course, as Apple does so will others. While premature, it seems that the expiration date fixed to the current practice of music commerce may soon pave way for the wet dream of former LimeWire-ers; free, widespread, and legally provided music. And Apple couldn’t have picked a better album to spur on this new age.
Songs of Innocence, which has been described so tactfully by Noisey’s savvy Dan Ozzi as “a gross confluence of self-promotion, commercialization of music, and corporate dick-suckery,” stands as a testament to the genuine lack of taste held by Ozzi. The record is distinctly U2, standing as a bittersweet and autobiographical narrative of the band’s past forty years. Bono sings with the same lyricism that crafted the landmark success of 1991’s Achtung Baby, while touting an intimate maturity that has only occasionally come out in previous albums (“Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own” “Moment of Surrender”). Keeping true to their arena-rock sound of the 1990’s, anthemic guitar and militant percussion abound, and are joined by a distinct and polarizing pop-rock production value that can occasionally overpower the album. There is no hiding that U2 is progressing towards a new immediate sound, one that relies on ambience and the glittery churning of keyboards and distortion. It is by far the pop-iest of U2’s albums -surpassing the glossy aims of 1997’s Pop- yet traverses territory distant from the majority of 21st century pop. These truly are songs of innocence; reflections on growth and relationships that ultimately resolve with the bleak prospects that come with age. Unlike their previous albums Innocence concerns itself little with love, as one of the most powerful tracks- “Iris”- details the death of Bono’s mother when he was 14, and the most haunting- Raised by Wolves- chronicles the aftermath of an Irish car bombing. Innocence draws significance from its discomfort, not caring to sell itself as a universally palatable album. It is arguably the most direct work the band has yet made, and easily the darkest.
However much melancholy Songs of Innocence presents, Bono has already risen hopes for the release of a sister project called Songs of Experience. No date has been set for it, and as it stands there is no indication if anything has yet been recorded. But with a tour coming up, and the physical release of the new album set for October, U2 is gaining a forceful momentum, possibly enough to propel them into the next decade.
One can only hope.
Over the past couple of days I’ve found myself listening to a lot of Gucci Mane. Not The State vs. Radric Davis, but NEW Gucci. His collaborations with the likes of Young Thug, Migos and Peewee Longway have shaped modern Southern hip-hop. Although known for his rapping and antics Gucci Mane is also a great businessman. From smart signings to consistent content, Guop has been a staple of hip-hop for better or worse.
People love Gucci Mane. Almost any time I tell people about a new Gucci discovery they are intrigued. Something about the beat selection, interesting flows and trap lyrics make the combination oddly pleasing. Do I relate to Gucci Mane? Honestly no, but the catchiness of his music has been the reason he’s still in the spotlight. It makes me excited and ready for anything, whether it be a party or a test. It’s not always quality music but his gems are known throughout.
Gucci Mane has to be one of the best businessmen in the game. Gucci does it his own way. Who else can continue to direct the release of content for a record label from jail? Sentenced to 183 days in prison, Gucci keeps churning out material. In his sentence he has released a solo mixtape, four collaborative mixtapes and a handful of singles. With Gucci at the helm this new sound has started to appear throughout the rap game.
1017 Brick Squad have definitely started to expand their collaborators. Wiz Khalifa and members of 1017 joined up on many songs off the notable mixtape 28 Grams. Metro Boomin, 808 Mafia and Zaytoven make production appearances on the mixtape. More recently, 1017 was featured throughout Travi$ Scott’s Days Before Rodeo. Features from Young Thug, Pewee Longway and Metro Boomin have made the mixtape a huge hit and have boosted the G.O.O.D. Music artist’s status.
But Gucci has been in the game for a while and his 1017 Brick Squad has signed other big names too. Waka Flocka started with 1017 Brick Squad, however issues between the rapper caused the two to break their ties. But, while early connections helped Gucci sign Waka, his negotiation skills were on display as he also nabbed Chief Keef at the beginning of his popularity. Amidst rumors of Keef committing to G.O.O.D. Music, Gucci convinced the young rapper to join his expanding record label.
While Gucci Mane has appeared to be co-sponsoring or collaborating with mostly recently discovered artists, his ability to release his own music and find new artists have kept Gucci and 1017 relevant. Since 2005 Gucci has produced content that has helped both himself and his affiliates. As long as this recent stint in prison doesn’t change anything I see 1017 Brick Squad continuing as a successful record label for a long time.
This Friday, September 5th marks a monumental night celebrating DC bands, EP releases, and most importantly, good old rock and roll. The appropriately named venue, Rock and Roll Hotel, will feature Wings of Apollo, Albino Rhino, and Bencoolen for an electrically charged evening.
Wings of Apollo are a Nashville based rock band who headline this event in celebration of their newly released By Force EP. Originating from NoVa, the trio has created an electric hard rock sound reminiscent of the mid 2000’s.
Albino Rhino hails from Arlington, VA but is no stranger to the DC music scene, having performed at the Lincoln Theater earlier this year. Combining blues rock, and funk, Albino Rhino’s music ranges from songs about beach life, social justice, and of course, rhinos. Their sound is one not commonly heard in the District, and offers a harder, bluesier edge to the city’s audioscape. With an upcoming album and additional show dates, Albino Rhino is an act to stay tuned for. Check out this track they performed at the Howard Theater back in April.
GW student band Bencoolen have come awfully far in the past year. They’ve conquered the Velvet Lounge, Wonderland Ballroom, and DC9 in their efforts to solidify their presence in the historic DC music scene. Their old school meets modern indie rock vibe also showcases their metal inspired drummer, funky bass, and sassy saxophone. They also just dropped their first EP.
To buy tickets: http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/610481?utm_medium=bks
To RSVP to this event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1520468798174302/
Shows We’re Stoked For: MH and His Orchestra, The Walking Sticks, and Black Masala @ The 9:30 Club – 8/30
This Saturday, August 30th, The 9:30 Club will host a holy trinity of DC art bands; MH and His Orchestra, The Walking Sticks, and Black Masala. In consideration of each band’s respective approach to their craft, it seems that the 30th promises a night of dizzying musicianship rarely seen on a weekend in The District.
MH and His Orchestra occupy an unexampled niche within the D.C music scene, masquerading as a crew of Jazz-age troubadours who mix great technical proficiency with striking artistry. Originally a band of forty-four, the now ten-strong ‘Orchestra’ puts on elaborate art-pop performances that steep in the baritone register of front man Max Holiday. Their sound is nomadic; with nearly every song moving toward a different influence from across the musical sphere- at times the inclusion of any genre seems too binding. While the phrase ‘one of a kind’ might seem like an uninspired attempt to describe MH & Co, its accuracy could not be sharper.
The Walking Sticks became WRGW favorites with the release of their EP Send The Night; which follows the hauntingly articulate and jeweled voice of singer Chelsea Lee across a melodic, synth-pop landscape provided by twins Spencer and Max Ernst. Their live performances are some of the most charged in D.C, and in recent months religiously feature currently unreleased tracks.
Black Masala is comprised of eight musicians, some of whom already come from D.C music royalty (Thievery Corporation, Yellow Dubmarine, and See-I). The band blends together aspects of funk, jazz, reggae, ska and brass into lively grooves backed by an impressive stock of instruments and musicianship.
Full disclosure, this post was originally written for L.A. label HW&W’s 1.5 day-long Bandcamp free for all. Although it’s ended, not all hope is lost–16 of the albums on their Bandcamp are still available for free while the others are affordable, with prices ranging from $3-$10. I’ve taken it upon myself to cycle through the free ones to make up for this semi-late PSA and to introduce one of my favorite labels, Huh What & Where.
What do you get when you throw nine artists, whose musical style ranges from pop noise to dubstep, together? You get the third stop of the pioneering Mad Decent Block Party, and what a day it was. Children Of The Night, Trippy Turtle, Wave Racer, Cashmere Cat, Sleigh Bells, Wolfgang Gartner, Dillon Francis, Diplo, and Flux Pavilion took to the stage for a day of thumping beats and anthemic music that kept the crowd dancing at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Read the rest of this entry