We last heard music from Joel. (aka MaG) on his 2013 release (via RCRDLBL) Freedom, a soulful slice of American hip-hop. He didn’t go silent between then and now – those who follow him on Twitter know that Joel is a poet and a non-stop thinker, with an eye toward social progress and absolutely no patience for bullshit.
It’s no surprise to find that same spirit in the music he’s been working on. songs for charles is an independent release dropped via Bandcamp just last month, and it kicks off with a short audio clip from Jay Z in the studio, taken from the film Fade To Black. This track, titled “what Hov said…(intro),” captures Jay discussing young rappers coming up, who think they have to write about things they don’t feel and don’t know. He tells the cameraman to put the lens on him before saying, “See what y’all did to rappers? They scared to be theyself.”
Being true to himself, then, serves as Joel.’s mission here. “I can’t speak for no one else / but I’m gonna keep on being myself,” goes one of the refrains on the first song, “creston and 188th.” What follows is a personal catharsis. The next eight songs are all at least rooted in the past, even while facing the present. He looks back on his upbringing, his family, lessons learned and carried forward. “We was young / we was reckless,” he says, in the frank and unsentimental “hash browns.” The chilled out, hypnotic loop of the song keeps the mood static and, as much as the lyric, creates a vivid atmosphere, if not an especially warm one. It actually feels like a carefully constructed sound collage, pieced together from ‘70s-‘80s AM radio dials, video games, cassettes rewinding…the sounds of a childhood, running in the background.
“new, new york” brings us into the present, or at least the very recent past. But each track here, just like real life, builds on what came before. That’s why, even though this is an eight-song collection (nine tracks), I take songs for charles as an “album.” It’s not a mixtape, it’s not a collection of singles. It’s a thematic, narrative flow. And like a lot of Joel.’s work, it’s densely filled with imagery and wordplay, and almost has the feel of a play. With only a few listens so far, I have not absorbed every nuance, but I look forward to trying.
“better late than never (intermission)” is a dreamy flight, with a backing that sounds like recent Radiohead; droning chords bracing syncopated, jazz drums. The lyric is equal parts past, present, and future, and how they are helplessly intertwined, with a hook that declares, “I’d rather die than let go of one of my dreams / one foot forward, all I gotta do is proceed…It’s never too late to dream.” Hope continues to be a central theme here – aspirations for a better life, one that’s more fulfilling, one that is free from the troubled past, and one where glory is attained on no one else’s terms but your own.
Certainly Joel. knows there’s no complete escape from what came before. But songs for charles is at least an attempt at exorcism. Facing pain in stark terms, he describes a present in which personal reconciliation is already under way, and this music – in all its expressive, subtle complexity – is the conduit.
On Bandcamp now —> songs for charles by Joel.
Joe Mauldin, the bass player for one of the most influential early rock and roll bands, died on Saturday February 7th after a battle with cancer, Billboard reports. Mauldin played double bass in the Crickets, off-and-on backing band for Buddy Holly before his death in a plane crash in 1959.
Listening to Mauldin’s playing on those early records, it sounds familiar – almost archetypical – and thus perhaps less unique to modern listeners some 60 years later. But this of course is because he helped create the sound and style that became the bedrock for the then-new hybrid of rhythm and blues and pop that Holly was ushering in. While the double bass itself would not be in vogue for much longer, Holly and the Crickets influenced the biggest rock acts of the next decade, and they, in turn, shaped modern music as we know it today.
After Holly’s death, Mauldin continued to perform with the Crickets, who had already begun recording without their former frontman, who had moved to New York from their home in Texas. The band backed the Everly Brothers on tour before Mauldin enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving from 1964-66. He later became a recording engineer at the famed Gold Star Studios and, in 2012, was inducted with the rest of the Crickets – Jerry Allison, Sonny Curtis, and Niki Sullivan – into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Here’s a preview of some of the artists who will be featured on the next installment of “OurStage on Amazing Radio,” an online and terrestrial radio show broadcast out of the UK to hundreds of thousands of listeners. Last month’s show is streaming now and features some really great, undiscovered acts. Below are your January Top 5. Listen to a direct playlist of these songs by clicking here.
“Taking Me Under” by Austin Renfroe
One of the winningest artists on OurStage with this fan favorite song. Meticulously constructed pop with a soulful delivery.
“Drunk and Unemployed” by Wes-tone
The #1 track in the Folk channel also took the top of the Roots finals channel. The novel of this song’s title belies an earnest and sad lyric.
“Fake This” by The Upset Victory
Catchy-as-hell modern rock from a great band.
“Why It Wasn’t Me” by KParker
R&B takes top honors again this month. Mellow, grooving, smooth…everything modern R&B should be.
“Wake Up” by Project KF
Another mellow entry, with ambient and chill elements, but riding over a driving rhythm.
The 2015 Grammy Awards happened last night. Established: awards shows are generally silly, and we all hopefully know that going in, so we’re all really there for the spectacle and maybe to root for our favorite music, because a little personal vindication of taste – or tastication (™) – never hurt anyone.
The good part of last night’s telecast was that there was a lot of music packed in, and a lot less yapping by presenters. Acceptance speeches were also subject to the yap-ban, so even the big winners only got a minute or two to say thanks. This is still probably for the best, and most of the winners handled it with aplomb.
Sam Smith was a big winner, taking home four awards. We all joked early and often about the recent revelation that Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne were awarded songwriting credit and royalties for Smith’s smash “Stay With Me” and everyone had a good laugh.
The new album from Kat Robichaud and The Darling Misfits is out today, January 27th. An impressive, ambitious, and confident collection of dramatic rock and pop songs, the eponymous record was funded by fans earned by Robichaud throughout her time as front-woman of The Design and, most famously, during her thrilling run as a contender on The Voice.
There are no shortage of artists today aiming for the grand and theatrical, inspired by Lady Gaga, Dresden Dolls and the like – and surely these are influences on Kat Robichaud as well. But what makes this a special record, and Robichaud a special artist, is her natural edge. We would not hesitate to classify this as a rock and roll record, despite its polished pop production, purely for the non-stop intensity and the sheer force of the singer’s will. More Queen and Foxy Shazam than Gaga, really.
On top of this, the LP is beautifully bizarre. It is funny, clever, defiant, and plainly well-written. Sound collages recur throughout, sometimes to create or enhance a vibe, and occasionally just for a laugh. Yet this is no novelty. Veering between wrenching balladry and dynamic, piano-pounding epics, this is the sound of an artist going for broke, being completely true to herself and discovering her own essence, having tested her limits and finding only those that are self-imposed.
December’s winners (and more) are featured on the OurStage show streaming now on AmazingRadio.com. Listen in to hear music from Adios Mafia, Jesi Jones, Ju’not, Jillian Valentine, Space Walk, The Delta Riot, Sho Skrilla, Summerlyn Powers, Late Cambrian, Annalise Emerick, Yellabird, The Figgs, Kat Robichaud, and Shotty.
While you were mentally blowing off work in anticipation of your vacation, Yahoo Music was premiering the new official lyric video for Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits‘ “Somebody Call The Doctor.” The propulsive lead track from her upcoming album (January 27th) hit the web on December 23rd. Sure, it’s not all mistletoe and eggnog, but with all that out of the way, it’s time to focus on how spectacular this song sounds, and how entertaining the Doctor Who-themed video is. We’ll have more about the full-length soon, but until then, please enjoy:
We’re closing the books on 2014, with a batch of quality winners, as ranked by our fan community over the month of December. These artists (and more from the top of our charts) will be featured on our next installment of OurStage on Amazing Radio, an online and terrestrial radio show broadcast out of the UK to hundreds of thousands of listeners. If you haven’t heard the previous show, it’s streaming now. Below are your December Top 5. Listen to a direct playlist of these songs by clicking here.
“It’s Your Love” by Jillian Valentine
A soulful, intimate song that’s still universally accessible.
“How To Be Good” by Jesi Jones
With a thoughtful lyric and a voice as clear as a bell, Jesi Jones rises above the folk fray.
“Dirty Bomb” by Adios Mafia
Great to hear some punk take the top spot in rock. Cross Raw Power-era Stooges with Eagles of Death Metal. NSFW, as punk should be.
“A Little You And Me” by Ju’not
Classic R&B, straight out of 1974, but just as vital-sounding as anything on Top 40 today.
“Strings Of Serenity” by Space Walk
A sweeping, genre-melding mini-epic, incorporating ambient, classical, and Latin.
Our November artist spotlight show is now available for streaming on AmazingRadio.com. Listen in to see who hit the top of the charts and made our picks for the month. If you’re an artist yourself, enter your music in a channel to be considered for next month’s show. If you’re a fan, judge now to help us pick the upcoming featured artists.
It does not seem like that long ago that we were ears deep in Ripely Pine, the debut full-length from friend of OurStage Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. The artist otherwise known as Aly Spaltro joined up with us early on and was soon a favorite around the office, before being selected as the MTV Needle in the Haystack artist back in 2011. Ripely Pine was an impressive debut that firmly established the singer’s gravitas and seemingly endless potential as a songwriter. Today, Spaltro debuted “Billions of Eyes,” the first single from her new record, After, which is due in March 2014. Check out the official lyric video, made up of stills, home movies, and fan-submitted art. See below for the album artwork. (And be sure to check out our exclusive session with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper from a few years ago.)