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Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Coldplay signs huge recording contract with Universal

In fact, it’s so huge the figure can’t even fit on your computer monitor. Coldplay recently re-signed to Universal Music”the world’s largest music publishing company. Neither has released details about the contract, but it’s speculated to be one of the biggest in music history and worth millions to each of Coldplay’s four band members. Looks like Apple and Moses Martin will have a big Christmas this year.

Jenny and Johnny to release album on August 31st

Sure, we’re excited about this collaboration between Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and her boyfriend, songwriter Jonathan Rice. The album is called I’m Having Fun Now and comes out on August 31st. (You can pre-order it on iTunes right now if you want.) But, if we’re being honest, the real reason why we’re writing about the new Jenny and Johnny record is so that we can share their awesome cassette tape music player with you. Listen to the songs and watch the tape move back and forth. Now we’re having fun.

The Bad

Jay-Z tops Forbes list


Coming in at a cool $63 mill, Jay-Z makes the top of Forbes highest-paid rappers list for the second year in a row. According to Buzzfeed, it may have little to do with lyrical adroitness. Check out this list of the worst lyrics by the world’s richest rappers. It’s a hoot.

The Ugly

New Kids on the Block and Back Street Boys to tour together

New Kids On The Block

If you don’t know who these bands are, you’re a lot cooler than us and may want to skip ahead to the next section ¦

¦OK, now that all the youngbloods are gone, OMG can you believe NKOTB and BSB are gonna tour!!! Hanging Tough AND Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)? Surely there is no arena on Earth that can handle a show this rad. In conclusion, JORDAN KNIGHT!!!

And we’re done.


Download of the Week: Lion of Ido

Hailing from New York, the electro-pop band Lion of Ido uses their musical witchcraft to create tunes that are hard to resist. Armed with extensive tour experience along the east coast, Lion of Ido is this week’s talented Needle in the Haystack pick! Their front man/producer/songwriter, Ido Zimishlany, utilizes a mult-layered hybrid recording process that he experiments with until he reaches musical perfection. We’re sure that their upcoming EP to be released in October will offer the same high level of musicianship as their current tunes. WARNING: It’s hard not to move to their music.

Download the track below and stay tuned to hear more about the band as the week goes on!

Ernie Ball Winners Rock Out With A Year's Supply Of Free Strings

Every month, Ernie Ball selects one winner from one music channel to be the recipient of a years supply of free strings. Each month, a different genre is chosen and axe wielders of all shapes and sizes get the opportunity to win. We caught up with winners Fiction Reform and The Worsties to learn a little more about their playing style, major influences and favorite guitarists among other things. Check out their responses below:

Jesse Worstell (The Worsties)

Playing Style: “My style is a mixture between punk and riff rock. Lots of powerchords mixed with some riffy goodness.”

Favorite Players: Jimi Hendrix, Mike McCready, Tom Morello, Jack White, Prince

Major Influences: “I caught the music bug in high school so my biggest influence in the beginning was anything from the grunge era, especially Pearl Jam. A lot of the albums in the ’90s were easy to play along to, so they were pretty much my guitar teachers.

Currently Playing: “My main guitar is a black Gibson SG Standard. I also have an arctic white Fender American Telecaster and a white 1985 Japanese Fender Mustang.”

What was it like to win? “When we received the news that we had won a year’s supply of strings there was a lot of celebration, mostly because Ernie Ball was already my preferred string. It couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ve been on the road quite a bit and strings can be expensive, especially if you’re going through them so fast… and it’s not always easy to find a music shop while out playing shows. We don’t have to worry about that now for a while. It’s been one of the best prizes The Worsties have received for sure!”

Aaron Chabak (Fiction Reform)

Playing Style: “My playing style is mostly a blend of classic punk-rock power chording and blues licks that I picked up listening to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. I like to stay minimalistic when possible because Brenna can really belt out the vocal melodies.”

Favorite Players: “My list of favorite guitar players is always growing. It started with Jimmy Page, Jerry Cantrell, Eddie Van Halen, all the guys in Bad Religion and Fletcher from Pennywise. Lately I’ve been into Matt from Muse, Zach & Tim from Rise Against and recently I’ve been going back over Descendents albums.”

Major Influences: “I can track most of my inspiration back to Dave Grohl. The first time I saw him play was with the Foo Fighters at Memorial Hall in Kansas City when they were promoting their first album. I’ll never forget how cool he was on stage. And that guy plays everything like a badass!”

Currently Playing: “Right now my main guitar is a Gibson Les Paul Standard and I recently got a goldtop LTD EC-400 that I’ve been really impressed with. The guys at Krank also turned me on to their new Nineteen80 series amp and it rips!”

What was it like to win? “Winning free strings is an awesome feeling! It’s easy to skimp on changing strings when you’re a starving musician and it’s horrible for your tone. Having a year’s worth of Ernie Ball’s keeps me sounding my best every night so I’m very thankful.”

You can check out the riffing of Aaron Chabak and Jesse Worstell in the playlist below:

Andre Harrell Finds His Superstar

The Andre Harrell Superstar Soul Search gathered some of the nation’s top up-and-coming R&B/Soul artists and pitted them against each other for a shot at success. The finals took place in Atlanta on July 31st, and”after a long and fierce competition”Mr. Ayers was declared the winner. We sat down with Mr. Ayers and the man himself, Andre Harrell, to find out more about the competition and the finals.

Mr. Ayers recalled for us the atmosphere in Atlanta. “The competition was a lot of fun. Full of so many talented artists. It was also tense as HELL! I was the first person on the list to perform! Not the typical place to be if you want to leave an impression with judges. It worked out in my favor though. When I was onstage in front of the judges, the few times I looked at them they were stone faced! They just stared at me. I thought that I dropped the ball a few times. I just focused on the crowd and my performance.” Andre Harrell discussed with us some of the things he was looking for from the artists, and why he felt Mr. Ayers was the right fit. “I was looking for people to sing about relationships. I think love has been missing from the music. Overall, Mr. Ayers had better songs and a better point of view. When you listen to his songs, he’s a romantic crooner. He put his emotion into the songs and he understood who he was and who he wanted to be. It’s very important for an artist to have point of view.”

In addition to praise for Mr. Ayers, Harrell had good things to say about the other artists at the competition. “There were a lot of standout performances. Amaye had a huge voice. Her performances were some of the best. Frank Sirius had a great voice and a great ability to perform. Nicoya from Houston had a great voice, good look, great records. I plan to put all these artists on a Superstar Soul Search compilation album that I’m going to make.” Aside from featuring these artists on the compilation, Harrell also plans to set them up with established producers the likes of R Kelly, Robin Thicke and Rodney Jerkins (Beyoncé, Mike City). “I want to match up these young artists up with producers who can help them structure their production and their songs to the best of their ability. They will keep the songs they have, but just bring up their production, giving them the education they need to bring them to the next level.”

Check out highlights from the SuperStar Soul Search Competition in Atlanta in the video below (courtesy of Radio One) and be sure head over to Mr. Ayers’ OurStage profile to listen to his superstar sound.

Soul Searching: AHMIR

This week’s Soul Searching artist is one that you may have heard of if you’ve spent any time on YouTube to browse new talent. AHMIR is an east coast-based group that has been taking the nation by storm thanks to their fantastic originals and covers posted on YouTube. Their tight four part harmonies make every song they sing really fun to listen to. Take a listen to their cover of The Climb and check out the interview with AHMIR below!

OS: How was the group formed? Where did you guys meet?

AHMIR: We all met in Boston while there for either scholastic or family/personal reasons. The group was formed slowly and over time. Big Mike and Mr. Jones knew each other first. . .then met their present manager Michael Cheung. Then they met KC through auditions and finally Big Mike scouted Sing-Sing at a gospel concert at the Berklee College of Music where he was a student.

OS: You guys do a lot of covers on YouTube. Which artists do you like covering the most?

AHMIR: No particular artist, but we LOVE covering artists that are outside of what is perceived to be our “genre” which is R&B. Some of these cross-genre covers have been our favorites and most successful on YouTube. AHMIR has covered Britany Spears, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, The Jonas Brothers, Train and many more. What’s really cool is that some of these artists have actually seen our covers of their song and said how much they liked it! There’s a great video on YouTube of Miley Cyrus watching us sing “The Climb” where she says “They’re so freakin’ good… I got chills.” ( You can check out the video here.)

OS: AHMIR has been incredibly successful thus far. What is your definition of musical success? What are some stand out goals of yours where you would sit back and say We made it!?

AHMIR: Success probably has two sides for us. In one regard, we are already successful as we are able to share our music with the world because of the large fanbase we have established over the years and all the media and press coverage. The other half of that would be able to do it on a larger scale and also be able to live from the financial benefits and be able to afford to give back financially and otherwise to the world. That is really the type of success that we’re looking to achieve right now. So once we get to that point, we might be able to say “We made it,”,but right now we still feel like we’re in a battle and trying to win. Nevertheless, some of the achievements that we’re proud of are charting at Number 19 on Billboard with our debut single “Welcome To My Party,” touring through Germany, winning BET’s 106 & Park R&B group competition, being featured in Billboard magazine, being a finalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, appearing on FOX Morning News and CNN, performing live on stage with Universal Republic recording artist Owl City and becoming the Number 1 Most Popular R&B Group on YouTube with over 20 million views.

OS: Any plans for up and coming albums or major projects?

AHMIR: We plan on releasing a brand new single late 2010 or early 2011 and hopefully another album mid 2011 to early 2012. There are some great things that are happening behind the scenes and we believe that we will be in a position to make some truly amazing stuff happen in the near future.

Make sure to stay tuned for next week’s Soul Searching artist, and as always, please comment and let us know if you find someone you think would be great for us to feature!

Festivus: Farewell Festival Season

August is closer to over than beginning, which means the same for summer, and this column. And while there are a few festivals left that dare to stretch their wings into the fall months”Austin City Limits and Bumbershoot will be tempting us in the coming weeks” its time to bid our friends on the road adieu and hope that acts touring through the winter will hold us over til spring once more. That said, festival season 2010 brought a lot of good times and memories, with thank yous to be said, apologies to be made and lessons to be learned in the process.

Yours Truly and HANSON at Bamboozle

So to start off, I’m sorry to the Internet Warrior, who asked me to bring him sunscreen from the car while at Bamboozle but I brought back hair gel instead. While I didn’t feel your pain, I could definitely see it in your bright red sunburn.

I’m sorry to one of our interns, who sprinted back and forth and battled out burly security guards by herself to get great shots of acts at SXSW. Though I’m not really sorry, because she was”after all”at SXSW.

I’m sorry to Andrew WK’s T-shirt at Warped Tour, which will not survive the strawberry smoothie that accosted it.

I’m sorry to the people of Toronto, who no doubt missed me terribly when I couldn’t attend the first OVO Festival with Drake because I didn’t have a valid passport. Customs are no joke, kids. And thank you to our Account Manager Alex, who went in my place and rocked it.

Trying to decide who to see at Bonnaroo

Thank you to the cop directing traffic in Mansfield, TN, who led us down a dirt access road that resulted in bypassing the hours of wait time on the highway shoulder waiting to get into Bonnaroo. And thank you to the kid directing cars once in the camp ground that resulted in a spot just minutes from the media tent, where I lugged my lap top every day.

Thank you to the wonderful ladies of OurStage who won opening spots on the Lilith festival, who displayed grace and appreciation when some dates were cancelled.

Thank you to the awesome folks at Converse who hooked up OurStage bands The Appreciation Post and Therefore I Am with sweet sneaks at the Journey’s Backyard BBQ (a mini-fest, but fest all the same).

Mayday Parade at Journey's Backyard BBQ

And thank you to all you crazy music fans who shared in our adventures. Festivals have no doubt changed and adapted in hard times and fluctuating music trends, but your passion keeps us all going. So rinse out your cooler, pack up your tent, put some aloe on that sunburn and we’ll see you next year!

Tune Up: Ashdown Bass Rig Review

If you ask any bassist what amp they choose, you’ll hear a wide variety of answers. Some people swear by Ampeg or Gallien Krueger, but my personal choice is Ashdown. This week I’m offering a quick review of their ABM 410T 4×10 bass cabinet as well as recommending an amplifier head to go with it, the MAG 600H.

ABM 410T:

I personally use an older version of this model as my bass cabinet. There are a lot of things I like about it in terms of construction and power. First, the specs:

-600W of continuous power

-4 10-inch BlueLine speakers

-Tweeter included

-Plywood construction

-Leath/cloth covering

-Metal corners/handles

The amp provides an impressive, full sound that I find lacking in some speaker cabinets. I particularly like the depth of the cabinet. Its dimensions really do add a resonant sound. In the model I own, the bottom port allows some of the lower frequency components to be projected more directly. There is a high/low horn control switch on the back along with its direct ins/outs.  Last but not least, the BlueLine speakers, clearly visible through the front netting, give the amp a unique and crisp look onstage.

MAG 600H:

I chose this amp head for its power and simplicity. You can get the matching head for the cab above, but I personally prefer this model a little more. Often, I find amplifier heads are overly complicated with too many bells and whistles, and somewhat lacking in more important characteristics. Here are the specifications:

-575W RMS power

-Bass/mid/treble knobs

-Shaping switches (bright or deep)

-Subharmonic generated (enhanced low end)

-Active/passive inputs

-Balanced output

While I don’t currently use this for my rig, I have used one in the past. I really like the power because it falls right within the range that I usual require for small-mid sized club gigs. The EQ gives you just the right amount of control (although in some applications I do like a graphic EQ, a minor con for this model). The head even has the flexibility of passive/active inputs to accommodate your specific bass as well as bright/deep quick-switches. This model really shines though in its bass output power. While wattage varies from brand to brand, specs can never tell you how much response will come from an amp in a real-world setting. I can tell you that this amp pushes some serious low end. I’ve been told by many people that it adds some of the best low end support they’ve heard from a bass amp in a band setting.

Adam Clayton of U2

That being said, the amp lacks a little in overall tone. While power and drive are great on this, I find that there isn’t enough shimmer for me. If anyone is familiar with the metallic sound of a picked punk bass, you know that you need some high end. I chose the cabinet above because of its inclusion of a tweeter, but this head lacks a little on the high-end, another minor negative for this model.

Overall, the quality and craftsmanship of Ashdown surprises and impresses me time and time again. When loading in and out of venues and transporting gear, I tend to put my equipment through a great deal of stress. These models are, as they say, road-ready. Did I mention that bassists from Lifehouse, Oasis, U2, System Of A Down, Megadeath and Foo Fighters all use Ashdown bass amps? If all that isn’t enough for you, I’d urge you to head to your local retailer and try it back to back with other makes and models. I’m betting your ears will agree with me in the end.

Harmony: Indie Rock Finds Its Voice(s)

Ask a music fan in their late 30s or 40s “ preferably one stuck in their formidable years, and not an old hipster “ to define indie rock as a sound, and you’ll unquestionably hear some semblance of these words: Loud. Abrasive. Anti-Authority. Forward-thinking. Think about indie-rock forebears, and some may even call them unlistenable: Sonic Youth reveled in noise; Lou Reed couldn’t sing to save his life; Michael Stipe’s lyrics made no sense. And yet, in the past few years, an unmistakable trend’s emerged that’s made indie rock something entirely different “ in a word, beautiful.

That trend is harmony, the melding of vocals singing different notes to create a full, hopefully gorgeous chord. Admittedly, harmony has been a trait of indie rock since the early years (Kim Deal and Frank Black dabbled, as did Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl) but only recently has it become an indie-rock trademark, rather than a side note. Blame (or thank) The Shins, whose New Slang made Natalie Portman swoon and Zach Braff famous six years ago, opened the door to indie-rock sensitivity in a way it’d never been opened before.

Only in the last couple of years has harmony become zeitgeist-y, though. First came the Fleet Foxes, the ultra-hyped, superbly bearded Seattle band whose atmospheric, folksy Sun Giant was the toast of 2008, thanks to singer Robert Pecknold’s harmonizing with all of his band mates to create glorious, seemingly impossible vocal collosi that are at once overwhelming and majestic. Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear broke out last year with Veckatimest, which took the Fleet Foxes lushness and weirded it up, the group-sings so striking, they won the band the top spot on the Wall Street Journal’s list of the best records of 2009. And now, Angelenos Local Natives take the trend a step further, with the foursome bringing the fuzz of electric guitars (and the jumpy rhythms of bands like the Talking Heads) to the party, busting out three-and-sometimes-four part harmonies that’re both electrifying and soothing, occasionally simultaneously. Listening to them “ or any of their predecessors “ may not be an anti-authority statement the way, say, listening to Iggy was in 1972, but so what: who needs attitude when you can have lusciousness, instead?

-Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is the LA editor of and has been writing about music professionally for over a decade for publications including the Los Angeles Times, Relix, and

Behind the Mic: How a Cover Song Can Boost Your Career

Many bands start off their first practice by learning a cover song, but even seasoned acts can benefit from playing someone else’s music.

A cover song can be a great career booster, and an easy way to reach a wider audience. People love to hear new takes on old favorites, as proven by the popularity of cover compilations like Fearless Records’ Punk Goes… collection.

The "Punk Goes" Collection

It may seem strange to use someone else’s music for your own benefit, but a cover can actually be a powerful promotional tool. Once you have a solid recording, upload it into a movie-making program, like iMovie, so that it can be posted on YouTube. While you can make the video a still shot with your band’s name and URL on it, shooting a music video for the cover song will show off your creativity and personality as a band. Best of all, it doesn’t need to cost a penny.

Case in point: The Fold. The band were previously signed to Tooth & Nail Records, but decided to cut ties in 2008 and have remained unsigned ever since. This past December, they released a parody version of Miley Cyrus’ hit “Party in the U.S.A,” this time titled “Every Band in the U.S.A.” The song’s lyrics were re-written to poke fun at the pop-punk scene, specifically how playing a Miley Cyrus cover can instantly win over an unenthusiastic crowd.

The laugh-out-loud video, which was shot completely on an iPhone, quickly gained national attention and has racked up over 345,000 views on YouTube. It was even promoted by Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low (a band that was name-dropped in the video as refusing to tour with The Fold) on Twitter. The Fold also made the song available for free download on their Web site (remember-charging money for a cover song without permission is illegal!) and even got an endorsement from Glamour Kills clothing for a t-shirt after mentioning their lack of sponsorship in the song.

One more thing: before you unleash your video to the world, make sure that it is tagged appropriately with the song name, the original artist’s name and your name. This will ensure that anyone who searches YouTube for the original song, or for covers of it, will be able to see your video as well. Once the video is up, get to work promoting it on all of the social media accounts you have!

As The Fold’s drummer Mark Rhoades commented, YouTube is the new MTV, and you don’t need big marketing money to reach new fans.

It's Serious

Girl In A Coma

Girl In A Coma came together in high school over a mutual love of the Smiths (thus the name), but it was arguably Joan Jett, not Morrissey, who sealed their fate by introducing them to their first real wave of success. The San Antonio group was signed by Jett to her label, Blackheart Records, after catching a show at The Knitting Factory. Now with two records and national tours with Cyndi Lauper, Tegan and Sara, and (OMG!) Morrissey under their belt, these three grrrls are just hitting a full gallop. Here’s what the fuss is about: stylized rock with punk underpinnings, big distortion and the feline yowl of singer Nina Diaz. Static Mind is your slap-in-the-face introduction. Guitars chug and send up a wall of fuzz, drums keep a relentless rock steady beat, and Diaz chews off her lyrics and spits them out at you”making each word sound exotic. Their Cell is more of a twisted, unchained melody¦ unpredictable, sexy and dangerous. It’s a far cry from the asexual, sardonic musings of Morrissey, but that might be why you’ll like it.