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SoundTrax: Running Free

In the age of the playlist, everyone has access to collections of songs hacked together due to arbitrary similarities. But what does that accomplish other than aid our forever shortening attention span, while making the idea of an album obsolete? SoundTrax is here to provide you with playlists that are more thought out, but still provide you with that instant gratification.

Do you remember that scene from Season 5 of Entourage when the boys take a trip” out to Joshua Tree, eat a bag full of shrooms and embark on their weekly thirty-minute hijinks filled adventure? It’s hard to forget, as one of the funniest episodes from the show’s eight-year (three too long in my opinion) career. What viewers often do forget four years after the episode premiered, is that the boys went out to Joshua Tree because Vince had a big decision to make regarding which movie role he would embark on, and they didn’t feel like such a monumental decision could properly be made in a big city.

Escaping the hustle and bustle of our daily lives is a universally appealing thought, but often disregarded as an irresponsible adolescent ideal. At SoundTrax we say “Screw that!” Take a day off from work, hop in your car and head out to your nearest Joshua Tree (an open field will do just fine). Forget the cell phone and laptop, all you’ll need is a sleeping bag, a handful of good friends and maybe a flashlight or two. While we do condone playing hooky from work, we can’t advocate drug use, so maybe lay off the magic mushrooms.

SoundTrax: Running Free from OurStage on 8tracks.

The music found on this playlist features bombastic, sprawling arrangements, often highlighting a heavy use of strings, with guitar riffs that chug along in repetition until they’re engrained in your soul. This is music made to run through open fields, arms outstretched, head to the sky, screaming at the top of your lungs, just because you can. And when you’re done, sprawl out on your back and watch the stars and moon swirl above you. Each song builds to a climax much greater than the sum of its parts, pulling the listener on an emotional and sonic journey that has a clear trajectory, but one that is open enough for the listener to fill in their own story.

Now that I’ve fulfilled your daily quota of thoughtful hippie musings, take a break from your stressful day and enjoy this stellar collection of tunes.

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Mark Wahlberg's Celebrity Challenge: Making Justin Bieber a Movie Star

If anyone can do it, it would be the pop artist formerly known as Marky Mark. The task at hand: transforming Justin Bieber from Canadian teen-pop idol into Hollywood matinee idol

Mark Wahlberg already knows a thing or three about reinvention. When he first burst onto the entertainment scene in 1991 as the leader of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunk”a two-hit wonder from whom nobody expected any kind of longevity, and afterwards as a Calvin Klein underwear model”few probably thought he’d be likely to succeed past the mid-decade mark.

Yet two decades later, he’s still here. He’s a movie star and a respected actor, a successful producer (of the TV series Entourage and Boardwalk Empire, and of last year’s Best Picture Oscar contender, The Fighter) and an Academy Award acting nominee (Best Supporting Actor for 2006’s The Departed).

His next project: making Justin Bieber a film star. “I see the guy and spent time with him, and you see what he does and how he does it,” Wahlberg told MTV News last year, “and then you actually have a conversation with him, and it’s there.”

Picture this (because Wahlberg already has): Bieber in a The Color of Money-type film, which Wahlberg is developing for Paramount Pictures, with basketball replacing pool. Bieber would take the Tom Cruise role, and Wahlberg would cast a formidable screen legend like Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall or Jack Nicholson as the grizzled vet, the Color of Money archetype that finally won Paul Newman an Oscar in 1987.

It sounds like a dream job”for someone else. If Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Justin Timberlake, Tim McGraw and Wahlberg himself have taught us anything, when making the transition from music to movies, it’s best to start small. Both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera tried to fulfill their film-star fantasy by starring above the title the first time out (in Crossroads and Burlesque, respectively), and thus far, neither one’s Hollywood dream has come true.

Enimen has yet to find a follow-up worthy of his debut starring role in 2002’s 8 Mile; the Hollywood heat surrounding The Bodyguard star Whitney Houston, set to test the acting waters again in a 2012 remake of Sparkle, quickly cooled after three films; Beyoncé has gotten plenty of acting work, but her Hollywood career has yet to generate any kind of major excitement; and Evita aside, Madonna has been most successful onscreen in supporting roles (Desperately Seeking Susan, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own). Former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar her first time out for Dreamgirls, but what has she done for us lately?

That Bieber’s 2011 documentary/concert film, Never Say Never, was a major box-office success ($73 million in North America) indicates that movie-ticket buyers will shell out bucks to see him on the big screen. And he’s already had a guest-starring role in C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation. But pop stars are always booking cameos and story arcs in hit TV shows, and in Never Say Never, Bieber was literally playing himself. If Wahlberg is going to guide him through the Hollywood jungle, he’d be wise to pull out the map that he himself used.

For now, let somebody else drive. Don’t even let him ride shotgun just yet. Bieber would be better off in the backseat, cast in an ensemble movie where he doesn’t have to do all of the heavy lifting (see Taylor Swift in Valentine’s Day”on second thought, don’t).

When Wahlberg landed his first major starring role, in 1997’s Boogie Nights, he was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and surrounded by highly esteemed talents like Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly and a soon-to-be-briefly resurgent (and Oscar-nominated for the first time) Burt Reynolds.

Even after Boogie Nights, Wahlberg’s most notable films”I Heart Huckabees, The Departed, The Fighter”have featured plenty of Oscar-caliber talent. And in The Departed, it was Wahlberg, not costars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon or Jack Nicholson who walked away with the Oscar nod.

But Wahlberg seems to have other ideas for Bieber, whom he calls “really talented.” And if he exhibits no discernible talent for film acting once the cameras roll? “I will extract it,” Wahlberg said.

Good luck to them both. They’ll need it. Wahlberg may have proven that he’s a miracle worker by going from rapper to underwear hunk to Oscar nominee, but Bieber holding his own with a DeNiro or a Duvall or a Nicholson sounds like an almost-impossible dream.

10 Music Stars Who Deserve a Hollywood Big-Screen Test

1. Lady Gaga

Best Performance in a Video: “Paparazzi”

2. John Mayer

Best Performance in a Video: “Who Says”

3. Ke$ha

Best Performance in a Video: “Blow”

4. Mary J. Blige

Best Performance in a Video: “Be Without You”

5. Pink

Best Performance in a Video: “Glitter in the Air” (live at the 2010 GRAMMY Awards)

6. Duffy

Best Performance in a Video: “Warwick Avenue”

7. Fiona Apple

Best Performance in a Video: “Fast As You Can”

8. Richard Ashcroft

Best Performance in a Video: “Break the Night with Colour”

9. Roisin Murphy

Best Performance in a Video: “Overpowered”

10. Brandon Flowers

Best Performance in a Video: The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done”

Sound And Vision: Foster the People's Chart Challenge — Is There Life After "Pumped Up Kicks"?

Foster the People just might be the pop anomaly of 2011.

The trio of Los Angeles-based twentysomethings led by founder and namesake Mark Foster looks like a boy band (only cuter), plays instruments like rockers and produces music with beats that thump as hard as any backing up those fierce divas currently ruling every dance floor in clubland. And then there’s FTP’s breakthrough single, an insanely catchy song called “Pumped Up Kicks” about cool shoes and a youth with homicidal tendencies.

I mean, really?

Even more surprising than the song’s smash status despite its decidedly un-poppy protagonist”that troubled kid contemplating a shooting spree”is the fact that it’s created barely a ripple of controversy throughout its lengthy chart run. Did the clever lyrics fly over the heads of the country’s guardians of morality and decency in songwriting? Were we all just too lost in the beat to notice the finger on the trigger?

Or perhaps for the first time since the second British invasion of the 1980s brought such alternative pop acts as Duran Duran,
Depeche Mode and indie-pop pioneers the Smiths into and around the mainstream, both the masses and the pop-music establishment (radio and retail) are ready to support music that touches on more complex subject matters than “dance music sex romance””to quote a track on pop iconoclast supreme Prince’s 1982 album, 1999, one of the records that launched the censorship wars of the early ’80s that would hardly raise an eyebrow today.)

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The Latest From OurStage's Greatest

With hundreds of thousands of artists making up the OurStage community, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the latest cool happening with our favorite musicians. Luckily, we subscribe to hundreds of OurStagers’ newsletters and email updates so we can always be there to lend a hand or a congratulatory high five. Consider this post a fist pump, thumbs up, ass slap, whatever you will, to these artists for their continuing hustle. Stay awesome.

You may remember the alt hip hop group OMG from their cooler than cool showing in the Coors Light Search for the Coldest Competition, where they froze out competition to become finalists and opened for N.E.R.D. Now they’re heating things up with their latest single “Chase the Sun” released on August 3 from their upcoming debut LP Mr. Mars. The funky hip hop beats will put you in a block party mindset complete with warm tall boys, but the swaggy hip hop vocals will melt you down into a groovy puddle right on the pavement.

Some music is just written for heartache. But if you’re really looking to torture yourself, you’re gonna want the songs that were written from heartache. Chris Akinyemi delivers in “Aya Mi” (means My Heart in Yoruba) of his debut Autumn EP, a soft acoustic song about what sounded like a wrenching break up with his college girlfriend. Just as you’re about to slit your wrists, female harmonies and the slightest percussion accents are dropped in (4:20) for a revitalizing finish. Regardless of the inspiration for the song, Chris has the last laugh, as the “Aya Mi” music video will soon premiere on MTV.

Our DVR may be slightly backed up with the new episodes of Entourage (what? Sunday nights are busy!) but The Niceguys video for their new single “Ari Gold”, off their upcoming The James Kelley EP, is enough to remind us why we need to make a date with our remote, and soon. Spitting a take-no-prisoners philosophy, we want to bump the song while driving around cursing off our boss (hypothetically, of course!).  In the latest issue of Rolling Stone (p. 56)  Jeremy Piven insisted he really is a “nice guy”… maybe The Niceguys can make him one of their entourage.

Amy Kuney makes the kind of music that lends itself to pop culture and relevant going-ons. Her song “All Downhill From Here” made an appearance in the uber-creepy Catfish, a was-it-or-wasn’t-it documentary exploring online relationships. Most recently “Gasoline Rainbows” was used by So You Think You Can Dance choreographer Stacey Tookey to convey a wake up call in regards to growing environmental issues. Whether it’s intentional or not, Amy is certainly tuned in.

Being sick sucks. Being sick with food poisoning sucks even more. Being sick with pneumonia, food poisoning AND being in Germany probably sucks serious bratwurst. But Xoe Wise is bouncing back and getting ready to depart on a North American tour with Matt Ryd, hitting pretty much every major city and adding in five performances at Microsoft locations, who are sponsoring her. Look for our care package of TheraFlu in the mail, Xoe.

The New York Times, as they say, has all the news that’s fit to print. So it’s only fitting that Sarah Solovay popped up in the N.Y./Region section last month in an interview about her career as a seventeen-year-old musician juggling songwriting and prep school. Despite a respectable number of song placements in TV and film, “her biggest achievement was opening for [John] Mayer. Fans [judged] for her on OurStage.com, and on July 24, 2010, she took the stage in front of 18,000 people in Scranton, Pa.,” where our old friend music exec Bruce Tyler noticed and took special interest in her career. Taking the summer to work on her new album, it’s back to the stacks in the fall for Sarah.

 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monster Mash

I Love Monsters

In person, I Love Monsters may or may not be as cool as the guys from Entourage, but, in stereo, they sure as hell sound like they are. Which may be why the HBO series featured the NYC band’s song, Heart/Beat, on its Season 7 premiere. It’s tightly wound (like Ari Gold) and highly stylized (like Vince Chase) and wastes no time getting to the point. Drums clatter and serpentine guitars wind and lunge for a killer, two-minute showdown. I Love Monsters’ frenzied, rhythmic melodies are cut from the same cloth as the Killers and Strokes”just take away the crooning and add snotty, high-register post-punk vocals. Keep Me Guessing, is a jittery rocker that courses restlessly while guitars dart in and out and cymbals crash. Sounds like these monsters have a serious case of agida”lucky for you it’s contagious.

Download of the Week: Streetlab

From the clubs of NYC we have this week’s Needle in the Haystack artist, electronic rock duo Streetlab. With multiple remix / mix tape albums and EP/LP’s available, the group landed a key placement in the Apple iPod/iPhone hit game Tap Tap Revenge 2. Streetlab has also had their songs “Supernatural” and “NYSound” placed in CSI: NY and HBO’s Entourage.  The group has even performed in the Apples store at SoHo NYC. See the video below!

For this week’s “Download of the Week,” we’ll be offering their track, “Rat Racer.” Keep an eye out for more from Streetlab in the coming days.