In 1964, during a single session in New Jersey, John Coltrane and his quartet recorded the entirety of A Love Supreme. The almost supernatural, single-minded focus required to produce such a complex piece of art in such a compact amount of time was a true manifestation of the spirit of the album. A statement of unity, concord, and appreciation for the mysterious workings of the higher power to which Coltrane credited his music, A Love Supreme was the sound of an artist cracking the door on the connection to his muse, and letting his listeners peer in at the light, if only for a second.
Regions of Light and Sound of God, the first solo album from My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, bears that same mark of divine connection. This is not to bluntly compare James to Coltrane, or even to suggest that it’s possible to compare them as artists. It is, nonetheless, recognizing the possibility that, as an unabashedly spiritual album, Regions of Light can be understood in much the same way as Coltrane’s masterpiece.
What would prompt Dirty Projectors to push out an additional EP only a few months after the summer release of the band’s latest effort, Swing Lo Magellan? Judging from the songs on About To Die, it’s not label pressure, financial necessity, or a simple glut of extra material; it’s death, something that frontman Dave Longstreth seems to spend much of his time thinking about. Not that some morbid realization has fearfully prompted Longstreth to anxiously produce as much material as he can in a race against time. It’s just that he needs more tape to figure out what death really is, to explain it, to explore it, and on About To Die, he accomplishes this artfully.
Think you’ve heard it all from the world’s most revolutionary axeman? You’re not totally experienced yet. On March 5, a previously-unreleased collection of Jimi Hendrix songs will finally see the light more than 40 years after they were initially put to tape. The album, People, Hell and Angels, will contain songs originally intended for First Rays of the New Rising Sun, the unfinished double album that Hendrix was working on just before his death in 1970. Supposedly, the lost tracks will feature Hendrix dabbling in horns, percussion, and keyboards, expanding his already adventurous style into new sonic territory. In the meantime, fans can check out limited-time screenings of the guitarist’s legendary set at Woodstock in celebration of the 70th anniversary of his birth.
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Prepare yourselves for the best video of the year. Experimental indie artist Sufjan Stevens has a new video for his song “Mr. Frosty Man” from his upcoming 58-track Silver & Gold Christmas box set. The footage is a full 2 minutes of complete claymation carnage, with zombies, brains, bloodshed, a heroic snowman, references to The Evil Dead, and an unfortunate Santa Claus. The song itself is a silly sloppy garage style romp of out-of-tune guitars and “whatever’s around” percussion, and like most Sufjan Stevens songs, it doesn’t seem to resemble anything else he’s made. The Silver & Gold box set will be released on November 13th. Check out the video for “Mr. Frosty Man” below.
If you like Sufjan Stevens, then you might also like OurStage’s own The Tiny Tin Hearts.
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Indie blogosphere darlings Yeasayer have bucked the boom and bust trend of internet hype once already. Following up their buzzworthy 2007 debut All Hour Cymbals with the grand experimental pop of 2010’s Odd Blood, the Brooklyn-based band proved that it’s possible to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump that too often accompanies massive amounts of online exposure. Now, more than two years later, Yeasayer are back with Fragrant World, their third full length and most ambitious record to date. We caught up with bassist Ira Tuton to talk album art, film scoring, and the process of writing and recording Fragrant World.
OS: During the writing and recording process, you guys reportedly had enough material to do two separate albums: one of three-minute pop songs, and the other of more experimental tunes. Which type of album did Fragrant World ultimately end up becoming?
IT: I’m gonna go with the poppy one, just because we’re dealing with hooks, refrains, verses, and choruses. I think we used a lot of the ideas involved with making an experimental record and translated those aesthetics into the format of pop songs. We just honed down our focus and both types of music kind of bled into each other.
OS: Is there any chance we’ll ever get to hear some of those sidelined tracks?
IT: Yes, totally. I’d also love to explore some long–form compositions in the future. It’s something we haven’t really done. There are a lot of things we haven’t done, so we have the opportunity to move in many different directions in the future. There are certain things that didn’t make the record that are going to come out in the next year. Right now, though, the whole focus is on the album first. There’s so much thought in terms of that, because it’s not just the release, but it’s also dealing with our live show, making sure the arrangements are where we want them to be, and perfecting the visual aspect of our live show. A lot of things are more pressing matters on our end at this moment.
Michael “Flea” Balzary, the usually/mostly naked, hair-dyed, wildboy bassist for Red Hot Chili Peppers, has released his first ever solo album, entitled Helen Burns. However, in contrast with his rambunctious stage presence and famously upbeat alternative funk rock band, the new album “is a mostly instrumental, weird and arty record,” says Flea. “[T]he music is mostly just me creating soundscapes that are very emotional for me, but certainly not for everyone! Just me tripping out at home.” It’s available here as a name-your-price download or 180-gram vinyl, and all proceeds go toward The Silverlake Conservatory of Music, described by the musician as “a community based non profit music school that I am an integral part of.” Whether or not you’re a fan of RHCP, this is highly recommended listening – you might be pleasantly surprised.
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