It’s July the 1st, and for us, that means summer is in full swing. We’ve been so busy that the season has snuck up on us, and here we are without an album of the summer to call our own yet. Well, contender number one has just dropped. It’s called Penny the Dreadful and it’s by our old friends Those Mockingbirds. New Jersey’s finest have been building a formidable set of songs for this, their debut LP, and it is worth the wait. It’s rock and roll that revels in the guitars, drawing inspiration as much from current modern rock as from the great melodic guitar slashers from the ’90s, including Stone Temple Pilots (with better lyrics) and the often overlooked Hum. Get it on iTunes now – it could be your go-to summer rocker. thosemockingbirds.com
Phony New Kids mania has bitten the dust: Boston is finally getting its own big time festival with Boston Calling, which will be held at City Hall Plaza on May 25-26. Look for fun., The Shins, Matt & Kim, Of Monsters and Men, The National, Young the Giant, Dirty Projectors, Cults, Andrew Bird, and more, in addition to local faves Caspian and Bad Rabbits.
UK folk that won’t bring you down: Skinny Lister, the good-time English folk stompers who recently joined us for an exclusive OurStage session, have just announced a bunch of U.S. tour dates, including an astonishing seven sets at SXSW and a stop at Coachella. More from our friends at Under the Gun.
Returning to the scene: Tyler, the Creator, whose rap collective Odd Future grabbed our attention with a debut on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon back in 2011, went back to the show last night to perform “TreeHome” and “Domo 23″ with The Roots. It was something. Golf wang?
Please sit down and brace yourself for the shock before reading this news item: Alt-rock stalwarts Stone Temple Pilots have…fired Scott Weiland. Excuse me, they “terminated” him, presumably in a round of difficult downsizing. Weiland will be eligible for unemployment and will be able to stay on the band health insurance if he pays through the Cobra plan. This comes just a day after the singer promised to sing STP hits during his upcoming solo tour, slated to start March 1st.
Last month Ernie Ball sponsored our Punk Channel, offering a year’s supply of strings and accessories to one Grand Prize Winner. You, the fans, judged to help us find the best punk song by an OurStage artist to take home this amazing prize. So without further adieu, it is our pleasure to congratulate the winning musician, Kingnaldo with his song “I’m Mad As Hell”. Hailing from Dallas, Ga., this Puerto Rican solo artist has years of experience writing and performing within various genres including punk, metal, hard, and alternative rock. He recently recorded at Lavish Studios in Los Angeles, Calif. with producer/musician Doug Grean (Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, Sheryl Crow). Now Kingnaldo can rock out harder than ever and not worry about breaking a string, because OurStage and Ernie Ball got him covered. Check out his winning song “I’m Mad As Hell” below.
There were dozens of amazing shows rocking our world in 2011. With the year coming to a close, we can’t help but look ahead to 2012 and start getting excited about another whole year of new music and epic shows. Here’s some picks of the biggest acts to tour next year, and what to look forward to:
Coldplay: With the release of the highly-anticipated Mylo Xyloto album hot on their heels, Coldplay are set to tour the US throughout 2012. It’s been a while since they’ve played here, too: Their last performance in the US was in August of 2009. Many of their shows at arenas have already sold out. Get on it so you aren’t left out!
Smashing Pumpkins: In anticipation of the release of Oceania along with the remastered reissue of the band’s entire catalog, Billy Corgan is ready to hit the road with the reunited Pumpkins early next year.
Pearl Jam: The summer will see the Seattle grunge rockers showcasing their new material from coast to coast. With renewed energy and a legion of die-hard fans dying to see them (get those tickets quick!), the vibe at these shows is bound to be fantastic.
On Excuse the Need, Chris Hawkes admits, I’m freaking myself out. Maybe it’s the rhythmic lunge of guitars and percussion, the distortion that singes every note. Maybe it’s Austin-based singer-songwriter’s powerhouse voice, or his bent for early grunge. All these things add to a freakishly good collection of meaty alt-rock songs”a mix of Soundgarden and STP for the modern man. The lurching guitars of Control power through to a sludgy chorus that doubles as a mantra. As a guitarist, Hawkes loves to chug, as every track will prove. Nothing To Lose is pure garage rock, with a snarl of sinewy guitars that burrow down into the groove. Likewise, Throwing Stones is a fierce rocker that’s neck-deep in swagger. Derivative is boring, but Hawkes manages to stay current while leveraging the best of ˜90s rock. And to that we can only say, freakin’ A.
It’s official. TV is the new radio. Television is now the primary medium through which casual and even passive listeners with a general interest in music stand the greatest chance of discovering new music and artists.
Whether through serial dramas, sitcoms, commercials, or reality programming, television is absolutely soaking up hip indie rock bands and singer-songwriters as well as unsigned and often unknown artists. Sometimes it lends them cache “ a coolness factor that comes from being associated with something that sounds new. In the case of some higher-profile bands, like the ubiquitous Black Keys, this can cost them a chunk of change. Subaru and HBO, among others, are shelling out to feature the fresh-retro sound of a band like the Black Keys, which appeals to both young, in-the-know music fans and to an older generation who are so excited to hear something familiar-yet-new that they jump online (or, depending how old they are, to¦the record store) to find the genesis of this sound. Other times, and this is best case for the television show or advertiser, they spend relatively little on an unknown song from a licensor’s roster that either sounds fresh or sounds like another act they can’t afford or don’t want to pay for.
In both cases, it’s a win-win. The unknown artists get the kind of instant and national exposure that they wouldn’t get even if the biggest commercial radio station in their town started playing them. And the TV shows are getting these artists cheap, so they’re cramming more music into their shows AND often giving them a credit somewhere during or after the show. The bigger acts, meanwhile, are benefiting by getting bigger “ in the course of six studio albums, the Black Keys have only in the last year or so, with an increase in song licensing, jumped out of a comfortable cult status and into the consciousness of people who are neither savvy toward new music discovery nor particularly interested in getting savvy. Even if they really like good music, they know they don’t need to work that hard to find it. Just wait for the new iPod commercial, do a Google search, and, boom, you’ve discovered The Submarines. Bands, likewise, no longer have to pander, as in years past, to the corporate powers-that-be at major commercial radio. If you have that one song that perfectly captures the ennui that apparently comes standard with having a medical degree, you might get yourself on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy”ladies and gentlemen, The Fray (whose success on that show’s soundtrack has led to more and more such opportunities, many of which the band reports turning down for fear of overexposure).
And bands no longer grapple with the concept of selling-out. Television has always needed music, but bands used to be reluctant to accept offers to have their music synced with a commercial or any images they don’t control. Now, that wall has come down. For bands, getting on television is not only an acceptable way to distribute your music, but an enviable achievement. A band with a song on MTV’s The Real World will remind their friends and fans on Facebook to tune in, posting it as they would a good review. And they see instant results. YouTube views hit the thousands literally overnight even after a brief clip on such a high-profile show. And the next check from iTunes or CDBaby might be a nice surprise.
There are still quality commercial radio stations out there but, over the last ten years, many have become stale and afraid to take chances on untested music. Some major commercial stations began testing alt-rock hits from the mid-90s on listeners, finding that they liked them”they still liked them” and so they put Stone Temple Pilots back into heavy rotation, fifteen years later, rather than risk valuable airtime on a relatively unknown artist.
Well, it’s their loss and the beneficiaries are the TV shows and the artists. The world would be a slightly better place if commercial radio were more adventurous and compelling, but in the meantime, at least there is a new and effective outlet for bands. Television has a broader reach and a more engaged audience to pitch to. Unlike radio listeners, people watching TV aren’t driving or reading or playing with their kids. They’re watching TV, so shut up, dammit, I’m trying to Shazam the song in this Target commercial.
This year was a curious one in GRAMMY world, with some heavy hitters being shut out and some less popular acts finally getting a chance to shine. The ‘Record of the Year’ category is dominated by urban pop, with just one band”CMT Artist of the Year Lady Antebellum (nominated in six categories)”bringing up the rear with their country album Need You Now. Eminem leads the pack with ten nominations for his smash success Recovery, landing on the list for ‘Best Rap Album,’ and Love The Way You Lie, featuring Rihanna, scoring nominations for ‘Record of The Year,’ ‘Song of The Year,’ ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best Rap Collaboration.’
Other hip hop standouts include Cee-Lo’s three nominations for [Forget] You for ‘Record of The Year’ and ˜Song of The Year’ and ˜Best Urban Performance’. Jay-Z made the list for ˜Best Rap Album’ with Blueprint 3 and again with newlyweds Alicia Keys (with Empire State of Mind up for ˜Best Rap Song’ and Best Rap Collaboration) and Swizz Beatz (with Onto The Next One contending for ˜Best Rap by Duo’ and ˜Best Rap Song’). Keys’ album, Elements of Freedom was shockingly snubbed from all categories, despite its heavy radio play. Swizz Beats is also nominated for Fancy, his collaboration with Drake, whose debut album, Thank Me Later earned him a nomination for ˜Best Rap Album,’ while his single Overscored him a bid for ˜Best Solo Rap Performance.’
On the pop front, Katy Perry is the front-runner with four nominations for her album, Teenage Dream. Ke$ha’s debut, Animal, failed to garner any attention for the saucy newcomer and Lady Gaga‘s Bad Romance popped up on the shortlist for ˜Best Female Pop Vocal’ but was slighted in the categories of ˜Song and Record of The Year.’ “Dance In The Dark” earned Gaga a ‘Best Dance Recording’ nom and Telephone, her duet with Beyoncé, earned her a nomination for ˜Best Pop Collaboration.’
B.o.B fared well with his debut album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, earning him five nominations including ˜Record of The Year’ and ˜Best Rap Album’ while his single, Nothin On You featuring Bruno Mars is making a run for ˜Best Rap Song’, ˜Best Rap Collaboration’ and ˜ Record of The Year’. B.o.B’s duet with Paramore front-woman, Hayley Williams is also up for ˜Best Pop Collaboration.’ Meanwhile, Mars came in with seven nominations for his work with B.o.B., his single, Just The Way You Are and his work as producer with The Smeezingtons who are up for the ˜Producer of The Year’ title.
˜The ‘Best New Artist’ category seems the most diverse with contender Justin Beiber going head to head with Florence and the Machine, Drake, Mumford & Sons, and Esperanza Spalding (who was curiously excluded for any noms in the Jazz category) for the honor. Usher‘s, Raymond V Raymond will go against Chris Brown’s, Grafitti for ˜Best Contemporary R&B Album.’
This is the year of new beginnings. In addition to Chris Brown’s nomination, fellow tabloid darlings Lee Ann Rimes and Fantasia, whose troubling private lives made very public headlines, end their year on a happier note with nods for the former in ‘Best Female Country Vocal Performance’ and the latter in ‘Best Female R&B Vocal Performance’ and ‘Best R&B Song’ for “Bittersweet.”
There’s a good chance we’ll see last year’s ‘Best New Artist’ winner Zac Brown Band on stage again this year, this time sans stick puppet”2009 addition Clay Cook was unable to accept the award with the band for their win last year because he did not have a credit on their first album. They’re nominated for ‘Best Country Performance,’ ‘Best Country Song’ and ‘Best Country Album.’ Other country favorites Keith Urban, Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Miranda Lambert, Jewel also received nominations.
No huge surprises found among artists in the rock categories, with multiple nominations for veterans Jeff Beck (‘Best Rock Album,’ ‘Best Rock Performance’ with Joss Stone and ‘Best Rock Instrumental’) and Neil Young (‘Best Rock Song,’ ‘Best Rock Album’ and Best Solo Rock Performance’) while Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Eric Clapton, John Mayer earning one nom each. Hard rock and metal showcased no new artist nominations either: Ozzy Osborne, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Iron Maiden, Korn, Megadeth, Lamb of God and Slayer.
For the complete list of nominees across all 100 categories, visit Grammy.com
By Cortney Wills with additional reporting by Paula Gould
Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.