Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of unusual covers and collaborations from bands like The Flaming Lips, Ke$ha, and The Joy Formidable to name a few. Now, with Tears For Fears releasing their cover of Animal Collective‘s “My Girls,” the replication isn’t quite as different as you might imagine (or even hope.) Flooding listeners with sweet synths and haunting vocals, this cover takes everything you loved about the original and adds that extra dose of ’80s vibes to send listeners straight into a blissful trance.
Tears For Fears is also working up on a follow up to 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, with plans to release the new album in 2014. Check out the cover below. (more…)
There’s nothing like a little Scottish synthpop to ease you into a Monday morning. Performing in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, Chvrches recently covered East 17‘s “Stay Another Day”” and covered it well. Maybe it’s the added female vocals, or the steady synth, but this tune carries the perfect winter vibes, bringing us right into the holiday season.
Chvrches will take off on a UK tour this March, hitting Dublin, Glasgow, and Leeds before ending in London. Check out their cover below.
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Though many current synth pop artists attempt to recapture the vintage electronic sounds of the ’80s, OurStage act Go Periscope aims straight for the future and never looks back. With their new album Wasted Youth, Go Periscope’s Florin Merano and Joshua Frazier have released a dark and pulsating collection of songs that sound like the 21st century. While Go Periscope’s music does contain clear references to the ’80s synth sounds that inspired its members, the songs are more than just conduits for indulgent electro-nostalgia. In fact, Wasted Youth is unabashedly contemporary, with its obvious debts to EDM and dubstep on tracks like “Black Light Masquerade” and “Break Free.” The synth tones are expansive and thick, layering on top of each other to create rippling waves of sound that undergird Merano and Frazier’s heavily filtered vocals.
Yet, for all of its shine and polish, Wasted Youth speaks to the dark and increasingly unstable world around it. For a work that so heavily revolves around artificially engineered sounds, the album contains a significant number of lyrical references to nature. Fire, water, gold, and horses all appear as damaged or endangered elements in the wake of technology, which electronically manipulates the natural world described in the lyrics. Vocal lines are often sliced, rearranged, and panned until they sound like the inhuman sputterings of a dying computer. Clean vocals intertwine with computerized, bit-crunched harmonies that suggest the integration of human and machine to the point of indistinguishability. In the face of the mechanized depletion of the natural world around them, humans can only choose to “live in fantasy,” as the track “Make Believers” sadly emphasizes through the repeated line: “It was only a dream / But it was just like Heaven.” Ultimately, technology doesn’t just enable these escapist fantasies; it makes them necessary in the first place. At a time when people can’t let go of their smartphones and the world is becoming unyieldingly digitized, Go Periscope is making pop music for an uncertain future. Until then, the dance anthems on Wasted Youth implore listeners to party like it’s the end of the world.
You can buy Wasted Youth now at Go Periscope’s Bandcamp page!
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- Exclusive Q&A: Owl City’s Imagination Takes Flight
Okay, so you’re at your digital audio workstation (DAW) ready to make a killer tune. You’ve been playing around with your setup and put together an awesome loop or two, but now you’re wondering (or maybe even confused about) the direction the song is heading in. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there before, and have even said, F*** it, thus leaving a perfectly awesome loop useless for public display. Unfortunately, these dry spells can be difficult to overcome without prior conceptualization. However, there are a couple of simple techniques from that boring thing we call music theory that are pretty helpful for improvisational song-writing”in fact, these ideas can be applied to any genre, style or whatever ‘word’ music’s typically categorized under.
Musical dynamics and phrasing are two essential aspects of composing that all musicians take into consideration either consciously or not. Dynamics simply refers to the volume of sound, as well as its the stylistic execution over an entire composition. A “phrase” consists merely of a single loop and the term “phrasing” refers to the organization of two or more loops. For the most part, both of these “theories” require a macro perspective verses a micro. To simply put it, whenever you create a loop, you’re engaging in a detailed micro process of song-writing. When you organize a series of loops, you’re viewing the production from a macro standpoint. The problem we’re referring to regards the initial creation of a direction to “phrase” your loops. Therefore, if you’re experiencing this common dilemma, try experimenting with “dynamics” to inspire new ideas for musical direction. Hey, it may be your bus ticket to somewhere other than the sixteenth repeat of a single loop.
For example, lets say you made a loop and want to accomplish one the following: a) create another verse, b) transition a loop into a rhythm change, c) go for a key change, d) create a break down or build up, e) increase the emotional impact of the chorus. The easiest way to trigger inspiration for all this stuff is by channeling your instruments/devices through a mixer to experiment with muting and soloing particular tracks. Another way is by making a minute’s worth of copies and mapping your MIDI controller to your synth or device’s Filter, LFO, Mod Envelope, Filter Envelope or any other parameters your wish to test out.
From here, it’s pretty straight forward. Simply play the track and see what comes out. Essentially, alternating these parameters effects the dynamics of the song, as well as the tonation of the instrument. You can really get complex with this stuff and create some radical changes, however it’s not aways necessary. Remember, music is meant to be listened to so use your own judgement about the appropriate time to get wild. Plus, the unexpected is what creates that sought after emotional punch in the face. The point of these experiments are to inspire your compositional direction and if you come across another way of essentially playing the same thing, simply record the loop with the desired alternation.
Once you’ve created a couple different versions of the loop/s using dynamic and parameter alterations, try to become aware of too much repetition. As stated earlier, experiment with muting tracks and devices via mixer to break any repetition. However, don’t be afraid to completely change up various musical aspects such as the bass line, melody, chord progression or rhythm. Just make sure a radical change is reasonably spaced apart and is used as a new section within the song’s form. (e.g. a bridge or breakdown.) Phrasing these newly created loops shouldn’t be super difficult after you’ve played around and automated dynamic alterations and articulations via synth parameters.
Welcome to Beat Generation. With this column, we’re going to try and cover as many strains of electronic music as we can, from house to techno, from ambient to glitch. We here at OurStage have noticed a resurgence of electronic music in pop music in the past few months. It seems appropriate then that for starters, we’re going to do a quick and dirty overview of the relationship electronic and pop music have had over the years, from the ’80s to today.
Well, it’s about time. Electronic finally broke into the mainstream in a big way. Disagree? Have you listened to the radio lately? Did you see that Deadmau5 had a music video on MTV? It’s been a pretty long road from a genre that started as an obscure offshoot of rock to near total pop ubiquity.
You can argue as to when electronic music first came to be until the sun goes down but it’s clear that pop and electronic had their first real meaningful interaction during the ’80s, the era of big hair, Reganomics and synth. Gary Numan’s “Cars”, released in 1979, started off this trend for most listeners. The everpresent synth line of the song fits in well with the verse chorus verse structure and also worked as a bouncy instrumental counterpoint to the feelings of existential disconnect and uncertainty that Numan presents in his lyrics. Notable releases from this era included landmark singles from the Eurthymics, The Human League, New Order and Madonna. The popular electronic sound of the ’80s was rooted firmly to rock and disco traditions.
Now we’ll move onto the ’90s. The pop/electronic flirtation during this decade was apparent but more fleeting. The hot sound was coming out of the UK; Big Beat and Jungle were dominating the airwaves across the pond and it was only a matter of time before America got a taste of it as well.
Fatboy Slim enjoyed enormous and lasting success for the latter part of the decade into the early aughts. Groups like the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers and the Crystal Method were at their popular peak, winning rock listeners with songs featuring heavy guitar. The Prodigy were especially notorious, releasing the quick-to-be-banned video for their single “Smack My Bitch Up” and signing to Madonna’s Maverick Records.
And then we move on to the Aughts. The current new trend of trancey, dancey electro in the Top 40 is a little different, thanks in large part to the emergence of Lady Gaga. Her debut album, ‘The Fame, didn’t blow up. It was a seismic event that shook the musical landscape around it. This marked a move in dance music to embrace the pulse and beat of electro and techno over the influences of hip hop and R&B which were the previous standard.
While past trends in electronic music were driven by scenes, the current dance trend in pop music is a reaction to what the kids are into. In business and in pop music, aping the competition is not considered unoriginal or frowned upon; for many, it’s the only way to survive. Everywhere you look in contemporary pop music, there’s examples of the co-opting of electronic music. Look at Christina Aguilera’s stylistic makeover. Consider the difference between Katy Perry’s first and second albums. Think about Ke$ha and her entire career up to this point. Even Britney Spears is jumping on the bandwagon. While putting together her new album, Spears was in London working with dubstep producer Rusko. In a genre known for emphasizing the heaviest and dirtiest of bass lines and an uncompromising sound, the collaboration left some people scratching their heads. The first song leaked from that album, “Hold It Against Me”, features unmistakable dubstep touchstones, including the infamous “wobble,” or a shuddering electric bass line. While this may have some purists calling foul, it’s proof positive that electronic has not only arrived, but from the dance floor to the airwaves, it has already conquered the world.
It’s no surprise that KT Tunstall has a passion for culture. Growing up in England with Irish, Scottish and Chinese blood, Tunstall was instantly and independently drawn to musical performance at a young age. In 2004, her debut record Eye to the Telescope spawned worldwide hits “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” “Other Side of the World” and “Suddenly I See.” Following further success with 2007’s Drastic Fantastic, KT has returned with her third effort, Tiger Suit. We caught up with KT and talked about her confidence crisis, recording in a legendary studio and the inspiration behind this eclectic and organic new record.
OS: Growing up in a family with no musical background, what caused you to learn several instruments and eventually pursue a career in music?
KT: It was pretty freaky! It was a weird, very innate thing, where I just gravitated to music straight away as a little kid, and nobody else in my family really did. It’s kind of funny because my mum found a diary that she kept of when I was a baby and she said when I was six months old, she found this diary entry going, “I’m really worried because Kate screams louder than anybody else’s baby.” (laughs) But no, I was asking for piano lessons by the time I was six and playing a bunch of instruments when I was quite young. It was just always something that I found really natural and an easy way of communicating, through music. It’s just always been there.
OS: Tiger Suit is the title of your new record, and refers to a recurring dream you’ve had when you were younger. How have you interpreted the dream and how does it relate to your music?
KT: Well, it’s a really cool dream where there’s a tiger in my garden and I go out and I start stroking it…and I’m a kid in the dream. It’s not until I come inside the house and look at the tiger through a window that I’m really afraid, and think, “What the hell was I doing? It could have eaten me.” And I can’t see myself in the dream, so I thought, “Am I disguised as a tiger? Am I also a tiger?” But there’s something going on where I am able to commune with this beast and it’s not attacking me. And I suppose that, even now, as an adult, makes me feel how I feel about music. A lot of the time…where I’ll just jump in and do something and not really think about it, and then afterwards, just go, “Oh my God, that could have gone so wrong!” But also, the title is kind of referring to when I go on stage. I go on stage as myself. I’ve never had, like, a character. But I suppose after six years of touring…I think this last year, I had to write and stuff, it just made me realize that I’ve got this kind of armor and it’s this kind of, Joan of Arc warrioress, “I’m gonna do what I fucking want,” armor (laughs), and I get on stage and be who I want to be. And at the same time, I’ve got to take that off when it comes to writing and I’ve got to be as vulnerable and as real as possible. It’s a protective thing, but also a really fierce thing…I’m a huge fan of Where The Wild Things Are, the movie that just came out, that was my favorite book as a kid. Max wears his little wolf suit and I was just convinced that if he wasn’t wearing it, he would just be eaten in about five minutes. He’s got his magic suit on that keeps him fierce.
OS: You have called your new music “Nature Techno.” Can you explain what that means and how your sound has evolved since Eye to the Telescope and Drastic Fantastic?
KT: Yeah, it was kind of a concept of what I wanted to try out…I haven’t like, made a house album. But it was really just about the fact that I’ve realized I’m a huge blues fan. I love up-tempo blues as well, more rockabilly stuff…Eddie Cochran being one of my favorites. And it just made me realize when I was digging deep to kind of find out what was going to turn me on the most in terms of making a new album, I really rediscovered my passion for dance music. I’ve been a big fan of Leftfield and DJ Shadow, The Chemical Brothers and a band called Lamb…and I realized that that music makes me feel quite similar to when I’m listening to up-tempo blues music. It’s got this really primal, four-to-the-floor pulse…I just find myself getting lost in it, in the rhythm. When I’m dancing around a campfire, I end up feeling pretty similar to when I’m dancing in a club. I just really wanted to mix those two together and see what happened. And I think the big difference with this album is it’s the first time I’ve gotten quite experimental. It’s been quite traditional instruments up until this point and this was the first time we kind of used electronica, synthesizers, drum machines and that kind of thing. I also feel like there’s just a wilder streak to this album, where I’m not too worried about technical perfection in terms of my singing and it’s more just about being a bit freer and expressing myself a bit more.
OS: Between records, you took an international trip that had a huge impact on you. Can you tell us more about the trip and its effects on you personally?
KT: Yeah, the first part of the trip was to the Arctic, to Greenland, which was a really incredible landscape that I dreamt about for many years and wanted to go and see. I went with this group called Cape Farewell and they took 20 scientists and 20 artists on this boat. So I’m on this boat with Jarvis Cocker, Martha Wainwright, Feist, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Vanessa Carlton, Robyn Hitchcock, Laurie Anderson, all these amazing artists….and because it was right in the beginning of starting to make a new album, my ego just attacked me with a huge machete and just went, “You suck! You’re not nearly as good as these people, you’re never going to make an album that’s going to excite you as much as you want to excite yourself.” I just had this big confidence crisis where I felt like life had become quite complicated. I was in this beautiful place where the Northern Lights come out and there’s whales in the water and icebergs floating that are the size of skyscrapers and I just felt like, “I could really just get off the boat and stay here for awhile.” And that was really what that song was about,”Uummannaq Song.” It’s the first song on the record, which has got that very tribal feel to it. All of the places I visited over my travels had this very strong indigenous culture, and I also felt there was a real, rooted musical culture. I traveled South America, went to New Zealand and went to India and heard incredible music. I think traveling just basically really fired up my imagination in terms of, with this album, I’ve sort of given all of these songs location. I think they’re set in places in my mind and what I saw and experienced in my travels really helped fuel that.
OS: You recorded Tiger Suit in the famous Hansa Tonstudio in Berlin, Germany. What was that experience like?
KT: It was awesome. It was so cool. I’d recorded most of the demos at my place in England and it’s really cool, but it’s quite small, so I wasn’t really going to be able to make the record there. And so I went to Berlin, and it’s just this amazing legacy, where Bowie recorded Heroes, U2 recorded Achtung Baby and Iggy Pop recorded there. It’s got this energy for me that I just felt like I wanted to play better. I recorded with a live band for the first time and we recorded vocals live and we were just so energized by the history of the place. It looked so cool and Berlin’s an amazing city. Very vibrant.
OS: You released two different singles in the UK and America, “(Still A) Weirdo” and “Fade Like a Shadow.” The songs are very different from each other. How have the two been received in their respective countries?
KT: It’s been really interesting because I’ve not had that happen before, releasing different singles. “Fade Like a Shadow,” for me, was really good…I understood the record company going, “Yeah, let’s go with that,” because it’s so upbeat and it’s quite urgent. It’s about exorcising this ghost of someone who’s still alive, who’s haunting you. It’s got that electronic influence on it. And then in the UK, “(Still A) Weirdo” is such a strange choice for a single, I thought, “What are you doing, putting that out as a single?” It’s like the weird little runty puppy on the album, this very eccentric little fragile song. But they said, “it’s really emotional. It’s very different from a lot of what else is out there and it makes people feel something.” And I think it’s the same for “Fade Like A Shadow” as well, it’s a pretty emotional song. But they’re going great, I’m really pleased. They seem to be popular, as far as I can tell.
OS: You’re heading out on tour, first to the UK and then across America. Will your stage show be different this time around to accompany your new sound?
KT: Well, I have a slightly different band. I don’t know if any of you guys remember a British band called Ash, they were quite big. They had this girl guitarist called Charlotte Hatherley. She went off and did her own thing but she’s joined the band for this tour. So we have a girl on lead guitar, which is so cool. And we have a Welsh rock ‘n’ roll boy on bass, but I have the same drummer and same keyboard player. But it’s basically quite full tilt. Rehearsals were like, going clubbing, for awhile. We play a lot of beautiful, really down-tempo numbers as well, and I’ll play some stuff on my own. I always like to keep it quite diverse. I also have an awesome backdrop being painted with UV paint, which I’m very excited about.
Check out KT’s fall tour throughout the UK and the US:
10/19 Cambridge, UK – Junction
10/20 London, UK – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
10/21 Manchester, UK – Ritz
10/23 Glasgow, UK – Barrowland
10/24 Wolverhampton, UK – Wulfrun Hall
10/31 Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom
11/1 Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
11/2 Seattle, WA – The Showbox SODO
11/4 Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory
11/5 Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
11/7 Reno, NV – Knitting Factory
11/8 San Francisco, CA – Warfield Theatre
11/11 Los Angeles, CA – The Music Box
11/12 San Diego, CA – House of Blues
11/16 Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
11/18 Minneapolis, MN – Epic
11/19 Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue
11/21 Chicago, IL – Vic Theatre
11/22 Detroit, MI – The Crofoot
11/23 Toronto, ON – Phoenix Theatre
11/25 Montreal, QU – Club Soda
11/26 Philadelphia, PA – The Trocadero
11/27 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
11/29 Boston, MA – House of Blues
The Nashville, Tennessee trio released both an EP and a full-length in less than a year. The self-titled full-length dropped back in March, showing that the band can be both laid-back and upbeat, soothing and energizing. Programmed drum beats and piano parts are woven tightly into every track, along with swirling, layered vocals that are refreshingly free of autotune. “One Way Love” is a standout track, with bright, spacey instrumentation backing vocalist Landon Austin’s breathy, “It’s such a beautiful sight when you keep me running/You let me look, but you’re just a one way love.”
In addition to winning the coveted opening spot in our Shout it Out with HANSON Competition, Colorfire has also shared the stage with Rooney, The Undeserving and This Is the Good Fight. They were also selected by Coldplay for a feature on the band’s official Web site, where their video for “One Way Love” was displayed to thousands of fans.