Jack White effectively effed up a whole bunch of “most anticipated in 2014” lists when, in a chat with fans this weekend, he casually announced that he’s almost finished recording a new album. This is why it pays to procrastinate, people — get those lists in late! Since we here at OurStage are huge fans of waiting until the last possible minute to get stuff done, we’d like to take this opportunity to tell you that we’re all anticipating the new Jack White record. So hard.
And, uh, it’s probably time that we tell you about some of the other albums slated for release this year that have us really excited. You can only put these things off for so long. Without further ado, here are 10 more records we’re super pumped to get our ears on in 2014.
1. Against Me!
When Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, formerly known as Tom Gabel, announced her transition back in 2012, some fans wondered if a female-fronted iteration of the band would have the same intensity and infectiousness as its predecessor. The answer: Yes, of course. Last year’s acoustic True Trans EP was beautiful, and if the first few singles from the upcoming Transgender Dysphoria Blues are any indication, that record will absolutely rip as well.
Lucius, one of our favorite pop acts of the last couple of years, has dropped a new single in advance of their full-length debut album. The single is called Hey, Doreen and it will be on October’s Wildewoman.
With the amount of attention Lucius has been drawing (they just performed several songs with Wilco at the Solid Sound Festival), it’s hard to believe they haven’t released an LP yet, but that success speaks to the strength of their 5-song EP and live show, the latter a routinely impressive experience.
The EP is full of hooky goodness, with songs propelled by the dual lead vocals of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. And where those songs sprang from a love for reverb-y ˜60s psych-pop, Hey, Doreen marks a slightly more modern turn, with driving, heavy drums and an arpeggiated synth track. The song is built for radio and, if there is justice in the world, will turn Lucius into a household name.
Check it out on the band’s Soundcloud, along with some other gems.
Stay-tuned for a long-delayed OurStage Songs of the Revolution session we did with Lucius a few months ago, and check out the band’s new tour dates below.
Wilco‘s Solid Sound Festival is announcing the line-up for their Solid Sound Festival over the course of the alphabet. That is, they are slowly posting the names of the acts in alphabetical order over on their Facebook page.
SLG: It just comes naturally, really. Johnny and I love all kinds of music and we always put them all into the show. Johnny loves to rock but we also love to tip our hat to history. That is so important. But really, we just love experimenting and finding new voices. That is what [our career together] has uncovered. We really have a good time doing that and can’t wait to create more. It is very exciting for us.
OS: A lot of second- or third-generation artists talk a lot about the fans that come to their shows. Some find it frustrating that the fans are there more to embrace the past than to listen to the newer music. You’ve never really voiced displeasure about any of that.
SLG: I have to say that for the most part, actually the whole part, the fan interactions I’ve had have been very positive. They always talk about how much Woody’s music meant to them growing up and how much Arlo’s songs have changed their lives. There are moments where it worries me and I wonder what they expect of me. But they’ve been very positive and very gracious. It’s really been a great thing to have fans embrace the legacy.
- Simon Cowell and Jada Pinkett-Smith are looking for the next… Skrillex?
- Disney goes post-punk.
- Diddy: “Making the Band” to major network?
- Let’s just hope there’s no wardrobe malfunctions this year…
- Get ready, Dancing Queens…here comes new music from ABBA!
- Ne-Yo is now an R&B VP of A&R! Say that three times fast…
- Wilco have cartoon co-stars!
The members of Ringer T began playing together in middle school, before life led each member to different corners of the country. But diaspora hasn’t slowed them down. With four full-lengths under their belt, the band is holding steady. And the fruits of their long distance relationship are pretty impressive. Walk It Straight is an easy, approachable melody that has a weary sweetness a la Wilco, Grandaddy or Nada Surf. It’s mellow stuff, but still packs an emotional wallop. In The Easy Road the band carefully layers sparse piano and acoustic guitar for a purist approach to longing. Let Me Be Your Man is more plugged in, but not by much. With electric guitars, drums and a male back-up chorus, the band engineers a rousing love song that will rattle your heart. If anything, Ringer T shows that wearing your emotions on your sleeve can be pretty badass.
Bands are hard to keep together. People fight, quit, rejoin, remember, quit again, die and so forth. Sometimes that band member is so integral to the music that it’s pointless to go on”some bands realize this and pack it in. But often, the remaining members don’t want to give it up. Here is the good, the bad and the ‘meh’ of some big, post-departure acts.
The Rolling Stones
Thank you, Jeebus, that The Stones kept it going after the 1969 departure and subsequent death of band founder Brian Jones (but couldn’t they have stopped after 1981’s Tattoo You, oh mighty Jeebus?). Jones’ contributions to the band are not to be discounted, but by the time he left, he had been marginalized”for better or worse”by the Jagger-Richards power team (and by most accounts, by manager Andrew Loog Oldham, not to mention by booze and drugs). The Stones went on to produce some of their greatest work.
While some people swear by Syd Barrett-era Floyd, the mental unraveling and eventual canning of the former frontman heralded one of rock’s greatest and most unlikely metamorphoses. With Roger Waters taking the pole position (and with able assistance from Barrett’s replacement, David Gilmour), the band slowly shed their psych-pop identity in favor of spaced-out stadium rock.
Oh, the side project. So often a bad idea, a vanity project, intended to display another side of an artist who really only has one good side. But other times, we get to see the output of great artists and performers who escape the confines of the project for which they are best-known. And if you’re a fan of that primary project, it’s always interesting to see what else the artist is driven or inspired to do, and whether you like the side project more or less. This list focuses on artists that could all be described as indie rock (depending on how strictly you define that term, I guess). The side project may or may not have evolved into a main project, but it has to have been formed secondarily to another band or ‘career’ while that career was still ongoing. This is my decree, let it be so…
10. The Gentlemen
Members of frequent tour-mates The Figgs and The Gravel Pit got together for this riff-heavy and rootsy rock band whose debut album, Ladies And Gentlemen, is a blistering good time.
9. She & Him
M. Ward was primarily a well-respected solo artist before hooking up with actress and singer Zooey Deschanel and launching She & Him, for which they both write the music. It’s simply delightful, classic pop.
A few weeks ago, Melbourne hosted the TV WEEK Logie Awards, which is like Australia’s Emmys, only with more reality TV, more cooking shows and music. Katy Perry and Maroon 5 represented American pop, and then there was rising UK star Jessie J, representing¦ well, I’m still not 100 percent sure. As she stalked the stage, decked out in glam-Goth basic black, performing her No. 1 UK hit “Price Tag,” my friend peeled his eyes away from the television, turned to me and announced, “Her look is cool and alternative, but her music is so lame and poppy. They don’t match at all!”
It’s a discordancy that’s starting to take over. Pop and rock and hip hop used to hang out on different sides of the playground, barely acknowledging each other, with the rare, revolutionary exception (think Run-D.M.C.‘s 1985 smash cover of Aerosmith‘s “Walk this Way,” featuring the vintage rock band on vocals and in the song’s video). If your music was too mainstream, strictly middle-of-the-road (a condition that afflicted neither Run-D.M.C.’s nor Aerosmith’s tunes at the time, which perhaps is why the hit sounded so effortless), there was no changing lanes. You could dress as wild as ’80s fashion would let you, but you would always be a pop star. Chart-toppers had little chance of drumming up street cred or working with artists whose tunes dangled from the cutting edge. Why do you think Duran Duran, one of the most influential bands of the Reagan era, still hasn’t been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and is only now, more than two decades past its prime, publicly earning the respect of well-respected men like David Lynch, who directed the band’s recent American Express online concert?
Suddenly its cool to be alternative and pop. We’ve got Katy Perry mingling with Snoop Dogg and Kanye West on record and with bad-boy British comic Russell Brand in holy matrimony, and Ke$ha singing some of the poppiest songs on the charts and casting James van der Beek, one of Hollywood’s most white-bread actors, in her video but tarting it up just enough to come across as one of the coolest girls in school. (Ever the trendsetter, in the ’80s, Madonna had the good sense to tousle her image by marrying bad boy Sean Penn.) Meanwhile, Rihanna”a pop princess if ever there was one”holds court with Eminem and sings about how she’s “Hard” (as Young Jeezy raps in her defense).
Lady Gaga dresses like a freak and breaks every sartorial rule while singing what is basically the rave music of every ’90s teenage dream. Her former video costar Beyoncé alternates between straight-up pop (“Halo,” “Sweet Dreams”) and darker hip hop (“Diva” and current single “Run the World [Girls]”), while A Rocket to the Moon and Wilco singer Jeff Tweedy are among those who have covered “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Try This (her 2003 flop that, in my opinion, is her best album) aside, Pink‘s ultra-commercial music has never mirrored her rock-chick attitude. Even Coldplay, one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, second perhaps only to U2, collaborated with, of all people, Kylie Minogue on the 2008 World AID’s Day charity single “Lhuna.”
As with so many recent musical trends, the current shift toward the mainstream and the cutting edge making strange bedfellows began with hip hop. If a roguish rapper like Eminem could rhyme alongside pop singers (first Dido on “Stan,” then Elton John at the 2001 GRAMMYs, and most recently, Pink and Rihanna on Recovery), couldn’t all musicians, regardless of genre, get along? Sure they can, but the commercial results have been mixed. There’ve been huge hits”the Katy Perry singles “California Gurls” and “E.T.” returned her rapper costars, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, respectively, to No. 1 for the first time in eons”but when Alicia Keys met Jack White for “Another Way to Die,” the theme for the last James Bond flick, 2008’s Quantum of Solace, it was a one-week wonder on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 81.
Perhaps Keys’ R&B and pop fans and White’s alternative ones didn’t know what to do with the meeting of their musical minds, which was nonethess one of the best singles of 2008. Of course, there are artists who resist, too. Remember when Ryan Adams used to go off on fans who requested Bryan Adams‘ “Summer of ’69” because he was fed up with being compared to the ’80s and ’90s pop superstar with the almost-identical name? (He once had a fan tossed out of a Nashville concert for daring to do the unthinkable!)
Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards probably was as much about the cutting edge (hip hop) vs. the mainstream (country-pop) as it was about the visual supremacy of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video. In February, I read a Billboard.com interview where empress of ’80s cool Chrissie Hynde talked about her upcoming Super Bowl weekend performance on CMT Crossroads with country diva Faith Hill, and she said she was unfamiliar with Hill’s music and admitted, “I don’t know much about country music, period.” Then there’s Kings of Leon, best known in the US for the Top 5 hit “Use Somebody”. Although the band would hardly be considered alternative in its recent hit-making incarnation, the guys nonetheless refused to allow Glee to use “Somebody.” (I bet South Park or Dexter or Weeds would have gotten their blessing.)
But if Jay-Z can let the Glee kids turn “Empire State of Mind” into a show tune, if Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler can sit beside Jennifer Lopez at the American Idol judges table, if “F–k You” singer Cee Lo Green can go from collaborating with Danger Mouse (in Gnarls Barkley) to being one of Christina Aguilera‘s fellow judges on The Voice, then we might yet live to hear an Eminem track featuring Britney Spears.
Do you find yourself rocking out to Wilco on a daily basis? Does Ryan Adams frequent your iTunes top-played list more than you’d like to admit? Well OurStage may just have a channel that’s right up your alley. This month, artists in the Alternative Country Channel are competing for a year’s supply of free strings and accessories from Ernie Ball. In case you were wondering, a prize like that is a huge benefit to any up-and-coming musician, especially those who aspire to hold rank with artists the likes of Neil Young, My Morning Jacket and Son Volt. Your musical expertise is needed to help filter the best artists to the top of the channel, and in return you can discover some truly awesome new music along the way. So what are you waiting for? You can take part in discovering the next big thing in alternative country music. Head to the channel now and let your voice be heard. But hurry, judging closes February 26th!