Happy birthday Brian Wilson. There’s no other. Read Robert Schneider of the Apples In Stereo in MAGNET on the Beach Boys’ Smile:
Happy birthday Brian Wilson. There’s no other. Read Robert Schneider of the Apples In Stereo in MAGNET on the Beach Boys’ Smile:
Goldfrapp is following up the success of last year’s Silver Eye with a deluxe edition of the album coming out July 6 on Mute. Along with this reissue comes a video for “Ocean” (featuring Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan), shot in Spain on the beautiful beaches of Fuerteventura and in Madrid. Goldfrapp is heading out on tour in July, so try to catch them then if you live in Europe. In the meantime, check out the Alison Goldfrapp-directed video for “Ocean.”
Back at the end of April, we brought you a totally awesome mix tape by Daniel Ellsworth + The Great Lakes, coinciding with the release of their three-track Chapter Two EP. As we told you then, Chapter Two followed Chapter One (a three-song EP released January 19), and the two would eventually be compiled and expanded upon to result in the Nashville band’s third album. Well, folks, said LP—the dozen-track Fashion (Color Party)—now has an official release date: August 24. (You can pre-order the album at the band’s website.)
And we have even more good news for you today regarding Daniel Ellsworth + The Great Lakes: We’re premiering the video for Fashion standout “Headfirst (It’s All Happening).” Directed by bassist Marshall Skinner, the clip was inspired by a photo shoot he did recently at an old motorcycle repair shop. “I wanted the concept of the video to be about people who are exploring and discovering their true selves but doing it in an environment that is not very inspiring,” says Skinner. “In a lot of ways, the run-down warehouse represents a society in which we do not value the creative people we need. For a lot of people, being a young creative person can be a struggle, and a lot of times, we are on our own in the quest to create something meaningful. In my own experience, you have to fight through the times when life is not inspiring in order to do something creative or imaginative, and I wanted to convey that feeling through the video.“
Ellsworth feels the same way, with the concept for “Headfirst (It’s All Happening)” also working on very personal and musical levels as well. “It feels like a metaphor of sorts for our band—an amalgamation of everything that represents Daniel Ellsworth + The Great Lakes,” he says. “We’ve been a proudly independent band since we started in 2010. No label means no budgets, though, and with no budget, sometimes you have to be your own music video directors. Marshall is a monstrously talented photographer and used his eye for photography to film this narrative that follows three different characters all striving to do something meaningful and creative—and progressively losing their minds in the process. It’s a sentiment we’re familiar with.”
As a song, “Headfirst (It’s All Happening)” is a bit of a rallying cry for Daniel Ellsworth + The Great Lakes, three guys who understand the struggles that go along with their life pursuit of making music not only for themselves but others as well. “This year has been a year of big change for the band, and ‘Headfirst (It’s All Happening)’ is a song literally about the experience of being in a band and going through some shit and questioning what you’re doing with your life,” says Ellsworth. “The self-doubt, the sleeping on strange floors, the relentless tour schedule, the no money, the unending work that goes along with being an indie band … The repeated ‘It’s all happening’ lines are simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and hopeful reminders to ourselves to keep going. Because the truth is that as soon as you get onstage and you see your music affect someone, even if it’s just one person, you forget about all the bad shit. You forget the self-doubt and the no money and, in that moment, remember why you started doing this in the first place: the music and the people. Those are the things that matter.”
We couldn’t agree more. It’s all happening, indeed, for Daniel Ellsworth + The Great Lakes. Sit back and see for yourself. Tour dates below.
7/28 — Bethlehem, PA, Levitt Pavilion Summer Concert Series
8/2 — Chicago, F$#kapalooza At Tonic Room
8/3 and 8/4 — Appleton, WI, Mile Of Music Festival
8/24 — New York, Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2)
In most professional contexts, 40 years of service puts you squarely at retirement age. In the music business, it may as well be several lifetimes. Yet here’s Bid (née Ganesh Seshadri), for four decades the face, voice, guitarist and primary songwriter of the Monochrome Set, marking the band’s ruby anniversary with not only a boxed set of its long out-of-print first albums and singles but a new LP, Maisieworld, that further expands its sonic palette.
The Monochrome Set really should’ve been bigger. Or maybe not. Maybe, in a sort of Alice-through-the-looking-glass way, the band’s low-flame simmer is what’s allowed it to last this long.
“You know how it is,” says Bid. “To get on the charts, you need to sell a lot of records in a short span. We never did. But then, what was happening on the charts didn’t necessarily reflect what was happening in the clubs. And we had a huge live following. Many bands who were much more commercially successful than us at the time have disappeared. We kind of just carried on.”
And how. Witty, wildly literate and steeped in American psychedelia and experimental pop, the Monochrome Set’s warmly brainy music has long been a poorly kept secret among career oddballs from Morrissey and Marr to Franz Ferdinand. But the Set’s earliest work has been difficult to find, having been released and re-released on a smattering of since-folded small labels, making The Monochrome Set 1979-1985: Complete Recordings an especially happy-making occasion.
Sometimes the stars align: Just ahead of the band’s 40th anniversary in January of this year, Bid discovered that the rights to the Monochrome Set’s first two albums, Strange Boutique and Love Zombies (both 1980), had reverted to him, after years of languishing under various ownerships. The band also had recently moved to a new label, Tapete Records, that was not only gung ho on its new music but committed to curating a full retrospective of its formative years. Complete Recordings packages the Monochrome Set’s first two albums, plus 1982’s Eligible Bachelors and 1985’s The Lost Weekend (the Set’s only major-label release) along with all of its singles and EPs from the same period. Full lyrics and liner notes from Bid augment a deliriously rich six discs’ worth of music.
“It feels good,” says Bid. “We were always very inward-looking. We were often described as post-punk or new wave, but we were nothing to do with new wave. We were much more American in our leanings—garage rock, experimental pop, the whole Northeastern pop feel. It’s a bit like a band like Pere Ubu, who always went with their own thing, got it down tight and then took it to the public, and didn’t really worry much about the commerciality of it all.”
Looking back, Bid sees a kind of limited window that allowed bands like the Mono- chrome Set (and also Pere Ubu, for that matter) a rewarding longevity without ever having scored anything in the way of mainstream success.
“It was really only a period of the mid-’60s to the mid-’80s where there was, shall we say, a middle class in the pop-music industry,” he says. “Now it’s all the aristocracy: There are the Taylor Swifts and the Blind Willie McTells, and nothing much in between. It’s either massive stars or these sorts of troubadours who go around making stuff for people in bars. That’s why it’s quite important for us to play as many countries as we can. You can pick up newer audiences. Whatever rubbish you come up with, there’ll be someone in the world who thinks you’re great.”
Happy birthday Scott Avett (Avett Brothers). May it last. Read our classic feature on the Avetts:
Happy 70th birthday Nick Drake (R.I.P.). Hanging on a star. Read Camera Obscura in MAGNET on Drake’s Pink Moon:
55 years ago John Coltrane and his classic quartet—bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Elvin Jones and pianist McCoy Tyner—recorded a full-on studio album, and when finished, Trane brought the reference tape home and never did anything with it. After the family of Contrane’s first wife, Naima, brought its existence to the attention of Impulse!, the label is releasing it June 29 as Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album, available as a standard seven-track CD or LP as well as a deluxe 14-track double CD or LP. Kids, as far as jazz history goes, this is a huge deal … On July 27, UMC/Island/Interscope will reissue three U2 albums on double vinyl: 1991’s landmark Achtung Baby, 1993’s Zooropa and 1998’s The Best Of 1980-1990 … Phish‘s The Baker’s Dozen: Live At Madison Square Garden documents the 13 shows and 26 unique sets the band performed a year ago at the NYC venue over 17 nights; it’s available in three formats: a three-CD or six-LP set (with 13 tracks hand-picked by the band) as well as the 36-CD The Complete Baker’s Dozen Box Set, which compiles all of the performances … The three-CD C89 (Cherry Red, July 27) follows C86, C87 and C88 in documenting in the incredibly vibrant ’80s indie scene across the pond, featuring tons of great bands you’ve never heard of as well as faves such as the Stone Roses, the La’s, the Telescopes, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, Pooh Sticks and more … On June 29, Verve/UMe gives a slightly early 100th birthday gift to the legendary Leonard Bernstein via the two-CD Jazz Loves Bernstein featuring jazz greats—including Billie Holiday, Bill Evans, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Tormé, Oscar Peterson and Diana Krall—interpreting some of his classics … Rhino’s got the cure for your post-Labor Day blues September 7 with the Grateful Dead‘s Pacific Northwest ’73-’74: The Complete Recordings, a limited-edition 19-CD boxed set featuring six previously unreleased shows from Portland, Seattle and Vancouver; also available the same day is Pacific Northwest ’73-’74: Believe It If You Need It, a three-CD best-of from those shows … Eric B & Rakim‘s long out-of-print catalog will be out of print no longer July 13 thanks to UMe, which is releasing The Complete Collection 1987-1992, a 10-disc (eight LPs and two CDs) boxed set featuring the duo’s four albums—1987’s Paid In Full, 1988’s Follow The Leader, 1990’s Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em and 1992’s Don’t Sweat The Technique—plus two CDs of rare, vintage remixes … The next time you’re at a hipster party and someone mentions Japanese cult musician Haruomi Hosono (Yellow Magic Orchestra, Happy End), you don’t have to pretend to know who he is; Light In The Attic is reissuing five of his Japanese-only solo albums: 1978’s Paraiso, 1982’s Philharmony and 1989’s Omni Sight Seeing (August 10) and 1973’s Hosono House and 1978’s Cochin Moon (September 28) … Some trivia to impress your not-very-bright friends: Pink Floyd co-founder Nick Mason is the only constant member of the legendary band; Unattended Luggage (Warner Music, August 31) collects his three solo albums—1981’s Fictitious Sports, 1985’s Profiles and 1987’s White Of The Eye—as three-CD and three-LP sets … A remastered/expanded edition of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone‘s Etiquette (from 2006) is out July 13 via Orindal … Country Singer’s Prayer, Buck Owens’ final, unreleased Capitol album from 1975, will finally see the light of day August 17 on Omnivore … Afro-Cuban All Stars‘ A Toda Cuba Le Gusta will be reissued on heavyweight vinyl on September 7 by World Circuit … On July 27, Alpha Dog 2T/UMe will reissue Styx‘s The Mission as a two-disc package including the original LP as well as a Blu-ray with the album mixed in 5.1 Surround Sound that has accompanying visuals for each track, a documentary and music videos; prior to that, on June 29, Eagle Rock will issue CD and Blue-ray versions of Tommy Shaw‘s Sing For The Day!, a performance by the singer/guitarist with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra featuring both Styx and solo material … You might know Latin superstar J Balvin from his collaborations with the likes of Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Pharrell and Major Lazer, but you can get to know him ever better with Bruuttal, a 26-track concert-film DVD out July 20 on Eagle Vision … On July 20, Craft Recordings will release five hip-hop albums on vinyl that were originally issued by the Delicious Vinyl between 1989 and 1995: Tone-Lōc‘s Lōc-ed After Dark, Young MC‘s Stone Cold Rhymin’, Masta Ace Incorporated‘s SlaughtaHouse and Sittin’ On Chrome and the Pharcyde‘s Labcabincalifornia.
El Ten Eleven is a post-rock duo from Stinson Beach, Calif., that’s set to release seventh album Banker’s Hill on August 10 via Topshelf. The music that guitarist/double-neck bassist Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty make together has been described as “meditation in motion,” and one thing’s for sure, it’s seriously authentic and original. Banker’s Hill marks the first time El Ten Eleven has worked with a producer—Sonny DiPerri (Animal Collective, Portugal. The Man, Dirty Projectors)—but as usual, all the music was generated solely by the duo, utilizing looping pedals, not computers. We’re happy to bring you album track “Phenomenal Problems” today. Stream and/or download it below.
“Phenomenal Problems” (download):
You’ll feel like you’re watching an old-school variety show (albeit one that’s incredibly conspiratorial) when viewing Damien Jurado’s new video for “Percy Faith.” The song comes off his latest album, The Horizon Just Laughed (Secretly Canadian), and the clip was directed by Lance Alton Troxel (Foxygen, Richard Swift). The LP is out now and will be available for streaming via Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora on July 6. Watch the video for “Percy Faith” now, and ask yourself, “Who is The Watchman, really?”
Going “down the shore” is a sacred summer tradition for anyone who grew up in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The destination might be different for each family—perhaps you went to LBI, or Sea Isle, or Ocean City, Md. Some families trekked all the way down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, as mine did for three summers before my folks realized that 13 hours in the car with multiple children under 10 is a bad idea. But every family I knew went “down the shore” every summer, carrying out the identical rituals of ocean swimming, boardwalk traipsing, custard eating and sun burning. Despite the fact that the atmosphere and the activities are basically the same every year, shore-goers instinctively fill with the same familiar blend of nostalgia and excitement in the weeks leading up to the trip. And when you’re smothering aloe on your crispy arms and legs on the car ride home, you think about how you can’t wait to go back next year.
For the past five years, I’ve made the three-hour pilgrimage to Dover, Del., for the Firefly Festival. As I was frantically checking the weekend weather forecast every hour on my phone in the days preceding the fest, I experienced a similar sensation to the one I used to get as a kid before I went “down the shore.” For me and thousands of other East Coasters, Firefly is the new annual tradition.
Firefly began as a three-day, 48-act music event in 2012. By its second year, Firefly became a player on the festival scene. Now it’s essentially a five-day affair, with a four-act “pre-party” on Wednesday, and more than 100 performances throughout the weekend on eight stages.
Besides Governor’s Ball in New York City and Jay-Z’s Made In America in Philadelphia (both of which are inside city limits and are far too sweaty and crowded to be enjoyable), Firefly is the only other annual, large-scale music festival in the Northeast that attracts a top-notch lineup in an accessible location. It describes itself as an “open-air” festival, and most attendees camp—or “glamp”—since the hotel accommodations are limited. The fact that it’s held in an area called The Woodlands and that most folks camp really does give it a true festival vibe.
Both Governor’s Ball and MIA assume the personalities of their respective cities. Governor’s Ball offers a musically diverse lineup and features NYC street art and food trucks, while MIA is rap, R&B and hip-hop heavy and takes place in the shadows of the Philadelphia Art Museum and high rises on the Ben Franklin Parkway. When it began in 2012, Firefly was more of a blank slate, and its organizers continue to fashion its identity among a competitive group of spring and summer fests.
For 2018, Firefly brought back several headliners from yesteryear, including the Killers (2012, 2015), Foster The People (2013, 2015), Cold War Kids (2012, 2015) and Arctic Monkeys (2014), which is a nod to the festival’s historical inclination toward alternative and indie rock. The ticket also comprised festival newcomers Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne, which illustrates Firefly’s recent foray into rap and hip-hop acts.
Like most festivals, Firefly is more than music. There’s The Nook hammock hangout, The Thicket silent rave, The Coffee House café and a culinary lineup of food vendors and trucks serving everything from pizza to schwarma. Organizers continually add new features, such as The Pathway, which connected two areas of the festival grounds and was filled with a fantastical scene of giant hanging starbursts, globe sculptures and glittering fog that would’ve made Guillermo del Toro proud. While much of the vibe and atmosphere feels the same, Firefly continues to evolve each year.
Once we arrived at Dover Downs Speedway, we made the customary trek across the Highway 1 overpass that links the parking area to the festival grounds. The summer-perfect weather hovered in the 80s with sunshine and low humidity, and an occasional welcome breeze that brought with it the sweet, earthy hint of marijuana. Throngs of giddy festival-goers caked with sweat and glitter hoisting signs of Danny DeVito’s face and World Cup team flags, as well as parades of pedicabs festooned with lights and blasting Lil Wayne, made their way over the bridge as cars below cheerfully honked. It’s a familiar sight for anyone who’s attended Firefly before, but the familiarity only added to the excitement of what was to come.
Jimmy Eat World has been around since 1993—one of the original “emo” bands (if anyone still uses that term anymore). The foursome opened its set on Friday evening with the song that put the band on the map, “Bleed American,” then mixed it up with songs from most of their nine albums. They revved up the crowd with their stream of pop/punk numbers and slowed it down occasionally with songs like “Hear You Me” that warranted the “emo” designation.
Foster The People took the main Firefly Stage at dusk. Led by well-coiffed frontman Mark Foster, the Los Angeles-based indie-rockers performed a flashy, energetic set for a crowd that sang along to every word. The majority of Friday’s festival attendees gathered to watch—a far cry from Foster’s early days as a struggling musician in L.A. playing for audiences of 10 people. The diversity of their music was on full display, as they segued from heavily electronic songs like “Helena Beats” to the pop-rock “Coming Of Age” to a cover of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.” They capped off the night with the gentle “Sit Next To Me,” preceded by Foster’s heartfelt plea to the audience to “come together and love one another.”
Propelled by headliners Lil Wayne, the Killers and Eminem, Saturday was twice as packed with festival-goers as the day before, and they weren’t disappointed. Firefly upped the ante with stage design for the headliners this year, adding more elaborate set pieces, lights, videos and even pyrotechnics. On Saturday night, Portugal. The Man was introduced as “the greatest band on earth” (“almost as good as Pantera”) by a video of Beavis and Butt-head. Drenched in a shower of lasers and lights, the Alaska prog-rock band played an almost uninterrupted stream of rhythmically forceful songs such as “Creep In A T-Shirt” and “Purple Yellow Red And Blue,” evoking a sonic resemblance to the Black Keys. Many of the tracks they performed came off their more popular albums, Evil Friends and Woodstock, both of which were co-written and produced by Danger Mouse, who also produced three albums by the Keys.
Eminem’s stage design late Saturday night was as intense as his lyrics and persona. The wall-to-wall backdrop was an eerie Detroit cityscape, which devolved into a burnt-out conflict zone throughout the performance. Several platforms featured orchestra members playing bass, cello and violin, as fireworks exploded overhead. The finales of “Kill You” and “Criminal” featured loud gunshot blasts. Eminem being Eminem, he ignored recent criticism about the gunshot sounds and kept them in his show.
Wearing his signature hoodie and spewing rapid-fire lyrics with his usual shaken-soda-bottle energy, Eminem performed a variety of songs from all his albums, from the dark “Stan” to the political “White America” to the confessional “Walk On Water,” demonstrating his evolution as an artist and a person over his last two decades as a rap superstar. Throughout the set, he and stage partner Mr. Porter shared a dialogue with the crowd, asking who bought certain LPs and where people were from. Despite the fact that Eminem has played at Bonnaroo and Coachella, he expressed his amazement at the size of the crowd that night. “I’ve never seen this many people, ever!”
We could tell that the festival was winding down on Sunday afternoon when parking attendants were practicing special handshakes with each other and the initially peppy pedicab drivers were riding aimlessly around the parking lot. But festival-goers were still streaming across the overpass, mustering a second wind for the final day.
Psychedelic-rock duo MGMT experienced a meteoric rise in the mid-2000s on the back of hits “Electric Feel,” “Kids” and “Time to Pretend.” Their following two albums didn’t live up to the success of Oracular Spectacular, and the founders Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser took an unofficial break from making music with each other. Their most recent album, Little Dark Age, came out earlier this year, followed by a tour that included a stop at the Firefly Stage on Sunday evening.
VanWyngarden emerged in a black long-sleeved shirt, black pants, black sunglasses and a deadpan expression. During one of their earlier, new wave-y songs, he dragged a 1970s stationary bike onstage and started riding and singing simultaneously, then talked to the audience for about five minutes about the virtues of Gatorade. The last half hour consisted of their hits interspersed with additional antics, including several minutes of primal-scream therapy with the crowd.
Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize for music this year for his album DAMN, the first rapper ever to win the award. The selection board described the LP as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” Not sure exactly what that means, but DAMN was good enough to earn him both popular and critical acclaim and a headlining spot at one of the biggest music festivals on the East Coast.
Performing for a Philadelphia Eagles parade-sized crowd late Sunday night, Lamar stomped across the Firefly Stage in front of a blood-red backdrop, amid spouts of flames that poetically paralleled his lyrics. Clamoring fans screamed along to “Money Trees,” “HiiiPoWeR” and “God,” capping an exhausting-yet-pleasurable festival weekend.
Another year, another Firefly festival in the books. As with every year, I will be sitting in I-95 traffic on my way home, poring over the music of the weekend and predicting who’ll be in the lineup next year. Because just like “going down the shore,” there will definitely be a next year. It’s a tradition now.