Posts Tagged ‘Athens’

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Believe it or not, it’s tough to make it as a musician these days. You can hear this struggle clearly in “Personalia,” the first single from Athens, GA–based songwriter Locate S,1’s forthcoming album of the same name, as she opens the track with the line, “Almost killed myself so I went home / I just cannot take these local shows.” Yet the simmering new wave instrumentation isn’t the only sign of hope on the single, and the album to follow. “Personalia” takes its name from a Mary Ruefle poem, marking a shift in the poet’s creative life from an old woman’s spirit trapped in a young woman’s body to the inverse—that is to say, Locate S,1 represents a hopeful reinvention for Christina Schneider, who’s cycled through a number of musical projects before touring with Frankie Cosmos and signing to Captured Tracks under the new moniker.

Official video for “Personalia”, from Locate S,1’s new album, Personalia.

Drive-By Truckers’ 12th studio album and first new LP in more than three years – the longest gap between new Drive by Truckers albums – “The Unraveling” was recorded at the legendary Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, TN by Grammy® Award-winning engineer Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price) and longtime DBT producer David Barbe. Co-founding singer / songwriter / guitarists Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood both spent much of the time prior doing battle with deep pools of writer’s block.

The songs that eventually emerged are among Drive-By Truckers’ most direct and pointedly provocative, tackling the myriad horrors of our new normal through sincere emotion and unbridled heart. Indeed, Armageddon’s Back in Town takes a whirlwind joyride through the whiplash of events we collectively deal with each day while the concluding Awaiting Resurrection dives headfirst into the despair and pain roiled up by these troubled times.

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The remarkable songcraft found on The Unraveling receives much of its musical muscle from the sheer strength of the current Drive-By Truckers line-up, with Hood and Cooley joined by bassist Matt Patton, keyboardist / multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez, and drummer Brad Morgan – together, the longest-lasting iteration in the band’s almost 25-year history. The LP also features a number of special guests, including The Shins’ Patti King, violinist/string arranger Kyleen King (Brandi Carlile), and North Mississippi All-Stars’ Cody Dickinson, who contributes electric washboard to the strikingly direct Babies In Cages.

Released January 31st, 2020

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Athens, Ga., has been a hotbed for great rock music (and music of all types) for the better part of the last 50 years, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change in the next 10. Raspy roots-rockers Futurebirds are four albums deep a decade into their career, but the arrival of their fifth is still a cause worth commemorating. Their earnest brand of country-tinged, sultry singsong fits right in alongside all your favorite indie-folk and Americana records. But Futurebirds are doing something different from many of those bands: Their three-part harmonies range from heartbreaking to chill-inducing, yet most of their songs possess a laid-back summery feel.

The songs on album number 5, “Teamwork”, find Futurebirds leaning into the psychedelic side of things, yet they’re as twangy as ever. “Trippin” takes delight in human error, “All Damn Night” is an escapist mountain holler tune and “Dream, Fam!” is a suspicious jam.

This record could take Futurebirds to the next level—bigger venues, heftier touring schedules—but for those of us who’ve been around with this band since the beginning, Teamwork is just another chapter in this century’s great southern rock story.

Futurebirds’ new song, “My Broken Arm”, from the new album Teamwork, out January 15th

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Athens, Ga., has long been a hotbed for great rock music (and music of all types) for the better part of the last 50 years, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change . Raspy roots-rockers Futurebirds are four albums deep a decade into their career, but the arrival of their fifth is still a cause worth commemorating. Their earnest brand of country-tinged, sultry singsong fits right in alongside all your favorite indie-folk and Americana records. But Futurebirds are doing something different from many of those bands: Their three-part harmonies range from heartbreaking to chill-inducing, yet most of their songs possess a laid-back summery feel.

The songs on album number 5, “Teamwork”, find Futurebirds leaning into the psychedelic side of things, yet they’re as twangy as ever. “Trippin” takes delight in human error, “All Damn Night” is an escapist mountain holler tune and “Dream, Fam!” is a suspicious jam. This record could take Futurebirds to the next level—bigger venues, heftier touring schedules—but for those of us who’ve been around with this band since the beginning, Teamwork is just another chapter in this century’s great southern rock story. 

Band Members
CARTEZZ, TOJO, WOMZ, B MAH, JOHNNY COLORADO

Futurebirds’ new song from the new album Teamwork, out January 15th.

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Prolific Athens-based experimentalists Je Suis France are releasing their most ambitious record to date today, following the band’s sharing its first fizzling, thrashy-trashy cut, “House Style,” . Unlike the band’s latter records, Back to the Basics of Love wasn’t written in a constant flux or hashed out between slow internet connections. The record was the product of all of the members of the band coming together from their half-dozen separate cities and communities, and letting their creativity sync up in unison for the first time since 2003’s Fantastic Area.

Je Suis France doesn’t have an off switch. Back to the Basics of Love, which comes out this November from the Ernest Jenning Record Co., will be their seventh official full-length album, but they’ve also released dozens of digital releases and CD-Rs stretching back to the early ‘00s. The band, which first came together in Athens, Georgia, in the ‘90s, has prepared a new release for almost every show they’ve played since 2004. Despite that long history of experimentation, Back to the Basics of Love has all the energy and urgency of a debut from a band that’s 20 years younger. It’s a record that sounds like it could’ve come out in the 1990s, the 2000s, or the 2010s, but that couldn’t have existed at any point other than now.

Je Suis France – House Style – from the album Back To The Basics Of Love

Iconic alternative rock band R.E.M. has shared a previously unreleased song, “Fascinating,” an unreleased song from R.E.M. out  with all proceeds going benefit global organization Mercy Corps’ Hurricane Dorian relief and recovery efforts in the Bahamas. Band members Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe recorded “Fascinating” in 2004 at Nassau’s Compass Point Studios

“Fascinating” was originally recorded for the 2001 album “Reveal”, but “it made the record too long… and something had to go,” Mike Mills says. This 2004 version — an ornate ballad with twinkly electronics, an oboe and flute arrangement and a psychedelic climax — was made at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas.

In fact, was singer Michael Stipe’s favorite song from the Reveal sessions (according to guitarist Peter Buck’s recollection, as chronicled in David Buckley’s R.E.M. biography, Fiction). The song was produced by Pat McCarthy and engineered by Jamie Candiloro. “It’s really beautiful,” bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills told Buckley. “It has a flute, oboe arrangement, but it made the record too long… and something had to go.” R.E.M. rerecorded the track in Nassau for 2004’s Around the Sun, but the lush ballad ultimately didn’t jibe with that spare, atmospheric album. Now this poignant outtake finally finds its fitting moment, as a means to aid the country where R.E.M. enjoyed over two months of creative retreat.

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“We first became aware of Mercy Corps around the time of Hurricane Katrina, and we supported their efforts to help in that situation,” says Mills . “I spend a lot of time every year in the Abaco Islands, which was literally ground zero for this disaster. I know a lot of people who lost everything — their homes, their businesses, literally everything they own is gone.”

“I have been fortunate to spend many weeks working and playing in the Bahamas, making friends and lots of music there,” Mills continues. “It breaks my heart to see the damage wrought by Hurricane Dorian. Please help us and Mercy Corps do what we can to alleviate the suffering caused by this catastrophe.”

The B-52s - The B-52's

The B-52’s Released Their Eponymous Amazeballs Debut LP 40 Years Ago, on 6th July 1979 a totally weird looking combo out of Athens, Georgia called THE B-52’s released their amazing self-titled debut long player. A wacky mix of retro dance-pop and surfy funk twisted upside down and wrapped up brilliantly as the new chic back then and still sounding damn hip today! A solid gold masterpiece, a bona fide classic.

Rolling Stone wrote: “The debut by the B-52’s sounds like a bunch of high school friends cramming all their running jokes, goofy sounds and private nicknames into a New Wave record. It turned out nobody could resist the band’s campy, arty funk, or the eccentric squeals and bouffant hairdos of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson

Even in the weird, quirky world of new wave and post-punk in the late ’70s, the B-52’s’ eponymous debut stood out as an original. Unabashed kitsch mavens at a time when their peers were either vulgar or stylish, the Athens quintet celebrated all the silliest aspects of pre-Beatles pop culture — bad hairdos, sci-fi nightmares, dance crazes, pastels, and anything else that sprung into their minds — to a skewed fusion of pop, surf, avant-garde, amateurish punk, and white funk. On paper, it sounds like a cerebral exercise, but it played like a party.

The jerky, angular funk was irresistibly danceable, winning over listeners dubious of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s high-pitched, shrill close harmonies and Fred Schneider’s campy, flamboyant vocalizing, pitched halfway between singing and speaking. It’s all great fun, but it wouldn’t have resonated throughout the years if the group hadn’t written such incredibly infectious, memorable tunes as “Planet Claire,” “Dance This Mess Around,” and, of course, their signature tune, “Rock Lobster.” These songs illustrated that the B-52’s’ adoration of camp culture wasn’t simply affectation — it was a world view capable of turning out brilliant pop singles and, in turn, influencing mainstream pop culture. It’s difficult to imagine the endless kitschy retro fads of the ’80s and ’90s without the B-52’s pointing the way, but The B-52’s isn’t simply an historic artifact — it’s a hell of a good time.

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Happy 8th birthday to R.E.M.’s farewell de force ‘Collapse Into Now’, released on this day in the US on 8th March 2011.

Sessions for Collapse Into Now started back in early 2009 with songs worked up with interesting titles such as ‘After Ski At Timberline Lodge’, ‘Rusty In Orchestraland’, ‘Victim Of Psychic Surgery’ & ‘Sounds Of The Big Racers’..., (the guys certainly having fun) eventually changing to more. For Collapse Into Now, R.E.M., which is singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills, re-teamed with Grammy Award-winning producer Jacknife Lee, who produced the band’s acclaimed previous album Accelerate. Lee is also noted for his work on albums by U2, Snow Patrol, The Hives, and indie stalwarts Kasabian, Editors, Aqualung, and Bloc Party. R.E.M. and Lee recorded the album in New Orleans at the Music Shed and in Berlin at the famed Hansa Studios, where several legendary albums, including David Bowie’s Heroes, U2’s Achtung Baby, and Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, were made. Additional recording and mixing was done at the venerable Blackbird Studio in Nashville.

The band has also revealed that Collapse Into Now features some very special guests: Patti Smith, guitarist Lenny Kaye, Peaches, Eddie Vedder, and The Hidden Cameras frontman Joel Gibb.

“I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog,” said Michael Stipe when drummer Bill Berry quit R.E.M. in 1997. True, but a three-legged dog never triumphed at Crufts or the racetrack. Even so, the R.E.M. that recorded 1998’s Up (experimental, frequently beautiful), 2001’s Reveal (lush, frequently beautiful) only started listing badly on 2004’s Around the Sun, where a mystifyingly insipid production and sluggish mood got in the way of frequent bouts of beauty. Stung into action, they tore through 2008’s frequently thrilling Accelerate – but can an R.E.M. album ever feel like an event again?

The clock is indeed ticking for the band, this being their 15th album on their 30th anniversary. But Radiohead should be so lucky at this stage. Even if a lyric sheet on a R.E.M. album doesn’t feel right, Stipe’s words are alluring, enigmatic and provocative, free of rhetoric (the Hurricane Katrina aftermath of Oh My Heart notwithstanding). Unlike Accelerate, Collapse into Now is also free of a planned response to a predecessor. It’s as varied and deep as previous R.E.M. classics. It’s not epochal like Automatic for the People, but it can’t be. These are different times.

On that basis, the album kicks off like Accelerate Part Two, with Discoverer and All the Best incorporating that sinewy and keening R.E.M. rock thrust of old. There are also passages that are, yes, frequently beautiful. All five ballads get the tense, urgent delivery they deserve, and at best, Walk It Back show as they get older, R.E.M. are even better at gravitas, Oh My Heart’s accordion/mandolin undertow is an immediate earworm and Every Day Is Yours to Win is the kind of wistful lullaby often reserved for an album finale.

The closing track here is more in line with You from 1994’s Monster: Peter Buck’s guitar is drenched in fuzz, Country Feedback-style; Stipe’s spoken word diatribe and Patti Smith’s solemn incantation equally fire; and a surprise coda returns to Discoverer’s exuberant chorus. Before then, though, we’ve heard the first (non-session) guest men on an R.E.M. album. Every Day… features Eddie Vedder and The Hidden Cameras’ Joel Gibb on valiant backing vocals and Patti’s faithful guitar foil Lenny Kaye transforms Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter into something that’s virtually hard rock (Peaches adds lascivious vocal back-ups). Fun, maybe, but also overblown. Consider it the album’s only misjudgement. Fortunately, That Someone Is You follows in a more dutifully golden, Byrds-ian rush.

One of the great final gasps of R.E.M. is this stunning jam that stresses the idea of carpe diem. It’s about embracing the unknown and the changes that come from within. Musically, the whole thing brims with harmonies, hooks, and the kind of woodsy instrumentation that made the Athens outfit so iconic, but we’ll leave it to Stipe to explain the lyrical nature itself: “I wanted to picture an almost blunt outsider’s perspective – the experience of a guy who is walking through a city that is completely new to him and still very unfamiliar. I have combined these two words to express that. I don’t pretend being a German or a Berliner. Not at all. I just tried to figure out the mind of this outsider….” Well, there you are.

Buck reckons no R.E.M. in 20 years has 12 songs as good as this. 1996’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi may have something to say about that, but Collapse into Now genuinely feels like their first post-Bill Berry album to resemble a four-legged dog. And that, folks, is an event.

Hailing from the musical hotspot that is Athens, Georgia, Deep State have been making music for the best part of four years with a modicum of success, and today look to take a big step forward with the release of their third album, The Path To Fast Oblivion. Ahead of that release the quartet  have shared their excellent new single, “Son”.

Inspired by an, “inherent desire to instill wisdom into someone younger”, Son is a musing on whether the older generation should look to guide the youth of today, or let them make their own path. Musically, the track is the sort of restrained-riot that Deep State do so well; like a beautifully constructed wind-up toy, they seem to burst into life both furiously fast and perfectly controlled. Bringing to mind the likes of Wolf Parade or Clap Your Hand Say Yeah, this is rambunctious rock’n’roll with enough brains to keep it interesting, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

“Son” written and performed by Deep State From the album The Path To Fast Oblivion

The Band:

Taylor Chmura: guitars, vocals, electric piano, percussion
Christian DeRoeck: guitars, whammy bar, vocals
Michael Gonzalez: drums, percussion, piano, “bizness”
Brandon Page: bass, fuzz

R.E.M. Album By Album Pt.5: ‘Monster’

During the first decade of their career, R.E.M. had become accustomed to fighting an uphill battle. Their timeless yet enigmatic early albums Murmur, Reckoning and Fables Of The Reconstruction had engrossed their hardcore fanbase, but it took the cumulative effect of that urgent, muscular triumvirate of Lifes Rich Pageant, Document and Green to finally push them to the brink of mainstream acceptance.

Up to this stage of their career, the versatile quartet had been perceived as the integrity-fuelled, alt.rock heroes it was OK to like. Yet, with the multi-million-selling double-whammy of 1991’s Out Of Time and ’92’s Automatic For The People, the band made an enviably seamless transition into bona fide global superstars.

Lesser bands could well have crumbled and given into excess-fuelled madness at this juncture, yet R.E.M.’s well-established work ethic instead kicked in and ensured they remained focused. With their post-Automatic For The People promotional duties completed, the four band members hunkered down for a four-day meeting in the Mexican resort town of Acapulco, discussing where they would go next.

REM Japan Monster Tour Poster - 300

Wonderful records though they were, Out Of Time and Automatic… had both consisted primarily of introspective, acoustic-based numbers; during their Mexican sojourn, the four bandmates reached a consensus. For their next album, R.E.M. would get back to making what guitarist Peter Buck had previously described to the NME as a “real noisy” rock’n’roll record which the band pledged to tour for the first time since undertaking a year-long trek in support of 1988’s Green.

Later in 1993, pre-production work began at Kingsway Studios in New Orleans, where the band worked up a bunch of new songs before moving to Crossover Soundstage, in Atlanta, Georgia, in February 1994. There they laid down most of the basic tracks for what would become their ninth LP, Monster. Though they had built their reputation as a consummate live act, R.E.M. had been off the road for the best part of five years, and co-producer Scott Litt wisely thought the band would benefit from recording their new songs live, partly to re-familiarise them with the rigours of performing in concert. “I thought they hadn’t toured for a while, so it would be good for them to get into that mindset,” Litt said “You know… monitors, PA, standing up.”

A post on the band’s official Facebook page today simply states “#Monster25 coming soon” followed by “October 1994: released. October 2019: planning starting now…” . The news doesn’t come as a great surprise, since similar treatment was given to 1991’s Out Of Time and 1992’s Automatic For The People in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Monster wasn’t as well received as the two that preceded it and was a return to a more ‘rockier’ vibe.

The album spawned a number of singles including ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth?’, ‘Bang and Blame’ and ‘Strange Currencies’. Unlike the band’s two previous records, the Monster sessions proved atypically fraught. Both Bill Berry and Mike Mills were struck down with illness; Michael Stipe suffered a tooth abscess that required urgent medical attention after the sessions had moved on to Criteria Studios in Miami; the band were collectively knocked sideways by the recent deaths of Stipe’s personal friends, actor River Phoenix and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. The latter event hit Stipe especially hard and inspired Monster’s most intense track, the eerie, funereal tribute ‘Let Me In’.

“That song is me on the phone to Kurt, trying to get him out of the frame of mind he was in,” Stipe later told UK rock monthly Select. “I wanted him to know that… he was going to make it through. He and I were going to make a trial run of [Nirvana’s] next album. It was set up. He had a plane ticket. At the last minute he called and said, ‘I can’t come.’”

With the mixing sessions finally wrapping in LA during the summer of 1994, Monster was scheduled for release in October, and the band gave some preliminary interviews to provide the public with an insight into the new record. In a Time magazine feature, Mike Mills stressed that it would be anything but another Automatic For The People. “On past albums we had been exploring acoustic instruments, trying to use the piano and mandolin,” he said, before adding, “And you come back to the fact that playing loud electric guitar music is as fun as music can be.”

“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” is like the “Homerpalooza” of R.E.M.’s catalogue: a tragic story of an old man trying to be cool. It happens to everyone, though, and as Stipe was racing towards his 13th year with the outfit, it’s not unlikely that he was having those very same feelings. Of course, we all know he had very little to worry about — especially, you know, seeing how Monster arrived towards the tail-end of an unstoppable run of albums — and this song was proof perfect. It was a noisy signal to Generation X that the band understood the frequency loud and clear. After all, they were the progenitors of what would wind up being ’90s Alternative, so they weren’t exactly asking questions. They were answering them.

Monster was trailed by one of its strongest tracks, the grunge-y, anthemic ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’ Stipe copped the title from a 1986 incident in New York, relating to a vicious attack on CBS Evening News presenter Dan Rather by two unknown assailants who reputedly repeated the phrase, “Kenneth, what’s the frequency?” while beating him. Promoted by a striking video directed by ex-Cabaret Voltaire filmmaker Peter Care, wherein Stipe paraded his newly shaven head, ‘… Kenneth’ peaked at No.21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No.9 in the UK Top 40, and went on to become one of the band’s most popular – and most regularly performed – live numbers.

Released on 27th October 1994, Monster was, as Mills had previously hinted, very much a product of electric rock’n’roll instruments. Recorded with only minimal overdubs and long on heavily distorted guitars, it was chock-full of brash, extroverted garage-rockers such as ‘I Took Your Name’, ‘Star 69’ and the louche, T.Rex-ian ‘Crush With Eyeliner’, while, in most cases, Michael Stipe’s lyrics (which were written almost entirely in character) dealt with the nature of celebrity: something which R.E.M. were now having to deal with at very close quarters.

Monster was released at a time when musical trends were changing all over the world. Britpop was on the rise in the UK, while, in the US, alt.rock acts as diverse as The Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day were staking their claims with multi-platinum LPs. Yet Monster comfortably held its own and critics received it with enthusiasm. While acknowledging the album’s urgency and big rock shapes, Rolling Stone magazine gave it four-and-a-half-star review, penned by Robert Palmer, shrewdly concluded that the album was “a deeply felt, thematically coherent, consistently invigorating challenge to ‘evolve or die’, with all the courage of its convictions”.

A decade after its release, only ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’ was picked for the much-lauded anthology collection In Time: The Best Of R.E.M. 1988-2003, suggesting that the band’s feelings towards the album have cooled over the years. Yet while songs such as the dance-enhanced ‘King Of Comedy’ might now seem dated to some ears, Monster includes several of the band’s most underrated gems. Though perhaps at odds with most of the album’s high-octane guitar pop, both the tender ‘Strange Currencies’ and the shimmering, soul-infused ‘Tongue’ (delivered by Stipe in an atypical, yet highly affecting falsetto) are worth the price of admission alone and certainly remain comparable with the best of the group’s illustrious canon.

Though it failed replicate the stratospheric successes of Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, Monster proved to be another mega-selling album. The UK, where it Monster bagged the No.1 spot during its week of release.

As good as their word, R.E.M. undertook a massive world tour in support of the album, yet difficulties that beset the band during the recording sessions returned to blight the tour. Bolstered by support acts including Grant Lee Buffalo and Died Pretty, the Australasian and Far East dates went off without a hitch, but when the tour swung through Europe and reached Lausanne, Switzerland, on 1 March 1995, Bill Berry complained of severe headaches while onstage and was later diagnosed with a ruptured brain aneurysm.

Remarkably, after surgery and the cancellation of a raft of dates, Berry rejoined the tour in the US in May, though after R.E.M. returned to Europe, disaster struck again, with Mike Mills requiring urgent abdominal surgery. Once again the tour restarted successfully, only for Michael Stipe to undergo a hernia operation which – incredibly – was performed successfully without the need to cancel any further dates.

Again snatching victory from the jaws of adversity, R.E.M. finally sailed through the R.E.M. ’95 Tour’s remaining itinerary, playing a whopping 52 US dates. Three emotional, sold-out shows at The Omni in Atlanta brought the tour to a close, and provided the highlights for the electrifying Peter Care-directed video Road Movie.