It's MTV's second annual Musical March Madness! MTV News took the 64 biggest names in rock, split them up into four regions, assigned them seeds and puts them up against one another in a single-elimination series of match-ups in a winner-take-all contest. We're leaving it to you to decide an actual champ in this field of 64, so over the next few weeks, fan voting will determine who will emerge as this year's champion. It's all about the fans, and the artist with the most passionate fan base will score the awesome Musical March Madness trophy!
The 2011 MTV Musical March Madness tournament is only a few hours old, but there are already heated contests going on between some heavy hitters (there are already upsets brewing, as the Damned Things have jumped out to an early lead against top-seeded Foo Fighters). Of course, voting will continue through this Sunday (March 20), with the winners revealed on Monday (March 21). In the meantime, let's move on to the next batch of match-ups, which feature some of the biggest names in the whole contest.
(6) Coheed and Cambria vs. (11) Crystal Bowersox
The 2010 MTV Musical March Madness champions Coheed and Cambria made an improbable run through that tournament, proving that their fans were a force to be reckoned with. They probably would have had a higher seed had they not been so quiet over the past few months. But they remain one of the tournament favorites. Still, they have a challenging draw in Crystal Bowersox, the "American Idol" runner-up who has managed to galvanize an impressive online following since the release of her album Farmer's Daughter. Will she have enough to overthrow the reigning champs? Only your votes can decide!
(3) Vampire Weekend vs. (14) Bright Eyes
Two of the most literate acts in indie rock take it to the mat in the first round, and both are riding high. Vampire Weekend are still basking in the glow of their chart-topping second album Contra, while Bright Eyes just released their best album in years. Will Conor Oberst be able to topple the Vampire Weekend juggernaut? Vote and find out!
Watch Dick Bagwell and Vincent Twice break down this year's bracket!
Check out the Musical March Madness bracket and be take a look at the hoops-centric photos of some of the tournament's biggest bands.
If you happen to be in the Washington, D.C. area on Friday night (October 29), you'll have the last opportunity to catch the supremely excellent Corin Tucker Band live in concert for the time being (unless you live in Japan, where you'll have three chances to catch them on a short jaunt after Thanksgiving). The band, lead by former Sleater-Kinney singer/guitarist Corin Tucker, has been on the road for the past few weeks in support of 1,000 Years, the first recordings Tucker has made since the last Sleater-Kinney album in 2005. The shows have been tremendously dynamic affairs, full of ragged guitar crunch and moments of disarmingly simple beauty, mainly centered around Tucker's exquisite voice.
So with the album out and the road trip basically complete, what's next for Tucker? When MTV News asked her about what's next, she stuck her fingers in her ears like she didn't want to deal with the question. "My booking agent actually just called me and said, 'So, what's next?'" she laughed. "I just can't think that way. All I know is we're playing on Friday, then I'm back to taking the kids to school on Monday."
Tucker did note that she has profoundly enjoyed her time on the road and working with the band on 1,000 Years, which is why this experience begs the question: How close are we to her old band getting back together?
As Tucker noted, both of her former bandmates — fellow singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss — have been busy with other productive projects. Brownstein was the longtime writer of a music blog for National Public Radio and is also writing a book called "The Sound of Where You Are." She also has a new band called Wild Flag (which also features Weiss) and has a sketch comedy show called "Portlandia" coming to the Independent Film Channel in January. In addition to Wild Flag, Weiss has been working as a drummer with a number of different groups, including Bright Eyes (and other variations of Conor Oberst's band), Stephen Malkmus' the Jicks and her longtime side project Quasi. And while all of those projects have been uniformly excellent and exciting, it will be good to have the ladies of Sleater-Kinney back together when they do decide it's time.
Though he has spent the last few years performing under his own name and in the supergroup Monsters of Folk (which also includes M. Ward from She & Him and My Morning Jacket's Jim James), Conor Oberst first made his bones as the brain, voice and songwriting behind Bright Eyes. The native of Omaha, Nebraska, started recording albums when he was only 13 years old but saw his big crossover breakout come in 2002 with Lifted or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground. He followed that up with what will probably go down as his most audacious project. On this day in 2005, Oberst released two albums under the Bright Eyes name. The first was a more traditional album called I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, while the other was an album of electronic music experiments called Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (one of the greatest album titles ever).
Though most fans gravitated towards I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning because it sounded more like Lifted, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn remains one of the great underrated albums of the first decade of the 21st century. Equal parts twitchy beats and moody keyboard moans, the album finds Oberst at perhaps his most interior (no small feat considering the nature of the dude's lyrics). "Time Code" opens things up with a bit of robot rock, and "I Believe in Symmetry" brings some impressive Kraftwerkian darkness. But the true highlight of the album is the single "Easy/Lucky/Free," which casually combines large helpings of psychedelic rock and wheezy moans from a variety of machines.
Monsters of Folk is the rather awesomely-named project currently occupying the time of all your favorite shaggy troubadours (the official roster: Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, M. Ward and jack-of-all-trades Mike Mogis), and despite their insistence to the contrary — modesty and scruffiness do go hand-in-hand, after all — they are 100 percent a "supergroup."
We can understand why the Monsters would object to being saddled with the title. After all, while the idea of a supergroup may seem pretty sweet ("Dude, it'll be like an All-Star team ... but a band!"), it turns out that the overwhelming number of them are actually pretty lousy (GTR? Zwan? The Firm?), the end result of poor planning and even poorer ego management.
Luckily, the Monsters are not terrible, as evidenced by their self-titled debut, which is due on September 22. Over 15 well-worn, strummy tracks (festooned with the occasional electro burble) they explore folk-y topics like religion, politics and — of course — life on the open road, the latter of which is especially fitting, considering they're gearing up to tour the U.S. and Europe later this year.
And, of course, we told them this, which is why they finally agreed to not only talk about some of history's greatest supergroups, but to rate them as well. So watch the Monsters weigh in on acts like Damn Yankees (let's just say Oberst isn't the biggest fan) and the Traveling Wilburys, plus non-musical supergroups like the Justice League and the 1992 USA Men's National Basketball team (aka "The Dream Team"). You'll be shocked to hear how much James actually knows about hoops.
It's beginning to feel like I write this same thing every single year (and, lo and behold, I have), but, wow, the lineup for Coachella 2009 is super underwhelming. Again.
Perhaps it's due to the inflated expectations from previous years, or the constant stream of hype, speculation and false-starts that accompanies the unveiling of the lineup each and every winter, but once again, I am let down by the spate of bands the promoters at Goldenvoice have lined up for Coachella '09. For the second year in a row, there are no big-ticket reunions (long a 'Chella staple), no "Man-I-gotta-see-'em" headliners (Paul McCartney, probably playing stuff from his crummy electronic side-project! The Killers! The Cure!). There is Franz Ferdinand. And the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And, Amy Winehouse, provided she makes it until April. Oh, and there is Leonard Cohen, who should actually be pretty rad now that I think of it.
On last night's Mormon-fueled "American Idol" auditions in Salt Lake City, we got an Osmond, a tone-deaf Goth girl, a whole bunch of toothsome white people, one heartwarming hippie trainwreck and, without a doubt, my favorite contestant of the season: Megan Corkrey, a gorgeous, newly single mom with a mean sleeve of tattoos and a voice that — to borrow a phrase from former New York Times music critic Kalefa Sanneh — sounds like "carved steam."
Of course, Sanneh was writing about Feist at the time, which sort of goes to my point: Megan Corkrey was far and away the best contestant last night (perhaps even the best of the season so far), she is beautiful and inspiring, and possesses a subtle, lithe little voice, but there is no way in the world she is going to win "American Idol." Read More...
It's Wednesday, and you know what that means: We've got just two days to go before the start of another weekend, and the latest albums sales figures are in. Unfortunately, this week's SoundScan report's kind of a snoozer, but there is a new #1 album to laud.
After five weeks of slowly climbing up Billboard's top 200, the "Mamma Mia!" soundtrack has finally reached the top, bumping Sugarland's Love on the Inside from #1 to #3, on the strength of nearly 130,700 scans (the country duo sold 91,400 units). The soundtrack actually sold more copies last week (around 137,800), but thanks to generally sluggish sales, the set moves from #3 to #1 on next week's chart. Wedged in between "Mamma Mia!" and Sugarland, we find "Hannah Montana" star Miley Cyrus' LP Breakout, which, after three weeks in stores, continues to generate impressive scans, this week adding another 102,400 units to its tally; all told, that offering has sold exactly 636,800 copies.
With the results of Tuesday’s Kentucky and Oregon primaries in, Barack Obama now has a majority of pledged delegates for the Democratic Party nomination, leading many to dub him the nominee. Calls continue to come out of the Obama camp for Hillary Clinton to once and for all drop out of the race and begin the process of helping the party to unite behind the senator from Illinois.
At least one Obama supporter, though, is in no hurry: Conor Oberst.
Omaha’s folk-rock prince was one of Obama’s earliest musician supporters, playing at a rally for the candidate in Iowa on New Year’s Day, and several since then. And though O backs O as enthusiastically as ever, when I spoke to him last week, he said he has no problem letting the remaining primary states have their say.
“No, at this point [they] might as well,” he told me. “I don’t think there will be an issue with people coming together. Because it’s true there’s such a stark contrast with McCain. And I think everyone will understand that there are two clear choices.” Read More...
Yesterday I got the chance to sit down with one of my favorite musicians on the planet, Conor Oberst.
The setting was a Mexican restaurant in the East Village, about halfway between his house and mine -- though admittedly it was a pretty obvious location choice. You see, earlier this year, Mexico was the place where the nomadic Oberst holed up with a bunch of pals to work on his first solo album in many years, a self-titled release due out August 5th. And yes, he sees a big difference between a solo record and a Bright Eyes record, something he explained in our nearly hour-long conversation.
Conor was in great spirits, and in addition to the new album -- which is more spare and stripped down than last year’s terrific Cassadaga -- we also talked about California (he likes it, I don’t), relationships (not his forte), his aversion to hospitals, and, of course, politics. O, as you might have heard, is a big supporter of O.
So check back with MTVNews.com in the coming weeks for all that -- plus a track-by-track rundown of the entire album...
Conor Oberst, the man behind Bright Eyes' avant-Americana, is getting ready to release his first solo album in thirteen years, on August 4th. The album was recorded in Mexico this past January and February, in an impromptu studio assembled in Tepoztlan, a town known (um, as Merge Records' release tells us) for Aztec vibes and extraterrestrial activity.
The sessions were produced by Conor and cohort Andy LeMaster, and recorded by some friends calling themselves the Mystic Valley Band. (Actually, we should have seen this coming, considering the billing of this fest.)
Oh, and actually, it looks as if most of the album's tracks already can be found, in some version, online. Go out and buy it anyway, people!
While the album title hasn't officially been announced [Update: It's self-titled], you can check out the complete track list for the album after the jump. Read More...