By Zachary Swickey
It’s been ten years and I still find myself regularly listening to Humanistic, the beautifully crafted debut album from Abandoned Pools. The band is actually singer-songwriter Tommy Walter with rotating musicians filling the gaps in the studio and live settings (think Trent Reznor – Nine Inch Nails). Walter is a former bassist and founding member of The Eels, who were one of the first signees of DreamWorks Records. Walter eventually left the group to focus on his solo efforts, which would eventually turn into Abandoned Pools.
Recruiting some fellow musicians to lend a hand in the studio – including drummer extraordinaire Josh Freese of Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle and Devo fame – Walter concocted 12 infectious electro-pop songs that hold up just as well in today’s modern music scene. Humanistic is a soundtrack for the ups and downs of everyday life – full of dark reflections on society (the aggressive “Monster”) – but contrasted with optimistic gems like “Sunny Day” that will have you gladly wearing a smile. All-in-all, a spectacularly solid debut that managed to wax philosophical in an atypical music scene.
The group soon hopped on some high profile tours, opening for the likes of A Perfect Circle, Lenny Kravitz and Garbage. The band achieved some notable success thanks to the music video of their first single, “The Remedy,” which helped the band get some much-deserved attention. In 2002 they got to do the charming theme song for the hilarious MTV animated program “Clone High” (the witty cult classic show featured voice appearances from Jack Black and Marilyn Manson but was canceled after just one season).
Soon after, Walter’s label (Extasy Records, an imprint of Warner Bros.) dissolved, but Abandoned Pools was then picked up by Universal. Going through a rough time personally, Walter would use the trauma as his main inspiration for his sophomore effort. Walter first teased fans with The Reverb EP that included a jaw-dropping cover of Bjork’s “Army of Me” that the Icelandic queen would have to adore (yeah, it’s that good). A few months later in September 2005, Abandoned Pools finally released their follow-up album, Armed to the Teeth, which has the same sensibility as their debut, but a little more on the rockin’ (or perhaps angry) side. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
Few music festivals have the reliability of Austin’s South by Southwest when it comes to bringing in acts. The camaraderie between bands and fans alike is overwhelming (in an awesome way). Not to mention just about every up-and-coming group plays SXSW at least once, if not a half dozen times, in their careers. I thankfully discovered Solid Gold while preparing for my jaunt there earlier this year, but they weren’t the only ones. In a true moment of being at the right place at the right time, I got to emo’s music venue an hour early (knowing the Kills would go on an hour later) and discovered Austra – the Canadian New Wave act responsible for one of my favorite albums so far in 2011.
Austra is a Toronto-based three-piece consisting of vocalist and group-appointed leader, Katie Stelmanis, drummer Maya Postepski, and bassist Dorian Wolf. After listening to the soaring operatic vocals on their debut, it’s no surprise that Stelmanis was a member of the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus when she was a mere 10 years old. She can also boast a guest vocal appearance on F**ked Up’s critically acclaimed sophomore album, The Chemistry of Common Life. Austra derived its moniker from the singer’s middle name, and her solo songs were the beginning stages of what the group would eventually become. She then found her fellow musicians and rearranged many songs to give them the dance-friendly vibe that they now have.
The group is well-trained: as mentioned, Stelmanis has classical opera training, Postepski attended the University of Toronto for classical percussion, and Wolf has been getting to know Apple’s music program, Logic, to increase his personal experimentation. Twin sisters Sari & Romy Lightman along with keyboardist Ryan Wonsiak help round out the group in live performances – providing quite the theatrical spectacle. After the group formed, they sought someone who knew what to do with their brooding, electronic sound. Enter studio engineer Damian Taylor, who worked with some of the biggest digital acts (Bjork, Unkle and Prodigy) when living in London for over a decade before his return home to Montreal in 2010 to set up a music studio. Taylor caught wind of the group through friend Morgan Lebus, the A&R rep that signed Austra. Their collaborative outcome is an acid-soaked, disco dancing delight with the occasional melancholic twist. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
Mariachi El Bronx is a band you need to hear to believe. Never in my life did I think that I would find myself jamming along to a kickass mariachi record. Leave it to Los Angeles punk vets The Bronx to create an alter ego that is completely atypical of their usual style but equally as amazing.
You see, The Bronx are a top-notch hardcore punk act known for putting on bats**t crazy live shows, resembling the closest thing we have to the raucousness of Black Flag in their heyday. The Bronx’s three self-titled albums are a greatest hits package of what I like to call “manthems” (songs that make you want to punch something yet have an inexplicable bouncy quality). On the heels of their last effort in ‘08, they announced the impending release of a mariachi record. Say what?
I thought it was some type of joke at first … until I heard the music. My first taste, “Cell Mates,” was a fun, catchy track with piping trumpets and all the typical mariachi elements, but it seemed like a one-trick pony. Then I heard the mellow, heartfelt “Holy,” which slowed things down and blew me away, instantly converting me into a true mariachi music fan in the process. Matt Caughthran’s vocals have always had a great intensity and emotion to them with The Bronx, and that quality remains with El Bronx, yet in such a different way. His voice can be surprisingly soft and delicate on tracks like “My Love,” which undoubtedly leaves woman swooning. Every track on the album is worth a listen and will make you feel like you’re partyin’ south of the border. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
It’s hard to argue that Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel, who collectively form Holy Ghost!, weren’t destined to make music together. The duo met at ages 7 and 6, respectively, and their musical kinship grew right along with their burgeoning friendship. Their debut album is a catchy-as-hell throwback to the disco pop sounds of yesteryear, and we have become quite enamored with the new group, who hail from the Big Apple.
Millhiser and Frankel grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and met in elementary school. Their musical endeavors first began in fourth grade during an elective rock band class, where they found themselves playing covers of classics like “Lean on Me.” Their love for the rap of the mid-to-late ‘90s led them to create Automato in their high school years. The group even got a record deal and released an album in 2004. Unfortunately, the rap crew soon dissolved, but they met a key person along the way, James Murphy, the mastermind behind now-defunct LCD Soundsystem.
A few years later, Millhiser and Frankel formed Holy Ghost!, a departure from the duo’s original hip-hop sound. The friends slowly but surely began writing and laying the groundwork for a full-length album, while also dabbling in remixes on the side. In keeping with their quirky personalities, the guys released a cassette-only mixtape that was a round-up of several remixes they had worked on, including the likes of Cut Copy, MGMT and Datarock. The duo signed to indie label DFA Records, founded by none other than the previously-mentioned James Murphy, and earlier this April, released their long-awaited debut album. Read More...
We want you to be a part of our "MTV First: Red Hot Chili Peppers!" The Chili Peppers are debuting their new video, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” on MTV, MTV2 and MTV.com at 7:53 PM ET/4:53 PM PT on Wednesday, August 17.
Afterwards, the band will sit down with MTV News for an interview and will answer fan questions. This is where you come in! There are two ways to get your questions to Anthony, Flea, Chad and Josh:
1) Tweet your question to @mtvnews and tag it #AskRHCP
2) Tweet a video question from Twitvid, Twitpic or other video sites to @mtvnews and tag it #AskRHCP
We want to see your faces, so we hope you choose option two! Please remember that we can’t use any video that includes profanity, nudity or copyrighted music. So get writing/recording those tweets and tune in Wednesday, August 17 at 7:53 PM ET/4:53PM PT to see if your question gets answered!
By Zachary Swickey
It’s easy to get lost in the slew of new, digitally-tinged indie bands that offer little beyond what MGMT already created four years ago. Oversaturation of a genre can cause some bands to get lost in the mix, which is a shame when the band is great. Case in point: Solid Gold, who concoct some of the most original, experimental synth pop sounds whole music world has to offer.
Solid Gold was formed ten years ago by a trio of friends at the University of Wisconsin. After a migration to equally chilly Minneapolis, Minn., and some lineup adjustments, Solid Gold finally began shaping their psychedelic persona. Originally sticking to a drum machine for percussive duties, the group eventually enlisted a real drummer, and added a slide guitarist for a little something extra to expand their sound.
The band released their debut album, Bodies of Water, in the fall of 2008 and received some much-deserved buzz. The effort is a brilliant amalgam of ‘80s-like synth sounds, though that is a rather limited way to describe the array of influences contained. “Those Who Go” has the digital deliciousness of a club banger, while “Synchronize” contains a seriously catchy low-end warble that all but forces one to groove. Despite themes like heartbreak and escape, it’s a rather danceable album. “Who You Gonna Run To?” bears a self-explanatory title, and I have a feeling most people have an ex they would gladly dedicate the tune to.
We want YOU to be a part of our "MTV First: Evanescence!" Evanescence is going to perform their single, "What You Want" on Monday for the first time ever and afterwards they’ll sit down with MTV News for an interview and will answer fan questions.
This is where you come in! There are two ways to get your questions to Amy Lee and the band:
1) Tweet your question to @mtvnews and tag it #EVMTV
2) Tweet a video question to @mtvnews and tag it #EVMTV
We hope you choose option 2 because Evanescence would love to see the faces behind the fans. But please remember that we can’t use any video that includes profanity, nudity, or copyright music.
So get writing/recording those tweets and tune in to MTV on Monday August 8, at 7:54 p.m. ET/PT to see if your question gets answered!
By Zachary Swickey
Other Lives have long been destined for greatness, or at the very least, critical success. It seemed like the band’s big break was fast approaching when John Mayer added their song to his Myspace player and tried to track the band down to give them kudos for their stellar track “Section 2.” Only one problem: this happened to Kunek, the first iteration of Other Lives. The band decided to re-establish themselves for their debut’s release, changing their moniker and sound. With the recent release of their sophomore album, Tamer Animals, on TBD Records (label buddies Radiohead are fans too), Other Lives seem fully prepared to take on the music-loving masses.
Other Lives was founded by a group of friends living in the small, Midwestern college town of Stillwater, Oklahoma. The band includes main musical composer Jesse Tabish (piano, guitar, lead vocals), the charming-but-reserved Jenny Hsu (cello, piano, castanets, backing vocals), and the fun-loving Colby Owens (drums). Later, Josh Onstott (bass, organ, backing vocals) and Jonathon Mooney (piano, violin, guitar) joined to help expand the group’s sound. It’s hard not to notice the band is full of multi-instrumentalists and the members are known to occasionally swap instruments in live settings (or play two simultaneously!).
After the name change, Other Lives released their debut in March 2009, which was recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Joey Waronker (drummer for Atoms for Peace, Thom Yorke’s solo band). The disc was a solid effort and the lead single, “Black Tables,” was all over primetime television, from “Ugly Betty” to “One Tree Hill” and “Grey’s Anatomy” (remember how The Fray hit it big?). In early 2010, the group reconvened in their studio in their hometown to begin work on their follow-up record. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
“Wow” was the first thing that came to mind upon my first listening to The White Sea’s debut five-song EP. It is clear the work has been meticulously crafted with sweeping soundscapes that will swallow you whole. The schizophrenic nature of the wide-ranging pop sound is a large part of its appeal. One moment you will be dancing and shouting along to “Ladykiller” (which is killer indeed), and you’ll be grinning along to the bouncing charm of “Overdrawn” the very next. But who is White Sea?
White Sea is the Alaska-born Morgan Kibby, who lists cheese, wine and analog synths as some of her favorite things and even used to have the rad job of restoring art. On her blog, she muses on the things that inspire her and truly connects with fans on a creative level, often providing short anecdotes and updates. Kibby’s lovely and mesmerizing voice works magically with her classically trained piano skills. She grew up on classical music and jazz compositions before she was exposed to other genres, particularly hip-hop, which further illustrates the wide range of her musical taste.
Eventually, Kibby landed a gig providing vocals for movie trailer songs that appeared on “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water.”
Kibby truly made a name for herself when she collaborated with French electronica genius Anthony Gonzalez, known better in the music world as M83. The pair met when a French director friend of Kibby’s was set to work with Gonzalez on a film and made sure to introduce her musically-inclined friend to the famous musician. They hit it off and before Kibby knew it, she was working with an artist that she considered herself a fan of. Kibby soon provided her angelic vocals and piano/keyboard skills on several tracks off M83’s critically acclaimed ’08 album, Saturdays = Youth. She stepped into an even more collaborative role when the band hit the road, but upon the completion of the tour, Kibby needed something to keep her busy. Enter White Sea. Read More...
By Zachary Swickey
By now, most people have already caught wind of indie-popsters on the rise Foster the People. The LA-based band has been storming the pop charts with their hit “Pumped Up Kicks,” from their breakout debut album, Torches, which was just released in May. The group is currently on a mostly sold-out club tour, but who are the guys behind the catchy pop sound?
Foster the People formed just two short years ago when vocalist/guitarist and unofficial band leader Mark Foster ventured West out of Ohio in pursuit of a music career. He worked the typical menial jobs – pizza delivery, telemarketing – but thanks to his knack for networking and artistic flare, Foster eventually began rubbing elbows with the young talent in Hollywood.
Before long, Foster got the big break he was looking for (or so he thought) when he received a phone call from the A&R team of Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records. According to an interview with the LA Times, the publicist for Dre could not verify any of Foster’s story, but the singer claims to have walked away from a deal as he did not want to become the “white crossover soul artist” that the label had envisioned him as. Foster prefers bands like Blur and wanted to make “glitched-out electronic music” rather than be told what to perform.