Results for avant garde

interviews

Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood

This week on the show, Jim and Greg have two very special guests: Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of the band Radiohead. Our hosts consider Radiohead one of the most important bands of the past two decades, and were thrilled to have the lead singer and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist on the show. Greg asserts that Kid A is the most avant-garde album to ever debut at the top of the Billboard charts — it's rare that a band can be so experimental and still achieve such mainstream success.

Radiohead was in Chicago to perform two shows at the Auditorium Theatre, and when they come to town, it is always memorable. Their 2001 outdoor performance at Hutchinson Field was a landmark event for Chicago music. Though the city has not always been eager to invite droves of young rockers into its public spaces, the success of that show seems to have paved the way for outdoor music concerts like Lollapalooza. Nevertheless, the Brits‘ return to the city this year was not completely drama free. The city rejected the band’s bid to play at Millennium Park, although it's not clear whether or not Radiohead would have even accepted. Never one to do the same thing twice, the band was eager to try out a smaller, indoor venue like the Auditorium Theatre.

Thom and Jonny explain that this tour was an opportunity to work on songs that may be a part of their upcoming 2007 release. That's good news, since some suspected that there might not even be a next album. Radiohead's extended family keeps growing, as does their interest in solo work, so there was speculation that they might not continue in this incarnation. But unlike bands of their stature who stay together for the sake of the business, the bandmates explain that Radiohead will go on as long as the music makes it worth it. And in the meantime, they'll have to juggle the music with the nappies.

Doing solo projects is still a priority for members of Radiohead. Jonny composed the music for the 2004 film Bodysong, which he also co-produced. And Thom Yorke will be releasing The Eraser in July, though he explains that the term“solo”is not really appropriate in this case. The album was produced and arranged by longtime Radiohead collaborater Nigel Godrich, and contains music composed by his bandmates.

One of the songs on The Eraser, "Harrowdown Hill," was inspired by the death of weapons inspector and government scientist Dr. David Kelly. After acting as a whistle-blower and telling a journalist that he disagreed with claims the British government made about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Kelly was found dead only days later. A Parliamentary committee investigated the death and determined it to be suicide, but many, including Thom, are skeptical of the validity of this finding. It's not the first time Thom and the band have infused their music with political meaning — though, as Thom explains to Jim and Greg, his approach differs from that of his fellow countryman.

Go to episode 30

Powerhouse Sound

This week Jim and Greg welcomed Powerhouse Sound, a veritable who's who of avant garde jazz and rock musicians. Ken Vandermark, world-renowned reeds player and MacArthur Genius grant winner, assembled this bi-coastal motley crew to experiment with fusing jazz, rock, funk, blues and reggae. With him on the U.S. side of this project is bass player Nate McBride, as well as drummer John Herndon and guitarist Jeff Parker of the group Tortoise. The group has a new album out comprised of recordings done both here and in Norway entitled Oslo/Chicago Breaks.

Ken explains to Jim and Greg that the idea for Powerhouse Sound was inspired by Miles Davis' experiments with blending jazz and popular music. In the 1970s, Davis began working with a diverse group of musicians to create an improvisational sound that is as much funk as it is jazz. Greg notes that this was a heavily controversial period for Davis; jazz purists saw it as a commercial sell out. But, like Davis, the members of Powerhouse Sound are not interested in boundaries and musical dogma. The sound is the key. You can hear this freedom in their performance of "Shocklee/Broken Numbers." Check out the piece in its entirety here.

Go to episode 114

Melvins

Melvins The Melvins are hailed as progenitors of sludge metal, key influences on the Seattle grunge scene, and avant-garde pranksters – but their music has always been virtually unclassifiable. That's certainly the case on their new double-album A Walk With Love & Death, which veers from heavy rockers to pop songs to ambient film scores. The Melvins join Jim and Greg in the studio to talk about the new record and their long career, dating back to their 1984 formation in Washington.

Guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne (aka King Buzzo) and drummer Dale Crover form the core of the Melvins, alongside a rotating bassist slot that's currently filled by Steve McDonald of Redd Kross and OFF!. They discuss their ill-fated major label stint in the 1990s, the importance of playing the music that you want to play, and how they manage to survive as a band for over thirty years. They also dispel myths about Nirvana (of which Crover was an early member) and the rest of the storied Seattle scene.

Go to episode 613
classic album dissections
Purple Rain (Deluxe)Purple Rain available on iTunes

Prince Purple Rain

It's hard to believe, but Prince's blockbuster album Purple Rain is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. To honor this occasion Jim and Greg conduct a Classic Album Dissection. They talk to former Revolution members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman about their relationship with Prince and the making of the album. Wendy & Lisa are now a musical duo, and also score music for TV shows like Heroes and Nurse Jackie. But back in 1984, they were part of Prince's recording and performing team — Wendy on guitar and Lisa on keyboards. As Jim and Greg explain, it was unique for Prince to be collaborative. He even shared songwriting credits with The Revolution. Jim and Greg also credit Wendy and Lisa with opening Prince up to new music and new sounds.

To cap off their dissection Jim and Greg talk about two specific songs from Purple Rain. Jim plays "Darling Nikki," one of the only songs on the album written solely by Prince. It was targeted by Tipper Gore and the PMRC for its suggestive lyrics, but Jim sees it as a love/lust story similar to "Norwegian Wood." Greg plays "When Doves Cry." With no bass line, multiple guitar parts and a multi-tracked voice, it's an example of Prince's modern and avant-garde side.

Go to episode 191
Purple Rain (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)Purple Rain available on iTunes

Prince Purple Rain

Believe it or not, Prince's blockbuster album Purple Rain turns 30-years-old this month. To mark the occasion, Jim and Greg give Purple Rain the Classic Album Dissection treatment. They talk to former Revolution members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman about their relationship with Prince and the making of the album. Wendy & Lisa are now a musical duo, and also score music for TV shows like Heroes and Nurse Jackie, which won them an Emmy Award in 2010. But back in 1984, they were part of Prince's first major recording and performing team — Wendy on guitar and Lisa on keyboards. As Jim and Greg explain, it was unique for Prince to be collaborate on this level. The auteur even shared songwriting credits with The Revolution. Jim and Greg also credit Wendy and Lisa with opening Prince up to new music and new sounds.

To cap off their dissection, Jim and Greg talk about two specific songs from Purple Rain. Jim plays "Darling Nikki," one of the only songs on the album written solely by Prince. It was targeted by Tipper Gore and the PMRC for its suggestive lyrics, but Jim sees it as a love/lust story similar to The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." Greg choses "When Doves Cry." With no bass line, multiple guitar parts and a multi-tracked voice, it's a perfect example of Prince's modern and avant-garde side.

Go to episode 449
reviews
FutureSex/LoveSoundsFutureSex/LoveSounds available on iTunes

Justin Timberlake FutureSex/LoveSounds

The final bit of news is the release of Justin Timberlake's second solo album, FutureSex/LoveSounds. The ex-teen heartthrob is all grown up and has aligned himself with producer Timbaland, as well as Rick Rubin and will.i.am, for a darker, more cutting-edge — and yes, sexier — sound than 'N Sync fans are used to. He's also launched an impressive live show that has the charismatic singer fronting an 11-piece band. It's just one of many adventurous moves that are impressing our hosts. Jim explains that with the exception of one bum track which tells the sad story of“a life ruined by meth addiction,”the diverse array of songs on FutureSex/LoveSounds all succeed. He gives it a Buy It rating. Greg agrees, explaining that the songs are fairly avant-garde and hook-less for a pop record. He does not think Timberlake is the best singer in the world, but he pulls off dance music as well as old-school soul. He also gives the album a Buy It. (By the way, Timberlake is not the only former Mouseketeer“dropping”a project this week. We want to extend hearty congratulations to his former girlfriend, Britney Spears, now the mom of two.)

JimGreg
Go to episode 42
LP1LP1 available on iTunes

FKA Twigs LP1

FKA Twigs is the debut album from Tahliah Debrett Barnett, an English singer-songwriter. Barnett started making music at 16, and at 17, she became a well-known backup dancer, appearing in videos by Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, and Taio Cruz. Her first album, LP1, has garnered a great deal of attention from the likes of Pitchfork and The Fader for its mix of avant-garde soundscapes and R&B vocals. Greg thinks this album is a grower, but what it's growing into is one of his favorites of 2014. He says Buy It. Jim gave the album plenty of time to grow, and it really never kicked in. He calls FKA Twigs a poor Kate Bush imitation and complains about the music's lack of movement, emotion, soul and energy. Therefore, Jim says Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 459
VulnicuraVulnicura available on iTunes

Björk Vulnicura

After experimenting with various multimedia projects, Icelandic avant-garde powerhouse Björk is once again focused squarely on songwriting. Her new album Vulnicura is a heartbreak album, candidly addressing the end of her relationship with artist Matthew Barney. Greg loves how she finds universal themes within her personal struggles. As always, Björk uses brilliantly unconventional beats, augmented now by beautiful string melodies. Jim misses the poppier vocal style of her early albums, but still finds it her best effort in a decade. Both critics give Vulnicura a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 479
Have You in My WildernessHave You in My Wilderness available on iTunes

Julia Holter Have You in My Wilderness

Avant-garde singer-songwriter Julia Holter returns with her fourth studio album, Have You in My Wilderness. Holter is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who is influenced by both folk and electronic experimental music. Her earlier efforts were more abstract and disjointed, however her latest album takes on a more simple, pop demeanor. Greg really enjoyed this record and found its songs to be intelligently catchy. He really looks forward to hearing where she goes next in her musical career and gives this album a "Buy It." Jim agrees, and finds Have You in My Wilderness to be a pure joy. He appreciates her specific and unique interests in classical, folk and electronic music. Jim also compares her artistry to that of Bjork and gives Holter's album a "Buy It."

JimGreg
Go to episode 536
Shock Value (Instrumental Version)Shock Value available on iTunes

Timbaland Shock Value

Superstar producer Timbaland also has a new solo album called Timbaland Presents: Shock Value. Timbaland, otherwise known as Tim Mosley, has produced massive hits for pop and hip hop stars like Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake. But, in addition to having a knack for making commercially successful tunes, Timbaland is also one of the most inventive, innovative and avant-garde producers of all time. This fact makes it all the more difficult for Jim and Greg to give their ratings of this album. Jim thinks the first half of the album is worth checking out for some solid production. But, he wishes Timbaland hadn‘t been so base and clichéd in his lyrics. He also questions the creativity involved in the album’s all-star collaborations. He gives Shock Value a Burn It. Greg can't even be that kind. He is completely disappointed by this album and is forced to give it a Trash It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 71
dijs

Greg

“Work It”Missy Elliott

It is Greg's turn to pop a quarter into the Desert Island Jukebox, but this week he had a hard time choosing just one song. According to our host, hip-hop star Missy Elliott is the top singles artist of the last 10 years. Along with producers like Timbaland, she makes truly avant-garde music, but does so in a really fun, accessible way. Therefore, it's no wonder that her songs are critical and commercial hits. For this week's show, Greg went with the song "Work It." The song demonstrates Missy's novel approach to sounds and words. It isn‘t really about anything new, but the lyrics, beats and sounds (note the elephant’s wail) couldn't sound fresher. In fact, only Missy Elliott could get away with having the hook to a Top 40 hit be sung backwards. So, you may not be able to sing along to this week's DIJ, but you'll certainly want to.

Go to episode 25

Greg

“Strawberry Letter 23”Shuggie Otis

A tour and a raft of new reissues have got Greg thinking about Shuggie Otis again. A guitar prodigy, Shuggie got his start in father Johnny Otis's band at the tender age of fifteen. Just a few years later, he dropped the band gig to explore more avant-garde and atmospheric territory, making some of the most genre-defying guitar music of the seventies. Greats like Al Cooper and Frank Zappa clamored to work with him, but by the mid ‘70s, Shuggie had largely dropped off the musical map. Luckily, songs like Greg’s DIJ pick, "Strawberry Letter 23" haven‘t grown stale with age. Thanks to renewed interest, Shuggie’s back on tour. Listen to Strawberry Letter's psychedelic glockenspiel and guitar solos, and you might just be inspired to check him out live.

Go to episode 386

Jim

“Silver Bullet”Jack Bruce,Golden Palominos

Cream bassist Jack Bruce recently passed away at age of 71, and as Jim explains, he played an important part in the '60s English music scene. Bruce had a long career as an underground musician playing jazz, rock and avant-garde music. To pay homage to him, Jim chose a song for the Desert Island Juxebox that was actually not from his time with Cream. Instead, he goes with "Silver Bullet" by the Golden Palominos. Jim had the pleasure of seeing the larger-than-live Bruce perform this track live, and he'll never forget it.

Go to episode 467
features

SXSW '06

This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.

  • First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.

  • Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.

Beastie Boys at SXSW 2006

  • In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.

  • Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…

  • Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.

Tim Fite at SXSW 2006

  • We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.

  • The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.

  • Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.

  • One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?

  • White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.

  • Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.

  • Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.

Go to episode 18
news

Music News

The Grateful Dead are coming back from…well…the dead. The four surviving original members of the jam band progenitor are reuniting for a series of shows this July at Soldier Field in Chicago. These performances will commemorate their 50th anniversary as a band, as well as the 20th anniversary of leader Jerry Garcia's death. The band claims these will be their final shows together, but Jim and Greg have their doubts.

The buzz is already building for this summer's big music festivals. Major events like Coachella, Bonnarroo, and the New Orleans Jazz Fest are already announcing big name headliners. There seems to be a growing trend of booking veteran performers like Billy Joel and Elton John who could otherwise fill stadium gigs of their own. Greg's early pick is the Governors Ball in New York featuring Björk, while Jim's curiosity is piqued by the avant-garde lineup at Knoxville, Tennessee's Big Ears Festival.

It's one fine day for fans of Mariah Carey. The chart-topping chanteuse will be holding a residency at Caesars Las Vegas beginning in May. She'll perform selections from her many #1 singles to coincide with a new release aptly called #1s. And while it seems like the stuff of sweet, sweet fantasy, Mr. Showmanship himself, Liberace, is also returning to Vegas, despite having died in 1987. Following in the footsteps of Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur, the glittery entertainer will be recreated as a hologram by the company Hologram USA.

liberace

Go to episode 478
world tours

Brazil

Os Mutantes

The excitement of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will soon fade into memory, but the music coming out of Brazil has endured for centuries. Jim and Greg bring the Sound Opinions World Tour to Brazil and explore the country's rich musical heritage. Of course, Brazil is enormous and has produced more genres of music than we could even name. So Jim and Greg focus first on the pivotal period of 1958-1968, beginning with the rise of bossa nova. Our guide is Sérgio Mielniczenko, host of The Brazilian Hour radio show since 1978. He explains how the deceptively minimalistic yet harmonically complex music of João Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Sérgio Mendes, and other bossa nova artists revolutionized music in Brazil and around the world.

But in 1964, just as "The Girl From Ipanema" was becoming a global hit, Brazil's government was overthrown in a military coup. Artists like Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque, and Geraldo Vandré turned to socially conscious protest songs in response. This post-bossa nova generation became known as música popular brasileira (Brazilian popular music) or MPB. Meanwhile, the Jovem Guarda (Young Guard) led by Roberto Carlos created an apolitical form of Brazilian rock ‘n’ roll. And in the late '60s, the Tropicália movement blended high art, lowbrow kitsch, traditional Brazilian rhythms, psychedelic rock, and electric instruments into an irreverent mix. Tropicalistas like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Tom Zé, and Gal Costa were curtailed by the government crackdown of 1968, but their music has proved influential for decades.

Jim and Greg also want to acknowledge all of the great new music coming out of Brazil. Chris McGowan, author of The Brazilian Sound and The Brazilian Music Book, calls in from Rio and explains that Brazil is a large country and there are a huge variety of popular musical styles. He runs through some of the most popular genres of the moment, starting with sertanejo, Brazilian country music. They also talk about new avant-garde music, Brazilian hip hop, and electronic dance genres Axé and tecno brega.

Go to episode 560