Van Hunt & Fiona Apple Review

Van Hunt’s eclectic R&B incorporates influences from Sly Stone to Bowie. He and the band stop by the studio to perform songs from their latest album, What Were You Hoping For?

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Watch this Home Depot ad or this Pizza Hut spot and you might find yourself playing a game of Name That Tune. The Black KeysDan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are suing these corporations for what they say is their use of sound alike tunes - in this case, instrumental tracks that rip off key elements of the band’s hits Lonely Boy and Gold on the Ceiling . The two are seeking $75,000 in damages apiece. We’ll have to wait and see if they get it, but this did work for Tom Waits in the eighties...

Tragedy struck the Radiohead tour recently when a stage collapse in Toronto killed a drum tech and injured three others. The collapse continues a disturbing trend of similar accidents last year, notably the Indiana State Fair collapse and a collapse in Ottawa that nearly crushed the members of Cheap Trick. Cheap Trick’s near miss motivated them to lobby Congress for greater regulation of the temporary stage industry, but action didn’t come soon enough for the Radiohead crew. Now four entities including Live Nation and Radiohead’s touring arm are being investigated in the accident. It’s been a rough summer for EDM fans too. Two concertgoers died at this month’s Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. The event’s promoter, Insomniac Events, denies responsibility for the deaths, which occurred outside festival boundaries. No word yet on whether Las Vegas will take any action.

Van Hunt

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Van Hunt grew up in funk-soaked Dayton, Ohio. Today he counts Frank Zappa and Ray Charles - not to mention Bach - among his influences. That musical adventurousness is just one reason Jim and Greg were drawn to his latest album, 2011’s What Were You Hoping For? Van dropped by the studio to perform tracks from the record, and he let Jim and Greg in on the story behind his first independent release. Van got his start in the music biz a decade ago producing R&B and hip-hop tracks for the likes of Dionne Farris in Atlanta. When he went solo in 2004, it was on a major label. But the higher ups at Capitol weren’t so thrilled when Van shunned the standard R&B format for a freewheeling mix of sounds that recalled the soul and funk of Sly Stone as much as it did the glam of David Bowie. In 2008, they shelved his third record Popular. Now that he’s on his own, Van’s free to indulge his genre-blending impulses.

The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do Fiona Apple

The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Deluxe Version)

The title of Fiona Apple’s latest album The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do is certainly a mouthful (though it doesn’t hold a candle to her sophomore album title). It’s only her fourth release since Tidal put her on the map in 1996, but this time around Jim notes she’s taking a slightly different tack. Apple declined production help from friend Jon Brion and worked instead with her touring drummer Charley Drayton. The result, Greg says, is admirably stripped down. The album reminds him of seeing Apple live at her LA home stage, Largo. The vocals in particular are front and center. She’s never pushed her voice this far, singing in a high falsetto one minute and scatting the next. Even better, there’s plenty of hooks. Greg says it’s the best album of her career - a buy it all the way. Jim on the other hand, is reaching for the Excedrin extra strength. While he admires Apple’s ambition, he says listening to this needlessly complicated album is a chore. The last track Hot Knife epitomizes everything that’s wrong: rolling timpani, scatting, a bridge that goes nowhere, and ululations that drive him bonkers. Trash it.

Greg

For his DIJ pick, Greg goes with Reggae all-star Jimmy Cliff’s anti-war song Vietman. While Cliff’s legacy is sometimes overshadowed by those of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Greg says Cliff was instrumental in popularizing reggae in America. Not only did he star in The Harder They Come and pen that movie’s most enduring tracks, he also wrote Vietnam, a tune which none other than Bob Dylan called the best protest song ever written. Vietnam tells the story of a soldier’s death in two letters home. For Greg, it’s the song that proved once and for all that Reggae was much more than just a fad and a rhythm. This genre was here to stay.

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