Results for Merge

interviews

Spoon

One of Jim and Greg's favorite albums of the year so far comes from the indie rock band Spoon. Despite the odd title, they fell for the combination of minimal art pop with Phil Spector-like arrangements and orchestrations. This is the band's sixth album, and the fourth they've made with indie label Merge (also home to another indie success story — Arcade Fire). Jim and Greg start by asking lead singer and songwriter Britt Daniel about the approach to this album. He explains that the band was definitely inspired by Motown groups like The Supremes — something that may come as a surprise to fans who are used to a sparser sound.

One of the people responsible for the“Spoon sound”is producer Mike McCarthy. But, the band also worked with Jon Brion on a couple of songs. Other surprising influences: Queen and AC/DC. Songs like "We Will Rock You," and "Back in Black," are fairly simple and minimal, but they have that rhythm and that“thing”that draw you in. Listen to Spoon's take on that“thing”in the songs "Don't Make Me a Target," "Rhythm and Soul," and "Don't You Evah."

Go to episode 102

Jac Holzman

Jac Holzman

Before there was a Merge or a Matador there was Elektra Records. The great American label recently celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, and its founder Jac Holzman is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month. Jim and Greg talk to Jac about launching Elektra as an independent folk label out of his dorm room in 1950. Eventually the roster grew to include every genre of music – blues, rock, funk, world and pop. It became the home to The Stooges, the MC5, Love and Queen, and, Jim adds, some notoriously difficult personalities. But Jac insists no artist was too hard to handle. He did use caution when out drinking with Jim Morrison, however.

Go to episode 275

A Giant Dog

A Giant Dog is a rock band out of Austin, Texas, whose power and charisma on stage make the outfit unique. Made up of Sabrina Ellis, Andrew Cashen, Andy Bauer, Graham Low, and Daniel Blanchard, Greg fell in love with this band when he saw them several times at SXSW in 2017. Greg interviews the band about how they came together, signing with Merge Records and how their antics onstage have changed over the years. Plus, they perform live.

Go to episode 641
lists

The Best of 2007… So Far

Jim and Greg just couldn‘t wait until the end of the year to start picking their favorite albums, so they’ve decided to name their 2007 mid-year best.

Go to episode 81
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

This week marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Parents Music Resource Center-inspired Senate hearings in 1985. The PMRC, co-founded by Tipper Gore and Susan Baker, was pushing Congress to clamp down on songs with questionable lyrics because it claimed the music was having an adverse effect on America's youth. But there to testify eloquently in defense of free speech was the unlikely trio of Frank Zappa, John Denver, and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. The PMRC hearings led to the ubiquitous Parental Advisory stickers that many CDs were forced to carry. Some retailers would refuse to stock any CDs that had the labels, which was a major concern in the pre-Internet era when access to music was more restricted. The PMRC even issued a "Filthy Fifteen" list of particularly objectionable songs, including tracks by Prince, Mötley Crüe, and even Cyndi Lauper.

Win Butler, lead singer of Arcade Fire, has spoken out against the poorly managed launch of the Tidal streaming service – despite being one of its celebrity investors. He still defends the concept of offering HD-quality streaming, but blames Tidal's struggles on the major labels insisting on a $20 per month fee, twice the cost of Spotify. But Greg and Jim wonder if Butler should be concerned with cleaning his own house first. Despite being signed to the respected indie Merge, Arcade Fire still has deals with major labels for distribution and promotion.

Go to episode 513

Music News

Justin Timberlake played a social-media mogul in the movies, but can he do it in real-life? The JT-backed social media site MySpace recently re-launched with a sleeker design and a 50 million-plus song library. The company says it's the internet's largest legally streamable song library. Or is it? A group representing indie labels like Merge, Domino, and Beggar's Group is alleging that MySpace has its members‘ music up without permission. Will MySpace be able to work out a deal? Given the site’s 27 million unique visitors a month, Greg's betting the indie labels will find a way to compromise.

Jim always suspected rock ‘n’ roll was a hazardous occupation. Now experts at Britain's Health Department have weighed in, and guess what? It's true. A study of 1,500 artists across genres concludes that 9.2 percent of rockers die earlier than regular folks. Not only that, but solo artists face twice the death-risk of artists in bands. Researchers speculated that bands provide an extra support network for at-risk stars. Turns out we really do get by with a little help from our friends.

Go to episode 374