Film At 11: Conor Oberst

Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst has been busy with his solo efforts. After issuing his critically acclaimed new album, Upside Down Mountain, he now releases his third video for a single off the LP, “Zigzag Toward the Light.” The video, or at least the first three minutes of just dialogue, explore the use of electronics in our current day and age as a computer questions Oberst about his thoughts. We then start following him as he explores those feelings on a stroll through downtown NYC. Check out the clip below.

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MP3 At 3PM: The Burgeoning

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Bensalem, Pa., quartet the Burgeoning broke into Philadelphia’s music scene with debut EP Love Alchemy, Life Algorithm earlier this year. Though it was self-released at first, it will now be issued to the masses October 14. “Lighthouse” is an indie-rock work of art. It’s got fun energy, catchy, poppy vocals and sort of a mathy feel instrumentation-wise. Download the track below.

“Lighthouse” (download):

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David Poe Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape

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Singer/songwriter David Poe makes it a point to bring more to the table than just a smooth voice and catchy melodies. He recently released God & The Girl via the Charming Martyr label, and it’s a landmark record for his career. Now, Poe has made MAGNET a mix tape. Check it out below.

Gavin Bryars Featuring Tom Waits “Jesus’ Blood Has Never Failed Me Yet”
Gavin Bryars takes a field recording of a homeless man singing 13 bars of hymn, loops it, and for the next 20 minutes surrounds it with an ever-growing orchestra, then choir, until finally Tom Waits chimes in. Later this piece served as score for choreographer William Forsythe’s magnificent dance Quintett, which is how I first heard it. Doubt I’ll ever hear anything quite like it again. Video

Chocolate Genius “My Mom”
Chocolate Genius, Inc. is the brainchild of visionary/provocateur Marc Anthony Thompson, whose songs, scores and singing have appeared in lots of films (including a cover of the Beatles’ “Julia” in I Am Sam), won him an Obie (for A Huey P. Newton Story) and spiced up proceedings with Bruce Springsteen and Me’Shell Ndegeocello. “My Mom” is wrenching, sweet and brave, and is probably the best song ever written about Alzheimer’s. Check out how John Medeski’s Hammond subtly defines this story’s turn from reminiscence to present, and how the lyric uses details to show not tell. They don’t call him a genius for nothin’. Video

T Bone Burnett “Kill Zone”
T Bone Burnett is an American hero who has come to the rescue of the culture so many times that to imagine contemporary music without his contributions would be akin to some sci-fi dystopia in which Dylan’s career went no further than that of Llewyn Davis. Part of the reason the records T Bone produces for others are so compelling is that he’s a great songwriter himself, and this tune, co-written with Roy Orbison and Bob Neuwirth for Sam Shepard’s play Tooth Of Crime, is one of his many masterful marriages of lyric and melody. Video

Oh Land “Love You Better”
Oh Land is Nanna Øland Fabricius, a Danish singer/songwriter/dancer whose recombination of song, film, motion, art and spectacle is sure to delight us for years to come. She and I wrote this one day and recorded it the next in one take. Then Nanna methodically added layers of harmony to create the “angel’s muted choir.” Love this recording, but I can’t wait to hear Mavis Staples sing this song. Or Beyoncé. Video

Chris Whitley “Dirt Floor”
Chris Whitley was a visionary songwriter, player and poet whose work nods at tradition while looking into the future, and into the abyss. Restless and virtuosic, he redefined so-called roots music, introduced it to EDM and, when he chose to, rocked as ferociously as any band of the era. But to me Whitley was never more visceral than when he performed solo, as he does on his record Dirt Floor and in this video from a show we played at CBGB in the summer of ’98. He died in 2005. Video
Chris’s daughter Trixie toured with him when she was a young girl; now, she’s creating her own musical world. Trixie Whitley is one to watch. Trixie Whitley and Daniel Lanois on NPR All Songs Considered: Video

Ana Moura “Thank You”
From Portugal comes fado music, a 100-year-old genre of songs traditionally about fate, the sea, poverty and loss. Most fado songs are marked by a sense of longing—in Portuguese, saudade. So I dig it. Ana Moura is her country’s preeminent fado singer, and I was thrilled when she sang this song of mine on her record Desfado, produced with love by Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Melody Gardot, Tracy Chapman.) Excellent guitarist/violinist Freddy Koella guests on this track. Video

Brendan Hines “Miss New York”
Brendan Hines is both actor and songwriter, for which he apologizes profusely but needn’t because he is so great at both. Somehow simultaneously rollicking and poignant, this list song (from his first record and the soundtrack to the film Happythankyoumoreplease) will strike a chord with any New Yorker decamped to Los Angeles. Full disclosure: I co-produced Brendan’s most recent effort Small Mistakes, and also I follow him on Twitter. Video

Otis Redding “Respect”
Everyone knows Aretha Franklin’s version, a feminist anthem that has never been topped. But check out how the song’s writer Otis Redding rips it up in this live version from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. When Otis sings about getting his “propers,” it’s a completely different vibe from Aretha’s version, and the frenetic ending here is like a hardcore punk drummer taking it to church. Video

All Spots To Black “Baby”
The songs of guitarist/pianist/singer Philip Krohnengold hang-glide in the appealing chasm between craggy despair and defiant vulnerability; his band All Spots To Black falls somewhere between the moody roar of Mark Kozelek’s Red House Painters and Tonight’s The Night-era Neil Young. Brainy, but mellow, but loud. This live-in-studio video, directed by Ronnie Smith, features singer/songwriter Holly Conlan and drummer/producer/composer Al Sgro. Video

Joseph Arthur, Kraig Jarret Johnson & Gary Louris “September Baby”
Here’s three of my favorite guys. Between his excellent records, art and poetry, Joseph Arthur may now be the hardest working man in show business; with the Jayhawks, Golden Smog and writing songs for others, Gary Louris has made some of my favorite music in the last 20 years and is one of the great rock singers; Kraig Jarret Johnson has played with both of them, as well as with Run Westy Run, Iffy, O Geez, Angela McCluskey and his own project the Program. Ed Ackerson and I produced a record for Kraig that were some of the most fun and creative recording sessions ever. It comes out in 2015. Video

Curtis Stigers “Everyone Loves Lovers”
No contemporary jazz singer can tell a story the way Curtis Stigers can and, like Miles, he curates his repertoire with great aplomb (when he’s not writing the songs himself.) “Rock ‘n’ roll and jazz share so many of the same artistic bloodlines that it’s remarkable the two don’t fuse more often into the kind of inspired marriage of visceral clout and intellectual savvy conjured by the singer, songwriter and saxophonist Curtis Stigers,” says the New York Times, and it’s true—unlike a lot of jazz cats, Curtis gets how contemporary songwriters (e.g., Elvis Costello and Steve Earle) are writing the standards of today and how their work can live right alongside classic tunes, as they do on his superb record Let’s Go Out Tonight. I wrote this one for Curtis after he and his band (which features trumpet player John “Scrapper” Sneider) blew me away at the Blue Note in New York. Video

Kristen Toedtman “Precious Lord”
She’s an accomplished singer who performs regularly with enormous orchestras and choirs, sings backup on countless records (notably, on performance artist Amy Raasch’s upcoming project Girls Get Cold) and moonlights as music director of the St. Michael & All Angels church in Los Angeles, but most nights you’ll find Kristen Toedtman knocking one back at the piano and singing songs with decidedly more secular themes. Like Aretha, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles, her performances are buoyed by a spiritual, gospel-infused passion even when she’s singing about whiskey and sex. Video

Grey Reverend “Little Eli”
I first heard Grey Reverend when DJ Jeremy Sole played this song late one night on his excellent radio show and immediately pulled my car over, bought it online and tweeted @greyreverend how I would be honored to write one with him. Seems strange now that this sweet little guitar instrumental was my introduction to his work, as Grey Reverend’s vibey voice and lyrics are what I have come to love about his most recent release, A Hero’s LieVideo

Thomas Dybdahl “I Never Knew That What I Didn’t Know Could Kill Me”
Norwegian singer/songwriter Thomas Dybdahl’s falsetto is otherworldly, his writing is pure and organic and his most recent effort, What’s Left Is Forever, is his finest yet. He and I wrote this song with Larry Klein, who produced this recording. Tchad Blake mixed it. The band is stellar: bassist David Piltch, drummer Jay Bellerose, guitarist Dean Parks and keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac. This deep string arrangement is by Vince Mendoza. Video

Gustafer Yellowgold “Pterodactyl Tuxedo”
Songwriter/cartoonist Morgan Taylor’s children’s project Gustafer Yellowgold is a growing universe of charming oddballs designed to teach early readers life lessons about friendship, acceptance and nonconformity via a “moving, musical book” format. Parents and hipsters seem to enjoy it too—he’s opened for Wilco and the Polyphonic Spree. Best of all, Gustafer never talks down to kids, just speaks to their inherent humanity and emotional intelligence, and that is a beautiful thing. Also, he jumps on cake. Video

Pilobolus “Transformation” (From Shadowland)
Shadowland is the first-ever full-length shadow dance piece by Pilobolus, the American dance company you may have seen performing on Oprah, Conan, 60 Minutes, the Oscars and a command performance for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Shadowland, for which I wrote a score that is one-half pop song, one-half orchestral and electronic music, has a narrative conceived by Steven Banks (Spongebob Squarepants) about a young girl who goes into a dreamworld populated by heroes and villains, half-animals, man-eating flowers and an undulating landscape, where she is transformed into a dog. Hard to explain, but visually stunning and a total innovation in dance theater. Video

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Devendra Banhart: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

To celebrate our return to publishing the print version of MAGNET three years ago, we will be posting classic cover stories from that time all week. Enjoy. And order a copy of the issue here.

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Life after 30 finds the original freak folker putting away hippy-dippy things. Meet Devendra Banhart Version 2.0: shorn, showered, shaved, engaged, focused and wearing a shirt. He’s also making the best music of his career. By Jonathan Valania

It’s the crack of noon on a frigid winter day in Greenwich Village. Devendra Banhart has risen, and with the help of a caffeine injection from Joe’s Coffee, he’s ready to shine. But first we need to stop by a bodega around the corner where they have, by Banhart’s description, the most extraordinary donuts.

He simply must have one. From there, we swing by Electric Lady Studios where Banhart will have a quick word with his pal Ric Ocasek, then it’s back to his place. He currently resides in a fairly upscale high-rise apartment building, just off Christopher Street, in the same Greenwich Village neighborhood where—as Banhart, ever the student of 20th-century bohemia, points out—E. E. Cummings once lived; Bob Dylan first met Allen Ginsberg; James Baldwin, Frank McCourt and Norman Mailer once held court at the long-gone Lion’s Head Pub; and in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, in a down-market, Mafia-owned dive called the Stonewall, fed-up gay men rose up against perpetual police harassment and said, “No more.” Banhart’s pretty sure Stephin Merritt also lives in his building, although he’s never seen him.

He just got back from a tour of Russia. “In Moscow, all the taxi drivers can recite the work of their 10 favorite poets,” he says as we make our way to his apartment. “They’ll still kidnap you, but they are very well-read. We would play a game called Whoever Gets Kidnapped Last Wins.”

The lobby of Banhart’s apartment building has the faded, post-Czar glamour of a Russian tea room—high-ceilinged, edged in gilt and benign neglect. The thermostat must be set for the low 90s, and you smell that telltale aroma of roach spray everywhere.

A dozen or so floors up, Banhart shares a modest, two-room apartment with his fiancée, Ana Kras, a model-gorgeous photographer and high-end furniture designer from Serbia. They met two years ago when Kras came to shoot him for a magazine assignment, and Banhart proposed within five minutes of meeting her. They have been together ever since. Despite media reports to the contrary, they are not yet married, just engaged.

As she puts on her coat to run some errands, Banhart takes her face in his hands, looks deeply into her eyes and implores her to return.

“So, listen—come back when you’re done, and then we’ll walk to the studio, OK?”

“I will, I will. I’ll come back,” she says.

“I say it every time; I say, ‘Please come back,’” he says to me by way of explanation. “I’m always shocked when she does each time.”

“Each time I come back home, he just hugs me and says, ‘Thank you for coming back home,’” she says as she walks out the door. “Where would I go? So sweet.”

Their apartment is barely furnished, with a futon, a couple of desks, and a guitar and amp. They’ve only been living here for a few days. For the better part of the past decade, Banhart has been ping-ponging back and forth between the East and West Coasts, with no fixed address.

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Film At 11: Perfume Genius

Mike Hadreas (a.k.a. Perfume Genius) readies for the release of his new album, Too Bright. While we wait, he has issued a video for first single “Grid,” and it’s an odd one. In the clip, Hadreas is surrounded by people in creepy, silver full-body suits. They pull and push Hadreas all while some entertainingly sinister music bumps loudly through it all. Check it out below.

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MP3 At 3PM: Polaris Rose

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L.A.’s alt-rock two-piece Polaris Rose have released “Perfect View,” a song from debut full-length album Telescopes, which is due out in November. The track offers a feeling of positivity with its lively, upbeat energy. It’s also a very heavy rock song with tons of atmosphere and an interesting, subtle jazz vibe. Download “Perfect View” below.

“Perfect View” (download):

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Vintage Movies: “Palookaville”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Palookaville

Palookaville, (1996, 92 minutes)

Three young men park their car at the dark end of the street late at night, and two of them open a concealed gate that leads to the rear of Lettieri Bros. jewelry store. They begin sledge-hammering an entrance hole into the ancient brick wall next to the outside vault with the jewelers’ name painted on it. The brick crumbles easily. They’re inside within 10 minutes.

Once they’ve entered, Russell (Vincent Gallo) slaps his forehead, “I don’t believe this!” he says as he eyeballs cart after cart after cart loaded with yesterday’s apple fritters, strawberry dream cakes and chocolate doughnuts. “We’re in the wrong place,” says Jerry (Adam Trese) already starting to devour a pastry. “I know we’re in the wrong place!” barks Russell, heading for the cash register to salvage whatever cash he can from this bungled caper.

Sirens begin to blare in the distance, and Sid the lookout (William Forsythe) starts jogging toward the getaway car. “Let’s get out of here!” shouts Russell as Jerry stuffs more pastries into his coat. But he’s too late. No sooner does he arrive at the entry hole than a cop’s flashlight is already poking inside the place. Jerry ducks behind a pastry rack as four policemen turn on the lights and look around. “Can you believe this?” says one. “I mean, who robs a bakery?” Another cop reveals that the till has been emptied, as his fellow officers help themselves to a light snack.

Next morning, the trio assembles at a local diner to evaluate last night’s failed mission. “You didn’t come out when I called you,” says Russell to Jerry, explaining why the getaway car left early. “I got caught up,” says Jerry. “He hid behind a mixer,” smiles Sid. “What’s so funny, Jerry? Our life’s on the line and you’re eating pastry?” says Russell. “You think that’s funny?” Jerry reveals: “I’m in there, right, all crouched down and everything’s sticky. And I start thinkin’ about Betty and the kid. What if I get caught? What happens to them?”

Russell spreads out his hands in exasperation, all bony fingers. “Why did this happen? Can the three of us analyze this for a moment?” he asks. Jerry has the answer. “The bakery made an ‘L’ behind the jewelry store. It was a total unknown. Maybe we should forget about theft, just rule it out,” he says, thinking of the big picture. Russell sighs and tries to tone it down a bit. “I’m not talking about a life of crime, just a momentary shift in lifestyles. Suppose you’re on the highway and everybody’s doing 80. Do you drive 55 because it’s the law? No, you go with the flow.” He tosses Jerry and Sid their share, $45 each. “Here, big shot,” he says to Jerry. “Go buy yourself a doughnut.”

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Band Of Horses: Mystery Riders

To celebrate our return to publishing the print version of MAGNET three years ago, we will be posting classic cover stories from that time all week. Enjoy. And order a copy of the issue here.

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You thought you had a bead on Band Of Horses. Now that you’ve heard the unrelentingly retro Mirage Rock, you’re not so sure. Our warts-and-all oral history should set you straight. By Hobart Rowland

“Live action!”

Making his way from the tour bus to a pre-soundcheck interview, Ben Bridwell has just spied a murky pond that would be the perfect staging ground for one of Ernie “Turtleman” Brown’s shirtless critter extractions on Animal Planet’s cult hit Call Of The Wildman.  ¶  “I just got into the show on this tour—it’s fuckin’ hilarious,” says Bridwell, quite pleased with his Turtleman impression as he fires up an American Spirit and has a seat near the load-in area at Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Bridwell and the rest of Band Of Horses are in the thick of a summer tour with My Morning Jacket, where they’ve been road-testing music from their new album, Mirage Rock (Brown/Columbia)—tracks like the yee-haw chaotic first single, “Knock Knock,” and Earth Day anti-anthem “Dumpster World,” a weird shotgun marriage of CSNY-like harmonizing and Grandaddy’s “A.M. 180.” By any standard, Mirage Rock’s in-yer-face aesthetic is a thorough dismantling of the methodically assembled, heavily reverbed sound of 2006’s Everything All The Time, 2007’s Cease To Begin and 2009’s Infinite Arms. The constants remain Bridwell’s looming presence and the band’s acknowledged classic-rock influences, which are more exposed than ever under the sway of septuagenarian producer Glyn Johns, who supplanted longtime go-to guy Phil Ek in the studio.

“Glyn chose some songs that maybe we weren’t that comfortable doing, that are a bit more Stones-y,” says Bridwell. “But who gives a shit? We got to be with this 70-year-old dude who’s having a blast, stepping into this time machine where he’s recording just as he did on Who’s Next.”

Johns coached Bridwell through some of his best vocal performances to date, mostly stripping away the overdubs that once made his potent upper register come across like Perry Farrell fronting a trailer-park approximation of Built To Spill. He did the same for the group as a whole, essentially giving the band members permission to sound derivative in all the right ways. “Electric Music” is a hokey BTO rip-off, its celebration of life on the road a nice nod to the Who’s “Going Mobile.” (Recorded by Johns back in 1971.) “Slow Cruel Hands Of Time” and “Long Vows” bear an almost ridiculous resemblance to early-’70s Eagles. (Turns out Johns produced that band’s 1972 debut. Go figure.)

“Hopefully, people get the joke,” says Bridwell. “But if I’m the only one laughing, I don’t mind.”

Less funny is “Heartbreak On The 101,” a devastating ballad about a disenfranchised lover who takes up residence beneath an underpass on the Ventura Freeway. Bridwell digs deep on this one, heaving out the first verse as the tune pieces itself together around his dismembered growl. Soon enough, the singer returns to a more comfortable range as the music swells with a despairing, string-laden urgency: “Heartbreak on the 101/Everybody’s watching, come take look/Heartbreak on the 101/Everybody watch, everybody look.”

Mirage Rock’s live-to-tape energy has drawn some comparisons to Neil Young & Crazy Horse. It’s a bit of a stretch, sure. Bridwell, guitarist Tyler Ramsey, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Monroe, bassist Bill Reynolds and drummer Creighton Barrett never muster the same fury. But they have come convincingly into their own—to the extent that the album feels like a reintroduction to a group that, intentionally or not, has kept itself somewhat at arm’s length from the rest of us.

“I actually named our genre ‘mirage rock’ before the new album came out,” says Bridwell. “It’s the kind of music you hear from a distance and think might sound really good. But then you move a little closer and you’re like, ‘Ah, shit. There’s no substance.’”

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Film At 11: DoublePlusGood

Portland’s DoublePlusGood played a key role in ushering in synth pop to the Northwest. The band’s new full-lenth, You Can Master Life, mocks the idea of mastering a relationship while exploring the deficit of high expectations. Now the outfit has released a video for single “Words Fall Asleep.” The clip is an adorably and creatively crafted work of wonderful art, and it’s all drawings. We are proud to premiere it today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out below.

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MP3 At 3PM: Gwyneth Moreland

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American singer/songwriter Gwyneth Moreland has a new album, Ceiling Floor And Open Door, coming out November 14. From the LP, she has released “Pine Box Sailor,” a beautifully simple folk tune that’s calm and relaxing. Her music tell a familiar story but does so in a subtle and entertaining fashion. Download the track below.

“Pine Box Sailor” (download):

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