From The Desk Of Failure: Thanatos

Failure’s new album, The Heart Is A Monster, is an unexpected surprise. After a two-decade absence and a parade of band/side projects, guitarist/vocalist Ken Andrews, bassist/vocalist Greg Edwards and drummer Kellii Scott reconvened to follow up 1996’s critically acclaimed and commercially ignored Fantastic Planet. Monster sounds contemporarily fresh, and yet still feels like a logical next step 19 years after its predecessor. Failure will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

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Edwards: When someone says they’re not afraid to die, does that mean they’re not afraid to suffer life-ending injuries while conscious and eventually succumb to mortality in untold volumes of pain and fear? Or do they simply mean they are not afraid to turn off and cease to exist. To become what they were, in an abstract sense—at least, before they were born? That, it seems to me, is not something to brag about. Actually, neither is the former.

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Film At 11: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds has just released a new video for “Lock All The Doors,” a track that appears on Chasing Yesterday, the band’s second album. The clip features a montage of shots of the group performing live during its North American tour earlier this year. The former Oasis guitarist has been noted as saying “Lock All the Doors” has taken him 23 years to finish. It’s well worth the wait. Check it out below.

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Essential New Music: Sasha Siem’s “Most Of The Boys”

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What a voice Sasha Siem has, and what a sense of melody. That’s easy to miss the first few times you spin Most Of The Boys, her long-form debut, since the instrumentation and song structure are so striking—which makes sense, since Siem, who’s still only in her early 30s, is an award-winning (and classically trained) orchestral composer.

But Most Of The Boys is first and foremost a collection of songs, and a damn fine one, spiritual cousin to cultural mash-up albums like Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs and Cocorosie’s The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn. Siem’s less tongue-in-cheek than either artist, so she’s able to tackle more nakedly emotive terrain, which brings us back to her vocals: Siem’s voice is the centerpiece of the album, and rightly so. The middle of the record begins to flag just a bit, as Siem hangs in similar sonic territory on a few songs. But on the whole it’s a wildly impressive debut, the better for how she adapts her compositional talent to compact forms.

—Eric Waggoner

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MP3 AT 3PM: Static Daydream

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Static Daydream is composed of Jamie Casey and Ceremony’s Paul Baker, and its name fits its musical style surprisingly well. “More Than Today” is a dreamy kind of noise-rock track, the sound of a half-asleep Sonic Youth. The blissful track comes from the band’s self-titled debut. Download it below.

“More Than Today” (download):

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Phoning It In: “Rock Club”

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They Might Be Giants have resurrected their ingenious Dial-A-Song concept by streaming a new song each week of 2015 at www.dialasong.com. MAGNET’s Matthew Fritch reviews them all.

In 2009, John Flansburgh was on This American Life (listen here or, if you’re a freak like me, read the transcript) explaining a thing or two about contract riders. Flansburgh and Ira Glass get to the bottom of the Van Halen brown M&Ms clause, and the conversation is brief but pretty great. “Rock Club” is a sidelong look at the fatigue and absurdity that results from being a touring musician for decades. (It’s also just a song about shitty rock clubs.) It has a vaguely “Freebird” acoustic strum, and that’s possibly intentional.

File-A-Song: 8/10

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From The Desk Of Failure: When Cats Dream

Failure’s new album, The Heart Is A Monster, is an unexpected surprise. After a two-decade absence and a parade of band/side projects, guitarist/vocalist Ken Andrews, bassist/vocalist Greg Edwards and drummer Kellii Scott reconvened to follow up 1996’s critically acclaimed and commercially ignored Fantastic Planet. Monster sounds contemporarily fresh, and yet still feels like a logical next step 19 years after its predecessor. Failure will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

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Scott: I just found out that cats dream, and I immediately wondered what it is that they must dream about. Is it chasing and catching vermin all day? Maybe coming upon huge stashes of cat nip to roll in and become exceedingly intoxicated? Of course cat’s dream; every being dreams. I think they probably dream of being petted and scratched all day long while coming in and out of consciousness and with, perhaps, a mouse on a string to terrorize when they get bored of bliss.

Video after the jump.

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Film At 11: Mew

North American fans of Danish alt-rock group Mew are in for some good news. This fall, the band will be headed on its first North American tour since 2009. (Unfortunately, Mew will not be performing in MAGNET’s hometown of Philadelphia.) Mew has also just released a video for “Witness,” which shows the band performing while fans (who the group actually recruited using its Facebook page) dance. Check it out below.

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MP3 At 3PM: Shades

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Shades is a dream-pop outfit from Boise, Idaho, gearing up for the release of Common Desire. “Balloon” comes from that self-released record, a downtrodden, cloudy track that’s laid back but affecting, with David Mikkelson’s vocals floating above carefully woven synthesizers. Common Desire will be released July 31. Download “Balloon” below.

“Balloon” (download):

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A Conversation With Giorgio Moroder

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Giorgio Moroder is dance music. Long before Daft Punk lionized the disco king with “Giorgio By Moroder” on Random Access Memories, the producer/composer created the hypnotically repetitive ’70s electro-disco canon, first (and best) with Donna Summer before doing likewise for artists such as Berlin, Sparks, Queen and Irene Cara, then on his own grooving solo albums. When disco passed from fashion, he brought his syncopated skills to film scores for Midnight Express and American Gigolo before (mostly) retiring by the late ’80s. Now, at age 75, he’s back in the game with Déjà Vu, a rousing EDM-based album featuring name-above-the-title dance divas such as Britney, Kylie and Sia.

I know at your start that you played in jazz combos and rock bands in lounges throughout Switzerland. I can’t picture you doing that. Were you ever much of a band guy?
No. I would not think so. I mean, it was fun being 27 or so doing that with a bassist and a drummer, doing a Beatles song and such, but I knew …

Knew that being a producer would be more your speed?
Yes, actually, that’s right about it. I wanted to promote my own stuff. I had some money put aside so that I could survive the first years of that. Getting a hold of an early synthesizer convinced me of such.

So, when did you hear these new songs in your head?
Very recently. I was retired, you know. I did some composition for one of the Olympics, but I was out of the game. I did dip a toe in doing some DJ work, and then came the Daft Punk success. That really spurred me on. Changed my mind. I thought a modern dance record with some retro—disco—could work. I didn’t want to rely on the past.

So, you had to psyche yourself into making music again through DJing?
You know what—a little. Ten, 15 years ago, I got asked so often to DJ, but I turned everyone down by saying, “I’m a producer.” Now, it’s nothing like the old days, nothing like I imagined. By the way, I think I was one of the first DJs ever. In 1969, I performed as a DJ and a singer at a little club in Germany. I became part of a management company: the German DJ Association.

I think that was one of Kraftwerk’s earliest names. When you started doing disco—with Pete Bellotte, with Donna Summer—did you have a blueprint or did you just wing it on a purely experimental tip?
With Donna, it was an accident, as Pete and I were working on a project and needed women without English accents to sing. We found her. She did a great job. I also said that when I had something great for her that I was going to call her. That was “Love To Love You Baby.”

You’ve worked with male vocalists such as Bowie, Phil Oakey and Freddie Mercury, but mostly you’re all about the ladies: Summer, Irene Cara, Terri Nunn, all the women on this new album like Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue. What about a woman’s voice gets you, works better within the confines of your music?
You know, I don’t know. Maybe it is the sex feeling, the sensuality of the female voice against my melodies. I can’t think of too many guys who can do it. I mean, in the old days, you had the Village People, but … [Laughs] A woman has a more pleasant, sexier sound. They project the image of sexiness better.

In the ’80s, you set aside disco for atmospheric soundtrack work, put aside production for making neon art, left Europe and moved to Manhattan. What were you looking for?
I was looking for the grass that was always greener. I was restless. I wanted to do something else. Plus, disco went through all those problems with the whole “disco is dead” thing. I just kept fading away from music. I had so many other projects: I helped create a car; I did a short movie, which did not work so well.

When you decided that you wanted to do a new project, did the singers come to you? Did you go to them?
It was a mix, really. I had a wish list—my ideal names—and we went from there. Someone such as Sia was at the top of that list.

Do you like the way artists such as Sia or Britney record, piece-by-piece with vocal producers and such? The artists with their own teams, considering that back in the day, an album of yours had one producer in one studio with only your vision and that of the artist to consider?
I’m not a fan of the committee, but it is the way that these things are done now. These artists are very busy with so many different commitments other than music.

Does this mean now that this is how you must operate? Are you competitive in that way, especially since you’ve stayed away from the charts and the business for a while?
I think so. I hope so.

As a producer and a provocateur, do you feel as if you are truly making music differently than you did 30 years ago—or different music than you did 30 years ago? Is it less or more than a series of seductions than in was in the past?
That’s a funny way of looking at it. Yes, it’s very different now. There are so many people involved with each production—co-writers, co-editors—that it is hard to conjure up a seduction. It is not so intimate. It’s changed so much from when it was just me and maybe Pete Bellotte in a studio. There were no such things as vocal producers and executive producers. There was one producer. I am happy the way it is now. You really have to be, as there is no way back.

—A.D. Amorosi

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From The Desk Of Failure: Popcorn

Failure’s new album, The Heart Is A Monster, is an unexpected surprise. After a two-decade absence and a parade of band/side projects, guitarist/vocalist Ken Andrews, bassist/vocalist Greg Edwards and drummer Kellii Scott reconvened to follow up 1996’s critically acclaimed and commercially ignored Fantastic Planet. Monster sounds contemporarily fresh, and yet still feels like a logical next step 19 years after its predecessor. Failure will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

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Edwards: Movies I’ve had on my mind: The Great Beauty (2013) directed by Paolo Sorrentino. What De Palma is to Hitchcock, this film is to Fellini. One of the most fully formed characters I’ve ever seen on screen. About as close as film gets to literature in creating a fictional human. Holy Motors (2012) directed by Leo Carax. This guy is friends with Scott Walker and this movie is weird, cool and profound. Pather Panchali, Aparjito and Apur Sansur. The “Apu” trilogy from the ’50s from director Satyajit Ray. A beautiful hypnotic journey and very forward thinking for its time and culture. The ambient sound design and Ravi Shankar score are mesmerizing. Kellii’s wife Priscilla, our resident photographer, documented, with journalistic neutrality, the carnage I left behind after watching Ray’s masterpiece.

Photo after the jump.

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