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Real Estate: Atlas Origins

Published March 22nd, 2014 in Relix Magazine

Since their self-titled debut dropped in 2009, New Jersey band Real Estate have straddled a line between two worlds—one foot in the more buttoned-up, taste-making indie rock universe, and one planted firmly in the anything-goes territory where so many psychedelic and jambands plant their flags. The band’s third album, Atlas, isn’t going to push them either way, but it’ll certainly help them gain wider-still audiences in both camps. Recorded in Wilco’s Chicago studio and produced by Tom Schick, who’s worked with Ryan Adams, Sean Lennon and more, Atlas maintains the be-easy, daydream quality of Real Estate’s first two albums, but blows off some of the dust to reveal some truly gorgeous sounds, twinkling guitars, hushed acoustics, swaying melodies.

With two founding members playing in successful side projects (both Matthew Mondanile’s Ducktails and Alex Bleeker and The Freaks released albums last year) lead songwriter Martin Courtney newly married (and working on his own project…. more on that soon), new keyboard player Matt Kallman—formerly from Girls—and drummer Jackson Pollis rounding out the lineup, the Real Estate universe has never been more full of stars.

Relix spoke with Courtney and Bleeker about playing Wilco’s guitars, forgetting about ‘lo-fi’ and rocking out to Huey Lewis. Continue reading

Railroad Earth: Last of the Outlaws

Published February 7th, 2014 in Relix Magazine

In the center of Railroad Earth’s seventh album, Last of the Outlaws, the band unleashes a beast. The 21-minute, multi-part, string-band symphony “All That’s Dead May Live Again/Face with a Hole” may become Railroad Earth’s identifying recording—the moment where they laugh in the faces of the critics who’ve lazily dubbed them the “folk-pop-Celtic-bluegrass-roots-and-rock act from Jersey.” The piece finds this sextet beautifully, seamlessly weaving through distinct movements and melodies that cover the gamut of styles and emotions—like The Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love, but more focused. They’re bravely staring down a storm in the whipping third movement before a blissful, meditative, piano-led calm takes over in the fourth, and an uplifting chant marches through the fifth and sixth. Continue reading

Photo by Dylan Long

 

On March 16, 2013, songwriter and bandleader Jason Molina died in his home in Indianapolis at the age of 39 from complications related to alcoholism. For a select group of devoted fans and musicians, Molina’s death was a brutal blow: the abrupt end to one of the most beloved, best-kept secrets in rock’n’roll. Often compared to singer-songwriters like Ryan Adams, Will Oldham and Elliott Smith, Molina’s music, as a solo musician and with his bands/collectives Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co., lived at the intersection of beauty and pain. Molina was also prolific, with nearly 20 albums to his name.

Now, after the 10th anniversary rerelease of Songs: Ohia’s gorgeous, rough-edged opus “The Magnolia Electric Co.,” and nearly a year after his death, his former bandmates have assembled for a short tour paying tribute to Molina in Durham and Asheville, North Carolina, Chicago and Indianapolis. They’ve dubbed the short tour “Songs: Molina – A Memorial Electric Co.” It’s a chance to hear the musician’s best work while paying respects to one of rock’s darkest, most enigmatic figures.

Former Magnolia Electric Co. guitarist Jason Evans Groth spoke to the Star to share his thoughts on Molina’s legacy, the tour and the man himself. Continue reading

Nothing says Indianapolis like a dozen dancing Chinese Michael Jacksons

 

How many people in China could tell you what a Pacer is? How many have heard of St. Elmo’s spicy shrimp cocktail? Whatever the number, it is set to increase by 30,000 by month’s end.

That’s how many people are estimated to attend “A Taste of Indianapolis,” a month-long exhibit in at the Hangzhou Public Library. Since 2008, Indianapolis has maintained a sister city relationship with Hangzhou (pronounced: Hung-jo), a city of more than 6 million people on the Yangtze River Delta in eastern China.

In recent years, the relationship has brought a Butler University study trip, a librarian exchange and a Perry Township School District educational partnership.

This time, city and cultural officials decided to give Hangzhou a picture of Hoosier pride. “A Taste of Indianapolis” features 134 photo boards, a 40-minute video and seven life-size cutouts and items donated by local sports organizations and cultural institutions. The exhibit received funding from 13 sponsors. Continue reading

It’s impossible not to be gripped by the weight of history when visiting Caesarea, a 2,000-year-old site of vast Roman ruins on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. Today, upscale restaurants and artist boutiques sit between the ancient brick walls, but nowhere do historic and modern twist together more effectively than Caesarea’s, 4,000-seat, Old Roman Amphitheatre.

The venue was a huge jump for Regina Spektor, who played Tel Aviv’s mid-sized Barby in 2009, yet the show was sold out. Spektor’s husband Jack Dishel and his band Only Son opened the evening with some powerful, if not completely original, rock’n’roll. It was a drastic contrast to Spektor’s first song: “Ain’t No Cover,” a plaintive ballad of Spektor’s signature-staccato vocals and her fingers thumping on the microphone.

“I’m a little bit in shock to be [in Israel] again,” said Spektor, her eyes roaming around the huge amphitheater. “This is the oldest place we’ve ever played.” Continue reading

A camera follows Mayer Hawthorne through a dark corridor and into a bar. “I know it’s been a long time since I released any new music. I promised when it rained, it’d pour. It’s time for Tropical Storm Hawthorne,” he deadpans. “I’m ready.”

The Detroit soul singer’s album-announcement YouTube clip was a parody of Justin Timberlake’s video earlier this year, and represents Hawthorne’s relationship with pop. “I take the music very seriously, but I don’t take myself too seriously,” he says. “Having fun is really what it’s all about.”

His third album, “Where Does This Door Go,” due July 16 on Republic Records, proves his point. While Hawthorne self-produced his first two releases, the retro-soul-styled “A Strange Arrangement” and “How Do You Do” (which have sold 71,000 and 102,000, respectively, according to Nielsen SoundScan), his latest features a whole cast of producers: Pharrell, John Hill, Jack Splash, Greg Wells and more, presenting a new strain of hip-hop soul that could bust him out of “critically acclaimed” territory and into a higher level of stardom. Continue reading

Relix Spotlight: Portugal. The Man

Published June 10th, 2013 in Relix Magazine

Portugal. The Man were already 15 tracks deep into the recording of a new album when producer Danger Mouse came knocking. After the intense, emotionally draining process of creating their 2011 major label debut—the John Hill-helmed (M.I.A., Rihanna) In the Mountain in the Cloud —the band hoped to make a stress-free follow-up in a low-key studio in El Paso, Texas without a big name producer. Frontman John Gourley had traveled home—outside Wasilla, Alaska—to clear his head before returning to Texas to try and complete the tracking. But when Atlantic Records head Craig Kallman phoned, offering a session with Danger Mouse  (aka Brian Burton), the temptation was too strong not to explore. Gourley flew to New York City the next day.

More than a year later, Portugal. The Man are about to release their seventh album, Evil Friends, a 12-track firecracker of jilted, heavy, psychedelic pop that happens to be their best record yet.

Depending on where you drop the needle on Portugal. The Man’s career, you’ll hear a heavy classic rock act, a floating Flaming Lips Jr., a group of theatric prog-rock geeks or a pack of dance punks. Since their 2006 debut Waiter: “You Vultures!” , they have released an album per year through In the Mountain in the Cloud without retracing their steps. Continue reading

“Competing for most modern sound, Dawes will get beat a million times over,” says Taylor Goldsmith. “We didn’t hang up our guitars for washed-out keyboard sounds.”

When it comes to compliments, Taylor Goldsmith is impressively modest. The lead singer and songwriter of California rock quartet Dawes doesn’t want to hear that the band’s the most talented, the coolest or sexiest. “When someone hears a song by us they’ve never heard and says, ‘That’s Dawes’-that’s our proudest moment,” he says.

The sentiment isn’t unfounded: Nary a fan or critic referred to the band’s acclaimed first two albums without a caveat of how much they sounded like the legendary ’70s rock of the Band, Jackson Browne, Neil Young or Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Due April 9, “Stories Don’t End,” Dawes’ third album-their first on the band’s own HUB Records after leaving ATO Records-isn’t likely to put a halt to those comparisons. By Goldsmith’s admission, it’s a natural growth from 2009′s understated debut, “North Hills,” and 2011′s rawer “Nothing Is Wrong,” not a left turn. But with intimate production by Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones) and some of Goldsmith’s strongest songs yet, “Stories Don’t End” will likely mean the singer hears his favorite compliment more than ever before.

“Competing for most modern sound, Dawes will get beat a million times over. We didn’t hang up our guitars for washed-out keyboard sounds,” Goldsmith says. “We’ll always be a band that looks at a guitar solo as a big part of a song, and arranges a performance with bass, guitar, drums and a keyboard.” Continue reading

Held just before the Jewish holiday of Purim – during which everyone in Israel dresses up in costume and heads to street parties, like a grown-up Halloween – it wasn’t too surprising to see more than a handful of Tel Avivi’s in faux-Rasta garb for Feb. 20’s Ky-Mani Marley show. Thing is, Tel Aviv has its fair share of actual Africans – a solid third of the audience were first or second generation Ethiopians, whose dreadlocks were, of course, far more convincing.

The odd juxtaposition didn’t tamper with the party atmosphere too much; everyone at the Wednesday night show came to feel good, and Ky-Mani delivered high energy, hip-hop infused reggae. But the inarguable success of the show came almost in spite of a few factors dragging it down.

Namely, the product hawking of Ky-Mani’s older brother Rohan before and after the show. House of Marley is the family-endorsed, earth-friendly, Rasta-themed company currently selling canvas bags, headphones and other ‘lifestyle’ products. Whether you agree with the Marleys slapping their father’s lyrics and likeness on a watch is beside the point – Rohan Marley speaking for no less than 10 minutes about the superior quality of House of Marley products, complete with a promotional video, was an utter and complete buzzkill. Continue reading

For the past few years, Andy D has been conquering the local music scene, converting one fan at a time with his energetic, positive vibes and electro-clash sex jams.

He leads the funkiest “baptisms” ever, clad onstage in white denim cutoffs, a fanny pack, a Viking helmet and a mustache, healing the woes of the workweek with a healthy dose of weird. But Andy D can’t be Andy D all the time. The king of so many drunken parties is also, yes, a man of the suburbs. Greenwood, to be exact.

And on the eve of the release of his third album, “Warcries,” there’s nowhere Andy D would rather be.

“I’m not a big-city guy. I’m not a rural country guy. I’m a mid-sized American city type of guy,” the 31-year old Andy said, speaking from the home he shares with his wife and bandmate, Victoria, and his parents, Tom and Karen Duncan.

The house is where Andy grew up, and dashes of his childhood abound: His current in-home recording studio is also the space where his high school heavy metal band once played. Continue reading


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