“I think I love you,” the group declares on the chorus.
With bangers like “Cry Baby” and “Brooklyn,” Fickle Friends have already proven their titanic ability to craft ’80s-bent hooks that you just can not escape. It’s been nearly two years since their last EP, 2015’s tragically-underrated Velvet, but now, the wait is almost over. Their new slow-burning jam, “Glue,” is the first taste of their follow-up EP, of the same name. “Cool yourself down. I think I’m getting stuck–I think I’m getting hooked on you. Your cheeks are so warm, and mine are glowing, too. Yeah, I can feel our lips like glue,” lead vocalist Natassja Shiner whispers into your ear. The song’s quenching bounce builds from there. “So, what are we thinking and what are we here to prove? Let’s stop being public. I guess we should get a room,” she considers. “Oh, I don’t believe it. Yeah, I think I have a screw loose–I think you have a screw loose, too.”
If you thought the opening was sticky, the hook takes it up a few notches, pouring a gallon over industrial-strength adhesive all over the lust-ridden, romantic rendezvous. “Because our lips are like glue…I think I love you. So, yeah, I wanna love you. I wanna love you for the night.”
But if you are feeling a bit unsure, the group–also comprised of Harry Herrington, Chris Hall, Sam Morris and Jack Wilson–are sure enough for you. “Don’t beat yourself up. It’s something that I’ve done. It’s something that we all go through,” reads the second verse. “Let’s finish up our drinks. We better make a move ’cause we could carry on till two.”
On new music, the rowdy outfit have been working extensively with producer Mike Crossey, known for his work with The 1975. In an interview with All Access Music, Shiner shared, “Working with Mike was a surreal experience. We learn’t a lot and we also came back even more inspired so we have been faced with trying to finish last minute songs by ourselves. He has such an exciting way of recording things. It’s been a super creative process.” In their growing songbook, Shiner hopes their work gives the underdogs motivation and inspiration “that it’s cool to be weird…slightly off kilter….And that we all share the same experiences one way or another, and that it’s safe to talk about them. Life is too short to bottle things up. Say what you feel, do what you feel.”
Screenshot from “Hello Hello” video
“It’s been quite tough. We got signed last year, and immediately we were having to decide who we were going to work with on the album because it was all starting the following week! The next thing I know, we were out in LA for four months recording this album,” Shiner told Clash magazine in a separate conversation, discussing their impending new project (which was initially a full-length). To record the album/EP, the group packed up their lives and headed out to the West Coast. “There were actually a lot of similarities between LA and Brighton. It was real cool for the first month, and then the novelty wore off. It was really fucking hot, and we were staying in the valleys. You can’t walk anywhere. You’ve got to drive because everywhere is so far away. Those are the bad things, but the people and everything were a lot of fun, but I couldn’t live there. We’re small town.”
Because I wanted to get laid, I talked about “Mr. Brightside” a lot. There’d I be, leaned on the nearby school parapet, flipping a coin and giving the upward nod to passerby: “Hey, local female. Didya know Brandon Flowers is actually just being paranoid the whole time, it’s all in his head. It’s like, our imaginations can doom us, you know? This was in 2011. This worked. Now, a year after The Killers released the last album of theirs to matter, a small pair of southerners mysteriously appeared in Brooklyn and begun playing the Cake Shop NYC, a small venue that had given birth to such strange local responses to The Killers‘ popularity like Vampire Weekend and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
Whatever happened to the most Shazamed band of 2009?
On the last day of last year, Cake Shop closed. It is now an expensive cocktail bar called Kind Regards. Members of Vampire Weekend, too, would go on write songs for Carly Rae Jepsen and Beyoncé. These days, I tell people in parties that Kendrick is GOAT, whatever those words mean. In this sense, frontman and, now, only man, Jonathan Pierce is, as one profile calls him, “the sole survivor.” Where Piece has used the band’s diminishing popularity to create some of the band’s best work, using it to evoke such scenarios as not having very much money (“Money”) to wanting to be kissed again (“Kiss Me Again”), Abysmal Thoughts finds him at the, well, abyss of all that.
So, for want of a better phrase, it’s Peirce’s tumblr album, a record full of some of the most sadboi lines the Lower East Side has ever heard. Where Encyclopedia displayed a curious exuberance for a duo trending on a forgotten revival of yesterday’s kool-aid, now Peirce is all worn out: opener, “Mirror” paints a grim portrait of apartment bound depression (“I didn’t need another push towards the end/But you did it with a casual stance,” is the most remarkably Morrissey that Pierce has ever been) and a survey of the song titles that follow tell you what you need to know: “Shoot the Sun Down,” “If All We Share (Mean Nothing).” Near the end, Pierce abandons the well-dressed reserve of his forebears and just breaks down, asking listeners: “Are you feeling fucked? Cause I feel fucked too.”
Jonathan Pierce in 2010, a happier time.(Marc Broussely/Getty)
So, who has fucked The Drums? Was it you, who appreciated Modern Vampires of the City‘s use of a Souls of Mischief sample more than Encyclopedia‘s contemplation of suicide in a national park? You, who continued to attend sold out area shows by the Killers even though most of their new material is crap? Whatever happened to all those people who shazamed The Drums more than Nicki Minaj or Ellie Goulding?
Pierce’s songwriting, to some extent, is remarkable precisely because of how much it beg, nay, implores those questions. Remaining stoically inside the box of his beloved Scottish post-punk bands of the ’80s–you say Aztec Camera, he says The Wake–his question is the same that we ask ourselves as we stroll down a block of Brooklyn that gentrified five years ago. Williamsburg, that used to be so cool. Why do I want to live in Flatbush now?
The OG White Witch lends her magic to the silver screen.
It’s no secret that legendary Fleetwood Mac frontwoman Stevie Nicks has been making headlines as of late, from her onstage collaboration with pop princeHarry Styles to the confirmation of duet “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” on Lana Del Rey’s upcoming record. As her tour with Fleetwood Mac continues, she somehow found the down time to record an original song for upcoming film The Book of Henry.
The song, called “Your Hand I Will Never Let Go,” showcases the magical timbre of Nicks’ voice, and the accompanying video weaves in its lyrics with playful animation while accompanying snippets from the actual film. The Book of Henry revolves around the life of a suburban mother named Susan, played by Naomi Watts, who finds a plot in her son’s notebook to save his friend from her abusive stepfather.
The song itself is orchestrated quietly, a minimalistic shift for the usually consuming stage presence Nicks is known for. “Drowned in thought and caught in a state/ Talking to ghosts who were not there,” Nicks muses. “Then you took my hand and transformation began / Commotion where it once was still.”
It’s no “Landslide,” but it’s enough to have us in tears.
Watch the official lyric video for “Your Hand I Will Never Let It Go” below. The Book of Peter is in theaters this Friday.
E.R. Pulgar is a music writer, poet, image-maker, and once cried reading Virginia Woolf. Follow him on Twitter.
“It’s funny to think about the roller coaster that we’ve gone through,” says Ryan of the journey through their new album.
They have more than 270 million streams on Spotify, but AJR swear they’re not famous. At the very least, it makes for a good hook. On the band’s second full-length DIY studio album, the expansive and zippy The Click, the three-piece–brothers Adam, Jack and Ryan–flesh out their quirky, big-band beats with more intimacy, avowing “I’m Not Famous” on one of the more polished compositions, using a vocoder for “Call My Dad,” a rather achingly sweet a cappella number, and later framing their obsession with television for a coming of age narrative (drenched in sappy nostalgia, naturally) on “Netflix Trip.” What 2015’s debut Living Room lacked in urgency, the trio clearly grew and explored, made some mistakes and corrected their course, became different people but yet somehow remained the same–funneling the strange, confusing and grueling journey every 20-something must navigate sooner or later. “It’s a scary thing to be really honest with people. It’s terrifying to not put up a front and not act cool and the way society wants you to act,” Ryan shares with Popdust over a recent phone call.
“It’s been working for us. We’ve had a really great year. I would attribute that to…we stopped caring what people thought of us. We became exactly ourselves,” he continues. “If you want to be a little kid while you’re an adult, be a little kid. If you want to admit that you’re weak, admit that. If you want to look back at yourself in a reflective way and find these TV shows that made you who you are, do that. Be exactly who you are.”
The Click is saturated with looking back, being OK with not being OK and longing for the days of childhood, when the world seemed much larger and far less intimidating than it actually is. “Let’s take it back and take in every moment. Who am I to tell me who I am?” they send up a rallying cry on “Netflix Trip,” an unlikely emotional wallop. “Now, the finale is done, and I’m alone. I’m on a Netflix trip here on my phone, but who I am is in these episodes. So, don’t you tell me it’s just a show,” they then surmise, a poignant and indispensable morsel. Then, they pay homage to blustering summer camps, crackling fires and camaraderie with “Bud Like You,” a hip-hop-intoned, drunken flicker which pushes the envelope of their maturity and transition into full-on adulthood. “It’s been two years from the first song we wrote on this album to the last. It’s funny to think about the roller coaster that we’ve gone through,” says Ryan. “The whole idea behind the album is we wanted to really work on lyrics.”
While Living Room served as a testing ground to present their funky and fresh production style, the new record (out now) aims for far more depth. “We thought about lyrics and how to write the most personal, honest, blatant, almost unpoetic lyric we could possible write. I remember when we heard ‘I Took a Pill in Ibiza’ by Mike Posner, we though ‘oh my god, what an amazing lyric.’ In the most unpoetic way possible, he is saying exactly what happened and exactly what he felt. He doesn’t disguise anything to make it politically correct or poetic. We thought ‘let’s just make an album of that, let’s go even further than him and make something that is really risky and include a lot of topics no one talks about,'” Ryan details.
Adam, Jack and Ryan reflect, at length, on who they are now and how far they’ve come, the biggest roadblocks they continue to face in their careers and marijuana. Dig into our exclusive Q&A session below.
What were some of the roadblocks you encountered during this process?
Adam: I think because we’re an independent band, there are naturally a lot of roadblocks. In terms of money, that’s a big thing. When you’re signed to a major label, you often have an influx of cash, so money is not really a worry. But with us, we have basically been using our street performing money, our money we made from “I’m Ready”–just basically all of our self-made money, we’ve put it back into the band and upgraded our equipment and used it to tour and for promotion. That has been one of the biggest roadblocks over the last two years.
How did your vision (sound, feel, stories) evolve as you worked on this album?
Adam: Some of our favorite bands, like fun., when they start an album, they know exactly what the concept is going to be and know “hey, this is going to be track one and I know how track seven fits into the story.” That wasn’t really our process at all. We just started by writing a lot of honest songs. We weren’t really sure what we wanted to say. It took those two years of writing in order to figure out what that was. It ended up being a lot of songs about growing up and being in your 20s and being in college and trying to figure out when is the right time to grow up–how can we stay young in this world where we’re surrounded by adults who want us to grow up and get real jobs. How can we stay doing what we love?
That was a major theme we realized that with every song we wrote had hints of. That is best exemplified in “Come Hang Out,” and it has the lyric “should I go for more clicks this year or should I follow the click in my ear.” As soon as we wrote that, it really resonated with us and the fans in a really profound way. The idea behind that line is “should I go for more YouTube clicks and get instantly famous or should I do what I really want to do and be who I am.” We realized “yeah, the album has to be called ‘The Click’ and we need to surround the album with metronome and the idea of following your own path.”
Did that particular lyric come down like a lightning bolt?
Adam: I remember the moment we wrote that. While Jack sings that line, there’s a metronome going. As soon as we came up with that idea that there should be those clicks, we thought “oh, no, we need to have this many more times throughout the album. This needs to be a motif.” It occurs two other times in the album, in “No Grass Today” and the “Overture.” In addition to the metronome, the lyrical theme shows up in nearly every song.
What did you learn about yourself in this process?
Jack: As we write more songs about growing up, I feel like one of the best highs you can get in life is being brought back to the place you were as a little kid. We were walking past the old playground the other day that we used to go to. That moment, of “oh my god, I want to go back there,” is the greatest feeling in the world. If we can communicate that through music, it would have been such a feat for us. We just learned we really want to stay young and keep a young mindset.
Which song do you connect to the most?
Jack: I think I connect with “Come Hang Out” the most. It’s definitely the most personal song. It’s directly about our story. There’s a line in there, “I can’t complain, I won’t be mourning ’cause I skipped on prom for Elvis Duran in the Morning.” He’s the biggest DJ in New York City, and I actually skipped prom because we had to go to an event with him. It’s that kind of song that’s very specific to a time in our life–we gave up having a real childhood and real college years, for the music.
Ryan: “Netflix Trip” is the one I connect to the most. It’s a song about ‘The Office,’ the TV show. That was the first song we wrote for this album, actually, two years ago. We name checked a lot of things and tried to go places with the music that hadn’t been done. We’re enormous fans of the show and have been for like 10 years. The song is basically tracing different moments in my life–like my eighth grade graduation and when my grandpa died–and equating what season I was on in that moment in my life and how the show molded me.
Adam: The song, for me, is “Three-Thirty.” The generation we are growing up in is so schizophrenic in its likes and dislikes, with social media and having content thrown in our face so much. Even music, people are constantly putting out music. We have so many things we can listen to. The song is called “Three-Thirty,” first because it’s three minutes and 30 seconds long, and that’s the optimal time that radio wants you to have a song. But also, the song changes so many times throughout. It wants to keep up with that schizophrenic idea of this generation. It goes from saying something very specific to a very general chorus to an EDM-style drop and untraditional, non-chorus at the end, talking about Ed Sheeran writing our songs, and if he writes our songs, will we finally top the charts? The goal was to throw as many different concepts into that song to replicate that idea.
How did you know which moments in your life you wanted to write about on “Netflix Trip”?
Ryan: I guess, I thought back through a lot of my mannerisms and realized that so many of them were based on TV shows. I literally cross my legs when I sit because I saw Jim from ‘The Office’ do it when I was young. It made me who Ryan is. When you start thinking like that, you start dissecting who you are as a person and realize how much of you is influenced by things you watch growing up.
How did “No Grass Today” come together?
Ryan: We really wanted to give a different perspective on marijuana and legalization. We found that there were songs that either glorified it or condemned it. Our perspective is one that’s not talked about it enough. I used to smoke a year or two ago. I tried it and it wasn’t for me and stopped doing it. The idea is who am I to tell other people that they can’t do it. As soon as we put it out, a lot of fans came to us and were like “that’s exactly how I feel.”
How do you maintain meaningful relationships with friends and family?
Adam: It’s definitely harder. As you get more and more successful, you put a magnifying glass on your friendships, and the friendships that were OK but not great kind of fizzle out because they lose interest or you just don’t make time. The friendships that really matter start becoming more and more important. It exaggerates the relationships and friendships we had before.
Another standout moment is “Call My Dad.” How did you come across using the vocoder effect?
Ryan: I can’t remember how we discovered that effect. I think I heard a friend use it or something. I thought “oh, maybe I can hook this up to the keyboard and make it an a cappella song without any other instruments.”
What inspired this song?
Ryan: I was in college and feeling really homesick. The worst thing to do is go out to a party. It just gets worse and worse. At the end of the party, I wrote this song because I wanted to feel like a little kid again and wanted to be tucked in by my parents and not be with all these strangers and having to smile. As soon as I came up with that concept, I thought “this really fits with the theme of this album.”
Earlier this year, you released a remix EP for “Weak.” What is your favorite remix from that collection?
Ryan: It keeps changing. If I had to pick my favorite now, it’d be the Party Pupils remix. The DJ duo call themselves future funk, and as soon as they did it, we thought “oh, that is so unique.” It’s really hard, especially in EDM, to come up with new sounds. The tendency is “this sound is working, so everybody copy it.” Like this year, it was the Chainsmokers. Every other DJ is copying that sound, and it starts to get a little tedious on the radio. But as soon as someone can come up with something new, it’s so refreshing.
“This song is a moment of finding myself again, my spirit,” says the feathery-voiced singer-songwriter.
You’re standing alone inside an abandoned warehouse. The lofty coolness is brittle against your skin. The darkness seeps through the cracks of the splintered wood, the moonlight tossing its fingertips along the cement. But in the far corner, there is a waxy, half-burned, charred but dazzling candle–the glow of her voice envelopes and warms you. Sara Rachele, whose timbre is equal parts Dusty Springfield, Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush, has already cemented her position on the fringes of folk, pop and rock, marrying those sensibilities into a flighty and substantial body of work.
2014’s debut record, Diamond Street, set a remarkable precedent, her vocal wrapped neatly and fluidly around hearty stock standouts like “Devil That I Know,” “Appalachian Rain” and the Thomas Hall-assisted number “Don’t Give Me Hell.” Now, with her latest entry in her flourishing catalog, “Change Your Mind (You Should Be Mine)” is pensive and intimately sweeping. “This song is one of those tunes I wrote about one situation, that actually ended up being about something else entirely,” she tells Popdust, who premieres the filtered, black-and-white clip today.
“Change your mind, get your act together, come see me sometime. Change your mind,” she murmurs over sparse, spacious production. Later, she wails: “So, what do we do now? What do you want from me, anyhow?”
“I’d been running around so much with work, between the East Village, Manhattan, and East Atlanta Village, my hometown, and this song just fell out of the mystic sky when I was home, finally, in my studio on Avenue A,” she explains. “I’d gotten this ’68 Harmony Holiday from Rivington Guitars, and the song just sort of, came altogether out of that guitar, the unknown, all at once.”
On her frequent walks, which often free her mind and spirit, the song came to be “a moment of finding myself again, my spirit,” she says. “I drive my mom’s ’55 Pontiac. I still do. I go on a lot of drives and walks, to clear my head, think about the life, and people, I’ve left behind at the moment. I carry them around wherever I am. I do. It’s heavy, but I think that’s what makes me a good folk singer. I’m still a fucking misfit stuck in love.”
During her persistent trips back and forth from Atlanta and New York (while making her Motel Fire record with The Skintights), the song spilled from her fingertips. “Being engaged, being single, being imperfect, being alive. It just made sense to me to do the video in East Atlanta. We shot it in the family car, with a lucky necklace a loved one gave me, and my cat, Tom Selleck,” she details about the visual, grainy but vibrant. “This song is about disappointment, sure, but hope, too. It’s about carrying that hope. Motion. True love, ya know, I believe if it is real, if it leaves, it comes back to you just like a song, from that same dark sky.”
On June 6th, Philadelphia formed rock band The War on Drugs performed their new song, Holding On, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “Holding On” is part of their upcoming album, A Deeper Understanding, which is set to release on August 25th via Atlantic.
I first found out about The War on Drugs, ironically, through the solo work of band member Kurt Vile. Vile has been releasing solo music since 2008 (the same year as when The War on Drugs released their first record) – and in that time Vile has released a whopping 6 albums on his own, and four albums via The War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs have a very distinctive sound which many can’t get enough of. The sound shows both the influence of classic rock – as well as newer, more electronic influences. This is all heard – or, felt, which at times feels a more appropriate word for their music – in one of their more popular songs, “Red Eyes”. “Red Eyes,” which was released in 2014 as the second track on their record Lost In The Dream, became an almost instant hit – receiving over 46 million plays on Spotify. The song follows an echo synth melody, underpinned by a clear drum beat – showing this perfect blending of styles.
Frontman Adam Granduciel voiced this heavy influence of classic rock to his (often more electronic leaning) music in a 2014 interview with Interview Mag in which he says in response to being asked if there were particular albums or artists who influenced his music that:
“Yeah, definitely. For me to make the kind of music I make and say things like, ‘I don’t even really listen to Bruce Springsteen,’ I mean, that would just be silly and embarrassing to read. I definitely admire all of those people and then some.”
The new song shows the extreme care and attention put into the creation of their music. This is seen first in its performance and presentation – the band performed with eight people on stage – a surprisingly large number for a rock band. The song follows an electronic keyboard beat – and is underpinned with guitar, bass, and drums.
The song feels resemblant to some of the songs from Lost In The Dream – a dreamy melody that blends together perfectly, a song that seems to wash over you. The lyrical of “Holding On” shares a sad story of wanting so desperately to hold on to a romantic partner, and how it can feel like a life or death situation.
The first verse of the song being:
“Once I was alive and I could feel I was holding on to you And I redefined the way I looked at dawn inside of you”
“Holding On” is a strong, dreamy, and (a word I use very sparingly but which feels appropriate here) vibey track – and I can’t wait to hear what else they have in store for us in the upcoming album.
“The ‘XL’ video tells the story of a new age Bonnie and Clyde,” the duo share.
One of the most infamous gun-toting pairs in history, Bonnie and Clyde led a bloody and disastrous manhunt up until their death in 1934. Throughout the four years they knew each other, the duo, reportedly killed multiple people and committed various acts of robbery, including the theft of several automobiles across states lines in their various calamitous heists. Their tale of mayhem would inspire the 1967 film, Bonnie & Clyde, starring Warren Beaty and Faye Dunaway, and spill over into various other artistic media. From Merle Haggard’s “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde” to 2Pac’s “Me and My Girlfriend” and Jay Z & Beyonce’s “Bonnie & Clyde,” countless singers and songwriters have either made subtle references or explicitly retold the iconic story of bedlam and greed. Now, electro-pop outfit Fly by Midnight reinvent the account for the modern era, polishing up the cultural touchpoint with their new single “XL.”
In the accompanying visual, premiering today, Justin Bryte, of MTV’s Dream Bigger, and Slavo, a producer with Emergence Music Group, give a similar but distinctly contrasting narrative. “‘XL’ is a very different track for us. The lyrics, production & overall vibe really embody a more chill/indie side,” the duo tell Popdust of the song, which even contains bellowing ’80s synth-filtered guitar. “The ‘XL’ video tells the story of a new age Bonnie and Clyde. Two Brooklyn-ites who decide to rob a thrift store together. It’s about the bond of two petty criminals who become even closer–no pun intended–after wearing this sweater.”
The two leads become entangled in an intoxicating love-strewn, destructive high which only can be achieved from robbing a local clothing store. From there, they head up to a roof overlooking the Brooklyn landscape and cuddle underneath the low-cast sun. The camera zooms and flies overhead, and footage flickers between the unraveling, albeit enchanting, story and the bandmates performing atop a police car. The nostalgic detail is akin to a Chainsmokers track, feverish and blissful. “Alleviate, exhale your feelings on me. Fire away, whatever’s got you burning. I don’t got a place, I got a car. We can go anywhere. Don’t really matter to me,” the duo recount on the opening lyric, leading into the soaking hook: “And she said, ‘can we chill in your XL sweater all night? Can we stay up and lay together ’til sunrise? Think I know what’ll make me better…no sleep, just you and me in your XL sweater.”
The juxtaposition of tender romanticism against the darker-edged storyline is welcoming and invigorating. “Sit back, recline with me. Slip on the Calvin Klein for me. Exhale your troubles and struggles from your lips to my lips,” they later tease. “Oh, this is heavy. Oh, I’m not ready for it. She’s copacetic. I’ll never forget it…”
“XL” (out now on iTunes) follows a long chain of cover singles, including Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times,” Julia Michaels’ “Issues,” and Charlie Puth and Selena Gomez’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” which has collected 11 million streams across their socials and Spotify.
Their upcoming EP, Party Favors, is expected later this year.
“We will honor and celebrate social media influencers,” says the Force Multiply founder.
In a partnership with Force Multiply and Tubefilter, the Streamys have revealed The Purpose Awards, a standalone event to honor social influencers, brands, companies and nonprofits which make an extraordinary difference in their communities and networks. The submission phase is already complete, and nominees are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. “The DNA of Force Multiply from day one has been to unite like-minded individuals and organizations in their social good efforts and by doing so, multiply social good outcomes,” Lou Raiola, founder of Force Multiply, shares with Popdust, exclusively. “The Purpose Awards are in perfect alignment in that we celebrate and honor those organizations and influencers doing good in the world.”
He adds, “We will honor and celebrate social media influencers, the work of brands and non-profits, but more importantly, use the social platform of honoring and celebrating to unite like-minded individuals and organizations, including their fan bases to do even more good. The Purpose Awards at the Streamys are a natural extension of our mission to highlight the powerful intersection of cause marketing, celebrity, and social change initiatives. We look forward to joining Tubefilter in not only honoring and celebrating the great work of these new stars, but also inspiring others to take action and make meaningful impact themselves.”
Categories include the Uniter Award (a collaboration of three key stakeholders: creator, company or brand and nonprofit) and the Legacy Award (to an individual or organization whose efforts go far beyond one single initiative). Check out the complete list of categories here.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty
“The creator community celebrated by the Streamy Awards has a remarkable sense of obligation to social causes—and the unique interactive nature of their relationships with their communities has created a tremendous opportunity to make meaningful impact, at scale,” Tubefilter CEO and Streamy Awards founder Drew Baldwin adds. “We’re honored to partner with Force Multiply to give this generation a new platform to amplify its efforts to make the world a better place.”
Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council, leads the advisory board for the event. “The Purpose Awards at the Streamys are a wonderful opportunity to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary work that is coming out of the creator community,” says Sherman. “Creators connect with their audiences on such a personal level and we have seen the transformative impact of their content on issues such as bullying prevention, autism awareness and diversity and inclusion. We’re looking forward to the collaboration with Tubefilter and Force Multiply which will help inspire more efforts in the name of social good.”
Last year’s leading Streamy Awards winners include YouTube Yousef Erakat for Entertainer of the Year, The Philip DeFranco Show for Show of the Year, Chris Kendall (of Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures) for the Actor trophy and Shaun “Shonduras” McBride (shonduras) for Snapchat Storyteller.
The 2017 Streamy Awards are slated for Tuesday, Sept. 26.
Los Angeles acts Jay Som, a chilled-out indie rock band and Kamasi Washington, a funked-up sax player and bandleader, might not seem like the most intuitive picks to accompany Dirty Projectors for the group’s performance of their entire new self-titled album and their first show in four years. Without a doubt, though, they were the perfect choices to kick of Northside Fest’s 2017 McCarren Park shows.
As Jay Som came on, the crowd had a lukewarm enthusiasm and was ultra-cool in that way only Williamsburg can be. But the band was ready for the chilled-out vibe, matching the gently bobbing heads with beanies, loose-fitting clothes, and the slow pace of the West Coast chill, consistent and rhythmic like the Pacific tides.
Melina Duterte of Jay SomPhoto by Hailey Nuthals
Not to say that Jay Som was boring – hardly so. The guitarist’s solos were shredding without screeching, and dramatic without reaching frenetic. His fingers slid over the frets with comfort and ease, and his lips were tight with concentration but not scrunched in wild abandon. Frontwoman Melina Duterte’s eyes were often closed while she was singing, but she wasn’t quiet or withdrawn – just lost in the moment.
Kamasi Washington, on the other hand, had a whole other sort of West Coast mood. Their rousing funk had the hipsters almost dancing, though even if the moves from his vocalist onstage would have outshone them by far. Though each bandmate on stage got their own solo throughout the set, Washington’s famed skills stole the show, frequently becoming so passionate that the bell of his sax nearly swallowed the microphone he was playing into, and the appreciative nodding of his ensemble was so fervent that it was almost feverish.
Kamasi WashingtonPhoto by Hailey Nuthals
Dirty Projector’s set came just after the sun had set, allowing for the dramatic lighting to fully enhance the anticipation and excitement of the group’s long-awaited return to the stage. Frontman Dave Longstreth brought even more than he promised, with musicians Olga Bell, Tyondai Braxton, and Nat Baldwin joining himself and at least six other players onstage. The full ensemble included horns, percussion, and modular work that created seismic soundscapes.
As he sang, Longstreth used his free hand to roughly gesture pitch intervals. One wouldn’t blame him if it were his own way of keeping himself in tune – the album’s songs were full of difficult melodies. Every music student in the audience got visibly aroused as the full backing band and vocals performed together in intentionally jarring counterpoint. The synth was dissonant, the percussion aggressive, and the arrangement stunning.
The Dirty Projectors’ first performance in four years.Photo by Hailey Nuthals
More than in the past, the Dirty Projectors’ style held a palpable musical tension. It toed the line between impressive and unpleasant. One might imagine it’s the sonic equivalent of rougher sex than you’ve ever had before, but with a careful partner – it was good, but in a very unnerving way. Notable is the fact that this is the first album after former band member Amber Coffman left the group, and the album itself felt in many ways like the rebound after a breakup.
But just as that same rough sex can, some songs crossed the line into discomfort. The songs blended together so completely that there were frequently 15 or 20-minute stretches with no stops, and intense vocal distortion from backup singer and keyboardist Bell, moments like Longstreth’s shouts of “Taxi! Taxi!” over blaring drum machines were occasionally too much to handle. With respect given for the risks taken, being edgy brings you over cliff every once in a while; particularly if you spent your set staring the cliff in its void-y eyes and daring it to swallow you whole, see if you care. With live bass so high it was almost hard to breathe and monitors pumping sound at incredible levels, the edginess was even harder to control, occasionally feeling like despair.
Thankfully the rougher instances were sparse compared to the rest of the cinematic display. A stunning encore with Kelly Zutrau of Wet rounded off a euphoric comeback show and set the scene for a momentous release for Dirty Projectors’ album.
Since 2010, my ringtone has been the introductory chord progression to Phoenix’s 2009 hit song “1901.”
The track’s resilience in my life reflects the prominence the überly successful record Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix album as a whole gave the already decade-old French band. It was weird and quirky in its references (the song “Lisztomania” is literally referring to a 1975 comedy film exploring the life and scandalous romantic life of nineteenth century Hungarian composer Franz Linszt), but housing a danceable beat and upbeat feeling that kept millions of listeners playing it during the last summer of the first decade of the new millennium. It seemed to incorporate all of the emotions surrounding a good sunny season: lots of fun, lots of love, and lots of odd thoughts relating to the conflict between feeling something and just wanting to have a good time.
The album went gold in the U.S., and earned the band a platinum single for the song that would become my ringtone. It would also earn them a Grammy Award for “Best Alternative Music Album.” Quickly, the Frenchmen, who started as a “garage band” based in the lead vocalist Thomas Mars’s house in the suburbs of Paris, were making the festival and talk show rounds. They weren’t quite a household name, but their songs were likely on the family playlist.
To follow up the success, four years later, Phoenix released a similarly summer-saturated album, Bankrupt!. It was reactionary to their success, staying true to their abilities to create music that, depending on the day, could make you think about something or could just make you get out of your seat and dance. And, with the marriage of Mars to director Sofia Coppola, had one heck of beautifully directed music video for the single, “Chloroform.”
Another four years later, they are back with another attempt at having the perfect summer album with Ti Amo, a project they worked on the project in an old Opera house outside of Paris. This might explain its strongly European disco sound which erupted over the course of three years. They experimented and collected the material they liked best to create the new, extremely sunny and romantic album.
The problem is, they’ve been here before — twice.
In full, the album is just over half an hour. In that time, we get the sounds and sentiments we expect from the quirky band: we fall in love, we feel confused, we dance and sing along except for the sections that sample different languages (hence the title). And in every track, we experiences the numerous shifts and changes over the course of two to four minutes that make Phoenix’s work noteworthy in the first place.
The singles from the record give us the world we are accustomed to hearing from the group. “J-Boy” is a tale of romance and science-fiction, wild and wonderful and odd in the way Phoenix is able to carry gracefully and be respected for.
Even more dance-friendly is the title track. It is the kind of song your shoulders automatically start moving to when you feel the rhythm moving through you from the intense beat and repetitive chorus. It’s got flavor and it’s not lyrically deep or peculiar enough to distract from its fun qualities. However, neither song is necessarily one you are going to have going through your brain over and over again as some of the past work of Phoenix has the ability to do. The infiltration process will stop after a few months, when the song moves out of radio circulation.
In general, this could be said for many of the tracks on the album. While it can be appreciated that the band is trying out new things while still trying to maintain their old sound and style that fans fell for, these songs do not quite meet that expectation. They are too similar to what we’ve already heard, except we probably won’t like them as much as we did the first round.
A couple of songs that likely won’t get the attention they deserve are scattered throughout Ti Amo. They don’t escape from sounding similar from old material, but they deliver it in an overall more successful manner.
“Tuttifruitti” is playful and sweet, just as it’s name suggests. It doesn’t try anything wild while remaining true to the upbeat, carefree style of the group. Again, it’s nothing in comparison to the old stuff, but it will do. Somewhat deeper and more satisfying is “Lovelife,” a real declaration of a loving someone despite flaws and not being able to help yourself. It’s arguably where the experimentation of keyboards and electronic sounds work best on this album, because the storytelling has matured here. It is similar enough but different in that we’re getting an emotional narrative — something we don’t tend to expect from Phoenix.
The concluding track on the record, “Telefono,” is, similarly, able to find a good balance of old and new. It mixes in various languages and samples conversations in a unique, experimental way, but by keeping the typical alternative pop sounds of a Phoenix track and including a slightly more grown up narrative with reflection on feelings and relationship (what does it mean to be unable to sleep when your partner is also wide awake?), they’ve shown they’ve done the work to find out how to grow and change while remaining true to their original ambitions. If only the entire album felt the same.
In an interview with The New York Times, Phoenix’s bass player, Deck D’Arcy said, “The landscape is too wide and we’re having too much fun to stop,” in relation to the band’s rehearsal. That could be exactly the problem with these songs: they needed to stop while they were ahead.
Phoenix have proved themselves to be an incredibly diligent, ever-lasting band in the past. That still doesn’t feel up for debate with their latest efforts. However, there’s nothing quite like your first summer love, and like their work following Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, we just can’t experience them again like we did the first time. The flourishes and tricks don’t elicit the same reactions anymore. It’s not quite old, but it’s definitely overly familiar.
Ti Amo won’t help you find a new ringtone, though it could assist in a few summer playlist additions, and perhaps that is more important in the long-run.