Friday, April 30, 2010

2Pac collaboration slated for 2011

The newly released video for Johnny Cash's "Ain't No Grave" - the first single, and easily the strongest track, off of Cash's posthumous record of the same name - may have been directed by Chris Milk, but Milk shares a co-directing credit with 5,500 other people.

The clip employed an open source ("crowdsourced") development method, one which bands like Radiohead have also used, to interesting effect. Fans were invited to submit online drawings - via The Johnny Cash Project website - based on provided stills from the Man in Black's 1973 film, The Gospel Road (the story of Jesus, told Cash-style...which I, a diehard fan myself, can really only recommend to those who would classify themselves as such). The drawings were then compiled, creating a compelling piece for an artist who knew a thing or two about powerful videos.
The video is completed, but you can still make some fun drawings. Do so, and watch the final product, here.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All this and an organic farm, too

Cloud Cult, who played a characteristically joyful, sold-out show last week at Lincoln Hall, released new EP Running with the Wolves Tuesday. The title track will appear on their forthcoming album, Light Chasers, due to drop August 17, and indicates that the new LP (their ninth) should be a rockin' good time. Wolves's other tracks include B-sides and alternate versions of songs.

Incidentally, the previously mentioned documentary about the band, No One Said It Would Be Easy, was released last spring.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

In Concert: Atoms for Peace (Aragon Ballroom, Chicago)

The future of Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's newly named (and fairly recently formed) side project, Atoms for Peace, remains uncertain, but if the supergroup's consecutive sold-out shows at the Aragon on Saturday and Sunday are any indication, he's taking their work together seriously - and clearly having a lot of fun.

As the band (featuring Flea on bass, Joey Waronker on drums, Maruo Refosco on percussion, and programming/keys by Nigel Godrich) worked its way through the first set -- the entirety of Yorke's 2006 LP, The Eraser, in succession -- it quickly became evident that Yorke sees the band and tour as an opportunity to give new life to the electronic dirge of his solo work. Some of Flea's funkiness must've rubbed off on Yorke, because while the former's eccentric strutting is to be expected, Thom also wasted no time busting slinky moves that he's rarely exhibited while fronting that other band.

Indeed, Yorke felt looser than normal, as did his songs, by being provided a different venue (much of the appeal of a side project) in the group's musical reworkings. By the third number, "The Clock," Eraser's tunes took on an energy not present on the record, offering a more organic counterpart to the album's starkness. While Flea performed the menacing keyboard loop of "Skip Divided" on a melodica, Yorke rocked a cowbell, and both swayed under giant, Radioheadesque neon lights. With its decrescendo into piano and haunting vocals before building back into a frantic finish, "Harrowdown Hill" proved an evening standout, and a testament to the transformative power of live percussion.

Although the band left the stage after album closer "Cymbal Rush," Yorke reemerged not long after, performing a brief solo set each night, finally getting above average sound out of the notoriously sonically-unfriendly venue. On Sunday, he began with the new "Lotus Flower" -- which would fit comfortably on a Radiohead record, as is rumored -- on electric guitar. Yorke moved to piano for the unlikely next song, Radiohead's disorienting "Like Spinning Plates," rendered here as a pretty ballad.
He closed with Radiohead anthem "Airbag," another initially surprising choice, given its wealth of instrumentation on record. But as with the rest of the evening's material, it was given new life - in this case, on acoustic guitar. Needless to say, the crowd went wild. (Saturday's encore set featured new Yorke solo song "A Walk Down the Staircase;" unreleased Radiohead track "I Froze Up;" and another Radiohead classic in "Everything in its Right Place," which I'm sad I missed.)

Immediately following, the band took the stage again with the creepy, dancy Radiohead B-side "Paperbag Writer," then launched into "Judge, Jury, and Executioner," which Yorke called the group's first original song when they debuted it last fall. AfP closed with two new band songs, the bouncy "Hollow Earth," and jam session "Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses," each of which sounded like funkier, fuller versions of Eraser material, similar to "Judge, Jury." (The band's encore setlist was the same both nights.)
As far as I'm concerned, Yorke is three-for-three, considering Radiohead, an impressive solo debut, and now, an exciting handful of new Atoms for Peace songs all under his belt. Exploring an opportunity to further stretch his creative muscles can only be a good thing for his full-time gig . . . y'know, fronting the World's Best Band.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Can't beat that price, amirite?

Chicago indie rockers Sleeping at Last are offering their new album as a free download today and tomorrow at NoiseTrade.

Storyboards, the duo's fourth LP, continues in the orchestral leanings of their last record, Keep No Score, by featuring string arrangements from Van Dyke Parks, but is more compositionally experimental - due, in part, to contributions from Joanna Newsom band member Ryan Francesconi.

The band kicked off their spring tour last week.

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