#eCom

Ads on Tumblr: Is Nowhere Safe?
November 17, 2016 1:18 pm

Earlier this summer, Tumblr, the common blog of choice for painfully hip and melancholy teens, decided to dip their toes into the realm of commercializing their user base by enabling the option of slathering ads site wide. The move allows for Tumblr users themselves to monetize their blogging hobby by running their own personal ads and allows sites like Yahoo to run advertisements. The decision came on the heels of Verizon purchasing Yahoo earlier this summer, with Yahoo itself having purchased Tumblr in the summer of 2013.

The practical decision was at first met with the usual reaction from those who are used to being provided a service with little to no catch: derision. But it hasn’t been all bad; Tumblr allows users to switch off the ads in their settings menu, a step that is more about maintaining good will with their user base than becoming money hungry. The ability to switch off ads usually comes at a price to the everyday consumer, most commonly in the form of a premium account.

The decision came shortly after one of the largest internet mergers in its history. Verizon added the social media website to their ever growing list of content sites that it has steadily consumed over the years. As Tumblr has been traditionally regarded as a bastion for those who feel cast aside or otherwise different than mainstream internet consumers, the strategy from Verizon, as harmless as it may seem, opens the door for future changes in a capitalistic direction. Hence the reason why internet activists fight so hard to keep what privacy rights they are given; once begun, it’s a slippery slope.

Monetizing previously free service websites has always been a compulsory first step after a previously agreed amount of time. Popular sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit made the jump long ago, sacrificing a small piece of community goodwill in order to serve the very concrete problems and issues that face internet companies. With the ease and familiarity that users navigate the web, it can often come as a shock to find things not only different, but to be thought of as the product instead of the consumer. It’s within that discomfort where a company can move in one of two different directions: to either appeases the users or appease the board and/or the stockholders. It takes a brave spirit to attempt both and time will tell whether Tumblr can keep its outsider shine amongst the gold.

SPIDER ROBOT BY LOCKHEED MARTIN REPAIRS HOLES IN AIRSHIPS
October 21, 2016 5:41 pm

Determining whether there are punctured areas in the body of an airship takes time, attention, and there is always the possibility of human error.  Now, Skunk Works, the advanced development programs division of the aerospace technology company Lockheed Martin, has developed a robot that can locate and repair pinholes on an airship.

Dubbed SPIDER, the robot is autonomous, and can complete scans of an airship while the craft is still being assembled. According to the video released by Lockheed Martin introducing SPIDER, multiple robots can be deployed on an airship at the same time, increasing the speed that pinholes can be located and repaired.

Although finding pinholes and repairing them is its primary function, SPIDER does not stop there. The robot notifies the maintenance team when it has found a hole and repaired it, and sends data back to the central processing station so the information can be reviewed. The machine is composed of two magnetically connected components. One half of the robot is on the outside of the airship, and the other half is on the inside.

Although SPIDER significantly cuts down on the potential for human error, there is still the possibility of machine error. What would happen if SPIDER was to malfunction? Or be unable to repair a pinhole?  Skunk Works’ solution is that other SPIDER bots that are monitoring the same airship can be re-routed with adjusted search patterns to target the hole that the initial robot failed to repair. 

SPIDER is an example of the automation of tasks by machines, both to decrease the probability of making a mistake, and increase the speed at which a task can be completed. Additionally, having SPIDER allows the airship maintenance team to focus on more tasks, and devote more attention to making the craft ready for flight. 

Featured Image source – New Atlas, Lockheed Martin 

Featured Video source – LockheedMartinVideos

TWIN ATLANTIC TAKES EUROPE
October 17, 2016 9:00 am

Twin Atlantic seem to be celebrating the release of their album GLA by tearing Europe to shreds. After a summer spent playing festivals including Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, and T in the Park, the band is taking the show on the road with dates in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and a whole ton of other places.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS exchanged some transatlantic emails with drummer Craig Kneale and got the scoop on the creation of GLA, and the finer points of living in Glasgow.

I was in Glasgow over the summer, and did a number of things that are probably considered “touristy”. What do you think visitors to Glasgow generally miss?
Glasgow has a thriving arts scene, and I suppose you would miss that if you didn’t dig a little deeper below the surface. The four compass points of the city (East/West/South/North) are all so different from each other too – you won’t get the full picture unless you experience a little bit of each of them.

King Tut’s is a pretty well-known music venue in Glasgow. What others do you like for seeing live music?
Well, not being biased – but Barrowlands is one of the greatest venues in the world. I’ve never seen a bad show there – there’s something in that room that creates an electric atmosphere between the performer and the crowd that’s really special.

You’ve performed at a number of music festivals, as well as some smaller venues. Do you prefer one over the other?
I think you can’t really appreciate one without the other. I suppose that our own shows are always more special to us – but it’s great getting to spend the summer playing festivals when the pressure is off a little. When it’s your own show and people have paid to see you, there’s more at stake as you don’t want to let people down.

Are there any bands/musicians in Glasgow you feel deserve more attention?
I’m a little out of the loop on music in Glasgow at the moment, but I really like Holy Esque. I think they’re already on their way up, but even the biggest bands in the world could do with more attention I guess.

GLA, your new album, has a much heavier sound than your previous releases. Did something make you want to create a less pop-sounding album?
It kind of naturally happened when the album was being written. Perhaps subconsciously the songs turn out heavier as there were moments on the last album where we weren’t all fully attached to the songs. GLA seemed to be much easier to record than the previous album – so perhaps it’s a more natural sound for us.

What music are you listening to currently?
I’m currently listening to a lot of Parquet Courts + Mac DeMarco. And I got the new Local Natives album this week which I really like.

You recorded GLA in Los Angeles, which is obviously very different from Glasgow. Is there anything you miss from your time there that you can’t do at home?
Well, the sun is out constantly so you don’t have to plan to do things dependent on weather like you do in Glasgow. Being able to drive to a beach and look at the ocean is something I don’t think I would get bored of either.

What advice would you give a band who are just entering the music business?
Just throw everything at it and always go with your instinct.

Is there anything you were surprised by when Twin Atlantic was first starting out?
Hmmm, not really. Everything at the start of this band was a learning curve for the 4 of us so we kind of tackled everything together. We started right at the very bottom so we were kind of prepared for most steps by the time we got to them.

Are you planning any shows in New York?
I really hope so. It’s one of our favorite cities, and one we’d love to come to more. I think there are plans to get over early next year, so hopefully it all works out.

WATSKY’S x INFINITY HARKS BACK TO SLAM-POETRY DAYS
October 7, 2016 9:30 am

On  August 29, 2016, George Watsky, a rapper, poet and artist, released his studio-album x Infinity.  This marks the first studio release by Watsky since his 2014 studio-album All You Can Do.

In accordance with his typical flair, Watsky announced that with the release of x Inifinity, he will be going on tour across the United States, doing stops and shows for fans along the way. 

In a recent YouTube video titled, “New Watsky Album, Tour + Goodbye Subaru,” Watsky said that he will be embarking on this venture in his own Subaru, which was popularized in several of his previous music videos, and at the end of the tour he will be giving away the car to one lucky winner.  The people with the chance to win the car are fans who preordered x Infinity that live in North America.

x Infinity highlights Watsky’s cascading raps, and interweaving lyrics that are reminiscent of his days as a slam-poet. In tracks like “Pink Lemonade,” Watsky draws on heavy-hitting, aggressive vocals tonalities, paired with a synth rooted melodies and backing bass. In tracks like  “Love Letters” and “Talking to Myself” Watsky pulls piano elements, and more traditional tonal progressions, which make the album feel very rooted in hip-hop.

All in all, x Infinity echoes the best aspect about Watsky; the music is unpredictable.  You can’t go into x Infinity with expectations, because each track is different from the one that precedes it.   

Listening to x Infinity I found myself thinking about Watsky’s slam poetry days, and pieces like “Drunk Text Message to God.” x Infinity displays the same creative spirit. Watsky is able to touch on some serious topics, in a lighthearted and interesting atmosphere.

Featured Image Source – Gage Skidmore 

EX REYES: GREAT TIMING
October 3, 2016 10:24 am

You’re probably familiar with Ex Reyes and don’t even realize it. Known to friends as Mikey Hart, the accomplished musician has worked with artists including Mitchell Yoshida of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Albert Hammond Jr., and has just began a tour with How To Dress Well where he will be producing 18 shows of the tour as well as performing with his own band. Jeez, Mikey. You’re making the rest of us look bad.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS caught Mikey just before he left on tour and had a nice chat about his debut album as Ex Reyes, Mardi Gras, and the practice of “Mitchelling”.

You’re getting ready to put out your first solo release. Was there anything you learned during its production?
I think my favorite records are just a reflection of a moment, like a photograph, so I tend to kind of fall in love with recordings all along the way. Some of the songs on the upcoming EP have parts that were recorded like 5 years ago, forgotten, and then rediscovered.

So producing, playing, writing music, is just a constantly moving process and I like just being along for the ride and trying to be available whenever something inspiring happens, cause you definitely can’t force that…you can count on it happening, but you have to catch it. I’ve been producing music with and for friends’ projects before this so from like, a technical perspective, I know how to operate the machinery.

You also collaborated on a number of songs with Mitchell Yoshida of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. What would you say he brought to those songs and the overall creative process?
Mitchell is an incredible musician and a wildly creative person—when he lived in NYC and was playing around on the scene, we’d use a term called “Mitchelling” which was basically accepting that he’s going to come in and completely improvise over the music, no fixed parts, but it’s gonna be amazing.

We started some of this music years ago with some other friends, with the idea to form a band. But everyone was too good at what they do and got busy so it turned from a band to like, recording session collaborations when we could get that to happen. Usually, Mitchell would roll through and I’d open up a session and we’d just identify one thing to work on and carve out, and then set to it…so like, I spent a while with Mitchell playing with sounds and tracks and ideas before I ever really figured out how I wanted to sing over it or write over it.

How much input did you have in the creation of your video for “Bad Timing”?
Haha, damn—I pretty much did that from top to bottom, with the help of friends in Nola who are super sick at what they do. I treat Mardi Gras as my one like “holy holiday” that I ask off for, but last year I waited too long to get the tickets so I had to stay for a pretty long time on either side of Mardi Gras day to not spend a fortune.

So I was like, I really want to make a video with that extra time. The initial idea was to go out to a place called the Almonaster dump, which is a massive dump area in New Orleans East that we used to pass going to our grandma’s house, and just blow up a trashed car to kind of exhibit like, you can still do something crazy like that in New Orleans. And then I wanted to mix that idea with an impression of detachment, which is where the parade stuff came in. Like what if you present Mardi Gras festivities as sort of an inevitable background to whatever foreground experience is much bigger? I was thinking of a way to kind of express my bewilderment or exasperation with social inequality, inevitable racism, sexism, homophobia…I can’t tell if the past couple years have been particularly insane, or if me/society is just becoming more aware of the insanity in marginalized communities, the under-publicized social strata.

But anyway, I drove around for a couple of weeks trying to find a car to blow up and the marching band you see in the video is the incredible Edna Karr Marching Band. My friend Akasha Rabut, a brilliant photographer from New Orleans, has been doing a photo project with Edna Karr so they were kind enough to invite us to shoot at their school and on their buses as they prepared for the NOMTOC parade (which is the one you see in the video).

Is your upcoming tour with How To Dress Well your most extensive tour yet?
Without a doubt. It’s also particularly nuts for me cause I’m leading my band and I’m also leading How to Dress Well. So there’s just a massive to do list and I try and chip away at the old ice sculpture a little bit every day until I get a beautiful, life size, frozen sculpture of a successful tour!

Real talk, I’m super excited. Ex Reyes has only played small shows in New York in kind of DIY spaces so it will be an insane and lovely experience to play these rooms and play for Tom’s incredible audience.

Is this arrangement allowing you to do anything you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t had the resources to do until this point?
Maybe this is the same answer as above…I think the main thing is it’s allowing Ex Reyes to get in front of people in all these cities and show them what we’re about, which is such a fucking cool opportunity for a new band.

Also everyone in Ex Reyes live band is like next level talented so I can’t wait to take that level of musicianship to these stages and show off how awesome the band is!

What have you learned from performing with more established musicians like Albert Hammond Jr. and The Cranberries?
There’s literally so much I’ve learned from them, and more yet to learn. I always joke with Albert that he taught me to rock again cause I spent so many years kind of playing background music or indie rock, you get into this performance style of like “oh, sorry we’re here playing live music”. Maybe part of me still feels that way, but Albert showed me the value of a good fucking guitar stance and how to own a guitar solo like it’ll never go out of style.

Playing with bands, I feel like musicians playing instruments may go in and out of style or feasibility based on demand, but it will always communicate to people in a space when there’s risk involved. Like, you’re up there performing because there’s a risk that it could all go to complete shit and you’re supposed to be good at keeping it from going to shit. I learn something from the people I’m on tour with whatever size, really. Cause you become sort of a momentary family unit, and it doesn’t take long before you’re really just willing to talk about whatever.

Your Facebook page lists your location as “New York City/New Orleans/there too”. Have you lived many places?
It’s more like, I’ve spent long stretches of time not really living in a place. I’ve been touring for so many years now, I never really get used to staying put. Kinda makes me nervous after 2-3 days of being back. Before touring I was traveling around playing music on the street. But my stuff and my psyche always orbit around New Orleans or New York. I’ve only really taken up residence in those two places, and Accra, Ghana.

New York has so many great venues. Do you have a favorite?
I think my favorite venue will always be Zebulon, RIP, because of the fearless booking and laid back vibe. That vibe is hard to find nowadays.

Also Bowery/Music Hall cause the sound is always so incredible and the staff is rad. Shout out to Winston, the security guard who works the backstage stairwell! Dude is rad. We talked about Isaac Hayes for a while once and now it’s just what we talk about when I see him. Just like “Hey! Hot buttered soul! Alright man, peace!”

Do you have any fond memories of Webster Hall, where you’ll be playing with How To Dress Well?
I think this is a funny question because I remember the days of “amateur strip night” at Webster Hall. I lived in the neighborhood then—I never went—but the scene outside on the street was always pretty unhinged.

But, yes. I’ve played Webster a few times and it’s always felt like a milestone—I’ve been playing music in NYC a little while now so each time you go a rung up on the venue capacity, it feels exciting…I remember playing a sold out show with Bleachers at Webster just months after playing to 10 people there with my friend’s band, I remember playing there with Albert in the Marlin Room cause it was our first show as a band and it was insane to book a New York show as your first.

But more than those I think I really have a fond memory of riding my bike back from the beach in 2005 and going straight to a Lightning Bolt/Boredoms with 3 drummers show and just being super sun burned, sandy, and stoned and wiling out so very hard. Stuff like that used to happen more often, damn.

What’s your favorite place in New York to get pizza?
The nearest place. Unless I’m trying to show off, then it’s DiFara’s forever always.

Check out tour dates here, and there are a lot of stops! Find one near you and see what makes them so amazing.

HOW MANY OF THESE ICONIC BANDS SHIRTS ARE WORTH THEIR HYPE?
September 30, 2016 2:20 am

The culture surrounding band shirts is so fucking masturbatorial. I know this first hand, since I own roughly 20-30 of them. As someone who spends far too much time obsessing over both music and sports, I can’t help but notice the similar satisfaction each respective fan base takes in showing off how passionate with specific articles of clothing. For sports fans, it’s a jersey. For music fans, it’s a band shirt. I’ve seen 20 minute long interactions heavy on mutual admiration over both of these items at a game or a concert countless times. It’s like a secret handshake for these people.

Again, I am part of this very snobbish problem. I proudly trot out my Darko Milicic jersey as often as possible in public. People need to know that I know about the Human Victory Cigar. And as a teen, I found a rinky dink website that allowed me to slap a .jpg of a Simpsonized Sonic Youth onto a t-shirt that they then gladly pressed for me. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than when somebody jealously squees “where did you get that?!?!” at me. Might be why all my relationships never last over a month, who knows.

Because this is the type of monster I am, my standards for this subset of fashion is absurdly high. Specifically band tees, since they’re the more commonly worn item. Some are perfect. Others are probably more useful as food for fire. Others, however, reach a rare air of ubiquity that transcend music taste altogether. The design strikes such a cord that people who might not have ever heard a song by a band will proudly wear the shirt.

Whether or not that’s a bad thing is an entirely different discussion that really only means anything to the most annoying realms of my personality. What I want to try to figure out is how many of these iconic shirts are actually worth the hubbub from a design standpoint. Are these shirts worth their hype? Well, let me put my Hat of Objective Judgement on and discuss.

 

1) Johnny Cash’s Middle Finger Shirt

 

What a rebel! Boy, oh boy, Johnny Cash was sure a troublemaker back in his day, wasn’t he? A middle finger? My word, what a provocateur! The sheer amount of rebellion it takes to pose in front of a camera with all but Mr. Middle Finger (the most important of all fingers) folded down is unheard of. Not enough artists flip off photographers nowadays! That’s what’s wrong with today’s music. Man, we need more dirtbags like Johnny around, man. Ugh, I’m done pretending that this shirt is cool in any way or that Johnny Cash makes enjoyable music.

NOT WORTH THE HYPE.

 

2) Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures Shirt

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While there’ve been a myriad of spins on the original design recently, from Wu-Tang to Mickey Mouse, oddly enough, nothing can beat the original. It’s a beautifully simplistic design that’s gotten more and more popular over the years. I can never see myself getting tired of seeing it.

WORTH THE HYPE

 

3) Metallica’s Master of Puppets Shirt

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Considering that the breed of YouTube commenter most likely to post a homophobic slur on a Justin Bieber video tends to have a Heavy Metal album cover as their their picture, it tickled me beyond belief when the Beebz started incorporating those bands’ shirts into his daily fashion. Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden, all of them Biebered. He even copied Iron Maiden’s font for his latest tour’s merch. The trend’s caught on like wildfire. These shirts are all over places like Urban Outfitters and H&M now. It’s kind of impossible to explain exactly how or why it happened, but I’m so over the moon with the fact that it did.

WORTH THE HYPE

 

4) Rolling Stones Tongue Shirt

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Look at this stupid fucking logo. This dumb, overly glossy piece of pop-art trash is going to wind up outliving each member of the Rolling Stones themselves. It remains a mystery to me why anyone would want to have some hornily panting tongue smack dab on the middle of their chest, but this is the America that we live in today.

NOT WORTH THE HYPE

 

5) Black Flag Logo Shirt

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Even more than the Unknown Pleasures tee, this one has had so many parodies to it. And it’s more minimal than Joy Division’s design, too! It’s just the band’s name with a bunch of skinny rectangles sloppily lined up. There’s no reason why this should be so exceptional, but it is. It’s basically the shirt every Punk band wishes they could call their own.

WORTH THE HYPE

 

6) Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon

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Listen, I don’t really want to spend too much time on this one. It’s fine, okay? I get it, rainbow on one end, no rainbow on the other. Very symbolic. Is symbolic the right word to use there? I really don’t care enough. For me, this shirt screams ‘Guy In His 40s Who Buys All His Graphic Tees At The Gap’.

IT’S FINE, WHO CARES.

 

7) RUN-DMC Shirt

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For some odd reason, Run-DMC is one of the few rap outfits that currently have a truly exception shirt to call their own. I’m not really sure why that’s been the case, but considering how awesome the merch from guys like Kanye, Drake and Tyler, The Creator have looked the past few years, that should be changing real soon. For now, though, this one remains the genre’s gold standard.

WORTH THE HYPE

 

8) Led Zeppelin’s Naked Angel Shirt

Something about a naked angel who appears to be writhing in agony just seems to resonate with a bunch of folks. Whenever I see this dumb angel, I just want to shout “GET OVER IT, STUPID ANGEL!!!” at it. Then I realize I’d be shouting this at someone’s chest and that isn’t really cool. The odd thing is, I do get it on some strange level. Like, when I see this angel being all histrionic, it does sort of epitomize the bombast of Led Zeppelin’s music. No part of me ever wants to wear this shirt, but I understand the appeal.

MEDIOCRE ENOUGH TO BE WORTHY OF SOME HYPE

 

9) Misfits Logo Shirt

 

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Years before I heard a single note come out of Glenn Danzig’s mouth, I was introduced to this shirt. I had no idea if Misfits was a band, a clothing brand, or some horror movie I’ve never seen before. The imagery always stuck with me, though. Once I finally started listening to this legendary band, I was obviously more than pleased, but I still think what Misfits is most known for is this fucking shirt. It’s amazing. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this shirt’s outsold their entire catalogue 10 times over. Everybody has this shirt. And with good reason, too.

WORTH THE HYPE.

 

Aaaaand that’ll be it for this installment of ‘Is This Band Shirt Worth The Hype?’ As you can see, the color black reigns supreme in the iconic band shirt world. Or maybe it doesn’t, and that’s simply a byproduct of my darkness bias coming through. There were a few other shirts I was considering adding to this list, but no other seemed as much of a no-brainer as these did. Perhaps a sequel is in order. 

THIS MONDO THING
September 26, 2016 9:59 am

At  the Mondo NYC music conference earlier this month, every conversation began the same way: “Sucks about CMJ, doesn’t it?” “Yeah, what do you think of this Mondo thing?”

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To be honest, I went into Mondo disappointed for various reasons; one, because it was not a rebirth of my favorite dance party, and two, because I was very much looking forward to (the currently defunct) CMJ. Though Mondo was created by Bobby Haber and Joanne Abbot Green, the pair sold the conference in 2012. Could Mondo hold a candle to CMJ, my favorite local music conference? And could it ever grow to compete with the behemoth that is SXSW?

ATYPICAL SOUNDS was lucky to grab a few minutes with Austin natives Kelly Barnes and Brian Cole of the band Darkbird (who put on an absolutely incredible Saturday-night show at Pianos), and get their opinion on Mondo vs potential-future-competitor SXSW:

Kelly: My feelings about SXSW from years ago were great, because it was aimed at getting newer artists like ourselves up and running, getting seen by people that can actually take bands to the next level, and now it’s Kanye West performing or Bruce Springsteen. And there’s thousands and thousands of people coming to see that.

It’s just becoming this huge shit show, [which] is probably the best way to put it. And it’s just over-saturated. So it kind of lost its focus. I think if Mondo were to grow into what SXSW was…[SXSW] did have a time, and it peaked, and it was something really great and useful.

Brian: SXSW has turned into a monster that can barely contain itself. It’s having issues keeping itself together because it’s so big now. There’s lots of corporations involved now, like it’s “Lady Gaga on the Doritos stage”, and it’s not really about getting bands exposure, getting them in contact. It’s about the industry and the bands, giving them a place to meet, and that’s what I would like to see Mondo do. And I think they’re starting on the right foot. I went to a couple panels yesterday, and it was inspiring.

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Kelly: The business has changed so much. It’s not like someone sees your show and is like, “Come on, baby. Let’s make you a star!” Everyone’s kind of throwing their hands up in the air like “How does this work?”.

When [music] is something you do to try to make a living, it’s really frustrating – you’ve got the talent, you have all these things you want to do. But how do you do it? How do you get there? How do you get your music in the right hands? How do you get someone to listen to it? And maybe these conferences give you some tools and ideas that maybe you haven’t thought about. And you feel like you’re learning something very valuable. There’s so many question marks about how to do it anymore. It’s frustrating.

Brian: One aspect that I like about Mondo is they’re bringing in new technology, as well. The music industry is changing because of new technologies. Nobody buys CDs anymore. Nobody has the attention span to listen to a full album.

Kelly: Record deals from big labels aren’t worth anything anymore. Now it’s independent labels, or people are DIY-ing everything. But it’s possible that way. Here, you’re learning about how to utilize technology.

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The utilization of technology was an important topic throughout panel discussions at Mondo, which included talks called Why Can’t Music Apps Get Funding? and Digital Entertainment and Content. The honesty of many of the panelists was refreshing and informative. However, it was jarring to watch these presenters, some of whom with 20+ years of experience in the music industry, insinuating they don’t really know what’s going to happen with the music industry since file sharing essentially wiped them out. Then again, no one should have had to pay $20 for a CD in the first place, so they kind of had it coming. And there seems to be a lot of freedom right now to figure out what the “next big thing” in the music industry will be, so that’s at least one positive to come out of the Wild West the industry has become.

Mondo featured 3 days of panel talks, with 5 days of music showcases happening at venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. The showcases were not all day and night (as in CMJ), but happened only at night after the panel talks. While conferences like CMJ and SXSW thrive on their ability to offer band exposure from constant showcases throughout, Mondo limited this time by keeping the showcases nightly. Spreading the showcases out between Manhattan and Brooklyn also limited the number of showcases that could be seen in one night, with attendees being forced to choose one borough over another.

Ultimately, for their first year, Mondo made a pretty decent go of things. Having corresponded with the organizers, it’s clear they’re looking to grow and improve, and are doing so through open communication with attendees. Because of their willingness to “give the people what they want”, Mondo could grow into a strong contender in music conferences in the coming years. I’m looking forward to seeing that happen.

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SNOWDEN DESIGNS SMARTPHONE CASE THAT DETECTS HARMFUL MALWARE
September 23, 2016 9:18 am

According to a projection by Statista, the number of people using smartphones worldwide in 2016 is expected to be nearly 2.08 billion.  While the advantages of smartphones are numerous, they also present numerous opportunities for harmful attacks.

Malicious apps can transmit metadata to ad agencies, cyber criminals and identity thieves.  Hackers can access your phone’s native functions, such as the camera and voice-recorder.  These are merely a few examples.  There are numerous ways in which your phone can make your information vulnerable.  That said, there are several steps you can take to make your data more safe.

For example, recently Edward Snowden, and Andrew “Bunnie” Huang launched a malware detecting smartphone case, that can help protect your information and make you aware if your phone is at risk of unwanted surveillance.

In their paper titled “Against the Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance,Snowden and Huang discuss the implications of smartphone attacks with specific regard to journalists, stating that surveillance and access to metadata from unwanted third-parties “leaves journalists, activists, and rights workers in a position of vulnerability.” – Snowden, Huang 

Snowden and Huang developed an open-source tool called the introspection engine, to be attached to a phone and used to determine if the device is secure.

“As the project is run largely through volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget, it will proceed at a pace reflecting the practical limitations of donated time.” – Snowden, Huang

According to the article, Snowden and Huang plan to prototype throughout this year.  Although the introspection engine was designed specifically with regard to the iPhone, the processes involved could potentially be applied to other mobile devices. Snowden and Huang proposed that in the future these processes could be more quickly retrofitted for other operating systems.

References: Andrew ‘bunnie’ Huang, Edward Snowden.  “Against the Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance.”  PubPub, (2016)

Featured Image Source – Flickr

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: AVI JACOB IS THE PERFECT MODEST MAN
September 1, 2016 12:05 am

Summer’s over people. Get those lively synth tunes about not letting the night escape us out of my face. The season of hibernation is upon us, and to help us soundtrack the cyclical death of all leaves is Avi Jacob. Be appreciative.

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Jacob’s latest single, “Pickup Truck, is an Americana wet dream from beginning to end. You’ve got a sweet acoustic guitar being masterfully plucked throughout, pickup trucks, lyrics alluding to a father being disappointed in his son. These are the pillars of our great country, and Jacob builds a beautiful house of music with them as his supporting base. This is the environment Jacob is most comfortable with.

Just watch the video of him performing “Modest Man below. It’s just him wailing on his guitar in the woods as he sings his heart out. There probably isn’t another person around for miles. What’s truly great about the video is how authentically homemade it is. No hi-def camera showing close up shots of him from all different angles, no detailed cinematography of the surrounding elements either. It’s simply a camera on a tripod set up on the back porch filming Avi Jacob perform. That’s it.

The idea of a truly genuine artist feels somewhat out of place in 2016. Every persona, as well as every song, tends to get workshopped ad nauseum. The true persona is there at the core, but everything built around him or her are half-truths and hyperbole. It obviously makes for great entertainment, but it’s always bittersweet realizing that the person making such human and relatable art isn’t actually relatable (or even that human) in real life whatsoever. However, every line that Jacob powers out of his soul affirms that what’s being said is 100% him.

Because of this, Avi Jacob doesn’t have the wildest of web presences. He has a total of 79 tweets. His Facebook is only used to promote his performances. And from what it looks like, his website doesn’t even work. It’s doubtful that any of this bothers him though. Because it genuinely seems as though he is an actual rogue folk music folk tale who jumps from town to town by trading a song for a bed and some hot supper.

Maybe it’s all just a ruse and he’s secretly been a millionaire method actor researching for his next role this whole time. Inside Llewyn Davis desperately needs a sequel, so it would make sense. Other than that scenario, Avi Jacob is most likely the real deal that Folk music needs right now. His voice is passionate and his songs are beautifully heartbreaking. What you see is wholeheartedly what you get.

HOT PANDA: GOOD POP, BAD POP
August 24, 2016 12:06 am

 

Hot, inescapable energy comes charges through some early distortion and coy guitar strumming on “Other Spooky Is the leadoff track to Hot Panda’s 4th studio album, Bad Pop. But once Chris Connelly’s high pitched hollerings kick-in, everything just snowballs from there.

The song’s pace kicks into a completely frantic pace towards the halfway mark, and by that time, a spookier, modulated voice spelling out the title of the song is introduced. Even before this, the title made absolutely no sense. This idea really just doubled down on the nonsense.  As Bad Pop went on, it seemed as though doubling down on nonsense was, in many ways, all part of the Hot Panda charm. Choosing Hot Panda as a name in the first place evokes a sort of inherent silliness.

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There are certainly moments of normalcy to be appreciated on the record, though. Time-travelling Psych-Pop tunes like “Golden Arch are as straightforward and clean cut as they come. The sound is made for the Ed Sullivan show as teens bop their heads back and forth like a newton’s cradle made of skulls. And “On Your Own” provides easily the most tender moment Bad Pop has to offer.

It’s certainly more fun when they decide to embrace their weirdness, though. The perfect example of this being “Linda Ronstadt, a track built on the quirky concept of paying homage to the legendary singer. The quirk also gets a big boost from the charmingly chirpy backing vocals from bassist Catherine Hiltz, whose voice clashes with Connelly’s in a way that makes for a captivating listen.

In an Occam’s razor type of inevitability, however, the true standout here is of course “Bad Pop, the album’s titular track. Not only do their sugar rushed odd ballerey stand out, the lyrics are funny enough to cause some unexpected laughter on a crowded train. An act that still leads to stares from people, even though it should be completely normalized at this point. Regardless, it’s really great hearing Connelly’s maudlin self-awareness that this cheery sounding ditty could easily be used to sling sneakers in a year’s time. I think that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy? I don’t fucking know, I failed psych class.

As Hot Panda powered through their 10 song LP, they displayed a hodgepodge of different ideas. The heavy, fun Power-Pop somehow blends seamlessly with their more psychedelic and jammy moments. It’s all squeezed under their umbrella of strange in Totoro fashion, who wasn’t exactly a panda, but they can’t be too far separated in the animal kingdom.