Spotify

FREE MUSIC IS AWESOME, SHORTCHANGING ARTISTS IS STILL INCREDIBLY LAME
June 24, 2016 2:24 pm

For many of us that have grown up with the internet, it’s hard to imagine a world where music and film and games and literature aren’t readily available–for free–somewhere on the internet.

The internet has enabled us to access to whatever music we want, whenever we want, wherever we want–but, contrary to popular belief, this unlimited accessibility doesn’t come without a cost.

Instead, we’re shortchanging the artists, and that’s incredibly lame.

A rockstar-studded force of industry top-brass has assembled in an effort to urge Congress to reform the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to provide new standards of transparency in calculating royalties. Their primary culprit?  YouTube.

The petition, which has amassed 186 signatures and counting, is comprised of top-performing artists from across a wide span of contemporary genres, such as heavyweights like Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Jack White, and U2. The DMCA is a comprehensive set of policies designed to revamp our copyright protections for the digital age–or in theory at least. The petition asserts:

The law was written and passed in an era that is technologically out-of-date… compared to the era in which we live.  It has allowed major tech companies to grow and generate huge profits by creating ease of use for consumers to carry almost every recorded song in history their pocket via smartphone, while songwriters’ and artists’ earnings continue to diminish.

youtubeYouTube in particular shields itself through the ‘safe harbor’ provision–which prevents the company from being punished for copyright infringement so long as they respond to takedown notices. However, DMCA lacks the teeth to allow individual artists–or even large groups of artists in the case of Universal Music Group–to fight larger stakeholders such as Apple or YouTube’s parent company, Google.

In the end, the DMCA appears to be most effective at punishing individual content publishers for posting videos of the their cats dancing to Beyonce’s newest single without first obtaining a license. Big time criminals.

YouTube meanwhile brings in revenue streams from all of its videos–and because it’s impossible to submit takedown notices for every unlicensed video–the artists end up with nothing in their pockets, while YouTube continues to bring in large profits, without being held to a higher standard of transparency.

On The other hand, Do we really need to vilify every tech firm that offers a music sharing service simply because they figured out the rules of the game faster than the rest of the music industry could catch up?

YouTube needs to change it’s model–but it’s a complex issue. Even if there was a more transparent model, one that allocated youtube-petitionroyalties based on a clearly known quantity of videos being watched or music being streamed at any given time, the process of dispersing royalties would still have to go through several layers–including major record label companies–before trickling back down to the artists.

Some have argued that if these streaming services can get it right, the music industry might be able to to convince our generation that its time to pay up.

On top of there being a strict standard of transparency, artists also need to arm themselves with more information regarding the royalties–a process that many artists are oblivious to so they can better judge their own recording contracts.

We’re really spoiled. Back in the day in order to listen to a new album, you didn’t get to just click a button and instantly listen to the new song. You had to get up, put clothes on, and go to the nearest record store, hand over money, buy a giant plastic disk in a cardboard sleeve, take it all the way back home, and place that giant wobbly disc on a spinning rubber wheel, dangle a fragile metal pin over it just so, as to cause the pin to scratch the plastic disc at 78 rotations per minute, so the new song you desired to hear 4 hours earlier would play. Heavens forbid that fragile metal pin snapped, or your power went out, or someone walked across the room during a good part of a song.

So at the very least, we can do our part to appreciate the convenience technology has provided us–that doesn’t mean never stream free music again, or never burn your friends a playlist of your favorite songs–that’s a ridiculous standard to try and achieve. It just means being aware of the obstacles facing new artists. It also means supporting new artists by, when you can afford it, purchasing some music (YASSOU ; TOW3RS ; IDGY) and giving yourself a giant pat on the back.

At ATYPICALSOUNDS, we’re dedicated to emerging artists–but more than ever, it’s really tough to make a living playing music. Too many stakeholders are taking too big of a cut–and unless we can established new standards of transparency, the grave reality is that artists might no longer be able to call their passion, their profession.

Let’s not let it get to that point.

OLIGARCHS OF THE MUSIC STREAMING WARS
June 15, 2016 12:24 pm

If there’s a recurring theme for America in 2016, it’s that oligarchs are having great success at being seen as a champion of the people. They never are, but hey, keep on lauding them for their savvy marketing in conversation because you read too much Chuck Klosterman and want to be known as the ‘nuanced thinker’ in your shitbox group of friends.

Oligarchs have been trying to be fun and relatable pals who enjoy grabbing brewskis at BDubs with us kids for a while. Essentially, that’s the point of pandering advertising: to make it seem as though Company X knows what Person Y is going through, which is why they’d be flat out dumb if they didn’t buy Product Z. Done well and in moderation, it’s a fine and necessary evil that pays for a lot of stuff we all adore. But now that these multi-million/billion dollar companies have caught wind to the vomit-inducing ‘Brand Culture’ sweeping the nation, while living within our most prized possessions in app and website form, they’ve gone further and further into the fiery fissure of contrived relatability to an embarrassing extent.

This is what makes the brunt of music-based arguments that have fans so petulant now. We’re all at the whim of a few megalomaniacs who control an industry that’s become more about the middle-man than the artist and listener. As shown through the multiple instances over the past year, fans weren’t even able to listen to their favorite artist’s newest material without their allegiance to the correct middle-man in the form of a streaming service.

Tidal and Apple Music are both attempting to convey the image as the ‘artist friendly’ streaming provider. This angle is super ironic for Apple, considering that they’re one of the main reasons why album sales are where they are now, but it’s working for them regardless. Each had multiple albums released exclusively on their platform by A-List talent at this point, and each album has been as relevant and conversation-monopolizing as intended. All this, though, and Spotify still towers over their subscriber tally combined without a single exclusive release of their own.

Although Apple seems to be gaining ground, Spotify is currently sitting atop the streaming throne completely unbothered despite being completely untethered to any artist whatsoever. While being the most senior service of the three by a considerable margin helps with this count, it can’t go unnoticed that Spotify is completely bypassing musicians as a selling point to their music service.

Spotify has elected to focus on user experience, along with the sheer concept of music quantity being at the user’s disposal. It’s made the user completely forget that although they are now paying for their music, a concept that was thought to be doomed just a few years ago, they are still fucking over the artists they are listening to.

A great argument can be made that listeners do not deserve to have a platform so beneficial to them. Whether it’s illegally recording bands for the sake of bootlegging or risking the death of their computer for a free illegal download of the new Metallica album, fans have a lengthy history not caring if their favorite artist goes poor. By enabling this behavior, Spotify comes off as the less affable, capitalist hungry brother of Napster with a better legal team and the foresight to keep the record labels happy. After all, they’re an oligarch in the making now.

For a brief moment in time, I was sure Spotify would be the one to bring an end to the last standing major record label. That although they were still giving an insane amount of the royalty percentages to them, those half-penny checks would eventually prove to be too paltry for survival, thus closing up shop on unfair royalty payouts, leading Spotify to create a fairer split percentage with the artists themselves. Maybe Spotify would even open a record label in order to facilitate this. But as the history of any business sector would show you, the oligarchs do not crumble, they simply converge.

Just a few days ago, leaders from the three major labels met with a score of the more modern music hosting platforms to discuss streamlining royalty identification. What it seems like, from reading this report, is that basically anyone who’s even thought about starting a business in the music industry was invited to this thing. CD Baby? Tunecore? These names mean nothing to me…yet. But I think that’s the point- getting independent labels under the belt of the bug guys will probably prove to be incredibly beneficial in the long run. 

But one small note about the article: there seems to have been no artists there, except for a cellist by the name of Zoe Keating, who I’m sure plays the cello wonderfully. I’m not sure if there were any artists present to be able to establish their own desires for how their music gets distributed and at who’s and what cost, but it just goes to show how little any particular artist fits into the equation.

And no fans were there either. Not even a token one for good luck. Because despite an oligarch’s vociferous huffing and puffing about how much they love the people, they probably couldn’t give less of a shit about you.

recon

PALMAS: INTO THE VALLEY
February 22, 2016 11:39 pm

Friday night I went over to Union Pool to interview Palmas and see their show. I was first greeted by Matt Young (guitarist) and Kurt Cain (vocalist), and both greeted me with immense smiles and vibrant energy. Soon after, Pat Degan (drummer) and Eric Camarota (guitarist) joined passing jokes at each other as they approached. Within a minute of meeting Pat, he exclaims, “I just took the roughest shot of tequila of my life.” Lastly, came Adam Cantiello (guitarist) savagely stuffing his face with elote. Kurt jokingly yells at him, “There’s a lady present, geez, no shame.” OH, by the way, if you were wondering what elote is, it’s corn with mayonnaise and chili powder aka one of the best foods in the world….. but I digress.

Standing in a circle outside underneath a heat lamp, beers in hand, we begin the interview below.

How did you decide on the band name?

Kurt: So we chose the name Palmas… it’s hard to answer this because at the time we had a different name and we were changing our name and we were looking for something a little bit more representative of us, a little bit more summery feeling. Palmas means palms in Spanish. We also wanted to be a little bit mysterious. We didn’t want it to be a name where everyone would know what it meant right off the bat. I like certain band names that are a little bit elusive. It felt right for the music that we were playing it has a little exotic vibe—something not of the Philadelphia area where we’re from.

How did the band form?

Matt: We’ve all known each other for a very long time. We’ve all been in bands when we were younger and we all kind of knew of each other. Adam and I had just been talking for a while about being in a band and Eric and I were talking about working together in some capacity.

Kurt: We were all tired of making shitty music. So we wanted to make a good band.

Matt: I lived in California for a little bit when this kinda started happening and I moved back and we were like “hey, let’s do it, let’s start a band.” Adam knew Pat, I knew Kurt. Not to sound cliché but it really started out of the friendship of we all just really enjoy playing music let’s get together and play.

Pat (talking to Matt): I think you nailed that one.

I notice that Matt lives in Brooklyn but it says the band is from Philly– how do you guys make that work being from two different cities?

Matt:  Adam actually lives in California right now. Generally, I take the bus to Philly every weekend right now and I know it sounds kind of crazy but it works out. Adam was in Philadelphia up until five months ago. We’ve made it work. We send demos back and forth. We send Adam our ideas that we work on together and he gets to put in his input. He sends us ideas from where he’s at and work on his ideas.

 Kurt: Yeah you know it’s 2016. (pauses) Vote for Bernie.

Matt: Yeah we just use the internet to make it work, you know? We also just found ourselves in a fortunate situation before he moved that we had a lot of songs already written so it wasn’t like we were desperate for new material. He flies back to play with us.

*I turn to ask Adam if he ever plans to move back to Philly or New York and why he left to begin with. The boys heckle him and laugh saying, “Can we get this on the record?” “How long do you plan on this sham?”*

Adam: My day job brought me out there and my lady and I moved. I think that there’s a possibility that I can be back on the East Coast at some point.

Kurt: Or we all move to the West Coast.

Who are you guys listening to right now? Who are you inspired by musically?  

Kurt: Right now we’re listening to this band called Harumi.

Adam: It’s like 60’s psychedelic and kind of started the whole psych thing. Stumbled upon this band and we’ve been obsessed with it lately.

Matt: Kurt also got us all into The Zombies and they’re one of my favorite bands recently. We got this really amazing opportunity to meet them and interview them and it was like this whole thing. Now that we’re recording I keep finding myself saying well what would they do?

Kurt: I mean, obviously we love the Beach Boys. I mean every time we listen to something that they do it’s like we find something new. I think you can definitely hear that in some of the stuff we put out and some of the stuff we’re going to put out.

Matt: I mean, the Beach Boys they were just one of the original pioneers of experimenting in the studio, you know? They started out as like a bubble gum pop band and then they started doing different stuff and I think we’re super influenced by both aspects out of that—when they were a pop band and when they were experimental and started adding new sounds. I think we would really love to find a mix of that. Pop songs but with intricate arrangements, you know?

Anyone else?

Kurt: Nancy Sinatra definitely.

Matt: Also more modern bands. We all love The Growlers. They’re one of our favorite bands. La Luz is another one. And then also this may be an unconventional answer but we’re super influenced by Quentin Tarantino movies and his soundtracks. In some of his newer movies he has a lot of hip hop and R&B type stuff but in a lot of his movies it’s western meets surf. That’s kind of what we would love to accomplish.

Kurt: (jokingly) If you say Quentin Tarantino enough he’ll call us up.

palmas2

What made you come up with the album title To The Valley?

Adam: When we first started this band we were always bouncing ideas around. Band names, song names, and I feel like the things that come the most naturally are when we’re not stressing out over things kind of fits really well. To The Valley has a line in one of our songs that’s on the E.P Better Guy. I think it was just one of those things where it was tossed around and it seemed to fit and we all liked it. You know to have five guys agree on one thing right off the bat is (laughs) kind of monumental.

Kurt: At the time Adam was moving to California and it was kind of like… to the valley.

Adam: I live in Long Beach. You know, represent Snoop Dog, LBC.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

Matt: “Take My Hand” is definitely my favorite song.

Pat: “Take My Hand”

Adam: “Better Guy” or “I Want To Know.”

Kurt: “I Want To Know.”

What is your music making process?  

Matt:  I think there’s two ways that this happens. The first way is that either Adam, myself or Eric come up with a riff and then from there the song builds. Kurt has a lot of ideas on where to take it. Or the second option where Kurt as a singer comes in and is like I have this idea for a song and I’m thinking it should be this style and then we go from there.

Kurt: It comes from a riff most of the time.

Matt: Yeah, most of the time it’s like we were screwing around at home on guitar and I came up with this little part. What can we take from this little part to make a full song? I think we find in our process when we’re trying to write a song. I’m going to quote Eric here, Eric is just always like, “You know, when we try to force a song it doesn’t get written.” Or it gets written and we don’t like it. The ones that work for us are the ones that…it just comes out of nowhere. It just happens. Kurt will just start and singing and okay that’s it. You know?

palmas3Who is the main writer?

Matt: When it comes to the riff parts like I said it’s either Eric, Adam or myself and then Kurt takes that and really kind of sculpts the idea. It’s like we’re the colors and he’s like the paint brush.

Pat: And I’m Bob Ross.

Everyone dies with laughter.

Matt: And Pat throws down the beat. You know, it just works.

Pat: And it’s awesome.

What has been the biggest challenge for your band?

Matt: Recently, it would be Adam moving to California. I think we just want to continue to improve ourselves. We’ve been a band just about a year now and for some reason people are liking us. But that was easy to do because we started from blank there was nothing to compare to what we had previously done. Now it’s we’ve got to be better. We’re challenging ourselves.

Kurt: Also, I think what’s difficult is once you enter the industry, you know, all we want to do is write songs and put out music. We would put out music tomorrow if we could. But once you’re in the game it’s like you have to wait on different things and now we have direction from people and so it’s tough knowing which road. There’s a million roads you could take and it’s like what road do we take? I think that’s been our biggest challenge right now. We’re looking for the right people to guide us.

Matt: Also, Palmas, us as musicians it’s the five of us but Palmas as a team is like ten people now. It’s a lot of behind the scenes people wanting—their best intentions but sometimes the opinion isn’t the same. It’s all just trying to figure out how to work together. That’s been an adjustment for us.

Kurt: It’s new for us you know having management. But honestly, every step we’ve taken has been a step forward thus far so we just want to continue doing that.

Pat: There’s good work ethic. We have good work ethics.

Kurt: We push each other too.

Adam: And we make the most of my time here. We really pack the weekends and the time is spent rehearsing, writing or playing shows or doing interviews. You know, as much as we possibly can.

Kurt: The ultimate goal would be a full length record with a producer that we would just dream of working with. Which, right now as a young band you just don’t have the budget to do that. So our dream would be to have that budget and have the means to make the record of our dreams.

Palmas albumIf you were stuck on an island and only had one record to listen to what would it be?

Matt: Blue Hawaii– Elvis

Adam: The Beatles- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Pat: Doors Greatest Hits

Kurt: Beach Boys- Pet Sounds but I might go with Beach Boys Greatest Hits. I mean, you’re stuck on an island…you want to listen to that kind of music you know?

Eric: Creedence Clear Water Revival’s Greatest Hits

Matt: Can I change mine to NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 3?!

After the interview, we went inside so they could prepare for their show. In love with their personalities and passion, I was curious to hear their music and watch them perform. Once the show began I was in a trance, unable to stop swaying my body and moving my feet. Palmas was brilliant. These guys could have toured around with The Beatles or The Beach Boys if they wanted to. Their sound was perfect and their moves were mesmerizingly in sync. I heard a girl in the crowd say, “Oh wow. This is kind of like doo-wop” And she was right. These boys, born in the millennial generation, are bringing a taste of fresh nostalgia for a time we only dream about…a time that happens to mesh perfectly with the modern indie music world.

Needless to say, Palmas is just fucking awesome. I left the show feeling inspired and grateful for the chance to have met this hilarious, driven, inspired and original band. Obviously, any band that likes corn with mayonnaise and aggressive tequila shots is a win win in my book. Their new E.P Into The Valley is available now! I guarantee it will make you want to go out, get a vinyl record player and lay by the beach.

5 HUNKS FROM CHICAGO: WELCOME THE WALTERS
February 11, 2016 10:56 am

Hunk: noun | a handsome man with a well-developed physique.

The Walters are a Chicago 5-piece that posses two qualities: nostalgia for 1960s pop rock and a large dose of irony.  The self-described “hunks” have dubbed their sound “cardigan” rock.  In addition to an active touring schedule, they also claim to be a minor league baseball team that adheres to a strict exercise regimen, although any supporting evidence of such activity is lacking, or at least invisible on the internet. The album cover for their self-released Young Men EP, released this past December, displays The Walters in white turtlenecks, holding a giant blank check. It’s difficult to get passed their facade.  However, once you peel back the layers, you’re left with saccharine sweet vocal harmonies, stripped down guitar riffs, and a steady rhythm section underpinning tightly composed songs.

walters

Uplifting music can be a bit unnerving at times. At face value it’s difficult to take in overt happiness in contemporary music as genuine. Fact: the modern world is scary. With smart phones constantly buzzing in our pockets, and an endless stream of information assailing us from all angles, whether via social media or email, we’re exposed to tragic and disheartening news at an alarmingly rapid clip. With song titles like “Sweet Marie,” “Hunk Beach,” “Goodbye Baby,” and “I Love You So,” The Walters’ feel-good vibe harkens back to a time when music was much simpler.  Comparisons to Beach Boys as well as 50s ‘doo-wop’ groups are befittingly abound.  Although skepticism is understandable at first, their accessible and catchy music makes it easy to reminisce a bygone culture of innocence and naivety.

Surprisingly, The Walters are still unsigned. They’ve steadily picked up steam in their native Chicago, performing at a handful of local venues and events. Even more impressive, a handful of their tracks reached ‘viral’ status on Spotify, quite an accomplishment to boast for a relative unknown. It wouldn’t come as a shock if The Walters signed a recording contract in short order. They have the creative output, and a marketable brand to boot.

If you’d like to acquire some of their tunes, look no further than The Walters’ Bandcamp page. While it’s always a nice gesture to chip in, both of their EPs are available at “name your price.” They’ve also uploaded a slew of supplemental tracks onto their SoundCloud.

HELLO, SONGZA. GOODBYE, SONGZA.
January 13, 2016 6:00 am

Songza, an app that creates curated playlists, recently announced it would be incorporated into Google Play Music at the end of January. Users will be able to migrate their Songza accounts, favorite songs, and music history, with Google promising to faithfully recreate the Songza experience.

So what is Songza? To be honest, I hadn’t heard of it until recently. This is likely my own fault. Songza was recognized in Apple’s App Store Best of 2012. It has over 34 thousand total ratings, and averages 4.5 stars. Am I about to fall in love with an app that could change drastically in a week or two?

The app works by reading your phone’s internal calendar and clock, and using that information to curate playlists based on how it thinks you’re currently spending your time. The app guessed (correctly) that I was at work, but failed to offer me a playlist of songs concerning existential angst and very-early mid-life crises. What it did offer me was topics such as, “Having Fun at Work,” “Focusing (No Lyrics),” and “Boosting Your Energy.” Upon choosing the first option, I was shown another list of topics. One, called “Whistling While You Work: Sing-Alongs,” caught my eye. Have you ever worked with someone who whistled, or SANG, while you were trying to work? Does Songza exclusively employ trolls to create its playlists?

I was not prepared for where choosing this option would take me; first was a Celine Dion cover of the Eric Carmen power ballad “All By Myself”. Next was “Iris” by Goo Goo Dolls, and third was the theme song to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, sung by Peabo Bryson. There was also an option for “All-Star Rap-Alongs”, and a whole playlist dedicated to “Sing-Along Favorites from Disney Movies.”

Just. No.

If anything, the app is good for a laugh, or for driving with your friends on the way to something fun. Whereas apps like Pandora begin by working from criteria you give them, Songza seems to work by using the trial-and-error method. After Google takes over, I’m hoping the new infrastructure for Songza can make better suggestions for music; no one should have to be subjected to power ballads.

Songza 1

LIVE FROM BROOKLYN: HINDS RELEASE PARTY REVIEW + PHOTOS
January 8, 2016 6:08 pm

Hinds took over Palisades this past Wednesday for a raucous release party for their highly anticipated debut album, Leave Me Alone, out today via Mom + Pop Music.

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3590

The event was wildly creative and inclusive, featuring $3 tickets, cheap beer, karaoke, and an all-ages option for the youngsters. Fans (myself included) lined up around the block for the chance to catch the album live before the Madrid-based group hops across the pond for a three month European tour. In typical Hinds form, the band showcased their gratitude by joining their waiting audience in the freezing outdoors. The group ran up and down the line, stopping at various points to take photos, sign autographs, and even perform dance numbers to cheer up the grumps.

Once the frost settled and the band started, the wait was nothing but a thing of the past. High-energy tracks like “Trippy Gum” got the crowd dancing and set the free-spirited tone that flowed through the rest of the show. Strict set-lists and smooth transitions were thrown out the window in favor of a more playful style of performance filled with spontaneous action.

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3812

The girls weaved the old with the new, sounding refreshingly down-to-earth yet professional in every moment. Captivating songs like “Bamboo” and “San Diego” rendered a rowdy young crowd silent (if only for a moment) as the power of music prevailed. Crowd-pleasers like “Between Cans” and “Garden” were made all the more special by guest appearances from friends like Public Access TV’s John Eatherly and 2015 breakout star Shamir.

Repeatedly, guitarists/vocalists Carlotta Cosials and Anna García Perrote, told the audience this was not a concert but a party – like the ones your friends threw back home in their parents’ basements. Garage-punk nostalgia and wallflower empowerment manifested in an epic multi-round game of audience karaoke. Cosials, who used to MC a karaoke bar back in Madrid, encouraged fans to jump on stage and scream their hearts out to the Hinds catalog even if they didn’t know the words.

It was in the final moments of the event that you could really see just how special this band is. The performance was over. One band member was bed-ridden from jet lag and only a small group of fans remained. Yet the band kept working: meeting fans, taking pictures, signing merch, giving hugs, and wearing huge smiles on their faces the whole time. This was no ordinary concert. It was an epic party. Those who attended will be grateful they did when this band hits it big in 2016.

Pick up your copy of Leave Me Alone over at iTunes or stream it over at Spotify.

All photos by Julia Drummond (Tumblr/Instagram)

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3800

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3784

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3762

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3735

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3647

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3619

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3558

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3536

 

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3454

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3448

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3445

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3426

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3389

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3784

 

Hinds_Palisades_1.6.16_JuliaDrummond_for_AtypicalSounds-3369

KAPTAN: GLITTER, NOT QUITE GOLD
January 6, 2016 3:44 pm

When Andres Gaos moved from Seattle to Nashville, he brought his “Shimmery Indie Pop” with him. If you want proof, just listen to Kaptan’s five song EP, Sprinter.

If there is one thing Kaptan has done perfectly, it’s their genre declaration. The EP really shimmers all the way through. While it is certainly not dull, it also doesn’t really shine.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Kaptan is at its best when it’s shimmery sound lands somewhere in between. Take the first track, “Way Out.” It starts with a bouncy guitar riff and tacky percussion. Enter the bright synths. What could lead into an overdone, The 1975-esque (you can see how I feel about their new stuff here…) verse, instead offers a pleasant male-female vocal duo. This keeps the song from getting overblown—the energy of the band keeps us bouncing forward, while the vocals let us lay back in the grass on a sunny day.

This juxtaposition is best exemplified on the third song, “Everything.” Again, the energy and brightness of the synths and the guitars keep the song going in a positive direction. When Gaos comes in to the chorus singing calmly “Everything is all right,” you believe him. How could everything not be all right when this music is so pleasant and he is obviously sure that that it will be?

Unfortunately, two of the other three songs sound pretty much just like those two I mentioned, except they are not as successful. For Kaptan’s formula to work, each ingredient needs to be perfectly measured. “Anywhere We Go” comes in a bit over-spiced, and “Let Go” a bit bland. The EP ends on an outlier, “Closer Now.” The first time I heard it I assumed Spotify had started playing a remix of one of their songs. The half-time electro R&B jam feels like it’s out of Kaptan’s wheelhouse. Like trying to use the ingredients of one recipe to make a completely different dish.

Sprinter by Kaptan shows some serious promise. Gaos certainly has an ear for catchy pop melodies. The trick will be figuring out how to make Kaptan’s songs stand apart without getting repetitive.

SPOTIFY MADE US FEEL ALRIGHT
December 29, 2015 3:31 pm

Be honest, who introduced you to The Beatles? Was it a friend or family member? Was it a teacher or someone influential in your life? No matter who it was their sound resonated with you; poppy yet authentic, and it rang in your ears for days. Classic rock at its finest, and you couldn’t get enough.

Recently Spotify has been able to release their entire, I repeat, entire catalog. I don’t know how many times you’ve gone on Spotify or any other music player just to come out empty handed over copy rights. It hurt, and you had to find an alternative that hardly hit the need your brain was hoping for. Less than tasty tunes are a tragedy.

john-820x420The first time I knew I would love the Beatles for life was when I heard ‘Eleanor Rigby’ on a greatest hits album. Before that, I was positive they could only make poppy tunes. I am a much bigger fan of darker and more mysterious music, although ‘I want to Hold your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You’ never failed to make me smile either. But when I heard Eleanor I realized what a vast array of music they were capable of making.

Once I heard it I couldn’t search enough through all of their music. Of course that led to stumbling on albums like Revolver and The White Album. To me, I had opened up a vault of cathartic bliss, the foundation for all the modern rock and indie I already loved. I grew up listening to their pop songs, knowing there was a classic tone to their music. It’s like dusting off that old record player in your grandpa’s basement. Such a breath of relief for the modern musician to understand there was a band so far ahead of their time yet so loved they were blown off stage by the screams of their fans.

The Beatles have had a massive influence on countless artists that, before playing music, I wasn’t even aware of. For example, Elliott Smith has made it entirely obvious that he was influenced by them but put an even darker spin on and also recorded his album Figure 8 partly at Abbey Road Studios (speaking of – Abbey Road is another amazing album by them! But, you already knew that.) Another band who obviously holds them dear is Dr. Dog. From their song writing lyrically, to their bass playing style similar to Paul McCartney’s. Then again, I’m not sure there are a whole lot of artists who haven’t been inspired by The Beatles.

Us Beasts would suggest you sit down, put your head phones on, grab a stiff drink and listen through. You don’t need us to tell you what you would find.

TOP 8 TECHIE GIFTS FOR MUSICIANS
December 18, 2015 3:18 pm

Looking for a techie gift to give to a musician friend or relative?

Christmas is right around the corner and we’ve gathered the Top 8 (shoutout Myspace) music gadgets to help those technologically challenged gift givers this holiday season.

1. Subscription Membership – Instead of dropping $150 on another pair of trendy headphones that will break or disappear within the next month, get your music-loving loved one the gift of music…a lot of it. Services like Amazon Prime, Apple Music, and Spotify Premium even have great family deals and trial months specials, making a full year of unlimited access to downloadable music cost less than $120.

2. Milktape

Milktape2

While Cassette tapes and CDs have become somewhat of a throwback, the mixtape is a timeless gesture. Check out Milktape’s customizable cassette-shaped USB ports. They hold between 15-20 songs and are both Mac and PC compatible. Plus, starting at $15, this seems like the perfect stocking stuffer for a music-lover on the go.

3. Blackstar Fly 3

Screen shot 2015-12-18 at 3.08.26 PM

Whether your Secret Santa selection is a subway performer or touring musician, the Blackstar Fly 3 is a must-have for a musician on the go. This 3-watt mini amp runs on battery power, features a standard ¼ inch input, and has the basic delay, tone, drive, and volume controls. It also has an AUX input, transforming it into a portable speaker and making your $60 go a long way.

4. Jamstik+

12291140_547041655446193_4331138869995664276_o

This may as well be the “hoverboard” of music gadgets this year: insanely popular and uniquely ridicuous. Targeted at the Generation Z teenster demographic, Jamstik + features a guitar hero-like neck and iPad app geared towards teaching people the guitar in a way they can understand. While the idea of using technology to enable people to learn an instrument on their own is commendable, the high cost of nearly $400 seems a bit much. However, if you can swing it, this may be the future of learning music.

5. Mixtrack Pro 3 DJ Controller

MixtrackProIII_angle_web_1200x750

DJ’s are people too! But seriously, this product (BEAST-tested and approved) is one of the best portable DJ sets. Everything is intuitive, from the slomo features to the synchronization tools. While the price tag is steep at $250, it is a worthy investment for a DJ who can make a decent chunk of change spinning events around the city.

6. Midi Keyboard

alesisVI25-1200-80

Shopping for a Midi keyboard can be a lot like Tinder, you spend hours searching, ample time considering which way to swipe, and still don’t know if it’s going to be a match. That’s why we urge you to stick to the big names when buying a MIDI keyboard for someone else – Alesis, M-Audio, Novation, etc. If you’re buying for a newbie, opt for a mid-price MIDI with touch pads like the Alesis V and Vi series. At prices ranging frow $100-$200, they are easy to learn on and super fun to play.

7. Audio Interface – Having the ability to record an at-home demo is a must-have for any up and coming musician. Interfaces are the best way to get started on learning how to self-produce and self-release your own music. For a singer-songwriter, opt for a 2-input interface like the Focusrite Scarlett. The Apogee brand is also great way to go – The Duet is some of the premiere technology out there right now. But at a price point of $600+ the duet is a serious investment. For a cheaper option, the Apogee One is half the price at $300 and even has a solid built-in mic.

8. Abelton Live – And we saved the best for last. Abelton is a musician’s best friend, partner, and mistress all wrapped into one pretty little piece of software. With the ability to record, mix, and master both in the comfort of your own home and live in front of an audience, it is the most versatile DAW at the amateur’s price point. With Intro packages starting at $99 plus the ability to upgrade to the Standard or Suite version, Abelton Live is an affordable way to learn how to record at home and make that recording come to life on the stage.

HOW ADELE SHATTERED MODERN MUSIC INDUSTRY RECORDS
December 4, 2015 3:12 pm

ICYMI: Adele’s newest album 25 dropped two weeks ago. Blowing away projections across the music industry, the album sold an unprecedented record-breaking 3.38 million copies in its first week.

To put things simply: These kinds of numbers are unheard of in the modern day recorded music industry.

To go into a bit more detail: Adele’s 25 sold the highest number of albums in its first week since Nielsen Soundscan began tracking point-of-sale information in 1991. The previous number one slot in 1st week album sales was held by *NYSYNC’s album No Strings Attached in 2000. Adele’s 25 shattered *NSYNC’s record by nearly a million copies. Adele’s 25 sold more albums in one week than any other album has over the past 24 years, and potentially even longer.

So what is it? How was Adele able to sell a record breaking number of albums in 2015?

Theories floating: Industry executives around the world have been arguing back and forth about how she did it. Notorious music industry contrarian extraordinaire Bob Lefsetz offered up his theory that her success is due at its core to the quality of the music. Many agree and I’ve heard the “she’s in a league of her own” argument thrown around. Others have referenced her digital marketing and social media campaigns which relied on a mysteriously brooding aesthetic to get people talking about Adele everywhere you looked for weeks leading up to the release. Some go so far as to say point blank it’s because she kept her music off streaming and video-sharing services like Spotify and YouTube.

All of these theories are valid and probably contributed in some way or another to her success. But none of these theories asses the key part of my question above: how was she able to do this all specifically in the year 2015? There have been other albums as great as 25. There have been as good if not better marketed albums than 25. Other artists have kept their music off of streaming and haven’t seen these kinds of results (remember last year’s Taylor Swift vs. Spotify drama)…

waespi_SNL1_06

Here’s my theory: It’s not just that Adele was able to sell this many albums in 2015. It’s that only Adele could sell this many albums in 2015.

Here’s why: In 2015, streaming has become a major player and is helping to defeat illegal downloading as a preferred method of digital music consumption (as reported by digital music news). Streaming is more convenient than piracy, as you can do it immediately from your mobile device without taking up storage space. Plus it is free with services like YouTube and Spotify’s “freemium” tier.

Whether streaming is a good or bad thing for artists in terms of both short-term and long-term revenue is up for debate, with good reason. However, it is hard to argue with the fact that as streaming becomes more and more popular, illegal downloading will eventually become obsolete.

1035x1407-R1248_coverSo when it was announced that Adele’s 25 was not going to be on streaming and video-sharing sites, one would think digital music fans would flock to illegal downloading sites. Instead, nearly 1 million fans went to the iTunes store on release day to buy the album. It’s a lot easier to justify spending $9.99 on an album that you really want when the majority of your music consumption is free!

Adele’s fans and music fans alike were willing to spend the money on her album because streaming has made most music accessible for little to no cost. 25 became a one-time splurge, a small purchase you had to make if you wanted to hear the album because it was going to be a pain in the ass to do it the hard (and illegal) way of piracy.

Sure, there are plenty more reasons that Adele’s 25 was able to sell as much as it did: the songwriting, the power of her voice, the quality of the music, the social media impact, the targeted advertising driving to physical retail, the late night performances, the Radio City Music Hall etc. But by many standards, 21 released in 2011 had a much stronger commercial appeal than 25 with mega-hits like “Rolling in the Deep,” “Someone Like You,” “Set Fire to the Rain,” and “Rumour Has It.”

The difference between 2011 and 2015: streaming. 

Adele withholding her album from streaming did not cause people to download it illegally. Instead, they bought it. They kicked it old school. They got in their cars and drove to the nearest Target or Indie record store. Or they went on their phones and pressed the “buy” button on iTunes. They spent the $9.99 because they thought it was worth it. They thought she was worth it.

In conclusion: Adele’s album didn’t sell as much as it did despite the fact that it’s 2015, she did so because it’s 2015.