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10Nov/11

Artist Spotlight: Frightened Rabbit


Genre: Folksy Indie Rock
Similar: We Were Promised Jetpacks, Mumford and Sons, Glasvegas
Interesting Fact: They’re Scottish so good luck trying to take their freedom
Twitter: @FRabbits

What Is This?
People often ask what I went to school for when I tell them I can’t find a job, and when I tell them “history,” I can tell their first thought is “well, that makes sense.” They then ask something along the lines of “do you want to be a teacher?” and I throw back “it’s a option.” Moral of the story; I’m useless outside of my above-average ability to write six page papers the night before they’re due, and being able to throw out random, slightly relevant depending on the topic of conversation, facts of trivia like “the Boston Tea Party caused the Vietnam War!” That being said, I don’t think my time spent taking classes about “Michigan In The Era of Industrialization” and the “History of Modern East Asia” are useless. Case in point, “Scotland Since 1603: History and Culture” exposed me to a good bit of music, movies, literature and theatre (watch Black Watch, it’s awesome). I can also name AND locate all 33 historical counties of Scotland, so at least I have that going for me. Which is nice.

 

As I said yesterday, Frightened Rabbit’s music is generally of the upbeat variety but at the same time, I can't be entirely sure of that because the accent kind of masks what the lead singer says (don’t take that as meaning the accent is heavy, cause it’s not, it’s just so pleasant sounding). I ended up going through some of the lyrics after catching myself butchering the Scottish accent while singing lines from the song “Keep Yourself Warm” which go, “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep yourself warm.”

That’s just cold.

Not that I have any problem with the use of swearing because lord knows that I fucking love to swear, but it kind of caught me off guard. True story, I found myself singing that part and thinking to myself “what the hell am I saying? Did I just make this song up? I'm a lyrical fucking savant” I ended up googling the lyric, lo and behold it was a song that I knew by name but never actually listened to the lyrics. The point I’m trying to make here is that I spent some time and effort listening to the words themselves and I gained a new appreciation for Frightened Rabbit. Their lyrics are actual lyrics and not just words strewn together, which, I guess is the same thing but who's counting?

I’m not going to try a decipher what their songs are about, not that they need deciphering, because I’m terrible at that (someone once convinced me that “Hey Man, Nice Shot” by Filter was about bunch of stoners that kicked a dog. Turns out the song is about the suicide of a public official. Whatever, close enough. Tomato, tomato.) but with that being said, some of the prevalent themes are sex, relationships, loneliness and leprosy. I don't know about you but I'm particularly fond of the latter theme.

 

Like I’ve mentioned a couple times before, most of their stuff sounds pretty cheerful but they also have a handful of softer songs (“Poke” is pretty damn good, if that’s what you’re into). This sounds awkward to type/say but the best way I can sum up Frightened Rabbit is by saying it’s life music. Frightened Rabbit would probably make a good soundtrack to your life in an indie kind of way (It would fit well in a movie like (500) Days of Summer). They signed with Atlantic Records last year so expect them to continue their ascent into the mainstream.

Sing the Greys, The Midnight Organ Fight and The Winter of Mixed Drinksare their three studio albums but they also released a new EP on October 19th that you can download for free if you sign up for their mailing list.  All their albums have been very well received by the critics and I second that. This shit is good.

 

22Aug/11

Artist Spotlight: M83


Anthony Gonzalez of M83Genre: Electronica, Ambient, Indietronica, Synthrock, Dream Pop
Similar: Sigur Ros, Explosions In The Sky, LCD Soundsystem
Interesting Fact: M83 got it’s name from the spiral galaxy Messier 83, which is in the constellation Hydra. Consider yourself science’d
Twitter: @M83MUSIC

What It Is
M83 was formed in 2001 by Frenchmen Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau, although Fromageau left the group after their second album. Like most things cool and fashionable, M83 rose in popularity in Europe before making it’s way to America. Whatever, we’re the creators of the Snuggie so suck on that Europe! As you may remember, we featured the track “Midnight City” off their upcoming album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming a couple weeks ago for our Song of the Day.

I found M83 like I did a half dozen other artists during the mid 00’s, car commercials. Pontiac, Lincoln and a few others got a fever and the only prescription was more indietronica-esque music. I can’t seem to find the particular commercial that put me on to M83 but after some googling, I am not even close to the only one that wanted to know more about the awesome song in the Pontiac commercial.

Gonzalez’s first four albums, self-titled M83Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost GhostsBefore the Dawn Heals Us and Digital Shades, Vol.1, are predominately ambient, dream pop, synth type tracks with some light lyrical loops thrown on top. The best way I can describe this is to imagine what your dreams sound like when you’re on LSD. Now I’m not saying that the sound is necessarily trippy and will induce hallucinations but it’s the kind of thing you can put on in the background and let it carry you through the flow of time as you daydream or study for finals. My description of M83’s early stuff as a soundtrack for a drug induced dream holds water as the song “Teen Angst” was used in the trailer of the underrated A Scanner Darkly.  Anyway, here’s the song “Run Into Flowers” off of Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts:

The sound changed with the release of Saturdays = Youth in 2008. More of the tracks have a lyrical focus, which make give it more of a radio friendly sound. Saturdays = Youth also happens to be M83’s most successful and well recieved album as it appears in a handful of charts for top albums of 2008 and even takes the #1 spot for drownedinsound.com and Urban Outfitters by beating out the likes of MGMT, Vampire Weekend and Cut Copy. Urban Outfitter gives the best description of what the album when they say, “Like the soundtrack to your favorite John Hughes film, only better.” Gonzalez states that album is dedicated to his teenage years and since he’s the ripe age of 30, the album might make us 20 somethings yearn for the nostalgic carefree days of our youth.

Look for 20SA to review his new album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming when it drops on October 18th.

What I Have To Say
M83’s music is fun and soothing. You can listen to some tracks while you’re sleeping and others when you’re running. Why would you want to voluntarily run is beyond me but to each his own I guess. It’s the kind of music that you can lose yourself in for a few hours and it often leaves you with an overwhelming sense of calmness. Perhaps most importantly, your cultural cred will go through the roof when you tell all your friends you listen to a French musician (although all his lyrics are in English). If you’re the kind of person that likes to be a trendsetter, it’s still not too late to jump on the M83 train before his new album drops, as it might be the next cool thing to listen to like MGMT and Vampire Weekend.

1 to Awesome
“Mostly Awesome”

18Aug/11

Artist Spotlight: James Franco


Last week we were approached by a friend that wanted to write a piece for 20SA.  We gladly accepted because we're lazy and this meant there would be one less thing we had to write this week.  Without further ado, may we present to you a piece written by a man they call Danger Tucker.

By now, you’ve surely heard of James Franco. If you follow movies at all, chances are you’ve seen him in the Spider Mans, Pineapple Express or even more recently in 127 Hours.  There was also that time he hosted the Oscars.  Or, if you’re an avid follower of the site, which obviously you are, you noticed that even one of our featured artists, Hoodie Allen, basically nominated a whole track to the guy.

So, what is it about Franco that has everybody from the Academy to white rappers buzzing? Well, we could chalk it up to his good looks or his success as an actor, two things widely agreed upon (admit it, you think he’s a stud…ahem, an acting stud).
Although he may be known more for his more serious roles as of late (Milk, 127 Hours), Franco came onto the scene when he landed a lead role in the short-lived TV comedy series, Freaks and Geeks, a show that was also the launching point for current stars Jason Segel and Seth Rogan.

One of the things that caught my attention about the videos being featured today was something that Seth Rogan noted while filming Pineapple Express with Franco.  Rogan alluded to the fact that he and Franco had the same start with Freaks and Geeks but then didn’t really have the opportunity to work together again because Franco took on more serious opportunities while Rogan continued to pursue comedic roles. Pineapple Express was Franco’s return to comedy and a chance to show movie-goers his comedic-range.

What I found noteworthy about the videos is that they’re a continuation of Franco’s digression from his serious roles; and that gave me a new perspective on the actor.  His ability to make fun of himself and essentially his career, while still managing to heckle his brother, shows a different, and very funny, side of the actor who’s best known for being a whiny rich kid/bad guy or stranded badass.

In the videos, dubbed “Acting with James Franco,” Franco uses his brother, Davey (Dave (y)), in an effort to teach the common person the essentials of acting: sense memory, utilizing the green screen and scene work.  Sense memory means being able to cry on screen, which means evoking painful memories.  Utilizing the green screen means riding the glider, which means dodging webs, bottles and T-Rex.  Anything can happen in green screen.  And scene work means recreating famous scenes and going the full distance.  Marlon Brando and James Dean did it.

Episode 1: Sense Memory

Acting With James Franco Episode 1: "Sense Memory" from James Franco

Episode 2: Green Screen

Acting with James Franco Episode 2: "Green Screen" from James Franco

Episdoe 3:  Scene Work

Acting with James Franco Episode 3: Scene Work from James Franco

 

11Aug/11

Artist Spotlight: Hoodie Allen


Genre: Hip-hop, Rap
Similar: Kanye maybe? Childish Gambino? I’m terrible at this
Interesting Fact:  Graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and was previous employed by some company named Google
Twitter: @HoodieAllen

 

What I Have To Say:

Following in line with the theme of light complexion, college educated rappers plying their trade through the use of remixes, we present to you Hoodie Allen (Steven Markowitz).  Drawing on artists like Death Cab for Cutie, Marina and the Diamonds and The Black Keys, Hoodie infuses his blend of lyrical stylings with the modified beat to create upbeat tracks that you can totally chill to, brah.  Seriously though, his music is made for the college aged scene with each song filled with pop culture references of new and old.

“… Lately, I been staying on my grind like a skateboard/

I got some rocket power now so let's take off /
We going hard over these beats y'all just stay soft /
I don't even feel the need to say pause /
'Cause you a cheat to the system how you came and Bernie Madoff'd…”
-"You Are Not  Robot"

Hoodie found a jump in popularity following the release of his mixtape Pep Rally in 2010 (download HERE for free).  My first exposure to Hoodie came in the form of “You Are Not A Robot” (originally by Marina and Diamonds) and it’s probably a good place to start if you want to get a feel for what he has to offer.  A few of the tracks fall short of warranting repeat plays (I projectile vomit every time I hear the loop in “Party At The Beach House”) but on a whole, it’s worth a listen.

His latest endeavor, Leap Year (download HERE for free), moves from mashups to original beats with success.  Leap Year as a whole sounds more mature than Pep Rally and by mature, I mean he swears a lot more (fucking sweet).  There’s also an increase in sexual intercourse references; his mother cannot be pleased.

Final Verdict:
Hoodie’s an interesting case, his lyrics are clever and have a nice flow but they sometimes try too hard.  He often will say lines just because they rhyme, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but Hoodie even alludes to it in when he says “I use a lot of famous people just to write these clever lines” in the song aptly called “James Franco.”  I guess that’s what makes Hoodie, Hoodie.  Beyond that, and as noted earlier, his music is made for college-aged folk.  It’s fun, hip, witty, catchy, upbeat and any other word you would use to describe a song used in a montage of your stereotypical college atmosphere.  He was, after all, nominated for MTVU’s “Best Music on Campus Award.”

1 to Awesome:
‘I can, and do, dig it’

4Aug/11

Artist Spotlight: D-WHY


Genre: Hip-hop, Rap

Similar: Mac Miller? (they both had videos directed by Rex Arrow Films… neat)

Interesting Fact:  I’m pretty sure he just got his master’s degree in something… English? Poetry? Creative Writing?

Twitter: @DWHY

What I Have To Say:

Clever candor, rambunctious rhetoric and whimsical wit show that D-WHY, David Morris, is more than a cookie cutter remixasist (BOOM, new word).  Gaining notoriety through his track “Devil Horns To All” (a remix of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow”), D-WHY has made a name for himself by modifying the beats of well known songs and adding his own ornate, swagger filled lyrics.  Not one to mince his words, D-WHY says what he feels and isn’t afraid to humbly brag about his sexual sexploitations, sense of style and luxurious lifestyle.  He wills his lyrics into Martin Solveig and Dragonette’s “Hello” and makes the song more than just a catchy beat.  Not afraid to show some diversity, he takes Sweden’s indie pop Miike Snow and infuses his words with their beat and hook to make “Animal” into a whole new… animal (you know it was clever).  Pulling from fellow rising rapper Childish Gambino’s (Donald Glover from Community) “Freaks and Geeks”, D-WHY shows how swaggery his swag swags in “Shooter McGavin”:

“… I’m Ralph Lauren meets Lauryn Hill, baby I am more than ill/

and it be takin’ more than skill, when you go in for the kill/

throw ‘em out the fucking crib, treat ‘em like I’m Uncle Phil/

so much hype around these guys, but somehow they are boring still/

…We make up, we make out, I’ll make due/

they tell me D, “a lot of people don’t know what to make of you”/

I’m Jay-Z, meets J. Christ, meets Jay Leno, meets J.Crew/

had a break down, we broke up, so now I break through/”

While his bread and butter is in the remixes, every once and a while he’ll kick out an original of his own.  They don’t really have the same oomph as the remixes but are worth a listen.  Anyway, you can download almost all his songs and lyrics for free HERE.



Final Verdict:

Brimming with confidence and positivity, D-WHY makes it so his memorable lyrics are fun to rap along with.  You’re bound to pick up on a new handful of different pop culture references and clever quips with every listen, which will make you appreciate his cunning craft that much more.  D-WHY’s songs are fun, catchy, artful and smooth.  Whether you’re chillin’ by the pool or at the discotech, D-WHY is something you can listen to at anytime and put a smile on your face.  With all that being said, you either like him or you don’t (and the ladies will like it so you can use it as an ice breaker, “Yo baby, want to hear some fly shit?” “Ok… OMG I FUCKING LOVE IT! Let’s go back to your place and bone” “Ok, sounds good.” End scene).

1 to Awesome: A solid ‘tubular’