If you're not yet tired of the wonderful story of our pal Jonathan Coulton, check out this Time Magazine piece about his unique business model.
Dave Tompkins is a former columnist for The Wire who writes frequently about hip-hop and popular music. His work has appeared in Vibe, The Village Voice, The Believer and Wax Poetics.
His new book, How To Wreck A Nice Beach, describes how the vocoder was created to guard phones from codebreakers during World War II, and soon became a voice-altering tool for musicians. In this way, we see the vocoder as it was used by FDR, JFK, Stanley Kubrick, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Kraftwerk, the Cylons, Henry Kissinger, and Winston Churchill.
Bilal Oliver is a jazz and soul singer; his second LP, Airtight's Revenge, was just released. He broke onto the scene in the early 2000s with the Raphael Saadiq-produced hit "Soul Sista," but he turned to jazz clubs and progressive soul just a few years later, frustrating his record label. In the meantime, he recorded with artists like Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Scarface. His new album is his first in almost ten years.
Flying Lotus is a critically acclaimed music producer. His sound lies somewhere between progressive hip-hop and dance music. This year he's released an LP, Cosmogramma, and an EP, Pattern+Grid World.
FlyLo talks with Jesse Thorn about how he found his aesthetic, about his Aunt, Alice Coltrane, about how his mother convinced him to submit music to Cartoon Netowrk's [adult swim], about the influence of the late hip-hop producer Jay Dilla and more.
Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh are founding members of the art-rock band Devo. They had remarkable chart success in the early 1980s, including the hit Whip It. Their philosophy of devolution, compelling videos and bold aesthetic presentation were as big a part of the band as their danceable rock music. Their latest record, Something For Everybody, is their first since 1990.
Gerry and Mark talk with us about how they arrived at their theory that mankind was on an inexorable downward slide, and how playing rock and roll music in crazy outfits fit into that philosophical framework. They also chat about the philosophy behind their new project. On "Something For Everybody," every song has been focus grouped, and every element of presentation has been selected for maximum saleability. Also, they talk about that Swiffer commercial where "Whip It" was changed to "Swiff It."
The XX are a three-member band from London, England. Their self-titled debut album was one of the most acclaimed releases of 2009. This year, the band has been chose to play some of the most important music festivals in the world: All Tomorrow's Parties, Bonnaroo, Coachella, Sasquatch and Lollapalooza. The group's two singers, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim have been friends since nursery school. Jamie Smith, who programs drums and keyboard sounds joined the group in high school. Their music is modest, intimate and modern; often compared to acts as divergent as Aaliyah and the Cure.
I watched an American Masters special on Sam Cooke last night on PBS, and now I'm feeling Sam Cooke crazy. No one has ever sang like Cooke. I think he might be my favorite male singer of all time. There's something about the effortless grace of his singing that touches me even in the simplest songs (and many of his songs were very simple). It has the lightness of great pop music, but it also has the depth of great soul music. Very few can combine those two qualities - Al Green and Michael Jackson come to mind - and Sam can out-sing almost any of them.
As you can see from Cooke's conversation with Dick Clark above, he was also a businessman. He ran his own recording and publishing operations, and nurtured other talent as well.
If you're interested in learning more about Cooke, check out this hour-long show we did on him some years ago with Peter Guralnick. Guralnick's book about Cooke, "Dream Boogie," is wonderful as well.
If you want to dip your toes into his musical catalog, I love Live at the Harlem Square Club, a live album that showcases his more gospel-y performance style.