The fathers of grindcore, Napalm Death pushed the envelope of metal to new extremes of ear-splitting intensity, rejecting all notions of melody, subtlety, and good taste to forge a brand of sonic assault almost frightening in its merciless brutality. Formed in Ipswich, England in 1982, the group trafficked in the usual heavy metal fare for the first few years of its existence, but by the middle of the decade they began to expand their horizons by incorporating elements of hardcore and thrash into the mix; ultimately, Napalm Death's sonic experiments evolved into a blistering mutation of metal which they dubbed grindcore, a kind of extremist noise attack characterized by incredibly brief song lengths, demonic vocals, and eye-opening sociopolitical lyrical commentary.
Building their reputation on a series of incendiary radio sessions and live dates, Napalm Death set about recording their debut LP, Scum, issued in 1987 on the Earache label. A series of lineup changes during production resulted in the record's two sides each containing almost completely different rosters: while the first half featured guitarist Justin Broadrick and vocalist/bassist Nick Bullen, the flipside presented new vocalist Lee Dorrian, guitarist Bill Steer, and bassist Jim Whitely; only drummer Mick Harris played on every track. While largely ignored by the mainstream media, Scum proved hugely influential throughout the global metal community; among Napalm Death's most public supporters was BBC Radio One DJ John Peel, who repeatedly played the track "You Suffer" before inviting the group to record a legendary September 1987 Peel Session introducing new bassist Shane Embury.
With 1988's From Enslavement to Obliteration, the band grew even more extreme, issuing some 54 total tracks, many of them clocking in at just a few seconds in length. (The compilation Grindcrusher offered perhaps the ultimate distillation of the aesthetic by including a bonus split single from Napalm Death and the Electro Hippies with each side lasting just one second; the shortest single ever.) More roster shifts followed, as Dorrian exited to form Cathedral and Steer jumped ship to found Carcass; with vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway (formerly of Benediction) and guitarists Jesse Pintado (ex-Terrorizer) and Mitch Harris (ex-Righteous Pigs), Napalm Death resurfaced with 1990's Harmony Corruption, a nod toward more conventional song structures and a less punishing sound. Apparently unhappy with the results, the group followed later that year with the Mass-Appeal Madness EP, a return to all-out grindcore fury.
Mick Harris, the only remaining member from the unit's earliest lineups, exited Napalm Death in 1992 to mount an acclaimed ambient dub project named Scorn; he was replaced by drummer Danny Herrera for Utopia Banished, followed by a single covering the Dead Kennedys' "Nazi Punks Fuck Off." With 1994's Fear, Emptiness, Despair, Napalm Death earned some of the best critical notices of their career, and to the shock of many even found themselves in the Top Ten of the U.S. pop albums chart by virtue of their appearance on the soundtrack to the motion picture Mortal Kombat. The Greed Killing mini-album appeared in 1995 as a teaser for the following year's relatively accessible full-length Diatribes. Greenway was subsequently fired in November 1996 and replaced by Phil Vane of Extreme Noise Terror; however, after recording a split EP with Coalesce, the band reconsidered, and Greenway re-joined in time for the 1997 album Inside the Torn Apart. Next was 1998's live release Bootlegged in Japan, trailed early the next year by the well-received Words from the Exit Wound, which proved to be their final album for Earache (from which they experienced an acrimonious split). 2000 saw the release of the covers EP Leaders Not Followers in mid-summer. Napalm Death returned to its early grindcore roots to a degree with its next full-length, Enemy of the Music Business, which was issued in early 2001. Throughout the remainder of the decade, the band reliably stuck to its guns, releasing high-quality albums -- including Order of the Leech, Smear Campaign, and Time Waits for No Slave -- at a rate of roughly one every other year. To ring in 30 years of punishing noise, the grind metal pioneers released their 15th album, Utilitarian, in 2012. ~ Jason Ankeny
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As early as 1995, the original members of Cursive -- Tim Kasher on guitar and vocals, Clint Schnase on drums, Matt Maginn on bass, and Stephen Pederson on guitar -- began work on their newly christened project, experimenting with elements of indie rock and eclectic post-hardcore to fashion a unique sound. The Omaha, Nebraska-based four-piece came out of existing friendships and some of the members' previous work together in Slowdown Virginia, making the musical partnership a logical idea from the start. They debuted with the "Disruption" 7" on the local friend-run label Saddle Creek and shortly released a second 7", "Sucker and Dry," on New York-based Zero Hour. Both recordings spotlighted Kasher's uniquely powerful voice along with the group's consistently thundering rhythm section and jagged guitars. Cursive went even further on their debut full-length, Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes. Split-released by Crank! A Record Company and New York's Interplanetary Truckers Union in 1997, the LP received high acclaim and put the band on the musical map.
Over the next year, Cursive released both a split 10" with Austin's Silver Scooter (also on Crank!) and yet another 7" entitled "Disruption." The latter record began the band's extensive future with Saddle Creek, and in November of 1998, the label released the group's second full-length, The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song. The LP saw the band's first real attempt at incorporating linked lyrical concepts, as Kasher's lyrics told the tale of a man's complete breakdown over the aggressive song structures. Unfortunately for their growing fan base, the record didn't even yield a tour and instead saw the members disband to work on other projects, with no mention of a reunion at some later date.
After the temporary split, the members of Cursive explored a number of different outlets (including Commander Venus and Bright Eyes). After one failed marriage and some real introspection, however, the group decided to give things another shot, a fortunate conclusion that in June of 2000 resulted in the realization of Domestica. Full of fractured rhythms and lyrical examinations of a couple's crumbling relationship, the album spun a story that carried an odd familiarity to the real life experiences of Kasher. Domestica also introduced a new Cursive member, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Ted Stevens, formerly of Lullaby for the Working Class. (Pederson bowed out of the group to continue his education at Duke University; he later formed White Octave.)
Novena on a Nocturn, the debut of Kasher's solo project, the Good Life, was released in 2001. Also notable was the release of another Cursive EP, Burst and Bloom, which added cellist Gretta Cohn to the band's lineup. Meanwhile, Cursive were featured on the first 7" in Makato Recordings' year-long monthly 7" series, and the quintet returned in 2003 with The Ugly Organ. Their most ambitious album to date, The Ugly Organ was hailed for its challenging songwriting, obtuse conceptual scope, and serious lyrical turns. As the band readied a worthy follow-up album, Saddle Creek issued Difference Between Houses and Homes in August 2005, assembling Cursive's out of print 7"s (including two unreleased songs) into a stopgap compilation. Happy Hollow ultimately arrived in 2006, marking the departure of Cohn but also the inclusion of a brass section, which the band utilized to explore religious contradictions within the context of a fictional Western town. The following year, founding drummer Clint Schnase left Cursive on good terms and was replaced by touring drummer Cornbread Compton, and the band continued onward with its revised lineup, ringing in 2009 with the release of Mama, I'm Swollen. In 2012, they aimed for a heavy sound, choosing to work with Mastodon and Isis producer Matt Bayles on I Am Gemini, a concept album about two twins separated at birth. ~ Peter J. D'Angelo
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Shimmering post-rock trio the Life and Times was formed in 2002 after the breakup of frontman Allen Epley's infamous math rock outfit Shiner. Guitarist Epley recruited Someday I's John Meredith on bass and Strings and Return drummer Mike Myers to make for a relentless three piece of layered guitars and driving rhythms. The band's initial output, The Flat End of the Earth EP on 54-40 or Fight! does entirely solidify the group's sound, but demonstrates a new found freedom for Epley to explore songwriting that ranges from the likes of Sunny Day Real Estate to Jawbox to R.E.M.. While not perfect, the EP suggests a fresh approach and endless possibilities for the Kansas City band. ~ Charles Spano
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n the heels of their 40 date European tour, Helmet are pleased to announce a tour of the United States in February 2015. The band will be playing their critically lauded 1994 Betty album from start to finish, followed by a second set spanning the entirety of Helmet's catalog.
Billed as the "thinking man's metal band," Helmet provided an alternative to the grunge bands of the time with their clean cut aesthetic and raw, unrelenting, propulsive sound. Betty came on the trails of the band's first mainstream success, 1992's Meantime. The cut "Milquetoast" became a music video staple on MTV and the album was critically praised for its genre-defying exploration into jazz, blues and improvisation. As music writer Darrell Bassett wrote upon the album's release, "The thump and grind of Betty fully reflects the seemingly meaningless forces that shape our hi-tech existences, the inner pressure that waxes and wanes as life's pace explodes exponentially and its occasional moments of grace. Betty is a surprising album, one which grows as it unfolds its subtleties." A prophetic statement if ever there was one.
"Helmet made rhythmically complex steely-riffed alterna-metal that punished your body from weird angles…" – Rolling Stone
"Helmet have carved – or, rather, bludgeoned – a niche as primary exponents of pummeling, monolithic, heavy guitar-rock. The sheer size and power of their sound dwarfs all but the most extreme of hardcore bands, but there's a precision to Helmet's sound that sets them apart." – Time Off Magazine (1994 Betty album review)
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With over 80 years' experience collectively, Simon Posford and Raja Ram are more than qualified for the exploration into the unclassifiable music frontiers they have ventured into; ‘SHPONGLE' is a new world of traditional sounds, acoustic guitars, Moroccan drums, Turkish operatic singing, cello, double bass, backing vocals and silver flute blended together with the computer wizardry of Simon Posford's studio production.
Simon Posford (aka Hallucinogen) has long had a reputation as the, 'Hallucinogenius,' a imitable pioneer in sound experimentation, from his seminal first album, 'Twisted' which reached No.28 in the French charts selling over 50,000 copies worldwide, up to his recent Millennium hit, 'Mi-Loony-Um' with its up-to-the minute modem melodies. His international fan base has flowered from country-wide to world-wide in the last ten years, since his humble beginnings at Youth's Butterfly Studios in Brixton. This year alone he has played over 16 sell out gigs around the world, each with a capacity of over 1500 people, in Australia, Israel, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Moscow, Geneva, Montreal, Tokyo to name just a few.
Raja Ram is the innovative sonic co-pilot producing alongside Simon and providing inspirational artwork for the album covers and the website. as well as his unmistakable flute solo's in C Major. A founding member of the band Quintessence in the sixties. Raja has many years of band experience in the music industry. Not only a band member but also the creator of TIP Records along with their infamous party sound and energy, he is not only a brilliant flautist but the inspirational man behind the ‘Shpongle' concept.
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Hurray For The Riff Raff is Alynda Lee Segarra, but in many ways it's much more than that: it's a young woman leaving her indelible stamp on the American folk tradition. If you're listening to her new album, 'Small Town Heroes,' odds are you're part of the riff raff, and these songs are for you.
"It's grown into this bigger idea of feeling like we really associate with the underdog," says Segarra, who came to international attention in 2012 with 'Look Out Mama.' The album earned her raves from NPR and the New York Times to Mojo and Paste, along with a breakout performance at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival, which left American Songwriter "awestruck" and solidified her place at the forefront of a new generation of young musicians celebrating and reimagining American roots music. "We really feel at home with a lot of worlds of people that don't really seem to fit together," she continues, "and we find a way to make them all hang out with our music. Whether it's the queer community or some freight train-riding kids or some older guys who love classic country, a lot of folks feel like mainstream culture isn't directed at them. We're for those people."
Segarra, a 26-year-old of Puerto Rican descent whose slight frame belies her commanding voice, grew up in the Bronx, where she developed an early appreciation for doo-wop and Motown from the neighborhood's longtime residents. It was downtown, though, that she first felt like she found her people, traveling to the Lower East side every Saturday for punk matinees at ABC No Rio. "Those riot grrrl shows were a place where young girls could just hang out and not have to worry about feeling weird, like they didn't belong," Segarra says of the inclusive atmosphere fostered by the musicians and outsider artists who populated the space. "It had such a good effect on me to go to those shows as a kid and feel like somebody in a band was looking out for me and wanted me to feel inspired and good about myself."
The Lower East Side also introduced her to travelers, and their stories of life on the road inspired her to strike out on her own at 17, first hitching her way to the west coast, then roaming the south before ultimately settling in New Orleans. There, she fell in with a band of fellow travelers, playing washboard and singing before eventually learning to play a banjo she'd been given in North Carolina. "It wasn't until I got to New Orleans that I realized playing music was even possible for me," she explains. "The travelers really taught me how to play and write songs, and we'd play on the street all day to make money, which is really good practice. You have to get pretty tough to do that, and you put a lot of time into it."
"The community I found in New Orleans was open and passionate. The young artists were really inspiring to me," she says. "Apathy wasn't a part of that scene. And then the year after I first visited, Katrina happened, and I went back and saw the pain and hardship that all of the people who lived there had gone through. It made we want to straighten out my life and not wander so much. The city gave had given me an amazing gift with music, and it made me want to settle there and be a part of it and help however I could."
Many of the songs on 'Small Town Heroes' reflect that decision and her special reverence for the city. She bears witness to a wave of violence that struck the St. Roch neighborhood in the soulful "St. Roch Blues;" yearns for a night at BJ's Bar in the Bywater in "Crash on the Highway;" and sings of her home in the Lower Ninth Ward on "End of the Line." "That neighborhood and particularly the house I lived in there became the nucleus of a singer songwriter scene in New Orleans," she explains. "'End Of The Line' is my love song to that whole area and crew of people."
The scope of the album is much grander than just New Orleans, though, as Segarra mines the deep legacies and contemporizes the rich variety of musical forms of the American South for the age of Trayvon Martin and Wendy Davis. "Delia''s gone but I'm settling the score," she sings with resolute menace on "The Body Electric," a feminist reimagining of the traditional murder ballad form that calls on everything from Stagger Lee to Walt Whitman. She juxtaposes pure country pop with the dreams and nightmares that come with settling down with just one person in "I Know It's Wrong (But That's Alright)," while album opener "Blue Ridge Mountain" is an Appalachian nod to Maybelle Carter.
NPR has said that Hurray for the Riff Raff's music "sweeps across eras and genres with grace and grit," and that's never been more true than on 'Small Town Heroes.' These songs belong to no particular time or place, but rather to all of us. These songs are for the riff raff.
Long Beach, California's Cold War Kids make music with roots that go deep and wide, embracing influences as diverse as Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Jeff Buckley, and the Velvet Underground. Vocalist/guitarist/pianist Nathan Willett, bassist Matt Maust, drummer Matt Aveiro, and guitarist Jonnie Russell began crafting their soulful, blues-inflected take on indie rock as Cold War Kids in 2004, recording demos in Los Angeles soon after they formed. After signing to Monarchy Music, Cold War Kids released their debut EP, Mulberry Street, in spring 2005. The band's unique sound and impassioned live act generated a buzz -- particularly from bloggers -- that grew with each tour and release. Maust's clean but eye-catching designs for EPs like With Our Wallets Full and Up in Rags and the group's website also added to Cold War Kids' mystique. They spent much of 2006 on the road with Tapes 'n Tapes, Figurines, Sound Team, and Editors, and appeared at that year's Lollapalooza. That summer, they signed to Downtown Records, also home to Art Brut and Gnarls Barkley. The band's full-length debut, Robbers & Cowards, arrived that fall. Loyalty to Loyalty, which moved in a slower, bluesier direction, was released in 2008. On Behave Yourself, an EP that had a digital release late in 2009 and was issued on CD early in 2010, Cold War Kids emphasized their soulful ballads. In 2010 the band went into the studio with Grammy-winning producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings of Leon). Their third album, Mine Is Yours, arrived in early 2011. For 2013's Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, the band added former Modest Mouse and Murder City Devils guitarist Dann Gallucci (who co-produced the album with Lars Stalfors) to the fold. Though several of the band's members worked on the side project French Style Furs, whose debut Is Exotic Bait arrived in 2014, Cold War Kids also returned that year with Hold My Home. Recorded at the band's personal studio and produced by Gallucci and Stalfors, the album was released in October 2014. ~ Heather Phares
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Formerly known as the Wildbunch, the Detroit sextet Electric Six mix garage, disco, punk, new wave, and metal into cleverly dumb, in-your-face songs like "Danger! High Voltage," which reached number two on the British charts early in 2003. Singer Dick Valentine, guitarists Rock and Roll Indian and Surge Joebot, bassist Disco, and drummer M. formed the Wildbunch in 1996 (keyboardist Tait Nucleus? joined the band later), releasing their debut single, "I Lost Control (Of My Rock & Roll)," and the eight-track An Evening with the Many Moods of the Wildbunch's Greatest Hits...Tonight! that year on Uchu Cult Records. They also released 1999's full-length on that imprint. The group switched to Flying Bomb for singles like 1997's "The Ballade of MC Sucka DJ," the Christmas single "Flying Bomb Surprise Package, Vol. 1," and 2001's "Danger! High Voltage," which became an underground hit, particularly in the U.K.
The following year the group signed to XL and re-recorded "Danger! High Voltage," this time adding backing vocals from the White Stripes' Jack White. After the re-release of the single in 2003, Electric Six issued their full-length debut album, Fire, later that spring. Just a few weeks after the album's release, Disco, Rock and Roll Indian, and Surge Joebot left the band and were replaced by Frank Lloyd Bonaventure, the Colonel, and Johnny Na$hinal. In 2004, the band got a new record deal with Rushmore, a British Warner Bros. imprint, and lost Bonaventure and M., whose bass and drum duties were filled by John R. Dequindre and Percussion World, respectively. The second Electric Six album, Señor Smoke, arrived in the U.K. early in 2005. It took another year for the album to be released stateside, on Metropolis Records. Switzerland arrived in fall of 2006 and I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me from Being the Master followed in October of 2007. Early in 2008, Valentine embarked on his American Troubadour solo tour, which included stops in Hamtramck, Michigan, and Portland, Oregon; that spring, Electric Six recorded their fifth album, Flashy, in the Colonel's studio. Metropolis released Flashy that fall, followed by Sexy Trash, a 30-track album of demos and previously unreleased material, and two new studio albums, Kill (2009) and Zodiac (2010). The following year, the band took their sound in a darker direction, shifting slightly from dance-rock to synth pop on the nocturnal Heartbeats and Brainwaves. 2012 saw them bringing their high-energy live shows to fans on their first concert album, Absolute Pleasure. Their tenth studio album, Mustang, arrived in 2013, followed shortly afterwards by Human Zoo in 2014. ~ Heather Phares
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Boasting a mix of Southern pride, erudite lyrics, and a muscled three-guitar attack, Drive-By Truckers became one of the most well-respected alternative country-rock acts of the 2000s. Led by frontman Patterson Hood and featuring a rotating cast of Georgia and Alabama natives, the band celebrated the South while refusing to paint over its spotty past. History, folklore, politics, and character studies all shared equal space in the Truckers catalog, which offered up its first blast of gutsy, twangy rock with 1998's Gangstabilly. However, it was the band's ambitious double-disc concept album, The Southern Rock Opera, that became its unlikely magnum opus. A two-act affair, the album explored Hood's fascination with '70s Southern rock (specifically Lynyrd Skynyrd) while tackling the cultural contradictions of the region, and it helped lay the groundwork for much of the band's later work.
In 1985, college friends Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood (whose father, David Hood, was a Muscle Shoals session player who played bass on the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There") formed a punk-inspired band named Adam's House Cat. The group split up six years later, and Cooley and Hood launched several follow-up projects before moving to different cities. They eventually returned to Athens, Georgia, where they formed Drive-By Truckers in 1996. Gangstabilly announced the band's official debut in 1998, and the follow-up album Pizza Deliverance saw Cooley emerging as a strong songwriter in his own right. (The contrast between Cooley and Hood's songs, as well as those compositions written by bandmembers Rob Malone, Shonna Tucker, and Jason Isbell, would soon prove to be one of the Truckers' biggest strengths.) In 2000, the band documented its strength as a live act with Alabama Ass Whuppin', a concert recording taken from a show in Athens.
The vision for Drive-By Truckers' heralded rock opera took shape as Hood began to address his own Southern roots. Recorded during a September heat wave in Birmingham, Alabama -- and boasting the band's three-guitar attack (à la Skynyrd) -- the album veered from nervy, powerful rock & roll to a bruised, jagged tone that recalled Neil Young & Crazy Horse. It was also an underground success, receiving a four-star rating from Rolling Stone and catching the ear of roots rock label Lost Highway, which reissued the album in 2002. Unfortunately for the label, many people who would otherwise have purchased the album already owned a copy; unfortunately for the Truckers, they were released from their contract just as their first album for Lost Highway was finished. After several months of between-label limbo, the band was picked up by New West Records, a Texas-based label that released Decoration Day in mid-2003. The album featured several songs by newcomer Jason Isbell, a young singer/guitarist who had replaced Rob Malone two years prior.
Tour dates and further lineup changes followed the album's release, with bassist Earl Hicks departing and studio musician Shonna Tucker (who was also Isbell's wife) climbing aboard to join Hood, Cooley, Isbell, and drummer Brad Morgan. The new lineup made its debut on 2004's The Dirty South, a concept album that spun Southern tales of small towns, violent sheriffs, and legendary record producers. A concert DVD, Live at the 40 Watt: August 27 & 28, 2004, arrived in 2005, followed one year later by Isbell's final album with the group, A Blessing and a Curse. In light of Isbell's decision to quit the band in favor of a solo career, pedal steel guitarist John Neff officially joined in 2007, having contributed to several Drive-By Truckers albums in the past. Brighter Than Creation's Dark introduced the revised lineup in 2008; additionally, it showcased Shonna Tucker's abilities as a songwriter, marking the first time that any of her contributions had appeared on record. Drive-By Truckers returned to the road that summer to support the record's release.
Although the band remained on tour well into 2009, the Truckers also found time to release their second concert album, Live from Austin TX,
as well as a collection of unreleased material entitled The Fine Print: A Collection of Oddities and Rarities. Patterson Hood rounded out the year by recording his second solo record, Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs), and gathering his bandmates back together after its release for another round of recording sessions. Two albums resulted from those sessions, 2010's The Big To-Do and 2011's Go-Go Boots, both of which were released by ATO Records, and featured the group's new keyboard player, Jay Gonzalez, who also contributed to Hood's third solo effort, 2012's Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. Meanwhile, New West Records combed through the band's first decade of material to help compile Ugly Buildings, Whores, and Politicians: Greatest Hits 1998-2009, which marked the band's final release for New West in August 2011. In 2012, Mike Cooley followed Hood's lead with his debut solo effort, The Fool on Every Corner, drawn from a pair of solo acoustic performances. Returning to the studio in 2013 with longtime producer David Barbe, the group (now a five-piece with the departure of John Neff and the addition of new bassist Matt Patton, who replaced Tucker after she left for a solo career) opted for a stripped-back sound for its 12th album, 2014's English Oceans. ~ Andrew Leahey & Erik Hage
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From the swamps of southern Louisiana comes the apocalyptic folk rock of Dax Riggs: starting with the teenage death metal of Acidbath on through the gothic dixie-fried trash rock of deadboy and the Elephantmen, Dax has opened for artists as diverse as Queens of the Stone Age to Leon Russell. Like Leadbelly with a devil on his back…
Outsider music, for your dying radios, in the basement at the end of the world
"As if Jeff Buckley covered Ziggy Stardust on the banks of the Mississippi Delta" --ROLLING STONE
"His low Delta howl is the pretty, pained yelp of a wounded swamp animal" --THE NEW YORKER
"Music as much informed by Southern gothic country blues as it is by metal" --ESQUIRE
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"We have long and serious conversations with our mothers about our lyrics and the image we are portraying. We talk to them about the importance of respecting women."
The Beans is raw, gritty, and powerful blues-based rock. Drawing inﬂuences from delta blues, 60"s jazz and psychedelia, The Beans present vintage rhythm based music in a modern context. The band met in late 2010 and immediately agreed on the desire to melt faces with their music in the manner (and with the craftsmanship) of Wilco, Junior Kimbrough, Jimi Hendrix, Lightnin' Hopkins, Charles Mingus, and Townes Van Zandt.
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After the breakup of Floor in 2004, Torche vocalist/guitarist Steve Brooks decided to carry on the thundering tradition of his former band, recruiting guitarist Juan Montoya (also formerly of Floor), drummer Rick Smith, and bassist Jonathan Nuñez. This lineup evolved the sonic template Brooks had created with Floor into a lush and more fully realized sound. In 2005, the Miami four-piece released their eponymous debut Torche on Robotic Empire, introducing the world to a new brand of doom/stoner metal that replaced the bleakness and despair typical of the genre with a more triumphant and anthemic sound: the heavy metal equivalent of Chariots of Fire. Combining de-tuned, droning guitars reminiscent of doom luminaries Earth and Sunn 0))) with soaring, harmonic vocals, Torche created a new take on the genre that is best described as "doom pop."
After the album's release, the band began extensive cross-country touring, sharing bills with the Sword, Mouth of the Architect, Jesu, Isis, and Mogwai. In March of 2007, Torche released a remastered version of their self-titled album featuring the bonus track "Make Me Alive." In the summer of 2007, Torche released the beautifully packaged EP In Return on Robotic Empire, featuring a jacket designed by John Baizley of Baroness. Late in 2007, the band announced that they had finished recording their second album, Meanderthal, which was released in 2008. Later that year, guitarist Juan Montoya left the band due to creative differences. The remaining members carried on a a trio, touring with bands like Harvey Milk and Coheed and Cambria. In 2010, the band released the EP Songs for Singles on Hydrahead. ~ Gregory Heaney
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In 2009 rapper Freddie Gibbs set out to be the Midwest's unofficial street poet, releasing a series of mixtapes that were as complex as they were thuggish. Influenced by the likes of 2Pac, Biggie, UGK, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Gibbs filled his lyrics with honest and compelling stories of his hometown's demise, a steady decline to which he helped contribute while a drug dealer. He dealt out of a Gary, Indiana recording studio, absorbing a steady stream of uninspired rhymes while pushing product. Figuring he could do better, Gibbs began writing his own lyrics and cut some demos that would eventually land in the hands of Interscope. When the label signed Gibbs in 2006, he moved to Los Angeles and recorded a debut album, but a year later the management of Interscope changed hands and the rapper was dropped. He returned to Gary, and then moved to Atlanta until producer Josh the Goon convinced Gibbs to return to L.A. for one more try. In early 2009 he released the Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs mixtape to critical and message board acclaim. The Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik mixtape soon followed, as did a feature in The New Yorker that found writer Sasha Frere-Jones declaring Gibbs "the one rapper I would put money on right now." Late in the year he released the 81-song mixtape The Labels Tryin' to Kill Me. As the mixtape's title inferred, Gibbs had, like Jay Electronica, become a 21st century Internet-age hip-hop star, able to draw press and earn a loyal following via downloads and mixtapes instead of the usual industry channels. He finished 2009 proudly unsigned but in 2010 he made a rare aboveground appearance with the Str8 Killa EP, released on the Decon label. Two years later he released two collaborative efforts: Piñata with Madlib, an album on the underground producer's Madlib Invazion label; and The Tonite Show with DJ Fresh, an entry in the West Coast producer's collaborative series. ~ David Jeffries
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Though Joshua Radin enjoyed singing during his childhood, the Cleveland native never intended to be a professional musician. Instead, he studied drawing and painting at Northwestern University, following his college years with stints as an art teacher, screenwriter, and art gallery employee. Eventually, Radin took a stab at songwriting and played one of his earliest compositions, "Winter," for his friend Zach Braff. The burgeoning actor/director took an immediate liking to the song, and "Winter" eventually found its way onto Braff's hit television show Scrubs in early 2004. After fans began to request more of his music, Radin decided to pursue a songwriting career and signed with Columbia Records, which issued his debut album, We Were Here, in 2006.
Radin relocated to Los Angeles and aligned himself with the Hotel Cafe, a unique Hollywood venue specializing in performances by singer/songwriters. He soon found himself playing national tour dates with a number of Hotel Cafe regulars, including Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, and Meiko. Meanwhile, he issued a pair of digital EPs while readying the release of his sophomore album, Simple Times, which arrived in late 2008. The album was released in the U.K. two years later. Meanwhile, Radin placated his American fans by issuing a short EP, Songs Under a Streetlight, and putting the finishing touches on The Rock and the Tide, which appeared in October 2010. In 2012, Radin returned with the album Underwater, featuring musical contributions from such musicians as pianist Benmont Tench (Tom Petty), drummer Jim Keltner (Bob Dylan), and others. ~ Marisa Brown & Andrew Leahey