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Radiohead has released 18 hours of demo recording, studio sessions, and unreleased songs after a hacker demanded $150,000 as ransom to not leak the stolen recordings. In response, the band released the compilation of the recordings on Bandcamp for £18 (or around $25) as a fundraiser for the global climate activist group, Extinction Rebellion, who have taken up residency in London.
Quoting from band member Jonny Greenwood:
“We got hacked last week - someone stole Thom’s minidisk archive from around the time of OK Computer, and reportedly demanded $150,000 on threat of releasing it. So instead of complaining - much - or ignoring it, we’re releasing all 18 hours on Bandcamp in aid of Extinction Rebellion. Just for the next 18 days. So for £18 you can find out if we should have paid that ransom.
Never intended for public consumption (though some clips did reach the cassette in the OK Computer reissue) it’s only tangentially interesting. And very, very long. Not a phone download. Rainy out, isn’t it though?”
“The climate and ecological emergency demands courage, truth-telling and generosity like never before,” Extinction Rebellion said in a statement, “We are so grateful to Radiohead for showing us how that’s done, both now and in the lead-up to the April rebellion. Words are inadequate but actions do change the world.”
To download the recordings, visit Radiohead’s Bandcamp page.
There’s a unique sound behind Chicago-based band Zigtebra’s music. Self-described as lo-fi indie rock, you can’t help but move to it. But it’s not just the synthetic beats or spunky lyrics that make the music mesmerizing. After talking with Emily Rose, 28, and Joe Zeph, 34, the “dream pop duo” behind the band, I quickly learned how their love for the music translates to their audience, making even a newcomer to the sound love their music too.
Joe grew up in church and was therefore exposed to music at an early age whereas Emily’s background is in dance. But although delayed in formal music training, Emily’s passion for music has always been present, which is apparent in her dedication to the craft.
In 2017, Zigtebra wrote one new song every month of the year and went on a 120-day summer tour. The following year they toured for nine months playing house shows and alt spaces around America.
Emily described the tour as a learning experience that was “totally personal” and “satisfying.” She says, “It was the best kind of hard work. I would rather show up to that kind of hard work than hard work I’m not passionate about. That year changed everything. It grew me more than anything I had ever done.”
That year, Joe and Emily started writing songs together – a process that transformed their songwriting journey. All of their music comes from personal experiences they’ve gone through whether it’s “scorching heart ache or longing.”
Emily says, “The coolest part about our music is that it’s not the story that we own. It’s a story everybody knows and we want to write music that people can hear and think this is how I feel because falling in love, being dumped or missing somebody is a universal thing we all go through.”
“When you realize your friends or even strangers have felt the same jealousy heartache, loss and embarrassment, it brings everyone together and I really love that – it makes me feel a little bit closer to everybody.”
And that’s what Emily and Joe want fans to get from their music – simply knowing they aren’t alone in whatever they’re going through, no matter how good or how bad.
Emily, who doesn’t come from a music background, also says she hopes people feel empowered to share their creative or artistic ideas with others.
“I never want to come across as pretentious or too cool,” she says. “I want to feel connected to everybody because that’s what makes me really happy is going to shows where the artist is accessible.”
She adds, “We always try to come on stage already thinking we’re connected to the audience instead of feeling self-conscious about how we look or what we’re doing.”
And by doing that, Emily and Joe have created a space where anyone and everyone can feel free to be themselves and connect with one another through their shared loved of music.
Emily and Joe have come a long way since they first started making music and performing together, and in terms of their career, they still have a long way to go until they make it “big” so to speak, but they’re eager to see what the future holds and look forward to seeing it through with their fans.
“In two years, it would be great to have an album made that I am in total love with,” Emily says. “To be able to go further and deeper down the hole and extend beyond the release of Major Crush.”
She adds, “If you start with realism and then go toward expressionism, Major Crush was our realism phase. We passed art class 101 and now we’re going onto weirder stuff.”
And as for what’s next on the agenda, Emily and Joe would both love to sign to a record label and go on tour through Europe.
They’re big dreams but dreams that don’t seem that far-fetched. Emily tells me she knew when she met Joe that they were going to make music together for a long time.
“Everyone knows how that is,” she says. “When you have a friend that gets the same things you get and are curious about the same stuff. Regardless of what people thought of Zigtebra, we both knew it was going to be something we loved and that it wasn’t going to be perfect but we were going to do our best to make it get there.”
The process hasn’t been easy. They’ve sacrificed a lot along the way and they’ve had their fair share of challenges, but it’s been worth it.
“In this moment, we’re better than we ever have been in our craft,” she says. “And we can only continue to get better from here.”
Recently the joint frontman, drummer, and multi-Grammy winner with the critically acclaimed band, The Roots, announced a partnership with the startup meat replacement company, Impossible Foods. The two announced that they are partnering to bring Philadelphia Phillies Fans vegetarian Philly Cheesesteaks branded as, “Questlove’s Cheesesteak.”
Earlier this week, Grimes, who depending on the angularity of your haircut, may either know as Elon Musk’s former romance who almost helped tweet Tesla out of existence— or as the Juno award winning musician who’s last full length was released in 2015, announced that her next full length, Miss_Anthropocene, is going to be inspired by climate change.
While both of these artists enjoy a smaller spotlight than an International pop-star, with freedom to explore their own creative pursuits, they are still artists who are recognized and active in the mainstream. Questlove’s band, The Roots, gets airtime every night that the mainstream pinnacle, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, is on. Grimes, despite curated ‘indie’ roots, has gone on to collaborate with Janelle Monáe, tour with Lana del Rey, go to the Met Gala with Elon Musk, etc. These are artists that definitely have mainstream pull.
What’s inspiring and hopeful about these projects (even if you don’t live in Philly or won’t likely stream Miss_Anthropocene) is that mainstream, or mainstream adjacent artists are now head on tackling ideas of climate change. The environment has always been a topic amongst creatives, but amongst mainstream culture, there hasn’t been a distinct reckoning the climate crisis that face us.
“Each song will be a different embodiment of human extinction as depicted through a Pop star Demonology,” Grimes told us in her album announcement, then continued, “Climate change is something I’m only ever confronted with in a sad/ guilty way…. Reading news and what not… so my goal is to make climate change fun (lol..??)…. “ This could inspire her contemporaries to follow suit, and start to consider their place in a society that is in the middle of a climate crisis.
If we are going to reduce carbon emissions, a part of what we are going to have to do is reduce (or eliminate) our consumption of meat, especially red meat. According to the Guardian, “beef cattle raised on deforested land result in 12 times more greenhouse gases and use 50 times more land than those grazing rich natural pasture.” Questlove’s Philly Cheesesteak could serve as a testing ground to see how new consumers will react to vegetarian options. The average demographic of a professional sporting game is generally not going to be the same demographic of vegans who are worried about climate, so offering a meat substitute (branded by a hometown hero) is a perfect way to potentially save some future carbon emissions.
While these are two extremely, very, small examples of climate action in the grand aggregate, these are still two very influential people lending their names and reputations to climate action. Impossible Foods isn’t likely paying Questlove a fortune, especially not the amount of money he could probably get from a less admirable brand. Grimes’ new album could totally flop. The great thing is, it doesn’t matter too much, because these will likely serve as catalysts to get more creatives thinking about what they can do to advert climate change.
The Age of Adz:
A Phantasmagoria of Hysterical, Apocalyptic Melodrama
A cultural journalist and lyrical anthropologist to the historical, weird, wild and grotesque, Sufjan is also a sensitive, loving man who asks big questions of himself and the world. He is an empathic figure with robust humanity spilling out of every song. Whether his songs are simple and spare, marked by long silences and echoes (as with his first 5 studio albums), or grandiose cacophonies like an Amadeus symphony (as with his sixth proper album, The Age of Adz), his songs always burst at the seams with veiled meaning and subtext— packing in maximum artistry as well as any Mozart concerto. The challenging songs drill inside your psyche and make you ruminate long into the night. They are as mesmerizing as they are poignant.
One might assume that The Age of Adz (pronounced “odds”) is a less-than-subtle a pun on how strange this album is. Not only strange in the sense of being an alien-level departure from his other albums, but also odd in its very content. Alas, rumor has it from interviews— assuming we have a reliable narrator in Sufjan—that the misspelling is merely a direct quote from Royal Roberts’ writings and illustrations.
Royal Roberts, the inspiration for the title and visual art, was a paranoid schizophrenic artist living in obscurity in a ramshackle home deep in the bayou. A Louisiana folk painter and self-proclaimed “prophet,” as he is described in the album’s liner notes.
Of course, this raises the question about Royal’s artistic intents when he proclaims—“This is the age of adz—eternal living.” Is this about the rapture? Ascension into the afterlife; whether banjo-plucking angels in paradise or a spiraling pit of hellfire? His preoccupation with Armageddon seems to suggest this is true.
Sufjan’s music is always tinged with at least a gossamer underpinning of religion, although he admits in interviews he tries not to be too heavy-handed with his spirituality; lest he alienate fans. He seems to struggle with existential questions. He is nothing if not philosophical and at times, deliberately overdramatic.
This album still brings a welcome and beautiful psychic pain every time I listen to it, especially after a gap of a few years. But upon the first few listens, it really shook me to my core. It’s hard to recapture the magic of that first listen. It seemed as primal as it was prophetic. A profound meditation on the human condition, on the nature of the universe, on the inner workings of the mind. It seems everything and nothing at the same time, which is perhaps the essence of religion, stripped bare. It is a curiosity that declares knowledge with certainty and hopefulness, while acknowledging skepticism lurking around the corner with the truth.
The first track, “Futile Devices,” eases the listener into the album with familiar strums of guitars, nothing too electronic just yet. Reminiscent of his previous albums. His longer songs test the limits of patience (Impossible Soul clocks in at 25 minutes and change), but they also transition enough to seem like multiple songs that flow together and can hardly be accused of being dull.
The title song, Age of Adz, is certainly one of the strongest and most jarring, with computer noises and Auto-Tune and abrupt dubstep-jazzy discord. To me, the most arresting lyric is: “When I die, I’ll rot… but when I live I’ll give it all I’ve got.” A call to action, I wonder— as I listen, enraptured by the melancholy anthem. Or is it a recognition of this mortal life being all we have? Struggling with his belief in the afterlife? A manifesto of forward motion, hurtling toward cosmic accomplishment and excellence. Death is inevitable. So let’s LIVE.
Age of Adz, follows the formula that was popular in many album mixes, which is to make the third song one of the strongest. Lyrically, this is one of the most interesting. It speaks in literary and religious metaphor, like the most epic of Greek tragedies and myths. It is grand and awesome and evokes apocalyptic visions.
He goes on to lament “I’ve lost the will to fight.” Fight to live, or fight against his own beliefs? The lyrics are mysterious and open to interpretation, but that’s part of the literary beauty of this composition.
As an artist who speaks candidly about his Catholicism, Sufjan’s music seems to reflect religious shame and yearning to rebel against tradition. Listeners can feel his fear of judgment and his desire to throw caution to the wind, while embracing true love. This allows him to live as a bold and unrestrained artist while still staying in the bounds of his religion.
With “I Walked,” the first single and the most harmonic ballad, the synthesizer weirdly reminds me of Ray Kurzweil’s keyboards, and further, of Kurzweil’s futurism and existential philosophy surrounding artificial intelligence. This album seems like a “singularity” in and of itself. A Big-Bang style birth of something magnificent and dark and wonderful. A rebirth for Sufjan’s artistic style. A nascent genre of new and unpredictable music.
On a literal level, it makes me think it’s a tribute for Elliot Smith, who “left a mess on the floor” after “stabbing himself in the chest.” Yet, it is more likely a song about unrequited or disastrous love. Maybe the two are the same. After all, love is often a suicide of the ego.
Sufjan’s lyrics and melodies are notoriously sad and solemn. The most common mood for his best songs is heartbreaking. Achingly beautiful and tortured self-doubt, gilded with bitter jealousy. It is as evocative as the listener’s state of mind while taking it all in. Indeed, it has meant so many different things to me upon different listens, sometimes years between revisiting, after I’ve transformed into a completely new man with completely new ears for music.
There’s an explosiveness to this music, a chaotic violence, frenzied and raw with emotion and juvenile yearning as much as mature lamentation of the struggles of life. As he shouts passionately in “I Want to be Well,” he’s “Not FUCKING AROUND.” And when it comes to life’s big questions, neither should we.
This album runs the gamut of emotion, leaps across a broad spectrum of love-filled trills and dance-worthy hooks and dubstep beats that drop in your stomach, churning a reaction to the abruptness to songs like “Too Much.” Sounds effects of laser guns and 80s video games. Fluttering flutes, jazzy alto sax, familiar banjo twangs and computer synth distortion reminiscent of Thom York’s most anxious arrangements. It is almost anxiety-inducing at the end of “Too Much.” It really is too much. And then it calms down into powerful, heartrending ballots as the album progresses.
This album is experimentalism of the highest order. The folk wisdom is still present, it’s just wrapped in something more enigmatic, a fabric of mysterious and colossal power. His arrangements are lush, vibrant and layered. His voice shakes and trembles as much as it soars with bombast and outrage. He exudes compassion and sensitivity while crying out with a principled rage and fury. His music, like his inspiration, can be described as “schizophrenic,” with all due respect to that condition and all its challenging manifestations and personal burdens.
It’s something of an otherworldly feat that Sufjan could weave together music that is at once painstakingly meticulous and polished and at the same time unpredictable like the most manic of jazz experimentalism. He is free form in his cohesiveness. He brings order to cosmic chaos. His songs are pandemonium and they are gospel from a great seer on high.
He uses the first version of Autotune that doesn’t seem cheap and contrived. Indeed, it amplifies the futuristic and agonizing frustration he is venting with these most confessional of lyrics. One gets the impression that music is therapy for Sufjan, perhaps even more than it is therapy for his adoring fans, which is no small accomplishment.
On some tracks he seems world-weary, exhausted by life and effort, but then restless and yearning for action, for change and for reinvention. Renaissance of the mind. Mental health achieved through the meditation of music.
There is a deliberate overarch of glitch-iness in the computer sounds, a sort of white noise static and distortion that seems to serve as a metaphor for the incessant voices and inner demons suffered by mankind, not only the healthy mind of the examined life, but the tortured schizophrenic especially. There is harmony is his conflict, and ugliness in his beauty.
With “Now That I’m Older” we get a treatise on the wisdom that comes with age, longing for the bliss and innocence of youth, begrudgingly accepting the pain and responsibility of adulthood.
“Vesuvius,” by contrast, is one of the album’s most haunting and evocative masterpieces. He revisits some of his journalist/historian roots with this meditation on Pompeii and the 2,000 year-old eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that violently wiped the city off the map. It serves as perfect allegory for the album’s apocalyptic themes, and yet, lyrically, seems to reflect Sufjan’s own inner turmoil bubbling over, with lines like “Sufjan, the panic inside/the murdering ghost that you cannot ignore,” which perhaps is a battle with his own demons that mirror those demons that Royal fought in his own head. “Why does it have to be so hard?” he asks later in the song, about the struggles of life’s tribulations.
In interviews, Sufjan stated that he suffered from a debilitating viral infection that wreaked havoc on his nervous system. He was in pain, both mental and physical, and had to take a convalescing hiatus from his art several months. He explained that “The Age of Adz, is a result of that process of working through health issues... getting much more in touch with my physical self.” He went on to describe the overall tone as having “a hysterical melodrama,” which is the most succinct encapsulation of this album.
I can never get through this album without succumbing to awe-inspired goosebumps.
Age of Adz showcases Sufjan Stevens at his most ambitious, his most experimental, his greatest heights as an indie torch song crooner-cum-folk superstar. He is a maestro, and this is his greatest masterpiece. Alongside Radiohead’s OK Computer, this is a rare album that I believe is, in a word: perfect.
I Love This: is a reoccurring feature from In Kind where writers and readers review a favorite work by a favorite artist of theirs.
For Drake's new music video, his label gave him a budget of $1 million. While that seems like a lot of money for a video, for an artist with the profile of Drake's, production value can begin to add up. It costs a lot to fly people in, have extensive makeup and costuming, get permits cleared- and this is all before stage design, special effects, and post production come into play.
With this in mind, in Drake's new video for "God's Plan," he eschews the over the top productions that we have come to expect from major label artists and the videos that they release, and gives away the budget for the video.
Whether Drake is aiming for a grand statement on the topic of wealth distribution or just spreaking positivity, in a time where those with the most money are gaining more and more (and at a greater pace) than their peers who make less, this is a refreshing gesture- and something that we can all gain something from.
Giving back, paying it forward, donating your time, or even just staying positive and engaging with your community is something that we can all do. Even better still, we can never do those things enough!
Thank you, Drake!