Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros MySpace

Edward Sharpe has never existed except in the pages of a story penned by former Ima Robot singer Alex Ebert. The musician created the messianic — though lustful — character while going through a break-up and a bout of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. After about a year of these dark days, Ebert met Jade Castrinos; the duo gathered 10 friends, formed Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros and let their creative juices flow.

The result is its debut, Up From Below, destined to be the soundtrack to wanna-be hippie communes everywhere. The band used a 24-track tape machine from 1979 to record the album, adding a layer of authenticity that is unmatched, even by the members’ converted-school-bus-as-tour-bus driven by a guy named Cornfed.

The band demonstrates an impressive level of musical precision, especially given its double-digit number of free spirits. Up From Below is an album where songs with feathery flute solos (“Om Nashi Me”) or claps and snaps (“40 Day Dream”) fit seamlessly with tracks that have darker musical themes (“Simplest Love,” “Black Water”).

The masterpiece of the album, however, is “Home,” easily the most genuine, joyful love song to have been released in the past year. Ebert and Castrinos take turns singing verses but join together for the chorus: “Let me come home / Home is wherever I’m with you.” There’s whistling, there’s shouting, there’s a hint of a Southern drawl from Castrinos — and above all, there’s an unadultered sense of head-over-heels exuberance that many jaded modern groups fail to capture.

At the release party for Up From Below, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros raised money for the Gulu Widows Group of Uganda. After this kind gesture, many of the women who have lost family in Northern Uganda’s civil war and their children gathered be filmed while singing “Home.” In this recording, the song’s chorus becomes especially poignant, and shows that despite all of the psychedelic fun of Up From Below, Sharpe may be a bit of a savior after all.

— By Executive Editor
Ani Vrabel


Theophilus London

Theophilus London MySpace

I hate to say it, folks, but radio has officially hit rock-bottom. Case in point: Ke$ha’s nauseatingly unoriginal single, “Tik Tok,” insulted listeners’ intelligence a record 11,224 times last week. To put this travesty into perspective, consider the fact that not even a Lady Gaga song has been played that often in a seven-day period. For those of us who haven’t been brushing our teeth with a bottle of Jack, however, there’s hope on the hip-hop horizon and his name is Theophilus London.

The immensely talented — and uniquely named — only child of a struggling single mother, London is everything all the winners of those star-seeking reality shows should be. He grew up reading newspapers instead of video game pamphlets and counts Morrisey, The Beach Boys and ’80s electronica pioneers KraftWerk among his many musical influences. In 2008, London caused a ripple in the blogosphere with the mixtape JAM! and its 2009 follow-up, This Charming Mixtape. The collections featured remixes of everything from grungy punk-rock tracks to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”

Now, “Humdrum Town,” the assumed single off London’s yet-to-be-announced full-length debut, is making the Internet rounds, and it’s a stunning example of what popular hip-hop could sound like. With rapid-fire lyrics laid over a perfect instrumental mix of synth and swagger, “Humdrum Town” is a slick, focused piece of genre-bending gold. London raps, “I ain’t doin’ this for check or fame” and, unlike with many other rappers, it’s easy to believe him.

“Tik Tok” might be addicting, but so is “Jersey Shore” — and we all know where that little gem sits on the quality scale. This week, do your eardrums a favor and take a hit of Theophilus London instead.

— Entertainment Editor
Franchesca Winters

Tiger JK

Tiger’s Blog

South Korean rapper Tiger JK, aka Drunken Tiger, gave his first paidperformance for $500. The audience, outraged by a musical genre theyhad never heard before, threw fruit and shoes at him. The company took half the profit, and JK gave half of the remaining money to hisgirlfriend, now his wife. With only $125, JK began saving his cash in an envelope under his bed as he pursued his dream.

In Korea, hip-hop is still in its infancy. In mainstream music, the genre only caught on in the early 2000s, but now grows as an influential culture. The break-through is largely due to Tiger JK. At 35 years old, JK continues to prove both his pioneering talent and financial success, holding a Jay-Z-like iron grip on the title of hip-hop king amid a sea of teens and 20-something fame chasers.

Fans of JK have praised the genuine emotion of his music, the presentation and lyrics of which clashed loudly with the soft, pop-industry prepackaged music of the late 90s. His earliest album, deemed too explicit by the government and banned from public play, gained considerable underground respect.

 JK’s talent for rapping and musicality surges through in his best albums, most notably The Legend Of… and Sky Is the Limit. The single“8:45 Heaven” from the latter, a song written after JK lost his grandmother, proves his lyricism and emotionally raw flow.

 JK released his eighth album, Feel gHood Muzik, in 2009, on which hip-hop legend Rakim collaborated on the single “Monster,” reportedly only out of respect for JK’s work. The song blasts open with a heavy beat and rotates through collaborates Rakim, Rakka, Roscoe Umali and female Korean rapper Tasha a la Drake’s “Forever.” 

Despite the fact that Feel gHood Muzik has sold over 100,000 copies, JK doesn’t have much money in his bank account. JK explained that he keeps a significant amount of his savings in his house, citing an emotional attachment to his early days of saving cash in an envelope. He recalled the day he realized he had saved $5,000 after years of minimal success and cultural criticism, and the resulting pride that to this day keeps him holding cash under his bed.

By Asst. Entertainment Editor
Ginny Chae

Chromeo

Courtesy of Myspace

Chomeo’s Myspace

Chromeo is on a mission to fight bad music taste. This psychedelic electrofunk duo from Montreal dubs it “Hypo Auditory Aesthetic Aphasia,” also known as HAAA. “It’s a serious socio-psychological disease manifested by awful taste in music. And it’s scary,” says singer David Macklovitch in a YouTube video titled “Chromeo Fights Crappy Music.” As Macklovitch snaps on a white, medical glove, instrumentalist Patrick Gemayel nods sadly in agreement.

In that video, the band visits New York City to combat the outbreak of HAAA. The duo slaps a “I Beat HAAA” sticker onto a jazz fan and grow concerned over a yuppie who says “hip-hop didn’t do it for me.” While I thank Chromeo for the laughs, it should rest assured that its freakishly catchy, ’80s pop songs are enough to fight crappy music.

Its second album, Fancy Footwork, earned an A- from music critic Robert Christgau. Singles like “Bonafied Lovin’” and “Fancy Footwork,” with Macklovitch’s cheeky lyrics and synthesized funk, inject a dancing groove into your body. The type that makes listeners wish they knew how to moonwalk and pop-and-lock, even if it meant secretly practicing in front of your closet mirror as a kid.

Chromeo’s infectious vibe has boogied its way into 2009 with the release of single “Night by Night” by music label Green Label Sound.

Currently, the band is working to complete another studio album for a summer of 2010 release. So don’t worry— if the summer heat waves affect your judgment and you get a case of HAAA, then Chromeo will be there to fight it off.

— By Asst. Entertainment Editor
Ginny Chae

Plasticines

Courtsey of Myspace

Plasticines’ Myspace

Whether or not you’re addicted to the Upper East Side shenanigans of Blair, Chuck and the rest of the “Gossip Girl” gang, you’ve got to admit that the folks over at The CW have good taste in music. In its first season, the show featured every song from the debut EP of indie-rock gods The Virgins and a mesmerizing performance by folk-pop duo The Pierces. On Nov. 9, “Gossip Girl” was at it again, shining the limelight on the little-known Plastiscines.

Although the Plastiscines, a Parisian quartet comprised of four enviously gorgeous French girls, have made quite a name for themselves across the pond, their seductive sounds have yet to flirt with the eardrums of most American listeners. Throughout its ultra-brief discography, the Plastiscines leap from grungy, distorted ’70s post-punk (“No Way”) to rollicking garage rock (“Bicyclette”), but it’s ultimately the band’s saucy dance-pop tracks that capture what the Plastiscines are all about.

Although I, admittedly, have only a faint idea what feisty frontwoman Katty Besnard is singing about, the simple rock chords of “Loser,” the bouncy French-language single off the band’s 2007 debut, LP1, transcend any language barrier. Wonderfully upbeat, the song showcases the girls’ signature group shouting and toe-tapping bass. Likewise, “B—h,” an aptly-titled English track from the band’s sophomore effort About Love, which was released this summer, and one of the two sultry songs performed on “Gossip Girl,” revels in female unpredictability. Besnard sings, “I’m a b—h / When I fall in love / I’m a b—h / When I give a kiss / I’m a b—h / When I sing like this / I’m a b—h / In disguise.”

With simple yet addictive instrumentalism and wild live performances, the Plastiscines are anything but a cookie-cutter girl group. “Gossip Girl” might be losing the ratings game, but with bands as quirky and fun as the Plastiscines gracing the set, its soundtrack is hipper than ever.

— By Entertainment Editor
Franchesca Winters

Sleigh Bells

Will Deitz_myspace

Sleigh Bells’ Myspace

Dance pop isn’t aggressive enough anymore. College airwaves, a prime locale for truly gratifying party tunes, are now filled with the mundane: sexy (yet soulless) club hits such as Emory’s expectation-failing stoner Sean Kingston to hip (yet uber-sappy) dance tracks from MGMT or Passion Pit. Head-bangin’, speaker-bustin’, straight-up violent dance is fading fast.

Sleigh Bells hopes to deter this decline of righteous rock. Sleigh Bells, duo of producer Derek Miller and vocalist Alexis Krauss, met up when Krauss was dining at a Brooklyn restaurant where Miller waited tables. They started talking about music — Miller, a former member of Florida hardcore band Poison the Well, and Krauss, a singer in bubble-pop group RubyBlue. Like a scene from a movie, the two became excited at the possibility of collaboration, and Miller left the chance meeting with far greater profits than minimum wage. Their dissimilar tastes merged into a fuzz rock band that both delights and assaults the eardrums.

Through extensive touring, including a hotly-attended spot opening for The xx at CMJ, Sleigh Bells developed a fanbase bridging pop and hardcore, balancing their disparate musical histories. Synth-rave sensation “Crown on the Ground,” bursts open with bent guitar notes that explode into a noisy, yet sonically-pleasing cacophony of amped-up power chords and rambunctious dance-ready drums. Krauss’s subdued vocals ring bells of a Santogold on Ambien or a female Julian Casablancas — the cool indifference and sporadic wails keep songs on edge, like a garage band wandering into a night club.

Halfway through the song “Beach Girls,” Krauss belts out what can best be described as an orgasm solo: moaning out erotic melodies to Miller’s distorted bass riffs.

According to the band’s MySpace, all four of the tracks available online are currently just demos — low-fi, complex-FM samples — which will be professionally rerecorded for an LP in the near future. And their return to neck-breaking jams couldn’t come soon enough

— By Entertainment Editor
Geoff Schorkopf

Epik High

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Courtesy of Flickr

 Epik High’s Myspace

A quick glance at the South Korean music scene would have any, self-respecting music fan running for the border. To some extent, this reaction is justified. The country’s notoriously corporate-driven music industry took a note from the 90’s pop phenomenon and perfected the exploitation of girl groups and boy bands decked out in matching outfits. You think the Backstreet Boys were bad? One of South Korea’s current successes is a 13-member boy band called Super Junior.

Dig a little deeper, though, and within this pop-reigned industry you’ll find some artists worth noticing. Rap group Epik High, independent from studios, is one such act. Composed of three members — Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz — Epik High’s sixth album, (e), which was released Sept. 16, was one of the most anticipated albums of the year.

The group has shown off a variety of stylistic influences. On (e), Epik High fuses rap with electronica, instrumentals and bossa nova to create an intriguing hip-hop fusion.

The song “Rocksteady” carries a clear influence from old-school groups like Run DMC. “Wannabe,” a sharp criticism of Korea’s fame-driven music acts, relies on a electronic base rhythm. Several songs employ heavy instrumentalism, aresult of member Tablo’s 10 years of experience playing the violin. (He quit after disrupting his orchestra’s concert performance of “Brandenburg Concerto”by breaking into the theme song of “Jurassic Park”.)

Epik High’s songs also contain considerable lyrical quality. Jin originally wrote poetry, and Tablo experimented with underground hip-hop while earning his English Literature degree from Stanford University.

While Epik High’s lyrics may get lost in translation to western listeners, their musicality soars. As mainstream U.S. hip-hop continues to rely on stereotypical bass beats and overdone themes, Epik high has managed to breathe fresh air into the genre.

By Assistant Entertainment Editor
Ginny Chae