David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ Is Adventurous To The End

According to Tony Visconti, David Bowie’s longtime producer and mouthpiece for the final few years of his life, the English expat wanted to embrace manifold styles for his 25th album, ★, aka Blackstar, released last Friday. Pop’s original chameleon had of course been doing that for 50-odd years, and so for this last time around, he aimed to omit the very music upon which he began. “The goal, in many, many ways,” Visconti claims, “was to avoid rock & roll.”

David Bowie's 27th album, Blackstar, was released on Friday, his 69th birthday. He died, following an 18-month battle with cancer, two days later. i

David Bowie’s 27th album, Blackstar, was released on Friday, his 69th birthday. He died, following an 18-month battle with cancer, two days later.

Jimmy King/Courtesy of Columbia Records

There’s a lot of that going around: Check the latest Coachella lineup beyond Guns ‘n Roses. But rather than revisiting his synth-heavy Low/”Heroes”/Lodger trilogy like so many of

506 Shows In 365 Days Bob Boilen’s 2015 In Concerts

In Bob Boilen's favorite concert of 2015, Sufjan Stevens turned Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Hall into a place of self-discovery and magic.

After seeing exactly 662 bands in each 2013 and 2014, my concert attendance plummeted in 2015. This past year I saw only 506 bands take the stage, but I have an excuse. I wrote a book.

So more than 100 times this year I opted to sit on my couch and write instead of running out to one of my fave D.C. concert hot spots. I love the participatory nature of concerts. There’s something about screaming approval at a show that makes it an active and communal form of entertainment. I don’t get that from movies and TV shows — in fact, I never made it to the theater in 2015 and Portlandia was the only series of which I can say I watched every episode. On the other hand, I did see 59 bands play at the 9:30 Club and 31 bands play at DC9, and also

How A Korean Jazz Festival Found A Huge Young Audience

Danish Afrobeat-inspired band The KutiMangoes pose for photos with the crowd at the Jarasum International Jazz Festival.

It was like discovering a parallel reality.

After completing a sponsored trip to South Korea for music professionals in October, I stayed in the country, striking out on my own. I grabbed a train to the Jarasum International Jazz Festival, a couple hours from Seoul, and arrived in the middle of a set by the international power pairing of Paolo Fresu, Omar Sosa and Trilok Gurtu.

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I did a double take — and then a triple take. A huge audience of mostly twentysomethings was smiling and dancing, showing big love for the music. I looked around for a plausible explanation. Was a K-pop video being projected on a screen near the jazz trio? No, a festival volunteer explained — the crowd’s enthusiasm was all for the improvising trumpeter, pianist and percussionist onstage. Younger people, he said: They like jazz.

Courtesy of Jarasum International Jazz Festival

Adele joins James Corden for Carpool Karaoke sing-along

Award-winning artist Adele is the latest celebrity to join The Late Late Show host James Corden for a Carpool singing session.

Corden has brought his Carpool Karaoke across the Atlantic for a sing-along with ’25’ singer Adele.

The Late Late Show host has already had artists including One Direction, Stevie Wonder, Iggy Azalea and Justin Bieber in his car for the popular videos which have been viewed by millions online.

James Corden and Adele singalong in Carpool Karaoke Play! 01:03

In a teaser trailer released this week, and reportedly filmed in the UK, the pair can be heard singing along to Adele’s lead single Hello from the album 25 and 21 single Rolling in the Deep.

At the start of the clip Corden

Seduced by ‘perfect’ pitch how Auto-Tune conquered pop music

In January of 2010, Kesha Sebert, known as ‘Ke$ha’ debuted at number one on Billboard with her album, Animal. Her style is electro pop-y dance music: she alternates between rapping and singing, the choruses of her songs are typically melodic party hooks that bore deep into your brain: “Your love, your love, your love, is my drug!” And at times, her voice is so heavily processed that it sounds like a cross between a girl and a synthesizer. Much of her sound is due to the pitch correction software, Auto-Tune.

Sebert, whose label did not respond to a request for an interview, has built a persona as a badass wastoid, who told Rolling Stone that all male visitors to her tour bus had to submit to being photographed with their pants down. Even the bus drivers.

Yet this past November on the Today Show, the 25-year old Sebert looked vulnerable, standing awkwardly in her skimpy purple, gold, and green unitard. She was there to promote her new album, Warrior, which was supposed to reveal the authentic her.

“Was it

The 40 Most Intriguing Musicians of 2016

One of my role models as a music critic is Mel Kiper Jr. It’s true: I admire an opinionated motor-mouth football scout who never saw a statistic he didn’t love, or a player too obscure to earn a ranking. Strange to say, Kiper doesn’t have much to say about today’s stars—he’s too busy looking for tomorrow’s new talents. And he does it every day of the year.

I guess that’s why I’ve listened to around 5,000 newly-released albums since the start of this decade. It’s why I’m listening again today, and tomorrow, and pretty much every day for the foreseeable future. And it’s why I pay more attention to lesser-known artists than to the lauded megastars of the global entertainment industry. There isn’t much mystery to a radio hit, but I never lose interest in those great artists who rarely show up on the airwaves or corporate-subsidized playlists.

Yet anyone who susses out talent also encounters another kind of prospect. These may not be the best—maybe they will never be the best—but they are intriguing. They play by their own rules, and they grab your attention. A week later, a month later, you’re

Why Instrumental Music Can’t Survive in Schools as a “Fun” Class

Playing a musical instrument is fun, of course.  But school administrators, teachers, parents, and students all have a different idea of what “fun” actually means when it comes time for the arts in schools.  I believe that without a unified definition of “fun” as it pertains to music education, more music programs will continue to be cut from school curricula.

I’ve written about why music programs are cut from school, and one of the reasons is that it is not treated like — or approached as — a core subject in the curriculum.  Music is not a “frill” subject — quite the contrary.  Music education has many magical benefits that we read about when it is taught masterfully and supported by the entire school community.

Even after several studies of music’s powerful effects on the brain have been completed, too many parents think instrumental music is simply a fun break in the day that requires little work.  Music teachers are nervous to add rigor to their classes in fear of students quitting, and school administrators don’t know what to think — they just don’t want their schedules to be complicated and need their state report cards to look

Iranian rock band members who fled repression are killed in New York

NEW YORK — They said they sang in English instead of Farsi because they wanted their music to be heard by the world, but their secret performance space in Tehran was padded with Styrofoam so they wouldn’t be arrested for playing forbidden music.

Their shows in Iran sometimes had lookouts, and the rockers had to ask fans to come but not to bring their friends, lest they attract too much attention.

In other words, they were as punk rock as punk rock gets.

But when the band known as the Yellow Dogs eventually fled Tehran to escape repression and claim their slice of indie glory in Brooklyn, tragedy followed.

Early Monday, two band members who were also brothers were among four musicians found dead in an apparent murder-suicide. The incident shocked friends and acquaintances in New York, where the band had built a following for their dance-happy brand of post-punk.

For unknown reasons, police said, an Iranian musician, Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie, 29, of Queens, took a rifle to the members’ apartment in East Williamsburg, where police believe he entered from the roof.

Police said

No future? Punk is still the sound of youth rebellion the world over

On a broiling Sunday afternoon in Kennington Park, south London, a few dozen people are gathered under a large tree. A handful are playing boules and some line up for a three-legged race; most are simply drinking and talking. Yet 35 years ago such an event would have prompted uproar among other park visitors because this is the Punx Picnic, part of a non-profit urban punk festival bluntly called Scumfest.

The picnickers illustrate what a broad church punk has become via its myriad mutations over the years: neither the threat to public morals of old nor an irrelevant retro cult. Although one sports the scarlet spikes of hair familiar from Oxford Street postcard racks, they are a diverse group united only by an unseasonal fondness for black.
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To most people, punk may be preserved in the amber of history but to those who attend events such as Scumfest it is very much a going concern, and not one that is simple to describe.

Punk’s annus mirabilis, 1977, is as distant from us as the middle of the second world war was to the

Sid Vicious and the aesthetics of punk rock

The hotel room was destroyed. A television lay shattered on the ground, surrounded by a shredded pile of photographs and Bible pages, soda cans and broken furniture. On the mangled hotel bed, the sheets were coiled up in a corner, still holding the form of the human responsible for this mess. Just down the hall, Billy Idol and guys from the Sex Pistols, Blondie and Adam & the Ants banged out loud and sloppy Stooges covers late into the night.

It’s a scene Sid Vicious might have loved if he’d lived to attend the Los Angeles art opening. After all, he was there when the real thing happened.

The Sex Pistols bassist remains one of rock ‘n’ roll’s seminal icons and dark cautionary tales. He was born John Ritchie in London and was dead at 21 of a drug overdose, and his brief two years in the band made him the living embodiment of the genre’s live-fast, die-young aesthetic.

PHOTOS: Iconic rock guitars and their owners

“Sid could barely play, but he became one of the most recognized figures of a movement,” said L.A. street-art impresario Shepard Fairey, who

Is Music the Key to Success?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE trained to be a concert pianist. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player. The hedge fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard.

Multiple studies link music study to academic achievement. But what is it about serious music training that seems to correlate with outsize success in other fields?

The connection isn’t a coincidence. I know because I asked. I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians. Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements.

The phenomenon extends beyond the math-music association. Strikingly, many high achievers told me music opened up the pathways to creative thinking. And their experiences suggest that music training sharpens other qualities: Collaboration. The ability to listen. A way of thinking that weaves together disparate ideas. The power to focus on the present and the future simultaneously.
Photo
Credit Anna Parini

Will your school music program turn your kid into a Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft (guitar)? Or a Woody

Punk rock’s creative and savage legacy at Subliminal Projects gallery

Today, you can’t escape punk rock — the style, iconography and chord changes are as accessible as Hot Topic and top-40 radio. But punk continues to draw its power from the scene of the late 1970s and early ’80s, particularly here in Southern California, and to build on its legacy as a savage underground protest music and an art movement that refused to be defined by money.

On Friday, art gallery Subliminal Projects opens a new show of photography, art and ephemera called “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die,” which throws open the chaotic energy of an early punk scene that included such bands as Black Flag, the Minutemen, Redd Kross, Bad Religion, the Germs and others.

“The skate kids are still skating to it. The surfer kids are still surfing to it,” said Keith Morris, legendary singer for a band core to the movement, Circle Jerks, and his new band, OFF! “A majority of the bands that are on the Warped Tour wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for [those] bands.”

Photos of Joan Jett and Lita Ford playing dueling guitars, troubled Germs front man Darby Crash, tattooed

Daytrotter At 10 A Midwestern Rite Of Passage

It started out as a place where musicians could take a break from the tedium of the road to record a few songs and post them online for fans. Over the course of a decade, Daytrotter has become home to an archive of thousands of recordings from such big-name musicians as Tori Amos, Alabama Shakes and Charley Pride. Daytrotter turns 10 next month, and is celebrating with a music festival in Davenport, Iowa.

On the surface, the old Daytrotter studio looks like a dump. It’s a 1970s radio station, up three flights of stairs above a pizza shop in downtown Rock Island, Ill. So how did the site’s founder, Sean Moeller, who at the time was working for the local newspaper, convince bands to stop by?

“I think I promised them pizza,” Moeller says. “I think I was like, ‘I’ll buy you lunch,’ and that was enough.”

“It’s just a place that was almost like a rite of passage for these various touring indie bands that are driving through Iowa anyway on their way to Chicago or wherever,” says Marc Hogan, who writes for Pitchfork, Billboard and other music outlets, including NPR Music.

A

Benefit concert series is an homage to Chinatown’s punk rock past

On a Tuesday night in October 1978, a struggling restaurant in Chinatown decided to try some new music.

Madame Wong’s was having trouble finding customers with a regular Polynesian dance floor show. So proprietor Esther Wong, with some convincing, gave the stage to two punk rock bands.

Guitars wailed. Drums crashed. Eggrolls were served. A new venue for Los Angeles punk rock was born.

The late 1970s were a golden time for punk rock in Southern California, but traditional music venues looked down on the budding genre. Restaurants like Madame Wong’s and later Hong Kong Cafe gave the music a home and turned Chinatown into a punk destination. They hosted early shows of bands like the Ramones, Oingo Boingo, the Police and Guns N’ Roses.

A new concert series will bring punk rockers back to Chinatown for an afternoon to raise money for music education. “Save Music in Chinatown” will hold its second show on Sunday to raise money for the struggling music program at Castelar Elementary School in Chinatown. This time the venue is Human Resources, one of the many art galleries that have taken root in Chinatown

Benefit concert series is an homage to Chinatown’s punk rock past

On a Tuesday night in October 1978, a struggling restaurant in Chinatown decided to try some new music.

Madame Wong’s was having trouble finding customers with a regular Polynesian dance floor show. So proprietor Esther Wong, with some convincing, gave the stage to two punk rock bands.

Guitars wailed. Drums crashed. Eggrolls were served. A new venue for Los Angeles punk rock was born.

The late 1970s were a golden time for punk rock in Southern California, but traditional music venues looked down on the budding genre. Restaurants like Madame Wong’s and later Hong Kong Cafe gave the music a home and turned Chinatown into a punk destination. They hosted early shows of bands like the Ramones, Oingo Boingo, the Police and Guns N’ Roses.

A new concert series will bring punk rockers back to Chinatown for an afternoon to raise money for music education. “Save Music in Chinatown” will hold its second show on Sunday to raise money for the struggling music program at Castelar Elementary School in Chinatown. This time the venue is Human Resources, one of the many art galleries that have taken root in Chinatown

PASSINGS Tony Benn, Khushwant Singh, Scott Asheton

Tony Benn, 88, a committed British socialist who irritated and fascinated Britons through a political career spanning more than five decades and who renounced his aristocratic title rather than leave the House of Commons, died March 14 at his home in west London, his family said in a statement. No cause was given.

Benn held cabinet posts in Labour Party governments in the 1970s and clung unswervingly to his leftist beliefs while his party, in opposition, moved to the center and reemerged to take power again as New Labour. The change left Benn out of step with his party’s new, younger leaders.

Benn, who favored abolition of the monarchy, British withdrawal from the European Union and any strike that was going on, hadn’t changed. But his image did. Over time he was transformed from the demonized figure of the ’70s and ’80s to that often-treasured English archetype: the radical dissenter.

Born in London on April 3, 1925, Anthony Wedgwood Benn was the second son of William Wedgwood Benn, a Labour cabinet minister, and the former Margaret Holmes, a scholar in Greek and Hebrew studies. One grandfather

Reflections Of A Bowie Girl

I am a Bowie girl. Not literally: I’m a little too young to have swiped my face with glitter and run out in lime-green platforms to see David Bowie storming through America in 1972 and 1973 with the Spiders from Mars, when he sent queer and alien dispatches across a heartland primed for them by Stonewall and women’s lib and the sexual revolution but also feeling the slap of the Silent Majority as the Nixon era lumbered on. On that tour, Bowie tangled into all kinds of strange positions with the guitarist Mick Ronson, being the freaky dream of the teens who had dyed their hair strawberry to look like him, the ones who heard him when he rode the glammed-up jump blues chord progression of his anthem, “Changes,” to new heights, wailing, “Turn and face the strange!” His fans were the strange, and Bowie had finally given them a way to show it. The press called them Bowie boys and Bowie girls because there was no other name for them yet: no pansexual, no bi-curious; yes freak, but that felt like a hippie term and this wasn’t a hippie thing. “I’m just a space cadet, he’s the

The Ringlings ‘Punk Rock With a Smile’

The Ringling Sisters, which includes former members of the Bangles and the Screaming Sirens–two key female groups of L.A.’s early-’80s grass-roots movement–has released “60 Watt Reality.”

The album, on Ode Records through A&M, is the first big-label release from a representative of that milieu in ages. But though the faces may be familiar, the attitudes and sounds–a mix of semi-folky-rock and spoken-word pieces–may not.

“People will come up to me and say, ‘I can’t believe you’re into this coffeehouse thing,’ ” said Pleasant Gehman, one of the female rocker-poets who founded the Ringlings in 1987. “They say, ‘I remember when you used to be vomiting in the clubs all night.’ “

Still, Gehman, who just recently broke up the Screaming Sirens to devote more time to the Ringling Sisters, says that the methodology is drawn directly from the old days.

“It’s like punk rock,” she said.

“Punk rock with a smile,” added Gary Eaton, one of the group’s two male guitarists, sitting with Gehman and the other Sisters after a recent acoustic performance at the funky Melrose store Y-Que.

The group was

Review Red Medicine, a little like punk rock and splendid in its own way

The night of the lunar eclipse, I was having a late supper at Red Medicine out on Wilshire, a few tables over from a man who had decided to dress as Jesus for the evening, a slender young man with long, straight hair and white robes flowing around his ankles. I can’t be sure, but I think he ordered the tasting menu.

After dinner, I walked outside in time to see the last sliver of the moon disappear into the Earth’s shadow. An elderly man plucked at my arm, eager to know what I was looking up at, and I pointed at the moon, at Mars shining bright and pink in its penumbra. The man shrugged. He’d seen better. The boulevard in Beverly Hills pulsed with the red lights of three police cars on a chase. Across the street, Jesus caught my eye and waved.

The thing was, none of this was any odder than the dinner I’d just finished eating, which included peas, trout eggs and lemon curd served in a goldfish bowl capped with a thin sheet of frozen pea-pod purée, a salad of wild roots and stalks with

A Group Of Writers Listening To Kanye, Awaiting SWISH

Maybe we have jumped the gun. We very badly want G.O.O.D. Fridays back (we’re not alone). Surprise releases are fun and everything, but the build of a month(s)-long stretch is better. We would like to talk about music together, and not only by collectively spazzing out and crashing Livemixtapes. We would like to Monday morning quarterback the art and announcement punctuation and where we heard it over the weekend and the context and the song itself. We’d like to compare this week’s offering to the last couple and use all that to debate the emotional state and practical concerns of Kanye and us and try to divine, somehow, where all this is going. The Internet wasn’t quite what it is now the last time this happened, and we’re thinking about how that changes our coverage. So here we are, weighing in, doing our best to do our part as listeners and readers and thinkers, even though it’s not real clear if #EveryFriday means G.O.O.D. Fridays Part Deux or not.

Definitely we are not dealing with the clockwork delivery and full team effort of the fourth quarter of 2010. Sample email from my inbox: “Hope you’ve had an