Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Night Show On BreakThru Radio

I don’t feel I would be doing DJ AudreyII, myself, or you as reader/listener justice if I decided to write this article any other time than right now. It is 1:43am here in New York City, and I just tuned in to DJ AudreyII’s “The Night Show” on BTR. A soft hip-hop beat rolls up slowly before we hear a voice of any kind. It is a pulse chosen wisely for late night radio, as it seems to accompany the hushed sounds of any bivouac environment. From my position, even the sirens running down 9th Avenue here in Hell’s Kitchen serve as a proper accompaniment to Flying Lotus’s remix intro of Dabrye’s “Game Over.” And then comes the soothing of a late night radio DJs voice—there is nothing like it in the world—a mysterious relationship between speaker and listener, almost medicinal in effect. Whether you find yourself alone at the wheel on Interstate 65, pulling the graveyard shift at the production plant, or seeking any companionship you can find in the middle of a lonely night at home, nighttime radio has always been in a class of its own.

Are we more susceptible to music late at night? Or is it just that nighttime is reserved for the group of inhuman beings who stroll side-by-side with the conformed majority of the human race, but choose to dance instead of march? The late jazz trombonist Dicky Wells said it best: “The world is divided into two kinds of people; day people, and night people. The only difference is that all day people wish they were night people.”

I would argue that listeners are more “tuned in” at night. Perhaps this is what helps DJs feel increased freedom to stretch the boundaries of listener expectations. DJ Audrey II subconsciously admits genre-based immunity, opening her show with “It’s another eclectic show this week,” emphasizing the liberty she has taken in “mixing Electronic, Rap, and Experimental.” The relaxed atmosphere threaded into the small hours on the clock has a profound effect on both our discovery and objectivity for music. We are able to hear new melodies and instrumental combinations without the pressures of desiring it to take us some place. Music as a function for mood loses that inhibition and becomes a vehicle to an unknown, and more importantly, insouciant destination.

Listen to the way DJ AudreyII moves from “Fire of Birds” to “Excessive Moonlight” for example. What may be annoying at any other point of the day becomes unnoticed and strangely coherent. “At night, people aren’t really looking to listen to the same things they hear during the day,” notes DJ AudreyII when I ask her about playlist intentions. “They want something a little different, or something they haven’t heard before. It’s a great chance to broaden listeners’ musical taste, and even if what I’m playing is a little too weird, at least they’ve experienced it.”

As the radio medium moves from the dial to the media-player, I can’t help but wonder what effect this evolution is having on listener’s tastes. While I do believe that music is in a constant state of flux, the ambience of night radio is something that may or may not change. What I don’t think will ever change is the relationship between our love for music and the dark side of the earth. As much as we love to think our species superior to all other beings, we are still a part of a complex kingdom of animals. Crickets rub their legs in song at dawn, frogs vibrate their throats at midnight, and wolves howl at the moon. There is something very primitive about the night-song.

At night, music taps into our most primitive self—that layer in each of us that remains oppressed under the sun. Let us not forget our German folklore: Rumpelstiltskin would only reveal his true identity in song, alone, around a bonfire, in the middle of the night.

The night show airs every Wednesday at 12am here on BreakThru Radio. Check out the latest edition by clicking HERE.

Link to this article:

– Kory French


The Death of the MP3

At the end of last year, Apple announced that it had bought Lala Media—the popular music streaming website—for an undisclosed sum.

Although some bloggers have speculated that Apple bought Lala just to eliminate the competition, there is reason to hope that Apple has accepted the inevitable decline of the mp3 and will soon be offering cloud-based streaming on iTunes.

Many thought Lala was awesome because it offered music fans a vast library of songs and albums to stream—for free. You could listen to anything once without spending a penny, or risking a lawsuit. After that, if you wanted to buy an album, it only cost 10¢ a song.

That meant an entire album cost about a dollar, you math genius, you.

Plus, it was nice to have someone else storing our music for us, so we could have the extra space on our computers, and our tiny iPhone hard-drives.

Any way you swung it, Lala was cheaper than iTunes. If you wanted to download the songs, so you could own them permanently, you could buy them for just 89¢. And the 10¢ you spent for streaming counted towards that 89¢ per song.

But perhaps one of Lala’s best features was its embedding capabilities. If you googled a Lady Gaga song, Google would give you the song right away—with its own play button.

This feature was first offered by iMeem, the San Francisco-based music streaming site, before MySpace bought them, a move which did very little to improve already-widespread dissatisfaction with the gigantic music-networking site. Especially since MySpace forgot to include the embedding option.

Well—when MySpace dropped the ball, LaLa stepped up and satisfied our embedding needs. Everything from music blogs to concert venues could add songs with their own play buttons to their websites—an invaluable feature, without a doubt.

Though LaLa has been devoured by Apple, at least Rhapsody is still kicking. With over 9 million songs in their library, you need to be a fan of seriously-weird music to not find what you’re looking for. But the catch with Rhapsody is that there’s an unfortunate $10/month subscription fee.

While we definitely aren’t looking for another monthly bill on top of the ones we already have, the $10/month gets you unlimited music, and you don’t even need an internet signal to listen, since Rhapsody released a feature at the end of last month that lets subscribers download playlists directly to their iPhones.

And then there’s Spotify—which offers a massive cumulous-cloud of music for streaming, just like Lala did, and just like Rhapsody still does—but they offer it for free. The catch is that Spotify, which is based in Sweden, doesn’t offer its services in the United States. (The other catch is that you have to listen to some ads, which vary between a brief ten—and an irritating 30—seconds in length).

With over 5 million users in Europe, there’s reason to wonder what the buzz is about. And Spotify just announced they’ve added US-friendly service plans and are planning a US launch for the third quarter of 2010.

This would be sweet. Aside from being cheaper and faster, streaming with iTunes would mean we could access our music from anywhere with internet access, your computer at work to your Mom’s old Dell. And if your hard-drive bites the dust? No problem. All your music is up there on the cloud.

Link to this article:

– Hunter Stuart

Liner Notes: Rock ‘N Roll Bardo

About three weeks ago I stopped by a friend of a friend’s apartment after DJ’ing a blues radio show in New York City. I had never met Julie, the hostess, before and as you do upon meeting someone new we exchanged banal pleasantries and inquired about the basics of each other’s lives. She, a financial consultant, was quite taken by what I did and began assaulting me with questions on music history, American culture, and anything else that seemed to fit my borderless field of study. Julie soon stirred the conversation to a Rolling Stone article she recently read and asked me a question I have yet been unable to walk away from: “Do you think Rock n’ Roll is dead?”

My mind has almost wandered full circle in search of the answer to that question. At first thought, my response was simple- how can one even consider it to be dead? If anything, Rock n’ Roll has grown to encompass every sound of popular music being recorded today, in our shrinking MP3 world. “Aint Back Yet” by Kenny Chesney is Rock n’ Roll as much as it is Country. No one would argue that “The National” is Rock n’ Roll. What about Eminem’s latest hit “Not Afraid?” Is that not a Rock n’ Roll melody in the chorus? Pop queen Lady Gaga uses bass lines, drumbeats, piano, rhythm guitar, and lead instrumentals (whether it be a Mac’d up synthesizer or echo’y electronic guitar) that are staples to the Rock n’ Roll formula. The point is, no matter what genre a song or artist may fall under in Billboard magazine or in the aisles of HMV, the roots of Rock n’ Roll can be found in just about all of them.

This is not to say that all music today is “Rock n’ Roll,” but the base definition of the term can be applied to almost any music being produced. Hence the juxtaposed dilemma to Julie’s question: Nothing and everything today is Rock n’ Roll.

I understand that “Rock n’ Roll” is a very subjective idiom. And, although I hate when writers use this cheap tactic to develop an argument, I feel it necessary to lay down the definition of Rock n’ Roll to clarify any misconceptions of the term and ensure all readers on the same page. defines rock n’ roll as “a style of popular music that derives in part from blues and folk music and is marked by a heavily accented beat and a simple, repetitive phrase structure.” Definitively speaking then, you can see how my contention that everything from Kenny Chesney to Lady Gaga and from Eminem to The National constitutes as Rock n’ Roll. By base definition, almost all music these days can be considered Rock n’ Roll. Hence my response to Julie’s original question “Do you think Rock n’ Roll is dead?” must be, “No!” In fact, one could make the valid argument that Rock n’ Roll is alive today more than ever because so much music being made is derived from rock tendencies.

Logically, the argument appears sound, but I know it to be complete balderdash. Rock n’ Roll is well dead, so you could say, and the ultimate question becomes not whether or not it is dead, but at what moment did it die?

Etymologically, it began with the term “Rhythm and Blues” which was a catchall rubric coined by Atlantic Records producer and Billboard writer Jerry Wexler and referred to any music made by and for black Americans. The phrase “Rock n’ Roll” (or more specifically, “rockin’ and rollin’”) had nothing to do with music—it was black slang for sex, stemming all the way back to slavery and plantation vernacular. Radio DJ Alan Freed recognized the marketability of the catchy phrase when he heard it being used in some of America’s oldest recorded African American folk music (specifically, in songs like “My Daddy Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” by Trixie Smith). Freed began to describe Wexler’s “Rhythm and Blues” records as “Rock n’ Roll.”
What he was attempting to convey was an idea: This new American music may be black in style, but it was not solely reserved for black musicians and black audiences, as white kids were starting to play and listen to it too. The new Rhythm and Blues records began gaining popularity in the late forties and early fifties with young, white audiences and the term eventually evolved, referring to any music that incorporated a lead electric guitar, rhythmic drumbeat, and blues bass line.

Robert Palmer points out in his book Rock & Roll: An Unruly History that ultimately, Freed always intended the term to be race inclusive. A rubric like ‘black music’ or ‘rhythm and blues’ referred less towards particular style and more towards racial identity. For Alan Freed, Rock n’ Roll sought to describe a kind of music, rather than characterize or segregate those who were playing it. And so a new medium was born.

Rock n’ Roll was taken from the bed sheets of African American history and thrust onto the airwaves of WASP America. The sad thing is, none of this history means anything to anyone anymore. White kids in the 1940s who would steal away to secretly listen to Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, and Bo Diddley were both heroes and villains. We should praise them for their edge and persistence to break through racial segregation. We should condemn them for thievery.

There is no edge anymore. What made Rock n’ Roll so definite was the dare and the courage. For all intended purposes, racial lines in American music are gone; and this is a good thing. However, there is no truth left in its void. Rock n’ Roll died in May of 1958 when a British reporter broke news of a secret marriage between a twenty-three-year-old piano player from Louisiana and his thirteen-year-old cousin. It died on February 3, 1959 in a snowy plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. Rock died in December of 1959 when a black guitarist, unfairly targeted by a white police force and racist judicial system in Missouri, was sentenced to five years in prison for sex with a fourteen-year-old prostitute. It died with the persuasive recording contracts by Atlantic Records that lured Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash away from Sam Phillips and off of the Sun Label. It died on February 9, 1964 when four boys from Liverpool played “All My Loving” live from the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City.

Yet, Rock lives on. It was alive in The White Stripes 2007 “Northern Lights Tour” and it is alive with The Black Keys latest album “Brothers.” It walks on “The First Impressions of Earth” and swims in Okkervil River. Rock n’ Roll can be found today in Rockabilly bars like New York’s Motor City Bar and Toronto’s The Dakota Tavern. Rock n’ Roll will never die as long as there is conformity to push against and an amp to plug into.

So Julie, is Rock n’ Roll dead? I am not afraid to say, I have no idea.

Link to this article:

– Kory French

New Album Release: Beach Fossil’s self-titled LP

Upon first listen, Brooklyn-based Beach Fossils self-titled LP seems like the epitome of the chilled-out summer album. They’ve got two plunking guitars, weaving poppy lines around a distant bass line. The drums bump and thud along with the occasional tambourine rattle, the pace never accelerating above a stroll. And, of course, it wouldn’t be 2010 without the ubiquitous reverbed-out vocals, which blanket the entire record in a dreamy, washed-out haze.  With these ingredients, Beach Fossils deliver about what you’d expect: mellow pop that speaks to the lazy days of deep summer, and recalls the shimmering of hot air rising off concrete and that unique feeling of exhaustion that only comes after a day spent outdoors doing absolutely nothing.

At their best, Beach Fossils conjure memories of Peter Bjorn and John, circa 2006, when the absurdly catchy “Young Folks” became the theme for the summer and seemed to be playing out of every orifice imaginable that could be affixed with a speaker *. Beach Fossils aren’t going to find themselves in any AT&T commercials like PB&J (they’ll need more bongos and songs that start with whistling for that), but in songs like “Youth,” “Vacation,” and “Daydream,” they turn out irresistible,  shimmering, lo-fi pop that many will leave on repeat through the last days of August.

Unfortunately, over eleven tracks — mostly of lesser versions of the three previously mentioned — Beach Fossils can’t maintain their cool. The lackadaisical chill-out drags just a bit to long, and the relaxing freedom of youthful summertime ennui begins to sound like affected indifference, drenched in reverb. The album comes to an uninspired end with its final track “Gathering.” The song — basically a minute and a half of ocean sound effects and a meandering bass-line — gives the impression that the band ran out of ideas, and then gave up.

Despite the shortcomings of the record as a whole, Beach Fossils have mastered lo-fi Brooklyn pop, and if they figure out a way to build on this sound and break up the monotony, they’ve got a truly excellent sophomore effort in their future. For now, they should be content with an LP good enough to serve as the soundtrack to many a Brooklynite’s mid-August rooftop relaxation.   There are plenty of bands in Brooklyn who would torch their flannels for that honor.

* Let’s not speak of how the single, and the album Writers Block on which it appeared, reached maximum saturation far too quickly, and continued to get played almost everywhere, until those of us who had previously adored the song couldn’t stand to hear another note of it because all it began to reminded us of were AT&T commercials and standing in line at Target.

Beach Fossils LIVE!!!

Jun 18 – Middle East Upstairs – Cambridge, MA
Jun 19 –  Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
Jun 22 –  KUNG FU NECKTIE Philadelphia, PA
Jun 23 –  DC9 – Washington D.C.

Link to this article:

– Thomas Seely

BTR Artist of the Week: Sage Francis

Paul “Sage” Francis, born in Providence, Rhode Island, has carved a musical niche for himself that blends his background as a spoken word artist with his interests in hip-hop and alternative rock. Contra to the bravado and self-promotion often exemplified in traditional hip-hop, Francis’ music offers insightful musings on the human condition. He started his career as a member of the Providence Poetry Slam community, competing in nation poetry slams during the late 90’s into the early 2000’s. His debut album, Personal Journals, covered a rich palette of musical tastes, from gritty street hip-hop to rock to spoken word. Since then he has established himself as a songwriter whose metaphors and wordplay, along with his alternative rock sensibilities, has helped to craft the indie rap genre.

He followed the release of Personal Journals with several creative endeavors, namely two more albums, A Healthy Distrust, Human the Death Dance, performances at the Bowery Poetry club, as well as the continued development of his record label Strange Famous Records in which he has recently added musicians, B. Dolan and Curtis Plum. Francis’ latest musical offering, LI(F)E (Anti- Records 2010) is his most polished album to date. For this LP, he shares songwriting credits with Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla on “Three Sheets To The Wind” and “London Bridge”, as well as several other collaborations with Granddaddy frontman Jason Lytle, the members of Calexico, DeVotchKa, and Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. To add to the list of notable collaborations, the album’s cover art features the work of Shepard Fairey, best known for his iconic Barack Obama “HOPE” poster during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Following a statement on the label’s website (, the title LI(F)E is an amalgamation of life and lie, and as quoted from Francis:

“What about life is a lie? What we’re told about God is a lie. What we’re told about race, gender roles, beauty, war, food, drugs, sexuality, capitalism, history, the nature of humankind…a gang of lies. I feel it in my gut, I think it in my brain, I write it with my hands and I speak it with my mouth. That’s what makes Li(f)e the general theme of this album.”

Currently, Sage Francis is midway through a 31-date tour of the U.S. and Canada alongside label mate, B. Dolan.

Tour Dates:

May 24 — Englewood, CO —  Gothic Theatre
May 25 — Salt Lake City, UT — Urban Lounge
May 26 — Missoula, MT — Badlander
June1 — Seattle, WA — Showbox SoDo
June 2 — Portland, OR — Berbati’s Pan
June 4 — San Francisco, CA — The Fillmore
June 5 — Santa Cruz, CA — The Catalyst
June 6 — Los Angeles, CA — Henry Fonda Theater
June 7 — Solana Beach, CA — Belly Up Tavern
June 9 — Pomona, CA — The Glass House
June 10 — Tempe, AZ — The Clubhouse
June 11 — Tucson, AZ — Club Congress
June 12 — Albuquerque, NM — Sunshine Theater
June 14 — Dallas, TX — Granada Theatre
June 15 — Austin, TX — Mohawk
June 16 — Houston, TX — House of Blues
June 18 — Orlando, FL — Club at Firestone
June 19 — Atlanta, GA — The Loft
June 21 — Carrboro, NC — Cat’s Cradle
June 22 — Washington, DC — Rock and Roll Hotel
June 23 — Baltimore, MD — The Ottobar
June 24 —  Philadelphia, PA — Trocadero
June 25 — New York, NY — Webster Hall

Link to this article:

– Ugonna Igweatu

Review: Mr. Dream live at Coco 66 in Brooklyn, New York on May 7, 2010

May 21, 2010

Before Sleigh Bells played to the sold out crowd at Brooklyn’s Coco 66, and before M.I.A. materialized onstage to sing with them, unassuming three-piece Mr. Dream made a pretty decent case for why they are one of the better bands currently playing in Brooklyn.

Taking the stage, the band  launched into the much blogged about “Knuckle Sandwich” off their No Girls Allowed 7-inch, and followed it up with the stellar “Knick Knack,” a bouncy, power-pop number reminiscent of The Clean’s “Beatnik” infused with crunchy guitar accents a la  Jay Reatard.  To my ear, Nirvana serves as the band’s most prevalent influence, especially in Adam Moerder’s guitar work and Nick Sylvester’s drums (see “Downer” off Bleach and “Tourettes” from In Utero), but any fan of bands from Fugazi to Weezer will certainly find something to like.

Mr. Dream, who formed in 2008 and presumably took their name from the character who replaced Mike Tyson in the classic Nintendo game Punch Out, have played minimally throughout Brooklyn this year, but you never would have guessed given the brief, but energizing performance at a packed Coco 66. Despite the one naysayer who the band later called out as their “first enemy” on Twitter, the crowd responded with decisive head nods — bopping and dancing along, a resounding sign of approval for a New York crowd.

Hopefully, the fact that two of the band’s members can list Pitchfork Media on their writing resumes means that these guys know they’re onto something pretty good, and we can expect a full length in the near future. If that’s the case, look forward adding Mr. Dream to the small list of critic-fronted bands worth listening to. Lester Bangs and the Delinquents are getting lonely.

Tour Dates:

May 27 – Bruar Falls – Brooklyn, NY

Link to this article:

– Thomas Seely

BTR Live Studio: Patrick Park

Check out the new album Come What Will from songwriter Patrick Park, who visited us a few weeks ago to record this in studio performance.

He’s got some shows coming up too!

5/30 Cafe Du Nord – San Francisco, CA

6/1 Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR

6/2 Travor Tavern – Seattle, WA

00:00 BTR Live Studio
00:57 You’ll Get Over
04:49 Interview
08:14 Blackbird through the Dark
11:41 Here We Are
15:18 Interview
18:56 Something Pretty
22:13 Come What Will
26:04 Interview
28:00 You’re Enough
31:10 The Lucky Ones
35:12 Interview
38:17 You Were Always The One

Link to this show: