Paul Kneitz

Bio: Paul began writing for Alternative Nation in August 2012. He is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area and currently lives in Seattle, Washington. Contact this writer:

above: Image courtesy of Around the 6.

Viceroy-smoking, Canada-born, Brooklyn-based indie rock journeyman Mac DeMarco has taken the indie world by storm over the past few years, releasing albums via Captured Tracks like this year’s critically-lauded Salad Days and earning a reputation for energetic live performances. Last Thursday night in Seattle, following an opening set for Julian Casablancas downtown at The Showbox, the singer-songwriter traveled up Capitol Hill to Chop Suey, shredding a nearly hour and a half set after midnight to a sold-out crowd. Mac’s on-stage antics, combined with an upbeat audience and plenty of libations, resulted in an entertaining show. Needless to say, he lived up to his reputation.

Flanked by his talented live band, featuring Tonstartssbandht’s Andy White and Walter TV’s Pierce McGarry and Joe McMurray, Mac DeMarco took the stage at midnight during a cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” sung by drummer Joe. The band launched their set with songs like “Salad Days” and “Blue Boy,” reworked to be more rockish from their quieter studio versions, to get the crowd moving. Before “Rock and Roll Night Club,” DeMarco restrung his broken guitar string while White and McGarry jammed and performed a cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You.”

When Mac recovered from his broken string, the show really started to flourish. Beginning with “Rock and Roll,” and continuing through searing versions of “Viceroy” and “I’m A Man,” DeMarco and his cronies displayed their mastery over the crowd, who responded with crowd surfing and moshing. Things temporarily cooled off with the more delicate “Brother,” during which Mac showed off his crooning skills, as well as with a cover of Bob Marley’s “Jammin.”

Following the solo-filled glory of “Freaking Out the Neighborhood,” the band announced their final song, “Still Together.” What ensued was a nearly 20 minute jam session during which all of the band members crowd surfed and the band performed a lively rendition of Jane’s Addiction’s “Jane Says.” At some point in the chaos, after his feet collided rather violently with my forehead, DeMarco climbed the ducts that lined Chop Suey’s ceiling and enjoyed the view before eventually signing off.

The high flying, microphone-to-ass cheek live antics of DeMarco and his band provided an extremely entertaining experience for the audience, and in turn they seemed to feed off the crowd’s rambunctious spirit.  In addition, the band reworked the richer, more delicate tracks off Salad Days to be more rockish and animated. While Mac’s fan base grows, his attention to fun, genuine shows filled with jams, audience participation, and a liberal use of covers has not faltered. I eagerly await the next time the DeMarco troupe comes into town.

Click on the thumbnails below to view the images.

Setlist [incomplete]
01. Video Games (Lana Del Rey cover)
02. Salad Days
03. The Stars Keep On Calling My Name
04. Blue Boy
05. Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple cover)
06. Let Her Go
07. Someone Like You (Adele cover)/Jam
08. Rock and Roll Night Club
09. Annie
10. Ode to Viceroy
11. I’m a Man
12. Reelin’ in the Years (Steely Dan cover)
13. Brother
14. Jammin’ (Bob Marley cover)
15. Freaking Out the Neighborhood
16. Still Together/Jam/Jane Says (Jane’s Addiction cover)

above: Image by Matt Atkinstall.

Next January, Montreal-based Alex Calder will release his sophomore album Strange Dreams via Captured Tracks, his follow-up to last year’s Time EP. Calder recently told Hero Magazine that “being on a record label is a hard thing to settle into,” adding that there’s difficulty in “making all these songs and really wanting to put them out.” The prolific singer-songwriter has now released a new EP entitled Copy Me under his pseudonym MOLD BOY.

Copy Me‘s six songs employ Calder’s smart and simple melodies behind guitar-driven distortion and whispered vocals. The EP’s lingering sense of melancholy drives its pensiveness and emotional and songwriting maturity without being brooding or gloomy. Songs like “History High” and “Filled Up” represent Calder’s garage psych-pop sound and experimental attitude, while his dreamlike vocals add a deeper level of emotional resonance.

With another EP under his belt, Calder is now set to release his sophomore effort, Strange Dreams, on January 20, 2015. While Strange Dreams was originally released via bandcamp, Calder has reworked and remastered the album and has added a few previously-unreleased songs. A press release from Captured Tracks advertises the album’s “infectious melodies” and “acid-induced pop sequences.”

You can purchase MOLD BOY’s Copy Me via bandcamp, and you can pre-order Strange Dreams via iTunes here.

California garage rocker Ty Segall released his expansive double album Manipulator this August. Today, the prolific Segall announced his next release, $ingle$ 2, which is hitting shelves November 18th.

The successor to his 2010 compilation cassette $ingle$, the new 12-track singles compilation album will feature material recorded from 2011 to 2013. According to a press release, the album will include “now-out-of-print sides” like “Spiders” and “The Hill,” as well as covers of The Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale,” GG Allin, and more.

You can pre-order Ty Segall’s $ingle$ 2 here, and check out “Children of Paul” below:

above: Image by Laura-Lynn Petrick.

Incorporating elements of jazz, R&B, and funk music into an eclectic, chilled-out indie sound, Peter Sagar’s HOMESHAKE project is an intelligent blend of pop songwriting and rolling rhythms. Originally hailing from Edmonton and now based in Montreal, Sagar has spent the last few years touring the world with Captured Tracks’ Mac DeMarco. Now, he’s buckling down with his solo project and pseudonym HOMESHAKE, banging out lo-fi indie pop packed with jazzy drums and addictive bass lines.

Previously releasing albums like the hazy, Dragonball Z-infused The Homeshake Tape via bandcamp, Sagar’s calm, often-quirky songs have earned him a signing with Captured Tracks sister label Sinderlyn Records. HOMESHAKE’s record label debut In The Shower, recorded this winter at Montreal’s Drones Club, is out today, October 7. In The Shower employs Sagar’s dreamy guitar quality and cloudy, warped samples in the same spirit as its predecessor within cohesive songwriting and a more hi-fi sound. While HOMESHAKE’s new album succeeds in its addicting instrumental mixture – funky bass, jazzy drums, and warbling guitar – it is often driven by its delicate, understated vocals and subtly-melancholic lyricism. Sagar has created a unique sonic landscape crafted with occassional amounts of melancholy, love, and apathy; still, it remains equally mellow and personal throughout. I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter before his album’s release, here’s what he had to say:

Alternative Nation: HOMESHAKE is usually labeled simply as ‘indie’ in the press, but there’s definitely undercurrents of other styles, like jazz and funk, in your music. What artists influence HOMESHAKE?
Peter Sagar: A few would be Ann Peebles, Roy Orbison, The Band, D’Angelo and Thelonious Monk.

For the past several years you’ve toured with Mac DeMarco. What’s it like touring with Pierce, Mac, and Joe?
It was amazing, those guys are the best. I would get pretty bummed out and homesick being away from home so long, but they kept me feeling good through the tough times.

I feel like you and friends like Alex Calder, Mac DeMarco, and Walter TV are channeling a similar sound and spirit. How do you describe your style of music?
I think we all share a sense of humor about our music and ourselves, nobody takes anything too seriously. I’m lucky to have such a talented circle of friends.

Peter, Beijing.

I really enjoyed The Homeshake Tape. What makes In the Shower different from other music you’ve made?
It’s much groovier than everything I’ve made previously, also a lot higher fidelity than I’ve ever recorded before, thanks to my guy Mike Wright. He’s a real whiz on the mix.

Is In The Shower a concept album?
It wasn’t supposed to be, but a friend of mine pointed out that the subject matter is basically a timeline of the last year I spent touring with Mac and recording it. I had no idea!

How have Canada and its local music scenes influenced you?
Immensely, this country is so huge but also so small, everyone knows each other but live so far apart. There’s a good community of people. Also it’s really fucking cold half the time, which is a great reason to stay inside and record.

Your debut album is out this week. What’s next for Peter Sagar and HOMESHAKE?
I’m going to start recording my next album really soon, I’ve finished all the demos I think, but for now I’m just hanging out at home watching a million movies eating the delicious meals my sweety cooks up.

HOMESHAKE’s record label debut In The Shower is out via Sinderlyn on October 7. You can order the album here. Additionally, buy it on iTunes or Amazon and check out the album trailer via Vimeo.

REMEMBERING R.E.M.’s MONSTER: a 20th anniversary retrospective

For the twentieth anniversary of ‘Monster’, Alternative Nation looks back at the recording, release, and critical reception of R.E.M.’s ninth studio album as well as the often-problematic world tour that followed, drawing from archived print and film publications.

On September 27, 1994, R.E.M. released their ninth studio album, Monster, via Warner Bros. The highly-anticipated follow-up to their commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums Out of Time and Automatic For The People, Monster was loud, layered, and heavy. The album’s distorted, sludgy tone and loud electric guitars were calculated changes from the mostly acoustic, songwriter-driven sound of its immediate predecessors. Monster was R.E.M.’s ‘return-to-rock’ album; gone were the poppy radio friendly hits, gone were the intimate ballads and mandolins, and gone were the politically-charged, outspoken lyrics of vocalist Michael Stipe.

By 1993, R.E.M. had grown from cultish college radio status into one of the premiere rock acts of the time. R.E.M. had managed the seemingly unachievable task of gaining commercial success and critical acclaim without compromising their artistic vision and integrity. The band had sold over 30 million units in the previous two years, opting not to tour behind the mostly acoustic albums. Meanwhile, pressures from the media and the band’s growing fan base mounted. Although the band was admired by their contemporaries for their masterful control of the media in protection of their intensely private personal lives, their experience often proved difficult. With the trials of rock-stardom came swirling rumors in the media.

In April of 1993, R.E.M. convened in the resort getaway of Acapulco, Mexico to discuss the future of the band. The band had not been on tour since 1989 and the band had spent the first three years of the ‘90s laboring in the studio. With their recent lack of touring in mind, the four bandmates agreed to record a tour-friendly album that “rocked.” Drummer Bill Berry was the most eager to tour. Halfway through the recording of Automatic For The People, Berry had told his bandmates that he would quit R.E.M. if their next record didn’t rock. Just two days later in Acapulco, R.E.M.’s agents were planning the band’s next two years for them, already booking tour dates for 1995.

Under the supervision of Bob Dylan producer Mark Howard, R.E.M. began writing their untitled new album in September 1993 at Kingsway Studio in New Orleans’ French Quarter. In New Orleans, the band wrote songs like “I Took Your Name” and “You.” Rather than letting the album grow organically like previous albums, the band already had a specific goal and sound in mind before recording: to make their next album tour-friendly and electric.

Peter Buck: “We just kind of knew that we were excited about doing something a little bit more energetic, and what that meant, we had no idea. So, it was a process of me sitting in this little apartment that I was living in, in ’93, tiny apartment, about 4×10’, and just banging on the guitar really loudly until the neighbors knock on the wall. Bringing these little ideas in and showing it to Mike, and Mike showing me his ideas and Bill showing me his ideas, and all of a sudden we kind of had this idea.” [“Box Set: R.E.M.,” VH1]

Mike Mills: “When you’re in a band long enough, you want to try different things. On past albums we had been exploring acoustic instruments, trying to use the piano and mandolin, and we did it about all we wanted to do it. And you come back to the fact that playing loud electric guitar music is about as fun as music can be.” [“Monster Music,” Time Magazine, 1994]

Peter Buck: “I played guitar really loud. It was a little like Spinal Tap … you know, crank it up to eleven.” [Monster press release, Warner Bros, 1994]

As the band’s instrumentalists began preproduction for the album, vocalist Michael Stipe faced malicious rumors in the press. While the band’s fandom increased, scrutiny on its lead vocalist’s personal life was ramped up. Members of the press began to investigate Stipe’s sexuality, with some reporters suggesting that the singer had been diagnosed with AIDS.

Michael Stipe: “It was widely rumored that I had AIDS, or that I was HIV-positive. Which is not the case. I didn’t answer those rumors for a long, long time because I felt like making a big deal out of saying no would stigmatize people who are HIV-positive.” [“Everybody Hurts Sometime,” Newsweek, 1994]

REM 1994 (1)

While R.E.M. began work on Monster, Stipe’s life came to a halt when his close friend River Phoenix died of a drug-induced heart failure outside of The Viper Room in Hollywood on Halloween in 1993. Phoenix’s death put a hold on the writing and production of R.E.M.’s new album.

Michael Stipe: “I lost a friend in October — River Phoenix was a very, very close friend of mine. And I’ve never suffered such a profound loss. I couldn’t write for five months. We had started the record in September. I’d written two songs and then River died.” [“Everybody Hurts Sometime,” Newsweek, 1994]

R.E.M. reconvened five months later at Atlanta’s Crossover Soundstage. Mark Howard had sent material from the band’s New Orleans sessions to producer Scott Litt, who had worked with the band since 1987’s Document. With engineers Pat McCarthy and David Colvin also in tow, the recording of the album began. The majority of the album was cut at Crossover.

Charles Cote: “R.E.M. would arrive at about 10 each day, run through their set of tunes as a warm up, then spend the afternoon tracking. The idea was to capture as many live takes as possible to capture the magic of R.E.M.’s live sound. Later during mixing, they could pick the parts that they wanted to keep.” [“The Making of R.E.M.’s Monster,” 2005]

Scott Litt: “I thought since they hadn’t toured in a while, it would be good for them to get into that mind-set -you know, monitors, PA, standing up.” [“Monster Madness,” Rolling Stone, 1994]

While the Atlanta recording sessions were going well, new issues for the band quickly surfaced and breaks in the sessions occurred frequently. Recording was delayed for a few days as Mike Mills got sick during a session and underwent an appendectomy. On another occasion, Bill Berry fell ill and had to take break in Athens. Michael Stipe’s sister had a child, as did Peter Buck’s girlfriend, who gave birth to twins.

Perhaps the most jarring interruption to the Atlanta sessions came in early April ‘94, when Stipe’s friend Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home. Cobain greatly admired R.E.M., publicly praising the band’s music and artistic integrity in interviews. In addition, Buck had recently moved to Seattle and lived next door to the home where Cobain lived with his wife and daughter. In the weeks leading up to Cobain’s death, Stipe attempted to draw Kurt out of his negative head space. The pair had exchanged ideas about new music, sent cassette demo tapes back and forth, and set up a recording session in Georgia. In reaction to Cobain’s death, Stipe wrote the grim, reflective “Let Me In.”

Michael Stipe: “Halfway through making Monster, Kurt died. At that point, I just threw my hands up and wrote “Let Me In.” That was me on the phone to him, desperately trying to get him out of the frame of mind he was in. In the most big-brotherly way — God, I hate that term — in the most genuine way, I wanted him to know that he didn’t need to pay attention to all this, that he was going to make it through. If R.E.M. had sold 5 million copies of Murmur, none of us would be alive to tell the tale. I really believe that. I’d have died with Quaaludes in my blood and a lot of Jack Daniels.” [“Everybody Hurts Sometime,” Newsweek, 1994]

Kurt Cobain: “I don’t know how [R.E.M.] does what they do. God, they’re the greatest. They’ve dealt with their success like saints, and they keep delivering great music.” [“Success Doesn’t Suck,” Rolling Stone, 1994]

Michael Stipe: “I sent him a plane ticket and a driver, and he tacked the plane ticket to the wall in the bedroom and the driver sat outside the house for 10 hours. Kurt wouldn’t come out and wouldn’t answer the phone. I was in Miami making a record…I didn’t feel like it was my place to get on a plane myself and go to Seattle. I was doing what I thought was the best thing to do at the time. And, you know, frankly I’m not great with heroin addicts. I tried heroin, but it was by accident.” [“Michael Stipe,” Interview Magazine, 2011]

In late April 1994, the band moved to Miami’s Criteria Recording Studios with producer Scott Litt. In Miami, Stipe suffered from an abscessed tooth that further delayed the album’s production. R.E.M.’s recording sessions at Los Angeles’ Ocean Way Recording later that spring found the band behind on their schedule. Their lateness, largely due to the band members’ personal issues, had been compounded by their complicated mixing process, Stipe’s continued lyric writing while the band was supposed to be mixing, and increasing tensions between band members. The four bandmates were staying at different locations in Los Angeles and were rarely present at the studio at the same time. Tensions within R.E.M. peaked at a mixing session at Scott Litt’s Los Angeles home studio Louie’s Clubhouse, where the band briefly broke up. The group’s pressures and personal issues had taken their toll. Eventually the mixing sessions reconvened once the bandmates ironed out their disputes and communication among the friends returned. Buck would later remark that the band wouldn’t have made it through the tough production of the album if they hadn’t been such close friends.

Michael Stipe: “It was pretty rough. There were a lot of life things happening around us–births and deaths. It was a very intense record.” [“Retail, Radio Expect R.E.M.’s Warner Set To Be A ‘Monster,” Billboard, 1994]

Scott Litt: “That’s why it’s been taking so long to mix. We’re trying to figure out how raw to leave it and how much to studiofy it.” [“Monster Madness,” Rolling Stone, 1994]

Michael Stipe: “We broke up. We reached the point where none of us could speak to each other, and we were in a small room, and we just said ‘Fuck off’ and that was it.” [Reveal: The Story of R.E.M., Johnny Black, 2004]

Mike Mills: “We had a band meeting after the session last night. We have to begin working as a unit again, which we haven’t been doing very well lately.” [“Monster Madness,” Rolling Stone, 1994]

After significant turmoil, R.E.M. finally completed their new album, now entitled Monster, by the summer of 1994. The album’s noisy, electric, and heavily-layered rock sound successfully achieved the band’s initial tour-friendly album goals. Its intricate sonic textures reverberated in a way that completely reversed the intimate, acoustic nature of its predecessors. Songs like the lead single “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” and “Crush With Eyeliner” exhibited R.E.M.’s consistent songwriting within significantly more distorted, rocking tunes.

With this grungy dirge in play, the band’s material found Stipe’s lyrics being pushed back into the mix, a closer reflection of the band’s earlier work. Monster found lead singer Stipe writing lyrics in various characters, a lyrical style he had not explored before. These lyrics found Stipe confronting the band’s recent success and the media pressures that followed. On “King of Comedy,” which was initially titled “Yes, I Am Fucking With You,” Stipe sings: “I’m not your television / I’m not your movie screen / I’m not commodity.” Monster also found the singer reflecting on his sexuality and the rumors regarding this topic that were published in the media: “Make it charged with controversy / I’m straight, I’m queer, I’m bi.”

Michael Stipe: “A lot of records are cerebral, a lot of records are from the heart, this one’s more from the crotch.” [R.E.M. documentary Rough Cut, 1995]

Peter Buck: “This rock record is about space, it’s about noise, it’s less songwriter-ly than our past records. It’s more kind of riff and groove-oriented and, you know, it seemed to be a lot more fun, we were just having a great time playing.” [“Box Set: R.E.M.,” VH1]

Michael Stipe: “It was a good time. A lot of things happened, kind of life things happened, while we were making the record that made it a little more difficult. It was a very challenging record to make.” [Flagpole interview, 1994]

Meanwhile, the album title of Monster, which Stipe insists was selected at random, presents an interesting metaphor for R.E.M. in 1994. The band’s ‘monster’ was manifested in the turmoil that surrounded the album’s recording, in the album’s hard rock sound, and in the recent events that were emotionally draining for R.E.M.’s band members.

REM band

Monster, R.E.M.’s ninth studio album, was officially released on September 27, 1994 via Warner Bros. The album, dedicated to River Phoenix, debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, as well as at no. 1 spots in Canada and the UK. The album’s second single “Bang and Blame” debuted at no. 1 the following January and was the band’s last-ever Billboard Top 40 hit. The initial critical reception was largely positive, with glowing reviews coming from Rolling Stone and Blender. Not every review was positive, with some journalists calling the album’s stylistic change “distant” and “diverting.” Rolling Stone awarded Monster four and a half out of five stars, highlighting the band’s successful stylistic change.

Robert Palmer: “The two or three softer tunes that might not have sounded out of place on previous outings are pointedly sandwiched in the middle of the disc, surrounded by the sizzle of overdriven amps, snarling distortion and aggressive rhythms…Don’t misunderstand: R.E.M.’s exceptional pop craftsmanship, their luminous melodic inventions, their sense of mission – in short, everything fundamental – are still there and shining more brightly than ever.” [Rolling Stone review of Monster, 1994]

Following the largely successful release of the album, R.E.M.’s band members, including the usually private Stipe, cycled through numerous press interviews and media appearances. The band then embarked on their sold-out, stadium-filling world tour in the first weeks of January 1995. The Monster tour included stops in Australia, East Asia, Europe, and the United States. R.E.M.’s bandmates faced the tour with the idea that the band might never embark on such a massive tour again, and their entertaining, let-loose performances reflected this attitude.

Peter Buck: “I’m really looking forward to touring. We’re all kind of excited by it. It’s going to be really great. It’ll be different. It’ll be fresh. I haven’t done it to death” [“Monster Madness,” Rolling Stone, 1994]

Michael Stipe: “I’m dreading [touring]. That’s about all the thought I’ve been able to give it. I love performing, and I love traveling, but the two combined are pretty poisonous.” [“Monster Madness, Rolling Stone, 1994]

David Fricke: “For someone typically depicted in his press clippings as enigmatic, sullen and utterly devoid of pop-star smarm, Michael Stipe is back on the road with R.E.M. for the first time in five years — and having a great time fucking with our expectations.” [“Monster On The Loose,” Rolling Stone, 1995]

Daniel Geller: “The band hit the stage with the enthusiasm and energy of men half their age and rocked like there was no tomorrow…On this evening, Michael Stipe finally seemed to let his guard down and go back to the frolicking, dancing fool we all remember from previous, less-jaded R.E.M. tours. He flailed and sang and did that thing with his hands real well.” [Monster tour review, 1995]

While the Monster tour succeeded at first, with all four band members firing on all cylinders, personal and medical issues ensued in the same fashion that delayed the album’s recording. One of the band’s medical issues was significantly worse this time around. On March 1, 1995, R.E.M. was performing in Switzerland when Bill Berry fell ill with an intense migraine during a performance of their song “Tongue” and was rushed to the hospital.

Peter Buck: “It was wintertime in Europe, and we were cold the whole time, and everyone’s head hurt, and everyone’s stomach hurt, and no one was eating. But none of us had ever collapsed onstage, so we figured Bill must really be sick.” [Alec Foege interview, Rolling Stone, 1995]

MTV News: “90 minutes into the concert at the Lausanne’s Patinoire Wednesday night, Berry was stricken by a migraine and was taken to the hospital. As Joey Peters, the drummer from Grant Lee Buffalo finished up R.E.M.’s set, Berry underwent an emergency craniotomy to clip off the aneurysm, which was on the right hand surface of his brain. There was no internal bleeding reported, and Berry, 36, is expected to remain in the hospital for the next week to ten days.” [MTV News report, 1995]

R.E.M. cancelled their tour dates through April 20th and the future of the Monster tour, as well as the future of the band, was in limbo.

Peter Buck: “First thing I thought was, ‘We probably won’t ever play in public again.’ If the doctor said, ‘Bill just can’t tour,’ then we would have said, ‘Fine.’ We would have come home and made records. I’ve always known this could just go at any minute, so it wasn’t totally a shock to me.” [Alec Foege interview, Rolling Stone, 1995]

Miraculously, Berry made a quick and successful recovery from his aneurysm and craniotomy and the Monster tour soon continued, quickly interrupted again by Mills’ surgery to remove a benign intestinal tumor. With their health still relatively in check, R.E.M. began making light of their constant medical problems. Stipe once joked during a concert: “Welcome to the Aneurysm Tour ’95!” Later that summer, Stipe required surgery to relieve a hernia.

Michael Stipe: “[The hernia] comes from singing. The doctors told me that. Hard singing. The force of singing is like the beginning stages of labor. It takes a lot to push the notes out.” [Tom Moon interview, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1995]

Although the Monster tour was the band’s most financially successful venture in their 31-year history, it did not come without significant personal and physical struggle.

REM 1994 (2)

While Monster received mostly positive reviews immediately following its initial release in 1994, the album is now often seen in a negative light. It seems that although the album achieved the band’s goals in creating a tour-friendly rock album, this abrupt stylistic change forces the album in the shadow of its hugely successful predecessors. The album contains strong songwriting and interesting instrumental work, particularly from guitarist Peter Buck. However, fans might have seen this as a departure from what made them enjoy the band’s work in the first place.

Mike Mills: “If [fans] come expecting “Shiny Happy People,” I hope they’re disappointed. That song is an aberration. If that’s all people know about R.E.M., they’re certainly in for a shock and a surprise.” [Brian Armstrong interview, “A Current Affair,” 1995]

Michael Stipe: “We managed as people to not ever feel like we were compromised by external forces, to not feel like we capitulated to an idea of what a pop band should be, or what a rock band should be, and to not give in to the industry or the market” [Gry Blekastad Almås interview, NRK, 2011]

Sean McCarthy: “While I was fishing through the ‘R’s, one girl next to me said ‘One thing you can count on when you go into a used record store is at least five used copies of R.E.M.’s Monster will be on hand.’ At that moment, I saw a solid brick of orange CDs, proving her point.” [“Strange Currency,” PopMatters, 2010]

R.E.M. was a band that never compromised its artistic vision and integrity, even in the face of commercial success, critical acclaim, and rising fandom. When you view Monster in this light, it becomes easier to see why it’s become classically-maligned in recent years: fans of the band were probably expecting more songs like “Everybody Hurts” or “Nightswimming.” The mid ‘90s found the band reeling from their immense success and returning to their rock roots to craft a noisy, sometimes dirge-like album that exists in sharp contrast to their pop albums of the early ‘90s. Although it is not R.E.M.’s greatest album, it achieved the band’s goals and expectations for the record and produced strong, worthwhile rock and roll material. The album and the extensive tour that followed found the group dealing with enormous personal and medical issues, tensions between bandmates, a laborious album recording process, and growing pressure from fans and journalists. What is important to note is that the band persevered through it all, continuing to stay true to their craft and overcoming their ‘monsters’ until the band’s disbandment more than sixteen years later.

With the October 21 release of his new LP Phantom Radio right around the corner, Mark Lanegan has announced his upcoming United States tour dates. Set this fall, Lanegan and his full backing band will kick off the Phantom Radio tour on October 29 in Seattle. The tour will be Lanegan’s first with his full band since 2012’s Blues Funeral tour.

Meanwhile, Mark Lanegan will release Phantom Radio on October 21 via Vagrant. Songs such as “Floor of the Ocean” have already been released. Check out the lead single and the tour dates below:

Mark Lanegan Band Phantom Radio US tour:
10/29 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune
10/30 – Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
11/01 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
11/02 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
11/03 – Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre
11/04 – Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
11/05 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
11/07 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts – Wolf Building
11/08 – New York, NY @ The Marlin Room at Webster Hall
11/09 – Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall

above: Image by Denee Petracek.

On August 26, California garage rocker Ty Segall released his expansive double album Manipulator via Drag City Records. Segall has now revealed a music video for the album’s title track, a driving, glam-inspired tune that serves as the album’s intro.

The psychedelic music video was directed by Matt Yoka. In addition, Segall has made an interactive version of the video available on his website in which listeners can “manipulate” the different backgrounds and cartoon objects.

Check out the interactive music video for “Manipulator” here and the director’s play-through below:

HOMESHAKE is the project of Mac DeMarco touring guitarist Peter Sagar, whose chilled-out, psych-pop tunes have previously reached the ears of indie rock fans on Sagar’s Bandcamp page. Now, HOMESHAKE is signed to Captured Tracks sister label Sinderlyn Records and his debut LP In The Shower is set for release on October 7.

Last month, Sinderlyn Records released the lead single to In The Shower, “Cash Is Money.” Sagar has now revealed a new song from In The Shower entitled “Making a Fool of You,” which employs his usual chilled-out approach with a grooving bassline and jazzy rhythms.

Regarding the song, Sagar told Vogue: “This is a song about how this one friend of mine had a girlfriend and I’m not so sure she had his best interests in mind. But that’s over now, so we can all breathe easy.” Check out Vogue’s premiere of “Making a Fool of You” below.

Mark Lanegan is set to release a remix album this January, according to an interview with Greg Dulli published in The Afghan Whigs frontman states that he recently finished a remix for the album and that the new LP will feature Josh Homme, Moby, and UNKLE’s James Lavelle.

Regarding future work with Lanegan, his partner in The Gutter Twins, Dulli said: “I had breakfast with him last week … I would imagine in November or December we’ll go in the studio and see what happens.”

The remix album has not been officially confirmed by Lanegan or his record label, but if confirmed, the LP will continue in the singer’s typically prolific recording rate. Mark Lanegan released his EP No Bells on Sunday this summer and will reveal his latest LP Phantom Radio on October 21.

Alternative Nation takes a look ahead at the upcoming film releases of this fall, including highly anticipated movies such as David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.

September 12 The Drop

Featuring the final film appearance of James Gandolfini, this drama examines the criminal underworld of New York City. Tom Hardy (Inception, Lawless) plays lonely bartender Bob Saginowski who becomes involved in the process of funneling money to local gangsters in the Brooklyn bar scene. Saginowski soon finds himself mixed up in a robbery gone awry and its aftermath.

September 19 The Skeleton Twins

SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig star as estranged twins in this comedy-drama film that explores sibling bonds. Film critics applaud the film’s emotionality and the unexpectedly moving performance from Hader.

September 19 This Is Where I Leave You

Jason Bateman, Corey Stoll, Tina Fey, and Adam Driver play four siblings that reunite to sit shiva in the wake of their father’s death. Based on the novel by Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I Leave You features an ensemble cast including Jane Fonda and Dax Shepard.

September 26 Jimi: All Is By My Side

OutKast’s André Benjamin, aka André 3000, stars as Jimi Hendrix in this biopic written and directed by 12 Years A Slave writer John Ridley. The intimate film discusses Hendrix’s life from 1966 to 1967, culminating in his legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Although the movie was recently slammed by Hendrix’s friend Kathy Etchingham as fictitious, critics have praised Benjamin’s performance.

October 3 Gone Girl

Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) and based on Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel, this thriller finds Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) accused of his wife’s mysterious disappearance and possible murder and surrounded by vicious media frenzy. The film was scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, whose soundtracks for Fincher have won them an Academy Award.

October 10 Kill The Messenger

Jeremy Renner stars in this drama-thriller based on the true story of Northern California investigative journalist Gary Webb and his exposé Dark Alliance. Webb (Renner) discovers that the CIA supported cocaine smuggling of the anti-Marxist Contra rebels in Nicaragua that led to Los Angeles’ crack epidemic. Kill The Messenger also features award-winning actors Ray Liotta, Andy García, and Oliver Platt.

October 17 Listen Up Philip

In this dark comedy premiered at Sundance, Jason Schwartzman stars as Philip, a self-absorbed writer that feels bored with his struggling relationship, his city life, and his career while awaiting the publication of his second novel. The misanthrope escapes to the isolated summer home of his idol (Jonathan Pryce) to find peace.

October 17 Birdman

Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) directs this film about a once-famous actor, played by Michael Keaton, who is struggling in his attempts to launch a Broadway play. Birdman also features Zach Galifianakis and Edward Norton.

October 17 Fury

Set in the last few months of the European theatre of World War II, US Army sergeant “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt) leads a Sherman tank crew into the heart of Nazi Germany.

October 17 Men, Women, & Children

Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, Up In The Air) directs, produces, and writes this comedy-drama that examines the effect that the Internet and technology have had on modern social norms and relationships. The film stars Adam Sandler in a more serious role, similar to his acclaimed work in Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People.

October 24 St. Vincent

Bill Murray plays Vincent, a retired veteran and hedonist that begins an unusual friendship with the 12-year old boy living next door in this film written and directed by Theodore Melfi. Critics are already praising Murray’s performance.

October 31 Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, an ambitious journalist in Los Angeles that stumbles upon a dark underworld. The dark thriller is also set to feature veteran actor Bill Paxton.

November 7 Interstellar

Likely the most anticipated film of the fall season, Interstellar is a sci-fi drama written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception). Set in a near-future setting in which Earth runs out of food, the film discusses a group of explorers that travel through a wormhole to transcend the limitations of human space travel in the hopes of saving the world. Matthew McConaughey stars in this film which also features Jennifer Chastain, Casey Affleck, Nolan alums Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine, and many more.

November 7 Rosewater

Jon Stewart’s directorial debut is based on the true story of Maziar Bahari and his memoir Then They Came For Me. Bahari (Gael García Bernal) is an Iran-born journalist from Canada that returns to his native country to cover the country’s riots in 2009. The journalist is arrested and incarcerated and spends the next 118 days in interrogation under the suspicion that he is a Western spy.

November 14 Dumb and Dumber To

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return in this long-awaited sequel written, directed, and produced by the Farrelly brothers. Set twenty years after the events of the first film, the duo set out to find Harry’s (Daniels) estranged daughter.

November 14 Foxcatcher

Director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) returns in this film based on the true story of Mark Schultz and the murder of his brother Dave. The Schultz brothers (Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo) are Olympic wrestling champions when Dave is shot and killed in his home by millionaire John Eleuthère du Pont (Steve Carrell) who had been exhibiting erratic behavior.

November 21 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1

This film is the first part in an adaption of the last entry in Suzanne Collins’ series and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

December 12 Inherent Vice

Personally, the film I’m most excited about for this fall is Inherent Vice. Based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master, There Will Be Blood), the mystery film follows drug-fueled private investigator Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) in a psychedelic California noir. Anderson’s seventh film also features Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, and many more.

Inherent Vice Joaquin Phoenix Josh Brolin

December 12 Exodus: Gods and Kings

Gladiator and Alien director Ridley Scott has enlisted Christian Bale as Moses in this modern take on the 1956 film The Ten Commandments. Moses faces the Pharaoh in this spectacle of visual effects that also stars Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, and Aaron Paul.

December 17 The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

Peter Jackson concludes his Hobbit trilogy and Tolkien saga with this film starring Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen. The dragon Smaug has been unleashed upon the world and Sauron has launched an attack on the dwarves’ newly-reclaimed home. This film is set to be an epic conclusion to the dramatic trilogy.

December 25 The Interview

Starring friends and previous collaborators James Franco and Seth Rogen, The Interview is a comedy film that follows American journalists that have been granted an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The film sparked real-life media attention when North Korea’s news agency promised “merciless” retaliation upon the film’s release and North Korea petitioned President Obama to halt the film’s release.

December 25 Unbroken

Angelina Jolie writes and directs this war drama based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book and a true story. The film follows Olympic runner and soldier Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) while being held as a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II.

Did we leave any of your anticipated fall movie releases out? Let us know in the comments below.

The Vaselines are set to release their new album V For Vaselines on September 22 via Rosary Music. Ahead of this release, the influential indie rockers have revealed a new Jim Lang-directed music video for their single “High Tide Low Tide.”

Eugene Kelly says of the song: “This song was inspired by cycling along the River Clyde. Your love is on the other side. Can you get there? Do you want to get there? What do you do when you cross the river? Can you come back home? All these questions and a catchy chorus.” 

Meanwhile, Frances McKee added: “This song is all about commitment issues. Stay safe. Stay single.”

This new single is similar to the album’s lead single, “One Lost Year,” in that it features a more upbeat, rocking sound than some of The Vaselines’ previous output. Below, view The Vaselines’ music video for “High Tide Low Tide”:

Following an 18-month hiatus, Radiohead is returning to the studio in the coming weeks to record their upcoming ninth studio album. In a new interview published this week in NME, drummer Philip Selway revealed that the band’s return to the studio is imminent, adding: “We’ve decided that now feels right to start making music and we’ve got the first week booked in together so we’ll see how it goes.”

Selway also noted that he’s not sure what the new record will sound like. “I have absolutely no idea,” the drummer stated. “And that’s what keeps us all there until the end.”

In a different interview, with BBC‘s Mary Anne Hobbes, Selway said that Radiohead has “got [their] best record still to come” and that the hiatus, which was filled with the band members’ solo projects, will enhance their creativity. In July, guitarist Jonny Greenwood revealed that he had been sending song ideas to Thom Yorke.

Although Radiohead is returning to the studio this month, it’s currently unclear when fans should expect the release of their next album. In the meantime, check out “Coming Up For Air” below, the lead single from Philip Selway’s solo album Weatherhouse.

George Harrison released twelve studio albums during his extensive solo career, the first six of which were put out on The Beatles’ Apple Records label. These albums, a few of which have been out of print, are newly remastered and will be released on September 23 individually and as a box set entitled The Apple Years 1968-1975.

This eight-disc box set will include essays, previously unpublished photos, bonus tracks, and a foreword by Harrison’s son Dhani. Also included is a DVD comprised of previously unreleased live footage and a short film by Harrison’s wife Olivia.

The Apple Years 1968-1975 features 1968’s Wonderwall Music, 1969’s Electronic Sound, 1970’s All Things Must Pass, 1973’s Living in the Material World, 1974’s Dark Horse and 1975’s Extra Texture, all of which have been remastered using the original analog  tapes.

Dhani Harrison says of the new release: “Some of these records have long been out of print, and so I cannot wait for music lovers to get their hands on these newly remastered versions. It’s a very proud moment for us, and I would like to thank everyone who has helped us in any way to achieve this.”

The set is similar in vein to a previous George Harrison release. In 2004, the material from Harrison’s Dark Horse Records label was reissued as a box set under the title The Dark Horse Years 1976-1992.

You can pre-order the new set here and watch a trailer for it below:

Foo Fighters have released a new eight-second clip from their upcoming album, which can be viewed below.

A week ago, the Foo Fighters revealed the full trailer for their upcoming HBO series Sonic Highways, which will coincide with the release of their new album of the same name. The trailer features a performance of their opening song “Something From Nothing.” Sonic Highways is set for release on November 10th via Roswell/RCA.

Ahead of his upcoming album Phantom Radio, Mark Lanegan debuted a limited edition, vinyl-only EP No Bells on Sunday. The album, which was released in July in North America via Vagrant and this week in the UK and Europe via Heavenly, serves as a teaser for the full-length LP coming this fall.

Lanegan’s recent Phantom Radio recording sessions with friend and collaborator Alain Johannes proved to be particularly fruitful. Rather than discarding the unused songs, Lanegan prepared a five-track EP containing songs he has described as “too goofy” for the full-length. No Bells on Sunday acts as a teaser album similar in vein to his Bubblegum preview Here Comes That Weird Chill in 2004.

Although these songs didn’t make it on Phantom Radio, in no way are they inferior or particularly unusual. Beginning with the spectacular, six-minute, electro-tinged “Dry Iced,” Lanegan laments “I’m sorry” numerous times with a Reznor-esque driving beat. This is followed by the title track, structured like a traditional Lanegan song with bluesy lyricism among atmospheric synths.

“Sad Lover” was premiered mid-July as the EP’s only single and is a throwback to the singer’s beginnings in the Screaming Trees. The upbeat rock tune balances Krautrock and psychedelia in an addicting way. Mark Lanegan remarked in a press release: “although the Trees drew on Nuggets psychedelia, 13th Floor Elevators and Love, we were actually listening to Echo And The Bunnymen, Rain Parade, the Gun Club. A lot of British post-punk. We loved that stuff. I just waited until I was in my late forties before I started ripping it off.”

Lanegan’s “goofy” remark rings true with the playful “Jonas Pap,” during which the songwriter repeats lyrics such as “hey now, everybody listen to the song of Pap” and “he ain’t no sucker, he ain’t no sap.” It’s not the finest track in the Lanegan discography, but an upside is the beautiful string arrangement. No Bells on Sunday ends on a fantastic note with the dark beauty of the ambient, haunting “Smokestack Magic.” The epic eight-minute track is similar to Blues Funeral‘s equally long “Tiny Grain of Truth,” with poetic lyricism and mysterious instrumentals pulling equal weight.

No Bells on Sunday serves a strong preview album for this October’s full-length LP, with its five tracks balancing their electronic-tinged sound and Lanegan’s mournful songwriting. The singer-songwriter’s albums this year are the follow-ups to 2012’s Blues Funeral and they continue in their predecessor’s electronic and Krautrock edge, adding in a lighter, ’80s new wave-inspired element to the mix.

Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis’ latest solo acoustic output Tied To A Star is out this week on Sub Pop Records and Mascis has now revealed a new music video for the album’s lead single “Every Morning.” The psychedelic music video, produced by Funny or Die, features Mascis as the shamanic leader of a Kool Aid-drinking, egg-worshiping religious cult which includes The Shins’ James Mercer.

Meanwhile, SNL alum Fred Armisen seems interested in sabotaging Mascis’ group. J Mascis appeared on the third season of Fred Armisen’s IFC show Portlandia and Armisen has appeared on stage with Mascis in the past. Below, watch J Mascis’ music video for “Every Morning”:

above: Image by Steve Gullick.

Mark Lanegan’s new album Phantom Radio is set for release on October 21 via Vagrant Records. The new LP, the details of which we revealed a few weeks ago, was recently teased by the vinyl-only EP No Bells on Sunday.

Ahead of Phantom Radio‘s release, The Quietus has debuted one of the album’s finest tracks, “Floor of the Ocean.” Shelley Brien, Lanegan’s girlfriend of the past ten years, joins him on vocals. In a Vagrant press release, Lanegan says of the ’80s new wave-inspired song: ““It’s rare for me to be moved by my own, but that song has a sadness that actually affected me when I heard it back. I’m very fond of it.”

Mark Lanegan’s Phantom Radio is available October 21 via Vagrant. A review from Alternative Nation is coming soon, but pass the time and check out Lanegan’s new track below:

UPDATE: In addition, Mark Lanegan has revealed the album artwork for Phantom Radio, which you can view below. The artwork features Gustavo Rimada’s “Santa Muerte.”

Phantom Radio Mark Lanegan cover

During Monday’s 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, recent chart-topping parody musician ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic hit the stage for a mid-show performance that parodied several Emmy-nominated shows and their theme songs. With help from comedy actor Andy Samberg, Yankovic performed comedy versions of theme songs from television shows such as Game of ThronesMad Men, and Homeland.

Yankovic’s Game of Thrones parody urged book series writer George R.R. Martin to write more books, while SNL alum Samberg made an apperance as Thrones’ Joffrey Baratheon. Meanwhile, Yankovic tells Vulture that a nod to HBO series True Detective was cut due to time constraints.

Watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic parody Emmy-nominated series in his medley below:

above: Photo by Denee Petracek. 

California recording artist Ty Segall returns this year with his strongest record to date: an expansive, 17-track double album entitled Manipulator, available via Drag City Records on August 26. The jamming psych-rock album features the musician’s signature fuzz-rock sound, employing distorted guitars within catchy, addicting songs.

The Laguna Beach-bred Segall emerged from the San Francisco garage-psych scene a few years ago and recently relocated back to Southern California. Now based in Los Angeles, Segall spent a month in the studio to record his new hour-long opus Manipulator with Wild Flag producer Chris Woodhouse, a contrast to his usually prolific and quick work-rate.

Manipulator succeeds by seamlessly incorporating Segall’s various musical influences into an album that stands as his most comprehensive work to date. Drawing from 60s psych-rock, 70s glam, and 90s alt-rock, the album is an impressive feat of addicting songwriting and instrumental virtuosity.

Segall’s virtuosity is most evident on songs like the intense “Feel,” which culminates in an outstanding guitar solo with Zeppelin-like arena rock quality.  The month that Segall spent in the studio is also evident with songs like “The Clock,” that add interesting string arrangements to the fold. My favorite track on the album is the addicting “The Connection Man,” a straightforward hard rock tune with a fiery, aggressive guitar sound and impressive percussion.

The album’s Bay Area influences are exhibited by its consistent head-rocking fuzziness: many of the tracks on Manipulator are reminiscent of something from Jefferson Airplane’s acid-rock catalog. However, the driving force of Manipulator is the album’s unbashedly euphoric hard rock sound. Manipulator‘s expansive 17-tracks take this heavy garage sound and mix it with glam, psych, and arena rock elements to create Segall’s most complete work to date; an impressive and important addition to Segall’s catalog and this year’s indie rock albums lineup.

Ty Segall’s Manipulator is out August 26 via Drag City. In the meantime, watch a glammed-up Segall traverse Los Angeles in the psychedelic album teaser:

above: Image by Justin Tenney. 

Los Angeles-based Wand is a garage rock outfit consisting of Cory Hanson (vocals, guitar, synth), Evan Burrows (drums), Daniel Martens (guitar), and Lee Landey (bass). The band is set to release their album Ganglion Reef on August 26 via Drag City imprint GOD? Records.

Ganglion Reef is my first exposure to the band’s heavy, hard rock sound and it’s particularly impressive. Beginning with the guitar-created musical landscape of “Send/Receive (Mind),” the band departs on a psychedelic journey that spectacularly combines its sludgy sound with deceivingly crisp production. Their epic five-minute tune “Fire On The Mountain (I-II-III)” is equal parts King Crimson and Radiohead and exhibits the band’s excellent musicianship.

A press release for Ganglion Reef advertises that the “fluctuating gravity of their sound achieves total Wand-hood by jamming senses, sounds and vibes through the circuits,” and they’re not lying. While the album succeeds in creating a sonic adventure, it doesn’t hinder Wand’s songwriting talents. Songs like “Flying Golem” and “Strange Inertia” are reminiscent of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour in that they balance psychedelic experimentation and pop sensibility. Meanwhile, “Growing Up Boys” displays Wand’s musical diversity with its emotional depth.

Still, songs like “6661” and “Generator Larping” define the album and the band’s sound with their distant vocals, sludgy guitars and jamming  sound. While the band sometimes experiments with spacey, psychedelic sounds, Wand immediately brings you back down with its hard rock guitar-driven element. Ganglion Reef succeeds in creating a driving, jamming heavy rock album that experiments in psychedelia but doesn’t forget its songwriting ability. With Wand’s addicting sound, I’m excited to hear what this L.A.-based rock band has in store for the future.

Wand’s Ganglion Reef is set for release on August 26 via Drag City’s GOD? Records, but in the meantime you can pre-order the album here.