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Hear Claude VonStroke's acid-drenched banger 'CaliFuture'

Claude VonStroke has spent the decade pushing dance music’s boundaries while maintaining a strong link to the style’s roots, something a lot of bigger EDM acts just don’t have. On his latest, “CaliFuture,” he fuses the gnarly, squelching synths of vintage Chicago acid house with a funky vocal line that sounds like it could have been lifted right off some super-rare ’80s electro 12-inch.

“I moved to California over 17 years ago with big dreams just like everyone else,” VonStroke says of the song’s lyrical theme. “Originally I thought I would be a filmmaker but I was always better at music. I worked every job from fake perfume salesman to tour guide at Paramount. I got screamed at for many years by Ari Gold-type movie producers but always with a blind belief that someday something good would happen. That’s what this song is about: the underlying belief that no matter how bad it is, you can be plucked out of oblivion and make it big in California.”

“CaliFuture” is available now on Beatport.

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Diplo's new remix turns the lights on Lorde's 'Tennis Court'

Globetrotting DJ/super-producer Diplo was one of the first big artists to give Lorde a co-sign, and judging by their social media presences, the two have remained buddies throughout her rapid ascent into pop’s A-list. Today the two took their friendship to the next level with the release of “Diplo’s Andre Agassi Reebok Pump Mix” of “Tennis Court,” the opening track from Lorde’s breakthrough album Pure Heroine.

The original (currently at No. 78 on the Billboard Hot 100) juxtaposes huge vocal hooks, a gothy minimalist synthesizer arrangement, and some precociously over-it lyrics. Diplo being Diplo, his remix splashes neon light over Lorde’s brooding pop with pitch-bending keyboard arpeggios that candy ravers will go cuckoo over.













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Pitchfork Music Festival was more than just indie rock

The online music magazine Pitchfork is synonymous with indie rock, but as it’s grown in reputation and influence it has also branched out stylistically to give nearly equal space to rap, metal, dance music, and other genres that aren’t based on fuzzy, jangly guitars. (Full disclosure: I was a regular contributor there until recently.) This year’s installment of its annual music festival was a reflection of that diversity, and of the expanding listening habits of the contemporary counterculture.

One of the first performers to take the stage on Friday night was Neneh Cherry, whose 1989 Raw Like Sushi was an unprecedented collision of pop, punk, R&B, rap, and dance music, and whose “Buffalo Stance” remains one of the best singles of the ’80s. Since she came out of retirement in 2012 she’s traded the brashness of her early years for a subtler approach, particularly on her most recent album, Blank Project, where she traded the hard-edged beats she built her career from for an emphasis on texture. Her performance, backed by the group RocketNumberNine, used the same approach, peaking with a rendition of “Buffalo Stance” that was considerably softer and smoother than the original, but still delivered the same crowd-moving energy.

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Image Credit: Barry Brecheisen/AP

While Cherry may have moved on from her ’80s template, there were a number of performers over the weekend who are working from the style-crossing template she created. Kelela is an R&B artist who songs over propulsive beats by dance music producers who occupy some of the genre’s darker corners. While her collaborators still reside in the underground, the massive crowd at her side-stage performance indicates that she’s on her way to a much larger audience. FKA Twigs also brought a big crowd to the smaller stage for a set of heady electronic R&B that pulls from a variety of sources–from Houston rap to the post-dubstep UK dance scene–and ends up sounding like a batch of Aaliyah songs drifting psychedelically through outer space.

R&B is a recent addition to the festival. Hip-hop, on the other hand, has been a part of it nearly from the start, but never to the extent that it was this year. Danny Brown and Pusha T both delivered performances from one of the big stages on Saturday that overflowed with sing-along hooks and swagger. Brown has spent most of his time since 2011′s XXX blew up on the road, and onstage he delivers energy as tightly focused as his raps.

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Image Credit: Barry Brecheisen / AP

Rap dominated Sunday, with performances by up and comer Isaiah Rashad, Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt, and Schoolboy Q in quick succession, the latter two back to back on the big stage, which hasn’t happened before at the Pitchfork Festival. Kendrick Lamar closed out the festival on Sunday night, which was another first. Backed by a full band and some gorgeous cinematic visuals he blasted through a set of already-classics from his 2013 Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City to a crowd several times the size of the one he played to from the side stage at the 2012 Pitchfork Festival. In scale, ambition, and crowd response it was the biggest set of the festival, its one true rock-star moment.

Dance music still isn’t Pitchfork’s strong suit, and lackluster sets by Jon Hopkins and Hudson Mohawke never quite ignited. But the genre did provide the most moving moment of the weekend, during a Sunday afternoon performance by Chicago producer DJ Spinn, whose creative partner DJ Rashad died in April. Spinn and Rashad are to of the most important figures in a style called footwork, and Spinn brought out a stage full of footwork dancers—whose speed and acrobatic dexterity can seem almost superhuman—to accompany him. It felt something like a wake, and a celebration not only of the music that he devoted his life to but the very power of music to make us move, sometimes in extraordinary ways.

Video: Cats make synthesizer jams for Self's 'Runaway'

Matt Mahaffey has been making synth-heavy pop music under the name Self for nearly 20 years while also freelancing for a diverse range of artists including Pink, Lupe Fiasco, and Beck. Next week he’ll release Super Fake Nice, his first new album since his 2005′s album Porno, Mint, & Grime. Since then the Internet has grown considerably, and so has its role in promoting new music.

Mahaffey’s obviously been paying attention. “I’ve always fancied myself a person who’s ahead of the curve,” he says, “and with this video, I really think that making videos of cats is going to catch fire on the internets. I wasn’t available to be at my own video shoot and I refuse to allow my band to have a moment in the sun without me so we hired this rad cat band that I’ve been a fan of for a while.” Who knows? Maybe this crazy idea of putting cute cat videos online will catch on.

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Video: Jack White covers Jay Z's '99 Problems' live

In the middle of launching his latest run of North American tour dates at Louisville’s Forecastle Festival Saturday night, Jack White  pulled a cover of Jay Z’s “99 Problems” out of a transition from The White Stripes “Icky Thump.”

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Video: Robyn and Royksopp join the revolution in 'Do It Again'

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When you think of frequent Scandinavian collaborators Robyn and Röyksopp, you probably imagine thumping club beats, or maybe even lighter, more ballad-like fare. Point is, you might not expect the Swedish and Norwegian team to score the music of a revolution.

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Concert review: Queen + Adam Lambert at Madison Square Garden

The Queen is dead; long live the Queen. It’s been 22 years since Freddie Mercury died, and yet his band—who managed to continuously find new life throughout its original run—has done so yet again. The current heir presumptive? American Idol’s Adam Lambert, a self-proclaimed Freddie Mercury devotee who was still in diapers the last time Queen played New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1982.

But for all of Lambert’s preening and expert vocal acrobatics, this was still very much Mercury’s show. Queen’s remaining original members, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor (bassist John Deacon retired in 1997), have said time and time again that this show is not a reproduction and that Lambert is not meant to be a Mercury clone. So while his skinny leather pants, leopard-print tuxes, and use of studs and fringe in a single outfit would likely all be Freddie-approved, Adam Lambert was very much his glam-punk self, and Mercury still kept a couple of coveted solos for himself.

The band came out hard with songs such as “Now I’m Here,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Fat Bottomed Girls” and spent the majority of their two-plus-hours-long set showcasing the still-obvious talent that made May a guitar hero in the first place. Lambert catwalked and peppered the crowd with sporadic stage banter (“When I feel lonely, I just drink and douse myself in rhinestones like any sensible gay,” he said before launching into “Somebody to Love”). Lambert’s crowning theatrical moment was his vaudevillian performance of “Killer Queen”—sprawled out on a purple velvet chaise lounge mid-arena, platformed, glitter-covered boots in the air, spewing champagne onto the audience. Guaranteed to blow your mind, indeed.

But for all of the show’s highs (including a rousing “Who Wants to Live Forever,” co-starring a dazzling disco ball), there were still enough tributes to fill a VH1 special. “Years and years and years ago,” May eulogized mid-show, “some of you will remember and some of you were not even born yet—there was a man named Freddie Mercury. And he was extraordinary.” May then quietly duetted with the audience on an acoustic performance of “Love of My Life,” a contemplative ballad he used to, back in the day, perform next to a seated Mercury under simple stage lights.

And May is right. Of those filling the Garden on July 17, many were probably early fans of the British rock band—who would sing along with early hits like “Stone Cold Crazy” and not think of it as a Metallica song. And then, there were plenty who probably learned of the band by listening to their parents’ LPs—a couple of generations worth who weren’t around to witness Queen’s 1970s heyday, or their miraculous comeback at 1986’s Live Aid concert in London (29 years ago this week), or the lingering decline and death of the band’s brilliant and beautiful leader.

And yet, it was without irony that not 15 minutes after May’s tribute (and Taylor’s rendition of “These Are the Days of Our Lives”—a schlocky song Taylor wrote for his frontman for their final album before Mercury’s death, and sung while playing a video montage of ’70s band nostalgia), that Lambert returned to the stage to the opening bassline of “Under Pressure,” a song that younger generation of audience members would undoubtedly place as ’90s staple “Ice Ice Baby” before remembering its very glam origin. Sigh.

It was the finale the brought the nostalgia-fest to its peak, though, and gave Mercury his biggest moment of the night. Lambert took the first verse of the band’s opus, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and moved aside for Mercury to take the second (via old concert footage). The operatic section? The band cleared the stage. They let the original recording do the heavy lifting, opting to play their 1975 disembodied head video, complete with all the complicated vocal layering that made those “Galileos” and “Bismillahs” famous in the first place. And why not? Even with a first-rate fill-in like Lambert, sometimes you just don’t mess with perfection.













Billy Joel taught me everything I know

Truly, I could draw you the best fishing routes off the coast of Long Island before I even set foot in New York (thank you, “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’”). I was introduced to the complexities of dating beyond your station without the help of Jane Austen (“Uptown Girl,” indeed). I still sprint to see Bizet’s Carmen because it reminds me of “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.” And the first drink I ever ordered in a bar was a gin and tonic (though not a tonic and gin, as I’d first heard it in “Piano Man”).

In 1982, while my sister Amy was mooning over Barry Manilow’s “The Old Songs,” I was crushing my first 45, Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” My first favorite T-shirt was a blue-and-white ringer emblazoned with his name and a glittering keyboard. (That’s it in the picture above. I’m 6, my sister is 8.) My first CD was his two-disc Greatest Hits Volumes I and II. But until last week at Madison Square Garden, I’d never seen Billy Joel perform live—even though I’ve come to realize that he is the longest-running nonfamilial relationship of my life.

Billy and I first started riding high during 1983′s An Innocent Man. I was 7. “Tell Her About It,” “Keeping the Faith,” “The Longest Time”: All that glorious doo-wop with ’80s sax overlay had me wondering what I was doing in karate class when I could be taking piano lessons so that I could perform in a revolving bar someday. The album was the perfect introduction to Billy. Its lyrics didn’t require the level of introspection that songs on Piano Man, The Stranger, or Glass Houses did—I’d get into those soon enough. Though early exposure to “She’s Got a Way” did result in a misguided interpretation that caused me to sing tearfully into my pillow after saying goodbye to my favorite teacher on the last day of fifth grade. Like I said, some of his material was initially a bit out of my grasp.

Sure, I had fixations on other artists. There was my Willie Nelson phase (ages 6-9), an Aretha Franklin era (11-14), a stint with Steve Miller (15-17), and a nice run with Dr. John (17-22). But while I flirted, no one stuck around like Billy. His vivid character studies—”Big Man on Mulberry Street,” “Goodnight Saigon,” “Captain Jack”—were like Raymond Carver short stories told in new time signatures.

When I heard that Billy would be doing a monthly residency at Madison Square Garden, I knew I had to go. And despite my sister’s early-onset Manilow mania, I knew I had to bring her. As we took our seats, I learned she’d been harboring a secret: This was her fourth Billy Joel concert. Still, we sang, we swayed, we even teared up. And—like 99 percent of the 20,000 fans who fill the Garden for Billy every month—we didn’t sit down once while the Piano Man wailed wonderfully through classics like “Pressure” and “You May Be Right.” “Allentown,” “She’s Always a Woman,” and “Everybody Loves You Now,” too.

People often ask me what my favorite Billy song is, and my answer always changes. The day before seeing this show, I learned I’d lost my incandescent friend Aylie to an aneurysm at 38. “Only the Good Die Young” can seem like a trite sentiment—until it doesn’t. It was the final encore Billy performed at MSG the night I was there. So for now, that one’s my favorite, for Aylie. And because life is life and Billy is Billy, I’m looking forward to the next time my answer changes.

 

 

Joel is booked at Madison Square Garden through February 2015 or “as long as there is demand.” (So presumably, forever.)

in_this_issue(2)Pick up a copy of this week’s Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday.

Salme Dahlstrom premieres 'Pop Ur Heart Out'

You may not recognize Salme Dahlstrom’s name, but it’s very likely that you’ve heard her song “C’mon Y’all” in a commercial (for everything from Special K to Subaru), a movie, a TV show, or a video game. Or you may have heard another song from her 2008 album The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade somewhere, since she managed to license every single track on it, Moby-style.

The follow-up to Acid Cowgirl, titled Pop Propaganda Volume 2: Retro Funk Soul Junction, comes out September 16—and if the lead single, “Pop Ur Heart Out” is any indication, she won’t have problem selling these songs either. “Pop”—which Dahlstrom produced herself, like all her material—is relentlessly hooky and ridiculously accessible, with bits of hip-hop and dance music floating around in a matrix of straight sugar pop. Expect to see it in about a million more commercials.

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Dance-music legend Arthur Baker returns with 'No Price'

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Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories helped to revitalize the careers of disco-era masters Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder. Now Arthur Baker—who helped guide disco’s evolution into modern dance music, producing Afrika Bambaataa’s massively influential “Planet Rock” and remixing the biggest pop stars of the ’80s (including, weirdly, Bruce Springsteen, who’s not known for being a club-music kind of guy) along the way—is engineering a comeback of his own.

Baker’s new track, “No Price,” was first written and recorded in 1979 for a collaborative album with soul singer Joe Bataan that was scrapped when their label folded. Thirty years later, Baker dusted it off and sent it to Al-P from MSTRKRFT, and later invited Chromeo crooner Dave 1 to add a new lead vocal part. The final result is a glossy, string-laden jam that gooses peak-era disco funk with some contemporary thump. Baker’s calling his new project Slam Dunk’d, and they’ll be releasing a full album in September.

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