Tag Archives: PlayNetwork

SXSW 2014 Recap – Julia’s Journal

Julia Cummings is Director of Music Services at PlayNetwork. She oversees the team of Music Supervisors who design in-store playlists (as well as on-line, video syncs, and beyond). With a background in radio production (KEXP) and Music Supervision herself, Julia has created the soundtracks for iconic fashion brands from Anthropologie to MAC Cosmetics.

SXSW is a sensory assault. A mad maze of music, music, people, music, lines, late-night food truck visits, sketchy bathrooms, drunk meanderers, and spontaneous jams in the middle of 6th street. Surprises. Navigating blocks and kids banging on buckets and the strangest strangers to catch as many shows as possible or just sitting on a dirty curb because your feet are so sore you JUST NEED TO SIT.  Then there is the dancing, the swaying, and the all-out full body listening to live performances- one after the next.

Day 1:

Check-in. Meet Susie Brown, from Lively formerly of PlayNetwork, for dinner.  Then journey off Rainey St. near the food cart court. Kind of a cool night. Cool enough to wish I brought a jacket, but not too cold for a Northwesterner. Very glad I catch moody set of Icelandic electronic (?) singer-songwriter Ásgeir at Blackheart, the understated one-man band, Chet Faker, and the ever, forever suave Aloe Blacc at Clive Bar.  Really felt like all Soul. All night.

Day 2:

I hit Mellow Johnny’s in the afternoon and see the beautiful KEXP people and stunning Dum Dum Girls set that started off sleepy and ended expectedly rollicking.

Panel: “You Got Music, You Got Tech, Now Build Me Products”
http://schedule.sxsw.com/2014/events/event_MP17552

Hit the Hype Hotel party and to catch an amazing set by Painted Palms. If you like their record you must see this band live! Then headed down to the FedEx showcase with the amazing creative team of Angelica and Tamara managing the event with Filter.

Damon Albarn rooftop magic. Indescribably perfect really.  Enough said.

In the deepening hours of the morning Kelis shuts it down, literally, at Clive Bar. Back-up singers and horns in full effect. Party. “Milkshake” mid-set was also a surprise. The sound guy pulls the plug amid a song called “A Capella,” which seemed staged at first as the singers took out their monitors and just kept singing, the horns quieting down… But they really had shut it down because it was getting so late!

Day 3: Lady Gaga keynote. This is when things get weird. Waiting in the cavernous auditorium. Lady Gaga was ethereal, all flour-dreadlocked with garbage bags so sheer she didn’t come out in any of my pictures. I think she is genuine even all wrapped-up in cellophane. At least she is trying to do something: inspiring young people to be inspired. It’s not about selfies, but self-love. After hearing her speak, I think that is a genuine aspiration.

Then it was show time for a panel I was asked to participate in! In-Store Retail Radio: http://schedule.sxsw.com/2014/events/event_MP20506
The discussion centered around the impact of in-store radio on customer’s shopping experiences and how this exposure can lead to fans for emerging artists. Key point: we may be in the B2B world, but artists and labels are our clients as well.

Lucius transformed the sterile convention center into a blissful uprising. Caught the end of Jungle’s set. This song basically stuck in my head for the rest of the week, if not month…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JkDzNOgO3U. Saw  and although her voice was waning, she was still a firecracker steaming up the stage at Clive Bar. British singer Sam Smith (who had a shot to fame as the guest vocalist on Disclosure’s 2012 UK hit “Latch”- noting he was bartending 2 years ago…) sang a heartfelt, short set at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary- always a lovely venue for a final transcendental moment and another opportunity to rest one’s feet and rehydrate after trekking the blocks. Ended the night with a perfectly raucous and insanely fun show by my friends on Bar/None Records The Front Bottoms. Fun to end up in a pit of kids bouncing around, sweating, and singing along.

Day 4:

I catch Belle & Sebastian front man Stuart Murdoch talking about his new film, “God Help The Girl”, a musical he wrote and directed http://www.godhelpthegirl.com/about/

Catch ANTI- band Saintseneca’s lovely Flatstock set. Stopped by the British Embassy Showcase and caught The Crookes then headed back to our FedEx showcase to see the end of Gardens & Villa and check in on the ass-kicking Creative Strategy team of Angelica & Tamara again. After dinner (ahem, one of the best lobster rolls ever!) at Garbo’s food truck and a sunset bat siting, I go back to the British Embassy to catch San Fermin, Temples, and stick around for the surprise that is Fat White Family. All great performances, all around. Closed out the night catching our Director of Music Strategy Sean Horton spin records at the Lively closing night event.

See you next year, you wily town you.

Top Albums of 2013

This is the last one!  This review of Grey Reverend’s record will conclude the reviews of some of our top albums of 2013. We hope you have enjoyed reading these reviews as much as we enjoyed writing them.  Happy Holidays!

grey a hero's lie grey

 

Artist: Grey Reverend

Album: A Hero’s Lie

Label:   Ninja Tune

http://greyreverend.com/

Louis Armstrong once observed that “All Music Is Folk Music, I Ain’t Never Heard A Horse Sing A Song.” Satchmo’s wit eloquently dissolves the notion that music needs to be categorized and that is precisely what I like about “A Hero’s Lie” – the second album under the name “Grey Reverend” by D.L. Brown. Steeped in serious music theory and jazz improvisation (in addition to rock and blues), Brown was on his way to becoming a jazz guitar soloist when a neurological disorder called “focal dystonia” limited his ability to play such complex and intricate music. Undaunted, Brown purposely leaned inward toward a more direct subtle, melodic, thoughtful, thankful, literate side of songwriting. The highly complex became more accessible and sincere; jazz music became folk music; and by ordaining himself as Grey Reverend, D.L. Brown discovered an emotional connection to an audience willing to defy and transcend musical categories.

-Tom Killorin, Music Supervisor

 

Top Albums of 2013

Here is the second to last review of some of the PlayNetwork music team’s top albums of 2013.  Stay tuned for the last review tomorrow!  Enjoy.

milk-carton-kids-ash-and-claymilk carton   

Artist: Milk Carton Kids

Album: The Ash and Clay

Label:   Anti Records

http://www.themilkcartonkids.com/?page=media

What I love most about the Milk Carton Kids is the simplicity of their approach and the haunting beauty of their songs. What I love almost as much about them is their carefully crafted live act and stage personas. That might not be strictly applicable when selecting your favorite studio-recorded album of the year, but once you’ve experienced the duo in a live setting their personality and charisma cannot be separated from their music. To cheaply convey the aesthetic of the Milk Carton Kids to the uninitiated, they could be simply pegged as Simon & Garfunkel harmonies with Dave Rawlings (Gillian Welch’s musical partner) style guitar playing. Which you might expect to just be some lofty hyperbole, but the thing is those harmonies are actually on par with the legendary Art and Paul, and Kenneth Pattingale could sit-in for Dave Rawlings on guitar any day. The fact that two guys with a pair of acoustic guitars standing around a single condenser mic can make such powerful music is a testament to their authenticity and rare talent.

-Gabriel Marowitz, Associate Music Supervisor

Top Albums of 2013

We have a few more reviews of some of our top 10 albums from 2013.  Enjoy this review of Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us.goldfrapp-tales-of-us goldfrapp

Artist: Goldfrapp

Album: Tales of Us

Label: Mute

http://goldfrapp.com/#music/

On their sixth studio album Tales of Us Goldfrapp (Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory) take a substantial departure from their previous record Head First. Gone is the synth-driven electro of “Rocket” and “Believer.” In its place is a lush collection of acoustic and intimate songs that are subdued and somber. The instrumentation is sparse – acoustic guitar, strings, and piano with nary a drum to be heard. But the arrangements are effective, creating the proper atmosphere to take you on their personal and reflective journey. Although the record lacks a true standout song (my favorite is “Annabel”) the album as a whole is mesmerizing – proof that the duo’s talent goes well beyond pop hooks and electronic production.

-Mark Campbell, Music Supervisor

Top Albums of 2013

We are keeping them coming… four left in our series of ten reviews of some of PlayNetwork’s top albums of 2013.  Enjoy!

danny-brown-old-tracklist1 danny-brown

Artist: Danny Brown

Album: Old

Label:  Fool’s Gold/Warner Bros.

http://xdannyxbrownx.com/videos/

On the opening title track of Danny Brown’s last full length offering, 2012’s XXX, which catapulted him into the mainstream consciousness, Danny exclaims, “If this sh*t don’t work…I’ve failed at life…I’ve turned to these drugs now these drugs turned my life”. Contrary to the popular perception, XXX was not an album about parties and popping molly, but rather the desperation of a relatively unknown 30-year -old rapper, living in a city in turmoil (Detroit), using Adderall to write into the wee hours, and street drugs for self-medication. Now with 2013’s Old, an album appropriately split into Side A and Side B, we find Danny torn between celebrating his success in an excess of parties, drugs, and women (Side B), and reflecting on the consequences of this lifestyle on himself, his loved ones, and his craft (Side A). On “Clean Up” Danny acknowledges, “it’s time for me to clean it up, I came too far to f*ck it up,” but club tracks such as “Smokin’ & Drinkin'” and “Kush Coma” suggest he’s not quite ready to leave the party lifestyle behind. The final track “Float On,” perfectly summarizes this excellent Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde styled album, leaving Danny unsure about the future, praying he’ll make it long enough to see “his influence on this genre of music” — a wish that for better or worse drove Danny to make one of the best and most unique albums of the year.

Blake Kirpes, Music Supervisor

Top Albums of 2013

This review of Disclosure kicks off the second half of the 10 reviews of some of our favorite albums of 2013.

disclosure-settle-album disclosure-sweaters

Artist: Disclosure

Album: Settle

Label:  Island/Universal

http://disclosureofficial.com/music/

If I had to pick one defining album of 2013, it would have to be Disclosure’s Settle. Not only do teen prodigies Guy and Howard Lawrence manage to reach global popularity with Settle, they did so by focusing on a sub-genre that has yet to obtain mainstream success outside of the UK (Garage). As a fan of Garage, Deep House, Techno and other “4/4” genres that have kept dance music interesting for the past 30 years, it’s refreshing to witness emerging talent like Disclosure pay homage to the underground. Each song is an expertly crafted pop anthem, that doesn’t placate the listener with mainstream “EDM” production tricks used by David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia, Kaskade, Afrojack and the like.  In fact, it’s the unique production on Settle that makes the album standout both as a commercial and underground gem. Much album’s success is owed to the brilliant cast of guest vocalists Guy and Howard collaborate with, including Jessie Ware, Sam Smith, Eliza Doolittle, AlunaGeorge, Jamie Woon and London Grammar. You won’t find a more accessible underground dance album out there and in a world where cookie-cutter “EDM” has flooded the market, many are looking to Disclosure to carve out a new path.

-Sean Horton, Director, Music Strategy & Development

Top Albums of 2013

This review of Wooden Shjips marks the half way point of the unveiling of some of our top 10 albums of 2013.  Stayed tuned for the second half, we promise you won’t regret it!

wooden shjips back to landWooden+Shjips+Wooden20Shjips

Artist: Wooden Shjips

Album: Back To land

Label:  Thrill Jockey

http://www.woodenshjips.com/media/

 

On ‘Back to Land’, the band delivers a sonic milkshake that smells and tastes definitively like “Wooden Shjips music,” but it’s got a new confidence. Some washes of harder-edged electronic stuff, some happier moments and some darker moments. Miles of guitar solos / fuzz / distortion, of course, and motoric bass and drums. But the mix is heavier and more varied from track to track. You’ll hear them pushing the edges out, loosening the ties. The result is a record that’s more sonically rich than anything that’s come before, and also more accessible. Here, boundary-pushing involves the occasional inclusion of acoustic guitars in a supporting role in the band’s drone-friendly Suicide-meet-’Sister Ray’ stew, as well as tunes that occasionally risk a third chord to supplement the band’s customary two- and single-chord workouts. It’s not like the Wooden Shjips were ever threatening to become a parody of themselves, but they were sticking a little too close to their guns. There’s no worse way to go out than with a dulled point, fading to grey. Here they are, back on top, in glorious Technicolor. Drink it up.

-Paul Wain, Music Supervisor EMEA