All Posts By William Hoffman

Lili K Interview


Unfortunately, great music tends to come from a place of pain rather than joy. For jazz singer Lili K, that darkness manifested in the gun violence found in her home city of Chicago, as well as the abuse she felt in a romantic relationship.
However, there’s a way to combat that pain: turn it into healing.
“As artists, it’s kind of our duty to use our art to serve as a positive expression of those things, and take something that’s so painful and turn it into something that can release as something more healing,” she explained.
This is a strategy she uses to great effect on her debut studio album Ruby, in which she soulfully sings about the various relationships in her life and how those struggles have affected her.
Ruby is definitely a collection of songs based on relationships. Not all are romantic relationships, but family, friendships, and people interacting with one another,” she said. “I think that the core of human interaction gives me the most inspiration when I write because it’s what effects me the most. So if it’s a friendship that’s gone astray, or having issues with my boyfriend, or with my mom, those are the things that effect me the most and give me the hardest time emotionally.”
Lili K, whose full name is Lillianna Kryzanek, struggled for a long time in this abusive relationship, and said the best thing to do is confide in someone, admit there’s a problem, and work on self improvement.
“A lot of it is realizing that you have to focus on yourself and you have to be happy and be healthy, and if you’re not yourself and you’re not in a good place in that relationship, you shouldn’t be in that relationship,” she said. “No matter how much you try, you can’t change a person. Everyone deserves to be treated the best way possible.”
Hopefully, Ruby can serve as an album of healing, a tactic fans of the flourishing Chicago music scene might recognize from the likes of hip-hop artists Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa, who have featured Lili K on their highly acclaimed, uplifting albums.
You can catch her on several fantastic tracks from these cutting-edge artists, including songs such as “Good Ass Intro” and “Pusha Man” off Chance’s career-launching mixtape, Acid Rap, as well as “Hollywood LA” off of Mensa’s 2013 mixtape INNANETAPE.
Where those ventures had Lili K singing gorgeous backup vocals underneath the two rappers’ masterful flows, Ruby brings those soul and jazz talents to the forefront.
While her voice is incredible, she’s modest about her abilities, claiming she never had the huge, booming voice of singers like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight, so she turned to the more subtly talented world of jazz. It was her middle school teacher who actually first turned her on to the genre.
“It definitely changed my life, because I heard a voice being used in such a different way and it wasn’t the huge, powerful, belting voice that I just didn’t really have,” she said. “It definitely taught me different ways to use my voice and introduced me to the whole world of jazz, and that was the tipping point for me.”
She said she has an awesome band that helps her put instrumentation to the words and melody in her head, which come to her at random times, whether in the shower or on the subway.
“I used to sit down and try and write, and it was never really my best work,” she said. “The musicians in my band are so much better than me at their respective instruments and ability to approach the kind of taste for what I have and the direction I want to go in, so we’ll work together to build a song structure around [the lyrics].”
That formula is working for her on Ruby, which landed her and the band a featured spot on Tidal’s emerging artists page, where she said the music streaming service’s community of music lovers were overwhelmingly positive.
Ruby is available for streaming everywhere, and you can visit for a full list of tour dates.

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Lili K Interview: Photographed by J. Frank

The Barenaked Ladies Still Have The Most Original Holiday Album To Date


Christmas music isn’t exactly known for being the most innovative. Every year we get a variation on the same old songs, sung in the same impressive register by a myriad of R&B and pop artists from Mariah Carey to Justin Bieber.
That’s OK most of the time because it’s just a little over a month out of the year that you have to put up with it and for the most part they aren’t bad songs (unless the family plays endless Chipmunk music). But, there’s one album that offers something truly different that isn’t some anarchical punk or metal take on the genre that no one will enjoy: Barenaked For The Holiday by the Barenaked Ladies.
The group can be pretty divisive among certain circles, but this album is some of the group’s best work and has something for everyone: beautifully harmonized renditions of classic Christmas songs, Hanukkah tunes, original recordings written by the band, featured holiday mainstay artists such as Michael Bublé and a mild tone that pokes fun at the absurdity of the holiday.
Perform a quick Google search for indie or alternative Christmas songs and you’ll get suggestions for Tom Waits, The Ramones, The Killers, and The Pretenders among a whole spattering of rock bands over the century that have covered or written holiday songs. But you probably don’t hear those playing at family gatherings. Instead it’s the artists reaching back to the ‘40s and ‘50s jazz era featured on Billboard’s Holiday 100 that get the most play time, because no one has really done it better. Yet, Barenaked For The Holiday can easily serve as a go-to choice amongst the classics and blend right in.
The album takes risks and melds those rockist sensibilities with popist songwriting, much like some of the best albums of 2015. Nowhere is that displayed more clearly than on the Bublé featured tune “Elf’s Lament.”
It’s one of the originals on the album singing about the labor rights of elves who are fed up with the monarchical system Santa has imposed on them and attempt to form a union. It’s hilarious lyrically, but also catches all the holiday charm of a hit holiday tune.
So, whether you’re a grinch or a holiday fanatic, give this album a try at the next family gathering and spend your time fighting about politics, not music.

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The Barenaked Ladies Still Have The Most Original Holiday Album To Date: Image courtesy of 

‘Best of the Year’ Lists Come Out Too Early


The second to last Thanksgiving dish had been washed and the last Black Friday weekend shopping spree checked out, and it seemed like all the music blogs big and small began to drop their lists for best albums of the year.
It’s a great time-honored tradition for most music fans, who, like myself, obsess over their favorite works of the year from the most obscure acts to the most mainstream pop, and come up with a criteria of values to align them in numerical order with a single one at the top. Many articles have been written about how this task can be a silly proposition at times, but I’ve always enjoyed the lists for the purposes of music discovery, despite our foolish notion of one album to rule them all.
But, in the age of the Internet, there’s two new problems with these lists caused by the disintegration of the traditional album format and the proliferation of music streaming.
The latter is a problem because all of these lists are coming out at the beginning of December, probably a relic of when people actually bought music as a gift for the holiday and consumers wanted to know the perfect album to get their loved ones. But, when’s the last time your bought an album that wasn’t Adele’s? Even if you do buy music, not everyone has a record player and most people listen online. Why gift them an inconvenience?
Last year, most publications missed the release of D’Angelo’s brilliant surprise album Black Messiah because it came out on December 15. Some publications have stuck to the format and simply included the album on the 2015 cycle of best albums lists, but others basically acted like the end of December is a black hole where great albums go to die. There’s no reason that album shouldn’t be somewhere on every list this year if it wasn’t on last year’s.
Drake is the unlikely source of the other problem — out disintegrating album structure. If you were to conduct a poll of Drake fans and ask them what their favorite song was this year from the Toronto rapper, a wide swath of them would certainly answer “Hotline Bling,” “Back 2 Back Freestyle” and “Jumpman.” But two of those songs weren’t on an album at all and “Jumpman” was a single on his collaborative mixtape with Future, What A Time To Be Alive.
His actual album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was a fine album, but may have been promoted a little higher than it would have without the successes of his stand-alone singles throughout the year.
Thankfully, some publications are embracing the artist of the year award, which is a litte more all-encompassing. Still, both of these issues can only grow with time as artists look for new and inventive ways to release music on new formats during less crowded time slots throughout the year.
These are good changes for music. Albums are more accessible than ever, pop stars such as Justin Bieber are able to make fully formed albums that get commercial success from start to finish, and artists such as Sia can release music in January without fear of a drop in sales. Now we just need to revamp how we evaluate our album of the year lists to actually include the whole year.

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Shanee Pink Interview

Shanee Pink never stayed too long in one place. She grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel, went to school in New York, and now spends most of her time in California. Even now, she never really stops traveling while looking for a new project. Her Instagram is a capsule of those travels from sprawling urban settings playing guitar in the middle of the street or in a subway to yoga on the beach, naked mornings in Laurel Canyon California, and camping in the desert.
Yet, “hippie” and “hipster” are labels she rejects, or at least feels uncomfortable with. That’s in part because, as a musician, there’s a certain connotation of hippie music associated with The Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, and the whole flower generation. Shanee Pink’s music certainly wouldn’t fit that description.
Her latest EP, Twin Flame, dropped August 28, and it’s a shift back to some of the electronic sounds she was playing with on her 2012 release of Our United Hearts. However, fans of her 2014 effort Spreading in the Light will notice a fairly stark difference, both in the kind of music as well as the tone.
That emotional shift in her music comes from the same source as most great music—a broken relationship.
“I was writing this music and it had to do with the relationship I was in. It was a peculiar relationship that was pushing on all of my buttons,” Pink said.
The title of Twin Flame sets the stage for the album’s theme.
“A twin flame is when somebody comes into your life and ignites a certain fire in you or pushes your buttons in certain ways,” she said. “It may not always be pleasant, but it makes you grow as a human being and you learn a lot about yourself.”
5Q5A5488One of those relationships was a very public one with Nev Schulman, host of the popular MTV show Catfish. For those living under a rock, on Catfish, Schulman helps people in online relationships find out if they are being duped by someone pretending to be someone they are not—also known as catfishing. Schulman himself was catfished and filmed it all in a movie (“documentary” might be too generous a title) that launched his career. Therefore, to this day his relationships tend to be a rather public event.
Although the couple were able to keep the majority of their relationship out of the public eye, it still left a mark on Pink.
“He was a big part of my life in the last two years; not to say this album is about him, but it’s about a lot of lessons I learned (in that time),” she said.
Talking on relationships more generally, Pink said she’s learned a lot from her past romantic entanglements and it comes out on this album.
“In every relationship you meet a person and they are kind of embarrassed of you, or you see your insecurities come up in your interaction with them. Or you kind of compare each other or learn something from the way they conduct themselves and learn that you’re not conducting yourself in a certain way,” Pink said. “In that way, I felt like it made me grow. I felt like I wasn’t owning my own artistry and I wasn’t working hard enough on my own career.”
Part of working more on her career meant discovering what her sound is as a musician. She enlisted some new help on Twin Flame to make it more poppy and electronic.
“I think, before, I was writing everything on my own and half producing it on my own, so I was more a little more limited with the tools I had to express myself,” Pink said. “This time, I was working with people who really helped me take what I was doing to the next level. They gave me more tools to express myself. I think that’s why this album is a little more produced and a little more vibrant.”
The switch to a more electronic sound, she said, was a conscious decision on her part.
“I really loved LCD Soundsystem because they weren’t just electronic dance music; they were great songs that were written to an electronic scale… I wanted to be part of the party.”
Electronic pop music isn’t exactly what we think of when describing hippies, and yet Pink is a leader in one such movement in the Laurel Canyon. She books artists for the Laurel Canyon Music Revival, a monthly gathering of artists that started in her home but has since moved to The Kibitz Room in West Hollywood.
“I think I started it because I feel like people don’t hang out with each other in a casual manner and meet people in real life,” Pink said. “I really wanted to encourage other people to do that too, to host a place where people can meet each other, but also just to have a place where live music can happen.”

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Shanee Pink Interview: Photos by Thom Shelton

Will Deely Interview

Imagine it’s a cool midwest summer night and all your friends have gathered around a bonfire for some drinks and s’mores, and Will Deely is the guitarist in the corner playing heartfelt songs. I mean that in the kind of way that you remember those moments for the rest of your life. We’ve all been there. Deely is a soft-spoken artist out of Columbus, Ohio, who has toured and played with national artists such as City Lights, Spencer Sutherland, and Carter Winter. His influences include John Mayer and New Found Glory, which you can hear all over his music. On August 7, he released his first solo EP under Third String Records, and now, he is here to discuss the premiere of the music video for his newest single “Souvenir.”
Cliché: How did you get your start playing around your state?
Will Deely: I started playing in bands back when I was only 10 or 11 years old. I think my first show ever was playing my fifth grade talent show in front of my whole school. I thought it was awesome! In the years after that, I just wanted to play anywhere that would allow me to make noise with my guitar. Whether it was a basement, pizza shop, coffee shop, or restaurants, you name it, I played it. It wasn’t till high school that I started to make my way into the Columbus music scene, which ended up opening some doors for me.
The music video for “Souvenir” opens with some classic American imagery—a muscle car with an eight ball gear change, sunsets over the boardwalk, etc. The music, too, seems so relatable. Were you aiming to stylize the music video to be that way as well? Who did you work with to make your vision for this video come together?The video for “Souvenir” is something I’m still very excited about! I worked with Zach Frankart and his incredibly talented crew of filmmakers collectively known as Film Cartel LA and shot with them for two whole days out in Ventura, California. I felt that out of the five songs on my EP, “Souvenir” was the best song to have a video for since the lyrics vividly tell a story from start to finish. From there, it was just all Zach. A week after sending him the song, he sent my manager and I an email with his idea for the video and we fell in love instantly. From the locations he scouted to how he set up each shot, it just really worked with the song and brought it to life. He really hit it out of the park.
Who is the woman in the music video?
Her name is Mikaela. She’s a model from Ventura that someone in Zach’s crew thought would be a good fit for the video and they were definitely right. She killed it!
I heard you sat on this song for two years. What made this song so hard for you to put together and complete?
I just didn’t have the whole story yet. I wrote up to about the first chorus before running out of things to write about. I hit a dead end and it was the most frustrating thing because I loved what the song was up to that point.
I kept trying to force parts into it, but it sounded exactly like that—forced. Then two years went by and it’s the winter leading up to the time I booked in the studio to record my EP, and I’m fumbling around through some other half written songs, and I kinda stumbled back across that verse. Then it just instantly flowed. It just felt like I needed the rest of the story to actually happen before I could tell it.
The last verse suggests the woman in question is playing games with you, while you’re pretty dead set on her. Does this story have a happy ending?
The song is about when I first started talking to my current girlfriend, so I’d say the story ends the best way it could!
What’s the biggest thing you learned from touring with City Lights?
Playing in City Lights was such a great opportunity for me. It gave me my first opportunity to tour, which was something I had always wanted to do. The rest of the guys definitely taught me the ins and outs of living on the road in a van with five other guys. I learned quickly that there was so much more to it than just showing up and playing guitar. Touring in a van definitely isn’t the most glamorous thing, but I made so many great friends and had a blast doing so.
Do you have a tour in the works?
Nothing that I can speak on just yet, but I can assure you that will change soon!
Watch the video below.

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Will Deely Interview: Photographs courtesy of Mathew George

Album Review: Mac Miller ‘GO:OD AM’


It’s good to see Mac Miller having fun again.
A year ago, he was on a dangerous path consuming far too many drugs including cocaine, codeine cough syrup, and even angel dust. While that kind of intake produced some raw, depressing music on his last album Faces, it’s also just not a good style for Miller’s brand of music or for his personal health.
He’s more sober now (he still smokes cigarettes and parties, but he’s no longer pulling three-night bingers), according to an interview with Billboard, and it shows a lot on his new album Go:od AM. He’s back to having fun in life and translating it to his music.
“The world don’t give a f–k about your loneliness,” he raps on “Rush Hour,” which precisely sums up how he and a lot of fans view some of his previous work. The new life philosophy of Miller is “ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little bit of fun,” which he repeats on the following track “Two Matches.” People gravitated to his old-school style approach to hip-hop because it sounded spontaneous and fun. He moved away from that for a while but this album has him back to form.
His 2011 breakthrough album Blue Slide Park had that spontaneous feeling to it. There was nothing remarkable about that album but it was fun and you could jam to it. That’s the same way Go:od AM is and why it’s his best release since that debut.
There are plenty of gripes to be had such as the excessive length of this album at 17 songs running an hour and ten minutes, the repetitive flow of all his lines and the lack of much substance in the lyrics. However, those critiques seem to miss the theme of this album. No, he’s not winning any accolades for this album and you probably won’t hear any of these songs blasting at the club, but there’s an infectious quality to it anyway that can only come from an artist enjoying life and the music that comes from that space. In this case, that seems like enough.
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Image courtesy of Mac Miller’s Official website 

Album Review: Lana Del Rey ‘Honeymoon’


Despite all of Lana Del Rey’s often sighted character flaws, the biggest problem with her 2014 release of Ultraviolence had nothing to do with her problematic lyrics and whiny angst-ridden teen attitude — the album was just boring. That problem persists on her newest 2015 effort Honeymoon to an even greater degree.
It’s hard to distinguish one moaning lyrical line from another, especially when every beat is the same buzzing bass with some droaning strings over top. The vocal lines just lack melody and a sense of structure.
This is nothing new. Del Rey made her career on these grand operatic vocals and her glamorized gloom and doom ethos. But if that’s your jam, you’ll find less of it on Honeymoon. The songs don’t meet that same anthemic quality that had previously made her music more attractive. Songs such as “Ultraviolence,” “Summertime Sadness” and “Young And Beautiful” all felt like there were building to something, even if the eventual release was less gratifying than hoped. On Honeymoon it sounds like she’s given up on trying to build any kind of emotion what so ever.
Other artist have taken a similar minimalist approach with much greater effect such as Drake and FKA Twigs, who manage to do a lot with a little to make their music compelling. Honeymoon consistently sounds like a bad 007 intro credit scene that just can’t end soon enough.
Yet, despite these major flaws in her music, we (the public as a whole) have an odd fascination with this artist who turned slow, sad ballads (Hollywood sad-core) into pop hits. Unfortunately, I fear that intrigue comes from her depression, which has been glamorized by herself and the media cycle.
She’s detached herself from that cycle this time around allowing Honeymoon to stand on its own. However, the lyrics are displaying those same problematic qualities that shined through in her interviews.
This album is filled with troubling lyrics about giving up, not just on life itself, but on goals and any sense of motivation. There just seems to be no value in this message and only stands to hurt the people that look up to her.  
On “Freak” she sings “if you wanna leave, come to California and be a freak like me too,” as if everyone can leave their situation and travel across the country and live like a rockstar. Not everyone can wallow in their sorrows while getting “High by the Beach.” Lana seems to be living in her own little fantasy world where young, privileged women can escape their woes with drugs and the power of free will. But that’s not reality, and it’s actually a dangerous message to spread.
I’ve not been a fan of her previous albums as a whole, but there have always been standout tunes that make it onto a couple playlists. There’s simply nothing spectacular on Honeymoon, just passable tunes filling space. It really only makes me worry more about this young, troubled artist, and the fans who take pleasure in her struggles.   
Long time fans will be attracted to these qualities because these traits have been in her music from the beginning. I just wish she would have grown up more since those first hits. She’s not winning anyone new over with this album and she hasn’t grown as an artist or as a person.
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Image courtesy of Interscope Records

Album Review: Gary Clark Jr. ‘The Story of Sonny Boy Slim’


Consider the difference between Mumford & Sons’ and Kendrick Lamar’s second album. The arena folk rock act came in hot with with Babel, its highly commercialized, chart topping album that made them the household name they are today. Lamar was expected to do the same this year but instead delivered the masterful political and cultural art album that is To Pimp A Butterfly. Both strategies worked in those cases, but only because the artists fully committed to that line of attack.  
Gary Clark Jr. had the opportunity to make that sort of impact with his sophomore album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, but winds up somewhere in the middle of innovation and wide-reaching success.
The virtuosic blues guitar player has turned heads ever since his 2010 performance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, and his debut album Blak And Blu cemented this young musician as a major mover and shaper in the blues rock scene.
Sonny Boy was the name Clark’s mother would call him and his friends called him Slim, making this album his story. It’s about finding salvation from the dark world we live in through music. How Clark has bettered his life and how he can help others through his music.
That can be a powerful message, however, Clark is just too vague about what those problems are to make it as powerful as some of the other self-empowerment albums of the year — namely Chance the Rapper’s work on Surf by Donnie Trumpet And The Social Experiment and D’Angelo’s masterful return on Black Messiah. Those albums had targeted and in many ways similar messages about black culture in America, while taking drastically different musical, stylistic and lyrical approaches to the topic. When I saw the album cover depicting a young Clark Jr. looking up at a school bus as if overwhelmed about the world he was about to encounter, I got excited. Perhaps the Texas born guitarist could bring yet another fresh take on the topic that has swept our political and cultural landscape for the past year.
Alas, I’m left a little disappointed. The album’s subject matter is vague enough to make it  relatable but to the extent that it feels impersonal. In that way the album is very much a stepping stone for an artist who has endless potential.
The two opening tracks — “Healing” and “Grinder” —  will appeal most to fans of the southern-tinged Eric Clapton blues that launched Clark Jr.’s career on Blak and Blu. They have that catchy guitar riff that gets in your head on the first listen, and they are the songs he’ll play most often live because they’re made to open up for some manic guitar solos.
Afterwards, he begins to experiment and get funky. He’s playing more with R&B soul grooves, layering in horns and multiple guitar lines that are meant to support the song as a whole rather than soar in overtop a thin foundation. Songs such as “Our Love” and “Cold Blooded” are also showing off the guitarist’s high falsetto more than ever before. Those killer guitar solos of old are still very much present on the album. “Hold On” and the album’s closing track “Down To Ride” in particular show off those skills in new ways.
If the beginning of this review sounds like I’m disappointed, it’s because I am. Blak and Blu was my soundtrack for so long that I had high expectations for his second release. The Story of Sonny Boy Slim is a good album you should listen to as soon as you get a chance, but it feels like Gary Clark Jr. is only scratching the surface with this one, and I can’t wait to see what happens when he masters that sound he’s looking for.
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Album Review: Gary Clark Jr. ‘The Story of Sonny Boy Slim’ Image courtesy of

Artists Should Learn From Wilco’s Surprise Album Release


For years now, media companies such as NPR, Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Consequence Of Sound have been promoting early-access album streams for fans to get a full preview of new music from the bands they love. This is beneficial for artists and the blogs; the artists get more exposure and the blogs get pageviews. Then, in December 2013 Beyonce came in and disrupted the whole system with a surprise album release.
We’re getting used to it now. Artists such as J Cole, D’Angelo, Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt, and Wilco have all released albums on a surprise date this year, with more likely to come from Kanye West and Rihanna. This has been a great marketing strategy for most of these artists—it builds a ton of hype and sends fans and new listeners alike flocking to Spotify to hear what all the talk is about. However, it’s also shaking the music industry and forcing us to rethink how we consume music and how it should be promoted.
Friday, July 17 was a perfect example of those two worlds colliding. It was supposed to be Tame Impala’s big day. The band’s highly anticipated album Currents was set to come out after what seemed like an endless media frenzy including three early released singles, a number of long-form features trying to explain the perfectionism behind frontman Kevin Parker, and the group’s album going up for streaming a week ahead of time on NPR. Yet, when Friday came around, the headlines shifted. Seemingly out of nowhere, Wilco dropped their ninth studio album, Star Wars, for free download, stealing the attention for themselves.
Both strategies are totally legitimate, but Wilco’s approach was more convenient for the consumer and gets it out to as many people as possible.
The music industry is just shooting itself in the foot with these media wars. Taylor Swift still makes headlines about how her music isn’t on Spotify. Tidal and Apple Music are trying to gather up exclusive artists when all that really does is exclude people searching for new music. Neil Young is pulling his catalog from nearly all streaming services over some misguided mission about audio quality when he could be reaching a younger audience. We can argue about whether or not all music should be free, but there’s no doubt it should be available.
Music is more available than ever before, but it used to be so simple. A widely talked about  album could be picked up at any store, more obscure CDs could be picked up at your local record store or online. Now that the expectation is instant access to all music, it’s frustrating when the artist you input into the search bar doesn’t show up immediately. We bicker over which store pays the most, has the best sound quality, has the best mobile interface or the best radio service, and we should, but access should not be the issue. All it’s doing is hurting the artists and the fans who just want to hear good music.
From now on, can’t we just release an album everywhere? Why bother putting it up on NPR First Listen a week in advance? It just stands to shut out those who don’t listen to music on their laptops and confuses the whole timing of the release. Plus, NPR’s media player frustrated me because I can’t see what track I’m on.
Drake, I know you signed a deal with Apple, but your “Energy” video would get so many more hits on YouTube and spread your music to more ears. Apple Music touched 11 million subscribers in less than a month, but Drake’s “Started From The Bottom” music video touts 184 million views on YouTube.

“We consider ourselves lucky to be in the position to give you this music free of charge, but we do so knowing not every band, label or studio can do the same. Much of the ‘music business’ relies on physical sales to keep the lights on and the mics up. Without that support, well, it gets tougher and tougher to make it all work.”
The band went on to list some of its recent favorite albums and encourage fans to buy them. That’s a move that understands how to grow an audience rather than corner it off, and I wish artists with that level of influence would do it more.
Let’s do away with early access to streaming albums. Let’s do away with fights over exclusive content. I know everyone is worried about how all of these new streaming services are paying artists (and they should be worried), but the most important question should be how many people are listening. Everything else will fall into place.
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Images courtesy of Consequence of Sound and Vulture. Arranged on

The Benefits of Google Play Music


There are a lot of music streaming choices to sort through these days: Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Rdio, and more if you factor in Internet radio services such as Pandora. If you’re like me and are very guarded about those thousands of outdated MP3 files sitting on your hard drive, there’s one music streaming service you need to use and it won’t cost you a penny: Google Play Music.
Someone out there is rolling there eyes or screaming, “music files are dead!” and I get that. Why collect MP3s anymore when there are a plethora of music streaming sites ready to pump out hundreds of thousands of hit songs? But what if they don’t have Jimi Hendrix Live At The Royal Albert Hall “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)?” That’s my favorite version of that song and I just can’t afford to live in a world without instant access to that tune.
Which is why the recent news of Apple Music subscribers losing songs in their library is so concerning to me. Apple is a multifaceted company good at many things: laptops, smartphones, software, and historically music, but what has become abundantly clear recently is it’s not good at collecting and keeping your data. There’s no foolproof substitute to backing up your files, but Google Play Music does make it easier and convenient.
Google’s music streaming service costs $9.99 a month if you want to pursue its catalog of music like you would in any competitor’s equivalent service, albeit in a less user friendly way. But, if you’re satisfied with your current music provider, there’s still use in Play Music as a cloud backup service.
Once you download the free music manager, you can synch it to your iTunes library (or Windows Media Player or directly from your music folder if you’re one of five people not using iTunes) and upload up to 50,000 songs into Google’s stellar cloud service. On average, it could take as much as a couple of days to upload everything depending on how big your library is. The time it takes is worth it though because you don’t want to lose those precious MP3 files you’ve spent the last 15 years or more collecting and ripping from your personal CD collection. In the long run, it will even save you time because any new files you upload to iTunes will automatically get uploaded to the cloud.
Anyone remember Songza? Well, Google bought that service back in 2014 and now those same fun radio stations created to fit your day, mood, or activity are available for free. They aren’t as good as the human curated stations of Apple Music, but they are worth a try nonetheless. A subscription to Play Music also gets you YouTube Music Key (or visa versa), which allows you to view music videos ad free and save them for offline mode.
The subscription service isn’t for everyone though. The app can be pretty buggy on iPhones and even on Android phones from time to time. You don’t get the exclusive track releases sought by other streaming services, or high fidelity sound quality or the taste making of Beats1 Radio (click here for a good break down of which music streaming service is best for you). But there’s no reason not to back up all that music onto Play Music — it’s free and easy.
Just please also go out and purchase an external hard drive. You’re going to need it.
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This Week In Music News: Drake vs. Meek Mill


The music industry is in a bit of a whirlwind lately. Or some sort of self-imploding time bomb. Take your pick of metaphors, but it can be a complicated subject to follow closely and understand. This weekly column will aim to synthesise that news and make it more digestible for you. In an attempt to not completely bore you with lawsuits and corporate rumors, we’ll mix in some celebrity news and the latests updates from the music charts. Let us know what you want to see here in the comments.
Drake vs. Meek Mill
If you haven’t heard about this Meek Mill vs Drake dispute by now, you obviously haven’t been around a water cooler or say looked at the Internet lately.
Here’s the quick breakdown. Meek Mill, a rapper who prior to the success of his latest album was probably more well-known as the fiance to Nicki Minaj, called out Drake (is it fair to assume we all know who Drake is by now?) for using a ghostwriter during the two artists’ collaboration on “R.I.C.O.” A good ol’ fashioned rap battle broke out from there. Drake dropped the diss track “Charged Up” in response to Mill’s accusations, which is more of a warning shot before the storm to come. Without a response from Mill, Drake drops another diss track “Back To Back Freestyle,” putting Mill down 2-0. Mill responded Friday with his own diss track, which was received less than warmly, mostly because people can’t tell what he’s even saying. All the while, Nicki is most unpleased to see her future husband fighting with her “Anaconda” lap dance friend. At this point, I’m expecting Taylor Swift and Nicki to collab on their own response to the whole affair.
This notion of ghostwriting and public rivalries is nothing new. Artists have been battling since the dawn of blues, when guitarists would go back and forth on stage attempting to out shred the other one and prove their virtuosity. Fans love fighting over who’s better as much as the artists themselves do: Beatles vs. Rolling Stones, Notorious B.I.G. vs. Tupac, Ramones vs. The Sex Pistols. These arguments are as old as rock ‘n’ roll itself and fuel our interest with music.
Ghostwriting isn’t by any means a new phenomena in hip hop either, with its history in popularity dating back to “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang. Of course, an artist’s reputation will be placed in higher regard if they solely write their own lyrics, or elicit the help of credited writers, but plenty of reputable artists have used ghostwriters and will probably continue to. The sheer volume of music high-profile artists are expected to put out these days almost always requires some outside help. It would be nice, however, to see those lyricists get some sort of credit for their work, even if it’s only pay-to-hire. Maybe this outing can destigmatize the whole ordeal.
Writers play an important role, but the flip side of the coin is who is performing the written material, and when it comes to that, I think Drake has Mill beat. In the mean time, at least we’re getting some new tunes out of it.
Music Business News
The “Happy Birthday” song could be made free to use
30 Rock fans may remember an exasperated Liz Lemon trying to stop everyone in the studio from singing “Happy Birthday to You,” in fear that it’ll cost too much to air live. This is a classic Hollywood joke because it’s true. Warner/ Chappell, the publishing group with ownership over the song, is reported to make $2 million a year off the song. However, a filmmaker is disputing Warner Music Group’s right to the song, which could make it free for use in media. Liz Lemon would certainly appreciate it.
Pandora loses legal battle for lower royalty rates
This week, Pandora lost a legal battle against the performance rights organization BMI that would have allowed the popular Internet radio service to pay a smaller royalty rate to BMI and its catalog of artists. This can be kind of complicated, but it’s really pretty simple. Terrestrial radio stations (the stuff you play in your car on traditional FM and AM stations) pay a lower royalty rate than Pandora does to stream its radio service to your phone or computer. Pandora feels it should pay the same rate as most terrestrial radio stations (1.7%). There are plenty of opinions out there about who is in the right on this argument, but for now, all you need to know is Pandora won against the other PRO ASCAP earlier this year and now appears to be losing against BMI. It’s likely Pandora will appeal.
Spain’s music economy is rebounding thanks to streaming services
For the first time, more revenue was generated for the Spanish music industry from digital sources including Spotify and YouTube, marking another victory for streaming music advocates who see these apps and others like them as the future of the industry.
Apple Music hits reported 10 million subscribers in less than a month
If you haven’t tried out Apple Music yet, you’re out of the 10 million club. The new music streaming service is off to a good start, but the real test begins when these initial three-month free trials expire. How many of the early adopters will stick around as the $9.99/month price tag rolls in?
Chart Watch
Surprisingly, the biggest news this week comes from the trending charts. Twitter blew up with Drake vs. Meek Mill news and that’s reflected in the charts as Drake’s “Charged Up” slips into a debut spot at No. 3 on the Twitter Top Tracks Chart and as of Sunday night popped up to No. 1 on the Trending 140. It’s still too soon to tell if the charts can declare us a winner in this on-going feud, but Meek Mill’s response track “Wanna Know” didn’t see nearly as much traction on the real-time updated feed. Maybe these Twitter charts will actually be good for analysis after all.

The other big chart news came from none other than One Direction. The newly reformed four-piece band dropped a surprise single “Drag Me Down,” which sounds like the boys back in form — catchy guitar riffs, solid songwriting, and of course, those voices. Looks like the ever popular group will continue on without its bad boy Zayne.
The Hot 100 remain relatively steady with OMI’s “Cheerleader” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” taking the first two slots. “Watch Me” by Silento shot up two positions from last week to take the No. 3 spot. Three big critically acclaimed albums saw their way into the top 10 of Billboard’s Top 200: Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free at No. 6, Tame Impala’s Currents at No. 4, and Future’s DS2 debuting at No. 1. Be sure to check out all three of those fantastic albums.
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Summer Heart Interview


Summer Heart is both the stage name for David Alexander’s music and also the phrase that probably best describes his sound. That’s how his publicist put it, but after listening to his tunes, it’s a surprisingly true statement. His latest single “Nothing Can Stop Us Now” via blahblahblahscience is a catchy indie folk tune that sprinkles in electronic elements, a departure from his usual electronic music that intersperses guitar elements. From whatever angle he’s tackling the music, Alexander has a unique sense of creating good summer vibes through his music, which we’ll happily carry with us through these next few chilly winter months.
Cliché: Can you explain what “Nothing Can Stop Us Now” is about and what it means to you?
David Alexander: It is pretty much about writing this record that I am just about to finish. I actually finished a record last autumn, but I decided to scrap it because I just wasn’t happy with how it turned out. That was a pretty heavy decision to make. I moved to Paris for a while to get a fresh start and inspiration to start writing this new record.
The songs seem more focused on the guitar than some of your previous songs. How do you balance the electronic sounds with the organic sounds in your music?
I don’t think about using this instrument here and that instrument there, you know? I just play around with what I got at hand until I am pleased with how it sounds and feels. However, you are right that “Nothing Can Stop Us Now” is more focused on guitar than some of my previous stuff. I am definitely a better guitar player than a synth player, so it might have something to do with that as well. I find it so much easier to write songs on guitar.
Is there a certain atmosphere and mood you are trying to convey through your music?
Well, I guess the vibe is everything in a way, but I am not trying to convey any vibe in particular. When I am writing a song, I know when the “vibe” of the song, or whatever you want to call it, is there. I think that vibe somehow gets through to listeners. At least I’d like to think it does.
Because of technology, more people than ever are able to create the kind of lo-fi electronic music you also create. How do you think you stand out from the crowd and what do you think of the current state of the genre?
To be honest, I don’t know what this genre really is, but I think it’s a wonderful thing. I mean, many people can create music with simple tools like Garageband or similar. Like you said, it is harder to stand out from the crowd since the competition is bigger than ever. However, creating music is something I have to do. It is such a big part of who I am, so personally, I have never thought of how, or even if, my music actually stands out from the crowd. It might have something to do with the vibe maybe.
Where do your influences come from?
My influences come from everywhere. While I was in Paris, I listened a lot to David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, which is a very inspirational record; however, my new tracks don’t sound anything like Bowie, not at all. My friends in Death In The Afternoon are about to release a new album and getting to hear their demos evolve into a great record has also been really inspiring.
How was your September tour of the U.S.? Was this your first time here?
It was great! We had a great time, and met so many good people. It wasn’t our first time playing shows in the U.S., but it was our first proper tour. We will do it again, I promise.
What are the next steps for you and your music?
The plan is to finish this album I am currently working on. We will also probably be spending a lot of time in London. I love that city. We just did a secret gig in Paris in November as well, and that was crazy!

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Summer Heart Interview: Photographed by Linda Lomelino