Strand of Oaks’ Tim Showalter and surviving members of Magnolia Electric Co. form Jason Molina tribute band

HEAL, the excellent 2014 album from indie rocker Tim Showalter, aka Strand of Oaks, contained a track called “JM”, which served as a tribute to Jason Molina. Now, to further honor the Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. frontman, Showalter is forming a tribute band with the surviving original members of Magnolia Electric Co., as Stereogum points out.

Dubbed Goshen Electric Co., they’ve recorded a 7-inch comprised of two covers from Molina’s extensive catalog. The first is A-side “The Gray Tower”, which was first released as a one-off Songs: Ohia single in 2002. As for the B-side, Showalter and company have done their own version of “Ring the Bell”, taken from Songs: Ohia’s Didn’t It Rain from 2002 and Magnolia Electric Co.’s Trials & Errors from 2005.

“Very honored to introduce you all to Goshen Electric Co,” Showalter tweeted of the project. “Myself and the original members of Magnolia Electric Co. went into the studio this summer and recorded a 7 inch for Secretly Canadian its a heavy responsibility to try and sing Jason’s songs and I hope I did him proud.”

“So many people made this happen and I’d like to thank especially Chris and Ben Swanson for making this a reality,” he added.  “And also to William Schaff for continuing the tradition of such amazing artwork.”

Ahead of the 7-inch’s November 2nd release date, the A-side has been shared, along with a black-and-white video helmed by Colin Kerrigan and Rocco Avallone. Check it out below.

Goshen Electric Co. 7-Inch Artwork:

magnolia electric reunion tribute band Strand of Oaks Tim Showalter and surviving members of Magnolia Electric Co. form Jason Molina tribute band

Later this month, Showalter will head out on the road with Memorial Electric Co., an alternate version of the tribute band.

Memorial Electric Co. 2018 Tour Dates:
09/24 – Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
09/25 – Dublin, IE @ Tivoli Theatre
09/27 – London, UK @ Bush Hall
09/28 – Antwerp, BE @ De Roma
09/29 – Haarlem, NL @ Patronaat
09/30 – Utrecht, NL @ EKKO
10/02 – Oslo, NO @ John Dee
10/03 – Stockholm, SE @ Sodra Teatern
10/05 – Copenhagen, DK @ Bremen Teater
10/06 – Aarhus, DK @ Voxhall


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The Alain Johannes Trio shares debut track “Luna A Sol” featuring Mike Patton: Stream

Chilean-American musician and staple of the California rock scene Alain Johannes has played with just about everyone, most notably Them Crooked Vultures, Queens of the Stone Age, and Eleven. His latest project, however, sees him teaming up with brothers Felo and Cote Foncea as The Alain Johannes Trio. The group’s debut full-length is due out next year on Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings, so it’ makes sense that the Faith No More singer appears on the album’s new single, “Luna A Sol”.

The track is a rumbling and rolling boulder of alternative rock, layered with squealing guitars that almost sound like horns. Though not everyone may be able to understand what Patton is singing in Spanish, his unmistakable croon remains completely distinct and utterly powerful.

“’Luna A Sol’ is a really special song for me. Not only because it’s my first lyric in Spanish but also because of Mike Patton’s amazing vocals on it,” Johannes said in a press statement. “And it’s the debut recording of my all Chilean trio with Cote and Felo Foncea. I feel it like a rebirth, a recharging of my musical path continuing where Natasha and I left off in Eleven. Returning to my roots in Chile eight years ago has fueled and informed this moment and I’m very excited and honored that Ipecac will bring it to resonant listeners around the world.”

Take a listen:


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Film Review: Life Itself is So Bizarre It Has To Be Seen To Be Believed

Given that Life Itself is only the second film he’s ever directed, it’s far too early to call writer/director Dan Fogelman an auteur. Yet he does have an auteurist’s interest in exploring the same themes over and over again: Death, most prominently, but also family histories, epic love stories, and narratives that twist and turn in unexpected ways, usually rendered through an unabashedly sentimental lens. It’s an artistic voice he puts to great use on his hit NBC drama This Is Us, which tenderly explores complex intergenerational family relationships. In his truly bizarre new movie Life Itself, however, Fogelman pushes up against the limits of what twist-filled, family-focused sentimentality can do.

Life Itself is broken up into four chapters and an epilogue, but it’s more of a film with two distinct halves. The first follows Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening, Olivia Cooke, Mandy Patinkin, and Jean Smart as a group of interconnected New Yorkers whose lives are marked by tragedy. The second hops across the globe to spin a straightforward Spain-set family drama involving Antonio Banderas, Laia Costa, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adrian Marrero, and later Alex Monner. Though the stories eventually intersect, they function more like two tonally distinct films. Unfortunately, rather than being a case of two halves forming a whole, the bifurcated structure just drives home the weaknesses of each section — one of which wholeheartedly embraces This Is Us tropes and the other of which self-consciously runs from them.

There’s a deeply unnerving energy to the first half of the film, as if Fogelman is trying to prove he can do more than just write network TV dramas. Though you wouldn’t know it from its gauzy marketing, Life Itself is an R-rated film with several incredibly jarring moments of bloody violence. When his New York characters aren’t waxing poetic about Bob Dylan (which they do a lot), they’re raving about Quentin Tarantino, whose influence hangs over the first half of the film in obnoxiously showy ways. There’s still some patented This Is Us schmaltz and speechifying in the initial love story of Will (Isaac) and his wife Abby (Wilde), but their relationship is far more defined by the faux edginess Fogelman awkwardly tries to graft onto it. They have a dog named Fuckface, for instance, and they make jokes about farting and dead parents and suicide.

There’s an even darker mystery at the heart of their story. When we first meet Will, he’s a disheveled mess struggling to get by after being institutionalized for six months. His therapist (Bening) is patiently trying to help him get to the bottom of why Abby so abruptly left their seemingly happy marriage, which means they spend a lot of time delving into Abby’s past. And because Fogelman is apparently intent on tackling any topic that might be considered taboo, it turns out Abby’s childhood involved death, abuse, molestation, gun violence, and a literal decapitation. (Don’t worry, there’s more horror to come in the present!) Yet all of this is recounted with detached irony by Will, who regularly pops up within flashback scenes in order to comment on them.

That’s just one of the many meta filmmaking gimmicks that the film’s first half utilizes, others of which include a fake-out opening sequence, an unexpected celebrity cameo, and those aforementioned shocking acts of violence. It’s all designed to challenge your assumptions about narrative structures, storytelling devices, and protagonist arcs, but in practice it just keeps you emotionally removed from the film’s characters (neither Isaac nor Wilde can convincingly bring their thinly written characters to life, although Cooke and Patinkin fare better in smaller roles). It’s also hard to imagine the target audience for a movie this schmaltzy and yet also this aggressively confrontational.

Though the first half of the movie is bad, it’s at least bad in an interesting way. The second half has the opposite problem, in that it’s good in a boring way. It tells the story of wealthy olive orchard owner Mr. Saccione (Banderas), his noble employee Javier (Peris-Mencheta), Javier’s wife Isabel (Costa), and their son Rodrigo (Marrero first, Monner later). The Spain-set stuff — almost all of which unfolds in subtitled Spanish — drops the filmmaking gimmicks of first half to explore an emotionally complex and narratively straightforward love triangle that touches on issues of money, power, gender, family, and duty. The dynamics are intriguing and thoughtfully rendered, and Banderas and Costa turn in the film’s best performances as two proud, empathetic people caught in a difficult situation. Yet because the first half primes you for an entirely different kind of film, and because their story is ultimately allowed just half a movie, it’s almost impossible to settle into the Spanish story and enjoy it for what is it. You keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you feel increasingly bored and bewildered the longer it doesn’t.

The film’s two halves are ostensibly linked by the concept of the unreliable narrator, a topic Life Itself keeps returning to over and over again to increasingly frustrating results. (Abby’s college thesis argues that all narrators are inherently unreliable, even — yes — life itself. Mercifully, the film at least acknowledges that as a terrible example of literary criticism.) Ultimately, however, the idea of unreliable narrators is mostly just a red herring to distract from the film’s actual central theme, which doesn’t really snap into focus until the film’s final few minutes. As he did in the pilot of This Is Us, Fogelman offers some last-minute reveals that are meant to re-contextualize everything we’ve seen before. But where the This Is Us twist was the prelude to an ongoing story with plenty of time to explore its larger implications, Life Itself ends just as it’s getting started, with little time to process what it turns out we’ve actually been watching. Fogelman wants to argue that tragedy can ultimately lead to happiness, but that just doesn’t ring true when the tragedy is so viscerally and lengthily depicted, while the happiness is so rushed.

Life Itself is the sort of film that’s meant to be even more powerful in retrospect than it was while you were watching it, but it actually just gets more baffling the longer you sit with it. In fact, all that focus on unreliable narrators may just be a convenient way for Fogelman to wave away the film’s most confusing choices — like the fact that it takes place across multiple decades, yet also seems to be continually set in the present. For those who like a lengthy post-movie discussion, you’ll certainly be left with plenty of plot contrivances, questionable character decisions, and weird age issues to discuss for far longer than the film itself runs (just under two hours, although it feels much, much longer). Though Life Itself is neither good nor “so bad it’s good,” it’s also such a bizarre, inexplicable film that it’s almost worth seeking out just to experience it for yourself. For those who want to watch a worthwhile family melodrama, however, just stick with This Is Us.



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Sesame Street says Bert and Ernie aren’t gay, because puppets don’t have a sexual orientation

In an odd twist, two of the day’s most trending topics involve characters of your yesteryears. For obvious reasons, we’ll let you figure out why Toad from Mario Kart is in the news for yourself. The other story of the day involves Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street fame, and whether or not they’re gay.

In a new interview with Queerty, longtime Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman was adamant that the puppets were more than just friends. “I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were [gay],” Saltzman explained. “I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.”

Though Jim Henson and Frank Oz created Bert and Ernie, Saltzman was charged with writing the characters’ storylines over the course of his 15-year stint on Sesame Street. In doing so, he said his depiction of the characters was reflective of his own relationship with editor Arnold Glassman.

“Yeah, I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish. And Arnie as a film editor—if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn’t that be perfect? Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester. So it was the Bert & Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street. So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.”

For its part, Sesame Workshop maintains Bert and Ernie are merely “best friends,” and nothing more. According to a statement released in response to Saltzman’s interview, Bert and Ernie “were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”

Being puppets didn’t stop Miss Piggy and Kermit from having a romantic relationship for the last 40 years, but I digress.


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Paul McCartney, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tom Waits, and others threaten SiriusXM boycott over Music Modernization Act

On Monday, the Music Modernization Act (H.R.5447) was hotlined in the Senate. That means the bill — which seeks to create fair-market licensing fees for music recorded pre-1972 and fix the way royalty payments are made to all parties involved — has a chance to pass by verbal vote without hitting the floor for debate or amendments. It’s a risky move that signals the wide support of the proposed legislation. There is one major roadblock, however, and it comes in the form of SiriusXM.

The satellite radio provider isn’t thrilled with being made to licensing for that pre-1972 music, arguing that they’ve already paid $250 million in royalties to labels (which, by the way, they wouldn’t have paid if the labels hadn’t sued). SiriusXM argues that the new legislation gives an unfair advantage to terrestrial radio, which is made exempt from such royalty payments. There are also some complicated carve-outs involving the 801-B standard, which dictates how royalty rates are set based on how they would affect the service in question (such as the cost of running a satellite network, for example), as well as how publishing rates are set in relation to label rates.

The legal ins-and-outs are rather complex, but the fact is SiriusXM is the only industry partner still voicing opposition to the MMA. And musicians aren’t haven’t it. Over 150 artists and executives — including Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Katy Perry, Carly Simon, Sia, Pink, John Legend, Alessia Cara, Tom Waits, Kim Gordon, Jewel and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O and Nick Zinner — have signed a letter vowing to boycott the satellite radio provider if they don’t change their tune on the legislation.

“It’s SiriusXM vs all of us,” writes Ross Golan, songwriter, host of the And the Writer Is… podcast, and author of the SiriusXM letter. “We can either fight to the bitter end or celebrate this victory together. Rather than watch bad press and ill will pile up against SiriusXM, why not come out supporting the most consequential music legislation in 109 years?”

Find the full list of signees at Variety, and read the complete text below.

“Dear Greg Maffei, Scott Greenstein and Jim Meyer and Liberty Media Board of Directors Evan D. Malone, David E. Rapley, Larry E. Romrell, Brian M. Deevy, Andrea L. Wong, Robert R. Bennett, M. Ian G. Gilchrist and John C. Malone:

I’m writing you with grave concern about SiriusXM’s opposition to the Music Modernization Act (Classics Act included).

I’m CCing some of the greatest songwriters and artists in the history of the music business to show our solidarity in support of this legislation in its current form. We are all aware of your company’s objections and trepidation but let me say that this is an opportunity for SiriusXM to take a leadership position. As you are aware, 415 Representatives and 76 Senators have already cosponsored the MMA along with industry consensus. It’s SiriusXM vs all of us. We can either fight to the bitter end or celebrate this victory together. Rather than watch bad press and ill will pile up against SiriusXM, why not come out supporting the most consequential music legislation in 109 years? We do not want to fight and boycott your company but we will as we have other opponents. Stand with us! Be brave and take credit for being the heroes who helped the MMA become historic law! Momentum is building against SiriusXM and you still have an opportunity to come out on the right side of history. We look forward to your endorsement but the fire is burning and only you can put this out.

Sincerely yours,

Ross Golan and Legends CC-ed Here.”

SiriusXM has responded with its own letter detailing three amendments it wants made to the MMA. The statement once again makes the contention that SiriusXM shouldn’t have to pay any more for pre-192 works, and doubles down on its argument that parts of the bill give unfair advantage to terrestrial radio over digital and streaming services. Read the full text below (via Billboard).

“Over the past several weeks, we have been the subject of some stinging attacks from the music community and artists regarding our views on the Music Modernization Act. Contrary to new reports and letters, this is really not about a SiriusXM victory, but implementing some simple, reasonable and straightforward amendments to MMA. There is nothing in our “asks” that gut the MMA or kills the Act. So let’s talk about the substance of the amendments we propose, because we truly do not understand the objections or why these concepts have incited such a holy war.

Contrary to the accusations, SiriusXM has proposed three simple amendments to the MMA.

First, SiriusXM has asked that the CLASSICS Act recognize that it has already licensed all of the pre-1972 works it uses. This amendment would ensure that artists – the people who are supposed to be at the heart of the MMA – receive 50% of the monies under those existing licenses. Is that unfair? Just today, Neil Diamond wrote in the LA Times that: “I receive a small amount of songwriting royalties, but no royalties as the recording artist.” How can that happen? To date, SiriusXM has paid nearly $250 million dollars in pre-72 royalties to the record labels. We want to make sure that a fair share of the monies we have paid, and will pay, under these licenses gets to performers. Without this provision, artists may never see any of the money SiriusXM paid, and will pay, for the use of pre-1972 works. Artists not getting paid hurts our business!

Second, Sirius XM thinks that the fair standard to use in rate setting proceedings is the standard that Congress chose in 1995 and confirmed again in 1998 – which is called the 801(b) standard. However, we are willing to move the ‘willing buyer/willing seller’ standard contained in the MMA. In exchange, we have asked for the same concession that the MMA grants to other digital music services, but we were left out of–simply that the rates that were set last year for five years now apply for ten years. We thought this was a fair compromise when we read the “new” MMA that was released this weekend by the Senate, and are willing to live by that compromise.

Third, SiriusXM is asking the simple question: ‘why are we changing the rate court evidence standard for musical compositions in this legislation so that it gives another advantage to broadcasters over satellite radio and streaming services?’ There is no policy rationale for this change to tilt the playing field further in their favor, and frankly no one has been able to explain it to us. It is only fair that we debate why the change to Section 114(i) is in the MMA.

So that is the sum total of our changes. There is nothing hidden or underhanded in our views. We have offered these simple amendments on a one-pager. We are prepared to work with the NMPA and RIAA to adopt these amendments, pass the MMA, and move the music industry forward.”


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Lamb of God to hit studio “very soon”, drummer Chris Adler explains absence from tour

Lamb of God certainly haven’t been keeping quiet this year. The Virginia-based metal supported the recently wrapped summer North American leg of Slayer’s farewell tour. And earlier this year, to celebrate their 20th anniversary, the group dusted off their old band name Burn the Priest to release Legion: XX, a covers album featuring renditions of favorite tunes by Ministry, Melvins, and The Accused, among others.

Things are not slowing down anytime soon for the band, if guitarist Mark Morton’s Twitter feed is to be believed. In response to a fan question about when Lamb of God will be getting back in the studio to record a follow up to their 2015 album, VII: Sturm und Drang, Morton replied, simply, “Very soon!” A scant amount of information, to be sure, but enough to have fans salivating at the prospect of new music.

The sessions will hopefully also promise the return of drummer Chris Adler to the fold. As he revealed just a few days ago on his Instagram account, he had to sit out the band’s summer tour with Slayer to recover from a motorcycle accident that broke multiple bones and required surgery.

Here’s what Adler had to say: “I had a motorcycle accident late last year that shattered my collarbone and right shoulder and also chipped bones in my hip. While surgery corrected the broken bones and I was able to play earlier this year, I experienced some issues related to the injuries that needed to be addressed with a rigorous schedule of physical and occupational therapy which, is what I have been doing regularly since July.”

He added, “”I am making great progress in addition to playing/practicing every day. Playing drums is what I do and refuse to do it poorly. I will be back behind the kit ASAP. Thanks again for the love! See you soon.”

Lamb of God will be back on the road again shortly, first to play ForceFest in Mexico City in early October, and then to continue their tour with Slayer in Europe, starting on November 1st with a show at Dublin’s 3Arena and wrapping up on December 8th at Ice Hall in Helsinki, Finland. Anthrax and Obituary are also on the bill for all the dates.

Instagram Photo


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