Phantogram, Pixies, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Cults, and more in Alarm #42—out now!

With summer in full festival mode, Alarm Magazine is proud to release its latest collection on modern rock-‘n’-roll culture.

On the cover, you’ll find one of our old loves (previously featured in our book Invisible: Overlooked Albums and Unseen Artists) that has since gone on to mainstream success: electro-pop duo Phantogram, which talked to us about Big Boi, big audiences, and its big new label.

Inside, you’ll also find interviews with:

+ Pixies
+ Rodrigo y Gabriela
+ Cults
+ Sage Francis
+ Fucked Up
+ Phosphorescent

Plus:

+ Models at home
+ Portland travel guide w/ Fred Armisen’s favorites
+ Midwestern craft beer
+ Comedian Eugene Mirman
+ Three Floyds brewery tour
+ Camping essentials for music festivals

And a whole bunch more. Buy your copy here or read the free online edition!

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

Alarm #42

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Best Albums: Adebisi Shank, FKA Twigs, Dilated Peoples

This week’s best albums

– Irish rock trio Adebisi Shank is as ecstatic and energetic as ever on its third LP, infusing new stylistic zest into its skittering, hyper-melodic tunes.

– On her anticipated first full-length, London’s FKA Twigs continues to offer a striking take on R&B with her disjointed and haunting perception of love.

– After eight years without an album, Dilated Peoples returns to showcase an assortment of creative passions, all amid the group’s signature sound.

Honorable mentions

Botanist: VI: Flora (The Flenser)

Mim0sa: Future Trill Vol. 2 (False Idol Muzik)

The Underachievers: Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordium

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Q&A: Rodrigo y Gabriela on doing it live, metal riffs, and veganism

Rodrigo y Gabriela: 9 Dead AliveRodrigo y Gabriela9 Dead Alive (ATO, 4/29/14)

“The Soundmaker”

Rodrigo y Gabriela: “The Soundmaker”

In the five years since Rodrigo y Gabriela released their last full-length, the acoustic-guitar duo has been anything but idle—touring the globe, contributing to multiple soundtracks, releasing an album of alternative song versions with a Cuban big band, and even collaborating with former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman.

Released this spring, 9 Dead Alive finds the vegan ex-couple at their roots, releasing a purely two-piece album that channels even more of their thrash-metal past than before. Acoustic chugging, darker melodies, and dueling harmonies dance with classical guitar and delicate passages, resulting in a classic yet unfamiliar Rod y Gab. Alarm spoke with Rodrigo about getting back to being a two-piece, the duo’s writing process, and their vegan lifestyle. 

Was the plan to get “back to basics” with this album?

That was the plan, and that was exactly what we did. It was good for us to collaborate with other musicians and work on other projects, but we always knew that we were going to go back [to the two of us].

On 11:11, it was a more technical approach; we were very focused on the timing and the edits, everything that we needed to make the album flawless. But for this album, we were like, “Fuck it. We’re going to do it the way we sound live, just two or three mics in the studio.” For me and Gab, this is the best sound that we’ve gotten from any of the albums because it’s closer to what we do live. It also has a lot to do with having Andy Scheps on the mixing, because he understood our influences from metal and the fact that we didn’t want to have a polite acoustic album.

There’s more of a metal influence on this album. Did anything specific influence its direction?

The basic idea is that I don’t play any Latin melodies anymore. We still have the percussive elements from Gab’s guitar, but now instead of having Latin-influenced melodies, I just play riffs—riffs that anyone can play on an electric guitar. We didn’t want to do another album with the same kind of approach. We achieved what we wanted—to do something different that sounded like us still. Even the harmonies that Gab does, it’s not like the patterns that we used to do.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

How have your individual styles evolved over the years?

You can call it evolving, but I think that we’re going back to play what we started playing before. It’s kind of a circle—now we’re going back to the metal.

I was in a metal band for eight years, and Gab for four years. It’s a different instrument, but I went back to what I felt more comfortable playing with. I’m glad that I have a lot of material now—two albums—of a kind of music that’s more challenging for me to play, because it’s new.

That’s kind of what I did over the past 10 years—achieve a level of musicianship that we didn’t have. But now we feel like we can chill a little bit. It’s a different kind of language without electric guitars, but we know the feeling—music that’s a little bit more aggressive, that has a different energy.

I’ve spoken to each of you separately about your vegan lifestyle. What encourages you about the growing veganism movement?

It’s obvious that we have more issues that are a part of eating meat. We know now that there are a lot of implications with environmental issues.

A lot of people around us have changed their diets. I think they just learn through us that there’s a lot of information out there, and once they get it and read it, it’s amazing—people in our crew, friends that are close to us. That was the same way that we kind of changed as well. Gabriela was born into a vegetarian family, but I wasn’t, and I became vegetarian many years ago.

Of course, there’s a lot of crap [information] there, so you have to be careful. But even a week ago, one of the most serious science journals released for the first time, officially, an article that says there’s a way higher risk of getting cancer and diabetes [from eating meat]—things that a lot of people kind of knew, but they weren’t proven properly. But this study was [conducted] with more than 6,000 people over the years, and that’s exactly what science needs, to release these articles.

You can’t just trust just a guy who’s telling you to eat raw and you’ll be at peace. I think that when you have real proof and things that people cannot debate, it’s up to you. Then if you want to continue eating [meat], well, that’s up to you. 

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Q&A: Megan Massacre’s rise to tattoo-artist credibility

If you’ve seen NY Ink or America’s Worst Tattoos on TLC, you know tattoo artist Megan Massacre (neé Woznicki) as the petite, countercultural sparkplug with a vibrant color palette. But contrary to how easy she makes it look on TV, the southeastern Pennsylvania native didn’t get here overnight. Instead, her road to success was paved by long hours and a serious art background (including acrylic, oil, and watercolor painting, sculpture, calligraphy, bookbinding, photography, and woodcarving).

Following the shows’ surges in popularity, Ms. Massacre has become one of the industry’s most famous females to sport a tattoo gun, and she doesn’t take that responsibility lightly. “If there’s anything I can convey to girls,” she stresses, “it’s to do shit the right way. Don’t cut corners.”

What’s your favorite tattoo that you have?

I have these really simple little spider webs around the cuticles of my fingernails. They’re by far some of the simplest tattoos that I have, but there’s something about them that I think is really unique and cool.

Do you think that tattoo artists still don’t get enough respect as artists?

It’s actually changed by leaps and bounds since I started tattooing, but it’s still not there yet. Things like tattoo TV shows really changed people’s minds and brought it to a mainstream audience. It gave people a little peek into the lives of the people tattooing, realizing that we’re not all criminals or in gangs or drug dealers.

Tattooing has changed because people that are educated in art have taken an interest. Some [tattoos] look like oil paintings or photorealism. It’s at this crazy point where there are people who have been tattooing for 20 years who cannot even touch the kids who have been tattooing for four or five years, because the technology has far surpassed [what was available] back then.

Megan Massacre

What advice would you give to female aspiring tattoo artists who are try ing to break into a male-dominated industry?

The biggest thing to overcome right now is the stigma that you’re just trying to because it’s the cool thing to do. A lot of these girls start and they only do it for a year or two because they realize that they have to work.

Tattooing is not a hobby. It’s not something you do out of your basement when you have free time. You need to get an actual, legitimate tattoo apprenticeship at a legitimate shop, and it’s going to take a couple of years. You’re going to have to swallow your pride, and you’re not going to make any money. Just like if you want to be a lawyer, you have to go to law school and take the bar exam.

You’re vegetarian and recently did a PETA2 campaign. What’s important for people to know about being vegetarian?

A lot of people think that just because you’re a vegetarian, you live an unhealthy lifestyle or that your diet isn’t healthy. I actually feel that since I’ve become a vegetarian, I’m in the best shape of my life. I just feel better, and it’s just a healthier lifestyle if you do it the right way.

Though being animal-friendly and not hurting animals is a big part of it, there’s also the health part of it. It’s really good for your body’s digestion; there are a lot of hormones and crazy things in meat that people don’t think about. Some animals are fed meat tenderizer so that the meat is more tender to eat, but they don’t realize that when you ingest it, it’s tenderizing your organs. People don’t know that kind of stuff. You are what you eat!

Megan Massacre

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Best Albums: Entombed AD, Spoon, Angus & Julia Stone, Nachtmystium

This week’s best albums

– After a layoff and lineup changes, Entombed returns as “Entombed AD,” issuing its 10th LP with LG Petrov’s famous bellow, groove-filled death-metal riffs, and clever string interludes.

– Though it had nothing left to prove, Spoon uses its latest to show an exciting new form of a veteran act, one packed with enthusiasm and vivid production.

– Australian brother-sister duo Angus & Julia Stone return with greater vocal interaction, pretty choruses, and dynamic folk-rock instrumentation.

– For its final album, Nachtmystium finds strength in a more grounded nature, offering another psychedelic black-metal LP about addiction and pain.

Honorable mentions

John Zorn / Zion80: Adramelech: Book of Angels, Volume 22 (Tzadik)

Twin Peaks: Wild Onion (Grand Jury)

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Best Albums: Beck, Shabazz Palaces, Mark Lanegan Band, Jenny Lewis

This week’s best albums

– With performers that range from Jack White to Sparks to Marc Ribot, Beck breathes the eclectic life into Song Reader that he pined for since its inception back in 2004.

– The sophomore album from Shabazz Palaces exhibits similar experimental-hip-hop ambition but with greater organization.

Mark Lanegan Band displays the versatility that fans have come to expect, pushing against the constraints of the letters “EP.”

– The latest from Jenny Lewis shields a core of highly personal—but quite universal—storytelling.

Honorable mentions

Tyler Bates: Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack (Marvel / Hollywood)

Demonic Resurrection: The Demon King (Candlelight) [import]

Sara Jackson-Holman: River Queen EP (Expunged)

Fela Kuti: Finding Fela soundtrack (Knitting Factory)

 

 

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Best Album: Got a Girl

This week’s best album

– Producer extraordinaire Dan the Automator and actress/singer Mary Elizabeth Winstead team up as Got a Girl, a beat-based take on 1960s French pop.

Honorable mentions

Alvvays: s/t (Polyvinyl)

The Black Angels: Clear Lake Forest (Blue Horizon)

Common: Nobody’s Smiling (Def Jam / Artium)

The Raveonettes: Pe’ahi (Beat Dies)

La Roux: Trouble in Paradise (Interscope / Polydor)

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Photos: Veruca Salt @ Lincoln Hall (Chicago), 7/12/14

On Saturday, the reunited Veruca Salt played the first of two Chicago shows in three nights, celebrating the 20th anniversary of American Thighs with the dueling harmonies and dirty riffs of singer-guitarists Nina Gordon and Louise Post.

Captured by Lost in Concert’s Brendan Shanley, the shots show Gordon and Post—previously of the “epic falling-out” club—having fun together again on stage. And, more importantly, the performance proved that the band’s material has held up without the aid of nostalgia. In addition to playing nearly all of American Thighs, the foursome peppered in some of the best non-singles from Eight Arms to Hold You (“Straight” and “Don’t Make Me Prove It”) and Blow It Out Your Ass, It’s Veruca Salt (“Shimmer Like a Girl” and “I’m Taking Europe With Me”).

And with encouraging results in the form of its two new songs—particularly the highly harmonized “The Museum of Broken Relationships”—fans hopefully have future tours to look forward to.

Veruca Salt @ Lincoln Hall, 7/12/14

Veruca Salt @ Lincoln Hall, 7/12/14

Veruca Salt @ Lincoln Hall, 7/12/14

Veruca Salt @ Lincoln Hall, 7/12/14

Veruca Salt @ Lincoln Hall, 7/12/14

Veruca Salt @ Lincoln Hall, 7/12/14

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Best Albums: United Nations, Anna Calvi, Zackey Force Funk, Rise Against

This week’s best albums

– Led by Thursday’s Geoff Rickly, United Nations returns with a new lineup and an enraged dose of hardcore, featuring members of Pianos Become the Teeth.

– With the aid of David Byrne, singer Anna Calvi deftly covers David Bowie, Suicide, FKA Twigs, Connan Mockasin, and Keren Ann.

– Singer Zackey Force Funk pairs a love of Prince and ’70s funk with prototypical early hip hop, disco, lurid bedroom soul, glitch, and drug-friendly experimentation.

Rise Against returns to satiate long-time fans and pop-punk enthusiasts alike.

Honorable mentions

Child Actor: Never Die

Jungle: s/t (XL)

Landlady: Upright Behavior (Hometapes)

“Weird Al” Yankovic: Mandatory Fun (RCA)

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Best Albums: DJ QBert, Rabbit Rabbit, Wolves in the Throne Room, Braid

This week’s best albums

DJ QBert’s long-awaited solo followup comes in the form of a conceptual double album, exploring territory both in and out of this world.

– As beautiful and catchy as ever despite few conventional song structures, wife-and-husband duo Rabbit Rabbit bucks another trend and releases its latest with/as a silk-screened art print.

Wolves in the Throne Room releases a companion album to Celestial Lineage, moving further from the strange world of black metal with an ambient, synthesized collection that’s just as intense.

– On its first LP in 16 years, Midwestern emo outfit Braid comes back into its own in a new way.

Honorable mentions

Gulp: Season Sun (Everloving)

Mortals: Cursed to See the Future (Relapse)

David Sardy: Sabotage soundtrack (Metropolis Movie Music)

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Best Albums: Every Time I Die, Death Blues, Eno & Hyde

This week’s best albums

– Producer Kurt Ballou captures the best of Every Time I Die, imperfections and all.

– Through rock and drone, Death Blues (the solo project of Volcano Choir percussionist Jon Mueller) explores a new narrative that “addresses the inevitability of death as impetus to become more present in each moment.”

– The second album in two months from Brian Eno and Karl Hyde is a frenetic medley of repetitive minimalism, Afrobeat, and Hyde’s angular guitar.

Honorable mentions

Bonobo: Ten Tigers EP (Ninja Tune)

Gallows: Chains EP (Bridge 9)

OOIOO: Gamel (Thrill Jockey)

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Best Albums: Septicflesh, Godflesh, Mastodon, Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath

This week’s best albums

– For its third album backed by an orchestra, Septicflesh releases an epic album that’s equal parts melody and savagery, harmony and hellishness, sparsity and density.

– With its first studio recording in 13 years, Godflesh references both the singleminded force of the duo’s early work and the more layered experimentation of its later albums.

– Though it’s not making Remission II anytime soon, Mastodon proves that its songwriting chops are no worse for the wear with an album full of pop hooks.

– Psych-funk group Brownout pays homage to the classics of Black Sabbath via funky, groove-laden renditions.

Honorable mentions

Cattle Decapitation: Karma, Bloody Karma (Metal Blade)

Corrosion of Conformity: IX (Candlelight)

Casey Crescenzo: Amour & Attrition (Equal Vision)

Dredd Foole & Ben Chasny: Drunk With Insignificance (Feeding Tube)

How to Dress Well: What Is This Heart? (Weird World)

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