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How to Access Unappreciated Scholars Radio

Unappreciated Scholars Radio!
The Unappreciated Scholars Radio channel has launched.  So far, the station is only playing a diverse random mix of tracks called Polyhymnia Array (unless someone has a better name for it). On Wednesdays and Fridays, there will be enhanced versions of the 2013 Unappreciated Scholars podcasts, Coming soon will be Metal Mondays, Tech Tuesdays, and other daily special blocks of programming. These will be phased in over the next several weeks.

A monthly bootleg concert recording, tentatively titled Saturday ROIO, will be hosted on the last Saturday of each month.

There are a few ways to access Unappreciated Scholars Radio:

  • On the web at UnappreciatedScholars.com (check the left sidebar)
  • Via mobile smartphone apps:
    TuneIn Radio (search Unappreciated Scholars)
  • Radionomy (search Unappreciated Scholars)

If we have enough listeners by the end of April, we will be automatically added to some other easily accessible radio streaming directories.

We do not discriminate between genres. You’re going to hear a little bit of everything during Polyhymnia Array, which will serve as the main programming selection.

If you are a band or label looking for an outlet for your tracks, please contact admin@unappreciatedscholars.com. Any and all submissions will be considered for addition.

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Quick Hits 10.17.14: Friday Bandcamp Special – Photostat Machine, Viathyn

On Fridays, I hope to share two or three recently discovered items on Bandcamp that you should consider adding to your collection. This week brings us some synth pop and power metal. We’re all friends here, right?

Photostat Machine – Space\Calling

Photostat Machine are a UK based synth pop duo who have a wide range of sounds. They can do the fast and bright just as well as the dark and brooding, which should delight synth pop fans on each end of the spectrum. Space\Calling is the second EP supporting the Staring into Space album, also available on Bandcamp.

Photostat Machine – Space\Calling EP: Name Your Own Price

Viathyn – Cynosure

Power metal is something that I really enjoy and I’m not sorry for it. Canadian Power Metallers Viathyn have unleashed a great journey called Cynosure. Released on October 7, Cynosure is one of my favorites of 2014.
Viathyn – Cynosure: $10 CAD

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Quick Hits 10.16.14: Physical Media in a Digital World, Heavy Rotation

Physical Media in a Digital World

Pigeons and Planes wrote (back in February) an awesomely emotional letter to a future child on what it’s like to buy a CD and the sorrow that comes with the knowledge that physical media is a dying format (generally speaking). The record store experience, along with the effect of being able to physically hold an album, still holds a lot of weight in my enjoyment of music. I don’t understand why the medium has to die if enough people out there feel the same as people like me and the writer of that letter at Pigeons and Planes. We just have to continue supporting our media of choice in hopes that our voices will collectively stay loud enough for the decision makers to have to notice.

Heavy Rotation – The Cowards Choir

I’ve been tweeting like crazy about the new Cool Currency EP from The Cowards Choir and I can’t stop saying good things about it. The four guys in The Cowards Choir have found a collective voice and a sound that is majestic. If you STILL haven’t checked out their Cool Currency EP, give it a go on Noisetrade. It won’t cost you anything except about twenty minutes of your time, but if you are a generous sort, please leave them a tip so that they can continue to make great sounds.

My personal favorites on Cool Currency are “Is This a Wrecking Ball” and “Break Free”. Chunky Glasses describes the Cowards Choir sound as “big”, which is an accurate description, especially in the live setting.

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Quick Hits 10.09.14: Depeche Mode BluRay Snub, The HiFiChallenge Prepares for a Return

Depeche Mode to Release Live in Berlin, Forgot BluRay Video Exists

This is old news by now if you’re a Depeche Mode fan, but the band announced officially yesterday what had been speculated for months – the November release of the Live in Berlin home video, filmed on the Delta Machine tour in 2013. The deluxe package includes a double disc DVD set, the double disc CD audio version of the show, plus a BluRay CD of the 2013 Delta Machine album in 5.1 Surround Sound.

Wait – BluRay audio, but only DVD video? This is extremely puzzling in 2014, when BluRay players are pretty affordable and millions of households have one built into their game consoles. This is just about the same level of head-scratching as a band who releases a new album only on cassette with no digital download.

My speculation is that we’ll have Columbia – the record label responsible for Depeche Mode releases nowadays – asking us to fork out for that BluRay video in a year or so.

Please don’t, Columbia.

HiFiChallenge Returns in 2015

When I initially launched UnappreciatedScholars.com as hifichallenge.wordpress.com, the intended content was a weekly Top 10 playlist based on a theme curated by the four founders of the site. Unfortunately, life got in the way for all of us and we had to drop the concept. But now, with the advent of Unappreciated Scholars Radio, the time is ripe for a return of the HiFiChallenge.

The feature will be returning in early 2015, and we’d like your input on various themes that we should explore. Send your suggestions to admin@unappreciatedscholars.com and we’ll put them in a list for inclusion in the HiFiChallenge.

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Review: The Cowards Choir – Cool Currency

Short version: A+. Why are you still reading this? Go get it.

Long version:
Andy Zipf has been a staple in my library since I first saw him open for Drivin’ ‘N’ Cryin’ back in Atlanta in 2005. Last year, he started up The Cowards Choir and they are absolutely wonderful. Their self titled EP in 2013 was one of the best releases in a crowded year of great tunes. 2014’s Cool Currency EP picks right up and continues with the growth of The Cowards Choir.

An excellent blend of independent influence and good old fashioned Rock & Roll, The Cowards Choir Cool CurrencyEP is not to be missed. Andy’s words come from the heart and some great, thought provoking inspirations. The band compliment his vocal performance to create a chill bump inducing sound that deserves to be heard. For the full effect, be sure to check them out at a live show. They won’t let you not have a great time.

I feel privileged to have been following Andy’s music career for such a long time. If anyone is deserving of a breakthrough, he’s got to be at the top of the list. The Cowards Choir is a hard working and uncompromising act that won’t disappoint. Even if you somehow don’t like the music itself, the effort and creation will lead you to respect the band for what they do.

Guys – if you read this, please keep on keeping on. People need The Cowards Choir, even if they don’t know it yet. Music needs The Cowards Choir.

Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A+. Just get it. Check The Cowards Choir website for tour dates, updates, and more.

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Guest Column: Listen Again

Ben Tufts, drummer extraordinaire for The Cowards Choir and other rad acts, was kind enough to lend us one of his personal writings to share with the Unappreciated Scholars readership. This post originally appeared on Ben’s Tumblr page. Please be sure to check out his various projects, and look here for our review of the new Cowards Choir EP “Cool Currency” soon. (spoiler alert: it’s an A+)

I have been listening to the new Dr. Robinson’s Fiasco album about seven or eight times a day. It’s short—only about seven songs—and I’ve had a fair amount of driving to do, so it’s not as impossible as it sounds. But nothing else has been in the CD player in my truck for the past week. I haven’t listened to the radio. I haven’t listened to the news. Just the same seven songs, on repeat, occasionally interrupted by the need to get out of my truck and continue with my day. 

Some of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. The rest have concluded that I’m insane. This is nothing new. Obsessive listening has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. What causes a person to want—to feel like they NEED to hear the same songs over, and over, and over? Why do I have more patience for it than the average person? Is it even an issue of patience? Listen for the answer. 

I think when someone is saying something important and relevant and new, we listen. I think when someone has a compelling story to tell, we listen. The story told is not just in the words the singer sings, but in the way the guitar string bends, in the way the cymbals wash. The band is the choir behind the minister, the soundtrack to the saga. Listen. 

I listen to albums I love until I wake up with the songs in my head—until I can hear every bass line, every detail of the track with such clarity, it’s as if the CD is spinning inside my skull. This is my obsession, because I want to carry great music with me, so I can hope to make great music. So I can listen better. 

I’m thankful that it’s a compulsion, because were it a choice, it might be tough to pull off. Like a little kid who’s had one too many cookies, I can almost make myself sick, gorging on one song or one record. I’m driven to obtain the nearest understanding of what those people were feeling when they made those sounds. Listen again. 

By pushing that collection of noises as far into the tissues of my brain as possible, I’ve internalized something that’s important to me. I can sing it back to you, or anyone. I can recall that one drum fill that makes me giddy.

More importantly, if I listen again, maybe just once more, I can capture some of that spirit for myself—that thing that made my eyebrows go up the first time I listened. And just maybe I can convey that spirit to someone else the next time I’m on stage, and they’ll smile, and have a better day for it. And I’ll have done my job. 

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Quick Hits 09.19.14: Recent BandCamp Finds

There’s so much music and so little time for it all. I’m going to make an effort to use the Friday “Quick Hits” posts a quick list of stuff I’ve found through BandCamp or related sites. Some of them I’ve found on my own, and some were brought to my attention through Twitter. The great thing about BandCamp is that consumers can directly support musicians without breaking the bank – the three albums below can be had for as little as $7. Not each. Total.

Without further ado, this week’s BandCamp Finds:

Twilight Fauna – Hymns of a Forgotten Homeland

Twilight Fauna has a harsh and haunting metal sound. The vocals are more like instruments, blending added emotion to the already powerful instrumentation. This will change your perception of music from the Appalachian Mountains.
Twilight Fauna – Hymns of a Forgotten Homeland

Green Elder

Green Elder is another project from the brains behind Twilight Fauna, but on a much less metal scale. Neo-Folk is the name of the game, and I’m glad this was my introduction to the genre. Look for a future piece on Green Elder with their upcoming second album.
Green Elder – Ruis

Chris Randall – Floats on Air

I buy just about everything Chris Randall releases without previewing it because he has proven he can create great music. Always pushing himself to do something new, Floats on Air continues to push the envelope. He calls it “an homage to the history of modern electronic music” – that should make a lot of people happy.
Chris Randall – Floats on Air

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Artist Spotlight: Mr. Kitty

Mr. Kitty’s Time Slated for September 23 release

The past 12-18 months have been particularly full of great dark electronic releases. On September 23, that steady stream continues with the release of Mr. Kitty’s Time on Negative Gain Productions. The album will be released as a CD, digital download, and limited edition cassette with a bonus track. All versions purchased through the Negative Gain Bandcamp page will receive a digital download.

The album is a spectacle from the very beginning. Dark electronic bands tend to be pegged as all having the same vocal style; however, Mr. Kitty proves that is not the case with a wide range of vocal performances on just this single record. The album should appeal to fans of synthpop and new wave, and particularly dark wave. The final grade for the album is a solid B+ – it’s interesting, varied, well produced, and well performed from start to finish. It’s well above the status quo in dark electronic genres.

Artist Spotlight

Mr. Kitty was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Having recently been on tour with Alter Der Ruine, we asked him about his thoughts on the dark electronic music scene and who would win in an ultimate nacho throwdown between himself and Alter Der Ruine.

Unappreciated Scholars: I have to ask about the name Mr.Kitty. I’ve seen it associated with you all around the Internet, but what is the significance or meaning, if there is one?

Mr. Kitty: The idea of the name came from a book called “ファッション猫” (Fashion Cats). I saw a cat wearing a bowtie and a hat; it looked distinguished. I do like cats, but the project has nothing to do with cats and has no reflection on the sound. The name just stuck, I guess.

Where has been your favorite place to play live so far? And where would you like to play that you haven’t already?

Playing in England was very surreal! The enthusiasm and interest that the fans have over there is very uplifting. I totally want to go back. One of the places that I would really like to play is Japan. It has been a big dream of mine to play over there because it seems like a totally different planet over there.

Dark electronic music seems to struggle in the US mainstream, but the underground scene seems alive and well. What challenges do you face in sustaining your art?

When people go to a concert, they expect to see a full band. It’s kind of weird seeing one person do all of the work, so people are kind of puzzled about what exactly is happening. The audience for dark electronic music is big, it’s just really segregated. You could have an awesome show at a venue that caters to a more general crowd, but none of the goths or people that are really into will go because they don’t want to be seen around people that are not like them. You could have the same line-up at a goth club, but all of the people that want to see it that aren’t goth won’t go just because it’s at a goth club. I find it kind of stupid that people can’t come together to see something that they both like just because they are “different”. People are weird.

What are the top ten songs that have influenced you over the years?

Chromatics – Back From The Grave
capsule – JUMPER
Jennifer – If You Were Here
Trust – Sulk
QT – Hey QT
Vĩnh Thuyên Kim – It’s Maybe
The Knife – Forest Families
Chief Keef – Love Sosa
WINK – Turn It Into Love
Le1f – Swerve

Who wins in a nacho-eating contest – Mr.Kitty or Alter Der Ruine?

I can tear up a mean dish of nachos. My nacho eating game is too strong. I’m not sure if Alter Der Ruine can handle it.

Time will be available on digital, CD, and cassette beginning September 23, but you can preview and preorder today.

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Quick Hits 09.17.14: Yeah, more chatter about that U2 record; Interpol’s El Pintor

Nobody invaded your privacy by giving you a U2 album

I understand some of the backlash on U2 and Apple for a lot of things, but I don’t understand the people crying out that they’ve been violated and acting like the worst possible thing ever has happened.

No. Your privacy hasn’t been violated. In fact, if the worst thing that happens to you this month is that a major corporation gave you an album download, I’d consider that a major victory.

There are plenty of reasons to be mad at Apple and/or U2. Invasion of your privacy (in this particular instance) is not one of them.

Interpol have not “returned to form” – they never lost form in the first place

Katie wrote here earlier this year that Interpol are under appreciated in general. Mob mentality states that they haven’t had a good record since Turn On the Bright Lights, but that’s simply not true.

I keep seeing pieces say that Interpol have “returned to form”, but that’s simply impossible. The masses are wrong on this one, because Interpol were never out of form. Any band has peaks and valleys, but Interpol’s valleys are still intense, well crafted, and highly enjoyable listens. So if you’ve listened to Antics/Our Love to Admire/Interpol once or less and immediately dismissed them, you’re missing out, and you have no idea what you’re talking about when you talk about a “return to form”.

(For the record, El Pintor is a definite A on the grading scale. Get it here. )