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UnScholars 0003 – Unappreciated Album of September 2014

Steven is back with some more details on the best new music that you need to hear.  Listen to him wax nostalgic about Our Lady Peace, stumble through talking about Randolph & Mortimer, and bring you the Unappreciated Album of September 2014 – Covenant’s “Northern Light”

Please check out the artists discussed in this episode:
http://www.wvmmusic.com
http://setandsetting.bandcamp.com
http://www.solstafir.net
http://www.youngxcubs.bigcartel.com/product/randolph-mortimer-social-futures-ep-yc10
http://www.covenant.se
You can find the Unappreciated Scholars at these fine establishments:

http://www.unappreciatedscholars.com

http://www.twitter.com/UnScholars

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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. )

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Quick Hits: 09.15.14 – Gene Simmons’ Opinion, Guilty Pleasure Albums

Who Cares what Gene Simmons thinks?

Just by typing his name here, I’ve already spent way too much time on the topic. Why am I doing it, then? To let you know that it’s completely OK to ignore Gene Simmons and all other celebrities when they say dumb stuff.

If Gene’s comments on the state of rock music have your berries in a twist, what are you going to do about it? I have a recommendation – stop calling for Gene’s head, because you aren’t going to get it. Instead, SUPPORT SOME FREAKING ROCK MUSIC.

“Guilty Pleasure” Albums

Primitive Race asked on Twitter several days ago about guilty pleasure albums. One of mine, of course, is Bryan Adams’ Waking Up the Neighbours. But someone else responded that we shouldn’t feel “guilty” for liking what we like, which really stuck with me.

I’ve been saying for a couple of years now that I hate that I love Foster the People so much. But why should I feel that way? Regardless of what others think, I should like what I like and not have to apologize for it. Same goes for my opinion – I also have to try to accept that something may sound like garbage to me, but it might have some meaning for someone else. Who am I to judge?

That’s not to say that we can’t challenge opinions. But we should be respectful when doing so.

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Quick Hits: News and Opinions from 09.12.2014

Richard Kruspe talks about the Future of Rammstein with Metal Hammer

Richard, guitarist extraordinaire from the TanzMetal Masters Rammstein, let the beans spill that there are multiple Rammstein live DVDs in the works. Hear it from the man himself!

I have been hoping for a new live DVD for ages. The most recent official live release from Rammstein covers their epic 2004 tour. If you’re not familiar with the live Rammstein show, do yourself a favor and get familiar with it as soon as possible.

Bono Explains that Apple bought the new U2 album for all iTunes subscribers

In an open letter posted on the official U2 website, Bono himself explains that Apple bought the new U2 album Songs of Innocence for all iTunes subscribers. Reflecting the same thought process from our post from yesterday, The Pitfalls of Free Music, Bono says:

Because if no-one’s paying anything for it, we’re not sure “free” music is really that free. It usually comes at a cost to the art form and the artist… which has big implications, not for us in U2, but for future musicians and their music… all the songs that have yet to be written by the talents of the future… who need to make a living to write them. 

Good on you, Bono. Now I just hope that message gets out to the world instead of getting buried in an obscure post on u2.com.

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The Pitfalls of Free Music

Update: This piece went up before I read Bono’s statement about the fact that Apple paid for the new U2 record. I commend him for making the statement and I hope it gets out to as many eyes as possible.

Breaking News: Music Production Costs Money

And in many cases, it costs a lot of money. Instruments, hardware, software, expertise, and time are all things that must be factored into the cost of recording music. Independent bands in particular often struggle with these costs because they lack a major record label to help cover the cost.

That’s not really a major problem. Everyone who aids in the recording process by providing goods or services deserve to be paid for their goods or services. Bands are able to be more creative than ever in trimming the overhead costs of their records and maximize the profit per unit or download.

The problem is the perception that somehow, music (downloads in particular) should be free. Napster and similar file sharing services perpetuated this idea and led to a massive divide in the music consumer community. But the underlying fact that it still costs money for bands to record songs is still true, and bands should be afforded the opportunity to sell their work to the public at large.

Sadly, though, a couple of massive companies and mainstream acts have furthered the idea that music downloads are worthless by giving them away for free. Yes, I’m speaking of the Apple/U2 stunt from earlier this week, but also of the lesser-publicized Google Play/Demi Lovato stunt that is being pulled in retaliation.

The Consequences of “Free” Music

What happens to public perception in these situations? Consumers (who don’t necessarily have bad intentions) have the thought that if this U2 album is free, then so should that independent artist’s album. What the public fails to realize is that U2 are hardly giving away anything for free – it is highly likely that Apple has paid U2 a hefty sum of money for the privilege of giving away the album download to half a billion people. Apple, in return, is driving traffic – and likely money – to their own sites and services. There are no losers in that situation.

No, the real losers are independent or small label acts and consumers. Independent acts lose because now the perception that a music download is worthless has been propagated by two of the biggest mainstream acts and two of the biggest companies in the world. Consumers lose because if this keeps up, independent acts will have an even  harder time keeping up and fewer of them will be willing to try.

Support the musicians who make the music you love, regardless of their status as independent or major label act. 

(Note: this is not intended to be an indictment of every single free download available. It’s meant to be an awareness piece to encourage people to spend some cash on their favorite music.)

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Quick Hits: News and Opinions from 09.09.14

Interpol return with El Pintor

The new Interpol record, El Pintor, was released today. It’s available in almost any format (I haven’t seen anything about cassette) at a number of retailers, digital or brick & mortar (but please don’t pick up the Target exclusive – more on that below). I’d rate the album a solid A, and the vinyl is a pure beauty. If you missed it earlier in the year, we brought you a Crash Course on Interpol. If you’re unfamiliar, the Crash Course is a great starting point.

Band who reportedly hates covers cover most covered band in history for a tribute record

The Cure covered The Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” at some point in the last couple of years and the video was released today. Moving on…

Retailer Exclusives

Apparently Matador Records has decided to grant Target an exclusive edition of Interpol’s new record. For $8.99, listeners can get two more tracks than everyone else who purchased from elsewhere or on other formats – including the aforementioned more expensive vinyl edition. Instead of rewarding loyal Interpol fans, Matador thinks enough of you will be gullible enough to buy the album twice if you decided to buy on vinyl. This is essentially screwing over the independent record stores where many people would have bought the album on whatever format. Thanks, Matador – though you’re not the first, and won’t be the last, to pull this stunt. (iTunes exclusives are particularly evil… But that’s another story)

Sólstafir’s Ótta is an international hit

If you follow @UnScholars on Twitter, you’re accustomed to seeing us rave madly over the newest release from Icelandic rockers Sólstafir. In fact, the album is a pure A+ and is in strong running for Album of the Year. Sólstafir tweeted that the album debuted at #25 on the German album charts and hit straight at #1 in their homeland of Iceland. They’ll be on a Western US tour with Pallbearer and Mortals.

Nashville promoters – if you’re reading this, please get Sólstafir here. Exit/In or The End would be just fine.

What’s on your mind? Join us on Twitter at @UnScholars, or send us some feedback to admin@unappreciatedscholars.com. Thanks for reading!

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REVIEW: Set and Setting – A Vivid Memory

Instrumental music is tricky. On one hand, it’s nice to not have to worry about questionable lyrics. But on the other, instrumental music sometimes has difficulty in telling a story. Only the best musicians can make instrumental music narrate – Set and Setting have accomplished a narrative instrumental album with A Vivid Memory.

When words fail, music can step in. A Vivid Memory is a well crafted piece of art that will give the listener a chance to reflect. Each listener can paint a different mental picture, but it’s safe to say that everyone listening will indeed have a mental image. A Vivid Memory indeed paints a vivid picture – sometimes bleak, sometimes hopeful, but always vivid.

The images that came to my mind were thoughts of peace and solitude in beautiful landscapes. Sometimes there are startling contracts, sometimes complete tranquility. The music itself is layered in a way that makes it multi-dimensional, and it would sound amazing on a surround sound system – or just as amazing on some great headphones. It draws from elements of metal but not in a “wall of sound”. This is a good thing, as it allows full enjoyment of the album without listener fatigue. The closing track, “The Last Night, A Vivid Memory”, finishes with a beautifully toned guitar that softly puts the album to rest.

The album features metal elements, but it’s not a straight-out metal album. It should appeal to fans of many genres. Really, it wouldn’t feel out of place as the soundtrack for an epic video game RPG.

Official UnScholars Score for Set and Setting – A Vivid Memory: A. This is a solid piece of instrumental work that defies genre and proves that an instrumental record can engage the listener from beginning to end. A Vivid Memory is an easy “Best of 2014″ contender.

Preview the album with the third track from A Vivid Memory titled “Acceptance”.

Pre-order the album directly from Prosthetic on CD, vinyl, and cassette.
Remaining tour dates:
8/25 Columbia, SC – New Brookland Tavern *
8/26 Raleigh, NC – Kings*
8/27 Richmond, VA – Gallery 5*
8/28 Philadelphia, PA – North Star *
8/29 Brooklyn, NY – The Acheron *
8/30 Boston, MA – Great Scott *
9/1 Burlington, VT – Nectar’s
9/2 Montreal, QC – Casa Del Popolo
9/3 Montclair, NJ – The Meatlocker
9/4 Washington DC – The Pinch
9/5 Greensboro, NC – Hippo Records
9/6 Atlanta, GA – TBA
* with Mouth of the Architect