The seed of FFS was sown around the time of Franz’s debut album when word got back to the Maels that the band were big Sparks fans. “We thought ‘Take Me Out’ was very cool, and wouldn’t it be nice to say hello when they came to Los Angeles?” recalls Russell Mael. “We met and decided then it would be great to do something together. We put forward a couple demos, one was ‘Piss Off’. But they got swept up by everything, and it didn’t happen at that time.”
Fast-forward to 2013 when both Sparks and Franz Ferdinand appeared at Coachella. On the day of Sparks’ warm-up show in San Francisco, Kapranos was in the city trying to locate a dentist when he heard a voice behind him: “’Alex, is that you?’ It was Ron and Russell. They invited us down to see them play that night. We said hello after, and everyone agreed that the 10-year gestation period for this idea was long enough——- we should try and make it happen now.”
FFS was recorded during an intense 15-day period in late 2014. “We approached it the way bands do with their first record,” says Kapranos. “We had the songs first, rehearsed them and then recorded it all together, in a room. So no hanging around or fannying about.”
Very much a ‘new’ project, FFS doesn’t truly sound like either band, but a striking and fascinating mutation. “The real motivation was to make something new, not ‘Franz featuring Russell Mael’, or ‘Sparks with Franz Ferdinand backing them,” says Alex Kapranos.
“You can’t chart what is Sparks and what is Franz Ferdinand,” suggests Ron Mael. “I think each band unconsciously relinquished a little of who they were in order to enter new territory.”
It’s been nearly four years since Of Monsters and Men unleashed their debut album, My Head Is An Animal, and the long-awaited follow-up is finally on the horizon. The Icelandic folk-pop quintet announced that their second LP, called Beneath The Skin, will arrive in June, with new single “Crystals” offering a hint at what’s to come.
“Crystals” features the band’s trademark expansive sound, with martial drums punctuating the rousing chorus: “Cover your crystal eyes and feel the tones that tremble down your spine.” The stark black and white lyric video that accompanies “Crystals” features a bearded man bopping along and lip-synching to the lush track.
Beneath The Skin, the band’s second LP, is set for release on June 9th through Republic Records. Of Monsters and Men recorded the album over the past year in Iceland and Los Angeles with Rich Costey (Death Cab for Cutie, Interpol) co-producing. The band will be building up to the release with a world tour beginning May 4th at Toronto’s Massey Hall and continuing through the summer. The full tour schedule is available on the band’s website.
Singer and guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir spoke to Rolling Stone in 2012 as the band was beginning to write the new album. “I want to expand,” Hilmarsdóttir said. “There’s no way we can create an album like we did. It’s just the love child of that period, kind of, because we were [just] forming.”
Revisiting John Lennon’s solo career on vinyl just got a lot easier. Eight of Lennon’s solo records make up a new career-spanning 9 LP box set of vinyl, entitled simply Lennon. The box set will be released on June 9th, while the albums will be available individually on August 21st.
Each record has been remastered from John Lennon’s original analog mixes, cut to 180-gram vinyl and packaged in reproductions of each album’s original artwork. The remastering took place at Abbey Road Studios in London as well as New York’s Avatar Studios, and was done under the guidance of Yoko Ono and a team of engineers led by Allan Rouse.
The news should be welcome for Beatles nuts, and fans of Lennon’s rich collection of solo work — especially considering most of the albums (aside from Imagine and Rock ‘n Roll) are currently unavailable on vinyl. Included in the box set are John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Some Time in New York City, Mind Games, Walls and Bridges, Rock ‘n Roll, Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey. The mixes were previously available on the 2010 John Lennon Signature Box CD set — but the move to vinyl is something a bit more special.
According to Rolling Stone, the remastering process was emotional for Ono. “I thought it was going to be fine — listening to John’s songs has been a routine thing for me for the last 30 years,” she said. “But this time, maybe because I listened to all of them, it was very hard, emotionally hard. ‘I’m Losing You’ — that really hit me.”
One of the most revered songwriters in modern history, Lennon was relatively prolific after parting from his longtime songwriting partner in Paul McCartney when The Beatles called it quits in 1970. The rock legend recorded a pace of nearly an album a year, until his untimely death in 1980.
While his later albums didn’t reach the same stratospheric heights of The Beatles (what has?), singles like “Instant Karma!,” “Imagine,” “Power to the People,” “Mind Games,” and “Woman” remain classic additions to the modern pop/rock canon. Rolling Stone has recognized Lennon as the 5th greatest singer of all-time, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
One for the fans, the 2015 concert set Live at Carnegie Hall — released just months after his exquisitely sculpted 2014 eponymous set — showcases two entire concerts, both largely solo, intimate, and loose. It’s the antidote to the lush Ryan Adams, an album which, at its best, occasionally sounded like a lost gem from 1980 by focusing on the man and his songs. Where he used to push these buttons hard, Adams seems relaxed, running through his songs with an insouciant ease and seeming almost more invested in the between-song patter, where he tells wry jokes and plays the role of a genial host. Not one for the skeptical, but Carnegie Hall charms: give yourself over to it, and Adams wins you over, first through his act and then through his songs.