Photo credit: Olivia Jean
Jack White And Brendan Benson Talk The Raconteurs’ Return And Why "No One’s Stepping Out" In Guitar Music
The recently reunited quartet are grappling with a glaringly different rock landscape these days—but that hasn't altered their trademark freewheeling sound
Jack White was in a fit of mania while making his last solo album, 2018’s Boarding House Reach. Ever the mad scientist, he recorded through electronic instruments with his teenage recording equipment in an empty Nashville apartment. He blasted Kanye West and Nicki Minaj for inspiration and slept on an army cot on the floor. The album was White's most severe detour in a career already full of them.
One song stood out from those sessions: "Shine the Light on Me," a sweet, straightforward soul song that sounded nothing like his gonzo experiments. "It’s strange to think of a song that couldn’t fit on Boarding House Reach," he tells The Recording Academy with a chuckle. "But I just couldn’t make it work."
To his surprise, the song reminded him of the Raconteurs, a project of his that hadn’t put out music since 2008. He called up its co-leader, Brendan Benson, who caught the same vibe from the rejected solo song, and, just like that, the Raconteurs were back.
White and Benson, along with bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler, jumped back into the studio and cranked out an entire new album: Help Us Stranger, out Friday, June 21 via White's Third Man Records. After time off and experiments galore, the album marks White's return to simple, heartfelt rock 'n' roll.
"It’s such a good thing when you get together for the right reasons for any project," White says. "And you’re working on it for the love of it, for the fact that you want to write music and express it and share it with other people."
White and Benson first met in 1997, when the White Stripes were playing their first shows at a club in Detroit called the Gold Dollar. Benson, who had recently signed to Virgin Records and was working with L.A. whiz-kids like producer Ethan Johns and guitarist Jason Falkner, had begun to fancy himself a sophisticated pop-rock pro. The White Stripes’ racket blew that notion right out of his brain.
“I was in the songwriting-as-craft school of thought, writing the ultimate pop music, the Beatles, the Beach Boys,” Benson says. "I thought that was cool. Then I saw the White Stripes, and I was like, 'No, that’s what's cool." Suddenly, he longed to make music that was more like a charcoal sketch than the Mona Lisa.
Benson and White ended up jamming that week and, years later, their collaboration resulted in two inspired albums, 2006’s Broken Boy Soldiers and 2008’s Consolers Of The Lonely. Soon after, the band fell silent for 11 years — not because of any acrimony or creative differences. All four members kept in touch; they were simply occupied with other things.
White and Benson each made solo albums; both raised children. Drummer Patrick Keeler moved from Nashville to L.A. and joined alternative rockers the Afghan Whigs. Bassist Jack Lawrence collaborated with artists like Karen O, JEFF the Brotherhood and City And Colour.
Still, when the Raconteurs got back together, they didn’t sound like an amalgam of all these side gigs; they returned to their initial sound and played imperfectly on real instruments. Highlights like "Help Me Stranger," "Don’t Bother Me" and "Sunday Driver" signal that all four members find common ground in an earthy, kick-the-tires approach.
In this regard, Benson feels like a stranger in a strange land when it comes to modern music. "No one’s really stepping out with guitar music — with people playing instruments," he says. "It's almost played too well. It's boring."
In 2019, music feels like it’s either hewing very traditional or very far-out: the minimal Black Keys or studio-glossed Panic! At The Disco sparring with the provocative Billie Eilish. The Raconteurs are somewhere in between. Help Us Stranger has futuristic flourishes and rich, boomy production, but at its core, it could have been made in any decade.
"Our record is full of mistakes," Benson says. "Bad notes. Pitchy singing. Pitchy harmonies. Tempos are going all over the place. I love that sh*t. It’s kind of bucking the system a little bit." In an over-processed, focus-grouped era of music, Help Us Stranger proves there's still room for music shot from the hip rather than conceptualized with the brain.
It couldn't have been done if every member wasn't on the same page. "We’re all lucky in this band," White says. "We have multiple things going on in our musical worlds, but we could take that much time off and come right back to where we started."
In an era when the guitar is becoming an anachronism or an afterthought, Help Us Stranger proves there’s still treasure in simply plugging in and playing.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors
Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it
Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.
McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award.
The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.
"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."
With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
Championships – Meek Mill
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
i am > i was – 21 Savage
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
IGOR – Tyler, The Creator
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.
Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour
El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances
Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.
El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.
"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.
Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist.
Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19/Getty Images
Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West
Following dates in Europe and South America, Swift will land in the U.S. for Lover Fest East and West, where the pop star will open Los Angeles' brand new stadium
Taylor Swift will be spreading the love in support of her hit album Lover.in 2020, but it may or may not be in a city near you. The GRAMMY winner announced plans for her summer 2020 tour in support of her seventh studio album, including two shows each in Foxborough, Mass. and Los Angeles for Lover Fest East and West respectively as the only four U.S. dates announced so far.
The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + SUMMER. I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic. I want to go to some places I haven’t been and play festivals. Where we didn’t have festivals, we made some. Introducing, Lover Fest East + West! https://t.co/xw6YMN38WE pic.twitter.com/IhVPQ8DMUG— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) September 17, 2019
The tour kicks off in Belgium on June 20 and hits festivals in seven European countries before heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 18 then heading to U.S. Swift will then present Lover Fest West with back-to-back Los Angeles July 25 and 26 at the newly named SoFi Stadium. The concerts will serve as the grand opening of the much-anticipated NFL venue. The tour will wrap a double header at Gillette Stadiuim in Foxborough July 31 and Aug 1
"The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + SUMMER. I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic," she tweeted. "I want to go to some places I haven’t been and play festivals. Where we didn’t have festivals, we made some. Introducing, Lover Fest East + West!"
Tickets for the new dates go on sale to the general public via Ticketmaster on Oct. 17.