An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with PETER BJÖRN AND JOHN’S Peter Morén

Swedish trio Peter Björn and John have created a musical universe that is constantly evolving. However, they’ve managed to retain their unique charm that made them press darlings a decade ago with “Young Folks”. What many didn’t realize is that that hit’s parent album, Writer’s Block, was the trio’s third in a career that has seen them stretch the boundaries of Pop music. While Top 40 radio’s Pop guidelines are pretty rigid, Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson treat them like elastic rubber bands, bending and twisting those guidelines into new and exciting aural avenues. They’ve even managed to carve out musical careers outside of PB&J while never lowering the quality control level on the albums they record together. And can you believe they even collaborated with Canadian hip hopster Drake a handful of years before he became a musical sensation?

Breakin’ Point, their first album in five years, finds PB&J offering up a collection of songs that are so instantly lovable that you’ll swear you’ve been in love with them for years. Every track on the album is a potential hit single – the melodies leap out and grab hold on the first spin. Their songwriting is based in classic ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s Pop/Rock, but the production, arrangements and inventiveness is thoroughly modern if not outright forward-thinking. They’ve sidestepped the experimental moodiness of some of their past albums and embraced their more playful side. This isn’t an album that tries to revisit their past glories – it creates new ones.

Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to track down band member Peter Morén, who kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about Breakin’ Point, PB&J and more…

 

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THE MONKEES’ Good Times: The SPAZ Review

It is 2016 and The Monkees are celebrating their 50th Anniversary the very same year I celebrate my 50th Anniversary as a Monkees fan. Way back in 1966 when the TV show first aired and the band had their first hit single (‘Last Train To Clarksville’), I was coming up on my third birthday and my brother was nearing his fourth. My parents sat us down in front of the television and introduced us to a quartet that instantly became our second favorite band (after The Beatles, of course). Mom and Dad often said that the thirty minutes The Monkees were on was the ONLY time during the week when they didn’t have to worry about us getting into any trouble – we were glued to the tube and thoroughly enjoying their zany antics and great songs.

Flash forward five decades, and if my folks were still around they’d be happy to know that I predictably spent 30+ minutes glued to my CD player as I threw on Good Times, The Monkees’ first studio album in twenty years. And then I went back and listened again. And again. You see, I wanted to give this an honest review and not base my opinion on one listen. So, I listened to it a fourth time, a seventh time, etc. And so, here goes…

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ALLIANCE ENTERTAINMENT ACQUIRES ANCONNECT RETAIL MUSIC BUSINESS!

 In a transaction signed on May 18, 2016, Alliance Entertainment Holding Corporation (“AEC”) and ANconnect, LLC (“ANC”) have entered into a purchase agreement whereby AEC will acquire the ANC retail music assets and business.

AEC, the largest wholesale distributor of physical home entertainment audio, video and software in the United States and best-in-class distribution solutions, provides a high level of service in various disciplines including; mass merchant retail and wholesale distribution, consumer direct services, vendor managed inventory systems and independent music store fulfillment.

The transaction brings an expanded assortment of products to ANC customers, which includes product lines of CD, vinyl music, and electronic products from AEC’s current 480,000 in stock SKU base.

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TRAIN Does Led Zeppelin II: Available June 3rd, 2016!

TRAIN

Does Led Zeppelin II

 

Available on CD and Vinyl LP

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Train, the San Francisco-based Rock/Pop band led by Pat Monahan, will release Train Does Led Zeppelin II (via Crush Music/WEA) on June 3rd , 2016. On this release, Train performs the entirety of the 1969 sophomore album by Led Zeppelin, one of Rock’s greatest quartets. The Train album’s nine-song track list mirrors the original Zep release from first track to last.

This bold artistic move will present Train in a new musical light as well as introduce their audience to a classic album that wrote the blueprint for Blues-influenced Hard Rock.

Traincover

 

TRACK SEQUENCE:

  1. Whole Lotta Love
  2. What Is and What Should Never Be
  3. The Lemon Song
  4. Thank You
  5. Heartbreaker
  6. Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)
  7. Ramble On
  8. Moby Dick
  9. Bring It On Home

Rovi Acquires TiVO!

     While it is not a complete surprise, many were flabbergasted to hear that Rovi, a company known for creating personalized and data-driven ways for viewers to discover the right entertainment and for providers to discover the right audiences, has acquired TiVo, the global leader in next-generation television services. If you think for a moment that you will no longer be able to easily record episodes of Dancing With The Stars and Dr. Phil, think again. In a nutshell, this means that, for the average user, TiVo will only get better.

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   Here is a small portion of the official press release.  Hopefully, it helps you in understanding this unique and very exciting acquisition.  The entertainment world is continually changing so you better get with the program.  Or you can just TiVo it and get back to it later!

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NBCUniversal Announces DreamWorks Animation Acquisition!

NBCUniversal has just upped their game by acquiring DreamWorks Animation. This major acquisition builds on NBCUniversal’s presence in family and animation space. DreamWorks Animation is set to become a unit of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. Is NBCUniversal/DreamWorks now primed and ready to go head-to-head with Disney in the family film/animation market? Grab a bucket of popcorn, folks, because this is about to get real!

Here’s what the press release says:

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HAIRCUT 100: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with guitarist GRAHAM JONES!

 

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Favorite Shirts:

HAIRCUT 100 Revisited

Haircut 100’s debut album Pelican West remains one of the truly great albums of the ‘80s. Inspired by everything from Jazz and Latin music to ‘60s Pop and Post-Punk, the 1982 album was a breath of fresh air at a time when pretentious ‘Popstar’ posing was more important than making music. From Bob Sargents warm and crisp production and singer/guitarist Nick Heyward’s Pop smarts, to the inventive horn arrangements, Pelican West was an album inspired by many styles embedded in the past, yet sounded modern and fresh. The band’s ability to embrace their influences while also creating their own unique sound is what makes Pelican West a timeless album. It is not rooted to a particular time period, so you can still play it thirty four years later without feeling that the album has dated itself. You can’t say that about other career-defining albums from this time period including The Human League’s Dare, Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers, Duran Duran’s Rio or any number of so-called New Wave classics.

Initially lumped in with the British Jazz Funk movement, Haircut 100 were a true musical phenomenon formed by Heyward and bassist Les Nemes. Guitarist Graham Jones completed the original trio. The band grew into a sextet with the addition of percussionist Marc Fox, drummer Blair Cunningham and horn player Phil Smith. The band’s first three singles – “Favorite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl),” “Love Plus One,” and “Fantastic Day” – became radio hits all over the world, and even earned airplay on the then-still-fresh MTV. To many, this fresh and seemingly wholesome band came out of nowhere and became a sensation. They may have been treated like teen idols in the UK, but other countries – including the U.S. – focused on the music. The album itself was filled to the brim with great songs, many of which could have easily been a hit had they been released as singles (I’m looking at you in particular, “Lemon Firebrigade”!). When the band released the Pop-tastic post-album single “Nobody’s Fool,” it was obvious that Heyward’s songwriting skills were still top notch.

However, the band’s massive success proved to be their downfall. Faced with the enormous pressure of writing a follow-up album, Heyward quit the band in the midst of recording sessions. Nick pursued a solo career (the lushly-produced North Of A Miracle contained a few of the songs the band had been working on prior to his departure) while the rest of the band soldiered on. By the time the sorely overlooked and quite wonderful second Haircut 100 album Paint And Paint was released, the band was down to a quartet (Cunningham had also left the band). The band quietly broke up a short time later. Though they have reunited in some form or another over the last decade for live shows, no new recordings have emerged.

Now, with the release of the Deluxe 2CD Edition of Pelican West – featuring additional non-album tracks and remixes – being reissued on Cherry Pop, Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to catch up with H100 guitarist Graham Jones and send him off a few questions in hopes of discovering more about this classic album…

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PET SHOP BOYS: Spaz reviews the album SUPER!

   Super, the 13th studio album by British duo Pet Shop Boys, is a prime example of why the Electronic/Dance act will never be part of a nostalgic ‘80s package tour – they are too busy moving into the future to live in the past. When they scored their first big hit 31 years ago with “West End Girls,” PSB were a delicious mixture of smarmy Pop and then-modern Electronica. Vocalist Neil Tennant’s deadpan (and slightly campy) vocals and Chris Lowe’s melodic, percolating Euro/Electropop backdrop made for some exciting records back in the day, earning them worldwide success and hits in every corner of the world.  By the ‘90s, their star had faded a bit in the U.S. although they still released innovative and exciting albums that were snapped up by audiences In vastly different time zones than the States. Thankfully, PSB have continued to make fresh, forward-thinking records over the years. They’ve kept on top of Dance and Electronic music trends and have embraced them wholeheartedly.  You’ll still find elements of their ‘80s and ‘90s sound on Super but you’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re looking for “West End Girls 2016” because Neil and Chris have moved on.

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Anthrax’s FOR ALL KINGS Makes Top Ten Debut On Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart!

Multi-Grammy  nominee Anthrax have blasted into Billboard’s Top 10 with their 11th studio album, For All Kings, bowing at #9-bullet on the Top  200 Albums Chart and selling 34,000 units.  This debut eclipses the #12  debut made by the band’s 2011 Grammy-nominated, critically-acclaimed Worship Music.

The album also topped the Hard Rock Albums chart in both  the U.S. and Canada with its #1 debuts, and landed at #5 and #7 respectively on  the U.S. and Canada’s Top Current Albums charts.  Additionally, For  All Kings debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart, #2 on  the Independent Albums chart, #4 Physical Albums, and #5 Vinyl Albums chart.

“We share this Top 10 victory with all of our  fans,” said the band’s Charlie Benante.  “Heavy metal is alive  and well.”

Since For All Kings was released  Friday, February 26, it has held the #1  position on both the iTunes Heavy Metal Albums sales chart and Amazon’s Best  Sellers in Metal chart.  In addition, the album’s first single,  “Breathing Lightning,” debuted last week in the Top 40 on both the
Mediabase Active Rock Chart and on BDS.

 

 

Press has also been an enormous champion of For  All Kings:  “The album is thrash perfection…”    “…a near flawless album…5 out of 5 stars…”   “…one of Anthrax’s best CDs of all time, a sparkling  triumph…” “…a surefire album-of-the-year contender…”

For All Kings is the band’s 11th studio  album, was produced by Jay Ruston, and is their first album since 1990’s Persistence  of Time to be written specifically for Joey Belladonna’s soaring vocals, an integral part of Anthrax’s classic signature sound. And the album IS  classic Anthrax, with the band’s metal thrash roots clearly front-and-center,  and lyrics that tackle topics such as the struggle to grow up and be  responsible, having blind faith and selling your soul, how the way you  live your life affects everyone around you, and murder and martyrdom rooted in  an ideology.

“Thank you so much to everyone who loves the record  we made,” added Anthrax’s Scott Ian.  “The response to For  All Kings has been fantastic, seriously, thank you all so much.”

Anthrax is currently on tour in South America with Iron  Maiden and will return to the U.S. for a series of festival dates in the  Spring.

MAJOR LAZER take their ‘Mission’ to Cuba!

AMPED’s very own MAJOR LAZER were the first major American group to perform in Cuba “since the U.S. eased relations with the Caribbean’s largest island.” This news caps off a successful 12 month period that saw Major Lazer’s “Lean On” become Spotify’s most streamed song of all time!

You can read about this ‘major’ event HERE.

Check out a short clip of the crowed courtesy of the trio’s Facebook page!

Looks like Diplo, Walshy Fire and Jillionaire are living up to the title of their 2015 album, Peace Is The Mission!

 

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