LISTEN: Elton John & Jack White Duet on the Bluesy ‘Two Fingers Of Whiskey’

Name a duet you’ve been waiting for longer: Elton John and Jack White appear in a new clip from the PBS documentary American Epic, playing piano and guitar, respectively, and rescuing us from this dreary Thursday.

American Epic, which is executive produced by White, is a three-part historical documentary that will examine how record executives left their label’s offices in the 1920s and scoured the rural parts of the nation in search of new audiences and artists.

“In American Epic we can examine how important the fact is that when phonograph records were invented, for the first time ever, women, minorities, poor rural men and even children were given the opportunity to say whatever they wanted in song, for the whole world to hear, shockingly without much censorship,” said White.  “What they were allowed to say on phonograph recordings, they were not allowed to speak in public or in person. That is an astounding thought.”

The doc series was filmed over the course of a decade, in which director Bernard MacMahon tracked down long-forgotten musicians all over the nation to interview and recreate the equipment they used to record. An album of recordings using this early equipment, titled the American Epic Sessions, has been created in addition to the documentary, and that’s where this clip of Elton John and White comes from. Some of the other artists included on the Sessions are Alabama Shakes, Beck, and The Avett Brothers.

Take a listen to John and White’s “Two Fingers of Whiskey” below. American Epic is out now, and the Sessions will air on PBS June 6.

Listen to ‘The Great Gatsby’ Soundtrack Sampler

The Great Gatsby as told by Baz Luhrmann is a mixed bag, with 3D effects and overblown sets and probably acting adding who knows what to an already excellent story. Can you tell I’m not sold on this yet? Well, as we gleefully look forward to what will certainly be the movie event of the spring, let’s take a break from all of the trailers and posters and listen to snippets from the soundtrack. With musical direction from Jay-Z, the album is all over the place. First of all, there’s the anticipated cover of "Back to Black" performed by Beyoncé and André 3000. And there’s also a new songs from Lana Del Rey, Sia, The xx, and Jack White. Plus a ’20s-inspired cover of Beyoncé’s "Crazy in Love." (Alright, I’m officially eye-rolling over this Pastiche for Dummies collection.) But at the very end of the day, I know I’m pumped that Fergie and GoonRock finally got it together.

Jack White Goes For A Ride in the Hype Williams-Directed Clip for “Freedom at 21”

Long gone is the candy-cane color scheme that was part of Jack White’s White Stripes aesthetic. With the latest music video for fast-talking rocker “Freedom at 21” from his debut solo record, Blunderbuss (released in April), director Hype Williams opts for a palette of blues as Wihte cruises in a brilliantly chartreuse car through the fast and furious clip. High-speed-chase shenanigans and ladies clinging to the hood a la Tawny Kitaen in the "Here I Go Again" video ensue.

Look for the cameo from Josh Homme, who appears as a cop at the end of the video, a cameo which kind of made the Internet explode for a bit. 

Why We’re Still Paying for Music

Emily White couldn’t have known that she would end up dominating the discussions of everyone who sort of cares about the music industry. The 21-year-old NPR intern wrote a casual blog post in which she made the broad statement, “I honestly don’t think my peers and I will ever pay for album,” before saying she believes a “Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone” would be worth paying for, despite the fact that this service already exists–and it’s called Spotify.

Music business professor David Lowery proceeded to respond to young Emily by making a very lengthy rebuttal, which included phrases like “I also deeply empathize with your generation” and “Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians!”

White may have been short-sighted, but Lowery’s response was overblown and condescending, as noted by numerous people, including Bob Lefsetz and Pitchfork’s Laura Snapes. Ultimately, owning music is an issue that’s personal to everyone.

I spent four years living in Nashville, which is home to the national treasure that is Grimey’s. Regularly appearing on lists of the best record shops in the country, it features a friendly staff and plenty of high-profile in-store performances. There were times that I walked out having purchased 15 CDs in one go (admittedly, many of those might have been from Grimey’s extensive stock of pre-loved merchandise, but I was still supporting a business I love).

A few blocks away from Grimey’s is Third Man Records, Jack White’s shrine to Jack White and proof that people are willing to pay for music. A copy of his liquid-filled “Sixteen Saltines” vinyl is currently on eBay for $450. Sure, novelty sells, but it’s ultimately the man himself that keeps records moving at Third Man, and the artists have already been paid by the time their (limited edition, oddly shaped or colored) records are resold online.

Which brings us to another point that’s been hammered in over the past few days: music has to be good enough to spend money on. The best stuff is obviously going to be a potential buyer’s priority, and that means artists have to prove that they are talented and worthy of earning real money.

Like Emily White, I get a lot of music sent to me for free. But as a writer, it’s also my job to think about the people behind the songs, and I’m more likely to go back and buy music I feel personally connected to. I have a promo CD of Sondre Lerche’s self-titled 2011 album, and I have a second copy that I purchased at one of his shows, because he makes very pleasant music and seems like a very pleasant man. I will always pay for We Are Scientists’ music, because I’ve only had positive interactions with them, going back years before I even thought I would be a music journalist. If I meet an artist and have a particularly good experience, chances are that I will go back and buy their record and reinforce whatever evangelism I’ve already done for them.

Personally interacting with musicians is something many people can’t or don’t want to do. But artists are more accessible than ever, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, with the purpose of maintaining fanbases. Sure, listeners may be initially downloading the songs for free, but a winning personality goes a long way. Does the issue become a lack of connection?

There’s no easy answer to the questions raised by White and Lowery, other than that they can’t be reduced to generational generalizations. I just know that I’m still in love with physical formats.

Lineup Announcement Roundup: Austin City Limits, Holy Ship!!

If sweating it out with barbecue sauce stains all over your shirt while trying to take in the dozens of bands around you or dancing on a really big boat in the Bahamas sound like your bag, tonight’s festival roundup will be particularly appealing. Austin’s end-of-festival-season blowout Austin City Limits announced its lineup with some notable overlap with Lollapalooza and a stacked roster of eclectic acts all three days, starting at the top with headliners The Black Keys, Florence + The Machine, AVICII, Neil Young & Crazy Horse (get ready to sing some classic American folk songs!), Jack White, The Roots, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Avett Brothers, Weezer, M83 and Iggy & The Stooges. 

Other notable ACLiens include a reunited Afghan Whigs on their world domination tour, soul-revival upstarts Alabama Shakes, Childish "Donald Glover" Gambino, BASSNECTAR, The Shins, Los Campesinos!, Gotye, Tegan & Sara, Zola Jesus, BlackBook artist to watch Michael Kiwanuka, Willis Earl Beal, Gary Clark Jr., The Weeknd and First Aid Kit, with plenty more here. 3-day passes for ACL are already sold out, but you can get single-day passes for $90 a pop.

If you’d rather dance on a boat to Diplo and Digitalism, electronica festival and cruise Holy Ship!! (with TWO exclamation points) returns with a host of DJs and dance acts including the aforementioned Mad Decent mixmaster and Hamburg house duo, as well as Major Lazer, Justice, Knife Party, Boys Noize, Skream and Benga, Busy P, Crookers, Dillon Francis and 12th Planet, with pletny more names on the site.

ACL will take place October 12th – 14th in Austin’s Zilker Park; Holy Ship!! will host a pre-party in Fort Lauderdale on January 3rd, 2013 and be on the high seas aboard the MSC Poesia January 4th – 7th, 2013, just in time for you to fully decimate any hopes of maintaining a New Year’s resolution. Watch footage from last year’s cruise below: 

Linkage: ‘Bring It On’ on Broadway, ‘Fifty Shades’ Mania Hits Both Coasts

While speaking with astronaut Buzz Aldrin (what?), rocker Jack White reveals that he’s still pissed that he wasn’t recognized for playing an entire show with only one note. "[T]he Guinness book is a very elitist organization," he complains. "There’s nothing scientific about what they do." [Interview]

Why are TV show finales always so unsatisfying? (Ahem, Lost.) Here’s a thoughtful look. [AVClub]

It’s getting hot in here, Toros. Bring It On: The Musical is officially headed to Broadway. [EW]

New York bodegas are catching onto that sweet mommy porn rage that’s crippling the nation. [Anna Holmes]

 

Speaking of Fifty Shades of Grey, here’s a look at the penthouse where the smutty book takes place. [Curbed]

Even though Ashton Kutcher is currently filming one, Aaron Sorkin has announced that he’s working on "the definitive" Steve Jobs biopic. [Death & Taxes]

I’ll never understand fashion. Here is a very expensive beanie with a black veil. [The Gloss]

Here’s your single-serving Tumblr of the day. [Brad Pitt Eating Things

M.I.A.’s New Gig: Beer Bottle Designer

M.I.A. has worked long and hard to paint a picture of herself as a counter-cultural warrior and for the most part she’s succeeded. Even when a New York Times reporter tried to paint her into a truffle-scented corner with a story about how the “Paper Planes” was talking revolution while pigging out on bourgie snacks, M.I.A. retaliated with her own recording of the interview proving that she wasn’t the one who ordered them.

So, when we read that M.I.A. was going to be designing beer bottles we were a bit confused. Is that really the sort of thing a visionary cultural force should be doing? The answer, we decided, was yes. After all, the art-school-educated singer said she was able to make the beer company work with the art she was making, not their own agenda.

“I was making that as a painting, or with those elements anyway, and I put together a version for them out of what I was making for myself at the time,” she said.

The work she’s doing for Beck’s—the label features a yin-yang and collage-style art reminiscent of, duh, a M.I.A. record—was inspired by a trip she took to India.

“My trip to India was to kind of explore the visual arts thing a bit more and while I was there I was coming across lots of things that were inspiring,” she said “I just wanted to get there and explore it without having to be pressured about making the record, you know? But they also go together all the time — it’s really hard for me to separate the two out.”

She’s not the only one. Artists from Jack White, who did a song for Coca Cola, to Gorillaz, which designed a line for Converse, and Kanye West, who has dreamed up shoes for companies from Nike to Louis Vuitton, have lent their talents to a brand without seeming hacky.

“Before artists would struggle with the art and commerce thing, but now I think you have to have a certain conviction about your work and I think the canvas is irrelevant, you can put it on anything these days,” M.I.A. said. “As long as you’re not like, you know there are certain things I won’t agree to, but sitting down and having a drink, and having a little chat is a good thing, and that’s what people tend to do, you know. They get drunk and get together, so.”

Get Excited for DJ Jonathan Toubin to Play With Jack White by Listening to Him

It’s been almost five months since New York-based soul DJ Jonathan Toubin, who works under the name DJ New York Night Train, was involved in a devastating accident in a Portland, Oregon hotel room. If the outpouring of support for Toubin, which came in the form of fundraisers from Los Angeles to New Orleans and beyond featuring a who’s who of New York DJs and talent from the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, wasn’t impressive enough, the man himself is already up and about and ready to get back behind the turntables.

Not only will Toubin be spinning tonight at Jack White’s sold-out show at Manhattan venue Webster Hall, but Sunday he’ll be celebrating alongside friends like Ian Svenonius and local buzz band K-Holes with a party at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl. Other upcoming dated include a May 12  and a June 9 set at Glasslands, a July 7 set at Lincoln Center for the Midsummer Night Swing, July 21 and August 18 sets at Glasslands and a September appearance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in Asbury Park, NJ.

Back in December, Toubin was sleeping in a ground-floor Portland hotel room when a taxicab drove through the room’s wall, trapping him and causing serious injuries. And while friends and fans should be thrilled to see him back at work, it seems like something Toubin himself knew he would be doing again. As his mother recounted to the Times, the day of the accident his doctors heard him make one request: “I’ve got to have my records.” 

Toubin’s best known for his high-energy, soul-infused sets. To get an idea of the sort of music the beloved DJ plays, check out a series of his playlists below. 

‘The Lone Ranger’ Gets a ‘Blunderbuss’

Life out of stripes is looking good for indie rock mainstay Jack White. Not only did the long-haired rocker release his first solo effort, Blunderbuss, this week to impressive ratings, but the one-time member of The White Stripes also landed a pretty impressive side gig: Writing the music for Disney’s upcoming film The Lone Ranger.

"Jack’s an amazing songwriter with a unique style," Jerry Bruckheimer, who’s producing the 2013 vehicle, told Variety. "We’re thrilled to hear his fresh take on the William Tell Overture."

White also knows a thing or two about being in a weird, sexually ambiguous pair. While we can’t say for sure if anything is going on between The Lone Ranger (played by Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp), their relationship has always been suspect. Ditto for White and his former bandmate Meg White, who long claimed she was his sister but was eventually outed as his ex-wife, giving the Pitchfork set their closest ever brush with Jerry Springer-style drama.

It’s not White’s first time at the, uh, rodeo. He’s made music for a James Bond flick, 2008’s Quantum of Solace, and the 2007 movie Cold Mountain—two pieces that apparently made enough of an impression to hire the guy for his first full score.

“[Director] Gore [Verbinski] hatched the idea and Johnny was thrilled with it," Bruckheimer said. "We’re all very excited to have him on board."

Here’s a few other rockers who’ve given Hollywood their business.

Trent Reznor. The Nine Inch Nails frontman might have amassed an army of brooding teens in the 90s with his parent-baiting, industrial anthems, but now he collects awards—Reznor won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his score to The Social Network and was nominated for another Globe for his work on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Jonny Greenwood. Radiohead’s global popularity just wasn’t enough to keep guitarist and keyboard player Greenwood busy, so he struck out on his own, scoring films like 2007’s mustache extravaganza There Will Be Blood and last year’s Tilda Swinton school shooting stunner We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Karen O. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman has always made music that’s cinematic in scope—try walking down the street listening to Fever to Tell and not imagining yourself in a movie—but she branched out to actual celluloid in 2005 with a song for horror bomb House of Wax. Since then she’s worked on both Jackass 2 and Jackass 3D as well as I’m Not There and, most notably, did the entire score for Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are.