Celebrating the Absolute Wonder of Brian Eno on His Birthday

If there was ever a score for all of life’s moments that fall into the realm of the metaphysical, for the ineffable feeling inherent in human nature, and the beauty in the space between light and emotion, it’s in the sounds of Brian Eno. In an almost synesthesiac way, he manages to give us the sonic interpretation of that which we can only see, bringing to life the hidden textures of the world around us. And as the pioneer of experimental sound, he has been working for decades now, crafting music valuing theory over practice as a composer, producer, visual artist who builds landscapes of atmosphere that transport you into a state of mind beyond words. Over the years, he’s collaborated with everyone from David Byrne and David Bowie to to U2 and Paul Simon, as well as various filmmakers and artists, continuing to be as prolific as he is inspirational to an incomparable number of artists. And as today is his 64th birthday, what better way to celebrate than looking back on some of his most brilliant works. Enjoy. 

Ambient 1: Music for Airports


Thursday Afternoon




Before and After Silence


Lightness: Music for the Marble Palace


The Shutov Assembly


The Drop


Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks


Another Day on Earth


More Music for Films


Another Green World


Ambient 4: On Land


Nerve Net


Music for Civic Recovery Centre


Extracts from Music for White Cube, London 1997 

Kite Stories 




Wrong Way Up

Everything That Happens Will

Curiosities Volume II

Julie Taymor Is No Longer a U2 Fan

Julie Taymor has been back in the headlines in the last few weeks following her million-dollar lawsuit against the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the Broadway musical she spent nine years creating with musicians Bono and The Edge of U2. In a new interview, Taymor reveals that she was blindsided by her firing, and she also claims that her rockstar colleagues were not always present during the show’s extensive preview period. 

Taymor spoke to Esquire, and it sounds like she’s reasonably upset at being the scapegoat for the show’s failings. She had started working on the show in 2002, and had giant ideas for the production from the beginning: "I wanted Spider-Man to be in a tent on top of Madison Square Garden… I thought if it was on Broadway, people would think it was just another musical, but we were very careful never to call it a musical." Taymor, of course, has an experimental theater background–her early work with puppetry is what got her the the directing gig for The Lion King–so it’s somewhat unsurprising that her high-concept ideas might not work with a comic-book adaptation for mainstream Broadway audiences, especially when producers invested millions of dollars into the project.

But what’s troubling is how Taymor has been characterized as a villain herself in this real-life Spider-Man saga. Each article about the show back in the early days of previews suggested that she was a nutty director trying to control a failing production. The news of her firing came after reports that she refused to compromise with producers regarding changes in the show, an allegation that she claims is false. "This thing that I refused to do the big changes and so they let me go? No. There wasn’t [an ultimatum]… That was not something that was brought up to me."

Meanwhile, Bono and The Edge both criticized her personally; Bono complained that he "felt artistically impotent," while The Edge called her "overwrought" and "exhausted." Yet they admitted they were not personally in the theater to give input into the production, and Bono did not personally put any of his money into the project. Of course, the reviews of the "reimagined" version of the show, which opened in June, were just as bad as the reviews of Taymor’s version, and nothing particularly positive has been said about the music from Bono and The Edge.

It seems easy to go after Taymor, but I can’t help but point out that she has taken the brunt of the criticism while being the only female creative at the top of the billing. So why is she solely labeled as the uncooperative member of the Spider-Man team? It seems likely that the grounds of her lawsuit are valid (she admits that she was only paid $120K for the nine years she worked on the show), and that when the show eventually closes, it will be remembered for the creative visual elements–the design, the flying–rather than the book or the music.

Tracklist: Brandon Flowers Takes Stock of His Favorite Songwriters

“I’m sorry this is so uncomfortable,” Brandon Flowers says apologetically during a long and, yes, rather painful silence. The 29-year-old musician is trying to round out a list of the 10 vocal performances that most influenced him, and in a group dominated by guys, he needs a woman. Shy and hesitant in person, Flowers is nothing like his onstage persona. Whereas that one—the superstar who fronts the Las Vegas–based arena rock band The Killers—sweats swagger and breathes bombast, this one fidgets in his chair inside New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel. This fall, Flowers will take the stage without his three bandmates when he tours Europe in support of Flamingo, his solo debut. If the first single, “Crossfire,” is any indication, the album (named after a road in Las Vegas) will stay true to the Killers’ synths and soaring vocals. But Flowers can’t help it. He’s never been one to conceal his roots and he isn’t about to start now.

U2’s “With or Without You.” This is quintessential U2. There’s great contrast in how low Bono’s voice goes in his verses and how he builds to this explosion of emotion at the end. His sound breaks through the clouds.

Lou Reed’s “Men of Good Fortune.” Lou isn’t the greatest singer in the world, so he uses a speaking voice to deliver his songs. He has such great lyrics: “Men of good fortune often cause empires to fall/ While men of poor beginnings often can’t do anything at all.” How can you not get sucked in when that’s the song’s first line? We were going to perform the song “Tranquilize” together on Saturday Night Live and it was going to be the highlight of my life, but then the writers’ strike happened.

Morrissey’s “Interesting Drug.” It’s as Morrissey as Morrissey gets. He has his own inflections, his own quirks, and they all surface on this song. I was his busboy once at Spago Las Vegas in Caesars Palace, but I didn’t have the guts to say anything. Years later, the Killers were asked to open for him in L.A. and Chicago. The highlight of the whole thing was when he came to watch us rehearse before the first show. He’s had such an impact on my life, and it felt like everything had come full circle: he was just standing there, watching us.

Annie Lennox’s “No More ‘I Love You’s’” She pushes the envelope and looks great doing it. I often wonder about [Lennox’s partner in Eurythmics] Dave Stewart’s genius. It turned me off that he was involved with making that dildo [for sex toy manufacturer JimmyJane’s collaboration with Stewart’s Rock Fabulous line]. His face was on it or something? Tom Waits’ “Ruby’s Arms.” My wife and I bonded over this song when we first met. I’d never heard it before and she played it for me while we were driving through Las Vegas. Both of us were crying in the car at some point. There are a lot of myths that Waits used to scream in closets to mess up his voice. What amazes me is how dirty it is, but how romantic he can be with it.

Johnny Cash’s “Give My Love to Rose.” I love the way Cash tells this story of a guy getting out of jail and basically dying on his way home. When he asks the stranger who finds him to tell his boy that his daddy is proud of him… I don’t know why, but that gets me every time.

Pet Shop Boys’ “Tonight Is Forever.” I’ve had two weird experiences with Neil Tennant’s voice. One night, on my first trip to London, I heard Ladytron was playing. We got to the show for the encore, and we heard this guy talking. I knew it was Neil Tennant without seeing him. That’s how distinct his voice is. Later, we were working at [producer] Stuart Price’s house on [the Killers’ third studio album] Day & Age. He had a little studio and his wife had just started managing the Pet Shop Boys. So I was upstairs, and in between songs I could hear Tennant’s voice downstairs. He actually came up and sang on a Christmas song we were recording.

Bruce Springsteen’s “Youngstown.” He’s able to make statements while still being romantic. “Youngstown” is about a mine for the materials that make weapons. He writes of smokestacks reaching up like the arms of God. Springsteen helped me understand my roots and helped me to connect with America.

Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” This one doesn’t sound like Bob Dylan to me, not that I don’t like the way it sounds. The lyrics are amazing as always, but I chose it because of his vocal versatility, which I think is important in singers. There is something to be said about having that recognizable quality in your voice, but I really like it when people are able to switch it up a bit.

Chairlift’s “Evident Utensil.” We made a video for “Spaceman” with [music video director] Ray Tintori, and he’s in the same circle as Chairlift. He had just done their video for “Evident Utensil.” The video was fine, but the song was amazing. The synth lines reminded me of Erasure. I couldn’t believe these young people from Colorado who now live in Brooklyn were doing this. Caroline Polachek and Aaron Pfenning are great singers. Hearing them for the first time was a breath of fresh air.

Brandon’s Favorite New York Spot: Gramercy Park Hotel

U2 Cancels Summer Tour

Wow guys, no tours for us this summer. Hot off the news that Christina Aguilera has postponed her upcoming summer tour until 2011, U2 has canceled all of their summer dates! Following an urgent rush to the hospital for back surgery, U2 lead singer Bono was instructed to recuperate for at least eight weeks, forcing the band to pull out of a high profile appearance at the UK’s Glastonbury Festival, as well as the band’s first ever shows in Utah. The earliest date at which Bono could return would be August 6th, when U2 is scheduled to perform in Turin, Italy. Speaking to Glastonbury officials, Bono expressed his regret at having to miss the festival: “I’m heartbroken. We really wanted to be there to do something really special – we even wrote a song especially for the Festival.'”

According to Bono’s neurosurgeon, the singer’s health troubles were due to a “sudden onset disease” that left Bono temporarily partially paralyzed.

He was already in severe pain with partial paralysis of the lower leg. The ligaments surrounding the disc had an eight millimeter tear and during surgery we discovered fragments of the disc had traveled into the spine canal. The surgery was the only cause of treatment for full recovery and to avoid further paralysis.

U2 had been touring behind their twelfth full length LP, No Line on the Horizon, since last year. They hope to release a thirteenth album, previously thought to be to titled Songs of Ascent, in the near future.

Links: Serena Lands a Baldwin; JWOWW Sells Shirts No One Should Want to Wear

● U2 and Jay-Z recording a song for Haiti that will so totally kick “We Are the World’s” ass. [BBC] ● Now instead of ‘I Love You,’ say ‘Tweet Me’ with your Valentine’s Day candy. Because that’s better. [URLesque] ● Billy Baldwin has been cast on Gossip Girl as Serena’s erstwhile father. Stephen and Daniel continue looking for work. [E!]

● Because there will come a day when you will need to know how to make a paper penis out of origami, here are directions. [Daily What] ● Because there will come a day when you drop your food on the floor, here’s a chart on how to proceed. [SF Weekly] ● Jersey Shore’s JWOWW now selling her ‘famous shirt’—that looks like a hula hoop to cover one’s nipples—in multiple colors. [JWOWW]

Taylor Swift, U2, & Dave Matthews: Grammys Destroy Music Again

I had this frightening dream last night. I was doing community service at the Silver Shires Home for The Olds and upon finishing my shift, I heard some hoots and hollers erupt from the Bingo Room. When I went to investigate what was happening, I found Edina, Harry, Phillip, and Nancy-Ann all having a gay old time laughing. They had passed around a crumpled piece of people with some scratchy handwriting that said 2010 Grammy Nominations and included phrases like “Dave Matthews Band” and “Jason Mraz” on it. Well, I just about fainted. And when I came to, I was mortified to find that this wasn’t simply a sweet dream, but a beautiful nightmare come true. Far too true. A firm probe reveals that on this shortlist, the only word many of these performers and tunes should see follow Best is Substitute For a Coaster.

Obviously including Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, in some form or another (even if it’s not for “Sweet Dreams” or “Paparazzi,” respectively) are among the very few things that the blue-hairs comprising the Grammys panel got right. Because when you’re tossing around words like “sales” and “buzz” and “things that held American ears hostage for months on end,” these two women are among the most prominent figures to come to mind. Which behooves us to include The Black Eyed Peas, noted for their six-month stranglehold on the Billboard Hot 100.

But it’s a slippery slope! Clearly striving to appeal to the lucrative Hollister crowd, the Grammys couldn’t neglect such treasured performers as Dave Matthews Band, Jason Mraz, Nickelback, and Green Day. Which then inspired them to even more broadly appeal to the sensibilities of those who like “old-fashioned rock-and-roll” that still sounds safe and banal when placed next to Gaga. This effort turned up Hall & Oates, U2, and AC/DC. This even erroneously egged them onto consider those below the Mason-Dixon, which resulted in that chick who I mistake for Taylor Swift frequently and Taylor Swift herself.

Oh no. Because all decisions on this Grammy shortlist seem to be scrawled in Sharpie, there appear to be no takesies-backsies. Which then makes sense out of some consolatory nods given to MGMT, The Ting Tings, and Imogen Heap. All of who are fine performers, but considering their lack of musical output for the greater part of 2009, they are all decidedly of a “previous era.” Even in their bid to appeal to gays (yes, it’s been a hard year, hasn’t it!), the Grammys missed its mark. Well done, I guess, for the Kelly Clarkson and Pink hand-outs (a pair of performers whose musical output should objectively find them competing in top categories, not this Best Pop Vocal malarkey). But the Dance category nods are just off, off, off, with Madonna picking up a couple for her comeback misfire and David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland getting some attention, despite not really courting much attention outside of sweaty discos. This is even more embarrassing when compared against 2009’s Grammys, which with competitors like Kylie Minogue, Sam Sparro, and Robyn will still remain more evergreen as 2010 rolls around.

However, with admonishments come suggestions for success. How could this Zima-infused DUI of an awards ceremony been avoided? If all we’re regarding is a vague rule that makes eligible releases between October 1, 2008 and August 31, 2009 fair game. With that in mind, the inclusion any of these notable snubs would’ve made for a vastly more relevant telecast: A Camp’s Colonia, The XX’ self-titled debut, Bat for Lashes’ Two Suns, and dare I even suggest Miley Cyrus’ “Party In the USA.”

Oh Grammy committee! When a Miley Cyrus-related omission, of all things, makes you outdated, it’s time to cut loose most of your brain trust and reconsider your worth.

Lady Gaga Crashes U2-Hosted Birthday Party for Gavin Friday

Oh hey! So remember how all of these singers and non-singers were assembling over the weekend as part of a big-deal happy birthday to the Virgin Prunes’ Gavin Friday? All that revelry went down last night at Carnegie Hall, and even from the nosebleeds, one couldn’t help but admire the bombshell demeanor of ScarJo or the delightfully sloppy all-over-the-placeness of Courtney Love (who, by the by, had three costume changes). Sure, even piss-drunk Shane McGowan, who got up to scream into the microphone and kick the air with unparalleled vigor and vim, brought a little something special to the night. But then, excellent things worth writing home happened, things that were only ambiguously classed under “with Special Guests” on the event programs.

The night’s first surprise came as Rufus Wainwright, ScarJo, and Friday approached the last few bars of their tune. A dark silhouette menacingly wandered on stage and introduced himself as Prince. We all believed him for a hot moment. But then he vaguely waxed narcissistic before exiting stage left and it became all too clear who the man beneath that purple suit was.

Fred Armisen’s assumed cameo portended a sign of brilliant things to come. Bono appeared onstage and offered up a party platter of superlatives to introduce Lady Gaga, who probably split the same cab with ScarJo and Armisen to Carnegie Hall, after lighting up the stage on SNL the night before.

Sure, Gaga’s ties to Irish goth rock may be tenuous at best, but she appeared luminous nonetheless. She reworked “Poker Face” into an homage about redheads, singing about how she only “plays with a half-deck” and doesn’t bother with the clubs or spades. That highlight, among others here, with obviously obligatory German commentary. Shaky bootleg video of the entire gang (unfortunately sans Gaga, the Wainwrights, or Antony) singing the night’s last tune, below.

U2, Courtney Love, and Scarlett Johansson to Play Gavin Friday’s Birthday

Sure, in ways, it’s an unlikely if disparate meshing of talent. But this concert, the latest in a series of events produced to fight the spread in AIDS in Africa as a part of (RED)NIGHTS, finds an anchor in celebrated singer-composer-painter Gavin Friday, a childhood friend of Bono. His band is among those performing. Other performers besides Johansson and Love include Antony Hegarty, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright (last seen celebrating Édith Piaf), Andrea Corr (yes, of those Corrs), Laurie Anderson, and perennial post-punk princess Lydia Lunch.

This event is also Bono’s way of saying, “Happy Birthday!” to Friday, who turns 50 this year. Friday’s last birthday present to the U2 frontman included “a crucifix, three nails and a hammer and…a letter saying ‘DIY.'” It turns out that even humanitarians can admire gallows humor.

Friday says of this eclectic cast of performers, “I have bumped into most of them over the years.… All of them in their own unique way are touched by greatness.” Of the show, he explains, “The show is tight but in a free-form way. Rehearsals will start to reveal the nature of the beast.” The revelry is produced and will be curated by none other than Hall Willner. It takes place at Carnegie Hall this Sunday and tickets can be procured here.

U2 Gets Their Way in New York

For one week (and one week only), New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is renaming the stretch of street at 53rd and Broadway “U2 Way” in honor of the five-night gig the band is playing on the Late Show with David Letterman. The section in question is the area where wannabe audience members line up to wait for the green light to head inside for the show. U2 showed their support for this precious piece of real estate by shoveling snow off the sidewalk earlier this week (see video clip above). Despite the lads’ good intentions, visitors should be advised that New York cabbies will recognize (or appreciate) passengers directing them to U2 Way.