Lorne Michaels Breaks His Silence on Kanye West Yelling About SNL’s Set Change: “He’s an Artist, You Know?”

Lorne MichaelsLorne Michaels has seen it all in his many years at Saturday Night Live.
So, when Kanye West freaked out after his set had been tampered with on Feb. 13, Michaels wasn’t worried about…

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Best NEWS: Taylor Swift Just Bought a Bunch of Porn Sites With Her Name on Them—Find Out Why

What’s in a name? Oh, you know, just millions and jillions of dollars for someone like Taylor Swift. The pop star reportedly purchased several adult websites with her moniker on them…

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Ty Segall / Ty Segall Band: Mr. Face EP/Live in San Francisco

Pity the poor live album. In the era of streaming video, smartphones, and extensive fan-driven digital archiving, their utility has diminished. Amid so much constantly accumulating data, it’s difficult for a single concert—particularly one that you did not personally attend—to feel at all remarkable. And let’s be real: the old problems remain unresolved. With the exception of the Grateful Dead, no band’s live record is its best record.

Castle Face Records’ Live in San Francisco series is an outlier, though. It’s not so much about a single artist as a whole scene. Over the last couple of years, the label has released a number of concert recordings capturing the bests acts in—or intimately involved with—the Bay Area’s garage and psych-rock community, including sets from OBN IIIs, White Fence, and Icky Boyfriends. The performances are usually recorded to a Tascam 388 tape machine, which imbues the recordings with a grit-heavy feel that’s not too distant from the band’s “studio” albums. 

Ty Segall Band’s Live in San Francisco is the fifth installment in the series. This isn’t his first live record (that was 2011’s Live in Aisle Five) and it’s not even his first appearance in the series (his prog-loving side project, Fuzz, was also included), but it’s an important addition. Along with Castle Face co-founder John Dwyer and his band Thee Oh Sees, Segall was a defining voice in the city’s late ’00s garage rock bubble and he and Dwyer are also, arguably, its most popular exports. And while it’s clear that Segall is prolific—he’s put out a double LP and a singles collection just within the last six months—this record isn’t filler.

Like a garage-rock version of Prince, Segall performs almost all of the music on his LPs alone, yet his live band—which includes drummer Emily Rose Epstein, guitarist Charles Mootheart, and bassist Mikal Cronin—is no joke. Having toured extensively for the last four years, they’ve tightened up into a be-all, end-all rock’n’roll group with the volatility and spirit to match choice ’70s sweathogs like the Coloured Balls or Groundhogs.

The set list draws heavily from 2011’s full-band album, Slaughterhouse, along with a few of the heavier cuts from the last handful of Segall’s solo records. These live takes are, for the most part, harsher, nastier, and faster than their studio versions. The song “Feel” appeared on last year’s double LP Manipulator with a considerably more polished presentation. The version on Live in San Francisco is unhinged—abandoning nuance for five minutes of gale force choogle.

Some of the other entries in Castle Face’s live series have encouraged spontaneity via covers or drawn-out jams. Regrettably, there’s not much of that to be found on Live in San Francisco. Here Segall and his band perform the songs pretty much as written, only louder. It isn’t Segall’s best record, but it’s worthwhile if only in that it documents the whole crew playing together at the peak of their ability.

And because, you know, why stop there: this month also sees the release of Segall’s Mr. Face EP. On Manipulator, Segall attempted to dial in an ambitious high-gloss classic rock masterpiece, complete with string section. Mr. Face is more or less back to business as usual—four songs that find Segall returning to the hazy mid-fi sound of his 2010 LP, Melted.

Available digitally and also as a pair of 7” singles—which come with 3D glasses—the four songs are pleasant enough, but in comparison to the unruly sounds on Live in San Francisco, it feels like a bit of an afterthought. At this point, Segall can write this kind of lightly dazed, psychedelic pop with about as much effort as most people expend while checking their e-mail. If anything, Mr. Face is enough to tide you over until the next Segall record which, as always, can’t be all that far off.

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Kleerup: As If We Never Won

Andreas Kleerup might turn out to have been the Zelig of late-’00s Swedish dance-pop. The Stockholm producer’s surname originally appeared as the main artist on late-2006 single “With Every Heartbeat”, a string-draped beat ballad that went on to become a UK No. 1 for Robyn. His 2008 album, simply titled Kleerup, gave an early glimpse of now-U2-collaborator Lykke Li broadening the coy range of her debut album earlier that year. Neneh Cherry? The Swedish-born pop innovator made herself at home on Kleerup’s debut, too. Throw in connections to the Concretes (whose Lisa Millberg guests on Kleerup) and the Tough Alliance (his group the Meat Boys remixed 2004’s “Holiday”) and this erstwhile drummer is six degrees from just about any Swede you’d care to name. Going beyond Scandinavia for a second: Did I mention he did a remix for Lady Gaga?

Kleerup’s first major release since his self-titled debut went international in 2009 shows he still has fine taste in friends, but it’s a bit like being introduced to perfectly nice people at a party where the host isn’t able or willing to help explain what you have in common. As If We Never Won, the first of two mini-albums Kleerup plans to release in the next couple of years, once again fixes undeniably talented Swedish vocalists to unabashedly warm-blooded synth-pop. This time, though, the combination just doesn’t result in songs as fresh and appealing as “With Every Heartbeat” or Lykke Li team-up “Until It Bleeds”; Kleerup doesn’t turn out to be endlessly adaptable to the artists he’s with, after all. The result is a pleasant yet also mildly puzzling stopgap that fails either to show newcomers what all the original fuss was about or longtime fans why a proper follow-up has taken so long.

Despite the long gap since Kleerup, that album’s ’80s-immersed spaciousness has remained a common characteristic in more recent pop. So it’s not that Kleerup sounds behind the times when he delves into operatic Euro disco with M83/Röyksopp vocalist Susanne Sundfør on “Let Me In”—though the song’s video, which mainly focuses on Kleerup and his gear, through occasional colored effects, may speak to where his aesthetic is at these days. He broadens his palette a bit, too: “Rock U”, a smoky collaboration with Niki and the Dove‘s Malin Dahlstrom, winds up somewhere between the new Stevie Nicks album and Haim‘s “Forever (Giorgio Moroder (Remix)”. And an appearance by constantly underrated former First Floor Power singer Jenny Wilson is always welcome, arriving here in the cryptic, mournful pulse of “To Die For”. 

Still, it’s hard to shake the sense these all would have been lesser cuts on the debut album, and nothing here lifts the full record out of its malaise. Opening instrumental “Sad Boys”, another one in the MoroderCerrone tradition, works as a continuation of Kleerup-closing “I Just Want to Make That Sad Boy Smile” (sorry, anyone reading this hoping for a Yung Lean tie-in). Kleerup’s serviceable coo fails to catch a spark in the title track’s vocoder-brooding duet with the Sounds’ Maja Ivarsson, as the two exchange generic phrases (“I’ll never let you down / I’ll keep on breaking down/ Signed, sealed, whatever”). Most perplexing of all is the finale, “Thank God for Sending Demons”, a hoarse-voiced acoustic dirge that shares its title with a 2011 song by another Kleerup band, Me and My Army, but isn’t a recognizable cover. At some point along the six degrees of separation, a true sense of connection has been lost.

Kleerup was, however, wise to use the mini-album format. The setting has recently been good to artists from the Knife and Röyksopp / Robyn to Best Coast, and it’s a reasonable length for a Kleerup release in an era when there’s no need to fill out an entire CD (my CD version of the first album isn’t even that old, yet my computer can’t play it anymore—MP3s prevail!). But the lack of time to get lost in a record’s particular world makes it all the more important to have songs that resonate in their own right. Kleerup has been busier than you might’ve thought since 2008—along with the folk-leaning Me and My Army, he released a Sweden-only Kleerup full-length, 2012’s Aniara—so it’s possible he’s saving his best stuff for the next mini-album. For now, those interested in hearing the most essential post-Kleerup Kleerup music should probably go back to his production for Robyn on “In My Eyes”, from 2010’s Body Talk: “You put your dancing shoes on, and you do it again.” Or,  you know, kick off your Sunday shoes, whatever.

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Kate Middleton Announces New Patronage, Pregnant Duchess Supports Sailing-Themed 1851 Trust

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate MiddletonKate Middleton’s already got a lot on her plate—what with her countless official engagements and oh, you know, the fact that she’s expecting a second child with Prince…

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