Danger Mouse Talks Electric Guest

Electric Guest continues to grab attention within the music industry, and with good reason. With a unique sound and the backing of songwriter-producer Danger Mouse, it's no wonder the duo is resonating with audiences everywhere.

Read about Electric Guest in the Variance FutureSounds.

Danger Mouse himself recently penned a very heartfelt, emotional letter discussing the band and his involvement.

Read the full, unedited letter below:

Back in 2004 in LA a friend of mine asked if I'd give him my honest opinion of the music his little brother in Berkley, CA was making. He played me some instrumental tracks from a cd and I liked some of what I heard. I told him I thought it was good and that his brother should keep on working at it, there was something worth putting some work into and that he would surely get better. Eventually he asked me to talk to him on the phone and maybe give him some pointers or something. I did so and told him I'd listen to any new stuff he did. I guess there wasn't much else I could really do. I was on an indie label myself and even though I'd just done the Grey album, that didn't exactly pay me anything.

He sent me a few more CDs filled with instrumental tracks over the next year and they were getting better and better. I would send him a note or talk to him briefly about the music on the CDs that I liked. Eventually a year or so later, I was moving out of the house I shared with another musician and my friend's brother was looking to move to LA. Since me and my roommate had built a little home studio in the house, I figured my room would be perfect for my friend's brother, whom I still hadn't actually met yet. I offered him my little bedroom because it was the cheapest room in the house and when he decided to take it. After moving all of my stuff out I eventually met my friend's brother Asa.

I didn't really get to hang out with Asa very much or anything at first, but we would still run into each other from time to time and he would always have some new music he was making that he was excited about. And each time he played me stuff, I'd start to really think more and more that not only was he doing better and more interesting music than he probably even knew himself, but that I was being influenced by what he was playing me too. The thing is that he seemed to really love popular music, but somehow in his attempt to make his own music, some very odd and beautiful things were happening.

I never really asked him what his aspirations were, instead we just played each other music we were both working on and hoped the other would react excitedly when one of us played something special. I remember one time we were sitting in a car and playing music back and forth when he played a bunch of new instrumentals that were all over the place and knowing that he thought it was perfectly normal music. It wasn't. I decided not to even play the stuff I was working on for him because I myself hadn't really pushed hard enough in some of the stuff I was doing. The next time I saw him I was hoping to one up him and I played him some of what I thought was my more adventurous stuff that would eventually be on the first Gnarls Barkley album. He was one of the few people I thought would really get it and sure enough he did.

Around that time, Asa told me he had another new roommate, someone called Cornbread, who had moved into the house with him and some of the other musicians already living there. He said he was a great drummer and instrumentalist and that he'd been getting him to play on some of his demos. I hadn't really heard anything new from Asa in a while so I'd been pushing him to hear more stuff. He told me he wasn't really comfortable playing me what he'd been doing yet because he wasn't really sure about it. Eventually he said that he'd written a couple of songs that he thought maybe a girl could sing, so I sat down to listen. I heard the sound of a twinkling piano intro and then a huge drum roll and then the demo of "This Head I Hold" began. In came the vocals and I immediately asked him who the singer was. He said it was him, he'd never really recorded himself singing, but gave it a try. The demo was him singing scratch vocals into a dictaphone and it sounded amazing. He was very shy about it and was very surprised that I liked it so much. I was really blown away and was adamant that he'd better not give the songs away to someone else. He had to sing himself. So he did, and all of his demo recordings after that point had vocals on them. When he played me the demo of the song American Daydream he did with Cornbread (sounding pretty much as it sounds now) I was completely hooked, it was just so damn effortless. I played the demos over and over for more than a year and pushed him to do his own album.

Over the years I've listened to albums by the Shins, Sparklehorse, Cee-lo, the Black Keys and many others and jumped at the chances I had to work with and learn from them when I could. So after years of listening to and being influenced by what Asa was doing, I jumped at the chance to work with him when he decided to put an album together. He'd recorded lots of music himself, much of it with Cornbread helping out with some of the instrumentation and I thought I could maybe help out some way. It was not an easy album to make however. Asa seemed to be struggling with his transition to LA from the Bay Area. He was almost broke and we knew the album we were making wouldn't really fit into what was popular or indie or whatever. I played early demos for all the labels I'd been working with and none of them wanted to sign it, so we didn't really know what was going to happen if and when the album was finished. But we went ahead and recorded in my small studio, a converted lawyers office with a bunch of keyboards and a small mixing desk. So from around 2009-2011 Asa would come in with song ideas, many times with instrumentation he'd already started on in his bedroom, and then Cornbread would come join in the studio to help flesh things out. They worked really well together and the album sound started to really take shape.

After the album was done, I got a phone call from Asa. He was panicking and he told me that he couldn't do the whole thing. Singing was one thing, but he didn't think he could really perform. I could relate, I loved making music, but never wanted to be a performer either. After talking him off the ledge he put together a great live band with Cornbread and two brothers named Todd and Tory. He was looking for a band name and told me a story about an old new age woman he met at a donut shop while in high school. He said she told him that he was an electric guest from another planet or something like that. So he had his band name there, Electric Guest. Now the real work starts...

- Danger Mouse

fun. Makes History in Sixth Week at No. 1

fun.'s "We Are Young," featuring Janelle Monae, leads the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart for a sixth week. In doing so, it becomes the first song ever to log six weeks of 300,000 or more in digital sales. ("Young" also passes 3 million in digital sales to date, becoming the only song to the milestone this year.)

With 390,000 downloads sold in the April 2-8 tracking period, according to Nielsen SoundScan, "Young" is the first song ever to reach such a total in each of six weeks--consecutive or not. It passes the only other title to rack five weeks of sales of 300,000-plus: Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie," featuring Rihanna broke the barrier for five weeks non-consecutively in July/August 2010.

Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," featuring Kimbra, rises to No. 2, fueled by a 28% lift in downloads sold (to 311,000), which results in an identical 3-2 push on Digital Songs. On Radio Songs, the song climbs 16-12 (61 million, up 15%).

It's a milestone week for alternative music on the Hot 100. With "Young" and "Somebody" ranking at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, two Alternative Songs rank in the Hot 100's top two spots concurrently for the first time since the Alternative Songs chart launched the week of Sept. 10, 1988.

Justin's Bieber's "Boyfriend," meanwhile, falls 2-5 on the Hot 100 after its impressive debut. The song declines by 43% in digital sales to 295,000. At No. 3 on the Hot 100, The Wanted rises from No. 4 with "Glad You Came." With back-to-back U.K. male vocal groups in the Hot 100's top five, One Direction zooms 9-4 with "What Makes You Beautiful." (The group's performance on NBC's Saturday Night Live last week likely didn't hurt.)

Gotye's "Somebody" was covered by Fox's Glee on Tuesday. The song has since crowned the iTunes Top Songs, followed by fun.'s "Young." Gotye will himself perform on SNL this Saturday, and if One Direction's fortune last week (jumping 9-4) is any indicator, the bout for No. 1 may be one to watch on next week's charts.

CHARTS: Minaj on Top; fun. and Gotye Hold Bieber

Nicki Minaj scores her second No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 as Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded debuts atop the list with 253,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That's a slightly better-than-expected sales figure, as industry sources had suggested last week that the album was on course for a launch somewhere in the 215,000 to 235,000 range.

Rascal Flatts' Changed starts in the No. 3 slot, giving the country group its eighth top 10 on the Billboard 200 and seventh No. 1 on the Country Albums chart. Sandwiched between Minaj and Rascal Flatts is Adele's 21 album.

At No. 6, rock band Of Monsters and Men's debut album My Head Is An Animal starts with 55,000. The set's single "Little Talks" rises 11-6 on the Alternative Songs airplay chart this week. (Read Variance's review of the album in the April issue.)

Over on the Digital Songs chart, fun.'s "We Are Young" (feat. Janelle Monae) regains the No. 1 slot (up one) with 390,000 (up 7%) while last week's leader, Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend," falls to No. 3. Meanwhile, Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" (feat. Kimbra) climbs 3-2 (311,000; up 28%).

Overall album sales in this past chart week (ending April 8) totaled 6.40 million units, up 4% compared to the sum last week (6.16 million) and up 9% compared to the comparable sales week of 2011 (5.87 million). Year to date album sales stand at 84.23 million, up 1% compared to the same total at this point last year (83.69 million).

Digital track sales this past week totaled 29.12 million downloads, up 9% compared to last week (26.68 million) and up 26% stacked next to the comparable week of 2011 (23.17 million). Year to date track sales are at 390.44 million, up 8% compared to the same total at this point last year (362.28 million).

Read the April cover story on Gotye.

Mac Miller to Release Three More Projects in 2012

After his first studio album, Blue Slide Park, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, 20-year-old Mac Miller turned into a poster boy of success for indie rappers everywhere. "[I don't feel] pressure from other people, but from myself. I have big expectations for myself," he told Billboard, minutes before his performance at Paid Dues Festival this past weekend.

Last month, the 20 yr. old dropped his Macadelic mixtape and the rest of 2012 will find Mac putting out three projects by year's end, the details of which are still under wraps. "I'm doing three collaborative projects before the end of this year," said Miller. "One is coming out soon, I can't tell you [about them] but they're all crazy, they're all really dope. I think that's just what I need to do right now, just explore, and expand, and make music with other people."

Mac Miller will continue the domestic leg of his 'Macadelic Tour' through May 2012 before taking the show overseas.

Read the full story from Billboard.

Playlist: Best Tracks Vol. 1

Playlists can be nice at times, whether you're wanting to discover new music or just have a good continuous stream of sounds. We're pretty big fans of them, which is why we decided to share ours with you. Our first (aka Vol. 1) features the likes of Tennis, Electric Guest and Miike Snow--all of whom are featured in this month's issue of Variance.

We tried to include some of our favorites (Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix, etc.) but, as you're probably aware, the hardest part of creating playlists is choosing the songs.

Listen to our playlist here (you'll need to enable Spotify):

EXCLUSIVE: Stream the New George Sarah Album

You may not know the name George Sarah, but chances are good that you’ve heard his music.

In his thirteen years as a professional electronic composer and multi-instrumentalist, Sarah’s music has been featured everywhere from CSI to the Beijing Olympics. Sarah has eight full length releases to his credit, and his music has appeared on over 40 compilations. He’s performed at UCLA’s Royce Hall, The Getty Museum, and Grand Performances, appearing with a diverse group of artists ranging from Bebel Gilberto to Goldfrapp (performing his original compositions from a bank of synthesizers alongside live string section, bridging the normally discrete musical worlds of electronic and classical).

With the release of Who Sleep The Sleep Of Peace, Sarah collects the best of his recent work into an album that will captivate listeners from beginning to end. From the opening track, “Anna," Sarah takes listeners on a sonic journey through a world where stuttering, glitch breaks flit underneath yearning cellos, Tropicalia is reinterpreted for an 8-bit reality, and a beat boxing robot with blown speakers gets a warm hug from an elegant string section.

With an epically busy schedule of film and TV work, it’s hard to imagine Sarah finding the time to craft a record of his own music. Yet in this case effort begets effort. He states: “A long stint on a project will get me inspired to write personal songs. I think when I’m in the habit of recording all day it’s hard to stop. I scored 28 episodes for the Discovery network in an 18 month period and when I was done I wrote a ton of material.”

George Sarah's new album, Who Sleep The Sleep of Peace, releases on April 17, but you can listen to it in its entirety here.

Ryan Adams to Release iTunes Session

Ryan Adams is set to release his first-ever iTunes Session on April 24 with a preorder available today on the iTunes Store. The set captures eight stunning solo performances by Adams that were recorded at the historic Capitol Studios in Hollywood. The track listing features a mix of Adams' classics from his 2000 solo debut Heartbreaker, the Whiskeytown era “Houses On The Hill,” and songs from his acclaimed new album Ashes & Fire, including the No. 1 AAA radio hit “Lucky Now.”

The session also includes a cover of Bob Mould’s “Black Sheets of Rain,” which Adams performed at a Mould tribute concert in Los Angeles last year.

The track listing for Adams’ iTunes Session is as follows:
1. Dirty Rain
2. Oh My Sweet Carolina
3. Lucky Now
4. Houses on The Hill
5. Black Sheets of Rain
6. Chains of Love
7. Ashes and Fire
8. My Winding Wheel

Justin Vernon Working on Album with Rapper Astronautalis

The Minneapolis City Pages is reporting that Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has formed a new band with the folksy indie-rapper Astronautalis and that the two began recording a new album this past weekend. The collaboration also includes Gayngs mastermind Ryan Olson and Bon Iver drummer/solo artist S. Carey.

According to the City Pages, Astronautalis claims that the collaboration won’t just be him rapping and Vernon singing hooks, and that it may only sound like a rap album to a certain degree: “There may be tracks where I freestyle for hours and hours, and we may end up using four words.”

Astronautalis has begun posting updates from the recording sessions on his Tumblr.

What do you think? Will you listen?

Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music to Release Single This Friday

Good Friday just got a little more G.O.O.D., as Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label will release a new single, "Mercy," on Friday, April 6. The track will presumably preview the upcoming G.O.O.D. Music group album.

News of the single came via Pusha T, the Clipse rapper who is currently working on his official debut album for the Def Jam imprint. "April 6th is GOOD Friday… 'MERCY' drops.." he posted on Twitter.

fun. Fends Off Bieber, Lands at No. 1 for Fifth Week

fun.'s "We Are Young," feat. Janelle Monae, tops the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart for a fifth week, just holding off Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend," which debuts at No. 2 with the second-highest-ever debut digital sales week at 521,000 first-week downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"Boyfriend" likewise logs an impressive first week of airplay, debuting at No. 24 on the Radio Songs chart with 40 million audience impressions, according to Nielsen BDS. With its No. 2 start, Bieber notches his highest Hot 100 placement. He had previously ranked as high as No. 5 when "Baby" debuted (and peaked) at No. 5 the week of Feb. 6, 2010.

A notable factor in the chart battle between "Boyfriend" and "Young" is the latter song's upper hand in streaming. "Young" remains atop the On-Demand Songs chart with 1.18 million on-demand streams (flat from last week) in the chart's tracking week, according to BDS.

Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," feat. Kimbra, rises 4-3. The collaboration, which tops Alternative Songs for a seventh consecutive week, gained 17% to 244,000 downloads sold. It advances 20-16 on Radio Songs (52 million, up 23%) and remains at No. 2 on On-Demand Songs (961,000, up 10%).

Rounding out the Hot 100 are U.K. boy band The Wanted, slipping 3-4 with "Glad You Came," and Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger."

Read the Variance cover story on Gotye.

Read the Variance cover story on fun.

Spotlight: 14-Year-Old Singer Macy Medford on the Rise

In today’s music world, age is no longer a factor when it comes to rising stars in youth culture. With teenaged acts like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez in the spotlight, many young people have become inspired— or simply more determined—to be ranked among the best of them. Texas pop sensation Macy Medford, 14, is one of those destined to be heard.

Performing arts played a significant role for Medford at a young age, helping in her personal discovery to being a well-rounded artist. “I got started in music when I did the school talent show in second grade, and I [played] Annie,” says Medford. “I also love writing poetry, so that is how I got started writing my own music.”

Medford connected with award-winning writer-producers Jonathan George and Anthony Mazza. Together they created a collection of tracks for her album, Crazy ‘Bout You. Her hit single on the record, “Just Me and You,” landed the No. 1 spot on the Tween Pop Radio charts the week of its debut. The song has also been appropriately paired with a music video that personifies its carefree melody.

With Medford’s bubbly personality and high-spirited songs, she surprisingly links her pop tunes with more mature genres. “My music is unique because it has a very jazzy, bluesy sound mixed with pop,” Medford explains. “Etta James, Norah Jones and Michael Buble inspire me in my music because I love their bluesy sounds. They are what made me want to sing jazz music.”

Read the full story and more in the current issue of Variance.

Fiona Apple Announces Album Release Date

Fiona Apple's return will come on June 26, the singer revealed on her Facebook page on Monday.

Her fourth album, the ambitiously titled "The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do," will offer 10 new tracks, including several debuted during her recent tour dates. The dates, which kicked off at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas, in March, have been Apple's first shows outside of L.A. in five years.

She also shared the new album's cover art, a sketched, multi-colored face with elements of abstract design.

Read the full story from Billboard.

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