Regina Spektor Releases New Album ‘Remember Us To Life’

Singer/Songwriter Regina Spektor performs at the 10th Annual Global Women's Rights Awards at Pacific Design Center on May 18, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/WireImage)
(Earl Gibson III/WireImage)

 

Regina Spektor is back with another musically eclectic and lyrically thoughtful album, entitled “Remember Us To Life.” Her Friday release is the follow up to the singer-songwriter’s previous release four years ago, “What We Saw From the Cheap Seats.”

Russian-born and New York-raised, Spektor lived in Moscow until she was nine when her family fled the Soviet Union for the Bronx.

Both of her parents are musicians, and she grew up playing the piano. Her instrumentation today both references her classical music training and also goes experimental with synths, beatboxing, and unusual vocal techniques. As a lyricist, Spektor is at turns wise and silly and fantastical, drawing heavily from the storytelling tropes of folklore and literature.

She self-released her first three records, and slowly gained momentum in New York City’s independent music scenes at the turn of the 21st century. Spektor eventually signed with Sire Records, now a subset of Warner Bros, in 2004, who re-released her third album, “Soviet Kitsch.”

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guest Regina Spektor during Tuesday's 9/27/16 show in New York. (Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guest Regina Spektor during Tuesday’s 9/27/16 show in New York. (Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)

 

Her next album, “Begin to Hope” (2006), would eventually go gold, with the single “Fidelity” turning into a breakout hit. Around this time, she opened for the band The Strokes — they collaborated on a song, “Modern Girls and Old-Fashioned Men” — followed by an opening stint for the Kings of Leon. Her next two albums, “Far” (2009) and “What We Saw from the Cheap Seats” (2012), each debuted on the Billboard charts.

The music website Consequence of Sound stated: “Spektor depicts pain honestly: messy, unpredictable, circuitous” and added that “some of Spektor’s best music ran on wonder, storytelling, and a childlike optimism.” The New York Times described her in 2012 as someone who “released a torrent of feeling.”

She produced the Grammy-nominated theme song for the television series “Orange Is the New Black,” and her songs have played on multiple dramatic TV scene soundtracks (“The Good Wife,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Weeds,” “Veronica Mars” amongst them). President Obama invited her to perform at the White House in 2010.

Her newest and seventh album is “arguably her most adventurous one yet,” says Esquire. She shared the first single, “Bleeding Heart,” in July, along with the complete tracklist and the cover art, followed by “Small Bill$” in August and the ballad “Black & White” earlier this month. Listen to the full album below. —Relaxnews

R.E.M.’s ‘Out of Time’ Gets Deluxe 25th Anniversary Reissue

R.E.M. Out of Time
Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Michael Stipe, and Mike Mills holding their awards at the 1992 Grammy Awards (David Mcgough/DMI/The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images)

 

Having basically owned college rock radio in the 1980s, Athens, Georgia’s R.E.M.—featuring Michael Stipe (lead vocals), Peter Buck (lead guitar), Mike Mills (bass/backing vocals), and Bill Berry (drums)—went on to become one of the most influential rock acts of all time. At first borrowing heavily from the ’60s folk-rock movement (led by Buck’s 12-string Rickenbacker antics), the band slowly came into its own, developing their own sound—one that might be best described, sonically, by 1986’s “Fall on Me,” one of their first commercial hits.

But true worldwide success wouldn’t find them until 1991’s Out of Time, when the band finally pulverized the barrier between the indie and mainstream rock worlds (sort of like what contemporaries Nirvana did the same year with punk music). Shooting to No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, the album would spawn monster singles in “Losing My Religion” and “Shiny Happy People,” and go on to sell 18 million copies worldwide. The following year, Out of Time struck gold at the ’92 Grammys, winning “Best Alternative Music Album,” and a pair of statues for “Losing My Religion” (see image above).

R.E.M. photographed in Chicago, Il. during July of 1984. (Paul Natkin/WireImage)
R.E.M. photographed in Chicago, Il. during July of 1984. (Paul Natkin/WireImage)

 

On Nov. 18, Out of Time will be getting the deluxe reissue treatment to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Among the goodies on the reissue are a number of never-before-heard demos, outtakes, and a complete live show from Mountain Stage. One of those demos features a rare vocal performance by drummer Bill Berry on an early version of “Radio Song,” which would eventually feature hip-hop legend KRS-One (and no Berry). Listen to it below. Also, read Entertainment Weekly‘s original (and surprisingly, average) review of the album here. (Boy, did they ever get that one wrong.)

Tommie Smith Reveals a New Secret Nearly 50 Years After Iconic Protest

Tommie Smith
A jubilant American long sprinter Tommie Smith raises his arms as he crosses the finish line to set a new world and Olympic record at the 19th Olympics in Mexico City, October 17, 1968. (Agence France Presse/Getty Images)

 

Everybody’s seen the photo. On the medal podium for the 200-meter sprint at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, American teammates Tommie Smith, who won the gold, and John Carlos, the bronze, raising their black-gloved fists in silent protest. What they were protesting was the state of race relations at the time—something that’s recently made it back into the national news cycle.

Since San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem at a preseason game, a number of players have spoken out or followed Kaepernick’s lead, including at least one player raising a fist.

But as NPR‘s Tom Goldman recently noted, in contacting Smith to discuss his famous protest (in the context of the current climate), he “realized [he] had never heard Smith talk about the race he won in Mexico City.” Of course, out came a nifty nugget: Smith had actually run the race in 19.78—Usain Bolt’s time in the 200-meter during August’s Olympic Games in Rio. That goes counter to what the record books read for Smith’s race: 19.83. (Watch the video of the race here, and you’ll note that his time is clearly 19.78.)

Listen to Smith on this side of the story that’s gone unnoticed for nearly 50 years.

Listen to an Eyewitness Account of the Deadly ‘Great Blizzard of 1888’

Blizzard of 1888
Workers dig out the snow from underneath an elevated train line in New York City after the blizzard of 1888 (Bettmann/Contributor)

With summer nearly over and fall fast approaching, before you know it, it’ll be the dead of winter. (We like to be realists here at RealClearLife.) For those of you who call the East Coast home, that will likely mean ear-biting cold, slicks of ice under foot, and depending on the year, torrents of snow.

For those of you who have been caught in a blizzard in New York City or New England, you’ll know that despite the city government’s best efforts, the aftermath is somewhere close to pandemonium: Subway service is spotty, the streets are caked to the hilt with soot-infused snow, and spinouts and accidents happen everywhere.

Now, imagine that happening well before modernity kicked in—when horse-drawn carriages still roamed the streets of the Big Apple and New England.

Between March 11–14, 1888, the Eastern part of the U.S. got pummeled with one of the deadliest snowstorms in history, one that killed 400-plus people and dumped 55 inches of snow on some areas. In New York City alone, the storm killed 200, with 21 inches of snow falling over three days and wind gusts reaching 85 mph as it brought the city to a standstill. One major outcome of the event was that city officials—fearing another catastrophic snowstorm in the future—ended up moving many of its utilities below ground.

What was it like to live through the event? Albert Hunt gave this eyewitness account in 1949 of his memories of the blizzard, as it happened in the New England town of Winsted, Connecticut. Watch the clip below.

President Obama’s Final Summer Playlist Chock-Full of Indie Artists

President Barack Obama
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

 

On his last summer vacation as sitting president of the United States, Barack Obama released his latest Spotify playlist—a digital double-album’s worth of tracks—which immediately went to No. 1 on the streaming service (not a small feat, when the Adeles and Biebers of the world beckon).

Separated into “daytime” and “nighttime” playlists, the president’s list seems to err on the side of up-and-comer indie artists, with a multicultural (and multinational) mix of genres. For example, in the “daytime” mix, he’s got Aussie newcomer Courtney Barnett’s “Elevator Operator” (listen below) bundled on the same list as The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.”

Since RealClearLife knows that not everyone on earth has a Spotify account, we figured we’d curate our own list of Obama’s 10 best tracks—five from “daytime,” five from “nighttime”—below. Click on the videos to listen, or watch and listen.

‘Daytime’ Playlist

 

 

 

‘Nighttime’ Playlist


                    
To see all of the president’s picks, click here. (To take a look at his playlist from last summer, click here.)

The Science Behind Frigatebird’s Ability to Fly for Weeks Without Stopping

A great frigate bird flying over Galapagos, Island (Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
A great frigatebird flying over the Galapagos Islands (Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

 

Like many of the organisms that call the Galápagos Islands home, the frigatebird is a fascinating animal with truly unique attributes. Males have bright red inflatable pouches used for mating rituals. Their wingspans average around six feet long. Yet, despite primarily living around the water most of their lives, frigatebirds cannot land on it because their feathers aren’t waterproof.

This creates an air of mystery around the birds since much of their lives are spent at sea, far from the scientists that wish to observe them. How did they migrate such long distances, say from the Galápagos Islands to continental South America, without landing in the ocean? Surprisingly, the answer was above us all along: clouds.

Magnificent frigatebird soaring in updrafts associated with cumulus congestus clouds, Fregata magificens, Mona Island, Mona Passage, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, USA, (Photo by Wild Horizons/UIG via Getty Images)
Magnificent frigatebird soaring in updrafts associated with cumulus clouds. (Wild Horizons/UIG via Getty Images)

 

A new study has found that frigatebirds use the warm updrafts that help form cumulus clouds over the ocean to stay aloft for as long as a month at a time. The updrafts can carry the frigatebirds as high as 12,000 feet, allowing them to travel 300 miles a day for weeks at a time. By using the warm rising winds, a bird can travel as far as 40 miles without a single flap of its wings. To learn more about the study and the science behind frigatebirds’ ability to cover remarkable distances, listen to this clip from NPR‘s “All Things Considered” below.

Top Five Songs on Billboard This Week That You Should Listen To

Sia
Sia performs onstage at the 2016 Coachella festival in Indio, California. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)

 

We know you like music. But it’s a hassle keeping up with what the next big thing is—or what you should be streaming at your next backyard barbecue. So RealClearLife has made it easy on you. Like a digital Casey Kasem, we’re counting down the top five songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart—and taking it a step further, introducing you to the musicians or groups that are producing them. All you have to do is sit back and relax.

Sia (featuring Sean Paul), “Cheap Thrills” – Aussie singer-songwriter Sia first broke onto the scene in 2004, with the tune “Breathe Me,” which famously played during the series finale of HBO’s Six Feet Under. In the years following that she went largely unnoticed as a solo artist, but gained traction as a songwriter for acts like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Flo Rida. She finally had her breakout as a solo artist in 2014, with 1000 Forms of Fear, which included chart smashes like “Chandelier.” Her current No. 1 single is from the follow-up album, This Is Acting, which also includes songs co-written with big-name artists such as Adele and Kanye West.

Major Lazer (featuring Justin Bieber), “Cold Water” – The group recently made headlines when First Daughter Malia Obama skipped out on indie rock greats Radiohead to watch Major Lazer instead at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago. (The two acts were playing at the same time.) Founded by electronica producer Diplo in 2011, the group’s latest single, “Cold Water”—featuring Canadian pop prince Justin Bieber—is from their forthcoming fourth studio album, Music Is the Weapon.

Drake (featuring WizKid and Kyla), “One Dance” – You’ve already read about Drake’s brand of Canadian whiskey and fashion sense on RealClearLife. So it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine yourself swilling Drake’s drink in Drake’s clothes, listening to Drake’s song—which has already made a pass at No. 1 on the Hot 100—while flipping through our site. It’s from his fourth studio album, Views, and has been on the charts since April.

Calvin Harris (featuring Rihanna), “This Is What You Came For” – Everybody knows Harris as being Taylor Swift’s ex-boyfriend. But not everybody’s hip to the fact that Swift wrote his latest hit single under a pseudonym. (Not a bad parting gift, we might add.) For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, Harris is a Scottish DJ, producer, and songwriter, who’s put together his own successful career. “This Is What You Came For” is a non-album single, which has been charting since April as well.

Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” – If you missed out on Timberlake’s boy band career as part of NSYNC (and boy toy of Britney Spears), you’ve done yourself a gigantic favor. His career as an actor and solo artist, on the other hand, have been far more revealing and enjoyable. Check him out in 2010’s The Social Network and 2013’s critically acclaimed Coen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis. Or listen to his breakout on 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, when he literally brought sexy back. Ten years later, he’s got a top-five single from the soundtrack to Trolls, in which he voices the lead character. Talk about getting the best of both worlds.

Mandolin Master Composes Concerto for Instagram

Avi Avital
Avi Avital performing live in Berlin in 2015 (Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images)

Listen to New Music From Breakout Irish Folk Artist James Vincent McMorrow

James Vincent McMorrow
James Vincent McMorrow performs at Sala Apolo in 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Jordi Vidal/Redferns via Getty Images)

 

If you’re from Ireland, James Vincent McMorrow is a household name; his 2010 debut, Early In The Morning, reached No. 1 there and has since gone platinum. In the vein of ethereal-voiced troubadours like America’s Bon Iver and countryman Damien Rice, McMorrow’s stripped-down acoustic folk has found a home at sold-out venues including the famed Sydney Opera House. Having surpassed 100 million streams on Spotify, McMorrow is now poised for a major breakthrough Stateside.

Listen to the opening track, “Rising Water,” from the forthcoming We Move out on Caroline Records on September 2. Catch McMorrow on a U.S. tour beginning on November 7. To learn more about the singer-songwriter, read a recent interview McMorrow did with The Fader here.

Pixies Drop New Single ‘Um Chagga Lagga’

Pixies
The Pixies are (from left) Paz Lenchantin, David Lovering, Joey Santiago, Black Francis (Travis Shinn)

 

Legendary Boston indie band the Pixies, who have influenced countless mainstream acts such as Nirvana and Radiohead, announced their sixth studio album, Head Carrier, set to be released on Sept. 30. (It’s the band’s second since the departure of founding member Kim Deal). The band also kicked off a European tour on July 14, which runs until the end of November. Listen to the band’s first single from Head Carrier, “Um Chagga Lagga,” below. Not familiar with the Pixies’ music? At the bottom, watch the video for their tune “Here Comes Your Man” from 1989’s Doolittle.

Indie Rocker Dave Godowsky Releases Sophomore Album, ‘Pregret’

Dave Godowsky
(Courtesy of Dave Godowsky)

 

Indie singer-songwriter Dave Godowsky has released his sophomore album, Pregret, following up 2013’s All You Love Is Need. In the vein of alt-rocker Ben Folds, the Brooklyn-based musician—who moonlights as an artist manager for bands like Speedy Ortiz and Field Report—spent seven years producing the album. It features guest vocals from Counting Crows’ frontman Adam Duritz and British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas. Stream the entire album below.

The Story Behind Dolly Parton’s Haunting Ballad ‘Jolene’

Dolly Parton
(Gems/Redferns)

In a recent NPR interview, Dolly Parton talked at length about the night she met the inspiration for her famous ballad, “Jolene.” (It’s probably not what you were expecting.) Here’s what Parton had to say:

“One night, I was on stage, and there was this beautiful little girl—she was probably 8 years old at the time….And she had this beautiful red hair, this beautiful skin, these beautiful green eyes, and she was looking up at me, holding, you know, for an autograph. I said, ‘Well, you’re the prettiest little thing I ever saw. So what is your name?’ And she said, ‘Jolene.’ And I said, ‘Jolene. Jolene. Jolene. Jolene.’ I said, ‘That is pretty. That sounds like a song. I’m going to write a song about that.'”

The rest is history. The No. 1 country single, released in 1973, has since been covered by 30 singers worldwide. Below, listen to the original, along with four fantastic covers RealClearLife dug up for your listening pleasure.

The White Stripes – Live at the Glastonbury Festival in 2002

Norah Jones – Live at Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit in 2011

Miley Cyrus – “The Backyard Sessions” in 2012

Ellie Goulding – 2009