Passion Pit & Wanda Jackson Review

Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos joins Jim and Greg in the studio for a frank conversation and live performance.

Michael Angelakos
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Foes of digital music have often cited streaming services like Pandora as the reason for the demise of the middle-of-the-road musician. Sure, artists like Drake and Coldplay can succeed, but what about everyone else? Well, Tim Westergren, Pandora’s founder has revealed some surprising sales numbers that put this idea to rest. He says Pandora pays over 2,000 artists more than $10,000 a year, and over 800 artists make $50,000. Of course, it’s only the Adeles of the world that can rake in $1 million, but that still bodes pretty well for many working musicians.

Michael Angelakos

This week, Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos is in the studio with Jim and Greg for a frank conversation and stripped-back live set. As Michael tells Jim and Greg, the band began with a belated Valentine’s Day present. Angelakos - then a student at Boston’s Emerson College - posted a track he’d written for his girlfriend to MySpace. Sleepyhead quickly exploded on the net. Passion Pit have since released two critically acclaimed albums and toured the world. Their latest release, Gossamer combines upbeat dance tracks and high production values with lyrics that explore Angelakos’s own experience with addiction and mental illness. (As Michael tells Jim and Greg, the band had to cancel dates this year so that he could deal with issues related to his manic depression). The contrast between upbeat music and dark lyrics, Michael explains, is what he’s always found interesting in pop music, and it’s the key to the Passion Pit project. Despite Gossamer’s harrowing content, Michael says the album is ultimately hopeful - an effort to achieve transcendence amid tough circumstances.

Unfinished Business Wanda Jackson

Unfinished Business

Wanda Jackson, Queen of Rockabilly since 1954, is out with a new album. Unfinished Business - like last year’s The Party Ain’t Over - is produced by a young fan. This time, Jim explains, it’s Justin Townes Earle, not Jack White, at the helm. Neither Jim nor Greg was a fan of the Caribbean-flavored, White-produced The Party Ain’t Over. Does Earle fare better? Greg says yes. You have to remember, he says, that in addition to being rockabilly royalty, Jackson has a background in country and gospel. She sounds perfectly at home covering artists like Freddy King and Etta James. Greg gives Unfinished Business a Buy It. Jim agrees that Earle played it smart by keeping Wanda in her comfort zone and allowing her feistiness to shine through. But he says there are three or four other Jackson albums he’d recommend over this one. He gives Unfinished Business a Try It.

Greg

As the presidential election approaches, Greg’s thoughts turn to the terrific L.A. band X. For this week’s DIJ, he picks The New World, the leadoff track on the band’s 1983 album, More Fun in the New World. For Greg, this song perfectly reflects the meaning (or lack thereof) of a presidential election for society’s have-nots. In the song, X takes the perspective of a politically apathetic homeless person. Whoever wins the election, he explains, nothing really changes for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. But the song’s narrator doesn’t totally lose hope. In the chorus he urges the politicians of the day: Don’t forget the motor city!

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