Inside The Collection: Progressive Bluegrass

You know how music can bring back a flood of old memories, emotions and even certain smells or tastes? Building Pandora’s Progressive Bluegrass station totally did that to me. I was introduced to the genre by way of San Francisco’s beloved Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival – an annual weekend-long concert in Golden Gate Park featuring traditional bluegrass bands, non-traditional bluegrass bands and everything in between. I’ve been attending almost every year since its 2001 inception. Because the event always happens the first weekend of October, just listening to David Grisman, Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers, Carolina Chocolate Drops or Robert Plant & Alison Krauss brings back all kinds of autumnal vibes – the shedding trees, a crisper coastal air and darker beers.

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 11.49.52 AMThe first time I’d ever heard there was a music genre called “progressive bluegrass,” I admittedly envisioned the guys in Rush playing banjos and fiddles. Up until then, the only time I’d ever heard the word “progressive” used in relation to music was when describing prog-rock. Bob Dylan went electric at Newport Folk Festival in 1965 – this was around the same time that The Byrds’ first album was released. So if adding amplifiers and drums to folk created the term “folk-rock,” why wasn’t progressive bluegrass simply named “bluegrass-rock?” While curating the songs on this genre station I learned why. Not all progressive bluegrass involves the simple addition of electric guitars and drum kits. In fact, most bands comprising the genre still adhere to playing classic acoustic instruments. But what’s progressive here is that these musicians have decidedly moved beyond the purists’ parameters of the traditional stringband blueprint to explore new and different possibilities. Read More →

Inside The Collection: Weekly Curator Picks

Artist Debuts 

Erica Nicole

Recently awarded Best Country Female Artist at the 2014 Nashville Independent Music Awards, Erica Nicole generated media buzz after revealing to Billboard her longtime struggle with hearing loss. Despite her struggle, she is making an impact on Country radio with the release of her new single “It’s Comin’ Down” which, at #73, was the highest charting radio single by an independent artist on its debut week.

Myles SankoScreen Shot 2014-09-29 at 9.05.59 AM

Dubbed as “the lovechild of soul music” by Time Out magazine, British singer-songwriter Myles Sanko has received critical and fan acclaim. His original funk and soul music is inspired by James Brown, Bill Withers, Otis Redding and Al Green. In addition to the release of his album Forever Dreaming, he has worked with funk kings Speedometer and toured with former James Brown funk diva Martha
High
. Read More →

Inside The Collection: Weekly Curator Picks

Artist Debuts

I LOVE MAKONNEN

I LOVE MAKONNEN is the stage name of Atlanta-based R&B and hip-hop artist Makonnen Sheran. His rise to prominence began after Drake remixed his song “Tuesday.” Another one of his tracks reached Miley Cyrus, who shared it on her Instagram. He has recently signed to Drake’s label, OVO Sound, and has begun work on a collaboration project with Mike Will.

You+Me

You+Me (pronounced “you plus me”) are a country-folk duo formed by singer-songwriter Alecia Moore (aka Pink) and Canadian musician Dallas Green (aka City And Colour). They recently unveiled their debut single, an acoustic love song “You And Me” and will release their debut studio album, Rose Ave., on 10/12.

Saint Pepsi

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.54.57 PMRecently named “Best Of What’s Next” by Paste Magazine, Saint Pepsi began experimenting with remixing, genre shuffling and mashing up tracks by Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen – receiving recognition by multiple music blogs. He recently released his first non-remix track on the Carpark record label, “Fiona Coyne,” a summery synth-pop love letter to a fictional character on the TV show Degrassi.

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Inside The Collection: Weekly Curator Picks

Artist Debuts 

SPZRKT

SPZRKT (pronounced Spazzy Rocket) is Xavier Adams, a 24 year-old R&B singer who three years ago, auditioned for The Voice, America’s Got Talent and American Idol but never made it past the first round. Now under his moniker, his eclectic debut album Bonfire is drawing comparisons to artists like John Legend, Gnarls Barkley and MGMT.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 9.08.36 AMThe Artwoods

The Artwoods were an English rock, R&B and freakbeat band that were active between 1964-1967 and was fronted by Arthur Wood, the brother of Ronnie Wood (of the band Faces and later The Rolling Stones). The band released seven singles and one studio album on the Decca and Parlophone labels, including “What Shall I Do” and “In The Deep End.” They also put out a handful of R&B/blues covers like Leadbelly’s “Sweet Mary” and Sam & Dave’s “I Take What I Want.” But they never landed a hit despite having a formidable reputation as a live attraction. Read More →

Inside The Collection: Weekly Curator Picks

Artist Debuts 

Niykee Heaton

Recently called “Your Next YouTube Crush” by BuzzFeed, 19-year-old singer-songwriter Niykee Heaton’s claim to fame came in her early teens when she began posting pop covers on YouTube. This was followed by acoustic versions of popular hip-hop tracks from artists like Chief Keef, ASAP Rocky, Lil Wayne and Pusha T. She was later handpicked by Snoop Dogg to accompany him onstage at the YouTube Brandcast in 2013. Heaton is set to release her debut album from Russell Simmons’ All Def Music / Capitol Records. This will include the buzz-worthy R&B ballad “Bad Intentions,” which has already had over a million views since its January release.

Marc E. Bassy

Fans of 2AM Club will be happy to hear Bay Area MC Marc E. Bassy has launched a solo career with his Only the Poets Mixtape (Vol. 1). Featuring guest appearances from artists like IamSu and Skizzy Mars, this vibed-out mix provides a fresh new take on the West Coast sound. Mixing spacey R&B with animated lyrics, Marc E. Bassy spins tales of barbecues, cigarettes, dreams and relapsing.

Matty Mullins

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 2.21.01 PMThe frontman of the motivational metalcore band Memphis May Fire, whose latest album Between The Lines debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 chart, Matty Mullins is set to release his self-titled debut album this fall. He branches off into a more melodic and pop sound, as heard on the lead single “My Dear,” taking cues from some of his influences like popular CCM bands the Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, MercyMe and Petra.

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Inside The Collection: Searching For The Perfect Honky Tonk

If peanut shells surround your feet; someone is rag dolling on a mechanical bull and, most importantly, patrons are two-step dancing to country music, you’re in a honky tonk. You can find honky tonks all over the United States, but the term may have originated in 1889 in Fort Worth Texas where locals petitioned the re-opening of “The Honky Tonk Theater” on Main Street. Listening to the Honky Tonk station on Pandora takes me there.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 4.02.38 PMWhen early country music started to go electric, an amplified lap-steel guitar (often the same kind played in Hawaiian music and western swing) and a punctuated two-beat rhythm section was added to the already existing template built on acoustic guitar, fiddle and high-lonesome vocal harmonies. Add to this a dexterous electric guitar picker like the late, great Don Rich who could make a Fender Telecaster bend, squawk and snarl. Before they became legends, artists like Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn would originally play this style of music in seedy old roadhouses and dive bars called “honky tonks” (which were likely named after the first one in Fort Worth). Read More →

Inside The Collection: Weekly Curator Picks

Artist Debuts 

Dawn (Metal)

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 2.24.34 PMAfter the Norwegians forged black metal in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, their Swedish neighbors in the death metal scene were quick to pick up on it. They kept the howling vocals and buzzing melodies, but favored more expansive arrangements and better production values over the lo-fi punk aesthetic of their Norwegian forbearers. Dawn is one of the best examples of this style, sometimes called melodic death metal. Their highly influential album Slaughtersun evokes the harsh landscape and grand sweep of the Scandinavian epics.

Kiki Ebsen

LA-based singer, songwriter and keyboard player who has recorded five albums and has performed and toured with artists like Chicago, Boz Scaggs, Al Jarreau, Christopher Cross and Tracy Chapman. Her latest release Scarecrow Sessions is a collection of jazz standards inspired by songs from the life and career of her late father, Buddy Ebsen. Tracks include the swinging “St. Louis Blues,” “Over The Rainbow” and “If I Only Had A Brain” – which is a touching nod to her father’s almost-famous role in The Wizard of Oz (he was replaced by Jack Haley as the Tin Man after he developed a severe allergy to the silver makeup). The album was released on Father’s Day this year in his honor. Read More →

Inside The Collection: Weekly Curator Picks

Artist Debuts

Ryn Weaver

Earlier this summer, unknown 21-year-old singer-songwriter Ryn Weaver uploaded a track called “OctaHate” to SoundCloud. The song became a literal overnight sensation, with over 30,000 plays on the first day and over a million in two weeks. It was produced by Michael Angelakos (Passion Pit) and co-written with British singer Charli XCX.

French Style Furs

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 9.23.31 AMFrench Style Furs is a brand new supergroup comprised of the LA-based soul rockers Cold War Kids‘ frontman Nathan Willet and bassist Matt Maust alongside We Barbarians drummer Nathan Warketin. Their debut album Is Exotic Bait was released on the Frenchkiss label with music inspired from 1980s proto-punk and lyrics inspired by the poetry of Trappist monk and mystic Thomas Merton. Read More →

Inside The Collection: Trap & Twerk, Pandora keeps it Trill

If you’re addicted to sub bass, booty shakin’, doing the Miley Cyrus and bouncing to half-time hi-hats, Pandora offers three stations to customize your low-end experience. Trap, Trap Rap and TWERK each showcase a specific sound for our listeners. In a world where hip-hop and EDM fuse together to create a new sound, have you ever pondered the difference between trap and twerk? Want to know what you’ll hear on Pandora’s Trap Rap station? Our curators get to the bottom of the 808.

Let’s take a look at where trap and twerk started, then listen to where it’s going. Both styles focus on samples from the classic Roland 808 drum machine, syncopated rhythms with heavy backbeat handclaps that are influenced by Miami Bass, Southern Rap and New Orleans Bounce.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 9.31.49 AMIf you like mind numbing bass, car alarms and festival decibels, Trap is for you. International producers are embracing the sounds of Atlanta to create something new. Artists like Yellow Claw, Flosstradamus, Diplo, UZ and Bro Safari have taken the original sound and connected the dots from hip-hop to EDM. Trap has fewer lyrics, mostly sampled and pitched down with a heavy electro house and dubstep influence. The beats per minute are around 70, but are produced with BPM set to 140 for that double-time feel. You’ll hear plenty of bass drops – and of course it’s best heard on a huge sound system. Read More →

Inside The Collection: Weekly Curator Picks

Artist Debuts

The Vamps

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 10.36.06 AMThe Vamps are a British pop band that formed in 2012 and immediately signed to Mercury Records. They have toured as support for artists like McFly, The Wanted, Little Mix and Demi Lovato. Their debut EP Somebody To You features the charting singles “Wild Heart” and “Somebody To You,” with guest vocals by Demi Lovato.

You Me and Apollo

This Fort Collins, Colorado-based band specialize in “…stompy blues and sing along folk rock with hints of psychedelic and soul music.” Their debut album Sweet Honey was produced and engineered by Jeff Powell (Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Big Star, Sharon Jones) at the famed Ardent Studios in Memphis. In addition to playing festivals like SXSW and Hangout, they have toured and supported for acts like Dr. Dog, Brandi Carlile, ZZ Ward, Third Eye Blind, DeVotchKa, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers and Dashboard Confessional. Read More →