A few years ago, after I completed a large, exhausting album, I stepped back and tried to get some perspective on my own work. By observing my own process, it occurred to me that I’d fallen into a pattern of how I wrote songs. It was almost always lyrics with a hint of melody first, followed by chords, and ending with the arrangement, orchestration, engineering and studio production. I felt, however, upon finishing that big album, that I’d played out the possibilities of that particular approach and more or less knew what would happen if I set out to write more songs in that same way. So I determined the songwriting element I usually focused on least of all – rhythm – and decided that for my next project, I would start there.
Collaborating with a percussionist, I built rhythm tracks and wrote music to accompany the beats, recording and producing as I went, essentially composing straight to tape. The very last thing I did was add lyrics. I effectively inverted my songwriting process and came up with extremely different sounding material. Even the types of words I used changed – fewer syllables, less ornate or metaphoric language – since they occupied such a different place in the creative process than they had before. The music I wound up making was something I never imagined I had in me.
Songwriters often vary the types of songs they create and broaden their spectrum as songwriters, simply by varying their creative process. Bob Dylan famously headed down to Nashville and worked with a completely new group of musicians to come up with Nashville Skyline. The Talking Heads sought to break down the perceived relationship of David Byrne as frontman supported by a backing band. They experimented with new techniques and expanded instrumentation to create what many consider their best album, Remain in Light. Paul Simon first split with his writing partner, Art Garfunkel, to alter his sound, then later travelled to South Africa seeking new sounds and different creative approaches to write the wildly successful album Graceland. Read More →
Lia Rose is a singer-songwriter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending some time performing in the bands Or, The Whale and Minipop, Lia branched out on her own in 2011. Artists playing on her Pandora station include Linda Eder, Shirley Eikhard and Michelle Schmitt. Lia, along with Kelly McFarling on vocal harmonies, Kyle Caprista on drums and Tim Marcus on pedal steel came by Pandora’s headquarters in Oakland and performed “That Lion.” Hear audio from the full session here.
Twice a year, in the spring and in the fall, everyone in the technology organization here at Pandora puts our day jobs on hold and comes together for a Hack-a-thon. The 72-hour event culminates with employees gathering around (with keg beer) to watch each team demo their hack. Winners are awarded for Best Demo, Most Creative Idea, Best Improvement to Pandora and Best Project Not Related to Pandora.
During the Hack-a-thon this spring, one team developed a hack for Pandora on Glass. It was such a hit that we decided to show it to Google, and we’re excited to announce today’s launch of Pandora for Glass.
Glass is smart eyewear: A lightweight frame and tiny display that rests neatly above your eyes that makes exploring and sharing the world around you faster and easier. Read More →
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
French 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 →
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.
If 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 →
Dresses is an indie pop duo consisting of Portland, Oregon musicians Jared Ryan Maldonado and Timothy Heller. Their vocal harmonies backed by a ukulele naturally lend well to an acoustic set. Artists such as Air Traffic Controller, Echosmith and Kodaline can be heard on their station. They came by Pandora and performed “Painting Roses” off their album Sun Shy. Audio from the full session can be found here.
The 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 →
O.A.R., short for Of A Revolution, formed in 1996 as a small band from Rockville, Maryland. Starting their career as an independent college band at Ohio State University, O.A.R. is now a chart-topping group, recognized for their soul-filled melodies and driving rhythms. Artists such as Dave Matthews, Counting Crows and Jack Johnson can be heard on their station. O.A.R. stopped by the Pandora, Oakland office and performed a mostly acoustic version of their song “Peace”
To be a standup comic in the San Francisco Bay Area is to live in Robin Williams’ shadow. He lived here. He came up here, performing in the legendary Purple Onion and Holy City Zoo comedy clubs. Every so often, my Facebook and Twitter feeds would light up with posts reading “ROBIN WILLIAMS IS AT MY SHOW” or “Robin Williams saw my set and told me I was funny!” or simply a photo of an open miker, beaming next to a comedy demigod who looks exactly as kind in reality as he did on the big screen in his Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting “inspirational teacher roles.”
I never met Robin Williams. Not once. I never found myself standing in a room with him, and even if I had, I doubt I would have approached him. I don’t take photos with celebrities, as a rule—it always feels self-serving and weird to me, a strange visual humblebrag that my Midwestern upbringing tells me is inappropriate. And what on earth would I have said to Robin Williams? “Hey, I’m a comedian, too, sort of. I have a day job, but someday I’m going to quit, and then I’ll be a real comedian, like you.” That, too, feels gross—if I couldn’t tell Robin Williams “I’m a comedian,” full stop, with no qualifications, then I wasn’t really a comedian. I would wait. I would become a real comedian. And I would run into him some other time, later.
I thought I had more time. We all did. Read More →
Some of this week’s newest music and genre station highlights on Pandora, fresh from our curation team!
Manifesting a sultry combination of R&B, electronic and hip hop music; PARTYNEXTDOOR showcases his smooth sounds with October’s Very Own camp. After touring with Drake, Future and Miguel, this Canadian vocalist has been groomed to be the next OVO star. His futuristic slow jams flicker through your speakers like candlelight.
Connecting Stars is a South African folk-rock duo made up of Cheryl Engel, a studio session singer and Martin Engel, former bass player of rock band Tree63. Opening with the anthemic track “Pieces,” their self-titled debut release weaves acoustic guitar, piano with haunting melodies, harmonies and strains of glockenspiel, mandolin, ukulele and harmonica. Read More →