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 →

Pandora Whiteboard Sessions: Los Inequietos Del Norte perform “Caiga Quien Caiga”

Los Inquietos Del Norte are a conjunto norteño, known for their aggressive style of corridos and high energy performances. Their sound is characterized by the vocal duo of brothers, José and Rosalio Meza and features rapid accordion lines, driving bajo sexto licks and a high-powered rhythm section. Other artists that play on their Pandora station include Gerardo Ortiz, El Komander and Voz De Mando. They came by the office and played “Caiga Quien Caiga” off their album Los Psychos del Corrido los Psicópatas. 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 Song: Mixing It Up

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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.51.35 AMSongwriters 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 →

Pandora Whiteboard Sessions: Lia Rose performs “That Lion”

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.

Pandora for Glass: from Hack-a-thon to Explorer Edition

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.

Pandora_GoogleGlass_Mock_FINAL_NowPlaying

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 →

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 →

Pandora Whiteboard Sessions: Dresses perform “Painting Roses”

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.

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 →