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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Pop Shots – In Concert
Monday, January 24, 2022

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Silk Sonic’s upcoming Vegas residency, to Maxim and The Chainsmokers teaming up for the concert of your nightmares, to the We Were Young festival’s “why not just sell one of your kidneys?” ticket prices, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

* The Silk Sonic duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak have announced a 13 date Las Vegas residency that will begin on February 25th. Titled “An Evening With Silk Sonic,” the shows will take place at the Dolby Live theater at the Park MGM. I hope that somewhere on the tickets Silk Sonic was smart enough to note they cannot be held responsible for any baby boom that happens roughly nine months after the residency has been completed.

* Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox are now engaged. I’m honestly not sure what I’m more impressed by – Machine Gun Kelly’s ability to outkick his coverage, or Megan Fox’s insanely low standards.

* During an appearance on the Awards Chatter podcast, Bono said he’s “embarrassed” about his voice on some of U2’s early songs. I find that a bit odd, since I think the band’s early work is great, and what he should be embarrassed by is everything they’ve done since Achtung Baby.

* Selena Gomez is going to be a celebrity judge for this year’s Doodle for Google contest. The annual event to design unique versions of Google’s logo is open to students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and the theme for 2022 is “I care for myself by …” So guys in high school can doodle their version of self-care, and send it to Selena Gomez? I feel like I already know what some of that artwork is going to look like.

* In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Hilary Duff revealed she might want to get back in the studio, and make some new music. Nothin’ says “I know the sitcom I’m on is going to flop” like taking time in an interview about it to remind everyone you have another career.

* The Chainsmokers, and Tiesto will be headlining DIRECTV and Maxim’s Big Game Weekend concert event, which will be taking place the Friday and Saturday before the Super Bowl. Maxim, and The Chainsmokers? I can already smell the Axe body spray, and see the herpes being shared.

* The Weeknd’s Dawn FM album topped the charts in 10 countries, but not the U.S., where it was #2 behind Atlanta rapper Gunna’s DS4Ever. So I guess not everybody’s working for The Weeknd.

* In a since-deleted Instagram post, Britney Spears ranted about a number of family issues, topping everything off with, “I’m sorry Jamie Lynn, I wasn’t strong enough to do what should have been done … slapped you and Mamma right across your f*cking faces !!!!!” Comments like that really make me miss Celebrity Deathmatch.

* The When We Were Young festival released its official lineup, and it’s filled with pop punk, and emo faves from the Warped Tour era. The festival will take place in Las Vegas on October 22nd, and while the lineup may remind folks of their youth, the ticket prices are fully grown, starting at $224.99. Something tells me not even the hugs will be free.

That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.

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Me Not You Q&A Part 1 – How a Pandemic & a Podcast Changed Their Sound
Friday, January 21, 2022

Me Not You duo Nikki Taylor and Eric Zeiler have been making music together for over a decade, but they’d never made anything quite like do you feel the same?.

Dialing back the synths, and electronic elements they’d become know for, the late December release featured a stripped down, intimate version of the NYC-based band, with lyrics to match.

I recently caught up with the duo, and in this first part of our two-part interview they discuss the creation of do you feel the same? – which was influenced by their unique pandemic living situations, and a classic rock podcast – and shed a little daylight on how those things brought about a change in sound.

Let’s start by talking about do you feel the same? I believe this is your first full length effort as Me Not You. Was it planned as an LP from the start, or did it come together later as a full length album? 

Eric: Small fact check, we did have a full length album, sort of, in 2019. We had put out the singles for like a year, I think we had put out 8 of the 10 songs as singles, so, admittedly, it didn’t feel like an album, at least to me, because we had made it over a long period of time.

I think I saw all the singles on Bandcamp, but I don’t know if I saw it as a complete album. I may have just missed it. It happens. 

Eric: It’s possible that my Bandcamp bookkeeping has not been great. (Editor’s Note: It’s there, I just missed it)

I’m pretty sure on Spotify it’s an album, but there’s a weird thing on Spotify with lengths of albums, and number of songs. There’s a grey area between EP and album on some of the DSPs.

If it’s at least 8 songs I consider it an album. 

Eric: Yeah, so it’s an album, and we love it, but I love do you feel the same? more, because that one was was actually approached as an LP, and it was the first time we’ve ever really done that.

Nikki: Yeah, the way we wrote it, and approached it, was definitely more of your typical – we wrote all the songs, and got ‘em on guitar, and jammed on them for a while, and then got into a studio and created them.

This was different than our normal process, which was more like writing a song, getting it to the finish line, writing another one, getting it to the finish line. This was definitely conceived, and written in a short period of time, which I feel is great because all the songs flow together, and inform each other, and it is definitely of a certain period of time, which is cool.

Eric: It’s the first time we’ve ever done anything where we didn’t put out any of the songs from it until it was mixed and mastered. Then we were like OK, what’s the first single, what’s the second single? But it was already done.

We’d never worked like that before. Even in Little Daylight I think we had singles out before we were finished with the other ones for the album.

This was a totally unique process for us.

With it being the first time you’ve ever done things this way, was there an underlying theme you wanted to address with the album, or was there something you were going through that made you say – we can make 12 songs out of this? 

Nikki: I don’t know if we were trying to write about certain things, but just the time that we were writing it, it was pretty natural. It was kind of right when the pandemic started, and I had moved out of New York City, and was living in Rochester with my parents, and my family, which was interesting, for six months.

We were just trying to figure out how to write this album, which is probably why the process was different, too. We wanted to write an album from a distance. We were sending ideas back and forth, sending tracks back and forth, so the songs really evolved out of that time period, and ended up being a lot about leaving New York City, being back with my family for six months, and coming back home, and going through all those experiences. That was what informed the lyrics on the album.

Eric: We kind of made it backwards from how we normally had worked.

Nikki and I have been playing music together for over 10 years, and I feel like we’ve always worked in a way where the music, and the tracks, are the beginning. Nikki and I will sit and jam on instruments, and then come up with a feel, and then go into the songwriting part, or I’ll make a beat, or a synth thing, and Nikki will react to it.

We’ve almost always been driven by music more than anything, and this time around we were apart, and Nikki was sending me these voice memos of her playing acoustic guitar, and singing these crazy amazing songs.

I was up in Vermont taking long walks, listening to these little snippets of ideas that Nikki was sending, and it was so clear that every one she would send was better than the last, and I was just waiting for the next one to come. They were lyrically the best thing Nikki’s ever written, I thought, and just felt like something totally new, almost so new that it could’ve been a different band, but we love Me Not You, so it was Me Not You.

It was a huge shift in approach, and in content, as well.

Once we had complied enough of these ideas that Nikki had started we talked about just wanting to produce them in a way that felt really simple, and elegant, and not get in the way. (Previously) we, or I, probably more as a producer sensibility, always tried to be clever, and get a lot of ideas in everything, and with these it was like – do less. Don’t fuck it up.

Nikki: Also because we started it as these really simple voice memos, and I was singing them really quietly, because I was singing them in my parents’ house trying not to wake up my kid when she was napping, or sleeping. I was in the basement just trying to play, and sing really quietly, and it just had this really intimate feeling to the voice memos I was sending. I think we were inspired by that, and then it was like – let’s just keep it the same kind of vibe, with minimal instrumentation compared to what we normally do.

So you were at your parents’ house with your husband and child, trying to not wake anyone, while Eric, you were walking in the woods in Vermont, chillin’, gettin’ the good vibes. 

Eric: Yup. With my dog. Trying not to die of COVID.

Other than temporarily living outside of NYC, what other major changes were going on in your lives, either before you came up with the album, or while you were coming up with the album? 

Eric: I got married in January right before COVID, so it was still pretty new.

I still live in Brooklyn, so that didn’t change, but my wife is from Denmark, so we spend a quarter, to a third of the year over there, and we bought an apartment there, so even during COVID I was spending a lot of time abroad. That was a change.

Also, Nikki and I being apart more was definitely a change. Previously to COVID we were together almost every day. All of a sudden we were apart for many months, still trying to make music.

During the time you spent in Denmark, did anything there spark something in you musically? 

Eric: No, but something that did, for me, and it’s probably not very cool to talk about, but I got into listening to this Grateful Dead podcast.

Nikki: He’s very cool. This is cool stuff.

Eric: I love the Grateful Dead, I always have.

Nikki: We both do.

Eric: I kinda go in and out of them over the course of my life, and with COVID, for some reason I got back into them in a big way.

They made two albums in 1970 that were really stripped down. They went from being a psychedelic band to almost being a folk rock band, and over the course of this podcast they analyzed the way they produced and recorded the music in granular detail.

I was really inspired, because it was sort of the same thing as I was talking about, where there were these beautiful songs, simple songs, and the goal was to not fuck it up. That was definitely on my mind when I was hearing Nikki’s songs, and when it came time to produce them I think we were both aligned in just wanting to do the bare minimum to serve the song.

For me, that was where the inspiration came at that moment.

I think it was also, with the COVID pandemic, I was not listening to as much electronic music, or as much glossy pop music, or as much hip-hop as I normally do. I was definitely listening to more organic stuff. I kinda feel like a lot of people were doing that. Taylor Swift made her albums that sounded like that, and kinda everybody came out with a stripped down album in 2021.

In terms of my listening, I wasn’t listening to stuff that felt super produced, and electronic, so then when it came time to make the album, I think we both wanted to use a lighter touch this time around.

It’s interesting you used the word lighter, because when I think of your Reckoning EPs there was almost a darkness to them. 

Eric: For sure.

Glossy and 2020 didn’t really go together. When you think of glossy, and electronic, and pop, you’re thinking about having fun. We weren’t having fun in 2020. 

Nikki: Everyone was in their bedroom, shoegazing, and being introspective, so everybody wrote music that felt like that.

 

Come back next Friday for part two of this interview, where Me Not You discusses the unique rollout of do you feel the same?, the pressures of the social media age, and some of the pros and cons of releasing music in 2022.

You can listen to, and purchase, all of Me Not You’s music on Bandcamp.

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NYC Scene Report – Soraia, Power Trash, & K!lly !dol
Wednesday, January 19, 2022

This week’s NYC Scene Report features three rock acts – Soraia, Power Trash, and K!lly !dol – all of whom I discovered while concert hopping in the city.

* This past November I was at Bowery Electric to see Jessie Wagner (who was awesome) as part of a four band bill. Soraia was the final act of the night, and I couldn’t take my eyes, or ears, off the face-meltingly great Philadelphia-based rock band.

Soraia is led by frontwoman ZouZou Mansour, who is pure rock n roll to the point where you aren’t sure if you should be attracted to her, or scared of her … and somehow the latter leads to even more of the former.

The band also has an NYC connection – guitarist Mike Dudolevitch. You might recognize Dudolevitch from The Nuclears, or our fantastic Stacking The Deck interview from a few years ago. He also has a new project named Bayaz. They’re a great rock band I think you’re going to hear a lot from this year.

Getting back to Soraia, I’d heard some of their music before, but seeing them live was the WOW moment. The next time they hit the city I absolutely plan on being in the crowd again, rockin’ out, and I won’t be “Tight-Lipped” about it.

* Power Trash is a band I discovered in a kind of unusual way. The night was October 14th of 2021 – the night before my 43rd birthday. I’d bought a ticket to see a buddy of mine who was supposed to come in from L.A. to perform at Arlene’s Grocery. Another band I knew, and liked, was on the four band bill, as well.

Well, one thing led to another, my buddy had to cancel his tour, and then one by one all the other bands on the bill dropped out, and new bands appeared in their place.

I still had my ticket, and I love discovering new music, so I hit the city with an open mind, and open ears.

Power Trash was one of the bands on the new lineup for the night, and I met them before the show at the bar. Little did I know at the time I’d be blown away by their live set.

An NYC-based rock band with killer guitar work, and a wild lead singer, Power Trash is all power, no trash, and I can’t wait to see them again. Discoveries like Power Trash are why I love going to indie music shows.

* K!lly !dol may be hard on your spellcheck, but he certainly isn’t hard on the ears. I discovered the NYC-based rocker when he led off an amazing night of music at Arlene’s Grocery back in November. The show was headlined by Micky James (you can read a review of his fantastic performance here), and also included Colorado-based band Wildermiss, who were great, as well.

There’s a deeply personal nature to K!lly !dol’s lyrics, and he skillfully makes the feelings expressed in them remarkably relatable. Delivering those lyrics with gravelly, emotion-filled vocals, and surrounded by a great rock band, the result on that November night was a memorable performance that made quite a few folks who were there to see other artists on the bill take notice – including me!

I don’t know when K!lly !dol will be performing in NYC next, but when I find out, I’m gonna try my best to be there.

For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.

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Pop Shots – Anatomy 101
Monday, January 17, 2022

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from how you can get your tongue on The Rolling Stones, to what’s on the head of Demi Lovato, to Aaron Carter losing his damned mind, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

* The British Royal Mail will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of The Rolling Stones with a new line of postage stamps featuring band photos, and tour artwork. This will be great for the small percentage of people who haven’t already licked a member of The Rolling Stones, but still want to.

* Kanye West is reportedly planning a trip to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin. While there he hopes to hold Sunday Service performances, and expand his business ventures into the country. This is the Perfect Strangers reboot I had no idea I wanted.

* Chris Martin revealed Back to the Future is the reason why Coldplay exists. During an interview on The Kelly Clarkson Show he said the scene that featured the performance of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” was what made him want to be in a band. Personally, I find this to be terrible news, because now I have to hate Back to the Future.

* Let’s do a quick check on Demi Lovato – newly partially shaved head … even newer giant spider tattoo on that partially shaved head. Sounds like someone walked by a sugar free cookie display again.

* Aaron Carter announced via social media that he’s working on a rap album. His post included the following – “… I’m back at the rap game 20 years later lemme shows these kids how it’s done …” My friends, there’s delusional, and then there’s “Aaron Carter thinking he’s going to school every young rapper” delusional.

* Jessica Sutta and Carmit Bachar of the Pussycat Dolls revealed they had no idea their reunion tour had been cancelled until they saw the announcement on Nicole Scherzinger‘s Instagram. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say most people following Nicole Scherzinger’s Instagram aren’t there for tour info.

* Paramore is officially back to work on their next album. It’s a classic case of – we took a break to work on solo projects no one cared about, so let’s get back to doing the thing everybody loves. Gotta give ‘em credit, not every band is smart enough to figure that out.

* The University of Missouri has named a choral hall after Sheryl Crow, who graduated from the school in 1984, and held a benefit concert to help raise money for their $24 million Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield Music Center back in 2015. One has to assume the University also now has a music club that meets on Tuesday nights.

That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.

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5 Times R&B Dudes Really Wanted to Let Us Know They Were Being Cheated On
Friday, January 14, 2022

Male R&B singers in the ‘90s and ‘00s were all about the love, and boy were they willing to tell us all about how they made that love, and sometimes even how many women they made love to. Legendary Lotharios, they’d croon to entice women, and then croon about the bedroom exploits that ensued.

You’d think with all this lovin’ every R&B singer had it made, but alas that was not the case, as here are five examples of male R&B signers who really wanted to let us know they were being cheated on.

 

Dru Hill – In My Bed 

It takes a voice like Sisqo’s, and the four-part harmony of Dru Hill, to turn being cheated on into a monster hit, and not only did they make it happen once, they did it twice, with “In My Bed,” and the So So Def remix of the song.

 

While the original version is a tear-stained ballad, the remix features a beat meant for the clubs, because who doesn’t want to get their boogie on to rampant infidelity?

Admission – I own the cassingle, so apparently I wanted to get my boogie on to rampant infidelity.

 


Joe – Stutter 

During a simpler time, Joe simply wanted to know what turns you on, but on “Stutter” he can tell his woman is lying to him about her whereabouts, and ultimately her faithfulness to him. How does he figure this out? Because she continues to stutter in her replies to his questions.

Who knew Joe was both an R&B singer, and criminal investigator in matters of love? That’s one talented dude!

For some reason, either Joe, or the label, didn’t want to end the video the way the song ends, and the result is quite the disconnect between the lyrics and the final visual.

 

Of course, since this was the era of the remix there’s a second version of “Stutter” that features a prominent sample from The Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By,” and an appearance by Mystikal.

Mystikal would later have far bigger issues than infidelity, and spent a considerable amount of time in prison for sexual battery, and extortion, making his aggressive performance in the song, and video, kind of disturbing.

 


Mario Winans – I Don’t Wanna Know 

“I Don’t Wanna Know” may use the beat from The Fugees “Ready or Not,” but Mario Winans clearly wasn’t ready to know the truth about what was going on in his love life.

He’d heard the rumors, but he just didn’t want to know if it was true that his girl was cheating on him. In fact, he asks her to keep any and all affairs a secret from him!

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t care how in love you may be, torturing yourself by staying with a cheater seems like a terrible idea. You can do better Mario!

Hmm … I bet a lot of women had a similar reaction, which means he did pretty well for himself with this song. Well played, Mario Winans. Well played.

As an aside, it’s incredibly Diddy that the Bad Boy Records founder made himself the thumbnail image for the video rather than the actual artist.

 


Uncle Sam – I Don’t Ever Want to See You Again 

Uncle Sam didn’t beat around the bush with this one – his woman cheated on him, and he doesn’t ever want to see her again.

Did you hear him? He said EVER!

To be fair, his woman was messing around with his best friend, and the friend wrote him a letter about it, so I wouldn’t want to see either of those people again.

 


Ne-Yo – Go On Girl 

Ne-Yo has discovered his girl is out playing the field, but he wants to let everyone know that despite finding out this information, he’s fine.

You know how sometimes people will say they’re fine, but say it in a way that indicates they’re anything but? A great example would be the time on Friends when Ross was saying “I’m fine” while attempting to deal with Joey dating Rachel.

I’m not saying that’s the case here, but I could easily imagine Ne-Yo saying “I’m fine” in that way, and the lyric “I'm too fly to be depressed” sounds like someone who’s trying to convince themselves of something, rather than someone who’s actually OK.

 

This is definitely the most celebratory of all the songs on this list, because Ne-Yo is all about being strong, and moving on … but do we really believe he’s “fine”?

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NYC Scene Report – Bad Business Club, Ariah &, & The Ritualists
Wednesday, January 12, 2022

This week’s NYC Scene Report features nu-disco/yacht rock band Bad Business Club, singer-songwriter Ariah &, and goth/glam rockers The Ritualists, all of whom have shows coming up.

* When Bad Business Club had a show in the city this past fall I couldn’t attend because I was covering a different show that same night. Now, however, I have a second chance to see them, as the nu-disco/yacht rock band will be at Bowery Electric on January 22nd for an early show, with doors at 6:30pm.

Err ... check that. I just received an email from the band saying they’re pushing all their January shows to spring.

Bad Business Club’s album, Naked Neighbor, was one of my favorites of 2021, and I’m really looking forward to finally seeing them live, even if I have to wait a few more months to do it. Hey, spring might actually be a more appropriate season, since their music embodies warm vibes.

Should I wear a Hawaiian shirt to go with the mood?

* If you're looking for a singer-songwriter to check out, longtime column favorite Ariah & will be performing in the city on January 22nd at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3, with doors at 7pm (for tix, click here). (and now you know this week’s headline isn’t a typo, the ampersand is in her name)

I’ve seen Ariah & previously, and she’s fantastic. A super charismatic live performer, she’s the kind of artist who will win over anyone who’s within hearing distance of her voice. Heck, the first time I saw her live she won me over!

As a preview for the 22nd, here’s a clip of Ariah & from a show this past fall, which, coincidentally, took place at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3.

* The first month of 2022 is going to be capped off very nicely on January 28th with The Ritualists performing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (doors at 8pm. For tix, click here).

The goth/glam rock band’s Baroque & Bleeding was another one of my favorite albums of 2021, and having seen them live twice last year I can tell you they put on heck of a show.

The fact that I’m going to be seeing them live for the third time in four months is kinda wild, but I know I’m going to have a good time, and isn’t that one of the best reasons to go to a show? If the choices are – bored at home, or rockin’ out and livin’ it up, I’ll always choose the latter.

Check out The Ritualists’ video for “Baroque & Bleeding.” It’s not only the title track of their album, it’s a song you’ll hear the crowd singing along to on the 28th.

For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.

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