• Yo La Tengo / Photo by Carlie Armstrong

    Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan Understands Why You'd Never Want To Be Like His Band

    Fade, the forthcoming 13th album from Hoboken, New Jersey dream-fuzz trio Yo La Tengo, is somewhat curiously titled. Despite the album's mellow vibe, its 10 John McEntire-produced tracks illuminate a range of emotion that suggests singer-guitarist Ira Kaplan, his wife, drummer-vocalist Georgia Hubley, and bassist James McNew are still burning brightly. But perhaps the titular irony is intentional. YLT are, after all, known as much for their canny sense of humor as they are their sneakily consistent discography of swooning feedback-rock.Enjoying a much-deserved post-holiday break at a friend's home in Montauk, Long Island, Kaplan, 56, spoke on the phone about Yo La Tengo's nearly 30-year history and how his undying New York Mets fandom serves as both inspiration and cautionary tale.You never know if you're gonna feel inspired enough to make another record.

  • RJ Smith's 'The One: The Life and Music of James Brown'

    SPIN's 10 Best Music Books of 2012

    James Brown's life was as deep and mythic as his celebrated groove. In the magisterial, rollicking biography The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, former SPIN staff writer RJ Smith goes further than anyone ever has in getting to the formidable, often contradictory essence of the Godfather of Soul. Rich with novelistic detail and revealing reporting, the book also serves as a history-text-in-disguise, using Brown's story as a prism through which to view race, politics, Southern identity, and the music business. Like the man himself, The One encompasses multitudes, and it is SPIN's pick for Best Music Book of 2012.Read on for our conversation with Smith, as well as the rest of our choices for the year's top music books.Did you set out to assert or correct any specific notions about James Brown with The One?

  • Kurt Cobain / Photo by Bruce Pavitt

    'Experiencing Nirvana': Sub Pop Co-Founder Revisits Defining 1989 Tour

    Circa the late '80s, former college radio DJ and subterranean-music diehard Bruce Pavitt co-founded Sub Pop Records with his business partner, Jonathan Poneman. Seattle upstarts Nirvana were one of the label's earliest and most volatile acts. Their debut LP, Bleach, was merely a cult success at the time. Now, it's regarded as the opening salvo from a band destined to rewrite rock history, and Pavitt, having ceased day-to-day management of Sub Pop in 1996, lives with his family on Orcas Island, Washington, where he continues to be a passionate musicologist. But over an eight-day span throughout Europe in the fall of '89, Kurt and Co. were just three world-weary dudes cramming into an impossibly tiny Fiat van, opening for more established Sub Pop bands Tad and Mudhoney.

  • David Byrne / Photo by Catalina Kulczar

    The Book I Read: David Byrne Explains 'How Music Works'

    Thinking about and discussing music's otherworldly aspects isn't just for academics. Nor are the trends of the music business solely fodder for economists. (It only seems that way sometimes.) With his new book, How Music Works (McSweeney's), out September 12, David Byrne has attempted to holistically answer the question implied by his title in a way that fans, musicians, and industry types can understand.As befitting its author, the book is wide-ranging, insightful, funny, and provocative.

  • Carly Rae Jepsen / Photo by Vanessa Heins

    Carly Rae Jepsen Thinks Leonard Cohen Is a God, Loves Robyn's Leggings

    It's not a slight to Carly Rae Jepsen to say that she seems younger than she is. The 26-year-old "Call Me Maybe" phenom has thus far released songs that evoke the myriad ecstasies and dilemmas of youth, as well as blow the minds of Insane Clown Posse. Ever since Justin Bieber put a spotlight on her aforementioned year's-biggest-single (apologies to recent SPIN interviewee Gotye), Jepsen has been living out something of a teenage dream, despite hedging toward 30. The British Columbia-born singer's 2012 EP and second overall release, Curiosity, spawned "Call Me Maybe" and has merely whet appetites for her full-length debut, Kiss, which arrives via Bieber's School Boy imprint on September 18. The former Canadian Idol competitor's personal taste has been shaped in large part by Laurel Canyon folk and contemporary Euro-dance.

  • Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Judah Bauer, Jon Spencer, and Russell Simins

    Jon Spencer Explains How to Survive a Blues Explosion

    Whether it was with skuzz-rockers Pussy Galore, rockabilly revivalists Heavy Trash, or his namesake blooze provocateurs, Jon Spencer has been detonating classic American rock'n'roll forms for four decades now. On the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's guttural, swaggering Meat and Bone (Mom + Pop/Boombox) out September 18, the singer-guitarist comes off as lascivious and cocksure as always — and sounds a skeevy world away from the settled place in which he now resides. At 47, Spencer is comfortably ensconced with his longtime bandmates, drummer Russell Simins and guitarist Judah Bauer, happily married, and a proud dad. This devotee of gut-punch guitar and leering rhythms shared his secrets to living well down in the sonic dumps. Because we are an older band, and we are older people, it's not like we have anything to prove.

  • Gotye / Photo by Cybele Malinowski

    Still Can't Escape Gotye's 'Somebody'? Hear HIS 6 Biggest Earworms

    All due respect to Carly Rae Jepsen, but Gotye is the left-field success story of 2012. The smoky-voiced Aussie's inescapable breakout single, "Somebody That I Used to Know," from his Making Mirrors album, shot into ubiquity this past winter thanks to an exceptional synergy of hooky ingenuity and video virality. (Over a quarter billion views and counting.) The numbers are proof that the man born Wouter De Backer knows his way around an earworm. But what songs have wriggled inside Gotye's brain? The 32-year-old singer spoke with us about his favorite inescapable songs. You'll forgive him for including two of his own, which he's hoping to bring to audiences when he undertakes a U.S. tour in August. Major Lazer, "Get Free" "That gets stuck in my head a bunch. All the vocal aspects, ya know?

  • Rob Zombie

    Rob Zombie's Rock Advice: Lose the 'Tude, Trust Thyself

    Despite White Zombie's large cult following and well-documented endorsement from Beavis and Butt-Head, it's unlikely that few pop-culture observers circa 1993 would have preserved images of barking, dreadlocked frontman Rob Zombie in a time capsule. But nearly 20 years later, the unlikely rock star and horror film auteur has not only survived, but thrived, continuing to release music (the UME remix album Mondo Sex Head is out August 7), movies, and, touring. (He'll soon be on the road with Marilyn Manson.) While en route to Comic-Con to promote his upcoming movie, The Lords of Salem, Zombie, 47, chatted with us about appreciating what you have, going with your gut, and learning when to say no. You have to work on everything with a gut-level response.

  • John Lydon / Photo by Paul Heartfield

    John Lydon Ages (Sorta) Gracefully

    Belying his Rotten reputation, John Lydon is actually quite the sweetheart. Not that you’d guess after listening to Public Image Ltd.’s first new album in 20 years, June’s fiery self-released dub-punk opus This is PiL (distributed via Redeye). But in conversation, the ex-Sex Pistols frontman, 56, is gracious and good-humored, even while addressing some very contentious issues. On the phone from his home in Los Angeles, the native Londoner chatted with SPIN about label hassles, encouraging compassion over group-think, and how to evolve into a genteel firebrand. I grew up thinking that music all comes from a place of verbal warfare, and it doesn’t. I learned to write songs with the Pistols. And good on them and all that, but we were always in some kind of animosity — of course the gossip mongering that the management spread didn’t help.

  • Ian Astbury / Photo by Delissa Santos

    The Cult's Ian Astbury on Girl Power, 'Love,' And Karma

    Time isn't exactly a linear construct for the Cult's Ian Astbury. The crooning frontman made his name during hard rock's '80s halcyon days, but his spiritual roots reach back to the mystical '60s (it wasn't exactly a shocker in 2002 when the remaining members of the Doors asked Astbury to pull on the Lizard King's leather pants), and his band is set to release the intense Choice of Weapon (Cooking Vinyl), their first new studio album in five years, on May 22. Fittingly, the headscarf-loving Englishman, who turns 50 the week before Weapon's release, covers a lot of territory as he offers his alternately shamanistic and common-sense guidelines for enlightenment. I'd rather take my directions from a woman. I came from a very strong matriarchal background — my mom, seven sisters.

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