Music News: Eurovision lands in Tel Aviv, amid protests

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Protesters calling for the boycott of Eurovision.
Activists hold placards calling for the boycott of Eurovision along Israel's controversial separation barrier, which divides the West Bank from Jerusalem, during the 7th International Palestine Marathon in the biblical town of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on March 22, 2019. (MUSA AL SHAER/AFP/Getty Images)
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Eurovision, an annual European music competition that's become a subject of fascination around the world, is currently taking place in Tel Aviv, Israel. Each year's location is determined by the previous year's winner, and last year that was Israeli singer Netta Barzilai.

The televised competition is a chance for Israel to promote itself as a tourist destination at a turbulent time for the Middle Eastern nation. There are ongoing protests and hostilities, sometimes armed hostilities, between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza. Activists have called for artists to boycott the event; no competitors have dropped out, but some have been openly critical of Israel's policies regarding Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The finale takes place this coming Saturday, and some militants have threatened to disrupt the event unless their demands are met. For now, the competition continues inside a 15-acre Eurovision Village. (New York Times)

Here's Barzilai singing "Toy," the song that won last year's competition for her.

Vampire Weekend hit number one in rare big week for rock

Vampire Weekend aren't exactly AC/DC, but they're about as close to rock as the number one slot on the Billboard 200 gets these days. The group's new album Father of the Bride became their third album to hit number one, selling 119,000 copies in the biggest week of 2019 so far for any album that could even vaguely be classified as rock. Rounding out the top five are LPs from Billie Eilish, Khalid, PnB Rock, and Ariana Grande. (New York Times)

Here's the most popular song from Father of the Bride, "Harmony Hall."

Soundgarden announce live concert film, album

Soundgarden have announced the upcoming release of a concert film and album recorded in 2013. The show, recorded at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, concluded the band's tour behind their final album, King Animal. As Rolling Stone notes, "The career-spanning, nearly two-and-a-half hour set comprised 29 songs, which included early song 'Hunted Down,' radio hit 'Black Hole Sun' and several King Animal tracks, such as 'By Crooked Steps' and 'Been Away Too Long.'"

Soundgarden: Live From the Artists Den will be released on July 26 in various formats, with screenings including multi-screen experiences in New York and L.A. — with "ultra-high resolution audio." In just normal resolution, here's a clip from the film.

Punk pioneer Susan Beschta dies at 67

Susan Beschta, who was known as Susan Springfield during her stint fronting the Erasers, has died of brain cancer at age 67. The Erasers were a well-known band on the New York '70s scene alongside the likes of Patti Smith and Talking Heads. They recorded only three songs, though, including the single "Funny" produced by Richard Lloyd of Television.

When the Erasers broke up in 1981, Susan Springfield launched a solo career but ultimately went back to school. She earned her law degree in 1989, and worked for the rest of her life to improve lives through legal work and volunteering around causes including immigrants' rights and AIDS relief.

In a statement, her fellow rocker Richard Hell said, "Susan was one of the musicians at the heart of CBGB, when what was to be called 'punk' was still an undefined desire and attitude developing there. And 'heart' is the word, because she was unusual in that environment for her kindness and drive to work for justice." (New York Times)

This week from the Rock and Roll Book Club

This past weekend, a new national literary festival called Wordplay took place in Minneapolis. During the festival, I had a chance to interview the Rock Bottom Remainders: a cover band made up of all-star authors including Stephen King, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, and Dave Barry. Click above to hear the interview as part of this week's podcast, where you'll also hear me talk about a new book called Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever.

This week's new releases

The National: I Am Easy to Find

As Pitchfork notes, The National are one of the few bands from the first decade of the 2000s "to close out the '10s with a higher stock than what they entered with." I Am Easy to Find, their eighth studio album, puts frontman Matt Berninger in musical dialogue with several guest vocalists including Sharon Van Etten and David Bowie's longtime bassist and backing singer Gail Ann Dorsey. It also comes with a short film directed by Mike Mills (not the R.E.M. guy), who also produced the album. Dorsey sings with Berninger on album opener "You Had Your Soul With You."

Alex Lahey: The Best of Luck Club

For her sophomore album, Australian singer-songwriter Alex Lahey is joining The Best of Luck Club. It's a concept album about a fictional venue that, as NME points out, joins the ranks of the Eagles' Hotel California and Arctic Monkeys' Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. It's inspired by places where Lahey hung out in Nashville, but Lahey's ferocious alt rock doesn't sound like anything you'd hear in a honky-tonk. Here's "Am I Doing It Right?", an arena-ready anthem about overcoming your insecurities.

Tyler, the Creator: Igor

Igor is the fifth solo album from Tyler, the Creator — and his first since 2017's acclaimed Flower Boy. Here's what we know about it: not much. He only officially announced it last week, and the only music we have from it so far are clips of two songs. Tyler produced the album himself, but Santigold shows up to guest on one track. The album will get about a billion streams when it finally hits, but for now we have this imposing sample of "Igor's Theme."

Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated

In one of the decade's unlikeliest musical stories, Canadian singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen has gone from the one-hit wonder days of "Call Me Maybe" to stand alongside Robyn and Charli XCX as a venerated pop revivalist. As only her fourth album, and just her second since her breakout Kiss in 2012, Dedicated comes wildly anticipated, and Jepsen is 100% here to give her fans what they want. Songs like "Too Much" float on a burbling bed of synths and popping percussion, with relatable lyrics you'll be singing along too all summer long.

Viral clip: Mick's got his moves-like-Jagger back

Mick Jagger wants you to know that heart surgery hasn't slowed him down. The Rolling Stones have announced a rescheduled string of tour dates they had to postpone for the surgery, and their 75-year-old frontman just posted a clip on social media that shows him in a mirrored dance studio, hopping and strutting to the strains of the Wombats' song "Techno Fan."

Among the comments: "Who said white people can't dance," "I thought it was Harry Styles at first glance," "am I high or is this s--t mad funny," "I think I need to have what he's having," and "he kind of looks like Theon."


Audio sampled
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
BoxCat Games: "Against the Wall" (CC BY 3.0)
Netta Barzilai: "Toy" (Eurovision 2018)
Vampire Weekend: "Harmony Hall"
Soundgarden: "Live from the Artists Den Trailer"
Erasers: "Funny"
Run-DMC: "Walk this Way"
The National: "You Had Your Soul with You"
Alex Lahey: "Am I Doing It Right"
Tyler, The Creator: "Igor's Theme"
Carly Rae Jepson: "Too Much"
The Wombats: "Techno Fan"


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