Remembering Benjamin Curtis and Phil Everly, White Lies' album art, Afrika Bambaataa and more in music this week


School of Seven Bells: Painting a Memory

2014 started off with the sad news of musician Benjamin Curtis passing at the young age of 35 after a battle with cancer. The distinctly talented artist began as a drummer in Dallas-based bands UFOFU and Tripping Daisy before becoming the rocking guitarist in Secret Machines and ultimately the multi-instrumentalist in NYC’s beloved indie rock band School of Seven Bells, with Alejandra Deheza. While their 2008 debut album, Alpinisms (Ghostly International), catapulted their success, Curtis said their 2012 EP Put Your Sad Down was not only the most fun they’d had making music, but it also served as a mantra they carried with them throughout 2013. Have a listen to “Painting a Memory” for a snippet of what made Curtis and his music so very special.


Afrika Bambaataa: Looking For The Perfect Beat

The grandfather of hip hop, the father of electro funk and the godfather of early techno, NYC-bred Afrika Bambaataa was an early proponent of incorporating drum machines and samples, breaking down genre walls to literally spin them together. We jammed to the 1983 hit “Looking For The Perfect Beat” this week to prep for a DJ set fr om Bam at the intimate Le Poisson Rouge in NYC, which took place last night with Cosmo Baker and global DJ OP!. This track comes off the historic Planet Rock: The Album; with every listen, you can hear the living legend’s influence even in today’s music.


Queen: Death On Two Legs

This week’s #PrivateJam comes from London-based duo Crispin Finn, who chose Queen’s “Death On Two Legs,” which for them is “a driving and work/print harder song” full of “all these amazing backwards silenced crash symbol sounds.” The creative pair tells us that, beyond their current obsession with Brian May, they love this track because not only is it “one of the best put down/two fingered salute songs of all time” but with the provocative line “Do you feel good, are you satisfied?” they feel “everyone should wake up and say this to themselves in the morning before they start their day.”


White Lies: Big TV

With vinyl sales reportedly up 33% in 2013 (according to Billboard), the increasingly popular, resurrected medium has become not only an analog way to enjoy music, but a chance for visual artists of all sorts to show off their talents to a potential new audience with enticing cover art. 2013’s Best Art Vinyl award goes to NYC-based painter Michael Kagan for “Pilot 2″—a 2010 work borrowed by London-based trio White Lies for their equally rocket-fueled album Big TV.


The Everly Brothers: Cathy’s Clown

Seemingly born to sing, brothers Phil and Don Everly began performing at an early age with their parents, a country and western act, before becoming the legendary Everly Brothers—a record-breaking, chart-topping, close-harmony duo known to influence the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Buddy Holly and countless others with their sweet melodic style. Friday, 3 January 2014, Phil passed away, marking the end of an era while leaving behind an everlasting impression on music of myriad genres. See their magic in action in “Cathy’s Clown,” performed on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechnut Show in 1960.

ListenUp is a Cool Hunting series published every Sunday that takes a deeper look at the music we tweeted about that week. Often we’ll include a musician or notable fan’s surprising personal interests—#PrivateJam exposes their musical guilty pleasure.