Stream New Sam Cohen/Brian Burton Album “Resistance Radio” Featuring Beck, The Shins, MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden, Grandaddy, Karen O, Benjamin Booker, Sharon Van Etten, Norah Jones, Kevin Morby, Angel Olsen, More

Revised April 7th

Imagine this: It’s 1962, 17 years after World War II in an altered history where the Allied Forces lost. The Eastern states of America become the Greater Nazi Reich; the West Coast becomes the Japanese Pacific States; in between, a neutral zone known as the “Rocky Mountain States.” This is the setting of Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle and a current Amazon series of the same name. “The Beatles or Dylan or any of these iconic musicians of the late ’50s and early ’60s just wouldn’t have happened under Nazi totalitarianism, because all forms of art and freedom of expression were controlled and censored,” Daniel Percival, executive producer of the the series, suggested to Newsweek. “All the artists, thinkers, gays, blacks, Jews would have gone there [the Rocky Mountain States] to escape, to a cultural melting pot in the middle of America.” But the means of free expression that allowed for the musical developments in mid-20th century America as we know it would be illegal even in this imaginary Neutral Zone.

Would there still be a Chess Records for example? Probably not, but there might be a figure like Willie Dixon writing some variation of what we think of as blues like “Spoonful.” It would be contained underground though (perhaps like rock n’ roll in reality spread in the USSR; see “How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin”). Any music that broke from the constraints of the totalitarianism control could only be transmitted over pirate radio from the Rocky Mountain States. That’s the premise of “Resistance Radio,” an imaginary radio station in the Amazon series that since March 6th has come to life with an online stream at resistanceradio.com. The playlist for the station is 18 tracks recorded by Sam Cohen and Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) with an all-star roster of vocalists they imagined could be subterranean stars if they lived in this fictitious setting: Beck, MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden, Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, The Shins’ James Mercer, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, Kevin Morby, Angel Olsen, Benjamin Booker, Sharon Van Etten, Curtis Harding, Norah Jones and more, including two tracks by Cohen (one of which, “House of the Rising Sun,” is featured in the music video above). The 18 tracks from this fictitious pirate radio station are also out April 7th as the latest album on Burton’s 30th Century Records label, Resistance Radio: The Man In The High Castle Album.

“Hijacking the airwaves,”  a description on resistanceradio.com reads, “a secret network of DJs broadcast messages of hope to keep the memory of a former America alive. Using music to hearten the spirits of the hopeless, they play bootleg songs that are performed and played in makeshift studios with obsolete equipment.” Befitting this premise, Cohen and Burton made the recordings sound as if they were recorded in 1962 for this pirate station, a task Sam discusses in fuller detail in an interview to be published soon on The Future Heart. “When we mixed the album we used a lot of older equipment to put the songs through,” Burton explained to NPR (though also note that they used contemporary technology as well, including ProTools, and that vocals for most of the songs were recorded individually by each respective singer with digital files sent back and forth between the producers and the vocalists). “When we were done, we pressed it onto vinyl, so we mastered it off of the vinyl. The version that you’re hearing is coming off of a vinyl record, which takes a little bit of the shine off in a way that sounds more accurate to what we’re looking for.” Getting the sound right was key to the project. “It’s a tactile, sensual thing,” Cohen explains to Rolling Stone. “It hits your ears when it’s of that period and transports you immediately and just has a different texture than new music. … If this were to sound super clean and super hi-fi, that would be everything you would expect from a covers album of today and it would just fall flat. It’s just recognizing that sound. It’s not punchy. It’s gooey. Like completely soft around all the edges the way a photograph is blurry in the corners.”

“I couldn’t do it myself,” Brian noted in an interview with Zane Lowe. “I didn’t have the real ability I don’t think to do it in the time, and also as good as it could be but…[Sam Cohen] is amazing with sounds, and getting things with live bands in the room sounding like any era we want it to.” The project came together quickly, much like these songs would have been recorded if they were actually captured in 1962. “I got with Sam Cohen who I’ve been working with a lot,” Burton explained to Southern California’s 89.3 KPCC, “and there was this idea of: What if we did the whole album and we produced it like a couple of old school producers, and we just got the session musicians in, made the songs and got the artists that we wanted to sing on them and did it all really quickly. The only thing is, we only had about three-and-a-half weeks to do it. So we did three songs in just a few hours one night and it sounded great.” With Cohen arranging the music, leading the band, and playing guitar, fellow co-producer Burton directed the big picture. “Sam and I would sit down and spend hours and hours listening to tons of versions of songs [and discuss] how we were going to do the arrangements,” Burton elaborated to NPR. “We had Jared Samuel playing all the piano and vibes and organs, and Sam Cohen was playing guitar. John Shaw did all the upright bass. Then we had two different drummers, Ray Rizzo and David Christian — these great, great drummers. It was just us meeting up every day doing three or four songs a day until we had 18 backing tracks, and then they took off. And then Sam and I then started reaching out little by little… The band that we worked with know their music so well and were such great musicians, as were the people back then, that they only had to hear the song few times. We’re talking about playing back songs that are pretty famous, but there are a handful of songs on this album that nobody had heard before. So them listening to it, interpreting it… and the next thing you know, you have a recording an hour and a half later.”

Once Sam and the house band finished the backing tracks, he and Brian brought the vocalists into the project. “We didn’t ask them which songs they wanted to do,” Burton revealed to 89.3 KPCC. “We just did them and thought, ‘Let’s send it to this person, let’s send it to that person,’ and really hoped they were into it and would do it.” The co-producers’ judgement in matching the right songs to the right singers is key to its success.”Beck singing ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love With You,'” Burton exclaimed, “we’ve heard him do so many albums and sing different styles singing and rapping and everything. His vocal on that was really special. Sharon Van Etten was to me the centerpiece of the album. That’s why we started it with [“The End of the World”]. The way she sings on that song — a lot of these singers could have been real big vocalists if they [had been] around at that time. It’s just interesting to see them in this context and see that it’s not that singers got worse, it’s just that the music is different. If this was the chosen type of music, this is what could be done.” Brian invited most of Resistance Radio’s singers, with Sam welcoming Van Etten as well as three artists whose albums he’s currently producing: Kevin Morby, Benjamin Booker, Curtis Harding. “Sam knew Sharon,” Burton told NPR. “She was probably the second or third vocalist to record the track, but that was definitely the one. When I heard that vocal of hers on that track is when I knew the potential of this. She could have been a big vocalist in the ’60s easily. If this is the style of music she wants to sing, she can do it.”

Follow Sam Cohen on twitter and facebook
Follow Brian Burton on facebook
Follow 30th Century Records on twitter and facebook

Pre-order Resistance Radio: The Man In The High Castle Album on Amazon Music
Pre-order Resistance Radio: The Man In The High Castle Album on Apple Music
Follow Resistance Radio on Spotify

Stream the full album on YouTube below, or on Apple or Spotify

Resistance Radio: The Man In The High Castle Album Tracklist

1 The End of the World – Sharon Van Etten 3:00
2 Nature Boy – Andrew VanWyngarden 2:42
3 Can’t Help Falling in Love – Beck 3:15
4 Spoonful – Benjamin Booker 2:48
5 The House of the Rising Sun – Sam Cohen 2:27
6 A Taste of Honey – The Shins 3:17
7 Who’s Sorry Now – Angel Olsen 2:19
8 Speaking of Happiness – Waterstrider 2:46
9 Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child – Michael Kiwanuka 3:34
10 Love Hurts – Grandaddy 3:22
11 Lonely Mound of Clay – Big Search 3:14
12 I Only Have Eyes for You – Kevin Morby 4:00
13 Who’s Lovin’ You – Kelis 3:40
14 Unchained Melody – Norah Jones 2:52
15 Lead Me On – Curtis Harding 2:38
16 All Alone Am I – Maybird 3:14
17 Living in a Trance – Karen O 3:02
18 Get Happy – Sam Cohen 2:11

9 responses to “Stream New Sam Cohen/Brian Burton Album “Resistance Radio” Featuring Beck, The Shins, MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden, Grandaddy, Karen O, Benjamin Booker, Sharon Van Etten, Norah Jones, Kevin Morby, Angel Olsen, More

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