Depeche Mode Hopes New CD Gets ‘People to Think a Bit’

Depeche Mode’s new album kicks off with a dire warning that we’re going backward as a society. Things go quickly downhill from there.

 

“Spirit” then tells us we’ve been lied to and advocates revolution, convicts everyone of treason and urges selfish scum to turn their guns on themselves – and that’s just the first four songs.

 

“First and foremost, we wanted to make a fun album,” deadpans chief songwriter Martin Gore. “That was a joke.”

 

The gloomy British electronic trio resurfaced this month with its first new music in four years and the timing seems impeccable. The dozen new dark songs seem the perfect soundtrack to a world rocked by Brexit and Donald Trump.

 

“It’s a little bit of a heavy listen,” acknowledges lead singer Dave Gahan. “Look, that’s what we do. It’s about creating these atmospheres with this backdrop of the world we’re living in.”

 

“Spirit” continues the band’s evolution in alternative-rock under the new guidance of producer James Ford, who has worked with Florence and the Machine and the Arctic Monkeys.

 

Band member Andy Fletcher said Ford, who also played drums on many of the tracks, managed to “freshen us up a bit.” The songs are drenched in dread, slithering synths and strong hooks, exploring everything from trickle-down economics to heartbreak.

 

Gore, who had a hand in nine of the tracks, said the album might sound like a reaction to recent political and cultural shocks but was actually written in the second half of 2015 and early 2016.

 

“The world was still in a mess then and it was quite depressing to me. I felt that I couldn’t just ignore it. If I was going to actually write and be honest to myself I had to kind of like face it,” he said.

 

“I wanted to say that I feel that we’ve lost our way a bit, that mankind has lost its way spiritually. I’m not talking from any denomination here. I just mean in a general sense and by pointing that out, maybe it just gets people to think a bit.”

 

Depeche Mode will go on the road – their Live Nation-backed, 28-show North American tour starts in Salt Lake City in August – mixing the new songs with their go-to anchors, including “I Feel You” and “Walking In My Shoes.”

 

“I try and find songs from some other albums that will relate to what we’re doing now,” said Gahan, who mused that “Everything Counts” would sit nicely with the new tracks. “Hopefully, there will be a couple of little surprises.”

 

Depeche Mode was part of a wave of English pop-synthesizer bands to sweep into America in the 1980s with light-hearted songs like “Just Can’t Get Enough.” They matured with edgier, socially conscious tunes like “People Are People” and “Blasphemous Rumours” before hitting big success with 1990’s “Violator,” which produced the singles “Personal Jesus,” “Enjoy the Silence” and “Policy of Truth.”

 

The band found itself this year on the list of potential inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but failed to make the cut for the Class of 2017.

 

“To be honest, we were surprised. We never aimed to be in it. We think, ‘An electronic band in the Rock and Roll Hall?”’ Fletcher said. “To be nominated is quite good, really. I don’t know if we’ll eventually go in. It’s not really on the top list of our wishes. It would be nice if it happened, I suppose.”

 

If it ever happens, it would be a remarkable crowning for a group of acknowledged misfits from East London that made its reputation making symphonies from smacking pots and pans and wearing eyeliner, nail polish and black leather.

 

“Definitely, we were not the cool kids in town,” said Gahan. “We were those weirdos, the ones that got chased home from school.” Now their songs have been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash and Susan Boyle, and Depeche Mode’s influences are heard everywhere, from airy Scandinavian pop to EDM.

 

“I think we’ve been lucky enough to have made some timeless records at certain points. Some of them, not so timeless,” said Gahan, laughing. “I feel like you get led somewhere and you’ve got to take that risk to jump in. I feel like ‘Spirit’ is an album that we’ve been led to.”

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Filmmaker: To Help Iraq, Western World Must Connect With its Everyday People

War-torn Iraq may never recover unless the Western world learns to connect and identify with the people of the Middle Eastern nation, a Kurdish-Norwegian filmmaker said on Friday.

His documentary film “Nowhere to Hide” could help Westerners to understand and empathize with the suffering of Iraqi families, Zaradasht Ahmed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

Filmed in northern Iraq over five years, “Nowhere to Hide” recounts the rise of Islamic State that in 2014 took over the town of Jalawla, northeast of Baghdad, through the eyes of a young medic working in a hospital.

Forced to flee, the medic and his family live in a displacement camp and are frightened to return home.

Promoting his film at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London, Ahmed said he would like outsiders to see struggling Iraqis as fellow human beings, not set them apart as refugees.

“There is nothing called the refugee crisis,” he said. “There are humanitarian crises. There are economic crises. There are war crises.”

The film director is pessimistic about the future of Iraq, which he said was permanently scarred by the invasion in 2003 of U.S. and British forces set on ousting its leader Saddam Hussein.

Now, he said, those Western nations do not recognize problems they started and “look at Iraq as a failure state without feeling like they had a hand on it.”

“We have to have more solidarity and try to think of Iraq as also part of this planet,” the filmmaker said.

Film Trailer:

Much of “Nowhere to Hide” was filmed by the medic, Nori Sharif, whom Ahmed taught to use a camera.

Sharif began filming in 2011 and recorded the retreat of the Iraqi Army from Jalawla in 2013 because of growing militant activity.

The director was born and raised in northern Iraq. His film on illegal immigration to Europe, made for SVT, Swedish public television, was screened at a number of film festivals.

IDFA Interview with Zaradasht Ahmed:

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Couple Quits Finance, Wins Brazil’s Top Coffee Prize

It could be a Hollywood screenplay. Juliana Armelin and her husband Paulo Siqueira decided to radically change their lives in 2010, quitting jobs in Sao Paulo’s financial sector and moving to a farm seven hours away to start growing coffee.

Seven years later, they clinched for a second consecutive year Brazil’s most prestigious coffee award, beating hundreds of established producers in a country that has exported coffee for more than 200 years.

“I would never imagine we could reach this status in such a short period,” Siqueira told Reuters on Friday after the couple received the annual award from Italian roaster Illy.

“I used to say that we don’t have a story on coffee, but only some chapters so far,” said Armelin.

The couple met during college, graduating in engineering from Brazil’s top ranked university, USP. They spent some years together in the United States getting Master of Business Administration degrees at the University of Chicago before starting careers in Sao Paulo.

Armelin is a former Mckinsey & Company consultant, while Siqueira held positions as a fund manager at Credit Suisse and boutique investment firm Vector Investimentos.

They ended up in the coffee business due to Armelin’s father, who decided to start producing the beans.

“I helped him in the research and started to like the idea.

We already had thoughts at running something together,” Armelin said.

After studying the possibility, they bought a 210-hectare (518 acres) farm in the municipality of Ibiá in a coffee-producing region known as the Cerrado Mineiro, in Minas Gerais state.

“It was an old cattle ranch, only pasture,” Siqueira recalled. They planted the first trees in 2011, collected the first beans two years later and had their first full harvest in 2015. Within a year, they received the first award.

The couple’s farm is a state-of-the-art facility. The fields are 100 percent irrigated, with a fully mechanized harvest. The washed arabicas are put to dry in raised beds to avoid contact with the soil, which could affect the flavor.

“We studied a lot, talked to a lot of people who knew how to produce high quality coffee and we did everything they said we should,” said Armelin. “Some people used to say that we were nerds that went to coffee production. And we used to say, ‘yes, we are.'”

The Terra Alta farm was chosen for aspects like the plentiful availability of water and its flat terrain to allow for mechanization.

The couple used as much government-backed credit as they could to buy all the equipment. “We have debt for the rest of our lives,” said Armelin, smiling.

The farm today exports 80 percent of its production, which varies from 10,000 to 13,000 60-kg bags per year. Many deals are done directly with gourmet coffee sellers in the United States.

Siquiera said the coffee community in the Cerrado region has always been very receptive, despite their unusual background.

But the couple stops short of recommending their experience to others.

“Even if you have the money, it really is not easy. Growing coffee requires extreme dedication,” Armelin said, adding that she takes care of the financial details while her husband likes to be out in the fields.

But they have no regrets. “We like this a lot. We will probably be coffee growers for the rest of our lives,” she said.

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Airbnb Aims to Double African Customers This Year

Airbnb expects to maintain its rapid growth in Africa this year and double its customer numbers to 1.5 million, its Chief Executive Brian Chesky and regional head told Reuters on Friday.

The number of people using the online room rental service on the continent rose by 143 percent to about 765,000 guests in 2016 from the year before, said Nicola D’Elia, the firm’s Africa and Middle East chief.

“If you just look at 2017, it’s going to double, you will have 1.5 million people at the end of this year,” added D’Elia.

Airbnb CEO Chesky confirmed that the California-based company expected to double African customer numbers this year.

“Certainly that would be the forecast,” he said in an interview in Cape Town, adding: “This is literally just the beginning. It [Africa] is still relatively under-penetrated.”

Chesky said the company had 77,000 homes across Africa – out of its 3 million globally – but that it could easily have “hundreds of thousands” in a continent that’s home to over a billion people.

The 77,000 homes represented an increase of 95 percent from 2015 to 2016, the company said.

South Africa, which was an early adopter of Airbnb, is the top-ranked country in Africa in terms of listings and visitors, who mainly come from the United States, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands.

The top five cities in Africa are Cape Town, Marrakesh, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Casablanca, although listings are found in diverse locations from St Helena island in the south Atlantic Ocean to Freetown in Sierra Leone, and even a smattering in Somalia.

Chesky, who described Africa as “an incredibly exciting emerging market for travel”, was speaking to Reuters in Langa, Cape Town’s oldest township where he put in an appearance to surprise graduates from an Airbnb training program.    

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Tech Workers Find Communal Living a Solution for High Rents

Zander Dejah, 25, pays $1,900 a month rent to live in a downtown San Francisco house with at least 40 other people, many of whom sleep in bunk beds.

Dejah is a resident of The Negev, a communal living space that styles itself as a home for millennial tech workers to brainstorm ideas, write code and create apps, even if they have to share toilets and bathrooms with dozens of others.

Houses like The Negev, located in a neighborhood known as “SoMa” or South of Market, have cropped up around San Francisco as an influx of young professionals, many of whom are tech workers, have faced the city’s notoriously high rents and apartment shortages. It has three floors and roughly 50 rooms, filled with bunk beds, beer bottles and laptops, according to residents.

Dejah, born and raised in New York, graduated last year with a degree in computer science and math from McGill University.

Unemployed, he moved to California six months ago and found his  room at The Negev on Craigslist.

“I thought New York was expensive,” said Dejah, who quickly landed a job as a virtual reality engineer at consulting firm moBack. “It’s basically an extension of college. We sort of live in a frat house.”

The home is certainly filled with parties on weekends, but the residents make sure to sit down every Sunday for a communal dinner, akin to a traditional family gathering.

While some say communal housing provides a solution for many first-time workers fresh out of college, such housing also has created its share of controversy. Housing advocates have complained that this new dorm-like style of living has pushed up rents and forced longtime residents to move out.

Alon Gutman, who co-founded a company called The Negev and began leasing the building on Sixth Street in 2014, said, “We have never made somebody move out of that building,” adding that his tenants pay 30 percent to 50 percent less than others in the neighborhood.

“We are trying to solve the housing crisis and increase density in a positive way.”

The Negev company runs nine communal properties, three of which are in San Francisco. The others are in Austin, Texas, and Oakland, California.

The Negev properties, generally in run-down, low-income neighborhoods, are restructured to accommodate a large number of tenants, Gutman explained.

Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, said housing problems have arisen because occupants leave buildings being converted to communal homes and cannot afford to move back in or the space is no longer suitable for them.

“The Negev house takes affordable housing and makes it unaffordable,” said Sherburn-Zimmer. “All they’ve done is take away housing from people who had it and loved it and pushed them out to make a quick buck.”

Kumar Srikantappa, 31, who also pays $1,900 a month for a single room at The Negev, said he chose the house because of the social experience. After eight months there, the software engineer for Oracle Corp said he would soon be ready to live elsewhere.

“I met a bunch of friends, and I just want to move on to another location and into a bigger place,” he said. “It’s time.”

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Mexico: Country-specific Rules of Origin in NAFTA Unacceptable

Country-specific rules of origin within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would be “totally unacceptable,” and a U.S. border adjustment tax would likely violate global trade rules, Mexico’s economy minister said Friday.

Under the trilateral trade deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada, rules of origin can specify that products must meet minimum regional (NAFTA-wide) content requirements to be tariff-free, but there are no national content requirements.

“In no trade deal, whether bilateral, trilateral or multilateral, has there ever been any precedent treaty of rules of origin by country. It would be totally unacceptable,” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters at an event in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey.

Mexican officials have said the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump could try to push for national content requirements in a revamped NAFTA to boost jobs at home.

Trump has said the NAFTA deal has given Mexico “unfair” advantages and he wants to cut the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico. He is expected to submit his plan to renegotiate NAFTA to U.S. lawmakers soon.

Guajardo said talks to renegotiate NAFTA should move ahead regardless of the timetable for a U.S. tax reform.

Trump wants to cut corporate income tax rates and Republicans have proposed a border adjustment tax that favors exports over imports.

Guajardo said such a border tax would “very likely” violate World Trade Organization rules.

Mexico sends nearly 80 percent of its exports to its northern neighbor and a U.S. border tax could slow factory growth in Latin America’s No. 2 economy.

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Vast Beatles Collection Goes on Auction in Paris

A vast collection of rare Beatles vinyl records, photos and other  paraphernalia will go on auction in Paris on Saturday.

Beatles aficionado Jacques Volcouve began his collection in 1967 with the album “A Hard Day’s Night.” Decades later, it has grown to include nearly 15,000 records and more besides.

“Starting from 1967, I gave myself an absolutely impossible mission: own everything concerning the Beatles,” Volcouve told Reuters TV, as he was sorting through his collection in December.

The 60-year-old has decided to auction off his collection to fund his retirement.

Among the 332 lots up for auction on Saturday is the disc “Tony Sheridan and the Beatles 7: My Bonnie,” signed by Paul McCartney and George Harrison, with an estimated price of 6,000-10,000 euro ($6,450-10,740).

A lot of 11 alternate cover photos for the Grammy-winning Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts Club album is expected to go for 10,000 to 15,000 euros.

Volcouve has written books and given radio commentaries about the Liverpool foursome. Letters he received from Harrison and Ringo Starr in 1976, thanking him for articles he had written, could fetch up to 3,000 euros each.

A set of dolls of the Fab Four with their instruments is expected to sell for 200-400 euros.

Among other items up for sale are an “authentic Beatle wig,” a Yoko Ono/John Lennon wedding album box and posters.

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Dark Clouds Hang Over South African Music, yet Silver Linings Shine

About two years ago, blues-folk artist Alice Phoebe Lou gave a performance in a park in Berlin, looking for donations as a street entertainer.

A listener invited her to perform at a function. Her career has since taken off. Last year, she released her debut record, and on Wednesday she played one of the world’s premier music festivals: the South by Southwest event in Texas. 

Lou is just one of a growing list of South African musicians who’ve felt compelled to leave their homeland to be rewarded for their art. Another is Josie Field.

“I feel my sound and where I want to go musically, I’ve hit a ceiling in South Africa,” Field said. “The market is extremely niche for what I do.”

As they do for most musicians in South Africa, live gigs provide Field’s staple income. But, in a depressed economy, they’re limited.

Despite the struggles, Field said she’d never regret the past decade of making music in the country of her birth.

‘Take another step’

“I’ve had a wonderful time,” she said. “There’s no doubt that there are proper music fans here. But I’m now ready to take another step and hopefully explore how other parts of the world see my music, and also grow as an artist.”

Andre le Roux, director of the Southern African Music Rights Organization, said it’s “natural” for extremely talented artists to leave South Africa.

The Dave Matthews Band “is doing far better in the U.S. than they would have done, ever, in South Africa,” he said. “So when people grow a little bigger [than the South African music scene], it’s time to leave.”

But he added that “what isn’t natural” is that exceptional, and scrupulous, musicians like Field often can’t get airplay in South Africa.

“There is the reality of payola, which is corruption —  taking money where you’re not supposed to take money to give people airplay when you’re not supposed to give them airplay,” he said.

Le Roux also said that South Africa’s national broadcaster, the SABC, was failing to fulfill its pledge to play 90 percent local music.

“Was it a policy that was put in place, or was it a statement that was made? In our view, it was very much a statement that was made, because we haven’t seen the policy position,” he said. “Which radio station do you know that has played 70, 80, 95 [percent local music]; who’s done the assessment?”

The SABC insists its stations are playing “mostly locally produced” music.

Lack of support seen

Le Roux is adamant that the state isn’t doing enough for music. Most public schools, for example, don’t teach it.

“Are those institutional tools in place to support an environment in which the arts and the artists can thrive?” he asked. “The honest answer to that is no.”  

The government says it’s doing its best with “limited funding” to support arts.

Field said another reason for her leaving is her disenchantment with politics in South Africa — something reflected in her track “Born Under the Stars.”

“It’s a song that has a political edge to it, coming just out of frustration for the future of South Africa and the leaders that aren’t leading,” she said.

Pride in artists’ progress

Le Roux expects more of the cream of local music to leave the country — not necessarily because of politics or corruption, but because they’re simply “too big” for the nation’s small, underfunded music sector.

“We don’t have the ability to absorb them within our cultural space,” he said. “That’s the problem of the state. But do we like to see them grow? Yes. Those that go abroad, good for them. Those that stay here, let’s build an industry together.”

Ultimately, he said, South Africa should be proud that its artists, like DJ and rapper Spoek Mathambo, are successful worldwide, in bigger, ultracompetitive markets.

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Jennifer Garner Calls for Congress to Boost Education Funds

Jennifer Garner has called on Congress to do more to support early childhood education.

 

The actress testified Thursday on Capitol Hill in support of education programs for preschoolers in poverty. Garner recalled growing up in West Virginia around children in poverty. She told lawmakers that she “couldn’t stand up for them back then, but I can stand up for their families now.”

 

She says by investing in early childhood education programs, like Head Start, “we can intervene in these children’s lives in time to make a difference.”

 

Garner is a mother of three and was testifying before a House subcommittee on behalf of child advocacy group Save the Children. Garner is a member of the organization’s board of trustees.

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Top 5 Songs for Week Ending March 18

This is the Top Five Countdown! We’re spotlighting the five most popular songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, for the week ending March 18, 2017.

The past several weeks have seen us on a winning streak, with a dynamic newcomer each time. This week it happens in fifth place, where The Chainsmokers and Coldplay rise an incredible 51 slots with “Something Just Like This.” How did this partnership come about?

Number 5: The Chainsmokers & Coldplay “Something Just Like This”

It’s the second single from The Chainsmokers’ upcoming album “Memories: Do Not Open,” and the lead single from Coldplay’s EP “Kaleidoscope.” Last September, The Chainsmokers shared two short clips from an upcoming song featuring Coldplay singer Chris Martin. Last month they debuted it at the BRIT Awards in London.

Number 4: Bruno Mars “That’s What I Like”

Bruno Mars was also at the BRITS singing “That’s What I Like,” which holds in fourth place on the Hot 100.

Let’s test your knowledge about this 31-year-old singer. His real name is Peter Hernandez. He was born and raised in Hawaii. Before becoming a solo star, Mars was a producer and songwriter in a team called The Smeezingtons.

You know who else started out as a songwriter? She’s here in third place along with Zayne.

 

Number 3:  Zayn & Taylor Swift “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever”

Zayn and Taylor Swift tread water in third place with “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever.” You probably know that Swift was a Country music star before breaking into pop, but did you know she also hooked her own publishing deal at the age of 14? Swift signed with Nashville’s Sony/ATV Music house while still a freshman in high school, right after leaving a development deal with RCA. That same year, she wrote her very first hit single, “Tim McGraw.”

Number 2: Migos “Bad And Boujee”

Migos have been around since 2009, and last week they landed on the cover of a major U.S. publication.  

The Georgia rap trio appears on the cover of the current issue of Billboard Magazine, and they’re not neglecting their international audience: this North American summer, Migos will hit festivals in Canada, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.

Number 1: Ed Sheeran “Shape Of You”

Speaking of the United Kingdom, Ed Sheeran spends a sixth total week at the top with “Shape Of You.”

Rolling Stone Magazine put Sheeran on the cover of its current U.S. edition. In the accompanying story we learn that he had a stutter as a boy; he hurt his foot hiking on an Icelandic volcano; and he spent three weeks in the African nation of Ghana last year.

No matter where you live, we have the songs you want to hear and we’ll be back next week with a new hit list!

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