The Recession: Bouncing Back. The statistics don’t look good.
The fire has been burning wildly for a while now. It keeps swelling up as if ready to attack, but always retreats. Only now it seems like it's getting braver. The shaman is chanting louder and louder and the other natives seem fearful. I'm more than unsettled at this point, and then lasers are everywhere. Jettisons of light pour out of the shaman. Spider-like creatures made from metal, screaming for attention, scramble towards him as his chanting now seems to come from everywhere. Suddenly the shaman is gone. And then we see him; hanging ominously in the sky. The lights are gone, save for the pulsing red glow emanating from the limp yet eerily powerful old man. Dark... We're back where we were. This is how it has been for centuries now. We only ever play out one scene. I can do nothing but continue to hope that one day something will change. One day we'll move forward. MP3 :: Ensemble Economique - Real Things Physical is available now via Not Not Fun via Get Off The Coast
Student loan debt surpasses credit card debt in the United States.
I've been out of the loop for a bit. As if I really needed to tell you guys that. At some point, while I was still outside of this loop, LA Vampires (the better Pocahaunted side-project) and Zola Jesus collaborated on one of the best records of this year. For the first time since it has happened I am at peace with Pocahaunted's break-up. The irony is that these vampires are birthing new sorts of wicked life into me, rather than sucking it away. Now seriously, who's moving to LA with me? Oh, one more thing. As if a gorgeous collab with Zola Jesus wasn't enough, another LA Vamps cut drops this month with Matrix Metals on the assist. Not Not Fun might just be the best damn record label to ever exist y'all. Recognize. MP3 :: LA Vampires & Zola Jesus - Bone Is Bloodstone LA Vampires feat. Matrix Metals - Make Me Over LA Vampires meets Zola Jesus is available now, while So Unreal starts it's spin cycle later this month, both thanks to the stellar folks at Not Not Fun. via Get Off The Coast
Is the social networking on the Internet diminishing our need or desire to actual network socially face-to-face?
These days they seem to do it all for me. He really is up there, you know? I can't be sure, but I hope they're trying to stop it. The sky is this tumultuous black and I keep breathing it in. Tar. The kids seem to think it should just stay there, like some goddamn trophy. To hell with those kids. They don't know anything. They weren't there for the sparks of demons bursting from it's seams. They didn't witness the goats as they tore each villager from limb to limb. There is no good plan. We start stacking stones. Stacking stones for pillars, and we're just stacking them. It's like you can feel you every vein tear open up as every ailment leaves you. If we get high enough none of it matters. So we just keep stacking stones like pillars and we get there. Then we try to go fast and no one is speaking the same anymore. These days we're all overzealous children. MP3 :: BRAINSTORM - Beast in the Sky BRAINSTORM - Word Up - Upward Grab the Beast in the Sky 7" here. via Get Off The Coast
Here's a few new songs from Pigeons. Delicate wooing vocals drift over magical chords with light percussion making it just so damn lovely. I'm not a fan of Winter and the weather she brings, but something about these jams keeps me warm while reminding of me of the more beautiful parts of the season. Waves of nostalgia; but who isn't bathing in nostalgia these days? Things always seem to have been simpler then. [via Chocolate Bobka] MP3 :: Pigeons - The Postcard Pigeons - Sunset Park Grab the Visions of the Valley 7" now via Soft Abuse. Pigeons - Race Pre-order the Liasons full-length now, with a due date of November 16, also via Soft Abuse. via Get Off The Coast
Americans Need Not Apply: The Outsourcing of Our Times
Get Off The Coast: Sensei Deprivation II Last night our boy Ian over at Friendship Bracelet posted up this rad new interstellar chronicle from Endless Caverns. Endless Caverns is one of the several projects from Matt Lajoie (also Herbcraft y'all.) The nearly 10 minute epic resonates with beauty throughout. Liquid guitars fill every open space of the mind with merriment and wonder. It's like hearing Christmas in space, which probably wouldn't make a whole lot of sense otherwise. Anyway, no use pretending we're not lost in this massive cavern. On the plus, we can find our way together. MP3 :: Endless Caverns - Sensei Deprivation II (Guitars in the Sun) Estranged Mane (Tempera/Endless Caverns split c40), Chakra Ledge and Magi Hymnal are all available over at the L'animaux Tryst strorefront. I warn you: be careful over there; it's easy to just start clicking add to cart. via Get Off The Coast
In introduction to "Our World Week", out latest theme week on BreakThru Radio.
Why does America fall short when it comes to being environmentally aware?
Without the mainstream media to serve as watchdogs, BP and the Federal Government are free to flood the Gulf Coast with marketing campaigns and misleading information, leaving suffering residents starving for the truth.
JUICEBOX GYROS PRESENT: Babies, Pujol, Ava Luna, Circle Pit, Darlings, French Miami This show is going to rule. It's at Union Pool which is super convienient for all of your Subway needs. It also features a band from Austrailia (Circle Pit) and one of my favoritest Nashville bands (Pujol) plus some of New York's greatest. I actually haven't seen French Miami yet and I'm looking forward to it. via
As we approach the final week of  the twenty-first century decade number one, we at BreakThru Radio raise a glass to all those who have been doing their part for the environment, waste reduction and limiting our participation in global warming. Only time will tell just how much climate change will take place over the next ten to ninety years. Can we really do something to slow its path? We are only two years away from what some overzealous believers fear will be the end of the world as we know it. The much talked about winter equinox meant to arrive with the first day of winter, December 21, 2012 could trigger a brand new ice-age. Is this part of Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar warning? Or are the sign of a shifting North and South Pole along with melting polar ice caps in the Arctic telling tales of the changes to come? Will riding your bicycle to work, recycling your empty cereal boxes, and turning down your air conditioning in the summer really make a difference? This week at BreakThru Radio our editorial and video staff take an in-depth look at all things environment as part of “Green Week.” How do we, as Americans, fair in comparison with the rest of the world? Is the United States really that green? Are we setting the bar or lagging behind in the race? Tomorrow, BTR will put the U.S. up against some of the other leading nations in an examination of just how well we fare in living green. One of the most frustrating parts about being involved in any journalist profession is just how fast stories fall from the minds of the public. On April 20 of this year, an oilrig off the coast of Louisiana known as Deepwater Horizon exploded resulting in 205.8 million gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. For weeks, it is all the media, government, and public could talk about. And then, like a gas fume in the wind, poof--it was gone. No one ever heard about it again and you couldn't find an article on it in any of the major U.S. newspapers if you tried. Whoever heads up BP's Public Relations department deserves one massive Christmas bonus. As terrible as it sounds, what a remarkable job the BP team did in quelling the hype. Well, on Wednesday we remind you of the catastrophe of this massive corporate blunder in a follow up article to the April 2010 disaster. Thursday we lighten the mood. Amanda Decker will take a fun look at bicycle culture. Americans love their cars. More than any other nation, we still feel the freedom and rights associated with driving a gas-guzzling, carbon dioxide spewing SUV over the much more practical, cheaper, and environmentally friendly option of riding a bicycle (this is especially annoying to all those who reside in an urban center). Check in on Thursday to find out what some cities and some residents are doing to push bicycle culture in their hometowns. Finally, we end Green Week by sticking with the transportation theme and investigating hybrids, electric, and “smart” cars. If you are at all conscious about your role in the environment and what you can do as well as what is being done by others throughout the U.S., check in to BTR each day this week, it won't cost you a thing, but you could end up learning something that could make a difference for generations to come.
At a very young age, Violette is taking the world of Jazz music by storm.
So sure. I'm Jewish. I don't celebrate Christmas. FINE. I GET IT. But, there are two things about XXX-Mas that get me excited every year. The first is Christmas themed hair clips (this year I got a pair with jingle bells on them!!!!) and the second is, of course, Christmas music. Last night, I went with my buddies Yardwork to Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill for Christmas at the Cradle, an annual event put together by Trekky Records where a bunch of bands play Christmas songs they wrote or covered. Yardwork played two originals, the Charlie Brown Christmas song and "Father Christmas" by The Kinks. It was fun, but it really got me thinking about what my ultimate setlist of Christmas songs would be, and also made me really mad that since I'm on the road I'm unable to make a proper Christmas mix. Anyway, here are what I've decided are my five favorite Christmas songs. 1. "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey The classic and the best for a reason. Catchy pop tune with some jingle bellz and shit. Oh btw, why the fuck is there not a Katy Perry Christmas song yet? 2. "Baby It's Cold Outside" All versions of this song are great, but I chose this one sung by Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming because it is the gayest thing possible (especially when they switch parts) and I love it. Some people complain that this song is a little date rapey, but I think those people are boring and have never been a girl who knows she wants to do something she really shouldn't. 3. "Wonderful Christmas Time" by Paul McCartney I am embarrassed to tell you that I only heard this song for the first time a few months ago, but it blew my fucking mind. It is really catchy and will be in your head for days and it is the weirdest musical arrangement ever with all the synthesizer shit. LOVE IT. 4. "Stepping Into Christmas" by The Wedding Present As far as indie xxxmas songs go, this is the best. 5. "I Wish It Was Christmas Today" Even though this classic SNL sketch is mostly a joke, I still think this song is a rocker. You gotta love classic Jimmy breaking. HAPPY CHANUKAH EVERY1 via
Win a pair of tickets to Amanda Palmer / Tristan Allen at Berklee this Sunday Posted by Ashley Willard By now you've heard the story, right? Boston superstar happens upon piano wunderkind on the street, invites him to her house to play for her, gives him his big break? Wherein wunderkind = Berklee summer school student Tristan Allen and superstar = our new BFF Amanda Palmer (there she is, below, with a few of us at the BMAs the other night – where she won Artist of the Year). The pair will take to Berklee's stage this Sunday, and you and a friend can be there for free! Alls ya gotta do is send us an email with the subject "TRISTAN & AMANDA" by Friday morning, when we'll pick a winner. More about the project: "The minute I saw him play the piano, I was mesmerized," said Palmer. "He reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger. The fact that he had the guts to ask me if he could play his music for me, right there on the street, was what sold me. I thought: 'This kid totally has what it takes to make it.'" You can download their piano duet "János vs Wonderland" on our latest sampler! An Evening with Amanda Palmer and Tristan Allen Sunday, December 12 at 7 p.m. (doors at 6:30) Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston $10 through BPC box office and Ticketmaster Concert will be streamed live via Ustream Proceeds will fund a Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance Program scholarship L-R: MacK, Anngelle, Richard, Nate, Ash, Doug (Gozu), AFP via
Church has a pretty great show lined up to benefit a team participating in this year’s Santa Speedo Run, where 500 or so people strip down to nothing but sneakers, speedos and Santa hats then run around Back Bay for a while to raise money for charity. Gene Dante will start the night off with an acoustic solo set. Old Jack will be doing a stripped down version of their hits. St. Helena are set to debut their new lineup featuring Mike Ward, formerly of the Sun Lee Sunbeam, on guitar. Cheap Leather will continue their all out rock ‘n roll assault on the city. Naked On Roller Skates will close the night out in hand clappy, foot stompy style. (They also need your help in their quest to open for the Bangles at next year’s SXSW festival, check out the info here) In addition to all the bands, there will also be raffle prizes from Pabst Blue Ribbon, Newbury Comics, Pavement Coffee Shop, the Coolidge Corner and Somerville theaters, the Cask ‘n Flagon and more, so dust off your finest Christmas sweater and head to Kilmarnock Street. Facebook event page 7pm / 21+ / $10 via
"It's a multifaceted symbol representing everything from quality to health to ideology, and everything in between... It's something that lets people feel even better about their choices. "
Posted by C.D. Di Guardia Let me tell you all this: it's my birthday, which also signifies the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the day that pretty-boy Ben Affleck and nice-guy Josh Hartnett began to reconcile the rift that grew between them when Kate Beckinsale (who is both pretty and nice, wait for it) showed up on the military base in her sexy nurse uniform. Why am I telling you this? Because the Japanese code-phrase for the attack coincided with the title of today’s song from (here it comes) Pretty & Nice. They’ll bring it home on December 9 (two days late) to play at the Middle East with Miniature Tigers (or, as the Japanese might call them, “Miniature Toras” - it’s true, there is no Japanese word for “miniature”) and Freelance Whales. Pretty & Nice - “Tora Tora Tora” The odd cant of “Tora Tora Tora” makes us feel as if we are looking at a familiar structure from an unfamiliar angle. The multiple-personality nature of this track shines through in its various looks and twists. The choppy rhythms can seem to add a bit of disjointedness to the song’s flow at first, but this song is like a sculpture made up of weird parts that come together to form something cohesive. For all its jaunty leaping around, “Tora Tora Tora” has a flow all its own; perpetuated by the rising chorus that climbs the stairway over punchy guitar chords and double-hits on the drums. Pretty & Nice manages to insert a rhythmically disorienting section post-chorus, where it sounds like everything could very possibly be on the brink of destruction, but the band simply skips along the ledge, pausing every once in a while to do some jumping jacks. The whole section somehow comes together in the way that the drums somehow make sense in “Black Dog” even though you can’t figure out how or why. “Tora Tora Tora” is at the same time nonsense and full of sense. It is the song’s own particular sense of... well, sense that keeps it moving. You can’t tell if you’re looking at it from the right angle for a bit, until you realize there may be no “proper” angle, so you just go with it. Want to submit your band's song to C.D. On Songs? To be reviewed in a C.D. On Songs column, please: *Be a Boston-based band/artist. *Email a single mp3/m4a/etc. (or a download link to one) to cdonsongs (at) gmail (dot) com, with the subject line "C.D. on Songs" (DO NOT send us a bunch of songs and make us pick, we will ignore you). We require a file – not a streaming link. *Include album cover art if you have any. If you don't, a band photo or logo is acceptable. *Tell us when you want to see it! Give us the date of your show and we'll make sure it runs as close as possible to that day. No kidding. We will assume that we have your permission to make the song downloadable on Boston Band Crush (readers will want to hear it, after all). If that's not ok with you, say so and provide us with a link to the song on an embeddable player like ReverbNation – something we can include in the post (and not just link to). via
There is a relationship between music and smoking that together forms this iconic image of a cool renegade; a badass rocker decked out in subcultural fashion trends of the day...
Local Radio Crush: This week on the air Posted by Kerri-Ann It's our new weekly listing of local radio shows, on-air guests and live in-studio performances! Tuesday (12/7) Pipeline! / WMBR Cambridge / 88.1FM / 8-10PM Host: Jeff Breeze Live Guest: Winterpills Wednesday (12/8) On the Town with Mikey Dee / WMFO Medford / 91.5FM / 9PM-Midnight Host: Joel Simches Friday (12/10) Mass Ave and Beyond / WZBC Newton / 90.3FM / 5-7PM Host: Gavin Sunday (12/12) Boston Accents / WFNX Lynn-Boston / 101.7FM / 8-10PM Host: Dave Duncan Boston Emissions / WZLX Boston / 100.7FM / 10PM-Midnight Host: Anngelle Wood Bay State Rock / WAAF Boston-Brokton / 107.3FM - 97.7FM / 10PM-Midnight Host: Carmelita Guest: The New Collisions via
What do musicians do to warm up before a big show?
An introduction to Health Week, our latest theme week on BreakThru Radio
Advice Crush: Dear Boogie Posted by Brendan Disclaimer: the advice provided by Brendan Boogie do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Boston Band Crush management and triples your daily recommended dose of riboflavin. Dear Boogie, I have an issue that I'm sure comes up in musician-type circles like ours form time to time.. Here's the deal: a while back, I was the guitar player in a band and brought in one of my songs for us to play, reason being the singer/principal ""songwriter"" of this particular band wasn't very prolific and instead liked to waste mine & my bandmates' time by "rewriting" all her previous material. I was like, "F that noise" and brought in a song, completed. Done. All she had to do was learn it. We played said song a few times live – which she hated because a) she couldn't sing it so I had to, and b) people would come up after our set and tell us my song was the best of our set – and attempted to record it, but the band imploded before recording was complete. The song has been on the shelf ever since, collecting dust. Fast forward to the present, I started my own project and one night in rehearsal I played it for my current bandmates, just for fun. Well, they loved it. So much so that my present band made another recording of it, which turned out much better than the previous one with the previous band. My present band hasn't played it live yet, but it's pretty much inevitable at this point. My question is: what is my responsibility to my prior band? I mean, I wrote the song, so I can do with it what I want, right? Still, I feel I should contact my prior bandmates (particularly my former "bandleader"), but I don't know if that's really necessary, considering we only played it live a couple times and made half a recording of it with them. It truly is a kickass song, and I'd really like to bring it back from the dead. I just want to do the right thing here. Sincerely, Confuzzed Dear Confuzzed, As you can probably imagine if you know me, I spend a lot of my time around lawyers. Mostly defense attorneys. A lawyer once told me that “ownership” of a song mostly consists of who wrote the lyrics and the melody. If that stuff exclusively came from your little noggin, you seem legally in the clear to do whatever you want with the song. So mazeltov on that one. The bigger issue seems to be your desire to be a good former bandmate. By the tone of your letter, I’m guessing you have some lingering resentment from your time working with these folks. So there is a high road and a low road to consider. As always, I’ve got you covered. Depending which way you want to go, here are two easy-to-fill-in form letters you can send your ex-bandmates to cover your ass: High road letter: Hey guys: I figured you guys might be interested that I’m playing that song [NAME OF SONG] that I wrote with my new band [NAME OF BAND]. If you’d like, I can send you an mp3 so you can hear the new direction of the song. That I wrote. By myself. Without any help from you. Reading this sentence you surrender all legal right to sue me for any reason. You also give me power of attorney. Sincerely [YOUR NAME] Low road letter: Dear Tone-Deaf Meatbags, It’s me, [YOUR NAME]. I’m taking a little time out of being awesome to let you know that the kickass song I wrote while slumming it with you talent-free posers is likely going to be playing on your radios soon because I’m recording it with my current, far superior band. And I’m what we in the business call a “hit factory.” I produce hits. It’s... what I do. So anyway, I am deigning to write you this warning not because you did anything to influence the song in any way. No, I just don’t want it on my conscience when you slit your Barre-chord flubbing wrists after seeing a song you weren’t band enough to handle on the latest iTunes commercial. Just in case, here’s the number of your local crisis hotline: [A NUMBER YOU GET OFF THE PEDOPHILE SECTION OF CRAIGSLIST]. Enjoy your graceless decline into middle age, [YOUR NAME] In case neither of those suits your needs, I have also created a more flexible Mad Libs Version of the letter: Dear [BAND NAME]: I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you [PLURAL NOUN] in such a [ADJECTIVE] time. Despite our [ADJECTIVE] breakup, I look back on our time as a band with great [NOUN]. Remember that time at [FRIEND’S NAME]’s house when [BAND MEMBER] lost his virginity to that [1990s WESTMINSTER DOG SHOW WINNING BREED]. Good times, [ADJECTIVE] oldies. The reason I write is to tell you that my band [BAND NAME] has decided to record that [ADJECTIVE] song you all saw fit to [SYNONYM FOR CRAP] all over. Recording sessions are [GERUND] right along. It sure is a lot easier to work without you douche [PLURAL NOUN] holding me back. You sure were a [ADJECTIVE]-smelling bunch of [ADJECTIVE] [ADJECTIVE] [ADJECTIVE] [ADJECTIVE] [DANGLING PARTICIPLE] [NOUNS] that should be rounded up and [PAST TENSE VERB] with a bag of [SYNONYM FOR DOORKNOBS]. I swear, you [PLURAL NOUN] are worse than [FIRST NAME OF LOCAL ROCK PROMOTER] Bishop. Don’t you [GERUND] dare try to sue me or I’ll have my group of [RELIGION] lawyers open a [CONTAINER] of whoop-[BODY PART]. Suck it [ADVERB] [YOUR NAME] via
Where can you go to catch some really good live music with a supportive crowd?
William Finnegan is a political journalist who has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1987. The stories he seeks out are tough and often tangled up in war, poverty, and injustice. He has reported from all over the world, including South Africa, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan, the Balkans, and South America. For his daring, searing, and deeply human writing he has been honored with countless awards, including two John Bartlow Martin Awards for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, given by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has twice been a finalist for a National Magazine Award. Finnegan is the author of four books, Crossing the Line: A Year in the Land of Apartheid (1986), which was selected as one of the ten best nonfiction books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Dateline Soweto: Travels with Black South African Reporters (1988), A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique (1992), and Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country (1998), which was a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism in 1999. He is currently writing extensively about Mexico, with recent articles in The New Yorker including “Letter from Mexico: Silver or Lead,” (May 31, 2010), and “Letter from Tijuana: In the Name of the Law,” (October 18, 2010). Besides finding and writing the best stories, Finnegan’s lifelong obsession is finding and riding the best waves. In 1992 he published “Playing Doc’s Games,” a two-part feature for The New Yorker that is widely considered one of the best articles ever written about surfing. What kind of stuff did you write when you were younger? Poetry. Ornate, impenetrable stuff. If I dug it out now, I doubt I’d understand it. That was while I was in high school and college. I dropped out of college a couple of times. I started writing fiction when I was eighteen, nineteen, in Hawaii, where I was working in a bookstore, living in a car, not in school. I eventually wrote three novels, none of them published. A community newspaper published a couple of my poems, but I was very shy about my work. My first published nonfiction was an essay about Werner Herzog’s films, for a college newspaper. By then I was in graduate school. So I was slowly following an arc: from the most obscure, least commercial genre—poetry— through fiction, some of it also pretty inaccessible, toward nonfiction, journalism, news. I never actually got to news. The closest I got was a book, written in my 30s, about a small group of deadline reporters I really admired in Johannesburg. Why were you writing “impenetrable” stuff back then? I was infatuated, as a teenager, with writers who were difficult. My hero was James Joyce, whose work got impossibly dense before he was through. I loved Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Hart Crane, Rimbaud, the surrealists, experimental poets and fiction writers. I aspired to that kind of erudition and mystery. I now have kind of a jaded take on that early ambition. I think I was determined to be obscure at least partly to avoid direct judgments on my work. If people couldn’t understand it, they couldn’t tell me it was lousy. I did a M.F.A. in creative writing at the University of Montana, and the workshops there were a good comeuppance. I had to deal with other writers saying, “I don’t get it. What is this about?” I was horribly arrogant. I used to say, “Well, you don’t get it because you’re stupid.” Still, their questions got to me. I had to start reckoning with readers. It was the beginning of the end of my long, absurdly romantic adolescence as a writer. What did your parents think about you wanting to be a writer? They were good about it. They were both readers. My father had been a reporter. When I was born, he was a news writer at CBS. He later went into the film and TV business, and ultimately became a producer. But I think he always half-wished he was a writer. A lot of his friends were screenwriters. But he thought I should be writing for publication—sports, obits for the hometown paper, anything really—anything but these grandiose poems that I barely showed to friends. Did you ever consider other professions besides writing? No. I didn’t think of writing as a profession, though—I wasn’t that practical. Literature was just my lodestar, my one deep, vaulting interest. I worked jobs to support my writing habit, and didn’t think much beyond that, at least not till my late twenties. I did have a couple of jobs I loved. I was a railroad brakeman in California for a few years after college. That was a dream job. The pay was great. I worked the coast route, between San Francisco and L.A., mainly agricultural freight. People in that world used to say, “The big iron gets in your blood,” and I sometimes thought I’d never leave. The tracks tend to run through an old rural and industrial California that few people ever see, and railroaders speak a strange, rich, American language that I loved. I filled a lot of notebooks with railroad language and lore. The seasonal rhythm of the job suited me. I had no seniority, so I’d get furloughed in the winters, when traffic slowed down, which gave me half the year to write. I’d go hole up somewhere—Mexico, Europe, Montana. My third novel was set on the railroad. Where are all those novels now? [Laughs] In a drawer somewhere, I think. I haven’t looked at them in ages. The railroad novel was the only one I sent to publishers. I got some nice rejections. A couple of editors wanted me to open up the language—to help non-railroaders understand what was going on. I wasn’t ready to do that. You didn’t submit your first two novels at all? Nope. Was the act of writing itself enough to satisfy and sustain you? I had things I needed to write. A lot of my fiction was autobiographical. I was trying, sometimes desperately, to make sense of my own experience. My first novel was driven mainly by youthful romantic heartbreak. I hid out in a town on the west coast of Norway and wrote round-the-clock for months. I wrote in longhand, in composition books, and when I was finished I caught a boat to England, where I borrowed a little manual typewriter and typed it up. That manuscript came to about 1,100 double-spaced pages. I showed it to a couple of friends. I was twenty years old. I didn’t know anything about the publishing industry. Before I did that M.F.A., I didn’t know what an agent was. My second novel was more artful, I guess, less terminally self-involved, but probably no more publishable. I don’t know who I thought my readers were. I assumed I was writing for posterity. As far as I was concerned, my peers were the major writers, living or dead, I was reading. My stuff would take its place on the shelf beside their books, somehow. The details of publishing either intimidated me or didn’t interest me. I just worked my ass off, writing, and felt like I’d done my part. You spent a great deal of time traveling after college. Tell me about that. It started before college. I grew up in Los Angeles, which came to seem like a toxic place, a place that required escaping. So my friends and I mythologized the Road, and we all lit out early. I had hitchhiked through fifteen or twenty countries before I turned eighteen. I seemed to be always going coast to coast for some urgent reason, always on no money at all. And it continued after college. I probably spent most of my twenties overseas. When I was twenty-five, I took my railroad savings and left for the South Pacific. I was gone nearly four years. That trip was a last blast, the apotheosis of my restlessness. My other obsession, besides literature, was—and still is—surfing. So I set off with a friend, also a writer and surfer, and we bummed around the South Seas, on yachts and freighters and local fishing boats, camping on uninhabited islands, looking for waves. This was in the late 70s. Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the New Hebrides. There weren’t many other surfers in those places in those days. We found some great empty waves. When we weren’t surfing or bushwhacking, I was working on my railroad novel. We ran out of money at some point and made our way to Australia, where we got jobs on the Queensland coast. My buddy cooked in a Mexican restaurant. I bartended, washed dishes, dug ditches. We were working illegally, but the pay was good. The surf was good. I got a lot of writing done. From there we pushed on to Southeast Asia—Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka. First we were living on our savings from Australia, and then by various scams. My friend finally called it an era, as he put it, and went back to the U.S. I kept going, with a girlfriend, living very cheaply. In Sri Lanka we rented a house, near a good wave, for twenty-nine dollars a month. No electricity or running water. I wrote and surfed. I don’t suppose I could do it now—I have a family, a kid, a very full life here in New York—but I think it’s still true that, if you need time and cheap digs to get your writing done, there are plenty of bolt-holes in poor countries where you can live for a long time on very little money. From Sri Lanka I went to South Africa, where I got a job teaching high school in Cape Town. I wasn’t able to write while teaching. The job was too demanding. I didn’t know what I was doing as a teacher, and my students deserved my best effort. I planned to finish my railroad novel that year but just couldn’t do it. When the school year ended, I stayed on in Cape Town, living on savings from teaching, and finally finished the novel. That was when I decided it was time to start making a living from writing. No more job jobs. I traveled north through Africa, made my way to Europe. By the time I got to the U.S., I was broke again. Also really sick of being a foreigner. So I went back to live with my parents in L.A. I was twenty-nine. I turned thirty there. That was some pretty humble pie. But I stuck to my little private vow. I started making money from writing, got out of L.A., and, except for a little college teaching and public speaking, have been writing for a living since. What was the first writing you got paid for? Articles for surf magazines and travel magazines, written in Australia, Indonesia, Thailand. I was really flying blind with those. I wrote a couple of things for a U.S. Army magazine called Off Duty—its Asia office was in Hong Kong—that I’ve still never seen a copy of. This was before email, of course. I’d get an editor’s name and address from somewhere and write a query letter, or just send a finished piece. My return address would be Poste Restante in some town I expected to reach in a few months’ time. But it worked out surprisingly often. I’d go to the post office in Penang, Malaysia, and there waiting for me would be an assignment, or a check for a few hundred dollars, which I could live on for months. I didn’t take the writing seriously, though. It wasn’t, you know, Literature. What made you turn from fiction to nonfiction? My experience in South Africa. It was 1980-81, the bad old days of apartheid. I was teaching in a black high school. Not long after I got there, our students went out on strike, protesting apartheid in education. The boycott spread to other schools, across the country, and turned into a major confrontation with the state. A lot of people got hurt or killed. Thousands of activists were detained without charges, including a number of my students and colleagues. So I had a ringside seat for this very intense political drama, which I eventually felt deeply involved in. Things got quite violent in Cape Town. And it ended badly, I thought, that year. The protests ended, the repression seemed to work, the regime seemed to win. But of course it was just one chapter in the very long saga of the South African freedom struggle. But the experience completely changed my own view of what was worth doing. I got interested in political journalism, and I lost interest in the kind of high-flown American fiction—the rhapsodic Americana—that I was still writing then. It didn’t happen overnight, in some blinding flash of light on the Damascus Road, but I did start writing political essays in South Africa, and sending them off to American magazines, and I’ve pretty much been a political journalist since. Up until the point of your “conversion” in South Africa, you seem to have had a need to write for the sake of writing, but after you switched to nonfiction, did you start writing more because you felt there was a specific story that needed to be told? Yes. It wasn’t that, while I was writing fiction, I didn’t feel compelled to tell stories about what I saw and went through. I did. That railroad novel, for instance, was driven largely by my fascination with the world I was living in, with what it all looked and felt and smelled like, the characters in it, and how to put all that into a narrative. But it’s different when you’re writing about actual people with real, urgent problems—about hideous injustice and conflict that’s happening right now. I got less concerned with finding the most original, unforgettable language in which to render certain thoughts and textures, and more concerned with simply getting things right, with getting certain stories out into the world. And publication was no longer an afterthought—it was the point. So, did your attitude towards what you write change when you shifted toward nonfiction? Yes. The characters in my novels became as real to me, when I was really into the work, as anyone I saw each day. More so, even—they filled my brain 24/7. But they were, of course, inventions. Writing about real people brings with it responsibilities and consequences that fiction—especially unpublished fiction!—never entailed. How did you go about getting your first book published? I wrote an article about my experience teaching in South Africa. It was probably 6,000 words, but I felt like I had barely scratched the surface of the story, which led me to propose a book. By then I had an agent, but she wasn’t enthusiastic, and publishers weren’t enthusiastic. I think twenty publishers turned down the proposal. A lot of editors said no one would buy a book about South Africa. People just weren’t interested in the subject. That was 1983. South Africa wasn’t in the headlines. I finally got a contract, with a $10,000 advance. But before I finished the book, which is called Crossing the Line, South Africa was back in the headlines, and suddenly my publisher was eager to have the manuscript. It was 1985-86, and the low-intensity civil war that had had been going on all along in South Africa was flaring up again. So American readers were presumably more interested in the subject. And the book did get a gratifying amount of attention when it came out, in 1986. What was writing that first book like? I wrote it in San Francisco, after escaping the ignominy of that L.A. patch. I was freelancing for magazines, which I found hard to stop—it paid the rent, and there was the satisfaction of getting stories out there relatively fast—but eventually realized that I had to concentrate on the book and nothing else. So I worked for a year straight on it. I took one day off. It got really obsessive. I ended up with a big manuscript—maybe 900 pages. A friend I hadn’t seen in a while came by and asked, “What have you been up to?” I pointed to this very tall stack of paper, a copy of what I’d just sent off to the publisher, and said, “That’s what I’ve been up to. Open it anywhere and read a few words, and I bet I can recite from there.” So she tested me, and that’s when I discovered I knew the whole book by heart. When you were working this hard on the first book, did you shut all other work out? I’d sold my first piece to The New Yorker, a short dispatch from Nicaragua, in 1984, and then got an assignment from them to do a long piece about a guy I was surfing with in San Francisco, a doctor who was also a pioneering big-wave rider. So, while I was writing Crossing the Line, I was surfing and, in this serendipitous way, also reporting. After I turned in the book, I went to work full-time on the surfing piece. But it was a bitch to finish, for various convoluted reasons. I moved to New York and ended up writing this huge, two-part, 39,000-word piece about San Francisco, surfing, and this big-wave doctor. It took me seven years to finish. Seven years?!! Well, I published three books and did a lot of other stuff during those years. For me, the subject, surfing, just didn’t have the urgency that some of the other things I was writing about at that point did—apartheid, the wars in Mozambique, Nicaragua, El Salvador. Those were things that had to be written about right now. Surfing could wait, I thought. Plus, I was conflicted about the piece itself—what it was going to say about this doctor friend of mine, and about me. So I worked on it only in fits and starts. When your first book came out, was that a breakthrough for you? It was, although I was too busy at the time to appreciate it. I had gone back to South Africa for The New Yorker, to write a piece about black newspaper reporters at a white liberal paper in Johannesburg. So I was actually down there, submerged in this other story, when my book came out. And when I turned in that piece, the magazine offered me a staff job. So my freelancing days were ending right when that book would probably have helped me get more freelancing jobs. What were your work habits like before, and what are they like now? I used to have much better habits! I used to get down to work, writing, first thing in the morning—unless the surf was good—and try to write myself out by the end of the day. And it was such a great feeling to finish, maybe sometime in the afternoon, leaving something in the tank, knowing where I would pick up the next day, but having done a decent day’s work. I’d feel so free. I rarely have that feeling these days. I’ll still have a good writing day now and then, but there are always other projects, other deadlines waiting. I seem to have so many more things going on now than I did in my fiction-writing days. It’s just middle age, parenthood, the whole web of obligations, associations, and demands on your time that accumulate with time. I do still manage to make time to surf. I’ve lived a few places, most recently San Francisco, where I could see the surf from my desk, so that I could really keep my eye on it and time my surf sessions to catch the best conditions. But writing and surfing can complement each other. Surfing is physically tiring, so, after a session, especially if the water’s cold, I’m usually really calm, not antsy—able to sit at my desk for long stretches without jumping up. Also, being in the water is a good time to figure out writing problems, or to let them figure themselves out while I’m consciously paying attention to the waves. It’s tricky, living in Manhattan, because it takes a while to get from my desk to the water, and conditions can change while I’m scrambling to get out there. Internet surf cams and detailed spot-by-spot forecasts have taken some of the guesswork out of it. But it’s still easy to get skunked. Where do you surf in New York? The south shore of Long Island, anywhere from the Rockaways out to Montauk, when the winds are north. When the winds are west, it’s the north end of the Jersey Shore. I have a little crew on the West Side here, basically four of us; we try to keep an eye on the forecasts and the cams, and make runs together. The waves around here are best in winter, so you need a good wetsuit. Spring can also be good. And hurricane swells in the fall. The summer’s small and crummy, generally. Today it looks like it might get good in Jersey, when the wind shifts and the tide drops. In fact, we might be missing waves as we speak. Oh no! One of the guys in the group emailed this morning, “Jersey today!” I had to write, “I’m busy.” I’m sorry. Ah, look [points to a monitor live-filming the surf at a New Jersey beach], it’s only three-four feet, still kind of fat, wind still southwest. Not that great. You have reported from a lot of dangerous places. Have you always been brave? I wouldn’t describe myself that way. I know journalists, particularly photographers, who cover wars and other dangerous beats with incredible physical courage. I really haven’t done much reporting that was all that scary. A lot of places sound scarier, I think, from a distance than they turn out to be when you get there. News naturally concentrates on violence, so places where there’s a war, or some kind of conflict, happening become, for people far away, watching the news, nothing but the conflict. All the space around it, the space in which people actually live, collapses into the bloodshed, into the most dramatic aspects of the story. I guess I got some sense of that conflation effect during my travels when I was young, which made me less reluctant to head to conflict zones later, when I became a foreign correspondent. A few places I’ve worked were almost as bad as advertised: Somalia in the mid ‘90s. Sudan in the late ‘90s. Those were nerve-wracking. And, of course, terrible things do happen to journalists all the time. I don’t mean to minimize the risks of war reporting. I covered an election in El Salvador during which four journalists were killed in separate incidents on Election Day. I was with one of them, a young Dutch photographer, when he was pronounced dead. But, as a rule, the risks are greater for local reporters than they are for foreigners. That’s certainly true in Mexico, where I’ve been working lately. And, again, speaking strictly from my own experience, the dangers generally look greater from a distance than they do from the place itself. I remember, before I went to Mozambique in the late ‘80’s, I heard a lot of stories about how impossible it was to report there. The war was everywhere. Travel was impossible. But it wasn’t. I spent two months in Mozambique, saw a lot of the country, and had maybe ten scary minutes the whole time I was there. What happened in those ten scary minutes? We were just on a bad road at the wrong hour of the day. The road turned to sand, and we were having trouble getting up a hill. We were in rebel territory, and the lady I was with, a government official who was high on the enemy’s target list, and who really knew what she was doing, handed me a pistol and told me to release the safety, to get ready. I was not ready. But I knew it was an ambush spot. So there were a few bad minutes. Of course, nothing happened. We were both pretty giddy afterward, and had a few drinks to celebrate when we got to town that night. But the lack of fear must have to do with the way you are as a person, how you approach a given situation. If I had more imagination and could picture all the terrible outcomes that might be awaiting, I guess I might not do some of the reporting I do. But I have this dull-witted faith that things will probably be OK. I have a lot of faith in my own dumb luck. Do you have any advice for young people who want to do similar work? It’s there to be done. The space available in American magazines and newspapers has shrunk since I started doing this, certainly for long-form nonfiction on subjects that aren’t already in the news, or somehow front and center in the American conversation. But I think there’s still a big, reliable appetite among readers for new stories, and the stories are always out there. They can be hard to see or find from, for instance, New York, if we’re talking about overseas stories, or even American stories that don’t surface in the mass media. But if you get out, travel around, dig hard, get people to talk to you, and keep your eyes and ears open, there are lots of great stories waiting to be told. You wrote a profile on Barack Obama in 2004. It seems like you accomplished the reportorial dream: to be first on the spot for a hot story before it’s hot. I got lucky. A friend told me about him. I had never heard of him. I went to Chicago and hung out with him. This was a few months before he gave a speech at the Democratic Convention that put him on everybody’s radar, so there were no other out-of-town reporters around yet. He was just a semi-obscure Senate candidate. But he was great company, great copy, and an incredibly impressive person. I had politically savvy, Washington-experienced people in Chicago say to me, “This guy is going to be the first black president.” But I didn’t put that line in the piece. I thought it would be bad luck, that it was way premature, and might jinx him. He and I had some funny things in common. He grew up mostly in Honolulu and I grew up partly there. He went to the top local private school, Punahou, so I kidded him about being a Punahou punk. I went to a public junior high, kind of a tough school, Kaimuki Intermediate, where we thought Punahou kids were all rich preppies. Obama refused to believe I went to the school I went to. He didn’t think you could get from Kaimuki Intermediate to The New Yorker. But it seems you did. Yeah, by a roundabout route. Interview by Astri von Arbin Ahlander Photo courtesy of the artist via
Why do bands play cover songs? Because that's what people want to hear. But, should they?
Wells Tower is a literary star on the rise. He was recently named one of The New Yorker’s “Top 20 under 40” fiction writers who “capture the inventiveness and the vitality of contemporary American fiction.” And so he does. With his debut story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009) Tower exhibits the kind of tender ferocity that makes both readers and reviewers sit up a little taller knowing they’ve experienced something remarkable. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, was reviewed not once, but twice, in The New York Times, by both Edmund White and Michiko Kakutani. Tower’s fiction and nonfiction has appeared in publications like The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, GQ, Harpers, and McSweeneys. Tower was born in Vancouver, grew up in North Carolina, and received his B.A. from Wesleyan University and his M.F.A. from Columbia University. He is the winner of two Pushcart Prizes, the 2002 Plimpton (Discovery) Prize from The Paris Review, as well as a Henfield Foundation Award. In the summer of 2010, he was awarded the Tenth Annual New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, which provided him not only with a grant, but with an office of his own in the 42nd street branch of the library. His speech is delivered softly but with as much of a punch as his writing. When did you become interested in writing? My first literary outings were in the first or second grade when I wrote a couple of plays. I was commissioned to write stuff on tooth decay. Commissioned? They were doing some sort of tooth decay module. It was a hippie school. Was it performed? Yes. The class put it on. Two plays actually. I am not sure if there was any plot or if it was just kids running around screaming. I think it was more the latter. You went to Wesleyan for your undergraduate degree. Did you pursue writing there? I didn’t. When I was at Wesleyan, it was the height of the political correctness movement. For some reason I thought it would be really bourgeois to major in Creative Writing, even in English. The alternative was to major in some humorless branch of the humanities. I ended up majoring in Anthropology and Sociology. It was as though you were somehow hitting a stroke for bolshevism by reading a lot of Foucault and stuff like stuff. When I graduated college and the spell of all of that cumbersome, erudite language wore off, I realized that I hated the way most academics were writing and that it was just a terrible idiom to try to convey anything matterful about being a person. So I went away from all that. After college, what did you do? After I got out of college, I was thinking about working in publishing. I moved back to my hometown in North Carolina and got a job with the only publishing gig in town, a magazine called DoubleTake, which was a sort of literary and documentary photography magazine that also published fiction and poetry. It was a pretty swanky magazine, published on heavy, beautiful stock. I got a job there as the night watchman. What were your duties as a night watchman? To lock up, water the plants, set the alarm. That was pretty much it. I wrote a really, really overheated cover letter that had something to do with modes of representation or something like that. I worked my way into doing some more legitimate things for them, like writing their press releases, doing their website, and some editorial stuff. The night watchman job was the first ever not really awful job I had ever had. I tend to have really bad jobs. Such as? Before the DoubleTake gig, I had been in Portland, Oregon for about a year right after college and had a job doing data entry. That was a really, profoundly alienating job. Awful. It was at this place that distributed little electronics parts. They didn’t even make them there. And I never got to see them. They were stored in a warehouse out back. And there were no evocative descriptions of the electronics parts on the invoices, it was just these product numbers. So all day I was madly keying in product numbers. And if I made any errors I had a boss who would chew me out. It was the kind of job that was tedious and complete monkey work, but where you had to try really hard to do well. You could have some music in the office if you put your phone on speakerphone and pressed the ‘hold’ button. Then you could hear the ‘hold’ music coming through the speakerphone thing. But it was the worst kind of light rock, all day long. So the question was: what’s worse, listening to the keys clacking all day or listening to Peter Cetera all day? It was awful either way. Were you alone in that office? No! I was in there with my boss. She had the ‘hold’ music going. Other jobs? During college I worked in the dish room in the cafeteria. In the summers, I generally did manual labor. I worked on a pike crew one summer, I worked on a landscaping crew, I was a garbage man for just a day. I worked in a movie theatre— that was a really great job. You got to hang out with your buddies by the popcorn. That was the only cool job I had. I was a real Jonny Lunchpail in the hourly wage days. How about after your stint at the ‘hold’ music office was over? After the data entry job in Portland, I had a job working in a Nike warehouse. That was just a straight warehouse job, boxing up shoes and things like that. But I was so eager to write that I somehow let my boss know. My boss was a nineteen year-old kid who was probably making ten times what I was making as a warehouse guy. What a weird idea, really, that I sidled up to this nineteen year old dude, who’d probably dropped out of high school, and was like, “Hey man, I want to be a writer.” Anyway, somehow I let him know that I knew how to write. So he would pull me off the line and I would write his emails for him. I would pack all of my frustrated literary ambition into this kid’s emails. What did the emails sound like? It was like: “Hey Larry, we need more of the number 3 boxes on line 6.“ And my version would be like: “Dear Larry, I have been contemplating the matter regarding those boxes on line six and my thoughts were as follows…” Amazing. Were you doing any writing on your own at this time, or were the emails the extent of it? I was doing a weird little zine that I’d started with a friend of mine. There was this huge guerilla publishing operation back then, in the mid-nineties, where everyone was making crappy little zines and sending them out to people. There would be zines dedicated to other zines and so on. Most people were doing music reviews and stuff about veganism and politics. So, we wrote weird little essays that were spoofing that somber zine stuff. We would do reviews of different surgeries we’d undergone. I wrote a review of a car accident I was in. Then my friend Al juxtaposed that with a bunch of photos of famous car wrecks, like James Dean’s wreck and Camus’ wreck. Smartass stuff you do when you think you are clever. We just called everything a review. It was a fun medium to be able to write whatever the hell you wanted. Do you think it was important to have that kind of forum where you were able to write and publish whatever you wanted? It was just an opportunity to play. Which I think really is important. I think if you don’t at least have a part of your apprenticeship as a writer being pure, unfettered play, then that is too bad. Do you find the act of writing painful or enjoyable? There are times that I am able to chuckle at my desk. I don’t know how much pleasure is involved, though. I find writing, for the most part, pretty painful. There are degrees of discomfort with it. If it is really, really uncomfortable and you can hear the gears grinding and see the sparks fly as you are forcibly winching every sentence into existence, it’s probably not good. There has to be some sense of pleasure and ease in the composition or it’s probably not going to be great stuff. That said, I guess I’ve written a few “successful” things that people have liked when literally every moment of the composition was like the worst laborious plodding. But I think the better work is work that makes it look easy and, hopefully, is somewhat easy in the composition. You played in a punk rock band for several years. Yes. I quit a day job to do some touring with the band. On tour, we just made enough money for gas and a little bit of food. We were so poor. What would have been on your grocery list from back then? In the band days we were doing a lot of oatmeal. My innovation with oatmeal was to throw in a spoonful of chunky peanut butter. I think Susan Stamberg or someone had plugged that as a complete protein on NPR. In the band days it was actually really important to figure out different calorie vectors. But I was trying to cook OK. I remember making complicated curries in my early twenties. I really liked making pies and cookies. Loved making desert. And meatloaf became a stand-by pretty early on. I would make my own granola. And I made my own hummus— that was a great money saver. You make it out by the pound. It was interesting feeling so besieged financially. It was the same thing when I was at graduate school at Columbia. Those were real flood-relief quantities of hummus. Seems like I had the whole town mapped in terms of where you could get a good deal on cheese or bok choy or coffee. I had an entire values circuit in lower Manhattan. It would take me three hours to go shopping because it felt worth it to walk fourteen blocks to save fifty cents on a bag of oats. Was that time just miserable, or do you have some nostalgia for it? Being really dirt poor in New York is kind of exciting because the mere fact of survival is a kind of triumph. That sense of being really financially embattled. I remember not knowing if I was going to be able to pay rent or not, even though I lived in a shoebox that was dirt cheap by today’s standards. Where was the shoebox? It was in the West Village, which sounds surprising. But literally it was the size of a Volkswagen. It had a toilet in one closet and a shower in another closet. It was not a place that radiated joy. It was right on 7th avenue. It was so loud it was really like having a tent on 7th avenue. Let’s backtrack. You moved to New York to get your M.F.A. at Columbia. What made you go to graduate school? Maybe some sort of craven credentialing impulse. But maybe that’s not true. I had been writing with some degree of discipline in my early twenties. I was trying to always have something in the works, some little essay or piece of journalism or something. But I didn’t really know what it would be like yet to write every day. I thought going to graduate school would be a good way to figure out what the life was like. I hadn’t been writing fiction at all before graduate school. It seemed like it would be a good boot camp. I figured I would come to New York and wind up getting a job in publishing. I thought it would give me leverage to survive writing. But you were publishing work before then, right? Yes. In some zines that were one tier up from really terrible. And I had an article in The Washington Post Magazine about the time I worked as an operator of a pirate ship ride on a moving carnival. I exploited the whole thing as a short story in my book [Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned]. What was your experience of graduate school? I got a huge amount out of Columbia. Early on, I found a really good mentor in Ben Marcus. I was kind of amazed that I was able to do that thing of writing fiction. Really, the first stories I ever wrote to completion were my first workshop stories. I guess I expected to get absolutely savaged by my classmates. That did happen a few times, but mostly people were just really nice and seemed to think I knew what I was doing…which surprised me. I don’t know if I learned practical stuff about structuring a narrative and things like that, but I think the most useful thing about it was getting used to writing every day and having regular deadlines…being in this environment where you are subjected to the sorts of demands that the life of a professional writer would put you through. Which is a difficult thing. You go from being somebody who is thinking about writing, or being someone who has some sort of facility with language, to suddenly being in that headspace of thinking about it all the time. It is a very rough, alienating transition to go from civilian consciousness to writer consciousness. It does put you in a weird remove from most other people. Suddenly you respond to what you go through in a very different way. You stop feeling like quite such an alien after a while. But you constantly have that description-generator going in your mind, occasionally being vain enough to break out your notebook. You published two stories that you wrote during your time at Columbia while you were still there, in The Paris Review! From the slush pile! Wow!! Yes. I sent the first two stories I wrote to The Paris Review. They took both of them. That’s crazy. It was really weird. It seemed like a colossal bit of luck. When they accepted that first story they called me up and put me on the phone with George Plimpton. Plimpton had always been a huge hero of mine, so that was kind of an astonishing moment. The important lesson there, and about all the public parts of writing is: none of it made doing the work any easier. In fact, for a few years after I got out of Columbia, where I’d had a good amount of early publishing success, I was really having a hard time writing. I was writing these stories that just kept failing because they were getting way too clever for their own riches. They were terrible. Just clever pretexts and a bunch of pyrotechnic constructions. Cleverness is, for me, really the enemy. But the Internet is the devil. Yes. It is really bad. I have a program on my computer that jams your Internet for a certain period of time so you can’t access it. Although, when I was down in North Carolina for a while, I didn’t have Internet where I was staying. It was a great relief. Henceforth, I will not have Internet where I work. I read somewhere that you have two desks, one for writing fiction and one for writing nonfiction. I did when I lived in my old apartment in Greenpoint. That was handy. One desk had Internet, the other didn’t. Because when you are writing nonfiction you really do need the Internet, since you’re constantly fact-checking and things like that. But I really do think for fiction writers, it is the most lethal thing that technology has done to us. For most of us, writing is so difficult that you’re just dying for a distraction. You’d really rather be doing anything but writing. It is just so easy to mess around with all those toys out there. It can be an awful virus to unleash on your workday. What are your work habits like? I try to put in a solid four to six hours a day. I think much beyond that, the pleasure goes out of it. Particularly writing fiction, which is really the process of willing yourself into a tenuous alpha-state where suddenly the world that you are making up seems believable and interesting. I think that kind of spell-craft can only hold for a limited period of time before you start to fake it. The notion of going into a room by yourself and trying to make yourself believe in made up stuff with sufficient fervor that you think it will be worth people’s time reading it, is a very, very weird thing to do. Do you feel life as a writer gets lonely? That is something I had to deal with at first. It is lonely. But, the thing that you learn about it is that it just takes such colossal tracks of time to get any decent writing done. We’re talking about basically taking a whole day to get, who knows, 500 or 1000 words— that you’ll probably end up throwing out anyway! You have to do that again and again. As you get further along in your career, you just very naturally build up resentment for anything that would take you away from that time that you need to throw away. It’s not often that I’m sitting at my desk thinking: “I’m so lonely, I wish someone would come and play with me.” It’s much more: “I wish I were smarter. I wish I had an extra brain in my head.” But what could possibly be more satisfying than spending your life trying to make people? Of course it is difficult. If it weren’t, everybody would do it. Writing isn’t exactly a secure and stable career path. Did or does that ever worry you? There have been some very lean times. But I don’t really have enormous financial demands. I burn at a fairly low economic metabolism that I can adjust according to the amount of money that is coming in. When I decided I wanted to write, I decided I was going to put that first rather than putting marble floors in my house, or something like that. I think no matter what, you have to put it first. And unless you put it first, at least for a good amount of time when you’re going through your apprentice years as a writer, you are not going to make it. Maybe you will if you are really bright, or really well-connected. But I don’t think you are going to make your best work if you don’t make it the most important thing in your life. If you do that, you are not really worried about if you’re making money or not. For me, the anxiety of being poor was never close to the anxiety of whether I was doing adequate work or not. I watched a TED talk with Elizabeth Gilbert where she argues that it is time for society to forgo the idea of artists being geniuses and return to a Classicist idea of the genius visiting the artist, so that the masterpiece is not yours alone and, in turn, the pressure of being able to produce new masterpieces isn’t either. What do you think about that? I don’t think the genius has ever visited me. And I think it is pretty safe to say that the genius has never come within a light year of most people on The New York Times Bestseller List. But there are geniuses every now and again. It would be pretty hard to make the case that Nabokov wasn’t a genius. I think that David Foster Wallace was a genius. Anyone who can look at the world and turn it, reliably, into such astonishing language, is genius. For the rest of us, it is just work and faith, if that isn’t too earnest a word to use. Something I think about a lot with writing is something Walker Percy said, that writing is something that you can only really do once you’ve given up. For me, that is more the kind of visitation or periodic useful revelation you are talking about. What it means to me is that after you’ve been sitting at a desk for a long time fretting and thinking, “Oh fuck, I need to write something really good, I need to write something really smart and good, and really, really good…”, I am able to say: “I am not going to write anything that is going to be great. I am just going to try to capture a moment in a way that doesn’t seem cheap, or won’t be embarrassing.” Often, that is what I default to: I am going to write something that is neither cowardly— I am not going to hide in obvious defenses— nor am I going to write something that is going to embarrass me. At that point, it is sometimes possible to write. Do you have any advice for fledgling writers? Work really hard. And don’t let rejection discourage you. At the same time, don’t let early success persuade you that you’re a genius. One thing I talk a lot about is revision. I am a great believer in really extravagant re-writes. With my collection [Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned], I went back and totally re-wrote all the stories, even ones that had been published before in good magazines. I went back and destroyed them, told them from the point of view of a different character or whatever I thought would suit the story better. I think getting really fearless about destroying work that you’ve spent a lot of time on is indispensible. Interview by Astri von Arbin Ahlander Photo by Jimmy Fountain via
It used to be that fans in a city could track their favorite artists around town and in nearby areas, hitting a variety of shows and begging for more. Those days, however, are almost as forgotten as walkmans and record stores. Because live shows have become one of the few sources of profitable income in music, everyone wants a piece of the pot, instigating new deals and restrictions for how talent translates their work into dollars. The radius clause is one such constraint, a measure of exclusivity limiting an artist's freedom to perform within a geographic area for a specified period of time, and clearly meant to keep all attention for that artist focused in one direction. It has become a source of contention not only for artists and management, but also for local venue owners and promoters. “In my experience, which is primarily with venue shows, the range of exclusivity will be something like, four weeks prior and three weeks following an event, within about a 100 or so mile radius of the venue,” explains Geoff Sawyer, manager of such indie artists as The Love Language and Brother Reade. “It is definitely not in every contract, but the bigger the event and the bigger the artist is, the more of a financial risk it is for a promoter. It's considerably more typical in larger cities, but has more to do with the size of the artist than anything else. As a concert promoter, the more money you're laying down to produce a show, the more you'd want to protect yourself from local competition.” The clause has certainly not slipped by unnoticed. There have been many protests from fans, venue owners and sponsors claiming the restriction devastates the local music scene and its backers. In the case of Lollapalooza this year in Chicago, the Attorney General went so far as to investigate antitrust violations against C3 presents, the promoting organization which runs the annual music festival, for putting such tight precincts on participating artists. Anyone performing in the three day event was barred from performing anywhere else within a 300 mile radius of Chicago for as many as six months prior and three months after the yearly event. Additionally, because the event is mainly funded by corporate sponsors, the argument led to further debate as to who was fueling the business, and ultimately, had the upper hand over artists' rights. Lollapalooza, of course, is an unusual case. “I don't really feel it has that big of an effect on the scene because in secondary markets, it's less enforced, and generally only pertains to national acts,” comments Sawyer. “On a local level, venues tend to be up on what's happening in their respective music scenes, and know better than to book bands that play out four times a week. At a certain point, it's common sense.” The clause sometimes even extends to include rivaling corporations within cities. If an artist performs at a venue in a Vegas hotel, for instance, he will likely be excluded from staying at or frequenting competitive hotels and restaurants in the area, as it violates his contract and detracts from marketing efforts. Nevertheless, there can also be benefits to the rule. In many cases, a promoter will do heavier advertising given the guarantee of an artist's support, and the artist can demand a larger sum upfront. “If you're a bigger artist, you get the security of a large guarantee, and assume they will do a better job of reaching the greatest number of fans than a fragmented effort from a couple smaller promoters,” notes Sawyer. “However if you're a small artist and relatively new to a market, your guarantees are probably not going to be high, promotion budgets are not going to be high either, and getting to potential fans via a few different avenues will be smarter (and not necessarily hurt the draws of one another). I'm a big fan of making a weekend out of a market, with one night being the publicly visible venue show, the other show being a much smaller, less public gift to fans 'in the know,' and then a high profile DJ gig, where the night is the draw rather than the artist, and it makes for good visibility.” That being said, Sawyer admits he's never experienced a great conflict of interest or canceled one show for another as a result of the clause. He adds, “There have been situations where I felt strongly about crafting something like the weekend described above, but have nearly always been able to negotiate something favorable. However when Coachella tells you not to play Southern California for a little while, what are you going to do?”
Gary Shteyngart is the author of two bestselling novels, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2003) and Absurdistan (2006). His upcoming novel, Super Sad True Love Story, will be published by Random House on July 27 and is one of the most anticipated books of 2010. Shteyngart’s work has also appeared in Granta, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Slate. He is a contributing editor to Travel and Leisure. Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972 and moved to the United States when he was seven. He now lives in New York and is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University School of the Arts where he teaches fiction. He is the recipient of a painfully long list of literary awards and notable mentions. Shteyngart’s pattern of choice is plaid. He dreams of owning a longhaired dachshund. When did you start writing? GS: I started writing when I was a little kid, when I was four or five.  My grandmother hired me. She was a journalist in Leningrad and she would pay me in little pieces of Soviet cheese for every page I wrote. So I started writing this story about Lenin and a magical Goose. They banded together and tried to forge a Soviet revolution in Finland, I think it was. Did you always know you were going to be a writer? Yes, because it was the only thing I was good at. I’ve been fired from almost every job I’ve had that doesn’t involve writing. My mind wanders, I’m a dreamer. How do your parents feel about you being a writer? What did they think before you were published? Bad! I kept having to tell them I was going to some kind of grad school. In Russian you say, “Who are you by profession,” and I had nothing to answer that question. So I kept having to send them brochures from grad programs, like the John F. Kennedy School, Urban Planning, Cornell, Columbia Master in International Affairs…just some kind of Masters Degree that would make them feel like I was doing something with my life. There is a funny New York Times Magazine piece that appeared when my first book came out where they interview my parents and my mother is like: “Maybe he should have been an accountant? I bet he would have been a good accountant.”  Now that I’m making money, they’re OK with it. I guess they are proud in a strange kind of way. What were those five years of work like between graduating from Oberlin College and getting a book contract? I always tell my students to find a non-profit job because non-profit means that there is no bottom line! Or some kind of municipal job. You want to work 9-5, so that when the day is over it’s over and the weekends are yours. And the best thing, which I had at a couple of jobs, is when you can lock yourself in your office and write. People would say, “Oh Shteyngart is not a team player, he is always locked in his office, God knows what he is doing in there!” I used to work at this non-profit that dealt with immigrant resettlement and I would help write directions for new Russian immigrants, like how to not get drunk, how to avoid AIDS, stuff like that. That took max a couple of days a month, really. And the rest of the time I would lock myself in my office and work on the draft of my first novel. Half of it was finished by my senior year in college and the other half was finished working that job. It wasn’t the kind of service job where I would come home exhausted. I would come home ready to write or would have accomplished the writing at the office. It was brilliant. I didn’t work more than two years at any one given place because there’d be lay-offs or people would realize I wasn’t doing anything. Here is a good thing to do when you are getting fired: sometimes you work for really nice organizations where there is a really sweet Jewish woman behind the desk, and you tell her you need unemployment benefits. In order to get unemployment benefits you can’t be fired, they have to say you have been laid off. Well, boy, did I get a lot of unemployment benefits. 400-500 dollars a week is what that would get me. Back then, life was much cheaper in New York City. You could live on that. If I had to have a job besides writing, I never wanted a corporate job, a profession. Because people who work law, medicine, finance, their entire lives are consumed by what they do. There is no room for writing. You have to be an insane person, like Chekhov. And Chekhov really didn’t practice medicine much. You need that job where you can close the door behind you. You need that concentration.  The other problem now as opposed to then is that then there was no Internet. There was no distraction. Now, it’s impossible. It keeps going BING! at you. What would be on your grocery list from that time? I never really learned how to cook, which was a big problem. So I would live on dirt cheap take-out. There was one take-out where you could get rice and a little piece of beef for like $2.49. Then I would live off of chicken nuggets. Sometimes, when I felt flush, I would have Chinese food, for $4. The soup was always free. Hot and sour. What were you spending your money on at the time? Beer. Wine. Vodka. It was weird. I was really poor, but every once in a while I would get money together and throw a party with caviar and sturgeon and stuff— very Russian to blow it all in one night. I would live in these tiny apartments, 400 or 500 square feet, and I would cram 100 people in there. It was out of control. I had a fire escape and access to a roof at one point. The apartments were on the Lower East Side. In Park Slope before it was invaded by children. I helped to gentrify Fort Greene, personally. How long did it take to make money off your writing? Before my first book, I wasn’t publishing anything. I was just working on the novel. I graduated from Oberlin ’95 and I just kept re-writing my first book over and over again. I got a book contract in ’99 or ’00 and it was big enough that I could quit what I was doing and live on it. You went to Hunter College for your Master of Fine Arts in writing. You’ve mentioned that you were totally cut down in your workshop? Yes! There were a lot of people who really hated my work. “He’s too clever by half!” this German woman who spoke with a British accent used to say. But I got my book deal before I even started Hunter because Chang-Rae Lee, who was running Hunter, helped to get it published. So it was funny, because when people in my workshop found out that I had a book deal they were all like, “It’s great! Who’s your agent?” It kind of made the whole workshop thing feel ridiculous. Workshops can be very hurtful for no good reason. Sometimes when a student of mine gets completely rolled over by the other students but I think it is good work I will tell them afterwards: look, there might be something to what they’re saying but personally I think it’s good. Why get an MFA? An MFA is a terminal degree, you may die from it. In the end I don’t think you need one. But for me, I wanted Chang-Rae to edit this book I had been writing. He was the Master of Immigrant Fiction as far as I was concerned, so I really wanted to work with him. I was partying a lot. It really is a great lifestyle, which is why I sort of envy MFA students now. It’s a great opportunity to party with like-minded people. Get down with them. Before the book deal, while you were working those five years on the manuscript, did you identify yourself as a writer? No, no, no! Are you kidding me? I’m always shocked by Americans and their self-confidence. They haven’t published anything, and you ask them what they do and they say: “I’m a writer.” I say, “Oh, who is your publisher?” And they say, “Oh, well…I’ve been working on this book for the past 87 years and it’s brilliant but…” I do have to say that takes a lot of chutzpah and that’s wonderful. It really means that you think of yourself as a writer. I didn’t think of myself as a writer until the book came out. Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up? I threw out so many drafts of my first book. One time when I was living in Park Slope I threw out a draft of it and, like a good Oberlin graduate, I recycled it. I put it into a bin and the whole thing went flying in the wind. So I’m walking through the neighborhood and my opus is scattered all over Seventh Avenue! And it says Shteyngart at the top of each page. I walked into this blizzard of my own work and thought: I’m an idiot. This is never going to happen. Looking back, I should probably have published my first book two or three years out of college, I just didn’t have the nerve to send it to a publisher. It wasn’t until Chang-Rae Lee read it. When Chang-Rae read it, it wasn’t entirely different from what it used to be a couple of years beforehand, but he just gave me this sort of courage. Well, he didn’t really give me the courage because he just sent it to the publisher himself! What’s it like being a writer today? I would say that writers are the most desperate people I have ever seen in terms of their utter lack of self-esteem. Their incredible alcoholism. Their way of life. Also, this feeling that they are no longer culturally relevant. I was watching “Mad Men” and there was some executive who flies in from somewhere and says: “Wow, we just saw James Michener by the pool!” Just the idea that writers were celebrities. That people, even some random executive from nowhere, would seek them out and know who they were. The demise of writers as cultural figures has happened so quickly, I think it is still a shock. It is interesting to look at younger people from generations ahead of mine, because they never counted on that to begin with. But my peers, the people in their late 30’s now, to us literature still mattered when we were in our 20’s. We would discuss the new Martin Amis book with a comrade who was not a writer himself. Recently I was at a dinner with a lot of very young people who just graduated from college and a friend said, “Oh, Gary is a novelist,” and they all looked at me like, what the hell isthat? Like in a zoo! And then my friend said, “And he is also a contributing editor to Travel and Leisure,” and they said, “Oooo! Travel and Leisure! That must be awesome, dude!” Did you aspire to fame and fortune? I never thought my books would sell. I thought I would be very much on the margins. Stuff about Russian immigrants, who the hell would want to read about that? I just wanted to eke out some kind of living. I never thought it would be my primary source of income. I almost thought there was something romantic about that. Sort of like Soviet writers in the time of the Soviet Union who worked very hard even though nobody would read it because the state censured it. There is a term for that which means, literally, that you “write into the desk.” As though the drawer of your desk is the only place your work will ever be found. What are your thoughts looking back? Before you publish your first book there is a sense that you are living an adventure. Something great can happen, something terrible can happen, and nothing can happen, which is the worst of all. But it is exciting. When your book is published and you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve, the struggle isn’t there to the same extent. It’s not as fun and you feel like it’s work. Knowing you’ll be paid for it makes it more professional, and things are already more professionalized from how they used to be when Hemingway and Dos Passos and Fitzgerald roamed the globe. Because now everyone has this MFA degree and is obsessed with health care, insurance, pension. Once you enter the ranks of successful writers, you hand over the feeling that anything can happen. Then it becomes: I have to work so that I can keep up my lifestyle. They weren’t such bad times. I was drunk too much. But I really felt young. And I knew it every second. Everything mattered. Every party was interesting. Every conversation was interesting. Everything mattered. Now everything is just pretty much set. Interview by Astri von Arbin Ahlander via:
Fear and Anxiety in Bologna: My First Concert Experience.
Tom Sanford is a painter based in New York whose work has been exhibited far and wide, from Los Angeles to Paris to Tokyo to Bergen. Sanford’s work is not quiet. It is loud— in color, subject matter, and the responses it provokes. Peppered with pop references, religious imagery, and in-your-face attitude, his paintings challenge taboos while winking at a long history of artistic tradition. Titles of some of his recent solo shows serve as apt descriptors of the work itself: “Mr. Hangover” (Leo Koenig Inc., New York, NY, 2008), “Bad Religion” (Galleri Faurschou, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2007), and “I will Fukn Rob Your White Ass” (Leo Koenig Inc., NY, 2006). In 2003, Sanford embarked on a project to “transform” himself into TomPAC, the incarnation of Tupac Shakur, in conjunction with his exhibition of a series of iconic paintings of gangster rappers. Sanford is represented by Leo Koenig Inc. in New York, by Galleri Faurschou in Copenhagen and Beijing, and by Galerie Erna Hecey in Brussels. He has a B.A. from Columbia University and an M.F.A. from Hunter College. He is shaggy-haired, amiable, and fast-talking. His laugh rumbles warm and easy. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a banker. My dad was a banker. When I was very young I had a little pretend bank, it was called Tommy Trust. I think I counted pennies and had a little ledger where I made notes. It was almost like an art practice unto itself, simulating my father somehow. I thought I would be a banker for some time. I always drew and that sort of thing, but I never thought it was a viable career. I went to Columbia thinking I would go into banking. I studied economics initially, but I just didn’t really have much facility for economics. I pretty much failed Econometrics. What happened after failing Econometrics? I ended up switching over and becoming an Art major. I had one professor in the Art Department, Archie Rand, who had a big influence on me. He convinced me that being an artist was a viable career. It was a terrible influence in that way…my parents must’ve hated the guy! At first I became an Art and Econ double major, an eventually I became an Art major with an Econ minor. A gradual slip, in other words. How did your parents react to that? When I told my dad that I wanted to be an artist, he said, “Well, that’s great. You should join the Navy— there are probably a lot of decks you can paint!” My parents have always been very supportive, but I don’t think they thought it was the most practical thing in the world to do. You graduated from Columbia in 1998. What happened after that? I was seeing this girl at the time, and I think she had an influence on me— I broke up with her soon afterward— she wanted me to get a job. I think she felt that if I had a job I would have more money to spend on her. So, I applied for one job, the only job I ever applied for. It was being an administrator for an international art shipping company. Of course it would have been soul sucking and terrible, but I was one of two candidates who were seriously considered for the job. In the end, they went with the more experienced guy, which is the best thing that ever happened to me. Because then, since I needed money to rent a studio, I ended up working as an assistant to a bunch of artists. I did a number of other odd jobs, but the most steady source of income I had for the first five or so years out of college was working for artists. What you realize is that, after about six months of doing things like being an artist’s assistant, that Columbia degree is absolutely valueless. You just can’t get another kind of job. So you are very quickly forced into this life of art— which is the most wonderful thing. Tell me more about the jobs you had. My main employer was Alexis Rockman, a painter who I have been close with ever since. I also worked for Deborah Kass, who was a great mentor for me. And a professor of mine from Columbia, Gregory Amenoff, was a generous mentor to me. I became even closer to him after I graduated. He really, genuinely, wanted to help his students. I needed money, so he gave me a job. I needed to show my work, so he got me into group shows. I am always very thankful to him. My job as an assistant would be to paint the floor, clean the brushes, run their personal errands, that kind of thing. I would do research for them too. At the time, if an artist needed images for something, there wasn’t Google Image Search, so I would go to the New York Public Library and look through their image files to find a picture of a lemur, or whatever it was they wanted. Did you have any other jobs besides being an artists’ assistant? For a time I was working part-time doing research for a guy who was trying to pitch a show to HBO. I did moving jobs. I worked on sets on commercials building backdrops. I taught some after school programs— finger painting for kids in the projects, essentially. That was a lot of fun, but it was very draining. I also taught a summer program in SUNY Brockport, New York. Every year I would go up there and all these high school students would come up for a month of intensive art— college preparatory stuff. It was fun. We got up to all sorts of no good. The teachers were all between 18-35, so we spent about as much time in the bar room as with the kids. We did all sorts of crazy stuff, like steal golf carts from campus security and ride around drunk. Go to a store and see the weirdest things we could shoplift. It was in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t much to do up there. Where did you live after you graduated from college? When I got out of school, I sort of half-lived with my parents in Westchester and half-lived in a studio I rented in New Rochelle, which was very inexpensive. I would go home if I needed to shower, and would have my dinner of chips and a 40 in the studio. I would paint ‘til 4 at night and then go to my job in the morning. I had this big easy chair with a footrest in the studio, and I would sleep in that. After about a year, I moved into a loft in Bushwick with two friends, one was a painter and the other was a writer. We built a ramshackle housing unit in a corner so that most of it could be a studio. I had a little bed that was lofted above my friend’s room, like a tree house. There were rats in our loft sometimes, it was kind of disgusting. Williamsburg was a little bougie at that point, but not as much as now. My friends were there and in Bushwick. We would go to each other’s lofts and look at each other’s paintings and party and all that. There was no natural food store or anything like that in Bushwick at the time, so there were only two things we ate: we would either go to the ghetto Chinese place, or we would go to the Mobil Mart, because it was the only place where you could get un-rotten groceries. That Mobil Mart on Bushwick and Flushing is not there anymore, I guess there is no need for it anymore. But that is what we ate. You could get a can of stew, or Slim Jims, a lot of beer. We would make a lot of rice and beans. Why did you decide to go to graduate school at Hunter? I lived in that loft for about a year and half or two years. But I met my now-wife, Alex, when I was living there and it was clear that she didn’t want to spend a lot of time in that loft. First of all, it was in Bushwick. Bushwick, I guess it’s kinda nice now because they have restaurants and stuff, but it’s still a dump. I don’t know why people spend as much money as they do to live there now. When I lived there it was very inexpensive. Now you live much cheaper in this neighborhood [Upper West Side/Harlem]. So the reason I went to Hunter for graduate school was to get a studio in Manhattan! I had been out of college for four years, I was pretty broke, and I wanted a studio in Manhattan because Alex was in Manhattan. I thought, if I applied to Hunter I could get student loans. Also, the great thing about Hunter was that you could go for four years and get a pretty big studio. When I entered, it cost $1,100 per semester. You can’t rent a studio in Manhattan for less than that a month and I was getting six months worth for that price. I didn’t end up having to get a loan, because by the time I had to pay my tuition I had always saved up enough money. Initially from my odd jobs and then from my art because I started to show pretty regularly during my time there. I think by the time I got out of Hunter, I had more money than I had ever had! Do you recall the first time you were paid for your art? I had sold various pieces in college for very small amounts of money, but the first time I sold through a gallery was out of a show called “Size Matters.” It was at a place called GAle GAtes, which was a very cool non-profit art space in Dumbo. The show was in 1999 and was curated by Mike Weiss. I will forever love Mike Weiss. Not only for selling my first painting, but because of what he did before that. I was on a first date with this girl. We went to the Lucky Strike restaurant in Soho. Mike was an art impresario. He had a magazine, he was curating all these shows, and became an art dealer later. Well, he walks in to Lucky Strike with a whole bunch of fat cats, and he sees me in the corner with this girl. He waves and I wave back and say, “Oh, that’s this guy Mike, he just put me in a show.” Then, at the end of the meal, the waitress comes up and says, “The gentleman across the room has paid for your dinner.” I felt like the coolest fucking guy in the world. On the first date I walk into this place and people are buying our meal! How did you start getting your work shown? I was in a bunch of group shows at minor galleries, or shows that friends put on. I think the most important thing when you’re a young artist is your community. The point of going to art school is not that you’re going to learn anything particularly important there, for the most part. If you aren’t going to work on your own, you have no hope anyway— if you need to be in art school to make art, you’re screwed. But, the point of it is that you make a community. You meet other students and they will be your peers, hopefully for most of your life. Your friends and contacts will get you into shows. You sort of help your brothers and sisters out. My first solo show was in 2001 and it was a very odd situation. A friend of mine introduced me to this funny little Japanese fellow named Tomoya Saito who spoke almost no English. He was a peculiar chap, but he wanted to see young artists’ studios. He wanted to start a gallery, and he was looking for artists. He had decided that Brooklyn of all places was the place to find artists, so he was in New York for two or three months, traveling around from studio to studio. He came to my studio. At the time, I was making these icon paintings of gangster rappers. He liked the paintings and offered to do a show. I was a little bit wary of him, because he could hardly speak any English and he said he was going to make a gallery in Tokyo, but it didn’t exist yet…so. I said, “If you buy a couple of paintings, I’ll do the show.” I figured I would hedge my bets a little bit that way. So he did that. He flew me to Tokyo. And Alex, my now-wife who was my girlfriend then, came with me. I credit that as one of the very good things I did early on that led to our very long and happy relationship and marriage. So, Tomoya Saito was very important for my eternal happiness! Was that first show a break? It went reasonably well, but it wasn’t enough to make a living off of. So I was frustrated. I did what you’re not supposed to do, I sent slides of my work to a bunch of galleries, like twenty, that I thought were reasonable, where I might show. The only gallery that wanted to meet me was 31 Grand. They gave me a show. For that show, I did a project that got me into a lot of tension at the time. I decided to turn myself into Tupac Shakur. It was a very superficial transformation. I lost weight and I got one real tattoo and a lot of fake tattoos, got the appropriate piercings. I did daily ode-to-Tupac activities. I went on the Atkins diet to lose weight for the part, but on that diet I could still eat chicken wings, which was Tupac’s favorite dish. So that was a daily ritual. I would cheat [the diet] and have some Hennessy every day and smoke more pot than I normally would— I’m not a big pot smoker but Tupac was. The main part of the project was that I had a blog called Thug4Life, which unfortunately isn’t there anymore because I failed to pay the domain fee or whatever it is— I just forgot, it was the stupidest thing. Why did you transform yourself into Tupac? At the time, I was making gangster rap icon paintings. They weren’t really about being a fan of hip-hop. I was a fan of hip-hop and still am, but I thought of it as a transgressive act to make paintings of these young, black men. The art world was recovering from the 1990’s at the time, and it was still a questionable activity for a young, white, upper-middle class guy to paint black people. That was a taboo. So I figured, who could I paint that would be the most despicable? I went with gangster rappers. I thought that was interesting too because as a young, white suburbanite, I was into gangster rap because it offered a nihilistic, post-modern approach toward music that rock and roll did not. These guys had no interest in the avant-garde or the ethics of making art, they were about using the medium for political or financial rewards. That made a lot of sense to me. Classic rock seemed like my parents’ music. Even new rock music just didn’t seem relevant when you put it next to N.W.A. or Public Enemy. That is stuff that makes your parents nervous. I started making gangster rap paintings and after a while I felt that I needed more skin in the game, quite literally, so I decided I would turn myself into Tupac. Although I didn’t go into blackface, it was essentially like going into blackface. To claim that I was TomPAC, the reincarnation of Tupac. How did you publicize the project? I didn’t do anything! I just published the blog. And you got a tattoo. That’s quite a commitment. People get tattoos for silly reasons all the time. I felt like this was a perfectly good reason. It’s funny, because I go swimming most mornings at the pool on 138th street. Most of the lifeguards are of color and they actually really like the tattoo. I’ve been told that I’m the only swimmer they respect because I wear a Tupac tattoo. Where is the tattoo? [Shows the tattoo on his chest] It’s just the first one he got that says “Tupac.” I was going to get the “Thug Life” one, but the tattoo artist wisely advised me against it. Now I’m really glad because I’ve got my belly back and it would look really, really funny if I had a Thug Life tattoo there… Back to the actual project. I did the Tupac project because I didn’t think there was enough ‘me’ in the rapper paintings. I wanted to put myself on the line. It worked quite well in that I got a fair amount of dipshit-of-the-month notoriety. Got a lot of hate mail. I ended up being on MTV, interviewed by Sway. He went into the interview very angry. He didn’t realize the project was kind of a political thing. He just thought I was this asshole who was pretending to be Tupac. But then I was agreeing with all of his points, but for the camera he had to stay mad at me. And I looked like a skinhead. I was really skinny, covered in tattoos, I had my shirt off and had my head shaved. I was on the cover of an issue of the LA Times, I was on NPR, things like that. I did this thing for three months and it was quite enough. I am not a performer. I like my privacy. I did the blog, mostly. I only appeared in public as Tupac once, really, and that was for the opening of the show. The day of the opening, the Daily News ran an article about my show. They put in a photo of a painting of Jay-Z that I had made. And the gallery all day was getting phone calls from people who weren’t normal art patrons. Asking things like, “Is it free to come see the Jay-Z painting?” “What time is the gallery open?” And then they got a few— probably joke— death-threats. Also, the girls who worked in the gallery were at a bar the night before and they overheard someone they didn’t know talking about what was going to happen at the gallery the next night, at the opening. Like, “That kid’s gonna get shot!” So they were really nervous. The gallery ended up hiring security for the opening. I did the only thing I could think of doing, which is that I got really drunk. I was scared. I hid in the corner for most of the night. Dressed as Tupac? Yeah. I hardly remember the thing at all. A lot of your art is controversial. I have a few controversial pieces. The bottom line of most of the work is that it’s supposed to be in poor taste. Sometimes it is offensively in poor taste. One of the things you learn in art school is that you are meant to make work that is difficult. You’re not supposed to make work that is pleasing to people. I want to make work that communicates to people. That is populist. That people who are not a normal art audience can get something out of. I want it to function within the arena of art as well, but I want to make work that sort of breaks down taste and class. Taste is one of the tools of hegemony that differentiates the upper and the lower classes. So I want the work to be of the worst possible taste. Aesthetics are very easily changed or co-opted by a taste-making elite. If something looks ugly or garish, it can very easily be assimilated into being the hip or correct thing if there is a good reason to do it. I wanted to make work that was not that easy to assimilate. Because the fact that people who aren’t supposed to like fine art are probably going to like it, makes is very hard for the art establishment to touch it. A fifteen year-old kid can like it. I think that is more challenging, there is more room there. There were these two artists, Jack Early and Rob Pruitt. These two guys were hot young artists when I was in art school. And they did this show at Leo Castelli’s gallery. They were two white gay guys and they made paintings of African American imagery and called it the Black Show, or something like that [Red, Black, Green, Red, White and Blue]. They were totally ostracized in the art world. It was too transgressive. With identity politics in the ‘90s, people were not willing for that to be touched. These guys were messing around with black identity as white celebrity artists, and people didn’t like that. When I started making my work, I had a memory of what they had done. So I thought, this is something I could do that would touch a nerve. Weren’t you afraid that you would be ostracized too? I thought it was the best thing that could actually happen to me. Rob Pruitt and Jack Early had something to lose— I had nothing to lose. Being ostracized would be a high value problem for me. You can’t be ostracized if you aren’t in. Being an artist in not a stable career path, especially compared to the dream of being a banker that you had as a kid. Does that ever worry you? Of course. The good thing about being an artist is that you want to go to work every day and you don’t have any sort of mid-life crisis. I mean, you don’t get a Christmas party, but otherwise your life is great. You wake up, excited, like I do at five or six every morning— when I’m not too hungover— ready to go. Five or six?! Yeah, I’m getting old, right? The downside is that there is no stability. When I am able to make some money, I am pretty good about saving it. Luckily my wife has a job, so I’m not particularly worried. We just bought a new house, which will make our month-to-month expenses go down since we’ll rent out the first floor. I’ll be able to have a studio at home, and be home to take care of the little lady who is coming into our life soon [he is having a baby in February]. Everyone likes to have money, but I don’t really have that many expenses. Wives, they need things. They need to go on vacation and buy clothes. But, I don’t need things. I just need my materials and my studio, to eat, the basics. My parents are really WASPy and that makes them really frugal. I have a healthy disdain for materialism because of them, and I am thankful for hat. So even when I’ve had a lot of money coming in, I spent it on securities, stuff like that. You’re a responsible type. I guess so. What were your work habits like way back when, and what are they like now? All I did was paint and go to work, and on the weekends I might go to some parties. Then I could work late into the night, I can’t do that anymore. I’m really pretty useless after 8 pm these days. But I do get up pretty early. I’m not a particularly smart person, but I am a very disciplined person. And that’s my greatest asset, I think, as an artist. I really buy into the Malcolm Gladwell idea, the 10,000 hours idea. I put a lot of work into the studio when I was an undergraduate in college. I really didn’t do anything else. I did the bare minimum for my other classes and spent 40 or 50 hours a week in the studio. And after school, I never worked more than I needed to work on other jobs [besides painting]. I would work 35 hours at the very most, and if I could get by with 20, I would. One thing I have told my students when I taught, and would tell students again if I had the chance, is that the most important thing I did in my artistic training was being a high school wrestler. When I started wrestling I thought it would be cool, like WWF or something, but I quickly found out that it was about humiliation and pain and getting up early in the morning and sweating. It was awful, it sucked. But I was too scared of the coach to quit. And so I eventually did decently as a high school wrestler, but it really taught me work ethic. And I think that is the most important thing in doing anything, really. There is no reason that I have to get out of bed at five in the morning, I could sleep until six in the evening and no one would fire me, but you have to be self-motivated and disciplined. I treat art like a job. When I had a studio downtown, I would go to the studio every morning at eight o’clock and stay there until six pm. I would work pretty much the entire time I was there. Things will probably change somewhat now when I will have my studio at home. I will need to take care of the young lady then hand her off to an au pair or something in the afternoon and make dinner for my wife in the evening. We will get some sort of childcare so that I can get an eight-hour workday in. My wife is jealous, but she needs to keep her job. If you are an artist, you can’t get a loan unless you have a husband or a wife who has a “real” job. Any advice for young artists? It is a really good idea to work for an artist because you will learn how to be an artist. The most important part of my education was working as an assistant for those various artists, because I saw what they did apart from making work. I saw what it meant on a day-to-day basis to be an artist. And, you have to move to New York, or LA, or Berlin, or London. If you want to work for Goldman Sachs, you can’t live in Idaho, if you know what I mean. You have to go where the jobs are. That’s one thing. Then, there is no objective quality in art. Since everything is subject, your relationships are the most important thing. So, if you don’t know the people you need to know, you will slave in obscurity. You have to engage with the art world, if you want to be an artist and not a hobbyist. Of course there are different things you can do, you can be a regional artists and sell paintings for small amounts of money anywhere. But if you are looking to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then you have to be in the conversation, you have to come to the places where these things are happening. It’s more decentralized than it was, say, twenty years ago, there are probably ten cities in the world that it is possible to be an artist in, but you have to go there. What about the argument that New York is too expensive for struggling artists? Yes, it is expensive to live in New York and that makes it difficult, but there is a support network here and opportunities for artists— like working with art handling or assisting other artists— that don’t exist in other communities. It is more expensive, yes, but you can potentially sell some art. And you don’t do this for the comfortable lifestyle. If you need to have a lifestyle that necessitates a 40-hour a week “real” job, then you’re not interested in becoming an artist. Interview by Astri von Arbin Ahlander Images courtesy of the artist: Jam Master Jay Icon (2002) oil/acrylic with fake gold and silver leaf on wood. 50” x 40”, Times Square Pieta (2004) Oil & Acrylic on wood) 42”x52”, Wall Street (2008) oil on paper 72” x 48”, TomPAC (2003), Client 9 (2009) oil and fake silver leaf on paper, 70” x 48”, Michael Jackson (2010) oil/fake gold on wood 48” x 40” via:
Theme weeks at BTR continue with our 'Go Support Live Music' week. Today gives you an introduction to a week packed full of great content.
Julia Alvarez was raised in the Dominican Republic and New York City and is commonly considered one of the most prominent Latina writers of our time. Alvarez’ works of fiction include How The García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), In The Time of the Butterflies (1994), and Saving the World (2006). She has also published five books of poetry and two works of nonfiction, including Once Upon A Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA (2007). She has recently published a series of books for young readers, the first of which is How Tía Lola Came to visit Stay (2001). The list of prizes and awards that Alvarez has won is so astoundingly long that it would be impossible to include here in full. How The García Girls Lost Their Accents was given a Notable Book Award by The New York Times Book Review and was chosen by the NY Librarians as one of 21 classics for the 21 first century, along with masterpieces like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Marquez, and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. In the Time of the Butterflies was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1995 and was a Book of the Month Club choice in 1994. Her nonfiction book, Once Upon A Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2007. Alvarez has also been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for poetry and the 2009 F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature given by Montgomery College, whose earlier recipients include Grace Paley, John Updike, and Norman Mailer. Her work was featured in an exhibit at the New York Public Library entitled, “The Hand of the Poet: Original Manuscripts by 100 Masters, From John Donne to Julia Alvarez” (December 1995-April 1996). Julia Alvarez is a waif of a woman, with eyes that glitter like cut onyx. Her speech is fluid, fast, and conspiratorial. As was his habit, Shakespeare said it best, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” What made you realize you wanted to be a writer? When I came to America [from the Dominican Republic] at ten years old, I was not a reader. I had flunked every grade through fifth grade. Was a poor student. We got to this country— immigrants, starting from scratch, kids making fun of our accents. I knew some classroom English, but I couldn’t follow the quick-paced, idiomatic “barbaric yak” (Whitman’s phrase) of native English speakers. I had been raised in the embrace of a huge extended family, and suddenly I was closed into this little nuclear family. I’d heard we were coming to the home of the brave and the land of the free, but it didn’t feel that way to me. But I got lucky. I happened to have a good teacher— a nun, as a matter of fact— who got me started reading. I had grown up with storytellers, oral storytellers, but I never associated good stories with reading books. I had been living in a dictatorship…you can imagine—books were dry textbooks with the official stories. Boring. No wonder I hadn’t done well in school. But when I got here [to America] it was a like Helen Keller realizing that water is this thing that is being signed in her hand. Reading gave you access to the best storytellers. I became a reader. When you become a reader, you sit down at the big circle of storytellers. After listening, reading, listening, reading, you realize that there is one story you haven’t heard— the one that only you can tell. So you became a writer by becoming a reader. I really think the first step in becoming a writer is by becoming a reader. I read everything, but my special love was poetry. Now I see it was a way to keep speaking Spanish in English. Because rhyme and meter made the English more musical, more like Spanish. What my family had come looking for in the Unites States, the great democracy, the great freedom and equality, I didn’t find in the United States in the early 60’s in the playground. I found it between the covers of books. In high school I did a lot of creative writing. I wanted to be a poet. I knew early on that that is what I wanted to do. But how did poets earn a living? I hadn’t a clue. A valid concern. All I had as models of people with a career, a public life, were the males in my culture. This was not what a woman did. My grandmother never went past fourth grade! Once we got to this country, my teachers who were writers were my models. So I thought: that is what writers do to earn a living, they teach. Tell me about your college experience. I went to Connecticut College. I was there for two years. Both years, I won the poetry prize at the college. When I won the second time, the Dean of Students, who was a Middlebury College School of English graduate, told me I would love the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. That summer, 1969, I got a scholarship to attend Bread Loaf. I was nineteen years old. I was smitten. I had had teachers and some students who were like me, passionate about poetry and about writing it, but here was a place full of people like me, breathing, living, talking about poetry, about stories. During the conference, I went down to Middlebury College to the admissions office. “I want to come here,” I told the head of admissions, and he said, “Well, young lady, the application date is far gone. But here are all the materials for next year.” And I said, “No, I want to go now.” He said, “School is starting in a couple of weeks, we have a procedure!” I just let loose with why I loved this place. He looked at me and must have thought: “Wow, this passion is pretty rare.” So he said, “How quickly can you get me your scores and recommendations?” I was jumping up and down. And I remember, he said, “I can’t promise anything.” I went back home to Queens, just hoping things would work out. We didn’t hear back, we didn’t hear back. We were packing the car for Connecticut College, when I got the call from the head of admissions at Middlebury. “Do you still want to come here?” “Yes!!!!” I must have blown his ear off. Connecticut College was an all-women’s college, because when we applied to college, that is all that my father would allow. I hadn’t mentioned to my parents that Middlebury was coed. I still remember driving up to the school. There were all these guys walking around, and Papi in the car asking, “Y quién son esos muchachos?!” I said, “Papi, I don’t know, maybe they’re the brothers of the sisters who go here…” By then my mother, who had my number, turned around and gave me a colluding look, like, “Let’s see how this flies.” It flew! And did you write at Middlebury? I was writing all the time. I was the first English major ever allowed to do a creative writing thesis. What did you do after graduation? I didn’t want to leave Vermont. I moved all around, wherever I could find work, mostly seasonal as a waitress in ski resorts. Then I got a job in New York City at this little place called Special Reports, Inc. I took it because the listing in The New York Times said: Wanted: a writer. I was in charge of the newsletter, Special Reports: Ecology. Basically, I read all the releases from the EBPA, and then wrote up summaries for the once a week newsletter. The reports were dry, and the writing was business writing, no personality, no flair. I guess that was a valuable lesson for a young writer: how not to write. Meanwhile, I’d race through the work, and spent the rest of the time in my little office writing poetry. That summer I took two weeks off to go to Bread Loaf, and the comparison was just too painful. I knew I couldn’t go back to Special Reports, Inc. A lot of the writers at Bread Loaf were working at MFA programs. So I decided to go back to school and get that degree. You got your MFA. Tell me about that. Back then, there weren’t that many MFA programs. The big one was Iowa, so I applied there, got in. But when I went to see it, I realized it was too large a program. I thought: “I am going to get lost here.” So I ended up going to the University of Arkansas instead. I had met one of the faculty writers at Bread Loaf, and he had talked it up. Well, once I got there, he started hitting on me. I didn’t know what to do. Those were the years before sexual harassment policies were in place. I couldn’t even talk it over with another woman, because I was the only female in the MFA program. So, finally, I went to the head of the department and I complained. He said, “Oh you’re a big girl. You can take care of yourself.” I tried being a big girl—just the phrase, now I realize, was condescending. But since I wouldn’t sleep with the professor, my poems weren’t getting workshopped. Sometimes he’d get drunk and appear at night, knocking on my door. So I decided to leave. I was crushed. This happens. It doesn’t happen as much, but is certainly still does. Often when I felt down, I would contact my professors from Middlebury, because they were my mentors and muses, the people who could guide me in this culture. So, I called Bob Pack, told him what was going on, and he asked me if I had looked at Syracuse. So I ended up going to Syracuse, a small program back then. It turned out to be a wonderful experience. There was an active feminist writing community there. In addition to the regular workshop, we had a women’s workshop. It was just what I needed. Writers like Adrienne Rich were writing about what it was to be a woman writer. That community was really important to me. Also, my fellow students in the workshop. Students always think who is on the staff at a program, but really, what most matters I think is the community you build with the other students because these are going to be your peers. Mary Gordon was a student when I was there, for instance. What did you do when you graduated from Syracuse? I got out of that and got a job with Kentucky Poetry in the Schools for two years, 1975-77. Every six weeks, I moved to a new community and did writing workshops all around Kentucky. It was a national program—don’t know if it still exists in that form—funded by The National Endowment for the Arts. I remember I had a little yellow Volkswagen, and every six weeks I would pack it up with everything I owned and move to the next place. Sometimes I would be in a boarding house in a small town in the middle of the state, other times in people’s spare rooms. Sometimes the assignment was a woman’s prison, then the next time it could be an elementary school. I really learned how to teach. I loved it. I felt like one my favorites, Walt Whitman, traveling across America, listening to the varied carols! After the two years were up, I went around trying to replicate the experience. I did Poetry in the Schools in California, in Delaware, in North Carolina. But I made very little money. And the disruption of always moving was tough. I couldn’t get enough traction to sustain the writing. Especially when I started writing longer narrative pieces. I couldn’t just work on a poem in little bits of time. Besides a lot of my energy was being spent on periodic job searches, on moving, making friends, setting up a household in a new place every year. I needed roots. A steady job with a decent salary so I could settle down. Most college teaching jobs required a PhD even for writers. So I started wondering if I should go for the PhD to be more marketable. So…did you go for your PhD? Once we came to this country, my father wanted his children to get the highest degree in their field because it was “portable wealth” you could always take with you. He had been exiled twice from his country, and so that’s the way he thought. He didn’t know much about American colleges, but he knew about Harvard. So he kept saying I should apply to Harvard. Finally, I said, “Okay, okay, Papi, I’ll apply.” But of course, I thought: I’ll never get in but this will get him off my back! Wouldn’t you know it, I applied, and I got in! My father pleaded with me. On the walls of his little office in Brooklyn he had all his daughters’ degrees on the wall. If we got a letter from a teacher, it was framed and put on the wall. I kept fending him off, “Papi, it’s not me, I’m not a scholar.” He said, “Please, my daughter, just go up and check it out.” So I spent a day, sitting in on PhD classes at Harvard, talking to graduate students, some of whom had been there for ten years, with writers’ block, working on their dissertations on some obscure thing. I thought, I’ll die as a writer, I will, if I come here. The hardest thing was going back and facing my father. “I can’t do it, Papi,” I told him, “but tell you what? I’ll give you the acceptance letter and a copy of the letter I write to Harvard, declining the offer, and then you can say, ‘I had a daughter who got into Harvard and she turned them down!’” No PhD for you. What did you do instead? I decided to teach at the high school level. I didn’t have a teaching certificate, so I was limited to private schools. I got a job teaching at Andover, a lucky break, someone had dropped out at the last minute. But it was a boarding school, twenty-four seven. So really it was only during the summers that I could write. I see now that even though I didn’t have a plan, and I was willing to try stuff, in the end if it wasn’t nourishing me as a writer, I moved on. One plug for high school teaching. Elementary students can be fun, but high school students are reading to hone their souls, to figure out who they are. They have a lot at stake. And if you can get them interested, they are incredibly passionate readers. They have the same kind of intensity about what they read as a writer does. While I was teaching at Andover, I went for two summers to the Bread Loaf English Masters program. Mostly it was because I had started to write fiction, and my concentration at Syracuse had been poetry. So I took a fiction-writing workshop, which I loved. It was a lucky break because the professor, who taught at the University of Vermont, got a Guggenheim Fellowship, and he called me at Andover and asked if I would fill in for him for the year. So I gave up the job at Andover, because I thought: this is the beginning. The next year, another writer in the department got a fellowship for the year. So I taught another year. Now that I was sort of in the loop of the writing/teaching world, I found out about different fellowships for writers. One was the Jenny McKean Moore Fellowship at George Washington University in Washington D.C. I applied, got it. Again, I had to move, that was tough, but the schedule was light, so I could teach and also write. It was only a yearlong gig. Again I had to move. Do we hear a theme?! But now I had three years of college teaching under my belt, and having won that fellowship, well, I had a little more clout. So I got a tenure track job at the University of Illinois. I moved again. After three years, Bob Pack called me up from Middlebury and told me there was an opening. Vermont I could not resist. So I came here [to Middlebury]. You really worked the college circuit. Was the tenure race a tricky one? After a few years at Middlebury I was coming up for tenure. My chair met with me and said that I had great student evaluations and I was liked by the department, but I needed a book. I had had a poetry book when I was thirty-four, Grove Press. I think they did like 700 copies, it never went anywhere. And now I needed another book. I was panicked. So here I was, forty years old, I didn’t have much to show for myself, but I had at least gotten this tenure track job at Middlebury College. Suddenly, I had to just go out there and find a publisher. I had some stories that I was putting together. Years before, one of my stories had won a prize called the General Electric Young Writers Award. The winners were flown into New York City to do a group reading at the New York Public Library. The audience was studded with agents and editors. One of the agents came up to me and gave me her card. I put it away. But thank goodness, I’m a pack rat, so I found it all these years later. I contacted her and sent her my manuscript. Later she told me she sent it to about thirteen publishers, all rejected. But Algonquin finally accepted it. When I came up for tenure, I didn’t even have the book yet, but I had the contract. So I got tenure. I thought: “Phew! My tenure book. I made it.” And then the book [How the García Girls Lost Their Accents] did so well! So you had tenure, and sudden success, all at once. And I also happened to have gotten married that year to a great guy I met in Middlebury. It was a lucky year. But after a while, again, the old itch, trying to fit in the writing around the teaching. And once you have tenure, you have a lot of other duties as well. I started thinking: all your working life—twenty plus years by then— you’ve been a teacher who writes on the side. So I decided to be a writer who teaches on the side instead. And, these days, mostly a writer. As you can see, based on my life, I can’t offer young writers a map of where to go and what to. Everything I’ve done has been kind of by serendipity, flying by the seat of my pants, with many burned bridges behind me and dead-ends ahead. You can only plan up to a certain point. But I guess one thing I mentioned before is that somehow if where I had landed was not feeding the springs of the writing… in the end I moved on. How do you view success? I have had writer friends who really became successful early on. I spent two decades burning that midnight oil. Sometimes I felt bad that it just wasn’t happening for me. But I can say that by the time it came to me, success, I already knew I was in it for the long run, I was in it for its own rewards. It was my life and my calling. There’s something to be said for that discovery, that certainty. There is a kind of purity of motive there—though sometimes it felt more like insanity! Success is capricious. I knew that by the time it came to me. I might be the writer flavor of today, tomorrow we want vampires. And none of us knows, down the line, whose work is going to be meaningful? That’s not why you do it, anyhow. You do it because, you discover, you can’t not do it. It’s a practice. I hear my Buddhist friends talking about their practice- meditation, focusing, concentrating, losing the sense of self, disappearing- and they could be talking about the writing process, at least my writing process. There were writers in my workshops in college who were much better writers than I am. But they stopped. They learned that when it got hard, they could give it up. And that they were happier. Not that it’s sad. They learned that they were so unhappy doing it and that they would be ok giving it up, and they did because they didn’t need to do it. It’s a wonderfully brave and wise choice. Because the hard work can in the end make you a hard and bitter person. But the hard work for me was just how I was living my life. And when the success came…well. I still kept doing the work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not turning up my nose at success. It is affirming to give readings or to have a publishing house willing to take on your next book. It would be ridiculous to minimize how affirming that can be. But the bottom line is, when you sit down to write, the new book you are trying to write doesn’t know about any of that stuff. You still have to learn how to write that book and it’s still hard work. So it’s really got to be about that. What are your work habits like now, and what were they like before? When I was teaching full time, writing was what I fit in whenever there was time. Now, when I’m home and not out giving readings or touring with a new book, I put in a full work day. I start at the beginning of the day, and end at about 3 or 4 to do what I call “book biz.” There’s nothing mystical about it, it’s my work. I think of it like a dancer. If a dancer decides to take off a week, say, and then she puts on a piece of music and tries to dance, she’s not going to have the agility and fluidity she had when she was exercising those muscles every day. In fact, she might even hurt herself, pull a muscle, fall on her face. It’s the same with writing. It’s the muscles, the exercise, the limberness, the constant moving inside the language, the crafting of a beautiful structure built with words—the doing of it, day after day, that builds agility. Maybe other writers can just jump into it and do it now and then, but I can’t and I have yet to meet a good writer who does it in that spotty way. One thing I try to get my students to understand is: the habit of art. A habit is not something you think of like: “is this fun, do I feel like it today, can I fit it into my schedule?” It is a discipline. Some days it’s hard, some days it goes a little easier. Even on easy days, the next day when I read what I’ve written I know it needs another draft. I’ve found that a piece of writing always needs one more draft than I want to give it. And this is the difference: a writer gives it. It you are more in love with the idea of being a writer, of seeing your name in print, than the writing itself, you dismiss having to go at it again: “It’s good because I wrote it. This is original Alvarez.” If you really are about the writing, then the writing needs tinkering, Alvarez better get to work, even if she grumbles and groans and swears up and down, right before she settles in to do one more revision. Every craft involves the labor, but there is also the art of it. And when you get it right, there’s nothing like it. It’s almost like you’ve disappeared. You’ve used the fuel of yourself up and created this beautiful thing. How did your family feel about your decision to pursue a life as a writer? Remember, I was a generation before the feminist movement, really, and my parents were Dominicans, very old world. They thought high school education was enough for girls. Once we came to this country, they adopted the standards here and wanted us to get a good education. The highest degrees. Portable wealth, remember? But there were often mixed messages: a good education, but come home to live with la familia until you meet a good man and marry and start your family. That story was the one I was being pushed to live out. But time wore on, and I didn’t have anything to show for myself, I did feel like maybe I was fooling myself that I, a Dominican woman, could become an American writer. My cousins in the DR were marrying, having their first child, having their second, having their houses, being substantial women. I hated reunions, because I could just report on my many moves, my speckled job record, my mounting list of rejections. My parents started to worry and feel like, “you are going to have to give this thing up.” It was actually my father in the end who proved to be the most supportive. After he forgave me for Harvard. He realized there was something in this kid that nothing had shaken out. And actually, as my father got older, he started to write books. Self-published books on odd subjects. How to learn Chinese as a Dominican. How to be a happy old man. How he was abducted and taken to another planet where all the problems on earth had been solved. So, I think there was a side of my father that always wanted to release this creative side, and he never had the opportunity to do that. So, he became very supportive. My mother was less so. She felt like I was the black sheep. I had gotten divorced—a brief marriage that had happened at the end of my time doing poetry in Kentucky. A divorce in a Catholic, Latino family…that was a big deal. But I think my failure as a female gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. I was damaged goods already. It freed me in a way. I knew I wasn’t in the running to be anybody’s golden child. You have been writing children’s books recently. How is that? Some of my adult novelist friends think I’ve taken some time to go off to pasture, take it easy and write children’s books. Are they kidding?? Children’s books are like the poems of fiction. They might be shorter, but how does that line go? I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead? Kids’ attention spans are short, so you have to keep the writing really sharp and clear and engaging. There is all this doom and gloom talk going around about the “end of the book.” What do you think about that? Okay, here’s the good news: stories aren’t going to go away. The bad news for many writers of my generation is that we are attached to getting our stories via books, via print media. Young writers are going to have to discover new ways to deliver, perhaps even new ways to write stories. I think one of the biggest issues, is since the Internet is free, how are writers going to get compensated for their work so they can keep doing it? But imagine some of the positives: I mean you can reach an incredibly wide readership, you can save trees, you might not even have to go on book tours. My tour for my last children’s book was online! A virtual tour. So I don’t want to knock the Internet, but we have to find ways to pay our writers. Some professions are maybe going to fall by the wayside that were part of the book-way of delivering stories. Young writers especially can’t put their heads in the sand. But I said to Bill [her husband] after hearing all these wonderful young writers read at Bread Loaf this summer. “The world of stories is going to be just fine.” It was very heartening. Talented, accomplished, wise young writers who know so much that it took me so long to learn. It is sort of like feeling: it is getting passed on. The world is going to be OK. Do you have any advice for fledgling writers? The challenge of trying to write excellent work, that in itself is huge. To also figure out a way to make a living doing what you love is incredibly difficult. You have to be creative. Some writers make excellent teachers, but that is not every writer. And I don’t think it’s the best thing for our literature that all the writing come from academia. There is a real richness that comes out of life experiences. Charlie Parker said, “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” So one way for young writers to think about it is: what can I do that will actually enrich the writing? I think the best writing comes out of community, out of passionate engagement, not just with your life, but with the lives of those around you. I think this is something that has been known in our so-called Third World, developing countries. People always say: is your writing political? As if you choose the flavor of your writing aside from the life you’re living. When you live in these small, challenged communities, your life is part of your work. So I think that would be a way to think about it. Your passionate, engaged life will give you your material. A teacher I had at Syracuse, Philip Booth, once wrote: “How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” He was a wise man. A wonderful teacher. Finally, the advice is just: if this is what you do, you do it. You find a way to do so. Interview by Astri von Arbin Ahlander Photo copyright © by Bill Eichner
Checking in with our featured Discovery Artist Abdoulaye Alhassane.
re: getting on the top blogs “Dear Band Aid, I really want my band to get featured on Altered Zones. I can just tell that this would be the key to our success. How can I accomplish this goal?” – sarah in minneapolis, mn to be honest, i didn’t even know what Altered Zones was until i saw this question over there in the sidebar! according to my research, it is a collection of top-level indie blogs that is owned and curated by Pitchfork (which is one of the top indie music review sites). they seem to post mostly about experimental indie-dance music (also know as IDM– a style invented in the late 90s) but also sometimes rock, at least based on the few posts that i read. i am now following all of the blogs that are a part of Altered Zones on twitter, and they seem to be very popular ones, so it might not be so easy to get on there. i have found that the most popular blogs can be very hard to get through to. as a rule, the more popular a blog gets, the less new/untested music they want to hear and post about. HOWEVER, every popular blog has a few smaller blogs that they trust, from which they cull most of their material. then those small blogs have even smaller blogs that they trust and get their music from. and so forth. so, i think in order to get your band on Altered Zones, you have to do two things. first, become an indie dance music band. second, sniff out which blogs the Altered Zones blogs read, and send your music to them. if that doesn’t work, sniff out the smaller blogs that those mid-level blogs read, and send your stuff to them. keep doing this, and once you get down a few levels, someone will probably post about your music, and if it’s good enough, it’ll get run up the flagpole, maybe all the way to the Altered Zone! -Band Aid via Band Aid: Advice for Bands
It seems our brains are becoming less capable of focusing on one particular task and more accustomed to multi-tasking. Find out 'How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think.'
Re: tired of my "hit" first of all, sorry for missing yesterday’s post! i got swamped at work. but i am back today with some really good advice! and here it is: “what if i get tired of playing a song that is generally deemed my band’s “hit”?” – sam in denver, co this is a GREAT question! i think every band that gets even a little bit of local success has to deal with this problem. for some weird reason, there’s always one song that fans seem to gravitate towards. sometimes it’s not even the one you’d expect (or hope) they would. in one of my first bands in college, we had this song (can’t remember what it was called) that was basically a rip off of some Pearl Jam song, and people would just go nuts for it. maybe because they thought it was a cover, i don’t know. anyway, it was fun to play at first, but after a while it was the only thing people wanted to hear. sometimes we would end up playing it twice (once we played it four times!) all of us really hated that song, but what could we do? we were quickly becoming one of the more popular bands on campus. we thought we were going places, so we just let it ride. eventually we just weren’t having fun anymore, and called it quits. since then i have dealt with this problem in one of two ways, depending on the band and the situation. one way is to simply stop playing it altogether. i wouldn’t recommend this method if it’s a band that you really think is gonna make it big, because if you have one song that people really respond to, that is what’s gonna get an A&R guy’s attention. if you just stop playing a hit song, it is guaranteed you will lose about 75% of your audience at shows. so i’d only recommend this if it’s just a band your having fun with, and you want to keep it going for fun. the second way is to actually change the way you play the song. like the music, or the style, or the words. somehow make it interesting to play again. now, be advised, doing this all at once may be tricky. suddenly playing a drastically different version of the hit song will definitely lose you some fans. what i have done, and this always works, is to change it very gradually. start by just changing one small thing- a phrase in the guitar solo, or a lyric in the chorus, etc. every time you play a show, change a little something else. basically, ease your fans into the new version. that way you don’t alienate your fan base, and you get to still have fun playing your songs! hope that’s helpful! -Band Aid via Band Aid: Advice for Bands
The texting generation: How hard is it to actually write out your complete thought? Are people really laughing as much as they claim to be with their LOLs, LOFLs, and ROFLs?
re: getting on the top blogs “Dear Band Aid, I really want my band to get featured on Altered Zones. I can just tell that this would be the key to our success. How can I accomplish this goal?” – sarah in minneapolis, mn to be honest, i didn’t even know what Altered Zones was until i saw this question over there in the sidebar! according to my research, it is a collection of top-level indie blogs that is owned and curated by Pitchfork (which is one of the top indie music review sites). they seem to post mostly about experimental indie-dance music (also know as IDM– a style invented in the late 90s) but also sometimes rock, at least based on the few posts that i read. i am now following all of the blogs that are a part of Altered Zones on twitter, and they seem to be very popular ones, so it might not be so easy to get on there. i have found that the most popular blogs can be very hard to get through to. as a rule, the more popular a blog gets, the less new/untested music they want to hear and post about. HOWEVER, every popular blog has a few smaller blogs that they trust, from which they cull most of their material. then those small blogs have even smaller blogs that they trust and get their music from. and so forth. so, i think in order to get your band on Altered Zones, you have to do two things. first, become an indie dance music band. second, sniff out which blogs the Altered Zones blogs read, and send your music to them. if that doesn’t work, sniff out the smaller blogs that those mid-level blogs read, and send your stuff to them. keep doing this, and once you get down a few levels, someone will probably post about your music, and if it’s good enough, it’ll get run up the flagpole, maybe all the way to the Altered Zone! -Band Aid via Band Aid: Advice for Bands
BTR staff writer, Kory French tells of his first experience logging on the Internet.
Re: Recording “what’s the best way to record?” – bones in michigan oh this is a very open-ended question! obviously, everyone is a little different, but i would have to say that it’s best to go with a pro for recording. i am saying this for a few reasons. first of all, and most importantly, a pro knows what he’s doing. i cannot tell you how many of my friends recordings, and even some recordings from bands i have been in, have been ruined because someone in the band thinks he’s a studio engineer and wants to save some cash. it is the curse of rock star hubris, i guess! but trust me: pro’s are totally worth the money. you will get a great sounding record that any record label will be impressed with. the second reason i suggest going pro is that it gives your band a great goal to work toward. OK, say you’re in a band, you just wrote all these great new songs, and you want to record them. you could record them yourself that night with a mixer and a tape deck or laptop, and end up with some badly mixed, poorly performed songs that no one will want to buy. OR you could rehearse the songs with the band for a few months, get them tight, play enough shows to get enough dough to pay a true pro, and come out with a great sounding record with killer performances that any record label will be impressed with. which way do YOU think is better for your band? the choice is yours but just choose wisely… -Band Aid via Band Aid: Advice for Bands
Re: writing a song first of all, sorry for no update yesterday! i got hit pretty hard with some last minute work and didn’t have time to answer a question. nevermind all that, here’s today’s. sorry, it’s not the best answer, but hopefully it helps a little bit “How do you write a song?” damon in racine, wi ha ha, well this one is a doozy. they always say “write what you know”, so i guess that is as good a place as any to begin. try thinking of what your favorite songs are and what you like about them. in fact, it might be a good way to go to just start out writing a new song by learning how to cover some other songs you want your own song to sound like. back in middle school, my very first ever band was a cover band. we didn’t do anything too crazy, because we were just starting out. kept it pretty simple just by doing stuff like the ramones, the stones, some beatles stuff too. those were our favorites, and it was great to cover them because we learned how their songs worked, so then once we got our chops a bit, we were able to write songs using elements we liked from their songs. i mean, nobody cares about a stolen riff or vocal line in rock n roll! what’s more, one of my friends strated his own cover band doing hair metal stuff. quiet riot, poison, that kind of stuff (most of which i hated at the time!). they didn’t have any chops at all and spent so much time memorizing parts and timing that they never really learned how the songs were structured! as a result, all of those guys became great technical players, but they could never write a song! so be careful when starting a cover band. try to keep your goals in check, and just have fun with it. then soon (maybe 6 months to a year) you will learn how to play songs of your very own! -Band Aid via Band Aid: Advice for Bands
Our latest theme week on BreakThru is Communication Week. Get the details on what's in store this week on BTR. Some pretty cool coverage is on the way.
We are really digging the re-release of Seafarer's latest EP and think they do our Artist of the Week proud.
The fire has been burning wildly for a while now. It keeps swelling up as if ready to attack, but always retreats. Only now it seems like it's getting braver. The shaman is chanting louder and louder and the other natives seem fearful. I'm more than unsettled at this point, and then lasers are everywhere. Jettisons of light pour out of the shaman. Spider-like creatures made from metal, screaming for attention, scramble towards him as his chanting now seems to come from everywhere. Suddenly the shaman is gone. And then we see him; hanging ominously in the sky. The lights are gone, save for the pulsing red glow emanating from the limp yet eerily powerful old man. Dark... We're back where we were. This is how it has been for centuries now. We only ever play out one scene. I can do nothing but continue to hope that one day something will change. One day we'll move forward. MP3 :: Ensemble Economique - Real Things Physical is available now via Not Not Fun via Get Off The Coast
1 of 8 Chatroulette rolls result in a penis. Wait, what?! That's not a normal statistic. That's completely unexpected. Or is it?
I've been out of the loop for a bit. As if I really needed to tell you guys that. At some point, while I was still outside of this loop, LA Vampires (the better Pocahaunted side-project) and Zola Jesus collaborated on one of the best records of this year. For the first time since it has happened I am at peace with Pocahaunted's break-up. The irony is that these vampires are birthing new sorts of wicked life into me, rather than sucking it away. Now seriously, who's moving to LA with me? Oh, one more thing. As if a gorgeous collab with Zola Jesus wasn't enough, another LA Vamps cut drops this month with Matrix Metals on the assist. Not Not Fun might just be the best damn record label to ever exist y'all. Recognize. MP3 :: LA Vampires & Zola Jesus - Bone Is Bloodstone LA Vampires feat. Matrix Metals - Make Me Over LA Vampires meets Zola Jesus is available now, while So Unreal starts it's spin cycle later this month, both thanks to the stellar folks at Not Not Fun. via Get Off The Coast
A look into Internet privacy and the public response.
Why Google hasn't changed its name to The Omniscient yet is beyond me. Even in my cynical and relentlessly skeptical outlook on everything the Internet does and says, I admit: Google is pretty badass. Is there anything this little engine can't do? Hating Google is like hating knowledge. How can anyone hate something that offers so much in such a perfect, simple, and aesthetically pleasing way? (Actually, now that I have phrased it that way, I should have said, “Hating Google is like hating Jessica Simpson.”) Well, hold the wireless-connection a second there Daisy Duke; perhaps there is reason to question the oracle. What information is Google sneakily collecting behind your back? (NB: The following information was gathered from the Google Inc. Privacy Policy page .) Item number one of Google's Privacy Policy reads as follows: “We may combine the information you submit under your account with information from other Google services or third parties in order to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services.” Here is the translation of that text: “The stuff you type into Google accounts and Google searches is stored so we can herd you toward companies where you will buy stuff. If you buy stuff, we get paid from that company.” This really isn't that bad, or at least not that much of a surprise to most Internet users nowadays. Almost anyone who uses Google is aware of the fact that they store past searches and browsing trends so they can more efficiently advertise to you. This same technique is generally repeated under the subsection that discusses “cookies”: “We use cookies … for storing user preferences, improving search results and ad selection, and tracking user trends, such as how people search. Google also uses cookies in its advertising services to help advertisers and publishers serve and manage ads across the web and on Google services.” The sad, or frustrating, or even exonerating thing about Google's move to gather more information on user habits is that they are being forced into it by free-market conditions (that capitalist equalizer called 'competition'). In an article published in the online version of The Wall Street Journal this past August, Jessica E. Vascellaro had this to say about the shift in Google's attitude towards privacy: “Until recently, it refrained from aggressively cashing in on its own data about Internet users, fearing a backlash. But the rapid emergence of scrappy rivals who [sic.] track people's online activities and sell that data, along with Facebook Inc.'s growth, is forcing a shift... Google trails in some of these techniques by choice. Famous for its unofficial corporate motto, "Don't Be Evil," for years it resisted using any method to track people online without their knowledge at the fierce insistence of founders Sergey Brin and [Larry] Page.” In the end, it is sort of a give and take between consumer (you) and service provider (the G-man) that we will all have to come to terms with. In other words, be careful what you wish for. I began this article by praising Google for all that it has come to offer and represent in this fast-paced, wirelessly-wired, technological world we currently live in. If we push the privacy issues too far, the courts will be forced to address Google, which could force them to remodel their sleek and minimal look. It's no secret -- Google makes its money by collecting data about your, and my, Internet activities. Squeezing the pressure valve on this profit-earning structure will force Google to find new ways of providing their service. Then what? What could this ultimately mean? A monthly Google service charge? Loads of advertising on everything we do Googily (for example, imagine having to sit though a 60-second Toyota Camry commercial every time you wanted to search an address)? That is not the ideal. So for all those privacy-advocates out there, while I condone your noble fight for exclusive rights to your identity and habits, I also ask you to think of the alternative before rebelling with any lawsuits against the closest thing we have come to omniscience since Eden.
These days they seem to do it all for me. He really is up there, you know? I can't be sure, but I hope they're trying to stop it. The sky is this tumultuous black and I keep breathing it in. Tar. The kids seem to think it should just stay there, like some goddamn trophy. To hell with those kids. They don't know anything. They weren't there for the sparks of demons bursting from it's seams. They didn't witness the goats as they tore each villager from limb to limb. There is no good plan. We start stacking stones. Stacking stones for pillars, and we're just stacking them. It's like you can feel you every vein tear open up as every ailment leaves you. If we get high enough none of it matters. So we just keep stacking stones like pillars and we get there. Then we try to go fast and no one is speaking the same anymore. These days we're all overzealous children. MP3 :: BRAINSTORM - Beast in the Sky BRAINSTORM - Word Up - Upward Grab the Beast in the Sky 7" here. via Get Off The Coast
Here's a few new songs from Pigeons. Delicate wooing vocals drift over magical chords with light percussion making it just so damn lovely. I'm not a fan of Winter and the weather she brings, but something about these jams keeps me warm while reminding of me of the more beautiful parts of the season. Waves of nostalgia; but who isn't bathing in nostalgia these days? Things always seem to have been simpler then. [via Chocolate Bobka] MP3 :: Pigeons - The Postcard Pigeons - Sunset Park Grab the Visions of the Valley 7" now via Soft Abuse. Pigeons - Race Pre-order the Liasons full-length now, with a due date of November 16, also via Soft Abuse. via Get Off The Coast
Image taken from This week BreakThru Radio launches its new Web site and with it comes a new style to the editorial content that is featured on our pages daily. Theme weeks are the new modus operandi of BTR. We are starting off the launch of our new site with a look into privacy issues that stem from use of the Internet. A hot topic in both the blogosphere and with mainstream media since scandalous lawsuits against Facebook and notarized slip-ups at Google, individual privacy rights while using a computer continues to be a murky sea to swim in. The driving question behind our work here at BreakThru Radio this week is: “Are you aware of what the Internet has on you, and what they are doing with that information?” What's difficult to wrap one's head around is trying to figure out just who the Internet is. Labeling it as such gives off the idea that it has its own individualized identity when in fact that is not the case at all. Made up of an extremely complex and intricately woven web (it's not called the “world wide web” for nothing) of marketing tools, software programs, advertising agencies, and incorporated networking companies, our lifeline to information has become more of a manipulative psychologist incognito than a universal library. The only thing left to do is either come to terms with the fact that the more you use it the more it will know about you, or go vintage and revert back to using obsolete items like a phonebook, encyclopedia set, television, magazines, and god-forbid, face-to-face conversations with your friends. Tomorrow, Huffington Post videographer and BreakThru featured writer Hunter Stuart takes in in-depth look at the debacle at Facebook this past summer over their new and improved(?) privacy statement. “Did you read the new privacy policy this past May?” Stuart asks his readers. “If you didn't, you're not alone. And even if you did, you probably wondered about all the stuff you posted and uploaded before the new privacy policy took effect, and before the Terms of Service were changed.” On Wednesday, I will be looking at the information Google has on its users, how long they store this information and what they use it for, and what you can do to limit 'the oracle' from knowing everything about you. Google and Facebook are enemy number one and two, not necessarily in that order, for privacy advocates. Is it just because they are the easiest targets? Or is it because they happen to be the most ambitious in learning everything it is you do while on your Mac or PC? Thursday, BTR writer Amanda Decker will examine the details of Congressman (D-IL) Bobby Rush's proposed bill The Best Practices Act. It is a bill trying to pass the house that is greatening the divide between those who feel the Internet should continue to act as free flow of information, regardless of what that information is (i.e. your personal information) or at what costs, and those who are trying to limit industry access to valuable marketing data. An excerpt from Amanda's piece: “The Interactive Advertising Bureau whose board members include representatives from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, Comcast,, Fox Interactive, and CBS Interactive had this to say about it: '[It] would turn the Internet from a fast-moving information highway to a slow-moving toll-road.' The other end of the spectrum consists of the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), and Consumer Action. CDT President Leslie Harris called it an "essential" building block 'for a modern and flexible consumer privacy law.'” And, on Friday, Yale undergraduate Calah Singleton contemplates what it is that caused Chatroulette to go from an attempt at a new way for social networking into a forum of shared perversion. “The question really, is what makes Chatroulette different from the other forms of social media that have existed for years? There has been Internet sex as long as there has been Internet. But something about Chatroulette makes the Internet more scandalous; something that is talked about on comedy shows and parodied everywhere, while at the same time drawing a sense of revulsion.” Make sure to log in to BTR each day for fresh videos from the video team, op-ed articles from the writing staff, and of course, brand new, break-through music from all of our DJs. Get to know what the Internet has on you, and how you can make some simple modifications to limit the amount of information that is being bought and sold about who you are and what your online habits look like.
Artist of the Week - OFF!
Last night our boy Ian over at Friendship Bracelet posted up this rad new interstellar chronicle from Endless Caverns. Endless Caverns is one of the several projects from Matt Lajoie (also Herbcraft y'all.) The nearly 10 minute epic resonates with beauty throughout. Liquid guitars fill every open space of the mind with merriment and wonder. It's like hearing Christmas in space, which probably wouldn't make a whole lot of sense otherwise. Anyway, no use pretending we're not lost in this massive cavern. On the plus, we can find our way together. MP3 :: Endless Caverns - Sensei Deprivation II (Guitars in the Sun) Estranged Mane (Tempera/Endless Caverns split c40), Chakra Ledge and Magi Hymnal are all available over at the L'animaux Tryst strorefront. I warn you: be careful over there; it's easy to just start clicking add to cart.
When music has zest, it’s appealing and infectious…and that’s exactly what’s at the heart of Theophilus London‘s music. “Flying Overseas” is the second official single from the artist, featuring vocals from Beyonce‘s little sis Solange Knowles and singer Devonté Hynes. The song also has the kind of production we’ve come to expect from a London track– a steady, bass-heavy beat, layers of synths, and well-placed keys. “This song is about a kid from Brooklyn having dreams of jetting off to an exotic land with a loved one. I want to inspire kids to travel. Traveling inspires my music the most. It has inspired the entire album I just finished writing.” Theophilus London ft. Solange Knowles & Devonté Hynes- Flying Overseas
On Wednesday, November 10th, Icelandic rocker and artist Jonsi, of Sigur Ros and Rice Boy Sleeps, performed with his self-titled, multi-media side project at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. The majestic theater was an ideal setting for Jonsi’s scenic backdrop and simple, but powerful, lighting rigs. The energy in the small space was vibrating. A trio of young girls, called Mountain Men, opened the show with a set of mellow, a cappella songs that echoed Jonsi’s own singing style- smooth, high leaps, suspenseful- and prepared the crowd for what was about to pass. Finally, Jonsi and his band, all decorated in feathers and headgear, took to the stage. (Here is where I would usually rattle off a setlist and song statistics, but being that I am a new Jonsi fan, I won’t embarrass myself by getting the songs wrong.) The set started slowly, building layers as the acoustic guitar rang out its chords, the keys took their place in the composition, and the beat came tip-toeing in. The wooded forest backdrop that was the setting for the first few moments began to morph into an excerpt from a nature book, depicting farm animals, and eventually burning away, the flames turning into butterflies that danced off the screen. Sketches of other animals began to appear; a deer, a wolf, an owl, and a crow. As the drawings took life, the intensity and power of the music was building like a great wave coming in from the horizon. A chase scene ensued, where the band highlighted each movement, each fear, each look of the drawn-on eye, with great precision and intricacy. When the wolf was about to kill his prey, the deer bucked up, the image was shattered, and faded to black. In accordance, the band wound down and came to a stop. This was the beginning of an epic live climax that was supported by a delicately planned and executed musical rising action. A windowpane appeared out of the darkness and, once formed, began to drip down the screen, while Jonsi abandoned his guitar and used his powerful vocals to make the other instruments swell with importance. The windowpane shatters, Jonsi takes to the piano, and delicate flowers are born while he keeps the same energy and intensity on a new instrument. In English or Icelandic, his voice and words are strangely comforting; this became important to me as I found my muscles tightened, my brain anxious for the next move, even though the sound had retreated slightly. He pulled back for a moment, to make the audience cry for more, and then responded in a huge way. Clouds come rolling onto the screen, and the band got caught up in a whirlwind of sound; like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jonsi slouched and pouted around stage singing the most powerful song of the night, begging for mercy into his microphone, and finally falling to the ground as the other members slowly dropped out of the composition and left the stage. After the applause and cheering died down, the band returned for the encore. Letting his true, shy and humble personality shine for just one moment, Jonsi thanked the crowd for a wonderful American tour and promised he would be back. Then, quite literally, a musical and visual tornado swept across the Hammerstein Ballroom. Leaving only moments for build up and decline, the power of the music took hold almost immediately and didn’t let up for the ten-minute encore even a bit. After a show like this one, I certainly hope Jonsi will be back, and I hope others will be inclined to come see such a dramatic and moving performance.
“Relaxed and “cruisy” but gently psychedelic as well; warm and mellow but subtly strange”–Rose Quartz couldn’t of described this one better. “Nightshift In Blue” is the new single Djanimals, a new band out of Sydney Australia who just recently scored a deal with Stones Throw Records. Check out the song out below, which is off their debut album forthcoming in 2011. Djanimals- Nighshift In Blue
Woah! Just read over at Altered Zones that the members of Dirty Gold, who brought us the amazing song “California Sunrise,” have yet to even graduate high school! San Diego brothers John and Lincoln Ballif haven’t even left their parents house, yet they’ve found a way to make some of the coolest music we’ve heard all year. Check out the new video for “California Sunrise” below, done by Panaframe. Dirty Gold- California Sunrise
“To the public he was known as Ol' Dirty Bastard but to me he was known as Rusty. The kindest, most generous soul on earth.” -Cherry Jones--mother of ODB This past Saturday (November 13th) marks the sixth-year anniversary of the death of Russell Tyrone Jones, the rapper more famously known as Ol' Dirty Bastard. Strangely enough, on this past Monday (November 15th) he would have been 42. It is a daunting task to try and write a thousand-word obituary on a man I hardly know anything about. Sure, I remember playing basketball to Wu Tang Clan tracks when I was in high school; but that was only as a result of the pressure and persistence of a very close friend or mine who demanded his hip-hop CDs get as much play time as my overdone, and inappropriate in comparison, classic rock repertoire. It was not long before I began to recognize my own closeted affection for the Staten Island collective, soon thereafter, and much to the surprise of my good pal Chris, I was requesting the Clan each time we got into his truck to head off to football practice, drink rye and ginger ale at a bush party, or cruise the 'dangerous' redneck streets of my hometown. What was this kung-fu stuff? I didn't have a clue. What I did know was this: Two indisputable certainties: 1) I had no idea what this guy was rapping about, and couldn't relate to any of it. And 2) It didn't matter, because oh baby, I too, “like it raw.” The thing with a guy who comes onto the scene with a name like 'Ol' Dirty Bastard' backed by a group called 'The Wu Tang Clan' presents an immediate problem--or so one would think. And while I feel guilty now for once thinking this way, the more I learn about ODB, the less guilt I feel. It was shock that became his modus operandi, a style that would separate him from his contemporaries. I speculate that the reaction I got from his music was the very response he was looking for. He wanted his audience to hear his music and watch his performance with a “what the fuck just happened” state of disbelief. A case in point (his most famous case, to be exact): One does not jump on stage during the fortieth Grammy award ceremonies (1998) in Rockefeller Plaza to interrupt the “song of the year” recipient speech without full consciousness of intention and desired result. You see, in 1998 the Grammy's were still not recognizing the rap-portion of the ceremony as a television worthy event; and this pissed Dirty off. Frustrated that the awards for hip-hop were handed out a day earlier, during a non-televised ceremony, despite the fact that the genre of music was over two-decades old and while immersed in American culture, ODB took advantage of this moment to share with the rest of the country the injustices of a biased music industry. While many viewers saw it as a form of “distaste,” others applauded Dirty for his stance against racial prejudices in a country and industry that is supposed to be a leader in the disintegration of exactly that. A lot can be said about the life of Russell Tyrone Jackson that this article does not have the time nor space for. (As a side not, if you are interested I suggest Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of ODB by Jaime Lowe, which was the primary research source for this article). I could have spent much of my time filling you in on all of his sexual escapades that led to fatherless and unsupported children. I could have gone into detail over his trouble with the law, time spent in and out of  the US's notorious and discriminatory prison system, and the somewhat lengthy criminal record he managed to acquire over his thirty-five years in this world. Finally, I could have discussed his personal battle with drug and alcohol abuse, supposed and much disputed mental instability, and the official cause of his death: “Accidental overdose from a lethal combination of Tramadol [a painkiller] and cocaine.” But none of this gets down to the core of the man known as Ol' Dirty Bastard. Time is the ultimate equalizer. The further we move away from nineties hip-hop, the more we come to recognize it as a major player to a much greater subversive trend. What we often fall guilty of when thinking about these acts of subversion is that it is individual 'people' who make the parts to these cultural shifts. Ol' Dirty Bastard was one of those people. In other words, while our language is mostly predicated on the idea that 'hip-hop' stands alone as viable, sustainable American culture, we should be thinking about the people that made it this way. It wasn't some anomaly born out of thin air. It was a culture built on the character and subcultural styles of artists and performers like Russell Jackson. Alas, forget my self-prescribed verbose haughtiness. It is said much better in the vernacular of the culture: “What's the world without Dirt? Just a bunch of fuckin' water.” - Rhymefest Link to this article:
Hailing all the way from New Orleans, Generationals are a new band that you want to know about. ”Trust,” the title track off their new EP, is an infectious mixture of hypnotic bass riffs, swelling guitar chords and sharp rhythmic solos. It’s sunny and warm–and helps to keep the fall/winter blues at bay. Check it out below, and look for their EP Trust, being released November 9th exclusively through iTunes. Generationals- Trust
In addition to Nobel Prize-winning economists like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz saying austerity during a recession doesn’t work, and the ample evidence in Ireland and the Baltics that retraction is tantamount to death by a thousand cuts, for whatever reason these kinds of measures also aren’t very popular. The way Evi Simopoulou sees it, the austerity measures imposed on Greece as a condition of a $150 billion rescue package punish everyone for the government’s failures. “We didn’t eat the money,” said Ms. Simopoulou, a 29-year-old computer programmer from Athens. “They ate the money.” As the Prime Minister George Papandreou struggles to convince the world that he has what it takes to push through the reforms to keep Greece competitive and the Euro strong, there is one main obstacle in his path: Greeks. Although he has so far stayed the course, many are furious about the reforms, which have raised taxes, lowered salaries and left them with a pervasive feeling that they are caught in the cogs of larger economic forces. Their anger has spilled over into waves of street protests, incuding one in May in which three people died. God, poor people are so stupid. They just have to understand that they are financially responsible for bailing out their country in the aftermath of happy time at Wall Street casinos located roughly five thousand miles to their west. It’s time for everyone to suck it up and pay a little more so elites in the Hamptons don’t have to sell their extra yacht. Why is this so difficult for Greeks to accept? The problem is we don’t have a great communicator running the show. I wish Ronald Reagan was still alive, you guys.
While guitarist Chico Mann takes a break from his band, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, he has developed a multi-layered, electronic fusion sound that’s been blowing up dance floors in New York City and Miami. Mixing Afro-beat, freestyle, Latin, and synth-heavy electronic beats, Chico Mann has brought sounds of far away and far past, with music of the future, just beyond our reach, and called is “electropical." Born in NYC to Cuban parents, Marcos Garcia was exposed to music and the business from birth. His father owned a Cuban music record label and his mother often wrote compositions for the artists whom he signed. Garcia was involved in piano and guitar lessons from very young, and though he was told to steer clear of the music industry, it seemed to be his fate. In 2002, after a few jam sessions with Antibalas, he was asked to join the band permanently and has been developing his sound ever since. The new artist Chico Mann released his first solo album, Manifest Tone, Vol. 1, in 2007, and the following two volumes in May and June of 2009. In doing this, he introduced the world to a fusion of sound as blended as the city he hails from. “It's an expression of uniquely American music in the sense that it has all these different elements hooked together in one stew. It's also very urban, very Latin and very multicultural in that it draws from African and funk music,” he says in an interview with James Rawls for Spinner. Now signed to Wax Poetics records, Chico Mann is releasing his second full-length album, called Analog Drift, on November 16th. These twelve club-tronica, Latin-Afro- freestyle tracks are impossible not to dance to, his cover of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” is just one example.  He recently wrapped up the promotional tour, which included a stop at South By Southwest, and plans to be back on the road in 2011. For the time being, check out to buy the digital CD, join the mailing list, and keep up to date on this revolutionary new artist.
"Some may say it's a dying breed, or a dying business, but I still love the ritual of going to record stores or junk sales and buying vinyl. I love the warmth of the analog, the size, the artwork, and I love the experience of having to get out of the house and shop spontaneously. The first records I got as a kid were records that my babysitters were playing. I would read the lyrics, stare at the artwork, and dream of a better life and other places than my tiny apartment in Queens, New York. Music gave me the confidence to not feel alone and like a total freak in a suburban middle class mainstream world. It is my favorite format to hear music. Just when I get tired of schlepping my record collection around in apartments in New York or storage spaces, I have that night when I hook up the turn table, plug in, and once again clearly see the sonic difference. I dig the idea of having an iPod when I'm in the gym or sitting in the van or airplane. My favorite program on there is "shuffle" because it feels like one of my friends or somebody came into my house at a drunken party and started playing my records, picking their own choices, and making me hear my collection in a different way. Nonetheless, looking at an album cover on a tiny MP3 player really does not turn me on, even though for my own records the little image makes my nose look smaller. I always release all of my records on vinyl and sell them at the live shows. Me and the band love playing in stores & as many mom and pop shops as we can in this country. Traditionally, on release day, I play one of my favorite shops, Vintage Vinyl in New Jersey. There are many of these cats still out there. They are the real lovers, passionistas, and outlaws. The idea of going into a store looking for one thing, and maybe something else catches your eye—a person to fall in love with, become friends, start a band, or buy a record you weren't planning to. As a kid we went to record shops and some of the cool folks behind the counters would suggest things to buy. Sometimes these were life changing records. We would travel hours on trains and busses to find a certain shop or record. When we found what we needed it made all the difference. I'm an advocate of showing up and being in person. I'm not religious, but I believe in people and life. Going to live shows, bookstores, movies, and record stores are all part of the experience. To sit at home on one's couch and be told by shopping networks, "if you like this, you'll like that, etc. etc. etc." seems very big brother. Favorite things to listen to include: Bad Brains "Pay to Cum" 7 inch, anything by The Kills, The Hold Steady "Boys and Girls in America," Lucinda Williams "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," Elton John "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (double album with gatefold and lyrics), Chuck Berry "The Great 28," Suicide's debut album, Wilco "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" on 180 gram vinyl, Sam Cooke "Nightbeat," The Dickies "Dawn of the Dickies," and Bob Dylan "Blonde on Blonde." —Jesse Malin Jesse Malin & The St. Marks Social play DC9, this Sunday (9/12) with Moneybrother. Find Jesse at his Official Website | Myspace | Facebook Jesse Malin - All The Way From Moscow (Mp3) Approved or download!
Japanese Super Terrific Happy Hour is BTR's stretch across the Pacific Ocean and into that quirky, subcultural gizmo-techno world of Japan. In the words of two-man collective DJ Hanabi: “Our main focus with the show is to highlight the incredible ability the Japanese possess to copy a particular element of US pop culture, in this case music, so well that they actually become a parody.” In a cross-country email, Hanabi elaborates on the modus operandi of today's Japanese rock/pop/punk bands, making clear to his listener, and my reader, just what it is that makes Super Terrific's playlist so unique, and in their own rite, cool: “Japanese bands tend to become almost obsessive in their desire to emulate the music that speaks to them most, yet they have no real connection to the roots of the music or the scene itself. Most of these bands don't speak much English and therefore rely on visual and aural cues to form their approach but they often lack the essence of the scene and sound itself. For example some of the Japanese rockabilly bands we've played have the Stray Cats 'look' and sound down cold, but you get a sense that they have no real understanding of the rockabilly sub-culture or the music itself. Not that we do either.” This is what makes the show so “awesome to [them].”  It is precisely these bands that DJ Hanabi feel best harness their talents and incorporate influences into their own, very original sounds.” DJ Hanabi is actually made up of two people; John and Matt. They tell me they like it that way, but only because it was “a lot easier than coming up with another separate DJ name” than one they already record under. Their approach to each Super Terrific show is usually centered on a specific “genre of well known music and then finding the best and worst examples of Japanese mimicry.” What makes this formula most interesting is that Hanabi never overtly tells their listeners which tracks they think to be good and which they find sillier than anything else, because “of course, that's subjective.” The explanation of selection-formula goes on, “Actually, we really do enjoy all the tracks we play in their own way. Sometimes we laugh our asses off when listening to some of these bands. How can that be a bad thing?” Their attitude and sense of fun in the show is contagious. Before writing this article, I listened to their show while in a library. At times, I found myself snickering out loud to the disapproval of many around me. “As to our performance on the show, we definitely wanted to stay away from the more typical Disc Jockey banter; and we certainly do not want to come off as pompous bastards who think they are way more cool than others because we happen to be lucky enough to have a radio show.” Personally, I found their mic breaks to be anything but “pompous” or “pretentious.” DJ Hanabi informs without taking themselves too seriously, a refreshing addition to online radio these days. They find a great balance between “snarky quips, sarcasm, and an aloof delivery” and informative DJ'ing. Finally, DJ Hanabi represents the West Coast of BreakThru's international DJ squad. Admitting that they are “quite happy to remind people we live in San Francisco” they are just as happy to remind many of their listeners that “they don't.” “Basically, we have fun with it and don't take ourselves too seriously and yet we produce a quality show. We wish we received more fan mail though.” Send Hanabi an email, will ya?
Remember back in September ’09 when the right lost their minds right before President Obama delivered a national address to schoolchildren, encouraging them to stay in school? Right-wingers claimed  Obama was propagandizing his secret Kenyan agenda…or something. Well, if Obama’s attempt to prevent dropouts made wingnuts piss themselves, this will surely make their heads explode: Now that the midterm elections are history, Sarah Palin is setting her sights and rhetorical skills on the Federal Reserve and its easy money policy. On Twitter, the former Alaska governor and possible 2012 presidential contender said she would begin a round of discussions at school events to teach children about quantitative easing to prepare themfor the results of the Fed’s plan to boost the sluggish U.S. economy. … In an effort to boost lackluster growth the Fed has been injecting cash into the economy by buying up government securities in what it calls quantitative easing. It announced a fresh round of $600 billion in purchases last week and the action was welcomed by the stock market which moved higher on the news. But critics, such as Palin and conservative Republican Ron Paul who is likely to head a House monetary policy subcommittee when the new Congress is seated in January, say the Fed’s move will do little to encourage economic growth and will ignite inflation. Mm’k. Someone’s going to have to explain to me how this isn’t Palin taking advantage of schoolchildren’s vulnerable minds. On the upside, even a five-year-old can see the gaping holes in Ayn Rand’s work, so we don’t have to worry about the threat of future generations being converted to Libertarianism. (h/t Digby)
Last week I was introduced to Brad San Martin who runs the tiny record label, Casa Nueva. Our introduction was in advance of next Wednesday's in-store appearance by Kevin Dunn at Crooked Beat Records. Casa Nueva's just released "No Great Lost: Songs, 1979-1985" a retrospective of Kevin's underappreciated (if you ask me) studio recordings. Brad and I got to talking: "I grew up in Atlanta, and have always been fascinated by the Athens/Atlanta new wave renaissance. One of the unsung pioneers of that scene was Kevin Dunn. Kevin co-founded the first art-rock/new-wave band in the southeast, The Fans, who paved the way for much of what was to come. While the Fans were famously unlucky and broke up with little to show for their efforts , Kevin went on to play in important role in nurturing the scene: he co-produced the B-52s legendary "Rock Lobster" 45 and the first 45 and LP by the incredibly influential Pylon (the album was recently reissued by DFA to widespread acclaim). He also released a series of singles, EPs, and albums of his own brilliantly skewed art-pop that was widely heralded at the time... When I started my little Casa Nueva label, one of the first things I wanted to do was reissue Kevin's classic one-man solo debut "The Judgement of Paris," which had never been on CD. I tracked Kevin down, and we spent the past year getting to know and trust each other, and carefully restoring "Judgement" from the original 16-track tapes, as the stereo master tapes had been destroyed in a fire. The result is "No Great Lost: Songs, 1979-1985," an anthology of Kevin's solo work containing all of "The Judgement of Paris" (including one UK-only track), both sides of his legendary "Nadine" 45, choice cuts from the EP and LP that followed "Judgement," and the a-side of the Fans' "Cars and Explosions" 45." Fitting, it seems, that Kevin's appearance in DC is at Crooked Beat, as he has quite the affinity for vinyl indeed. My Plastic Madeleine: Vinyl Considered by Kevin McFoy Dunn A declaration contrary (certainly in the instant milieu): many are the reasons for me to covet and to collect vinyl, but — as does witness, empirically and to my entire satisfaction, what I deem the robust testimony of my own œuvre's vicissitudes — sound does not number among them, in my considered and representably subjective opinion. We can leave it at that. Much crowds in on me when I set to the recollection of vinyl’s role in my life, the greater part of it pretty random, a congeries of idiosyncratic personal associations and miscellaneous rosters of objects. My copy of Cream’s Goodbye, into which I stapled my ticket stub from their farewell-tour performance at the amphitheatre in Atlanta’s Chastain Park on 27 October 1968. The Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request and its terminally kool lo-tech 3-D thingie on the cover’s exterior recto. And, indeed, any cover sheathing music that I liked (and, in a few cases, I confess, that I didn’t, exactly) that also served to herald through obliquity of iconography or recondity of design or both what I was, or wished to be perceived as, as a consumer of the thornily asthetic (one in this category towards which I feel especial warmth for sound and look marvelously allied: Fred Frith’s Guitar Solos). It at length dawned on me as I was raking through the mental midden that, were I to do this something like right, I would be obliged to aim the instruments of recall back a half-century and more to Merivale Road in Jacksonville, Florida. So here goes. The recorded music in my childhood house was always my music. Early adopters of the big-time teevee lifestyle of the first third of the Fifties, my parents (father sentimental and unmusical; mother repressedly gifted at certain aspects of jazz pianism but without access to a piano) got their tune exposure mostly from Your Hit Parade (I remember Snooky fucking Lanson, for God’s sake) and its ilk, to an appreciably lesser degree from radio, and not really at all from records — unsurprising, as the only platter-spinning device or devices ever gracing our happy home (it was happy, until I was 9 or 10, anyway) would always be, basically, mine. And it seems as if I was always in possession of a record player. The first — could I have been as young as three years old? — I eideticize as a flattish brownish box, a piece of necessarily mono junk with a three-inch paper-cone speaker blatting in magnetic sympathy with the jittering graven japa of fond memory (arguably too fond), the memorious furrow tracked by an Iron Age stylus the size of a sewing-machine needle (I have this faint, nagging sense that my father may once have actually tried using one whose blunt end he’d modified with a file) inserted occultly into the business end of a blocky tone arm of dark-beige metal, its weird, child-brain-flummoxing finish halfway between hammered and flaking, its dimensions those of a fat three-month-old’s forearm. My Ur-records themselves (a cache of which I stumbled across while finally steeling myself to clear out the storage space that housed for a decade and change the pitiful, fraught complement of my deceased mother’s worldly goods) were primitive affairs that may have spun at 78 rpm, punched as they were with small holes. (I say “may have” because no indication of playback speed appears on their labels, and I have no turntable with which to check them out.) To judge from the surviving trove, the collection would have consisted chiefly of, of course, rugrat fare, the oldest exemplars (included software for the unit, I suspect, as their aspect is quite generic) bearing a copyright date of 1953. Christmas material was prominent, as was Disney product (one disc sports tunes from Lady and the Tramp, “Bella Notte” the presumptive A-side) and Terrytoons stuff, those two latter on the Golden Records marque; all of that component of the excavated stash was pressed on avant-le-lettre-’80s-hip colored vinyl (red grapefruit and lemon yellow). I may have had some Melanesian-backcountry-guy sort of intimation about the principle behind the zoetrope, I having drawn in pencil on a Heckle-and-Jeckle-themed production (groove-destroyingly vigorously, natch) stick figures of the chatty magpies menaced at a remove of about 90º by what I take to be a bulbous and, I think, peeved Cartoon Dog of Willendorf. Did I perhaps imagine that spinning them would activate latent animation? All of these epiphenomena of hearing music don’t sum to hearing music itself; of that ineffability my impressions barely attain to the diaphanous. Some tableaux are retrievable, with lacuna and shadows. For instance, I remember sitting with Mom and Dad in a cheerily spartan, neon-washed burger joint (not a chain) in Orlando. It would have been 1959, because as I could not then and cannot now resist in-booth jukeboxes, I was burning through some nickels with my selection for the evening, Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans,” the which I wheedled my father into playing (doubtless to the consternation of the other patrons) maybe four times in a row, as I found the bit about the gator so goddamned hilarious. (Dad was something of a military history buff, and took the opportunity to fill me in a little on Jackson and Lafitte.) And I remember also — again, it chances, an episode from ’59 — compulsively spinning in my bedroom, as I also spun myself in a Mevlevi-like approximation of grand nineteenth-century ballroom dancing, a 45 of the waltz from Tchiakovsky’s Sleeping Beauty that had been authorizedly or otherwise (that disc didn’t survive time’s wrack, so I can’t say) released in exploitation of the Mouse Empire’s animated feature; transported, I couldn’t stop listening to it. I think that’s when I learned not to stop listening until the beauty is departed. And that, as a matter of, if nothing else, sheer causal contiguity, is what I owe vinyl: the first intimations of what the intersection of my autonomy and the neural blandishments of moving air governed by that self-moved me could mean. Quondam et futurus, I am suitably grateful. — Atlanta, 8.ix.2010
Last April, in our run-up to Record Store Day, we spent several weeks with several record labels. One was Ardent Records, the offshoot label from our friends at Ardent Studios. Sadly, the timing was less than fortunate. Just a few weeks prior we lost Alex Chilton and with some last minute switches, we were able to include some well-penned tributes to the late Big Star singer who recorded those timeless, transcendent LPs within Ardent's walls. We thought we'd revisit Ken's thoughts on Alex this morning in tandem with The Posies Vinyl District takeover. When I was just starting out in my band The Posies, the first band I had that made records and toured, etcetera, back in 1988, we were introduced to the music of Big Star. People heard our early music and assumed, correctly, that we'd find the pure harmonies, heartbreaking sentiment, and mix of rock power and Byrds-like jangling bliss a great inspiration and sympathetic vibration to our own music. It was something of a revelation, one that has probably confounded thousands of listeners when they discover these records for the first time, "How could this band not have been hugely popular?” And that, my friends, is where the dichotomy began. Before Big Star, if the critics loved it, if it was quality, word got around, and artists who were influential artistically, like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, the fucking Beatles, for fuck's sake, sold millions. There was crap too, also selling millions. The only band that didn't sell was The Shaggs. Big Star was not part of a rebellion, like the punks would be soon after. They were a hot band in Memphis, with great songs, and a huge music machine (CBS) behind them. And they failed, spectacularly. It was a tree falling in the woods though - nobody knew the band, so no one knew what they were missing. But so began the idea that there were two worlds in music - the crapmosphere of the latest pop idols, and the quality control layer that was just for those in the know. Suddenly, the idea prevailed that the better a band was - the less likely it was to sell. And in fact, the ability to turn away listeners was a sign of quality. In many ways I agree. In many ways, Big Star has nothing to do with this argument. I digress. Big Star became heroes because they satisfied every test for quality you could apply, but also they were the ultimate underdogs, a symbol of the unjust whims of popular taste. Something was wrong with the system and here was the proof. The star factory couldn't even makes stars out of Big Star. I knew Alex first through this context and through his music. We were fans - fans enough to consider taking our first big budget from Geffen Records and spending it at Ardent Studios in Memphis where all of Big Star's albums (and albums we loved by the Replacements, REM, Led Zep, ZZ Top) were made. We eventually decided to stay in Seattle, but via his position as the company's A&R/PR/business gettin' guy, Big Star's Jody Stephens became a fan, a friend, and a friendly familiar face when we were at events like CMJ, South by Southwest, etc. When some college kids from Missouri threw the dice and had the boldness to inquire if Big Star would reunite for their spring concert...and Alex said yes, Jody called us to fill in the missing posts formerly held by the late Chris Bell and the retired-from-music Andy Hummel. Our first rehearsal in Seattle was where we met Alex for the first time. At first a bit of a cipher, or perhaps a sphinx, he kept his words spare. But even in those first rehearsal days we were talking about Dostoevsky... and it seemed Alex wasn't like other musicians we had played with - more interested in their bongs or their thinly-supported intellectual aspirations, if not practices. Alex was disciplined, and curious, a formidable combo. But Alex was more than a great intellect (he was widely read, widely interested, willing and able to discuss at length virtually any subject except Big Star). He was charming, challenging, spontaneous and generous. He proposed after a short time of Jon & me playing with Big Star that our contributions merited equal pay. He drove me around Memphis pointing out the housing project where Elvis had lived at one point. We played tennis and had dinners together in his frequent visits to Paris. He introduced me to the music of Faron Young, Rodd Keith, and more. Though he had a reputation for being difficult, the Alex that I have tour managed for the last decade has been the Alex of, “Yeah, cool...whatever. No problem.” He didn't do interviews. He didn't have email. You had to call him to ask him a question. Isn't that more sociable? I think he thought so. And it is for that sociability, as well as that integrity, that stand out among the many things I will miss about Alex.
I am not sure how many of you are aware, but there is a new ballet running in San Francisco that is choreographed entirely to music by The Shins. It has been playing for about five weeks now and has received some fairly strong reviews. This is precisely the cross-fertilization of traditional music genres that I am personally glad to see these days, despite my disdain for ballet, as musicians and choreographers seek to remove the limits of what is expected in separated music mediums. As for me, my personal interest in this particular crossover can be tied to the fact that it is: a) a band I happen to like very much; and b) a form of musical representation in which I really have no time for. So I wonder which of the two will dominate my subjectivity to taste? I also wonder: Why The Shins? Or more specifically: Why Oh, Inverted World (the Shins album to which the dance is performed), and why ballet? To place the performance in context for those who enjoy details, the world premiere of Oh, Inverted World - the ballet, is choreographed by Trey McIntyre as part of San Francisco's Smuin Ballet's fall/winter program that runs October 1, 2010 through February 27, 2011. This isn't the first time that McIntyre has flirted with pushing the boundaries of Smuin's bill. According to one reviewer, “McIntyre has proven time and again that he can create innovative work set to any music.” Just this past summer, “McIntyre followed Felix Mendelssohn's Wedding March with Queen at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. His company performed Wild Sweet Love, choreographed to a medley that also featured The Partridge Family, Lou Reed and Roberta Flack. McIntyre is as comfortable with Beethoven as he is with Beck and The Beatles, or in this case, The Shins.” The Shins I have not seen the ballet as it is only being performed on the West Coast and I live on the East. Therefore, despite the look of its nature, this week's Liner Notes is not a review of musical performance. Rather, my focus here is to comment on how popular music (or indie music, or rock and roll, or whatever you want to call it) fits into traditional bourgeoisie musical representation. What is San Francisco's Smuin Ballet Company trying to tell its audience by performing a ballet to music recorded nine years ago by a very well known indie band from Albuquerque, New Mexico? Or conversely, what are The Shins saying to their fans by allowing Smuin to go ahead with the project? Perhaps they are trying to say nothing, and academic analysts like me look way too long and hard at this sort of stuff. But I doubt it. What's the point of musical performance if there is no artistic message? My initial reaction to reading this piece of 'noteworthy popular music news' was to try and avoid, “the endless opportunity for cliché” (I phrase I stole, it should be mentioned, from Stav Ziv--the ballet and dance reviewer for The Stanford Daily who wrote the only good review on the performance). I too, like Ziv, often “cringe” at these crossovers between rock/pop and traditional European dance performance. To be completely honest with you, I am not a giant musical/dance supporter in any form, and the mixture of rock in theater usually leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth (for example, American Idiot by Green Day. Ugh, “shudder”). But the reviews of Oh, Inverted World have me second-guessing my own musical snobbery. The Smuin Ballet Company, it is reported, has “distinguished itself with energetic, playful and accessible choreography.” Ziv goes on with his praise: “The program is worth a trip … even if you're not a bunhead yourself” (I had to turn to the urban dictionary for this one. A “bunhead” is term for a ballet dancer, either affectionately or used to imply a degree of snobbery). I feel that indie meeting ballet, ahem, dances with the line of the contrivable. Is this Smuin's attempt to tap into the youth market currently caught up in today's reality trash television programs like So You Think You Can Dance? and Dancing With The Stars? Or is it an honest attempt by choreographer Trey McIntyre to express an indie album in fluid, body movement? Perhaps it is a bit of both (although I am sure McIntyre nor Smuin would ever admit to the former, even if it were true). Regardless of whether I ever see the ballet performance or not, now knowing that the music has been put to a ballet, and watching a snippet of the performance on YouTube, I don't think I will ever hear the album Oh, Inverted World the same way again. It does not surprise me at all that a band like The Shins would agree to the idea. After all, this is the band who lent a large chunk of the soundtrack to Zach Braff's risky, and yet quite successful, endeavor Garden State back in 2004 when very few mainstream people had ever heard of them. But ballet just isn't what I think of when I think 'The Shins.' And The Shins just aren't what you picture when you see tights and pointe shoes. Oh, what an inverted world!
"There was a time/when everything was fine..." Marc Bolan sang. And it's true. Maybe I was 7 or 8. Single digits. My mom and dad, Ruth and Herm, played Scrabble most Saturday nights after a big meal at our home with their best friends, Pat and Howard. Drinking Scotch late into the evening, word challenges settled loudly via the ginormous dictionary more often used to decode the New York Times crossword puzzle that'd keep my mom glued to its magazine section each weekend. And me? I'd be half asleep attempting to slog it through the Love Boat, then Fantasy Island, then the local news to catch some portion of Saturday Night Live just so I could talk about it the next day. Remember that odd benchmark - having seen what every other kid was buzzing about? Being part of it? Back then it seems, in retrospect, I was actually buzzing on a warm houseful of food and laughs and well, family. Pat passed away first in 2000 if memory serves me correctly, leaving the other three simply devastated. I'm not sure if there were any Scrabble nights afterward, really. My dad was next in 2006 and my mom passed away this past August, leaving Howard, the oldest by far of the four, the lone remaining celebrant of those evenings. Then quietly, Howard passed away this past September 22nd, at 92. And it was Howard, probably as a referral from my folks, who gifted me Queen's 'News of the World' the first holiday season of its release. So, once more in 'the box' I have a sealed, first pressing, mint copy. With a sticker. Queen - Sheer Heart Attack (Mp3) Queen - All Dead, All Dead (Mp3) Queen - Spread Your Wings (Mp3) Queen - Fight From The Inside (Mp3) Queen - It's Late (Mp3)
That’s a quote from New York Times journalist, Robert Worth, who was interviewed today by Fareed Zakaria, about our role in Yemen’s corner of the Forever Wars. Yemen, like Pakistan, is where the U.S. is officially unofficially at war. We provide support on the down-low, and occasionally kill people with our flying robots. For some reason, the Yemeni are pissed. Fareed pondered if it’s possible to ask the Yemen government to extend their rule into remote areas they haven’t controlled in thousands of years. WORTH: It’s – it’s very difficult. It – it’s hard to say exactly what the right approach is. And the problem is that as the U.S., you know, gets more militarily involved – again, they’re not directly militarily involved, but they’ve been providing lots more training and they’ve been encouraging their Yemeni partners to take more – a more active military role. That runs a terrible risk in Yemen, just as in, as you say, as in Pakistan and Afghanistan, of alienating the local people, who are intensely suspicious of any foreign intervention. And because you inevitably, in areas like that, where intelligence is poor, where the terrain is hard to – hard to reach, and the tribes are powerful, you – you inevitably have some civilian casualties. One of the American air strikes last year killed quite a number of civilians, and it had a huge, huge effect in terms of protests. And the problem is, of course, that when you already have a secessionist movement in the south and another rebellion in the north, discontent spreads. It’s sort of hard to separate one issue from the other. … ZAKARIA: As you know, there’s talk here about a drone attack on Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born preacher who sort of inspired the – the Nigerian Underwear Bomber and perhaps has been playing a – a more broad role in inciting anti-American jihad. What do you think would be the effect if there were a drone attack an Awlaki? WORTH: I think it would be very unpopular in Yemen. I think Anwar al-Awlaki is mostly viewed as a charismatic preacher, and because he has – isn’t known to have actually killed anyone, most Yemenis - I mean, first of all, he’s not that well-known in Yemen. He’s better known in the U.S. because of all the – of those – the media coverage of him here. He’s becoming better known. But I think it would be viewed as an attack on a Yemeni, on someone who, you know, isn’t necessarily guilty. Yemenis are deeply, deeply skeptical of this kind of thing. So, I think – but I think it would – killing Awlaki would – would have a lot of negative reaction, and so there are some people who say that the Yemeni government doesn’t want him to be found, doesn’t want him to be killed because they – they’re nervous, understandably, about what would happen then. ZAKARIA: So, if you were to rate the progress that Yemeni government, with American assistance, is making in de-fanging or defeating al Qaeda in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula what would you say? WORTH: It’s difficult to say whether they’ve made any progress. I mean, they have killed a lot of people, but they do not seem to have killed the group’s key leaders. We have no reason to think that – I mean, we know Anwar al-Awlaki is out there, and he’s a – he’s a very, very, you know, popular ideologist. We have no reason to think that any of the top leaders are – are dead. And it only takes a few people to – to put together a – you know, a letter bomb, essentially, that could have terrible, you know, global consequences on the economy. And, clearly, the number of people, the number of Yemeni soldiers and police that have been killed in the past few months suggests that – that al Qaeda, if indeed it’s responsible for all those killings, is, if anything, bigger than it was. So I – I can’t say we’ve made visible progress. *Cough.* Awesome. So the US is utilizing its default Forever War strategy in Yemen: Defeat extremism with extremism. Bomb hatred. Shoot intolerance. Force the enemy to love you by killing his entire family. Fareed then brought on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to talk about how his country has dealt with extremism, and to express his admiration for Malaysia’s talent at locking up alleged extremists. Apart from the shameless gushing (and Fareed’s indication that he prefers police states masquerading as happy, tolerant oases over messy democracies,) Razak made a few noteworthy points. First, he believes the way to lessen extremism is to bomb civilians from the sky alleviate poverty. ZAKARIA: What do you think is the key to defeating the forces of extremism in an Islamic society? RAZAK: I think there’s several reasons why we’ve been able to overcome those extreme or extremists in our – in our society. First of all, if you look at the genesis of Islam, you know, how it came to our part of the world, it was – Islam was brought by the Muslim traders from the Middle East, and it was a peaceful conversion of the then-Hindu king and the masses became Muslim. So Islam has never really been associated with – with extremism and violence from day one. Then secondly, you know, over the years, you know, we’ve been able to bring about development and changes. In the ’60s, poverty was more than 50 percent. But now in terms of – of poverty rate in Malaysia, it’s 3.6 percent. You know, so you see, you know, the fruits of development actually lifting, you know, the – this tape of socioeconomic status off of the people. Malaysia’s poverty rate is now on par with the United States. And like the U.S, Malaysia now knows to quickly incarcerate any unruly insurgents to “reeducate them” before they can infect the general population. ZAKARIA: So do you think that there is good government, that there’s rising standards of living, it makes it less likely that these young boys, they’re mostly boy, go into radical movements, go into Jihadi movements? RAZAK: Yes, with – with one caveat that you do have to ensure the proper teaching of Islam. You know, I keep on saying, being moderate is fundamental to Islam. But once in a while we do have extremists in our midst, whether they are in Malaysia or, you know, they come from neighboring country and we have to deal with it. And fortunately, our – our security agencies, they’re very, very good at this in – in taking preemptive actions, using the Internal Security Act which allows us to detain people without trial, but it’s not such a sort of onerous kind of punishment. You know, we detain you, you know, we try to reeducate you, and if you accept that Islam is inherently moderate and you shouldn’t resort to violence and extremism, then you’re released back to society. Yeah, I guess detaining people without trial isn’t that onerous. That’s probably why we’ve been doing it to the boys in Gitmo all these years. Apart from the cheerleading for police states, Fareed’s guests essentially painted the following picture of the Forever Wars: The drone strikes aren’t working. In fact, they’re turning popular opinion against the U.S. every time another civilian is killed. What really causes societal instability is poverty, and even the very safest “democracies” aren’t ever 100% safe from the possibility of a troublesome agent.
Frontier Records founder Lisa Fancher is with TVD all week as we celebrate the label’s 3oth Anniversary. Today's Episode: KNOW YOUR PRODUCT… NO, YOU'RE PRODUCT! It took about a year or so to get it together but I finally released the Flyboys EP in March 1980. When I called them with the good news they told me they already broke up… Alright! DOA! Bob Say from Jem and Moby Disc took some but no enough—50 count boxes filled my parent's garage. My glorious career as a mogul never got out of the gate, I worked at Bomp! when Suzy needed me and also at Vinyl Fetish on Melrose. Our customers were legendary at VF, punks, goths, whatever you call Thick Pigeon-heads, celebs such as John Belushi , Jonathan Demme and not yet celebrities llike Matt Groening too. Once I waited on Bono and Larry from U2: both of them were both lovely and Bono asked lots of questions about L.A. bands and what records we were selling lots of. I acted like I didn't know who they were, one of the earmarks of a VF employee (or boss) was that we were way too cool for school. When Bono said he'd put me on their guest list +1 for their 11/81 Hollywood Palladium show, he actually did it! Later down the line it was lucky I bought so many rare punk 45s and import 12" at VH, they've long been saving my kiester when I was financially strapped. Which was most of the time after 1991… That was where I first heard Salvation Army's "Mind Gardens" 45, I tracked them down via Rodney B and begged Michael Quercio to be on Frontier. We had the most incredible in-stores, even for Frontier releases such as Salvation Army and Christian Death. I love me a conflict of interest especially when it's sanctioned by my bosses, Henry Peck and Joseph Brooks. I was on a decent little roll having released GROUP SEX, the Adolescents "blue" album, TSOL's DANCE WITH ME, China White DANGERZONE and Christian Death's ONLY THEATRE OF PAIN and Suicidal Tendencies' debut. I told the lion share to various indie distributors (none of which are extant) but I also drove 50 count boxes of LPs from Rhino in Westwood to Zed Records in Long Beach in my sweet '76 Pinto. Sometimes, oftentimes, I sold collectible records at the Orange Country record fair, at Gilman Street in Berkeley and Pasadena City College. I was sick of working seven days a week so I decided to cut the cord selling rare records and make Frontier my only gig in1985 selling only, I hoped, NOT hard-to-find records. It was fun to talk to hear that story of how a collector scored a Beatles' butcher cover for .05 cents but it was time to move on. Graham Hatch actually approached me and told me I needed to hire an employee. He used to work at Greenworld and suggested we get some interns because interns work for free! I never heard of such a thing. Genius. He put up a notice at CSUN and it dragged in bffs Betty Fresh and Dougee Fresh (no, those are not their real names) who would do whatever tasks we required perfectly but giggled amongst themselves the entire time. Other interns slept the whole time or called SST for promos or tried to Xerox their fanzines when we weren't looking. It's an imperfect system. True story— Betty still works here (with some interruptions as she became an almost PhD at UCLA) and there is NO WAY I could have dragged this label around this long without her. She is my rock, there's no easier way to say it. It would be nice if I knew how to do something but I suppose it's too late for these kind of regrets now. Graham came along post-punk Frontier, even post-Paisley Underground when we were trying to break Naked Prey, the Pontiac Brothers and Thin White Rope. I never really had to do any heavy lifting in the hardcore phase as everyone was clamoring for those records even before they came out. Suddenly we were spending a fortune placing ads in fanzines and sending zillions of promos to college radio. The more we spent, the less copies we seemed to sell. In the early days I tried to release as few records as possible for max impact but in the late '80s we had to have many more releases in order to afford the office in North Hollywood and the handful of employees. And then I sent Graham to NJ to head the east coast office… We always had a great roster of guitar-based bands (always hated keyboards with rare exceptions) but the more we spent on promotion, the less copies we seemed to sell. Somewhere along the way the critics and DJs that used to say "Wow, do we get to keep these" were like "Who are you guys again?" LPs and cassettes gave way to CD-mania, fortunately we were still buoyant because all previous releases were hastily remastered for CD. Even though I personally hated CDs and refused to buy them way past the point at which it was adorable, I wasn't crying about selling people records they already owned for even more money! The best and most overwhelming era was when we were working the aforementioned TWR, P Bros, Naked Prey, Young Fresh Fellows, EIEIO, Dharma Bums, Flying Color and AMC. Many distributors had folded and stiffed me over the first several years and but it was an epidemic by the late '80s. JEM, Sounds Good and Greenworld went down in rapid succession burned me for well over $100K, we had to scale back in a major way. Bob Buziak actually offered us a major label deal while helming RCA but his forward-thinking regime was shown the door, but not before we got a very decent push for Thin White Rope's SACK FULL OF SILVER. Even though we were purged as well, BMG picked up the label for a pressing and distribution (P&D) deal. Too small for them, fail. Then we went to Ryko in 1993, great people wrong fit. I signed the fantastic Flop from Seattle, the perfect hybrid of punk and pop songwriting genius. Also discovered Portland's Heatmiser with two great songwriters, Neil Gust and Elliott Smith. Walked hand in hand with Flop into a Sony deal. Was left at the altar by Heatmiser and was badly damaged psychologically. Pretty much didn't want to work with new bands after that though I gave it one last bash with the Shame Idols from Alabama. To keep the label alive whatsoever, I licensed the top sellers to Epitaph in 1996 but quickly found I couldn't pay anyone (or even myself) with the punk classics somewhere else. It was a relief when my Jill of all trades, Betty Fresh, went to UCLA and publicist John Troutman returned home to Seattle. And I got me a day job for the first time since about 1983… Me and Lynyrd Skynyrd, working for MCA. Yeah! Discovering ARE YOU EXPERIENCED was monumental and Jimi was there at low tide too. I should say Hendrix' music, he was quite dead when I found myself writing advertising copy in the Creative Department at MCA Records in 1998. My 17-year-old Honda Prelude died on the way to my job interview with a true advertising genius named Jonas Livingstone—damn right I took that job. His higher-ups wanted Jonas out so they made his life hell on a daily basis. Jonas called me into his office, half-mad like Colonel Kurtz and demand that I give him 400 variations on an 12-word headline for something like the upcoming EXPERIENCE HENDRIX best of. I never learned more in 13 1/2 years of school more than I did from him in a few short months. But force him out they did and because I was Jonas' ally—not because of my work-- they fired me in 1999 when MCA "merged" with Polygram and they had to shed bodies. When security ushered me out, I felt like the luckiest person on earth… like I caught the last helicopter out of Saigon when it fell.
Adam Haworth Stephens is a hard working singer songwriter. He is an ambitious West Coast native who is on the move and looks like a cross between Kurt Cobain and Beck, but sounds nothing like either. Stephens is best know for his part in the San Francisco bluesy-folk duo Two Gallants but has spread his wings and struck out on his own (at least for the time being). After much touring and a barrage of recorded material (4 albums in all), Stephens took a break in 2007 to brainstorm ideas for his first solo endeavor. After the critical success of his band's last two albums; The Scenery of Farewell and the self-titled Two Gallants, there arose a fair amount of anticipatory expectation surrounding his new solo work. Luckily for him his first solo album, We Live on Cliffs proves to be an impressive output in its own right, though of a somewhat different breed. We Live on Cliffs was released this past September by indie darling Saddle Creek Records. Recorded at Sunset Sound and Kingsize studios in Los Angeles the album features a slightly more subdued Stephens on vocals, guitar and piano. It also boasts a long list of impressive guest musicians including Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket and Cody Votolato of Blood Brothers. The whole scene is illuminated no doubt by the presence of producer Joe Chiccarelli, who is responsible for the likes of The White Stripes and The Shins, amongst others. The track “Elderwoods” offers up an interesting mix of forms, seeming to cross between two ideas. Slow and melodic hooks ascend into hard, alt-pop eruptions revealing an unconventional complexity for pop music. This guy is apparently not afraid to allow one song to set off several different emotional charges. A choice that portrays Stephens with a deep confidence in himself, his appearance of weather-worn humility aside. And just as important, one gets the impression that the singer trusts his audiences' intellect enough to not dumb down his music and lyrics, or stifle his detail-driven creativity. A disposition his fans will be sure to appreciate. Quite possibly the best song on the album, “The Cities That We've Burned” begins on a dour note reminiscent of Gary Jules' maddeningly sadly beautiful “Mad World”, but soon takes an upward turn into not exactly brightness but at least some kind of self- contented state of social critique.  Here Stephens sounds very much like Connor Oberst in his Mystic Valley Band days. While Stephens first solo attempt is not exactly catchy, it provides something else for listeners in its patiently metered folk ballads reflecting largely unspoken undercurrents of the minutiae of American culture. In early October Stephens and his new outfit (members include Jen Grady, Matt Montgomery, and Omar Cuellar) embarked on a seven-week tour of the South and Midwest that will be wrapping up in late November. Folk/country partners in crime The Felice Brothers will be accompanying them on all dates. Adams Haworth Stephens November 8 - The Social -  Orlando, FL November 9 -  Florida State University -  Tallahassee, FL November 10 -  One Eyed Jacks -  New Orleans, LA November 12 -  Emo's -  Austin, TX
Dead C – Patience (Ba Da Bing!) Reviews: Dusted Reviews | Olive Music | Pitchfork | Under The Radar MP3: Shaft Zach Hill – Face Tat (Sargent House) Reviews: AMG | The A.V. Club | Latest Disgrace | Pitchfork | Sputnikmusic MP3: Memo To The Man + stream the entire album + read an interview with Zach Maserati – Pyramid Of The Sun (Temporary Residence Limited) Reviews: Decoy Music | Schallgrenzen (German-only) | Stereokiller MP3: We Got The System To Fight The System Three Mile Pilot – The Inevitable Past Is The Future Forgotten (TRL) Reviews: Alt Press | Crawdaddy! | DOA | Exploding In Sound | Pitchfork | Potholes In My Blog | Reviler MP3: What’s In The Air Torche – Songs For Singles (Hydra Head) Reviews:  Crawdaddy! | Dusted Reviews | Pitchfork | PopMatters | Rock Sound MP3: Arrowhead Women – Public Strain (Jagjaguwar) Reviews: The 405 | Austin Town Hall | Aquarium Drunkard | Ca Va Cool | Coke Machine Glow | Crawdaddy! | DOA | Drowned In Sound | Dusted Reviews | Herohill | Surfing On Steam |The Line Of Best Fit | One Thirty BPM | The Sheaf | Weird Canada MP3: Narrow With The Hall | Eyesore
The following is a conversation between two insane men; between two unknown. It is the conversation you overhear between the two drunks at the end of the bar. It is Tom Waits and Chet Baker trying to make sense of this mad world we live and love in: “How do you think of people listening to this radio show of yours, eh?” "When someone is listening to the Dapper Fitting Drinking Hour, I like to imagine that person just getting out of the shower, around 9 PM on a Thursday night," says Lehtola, stepping down from a rolling ladder amidst stacks of reference books. "You know, when I'm getting ready to go out at night, getting' dressed, shaving, brushing my teef, sending out those pointless text messages, whatever, I always like to listen to loud music." Lehtola pauses, examining a battered version of Roget's Thesaurus. "It's usually a medley of songs, skewed toward whatever my current mood is at press time. I like to imagine it as my theme music for the night, you know, a lil' something to bring along for whistling. And for me, doing this is just as important as bringing my wallet, or remembering my keys. I've been doing it since I had my first tape player with a speaker." “Thursday, schmursday. Stop fillin' the ego.” "Well, it's always struck me as the unofficial beginning to the weekend," shouts Lehtola, sipping from a hot cup of the Cuban. "There are often good shows on a Thursday, never mind bars with drink specials and the overall good feeling of Friday on the morrow. It's in everyone's eyes, radiating out like some beacon in the collective subconscious. That sounds like a circumstance in which a specially tailored mixtape can enhance the atmosphere." “You're fuck'n drunk. Be more spec'fic?” "It begins with transitions. So much depends upon the beginnings and endings of songs. They have to flow together, like a seamless hand-off-on-a-relay-team-type-thing, you know." Lehtola yelps at the moon unaware. Exiting the library and stepping out onto the street, seems to commonplace without action. He puts his hood up to represent the youth in his strut. "That's always something you have to consider. But I also like to have a certain feeling, or mood, when putting together the Dapper. It is about drinking, to a certain extent. And going out on a Thursday night. Those two situations can yield a lot of different emotions. Sometimes I'll go the dancey route, bands like Casiokids, !!!, Antibalas, Washed Out, Yeasayer & El Guincho. Other times, you go out on a Thursday night, maybe your mood is more grim, more wrecklesss, and you're drinking, so I'll play bands like The Walkmen, Gonjasufi, Cass McCombs, Surfer Blood, Drink Up Buttercup, Total Warr, so many options. Or maybe it's Halloween, and I'm playing Dead Man's Bones, the Misfits, Suuns, DJ Spooky, 'Candy' from Frankie Rose And The Outs and 'So Haunted' from Cut Copy." “You're a fraud! You got no philosophy,” demands Waits. “What the fuck do you know about making mixtapes, Bushwick wannabe?” "Well," says Lehtola, taking a pair of red earbuds out of his pockets and beginning to untangle the mess of wire, "I believe there is a perfect song for every possible situation a human being might encounter, or find theyselves [sic] in. So, the question is, what do I want to hear when I step out of the shower on a Thursday night, with endless possibilities and adventures ahead of me? That answer is always changing, which is why I like the concept of the show so much. The only thing that doesn't change is that you always want to look good on such a night, you know, you want to look dapper. And the music has to make for a dapper fit to the mood. So it's all about about being dapper on two fronts, the physical & the mental, with drinking to boot."
Walkman (not to confuse with The Walkmen), dearly beloved son of Sony and a member of such notable bands as The Portables, The Players, The Tapes and The Cassettes has died today.  He had a lot of success as a rising teen star in the 70s and was recognized as an undeniable icon in the 80s and (to some extent) 90s. Lately, however, he’s been battling irrelevancy, which ultimately proved to be fatal. He’s survived by his younger brother Ipod. Read the rest of obituaries: 3News | ABC News | Paste | Slate | The Washington Post | Woman’s Day And some final words from Chris Cornell – although the song was dedicated to Jeff Buckley, it could also make for some wonderful parting words for Walkman.
By allowing banks to kick people out of their homes using fraudulent creative paperwork, this kind of fraud is inevitable. A sign in the front of a building on West 39th Street tells visitors that it’s the Unicredit Debt Resolution Center in Erie. Once debtors got inside, they were fooled into believing they were in a courtroom with a judge, but the whole thing was a fake, according to a lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania attorney general. Team 4′s Jim Parsons reported that Unicredit America is accused in the lawsuit of deceiving, misleading and coercing hundreds of consumers into paying off their debts. Well, why not? Banks used hairdressers and Wal-Mart floor workers with no formal training as “foreclosure experts” in order to make millions of Americans destitute because their exploitive loans are now worth more than their homes. After all, indebted people are stupid, and they deserve to be taken advantage of. I do have to give Unicredit America points for creativity, though. The Attorney General’s Office told Team 4 that Unicredit lured debtors to the building by sending employees who appeared to be sheriff’s deputies to their homes, implying that they would be taken into custody if they failed to appear at the phony court hearings. So much of what the elite business class does is pure illusion. Grab a couple hairdressers and call ‘em “foreclosure experts.” Clean up some of the fellas at the bus stop and they’re “sheriffs.” Sell some poor people shitty loans and call them “subprime mortgages.” When the underclass does this, it’s called fraud. When the elite does it, it’s called Capitalism.
When I think of the band HELMET I think of two words: heavy and uncompromising. Coming out of the post-hardcore and metal scene in New York in the late 80′s and early 90′s every band at the time was trying to break boundaries and be unique. HELMET along side such luminaries of the time like PRONG, QUICKSAND, CARNIVORE, UNSANE, BURN and a pre-major label WHITE ZOMBIE were all disparate musical acts bound by similar tastes and musical ambitions. As a native New Yorker I was lucky to witness this scene rise first hand and Page Hamilton’s outfit always made me proud when other people would speak highly of them. Promoting their recently released Seeing Eye Dog (Work Song) the band is back with another lineup and a new reinvigorated mindset for these times.
Yes, yes...I'm back...and still busy.  Let's talk about Atlanta, A3c festival.. it was crazy down there. Every rap group that i' support was down there. It was hard catching up to everybody. When you think you have all the time in the world to do things, you don't.  This was the third year of the A3c festival in Atlanta...A3c stands for All 3 Coasts.  I had a great time being on stage with Jean Grae, 9th Wonder, Buckshot, Beatminerz and Murs. Days like that is what I played hooky from school for. Music, music, music, it just takes you were a regular job wouldn't.  Shoutout to everybody who came to Atlanta, it went so fast.. This year and every year goes fast. I'm not even going to say it anymore. Finally the project I've been working on is in stores online, itunes, , Yes Da Dysfunkshunal Familee "Familee Reunion" album is out...check the link to We have featured artists on the album like Jean Grae, General Steele, Ninth Wonder, OC, Craig G, Poison Pen, Sadat X, Ced That Don, Agony, Supreme, Larry Thomas and J Mac. I think the album is dope, not because I put it together. It just feels like a breath of fresh air from the regular hip hop in my opinion. Please support, it's the same price for a pack of cigarettes but this is good for your ears... So the album, and doing my latin hip hop show and world hip hop show has been keeping me very busy. I've been promoting the album on other radio stations around NY..soon i have to be interviewed by our own Ms. have a show coming up...Dysfunkshunal FAmilee, November 17th at South Paw. and I will also be djaying for the whole night...some come rock with us... Stay tuned for more updates....Shout out to the whole BTR fam....
If only Twain had instead indulged in post-modern, funny-sign-making, we’re-too-cool-to-actually-protest wankery. Commenter MikeBoyScout writes: I’m pretty sure all the Very Serious People in 1860 knew we’d always need and have slaves, and that racism was based upon fact. I just went to an exhibition about Mark Twain yesterday and was struck by how much he sounded like a shrill modern leftie. He accepted evolution as established science, made fun of the idea of the Noah’s ark, wrote with bitter irony about the treatment of indigenous peoples in Australia (a lot of the exhibition was about his writing about his travels to Australia). The tone he took and some of the things he said would be eerily familiar to residents of the contemporary left blogosphere. (I’m sure he wrote all kinds of crazy, racist backwards stuff too, I’m not saying he was a saint.) I realize this is an unabashedly wankerish, unanswerable question, but is public discourse now at all different from what it was back then? Or are things, at root, pretty much exactly the same? Things are exactly the same. Passionate, principled people speak up for what they believe is right. That’s a good thing. Those encouraging apathy or a detached ennui (See: Rally 4 Sanity) in response to enormous social injustice are doing more harm than good. — Update: All I can say is, ‘Oy.’
Audio / MP3 Swans Sex God Sex (from “Feel Good Now”) Warm (from “The Great Annihilator”) Eden Prison (from “My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky”) Reeling The Liars In (from “My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky”) Angels of Light Praise Your Name (from “New Mother”) Not Here Not Now (from “We Are Him”) Song For Nico (from “How I Loved You”) Videos Swans – A Screw (Holy Money) (Live) (from “Long Live Screw” video) Skin – Everything At Once (fan video) (from “Shame, Humility, Revenge”) Angels Of Light – Blind (Live) (Angels of Light / Michael Gira at Boston’s Hernandez Cultural Center)
Deerhoof got a lot of new material on the way (split with Physical Forms and a track on “Alternative Congtronics” compilations, just to name a few). New album is also in the works – any more details on the album? Yeah! The split will be out soon and the comp track as well. Doing that cover song for the compilation was really a big thing for us this year. We took a song by Kasai Allstars, a band from the Congo, and tried to figure out how to play it on guitars and drumset, even though the original was thumb pianos and hand drums. Something about working on that really sent us into a new direction. The same day we recorded that cover, in our practice space at that time, in Oakland California, we also started recording some of our new songs for the upcoming album Deerhoof vs. Evil. We did the basic tracks for part of “Super Duper Rescue Heads !” and most of “The Merry Barracks” that same day. The rest of the album was recorded in that same practice space a month later after a tour, or in Ed’s new basement in Portland Oregon. In which ways, do you think, the new album would be different from its predecessor (2008 “Offend Maggie”)? I don’t know yet… It is done but it’s still so new I don’t know how to describe it yet. Maybe I never will. I’m not good at describing Deerhoof. That’s the job of music journalists like yourself! But it is very different… This year, you played with Sean Lennon (as Consortium Musicum) and you were also a part of the collective that performed György Ligeti’s “Chamber Concerto”. How were those experiences different from playing with Deerhoof? It’s strange, for me, writing the chamber music piece was more like being in Deerhoof than jamming with Sean. Deerhoof has four “composers” in the band and we are really a “composition” kind of band – terrible at jamming. It’s like when we start to improvise we don’t speak the same language. Only when one of us writes a song then we start to speak the language, the language of that one song. Playing with Sean was totally different, we spoke the same language from the moment we started playing. It’s really easy with him, he can just write songs right on the spot, things just flow when we play together. We’ve recorded an album actually, but it still need to be mixed. Deerhoof’s music was featured on two soundtracks so far – one is “Dedication” (2007) and the other one is “Kids Are All Right” (2010) (plus, you also collaborated with Jon Brion and Nels Cline on a soundtrack to “Step Brother”). Can we expect more soundtrack work from the band in the future? And Deerhoof’s music has also been in a lot of smaller films too. And we also created a live soundtrack to a silent animated film Heaven And Earth Magic by Harry Smith for a film festival once. That piece went on to become “Look Away” which was a track on our album Friend Opportunity. And on November 3 a new film will be opening at an art gallery called the Kitchen in New York. The film is called BAND (by Adam Pedleton) and it shows us working on and recording one of our new songs “I Did Crimes For You”. Definitely we hope this collaboration with filmmakers can continue. Not only continue, but expand. We’re very interested in how sound and image can go together. More recently, Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu performed Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” in its entirety at Donaufestival in Austria. What was the experience like? And why, specifically, that album rather than “Closer”? Yes, this was all Jamie Stewart’s idea! He wanted to cover Unknown Pleasures and asked us to back him up. It was great fun! We also did the same album at a free concert in Brooklyn this summer. Jamie is such a loud singer compared to Satomi, and the musical style is so much different from the way we usually play, it was like a totally new experience for us. I especially felt like I should play very loudly through the whole concert, which is something I don’t do normally.
I’m on a few Tea Party email lists, and occasionally I actually read the mailers to see what my insane political cousins (twice removed) are up to. Tonight, the local NYC Tea Party chapter will gather for a panel titled “One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty.” In order to give the anti-justice system tirade a thin glaze of legitimacy, a couple panelists have been scraped from underneath the boots of the old guard and pasted onto the press release. There’s Paul Rosenzweig, the founder of Red Branch Consulting PLLC, a homeland security consulting company, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Department of Homeland Security. There’s also Brian W. Walsh, Senior Legal Research Fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. Walsh also worked on contract with the Department of Homeland Security where he “integrated private-sector organizations into government emergency preparedness and disaster response efforts at the federal, state, and local levels.” Unsurprisingly, the panel consists of two privatization hawks who would really, really, really love to gut the public sector and sell it off, piece-by-piece, to corporations. But this is yet another example of just how stale the whole “revolutionary” Tea Party really is. When it comes time to present the bestest, brightest examples of the party’s shiny, new ideology, frantic Tea Party organizers have to scour the bargain bin of Conservative intelligentsia to find a fear profiteer, whose most recent achievement appears to be penning a column titled “No Wonder The French Are Crazy,” and being cut from the Washington Post‘s Next Great Pundit contest, and another creature, Walsh, who probably pleasures himself to the idea of drowning the TSA in a bathtub. (For a little more insight, Rosenzweig writes that he’s “amused at the idea that retirement at 60 is a human right or a social welfare entitlement.” Yeah. That’s what we’re dealing with.) Anyway, it’s to be expected that the anti-government Tea Party movement embraces anti-government hacks, who make their livings scaring the piss out of Americans so they can then profit from insanely profligate private-sector “solutions.” However, it’s telling that whenever it comes time for the Tea Party to lay out their vision of tomorrow, they recycle the same useless morons that exploited Americans’ fear in the aftermath of September 11th in order to build a massive, privatized security structure that – by the way – didn’t fucking work. This would sort of be like if the American separatists had asked King George to join their ranks. Ya know, just so they could utilize his vast experience.
Jay-Z was featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine last month alongside investor genius/billionaire Warren Buffet. What does this have to say about the authenticity of hip hop? Is Jay-Z a prime representation of the American dream; or is this just another example of an African American subcultural movement falling victim to white hegemony and corporate American capitalization? This week in Liner Notes, I attempt to offer both sides of the argument and leave you, as the reader, to come to your own conclusions on the matter. The basic question I want you to think about is whether or not Jay-Z is an example of the richness and possibility of the rags-to-riches “American Dream” model, or if he is proof that all art is for sale, and success in America will inevitably lead to exploitation and appropriation. The question of 'authenticity' is what really lies at the center of this debate. At what point does an artist's work cease to be authentic? Perhaps the more important question is: Who is the authoritative voice that gets to decide? Mixed opinion on the arch of Jay-Z's career goes without saying. There are some fans who feel he has grown, matured, and improved with age; while others believe that as Jay-Z's success and popularity rose to the top, his music sank to the bottom. Many hip hop fans with whom I have spoken (and who, I might add, have much more knowledge on the topic than I do) argue that Jay-Z has 'sold-out.' Being called a 'sell-out' is a pop culture phrasing no artist ever wants to hear. A brief look through American music and popular culture history tells a different story. Bob Dylan was called a 'sell-out' when, in 1965, he went from protest-poet laureate, to the folk revivalists, to rock 'n roll star with a five-piece electric backing band. Years later, Dylan fans around the world acknowledge this change as perhaps the greatest moment of his career and rock scholars synonymously recognize it to be one of the most successful and profitable (in terms of talent and career-direction) transformations in the history of American music. So if the root of 'authenticity' lies within public opinion, which I think it does, then the verdict is still out on whether Jay-Z is a continuing success or not. There can be no argument that Jay-Z is beyond successful when speaking in terms of financial gain and world-recognition. Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z) was born in the projects of Bedford-Stuyvesant's Marcy Houses (located in Brooklyn, New York) where as a young teen he reportedly shot his brother for stealing from him and was a self-proclaimed crack-cocaine dealer. Now, Carter is the CEO of a multi-million, multi-faceted corporation known as Roc Nation, which includes entities such as Roc-A-Fella Records, Rocawear, and many other profit and non-profit organizations. reports Carter's January 2010 net worth to be greater than $785 million. Couple that with his wife, Beyoncé Knowles, net worth of $461 million (also sourced from and you get a total family worth of $1.246 billion. From a business standpoint and social upward-mobility point of view, there is no arguing that Jay-Z falls under the category of “success.” But what about his music? Has it suffered or flourished for this wealth and fame? Jay-Z's most recent album (The Blueprint 3) was also, by all accounts, a massive success. Independently, the single “Empire State of Mind” stayed in the number one spot for five consecutive weeks on Billboard's Hot 100, and the overall LP was number one on Canadian, UK, and U.S. R&B, Rap & Hip Hop, and Pop album charts when it debuted in 2009. Had Jay-Z turned pop? And if so, how did the hip hop nation feel about it? I n a recent African-American Studies class of mine at Columbia University, I played a segment from the Forbes interview with Warren Buffet and Jay-Z and asked whether Jay-Z's overcoming social-class oppression was an example of what is possible in 2010 America, or a one-off exception to the rule. One student voiced her opinion, stating, “Jay-Z wasn't a success at all,” but that he was rather “just a corporate puppet.” This particular student is extremely bright, and she defended her point of view well. In her mind, success isn't about sitting in a three-piece suit next to Warren Buffet on Forbes TV; it is recognizing the unjust disparities in this nation between the rich and the poor and seeking to bridge the gap--something Jay-Z has yet to do. To Erica (the student), Jay-Z isn't a symbol of social upward mobility, he is an agent of capitalist appropriation and a puppet to help sell the myth that anyone in this country can “make it.” It should come obvious then, that Erica could care less for his “hip-pop.” I don't know where I stand in the debate. One of the common complaints about my editorials posted weekly here on BreakThru Radio is that I never offer my reader my stance on the cultural debates I present. I have been accused by some of asking the questions and then wavering, or just plain omitting, which side of the fence I stand on. Therefore, in order to appease those readers who would prefer I act more Bill O'Reilly'esque in the question of whether Jay-Z is an example of success from the streets of a tough neighborhood, I would have to disagree with Erica and say that he is. Although I understand her point and appreciate her idealism, I guess I am more optimistic about the possibilities a democratic state has to offer, as imperfect as it is. Seeing Jay-Z being interviewed alongside Warren Buffet in a $15,000 suit and knowing his background brings a smile to my face; not disgust. And to think that the man did this on the back of hip hop beats and witty rap lyrics further supports my feeling that so much is possible if one is just willing to look inward as opposed to living a life with no mirror.
A Walmart employee sent me a link to a website called “Walmart Community Votes,” which allegedly exists to help inform employees about political candidates. This employee drew my attention to a specific page that really doesn’t do much to inform. Really, it appears to exist to propagandize on behalf of the Republican candidate: I’ve contacted Sestak’s office to ask if: A) He received a questionnaire, and B) If he did, why did he fail to fill it out? It’s possible that Sestak chose not to return the questionnaire, but that seems like a stupid move, especially considering how the Pennsylvania race is tightening. Ironically, the Democratic candidate Sestak owns stock in Walmart, and the company has recently shifted campaign contributions in favor of Democrats, though historically Walmart has opposed the Democratic Party’s pro-union platform. But the problem isn’t just on the Pennsylvania questionnaire page. I got the same result when I checked out Georgia’s questionnaire: There was an identical void of information on Alexander Giannoulias’s (IL-D) questionnaire page: Aaaand Lee Fisher’s (OH-D) page If I was one of the 1.6 million Walmart employees that accessed this website, I might think that the hoity-toity Democrats consider themselves too good to fill out a simple questionnaire for the benefit of “real American” voters. Or maybe voters won’t think those nefarious thoughts, and simply “educate” themselves using the available Republican platform. Both scenarios spell death for Democrats. I’ve contacted all the candidates above to ask if they received the questionnaires. I hope some of them reply.
It's CMJ here in New York City and all of the DJs on BreakThru Radio have been doing wonderful work in playing the music on BTR that you can go and see in the hundreds of clubs and venues throughout the city. For our weekly-featured article Setlist, this presents the perfect time to discuss one of the station's more interview-styled programs: “Get Into the Van.” “My show features phone interviews with artists placing a particular emphasis on touring/playing live,” writes DJ Jezz--who seems to be the perfect host for such a venue. Jezz Harkin is a music enthusiast who has survived just about all aspects of the music industry. He spent seven years working for Richard Branson's V2 Records and “suffered through artist management for several years” on top of that. A native of County Donegal, Ireland, who has lived in New York since 1988, Harkin provides an introspective look at the trials and tribulations of small-time touring. “It's an insider's view to life on the road; stuck in a van with the rest of your gang.” Asking questions that most music fans who have never been a member in a band would not think of, “Get Into the Van” offers a window into what life is like for indie bands playing local gigs. The show stays true to the BreakThru Radio mantra by featuring “new and up and coming acts from all over the world.” The format is similar to some of the other talk shows as well; “I play four tunes from the guest act, and also music by other independent acts,” says DJ Jezz. ”The music ranges from rock, to electronica, to singer songwriters.” This week it is a conversation with Justin Angelo from Jersey City's Black Hollies. The talk focuses on the tough economic times for all of us at the moment, and how it trickles all the way down the line to the local hometown band. Angelo begins, “all the glamorous things about touring during the financial turmoil right now--” “Yeah, you and a thousand other bands right now,” interrupts Jezz. Jezz goes on to remark, “That's what I've been finding each week with bands on the road. It's very, very hard out there and which is another reason I like talkin' to you, so people can hear that.” The music industry has taken an interesting twist over the last twenty years, where music is now free for the most part and bands are forced to find new means of earning money. This leaves them with only two options: 1) Concerts, and 2) Merchandise. With all that is happening in New York this weekend and the CMJ Music Marathon, we often forget what it must be like for some of these indie bands who have traveled from afar. Jezz Harkin reminds me of one distinctive quality all these bands share: “What they all have in common is the road.” (Photo of Jezz Harkin host of Get Into The Van)
While doing some research for this week's Liner Notes I came across an interesting article on a blog I used to write for called Dog On A Root. Author Jim Young has recently written a convincing argument venting his frustrations on Elvis Presley's undeserved designation as “The King of rock 'n roll.” While I find myself disagreeing with Jim's point of view on most of the topics he decides to discuss on Dog On A Root, I must admit that his position on Presley's misnomer is one with which I am in agreement. I have written a lot on the foundations of Hip Hop and Indie recently, and have not discussed the roots of rock 'n roll in quite some time. Using Young's article, titled Dethroning The King of Rock 'n Roll, I want to add my thoughts on how Elvis came to be recognized as the “King,” what injustices this delivers to some of the other contributors in the shift of American music that took place in the late forties and early fifties, and how the problem lies in the assumed notion of the term rather than the term itself. Young starts off his article with a very valid question: “Can someone please explain to me how Elvis was ever crowned the King of rock 'n roll?” While my answer can be argued from many different angles, the best response I can provide to this very open-ended question is this: “Elvis earned such a title as a result of appearing in the public eye at a time when America was desperate to invent their own unique and independent national identity.” In the years immediately following World War II, the U.S. found themselves suddenly at the centre of a transforming global culture. This gave rise to a very important question in need of an equally important response: 'What does it mean to be American?' For a country that had been quickly projected into the cultural spotlight, and who had yet to come to terms with its own racial politics, Elvis Presley provided the perfect iconic spokesperson--an all-American country boy, with good-looks and small-town charm, and yet who embodied the gusto to perform country and rhythm 'n blues music with African American swagger. This combination of a white American hero in touch with his fetishization for African American subcultural gave voice and image to the new American identity--in my opinion, an image that still very much exists today (look at Eminem and The Black Keys as examples). I feel Young's re-designation of Presley to 'court jester' is an accurate and intelligent one. I agree with the reassignment and explanation he provides to his reader: “Not unlike a court jester, Elvis was a GREAT entertainer with a GREAT voice.” However, I feel Young goes too far when he remarks, “[b]ut let's face it. [sic] That's all he was and that's all he contributed to rock 'n roll.” Elvis offered more to rock 'n roll and the American identity than pure entertaining and smooth vocals. Following this logic, one could have a substantial argument for over 90 percent of rock 'n roll legends offering nothing more to American culture than 'entertainment.' If Young is saying that Presley wasn't “innovative” enough to earn the handle “King” (which is what I think he is saying), his argument weakens. I agree with Elvis lacked innovativeness and originality, but not all Kings are necessarily inventive or groundbreaking; nor do they have to be. What they are responsible for is the leadership of their subjects. Therefore, it is not so much that Elvis being labeled as “King of rock 'n roll” is a misnomer as it is how the public interprets what this moniker means. People too easily associate Elvis Presley as the King of rock 'n roll to mean that he invented it. This is the crux of Young's argument; the beef he has with the term and the common understanding of the term's meaning. Young feels “[t]here are many other much more deserving contenders for the crown of King of rock 'n roll such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl  Perkins, and of course Chuck Berry.” I think he is right; I just have a problem with his language. What I argue is that there are many “more deserving contenders” who should be identified as the innovators of rock 'n roll ahead of Elvis--and the artists Young names is a great place to start. So while we agree in the base principal of the notion, it is the terminology Young resists, whereas it is the public's perceived association of what the term means to which I resist. In other words: I am fine with calling him “King”; I am not okay with what most people think “King” to mean. As 'King,' Elvis Presley brought African American rhythm and blues to white audiences across the country; he pushed the envelope of acceptability on prime-time radio and in mainstream television and performance; and he helped to secure the mythology of the postcolonial American identity. In short, he “delivered the message to his subjects” and the whole world bought in. However, like Young, I agree that he was a mere “spokesperson for the composers of his songs;” he was adorned a crown not based on his achievements; and he was merely a “performer” with a message unwritten by him but by the African American and country and western subcultures that made up the cultural landscape from which he came (namely Tupelo, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee). Young ends his article requesting that Chuck Berry reclaim the crown that is rightfully his. I cannot emphasize enough my agreement with Young's frustration and sentiments that Presley receives all the attention of 'King' while performers like Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Ike Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Brown (only to name a few) for the most part go unnoticed. I only feel that rather than transpose the crown, let us focus on exposing the other members of court as more influential than the man whose face gets painted on the royal portrait. I know Jim Young personally, and I therefore expect him to agree with me when I pose the notion that King and Jester are interchangeable terms. I guess when it's all said and done, I am actually doing a terrible job of responding to the article because what I am really doing is answering the question with a question: Are all Kings not really mere court jesters of their own monarchy anyhow?
The WSJ published a ridiculous article yesterday that claims Capitalism saved the Chilean miners, and opens with a boldface lie when writer Daniel Henninger proclaims, “It needs to be said.” Does it, Daniel? Does it really? Henninger believes the rescue of the miners is a smashing success for free market Capitalism because without that nifty drill bit, which was the only tool capable of freeing the workers, those blue-collar suckers would still be trapped in the belly of the earth with Satan and his fiery army. You see, the drill bit was developed by a company for a profit, which obviously means regulation and anything else that stands in the way of the righteous free market, is are killing Chilean miners. Or something. In reality, Capitalism helped contribute to the mine disaster. That is, hyper-Capitalism, the most warped version of Capitalism, which sacrifices regulation in the name of profit, led to mine disasters that culminated with 33 men being trapped deep below ground in darkness for 69 days. Dick Blin, a spokesman for the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions in Geneva, says the Chile accident is a sign that the workplace safety culture needs to change in Chile. As proof, Blin cites the fact that the San Jose Mine was closed down for safety violations in 2006 and 2007. Chilean safety officials pointed out at the time that the mine needed a second entrance, so that miners would have another way out in case of disaster. The mining company resumed operations without making necessary changes. The mayor of the nearby town of Caldera, Brunilda Gonzalez, has alleged that regulators were bribed to allow the mine to re-open. The BBC reported earlier this month that the San Jose mine has been sued by members of the miners’ families. The familes are also suing Sernageomin, the state regulator of mines, for allowing the company to reopen in 2008 following its closure a year earlier over a death. But this kind of safety lapse is par for the course in Chile. In 2007 and 2008, at the height of the boom in copper prices, there were more deaths in Chilean mines than in any other years during the decade. In 2007, when the copper price averaged a record $3.24 per lb, 40 miners died in accidents. In 2008, when copper was at $2.88 per lb, the death toll hit 43. The average for the decade was 34. In contrast, the safest year in the history of Chilean mining was 1999, when the average copper price fell to just 72 cents, its lowest level in over 10 years, a consequence of the Asian crisis. Even when the free market was flush with cash because of the copper boom, Chilean miners continued to die. In fact, as the value of copper spiked, more workers started dying during the rush. There appears to be an almost direct correlation between the pace of production and worker safety. (Overall, there have been less deaths in the copper mining industry since the 1980s, but again that is because of internal safety standards, and not because of the glories of the free market). The reasons behind the correlation seem fairly obvious. Yet, for whatever reason, some people are mystified. “It shouldn’t be the case that when the price rises, the number of accidents rises too,” said Andy King, national co-ordinator for health and safety at the massive North American trade union, United Steelworkers. “In fact, the opposite should be the case,” said Mr King, who visited the San Jose mine last month and has been deeply critical of safety standards at Chilean mines. “The higher the price of the metal, the safer the mine should be, because the company has more funds to improve safety.” Oh, Andy. You sweet thing. Why would they spend more money on safety regulations when they can shove the extra cash in their own coffers? Mining companies don’t like closing down operations to tend to meddlesome safety standards because they lose money. Frankly, it’s less expensive to cross the occasional worker off the company picnic list than totally revamp a dilapidated mine. That was Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s reasoning while overseeing a corporation built on criminal neglect. Blankenship thumbed his nose at regulators – not out of some weird disdain for proper ventilation – but because he resents big government ordering him to spend money to improve safety standards so his employees won’t die. Blankenship, a die-hard fan of free market Capitalism, scoffed at efforts to regulate the mining industry, calling such attempts “as silly as global warming.” In 2009, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration cited Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine for 495 violations and proposed $911,802 in fines. Since 1984, the mine had been cited for 600 violations in less than a year and a half, some of them for not properly ventilating methane, the same combustible gas suspected in the explosion, according to the AP. The disaster at Upper Big Branch was the worst of its kind in 40 years. When Shift Foreman Luis Urzua, the last worker out of the San Jose mine, embraced Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera, he didn’t rejoice about the glories of the free market. Instead, he said, “I hope this will never happen again.” Pinera now says he’s going to review safety conditions so that “never again in Chile would people be allowed to work in such inhumane conditions,” and confesses the San Jose mine has a “long history” of accidents. Now, four more miners are trapped underground in a mine in southern Ecuador after a cave-in early this morning. Maybe the WSJ can publish another article about why Wall Street should hand out more bonuses since the free market saved the day again. ——- Update: In the comment section, “Twist” pointed me to this article from back in August, which reveals that San Esteban, the company that operates the mine, said it had no money to pay the miners’ wages and absorb lawsuits, and would not even participate in the rescue. So the state-run mining company, Codelco, had to take over. Thanks again, free market!
“North Carolina has arrived,” claims Pierce Freelon of N.C. hip hop/jazz quartet, The Beast. For a state mostly known as forerunner in the tobacco trade, collegiate sports and sweet tea consumption, to assert it's now the stage for a musical revolution may seem a tad presumptuous.  All things considered however, it's not. On the heels of releasing their latest record, Freedom Suite, a ten-track collection of hip hop, jazz and soul-inspired music performed with Nnenna Freelon, GRAMMY-nominated jazz vocalist (and mother), Freelon describes the significance of their location beneath the Mason-Dixon Line in the conceptualization of The Beast's eclectic sound. “Freedom Suite is a statement about the renaissance of musicians coming out of North Carolina,” comments Freelon. “Every guest on Freedom Suite is based in about a 30 mile radius, in the middle of North Carolina. That's really special. The Beast is at the forefront of a burgeoning scene that is giving other music hubs like Atlanta, New York and New Orleans a run for their money. ..We're producing some of the most progressive jazz, hip hop and soul music in the country.” As tribute to hip hop icon, Guru, who passed away earlier this year, Freedom Suite pairs The Beast with such veteran artists and producers as 9th Wonder, Branford Marsalis, Phonte (of The Foreign Exchange/Little Brother), YahZarah, and Geechi Suede (of Camp Lo) to create a compilation of both new and revisited tunes, interspersed with cultural discourse from Questlove, Herbie Hancock, Amiri Baraka, Christian McBride, James Moody and others. Capitalizing on the recording industry's trend to bridge genres of music with a common message and aesthetic, The Beast created beats and breakpoints from fundamental jazz standards, soul-infused melodies and bebop-style hooks. The result is something unique in form and fashion, echoing the opuses of one very legendary predecessor. “With Jazzmatazz, Guru innovated by weaving jazz narratives into his poetry,” describes Freelon. “Even though we're rooted in hip hop, from a songwriting and arrangement standpoint, jazz is at the nucleus of what we do. It was fun to re-interpret classic jazz standards like “Skylark,” and flip hip hop "standards" like, Lauryn Hill's “Doo Wop,” on the same record.” Many remember Guru as a member of prodigious rap group, Gangstarr, a duo out of New York comprised of the late rapper and DJ/producer, DJ Premier. Gangstarr united jazz and hip hop to establish a distinctive voice in the East Coast rap game of the early nineties. Considered a pioneer of the genre, Guru's legacy lives on not only through his work, but his charitable foundation and various tributes by artists, like The Beast. Notes Freelon, “Guru was a double threat. In Gangstarr, he paired a calm and focused flow with Premier's classic neck breaking drums and soulful samples.” The Beast aims to do something similar with their inventive narratives and classic-meets-contemporary rhythmic forages. Though unsigned at the moment, the group has no lofty aspiration of scoring a record deal that will lead to fame and fortune, rather they intend to manage success on their own. Exploiting the digital diaspora, they're happy to grant fans easy access to their work, yet they admit the capricious nature of the field has its pitfalls. “The internet helps because we no longer need the permission of certain gate-keepers to get our music out,” observes Freelon. “It hurts because there's no quality control.” To coincide with the release of their collection, the group will play a series of shows along the East Coast, including the NuBlu Jazz Festival in New York this November. Additionally, in December, Freelon and his mother/collaborator will perform several dates in Angola. All in all, the world will soon be introduced to Freedom Suite's introspective world of experimentation and cultural integration. “My first love has got to be hip hop,” says Freelon. “I started warming up to jazz around the mid-nineties when my mother began taking me on the road. We went to Japan and Finland when I was 12, and that was my first taste of life on the road: hotels, back stage passes, tour managers, flights. I loved everything about it, and I got to make good friends with a bunch of eccentric jazz musicians. That was the beginning of my relationship to jazz.” Now it's a lifelong bond. The Beast considers such musicians as The Roots, The Experiment, The Foreign Exchange and Kooley High as leaders in the game, and have no intent on slowing down their movement anytime soon. They've formed a solid foundation in their home fort that will indubitably spread beyond its borders, as their ingenuity has already earned them many accolades in the press, including the title “jazz and hip hop juggernaut.” And if they had a million dollars at their disposal? “I'd spend it on our next music video,” says Freelon. “Isn't that what Jay paid to make 'Big Pimpin'?” Link to this article:
A professor/friend of mine told me over lunch yesterday that no one under the age of eighty watches 60 Minutes. I had to disagree with him on the basis that I am below the age of eighty and love the show. But I also had to agree with the point he was driving at, as I don’t know anyone else who watches it as religiously as I do, let alone enjoys it as much. Assuming my professor-friend to be correct, not many of you would have seen this past Sunday’s episode in which Anderson Cooper sat down for a twenty minute interview with Hip Hop icon Eminem in what was his first television appearance in over three years. The past year has been a “triumphant comeback for a superstar who had all but disappeared" from the Hip Hop scene. Struggling with addiction and surviving a near-death overdose two and a half years ago, the thirty-seven year old rap star is back in the spotlight after a recent two-show run with friend and collaborator Jay-Z. Some of you may have caught snippets of the 60 Minutes story on YouTube or Hulu. At one point in the interview, Eminem tried to explain the art of his craft: "People say that the word ‘orange’ doesn’t rhyme with anything and that kind of pisses me off,” griped Mathers. “I put my or-ange, four-inch, door hinge in stor-age and ate porr-idge with George. You just have to figure out the science to breaking down words." Apparently this is something ABC News editors have been able to effectively do as well—but with a much different motive. While Eminem aims to “bend” words for artistic expression, ABC looks to chop words to sell advertising space on invented controversy. You see, the ABC news team was doing their best propaganda on Monday night in hopes to sell some viewers on the “controversy” of the piece. This, like most things on news stations these days, really irked me. There was nothing controversial about the interview at all. The angle ABC was going for in their story cemented my theory on the idiocy of twenty-first century news producers who continually prove to the world how incapable they are of understanding truth, meaning, and speech in context over the selective gathering and editing of words. The ‘controversy’ ABC sought to expose came late into the thirteen-minute story, when Anderson Cooper addresses Eminem’s history of profanity and verbal abuse towards women and the homosexual community. When asked if he felt any degree of responsibility for sending a negative message to the young fans of his music, Eminem replied: “I feel like it's your job to parent them. If you're the parent, be a parent." When asked if he dislikes gay people, he responded, “I don't have any problem with nobody," and then further defended himself by alluding to his own parenting practices: "Profanity around my house--no. But this is music. This is my art." This is where ABC News decided to have fun with the rapper, mocking him by sarcastically calling his home “surprisingly profanity-free.” It appears just about everyone has decided to forego the overarching story behind Eminem’s rise to fame. His use of the word “faggot” is more important than his struggle with addiction, return to sobriety, and a life of creation and public-performance. When discussing the topic, Eminem tells Cooper: "I felt like I was being attacked. I was being singled out, and I felt like, ‘is it because of the color of my skin? Is it because of that you’re paying more attention?’ … Like, I just didn't invent saying offensive things, ya know?” As a student of music history, I would love to get a shot at each user who has commented on ABC’s thread of opinions just to see what music each one of them individually listens to. I bet most online users who comment on such things are in the dark as to who their musical heroes really are, let alone what some of the messages behind their lyrics stand for. I guess Eminem on 60 Minutes defending his use of the word “faggot” is news to some people. Let’s ignore the fact that he tells Cooper there is “no excuse” for abandoning your children, an epidemic in today’s lower class neighborhoods and one from which he is a victim. “If my kids moved to the edge of the earth, I’d find them. No doubt in my mind. No money, no nothing, if I had nothing, I’d find my kids. ” Let ABC overlook the fact that he came from the slums of Detroit where he had to learn to survive on his own as a child, or that he rose from the all-too-common lower-class life American news stations pretend don’t exist. Marshall Mathers chooses not to hide his emotions behind his words. Where he is comfortable with anyone’s sexuality, he verbalizes the terms as a form of expression that reflects the environment from which he was socialized. Corporate America (i.e. ABC and CBS News) chooses to pretend that environment doesn’t exist, or turns its back upon itself, and instead points the finger at Eminem and his lyrics, sardonically judging him as both artist and parent. Cooper says of him, “He’s back like a fighter; trying to win from the crowd, one simple thing…” Eminem: “Respect.” “Respect?” “Respect.”
This week’s edition of Liner Notes is inspired by the recent Late Night with Jimmy Fallon clip that is a current online sensation. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you really should check it out . To sum it up, Jimmy Fallon and guest star Justin Timberlake take their audience through the history of hip hop in less than three minutes. Importantly, they are accompanied by one of the genre’s greatest musical acts ever, The Roots. I must have watched the video over ten times this weekend and was twittering and emailing it out to all my friends. It really is that incredible. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to watch it. The medley starts off with one very important beat. It has become a musical loop recognized by just about anyone in the modern, western world over the age of twelve. The now eponymous phrase was the beginning of a song so important, that not only a brand new genre was soon named after its opening lyric, but an entire culture—one that is now studied independently of all other cultures in university classrooms across the United States and the UK. That rhythmic cowbell, bongo drum, and left-hand piano downbeat riff are as recognizable as the opening chords to The Beatles’ “Let It Be” or the opening drum solo of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” Before any words come into the speakers, we get an electric base line along to some simple hand clapping that has as much familiarity today as Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.” And then it starts: the phrase that would change music forever: “I said a hip, hop, the hippie and the hippie, to the hip-hip-hop, you don’t stop the rock it to the bang, bang boogie say up jumped the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.” I haven’t been able to entirely narrow down the history of the term “hip hop” with complete academic confidence. But one story goes (and please note, I have only verified this through various websites and have done no true scholarly research that can support this urban legend) that Keith Cowboy, a rapper with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, used the term in a freestyle rap session to tease a friend who had just signed up with the U.S. Army. Pretty soon thereafter, other rappers, including most famously now, The Sugarhill Gang, adopted the phraseology into their own rap songs. In 1979 when The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” became a massive hit in the United States, and around the rest of the world for that matter, music critics and African American culturists and writers had a new independent and empowering term for what had been known as “disco rap” up until that point. This is a very subtle, but very important moment in the history of the culture, and in the history of western society. Calling the music “disco rap” showed a reliability or comparison to other forms of western “white” music. “Disco,” for the most part, was a mainstream, white person’s style of dance. Disco clubs in New York, L.A., and Miami were celebrated in opulence. It was the eighties—times of large spending, economic exuberance, and social divide. At the turn of the decade any fan of mainstream American popular music really only had one of three roads to travel down: 1) Punk; 2) Disco; and 3) Soft seventies rural-rock. Each one of these is a white (and with the exception of Disco), male oriented form of expression. Black and Puerto Rican DJs and musicians in New York were finding new ways to celebrate their cultural distinction, social class barriers, and ethnic histories through music. By calling what was happening in the Bronx “disco rap,” African American artists were being subjected and pigeonholed into an associative genre that was miles apart in style. There was nothing “disco” about what DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Grand Wizzard Theodore were doing. What they were doing was inventing a new style of composition, one that was worthy of its own name leading to its own identity. So when universal Zulu Nation founder Afrika Bambaataa credited the term “hip hop” to describe the emerging culture from the Bronx, the African American and Puerto Rican artists who were responsible for it were finally able to step out of the shadow of a gentrified musical class and industry and give birth to a culture that, thirty-odd years later, has changed the dynamics of societies all over the world. Just try and name one culture that does not have its own form of hip hop—from the fashion to the music, and not forgetting the all-important attitude? I could write an entire book on where it goes from there. In fact, entire books have been written on such a subject. But a much more fun and entertaining way to take in the history of the hip hop can be found in the link mentioned at the beginning of this article. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake go from “Rapper’s Delight” to “Empire State of Mind” in one furious breath, one jumped up, bang-boogied, beat. Think of the set scene here: two white, mainstream American pop celebrities (JT obviously a lot more than JF) performing the history of hip hop for a predominantly white audience (shown in the clip) with The Roots supplying the music. It isn’t so much about racial distinction, as it is about the blurring of lines. One has to wonder how much hip hop as a musical genre had to play in that evolution. What was once considered a bunch of lower class, degenerate youths from the slums of Manhattan came to give us an identity that saw a presidential candidate draw obvious reference to a rap song during one of his campaign speeches (President Barack Obama references Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” when he “brushes his shoulder off ” in a speech one day after being attacked by Hilary Clinton and George Stephanopoulos during the 2008 Democratic Leadership race. I think it is safe to say that hip hop has modernized the American identity, and it all began with a song. But who am I to tell you about it. Watch the clip. After all, in the most paradoxical and sincerely hypocritical way imaginable, I believe music should be watched and listened to rather then written and read about.
The Black Sea Overtakes Glasslands: Nicole Atkins Broods in Williamsburg
MSNBC Agrees Pope Protests Are Small and 'Poisonous'
It is past mid September already, and as summer washes into fall more and more each day, a lot of us are ending with the summertime fun and falling into the traditions of autumn. In America, there is one pastime that is as synonymous with fall as Christmas is to Winter—the good ol’ game of football. Now what does a radio station that features break out bands in New York City have anything to do with football? The answer is, “not much;” at least not on the surface anyhow. BreakThru Radio does not even have a sports section, let alone any programming dedicated to sports news. This week’s edition of Liner Notes does not seek to give you a top ten list of 2010’s college football teams, debate the NFL’s upcoming games, or discuss who I think will win the World Series of Baseball. What I do intend to do is to make you think of the relationship between sports and music in a way that perhaps you haven’t before. Arguably, sports and music account for one-half of the four institutions that most greatly effect and influence modern popular culture (fashion and technology being the other two). So what is the relationship between these two faculties? How does one play off the other? Are they interrelated, or are they two separate customs that have nothing to do with one another? Sports, specifically college sports, have come to incorporate popular music into everything they do. Music is played by the bands at half time; during the warm-ups it is used to motivate the athletes; and sound clips from the day’s current top forty are inserted during breakage of play to keep the level of intensity and excitement high in the stands. Whether you are aware of it or not, music and sports are tightly braided pair. One of the leading academic experts on the matter is University of Toronto musicology professor Kenneth McLeod. Pointing out in many articles how “music and sports connect in a number of ways: aesthetics, marketing approaches, and performance strategies,” McLeod asserts that the relationship between sports and music is a way many societies “construct gender and racial identity.” The role of pop music in sports, and vice versa, subconsciously assists in the creation of masculine and feminine roles in our society as well as separate and tie racial identities. Hip-Hop—Basketball—Black; Country—Nascar—White; Cheerleading—Football—Feminine. These are all samples of what McLeod is referring to. Let me give you another example. Think of a recent Nike or Gatorade advertisement you saw on T.V. Now ask yourself not only how these companies use music to sell their product, but also how the music chosen creates the image of a professional athlete. Popular music is a marketing tool that is wisely used to inspire its viewer. A viewer will watch the sixty-second spot and make a subconscious connection between the athlete/sport and the music being played. What emerges is a blending effect, or what McLeod refers to as “sport-rock crossover” (although I would argue the connection goes beyond the genre of rock and into the other genres as well). For those of you who work out, how many of you do it to music and why do you think that is? Is it because you aim to imitate the image of your favorite athlete you saw on the Gatorade commercial? Or is it because the Gatorade commercial inspired you to workout and you imagined your workout to be just like the one you saw in the commercial? Moving beyond advertising, how many of you have ever been to a live sporting event? Was there a band? Did the fans involve themselves in chanting or singing hometown ra-ra songs? Did the MC of the game play popular tracks in between plays and periods? Perhaps more prominent in soccer than any other sporting culture is the existence of the fan-chant; the world recognized “Olé” perhaps being the strongest example. In a lot of college football games here in the U.S., marching bands have recently evolved to include a mix of traditional marching songs with modern day popular tracks. Just look at this video of the Delaware State University marching band doing a medley of “Sweet Dreams” by Beyoncé, “One” by Mary J. Blige, “Death of Autotune” by Jay-Z, and “Boom, Boom, Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas as a prime example. The last thing I will say on the matter is about the relationship between music and racial identity. Because I was a football player in college, the locker room is a scene I know all too well: one stereo; sixty young men from all different walks of life who are all trying to get jacked up at the same time for the same event. When I was playing ball, it was a constant battle between my black teammates wanting to hear DMX’s “What’s My Name” and my white teammates wanting to hear “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit. Of course what happens over the course of a season as a team bonds with one another, is that both songs come to motivate both groups of players and a cultural or racial fusion occurs. Sports and music bring together black and white. A little cliché for today’s time, I know, but this phenomenon has been around since the fifties and sixties and has played a major role in the coming together of two groups of people (look at the film Remember the Titans as an example). So if you are a big music fan, and care nothing for sports, that’s fine. But don’t think that the music you make, or the music you like, doesn’t have an effect on athletes and the culture in which you live. Sports culture is massive all around the world, and what becomes popular in music sometimes does so because of a giant push from sports. Even ultimate indie hipsters in their skinny jeans and horizontally striped French navy tank tops can’t bypass the relationship between the two. As strange as it may be, world’s apart in style, there is still a common denominator between the Dallas Maverick fan and the Arcade Fire Fan.
These three musical acts can do no wrong (in the eyes of our adoring staff).  Find out how Lille, Dark Dark Dark and Buke & Gass filled out their name tags… Lille Lille is the alias of one Grace Bellury, an eighteen-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia who has a way with the ukulele. Her sound is light and airy, but the songwriting, lyrics and voice imply an awareness of complexity that places Grace well beyond her years. With the release of this year’s EP Tall Shoulders, Lille announced herself to the world as a talent on the rise; in fact, we at BTR were so taken with this debut that we featured the young artist as our AOTW a few weeks back. Grace shared a few thoughts with us on the process of choosing a name, and why Lille felt like a good fit: "When Lille started out it was just my solo project. I have a band now, but they weren't involved in the writing process for the Tall Shoulders EP. Now they're helping me with my new songs and we're kind of exploring the different meanings of being a band. Before I thought of Lille as me and me as Lille but now there are four smelly boys mixed up in the equation and I don't know quite what to do with them. They're all so lovely and so supportive. I couldn't ask for a happier band-family. After we made the EP I realised I wasn't satisfied with simply using my name for the project. I actually received an incredibly thoughtful email from a friend, one of my Whale Heart Records label mates, in fact, about the benefits of having a nom de plume to create under, and the freedom it gives you to not be constrained by the weight of your own name. My friends and I thought up countless crap monikers before Lille fell into my lap. I picked up the name Lille (pronounced "leel") in the springtime, when I was on a huge French kick. I was googling French cities to satisfy my wanderlust and watching Godard films, of course. I stumbled upon Lille and thought the name was so sweet and sophisticated. It's an old city in Northern France filled with history, architecture, legends. And I hear it's really lovely in the spring, one day I'll play there and confuse everybody (Lille is coming to Lille, finally!?). I wanted a name that I felt was aesthetically similar to the music I create, in a way. I wanted a pretty name. And I also wanted a name that could be taken seriously and didn't shout "cutesy-teenage-girl-with-ukulele-alert". Like Daisy Pants. or Happy Rainbow Elf. Actually, Happy Rainbow Elf would be a super good name for a Metal band." Though there may be a future transition into metal, let’s hope Bellury and the boys stay with project Lille for at least a while longer.  While the band is sticking close to home and playing Georgia shows at the moment, something tells us they’ll soon be coming to a venue near you. Dark Dark Dark Their Myspace page claims home base as “Minneapolis, New York, and New Orleans.” Three members are multi-instrumentalists, between them rotating accordian, trumpet, banjo, clarinet, piano and vocals. Throw in two choir members, a drummer, a bassist and a cellist, and you have an undeniably promising mix. Where some bands might allow all this musical power to go to their heads, tending towards gaudy arrangements, Dark Dark Dark clearly have a yogic mastery of their talents.  Their arrangements are frequently spare, selective, and beautifully stark with the occasional carefully-chosen swell. BTR caught up with Marshall LaCount, one of the band’s founding members, as he pushed a pile of wood across a giant lot in San Jose, California (more on that in a moment).  LaCount offered these thoughts on their melancholy moniker: “When we started, there were a lot of bands capitalizing on words like ‘darkness’ or ‘black’ or ‘death.’  In folk music, there was this resurgence of a traditional songwriting style called ‘murder ballads,’ and I felt like poking a little fun at all of that.  I also felt like poking a little fun at how serious some of our songs were at the time, and how a lot of people were actually dying in our songs.  I guess the name has a lot of different meanings, a lot of open-endedness which is generally how I come to any decision:  a little bit based on how open-ended it is. At this point, the band name makes less sense than it ever did.  But I think that we’ve toured so much, and enough people have said that it's either interesting or confusing or that they like it, that that’s what we’re going with.” With a new release, Wild Go, coming out on October 5th the band is keeping busy with tour dates as well as a few screenings of a film they shot and scored over the course of two years. Flood Tide is billed as a “fiction documentary,” using real-life performances as the backdrop for a fictionalized narrative. The band created music to accompany the film, and premiered it this past July at the Rooftop Films’ Summer Screening Series in Long Island City. They’ve had two subsequent screenings this month, on September 16th and 19th, in San Jose at a drive-in theatre they constructed from salvaged material (thus the above-mentioned cart of wood). This hard-working crew will soon be heading out on a fall tour that will take them east from Minneapolis to the coast, France, and finally the U.K.  You don’t want to miss an opportunity to see this unique group of artists, so save a spot on your calendar. Dark Dark Dark LIVE!! Oct 2 – First Ave – Minneapolis, MN Oct 3 – The Project Lodge – Madison, WI Oct 4 – Off Broadway – St. Louis, MO Oct 5 – Louisville, KY Oct 6 – Flying Monkey Arts Center – Huntsville, AL Oct 7 – Allways Lounge – New Orleans, LA Oct 8 – The Charles Mansion – Tallahassee, FL Oct 9 – The Five Spot – Atlanta, GA Oct 10 – Eye Level Art – Charleston, SC Oct 11 – Warren Wilson College – Swannanoaa, NC Oct 12 – Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC Oct 13 – Strange Matter – Richmond, VA Oct 15 – The Ox – Philadelphia, PA Oct 16 – Glasslands Gallery – Brooklyn, NY Oct 18 – Space Gallery – Portland, ME Oct 19 – The Temple – Boston, MA Oct 24 – AS220 – Providence, RI Oct 27 – The Bakery – Detroit, MI Oct 28 – Hideout – Chicago, IL Buke & Gass While Dark Dark Dark work to funnel many musicians into a focused sound,  Brooklyn-based duo Buke & Gass are busy creating as much sonic chaos as two people can muster.  Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez met in 2000, started dating, joined a band in 2003, broke up, left the band, stopped speaking for a full two years, and then…  got back in contact. They then got back to music, this time leaving the romance out. With such a cute christened coincidence and close history in their favor, one might imagine that they’d opt to play up their twosome with a name like The Aron(e)s or Aron + E. But the name they selected actually has to do with the mechanics of their music—an element of the process that they both clearly love. Arone works as a bike mechanic, and Aron has built instruments for the likes of Blue Man Group, so it should come as no surprise that Buke actually refers to a bass ukulele, the instrument that Arone strums while she sings. As his own client, Aron built himself a “gass” which is the hybridization of a guitar and bass (and pronounced like “bass” with a “g.”) Arone sings, strums, and shakes bells attached to her ankles, while Aron plucks and beats a drum pedal with his left foot. Together they create music that is taught, frenetic, intricate and anxious with threads of delicacy and suspension woven throughout.  Arone has described the experience of listening to Buke & Gass as being a “recently retired janitor on a horse that’s traveling through different scenes.” One moment, the listener might find himself in a field buzzing with bees, the next in a breeze-ruffled orchard, and so on, one surprise following another within the landscape of a song. Arone and Aron are currently touring in support of their full-length album Riposte, released on Sept. 14th with Brassland. Check the list for a show near you. Watching these two in action will be worth the trek. Buke and Gass LIVE!! Sept 21 – Troubador – Los Angeles, CA Sept 24 – Mohawk – Austin, TX Sept 25 – Oysterfest – Frisco, TX Sept 26 – Hi Tone – Memphis, TN Sept 27 – Earl – Atlanta, GA Sept 29 – DC9 – Washington, D.C. Sept 30 – Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA Oct 1 – Santos – New York, NY Oct 2 – POP Montreal Fest – Montreal, Quebec
I STILL have not listened to the Gold Panda full-length debut album Lucky Shiner, but as I’ve been hearing quite a few of the tracks in isolation outside of the natural flow of the album as a whole, I can’t help but wonder if this is going to be my new favorite album. In the case of “Same Dream China”, a track that starts out on a somewhat confusing and nonsensical note quickly takes shape and becomes a thing of beauty full of glitchy electronic beats layered over sustained Eastern melodies. I don’t really know what I’m waiting for in listening to this album. I think it’s because I know that I have to really sit back and enjoy this one with nothing distracting me. I think a 4 hour flight to San Diego just might give me that opportunity. Gold Panda – Same Dream China
It’s been a long time coming, far too long in fact (hey, I’m a busy guy, I can only do so much), but last night I finally gave a listen to the Fear of Tigers album Cossus Snufsigalonica after first hearing “The Adventures of Pippi Longstrum” so many moons ago. And alls I can say is that Mr. Benajmin Berry really knows what’s up. I’m going to have to try to work out a way that we can go to some club on EuroSpringBreak2011 and get the DJ to play the entire larger-than-life album from front to back. If the French Touch thing isn’t for you, however, (which would be a shame) then make sure to check out the slowed down but always excellent Monsieur Adi remix. Because the only thing better than one great producer is two great producers. And to all of you DJs out there, if you aren’t currently dropping “I Can Make the Pain Disappear” into your sets, you should probably consider it for some instant dance crowd love. Fear of Tigers – I Can Make the Pain Disappear Fear of Tigers – I Can Make the Pain Disappear (Monsieur Adi Remix)
This past weekend at Le Taz Skatepark in Montreal, some of the best skaters in Canada went head to head in a full street competition. Congrats to Brandon Del Bianco, Tj Rogers, and Paul Trep for killin it the hardest.
In a strange twist of fate, not knowing which DJ and BreakThru Program I was going to feature on Setlist this week, I wrote my weekly editorial Liner Notes on America’s lacking relationship with Techno and Dance music. Tuning into DJ Annie’s The Anglo Files, I learn that “this week [she] want[s] to devote a chunk of the show to some great Electronic and some Dance music and remixes because it is such a big part of the music culture in the UK and we definitely don’t want to overlook that.“ It appears BTR is getting full use out of thematic motif as it prepares for its new site launch. Foals - one of many artists that can be heard on The Anglo Files The trans-Atlantic relationship between the UK and US music scene is nothing new. It is a history that host DJ Annie knows all too well, she tells me she has spent a life admiring Britain’s popular music scene: “I grew up listening to Britpop in the suburbs of New York and consider it to be my favorite genre. Bands like Blur, Pulp, and Elastica were (and still are) my lifeblood alongside other obvious favorites like the Smiths, the Clash, and many more. I was a Beatles fanatic from a young age and became obsessed with all things from the UK early on in life.” One would be hard-pressed to successfully argue that Britpop does not have a sound unique unto itself. Being able to pinpoint exactly what it is about the music that makes it British is a more difficult task, but the distinction in sound and culture is definitely there. “I'm planning to explore the idea that British music and culture is perceived differently from abroad,” DJ Annie explains. “I draw from my experience of being an obsessive anglophile as a teenager and how my perception of their music scene changed once I spent several months living in London.” This is what makes Annie’s show worth listening to. It is not just exposure to both new and retro British bands; it is a musical discussion of how the UK and US distinguish themselves from the other, while remaining so similar in style and sound. The over-arching intention of The Anglo Files is to have a “show that is based around the idea of British music from a foreign perspective.” Annie provides her listeners with that perspective with a clear voice and an insider’s vision. “I knew that there were many anglophiles out there inspired by British music and culture, so I really wanted to do a show combining my interest in American independent music and my Britpop past.” It’s a solid marriage—American Indie and Britpop. If you are a fan of one, you should really get to know the other. The music Annie features on her show is a great blend of fresh Britpop independent label artists and what she calls “old favorites from pioneers in the genre.” I had recently suggested to the BTR staff that we should dedicate a whole week to a “UK versus US Music” theme. I hope that we soon do. And when it happens, there will be no doubt that DJ Annie will be one of our resident UK experts.
Below, you will find a soundcloud embedded. [soundcloud]
People all the time are asking me “omggg have you heard that song like it goes like something like speakin no american or something,” and my response is “YES it’s been out for awhile now buddy calm your shit.” Sorry do not want to sound condescending, I guess the song just took the world by storm and I was left behind. Well, thanks to Deniz Koyu, he combined Angello’s relatively new hit “Knas” to make for a destructive track. Cheers. We No Speak Knas (Deniz Koyu Mashup) – Steve Angello vs Yolanda Be Cool & DCup
For many of us, fall marks the end of carefree summer nights and the beginning of school. You may have to say goodbye to half-day Fridays and warm, sunny days, but there are a few things to look forward to. Many bands are gearing up for their fall tours. This month, we'll see what Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Uz Jsme Doma are up to. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (SJDK) had a great summer this year. A whopping 20,000 people attended their free show at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. However, if you weren't among the dancing masses that night (and why weren't you?), you still have many opportunities to see this Brooklyn-based soul/funk show-stopper live. This fall, SJDK is touring through the Midwest and Europe. They'll be performing tunes from their recently released fourth album, I Learned The Hard Way. A crisp, smooth record that takes inspiration from Stax and Motown, this latest work takes SJDK's neo-soul aesthetic to another level. Sharon's voice crackles with emotion, and the Dap-Kings' brass-heavy rhythms magnify her  passionate, soulful words. SJDK is reminiscent of Sam Cooke, James Brown and Aretha Franklin, but they are a definitively modern phenomenon. Let Sharon teach you her moves and get seduced by the Dap-Kings powerful brass—and you might understand why over 20,000 people braved mosquitoes and simmering temperatures in a 7,000-person capacity venue. They're just that good. SJDK LIVE!!! September 04 - Snowmass Townpark - Snowmass, CO September 14 -  Puyallup Fair - Puyallup WA September 17 - Buster's, - Lexington, KY September 18 - Minglewood Hall - Memphis TN September 19 - The Pageant - St. Louis, MO September 20 - The Blue Note -  Columbia, MO September 21 - Midland Theatre -  Kansas City, MO September 23 - The Showroom at Palladium - Dallas TX September 24 - La Zona Rosa - Austin, TX September 26 - Orpheum Theatre -  Phoenix, AZ September 27 - The Lensic - Santa Fe, NM September 28 - Ogden Theare -  Denver, CO October 13 - Kaufleuten -  Zurich, Switzerland October 14 - Les Docks -  Lausanne, Switzerland October 15 - Nancy Jazz Pulsations - Nancy, France October 16 - Live Music Hall - Koln, Germany October 17 - Trix - Antwerpen, Belgium October 19 - Huxley's - Berlin, Germany October 20 - Grosse Freiheit 36 - Hamburg, Germany October 21 - WDR TV Rockpalast - Bonn, Germany October 22 - Tonhalle - München, Germany October 23 - Bloom - Mezzago, Italy October 26 - Apolo - Barcelona, Spain October 27 - Le Vigean - Bordeaux, France October 28 - L'Olympic - Nantes, France October 29 - La Cigale  - Paris, France October 30 - Aeronef - Lille, France November  1 - Paradiso - Amsterdam, Netherlands November  3 - Roundhouse - London, UK November  4 - The Ritz - Manchester, UK November  5 - Queens Hall - Edinburgh, UK November  6 - Tripod - Dublin, Ireland The Pains of Being Pure at Heart The four friends that make up The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (POBPAH) originally got together to perform at keyboardist Peggy Wang's birthday blowout at a Brooklyn warehouse back in 2007. Since then, however, they've stayed together and started honing their pop repertoire. Pains turns melancholy lyrics into upbeat, twee-pop tunes with wispy boy-girl vocals and fuzzy guitar riffs. Their tunes are refreshingly simple yet polished, catchy yet dark underneath. Taking inspiration from My Bloody Valentine and The Field Mice, Pains melds sugary sweet harmonies with hazy guitars and earnest vocals. Since 2007, Pains has been working the Brooklyn indie scene and playing venues like Cake Shop and Dead Herring. Last year, they released two EPs on Slumberland Records. Stellar reviews and  critical acclaim from outlets like Pitchfork, Stereogum and The New York Times propelled the group out of the Brooklyn circuit, and now they're gearing up for a tour this fall. They'll be hitting up some key cities on the east cost (Brooklyn, Philly, Boston) before heading to the west coast. Uz Jsme Doma Uz Jsme Doma may be the strangest band you'll encounter. The Czech prog-rock quintet has been around since 1985, when their punk-inspired music was considered illegal by the communist Czechoslovakia. Their membership has changed over the course of these past 25 years, but their music maintains its energetic, genre-bending spirit. Uz Jsme Doma has received many labels over the years: intellectual punk, Slavic tone provocation, orchestral punk, ska, melodic avant garde and many others. In one way or another, each of these labels can be applied to the band. Though completely arranged as if they were classical compositions, their songs are so complex and full of tumultuous energy that you'd think they had to have been improvised. Shifts between time signatures and rhythms that accent off-beats and half-beats throw the melodies into dense, forceful chaos. Inundated with sixteenth notes, the tunes move at high-speed without stopping to catch a breath. In short, Uz Jsme Doma's music is exhausting (in a good way). Touring through Canada and the East coast this fall, Uz Jsme Doma is sure to be a fun, unforgettable live experience. They'll be releasing their seventh album, Jeskyne, which, like all the others before it, is jam-packed with insatiable energy and a loyalty to the discord and freedom of punk rock. September 23 - Daniel Street Club - Milford, CT September 25 - Building 16 - Providence, RI September 26 - Lesco - Montreal, Quebec, Canada September 28 - Zaphod Beeblebox - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 29 - Sneaky Dee's - Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 30 - Bug Jar - Rochester, NY October 1 - The Rock Shop - 249 4th Avenue - Brooklyn, NY October 2 - 12th Annual Czech Street Festival - New York, NY October 4 - Maxwell's - Hoboken, NJ October 5 - M Room - Philadelphia, PA October 6 - Black Cat - Washington, DC October 8 - Now That's Class - Cleveland, OH Ocober 9 - Orion Sound Studios - Baltimore, MD Link to this article:
Artist Of The Week - Lille
According to their Myspace page, the sole member of Lille is the pseudo-dragon from The NeverEnding Story. That is somehow fitting for the dreamy pop of Lille's freshman endeavor Tall Shoulders. The five tracks on Lille's EP are mix of whistling, ukulele, and dreamy vocals; poppy, but not cliche; "something borrowed," but nothing trite. In reality, Lille is not a giant pink-grey dragon. She is Grace Bellury, a pixie-ish teenager from Atlanta, Georgia who started her musical career plucking out tunes on a mandolin. She eventually switched instruments, choosing the ukulele as her main vessel of expression about two years ago. Lille claims that this switch was due partially to Beirut, and the rest to heartbreak. It's odd that the ukulele-- an instrument associated with upbeat beach-pop and overweight Hawaiians-- is used to produce Lille's melancholy tunes. But she makes it work, artfully layering her strumming and sad vocals with fast-paced beats, which make the entire experience bittersweet. It is not something that you could dance to, but not exactly something to cry to. Lille's influences are unsurprising. She claims to have been influenced lately by groups like Beach House and Best Coast, groups that both feature girl vocalists with similar dreamy tones. In addition, she cites the Beatles, Sufjan Stevens, and Harry Nilsson as significant influences, all of which are apparent in her melodic verses. Culturally, she names Tim Burton as a main influence, along with sadness in general. There is very little information about Lille out in the media, which adds to the mystic allure of her pretty face and mournful lyrics. She recently signed onto Brooklyn's Whale Heart Records, but has not released any tour dates, preferring for now to play small local shows. Listen to BreakThru Radio all week long for tracks from Lille! Link to this article:
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Just like the Osmonds, BTR's DJ Marie is a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n roll. Sew & Tell on Fridays will have fashionable interviews and an eclectic music mix that pairs alt-country with electronica, folk with garage rock... but stays stylish A Minnesota native, DJ Marie became a music "junkie" in college, and has traveled a quick path from Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and Bruce Springsteen, to My Morning Jacket, The Black Keys, Bon Iver, Tom Waits and many, many others. She loves discovering and interacting with new sounds and artists, and relies on the BTR shows to keep her in the know. In 2009, the lucky girl attended both SXSW in Austin and Next Big Nashville where she had the (amazing) opportunity to hear live performances from known favorites like Camera Obscura and Phosphorescent, and found a couple new loves including We Were Promised Jetpacks and Florence and The Machine. When she's not out at concerts or messing around with her own music, Marie can be found flea marketing (adding to her vinyl collection), cooking, reading up on sustainability trends, watching questionable-quality TV, maintaining her band name blog, making photographs, and of course, scouring the interweb for new and innovative fashion finds. Wardrobe staples include: Hunter wellies, navy trench coat, linen scarf, graphic tees and feather earrings. She has also recently become a Suduko dork, er, addict.
“Everybody Is On The Run” is an unreleased, and yet to be heard again, song from Noel Gallagher recorded during an Oasis soundcheck in Brazil early May 2009. Oasis nerds like us understand that it rarely gets better than the sound of Noel alone with his guitar, and this tune is no exception. a melancholy track, incredible melody, so simple, so soulful… so NOEL! that being said, the cheif’s new album is gonna be mind blowing!! c’mon now.. even George Martin considers “Noel to be the finest songwriter of his generation.” this record is gonna be MEGA! a rumored track listing and album release date (8/10/2010) is listed below. also below are a few clips of other unreleased tracks that may show up on his solo album… “NG – 8/10/10 1. Revolution Song 2. Stop the Clocks
 3. The Magic Can’t Be Right
 4. Lazy Days and Sunny Rays
 5. If there’s a god 6. Everybody’s on the Run
 7. Let it come down over me
 8. If i had a gun 9. I want to Live in a Dream in My Record Machine / Purple Parallelogram
 10. Its Over now” Noel Gallagher - Everybody Is On The Run (Soundcheck at Citibank Hall, Rio de Janeiro Brazil 5/9/09) clips of two other “new” gems… in other big “O” news… a new Oasis compilation album titled Time Flies.. 1994-2009, will be released June 14th. Liam Gallagher’s to be named band, hopefully not called Oasis… and with ex-Oasis members including Andy Bell on guitar, is expected to release a single sometime in October in conjunction with some live dates. also, Liam is putting together a feature film with the team that produced 24 Hour Party People based on a book which he owns the rights about The Beatles circa 1968-1970, titled The Longest Cocktail Party: An Insider’s Diary Of The Beatles, Their Million Dollar Apple Empire And Its Wild Rise And Fall. rating: 9.5 Link to this post BlahBlahBlah Science
Have you ever seen the film Almost Famous? Do you recall that scene where a pre-teen William Miller (played by Michael Angarano) stands on the front lawn of the Eisenhower all-American dream home next to his overly protective mother, observing his older sister’s rebellion against what he considers to be a perfect familial setting? He struggles to comprehend his eighteen-year-old sister’s instinctive desire to break-free. Sean William Scott, an unknown at the time, encompasses the image of a late 60s rebel, loading boxes of his new girlfriend’s belongings (played by another unknown actress/singer at the time—Zooey Deschanel) into the trunk of his brand new Chevy. The sister looks back towards her old home, sympathizing with her confused little brother. She then approaches him, looking him (us, the lens) deadpan in the eye:   “One day, you’ll be cool,” she promises. The older sister then pulls her little brother close to her and whispers in his ear, “Look under your bed. It will set you free.” Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” plays in the background. A warm embrace ensues, before she runs to the car and her new life of freedom ‘on the road.’   Of course, for anyone who has seen the film, we all know what the little prodigy finds under his bed—a leather case full of LPs: Pet Sounds, Live Stones, Zeppelin II, Hendrix, Cream, Joni, Blonde On Blonde, and finally Tommy—which comes accompanied with a hand-written note from the older sibling that reads, “Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you will forever see your future.” Cut to high school five years later—William Miller is cool.   I was raised in a family of four children. But what made this extraordinarily interesting is how close in age the four of us were—only two years and eight months separate my older brother from my younger, my sister and I falling somewhere in between. Although together in high school for a few years, there was the one-year that my older brother and sister were part of the high school scene while my younger brother and I were still in grade school. It was during this time that my sister started dating some of the sophomores and juniors at the school, plunking her in the middle of my eldest’s renegade crew. I guess it is fair to say they began to discover music, if not together, at approximately the same time.   I can remember being in the eighth grade and inserting blank tapes my father had purchased into my parent’s stereo system in our family room to record directly off the radio, DJ overdubbed intro included. In 1989, it was all about listening to the Top Six at 6:00, aiming for chart-poppers “The Humpty Dance,” “Let Your Backbone Slide,” “On Our Own” (the new Bobby Brown track from Ghostbusters II), and “If I Had No Loot” by Tony! Toni! Toné!. My parents had this high-tech stereo system that was capable of such technology that our measly bedroom clock radios could not compete with. As I anticipated which songs I wanted to ‘tape,’ I’d fiddle with mixer and amp settings, my mother always there to remind me “not to mess anything up” on her beloved new stereo system.   I can also remember, once having captured such musical wonder, lying in bed late at night with my sister’s tiny tape recorder, playing Maestro Fresh Wes over and over and over again; furiously writing down lyrics so I could commit them to memory and rap along with him at the next Safety Patroller Dance, increasing the value of my ‘rad’ stock.   [To venture off course a little bit, I feel I must share what I just experienced: The power of memory is funny, or shall I say just pure incredible? As I wrote the last sentence I couldn’t resist the urge to go on Grooveshark to hear the said track. As soon as the first a cappella tri-lined rhyme came through my speakers (“This is a throw down, a show down. Hell no, I can’t slow down. It’s gonna go—down. First Offense…”) the words flooded back to me. Yes—twenty-one years later and I can still rap the entire song word for word. Embarrassing or empowering?]   Back to the point…   Somewhere during my days of imitating Canada’s newest and only hip-hop voice, I noticed a large collection of old records kicking about the same aforementioned stereo (which had an amplifier and mixer that hooked up to a brand new LP deck—just try to fathom the pure awesomeness of that technology!). I don’t remember the exact day I discovered the dusty cardboard sleeves kicking about, but I can remember as close as to the month it happened, and I can certainly remember the suspended moment in time, when I stopped, got onto the floor, and began thumbing through a canon so foreign to me I may as well have been looking at somebody else’s family photo album.   Who is this funny looking boy-faced man with dark Einstein hair and a motorcycle tee shirt? What’s with this glass prism on black, a light shining into one side and a rainbow coming out the other? Why is this black dude lighting his guitar on fire dressed like Merlin? What the hell is all of this?   You see, the four of us kids had an uncle, my mother’s younger brother, who had a DJ business in the seventies called Simple Motion. I later found out that my sister had contacted him asking to borrow some of his records as her own music-discovery was beginning to blossom (inspired by a long-haired, acoustic guitar-wheeling, high school senior named Jeff no doubt). All of a sudden I was surrounded by concepts and ideas I had never known existed. Sure I had heard the words “Bob Dylan,” “Neil Young,” “The Doors,” “Pink Floyd,” “The Velvet Underground,” and “Led Zeppelin” before, but they held as much weight as former Presidents and historical battlefields. Saying names like ‘Bob Dylan’ or ‘Neil Young’ was like saying ‘Lyndon Johnson’ or ‘Richard Nixon;’ hearing the couplet ‘Pink Floyd’ was no different than hearing ‘Agent Orange’ or ‘Green Beret;’ and locations like ‘Woodstock’ or ‘The Village’ were synonymous with places like ‘Normandy’ and ‘Vietnam.’ All of the above are terms a pre-teen knows to be historic and is aware he/she should recognize, but lacks the intelligence and knowledge to separate the meaning from the expected recognition.   Later that year (or perhaps it was the next) my older brother received the brand new Led Zeppelin Four-CD Boxed Set for Christmas. When he wasn’t home, I would sneak the discs out of his room to play upstairs through headphones so no one else would know I was stealing from my brother. At the same time, my sister continued to receive mixed tapes from older high school boys, compiled of more Dylan, CSNY, Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Paul Simon as if meant to impress and woo her (a courting tactic I would later imitate to a tee, while preying on the unaware desires of ninth grade female innocence). Her tapes too, I would sneak out of her room to hear while she was out discovering alcohol and bush parties.   Needless to say, that summer the curtains of pop-radio had forever been torn away from the window. I never went back to recording The Top Six at 6:00 again. Like Alice, I had fallen into the spiraling hole of musical Wonderland and began a downward tumble into the history of American sound. Unlike Alice, my fall was without flap and has yet to stop. It is more like a descent into the depths of an ocean with a diver-like grace. It isn’t head over heels panic, full of disillusionment, but rather natural and fluid, with the freedom to get off along the way and explore tunnels branching away from the core tube.   Led Zeppelin   Currently, I am getting my master’s degree in the history of American music and I DJ on two different radio stations here in New York, as well as write on music for other numerous outlets. I am also applying for a Ph.D. in the same field. I can’t help but wonder where I would be if it wasn’t for my older brother and sister (and by association, uncle) placing that music right under my nose so many years ago. I think it is part of our nature to like the music one likes, the corner of pop culture one finds themselves in, is into the fashion, film, sports, or whatever someone admires, because of an older sibling influence. Adolescence wears that inseparable cloak called ‘impressionable’ for a long time before being able to shed it completely and waltz through society confidently naked. Naturally, younger brothers and sisters are out to earn the respect of an older one, and are constantly imitating that which they observe. For me, it was through music. If Greg and Kelly were going to listen to Zeppelin, The Beatles, and Dylan, then so was I.   Today, I am only left to take pride in the fact that they may now come to me for musical guidance. I just hope I don’t let them down and can offer them as many windows into happiness through music as they presented to me over twenty years ago. I can’t even begin to imagine what my life would be like today had I not “looked under my bed, to be set free.” Link to this article:
freddie flips the “it was written” classic. 
[Download] Nas - If I Ruled the World (Freddie Joachim Remix) (Feat. Lauryn Hill) Link to this post BlahBlahBlah Science
The other day, Greenwald wrote a very good summary of America’s collapsing empire. Basically, we are entering year nine of the Afghanistan occupation, and Republicans are leading a crusade to cut benefits and Social Security during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Greenwald highlighted this disturbing passage from a NYT article: Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation. Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders. Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters. I occasionally feature bits of empirical evidence to prove the existence of the collapsing empire in this blog, like the inevitable Republican-inspired Mad Max future of no firefighters, or parks, and endless water shortages. And we’ve seen signs of the decay everywhere – the real unemployment of 16 percent, and certain counties’ decision to switch from pavement to gravel roads in order to save money, not to mention the woeful state of the nation’s other infrastructure (water mains, bridges, etc.). I don’t need to tell you shit is bad. But what’s so amazing about all of this is Washington’s utter indifference to the state of the decaying empire. (Quick digression: Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish to imply empires are a good thing. We know the true toll of colonialism and empire expansion, and I reject the notion that America must remain an all-powerful empire in order to survive and thrive.) If the ruling class isn’t made to understand the effects of their detrimental policies, the U.S. will not only lose the empire, but the very fabric of society itself. Take for example, the U.S. plans to sell $30 billion-worth of F-15s to Saudi Arabia. While watching MSNBC this morning, a fairly useless human being (didn’t catch his name, but he’s an old, white, male journalist – does that narrow it down?) claimed that this move may not be the best idea in the world because it might anger Israel. You know, because the US also sends Israel around $1 billion annually ($114 billion total) in military aid, and they’re our supposed allies, so if we’re arming their sworn enemies, it looks…weird. See, because the only threat here is that Israel might get upset – not the U.S. taxpayers who fund the military, which in turn outsources weapon research and development to private companies (that whole “Military-Industrial-Complex” thingy). The fairly useless human being (FUHB) on my teevee (along with this article) also state not to worry because the US military never gives brown people the best weaponry available, but rather last year’s hot toy.  Of course, the toys can still maim and kill civilians, but since they’re not the shiniest, newest toys, the weapons sales practically don’t count! Meanwhile, our politicians continue their rich tradition of investing time and money – not in jobs, green energy, schools, infrastructure, or healthcare – but into weapons and weapons sales. Not only that, but the US is now arming mortal enemies Israel and Saudi Arabia, in the midst of their expansionist Iran paranoia, while the US tells Iran not to bother investing in nuclear energy because they totes shouldn’t worry about their hyperventilating, super-armed neighbors. Everything will be fine. Maybe. Who cares? We’re six thousand miles away from you. It appears the Grand Vision is to arm every corner of the Middle East and hope the brown un-Christians nuke each other into oblivion so the US can set up Tennessee 2.0 where Tehran used to be. Then, we can get at that sweet, sweet oil unimpeded by the vaporized natives. Keeping foes in constant armed conflict is a great way to suppress real democracy (the thing we’re supposedly in the Middle East to set up). With the Middle East trapped in constant volatile war hell, the US can operate forever in the region under the pretense of “helping” the poor people…who we arm…against their neighbors…precisely so they’ll keep fighting forever. See how that works? Neat, isn’t it? With things so shitty at home (bad schools, people losing their homes, jobs, etc.) the military is guaranteed a limitless supply of poor kids/soldiers to help out in the Forever Wars. And our politicians are aiding the cause by focusing America’s last dollars not on progressive evolution, but on feeding the MIC, which is literally pushing the collapsing empire toward the abyss. Link to this article:
b3sci MIXTAPES: the blahblahradar hit sensory overload this last week with so many great breaking, present and kinda/sorta/recent-past tracks that we decided a new mixtape was no doubt in order. and so we present this hand picked collection of choice cuts, ripe for a fine August listening. WE GO OFF! get blahblahmixtape here 01. Arcade Fire - Modern Man
 02. Machine Drum - Carry The Weight
 03. Flux Pavilion - I Can’t Stop
 04. Holy Ghost! - I Know I Hear
 05. Katy B - Katy On A Mission (Prod. by Benga) 06. James Blake - The Bells Sketch
 07. Mount Kimbie - Carbonated
 08. Georgia Anne Muldrow as Jyoti - The Black Mother 09. James Yuill - On Your Own
 10. Wale - The MC
 11. 1982 (Statik Selektah and Termanology) - Goin Back (Feat. Cassidy and Xzibit) 12. Mikey Rocks (of The Cool Kids) - The Deal Went Sour
 13. Wale - The Power
 14. Arcade Fire - Wasted Hours
 15. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - Simple Girl
 16. Sonny and The Sunsets - Too Young To Burn
 17. Ferraby Lionheart - Harry and Bess 18. Black Mountain - The Hair Song 19. Menomena - TAOS
 20. Deerhunter - Primitive 3D
 21. Avi Buffalo - Remember Last Time
 22. Bombay Bicycle Club - Open House
 23. Lunar Youth - Nighttime Diamond
 24. Onra - Wonderland
 25. Joy Orbison - The Shrew Would Have Cushioned The Blow (Original Mix) 26. UNDERWORLD - Always Loved A Film 27. The Heartbreaks - I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt To Think Of You 28. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - Nothing But Our Love
 29. Greg Laswell - Off I Go
 30. Mary Gauthier - Sideshow 31. Kellen and Me - Joanne’s Great Big Noose
 32. Civil Twilight - Letters From The Sky 33. RPA and The United Nations of Sound - America
 34. Wale - The War get blahblahmixtape here Link to this post BlahBlahBlah Science
Sitting down to talk with DJ Chris H. about TransPacfic, his sixty-minute radio show, on a Thursday afternoon at the BreakThru Radio studio in New York is refreshing for me—Chris is a DJ who is comfortable in his own approach to both music and radio. “All the way back to the Easybeats, people [bands from Australia and New Zealand] have been trying to crack the American and English markets. It’s not selling out at all. I think they’re just trying to be successful and make good music just like anyone else. They don’t care who buys it,” says Chris.   This all may be true, but I don’t get the feeling that it is part of the motivation behind DJ Chris H’s TransPacific show. He plays the music he wants to hear, tracks he thinks are worthy of attention, and comes across as too wise as to get caught up in a popularity campaign. This is a personality trait that bides well with the bands he features; Australian/Kiwi musicians are aware of how far away they exist geographically from the rest of the Western World’s music scene and hold true to a “I aim to please no one” attitude. I lived in the two countries for a little over a year and can recall being impressed with the independent attitude of musicians from these sub-Equatorial commonwealth islands. TransPacific marches to the same tune: “Even if you get twenty calls saying, ‘You’re a load o’ shit,’ and the next caller says, ‘Ya know what, that record’s really fucking good,’ it changes your dynamic completely,” Chris remarks stoically.     Tame Impala So what is played on the program that makes TransPacific “really fucking good?” To start with, Perth, Australia's Tame Impala, a band BreakThru featured as Artist of the Week not too long ago and earned lots of airtime nurtured by DJ Chris H. himself, is gaining more and more notice as summer 2010 enters its final month. This week’s program also featured a five-song stretch from the Vanderbilt EP by Faux Pas right in the middle of the show, a refreshing break from the Indie Rock sound that accompanies a lot of our programs. This is something that isn’t done enough in radio, the laying down of an entire album side. The listener gets to lose him/herself in the motif of an album this way, and Faux Pas is the perfect choice as example.   The fun thing about doing a regional program is the range it allows. DJ Chris H. can play anything from Jazz to Hip Hop, and from Indie Rock to Dance Pop—as long as it comes from the Anglophone Pacific region, it is good to go. “There is a big, big dance music culture there. And there’s been a remix/laptop DJ culture for a long time as well,” Chris informs. "Melbourne has more of an even spread of different styles of music." Chris elaborates on the transition across the great ocean: “I think for American audiences, they would be familiar with a lot of that stuff because a lot of those artists, both Australian and New Zealand, tour North America a lot.”   This is something Chris knows a lot about, both because of his experience in radio and the music industry and his awareness of the Aussie/Kiwi challenge to break into North American or European music scenes. Contending that the highest principle to a successful band is to “physically be in the market you want to be selling,” Chris stresses the importance for Aussie and Kiwi bands to get airtime in America. “If you want to be successful in America, you have to tour America. And you have to tour a lot. You have to invest the time, and of course that means the money as well, to just tour the shit out of the country, otherwise no one is gonna know you, and that is kinda like the old days anyhow, isn’t it?”   You should really tune into TransPacific on BreakThru Radio. It’s a program with a wide array of genres. The Aussies and the Kiwis have something going on down under. And with DJ Chris H’s obstinate attitude to only sticking to music he wants to hear and he thinks is good, you won’t be disappointed in the sounds coming through your speakers.   When asked about his parameters for the show, DJ Chris H. gives a straightforward answer that sums up TransPacific. “Anything. I mean anything. If it’s good, I’ll play it. Ya know? If I find it, and it’s good, I’ll play it.” Be sure to listen to TransPacfic which airs Saturday on BreakThru Radio. Link to this article:
There is no new art.  Everything has been done before.  The best art these days is merely a carefully disguised echo chamber.  Every good band working right now has a musical antecedent in the past, which seems to produce a kind of anxiety of influence.  This is one of the ways that we can explain the Balkanization of independent music: people are quick to identify new fusion subgenres in an attempt to refute claims of derivativeness.  But James Murphy doesn’t worry about any of this.  At all.  LCD Soundsystem is an unabashedly fantastic amalgam of Liquid Liquid and ESG and Kraftwerk and Neu! And David Bowie and Talking Heads and Detroit Techno (“1985 . . . ’86 . . . ‘87”).  Long ago now, he made his peace with it by airing out his complaints and his worries over the funky bassline of “Losing My Edge.” Murphy arrived fully formed 8 years ago with a string of singles (“Losing My Edge,” “Give It Up,” Yeah,” “Movement”) so good that his debut record already sounded like a greatest hits package.  And now, after having recorded what is arguably the greatest song statement of the decade, LCD Soundsystem is back with This is Happening.  Despite the fact that the terrific success of Sound of Silver has only invited unreasonable expectations, This is Happening is a high water mark for LCD Soundsystem.  Whereas the previous two albums frequently sounded like great song collections, This is Happening is a great album. From the stunning opener “Dance Yrself Clean” to the final salvo that is “Home,” the album is a beautiful sequenced emotional travelogue through modern masculine consciousness.  The emotional dynamic of the album, then, tends to look like the cardiogram of a heart attack patient.  Even LCD’s party anthems have a resonate twinge of melancholy to them.  Take the lead single, “Drunk Girls,” for example.  After a punchy back and forth comparison between drunk boys and drunk girls, Murphy reaches the song’s climax by plainly asking, “Just be honest with me/Honestly/Honestly/Unless it hurts, why do it?”  Elsewhere, on the classically funky “Pow Pow,” Murphy rants about the kids these days: “Your time will come, but tonight is our night, so you should give us all your drugs.” But the song’s cheery playfulness is threatened by some nasty glances in the mirror: “I’m paralyzed and looking through you/But if nothing’s right, we try anyway.” Murphy’s ability to piss on his own parade makes him an endearing and charming figure. LCD Soundsystem has always been their most potent when Murphy examines the emotional tectonics shifting underneath the cool swagger of his sleek disco.  And it’s these moments that are the highlights of This is Happening.  The motorik beat of “All I Want” carries Murphy along as he admits that all he wants is pity: “From now on, I’m someone different/’Cause it’s no fun to be predictably lame.”  But instead of sounding pathetic, it comes across as a triumph of honesty.  Murphy has never been to pull punches aimed at his own reflection, and “I Can Change” picks up essentially where the galaxy of spaced-out synths leaves him at the end of “All I Want.” But “I Can Change” is even more bracingly honest: “I can change/If it helps you fall in love.” As a song about blindly sacrificing yourself for attention and affection, the song trades in the kind of clutching desperation that defines insecurity and doubt. The album’s bookends will (and rightly should) garner the most attention.  Both songs center on the redemptive possibilities of a good night out.  On “Home,” the album’s closer, Murphy whips up the kind of melancholic disco shuffle that the band has been perfecting for years now.  The song is full of well-earned lines of devastating verse: “And this is what you waited for/But under the lights, we’re all unsure/So tell me/What would make you feel better?”  The song ends with some of Murphy’s best advice: “If you’re afraid of what you need/Look around you, you’re surrounded/It won’t get any better.”  And then there’s “Dance Yrself Clean,” the album’s end-all-be-all masterpiece.  Murphy understands that our best moments tend to throw our worst fears into stark relief.  After all, we seek these moments to escape the doubt and the regret the crouches low in our minds in the small hours of the morning.  With both of these songs, the simple act of going out to a club becomes a ritual, a ceremony, a group therapy session, a moment of redemption and happiness.  This is a moment when you can get away from it all, while simultaneously realizing exactly what you’re escaping. LCD Soundsystem have never tried to prove that they were anything more than a clever mash-up of Liquid Liquid and ESG and David Bowie.  But among the thousand other things that This is Happening proves is that LCD Soundsystem are not great because they try to sound original.  LCD Soundsystem are great because when the final cymbal splash ends “Home,” you realize that you’ve dancing with a lump in your throat for the past 60 minutes. Rating: 9 / 10 Link to this post No Genre Music
Toward the end of “The Sensitive Girls,” the second track on  Frog Eyes’ latest fever dream, Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph,” Carey Mercer screams what is more or less the band’s mission statement: “You don’t need Cassandra to gaze over the edge.”  Essentially, he is suggesting that you don’t need a soothsayer forecasting the dark days ahead to get a glimpse over the precipice of sanity.  Mercer himself has assumed the role of crank prophet, translating violently hysterical visions into violently hysterical rants.  Over the course of five albums, Frog Eyes’ career resembles less the work of a band than the word of a frighteningly lucid schizophrenic with a bone to pick with his inner demons.  But whereas their previous albums sometimes threatened to career into obscure oblivion, Paul’s Tomb is a surprisingly clear-eyed stare into the evil that lurks at the edge of their songs. The album opens with the magnificent roar of “A Flower in a Glove.”  The band enters the song full tilt:  “You were always unnoticed/You were always the flame that dies/Bastard with a flat-top singing The Cloud of Unknowing.” But instead of letting the song implode under its own noisy weight, the band lets out a little slack, enough that the song can wander.  But the song keeps breaking its chains, gnashing and howling like a wild animal.  The band reins it back in, trying mightily to keep something so powerful docile.  This give and take creates a terrific sense of tension that gets strategically purged a number of times—check out the mid-song crescendo—when the band lets the song rear up on its hind legs.  On “Bushels,” the towering centerpiece from 2007’s Tears of the Valedictorian, the band created such a whirlwind of noise that the song tore itself apart before the band carefully rebuilt it into a monumental cathedral of rock ‘n’ roll.  Here, though, the band allows the song to disintegrate into a stormy wash of reverbed vocals and echoing feedback. The band’s willingness to play with the internal structure of their songs because the album’s hallmark.  Most songs begin and end in vastly different places, and in that respect Paul’s Tomb marks a considerable shift in the band’s aesthetic.  Instead of working in short bursts of fractured punk, the band now creates larger (and, thus, stranger) worlds to explore in a single composition.  The brooding “Odetta’s War” reaches its spooky climax in the middle of the song with a circus organ playing between flashes of guitar squall.  Likewise, the magnificently tense “Styled by Dr. Roberts” begins with an urgent plea from Mercer:  “I’m going to pray for the war/I’m going to pray that my dagger’s not the first blade withheld.”  The frantic and wobbly first few minutes creates a structure that the slow fire of the final minutes can burn to the ground in a spectacular blaze.  And then there’s “Lear in Love,” a barn-burning, Kafka-quoting Springsteen homage that finds Mercer playing a wild-eyed romantic:  “I kissed a girl/She was the only one who seemed to own the shards of light.”  The furious bombast that opens the song gives way to sleigh bells accompanying Mercer’s tender reassurances (“She’s all right”) that close the song. Since the noise the band churns up is always swelling, the quieter moments are a welcome respite from the storm.  The fretful “Violent Psalms,” which is reminiscent of Mercer’s creepy side-project Blackout Beach, is a shimmering mirage under a blaring desert sun.  But the most conventionally beautiful moment of the album is “Lear, in the Park,” a slim two minute instrumental that sits squarely in the middle of the album, presiding over the chaos all around it. In the album’s final song, the band allows itself to indulge in everything that makes them so majestically strange.  There’s something vaguely ominous, something potently apocalyptic about the song.  Mercer comes across here like a demonic Wallace Stevens:  inscrutable, intelligent, serious, ancient.  Near the end of the song, Mercer starts making demands like a desperate mad-man: “Shackle your wrists to the razor-like rim.”  Earlier, Mercer promised that you didn’t need a prophet to lead you to the edge of sanity.  No, you can dangle right there yourself, hanging by a mere thread over the blank air between internal chaos and control. At their best, as they frequently are on Paul’s Tomb (“A Flower in a Glove,” “Paul’s Tomb,” “Lear in Love”), Frog Eyes almost demand to be mythologized.  They seem to require an exegesis, a dissertation, a conference of wild-haired scholars sweating at the lectern.  The band creates a wicked world populated by witches and dwarves, merchants and military officers.  This is a world inhabited by the fantastic and the mundane.  Violence flashes like lightning, striking with devastating force.  But Mercer and company never forget that you are always on the other side of their songs.  They know how to thrill and baffle a listener in equal measure.  At the end of “Bushels,” after literally dissolving into chirping gibberish, Mercer composes himself, reminding himself why he’s there:  “I was a singer, and I sang in your home!” Rating: 9 / 10 mp3:  A Flower in a Glove Link to this post No Genre Music
Ever heard of Christina Perri?  Probably not.  For enthusiasts of the reality show, So You Think You Can Dance, however, the name will likely strike a chord. Perri, the music industry’s latest overnight sensation, was guest performer on the show last week after her song, “Jar of Hearts,” was used to choreograph a recent dance routine. The positive reception of the song instantly skyrocketed the 23-year old songstress up the ranks. In a matter of three weeks, she sold 100,000 downloads of the single on iTunes, signed a record contract with Atlantic, and quit her job as a waitress at a café in Hollywood.   “The Friday before the show, I was having the worst day ever at work….I got in my car at the end of the shift, and was really defeated,” Perri said in an interview last week with Entertainment Weekly. “And then I got the call that they’re using the song on that Wednesday’s episode.”   Perri’s name is now on every industry vibe-alert; her smoky, unrefined voice matched with simple songwriting puts her somewhere in the realm of those like Adele, Sara Bareilles, and Colbie Caillat. Regardless, her story of discovery is quickly becoming a recurring anecdote, as more and more artists find their brush with fame through licensing opportunities in other creative mediums. Having records played on a television show or film offers an artist not only enhanced visibility, but a chance to earn money when revenue from album sales is negligible. For the unsigned, undiscovered talent, such rare breaks can be a golden ticket.   Take, for example, British indie pop sensation, The Ting Tings. When Apple featured their hit, “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” in one of its iPod commercials, the duo, who'd already achieved success in the UK, immediately had every kid humming their tunes on the way to school. That along with placements on television shows like One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl, as well as the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Tings Tings were worldwide stars, even earning a GRAMMY nomination this year for Best New Artist.   Apple also brought Matt Costa into the limelight, using an instrumental cut of his song "Mr. Pitiful" for their 3GS ads. The twenty-something rocker from Huntington Beach, CA had self-released the single on his third independent LP, finding only minor achievements on indie radio. The track also received placement in the movie, I Love You, Man, and the trailer for Youth In Revolt.  Costa is now signed with Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records, and will release his fourth record on the label this fall.   If it wasn’t for Alex Patsavas, music supervisor for programs like the OC and Gossip Girl, The Fray might not be a household name. Their GRAMMY-nominated hit, “How To Save A Life,” was first featured in a segment on Grey’s Anatomy after Patsavas saw the band perform live in Los Angeles. One week later, the song jumped from #51 on the charts to #29, eventually making it to #3.    Additionally, there are new developments on the digital front, rewarding artists for diligent self promotion. ReverbNation's Fair Share program grants artists 50% of ad revenue generated from their profile pages.   "With hundreds of thousands of artists driving traffic to their pages, it only seems fair to provide them a cut of the profits," explains Neal Moody, of ReverbNation.  "Through Fair Share, ReverbNation keeps half our monthly ad revenue, and redistributes the other half amongst the artists...For some artists, this doesn't amount to much, but we've had others who've written in and used a few months revenue to purchase new drum cymbals, effects pedals, etc…They are being paid to promote themselves."   ReverbNation also helps artists route their music into the hands of those who can facilitate a placement. With one of its newer programs, the company aligned with APM Music to get artists' catalogs included in APM's music library.   "In the past, we've worked with Windows on the Sponsored Songs and Playlist7 campaigns, which paid artists for providing their fans with free downloads," adds Moody.   Because media placements and strategic marketing campaigns grant music entrée into an unconventional, yet complementary outlet, the savviest of artists are finding ways to get their work to supervisors and producers. Perri had a friend who sent “Jar of Hearts” to one of the choreographers on SYTYCD, and quickly it was pushed up the pipeline. Almost paradoxically, what makes such music desirable is the fact that the artist is unsigned. If an artist controls their work, it’s significantly easier to secure rights for usage.    Notes Moody, "Artists should always capitalize on opportunities outside the realm of just selling physical or digital music."   Perri's pay-off is arguably the sweetest testament of all.   Link to this article:  
Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;}   So I am heavy deep into my summer road trip now.  I have already passed through 5 different states and have seen a million different ridiculous things, and it’s only the 4th day!  Day one we had planned to make the longest drive from Pittsburgh to Nashville.  I noticed that we would be driving through Louisville so we decided to stop and check out the Louisville Slugger Factory/Museum.  It was pretty cool and we got take the tour and see how all the bats are made.  Good times were had by all.   The drive was long but there were more than enough sites and random gems to keep us entertained.  Kentucky is full of cool and weird things to get into, if you were ever wondering…     Later that night we arrived in Nashville and went to the more touristy area downtown and it was actually pretty sweet!  I thought for sure that “Jacks” was going to be a total tourist trap and that the food would be sub-par at best, but then we walked in and I realized that this place was legit.  I guess I had never had real Bar-B-Q before because the brisket literally blew my mind.    We woke up the next morning and hung out in a few different parts of Nashville and saw these enormous houses.  I actually mistook someone’s yard for a park.  We also got to eat ice cream at Sweet Cece’s, which I have never heard of before.  This place is amazing!  You pore out your ice cream and then you can choose from a ridiculous amount of toppings, mine included cap n’ crunch, oreo’s, almonds, strawberries, graham crackers, and jimmy’s!  Really amazing stuff.   Ok, so now we’re in Asheville, NC and this place seems pretty cool so far.  Tomorrow is our real day to explore but we scored a sweet hotel to stay in so I'm in ultra relaxation mode until then...   One thing I have realized so far is that; I love the South!!!   -Ed
As it currently stands, I have 3 contenders for Song of the Year: “A Flower in a Glove” by Frog Eyes, “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem, and “Decisions” by How to Dress Well.  The first two are massive 9 minute epics: one sounds like two tectonic plates grinding against each other, while the other tries to dance itself out of a funk.  Then, there’s the underdog.  How to Dress Well’s “Decisions” clocks in at a meager two-and-a-half minutes.  But the song is so tender, so heartfelt that it threatens to overwhelm the listener. “Decisions” is the centerpiece to How to Dress Well‘s new EP, Can’t See My Own Face: The Eternal Love 2, which represents the strongest suite of songs the band has put together so far.  A lot of people will be turned off by the production value.  The sharp edged vocals and muddy smears of sound will grate on some listeners’ ears.  But for me they create a cavern where the notes of any individual instrument or voice echo off each other infinitely until you get something resembling a wall of sound.  If you can forgive the lo-fi production, you will find the most satisfying EP of the year so far. The dreamy “Suicide Dream 2″ opens the album on a decidedly somber note.  Digitized blankets of sound cocoon Tom Krell’s fragile voice and a processed Rhodes-like piano drips a plaintive melody.  Next, we get “Can’t See My Own Face,” a dawning ache of a song that is a lot sweeter than it sounds on first listen.  The militaristic beat of “Mr. By & By” is HTDW’s updated version of Jodeci or Shai that relies heavily on the catchy cleverness of the vocal melodies.  But, again, “Decisions” is the stone cold masterpiece in this collection. It’s difficult to say exactly what has captured me about this song, but I suspect that it’s that simple old combination of the best sounds in the best order.  Everything from the mournful thump of the bass drum to the feather light ethereal synths works to give the song a sense of hopeless melancholy and new-found contentedness.  The emotional arc of the song is a steep climb from the funeral procession that opens the song and the well-earned swelling of heartstrings at the end.  But it’s this almost narrative arc, where a singer starts one place and ends in a completely different place, that makes the song such an impressive feat.  In under 3 minutes, HTDW have given you the entire spectrum of heartbreak, from lassitude and exhaustion to contentment and lonely joy. Rating:  8 / 10 Link to this post No Genre Music
Every summer my brothers and I get together for about a week or two at my Grandmother’s cottage in a district known as Muskoka, which can be found in Northern Ontario, Canada. As calendar marked as Thanksgiving turkey, my brothers and I will spend at least a few summer nights sitting around the cottage kitchen table drinking a lot more than we should and discussing all things trivial that match so well with inebriation—politics, family, science, and of course music. This year, my eldest brother was ill the entire time I was up there, unfortunately leaving any sort of world-figurin’ to only two of us. This was disappointing to say the least, as I was looking forward to being inspired with googles of topics for my weekly Liner Notes editorial on BTR. At the end of it all, I was left only presented with one thing to write about that held any sort of weight in the is this interesting enough to write about category: “Alright Gary (a lot of my family refers to me by my middle name), I got somethin’ for ya. What about: At what point has a band ‘sold out?’”   Good question. Not east to answer either.   I am a giant Bob Dylan fan and have been for about the last fifteen years. I remember when Dylan decided to appear in a Victoria Secret advertisement during Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. Any one who knew me, and my admiration for Dylan and his music, immediately began a verbal attack on an artist I had professed would never sell out, citing the Super Bowl spot as the ultimate commercialization of the original anti-conformist bard. There I stood, argumentative tongue backed up against the wall as Dylan albums began to fall around me like teacups on a narrow shelf in a Haitian earthquake. But does leasing one song in a discography of over 600, and after four decades of trying to be anything but a spokesperson for anyone, really cause validity for such a scathing misnomer as “sell out?” Although I would be duping the reader if I failed to mention that the Victoria Secret ad did spawn a short-series of Dylan Super Bowl commercials—he followed it up with a Modern Times advertisement for iTunes and then lent his “Forever Young” to a remix with Will.I.Am and Pepsi.     I can remember a scene in Oliver Stone’s film The Doors near the end when the band is breaking up and the helpless and decaying Jim Morrison character looks into a TV at the recording studio to see his precious “Light My Fire” being used as a General Motors jingle. His disgust with the band’s decision to stoop so low as to sell their break through hit to a major American corporation represented not by outrage but through defeat.   It seems like there were ideals in the sixties and seventies that were much more defined; that bands and musicians had no difficulty deciding which side of the proverbial philosophical fence they sat on. Today, the borders are a lot more blurry and one has difficulty determining whether this person is a sell out for allowing their song to be featured on The Bachelorette or that person is a sell out for attending and performing at the Grammy’s. What it really comes down to is personal choice and one’s own individually parameters for a noble code. Where each one of us decides to mark the “sell out” point on the linear graph that ascends from Artist-Absolute to Marketable-Puppet is a matter of individual taste. Regardless, the points on the graph generally flow from DIY venue with no Label => Indie Label Company and Hipster venues => Major Record Deal and outdoor Festivals => Individual Shares in Record Production => Stadium Sell Out Concerts => Complete Commercialization and Exploitation of the music.   Personally, I don’t think Dylan sold out for allowing his songs to be used to sell Victoria Secret lingerie, iPods, or Pepsi. I judge it upon when the musician begins to take him/her/themselves more seriously than their music. In the early stages of any great musical career, it is always about the music, and never about the image. That is a true musician. Fuck all the rest. This is so true of anyone in the industry that I have ever come to admire. As long as the music stays ahead of the image and fame, you rarely run the risk of “selling out.” When the music is no longer any good, and a band or musician is forced to attach themselves to something commercial in hopes to maintain a sort of consciousness in the social radar, that is when all dignity is lost. It is unfortunate that this is the point where so many acts today begin.    Link to this article:
Image from Fred McCallister, a whistleblower who claims BP is using dispersants to sink oil and hide it from the pesky media’s cameras, will testify before a Senate investigative panel this week. For quite some time, many bloggers and journalists following the BP-Corexit story, including me, have made the allegation that BP may have been experimenting by dumping over a million gallons of toxic dispersants into the ocean because they were desperately trying to prevent the oil from hitting the beaches. (The amount of dispersants used by BP has been contested. Rep. Ed Markey has questioned the validity of BPs numbers, saying on July 31 that a new congressional report shows “BP carpet-bombed the ocean with these chemicals, and the Coast Guard allowed them to do it.”) Everyone remembers what happened to Exxon’s public image the moment all of those adorable birds became coated in thick crude. And while BP has not been able to prevent oil from hitting all coastal birds, they have greatly diminished their PR liability by using dispersants like Corexit to coagulate the oil and sink it beneath the ocean’s surface where the media cannot photograph it, and BP won’t be fined for beach cleanup. There, buried in the sea, the dispersants will likely alter the ecosystem – perhaps poisoning and killing ocean life – but by then BP will have fled the area, leaving future coastal generations to clean up their mess. Perhaps most frustrating is that the media has been assisting BP in shaping the narrative that not much harm was done by BP’s underwater oil volcano. Time Magazine’s Michael Grunwald thinks Rush Limbaugh “has a point” because the extremist right-wing windbag spent weeks dismissing the disaster, and if Professor Limbaugh says thinks things are a-okay, then they must be. Also, I guess all black people are on welfare, and Mexicans are the cause of the Depression, since we’re believing every bit of bile that flies out of Rush’s mouth. BP seized upon the media’s complacency to give themselves cover as they ready to pull out of the region. Billy Nungesser, President of Plaquemines Parish, LA said unequivocally that it is too soon for BP to scale back its clean-up efforts. The point is: no one can understand the scale of this disaster yet, but it’s definitely too soon to let BP off the hook. Brad Johnson put it best: …the only honest take on the BP disaster right now is that this is a calamity, the true scope of which will take years to discover, with many impacts impossible to ever know. No one knows how badly this disaster will affect the dying marshlands of Louisiana. No one knows how badly the toxic oil plumes will affect the spawning grounds of the bluefin tuna, the feeding grounds of the threatened Gulf sturgeon, or the future of the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, whose corpses have been found at 15 times the historical rate this summer. No one knows what the long-term physical and mental health impacts will be on the tens of thousands of cleanup workers. The only solution in the short-term is to not allow BP to walk away preemptively. They must be forced to make a long-term commitment to the coast. Set up shop there. Go meet the locals. Settle in for the long haul. It takes decades to learn the full consequences of an environmental calamity like the BP disaster. That’s unfortunate, and it will demand the government and media remain vigilant, but it shouldn’t serve as an excuse for the media to get lazy and say, “Guess she wasn’t so bad!” so they don’t feel guilty when they turn their back on Louisianans. That kind of apathy protects negligent corporations. It allows BP to slip out the back door. McCallister will make the far-left, extremist fringe statement that BP has an allegiance to its shareholders, and not to the majority of U.S. citizens (and their environment). As a result, the company is doing whatever it deems necessary to protect its bottom line, and if that includes experimenting with toxic dispersants, so be it. At least that icky oil isn’t blackening the beaches, and thereby tarnishing the happy green flower logo. – Update: Where’s the oil? The Upshot answers, “It’s oozing out of the Louisiana ground“ Link to this article:
According to the man who coined the term, Erik Satie, furniture music should be unobtrusive.  As someone who rejected the title musician in favor of the tongue-in-cheek phonometrician, Satie wrote a set of pieces, the Gymnopédies, that consisted of dolorously polite piano notes that ring out to an indifferent audience.  Satie, of course, would become an integral figure for avant-garde composers (John Cage) and early ambient artists (Brian Eno). In the past year, a mysterious artist who goes by the name RxRy has been quietly releasing ambient sound sculptures.  But while ambient music is not meant to be engaging, RxRy’s enigmatic, elliptical compositions are arresting and absorbing.  His newest album, VAEIOUWLS, is 40 minutes of rough-hewn furniture music that refuses to be relegated to the background. RxRy’s immediate music touchstones are the work of Tim Hecker and Belong.  But unlike the pleasantly soothing (if occasionally desolate) music of those artists, RxRy’s ability to turn grating noise (static, abrasive feedback, ruined bass tones) into something warmly inviting is impressive.  At once, his music is both pacifying and unnerving, a kind of panicky ambient music.  In that sense, “AAIEI (alpha reply dagger signal)” is the most representative work on the album.  The song begins with a gentle synth pattern that quickly gets besieged by a stuttering beat that skitters between channels.  Soon, though, another, more sinister beat pounds away like a chugging machine.  The effect is disorienting, at once comforting and unsettling. Whereas the work on his debut, the eponymous RxRy, was pleasantly amorphous, the artist has given his songs on VAEIOUWLS a more distinct shape.  “EIIOA (flint rasp export defect)”—all of the album’s songs have similarly inscrutable titles—is held together both by the insistent rumble of a bass and the claustrophobic wooshes of sharp-edged static.  Similarly, “IIOYI (strategy pulse feed loop)” features something played on a blown-out synthesizer that resembles a melody.  This is not to say, though, that there are not plenty of drifting numbers seemingly made of curtains of digital fog:  “UAAIO (collapsible interior prism shadow)” seems to contain the warped ghost of a vocal sample haunting the ethereal washes of undistinguished sound.  “OIUIO (lonesome trigger lonely ray)” is almost barely there without a beat to serve as a center of gravity.  The song is a peak behind the curtain of RxRy’s compositions: yawning noise slowly filling a void with reverberating echoes. Ambient music’s bad rap is some what understandable: who wants to only listen to music that they can ignore?  Forgoing most aspects of melody and structure and narrative arc in search of a new listening experience is a tough sell.  But to those who are willing to be patient will find that RxRy is quite a bit more generous than he appears after a cursory listen.  These songs are not meant to alientate; they are both comforting and disquieting.  They are warm blankets of sound that swaddle only to get yanked off a moment later. Rating: 8 / 10 mp3:  UUAII (root lapse portrait soil) Link to this post No Genre Music
To figure out if you might like the new  Peaced 12” from  Austin-based five-piece When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth,  you need only read the following statement from the band that is posted on their label’s website:   This album was recorded in our practice space in the month of April 2010.  We were very drunk, and very stoned. We've recorded quite a bit of stuff before, but this recording actually captures realistically what we do and how we do it. Cheap, loud, and drunk.   Well said. Peaced is abrasive, confrontational, and often, obnoxious --- everything a good drunk should be. Through five songs and just over 25 minutes, the songs lurch around, guitars stomping down blasts of decaying noise and a distant vocalist barking incoherent nonsense through delay pedals and distorted overdubs. Peaced throws tantrums of feedback for no apparent reason. And at times, it simply melts down, emitting bursts of noise for the sake of itself.    So, if you’re averse to nearly indecipherable racket, or you don’t find the band’s above statement admirable, endearing or at least funny, I can’t imagine you having any interest in this record. You probably wouldn’t enjoy the crude and clever stupidity of great song titles like “You’ve Got Male” or “Cum Lake.” You might not relish the fact that two of the band’s four guitar players (yes they have four guitar players) tune all their strings to the same note, E, allowing them to, I presume, play with maximum ferocity without the distraction of traditional chords. And you definitely would not listen long enough to hear, under the suffocating crunch and squall of guitars, echos of Flipper, Nirvana, Butthole Surfers and Steve Albini.   Ultimately, Peaced is both about, and a product of, excess: excess guitars, excess volume and excess booze.  Like it or not, this remains one of the most tried and true formulas in rock music, and on these five songs When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth have got it down: cheap, loud and drunk.   RIYL: Drunkdriver, Pygmy Shrews, Mayyors Link to this article:
Normal 0 21 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Normale Tabelle"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} Normal 0 21 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Normale Tabelle"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} It´s Augusts first Via Berlin session – we´re in the middle of a sweaty Summer – and for this purpose there´s quite a bunch of  Summer tunes coming up for you. Berlins singer songwriter Norman Palm has released a new record which is worth to check out, Oliver Koletzki`s going to release new material and provides a first flavour, The Whitest Boy Alive are NOT planning to put out fresh evidence of their genius but are still worth to be played , needless to say. Plus, Samba rhythm with Una Mas TrioHave a taste… it´s soooo Summer.   
Brooklyn is getting a brand new music venue!  Only, this one isn't in Williamsburg, it's on 4th Avenue in Park Slope.  4th Avenue, the border between prissy Park Slope and industrial Gowanus, is the perfect place for a rock and roll club, and I have high hopes for what it might bring to the neighborhood.  I speak from experience when I say that the bar portion of the venue is pretty great, and I plan on checking out the music portion tonight.  tUnE-YaRds is the secret headliner for tonight, so definitely try to make it out!
I don't know how you spent your weekend, but I spent it doing the most manly thing possible. I helped my lady man (hilariously ironic usage of "manly") her booth at the renegade craft fair. Imagine yours truly in a booth filled with crocheted cupcakes. Yep, that was me. Check out her blog if you don't believe me over at
The sprawling terrain of suburban America has been mapped so many times that life out there begins to take on the qualities of myth.  However, the myth of life in suburbs is an inversion of traditional myths.  Instead of taking on epic qualities of bravery and cunning, the characters who float throughout suburban literature are presented as quiet, modest people who are the definitive representation of life in America.  The problem here, obviously, is that this kind of formulation of American life ignores the racial and ethnic diversity of our country.  However, like Nas’ Illmatic or The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken speak volumes about their respective social environments, the best suburban music can tell us something profound about a portion of our citizenry. For the best 5 years, Arcade Fire have assumed up the mantle left by Cheever and Updike and chronicled the emotionally turbulent lives of children and parents in quiet subdivisions.  Funeral was an overwhelming masterpiece that tried to understand the haunting specter of death that awaits us at the end of the corridor of our lives.  Their follow-up album, Neon Bible, was a confrontation of that specter, an album that howled in death’s face with a near suicidal rage (“Intervention,” “Bad Vibrations”).  Now, after documenting our inevitable relationship with death, Arcade Fire have recorded an album that documents that brief flicker of light that shines between two eternally dark voids on either side of our lives.  Whereas Funeral and Neon Bible were about life in the face of death, The Suburbs is ostensibly the story of life in a deathless land. For Arcade Fire, this is a land where “dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains.”  The suburbs are “a garden left for ruin.”  But instead of simply being a document about the deadening effects of life in the suburbs, the album is about our struggles to live ordinary lives in unremarkable places.  The album opens with the titular track, a sunny jaunt that belies the dark heart of the album’s ethos:  “I want a daughter while I’m still young/I wanna hold her hand/And show her some beauty/Before this damage is done.”  So much of the album concerns this push and pull between angry resentment and unrestrained sentimentality.  On “Suburban War,” when Win Butler sings that “the cities we live in could be distant stars,” you hear the disgust and resignation in his voice.  At other moments, though, you find quiet moments of triumph: “Wasted hours that you made new/And turned into/A life that we could live.”  Fear and boredom may dictate much of life in the suburbs, but there are moments of redemptive meaning. Thematically, the dominant image on The Suburbs is of cars.  So many of Arcade Fire’s songs sound like a grand homage to the power of personal transportation (“Keep the Car Running,” “In the Backseat” “Virgin Mary Highway”).  This makes sense to those of us who grew up in suburbs: a car was your first opportunity to move outside the reach of your neighborhood, your town, your life.  The only way that you’re going to get out of the suburbs is in the front seat of a car speeding down the sun-bleached roads.  Butler seems to understand this all too well.  On “Suburban War,” he sings “In the suburbs, I learned to drive/You told me we would never survive/So grab your mother’s keys, we leave tonight.”  A car, for Butler, isn’t just about freedom; it’s a potent symbol of intention and livelihood.  Elsewhere, on “Sprawl (Flatland),” Butler inverts the car’s potent symbolism by using it as a vehicle to explore the anonymous towns that he abandoned:  “Took a drive into the sprawl/To find the places we used to play/It was the loneliest day of my life/You’re talking at me but I’m still far away.” Arcade Fire’s impressive mis en scene is so complete that it’s too easy to get caught up in the band’s mythopoetics and ignore the fact that, first and foremost, they are a group of musicians writing songs.  The music that buoys Butler’s stories is lighter than than the occasionally ham-fisted instrumentation that colored Neon Bible.  Gone are the black curtains of organs and deep wells of bass.  In their place, Aracde Fire works with a much lighter touch:  snappy drums, warm guitar tones, understated basslines.  Much of the credit must be given to Markus Dravs, the man who produced Neon Bible.  Whereas Neon Bible needed darker tones to compliment the world-weary heaviness of the album, Dravs recognizes that The Suburbs does not necessarily need such an obvious correlative sound. The best songs on the album (“Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountais)” “Modern Man” “We Used to Wait”) sound like snappy new wave.  This is consistent with the personal disco that Arcade Fire perfected on “Neighborhoods #2 (Laika)” and the end of “Crown of Love.”  And elsewhere, we get the usual Arcade Fire bombast.  But instead of an overwhelming sense of dread, the band balances an edgy sense of reservation and relief.  The twin songs that sit in the middle of the album, “Half Light I” and “Half Light II (No Celebration)” are the most traditionally full Arcade Fire compositions.  “Half Light I” is guided by a gently swelling strings and a duet between Butler and Regina Chassagne.  Meanwhile, “Half Light II (No Celebration)” is driven forward with a thudding four-on-the-floor beat, but the yawning strings help the song stretch its wing and gain lift.  The album also features two of Arcade Fire’s fiercest workouts.  “Month of May” is a punkish rave-up featuring a urgently chugging guitar riff and a wonderfully harsh snap of the snare drum.  And “Empty Room” sounds like the most desperately angry chamber pop imaginable.  The roaring lead guitar that howls in the background explodes the crushing claustrophobia of the song. Like the rural countryside and the urban ghetto, the racially homogenous suburbs have become an unlikely cultural epicenter of inspiration.  And like country and hip-hop, suburban indie rock works to confuse the boundaries between the personal and the political.  While the message of the album echoes Yates and Cheever’s diagnosis of the problems of suburban blight, it is still just as potent now as it was 60 years ago.  In the end, the question that The Suburbs asks is not “Just how bad is life among the white middle class?”  No, the question is more interesting than that: “Can we ever get away from the sprawl?”  The band provides a nuanced answer.  Yes, you can physically leave but you must understand that you will carry the memories, the scars, the boredom of that life with you forever. Rating:  8.5 / 10 Link to this post No Genre Music
With the 4th of July already here, its scares me to say 2010 is half way done. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was desperately waiting to hear Contra. That feels like so long ago now. Just goes to show you just how much music is out there now. These are the 50 songs I’ve been giving warm love to all year. My hope is that you will find a few new songs that you will treasure. Or maybe you will re-consider a song that you passed over before. Either way, this is my list as honest as it comes. Only one artist got repeated on this list, and if any this year, they are deserving of two picks. You’ll figure out who it is… So here it is, my favorite 50 songs of the year so far. Use it as a late 4th of July Playlist, or as the soundtrack for your next drive to the beach. I posted a ZIP file of all the songs at the end of the post, that way you can have them all in one convenient space. You can also just hit play and let the songs play through. Enjoy: ZIP Link to this post We All Want Someone To Shout For
It is music made to be danced to and unless you were born without a sexual hormone in your body, or you believe that rhythm is the Devil’s voice in disguise, then you won’t be able to stop yourself from wanting to grab a member of the opposite sex, pull her close to you, or be pulled close to him, and get your groove on. DJ Meredith’s Caribbean Fever on BreakThru Radio will inspire even the most insipid killjoy to tap into his or her primitive inhibitions of ‘dance-as-mating-ritual’ and prep for a Saturday night of teasing through movement.   There is no debating that Caribbean music is the one flavor of sound capable of driving even the most numb soul back to life. It is pretty much impossible to not feel desire when listening to the tracks DJ Meredith features on her Saturday afternoon program. The show opens with a Caribbean operatic cry for necessity, “DJ Meredith, we neeeeeed you, yeah, yeah, yeah,” and then there is that voice—DJ Meredith’s vocal enticement—soothing and titillating, with a Staten Island meets Patois accent, as if Staten Island is a ferry ride away from St. Kitts rather than a borough of New York City. When I tease her about not being able to hear enough of her voice during the show, she counters: “Hmmm, I don’t mic break a lot for that one, and I don’t prep them either. The show is more about the music—a blend of dancehall and reggae with an occasional soca track. I don’t like to do too much talking on that particular show. I’ll give up tour dates and minimal artist bio details and stuff like that, but that’s it. What else do you need (other) than the music?”   Kudos to BTR Program Director Chris Hatzis for featuring this show on Saturday afternoons. For anyone who has been to any of the trah-pee-CAL Islands south of Florida, you all know that Saturday dusk-mood which is unique to beach, ocean, sunset, umbrella cocktail, and hip-wrapped sarong. Picture it: You have spent the day tanning and swimming, sipping on Piña Colada’s and staring at Cabana boys or Latino bikinis. Your siesta has ended and you are about to spend a night locked down in Cuba Librés and local tequila. You know you will be surrounded by locals who make So You Think You Can Dance look like a grade school talent assembly, all you need is “the hottest dancehall tracks with the dirtiest beats.” It is the perfect timing for such a show, because no matter where you are in the world, Saturday afternoon is like the calm before the storm.   Demarco At around the thirteen-minute mark of the show, DJ Meredith comes over the air and dares us to “heat up our Saturday a little more” with “some new fire,” dropping the “th” from rhythm and replacing it with the signature Patois “dd”—riddim. So much excitement ahead, so much dancing and sweating and grinding to do, Caribbean Fever is the perfect appetizer to your feast of rubbed sexual tension with complete strangers.   The focus of the show is “diversity and freshness” DJ Meredith explains. “The tracks come from all over the Caribbean, as well as Europe, America, and other countries around the world. I try to give a fusion of the different Caribbean genres while at the same time playing the newest tracks and riddims.”   Perhaps you tune into BTR from the Caribbean itself, or maybe you are somewhere else in the world and are getting ready to hit a Caribbean club on a Saturday night to shake your ass to the newest Gyptian or Demarco track. Either way, if riddim and flavor are your thing, and you believe music is an abstraction made for sexual energy and the expressing of desires, Caribbean Fever is the perfect Saturday program to prepare you for your non-stop, primal mating ritual. Be sure to listen to Caribbean Fever on BreakThru Radio, you can click here to listen to the most recent episode and catch new editions Saturdays on BTR. Link to this article:  
Faded Paper Figures have been a really pleasant surprise for me these past couple of days. I blindly stumbled upon their myspace with no prior knowledge of who they were. I left the page greatly impressed, eager to get my hands on more. I discovered their new album (their 2nd), New Medium, and have been obsessing over it. Their songs are warm layered electronic delights that you can’t help but obsess over. Their sound is full, completed by incredible male/female vocals that bring everything full circle. Their sound hits you instantly, hooking you in. You won’t even know why, but you already begin to like Faded Paper Figures before they even speak a word. Their is just this instant charm about songs like “Invent It All Again”, that is simply magical. These guys just may be my favorite new discovery. I hope they plan to tour the east coast. I’d love to see these guys live. Hey Sub Pop, you guys should sign this band up. They have proudly taken over where The Postal Service left off. You can download the stunning “Invent It All Again” below. I also put two other great songs from New Medium as a stream. All three are with their managements blessings: [mp3]: Faded Paper Figures – Invent It All Again Link to this post We All Want Someone To Shout For
An article being circulated by the Main Maine Civil Liberties Union states that Anthony Graber faces as much as sixteen years in prison if found guilty of violation state wiretap laws because he dared to video tape an officer drawing a gun during a traffic stop: The scale of the Maryland State Police reaction to Graber’s video is “unprecedented,” (the cops raided his parents’ home and confiscated four of his computers,) but it certainly isn’t an isolated event. Yvonne Nicole Shaw, 27, was also arrested after recording an encounter with officers who had been called for a noise complaint. (Image from There are now proposals in the Bay Area to outfit all cops with wearable cameras to record stops, arrests, sobriety tests, and interviews. Obviously, I think this a grand idea unless the cop cameras become the state’s official narrative. Citizen monitoring of the police is crucial in a democracy as we saw in the Oscar Grant tragedy. Hypothetically, if Johannes Mehserle had been suited with an official police camera, and no subway riders dared record video on their cell phones because doing so was newly outlawed, who knows what would have happened to that sole record of events? We shouldn’t rule out the possibility of videotape getting “accidentally erased,” or “lost” in office clutter. The plethora of bad outcomes alive in this hypothetical situation can be extended to protests. Citizens video tape police during these demonstrations as a form of protection. Back in September ’08, I was reporting about the Republican National Convention in St. Paul when I received an email from Eileen Clancy, the founder of I-Witness, a citizen watchdog organization that relies on the freedom granted to them under the First Amendment to document public activity with video cameras. Police have arrived at our office in St. Paul. They say that they have received reports of hostages barricaded in the building. We are behind a locked door. Lawyers are outside dealing with them. - Eileen That was the second time the police harassed I-Witness at the RNC. The first encounter occurred on August 30 when seven members were preemptively detained at the house where the group was staying. And that’s the level of harassment activists faced without any bans on videotaping police officers. It’s terrible to imagine what could happen if the state outlaws independent monitoring of the cops – especially now that they’re experimenting with all kinds of neat toys like tasers, sound cannons, and the good ol’ reliable rubber bullets and tear gas. It’s important to stress that citizen journalism is also good for the police, unless of course they’re more interested in covering up corruption and abuse than in preventing it. An independent monitor is able to neutrally observe conflict – sometimes from a unique vantage point as demonstrated by this G20 video shot by a Canadian citizen: Could a police camera – on the ground, in the middle of the chaos – have captured quite the same story? It’s unlikely. Link to this article:
Strider Hero are a duo that are bound for greatness. They are more than just a duo. Arthur & Michael Imperial are brothers. Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, Strider Hero was greatly influenced by their self proclaimed hippy father from the Philippines who bumped plenty of classic rock for them. Welly Daddy Imperial, you should be proud. Your sons have turned into talented musicians who are ready to make their mark on the musical landscape. Their self titled debut ep is one of the happiest things that you will hear this year , period. Immediately I sensed that these guys had incredible musical talent that came naturally. Their melodies are clear as daylight equally as elegant as it is catchy. The EP is 7 songs filled to the brim with pop sensibilities, smart lyrics, and great production. What else do you need? I posted two songs from the EP below. The first, “Brave” is what Simon & Garfunkel would sound like if they were still making music in 2010. The second, “Fake New York Girls” is drifts between psych rock and electronic pop. Yeah, you need these songs now. [mp3]: Strider Hero – Brave [mp3]: Strider Hero – Fake New York Girls Link to this post We All Want Someone To Shout For
Last week I sat down with BreakThru Radio’s DJ Wynn to discuss his Worldwide Hour program. During our conversation, we naturally slid a little off the International Music topic and delved deeper into the realm of ‘top-forty’ radio. We discussed everything from what it was, to how it has changed over the decades, to the purpose it serves in today’s ‘music-as-commodity’ industry.   When I asked DJ Wynn about his thoughts on America’s perpetual infatuation with pop music and what his thoughts were on our continuum to rank and file music by popularity, what he offered in response got me thinking. Here is what he had to say: “We both work in radio, we both know how ‘top-forty’ works…. If you want music like that [background noise with a catchy jingle or phrase], then listen to top-forty. Some of it even has its merits. Michael Jackson is ‘pop.’ That is ‘pop’ music. And even though pop has such a bad name, even if you go back to when Michael Jackson was the king of pop, I mean, his shit still holds up today, ya know?”   Yeah, I do know. Michael still reigns supreme; and he probably forever will (or at least he should). Regardless of the fact that ‘pop’ music was around long before Michael is a moot point. I am sure that most of our readers and listeners are aware that the term ‘pop’ is derived from an abbreviation for ‘popular’ and is something that has been around to describe any and all music that tops the charts in both sales and play count. However, this marketable categorizing creates an unfortunate paradox. Historically, ‘pop’ is not a genre or style unto its own at all, but rather just a listing of what records were being played the most over the air (hence, were the most “popular”). In the late thirties and early forties, it was Billboard who set the trend and set the benchmark for the future role of popular music in both culture and capitalist economics, removing art right out of the form. How did they do this? They began to collect data in three categories of music sales to better inform themselves about the demands of the public, and en masse listener taste. They achieved their goal by focusing on three categories of revenue stream for the albums which were being made, printed, sold, and played: 1) Record-store best sellers; 2) On-air disc jockey most played; 3) Café/dancehall/diner/bar jukeboxes most selected.   On July 20th, 1940 Billboard made a boardroom decision that would forever change the face of popular music and youth-culture around the world. They decided to publish and release to the public what had previously been insider-marketing material, calling it the Hot 100, and listing “I’ll Never Smile Again” by Frank Sinatra as Billboard’s first number one hit. Music by popularity would never be the same. On August 4th, 1958, Billboard did away with the categorical listings and began displaying one main, all-genre single charts Hot 100. From that year forward, the songs that made this list were considered to be the most popular songs in both America and the UK (it should be noted that the American and UK lists were independent from one another). The pop genre was born, and it had little to do with categorical sound. It ranged from rockabilly styled songs by Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley to country tunes by Johnny Cash and Conway Twitty. There were even folk tunes by The Kingston Trio and Lloyd Price. The funny thing (or the ‘paradox’ that I was referring to in the previous paragraph) is that pop began a self-fulfilling prophecy. What was popular was on the list, what was on the list was popular. At the end of the day, it was the radio DJs who chose what the public should be listening to, and there is no doubt that a roll of dead presidents tucked inside the album jacket of a new ‘45 helped ensure the quality of the music and, ahem, guarantee the amount of air play. To put it another way, top-forty was top-forty because it was top-forty. The exposure for the public to make any other well-informed decision was simply not there. It makes one question the validity of the term popular.   For most people, especially those under thirty-five, we don’t listen to the radio through the radio anymore. However, how much has this changed the industry is difficult to say with any sort of concrete accuracy. No longer is someone out there in radio Ga-Ga land choosing your music for you. The Internet has awarded complete autonomy to the music fan. This is a good beneficial privilege to both musician and listener. Since this is the case, one has to wonder what the point and/or function of gimmicks like Top Forty, Billboard Hot 100, MTV Music Video Awards, or even the Grammy’s are anymore. Musically? Nothing. Popularity-wise? Perhaps something. Maybe rankings and awards like these are still an accurate way to say who is selling the most and nothing more. If that is the case, we should really consider changing the genre of ‘pop’ to ‘dupe,’ ‘obey,’ or ‘purchase’-music. The word ‘pop’ just seems like a bit of a misnomer in today’s digital, autonomous world. Link to this article:
So my friends know me well. When my friend Rogo recommended me a song saying that he knew it was my style when he found it, I knew it would be a good one. I didn’t think it would be as good as it turned out to be. The artist that Rogo introduced me to is Hertfordshire natives Larsen B. The song was the absolutely stunning “Marilyn”. “Marilyn” is a song that aims big with a warm, heartfelt approach. The song is a clear standout because it is simply songwriting done right. It sounds familiar, but so fresh. If you aren’t swept up by its chorus, well, you simply aren’t trying hard enough. Add this to my best songs of 2010 list. “Marilyn” comes off of Larsen B’s debut album, Musketeer. Link to this post We All Want Someone To Shout For
Both veterans and newbie bands alike are starting out on their fall (gasp!) tours. So, it is time to celebrate the glory days of summer concerts while you still can! BreakThru Radio's got a few suggestions to help you spend the cash from that summer job wisely. In this edition of BTR Artists on Tour we are checking in with Deer Tick, Candy Claws, and Yeasayer to see what they are getting into on the road.    “I’m not a fan of flashy websites.”  So states lead singer/songwriter (and website designer) John J. McCauley III of Rhode Island rock band Deer Tick, on the group’s bare-bones virtual home. Composed of a single page without any graphics or photos, the simple banner “Deer Tick, A Band” is at the top, giving his comment a certain wry understatement.    While the site is about as stark as possible, it is also remarkably and refreshingly informative. The page is solid and satisfying—it explains how the band started, who the members are, where the name came from, what they’re currently working on, and offers an easily-accessible resume of all tour dates, past, present and future.  The same straightforward approach seems to be carried out in every aspect of Deer Tick—their music, their concerts, their identity. The sound is rock ‘n roll, no flash, but plenty of substance. At times Dylan and at others a Mermaid Avenue Billy Bragg. McCauley’s gritty voice delivers the stuff of a true, old-school songwriter and he is backed by band members who truly know their instruments. In an age full of musicians doing innovative work with loops, beats and synth, these men remember the value of strings reverberating against wood and know how to mine that poetry. The beautiful retro simplicity of bass, guitar and voice on songs like “Ashamed,” stand as proof that those mines are far from empty.   Deer Tick also make a point of playing great, raucous, real rock shows for their audiences. Spin magazine voted them one of the must-hear acts of Lollapalooza 2010, and Brooklyn-based blog Duke Street echoes the band’s no-frills mentality by stating boldly, “When it comes to playing live, Deer Tick doesn’t fuck around.”   With their latest album, The Black Dirt Sessions, out on June 8th, and a heavy tour underway, John J. McCauley himself took time to tell BTR a bit about life on the road with these no-nonsense rock ‘n rollers.   BTR:  Looks like you guys just got back recently from an extensive East Coast tour with Dr. Dog & Those Darlin's--how was it? McCauley:  Like you said, it was extensive. It was fun though. Quite an adventure. We love playing with Darlins and the Dr. Dog guys were great. Turns out I knew the guy Eric who was playing drums for Dr. Dog. I didn't even know until our first show with them. BTR:  Discover any good/new food? McCauley:  Punjabi in New York City is the dopest.  BTR:  Meet any cool people? McCauley:  I met Danny DeVito at Coachella.   BTR:  Do any fun shopping? McCauley:  I buy stupid shit on tour, like t-shirts with stupid sayings on them. My favorite says "Shut the DUCK up!" and it has a picture of a duck with duct tape around its bill. BTR:  What's one of your favorite places to play & why? McCauley:  I like Austin, Seattle, St. Louis, and Toronto. Good combination of awesome crowds, good music scene, good food, and of course, vice.   BTR:  You mention on your website that your "live shows tend to go a bit haywire"...  what does that mean?  How do you make your shows memorable? McCauley:  Well, that’s kind of a difficult one to explain. We've done some funny things. I crowd surfed into a ceiling fan once and broke it. Sometimes we lose our clothes, light money on fire, light guitars on fire, there's silly string, confetti, pinatas. It kind of depends on our mood, and drunkenness.   BTR:  Any memorable audience moments?

 McCauley:  Sometimes we'll have people from the crowd play with us. One time this 6-year-old girl "played" a guitar solo in "These Old Shoes". That was adorable. Then there was this rad dude in Chicago who came up and slayed some harmonica on a cover of "Maybelline". Those moments are really fun for us.   BTR:  How do you take care of yourself on the road? McCauley:  I'm pretty sure I don't.   BTR:  Entertain yourself?  McCauley:  I read a lot of rock 'n' roll biographies and autobiographies. I like true crime books too. I just finished The Brotherhoods by William Oldham, true story of two high ranking NYPD detectives who were hitmen for the Mafia. This American Life is a great podcast to listen to in the van. We've got the new Phosphorescent, and Delta Spirit, and stuff like that, (and) the entire Nirvana and Replacements discography.   BTR:  Anywhere you guys are headed on the upcoming tour that you've never been before or are especially excited to visit? McCauley:  We're doing a bunch of gigs in Florida, a state we haven't played too often. I'm excited for that, especially since we'll be playing with Dead Confederate.   BTR:  What are your fall plans?  Working on any new projects? McCauley:  I don't know. I think the MG&V record might come out then. We'll just have to wait and see. We might have to sit tight for that next record, but don’t wait to see this depthful rock group that truly walks the walk.   Deer Tick LIVE!!! July 29 – Crobar – Miami Beach, FL July 30 – Engine Room – Tallahassee, FL July 31 – Buckhead Theatre – Atlanta, GA Aug 1 – Exit In – Nashville, TN Aug 3 – Proud Larry’s – Oxford, MS Aug 4 – Hi-Tone – Memphis, TN Aug 5 – Off Broadway – St. Louis, MO Aug 6 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL Aug 7 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL Aug 8 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL Aug 9 – Mickey Finn’s Pub – Toledo, OH Aug 10 – Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, Ontario Aug 11 – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, OH Aug 12 – Capitol Theater – York, PA Aug 13 – Webster Hall – New York, NY Sept 10 – End of the Road Fest – Dorset, United Kingdom Sept 20 – Botanique – Brussels, Belgium Sept 28 – Cargo – London, United Kingdom Sept 29 – Brudenell Social Club – Leeds, United Kingdom Sept 30 – Deaf Institute – Manchester, United Kingdom Oct 1 – Captain’s Rest – Glasgow, United Kingdom Oct 2 – Auntie Annies – Belfast, United Kingdom Oct 3 – Whelans – Dublin, United Kingdom     For a band whose artistic aim is to create a soundtrack for the natural world, it seems slightly counterintuitive that Colorado's Candy Claws would choose samples, pre-captured sounds and synthesizers to achieve that goal. However, their electronic approach works surprisingly well. With dreamy, layered orchestral pieces that subtly blend elements of electronica with sophisticated surfer pop, Candy Claws successfully build a sound that evokes nature without simulating it. Whispered vocals and ambient sound effects twist through each song, creating a path to guide the wandering listener.   The project’s core musicians, Ryan Hover and Kay Bertholf, decided to create an album based around a 1951 illustrated guide to sea life, titled The Sea Around Us. The album itself, In The Dream of the Sea Life, was released in 2009 and incorporates sound recordings of the ocean from trips to Italy and the Philippines.  The musicians’ fascination with the complex intricacies and mysterious patterns inherent within nature are well reflected in the construction of the album. They state their intention to create “…the sound of the ocean, very simple,” and offer a beautiful take on that endeavor.  Hidden Land, the follow up to In The Dream of the Sea Life, will be released on August 3rd.  Hover and Bertholf, along with a group of friends who help translate their lush creations to stage, are touring the West Coast  through September in support of the new album.  Don’t miss this opportunity to hear the ocean come to life.   Candy Claws LIVE!!! July 29 – Crepe Place w/ Pepper Rabbit – Santa Cruz, CA July 30 – Spaceland w/ Pepper Rabbit – Los Angeles, CA July 31 – Beauty Bar w/ Pepper Rabbit – Las Vegas, NV Aug 2 – Velour w/ Desert Noises, The Apache – Provo, UT Aug 6 – “Hidden Lands” Release @ Hi Dive w/ Vitamins – Denver, CO Aug 8 – “Hidden Lands” Release @ Art Lab w/ Gobble Gobble, M Pyres, Kites Sail High – Fort Collins, CO Aug 21 – Bohemian Nights @ New West Fest – Fort Collins, CO Sept 1 – The Foundation w/ Magic Kids – Lubbock, TX Sept 3 – Trunkspace w/ Magic Kids, Titus Andronicus – Phoenix, AZ Sept 5 – Bottom of the Hill w/ Magic Kids – San Francisco, CA Sept 8 – The Media Club w/ Magic Kids – Vancouver, British Columbia Sept 9 – The Vera Project w/ Magic Kids – Seattle, WA Sept 10 – Backspace @ Music Fest Northwest w/ Abe Vigoda – Portland, OR Sept 11 – Visual Arts Collective w/ Magic Kids – Garden City, ID Sept 13 – Kilby Court w/ Magic Kids, The Mynabirds – Salt Lake City, UT Sept 14 – Hi Dive w/ Magic Kids – Denver, CO Sept 16 – Replay Lounge w/ Magic Kids – Lawrence, KS Sept 17 – Hi Tone Café w/ Magic Kids – Memphis, TN Sept 18 – Muse Music w/ The Very Most and Adam & Darcie – Provo, UT Sept 24 – Pygmalion Music Festival – Champaign-Urbana, IL Sept 25 – Midpoint Music Festival – Cincinnati, OH     Brooklyn’s Yeasayer have a sound that they describe on Myspace as “Enya with bounce.” I would argue that they’re low-balling themselves a bit, having impressively translated their experimental sound from the raw, earthy qualities of 2007’s All Hour Cymbals to smooth-tongued dance beat rhythms on this year’s Odd Blood. Released in February through Secretly Canadian, the successful reinvention on their new record proved Yeasayer’s musical mettle as they passed the dreaded sophomore album test with flying colors. Many talented artists struggle with their second release as it presents a distinct challenge: further define your established identity while offering fresh material. On Odd Blood, with its distinct ‘80’s influence, pop vocals and crisp polish, band members Anand Wilder, Chris Keating and Ira Wolf Tuton deliver a timely makeover of their already inventive sound. The band has had several unique performance opportunities. 2008 found them supporting Beck in concert, touring with such heavy hitters as MGMT, and playing live in the Paris metro for one of La Blogotheque’s “The Take-Away Shows”.  2009 brought a lull in their live action as they worked to finish Odd Blood, but this winter they were busy promoting the finished product throughout Europe before completing an exhaustive list of U.S. venues in the spring. These hard-working musicians are back in action with a fall tour including Australia, the UK, and a select group of U.S. dates. Hopefully,  they will land a show in your neck of the woods. Yeasayer LIVE!!! July 28 – Metro – Sydney, Australia July 29 – Prince of Wales – Melbourne, Australia July 30 – Splendour In The Grass – Brisbane, Australia Aug 1 – FujiRock Festival – Niigata, Japan Aug 12 – Oya Festival – Oslo, Norway Aug 14 – Haldern Festival – Haldern, Germany Aug 15 – Sziget Festival – Budpest, Hungary Aug 16 – Lucerna Music Festival – Prague, Czech Republic Aug 18 – Rocking Chair – Vevey, Switzerland Aug 20 – Frequency Festival – St. Polten Green Park, Austria Aug 21 – Pukkelpop – Hasselt-Kiewit, Belgium Aug 22 – Lowlands Festival – Biddinghuizen, Netherlands Aug 23 – Doornroosje – Nijmegen, Netherlands Aug 24 – Wedgewood Rooms – Portsmouth, United Kingdom Aug 25 – Slade Room – Wolverhampton, United Kingdom Aug 27 – Reading Festival – Reading, United Kingdom Aug 29 – Leeds Festival – Leeds, United Kingdom Sept 28 – Mr. Smalls Theatre – Millvale, PA Sept 29 – Newport Music Hall – Columbus, OH Sept 30 – Bluebird Nightclub – Bloomington, IN Oct 1 – Cannery Ballroom – Nashville, TN Oct 2 – Masquerade – Atlanta, GA Oct 3 – Trustee Theatre – Savannah, GA Oct 4 – State Theatre – St. Petersburg, FL Oct 5 – The Fillmore at Jackie Gleason – Miami, FL Oct 7 – Club Firestone – Orlando, FL Oct 8 – Union Green – Tallahassee, FL Oct 9 – House of Blues – New Orleans, LA Oct 10 – Austin City Limits Festival – Austin, TX   Link to this article:
The muddy conditions underfoot at the Catherine Hall home of Reggae Sumfest did nothing to dampen the spirits of the thousands of patrons who turned up for the first major night of the festival, which is this year celebrating its 18th year. 2010 Sumfest was a big success!  Thursday night's Dancehall Night segment of Reggae Sumfest 2010 at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre, in Montego Bay, was a rather mild affair, as the stinging and oftentimes contentious lyrics of former years was replaced by much more sober offerings. The highlight of the night was probably the special award presented to a rather mellow Bounty Killer, who was specially recognized for his contribution to Jamaica's music and the unselfish manner in which he has allowed other artistes, who subsequently became stars, to flourish under his watch. In his performance, which came prior to him receiving the award, Bounty Killer openly discussed his recent troubles, which included being jailed and losing his United States visa. Bounty Killer also used the opportunity to call on the government to show some urgency in the fight against poverty, especially in the wake of the recent state of emergency and the displacement of high-profile dons. Outside of his social commentary, which included a tongue lashing of 'shottas', whom he labelled, “wasted sperm” and “society's germs”, Bounty Killer also demonstrated his lyrical sharpness, exciting the crowd with songs like, Bad Man a Bad Man, Just Mek a Duppy, Can't Believe Me Eye, Poor People Fed Up, Riding West and This Is How We Do It, in combination with Elephant Man. The night's major drawing card, controversial deejay Vybz Kartel, who closed the show, created quite a buzz when, with the recorded newscast of his recent arrest blaring through the massive speakers, he was led to centre-stage in handcuffs, clad in a US-style orange prison jump suit. With blasting firecrackers greeting his entrance, Kartel went straight into lyrical overdrive as soon as the handcuffs were removed. He soon had the fans in frenzy, belting out songs such as, Out a Road Again, Idler, Shotta Zone, Bicycle, Virginity and Romping Shop. However, with the morning sun out in its glory, fans steadily began to drift towards the exits with Kartel in the peak of his performance. Mavado, like Bounty Killer, played a most composed set, steering clear of any contentious lyrics. In fact, he was a picture of maturity as he delivered songs such as, Me de Gal Dem a Mad Over, Pon The House Top and the suggestive Come Into My Room, which was expertly delivered in combination with Stacious. Mavado, who also went the social commentary route, called on politicians to pay greater attention to the needs of the people, and was called back for a well-deserved encore. In between heaping praise on Bounty Killer for helping to advance his career, Mavado again rocked the crowd with offerings such as, Real McKoy, Hope and Pray and Messing with My Heart, done in combination with Wayne Marshall. In terms of real dancehall offering, the female entourage, which included Spice, Ce'Cile, Stacious, D'Angel and Tifa, stood extremely tall, demonstrating genuine star power, as they dished out rich dancehall material, much to the delight of the appreciative fans. Spice was particularly sharp. After announcing her presence in a song entitled, Bruce Me Wah Hold You, which was directed at Prime Minister Bruce Golding, she kept the tempo bubbling with, Rampin Shop, Daggering, Fight Over Man and Slim vs Fluffy, which featured Pamputae and several dancers including radio personality Ms Kitty. Singers Khago, I-Octane and Bescenta ably represented the conscious side of the dancehall, demonstrating that they have the lyrical capacity and stagecraft to take the international scene by storm. Khago was impressive, dazzling with songs such as, Can't Cool, Longing to Touch You and Daddy. Taz, Chino, Konshens and Canada-based singjay King Ujah all served up quite pleasing sets, and showed themselves worthy of being dubbed the next generation of stars. Among the seasoned campaigners, Assassin again served notice that he was ready to become Jamaica's next big international act. Of the other artistes who were on show, Elephant Man, Aidonia, Kiprich, the two surviving members of Voicemail, Charley Blacks, Ikaya and Ding Dong all played a pivotal role in keeping the fans, who braved the somewhat muddy conditions, to spend the entire night at the venue. Contributing Source: The Jamaica Gleaner
well guess what? on july 1 i moved up to boston. let me clarify - not boston proper, hell no. but the GEnErAL VICINITY. And its great! I'm just starting to get a feel for the music scene here but its looking promising. I'm going to start taping some in studio sessions from here as well - so watch out! buuuuut don't worry. new york will always be home , and i'll be back there all the time taping the show.
It’s been two years since I’ve seen Wolf Parade live. The last time I saw them it was at Terminal 5. Probably the worst venue in New York City. When they announced 2010 tour dates, Terminal 5 had booked them again. I hate the venue with a passion (usually bad sound, very very very unfriendly security, horrible design), but I wasn’t going to miss Wolf Parade’s only NYC stop. After purchasing a hilarious Wolf Parade t-shirt, I looked and realized Spencer Krug himself was chilling behind the merch table. I was so surprised I couldn’t really do much more than shake his hand and say it was nice to meet him. A really kind guy. Seems pretty shy himself. You gotta love it. The first opener was Zola Jesus, a favorite of the ‘fork. They played minimalistic electronic music that was based around Nika Danilova’s strong vocals. They sorta reminded me of Portishead. It wasn’t too exciting of a set, but I think I’d personally enjoy her music more on record than I would live. That’s just me though. The second opener was Moools. I’d never heard of the band and no idea what to expect. When they stepped on stage, it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one who was completely caught off guard. Up on stage were three middle aged Japanese men. The guitarist/singer had huge hair, and looked like he was ready to rock the fuck out. Their first song took some time to build, leaving the crowd in suspense of what was to come, but once they started to kick out the jams, everyone was having fun. You couldn’t understand a thing the lead singer said, but it didn’t matter. The music was more than enough to satisfy. It was a mix of every rock and roll genre. Killer guitar riffs, timely percussion, and groovy bass-lines. These guys rocked, and I am totally going to grab some tunes by them later. Their English seemed to clean up when they mentioned they had t-shirts & cd’s were on sale. Hysterical. Wolf Parade came on at about 10:40 after setting up their own gear (much respect). They opened with “Soldier’s Grin”, which got a huge ovation from the crowd. One thing I noticed is that Wolf Parade have a large dedicated fan base that are not afraid to show their love. The band wasted no time kicking into a heavy version “What Did my Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)”. Wolf Parade impressed me greatly the last time I saw them, but somehow they took it to the next level. The band absolutely elevated each song to a new level. From “Dear Sons and Daughters” to “Cave-O-Sapien”, the band sounded ace. Dan and Spencer worked off each other, finding ways to improve each others game. “Fine Young Cannibals” was simply monstrous live. The band played it with more oomph then ever before. The band didn’t find any time to slow down (it seemed like they were playing songs extra fast), spitting out all the fan favorites like “This Heart’s On Fire”. Their performance of “I’ll Believe In Anything” was a legendary performance. Everyone around me was singing their hearts out well aware of how special the song truly is. The band threw in “California Dreamer”, which was a really, really, pleasant surprise. With “Cloud Shadow On The Mountain” & “Shine A Light” as the first two songs of the encore, any fan could have left happy. But after the devastatingly epic performance of “Kissing The Beehive”, every fan left seeing an actual encore. Not many words can describe how powerful it was last night. Usually Terminal 5 suffers from horrible sound, but Wolf Parade sounded pretty close to perfect last night. Maybe the sound still sucked, but Wolf Parade are so good they still found a way to get around it. If you are even a moderate fan of Wolf Parade, you need to see this band live. They truly take every single song to the next level live. The songs are tighter, louder, and played with extra heart. Recordings don’t do them justice, at all. Setlist: Soldier’s Grin What Did my Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way) Palm Road Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts Ghost Pressure In the Direction of the Moon Fine Young Cannibals Cave-o-Sapien This Heart’s on Fire I’ll Believe in Anything Little Golden Age California Dreamer Pobody’s Nerfect Encore: Cloud Shadow on the Mountain Shine A Light Kissing the Beehive Photos are posted after the jump. Check them out by clicking read more: Wolf Parade: Link to this post We All Want Someone To Shout For
Hello Friends, If you haven't yet, check out the Subway Series we have been featuring here on BreakThru Radio. it comes complete with videos and gives an in depth look into the NYC Subway Musician. There are three parts. Click the links below to check them out. Subway - part 1 Subway - part 2 (with video) Subway - part 3 (with video) - Emily :)
I'm a fan of the "Lost" design, but having negative space isn't bad either. Click here for the low down
(Photo by Kirstie Shanley) Hot. Sweaty. Unexpected. Novel. The surprise act that had Chicago abuzz on Saturday night was just as descriptive as the secret and offbeat trucking company where the show was held. This one-off concert was the latest in a series sponsored by Microsoft’s new KIN phone—and although San Francisco was awarded with N.E.R.D. and Asher Roth, and New York City was offered Passion Pit and the Black Keys, clearly Chicago hit the jackpot with the Dead Weather. The explosive quartet of Alison Mosshart, Jack White, Dean Fertita, and Jack Lawrence literally brought the fire with them to the smoldering Marquardt Trucking Company where little ventilation and a claustrophobically close stage had hyped fans suffocating on the band’s dominating blend of blues-infused horror rock. But if given the choice, many would have given their left lung to choke on the near-epic experience. After a week of fueled rumors and anticipation (and a year since the band’s last Chicago appearance), hundreds of eager fans swarmed a non-descript alley on the west side when the venue was finally announced at 4 p.m. Those that made the cut then waited another four hours for entry, but the Dead Weather responded with a set that exponentially returned the time invested. Debuting tracks from the newly released Sea of Cowards (Warner Bros/Third Man), this defining performance proved that the band’s new album title could just as well be a finger-pointing declaration of the wave of half-ass, bloated rock outfits that continually wash ashore. Real rock ‘n’ roll lives and breathes in the Dead Weather and specifically the southern anti-belle Alison Mosshart. With a dead-on gaze that could tempt saints and a rabid vocal range that could sway sinners, Mosshart moves you to repent ever listening to mild-mannered pop crooners. There’s not many who could upstage the keynote of rock, Jack White, but the Kills front woman does it with dexterity and vitriolic passion. With a sweaty mane and stalking gait, Mosshart looked every part the animal behind her leopard print jacket as she chewed apart raw tracks such as “New Pony,” “So Far from Your Weapon,” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother.” Hers is a voice culled from the soul leanings of Aretha Franklin, the gutteral echoes of Janis Joplin, and the punk angst of Johnny Rotten. But if her voice is a delicate test in balance and chemistry, so is the science behind the Dead Weather’s energy. Not uncommon to many supergroups is an issue of ego but seemingly the Dead Weather is more apt to play fair—and by playing fair, they play honest. If there’s any touch of competitiveness it only lies in each individual member—White thrashing away on the drums like the best of the Bonhams, Fertita moving past the Stone Age with heavy-handed modern riffs, and Lawrence upping the ante with rich bass tones that could be felt measures beyond being heard. What’s even better is how well this band plays together—when White stepped up from behind his kit to join Mosshart at the mic stand for the closing number, the two connected in some interspatial insider’s joke that few in the room could possibly understand, but all could appreciate, admire, and applaud. As their mouths moved unbelievably close, only broken away when White rubber-banded into a mesmerizing guitar solo and Mosshart was left with that dead-on gaze, yes it was hot, sweaty, unexpected, and novel. The KINship extended beyond the stage to the floor, where a small few banded together in the ultimate feeling of success for finding the secret spot—but it was the Dead Weather who really hit the spot with a show that could be nothing but the forecast of a great future. Link to this post Venus Zine
“Every now and then, I’ll get into a mood. I’ll get into a Bossa Nova mood, I’ll get into a Western African mood, ya know? But for the most part on my show, I like to spread it out and show the listener what’s going on everywhere," says Worldwide Hour host DJ Wynn.  He is probably the best man for the weekly hosting job of the Worldwide Hour here at BreakThru Radio. With a peerless knowledge of music ranging from the Norwegian Casiokids (who sing in Bokmàl, the native tongue to Norway) to the Malian-influenced, Asheville, North Carolina based Toubab Krewe, DJ Wynn is tapped into more music cultures than most people are bands. Casiokids - Norway   The Worldwide Hour, which airs Wednesdays on BreakThru Radio, is one of the station’s best shows and without contest its most diverse and unique. DJ Wynn has a very daunting task laid out before him each week: program sixty minutes of music from all corners of the globe that appeals to listeners of all generations and shades of skin. How does one even go about gathering and preparing for such a task?   “All my stuff is kind of just a rag-tag bunch of what I’ve collected over the years. I started the Worldwide Show five years ago, when I was still in college, and at that point I was just starting to get into, mainly, Afrobeat and Brazilian music. A large collection of my music started from a Brazilian couple I had met at an organizational event called The Rhythm Foundation and we traded music with each other; like, ten gigs of music. Another really good resource is Putumayo. They’re really good at focusing in on a region and giving you a really diverse range of acts.”   The most interesting part to the Worldwide Hour is how diverse the style of music is, but at the same time, how everything played shares the one common thread of belonging to a time and a place. “Surely, once you delve deeper into the cultures you’ll get a greater appreciation for it,” DJ Wynn remarks on the obvious. “But I like it because it sounds good,” completing his train of thought with a manifesting smile. It doesn’t matter what style, what generation, or what culture rhythm has to come from, as long as it moves you and places you where you want your mind to be set, it works. From Iceland to Ghana—if it’s good, it’s going to be played.   DJ Wynn (Philip Nguyen)   Nearing the end of the interview, I asked DJ Wynn a question on how the sounds from other cultures resonate with an American audience in his opinion. He looks me deadpan in the eye. “We both work in radio; we know how ‘Top 40’ works,” he replies. “People don’t listen to radio anymore and when they do listen to radio, it is for one of two reasons. One (reason) is while they are driving in the car and just want to tune out and two is while they are doing some kind of manual labor, so it’s just in the background and they can set it up and forget about it. If you want music like that, than certainly just listen to ‘Top 40.’”   It is not that DJ Wynn is saying that there is anything wrong with ‘Top 40’ music. As speculative as it may be on my part, I think he is just saying it is not the type of music he enjoys featuring on Worldwide Hour. International music offers the best of both worlds. Playing DJ Wynn’s program can serve as ambient background noise that assists the listener in mentally escaping to another land. Yet at the same time, the informative mic breaks and eclectic selection allow for Wynn’s listeners to expand their musical taste and knowledge, and presents a medium for exploring music they would otherwise never be exposed to.   Be sure to catch new editions of the Worldwide Hour, every Wednesday here on BTR! Link to this article:
Hey Hey World!!!! WTF is up! haha, IM in Super Excitement mode right now. We are half way done with tour and are currently in the east coast run of the Vans warped Tour . This Summer has been soo much fun. At this point i have about 15 free tee shirts, checked out some of my favorite rock and ska acts, gone from the west coast all the way to the east and now am about to do a florida run. So the tour has been soo freaking hot and sweaty, crazy humidity and so much rain. But all in all its been a blast. Late night bbq's, roaming around the bumble fuck parts of states, hitting up the general dollar store and spending money on the most random junk. Which includes a kite, cap guns, a woody costume, and other nonsense that i cant even remember. So last night i got to check out Mike Posner. The smooth R&b / Pop act on the Vans Warped Tour. Most would think he may not fit in here at this summer concert, however he had a big crowd of screaming girls single along to his hit single, "Cooler Than Me". Also for the first time he preformed his new single, which i dont know the name of but, it was a great track, so ill be keeping my ears and eyes open to his new single. Some other acts that have been a whole lotta fun include, Reel Big Fish. Man do these guys put on such a fun show and there fans are awesome. They know how to have such a great time and get soo involved in the bands set. You gotta check them out if you come thru to the show. Well i actually gotta run off right now to set up now. Ill talk to u soon peeps.
(photo by Chloe Aftel) In early April, music editor Selena Fragassi and art director Denise Gibson traveled to Nashville to spend the day with Jack White, the first cover man in the history of Venus Zine. While behind the scenes at the headquarters of Third Man Records, we got White's take on his place in the industry, a working ethos developed from his early job in an upholstery shop, and his fondness for collaborating with female artists. Get your hands on the exclusive interview and photos in our summer issue and read even more of our Q&A below. Venus Zine: What has changed with Third Man Records now that you’ve had a physical location for a year? Jack White: Everything is different. There are so many records that have occurred now in the last year that wouldn’t have existed if we hadn’t built the place. It was a tough call when I found the building—I didn’t really know how I wanted it to be. I thought we’d have three employees and put out 7-inches. But once I spent so much time designing the building, I got to finally be the architect that I always wanted to be, laying out the design of every room. It just grew into something bigger. I was flying people in from London and hiring people from out of state to come in and work on it. Now that we have this place, the mechanics of the music are inspiring more music to happen. We’re doing things that have never been done on vinyl before. There’s so much new life in it. Because we have a relationship with United Pressing [a nearby shop specializing in vinyl], we were able to produce 150 copies of the first Dead Weather single in 24 hours. Usually, it's unheard of to press vinyl that fast. And all the covers were handmade by the band members. We took them to a firing range, shot them with machine guns, and painted them while we were mixing the record so we could hand them out at the Third Man opening. VZ: Like all of your projects, Third Man’s headquarters is a very colorful place. Do you often find yourself thinking in terms of color? JW: I have to. Colors solidify some sort of personality—they’re so powerful and it’s amazing how much we take them for granted. Most people who own a business or have their own homes don’t really care what color the outside walls are. Maybe 95% of people don’t want to ruffle any features or cause any trouble, so they’ll paint the house tan, you know? Or taupe. Or mauve. And then you don’t have any stimulation. I mean, tan makes me want to set places on fire. I can’t take it. VZ: Why did you decide to set up shop in Nashville, as opposed to your home of Detroit? JW: Nashville is where I need to be now. At the time when I started, I needed to be in Detroit. That’s where I grew up. Of all the musicians in the hundreds of bands from the area, I was the only one who was actually born and raised in the city. Everyone else was from the suburbs. I just felt this connection to something that even MC5 and the Stooges didn’t have because they weren’t even really from Detroit either. When I was growing up I didn’t understand that the two could combine—that there was a culture underlying my neighborhood, and my interest in music was part of that. So by the time we were making the first White Stripes record, my goal was to make it as Detroit as hell. That record still feels very much like Detroit. Like the Stooges’ Funhouse did. VZ: With all the projects you get involved with, how do you decide which to pursue? JW: They just have to speak to me. Once in awhile I’ll do a project with someone out of guilt because I respect them so much. The opportunity is there, so I have to do it. People in my position are a lot more cutthroat than me—they have no problem saying no. But when I respect [someone who approaches me], I have to understand where they’re coming from and explore the idea, because it could be beautiful. VZ: You work with a lot of collaborators whose music styles differ from yours. How do these projects start—do you approach them? JW: People always put the feelers out. The one disease lately is people doing these albums, like the Santana record, where every song is a different collaboration. I hate those records. They don’t do anybody any good. It's just a weak attempt at trying to piece something together. I feel bad for artists whose labels sucker them into doing that. What’s happening with Third Man lately is the 7-inch—we'll do them when people happen to come through town. Like Wanda Jackson. She was just coming through town and I asked her if we could do a 7-inch together, and it turned into a whole album. VZ: Where do you see yourself fitting in with the music industry as Third Man progresses into the future? JW: I really don’t know. I’m just doing what I think makes sense and what I’m interested in, and that’s vinyl, and having an internet situation that makes sense. I don’t have a web page for buzzwords and links and that junk. Some people say, "I have a MySpace page" … and so what? How does the music sound? I come from a real place first and go to the internet last—and I think that others are doing it backward nowadays. I wouldn’t even venture to guess where music is headed. I think it’s in a disastrous place right now. People are really fighting. I have to think it’s the influence of video games—they’re so massively consuming. It’s not just like playing Pacman. People are involved in a movie now. How can music compete with that? I feel bad for that kid who loves a band and wants to play the music for his friends—and they tell him to shut up, and then they play Guitar Hero for eight hours. Yeah, that’s the Band-aid! Well at least they're listening to music, right? Link to this post Venus Zine
Few people know about the process that goes into becoming a subway musician. It's not just propping up the instrument case and playing a couple of tunes, although some people feel it should be that easy. For many reasons that we can think of (including noise pollution, overcrowding, and turf wars between musicians—though none of these are officially stated), the city of New York requires every artist interested in subway performing to go through a process of applying and auditioning for the program titled “Music Under New York” (aka ‘MUNY’). The application process requires a video or audio recording of a sample performance, a written application, and any press or recommendations the artist may already have. Auditions are then held in the Grand Central Terminal, of which approximately 350 musicians are selected each year. The entire process is a pretty trying ordeal for a very limited number of spots, especially when there are returning members. 2010 saw the entrance of only 27 new artists. The bureaucratic approach begs the question: Why bother even auditioning when you can just lay out a case and make some good money?   The subway system is owned by the city of New York and is therefore officially listed as private property; so any unwanted “disturbances” can be written off as trespassing. How seriously the rules are taken is mainly contingent upon the location of the station, how well it's monitored, and how much of a hard-ass the management chooses to be. To sum up an ordeal in a few words, it's a trying process to be officially permitted to play in the subway.   So, who are these people? The quirky musicians with drums made out of buckets or keyboardists in gorilla suits; the eccentric neo-bohemians who put themselves out there playing music to an often ignorant crowd that is more likely to pass by than appreciate their sound- who are they and why do they do what they do?   It's not just about the money. At least that's what we young, idealistic writers wanted to hear when we braved the sweltering furnace that is the midsummer subway station to interview as many subway musicians as we could find. The idea was to learn about the journey: where the music came from in their lives, what made them go underground, the challenges they faced in the subway system, and their ultimate musical mission.   Of course, money always helps. We knew that going in. They wouldn't be there if it didn't bring in the bucks necessary to keep them afloat in this expensive city. But the general consensus we got from the musicians we interviewed was not only that it's not just about the money, it's really not about the money at all. Or at least that's what they told us.     The first musician we spoke with, a performance drummer named Mike, told us about how everyone wanted him to "go into the subway, go into the subway"—not because of the money that was to be made in the subway, but because of the publicity it would get him. He auditioned and was turned down, for whatever reason—he postulates that they just weren't looking for drummers. However, "permit or not, [he’ll] continue to play in the subway until [he] land[s] a good gig,” he tells us. “Because that's what the people want." Mike’s passion for music is made clear in the way he engages his audience, flashing a flirty smile at the group of nine-year-old girls who have gathered around him with their mothers. He throws his drumsticks at the subway platform signs, does flashy moves with the wooden sticks while simultaneously blowing on a whistle. Later he informs me he can even play with fire.   Mike's played all the big venues in New York, but it's never been full time: “Just, like, guest performer stuff, ya know?” What he is looking for is the real thing—a band or a permanent gig. He could get it, too. He's really good, and owns a lot of stage presence. “That's why I’m down here,” he says. “Until I get the big one.”   Mike seemed a lot more career-oriented than the second musician interviewed, a guitarist named Troy who composed his own gospel songs. His motivation, he told us, was just playing for the passengers. He hadn't planned on coming down into the subway, and in fact he began performing down there informally one day when he was “just touched by the beauty of life” and started singing about the Lord. “At the end,” he told us, “people just put money into my hands.” That was a couple of months ago. Now he comes down here when he is not busy, several hours a couple of days a week. He, like Mike, also does not have a permit.   Troy taught himself guitar, but the singing and songwriting has always come naturally. The song he sang for us is called “The Lord is Blessing Me,” and was fairly decent. He mentioned briefly the hope that someone will hear him and give him a chance [at singing professionally], but he stressed the fact that he just wants to live his dreams—his love for singing.   “Sometimes it's not easy though,” he told us, “Some people don't have the same faith.” Faith or not, at the end of Troy's set a number of people dropped money into his hat.     We attempted to interview several other performers, but they were less forthcoming. Whether it was because they were busy assembling their equipment or because they were afraid to talk to us was unclear. The last man we interviewed, a classically trained violinist named Valeriy Zhmud, was the only performer we found with an actual license to play in the subway. Even he reported having had some trouble with the police. He showed us his license, and a detailed schedule of where and when he was allowed to play. But the fact that both Mike and Troy were unlicensed and yet still able to log regular hours was evidence that perhaps despite legal barriers, a permit was not all that necessary.   Whether or not a license should be required is a different story. While it is obvious that noise pollution and competition for space could cause serious issues, it is also clear that forbidding individuals to play is at least a partial violation of the first amendment. Besides, the music really isn't hurting anyone. I've seen some musicians on the subway who openly declare that they've chosen to play music for us instead of sell drugs or participate in another lucrative, more criminal, activity. And for those who don't do it just for the monetary aspect, it seems ridiculous that people who just want to entertain us and bring music to the masses are refused the right to perform. The musicians we interviewed seemed to agree.   The subway is a great opportunity for an up-and-coming musician: it grants them a source of income, practice time in front of crowds, and publicity. It gives them a chance to be seen and heard. And really, they're doing all of us a service. They're bringing their talent, however great, and their passion for music, to the hottest and most uncomfortable environment in the city. They wouldn't be doing it unless they loved it. They deserve the opportunity to show us what they've got, and the least we can do is allow them to play, and listen. Link to this article:
Tonight at Hyperallergic, John Powers and Luke DuBois are screening two parts of their ongoing collaboration, Star Wars Modern. Part artist commentary, part slide show, the project looks at the classic sci-fi film through the lens of Cold War-era American Modernism. If you're unable to attend the event Hyperallergic are streaming the whole thing live HERE. Star Wars Modern    RSVP Wednesday July 21st @ 8pm Hyperallergic HQ 181 N11th St., Suite 302 Brooklyn, NY
(Photo by Kyle Dean Reinford) Moments before New York–based indie rockers the Antlers took the stage, the appropriately dubbed "East Village Wine Geek" and In Vino restaurant co-owner Keith Beavers provided the audience with a set of instructions: “Sit back, enjoy the music, enjoy the wine, because this is what it’s all about—creativity coming together in a unique form.” The words echoed powerfully off the walls of In Vino, Beavers and David Hitchner's cavernous New York City wine bar and restaurant draped in the visage of a Moravian wine cellar. Its East Village location couldn't provide a more eclectic and appropriate backdrop for the Discover the Music, Discover the Wine’s Viewtopia: In Vino event on April 11, 2010. The premise of Discover the Music, Discover the Wine is very eloquently described by Beavers’ abovementioned adage. Future Content LLC founder and DMDW program director Heidi Richman and West Indian Girl bassist Francis Ten travel to venues, restaurants, music festivals, and other events throughout the country to pair the wines of partner Karl Wente (Wente Vineyards) with up-and-coming bands that grace the “Favorite Music” section of Gen Y Facebook pages. Noticing an upward shift in wine consumption among Millennials, Richman saw the need to rupture the elitist social strata common to wine culture and DMDW was her Second Vatican Council. Once the partnership with winemaker-musician Wente was set in stone, the rest became an issue of accurately pairing wines with musicians. “What's so wonderful about wine and music pairings is that there are only 'right' answers, unlike wine and food pairings,” says Richman. “Karl [Wente], as both winemaker and musician, tends towards pairings that are very structurally oriented, while Francis [Ten] and I seem to tilt to the metaphorical.” The In Vino event began with an intimate 25-person dinner consisting of dishes taken from a vault of Beavers’ family recipes, whose unpretentious plating made attendees feel as if they were home for the holidays. During the dinner, the 32-year-old Wente briefly described his method for pairing wines with artists, alternating between award-winning vintner and rucksack musician as he depicted linkages between tannins and percussion as well as acidity and bass. Wente Vineyard’s wines are well-represented by their burly figurehead, whose sideburns hearken back to the blithe ethos of a late ‘60s San Francisco, but Wente boasts an Ivy League education and a priori comfort with his trade that only a fifth generation winemaker can exemplify. As the Antlers readied their gear, fifty ticketholders trickled in through the doors of In Vino as Future Content’s newest endeavor, Viewtopia, provided live Internet and mobile broadcasting via the application. “The great thing about Viewtopia is we are light and nimble. We can turn on a dime, quickly, unlike traditional broadcasters,” said Richman, who reasons that would-be patrons who could not purchase tickets for events like these are happy to have an opportunity to catch a live feed. The resulting hybrid of variables resulted in a captivating enological experiment. The Antler’s Brooklyn-stamped synthesizers and oscillating guitars unraveled at the speed it takes wine to ferment, which coated the ambiance with a synesthetic quality representative of DMDW’s modus operandi. It became rather apparent to everyone in attendance that we were not witnessing the work of just any old garagiste. Some other unique pairings you can try out, from Wente himself: Riesling paired with West Indian Girl  Cabernet Sauvignon paired with the Hold Steady Chardonnay paired with Dead Rock West Merlot paired with Lesser Panda Syrah paired with the New Master Sounds Pinot Blanc paired with Maria Taylor Link to this post Venus Zine
You will never convince me that music is not seasonal. Absolutely, it can be independently associative, and what bands and songs make you feel summer may not be the same ones for me. But the association between music and season is still there, of that I am convinced.   Personally, there is something about The Steve Miller Band that causes me to instantly feel the summer. As I sit down to think hard on why this is, I realize that it is probably because The Steve Miller Band was the first CD I ever owned, and I got it as an eighth grade graduation gift along with my first CD player. I can acutely remember being a fourteen-year-old and feeling as if I was no longer a kid, but one of those young adults who knew what it meant to have an independent summer that wasn’t about riding bicycles in the neighborhood, playing hide and seek, or having sleep outs in the backyard. A new CD ghetto-blaster along with reaching into sixties music, a la Almost Famous, was a summer more about discovery, attending so-called parties (hanging out in friends basements and talking about who was cool at the high school we was about to attend and all the hipster status we were going to accomplish) and I guess mainly it was about girls. The soundtrack to my life during those June through August months is what now initiates summertime music for me: Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama, The Eagles Hotel California, Led Zeppelin’s IV, and Stone Temple Pilots’ Core.     I think we all react similarly to different music at different times of the year. During the winter months, when Christmas is in the air and the weather is a little more crisp, our souls seem to crave an inner-chillax ambiance—jazz that can be played by a Christmas fire, soft acoustic like Iron and Wine that goes along with cooking comfort food and staying in all night, or the female voices of Billie Holiday and Etta Fitzgerald that warms our insides after battling the stormy outside. In the summer, it is almost the opposite, we all feel like rocking hard in aggressive celebration. Iconic images like the mudslide at Woodstock or mosh pit of late-nineties Lollapalooza reminds us that summer is the season of the outdoor festival, the place where you lose all your inhibitions, try drugs for the first time, spend dusk until dawn drinking, and power through the following day in a hazy heated mess, depriving the body of rest. For this we want to hear the up and coming bands, the on-the-edge or breaking into the scene talent that you are the first to tell all of your friends about and who, sadly, will probably only ever be associated with that summer again.   Kid Rock really nailed what I am trying to get at with his 2008 hit “All Summer Long.” Perhaps it is because we are from the same area of the world (he is from Michigan, and I am from just across the lakes in Ontario) and that we are also approximately the same age, but “All Summer Long” is spot-on with its repeated “Singin’ ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ all summer long.” It is not to say that this song is brilliant in musical score, after all, he did plagiarize both Lynyrd Skynyrd and Warren Zevon to make the song (even worse, here is a little anecdote fore you: he totally ripped off something The String Cheese Incident had been doing live for years prior to this release—marrying these two tracks. Check out “Werewolves of London/I’m Your Captain” live).   Kid Rock’s association between music and summer is something that we can all relate to. Maybe it is for the obvious. To quote Jack Nicholson in The Departed in that scene when he is sitting in the car with his protégé Matt Damon: “School’s out.” Link to this article:
(Photo by Kirstie Shanley) Pitchfork is not exactly known for its sense of humor, so adding a comedy stage to the 2010 lineup caught us by surprise. With four of today's best alt-comics, the laughs helped ease the crowd into a blistering Friday night and also helped shake the fest's sometimes dour image. Hannibal Buress, aka Time Out's-crowned “funniest man in Chicago,” lived up to his reputation and showed that his recent move to New York to write for Saturday Night Live has only sharpened his nerdy wit. His jokes focused on the best and worst of his new professional lifestyle, such as making interns feel important by giving them a consolation fax after jockeying his paperwork and lunch breaks where he seasons his sandwich with a few flicks of pickle juice. Buress has been credited with redefining what it means to be a black comedian with jokes about things like the onomatopoetic nature of guns in rap music (he suggests kablooey instead of chk chk chk). When Buress does formatively tackle race, it's to discuss how his love of apple juice allows him to forget racism. But that doesn't matter when it's 90 degrees on a Friday afternoon. What matters is that he's funny enough to make people forget about the sweat. Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington treated the front three rows like a splash zone during his host sketch. He came out as John the magician in a full cape and top hat, and, with the help of a progressively less willing assistant, covered a pure white rag with his own feces (or a Babe Ruth bar) and threw it into the audience. The whole bit was an extended joke about religion being equivalent to magic. In a crowd of believers, he said his prayers were answered, and Jesus works magic through him. But the sinless Pitchfork audience sapped his powers. At least that's what I was able to gather. He was too awkward in his public speaking role to pull the joke off with ease. The comedy stage was under the biggest patch of shade in the park, so it had a pretty constant rotation of people looking to cool off and sit down for a few minutes. But Wyatt Cenac and his Daily Show cachet drew enough people to crowd the field. Cenac drills the same comedic vein as Buress, just more lackadaisically. His longest bit discussed the finer points of a kitten YouTube video, and how it was able to beat out Obama's plea for help with the Gulf oil spill by 999,000 views. He noted that he tried to analyze the comments for insight, but after one viewer called the orange tabby the n-word, it prompted him to wonder if the cat jumping in and out of a box wasn't a metaphor for the double consciousness of shifting between a dominant white society and a black culture that's been marginalized. Mixing kitten videos with W.E.B. Dubois discussions? Yeah, that's comedy blurring race lines. After Cenac, Harrington threw ant traps into the crowd. So, not shit, but still splash zone. He also performed an equally awkward number as Pump the Rapper, where he tried to count 100 things Pump could do in bed before being pulled offstage. Michael Showalter made Harrington look suave with his disastrous performance. Competing with a set by Broken Social Scene across the park isn’t easy, but Showalter let his bit go off the rails. He tried to start the set off by playing his own songs to compete, but spent most of his time complaining about the noise. BSS was audible, but not so loud to drown him out, just enough to distract him and leave him stumbling through the set. It turned into a pretty fun audience discussion about which Michael Showalter bit he should perform, but I don’t think he managed to get a fully-formed joke out the whole set. The audience would have been better served on the other side of the concession stands, where at least BSS was putting on a performance. Eugene Mirman, however, dealt with the noise admirably, by turning BSS’s songs into an alien attack. But Mirman owed the audience a good show after Harrington poured a water-filled Drano container on the audience (yep, splash zone). And Mirman delivered ... with props. He brought with him a stack of advice napkins he sneaks into bars (“This napkin entitles you to talk about politics even though you’re drunk and uninformed”). He also brought icons from the Tea Party message board he had infiltrated, as well as the slogans he invented for them (one started with “Don’t Pee in my Tea” and ended with “Crocodile Dundee”). He even handed out a stack of assorted business cards (“Eugene. Google Me” and “Fuck You”). And, he did an impersonation of a child with Asperger's Syndrome that both respected the child and attacked religion. An alum of Patton Oswalt’s famed Comedians of Comedy tour (which launched Zack Galifianakis and Maria Bamford’s careers), he was a great pick to close out a set of low-key comedy. [Sarah Collins] Broken Social Scene had an unfortunate scheduling conflict with their 7:20 slot as they competed with the first-ever Pitchfork Comedy Stage that had been a work in progress all day until its primetime debut. While funnymen like Eugene Mirmen and Michael Showalter brought out the laughs at the Balance Stage across the park, BSS made up for it with a breezy set of chamber indie pop and no less than nine members to add a chorus line to the daunting and dedicated collective. Although fame and fortune has become of many of the former BSS clan, such as Emily Haines (Metric), Feist, Jason Collett, Amy Millan, and Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk), this latest lineup shows time and change can only lead to growth and prosperity. Founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning were in top form and quite chipper as they led the ensemble in classic numbers and new favorites from 2010’s tongue-in-cheeker Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts), which brought the Canadians to Chicago’s turf to record with the famed John McEntire. American recording or not, the performance of “Texaco Bitches” brought the band back to familiar anti-national statements in light of the Gulf spill and offered ironic hiccups before bringing newish member Lisa Lobsinger to the microphone for more light-hearted melodies. Broken Social Scene may not have changed much in opinion, but they have come a long way from their performance at Chicago’s Intonation fest years ago. [Selena Fragassi] Modest Mouse was a great pick to close out a lazy Friday. Unfortunately sound problems made the band sound patchy and distant toward the back half of the crowd. And since the festival was sold out (and is for the whole weekend), people were packed to the fences. The audio issues and small screens caused a good chunk of the crowd to lose interest, but tracks off of Good News for People Who Love Bad News, like “Satin in a Coffin,” “Black Cadillacs” and “The View,” pulled the audience in all the way to the back of the park. The hour and a half felt stretched, but transcendent songs like “Satellite Skins,” peppered the set with enough to make sticking around worthwhile. Modest Mouse can’t take all the credit for sending the crowd into the streets buzzed, but encoring with “Gravity Rides Everything” turned it into a pleasant high. Link to this post Venus Zine
With the summer in full effect and music lovers of all ages itching for a good dose of outdoor entertainment the question arises…  Is the hot sweaty allure of summer music festivals enough to draw attendees in an time of over-priced tickets and under-employed fans? Well, in a word – yes. As the classic adage goes; escapism sells in times of challenge. And with current music festivals tailor-cut to embrace nearly every sect of musicophiles there’s sure to be opportunity a-plenty for those looking for a respite from today's financial and political woes. Conforming to the zeitgeist of mixing varied cultural elements for an increasingly multi-faceted and curious populace, organizers of music festivals have begun to construct more interesting lineups in terms of variety. At Lollapalooza seemingly disparate acts like pop-diva-monster Lady Gaga and grunge kings Soundgarden have come to share the same stage. A trend that is popping up at nearly every music fest on this season’s bill. The Lilith Fair has dropped the “fair” aspect and re-emerged as a forum for successful female singers of all genres, incorporating pop and R&B into its once acoustic only line-up. Kevin Lyman, founder and organizer of the Vans Warped Tour has made a concerted effort to maintain diversity in the line-up, combining ska, emo, metal, and punk while keeping the tour’s image as a home for alternative genres. “I think if you really tear apart (this year’s) Warped lineup, it’s appealing to a lot of different kids. It’s appealing to the music fan,” Lyman said. Of course the opportunity that music festivals hold for non-profits and environmental proponents to reach out to young people has not been lost on this years gatherings. Greenpeace and other like-minded agencies held muddy court at Bonnaroo, and BP oil spill backlash was notable on the landscape written large in graffiti and on banners. Despite an unstable economy and record low employment levels, fans have continued to dish out big bucks to attend live music festivals. In many cases attendance has actually risen this past year. The Coachella Valley Music Festival held in the desert community of Indio saw a ticket sales rise of nearly 15,000 over last year’s daily average. The famed South by Southwest Music Festival in Texas experienced a whopping 11% increase in overall attendance this year. This is a trend that has some festival organizers planning and hoping for the best. After selling out all three days last year, Lollapalooza has expanded its concert terrain in the spirit of “if you build it they will come”. The festival area now includes an extra 35 acres, upping the fan capacity from 75,000 to 95,000. For those who just really cannot afford the price of a ticket there are alternatives. Organizations like the Work Exchange Team (WET) give participants a full weekend pass in exchange for a commitment of set hours working the festival. These scenarios help festival organizers to ensure the younger high-energy crowd, who may not be quite as affluent, feel desired as attendees of the music festivals. This year’s festivals are showcasing a strong line of classic musicians as well such as Carly Simon and Stevie Wonder.   Warped has remained a top draw over the years - it's usually one of the country's 20 best attended tours - because it's so consistently able to plug into  the wants of its largely youthful audience. It pays for it with an onslaught of inexpensive merchandise, socially conscious messages and constant marketing of the bands and their labels, including lots of opportunities to meet the bands and get their John Hancocks. With the live music festival world still much imbued with lively energy and awesome acts, music fans everywhere have a lot of opportunity to get out there and sweat it out in the sun this season. However, a trend of insistence upon involving every genre of music at each festival might leave some fans missing the days of unapologetic festival celebrations catering to particular tastes.  For right now though. it seems the summer music festival is still holding strong. Link to this article:
Last week's guest, Shareen Sarwar of Miami-based online vintage store Vintage Mavens, got me more excited than I was in college about vintage finds and the possibility it offers to refresh your wardrobe without breaking the bank.  (Not to mention another great opportunity to shop "green"...) New York has its own share of amazing vintage resources as well, and it's no accident that Time Out NY just featured a list of top flea markets for good finds including (of course) the best vintage flea.  Check out their list of fantastic-sounding vendors, and study up before you go with TONY's tips on savvy flea market shopping. **Turns out that Hester Street Fair, the recommended vintage flea, is itself vintage.  TONY recommends swinging by NYC's Tenement Museum to learn more about the rich cultural heritage of this market location. Hester Street back in the day
I'm back with another list of random yet delightful things I've come across in the last week...  Hope you've found some of your own as well! 1.  I recently moved to the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, and have slowly started exploring the 'hood.  What I've found, I love, and this weekend marked my first trip to the Greenpoint/McCaren Park Greenmarket.  Like all good farmer's markets, it was overflowing with beautiful, fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, potted herbs, local meats and cheese, etc, etc...  I came away happy with a fragrant bouquet of fresh dill, a bunch of kale, some sour cherries, sweet plums, and fresh pressed cider.  All for about $12.  And that, boys and girls, is why we shop local. Micmacs 2.  I took myself on a litle date this weekend (awww), and saw the delightful French film MicMacs.  Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the same creative genius behind the beloved Amelie and The City of Lost Children, is back with another inventive, strange, beautifully designed world full of odd characters.  It's a charming little story that made me want to steal some fashion cues from French street urchins... 3.  So this is kind of not new, but there's an amazing Mexican place in my neighborhood called Mesa Coyoacan.  I went a few weeks back with my sweetie when we were celebrating our anniversary, and it's officially my favorite place in my new neighborhood (second only to the lovely coffee shop Variety).  They specialize in tequila and incredible Margheritas, but I've been craving their Micheladas, a spicy Bloody-Mary-esque concoction made with dark Mexican beer, ever since I went. 4.  My toenails have been in need of some TLC, and, tired of my usual muted/"sophisticated" palette choice, I went out in search of something fun and a little frivolous.  Honestly, I'm skeptical of this whole trend towards green and blue shades (according to InStyle), so I opted for an '80's-inspired coral instead.  I feel Vampire-Weekend-in-the-Hamptons ready when sporting essie's Boat House. essie's Boat House polish 5.  Another fantastic Brooklyn boutique, Alter, is in the Greenpoint area with 2 gender-segregated side-by-side shops.  Like many of the small Brooklyn shops, they offer great fashion that's low on the pricing scale.  I highly recommend checking out their offerings, and am personally especially excited about their boot selection. OTBT Hutchinson Boots
(Photo by Katie Hovland) And so it begins ... The 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival started quite literally with a Ba Da Bing as the same named label brought its buzz artist Sharon Van Etten to the Aluminum Stage on the eve of her Epic album release this October. With her mop of dark black hair and polished red guitar, Van Etten was the picture of cool in the mirage of heat that enveloped the festival grounds during Chicago's first seasonal heat wave. Although the publicist-turned-singer started off a bit rough around the edges, she soon grounded herself to deliver convincing songs light on composition and anchored by rich narration of love and loss. Despite a solo presentation, Van Etten's heartstring plucking and Twee twang were aplenty and nailed the history of her Nashville upbringing. A sleeper hit of the day, Van Etten's set was like the juicy start of a chapter book—far before the plot and action were given a chance to thicken. She may have fared better under twilight when a gentle breeze could have helped carry her infectious vocals, but regardless, Van Etten found her spotlight under the bright midday sun for those who rose early enough to see her. The folk love fest continued as the Tallest Man on Earth found a guitar and a stage for his effortless busker balladry. As with Van Etten, Swedish artist, and rather short man, Kristian Matsson arrived solo but left with the hearts of those anxious to witness the burgeoning import who surprisingly perfect Americana. With the rugged looks of John Cougar Mellencamp and the raspy poetry/prose of Bob Dylan on songs like "The Wild Hunt" and "Thousand Ways," the recently-signed Dead Oceans musician sounded like an FM radio staple even if the transmission signal wasn't always at full blast. The Tallest Man on Earth was yet another slow session and constant reminder of the delayed movement of the dragging afternoon sun-it wouldn't be until another Swede took the stage a couple of hours later that the crowd found some much needed relief from the inadvertent doldrums. Liars was the first ensemble act of the day and proved quite quickly that strength can most definitely come in numbers. Lead singer Angus Andrew of the Brooklyn-based band wore the day's ever popular style of men's short-shorts and a retro Men At Work concert tee. The tee could have just as well described the assembly line of proficient musicians who punched the clock to reproduce the band's rhythmic and experimental sound textures seen on the band's series of LPs, most recently Sisterworld (Mute). Liars was proficient at creating an all-to-real series of songs with seismic build-up and quick gear shifts which may have been obtusely abstract, but all the while attention-grabbing. While Andrew's vocal delivery left much to the imagination, his gut-baring air guitar workout did not. There was no doubt that the day's lineup had one artist everyone was just DYING to see. But before Robyn could take the stage, festival organizers wanted to make sure no one was dying from heat, reminding the bulging crowd of the inherent "social contract" in place at the fest and announcing to wild applause that bottled water had been reduced to just $1 for the rest of the weekend. It was yet one more example of a successful fest that puts its patrons above its profits. In all of the season's bloated festival outings, Pitchfork still remains one of the most enjoyable and most authentic with a lineup that others like to steal (Didn't make it to this year's sold-out fest? Just wait for Lollapalooza next year) and organizational perfection that others should rip off. The festival threw concertgoers for another loop this year when they added Robyn to the bill last-minute. That's right, the '90s "Show Me Love" chart topper. Although the Swedish singer has had one hell of a year thus far with no less that three brand-new albums in queue (Body Talk, Pt. 1, 2, and 3), it was still a left-field curveball for the Pitchfork brand that steers so clear from anything even lightly scented of pop notes. But when Pitchfork speaks, their followers listen and so this "must-see" act attracted the entire park who packed in and turned the high-energy set into an all-out dance party. "I didn't know what to expect," Robyn said sheepishly as she marveled at the sheets of people before her. Frankly, neither did we but the outcome couldn't have been better for the artist who is already a shoe-in for year-end best lists, from People to Paste (and maybe even Venus Zine?!) To the familiar Dolby Surround Sound amplification, Robyn entered the stage to a deafening applause, dressed in a grey cutout dress with leather shoulder lapels, black crocheted tights, and rocking her trademark ghost blonde pixie cut. Starting with the techy tantalizing number "Fembot," Robyn brought her A-game and her B-Boy dance moves straight from her '90s heydey when the 1996 album Robyn Is Here made her a star across seas and channels. Frustrated with her quieted creative voice on major labels, she took an extended hiatus and made a comeback in the late aught years with her own label, Konichiwa. Her latest trifecta brings together collaborations with Diplo, Royksopp, and even Snoop Dogg showing the great diversity of her abilities as were on display in this career-making performance. From sampling of Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba" to her original stunners "With Every Heartbeat" and "Dancing On My Own," Robyn found a whole park of new admirers who know that once again Robyn Is Here and here to stay. Link to this post Venus Zine
I'm not usually a summer person. I normally hide away from the sun. But this year I've been in the sun lots more than normal, and it's been pretty good sofar. I did a gig the other Sunday, playing drums with James Eliot Taylor's band, which also includes Iain "lorwey" lowery from the Planet Beet and UK College Show's on guitar, Mark Thorby (otherwise known as Duncan Soleower) from the Funk & Soul Hour on bass, and James "Saville" Leeds from Tinman & CORD, on electric piano. We played in the lovely garden outside historic Dragon Hall in Norwich, near the river. So as hot as it was, playing in the afternoon sun, there was still a lovely breeze from across the river. Halfway through the afternoon I realised that I really should put some suncream on, which I borrowed from Phoebe; Iain's lovely girlfriend. Her dad is a famous actor. After we played (and we went down a storm! Such a lovely audience!) there were sets by Girl In A Thunderbolt, and Cakes & Ale, and a few others that the sun has erased from my memory. That was a good day. I didn't even have to use my AK.. Then last Saturday my band The Deets played the BBC stage at the Lord Mayors Day celebrations in Norwich's Chapelfield Gardens. Again, it was a beautiful sunny day. Far too hot to be in the direct sunlight, so until about 5pm the audience were using any bit of shade they could find, whether it was under trees, next to tents etc.. We played at 12:30pm, which was the hottest part of the day. The rest of the band convinced me that it was a great idea to wear the red sunvisor that I have, which I wore as well as my sunglasses. This made a handy greenhouse around my already hot head, giving a handy conduit for all the sweat to flow neatly into my stinging eyes. Regardless, we played pretty well. It was our first gig with that lineup. We'd previously done one gig with all those people in the band, but also with Shannon from Glory Glory on keyboards, at Norwich Arts Centre. Shannon doesn't live in Norwich, so we soon realised that we'd need to re-arrange the songs without keyboard parts, as she was struggling to get here for band practices. So, I had fun learning some of the more fiddly and important synth parts on guitar, and working out how to play those bits whilst singing. I like a challenge, so that was quite fun. The next day, last Sunday, was the day of Norwich Lanes Fayre. They're re-badged part of Norwich as The Lanes, in a bid to be like Brighton. What basically happened is that they shut off St Benedicts Street to cars, and had a street fair there, which they do every year anyway. On (or off) this street there is Norwich Arts Centre (my favourite venue), The Bicycle Shop (my favourite bar), Sweet Chilli (a great noodle bar), The Ten Bells (a pub, that also has music), record shops, vintage clothes shops etc.. There were loads of stalls, selling all kinds of stuff, including massages, silk screening, and of course the obligatory face-painting stalls, of which there were many. I saw great outdoor live sets outside the Arts Centre and the Bicycle Shop, by the likes of Girl In A Thunderbolt and Cakes & Ale again (who both play about 8 gigs per day it seems..), as well as seeing The Thorax Adams for the first time, and various other bands whose names have again been erased by the sun.. Also saw great sets from Sargasso Trio and Alloy Ark at the Ten Bells, as part of their Ten Belles all-dayer. I missed Violet Violet's acoustic set there, as everything was by this time running late, and I had to zip down the street to the Bicycle Shop, to see a completely improvised (and unprepared) drum set from Pip (drummer in BK & Dad) outside the Bicycle Shop. The staff of the Bike Shop really pushed the boat out for this special day. They made a white picket fence, by hand, and turfed the footpath outside the bar, making a lovely little garden!! The staff had also made Pip a drumkit, of sorts, with various beer barrels, empty tubs, pots, pans, with an umbrella with various assorted hittable percussion dangling from it. The first 5 minutes was Pip working out what each part of the "kit" sounded like, and then once he'd settled in and warmed up things started really getting fun. A crowd started forming, and by the end of his epic 15 minute improvision he'd pulled the biggest crowd of the day by far. At one point, Pip reached down and picked up a soda syphon, and sprayed the audience. It was a real shock, but it was also very refreshing on such a hot sunny day. I'll have to tell this story in two parts, as later in the evening things took an unexpected, but fun, turn.. More next week kids! Jason (Mr)
Today is the 10th annual Village Voice Siren Festival.  10 years!  Can you believe it?  It seems like only yesterday they were saying, "This year is definitely the last year of the festival."  And look at them now!  10 years and counting.  If you make it out to sweat in the heat at this year's fest, make sure to catch Dom, Harlem, Ponytail, Wye Oak, and Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
There's only one more month until the Liberate Music Festival! August 20th and 21st in Sheldon, Vt. Remember, EMP visionaries Ben and Jane are offering some discount tickets to Break Thru Radio Listeners, there are still a few left - so contact me ASAP at: for the secret password! Band List: Lotus  -  Brothers Past  -  Rubblebucket  -  Beats Antique Dead Sessions and Friends with Tommy Hamilton and More Spiritual Rez  -  Emancipator  -  Kirtan w/ Prem Prakash Tom Hamilton's American Babies  -  Lucid  -  Bearquarium Jeff Bujak  -  Twiddle  -  DJ Reverence of Rise Up Sound Dopapod  -  Barika  -  Kirtan w/ Patrick & American Raga the Human Canvas  -  Groove Yoga w/ Danny & DJ tonybonez, and more coming! Also, remember there will be plenty of Yoga with Jane and other professionals, PLUS tons of great food, crafts, and people! I'll be there camping all weekend, hope to see you there!
Nguzunguzu are not really transsexuals (at least not to my knowledge), but the LA bass wobbling duo have taken on music direction duties for Wu Tsang’s documentary film, Damelo Todo: Give Me Everything. Damelo Todo tells the story of the subculture of Mexican and Central American transgendered women who’ve immigrated to Los Angeles and found refuge, community and a haven for self-expression within the walls of the Silver Platter bar. The storyline is compelling enough alone to perk my interest, but what really takes you inside the subjects’ world is the sharpness of the camerawork, the vividness of the colors and the ominous, spectral sounds provided by Nguzunguzu, whose world music influence astutely mirrors the heritage of the women. The foreboding bass that runs underneath the personal tales creates an uncomfortable tension indicative not only of the personal struggle these have women endured, but the larger portrait of exile imparted by society. Far from their homelands, in company of one another, the subjects celebrate themselves and the dynamic between the Nguzunguzu’s phantasmic sounds and the color, glimmer and light play of the scenery portray the reality that the happiness of freedom is not without trepidation. The film is still in production with hopeful completion by this winter, but just off the three minute trailer, it’s clear Damelo Todo will unfold with equal parts personal storytelling and audiovisual interest. Please consider throwing a few dollars the project’s way, via Kickstarter. Two tracks from Nguzunguzu’s self-titled EP, which you can also download for free in full here. Nguzunguzu – Got U (320 kbps) Nguzunguzu – Moments In Sex (320 kbps) Link to this post Cream Team
In Ephraim Benton’s world, Brooklyn is the star, though he’s not entirely willing to forfeit the limelight. After all, every actor needs his stage, and it was the dejected streets of Bed Stuy that not only raised him, but that still lead him home today. When all is said and done, it seems Benton owes his fortune to this unique crevice of New York, as it was by sinking into the depths of its playing field that he proved his resilience.                 “I was born into a middle class family with everyone supporting one another,” explains Benton. “My family was doing well. We owned a lot of businesses and restaurants, but then came the ‘80s. It was what I call the ‘Great Depression’ era of Brooklyn, when the crack epidemic hit. A lot of my family got hooked and suddenly we moved into the projects.”   Benton quickly adapted his mindset to survive in a climate of desperation.  Raised by his mother and stepfather, he constantly had a support system, yet still found himself dabbling into the crime-ridden world surrounding him. His creative spirit led him to broader endeavors, and in high school, he gained allegiance in a visual art program before branching into the world of acting. Nevertheless, there were road blocks, which tested his endurance.   “In art school, I made some choices I know I shouldn’t have, but which ultimately gave me the opportunity to get where I am today,” he comments.  “I was kicked out; I should have gone to jail, but I was put in remedial school where I learned good judgment, and was given a second chance.”   In Benton's world, ‘today’ refers to his flourishing career in the film industry. He already counts pictures like Precious, American Gangster and Bamboozeled among his credits, and continues to appear regularly in the movies and on television. Even so, his eyes aren’t solely focused on the clouds, but on the path beneath his feet. His most recent endeavor, 'Chillin’ On Da Corner and Beyond', is a testament to such fortitude. The nonprofit venture is an outdoor summer film festival, nestled in the heart of Bed Stuy, where nearly every week from June to September, Benton has arranged a movie screening in the park. His aim is to expose the community to films they would not have otherwise had the chance to see.   “Most films portray stereotypical roles of my community,” he comments. “They are dumb-downed versions of reality, which are brainwashing people without them even knowing it. The only way to fight it is with the same strategy.”   For two years, he built his dream, now bringing arthouse message films to Brooklyn, complete with red carpet, press line and security team. The series is a testament to his profound love for his neighborhood, and the people he knows still haven’t received the respect they deserve.   “My community is deprived of good films,” he says. “They don’t know anything about ideas beyond what they are taught in school. They learn about Martin Luther King, but not Malcolm X because he was too controversial, too progressive….The films we're showing help re-program the mind.”   His audience is diverse, encompassing not only local Brooklyn-ites, but a respective crowd from the city. He’s partnered with several ventures including Rooftop Films, and continues to lobby corporate entities for greater support. In Benton's world, 'Chillin On Da Corner' will stretch beyond its initial boundaries—that means cities and countries around the world. Along with presentations, he brings in directors and guest speakers to address issues of AIDS, drugs, and other factors afflicting his people, lest they never be hindered by lack of knowledge.   “Growing up, I always tried to find the easy way out,” he adds. “I had to get knocked around a lot to finally figure it out."   Nowadays, Benton can be found on location with the likes of Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, or, just this week, John Legend and the Roots. His margins are few, and his prerogatives, great. It’s hard to escape the pride of a young ingénue, though Benton has managed to put his audacity towards grander endeavors. Incidentally, 'Chillin On Da Corner' was motivated by an idea to host a premiere for his own short in Brooklyn.  A big ado in his name, in the place he first learned to walk. It seems he was given an inch, and stole a mile; his life being a marathon in the making.   “Everyone needs to believe in something,” he comments. “If the streets are where kids think they can find it, then that’s where they’ll go, but they are looking for something else.”   By redefining reality with his imagination, Benton offers them a new corner to plant their hustle.   Link to this article:              
When BreakThru Radio first came to be there was a concept to make easily accessible, free on-demand shows that people could tote around with them on their iPods. Being that many people turn to their iPods when they are working out, it seemed only natural that exercise enthusiasts would be a target audience. That was five years ago, and since BTR has grown to be so much more. But in terms of sticking to the seed of the idea for this online radio station, I guess you could say that DJ Meredith’s Monday program Xtreme Endurance is a show that truly sticks to BTRs original mission. The title of the program does nothing to hide the sixty-minute music session you are about to get into. DJ Meredith’s opening mic break lays it all out on the line: “I’m here every Monday for the next hour, to provide you with high intensity music from genres all over the world with the hardest beats that will keep you entertained and get you through the most strenuous workouts with ease. I want you to really bust your ass now so you can show off all that hard work while you’re on the beach. The road to success is always under construction.  Remember, we want to sweat now and flaunt later.” At first listen, DJ Meredith’s playlist sounds like the music would expect to hear in a twenty-first century aerobic class; high powered base, energetic tempo, and electro-intensity. Yet when listening a little more closely, there is a variety to the tracks used on this show that stretches from Latino style Hip Hop to über-German break. Xtreme Endurance is as much about the motivating mic breaks as it is about the tracks. DJ Meredith explains to me: “My goal is to get the listeners health focused by boosting their cardio and helping them build stamina so that they can become little endurance machines. What I really want is for them to commit to being fit and understand the importance of leading an active lifestyle. Health is a blessing money can’t buy.” It is an important part of working out, to stay motivated and receive positive reinforcement from others. Why do you think professional athletes have personal trainers with them, yapping in their  ear during their entire workout? Xtreme Endurance as a workout partner is so much more effective and inspiring than putting your Nano on shuffle, not to mention it is a hell of a lot cheaper than a personal trainer. “I've always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come. I don't do things half-heartedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect half-hearted results,” says DJ Meredith. It is the summer, and we all want to look our best. I encourage you to spend some time raising the heartbeat and getting the blood pumping without dipping into your wallet for a personal trainer or gym membership. Hit the West Side Highway or Central Park (if  you're in the NYC area) or any place outdoors elsewhere and let DJ Meredith take you through an intense workout for free by tuning into Xtreme Endurance on BTR. Link to this article:
I went to check out some new DJ gear by Numark. Pretty dope controller. Check the video
I’ve only waited about a decade to see Goldfrapp live, ever since taking a drive with my college roommate and hearing his copy of Felt Mountain. The songs were plaintive and dark, noir-ish but tongue-in-cheek. I wondered what they might be like live, and looked forward to hopefully to catching a show soon. Of course that never happened, Goldfrapp shunned America and went on to make four more exquisite albums and change their sound often. Transylvania caberet morphed into acidic, paranoid electro, which then birthed the radiant, acoustic comedown album, Seventh Tree, and finally ascending again with Head First, a frothy, neo-italo disco album full of abandonment and throbbing, pulsating dance tracks. Through it all, Allison Goldfrapp and her wizard producer Will Gregory only increased my curiosity and interest. Their songwriting grew better and better while their penchant for craft and creating sustained moods set them apart from the rest of the crowded pop arena. So with such an eclectic catalog to mine I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect last night on the opening show of their first real tour of North America. Luckily for the majority of the crowd, Allison and her backing band (all clad in various metallic skintight outfits) kept the set very dance skewed, weaving through their impressive oeuvre to cherry pick uptempo hits like “Ooh La La” and “Ride a White Horse”, update or electrify fan favorites like “Utopia” and “Train” and of course promote their newest set. Emerging from a giant silver mylar half moon, Allison, clad for most of the night in a jacket I can only describe as what vikings would look like had they raped and pillaged a VHS tape factory, was in full-on vamp mode. Falling somewhere between Madonna and Peaches, her golden mane constantly in a beautiful, windswept mess, she posed and preened, shaking her shoulders and seemingly staring into everyone’s eyes at once with her alluring yet slightly terrifying gaze. You get the distinct impression that Allison is a modern day Diva, not exactly in the “Jennifer Lopez demands 400 white lilies in her dressing room” vein (although I am sure she has her unique requests), but more of the fastidious, perfection seeking “if it’s not right, we aren’t doing it at all” kind of star. I have no doubt, especially after last night that she and her band are a creation of her pure will and creativity. That she and her larger-than-life presence could be more popular than Lady Gaga if she so desired, but this incarnation, a disco-clad chanteuse emoting heady, blissful songs about the torture of the heart is exactly how she prefers it. From sizzling opener “Crystalline Green” through seizure inducing renditions of “Alive” and “Rocket”, settling into an emotional third act highlighted by a poignant “Black Cherry” and finally capping the whole night off with a second encore consisting of a stretched out, super-pumped up version of their biggest stateside hit “Strict Machine”, it was a long time coming…but like the adage goes all good things are indeed worth the wait. Goldfrapp – Alive (Arno Cost Remix) (128 kbps) Link to this post Cream Team
You are sitting on the subway or standing on the platform waiting for the next train and a violinist breaks into a rendition of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” or a drummer begins to bang out some beats on empty buckets and tin cans. What do you do? Do you throw in some change? Do you watch? Or do you stare off into space while listening to your iPod and pretend he/she is not there? The answer is as varied as politics or religion. Videographer Hunter Stuart, writing intern Calah Singleton, and myself hit Central Park last week to ask the general public this very question. Some people told us they never toss change: other’s—every time they can. What’s the difference? And why? “Look man, they’re trying to make an honest living. I’d be more than obliged to let them have any spare change I can give,” says one gentleman. Others weren’t so eager, mostly citing financial obligation and the fact that they just can’t afford it as reason number one. “Hey, if I had lots of money, I’d drop some every time. They’re doing something beautiful, and I support that. But,” the visitor from Texas pauses for a moment, “I just can’t afford to do it.” This seems to be the case for most people. I would love to see a study where a subject takes as many $1 bills as possible and walks the streets of New York for a twenty-four hour period and every time he comes across a musician, busker, or performer, he has to kick a buck into the proverbial hat. I wonder how much money he would have spent in a day? I wonder what the figure would be when multiplied by 365? Probably a fair chunk of change. It’ not that no one wants to take in the music that exists all over the streets of any major city, it is more of a matter of when is enough enough? Busking and street-music is an integral part to any urban aesthetic structure, it is just unfortunate that it has to come at the cost of guilt for so many people. One baby-boomer we spoke with was eager to share her opinion on how musicians separate themselves from the rest of the street crowd looking for handouts, “Music is as free as expression. You shouldn’t have to pay for it. But at least they’re doing something for their money. They’re providing a service. They’re earning it.” If this is a service to the public that leads to income, we wondered what people thought about the notion that the musicians should have to audition for the right to play. Not surprisingly, the responses varied greatly. A teacher, and self-proclaimed “lover of the arts,” was clever in his quick-witted response: “Who is to say what the quality of music is or should be?” Good point. A pair of young twenty-somethings brought up another good point when asked about the licensing process, “Really? Noooo. That’s no good. It makes it all the less real.” I am not entirely certain I agree with their sentiment, let alone understand exactly what they mean, but it does paint the picture of a limited romance behind the lone saxophone under the single street lamp in Soho when you picture him going through piles of red-tape and an audition just so he can stand and play his horn to the wandering public. An older gentleman from Harlem felt quite different about it, and saw the upside to the licensing and auditioning process as a positive, remarking that, “it is good that there is some kind of structure.” A tourist from New Orleans and a visitor from the Ukraine perhaps offered the best response to the question about whether or not New York City should have a licensing process for its public performers saying, "It’s more survival of the fittest, isn’t it,” said the visitor from Louisiana. “I mean; if you suck, maybe you just shouldn’t even bother coming back.” It sounds like the old jazz test—c’mon on stage, but if you can’t hold your own, don’t ever plan to come back. The man from the Ukraine feels the same way: “The only real judges are New Yorkers anyway, so who cares what the audition judges think.” So we know you don’t have to give them any money, and maybe the audition process can be a little redundant, but what about taxes? What if I were to suggest to you that a high quality street performer who is at it five days a week for about six hours a day makes somewhere between sixty to seventy thousand dollars a year in this town, yet a grade school teacher makes something closer to twenty-eight thousand. The teacher has to pay income taxes on those earnings; the musician—not so much. “It’s an informal occupation,” offers a young Asian female we spoke to, “they shouldn’t be taxed on it.” “Isn’t paying for their license enough government fee,” offers another gentleman. For the most part, we found that from the fifty or so people we spoke to, the general consensus is that subway musician income should be a tax-free profession. A few people suggested that if the musician “reaches a certain income level, they should be taxed for it.” This seems to be a diplomatic suggestion. Whether it would hold any truth is yet to be proved. How many bartenders and servers claim the tips they make on their income tax return? The message to take away from our video and survey is that subway music is as free as the air we breathe. But if you think it’s good and entertaining, you should do your best to tip into the open case or bucket. Almost everyone we asked alluded to an enjoyment received from public performance, and felt that musicians should not have to be auditioned or pay taxes. The courage of trying to make it with a guitar, violin, or pair of drum sticks on the streets of a major city seems to have earned them some privileges and respect from their urban-peers that others just don’t deserve or get. Make sure to check out part one of this three part series. And check back next Thursday for the final installment. Link to this article:
I’ve only waited about a decade to see Goldfrapp live, ever since taking a drive with my college roommate and hearing his copy of Felt Mountain. The songs were plaintive and dark, noir-ish but tongue-in-cheek. I wondered what they might be like live, and looked forward to hopefully to catching a show soon. Of course that never happened, Goldfrapp shunned America and went on to make four more exquisite albums and change their sound often. Transylvania caberet morphed into acidic, paranoid electro, which then birthed the radiant, acoustic comedown album, Seventh Tree, and finally ascending again with Head First, a frothy, neo-italo disco album full of abandonment and throbbing, pulsating dance tracks. Through it all, Allison Goldfrapp and her wizard producer Will Gregory only increased my curiosity and interest. Their songwriting grew better and better while their penchant for craft and creating sustained moods set them apart from the rest of the crowded pop arena. So with such an eclectic catalog to mine I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect last night on the opening show of their first real tour of North America. Luckily for the majority of the crowd, Allison and her backing band (all clad in various metallic skintight outfits) kept the set very dance skewed, weaving through their impressive oeuvre to cherry pick uptempo hits like “Ooh La La” and “Ride a White Horse”, update or electrify fan favorites like “Utopia” and “Train” and of course promote their newest set. Emerging from a giant silver mylar half moon, Allison, clad for most of the night in a jacket I can only describe as what vikings would look like had they raped and pillaged a VHS tape factory, was in full-on vamp mode. Falling somewhere between Madonna and Peaches, her golden mane constantly in a beautiful, windswept mess, she posed and preened, shaking her shoulders and seemingly staring into everyone’s eyes at once with her alluring yet slightly terrifying gaze. You get the distinct impression that Allison is a modern day Diva, not exactly in the “Jennifer Lopez demands 400 white lilies in her dressing room” vein (although I am sure she has her unique requests), but more of the fastidious, perfection seeking “if it’s not right, we aren’t doing it at all” kind of star. I have no doubt, especially after last night that she and her band are a creation of her pure will and creativity. That she and her larger-than-life presence could be more popular than Lady Gaga if she so desired, but this incarnation, a disco-clad chanteuse emoting heady, blissful songs about the torture of the heart is exactly how she prefers it. From sizzling opener “Crystalline Green” through seizure inducing renditions of “Alive” and “Rocket”, settling into an emotional third act highlighted by a poignant “Black Cherry” and finally capping the whole night off with a second encore consisting of a stretched out, super-pumped up version of their biggest stateside hit “Strict Machine”, it was a long time coming…but like the adage goes all good things are indeed worth the wait. Goldfrapp – Alive (Arno Cost Remix) (128 kbps) Link to this post Cream Team
Kristen Reger's show, Filthy July,  open's tonight at Fardom Gallery, Long Island City, Queens. Rat Kings Bed Bugs Broken Umbrellas
Below is the latest edition of our weekly feature, Stuck On Repeat. The premise is simple, we’ve asked all our contributors to submit one track and a brief write-up. The track can be new or it can be old, just whatever we could not stop listening to this week. These are the songs we’ve had Stuck On Repeat. :: selected by: V :: Kings of Convenience – I’d Rather Dance With You (256 kbps) Last night a decade-long dream came true for me when I finally had the chance to see the Kings Of Convenience live. It was everything and more than I’d ever hoped it would be. Eirik was soft-spoken and careful while Erlend was ageless, one part innocent, wide-eyed, goofy child and the other a grandfather figure, full of stageside storytelling. All week I anticipated hearing I’d Rather Dance With You and when it was finally performed the air was filled with magic. :: selected by: BryanB :: Tesla Boy – Liberating Soul (320 kbps) I have failed you. I contain gigabytes of useless pop culture information inside my head and yet I cannot for the life of me identify the song that Liberating Soul’s bouncey, contracting synth production reminds me of. It’s driving me crazy, and I have been listening to the song pretty much non-stop all week. I think Tesla Boy is trying to drive me insane by referencing music just on the outskirts of my memory, but whatever the outcome they have once again delivered another golden tinged slice of electro dance that bridges the abandon on the 80’s with the drop-dead-seriousness of the now. :: selected by: danosaur :: Kris Menace & The Dream – Walking On Lightning (U-Tern Blend) (320 kbps) Kris Menace is undoubtedly one of the kings of funky bassline dance music. His song Electricity is a supreme example of this on it’s own, but when U-Tern got his sticky hands on it… Fuuuu. The vocals are so perfectly situated to the song, you’d think this is the way it was always meant to be. The bouncy bassline thumps you along as vocals swirls around, every breakdown feels new and refreshing, perfectly timed and the lyrics are just as sweet and fun as the instrumentation. This song really is a new-classic. “I’ll circle the stars and bring you one back. :: selected by: Jams Dean :: The Anniversary – The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (128 kbps) I have been digging through my teenage-self’s taste in music recently. If you were hooked on Vagrant Records around 1998-2002, looking at your CD collection can be as awful as reading through high school love letters. My personal dignity won’t allow me to fully admit ever having been emo, but then again, who would? Growing up aside, this embarrassing gem of emotions I rediscovered is the first track on the Anniversary’s Designing a Nervous Breakdown album. It’s called The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and I think twelve years after its inception, it could still make any teen heart beat faster. Just don’t cry about it. :: selected by: Moneyworth :: Dominique Young Unique – Blaster (192 kbps) I get the sense that Dominique Young Unique, at age 18, wouldn’t hesitate for a second to steal Kid Sister, Uffie, and Rye Rye’s collective lunch money AND boyfriends. The Tampa rapper makes tracks that sound like she’s been eating way too much sugar since age 3 and somehow misplaced her Ritalin prescription. Her Domination Mixtape, which she released yesterday, whiplashes from abrasive, drudging wonk to bright dream-wavey synths to stripped-down B-more beats and somehow, impossibly, it works, with her yelling almost unintelligibly at rapid-fire speed and never calming down. I really hope this girl never gets paired with some sort of super-producer and keeps spazzing out and making no sense. Blaster, my favorite track from Domination, is the most creative use of the used-to-death Grindin’ beat I’ve ever heard. Link to this post Cream Team
Last week, in celebration of the July 4th holiday, I looked at the nation’s top five cities for music. The list, in no particular order, included New York, Nashville, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Chicago.   This week I have laid out a list of another top five, just as wonderful as the cities we would all expect to see, but the ones that usually fall through the cracks. It is not about how obvious they may or may not be; it’s just about how good the music is.     Austin: Everyone knows South by Southwest is awesome, but Austin is awesome the whole year-round. I have never been able to put my finger on what makes this central Texas city so damn cool. No offense to the rest of the state, but what is it about Austin that has all us liberal-minded democrats in the North thinking, “how that hell is that city in Texas?” Austin’s music scene began to really form a national image about twenty years ago, although its soul is much older than that. Of course Austin, being in the heart of Texas, began its climb to legendary music status in the country scene back in the thirties. Then, somewhere in the eighties, Austin began to earn its reputation as so much more than a country music town. Nowadays, music fans can enjoy everything from electronic techno venues to hardcore new punk stages. Austin is anything but one-dimensional. 6th Street has come to be recognized as one of the country’s greatest music miles. Austin’s own Channel 8 News has dubbed Austin the “live music capital of the world.” It may sound a bit pompous, but the moniker is not that far off. It just would have sounded better if it came from a music magazine somewhere beyond of the city limits.   Eugene: Eugene, Oregon’s music theme really began to blossom in the early nineties. You may say it rode on the coattails of Seattle’s grunge revolution, but there is an argument to be made that the reality is that it may have been the other way around. The thing that makes Eugene so cool is its ‘under the radar’ status. Beyond the late nineties swing-revivalists The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, no band from Eugene has become mainstream famous. Close in proximity to the larger Portland, Eugene is able to feed off the creative flow from the metropolitan area and university campus, yet ditch the pretentious self-righteousness that is often married to young urban bands trying to make it. Eugene’s music scene is like that party you went to where a bunch of musicians spontaneously started playing together, and the music was as magical and mystical as the night. No one trying to up anybody else, no one trying to impress anyone else, no one with a fabricated ego or style to be taken too seriously. If you are a music fan who thrives on the non-famous, and just loves that night of music that you wish would never end, spend a weekend in Eugene—you’ll be hooked.     Kansas City: KC is a funny one, because you don’t need to tell anyone from Kansas City or anyone who is versed in the history of American music that Kansas City, Missouri should be on the list. They know that. I know that. But a lot of the country does not know that. Kansas City has contributed two of the nation’s most famous and revered jazz musicians (Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins) as well as numerous blues players. KC is all about the jazz and blues; it’s like New Orleans, Chicago, and New York all rolled into one. Sitting almost smack-dab in the middle of continental America, Kansas City takes from all four corners of the country and mixes the music up to spit out a pure American sound. The city continues to attract musicians from all over the Midwest, adding a home-cooking, apple-pie flavor to the music scene. If it’s more than just music you are seeking, and you are after something down-home American, you can find it in Kansas City. Blues, jazz, funk, Motown, hip-hop, it’s all there, but there is something that makes Kansas City feel more red, white, and blue than any other music-city in the country. I am sure it has a lot to do with the fact that it is geographically landlocked—it acts like a magnet for the different musical styles it surrounds.   Charleston: The city with its own dance, Charleston, South Carolina has always been one of those Deep Southern towns that people often forget about when thinking of America’s great music cities. Charleston is smothered in that old Southern charm. The music scene in this picaresque town is of an all feel-good nature. When you’re chilling in Charleston, you aren’t there to interpret lyrics, start a revolution, or witness groundbreaking musical form; you are just there to have a good time. Charleston continues to produce that unique combination of quality music and a timeless dancehall environment that is soaked in ageless elegance. Unlike the rest of the country, it seems like Charleston never got over the hedonism of Fitzgerald’s jazz age. The state-recognized ‘IOP,” a distinctive stretch of land jetting along the coast into the Atlantic Ocean, houses some of the best venues on the eastern shoreline. If you find your summer plans involve a long drive between New York and Florida, make sure to plan for a few nights spend in Charleston. Walk the main drag of the ‘Isle of Palms’ and check out bands at the top-rated Windjammer, Pour House, or Music Farm, and get your Charleston on.     Minneapolis/St. Paul: Last, but certainly not least, are the twin cities in the land of a thousand lakes: Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. For some reason, the state of Minnesota is historic for pumping out a few of America’s most creative and recognized musicians (Bob Dylan and Prince among the top recognized). Maybe it is because it lies so close in proximity to Canada, and is naturally influenced by that laid back and liberal state of mind. Or maybe it is just that it is so damn cold up there most of the time, there is nothing else to do but sit by a basement fireplace and master an instrument. Whatever the cause, Minneapolis and St. Paul are creative epicenters. More recently, Minneapolis has revolved its style around the fresh indie rock scene, with Tapes n’ Tapes being one of the more successful acts to get their name known beyond state borders. Surrounded by thousands of miles of bucolic deciduous forest and lakes, and rooted heavily in early American folk music, Minnesota maintains the values of the pure American struggle song, but also finding new sounds to share its message. If you like having the option of hearing that acoustic campfire sing-along sound as well as American blues and rock, then Minneapolis is the place to visit. Link to this article:
How great is this??  Time Out NYC, New York's go-to resource for all things new & noteworthy, has just launched an online store for their Shopping Section.  So now all the weekly editorial picks for must-have fashion are just a hop, skip and mouse click away from joining your wardrobe!
What time machine did these kids hop at a 1966 Who concert that dropped them into 2010 Denmark? I definitely just found a new favorite band in Thee Attacks over their debut (yes, this massive album is a debut), That’s Mister Attack To You (available via Crunchy Frog). Their mod-era garage rock is energetic if not frantic, wound-up riffs pulsing alongside jangling vocals, handclaps and punctuated howls. You can feel the raw energy of the foursome’s young years (they are all in the area of age 20) in every lick, slap and shimmy. If you still think Small Faces and the Yardbirds are the shit and the entrance of The Hives made 1997 one amazing year, then fasten your Vespa helmet and let’s get going. Adrenaline, spirit and a whole lot of spit. Meet Thee Attacks. Thee Attacks – Love In Disguise (320 kbps) Thee Attacks – Twirling Around (320 kbps) Link to this post Cream Team
It seems like we see this same study every month. The gap between the wealthiest Americans and middle- and working-class Americans has more than tripled in the past three decades, according to a June 25 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yeah, but we’ve known that forever, right? Wages are stagnate, the majority of people have very little wealth (it’s much worse for women of color) while a smaller and smaller minority hoard all the cash. I posted a question on Twitter: “How many studies need to come out showing the huge wealth disparity before the government acts to fix it?” and got the usual snarky, flippant response I’ve grown to expect and love from readers. The standard response goes like this: the government knows it’s a problem, but the rich, connected people are the ones in power, they benefit from this feudal system, and so they vote to preserve it. I completely agree with that assessment, but there comes a time every few generations where that system becomes utterly unsustainable, and even the well-healed oligarchy must make some concessions to the serfs. Seriously – who in their right mind thinks this economic model can go on forever? Eventually, the whole thing will collapse and the rich won’t have a government left to protect their sweet little ponzi scheme. At this point, it behooves not only the poor to rework the system, but also the rich. No one  (or I should say very few people) are proposing a Communist utopia in which All Are Equal, and the government tears gold bricks from the desperate, clawing arms of the rich. Quite literally, the most radical mainstream proposals involve slightly raising taxes on the wealthy. It’d also be a good idea to increase the minmum wage and get people health insurance. That’s it. That maybe be all it takes from stopping the entire system from deteriorating. Yet, our wealthy overlords seem incapable of reversing their myopic governance. They demonize the poor and unemployed, and dangle benefits before their noses before ultimately yanking them away. They propose severe austerity measures in the midst of an economic recession, and casually discuss privatizing Social Security – one of the last meaningful government programs. And they can generally get away with abusing the underclass because the corporate state – assisted by both political parties – toppled the sole tool of the solidarity labor movement, the union. However, Bob Herbert writes that the new president of the UAW, Bob King, appears to have a grasp on the dangerous instability of the country, and an understanding of what needs to happen in order to rectify the problem. “My view of the labor movement today,” he said in an interview, “is that we got too focused on our contracts and our own membership and forgot that the only way, ultimately, that we protect our members and workers in general is by fighting for justice for everybody.” The fundamental issue is that “every human being deserves dignity and a decent standard of living,” he said, “and the whole point of the labor movement is to help make that happen.” In Mr. King’s view, the fight to organize workers and improve their wages and benefits is important, but it’s part of a much broader effort to improve the lives of individuals and families throughout the country and beyond. He is a believer in cooperative efforts and shared sacrifice, and is unabashedly idealistic as he outlines what can only be described as a new activism on labor’s part. He promised his members last month that the U.A.W. would be marching and campaigning and organizing — for jobs, for a moratorium on home foreclosures, for civil and human rights and against the mistreatment of immigrants, and for peace. “The Tea Party has been more vocal than we’ve been,” he said. “There is something wrong with that picture.” This is exactly what another man named King envisioned for his last proposed political movement, a Poor People’s Party, that would transcend racial boundaries and unite the underclass in a powerful movement that could push back against the tyrannical behemoths on Wall Street. As Hebert writes (and I recommend reading the whole article,) no one talks like this anymore. No doubt the Serious People will scoff at Bob King’s words, but then again, they’re the same  type of assholes who also laughed at Dr. King, and who have now brought us to this place of recession and huge wealth disparity, so perhaps we should ignore those condescending dismissals and forge ahead. Solidarity seems like a strange concept in these divisive times, but if workers remember and embrace the idea, it’s literally the only tool they have at their disposal to challenge the uncaring elite. — Update: Of course, it’ll be hard for workers to negotiate with total idiots. Link to this article:
I went down the block to Reckless Records Saturday afternoon to check out the instore featuring Future Islands. Albeit a weird setting for a vocalist as theatrical as Samuel Herring, their sound was impressive nonetheless. But while Future Islands were exactly what I was expecting (and also hoping for), I left wanting to hear much more from their opener, Baltimore’s Lower Dens, a new act fronted by the slightly androgynous and husky-voiced Jana Hunter. Currently touring with Future Islands, Lower Dens’ debut, Twin-Hand Movement arrives next month and if their in store set is any indication of the forthcoming album, I predict this band to be a quickly out from under the radar shining star of 2010’s second half. Hunter’s voice recalls the female folk heroes of the past, but as a band their sound is quite now, equal parts elevated lo-fi and drone pop. Lower Dens – Hospice Gates (160 kbps) Link to this post Cream Team
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Global superstars Usher and Chris Brown are set to headline Jamaica's Reggae Sumfest which takes place from 17th - 24th July 2010.  Reggae Sumfest is Jamaica's largest annual music event, attracting around 50,000 people each summer, including thousands of overseas visitors. The event celebrates Jamaica's musical heritage by showcasing the best of dancehall and reggae music, as well as bringing top R&B and hip-hop performers to the island.  Usher and Chris Brown will perform alongside other international and home-grown artists including Beenie Man, Shaggy, Bounty Killer, Tarrus Riley and Jah Cure.  Reggae Sumfest takes place at Catherine Hall, just a short drive from the centre of one of Jamaica's most popular resort towns, Montego Bay. In addition to the music, the festival offers delicious Jamaican cuisine and stalls selling arts and crafts from all over the island.  The main performance nights are Thursday 22nd July (Dancehall night), Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th July (International nights), with tickets costing from US $32 - $53 (approx. £21 - £35) per night. Discounts are available on multiple-night tickets.  All tickets can be purchased online at
Just recorded my first Live Studio session with a Norwegian band called Katzenjammer. It was a high energy session with constant switching of instruments and jumping heel clicks. I'll let you know when it goes live, but here are some pictures to hold you over till then. Scroll further for the video of their single "A Bar In Amsterdam".
A very clever boy I know (OK, my boyfriend) recently sent me this awesome photo: I loved it so much I had to know what it was from... turns out the source is a pretty great NY Times piece on the current state of couture affairs.  With an economy that's the worst our country has seen in a few decades, high-end fashion is fighting a loosing battle to maintain not just its consumer, but, apparently, its audience.  Left without people to design for, many top fashion-generators seem to have given in to defeat and surrendered bold statements and gaudy rebellion for widows' weeds.  A select few, though, have risen to the creative challenge and stood their ground, offering inventive solutions to the new challenge of economically sensitive couture. The NY Times article details the choices made by an industry built for gilt in an era of thrift.
I come across some pretty cool things on a semi-regular basis, not because I'm a magnet for them (believe me when I say I'm a dork) but because I live in NYC, work at BTR, and am dating a tech-geek.  With the combined power of those three sources, I'd have to try pretty hard not to absorb a few new & noteworthy tidbits here and there. And because I'm generally anti-stingyness, I've decided to share a weekly random list with you.  (Yes, this will be replacing the Etsy shops-of-the-week, though Etsy will most likely make an appearance from time to time.) So this week, I bring you: Illustration courtesy Levek 1.  Levek.  My new best friend (in my head).  This cool kid from Florida named David Levesque started making music about 2 years ago, and we can all be enormously grateful that he did.  The sound is beautiful, at times Bon Iver-ish, at reminiscent of Paul Simon on Graceland, his work is uniquely self-described as "Mickey Mouse tribal sounds," which will make joyful sense once you listen.  I promise. 2.  A(nother) new Aveda product:  Sun Care Hair & Body Cleanser.  From the company that's greener than the grass itself and has taken tender care of my difficult hair over the last fifteen years or so comes a detoxifiying shampoo that, in this woman's experience, is uniquely effective.  I have curls, and generally speaking the Aveda world keeps them bouncily in line but it does take the combined effort of a few different daily products.  Those add up over time, and every now and then a cleanse is called for to free my hair of product build-up.  So!  Things were feeling a little heavy at the roots this week & I trotted off to Aveda where I found this new love.  One wash & my hair is back in its bounce.  3.  My wardrobe has been in dire need of a little sprucing, but I haven't had the right window of time for focused shopping.  Yesterday I landed smack in the middle of an unplanned free hour-and-a-half, and since I was also smack in the middle of one of New York's several shopping districts I decided to start tackling Project "WTF Are You Wearing?!"  Forty-five minutes of Urban Outfitters and H&M left me feeling more confused than clarified, and it felt like time to get back to basics.  So instead of the summer dress search I was on, I down-shifted to the more straightforwards quest for jeans and a good white tee. Looped into Gap and after a little scrounging, walked out with jeans for $12 and a sparkling white tee for $10.  Not the most exciting purchase, I grant you that, but bargain basics are still worth celebrating in my book.  Especially when the new jeans can beautify your booty as well as these do: 4.  Last night I went to my first free Hudson River Park Pier concert.  New York generously hosts these regularly through the summer, and I'm so glad I finally got out to one.  By the time the concert started the day was winding down, and with a cool breeze off the river, good beer, great music and a perfect view of the sunset...  there was no better way to welcome a Thursday night.  (Check back in to our editorial review section next week for a full length piece on the concert, which featured Phosphorescent, one of my all time favorites.) 5.  Are you at a loss for good online summertime TV?  (Honestly, in the age of Netflix, probably not, but just in case...)  In some bored weekend Hulu wanderings I stumbled across a British show called Kingdom that has captured both my fancy and attention.  Starring veteran Brit actor Stephen Fry (who I love in almost anything) it follows the story of a dedicated lawyer and the quirky cases he deals with in a small coastal town.  If you were a fan of Northern Exposure or Gilmore Girls, I can promise you'll enjoy this treat from overseas.
The Soundcarriers is a band from the UK who released one of my favourite albums last year, their beautiful debut album ‘Harmonium’ . Now they’re ready with a follow up, ‘Celeste’, due for release on August 9 on the Melodic label. Their  music sound like a mix between kraut, psychedelia, the harmonic vocal pop of 60s/70s bands like The Free Design and modern bands like Stereolab or Broadcast (who probably have the same musical inspirations as The Soundcarriers have…) The album is full of wonderful vocal harmonies and melodies of another world, psychedelic instrumental passages and THE good feeling. The Soundcarriers – Last Broadcast Link to this post Eardrums music
In a culture where amateurism thrives, the music industry has particularly been mauled by an oversaturation of product. Everyone’s a DJ, everyone’s a songwriter, and everyone’s got a mixtape. Incidentally, consumer ears have acquired a fondness for inferior sound, so alternative routes are being implored to comb through the ravages.  Some artists find a lucrative outlet in licensing deals or bypass the system entirely by leaking music to online tastemakers. Others seek bookings in key festivals or city-specific showcases. Regardless, to survive is to traverse uncharted domain with no hesitation.   The Greene Space                  “New York’s always been a place that’s culturally rich,” notes Indira Etwaroo, executive director of WNYC’s The Greene Space and creator of “Battle of the Boroughs,” a competition to platform undiscovered local talent of all genres and ages. “There’s been a renaissance of music here throughout history, and we wanted to create a space for emerging artists to elevate their work.”   Getting booked nowadays is no longer a testament of skill rather marketing dexterity; a great musician who can fill 50 seats is easily overlooked for an inferior one who can fill 200. The Greene Space was formed as a musical showcase that directly connected talented performers with their listeners.   “Artists were chosen not merely based on technical proficiency, but on an innovative approach to their genre,” explains Etwaroo. “The most essential attribute in a good musician is someone who can cut through the noise and figure out what has not been said.”    Judges scoured through hundreds of submissions to narrow the competition down to five finalists, one of which was selected as the winner. No artist was alike, and all felt the struggle to fit into an industry more interested in the monetary value of their identity than the intricacies of their art.   My Cousin, The Emperor - from Brooklyn   “New York has high standards for music and access to so much,” comments Terry Quire of My Cousin, The Emperor, a team of four alt-country rockers from Brooklyn. The group regularly plays around the city, has music featured on Delta Airlines, and won an Independent Music Award for their songwriting, yet none live solely off their creative work. It’s a fact true of most musicians breaking out in this era.   “The bar is low in hip hop these days,” notes Mojo, an emcee from rap group, Dujeous, another finalist who’d even toured the world playing shows. “Commercial radio is driven by what’s hot in clubs, which is not the way it used to be. In those days, Tribe and N.W.A. could get played. Fortunately, there are other ways to get your music out there.” Joe Thompson and the Comfortable Catastrophe - From Queens For country band, Joe Thompson and the Comfortable Catastrophe, winner of the competition, there now lies the opportunity to open for a major recording artist at Summer Stage, one of the largest concert series in the city. After playing years with little recognition, it is a feat to instantly be seized upon.   Many musicians no longer seek record deals. Instead, they look to successful mercenaries like Radiohead, whose decision to release their work online at the purchaser’s price changed the business model altogether.    “It’s all about self-promotion and branding,”notes Rik Cordero, music video director for artists like Jay-Z and Nas. “Those with compassion, who can understand a struggle and turn it into something marketable, will have the most success.” Mos Def and Dan Auerbach (of the Black Keys)  photo: John Keets   Even executives have left previous roles for more nontraditional means. CreativeControl.TV sprung forth as a collaborative effort between entertainment mogul, Dame Dash, and directors, Coodie & Chike, who count Kanye West and Mos Def among their cliental. The project is an online venture to give both successful artists and rising talent a less repressive approach to their careers, while also embarking on trademark endeavors that bend genres and challenge conformity.   “In this day and age we’ve lost creativity,” observes Coodie. “It’s all about money. CreativeControl.TV is an avenue for innovative, talented people to express their art with full jurisdiction.”   The online forum follows a variety of figures, including neo-soul icon, Erykah Badu, buzz-worthy ingenues, Jay Electronica and Curren$y, and little knowns like The London Souls, as they pave their paths. It’s rawer than Dateline, less filtered than MTV, and quickly changing the structure for how talent can bring attention to their name. The team’s more recent conception, BlakRoc, an album pairing rockers, The Black Keys, with a host of hip hop stars, received praise from fans in both worlds of music, and found great success independently.   “It's a movement that joins all artforms,” adds Coodie, who can be seen with a camera in hand on stages across the country, as the company's outreach continues to grow and reinvent itself.   To make it in music now, it seems it takes such pioneers who can navigate the treacherous waters of renovation with ceaseless ambition and love for their craft.  Others will assuredly sink if they haven’t already. Link to this article:                                       
The Honeydrips are no more. You can download the farewell single, “Höstvisa”, from Sincerely Yours website. It’s a cover of a Swedish evergreen, written by Tove Jansson and Erna Tauro. Beautiful! If you need another gem to comfort you with after reading about The Honeydrips exit, you can go to our netlabel EardrumsPop and download The Honeydrips’ collaboration with Boa Constrictor, “Please Do Not Lie” from our “Between Two Waves” compilation. Boa Constrictor VS The Honeydrips - Please do not lie Link to this post Eardrums music
Dexter Filkins, an American writer from Cape Canaveral, Florida, who's been reporting from both Iraq and Afghanistan since 1998 for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, wrote a detailed and moving memoir of his experience as a journalist in the longest war to date in American history, titled The Forever War. I know it sounds like morbid subject material. Pehaps, not exactly a summertime beach-read. But sometimes depressing stories, when they're well-told, can make you happy. This is one of those stories.    Filkins is a discerning editor of his own experience, and he has a shitload of experience to draw from (over a decade in two countries where a week must feel like a year). The memoir is full of incredible anecdotes. Filkins recalls an episode where a Taliban soldier expressed his wish to execute him. Filkins, who was traveling with his translator at the time, describes how his translator, a local man, reached out and began stroking the Taliban soldier's beard. The soldier relaxed immensely and let them go.  Later, Filkins describes the Taliban huddled in their desert trenches during an American air raid. The American B52 (one of those enormous bomber planes from WWII) passes overhead and strafes the Taliban camp with bullets and missiles. After it passes, the B52 banks into a turn to come back for round two, but the plane is so big that it takes a half an hour to make the turn. During this time, the Taliban have nothing else to do but crouch in their trenches, trembling, waiting, and clutching their prayer-beads. Details like these changed the way I saw the Taliban.   When Filkins worked for The New York Times' Baghdad bureau, the amount that NYT spent on security is a staggering illustration of how dangerous Baghdad was at that time. First, the bureau hired a security adviser for nearly $1000/day, making him the highest paid member of the staff. Then, it bought three armored cars, "including a BMW once owned by the German diplomatic service," which alone cost $250,000. Then there was the life insurance the bureau bought for their staff. Which cost $14,000/month, for each employee, "an amount we figured indicated that the insurance company had determined that at least one of us was not going to live,” Filkins muses. Electricity in Baghdad only lasted for four hours a day, so the NYT bureau imported a generator "the size of a tool shed" from the UK. They had it trucked overland across all of Europe, through Turkey, and across the Iraqi border. It cost a whopping $60,000.      It’s not hard to see why the New York Times Baghdad bureau needed such security. At one point early in the insurgency, Filkins describes the "bottleneck" of wannabe-suicide bombers in Syria willing to die for the cause of jihad--there were so many of them that the insurgents in Iraq didn't have enough "work" to "employ" them all. There literally weren't enough crappy old cars for these guys to blow themselves up in. The human will for martyrdom literally outstripped the material resources available.    Then there's the Governor of Anbar Province, whom Filkins knew for a few years, who had to literally run from his car to the government building. I mean, the fucking Governor didn't have enough security to walk to the door from the parking lot.   Filkins witnessed his share of suicide attacks, and his memoir includes details that probably didn’t make it into his stories. Sometimes they'd find the attacker's hand or arm twenty feet down the road, handcuffed to the steering wheel from a blown-up car. Or they'd find out the attacker's foot had been duct-taped to the gas pedal. This way, even if the bomber had second thoughts, there was no going back.     Another terrifying and fascinating description in The Forever War is of young American soldiers, driving down some street in Baghdad or in some small rural town in their tanks and Humvees, when suddenly a couple of kids around ten-years-old would run out from behind a building and stand at the side of the road.    They'd wave at the Americans, and once they had their attention, the kids would draw a line across their necks with their tiny fingers. That's when the Americans knew to expect the rocket-propelled grenades, which would come flying at them from invisible shooters in unknown locations.  The chaos in Iraq was so complete, the government so fickle, the competing militias and insurgents and police forces so interchangeable, that the same soldiers who were Taliban one week were fighting for the Northern Alliance the next week.  Being a soldier is a job, and when the balance of power changes, and you wish to stay alive and feed your family, you must adapt. Filkins describes how members of the Mahdi Army, or of any of the numerous sectarian militias and death squads, could suddenly get hired working for the American-backed government.  All they had to do was sew the appropriate patch onto their old uniform. As long as the patch said "Police" or "Ministry of the Interior," that's what they were. If the Mahdi Army got powerful the next month, they'd tear the patch off, and sew on the patch of the insurgent militia who was paying them that week. It’s details like this that are the most disillusioning illustration of the ineffectiveness of the counterinsurgency. Link to this article:
Busking – the act of playing music or performing for voluntary donations in the public streets, parks, or subways. It stems from the Spanish word buskar, which means to seek or to wander. Over the next three weeks, as part of our “Live Music New York” theme, BreakThru Radio, will be taking a close look at musicians who perform in public places (mainly—the subway).   What are the rules to subway music? Are there any licensing requirements? Are these policies justified by the city, or a municipal tax-grab? Do you give money to the musicians, and if so, is the amount or decision to donate dependent on another variable, such as effort, quality, style, or looks? Should these musicians be permitted to play anywhere? Do you think these musicians should be taxed for the donations they receive from the public? And what about the musicians themselves—are they performing or practicing? How much do these guys make? Through writing, public polling, surveying, and other investigative work with the Ministry of Transportation Authority of New York, I, along with Videographer Hunter Stuart and culture intern Calah Singleton, intend to answer these questions (and many more) for you over the next three weeks.   Busking in New York is as old as the city itself. Immigrants arriving on the Battery Park shores who were not able to find work would turn to talents in singing, dancing, or performing magic and tricks just so they could earn enough money for food. In a small way, busking is one of those perennial professions that link this über-modern, 21st century city to its glorious past. Still today, we have immigrants and migrants coming to New York City and trying their hand at playing music on the streets just to earn some grub. Sometimes, when discussing the arts, its not that hard to see just how the times haven’t changed.   Of course it takes a little more money to get by nowadays, but the public are willing to give more too. What we don’t see as much anymore is the “sing for your supper” method; that being the wandering soul who shuffles into town and performs an act of song or comic theater in return for a meal and sleeping quarters from a tavern-owner instead of donations from the audience. Traditionally (and by this, I mean centuries ago), buskers were anticipated by communities to be more like news reporters than performers, and were relied upon for the statewide gossip of the day. Traveling minstrels soon realized that performing the news in an entertaining fashion, whether it be through comedy, song, or theater, would earn them more street-money and street-credit, thus the art form of busking began to evolve. Unfortunately, busking also began to evolve as the employment for the socially inept. Crippled, blind, and malnourished orphans extended the act of performing on a street corner for money into something that received donations out of pity rather than appreciation for the talented.   Today, performing on the subway or a street corner can usually earn you a fair (fare?) chunk of change. For every dollar you earn, you also get a couple hundred passer-bys, but that comes with the territory and is to be expected. Busking will probably never die. As long as there continues to be creativity in humankind, an appreciation for music and laughter, and Big Brother doesn’t squeeze the meat press too hard, people will always continue to play in public places. It is just a matter of what you want to do with it every time you walk by. Link to this article:
The self-titled debut album from One Happy Island is due to hit record shops on 5th July, released on Odd Box Records. I’ve had it at home for a pre-listen for some time, and it soon hit the top of my last-fm charts. The album shows the many sides of the band, from the calm and warm thoughtful songs to the fun circus-tunes with kazoos, ukuleles and brass-instruments. The album includes 15 songs, and when I first heard the album, my reaction was that this was a bit too much of a good thing. After a few listens, I wouldn’t put away a single one of the songs. The album is so varied that it’s not easy to get tired of it, and at the same time it’s very consistent in a strange way. Songs like the amazing “How To Hurt”, “Nomi, You’re a star”, “Cave City Sunrise” and “Elegant Elephant” are instant classics. Wonderful vocals, especially on “How To Hurt”. The rhymes on “Elegant Elephant” are no less than elegant, and the lyrics are far above average on most of the songs. 2010 has been an incredibly good year for indiepop so far, thanks to bands like Allo Darlin, The Lodger, The School, Dum Dum Girls, Math and Physics Club, Mittens, The Pains…,  etc., etc., etc.,….and One Happy Island. One Happy Island – Elegant Elephant Link to this post Eardrums music
Alright America, it’s your birthday—so let’s talk about some of your best music cities.   This week in Liner Notes, I am going to be discussing the nations’ top five obvious choices when it comes to America’s Greatest Music Cities. These are the cities that I would assume most people think about when discussing the top places in the U.S. to hear music. Next week’s copy of Liner Notes is going to examine five ‘not-so-expected’ places, but cities that should be considered nonetheless.     New York: It is not because I live here, BreakThru Radio is housed here, or every band out there wants to play here that I am beginning with New York City. The argument is more than obvious. Perhaps it is the fusion of cultures that has existed for centuries in this north eastern small town, or maybe it was a direct result of the great migration north that took place after the Civil War. Whatever caused it; New York City is one of the best metropolitans in the world for music, let alone the United States. Each day, New York music journalists are debating which neighborhoods within the five boroughs are the best for live music, thus part of me thinks it’s a crime to include Brooklyn under the same subcategory as Spanish Harlem. That’s what makes New York so great for music fans. The variety is endless. I mean really endless! One night I watched a Williamsburg German folk band play in the Bowery before heading up to Morningside Heights to take in a Nigerian ensemble headed by Abdoulaye Alhassane. New York’s greatness in music doesn’t stop at the “live venue” discussion; it is the history behind the locations and the never-ending recording studios, that make this city such a feast for music-gluttons. “Tin-Pan Alley” is now home to Def Jam Records. In the North you’ve got the legendary jazz club Minton’s Playhouse, and in the South you’ve got the iconic punk watering hole Bowery Ballroom. The list can go on-and-on. I need not oversell the obvious. New York City is a place for all music, American or otherwise.   Nashville: Nashville is Nashville because of its American-ness. Arguably the town that, if not gave birth to, fostered American music, Nashville, Tennessee has been sought after by musicians and fans from all corners of the country and beyond the Atlantic shoreline. From the Grand Ole Opry’s opening in 1925 to the current music-scene that is witnessing a revival of Honky Tonk, Rockabilly, and Pure Country, one cannot begin a discussion about music in America without placing “Music City USA” at the top of the list. Due to its geographical location at the heart of the South, as America developed its complex interstate system, all roads led to Nashville. This meant that young singers who wanted a shot at recording themselves were able to easily drive or hitch to one of the two Tennessee greats: Memphis or Nashville. The investment Nashville made into Country Music separated itself from Memphis, which was starting to get more into the uprising Rock and Roll style (such as producer Sam Phillips’ Sun Records). Today, Nashville hasn’t lost a step. It is still home to some of the best venues to take in a live show, whether it be the nostalgic Nashville country sound, or something a little more 2010, like hip-hop funk players The V C Strut Band.     New Orleans: Jazz, zydeco, funk, whatever; you name it—New Orleans has got it. But they have it with style, and that’s what makes the city of N’Awlins Louisiana so damn impressive. Should we be thanking la liberté de la Couture Français? Any way you slice it, New Orleans just has flavor, not only in music but in all facets of their society. It is no wonder the city continues to perpetually perform and produce some of the country’s top musicians. Maybe not in the “pop” sense of the term, but definitely in the “talent” sense. The thing about New Orleans is that you can’t go but one block without taking in some sort of live, underground, “I have no desire to be famous, I’m just doing my thang,” music. The ‘birth place of jazz’ continues to push the envelope and lead the rest of the nation in new forms of traditional music. Sticking with instruments and root-themes, New Orleans continues to impress. This is such a great musical city because it keeps its ego constantly in check and never takes itself so seriously. It is the holy ground for purists who care about the sound over the image or the income.     San Francisco: Will it ever lose its tree-hugging, peace-loving, “I’m gonna save the world with flowers,” image? Does it even have to? Much to the chagrin of a close San Franciscan friend of mine, I stick to the argument that, yes, San Francisco, California is one of the great American music cities; but yes, it is stuck in some sort of time trap. However, that is what makes it such a great place for music. Its history is not to be ignored. San Francisco’s sixties Haight-Ashbury scene and monumental Gay Pride vanguardism have assisted in developing it as one of the West Coast’s epicenter for great music. From jam band legends The Grateful Dead to nineties misfits Faith No More, San Francisco does have a vast range in style and sound. This is not even to mention its ability to throw an outdoor concert. Music festivals were made for places like the Bay Area. With its inspiring landscape of mountains, ocean, and countryside, San Francisco is probably the country’s number one place to take in a live show.   Chicago: Home of the blues; but so much more. Chicago, Illinois has a musical past steeped in the tradition of telling it like it is, and using music as a catalyst to make it all seem better. Like New York, Chicago’s thriving music scene during the first two to three decades of last century is a benefit of the great migration north. Mostly Jewish men seeking income in the recording industry and living in the slums of Chicago’s south side, related to the African Americans who too, were delegated to the Chicago slums. While the living was hard, the marriage between the two was a gift to American music. Chess, Alligator, and Cobra were all record labels that began cashing in and promoting the amplified sounds of the Delta-born musicians. Today, ‘Chi-town’ continues its legendary output. More than just blues, Chicago features some of the countries top jazz musicians, top hip hop artists, and top venues to take in a live show.   This is just a top five list. I know it is impossible to choose, and I am very aware of the cities that have been left out of this list. However, before you jump all over me for what I have missed, come back to Liner Notes next week to read about the top five not-so-expected cities that house some of America’s best music.   Link to this article:
“Local Park” is the first single to be taken from Seeland’s second album ‘How to Live’, due for release on LoAF recordings September 13th. The new song arrives in perfect timing for the Summer, and it’s got all the ingredients needed to be called a perfect summer-song. The label writes: “This little pop gem is the audio equivalent of strawberries and cream”… The album cover will again be designed by Julian House, known both as a musician in The  Focus Group, a label-owner of Ghost Box Music and a graphic designer/illustrator. He’s made cover-art for Seeland, Broadcast, Stereolab, Oasis and others. I’m really looking forward to this album! Seeland – Local Park Link to this post Eardrums music
The fundamental goal for any creative artist is to construct a unique identity that will establish their reign in the field. Without a distinct reference point, it is easy to get lost in a sea of monotony and lackluster impressionism.   These emerging musicians have selected names based on ethereal conceptions and an attachment to something greater than they know or completely understand. Perhaps it is by envisioning themselves in lieu of a larger presence that they allow for constant evolution, spontaneity, and an amplified place in the world of music. Meet Tiye Phoenix: a hip-hop emcee from Jersey. She’s collaborated with some of the finest in the game, including Public Enemy, the Bomb Squad, Rick James, Reflection Eternal, Nas, and Mos Def. Her skills as a producer and rapper have taken her far, but it is the strength of her individualism upon which she prides herself most, and her moniker was selected accordingly.   “Tiye was one of the great Pharaohesses from Ancient Egypt (Kemet). Born in Nubia, Queen Tiye was the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III, mother of Amenhotep IV (later known as Akhenaten), and mother-in-law of Nefertiti. The phoenix legacy is the story of a mythological bird that represents immortality, resurrection, and survival. I combined the two since they both have roots in Kemetic history. I felt these two names would symbolize a powerful identity.”    Emanuel has traveled to the West and back with his musical compositions and free bird spirit, but it wasn’t until his second go around in New York, that his band, Emanuel and The Fear came to be. An 11-piece orchestral rock group, the collective combines classical symphonic opuses with razor-edge modern beats to create a sound somewhat hipster, somewhat rugged, and somewhat beyond description.   “I called my band The Fear because it's a major theme in my writing and really everything in life. It's a theme that I'm into, but that leaves things open for us to represent ourselves in different ways. If we called ourselves Emanuel and The Geeks people might feel surprised by us presenting ourselves as ninjas or something. Fear allows for anything really.”     Wordspit The Illest has no set rhyme or reason to his sonic ruminations, rather he’s out to to have a good time, and perhaps shed some profundity on the world every now and then. The young emcee out of Brooklyn considers himself chief of New York ciphers, and will take on a challenge anywhere, anytime, on any street corner or parking lot (and he dances too). Though he’s solo as a performer, he deems his identity a coalition.   “The Illest is my brand: my music, business team, and fans. We are a unified collective—whether it’s the people behind the stage, on the stage or in front of the stage.  And all the people online who listen to my music too.  I’ve built a lot of relationships off Twitter alone. After the work is done, just connecting with this guy in Ohio who doesn’t know who Wordspit is and being like, ‘Check this out.’ The next minute he’s like ‘Hey, that’s awesome.’  He feels the connection. That’s the Illest.” Keep checking back to BTR for more band name stories and listen up for music from these artists on BTR.   Link to this article:
With the year half gone (or half left) it's time to reflect on some of the great music to come out thus far in 2010. Drop me a line with your BTR favorites and I'll be sure to highlight a few sets in an upcoming program. While I hate playing favorites, I have to say these few stand out: Travellers In Space And Time by The Apples In Stereo Two Thousand And Ten Injuries by Love Is All Parting Gift For A Party Girl by Criag Ramsey A Mouthful by The Dø New Home by La Strada Let There Be LightFM by LightFM In And Out Of Control by the Raveonettes Say Us by Zeus Fantasurreal by Setting Sun Juice Water by Quitzow Drop me a line with your favorite!
Photo by Kristianna Smith Sharon Van Etten has announced the release-date and title of her upcoming second album. It will be released on October 5th through Ba Da Bing, and will be called “Epic”. The album will include 7 songs, and one of them is the lovely “Love More”. The new record was recorded at Philly’s Miner Street Studios and features vocal assists by Meg Baird (Espers), Cat Martino and Jessica Larrabee (She Keeps Bees). A seven-inch is also due this summer on Polyvinyl. Sharon Van Etten – Love More If you haven’t downloaded our “Between Two Waves” compilation yet, you have probably missed Sharon Van Etten’s beautiful collaboration with Marie-Claire from Speck Mountain. Here it is (download the full compilation for free from Sharon Van Etten and Marie-Claire Balabanian – Keep Trying Link to this post Eardrums music
If you've ever attempted to master the drums, chances are that you've heard of JoJo Mayer. The Swiss-born drummer produced Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer (2007), a wildly successful instructional DVD about drum hand techniques. Though Mayer has never been formally trained, his various forays into jazz and drum 'n' bass electronica makes him the perfect teacher to instruct aspiring drummers worldwide. He is also currently working on a sequel about foot techniques. Mayer has been performing for most of his life. In fact, he acquired his first drum set at age two and made his public debut in Hong Kong at age three. Off to a precocious start, he got his big break when he was only 17 years old. That summer, he toured with jazz pianist Monty Alexander's group in the European festival circuit, which included gigs with Dizzy Gillespie and Nina Simone, and Mayer found himself at the forefront of the international jazz scene. Mayer's restless feet eventually led him to explore drum 'n' bass and jungle electronica as well. He moved to New York in 1991, where he began to experiment with club and house music. In 1998, he formed NERVE, an electronic collective that throws weekly "Prohibited Beatz" parties in New York and, more recently, in Europe and Asia. Because Mayer is not classically trained, he has developed a unique brand of drumming that is frenetic, distinct and highly accessible. An insatiable thirst for rhythm keeps him on his feet, drawing him to new experiences and ideas. As a result, Mayer's performances resume includes jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie and John Zorn but also funkier artists like DJ Spooky and The Screaming Headless Torsos. Mayer's NERVE is bringing "Prohibited Beatz" back to NuBlu every Thursday night this month. For more information, check out To hear more from JoJo Mayer, listen to this week's episode of "The Jazz Hole" with DJ Linus. For a little more JoJo Mayer click on this link for bonus interview material.
Figured i would give you guys a list of artists/albums I'm gonna be listening to (which means you should be listening to as well) for this holiday weekend. Country/Country-ish Albums (music for America...get'r done) Ween - 12 Golden Country Greats The Meat Puppets - Too High To Die Larry Pierce - Any album really Reggae Albums (Beach and BBQ necessities) Yellowman - Mister Yellowman Dub Syndicate - Echomania Dry & Heavy - Full Contact Punk (to explode alongside the fireworks) The Ruts - The Crack The Misfits - Static Age VA - This is Boston, Not L.A. Misc Stuff (just works for any vacation) The Grateful Dead - American Beauty Electric Light Orchestra - On The Third Day King Crimson - In The Court of the Crimson King
On record Nneka Egbuna traverses a staggering, dynamic sheath of musical touchstones; to be expected when your inspirations lie on two different continents. The Nigerian raised, European educated songwriter's US debut Concrete Jungle is an enterprising and engaging kind of listen, calling upon elements of afro-beat, folk ,funk, jazz, and neo-soul; a bit dizzying when written out, but easily recollecting the very best parts of artists like Lauryn Hill, Fela Kuti, and Nina Simone as it cycles through. Fresh off a weekend engagement with The Roots at their annual summer picnic, Nneka joined us in the hustling environment of NYC's Tompkins Square Park for an acoustic rendition of one of her album's songs ("Come With Me"), as well as two numbers ("Lost Souls", "Valley") we had previously never encountered. Here in the "concrete jungle" of one the city's more charismatic public spaces, the beautiful songwriter and her accompanist lean heavy on the sparse enchanting beauty of her song's roots, crafting the kind of soft and elegant melodies that make the surrounding chaos of the city seem to sizzle away in the early-summer heat. - David Pitz Link to this post Baeble Music
“Reggae”—I don’t even know where to begin.   Maybe that is because I don’t know enough about it (or as much as I should anyhow). Or maybe it is because Reggae has become the most unjustly pigeonholed, and ignorantly misrepresented genre of music known throughout the world. DJ Drew’s Reggae Hour sets out to disprove that myth. Bob Marley: Picture taken from Wikipedia   A common question debated amongst music fans is: “Who is the most famous person, living or dead, non-political, non-religious, in the whole universe?”   The most popular and best-argued answers: Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. I swear; you could walk into a small village in northern Laos right now, and chances are the bus-driver, the family-restaurant, or the local cigarette kiosk would have either a Bob Marley flag, a Bob Marley poster, or at minimum, some Bob Marley music kicking around on tape or CD.   Bob Marley did so much for Reggae. His music assisted in the entire international community recognizing and familiarizing themselves with his home island-nation of Jamaica. Marley’s worldwide success also contributed to the spread and philosophical learning of Rastafarianism. Through music, Bob Marley was able to give a voice to thousands of oppressed African-Caribbean’s, and share his Island-style music with millions of Africans, Americans, Europeans, and Australasians, helping create and provided a new way of thinking and hoping to several enslaved minority cultures across the Earth. There is nothing negative to be taken away from that. Nothing! So I won’t. King Tubby (the creator of dub)   However, Reggae stops there for a lot of (can I say “most”?) people. There in that lies shame. It is not the music’s fault, but perhaps the listeners (or lack thereof). When speaking with BreakThru Radio’s own DJ Drew, he expressed the same sentiments, articulating the “shame” of Reggae’s misappropriation in a much clearer way: “To many Americans, Reggae is seen as a novelty music.  Every time I see another Reggae Christmas album or cover attempt, I'm reminded of this sentiment. But to myself, and to an ever-growing community of serious Reggae fans, it is so much more.”   It is the “so much more” that DJ Drew reaches out with to listeners on his BTR Thursday programmed “Reggae Hour.” Placing a special emphasis on the “Dub technique,” Drew extends a perception of Reggae that may convert listeners previously expected to hear the limiting traditional Reggae sounds of a funky bass line, some steel drums, and finger-playing djembes, into discovering the soul and Reggae-rhythms of timpani, brass, and hip-hop styled lyrics, all of which are an integral part of the growing genre. Augustus Pablo (melodica king of reggae) DJ Drew explains the foundation and root principles of the Dub style: “Dub is a technique, first created by Reggae producers and engineers in Jamaica during the 70's, to remix a Reggae track they had just produced. Dub represents a pure love of the roots of Reggae, aka the ‘drum and bass,’ by stripping down a rhythm allowing for the emphasis of those individual parts, and then including effects that warp the space and time of the track.”   I have always said that the best music is always timeless. You know that sensation you get when you hear a band or song for the first time, and you think to yourself, “wait a second. What is this? Do I know this? Have I heard this before? I feel like I should know who this is, but I don’t. Is this new? When is this from?” In my opinion, that is one of the finest definitions of when music is exceptionally great. The songs DJ Drew plays as part of this Reggae Hour program share that quality. Just listen to “Tui Dub” or “African Landing” as prime examples of this method—songs that are timeless and refreshing all the same.   “When I do anything Reggae related, I always have Dub in mind. Whether it’s programming my show or playing in my band, I try to find a unique way to relate Reggae and Dub to my listening audience without watering down the Dub I want to play. So, within the sixty minutes of my show you might find some easy-to-swallow upbeat riddims [sic] mixed in with the darkest Dub you'll ever hear.”   The bottom line is, for all those who think Reggae is just Bob Marley and Shaggy—you need to start expanding your mind to the genres many different styles and techniques. DJ Drew is a great place to start. For all of you who think Reggae is UB40—you need to smack yourself across the face with a frying pan. Reggae has spread well beyond the Jamaican shores, as Drew proves: “I find international artists to showcase on my show, to prove the point: Reggae and Dub is worldwide, and not just in Jamaica and America.” Be sure to catch DJ Drew's latest edition of the "Reggae Hour" here on BreakThru Radio! And tune in for future episodes every Thursday on BTR. Link to this article:
Hey World! Well here we go again, another year of the Vans Warped Tour, the longest running summer festival in the USA. This year celebrates the Sweet 16 birthday for Warped Tour. I am excited to be on the tour again, DJing along with the sponsor The Truth. This tour really seems like summer camp for rockers. Its so much fun! We travel the country, ride on tour buses, bbq & party after the shows and rock out! This year the line up includes All American Rejects, Sum 41, Reel Big Fish, Pennywise, Andrew WK and a bunch of other artist. The festival also gives new and upcoming bands a chance to share the stage with some veterans of the scene. Indie labels also are flooded in the festival zones, handing out stickers, album samples and hosting autograph signings. Currently we are on day 6 of the tour. Last night we drove thru Hurricane Alex down here in the texas area. AND WE MADE IT !!! YAY! Shit was kinda wild, but hey the bus didnt flip over! And to be quite honest I am looking forward to the rain because the last 2 tour dates were extremely hot! we still have 35 more shows around the country and i will give you guys and update every few days. for now check out & for tour dates, rider bios and more! And if you come out to the show, look for the Big Orange Truck with me djing in it!
Ron Artest, the questionably sane Lakers guard who recently helped his team defeat the Celtics in the NBA finals, is riding high off his success, taking to the recording booth and the stage to celebrate his triumphant victory and opulent lifestyle. Artest, known primarily for his role in the legendary Pacers-Pistons brawl (aka "The Malice in the Palace") and his exceedingly bizarre behavior, likes to rap in his free time. As such, he appeared on Lopez Tonight to perform new song "Champion" with his crew, the Worldwide Warriors. You can't really understand the greatness of the song, however, without being conscious of it's place in Artest's oeuvre — "Champion", to say the least, doesn't exist in a vacuum. I first became aware of Artest's musical ambitions last year when my friend, still mourning the loss of the King of Pop, played me a song that helped her come to terms with his death — Artest's "Michael, Michael" (which contains the cathartic closing words: "even though I'm always strapped/I put down the MAC for M. Jack"). It really showcases the basic tenets of Artest's style: a simple, straightforward flow over no-nonsense beats, elevated by an irrepressible, wide-eyed earnestness. Sometime after this, Artest released the heartfelt "Afghan Women". The song is, at once, an appeal to Afghan men to treat their wives, sisters, and daughters better ("take your hands off her/show her love") and a plea for said women to let Artest caress them and treat them with the respect they deserve. In regards to the Afghan men he is quick to qualify his reproaches ("Now I know it's not all y'all who be treating these women wrong"). He shows a flare for the topical and, like his hero M. Jack, a belief in the transformative power of music. At heart, Artest is an idealist. Which brings us to his latest, the aforementioned "Champion" and, to be honest, it speaks for itself. The one thing I will say is that this is the first song he's made that I could actually imagine hearing on the radio. So he's improving! Or radio is getting worse. You be the judge: Sidenote: read the Wiki entry on Artest's controversies. Dude has done some weird sh*t. My personal favorite: "During his rookie season in Chicago, he was criticized for applying for a job at Circuit City in order to get an employee discount." - ben krusling Link to this post Baeble Music
Time to board the BTR tour bus again! This month we get the skinny behind life on the road from The Dum Dum Girl's Dee Dee!  Plus, a look at two sweetheart sets--Brooklyn's unstoppable dance duo Matt & Kim, and Baltimore's folk rock innovators Wye Oak-- both are playing the upcoming NYC Siren Fest!  Several of our favorite artists will be stopping there to strut their stuff before traveling on to the next town, and BTR gets to come too.  We’ll have a booth complete with giveaway goodies, so make your way to Coney Island and come check it out!   Sub Pop artists the Dum Dum Girls have had a big year of firsts. In 2010 the group has released their first full length album, I Will Be, they played SXSW for the first time, and just wrapped their first official European tour. All of these accomplishments and it's not even July. The ladies-about-town, comprised of lead singer and founder Dee Dee Penny and her three friends Jules, Bambi, and Sandra Vu, have given the production qualities and structure of '60's girl groups a makeover for today's music scene, writing on topics from psychedelic drugs ("Bhang Bhang, I'm A Burnout" ) to the identity theft of religion ("Catholicked").  Informed not only by the age of the beehive but by all subsequent musical decades as well, DDGs spin punk and garage-rock inspired licks into music, coloring the edges of sugar-pop with a darker crayon.  Not surprisingly, I Will Be was produced by Richard Gottehrer, songwriter of '80's girl group resurgence hits "My Boyfriend's Back," and "I Want Candy," as well as producer for vintage-singed rock peers The Raveonettes. A perfect fit for the retro sounds of Dum Dum Girls, who have paused, briefly, before heading back out on the road, ping-ponging from the U.S. to Europe and back through October. Dee Dee took some of that precious time to share a bit of her road-wise perspective. BTR:  You just finished your first major European tour. How was it? DD:  It was overwhelmingly great. I had a hard time accepting it was really happening. Collecting all of these priceless memories in cities all over, playing my songs with the girls, seems too good to be true. Primavera was a perfect, surreal ending. BTR:  Any new favorite places? DD:  Ravenna, Italy -- a wild, beach side show preceded by a delicious meal. BTR:  Discover any lovely new foods? DD:  A secret cocktail in Venice, Italy consisting of strawberry-banana puree, vodka, and something else. BTR:  Do any good shopping? DD:  London for vintage shoes and outrageous stage wear, and Barcelona for Deadstock sunglasses and yet another black dress. BTR:  How do you entertain yourself out on the road?  Any current favorite podcasts, albums, books, or must-watch hotel TV? DD:  Yoga podcasts, prank call downloads from Longmont Potion Castle, autobiographies, Rimbaud, and BBC World News. BTR: Are you inspired to write new stuff on your travels? DD:  I store it up on tour and it spills out when I get home. BTR:  Looks like it will be a busy summer for the girls; what are your fall plans? DD:  New EP, our own USA tour. Keep that promise for new material on your radar, and in the meantime be on the lookout for four women dressed in black with killer rock hooks headed to a city near you. Plus listen up for music from the Dum Dum Girls spinning here on BTR! Dum Dum Girls Live: June 30 - Bottom of the Hill* - San Francisco, CA July 01 - Echo* - Los Angeles, CA July 02 - Casbah* - San Deigo, CA July 03 - Detroit Bar* - Costa Mesa, CA July 15 - Slottsfjell Festival - Tonsberg, Norway July 16 - Arvika Festival - Arvika, Sweden July 17 - Bakken - Copenhagen, Denmark July 18 - Dour Festival - Dour, Belgium July 20 - Handelsbeurs - Ghent, Belgium July 22 - Valkhof Affaire - Nijmegen, Netherlands July 23 - Glazart - Paris, France July 24 - The 1234 Festival - London, United Kingdom July 25 - Tramlines Festival - Sheffield, United Kingdom July 26 - The Cluny - Newcastle, United Kingdom July 27 - Cabaret Voltaire - Edinburgh, United Kingdom July 28 - Sound Control - Manchester, United Kingdom July 30 - TBC - London, United Kingdom August 1 - Soundlabs Festival - Rosetto Degli Abruzzi, Italy August 2 - Soundlabs Festival - Rosetto Degli Abruzzi, Italy August 5 - Plage de Rock Festival - St. Tropez, France August 6 - Rote Fabrik - Zurich, Switzerland * = w/ Crocodiles   Matt & Kim are Brooklyn dance punk darlings Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino. The pair met while attending Pratt Institute, started dating, then started music in 2004 and haven’t looked back since. They prove that necessity is indeed the mother of invention with their full steam ahead approach that found them learning their instruments after deciding to start a band. While the approach might seem backwards to some, it has allowed Matt & Kim a certain freedom to risk, to play and to (gasp!) have fun with their new endeavors—luxuries that some artists, caught up in the worries of “the industry,” can’t always seem to afford. This is not to say the two don’t take their music and business efforts seriously. Within two short years, they had built a formidable online following through sheer DIY determination, playing in any and every venue possible and utilizing social networks to their full grassroots marketing capacity. Known for dazzling audiences both large and small with an inexhaustable enthusiasm, their success seems to follow a simple but fail-proof recipe: 1)  write a kick-ass pop song 2) spread the word online, then 3) shake your booty in live concert for 45 min to 1 hour. When asked in an Each Note Secure interview about what keeps them inspired on the road, Matt admitted that they often play top 40 hip-hop, defending its potential for creative ingenuity within the industry. Matt & Kim’s first self-titled album came out in the fall of 2006, followed by Grand in 2009 with the Fader Label. Grand’s hit single “Daylight” has been remixed several times and featured in a whole slew of media slots ranging from NBC’s “Community” to a fully translated “Simlish” version on The Sims 3’s indie rock “radio” station.  2009 brought them both an MTV Breakthrough Video award and a Best Video Woodie for “Lessons Learned” . No strangers to Siren Fest, Matt and Kim played the Stillwell Stage back in 2007 but this year marks their first return. Even if you can’t catch them on Coney Island, they’ll be touring pretty rigorously through the Midwest until September so do your best to hunt them down!  (Rumor has it that Kim has been known to try crowd-top booty dancing, so stick close to the front.)   Matt & Kim Live: July 03 - The Piazza at Schmidts - Philadelphia, PA
 July 06 - Lupos Heartbreak Hotel - Providence, RI
 July 17 - Siren Festival - Brooklyn, NY August 01 - Naeba Ski Resort - Niigata, Japan
 August 06 - Lollapalooza - Chicago, IL
 August 20 - Pukkelpop Festival - Kiewit, Hasselt, Belgium
 September 15 - The Westcott Theater - Syracuse, NY
 September 16 - The Beachland Ballroom - Cleveland, OH
 September 17 - Newport Music Hall - Columbus, OH
 September 18 - Majestic Theater - Detroit, MI
 September 19 - Metro - Chicago, IL
 September 21 - Majestic Theater - Madison, WI
 September 22 - First Ave - Minneapolis, MN
 September 23 - The Granada Theatre - Lawrence, KS
 September 24 - Ogden Theater - Denver, CO
 September 27 - Rickshaw Theatre - Vanouver, BC
 September 27 - Showbox at the Market - Seattle, WA
 September 29 - Roseland Theater - Portland, OR
 September 30 - The Fillmore - San Francisco, CA
 October 1 - House of Blues - San Diego, CA
 October 2 - Henry Fonda Theater/Music Box - Los Angeles, CA
 October 6 - The Clubhouse - Tempe, AZ
 October 8 - House of Blues - Dallas, TX
 October 9 - Austin City Limits Festival - Austin, TX
 October 12 - House of Blues - New Orleans, LA     This year's Siren Fest has a bit of a romantic theme with quite a few musically gifted duos playing the festival. Falling in line with this theme, Baltimore’s Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack are the pair behind the indie folk rock sounds of Wye Oak. Like their pop counterparts Matt & Kim, Jenn and Andy also formed through necessity, looking fruitlessly for other members before realizing they would need to be self-sufficient to find the sound they sought. So, while Andy keeps busy on simultaneous drums and keyboard, Jenn works with guitar and sings lead with a voice both tough and tender. The sound they create, like fellow Baltimore-based duo Beach House, is surprisingly powerful for such an intimate set-up. Personalizing the political and vice versa, the duo has drawn comparisons to indie vets Yo La Tengo, but if there is an invocation to be detected here it lies more with the roots-folk vibe of Fakebook than the “iconic” YLT sound of I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. Their debut If Children was first released independently in 2007, then again after signing with Merge in 2008. A sophomore album The Knot came out in 2009 to resounding critical praise, the band having successfully deepened the music and solidified their identity. With lyrics like “My creator/Doesn’t make a good neighbor,” April’s EP My Neighbor/My Creator bodes well for the new material ahead, too. At the start of a tour that will take them up and down the East Coast, they’ll be out on July 17 along with Matt & Kim, BreakThru Radio, and, hopefully, you!   Wye Oak Live:  July 17 – Siren Festival – Brooklyn, NY July 20 – Johnny Brenda’s^ - Philadelphia, PA July 22 – Rock & Roll Hotel^ - Washington, D.C. July 25 – Whartscape – Baltimore, MD August 17 – Daniel Street Club* - Milford, CT August 18 – Rock & Roll Hotel* - Washington, D.C. August 19 – Cat’s Cradle* - Carrboro, NC August 20 – Grey Eagle* - Asheville, NC August 21 – The Basement* - Nashville, TN August 23 – The Frequency* - Madison, WI August 26 – Schubas* - Chicago, IL August 27 – Grog Shop* - Cleveland, OH August 28 – Horseshoe Tavern* - Toronto, Ontario August 29 – Il Motore* - Montreal, Quebec August 31 – Iron Horse* - Northampton, MA September 1 – Mercury Lounge* - New York, NY September 2 – Middle East* - Cambridge, MA September 3 – Johnny Brenda’s* - Philadelphia, PA September 4 – Maxwell’s* - Hoboken, NJ   ^ = w/ Deer Tick * = w/ Lou Barlow   Link to this article:
Interpol's new music video for "Lights" features implied nudity, all sorts of shiny surgical tools, and terrifyingly slow movements. Apparently it's about "pheromone harvesting," which I guess involves people stroking people and people stroking minimalist art and people drooling rivers of milk. I guess. Anyway, they've moved up their album release date this fall by a week — the self-titled record is now coming out September 7th, and they've announced an extensive summer tour. Live recordings of two new songs, which the band recently unveiled at a show in Rochester, are up now over at consequence of sound. Video and U.S. tour dates below. -selden paterson          U.S. Tour Dates for Interpol          •    06/23 - Pittsburgh, PA - Mr. Small's Theatre     •    06/25 - Allentown, PA - Crocodile Rock Cafe     •    06/26 - New York, NY - Milk Studios (Creators Project Event)     •    07/24 - New Haven, CT Toad's Place     •    07/25 - Baltimore, MD Ram's Head Live     •    07/29 - Richmond, VA The National     •    07/30 - Norfolk, VA The NorVA     •    07/31 - Atlantic City, NJ House of Blues     •    08/04 - Montclair, NJ Wellmont Theatre     •    08/05 - Boston, MA House of Blues     •    08/06 - Clifton Park, NY Northern Lights     •    08/09 - Montreal, Quebec Metropolis     •    08/10 - Toronto, Ontario Kool Haus     •    08/11 - Pontiac, MI Clutch Cargo     •    08/13 - Milwaukee, WI The Rave     •    08/14 - Minneapolis, MN First Avenue     •    08/15 - Chicago, IL Vic Theatre     •    08/18 - Charleston, SC The Music Farm     •    08/19 - Lake Buena Vista FL House of Blues     •    08/21 - Miami Beach, FL - The Fillmore Link to this post Baeble Music
  Country Joe McDonald In October, 1965, at the Vietnam Day Teach-In at Berkeley, Country Joe McDonald began a habit of opening his concerts with what would grow to be known as the FUCK cheer. “Gimme an ‘F’. Gimme a ‘U’. Gimme a ‘C’. Gimme a ‘K’. What’s that spell? What’s that spell? What’s that spell?” Immediately after the call-and-response gimmick, The Fish (Country Joe’s band) would break into the Vietnam demur “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag.”   What this was, was protest. The setting was a common one for the late 1960s, a stage full of anti-conformist musicians, hippies smoking pot and dropping acid, dancing and making love, the whole time drawing attention to what they saw as unjust and unqualified government policy. What was perhaps even more brilliant, was the way many of the musicians were able to poke fun at themselves and the ridiculousness of their own counterculture, taking jabs at the extreme far left Hippies, Yippies, and SDS’ers.   Social protest is nothing new, but the recent Toronto G20 riots that saw cars burned, businesses completely destroyed, and over five-hundred arrests took the modern act of demonstration to a much uglier, and as a result, futile level. The only thing people are talking about in the hangover of Canada’s recent G20 Summit are the riots themselves. Nobody knows, nor seems to care, what side the violent attackers stood for or whom they represented, let alone what the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations accomplished.   Alas, there is to be plenty of material written on the subject from all around the world, so I shall do my best to refrain from the mundane opinion sharing on how poorly Ottawa delivered, and omit a verbal lambasting on the deplorable acts of Canada’s largest cowards. Yet being originally from Toronto, and having a general hate-on for protests and the people who participate in them anyhow (even before these cowardice insolents took to the streets of my beloved hometown), I can’t help myself from tying this week’s Liner Notes somehow back to the protest theme. The Freedom Singers, Newport Folk Festival 1962, (Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, amongst them) How will I do that? By looking at how we got from bands like The Freedom Singers (founded 1962), who encouraged people to hold hands and resist, without violence, actual injustices against authentic social monstrosities like Civil Rights inequalities and preemptive invasion, to bands like Mudhoney, encouraging uneducated insubordinates to mask themselves, create anarchy with no real effort to produce an alternative, and destroy property on the principal that one is allowed because of chartered freedoms. These are two very distant sides on a strangely similar spectrum. Lyrically, each side can be represented by two very different songs, decades apart, but both which seek the same message. Song 1: “We Shall Overcome” (1947 – a spin-off from an old gospel piece made famous by Pete Seeger as a campaign piece for the Civil Rights Movement). Song 2: “Killing In The Name” (1992 – the title track from Rage Against the Machine’s debut album and an anthem for a generation to bored to love but with nothing to hate). Allow me to point out the obvious first. Here are the six phrases repeated in “We Shall Overcome”: We Shall Overcome. We’ll walk hand in hand. We shall be free. We are not afraid. We are not alone. The whole wide world around. Compare with the repeated phrases in “Killing In The Name”: And now you do what they told you. Now you’re under control. Killing in the name of. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me. Two songs discussing the same theme—racism in America—with two very different messages. Where one preaches of hope, unity, and adversity through bleak times, the other elicits rage, antagonism, and vehement anarchy.   What has happened though, is that the act of social protesting has lost its one tactical edge—the unexpected. Every time there is any sort of meeting of international diplomats, major governing bodies, or colossal corporations, local authorities prepare and allow for protesting to take place. Since the late sixties, both the media and the public are caring less and less about “marches” and/or “demonstrations” because, in 2010, the people protesting have become as expected and conventional as the very agent they are wishing to protest against. A thousand people politely cordoned off in a predetermined protester square has no flash and therefore draws no attention. The stakes must be raised, and music is a great vehicle to antagonize the willing.   But at what cost and for what cause? In the past, one could join a noble cause and feel good about taking to the streets: woman’s suffrage in the early 1900s; labor-struggle and union organization in the 20s and 30s; nuclear war in the 40s; Civil Rights in the 50s and 60s; The Vietnam War in the 70s. Some songwriters (certainly not all) were able to capitalize on the proletariat point of view, and write well thought-out poetic diatribes giving voice to a group waning in a superior government or corporate shadow. However, the last twenty to thirty years have been a relatively peaceful and progressive period. This is the longest we have gone without a large-scale (meaning many nations involved) war, and with the exception of G.W. Bush’s unlawful and downright vindictive invasion of Iraq, there have been few major causes to protest over the last three decades (I am very aware of the many events warranting “protest” since the 1980s. However, for the sake of brevity, I offer the argument that, in America, there has been very little in terms of catastrophic change as a result of high demand by public demonstration).   During the sixties, especially with song laureates like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, major record labels and marketing firms discovered the value (both psychological and monetary) in the teenage-angst musical formula. There is an innate desire in all of us to challenge authority during the adolescent years of our life. High school kids want music that supports and answers their natural call for rebellion. The problem with an album like Rage Against the Machine’ 1992 Killing In The Name is that it only incited white suburban middle-class brats to get pissed off at their school principal. While Zack de la Rocha sang of racism in the Southern police squadrons, spoiled teens took the lyrics as inspiration and a call-to-arms to disrespect all and any form of institution or adult-represented establishment. Unfortunately, for the rest of society, some of these kids have become stunted in their intellectual growth, and instead of passing through the adolescent phase of anti-institutionalism and anti-establishmentism, they have become members of anarchist groups like Canada’s “Black Bloc,” and are continuing to spend their time listening to bands like Rise Against, System Of A Down, or Score Throat while completely missing the point. Most of the time, the writers and bands are quite articulate and compose some brilliant, if somewhat misguiding, lyrics about the current (mis)state of affairs. Pete Seeger Sadly, the fans of the bands are rarely ever as versed or intelligent as the musicians themselves, and instead of inspiring people to seek change in this world, what results is a group of misguided idiots dressing up in Halloween ninja costumes who go around trashing urban centers with rocks, bats, and flamethrowers, using any causal chance they get. The Black Bloc has turned Martin Luther King Jr. and intelligent social protest with meaning into the ten year-olds on William Golding’s deserted Pacific Island.   Pete Seeger must be rolling in his grave. How sad. Link to this article:
This weekend I was back in Boston for my best friend's wedding. (Not of course before catching Keaton Simons's first night of his tour with REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar at Mohegan Sun in CT which ROCKED!) It was great to be back in the Bean and soak up the familiar sights, sounds and tastes. But the wedding was really something special. Correction: the dancing at the wedding was really something special. I've always found DJ'ed weddings to be... funny. Here's the most important person of the event all dolled up in a magnificently formal gown and she's dancing to Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back." My best friend, the beautiful bride, wasn't casually dancing, oh no. She and her entire line of cousins were wiggling their butts all around the dance floor and shaking their breasts like they were auditioning for a Vegas show. It was AMAZING! Quite possibly some of the best, most enthusiastic, passionate and sexy dancing I've ever seen live. (I am completely serious.) And, it was all done in formal wear, which makes it a million times cooler and, by default it makes it hilarious as well. Congratulations to Mellissa and Juliano! "You can do side bends or sit-ups, but please don't lose that butt..."
The elaborate gilded ceilings and baroque ceiling painting of the Hammerstein Ballroom (which feels more like stage for an opera than a concert) was perhaps the perfect stage for Goldfrapp's show last night, which exploited the brilliant lighting, smoke and space of the giant venue to create a grand theatrical dream. The band appeared in the echoes of "Voicething" as the thick cloud of smoke dissolved from the stage, and Alison Goldfrapp, with her signature golden locks and a dress made of sparkling black strands that danced in the wind of the stage, only needed to stand to inspire the crowd to rioting enthusiasm. There are two kinds of Goldfrapp fans: the casual listener, and then, the Goldfrapp fan, who goes for extravagant costumes and sings along to every song with a fervor, who dances according to the gospel of the heart of every Goldfrapp song, who treats Alison as the awe inspiring goddess. While it might be hard to imagine that dedication from listening to an album, in the midst of the brilliant lights and Alison's striking image, with the thunderous accompaniment of the beats and her exquisite voice, it became difficult for the first group not to shift into the latter. From the mix of anthems from Goldfrapp's latest record, lush and catchy choruses, optimism filled songs to old favorites like the frenzy that "Number 1" inspired, it seemed impossible that anyone would have not felt an ecstasy during the soaring chorus of "Alive." It was during the latter half of the show that this obsession and liberation blossomed into full effect. An exquisitely sex appeal filled "Train" rendered dancing that was wrought with tension. Followed by a relentless version of "Ride a White Horse" and then, the ultimate delivery of "Ooh La La" with an entranced audience screaming the chorus and dancing to a brilliant end. While it seemed impossible that Goldfrapp could possibly top that finishing track, after an excruciatingly long call for an encore, Alison returned in yet another change of costume, this time with the stage dipped in a brilliant blue light, and wrapped in a glow-in-the-dark silver puffy concoction like a spaceship around her upper body to create the religious moments of "Utopia," when the stage and the beauty of her voice, the song made the audience all converters. Then, a silky rendition of "Black Cherry" that while haunting, still left the crowd hungry. After a (slightly shorter) demand for another encore, Alison took the stage in a looser, pink feathery piece that seemed ideal for a hope filled version of "Rocket," where the chorus had the crowd with hands in air and eyes closed, singing along with the fullest conviction. And what could end the show but the legendary "Strict Machine" that took Goldfrapp to fame? Just when it seemed enthusiasm could not get any higher: when Alison sang "I'm in love with strict machine," the Hammerstein was every bit as in love too. Link to this post Baeble Music
San Francisco’s Ty Segall -- alum of The Epsilons --- has returned with another full length! The album titled Melted runs counter to the main tropes of many of today’s garage rock bands. The songs do not celebrate sloppiness or speed, and the production's low-fi scuzz  comes across as an aesthetic decision rather than simply the product of limited access to "better" recording equipment, or as a means to add character to otherwise bland songs. Instead, Melted is a fully realized album, start-to-finish, more in the spirit of the Microphones than Jay Reatard. Ty doesn’t seem as concerned with turning out the perfect riff or chord progression (though there are plenty of those)  as he does with thoughtful production, exploring a range of guitar tones, drum textures, vocal mixes and arrangements to transform simple songs  into intricate, psychedelic garage-punk that draws on influences from the Beatles and T-Rex to the Ramones and Nirvana.   The album creeps to a start with the lethargic strumming of a clean guitar and Segall’s sleepy croon accompanied by a harmony of “oohs.” It’s a kind of “calm before the storm,” because after a few repetitions a squeal of feedback signals the entrance of a deep, sludgy bass line and pounding drums. On the ensuing verses Segall’s vocal shifts to a Jack White snarl and the song concludes with a synth that sounds like a broken European ambulance.   On the second track, “Ceasar,” things change gears: acoustic guitar, muffled bass and lone snare drum that sounds like a knock on the door. During the song’s crescendo Ty’s vocals --- think Joey Ramone doing a Marc Bolan impression --- disintegrate into digital fuzz and we’re treated to a plunking, Kinks-eque guitar solo.   Another highlight is “Girlfriend” where the guitar’s crunchy reverb and the compressed drum thuds serve as back drop to a catchy double tracked vocal and hand claps a-la 60s Phil Spector.     The album’s sixth song, "Mike D’s Coke," sounds like a hallucinated Coca-Cola commercial set to a mechanized drum beat. The track opens with an echoing repetition of the lyric “Drink Coca-Cola…Drink Coca-Cola with me,” (basically the only lyric in the song) and ends with a hypnotic guitar line that disappears just as it hits its stride. It is the kind of non-song that borders on the  superfluous, but, in the context of Melted's other fully realized songs, works as kind of a weird side-show to the main attraction.   According to the Goner Records website this record plays best at maximum volume. However, I encourage the repeat listener to take Melted for a spin on a solid pair of headphones to soak up all its production quirks. Segall's blend of acoustic and electric guitars, piano, synth, distortion and delicate croons  make Melted a rare treat in a genre that often falls into the trap of a one-size-fits all formula of fast, sloppy fuzz.   RIYL: The Oblivions, Coachwhips, T-Rex   For more on Ty Segall check out his BTR Artist of the Week  profile HERE.   Dates:   June 30 – Sled Island Festival – Calgary, Alberta, Canada July 1 – Sled Island Festival – Calgary, Alberta, Canada July 2 – Media Club – Vancouver, BC, Canada July 3 – East End – Portland, OR Link to this article:
Congratulations to Julian Lynch!  This morning, the God Bless Weirdmerica long-time favorite was awarded Best New Music on Pitchfork.  The highly coveted distinction is no surprise to us a BTR- we've been longtime fans.  Now you can say you heard him first here!
After laying relatively low since 2007's 23 (which we caught them touring behind), New York's own Blonde Redhead are ready to drop new album Penny Sparkle this fall. The album, featuring the downbeat "Here Sometimes", boasts production credits from Van Rivers & the Subliminal Kid who previously worked with Fever Ray on her critically-acclaimed self-titled debut. BR have been crafting their signature brand of dreamy pop rock since the mid 90s and the new album sounds like it will be a further maturation of that sound. Or, you know, maybe not! Either way, give the opening track a listen, catch them on tour, and get Penny Sparkle when it's released 9/14 on 4AD. (Also, take a look at the wispy cover art). -ben krusling Link to this post Baeble Music
Yeah, it's hot in nyc for sure, right now. BTR is hot right now for sure I know that. Look at all the programing on the website. It really don't get no better than this.  WE HOT!!!   When it's hot its hard to concentrate on things you have to do. There is so much going on I don't know where to start.  First , I'm excited that I maybe going to Africa, Senegal in a few weeks. The paper work is going thru and it looks like it's going to happen. We going all the way out there, me, Evil Dee & Mr. walt to do a party, a party wow!.  The promoters also are telling me they want to shoot a movie on a couple of hip hop legends from nyc. They want us to be in the movie. So we might be going back to Africa twice to shoot the movie which i heard is suppose to be two weeks.  If I do make it to Africa I'm going to kiss the ground, I will have it on video .. I can't wait. In the meantime if your reading this blog come out to my party @ Club Sutra July 4th 2010. Free entry, no dress code . 16 First avenue and 1st street. Doors open 10pm get there early the line will be crazy.  Also I'm on the road again Friday June 25th to Montreal  club Headquarters.. Canada..Me and Evil Dee going up there to rock..I have my new passport so I have no worries getting over the border. My first passport is torn to shreds I've traveled so many places in the past 6 years, the passport is done. Shoutout to everybody who came out to Brooklyn Bowl last week with Talib Kweli & Jean Grae & friends.. I've been on the road with these great mcs and I never get tired of seeing them performed. ohh i forgot..I have a mixtape out on the streets called 50'mcs...there are alot of new and up and comers on the cd...find it on the internet if u can..I'm already working on part 2.   Last but not least.. I will be in LA July 2nd for the movie premier of this Karate hip hop flick.  I'm a big Lakers fan so I'm gonna celebrate some more while i'm out there. Here's the link to the  movie flick check it out... be back soon to talk to you again.. 
To the U.S. government, Christopher “Dudus” Coke is Jamaica's Al Capone. But for many Jamaicans, he's more like Robin Hood-and he's also a player in the local music business.  After the U.S. government issued an extradition order for Coke on Aug. 25, 2009, over alleged drugs and arms trafficking offenses committed in the United States, a number of reggae artists headed into recording studios to voice their opinions on the man known in Kingston as “the President.” Foremost among them was veteran roots reggae singer Bunny Wailer, whose “Don't Touch the President” portrays Coke as a benevolent “Robin Hood from the neighborhood.”  “Dudus is a man of peace who makes sure people in his Tivoli Gardens community don't commit crimes,” says Wailer, a founding member of the Wailers alongside Bob Marley.  Among Kingstonians, stories abound of how Coke has funded children's education, paid for senior citizens' medication and reduced crime levels. But that's in stark contrast with Coke's image as leader of a gang widely blamed for more than 1,400 murders. Coke is the current leader of Kingston's notorious Shower Posse, co-founded by his late father, Lester “Lloyd” Coke.  The Jamaican government declared a state of emergency in the capital city May 23 as police fought gun battles with Coke supporters who oppose his extradition to the United States. The subsequent violence has reportedly led to the deaths of more than 70 civilians as police and army units continue their hunt for the alleged drug kingpin.  His music business connections involve his Tivoli-based company, Presidential Click, whose offices have now been converted into a police post by the authorities. It stages two major annual concerts: August's charity show, Champions in Action, and the free pre-Christmas extravaganza West Kingston Jamboree. Both events have featured some of the biggest names in reggae and dancehall including Shaggy, Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Queen Ifrica and Tarrus Riley. Their future is now uncertain.  The most recent West Kingston Jamboree, held Dec. 7, 2009, at Tivoli Gardens' community center, was notable for the public ending of a feud between dancehall superstars Vybz Kartel and Mavado. In front of several thousand cheering fans, the pair embraced and performed songs together. By brokering their appearance, Coke ended a longstanding musical war fought initially through the artists' ultra-violent song lyrics, before spilling over into intermittent skirmishes between their rival fan bases.   “Getting warring gangs in Jamaica to sign peace treaties is something Dudus did regularly,” Mavado's manager Julian Jones-Griffith says, “so Mavado and Kartel looked at it like, 'If he can stop men out there from killing each other, then what is our lyrical feud to squash?'”  Through the years, Coke has been name-checked in several dancehall songs-not surprising, given popular music's tradition of romanticizing outlaws, from “Stagger Lee” to the Mexican drug lords extolled in modern-day narcotics.  Two of the songs that have mentioned Coke were Wayne Marshall's “It's Evident,” which revels in “rolling high like the President” and Soltex 3000's “Killa Walk Prezzi Bounce.” Both were initially issued in 2006 on Greensleeves Records' “Redbull & Guinness” compilation.  Others have taken a more tongue-in-cheek approach. “Which Dudus,” the title track to the album released in January on Boardhouse Records by Twin of Twins' (brothers Patrick and Paul Gaynor), asks, “How dem go look for Dudus and dem nah find bin Laden?”  Current circumstances have revived attention for “Which Dudus,” with plays on Jamaican commercial stations including Hitz 92 FM, IRIE FM and ZIP FM. “It's just social commentary, about the respect he commands from people,” Patrick Gaynor says. “It's not political.”  Wailer claims he recorded “Don't Touch the President” as a message for Jamaicans, not for commercial purposes. But the song, which was released digitally in October 2009 through his Solomonic label, is widely available at online stores, including iTunes. No airplay monitoring data exists for Jamaica, but the song has been picking up airplay during the state of emergency on stations like IRIE FM and Roots FM.  The reggae veteran adds that he wrote the song-its prescient lyrics warn of civil unrest in western Kingston-because he knew “what would result from moving him away from his people; they haven't even touched the President and yet so many people have died.”  International coverage of the bloodshed has brought gloomy predictions from Jamaica's government of hundreds of millions of tourism dollars being lost as visitors stay away. But some local industry observers believe it may also be a watershed moment in the evolution of dancehall, which has been widely criticized for its violent lyrics.  “The unrest may cause a shift in lyrical content, forcing artists to look deeper at the messages they send,” says Dylan Powe, a former A&R representative at Atlantic/Big Beat Records. Powe signed reggae acts Inner Circle and the late Garnet Silk to the label in the early '90s and is currently the manager of Kingston-based Swatch International sound system (known as Swash International outside Jamaica).  Despite his pro-Coke stance, Wailer concurs. “It's the uplifting messages heard in roots reggae that put Jamaica on the map,” he says, “so our artists need to get back to that.”  Source:
Anoraak delivered a nice surprise yesterday by sending out the first song that’ll end up on his first full length. It only took one listen to be transported back to 2008, hearing Frederic’s music for the first time. Not much has changed since the first time we heard ‘Nightdrive with You’ and thats fine by us. This is just getting us that much more excited for the release this summer. 
Anoraak – Above Your Head Above Your Head is a smooth journey of heartbreak and love, just as we’d except from Anoraak. Its the kind of song that makes you want to forget anything and everything bad that people have done to you. Its the perfect kind of song to listen to alone, because it brings out such conflicting emotions that you need to pay attention just to filter through whats going on. I imagine that people could turn this song into a great love song, or a heartbreaking tale of love lost. The one thing we’ve always maintained about this kind of music is that generally its melancholy, heartbreaking, and yet at the same time hopeful and triumphant. Much like with Nightdrive With You, this song reaches those feelings and takes them into the sky. Its a song for midnight drives and long nights staring at the ceiling. For beautiful girls and losing yourself to someone else. We talk about themes of innocence a lot with this kind of music, but Anoraak and his songs take things to an entirely different level. You cant HELP but feel like youre 12 years old, before any of the real world could get to you and break you down. All in all, its just great to hear Anoraak back in the fold. Link to this post We Are Binary
Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys What is Bluegrass? Well, it’s a hell of a lot more than a lawn from Kentucky, I’ll tell you that.   Bluegrass is a style of music that is steeped in American history. Its harmonies and compositions illustrate, layer after layer, the story of the American song. From the frontier of the West to the recent troubles with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, in one solid Bluegrass album a listener can learn much of America’s past. It does it all with a sound that is frozen in time—a sound that paralyzes you for a moment, wondering, “Wait a second. Have I heard this before? What is this? It sounds like 1932 Woody Guthrie, but he’s singing about President Obama!” Put best, Bluegrass host DJ Moguls describes it as a musical form “where tradition meets innovation.” Moguls explains, “That’s really what my show is about – tradition and innovation. "The Green Mountain Bluegrass Hour" plays the old staples of the scene but also represents the new generation’s interpretations.”   Perhaps the one constant theme to Bluegrass is its refusal for glamour and sensationalism, instead remaining persistent to the topical everyday workingman theme. The International Bluegrass Music Association describes this exact formula when explaining the history of Bluegrass in America: “[As] settlers began to spread out into the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky and the Virginias, they composed new songs about day-to-day life experiences in the new land. Since most of these people lived in rural areas, the songs reflected life on the farm or in the hills and this type of music was called ‘mountain music’ or ‘country music.’”   From ‘country music’ sprang Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, first appearing at the Grand Ole’ Opry in 1939. It is a safe argument to make that this was the very beginning of Bluegrass. It wasn’t something that would die quickly either. However curious it may be for a digital-sounding 2010, Bluegrass is making its way into the major metropolises of the U.S. today. “I’m really ecstatic about how bluegrass is thriving in the cities, particularly New York,” DJ Moguls tells me. “I’ve seen some of the best bluegrass, from some of the genres top legends to your common NYC subway picker, right here in Brooklyn.” In support of Moguls’ claim, just this past Wednesday, modern Bluegrass vanguards The Punch Brothers played the Music Hall of Williamsburg to an enjoyable and, ahem, crowded crowd.   BreakThru Radio’s "The Green Mountain Bluegrass Hour" is a great way to become acquainted with the Bluegrass sound for interested music fans foreign to its style, and at the same time expose listeners to some of the more cutting edge Bluegrass styles for the more established Bluegrass enthusiast. Moguls’ setlist covers all ranges: He opens up his show playing contemporary Burlington, Vermont string-quintet Possumhaw, follows up with the Seventies flatpicking guitar solos of Danny Crary, and returns to the modern progressive styles of Chris Thile (leader of the aforementioned Punch Brothers). It is all in there, and the more you listen the more you will become hooked.   In the coming weeks of BreakThru Radio programming, our DJs will be focusing on representing the sounds of The World Cup. No, we will not be playing hours of vuvuzela drone; but we will be representing the tournament’s nations through the bands and songs that come from each country. This poses a question (debate?) on what and who will represent the U.S.? Will it be our Hip-Hop? Indie Rock? Jazz? Blues? Country and Folk?   How about Bluegrass! Listen to DJ Moguls’ "Green Mountain Bluegrass Hour" on Sunday afternoons and try to convince yourself that this is not the sound of pure Americana. You won’t be able to do it. From the soloing fiddles, to the percussive-like slap style on the banjo, to the harmonic lyrics about commonplace perseverance in the face of adversity, Bluegrass is America’s music.   Light-years away from how the rest of the world may view the American dream (you know—the one that is portrayed on Reality T.V. shows like The Hills and Jersey Shore. Or the world of the 21st Century rapper that is sensationalized on MTV. Or the subterranean badass punk that is exposed through globalized Indie Rock culture), Bluegrass lays its roots in American simplicity, honesty, and truth. DJ Moguls sums it up well: “I’m attracted to bluegrass because it is such an honest genre. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to everything from Fela Kuti to Wu Tang, but there’s something sincere about Bluegrass – there’s no flashing lights, just a few sets of strings. Pretty impressive.” Be sure to check out the latest edition of "The Green Mountain Bluegrass Hour" with DJ Moguls on BreakThru Radio!   Link to this article:
We been busy as bees. Dj Hanabi has been finishing up some much needed classes at the University of Kansas and DJ Hanabi has been traveling about the country. Check out my latest round of Holga pics @
Paul is a producer we’ve been keeping an eye on for quite some time, and have really taken entirely too long to post. His classic French House sounding songs with a melodic root hit us in the heart strings in a way only the French can. His tracks just somehow make you feel warm and safe… And they make you want to fall in love with the next girl you see on the street. Obviously I’m helplessly in love with practically every girl I meet, but it’s songs like his that make me this way! He has TONS of great tracks on his myspace, so it was quite hard to chose what to post. These two songs, in the end, are just the best of the best. These deserve headphones and closing your eyes. Make these songs the soundtrack to your life today. Paul – Someday… Together! You know how there are days when you can just feel invincible? I often get this way when I’m feeling good, and I put some headphones on and take a walk around downtown here in Los Angeles. Sun shining, some good tunes in my head… its like you just fall in love with being where you are in that moment. And the music is always the catalyst. ‘Someday.. Together!’ is that kind of song. When I hear it, it makes me feel like today is that day. Today I am invincible. Today I something special is going to happen. There’s just no doubt about it. Paul – Take Me to the Limit Take Me To The Limit is like a energized, youthful Lifelike track. Much like the track above, it just lifts you up to a place you weren’t sure you could get to. Like a lot of the music we love here at Binary… its a bit melancholy, but never loses the element of hope. Take It To The Limit isn’t necessarily breaking any new ground, but one thing if for sure… He can bring the emotions to the forefront, and do it in a way just as convincing as someone like Lifelike. (PS… This track BUMPS. His bass sounds are just exquisite). It just grabs you… Like seeing someone you think you recognize around a corner. Or blinded by the sun. Your brain starts to play tricks on you, and your imagination just runs wild. In some ways thats what I think Take It To The Limit is really all about here. Just pushing your emotions and your mind to a different place, to a different level. As I mentioned. This is just scratching the surface of the extremely talented Paul. Head to his myspace to get a better taste of all of the great songs he’s got to offer. Link to this post We Are Binary
Something very strange happened at the June 8th primary in South Carolina: an unemployed veteran with no political experience, no funding, no campaign signs, no website, no cellphone, no computer, who did no campaigning, who lives in his father’s basement with $114 to his name, and who is facing felony obscenity charges, beat his opponent (Vic Rawl—a judge and four-time member of the state legislature) with 60% of the vote. This man may become a United States Senator. His name, as everyone knows by now, is Alvin Greene. Greene leaped to the forefront of public attention in the past three weeks, most notably for highly amusing, widely-circulated video interviews where he has come off as completely unprepared to run for US Senate. (In one, he nervously asks halfway through the interview, “Can we end this?”)   The backlash against the bizarre phenomenon known as Alvin Greene was swift and varied: within 24 hours of his nomination, the Associated Press reported that he was facing felony charges on having shown pornography to a college student, and the South Carolina Democratic Party Chair immediately asked him to relinquish the nomination. Then there were accusations that Greene was elected through voter fraud, and that he was part of a subversive Republican ploy to throw a wrench into the Democratic machine.  Next, a South Carolina legislator questioned whether or not Greene was mentally sound. This came alongside deep suspicion at how Greene, who is unemployed, was able to pay the $10,440 filing fee to enter the primary (a fee that is higher than many other states’ fees). Greene allegedly paid the fee from a personal checking account, but refused to show documentation of the transaction. Next, Vic Rawl, who actually did a significant amount of campaigning in the state (17,000 miles of driving door-to-door, for example), and who was feeling, understandably, that there might have been something unfair in the primary results, issued a formal protest. This past Thursday, though, the South Carolina Democratic Party’s Executive Committee
Chile is exploding onto our scene in the same way Russia seemed to in 2009. I remember the first time I heard Tesla Boy last year and thinking, “WHAT IS THIS… WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE MAKING THIS???” It felt like this music couldn’t have just appeared from thin air. We’ve got something today that reminds me a lot of how I felt that day. Imagine a less overtly retro Tesla Boy, add more guitars, and a more western flavor, and you would have Mecanico. We got an email from the Chilean duo last week, and it took less than one listen before Kyle and I were frantically texting each other lauding the songwriting and style that these youngsters possessed. And so here we are, introducing you guys to Mecanico (kudos to Trashbags for writing faster than us!) For fans of this kind of music, we think they’re an act everyone should be keeping a very close eye on. So, here is Barcelona, a track that represents pretty much everything we believe in here at Binary. 
Mecanico – Barcelona Like a perfect breath of fresh air, Barcelona feels like some “Bright lights pushing you downtown.” Listening to this song just makes me ready to follow these guys wherever they tell me to go, even if it is, “walking towards the edge”. It’s like one of those perfect dance floor affairs where all you can do is jump on for the ride, try and make as much eye contact as possible, and do your best not to pass out. I’d like to point everyone towards listening to the interplay between the guitar work and the bell synths that make up much of the sonic landscape. There’s a level of emotion that you can achieve by using electronic and live elements together, that you just cant reach with one or the other. FEEL THE NIGHT // WEVE BEEN TRYING TO BRING HER TO THE OTHERSIDE I do hope this is just the beginning we’ll hear from these guys. With Chile appearing to be the new hotbed for progressive pop leaning electronic music, lets hope these guys aren’t the last new act we’ll find! We’re quite pleased to be introducing you to these guys. Head over to their myspace to get acquainted, and be sure to tell us how you’re liking ‘Barcelona’. Link to this post We Are Binary
This week, BreakThru Radio is featuring the very eclectic and imaginable sounds of the San Francisco-born Ty Segall as part of our on-running “Artist Of The Week” segment. To accompany the superb introduction to Segall’s music and personality that was posted by BTR writer Courtney Garcia earlier in the week, I thought it would be pertinent to ponder the motives and livelihood of the non-professional musician. To quote directly from Garcia’s article (which I recommend you read in full), Segall represents the modern musician who “has no lofty expectations of rising to musical stardom… [and who] is relatively happy in his current position, which is a balance of work and music. He spends half his week in an office, and the other half in the studio or on the road.”   Brian Jonestown Massacre   So what is it that makes some musicians content with writing songs and performing for a small group of loy(c)al fans versus those who could care less about music and just want “rock star status,” even if it is only as a one-hit wonder and lasts less than a year? To examine such polarity, I needed to narrow down the massive array of music out there and pick one representative from each group. On the one side, we have Anton Newcombe from Brian Jonestown Massacre, the twenty-year-old cult-followed band from San Fran (oddly the same city Segall is from). On the other side we have Wheatus, Long Island’s 2000 heroes with their MTV-crazed Teenage Dirtbag.   The song "Girlfriend" on Ty Segall’s most recent album release Melted has all the makings of a Brian Jonestown Massacre tune. In fact, the whole album is very Anton Newcombe from start to finish; many different sound qualities and levels, a rotation of instruments, a mosaic of musical expressions and impressions, loads of electronica distortion, and simple harmonies with accompanied punk-like screaming. For Ty’s sake, it should be a massive compliment to be compared to such musical genius as the Brian Jonestown mastermind (and at the same time, for Ty’s sake, let’s hope he doesn’t fall into a similar mental state as the Brian Jonestown eccentric). What Melted is years away from is Wheatus, the self-titled album released in 2000 by the band of the same name. After the massive pop hit "Teenage Dirtbag" appeared in the film Loser and the television show Dawson’s Creek in 2000, the band rocketed to international fame, reaching top three positions in Australia, the UK, and here in the United States. I can personally remember watching them enter the MTV Video Music Awards in 2001 where they were the biggest hit at the show, crawling away from thousands of teenage, screaming fans. It is fair to say that for a window of time, Wheatus were bona fide rock stars enjoying all the associated stigma and privileges.   Wheatus   So, where do these two bands end up years on down the road? It might go something like this: Imagine sitting in an airport lounge fifteen or twenty years from now, and you bump into Anton Newcombe and take up a conversation. Chances are most of the people out there would be like “Who? Brian Joneswhat? No, I have never heard of you. Are you still playing?” “What the fuck do you mean ‘am I still playing?’ Of course I am. I’m a musician in a band you dumbfuck,” at which point Anton walks away from you insulted.   However, if the same occurrence were to happen with Wheatus front man Brendan B. Brown, the conversation would be something more along the lines of this: “Wheatus? I don’t think I know your band.” “Do you remember the song "Teenage Dirtbag"?” “Oh! Shit yeah! I remember that song,” and then you begin singing, “I’m just a teenaaaaaaaage dirtbaaaaag baby,” making a complete ass of yourself. “I don’t know anything else by you guys. What are you up to these days?” you ask. “Ummm, not much. The band folded a few years back and now I’m married, got a few kids and am sellin’ real estate over in London.” (It should be noted that according to their official Web site,, Wheatus is fully together at the time of this article and working on their fifth album “Pop, Songs & Death: Vol. 2 – The Jupiter EP.” As well, they continue to succeed in terms of record sales and ticketing in the UK).   Why do some musicians choose to never give in to the executive labels like Columbia or Warner Bros., instead raving on with the noble battle to write, produce, and play their own music under independent labels like Goner (whom Ty Segall is currently with)? Is it because the music is more important than the money and the fame? Probably. You see the good thing about indie labels like the ones featured on BTR is that they are music families where the musicians are given near-complete autonomy. The goal with independent labels is to create and maintain the type of environment where art reigns supreme in the face of marketability.   Yet, other acts are quick-willing to jump at the signing to a major label the first chance they get. But what they soon learn is that they are entering a domain where musicians and bands are forced to co-write tracks, like "Teenage Dirtbag", under the guidance of corporate-owned producers and mixers who exist for the pure purpose of selling bubblegum pop to mimic MTV/Facebook cultural fads. Their fifteen-minutes is worth every minute, but its industry-credit suicide.   I just can’t put my finger on what makes musicians like Ty Segall say things like, “My life is awesome. I just hope before I die I do something rewarding, like be a teacher.” While John Mayer says, “It’s almost charity work, what people have done, turning other people on to my music.” How can one musician speak so clearly and humbly while the other can be such a douchebag? It makes me wonder whether or not I fall victim to like the person for who they are and what they represent rather than the music they produce.   Link to this article:
I previously posted Part 1 on my blog; enter Part 2 of Stereotyping people by their favorite indie bands. Part 1 is also linked via below if you'd like to check out both. My personal favorite: Modest Mouse People who expressed legitimate concern regarding the state of humanity when J.D. Salinger died.  
It’s been a good amount of time since a song has grabbed me at first listen like So I’m Jo’s new song Air has. From the first bars of the song, straight through an extended breakdown that feels like clouds look, this song put me into a trance. 20 listens later and it’s still putting me into a dream that I’ve never lived but that I imagine every day. Not surprisingly, So I’m Jo hails from Australia, and like some kind of perfect blend of Cut Copy and Van She, they’re putting themselves firmly onto our radar with this amazing track. Lets get straight to it. So I’m Jo – Air They sing “Its a clear day” no less than 20 times in the song, and for me, that’s what really sets the tone for the song. We’re always talking up parties, friends, and fast paced times these days. Binary was pretty much founded on these ideals. There are times when all you need is one person, and all you need is a clear day. While Aeroplane-like pulsing synth stabs decorate the sonic landscape, So I’m Jo puts into motion a swirling path of fresh emotions that paint a picture of two people, freshly smitten, on a path to the coast. Sometimes you just need to get away. Leave everything behind and just blast away to the coast. Heading away with someone you just met, or someone you’ve known forever… Warm skin, hair flowing in the wind… When all of life’s troubles can be washed away as easily as the sand from your feet. This is what this song feels like. The kind of day when tomorrow doesn’t even exist. On top of everything else, the best thing is that this song capitalizes perfectly on the mood it sets within 10 seconds of the note. Harmonies dance through the verse, images of ‘Two Toned Silhouettes’ floating through my head. Through the breakdown I can’t help but feel like I’m 16 again, my legs in the water splashing around off the dock. All it takes is one look. And So I’m Jo delivers big time with this one. It’s on repeat, and I suggest that you put some headphones on, close your eyes, and let this one transport you to somewhere nicer. Link to this post We Are Binary
My friend Allen McDuffee has been busting his ass on a new blog called Think Tanked that you should all check out. Today, he posted an interesting little nugget about AEI’s Charles Murray, a white supremacist, but the “socially acceptable” kind that gets to write New York Times op-eds. In a post titled “Arthur Sulzberger Needs YOU!,” Charles Murray takes his distaste over his payment from the New York Times to the AEI blog. To all my fellow ink-stained wretches, a heads up. I got my check from the New York Times for an op ed that was published a few weeks ago. It was for $75. Not that anyone has ever paid the mortgage by writing op eds, but $75 for 800 words written for The Greatest Newspaper In the World is… how shall I put this? Weird. Do you suppose the red ink has really gotten that bad? Yes. It’s true–not good at all. But what’s weird, actually, is posting something for the New York Times complaint department on the AEI blog. Yeah, the writing world is a real harsh mistress, isn’t she, Charles? This particular criticism isn’t only odd, as Allen pointed out, but also darkly hilarious. Here we have a white supremacist finally speaking up, not to defend his horrible beliefs, but to complain about his pay from the nation’s supposed shining example of journalistic integrity [insert hysterical laughter here]. At the same time, the media has been trying its damnedest to ignore the frequent and increasing instances of right-wing extremism in this country, a trend that I have reported on at length. I wrote the following last month: There has been a surge in right-wing extremism in the U.S., copiously documented by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, but which was also predicted by Homeland Security. In fact, the report warned that right-wing extremists, who are “angry at the economy and the election of a black president” might recruit GWOT veterans. I have been writing about how white domestic terrorism has slipped from the media’s radar, but sadly, it seems like the government is also uninterested by the surge in right wing extremism — possibly because such violence doesn’t fit the helpful war narrative of the “dangerous other” being brown, and from a desert landscape. There have been a couple recent domestic terrorist attack that have been largely ignored by the media and government: Robert Joos Jr. A firearms and explosives expert suspected of involvement with two white supremacist brothers in the sending of a bomb to the office of a municipal diversity officer was sentenced to 6½ years in prison in Missouri on Tuesday. And then there is the unknown man who bombed a mosque in Florida. Unlike in the case of Faisal Shahzad, these bombs actually detonated. In a rational world, these stories would probably receive considerably more coverage than the Shahzad incident, but again, Shahzad, a Muslim Pakistani-American, fits the narrative of a “dangerous domestic threat with foreign roots.” Joos and the unknown man don’t fit that character description. C&L also highlighted this extremely disturbing story that somehow didn’t make it onto the national media’s radar. It kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it, why Arizonans — and particularly the Arizona media, not to mention the national media — never picked up on the case of Shawna Forde and her gang of rogue Minutemen, who invaded the home of a Latino family near the border in Arizona and shot them, killing the father and his 9-year-old daughter in cold blood as she pleaded for her life, and wounding the mother — who managed to get her own gun and shoot back, wounding one of the killers. Even more incredible, really, is that this 911 call from the wounded mother received so little attention at the time, much less that it did not become a focus of Arizonans fretting about violent crime. You can listen to the 911 call by following the link. All I can say is it’s heartbreaking, and that really doesn’t do it justice. This woman just witnessed the murder of her daughter, and her husband. She was shot by the extremists, managed to fend them off with a handgun, and she’s apologizing to the operator for cursing as she sobs, “Oh my God, I can’t believe they killed my family.” So here we have all the classic “media friendly” elements of a story: high drama and violence. If such a story went down in the northern suburbs to a white family, there would be armies of network news vans parked across lawns – camped out for days, weeks, months. But this happened in the poor south, to a [spit] Latino family. The media barely touched the story. Because there has been so little scrutiny of these right-wing extremists, people like Russell Pearce feel comfortable enough now to organize his neo-Nazi pals to patrol the border with weapons. As I blogged back in May, Ready and fellow neo-Nazi Harry Hughes have been going on illegal alien “patrols” in Pinal County’s Vekol Valley, dressed in camouflage and armed with assault rifles. “Camouflage or earth tone clothing [is] preferred,” according to the announcement. “Bandanas, balaclavas, or other identity concealing items are permissible and encouraged.”Now Ready has announced a “Border Ops” alert for this Saturday via his profile on the white supremacist New Saxon site, inviting participants to “bring plenty of firearms and ammo.” Ready’s statement promises that, “This is the Minuteman Project on steroids! THE INVASION STOPS HERE!” That’ll end well. Domestic extremism is now so tolerated, and in some cases, actively encouraged by sitting politicians, that neo-Nazis feel like they have carte blanche to parade around, wearing camouflage in the desert, shooting Latinos. Awesome. The extreme right feels so unthreatened by the sane members of society that the only backlash the media has felt for their shameful one-sided coverage of terrorism — something only brown foreigners do, but doesn’t apply to white guys who fly planes into an IRS building, or blow up US mosques — that the only complaint they’ve received is from another white supremacist. Murray, whose work has been called “a scabrous piece of racial pornography masquerading as serious scholarship” by Bob Herbert, didn’t have much to say about neo-Nazis gunning down brown people. The man just thinks $75 is chump change. I kind of agree. Some of Murray’s conservative colleagues may disagree with us, though, and accuse him of “shaking down” the Times. Seriously, Murrs. Calling them out on the AEI blog? What up with that? PHOTO: The Bell Curve. Some other book I found on Google images by searching "Charles Murray white supremacist" Link to this article:
Sorry to be so slow in posting this! Check out Olivia's video for Siddhartha: More on!
Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} So recently I was thinking about a some things, as I do; No matter what the human act is, at one point it did exist in its most raw and pure form.  I think people are naturally drawn to this side of things as it appears to be truthful and real.  At the same time though, millions of people enjoy being entertained even if the entertainment was a complete fabrication.  Since this is a music show let’s discuss that!  Some people love to look at Pop artists and say that their music is fake, while some guy that you listen to who put out one 7” that sold 50 copies on some random label in the 90s is clearly the real artist because he made music for the love of expression and no other reason.  The problem I have with that is that even the biggest Pop stars where regular people at some point in their lives.  They had to do chores around the house, played some kind of high school sport, and even had to practice singing or whatever it is that they do.  If you go to a 5th grade piano recital you would never criticize the performers for not being genuine, and if that 10 yr old recorded himself on a Fischer Price tape recorder and put out a record would he gain the same respect for his raw purity? So I say, lay off the Pop stars!  Their music may give you a headache, it may be completely shitty and written by a team “Hit Makers”, but at one point even they were real people with real lives…and as it goes, when they get to their mid-30s  they will return to life, selling real estate and playing piano at home for their kids and dog.  They may Pop up again on some reality show but all that does is further prove my point.  Being regular is cool, and we are all cool.  So next time you listen to White House and think that this crazy dude’s rawwww art is groundbreaking, just think that at some point even he had to take out the trash, wash the car and may be he could have been 8 years old playing hide-and-seek with Madonna or something? Also, pointing out why something sucks doesn't make you sound more intelligent than other people. 
SayCet is from Paris, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s from the same alien world that Sigur Ros is from. A world full of emotion, heartbreak, and icy mountains surrounding you at all times. Strangely, SayCet has slid under the radar of many of our ‘producer loving’ friends in the blog world. This is most likely due to the fact that you could never dance to a SayCet production, but what they’re missing is some of the most heartbreaking, beautiful electronic music being made at the moment. He’s just released a full length record, which we’ll cover later in the post, but I’d like to explain how we found him and how he’s progressed since. We first heard SayCet sometime in early 2009 when he remixed Anoraak’s Nightdrive With You, a song that we already we’re holding with some reverence. He took the song and turned it into a journey through the death throws of a tumultuous relationship. Like a bad dream come to life, the spooky melodies and reversed vocals do wonders to extract the melancholic emotions from the original. Wrap yourselves in a blanket and fix yourself some tea before you listen to this one. Anoraak – Nightdrive With You (SayCet Remix) “You drive us down to the sunset.” Just listening to this song brings me back to feelings of intense heartbreak. I don’t have any specific memories tied to the remix, but it just makes me remember walking aimlessly around, not knowing how to handle losing someone. Sometimes things in your life happen that cripple you so totally that your body pretty much shuts down… The sadness swells and swells until you just can’t take it anymore… Listen to the buildup of this song, it sounds exactly like that feels. It’s not a fun thing to think about or feel, but to be honest, those kind of emotions are what being human is all about. The fact that this song can extract those kind of emotions is exactly what makes it so successful. SayCet – Easy Over a year later, and SayCet has come out with a release of his own. Staying true to his style, but adding breathy, gorgeous vocals to the mix, SayCet’s record embraces the icy sadness of the Anoraak remix, but takes it to another entire level. There’s something about hearing what sounds like an innocent, broken girl singing. I can’t even be sure of what she’s signing about, but to me, its none the less heartbreaking. In some ways, only being able to catch brief glimpses of the lyrics makes it all the more emotive. “I heard ’say goodbye’ twice,” in particular just calls out to me. The slow buildups that SayCet delivers in his productions are the kind that can make you forget about what you’re doing and take you to places that you rarely think about. As I’m listening to this song, its making me remember this one particular day in elementary school. I was very much in love (as much as you can be at that age), with a girl named Johanna. She was tall, had long brown hair, and was quiet, which even at that age made me very intrigued. I wrote this girl a note, explaining how I felt about her… obviously had a friend deliver it to her… and then waited. When the end of school came around, her friend came over to me to explain that she just didn’t ‘like me like me’ the way I did. This was devastating. Completely and utterly devastating. So I walked home, the longest way I could think of. I think it took me like 2 hours to walk half a mile. And even though I was only 10 years old, I think that this song could have easily been the soundtrack to that walk. Moral of the story? Whether you’re 10 or 90, you can fall in love, and it can be just as exhilarating and heartbreaking as it can when you’re 15 or 25. Life is wonderful and awful. SayCet, more than most musicians around today seems to understand this fact, and he capitalizes on it beautifully. If you like this song… Please go buy the record! Its really fantastic. Lastly… Enjoy SayCet’s video for Easy, which given how beautiful it is, fits quite nicely here. Link to this post We Are Binary
I am in Switzerland right now, enjoying some time off with my family and friends. "Time off" sounds a bit misleading though, as I have a busy week behind me with a few concerts here in Switzerland. The shows in St. Gallen and Frauenfeld were fun, I was the featured guest with the Claude Diallo Situation ( I also had a show closer to my home in Lucerne. It was a fun jam and I got a chance to play with my dad again and a local singer, next to catching up with many friends. Greetings here from Switzerland and see you all in NYC very soon.
I'm on my holidays at the moment, in New York, the home of Breakthru Radio. I was here last in November, and it's great to be back. But the gist of this brief entry is that I'm busy having FUN, so I'll tell you all about it when I get home at the end of the month. I hope y'everybody is also having some fun. And if not, do something about it! Over and out, Jason (Mr, if you're nasty!)
This week I had the amazing pleasure of chatting with Emily Anderson, a genuine ecologically-minded Renaissance woman.  Emily has worked for several years as a Marketing Expert with a few of the major players in the New York fashion and style world, including Donna Karan, Vanity Fair and Martha Stewart, and she now utilizes her skill set as a sort of environmental consumer advocate. In 2005 she branched out on her own, pursuing a path through her passion for writing, and in 2007 published her first book Eco-Chic Wedding.  With a strong conviction that the concerns of both consumer and environment should be central to modern business practices, Emily offers sane guidance to those seeking a sustainable lifestyle.  A companion to her first book, Eco-Chic Home was published in early May of this year.  In addition to her own publications, Emily maintains a beautifully articulate blog, Good With Style, which delivers intelligent, comprehensive posts about sustainable fashion.  In a "green" consumer world where the truth behind advertising can be slippery at best, Emily functions as a behind-the-scenes researcher, willing to go the extra mile(s) necessary to uncover the truth about today's marketplace. It didn't take me long to become a faithful follower of Emily's blog, having been in need of just such a resource for quite some time.  There are countless invaluable tips and editorial pieces there, but Emily also took some time to share a few of her favorite eco-friendly fashion resources on today's show.  I wanted to offer those to you as a comprehensive list, and make the strong suggestion that you hop over to her blog ASAP for more! Thanks again, Emily, for all you shared & for everything you're doing to lead the fashion-conscious to greener pastures! Resources: Fashion: Emily's Etsy Shop Loyale Clothing Alternative Apparel Try HandMade Food: Local Harvest Wedding Eco-Beautiful Weddings Recycled Bride Life: Recycled Tyke Emily Anderson
Baybee baby bebe, we love gettin’ shreddy. We especially love gettin’ shreddy when it has to do with cool rockin’ daddys. You a cool rockin’ daddy? Eh, I don’t know. We a cool rockin’ daddys? Duh. SHREDITORIAL 13 COOL ROCKING DADDIES Man, you know what really, really shreds? The fact that I haven’t done one of these in like two months/the fact that my quarter is finally over? Yes. Yes, that does, but on the real-real, but what about this fresh ass colby-jack hitting the streets: Dad. What is Dad? It’s this crazy-ass aesthetic concept that involves a re-conceptualization of the individual’s transition into adulthood in America. On top of that, it pays special attention to the tension between the individual ego and its contrast with objective reality, like when your Dad is being a Cool Rocking Daddy, and for some reason he doesn’t give a shit what the bebes think. Perhaps, in America, all this crap about being an individual with feelings in need of expression just alienated everyone from everyone through self-critical conditioning and all interpersonal relationships where laundered through selective consumption of commodities alluding to individual cases of emotional hedonism; so now debutants drink PBR & wear leather jackets on their Bad Boy Weekend til they is busted like The Shining bathtub lady. That’s a fact, Jack? And maybe, the power of association laundered through the social meanings ascribed to commodities such as music, clothes, trends, personalities, word-views, beers, and attitudes become the framework for . But everyone is so bad on Daddy’s dime, that the Dad perspective needs to be investigated. How can Daddy be rocking so cool when we all feel the pain of his refusal to concede to the social monolith ascribed to his surroundings? Ben Steine’s Money sheds light on the Dad aesthetic perspective: “ You see me on the street, you want a piece of my money, you try to tell me what to do, but we’re the proud and the few, it’s my money.” It is my money Ben Steine, and I’m not scared to constructively use it however the fuck I see fit, and for the most part, it can’t be taken away. Perhaps, a social setting grounded in consumption of power by association has taken for granted the value of production, or in the case of the individual: creation? Like a Tiny God? Just like a Tiny God, not to be confused with a Little Hilter. Cuz we were all told how special we were right? Or how we weren’t? Take that weird ass social dichotomy into the individualized 21st century, now that’s entertainment. Now destroy that dichotomy through detournment! Now drop the bougie ass monocle of negation, and you’re a Dad, a Cool Rocking Daddy, embarrassing the hell out of all your bebes. We all know the Bad Man eats McDonalds, but we have trouble communicating it with dignity. We all know that songs can be a list of everything bad in America like it was a secret. We all know you get what you pay for. To the Cool Rocking Daddy, dignity is found in the absurd contrast between desire and an objective reality trying to reflexively capitalize off of as well as create avenues of consumption to make our weenies tingle like a pool jet. The Cool Rocking Daddy switched out the transition into the “human garbage disposable” socially ascribed meaning of adulthood in America for the human-love-Muzzy-caveman punching his head cuz it can’t understand the Monolith from 2001: Space Odyssey. The Cool Rocking Daddy caters to no social club because he built his clubhouse called a cave, and it’s not the bad Plato one, it’s the primordial one, the one with glowing eyes in it mouth. “YOU THINK WE GOT SOMETHING TO PROVE, WELL LET ME HIT YOU WITH THIS GROOVE,” Pujol Link to this post Nashville's Dead
Weirdmerica artist, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy Where does American music come from? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself that? A lot of musicologists these days credit so much of the history of American Music to African influence, as they should, and I am not here to take anything away from that, or offer a difference of opinion. However, American music, like the country itsel