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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I haven’t heard the new album from Bucks County’s finest, Pink, (okay, I haven’t heard any of her albums, but I do know a guy who claims to know a guy who claims to have made out with her in high school) but this article from The American Prospect by Devin McKinney piqued my interest. McKinney argues that Pink could be on the vanguard of a backlash against the feminist backlash.


Many teenagers manage to elude the stupid-girl virus. But as many as escaped it 30 years ago? Pink’s song asks precisely the right question—are we going forward or back?—and spots the single salient detail in what seems to be no more than the latest pop style for girls. Namely, that vapidity and vacuity are not mere byproducts of stupid-girl style—they are key to its chic. Where competence and self-sufficiency were once considered essential to the pop-cultural female image, now the behavioral accessories are docility, ditziness, and a dazed willingness to spread—with maybe a dash of diva sass for tossing at some predatory ‘ho.”


However, McKinney also worries that teenagers may end up thinking Pink’s negative message is what’s stupid—if they were right-wing dogmatists rather than teenagers, they might call her a cynic. Of the You Tube videos of girls’ lip-synching to the song, McKinney notes, “you can’t tell if these mirror starlets are making fun of stupid girls or being them—recasting Pink’s wrathful screed as their sitcom theme, their vindication as a subspecies of modern celebrity: stupid girls who emulate stupid girls to the tune of ‘Stupid Girls’.” Perhaps pretending to be stupid in order to get an audience can be considered a special kind of smart. I am sure there are some “optimists” out there willing to argue for that kind of empowerment. But I tend to agree with McKinney.


Pink should also be thanked for churning up something we pluralistic pop punters don’t always like to admit: that, as liberating as it can be for some, for others popular culture is a plastic bag over the mouth, a caul suffocating the abilities and the imagination, allowing only the merest possibility of escape from the blandishments of consumerism and the brain-dead end of tabloid celebrity. The way it happens, these “others” are usually girls.


 


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006
by PopMatters Staff


FEATURED ARTIST
Finian McKean



“You may recall Finian McKean as Finn Moore Gerety, half of the brains behind late ‘90s indie-rock band the Push Kings. McKean’s solo stuff retains that alt-pop bombast (in a good way!), and he’s celebrating a new record, Shades Are Drawn, on his own And Each For Only Recordings…” — Time Out New York



“Shades Are Drawn” [MP3]
“Oh, My Heart Is Heavy” [MP3]
multiple songs [MySpace]


Cat Power & Karen Elson
“I Love You (me either)” [windows | real]


Jarvis Cocker & Kid Loco
“I Just Came to Tell You That I’m Going” [windows | real]


The Radio Dept
“Pulling Our Weight” [MP3]
“A Window” [MP3]
  “The Worst Taste in Music” [MP3]


Doveman
“Honey” [MP3]
“Teacup” [MP3]


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In Slate, their music scribe Jody Rosen had this recent article: Does hating rock make you a music critic?.  If you haven’t already, take a minute to read it- it’s worth it.  It’s a very good thoughtful piece but the issue obviously deserves some more debate and discussion.


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More about how optimism depresses me: In Walker’s “Consumed” column in last Sunday’s NYT Magazine he profiled a young optimist who had eagerly begun “challenging consumerism by participating in it” and buying anti-branded products, as though anti-brands aren’t also brands themselves. (Just as so many major-label “indie” bands in the 1990s had “no image”.) According to Walker, such products as the anti-branded Blackspot shoe is meant to appeal to the “cynical” consumer—cynicism being the slur used to discredit anyone skeptical of the status quo or the mainstream. The accusation of cynicism shifts the blame away from structural flaws in society to the individual cynic for his discontent—he is discredited as a malcontent complainer and probably some sort of hypocrite. Walker is ultimately able to call his sample cynic consumer an optimist because he embraces consumerism largely in the individuated, atomizing form it currently takes (The practice often isolates us, alienates us from others seen as competitors,  as we really on it to draw the outlines of our unique self, and it reinforces values of acquisitiveness and greed, etc, and suggests we can only buy our way into communities with the right goods.) The shoemakers say they hope “to establish a worldwide consumer cooperative and to reassert consumer sovereignty over capitalism,” which sounds pretty good, though I’m not sure how shifting brand allegiances necessarily achieves this. Yes, it’s better to consume products that have been made with less exploited labor and resource waste, but the underlying problem—self-definition through consumption—is merely strengthened. It may be that it can’t be reversed.


In China such patterns have not yet been firmly established, and the mores of consumerism are still in flux, the sorts of lives it will foster still open to adjustment. This article details a Chinese phenomenon called tuangou, or team buying. Consumers organize to meet over the internet and descend upon a retailer en masse ad demand better deals via their strengthened bargaining power. Bargaining itself has already been eradicated from most Western economies, where the fixed price is seen as a comfort and convenience rather than an arbitrary mark set to see how much of a sucker you are. Personally I would hate to have to haggle upon every purchase, but I sure as hell would be a lot more conscious of every purchase I was making and might decide to invest my energies elsewhere. In China, bargaining is still apparently the norm, and a group brings much more leverage to bear on any negotiation. This seems a much more direct way of reasserting consumer sovereignty over capitalism to me, far better than buying special products to display how skeptical you are.


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Monday, May 15, 2006
by PopMatters Staff


FEATURED ARTIST
Casey Driessen



Driessen is an amazing young fiddler, who uses traditional bluegrass stylings as a launch pad to mesmerizing improvisational roots music.  He’s grounded in tradition, like Michael Doucet of Beausoleil, but has a broad imagination and ends up concocting a bluegrass/jazz hybrid that recalls some of the best work of Vassar Clements.  This 27-year-old, Berklee College of Music educated musician has already worked with many of the leading lights in bluegrass and country, including Steve Earle, Tim O’Brien, Lee Ann Womack, Béla Fleck, and Jim Lauderdale among many others.  3D is his much anticipated debut on Sugar Hill Records out on May 9 in the US(Sarah Zupko)



“Jerusalem’s Ridge” (A reworking of an old Bill Monroe tune off the new album, 3D) [MP3]
“My Uncle” (live recording with Steve Earle and Tim O’Brien) [MP3]
“Forked Deer” (duet with Chris Thile) [MP3]
“Working on a Building” (traditional bluegrass gospel song, often recorded by Bill Monroe and others) [MP3]
“Old Joe Clark” (duet with Greg Liszt) [MP3]
multiple songs [MySpace]


Park Attack
“Delta Smelter” [MP3]
“Tongue ‘n’ Groove” [MP3]


PAS/CAL
“Summer Is Almost Here” [MP3]


Tigarah
“Girl Fight” [MP3]


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