The Reverend Shawn Amos is on a mission to bring blues to wider attention within pop culture spaces. After all, it’s a living, breathing, vibrant genre that continues to grow, not some old retro form of music. Just look at the careers of Gark Clark Jr., Robert Randolph and Keb’ Mo’ for the most recent examples. Amos comes at the blues from a lifetime of appreciation as he formerly worked as a music industry executive where he recorded and produced a number of Grammy-nominated albums. Now, he’s stepping out with the microphone as a blues preacher and the result is fabulous, as his singing seduces the blues-starved masses and his harmonica playing makes them believers.
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Morgan Y. Evans: Neil Hagerty is one of the original ‘90s vibe deconstructionists, a master guitarist who is way underrated by the mainstream. Royal Trux are one of the most important bands ever, but some people will always have to have their hand held in a conversation about the ripples the band started by throwing their weird hybrid of noise collage, ‘70s rock influences and gutter glam in the alt rock pond. Neil preceded the likewise talented Kurt Viles and Kevin Devines by a long shot. This new Howling Hex song (they’ve got a lot of records now) is pretty darn linear, with a video that could be a stoner version of HBO’s cancelled show The Newsroom and an arrangement that is practically power pop with the sneared kind of thin and weasely sounding vocals fans love. A far cry from Pussy Galore’s chaos but certainly worth some spins. If the absence of Hagerty’s at times epic and juicy solos bugs you can always revisit “Shadow of the Wasp” on your own time. [6/10]
Zmei3 is a group of Romanians whose music emanates from a mixture of traditional Romanian musical forms, including gypsy music from the region which is so integral to the overall sounds of Eastern European music. However, Zmei3 is anything but a traditional group as they tackle the realities of life in Romania post-communism in their lyrics. The group’s new album Rough Romanian Soul is a gorgeous record with passion and, indeed, soul running through it. Classically trained singer Paula Turcas is something special with her stunning voice, capable of soaring high and low with subtle inflections adding meaning and feeling to every word. Zmei3‘s Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan says that “Turcas is poised to take her place amongst rarified vocalists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Umm Kulthum, and Yma Sumac, singers whose virtuosic gifts transcend language to such a degree that they even become symbols of an entire culture or region.”
Pryor Stroud: Touched with cinematic grandeur and lush instrumentation, “pH” is an ambient prog-rock dreamscape that is empty of words but replete with images—subliminal 8mm fantasy-projections, semi-conscious mind wanderings—that flash by in sweeps of intersecting synth nodes. Parc En Ciel, the moniker for Glasgow-based Mathieu Thomas, works in strange amalgams of highly disparate genres, including post-rock, throwback new wave, and contemporary electronica, but he still manages to engineer a coherent and discernibly well-studied sound all his own. In the end, “pH” sounds like Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk got their hands on the synthesizers and sidelined sonic material of Bowie’s Low period and, after some heavy substance use, laid down a real-time representation of their brainstorming process. [8/10]
Nine episodes into her new TBS show Full Frontal, Samantha Bee has quickly risen to the top of the late night game. In aptitude, her only rival may be HBO’s John Oliver with Last Week Tonight. Even before the show aired, the organizers of the Tribeca Film Festival recruited Bee and her showrunner Jo Miller to discuss her show with them, fully trusting Bee’s abilities to produce an excellent television program. Bee’s new network home also held the same confidence in her. After years of being a correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Bee proved her worthiness and value as a comedian and as a political satirist. At the Tribeca talk, Bee said TBS, who had already been working with her husband Jason Jones, “just trusted us because we had already been working with them. They put a lot of faith in Jason and they put a lot of faith in me. I’m very thankful for them.”
The attitude of Full Frontal is apparent right from the intro where Peaches’ “Boys Want to Be Her” plays over the credits. Bee knew right away she wanted Peaches, “almost from the moment of knowing we were gonna be doing a show it came to me in a moment where I went, ‘Well, Peaches will do the song.’ Because, Peaches.” before reaching out to Peaches, another edgy Canadian female, via Twitter. Peaches, ever so generously provided additional cues, cuts and backing bits for the show to supplement her song.