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by Jane Jansen Seymour

25 May 2012


Headset. Image via Shutterstock.

To most people, the Memorial Day weekend is the start of summer so why not explore some new music for your own personal soundtrack. With a mix of recent arrivals and established artists, releases abound for the listening to heat things up. Notes are provided with background info for further discovery.

by Cynthia Fuchs

25 May 2012


When the marines of Echo Company 2nd Battalion 8th Regiment enter Afghanistan in 2009, they’re told they’ll be enacting a “new” counter-insurgency strategy. Their commander names their essential contradictions. “Every interaction you have with the people is crucial,” he says, “We have to develop trust in them.” Strapping on gear and loading weapons, they are plainly “experts in the application of violence,” but they’re less equipped for developing “trust.” Within moments, these ideals are dismantled: a marine is badly injured, his buddies run him along a road, the camera jogging behind them. When the corporal dies, 26-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris steps up. He will be injured too, and Hell and Back Again, airing on PBS on 28 May, follows him home to North Carolina, where he struggles to find sense in what he’s done and how it plagues him. The film cuts back and forth, between the footage photographer-turned-filmmaker Danfung Dennis shot in Afghanistan over months and the diaristic scenes he shoots of Nathan home, talking to the camera, his wife Ashley, and his doctors. In pain and on medication, Nathan seems to be remembering what you see, but the documentary doesn’t pretend to know what he’s feeling. Instead, it observes and draws connections, scenes that show battles or Harris and his team breaking down doors or not quite conversing with Afghan locals, or more plainly showing the effects of action. These involve Ashley as much as Nathan: as she describes their journey as “to hell and back again,” you realize how they’ve paid, again and again.

See PopMattersreview.

by Jessy Krupa

24 May 2012


Taylor Hicks on Season 5 of American Idol (2006)

American Idol’s fifth season was filled with shocking eliminations. Big-voiced R&B/gospel singer Mandisa didn’t make it to the top eight. Kellie Pickler, a country singer who reminded people of previous winner Carrie Underwood, didn’t make it into the top five. Plus, American Idol’s most successful male contestant and one of the biggest stars in modern rock music, Chris Daughtry, didn’t win.

Regardless of who was voted off when, it was the still the highest rated TV series of 2006. One of the show’s most successful seasons, it resulted in a record number of Billboard chart appearances, with 18 contestants from the show eventually receiving some sort of record contract! 

But whatever happened to those who made it to the top that year? Let’s find out as we continue on with 2006’s American Idols.

by Sachyn Mital

24 May 2012


On the heels of their week long European tour, the post-classical composers, Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka and Jóhann Jóhannsson have released the Transcendentalism EP featuring two special and / or newly arranged tracks from each artist. The EP is available for streaming now and can be purchased as MP3 or on limited edition vinyl.

by PopMatters Staff

23 May 2012


Fellow Danes Tim Stahl and John Guldberg began working together back in the ‘70s when they met in the group the Starbox Band and quickly departed to work on their own electronic music as a duo under the moniker Laid Back. The group found success in Europe with their first #1 hit, “Maybe I’m Crazy”, released in 1981 and 1982’s “Sunshine Reggae”, which has sold more than 20 million if you count all the compilations inclusions the tune has racked up over the years. Laid Back were part of the first early wave of musicians creating electro-pop and their music has influenced countless others and been sampled often over the years. Cosyland, releasing this week on Brother Music, is a mini album featuring rarities from the duo’s 1981 creative sessions. The songs were improvised and created with brand-new equipment, such as a Roland TR-808 rhythm box, a SH-101, a Pro-One monophonic synthesizer and a GR-500 guitar controller-and-synth. Today we offer a free download of “Cocaine Cool Extended”, which is exclusive to PopMatters for the next seven days.

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