Latest Blog Posts

by Jane Jansen Seymour

27 Jan 2012


Portland’s psych rock trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra recently released a video for “Thought Ballune”, co-directed by Jordan Blady and Ryan Knowles. This laid-back dance track gets a creepy house party treatment, which brings an added element to the song amidst a dingy setting. The song off a self-titled debut may have been created by New Zealand native Ruban Nielson’s home studio, but he told Rolling Stone that he didn’t want to go out on the road with a “totally substandard” live show. “I wanted people to be surprised at how good we were, not how bad we were.”

Nielson begins a tour next month with local producer Jake Portrait on bass and drummer Julien Ehrich. They will be headlining at a few venues before joining in support of Girls through the month of March. Plans also include the requisite stop at SXSW for any buzz-worthy band.

by Cynthia Fuchs

26 Jan 2012


“President Reagan has fought long and hard to prevent Congress from imposing new economic sanctions on South Africa. Recently, even leaders of his own party begged him to stop. He didn’t. Today, he lost.” Footage of Dan Rather’s report on CBS in October 1986 serves as a kind of exclamation point when it appears in Have You Heard From Johannesburg. Before and following this clip, the film shows member of the Black Congressional Caucus then and now, recalling their fight to support the ANC against the racist South African government. When at last the Senate and the House voted to override the president’s veto, the movement was approaching its goal, the end of apartheid, the release of Nelson Mandela from prison (still three and a half years away, in 1990), and the official recognition by Western nations—the US, Britain, France, and others—that apartheid was, in fact, a threat to world peace.

This moment was an overlong time coming, of course, but still, when it does come in “Free at Last,” the fifth and final PBS installment of Connie Field’s documentary on 26 January, you’d be hard-pressed not to feel at least a bit of relief. As the film reveals, the strategies to get to this moment shift over the years, as the ANC is joined by other organizations, based in in South Africa and elsewhere. The ANC continued to represent through Oliver Tambo in exile (who says in an archival interview that even as bomb attacks were escalating in South Africa, “We continue, of course, to calculate on what this means for civilians” as well as Mandela (who became the movement’s most recognizable “name and face”). When an interviewer asks him, “Does your wife worry about you?”, Tambo patently responds. “Of course she does. I expect I really do expect that I will be killed by the regime or its representatives.”

by PopMatters Staff

26 Jan 2012


Two Dark Birds frontman Steve Koester left the 24/7 lights of New York City well behind him and forged a new life deep in the Catskills recently. The move has given him a fresh musical lease on life and infused the band’s latest album, Songs For The New, with a new vibrancy. Or as Koester says, “this whole album is, in a sense, about being born… or being reborn.” The music draws from a vast wellspring of influences and sounds, including folk, Americana, R&B, and pysch rock, as well as employing a broad range of instrumentation, of which horns and strings are prominent.

Keeping with that theme, the new Scott Kawczynski-directed video for “Black Blessed Night” depicts the flight of a bird from the confines of the city to the freedom of nature in the mountains. Obviously, Koester is super pleased with his new residence. The song itself is described as being “about freedom and about how nature or music can pull you out of yourself.”


by Joseph Fisher

25 Jan 2012


I went to Disney World for the first time in my life in November 2011. At that time, I saw, in person, the Joy Division Mickey Mouse T-Shirt. Since I spent the days after the trip attempting to suppress all memories of dancing and singing animals, copious amounts of fried food, and dancing and singing animals eating copious amounts of fried food, I never wrote anything about the truly bizarre nature of this souvenir. So, of course, Pitchfork scooped me.

No matter. The more press this story gets, the better.

All I can add is that the thought of every roller coaster in the park playing Joy Division music—“It’s getting faster moving faster now… Lights are flashing, cars are crashing…”—is either one of the most horrible or most awesome thoughts ever. As they say in an election year, you decide. Cast your votes in the comments section.

by Cynthia Fuchs

25 Jan 2012


Ayrton Senna was a star. As recounted in Asif Kapadia’s terrific documentary, the Formula One driver was not only skilled and daring, but also charismatic and thoughtful. The film begins as he arrives from Brazil for the first time in Europe to compete in goo-kart races, and immediately draws attention, from other racers as well as media. “It was pure driving, pure racing,” he says in an interview at the time, 1978. “There wasn’t any politics involved in it, no money involved either. Like it was real racing.” The film goes on to consider the many ways that politics manifest in Formula One racing, the ways that teams make money, hire drivers, and contract with media, even as it also conveys what’s thrilling about the driving, from a driver’s perspective, for the most part. Using remarkable footage from inside drivers’ cockpits. As Senna, his chief competitor and teammate Alain Prost, and a range of number of international commentators and journalists discuss what’s at stake, for national, corporate and individual identities, the film leads inevitably to Senna’s death in 1994, following a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy. Less celebratory than contemplative, more nuanced than definitive, the documentary articulates risks and also allows the drivers to describe their nearly ecstatic experiences. Senna is a heady mix of material, psychic, and emotional elements, unresolved.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Tibet House's 30th Anniversary Benefit Concert Celebrated Philip Glass' 80th

// Notes from the Road

"Philip Glass, the artistic director of the Tibet House benefits, celebrated his 80th birthday at this year's annual benefit with performances from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Brittany Howard, Sufjan Stevens and more.

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