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by M.T. Richards

5 May 2010

In 2009, Eminem—a poor, scrawny, trailer dwelling kid from the outskirts of Detroit with a liquid flow and acute sense of humor—alienated just about everyone with Relapse, an album that abrasively belied the everyman appeal he oozed on older records. He was a strange, secluded sadist, hundreds of millions of dollars removed from the menial jobs he rapped about on “Rock Bottom”, and new, overbearing tracks like the cereal-rapist narrative “Stay Wide Awake” hinted at a dubious relationship with reality.

Then, something clicked. Eminem dropped the pretenses and decided to simply rap his ass off. He delivered the best verses on Alchemist’s Chemical Warfare, 50 Cent’s Before I Self Destruct, and Lil Wayne’s Rebirth. He made three very serviceable MCs look positively sophomoric on Drake’s “Forever.” He out-freestyled Mos Def and Black Thought. (Think about that. Mos Def and Black Thought.) He upstaged a glowingly thoughtful B.o.B. on “Airplanes (Part II)”. This past Tuesday, he released the astonishing “Despicable”, his take on Drake’s “Over” and Lloyd Banks’ “Beamer Benz or Bentley”, attacking those instrumentals with heady, syllable-twisting glee: “Keep blogging, while I’m mind boggling / Flow’s so wet, I’ll take this beat tobogganing.”

Em’s recent run has been historic, comparable to the exhilarating string of cameos Andre 3000 dropped in 2007. While it remains to be seen if this jolt of energy will translate into a gripping album, “Not Afraid” reveals great intentions. It’s the first single from Recovery, as well as a bracing departure from the shock-jock tiredness of past washouts like “We Made You” and “Just Lose It”.  There are no Jennifer Aniston or Blake Fielder disses here. Instead, we get three candid, fervent verses: “I promise to focus solely on handling my responsibilities as a father / So I solemnly swear to treat this roof like my daughters / And raise it.”

“Not Afraid” isn’t altogether great. The beat is waver thin, the hook maudlin, and rhymes about “gazing up at the stars” are rarely welcome. But, for Eminem, the track is also a welcome entrance into foreign territory. It’s refreshing. It’s positive. We need more of it.

by Arnold Pan

5 May 2010

Any project featuring one of the world’s most famous opera singers reinterpreting the songs of Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, and the Mars Volta must rate pretty high on any WTF scale, right? But that’s just what Renée Fleming is doing on Dark Hope, which could be pretty compelling whether you’re interested in the vocal pyrotechnics or the possibility of a stylistic trainwreck. If the song samples in the promo video are any indication, it sounds like today’s art rock hits might make for tomorrow’s easy listening, as Fleming puts the diva in emo on numbers by Death Cab for Cutie and Muse. And maybe we don’t need another version of “Hallelujah” even if it’s performed by the best singer alive, something that Fleming herself seems to appreciate in the video. But as the promo attests, one thing you have to give Fleming credit for is taking this somewhat absurd idea seriously. Dark Hope will be released on June 8, while Fleming’s cover of Muse’s “Endlessly” is already available at iTunes.

by Jennifer Cooke

5 May 2010

Band of Horses have been dropping a steady trail of bread crumbs toward the May 18 release of their third album, Infinite Arms, with videos for the songs “Compliments” and “NW Apt”. Now we’ve got a four-and-a-half-minute teaser about the making of the album, featuring an expanded band line-up and what appears to be a significant lightening-up of frontman Ben Bridwell, who has a reputation for being “difficult”. The new songs sound great and Bridwell seems genuinely excited about the prospect of this album being a much more collaborative effort than past Band of Horses releases.

by PopMatters Staff

5 May 2010

What will they think of next? Well, you’re supposed to be able to do almost anything with an iPad, right, so why not skateboard. [via Mashable]

by PopMatters Staff

5 May 2010

Felix Cartal mashes up electronic music styles in his remix work for notables such as MSTRKRFT and Ashlee Simpson, as well as on his debut album Popular Music. So, it’s quite fitting that video director Ace Norton took a “mash-up” approach to the video for “Volcano”. Riffing off an old Dan Rather newscast about the Mount St. Helen’s eruption, Norton superimposes a singing mouth featuring the vocals of Johnny Whitney from the Blood Brothers over Rather’s talking head.

“As a kid, my parents would put on the CBS Evening News every night while we ate dinner,” says Norton. “When they fired Dan Rather, I didn’t realize how comforting his voice was until it wasn’t there anymore. With all this coverage about the volcano in Iceland, it only seemed right to give the man one last broadcast, and make it about the biggest news story of all time—the impending apocalypse. This video is Dante’s Peak, meets Ron Burgandy, meets Poltergeist.” Ace Norton has a lengthy list of credits to his name, with turns behind the camera for the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Death Cab for Cutie, She and Him and many more. “Volcano” is a banging, anthemesque tune with shades of distortion moving amongst strong beats. It’s house, techno and dance-pop all in one.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

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