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Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Ben Watt's rain-soaked number of pop-folk melodrama, "North Marine Drive", didn't exactly make him a household name when he released it a long time back. But it leaves behind the lingering air of cold nostalgia decades later.

Ben Watt, better known as one-half of alterna-pop British duo Everything But the Girl and now a successful DJ and remixer in his own right, humbly began his career with his debut indie effort, North Marine Drive back in 1983. While the album reached number one on the UK indie charts, the success of Drive was ultimately overshadowed when Watt teamed up with Tracey Thorn to create the band that became synonymous with a burgeoning sophisti-pop trend, taken to mountainous heights by other acts like the Style Council. Everything But the Girl displayed a keen sense of irony and literary wit that gave their brand of new wave bossa nova a sharper, biting edge. Later on, they would transform their twee sound into a grander, nearly cinematic form of electronic pop that not only brought them wider attention but much more lucrative rewards as well. Watt’s indie solo album was all but forgotten at this point, at times appearing in-print and then later disappearing from the market in accordance to the ebb and flow of EBTG’s success.


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Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013
When I talk about metal music I don't typically make reference to terms like "optimism", "hope" or "sunny afternoons". But just as other genres have their emotional orientations, metal too can offer a spectrum of perspectives -- even if not as often.

I went on record saying that Torche’s Harmonicraft is my favourite metal album since Tool’s Ænima. Though the IT department has since had to replace the ruined keyboards of my co-workers who spat out their coffee at such a bold assertion, I maintain that position. But let me explain.


They’re not musically similar in any way. I’m not comparing the two as much as I am merely observing that they’ve both lingered on my personal short list since their release more than any other records.


Tagged as: metal, sludge, torche
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Wednesday, Apr 17, 2013
On Monday, the Boston Marathon was bombed on the eve of 'The Terror's' release date. As I digested the news, the Lips' discography fresh in mind, I kept hearing "You Have to Be Joking"'s baffled head shakes.

Sneakily placed near the end of the Flaming Lips’ gleefully noisy if overshadowed Warner Bros. debut, Hit to Death in the Future Head, is “You Have to Be Joking (Autopsy of the Devil’s Brain)”, a damaged acoustic tribute to human incomprehensibility that usually tops the list of my favorite Lips songs of all time. There’s little more than a single-tracked acoustic guitar, some bongos, light piano, an inexplicably placed sample from the Brazil score, and Wayne Coyne’s shakily earnest Oklahoma whine—a far cry from the gruff, aged voice he’s adopted on more recent efforts, but perfectly suited to the song’s  “Moonlight Mile” weariness. Lyrically, the track may not be so far from The Terror, the Lips’ uncharacteristically grim latest LP. Drained of the band’s trademark optimism, Coyne confronts evil with confusion and disbelief: “You have to be joking / They wouldn’t do what you said”, he pleads. The conclusion is more resigned, but not quite hopeful: “Seems to me that God and the devil are both the same”. Decades later Wayne told me that the song was inspired by a story of a diplomat who hired the mafia to kidnap American babies and sledgehammer them.


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Friday, Mar 8, 2013
Painted Palms is the music project of two cousins, Reese Donohue and Chris Prudhomme, who first began to compose songs with each other from separate states by emailing files and chatting by phone.

Their dreamy indie pop tune “All of Us”, off their self-released EP Canopy, was featured in PopMatters’ Summer 2011 New Music Playlist. The songs also caught the ear of Kevin Barnes, who invited them along on a nationwide tour with his band of Montreal. Painted Palms quickly evolved into a five-piece band to take advantage of this opportunity, along with other opening gigs with STRFKR and Braids.


Now their debut album Carousel is ready to drop on 2 April, with two songs available to stream via Polyvinyl. (They are being released as a limited edition 7” vinyl for $6; pre-orders are rewarded by an instant full-album download.) The title track, “Carousel”, swings easily with breathy singing extolling the virtues of beautiful friends over sun drenched synths. “Click” picks up the pace, creating interwoven melodies plus background vocals over a layered percussive vibe.



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Monday, Jan 28, 2013
The jazz world's most peculiar inhabitant has made some of the most profound music that has served to recontruct both the borders of rock and jazz -- and our ideas of how music can evolve and be defined.

Annette Peacock was an anomaly to begin with. From the start of her career, the artist took a conceptualized approach to her music so extreme she was left marginalized on the outskirts of an otherwise thriving musical culture. It wasn’t such a bad place to be as Peacock often took stock from an observational distance, pulling from the necessary influences of popular music that would help to ground her in the public’s conscience and, yet, still allow her to indulge in the more personal explorations of her multi-layered art. One of the very first artists to experiment with the Moog, a groundbreaking piece of technology that helped to give birth to electronic music, the artist created soundscapes that were unheard of. True to her name, Peacock was an odd bird.


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