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by PopMatters Staff

14 Feb 2012

Photo: Bryan Sheffield

Wade Ryff was disillusioned with music, holed up in his parent’s house, writing tunes in the bathroom. This economy has been tough on 20somethings and Ryff’s malaise seems part of a larger cultural phenomenon. Indeed, he wound up teaming with a group of fellow 20somethings who felt much in the same boat—Breanna Wood, Garth Herberg, Lucas Ventura, Devon Lee and Oliver Hild—to form RACES. Together they recorded the upcoming album Year of the Witch, which felt like a catharsis, bringing new found optimism to the musicians.

The name RACES is emblematic of the members’ overall mindset as well. As Ryff explains, “I relate to the name in the sense that it seems like there is always something to be up against, and strong desire to overcome whatever it is.” The band’s psych-influenced indie pop will be on full display when Year of the Witch releases on 27 March. In the meantime, check out today’s premiere of a new remix for album track “Living Cruel & Rude”. Fellow Californian DJ Vyxor brings a slick, electro sheen to the folk-poppy “Living Cruel & Rude”, bathing the tune in gentle blips and warm waves of synths, while managing to bring out more of the pure pop aesthetic of the song.

by Comfort Clinton

14 Feb 2012

Shannon Stephens began her musical career at a Christian art school called Hope College, where she comprised one-fourth of indie, folk-rockers Marzuki. It was there, while playing guitar and lending her vocals, that Stephens met bandmate Sufjan Stevens. After the dissolution of Marzuki, Stephens released her first solo album in 1999, before putting her pursuit of fame on pause, opting instead for a quiet life in Seattle with her husband. After nine years out of the business, Stephens resurfaced with 2009’s The Breadwinner, produced by Sufjan Stevens’ label, Asthmatic Kitty.

Now returning with her third album, backed again by Asthmatic Kitty, and produced by Grammy-winner Kory Kruckenberg, Stephens brings us Pull It Together, out May 22nd of this year. In this upcoming album fans will detect a new confidence in both Stephens’ lyrics and her vocals, the sign of an artist truly coming into her own. The buoyant single “What Love Looks Like”, debuting here on PopMatters, is clearly the product of a life-learned maturity. Fittingly making its premiere on Valentine’s Day, the song is a portrait of modern-day love, set to an upbeat and melodious tune. Much like all the songs on this album, “What Love Looks Like” allow Stephens to share her opinions as a lover, an artist, a mother, and a citizen of the world, balancing cynicism, optimism, and ear-catching vocals along the way.

by Jessy Krupa

13 Feb 2012

Photo: Jennifer Hudson performs a Whitney Houston tribute during the 54th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 12, 2012. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Performances at this year’s Grammy awards weren’t about gimmicks, special effects, or surprise appearances. Instead, the show became a celebration of the music and musicians that unite seemingly different people. Fittingly, in a year where so many important musicians passed away, the night was also about people using their talents to bid a fond farewell to those whom we will all miss. It was a night where legends were honored, rock stars danced to country music, and an auditorium full of stars bowed their heads in prayer.


1. Jennifer Hudson - “I Will Always Love You”

The world only learned of the sad death of Whitney Houston the night before, leaving organizers less than 24 hours to put together a meaningful tribute. Despite this, I can’t imagine a better way to pay respect to someone than what was planned. There are far too few female singers of today who are capable of singing Whitney’s greatest hit with similar vocal ability, but Jennifer Hudson is one of those singers. Her heartfelt rendition also served as a befitting ending to a video “in memoriam” tribute to all the talented people who left us last year.

by Jessy Krupa

13 Feb 2012

It comes once every year. For weeks, paper hearts decorate nearly every room, store aisles are filled with flowers and overpriced packages of chocolate, cheesy romantic comedies are shown on TV non-stop, and cheery hand-holding couples grace countless jewelry store commercials. That’s right: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and to all of us who are still single (or just not in the mood), here’s some relief. Take a look at a video playlist full of the Anti-Valentine’s Day spirit.

by Sachyn Mital

10 Feb 2012

This Sunday, February 11, Glen Campbell will have Blake Shelton and the Band Perry accompanying him as he performs at the Grammy Awards where he will be presented with the Recording Academy® Lifetime Achievement Award. This week saw the reissue of Glen Campbell’s critically acclaimed 2008 album, Meet Glen Campbell—expanded with exclusive bonus tracks for a special CD and digital edition—in advance of this great honor. Upon its original release in August 2008, Meet Glen Campbell was met with worldwide critical praise, and Campbell promoted the album with interviews and performances for a broad spectrum of media, including an “AOL Sessions” concert. Meet Glen Campbell’s expanded edition adds three performances from that concert (Campbell’s classic hits “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy”, and U2’s “All I Want Is You”), as well as 2008 remixes of “Gentle on My Mind” and “Galveston”. And we’ve got two copies of this album to give away to two of our lucky readers!

From the press release:
In a legendary music career that spans more than five decades, Glen Campbell has achieved chart-topping, platinum-selling pop and country success singing everyday tales of life, love, work, and heartache. Campbell has been honored with five GRAMMY Awards and trophies for Male Vocalist of the Year from both the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Academy Of Country Music (ACM). In addition to being inducted into the CMA’s Hall of Fame, he has been awarded its top Entertainer Of The Year honors, and the ACM has honored him with its prestigious Pioneer Award.

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