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by Cynthia Fuchs

13 Jan 2012


Sing Your Song‘s focus on political activism—its relationship to celebrity, whether a star owns it or not—mirrors that of its subject. As Harry Belafonte recalls here, his inclination to activism was ignited early, as a boy whose mother worked as a domestic, and who sent him and his brother to live with relatives in Jamaica: “Almost all the songs that I later came to sing,” he says, “were songs that I heard among the people, the peasants, my family, at the time.” The film shows photos of Jamaican workers, children and the shoreline, as he credits his mother for making him believe “There was nothing in life that I could not aspire to.” Belafonte took Paul Robeson as a model, and the notorious official efforts to suppress Robeson’s “song”—the blacklisting, the FBI and CIA surveillance, and the revocation of his US passport in 1950—hover over Belafonte’s story, along with Robeson’s advice to him: “Get them to sing your song, and they’ll want to know who you are.” Belafonte used his popularity—his appeal to “white teenyboppers” along with other fans all over the world—to show the intersections of art and politics.

See PopMattersreview.

by Steve Jansen

11 Jan 2012


Heads up! Time to cup a lug around the long-awaited first hear—and single release—from the re-Roth’ed Van Halen: “Tattoo”. Up on the net today, this tease-of-a-track accompanies the obligatory news of a major tour of the United States. And while it would be easy to assume that any new material from a rock band now the best part of two-point-five decades past their prime time would be nothing more than cover for a hit & run soak up of serious dollars along the revival road…

Fair due – Tattoo is no “Jump”, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” or “Jamie’s Cryin’”. Neither is it “Yankee Rose”, “Crazy From the Heat” or “Just Like Paradise”. It is, however, Diamond Dave, Eddie Van Halen; loud, gonzo – and about bloody time. They’re in one place—and despite not being straight up instant classic VH—neither is “Tattoo” some disgrace.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

11 Jan 2012


In anticipation of the new release, Port of Morrow, The Shins have released a track “Simple Song” featuring an expanded sonic landscape and revamped line up. Although when frontman James Mercer’s vocals enter in, there’s no mistaking the musical foundation that has been dormant since 2007’s Wincing the Night Away. Midway through, things drop out to provide a playful interlude complete with choral harmonies behind Mercer’s crooning. He sings how it’s a simple song to say what you’ve done. The poetry continues with the lyrics, You feel like an ocean made warm by the sun.

Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer and Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats appear on the song, along with “two former bandmates” according to the KEXP blog. Port of Morrow was recorded over the past year in Los Angeles and Portland, with Mercer securely at the helm, providing songwriting, vocals and most instruments throughout. A preorder is now available on iTunes, with an instant download of “Simple Song” and a B-side bonus track part of the package. As part of the newly announced Coachella line up, the band will also tour with additional dates in 2012. The touring band includes Yuuki Matthews of Crystal Skulls (bass), Jessica Dobson (guitar), Richard Swift (keyboards) and Joe Plummer (drums).

by Philip Majorins

11 Jan 2012


Dana Falconberry’s new EP Though I Didn’t Call It Came is quietly epic and ripe with wonder. This Austin based indie darling has been called on of the city’s “most promising singer-songwriters” and has starred in the documentary Echotone, a film focusing on the Austin music scene that has been awarded the a New York Times Critics’ Pick. The purity of her vocals and engaging presence make her live shows as captivating as a summer evening.

Though I Didn’t Call It Came was recorded in an old church and possesses the kind of space and calm reflection that perfectly accompany a morning cup of coffee or a late night afterglow. The rich orchestration and harmonies are just a taste to wet our appetite for a full-length release that was recorded during the same session and will be released later in 2012.

This track premiered as a stream earlier this week at MTV Hive and now as a free download here at PopMatters.

Download the track “Petoskey Stone” off of the new EP here:

by Jane Jansen Seymour

9 Jan 2012


The team behind movie We Bought a Zoo may be disappointed with their marketing decisions (another Dad in the dumps too close to The Descendants or maybe people just don’t want to see Matt Damon in that role?)  But they can’t blame Jónsi for not coming through with epic, heart-warming music for the soundtrack. A video for one of the two original tracks created for the score, “Gathering Stories”, is now out via some inventive animation by Crush Creative. It shows a fantastical world of colorful creatures in an Icelandic-like snowy landscape in similar hues to Jónsi’s homeland and stage design when PopMatters caught his show at Moogfest 2010. This song was actually written with director Cameron Crowe, perhaps a lyrical collaboration or decisions in the final production.

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