Last year we introduced PopMatters readers to Betty Black, who we described as “a musical chameleon changing personas and genres with a natural ease”. At that time she was just about to release the Slow Dance EP and now she’s set to release a new EP this April. In anticipation of that new work, Black (a.k.a. Sylvia Gordon) brings us a video directed by Bijoux Altamirano for the new tune “Bad Weather”. “Bad Weather” is swathed in sexiness, sultry mid-temp beats and washes of swirling synth textures. In a perfect world, Black would be your new favorite diva, as she has all of the pop friendliness that the title implies, but grounded in a restless musicality that sees her constantly trying new things, never content to follow a formula. After you’ve watched the video below, head on over to Black’s Bandcamp page where you can check out six of her tunes.
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A song by Porcelain Raft, “Unless You Speak From Your Heart”, was “Today’s Top Tune” on KCRW the other day and I was instantly captivated. Its wavering synth intro led into the fuzzed out musical landscape of dream pop, until female vocals entered with symphonic percussion similar to Beach House. This tune is the selected single off is the new release, Strange Weekend, and rightly so. The catchy melody drifts over the tightly-wound song structure, creating a worthy listen. Behind the scenes is composer Mauro Remiddi, an Italian ex-pat who is now based in New York City. He’s on tour with Youth Lagoon, M83 and the Smith Westerns—certainly good company to be around. The video for the song is an arty black and white shoot of the band gamely trading places in front of a stark white background. They’re not exactly playing any instruments, but it’s nice to at least get a visual sense of the group. Many bands are opting out of this vehicle of communication, so this video did not disappoint an eager new fan.
The eagerly awaited new Grimes album, Visions, releases next week. Look for our review then, but in the meantime, you can sample a few MP3s and even listen to the whole record over at NPR.
Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz’s documentary opens with this self-description: “One year in the life of a city grappling with violence.” During that year, the film follows three Interrupters, former offenders, as they work in Chicago for an organization called CeaseFire. Premiering on Frontline on 14 February, The Interrupters details their backstories and their current efforts, while also considering the premise of CeaseFire, that violence can be treated like a disease, that its transmission can be interrupted. “People believe in punishment,” says epidemiologist and CeaseFire co-founder Gary Slutkin, because when “you punish a young person, he stops. But he actually learns to mimic the punishment.” Young offenders, he says, are caught in a cycle: “They see violence as their disease, what they expect to die of, is this.” The Interrupters intervene, talking and spending time with offenders, helping them to see alternatives to revenge and anger. If the task is daunting, CeaseFire members are courageous. In spite of missteps and steps back, in spite of the many times that the interrupters attend funerals and console grieving parents, they try again and again. If they can stop one act of violence, they might stop another.
See PopMatters’ review.
“I love baseball. You know, it doesn’t have to mean anything. It’s just very beautiful to watch.” Thus Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen) indicates his peculiarly American identity. And just so, Allen’s weirdly elegant 1983 mock documentary, Zelig, goes on to trace his peculiarly American story. The fiction of Zelig concerns his capacity to transform physically to match whoever stands near him. The condition, he tells his psychiatrist, Dr. Eudora Nesbitt Fletcher (Mia Farrow), is a function of his desire to fit in, to feel safe, and it makes him a sensation during the 1920s—just when movie images were also transforming, into a means of mass communication, a means to shape community experience, and to grant consumers visions of how they might best conform.
Screening at Stranger Than Fiction on 14 February (and followed by a Q&A with short film director Dana O’Keefe), Allen’s movie shows this “chameleon disorder” in clever dissolves, as Zelig turns “Chinese,” obese, or Native American, or looks and like a doctor in a three-piece suit or a Hassidic Jew (narrator Patrick Horgan asserts, “The Ku Klux Klan, who saw Zelig as a Jew that could turn himself into a Negro and an Indian, saw him as a triple threat”). As the transforming imagery runs its course, the movie lingers in your memory, as a study of how identity emerges out of need (perceived or actual), and further, how need emerges out of experience (perceived or actual). And so it’s not just a story about Zelig or even “society,” but of the making of that story, the ways that documentary shapes its subjects and vice versa.