Tornados. Essentially tornados abound in Neko Case’s sixth album Middle Cyclones, a brilliant pop/folk/rock/etc album. Maybe one of the purest displays in Neko’s career, the album is filled with density learned from composing and touring with her side super-band The New Pornographers. These songs are demonstrating growth in Neko’s song writing ability. Neko has constructed songs with limited space, she’s giving us a Neko Case pop sonic masterpiece that takes some time to find a spot to settle into and enjoy, but the album’s main purpose is to drive the idea that we live in a stormy world that we do not even work on our own behalf to enjoy fully. We all struggle, as Neko, to find love and to define it for ourselves, but we also push away those who mean us most joy. We are stormy creatures, afraid to communicate fully in a world filled with the ability to communicate anything to anyone at any time. Middle Cyclone is the love album for the early 21st Century. The songs are richly decorated; they spin the listener into the ground and then spend equal time allowing comfortable recoil.
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Weirder things have happened. Thursday night at SXSW, the stage at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church was shared by a Dresden Doll and a legendarily raunchy comedienne. Of course, this being a church, they avoided the four-letter words in favor of a sweet-natured tribute to said comedienne’s dog. The next day, the comedienne (Margaret Cho, of course) and Dresden Doll (Amanda Palmer) talked about that show, Cho’s new venture into music, Palmer’s favorite singers, and the role of humor in music. (Yes, as Frank Zappa would tell you, they DO go together.)
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Gran Torino. The sacrifice that Clint Eastwood makes—and his redemption amid the senseless violence—brought a tear to my eye.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Huck Finn. I’ve paddle down any river in search of adventure, even if my boat crashes in the process.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan. I always loved the record, but I learned the hard way, through heartbreak and despair, just how beautiful it is.
PopMatters’ Robin Cook chats with upcoming neo-folk singer Alela Diane at this year’s SXSW. Diane talks about her guitar skills, upbringing and taste in music.
Matthew Fiander called her new album To Be Still “beautiful and subtly splintered and cathartic in an honestly incomplete way. And it is, finally, that rare kind of album: one worth getting close to.”
It would take motherhood to free the Material Girl from the juvenile exploits of one-way love and abandonment. Marvin Gaye sang, One way love is just a fantasy, perhaps just as fantastical as Madonna doing Marilyn Monroe in the Material Girl video, and still years later showing out that she was born a real Bad Girl:
That’s the way I came into this world/The doctor said, “Lady, she’s a beautiful girl.”/He gave me a spanky and I started to smile/So give it up, honey, ‘cause I want it/Yeah
The girl portrayed here on the Dick Tracy soundtrack, as we all in many of Madonna’s public personae like to be abused, at least in her sexual fantasies. However the home fantasies are a bit more real, perhaps finally resolving the grief over loosing her mother at such an early age. Notably, her beats seriously evolved upon releasing Ray of Light; she has come out, embarking on that journey of self-love, the real resolution. Still, I wondered if our cherished pop superstar would have been better off listening to some of her hometown brothers and sisters across the color line.
Whatever the emotion, there is a gospel that expresses a love lost deeper than any punishment we would feel from parents who failed to mourn and recover from the loss of their spouses, denying their kids love and attention, so they grow old with the only confidence that they just declare their independence by any means necessary. Indeed, Jeremy spoke in class today, and all he could do was takes his father’s gun and shoot. He felt unloved, and powerless, so he reached for the only real power he’d seen his father use, one which he too could abuse and harm others in the same way he had felt loved, and abandoned by his parents who refused to meet him, Jeremy, on his grounds. They refused to parent, according to Pearl Jam’s 1992 alternative rock hit, so he met love with abandonment and shot himself dead at school. Don’t you think that people learn abuse at home? How many Jeremies must our nation produce before we begin to appreciate that we gain more from cooperation, which implies dialogue on every level, i.e. at home and at the community level. Indeed, a people who feel unloved are capable of anything. A people who feel loved are capable of everything.
Madonna faced these issues at 40 upon the birth of her first child. From then onwards, she continued a string of recordings critiquing Hollywood, and a variety of aspects covering American Life, including much of the imagery that she helped generate (“Music stations always play the same songs”). Madonna has certainly profited from her reign as queen of pop and received her share of airplay. At 50 with two baby-daddies, and in a doomed marriage, Madonna found the courage to ask How High: It’s funny/I spent my whole life wanting to be talked about/I did it/just about everything to see my name in lights/Was it all worth it?/And how did I earn it?/Nobody’s perfect/I guess I deserve it. This was in this millennium. I just wish she’d heard her fellow Detroit native remake Sam Cooke’s composition, a meditation on forgiving oneself as a way of moving on:
Sometimes, I’ve had to cry all night long/Sometime’, I had t’ give up right/Fo’, what I knew was wrong/Yeah/It’s been an uphill journey/It’sho been a long way comin’
These words remind us that we matter, that we can determine our own fate, so that by Madge’s age we could have a system in tact to heal from life’s inevitable conflicts, and losses in order to abate abandonment or even the sheer feeling of terror, like the terror one feels when realizing that they are gay and may have to tell their families. Coming out at sixteen, Madonna’s Deeper and Deeper was an apt anthem, but what happens after the love is lost? What happens once the myth of childlike innocence collapses and we must resume our lives? Shall we not forgive ourselves for being weak, as Marley says? Or, following Aretha way back in 1967: Yeah everybody let the good times roll/We’re gonna stay here till we soothe our souls /If it take’ all night long. Do it till you’re satisfied, so that we can feel free.
Where even today’s young divas like Beyoncé, or even Kelis can act Bossy and somehow get away with stuffing themselves with D-diamonds on my neck/D-diamonds on my grill- all chains of the modern female, yet chains nonetheless. Sooner or later we can’t help but look at ourselves in the mirror, not just at images posted on billboards and big and small screens. The weaning time from the seduction and self-defeating nature of stardom must shorted, so women can enjoy the limelight without reducing themselves to hot wet pussy slipping and sliding on stage, whining about how some man should come set me free- unlock her chastity belt and pop her cherry Like a Virgin, because apparently there is a sizable market of consumers who yield to the popular(ized) fantasy of screwing a school girl. Certainly, this is why young girl sex sells in porn, or pop divas pop their hot bodies in school uniforms, recording their music videos on the set of some school. That damsel in distress has never worked for Black women in America, not so much as liberation is concerned, which has of course been atop the American agenda. Imagine Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth waiting on God and heaven for their salvation. Rather such original divas manifest destiny here on Earth, Here and Now, as Luther would say.
// Notes from the Road
"José González's sets during Newport Folk Festival weren't on his birthday (that is today) but each looked to be a special intimate performance.READ the article