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by Evan Sawdey

17 Feb 2011


Photo: Jenny Jimenez

It’s time to say hello to Eric Elbogen—despite the fact that he’s been here for awhile.

Ever since he initially moved to New York to form his band Say Hi in 2002—which is mostly a solo project for all intents and purposes—Elbogen has managed to put out six well-regarded solo albums, his stature growing with each and every release.  His 2009 album Oohs & Ahhs, for example, managed to get songs featured in everything from Cadillac ads to Showtime television programs.  Now, with his seventh disc, Um, Uh Oh, Elbogen’s alter ego is poised to break wide open, and the single “Devil” has already been featured in the TV show Gossip Girl, exposing Say Hi to a much larger audience.

Elbogen’s unique home-spun sound feels right at home on Barsuk, and his expressive, perfectly imperfect voice might invite more than a few welcome comparisons to that of Arcade Fire’s Win Butler.  His songwriting abilities are as sharp as ever, and people merely need to hear Um, Uh Oh‘s album opener “Dots on Maps” to understand what the fuss is all about.  Taking time from his busy schedule, Elbogen managed to sit down with PopMatters to answer our famed 20 Questions, revealing how he’s still trying to be a badass drummer, why you don’t mess with the Stones, and how he wants to be remembered for his terrible jokes . . .

by Stefan Nickum

16 Feb 2011


Despite frequent outings for someone who’s barely 20, nothing could prepare Nicolas Jaar’s admirers or the general listening public for what he’s done on Space Is Only Noise. House is hardly anywhere to be found here, techno neither, though some of Jaar’s synth lines could certainly qualify. The tempos Jaar are working in are owed largely to hip-hop, and the rest of Jaar’s soundscapes are perplexing, disarming, and utterly dreamlike.

Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise (Circus Company)

As James Blake is gushed about by the critical cacophony, a different young wunderkind will likely be overlooked. Twenty-year-old Nicolas Jaar is at least as deceptively related to the electronic music community as Blake, his affiliation lying with house and techno rather than dubstep.  Each has taken bold sonic risks within these genres, and Jaar in particular is drawing on a musical palette that is noticeably rich with influences.

by Evan Sawdey

15 Feb 2011


To help figure out what “Born This Way” is, let’s first rule out exactly what it’s not.

First off, it is not the modern day “I Will Survive”, as Elton John so giddily claimed in his recent Rolling Stone interview. As tempting as it also is to write it off as a modern update of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” (as Rob Sheffield does here), it also doesn’t fill that role precisely, because its context is notably different (although, musically, it bears an unabashed similarity). 

Instead, what Sheffield does get right is that “Born This Way” finds its power and its force by digging deep into the heart of American disco: shamelessly straightforward pop music with only the slightest wink of self-importance. This is an empowerment anthem to be danced to, inclusive to all, specific to no one.  It will set clubs ablaze for the rest of 2011, soar to the top of the charts, and have an extravagantly over-the-top video as we’ve come to expect from Miss Gaga.

by Corey Beasley

14 Feb 2011


Isaac Brock doesn’t mope. His songs have their share of navel gazing, of minor chords and heart wringing. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a track where Brock sounds indulgent, caught up in the personal mythologizing—the romanticizing of your own private pains—that comes so often with depression. The Lonesome Crowded West is full of songs about being stuck or stalled out. “Polar Opposites” is another one of them. However, like “Heart Cooks Brain” or “Trailer Trash” or the other more overtly melancholy tracks on the album, “Polar Opposites” doesn’t shuffle along, mumbling to itself in a sad-sack reverie. Instead, Brock and Modest Mouse turn frustration into energy, anthemizing listlessness in a way that only the best of rock n’ roll music can do.

As mentioned before in these pages, “Polar Opposites” sees Modest Mouse leaning heavily on its pop sensibilities. On an album as raw and aggressive as The Lonesome Crowded West, this type of songwriting could seem out of place, but the band knows so well how to write a hook, how to use melody and major chords to command attention, that “Polar Opposites” represents just another peak in the album’s trajectory. It’s the track you’d lift from the album and play for your friend who needs to be eased into a record as disarmingly dense as this one. It goes down easy.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

11 Feb 2011


Mendelsohn: Abbey Road is a little bittersweet, you know? The end of an era, the final dissolution, a grab bag of whatever they had left over before they went on to lives of obscurity and whatnot.

Klinger: Yeah, whatever happened to those Beatle guys?

Abbey Road is, underneath its sheen, a very sad album. I noticed that a lot as I was listening to it this time. You know what it’s like? It’s like when you’re in a relationship that you know is coming to an end, but you both know that you really owe it to the other person to give it one last shot. So you put on your best clothes and head out to really nice place (maybe that place that used to be so special to you). You order appetizers and a bottle of wine and everything. And the thing is you have a pretty good time. The conversation flows freer than it has in months. You reminisce a little, you share a few secrets, and you even laugh a little about the whole situation. But even so, it’s still over. And you both know it. And nothing’s going to make it any less sad. But you have to go on anyway.

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