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by AJ Ramirez

10 Feb 2011


Rock is my favorite style of music by far, and I have to say, a large part of the genre’s basic appeal to me is so instinctive it’s a disservice to try to intellectualize or quantify it. At the end of the day, it’s that gut feeling I get from listening to the music—the primal sensation of “being rocked”—that often endears a rock song to me. Fact: I will never get sick of hearing distorted guitars that bash out killer riffs—indeed, I often teach myself how to play them on guitar so I can play them endlessly to my heart’s content.

This is a somewhat long-winded setup to explain that earlier this week I taught myself how to play Judas Priest’s heavy metal classic “Breaking the Law”, riff and all, because it’s totally awesome you guys. Yes, that is my well-thought out rationale for pursuing the undertaking. And if any style of rock music is duty-bound to adhere to a criteria of being “totally awesome” to determine its intrinsic worth, it is metal. Priest knows how to be awesome: decked out in studded black leather, singer Rob Halford habitually drives onto a concert stage on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, dismounting to whip the crowd into a frenzy as they are attacked by the twin lead guitar assault of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing. We’re long past the point where such stagecraft can be dismissed by haters as silly macho posturing for dimwitted metalheads. Expert showmen and terrific musicians in any case, Halford and Co. know what the audience wants and how to deliver. The leather, the metal, the sonic onslaught: it’s all honed to perfection for the express purpose of making you feel rocked.

by Steve Horowitz

9 Feb 2011


England’s VV Brown came out of the South by Southwest Music Festival smokin’ hot. Between her showcase performance at the Latitude 30 Club, several party appearances that included Perez Hilton’s One Night in Austin and Spinner.com’s Pop-Up at the Gas Pipe, and her gig on KGSR radio’s breakfast program, the word was out. Brown was last year’s SXSW most likely to succeed, following in the tradition of females songstresses of the past such as Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, and Nellie McKay.

Whether Brown will flame out like Winehouse, soar to superstardom like Jones, or remain a beloved cult artist like McKay remains to be seen. One thing for certain is Brown’s driving ambition. Brown sat down with PopMatters at SXSW and discussed her plans to conquer the world.

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How different is it playing festivals with artists different than you are versus your own tours?

I love it when I am with artists different than me. I stumbled upon a new band yesterday that I fell in love with called the Octopus Project. And I think it’s just so fun to mingle with other musicians. They challenge you and inspire you as an artist, and it’s a great feeling. It’s really boring when you hang around people that are similar to you or doing the same things as you because you don’t grow. And as an artist, I really want to grow so festivals like this are a platform for discovery for me as an artist.

by Stefan Nickum

8 Feb 2011


Every week an avalanche of sound is let go into the world of electronic music. The merchant alleys, virtual pathways, and myriad communities that exchange music are overwhelming in the age of the Internet. That said, electronic music is atomizing and reinventing itself like few other musical sounds, partly because these avenues of distribution are so widely embraced and promoted by the electronic music community.

Yet, to listen to all of these releases and pick out the head-turners would require as many people as there are releases. Sinking into a piece of music is itself a time consuming process, that is if you’re willing to absorb the sounds with the same care in which they were made.

Here at Sound Affects I will regularly choose an EP or album, a DJ mix, and an unreleased single to highlight and say a few kind, endearing words about. Each of these formats is meant to represent the ways in which electronic music is consumed most commonly these days, with DJ mixes being fascinating albums in their own right, and unreleased, self-released, and bootleg singles being extraordinarily rich realms of sample-based possibility. Now that you know what you’re in for, here are my first three!

by Corey Beasley

7 Feb 2011


If The Lonesome Crowded West is an album born of and fixated upon car culture, “Truckers Atlas” is the engine at the heart of it. Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock’s ultimate—and ultimately frustrated—vision of gasoline-fueled escapism, the track fires on all cylinders for upwards of ten minutes. Brock’s narrator here speeds back and forth across the country from Alaska to Florida, New York to Arizona, and finds nothing but emptiness and isolation in America’s open road promises. Jack Kerouac, take a seat and learn something.

Musically, “Truckers Atlas” gives us some of Modest Mouse’s most focused performances, each member of the band locking into rhythm as tightly as the Jaws of Life biting into twisted metal. Jeremiah Green lays down perhaps the most inspired beat of his life, a flurry of toms and snare and hi-hat (and that delectably placed chime on the bell of his ride cymbal) that provides the track with enough muscle to make Brock’s odometer abuse sound believable. If we could figure out a way to liquefy that beat and siphon it into our gas tanks, we’d all be set for life. Brock and Eric Judy hit upon riffs at once raw and smoothly danceable, displaying the mastery of syncopation so integral to the band’s sound. The composition is—all right, fine—a well-oiled machine, never faltering for a moment.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

4 Feb 2011


Klinger: Let me begin by making a bold proclamation, one that ties in with the last edition of Counterbalance. Patti Smith’s “Gloria” is one of the greatest side one/track ones of all time, on par with Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” (both 1975 albums—coincidence?).

In just under six minutes, “Gloria” takes you on a sexy, slightly scary roller coaster ride, and in those minutes you realize you are in the presence of a master, someone who can take the poetic pretensions of the Lizard King and do them up right. Someone with the same blend of lasciviousness and aloofness as Jagger in his prime. “Gloria” shuts down any pointless academic discussions of gender identity or the role of women in rock or the state of the music industry circa 1975, because it’s too busy whipping you around over its head. I was only seven when “Gloria” came out, so I can only imagine what my reaction to it would have been, but I suspect it would have been similar to when I saw Prince on MTV as a teenager—this is what’s next.

Mendelsohn: That is a bold proclamation, Klinger, one that I’m not inclined to argue with, especially when the opening line is, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” But if John Lennon taught us anything, it’s not to involve Jesus with rock music. I’m surprised Patti made it out of the ‘70s, considering the all-around religious zealotry that marred parts of the 20th century. I’m so glad we’ve moved past all of that.

But before you go jumping over gender issues, there is one semi-rhetorical question I want to ask. If Patti had been a Patrick, would we be having this conversation?

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