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Thursday, Dec 3, 2009
After a short chat with Feelies co-chairman Glenn Mercer, co-leader of The Feelies, writer Kieran Curran started thinking about the seminal rock band's place in our modern times...

The Feelies are a band which seem to defy classification even today. Through not being part of any “scene” as such, they followed their own idiosyncratic muses, incorporating influences both typical for alternative bands of their time (Velvet Underground, The Modern Lovers) and atypical (classical minimalism, incorporating found object sounds in their records). Coming out of the suburban village of Haledon, New Jersey in the late 1970s, the band were ensconced with their record collections and jamming with friends in garages, punctuated by occasional trips to the big city to see bands. Without the strictures of a set scene or predefined sound, however, they were able to dip into New York without ever being immersed in it, free to do what they liked, unencumbered by generic expectations or localized trends.


Almost 30 years after their first record (the seminal Crazy Rhythms) was released, the Feelies are, like so many bands of the post-punk era, on the reunion circuit, backed by the reissuing of their first two albums. The crowds they play to are aware of their music through the diversions of the rock canon, through downloading and a general tendency towards retrospection amongst modern music listeners. With the plethora of music easily accessible online, fans are more and more aware of the interrelatedness of music, and the reference points that bands make. If you’re doing it, chances are someone in the past has done it already, whether you know it or not (and the knowingness is quite likely). A current band that makes explicit its debt to its influences from the indie rock canon, Times New Viking, namechecks members of its favorite groups (the Clean, the Fall, Pavement) on its MySpace, as well as referencing Yo La Tengo in a song which sounds very like Yo La Tengo.


Tagged as: the feelies
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Wednesday, Dec 2, 2009
A case could be made that Sabbath is by far the most misunderstood and underrated band. Ever. (Indeed, I've already made that case. Now I'm going to make it again.)

I’m so proud of my Pops.


Last night, quite out of the blue (or, out of the black, as the case may be), he said he had to ask me a “technical question.”


I braced myself, prepared to disappoint him. A “technical” question had to mean he was going to ask about computers, and I would have to remind him that, despite working closely with them for almost two decades, I probably know less about the inner workings and mechanics of these things than the average ten year old.


To my considerable relief, it was a question about music.


To my considerable delight, it was a question about Black Sabbath.


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Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009

I will admit it. One of my guiltiest guilty pleasures is The X Factor. It is essentially the British version of American Idol. It is awful, but I love it.


When it was announced that the 2008 winner would sing a cover of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”, I thought the situation couldn’t get any worse.


It just did.


It has been announced that the 2009 winner will sing a cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”.


I could not believe my ears.


When I eventually believed them, I wanted to eat them in a fit of pure, undiluted fury.


“Don’t Stop Believin’” is one of my favorite songs. I am against cover versions in (almost) every shape and form. The original is the best. Unless you can do something imaginative with the original (listen to Taken by Trees’ version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, for example), then leave it as it is. There is nothing about The X Factor that could possibly be considered original. Take it from someone who knows.


I could list all the things that are wrong with this choice, but I will start with the most obvious. One: the original version is brilliant and you should never mar brilliance. Two: why not pick an original song for the winner? At least then it can stand as a song in its own right. Can they not afford songwriters in this poor economic climate? Three: one of the contestants, an admittedly talented guy named Joe, already sang this song (and is favored to win, apparently). Does anything scream favoritism louder than that?


I will end this post with a solemn plea. Please buy the original version of “Don’t Stop Believin’” from iTunes during the week before Christmas. In the name of good taste, good music and all that is holy, buy “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Please.


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Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009
Swedish singer-songwriter Anna Ternheim takes a moment to chat with PopMatters.com about her musical output and the current Swedish music scene.

Sweden’s darling Anna Ternheim has been creating music since 2004 and has released four studio albums filled with songs that seem deeply personal and walk the line between folk and pop music.  She possesses an adeptness for song compositions that don’t leave the listener wanting for even a moment.  Though she chooses to back them up with the guitar rather than the piano, her lyrics sometimes recall the soft femininity of fellow Swede Frida Hyvönen.


It seemed effortless to have a conversation with Ternheim about everything from the music community right now in Sweden, to the sensational vampiric novel and film Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In).  As one might expect, she comes off both as a strong and intelligent woman.  She ran into a bit of trouble on the way to our interview and her October 10th show at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago, as the van she was sharing with Emil Svanängen of Loney Dear broke down, forcing her to take a special flight just to make the event. But she made it clear she wasn’t going to let the stress get to her or effect her live performance. What follows is a condensed version of our chat about her music, her live shows, and life as a Swedish musician.


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Monday, Nov 30, 2009
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

“Nobody can be you but you.”
—Steve Arrington


It’s almost inaccurate to call drummer/songwriter/producer Steve Arrington as plain a term as “singer”, as he doesn’t so much sing lyrics as much as he throws his whole being into them, disarming listeners with the pure physicality of swooping acrobatic highs, dramatic growls, and unexpected melodic turns. The former vocalist/frontman for funk legends Slave, as well as his own group, Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame, Steve Arrington, along with fellow Ohio natives Sugarfoot and Roger Troutman, has long been considered by funkateers to be one of the most distinctive funk vocalists of all time.


With all due respect to the aforementioned vocalists, as well as Larry Blackmon and other groundbreaking funk vocalists, I would actually go one step further and say Arrington is the most unique vocalist in funk, ever. While it is fairly common for funk vocalists to function as the lead rhythm instrument within an interlocking hyper-syncopated ensemble, Arrington, in my opinion, was the only one to use his voice in the same way other funk bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s used squealing, gurgling synths: as an undulating, unpredictable, but still pleasing-to-hear futuristic “sound effect” of sorts. Troutman, whose work I love dearly, of course also deftly and skillfully did things in this vein, but he had the help of his talkbox. Arrington’s vocal flights of fancy are organic, and his drumming background gives each of his texturized vocal performances a rhythmic precision that is funky-to-the-core. And to this day, no one sounds like Steve Arrington but Steve Arrington—nobody can be him but him.


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