Latest Blog Posts

by Henry Guyer

17 Jun 2010

I forget sometimes, sitting in my little studio apartment, the lives that go on directly beyond my four whitewashed walls. Then, later on, leaning over the balcony the first day the sun makes its remarkable summer comeback, I meet my neighbors for a short conversation that lasts just as long as our encounters in the hallway or in the elevator. Alone, I wonder what they are really like. What they do and what they think; how they survive and make sense of everything.

I imagine that this is what Charles Spearin (founding member of Do Make Say Think and multi-instrumentalist for Broken Social Scene) must have thought many times before he started The Happiness Project. Simply put, The Happiness Project uses the inflections of ordinary human speech as a springboard to compose music. On the surface, it is music and performance art, but beneath the sounds lurks a microcosm of modern urban life.

by Jane Jansen Seymour

16 Jun 2010

The Mates of State story is one of collaboration—in life as well as together as members of a band since 1997. The husband-wife duo of Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner released a new CD of covers called Crushes (The Covers Mixtape) on June 15th. Before setting off on a tour of over 25 dates with a traveling show of magic, sword swallowers, contortionists and the like, Hammel took the time to talk to PopMatters. With the sounds of a toddler and kids playing in the yard in the background, the conversation started by discussing how the Connecticut suburbs can be a great place to raise a family whether you’re in a band or just a fan.

You met in Kansas, moved together to San Francisco and then settled in the Connecticut suburbs. Why here?
Kori actually grew up in Connecticut so her family is here.  When we were living in San Francisco, we were like, “Man, we love it here, but are we staying here forever or are we going to try to move around a bit more? Well, let’s go to the East Coast and try to get as close to New York City as we can and be close to Kori’s family”, since we thought we were going to have a kid or two and that would be helpful.

by Evan Sawdey

15 Jun 2010

Discovered by Of Montreal and yet embracing their own sort of joyous electro-pop sound, Casiokids may be the hottest dance act currently out of Norway.  Although that statement might seem to be a bit insular, given that both Datarock and Annie have emerged from the same Bergen scene that this quintet have, that’s quite the statement indeed.

Having petered out one tantalizing single after another in Europe while wowing audiences with their shadow puppet-filled, often downright goofy live show, it wasn’t long before labels began taking interest, and only recently did Topp stemning på lokal bar—their vibrant debut album—finally get a Stateside release, all without making any sort of concession to rerecord the songs in English, instead merely giving the tracks a small studio revamp to potentially make them even catchier than they are now (as if that were possible!).

Although the group retains a slight aura of mystery around them, bassist Kjetil Bjøreid Aabø took some time to set us straight by answering PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, revealing a love for all things Pet Sounds, why he holds Smurf-related merchandise over that of Star Wars toys, and how the only tough decision he’d have to make is choosing a favorite film director: Woody Allen or Werner Herzog ...

by Sean Murphy

14 Jun 2010

There are not many people who have any idea what it’s like to be this cool. Even Wayne Shorter does not know, because he is too cool to stop and consider how cool he is. That’s what people like me are here for. And along with his partner-in-crime Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter has been one of the coolest dudes on the planet for more than five decades.

When I wrote about about the (second) Miles Davis Quintet—i.e., the best working band to ever make music—I had this to say about Wayne Shorter:

Wayne Shorter is, for my money, possibly the most underrated genius in any genre of music. To be sure, he gets plenty of props within jazz circles and the people who know really know. And in his wise, humble way, he is probably cool with that. But his name does not come up quickly or often enough in discussions of the true masters. Aside from his considerable proficiency on the horn(s), he is also among the most distinctive and consistently satisfying composers. And while Davis, who was without peer in assembling talent, had the vision and deservedly gets the lion’s share of the credit (he was the lion, after all), a good chunk of the material on those second quintet sessions was written by Shorter. And here’s where it gets unbelievable: all through the mid-to-late ’60s—at the same time they were in The Quintet—he (as well as Hancock) was dropping epic masterpieces on the Blue Note label (think Maiden Voyage, Speak Like a Child, JuJu, and Speak No Evil for starters).

by AJ Ramirez

10 Jun 2010

There’s one important fact that should not be neglected when commemorating the 30-year anniversary of Joy Division’s premature demise. Pretty much within a day of the suicide of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, his remaining bandmates decided to carry on under a new name. Thus was born New Order, an ensemble that gradually shed Joy Division’s rock essence to become one of the most influential groups in modern dance and electronic music. And, dare I say it, New Order was the better band.

While incorporating elements of electronic dance music wasn’t unusual amongst post-punk bands in the early 1980s (the synthesizer-based works of disco producers such as Giorgio Moroder were a strong influence for many of those groups), what set New Order apart from its rock contemporaries was how wholly the group embraced the music and its attending culture, to the point where a huge swath of listeners are unaware of the band’s rockier origins and inclination. In my own case, I was exposed to New Order’s music long before I had any inkling that there had been a predecessor group (much less one that played rock), due to R&B radio’s embrace of the band’s dancefloor-filling output during my 1980s childhood. In contrast to Joy Division’s grim Aryan-tinged image, New Order’s stellar run of singles during the 1980s acted as multicultural nexus points, linking white European post-disco, Latino electro from New York, and black house music from Detroit and Chicago, both drawing from and providing inspiration to these musical strains. The members of New Order would admit without hesitation that they were a bunch of white Britons who hated to dance, but their embrace and advancement of the technological innovations of electronic dance music—essentially forsaking agonized guitars and doomy basslines for drum programming and loads of synths—were never less than sincere. Witness the single “Confusion”, a kaleidoscopic blend of electro and early hip hop that remains a go-to cut for showing off one’s mad breakdancing skills:

//Mixed media

Con Brio: The Best New Live Band in America?

// Notes from the Road

"There’s a preciousness to McCarter and the rest of the mostly young band. You want to freeze the moment, to make sure they are taking it all in too. Because it’s going to change.

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