When news spread across the Internet on Saturday that legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio had succumbed to his battle with stomach cancer, I scoured every news website I could think, hoping to find solid confirmation of the event. I was not about to take the rumors at face value without some fact-checking, especially given Dio is a musician whom I quite enjoy. Sure enough, metal news site Blabbermouth.net soon gained confirmation from Dio’s wife Wendy that the performer was in fact still alive, albeit not in the best of shape. Unfortunately, that respite turned out to be short-lived: when I turned on my computer on Sunday, Dio spouse was now his widow, sadly informing the world of the singer’s passing.
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The musical duo of Sussex mates (since their girlhood) Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire each share vocals and acoustic guitar duties on their new release, Ghosts. On this splendid disc, the Smoke Fairies bring a refreshing take to the two standard rock music mainstays, blues and folk. Their unique eclectic blend of blues and folk is laced with soulful harmonic shiverings of emotive lyrics. They evoke via icy whispers and melodic trills all the longing and rage derivative of a lost love and the forlorn wanderings of relationships gone astray. Their new CD Ghosts is a collection of songs previously released separately as UK singles, but now, fortunately, made easier to find.
The Smoke Fairies are also seasoned touring musicians that are both at home performing on stage as well as spending time on their studio tan being prolific songwriters. The band is currently touring the United States and Great Britain through August 2010. Visit their MySpace site for a free song download (with several others streaming as well) as a tour itinerary. The duo took time out of their busy tour preparation to give the low-down on their band name, guitar sound, fans, the Internet and their Top Ten album favs.
Matt Pond has been in “renegade” mode as of late.
In 2008, the noted indie-rock stylist behind Matt Pond PA made a few rather unexpected moves. First off, he made a bit of an unexpected mainstream concession by covering My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not OK (I Promise)” for the second volume of the Guilt By Association series. Then, shortly thereafter, put out a brand new EP for free online (its too-appropriate title? The Freeep). Although fans rapturously responded, the EP was then promptly pulled, only to be released a year later under a different title and on pay sites like iTunes. Some wondered if there was some label-wrangling that happened during this time, but for Pond, he just turned it into another opportunity.
As a way to promote his new album The Dark Leaves, Pond used The Freeep experiment as a way to launch a trilogy of EPs called The Threeep, each one headlined by a track from The Dark Leaves as a way of building up hype. Now, with Dark Leaves finally out and the third and final Threeep installment on its way, Matt Pond took some time out to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, revealing that he doesn’t discriminate against science fiction universes, his power to talk animals out of eating him, and why he enjoys drinking with his good buddy Stress ...
When it comes to art in general and music in particular, entirely too many people are very American in their tastes: they know what they like and they like what they know. And there’s nothing wrong with that, since what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Also, let’s face it, the only thing possibly more annoying than some yahoo proselytizing their religion on your doorstep is some jackass getting in your grill about how evolved or enviable his or her musical tastes happen to be. Life is way too short, for all involved.
On the other hand, back in the day we were obliged to talk about music using only words. Now there is YouTube! If you can’t believe everything you read, you can always have faith in what you hear; the ears never lie. Not when it comes to music. Not when it comes to jazz music.
But how to talk about jazz music? Well, perhaps it’s better to determine how not to talk about jazz music. Hearing is believing. That’s it. And if you hear something that speaks to you, keep listening. Whatever effort you put in will be immeasurably rewarded. But first, eradicate cliché. Possibly the most despicable myth (that, fortunately doesn’t seem as widespread today, perhaps –sigh– because less people talk or care about jazz music in 2010) is one I found myself ceaselessly rebutting back in the bad old days. You know which one: that lazy, anecdotally innacurate and often racist assumption that all jazz artists are (or at least were) heroin addicts. That’s like saying all pro athletes are steroid abusers. Oh wait…
In the first half of the ‘80s, the Cure (particularly Robert Smith) was the face of alternative music. Pale skin, black eyeliner and blood red lips became the uniform of those who deemed themselves outside of the mainstream, and the Cure? The Cure was the cool band people would say they listened to when they wanted to prove that they themselves were cool. The Head on the Door made the Cure Masters of the Form and expanded this rather myopic opinion of the band. The Head on the Door had been a visceral musical masterpiece that channeled the Cure’s musical energies in an album length wave of accessible energy. It eliminated the idea that the Cure was nothing more than the face of alternative music. The Cure had openly courted the mainstream without ever actually swimming in it or changing the basics of their sound. In essence, the Cure didn’t seem to care about being cool at all and, naturally this made the band that much cooler. They were no longer simply what alternative music looked like; they were what it sounded like as well.
After The Head on the Door, the band found themselves tasked with following up the most successful production of their musical ideas. So in 1987 The Cure released Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me a sprawling double album filled with virtually every musical idea that Robert Smith and the band could think of. With the release of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me the band that had always seemed too cool for the mainstream, the band that had always been seen as the cool alternative to it, discovered something they’d never experienced before – their first world wide success.