Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009
by Robin Cook

The first Little Boots (Caligula to his contemporaries) was a Roman emperor infamous for his sadism, who inspired a really bad 1980 film starring Malcolm MacDowell and Helen Mirren. It’s taken two millenia, but finally another Little Boots has come along to redeem the name. Also known as Victoria Hesketh, she creates elegant and oh-so-infectious electro-pop. Her debut album is still in the works, but meanwhile, you can download her new album, Arecibo, or check out her MySpace page.



Tagged as: little boots, sxsw
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Tuesday, Apr 21, 2009
Say Anything's Max Bemis recently reopened his "Song Shop", wherein you can "buy" a Say Anything song for $150, the finished acoustic number arriving in your inbox a week later. Yet is it worth it? Where does the line between creativity and commerce end?

Ever want to be immortalized in a song? Or, more critically, do you have a spare $150 laying around?


Say Anything, for the uninitiated, is a surprisingly literate, self-consciously humorous emo-rock act fronted by Max Bemis, a young man who has a strong, distinct personality that stands out amidst the sea of generic Alternative Press flavors-of-the-week that come and go every month without much notice.  Bemis’ “official” debut album, 2004’s excellent … is a Real Boy, was a theatrical, intelligent affair that got all the attention it deserved: few emo-rock albums carry as much pop-savvy or emotional heft as this album did, never once leaning into overly-poetic (see: indulgent) lyrics, simply because Bemis was so self-deprecating to be nailed with heavy criticism. Though his follow-up disc (2007’s double-disc affair In Defense of the Genre) was predictably bloated, Bemis showed no signs of slowing down his Pollard-like output, contributing to last year’s Punk Goes Crunk album (a cover of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money”) and releasing a full-length album from his Two Tongues side-project just a few months ago.


Tagged as: say anything
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Monday, Apr 20, 2009
Herbie Hancock Is Cooler Than Us And He Always Has Been

Everyone knows that Herbie Hancock is one of the coolest men on the planet, and has been for almost half a century. Anyone who doesn’t know this doesn’t know much; all we can offer them are condolences. Only Miles Davis, with whom Hancock worked for several crucial years (in both mens’ lives) during the mid-’60s, can possibly be invoked in any discussion of popular musicians who consistently shaped, then challenged the vanguard over a substantial period of time. These artists not only made new music but changed music on at least a handful of occasions.


Most folks know, and love, Hancock from what was likely their first association with him: the song (and more significantly, the video) “Rockit”, which was prominent in the MTV rotation circa 1983. The import of this one song is impossible to overstate: it not only spotlighted black men on the then-lilywhite music video channel, it spotlighted a jazz band. On top of that, it served as a mainstream introduction to scratching and turntable pyrotechnics. To say the earth was no longer flat, sonically speaking, after “Rockit” is only hinting at its influence.


Tagged as: herbie hancock
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Friday, Apr 17, 2009
It seems that indie has turned from the glam and glitz of orchestral pop to the grit of lo-fi.
picture taken from soundcoremusic.com

picture taken from soundcoremusic.com


Now that we’ve nearly settled into a post-record label era, a time when big labels are losing money and the only bands big enough to sell large quantities of albums and concert tickets are bands from the past, it makes sense that sensibilities have returned to lo-fi. It made sense in the ‘80s too, when there was the rebellion against the over-produced, super-slick synth sounds, but when grunge took off it kind of trivialized lo-fi’s relevance as a counter-cultural sound.


So, now that it’s easy for a kid in his bedroom to make something sound like the newest Kanye record, it seems like it’s really taking a stand to make your band/recording sound shitty, and the almost counter culture focuses its interest in lo-fi once more. It’s hard to define what is counter culture or indie at this point (I’m sure someone’s already written something about this and given it much more thought than me), when certain online music sites are the source for a certain sort of music fan and bands that would’ve been far too difficult years ago now appeal to every other college kid, this also confuses the genre.


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Thursday, Apr 16, 2009
by PopMatters Staff
Georgia indie pop group Venice Is Sinking has released a few records that PopMatters rated pretty highly, Sorry About the Flowers in 2006 and AZAR earlier this year. Lucas Jensen, the band's drummer, sits down with 20 Questions to explain his theories about Star Wars and more.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
There were parts in Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories that really got to me, particularly dealing with plight of the overweight, asthmatic lawyer Theo, who could have easily become a caricature. The empathy and humanity that Atkinson shows Theo (imagine that, an ugly major character!) is well beyond the norm for most fiction, particularly mystery fiction. WALL-E also made me tear up at various points. The beginning is so cute and yet so sad. WALL-E‘s loneliness is palpable. Sure, it’s billed as a kid’s movie, but have you ever seen anything so desolate and bleak in your life?!


2. The fictional character most like you?
Hmmm…probably some buffoonish but lovable motormouth idiot out there. Falstaff? That Scottish guy from Four Weddings and a Funeral who died? Did I just give something away? Spoiler alert!


3. The greatest album, ever?
Oh man, this question is a tough one. I vacillate between any number of albums, including some usual suspects like Pet Sounds and Revolver and stuff, so I’m going to go oddball today and say that it’s Tindersticks’ second self-titled album, which, in its long running time, manages to incorporate spoken word, Serge Gainsbourg-style duets, distorted surf guitars, full orchestras, piano ballads, and a one-mic-recorded dirges without every getting boring once. It’s so overstuffed with dramatic gestures and ambition and well-executed bad ideas that it’s almost gaudy in its grandeur.


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