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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
by PopMatters Staff
Ken Stringfellow is a well-known figure in the world of smart pop music, having worked with the likes of the Posies, R.E.M., the Minus 5, and Big Star. These days he's playing with the Disciplines and their new album Smoking Kills released just last week.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
ALL Movies make me cry. I am that kind of guy. From The Terminator to soft porn to, of course, It’s a Wonderful Life, I start crying during the damn previews, for fuck sake.


2. The fictional character most like you?
Pretty much was feeling like Randy the Ram in The Wrestler when I saw that film… old, fucked up never-has-been, “he’s a loser but he still keeps on trying” as the Little River Band would say.


3. The greatest album, ever?
Hard to call. The Shaggs album? It’s really a tough call. The Shaggs is perhaps the most extraordinary. Greatest, maybe Farewell to Kings by Rush.


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Monday, May 4, 2009
Dylan's new album of rough-and-ready love songs, Together Through This, is proof that he needs a little nudge back onto a darker path.

“There’s a new Dylan album coming out,” my father announced, at the end of our weekly conversation.


“Have you heard any of the songs?”


“No. It’s supposedly an album of love songs.”


For me, growing up amidst the ‘60s hangover of small town Northern California, Bob Dylan was always one of those artists whose work provided a bridge back to the lost Eden of the ‘60s. He never seemed to date himself or to become a novelty: his classic albums were always digressive and angry enough to keep their relevance and cool from one generation to the next.


Thus, when Dylan began his mighty comeback with Time Out of Mind, I bought it right alongside albums by Radiohead, Pavement, and Tori Amos. I’ve followed him fairly closely ever since, and, like parents and friends, I’ve taken an interest in the new Dylan books and films, including Chronicles, I’m Not There, and Scorsese’s No Direction Home.


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Friday, May 1, 2009
by PopMatters Staff
Donny Blum, drummer for the Von Bondies, tells us why Star Wars rules, you ought to try yoga and how inspirational Hieronymus Bosch is.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
That would be Math Without Tears, by Roy Hartkopf. I was boning up on math, because I think it’s so important to be able to add and subtract when I’m on tour. Math is so painful to me; it’s like pulling teeth. But math is also so important to all of our lives. I also saw a commercial on TV several years ago for the Humane Society. It was about what a dog dreams of at night. It dreams of its owner, a very old man. Then you find out that the old man is dead and the dog is now in a cage at a dog shelter. It is very sad.


2. The fictional character most like you?
I would have to say Taras Bulba from that famous story by Gogol. I feel like the members of my band are like Taras Bulba’s sons. And he would do anything for them, just as I would do anything for my sons. If I had any.


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Thursday, Apr 30, 2009
Even on the interpersonal level, there is no forgiveness in forgetting, and there is no progress in regret. When we promise to funk, to face truth unheard, and trust evidence unseen but known, we commit ourselves to a broader path of liberation, and therein resides our potential for progress.

Feet don’t fail me now: Theme songs for breaking stereotypes in America


Here’s your chance to make your way out of your constriction


One of the most interesting aspects of being Black in America is dealing with strongly visible, widely circulated racial stereotypes. Retired bad-ass baller Charles Barkley recently said it best with a book Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man?, whose title says quite a bit. I know of a six-foot-plus middle school Black boy whose school administrators unconscious minds are so thoroughly steeped in stereotypes as to feel so terrorized by him that they escort the child between classes separating him during lunch and other activities. This all further ostracizes the kid and teaches him—albeit fearfully flawed pedagogically—that we live in a society that fears big Black men, despite, and obviously in spite of that particular child’s talents and circumstances. In America, we live in a society that bred richly fertile black wenches and black bucks, but no sooner did we win our liberation did our image of virility turn heavily towards that of social pariah. Death, destruction, dark, violent, the scary-looking Hindu goddess Kali is the “ultimate reality” in some Tantric beliefs, despite the only global incarnation of Tantra is reduced to its sexual connotations—again mirroring the view of the big, sexualized, poverty stricken, scary Black Man.


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Tuesday, Apr 28, 2009
I really do. I love Death Cab for Cutie, but their uninspired and relatively unimpressive show at Chicago's Aragon Theater on April 13th demonstrated that the band, which is an indie rock mainstay, deserves to be able to alter their songs and recreate the musical experience for their fans.

I have a secret. I like Death Cab for Cutie. I’m a 36-year-old, married man, living in Chicago, and I walk my dog two or three times a day (I am a terrible and awful urban cliché) and I really like Death Cab for Cutie. I think Transatlanticism is a very good album with depth and glorious pop hooks, and dynamic depth. I own every Death Cab album and think each has important merit in my love of music.


But have refused to see Death Cab for Cutie in concert. The myriad of 16- through 25-year-old girls, hungry for sensitivity, dragging their boyfriends to play sing along for a two-hour Death Cab show has always prevented me from wanting to see them live.


This time, I would not be deterred. I was going to see Death Cab for Cutie. I was going to buy three or five beers and stomach the high pitched yelps, the desperate sing along, the disappointed boyfriends, and I was going to like this show.


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