When We Are Scientists first began making waves in the press with their second album With Love and Squalor in 2006, the group wound up being pegged as one of the most prototypical indie rock groups out there: a trio that played quirky-smart guitar rock songs that sounded like fellow power-pop enthusiasts the New Pornographers with maybe a bit more caffeine and a few rays of sunshine rubbed off the sheen. The group could get goofy, but they never played up the comedy too deliberately.
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If anything, Barzin Hosseini is a bit unassuming.
You see him, he’s very quiet about his ambitions, but you find out that his long-running musical project, simply called Barzin, has been putting out music for more than a decade now (having formed all the way back in 1995), and also learn of how this Canadian has produced records for the likes of Memoryhouse—all on top of releasing his own book of poetry—and this quiet character slowly comes into focus.
Yet if Barzin stands for anything, it’s assuredly for quality music, and his lush, lavish fourth album To Live Alone in That Long Summer manages to simultaneously sound sonically expansive even as it possesses the emotional intimacy of a home-recorded acoustic ballad. His production skills are very much in top form here, and songs like the tremolo lament “Lazy Summer” and the affecting “Stealing Beauty” only help further Barzin’s unique aesthetic.
Now, of course, Barzin tackles on the unique challenge that is PopMatters’ 20 Questions, here revealing an affinity for the radio DJ from Northern Exposure, sage advice learned from Frank Zappa lyrics, and has some choice yet reasonable words for his town’s mayor, Rob Ford ...
New Bums may very well be the quietest supergroup in all of history.
On one end, you have the lo-fi acoustic strums of Donovan Quinn, best known for his homespun rock group Skygreen Leopards, who have been quietly releasing brilliant albums since 2001. On the other hand, you have Ben Chasny, who is known for his band Six Organs of Admittance and his other band Comets on Fire and his other band Rangda and—well, you get the idea. Chasny has proven himself adept and adjusting his indie-centric style towards whatever situation calls for a new flush of energy, and when he got together with Quinn, a little group called New Bums emerged.
André Cymone has had one of the most interesting careers in music history.
Indeed, Cymone, who was a childhood friend of Prince’s, started out as the bassist for Prince back in the early days (some of their early work can be heard on the recently-released Numero Group compilation Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound). He played with Prince quite a bit in the early days before branching out and going solo, having released a unique trilogy of efforts in the early ‘80s: 1982’s Living in the New Wave, the following year’s Surviving in the ‘80s, and his most popular disc, 1985’s A.C., which included a Prince-written track called “The Dance Electric”, which became a minor club hit. (Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for the 2012 UK re-release of A.C..)
And you thought you had to wait a long time for Dr. Dre to release Detox.
When Latyrx’s debut album dropped in 1997, the enigmatic disc contained a glorious meshing of backpack rap icons from all sides, creating a unique, hypnotic, yet very accessible sound that really doesn’t have much peer, especially when heard a decade and a half later. Latyrx was a combination of Lateef the Truth Speaker and Lyrics Born, two highly talented MCs who went on to release numerous attention-grabbing solo albums of their own. Yet here, with the Blackalicious crew and DJ Shadow creating unique atmospheres for the dual rappers to spar over, Latyrx’s lone outing become the stuff of wonders, with songs alternatively funny and poignant, some songs even featuring Lyrics Born and Lateef rapping simultaneously out of different stereo channels, making for quite the headrush. It was the stuff that indie-rap dreams were made of, but as each member’s solo careers burdeoned in different ways, Latyrx’s The Album was viewed simply as a one-off.