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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012
What happens when you combine two of the smartest pop songwriters that Sweden has to offer? You get the incredible, feel-good bounce of We Are Serenades, and the band sits down with PopMatters to talk pencils, porridge, and re-imagining a Flaming Lips album in 3D . . .

We Are Serenades are a hell of an amalgamation.

On one hand, you have Adam Olenius, member of the Shout Out Louds, a Swedish group that lit up the blogosophere in the mid-late Aughties with impossibly catchy pop-rock numbers like “Impossible” and “Tonight I Have to Leave It”. Their songs were featured in numerous movies, TV shows, and commercials, and they had a small commercial following (their 2010 album Work actually entered the Billboard charts at #200 when released). Yet since that album, the band has remained rather silent.

Markus Krunegård, meanwhile, is an accomplished pop musician in his own right, having been a part of the Pello Revolvers, Hets, Laakso (noted for singles like their noteworthy “Demon”), and of his own solo work as well.

So what do the two gentlemen have in common? (Aside from being acclaimed Swedish rock musicians, obviously.) They have formed a new band called We Are Serenades, a pop force which definitely aims for widescreen pop: soaring choruses, fascinating instrumentation, and a feel-good sense of wonder that is impossible to face. With their debut album Criminal Heaven out now (their single “Birds” is already an incredible, orchestral box of sunshine for your ears), the band is doing the promotional rounds, which also includes a stop off to PopMatters’ 20 Questions, where the dynamic duo reveals the duo’s love of pencils, coffee & porridge, and the possibility of re-envisioning the Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin in 3D . . .

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Wednesday, Jun 6, 2012
Few rappers have as many personas as Kool Keith does, and even fewer have the untouchable legacy that he carries with him. Now, with a brand-spakin' new album just out, Keith sat down to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, here revealing why he'd build an even taller Empire State Building, have dinner with Queen Elizabeth, and why "other rappers talking crap is my brain food".

Where does one begin to summarize Kool Keith’s extraordinary career?

Do we start with his landmark work with the Ultramagnetic MCs? Do we mention KHM/The Clayborne Family? The Analog Brothers? What about his albums released under his own name Kool Keith? What about those released by Dr. Octagon? How about Dr. Dooom? Perhaps we can even mention the guest verses he’s done in recent years with everyone from Princess Superstar to Common Grackle?

Ultimately, Keith’s career is one of the most unique in all of rap music, with enough material to deconstruct and analyze several times over. Few people can mix the intelligent and the juvenile as easily as Keith can, which is evidenced no better than on his latest album, Love & Danger. While it does push forth some of the more mature lyrical tropes that have defined his recent work, the aesthetic recalls his classic albums from back in the day, making it a disc that pleases fans old and new alike. To help celebrate the release, Keith sat down to answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, here revealing why he’d build an even taller Empire State Building, have dinner with Queen Elizabeth, and why “other rappers talking crap is my brain food”...

Tagged as: 20 questions
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Hannibal Buress is blowing up: a new special on Comedy Central, a show on Adult Swim, and -- of course -- answering PopMatters' 20 Questions, revealing why he may wear the same pair of jeans for two weeks, wonders what a conversation with a drunken President Obama would be like, and how he'd love to see what cell phones would like like 50 years in the future . . .

Hannibal Buress is three things: 1. Funny; 2. Somewhat mysterious; and 3. Gradually becoming omnipresent.

The first part is pretty obvious: Buress—who grew up in Chicago and now calls New York City his home—has slowly been working his way through the comedy scene, honing his writing skills by working on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock and premiering his own material on late night programs like The Late Show with David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live! after putting out his debut album, My Name is Hannibal, in 2010. His observational humor comes more from the outrageous than it does the mundane, like when he was pitching his surrealistic, conceptual sketches to Lorne Michaels to virtually no response.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012
With a highly personal sound that's both intimate and alluring, Haroula Rose sits down with PopMatters to talk about her psychic abilities, her terrifying first performance, and all her dinner guests whose name starts with "J".

Folkies and I don’t usually get along. If it’s a guy, I usually want to shake them, pull on their scraggly beard, and tell them to lighten up. If the artist is female, and cute, I’ll generally pay a bit closer attention, focusing more on how great it would be to date a musician and have her mention me in the liner notes ala High Fidelity than the music. I’m just being honest . . . the music generally doesn’t do it for me. It takes some hard-bitten honesty of the Ryan Adams, Paul Westerberg, or Jay Farrar songbook to make me buy into it. I saw Haroula Rose a few months ago at a singer/songwriter showcase in L.A., and all my old prejudices and cynicisms were firmly in place. A tiny thing, she demurely approached the microphone and smiled, and as she strummed her way through selections from debut album These Open Roads, I found myself getting lost in her homespun tales of heartache, wanderlust, and rebirth, delivered with delicate, honeyed innocence. I was, and remain, enchanted.

Rose strikes the right balance between sweet and bitter, and by favoring sweet, her sometimes biting lyrics go down a lot easier and never feel melodramatic. Her voice is perfectly suited for Top 40, but her sensibilities and sense of humor (see Question #2) seem better suited to small venues than cavernous halls. With recently lauded performances at SXSW, TV placements (How I Met Your Mother, The Lying Game) and new EP So Easy on the way with full length to follow, Rose seems to be doing everything right, winning over cynics like me one show at a time.

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Thursday, Apr 19, 2012
Remember back in high school when your science teacher was also an acclaimed avant-indie-folk artist who promoted his latest album by burying purple audio cassettes all across North America and leaving cryptic GPS coordinates online so that people could try and find them? Me too.

Remember back in high school when your science teacher was also an acclaimed avant-indie-folk artist who promoted his latest album by burying purple audio cassettes all across North America and leaving cryptic GPS coordinates online so that people could try and find them? Me too . . .

Chad Matheny (sometimes called C. R. Matheny) is the mastermind behind Emperor X, a wildly fluid, somewhat insane electronic/folk hybrid project that he’s been working on for years. While a lot of people discovered his unique lyrical bent and expressive production style through last year’s excellent Western Teleport, the success of that album has led Bar/None Records to re-release his back catalog digitally, which helps give full context to Matheny’s story. There were his early 1998 efforts (The Joytakers’ Rakes/Stars on the Ceiling, Pleasantly Kneeling), which he recorded in his college dorm, and paid for 300 12” pressings of his efforts. There was his 2004 effort Tectonic Membrane/Thin Strip on an Edgeless Platform which saw him maxing out numerous credit cards to record, later forcing him to declare bankruptcy. The upside, however, was his positive critical reception, which helped elevate his profile and made his subsequent albums and EPs find a niche audience, culminating in a large feature on NPR’s Weekend Edition for Western Teleport.

Now with his profile higher than ever before and his back catalog now being available for all to consume, Matheny sits down with PopMatters to answer 20 Questions for us, here revealing his heroic laptop-saving act on the 6-Train, who he owes a keyboard too, and why he wishes to time travel to 24th century Baghdad.

As a bonus, we are premiering the Emperor X tune “Raytracer” today.

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