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by Evan Sawdey

7 Jun 2011


This is the story of a Swedish band that employed a wolf named Ylva.

Ylva, of course, is the inanimate star of the band’s album-length video sampler of third album Flora, which, aside from being viewable at the end of this article, is also a great introduction to this exciting trio.  Lead by Fredrik Hultin, the group has taken a very DIY approach to just about everything it does, whether recording all its albums in a garden-turned-recording studio or doing ungodly amounts of stop-animation for its self-produced music videos.  All of these aspects, however, fail to mention that the group’s ghostly, haunting spin on indie rock is still the main draw. Sad cowbells open into canyons of sound, rock guitars sputter and start at dynamic intervals—all done while the group keeps a firm eye on what a solid melody is, which is why the band is only now starting to emerge as a Stateside player.

As part of the group’s world domination plans, Hultin himself sat down to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, and his illuminating replies provide great insight on how to pass along advice, what the Swedish winter does to your blood, and the joys of singing to your morning coffee . . .

by Christian John Wikane

5 May 2011


These days, the vehicle for revolution is a Hammond XK-2, especially when Femi Kuti stands behind the keys. Though Nigeria achieved its independence from the United Kingdom, in 1960, corruption continues to infiltrate the political system, a reality that’s informed much of Kuti’s nearly 25-year recording career. Africa for Africa, his latest album, takes on the hypocrisy of leaders in his home country who have failed to lead by example, while citing individuals from throughout history who have led and inspired positive change: Kwame Nkrumah, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and his father, Fela Kuti, among them. It’s a brave and bold work that transmits some of the quotidian concerns of those living in Nigeria, especially Lagos (Kuti’s home city). With the polyrhythms of the Positive Force, Kuti tirelessly pilots a set of 14 original songs and delivers one of the most enthralling releases of 2011.

Just 24 hours before Kuti was named “Best World Music Artist” by Songlines magazine, he arrived at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn for a stop on the North American leg of his Africa for Africa tour. Dressed in traditional attire stitched by tailors in Lagos, Kuti was a calm but commanding presence as he walked from his dressing room down a set of stairs into the Hall for sound check. He surveyed the stage, tested the microphones, and prepared his organ and saxophone for a full run through the horn-driven “E No Good”, one of the highlights on Africa for Africa. Even without an audience present, Kuti and the Positive Force communicated more passion, virtuosity, and professionalism than most bands do with hundreds of cheering fans.

by PopMatters Staff

3 May 2011


Photo: Jed Johnson

Petra Haden is one of the few artists working today who can truly be called “a luminary”, yet here we are.

Haden, after all, has released full-length albums using nothing but her powerful, emotive voice (including a celebrated 2005 disc where she covered the classic album The Who Sell Out in its entirety) while also being in the noted ‘90s indie-quirk band That Dog, all while still contributing her considerable violin skills to artists as diverse as Beck, the Foo Fighters, the Twilight Singers, and several more.

Yet even when recording on major label budgets, Haden has still found time to indulge in her love of collaboration, and her latest effort is a band called If By Yes, where she got to meet up with another luminary—Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda—and make something that can be best described as “experimental pop”: unpredictable yet familiar, alien yet beautiful, all at the same time.  To celebrate the release of the band’s debut effort Salt on Sea Glass (which, it should be noted, is filled with guest turns from the likes of David Byrne, Nels Cline, and Cornelius), Haden sat down to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, here revealing a particular connection to the film Kramer vs. Kramer, a talent for Moonwalking, and how she recently bought ProTools but has no idea how to use it . . .

by PopMatters Staff

26 Apr 2011


The best part about the Chapin Sisters’ unique indie-folk sound is how it is completely, uniquely their own—a great thing in its own right, and an even more astonishing aspect when you take their famous lineage into consideration.

Lily and Abigail’s story starts with their father, noted singer Tom Chapin, and how the sisters are actually nieces of icon Harry Chapin.  The group’s first album, The Lake Bottom LP, also featured contributions from their half-sister Jessica Craven, who is daughter of noted horror director Wes Craven.  Throughout all of the media namedropping, however, the group has forged ahead with their own sound, and following the departure of Jessica and the formation of the sisters’ own record label, their new effort Two seems poised to place them into the spotlight on their own terms.

Prior to the album’s release, the girls sat down to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, debating between the Beach Boys and the Beatles, Star Trek and Star Wars, and how they once got to share the stage with DMC . . .

by Evan Sawdey

14 Apr 2011


Photo: Quang Le

Let’s briefly discuss the two careers of Travie McCoy.

The first one involves his band, Gym Class Heroes.  Formed in 1997 with his long-time friend Matt McGinley, the group is best described as “alternative hip-hop”—they mix quirky lyrics, samples, and left-field cameos with tracks ranging from party anthems to somewhat more thoughtful meditations.  After being signed to Fueled By Ramen, the band really broke through with their 2006 sophomore album As Cruel as School Children, which generated single after single, ranging from the Patrick Stump-assisted “Cupid’s Chokehold” to the Rockwell-sampling “Clothes Off!”.  The album was a hit, and spurred the band to record the more rock-oriented 2008 The Quilt, which debuted in the Billboard Top 20.

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