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by Evan Sawdey

21 Jun 2010


Photo: Pat Pope

Justin Currie has had one of the most extraordinary second acts one could ever have in a career.

The first act was simple: the Scottish-born singer-songwriter formed a band called Del Amitri with friend Iain Harvie in the early ‘80s, focusing on a power pop sound that resonated well in their homeland, the group soon scoring a seemingly never-ending string of hits in the UK, all while the duo cycled through quite a few members during their two-decade existence. Although the group was moderately successful in their homeland and developed quite the cult audience stateside, it wasn’t until 1995 when the group’s insanely catchy track “Roll to Me” became a Top 10 hit in the U.S., quickly becoming the one thing that the group is immediately identified with even up to this day. Subsequent albums failed to capitalize on the group’s popularity stateside, and after 2002’s Can You Do Me Good?, the group became relatively quiet.

Yet in 2007, Currie re-emerged as a solo artist, and his disc What Is Love For was released to huge levels of acclaim, many people even gravitating towards Currie’s melancholic tunes without having much if any knowledge of his power-pop past. Suddenly Currie was courting a brand-new audience, and feeling reinvigorated about his own career.  With this year’s The Great War, however, Currie has taken a great leap forward with his songwriting, as highlighted by the eight-minute epic “The Fight to Be Human”, one of his most blistering and ultimately cathartic tracks to date. 

Following in that same vein, Currie recently sat down to answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, and in doing so reveals which Spinal Tap character he is most like, which political figure he would not mind murdering, and how an A&R rep once gave him some of the best advice he ever received ...

by Evan Sawdey

18 Jun 2010


On paper, the pairing of Christy & Emily almost seems like the setup for a joke: one girl (Emily) is a classically-trained pianist who graduated from Oberlin College, the other (Christy) a California-bred rock guitarist who wound up playing in multiple New York indie outfits. When they finally meet up, however, it’s not a non-stop collision of wackiness that was filmed in front of a live studio audience. Instead, it’s a collection of remarkably sweet, understated indie-pop wherein the emotional power lies within the sheer economy of their arrangements.

The pair’s new album is aptly titled No Rest, which makes sense given that following the release of Gueen’s Head (2007), the duo toured relentlessly, joined up with Effi Briest for even more musical collaborations, and worked quite relentlessly on its moody yet potent new disc. Tracks like “Here Comes the Water Now” exude a gray cloud sky sort of idleness, while tracks like the more propulsive “Beast” show that the group still can display some biting rock when it needs to, and yet still make all its stylistic detours sound like they’re coming from the same place.

by Evan Sawdey

15 Jun 2010


Discovered by Of Montreal and yet embracing their own sort of joyous electro-pop sound, Casiokids may be the hottest dance act currently out of Norway.  Although that statement might seem to be a bit insular, given that both Datarock and Annie have emerged from the same Bergen scene that this quintet have, that’s quite the statement indeed.

Having petered out one tantalizing single after another in Europe while wowing audiences with their shadow puppet-filled, often downright goofy live show, it wasn’t long before labels began taking interest, and only recently did Topp stemning på lokal bar—their vibrant debut album—finally get a Stateside release, all without making any sort of concession to rerecord the songs in English, instead merely giving the tracks a small studio revamp to potentially make them even catchier than they are now (as if that were possible!).

Although the group retains a slight aura of mystery around them, bassist Kjetil Bjøreid Aabø took some time to set us straight by answering PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, revealing a love for all things Pet Sounds, why he holds Smurf-related merchandise over that of Star Wars toys, and how the only tough decision he’d have to make is choosing a favorite film director: Woody Allen or Werner Herzog ...

by Christian John Wikane

7 Jun 2010


Alex Cuba is a storyteller. Ask him a question and he’ll thread together different stories to illustrate his answer. He gives a completely honest point of view and offers more insight about his life than your childhood friend probably would about theirs.

His openness also extends to his music. He doesn’t approach music with a formula in mind or abide by trends. From the balmy sway of “Directo” to the urgency of “En El Cielo”, it’s clear that the songs on Alex Cuba were conceived and executed without checking off boxes. There’s a spontaneity to the styles that dress each song. Like his gift for understanding visual aesthetics, Cuba intuitively knows what sounds belong together and how to render them in a creative and compelling way. “The album has to have a certain amount of tension to last”, the Cuban-born Canadian resident explains about his approach, “otherwise it becomes a piece of plastic. It’s the tension of imperfection. It’s the line between perfection and imperfection, which is spontaneity. That’s the way I do music”.

by Evan Sawdey

3 Jun 2010


Angus and Julia Stone remain just as humble today as they did when they first started recording in 2006, which, given the trajectory of their career so far, is somewhat remarkable.

The Australian brother-sister duo—swapping vocal duties pretty much whenever they feel like—initially started as two separate solo acts wherein one would support the other on instruments, but before long it was realized that their powers are much better when combined. Specializing in remarkably understated acoustic numbers revolving around love and heartbreak, it wasn’t long before the duo began garnering the attention of everyone from Travis (Julia sang backup on that band’s 2007 disc The Boy With No Name) to Natalie Portman (who hand-picked their track “The Beast” for the charity album Big Change: Songs for FINCA), all while gathering attention by doing the tired-and-true method of touring like hell, opening for the likes of Brett Dennen and Martha Wainwright. The buzz on the duo slowly grew, and by the time their current disc Down the Way came out in their homeland, it shot straight to the top of the charts.

Now garnering some much-deserved attention in America (with their music videos collectively garnering more than two million hits on YouTube alone), Julia Stone took some time to answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, and wound up giving one of the most open, honest, and downright touching set of answers we’ve yet seen for this feature. Discussing everything from handling her wounded pet dingo to stealing some lights from K-Mart so that their garage-based Hawaiian-themed hangout space would be a rousing success (much to dad’s disapproval), Julia Stone approaches these 20 Questions with the same thought and care that so dominates her music, which is a rare feat in itself. Never once showing an ounce of ego or hubris, it’s refreshing to see that all these years later, the Stone siblings are just as humble as they were when they started out making their brilliant music ...

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