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by Evan Sawdey

27 May 2010


Photo: Charles Izenstark

Supergroups are a rare thing—and jam band supergroups are even more elusive.

To a degree, it’s easy to see why: with frequent accusations of being far too indulgent at times, the idea of having multiple improv-based jam guitarists get together just to “see what happens” may not sit well with even the most hardcore of Bonnaroo devotees.

Yet 30db is no ordinary supergroup.  Composed as a partnership between Yonder Mountain String Band’s Jeff Austin and Umphrey McGee’s own Brendan Bayliss (along with some help from North Mississippi All-Stars’ Cody Dickinson), 30db is a remarkably cohesive, laid-back affair, with acoustic guitars dominating the proceedings.  Although tracks like the beautifully meandering “Instrumental in D” wouldn’t sound too out of place in either Austin’s or Bayliss’ discography, it never feels like the partners are resting on their laurels or pushing themselves to extreme ends: they’re creating music out of genuine collaboration, and the breezy vibe of One Man Band—30db’s debut album—has a welcome charisma all its own.

Jeff Austin took time out of his busy schedule to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions about himself and his project, expressing a strong love for all things Aqua Teen Hunger Force, tells us of his song-writing mandolin, and why he’s a self-described “orchid freak” ...

by Evan Sawdey

21 May 2010


The Wave Pictures are what many would call a “hidden gem” of a band: a group who write amazing songs, quietly release brilliant albums heralded by the likes of Daniel Johnston and John Darnielle, but still have gone relatively unnoticed outside of (or, hell, even in) their native UK homeland. 

Yet, at the same time, frontman David Tattersall doesn’t seem much to care. Although many of the indie-rock templates are evident in his music—the swaying strings, the group singalongs—what makes the Wave Pictures different is its entirely homespun feel.  These songs sound like they were recorded in an open-air kitchen at time, on the porch another. The Wave Pictures pride themselves in not being studio fetishists, letting the songs speak for themselves, and, as such, each album from the Wave Pictures has its own lo-fi charm, a sweet naiveté that almost makes you forget just how well-composed the tracks in question are.

As such, Tattersall is no doubt excited that his band’s two most recent albums—Instant Coffee Baby and If You Leave It Alone—are finally getting wide-spread distribution in America (a first for the band), coupled together in a glorious double-disc package that shows just how fun, crazed, and downright enjoyable the Wave Pictures’ music truly is.  o celebrate, Tattersall took on PopMatters’ 20 Questions, and reveals an out-and-out love of D.H. Lawrence and Bukowski, an aversion towards sci-fi, and reveals which Lou Reed album is truly the greatest of all time ...

by Evan Sawdey

13 May 2010


Photo: Jeremy Balderson

Matt Pond has been in “renegade” mode as of late.

In 2008, the noted indie-rock stylist behind Matt Pond PA made a few rather unexpected moves. First off, he made a bit of an unexpected mainstream concession by covering My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not OK (I Promise)” for the second volume of the Guilt By Association series. Then, shortly thereafter, put out a brand new EP for free online (its too-appropriate title? The Freeep). Although fans rapturously responded, the EP was then promptly pulled, only to be released a year later under a different title and on pay sites like iTunes. Some wondered if there was some label-wrangling that happened during this time, but for Pond, he just turned it into another opportunity.

As a way to promote his new album The Dark Leaves, Pond used The Freeep experiment as a way to launch a trilogy of EPs called The Threeep, each one headlined by a track from The Dark Leaves as a way of building up hype. Now, with Dark Leaves finally out and the third and final Threeep installment on its way, Matt Pond took some time out to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, revealing that he doesn’t discriminate against science fiction universes, his power to talk animals out of eating him, and why he enjoys drinking with his good buddy Stress ...

by Christian John Wikane

31 Mar 2010


I imagine Russell Taylor sharing a cup of tea with Langston Hughes, or discussing his latest set of lyrics with Billy Strayhorn. Perhaps the night before, he sat in with Duke Ellington or hoofed across the floor at Small’s Paradise. If Russell Taylor had been born four generations earlier, these scenarios would be the stuff of history books. Anyone who knows Taylor, one of the most prominent artists to emerge from New York’s independent soul music scene, knows that he has an affinity for the Harlem Renaissance and the individuals who made “uptown” a destination in the 1920s. Doubtless, he’d be embraced by the literary and musical figures of that creatively fertile era.

It’s the 21st century, however, and Russell Taylor is carving his own niche not just in Harlem and New York, but around the world. From Paris to London to Atlanta to Los Angeles, he brings a fresh take on soul music that began with his pair of Soulstar releases and grew with Somewhere in Between (2006). The artist is still working his latest release, Confessional (2009), and preparing to film videos for two songs from the album, but not before returning to his acting roots, composing songs for other artists, and planning a 2011 release.

As PopMatters learns in this edition of 20 Questions, there’s a well-spring of ideas and thoughts that percolate inside the mind of the man who delivered “Let Me Love U”, one of 2009’s best songs. It’s a good time to be Russell Taylor, or as his friends and fans know him, “RT!”

by Christian John Wikane

19 Mar 2010


The sun has finally peeked through the clouds in Manhattan. It almost feels like spring. In fact, the afternoon is ideal for a wedding.  That’s exactly what Carole Pope notices as she strolls through Central Park. In just a few days, she’ll jet up to Ontario for a three-night stint. For the time being, though, she’s content to ponder what quality she shares with Orlando.

Like the title character of Virginia Woolf’s literary masterpiece, Carole Pope has challenged convention throughout her career, first as the trailblazing front-woman of Rough Trade and then as a solo artist. Her autobiography Anti Diva (2001) traces one of the most compelling life stories in popular music. Described by Pope as, “a comment on the times, beginning in the summer of love. It drags me kicking and screaming into the 21st century”, the book was recently optioned for the screen.

The forthcoming biopic is just one of many projects Pope is currently undertaking. Between recording a new album, promoting her last record (Transcend), and touring the film festival circuit for Suck (2009), a rock and roll vampire story that pairs her with Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, and Moby, the “anti diva” is as prolific as ever.

While taking a moment to appreciate the beauty of a Chinese wedding, Carole Pope checked in with PopMatters for this latest edition of 20 Questions.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
A Single Man. Usually anything about death or where the character’s really feeling lost, I can relate to.

2. The fictional character most like you?
I’d like to think it was Orlando (laughs). I just related to the character’s ambisexual being. I love that book.

3. The greatest album ever?
Wow. It might be the Beatles’ White Album. When it came out in 1968, I remember playing it on my Seabreeze or whatever I had. I think pretty much all the songs are mini-masterpieces. They’re very visual, which I relate to.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars, because I remember Bill Murray singing the theme song on Saturday Night Live (laughs).

5. Your ideal brain food?
I guess fish. I love spicy tuna. It just seems like really clean food.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I guess the fact that we actually got a record deal, as Rough Trade, for our second album, Avoid Freud (1980).

7. You want to be remembered for…?
I think just being outspoken and being innovative and doing a lot of things before other people did, even though I don’t get recognized for them…she said bitterly! 

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
Definitely Bowie. He’s such a chameleon.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
I wish I’d written one of Bjork’s songs, because I worship her. I think that she’s really an amazing, innovative artist.

10. Your hidden talents…?
I can cook, though that’s more of a hobby. I’m obsessed with music and art.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Being true to yourself. Maybe it’s my advice to me! I think I advise myself. I think it just evolved from being an artist. The minute you’re not true to yourself, you create traps.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Probably my guitar.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
I would feel best if I had some Prada, but I don’t (laughs). I wear a lot of G-Star. There should be some designer who designs clothes for dykes. It could be somewhere between men’s Prada and G-Star, as far as I’m concerned!

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Probably my friend Tim Blanks, because he’s the most confusing and interesting person I know. I am met him in Toronto. He used to live in Toronto in the late ‘70s, and then he turned into this fashionista. Now he writes for Style.com, which is Vogue online. I wish he’d write an autobiography.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I’m kind of drawn to the court of Louis XIV. I don’t know why. I’d want to be a guy, though (laughs), or dress like the guys. The women had to wear all those corsets. Maybe I could just be like a peasant, I don’t care! No, I’m lying. I’d want to be the Sun King.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
I wouldn’t hire a hit man, I’d be the hit man. I would probably go on a spa vacation.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
Chocolate. It chills me out. I don’t eat a lot of it, but it’s a little treat, a little something at the end of the day.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Right now it’s the city, but that could change. If I was rich, I’d live in Europe—I would live in London or Rome—but New York City is the next best thing.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Hello, can I get some equal rights over here?

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on now?
I’m working on a new album, Transcend. “Johnny Marr” and “Shining Path” are on iTunes. Suck is premiering at MoMA. I just did another movie in Toronto called Trigger, directed by Bruce McDonald. My guitar player and I and some drummer we never worked with performed a song. Bruce McDonald is a really great Canadian filmmaker. He did Hard Core Logo (1996). More movie work for me! I would love to do more film scoring.

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