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by Evan Sawdey

18 Jan 2011


Common Grackle is about as uncommon a group as you’re likely to find. A collaboration between indie songwriter Gregory Pepper and the hip-producer Factor (who are both Canadian), Common Grackle’s debut album The Great Depression is a spry little rap disc that is dominated by acoustic guitars, acidic and cynical lyrics, and a Kool Keith cameo that’s as fun as it is totally unexpected.  When it is not lyrically dissecting all the hipster kids on tracks like “At the Grindcore Show”, the band find a dark heart beating at the center of the album’s title track, which features a morbid, snarky narrator facing uncertainty about taking his own life.  The band is unabashedly quirky, but unashamedly fearless, crafting an album that’s as funny and gut-wrenching as it is wholly unique, which is why The Great Depression remains one of 2010’s hidden musical gems.

Yet those who enjoy intelligent, wry pop music have gradually come around to Common Grackle, and just as its career is starting up, the band managed to take some time to respond to PopMatters’ 20 Questions, here discussing the “bored housewife” method of relaxation, why Bruce McCulloch was a brilliant actor, and how the works of Erik Satie has deeply affected Pepper himself . . .

by Evan Sawdey

14 Dec 2010


Tom Zé is one of the most underappreciated geniuses in all of pop music history. He is considered by many to be one of the founding fathers of the Tropicalia movement, which helped redefine how the world felt about Brazilian music culture from the 1960s onward.  Although people like Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes all came from the same collective mindset, it wasn’t until the mid-‘80s when Zé broke through, having caught the eye of David Byrne, getting signed to his Luaka Bop record label, and soon experiencing a remarkable career renaissance . . .

Back in October of this year, Zé became recipient of some unique reissues, ranging from a fantastic multi-LP vinyl box set called Explaining Things So I Can Confuse You, along with a single-disc greatest hits retrospective CD called Estudando a Bossa. To help commemorate these releases, Zé sat down to do a brief 20 Questions feature with us here at PopMatters, revealing how he wished he discovered the diatonic scale, why he looks so good in a fig leaf, and how psychoanalysis is his stress management . . .

by Peta Andersen

8 Dec 2010


Richard “Kinky” Friedman is a modern Renaissance man—he’s an author, comedian, politician, musician, animal rights activist, and cigar salesman. He’s been endorsed by Willie Nelson and is famous for his politically-incorrect song, “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore”. Now, he’s back touring the West Coast for the first time in almost 20 years, singing, talking, and signing copies of his latest book, Heroes of a Texas Childhood.

In a quiet corner of a New Mexico casino, Friedman tells PopMatters 20 Questions about Mexican mouthwash, Winston Churchill, and Australia.

by Allison Taich

7 Dec 2010


Le Concorde’s fourth studio album House (October 2010, Le Grand Magistery) has set 2010’s mark for contemplative pop, bursting with catchy hooks and California sunshine. House neatly presents love, memories and personal metamorphosis over a bed of keyboards, synthesizer, drum machine, and muffled guitar. The music itself features candy coated synthpop glistening with a topcoat of ‘80s New Wave. 

The slick and vibrant House was composed by the heart and soul of Le Concorde, a.k.a. Stephen Becker. Becker (singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist) crafted House’s earnest pop around migrating from the Midwest to the West Coast. In applying his personal journey, Becker embraced the pliable essence of modern pop music with clean layers of synthetic musings. PopMatters took a moment to get to know Becker with an old-fashioned round of 20 Questions. After listening to Becker’s music it is fitting to hear him gush about intellect, humanism, and urban culture.

by Drew Fortune

27 Oct 2010


No matter how pure the intentions, the soul revivalist movement, like any hip musical trend, falls prey to dilution, pale imitators and overplay. For every Sharon Jones and Black Joe Lewis, there is a pop construct ready to be molded into a “soul singer” to capitalize on the movement. The tricky thing about soul is that, for better or worse, you either feel it or you don’t. A performer could be onstage sweating, writhing, and dancing their ass off, but if the heart isn’t there, it’s merely a gimmick. Enter J.C. Brooks. Mr. Brooks and his merry band of noisemakers the Uptown Sound are the real deal, ladies and gentlemen. Hailing from Chicago, Brooks and the Uptown Sound have slowly been winning over fans through word of mouth and the undeniable electricity of their live performances. With his swagger, velvet croon, and sex-on-a-platter dance moves, Brooks is a tad Otis Redding, a dash of Clarence Carter, and the epitome of true American soul.

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Exposition Dumps Don't Need Dialogue in 'Virginia'

// Moving Pixels

"Virginia manages to have an exposition dump without wordy exposition.

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