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by Evan Sawdey

15 Sep 2010


Born in the Ukraine one year before the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Lana Mir has taken quite the journey to make it here in the States.

Inspired by first seeing the video for Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” on MTV, Mir soon decided she wanted to become a professional musician, having worked long on hard on her songwriting chops before finally moving to New York and hooking up with Brookville’s Andy Chase to help produce her self-titled debut album, out now.  On it, she mines a soft-spoken kind of indie-pop that doesn’t sound too far removed from Feist’s excellent Let It Die, although with a distinctive flair all her own.  Perhaps her sound is best encapsulated in her sweet, dreamy take on the Stone Roses’ classic Brit-rock anthem “I Wanna Be Adored”, her voice sounding like it’s aching on virtually every line, making the titular phrase uttered in the chorus all that more potent.

Before jumping onto the promotional circuit head-on, Mir was able to take some time to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, here unveiling a love of Leo Tolstoy, her thoughts on the current US immigration debate, and how she wishes she could’ve made Mulholland Drive herself ...

by Evan Sawdey

7 Sep 2010


Photo: Junko Otsubo

Adam Pierce is one cat that’s tough to peg.

First off, the Mice Parade mastermind has had an extensive recording history, starting his Mice Parade project (who put out their first album back in 1998) while still finding time to perform with artists like the Swirlies, HiM, and múm. Pierce has also set up Bubble Core Records, which has had a hand in virtually every Mice Parade album since the group’s inception, along with having put out albums by the Notwist, Philip Jeck, and more. 

Yet Mice Parade remains Pierce’s baby, and what makes the band so good is its lack of adherence to typical indie norms.  Mixing a post-rock aesthetic with modern folk guitars and a distinctive worldbeat influence, Mice Parade is extremely hard to pigeonhole, and its latest album—What It Means to Be Left-Handed—only adds to the groups fantastic allure, mixing out-and-out guitar rock numbers with electronic experiments and exotic acoustic guitar flourishes, sounding defiantly sprawling and thematically unified at the exact same time.  It’s a thrilling listen wherein no two songs sound even remotely the same.

by Evan Sawdey

24 Aug 2010


Joseph Michelini isn’t as much a survivor as he is an inspirer. 

Having been a long-standing staple of the New Jersey coffee house scene, Michelini wasn’t very content just sitting around while strumming acoustic laments for baristas.  Slowly he began introducing banjos and cellos into his set, and one man became three people, which soon became eight, which soon became River City Extension.

With a sound that seems to find a sweet spot that lies perfectly between Neutral Milk Hotel’s near-orchestral bombast and Modest Mouse’s popular brand of almost-cynicism, River City Extension makes full use of the various instruments at their disposal (cellos, trumpets, a djembe for Pete’s sake!), but never once plays them just for the sake of eclecticism.  On The Unmistakable Man—the group’s second full-length—the Extension swerves between acoustic ballads (“Today, I Feel Like I’m Evolving”) and piano-lead group sing-a-longs (“Holy Cross”) with remarkable ease, the whole disc feeling like a unified statement while never sacrificing the need for a storming pop hook.  It’s no wonder its live shows are as heralded as they are.

Shortly after the release of the band’s latest record, Michelini tackled PopMatters’ 20 Questions, revealing a deep-seated love of Paul Simon’s Graceland, the frustration over a stolen laptop filled with songs, and why life truly isn’t complete until you have heated toilet seats ...

by Evan Sawdey

10 Aug 2010


Ontario’s own Tokyo Police Club has alternately had a very drama-free existence since its Lesson in Crime EP came out in 2006.  The group didn’t get in huge drunken fights, get dropped by labels, or engage in intense legal wranglings over songwriting royalties, no.  Instead, the only real drama the group had to deal with was a bit of blogosphere backlash following the heralding of that aforementioned EP, some saying that the band’s 2008 full-length Elephant Shell was the sound of the group selling out, with just as many trumpeting it as the logical extension of the group’s poppy, guitar-driven aesthetic.  During all of this, though, the band seemed to not really care, instead touring like hell and having a good time with its legions of fans.

Now, with the release of the group’s lean, muscular new album Champ, few people seem to be snickering, as the band has fully come into its own, with angular guitars mixing with spritely keyboard patterns and an ever-shifting set of dynamics, like on the storming “Favourite Colour”, which uses stop-start guitar spurts to ask a very simple question to a possible love interest, adding high drama to an everyday sentiment.  Indie rock don’t swagger like this.

Taking some time out of his busy touring schedule, Tokyo Police Club’s drummer Greg Alsop answers PopMatters 20 Questions, here revealing how The Velveteen Rabbit “cauterized my tear ducts”, how he positively thrives on human interaction, and why lightsabers trump phasers each and every time.

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 ...

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