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.
Latest Blog Posts
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 ...
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.
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 ...
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.