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Thursday, Sep 19, 2013
Music is first and foremost a very real and easily identifiable source of extreme pleasure. It’s also a vehicle, something I use to help me get around in life.

Question: What’s it all about?
Answer: I don’t know.
But I do know a few things.
I know some of the things that make me tick.


While my weapons of choice remain pen and paper, I would still say that music has always been the central element of my existence. Or the elemental center. Writing is a compulsion, a hobby, a skill, a craft, an obsession, a mystery, and at times a burden. Music simply is. For just about anyone, all you need is an ear (or two); then it can work its magic. But, as many people come to realize, if you approach it with your mind and your heart, it’s capable of making you aware of other worlds, it can help you achieve the satisfaction material possessions are intended to inspire, it will help you feel the feelings drugs are designed to approximate. Et cetera.


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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2013
Critics' darling Lori Carson has been offering her small and devoted fanbase quiet bliss with her emotionally-textured and intimate songs over the last two decades. But just recently, Carson turned to her other love of literature. With her first novel, she delves even further into a strange and still familiar world -- one that her haunting music has often explored.

Lori Carson spent the last three decades immersed in the life of song, sketching out the details of her most personal explorations in a series of chord progressions, overdubs, and musical meters. Her music introduced the world to a highly introspective and sensitive woman who seemed to be communicating a life’s worth of trouble and joy by way of the guitar. Carson’s first effort, 1990’s Shelter, was a shy entrance into a world dominated by excessive noise; hair bands were dying out, hip-hop was just cresting in the mainstream, and British dance music had started to expand beyond the borders of the UK. Shelter was brave, in that it forced Carson into a lone confessional space with only her guitar. At the time, female singer-songwriters brandishing guitars were far and few between, and the industry hadn’t much time for young women making big confessions in very small ways. Carson’s music defied those misconceptions. Her musings may have been secretly intimate and, therefore, easily ignored, but her no-nonsense storytelling approach and convincing sway with melody and inflection ushered those who did listen into her small, private world.


Anton Fier, founder of the Golden Palominos, took notice and invited the singer to appear on two of the band’s most inventive and forward-thinking albums, This is How it Feels and Pure.  Both albums explored electronic textures in a rock-band set-up, with Carson’s breathy cooing and warm acoustic guitar giving a sensual shading to each of the seductive numbers she appeared on. Following her stint with the Palominos, Carson would return to recording solo, turning out quietly devastating works, like 1997’s Everything I Touch Runs Wild, recorded mostly in the calm privacy of her apartment. Wild, the album in which the artist was finally received with some attention outside of her cultishly small fanbase, borrowed some of the influences heard on her collaborations with the Palominos, along with some of their guest session players (most notably Bill Laswell). A string of albums would follow, exploring various reaches of folk, pop, and electronica, and Carson remained musically active whilst still keeping a low profile and on the margins of commercial success.


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Sunday, Jun 26, 2011
PopMatters talks with music critic Simon Reynolds about his new book Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, as well as the modern state of pop futurism, the changing nature of music criticism, and the post-punk historian's favorite '80s alt-rock bands.

Since the ‘80s, British-born/American-based writer Simon Reynolds has been showcasing his analytical, articulate, and occasionally quite humorous approach to music criticism in most any major publication one can name, ranging from Melody Maker and Spin to The New York Times and The Guardian.  He’s also a notable presence on the music section shelves of book stores due to his authorship of tomes including Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 and Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture, the former being the definitive and most engaging account of that genre/movement to be found.  His newest book is Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past (released in the UK on 2 June and due out in the US on 19 July), wherein he takes a broad-based yet more personal look at the 21st century’s increasing obsession with retro sounds and signifiers in lieu of the futurism and stylistic innovation that so motivated pop styles in previous decades.


In this interview, PopMatters and Reynolds not only chat about the origins of and questions posed by Retromania, but touch upon other subjects including the modern state of pop futurism, the changing nature of music criticism in the era of digiculture, and just what exactly one of the music press’ foremost proponents of post-punk and electronica thinks about alternative rock’s retro-adoring standard-bearers from the ‘80s.


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Thursday, Jan 27, 2011
Hitchens on Verdi and Dylan, not God or Iraq . . .

Paradise Lost author John Milton, a patriotic Englishman, was absolutely an aficionado of music; his father was, in fact, a composer of some 20 works.  Scholar Diane McColley recently notes that “Milton collaborated with a court composer, praised the church music that Puritans attempted to destroy, and in his epics represented choral and instrumental music in Heaven, Hell, and Paradise” (Milton in Context, 2010).  Notwithstanding, music is typically associated with the sacred among the devotional, and, for them, particularly and personally with God; in Paradise Lost, the angels endlessly, tediously sing to praise the heroic sacrifice of the Son.


This, I think, indicates that in some sense it is understandable that another Englishman and polemicist, Christopher Hitchens, refrains from citing music too frequently or specifically in his several endeavors.  “Why, if god was the creator of all things, were we supposed to ‘praise’ him so incessantly for doing what came to him naturally?  This seemed servile, apart from anything else”, professes Hitchens in his book God Is Not Great (2007).  Aware of both Milton and the Bible, he links music, generally, with “songs of praise” to the Almighty, and, of course, a loathsome variety of human slavishness and worship.


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Wednesday, Dec 8, 2010
by Peta Andersen
Richard "Kinky" Friedman is a modern Renaissance man -- he's an author, comedian, politician, musician, animal rights activist, and cigar salesman. Friedman tells 20 Questions about Mexican mouthwash, Winston Churchill, and Australia.

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.


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