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by Evan Sawdey

10 Mar 2010

Another day, another musical project for Zach Smith.

At least, that’s how it seems to go for the celebrated guitarist behind such groups as Three Mile Pilot and Pinback.  Zach Smith’s playing style has always been a bit off-center and deceptively complex, but his love for his craft has shown through in each song he’s created during his nearly two-decade run in the music industry.  As if he wasn’t busy enough, in 2004 he released a solo EP under the moniker Systems Officer (portions of which can be heard here)—a fun little one-off that simply allowed Smith to work through some songs he had been composing just for himself.  Only in late 2009—following a Three Mile Pilot reunion and still basking in the glow of all the good press of Pinback’s last few albums—did Smith finally follow through on what he set out to do five years prior and release the debut album by Systems Officer.

Now, in-between recording new albums for both his “regular” bands, Smith answers PopMatters 20 Questions, noting a love of all things Slint, sci-fi, and—of course—Japanese green tea.

by Crispin Kott

9 Mar 2010

I’m used to catching grief from friends for some of the quirky stuff I listen to, so whenever the Monkees come up in conversation, I’m always prepared for a lively debate. I’m not naive enough to pretend they were one of rock’s great bands, though I do feel as though their music has been a bit shortchanged by history.

Their groundbreaking series lasted just two seasons, and was followed by a delicious stream-of-consciousness feature film (Head) and an even more bizarre TV special (33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee), which had the lousy fortune of airing opposite the Academy Awards. By this point, of course, the Monkees were hellbent on blowing themselves up from within. Scornful of the ridicule they faced from much of the “serious” rock cognoscenti, the pre-Fab Four made every attempt to shed their bubblegum image and strike out on their own.

by Jennifer Cooke

8 Mar 2010

Photo (partial) by
Alex Myers
Photo (partial) by Alex Myers

Old 97’s co-founder and bassist Murry Hammond released a solo album in 2008 called I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m on My Way.  He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, singer-songwriter Grey DeLisle, and their three-year-old son, Tex. Old 97’s will soon begin recording their eighth studio album.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Junebug.  Amy Adams’s sweet old Dad reminded me alot of my sweet old Dad.

2. The fictional character most like you?
I’d like to claim George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life—he tries his best to be good and take on the weight put upon him, but he often falls into frustration and has to hunt for new sources of strength.

by PC Muñoz

8 Mar 2010

This V-C-V was first published September 13, 2005 on

“Leader of the Band” - Dan Fogelberg
Written by Dan Fogelberg
From The Innocent Age (Sony, 1981)

I can tell you from experience that trying to write songs about family relationships can be tricky business. Even the finest of songwriters have to be careful not to fall prey to crass histrionics, sappy sentimentality, or plain ol’ cliché when dealing with the raw, complex emotions which characterize family dynamics. I personally find “father” songs by male songwriters and “mother” songs by female songwriters the most interesting, in general. Occasionally a song will surprise me, like Tupac’s “Dear Mama”, which at first seems like it might be a schmaltzy “mother-worshipping” song, but actually turns out to be a thoughtful reflection on the young Shakur’s youthful indiscretion, and his mother’s personal struggles (which he couldn’t understand as a child). I suppose I’m partial to songs with a little subtlety, like Bread’s “Everything I Own”, which seems to be about a lover, but of which writer David Gates has repeatedly said is about his father.

I didn’t understand “Leader of the Band” when it came out. I figured it was about Fogelberg’s school band teacher and I simply wasn’t attached enough to any of my school band teachers to relate. Besides, it was 1981, I was 14 years old, and I was not paying much attention to what was crackin’ on soft-rock radio (though now I find myself jonesing for some of that music). Nevertheless, the line

My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man…

was stuck in my head for years. I always had the feeling that I should investigate the song more, but didn’t bother to do so until the mid-‘90s. I picked up Fogelberg’s Greatest Hits on vinyl, dropped the needle on “Leader of the Band”, and cranked it.

by Crispin Kott

7 Mar 2010

When I found myself in the American Southeast for a few years after giving up on college, one of the ways of making myself feel as though I kind of belonged was to immerse myself in the music.

Even early on, Mark Linkous’ albums as Sparklehorse held far more pull for me than other Americana artists. His approach to music was innovative, to be sure, but also desperately and distinctly melancholy. Love songs, as love itself so often is, were immersed in confusion, loneliness and despair. Even the ostensibly happy ones.

I didn’t know Linkous, though I met him once and found him to be an absolutely lovely man. He signed a poster, “Best Witches, Mark Linkous.” And now, according to a Rolling Stone report, he’s committed suicide. Even those among us who didn’t know him except through his music, maybe we’re shocked and not at all surprised. That’s what Linkous was always best at, evoking emotions along a wide spectrum, giving us nothing and everything to hold on to.

Everyone who loves anyone has their favorite song or album. With Sparklehorse, there was a lot to love, from Linkous’ debut vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot through his Dark Night of the Soul collaboration with Danger Mouse, which just this week was finally given the green light by EMI after leaking last year. My personal favorite was Good Morning Spider, though I thought maybe today the pair of songs which opened It’s a Wonderful Life were the way to go. The title track is almost unbearably sad, especially if taken at face value with the news of Linkous’ suicide still shaking music fans at their core. The second, “Gold Day”, is as uplifting as any music I’ve ever heard. And that’s kind of how I’d like to remember Mark Linkous, lovely and lonely and capable of such incredible beauty it’s impossible to remember what life was like before his music touched you.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article