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Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013
Anna Domino made a tiny dent in the alternative music scene of the '80s with her moody, literate art-pop. While she languished in obscurity for much of her career, her music managed to strike a chord with those who tapped into the emotional strengths of her work. Still flying low under the radar years later, her music is no less potent.

Having been sentenced to musical purgatory has done wonders for Anna Domino’s mystique. A curio of ‘80s avant-pop, Domino forged ahead with her own special brand of slightly skewed pop, borrowing thoughtfully from various musical strains with jazz, rock, dance and folk being the primary influences she would use to bring form to her nearly amorphous art.


Domino’s songs were chronicles of lives at once contentious and enamoured, hanging in a curious balance of ambition and insecurity. Often, her dreamy passages recalled the amorously conflicted characters of Tama Janowitz novels; her songs were about women of the ‘80s who had found a new stretch of freedom to play around with as well as the growing awareness of not knowing what to do with all that newfound space. Much like the singer herself, who once made a living from making furniture out of found objects, her characters were victims of happenstance, often lost in the quirky, unusual situations afforded to them by city life.


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Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013
Hannah Marcus, rock music's most marginalized oddity, has languished in the shadows of her more celebrated contemporaries. But her fresh musical perspective and oneiric musings on empty lives and disembodied souls have marked her a singular talent worthy of discovery.

I first discovered Hannah Marcus’ music nearly ten years back. Hearing the opening strains of “Laos”, a track off her last album, Desert Farmers, I was nearly frozen in place. I wasn’t sure how or why, but something in the song called to me on a deeper, more private level than any other song I had heard. It seemed to invade such a personal space within me where I held deeper, undisclosed emotions and, yet, it wholly belonged in that space. After half an hour’s worth of hearing the song on repeat, it found a home in me and it has since never left.


What especially caught my attention was Marcus’ utterly strange and distressing way of turning a phrase, sounding out a word with an inflection so alien, it startled and seduced in equal measure. Her songs were like doors to other worlds that explored the ideas of situational love and lives configured by loss and abandonment. In Marcus’ songs, people struggle not to survive but to simply exist; survival and the pain endured is merely an afterthought. To be able to encapsulate the heady and emotional complexities of human drama in the span of a pop song is an achievement in itself. To pen an indelible melody to accompany her striking visionary world is leaps and bounds over the moons of many songwriters.


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Thursday, Sep 20, 2012
Celebrating the great lost (and never found) Love single from the Summer of 1967.

Today, with summer not quite over, I have some thoughts about the great lost single from 1967.


Lost in that it was never found. It was, in fact, left off Love’s masterpiece, Forever Changes, for a perfectly understandable reason: Arthur Lee felt it was too upbeat and would have marred the fragile balance between solemn and stirring that the eleven song cycle achieved.


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Tuesday, Aug 7, 2012
Athens duo is releasing a recording a week of tectonic electric blues until they get signed for their full-length debut.

Why is it that duos make some of the heaviest music? There’s the blistering pop-punk of Vancouver’s Japandroids. There’s the blistering garage-punk of Chicago’s White Mystery. There’s the bass-and-drum assault of Providence’s Lightning Bolt and Seattle’s Big Business, although the latter added a guitar on their last album… and became decidedly less assaultive in the process. There’s the mean-mugging, ear-shattering electro crossover of Justice and Sleigh Bells. There’s Sunn 0))), of course, which will always be two vets toppling Richter scales with reverb, Oren Ambarchi’s synths and Atilla Csihar’s vocal cords notwithstanding. Even the Black Keys and the now-defunct White Stripes cut their teeth on blues-rock muscularity before folding into the hook-savvy mainstream. If Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, the patron saints of quiet rock, linked the two-man band format with a delicate touch, then these bands have mounted something of an emphatic counterlegacy.


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Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Before the big riffs and the arena-sized swagger, the band now known as the Cult injected disco and funk into its gothic theater for one riveting dance-rock smash.

In the late 1980s, British band the Cult held the banner high for glam-free, classicist hard rock. Given focus and muscle by producers Rick Rubin and Bob Rock, Cult LPs Electric (1987) and Sonic Temple (1989) found commercial favor by splitting the difference between AC/DC and the Doors, and matching ginormous meat-and-potatoes riffage with panoramic-voiced singer Ian Astbury’s unquenchable fascination with Native American spirituality.


Over two decades later, the Cult is still at it (with Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy being the only members left from the glory day), and is releasing its first album in five years, Choice of Weapon, today in the United States. Fans of head-nodding metal-inclined Cult classics like “Love Removal Machine” will find plenty to like in the album’s lead single ”For the Animals”, and I myself have a soft spot for well-executed rock ‘n’ roll swagger of the sort employed by that track. But in spite of the virtues of its signature sound, the band was definitely more interesting when very early on, under the moniker of Death Cult, it was poised to lead the second wave of gothic rock.


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