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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013
Whether you understand his music or not, Stetson's work is undeniably powerful -- a walled-in chamber of voluptuous white noise in which the artist holds the addressees of his wayward signals captive. He speaks to PopMatters about his new album, his 100-year-old sax, and more.

Call it uneasy listening.


Colin Stetson has not made the listening experience of his music easy for his audiences. But what Stetson has accomplished is bringing his brand of jazz to a wider mass that may have overlooked the genre, perhaps dismissing it as marginal music. Though he is quick to point out that his music is not exclusively jazz, his work is infused with the wisdom of the jazz greats that came before him: free jazz pioneers like Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers, and Evan Parker seem to be points of reference. Yet the gripping tonalities in his music, while never even grazing the outer perimeters of pop music still share the immediacy of pop.


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Tuesday, Aug 13, 2013
After breaking records and becoming one of the biggest millennial pop stars in the world, Katy Perry's big comeback single is surprisingly safe, timid, and -- worst of all -- just plain boring.

There was a time when Katy Perry was considered a commercial disappointment, believe it or not.


Although Katy Perry’s last album, Teenage Dream, came out all the way back in 2010, it sure doesn’t feel that way, what with her media omnipresence being felt on the radio (which still plays her five chart-toppers from that disc) to film to even being a tabloid queen with her courtship and eventual breakup from comedian Russell Brand. Yet even with two #1’s already to her belt prior to the album’s release (those songs of course being “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls”), the fact that Perry’s album debuted with sales of “only” 200,000 made people think that perhaps Perry wasn’t the big-seller everyone thought she could be. Of course, her consistency is what made her last—not everyone can release an onslaught of broadly-appealing pop like that on such a regular basis, ditching the meta-qualities of Lady Gaga in favor of things much more simple and direct—and it’s that very reason why she was even able to make a film, perfume line, have fans who call themselves “KatyCats”, etc.


While promos for her new album Prism show Perry doing things like burning her iconic blue wig to showcase an artistic rebirth (echoes of George Michael, anyone?), the long-anticipated premiere of her new song “Roar” shows that, despite having just come off what may be her single finest songwriting achievement, her new track, while not an outright failure, is a surprisingly flat entry into her discography, doubly so for something that is supposed to usher in her new blockbuster album.


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Tuesday, Jul 30, 2013
Canada's humbly suave songwriter has been hard at work on the fringes of commercial success, just narrowly missing the widespread attention he so clearly deserves. But his glowing pop albums are sure to set alight the hearts of those who take a moment to listen.

Whether an old soul reveling in the sumptuous folds of a ragtime melody or a smooth, contemplative rocker with pop-perfect pitch, Royal Wood has been working a long, studious groove in Canada’s growing indie rock realm as one of the many bright, talented artists of this generation, helping to rejuvenate the once-anemic scene. Wood’s elegantly-crafted numbers walk a balance between a plush swell of jazz and the instinctive, hedonistic joy of pop with poise and precision.


His first album, 2004’s Tall Tales, was a sophisticated and smart blend of Depression-era jazz and classy indie pop. At the centre of it all was his voice; either a silky, soft croon or a powerhouse of dynamics that tested all the octaves in his range with impressive skill.  Most interesting was Wood’s accompanying look; he dressed like a 1930’s lounge singer who had stumbled into a scruffy, Adidas-conscious millennium by way of a time-warp. It wasn’t so much that Wood dressed to differentiate himself from his contemporaries – it was just that he sincerely embodied the music he made and played in an earnest and wholly human way.


Tagged as: canada, royal wood
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Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013
Bassist Jake Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra has a unique take on this much-beloved band, and takes PopMatters through the band's love of music's past, UMO's future, and the challenge of covering Otis Redding.

Jake Portrait has found himself in the middle of everything.


The Portland native has recently moved to the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and he finds himself surprised at his new home’s place in the indie music world: the offices of Jagjaguwar Records and Captured Tracks are on his block, and musician Brad Oberhofer (of Oberhofer) is a neighbor. It’s a surprising situation for Portrait to be in, but not an unfortunate one: the musician/producer/engineer is currently having a pretty good year so far as the bassist of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the solo project-turned-band of Portrait’s friend Ruban Neilson whose new set II has become one of the most talked-about indie rock albums this year.


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Thursday, Apr 25, 2013
One of Italy's most esteemed and successful rappers, Mondo Marcio continues to broaden his musical horizons with his latest album, a stylistically-diverse effort that captures his freewheeling spirit.

His stage name translates as “Rotten World” but lately, life for Mondo Marcio has been pretty sweet. One of Italy’s top rappers, the artist has for the last decade been helping give form to a highly misunderstood genre of music in his home country and selling loads of albums in the process. A once callow teenager taken in by the world of hip-hop, he has now blossomed into a fully assured individual who works steadily to reinvent the genre through a particularly Italian perspective. Six proper albums into his career, Mondo (whose real name is Gianmarco Marcello) has now cultivated a style that incorporates everything from electronica and R&B to orchestral pop and dancehall reggae into his rumbling, bass-saturated brand of hip-hop.


Born in Milan, the 26-year-old struggled with a difficult upbringing that saw his home-life in disarray and at the mercy of Social Services. With such an inauspicious start in life, the rapper was left to fend for himself, trying to keep afloat, rather unsuccessfully, with school and the troubles of a broken family life until inspiration finally hit. With courage and a burgeoning sense of curiosity, Mondo abandoned the everyday routines of teenage life for the more dangerous and exciting turns of the music world. Adopting a stage name that would reflect the youngster’s outlook on life, Mondo quickly worked his way up, spitting rhymes and cutting tracks, honing his craft until he could manage to put together a solid collection of work to bring to the masses. After releasing a demo, which he shopped around to a number of music execs at independent labels, the young Italian soon caught the attention of those in the growing circles of the hip-hop communities in Italy. A proper debut was released in 2006 and since then, the platinum-selling artist has been churning out albums that have further carved a niche in the thriving and vibrant scene of Italian hip-hop.


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