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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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Wednesday, Mar 27, 2013
Red Baraat founder Sunny Jain discusses Shruggy Ji and his band's Festival of Colors shows.

Last year, the Brooklyn band Red Baraat was ranked #8 amongst the Top 50 Coolest Desis by Desiclub. The dhol ‘n’ brass band has seen a rapid rise in their success and repute, having performed this year at an inaugural ball in Washington D.C., during Mardi Gras in New Orleans and then several shows at South by Southwest in Austin. The festive season doesn’t end there, however. Red Baraat is holding a celebration for the Hindu holiday of Holi with two Festival of Colors shows, one in Philly on March 28th and another the following night in New York City. While the throwing of rang (colored powders) may not go over so well with the management of an indoor club, the energy from the band won’t need to be toned down.


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Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013
David Woll's Transit is a perplexing and beguiling album that explores a lonely life on the road travelled by the strange, the hopeful, and the hopelessly lost.

Montrealer David Woll’s Transit, was an atmospheric travelogue voiced by a lost and intrepid traveller whose adventures spanned a ghostly world of abandoned lives. Hopelessly navigated by a forlorn heart, Woll’s character, a bleary-eyed, hard-hearted rocker with a guitarist-as-gunslinger stance, blazed across continents in search of some elusive fix on dreams found only on the cinema screens. Woll didn’t write a novel, but he may as well have; his stories chapter the lives of downtrodden losers who have seemingly escaped from the pages of a pulp-paperback. His album, lamentably, was released to very little attention and he now seems to occupy a space in musical obscurity. Woll’s aural worlds and inner landscapes evoke the mysterious, sonic terrains of Ennio Morricone, and the cigarette-chaffing cool of Godard films; it’s pop music for sure, but the rich imagery supplied by the lyrical vignettes offer up a world that was born from cinema. 


Very little is known about the musician, and the sparsely-written bio on his website only helps to further the self-sustaining mystique that he created for himself through his work. Those looking for an apt comparison may look to Dirty Beaches—both acts having grown up on a diet of rockabilly. But while the moribund-blues of Dirty Beaches stretches a single hue across a groundwork of scuzzy guitars, Woll paints his canvas with the colours of New Wave, punk, Tex-Mex, chanson and the romantic smears of gothic Americana. Odd clashes of Spaghetti-Western guitars and Euro-jazz are sized up against a wall-to-wall of catchy punk-pop in a surreal landscape peopled with characters straight from the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Woll turns enigma upon enigma, churning out pop-song conundrums while his ghost-in-the-gramophone vocals call from somewhere outside the songs.


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Tuesday, Feb 5, 2013
Norway's musical obscurity released a self-titled debut of big-band pop back in 2009, an undisclosed piece of heaven that slipped through the cracks of a less-than-discerning music-consuming public. Now she talks about recording her album and why she never had the breakthrough that she could have had.

“Angels strumming harps atop clouds overlooking line dancers in choreographed constellations below”. That may sound like a clumsy mouthful of superfluous praise. And yet, it perfectly describes Mari Persen’s sound. The Norwegian, some years back in 2009, released a cracking album of some of the most sublime orchestral pop—and nobody paid attention. Her only album to date is every songwriter’s dream: a lush pop wonderland where the thrills are never cheap but the payoff is always satisfying and worth the price of the admission. While many pop artists project themselves forward into a future world of love, sex, and happiness, Mari looks back. Way back. Say around the time Dorothy just made it over the rainbow and Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were foxtrotting across the glass floors of soundstages.


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Tuesday, Jan 22, 2013
Reigning Swedish chanteuse, Sarah Assbring, (aka El Perro del Mar) dishes about the synths on her last album and why she's still writing about disappointment, love, loss, and longing.

Sweden’s Sarah Assbring has spent the last several years perfecting her own brand of morose-pop, exploring the inner reaches of depression that has informed every one of her releases. Her rather capricious start in music was the result of a strange encounter with a stray dog on a beach in Spain. Under the moniker El Perro del Mar (“Dog of the Sea”), Assbring would go on to record a quietly mournful set of songs that would comprise her self-titled debut. The Swede’s coy mix of Brill Building pop and gamine affectations were genuinely intoxicating, earning plaudits across Europe and bridging the gap between Stina Nordenstam’s difficult anti-pop and Anja Garbarek’s space-age diva-sonics. Assbring followed her full-length debut with another batch of confectionery lullabies entitled From the Valley to the Stars, before recording 2009’s Love Is Not Pop.


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