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Friday, Apr 2, 2010

In the last year, UK listeners have been inundated with the sound of the nasal-grazing, strawberry vixen, Florence Welsh – or as she is more popularly referred to as, Florence and the Machine. An opinionated, and compulsive Londoner, Florence, at just 22, was able to instigate the re-emergence of a musical trend that seemed to have petered out when the terms ‘avant garde’, and ‘experimental’, all of a sudden became unsexy.


By formulating arty piano tunes, and splashing in garage rock, and ‘80s style pop, synthesizers, and luscious string-soaked ballads, Florence seems to manage the unwieldy with effortless grace. This is coupled with a Kate Bush style quirkiness, a Christie Hynde snarl, and an effortless vocal ability that sits somewhere between Annie Lennox and Etta James.


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Tuesday, Mar 30, 2010

Cue the jokes about scandalous riders: The Libertines are back, reuniting for this summer’s Reading and Leeds Festivals.


Ever since the Libertines split, the hyperbolic British music weeklies have tipped the reunion to happen, occasionally using “Could be…” quotes from frontmen Carl Barat and Pete Doherty. But outside of a few close calls here and there, the full-on reunion never materialized.


Instead the world has had to make do with Barat’s comparatively dull Dirty Pretty Things and Doherty’s sometimes thrilling musical excursions with Babyshambles and a host of co-conspirators who’d slip in and out of the shadows like something from a Sherlock Holmes mystery.


Doherty has also shown an affinity for falling afoul of the law, regularly appearing in the tabloids due to some combination of drugs, driving and celebrity romance.


But now the Libertines are back, promising readers of the NME “to play the songs people want to hear,” which certainly sounds like a cash-in, even if it’s a fantastic one. 


“Potentially it’s a fucking disaster,” said Doherty in the video, which is part of what makes the whole thing so exciting. It could all go horribly wrong, which is sort of where the band’s brilliance lies. If rock & roll is at its best when it all feels as though it could go wildly off the rails, there are few acts who’ve tapped into that vein as perfect as the Libertines.


Whether they survive the trip to record or play again is almost secondary. The Libertines were always meant to burn bright for a moment, then leave us wondering what the hell had just happened.


To celebrate,


Watch the Libertines exclusive interview on NME.com.


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Saturday, Mar 13, 2010
by Zach Schwartz
The seven-piece New York collective takes a break from touring to have a short talk with PopMatters about file sharing, Washington D.C. and black magic.

Phenomenal Handclap Band is a seven-piece touring band and the purveyors of dance music one might be tempted to call groovy. Their self-titled album came out in June on Friendly Fire.  PopMatters met up with the band at the start of their recent tour, specifically in their van behind the 930 Club in Washington D.C.


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PopMatters: So, NPR called you guys the “perfect mix of everything from the last 40 years of popular music.” How do you respond?


Phenomenal Handclap Band: [in unison] Thank you!


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Monday, Jan 25, 2010
Bay Area folk-rockers the Dry Spells talk with PopMatters about side projects, Fleetwood Mac and how they managed to be influenced by both Laurel Canyon and traditional Arabic music.

California and folk music don’t seem like they should go together but, for decades now, they have. With this year’s Too Soon for Flowers, Bay Area group the Dry Spells continue on in that left coast tradition. Initially formed in 2002 in New York, the quartet’s debut is a promising mix of traditional, almost Medieval folk music with modern rock energy. The band’s April Hayley, Tahlia Harbour, Adria Otte and Diego Gonzalez recently got together as a group to answer some of our questions.


How do you think Too Soon for Flowers would be different if you all hadn’t been playing more abstract, less conventionally song-based music in your side project, Citay?
All music influences other music, so being involved with Citay has almost certainly had an affect on us as musicians. The founding members of the Dry Spells met Diego and Warren through playing with Citay. Citay has had little structural influence on the Dry Spells’ music because Citay is one songwriter’s vision while the Dry Spells songwriting approach is a truly collaborative process.


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Thursday, Dec 3, 2009
After a short chat with Feelies co-chairman Glenn Mercer, co-leader of The Feelies, writer Kieran Curran started thinking about the seminal rock band's place in our modern times...

The Feelies are a band which seem to defy classification even today. Through not being part of any “scene” as such, they followed their own idiosyncratic muses, incorporating influences both typical for alternative bands of their time (Velvet Underground, The Modern Lovers) and atypical (classical minimalism, incorporating found object sounds in their records). Coming out of the suburban village of Haledon, New Jersey in the late 1970s, the band were ensconced with their record collections and jamming with friends in garages, punctuated by occasional trips to the big city to see bands. Without the strictures of a set scene or predefined sound, however, they were able to dip into New York without ever being immersed in it, free to do what they liked, unencumbered by generic expectations or localized trends.


Almost 30 years after their first record (the seminal Crazy Rhythms) was released, the Feelies are, like so many bands of the post-punk era, on the reunion circuit, backed by the reissuing of their first two albums. The crowds they play to are aware of their music through the diversions of the rock canon, through downloading and a general tendency towards retrospection amongst modern music listeners. With the plethora of music easily accessible online, fans are more and more aware of the interrelatedness of music, and the reference points that bands make. If you’re doing it, chances are someone in the past has done it already, whether you know it or not (and the knowingness is quite likely). A current band that makes explicit its debt to its influences from the indie rock canon, Times New Viking, namechecks members of its favorite groups (the Clean, the Fall, Pavement) on its MySpace, as well as referencing Yo La Tengo in a song which sounds very like Yo La Tengo.


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