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Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012
ERAAS doesn’t so much sound like the score to a film never made, but rather it evokes the sense of a long-lost film, a celluloid soul trying to renter the world and regain relevancy -- the ghost of a film about ghosts.

On first listen, ERAAS’ debut—a spectral passerby of an album—is all ghostly mood and atmosphere, songs of agreeable length but expunged of hooks and conventional structure. You probably won’t find it in the Avant-Garde section of your local record store, but its 40 pop-purged minutes don’t pretend to peddle in radio-friendly verse-chorus expediency. Like the Danger Mouse/Daniele Luppi collaboration Rome (a score to a western that doesn’t exist), ERAAS aspires to tell us a story through cinematic aurality, the sounds and score of a gothic horror film that might have graced small screens in seedy theaters in the late ‘60s/early’ 70s in the dark corners of New York, the floors all sticky and the film grainy and scratchy, the seat cushions torn. Maybe it’s because I watched The Innocents the night before the album came out and I had the supernatural permeating my mind, or maybe because it’s the most ghoul-saturated month of the year, but a haunted house quality pervades ERAAS.


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Tuesday, Oct 23, 2012
The scrappy demos of Rites of Spring reveal the passion, fury, and profundity of an entire genre recasted and re-imagined.

Looking back at the heady days of the “Revolution Summer” of 1985 in Washington D.C., when punks bands like Gray Matter and Marginal Man tried to merge the deep furrows of their conscience and dissidence with the sonic battering ram of distortion and dissonance, Rites of Spring became the emblem of punk undergoing reconstruction.


Just as punk grew more taut and by-the-numbers in the post-1982 time warp, Rites of Spring felt ad-lib and stretched-out; vital, not humdrum; and convincingly urgent, not merely unctuous, like a depressingly reinforced hard’n’fast template borrowed from others.


Formed in the aftermath of broken bands as a roiling amalgam of Faith and Insurrection (two local iconic teenage hardcore bands), they catalyzed a whole new breed of punk armed with raspy, pummeling, and poetic visions and dogged, anything-goes, slightly ratty musicianship. Akin to a loose-knit version of mid-period Hüsker Dü, their songs feel doggedly literate. Exploring isolation, woe, and the bitter flux of relationships, Guy Picciotto’s verses betray a severe sense of intellect that outmaneuvers the mere muscled flex of hardcore punk music.


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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, Jul 24, 2012
Oh goodness yes, another box set from another highly-regarded band, but before you hit your cultural snooze alarm, take a look closer: this actually has everything fans could want, and more, especially when we hear it direct from the horse's mouth.

You should see how crazy things are getting in the PopMatters forum right now.


There, the writers and myself are going about, arguing over what the best all-time Blur songs are. There are a lot of common ground to be found (“Coffee + TV” is a turning point for a lot of people, but “Tender” also makes it up there, along with early pop triumphs like “There’s No Other Way”), and a lot of debate to be had as well (I still argue that “There’s No Distance Left to Run” is their outright-finest moment, and when I suggested that “Sunday Sunday” is their worst single, one writer notably took exception to such an outrageous claim). [Fun fact, that was me—Ed.]


Now, however, with the band closing out the Olympics, having just released two new songs (the fairly “typical” Blur tracks “Under the Westway” and “The Puritain”, and numerous rumors about the band working on and off again on a new album, there seems to be no better time for their label to release Blur 21, a box set celebrating the group’s entire output since its debut album Leisure came out 21 years ago.


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Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012
It's insanely catchy, it's got a wacky, infinitely rewatchable music video, and it comes from literally the last person you would ever expect to release a huge, catchy dance track.

Remember this video?


Yeah, that one. The one with the woman licking the tree in a highly sexual fashion while the weird synth music plays behind her. At first, iamamiwhoami was a strange anomaly that no one could figure out. Was it Trent Reznor’s new side-project? (He denied it after being hounded with questions throughout early 2010.) Was it Lady Gaga’s way to just unleash her wildest, weirdest fantasies on celluloid? (Nope.) Instead, after much speculation and debate, clever Internet searchers discovered that it was actually . . .


. . . this woman.


Amazingly, underappreciated Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee, who came off as a somewhat brighter Sheryl Crow (or at least Aimee Mann), had somehow gone underground and turned herself into that inexplicable tree-licker. Yet one weird video wasn’t enough: slowly but surely, insanely high-quality music videos continued to pour out of this strange little YouTube account, and even as the visuals got wilder and wilder, the songs slowly began to turn towards something approaching pop music (the video/song “b” seems to really be the tipping point). iamamiwhoami seemed to be entirely self-financed, and, perhaps most impressively, the music wasn’t even being released commercially. Even iamiamiwhoami’s “live concert” turned out to be a crazy, staged event that took place across a litany of carefully-constructed set pieces. The project didn’t seem to have a way to make money, but that didn’t stop it from capturing the minds and thoughts of curiosity-seekers the world over.


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