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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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Tuesday, Jun 5, 2012
Lungfish squeezes primordial urges out of post-hardcore song craft.

Having melded a curious and compelling sound during the post-hardcore halcyon days of the late 1980s in the Washington D.C./Maryland nexus, Lungfish proved that stamina and resilience—and sticking to artistic prowess—can create a fertile legacy that bends the rules. Rather than always innovate and paving new paths every few years, Lungfish stayed on course, cutting records with consistent mystique, murkiness, and mantra-like quality.

This material is an artifact from fin de siecle 1999, a previously unreleased testament to Craig Bowen, who twisted the knobs at A.C.R studios in Baltimore. The band members didn’t stop to release them. In fact, they plowed ahead, forging new songs, ultimately re-recording several A.C.R. tracks at iconic Inner Ear Studios, which handled dozens of Dischord acts. So, while this album doesn’t present a bevy of virgin material, it does present a unique twist to the path of these songs—a glimpse into their original birth chamber.

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Wednesday, Apr 4, 2012
The Artcore fanzine produces another compilation LP that showcases the brutal beauty of punk in the present tense.

The best compilations serve as portraits of an era by capturing the tenor and nuances of musical movements. The newest effort by Welly, editor at longtime Welsh fanzine Artcore, embodies this role zealously.  By producing an LP (sorry, vinyl only!) proving that modern punk is still defiant, barbed, and immortal, he also highlights how the genre remains an irascible, twisted presence on the oft-mutating music scene.

Welly has been staple of the punk scene since the mid-1980s, when he began producing flyers for local gigs, started his own band Four Letter Word, and chronicled the scene in his fanzine Artcore, which has miraculously survived the digital era. In addition, Welly has also become a historian scribbling liner notes for long-lost bands like the Th’ Inbred and Offenders and designed cover graphics for print ‘zines like Maximum RocknRoll  and Jersey Beat.

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