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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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Tuesday, Mar 6, 2012
By mixing darker shades of old school and modern hardcore with incisive feminist diatribes, War on Women produces a walloping torpedo of truth.

With blistering tunefulness that bridges back to the zenith hardcore days of Black Flag, Baltimore-based War on Women produces a confessional, contoured, and convulsive six-song EP. Although knee-deep in feminist creeds, don’t expect mere socio-politico placards back-dropped by assaulting, dark, and compressed musical templates. In contrast, the band buries any sense of preachiness inside quickstep tunes that can be heavy enough to feel like an injection of lead into the backbone and nimble and acrobatic enough to satisfy any prog-punk fans, all within each tune.

Breathtaking opener “Confess” gallops out of the gate by combining the steel-toed directness of British street punks Deadline with a chorus that feels as mysterious, lilting, and venomous as a brief foray into Tool territory. That balance between raw-boned rancor and effortless ambience happens in a scant two minutes.

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Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012
Brimming with punk prowess, queer biographic forays, and eager earnestness, High Dive makes music for those seeking more than dread and doldrums.

With fifth-gear intensity and whiplash musicality, High Dive melds the world of queer punk politics with biographic narratives that feel poignant as salad days-era Jawbreaker, when the band’s pen felt like picture-perfect haikus of twenty-something angst and beatnik heart-on-the-sleeve tendencies. On its new self-titled album, High Dive feels pregnant with such potential and packs this album with equal parts punch, purpose, smarts, suss, and storytelling.

Originally hailing from Chicago but now settled in nearby small college town Bloomington, Indiana, High Dive channels a rich sense of legacy, including Windy City bands like Alkaline Trio, Smoking Popes, and Lawrence Arms, all of which paved pop-punk trademark fare brimming with acrobatic musical prowess and emotional tenderness. Still, High Dive doesn’t merely dwell in that template: it forge a righteous imagination and stalwart punk ethos all its own, marked by being sexual outsiders in the Protestant heartland.

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