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Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011
Part of what makes Lady Gaga's new single "Born This Way" work is the sheer sugar-rush of the whole thing: it breezes from intro to verse to chorus without even breaking a sweat. Expect imitators to follow (in that sense, Lady Gaga is the Apple of pop music).

To help figure out what “Born This Way” is, let’s first rule out exactly what it’s not.


First off, it is not the modern day “I Will Survive”, as Elton John so giddily claimed in his recent Rolling Stone interview. As tempting as it also is to write it off as a modern update of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” (as Rob Sheffield does here), it also doesn’t fill that role precisely, because its context is notably different (although, musically, it bears an unabashed similarity). 


Instead, what Sheffield does get right is that “Born This Way” finds its power and its force by digging deep into the heart of American disco: shamelessly straightforward pop music with only the slightest wink of self-importance. This is an empowerment anthem to be danced to, inclusive to all, specific to no one.  It will set clubs ablaze for the rest of 2011, soar to the top of the charts, and have an extravagantly over-the-top video as we’ve come to expect from Miss Gaga.


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Wednesday, Feb 9, 2011
VV Brown's energetic performances at last year's SXSW were the talk of the festival. She talks to PopMatters about her many ambitions.

England’s VV Brown came out of the South by Southwest Music Festival smokin’ hot. Between her showcase performance at the Latitude 30 Club, several party appearances that included Perez Hilton’s One Night in Austin and Spinner.com’s Pop-Up at the Gas Pipe, and her gig on KGSR radio’s breakfast program, the word was out. Brown was last year’s SXSW most likely to succeed, following in the tradition of females songstresses of the past such as Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, and Nellie McKay.


Whether Brown will flame out like Winehouse, soar to superstardom like Jones, or remain a beloved cult artist like McKay remains to be seen. One thing for certain is Brown’s driving ambition. Brown sat down with PopMatters at SXSW and discussed her plans to conquer the world.


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How different is it playing festivals with artists different than you are versus your own tours?


I love it when I am with artists different than me. I stumbled upon a new band yesterday that I fell in love with called the Octopus Project. And I think it’s just so fun to mingle with other musicians. They challenge you and inspire you as an artist, and it’s a great feeling. It’s really boring when you hang around people that are similar to you or doing the same things as you because you don’t grow. And as an artist, I really want to grow so festivals like this are a platform for discovery for me as an artist.


Tagged as: vv brown
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Tuesday, Feb 8, 2011
Electronic music is atomizing and reinventing itself like few other musical sounds, partly because these avenues of distribution are so widely embraced and promoted by the electronic music community.

Every week an avalanche of sound is let go into the world of electronic music. The merchant alleys, virtual pathways, and myriad communities that exchange music are overwhelming in the age of the Internet. That said, electronic music is atomizing and reinventing itself like few other musical sounds, partly because these avenues of distribution are so widely embraced and promoted by the electronic music community.


Yet, to listen to all of these releases and pick out the head-turners would require as many people as there are releases. Sinking into a piece of music is itself a time consuming process, that is if you’re willing to absorb the sounds with the same care in which they were made.


Here at Sound Affects I will regularly choose an EP or album, a DJ mix, and an unreleased single to highlight and say a few kind, endearing words about. Each of these formats is meant to represent the ways in which electronic music is consumed most commonly these days, with DJ mixes being fascinating albums in their own right, and unreleased, self-released, and bootleg singles being extraordinarily rich realms of sample-based possibility. Now that you know what you’re in for, here are my first three!


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Wednesday, Dec 15, 2010
Rubber Soulive is an impressive, mostly joyful, occasionally eye-opening experience wherein any Beatles fan should find something to love.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on . . .” When it comes to the Beatles, I feel obliged to invoke Samuel Beckett. Everything has been said; enough can never be said. So let me say this: as long as I have eyes, ears, fingers and a keyboard, I’ll be talking about the Beatles.


And that is just referring to the band’s official discography. What about the incalculable covers of their catalog? With a band as beloved and unavoidable as the Beatles, we’ve heard it all. Especially the stuff we didn’t want or need to hear and, unfortunately, the stuff that can never be unheard (Bee Gees and Beatles don’t mix). That said, while nothing, of course, can ever compare to the real thing, there are some amazing tributes out there. Naturally, the more unorthodox ones tend to fare better, if for no other reason because they retain the spirit of the original without drawing an overly direct comparison, which is always a losing proposition.


I can think of several; so can you. How about Eddie Hazel’s funkadelic deconstruction of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”? Or Joe Jackon’s plaintive take on “Eleanor Rigby”? Or the enchanting Allison Kraus’ version of “I Will”? Or Jimi Hendrix’s straight-out impounding of “Sgt. Pepper”? Or anything by Electric Light Orchestra—oh wait, those weren’t covers? Never mind. The best one I’ve seen in ages, and one I suspect I’ll never tire of, is St. Vincent’s stylized, sexy-as-all-get-out take on “I Dig a Pony” which needs to be seen, immediately.


Understanding, then, that there is always room for more Beatles, the question still must be answered: is there really room for an entire album of Beatles covers? Well . . .


Tagged as: soulive, the beatles
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Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010
An unfairly named, unfairly shunned, and completely unhip genre, adult alternative, in my opinion, is producing some of the best new music these days, and you don't have to be a project manager with two kids and a suburban home to enjoy it. Here I examine three examples of the best records in said genre from this year.

According to the definition from the king of genre explanations, allmusic.com, adult alternative is “a smooth, melodic, radio-friendly style that packaged alternative’s mellower side for wider consumption”. Some mainstays of the genre include Jeff Buckley, late-era Goo Goo Dolls, my beloved Crowded House, my personal deity Aimee Mann, and—give me a moment to vomit in my mouth a bit—Dave Matthews Band. I suppose it’s adult contemporary with an edge. The three artists profiled here are undoubtedly part of this movement, and while it seems unfair to pigeonhole them into something for adults, genres exist for a reason and I’m not going to cry over it.


My first experience with bona fide adult alternative was David Gray’s “White Ladder” in 2000, when I was 18 years old. Growing up a punk rocker, and still considering myself one to a certain extent, I felt that my sheer enjoyment of that record was somewhat traitorous. But punk rock, God bless it, can be a limited genre that doesn’t take kindly to other genres, and the older I got, the more I found myself branching out, exploring more and more different types of music, and finding excellence everywhere. I no longer should, and I no longer do, feel any guilt. We should never limit ourselves, because art is subjective, and beauty can be found everywhere.


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