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Events

Notes from the Road: A Word About Tomorrow (Kicking Off 2011)

In the wake of arguably the failure of futurism, can comics launch the much anticipated Internet of Things? Most likely not, but Johnny Zito is one of the generationally-definitive minds and worth spending some time with if your in Philly this Friday.

There's a Romeo Y Julietta No.2 drawing to ash on the tiny table positioned right next to the oversized leather armchair in my office. A holdover from Xmas, it was the kind Churchill smoked, and it's the only thing from last decade I'm really ready to tolerate near me right now. From the horror of its opening act, the shock & aww hell of it's crescendo and the bitter disappointment at the new Executive branch of government, the noughties seem to gratefully have run their course.

There were a few high points of course. Bill Gibson's shift to writing about the present in his Bigend Trilogy (Zero History, the closing novel, was just sublime), Brian Wood's Local, John Reed's Snowball's Chance and Tales Of Woe. But they seemed like flashes, rather than some continuing, sustained melodic engagement with the idea of tomorrow.

For the most part, the noughties seemed eerily like the World Of Tomorrow from 70 years ago. Minus the flying cars and the lunar cities, and I'm sure by now you're well-versed in the rest of the tirade. Personal jetpacks, and the like.

After the beating that was the first decade of this century, the dashed hopes and everything else that came with it, the soundtrack seems to be little better than Robert Plant's All My Love played on endless loop. Even the honest-to-goodness Darker Places of Tom Waits' whiskey-drowned croonings (think of 'Tom Traubert's Blues', think of 'Shiny Things') seem to hold too much of the promise of better times.

Watching Kevin Kelly's The Next 5,000 Days TEDtalk right now for what may literally be the 108th time seems to be more of a punchline than a promise.

Good thing Heliovore, my Blackberry, buzzes when it does. My current frame of mind might need a solid bout of Leonard Cohen to cure it. And it is a good thing. It's a message from the kind folks at South Fellini comics.

South Fellini Studios the legendary Johnny Zito's mail reads, are taking web comics to brick and mortar comic shops in Philadelphia, New York and LA this year. The traveling gallery of original art, tee shirts and comics continues this January at Brave New World. The boutique comic shop situated in Old City will open it's doors from 5 pm to 10 pm on Friday, January 7th for an evening of wine and comics

Kind of a weird connection there, Kevin Kelly and the internet of things...comics back in the real world. There's definitely a promise here. Or maybe it's more basic than that. A premise, new ground from which to work.

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Brave New World Comics is located at 45 N Second Street Philadelphia, PA 19106. The gallery will be open between 5 pm and 10 pm on Friday, January 7th. For all media inquiries please contact JohnnyZito@gmail.com

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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