Now Hear This 2004

Can't figure out what to listen to? Listen to us. Once again, PopMatters' music team presents a highly opinionated, undoubtedly superlative but ultimately revelatory examination of 18 artists that demand your attention. NOW.

NOW HEAR THIS 2004 Can't figure out what to listen to? Listen to us. Once again, PopMatters' music team presents a highly opinionated, undoubtedly superlative but ultimately revelatory examination of 18 artists that demand your attention. NOW.
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:: Best Band to Inspire Not-So-Polite Gestures at Huge Tastemaking TV Networks

Fuck MTV. That's right, fuck MTV for foisting yet another wave of snotty nosed poseurs on the masses; and fuck MTV for continually polluting our collective psyches with their flavor-of-the-moment dreck. And while we're at it, fuck California for taking credit for the recent punk revival. New York City is where it all started back in 1974, and 30 years later it's where everything is happening again. And with nary a skate board or trendy pierced lip in sight, the stupendous Bamboo Kids are giving mainstream media sycophants the high hard one with their own slash and burn brand of noise. Stripped down, gritty and just plain aggressive, the Kids represent all that is genuine about New York's dive bar aesthetic. The Kids are frayed denim, worn leather, rotten sneakers, slam dancing, crowd diving, and gobbing at the stage all rolled up into a tidy little incendiary package. They sing about everything and nothing while incorporating enough hooks to keep everyone's attention. Forget Sum 41 and Good Charlotte, and think back to the thrilling days of yesteryear when The Ramones ruled clubs like CBGB's. No fancy video shoots; no make-up artists; no sparkling water and vegetable platters; just twisted cables and powers chords jacked out of amps turned up to 11.

So how does this trio of urchins cook up such a tasty musical smorgasbord? By sticking to a simple recipe consisting of two parts early Clash, a handful of Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky, a pinch of vintage Pistols, and a sprinkling of Television and NY Dolls for taste. The discerning palate may even detect a hint of Stooges as well. With such an impressive roster of influences, the Kids are sure to be held to a high creative standard. Fear not, the lads aren't just a bunch of beer and sneer wannabes. Guitarist Dwight Weeks sings and plays as if channeling the spirit of a young Joe Strummer, bassist Vince Cecio holds down the bottom with precision, while Chris Orlando showcases his penchant for drum kit strafing runs. These boys walk the walk, as their July 2004 American debut will prove. So don't get bamboozled any longer by the current crop of corporate crap, tune into The Bamboo Kids and revel in some of the finest sonic resonance that New York City has to offer.

— Adam Williams

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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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

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Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

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'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

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