Music

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 For Thrillin' and Chillin'
NEON THRILLS

Now that The Strokes have been exposed as bloated, minimally talented rich kids, and The Mooney Suzuki has become starry eyed and moved to Los Angeles, New York's musical renaissance has been left in the capable hands of the wondrous Star Spangles. Spearheading the revival is no easy task however, thus the Spangles can count on the support of multidimensional Neon Thrills to assist in leading the charge. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Neon Thrills cannot be assigned a simple identifying tag. Culling all that is good from '70s, '80s and '90s, the self proclaimed pioneers of "Maximum Pop" harness an original brand of musicality reserved for but a few established acts. Expertly crafted songs anchored by the dual vocal efforts of guitarist Joe Stamer and bassist Mark Rinzel create a unique aural hybrid, combining aspects of The Raspberries and Cheap Trick with Big Country and Weezer. The band's ability to shift gears with rally car precision is uncanny: One moment they're floating along on a breeze of wistful melodies, the next they're kicking everyone in the ass as drummer Bernie Davis and keyboardist Jon Sabol join the fray. No band has more readily embodied levels of textural diversity and accessibility since the early incarnation of REM.

With a dearth of polished acts to choose from these days, a truly talented band is something of an anomaly. So just how good are these guys? Suffice it to say that come their debut release in July 2004, even the atheists among us will be thanking God for the arrival of Neon Thrills. As it is also the date of America's Independence, it isn't surprising that they are destined, with The Star Spangles, to further the pop revolution.

Still not convinced? Then check out a gig and take the Neon Thrills Challenge: The band guarantees a free drink to anyone who doesn't go away with at least one hook or harmony lodged in his/her memory bank. But be prepared to buy your own beverages boys and girls, 'cause Neon Thrills ain't bought a round yet.

— Adam Williams

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Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

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Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

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A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

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9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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