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2018-04-24T10:57:00.291Z
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{"feed":"pop-matters","feedTitle":"Pop Matters","feedLink":"/feed/pop-matters","catTitle":"Music","catLink":"/cat/music"}


Technically Pete Townshend's first solo release, 1972's Who Came First doesn't make sense in all sorts of ways. First, it has a silly title still playing on the name of his band the Who and a silly cover positing Townshend as a chicken before (or after) the egg, and yet it's a deeply spiritual mostly avoiding humor and probing real issues. It's also not really a Townshend album in that it's full of collaboration and compiles material from previous collaborative albums created in tribute to spiritual guide Meher Baba. On a search for enlightenment, Who Came First is less a koan and more a source of discographical confusion. In honor of all that weirdness, we're getting a 45th-anniversary edition that comes out 46 years later. Fortunately, it does such a good job archiving the strangeness that's it's worth the effort.

The album itself, regardless of categorization, doesn't suffer from the surrounding weirdness, though it does at times feel a little trapped in a particularly 1960s/1970s sort of spirituality. The songs themselves hold up as some of the finest from Townshend's solo work (though it would take another eight years for his finest album, Empty Glass , to arrive). Townshend was in peak songwriting mode, smack in the midst of an incredible run of albums from 1967's ...



There is something thrilling about music that revels in its imperfection. Some of the best punk and indie bands have, for years, made wildly compelling music that is made only more compelling by its intention imprecision. It is a concept that stands in direct opposition to the polished, pitch-corrected, and pristine sound that dominates so much of the radio waves. Not that high polish and perfectionism are bad either, but there is an energy to those more raw songs and albums. Hinds, the Madrid-based garage rock quartet, demonstrated that kind of energy on their 2016 debut Leave Me Alone . The lo-fi sound of the album and the easy surf-rock songwriting of tracks like "Bamboo" and "Castigadas en el Granero" made the group uniquely approachable as a listener even if they didn't have the frills and tight production of some of their contemporaries.

Fast forward to 2018 and I Don't Run , Hinds sophomore album. Now with a larger following and the production of Gordon Raphael, producer of the Strokes' first handful of albums, the group has tightened and cleaned up their sound to a degree. The recording is cleaner and more well balanced with sharp drum sounds and a more dominant bass end. But, to their credit,...



Like a mighty oak that draws in kids and grandkids with sweeping branches and a rope swing, John Prine towers in a homespun sort of way. Maybe it's his voice, a gnarly, world-weary thing that automatically conveys gravitas. Or his face, which shows 71 years of observations, experiences and life lessons.

That mug is starkly out front on the cover of The Tree of Forgiveness , Prine's first record of fresh work since 2005's Fair and Square . His jowls, wide forehead and wispy grey hairs are surrounded by a pitch dark background and a simple black button-up shirt. It's a purposeful and intentional image for an album that's undoubtedly focused on mortality.

"When I get to Heaven / I'm gonna shake God's hand," Prine sings on "When I Get to Heaven". "Thank Him for more blessings / Than one man can stand." In true John Prine fashion, this track balances an eventual reckoning with death with plenty of folksy whimsy. In his version of the afterlife, he's "gonna smoke a cigarette / That's nine miles long" and start up a venue called "The Tree of Forgiveness" -- a place where Prine will "forgive everybody / Ever done me harm".

...



Alfred Hitchcock. Many associate the man with artistic brilliance, cinematic auteurism, and pop cultural iconography. Others have mixed reactions, cognizant of his indelible legacy while nonetheless grappling with feelings of uneasiness surrounding his infamous, boundary-pushing films. In recent years, he has joined the likes of Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and Harvey Weinstein as one of countless men in Hollywood guilty of abusing their power to support and engage in the systemic abuse of women.

It's troubling that a person who did so much to revolutionize one of the most profound and empathetic art forms of the last century is also the corrupt mind behind real-life sexual predation. This unfortunate fact was not wholly confronted until October of 2012, when actress Tippi Hedren, then 82 years old, finally broke her silence and shared a host of horrific experiences with the director during the filming of one of his landmark motion pictures, 1963's The Birds. Hedren's testimony received press and solidarity, but still failed to shine light on a new and more authentic perspective of Hitchcock, with opposing viewpoints still totally isolated. This difficulty is found not only with Hitchcock, but to all appealing art forms and artists with problematic deadweights. In an article entitled "Bad Feminist", author Roxane Gay writes:

I listen to thuggish rap at a very loud volume even though the lyrics are degrading to women and...


On 26 February 2012, George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old kid carrying a bag of Skittles, after having been instructed by a police officer on the telephone not to take any action to what Zimmerman had perceived as a trespass into a gated community. Martin was living in the community at the time. Two-and-a-half years later, on 11 October 2014, U.S. Marine Joseph Pemberton allegedly asphyxiated Jennifer Laude, a transgender woman, in a hotel room in the Philippines. For some time, these deaths and the rash of dissatisfying judicial outcomes to follow spurred a conflaguration of social media activity and protests. But as with all hate crime cases, public outrage settled, and the stories of Martin and Laude quieted from "breaking news" to back page stories, which die slowly amid mercilessly drawn out criminal appeals, civil lawsuits, and partisan deadlock.

Jennfer Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason's six-part docuseries Rest in Power:The Trayvon Martin Story , and PJ Raval's film documentary Call Her Ganda , have undertaken the enormous task of resurrecting the stories of Martin and Laude, reinterpreting each death within historic frameworks of the systemic reasons for hate crimes, and why their stories fade without meaningful changes in civil rights laws.

...



It's been interesting to hear We Are Scientists' general musical progression over the course of their career. Fundamentally they haven't changed too much since their early days. They still write catchy power pop songs and use mostly guitar, bass, and drums. But their first major album, With Love and Squalor , was full of hard driving songs that barely ever slowed down enough to be called mid-tempo. And then drummer Michael Tapper left, and their next album, Brain Thrust Mastery, was much less in a hurry and found the band, now officially a duo, incorporating some synths, too. Since then the band has gradually figured out how to merge the fast and punchy rock and the slower synthpop into one coherent power pop stew.

Megaplex continues that formula and does it a bit better than 2016's spotty Helter Seltzer . The mid-tempo "One in, One Out" begins the album with a catchy, simple synth figure before singer-guitarist Keith Murray comes in, followed by slow, reverbed guitar in the background and a simple rhythm section accompaniment. The song has a hugely singable chorus, "That's why I stopped right where I stood / When I saw you," and the song is wisely built around it, with...



"As you noticed from the documentary, I used to be in the industry and I am always talking about how I thought I would probably be at this festival with a guitar flung around my back 20 years ago," says Antifa activist and founder of the One Peoples Project (OPP) Daryle Lamont Jenkins. "Things are different and that's all good, but I'm glad I'm here now, that's all [laughs]."

In Austin, Texas for the SXSW World Premiere of writer-director Adam Bhala Lough's exposé Alt-Right: Age of Rage (2018), Jenkins is one of the central players of an ideological battle the documentary centres on. Following Trump's unforeseen victory, America has witnessed the rise of a fringe movement from the Right, rebranded by one of its figureheads Richard Spencer as the "alternative-right". Culminating in the tragic events of Charlottesville , Lough explores the two sides of this ideological divide, with particular focus on the work of the shadow collective Antifa and civil rights organizations such as the SPLC and NAACP , who take the fight to the courts, the media, and the streets.

In conversation with PopMatters , Jenkins...



Grapevine is promoting made-on-demand DVDs featuring two of the most popular stars of silent westerns: Just Pals (1920) with Buck Jones, and The Calgary Stampede (Herbert Blaché, 1925) with Hoot Gibson. Both titles have been available before, so these count as reissues worthy of attention.

Although Just Pals has been described as a western in various references, including Wikipedia, it truly isn't one. While set in a town on the border between Wyoming and Nebraska, it belongs to the school of contemporary small-town sentimental melodramas current at the time, and it's a downright excellent example.

Directed by John Ford (billed as Jack Ford) in his first film for Fox, Just Pals is the kind of silent tale in which simple, even naïve emotions are handled with complexity and depth that give the film power. Jones plays Bim, "the town bum" and general shiftless laughing-stock. His nobility is revealed in gestures that don't usually pay off, such as when as he defends a little boy (Georgie Stone) from a violent railroad bull, as the private security officers were known.

Bim and young Bill become fast friends in a town with little or no social services to regulate children without...



God Is An Astronaut has been one of the reigning instrumental acts in the rock/post-rock/post-metal world for over 15 years now. With a series of increasingly imaginative and increasingly brilliant albums behind it, the Irish trio brings its latest, Epitaph, out on 27 April via Napalm Records .

The trio 's ninth LP opens with the titular track, a haunting, space-driven narrative that quickly finds the right balance between light and dark and sustains its stark, ethereal mood across each second of its nearly eight-minute running time. Fans of acts in the vein of Radiohead will find plenty to love here as will those who've come to embrace latter-day Ulver. If by the end, you don't get the sense that you're floating free in space (or a place very much like it) it may be time to wind your way back to the number's start.

One of the charges frequently brought against full-length albums in the age of the EP is that the form had become too bloated, dependent upon excess baggage to make its point. That's not the case here as the listener finds plenty of tightly-woven compositions...



The politically minded Houston outfit Free Radicals arrives with a new remix album, No State Solution , on 25 May. The record, an out-and-out rejection of corrupt governments, compiles material from the genre-bending outfit's previous six albums (including Aerial Bombardment (2004) and Outside the Comfort Zone (2017).) The outfit 's politics are as wide-ranging as its musical influences, which includes doses of klezmer, ska, punk, Indian music and more. Politically, the band has played street marches and supported a host of causes that include Black Lives Matter, universal healthcare and immigration-related concerns.

The remixes are the direct result of a collaboration between DJ Sun, a Dutch-born American record producer, DJ and one of the most prolific musicians in Houston, and Free Radicals drummer Nick Cooper. A newly-issued single, "No State Solution" (Lacandon Remix Feat. Marcos) b/w "Screaming" (DJ Sun Radio Remix) and "Witch" (Dub remix), arrives April 24, with the A-side pulling no political punches in its message across its free association, funk-driven 4:35.

One...



Queering history is necessary if readers want to fully understand how the past influences the present. Regardless of the classification as fiction or non-fiction, texts that queer reader's understanding of gender and sexual fluidity are essential. However, queering history doesn't necessarily require the outing of sexual activity. This methodology allows authors and readers to examine a wider spectrum of social and cultural relationships. White Houses by Amy Bloom provides that perspective. In this work of historical fiction, Bloom creatively conceptualizes the relationship between first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena "Hick" Hickok. At times mawkish and problematic, White Houses is a romance that presents an interesting queer historical fiction.

White Houses, named after 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and a home on Long Island, is told from Hickok's perspective. This is a refreshing change from having Roosevelt's voice dominant another narrative. Bloom details Hickok's struggle to obtain an education, break the cycle of poverty, and construct a unique identity. The novel's crux imagines the details of Hickok's relationship with Roosevelt. While an AP reporter, Hickok met Eleanor during Franklin Roosevelt's first presidential campaign. Their affective connection was instantaneous and intense. This caused Hickok to resigned from the AP because she couldn't maintain objectivity. She then moved into the White House and became known as the "First Friend". That moniker is interpretable as...



Bruises is the latest album from singer-songwriter Cary Brothers . The album, which is due out 27 April, finds Brothers leaning into his '80s influences while also contemplating some of life's tougher moments. "It's about getting beaten down and getting back up again", he says. "Mostly the getting up part".

He drew special inspiration from the likes of Peter Gabriel and the Cure, artists, he says, who "wrote in huge, melodic, romantic sonic landscapes". While the influence isn't always immediately obvious, one can detect it in songs such as the stirring, soulful "Nothing in the World/The Path" and the arena/stadium-ready "Til The Stars". In the latter, Brothers creates a large, booming track that retains a sense of intimacy, as though of the millions who might hear it, it remains intended for one listener. He thrusts in some rollicking, hypnotic vibes via "Past Come Round" and gives us a song that will no doubt be the first a generation of young guitar players/would-be songwriters learns in the privacy of their own rooms ("Everything I Say").

There is a strange but wonderful juxtaposition of the broad and the intimate here: So...



Matt Wade, who performs under the name, My Silent Bravery , takes listeners on a trip back in time via his latest cut, "18" , which follows his highly successful single, "Girl You Think You Know". Though the lyrics reference the 1980s (Patrick Swayze, Bon Jovi) and the video has more than a few nods to that bygone era ( Risky Business , anyone?), the track itself is never out of touch with contemporary. The lyrical hook and strong, sentimental tug of wanting to relive a youth that passed too quickly by will appeal to the most hard-hearted of listeners (or viewers).

The plot at the core of the video isn't exactly one that would have fit in a John Hughes picture from the era, but it recaptures the loner/outcast in love with the beautiful girl from school trope from the cinema of the era. With nostalgia for those years running high thanks to The Americans , Stranger Things and other series, the video feels as much a product of that time as it is so clearly a product of now. (And, musically, it doesn't hurt that it wouldn't take much to strip the song down to an "unplugged"...



When a colossal act of financial mismanagement wipes away the Rose family's video rental fortune, their assets are seized and they are left destitute, friendless, and the subject of significant scandal. Desperate for some security, the family retreat to the only asset that the government hasn't taken: the rural town of Schitt's Creek, which was bought as an elaborate joke. It's not so funny when the ex-soap star Moira (Catherine O'Hara), business tycoon Johnny (Eugene Levy), their spoiled son David (Dan Levy) and air-head socialite Alexis (Annie Murphy) are faced with living in a motel in the middle of nowhere.

At the end of season 3 David had struck up a surprising relationship with his business partner Patrick (Noah Reid) and was building a bespoke business, Alexis had discovered her passion for PR and recently graduated, Johnny had committed himself to making the motel more successful, and Moira had settled within the computer, entering local government.

When Schitt's Creek premiered it was a pretty instant delight; a raucous mix of loose-limbed slapstick and one-liners that practically guaranteed a good-time for each episode. Whilst the upside of that was that the show was a reliable joke machine, it also meant that it could feel a little like a live-action cartoon, a skit pushed to its extremes. There's nothing wrong with being an all-out comedy, but it was always possible...



Hannah Kathleen and Dustin McChesney, respectively bassist and guitarist in Waveless , have developed a dynamic vocal chemistry with each record the Minneapolis trio puts out. Part duet and part duel, their lyrical conversations can sound at ends one moment and in complete accord the next.

"Second Lot", taken from their forthcoming album, As One More Folded Paper Crane , finds them in a cryptic back and forth about what gets hidden behind baseball fields and bathroom mirrors as McChesney hones in on his escapist mantra, "I'm not there and I never really was." Jared Sather's shape-shifting drums and the reverb on everything cranked to 11 set the song in a state of agitated bliss. As One More Folded Paper Crane , out 19 May on Moniker Records , dials up both of those ends, breathing blue smoke through sharp teeth, building on their already formidable presence.



Hailing from the Belarusian city Polotsk, atmospheric black metal band Raven Throne releases its sixth album I Miortvym Snicca Zolak on 2 May via the Dutch imprint Non Serviam Records . Drawing upon the same moody terrain as Agalloch, Khors, Drudkh and others, the group dug deep into Slavic culture and history for this new effort, drawing on a number of poems written near the dawn of the last century, adding a haunting and disquieting element to the already dark and primitive metal sounds.

The LP 's final track, "Living Blood of Living Bodies" ("Žyvoj kryvi žyvyja cielcy"), exemplifies the stark, startling turns the music takes throughout the rest of the album. With ferocious lead guitar lines and bare, stone age rhythms, the track builds in un-quiet intensity before giving way (albeit briefly) to a haunting, simple guitar figure. From there, the tune turns on full blast, laying waste to our speakers and our very beings with annihilating black metal ferocity.

...


In the new podcast series, Making Obama , on WBEZ-Chicago, the former president, his staff, and supporters are repeatedly asked if his story could have happened in any other city, and the answer is an emphatic no. Every aspect of Barack Obama's post-collegiate life was shaped by Chicago. Place matters, and place creates the geography that makes people foolishly believe it [the land] can be tamed. However, in the words of the rock band Blues Traveler, "the mountains win again", and so too does the land win in every aspect of Emily Ruskovich's beautiful novel, Idaho .

Told in flashback, the story centers on a couple, Wade and Ann, and the tragedy their marriage is built upon. This is not a family novel. It's a tribute to memory, and it asks questions that make it feel like the films Arrival (2016) and Interstellar (2014). Is time the element that binds us all? Can we communicate from the future to the past, and vice versa, through time? Idaho is neither supernatural nor science fiction; it's a whodunit that is not beyond...



Emerging as a seasoned punk of the 1990s Seattle and Chicago scenes, Charlie Smyth has evolved a long way past his roots. Now, he's contributing his chops as a songwriter and performer to the Americana circuit. Ergo, Smyth has found himself a world where he can keep rocking with a consciousness, but with a contemporary roots flair. There's a respectable heaping of country and folk elements swirling with his rocking past on his forthcoming album, The Way I Feel (17 July). Although, like fellow Nashvillians, Nikki Lane and Aaron Lee Tasjan, this artist's debut collection of studio work is a lot more than what some may have come to expect out of alt-country.

His reworking of a Neil Diamond classic helps seal that deal. Smyth's rendition of "Beautiful Noise" is ushered in with a rich, vibrant collection of horns. From there, a whole, rollicking world of sound unfurls around him, complete with a swath of guitar work, gorgeous backing vocals, and fluttering fiddle that stoke the fires of its traditional folk influences.

"While rummaging through thrift-store vinyl I noticed Robbie Robertson's name emblazoned across the cover of a Neil Diamond record, announcing him as the producer," Smyth tells...



They say misery loves company. Not sure if that's true, but the characters who inhabit Courtney Marie Andrews' latest release live miserable lives by conventional standards but find what happiness they can in the company of others. As Andrews notes, it takes love to make a house a home, not the amenities one finds in the real estate ads. That may be a cliché, but it's still true. Andrews' talents as a singer-songwriter lie in her ability to bring the basic facts of life into an artistic perspective so that one finds the beauty in our common humanity. Her empathy for others comes from her heart and mind.

Most tracks are straight-forward in their meaning. On the title cut that opens the disc, Andrews sets the theme as she sings about the essential goodness of a friend who may be facing hard times. True love and happiness come free, she reminds her friend. Don't let life's troubles grind you down. Andrew sings in a sweet voice and producer Mark Howard lets the notes ring in the air like that of a church choir. He recorded the album in a rented house in Los Angeles that he, Andrews, and the band (Dillon Warnek, guitar; (Daniel Walker, Charles Wicklander, keyboards; Alex Sabel, bass, and William Mapp, drums) lived in for eight days. According to Andrews, "a lot of the record is either the first take or we did just one overdub." The...



The music of Nicole Schneidt disguises its conflict. Very often, listening to an Air Waves album is like receiving a warm hug from a familiar friend. Whether it's Schneidt's plaintive vocals or the charming simplicity of the music, Air Waves presented a welcome island of serenity, even as Schneidt's lyrics pointed to some trouble lurking silently beneath the surface. Warrior seeks to up-end all of that; even its title seems a startling declaration of aggression in comparison to the band's previous work. The music within isn't nearly as aggressive as one would think, but it does find Schneidt expanding her palate to express new complexities in her songs.

Previous Air Waves releases could be counted on to fit within a specific formula. The instrumentation was simple, based around a guitar-bass-drums setup with little room for wonky expressions of virtuosity. While occasionally played at a quick pace, Schneidt's compositions had this folksy charm to them, as well. Keeping things down to the basics was the name of the game, but Warrior slowly does away with all of that.

While the clarity in Warrior 's sound isn't entirely new - 2015's Parting Glances introduced a cleaner sound already - Schneidt's work has...