I sit on the banks of the river on a particularly orderly day holding a pocket watch that used to belong to my grandmother in the palm of my hand, attending to the fateful footfalls of the second hand as it marches its resolutely circular path around the face of the watch. The waves of water lap gently at the stone one which I rest my feet. These things establish (or better, I note) their own regular rhythm in a fascinating hemiola with the ticking of my grandmother's watch—for every eight seconds there are three waves knocking on the shore. Above, stray gulls pass overhead every 32 seconds (they are very precise gulls, indeed); to my right and slightly above my head, a sparrow chirps every 16 seconds. Everything seems to coordinate in a glorious symphony of recurrence and patterning and it all revolves around the assured conductor's beat of the second hand of my grandmother's watch. Time orders all.
Except… there's no reason the watch should take pride of place. It doesn't own time or have any privileged access to it over and above the other oscillations and repetitions I have noted. One gull passing = 2 sparrow chirps = 24 waves lapping = 32 ticks of the second hand. Sure, we are accustomed to measuring other durations against the second hand but in this fantasy of a perfectly ordered day, I could just as easily measure the movements of the watch hands by the recurrence of the...
There's always more than a little ageism that infiltrates those of us who review memoirs from writers who have yet to really "come of age" or "pay dues", whatever that means. The plethora of "quarter life crisis" confessionals from scores of 20-something writers over the past decade are too numerous to mention and prove only to serve as easy targets of perhaps unfair criticism. Those of us who worked to find our voices or purposes well before the age of the worldwide web did so without the luxury of instant feedback, Rose-colored Instagram filter photos, and an eager choir willing to hear and validate anything we preached.
It's with this understanding that the jaded reader might immediately dismiss Laura Smith's The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust as a hybrid biography confessional memoir that effectively renders a compelling account of both styles but frustratingly leaves the reader with the understanding that neither was really strong enough to stand on its own. On one hand, it covers the life and sad times of child prodigy novelist Barbara Newhall Follett, whose first novel The House Without Windows was published in 1927 when she was just 12-years-old. In 1939, Follett disappeared without a trace, vanishing in an era when it was much easier to erase all vestiges of self.
The Art of Vanishing is strongest when it covers the life of this independent girl, this prodigy molded almost to death by demanding parents. It's the memoir...
Supposedly a parody of the Charlie Chan movies, Mastermind is a slapstick spoof in which Zero Mostel plays a Japanese police inspector who investigates crimes involving a toy company's prototype for a pint-sized android that knows karate. People are frozen by deadly darts, and there's a nightclub and a bath-house and a big chase before everyone goes home. What amazes me about this movie isn't that such a thing exists but that such a thing exists without my having heard of it. I'll explain my befuddlement.
According to various sources, including Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, this movie was barely released in 1976 after having sat on the shelf since 1969. The year 1976 explains why the crude, cut-rate poster art, as reproduced on the Blu-ray cover, exclaims "Smarter than the Pink Panther!" and "Mightier than the Mighty Kong!" The Pink Panther series was in full revival, and the King Kong remake was another release that year. I presume the reference doubles as a pun on Hong Kong for a vaguely Asian joke. Chan was Chinese Hawaiian, but nobody seems to have been thinking about it too coherently.
What I'm getting at is that in 1976, this kind of knockabout offering would have been up my alley, for I was determined to see every comedy I could feast my orbs upon. Besides the aforementioned Pink Panther rally, Mel Brooks was king with multiple crudely humored spoofs, and Neil Simon was getting into the act with Murder By Death (1976...
Based in Los Angeles, De'Anza has made a name for herself over the last few years by combining traditional elements of Latin music with doses of the psychedelic and the spiritual. Her new EP, Cosmic Dream, arrives on June 29 and is poised to bring her to a wider audience, one that embraces the spacey, the strange and the almighty dance beat.
Cosmic Dream is an effort tied together by reflections on different stages of the sleep cycle and De'Anza delivers an appropriately heady group of tunes and interludes on this new effort that reflect our sleep/dream states hazy twilight. She's also delivered a new video for the song "Want". The clip was conceptualized by director Jorge Espinosa, who includes mandala, a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe, and geometric shapes over De'Anza's face. The song itself, she says, was born of an interest in funk music and the desire to create an unapologetically upbeat track for the recording.
Which came first with this EP, the songs or the concept?
Definitely the songs. The first thing I wrote was "¿Estás Recibiendo?" ("Are You Receiving?"). I had actually written that years ago but I didn't show it to my producer at first because I didn't think it...
yOya is the songwriting project of longtime friends Alex Pfender and Noah Dietterich, natives of Corvallis, Oregon who've known each other since the dimming days of elementary school. With a friendship forged by a mutual appreciation for Paul Simon's Graceland, the pair eventually moved to Los Angeles to focus on songs that marry uplifting acoustic passages and sweeping choruses with contemporary electronic-based passages.
The outfit's new single, "I Don't Wanna Fight", is culled from the upcoming LP The Half Turn. Not only is the record the debut of drummer Ian Meltzer, it's an expansion into a broader range of sounds and moods, as evidenced by this somber and infectious tune.
Pfender says that "I Don't Wanna Fight" is "about a certain kind of fight that you can feel coming a long ways off but can't seem to outrun. Negotiations break down, the parties back into their corners and it's happening again. But the song cries out for piece, hands up in surrender." Return to the inevitable question: "Did I do enough", the song examines how sometimes negative emotions can be birthed from the simple desire to keep the peace.
The band's upcoming effort The Half Turn may be ordered here.None
I had a kind of falling out with Anthony Bourdain.
When his show No Reservations (Travel Channel 2005-2012) was still quite young, I think I must have watched every episode several times over as the seasons circulated. I heard – and made – all the familiar and dull comments: "this guy is living such a dream that it makes me sick" (an odd signal of endearment, to be sure), "I don't usually like travel shows much but this is interesting," and so on. When his show was on, I'd stop whatever I was doing. Working at a cigar lounge as an early 20s youth who was endeavoring full-time to embody the Plutonic form for listlessness, I'd take every opportunity to snatch moments of the show -- to get away from the interminable, droning clutches of ESPN's corporation-suffused 'coverage and analysis' broadcast in the lounge, and turn the volume of the sonorous tones of Bourdain's narration up (occasionally to the chagrin of my own customers).
Bourdain had, after all, something to say. There was an air about it. You got the sense that both he and his producers had something in mind and were realizing that vision with aplomb. He was charismatic, to be sure, but television is full of charisma; it isn't full of what I, at the time, partly identified as this new 21st century celebration of hedonistic revelry, a kind of modernly-masculine yet thoughtful account of food, culture, and 'living the good life' (the...
Brooklyn trio the Rungs return with another taste of delightfully askance pop music which calls to mind the easy, innocent pop of the Bird & The Bee (and by extension Inara George) and the grin-inducing sounds of the Cardigans. "Trees", the lead cut from the outfit's upcoming EP Everyday Visions (due August 17) flits by in the blink of an eye, leaving behind an infectious melody that is as inspiring as it is memorable. At a moment when some songwriter's are focused on curing the world's ills with open confrontation in song it's refreshing to hear something that inspires a sense of peace and personal resolve.
The group started several years ago with Mandy Gurung (vocals, songwriting, guitar, production) and her husband Diwas Gurung, (guitar, production, songwriting). The two soon became three with the addition of Steven Bartashev (drums). With inventive hooks and juxtapositions of moods and musical settings, the Rungs return us to music's purest pleasures.None
In recent years we have seen an upsurge of young, hungry talent taking the classic songwriting of metal's early torchbearers—big, boisterous vocal melodies, twin-guitar heroics, and iron-clad riffs and rhythms—and combining those timeless traits with more contemporary ideas, such as genre cross-pollination, to plenty of acclaim.
In the US for example, Pallbearer's creative and commercial ascent has been exciting to witness for anyone who's been a fan of the progressive doom act since their 2010 demo. And now we have Denver, Colorado's Khemmis, who've been following a similar career arc as their Arkansas-based peers. In fact, both bands are now label-mates in Europe, as Khemmis have joined Pallbearer on the books of industry behemoth Nuclear Blast for their third album, Desolation. While in North America, Khemmis remain on 20 Buck Spin—a cult label having a whopper 2018 so far, particularly with Mournful Congregation's latest doom-death opus and Tomb Mold's riff-splattered death metal masterwork.
Khemmis showed plenty of promise on their first two albums for 20 Buck Spin, yet their music wasn't quite deserving of the press accolades. It appeared as though the talented four-piece were still honing their craft, developing the riffs, and trying to improve the melodies and positioning of the vocals (both clean and harsh) as well as the phrasing and harmonization of the guitar leads and solos.
Desolation, however, is the complete capitalization of their potential. The songwriting is teeming with fresh ideas while still utilizing classic motifs; the structures are vibrant, ever-evolving and come to...
Tangents' post-genre intentions were clear on their 2016 album, Stateless. New Bodies, their third full length (and second for the Temporary Residence Ltd. label), carries their poly-mode over into seven instrumental, improv-fed showcases of their increasingly ambitious work.
No doubt the 'new bodies' that the shapeshifting Sydney quintet are contemplating in the album's title are not mapped and rigid like the land masses we inhabit, and not uniform in structure like the human forms we all occupy. Exploration of celestial bodies is an apparent possible theme, yet those are still so far out of reach as to remain a visible but untouchable ideal. Tangents do boldly go places few or none have quite gone before, but they do handily get there. Bodies of water, then, surely. If their music were to be rendered in physical form, it could only be in liquid.
This is not to say that New Bodies is formless or anarchic. Rivers may spill over but stay on their path, bend and bend back again but constantly push toward their ultimate destination. Tangents don't trade in the chaos of change purely for its own sake, and for all of the pivots and headstands that they do, their music is not ADD at the moment but surprisingly patient over the long term. Some strains of electronic music enable and encourage the hyperactivity of glitchy cut-and-paste composition, but Tangents are five individuals who have to take every turn together and hold one another accountable for...
Xavier Rudd believes in the interconnection of all earthly and celestial elements. Rudd's new release, Storm Boy, explores the linkages between humans and the earth while endowing the listener with an impression of optimism. Like his previous endeavors, Storm Boy captures the need to maintain an environmental and human kinship. Yet this album adds to Rudd's repertoire by showcasing his awareness of global terrorism, historical reconciliation, and racial injustice. Rudd's musical power is his ability to call attention to these conditions.
Storm Boy's message of hope begins with the opening track "Walk Away". The lyrics capture the political disunity and social inequity currently suffocating goodwill. Rudd illustrates "[he's] seen people holding on to nothing / Broken dreams and broken cords". As the lyrics change from "holding on to nothing" to "holding on to something", the track becomes more optimistic. Rudd's vocal harmonies and instrumentation swell and personify an emotional uplift. Clearly, Rudd is not a glassy-eyed idealist as using "holding on to something" demonstrates the need to continue progressing.
The 1976 Australian film Storm Boy inspired the title track and album. Rudd contextualizes this fact by the lyrics "pelican drifting slowly looking for a feed / Like Mr. Percival the storm boy." Storm Boy reflects the eponymous coming-of-age film's themes including the development of empathy for humans, animals, and the environment. For instance "Gather the Hands" pinpoints "foolish, segregation scars deep beneath the skin / Of the black man and the white man and everyone in-between."...
Don't call it a comeback, or do. It kind of is. Whatever. Either way the Get Up Kids, a figurehead of early aughts emo wave have returned with their first release in seven years, the Kicker EP. Our current music culture is one of eternal regenerations, retirements, and comebacks, so the reunion issue is moot, to be sure. But, here we are with a new EP from a group that has left and returned and then left again. Moreover, it's a reach back to the old sound, the old feeling. The Get Up Kids are searching for that elusive position, that nostalgic allure of the previous glory. It's not a failure though, so let's let them kick it.
The last we heard from the Get Up Kids was their last comeback. After 2004' beleaguered The Guilt Show, they sat back for seven years. 2011's There Are Rules saw a return to recording, but not a return to form. They had been moving more towards a pastoral pop style ever since 2002's On a Wire. There Are Rules saw the band sounding like a heavily-produced indie rock band with an austere side. It was just fine, but then they left our sight again.None
As it is, Kicker is a definite throwback. There's no denying this from the start, as "Maybe" begins with a swirl of noise and guitar, seriously reminiscent of the opening track on their most beloved...
The story "PopMatters Picks: Say It Loud! 65 Great Protest Songs" was originally published by PopMatters in 2007. Eleven years later, with the truly inspired protest music that has come out in the last decade, we found it imperative to take a look at our original list and update it to this current list of 100 tracks created by artists and activists who used their craft to bring a change to injustices in our world. Surely our list is not exhaustive, but stands as a point of inspiration and a celebration of boldness in adversity. - Chris Thiessen
Protest songs are written for one of two reasons: love or protest. At its fundamental level, self-expression in music is all about raising awareness, the subject of which fluctuates between beauty and outrage -- two kinds of passion that rouse people to song in equal measure.
The protest song is not simply an idealist's sing-along custom-made for populous sit-ins and social demonstrations; human protest is waged at every level of our existence, in private and in public, and transcends the picket line to include battles for gender rights, racial equality, and freedom from the tyranny of self-righteous authority figures. The very best protest songs are those that touch upon universal themes that can be reapplied to a multitude of struggles from decade to decade, whether or not they were originally written in response to a specific event.It makes sense that music -- pop...
They say characters need motivation. For Izzy (Mackenzie Davis), the frazzled comet-streak center of Christian Papierniak indie variety show Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town, it's pretty basic: "I've got to get somewhere and fuck shit up." In her journey, shit gets in the way. It's kind of like Walter Hill's crime thriller The Warriors (1979), only instead of gutter-trash New York she's tripping through gentrified Los Angeles, and instead of battling chain- and bat-wielding teenage gangs, she's catching rides with whackadoos, stealing bikes, and arguing with her sister. This is all so that Izzy can bust up an engagement party. The stakes are not high.
By the time Paperniak starts Izzy on her one-day Odyssey, she's already about to hit rock bottom after scrabbling for a place in hipster Los Angeles. After Izzy's sister broke up their duo a couple years back and her best friend hooked up with her ex-boyfriend, Izzy hasn't gotten off the couch of manic self-pity. "I played South by Southwest!" Izzy shouts. "Two years ago!" shoots back the terminally irritated husband of her couching-host friend Casey (Meghan Lennox).
Since that brief burst of maybe-fame—her songs are still "all over Spotify!" Izzy claims—the would-be songstress has been living the gig economy dream at particularly low wattage. The movie starts with her waking up in the bed of a one-night stand (Lakeith Stanfield) she met while catering. Her future employment with said agency appears dubious, given the unexplained bloodstains on her white catering jacket. After hitting...
Electronic music till the dawn, body glitter everywhere, and homemade totems featuring everyone and everything, from Tom Petty to Handsome Squidward. Ah, it must be festival time on The Farm. This June marked my first venture to Bonnaroo, and my second major festival ever (the first being Pilgrimage Festival in 2017). So instead of filling my time with artist interviews and press conferences, I took in the weekend as one of the 80,000 music fans, minus, of course, the muddy camping and no showering business. Although having few expectations for the weekend, I went into the festival with the knowledge that some major publications are considering Bonnaroo a dying festival, one that has lost its original appeal and zeal for life, music, and community. But while some letdowns occurred throughout the weekend, Bonnaroo 2018 radiated the positivity it promoted and provided the musical bliss sought by the multitude of festivalgoers.
Now in its 17th year, Bonnaroo has come a long way from the jam band festival that featured Widespread Panic headlining two nights of its inaugural weekend. This year featured everything from Bassnectar to Future to Dua Lipa and, of course, Old Crow Medicine Show. But the headliner choices seemed a little lackluster compared to previous years. Friday night closed with Muse, the simplified Radiohead trio whose best days are definitely in their past. Watching their set was quite a chore, filled with cheesy electro-flash, very outdated '08 Yeezy shades, and random acts...
Like so many of us, singer and composer Moira Smiley knows the complexities and complications that can mark parent-child relationships. "My father," she says, "was a mercurial, emotionally dark, but intellectually bright creative force in the lives of my siblings and I. Like so many kids, we grew up with huge misunderstandings and hurts to do with our father, but we could each see his gifts and love as well."
Smiley's new video for folk ballad "Dressed in Yellow" finds a release for the tensions inherent in these dualities. Written in the tUnE-yArDs' tour bus in the two years that Smiley spent constantly on tour - the same two years that birthed April release Unzip the Horizon - Smiley cites a dream about her father as the direct inspiration for the song.
"It was one of those very rare, very clear dreams where you feel different when you wake up," she elaborates. "That morning, as I wrote the dream down, it felt like my own personal Father's Day - the first time I could celebrate him clearly, without holding on to the confusion and hurt."None
A masterwork of vulnerability, the video allows Smiley to come face-to-face with a stand-in for her late father, navigating her thoughts and feelings to a responding refrain of "Take heed, take warning, daughter / There are many things to know," provided by old-time duo Anna and Elizabeth.
"Oh, Father, oh, Father, I could not trust you," Smiley laments,...
As bluegrass continues to grow into an increasingly polished modern age art form, some bands aren't afraid to dig deep into the same dirt that their predecessors have. Rather than seek out a means for pristine production or picking perfection, Toronto's Slocan Ramblers know what it means to be a gritty bluegrass band. With their brand new album, Queen City Jubilee, out today, they are setting out to re-establish a blue-collar heart at the center of the contemporary bluegrass scene.
Their music video for their original song, "Just to Know", showcases the Slocan Ramblers' uninhibited take on bluegrass in top form. It's a simple video, showing the band in their element as they take on a live performance of the song in a dance hall. As such, it's perfectly exemplary of who the Slocan Ramblers are and what they do for a living, presenting powerful bluegrass with a wild heart to their Toronto scene and beyond.None
"'Just to Know' is a song that came together when we were flying to Iqaluit for a summer festival," songwriter Frank Evans tells PopMatters. "The flight was so early there were only 30 passengers on a 200-seat plane. With the sun just coming up and a crystal clear view of some really beautiful parts of Canada it made for a very inspiring plane ride, which is not usually how I'd describe my experience of a 5:00 am flight."
Oldermost's "Same to Me" is a gorgeous, acoustic driven song that calls to mind the hazy glaze of M. Ward married to the purest strains of chamber pop and the dizzying, romantic turns of '70s-style balladry. Culled from the LP How Could You Ever Be the Same, it's indicative of the group's sonic evolution. The collection focuses on the intersection and parallels/contradictions of neuroticism and mysticism heard in vocalist Bradford Bucknum's performances which traverse a spectrum of moods including the sweet and the somber. Rounded out by guitarist Mike Sobel, bassist Dan Wolgemuth and drummer Stephen Robbins, Oldermost produced this LP on its own, mixing it with Jeff Ziegler (Kurt Vile, the War on Drugs) and shipping it off to Ryan Schwabe (Hop Along) for mastering.
There's a simplicity to this particular song, though, an understated emotional quality that eases its way into your life, takes over and soon as "Same to Me" registering as one of your favorite new songs. Bucknum says that his intention wasn't necessarily to create something so insidious in its addictive properties. "I wanted to write a love song where one of the most tender and sweet phrases one could utter to their partner was 'you've changed'," he offers.None
One month out of every year, ten school chums gather to continue a game of tag that they started as kids back in the '80s. It's an amazing premise for a movie; grown men playing a child's game, occasionally coaxing bewildered onlookers or frustrated relatives to become accomplices in their hijinks. It's about as close to a sure thing as Hollywood can get without involving superheroes. How could Tag go wrong?
Director Jeff Tomsic's 'inspired by true events' comedy had a choice to make early in the development process. It could either honor the good-natured brotherhood fostered by this annual game of tag, or explore the twisted extremes of what is, essentially, a juvenile ritual of arrested development. It chooses, instead, to explore both options through a combination of bland writing, weak characterizations, and an almost Sandler-esque level of emotional manipulation.
The problems start at the top, with the choice of Ed Helms as the gang's ringleader. It's fitting that Helms was selected to star in the atrocious Vacation reboot back in 2015 as he is the Chevy Chase of the new millennium. You either appreciate his particular brand of mugging for the camera or you don't. The difference between Chase and Helms, of course, is that Chase had the good fortune of working in the '80s, when really good comedy writing was plentiful. Helms, again and again, has been stuck with mediocre movie projects. Tag needs a strong, charismatic lead to keep the...
Free Yourself Up is an apt a title as one could imagine for Lake Street Dive's latest recording. The band took a deeply collaborative approach on the record, eschewed working with a producer and invited touring keyboardist Akie Bermiss into the studio. The result is a looser, livelier affair that captures whimsical spirit evident on the 2012 EP Fun Machine.
One can hear sprinkles of the golden era of AM radio across this LP worth of tunes, including "Good Kisser", "Red Light Kisses" and "Shame, Shame, Shame." There are flickers of contemporary events littered throughout but never does one sense that the material is becoming fixed within the moment it arrived.
Though the phrase "best work to date" is only good for one album and tour cycle, it certainly applies here. With LSD's fan base continuing to grow, Free Yourself Up will doubtless see some come into the fold who have to work backward to Fun Machine and Bad Self Portraits. Not a bad problem for any band to have.
From the beginning, though, Lake Street Dive has been a band about live performance and there is plenty of that afoot. Vocalist Rachael Price, multi-instrumentalist Mike Olson, bassist Bridget Kearney and drummer Mike Calabrese will remain on the road in the U.S. and Canada well into the fall season.
Price spoke with PopMatters from the back stage area of a venue during one of the tour's early summer stops just moments before she was whisked away for soundcheck.None
If we're to believe our friends' social media posts and viral articles about pop up this and tiny houses that, minimalism is in. Of course, coffeehouse bards and traveling song and dance men have known this all along. They've been singing (literally) the praises of a life unadorned by Keurigs, entertainment centers, sprawling homes filled with empty rooms and the general pleasures experienced when two people cast aside all those material things and focus on loving one another.
Singer-songwriter Mikey Wax continues that tradition with "Big Little Life", a reminder that at least for a moment most couples had nothing more than a ticket stub and some popcorn salt between them. Though informed by contemporary musical settings and a delightful musical performance that's absolutely ripped from the calendar of 2018, Wax is really engaged in telling us all a story for and of the ages. And there are probably scores of couples who'll hear their own stories reflected back to them in the piece's verses and choruses.None
"This song came to me while I was driving to my friends recording studio," Wax recalls. "I thought the concept was cool and I had been wanting to write a song for my fiancé to play at our wedding. I sang the idea into my phone and when I got to my friends studio, he and I finished 'Big Little Life' that same day. The melody, production and...