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The late 1990s were an embarrassing time for the female singing star, at least if we look back with the advantage of 20 years retrospect at the TV show VH1 Divas. The initial idea seemed respectable, but again this was back in an era when the network (and its sibling MTV) actually featured music. How about a program featuring the greatest female singers of our time? How about slapping a label on the program under which all these women would labor for the remainder of their careers? They were Divas, powerhouse singers who owned the stage with force, rage, and determination. Nobody else was there when it was their turn to shine. Dependable names like Whitney Houston, Cher, Tina Turner rolled through their numbers with expected flourishes. High points were reached, and thrills came when expected.

The problem with the Diva label is that the generation at that time, and those who followed, were expected to live with its demands. Divas were temperamental, tunnel-visioned, and perhaps heartless. The 1999 live performance of Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" was a perfect example of too much too soon, clashing styles and forces booming through their corner of the stage. Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Franklin, and Carole King (the song's co-writer) sang the words, projected their voices, but the effect was numbing. The same can be said for the all-star tribute to Franklin two years later when the idea of subtlety (even in a classic...


Auto-ethnography has been described as "both process and product"; "an approach to [cultural] research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience."

A rogue child of the post-modern turn, autoethnography is perhaps more easily described as the place in ethnographic research where art meets science (and emerges triumphant); where the literary supplants the scientific and the creative overwhelms the analytic, the better to explain it (whatever it should happen to be) to the reader. Positivists frown upon it: there's no systematic analysis; no theory; what distinguishes it from mere storytelling? More extreme post-modernists frown upon it too from the opposite perspective, arguing that it's positivism in autobiographical disguise, wherein the author subtly steers the reader toward certain authoritative conclusions, masquerading as self-exploration. In their critical reflection on the method, Jackson and Mazzei steer against the perception of autoethnography as simple first-person storytelling, posing instead a more provocative inquiry:

"…What would happen if autoethnography were to disrupt identity, discourage identification, and refuse understanding? If subjects, in their telling of experience, become fractured, multiply-positioned, and unreliable narrators, then autoethnography would need to forfeit authority and embrace (not merely question) epistemological failure…" -- Experience and "I" in Autoethnography: A Deconstruction, International Review of Qualitative Research 2008)

Little did they know, perhaps, their question would be answered so profoundly by a rising Japanese manga author.


Nagati Kabi was propelled to Internet pop culture stardom and manga literary success with her debut...


Raised on the simple pop pleasures of a bygone golden age, Peter and Nick Furgiuele of Gringo Star have been keeping the faith in the 1950s and 1960s going on ten years now. Their music's root-level connection to this period has been and remains about a natural feeling, not forced nostalgia. "Easy", the latest track to be released in advance of the band's latest album, Back to the City, captures that effortless zeal in its element, with its accompanying video affably transmitting the vibe in passing sequences and faded colors. The compact string swells in the chorus are a fine new touch as well.

"It was one of those songs that kind of wrote itself," says Peter Furgiuele about the song in an accompanying press release. "The melody was floating around with me for a while on the piano. Lyrically, it's expressing an emotion. Whether it's a feeling of longing for something, leaving something behind, or about the rollercoaster you sometimes get in life, I can't say, but maybe it incorporates a little of all those feelings. Back to the City, out 24 August, is Gringo Star's fifth album, and their second for Nevado Music. Typically self-reliant when it comes to making records, the band recorded and self-produced the album in Peter Furgiuele's Studio 234. They will be on tour throughout the US in August and September, dates below.


8/18 Atlanta,...


There comes a point in every superhero time travel story when the damage to the timeline becomes untenable. Sometimes, it takes too long to get to that point and when functional time machines are involved, that's saying something. It's debatable whether the original five X-men -- as ripped from the earliest issues of Uncanny X-men -- have gotten to that point, but the circumstances surrounding Extermination #1 make a pretty convincing case that their time has come.

The reasons why the time-displaced X-men came to the future and stayed there are now obsolete. Cyclops never causes a mutant genocide. Jean Grey doesn't stay dead. Angel doesn't permanently lose his mind. Iceman doesn't stay in the closet. Everything that once horrified these characters about the future no longer applies. It makes their continued presence both superfluous and confusing. Ed Brisson and Pepe Larraz promise to resolve that with Extermination.

This necessarily requires more time travel and all the timeline-twisting machinations that come with it. As Back to the Future so eloquently demonstrates in 1985, the source of the temporal disruption must also be the solution to some extent. The events of Extermination #1 just add more urgency, as well as a new threat that promises to step up the timetables, literally and figuratively.


The nature of that threat is vague, but it involves familiar names. Things happen fast and suddenly. Big messy battles unfold, giving Larraz plenty of chances to...


Cincinnati duo Lung may have minimal personnel and instrumentation, but their sound is nothing shy of colossal. Dark, sludgy, and oddly neoclassical, their tunes are like the echoes of a rockslide crashing down a cavern's walls. For proof, check out the live video of "Spiders", a studio version of which has a home on forthcoming sophomore LP All the King's Horses.

Built on a foundation of Kate Wakefield's distorted buzz-sawing cello and Daisy Caplan's pummeling drums, the song pulls no punches with its sonic assault, deftly walking the line of experimental and accessible. Murky low-end and distorted washes are tempered by Wakefield's vocals, by turns lilting and frenzied. The pair's synchronicity is on display as the tune abruptly shifts its time and subtle melody, the cello strings scuttling like the spindly legs of the song's titular arachnid.


Near the 2:43 mark, Wakefield showcases her vocal range with some unearthly ululating. Being a former opera singer, her chilling vibrato howls like a mix of a theremin and banshee wailing on a windswept moor.

"The song, 'Spiders', deals with feelings of intense paranoia, warranted and unwarranted," Wakefield said. "It delves into the quieter, wilder parts of the imagination that happen when you wake up in the middle of the night and have a suspicion that something is off or the feeling you get when you think you're being followed. It's about the obsessive spaces your mind can take you and the...


H. Kenneth's newest single is as vibrant and empowering as the overarching themes of his forthcoming album, This Is a Journal, themselves. Kenneth's latest collection of songs are about forgiving oneself and finding redemption in love and enlightenment. "Thank You" contributes to the healing provided in Kenneth's Journal by means of an earnest highlight, setting a spotlight on the profundity of love when it is unvarnished and true, uncovered in a landscape that doesn't often harvest such purity. A three-minute earworm notably blending pop, soul, and jazz elements to produce an uplifting song with dance-worthy, sprightly hooks.

H. Kenneth tells PopMatters, "It's so hard to find a meaningful and fulfilling relationship, especially these days with apps, DMs, and social media. So when you find someone who truly cares for you and never asks for anything in return, it's such an amazing feeling. 'Thank You' is a song about the expression of gratitude for that person you can truly lean on for anything and everything. It's about understanding that no one is obligated to be with anyone, and knowing that the person you're with truly wants to be there. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Saying you love someone is one thing. Telling them that you're thankful that they love you is another."

H. Kenneth has written, played, and produced all of the tracks on This Is a Journal. It is set for release on 31 August.



When 496,000 Szitizens visited Budapest's Óbudai island in 2017, the organizers expected to draw in half a million this year. Sure enough, after seven days of yet another successful edition of what's likely the world's most diverse entertainment event, all forecasts were exceeded, as more than 565,000 folks congregated in ecstasy to witness the most eclectic and successful edition of Sziget to date. While Sziget is already a global festival benchmark with its stupendous organization, counting thousands of employees aiding the attendees with anything from hailing a cab to getting married, this year also featured possibly the most eclectic and satisfying lineup in recent history. Headliners ranged from (teenage) pop icons to rock legends, rap kings, and world-famous DJs. Every headlining set on any one of the largest stages was at worst decent, and at best the stuff of legends.

Fun fact: even though the event itself is absolutely benevolent, crime was considerably down this year from the previous editions - 71% down, to be precise. During the ten days of the festival, if you count the "move-in" and "move out" days for campers, merely 34 people were detained by police officers, six for drug trafficking, and 21 for possession of illegal substances, expectedly.

Regardless of profile and musical preferences, another week of love in, pretty much every visitor seemed to have had their expectations fulfilled - and if you take into account that the public's expectations from Sziget have been ludicrously high for ages, this says all you need...


It's easy to roll eyes at the concept of an album comprised entirely of love songs. Hasn't that been done — perhaps superlatively — by groups like the Magnetic Fields, the Shins, the Beatles? Isn't about every other pop song on the radio about love? And yet, former Smith Westerns frontman and self-proclaimed piece-of-shit Cullen Omori's sophomore solo album The Diet proves that there's more to be said. Recalling Andy Shauf's The Party with its curiosity about sound, vocal quality, and narrative structure, Omori's newest effort suggests that love isn't dead — perhaps it was simply on hiatus.

Love songs can often have a stale nostalgia or, on the other side of the coin, over-exuberant anticipation. We're all familiar with thumpy pump songs that anticipate a night with an attractive prospect ahead or a breakup album that succeeds through sulking in the rejection. However, The Diet lives in the present; Omori even reportedly wrote some of the tracks with his girlfriend at the time. The songs live beyond the realm of corporeal romance, instead often professing love for drugs, ideals, and beyond.

Perhaps the only straightforward love song on the album is "Natural Woman", a song that explores the get-and-give of modern-day relationships. Omori sings, "Pink silk shorts and the pictures on TV / Your bedroom eyes make it hard to breathe now they're part of me / Oh I want you, Oh I want you, Honey / there's so much more to come / So many lonely...


The story behind Live 1962-1966: Rare Performances from the Copyright Collections wouldn't offer much optimism. Starting in 2012, Sony began releasing extremely limited collections of Bob Dylan recordings, primarily to prevent the material from entering public domain under now-changed European copyright law. The sets were not only rare but nearly impossible to obtain in the US. While that might sound like hidden treasure chests, the material wasn't extensively curated, offering multiple takes of songs, various scattered live versions, and collections that would be of more value to Dylan scholars than to Dylan fans (such as there's a difference between the two at this point).

Fortunately, Live 1962-1966 boils it down to two solid discs, picking highlights that both represent the multiple eras here and are, even out of context, high points. And, yes, there are at least two clear eras present in the four years covered here. The curating puts the tracks in nearly chronological order, and while the discs don't explicitly create a narrative, they do reveal a progression in their grouping of Dylan's songwriting and performing. We can listen as he moves from folk singer to rock 'n' roller, electric backing band and all.

The set makes a point capture noteworthy moments. It opens with the debut performance of "Blowin' in the Wind", from Gerdes Folk City in 1962. Dylan hasn't fully developed the song yet. This two-verse version works like a test flight. The second track brings "Corrina, Corrina" from the same night (though from earlier in...


On the follow-up to their 2016 return Distance Inbetween, British band the Coral eschew psychedelic sounds for quicker pop sensibilities. The band's new album, Move Through the Dawn, is built from lead singer James Skelly's signature vocals and songwriting capabilities, and contains some compelling hooks, but ultimately feels like a forgettable sidestep away from its dynamic predecessor. Musically and lyrically in vein with the Coral's catalog, weaker and rushed songwriting permeate the album. At the same time, tracks that build upon the Coral's career are present, too, with "She's a Runaway" and "Strangers in the Hollow" reflecting strong notes of Skelly's songwriting knowledge and connecting nicely to past albums.

Opener, "Eyes Like Pearls", welcomes the stylistic shift nicely and builds a positive background to Skelly's lyrics speaking of tangible loss and immediate confrontation with "troubles [that] seemed so far away from me". Here is the shift from Distance Inbetween that the album embodies, but without the severity that comes with second track "Reaching Out for a Friend". The track is hopelessly directionless, asking questions with no clear background and offers revelations built on generic sentiments. Lead single "Sweet Release" follows and is a strong and joyous charge forward musically with lyrics that chart a positivity in "a new belief". Shockingly, the second and third tracks serve as a back and forth of sorts, and the hollow "Reaching Out for a Friend" nearly derails the album. "Sweet Release" builds upon the opener nicely, evoking...


After roughly a decade of appeals, Scott Dozier gave up. "Scott Dozier has been on death row for many years for [the double homicide of two other drug dealers] in Las Vegas about a decade ago. And he decided a couple of years ago that he didn't want to fight his appeals anymore, that he would rather be dead than spend the rest of his life in the conditions of death row," reports Maurice Chammah in an interview with Democracy Now! "He's very open about that. He's very sort of articulate about his reasons." Chammah, staff writer at the Marshall Project and recipient of the 2014 Livingston Award for reporting on the decline of the death penalty, published a profile on Dozier earlier this year.

Dozier, he argues, caused 'chaos' in Nevada when he decided to stop fighting his sentence because the state couldn't find a pharmaceutical way to kill him. "They had just built a new execution chamber that's never been used before. More than 200 different drug companies, distributors, manufacturers, said they wouldn't sell drugs, that it sort of went against their company policies. This is an ongoing problem for many states that want to carry out executions…" When Dozier's July 11th execution was halted due to legal action by the pharmaceutical company Alvogen (claiming the state obtained their execution drugs illegally), the long-ongoing debate on both lethal injection and the death penalty as broadly construed found cause to...


Adrian Younge is an early riser/early worker, and so on the morning of our initial conversation, it's not surprising to learn that he's already in his studio. The chat starts naturally enough before being interrupted by other voices. There's a film crew at his studio, he says, on hand to shoot some interview footage with him and collaborator Ali Shaheed Muhammad about their score for the Netflix series Luke Cage. Our business is to discuss the pair's recent LP The Midnight Hour.

The collection brings together elements of contemporary hip-hop, R&B, soul, and jazz with guest appearances from Cee-Lo Green, Raphael Saadiq, Marsha Ambrosius, Eryn Allen Kane, Karolina, and Questlove. There are deft touches from both men on these 20 compositions that celebrate the cultural sophistication of the Harlem Renaissance. In particular, Younge's penchant for drawing on unexpected influences (European film scores, early progressive rock) make their way seamlessly into the recording, resulting in a collection that is breathtaking, exhilarating.

The project reaches back to 2013 and was interrupted by the pair's work on Luke Cage, among other endeavors. But it is not, according to Younge, their final work.

Younge spoke with PopMatters about the origins of The Midnight Hour as well as working with Luther Vandross' estate and much more.


You're known as a collaborator but primarily with other vocalists and not other producers, so how did you and Ali Shaheed Muhammad wind up together?

As a producer, you're navigating...


Kaelan Mikla are an Icelandic trio whose sound encapsulates the best elements of post-punk, synthpop, death metal and darkwave. They first performed at a poetry slam, and the poetic infuses their vocal sound, even if English-speakers can't understand it. Spoken-word Icelandic is mesmerizing -- there's a reason the epics were chanted -- and when Laufey Soffia breaks into harsh screaming, situated somewhere in that seething chasm between metal and punk, the unique cadence and rhythm of Icelandic lifts her angry outbursts away from the guttural of everyday metal and renders it a candescent eruption of lilting, hypnotic anger.


They've let loose a teaser of three songs in advance of a fall album release. "Litil Dyr" opens with gentle keys and soft voices, sliding into the beautiful nonchalence of post-punk bass. And suddenly out of nowhere erupts a scream, equal parts rage and despair, twisting and turning through the undulations of the Icelandic tongue. In the background, the post-punk rhythms shrug on, while a second vocal line, confident and assured, smoothly intersperses the preternatural wailing.

"Manadans" opens with soft guitars and a gentle vocal recitation, before querulously rising several octaves; dropping back down unpredictably, and then screeching into rage again, wrapped all the while around the steady strumming of post-punk guitar.



Excitement builds quickly on "El Regalo", the new single from Afro-Peruvian electronica collective Novalima. Over subtle loops come the quick beats of metallic percussion; a current of swollen bass boosts the mix from below. As singer Chaska Paucar belts out bar after bar, the song takes its audience from swaying to full-on dance party - a gradual progression from skeletal to sensational that the band has perfected over the last 15 years.

The collective's style is as tight and its sound as infectious as ever as they approach the release of new album Ch'usay - a name that means "Internal Voyage" in the indigenous Peruvian Quechua language family - and "El Regalo" sees the group reaching both into history and toward the future of Afro-Peruvian music. Pan flutes from a distant Andean past mix with fully contemporary sounds, of which up-and-coming psychedelic cumbia artist Paucar serves as a particularly meaningful symbol.


"We had been messing around with the beats for a while," says founding Novalima member Rafael Morales. "When we heard Chaska's band on YouTube, we knew right then that was the missing element we needed, so we contacted her and found out she was a Novalima fan - since she was nine years old."

It may seem a strange coincidence, but it's hard to be surprised that Novalima has such a loyal and discerning fanbase. The group's music takes more than just...


New York City's the Dig returns with a new single titled "Say Hello to Alison", an achy, breaky yet thoroughly joyous slice of electropop that chronicles the first day in life of a young father. The strange, dreamy imagery marries perfectly with the strange, brave sounds emanating from the track itself. Even if one has never experienced the welcoming of a child for themselves they'll have a hard time not being charmed by this tune's simple but direct emotional content.

"Say Hello to Alison" is the third single from the group's EP, Afternoon With Caroline, which is due out October 19 via Roll Call Records. The set will be combined with the band's Moonlight Baby EP, culminating in a full length set arriving (like Alison) the same day.


11/15 - San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel

11/16 - Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge

11/28 - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge*

11/29 - Seattle, WA @ The Sunset*

Why's your favorite rapper always bragging about her business acumen?
Like we asked 'em? Like we asked 'em?
Why's your favorite rapper always babbling about his brand again?
Like we asked him? Like we asked him?
This the last call for those real emcees
milo, "call + form" from who told you to think??!!?!?!?! (2017)

About 20 minutes into his December 2017 set in front of a packed Hideout audience in Chicago, milo (a.k.a. Rory Ferreira) asks the sound guy, Nick, to cut the lights on stage. "It's just, I'm fucking chopped, and I wanna rap in the dark," he says. It's a sold out show, and scallops hotel (also Rory Ferreira) has already performed, which means that Ferreira technically opened for himself. Or at least another version of himself. And yes, he does appear to be "chopped"—maybe he took one too many hits in the green room during the five-minute intermission between sets—but it's difficult to tell how much his half-baked, interludial ramblings are part of the act, especially when he snaps back into focus so sharply the moment the beat drops. Another few songs go by, and a man just behind me shouts out a song title from milo's most recent album: "the young man has a point"! Another man yells, "I can't see nothing," probably hoping that milo will turn the lights back on. There's a brief pause, and then the silhouette on stage raises the mic to his mouth:

You couldn't see anything before anyway… Just being...


While he might best be known for his contributions to the Lighthouse and the Whaler, Scott Diaz is also looking to express himself under a new musical light with his solo project, Mountain Lions. Trading in the crunching guitar riffs and heavy hooks of the former, Diaz embraces conscious and layered indie folk with the latter. There are still underlying pop sensibilities to be found, although it's a testament to Diaz's songwriting muscle that he can incorporate them in a way that still paves the way for Mountain Lions' organic, emotion-driven storytelling.

From his new album, We Are, Mountain Lions' newest music video takes us on a trip "In the Valley". Diaz's renewed focus on a folk style of storytelling is evident straight away, featuring lyricism rooted in history and nature. An abandoned farmhouse, a dinner table, a willow tree, and more paint the evocative scene of the passage of time and how, at times, it seems to stand still. Diaz takes us on a similar story in the music video itself, made most captivating by its eerier undertones. It was produced, edited, and directed by Steven and Joey Diaz, with color grading from Airloom: Art/Craft.

Airloom: Art/Craft also handled the release of Mountain Lions' We Are, which is out now.



In 2016, Trevor Powers retired his project Youth Lagoon because it had grown too confining, and he had done all he could within the expectations he set for the group. This year, Powers returns, not reinvented, but stripped down to his rawest self. Under his own name and on his own label, Baby Halo, he released single "Playwright" in May, including with its debut a handwritten note, discussing "inaudible voices that scream when we're alone and mumble when we're not" and asserting that "every person alive is full of opposing forces" in introducing his new stylistic world.

Life's opposing dichotomies, and the pressure therein form the basis of Mulberry Violence, the first album Powers has released since Youth Lagoon's trilogy, and across the album, Powers lets himself react to pain and tension with introspection and furious release. The final result: ten sonically experimental tracks that see Powers fearlessly dive into some of the rawest moments of the human experience and, most importantly, come through it still whole.

The tone of the album is unambiguous from the start. "XTQ Idol" opens the album with glitching shouts, Powers' already otherworldly voice - powerful for how fragile it can sound - processed and layered over apocalyptic synth static. As mechanical as it is, it's still a fully human dissonance, the electric feeling of panic and rage stretching a mind so thin that it threatens to rip. Powers, though, never falls apart. He presses forward, all the while painting with an aural...


Singer Fay Victor is the solution to so many "What is the role of the singer in jazz today?" puzzles. The role, Victor proves throughout Wet Robots, is anything at all, anything the imagination allows.

Victor has been singing pretty and singing wild, singing standards and improvising with the heavyweights for years in both Europe and New York, and she has been recently featured on William Parker's astonishing box set of vocal music as well as on the last recording by inside-out trombonist Roswell Rudd and the latest from flutist Nicole Mitchell. Wet Robots, however, is her date with a hand-picked band of peers, and it will blow your ears clear out of the water.

The band is unconventional, no "mere" rhythm section for a singer's accompaniment. Victor has Reggie Nicholson on drums, along with soprano saxophonist Same Newsome and guitarist Joe Morris. No bass player is there to lock down the harmonies, and it certainly doesn't matter. What this band does is improvise melodically and tonally, developing its structures—and harmonies that seem right in the moment—along the way. Most of the singing here is without lyrics, placing the leader in the position of being, you might think, another horn player on the front line.

But that reductive description isn't fair to Victor and the creative arsenal she brings to the project. She operates truly as a singer, taking advantage of her ability not only to articulate pitches and rhythms but also to vary her sonority and attack with...


The Innocence Mission have been operating on a small scale for the last 19 years, meaning that by the arrival of Sun on the Square, this occasionally augmented trio has their approach pretty much nailed down. Karen Peris writes the songs and sings them, her spouse Don Peris makes them sound nice with lots of extra bits and pieces, and Mike Bitts provides a bass line when needed. For Sun on the Square, two more members of the Peris family, Anna and Drew, contribute viola and violin respectively on four of the album's ten tracks.

Early on in their existence, the Innocence Mission were lazily compared to 10,000 Maniacs and the Sundays. Fast forward a solid 25 years later, and they seem to share even less in common with those two bands than they initially did. Sun on the Square is minimal chamber pop, ten songs that need very little more than their melody and a bare-bones accompaniment to keep them afloat. They sound neither dated nor ahead of their time, giving the listener a chance to feel nostalgic for a time or place that never occurred in their lives.

The music isn't what anyone would call edgy. Its dynamic range spends most of the album's runtime cruising at a low hum, letting some percussion pierce the quiet only once in a great while. Karen Peris' voice is pure yet disaffected, rendering the deeper meanings of her lyrics just too obscure to comprehend fully. She stated...