Just in case anyone had thought that the Idol franchise had departed us, we are currently getting down to the business end of the 9th season of the American version. As much as the names and the faces have changed, it is pretty much the same ol’ same ol’ this year… And that folks, is not a good thing. Although, I must admit that there have been a couple of positives worth mentioning this time around and I’ll get to them later.
The usual controversy occurred with one contestant who had been named in the top 24 being disqualified due to an existing contract with some kind of (surprise surprise) boy band. As if to put us through hell and back on purpose, the powers-that-be replaced him with some kid named Tim, who subsequently stunk up the stage as the worst performance on top 24 night. Of course, this is Idol, so Tim survived based on his looks and his ability to be drowned out by screeching 15 year old females! A month later and Tim is still sucking, except now he’s made it into the top 10.
With 4 contestants initially being eliminated each week, there was some potential to be heard in the top 16. However, almost half of that was eradicated by the American public when Alex, Katelyn & Lilly were voted out heading into the top 12. All 3 of these contestants had at least a semblance of originality about them and could have even been…
I caught a few of these acts at the label’s Christmas party in Dublin last year. Some I was already familiar with (BATS, Marvins Revolt and headliners Adebisi Shank), but the act I was most impressed with was Belfast duo The Continuous Battle of Order (a.k.a. Hornby and Craig Kearney from We Are Knives), who will release their debut album Pattern Seekers on April 16.
As their name and album title suggest, they lean pretty heavily towards the mathy end of things, and the podcast’s opening track, ‘001-2,’ is well worth a listen for fans of Marvins, And So I Watch You From Afar and the aforementioned Shank. Check that out, along with two tracks from the forthcoming Redneck Manifesto album Friendship (March 26) via the widget below.
Active Child is a songwriter from Los Angeles who creates haunting contrasts on his recent cassette release Sunrooms. Like many of his songs, “Wilderness” and “She Was a Vision” are sparse and moody, populated by brittle echoing drums patterns, lonely synth swells, and a kind of hipster castrati vocals popularized by Bon Iver. However, underneath these overly melancholic concepts are humming bass tones and shimmering echo pedals that undo Active Child’s calculated frigidity. These songs are seemingly about loneliness and isolation but are built from a tender warmth captured beautifully by the chorus of “Wilderness”…
It’s so cold but you know we belong here
to the sky and fire to keep us warm here
“She Was a Vision”
Spring Break was supposed to be something like The Best Week Ever (not the show, just its literal title). I had a job working 6th street in Austin, Texas where the biggest music extravaganza would be taking over. Make bank, watch a few bands, mock crazy drunkards. Spring Break! 2010! Let’s go!
68 hours of work and one show later, I don’t have much but a decent check with overtime, lost sounds of music emanating from venues (to note: YACHT, Javelin, Califone, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Frightened Rabbit, Acid Mothers Temple) and the bizarre image of drugged out frat boys crawling across beams to the tunes of Maps and Atlases. This particular free show (lovingly dubbed South by South Mess) took place at the 21st St. Co-op, a place notorious for its outrageous (and partially nude) parties, and Friday’s event (leading up to the night’s headliner, Andrew W.K.) proved no different. If only I could explain the shape and architecture of this labyrinth, but upon late arrival (nearly 1 a.m.) I can only remember throngs of people spilling from the streets, from every door, spooling around corners into the backyard and up the stairs until eventually an impatient line broke forth into a jittery group of college students ready to rock out. And that they did, in mesmerizingly unique and gradually hostile ways: as the band (obscured by the freakishly tall gaggle of kids that positioned themselves directly in front) broke out into “Every Place is a House,” limbs flailed…
I have quite the thing with (not for) music books. Basically, I can’t read one without eventually getting royally pissed off about some stray unneeded inclusion or irregularity or overwhelming example of intolerant ignorance towards fans/artists. This is all the odder considering that I own like seven of them. I mean, I usually don’t start frothing at the mouth, but there’s just always something that will ruin my experience reading a music book, whether it’s an overload of encyclopedic information about something that nobody needs to ever know (not even a fan who’s willing to shell out money to read about the subject) or a fawning, doe-eyed style of writing that pressures the reader to the point where they feel like they must like this shit, as portrayed in David Browne’s not-particularly-reader-friendly Goodbye 20th Century, which casts Sonic Youth as The Most Important Band Ever; you can feel Browne practically breathing with anticipation as his narrative moves from Sister to Daydream Nation to Goo, foaming at the mouth to describe yet another Endurable Classic. Like, there’s a reason the book skims over the band’s later period at a feverish pace, instead of abrasively embracing these album’s shortcomings, which would have ultimately been more interesting. And I even like Sonic Youth, like a lot.
Point is, music books are usually cumbersome, bloated, and tiresome, and often irk me in some way or another. But I keep buying them. Like, incessantly. The two I’ve bought most recently are different, in a…
Sunday was the big finale as far as scheduling goes but a pretty barren night as far as the actual schedule. With only ten shows to choose from, my decision was obvious: Dillinger Escape Plan.
SputnikMusic and its staff have been drooling over Dillinger Escape Plan’s new album, Option Paralysis, since we got our promo copy a few weeks back. Having been a huge fan of the band through their first two albums and the Irony is a Dead Scene EP, but also having been majorly let down by Ire Works, I was endlessly excited to see Dillinger. It was also somewhat of an anniversary for me, since I hadn’t seen them for about 6 years when I watched them destroy the now-defunct Rockit club about a week before Miss Machine came out. But Dillinger was just one of four bands listed on the bill, the others being Animals as Leaders, Iwrestledabearonce and Darkest Hour.
Waiting for Animals as Leaders to set-up it became very clear pretty quickly that, uh, they weren’t. Doors to the Opera House were at 7 and at around 730 I saw some instruments being shuffled about and drums being set up, but it wasn’t Animals as Leaders. Instead Iwrestledabearonce was opening and, as suspected, they later announced that Animals as Leaders couldn’t make it. I guess they had a problem crossing the border.
Iwrestledabearonce are a band with a clearcut gimmick, their off-the-wall aesthetic and shtick made…
Friday night was up in the air as far as plans. There was only one band I’d really planned to see, Gypsophilia, so I made sure to get to Rancho Relaxo early enough to ensure I didn’t miss anything. Climbing up the narrow flight of stairs to the restaurant’s upper floor I felt like I was waking into a time-shift. I immediately heard what was the cacophanous sound of a 7 piece sound check, and the venue itself was not as I’d usually seen it. Any time I’ve been to a show at Rancho, it’s been one of those sweaty, curse-the-ceiling-fan kind of gigs. This wasn’t the case. It was about quarter to 9, so I had time before their set to scope things out. What I saw was the crowd was much older than the typical Canadian Music Fest variety: there was more than one set of sons and daughters with mothers and fathers. And there was a coat hanger, not coat check, and there were tables and it was just surreal. Well, not surreal, just atypical. I waited for a friend to arrive and quickly spotted the band members sauntering about. To say they stood out wouldn’t have been a stretch: the trumpetist, who must have been at least 8 feet tall, was wearing a suit with matching pork-pie hat. The bassist came off as Matt Stone in costume: pinstripes, bowtie and moustache were all there. But the image fit the bill, something that took just a few…
For better or worse, Canadian Music Week is always a cluster fuck. First off, the performances were all crammed into “Canadian Music Fest,” which is exactly the same thing as Canadian Music Week; they’ve just decided to compartmentalize it this time year. Secondly, you’ve probably seen a few non-Canadian names headlining the bill on the festival’s main poster. Now we should get it straight, Canadian Music Week (and therefore Canadian Music Fest) isn’t just about showcasing Canadian music. International acts have always been highlights (as you’ll read later), and there’s always been an element to exposing these cross-national acts to Torontonian ears. But Ke$ha and Daughtry, the two most damning names on the Canadian Music Fest poster, are not Canadian, nor are they in any need of exposure. The thing is their inclusion on the poster is consequential: Ke$ha was playing a “Fan Fest” for Chum FM, the “mom jeans” of Toronto radio stations. So the wristbands, which sold for $60 and gave access to every non-VIP Canadian Music Fest concert, didn’t actually get you into Ke$ha. Colour me heartbroken.
Daughtry? Well honestly, I don’t know how that happened, where it happened or even if it happened. If it did, I wasn’t there.
Here’s where I was.
On Wednesday, otherwise known as the first day of the festival, I was nowhere. I went down to the Royal York Fairmont Hotel to pick up my wristband and that was pretty intimidating. I walked in and was immediately surrounded by guys who…
Of the major music festivals in the United States, tickets to Austin’s South by Southwest festival are by far the most expensive. Still, in the “world capital of live music”, Austin brings in more groups than any festival in the country, likely in the world. As your average citizen, I did not have the money for a SXSW wristband or badge, but during the time of SXSW, many unofficial, free shows take place all around the city.
In three days, I managed to see 26 different artists at countless different venues. Instead of writing a full feature profiling every performance I saw, I decided to forego some of the tediousness of a 26-band review of my experience and simply give some highlights of the festival.
Minus the Bear: Starting from the end, Minus the Bear were the very last group I saw, going on just before midnight on Saturday night at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop. The show had two purposes—a promotion of Dangerbird Records artists and a benefit for the Pablove Foundation, a fundraising organization for children’s cancer research. Clearly, everyone in the crowd that night had been waiting to see Minus the Bear, and the anticipation was high. Audience members told Dangerbird Records CEO and founder of the Pablove Foundation Jeff Castelaz to “shut the fuck up” so Minus the Bear could play. Castelaz made them feel like dicks after he explained how he founded the Pablove Foundation after his child, Pablo, died of cancer at age 6.
Anacrusis were a technical thrash band that started in the late eighties, but they only made it to the mid-ninties before breaking up. There are many reasons for their eventual demise – fans would say that they were too ahead of their time, but the band would tell you that there was much more to it than that (read their bio). Anyway, it seems to be the trend for old bands to get back together and Anacrusis have gone that route. In late 2009 they announced that their original line-up at reformed and that they were re-recording their first two albums. Listed below are four tracks – the first is the original and the second is the re-recording. The album is set to be released some time in April… until then, enjoy.
Stop Me (1990)
Stop Me (2010)
Present Tense (1988)
I earn my living as an IT system administrator. Obviously, the news that Google stops censoring search results in China was quite a bomb for me. This is the biggest impact on politics and censorship in modern media that a single decision by a software firm has, or better, will have on the world and everyday life. At least I can not remember anything similar from the top of my head. Also, nice move from Google for not only telling the world they might do this, but for actually doing it. For whatever their motives might be, it’s a bold move nonetheless, given the weight the Chinese market will undoubtly have in the future.
As I thought about this whole thing for a while, putting the first obvious positives aside – being able to get an “outside view” on China through possibly less filtered and tuned news channels and websites – I wondered: how big will the impact on the music scene in China be? Will this be a chance for artists and new music to pour into the land? Or maybe, pour out of it? I mean, let’s be honest: China is more or less ruled like a totalitarian state, and history shows us that the censorship of those states make quite an impact on the music scene as well. One example I can think of is the government in East Germany/the DDR, where Beat music (think Beatles and Co), Punk and other music genres surfaced, tolerated…
I’ll admit that I’d never heard of Shaka Ponk when I woke up this morning. I would be as blissfully unaware now had a publicist not dropped an mp3 of ‘Do’ in my inbox, but the Berlin-based French band have made a big impression in that short timeframe.
Forced to leave their native France due to restrictive broadcasting laws that limit the opportunities for non-French language songs on the radio, Shaka Ponk decamped to Europe’s art music capital to further develop their heady multi-lingual mix of rock, pop and electronic music.
‘Do’ is taken from the band’s latest record, Bad Porno Movie Trax, and it quite neatly sums up the contrast of styles the group has to offer, setting a metronomic electronic pop verse against a raucous squealing chorus that calls to mind another great German group, Accept.
Overshadowed. I guess that’s the way Nujabes will always be looked at, not just in his life, but also in his death; the date of his death coming at around the same time as fellow jazz-rap pioneer G.U.R.U.’s heart attack, and the announcement coming on the same day as the death of the more famous Alex Chilton.
I can’t help but feel that a man unlucky enough to not be American, and thus finding himself entirely ignored by hip-hop in general, deserved a little bit more luck here. There really is no way to say this without sounding like a collossal prick, but Alex Chilton’s death was just a shame and nothing more – he was a nice man, and it’s sad that he died, but he’d peaked as an artist decades ago. Nujabes, by comparison, probably wasn’t due to peak for another few years – his work had just been getting better and better as time went on (2006’s Modal Soul being one of the best hip-hop records of the last decade). The man was 36, for Christ’s sake. There were plenty of people in the Western world that thought any hopes of the vibrant Japanese hip-hop breaking out internationally rested with him; that he would be the one that followed DJ Krush (no megastar himself) into having a sizeable international following. Who knows how important he might have been?
And yet, the likelihood is that he’d always have been a cult figure.…