Street Clicks

July 17th, 2019

Is’t selfie ‘r is’t art?; ?: Gavin Paul

I met a friend in India a few years back in the markets of Old Delhi who routinely gave me shit for taking too much time with composing photos. There’d be a textile merchant in an alleyway buried in centuries of woven oddities with a thousand stories in her eyes that felt sacrilegious not to try and capture for posterity like so many white people before me and he’d grab my arm, reach for my camera and intervene every time—”Here, I’ll ‘click’ you, then you ‘click’ me.”

Though slightly before this turns into a ‘be present’ spiel about the trillion plus photos we’re taking globally as a species since 2015 and your philosophy on to or to not take pictures in whatever moment you’re living through, how influencers first will come for our ice cream, and then our souls, if we don’t start charging them double, or why the selfie has become the de-facto motivator for a rising generation, I just want to emphasize the simple beauty of a masterful street photo.

Even absent the art—the mere cognitive process of framing a slice of otherwise chaos, it’s a beautiful skill that anyone can do. And when done right, can dissolve any cultural or demographic exploitation, letting humanity be its own subtext. Which is why there are 100 Vivian Maier‘s out there waiting to be discovered amongst the Henri Cartier-Bresson‘s.

The breaks are that people have been manipulating, bartering and arguing over influence since some old white dude(s) created a story about a lady named Eve offering up an apple to a dude named Adam. And though it’s an inherently smarmy relationship—influence; Eve and Adam are a whole other can o’ worms—it’s also the way the world spins, and will continue to spin even in some utopian Star Trek moneyless possible future, as temptation and critical thinking skills will never go away, and if they do, there will still be tribbles left to destroy us.

So yeah, here’s that second reminder to ‘be present’ in whatever way that means to you, alongside some perfect ‘clicks’ by some working masters I dig on Instagram right now nailing the spirit, capped with one of my very rookie attempts from the other side of my own lens on that same India trip.

Who’s inspiring you, lately?

?: Jorge Garcia; @photosbyjorge_

?: Julian Master; @julianmaster

?: Heike Frielingsdorf; @heikefrielingsdorf

?: Elena Alexandra; @bloomsofmind

?: Gavin Paul; @reenostudios

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The Genius of Bob Dylan’s Experiential ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ Video Revisited

September 17th, 2018

Rapper Danny Brown on the landing channel of Vania Heymann’s 2013 video for Bob Dylan’s 1965 masterpiece, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, immediately co-opting the past and present with a likeness to Dylan’s wiley-haired ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ peak prowess.

ICYMI in 1965, Bob Dylan, adding to his cache of nobel-rock laurels, was a defining figure in the evolution of the music video, arguably creating the lyric hybrid format with Bringing it All Back Home’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” flipping lyric cue cards in a Manhattan alley.

Dylan and poet Allen Ginsberg in the official video for ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’; Photo: BobDylanVEVO

Even then he was blowing up the medium with multi-layered meta tricks, changing up the lyrics on the fly, landmark beat poet Allen Ginsberg making a cameo as a rabbi in the periphery.

Add a pair of Wayfarers to his head at 1:52 when Dylan threads the fourth verse of the song’s anti-establishment “look out kid” theme, paired in the video with a cue card reading “dig yourself,” and it would’ve been a marketing team’s wet dream.

Dylan’s (and his collaborators’) genius are myriad, and one of the greatest frames around this is his cognizance and defiance of it all. He’s tongue-in-cheek on tongue-in-cheek on tongue-in-cheek. He cemented this untouchable blend of iconoclasm and literati brand in this same year when he berated Time journalist Horace Judson for essentially being fake news, proceeding to sacrifice the guy for perpetuating a systematic cultural ignorance to ideas.

Dylan speaks to ‘Time’ Journalist, Horace Judson, in D.A. Pennebaker’s ‘Don’t Look Back’; Photo: Docurama/YouTube

“I got nothing to say about these things I write. I just write ’em. I don’t need to say anything about ’em. I don’t write ’em for any reason. There’s no great message. If you want to tell other people that, go ahead and tell em,” Dylan wryly says to Judson, immortalized in D.A. Pennebaker’s rockumentary, Don’t Look Back.

All of this is important because in the half of a century of a career since, there have been misteps and sidesteps and WTF-steps over the years as all man, artist and brand — the 76-year-old’s latest venture: ‘Heaven’s Door’ whiskey — but re: Dylan’s in-on-it crowning achievement, with one move, he can thread the whole messy quilt together.

Now five years old, Isreali viral director prodigy Vania Heymann’s 2013 treatment of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited masterpiece, “Like a Rolling Stone,” is a simultaneous marketing masterpiece of a wink to Dylan’s legacy and a nod to that systematic no-idea media cultural ignorace incubated in 1965 that if anything has only become more terrifyingly pervasive with every consecutive tweet from Donald Trump.

An actress in the ShopTV segment of Heymann’s interactive video for ‘Like a Rolling Stone’; Photo: eko

At first watch, one might take it as a jump-the-shark moment that cashes in on the gimmickery of interactive videos, set as a 16-channel-flipping lip-sync reel with everything from BBC news to ESPN’s SportsCenter to ShopTV correspondents, anchors and actors mouthing the infamous lyrics of the not-fit-for-radio six-minute plus edit of the song.

Or, if you want to cut deeper, perhaps there are some out there that feel like that infamous dude who just couldn’t accept that folk was dead and screamed “Judas” at an electric guitar-wielding Dylan.

Though much like the song itself, rock’s greatest patchwork about the loss of innocence both internal and external, morphing from punk to R&B, held together by Dylan’s perfectly imperfect nasally howl, the layers start to fray in this destined way as you flip-away into a punchline of a comatose tv-viewer with channels, channels everywhere, but not a show to watch.

Seamlessly edited by the digital media company Interlude, “Like a Rolling Stone”s characters from ‘Miss Lonely’ to the ‘Jugglers and the Clowns’ to the chrome horse-riding diplomat with a siamese cat take a temporary sensory backseat to The Price is Right, the guys from Pawn Stars, a History Channel segment, until you get hooked in by the chorus and you find yourself singing along to a woman trying to sell you a dustbuster and a magic brush asking you how it feels “to be on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown.”

Rick Harrison and Austin Russel of ‘Pawn Stars’; Photo eko

The History Channel bit reveals itself as an expose on The Great Depression, the Pawn Stars are selling an acoustic guitar (a brilliant nod to Dylan going electric) Drew Carey is hawking prizes through a big sparkly wheel on The Price is Right. There’s a kids show, reality TV, a chef whipping up “Childhood Flavors,” rapper Danny Brown eating street food for six-minutes; all their own little microcosms of the lies and feels and deals narrative to “Like a Rolling Stone.”

To be stocked with all these brands that are both complicit and subversively derided with a 50+ year old song, that is able to interactively entrap the viewer into this soul-sucking reflection of himself and the degenerative effects the media has on society sometimes, Heymann and Dylan set the bar here.

The way of experiential videos, at least in the music arena, even when considering Arcade Fire’s multiple brilliant contributions i.e. placing viewers in nostalgia trips through satellite imagery of their own neighborhoods in promotion of their album, The Suburbs, or Beck’s ambitious 360-degree video for his take on David Bowie’s ‘Sound and Vision’, both of which were created by director Chris Milk, there’s nothing that compares.

And if you want to quantify that in a feeling, well, this video added another person to that very short list capable of answering that.

Watch Heymann’s full video at

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Lyricapsule: R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet’; June 6, 2002

June 18th, 2018

A screenshot from R Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet’; YouTube

There’s an old literary weapon called the “Iceberg Theory” in which an artist cuts out bits of what the story is more deeply about, leaving all the fun and imagination up to the receiver of the art.

Whether or not R. Kelly was capable of exercising such a statement while awaiting trial for 14 counts of child pornography indictments has always been a heated debate. Or rather, to separate the art from the artist, or not. Enter a “hip-hopera” called “Trapped in the Closet.”

Those indictments happened on this day back in 2002, in the late height of the R&B icon’s fame. “Trapped in the Closet” would eventually get revisited, and revisited, and revisited, morphing into a 23-chapter and counting “alien” he’s been known to call it. And Kelly would eventually be acquitted of all aforementioned indictments in 2009.

But anyone who’s anyone can bridge the subliminal gap between art and the artist from the get-go, in faithful old “Trapped in the Closet” chapter the first, R. Kelly the character hastily rhyming, “Shit, think, shit, think, shit, quick, put me in the closet,” among a never-ending comedic stream of epic balladries:

Seven o’clock in the morning
And the rays from the sun wakes me
I’m stretchin’ and yawnin’
In a bed that don’t belong to me
And a voice yells, “Good morning, darlin”, from the bathroom
Then she comes out and kisses me
And to my surprise, she ain’t you

Now I’ve got this dumb look on my face
Like, what have I done?
How could I be so stupid to be have laid here til the morning sun?
Must of lost the track of time
Oh, what was on my mind?
From the club, went to her home
Didn’t plan to stay that long

Here I am, quickly tryin’ to put on my clothes
Searching for my car keys
Tryin’ to get on up out the door
Then she streched her hands in front of it
Said, “You can’t go this way”
Looked at her, like she was crazy
Said, “Woman move out my way”
Said, “I got a wife at home”
She said, “Please don’t go out there”
“Lady, I’ve got to get home”
She said, her husband was comin’ up the stairs

“Shh, shh, quiet
Hurry up and get in the closet”
She said, “Don’t you make a sound
Or some shit is going down”
I said, “Why don’t I just go out the window?”
“Yes, except for one thing, we on the 5th floor”
“Shit,Think,Shit, think,Shit, quick, put me in the closet”
And now I’m in this dark ass closet, tryin’ to figure out
Just how I’m gonna get my crazy ass up out this house

Then he walks in and yells, “I’m home”
She says, “Honey, I’m in the room”
He walks in there with a smile on his face
Sayin’, “Honey, I’ve been missin’ you”
She hops all over him
And says, “I’ve cooked and ran your bath water”
I’m tellin’ you now, this girl’s so good that she deserves an Oscar

Throws her in the bed
And start to snatchin’ her clothes off
I’m in the closet, like man, what the fuck is going on?
You’re not gonna believe it
But things get deeper as the story goes on
Next thing you know, a call comes through on my cell phone
I tried my best to quickly put it on vibrate
But from the way he act, I could tell it was too late
He hopped up and said, “There’s a mystery going on
And I’m gonna solve it”
And I’m like, “God please, don’t let this man open this closet”

He walks in the bathroom
And looks behind the door
She says, “Baby, come back to bed”
He says, “Bitch, say no more”
He pulls back the shower curtain
While she’s biting her nails
Then he walks back to the room
Right now, I’m sweating like hell
Checks under the bed

Then under the dresser
He looks at the closet
I pull out my Baretta
He walks up to the closet
He comes up to the closet
Now he’s at the closet
Now he’s opening the closet…



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Jersey Teen Faces 10 Years Behind Bars over Violent SoundCloud Rap

June 12th, 2018

Photo: George Douglas Peterson via SoundCloud

Eighteen-year-old Michael Schmitt of West Caldwell, New Jersey is facing up to 10 years in prison, reports Buzzfeed, after posting a controversial rap on his SoundCloud profile, illschmitt✖︎ ✖︎, alluding to violence toward his classmates at James Caldwell High School.

The ridiculously long-titled song, “u lil sluts @ jchs i love u all even tho yall hurt me and i forgive u. i would never hurt u,” has been removed since its February 24 posting, following a cascade of events over lyrics such as, “You can suck my dick,” “You’re gonna get cracked on the head like an egg, bitch” and “Pull my gun, kill your fuckin’ head/Now you’re dead, go to sleep.”

Tipped off by a fellow student after Schmitt pushed the song on his Twitter and Snapchat handles, said student’s mother contacted school administrators about a possible shooting threat, at which point the JCHS’ campus was put on lockdown and a SWAT team was called in to extradite Schmitt from school that day, ultimately charging the teen with creating a “false public alarm.”

While Schmitt was arrested without incident, he was placed in jail for a spell and is now on house arrest awaiting a potential grand jury trail for the “false public alarm” charge, which if convicted, could send him to prison for ten years.

This is hardly the first time lyrics have been brought to the courtroom. From Ludacris to Facebook-posting metal fans, if something hits the internet or not, if it’s put to song, the judge and jury may see it.

In Schmitt’s case, however, there’s a whole other nerve being struck with school shootings, Schmitt uploading his song ten days after the deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schoolin Parkland, Florida.

And though the Buzzfeed feature is painting Schmitt’s story with at least a stroke or two of sympathy, Schmitt claiming he was “painted” as a school shooter, doesn’t own a gun and is just a nerdy, white hip-hop fan in an otherwise conservative town, if you want to represent yourself as a sane young American these days kidadult don’t post a picture of yourself on your Soundcloud profile aiming a handgun at the lens and smiling.

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French Muslim Rapper’s Bataclan Gigs Incite Protests

June 11th, 2018

French rapper, Médine, raps in the halls of the Bataclan in Paris, in the official video for his song of the same name; Photo: YouTube

Despite both of his shows selling out and the Bataclan’s concert promoter, Eric Bellamy, emphasizing to French reporters that Médine will perform as planned, there is unrest from the far-right in Paris and beyond that the Muslim rapper is playing the venue where 89 people were killed by Islamic Fundamentalists in 2015.

Over the weekend, the New York Times is reporting the far-right National Rally Party launched a petition calling for the shows to be cancelled, citing Médine’s apparent “violent lyrics in the name of Islam,” while the hashtag  (“No Médine at the Bataclan”) sprung up on Twitter in tandem.

Marine Le Pen, the National Rally’s leader, additionally tweeted that “no French person can accept this guy” playing at “the very place of the carnage.”

Médine’s catalogue as a whole is being dubbed offensive, but there a two specific songs that are making the outcry rounds, one called “Jihad,” and another called “Don’t Laik,” the latter a heady, religiously inquisitive tale of the subjectives of morality, that ironically (or geniusly) riffs off of Chicago mumble rap thug, Chief Keef, and the hook on “I Don’t Like.”

On “Don’t Laik,” Médine raps lines like “I put fatwas on the heads of cons” and “crucify the secularists,” with the refrain: [Translated from French to English]

Your beard, Arab, in this country is Do not Laïk
Your sail, my sister, in this country is Do not Laïk
Your faith, n×gga, in this country is Do not Laïk
Mrs, sir, your couple is Do not Laïk
We will all go to heaven, all in heaven we will go
We will all go to paradise, all in Paradise Insha Allah (Thanks to God)
We will all go to heaven, all in heaven we will go
We all go to heaven, only those who believe

It’s not just the French far right, either — a lawyer for nine victims of the Bataclan attacks told The Timesthat she would write to Paris police officials and the French culture minister to cancel the shows, and a republican mayor of Meaux, a small town outside of Paris, said it was “intolerable and completely mad” to allow Médine to perform at the Bataclan.

35-year-old Médine is no stranger to contention, regularly dealing in immigration and socio-political narratives both in his rap career, as well as penning stories as a journalist for Time— in 2005 he wrote an article for the magazine called, “How Much More French Can I Be.”

Though Médine has been silent in the immediate wake of these Bataclan protests, he told The New York Timesin 2016 that “Don’t Laïk” was about French secularism, and has been known to punch-line defenses of his art and ideology in the past with the hashtag, #IMMUSLIMDONTPANIK

Check out the official video for Médine’s eponymously titled ode to the ill-fated venue, of which probably won’t pander to sympathy of his opinion with images of people in body bags in the actual halls of the Bataclan, but nevertheless does reference the rapper’s dream as a kid to one day perform on its stage.

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Creative Director

June 10th, 2018

Launched in the early-oughts as another player in the Google-query song lyric hit bunch, SONGLYRICS initially thrived by simply displaying lyrics and ads. Eventually, though, the market—and Google—demanded a more creative resource for lyrics, lest your operation get buried in search results, or worse, an empty contribution to the evolution of music culture and analysis.

I joined the team as a writer, advocating for the latter, poached to lead the editorial team followed by a promotion to Creative Director, in which I helmed the entire new vision of the site from a Web 1.0 quick-bounce rate ad-blast to a social journalism tool, stocked with editorial content that rivaled my days at SPIN, Rolling Stone, etc. combined with an entire platform for users and staff to analyze lyrics line-by-line.

Commanding all storytelling operations, pushing out myriad columns, breaking news, interviews, etc., a data entry team, copyright and legal compliances, developers, SEO, social media, light and dark ad pushes, art direction, the creation and implementation of a workable prototype, funneling everything into new viral way to review a song that I created, we shot the traffic from below 30k visitors/day to over 300k/day. 




Bands Rally Around EoDM’s Charity Cover Call for Victims of Paris Attacks

Equal parts moment of solidarity and fundraising effort for victims of the attacks, EoD frontman Josh Homme wrote an open letter to bands to ‘Play It Forward’.


Neil Young Reminds World in Which Rock is Free

Descending the elevator of one of his many great dicks in the sky, Trump took the podium in his NYC Tower to Neil Young‘s ‘Rockin’ in the Free World‘.


Why Pussy Riot Still Matter

It seems like it was just yesterday that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was protesting ‘Putin’s Kafka-esque machine‘ from behind the bars of a Moscow prison, refusing to eat.


Jersey Teen Faces 10 Years Behind Bars over Violent SoundCloud Rap

Eighteen-year-old Michael Schmitt of West Caldwell, New Jersey is facing up to 10 years in prison.


RIFF’d: Father John Misty’s ‘I Love You, Honeybear’

Since falling in love and getting married, framing a narrative arc around that, this is about as close to the real Josh Tillman we’re ever going to see.


The World Reacts to Band Aid 30 Lyric Redux

Since Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure gave another star-studded Band Aid reboot to their landmark 1984 anti-poverty charity track, “Do They Know it’s Christmas?


Lyricapsule: R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet’; June 6, 2002

The notorious Chicago rapper’s ‘hip-hopera’ debuts.


An open up a discourse on what the hell “folk” means these days.



An Evening (And Morning) With Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field; July 19

‘An Evening (and now morning)’ with the last of a dying arena breed who can still deliver a rock promise.


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Jack White Laces ‘Icky Thump’ with Anti-Trumpisms

June 4th, 2018

Jack White performing at New York City’s Governors Ball on Friday, June 1; Photo: YouTube 

Kicking off this past weekend Jack White headlined New York City’s Governors Ball. Though when it came time for him to unleash White Stripes‘ 2007 punk blues fan fav, “Icky Thump,” White slipped in some lyrical barbs aimed at a certain Cheeto-in-Chief.

The song in its original narrative has always been rooted in politics, specifically contentious policy around immigration, White yelping in the second verse:

White Americans, what
Nothing better to do
Why don’t you kick yourself out
You’re an immigrant too

Who’s using who
What should we do?
Well, you can’t be a pimp
And a prostitute too

Appended to the Cheeto-modified version, though, White took it a step further and added a little modifier in that lovely kick-a-hole in your garage rock door sneer he does so well:

That’s for you, Trump!
You can’t be a president and a prostitute, too, Trump!

Following the jab, White launched into the refrain flipping ‘thump’ to, wait for it — “Icky Trump.”

Whether or not ‘Icky Trump’ heard him over in Manhattan at his eponymous tower, or wherever he’s not-at-the-White-House again these days, is mute, though, as there’s a glaring miss of a Stormy Daniels joke in there.

Check out the vitriol below.

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Guns N’ Roses Cut Contentious Song From ‘Appetite…’ Box Set

May 8th, 2018

The $1,299.99 box set version of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite For Destruction; Photo:

Of the many completely bloated and unnecessary editions of Guns N’ Roses‘ 30th anniversary reissue of their 1987 debut record, Appetite For Destruction, ranging from an $8 cd to a $1,299.99 box set due in June, the band has quietly omitted the contentious song, “One in a Million.”

The homophobic, racist narrative penned by Axl Rose details his “small town white boy” self-reflections en route from Indiana to LA, Axl expressing his version of America in the first verse:

Police and Ni**ers, that’s right Get out of my way
Don’t need to buy none of your
Gold chains today I don’t need no bracelets
Clamped in front of my back
Just need my ticket ’til then
Won’t you cut me some slack?

Continuing his rant in the second verse, Axl lets them opinions fly:

Immigrants and faggots
They make no sense to me
They come to our country
And think they’ll do as they please
Like start some mini Iran,
Or spread some fuckin’ disease
They talk so many goddamn ways It’s all
Greek to me

Though it debuted on Appetite…‘s 1988 follow-up, Lies, the song should be included in the bloated bundle of bonus cuts and b-sides, as a full version of Lies is listed amongst the lot along with 25 previously unreleased cuts from sessions at Sound City studios in 1986.

However, as Alternative Nation points out via G N’ R fan rumblings — “One in a Million” is mysteriously absent from product listings on the pre-order site.

There’s a deep rabbit hole of both negative backlash and positive praise of the song over the years, from the band’s iconic guitarist Slash (who is half black) claiming he told Axl at the time of the song’s release that he “didn’t think it was cool” but has “no regrets” about releasing it in a 1991 interview in Rolling Stone, to Body Count‘s guitarist Ernie C (who is also black) also defending Axl’s form of expression on a recent episode of the podcast, Appetite For Distortion.

Axl’s stance though has always been virtually unapologetic, though, playing the entertainment/expression card, adding a retribution thread with an anecdote that he was almost raped by a guy while hitchhiking. Back in another Rolling Stone interview from 1988, the frontman had to say:

“Why can black people go up to each other and say, ‘n****r,’ but when a white guy does it all of a sudden it’s a big putdown? I don’t like boundaries of any kind. I don’t like being told what I can and what I can’t say. I used the word ‘n****r’ because it’s a word to describe somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word ‘n****r’ doesn’t necessarily mean black.”

All of this just adds to the curiosity as to why “One in a Million” has been cut, with no reason to date to why.

Listen to “One in a Million below:

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Fan Mines Taylor Swift Lyrics, Re-ups Booze Conspiracy Theory

April 11th, 2018

Taylor Swift drinks a beer at a New York Knicks game; Photo: Clever News/YouTube

When Taylor Swift dropped her sixth record, Reputation, back in the fall of 2017, a few people were quick to note all the references to alcohol — 13 in total — that when matched up with a cumulative mere four references to adult beverages on previous records, raised some eyebrows.

Why six records, nearing her 30s, spawned by Big booze-loving Country, a millionaire umpteen times over, and just discovering the “old fashioned” (“Getaway Car“) or the time-honored pleasure of “Island breeze and lights down low” (“…Ready For It?”)?

And though questions such as these have remained unanswered by Swift, fans have had their fun speculating conspiracy theories. Many of which are as transparent as a window in the fact that Reputation was Swift’s grand bad-girl branding push.

Anyway, a big data nerd on Reddit got to visualizing all these references into graph form, because what good are computers and huge databases of lyrics if not to find the saddest Radiohead song, how rap is actually the least drug-refferencing genre, and of course — how infatuated Taylor Swift is with branding herself Queen of the Hooch.

Enter Joe Hovde from Cincinnati, Ohio who took all of Swift’s mentions of alcohol in her entire oeuvre and put it into a bar graph. Since posting his work to the intranets, fans are once again coming out of the woodwork to marvel in Swift’s appreciation of whiskey on ice.

Posting to Twitter a few days prior to his Reddit blast, Hovde wrote: “Taylor Swift is going through the phase where you brag about drinking alcohol rather late in life. Insp. from .”

The emotional reaction to the data is still kind of mixed, with one Reddit user downplaying the whole bad-girl incentive: “Overall, the tenor of reputation about alcohol (and sex) was, to me, just very honest about being in your 20s. You drink, not necessarily a lot, but it’s there as a background to what you do with friends and romantic partners.”

However you want to read into this — or wash the frivolity of Swift’s drinking habits from your mouth — do not forget some sage advice from one of America’s finest cartoon booze-loving luminaries: “To alcohol: the cause of — and solution to — all of life’s problems.”

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Minnesota Toddler Raps Through Chores to DMX, Blows up Twitter, Of Course

April 3rd, 2018

Three-year old Tegan Pelissero of Minnesota in her DMX element; Twitter/Sara Pelissero

What good is the internet if not for the elusive cat video or tiny human rapping to an early 90s party-rap anthem? Such is the case with this three-year old from Minnesota who blew up Twitter with not only her cleaning skills, but her savage take on Earl ‘DMX‘ Simmon’s classic 1993 hit, ‘Party Up‘.

Shot by the child’s mother, Sara Pelissero, on a cell phone, Tegan (the rapping prodigy’s name), is seen cleaning up the kitchen in her Batman shirt and dodging her puppy on the hunt for food scraps, rapping the infamous hook to the song:

Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind
Up in here, up in here

Mother Pelissero feigned immaculate DMX skills by her daughter in her tweet, citing, “Someone taught my 3-year-old a DMX song and … I’m just not sure where to go from here.” But we all know the score, Sara, you don’t need to hide your love for ‘Party Up’.

The actual story gets a little more endearing to learn that Sara is recovering from breast cancer, and the video was shot while Tegan was helping her mom with duties around the house while she recuperates from surgery.

Speaking to Minneapolis’ Star Tribune, Sara gave a little insight as to where Tegan may have first heard the Ruff Ryder — from a day care teacher muttering ‘up in here’ hook under her breath in a high stress moment, reflecting on the whole ordeal with a lighthearted thankfulness.

“It’s just completely goofy and there’s nothing really serious about it,” said Sara. “I feel like it’s been a nice breath of fresh air for us after what has been a lot of dark moments.”

Blip in the Twitterverse/sentimental moment for the Pelissero family or what, meanwhile, in other DMX news, the rapper still awaits judgement on a tax evasion trial.

Watch the full video shot by Sara below, followed by the DMX original.



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James Taylor Drops ‘Sweet Baby James’ Children’s Pop-Up Book

March 30th, 2018

James Taylor opens a page from his new children’s book ‘Sweet Baby James’; Photo: James Taylor/YouTube

Everybody’s old seer of fire and rain, James Taylor‘s iconic ‘cowboy lullaby’ title track from his 1970 sophomore effort, Sweet Baby James, is getting the kids’ book treatment.

Available right now as a special edition, 10-page pop-up book on Taylor’s website, with a wider release on March 12, you can purchase the Mark Devlin-illustrated book for $25.

Back in February, Taylor put together a charming little promo video for the book’s pre-order push, in which the 70-years-young Rock Hall of Famer narrates the origin story of the song, one of his proudest achievements as a songwriter that “approaches being a work of art.”

“I started writing it for my nephew on the occasion of his birth. I drove down the coast, and I was really keen to see a little ‘James’ who had been named after me and was the first child born to our generation in the family. So it was a big deal,” says Taylor in the video. “Somewhere in Virginia the idea came to me of writing a cowboy lullaby.”

Taylor then proceeds to give a little peak into the tableaux of the book, revealing a little cowboy frontier dudeman on an American west backdrop amongst cattle and rivers and mountains and such, set aside one of the verses:

There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway
A song that they sing when they take to the sea
A song that they sing of their home in the sky
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
But singing works just fine for me

Though it’s not mentioned in the video, as points out, the whole idea for the book was presumably spawned from Devlin’s stage design for Taylor’s 2014-15 world tour, in which a triptych presentation of the pop-up book was projected behind Taylor when he performed the song during sets. Devlin wrote a little behind the scenes post on his LinkedIn page a few years ago, should you want to dive down that rabbit hole.

Otherwise, check out Big James himself talk about Lil’ James below in the full promo video for the book, and get those bedtime reader glasses ready.

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Lana Del Rey Teases New Song, ‘Happiness is a Butterfly’

March 29th, 2018

Lana Del Rey dances along to a new tune she’s teased on Instagram, called ‘Happiness is a Butterfly’; Photo: Lana Del Rey/Instagram

Hot on the heels of supposedly clearing — according to Lana Del Rey— the whole Radiohead kerfuffle in which a lawsuit was filed over LDR’s song “Get Free” and its similarities to “Creep,” the noir Hollywood crooner has teased some audio to a forthcoming tune called, “Happiness is a Butterfly.”

Twirling around in the sunlight with her usual lips on full pout blast in some room from what is assumed to be her home, it’s pretty much an extension of the Lust For Life brooding lounge melodrama she’s become so adept at crafting, bound around a barebones piano fill and a winged insect metaphor about happiness and its elusiveness.

In case you can’t make out the lyrics, LDR included the short verse we’re let in on within her Instagram post:

happiness is a butterfly
try to catch it like every night
it escapes from my hands
into moonlight.
every day is a lullaby
I hum it on the phone like every night
and sing it for my babies on the tourlyfe

Coupled with a tweet earlier in the month that may or may not be another verse from the song, drink up ‘tourlyife babies’, it appears as though Momma LDR will be dropping some new tunes shortly.

Listen to the full snippet and read the lyrics below.

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Harvard Officially Swaps its ‘Puritanical’ Lyric from 181-Year Old Alma Mater

March 28th, 2018

Harvard graduation ceremony festivities; Photo:

Facing pressure from outgoing President Drew Faust, on a proactive mission to create ways to improve Harvard’s culture, back in April of 2017 the university held a competition to change the lyrics to their 181-year old alma mater, “Fair Harvard,” to make it more inclusive to all representations of the student body.

That day has come, fair non-puritans, as the result of a 53-person task force lyrical think tank has come up with a change of said controversial line, “Till the stock of the Puritans die,” opting for the new line, “Till the stars in the firmament die,” of which the edits are now live on Harvard’s website.

Doubling down on that inclusivity, Faust released a prideful statement on the successes of the Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging — the team’s official title — notes on the general ‘pillars of Harvard’s excellence’ and a glowing promise to sing the new line in the future.

“When it comes time to sing our alma mater, updated at the suggestion of the task force, I will proudly give voice to the song’s new final line — and its recognition that the pursuit of truth and knowledge belongs to everyone at Harvard, from all backgrounds and beliefs,” said Faust.

Written in 1836 by alumnus Samuel Gilman for the school’s bicentennial celebration, this is the second change to “Fair Harvard” since its inception. The other change came in a similar contest in 1998, that saw, “Thy sons to thy jubilee throng” modified to, “We join in thy jubilee throng,” to be more gender inclusive.

Still no word on the results of the “musical variant” competition that was launched in tandem with this lyric contest, though, that is seeking sonic submissions that change the traditional choir-backed sung version into “electronic, hip hop, or spoken word music.”

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French Non-Profit Creates First Interactive Sign-Language Lyric Video

March 27th, 2018

Billy Read in the official video for ‘Unsilenced’; La Parole aux Sourds/YouTube 

A French non-profit aimed at bridging gaps between the hearing and deaf and hard of hearting communities has commissioned a gorgeous new take on the ‘lyric video‘ medium.

Citing the project as, “the first original song sung through sign language and dance,” La Parole aux Sourds (Translated: “A Microphone for the Deaf”) commissioned dancer Billy Read and electro-pop duo Haute for the interactive journey through the streets of Paris, dubbing the experience “Unsilenced.”

Shot entirely in black and white, users follow Read in a near fluid spin around the city, Reads hands and body manipulating the space around him amongst a civilization of faceless humans, his hands even bursting into flames at one point. Meanwhile, users have the power to “unsilence” him with their cursor to reveal hidden sign-language lyric subtext below.

Read stuck close to sign expressions that could cross variations in the language across the globe to deliver a pretty altruistic message for both those who can and cannot hear:

Unlock the world inside me
This isn’t just a song I need to sing
It’s a barrier we need to break

Speaking to AdAge, director Alban Coret explained, “The film is meant to be surreal. We wanted to show how strange it is when nobody speaks your language.”

There have been many landmark lyric videos over the years, i.e. Bob Dylan‘s channel-flippingLike a Rolling Stone” masterpiece, but this one will certainly have a special place right there amongst them.

Dig on the YouTube version below, and the full interactive version at the ‘Unsilenced‘ pop-up site, proper.

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Michael Stipe Shares Snippet of New Solo Track, ‘Future, if Future’

March 26th, 2018

Michael Stipe’s Instagram post teasing a new solo track dubbed, ‘Future, if Future’; Photo: Michael Stipe/Instagram

Outspoken activist of everything from Tibetan Freedom to Net Neutrality over the years, one could argue Michael Stipe has dished out more politics than rock.

So it comes as no surprise that the 58-year-old maestro of the late R.E.M. chose a hotbed of a weekend, as young an old America rallied ’round the nation to #MarchForOurLives for tighter gun restrictions, to share a new solo track dubbed, ‘Future, if Future,” that options two directions in its Instagram-teased verse, “Nerve gas or flowers.”

Warbled over a grainy, pixilated shot of Stipe sincerely eyeing the camera, an airy barrage of almost twee electro beats and synths play host to Stipe’s sentimental assurance that “the future is ours.” Meanwhile, a neon cascade of said sentiment, ‘March For Our Lives’ and the title of the song marquee the clip.

Essentially, if this were the 80s video-game it happens to feel like, this is your Michael Stipe-themed game end credit roll, which comes with a defiantly optimistic view of who holds the power in a nation of millions at frustrating odds over the right to bear certain kinds of arms capable of slaughtering citizens at an absurd rate.

Listen to the full clip below paired with the full lyric excerpt via Stipe’s Instagram post:

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The Lonely Island Reveal Rejected Oscar Song, ‘Why Not Me?’

March 5th, 2018

The Lonely Island performing at the 2015 Oscars; Photo: John Shearer/Shutterstock

In an oddly stocked Best Original Song class on the 90th edition of the Oscars last night (Sunday, March 4) that could have gone to all Mary J. Blige, Sufjan Stevens, Common, the whole lot, with Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez bringing home the statue with their contribution to Coco, still, the Oscars is as Oscars does both in front of and behind the curtain.

It was bad enough that the American public had to listen to milk-dud Jimmy Kimmel try a hand at Hollywood approval, but now it has been revealed that the merry song pranksters that make up the SNL-spawned Lonely Island comedy music crew were deprived of a follow-up to their sensory overload 2015 appearance due to the Academy’s stance that their idea was ‘financially and logistically impossible,’ according to a video of a demo the group posted on their YouTube channel today.

Front-loaded with a little synopsis of what went wrong, the Lonely Island crew divulge, “We were asked to write a song for this year’s Oscars… Unfortunately it wasn’t chosen because it was ‘financially and logistically impossible,’ so for fun we thought we’d share the rough storyboards of what would have been a fully shot, star-studded music video of exorbitant cost.”

What unfolds is a pretty spectacular song and dance about all the rejects of this year’s nominees called “Why Not Me,” which, c’mon, everyone loves and underdog. Especially with a jealous confessional from Aquaman like so: “In ‘The Shape of Water‘ I heard that a lady boned a fishman/But if you’re gonna bone a fishman/Why not bone a fish like this man?”

Listen to the full demo below, and wonder what could’ve been:

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British Ad Agency Creates Feminist Christmas Carol Album for Charity

December 11th, 2017

The album art for ‘Hyrrs: Festive Hymns Made Feminist’; Photo: Grey London/Goldstein Music

Progressive British ad agency, Grey London, has teamed up with fellow Brit music production creatives, Goldstein Music, to put a feminist spin on seven iconic Christmas carols, with 100% of the proceeds going toward the charity organization, Refuge, that specializes in helping victims of domestic violence.

Dubbed Hyrrs: Festive Hymns Made Feminist, classic choral numbers like “Deck the Halls” and “Oh Christmas Tree” are supplemented with new titles, “Kick the Balls (of Patriarchy” and “Oh Sexism.” Equal parts sarcastic and in harmony, like some lost Monty Python project, an angelic choir slays on the former: [LISTEN]

Kick the balls of patriarchy
Fa la la la la, fa la la la
We’re all sick of this malarky
Fa la la la la, fa la la la
Old white men hog all the power
Fa la la la la, fa la la la
Let’s bring down that phallic tower
Fa la la la la, fa la la la

Seeking to add to the conversation around sexual misconduct incidents and allegations dominating the news world this year, from Hollywood to Capitol Hill, Grey London’s co-chief creative officer, Vicki Maguire, told Campaign US: “From Weinstein and Westminster to salaries and sexism, 2017 has shown how appalling it can be for women. That’s why we now want to make a statement about kicking everyday inequality in the baubles this Christmas, while raising money for an amazing cause that helps women.”

Meanwhile, Refuge chief executive Sandra Horley, chimed in on how effective a sense of humor is at this particular moment in time, “The Hyrrs of the world are often accused of lacking a sense of humour. So this is a divine opportunity for the Hymns of the world to see the funny side. Otherwise, guess who has the last laugh?”

Perhaps not as subversive a punch as last year’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” consensual update, with “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Night” dealing in decorations and deities we’re all familiar with. But with edits like these to the latter, Grey London certainly nailed the humor element:

Stereotypes, stereotypes
All of them, just ain’t right
Cougars, virgins, Tiger Moms
Crazy cat ladies and pneumatic blondes
If you don’t know what we mean
Watch a ‘Transformers’ movie

And of course every single penny is headed toward Refuge’s cause.

Check out the full track list for Hyrrs: Festive Hymns Made Feminist below, followed by a lyric video for “Kick the Balls (of Patriarchy)” and download the project’s Hyrrbook if you care to DIY it around town.

1.) Kick the Balls (Of Patriarchy) — to the tune of “Deck the Halls”
2.) Oh Sexism! — to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree!”
3.) More Than Half of Working Women (Have Been Sexually Harassed) — to the tune of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
4.) Good Queen Wenceslas — set to the tune of “Good King Wenceslas”
5.) Equal Salary — to the tune of “In The Bleak Midwinter”
6.) Female Sexual Pleasure — to the tune of “Once in Royal David’s City”
7.) Stereotypes — to the tune of “Silent Night”

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Contributing Writer

November 29th, 2017

Make Change is a socially-conscious publication building stories around Certified B Corporations and other sustainable community folks that share the same values as its parent financial service, Aspiration Bank.

Editor-in-Chief Callie Enlow came to me with a one-off assignment on this story with a seed of a pitch curious about a record label (Spirit House) run by a self-described “community of healers, activists, witches, faeries, and star-children helping each other deliver medicine to the world.”

Interviewing founder Johanna Warren, I reported on the crowdsourced ambition of her and the novel label that is seeking to eliminate the middle-man, patriarchal paradigm with direct-to-artist sales and a work-trade community, tracing the model through its roots back to the Riott Grrrl movement of the early 1990s.


Spirit House Records

On a mission to defeat the old guard music suit patriarchy, a coven of PNW witches started their own record label.

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A Coven of PNW Witches Started Their Own Record Label

November 29th, 2017


A still from Forest Veil’s ‘Harem’ music video; Photo: Forest Veil

Based in the misty forest, progressive lifestyle haven of Portland, Oregon, Spirit House Records defines itself as “a magical, radically artist-friendly record label empowering free spirits to make art on their own terms,” encompassing “a community of healers, activists, witches, faeries, and star-children helping each other deliver medicine to the world.”

We could easily get heady and cosmic on what this means to the 28-year-old founder, musician Johanna Warren, let alone the eight other artists currently on the fledgling label’s roster, but reducing it down to brass tacks, Warren tells us in an interview: “We are a label for independent artists who are choosing to maintain control of our own finances without middlemen.”

Stretching back to at least the 1950s, independent record labels existed in pretty much every genre, favoring art over sales and promising to protect artists from gaggles of notes-giving executives and percentage-munching label hands.

In fact, given its Kickstarter manifesto to “reject competitive individualism in favor of collective empowerment” in order to “elevate femme and non-binary voices as a counterweight to the patriarchal mainstream,” if Spirit House has a direct precedent, it may be Portland’s famed Kill Rock Stars label, home to a few of the sonic founders of the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 1990s. Bands like Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill created defiantly anti-commercial music meant to empower women and gender non-conformers and turn the tables on male-dominated power structures. KRS co-founder founder Slim Moon—a man—said he “wanted to be invisible.” He told Hit Quarters, “Instead of telling them how to do things, I just wanted to be able to help the artists realize their own vision.”

The Riot Grrrl movement thrived on this as more of an ideology than a financial structure, of course—whether or not Kathleen Hanna and Bikini Kill made 100 percent of the profits on “Rebel Girl” was an afterthought to its middle-finger to the patriarchy.

While Spirit House similarly places art over commerce, its approach is more mystical than punk aggressive. Sonically, Warren’s ethereal voice floats on cymbal-washed anti-folk tunes that are juxtaposed with her work in the healing arts and an affinity for the metaphysical and mystical. A certified Reiki Master who openly identifies as a witch, Warren uses Shamanism as a metaphor for the energy she chases. “The artist is the shaman who is guiding the experience and bringing us into places of discord and then resolving it back into a place of harmony,” says Warren. Spirit House is a place where the music world’s shamans can feel free.

And it’s also evolving away from the “non-binary” and “femme” definitions it initially sought to foster, instead seeking “to be inclusive to beings of all genders,” Warren explains. “We just got to a place where it just felt like we didn’t want to be creating any walls or solidifying any walls that are based in binary thinking, and perpetuating the old paradigm.”

Right now, there are few walls containing Spirit House’s musical output, which includes Warren’s own records (inspired by healing cycles of the moon and the zodiac); a harpist who goes by the name of Dolphin Midwives and has been known to gig at Portland’s churches; the off-kilter, coven of forest witches melodies of Forest Veil; the heel-kicking country-roots rock of Lola Kirke; and the sunshine singer-songwriter glisten of Ali Burress.


Indira Valey and Elliott Harvey basking in the afterglow of a collaborative ritual performance at the Spirit House mini-fest, September 2017; Photo: Suzanne Olvey

But back to Spirit House’s ambition to eliminate the middle men—with a combination of crowdsourced funding ($12,000 successful campaign on Kickstarter) and direct-to-artist sales on Bandcamp (aside from Bandcamp’s cut), Spirit House is currently enabling its roster to both retain 100 percent of the rights to their music and recoup 100 percent of the profits. In exchange for this freedom, the artists cover typical label objectives like press, distribution, and studio time, while reaping the benefits of being associated with Spirit House’s brand and community.

At least for now. The $12,000 accrued on Kickstarter went toward the first nine releases for each artist currently on the roster. The remainder of the budget went toward additional artist needs on a work-trade basis. For instance, Monica of Forest Veil needed $500 to press some extra copies of her record, so she logged a commensurate number of hours mailing stuff out for the label until she paid it off.

Now that that the initial $12,000 is depleted, Warren is looking to longer term crowdsourcing campaigns like Patreon, where consumers pay a monthly membership to support an artist or project over time. While she says that the next round of funding will have “really modest ambitions just to break even” on fixed costs like maintaining a web site, Warren’s larger plan is “opening that portal just to ask for support from the larger community of people who believe in what we’re doing.”.

And what they’re doing is quite unlike anything attempted by other record labels, independent or not. “We’ve done a couple events in the last year where we’ve linked up with healers in the community—astrologers, Reiki masters, Tarot readers—and had a sort of metaphysical faire before and during the music,” said Warren. “Music is woven into a broader culture of the healing arts.”

In other words, you don’t need to be a witch or a healer to benefit from a business model that lets you retain as much creative and financial control as possible, but in Spirit House’s case, it helps.

Check out Spirit House’s original Kickstarter launch page here, and watch Forest Veil’s ‘Harem’ featuring Johanna Warren below: 


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Russian State Media Co-Opt Five Finger Death Punch Lyrics for Anti-West Op-Ed, Band Responds

November 15th, 2017

Lead singer Ivan L. Moody of Five Finger Death Punch in the official video for ‘Wash it All Away’; Photo: YouTube

Vladislav Surkov of Russian State Media site RT whipped up a mighty piece of anti-west propaganda last week (November 7) back-boning its entire thesis on lyrics from Las Vegas metal crew Five Finger Death Punch for some reason.

One could stop paying attention to Vlad’s credibility in the first graph when he mentions his favorite band is Disturbed, but nevertheless this is an entertaining story about everyone from all sides of the political spectrum reinterpreting what it means to have distrust for the media.

For Mr. Surkov and his piece entitled “Crisis of Hypocrisy: I Hear America Singing,” it’s the standard Russian stance of stirring the pot in hopes of sadistically witnessing the downfall of democracy, of which Surkov uses the coincidence of an American band in Moscow to spew his agenda.

Five Finger Death Punch played the Russian capital the night before, playing one of their anti-authoritarian pop thrash hits “Wash it All Away.” Surkov quotes several verses from the song that made an impression on him, but the ‘wash it all away’ chorus and the ‘media’ mention in this verse made him salivate the most at pointing out his perceived ‘hypocrisy’ of the West:

I’ve given up
On the media
Feeds my hysteria
Sick of living down on my knees
I’ve given up
On morality
Feeds my brutality
Fuck what you think about me

The story could end there on the Russian interwebs, but rhythm guitarist and co-founder of Five Finger Death Punch, Zoltan Bathory, felt compelled to clear the air a bit in a Facebook post on Monday (November 13).

Bathory is of Hungarian decent and grew up during the cold war, and took the time to write a compelling piece of his own in ultimate defense of music as a uniting art form and not a tool for division. He praises the band’s Russian fans and their ability to come to their own political conclusions and opinions about the state of the world, all bound around an anecdote around his ‘iron curtain’ youth.

Though he exudes a little hypocrisy of his own by scapegoating all of the media as slingers of “bullshit sensationalist stories,” Bathory drives home a meditative final thought: “So CENTER yourselves, take back your minds, take back your power.”

Read Bathory’s full response below, followed by the video for “Wash it All Away.”

Yep … This happened… well… not exactly like the headline says …but just watch the video…

Though I would have phrased it as: “Surkov made an observation… and pointed out some hypocrisy” – Instead of saying “targeted the USA” as in this context it could be perceived aggressive, and that’s misleading and just add unnecessary tension between our countries… Already there is an artificially created hysteria fueled by some irresponsible media outlets (I do appreciate the reporter Brian Storm taking the cool-headed factual tone in this youtube video though)

Anyway… I’m going to double down on this. We are in the 21st century, people have smartphones and they can check information on the fly, there are alternative news outlets now that are not marionette figures dancing on a centrally controlled wire, and there is WikiLeaks…. the truth IS out there.

We The People (or at least some of us) read, investigate and see whats going on… and yes, absolutely yes – the hypocrisy is astonishing, the deliberate misinformation is blatant… and could be the cause of a chaotic future breakdown of western society… The masses don’t know who to believe and the youth is simply miseducated, emasculated and politically indoctrinated…

The country is already divided, yet the media can’t help themselves but continue with the clickbait strategy, the bullshit sensationalist stories (they retract later in a small print) – simply because they are *for profit* enterprises and if one is doing it the rest has to compete for the attention because it means their survival as a business… A surely difficult place to be, it’s just a quick fix with dire long-term consequences…

Most people already don’t trust the media… * And you shouldn’t either without Crosschecking and cross-referencing everything. Read between the lines, follow the money, don’t get knocked off balance, don’t react, don’t get heated or angry… there is no guarantee that what you are reacting to is true… You can’t afford to not look at the other side of the coin, and we the people can’t afford to not to talk to those with different, often opposing views (because they are people just like you but simply indoctrinated by a different news channel) – force yourselves to be patient and have a dialogue… a real dialogue, not yelling over each other reciting things you think are facts but often total fabrications… AND there is no acceptable “Political Violence” !!! that’s an oxymoron anyway… because violence is the FAILURE of politics.

When Surkov quoted the lyrics, he was spot on and understood what it was about. “Given Up on democracy, Society, Done with all your hypocrisy and social disease” – “Wash It All Away” … all the bullshit and lies… and yes, from all sides…

WE THE PEOPLE as a collective and as individuals have the power to not get riled up, to not freak out, to not react, to not buy into sensationalist bullshit, to not fall for race-baiting, class division and class-baiting. We have the power to investigate, to get educated, to not to become ragdolls yanked around by hyenas banging on our emotional triggers… There is a natural law of demand and supply… if nobody is buying hysteria… they will stop trying to sell it… So CENTER yourselves, take back your minds, take back your power. Woooosaaahhhhh people…. wooosaaahhhh….

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Eminem Puts Trump on Blast in New Cypher, America Reacts

October 11th, 2017

Eminem in the official video for his BET cypher dubbed ‘The Storm’; Photo: YouTube/BET

Last night, during BET’s Hip-Hop Awards ceremony, Eminem debuted a scathing anti-Trump freestyle in BET’s traditional cypher series, putting the POTUS on blast for everything from racism to patriotism hypocrisies.

Not the first time Eminem has voiced his opinion about Trump on record, this is the first time he came out guns ablazin’ with the entire narrative aimed at the President — boiling the ethos down in its final moments to a proverbial “line in the sand:”

And any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his
I’m drawing in the sand a line: you’re either for or against
And if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split
On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this:
Fuck you!
The rest of America stand up
We love our military, and we love our country
But we fucking hate Trump

Dubbed “The Storm” and filmed in Em’s native Detroit in a parking garage, the 44-year-old rapper chastises Trump’s wall-building mission, his reaction to the Colin Kaepernick/NFL fiasco, the ‘drain the swamp’ agenda, both post Puerto Rico and Las Vegas presidential aid shortcomings, and a bevy of other issues that he and a lot of the nation are boiling over with rage and frustration.

The current No. 1 trending video on YouTube, much of the reaction — at least in the Twittersphere — so far has sided with ‘Em, with Colin Kaepernick retweeting the video with an emoji fist and a simple “I appreciate you.” LeBron James reciprocated with a fist. J. Cole said “Protect Eminem at all cost.” Even Ellen DeGeneres is empathizing.

Though the the pro-Trump camp is rumbling as well with a few knee jerks, with at least one news outlet — the Washington Examiner — attempting to do what it does best and call out other news outlets for being biased, positing that the media is omitting Eminem’s “history of bigoted lyrics.”

And it’s only a matter of time before Trump’s short Twitter fuse gets all sorts of lit. Until then, here’s a pressure valve release for anyone who’s ever been called a snowflake/care to wash away the political stinkfrom other Detroit ‘musician’, Kid Rock.

Watch the full cypher below, followed by a transcription of all the lyrics.


It’s the calm before the storm right here
Wait, how was I gonna start this off?
I forgot… oh, yeah

That’s an awfully hot coffee pot
Should I drop it on Donald Trump? Probably not
But that’s all I got ’til I come up with a solid plot
Got a plan and now I gotta hatch it
Like a damn Apache with a tomahawk
I’ma walk inside a mosque on Ramadan
And say a prayer that every time Melania talks
She gets a mou—ahh, I’ma stop
But we better give Obama props
‘Cause what we got in office now’s a kamikaze
That’ll prolly cause a nuclear holocaust
And while the drama pops
And he waits for shit to quiet down, he’ll just gas his plane up and fly around ’til the bombin’ stops
Intensities heightened, tensions are risin’
Trump, when it comes to givin’ a shit, you’re stingy as I am
Except when it comes to havin’ the balls to go against me, you hide ’em
‘Cause you don’t got the fuckin’ nuts like an empty asylum
Racism’s the only thing he’s fantastic for
‘Cause that’s how he gets his fuckin’ rocks off and he’s orange
Yeah, sick tan
That’s why he wants us to disband
‘Cause he can not withstand
The fact we’re not afraid of Trump
Fuck walkin’ on egg shells, I came to stomp
That’s why he keeps screamin’, “Drain the swamp!”
‘Cause he’s in quicksand
It’s like we take a step forwards then backwards
But this is his form of distraction
Plus, he gets an enormous reaction
When he attacks the NFL so we focus on that in–
–stead of talkin’ Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada
All these horrible tragedies and he’s bored and would rather
Cause a Twitter storm with the Packers
Then says he wants to lower our taxes
Then who’s gonna pay for his extravagant trips
Back and forth with his fam to his golf resorts and his mansions?
Same shit that he tormented Hillary for and he slandered
Then does it more
From his endorsement of Bannon
Support for the Klansmen
Tiki torches in hand for the soldier that’s black
And comes home from Iraq
And is still told to go back to Africa
Fork and a dagger in this racist 94-year-old grandpa
Who keeps ignorin’ our past historical, deplorable factors
Now if you’re a black athlete, you’re a spoiled little brat for
Tryna use your platform or your stature
To try to give those a voice who don’t have one
He says, “You’re spittin’ in the face of vets who fought for us, you bastards!”
Unless you’re a POW who’s tortured and battered
‘Cause to him you’re zeros
‘Cause he don’t like his war heroes captured
That’s not disrespectin’ the military
Fuck that, this is for Colin, ball up a fist
And keep that shit balled like Donald the bitch
“He’s gonna get rid of all immigrants”
“He’s gonna build that thang up taller than this”
Well, if he does build it, I hope it’s rock solid with bricks
‘Cause like him in politics, I’m usin’ all of his tricks
‘Cause I’m throwin’ that piece of shit against the wall ’til it sticks
And any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his
I’m drawing in the sand a line, you’re either for or against
And if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split
On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this:
Fuck you
The rest of America stand up
We love our military, and we love our country
But we fucking hate Trump

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Liam Gallagher Cites Yoko Ono as Inspiration for Lyric on New Single

October 5th, 2017

Liam Gallagher on ‘The Chris Moyles Show’; Photo: Facebook/Radio X

Youngest heir to the King Rock Curmudgeon throne and former Oasis bro, Liam Gallagher took to The Chris Moyles Show via Radio X to talk his debut solo album, As You Were (October 6), and uncharacteristically was rather positive, kickstarting the show by emphasizing, “I’m over the moon to be doing what I was put here to do.”

After going through a track-by-track soundbite sound-off of sorts in which he compares a track to a spicy vindaloo (“Greedy Soul“), calls another an “absolute stomper” (“Wall of Glass“), he reveals a rather charming anecdote about an encounter with Yoko Ono almost two decades ago that inspired a lyric on “I’ve All I Need.”

“I can tell you an interesting fact,” Gallagher said. “There’s a line in there that says ‘I hibernate and sing/While gathering my wings’.”

“I was over in New York once, and I got a call saying, ‘Yoko wants to meet you,’ and I’d just called my kid Lennon,” he continued. “We go in there. In the kitchen she invites me in, makes me a cup of tea and she’s got this massive banner around the kitchen and I said, ‘What does that mean?’

“She goes, ‘Ah John asked the same question when we went to Japan to meet the parents.’ Anyway it says, While i’ve been hibernating I’ve been gathering my wings. And it was when he’d stopped making music. So I thought, ‘Write that down.'”

Liam caps the story with,”Anyway, so years go by and I’ve been trying to get that into a song and could never get it in. And then it happened on that.”

Beyond that, Liam falls into his normal Noel feud fire-stoking on the rest of the interview, comments on that ridiculous, now viral tea incident from the BBC Music’s Backstage Pass and eventually they debut “I’ve All I Need,” which is actually, as winsome and poetic as Liam suggests, shimmering with that rose-colored Brit Pop shade of reverb that made Oasis so special, punctuated with that Ono-inspired lyric, of course.

Watch the full Chris Moyles Show appearance and the song debut below.

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Amazon Drops Alexa Data on Top Lyric Requests Shouted at It

October 4th, 2017

A modified Tap an engineer equipped with a skull so Alexa could be more personable; Photo: YouTube

As Amazon prepares to take over the world, the co-opting tech giant has tossed the lyric world some breadcrumbs with a peek at the Top 50 phrases people are requesting on their home speaker assistants, a.k.a. Alexa via devices like the Echo.

Or rather, the most popular utterances following the command, “Alexa, play the song that goes…

As much as we’d like to derive some sort of socio-cultural narrative from this Big Data list, an overhead view doesn’t reveal much more than what you’d probably see aggregated from one of those digital jukeboxes at your local bar.

“I came in like a wrecking ball” (Miley Cyrus‘ “Wrecking Ball“), “I got this feeling inside my bones,” (Justin Timberlake‘s Trolls contribution, “Can’t Stop the Feeling“) all trail in the top five spots right behind the No. 1 requested phrase from that annoying Fitz and the Tantrums song about handclaps.

One could, perhaps, say that those three phrases right there would evoke legions of 16-25-year-old Americans as Amazon’s core demographic for the Alexa, but then there’s a classic boomer rock phrase in there at No. 2 with Steppenwolf‘s “head out on the highway,” from “Born to be Wild.”

Elsewhere you’ve got your obligatory Hamilton joint, a Beatles‘ “Yellow Submarine” nod, and then everything from Big Country Pop (Jason Aldean, Lukas Graham) to Big…Pop (Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Drake) and a handful of equally Big Rap tracks, i.e. Lil Uzi Vert‘s “Llif3,” with the morbid line “push me to the edge all my friends are dead” most requested.

If anything, this list reveals that a non-sequitor — “hello darkness my old friend,” from Disturbed‘s cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic, “The Sound of Silence” — can be just as memorable as a chorus made up of a single word, like “work,” from Fifth Harmony‘s “Work from Home” (No. 25).

Otherwise, the two greatest oddities to see on here are “that’s the sound of the police,” from KRS-One‘s anti-oppression boom bap 1993 gem “Sound of Da Police,” (No. 36) and “the greatest song in the world,” from Tenacious D‘s comedy rock cut, “Tribute,” dead last at No. 50.

Check out the full list that Amazon made in to a playlist, as well, here.

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RIP Tom Petty, One of Heartland Rock’s Finest

October 2nd, 2017

Tom Petty in the 70s; lost to a heart-attack on October 2, 2017: Photo: N/A

UPDATE (9:15 p.m.): Tom Petty has passed. Tony Dimitriades, Petty’s longtime manager, confirmed the death via The New York Times.

UPDATE (3:43 p.m.): The LAPD cannot confirm Petty’s death, TMZ is reportinghe’s still “clinging to life.” Both TMZ and CBS were reporting off information now retracted from the LAPD.

As America and the world mourn those lost in one of the largest mass shootings ever in Las Vegas last night, another tragic blow in the music community is here to kick us further while we’re down — TMZ is reporting Tom Petty, upon being found unconscious in full cardiac arrest, was clinging to life support, and has as of this evening, been confirmed deceased by Tony Dimitriades, Petty’s manager.

There was widespread confusion today after CBS and TMZ broke Petty’s life-support status based on loose reports by the LAPD, who quickly blasted two tweets clarifying the situation and how they “inadvertently provided” information on Petty’s condition, said they have no information on Petty’s passing and apologized for the “inconvenience in this reporting.”

Having just finished a massive 53-show, 24-state 40th anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers, wrapping up with a trio of sold-out performances at the Hollywood Bowl, of which he alluded to Rolling Stone in December of 2016, that it was the ‘last big one‘, Petty was found in his Malibu home on Sunday night and had been on life support since, reportedly was clinging to life support throughout the day, and passed this evening.

“We’re all on the backside of our sixties,” he said in that RS interview. “I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.”

Inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2002, Petty started his career back in the late 70s with the Heartbreakers crew, cutting 13 records with them over the years and three solo records stocked with all those hits that have become golden-heartland AOR sing-along staples since — “American Girl,” “Free Fallin‘,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” the list goes on and is not short.

Like Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen and those other Heartlander Americana character sketchers, Petty was something of an anomaly coming out of Florida, channeling a slice of Americana that reached far outside the swampland, and always, for the most part, didn’t dip their toes in politics.

Doobage, corn-fed hope, small-town doldrums, these were Petty’s bread-and-butter tensions — simple on the surface, but universal classic pop archs, woven deeply and timeless into many an American’s upbringing.

Despite unconfirmed reports of Petty’s death, the world reacted with memorial social posts.

Director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) hit it on the head on Twitter with a jukebox anecdote, “One night when I was 11, I played The Waiting by on a jukebox 100 times in a row. Loved the man’s voice & his art. RIP, Legend.”

Other people got a little vitriolic over the reporting mistake, like Petty’s daughter. “my dad is not dead yet but your fucking magazine is ⚡️⚡️⚡️your slime? has been pieces of tabloid dog shit. You put the worst artists on your covers do zero research,” she said in a section of her Instagram post. “How dare you report that my father has died just to get press because your articles and photos are so dated.”

Though the memorandum posts are coming in droves regardless, as Petty’s music influenced so many generations, with everyone from Ryan Adamsto Neko Case posting love and memories. So here’s to you, Sir Petty, you belong among the ‘wildflowers‘.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

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‘Wichita Lineman’: 5 Covers of the Infamous ‘Unfinished’ Song Glen Campbell Opened up the Loneliness Portal To

September 21st, 2017

Glen Campbell performs ‘Wichita Lineman’ on ‘The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour’; Photo: YouTube

The late country great Glen Campbell left us this past Tuesday (August 8) at 81-years-young due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

The son of sharecropper learned about his disease in 2011 and went public with it soon thereafter. Though instead of retreating into the spoils of his long, illustrious career, Campbell made a rage against the dying light move and hit the road with a 151-stop tour until he physically couldn’t keep going, at which point, he raged even further and dropped his final album, Adios, on his own swan song terms.

Campbell’s impression on country was indelible, that cut up the line between Americana and pop like no one before him. A golden-hour smooth talking good ol’ boy from Texas who never learned how to read music, he was like Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy who packed a suitcase and shot the moon for Hollywood instead of the New York sex trade, though rife with plenty of his own dark drug habits and failed relationships that lurked beneath the layer of his sparkling chart-topping ride from Beach Boys session hand to “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

He was no outlaw by any means, and was hosting everyone from The Monkees to Liberace on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour around the era Townes Van Zandt was dropping songs like “Waitin’ Around to Die,” though the man played guitar on Pet Sounds.

And though Campbell didn’t write the lyrics to the majority of his hits, pairing with Songwriters Hall of Famer Jimmy Webb for all the marquee numbers from “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” to “Galveston,” and “Wichita Lineman,” every one of those songs are laced with these noir narratives that Campbell made an art form out of portraying the bittersweet.

These were grand brass and string productions about lovelorn Vietnam soldiers headed into battle (“Galveston”) and crumbling relationships (“By the Time I Get to Phoenix”) that when dished with Campbell’s buttery croon have the same effect as the California sun hammering the hills until the depression cracks start to show.

The most notorious of that bunch was “Wichita Lineman,” though, about a down and out telephone wire man in Wichita, Kansas, perpetually “searchin’ in the sun for another overload,” thinking about the isolation of his life and loves while ironically helping hundreds of people connect to each other through wires.

Jimmy Webb conceived the song specifically for Campbell, telling American Songwriter a couple years ago that he didn’t think it was finished and needed a final verse, presumably so the song’s blue collar protagonist could pine over his love some more out there in prairie gothic land.

Of course as things like this go, the cosmos made the song perfect the way its dusty narrative and wind-weary wall of string melody echoed into the vast open space, with the chorus “and the Wichita lineman is still on the line” becoming a portmanteau of a perfect pop-country lyric. You can literally feel the wires whipping around — Campbell and the Wrecking Crew, who he recorded the song with, added strings and synth to mimic the sounds a lineman would hear up on a repair job.

It was this iceberg-thoery space between the two genres that allows for one of those rare portals in music where the loneliness arch is a universal expression. And everyone from R.E.M. to Keith Urban has taken a crack at its catharsis over the years.

Aside from Campbell, and the amazing 1968 promo video that has him riding around on a carousel you should watch right now, so go the five best versions people have channelled to date, complete with a lyric primer before the jump.

I am a lineman for the county
And I drive the main road
Searchin’ in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin’ in the wire,
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line

I know I need a small vacation
But it don’t look like rain
And if it snows that stretch down south won’t ever stand the strain
And I need you more than want you,
And I want you for all time
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line

And I need you more than want you,
And I want you for all time
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line


Urge Overkill


Like boiling Jimmy Webb’s melody over a spoon, and puts R.E.M.’s version to shame with one shoegaze of a stroke of Nash Kato’s distorted guitar thread. All of the alienation and humdrummery of working for the man at the cost of one’s soul and body is amplified as if our protagonist electrocutes himself, takes a fall, and is lying in the dirt all fried and stunned, almost even diluting the lovelorn element altogether, in the best way possible, as Kato turns Campbell’s buttery vocals into a fuzzy arena howl.



Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66


Under pressure from record label execs to reach a wider appeal outside of Brazil, jazz piano icon Sergio Mendes recruited two American women who could double-up in English and Portuguese, and, well, add a dynamic like this soft-hued 60s cross-over country-samba gem. Changing the pronouns in the opening verse to address the lineman, singers Lani Hall and Bibi Vogel turn the stakes up on the lover’s tension from the get-go, while the congas, shakers, brass and Mendes river-babbling piano unfurl to add some palm trees and vegetation to this otherwise barren original middle-of-Kansas landscape, making the whole thing feel like a tropical Charlie’s Angels episode.



Sammy Davis Jr.


As Dean Martin lays out in this clip from his tv show in the early 70s, Sammy doesn’t need an intro. But the funk breakbeat does. Story goes he financed the record it was housed on — 1970’s Something For Everyone himself to drop a project on Motown, and like Mendes, reach a wider audience. Something for everyone indeed. Half James Brown strut with “lord” and “I’m talking about the line” interjections, half quintessential Sammy croon, this majestic almost blaxploitation vibe rears its head, showing once again that the Jimmy Webb melody allows these lyrics to see themselves in everywhere from rural Kansas telephone wires to Manhattan.



Johnny Cash


A shoe-in from the Rick Rubin twilight Unearthed Cash sessions the Man in Black cut in a series in five records in the early 2000s shortly before his death, this one pays candlelit alt-country homage to Glen Campbell the most, Cash and Campbell paralleling each other’s careers a few times, each hosting each on their respective tv shows. Rubin made Cash’s guitar sound like an old redwood, subduing the rest of the arrangement’s string and piano parts to subtleties to let Cash’s equally wizard of the tumbleweeds vocals deliver the sermon, just as you would imagine the lineman working on those telephone wires well into his 80s, still pining for that love “for all time.” It’s perfect.



Sunday’s Child


And finally this one-off soul Easter Egg with this crazy Sammy Davis Jr. connection. An all female trio from Portland, Oregon kicked up enough stardust to gain the attention of Sammy, who helped land them a deal with Reprise Records, and cut this cover on their only LP in 1970. At first listen it sounds like a sexier version of Sammy’s James Brown freewheeling spin. But morphing through a handful of tempos and harmonies from runaway R&B to sauntering french-horn lulled ballad, the end result is something even more special, like a broadway version from the perspective of the lineman’s lover forced to watch her man from afar on a steam train rolling by his route.


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Beck Unveils LP10, ‘Colors’, Drops ‘Dear Life’ Lyric Video

August 24th, 2017

The album art for Beck’s latest album, ‘Colors’; Photo: Beck

Following a trio of singles in 2016, “Up All Night,” “Dreams” and “Wow,” the latter of which landed on our Top 15 Lyric Videos of the Year, Beck cleared the static on rumors of his next LP today with news of his 10th LPColors.

Unveiling the tracklist in tandem, all three of said singles will be on the record, followed by the fourth and latest taste, “Dear Life.”

Standing in a bit of contrast to all three of those pop-strut, diamond-eyed iterations of Scientology’s most famous indie-popster, “Dear Life” is more of an amalgamation of the spacious, alt-country tapestries of Sea Change companion piece, Morning Phase and the flashy, funky vibes of those aforementioned singles.

Complete with a honky-tonk piano fill and a wry, self-depracating kind of letter to the editor of whoever’s in charge of the meaning of life, the chorus pleads:

Dear life, I’m holding on
Dear life, I’m holding on
How long must I wait
Before the thrill is gone

So who is that in Scientology, L. Ronnie Smalls?

Scientology aside, it’s got most of the Beck charms — a nonsensical verse about singing swan songs to dogs, some funky talk-singing on the tail end, and some angelic vocal overdubs he’s been playing around with these days.

Meanwhile, like “Wow” before it, we get another titillating lyric video, as well. It’s not as cool as its kalaidescopic pop art sibling, but it’s got flaming cars, rooftop fights, and drop shadows on all its florescent lyric weaving.

Check it out below, followed by the complete tracklist to Colors.

1) Colors
2) 7th Heaven
3) I’m So Free
4) Dear Life
5) No Distraction
6) Dreams
7) Wow
8) Up All Night
9) Square One
10) Fix Me

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Randy Newman’s Dick is Bigger Than Trump’s, According to His Unreleased Song

July 19th, 2017

Randy Newman back in 1977 singing ‘Short People’; Photo: Randy Newman/YouTube

But you already knew that, right?

Though the Americana pillar of aloof piano numbers has teased the lyrics to his purported phallic ballad before for American Songwriter back before Donald the Terrible got elected, Randy Newman is having some fun again with his back-pocket number, tentatively titled “My Dick’s Bigger Than Your Dick.”

In another interview with Vulture, the 73-year-old is pushing the August 4 drop of his latest LP Dark Matter, with an amendment to the infamous verse he already had, adding this chorus to the package:

My dick’s bigger than your dick
It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true
My dick’s bigger than your dick
I can prove it too
There it is! There’s my dick
Isn’t that a wonderful sight?
Run to the village, to town, to the countryside
Tell the people what you’ve seen here tonight

What a dick!
What a dick!

This of course on the heels of his actually released song, “Putin,” that appears on Dark Matter, that throws plenty of shade at everyone’s favorite Russian Oligarch in hilarious vaudevillian ways, speaking in the character of Vladimir at one point, “These chicken farmers and file clerks gonna be the death of me.”

Combined with the hundreds of tracks we’ve seen so far benefitting everything this current administration is failing to support, from Our First Hundred Days to 30 Days, 30 1000 Songs, and every one-off anti-Trump number in between, i.e. Fiona Apple roasting the dude’s nuts over a classic Christmas fire number, the world will be blessed with a couple box-sets over by the time this circus ends.

It appears though the world will have to wait for Newman’s package contribution, as fair is fair, he furthur divulged in that Vultureinterview that the song is shelved as he “..didn’t want to add to the problem of how ugly the conversation we’re all having is.”

Until then, enjoy his send up of our true new leader:

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Contributing Writer

May 6th, 2017

A musician’s musician publication palatable for the masses, Chicago’s ALARM press started as a zine, grew to a nationally circulated magazine and book publisher, honing in on in-depth interviews of artists consistently pushing boundaries.

Brought on to tackle an interview with the infamous hater of The Beatles and 100-instrument jazz genius, Dr. Lloyd Miller, I was then poached to contribute to an ambitious book project dubbed, Chromatic, tracing the intersection of independent musicians exploring color in unorthodox ways.


Lloyd Miller & The Heliocentrics

Dr. Lloyd Miller, a musical legend known for his mastery of more than 100 instruments, is quick to hoist his flag in the rock-is-the-devil’s-music camp.


Neon-soaked visuals inject energy into the electro-pop aesthetic. 


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LCD Soundsystem Return with Familiar Old Rocker Dude Angst, and Politics

May 5th, 2017


The cover art for LCD Soundsystem’s two new singles; Photo: Columbia

The scar from all that break-up jibber-jabber finally starting to fade from 2011, as James Murphy waited like the mere life-span of a toddler to revive LCD Soundsystem, here we are with a fresh pair of singles from the dance-punk legends.

Announced on Facebook yesterday morning in glorious Murphy amphetamine-rambling fashion, the 47-year-old frontman essentially dispatched that the world is ready for two new jams — “Call the Police” and “American Dream” — that will both be on the band’s forthcoming, TBA fourth record, dubbing it a “double A side” release.

Murphy spewed forth a whole bunch of other entertaining semi-news about a forthcoming tour with quips like so, “what we want: full shows that aren’t so big that you feel like you need binoculars to see if pat is actually behind the drums or if it’s louis ck or something,” before ending the communication to “get some oatmeal and go to work.”

Check out that full post below.

In the meantime, here’s what we know about the two jams.

“American Dream” is your classic aging rocker self-deprecation laced around an acid trip that has a character addressing himself wailing “you just suck at self-preservation” swirled around cascading synths and a waltzy backbeat that could fit on your brand of cool, dark-wave 80s cinema.

Familiar territory there, and an extension of the beautifully depressing “Christmas Will Break Your Heart,” which is the last time we heard from Murphy and company in 2015.

“Call the Police,” however, rides Murphy’s more anthemic side, that hits the ground running with that “All I WantBowie cruise and swaps the self-deprecation for one of few times he’s dabbled in political statements — “And we don’t waste time with love/It’s just death from above,” he sneers early on, alluding to our current state of Drumpfian affairs later:

Well, there’s full-blown rebellion but you’re easy to confuse

By triggered kids and fakers and some questionable views

Oh, call the cops, call the preachers!

Before they let us and they lose

When oh, we all start arguing the history of the Jews

You got nothing left to lose

Give me the blues

The song then ends with a line alluding to an infamous philosophical quip from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Just call the police/The first in line/They’re gonna eat the rich.”

As much as we’d love to hear a thousand more “Losing My Edge”s or “Dance Yrself Clean”s, this is promising territory, people — Murphy’s getting outside of his own ego.

Listen to both tracks and read Murphy’s Facebook post below:

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Hamilton, Ontario Brands itself ‘Music City’, Erects Glass Lyric Towers

April 14th, 2017


Creator of the lyric tower project Dave Kuruc (left), Gore Park in Hamilton, Ontario (right); Photo: John Rennison via The Hamilton Spectator(left), imgur(right)

Nashville, Austin…Hamilton — so goes the ambitions of “Steeltown,” a.k.a. the “armpit of Ontario,” as its colloquially known up in Canada, to land itself in the chain of thought as the next great music tourism destination.

Boasting the conception of The Band, when they were known as The Hawks, pre-Dylan collabs, and punkabilly crew Teenage Head, hosting the Juno Awards a half a dozen times, and 30 clubs embracing live music at least twice a week, the town’s City Hall is doubling down on a plan incubated in the fall of 2016 to implement a “music strategy” to essentially make it a global destination for tuneage enthusiasts.

In everybody’s favor is already a mass exodus out of Toronto by new creatives to get in on the resurgent artist movement, as a tale as old as gentrification goes. Follow the cheap rent, people. Buzzfeed dabbled in sarcasm about it, even.

Though as part of the plan, the ‘music strategy’ think-heads at Hamilton City Hall locked down local artist and musician Dave Kuruc to erect his idea of two nine-meter (30 feet) glass towers, that will feature lyrics from a dozen musicians and bands that are/were Hamilton-based at one point.

So far some of the artists range from Robbie Robertson from the aforementioned pre-Dylan Hawks era, to a local folk icon Stan Rogers, the also aforementioned Teenage Head and another punkish crew, The Forgotten Rebels.

Dubbed “Music City Markers,” the two towers will stand in one of the city’s revered green space, Gore Park.

In his proposal to City Hall for the project— Kuruc’s ideas was chosen from 28 other submissions — Kuruc says each panel will be “like a letterpressed concert poster,” featuring lyrics he felt connected to the history and importance of Hamilton, adding in an interview with The Hamilton Spectator, “The Forgotten Rebels panel, for example, will be done like an ’80s punk poster.”

That Forgotten Rebels lyric?: “Loud coloured lights so bright that’s where I wanna bop,” from their 1982 record and title track, “This Ain’t Hollywood.

This is pretty rad for several reasons, but chiefly that lyrics usually take a backseat to major city art installations, projects usually reverting to statues or interactive elements like say fellow Canada town, Montreal, and their musical swings. Kuruc is collaborating with local print shops to basically create giant liner notes/concert posters on a city stage.

So in other words when’s the next flight to Hamilton Rock City?

Dig on every lyric that is to be included in the installation, a couple renderings from the official proposal, and Forgotten Rebel’s “This Ain’t Hollywood,” below:

  • “For the good times come and go” — Stan Rogers’ “The Field Behind the Plow”
  • “I feel you downtown, out on the street” — Junior Boys’ “More Than Real”
  • “Well you can see how I’ve changed” — Terra Lightfoot’s “No Hurry”
  • “Hundreds of stories before I showed up” — Arkells’ “Leather Jacket”
  • “Someday you’ll remember me and picture my face” — Teenage Head’s “Picture My Face”
  • “There’s some days that I want to stay another day” — Killjoys’ “Today I Hate Everyone”
  • “Loud coloured lights so bright that’s where I wanna bop” — Forgotten Rebels’ “This Ain’t Hollywood”
  • “I want to talk to you, that magic that you do” — CA Smith’s “Queen Victoria”
  • “I was in the water, you were dry” — Daniel Lanois’ “Still Learning How to Crawl”
  • “Concrete rises and hits you like a kiss” — Lori Yates’s “Angels with Bloody Knees”
  • “You’re the same but you’re so different. I didn’t recognize you” — Jeremy Fisher’s “High School”
  • “She’s gone downtown to hear some blues” — Robbie Robertson’s “When the Night Was Young”


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John Prine Readies First Ever Songbook, ‘Beyond Words’

April 12th, 2017


John Prine talks his new songbook up in the trailer for ‘Beyond Words’; Photo: John Prine/YouTube

70-years-young Americana legend John Prine is about to drop his first ever songbook, Beyond Words, on April 18 via his label Oh Boy Records, culling over 60 songs, rife with rare photographs and handwritten lyrics.

Still reeling from his 2016 PEN Song Lyric Award for Literary Excellence, duly honored for his contribution to the American canon with 19 albums and counting, ranging from the tale of a Vietnam vet who becomes addicted to heroine (“Sam Stone“) to the slow death of love in marriage (“Angel From Montgomery“), the book will offer a long-time coming peek into his songwriting process.

In a video trailer for the book Prine elaborates on the incredulity of his craft, “I’m never sure with my mind when I’m writing. I’m never sure if it’s facts or if I’m making it up. There’s no line between it,” adding, “I thought jeeze, this stuff is real. I thought I just made it up in my mind. I wasn’t sure. By golly, half of this stuff is real. Your honor. I just don’t know which half is real. It’s beyond words, really.”

So there’s your title-origin, guys.

Whether it’s real or not, Johnny, why does that matter with lines like this:

There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,
Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose
Little pitchers have big ears,
Don’t stop to count the years,
Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios

Watch the trailer with Prine talking about Beyond Words, rehash “Sam Stone” and check out a few pictures from the book below. There’s also a Spotify playlist Oh Boy Records put together that reveals a lot of 60 songs included in the book, should you want to scope that.



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MSNBC’s Brian Williams Quotes Leonard Cohen Lyric in Syrian Air Strike Coverage

April 10th, 2017


Brian Williams on MSNBC covering the Syrian Air Strike (left), the late Leonard Cohen in the video for “First We Take Manhattan (right); Photo: MSNBC (left)/Sony (right)

The day following Trump’s possible stock portfolio increase on the 59 Raytheon tomahawk cruise missiles the U.S. shot at a Syrian air base, in response to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad blasting citizens with chemical warfare, MSNBC’s Brian Williams quoted a Leonard Cohen song in his coverage of the event.

Talking to MSNBC terrorism analyst, Malcom Nance, over Pentagon-released footage of U.S. navy vessels lighting up a pitch-black sky with rocket fire, Williams said, “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons’,” adding, “they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield.”

The single lyric line comes from the late Cohen’s 1988 adventures in darkwave cheeseball 80s synth on the album, I’m Your Man, from the second verse of the notoriously cryptic song, “First We Take Manhattan:”

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

Now before you cry tone-deaf on the completely ethical Williams, though, here’s a quote from interview with Cohen around the release of the song in 1988 that Spin pointed out:

“I felt for sometime that the motivating energy, or the captivating energy, or the engrossing energy available to us today is the energy coming from the extremes. That’s why we have Malcolm X. And somehow it’s only these extremist positions that can compel our attention. And I find in my own mind that I have to resist these extremist positions when I find myself drifting into a mystical fascism in regards to myself. [laughs] So this song, “First We Take Manhattan,” what is it? Is he serious? And who is “we”? And what is this constituency that he’s addressing? Well, it’s that constituency that shares this sense of titillation with extremist positions.I’d rather do that with an appetite for extremism than blow up a bus full of schoolchildren.”

It should also be pointed out that Williams has made his odd love for Cohen known before. So this is certainly a curious breed of “mystical fascism” for both Cohen and Williams.

Then again, this Twitter reaction kind of makes a good point about Williams, too:

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James Blunt Goes Into Rage Mode About True Meaning to ‘You’re Beautiful’

March 28th, 2017


Blunt has a beautiful non-‘soft romantic fucking’ message for you; Photo: WMG/YouTube

Not that this changes any of us from wanting to punch each other in the face upon hearing the first couple notes from James Blunt‘s insufferable 2003 dying-wale single, “You’re Beautiful,” but the 43-year-old singer just went into rage mode in a Huffington Post interview about the ‘true’ meaning of the song.

Dude’s got some new residue of the boilerplate pop music out — The Afterlove; hence the Huff Post reason for prodding him — in which he’s still trying to cast off that shadow from being voted more annoying than traffic cops, but we digress. First the set-up:

“Everyone goes, ‘Ah, he’s so romantic. I want ‘You’re Beautiful’ as my wedding song.’ These people are fucked up,” said Blunt.

And then, ladies and gentlemen, the take-down:

“You get labeled with these things like, ‘Oh, James Blunt. Isn’t he just a soft romantic?’ Well, fuck that. No, I’m not. ‘You’re Beautiful’ is not this soft romantic fucking song. It’s about a guy who’s high as a fucking kite on drugs in the subway stalking someone else’s girlfriend when that guy is there in front of him, and he should be locked up or put in prison for being some kind of perv.”

So essentially, “You’re Beautiful” is Blunt’s “Creep.” Except still one of the worst songs ever recorded.

This really shouldn’t come as that much as a surprise, as Blunt is pretty transparent with the ‘high as a fucking kite’ line in the second verse of the song:

Yes, she caught my eye
As we walked on by
She could see from my face that I was,
Fuckin’ high
And I don’t think that I’ll see her again
But we shared a moment that will last till the end

But people are sometimes insufferable as James Blunt’s song that has sold over three million copies in the States alone to date. Especially those people that would play this at their wedding. What’s wrong with you, people? Get a soul.

All said, here’s to you, James Blunt, for showing some teeth. But dude, pick up a fucking guitar and a distortion pedal with that rage next time instead of creating this crap.

Meanwhile, there’s a woman in England being jailed for playing Ed Sheeran‘s “Shape of You” on repeat. So at least the music world corrects itself from devolution. If only we could say the same about our current administration.

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Johnny Rotten’s Massive New Songbook Started as a Lyric Clearance to Tour China

March 24th, 2017


Johnny ‘Rotten’ Lydon imitating his drawing of himself for the cover of his new songbook on Conan; Photo: Conan

Punk’s favorite rabble-rouser of Sex Pistols/Public Image Ltd.infamy,  Johnny “Rotten” Lydon is about to drop a massive new tome, Mr. Rotten’s Songbook, chock full of all 127 lyrics he’s ever written aside all sorts of rad drawings — his new passion — and annotations on March 31.

Limited to 1000 copies — and already sold out — all signed by Lydon, he’s been working the press circuit hard promoting it, making fun of his cartoonish selfon Conan to sounding off on socio-political projects past, i.e. his 1984 collab with Afrika Bambaataa, “World Destruction,” that birthed rap-rock.

Not that Lydon ever had difficulty running his mouth, especially in promotion of his work, but peppered in interviews, we get a pretty funny tidbit of what the 61-year-old spitfire told Billboard back in January of this year, that China, known for its dystopian clearance system applied to Westerners playing on their soil, required Lydon send diplomats every single lyric he’s ever written before getting approval to play a couple gigs with PiL in 2013.

Lydon actually revealed this to NME in 2013, quipping the vetting may be a ruse to get him in jail shortly before getting clearance to China, but the quote in Billboardis better. Upon getting asked of the inception for his book, Lydon said:

“China allowed us to do a couple gigs in their very strange and wonderful country. They have an incredible vetting system where they analyze every lyric you’ve ever written. It was the putting of that together, really, and then their approving it, that tweaked an interest in my own head. I felt, my god, have I become acceptable? What’s happened here?”

Quickly followed by his sneering dry wit upon getting asked if he read cartoons when he was younger:

“I’ve always done the artwork for PiL; had a lot to do with the Pistols as well. This is a field I’m not trained in, but I have an aptitude. There’s my gallery — it’s called an album cover.”

Anyway, Lydon played his gigs, China didn’t put him in jail, and 1000 people who have come to terms with Sex Pistols credit cards and Johnny Rotten British Butter Council Ads get a physical copy of his outspoken punk’s-not-dead legacy, all because of an authoritarian country trying to put Johnny under its thumb.

For everyone else, here’s a special message from Lydon that unveils the curtain behind his oddly wonderful cartoon and lyric brain, followed by the greatest PiL song ever:

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So Here’s Vladimir Putin Singing Radiohead’s ‘Creep’

March 22nd, 2017


The Putster being a ‘weirdo’; Photo: @Therealputinofficial1952

Brought to you by the era of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” the internet has blessed us with King Krule Kremlin taking on Radiohead‘s most sociopath lonerism ballad, “Creep.”

In a perfect world, this would not be parody, but, also in a perfect world, it is.

Putin parody Instagram account @therealputinofficial1952 did some spectacular mashing of the Russian dictatorPrime Minister’s very real and disturbing performance of 40’s summertime-swing, lovelorn crooner “Blueberry Hill” back in 2010 at a charity event in St Petersburg, Russia, with Thom Yorke‘s most favorite Radiohead song.

Plenty of faux-feedback and bizarro tape shmear warble later, keep wishing for that “perfect soul,” you creepster Putser.

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Dallas Record Shop Hosts ‘Hip-Hop Book Club’

March 16th, 2017


A digital flier for the inaugural ‘Hip-Hop Book Club'(left) aside crate-diggers at Josey Records in Dallas, Texas (right); Photo: Facebook/Josey Records

In the age of reddit AMA’s and internet everything, including yes, our hypocritical selves coming to you live from this screen machine, it still pains our hearts to see record stores devolve from the social pillars of the music community they once were.

A record shop based in Dallas, Texas is helping swing the pendulum back with a gathering called ‘Hip-Hop Book Club‘ (via  Central Track).

Certainly not the only record shop hosting social events right now across the nation, in-store performances are alive and well, and Jack White‘s always up to some crazy cool antic over at Third Man Records, but this event is definitely a special breed that appears more interested in critical thinking than album sales.

Incubated by a group of Dallas-area promoters (Attah “A.T.” Essien of Acquired Taste, Kenny Reepes and Gerrante Lee of Good Culture, and Sobechi “Sobe” Ibekwe of Social Ghost), the event’s Facebook page sums it up sweetly:

Hip-Hop Book Club is not a “book club” in a literal sense, but it is held and conducted in the same way. #HHBC is a monthly organized discussion and debate on major musical contributions to hip-hop culture by various artists. It is an event designed to educate and entertain those who are heavily influenced by the culture.

How many times have you and a friend, or a group of friends, discussed your favorite song on Biggie‘s “Ready To Die” album, or what Jay meant on “Dead Presidents” on the “Reasonable Doubt” album? This is your chance to discuss and debate your favorite albums, in one of the greatest music venues in Dallas, @JoseyRecords!

Speaking to Central Track, Attah “A.T.” Essien nodded to an all-inclusive discussion, but with special hopes of rising Dallas-area talent showing up to perhaps illustrate through the monthly convos, among key album essentials like album art, production and of course lyrics, “That hip-hop isn’t a snap-your-fingers-and-make-something-happen type of thing. It takes a lot of work and diligence.”

On the docket for the first discussion: Kendrick Lamar‘s good kid, m.A.A.d city.

Good on you, dudes, may your ‘book club’ be successful and everyone one who shows up starts a band…or at least has another discussion off the intranets. Also, since we can’t make it — question: second verse, last bar on “m.A.A.d city,” “Kendrick, A.K.A. ‘Compton’s human sacrifice’:” bloated Kanye-ego moment, or earned truth?

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Snoop takes on Clown Trump Nation in New Single, Video for BADBADNOTGOOD Remix

March 13th, 2017


Snoop fires a fake gun at ‘Ronald Klump’ in the new video for the ‘Nightfall Remix’ of BADBADNOTGOOD’s “Lavender;” Photo: PrankvsPrank/YouTube

As well-rounded as Snoop Dogg -zilla-adelicDoggy DoggD-O-double-GLion Dogg is, he’s usually one to favor pot over politics.

Though with his latest bars on a ‘Nightfall Remix’ for BADBADNOTGOOD‘s “Lavender,” and its corresponding video dropped over the weekend, the 45-year-old rapper wages war on the new administration.

Originally inspired by the shooting of Philando Castile, Snoop casts a narrative in which, upon nightfall, the world’s oppressors will get their comeuppance, rhyming over a lurking back-alley synth beat:

Fuck the police, from a black man’s point of view
Spray that shit, say that shit
We right in front of you, each and everyone of you
I’m not gon’ tell y’all niggas what we gonna do
But whatever y’all did, put two on it
And put a foot on your neck with a shoe on it
Resident evil, it’s all on camera and they still don’t believe you
Clownin’ around, don’t come your clown ass ’round here nigga

Paired with Snoop’s vitriol is a Jesse Wellens'(PrankvsPrank) and James DeFina-directed video starring Michael Rapaport as a white clown citizen in a white clowniverse of sorts reenacting the Philando Castile shooting, culminating with Snoop (note: not in clown makeup) shooting a strikingly Trump-looking clown called ‘Ronald Klump’ with one of those ‘bang’ clown guns.

Speaking to Billboard, Snoop cut through the figurative fat even further:

The ban that this motherfucker tried to put up; him winning the presidency; police being able to kill motherfuckers and get away with it; people being in jail for weed for 20, 30 years and motherfuckers that’s not black on the streets making money off of it — but if you got color or ethnicity connected to your name, you’ve been wrongfully accused or locked up for it, and then you watching people not of color position themselves to get millions and billions off of it. It’s a lot of clown shit going on that we could just sit and talk on the phone all day about, but it’s a few issues that we really wanted to lock into [for the video] like police, the president and just life in general.

So moral of the story: Snoop ventures into political commentary, but still cares very much about progressive pot culture.

Smoke weed (and call your local congressperson) everyday.

In other news revealed in that Billboardpiece, Snoop says the “Lavender” remix will be on his forthcoming followup to Coolaid, his fifteenth LP, tentatively dubbed Never Left, which he says will drop, “maybe in May.”

Update: The Donald has a tweet diversion response, because this is our United States of America now.

Watch the video for the “Lavender” remix below:

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Eddie Vedder Poached for Obama’s Farewell Address, Rehearses ‘Rise’ [Watch]

January 10th, 2017


Eddie Vedder at Wrigley Field in Chicago (left), Obama in speech mode (right); Photo: Gavin Paul (left), N/A (right)

It’s long no secret that no one of considerable class and sanity in the music and art world wants to have anything to do with Trump’s inauguration ceremony. Meanwhile, Obama had a farewell party for the ages last Friday, of which a who’s who of celebs raged until 4 a.m. at the White House. Everyone from Tom Hanks to Chance the Rapper were in tow, recapping in lengths how legendary the send-off was.

Of those in attendance last Friday, Pearl Jam‘s omnipresent voice of rock reason, Eddie Vedder, must have had an aside with the POTUS or something about the state of national affairs, as PJ has confirmed Vedder’s presence at tonight’s (January 10) Farewell Address in Chicago, teasing a TBD collaboration with the Chicago Children’s Choir, from the stage of McCormick Place at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Vedder, always outspoken with his politics, has a long history with Chicago — having spent a period of his youth in Evanston, IL — the Northside’s beloved Cubs, and using the city’s stages as a platform for change addressing everything from boycotting BP Amoco for polluting in Lake Michigan, to more subtle jabs like pairing a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” with Little Steven’s “I Am a Patriot,” as he did just this past August at Wrigley Field.

Without getting too elbow deep into Vedder’s political agenda — running around stages in Bush and Trump masks to PJ’s “Bushleaguer” should fill in the gaps for you — there’s a wellspring of material the dude could pull from tonight, but if this leaked rehearsal footage is any indication, we’ll be hearing a choir-backed rendition of Into the Wild gem, “Rise,” a song conceived for the soundtrack to a true story about a young American man who ditched all his worldly possessions to try and live off the land and redefine his meaning of ‘free’.

There are just two verses in the mandolin folk-siloloquoy “Rise,” and they can both be interpreted as subtle Vedder or Bush/Trump-mask in your face Vedder, depending on how you look at the next four years. Either way, if Vedder does unleash it, it’ll be a poetic bookend to an eight-year Obama run that started with a nod from The National‘s “Fake Empire:”

Such is the way of the world
You can never know
Just where to put all your faith
And how will it grow?
Gonna rise up
Burning black holes in dark memories
Gonna rise up
Turning mistakes into gold

Such is the passage of time
Too fast to fold
Suddenly swallowed by signs
Lo and behold
Gonna rise up
Find my direction magnetically
Gonna rise up
Throw down my ace in the hole

Update:  Vedder did indeed play “Rise,” as well as Neil Young‘s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” Patti Smith‘s “People Have the Power” and Labi Siffre‘s anti-apartheid anthem “(Something Inside) So Strong,” all caught on audience footage again. Watch Below:

“People Have the Power:”


“(Something Inside) So Strong:”


“Rockin’ in the Free World:”

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Baby It’s ‘Consensual’ Outside: Classic XMas Duet Gets Contentious Update

December 14th, 2016


Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski sing their rendition of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside on ‘The Current’; Photo: The Current

A Minnesota couple has taken it upon themselves to give a consensual updateto Frank Loesser‘s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and people are divided like it’s 2016.

You know, that classic call-and-response parlor room piano number where one party is trying to convince the other that it’s too cold outside to quit the evening just yet; Quick lyric logic example from the original:

My mother will start to worry/(Beautiful what’s your hurry)/My father will be pacing the floor/(Listen to the fireplace roar)

Since its debut in the 1949 film, Neptune’s Daughter [WATCH], of which notched Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song, everyone from Ray Charlesand Betty Carter [LISTEN] to Joseph Gordon-Levittand Lady Gaga [WATCH] has played around with covering the coy narrative, sometimes a male role playing the aggressor, while other times the female leading the entrapment.

Virtually all of those covers have not meddled with the lyrics, that tosses excuses ranging from a cab-less metropolis, snow too deep to tread, and of course a bitter cold front as deterrents to keep the night going.

Minneapolis songwriters Lydia Liza, 22, and Josiah Lemanski, 25, changed that, though, citing the song as ‘aggressive’ and ‘inappropriate’, and went to to quick work this holiday season creating a consensual narrative. In their interview with CNN, they elaborate.

“We started thinking of the open-ended questions that song has,” she said. “You never figure out if she gets to go home. You never figure out if there was something in her drink. It just leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.”

The new lyrics envision an evening much different than the mystery cocktail and Jack Frost fear-mongering of yore; Verse-for-verse sub from the above Loesser orginal:

My mother will start to worry (Call her so she knows that you’re coming)/Father will be pacing the floor (Better get your car a-humming)/So really I’d better scurry (No rush)/Should I use the front or back door? (Which one are you pulling towards more?)

The punchline of Liza and Lemanski’s update: “Baby I’m cool with that,” backing up the sentiment with a portion of net proceeds going toward the Sexual Violence Center and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

Without going too deep down the opinion rabbit hole on how divisive this has Christmas song fans getting, here’s a vitriolic, millennial bash via The Federalist:

First of all, our boy here is apparently offering her POMEGRANATE LACROIX to drink. No wonder girlfriend is trying to GTFO as quickly as she can — her man is offering her a can of carbonated water that tastes like fermented garbage. Second, “you reserve the right to say no” is robotic and unnatural. Anyone who’s ever been on a date once in his or her life knows that a woman wouldn’t have this long of a back-and-forth discussion about her departure if she really did want to leave.

And a pro-consent rebuttal from a writer at SELF:

What positive consent doesn’t look like: Refusing to take “no” as someone’s answer. That’s where the problem with “Baby It’s Cold Outside” lies. It’s not that the man is literally forcing himself on the woman, it’s that he’s dismissing her hesitance and even her “no.” She says she ought to say, “No, no,” and in the 1944 version, the man responds by saying, “Mind if I move in closer?” It’s like, step back man and accept that this woman is clearly on the fence about hooking up with you. Discuss that—don’t just dismiss it.

So what’s a baby to do when it’s cold outside and he/she wants to end the night?

Frank Loesser’s Original Lyrics:

I really can’t stay
(But, baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go ‘way
(But, baby, it’s cold outside)
This evening has been
(Been hoping that you’d drop in)
So very nice
(I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)

My mother will start to worry
(Beautiful what’s your hurry)
My father will be pacing the floor
(Listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry
(Beautiful, please don’t hurry)
Well, maybe just a half a drink more
(Put some records on while I pour)

The neighbors might think
(But, baby, it’s bad out there)
Say, what’s in this drink?
(No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how
(Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break the spell
(I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)

I ought to say no, no, no sir
(Mind if I move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried
(What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay
(Oh, baby, don’t hold out)
Ah but it’s cold outside
(Baby, it’s cold outside)

I simply must go
(But, baby, it’s cold outside)
The answer is no
(But, baby, it’s cold outside)
This welcome has been
(How lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm
(Look out that window at that storm)

My sister will be suspicious
(Gosh, your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door
(Waves upon a tropical shore)
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious
(Gosh, your lips are delicious)
Well, maybe just a cigarette more
(Never such a blizzard before)

I’ve got to get home
(But, baby, you’ll freeze out there)
Say, lend me your coat
(It’s up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand
(I’m thrilled when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see
(How can you do this thing to me?)

There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
(Think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied
(If you caught pneumonia and died)
I really can’t stay
(Can’t get over that hold out)
Ah, but it’s cold outside
(Ah, but it’s cold outside)

Baby it’s cold outside

Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski‘s update:

I really can’t stay (Baby I’m fine with that)

I’ve got to go away (Baby I’m cool with that)

This evening has been (Been hoping you get home safe)

So very nice (I’m glad you had a real good time)

My mother will start to worry (Call her so she knows that you’re coming)

Father will be pacing the floor (Better get your car a-humming)

So really I’d better scurry (No rush)

Should I use the front or back door? (Which one are you pulling towards more?)

The neighbors might think (That you’re a real nice girl)

What is this drink? (Pomegranate La Croix)

I wish I knew how (Maybe I can help you out)

To break this spell (I don’t know what you’re talking about)

I ought to say no, no, no (You reserve the right to say no)

At least I’m gonna say that I tried (You reserve the right to say no)

I really can’t stay (…Well you don’t have to)

Baby it’s cold outside

I’ve got to get home (Do you know how to get there from here?)

Say, where is my coat (I’ll go and grab it my dear)

You’ve really been grand (We’ll have to do this again)

Yes I agree (How ’bout the Cheesecake Factory?)

We’re bound to be talking tomorrow (Text me at your earliest convenience)

At least I have been getting that vibe (Unless I catch pneumonia and die)

I’ll be on my way (Thanks for the great night)

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Fiona Apple Roasts ‘Trump’s Nuts’ Over an Open Fire

December 9th, 2016


Photo: YouTube


Ever the endearing iconoclast, Fiona Apple dispatched from her Tumblr accountearlier this week with a festive roast of everybody’s favorite new President Elect.

Camera perched comically Blair Witchian from below, Apple rearranged the lyrics of the Christmas classic “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire)” to put Trump on blast for all the usual things — flagrant lies, exploitation of wealth divides, racism and con-man trickery — ending the a cappella fireside swoon with a ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone but Trump, Apple’s dog with a cameo bark or two for affect.

Apple also recorded an audio version only that Pitchfork has up right now, in which she turns up the heat a little further in the final verse, talk-singing, “Merry Christmas, Donald Trump, fuck you.”

Though tearing up a picture of the big orange cheeto a la Sinaed O’Connor‘s pope image rage on SNL, as she supplements in the Tumblr video instead, is just as clutch.

Merry Christmas, Fiona. Check out the full lyrics and video, below:

Trump’s nuts roasting on an open fire
As he keeps nipping at his foes
You’ll cry creepy uncle
Every time he arrives
For he keeps clawing at your clothes
Everybody knows some money and entitlement
Can help to make the season white
Mothers of color with their kids out of sight
Will find it hard to sleep at night

They know that Trump is on his way.
He’s got black boys in hoodies locked up on his sleigh
And every working man is going to cry
When they learn that Letch don’t care how you live or if you die

So I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to 92
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
Donald Trump, fuck you

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‘Neural Karaoke’ Joins AI Robo-Rock Race

November 30th, 2016


Photo: Vimeo

Another week, another artificial intelligence lyric machine nipping at we the creative humans of the world.

Though this one’s not nearly as cool as Giorgio Cam by the team over at Google Creative Lab — mainly because there is no Giorgio Morodor hat tip — the ‘Neural Karaoke’ program by the University of Toronto is still at least just as much entertaining in the lyric realm.

Swapping a male voice in the ‘Giorgio’ set-up for a female one, ‘Neural Karaoke’, like ‘Giorgio Cam’ works off of image-recognition algorithms to churn out automated jams, associated said images with a bank of words programmed into its robot head to virtually freestyle.

The outcome is this Christmas monstrosity: [LISTEN]

Lots to decorate the room/The Christmas Tree is filled with flowers/I swear it’s Christmas Eve/I hope that is what you say/The best Christmas present in the world is a blessing/I’ve always been there for the rest of our lives

The rabbit hole goes deep on this project, with tales of 100 hours of online music and 50 hours of song lyrics making up the program’s 3390-word vocabulary, which then get strung at a rate of one word per beat.

Raquel Urtasun, an associate professor in machine learning and computer vision at Toronto’s computer science lab, explains via The Guardian, “We are used to thinking about AI for robotics and things like that. The question now is what can AI do for us? You can imagine having an AI channel on Pandora or Spotify that generates music, or takes people’s pictures and sings about them.”

We’ll spare the robot rule jokes for the fact that there are no damn flowers on that tree, ‘Neural Karaoke’ machine, hit the vocab books and maybe we’ll see ya at the jukebox hero contest some day.

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Green Day Explain Anti-Trump AMA Performance on the ‘Late Late Show’

November 23rd, 2016


Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong sings at the American Music Awards; Photo: YouTube

ICYMI, Green Day wedged an opportunity into their performance of “Bang Bang” last week — an already glaringly political song, written from the perspective of a mass shooter — during the American Music Awards on Monday to chastise the President Elect, chanting about halfway through, “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA.”

We all know Billie Joe Armstrong and the band’s ascent from songs about masturbation to socio-political broadway rock operas, American Idiot a reaction to the Bush Administration, but here the band took that gumption a step further with a buck at national television. And apparently, if we are to trust TMZ in a post-Trump Elect state, ABC execs had no clue the chant was planned.

The band has been vocal about their objection to Trump, ranting and changing lyrics on tour, titling their latest record Revolution Radioand now adding to their interview opinion blasts, the trio took to The Late Late Show with James Corden to explain what we all, and any respectable punk fan should already know, that the chant comes from an old MDC (Millions of Dead Cops) standard, “Born to Die,” what a prospective title for a musical about the Trump administration might be called, a reemphasis on the chant not being rehearsed and, of course, their reasoning for the chant, Armstrong saying, “It was a good start to challenge [Trump] on all of his ignorant polices and racism.

Who’s taking bets on that new musical actually happening?

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That Ned Flanders Metal Band Drops Album, ‘White Wine Spritzer’ Video

November 11th, 2016


A screenshot from the official video for Okilly Dokilly’s ‘White Wine Spritzer’; Photo: YouTube

Back in a time when a Simpsons meme and a Trump joke didn’t need to cathartically coexist, the music community blessed us with Okilly Dokilly, the “world’s only Nedal band,” a quintet of metal nerds from Phoenix, Arizona who also have an appreciation for Matt Groening’s character, Ned Flanders.

At that time, they were a budding viral schtick with a few hard-hitting demos based on Simpsons jokes that did or did not have to do with Flanders, but were funny nonetheless, in the same way that Vegan Black Metal Chef captured our hearts: the tenants of metal bred into otherwise reserved, conservative expressions. “Howdily doodily” Flanders was primed for this plucking from day one of the show, and practically begged for it when “Hurricane Neddy” aired.

Today, though, we see Okilly Dokilly double-down and drop their debut album called none other than Howdily Doodily, complete with some of the best Flanders moments we were yearning for on the band’s demos — as the devil donut-deal maker in Treehouse of Horror IV,” (“Donut Hell“) the wrath of his vicious tongue after a blackberry schnapps in “Duffless,” (“More Animal Than Flan“) and of course, the infamous white wine spritzer bender from “Viva Ned Flanders,” (“White Wine Spritzer“).

Of course the band made a video for the latter, in which all of the Flanderisisisis turn on one of their own who doesn’t imbibe in a white wine spritzer, “Head Ned” screaming, “You only live once/Ah hell, give me a white wine spritzer.” If anything, it will distract you from the sobering fact that the Simpsons predicted our impending Trump presidency doom just for a little bit.

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Congrats America, Here’s Your President Thieving and Repurposing The Rolling Stones

November 9th, 2016


A screenshot from Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the 2016 RNC; Photo: YouTube

As Game of Thrones sage/author George R.R. Martin decreed on his blog in a post titled “President Pussygrabber,” “America has spoken.”

Whatever you chose to do or not do in that voting booth is your Free Land right, but just remember we now have collectively put a man in the most powerful position in the world who not only is the most under-qualified candidate ever, but also the most horrifyingly conniving there is, as well.

Drumpf, delivering his acceptance speech last night from within the belly of New York’s Hilton Midtown, for the numerous time, made like many Republicans before him and used a song that he didn’t get approval for, upon entering the stage, locked in step with the The Rolling Stones‘ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want;” [LISTEN].

This is the second time he used the song, actually. The first was back in July when he blasted it at the Republican National Convention. That time around, also like many Republicans before him, Drumpf received a cease statement from the Stones.

Without knowing Trump’s platform and intolerant mouth, on paper, it makes sense — the song was a sobering message to the idealism of the 60s upon coming to an end with America’s culture of wants and holding on rather to what it needs. Trump wants to “Make America Great Again” in response to the Obama administration’s idealistic last eight years, Jagger laying out three verses about love, drugs and politics, howling:

You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometime/You’ll find/You get what you need

The problem is Trump is a demagogue veiling himself in promises of needs for a people based on his self-serving wants. When things don’t go his way, he lies, cheats, steals and sues. Before the election even started — and he won — he claimed it was rigged. The man tried to prevent people from voting after 8 p.m. in Nevada. And then there’s all the 282 people and counting he’s accosted for not falling in line with his beliefs and ideals. And this beautiful dance with what government and its people should look forward to wanting/needing in his first 100 days.

Such is the culture of lyrics and wants and needs, though — freedom to interpret. Your move, America. Here’s ours:

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Bob Dylan Gets Nobel Lyric Crown

October 13th, 2016


A screenshot from Martin Scorcese’s ‘No Direction Home’; Photo YouTube

Bob Dylan finally got the nod the Nobel Prize committee has been sleeping on for years, awarding the 75-year-old lyric mastermind behind some of the most important songs in American history with the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The committee’s explanation: For having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

The first time a musician has ever been awarded the prize, the rock-poet laureate joins a 116-year alumni of minds such as Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, to name a few.

We’re unabashedly over-the-moon about the decision. All you have to do is look at the lyric sheet for “Like a Rolling Stone” and understand the defiance and progression the dude exudes by its lonesome all on paper. The vicious, scathing midwestern howl and harmonica fills are a bonus prize.

Not everyone is happy about the decision, though. The New York Times earmarked a hilariously jealous tweet from Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh:

“I’m a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.”

Harsh words from the man that wrote Trainspotting. 

To that we cue Dylan circa 1965 after going electric and being called Judas at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, he turning to his band to demand, “Play it fucking loud,” and putting “Like a Rolling Stone” on blast:

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
Threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?
People call say ‘beware doll, you’re bound to fall’
You thought they were all kidding you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hanging out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal
How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone

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Green Day Slam Trump in Jersey w/ ‘Holiday’ Lyric Change

October 3rd, 2016


Green Day live at the Starland Ballroom in New Jersey; Photo: YouTube

‘No racism. No racism. No racism in this fucking room,” Billie Joe Armstrong told a New Jersey crowd at a recent Green Day tour stop at the Starland Ballroom pushing October 7’s Revolution Radio.

Part of a tirade against Donald Trump, the American Idiot creator broke apart the marching bass fill on “Holiday” to lambast the Presidential candidate, alluding to myriad bigotries Trump has vomited all over the place this year, asking the crowd if they’ve been watching the news lately, before declaring the room racism free, backing it up with a white supremacy attack, as well.

“There is no white supremacy in this fucking room right now. We are coming together tonight. Tonight here in New Jersey, to call bullshit on all the politicians tonight,” Armstrong barked.

Not stopping there, Armstrong tweaked the last verse of “Holiday,” an already fierce statement from the Bush-era about the dangers of citizen political passivity, swapping out a California representative for a Jersey one and the ‘Eiffel tower’ line for Trump’s notorious phallic buildings that dot American cities:

‘The representative from New Jersey has the floor’/Sieg Heil to the president Gasman/Bombs away is your punishment/Pulverize the Trump towers/Who criticize your government/Bang bang goes the broken glass and/Kill all the fags that don’t agree/Trials by fire, setting fire/Is not a way that’s meant for me/Just cause, just cause, because we’re outlaws yeah!

For as much self-serving crap as Armstrong and the rest of the band put out with the ¡Uno!¡Dos!¡Tre! trilogy, and Armstrong’s battle with his own demons, their watering down of the punk ethos, American Idiot still stands as an active, creative statement.

Goon on you, Green Day. No pandering, either, in this room tonight.

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Ride the Science: Ex-Physicist Breaks Down Most ‘Metal’ Words

August 3rd, 2016

James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett in 1984; Photo: Pete Cronin/Redferns

James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett in 1984; Photo: Pete Cronin/Redferns

An ex-physicist who pens a blog called ‘Degenerate State‘ with the sole byline of ‘Lain’, took it upon himself to define the most ‘metal’ words in existence.

Based on a study Lain did back in March called “Heavy Metal and Natural Language Processing – Part 1” — his work is just gaining traction now — the ‘metal’ theme may bit more arbitrary than headlines are suggesting, as the core of Lain’s study is based on a fascination with “natural language,” Lain writing, “Natural language is made up of sequences of discrete characters arranged into hierarchical groupings: words, sentences and documents, each with both syntactic structure and semantic meaning.”

Lain goes on to explain in the introduction of the study that, in an effort to understand ‘natural language’, he decided to try out a few techniques on a dataset [he] scraped from the internet: a set of heavy metal lyrics (and associated genres),” making sure to denote that ‘metal’ is used in a subjective way.

Metal nerd or not, things get super classic word nerdy pretty quick from there, Lain laying everything out as an an ex-phycisist would, in fine detail, noting all the different ways ‘natural language’ — ‘latent semantic analysis‘, anyone? — is defined and how he scraped all lyrics form into a “dataset containing lyrics to 222,623 songs from 7,364 bands spread over 22,314 albums.”

To understand the thoroughness of Lain, the dude created an equation to scour bands’ lyrics, from the iconic (Motorhead, Pig Destroyer) to the obscure (Inquisicion, Fleshwrought) to define the arbitrary measure of “Metalness,” guys:

You can go deep down the rabbit hole on Lain’s post, but long story short, so go some of the most metal words, as defined by Lain: ‘Burn’, ‘cries’, ‘veins’, ‘eternity’ and ‘breathe’. Whereas the least metal words revealed themselves as multi-syllable entries like ‘particularly’, ‘indicated’ and ‘secretary’.

May you ride the science lightening ‘burn’ into ‘eternity’, dear Lain, master of metal lyrics.

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Pixies Extend Olive Branch to Kim Deal with ‘All I Think About Now’

July 26th, 2016


An old press shot of a young Black Francis and crew; Photo: N/A

Pixies frontman Black Francis‘ feud with co-founding member of the band, bassist Kim Deal, is one of rock’s most antagonistic, the iconic loud-soft alt-punk band mythically calling it quits via fax, so the story may or may not go, over a mounting jealousy Francis had for Deal becoming the star of the band.

Deal went on to form the Breeders and Francis had no problem with his solo career, and eventually, as 99% of breakups go, the Pixies machine was revived in 2003 with Deal back in tow, but again, like 99% of breakups go, Deal left again to pursue other projects.

Most of what has happened since has been he said-she said jibber-jabber, with fans left to support a couple ringers for Deal, first Kim Shattuck (The Muffs), and then Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Queens of the Stone Age), as the now official bassist.

With the Pixies’ drop, Head Carrieron the horizon (September 30), though, Francis is apparently putting olive branch messages down on wax, with the forthcoming track “All I Think About Now” reminiscing on happier times, and basically apologizing to Deal with a ‘thank you’:

I try to think about tomorrow, But I always think about the past, About the things that didn’t last, If I could go to the beginning, Then for sure I would be another way, Make it better for today, If I could go to the beginning, I would be another way, Make it better for today, Remember when we were happy? If I’m late can I thank you now? I’m gonna try anyhow, I remember we were happy, That’s all I think about now, That’s all I think about now, I remember we were happy, That’s all I think about now, If you have any doubt, I want to thank you anyhow

Francis alluded to the track early this month in an interview with BBC 6 Music, detailing how new bassist Lenchantin made him pen it, and the lyrics hit the web (via Pitchfork) earlier this week. The single has yet to debut, but judging from “Um Chagga Lagga,” and some of the songs they’ve been teasing on the road, perhaps this apology will show some teeth.

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‘O Canada’ May Go Gender-Neutral

June 15th, 2016

PHOTO: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Members of parliament congratulate Ottawa-Vanier MP Mauril Belanger; Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

A veteran member of the Canadian parliament recently diagnosed with ALS, Mauril Bélanger, is making it a chief crusade of his to get Canada’s National Anthem, “O Canada,” to read more gender-neutral. Titled, “An Act to Amend the National Anthem Act,” the bill seeks to change just two words, swapping out “In all thy sons command” for, “In all of us command.” The full lyrics for context:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee

Some conservatives in parliament are making it difficult for the bill to move forward by denying unanimous consent, and citing the fear of God and his ommitance as next, as religion nuts do, but for the most part Canadian sentiment and government seem to be aligned with Bélanger’s reasoning that such a change would signify “a powerful symbol for current and future generations,” regarding gender-equality.

Belanger further explained in an email Q&A with Maclean’s, “With my bill, I want to pay tribute to all the women who have worked and fought to build and shape the Canada we know today. My bill proposes a simple change in the English version of our anthem. It proposes that “True patriot love in all thy sons command” become “True patriot love in all of us command.” Changing only two words, “thy sons” to “of us,” gives Canada an inclusive anthem that respects what we were, and what we have become, as a country.”

National anthems worldwide are no stranger to these such amendments and quibbles, most of them created in bygone eras that equated patriotism with both religion and military, of which men mostly participated. Some say our very own started as a drinking song.

In that respect, good on you, Canada, and Bélanger, you are miles ahead of us. But you’ll still never be as art-rock as us:

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Jokester Tom Petty Wrote ‘Free Fallin’ to Get Co-Writer Jeff Lynne to Laugh

June 9th, 2016


A screenshot from the official video for Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’; YouTube

In yet another great case for a sense of humor in your craft, Tom Petty, dad rock funny man, recently shared with Billboard that he conceived the first verse of his highest-charting hit ever, “Free Fallin’” just to get a chuckle out of Full Moon Fever co-producer and writer Jeff Lynne.

The 65-year-old icon reflected on the 1989 studio sessions, telling Billboard:

Jeff Lyne and I were sitting around with the idea of writing a song and I was playing the keyboard and I just happened to hit on that main riff, the intro of the song, and I think Jeff said something like, ‘That’s a really good riff but there’s one chord too many,’ so I think I cut it back a chord and then, really just to amuse Jeff, honestly, I just sang that first verse. Then he starts laughing. Honestly, I thought I was just amusing Jeff but then I got to the chorus of the song and he leaned over to me and said the word, ‘freefalling.’ And I went to sing that and he said, ‘No, take your voice up and see how that feels.’ So I took my voice up an octave or two, but I couldn’t get the whole word in. So I sang ‘freeee,’ then ‘free falling.’ And we both knew at that moment that I’d hit on something pretty good.

Petty goes on to describe the conception of the sights and sounds of Reseda — the ‘vampires’, the ‘bad boys’, the ‘good girls’, etc. — were all inspired by his drive to and from those Full Moon Fever sessions between the valley and Beverly Hills on that lovely singable hook, heading “West down Ventura Boulevard.”

Somethings from nothings, folks, all day everyday. Meanwhile, Petty also shared that while “Free Fallin’” was getting mixed — in a single day! — they just decided (as you do) to create “I Won’t Back Down.”

So the next time you buzz through your hometown’s main drag, remember, Tom Petty could write a number one hit tune about it in a day.

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How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nothing

May 22nd, 2016


There is a scene in The Passenger, an old Michelangelo Antonioni film from the 70s, of this courtyard in a hotel, a seven-minute continuous pan of vast, empty space that starts behind a gate and ends behind a window.

One take, no edits.

It’s always been the last swell of attention span I can recall where I was able to fully, completely absorb myself in a moment and just observe reality, as it is.

Of course this was Antonioni’s depiction of reality, but for the purpose of the narrative of the film, a meditation on alienation and man’s eternal search for truth in an increasingly modernizing world, it’s fucking eery how this is the last true connection I have to observing what’s in front of me, without any agenda or craving to do something else. Not because of the film’s narrative. To be thrilled. To hum in some existential parallel. But just to observe this moving still life we call the world.

Immediately following I signed up for FaceNovel at 25, of which I wear with a developmental badge of honor — your kids are going to be batshit self-centered and insecure with Facebook accounts in grammar school — but look back upon as an absolute cyclical crack Scientology-like addiction to craving, the ego, and approval. Attain likes. Attain friends. Give face and be happy.

I use it, you use it, it feels good. I will continue to use it because it feels good. Despite its experimental status on what it does to our brains long term, we are but social creatures.

This is not a young old man condemnation of FaceNovel, though. It’s evolving. The machine knows your face now.

But this addiction to the validation of self, along with a dwindling recall of memory, a near complete disconnection with the lightness of being we’re all born with and becoming a slave to the reactions of my brain brought me to another one of those great breaking points in life where the Etcha Sketch must be shook.

Some travel. Some buy go like hell machines that whip wind through their hair, or lack-thereof, some cling to some ghost Jesus footprint on the beach next to theirs or some deity, some gobble a bunch of mushrooms and walk into the wild. Some just complain about it to the ones they love until said loved ones finally decide to tell them how insufferable they are. Some, myself very much forever included, find meditation in movement, listening to your heart beat at the pace you tell it to, climbing some rock, riding some wave, careening through fresh groomed snow. Some do that tired old bum-chic bottom of a whiskey bottle crap.

At this point in my young old man life, though, I opted for travel and a 10-day silent meditation in the foothills of India’s Himalayan mountains.

The style is called Vipassana. And I ain’t going to sell you on it. But essentially you sit on a butt pad in a meditation hall and shut the fuck up for 10 days, reduce your body to its elemental sensations, and most importantly, connect back to pure, simple, observation.

There’s much more to it, and I’ll tell you all about it over a beer or tea or walk sometime. Like how on Day Three I had to look down at my flower-patterned butt pad to see if I was still sitting on my flower-patterned butt pad because my legs were completely numb. Or the neon gold fish I saw float across my left eye myriad times. Or the day I lost entirely to a fantasy about Kung-fu black-belting the handful of meditators with runny noses and bubble guts. Or 10 days of monkeys. All of the monkeys all of the time.

Or my non-God — Vipassana is supposedly an unadulterated, non-denomination style the Buddha, yes that Buddha, enlightened himself with thousands of years ago — the gleaming head German ‘assistant’ with the ascot and the parachute pants on Day Six who chased me down to the only peaceful patch of grass and sun on the compound in Dharamkot I could find to escape and perhaps do same damn yoga to balance out the hours of hellish sitting — you’re not allowed to exercise or leave the grounds of the center you choose — to first namaste me in gesture — you’re also not allowed to touch or shout at anyone — and then proceed to inquire:

“Are you okay?”

(Birds chirping) 

“Yes, I am a quite fine.” 

“Why not seize the day then, yes? Come back and meditate some more?” 

As I felt the tease of the sun gleam off of his bald head and onto my face, willingly relinquishing my freedom to be a human under it, all I could think about was some subtext I perhaps missed on the painted gate that led into the grounds: 

Vipassana Dhamma Sikhara 

(Meditation Will Set you Free)

I will repeat — the method is hell.

But once you see that the former Burmese business man (S.N. Goenka) who brought back the ancient Buddha method back to India, upon clockwork videotape discussions at the end of the day express a sense of humor about it all, remind you that the entire room and board is free — the myriad centers around the world are funded by donations by past students who wish to contribute — and pain is necessary for your own observation of your self’s most hellish parts, eradicating said hellish parts with your own soul, and not with the help of not a damn other person, complete self-reliance of your own satisfaction, on your own path (your ‘dhamma’), which in turn allows you to wholly express love for and with your fellow man, it is easy to see that the method is merely a tool. Sharpen it and use it however you want.

There’s a lot of bullshit in Goenka’s reinterpretation of the teachings, too. Buddha was supposedly enlightened under a tree. Why do we have to sit in a dank hall? And sitting like a perfect cross-legged little Buddha statue? C’mon now, there are other ways to focus without attempting to destroy the natural curve of your back under 10 hours of alignment battle a day.

So goes the cost of shaking the Etcha Sketch, though.

In the end, I had my shocks of awakenings. I saw my visions. I stood for hours amongst trees and reflected on days, weeks, months, I wasted on worrying, or lusting, self-deprecating, when I could have put every single issue on fade, like they’re intended to do, smoke rings on a dying fire. Merely observing. Sweetly observing.

I thought of my father taking his own life. I thought of my brother almost getting his life taken. And I brought my self back to the narrative we are all beautifully crafting for ourselves, and for each other and how impermanence is absolutely chaotic and still-life everything and nothing all of the time. A baby monkey staring at you on top of a slab of concrete. Or a nerve sending signal from brain to make like a samurai warrior stabbing you in the spine.

Deal with it. And then come back to observe everything all of the time with me.

And I now walk out of the silent and back into the sun, onward, through ??.

Much metta

– G

TLDR: Pay attention. Try meditating. Don’t be a slave to your brain. Watch monkeys. Be happy.

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Coke Launches Another Lyric Can Campaign

March 31st, 2016


Promo shot from Coca-Cola’s latest lyric can collaboration; Photo: Courtesy of Coca-Cola

No stranger to the co-option of hip-hop and now people’s names, the world beverage giant is launching another summer campaign to blast Coke cans with lyrics from a bevy of popular song from classic “Lean on MeBill Withers-isms to “All I Do is WinDJ Khaled squawk.

An actual statement from Joe Belliotti, Coke’s global head of music (via Billboard):

“This was not about finding the most popular songs of today. This was about finding lyrics that can help you connect with someone. Because at the end of the day music and the lyrics in songs help you express what you sometimes aren’t able to out into words yourself.”

Without getting too biased here, make of that what you will. Should you not be able to choose the appropriate lyric that best represents you, Coke is making it possible with a partnership with Shazam to explore more options for experiencing the power of soda pop and music together, printing links on bottles and cans to a back-end app that enables “consumers to record themselves, lip-sync style, and create cool add-ons and filters and share on social media,” said Belliotti to Billboard.

All you do is win-win, people.

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Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’ Lyrics Head to Auction

March 16th, 2016


An old press shot circa 1972; Photo: N/A

Here come the posthumous Bowie auctions.

This one is especially capitalistic — a handwritten copy of 1972 Aladdin Sane gem “The Jean Genie,” bankrolled off previous investments at two separate sales, once in 2010 for $14k via Christie’s, and then in 2013 for $27k via Bonhams.

Billed as the late Thin White Duke’s “only set of complete handwritten lyrics to have come to auction,” it’s new auction house, Paddle8, expects the 18 lines to go for $50-$70k.

The best part, is that the lyrics at some point in their life were gifted to Neal Peters, the once President of the Original David Bowie Fan Club, by Bowie himself, of which Peters honorably sold at the Bonhams auction for charity. And because capitalism is so great, someone can make their money back and void all the good karma Bowie, and his number one fan, attempted to bring into the world.

For those of you, however, who encourage the market trading of one of Bowie’s finest psych-glam Bo Diddley-beat heel-stompers, Paddle8 actually wrote an accurate blurb about its Iggy Pop origins:

“Written to entertain model and Warhol associate Cyrinda Foxe in her New York apartment during his first US tour, the lyrics represented ‘a smorgasbord of imagined Americana.’ The song’s debauched protagonist was based on friend and contemporary Iggy Pop, or in Bowie’s words, ‘an Iggy-type persona.'”

For the rest of us who still think we can be heroes just for one day, let us all enjoy the metaphor of someone paying thousands of dollars for lyrics to a song about the invaluable glory of Iggy’s punk performance methods:


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Bands Rally Around EoDM’s Charity Cover Call for Victims of Paris Attacks

December 17th, 2015

Photo: Manu Wino

Eagles of Death Metal performing in the Bataclan moments before the Paris Attacks on November 13; Photo: Manu Wino

Still processing the systematic “dart board” terrorism slaughter of the Paris Attacks that claimed 130 lives, the majority of which took place at the Bataclan concert hall, the Eagles of Death Metal gave their first interview to Vice since their performance on November 13, calling upon the music community to cover the EoDM Zipper Down track, “I Love You All the Time;” [LISTEN].

Equal parts moment of solidarity and fundraising effort for victims of the attacks, frontman Josh Homme wrote an open letter to bands to “Play It Forward,” donating publishing income from the song to the Sweet Stuff Foundation, Homme writing, “Whether you’re Soul or R&B; Hip Hop or Hippy; Garage, Goth, Country, Punk or Pop; Death Metal or DJ; It matters not. Whether your version is faithful to ours, instrumental, uses only lyrics or fragments thereof or is completely reimagined in every way, it matters not. Your individual musical differences become our collective strength.”

Since Homme put the call out, three bands have taken to the mic, first My Morning Jacket’s barn burner  at the Beacon Theatre in NYC, followed by The Dean Ween Group’s handclap and scatting studio cut, and most recently Savages’ rousing rendition at ground zero in a Paris club last night, all of whom have stuck pretty close to the source material, lyric-wise.

The song itself is about the beautiful, fleeting, yet intoxicating, power of love, that coincidentally happens to build a back-and-forth around a couple verses in French, its protagonist wailing, “I would beg if I thought it would make you stay,” before crooning:


It will be curious to see how other artists interpret it going forward, but out of the EoDM context, it’s pliability as a source of love and catharsis lends itself as a perfect vessel for all fighting the fear that terrorists so desperately crave, a rallying cry for the victims of the attacks, and the power of music the great communicator itself, which hopefully will never be threatened like this again.

Read Josh Homme’s open letter and listen to all the covers below:

Hello talented friend, The senseless and violent terrorist attacks of Nov. 13, 2015 in Paris have left us all unsettled and we dare not give another second of precious time to those who have tried to steal our freedoms and take away our power.

Instead, we are writing to ask for your help to Play It Forward.

We are calling upon our friends to donate their time, talent and good will in a show of solidarity to help the victims of these atrocious acts in Paris and those affected by terrorism worldwide.

We are asking for you to cover our song “I Love You All The Time.” For every cover sold, we pledge to donate 100% of the publishing income to The Sweet Stuff Foundation. We ask that you also donate the money generated from sales of the song to the charity.

In the same spirit, we would encourage you to offer one of your songs up to be covered by another artist, and follow suit – donate the publishing monies to charity – The Play it Forward Initiative.

Whether you’re Soul or R&B; Hip Hop or Hippy; Garage, Goth, Country, Punk or Pop; Death Metal or DJ; It matters not. Whether your version is faithful to ours, instrumental, uses only lyrics or fragments thereof or is completely reimagined in every way, it matters not. Your individual musical differences become our collective strength. Simultaneously, we will call upon iTunes, Tidal, Amazon, Spotify & all others who will sell these covers, to join us and donate their portions to a charity as a symbol of unity. So many wonderfully talented artists have offered their love & support or have reached out asking, “How can we help?” Our answer is simple; Unite with us. All of us. The musicians, the bands, the music companies & the fans… because we are music. We are the anthems of great nations. We are the songs of our forefathers. We are the hymns of God. The songs of the broken hearted. The unchained melodies. The songs of puppy love & of love that cannot be broken. We are the music of hope & possibility. We are the call to arms. We are the chorus of victory. We are songs in the key of life.

We are the Champions… of the World.

In the event our song doesn’t float your boat, we encourage you to help unite our business by any means possible. If you’re drawing a blank, donate something of yours or the proceeds from one of your songs, as Duran Duran has so graciously done. But do join us help & heal through music. They attacked us all, please hear the call.

Thank you for your time & love to you all,

-Eagles of Death Metal

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Neil Young Reminds World in Which Rock is Free

June 17th, 2015

A spoof campaign poster for Trump's almost 2012 run; Photo: n/a

Yesterday, if you somehow missed Donald “Blow Hard” Trump’s predictably dumbfounding presidential bid announcement, amidst his promises of ISIS iron-fisting and Great Border Wall of Mexico erections, he did what every idiot campaigning republican loves to do, and used an unauthorized song to emphasize his propaganda.

Descending the elevator of one of his many great dicks in the sky, Trump took the podium in his NYC Tower to Neil Young‘s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Not since Ronald Reagan’s use of the BOSS‘ completely anti-establishment/anti-war “Born in the U.S.A.” has an American gotten it so wrong in matching sentiment to agenda — “Rockin’ in the Free World” a seething attack on the Big Brother powers that control ‘free’ and what it means to be a proud democratic American.

Because imperialistic war-mongering and border-patrol are gateways to freedom. And as we all know Trump’s tears for the dumpster drug babies who will never get to fall in love, never get to feel cool.

We could go on, but Uncle Neil has responded quick and strong, first with a declaration of an uncleared use of the song, and then with a Facebook diatribe on the meaning of free, how his latest album The Monsanto Years brings all of this ill-conceived corporate agenda full circle, and ending the 460-word attack with the assertion, “I make my music for people not for candidates,” followed with “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World,” as a salutation. 

Trump’s camp did fire-back claiming they did clear a legit sample of the song, but they did not double-check the political specifics of their corporate legal jibber, as Rolling Stone dutifully points out, and didn’t contact Young and his label directly and correctly.

Meanwhile, in other Young news, many of the corporations Young has sent up in The Monsanto Years has spoken up to Billboard in hilarious balking fashion, most notoriously Monsanto claiming Young’s lyrics are based on “myths.”

Such is how a dinosaur act roareth. Keep on keepin’ on the rockin’ in the free world, Neil.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.56.47 PM

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Patient #1132: ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker’; August 16, 1977

May 15th, 2015

Diary log taken from ‘Sheena, Queen of the Jungle’ after outburst with Dr. S. Barrett on November 30, 1977.

Six Moons: Have seen six suns, six moons since coming to see man in white Barrett. Sheena still not know whether to be Sheena or punk rocker. Sheena just want help. But Barrett put Sheena in silent room. Take Sheena’s leopard underwear. Take Sheena’s leather jacket. Take Sheena everything. Sheena not understand.

Ten Moons: Miss the river. Miss the jungle. Miss Chim. Miss swinging with Chim. Miss the trees and the wind. Man in white Barrett says that I still have punk rocker left in me. Says cannot leave until I one or other. Sheena Queen of Jungle. Sheena punk rocker. But salty white rocks make impossible to think. Make me feel like lion hit in head with club. Sheena see too much. How can Sheena unsee CBGB? How can Sheena unsee spiky hair and Ramones and pogo hop and energy of 1000 gazelle in concrete jungle room? Sheena want to be punk rocker too. 

Twelve Moons: Aheeeeheewaaaa-ay-oh-let’s-go!

Fifteen Moons: Man in white Barrett not make sense. He say, “loin cloths are for porn stars.” Then shake hip like Zambouli Tribe. Say even when I decide which Sheena to be he will not give me my leopard loin back. Maybe Sheena will take Barrett’s leather man pants. Punk rock Sheena would do it. When punk rock Sheena become punk rock Sheena? If Sheena can remember how got here, Sheena be okay. Sheena remember waking in CBGB. Remember chain people yell. Could Sheena Queen of Jungle not be? Sheena always punk rocker? Ramones say Sheena punk rocker. But Chim would say Sheena is Queen. No more salty white rocks! Must not swallow the salty white rocks. 

Eighteen Moons: Man in white Barrett now tell Sheena truth. Sheena really New York American girl. That Sheena needed to figure out, but could not. Man in white Barrett impatient. “New white light/white heat truth approach,” he say. Show me picture of “surfboard.” Show me picture of “disco.” Show picture of me with other New York American girl using surfboard. Smash with hammer! Say I couldn’t take it. Say I found punk rock Sheena instead. Say dee-loose-sun-all. Say sizzlefriendia. Say dee-loose-sun-all. Say became Sheena Queen of the Jungle at some point between American New York girl and punk rock. Say my name not Sheena. Say it Lucy. Looo-seee. Say Ramones ruined me. Say punk dead, shake hips like Zambouli Tribe again on tree stump in office. Sheena smash Barrett next time. 

Twenty-One Moons: Sheena met someone in courtyard game with ball today. Psycho Killer. Say punk not dead. Say punk alive! Say Sheena most punk rock girl he ever meet. Say I need to get out of here. Say he has plan. Say he knows concrete jungle room CBGB. Say I reborn in that room. Say he knows, he reborn there many time too. Say for Sheena to keep collecting salty white rocks, do not swallow. Say Looo-seee is just what this world wants to call me. Say no sense too. But Sheena trust Psycho Killer. Sheena trust punk rock. Sheena trust gazelle guitar howl. Sheena forget about missing Chim, forget about missing jungle, the river, the wind and trees when hear guitar. Sheena feel in punk rock. Green jungle and concrete jungle are one with guitar. Guitar communicator. Sheena leave tomorrow. 

Twenty-Two Moons: Sheena was to meet Psycho Killer today at courtyard game. Psycho Killer not there. Instead Sheena go see man in white Barrett, bring mashed salty white rocks to throw at him. Hide in sock. But when Sheena get there, man in white Barrett staring at blank wall. Back to Sheena. Not talking. Drooling. Sheena cry. Sheena rip off sock, throw white salty rock powder at Barrett head. Sheena smash Barrett face. Rub powder in Barrett mouth. Barrett do nothing. Just stare. Sheena cry. Sheena scream PUNK ROCKER at him. Sheena scream louder. Sheena get pulled away by more men in white. 

Twenty-Six Moons: Sheena is a punk rocker now

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Satirical Music Column

May 15th, 2015

Tasked with publishing a working body of art for Portland, OR’s mini-MFA program via the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), while working as Creative Director for SONGLYRICS, I created a rare-breed fictional music column dubbed ‘Lunatic Fringe’.

Inspired by ‘John Moe’s Pop Song Correspondences‘ on McSweeney’s, 50s pulp zine-culture, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Red Rider’s 1981 gleaming anti-anti-semitic rocker of the same name, the column ran for five humorous-leaning iterations pitting classic song characters and lyrics against systematic oppressions in a clinical hospital setting, presented as case files, with handmade illustrations by Julia Ciaccio.


Patient #1132: ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker’; August 16, 1977

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Staff Writer

May 6th, 2015

Initially launched as BitCandy, We Are: The Guard is a crowd-sourced label, curation service and publication specializing in whittling down streaming music service talent into cream-of-the-crop new talent finds. I came on as a staff writer, mining and interviewing best new artist finds and a weekly music video column.




Woozy-psych LA hip-hop from a Peru-born frankenmasher fit for a Bret Easton Ellis novel.


Radical Face

A warm, American folk-lean to what Jose Gonzelez has done for Sweden.

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Why Pussy Riot Still Matter

March 13th, 2015


It seems like it was just yesterday that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was protesting “Putin’s Kafka-esque machine” with her fellow Pussy Riot grrl crew from behind the bars of a Moscow prison, refusing to eat.

When the collective stormed the alter of the Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012 with their baklavas thrashing a song called “Holy Shit,” shouting “church praises the rotten dictators” and “drive away Putin,” it was arguably the most punk rock moment of the millennial generation yet, combining just enough stupidity and bullish feminist political art to get the whole world to listen up, once again, to the kind of oppression felt by Vladimir Putin, and his twisted vision of a healthy Russia.

The resulting circus that followed, as Putin’s cronies attempted to squeeze the “hooliganism” vice on these women with “endless humiliations,” with stories of repeated forced gynecological examinations and 17-hour work days, only served to louden the voice of Pussy Riot and its cause. Documentaries rolled out. Amnesty International got involved, calling the women “prisoners of conscience.” Everyone from Yoko Ono to Hilary Clinton voiced support. And eventually Putin freed Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina under a general amnesty three months before they were to be released in March of 2014.

The story could have ended there, but the band immediately kept the ball rolling, launching a legal aid service for people in camps in prisons, Zona Prava, and their own news wire, Media Zone, crusading for basic humanities and freedom of speech.

By no means are these women and Pussy Riot revolutionaries, or rather doing anything with rock or punk that hasn’t been attempted before. And not everyone can be them either. A.) There aren’t enough Putins in the world and B.) that would just sell music as an art form short. But the timing of the Moscow stunt, and their behavior following is Class A.

As the Western world continues its inevitable draw, and they dabble with their first songs in English, their mission is staying intact, branching out into paralleling human rights issues like the recent death of Eric Garner. The resulting Karen O-in-calm-mode seether, “I Can’t Breathe,” was hauntingly effective, rife with lurid imagery and Richard Hell reading the infamous last words of Garner: [LISTEN]

I Can't Breathe

The group could have easily sold out during and after their trial, took some dirty money from some shoe company or something ridiculous and maybe perhaps justifying it by funneling said cash into their cause, but they let certain subsets of society succumb to that on its own. It’s always been cool to stick it to the man, but blind faith in the freedom for Pussy Riot took on its own special breed of celebrity gaudy. Everybody wanted a piece of it. Even Jesus.

Instead, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are twisting a perfect knife back into Putin with a cameo on the immensely popular House of Cards, offering up toasts at a fictitious White House dinner to basically say everything to a fictitious Putin they want to say to the real Putin: “To Viktor Petrov, whose loyalty runs so deep, he’s given his friends half of the country.” says Tolokonnikova, “Who’s so open to criticism, that most of his critics are in prison, the commander-in-chief who is not afraid of anyone except gays,” adds Alyokhina.

For the appearance on the show, Pussy Riot were asked to write a song, of which rolls out in the ending credits of the episode. Their second attempt at vitriol in English, “Don’t Cry Genocide” is fun little feedback-shit kicker with plenty of f-bombs to balance out its cerebral jabs.

It’s a little much to chew on, “devoted to the militarization of society and to American drones in particular,” said Tolokonnikova to Russian opposition magazine the New Times, but you can’t buy it, and they shove it good and hard down your throat as subtly as they can, in the credit reel of a basically free TV show, which is why people are still listening to what they have to say.


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RIFF’d: Father John Misty’s ‘I Love You, Honeybear’

February 11th, 2015


Once Josh Tillman dubbed himself Father John Misty and took to strutting across the stage of Letterman as the “Only Son of the Ladies’ Man,” it was clear the man didn’t want to be separated from the showman. As the Fleet Foxes work history dropped off of bio descriptions and his zip code changed from the PNW to SoCal, tales of “Innocence by Misty” perfume surfaced, mushroom adventures with no destination. On the cruise version of Coachella in 2012, he dubbed his set “Father John Misty reads selections from his favorite works of literature,” and went viral with a descending-staircase karaoke rendition of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

Tillman put the cart ahead of the horse so well, actually, that he just about became a parody of himself, letting the caricatures on his debut Fear Fun become more powerful than Josh Tillman. Father John Misty preaching psychedelic messages. Compounding the myth with lyrics that didn’t really achieve honesty. “I’m Writing a Novel” was hilarious and self-loathing and was rooted in the tale of how he found his new creative voice, but at the end of the day it was an effacing proclamation of being a writer when he hadn’t written any fiction yet. And “Only Son of the Ladies’ Man?” The dude builds a chorus around “I’m a leading brand of a one night stand.”

I Love You, Honeybear is different. Fear Fun was acerbic, and again, entertaining, but it did not arrive at truths about Josh Tillman. And maybe that was never his intention at all. And maybe that’s not even his intention on I Love You, Honeybear. But since falling in love and getting married, and framing a narrative arc around that, the eleven songs on here are about as close to the real Josh Tillman we’re ever going to see. And in the process of writing songs about that love, and brilliantly sending up all the social constructs in this shitshow of a society that are up against it, including erotic asphyxiating younger versions of Josh Tillman pleading for President Jesus to save him, it’s impossible to not learn something about yourself in tandem. Meanwhile, “Innocence by Misty” is out of production.

I Love You, Honeybear

Fun with bodily fluid bedsheet Rorschach metaphors as Tillman opens his triumphant second act as Father John Misty, making sure to set the stage to play homage to the one thing that’s allowed him to rise above this shit-show called society, that he so hilariously and acerbically sends up: Love: [LISTEN]

I Love You Honeybear

Chateau Lobby 4 (in C for Two Virgins)

A wee segue from the sweet pop sendups that dominate elsewhere, Tillman dives completely into love here, cutting himself in bits for comic relief – celibacy, so “bourgeoisie” – but otherwise breaking out the mariachi vibes in full serenade mode to his wife, from virgin to LA matrimony fruition: [LISTEN]

Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)

True Affection

Phone machines, the cause of and solution to all of our intimacy woes. If Tillman would have gone his normal acoustic troubadour verite the way of sonics here, it would be a throw-away, but with the synthetic drum and key cloth, sentiment and sarcasm explode with a refreshing color and strut: [LISTEN]

True Affection

The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment

Because we wouldn’t know how great the ‘honeybear’ is, that is record’s savior, without knowing all the soul-sucking ladies that led to Tillman’s true fit, here we see him show some teeth for a malaprop-spewing contradiction that “hoovers” all his drugs and begs to be choked. Dating is fun, kids: [LISTEN]

The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment

When You’re Smiling and Astride Me

Perfectly placed after the hedonistic third-person apartment visit that ends in contemptuous erotic asphyxiation, the choir girls ascend as our protagonist steps down from his high horse and lulls into the humble truism that he is merely an “aimless fake drifter,” and that’s alright, because love: [LISTEN]

When You're Smiling and Astride Me

Nothing Good Ever Happens at The Goddamn Thirsty Crow

Why Tillman wanted to include this Bukowsi fuck-it-all version of himself objectifying women at a Silver Lake bar may seem quizzical, but with its Southern cobblestone strut and dark-side revelations, it only makes him appear that much more human and, thus, deserving of the mighty ‘honeybear’: [LISTEN]

Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow

Strange Encounter

Echoing his “aimless fake drifter” self-reflections earlier Tillman dabbles with a kind of final stretch rising conflict that tears back into another page from his darkest hour dating days, questioning his decency among prayers veiled as ‘swears’, while the guitars get crunchy and the howls noir: [LISTEN]

Strange Encounter

The Ideal Husband

Last shake of Tillman’s completely inward skewerings of himself, cymbal and siren cacophony letting loose while every last bit of ‘awful’ the man could show is revealed, paired with a WikiLeaks neurosis of a metaphor in chase of forgiveness, redemption, it doesn’t matter. Up to love now: [LISTEN]

The Ideal Husband

Bored in the USA

Laugh-track add confounds, but the melody move from guitar to keys compliments the folk torch song send-up of the absurdities of young American citizenship perfectly. As truthful a statement of upper-middle class white existence pervading a gentrifying ‘hood near you that isn’t a Portlandia sketch: [LISTEN]

Bored in the USA

Holy Shit

Complimenting as a one-two falling action punch w/ the brilliant “Bored in the USA,” Tillman posits a series of confounding societal contradictions, pitting endless barometers of intelligence and happiness against the forever existential question of what the hell it all means for love and mankind: [LISTEN]

Holy Shit

I Went to the Store One Day

As best a dénouement ‘honeybear’ could have, Tillman, for the first time in the album reducing his sentiments to his simplest of singer-songwriter roots, spinning gold around the mundane act of going to the deli to get smokes, and the poetics of it turning into the most important moment of his life: [LISTEN]

I Went to the Store One Day

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The World Reacts to Band Aid 30 Lyric Redux

November 18th, 2014


Since Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure gave another star-studded Band Aid reboot to their landmark 1984 anti-poverty charity track, “Do They Know it’s Christmas?,” on Sunday during the British version of The X-FactorGeldof has cited over £1m of pre-order revenue, while iTunes sales surpassed the ’84 version of 200,000 copies in just a few hours since the track’s official release on Monday.

For the first time ever, though, Geldof and crew signed off on some lyric changes, shifting focus from world poverty issues to ebola, with the ’84 version’s most glaringly confounding line, “Well, tonight thank God it’s them instead of you,” getting reworked by Bono into “Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you.”

Why there isn’t a bigger tweak in the Twitterverse cringe to this is beyond us. But some people are pointing out some fine things:

On touching: “I really don’t want Bono to reach out and touch me and I doubt that a load of people in West Africa do either.” (@SophieSparham)

On money: “Am I the only person embarrassed by #bandaid? Bono is worth over $900 million, and Geldof is worth £38m plus the other ‘singers’.” (@riprap1)

On wanker-ness: “Bono = wanker #BandAid.” (@Ruey80)

The sharpest reaction so far, though, arrives via Al Jazeera’s roundup of prominent Africans on the ebola home front, collectively distancing themselves from the benefits altruistic efforts, most notably Liberian researcher Robtel Neajai Pailey firing back:

“We got this, Geldof, so back off. If you really want to help, buy a gazillion CDs of the two songs and send them to your friends as stocking stuffers with a note that says: ‘African solutions to African problems’. Instead of trying to remain relevant, Geldof and co. would do well to acknowledge the ingenuity of local artists and stop trying to steal the limelight!”

There are several other lyric changes in the 30th anniversary reboot, here, with a slew of fresh faces from Ed Sheeran and One Direction to Jessie Ware and Sam Smith replacing icons like David Bowie and Paul McCartney. You can judge their timeliness after the jump (* = change). In the meantime, bigger question – mostly for those of us in the Western world – is this reboot doing more harm than good?

It’s Christmas time – and there’s no need to be afraid
At Christmas time – we let in light – and banish shade
And in our world of plenty – we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world At Christmas time
But say a prayer – pray for the other ones
At Christmas time – it’s hard but while you’re having fun

There’s a world outside your window – and it’s a world of dread and fear
Where a kiss of love can kill you – and there’s death in every tear *
And the Christmas bells that ring there – are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you *

No peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa *
The only hope they’ll have is being alive *
Where to comfort is to fear, where to touch is to be scared *
How can they know it’s Christmas time at all? *

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Pornhub Erects Times Square Billboard, Sullies John Lennon’s Most Famous Lyric

October 9th, 2014


Pornhub is making a serious push to be king of the NSFW intranets, first with the launch of a record label and theme-song contest – yes, enterprising bands, you can be the voice of the world’s ‘Number One fee porn site’, just like Coolio – and now with a $100,000 advertising stunt in Times Square, that essentially turns John Lennon‘s most simply famous beautiful Beatles lyric “All You Need is Love” into a euphemism for going Hans Solo on Darth Vader’s head.

Of course the 54’x48′ billboard was taken down in a matter of hours, the The Guardian reporting that it had something to do with The Doubletree Hilton voicing some offensive agenda, on which the ad-space share’s a New York City block with – or you know, copyright armies – but not before the Pornhub peoples hired the damn Gotham Rock Opera to sing a rendition of “All You Need is Hand” in ceremonious Tuesday (October 7) morning glory, changing Lennon’s utopian lyrics to such lines as “nothing better to do when you’re alone” and “nothing eases the pain, but you can know it just the same if it’s not sleazy.”

All of this was created by Nuri Gulver of Istanbul, who won a contest – Pornhub likes contests – for a creative director roll, via a call for the most genius non-pornagraphic ad push, at the quickly monopolizing porn conglomerate, Gulver explaining in his submission campaign, “No one can stand in this web site without using their hands. At least they need them to access the site.” Which is pretty much the most brilliant Istanbul-English double-entrendre we’ve ever seen.

Despite this, coincidentally, or very, very purposefully, it would be Lennon’s 74th birthday today. And though we all know the man fancied himself a dreamer, and had some serious love for the world and New York City, let’s just clear the Pornhub air here and give the mic back to the Beatle on the real business of love and needs:

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Mark Kozelek Drops ‘War on Drugs: Suck my Cock’

October 7th, 2014


There’s this line on 2012’s Among the Leaves that has Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek reducing his once female fan rich-career to an autographer of posters for guys in tennis shoes. The dude knows his dark humor. But if you know Kozelek well, you know his self-deprecative undercurrent is no joke. He is a master of the talk-lyric narrative – a Leonard Cohen-meets-Elliott Smith sidewalk therapist. On February’s Benji he colors his legacy pretty damn black, on 10-minute fingerpick epic, “I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same:” [LISTEN]

I got a recording contract in 1992

And from there, my name, my band and my audience grew

And since that time, so much has happened to me

But I discovered, I cannot shake melancholy

For 46 years now, I cannot break the spell

I’ll carry it throughout my life and probably carry it down

All of this makes Kozelek’s mystifying feud with the War on Drugs so much more a curious question of whether or not the dis track he dropped last night, “War on Drugs: Suck My Cock,” is simply a joke or not. But the complete backstory, in case you missed the chain of events since some sound bleed at September’s Ottawa Folk Fest pissed off Kozelek so much he started throwing stones:

Kozelek stops his set, asks audience ‘Who the fuck is that?’ bleeding sound, says he hates “that beer commercial lead-guitar shit,” kids his next song is called “The War on Drugs Can Suck My Fucking Dick.” Kozelek later pens a kind of non-apology reflection on his website, saying “it could have been any band’s music blaring from over the hill, and [he] still would have made jokes,” Twitter back and forth continues, the War on Drugs remain mostly silent and confused, Kozelek doesn’t quit, offers to perform a song called “The War on Drugs: Suck My Cock/Sun Kil Moon: Go Fuck Yourself” at a War on Drugs show iin San Francisco, silence ensues, Kozelek drops the song on his website last night.

Stereogum’s Michael Nelson wrote an eloquent essay on the psychology of all this from the mind of a torn diehard Kozelek fan, of which there are many, essentially calling Kozelek a cyberbully, citing mostly Kozelek’s one-sided instigation and the fact that he’s monetizing the fiasco with t-shirts, ending on the sentiment that the now 47-year-old artist who has forever been under-appreciated, is basically treating his fans like shit. And that includes the War on Drugs:


The t-shirts? Agreed. Money sullies everything. And while Kozelek’s tenacity with this is a bit bully-ish, and confusing, coming from such a sensitive songwriter, aimed at a band with such a paralleled fan base, it doesn’t stop it from being hilarious the same. Or is this a case of Kozelek’s dark humor, when not aimed at himself, entirely missing the mark?

We were up on stage I heard a classic drum fill
Blasting 100 decibels over the hill
It was getting pretty loud, I asked who it was
A guy in a raincoat shouted back “They’re called War on Drugs”
It sounded like basic John Fogerty rock
I said “This next song is called The War on Drugs can suck my cock.”

Suck my cock, War on Drugs (x8)

We were playing a show down in Chapel Hill
To a bunch of drunk hillbillies, and it smelled like swill
Microphones didn’t work, the staff couldn’t give a fuck
The crowd was getting out of hand and I told them all to shut the fuck up

All you rednecks, shut the fuck up (x8)

Someone got offended and wrote a piece of crap
Some spoiled bitch rich kid blogger brat
She posted some graffiti done by some half wit
Who thought my name was ‘Sun Kil Moon’, what a dumb shit

Sun Kil Moon, go fuck yourself (x8)

I met War on Drugs tonight and they’re pretty nice
But their hair is long and greasy, hope they don’t have lice
I heard them do their soundcheck, next to The Byrds
They’re definitely the whitest band I’ve ever heard

The whitest band I’ve ever heard is War on Drugs (x8)

There’s war!

They’re playing the Fillmore tonight, and it’s sold out
Bridge-and-tunnel people are people too, this is their big night out
They smoke a joint with their buddies on their way in their cars
They’re gonna rock out tonight to some good commercial lead guitar

Bridge-and-tunnel people love them some War on Drugs (x8)

War on Drugs, suck my cock / War on Drugs, beer commercial rock (x2)

War on Drugs loves Fleetwood Mac
War on Drugs loves Mellencamp
War on Drugs, let’s give ’em a cheer
War on Drugs, to make three albums took ’em nine fucking years


War on Drugs suck my cock (x11)
(OK, so it’s gonna just gonna fade out)

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Lyricapsule: The ‘No Nukes’ Concert; September 19, 1979

September 19th, 2014


One of those rare moments when people actually understand the power that they have over political action, a few hundred thousand people converged upon Madison Square Garden on this day in 1979, and the next four days, to rally ’round the notion that the future of the world’s existence would be better off without nuclear energy. Billed under the Musicians United for Safe Energy collective as “No Nukes: The Muse Concerts For a Non-Nuclear Future,” key organizer Jackson Browne would later remark on an interview for the film version, “I’m a citizen of the free world. That’s what I am. And I have a right to know why my life is being endangered by someone’s profit motive.”

Soundtracking the event were a plethora of folk and rock heavyweights, but one of the night’s most tangible moment came when James TaylorCarly SimonJohn Hall and Graham Nash harmonized on a cover of one of Dylan‘s most threateningly perfect bright acoustic gems, “The Times They Are-a-Changin’,” cut to a mere 1:45 of its original length, yet calculated to burst right on its new opening verse:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

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Best New Artist: A.Chal

May 6th, 2014

There have been mentions of his Peruvian heritage, affiliations to Ralph Lauren as an on-off music director and general underground DJ/producer status peas and carrots, but here’s the BitCandy skinny on this dude who goes by A.Chal on the intranets -> cut through the marketing cryptics and get to mind-raping this genius video he’s got directorial credits on that is part Drive, part Eyes Wide Shut, with rose petals from American Beauty shoved down its throat. Add in A.Chal’s woozy beat weavings and A$AP Rocky slow-shock cadence, billowing lines like “take a tissue and blow that/’Cause tonight we do it for Kodak” and dive deep into the beautifully noir side of the human condition.

The rabbit hole does get deeper, though, from equally plunky, druggy spins on Arcade Fire and Radiohead remixes that define an LA scene in which he’s surrounding himself in something hypnotically destructive. While he’s got a EP that just dropped, Ballroom Riots, showcasing a few more Bret Ellis-style nihilisms—see “Touch Me Like I’m Famous”—and his remixes dive into Korn a capellas and samples from Vicent Gallo films, studded with “money” Biggie quotes and token Chanel signage. Somehow, some wonderful how, it all fits in this harrowing lonely world he’s building.

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Newport Folk Festival 2013: Is Folk Dead?

September 12th, 2013

Father John Misty; Photo: Gavin Paul

As reported on Saturday, the second day of this year’s edition of the iconic Newport Folk Festival, former Fleet Fox-er, J. Tillman, backed by his new crew Father John Misty, was the first among 50 plus artists throughout the weekend to open up a discourse on what the hell “folk” means these days, both to the legacy of the festival and to the state of culture and music in general, chastising the “fedoras” and “Prius” set for not adhering to the “God damn responsibility to say something with [their] damn songs,” pausing in the last verse of his gospel-stomp, biblical-laced “Fun Times in Babylon” to basically hammer home the point that he’s on a mission to go into the belly of the beast, guns a-blazing, joys a-raping before the whole show goes to shit: [LISTEN]

"Fun Times in Babylon"

While at the start of the song, he changed its opening lyric from “fun times in Babylon/that’s what I’m counting on,” to “It’s what folk music is based on.”

He said a lot of brash things. Sometimes perplexing. Sometimes perfect. Sometimes contradictory. Sometimes self-deprecating. Consistently hilarious:

  • On apologies: “It’s been a little preachy, and antagonistic. But I promise it’s all just smooches and cinnamon buns from here on out.”
  • On anger: “People used to get praised by the government for their folk songs.”
  • On the state of music: “Human nationalistic imperialism.”
  • On the rest of his set: “Let the satanic Norwegian death metal commence!”
  • On his own music: “But I’m not a folk artist. I just got invited here because I’m white, I have a beard and there’s some acoustic guitar on my album.”
  • On crowd demographics: “So is this a camping thing? Or do you all just go back to your yachts and call it a night?”

Tillman said it himself – he’s not the arbiter of folk. Nor are the festival organizers anymore, really. When asked by NPR what we could expect from Sunday kitchen-sink genre headliner Beck, producer Jay Sweet unabashedly responded he had no idea, “I just buy the groceries. The artist’s make the meal. I just sit back and hope that it tastes good.”

And if Tillman was aiming at anyone in particular for selling out, it was most definitely The Lumineers, who played Sunday as well – clad in fedoras, no Prius’ in sight, though – and not Sweet or the legacy of the festival. Although the NFF did go for-profit for a number of years before returning to its 501©(3) roots in 2011. It’s clear the festival is simply providing a stage for whatever pulse is left in folk to beat. That objective responsibility goes back to the booing of Dylan going electric in 1965.

As one of the poster children of relevant indie-rock, though, Tillman stood on holy ground where Joan Baez made her debut, where Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie verses are above the law and stay protected by the fortress that is Fort Adams, and more or less asked if folk is dead, let alone still capable of beating a pulse, backing the premonition with a closing new tune called “Bored in the USA,” winking, “I think it’s about something,” before howling the ultimate BOSS-ian fist for the millennial, full of an acerbic dark wit, asking “President Jesus” to save him: [LISTEN]


Of course in a festival setting in 2013, it’s kind of hard to keep that conversation going. But the beauty of the NFF, is that it’s capped at 10,000 people/day, there are only four stages, and community is king. Even surrounded by yachts and sailboats and the mansions of Newport, people with real deal attention spans do make the majority, and do pay most of it to what an artist has to say. And as society and technology blur the conventions of whatever folk means to people, and how it can be delivered, the ways of searching for that pulse and conversation were myriad.

On Friday, as the rain pummeled the Narragansett Bay, weepy string cathartic narratives dominated the afternoon, from The Mountain Goats‘ tales of “divorced couples” and “battle royals” to Phosphorescent‘s “love me foolishly” sing-alongs, Amanda Palmer‘s twisted carnival gender-role reversal chanties, John McCauley‘s reinvention of broken-hearted Duke Ellington standard “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” wailing a pining punk-country sentiment that never gets old: [LISTEN]

"Don't Get Around Much Anymore"

While Old Crow Medicine Show put faux-hick drawl on every piece of banter they could during their headlining, bluegrass-burning set until people couldn’t take it anymore – “We got banjoes and fiddles just like they did 40 years ago. We got songs just like they did 140 years ago.” – but recovered with a decent cover of Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” just as the sun popped out and turned the sky the most purple shade of aura East of any mountain majesty: [LISTEN]

Woody rightfully showed up again, most notably in Ramblin‘ Jack Elliott‘s weekend defining set – aside from Tillman’s eternal question – the 81-years-young NFF veteran tumbling forth an anthology of stories and wanderlust anecdotes from sailing to one of the most bitter-sweet tales of a dog he taught to drive a car, lacing in the infamous fascist screed “Talking Sailor,” to tie in a metaphor about his penchant for sailing backwards through life: [LISTEN]

"Talkin' Sailor"

The only other performance that came close to Elliott’s was Beck’s, in which Elliott reprised his stage presence on the heels of a sentiment from Beck that a teenage version of the veritable “Loser” used to go see Elliott back in the day, while Elliott came out, and knelt down for some odd reason – hopefully this was a knee or back issue and not some honor gesture – to look up to Beck and duet a cover of Jimmie Rodgers‘ “Waiting for a Train,” while Andrew Bird and members of Black Prairie supported on strings, as they all rallied around the down-and-out tale: [LISTEN]

"Waiting on a Train" lyrics

If we really are to define folk by Tillman’s suggestion that an artist simply must have something to say, though, there wasn’t a false act at all, really. Even funk powerhouse Trombone Shorty, as light as his outfit is on lyrics, wore a sense of what it means to be an American on their sleeves with a riff hurricane rendition of The Guess Who‘s “American Woman,” Troy Andrews freewheeling its anti-war, anti-poverty fists with brass instead of verse.

Likewise, Jim James spiritual new solo record, Regions of Light and Sound of God, played in full as James has been doing all year, touched upon what it means to be a young American with a relationship with the higher-ups, The Lone Bellow swelled a trinity of harmonies over a cover of John Prine‘s ”Angel From Montgomery” that threw the blue collar pursuit into its oppressive spotlight once more, Frank Turner led the UK pursuit with a cockney punk country converse that “there is no God,” Justin Townes Earl honored Hank Williams decision to put the 12-bar blues into country with a lament on the evils roughing it as an artist in modern day Brooklyn and The Avett Brothers made sure to split their weepy-string meditations on “I and Love and You” with a “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” reminding everyone of their existential freedoms: [LISTEN]

And possibly the most shocking moment came when The Lumineers took to a cover of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which they’ve done several times before, but to hear lead singer Wesley Shultz tell the tale of obsessing over it as a kid in this setting, with the echoes of Tillman’s “Prius” and “fedoras” shots still ringing from earlier that afternoon, validated the simple lovelorn mega-banjo anthem “Ho Hey” that followed it. Not that “Ho Hey” will become part of the American songbook, nor will it ever eschew the laws that bind us, or ever, ever come close to the genius that is “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” but for some twenty-something looking for the upside in heartache, there’s a revealing of the web that binds all genres in the vision of Shultz learning to express himself from the get go with Dylan.

Or it could be just a bit of crafty image molding to sell more Prius and fedoras. It’s your job to cut through the fat.

But there was a moment back in the closing moments of Beck’s set that equally put the future of folk into perspective, after a couple tunes from his “Song Reader” project and wound around an improvisational rap about a fictional yacht off in the distance with “16 Greek columns on it,” “900 flatscreen TVs” and the proverbial “banjo” in the middle of it all waiting to take him away in which he foretold a reminder of what kind of pedestal the NFF of the 50s is placed upon today, and how society might do the same to the 2010s version in the 2050s, proceeding to turn his digital drum machine’s beat to “11″ and narrating a tale of “Where it’s At:” [LISTEN]

"Where It's At"

Is folk dead? Not if you know how to listen to the reinvention of it.

Photo: Gavin Paul

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An Evening (And Morning) With Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field; July 19

July 20th, 2013

Eddie growls; Photo: Gavin Paul

Eddie Vedder and Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field in Chicago; All photos by Gavin Paul

Why Eddie Vedder delayed the “crown jewel” gig of Chicago in the first place for a good hour, well aware of an encroaching thunderstorm is a bit of a dickhead rockstar move, leading to a field evacuation and 2.5 hour delay as a sold out crowd either went home or got piss drunk on $9 beers.

But then again the arena vets’ new record is called Lightning Bolt, and Vedder did promise the breaking of curfews before splitting at seven songs with a dedication to Wrigleyville “hearts and thoughts” on Vs. staple, “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” everyone putting their best Vedder impression on for its last breath yearn:

Elderly Woman

By the time Pearl Jam did make it back on stage, people were surprisingly civil, with most anger directed toward how lonely the empty seats on the field looked. The biggest fear this journalist had was a mad bum-rush to fill said seats, and the potential for some Roskilde nightmare to take place.

But again, Vedder and crew did things right, thanking and apologizing to no end, donning a Cubs jersey and easing into the acoustic heartstring tugger everyone knew would come at some point – “All The Way” – weaving the cathartics of baseball’s most lovable losers, his favorite team, and Chicago pride in another sweet singalong, even bringing out Ernie Banks to sing a verse:

All The Way

With most of the sentimental moments out of the way, Vedder meditating on the beautiful “color” he witnessed walking into the “dank corridor” of left field for the first time as a boy, giving his baseball glove to Banks on stage, the mood rightly got rowdy as a series of classic shredders from “Do the Evolution” to “Corduroy” and brand new punk jam “Mind Your Manners” saw Mike McCready scissor-kicking solos and fans still yelping along to the political relevancies of apeshit choruses of a band 23 years into its game:

Mind Your Manners

McCready did wear out his welcome after a ridiculous Van Halen solo, with Vedder attempting to add a bit of humor with an accordion ballad of Vitalogy‘s “Piggies,” the kooky “Bugs.” But it was packaged around plenty of more setlist favorites from “Evenflow” to “Leatherman” and Backspacer‘s “Unthought Known,” thousands of arms up wide howling its homage to starlight, Vedder’s wine-soaked drawl in perfect pitch throughout:

Unthought Known

Sneaking in two more new jams from the new record, its workhorse pop-punk title-track and an organ-led ballad dubbed “Future Days,” team PJ rode well into 2 a.m., thanking Theo Epstein and Rahm Emanuel for their help with some charitable donations for Chicago youth.

Vedder laced metaphors amongst “Life Wasted” and a cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Mother” to wax on his ever-long battle with hope and change, capped with just about the closest thing to his rafter-climbing Ten days of yore on “Porch,” swinging from a low-hanging green-lantern to drive home the fury of its fist for the disenfranchised:


And then, there we were, in a stock “Black” set-closer, storm long passed, when Vedder finally gave into the curfew as Matt Cameron carried out a marching beat with a Cubs joke, Vedder assuring that they’d “like to play every summer until the Cubs win,” which would be at least “like the next three summers.”

Vedder then promptly busted out the tambourines, jacking up the Friendly Confines lights to maximum white-bright and “Rockin’ in the Free World” until Neil Young could hear it in Canada or wherever he is these days — “An Evening (and now morning)” with the last of a dying arena breed who can still deliver a rock promise.

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Best New Artist: Radical Face

May 6th, 2013

Opposite guitar-face and the interminable o-face, Radical Face takes its name from a flyer that master-songwriting-mind Ben Cooper found in his Jacksonville, Floridian ‘hood – an advertisement for a “Radical Face-Lift,” with the ‘Lift” end torn off.  Moral of the story: Ben Cooper tears faces off.

And by faces, we mean sad faces. If you missed the viral, folk-strewn Silversun Pickup-esque catharsis of “Welcome Home,” aped by everyone from Nikon and Chevy to college football adverts, dig on it in its harrowing element, Cooper ripping open a couple frightening verses with its anthemic chorus.

The dude likes themes. “Welcome Home” follows an adoration the 30-year-old has for homes and their if-walls-could-talk history. While the record it’s housed on, Ghost (2007), pieces those personified tales together quite right. Conceptions that pale in ambition to the push he’s got going now, though, tackling a trilogy tale of a fictional family based around 19th century hearts.

Leading with 2011’s The Family Tree: The Roots, followed by an impending The Branches drop, and then The Leaves. Get it? They are parts of a tree. “Ghost Towns” is a fine place to ready excitement for the rest of the package, with its further hand-clappery and morose storytelling, Cooper still hovering around with a lantern and a faint smile, niching a warm, American version of what Jose Gonzelez has done for Sweden.

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New Artist: Goldroom

April 9th, 2013

Riding a coming-of-age chillwave curve finer than your high school sweetheart’s hip on a forever hula-hoop twirl, budding LA producer Goldroom, real name Josh Legg, blew up SoundCloud with a gleaming Highway 1 sunset synth dream number paying homage to the oft overlooked age of innocence by that bastard 16 with its license and sweetness, “Fifteen.” Australian starlet Chela is on vocal duties, and summer 2012 just wouldn’t have been the same without its carefree, windblown best new artist kiss of a chorus: “We were only fifteen/floating through the slipstream.”

Legg has since revealed a few respectable notches in his belt, dropping his first EP, Angeles, traveling the world via turntables and tearing up the remix circuit with artists from Atlas Genius to Niki & The Dove, the pulsating latter of which has racked up over four-million hits on the ‘Tube. But for a taste of the originally arranged chillwave future 2013 jam, chew into fellow Angeles cut “Sweetness Alive” percolating a bit more uptempo and funk, lathered with “the luxury of you and I” dual harmonies of Swedish twins Saint Lou Lou, and be one with the blurring of palm tree keys whirling by.

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The Green Teaist

March 20th, 2013

Photo: Gavin Paul

Like a massage parlor for tea nerds, this Lake Forest green tea-ery boasts overnight leaf-shipments exclusively from Japan; it’s worlds away from ‘tall’ yerba mate latte land. It’s a place of no-take-away pampering, twinkling with Rachmaninoff piano concertos, sushi den furniture and a staff worthy of caffeine doctorates, with the amount of leaf knowledge they possess.

The catch? A cup of tea goes for more than the average glass of wine at a restaurant, at around $15 for a teapot good for two servings. But, again, the GT nails the experience. About 11 teas are brought to tables in vials, with orated explanations, as well as full-detailed menus, dropping descriptions like, “appropriate for consuming before retiring,” “robust wheat-like notes” and “ethereal tastes of spring.” For something a little more solid, Bernard Callebaut chocolates (3 for $5.25) and compote fruit dishes ($8.25) carry the crumpet weight.

Once selections are made, the mod tableware descends – crystal teapot, eggshell cups and steeping timer, should you fail to have a watch. The waiter, also equipped with his own utensils, busts out a leaf sifter, a pot of fresh steamed water, waits attentively as the minutes tick – usually about two – and pours you into tea and crumpet land.

Owned as a side dream-project by a local Japanese lawyer – hence all the teas shipped from Japan – the GT also doubles as a shop, where all the teas available at the cafe await buyers in a temperature-controlled cellar. Prices can please pocket books for more common varietals starting at $5.25 for 50-gram containers (a cup equals 4 grams). Aligned with the owner’s high-end, connoisseur taste, super premium options – usually reserved for ceremonies – present themselves as well, pointing to Kugetani at $82.50 for 50 grams.

Average cost: $10-$20

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New Artist: MDK13

February 7th, 2013

MDK13 is Kelly Martin from Escondido, California. Martin has “been out of the music game for a while,” but loves him some “metal dubstep.” There’s pretty much nothing on the intranets about this dude. In fact, Kelly could even be a dudette. But then we’d have to imagine a female version of Skrillex railing lines in the shape of swastikas off the cover of a Matrix box set, attempting to get some gnar guitar riffs out before the womp comes in and turns the whole damn thing into Crystal Method 2.0. And that’s just not lady like. Then again, said evocations are laced around a track called “Serpentine,” so you never know.

This androgyny game is fun, actually. The three tracks that Martin’s got up on SoundCloud could soundtrack so many asexual things, not just Matrix trilogies – raccoon-eyed, night-vision cult porn, Hollywood’s attempt to franchise Mortal Kombat circa 1995, any industrial rave scene you could possibly imagine – this shit’s made for leather and sex and nerds in one synth and drum machine shot, whether swirling with deep throat hisses on a track called “Damage Report” or palpitating like an updated Thriller backtrack on a faux-string and Casio binge appropriately dubbed “Wonkytonk,” and we want the whole twisted throwback world and we want it now.

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Contributing Writer

September 29th, 2012

The Chicago branch of the global culture guide, like its original London tastemaker, has consistently prodded the finger on the pulse of everything from food to art in the city, featuring in-depth and investigative reporting, pre and post event coverage and all the pop-up news in between. 

Initially launched as a print publication, and eventually flipping to a digital format, I joined the crew as a contributing writer while the print edition was still on stands, starting out with a story on hotshot bakers on the rise, and other culinary beats for the magazine proper, then expanding to digital coverage with a heavy arm in breaking music pieces and live review, new-journalism storytelling. 


Bread Machines

Artisanal bread bakeries are still rare in this town, so these independent bakers are taking matters into their own hands.


Van Halen at the United Center

Van Halen may not be living at a pace that kills anymore, but that didn’t stop Diamond Dave and the rest of the original pushing-60 crew from chasing their younger, hungrier selves. 


Jimmy Gnecco (of Ours) at Schubas

Quieting a bar room is no easy task; Gnecco turned Schubas into a church Monday night with a single scream.

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STS9 at North Coast Music Festival

September 1st, 2012

Cutting through the wafts of pot smoke and “doses” whispers that have become just as North Coast as neon “rage” hats and glow sticks, STS9 delivered a clean space-rock closing set at the end of the festival’s first night. Starched oxfords and black ties in tow, the quintet cued a digitized female voice, quoting bits of a 1920s spiritual poem about “desired things,” i.e. “The universe is unfolding as it should.” Not that the thousands of under-aged attendees speckled in glitter and some variation of a”party” tee—“Sorry For Partying”, “I’m Partying”, “Party With Sluts”—gave a flying you-know-what. In context or not, the extended 10-minute re-workings dug up from Peaceblaster (2008) and When The Dust Settles(2011) hit the Chicago skyline with a glistening impact. “All the powers of the universe are already yours,” the digital voice encouraged at the tail end of the set, as guitarist Hunter Brown nailed a sparkling guitar fill, while Jeffree Lerner engaged in earnest bongo patter. The voice finished the sentiment: “The universe has shouted itself alive. And you are one of those shouts.” Meanwhile, a kid sporting a “Party Rock Crew” t-shirt stumbled alone towards the edge of a baseball diamond to puke on his shoes.

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Yelawolf at North Coast Music Festival

September 1st, 2012

Eminem protégée Yelawolf just signed to Shady Records late last year, taking a moment during his setting-sun time-slot to underscore the contract, and perform a shout-out medley that featured “The Way I Am” and of course, “My Name Is.” That was on the heels of a tribute to MCA of the Beastie Boys, which found the emcee yelping his take on the best lines of “Fight for Your Right,” “Brass Monkey” and “Intergalactic.” Elsewhere, the 32-year-old upstart was all profanity and bravado, using hands-in-the-air moments to either tell the crowd to “fuck off,” “fuck that shit” or tp join him in a spirited “up in the club, don’t give a fuck” chant, from the Lil John-studded cut “Hard White” on Yelawolf’s debut, Radioactive. He had lots of awesome things to say throughout his performance, mostly prodding the crowd to share what kind of drugs they may or may not have consumed. But none of it compared to the times when he actually rapped and showed some of his true self-deprecating talent, like the fluttering beat he slapped on “White Boy Shit,” which featured autobiographical gems like “I got a mullet-hawk, a black girlfriend/Tattoos to my feet and back up again/Half Pearl Jam, half Eminem.” A cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” was the cherry on top of that sentiment.

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King Khan and the Shrines at North Coast Music Festival

August 31st, 2012

For a shit-kicking golden soul revival crew of the fantasmo kind, it was a damn shame that one freakshow festival dancer, the one with the rollerblade gear and 100-pound-wet frame, got to out-strutting the glory that is King Khan. Maybe the old gold-sequin schtick is wearing thin for Khan. Maybe the Shrines were just so on James-Brown-brass-section–point that Khan just looked like he was phoning it in. Whatever it was, the usually shirtless dynamo kept his roll slow, slinging the unabashed parlor yelps we all know, but not so much as stomping a heel. “Welfare Bread,” “I Wanna Be A Girl”  and other such sweet ramshackle numbers hit the PA, with Kahn not even trying to break a sweat. After some ridiculous kid in the crowd made an audible show about leaving after the first song to “go get fucking high on some fucking weed,” the crowd continually thinned thereafter. And there were, max, five claps for a new synth-heavy jam about a high-roller dubbed “The Luckiest Man” that well, you just don’t have a soul if you can’t dance to. So Khan-tastic, we forgive you.

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Content Specialist

May 30th, 2012

Coddled by denizens of pre-Yelp/Eater/hell, even the Google, Centerstage was Chicago’s de facto city-guide since 1996, joining forces with the Chicago Sun-Times post-millennium to both serve as a comprehensive tome of new venue openings and a cultural alt-weekly in digital form, where one could find a write-up on a Neapolitan pizza joint making waves aside an exposé on the intersection of gangs and gentrification in a rapidly changing south side neighborhood.

Signing on as a writer, scouring the city’s every-corner to be the first one to cover a chef’s new digs, the secret dive, exotic tea shop, whatever filed a license with the city, I then expanded to feature pieces in myriad beats—food, culture, beer—eventually taking on the guide’s blues coverage, interviewing and previewing 100+ blues artists a week, followed by strategy roles developing new columns and story-mining techniques for a mid-size, cross-functional staff.




The Writing on the Wall

Bridgeport is supposed to be the community of tomorrow. A mural painted on the wall of a local gallery tells a slightly different story.


Thax Douglas

The days of looking over the notorious street-poet’s shoulder at New York are gone—and so is he.

The Morel of the Season

The elusive morel mushroom season is upon us—sprouting on menus in spades. We profile five chefs cutting ’em up for the masses. 


The Revolution will be Brewed

Uncovering the evolution of Josh Deth’s Revolution Brewing in Logan Square.

Weegee’s Lounge

An old Polish dive outfitted in disco balls on the outskirts of Humboldt becomes a whiskey knock-back homage to an iconic crime scene photographer.

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May 30th, 2012

“Tasting” quartets of tacos explode with flavors that put local taquerias to shame, like the michoacan braised pork of the carnitas, balanced by chile de arbol coleslaw for heat and toasted peanuts, begged to be sipped with more than 100 tequilas, and close relatives mezcal and sotol.

Served in the strongest shot glass known to man, and backed by a citrus, tomato and chile palate refresher called sangrita, conquest is not a poor word for what this NYC hit is capable of doing to Chicago’s high-end Mexican map.

It’s not that chef Patricio Sandoval is any Rick Bayless, with the same flavors that make the tacos completely lost in every guacamole attempt and falsely teased in para acompanar (side dishes) like the ginger-jalapeno crema touched fried plantains. And faults abound at the bar with fruit-forward cocktails sourced from mixologist behemoth the Tippling Bros., hit with 20-minute delays when slammed. It’s that in a city with the second largest Mexican community outside of L.A., Sandoval’s struck gold downtown, where good late-night taquerias are still rarely treading.

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Gotye at the Aragon

April 3rd, 2012

Aside from the conspiracy theory I can’t shake on account of the title likeness of the dude’s two biggest hits to Elliott Smith numbers—”Easy Way Out,” “Somebody That I Used To Know”—there’s still the unforgivable matter of the 45-minute set he short-changed his legions of generation-YouTube fans with last night at a sold-out Aragon Ballroom tour-stop. And no, we’re not going to count the three neo-Motown throwaways you slathered a faux-key brass section over for those that decided to stick around long after Kimbra came out for her cameo mid-set.

That said, Gotye (aka Wouter De Backer) was given something no burgeoning artist could possibly know how to handle—140 million clicks on YouTube for “Somebody That I Used To Know”—and he’s certainly giving the hordes of 18-30-year-old women, who dominated attendance at the show, what they want. They happily cut their chatter short to whip out their cell phones, turn on their flash from 200 feet away and document said YouTube hit.

But for rock’s sake, Backer, you have something that can’t be bought right now: attention. Show some balls, man. That was funny when you stopped “Somebody That I Used To Know” feigning a poor memory of how to play the damn thing. But what if you “Creep”-ed it like Radiohead and didn’t even play it at all? Or better yet, what if you opened with it? Or even better yet, one-upped Kanye and Jay-Z’s ad nauseam “Niggas In Paris” assault, and made some epic pop gluttony statement?

All besides the point, maybe. You’ve made it to America, selling out huge ballrooms, fighting the good fight, with a mere three-album oeuvre. Your stage presence wasn’t spectacular. You could not emulate Sting if you wanted to, it’s apparent. Your ability to traverse through genres is impressive, threading your own drum leads. Your keyboardist is a monster once he lays off the digi-brass. And “Heart’s A Mess” was one of the best-paced performances I’ve seen all year, SXSW included. It’s just too bad you waited ’til your final number to weave the true baroque folk-bending magic.


Eyes Wide Open
The Only Way
Easy Way Out
Smoke & Mirrors
State Of The Art
Thanks For Your Time
Coming Back
Somebody That I Used To Know
Save Me
Heart’s A Mess
In Your Light
I Feel Better

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Van Halen at the United Center

February 24th, 2012

David Lee Roth fronted the reanimated Van Halen at Chicago’s United Center; Photo: Ryan Bourque

Van Halen may not be living at a pace that kills anymore, especially with 20-year-old cherub-cheeked Eddie Jr., Wolfgang, replacing the drunk-savant sludgery of bassist Michael Anthony. But that didn’t stop Diamond Dave and the rest of the original pushing-60 crew from chasing their younger, hungrier selves last Friday night (Feb 24) at a sold out United Center show.

Roth especially, proving his throat isn’t some shredded version of what used to be called metal, came ascot and rhinestone-peacocking out of the gate, circus-baton in full whip, leading the boys into an odd choice for an opener—their debut’s requisite Kinks cover, “You Really Got Me,” interjecting trademark ball-grabbing yelps when needed.

He did slow down a bit in uncharacteristic and distracting fashion a few times to complain about some things—a lack of water, the air vents, his mic—but otherwise was a gapless powerhouse, a high-note dynamo while he and the Van Halen lineage blazed through a double-dozen set in a mere hour and a half.

With only four of said 24 cuts pulled from their just-dropped seventh offering, A Different Kind of Truth, the pseudo-greatest hits set did plenty of pleasing amidst the sea of middle-aged dudes that filled the arena. But it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they pulled diversely from the most furious moments of their early 80s run.

It seemed as Eddie wouldn’t have it any other way, sporting a permanent grin from “Runnin’ With The Devil,” to the freight-trainin’ riffs of “Somebody Get Me A Doctor,” scissor-kicking even in the final moments of end-capper “Jump.” There were some piano and synth fills to help him along the way. But otherwise, all Eddie, right hand coming above the fret-board and all.

If there was a slow pace the quartet hit, it would have been on the heels of Diver Down’s Roy Orbison cover “Pretty Woman,” and Alex Van Halen’s ridiculous drum solo, flashed with horn and Santana-esque key samples, that saw a spattering of people seek out another $10 beer. Though even then, immediately after came an eight-foot stack of Marshall-backed “Unchained,” Roth tongue-and-cheekin’ “one break, coming up” before the slam of their veritable wall of sound brought out that chorus line about things never staying the same.

It is early in the tour, though. Who knows, Roth might cat-call his way into surgery. Wolfgang has a 21st birthday coming up pretty soon. There might be some boozin’ afoot. Or Roth could brew up some of the fabled bad blood that put a stop to the current incarnation in the first place, the band crashing in one trite Behind The Music montage. But as the four harmonized on “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” at the end of the night, Roth still ruffling around like a peacock, Eddie making it all look garage-band easy, there sure as hell weren’t any signs of that on Friday.

Set List:
You Really Got Me (Kinks cover)
Runnin’ With the Devil
She’s The Woman
Romeo Delight
Everybody Wants Some!!
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
China Town
Mean Street
(Oh) Pretty Woman
Drum Solo
The Trouble with Never
Dance the Night Away
I’ll Wait
Hot for Teacher
Women in Love
Girl Gone Bad
Beautiful Girls
Ice Cream Man
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

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Ay Ay Picante Peruvian Cuisine

February 20th, 2012

Buzz-worthy Peruvian BYOB with an authentic price tag. 

You do not have to be hip to Peruvian cuisine to understand you’re experiencing top-notch authenticity at Ay Ay. Adjacent, regular diners might divulge the drinking capabilities of the lime juice and rocoto chile sauce that soaks about its ceviches. And every once in a while, a flaming whoosh from the kitchen will reveal actual Peruvian chefs behind the stove. But any blind poke at the menu will exude the region this still secret of a BYOB is set in.

The tricky part is that region is a hodgepodge of fusion, brought on by all the cultures that tried to take it over – African, Japanese, Arab, Italian, Chinese and most importantly, Spanish. So it’s not uncommon to see pesto-sauteed pasta dishes next to soy-sauced fried rice medleys, finished off with seared tilapia in a red wine sauce.

However, pre-Columbian days, the Peruvians were one of the first people in the world to domesticate corn, avocados, potatoes and chiles. And they’re everywhere, in glorious fashion, all over the menu; mashed with mayonnaise, shredded chicken and green peas aloft velvety half-avocados (palta rellena), ground into sweet cinnamon and raisin dotted tamales (humita dulce), steamed with cheese and yellow pepper cream sauce aside grilled steak (papas a la diabla con bistec). And rice. Everything comes with a side of rice.

The ‘secret’ and ‘glorious’ nods are mostly for the cost of all this, at around $7 for entradas (small plates) and $14 for entrees. But once you’re under the candle-flick shadows of Nazca murals, and the bread and aji sauce hit the table seconds after an attentive server explains what aji sauce is, it will all make sense.

Average cost: $10-$20

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Bon Bon Vietnamese Sandwiches

February 20th, 2012

Photo: Michell Eloy

Gourmet bánh mì hits the WP for under $4

Owners Jenny and Tim Holloway aren’t Vietnamese. Jenny’s Korean, and her husband is half Japanese. Nor do they have any culinary expertise, outside of their business partnership with the organic meal prep kitchen their new shop shares its space with (My Gourmet Kitchen). But they both fell in love with bánh mì, the French-Vietnamese hybrid sammy (Jenny while traversing roadside Asia, Tim while traversing fast-food Cali) and felt it necessary to deliver its notoriously cheap price tag to ‘hoods of Chicago other than the far North Side.

The menu, like the sandwich, is simple. It’s basically a five-pronged, $3.95-apiece tour through its most storied flavors, like the classic ham and pate, and a hoisin, honey and garlic sauced char siu pork, to the more Westernized options like the lime-drizzled, roasted portobello, all dressed with the requisite pickled tang combo of daikon, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro and mayo, bundled together with the most important ingredient of all, a slightly toasted baguette.

Providing the couple keeps the integrity of their ingredients top notch, the formula’s golden on their personalities alone. Ask them to expound upon the back-story of their Japanime-cute logo, and the pig-tailed girl’s seventh-degree black belt in banh mi sandwich slinging. Though if the space politics go as planned – My Gourmet Kitchen is expected to shut down – they do hope to expand into a full cafe, shining a bit more light on their Vietnamese coffee options ($2), Asian confectionaries and wall of ramen goods.

Average cost: <$10

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Chairlift, Willis Earl Beal, Natalie Bergman, Polica and Class Actress at Tomorrow Never Knows

January 17th, 2012

Aside from anti-folk Chicago enigma Willis Earl Beal’s opening slot, up on the venue’s mattress-sized stage with just an old reel-to-reel as a backup band and a pair of bluesman shades to keep him company, woman-fronted indie outfits reigned supreme on the five-band bill at Schuba’s Saturday (January 14) edition of the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival.

Back to Beal for a minute though. After delivering anecdotes about working security at Willis Tower when it was still owned by Sears—”Those bastards fired me,” he said to a silent crowd—he poured a cascade of soul over the hiss of a heel-stomp recording or two. This was one of his first performances ever since posting an ad for friends at Myopic Books earlier this year. Watch out for this urban poet laureate, and the chorus from the second-to-last track he debuted sans sunglasses, “Wavering Lines”: “I got the low rinse solitary cool like a fool in the summertime.”

Enter the women, all leading from the hips, all with their own dance to tunes about various underbellies of love. Fellow Chicagoan Natalie Bergman led the pack with her brother Elliot emphasizing her Kate Bush-isms with some deep bass sax and some Jah guitar when the funk was appropriate. “Same song, again and again/You rob me twice and I keep coming back” she finger-snapped with a thousand-yard stare on “Keep You.” The sold-out crowd, finally in full attendance, spun when the singer did the same.

Twin-cities Gayngs spinoff Polica tweaked the hue a bit darker as songstress Channy Casselle Bjorked her way into the spotlight, auto-tune caked on in full reverb layers as the dual-drummer and bass guitar set-up propelled her into erratic shoulder-shimmies on “Lay Your Cards out,” howling “I am waiting” in cyclical cathartics. The side door to the venue kept exposing people to temperatures in the teens. But with Casselle as the centerpiece, it didn’t matter.

And then there was Brooklyn’s Class Actress, taking 10-minutes out of everyone’s lives to make sure the “in-house electronics” were “louder,” “no louder,” “just a bit louder” demanded vocalist Elizabeth Harper, in full 80s power businesswoman regalia, puckering a glistening set of red lips for effect. It was worth it, though, through every hair tussle, trench-coat twirl and Human League evocation.

Though if the preceding bands were to be taken as pop peers—aside from Beal—to Caroline Polachek’s output in headliner Chairlift, also Brooklyn incubated, they were but ripples in the crystalline exactitude of the buoyant spring of “Bruises”—yes, the iPod Nano tune—that the duo saved for the end of their set, Polachek medleying “I tried to do handstands for you” into Modern English gem “I Melt With You” and back into the plunky “Like A Virgin” keys of “Evident Utensil,” the other half of Chairlift, Patrick Wimberly, call-and-responding to Polachek’s “How hard must I try for you.” Will 2012 be the year women dominate indie pop?

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Yawn: Neon-Soaked Visuals Inject Energy into Electro-Pop Aesthetic

December 5th, 2011

“Yawning opens up the spirit core,” says the mustachioed faux-Zen master in Yawn’s public-access-style video for “Kind of Guy.” He continues in a satisfied, new-age lilt, urging viewers to “just give into the trance” before a strobe of rainbow-colored waves washes over the screen and the scene shifts to outer space. Glowing dancers, whose patterned figures are outlined by neon tubes, float, gyrate, and play instruments in unison with a tribal beat as kaleidoscopic lights pulsate.

The video is a perfect representation of Yawn’s aesthetic sensibilities — slightly off-kilter, totally saturated, and completely fun. “Colors are essentially just musical tones vibrating at a frequency that is visible to us,” says the video’s director, known only as Druid Beat. “Colors are another note to play.” The concept for the video stemmed from the playful mood of the song, yet there is an underlying progression taking place amid the flashing lights and bouncing rhythm. “The two dancers in the corners are composed of simple shapes; they are pure light, pure energy,” says Druid. “The middle dancers are more complex, lower entities, but still not pure matter. They combine into the human in the middle. From pure energy — light — comes matter.” Meanwhile, the members of Yawn oversee the procession, and the viewer is reborn through a “glowing, gloopy, neon vagina…witness to a light-show nirvana made out of the laser gods,” the director says.

Despite the brief existence of the band, Yawn’s avant-pop jams have garnered a considerable amount of buzz. Prior to becoming Yawn, the Chicago-based quartet performed and recorded under the name Metrovox, wielding an aggressive, guitar-driven setup. When asked where the new name and direction came from, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Adam Gil explains, “We were just throwing names around. I forgot who came up with it. It doesn’t really sound like a genre or anything — or a type of music. So we can constantly change and Yawn would be a fitting name for what we do.”

The five-song EP that followed is a meditation in layers, a game of tricking the listener to make it sound bigger than it really is. “Kind of Guy,” which features lyrics about bassist Sam Wolf’s late cat, dangles playful harmonies over a smattering of reverberated shower-curtain pulls, drum-rim clicks, and chopstick key jabs. Avoiding the potential cacophony, the track exudes chilled-out vibes, as African wind instruments weave about the rhythm. And “Empress,” Yawn’s darkest song, shakes out the last bits of the band’s Metrovox days with an assertive guitar push and an explosion of bright, sweeping synth lines.

As a relatively new band, Yawn is still establishing its style, musically and visually. The video for “Kind of Guy” is a bold aesthetic statement, one that sets the tone for future visuals. And because it was a jumping-off point, a great deal of work went into its creation. “There was a very conscious effort to actually build as many of the elements as possible,” Druid Beat says. “The [light tents] were actually as tall as people. The band’s costumes were constructed using a lot of EL wire. We hand-soldered all of it ourselves. The glowing element on the dancers’ costumes was created using mason’s twine and black light.”

David Beltran, who goes by the name of Starfoxxx, created the artwork for Yawn’s EP, which shares the vibrant visual aesthetic of the “Kind of Guy” video. A young, sickly girl is illustrated in reds, purples, and yellows in a scrawled, notebook-margin style, complete with faux paint drips and bubble graffiti letters. It’s a slightly more refined style than the band’s mix-tape cover, which is a frenzied collage of disparate elements.

On this cover, alongside drawings of a “huge red shark” and “motherfuckin’ Starfoxxx,” is a monolithic blender. Besides evoking the obvious implications of a “mix,” it serves as a visual metaphor for the band’s own style, which blends the organic with the digital effortlessly, as drum machines and rain sticks keep time in polyrhythmic coexistence. And with an acute sense of melody and pop-song convention, Yawn makes its signature blend with ingredients and influences from The AvalanchesAriel Pink, and Brian Eno.

With its sophomore single, “Acid,” Yawn hints at another transformation, from happy psych to impending darkness. Stretched out in minor keys, the song echoes the heavy angst of Pink Floyd and displays shades of MGMT’s path — from Oracular Spectacular ecstasy toCongratulations freak-out. However, the end attraction still bubbles with some seriously liberating hypnotic pop.

The band’s full-length record, due in the first quarter of 2011, “[is] very much like a mix tape,” sampler/guitarist Daniel Perzan says. “Some tracks touch on the sampling nature of The Avalanches and Tough Alliance-style beach sounds, and others are mostly organic that ride drums with synths and guitars. It’s come to be a mishmash of song writing that really isn’t like the typical album that keeps to one idea — which we fear may not exactly be the best thing. But that’s kind of what we are as a band.”

With a vague, elastic name and an equally pliable sound, the band is poised to do just about anything. And although much has changed since Yawn’s high-school days as Metrovox, its creativity and DIY passion have remained constant. The Zen master would be pleased; by “giving into the trance,” Yawn is just beginning to realize its potential.

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Beirut + Laetitia Sadier at the Congress Theater

September 26th, 2011

Long since his teenage vagabond idealisms came to life, and the young crooner escaped his Sante Fe bedroom in chase of the hooks of Balkan sea chants, French chanson and Mexican big-band, Zach Condon of the now NYC-based Beirut was in his pop element last night at the Congress Theater, leading a five-piece band with the grown up suavity of Morrissey and the mystery of a gypsy emcee.

There were no tricks up the man’s sleeve. He played it straight for a two-dozen song set spread across three EPs and two albums, including his latest, The Rip Tide. To record Rip Tide, Condon made like Justin Vernon and holed himself away in an upstate New York cabin in attempt to clear his head of a four-year touring hiatus and a punctured eardrum mishap. The result was all of Condon’s worldly influences past and present fused into a pristine brass foray that allowed him to steer away from Thom-Yorke-style warbles.

In the Congress ballroom, Condon lead with an old debut cut fav,”Scenic World,” nixing the record’s drum machine fill for a xylophone tinkle. Fans were in sing-along mode from the get-go,  Condon lofting a lyric about imagining a careless life, layering a three-part trumpet fill over its signature accordion sway, in a huge proud, bright horn moment, while a series of string bulbs lit their way up to a hook in the ceiling.

The sentiments were clear the entire evening, for the most part, at a venue notorious for its hit-or-miss sound issues. If Condon wasn’t beaming under the solo light of a mandolin fill on fan faves like “A Sunday Smile” or “Postcards From Italy,” he was one-arming trumpet fills, and annunciated stories with a confidence that wasn’t in evidence behind the more cacophonous quirks of his early days. There were some of those dramatic instrumentals plugged in there for fun. But they would be followed with something like “Nantes” off The Flying Club Cup, Condon clear as ever, aching out “It’s been a long time now since I’ve seen your smile.”

Teasing a handful of encores at the end of the evening, Condon came back out for one last bare Flying Club Cup mandolin number, “The Penalty,” an old Parisian cafe tune wrought with parental imagery and lines about “fully grown children” and “impassable nights,” the now 25-year old a married man with house and dog. If it were an earlier version of Condon, the tune might have been marred by overwrought wailing. But this time every word was a clear dance around your head. And with an onstage wave, the band came on to bring it home, tuba, accordion, trumpet and all. It’s always great to see an artist grow.

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The War on Drugs at Schubas

August 29th, 2011

Miles away from that bitch Irene and the wall of rain she was visiting upon the Eastern seaboard, Philadelphia’s the War on Drugs was stopping by Schubas on Friday night, building a wall of another kind—a classic-rock hybrid warmed with layers of early ’90s indie-fuzz. The blogosphere has dubbed it “Boss-gaze.”

That’s nearly a perfect a tag for what these dudes do. Frontman Adam Granduciel came slinging angst on the surface, shredded at the knees in a pair of jeans, his hair in his eyes. He spun the tired but charming cliché that Chicago’s the “best city in the whole damn country,” mostly just to set his band up for lead-off tune, “Best Night,” off this month’s sophomore album drop, Slave Ambient.

And then it preceded to jam, stringing one double-digit minute medley after another, from the reverb-washed synth chug-a-lugger “Your Love Is Calling My Name” into arena-ready U2-esque anthems like “It’s Your Destiny” and “Come to the City.” Granduciel channeled everyone from Dylan to My Bloody Valentine, complete with a Bono “hoo-hoo” after a lyric about rambling and drifting.

That is where the War on Drugs was most potent. Granduciel laced sparkling riff after riff like some estranged protégé brother of Jeff Tweedy. Drummer Mike Zangh tumbled along flawlessly. The tiny arch of Schubas’ stage had trouble containing all the textures. The band played so cool and confident—it had even recruited a sax player via Twitter blast a few hours before the show.

When you’d think the swell would never end, Granduciel would lead the crew into a rousing cut from the sprawling Americana of their debut, Wagonwheel Blues. As it pulled off a better-than-the-Boss-himself “Arms Like Boulders,” Granduciel ceased to suck air on a harmonica only to pluck his guitar strings with it, and howled to crowd, “Yes and now, now’s the time to wrap your ears around the sound / Of your train coming round.” If this is where the rock train’s a rolling these days, consider ourselves on board.

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Lollapalooza Day 3: Foo Fighters Play to Mud People; Best Coast, The Cars and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Evade the Rain

August 28th, 2011

Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino channels her punk spirit for a fan in Chicago’s Grant Park during the band’s set on day three of Lollapalooza; Photos: Gavin Paul

Dripping from the torrential rain that plagued Sunday in Chicago, a white-eyed Dave Grohl confided to a sea of mud people, “You know what I like? A rock and roll band that actually gets up on stage and plays their fucking instruments,” before cuing a machine-gun “Monkey Wrench” march from Taylor Hawkins and throating that line about innocence, permanently etched into our early 90s conscious.  There were more than a few apes more interested in flinging mud and beer at each other, but by and large, this was a rally point in an ongoing conversation about rock as the great communicator.  From a dude, an industry, a band and a festival that has seen better days.

The Foo Fighters went on to prove, with a stiff middle-finger to the skies, that honest hard-working rock bands can still rule the world, Grohl, full of anecdotes, like a Naked Raygun show in Chicago that planted the seed for the dream in 1982.

Or back in ’91 when he and Cobain went to the first Lollapalooza during the recording of Nevermind in LA – “There were 20,000 people there to see bands that were actually cool,” he laughed off, made Perry Farrell come and hug him on stage for a thanks, and end-capped the evening with, “Everlong,” thousands of wrist-banded fists in the air screaming, “If everything could ever feel this real forever.”

Not to take away from the headliner’s cred, but something was in the air that day. The rain, yes.  But also a handful of bands chasing different levels of rockness in fierce fashion. Even out of the gate with Crazy Heart soundtrack country soul, Ryan Bingham. Backed by a trio of booted twang stalwarts, the Dead Horses, Bingham wasn’t out to change the face of Texas rock, but wore his heartache on his sleeve, coming off as the most genuine whiskey-and-smoke tale in the park, clicking back both heels during a cut from third effort, “Junky Star” called “Depression,” explaining eyes half-open that all he’s got is love, and it’s just damn depressing in a young Tom Waits kind of way.

Whereas Cali-surf poplette Best Coast were all sass and snarl when the first wave of rain attacked, giving the audience the bird, a dry-staged Bethany Cosentino shouting at the audience, “Fuck you, it’s raining,” po-going into shoulder-strummer “Crazy for you” with a smirk.  Fans took it with bigger smiles, opener their mouths and arms and spitting what they caught on each other.

The Cars were to the untrained eye, pretty placid, but Ric Ocasek paid a gleaming homage to Ben Orr’s “Moving In Stereo” behind a set of horn-rimmed glasses that didn’t need a topless Phoebe Cates to be cool, high notes included, while Greg Hawkes fingered his way around the keys like it was the dawning age of the synth.  The red shades helped him get there.

Otherwise, the cool award goes to Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., a.) for evading the rain, b.) for secretly placing bottles of Dom Perignon in a few select porta-potties – or so they said – c.) for their bubble machine d.) for calling themselves Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and e.) for the handclap whistle-along to “Vocal Chords” Daniel Zott soul-glowing “life’s to short to play it safe” while bubbles popped in his eyes.

Portugal. The Man came a close second, morphing into Bowie-at-his-peak stride with a set heavily pulled from their latest, The Man In The Mountain Cloud.

When they deviated, they did so in golden R&B fashion, as with the erie timing of “The Sun” from Satanic Satanist, the four-piece harmonizing to John Gourley’s rattled acoustic strum, “waiting for the band to come.” Later, some assholes would steal their van full of gear.

While on the other side of the field, as the eye of the doom clouds lurched through, Austin’s coddled post-rock set, Explosions In The Sky promised “an hour’s worth of rock in 45 minutes,” so said bassist Munaf Rayani, refusing requests from fans against the barricade to put on some face-paint in war-rock spirit, instead lofting Take Care, Take Care, Take Care‘s opener, “Last Known Surroundings” into the clouds, drawing tight together like a tribe on stage and hobbling in tandem to its goblin drum-line at the end, an endless shimmering cascade of reverbed guitars flowing from one another.  One puddle stomper’s reflection – “This. Is. Epic!” There’s always the hope. 

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Lollapalooza 2011 Day 2: Kids Crashed Fences, Chain Gang of 1974, Ween, DOM and Eminem Played On

August 11th, 2011

Goth chanteuse Lykke Li summoning the pop in Chicago’s Grant Park on day two of Lollapalooza; Photos: Gavin paul

The kids were not alright yesterday, as hundreds of them evaded the new airport scanners and crashed a Western, 15-foot fence, booking into the concrete jungle for a taste of Day Two.

At the time, Ween was at the tail-end of “Bananas and Blow.”  But it wouldn’t be a bad typecast to say Southern headliner Slim Shady had some influence.

Then again, maybe they all were after My Morning Jacket on the North end, where the Kentucky wooly rock mammoths would eventually destroy a sunset with a “Circuital”-heavy set 1974 would be proud of.  The last time Jim James and crew came to Lolla, they pulled the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra with them.  But this year, they let blistering epics like “Victory Dance” and “Holdin’ On To Black Metal” pull the weight, James’ hair a constant flurry.

As crowds continued to thin out with Eminem traitors, fans capitalized on the elbow room and danced their faces off, culminating in a barn-burning rendition of oldie “One Big Holiday,”  with James’ flash-dancing the tune home without an encore.

Or maybe some of those kids were 80s children, as Saturday was also a fine day to get your John Hughes teen sentiments on, as Denver’s Chain Gang of 1974 were in a constant flannel-on-the-waist spin mid-afternoon, flinging blissed-out synth from June’s “Wayward Fire.”

With each smear of his eyeliner, and lyric upon lyric of Depeche Mode hurt, ringleader Kamtin Mohager reached a new glam height the way of commiseration, dedicating one particular tune to “a lying bitch.” One fan’s immediate response – “I love you mom.”

Same retro synth story with Brooklyn’s The Drums on another side-stage, bittersweet vocalist Jonathan Pierce maximum hips, minimum head in his Cure-ish emotions, as gaggles of sun-dressed girls twirled around mud pits from the morning’s rain.  The band slowed it down mid-set for one of their only ballads, “Down By The Water,” in which Pierce reminded all mid-sway, “everyone’s gotta feel something.”

Likewise with Worcester’s DOM, in a more burnout fashion, teasing sloppy pop from their Family of Love EP, dragging their feet around stage with scuzz-brat lines about not caring about anyone else and how sexy it feels to be living in America. Goofy, sun-drenched dudes making jokes about Nickelodeon behind thick walls of reverb and keys that glistened so bright, you had to wear shades.

Aside from Eminem breaking that youthful bygone stride, Sante Fe’s brass king of indie-swoon, Beirut, managed a headlining spot buried amidst a side-stage trees that they pulled off immaculately.  Bouncing around from their latest record, “The Rip Tide” back to 2006′s “Gulag Orkestar,” Zach Condon ring-led a Balkan fever of accordion-strung harmonies, his band moon-facing trumpet, tuba and trombone fills while he lofted a Morrissey-croon so smooth, you couldn’t even hear the sound bleed from adjacent My Morning Jacket.  There really wasn’t any looking back to be had by Condon anyway.  When he and the band swaggered into an old, drumless Lon Gisland EP cut, “Scenic World,” there wasn’t a muddy foot in that crowd not on its toes harmonizing along to the “careless life.”

Lykke Li and Pretty Reckless also played. Let’s hear it for these strong acts that brought some feminine mystique to the night.

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Lollapalooza 2011: Day 1 Heats Up with Coldplay, Cults, the Mountain Goats and Le Butcherettes

August 6th, 2011

Photo: Gavin Paul

Conor Oberst performs at Lollapalooza 2011 at Grant Park in Chicago; All photos by Gavin Paul

With sold-out, record-breaking ticket sales – 90,000/day – and a big proverbial 20th-anniversary gold ring for Perry Farrell, the pops of touring festivals took its first breath of three on Friday in its adopted Chicago Grant Park home, humming a far different tune than its Alternative Nation meets circus shit show of yore.

Once a breeding ground of Jane’s Addiction’s circle of grunge, I’m not sure anyone would have predicted Coldplay, one of rock’s most chastised mopesters, would be headlining some day.

But they did. And whether it was a cheeky cop-out or not by leadsinger Chris Martin to tell crowds they’ve been waiting 20 years to do so, they fit the bill suitably, ripping through a best-of list of their most self-deprecating hits, from “Yellow” to “The Scientist.”

The festival’s latest promotor regime, C3, have made a game of seeing how divergent and diverse they can split people across a mile-long stretch of eight stages. And when the closing-hour begins, artists that can fill said space with the most swagger. So while Muse configured its math-rock on the South end of the park, and Girl Talk spewed forth its plugged-in generation of all things hook and hips on the West end, Coldplay’s downtrodden sing-alongs were welcomed in spades, couples ironically making out all across the field as Martin hobbled around from piano ballad to shimmering U2-isms.

There was a bit of nostalgia, perhaps why they were in the spot they were, as some tunes reached back a good ten years across “Parachutes” territory, but the Brits were juiced in their angst, Martin yelping into “Politik” medley, thrusting his pelvis to the drum push on “Fix You,” and closing with a strum-fierce new cut, “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” blasting ash and fireworks in tandem, proving they can get up while down.

Elsewhere in the divergent mad dash, all sorts of great emergent small-stagers were killing it. Greatest of all them during the day’s most humid peak, Mexican thrash-punksters Le Butcherettes, ending with drummer Gabe Serbian puking all over his kit and starting with riot grrrl frontwoman Teri Gender Bender squawking the feminist-slathered half Spanish/half English rager “Dress Off” in mock-bloody threads, an ongoing comment her feelings for post-war housewives.

Georgia’s amalgamation of quirky pop, Reptar, were all sorts of African rhythm-sourced soul and Animal Collective warble, as well, throwing their State fruit at people and inciting many a hand-clap fits from their debut LP, “Oblangle FIzz Y’all,” complete with a keyboardist in a blue leotard.

In one of their more hip-centric strides, a cut dubbed “Blast Off” saw some tambourines thrown across stage, Passion Pit synth kicks and billowing wafts of herb from kids amidst the side-stage’s (Google+) trees, threaded about a choir of “Ohs” on the backbeat, like some awesome misfit child of the Talking Heads and Animal Collective.

Denver’s sweetheart throwback wall-of-sound popsters Tennis had the same charm on the same stage earlier, in a polk-a-dot and apple pie kind of way, swaying through tunes inspired from a grand sailboat adventure the keys-and-guitar couple laid down on “Cape Dory” back in January.

Dudes and dudettes were rolling in the grass and kicking up dirt at one-another as Alaina Moore questioned her husband in Ronettes, curly-haired glow, “Do nautical things make you miss the sea?” His response – a heel-kicked jangle on his guitar and smile.

Within the semi-larger marquee realm, the Mountain Goats held their heady folk own to the North, entering the stage with a scathing metal tune, John Darnielle preceding each tune with a one-liner monologue like “this song is about being young and stupid and somehow surviving.”

And lest us not forget indie-poster child – well now man – Conor Oberst and the Bright Eyes crew, still professing future cynicism off this Spring’s “The People’s Key.” Though Oberst was a bit angrier than normal, and dug into oldies like “Lover I Don’t Have To Love,” and “Road to Joy” encouraging in his frothing verité, “Fuck it up kids, make some noise.” At least in song. At set’s end, he was decrying how much he loved everybody, with hugs for all in the front row.

The small stage won the most hearts, though, reverting back to another sweetheart 60s throwback earlier act, Cults. With only a 30th of the masses in tow for Coldplay, these Brooklyn upstarts slung layer upon layer of shimmering summerisms, Madeline Follin’s doowop harmonies perfectly swimming in the haze of Brian Oblivion’s guitar riffs, with a xylophone chime moving everything forward on that part on breakout single “Go Outside” when Follin reminds everyone how much she wants to get out and play, with just as much swagger as Martin with an arsenal of fireworks.


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John Maus at Schubas

July 19th, 2011

To the tight-hipped, it’s too easy to reduce John Maus, of Ariel Pink fame, to a manic button pusher conjuring synthetic warbles on a glorified Simon. With his incessant screaming, awash in a sweaty sea of reverb and delay—hearing a discernible lyric is a difficult task. But these folks weren’t relevant this weekend, as the only people in attendance at Saturday’s Schubas post-Pitchfork show were of the other breed: The loose-hipped.

A sold-out collective of dancing demons followed the dude in a maddening sonic cave explorations of what he calls the “truth of pop.” The madness ceased their chase only when the time came for the 30-minute set to end, and their own screams could be heard. Heaving from the corner of the room where church pews line the wall, Maus didn’t plug his new album, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves nor attempt an encore. Instead the Political Theory major accidentally stepped on my shoe, sincerely apologized, and left the room. Exploration over.

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Copy Editor

July 11th, 2011

Two Chicago-based attorneys and lifelong Cubs fans, Walter Yurkanin and Thomas Hoffman, set the record straight on the infamous Bartman Play of the 2003 MLB playoffs, in this renegade “commission report” that seeks to examine everything that went right and wrong on that fateful day in Game 6 against the Florida Marlins when a fan caught a ball in play, igniting a series of events that led to the Cubs’ loss and elimination from the series.

Brought on as copy editor, I was tasked with weaving the legal jargon necessary to the authors’ leave-no-stone-unturned examination into a creative narrative that serves all the clerical precedent they sought to set, that the umps made the wrong call, the exoneration of the fan (Steve Bartman) as the sole cause of the fiasco and, of course, a rich history of curses that plagued the Cubs’ quest to return a World Series to Wrigley Field for the first time in over a century.

Published years before the Cubs finally did break said curse, with my edits and creative direction to deepen the mosaic with their own baseball upbringing anecdotes, Yurkanin and Hoffman tapped into the mysticism of the sport and fandom with ‘Mad Ball, while also also laying out a framework for an incident like this to never happen again.



Our answer to criticism is to invite them all to sit down with us at a nice antique wood conference table to hold a Fan Interference Summit.  Before breaking bread together, we will all agree not to mention one word of the Bartman Play.  Rather, we will read the rule line-by-line.  Those umpires that believe all that matters is whether a ball is in the stands will see that there are other aspects to the rule.  Maybe next time they have to rule on a play in foul territory near the wall, they will not lock their eyes on the ball.  Those umpires, and umpire supervisors, who in the past have fixated on the provision that says “when a player goes into the stands, he does so at his own risk,” will see that there is a big exception that starts with the word “however.”  If an umpire starts to stray from the written rule to interject his own make-believe interpretation, he would be forced to take his index finger and point to the exact words in the rule that support his interpretation.  If he cannot find the words to support his interpretation, he must put his finger in his ear.  If the umpire finds the words, but conveniently chooses to ignore other words, he will be required to write the other words on the chalkboard ten times.


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Keren Ann at Lincoln Hall

June 13th, 2011

Whispering “Chicago” into the mic like some back-alley come-hither, NYC-by-way-of-Paris-by-way-of-Tel Aviv gypsy folkette, Keren Ann, sauntered upon Lincoln Hall Monday night to supposedly tease this past spring’s 101, the artist’s first effort in four years, and likewise first unveiling of her full on toe-dip into more straight-ahead pop. But as the smoke machine ceased to billow and the only accompaniment to her ethereal pipes revealed themselves to be an acoustic guitar and a melancholic trumpet man in the corner, she was quick to stick to the same singer/songwriter quirk that earned her moments in the spotlight five albums ago.

On the record, 101‘s loaded hook gun is the snarky “My Name Is Trouble,” but those hooks come in Ann’s signature almost cabaret delivery contrasted with a playful Casio finger-dance throughout. Same story for throw-away A-sider, “Sugar Mama,” a sardonic finger-snapper at the end of its three-minute tale, but two minutes too long with a walking bass line. When these tunes did hit the PA at Lincoln Hall, Ann painted them her favorite nouvelle vogue shade of blue, delicately plucking out their backbones to give languid charm to a lyric about loving to the point of death and letting her trumpet man Avishai Cohen burn out the end like the last drag of a hand-rolled smoke in a Montmartre café.

It wasn’t all jazz romance all night. Ann threw an aggro punch here and there with theKeren Ann album cut “It Ain’t No Crime” swapping in an electric guitar to crunch out some PJ Harvey-esque snarl. She down-strummed some sloppy distortion punches on the eerie set-opener “Strange Weather,” in place of its overdub studio string and choral swirls. But she night-capped the set with a stiff pull of her cocktail and the only French tune of the evening, “Le Chien D’avant Garde,” a sultry snapshot of Serge Gainsbourg suave Parisian past, Cohen wailing on the horn as Ann cooed “J’attendrai, J’attendrai” (I will wait) in the softest voice possible without a fur collar. We suppose we will, too, Ann, if you continue to blossom so.

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The Dodos at the Metro

June 6th, 2011

Dodos’s lead singer Meric Long introduced the band to crowd with a “greetings earthlings” one-liner, quickly hunching over his pedals to add some drone to the finger-picking tantrums of “Good,” the follow-in track from their latest, which also features some howls from former Chicagoan Neko Case. Last night, it felt as if the band was still victory-lapping the return to breakout form of March release No Color, which ditches the polishings of producer Phil Ek (Built To Spill, The Shins) for the grainy organics of the man that made Visiter (2008) such a charm, John Askew.

Though Neko wasn’t in attendance for a cameo, the house was more than happy as many audience members at the show were reaping a freebie from a mass ticket-dump at Millennium Park, where Iron & Wine drew sweaty summer crowds in droves. Long and the boys took it in stride, treating the space like a garage session in an adopted home town, rattling off jokes about Hot Doug’s and fist-pumps which became the evening’s official sweaty, drunken show of affection.

And reasonably so—the No Color-heavy set that unfolded came packed with an extra existential thump, drummer Logan Kroeber clobbered the rims of his kick-drum-less-kit for added syncopations, allowing Long the space to turn “Don’t Try To Hide It” and “Black Night” into lofty sing-alongs. Long flickered lightning-crunch riffs in for kicks as the crowd of insiders crooned along to “you had it all” and “don’t try and hide it” couplets.

When Long, Kroeber and touring guitarist Chris Riemer (of Women) did break from the new album format, they dug into old Visiter cuts like “Jodi,” that rarely get played anymore. On “The Season,” they turned the already over six-minute jam into a sprawl with Long slathering reverb and echo over his Jazzmaster, yelping “We can do this on our own.”  A requisite “Fools” encore—sans the horns—but with African-sourced clattering and Morrissey flow, proved the duo called Dodos absolutely could.

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Jimmy Gnecco (of Ours) at Schubas

May 18th, 2011

Jimmy Gnecco of Ours at Chicago’s Schubas Tavern; Photo: Gavin Paul

Jimmy Gnecco (of Ours fame) has fought the good fight for years even as he’s endured many of the tragedies the music business regularly bestows upon those in the singer/songwriter realm. He’s seen Rick Rubin-produced records shelved, his bank account emptied and more than a few wretched deaths of loved ones. But before you rub a little violin between your fingers, know this dear unfamiliar reader—the dude’s one of the most underrated talents in the biz. Quieting a bar room is no easy task. Gnecco turned Schubas into a church Monday night with a single scream.

Granted, the artist likely had something to do with the rows of chairs positioned in sermon fashion, a notorious hater of inattentivemess.  And at this point in his career, he doesn’t have any on-the-fence fans.  Everyone at the show last night was diehard Gnecco, a meditatively hush part of a small set of believers in the “Ours” philosophy, rationalized later in the evening by Gnecco’s question to the audience, “What’s more loving and welcoming than ‘ours’?”

Hence the intimacy of the tour-stop, showcasing his first solo effort The Heart in its entirety in a guitar-mic-and-monologue setting. Whereas members of Ours filled drum and other electric instrumental duties on the initial journey, Gnecco’s only weapons this time out were a big black acoustic and his Robert Plant-meets-Jeff Buckley set of pipes. Well those and the demons that successively lurk about the 15-song epic he dropped last summer.

“I cry every time I play this song,” he preceded “It’s Only Love” with, one of many tracks dedicated to his late mother.  “You put yourself where you were,” he existentially confided on “These are My Hands,” the tatters of his long-sleeve shaking with each chorus heel-stomp.  At one point an inquisitive woman in the front row broke the silence to ask him if he really wrote “I Heard You singing” after the death of the aforementioned Buckley, who he was good friends with, to which he rattled off a sobering “way to bring down the mood” quip. Catharsis gives The Heart its beat.

Meanwhile Gnecco was surprisingly conservative with his infamous howls, revealing his neck muscles only a handful of times, appropriately in the front end of the record’s “stay with me tonight” plead within the final moments of “Light on the Grave,” and most memorably on the title track’s banshee knee-buckling end-cap, heaving in the aftermath to a standing ovation.  “I really wanted to make a record without all that screaming stuff,” he would say after “Mystery,” the first major-chord sunshine in the black cloud of a record.

As a “gift” for looming about in the candlelit darkness for the effort in full, Gnecco dug into an encore rendition of an old Ours tune, “Sometimes,” lofting at the arches of the stage with a doubled-up acoustic crunch, “I give up on it all,” dragging his feet a few steps to finish out the lyric, “I give up on the ones/who give up on me.”

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Ezra Furman & The Harpoons at Subterranean

April 28th, 2011

“This is why I don’t like to play shows to 17-year olds,” wryly rambled folk punkster Ezra Furman Sat night (April 23rd) at SubT, half staring into lost crowd space, half at his shoes. Furman was backhanding a comment about the frantic energy in the venue, something of which he later assured us is not standard for the Evanston-based singer/songwriter. He and his band, The Harpoons, platformed the evening around the early April release of their third full-length effort, Mysterious Power.

To say that the twenty-something chases a Dylanesque dragon is not a thing of blasphemy—”Your dreams never follow the chronology of history,” he nasally lofts into something charmingly his own on ’07’s “Banging Down The Doors” in the voice of Moses, “And the purpose of dreams is still quite a mystery.”

The irony of that 17-year old comment is that most of the crowd was silly drunk by the time Furman and crew took the stage, stumbling and shouting stupidities like “Ayatollah Rockarollah” and “Lou Reed.”  Also, Furman was wearing a prom invitation in the form of a t-shirt that an underage fan implored him to don. No word if Rebecca McDonald said yes or not.

All of this created a fine third coming, regardless, the band twisting the unbridled energy like some Force move, stomping heels on new cuts “Bloodsucking Whore,” screaming the “I can’t tell what I am gonna do next” chorus of Pogues-ish “Teenage Wasteland” in wide smile. Furman’s quip was apt about the show being an irregularity–the dudes are not Ezra Furman & The Harpoons anymore. They are The Harpoons featuring Ezra Furman.

Even on magnum opus single, “Take Off Your Sunglasses” (Furman’s veritable “Subterranean Homesick Blues”) the harp-wielding singer/songwriter showed an infinite amount of new confidence, freeversing that bit about not needing to think about things in the middle of the night and everybody being unworthy, street-preaching a cadence all his own. But it wouldn’t have been anything without the punch and yelp reminder of his bandmates to take off those damn shades.

There’s a sentiment in a recent interview in the Sun-Times about how Furman, now 25, looks up to an evangelical protégée of a Michigan-based singer/songwriter, Paul Baribeau, who “mostly just plays acoustic guitar and screams.”  And Furman did close things by his lonesome with “Don’t Turn Your Back on Love,” hammering home his folkie foundation, pleading “How could I forget you” in the end.  Though anyone not aping drunken non-sequiturs in attendance that night, witnessed his band taking him to the gate.

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Jamaica + Via Audio at Schubas

April 25th, 2011

There’s a trend of sorts in the land of indie-pop lately one might call embracing the cheese. First came auto-tune. Then the ukulele. And now the cock-sure blazing rock solo is en vogue.

Certainly there’s a sparkling wink of a joke they’re all in on, felt something fierce as opening Brooklyn crew Via Audio parked aside Schubas last night in a big purple conversion tour van (once emblazoned with the word “SNOB,” we’re told). The hipster mystery machine did not try to hide its arrival.

To Via Audio’s credit, those winks are charming most of the time, inciting a room full of skinny jeans and inhibitions to raise the roof to a Prince-slathered funk of a mid-set get-down called “Babies.” There was reciprocated band-to-crowd sentiment that sure, “the world is overcrowded,” and why not, “I want to make babies with you.”

Or their Unicorns-esque ode to Godzilla, “Lizard Song,” they followed this with, scattering flash riffs and handclaps about four-part huff-and-puff syncopated harmonies bending the line between kook and pop as hard as they could.  “You wanted a monster/Here I am,” drawled out lead guitarist Tom Deis.

Though earlier the four-piece made fans endure a throw-away called “Digital,” wrought with robot-crunched vocals, an impassioned Cake cadence and the veritable icing – a neon guitar bit lifted straight from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” cache.  Color it a satirical monster all you want.  It still put a sour taste in this reviewer’s mouth.

An odd thing for this band to kick out, even with their quirks worn proudly on their sleeves. Especially when they whipped out closer “Happening,” keyboardist Jessica Martins glistening a soulful sing-along – “This is what we live for/This is where we aught to be” – before the band erupted in hip-popping key.

So the same story went for headliners Jamaica, a French power-pop duo ironically spawned on the condition that they threw any synth tricks out the studio window, or heavyweight Parisian natives, Xavier De Rosnay (Justice) and Peter Franco (Daft Punk), wouldn’t produce their debut.

The two took the stage sans synth, indeed, rounding out a rhythm section with touring drummer David Arknin, but orchestrated a shit-show of pedal-clicks to hit moment after moment of gleaming “rawk” bridges and impassioned lyrics about being a “Gentleman” and the glory of all things “Short and Entertaining.”

Likened to peers Phoenix in the blogosphere, this is not to say the trio did not own their cheese.  A pocket of girls near the stage ate up every “gar pareee” drop that lead singer Antoine Hilaire filled banter time with.  And the viral rockumentary “I Think I Like U 2,” an actually clever stab at their own power-chord rise to fame saw some similar swoons, phallic guitar positioning and all.  It just got placid after a while.  Half the room emptied out by the time they capped their 10-song set.

Which is somewhat of a shame. Because “When Do You Wanna Stop Working” is one case where all their flash and power posture is ditched all together, Hilaire taking a moment to channel some garage rock roots.  If only honesty came back in style.

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Sharon Van Etten at Lincoln Hall

April 13th, 2011

Continuing to ache something comfortably numb like every singer/songwriter worth an amp before her, Brooklyn-by-way-of -Memphis-by-way-of-Jersey darling of catharsis Sharon Van Etten stopped by Lincoln Hall last Saturday night (April 9th), headlining her first stage in Chicago since dropping last fall’s move to full band opus, Epic.

Unusually shy and slim on banter, even for her bedroom-cathedral self, Etten drew some laughs from a Rod Stewart jab, and later again with another aimed at Robert Plant, thanking an café-quiet crowd for not attending those legend’s shows happening across town. But otherwise, she cut words short and sweet, hugging her full-curve Cherry Gibson of choice like a book of ex-lovers’ letters. She songbirded plugged-in intros spread across material from her classical guitar and 4-track demos as well as a handful of new ditties, her band kicking in routinely with soulful strides.

She may be coddled for her perceived timidity, but the woman’s starting to realize her power as an artist. In one of the more awkward moments of the night, she chopped a shout-out to all her “blasts from the past” (high-school friends in tow) and went on to just “play a song,” erupting like a spurned warrior on a new tune about “digging your own grave,” and employing her first use of aggression with a searing “buried in masculine pain” lyric. Likewise with a Chess-era “Tornado” redux off her debut Because I was in Love earlier on, she opted for heel-stomping bluesy sass behind a tumbling cymbal ride. She threw in a little punk snarl with a dragged out “look into my eyes” lyric on her first encore number.

None of this jammed her future as hard, though, as a Fine Young Cannibals ode the budding threat claimed to have churned out the day of the show, inviting tourmates Little Scream to come up on stage and triple the angelic hum around a harmonium, both the SVE and LS drummers clobbered a backbone as Etten led an eerie doo-wop meets PJ Harvey drawl around “She drives me crazy,” the Little Scream girls echoing “And I can’t help myself.” Timid my ass. She knows what she’s doing.

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J Mascis + Kurt Vile at Subterranean

April 1st, 2011

Descending the spiraled staircase Friday night at Subterranean, lo-fi skuzz’s reigning wooly king, J Mascis, was trademark conductor-ish, taking a seat without mouthing a word, simply thumbing a page on a purple binder affixed with two LED lights before jangling out the scratchy angst of the ’91 Dinosaur Jr. gem “Thumb,” howling through a mane long gone silver, “There never really is a good time / There’s always nothing much to say.”

To many, Mascis unplugged is a chain saw without a chain. And his long overdue solo album, Several Shades of Why, which he’s taken to tour the nation with Philly-based protégé Kurt Vile as opener, is the same old tease if you’re just waiting for the shred. One audience member at Friday’s show booed audibly and held up a thumbs down.

The dude obviously missed the point of the skeletal acoustic beauty that shines through when Mascis blesses fans with these solo tours. Friday, he equally balanced a handful of numbers off Several Shades with classics from Dino glory days—from Where You Been to 2009’s reunion effort, Farm. Turning “Ocean In The Way” into a muted-fret chug-a-lug heel-dragging anthem, Mascis’s endearing squall of a throat carried infinitely more character than his guitar ever will.

Vile on the opening side was all guitar, all shred, all the time, wielding at least five different axes that completely drowned out some of his finer Vic Chestnutt quiverings heard about a heavily Smoke Rings For My Halo–oriented set. But in a nostalgic, foot-dragging way, he slathered enough melody in there to move things forward. Particularly, a late Springsteen cover “Downbound Train,” had Vile shaking hair and fingers about a cherry-trimmed Gibson like a poster child for garage-band nation. It really didn’t matter what the hell he was singing.

Later Mascis threw us some chunks of fuzzy meat from time to time, stomping on a pedal on “Get Me” to loft a soaring scale, looping some hammer-ons on Several Shades’ title track, and jarring a lonely Neil Young–ish down-tune pluck on “Can I.” But they were always quick flashes of distortion. Vile made a cameo on two bedroom crooners, “Not Enough” and “Make it Right,” doubling up the latter with a warm wash of thick reverb to let the new-gen meets old-gen charm linger.

Still banter-less through a trio of back catalog encores, teasing one last bit of pedal-boosted electric fury on another Dino cut, “Tarpit,” Mascis flashed a smile when a superfan assured him he loved the rocker “more than coke and pot.” At show’s end, he thanked everyone exactly once, folded up his purple songbook and ascended back into that labyrinth of a staircase. Meanwhile the asshole who booed earlier lit up a cigarette and stumbled his way out the same.

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Creative Director

March 10th, 2011

Tapping Austin’s annual SXSW in its 24th year (2011), I served as creative director to a supergroup of ten photographers and writers, myself included, to cover the thousands of bands that descend upon Texas in March, officially and unofficially.

Aimed at the spirit of self-publishing a tangible magazine and book, while showcasing a fringe style of journalism more reliant on what it means to be a fan and budding musician, as opposed to the “first three no flash” ways of the current day press machine, This Must Be the Fan was successfully funded via Kickstarter.


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Tomorrow Never Knows 2011, The Helio Sequence at Lincoln Hall

January 13th, 2011

Happy to be offered a burrito instead of, say, a fixed-gear bike ride and PBR session, rattled off lead singer Brandon Summers in response to an in-the-audience post-show offer, Portland key-drum-and-guitar duo The Helio Sequence was all smiles to kick off the first night of Schuba’s annual mid-winter festival, Tomorrow Never Knows, showing no signs of the debilitating vocal chord shredding Summers endured after a break in 2004 with Love & Distance. California Wives, Houses and Sun Airway warmed up the stage, see photos below.

The story goes that Summers had to completely retrain himself to sing in order to kick out the band’s 2008 follow up, Keep Your Eyes Ahead. Though that retraining seemingly rounded him out for the better in terms of last night’s gig, as he traversed through harmonies like a downtrodden Paul Simon, following the urban shuffling rhythms of Benjamin Weikel within tunes exclusively from the band’s last two records.

Instead of his voice taking the strain, Summers threw all his energy into all his signature lofty shimmering guitar work and bluesy harp wailing, letting the band’s invisible third man, the laptop, conquer the keys and texture blips, so as to pay supreme attention to Weikel on crowd pleasers like “Hallelujah,” “Harmonica Song” and “Lately.” All that Pacific Northwest heartache Summers likes to pen cut through crisp and clean, punchy even, with many a fan shadow drumming along.

Despite the blunder in not working in its cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” from 2003 debut Corn Plex —c’mon dudes, that setlist writes itself —the jewels of the eve came in two new peeks at future songs, hinting at a deviation from the band’s crunchy digi quirks that pepper its back catalog. With a minimalist cathartic number called “One More Time” and an unnamed encore with falling streetlight imagery and a galloping drumline, the duo perfected a new hard-hitting wandering folk sound, proving once again, that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

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Copywriter Collab

December 11th, 2010

A collaborative copy/design project in which I aided in a comprehensive copy rebranding of the east coast award-winning design think tank, ripe, in exchange for the recreation of my own blog and website line-up,


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