Indie-rocker Sufjan Stevens is akin to the bell-ringing charity man you sidestep while entering the neighborhood drugstore: holiday perennial, purveyor of a sound that's an exercise in patience, and effervescent with so much Christmas cheer you want to poke him in the mug.
In recent years, the advertising industry has developed into a contemptible archenemy of independent music artists. After Beach House's repeated rebuffs to Volkswagen, which was keen on soundtracking a TV spot with their song song 'Take Care', the Baltimore twosome discovered the car company produced a near-exact facsimile of the tune.
John Lennon died for our sins. Beardy Jesus guise and messiah complex aside, the former Beatle dedicated large swaths of his solo career to demanding penance from us: the war hawks, the caste perpetuators, the Blue Meanies, the obstinately pious, the Paul McCartney idolators, the crooked government-men.
Just off Texas State Highway 21, a route followed by migrating buffalo centuries ago, sits the town of Dime Box. When author William Least Heat-Moon visited during a cross-country expedition–later chronicled in his landmark travel-writing tome Blue Highways–Dime Box was a town where the cafes had screen doors and the sidewalks were constructed of wood planks.
Consider the Pastels' early days, the sporadic and awkward initial singles for Whaam!, Rough Trade, and Creation, that air of not-giving-a-fugh - they were immature, ambitious to be unambitious, prone to misplaying chords, positively glacial when it came to the songwriting/recording process. "Hearing our early stuff reminds me of what an effete 20-year-old I was," frontman Stephen Pastel (nee McRobbie) once confessed. Few acts seemed less capable of longevity.
Categorizing M83's oeuvre is difficult. A drone/swarm aesthetic gets the shoegazer senses tingling, but not intensely enough. Despite an Enoesque approach to soundscaping, it fails ambient's "Does it slip into the background?" test thanks to synth lines stacked like cordwood and percussion that leaves blast craters.
Flexi discs? Ah yes, the things that put the snap and crackle into pop...except they didn’t snap, obviously...that was the whole point...they bent...” -- Matt Haynes, founder of Sarah Records
For three years, German DJ Frank Gossner zigzagged across West Africa, obsessively scouring personal collections for rare vinyl.Traversing landscapes he describes as heartbreakingly beautiful, Gossner sweated through civil unrest in Guinea, took a skin-grating spill while on the back of a scooter with schlepped turntables and a power generator to a Conakry bar on Friday nights to spin records and shared beer and bread with local folks harboring his same unchecked enthusiasm for African pop music.
It’s rather fitting Sarah Records’ headquarters in Bristol were just minutes away from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, one of England’s most notorious suicide spots. Because for eight years, this independent label’s gossamer paeans and against-the-grain sensibilities had many indie pop fans wanting to take a flying leap.
The visits made Gabrielle Drake apprehensive. Strangers in off-putting attire from places like America or Australia, arriving unannounced at her parents’ brick, Queen Anne home. They climbed out of vans in groups, or sauntered up individually on foot, never put off by Far Leys’ rather uninviting characteristics: the dark Georgian windows, the large, wooden gates at the foot of the driveway, its location at the end of a hushed, leafy Bates Lane.
On the title track to Randy Newman's first studio album in nine years, the man once hailed as the "bard of barbs" details a near-death experience that left him lying prostrate on the pavement. So here's some news that will assuage the mortal fears of a man approaching 65: Last year, a Norwegian University of Science and Technology study concluded that those who easily found humor in real-life situations outlived those who didn't.
In the Irish town of Recess, there is a monument that proclaims: "On this site in 1897 nothing happened." I've never visited Recess during what has essentially become biennial excursions to Ireland; I've only passed by during bumpy bus rides from Galway to Clifden and back.
What one regards as squanderous, another deems as progressive. On his own, Swedish-Argentine singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez is a fleet-fingered, ruby-throated troubadour — adept at bucolic balladry, possessor of a voice of quiet resignation to life's inevitabilities, string-picking successor to Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Samuel Beam.
Ex-Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker recently allowed scientists to measure the physical effects playing music has on his body. He performed with onetime bandmate Richard Hawley for the PBS documentary The Music Instinct: Science and Song, and afterward people in white lab coats prodded the singer's gray matter.
My 11-year-old son, beginning to understand that pop music is much like his first love, professional sports, and that part of its enjoyment arrives from tracing an artist's career arc, once asked me: "So what is Joy Division doing now?"