Music

Jesse Malin, San Francisco, March 2013

Swinging Modern Sounds #65: Tragedy Plus Time

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Jesse Malin is a lifer in a business that rarely features lifers anymore. ...more

Song of the Day: “‘Cause I’m a Man”

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The diversely talented Perth, Australia-based recording artist Kevin Parker is known more widely by his stage name, Tame Impala. Often described as a psychedelic musician for the 21st century, Parker forges albums with traces of electronic and lo-fi, as well as influences from heavyweights like My Bloody Valentine and The Flaming Lips.

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Sound & Vision #14: Hannah Haugberg

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Painter and letterer Hannah Haugberg discusses the art of designing custom guitar pedals. ...more

Song of the Day: “Try Me”

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The resilient R&B singer Esther Mae Jones adopted the stage name of Little Esther Philips at the age of 14, allegedly taking it from a gas station sign in Los Angeles. She had a rough-and-tumble career, a tumultuous relationship with the billboard charts, and ongoing addiction problems that endowed her voice with a worldly authenticity reminiscent of Nina Simone.

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The Rumpus Interview with Christian Kiefer

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Writer, musician, and poet Christian Kiefer discusses his literary influences, the "beautiful, beat up, and weird town" that is Reno, and writing from the perspective of beasts in his new novel The Animals. ...more

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The Rumpus Interview with Shawna Virago

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Musician and songwriter Shawna Virago discusses her trajectory as an artist, deciding to use Kickstarter to fund her new album, and what it’s like to be top Google hit for “San Francisco dominatrix.” ...more

Song of the Day: “Hey Pocky A-Way”

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The loose and infectious melody of “Hey Pocky A-Way” has been covered and re-recorded many times since its first release in 1974 by New Orleans funk heavyweights The Meters. The highly recognizable chorus–which reputedly stems from early Native American dialects in the region that would come to cradle New Orleans–has lost most of its linguistic meaning, but none of its emotional acuity.

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Swinging Modern Sounds #64: Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack!

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Many of you will not want to believe that “Ack! Ack! Ack! Ack!” by the Californian punk band the Urinals, is the greatest song ever written, but that is simply because there is some kind of vise or blood-occluding mechanism attached to the thinking and feeling part of your limbic region. ...more

Song of the Day: “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo”

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Road trip songs occupy a plush seat in the American canon—right underneath the fuzzy dice. They are often harbingers of summer, and “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” is no exception. This prototypical Tribe Called Quest track from their first album features a playful and engaging narrative from standout MC, Q-Tip.

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Song of the Day: “Electricity (Drugs)”

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The Talking Heads were among a crop of epochal, genre-bending artists that emerged from New York City in the mid-70s. The music scene centered around the famous punk club CBGB, where David Byrne and company opened for The Ramones in 1975. In the midst of the rhymically-complex and funky “Electricity,” Byrne repeatedly sings, “I’m charged up.”

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Song of the Day: “Straight To Hell”

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The Clash are famous for their album London Calling and their ubiquitous single, “Rock the Casbah,” which is notable perhaps for its incendiary political message—a denunciation of the Iranian ban on Western music following the 1979 revolution. But it’s “Straight to Hell,” a commemoration of immigrant struggles in the UK and abroad, that best blends political panache with a strong melody.

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Sound & Vision #13: Daniel Mintseris

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Keyboardist and programmer Daniel Mintseris discusses his work with St. Vincent and Annie Clark, coming to the US from Lithuania at nineteen, and the difference between traditional composition and writing music on instinct using cutting-edge technology. ...more

Christmas in the Heart

Swinging Modern Sounds #63: It’s Supposed to Be Bad

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Rick Moody emails with Scott Timberg, author of the new book Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class, about Bob Dylan's new Sinatra covers album, the need for cultural gatekeepers, and the "slippery sub genre" of bad-on-purpose art. ...more

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The Rumpus Interview with Tyler Gartzman

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Rapper Tyler Gartzman talks about getting high, hypothetically making out with George Bush, not getting laid since high school, and how a white, Jewish kid in Atlanta became a talented hip-hop wordsmith. ...more

Song of the Day: “Mickey Mouse Boarding House”

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Mardi Gras may have been last week, but the good times keep on rolling. New Orleans-based soul artist Walter “Wolfman” Washington knows a thing or two about good times—in his good-humored single “Mickey Mouse Boarding House,” the silky R&B crooner complains about his lodgings in the funkiest way possible.

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Song of the Day: “Fall On Me”

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The pioneering alternative rock band R.E.M. officially disbanded in 2011, after more than 30 years making music that defied description. Allegedly, singer Michael Stipe chose the band’s name in 1980 by picking it at random from a dictionary. The reference to “rapid eye movement”—a stage of deep sleep—is particularly apropos to the beautiful and sprightly song “Fall On Me,” which fuses catchy harmonies with figurative and allusive lyrics.

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The Rumpus Interview with Elisa Ambrogio and Naomi Yang

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Renaissance women Elisa Ambrogio and Naomi Yang discuss stop motion music videos, the female mythology of rock-n-roll, and giving ourselves permission to be creative, make music, and explore art in an intuitive way. ...more

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Sound & Vision #12: Shannon Conley

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Hard-rocking artist Shannon Conley talks to Allyson McCabe about the exceptional more-than-a-tribute band Lez Zeppelin, her unconventional upbringing by Hindu Baptists, and her role as Yitzhak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. ...more

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Swinging Modern Sounds #62: Stillness as Metaphor

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I am after a music that renders life as it is, and which invites in the intermittent pulsations of life. ...more

Look Blue Go Purple

Songs of Our Lives: Look Blue Go Purple’s “Circumspect Penelope”

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Distance always seduced me—distance from whatever was most familiar, especially myself—but the difficulties in achieving such remove vexed me. ...more