SPRING 2010 WMRE’S MUSIC & CULTURE MAGAZINE
Matt & Kim
jing yi ma
contributing writers james hicks, max blau, peter brody, hilary cadigan, rose cohn, chelsea douglas, nick graham, leili kasraie, ameenay khan, lauren ladov, travis levius, will matthews, zack philyaw, tim webber. editorial I took over Frequency just last semester, the first of my senior year, so this is my second and last issue at the helm. I can’t help but wish, though, that I’d gotten more involved sooner, as it’s been perhaps the most rewarding experience of my four years here. Matt & Kim are a sure bet to put on a hell of a show, and Matt (I didn’t have the pleasure of talking to Kim) is just about as nice as I could have reasonably expected. We may just be a small Emory magazine (our standard order is about a thousand copies), but I like to think that we provide an otherwise unavailable outlet for some subset of the Emory population that loves music on its own terms and feels the same urge to talk about it that I do. That’s what WMRE is about, ultimately, and it’s what we’re about, too. I hope you enjoy. James Hicks Editor-in-Chief the magazine Supported by WMRE, Frequency Magazine is Emory’s only student-run music and culture magazine. We aim to bring Emory students, faculty, staff, and others in the Atlanta area new information about music, film, food, fun, booze, entertainment, and anything else we find interesting. Although we center most of our features on local Atlanta musicians and artists, we also like to slip in our vital insight into the radio world of WMRE. Begun in 2002 under the name Listen, the magazine was redesigned and renamed Frequency in 2007, then redesigned again in 2008 (and now, again, in 2010). We’ve gone from black and white photographs on newsprint to this high-gloss, full-color work of art. We’ve featured artists ranging from Hot Chip to The Coathangers to Cipher Kenni. Frequency is written completely by contributing writers and we’re always looking for submissions, photographs and artwork. questions? complaints? praise? contact james hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org. wmre.frequency.wordpress.com PRINTED IN THE USA.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Sellouts or Opportunists: Indie and the Mainstream by Nick Graham
Side Projects by Chelsea Douglas
Atlanta Celebrates Photography (And You’re Invited!) by Leili Kasraie
Summer Festival Preview by Peter Brody
‘90s Indie: A (Re)Discovery by James Hicks
Evan Uhlmann by James Hicks
Le Castle Vania by Ameenay Khan
Poetry in Atlanta: No Experience Necessary. by Leili Kasraie
Matt & Kim: The anti-band? by James Hicks
rise-n-dine: An Emory Phenomenon by James Hicks
Cinematic Beat-Down: Underground ATL hiphop in upcoming movie Battle. by Travis Levius
Drive-By Truckers by Zach Philyaw Wilco by Max Blau Surfer Blood by Lauren Ladov
SPRING 2010 24
Hot Chip, One Life Stand by Hilary Cadigan Yeasayer, Odd Blood by Rose Cohn Gorillaz, Plastic Beach by Will Matthews Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Brutalist Bricks by Max Blau
A Mash-Up Manifesto by Tim Webber
sellouts or opportunists?
indie and the mainstream
POLLO ANTON ONO circles an ice rink as The XX’s “Intro” sounds in the background; NFL fans cheer during the Super Bowl while the opening measures of The Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” rouse viewers across the country; Phoenix’s “1901” plays as a Cadillac CTX cruises along a city street. Every time one of these songs plays in a commercial, the heart of an indie fan somewhere breaks. The appearance of indie music in TV advertisements is only a small part of a significant trend in popular culture of advertisting executives targeting college-aged students, one which can also be seen in the soundtracks of some of Hollywood’s newest blockbuster films. As more and more independent artists
find their way into mainstream culture, many fans of this constantly changing genre shout “sellout” at their TV screens each time their favorite band is used to encourage viewers to support a brand name or a trendy new car. In the world of indie music, the
sellout, especially when established artists like Death Cab for Cutie, Thom Yorke (of Radiohead fame), Grizzly Bear, and Bon Iver can be found on the latest installment of Twilight: New Moon’s soundtrack. Many have argued that this new
act of “selling out” is viewed as a cardinal sin, one committed by those who forsake their independent roots and decide to use their talents to earn themselves not only notoriety and fame but, most importantly, money. It is extremely easy to label a band a
trend in the indie world – where more and more bands are licensing their music for use in major commercials, movies, and other promotional advertisements – is a result of our struggling economy, or perhaps album sales that have reached a record low (according to the RIAA, album sales fell 26.6% from 2007 to 2008, and single sales dropped a shocking 71.7%). The situation, however, remains unchanged and with every major televised event come new musicians who prostitute their music to the masses, receiving, in exchange for their generosity, multimillion dollar licensing deals. It certainly signals trouble ahead for the rest of the indie music community, but what of those who claim this is the beginning of the end of indie music? The fact is that musicians have been selling out as long as record companies have existed; just look at the Rolling Stones, who in 1995 licensed their hit “Start Me Up” to Microsoft for an advertisement for Windows 95. Before that point, they
“In the world of indie music, the art of ‘selling out’ is viewed as a cardinal sin.”
had never allowed their songs to be used in television marketing. Though this recent development may appear to the idealists of indie as an Armageddon of sorts, the reality is that there will always be bands who no one knows about and who care more about making the kind of music they want to make than adhering to industry standards. For now, at least, the indie genre is safe. More importantly, the question we must ask ourselves is whether or not indie music is to be solely judged based on the money (or lack thereof) the musicians make. Does a band cease to be an “indie band” (whatever the hell that even means) the second it accepts a major record deal, or is that classification based more on what kind of music they produce? Though many fans of indie music are quick to condemn these would-be “sellouts,” most fail to recognize an essential paradox that every musician faces. The issue is that these musicians have made a profession out of making music, and that task has assumed the responsibility of a
for himself since the release of The Bends in 1995. Music is, quite literally, these artists’ occupation, trade, and profession, and with it comes the need to support oneself, just as with any other job. Some of these musicians are exceptionally good at what they do, and just as a high profile lawyer receives larger bonuses at the end of each fiscal year, the best musicians are similarly rewarded. Indie musicians, however, are expected to
“Does a band cease to be an ‘indie band’ the second it accepts a major record deal?” full-time job. Though we would love to imagine Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead practicing in a garage after finishing up work busing tables at a local restaurant, the reality is most likely that the only thing occupying Yorke’s garage is a horde of very expensive automobiles, and he most likely has not cleared a single table
embrace some nebulous anti-establishment manifesto and rebel against the status quo, so it is much easier to label someone a sellout and move on to the next little-known band in line. Music is intrinsically about itself, an honest expression of the emotions of its creator. As long as the message
remains unchanged and uncorrupted, and the artist still retains his integrity, no band can every truly be called a “sellout.” Ultimately one has to look at these artists not as principled performers but as working stiffs, and though it might sound noble for bands to declare their freedom from conformity and the industry, everyone wants (and needs) to get paid sooner or later. Jeremy Gara of The Arcade Fire defends his band’s choice to permit their music to be used in commercials, saying “painters have to sell paintings to survive, no? Does the fact that Banksy sells work to Christina Aguilera make his work on the barriers in the West Bank any less amazing? If bands can’t support themselves and their families by selling records because no one’s buying, should they just all break up and get office jobs? Besides, having your music in a commercial is almost better than trying to get it on the radio (other than NPR, which is still awesome). I’ve heard a lot better music on TV than on radio in the last few years.”
etween collaborations, side projects, and solo acts, I can’t help but feel like the same voices keep popping up in my iTunes under different, and often variable, names. I’m not necessarily complaining about this. The songs are in my iTunes for a reason (I like them), but I’m more curious about the motivation for these variations. Collaborations are great. Between Dark Was The Night and the New Moon soundtrack, I heard quite a few songs in which artists greatly expanded their sound by joining forces. “Going solo,” so to speak, isn’t exactly a new move, but the motivation for such a decision is often nebulous. Creative differences within a band are something I can understand, but so many of these new projects seem little more than the original band, Part Two. What makes an artist leave or even break from a band to embark on a solo career or project and then make music that sounds like his or her original band? The rate at which music is spread on the internet allows an artist to create more in less time and, because music can spread so easily without extensive touring, solo careers and side projects can occur simultaneously with an artist’s primary band. Here are some examples that I’ve been listening to recently: Artist: Julian Casablancas Artist: Albert Hammond, Jr. From the Band: The Strokes Again, spawning two different side projects is an interesting feat for a band. While Julian Casablancas seemed to take The Strokes sound and tweak it in an electronic direction, Hammond took a different route. Everyone has an opinion about The Strokes (some even have two), but both of these projects are definitely worth a listen.
some solo projects 4
Artist: A.C. Newman Artist: Neko Case From the Band: The New Pornographers I was not a huge A.C. Newman fan at first. I found his solo songs to be too similar to songs from The New Pornographers, just not as good. But Get Guilty won me over, and,even though I still find his solo music similar to that of his primary band, it’s still a worthwhile corollary. Neko Case, on the other hand, offers in her solo work a sort of alt-country bliss totally absent from TNP.
Artist: Right Away, Great Captain! (Andy Hull) From the Band: Manchester Orchestra This is a solo project I can understand because it seems like a creative outlet for Manchester Orchestra’s vocalist Andy Hull to put out more (and different) material. The songs are pretty stripped down, consisting mainly of vocals, acoustic guitar, and a sort of vaguely Decemberistsesque literary bent that Manchester Orchestra has never really explored.
pictured left: Julian Casablancas pictured right: Ra Ra Riot
some side projects Project: Sunset Rubdown Project: The Handsome Furs From the Band: Wolf Parade I had Wolf Parade on my iPod for over a year before I actually listened to them, and that was just because “Dinner Bells” came up on shuffle and I couldn’t reach my iPod to skip over it. Given the sheer volume of Wolf Parade (and their side projects) I’ve listened to since then, the thought of me ever wanting to skip over any of their offerings seems ridiculous. Regardless of how similar either or both of these projects sound to Wolf Parade, I still love them. Both bring in a female vocalist, offering a logical extension of Wolf Parade’s tried-and-true aesthetic.
Project: Discovery From the Bands: Ra Ra Riot and Vampire Weekend This is the fusion of Ra Ra Riot’s vocalist and the keyboardist from Vampire Weekend. I’ll admit I didn’t love this initially; I was disappointed because it didn’t sound like what I had expected (which I guess was Ra Ra Riot singing over Vampire Weekend), but it’s definitely grown on me. The album’s first few songs are definitely much stronger than the remainder, but the project is, for lack of a better word, fun, and the new, non-hybrid sound is certainly an impressive feat.
Project: Volcano Choir From the Band: Bon Iver/ Justin Vernon and Collections of Colonies of Bees I don’t know exactly what this is, whether it constitutes a collaboration or a Justin Vernon side project, but the fact remains that this is music made from two of my favorite soundsresonator guitars and Justin Vernon (really, I’d probably listen to an album of him sneezing). The use of vocalization as an instrument in some of the songs that don’t have lyrics is great, but the project’s strongest output is “Still,” an altered version of “Woods” from the Blood Bank EP.
S FOR THE WORST PROJECT that I’ve heard recently, I have to go with Fun, a group made up of former vocalists from indie-pop stalwarts The Format, Steel Train, and Anathallo. I hate picking winners in “worst of” categories, but this one was relatively easy. Where each of these groups offered something clever, listenable, even occasionally mature, Fun comes off as a boring inside joke, more of a friendly collaboration than a serious output.
- Chelsea Douglas
in the Atlanta art scene that will surely continue to sparkle— be sure not to miss it next year!
adjacent photograph by Vincent Laforet. photo below by danny lyon. Bottom right photograph by Alec Soth.
N rary-art-district. Channeling inspiration from all night art events like Paris’ Nuit Blanche and Santa Monica’s Glow, curators Cathy Byrd and Stuart Keeler dreamed up an event that would not only electrify the Atlanta art scene but also provide a one-of-a-kind night out for Atlanta residents. The dazzling event illuminated the neighborhood with over 50 projects, including a live iron pour, spontaneous performance art, interactive public art installations, and a FLASH Couture fashion show. Greg Catellier of Emory’s own dance department collaborated on the Dance Truck project, in which dancers explored the confines of a 30-foot moving-truck-turned-stage. “I think Le Flash challenges artists by placing them in unusual spaces or situations, which, in turn, produces work that is possibly more creative,” said Catellier when asked how Le Flash challenged his standard processes. A one-of-a-kind event for artists and audiences alike, Le Flash places its main thrust squarely on the art, on how it is displayed and how it impacts viewers. While this event is in only its second year, it is gaining momentum, and fast. It is a unique happening
Atlanta Celebrates Photography (And You’re Invited!)
leili kasraie PHOTOGRAPHY CREDIT:
or the past 11 years Atlanta Celebrates Photography has unleashed an artistic spectacle upon Atlanta and its surrounding communities. Opening in late September, ACP hosts a citywide photography festival that extends through October and into November, aiming to unite the entire spectrum of photographic enthusiasts from the professional to your 8-year-old next-door neighbor who just got his hands on a camera for the first time. Just this past fall, the festival’s opening reception, Le Flash, held its 2nd annual event on October 2 in Castleberry Hill, a historic Atlanta neighborhood-turned-contempo-
ot only does ACP strive to innovate the many facets of artistic expression, it hopes to expand the artistic community by making it more accessible to the larger public. This past year, ACP’s Public Art Project “Gifted” aimed specifically to engage the community by distributing 1,200 fine art prints at unexpected times and places throughout the metro-Atlanta area during the month of October. Atlantabased artist and curator of the project Beth Lilly collected the twelve images distributed from local photographers who participated in ACP 2009. The project’s unpredictable nature interrupted Atlantans’ daily lives with the gift of a limited edition fine art print.
The “Gifted” team struck at undisclosed times and places, but clues about the team’s whereabouts could be found by following the event’s Twitter page. At present, ACP is gearing up for its 12th year. While the festival takes place primarily in the fall, the organization dedicates the rest of the year to planning, organizing, and curating the upcoming year’s festivities. If you’d like to get involved, right now is the best time to strike. Visit www. acpinfo.org for information on how to volunteer, submit your work, make a donation, or follow the festival’s progress. The ACP website also offers a link to the organization’s blog, ACP Now! (www.acpinfo.org/blog), which provides information about current happenings in the artistic community. Right now, for example, Ruth Dusseault and Jason Francisco, both Emory’s own, have works on display
in the Atlanta area. You can catch Dusseault’s “Play War: Homemade Recreational Battlefields” on display in the Emory University Visual Arts Gallery until April 23rd. The exhibition documents the war-like games that take place against the backdrop of American suburbia’s trademark dystopia. Francisco’s work, meanwhile, is on display until May 1st as part of Spruill Gallery’s exhibition “About Face.” The exhibition explores a number of aspects of the reality of the human condition, particularly those frequently forgotten or overlooked. While there’s no doubt Atlanta’s artistic community is an active, vibrant part of the city year-round, ACP puts the community into overdrive, maximizing its impact and seeking to get as much of the city involved as possible. Those in search of an experience like no other should volunteer, submit, create, and experience what ACP 2010 has to offer.
photograph above by Sam Tayler-Wood. Lower right photograph by Danny Clinch. more details about the photographs shown in this article on WWW.APCINFO.ORG.
E Summer Festival Preview by Peter Brody
very summer, music fans around the country pack up their tents and drive into the countryside for a weekend of music, camping, and debauchery better known as a music festival. Three major festivals highlight the calendar: Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza. A fourth, Rothbury, has been cancelled this year due to the economic downturn, but a bevy of minor festivals, including the always loaded Pitchfork Music Festival, fill the void left by its absence. The first of the three major festivals is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (or simply Coachella), which takes place in the town of Indio, California, between Friday, April 16th and Sunday, April 18th. Founded in 1999, Coachella has featured artists as diverse as Radiohead, Daft Punk, and Madonna, and this year’s headliners do not disappoint; Jay-Z, Muse, and Gorillaz top the bill for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively. A reunited Pavement hits the stage Sunday, as does Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Saturday features dance legends Tiesto and David Guetta as well indie darlings MGMT, which will have just released its second album, the make-or-break sophomore effort Congratulations, on April 13th. Other highlights of
the lower lines include Vampire Weekend, Deadmau5, Passion Pit, and Yeasayer on Friday, The Dead Weather, Dirty Projectors, Major Lazer, and Girls on Saturday, and Spoon, Phoenix, Matt & Kim (!), and Atlanta’s own Deerhunter on Sunday. Tickets to the show are $269, and camping spots are available on festival grounds. The highlight of the summer festival calendar for many, however, is the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, held just three hours north of Atlanta in the town of Manchester, Tennessee. This festival spans from June 10th to 13th and features Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Jay-Z, and Stevie Wonder at the top of the bill. Also performing are the Flaming Lips, Damian Marley and Nas, The National, and LCD Soundsystem. Despite significant overlap with Coachella, Bonnaroo features two things the California festival does not: legitimate legends of rock and roll and a credible comedy stage, as John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival, Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds, and Saturday Night Live emeritus/banjo virtuoso Steve Martin are all scheduled to perform. On the comedy stage, former Dooley’s Week comedian Aziz Ansari is scheduled, but the highlight is Tonight Show cast-off Conan O’Brien, who will headline the stage. Tickets to the festival will set you back $250, and camping is available (and, to be frank, your only real option). A month later, the smaller Pitchfork Music Festival (some might call it a “mid-major”) takes place in Chicago. Put on by the ubiquitous industry-leading website of the same name, this three-day festival serves as a showcase for newer bands, though it’s headlined by relative stalwarts Pavement on Sunday, July 18th, LCD Soundsystem on Saturday, July 17th, and Modest Mouse on Friday, July 16th. The reason to choose this festival over the others mentioned in this article, however, is the remainder of the lineup. Indie darlings Girls will have a more prominent spot at this festival than at Coachella, and the Canadian collective Broken Social Scene should put on a spectacular show. Additionally, two stellar rappers will perform: Raekwon, who released the critically acclaimed Only Built for Cuban Linx… Pt. II last year, and Freddie Gibbs, an Indiana rapper in the vein of UGK and Outkast. 3-Day passes for this festival are sold out (eBay, anyone?), but single-day tickets are still available. The final major festival of the summer, Lollapalooza also takes place in Chicago. This festival, located in a park between downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan, has not released its lineup yet, as the it won’t kick offuntil August 6th-8th. The (new and hopefully improved) Strokes have confirmed that they’ll be there, and rumor
has it that international pop sensation Lady Gaga will also play, headlining the final night. Though the other two headliners (Green Day and a reunited Soundgarden) are largely uninspiring, other mainstage acts like Arcade Fire, Phoenix, The National, Spoon, and Yeasayer should make Lollapalooza the can’t-miss festival of the summer. Tickets are not yet on sale, though they cost about 200 dollars last year and should be in the same range this summer. Unlike the other major festivals profiled above, Lollapalooza is in the center of a city, so don’t expect to camp. For music fans, this summer looks to be a spectacular one, as these festivals are complemented by a host of others, such as All Points West, Sasquatch, and Wakarusa, not to mention the usual fare of major tours. Any music fan should consider attending at least one, and, given their geographic diversity and scheduling differences, the most dedicated among us may even consider attending all three. -Peter Brody
Matt &theKim: anti-band? Interview by James Hicks
Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino, the two halves of the appropriately titled Matt & Kim, are perhaps best known for their outrageous, shocking, (insert adjective here) music videos (they ran through Times Square naked in one for Chrissake), but this is probably unfair. Since they met at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute in 2004, they’ve each learned new instruments (the only ones they ever use these days), built a following both enormous and diverse largely through social media, and churned out a pair of kick-your-ass dance pop records. Their third, which they’ve recorded in Atlanta over the last two months,
promises both more of the same and, well, more. While they’ve maintained their trademark DIY ethos and kept their artistic emphasis squarely on creating accessible, danceable, sugary sweet indie pop, they’ve also grown as musicians, and their as-yet untitled third LP will certainly bear the fruits of this maturation. Frequency had the opportunity to chat with Matt, the band’s keyboardist and primary vocalist.
Matt & Kim
It gets confusing, though, because now and then we’ll be walking down the street and we’ll hear “Matt and Kim!” and we’re like, “Wait, do they know our band or are they recognizing us?”
hit everything all of the time to prove how good they are. There might have been a better beat for Queen’s “We Will Rock You” than “boom-boom-chik, boom-boom-chik.”
The “Yea Yeah” video [in which Matt and Kim play the song while men dressed like food throw food at them] is one of my favorites. Was that all done in one take? Yes, one take. We had no budget. We didn’t have a label footing the bill or anything. We just had a friend helping us out. We just had one “here goes anything” shot. We didn’t try any of those things out first. We just threw the baking powder or whatever it was at the end and we were like, “We hope this looks cool, because we can only do this one time.” Somehow, it all worked, very surprisingly.
Do you ever feel limited with only a keyboard and percussion? Do you ever think about bringing in a guest musician, or are you happy with what you have? When we wrote Grand, we were fucking terrified of how we were going to perform those songs live. We just wanted to write the best album we could and then worry about adapting it to our live show. And we were able to do it. The songs go over great. But our next album is even more wild, and we think, “Fuck, how are we going to do this again?” But I think it’d be bizarre to have Matt and Kim and some other dude. We played with a marching band, a 22-piece marching band. When we did the Woodies, we had like eight backup singers. I think we could add an orchestra, a group of people, but just one or two people would feel weird.
You guys just spent the last seven weeks recording in Atlanta. How did that go? Is it done? Are you happy with the results? Well, we’ll be back for two more weeks at the end of this month to work on mixes, but it’s fucking fantastic. It was hard work. We worked like twelve hours a day for seven weeks. I lost my mind a couple times, had a few breakdowns, but in the end we’re really proud of what we’re working on. We were so busy that we barely got to see any of Atlanta. We saw a show at 529, and we saw Jay-Z at Phillips Arena.
Let’s start with what’s topical right now. Erykah Badu just made a video that she proclaimed to be inspired by your video for “Lessons Learned,” in which she essentially did the exact same thing you did in your video (stripping naked in public). Were you excited that she liked your idea so much, or did you feel like she was ripping you off? The morning she was shooting her video, she called us. It was really bizarre to have Erykah Badu calling us. We didn’t pick up our phone, but she left a message. We called her back and talked for a while. We definitely respect and like her music, and Kim’s always thought she was a babe (laughs). Kim just said over my shoulder that she wishes she could look like her. We made that video because it was the right idea for that song. We talked, and she was saying it was more than just “shock value,” which wasn’t what we were going for either. It all worked out. The fact that she gave us credit is what I really cared about, because often when a bigger artist comes in and does something that a smaller artist has done people forget who originally came up with the idea. Not that it was totally off the radar, because we did win a VMA for that, but so many people have been introduced us in the last week or so since that video came out. We really appreciate her putting that credit right in the beginning. What were you guys thinking when you made the “Lessons Learned” video? You can call it shocking or outrageous or whatever word you prefer, but by doing that you’ve kind of placed yourself in the realm of the visual artist as well as that of the musician. Do you see yourself that way?
Yes, definitely. I work in video by trade. I went to film school. Kim and I met at art school. Before we ever played a note of music together we collaborated on all sorts of visual projects. We did art installations together, we did film projects together, we did silk-screen projects together. The music was just another thing we were working on together. Music has been my number one since I was like 14 years old, but I never thought I was going to make a living off of it. We’re very thankful for that. But our videos are very important to us. Kim did our album covers and t-shirt designs, and those are very important to us as well. You know, everything that embodies our band outside of the music is all really important to us. That brings up something else I wanted to ask. Your band name, ‘Matt & Kim,’ is sort of an anti-name. It basically says, “This is our music, we hope you like it.” Was that intentional or incidental? Thinking of a band name is really difficult, because it’s the first thing people hear, before they even hear your music. When we played our first show we actually didn’t have a name yet, and we were listed as ‘Kimberly and Matthew,’ I believe. The more we thought about it, though, the more we wanted to knock down the wall between crowd and band as much as possible. The idea was that, if we’re just going by our first names rather than whatever band name, it puts the focus on the crowd as well as on the stage. The show is happening not just because we’re there but because they’re there and everyone is having fun. We just felt it was very much us, to be as simple as our names.
That’s not the best place to see a show. We had a great time. We had an in that was able to get us seats right in the front. We were right there. But we didn’t get to see a lot, never got to hit a strip club. (laughs) Where in Atlanta were you staying and recording? We stayed in Inman Park. We recorded somewhere about ten minutes north of there. Not to impose your previous work on top of your current work, but what direction is this album moving in? How does it compare to your first two albums? I think there were a couple of songs on our first album that sort of led to what our second album would become, and I think songs from Grand like “Daylight” and “Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare,” more sort of beat-influenced songs, influence what the overall feeling of what this next album, which we don’t have a name for yet, will be like. Naming albums is another tough one. It’s weird. In my mind, it feels like exactly where Matt & Kim should be going. I don’t think anyone will be like, “What’s going on here?” but it’s pushing forward. When we started this band, Kim had never played drums before and I had never played keyboard before. When our first album came out, we’d only been playing our instruments for about a year, and, when our second album came out, we’d only been playing for a few years. We’re just becoming better musicians. So we’ve heard your entire progression. Yeah, but it’s not like that means we’re going super technical or anything like that. Sometimes, when people are too knowledgeable, when they’re really good classically trained musicians, have a tough time playing a simple, good beat because they have to
You guys are all over American popular culture. You’ve been in Bacardi commercials, a ton of video game soundtracks, promos for and episodes of television shows. Is it still exciting to hear your songs played in unexpected places? Hell yeah, and really bizarre, too, when we’re somewhere weird, like a retail store or something. I remember once we were somewhere and one of songs came on and Kim was like, “How do I know this?” and I said, “Kim, this is one of our songs.” Last semester, we did a feature on the Top 20 Albums of the 2000s. Do you have any favorite albums of the 2000s? Or favorite albums in general? I’m a big hip-hop fan. T.I.’s album King was one of my favorite albums. In more of the indie spectrum, Tokyo Police Club’s Elephant Show is another one of my favorites. The recent Major Lazer album is another one I love. But my attention span for albums is very limited. I have to love every song or I’ll skip around. You’ll be playing WMRE and SPC’s First Annual Block Party. Do you play college shows frequently? How do they compare to regular shows? We have done our share of college shows recently. Early on, years ago, sometimes it would go back and forth between being really weird to play in a cafeteria or something and really fun. When they’re free or cheap and happening really conveniently, people come out just to have fun, and that’s always been what our shows are about. We like it when people are dancing and getting crazy and not worrying about everything so much. When Kim and I see that in the crowd, we get more excited, and it seems like the more excited we get the more excited the crowd gets. It’s a chain reaction. On April 24th, Matt & Kim will play WMRE and SPC’s First Annual Spring Block Party on Eagle Row. The show begins at 3 P.M. Matt & Kim will hit the stage at 6.
Independent filmmakers put underground ATL hip-hop on the front lines with upcoming movie “Battle” By Travis Levius
educate moviegoers. The main storyline revolves around fictional protagowith similar thoughts of “snappin’ and nist Jackson “Rippa” Waye (played by Conrad Clifton), trappin’,” elementary hooks, passion- a hot-headed, largely unknown Atlanta producer that ate odes to the mighty dollar, and the fights financial and competitive pressures to pursue his voluptuous groupies that inspire most of today’s main- craft. He has lofty ambitions of working with top rappers stream rap music. As accurate as the descriptions may and gaining worldwide notoriety, and he enlists best be for those solely exposed to Clear Channel stations friend and fast-talking manager Jay (played by Chris and Viacom programming, there has always been a Burns) to aid in his efforts. His major goal is winning the legitimate hotbed of Atlanta artists just as artistically prestigious, 16-person “Iron Chef Beat Battle” competitalented as their northern and western counterparts tion, which he hopes will catapult his production career (the most popular example being the Dungeon Family, and relieve him of other hardships. His true toughest which includes Outkast). Indeed, Atlanta has a flourish- challenge, though, is to trump beat-maker “Maestro,” ing hip-hop community that has not yet been properly the city’s top-rated underground producer, who beats depicted. “The stereotypical images of Atlanta artists Rippa at every other beat-battling event. Rippa must tap that appear on BET or MTV don’t reflect the hip-hop into his greatest potential before he and others face off community that we embrace,” says Laron Austin, director at the competition or he may lose everything. of the upcoming film “Battle.” “We wanted to honor the Martin Kelley explains the inspiration behind the film: city of Atlanta with a hip-hop movie of its own… even though we think the movie can be universally embraced “[It] was our passion for hip-hop, to explore what drives artists to express themselves through hip-hop despite all by ‘hip-hop heads’ all over the world.” the odds. We wanted to show that hip-hop, and really all In a perfect world, D.R.E.S. the Beatnik, rather than artistic pursuits, should be done from the heart and soul cacophonous crunkmaster Little Jon, would be interna- above all else. It’s our elegy to being true to one’s self tionally hailed as hip-hop’s King of Hype, and radio host/ in any pursuit but particularly in hip-hop.” The writers DJ/landmark record store owner Talib Shabazz would be claim that “Battle” blends the mood and themes of “8 widely respected as Atlanta’s underground hip-hop icon. Mile,” the perseverance and edge of “Hustle & Flow,” Though the present reality remains bleak, the makers and the old-school vibe of “Juice.” of “Battle” weave a fictional story of the underground While the movie may not enlighten and transform an music scene with actual appearances of both unsung figures. “We always wanted to include several real life entire industry, hip-hop heads that have long appreciated hip-hop personalities that would inhabit the Atlanta Atlanta acts like Goodie Mob, Cee-Lo, Psyche Origami, we present in the film, [and] we’ve got two individu- and Collective Efforts as well as newcomers Mims FP als who dedicated themselves to the Atlanta hip-hop and Senor Kaos will thoroughly appreciate the content community and raised it to the level that exists today,” and message of the film. Martin Kelley, the movie’s co-producer and writer, said. “BATTLE” IS SET TO DEBUT IN AUGUST 2010. It’s the determined vision of keeping the film authentically “ATLien” that could both potentially entertain and hat does Atlanta hip-hop sound like? Many would respond to this question
‘90s Indie: A (Re)Discovery
Frequency’s Top 10 Albums of the ‘90s 10. The Lonesome Crowded West –Modest Mouse (1997) 9. Automatic for the People –R.E.M. (1992) 8. Slanted & Enchanted –Pavement (1992) 7. Summerteeth –Wilco (1999) 6. Bee Thousand –Guided By Voices (1994) 5. Either/Or –Elliott Smith (1997) 4. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea –Neutral Milk Hotel (1998) 3. OK Computer –Radiohead (1997) 2. 69 Love Songs –The Magnetic Fields (1999) 1. Exile in Guyville –Liz Phair (1993)
EvanMeekUhlmann and the Marksmen of
Meek and the Marksmen formed at Annandale-on-Hudson, New York’s Bard College in 2008. Lead singer, songwriter, guitarist, and wunderkind Evan Uhlmann talks about Bard, developing as a musician, and his plans for the future. Dylan comparisons are unavoidable. Do you have a crush on him or what? I did have a crush on Dylan at one point, about two years ago. I went through a lyrics phase and I wanted to get better at writing. A lot of musicians learn to play by ear and listening to records, so I decided to do that with lyrics. I would listen to his songs and write down exactly what he was saying. The result was that my lyrics got better and it helped me structure stories.
You’ve played solo in the past (and quite well). How is playing with a band different? Do you have any battles over just how something should sound?
FIRST CAME ACROSS 69 Love Songs, the equal parts sprawling and delightfully self-indulgent 1999 Magnetic Fields masterpiece, relatively late in my musical development (just last year, in fact). Like every other Emory undergraduate, I grew up and, accordingly, discovered music in the ‘90s (I choose not to classify listening to Raffi singing “Baby Beluga” at age two as “discovering music”), but this was mostly confined to pop radio (Goo Goo Dolls and the like) and a steady stream of Weird Al Yankovic (“Albuquerque,” anyone?). I didn’t start listening to things remotely resembling my recent preferences until at least early high school, which is really a shame. To think I could have listened to Stephin Merritt sing about his rodeo papa and being “king of the boudoir” in the sixth grade! What trajectory might my musical life have taken? It certainly would have spared me a whole lot of lonely nights spent alone with Dashboard Confessional. Still, it was probably for the best. We didn’t all have an extended pop-punk/emo phase (I certainly did), but we all had something equivalent, a time spent trying to put forth an acceptable social identity through some nebulous condensation of our musical “taste” (if we can call it that) and a whole lot of
desperate affectation. Would I have appreciated 1993’s Exile in Guyville, the Rolling Stones- and extreme sexual depravity-inspired masterstroke that sits as the lone shining beacon in Liz Phair’s fucking train wreck of a career, at the not-so-ripened age of six? Of course not. My subconscious knew what musical path it wanted to take, and as it turned out that path included a healthy portion of blink-182 and Something Corporate. So, when I’ve stumbled upon the gems of the ‘90s indie-verse in the last few years, I’ve always felt a little pang of guilt. Where was I when Bee Thousand and Summerteeth first saw the light of day? Why wasn’t I listening to early Mountain Goats and Modest Mouse? At the very least, my late realization that the ‘90s scene had more to offer than Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and a whole lot of Nirvana and Pearl Jam rip-offs has bestowed upon me a period of discovery, of rediscovery perhaps, that’s been almost as rewarding as hearing The National for the first time. Where would I be now if I’d been hip enough to listen to “69 Love Songs“ in middle school? Who fucking knows, but I’m fairly certain that my head would have exploded by now. -JAMES HICKS
I enjoy playing solo, but the fact is it’s hard to draw a crowd with a solo act. People want to dance and have fun, and it’s hard for them to do that without drums and bass. Also, when most of your fan base is drunk college students, it’s hard to draw them in with just an acoustic guitar. Playing with a band is fun but can be very difficult. We all have different schedules, and we do have our tiffs. Usually I present a song to them and they help arrange it. Occasionally we have battles over how something should sound, but they don’t last long and we usually agree on something.
Your band was recently featured on Spin’s website. How exciting was that? How much exposure did you get as a result? It was pretty exciting. We got a little article written about us, it got us some new fans, and it got us a little more in the public eye. It gave us exposure to other music magazines that also featured us, so it was all very helpful and boosted our confidence considerably.
Relatedly, who takes care of your publicity? Right now we take care of most of the publicity and arrange our own shows. I use promotional music websites like sonicbids, which helps a lot. We pretty much do it all ourselves.
Your first EP is available in the iTunes store. Are you a millionaire yet or what? We had a lot of people buy our EP, so that was exciting. We almost broke a million dollars but fell short by about 900,000 or so.
How did you get to be so goddam handsome? Genetics. -JAMES HICKS
How has Bard been as a place to start your career? Do you think a larger market would have been to your advantage, or do you think being the biggest fish in the pond helped you “find your feet,” so to speak? Bard is an okay place to play. It has been a good space for me to develop musically, but I hate playing there. I hate the scene, and we do have a lot of shows where nobody but our friends really shows up while at other schools we somehow manage to draw large crowds. Also, we don’t have to deal as many with pretentious little pricks at other schools. Don’t get me wrong, there are many fine people and talented bands at Bard, but they can be very difficult people to share a stage with. I really would rather play at any other college but Bard. It’s more fun. A larger market would be great, I just want to be ready for it. I want to develop more musically before I step into the public eye.
What are your plans for the immediate future? When will we see your first full-length? I’m staying around Bard for another year and working for the recording studio, but I’m mostly just going to practice and write. I want my full-length to be great, and before I record it I want to get better. You can expect it within the next two years.
Le Castle Vania So for all those who don’t know you already, where did you come up with the name Le Castle Vania?
It was just a joke. When I started the project I didn’t have a name that I was producing under, and I had kinda been joking around with some friends about naming a band after the video game Castle Vania. The band Snowden asked me to do a remix for them because they knew I was kinda messing around with electronic production and DJing. So, I did that and had to put a name on it, so to be funny I thought, ‘I’ll just put that “Castle Vania” on it.’ I just put the ‘Le’ on the beginning to make it sound hipstery. It was totally a joke. We put out the remix, and I knew other DJs in other cities; I just sent it out to those guys. It started going viral on music blogs and ended up being the number one most requested song in New Zealand on the radio. So I was just like, I guess that’s my name now.
by Ameenay Khan
How was the Atlanta scene back when you started compared to now? In my opinion, Atlanta has always had fluctuation. It’ll be really good for a little while and then really bad. But really, the nightlife scene here has been up and down as well. We started Fuck Yesss and that was the big thing that started ramping up, and then there was Afterlife and a few other parties that were kind of doing that sound. Honestly, right now I’d have to say Atlanta is at an all time low for ‘fun-ness’ of nightlife. It’s sad to me because there is definitely the potential here and there’s definitely an audience.
So it’s definitely lacking here compared to other cities?
At this point, I’ve DJed all around the world, and most places have better nightlife. Atlanta is pretty good for the southeast, excluding maybe Miami. I think the US is really out of touch with the rest of the world, and you don’t really see that until you start traveling. This sort of music, electro, is massive in literally every other country. I’m DJing more and more outside of the country, just because there’s a bigger market out there. Here, everyone has their heads so far up MTV and commerNo, I just thought it was fun. I started when I was 16. I’m cial radio’s asses, and that music is just not good. It’s so 26 now, so I’ve been DJing for ten years. When I started boring and there’s so much more out there to explore out I used to sneak out of the house and try to go see and discover and people just don’t do that here. Obvithe different DJs I liked at the time. I was getting rejected ously, people in our scene are doing that but that’s it. [from clubs] a lot, so one day I decided I’m just gonna do my own DJing so I can get into clubs and perform. Do you ever think of relocating? The first time I DJed we rented out this warehouse – this I just came back from touring Sydney and all over Auswas when rave was happening in Atlanta – and I went tralia, but Sydney is one of my favorite places on the online and found all the local DJs playing in Atlanta and planet. That’s kind of like my goal, ending up there… I’m hit up everybody to see who would want to come out really happy with Atlanta. I love this city, and that’s why and play at this warehouse party. The guy who we rented I’ve done Fuck Yesss and tried to give back in that way. the warehouse from for some reason had a big sound Atlanta will always be home to me but my end dream system there already. It wasn’t anything amazing, but is to one day own a house in Sydney as well. it was cool for me.
How did you start out DJing? Did you always know that’s what you wanted to do?
What was the best show you’ve ever played? Definitely the coolest show I’ve ever played, and the biggest, was the Electric Daisy Carnival in Los Angeles. The night I played actually had the highest oneday festival attendance ever recorded in the United States…so that was obviously an amazing thing to be a part of and experience. Where do you see Fuck Yesss going? It’s kind of your brainchild. I think it’s gone where it’s going to go. I mean, we can’t get any more people in. It’s physically impossible. A lot of people have suggested we move to a bigger venue, but my theory is that it’s working; don’t fix it if it’s not broken. I don’t necessarily want to get more people in. I don’t do that night to make money. I make my money while I tour. This is my night for fun and just doing something for my city, having my friends come out and have a good time. If I make it any bigger then more douche bags are going to find out about it and then you get a bad crowd. I prefer it the way that it is. It is what it is, and that’s what it’s gonna be. It’ll last as long as it lasts. Something else will come along. That’s how all nightlife culture is. What are you working on right now? I’ve always got a lot of stuff on my plate. I’m finishing up a new single, but I’m pretty much done [with it]. I’m doing a music video for the single with a pretty good
director [who] just did a video for Acid Girls. I’m also doing a video for Toxic Avenger, which is actually really cool. I’m putting together two remix EPs with remixes from other artists on my two recent singles. I’m doing a remix for Dim Mak records with Felix Cartel. I’ve had a record label for a while called Always Never. It’s always been a side thing, really small just to put out some of my friends to help them out, put my own stuff out. We’re totally remodeling the plan for the whole label and really starting to build it up.
poetry in atlanta:
HE POETR Y SCENE in Atlanta is an active part of the city’s artistic community. Vibrant and diverse, it has something exciting to offer to anyone and everyone interested, no strings attached. Whether you are new to poetry, looking for a place to showcase your work, or simply want to scope out the scene from the audience, this city has a place for you. The Poetry Atlanta, Inc. blog (HTTP://POETRYATLANTA.BLOGSPOT. COM/) is a great place to start to find what you are looking for from the comfort of your own home (completely naked if you so desire!). Updated frequently and providing a pretty comprehensive and informative view of Atlanta’s live poetry scene, with details for everything from open-mic nights to readings and book signings to writing workshops, the blog even has an entire page dedicated to listing the various open-mic nights across the city, including some that take place weekly or monthly.
NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY
JAVA MONKEY, a coffee house and wine bar in the heart of Decatur, hosts a weekly open-mic night every Sunday at 8 p.m. Sign-ups begin at 7:30, but you’d be best served to get there a bit early to secure a spot, as it is usually a pretty popular happening. Each session includes 20-30 minutes of a featured poet in addition to the open-mic set at absolutely no charge (I highly recommend, however, investing in one of their delicious caffeinated beverages). As a matter of fact, most poetry happenings have free admission, so there’s really no excuse not to feed your inner starving artist. Further, openmics are often multi-dimensional and include work by vocalists, musicians, and visual artists along with poets and spoken word artists, a formula that makes every event a truly unique experience. EMORY itself is also host to a growing, notto-be-overlooked poetic community. The very recent Minds on Mic spoken word project and Poetry Council’s “What’s New in Poetry?” series both host their events on campus. Minds on Mic is a spoken word and poetry group started by Emory college freshman
Daniel Weingarten. Hailing from Los Angeles, Weingarten was enthusiastic about continuing his involvement in the spoken word community that he had begun back in his hometown. Not long after his arrival at Emory, he realized that no such outlet existed on campus and took on the challenge of building one from the ground up, and voila: Emory is now home to Minds on Mic. The group hosts open-mic nights for Emory students about once a month. Each event typically features a few prominent spoken word artists from the Atlanta area and provides students with the opportunity to share their own work— Weingarten’s original vision. “My vision for the group was, and still is, to create an environment where individuals can feel comfortable sharing their work and speaking their voice, whether they’ve graced the stage before or not. I know the power that sharing your work can have and I want others to have [this] opportunity.” Minds on Mic events are open to interested students of all levels of experience, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming events!
Hile MINDS ON MIC has introduced Emory to spoken word, Poetry Council’s “What’s New in Poetry?” series invites younger, upand-coming poets to read on campus. Each reading in the series usually features two or three poets from around the country. The series is most notable for its ability to live up to its name; it offers a look at what poets today are writing. It shows that poetry is a current and lively art form that has evolved considerably from iambic pentameter and other more rigid forms. This year, the series has featured the likes of Denise Duhamel, Bill Berkson, Cole Swenson, and many others, but don’t worry, the series has one more event this year. Christiana Baik, Joseph Wood and Daniela Olszewska will read on April 22nd at 8 p.m. in the Schwartz Center Theater Lab located in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on North Decatur Road. All Poetry Council events are free and open to the public, so don’t miss out on this golden opportunity to see “What’s New in Poetry?”. -LEILI KASRAIE
To learn more about Poetry Atlanta, visit
How and when did rise-n-dine begin? Was it your brainchild or did you get the idea from somewhere else? Have you been involved since the beginning? We started in June of 2007. It was the brainchild of myself and my ex-boyfriend. We actually had a restaurant down in Hapeville with another guy, but he bailed after a few years. At the end of it, it was mostly just me.
rise -ndine: An Emory Phenomenon BY JAMES HICKS
Was that also a breakfast place? No, it was mostly a lunch and dinner place. We attempted brunch, but it went horribly. The neighborhood wasn’t very supportive, so we ended up doing just lunch from 11-3, which obviously isn’t enough hours to make a restaurant really financially viable. So we shut that down and found this place up here and started to do breakfast.
Since the 2007-2008 school year, the lone bright spot in the everchanging (and largely barren) Emory Village landscape has been rise-n-dine, everyone and their mother’s favorite place to eat (and caffeinate) near campus. Owner Stephanie Panek talks about her past, her playlists, and her plans for the future.
How long did it take before rise-n-dine really started to catch on with students? We opened that summer, and it was good that we opened that summer because we had a lot of work to do. Of course we weren’t ready when we opened. It was just like “hurry up and open!” So we had the quiet neighborhood to experiment on and figure out what the hell we were doing. But, as soon as fall classes started, people started to trickle down this way, and, you know, slowly but surely they’d pop in and it started from there. Word of mouth was probably our biggest advertiser.
On that note, a lot of businesses in the village have found life difficult over the past few years. How have you managed to succeed where so many others have failed? I don’t know. You guys showed us the love!
Does most of your business come from Emory students or from locals? Emory definitely provides a majority, but the surrounding neighborhoods have been incredibly supportive. We have regulars from all over the place: Midtown, Stone Mountain, the West
Side. It’s definitely more than just Druid Hills. It seems we’ve become a destination for some, not just a convenient place to go, and that makes us feel special. There’s been a lot of discussion about remodeling Emory Village in the past few years, about maybe even making it residential as well as commercial. Where do you stand on this issue? I don’t really know what they’re talking about with any of that. I was given plans when we first moved in here that talked about the roundabout being built, which I understand is going to happen this summer, and about changing the streetscape to make it more pedestrian-friendly. They gave me some plans that they say will give us thirteen feet of sidewalk/patio space, and that’s all I know. No one has ever said anything to me about the building being torn down. Those are all rumors as far as I know.
Your music choices have a sort of mainstream indie sensibility. Who controls the playlist? Everyone. We just play iPods. I got the ball rolling, but a lot of servers will bring in their own mixes and such. Your wait staff is extraordinarily friendly and animated. Is that intentional or do you think risen-dine just attracts a certain type of employee? I think it’s both. Obviously people that don’t kind of “fit in” haven’t lasted very long here. I think there’s a certain type of personality that can work in a very busy, fast-paced environment and have a good attitude. Everyone here definitely has a good attitude. If someone were to start and can’t have that, they won’t last very long here. You recently extended your hours. How has that gone over? It’s slowly building, I think. We actually had our busiest night so far this past Friday. You wouldn’t think that Friday would be a very busy night for us. When we first started, we noticed that Wednesday seemed to be the busiest night. I don’t know if there was something going on with school, if that was a big homework night or what. I’ve done what advertising I can as far as guerilla marketing, but I think it’s really been word of mouth. What does the future hold for rise-n-dine? Any thoughts of expansion? That’s a tricky question. Right now we’re just taking things as they come, and we’ll see where it goes from there.
SHOW REVIEWS: Drive-By Truckers
@ Variety Playhouse March 13,2010
est you forget, this is the South, and the Drive-By Truckers lay claim to these parts. In a packed Variety Playhouse, DBT blazed through a raucous, liquor-fueled, two and a half hour performance. Playing songs dating back to their ’98 debut Gangstabilly, their new album The Big To-Do, and everything else in between, the Truckers once again proved that they reign supreme in the oft-overlooked world of southern rock. Main songwriters and singers Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley traded turns in leading the band through the catalog. As Cooley played the part of prototypical country/rock star, sipping his bottle of Jack Daniel’s, smoking a cigarette, and stepping out for the occasional guitar solo, Hood served as the energetic force behind the band, bouncing across the stage, wailing out nasty guitar leads, and passing around
the bottle of Jack to everyone else in the band (and a few in the front row), even if it meant interrupting a guitar solo. As the whiskey bottle emptied and the eyes of the band and fans alike started to glaze, Hood took on a new level of determination to turn the show into a full-on experience, something I got the sense he does at every show. A little over halfway through, in the middle of “A World Of Hurt,” Hood screamed, “IT’S FUCKIN’ GREAT TO BE ALIVE!” to the cheer of the crowd. Surely Ronnie Van Zant would be proud to see such an enthusiastic soul fighting to keep alive the spirit of southern rock. After two hours of straight energy, DBT came back on for a 30-minute encore, where they truly shined. Hood sung about how he was saved by the rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blue Oyster Cult, and AC/DC in “Let There Be Rock,” and Cooley soon
followed by leading an incredible cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World.” Not to be outdone, Hood then unexpectedly launched into a vicious take on The Jim Carroll Band’s “People Who Died.” When it looked like Hood had exhausted himself, even collapsing onstage, he grabbed the mic and exploded right back into the chorus, as if to fight the reality that all shows must come to an end. As the Drive-By Truckers finally walked off the stage for good, it became clear that Hood, Cooley, and the rest of the Truckers have rightfully claimed their place as the heirs to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young, the twin pillars of the DBT southern rock brilliance. Yes, the spirit of the South was alive and well that night at the Variety Playhouse, and it will be wherever you might run across the Drive-By Truckers. -Zach Philyaw
(The Fabulous Fox Theater) As a self-described diehard Wilco fanatic, it’s hard to argue with the seemingly unsettling sentiment that the veteran band has traded in some of their defining innovation to rest on their laurels. Over the past couple of years, many have slapped Wilco with the ‘dad rock’ label. Maybe it’s malaise over a band slowly moving away from their once-progressive tendencies toward experimentation, settling in their two relatively unadventurous recent albums 2007’s Sky Blue Sky and
2009’s Wilco (The Album). Or perhaps it’s the image of a band that once defiantly stood in the face of the record industry, refusing to compromise their creative processes, now licensing their music as the once-anthem for Volkswagen Nation. Despite all of these concerns, however, Wilco in concert has never been something to question, and their sold-out performance at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre was no exception. The show had no opening act, no novelties of any variety preceding the band, simply an evening with Wilco — one that lasted nearly three hours. After opening up Wilco (The Concert) with “Wilco (The Song),” the sextet followed with mostly newer material beforing mixing in classics like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” and “A Shot in the Arm.” Between frontman Jeff Tweedy’s disheveled cool, Nels Cline’s nimble guitar work, and drummer Glenn Kotche’s meticulous rhythms, Wilco’s consistency became increasingly evident with each passing song. Halfway through the show, amidst the extended noiseridden coda of “Poor Places,” the crew efficiently set up a makeshift living room near the front of the stage, complete with a whole new set of instruments complemented by adjacent vintage lamps. In this arrangement, Wilco moved through an acoustic “set” filled with alternate versions of both new tracks and older but less renowned songs, including acoustic version of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” and an early bluegrass arrangement of “Casino Queen.” The final “set” was all about Wilco in its element, concluding the show with a series of fan favorites. Kotche’s chaotic bursts defined “Via Chicago,” as they were juxtaposed with random flashes of stage lighting like a storm full of lightning and thunder. Tweedy opted to let the crowd sing nearly the entirety of “Jesus, etc.,” before joining late as the sing-along filled the Fox. With every song appearing to be their last, the band kept on chugging along, track after track. After 33 straight songs and a rapturous ovation, Wilco graced the crowd with one more, performing a cover of Big Star’s “Thank You Friends,” which they dedicated to recently deceased Big Star frontman Alex Chilton. The song appeared to be, however, not just an ode to one of the group’s notable influences but also a fitting display of its gratitude for the ongoing support of its fans. It was a moment not only paying tribute to lost heroes but also acknowledging fans’ undying support as Wilco continues to sell out show after show, cementing their place as one of the greatest contemporary American rock bands. -Max Blau
Surfer Blood (Criminal Records In-Store)
Hailing from both West Palm Beach and the University of Florida, Surfer Blood is something of a quirky compilation of chilled-out bros, talented musicians, and contemplative artists. I like to think of them as a poor man’s Vampire Weekend, lacking only the Ivy League-pedigree and the pastel collared shirts. As the band members mosied about Criminal Record’s makeshift stage tuning guitars and such, they looked like they could fit in just as easily (or perhaps more easily) as those standing in the crowd rather than those about to perform. With the first guitar riff and surprisingly mature vocals from lead singer John Paul Pitt, though, Surfer Blood introduced a refreshing pop sound that immediately got the crowd going. As the short concert progressed, the reflective lyrics, dynamic guitar parts, and layered composition revealed an impressive complexity to their simple catchy beach-vibe hooks. Despite their relative inexperience, Surfer Blood played with a maturity that belied their years, and their chemistry was undeniable. Since the release of their debut album, Astro Coast (which was recorded in their freshman dorm room at UF), they’ve been touring nonstop, and, as this new obsession with 90’s throwback sounds invades the indie world, we’ll all soon be humming and air-guitaring to tracks like “Swim (To Reach the End)” and “Twin Peaks” (if we aren’t already, that is). When it comes down to it, these guys are doing exactly what we wish we were doing, and, out of inspired dreaming and minor jealousy, we listen. -Lauren Ladov
Hot Chip, One Life Stand (Release Date: 2/9/10) Grade: A-
Hot Chip has always been a band with a deep-seated penchant for contrast. The most obvious example can be found in their 2005 album Coming On Strong, on which the disparity between lyrics like “Give up all you suckers/We the tightest motherfuckers/And you never seen us talking shit before now” and the skinny white British guy in horn-rimmed glasses who sings them makes for a pretty amusing study in sarcasm. The band’s newest album, One Life Stand, offers more proof of Hot Chip’s latent ability to find triumph in disparity, but it does so in a way none might have expected. One Life Stand prevails, ultimately, as a huge swirling musical embrace about love in all its forms. With a notable shift toward a more soulful, house-influenced sound, the album blossoms with a slew of highly romantic dance-ballads that nimbly fuse the acoustic with the electronic. From the piano-driven live drums and techno-manipulations of “Hand Me Down Your Love” to the majestic string arrangements and Kanye-worthy auto-tune of “I Feel Better,” nearly every song is a paradigm of brilliantly rendered contrast. Reigning supreme is lead singer Alexis Taylor’s chimerical falsetto, which soars lithely over everything, complemented occasionally by the cavernous undertones of co-vocalist Joe Goddard. These vocal collaborations are most notable in the songs that explore alternative figurations of love, such as the fraternal harmonizing of “Brothers” and the spindly little maternally-minded gem “Alley Cats”— a song about “when
you’re feeling something that you really love is coming to an end and saying that’s not really possible.” The album hits its stride with the pulsating title track. “One Life Stand” opens with a (now standard) ridiculously catchy beat and some ominous-sounding electronic noise. Lyrically, it evolves from rather trivializing opening verses (“Tell me what you’re playing”) into an intensely heartfelt and downright cuddly chorus (“I only wanna be your one life stand/ Tell me do you stand by your whole man?”) that showcases the best of Taylor’s vocal abilities and encapsulates the album’s overarching theme. As Taylor explained in a November 2009 interview with Pitchfork, “I’m talking about turning a one night stand into someone’s whole life…and I think that’s quite a nice thing to say.” And he’s right; it is quite nice, and a refreshing sentiment next to the overarching cynicism of the present indie world. Like that now-infamous YouTube video of the wedding where everybody dances up the aisle in sunglasses, “One Life Stand” manages to sound simultaneously classic and fresh while still giving you that old warm fuzzy feeling. The most dubious turn comes with “Slush,” in which This Heat drummer Charles Hayward plays and sings harmony. Taylor describes Hayward’s role as “one of the most special things about the album… because he’s someone that I really look up to and love,” but the song drags and vacillates in its redundant lack of beats, becoming the kind of track that most will end up skipping after a listen or two. But its value is revealed around the 4:30 mark with a belated transition into the profound repetition of “Don’t I know there is a God?” which serves to round out the album’s love trifecta— romantic, familial, and divine. In light of past endeavors, the unexpected seriousness of this album, especially paired with its often saccharine lyrics (“I only want one want night/ Together in our arms/ This is the longest night/ We’re meeting arms to arms”), may tempt some to write it off as simply Hot Chip’s latest bout of sarcasm. And yet, amidst such earnest delivery and luminous cohesion, doing so would feel just plain wrong. Rather, One Life Stand reveals how the band has mellowed out without selling out, matured without losing what makes them unique. There’s really something for everybody here, but the overall message seems to be that love is all around, even here, even now, and Hot Chip’s ability to express this sentiment without sounding completely lame stands as a testament to both their inherent coolness and their expectation-defying talent. -Hilary Cadigan
the über-popular sounds of MGMT and Passion Pit that have owned the mainstream indie scene for the last several years. Though Passion Pit wasn’t even on the radar two years ago, the electronic, danceable tunes that inform Odd Blood indicate the staying power of both this relatively new genre and Yeasayer themselves.
Yeasayer, Odd Blood (Release Date: 2/9/10) Grade: A-
From the moment the first song on Odd Blood, Yeasayer’s follow-up to 2007’s ambitious and impressive All Hour Cymbals, begins, listeners get a taste of the heavy industrial beats and thoughtful vocal futzing that pervade the entire album. Evident throughout the album is a retrodisco influence that punctuates the evolution of a branch of indie that tends toward dance-y backbeats and overlaid synths. Whereas All Hour Cymbals had a more psychedelic overtone, Odd Blood veers more toward electro-pop, echoing
The first single, “Ambling Alp,” is strikingly catchy, its melodious mixture of synth and percussion making it one of the album’s most infectious cuts. “I Remember” combines romantic lyrics with a triumphant blend of high-pitched synth and vocals. The line “I remember making out on an airplane / Still afraid of flying, but with you I’d die today” is just about the most romantic thing you could say to a loved one. Following “I Remember” is “O.N.E.,” a clever track quite reminiscent of mid-eighties Cure (think Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me). The number also recalls some of the synthesizer techniques that have defined Of Montreal since their debut several years ago. Perhaps most in line with Yeasayer’s first album is “Strange Reunion,” though its psychedelic underbelly still fits seamlessly with the progression of Odd Blood. The most obvious failure on Odd Blood is “Love Me Girl.” Most of it sounds fairly boring, and its melody seems to fall off when Chris Keating stops singing. The band’s experimentation with the song’s instrumentation is respectable, sure, but it sits awkwardly alongside the rest of the songs on the album. Yet, in spite of “Love Me Girl,” Odd Blood stands to be one of the best albums of the year (and is certainly an excellent sophomore effort). Yeasayer managed to avoid the all-too-common disappointment of the second album release by executing a complete overhaul of the sound that made their debut such a success. -Rose Cohn
Best tracks: “Ambling Alp” “I Remember” “O.N.E.”
Top Tracks: “Hand Me Down Your Love” “One Life Stand” “Alley Cats”
Gorillaz, Plastic Beach (Release Date: 3/3/10) Grade: B+
With the release of their heavily anticipated third studio album Plastic Beach, Gorillaz seem to have repudiated all doubts of legitimacy and firmly grounded themselves as one of the top British bands making waves internationally. Members Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett revitalize the band’s idiosyncratic mix of hip-hop and alternative rock into something more orchestral, fusing electronic and dub sounds to create a mélange that forms what might just be their best album yet. Any perceived bias in this review stems not from any prior
endearment to Gorillaz. In fact, before Plastic Beach, this particular reviewer was not that much of a fan of the band or their previous multi-platinum albums, the self-titled Gorrilaz and Demon Days. This reversal in opinion that I experienced after listening to the album in its entirety proved to me that Plastic Beach wasboth a grower and a keeper, hopefully a sign of things to come from the band. The album begins with something that is dear to me, the simple beauty of orchestral music as performed by Sinfonia
Viva of The Midlands. Now many might stop reading here and discount this CD due to the connotations of orchestration, but never fear; the Gorillaz only use this orchestral combination sparsely throughout the album, to touch up and augment their unique sound rather than serve as a stand-in for it. The record transitions to a partial introduction/track by the legend himself, Snoop Dogg, a foreshadowing of the buffet of guest stars that fill Plastic Beach’s sixteen sprawling tracks. On highlights such as “Stylo,” “Plastic Beach,” and “Pirate Jet,” the electro-rock-infused style that seems to be sweeping the music of the hipster set emerges, a stark contrast from the band’s previous work; the title track, for instance, bears resemblance to the likes of MGMT and the Killers, and Mos Def’s killer guest spot on “Stylo” blows away much of his competition here. While most know the Gorillaz as the virtual “cartoon band” whose music videos are so trippy that Indieplex might not even air them, it’s this bizarre public persona that adds so much to the peculiar nature of their music. Tracks like “White Flag” and “Superfast Jellyfish” are geared more toward their hip-hop roots that were clearly established on their debut and will most likely remain their trademark until Gorillaz find a home in retirement. With a veritable murderer’s row of featured artists, including the likes of Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Bashy, Kano, and the legendary Lou Reed, this album has more soul than James Brown could reasonably ask for. The accessibility (if tinged with intricacy) of most of the album’s songs speaks to the time spent crafting not only catchy tunes but something with style and flair that cannot be wholly replicated. As with many of its other clients, Virgin Records has in Plastic Beach an international winner that will not only bring in more revenue in these debilitating economic times but also live in our collective memory for much, much longer.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Brutalist Bricks (Release Date: 3/9/10) Grade: B+
Over the past decade, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists have provided their fans with album after album of ska-infused indie rock with a marked consistency. Although never known as a band that has particularly expanded their sound too far outside the realm of their signature brand of melodic, energetic punk rock, their unique blend of punk, ska, rock, and a bevy of other genres has become honed to the point of predictable excellence. Their sixth studio album, The Brutalist Bricks, sees the band continue its remarkable run of reliability. The album kicks off in signature fashion, as Ted Leo’s melodic and energetic guitar work, Marty Key’s pocket bass, and Chris Wilson’s steady drumbeat seamlessly merge on “The Mighty Sparrow,” a song that stands with the band’s best work. “Avian Eyes” is an enticing offer of a yearning for acceptance, and Leo’s voice is at its most
infectious while backed by the continual force of the guitar assault and drum attack. The album’s first single, “Even Heroes Have to Die,” recalls a poppier version of The Clash, imploring listeners to answer its anthemic call. In the song “Bottled in Cork,” Leo admits that “sometimes the path to least resistance will gain you the most,” rather telling of the best way to consume the band’s music. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists bring something to the table on all 13 tracks found on The Brutalist Bricks, even on hidden late album gems like “Gimme Wire,” which showcases Leo’s notably dexterous guitar work in a brilliant pop-punk gem that belies the album’s consistency. While the album does little to develop the band’s signature sound, it’s really a minor issue given the consistent quality of all of The Brutalist Bricks’ thirteen tracks. -Max Blau
“The Mighty Sparrow” “Avian Eyes” “Gimme Wire”
Top Tracks: “Pirate Jet” “Stylo” “Plastic Beach”
A Mash-Up Manifesto
N THE WAKE of Girl Talk’s sweaty, alcohol-fueled, orgiastic cluster-fuck at Emory, I can’t help but think about how far mash-up genre has come from the days when the entire scene revolved around a message board. I’ve been a part of the international mash-up community for the better part of a decade now, since before novelty Notorious B.I.G. mashups topped the Hype Machine on a weekly basis, before DJ Hero, long before the term “mash-up” was even part of the cultural lexicon. When Girl Talk was still making his first experimental sample-based records that barely qualify as music, the mash-up genre was being forged in an underground scene on message boards and late night radio shows around the world. In those early days, mash-ups were like punk rock in the 1970s. Most of the people involved were no-talent hacks plucking and stretching and screaming and working with instruments no one really knew how to use. Despite all that, the early pioneers knew that we were on to something special. Computer geeks and DJs would twist and stretch a Christina Aguilera vocal until it fit over the looped riff from a Strokes song, and it was a revelation. Even if all but five seconds of it were out of sync or key (which was often the case), those five seconds were pure aural bliss. Now, most of those early mash-ups are unlistenable. All but the most advanced of these mixes were made using technology that belongs in the Stone Age. The vocal-only a capellas and music-only instrumentals that are necessary for mash-up creation were impossible to come by, even with the aid of the emerging internet. As a result, there were literally hundreds of mash-ups using the same 20 songs in slightly different arrangements. Furthermore, mash-ups were a risky business legally. Just about every week, another mash-up artist or message board would open a cease-and-desist letter from record companies claiming copyright infringement. A handful of true musical geniuses, like DJ Dangermouse and Go Home Productions, fell into the scene in those early days, but most of them went on to bigger, better, and more legal things within months of releasing their musical Frankenstein creations. Originally, mash-ups were called ‘bastard pop,’ and that’s
what they were. The electronic music and dance communities wrote them off with a chuckle. They were a novelty; all style, no substance. No one outside of the community would acknowledge the artistic merit of mash-ups. Despite the fact that most people already define themselves through other people’s music in one way or another, no one thought that you could be an artist simply through combining other people’s pop songs. Fortunately, newer acts like Girl Talk and Pretty Lights have been able to build on the foundations of those early mash-up pioneers to legitimize the art form. It takes a true vision to turn a throwaway verse from Andre 3000 and a forgotten Journey ballad into one of the most inspirational songs in recent memory. But these new artists are only able to practice their art because of the technological achievements made and legal battles waged by the pioneers of the genre. Let us not forget where mash-ups have been and just how far they have come.