/*Google*/ /*Hosting*/ March 2010 | SFCritic Music Blog


Upcoming Concerts

Well, the test run of "Music News" was to be kind "an utter (dry) failure" as no one seemed to read it; donc, we at SFCritic will try again with something new: "Upcoming Concerts." Upcoming Concert will list a handful of shows, mostly those that will be in Bay Area (unless they're incredible and stupid for not coming to SF), and one indie show. Promoters, small-time artists, and friends of bands, this is your opportunity for some small time publicity (for free). Submit you're concert, with a reason why SFCritic should promote it, the more creative, the better, and the more likely you'll be heard.

March 31st - April 7th

Kidz in the Hall
on March 31st at Independent ($13-$15): The hip hop duo are trying to establish themselves with their braggadocio rhymes, and sample-less beats as a indie hip hop group to reckon with, but Pitchfork wasn't too kind to them; nonetheless, they're definitely worth seeing on a Wednesday night.

Hot Buttered Rum on April 2nd at Freight & Salvage ($24.50-$25.50): Besides the exceptional name, I've been hearing a lot about these guys through the grapevine. Initially formed as an acoustic string band, seven years of constant touring has transformed Hot Buttered Rum into a plugged-in, percussive powerhouse.

The English Beat on April 3rd at Bimbos ($22): The Beat (known in North America as The English Beat) are a 2 Tone ska revival band founded in England in 1978. Their songs fuse ska, pop, soul, reggae, and punk rock

RJD2 on April 7th at Independent ($20): The beat smith from Ohio has become a staple of indie hip hop over the last 10 years since the release of his classic album, Deadringer. During his last tour he abandoned his turntable, and laptop, playing multiple instruments. What will he do this time?

Emily McLean on April 31st at Red Devil Lounge ($8): Emily has gotten noticed on both coasts, as an innovative, raw talent. While in New York she performed with Jazz legends, like Joe Chambers, Junior Mance, and Bernard Purdie. “The emotion Emily conveys while singing, reminds me of Roberta Flack, and not too many people sing like that anymore.” Praised Bernard Purdie.

The Last Waltz with Jim Marshall

By Victoria Smith

Photo by Victoria Smith

Jim Marshall, rock's greatest photographer, passed away in NYC the night of March 23rd at the age of 74. The lifelong San Francisco resident was an icon and true character. He was a massive talent and one of the most significant contributors to rock 'n roll photography. He was a rambler, a rock star, gonzo..

Guns, whiskey, cocaine and Leica cameras were Jim Marshall’s signature characteristics, though they housed a soft underbelly. Jim was a loyal friend with a big heart. He’d be telling someone to "fuck off" then turn his attention back to the phone in his ear and continue with “yes sweetie, thank you very much.”

Rolling Stones first Chief of Photography, Baron Wolman, once told me Jim had a light meter in his head. Jim documented the world of music for almost fifty years, accumulating a staggering body of work.

Last month, Jim told me a story about how he had sold a bag of cocaine to Hunter S. Thompson. Hunter was unconvinced of the quality of the bag and argued. Jim said “If it's not good, you can have it. If it is good, you pay me double." Thompson paid double in the end.

His talent, his character and his infamous middle finger will very much and forever be missed.

Photo by Pilar Law


Featured Artist: Broken Bells

Broken Bells may be a new group, but the band's duo of Danger Mouse and James Mercer (The Shins) are household favorites. This year's SXSW most talked about group, Broken Bells were on everyone's list of "must see." Unfortunately, SFCritic arrived too late (my story of SXSW) to see the group perform, but from what I was told--if you get the chance to see them, don't pass it up. The pop-psychedelic sound of their self-titled debut album has increasingly grown on me. The group's first single, "High Road" is the most adventurous, and my favorite, though the "Ghost Inside," and "Trap Doors" are not to be overlooked. Most of the album journeys between familiar Shins angst-indie-rock, and Danger Mouses' notable DJ Shadow-esque rock/hip hop beats. At this point, this is a SFCritic favorite for best new group of 2010. Check out more of their music at the group's website, here.

Featured Artist: Local Natives

Described as the West Coast's Grizzly Bear, this bonded bunch of (mostly) SoCal locals are definitely worthy of your attention. While most bands get enough of each other on the road, the four group members decided to move in together because it made making music easier. Their time together has paid off with their debut album Gorilla Manor, named after their humble abode. While "Warning Signs" is the first single off the album, "Sun Hands" is by far my favorite track, reminding me of Grizzly Bear's "Ready, Able."


No One Liikes Miike Snow: Interview w/ Andrew Wyatt

Let's play ball. If "you" are society, and "I" am your reaction, then Miike Snow is the name of the game. So,throw me your best pitch. I won't swing but I'll play by your rules. I will play, but I won't "play." You can mimic my stance but ask me what this means, and I'll punch you because you're not trying to understand, you're hoping to capitalize. Throw me your change-up, a screw ball, or a knuckle ball, and let it glide right down the box. I'll play the game. Just change your pitch because you keep asking the same questions. Your interview sucked. Sorry. "What does this song mean?" or "How did you guys meet?" Just stop pitching dumb questions, because I won't swing.

Baseball is a metaphor, but I'm being straight-forward. I can feed you a jackaloupe with a gold chain and you can gobble it up, but you were what was for dinner. You're confused. I know. Most journalists, besides some, haven't done their research. With so many opinions available, it's ironic that the same ten questions are asked. If their is no originality, no true editorial voice, than maybe SFCritic's conversation with lead singer Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow will help.

SFCritic (SFC): What interview am I for the afternoon?

Andrew Wyatt (AW):
You're number six.

SFC: Are you doing okay?

AW: I'm okay. Keep you're questions fresh. Have you read anything about Miike Snow yet, or are we going to go through the jackaloupe, why were called Miike Snow, and how we met?

SFC: No. No, I'm a little more in-depth than that. Maybe we can start off talking about the worst of the last five interviews. Was there a moment where you were dumbfounded by the questions an interviewer was asking you?

AW: There was one, I can't name the website, but I just had to turn off my brain for the whole thing and answer in some of the shortest questions I could.

SFC: I've read some of your interviews, and the questions you're asked are stupid. The only interview I've seen with you that was interesting was with Interview Magazine.

AW: That's funny. That's what I was going to invoke right now. It's the only one that was a discussion with an intelligent person.

SFC: I hope to continue that.

AW: I hope so too. [laughs]

SFC: I made a lot of questions from that interview, so that will be a starting point for where this will go. In that interview, you talked about how Dadaism reflects favorably on the concept of Miike Snow. Is this true? Do you consider yourself a Dadaist?

AW: That whole movement started as a rebelliousness against the overwrought culture of the time, of how to think about things, interpretively with regards to art. Marcel Duchamp's urinelle piece was kind of a fuck you to everybody. I think there are some aspects of that that we're doing.

We're doing something that is gaudy, bright, shimmery, and the vocals are loud at a time, when it's really the cool thing to have shit loads of delay on everything and sound psych-avaunt-insightful. I think there is a part of us that is an alternative to that by not having our lyrics be that hard or super coded. I think that there is a certain aspect of being fed up with the faddishness.

We very rarely do things twice. I don't think we started any songs that we didn't finish. The name of the band came up from an email that was the first thing we read when we were thinking of a band name, and kind of balked at the idea of trying to come up with a cool band name. Miike Snow sent us an email, and we thought it was funny and that just became our band name. The jackaloupe, we asked Christian's tattoo artist to come up with a symbol for our band, and that was the first thing she gave us and we really liked it.

That's been the process with this whole thing, we haven't though really thought to hard about things, or second guessed ourselves. What were making might very well suck, we don't know, but we're just doing it.

SFC: It's interesting because there seems to be two parts to that. On the one hand by not caring you're accepting one style, but by adhering to that firmly you're also doing the opposite by giving a shit to not give a shit.

AW: Yeah, you can follow that conundrum to the point where you don't do anything. Once this had a particular trajectory over the course, we're going to see that through to the logical conclusion. To do otherwise, you might as well just sit back and talk shit about other bands or decide to make something.

SFC: That's where Dadaism leads kind of towards nihilism. I guess I didn't really understand how Dadaism translates into music.

AW: We don't care if it sounds ridiculous. We like to be ridiculous. Which is the kind of the short-hand definition of Dadaism. I just said it that one time in an interview because it came to mind. I don't necessarily stand by Dadaism as a movement. I don't know much about it to be honest.

Not a problem, you finished the question by answering it that way. It does seem though in your photographs with you're drawn on tongues, the jackaloupe, and your sarcastic interviews, they all seem mocking of the press and our norms of how we do publicity. Am I wrong?

AW: Yeah. Although it could be completely seriously. At this point, anybody can get publicity. The blogosphere, the world that we have been living up until this point, is so democratic that there are a million bloggers, with a million points of views. This is an aimless time. You could do a straight photo shoot or you could do the most absurd, disrespectful, for lack of a better word, it's all kind of the same thing. It feels more lost now, or for that matter comfortable, because there is no way up now, the compass is totally skewed now.

SFC: What do you mean?

AW: There is no editorial point of view. It doesn't exist. There is no valid one that I've been able to see or defend. All the things that people come to hallow, or indicators of culture, have sort of really disappointed me. What has taken their place, this myriad of other, kids basically, with different things to say about new music, which is coming up on the blogosphere, of which there are literally tens of thousands.

We're not in this period of time when in the art world you had ARTforum, and a few publications that you could count on being barometers of popular artistic culture. Similarly, we had magazine like Rolling Stone in 1970s, which was somewhat of a thoughtful paper with a point of view. Now, I don't think we have one really. Everybody has their own point of view, nobody can really sway the clock of culture as it used to be.

SFC: Are there definitive points that you can think of that have lead you to these conclusions? Obviously, blogs, and the expansion of blogs, but is it MTV?

AW: Yeah, what is MTV doing now? They're doing all these TV shows. Rolling Stone will do anything that sells magazines. Pitchfork is pretty much the same thing. I think they had at one point more an editorial point of view than they do now, but now they're so predictable in their point of view that they're pandering to their audience, which is not exciting.

The great waves that defined the topography of art have been wiped away. Now there is never anything more than what can be described as a micro-movement. There's a final tenacity in style that is going on, and each of those styles is co-opted so quickly and hybridized, and acquired so quickly, that there is no compelling back-story that can be ascribed to any of them.

SFC: I was discussing a very similar topic with Emily Haines of Metric a few weeks ago, and she made this comment that you might look back at the Rolling Stones as "the real rock," but then you ask somebody from the days of the Rolling Stones and they'll say to you, "no this isn't real rock, this is blues," and then blues is the "real stuff." This whole paradigm continues to repeat itself.

AW: That's true, but there is such a thing as economy of scale. What's happening now is the scale that we're seeing of bands, I don't think it's going to be possible when writing a book, a hardcover book, like a print cover, coffee table type of book, to document any type of satisfactory narrative like "our times in music." You could probably do something about the Williamsburg scene, and then you could actually tell a story.

SFC: I think what the story would be would be about the co-optation of music that was once vibrant that became publicized and diluted.

AW: That's always been the case. What I'm talking about is about the speed of the internet. In other words, before Ariel Pink could even get to the place that he could be recognized for what he did, (and I do think that he was an innovator, and he's a person that's inspiring to me, even though my music sounds absolutely nothing like him I find him an aspiring person)--by the time his name got out there to most people at the point where he could make a living off what he does, 14,000 bands sounded just like him. The same thing was not true for David Bowie when he made Low. By going to Berlin, and hearing a lot of music, and coming out and doing the album that would be Station to Station, or Berlin Trilogy, by the time he had made those records he was being significantly rewarded for what he was doing. I don't think that's case now a days. To me it's because of the internet that everyone's attention gets fragmented. I think a lot of people's contributions are overlooked.

SFC: I understand. I don't know if it's a sign of me getting older--I'm a part of those 10,000, bloggers--but it's exhausting that I have to find new music for people to consume and I can't just focus on what I really enjoy.

AW: That's what I'm saying, that's exactly what I'm saying. The attention span is so extremely fractured right now.

SFC: The only thing I can bring up on that point because magazines don't pay to be a rock journalist.

AW: Exactly. There are certain that don't get developed further. On the other hand, the standard of living, even though the top percentage are vastly wealthier than other people, the standard of living is high enough that people can have a garage band and fuck around with it. I think a lot of people are being creative, but in a sense it's democratize creativity. I think that has very good qualities to it, and negative qualities.

SFC: On the other hand, playing the devil's advocate, you do have an authority figure in the case of somebody like Perez Hilton.

AW: Who am I to say. This is a person that probably hasn't devoted as much time as I have to learning about music. They're businessmen more.

SFC: Completely. In the instances that we as journalists have focused our attention on one band for an extended period time, it's a select few of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Jay-Z and the redundancy of the same people over the last ten years.

AW: Well it's because co-optation, and people who know how to formulate bonds with corporations. I do think while Lady Gaga hasn't pushed the boundaries of music, musically, she seems to be ambitious and plucky that she will in her own way, the same way that Madonna did, and there will always be those people.

I feel like right now they have been much more influenced by the structures outside the creative realm, so to speak. They're being much more influenced by market factors than by intellectual, not intellectual, even sensual factors. Really aesthetic endeavors. Really instinctual. Although making money is very instinctual. It is in our capitalist system. Basically, the upshot will be that Miike Snow will be making our albums from private islands in the Bahamas.

SFC: That would be good. I thought the best way Miike Snow would succeed later on would be by putting together songs with a single word submitted from every blogger.

AW: That's how we should do it, that's a good idea. That's a really good idea.

SFC: I do think, as we try and end on a optimistic note, I think there are more bands that have been successful through viral marketing, through creating their own marketing team, obviously once they make enough money that they have the resources, but nonetheless--it's a sign that people like Miike Snow or Metric can continue to push the boundaries by doing something like that and being free of a major label's influence.

AW: Of course. As always whenever the climate changes, the responsibility is on the individual to adapt and make something work. You have to be resourceful to create, and that's part of the deal. As I said, you have to come visit us for catamaran races on the island.

SFC: Yeah, I'm down. We'll sit back and have a pina colada.

AW: And have a bonfire.


Free Mp3 Fridays

Frightened Rabbits: "Heads Roll Off"
Not to be confused with Bad Rabbits, the Scottish band is buzzing with positive feedback. Recently, NPR put them on the song of the day, so I got to jump on the bandwagon. Really though, they've got something good going, take a look.

M. Ward ft. Zooey Deschanel: "Never Have Nobody Like You"
M. Ward is this dark rock blues that is both chilling and upbeat. His vocals are distinguished by the lo-fi distortion. Zooey Deschanel, the gorgeous actress and half of She & Him, is the sweet songstress that says "a-b-c-1-2-3." Together, they make a catchy summer jam.

Javelin: "Oh! Centra"
Their bio claims that most of No Más, their debut LP for Luaka Bop, is sample-less, filled instead with probably-tweaked-after-the-fact playing on actual instruments, which adds a whole new WTF-ish layer to everything. Listen for yourself via the freebie “Oh! Centra”—sort of like Salt-N-Pepa by way of Super Mario Brothers. (This song might annoy you at first, and then all of sudden you're like "let's do the monkey's butt.")

Hortlax Cobra: "This Time That's It"
Hortlax Cobra is John Eriksson, the bald and time-keeping third of Swedish pop dandies Peter Bjorn and John. “This Time That’s It,” which sort of sounds like PB&J (clean, blithe, catchy), but also sounds a lot like Kraftwerk (spare, synthy, unhuman).


No Sleep at SXSW 2010

Photos by Victoria Smith

Gavin Glass flew twenty-two hours from his home in Ireland to perform at South By South West (SXSW). He brought two guitars, a suitcase full of foot pedals and equipment--but not enough clothes. This was his second time performing at the festival. Jet-lag set in early for him. Each night he struggled to stay awake, but as he moaned he would always finish by saying "Kick me in the face if I fall asleep," because not only did he want to adjust, rock stars don't go to bed before 2am.

At thirty-three he is about the median age of many of the bands performing. For every youngster who's never heard of Muddy Waters, their is a veteran trying to reclaim his glory. With so many bands at SXSW for most journalists and music enthusiasts every other band is just a just another band. People plan around showcases that are national (German, French, Irish, etc.), publishing labels (Team Clermont, Biz3), or magazines and record labels (Warp, Duck Down, Paste, Filter). Music then becomes allied with a brand, emphasizing that these showcases are as important to the bands as for their sponsors. Instead of worrying about the next great band to discover, I discovered Gavin. Together, we discovered SXSW.

On the first day, before Gavin's set at The Dirty Dog we listened to the Scottish band, The Law. The band's energy pumped with flavors of ska and punk would surely rile a crowd. As we watched, Victoria Smith (my photographer) leaned into me and said, "These guys have played to crowds of 25,000 before," but on this day only five. It was before three, and the venue was empty besides the small fluxes of drunk revelers dressed in green (Celtic's jerseys were a favorite) chugging a beer from bar to bar, giving quick glances to the stage before heading to the next spot. But for Gavin it doesn't matter, as he would say later "I was just happy to be showcased."

When Gavin took to the stage the crowd size still hadn't grown. He had traveled without his band mates who couldn't take the time away from their paid jobs. His acoustic set was bluesy, and somewhat melancholy for the bright excitement of St. Patrick's Day. Victoria yelled, "play something happy," as Gavin picked up the mandolin and played a country-Irish-bluegrass-jig called, "Older Than My Years," which while more upbeat, I later learned is about a friend's suicide. Go figure.

For most bands this isn't their breaking out party. It's a time to reconnect with friends and a dream. This is the music industry's spring break party. Bands support each others shows. Publicists come to meet the bands they hype. Writers meets publicists they telecommunicate with. And everyone RSVPs to more parties, many they hear through word of mouth, than they will ever be able to attend. Most of these events overflow with free drinks, as corporate sponsors subtly advertise.

We finished that night at the Virgin Mobile house. Located across the street from Stubb's (the most notable venue, featuring SPIN Magazine's party), the gated house was visible from the street by its illuminated red trim. The setup was like that of a high school house-party, except everyone was much older and dressed a hell of a lot better. Cheap liquor and beer were served from the open garage. While some people congregated around the bar, others sat in the courtyard or on the deck gathered in small groups. Gavin turned to Victoria and me said, "Let them come to us." Oh yes, it was a high school party, but it was fun.

Photo by Alaina Smith

The next day, determined to see some of the bands I so heavily anticipated, I walked with purpose, darting between clusters of people, turning my head every hundred feet reassuring myself I hadn't lost Gavin, something easy to do within the crowds. We arrived at the Parish, a bar located on the top floor above a separate bar (the number of bars on 6th St. is incredible) for the Hotel Cafe Showcase. Featured were a slew of pop-folk-rock artists in the vein of Lenka or Natalie Merchant (Greg Laswell was a headliner).

The first act we heard was Kate Miller Heidke, an Australian with blond Goldilocks, and a dirty mouth to match her pious image. She was talented and humorous. Operatically trained, Heidke would go between singing bubbly-pop-ballads to bridges that showcased her vocal power. Next was Nneka, a Nigerian songstress who's drawn comparisons to Erykah Badu, but after hearing her this comparison seems more like a generalized labeling: black woman with an afro, and somewhat funky music. More jazzy than funky, Gavin and I agreed Nneka was slightly disappointing with her Americanized sound. A verse here or there was sung in her native language, but little resonated as unique.

While at the Parish, a fan recognized and greeted Gavin. I've usually thought it was rude to approach a musician off-stage, but Gavin's eyes lit up. Having toured with Mercury Prize nominee, Lisa Hannigan, Gavin has gotten a taste of the limelight. In conversation some Europeans would recognize Hannigan's name, but few Americans. Accordingly, his sighting was a confirmation of his accomplishments and a satisfying note to leave.

Leaving the festival didn't bring the end of the night. Many bands, tour managers and friends would join us for parties at our humble abode (a huge mansion). Over drinks, joints, and food, connections were made and business was conducted. On one night, the tour manager of Glasvegas explained to Gavin how to manage signing to a major label. Stating that Glasvegas' success was the result of getting two major labels to show interest in the band, giving them leverage without forcing a bidding war. The information was privy amongst friends because the industry is about friends first, and talent second.

After chatting, the night would end with a jam session. Sometimes people would join Gavin, but mostly it was his personal lullaby. His normally neat combed black hair would be worn from the day, sticking up with points from the gel's hold. His lyrics would weight heavily as he hunched over the keys, gently pushing his past fears and current hopes into each note. It was one more practice, one more reminder of how much he loved to play, and one step closer realizing his dream.

Most of these bands play for love, and hope for fame. They share the dream to one day be widely appreciated, and the fear they've reached their peak. One night I overheard Gavin speaking with Jamie, a British record label owner and former bassist, asking him when he realized he wasn't going to make it with a band. It's a question all artists wonder. Are we as good as our mothers tell us? Do we push on to be "discovered," or accept we "don't have what it takes?" For a brief moment, Gavin contemplated the possibility, his mouth slightly open as he listened. "I haven't come to that realization yet," he said and smiled, "so I'll keep going." And like many of the bands at SXSW who dream of being rock stars, traveling absurd distances to be heard by small crowds, partying obscenely for four days, that's all they can do, "keep going," because rock stars don't go to bed at 2am.


Sila & The Afrofunk Experience Interview: Starting with a Dream

We all know the "cliché" of “follow your dream,” but when that cliché manifests itself into a reality—well, then it’s no longer a cliché. Sila's dream of becoming a celebrity musician began as a youngster growing up in the mountains of Kenya. Chasing after his dream, he found himself in the Bay Area closer to realizing it with his Afrofunk band. After releasing his sophomore album Black President completely DIY, then receiving the award for “Best International Album” by the NAACP (over Zap Mama and Omou Sangare), his dream is within his reach. Before his March 20th show at the Great American Music Hall, SFCritic spoke with Sila.

SFCritc (SFC): Will you tell me a little about where you grew up?

Sila Matungi (SM): I grew up in a town called Machakos. I grew up in the mountains, listening to Voice of America with tunes from James Brown, Bob Marley, Kool and The Gang, and Jimi Hendrix. I was hooked to music. Growing up listening to that music was very helpful, because the struggles of growing up in a village—all I had was my grandmother and music. In my room, I had photos of guitars that I had cut out of newspapers. My dream was to have a guitar.

(SFC): When did you get your first guitar?

(SM): I got my first guitar when I was maybe fourteen, or fifteen-years-old. I got a guitar because I had an aunt who got one for me. When she came back to Kenya she gave it to my dad. I remember I was in boarding school. I was in class, and I was walking out of class and all the way down [the hall] is my dad walking towards me with a big smile on his face.

(SFC): So what are you up to these days?

(SM): I have a concert coming up March 20th at the Great American Music Hall, for the celebration of my award. I am also running back into the studio to record a follow up album to be released in May. I’m hoping to move forward in my music career.

(SFC): Are you hoping to go to a larger label?

(SM): This whole time I’ve been under my own indie label, self-produced, self-released. So out of this, I’m hoping that better things come around. Unfortunately, until someone says “you’re the shit,” no one listens to you. Mostly, what I need is more management than anything else.

(SFC): That’s interesting. I spoke to an artist earlier this week and they’ve been quite successful having opted to self-release their album. So it’s interesting that you want to be on a major label and it likely has to do with having never been on one.

(SM): It really boils down to a very simple fact: a label is a bank. If I was independently wealthy, I’d absolutely prefer to be an indie label. They [major label] have the connections. If you’re an artist that has already had a certain amount of success than it makes perfect sense to go on your own. I’d love to go on my own. Even after I’ve received all these awards, it doesn’t move because people don’t know about the album.

(SFC): Why did you put Barack Obama on the cover of the album?

(SM): Many Africans see him as one of their own, and hope that he’ll look after his own people. Because of the genocide in Rwanda, and policies--trade policies--it will hopefully be a better relationship. In these times of disaster, and recession, music must speak the truth. It’s up to artists and musicians who are there to promote for change all over the world.

(SFC): Let’s talk about your award from the NAACP. How did you feel when you received the award in terms of what you had accomplished, what you still wanted to accomplish?

(SM): The whole thing was an absolute shock to me. To be honest with you, I had no inkling or thought that I was going to win at all. The whole thing was very surreal because I’ve never been around Hollywood. I remember walking in and seeing Tatyana Ali, this gorgeous actress.

(SFC): Oh I know who she is.

(SM): She’s so damn gorgeous! I had no nerve to talk to her. She looked at me, and smiled—and I smiled, but was speechless. I’m right behind her, and there are photographers, press, and everything. They go mad around her. I had never seen anything like it, like a caged bull with all of them shouting her name. As I walked up behind her on the red carpet, nobody took my picture. It was like tumbleweeds and crickets, man. One of the photographers shouted, “Who are you?” I was like “Hey! I’m Sila from Kenya and I’m nominated for best international album!”

(SFC): Oh man that’s rough. [laugh]

(SM): That’s the beginning of my night, so I have no expectations what-so-ever. When I hear “Black President,” the way they announced it was kind of backwards. I didn’t even know who “Black President” was, and so I’m looking around trying to find who is this “Black President.”

My friend is there and she grabs me because I’m in shock. She shakes me, and says “Get up! You won.” What really made me happy is that they made me get out of my chair and go to the red carpet; but, this time they took my picture.

This article is reprinted from SF Station.


Nujabes Dies (Rest In Peace Jun Seba)

Nujabes, born Jun Seba, was one of my favorite musical discoveries in 2009. The Japanese hip hop producer will be missed. You can read the official press release at Hydeout Records. I discovered the news from my friend, whose friend had worked with Nujabes. Read his personal note here.


A&R: The Music Submissions

Battle Flags - Color Engine

The email I received from artist Jack Budd, the solo artist known as Battle Flags, was, puzzling at best, off-putting at worst. Budd stated that the album itself began as a stencil graffiti in what I assume was a dorm room in Richmond, Virginia. He described the music as a mix of sounds from "stolen pots, pans, shovels, empty kegs, and living room chairs." I have listened to the album and find this an entirely inaccurate description of its sound. The whole thing has a lot more polish, a diversity of sounds borrowed from hip-hop, Daft Punk, than such a description evokes. "Her" is a simply breezy love song, filled almost to the brim with horns and hand-played percussion. More highly produced, synth-based tracks evoke hints of Justice as on "Catch a Fire." The military-style drums, most effective on "Siren Sounds" and "Won't Come Around Here," lend a cohesiveness that lacks in the album's overtones. When almost everyone can whip up an album with a Macbook Pro and a microphone, Color Engine shows that sometimes the results can be worth checking out.

Sounds Like: A pleasant stroll through his musical influences.
Listen To: Her, Siren Sounds, Won't Come Around Here

Fate Lions - Good Enough for You

While it would be easy to say that the Texas-based Fate Lions had me at the witty copy splashed across their website, that's not really fair. Yes, they have crafted a smart voice, and I appreciate that. But is their, ahem, "wannabe smarty pants fist pumping roller rink bubble gum downer pop" any good? Thankfully, the answer is yes. It is pretty good! The production is ultra-smooth, the arrangements lush but uncomplicated. Album-opener "Seen it All" energetically sets the stage with classic rock guitars and hand claps. If you like it, chances are you will be delighted the whole way through. Fate Lions clearly have a firm grip on their sound, and are not trying to reinvent the wheel. When "The Queen Himself" begins you fear you are about to hear a misguided Bowie homage, but the song stays true to their talents and might be my favorite on the album. "All You Do is Crazy" subtly showcases really lovely harmonies, which are another of the album's stand-out highlights. There are, naturally, a few moments it could do without, including most of "Our Song," which feels flat and borders on Junior Prom slow dance. For the most part, however, the album is full of the type of sunny, juicy arrangements for which the term "summer jam" was coined.

Sounds Like: The Foo Fighters, Weezer, and Ben Kweller's love-baby.
Listen To: The Queen Himself, Seen it All


Interview with Metric (Emily Haines): Fantasies Realized

Everything about Emily Haines is Metric. Intellectually, her mind quizzically dissects politics, and theories. Emotionally, she rationalizes issues from feelings. Musically, electronic layers are instrumentally precise. Even opting to self-release their latest album Fantasies, while originally seemingly brazen, became a calculated success. Before the group's March 24th performance at the Fox Theater, SFCritc spoke to Emily as she took a cab home from the airport.

SFCritic(SFC): Why did you opt to self-release Fantasies?

Emily Haines (EH): We wanted to see who would be with us and embrace the changes that were happening in the industry, instead of just “everything is going to hell, and no one is going to survive.” Luckily, we are immune to that now because after talking to a lot of people we realized we could do more in setting up our company, and doing things are on our own terms than trying to get into a system that is flailing and afraid of taking risks generally.

Instead of feeling like we were employees at a record label, we just hired lots of people. It’s not like it’s just us, total DIY. It was kind of scary there for a minute, because everyone was saying, “No one is selling records,” but then we sold more copies in the first month than we did with the previous record in four years. I guess as usual we’re on our own path that doesn’t have anything with the larger trend.

(SFC): Well congratulations.

(EH): It’s always fun, or more intense, the more you invest yourself in something the more you get back.

(SFC): I’ve heard you discuss journalist and theorist Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar, in which he discusses the relationship between artist and spectator. Particularly, the issues of the changing meaning of art as institutions such as museums, universities, journalists, etc. make their own critiques. What interests you about Hickey and this book?

(EH): I am really inspired by writers, and weirdly--respect music journalists, which I think makes me the exception amongst most musicians. I think it’s a craft. I think it’s been really neglected—sadly. I think about the days of the great legendary rock critics. Who’s going to become that when magazines and newspapers don’t pay anyone properly or don’t seem to respect the history or research that is required?

Regardless, I love to read about music and about art, but I don’t try and take things about mythology or guidelines as to how I’m to behave as an artist. It’s the realm of intellectual debate. Actually, more and more my direction is trying to get further away from being self-conscious of what the parameters are of the mainstream, where it intersects with the underground.

(SFC): I understand that, and respect that you look at us journalists as artists in our own way.

(EH): I do. I hope that something comes of the new voice that writers are being given thanks to the online world. I know that everyone in print thinks that that (print) is more important, but I think if you look at the actual impact, and the daily meaningfulness that people take from the opinions of writers, I think that the online writers are more part of what’s happening sometimes.

(SFC): Is the issue of trying to be “new,” which is a problem in rock, also a problem with today’s journalism?

(EH): Here we are--all we can do is romanticize a time when it looks like everyone got to enjoy the invention of rock ‘n roll. You look to blues musicians who pre-dated that, they probably argue “No, the Rolling Stones did not invent rock ‘n roll.” There are all types of conversations you can have in that department. Maybe even then people felt like they were rehashing.

The nature of making music and making art, what motivates me is that it’s interesting. It’s interesting to listen, to really listen to other people’s point-of-view. Take in their work. Listen to the way they sing. Listen to the way they write lyrics. What they are trying to express. Ideally, we can see that we’re all trying to carry on this sort of lineage, but if 2000s is about recycling, then so be it.

(SFC): Do you think “rock stars” in this whole rock recycling idea connotes the same thing today as it did with the rock legends of Woodstock, or the grunge rockers of the 90s, or whomever you want to compare?

(EH): No. I think it has changed. I think it has changed for the better. I guess it depends who you ask. I read something really funny in Time Out New York about another indie-beard-band. The guy was saying, I like them, it’s good, it’s earnest, it’s genuine and it’s real—but man, I would kill to see someone in a leotard right now!

(SFC): Can we ever see you in a leotard?

(EH): I feel like I’ve come pretty far with my superhero onesies. I’ve explored the pallet. The one thing that I don’t think anyone misses is the decadence and stupidity of the 80s. Right? Does anyone miss that—maybe they do. I don’t.

I think our generation of musicians feels more accountable, and more engaged in the cultural narrative as a whole, instead of just ideally in your own little world where you’re the star of your show. I have so many friends who are musicians who I really respect.

(SFC): Always this is a question from journalists, so I’m going to try and take a different stance on it. Is your gender an issue in the rock world, or is it more of a topic for the press?

(EH): I don’t know. It’s of course a “something.” Be a girl is a something. Being a boy is normal and then everyone else---girls--anyone who is not a boy is the exception. I’m excited for a time when there are enough female musicians that it stops being a genre.

(SFC): I agree.

Metric performs at the Fox Theater on March 24th. Tickets are $25. The show begins at 8pm.

This article is republished from SF Station.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Slim's

Story and photos by Victoria Smith

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) have it. The swagger, sex appeal, cool songs--it's all there. These things are appealing in rock 'n roll. Their 'home' show at Slim's on March 10th was packed with a cool 'in' crowd.

The band was in the essence of its mojo amongst the flashing strobe lights. Both men have cool careless hair and wore black clad. Thirty-five minutes into their set, the venue was threatened by the police to be shut down. The band thinking they had to wrap it up stepped off stage. But the show went on! Levon Been (vocalist, and guitarist) returned to stage alone and performed so sweet and delicately Bob Dylan's, "Visions of Johanna." Coincidentally, someone had told me earlier that I looked like Bob Dylan's' girlfriend; and another on top of that the day before I had been doing my errands with that song on repeat; and later that night played it for my lover and we had a dance. See, so, this show was hitting my spot.

"Synchronicity" was the word on my mind that brought my lips to smile. As I figured I was meant to be at this show, which was a last minute decision. Peter Hayes (vocalists, and guitarist) came out and took his turn on a lone acoustic song. The police left, and with the threat removed the band returned to the stage. We fought the law, and rock won. And on they ripped for another 40 minutes. The bulk of the crowd stayed til the bittersweet end. They're the real deal, and it's nice to see that BRMC are holding up against the test of time. To stay that cool 12 years in and also maintain their youthful appearance is a feat. I really want to end this with a Dylan quote but I'm not gonna let it "keep me up past the dawn," so with that--good night.


Geographer - "Can't You Wait" (Official Video)

In the last year and a half I have received countless albums, submissions, pitches, but I have never been blown away by a band completely unbeknownst to me, until now. Geographer, a Bay Area local band (hell yeah! I will be at every one of their shows, obsessing over them like Eve Marcellus does with Lady Gaga --though she'll only admit that half grudgingly) are incredible. Like Grizzly Bear "Cant You Wait" is charged with vocal harmonies. Their music has the infectious bounce that makes me love Pyramid (formerly Starfucker), the minimalism that's Dirty Projectors have perfected, coupled with those delightful Grizzly Bear harmonies. I'm speechless. Forget my comparisons, forget it all, because after you listen to them it won't matter. You'll be like me, and you'll just repeat "ahah ahaha." Oh yeah. Feel it come over you. Embrace it. I've listened to their Myspace page, over and over, and over...

and over.


News in Music Blogs

In an effort to define SFCritic into a streamlined, user-friendly content, we will be running the "News in Music Blogs," a weekly update of interesting blog posts, discussion topics, and event listings in the music blogging community. Think Largehearted Boy with a focus on San Francisco events, and only music topics. The catch, we want your voice. Read a post you want to share, have an event you think is appropriate for SFCritic, interested in continuing a larger online discussion, email us links, or comment below!

Bay Area

SFCritic recently caught up Sila and The Afrofunk Experience, who recently were awarded best "World Music" by the NAACP. Check back for the interview!

Epicsauce.com, one of our favorite Bay Area show lists, is debuting a hot new event series at Milk (1840 Haight St - across from Amoeba Records). The kick-off is Thursday, March 11th and will feature local bands French Miami, White Cloud and Silian Rail. The show is free, and there will be awesome drink specials ($1 PRBs and select $3 pints). More information and an official RSVP can be found at: http://bit.ly/ccrEW7 and http://epicsauce.com/party

Radiohead's Thom Yorke's much-anticipated solo project Atoms for Peace has announced a handful of dates with Flying Lotus. The tour is visiting Oakland's Fox Theater April 15, among a handful of others.


Hole, lead by the much maligned Courtney Love is planning their first big come-back show at SXSW this year. SFCritic will be there to cover it!

Broken Bells (consisting of Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins) a new SFCritic favorite, brought their first single/video "The High Road" to Letterman.

MGMT announces secret events around the country, which apparently should be entitled, "big fail."

Yeasayer's video for the stand-out song on their album Odd Blood is out. Popjustice got the exclusive yesterday.



SFCritic will be at South By South West (SXSW), which begins this Friday (music next Wednesday). We thought it fruitful to share with our readers, and for those fellow bloggers, the parties we'll be attending, and suggest you attend. So readers, please follow us at Twitter to receive live updates, and bloggers, attendees of SXSW--holla back!

Wednesday March 17th
Pure Volume House
Haven't gotten enough Taco Bell in your life, well enjoy the Bitch Slap Brunch from 12PM - 3PM, and get your dose. Located at 504 Trinity St., make sure to get a glimpse of Choir of Young Believers. Other groups of interest: 3PM Warpaint, 4PM Miniature Tigers, 5PM Choir Of Young Believers, 6PM Meiko,7PM Drink Up Buttercup.

Thursday March 18th
British Music Embassy
Music From Wales: Latitude 30, 512 San Jacinto(3pm - 6pm) Lineup: Polly Mackey & The Pleasure Principle, Cate Le Bon, Straight Lines, Sweet Baboo

Norway by Filter Magazine and Powered By Nature
Located at the Cedar Street Courtyard, the fun starts at 11AM, and it doesn't stop 'till 5PM. Get there early, get some BBQ for FREE. The main attractions other than the BBQ, Fool's Gold at 1:50, Minus the Bear at 3:30, and *drum roll please* Miike Snow at 5:15. Don't forget about Friday and Saturday either, which features Nneka (Thursday), Local Natives (Thursday) and Frightened Rabbits (Friday).

Friday March 19th
Village Voice
So it is with some pride and anticipation that we announce the Village Voice's 2010 SXSW party, featuring Superchunk, the xx, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and our old sparring partners, Surfer Blood. Friday, March 19, La Zona Rosa, 12pm - 5pm. Free, first come first serve, open to the general public. These bands are alternately old friends and young heroes to us, so it just didn't seem worth keeping it secret any longer.

Filter Magazine and Dickies
With probably one of my favorite lineups, this might be less chaotic than the Village Voice party, but includes notables: Greg Laswell (3PM), Rogue Wave (6PM), Here We Go Magic (9PM), She & Him (10PM), Broken Bells (11:15 PM), Surfer Blood (12: 15Am).

Saturday March 20th
Rhapsody Party
In addition to all the incredible acts performing there will be free tacos and free tea while supplies last. Make sure to wash it all down with some SoCo while listening to the sounds. Doors open at noon, show 1 – 8 pm.

Lineup (Set Time): Cool Kids (7:00 pm) / Rye Rye (6:00 pm) / Solid Gold (5:15 pm) / Sleepy Sun (4:35 pm) / Woodhands (3:55 pm) / Howlies (3:15 pm) / Casxio (2:40 pm) / LIONS (2:00 pm) / Samuel (1:30 pm) / Dam-Funk (1:00 pm)

Misc. But Amazing
Taking place Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the Mexican Cultural Center (600 River Street) is Carniville! Seriously, carnival and music, with notables like: The Walkmen, Major Lazer, Diplo, The Very Best, GZA, Ninjasonik, Dam Funk, Rye Rye, Japanther, and more..well, I haven't even mentioned the free booze and fun booths. Oh and for all you sweatshop loving, pervs--the American Apparel "Flea Market" will be there too.


Zap Mama Chats with SFCritic

Photo by Victoria Smith

Marie Daulne's music reflects the story of her life. Her father, a Belgium colonialist, was killed by child rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo shortly after impregnating her mother, Cyrille Daulne. After his death Cyrille emigrated to Belgium, where Marie was schooled and raised. When she was 20, Marie returned to Africa to explore her Pygmy roots. Her exploration continued within her music. Most people know Marie Daulne as the lead singer of Zap Mama. With her music she connects her dual cultural past, hoping to create a universal, positive music to connect people. Her second album, Adventures in Afropea 1, was the best selling world music album in 1993, making her a leader in the genre of world music.

"We have to remind people, and remember that we are all from earth and that's it a village," says Marie Daulne. In a conversation with SFCritic, Marie shared many words of wisdom. Her beauty hides her years of experience. In an effort to discover this world music, Daulne has traveled the world. In her travels she discovered the universal connector:

I completely believed that I was going to go to the Olympic Games. I wanted to attend a higher level, but I broke my knees and that brought me down on earth. Sitting on my knees, I started reading, reading, reading. Then I discovered through writers the history of the world of the human being. This is when I started changing. Why am I running?

I started running all over the world discovering different societies, and then I thought I had to learn from different societies the essence of enjoyment. I tried to catch what was the common funny things. I could go to the Pygmies living in the forest. What will be something fun that would make them laugh? Being in New York, San Francisco, what were the simple things that could make everyone laugh?

I realized that it was falling. Falling in the floor. I remember walking with the Pygmies in the forest. When you’re in the forest the oxygen is so high that you’re high. I was completely high, like having two whiskeys. Suddenly there was a big branch and I fell and all the Pygmies laughing at me, this big tall lady. When I spend time with the Tuareg in the desert, I tried it again. I fell, and they started laughing.

"Falling" for laugh sounds like the antics of Jackass, basic slapstick humor, but looking deeper into Dualne's words, it's much more. Following up her response, SFCritic asked her why she doesn't try falling on stage? She responded:

(Laughs) I have done it sometimes, but not on purpose. What happened that I’m making fun of myself? No.

That’s (what she's describing prior) stage diving. That’s what Erykah Badu told me to do. 'Come on Mary jump! Fall in their arms. They’re going to fall in love.' I did it. It was beautiful.

Fall into their arms. Fall in love. Fall for peace. Fall for your beliefs. Just fall for us. These are a few wise words from Zap mama. Thanks for reading.



80s Lavish Rock is Today's Hip Hop?

In a recent interview with Metric frontwoman, Emily Haines, SFCritic asked her about the connotation of today's "rock stars," particularly, whether it had changed in comparison to those iconic stars of Woodstock, or grunge rock, or whomever. Haine's made an interesting point when she compared today's rock generation to the lavish 80s rockers:

"I think our generation of musicians feels more accountable, and more engaged in the cultural narrative as a whole, instead of just ideally in your own little world where you're the star of your show."

This is a jump, but I'm interested in your opinion--my question for you: Is today's popular hip hop artists, yesterday's 80s lavish rock stars?

Consider these points:

1. Rock 'n roll (arguably) began in the 60s, and twenty years later has the 80s lavish "meltdown" (or whatever you might call it)
2. Hip hop began in the 80s, and twenty years later (now) might have a similar "meltdown"
3. A hip hop "meltdown" does not mean just chains, cars, girls, whatever...it's the dilution of content for mainstream content and overwhelming "me first" attitude (aka. Kanye West's), and lack of artistic creativity

What do you think?


Foreign Born at Rickshaw: Noise Pop 2010

All Photos by Victoria Smith

Foreign Born, the shoegaze, folk-jammy rock that my photographer described sounded "like Tom Petty a little--oh wait, maybe Tom Waits," headlined the Rickshaw for Noise Pop. Playing a lively set that was brightly fun, particularly for the cross-dressing hippies in the front-row, Foreign Born put on my favorite performance of the festival (yes, I did see The Dodos). Whereas I critiqued Man/Miracle for being sonically loose, Foreign Born was quite the opposite. Even singer Matt Popieluch's feet tapping, as he scampered back and forth like an Irish jig dancer, was in rhythm with the music. If you ever get the chance to see them play, as SFCritic we'd suggest it! Enjoy these photos from Victoria Smith.


Listen: Gorillaz "Plastic Beach" Full Album

The wonderful people at NPR have offered to share a full stream of Gorillaz's new album Plastic Beach. Ah, who am I kidding it's all promotional! Either way, the album should be promising. At its core, Gorillaz is the duo of Blur's, Damon Albarn, and graphic artist, Jaime Hewlett, but has always consisted of a range of collaborators. Plastic Beach is no different. With appearances from Plastic Beach continues this trend, with Albarn bringing in an impressive roster of musical contributors: Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, Lou Reed, Mos Def, Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys, Little Dragon, The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music, and many more.

Listen here.


Man/Miracle at The Bottom of Hill: Noise Pop

All Photos by Victoria Smith

Man/Miracle, the three piece band lead by singer Dylan Travis, have enough talent to be a man miracle (in the least biblical sense) but I'm just prophesying. Opening at The Bottom of The Hill for Rogue Wave, the band was true to their debut album, The Shape of Things: great at times, but not throughout. Tracks like "Hot Sprawl," create a hot mess for critics. It's lush. It's new. The guitar riff is folksy with bluesy undertones, but the drum patterns and vocals make for a rock rager that make you just wanna get up and say "Hell yeah!" Then there are songs like "You've Got A Hold On Me," which are fine but lack those "it's." It's just good. Like their album, there were moments during their live where you don't even realize you're magically dancing, and then lows where you wonder, "Is this a different band?"

Man/Miracle's shoegaze, and lo-fi sound erratically breaks at times into a wall of sound. Meaning, harmonies shift from melodious, to crackling, then sometimes build into intense, thick noise. This aptly describes the band's performance as a collective. Dylan Travis is killer. As he rips beautifully at his guitar with a wide-eye blank stare (almost crazy looking), he belts indiscernible lyrics that don't need to be discerned because it's his voice that matters. It's strong. It's got range. It's unique. It's penetratingly loud, but enjoyably fun. Again, there are many "it's."Not to be overlooked, the drumming is tight, and the backing guitarist goes from sedentary strumming to wile-'n-out head bobbing. I hate to hate, but the bassist just felt like the weak link. He wasn't bad, but his stage presence was almost awkwardly removed. He was just good.The lack of uniformity is actually the biggest problem with Man/Miracle. They're not sonically tight enough. A chord is a second off, a bass note is drowned, or a bit of the verse lost in the cluttered noise. These moments hinder the otherwise applauded performance. In time the kinks will be worked out.

Towards the end of their set, Dylan Travis invited his wife (I assumed from his ring finger) Rachel Williams to the stage to sing along. He says he's "in the zone," and asks if she feels the same. It's an awkward moment because she's not. A moment, which passes quickly as he says, "Let's get in the zone. I love you," before they rock out together, staring at each other the entire time as they play. There are always bumps, but when Man/Miracle seamlessly maintains the many "it's,"--there will only be one "it's" needed to describe them: It's great.

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