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February 15, 2007


Shins frontman James Mercer talks to the Georgia Straight.

“Originally, when we started, my only hope was to get signed,” he says, “to get some sort of recognition to make me feel like this was a legitimate pursuit. That happened. With this record, I knew that this was going to be an incredible opportunity because there were a lot of people out there waiting for it. It’s like I had their ear, so I wanted to both challenge myself and challenge people who had a certain idea about the aesthetic that our first two records shared—the organic quality of the songs.”

Camera Obscura guitarist Kenny McKeeve talks to the San Francisco Examiner.

“We always just describe ourselves as pop, as pop music,” McKeeve says. “If other people want to kind of try to squeeze in little subgenres, that’s entirely up to them, but to us, it’s pop, and I don’t think we can narrow it down any further than that.”

Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes talks to the Kansas City Star about the band's current tour.

“(This is) definitely our most ambitious tour to date from a visual standpoint,” Barnes said. “We’re using slides, projectors and a DVD projector and incorporating visuals in that way. Also, we have some more elaborate prop work happening and more costume changes. It’s definitely not your typical indie rock (show). It’s way more theatrical.”

Singer-songwriter Jon Auer talks to the Age about his solo album, Songs from the Year of Our Demise.

"I was trying to work towards a particular feeling," he elaborates. "I'd done the pop/rock thing, lots of loud guitars and whatnot, but I really wanted to make a more moody, cinematic record. I just worked on it 'til it felt right."

Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter talks to the Winnipeg Sun.

"There's a lot of songwriters, a lot of fragile guys with guitars out there right now, but I don't feel any kinship with them," says Ritter, 30, from Maine. "I hate autobiography in songs. I don't want to think about the person who's singing and I don't want people thinking about me. It takes away from what I'm doing."

Stylus recaps techno videos from 2003 to present.

The Guardian and Independent review the recent Manchester performance by the Hold Steady.

OneTipADay has updated its list of places to watch television online.

The Portland Mercury reviews three graphic novels from one of my favorite publishers, Drawn and Quarterly.

Artist Matt Coyle talks to the Sydney Morning Herald about maintaining an art career while writing graphic novels.

It's a niche market, but Coyle is looking to further his art, building a body of work for exhibition. "One hundred thousand copies is the highest-grossing graphic novel, I think," he says. "Next to published books, that's chickenfeed, really. One-off images [mean I'm] not tied down to fit into a narrative."

NPR's All Things Considered shares some of the recently discovered letters of Anne Frank's father.

Filmmaker Lance Bangs (husband of Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker) has made a short film about bands' equipment being stolen on tour.

Atlanta's Creative Loafing profiles singer-songwriter Jandek.

In one sense, Jandek is cut from the same cloth as quirky and brooding songwriter icons such as Cat Power and Bonnie Prince Billy. But whereas Chan Marshall and Will Oldham consciously create a mystique around their personalities and use it as a selling point for the music, Jandek reveals nothing. A void exists where there should be a personality bringing his albums to a point. As a result, any semblance of character that emerges is a construct of the eyes and ears of the beholder.

The A.V. Club interviews singer-songwriter Lily Allen.

AVC: Do you write the tunes, or do those come out of collaborations too?

LA: I usually take in a bunch of records and kind of listen to old stuff and become inspired by other people's music, or try to sample stuff or rewrite stuff that's similar. It's kind of a group process; if I could do it on my own then I would. But I need the help of my production team.

Patty Griffin talks to the Nashville Scene about the theme of her new album, Children Running Through.

“It’s something I think about a lot—‘How do we keep going?’ ” Griffin says, speaking by phone from her home in Austin. “These are really dark times. Nuclear bombs, genocides, global warming—you name it. I know people have always faced hard times. But even my parents—my dad is 83; my mom is in her 70s—are both scared about what’s going to happen to us.”

The Independent Weekly profiles North Carolina's music collective, Bu Hanan Records, and offers a mixtape featuring artists from the collective.

Bu Hanan Records is a Chapel Hill-based collective of seven musicians and their allies. At its core, the collective is built on five songwriters in four bands: Perry and Alex are The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers. Daniel has The Physics of Meaning. David Karsten Daniels leads the band that takes his name. John Ribo fronts Kapow! Music.

Midlake's Tim Smith talks to Pulse of the Twin Cities.

"My thing is really writing music and recording it, so being away from home and my wife is quite difficult," he says. "Touring is very tough on me--I can go for about three weeks and then I just want to get home. I'm not the party animal that enjoys going out after every show and hanging out; I just go back to my hotel room."

John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants talks to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Q: What can people expect from the new album? (It features collaborations with legendary producers the Dust Brothers and Pat Dillett.)

A: It's all killer, no filler. Depending on how you count them, this is either our 12th or 13th album. Unless you are in the business of conspicuous reinvention, it's hard to know how to approach your 12th or 13th album. But it's fair to say this is one of the strongest 12th or 13th albums to come out in a very, very long time.

Grizzly Bear bassist Chris Taylor talks to the Stranger.

"The term 'folk' is a pretty broad category in my opinion. We don't feel a kinship to neofolk, as we have never really played shows with those bands, and we don't try to make 'folky' music. Although there are acoustic guitars in the music, the songs rarely remain in that zone of finger plucking and all."

Taylor also talks to the Portland Mercury.

"Yellow House is really nice. It's like a house all to itself," Taylor said before a show in Boston—a few miles from where Grizzly Bear recorded. "There's a nice backyard and porch. It was summer and nice weather. No air-conditioning, though. It made too much noise. So it was really sweaty, really hot."

Singer-songwriter Rhett Miller talks to the Miami New-Times.

"In a way, [the term alt-country] is insultingly reductive," he says, "but I understand the need for that heightened language to discuss the music that comes out. I mean, we are from Texas, and Ken [Bethea, lead guitarist] does play a twangy Telecaster. I guess if I had to live in one of those ghettos, I would choose that, rather than angry modern rock full of pointy guitars and eyeliner."

Thermals frontman Hutch Harris talks to the Stranger about the band's album, The Blood, the Body, the Machine.

"I didn't sit down and decide at the start that it would be conceptual at all," recalls Thermals frontman Hutch Harris. "I wanted it to be political, but I wanted to make a political record that was more original than a lot of punk. A lot of political punk songs get dated really quickly, or it's just too simple, just like, 'smash the state!' for whatever reason."

Singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell talks to Seattle Weekly about her new album, Miracle of Five.

"Sonically, this is the best record I've ever made," Mandell says. "There are layers, but I feel like they're not overwhelming; it's very subtle, but there's a lot that goes into that subtlety." For example: vibes by X drummer DJ Bonebrake and guitar by Nels Cline of Wilco, who says he joined Mandell and Kaulkin in the studio for a day and simply played whatever came to mind.

LA Weekly reviews two recently published modern parenting memoirs, Neal Pollack's Alternadad and Erika Schickel’s You’re Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom.

Now that we can’t move a muscle without signaling lifestyle, the literary ground lies thick with parenting memoirs, a dreary subgenre practiced by midlife boomers convinced that they alone have pioneered discovery of the joys and sorrows of raising children in the modern age. Often as not, the memoirist is peddling a full-service parenting philosophy that shows up all other child rearing as false or faulty — and holds out the royalty potential of her or his priceless apercus doubling as self-help manuals.

Queerty celebrated Valentine's Day by sharing a "pictorial guide to Kirk and Spock's eternally perplexing love."

The Phoenix profiles author Dave Eggers.

Taken together, Eggers’s projects are a necessary reminder that contemporary fiction is still growing and expanding. Other authors — most notably Jonathan Safran Foer — have paralleled Eggers and McSweeney’s in furthering the possibilities of the novel, adding pictures and experimenting with font and layout as an attempt to express the vitality and aliveness of their characters. Programs like 826 National and The Telling Room look to ensure that this brand of alternative literature can persist as something deeper than a trend.

Researcher and author Ryuta Kawashima (whose work inspired the Nintendo DS game, Brain Age) talks to the Times.

Apart from millions of pounds and fame as a floating head, Professor Kawashima’s work has brought the envy and resentment of his scientific colleagues - at just 47 years old, he is scandalously young by Japan’s hierarchical standards. “They’re jealous of me,” he says. “They often say about the games and the books, ’This is not science’. Of course, I never wanted to be such a celebrity. But I believe that as a scientist, it is our obligation to return the result of our research to society.”

Seattle's Stranger finds that the new Shins disc, Wincing the Night Away, isn't the band's best.

It's a sturdy, reflective satellite orbiting the planet that is Oh, Inverted World. And it will be the conduit by which new listeners are introduced to that earliest work. After any honest debate among diehards, after all, Oh, Inverted World always emerges victorious. If it seems to you to have weakened over time, you're not listening to it loud enough.

see also:

this week's CD & DVD releases


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