Category Archives: Music

The Joshua Tree Aesthetic: How the Mojave Yucca Became a Symbol of Music Video Feminism

By Julia Sizek

Lovers should seek out Joshua Tree for their next tryst, claims Ariana Grande’s music video. Her 2016 Grammy-nominated video for “Into You” traces a pop star’s illicit liaison with her bodyguard. They ride a motorcycle to a 1950s-style motel with joshua trees dotting the background, and Grande throws away her fame and celebrity boyfriend for a weekend of anonymity in the Mojave Desert. Continue reading

The Everydayness With Jonny Fritz

By Jesse Montgomery

Country is probably the most self-obsessed form of popular American music. It turns its own history over and over in its head, venerating its heroes and commenting on its progressions and digressions, its failure to live up to the myths the tradition has created. As a genre, it’s rivaled only by rap in its tendency to sing about itself and its evolution, to take itself as its own subject and find the emotional resonance of something like a style or a tradition. Waylon Jennings classic song “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” was a lament that country music had given itself over to glitzy self-delusion: “Lord it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar. Where do we take it from here? Rhinestone suits and new shiny cars. It’s been the same way for years.” But it’s also a song filled with guilt as the singer knows he too is leading the genre into new terrain, further and further from Hank Williams and country’s roots: “Lord, I’ve seen the world, with a five-piece band. Looking at the back side of me. Singing my songs, and one of his now and then. But I don’t think Hank done ’em this way, no. I don’t think Hank done ’em this way.”“Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” is a song about change, new sounds and new attitudes, but the progress that Waylon is singing about is only visible if it’s framed by a tradition which makes that change legible. Continue reading

How Music Reveals the Pitfalls — and Possibilities — of Patriotism

By Rachel Kraus

With 4th of July around the corner, I have found myself wondering how we sustain pride in our country during a most complicated time for America. “The Star Spangled Banner” still makes me feeling something, but no amount of O say can you sees and fireworks can erase a morose outlook on our political reality and future. Continue reading

What Did He Write and When Did He Write It?: Mozart’s Requiem

By Glen Roven

In anticipation of the National Chorale’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem, his monumental final work, thoughts of Wolfgang were swirling in my head. I thought of that scene in Amadeus, where Mozart, dying from some unknown disease, is coerced by his frenemy Salieri into dictating his Requiem note by note, so that the sure-to-be-forgotten Salieri can pass it off as his own, thereby securing a place in history as the author of at least one masterpiece. Continue reading

Un-treasured Time: A Conversation with Phil Elverum

By Cypress Marrs

In my mind, Phil Elverum is a man who needs no introduction.

I met Phil probably in 1997. I would have been four or five and he, a teenager, was recording music in K Records’ Dub Narcotic Studio, which, as it happened, was across the hall from my artist mother’s studio. As I was scurrying around the building’s dusty halls and trying to make shoes out of construction paper, Phil was recording atmospheric songs on a 16-track about landscape and longing. Continue reading

Leonard Cohen’s Art of Losing

By Oksana Maksymchuk

In a 1959 letter to Canadian publisher Jack McClellan, a 25-year old Leonard Cohen characterized his audience as “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists, French-Canadian intellectuals, unpublished writers, curious musicians etc., all that holy following of my Art.” After he turned to songwriting and the circle of his admirers grew ever wider, the description remained surprisingly accurate. What bonds the groups on Cohen’s list is the sense of striving, an underlying — and mostly inarticulate — need. The 1960s, when Cohen emerged, was, after all, a moment for movements, and Cohen’s witty catalog suggested that even the misfits — scattered in their idiosyncratic pursuits — would have a movement of their own. Continue reading

Music Disownership in the Streaming Economy

By Thomas Klepacz

On January 9th, Spotify found itself in the public eye of an atypical arena. The Swedish music streaming company — whose public persona typically consists of lime-green odes to U2, Rascal Flatts, and gingerbread emulations of prominent rappers — engaged in greater Twitter-political-discourse by proposing a tongue-in-cheek offer to Barack Obama. As Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of the company tweeted, “Hey @BarackObama, I heard you were interested in a role at Spotify. Have you seen this one?” Continue reading

Old Songs for the New Resistance

By Bruce Bauman

A soundtrack of 60s rock political anthems urging an uprising against the establishment, for the new generation of what Lou Reed called “all you protest kids.” I sure hope Inaugural weekend was not the end, but the beginning of a new activist movement against the coming Trumpian Reign of Terror. His cabinet appointees might not be guillotining heads, but if they repeal Obamcare, roll back Medicaid, undo Roe v. Wade, make the EPA the Business Protection Agency, and allow the planet to overheat to a boil, many thousands of lives will be at stake. Everything the Viet Nam anti-war protesters, Civil Rights activists, Feminists, and your basic new leftist fought for — and so many things that are now taken for granted — is going to be (hell, is already) under attack. I purposely omitted Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” That was the Big O’s song and I’m not playing it again until Trump is gone. New songs need to be written; but, for what it’s worth, these are ten of my existing faves. PLAY ‘EM LOUD as you take to the streets. Continue reading

Tomorrow Belongs to Those Who Can Hear It Coming, Is Seu Jorge Listening?

By Matthew Stevens

On a windy night in December, Brazilian singer-songwriter and actor Seu Jorge played the last of three sold-out shows at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Jorge was re-adorned in the pale blue tracksuit and red cap get-up made infamous by the card-carrying members of Team Zissou in Wes Anderson’s 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and perched on a chair among oh-so bijou stage dressing (coils of hemp rope, gas lanterns, a dainty ships wheel, and other such flotsam and jetsam). Despite the forced incongruity of his robust presence dressed and decked in these clichéd twee trappings, Jorge was persistently affable as he wound his way through a collection of tales and gags culled from his on-set experience of the filming of Life Aquatic, along with the acoustic, Portuguese-language David Bowie covers that were a significant component of the film’s sharp-edged, posh-stoner atmosphere. The show, billed as “The Life Aquatic / A Tribute to David Bowie,” was, as its title suggests, clumsy and mawkish in conception, and was saved from complete triviality by the sheer friendliness of Jorge’s performance. Continue reading

Faith in 2017

By Michelle Chihara

2016 began with David Bowie losing his battle with cancer. Prince died in the spring. George Michael died on Christmas. Last Christmas. Carrie Fisher died two days later, on my birthday, as it happens. Her mother Debbie Reynolds’ heart broke planning her daughter’s funeral. She died the next day. I imagine exquisite drag queens and other unsung heroes greeting them all with cocktails in the heavens, saying, I know you still had work to do down there but we just couldn’t wait for you any longer. It’s so grim these days, watching them destroy themselves. Continue reading