January 21, 2009 • Stacey May Fowles
January 16, 2009 • Anna Leventhal
Duchess Says, whose first full-length album I chose as one of my favourite releases from 2008, have put out an awesome video of their song Tenen Non Neue for Mange Ta Ville, a web-based television show about arts and culture in Montreal (Mange Ta Ville means “eat your city” - it sounds snappier in French. Really). They set up their instruments at the St. Michel flea market in east-end Montreal and quite likely freaked out (or delighted) any number of shoppers out for antique lamps, ashtrays with pictures of the Olympic Stadium, and steamees.
In true post-Velvet-Underground rock ‘n’ roll style, the video starts with a good minute or so of fuzzy electronic whine. But hold steady, it’s worth it when you get to A-Claude’s robot-gone-berserk singing and dance moves. I’m not sure what it is about female-fronted Quebecois punk bands who sing in made-up languages that sound like a stew of English, French, German and what-all (see, for instance, Les Georges Leningrad and the obscure and legendary La Gerantole) - is it a kind of Esperanto meant to bridge the language gap? Possession by demons? - but I like it. A lot. I hope you will too.
January 9, 2009 • Anna Leventhal
Santogold is the nickname of Santi White, a Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter who released her first self-titled album in 2008. For a while she was being hailed as “the new M.I.A.” which I think is now the officially recognized term for “brown girl who isn’t doing rap or R&B”. Okay, she’s a bit like the British musician with Sri Lankan roots and mad style, but she’s even more like, well, Santogold.
White herself addresses the kind of pigeonholing that women of colour face in the music industry, calling out critics for formulating descriptions of her music based on what they expect to hear from a young black woman from Brooklyn, rather than what her music is actually like:
It’s totally racist. Everyone is just so shocked that I don’t like R&B. Are you shocked that Good Charlotte isn’t into R&B? Why does R&B keep coming into my interviews? It’s pissing me off. I didn’t grow up as a big fan of R&B and, like, what is the big shocker? It’s stupid. In the beginning I thought that was funny. I’m an ‘MC’, I’m a ‘soul singer’, I’m a ‘dance hybrid artist’. And some guy said I looked like Kelly Rowland! I just thought it added to the mystery, because there was so much wrong stuff being written about me.(from a great interview over at Lipster).
But let’s let her music speak for itself, shall we? The video for L.E.S. Artistes is definitely an “auteur” piece, and it shows off her style not just as a musician but as a total perfectionist who’s in complete artistic control of her work and her image. And, if you’re at all baffled by the video (as I was - death by paintball? Whaaaa?), there’s also a helpful “making of” video that explains the vision behind it (after the cut).
January 3, 2009 • Anna Leventhal
My New Year’s resolution, I’ve just decided, is to be more like Laurie Anderson. But I’m not sure what I mean by that. Do I mean:
1) Be in complete and total control of my creative output; incorporate everything I know and everything I possess in pursuit of what I want to express?
2) Be innovative to an absurd degree; if what I need doesn’t exist yet, invent it? (Anderson invented at least two unique musical instruments/technological creations: a new kind of violin involving magnetic tape and an electronic “talking stick”)
3) Be always, always, always critical of systems around me, and challenge them through my work?
4) Wear a white suit all the time and dance like it don’t matter?
Yes, yes, yes. And yes.
Two videos that changed my life (one after the cut):
December 31, 2008 • Stacey May Fowles
Happy New Year from Shameless magazine! See you in 2009!
December 30, 2008 • Anna Leventhal
Tiina, you’ve inspired me. I was going to write something mopey about how this time of year makes me feel like a sailboat caught in the doldrums, no wind in sight (though come to think of it, when is wind ever in sight? Whoaaa), facing the prospect of a long and dreary paddle, and how all I can bear to listen to is stoner drone from Baltimore. But then I read your Top 10 list and thought, yes! There are things to celebrate! So without further ado, here is Picks from Planet Venus’s top albums by female artists or bands from 2008. Again, totally biased, personal, and undemocratic, and in no particular order.
1) Valet - Naked Acid
2) Yo Majesty - Futuristically Speaking… Never Be Afraid
3) Gang Gang Dance - St. Dymphna
4) Duchess Says - Anthologie Des 3 Perchoirs
5) Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
6) Black Mountain - In The Future
7) Wet NOSE Hero - Congratulations Ha Ha Ha
8) Laura Barrett - Earth Sciences
9) various - Bearded Ladies
10) Marnie Stern - This Is It…
Details after the cut!
December 18, 2008 • Anna Leventhal
The holidays can be a rough time for many people; what with the excessive family time (“Yes, Auntie Zelda, as a matter of fact I am trying to scare away husbands”), trauma caused by shattering of previously rock-solid resolve to be healthy, and the complete and utter panic attacks brought on every time you hear a “funky” remix of Jingle Bell Rock, the season of joy can sometimes turn into a nightmare. Well, I know what you need. You need a bunch of latter-day Los Angeles hippies dancing down the street in decrepit party dresses. You need Lavender Diamond.
The video for Open Your Heart from last year’s album Imagine Our Love is so feel-good it kind of makes me uncomfortable, like I start wondering what kind of sick creep I am that I keep excepting Becky Stark to get hit by a Good Humor ice cream truck as she wobbles down the street like a new-born deer on her vintage rollerskates. But the thing that saves this video from total saccharine cheesitude is that it’s 100% for real. As far as I can tell, Lavender Diamond are total dyed-in-the-hemp A-1 genuine peace-and-love-loving lovers. (more inside…)
December 12, 2008 • Anna Leventhal
Do you find the music industry’s manipulations and machinations to be as confusing as I do? Do music mags’ “What’s Hot and What’s Not” lists make your head spin? Have you ever showed up at a party wearing a band t- shirt that you were sure was the latest thing, only to be told “That band is more out than Ellen Degeneres”? Well, fear no more, friends! Monitor Mix, the blog Carrie Brownstein (of dearly-departed Sleater-Kinney) writes for NPR, is taking the risk out of music fandom by hiring an astrologer and psychic to predict the trends for 2009. Now you can know what’s happening with the big names and tastemakers before they do! Seriously though, this is an awesome idea, and I can’t wait to see which of these predictions come true.
What are YOUR predictions for music next year? I especially am wondering what Neko Case‘s “big announcement” is going to be. Here she is (after the cut) talking about boys wearing girl pants, which is one trend I think we all hope will die a quiet death before it’s time to get a new calendar.
December 4, 2008 • Anna Leventhal
By which I mean saying goodbye to folk music and civil rights activist heroes. But only two weeks after we lost Miriam Makeba, we now also have to do without Odetta, the American folksinger who helped generations realize how essential African-American music has been to the development of songwriting, in America and elsewhere. She was also a major figure of the American civil rights movement - she performed at the historic 1963 March on Washington, the same march where Martin Luther King told America that he had a dream.
I kind of think of Odetta as the taproot of American folk music; her recordings and performances nourished so many people whose fame in some ways exceeded her own: Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, and Harry Belafonte, among others, cite her as an early inspiration and influence. They packed stadiums with songs inspired by her style and throaty voice, and meanwhile she just kept at it, more or less under the radar of pop culture, recording and touring and performing well into her seventies.
But those who knew her knew her well; I’m proud to say that my hometown, Winnipeg, recognized her for what she was - or at least the Winnipeg Folk Festival did, when they honoured her in 2006 with their Lifetime Achievement Award. My friend’s mom had the honour of being her “driver” that summer, and she said she had never met someone who exuded such warmth and graciousness.
This video of her performing Water Boy is heart-shakingly powerful.
We’ll miss you lady.
December 1, 2008 • Michelle Schwartz
The fight between stodgy music execs and artistic vision is not a new one. However, the subject of this particular disagreement is not just the same old story. Apparently, Amanda Palmer’s new single is not commercial because of her “fat belly,” shots of which the record label wanted removed from the video, for fear it would… I don’t know. Digust people? Terrify them? Scare them away with its horrible belliful nature?
Mind you, this is coming from the label that represents musicians that are definitely not the pinnacle of male beauty. Y’know, guys like Megadeth and Slipknot and latter day Sammy Hagar. Last I heard, no one was harassing Dave Mustaine about the commercial viability of his Farrah Fawcett hair. So I guess what we can learn from this is that what matters most in life is the music that men make and the perceived belly flab of female musicians.
The video at the center of the controversy:
Amanda discussed her feelings on the matter on her blog, and her fans responded by starting a photo gallery of bellies rebelling against the idea that there is such a thing as an ideal female belly and that only male record executives know what it is. Join the rebellyon! Or just buy Amanda Palmer’s music and prove them wrong.
UPDATE: Amanda writes about what really went down with Roadrunner Records on her blog.