Category Archives: Recommended listening

Herman Dune’s Love Cat Blues — A Premiere

I first heard David Ivar sing at House 1002, a store where folks seek and discover odd treasures, on Pacific Avenue in San Pedro, CA, the Los Angeles neighborhood David and I both call home. Amid House’s cavernous space crammed with anchors and old tools and bamboo couches and vintage chandeliers, he sang Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, and Tom Waits in a gentle loving tone, not an imitation of those rough-edged troubadours but a heartfull tribute. Pacific runs from the end of the Harbor Freeway to Sunken City, the off-limits tumble of asphalt and palm trees where seven decades ago, a housing development slipped into the sea. Until a damn 7-11 opened a few years ago, there were no chain stores on Pacific, just mom-and-pop ventures like House. This port town is a community of independent businesses and immigrants – a perfect spot for a French-Swedish anti-folk anti-hero to lay his Greek fisherman hat.

Inspired by the words of Mr. San Pedro, Mike Watt, at a show – “Release your own stuff! Put out your own music!” – David, under his musical name Herman Dune (other stage names include Black Yaya), is releasing his latest, 13th album on his own on May 17. Sweet Thursday is named after a John Steinbeck novel and is also inspired by Pedro’s monthly art walk on the first Thursday of every month. Along with Brett Sullivan of the band American Anymen, David has made a video for each song. He’s releasing one video every Thursday.

Today, I have the honor of premiering “Love Cat Blues,” because, you know, I’m a cat lady. The video shows David driving around Long Beach, the South Bay, and Pedro in his old blue Toyota, lovelorn and seeking. From his awkward Southern twang in the spoken intro, to the road map background, to the Steinbeckian title, to the Americana groove, the album is a tribute to his adopted hometown and homeland, delivered at a time when immigrants are not always honored.

For more info about David and Herman Dune, and to buy limited edition copies of the album and of his art work, visit http://www.davidivar.com/. You can watch the video below, or at https://youtu.be/Qs28WdgoOmE, where you can also see his other videos as they are revealed over the next month.

 

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Pussy Riot Rally Review

This is not a concert review.

Pussy Riot did not play a show at the Los Angeles club Echo Saturday night.

Pussy Riot are artivists who don’t believe in the commercial practice of concerts. As they say in a press release, “Events that we organize are political rallies, not concerts.”

Pussy Riot held a rally at the Echo Saturday. It cost $25 in advance to take part in this rally, $28 day of show rally. They also rallied Sunday night, and will do it one more time tonight.

I saw a really good rally at the Echo Saturday night.


Pussy Riot has changed a great deal since they first grabbed the world’s attention after they were arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for performing “A Punk Prayer” at Russia’s sacred Orthodox cathedral. The Pussy Riot that led Saturday’s rally was not an all-woman anarchist punk collective, but a coed techno/rap duo. The only recognizable member of Pussy Riot on stage at the Echo was Nadya Tolokonnikova, and by recognizable, I mean that even though her face was covered by a balaclava, everyone knew it was Nadya – she has the most famous musical lips since Mick Jagger. There was also a DJ/programmer, a man who goes by Chaika – every rally needs a DJ – and a woman who occasionally bounced around and shouted (every rally needs a gogo dancer/hype person too). It was unclear if we would have recognized these two even if their faces hadn’t been covered by cloth. “Anyone can be Pussy Riot,” Tolokonnikova said Saturday, a claim the group has always made. Still, it was a bit weird to see a guy on the mike. Aesthetically, Chaika seems like a good collaborator for Tolokonnikova. But is this what people want when they see Pussy Riot?

Tolokonnikova has become a skilled MC. Her word flows sound particularly mesmerizing with a Russian trill; she also raps in English, especially when it’s subject appropriate, as in the Trump takedown “Make America Great Again.” Chaika’s beats propelled the tracks into climactic explosions; the rally became a rave. Their songs remain provocations, with infectious agit-prop hooks: Nadya led the audience in chanting, “Pussy is the new dick!”

Pussy Riot are deft visual as well as musical propagandists. They performed rallied Saturday in front of stunning videos, including visuals by jailed Russian artist Oleg Navalny for “Election,” their timely commentary upon the recent “win” by Vladimir Putin.


Make no mistake, protest was the running theme of Saturday’s event, along with coalition building. Pussy Riot have invited community members to join them on all the stops of their current tour. Saturday, Fat Tony took the stage before Pussy Riot with a set that fused bass-heavy hip-hop with not one but two Ramones songs. In the music journalism biz, we used to call this “an opening act” – I’m not sure what the rally equivalent is. Pussy Riot seem to be particularly reaching out to black American artivists, a tactic that reminds me of the Clash.

I don’t really care if you call what I saw Saturday a rally or a concert, but then again, I got in free as press. It was cool to see Nadya hanging out in the audience of the tiny Echo and not acting like the kind of rock star she deserves to be; after all, how many other musicians have spent time in the gulag for their art? I’ve always said that the quality of Pussy Riot’s music tends to get eclipsed by the impact of their message, and I feel like that more than ever now. I’d pay money to see Tolokonnikova in concert, and she wouldn’t even have to call herself Pussy Riot.

 

 

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Bjork Completes Vulnicura Cycle

Photo by Andrew Thomas Huang

Almost two and a half years ago, Björk spilled her guts to the world. On the album Vulnicura, the often reclusive musician wrote intimately and emotionally about her breakup with the artist Matthew Barney. It was a public purging of a high-profile heartbreak, a direct and exquisitely rendered “fuck you” to a shmuck – long before Beyonce squeezed her lemons into Lemonade. “I am bored of your apocalyptic obsessions,” Björk sang on the thin ice of “Black Lake,” voicing the sentiments of a million millennial women waiting for their men to join them in the 21st century.

Ms. Gudmundsdottir is finally ending the Vulnicura phase of her astonishing three-decade artistic career. As she told me in an interview for the LA Weekly a few weeks ago, she has begun work on a new album and feels “the Vulnicura cycle is complete.” She delivered her last performance of the album at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night. And what a – shall we say, in deference/reference to her infamous 2010 Oscars outfit — swan-song farewell it was.

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Two Narratives Entwined: Gil and Veloso

Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil have made history and song together for more than a half century. In the mid-’60s, they fomented the Tropicalia revolution in their native Brazil. They were imprisoned and exiled for their troubles, an experience documented in Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil, Veloso’s memoir, one of the best and most important music autobiographies you’ll ever read.

The two elder statesmen have reunited for a tour, which brought them to the cavernous Microsoft Theater in LA last night. It was just the two of them and their acoustic guitars on the mammoth stage — two graying septuagenarians — with sometimes the audience joining along. Veloso’s voice in particular gets more hauntingly beautiful every time I see him; he may now be my favorite artist of all time (sorry Bruce). Having been a “soft Brazilian singer” (to borrow a phrase from one of his songs) — albeit one fond of static disruptions and eruptions — his whole life, he hasn’t blown out his cords one bit. If anything, they’ve become more supple, precisely tuned instruments. Gil, the former culture minister, sounds a bit raspier, but when he took the high notes and Caetano the low, the paired melodies took my breath away.

It made me think of a comment Carrie Brownstein had made earlier that day, in her on-stage conversation with LA Times critic Lorraine Ali, at the Los Angeles Festival of Books, about how she and Corin Tucker offer two narratives instead of the usual one as the front people of Sleater-Kinney. Veloso’s and Gil’s narratives have long entwined in a dialogue about race, colonialism, pop culture, and politics. Thinking of a way to explain to others the importance of the show, I thought it’s like seeing Dylan and Marley on stage together — if Dylan could carry a tune. These men are giants, who sing mostly in Portuguese, but also in Spanish and English. And then, sure enough, they closed with Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” Maybe I was reading into it, but was the refrain — “Every little thing’s going to be all right” — a message to the many Brazilians in the audience, as their country goes through perhaps the most intense political and economic tumult since the 1960s? The leftist regime that Gil was once a part of is under investigation and attack, in a country whose cultural icons still remember how it felt to be locked up by a military dictatorship.

But that was a subtext in an evening that was all about two of the most beautiful voices you might never hear together again, singing a half-century’s worth of songs of freedom.

 

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Ladies and Gents, Rock’s Next Great Singer: Screaming Females Shake It Off

Marissa Paternoster has a great rock’n’roll voice. The lead singer of New Jersey garage rock trio Screaming Females (ie the screaming female of the Screaming Females) stretches vowels like they’re taffy, pinching and shaking them with a piercing vibrato. In their cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” for the AV Club Undercover, “off” becomes a bellow and a solo. It’s the opposite of Tay-Tay’s thin reed, though the energy of this version owes a lot to that song’s compositional pop perfection. Plus there’s the way Paternoster holds off on playing her electric guitar until after the silly spoken break — and then rips into it, peeling off a lead as loud and unapologetic as her vocal burrs and the bangs covering half her voice. Yes, she screams with her guitar too.  Think Chrissie Hynde, PJ Harvey, Corin Tucker, Johnny Rotten, Mick Jagger, David Johansen.

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“California Paradise” Critical Karaoke Online

The critical karaoke I performed to the Runaways’ “California Paradise” at the EMP Pop Conference in LA in 2013 has been posted online as part of a CK package from the Journal of Popular Music Studies — this is academia made fun party people! You can hear me speak it over the music or just read the text, your choice. There are some other great pieces here, such as Karen Tongson’s moving ode to Jose Esteban Munoz, Radiohead’s “Creep,” and queer utopian moments.

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Filed under Evelyn's articles, Queens of Noise, Recommended listening, Recommended reading

Apocalypse Cancelled: New Sleater-Kinney Album Announced

Great news to start a week that otherwise seemed likely to be full of zeitgeist doom and gloom: Sleater-Kinney have announced that they will be releasing their first album of new material in a decade, AND will go on tour. No Cities To Love will be released January 19/20 by Sub Pop Records; if it’s as good as the first single, “Bury Our Friends,” released today, it’s a doozy. Together Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss released some of the best albums of the late ’90s, early ’00s, taking the bristling energy of the Riot Grrrl movement to dizzying heights; if you don’t believe me, buy the Sleater-Kinney box set, Start Together, being released tomorrow.

Since 1995’s The Woods, Tucker became a mom and fronted her own band; Weiss drummed with Quasi and Stephen Malkmus and the Hot Jicks, and Brownstein reinvented herself as a comic actor on a little show called Portlandia. They got back together early this year, recording in secrecy. John Goodmanson, who recorded and produced most of those records, is back for No Cities To Love. The video for the new song features filmmaker and writer Miranda July, another early ’90s graduate of Olympia-area Grrrrl Studies. Check it out:

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