The Mysterious Allure of Bands with Secret Identities

What is it about the air of mystery that can turn a good song into a great song? This question popped into our heads recently when we heard that Burial, the Banksy of UK bass music, will be dropping a new single any minute now. The former poster boy for modern musical anonymity (we now know that Burial is really William Bevan) actually inherited the crown from The Knife, the Swedish electronic brother/sister duo of Karin and Olof Dreijer who originally wore masks constantly and avoided live performance or press at all costs. That’s also changed in recent years, with Karin’s Fever Ray projects becoming one of the hottest live tickets and Olof engaging in a not-so-secret stripped-techno side project as Oni Ayhun. There’s obviously a long and storied history to musical anonymity, but in the current age of information overload, we as music consumers are so used to having access to a full personal profile of any public figure that a little mystery behind the music can be refreshing. We examine five who, to varying degrees, are keeping the “sound first, face later” trend alive and well in 2011 after the jump. … Read More

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SXSW Trends and What They Mean for Music in 2011

Another South by Southwest has come and gone, and frankly we’re still recovering and trying to process all that we’ve seen. Lots of sun, food, and drinks made for hazy days and even harder to remember nights, but there are a few things we do recall seeing again and again. As in years past, we’re parsing the trends from South by Southwest 2011 to extrapolate on what they mean for the coming year in music. … Read More

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Mixtape: Flavorpill’s Austin BFFs SXSW Party

Flavorpill’s joining the sweat, heat, and taco trucks of South by Southwest this year to throw a party with some of our best friends. Combining forces with The Musebox, I Rock I Roll and The Bell House NY, and sponsored by HP: Everybody On, we’ve pulled together a bunch of our favorite bands to play some music and liven up the Austin afternoon. So, if you’ll be making the yearly arduous pilgrimage to Texas, join us on Wednesday, March 16 from noon until 6 pm at Lipstick 24. We’ll have Flavorpill faves like Oh Land and Class Actress alongside bands destined to become your new favorites, like the genius, guilty dance-glee of Kids of 88. RSVP for the afternoon of awesome here, but do it quickly as we’re nearing event capacity.

To whet your appetite for the acts you’ll see at our showcase (or, if you won’t be in Austin, to enable you to party along with us from the comfort of your own home), we’ve curated a mixtape of songs from the bands who are performing. Check out the slightly twisted event flyer below, and view the mixtape’s track list, which you can download as one file for your listening pleasure. … Read More

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Awesome Infographic: How to Ask Your Boss For a Raise

The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise by French literary stalwart Georges Perec is a darkly comedic classic previously lost to the English language. In celebration of what would have been Perec’s 75th birthday, Verso publishing is releasing the book in English for the very first time. Perec’s novel, called a “crazy-quilt monument to the imagination” by Paul Auster, delves into hilariously bleak detail the minutiae that go through all of our heads as we approach that most unapproachable of tasks: asking your boss for a raise. If you need something handy to keep in your pocket as you’re about to approach that old so-and-so of a slave driver, you’re in luck: Verso’s included a handy flow chart on everything you could possibly need to consider beforehand. … Read More

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Daily Dose Pick: True Hip-Hop

New York-based, self-taught photographer Mike Schreiber’s unique vision of hip-hop celebrities, from Nas and Biz Markie to Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Jay-Z, is collected for the first time in True Hip-Hop.

Schreiber captures his subjects with a real-life grit that becomes seemingly tangible. Most jaw-dropping is the strikingly candid proof sheet presenting a vulnerable young artist then known as Maya Arulpragasam, who would use Schreiber’s photos as she rose to fame as M.I.A. … Read More

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Hip Hop’s Craziest Art: The Best Pen & Pixel Album Covers

We’ll admit it: while we admire the lyrical genius displayed on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the musical elasticity of Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Left Foot, we have a certain soft spot in our heart for the halcyon, pre-recession days of southern rap. You know, when three cars were always better than two, and rappers whose names we can no longer recall sported Rolexes the size of Rick Ross.

This is why, when news reached us recently that Lil’ Romeo was relaunching that paragon of hedonisitc dirty south rap, No Limit Records, under the online-distribution-only moniker of No Limit Forever Records, we immediately became nostalgic for that very thing which online-only distribution obviates: the tactile CD experience, and in particular No Limit’s over-the-top cover art. While few may know Pen & Pixel, the Houston-based art studio responsible for many of the label’s most memorable covers, by name, its unique style is synonymous with extravagant rap excess. (The studio’s motto is, after all, “We do CD covers, posters, flyers, websites, videos & logos and still find time for sex.”)  So, in tribute to No Limit, we’ve gathered up ten of our favorite Pen & Pixel album cover creations. … Read More

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5 Must-Read Small Press Titles From 2010

This year has been marked by a number of high-profile book releases. Jonathan Franzen’s epic suburban opus Freedom was heralded as “the last great American novel,” Jay-Z fought to have hip-hop lyrics acknowledged by poetry aficionados in Decoded, Patti Smith’s emotional and brilliant Just Kids won a National Book Award, Stephen King returned to the art of taut, disturbing short stories, and a whole slew of celebrities released tripe we’d rather not get into here.

Smaller presses, meanwhile, have also had a banner year, but with the rush of media directing the average book buyer’s attention, it’s easy for lower profile publishers to get lost in the shuffle. To help spotlight these lesser known but equally deserving publishing houses, here are five small-press titles that stand out among the best books released in 2010. Please share any other recommendations from the past year in the comments. … Read More

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Daily Dose Pick: Michael Schmelling’s Atlanta

Michael Schmelling’s original intent for Atlanta was to create a photo book based on Outkast’s seminal record Aquemini; but as he immersed himself in the city’s hip-hop culture, he found a different story to tell, focusing on the pulse of the future.

The photographs in Atlanta portray Atlanta hip-hop as a living, breathing, growing thing to be found anywhere and everywhere, from strip clubs to the alcohol-free teen rap-party scene. The book also includes a series of exclusive interviews with the likes of producer The-Dream and notoriously elusive André 3000 himself, conducted by GQ editor Will Welch. The true pride of Atlanta, though, is in the included downloadable mixtape of unsigned ATL rappers, including Pill, Them Concrete Boyz, and cover-photo subject Lil Texas. … Read More

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Q&A with Emma Donoghue, Author of Room

Emma Donoghue’s Room is destined to end up on many a “Best Books of 2010” list — it will definitely be on ours — for being that unique breed of novel that’s both smart and compulsively readable. Written from a 5-year-old’s point of view, Room tells the story of a mother, her son, and the titular room in which they are confined, while evoking recent news headlines with probing candidness. The book was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize — Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question ended up winning — Donoghue’s other novels have received numerous accolades.  Amid all this media attention, we chatted with Donoghue about her favorite characters from her own work, the difficulties of writing a child’s point of view, and her TV writing aspirations. … Read More

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Haunted: A Witch House Primer

As Donovan once said, it must be the season of the witch… house. Having trouble figuring out what all the buzz is about? Don’t worry: The truth is, the parameters of the burgeoning musical genre known as witch house are still blurry. Even the name “witch house” itself is cause for debate — the origins are unclear, but the label sounds like an attempt to pigeonhole the murky music into a dancefloor-friendly category. The music itself has a few shared characteristics — a dark, dreamy sound incorporating swooning synths at a drowsy tempo, pitched-down vocals and, generally, the feel of being trapped inside a haunted house — that make it both exhilarating and terrifying. In that way, it’s kind of like catching a glimpse of a ghost.

Despite the foreboding name and frightening sounds, witch house is actually more inclusive than it might appear at first listen. With roots in ambient, EBM (electronic body music), Chicago juke, dark-tinged synth-pop, trance,  drone metal and screw, witch house has tendrils that caress the musical pleasure centers of fans of Throbbing Gristle, My Bloody Valentine, Swans, Brian Eno, and Gucci Mane alike. … Read More

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