Friday, December 11, 2015

Not Fade Away: Air’s ‘Talkie Walkie’ Turns 10

Jean-Benoit Dunckel (L) and Nicolas Godin of Air

With Not Fade Away, we take a look at the legacy of some of the greatest albums of the past few decades – some iconic, some lesser known – as they celebrate significant anniversaries. Here, we focus on Air’s 2004 full-length Talkie Walkie which turned 10 this month, with a special anniversary reissue package due later this year.

When the band Air emerged from Versailles, France, in 1998 with their debut album Moon Safari, the group’s dreamy sound swept over the music world like a cool summer breeze. From the opening instrumental, “La Femme d’Argent,” to the album’s appropriately cheeky left field hit, “Sexy Boy,” the duo’s mélange of lounge-intensive ‘60s sounds with the whimsy of fellow countryman Serge Gainsbourg was an immediate hit in hip, dimly-lit bedrooms around the world.

Following Moon Safari, Air released the highly successful film score for Sofia Coppola’s gauzy 1999 movie, The Virgin Suicides. The duo’s upward trajectory stalled a bit with the release of the experimental 10,000 Hz Legend (2001). Heavy with Daft Punk-like vocoder and a dizzying variety of sounds, the relatively muted response to the record gave the duo a renewed sense of purpose when approaching its’ follow-up full-length.

“We were kind of pretentious going into 10,000 Hz Legend,” admitted Air’s Nicolas Godin during a recent phone call from France to discuss Talkie Walkie, now 10 years old (it was released on Jan. 27, 2004). “We were kind of full of ourselves after Moon Safari, so there was a lot of ambition on [10,000 Hz Legend]. I think we tried too hard with it. So for Talkie Walkie, we didn’t have any expectations or particular ambitions. It was just JB and I, no collaborators,” he said in regards to the band’s other half, Jean-Benoit Dunckel. “We just wanted to make something simple.”

Over the course of two interviews, both Godin and Dunckel looked back on Talkie Walkie with palpable fondness, placing it high in their personal rankings of the band’s discography. They answered questions honestly and frankly, particularly Dunckel, whose personal recollections of the time bordered on the TMI (more on that later).

Both members agree that Air is taking 2014 off to work on individual projects, including the first solo release from Godin (“all I can say is that it sounds nothing at all like anything I’ve ever done”) and Dunckel releasing the second album by Tomorrow’s World, a collaboration with vocalist Lou Hayter) but plan to reconvene for a new Air album and tour in 2015. In the meantime, they’re sifting through outtakes and live tracks from the era for a special 10th anniversary Talkie Walkie reissue.

Did you have any other concepts in mind for Talkie Walkie, other than it just being the two of you? 
Nicolas Godin: I also wanted to have no bass lines on the album, even though I’m known as a pretty good bass player. The only bass line is on ‘Biological,’ and that’s because the song was recorded before I decided to make an album with no bass lines. So we kept it in anyway.

Jean-Benoit Dunckel: We were not in our big studio. We were in a small place in Bastille that we rented from a guy that used to have a music store. It looked a bit like a ski lodge, with wood on the walls. We wanted to make pop songs, but with a lounge, dreamy vibe. 10,000 Hz Legend was more experimental, trying to be more crazy. We were really trying to find the perfect pop song with Talkie Walkie.

What was it like working with Nigel Godrich on the album?
NG: Nigel was great. He is one of the best producers in the world, and he helped us a lot on TW. He was able to show us little things that would make the songs that much better. The songs were already quite simple and straightforward, and he gave it them that special touch.

JBD: I like to think of Nigel as the guardian of the mood on Talkie Walkie. Like on “Cherry Blossom Girl,” I wanted to redo some of the vocals. So I went into the studio and recorded more vocals for it, but Nigel didn’t like them. He preferred the original take, even though there were some minor mistakes. He really helped us maintain the spirit throughout the whole album. It was kind of difficult in that he was working with other artists, like Radiohead at the time and wasn’t always around. We had a lot of fun, actually.

Talkie Walkie includes the song ‘Alone in Kyoto,’ which was originally featured in the movie Lost in Translation. How did working with Sofia Coppola on Virgin Suicides and then again on Lost in Translation affect the band and your approach to making music?
NG: Working with her was fantastic. It’s like working with a friend. I have nothing but fond memories of Sofia. Being the director, she was often busy with filming, but (music supervisor) Brian Reitzell was right there with us along the way. We put “Alone in Kyoto” on TW because when we finished recording the album, we didn’t have enough songs (laughs). We thought to just put it on there to fill out the album, and it’s gone on to become a fan favorite that always gets a great response when we perform it live.

JBD: The success of The Virgin Suicides was very important for us in France, where we have a very special relationship with cinema. We were much more respected in our country after the success of that film score. Before that, I think we were seen (by the French) as just a couple of guys doing light, easy music that was kind of clever.

Is there a track on Talkie Walkie that stands out for you?
NG: I love the song “Venus.” As a child, I was very taken with John Lennon’s first solo album, which was mostly just his voice and piano. With ‘Venus,” I wanted to make my version of something from that first Lennon solo album. I also quite like the song ‘Run.’ ‘Cherry Blossom Girl’ is also a favorite, as it was our second big hit after “Sexy Boy.” We’re not the kind of band to have very many hit songs, so when we do manage to create one, it’s a big deal for us.

JBD: “Cherry Blossom Girl” and “Alone in Kyoto” both worked really well.  I think that Talkie Walkie is maybe the most important album for Air, because it was very successful commercially, and in a lot of ways legitimized us as a band.

There’s an alternate version of “Cherry Blossom Girl” that features Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star on vocals. How did that take come about?
NG: We’d seen Mazzy Star play in France, and the experience was just so slow and beautiful. We were quite moved by the show, and inspired to write the slowest Air song ever, so we wrote “Cherry Blossom Girl” with her in mind, and she was kind enough to sing it for us. It didn’t work for the album, since it ended up just being JB and I on the record, but that version is very special to me.

Lyrically, it feels like a very personal album
NG: Yes, after a couple of albums, artists tend to get kind of narrow-minded and just focus on themselves. JB and I aren’t any different (laughs). The album definitely captures a special moment in time for the band. It was just JB and I in a small home studio, with a little drum machine writing these very simple songs. It’s a very cute album. I love Talkie Walkie. It’s a very special record to me.  As a kid, I dreamed of making a classic album, and I think we achieved that with Talkie Walkie. It’s such a great feeling to realize that dream. To me, Moon Safari, Talkie Walkie and The Virgin Suicides are classic albums that I’m very proud of creating.

JBD: It was extremely personal for me. That year I ended a 15-year relationship, so I opened myself to a world of sex (laughs). It was kind of like becoming a teenager again, or in my case, for the first time. I really had no experience with the opposite sex. I could express myself with a keyboard, but not with a woman. I think a lot of those emotions definitely made their way onto Talkie Walkie. It was a time of sexual hope.

(Originally published on 1/27/2014)

Not Fade Away: The Strokes’ ‘Room on Fire’ Turns 10

(The Strokes circa 2003, Dean Chalkley/NME)
 In Not Fade Away, we take a look at the legacy of some of the greatest albums of the past few decades – some iconic, some lesser known – as they celebrate significant anniversaries. Here, we focus on New York garage-rock icons the Strokes’ sophomore album, Room on Fire, and how its’ fiercest competition came from the band’s own catalog.

It was late October of 2003 when the Strokes released the band’s second album, Room on Fire. The album was recorded over the summer of that year, after two solid years on the road supporting their wildly received debut, Is This It.

With that 2001 debut, the Strokes had vaulted to the front of the indie rock nation, the band’s denim and leather swagger all but personifying New York City cool at the dawn of the new millennium. The quintet’s road-honed chops from the Is This It tour were not lost on the band’s producer, Gordon Raphael.

“What was really awesome about [the Room on Fire sessions] was when they came in that first day, this was a band that had been on tour for two years straight, playing concert after concert,” Raphael recalled during an interview from a Seattle studio during a break while recording the band Red Martian. “The level of ability, tightness and power that they gained from that tour was unbelievably noticeable when they came back. They were not this fun, basement-y band anymore. They sounded more like Led Zeppelin than the Velvet Underground. It was so huge sounding. They still had the attitude and having fun, but they sounded like incredibly powerful and accomplished musicians.”

Raphael had a bird’s eye view of the Strokes’ rapid rise to indie rock notoriety, having produced the band’s initial rush of releases, from their debut 3-song The Modern Age EP through the first two studio albums, Is This It and the follow-up, Room on Fire. His relationship with the band is enduring, as emerging outfits consistently enlist his services hoping for just a touch of what he brought to those hallowed recordings.

“The day I arrived in the studio, they played me Room on Fire in its entirety, like, ‘here’s what we’re gonna do,’ and just ran through every song live right there,” the producer recalled. “So it wasn’t like three months of wondering what the parts were going to be or developing ideas. The songs were done, the parts were done, and Julian [Casablancas, the band’s singer] just wanted three months of making every tone and every performance perfect."

The recording got off to something of a rough start, with Raphael coming in to reprise his role manning the boards only after the band found itself unhappy with early sessions overseen by producer Nigel Godrich of Radiohead fame.

“There was no weirdness from anybody. I took over Is This It from another producer, too,” Raphael laughed. “They started both records with different producers. We dealt with it in the moment, moved on and never thought about it again.”

After recording Is This It in Raphael’s modest personal studio, the album’s success found them in TMF Studios for Room on Fire, a facility the producer had discovered working with Regina Spektor on her 2005 full-length, Soviet Kitsch. “They wanted to keep a lot of the identity they’d created on the first album in the small studio, but here we were in a very big room with a lot of gear at our disposal, and more time.”

With a larger room, “The mood and they lyrics were considerably heavier [on Room on Fire],” Raphael mused. “Whatever caused that I can only speculate. There were personal things and romantic things going on with certain band members. The sheer joyous, party, happy, cut loose kind of thing that might have been on the first record was gone.”

Led by first single, “12:51” (with a synthesized guitar melody that would’ve sounded right at home on the Cars’ 1979 classic, Candy-O), Room on Fire did indeed come with denser and more muscular arrangements. Songs like “Reptilia” and “The End Has No End” brought new dynamics to the band’s early catalog.

While the album was for the most part positively received by critics and fans alike, there has long been the general sense that Room on Fire will forever exist in the shadow of Is This It, and that in retrospect, the 2003 version of the Strokes has yet to truly collect the accolades it deserves.

“There’s a phenomenon when you hear something brand new for the first time. Part of what makes you go crazy is you’ve never heard anything like it before,” Raphael said of Room on Fire‘s status in relation to Is This It. “So even though the second record may have much more powerful musicianship with lots of interesting stuff going on, they’ll never recapture the feeling of some 15-year-old hearing the Strokes for the first time. They had a lot of competition from their own impact when they made Room on Fire.”

While the Strokes continued to evolve and move further away from the bare-bones sound of the band’s first string of recordings, Raphael says his door is always open if they ever wanted to reconvene and tackle another round of new music together.

“I have fond memories of every moment I have to do with the Strokes. Maybe getting fired from making the third album (First Impressions of Earth) wasn’t one of my favorite moments, but it’s a good story,” he admitted. “There was definitely hard work involved in both albums, like really pushed to the limit kind of stuff, but certainly all within the realms of fantastic adventure and good spirit.”

(Originally published on 10/28/2013


Opinion: From Run the Jewels to J. Cole, how today's musicians carry on Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy

Run The Jewels @ Coachella 2015
At the recent 2015 Golden Globe Awards, show host Tina Fey delivered one of the most poignant and effective jokes of the evening in regards to the multi-nominated film “Selma,” based on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.-led voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. 
“The movie ‘Selma’ is about the American Civil Rights movement,” Fey quipped ironically during the opening monologue, “that totally worked and now everything’s fine.”

Nominated in five categories, it was the John Legend and Common song from the film, “Glory,” that would take home “Selma’s” only award that night. “As I got to know the people of the civil rights movement, I realized I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand, but instead was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. 'Selma' has awakened my humanity,” Common said in his acceptance speech.

At a time when waves of civil unrest continue to ripple across America in light of Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s deaths at the hands of police under what can safely be called murky circumstances, citizens are taking to the streets (and in some cases, popular brunch spots) in protests that have become more common than in years.

The current state of race relations in America has sparked the world of music to respond in myriad ways, even among some claims that some of the most visible and influential musicians have been mute on the situation.

“I urge and challenge musicians and artists alike to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in,” said Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson implored via Instagram. “We need new Dylans. New Public Enemys. New Simones. New De La Roachas… Seriously just ONE or Two songs that change the course.”

Rappers like J. Cole were already there, having penned the moving song, “Be Free,” last August after Michael Brown was shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., using a December appearance on “Late Night With David Letterman” to perform the track instead of promoting one from his recently released and chart-topping album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive.” “There ain’t no drink out there that can numb my soul,” he sang in the stirring performance. “All we want to do is take the chains off/All we want to do is be free.”

Reclusive R&B artist D’Angelo was moved to rush-release his long-awaited (more than 14 years long, to be exact) third full-length, “Black Messiah,” after a grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson for Brown’s death. While not overtly political in content, D’Angelo contends in the liner notes that the album is "about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen.”

Other artists have taken a more direct and personal approach, none more so than hip-hop super-group Run the Jewels and rapper Michael “Killer Mike” Render in particular. The band was coincidentally booked to perform in St. Louis the same night as the grand jury’s non-indictment, and it hit Render hard. Instead of the group’s show opening to the strains of Queen’s classic rock song, “We Are the Champions,” he delivered an emotional address to the audience: “I have a 20-year-old son and a 12-year-old son, and I am so afraid for them today,” he admitted while choking back tears.

Render’s passion led him to speak on the situation on CNN as well as pen an op-ed article for Billboard to further amplify the frustration and outrage felt by so many African-American across the country. “The police are paid by the public and carry a public trust, and they take an oath to protect us as citizens. The police have lost sight of that and must be reminded that we pay them to protect us, not to simply engage and cage us,” he wrote.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s enormous sacrifices for human rights set into motion so much of what we’re seeing on the streets of America today. While the visions of equality he spoke of in his life-changing “I Have a Dream” speech have yet to be fully realized, he was paramount in generating the idea that people can instigate change through unity, in lifting their voices in protest against injustice and oppression, refusing to accept the status quo of institutionalized racism that’s still a part of America’s very fabric.

While a song is not going to end racism in America, music and musicians can inspire people to take matters into their own hands and work toward a better, safer and more just world to live in and leave behind for generations to follow.behind for generations to follow.

(Originally published on L.A. Times 1/19/2015

Jonesy's Jukebox, as Irreverent as Ever, Returns to Daytime Radio

It's a whirlwind of activity around the broadcast studio of 95.5 KLOS FM, as Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones and producer Mark Sovel make last-minute preparations for the second episode of Jonesy's Jukebox on the venerable classic-rock radio station.

They get everything situated just as the clock strikes noon, and kick off the show with a ticket giveaway to see reunited '90s shoegaze heroes Ride at the Wiltern. After that, it's free-form FM radio at its finest. Jones cues up an eclectic mix of music, including AC/DC, Peter Green–era Fleetwood Mac, Ronnie James Dio and Sniff 'n' the Tears' lone hit from 1978, "Driver's Seat."

Jones interrupts the music to tell a story about relieving himself on Elvis Presley's grave. Then he welcomes the show's guest, actor-comedian Fred Armisen, whom he's known since the '80s. Armisen takes the opportunity to interview Jones as much as Jones interviews him, getting the guitarist to open up about his childhood and relationships with both his father and stepfather.

It all makes for exceedingly riveting radio, harkening back to the all-too-brief run of Jonesy's Jukebox on its first home, Indie 103.1 FM.

Between Christmas Day 2003 and January 2009, Indie 103 snuck onto L.A.'s airwaves to deliver a vast expanse of alternative music, from then-burgeoning local bands The Airborne Toxic Event, Giant Drag and She Wants Revenge to a deep well of classic alt-rock and proto-punk icons such as Joy Division, New York Dolls and The Stooges.

At the heart of Indie's appeal was weekday lunchtime show Jonesy's Jukebox, which found the former Sex Pistols guitarist hosting two hours of completely off-the-cuff radio, waxing on about his own experiences in the roller-coaster world of rock with an enviable who's who of guests such as Johnny Ramone, Jerry Lee Lewis and fellow ex-Pistol John Lydon.

Jonesy's Jukebox survived the dissolution of Indie 103 in various forms, resurfacing online and for a brief stint on KROQ Sunday nights. But the show now is experiencing its splashiest revival yet, returning to the daytime airwaves via KLOS on Oct. 30.

"I really enjoyed it. It went smooth. I thought I was gonna be rusty, but I fell right back into it," Jones says of the show's KLOS debut. It's scheduled to run every Friday from noon to 2 p.m.

Jones has lived in L.A. since the early 1980s. He followed his initial run with the Sex Pistols by becoming an in-demand session guitarist, working with the likes of Billy Idol, Joan Jett and even Bob Dylan. He's also delved into the world of acting, most recently with a recurring role over the final two seasons of Showtime series Californication.

"It's weird, really, but it fits," he says of his new radio home. "They're so old-school and I'm kind of old-school. I love their classic logo with the rainbow circle."

He's also happy to be back on the daytime airwaves, saying his Sunday night timeslot on KROQ was not a good fit for the show. "I wouldn't say it was a disaster, but no one listens to radio on a Sunday night anymore. Me hands were tied as well. I couldn't really do what I wanted to do. But here, they're letting me pick my songs and do what I do."

The new run also reunites Jones with Sovel, aka "Mr. Shovel," who has worked on Jonesy's Jukebox as producer and Jones' occasional on-air foil since the days of Indie 103.

While the show was Jones' first foray into radio, Sovel's career on the dial goes back to the '80s and his hometown of Detroit. There he worked on the groundbreaking stations WABX and WLBS, which for a time shook up the Motown airwaves with daring post-punk formats unlike anything happening on Detroit radio at the time.

After moving to L.A. and working at a handful of stations around town, Sovel became the founding music director at Indie 103. Currently, he's in his third year as music director at KCSN 88.5 Los Angeles, where he also hosts his own free-form radio show, City of Night.

"It's exciting to be on KLOS. For me, it has such a legendary stature, so to be allowed to go on there and do Jonesy's Jukebox seems like quite an honor," Sovel says. "At the same time, we know a lot of their audience might not be familiar with the show or even Steve Jones, so it will be something new to a lot of people."

Sovel says the on-air chemistry between him and Jones came naturally. "It just sort of happened. Steve would start talking to me on the air and I had no choice but to open up the mic and start talking back, and we had a goofy rapport, much like in real life. It's an interesting chemistry, and I'm happy for the opportunity to go back and work with him again."

Jones is equally sanguine about his connection with Sovel. "We did it for a lot of years. We both know our roles," he says. "I think people who know Jonesy's Jukebox like that me and him are back together. I've got a lot of good response on social media about it."

"The Indie format was an anomaly on commercial radio," Sovel says of the storied station that birthed Jonesy's Jukebox. "The situation as it is now, it's even more rare, which is why it seems shocking that KLOS would allow this show to go on the air there. But to Keith Cunningham's credit, he's had the courage to put it on, and I'm grateful for that."

Cunningham, KLOS' program director, says that a show like Jonesy's Jukebox is essential to keeping terrestrial radio competitive with the onslaught of alternatives, from streaming to subscription services.

Radio is at the point right now where we need to start thinking outside the box and push new boundaries," he explains. "Jonesy's Jukebox was so wildly popular on Indie 103, and many of our listeners grew up listening to The Sex Pistols. He's playing rock music, and he fits the psychographic appeal of this radio station. For me, it was kind of a no-brainer."

For Jones, it's a platform he clearly relishes, spinning tunes that influenced his own musical style ("Playing New York Dolls on KLOS was a real kick for me") and sharing his catalog of stories from a lifetime spent in the rock & roll trenches.

"There's a bottomless pit of great old rock classics that are never even touched. It's exciting for me to turn listeners on to that stuff," Jones says of his ever-changing playlist.

"The whole thing for me is you're doing it live there in the studio, as opposed to podcasts or whatever. I love the fact that I'm on the radio live locally. I guess it's just an old-school thing. The way those '70s DJ would pick their own songs instead of just filling space between a set that's already been laid out and they have no control over. That's what I love, and I'll do it as long as they'll let me."

(Originally published on L.A. Weekly 11/17/2015)

Fear of a Lana Del Rey Planet


On his 2015 breakout album, Beauty Behind the Madness, R&B Lothario the Weeknd performs a duet with pop singer Lana Del Rey on the full-length’s penultimate track, “Prisoner.”

A song about addictions, Del Rey’s verse plays out like an encapsulation of her musical ideology in just four scant lines:

I think I’ve been in Hollywood for too long
Cause I can feel my soul burning, feel it burning slow
But I would be nothing without the touch
I feel the rush and it’s amazing

Over the course of her still ascendant career, Del Rey has carefully crafted a persona that stands well apart from the current crop of female pop stars.

Where the likes of Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES, et al. make a decided point of projecting powerful, determined women, Del Rey’s image is one of codependency; where her admitted addiction to Hollywood and all its trappings, steel-hearted men and rapturous bliss that’s always just out of reach is her driving force—even if she already knows it’s just a pipe dream of diminishing returns that’s slowly burning her from the inside out.

There’s a casually tossed off masochism and latent submissiveness at play, one that surely makes many critics uncomfortable. The epitome of the classic trope of the doomed American beauty who still revels in the very trappings that hasten her downward spiral, Lana Del Rey’s music casts a shadowy pall that simultaneously hurts so good for her millions of fans around the world who obsess over every song lyric and Instagram post.

In reality, however, Del Rey is no Marilyn Monroe. Far from a victim, the singer is in complete control of her surroundings, unafraid to lay bare predilections some would surely prefer she left unsaid (when asked why she’s depicted being choked in music videos during a 2014 interview with FADER, Del Rey’s response: “I like a little hardcore love.”)

In a time when social phenomenon like Ashley Madison and sugar baby/daddy culture are prominent in the public eye, Del Rey’s musical modus operandi of perpetually chasing a particularly kind of emotional high that comes from being desired and coddled is one many would consider dubious at best.

As such, the singer has been vehemently attacked as antifeminist, particularly after she was noted on record as calling feminism “boring” in the same FADER interview.

“For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept. I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities,” she said. “Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested.”

It’s a telling quote, one that emphasizes the distinction between Lana Del Rey the artistic persona and Lana Del Rey the human being. Having carefully crafted this character that personifies every sullen teen and heartbroken romantic weeping over crushed dreams, in reality she’s obsessing over technological breakthroughs and meeting Elon Musk, which she told Apple Beats 1 DJ Zane Lowe was “one of the best days of my life.”

Given Del Rey’s rapidly ascendant career, it’s amazing to remember that she first hit pop culture consciousness on the mass scale with a 2012 appearance on Saturday Night Live that was mercilessly skewered, eliciting harsh words from such public figures as Juliette Lewis, Eliza Dushku and disgraced newsman Brian Williams.

In retrospect, her SNL showing feels like the ultimate long con, the perfect setup to position herself as the beautiful loser, the comeback kid, the wallflower at the party who still draws a lion’s share of the attention.

What the singer has done is carve out a unique niche in the increasingly crowded musical landscape, eliciting desire, controversy, and obsession: all components of a true star in 2015 (her recently released album, Honeymoon, is already generating some of the best reviews of her career and is poised to make a sizable impression on the Billboard charts).

The luxury we have as a younger generation is being able to figure out where we want to go from here, which is why I’ve said things like, 'I don’t focus on feminism, I focus on the future,'” Del Rey explained during an interview with actor James Franco earlier this year. “It’s not to say that there’s not more to do in that area. I’ve gotten to witness through history the evolution of so many movements and now I’m standing at the forefront of new technological movements. I’m not undermining other issues. But I feel like that’s obvious, like I shouldn’t even have to bring that up.”

Or as she even more succinctly put it back in 2014: “My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.”

Life After Dark: The Neon Indian Interview


Neon Indian’s latest album, VEGA INTL. Night School, is an after-hours soundtrack that deftly captures the blurry euphoria of life after dark. The rituals of nightlife are chronicled across 14 tracks of dense, synth-drenched dance beats that recall ‘80s funk-pop like Ready for the World and one-time Prince protégé Andre Cymone on an Italo-disco jag for an imagined Patrick Nagel-drawn life simulation video game.

Created by band leader Alan Palomo, this third Neon Indian full-length is a Technicolor explosion of influences that’s the most accessible of his still burgeoning music career which followed a background in film study, which the Mexican-born and Denton, Texas raised artist pursued at the University of North Texas.

During a phone interview from New York between tour dates, Palomo was open and forthcoming about his latest creation and translating the new songs into an expansive live experience and possibly a full-length series. 

It feels like this album has touched a positive nerve with a much wider audience than ever in your music career. What do you think it is about this record that has such an appeal with new as well as old fans?
That’s tough to quantify. For me, I get tunnel vision pretty easily because I’m so focused on the task at hand that I never really entirely sure what the reception of anything is. I would venture to say that a lot of is due to the narrative that we’ve been building for years. The growth has been slow and steady since 2009 when the first record came out. I was surely trying the patience of fans that were expecting something much sooner. For the first time in my life I was getting straight up threats about my lack of output. As far as the sensibilities of the record go, I intentionally wanted it to be a very eclectic undertaking. In that sense, maybe there’s a lot for people to enjoy. You look at the song “Annie,” which is of the more compositionally developed and straightforward pop songs that I’ve written, compared to something like “61 Cygni Ave” or “Smut,” which might be a little bit more obtuse.

While it’s such an upbeat album musically, there seems to be an underlying lyrical darkness to songs like “Annie” and “The Glitzy Hive” – it feels like through all of the fun, there’s a grim ending for the song’s characters.
It sort of coincides with my personality. I’m certainly a social animal, both habitually and because it’s what makes me happy. But also I would say there’s always going to be some dark undercurrent. I occasionally see the world through the lens that I think a lot of people in this generation look at it with which is a sort of giddy nihilism. I’m always trying to offset that with a tremendous amount of positivity.

You’ve spoken in recent interviews about the structure of the music industry, and how bands are treated like horses or stock options that can be bet on. Do you have the sense that Neon Indian is currently filed under bands to watch right now?
Not necessarily. It’s one of those things where I’m always going to be my own harshest critic and always thinking about the next thing. My accomplishments with his record were fulfilled when I turned it in. I look at my calendar and I literally down have a day off until two days before Christmas, so that’s gotta be worth something.

Are you seeing this broader appeal reflected in the audiences?
This initial tour run we’re doing is more intimate venues, so that’s tough to say. I feel like you get a sense of where things are headed when you play a festival show. You get this very broad sampling of people and how many of those people are interesting in seeing you. We haven’t had much opportunity to do those kinds of shows as much lately, but the few we have, it’s been cool. There are new people jumping onboard.

What’s the experience been like translating the new songs live? Is there a particular track that’s resonating more than others?
“The Glitzy Hive” always gets people moving. When I tour with a live band, I’m always on board with a certain amount of reinterpretation. There’s some reimagining of the songs, which to me is kind of important to keep it interesting for me. I started writing some of these songs as far back as 2011, so by the time they actually got out there it was pretty wild. So in addition to the fact that I’ve been seeing the songs undergo all these different permutations, now they have to be performed every night. That’s what keeps the adrenaline going.

Is touring the fun part for you?
I think people look at touring like it’s a vacation, but it’s kind of grueling. I’m more of a studio rat by nature. I’d rather be creating than performing. But it’s for the fans. They’re the ones listening to the record, so you better give them a damn good show and you should sweat it every night. We have nights where we play a show and then just start driving through the night, stop in a hotel, sleep for three hours and keep driving. Those are the nights where it’s not quite the payoff that I think a lot of people have the perception that it is. We’ve had some really high highs, too. There have been some really affirming moments of why you became an artist.

What was one of those affirming moments?
The first show we played on this tour, which was our first show in three years, was in Mexico City. We played in a city square in Zócalo as part of a bigger arts festival that happens that. That was fucking insane. From not having played in three years to suddenly being in front of 15,000 people… We just got thrown in the fire and had to make it work. It was amazing seeing the show go from theoretical to practical over the course of an hour. I was making changes to the MIDI brain that triggers a lot of sounds and feeds the band with click tracks minutes before we took the stage. It wasn’t official until we went up there.

At the end of November you’re playing shows in China. Is this your first trip there?
We’ve done Japan, but we’ve never done Mainland China before. That’s gonna be wild. I’m pretty excited about it.

What’s something you’re looking forward to in China?
I just want to stare slack-jawed at the amazing, futuristic skyline. I can’t wait to see a skyline that completely dwarfs New York, because that’s just inconceivable to me. It will be an expansion what my interpretation of the world is.  

What’s your response to the petition to turn the Slumlord Rising video into a series?
I was really surprised by it, especially since it was the first time I really got to sink my teeth into some non-union directing. I directed an animated short with my friend Johnny (Woods) for the MOCA, and that was really awesome. But this was definitely the largest undertaking that I’d ever really done. The petition really made me start thinking about what that plot would be should it ever arise. If anyone ever wants to do something, they know where to find me.

So do you have an idea of where the story goes after the video ends?
Yes, to some extent. The intent when I was making the video was to imagine it as an excerpt, a climax of a film that doesn’t exist. Much of what we imagined was to try to have as much auxiliary story components written down. Like every character had a backstory that I explained meticulously to all the actors, even though none of that was going to be portrayed in the video. I just wanted them to have something to hang onto and inform what they were going to do. The only people that really have answers are (co-director) Tim Nackashi and myself. So unless we created some sort of series out of it, then none of those answers will get revealed.

HARD Summer 2015 Day 2 Recap: Justin Bieber & Jack U, Chromeo, Fetty Wap & More

The second day of HARD Summer 2015 started on sobering note, with news breaking overnight that two young female festival-goers died of suspected drug overdoses after attending opening night.
Early into the second day, fans trickled in at a slower pace, with an abundance of signs that many had indeed partied hard on Saturday. The festival felt like it was nursing a collective hangover.

3:37 pm: An unconscious young woman is sprawled out on a gurney and is being wheeled towards the exits. Over on the HARDer stage, Bakermat is doing his best to lift spirits with a set full of upbeat house, although the irony of the DJ dropping Zhu’s “Faded” into his mix is not lost.

3:54 pm: The chants for Fetty Wap begin almost immediately at the end of Bakermat’s set.

4:01 pm: Fetty Wap hits the stage to the strains of “My Way,” and a massive headliner-sized crowd under the sweltering hot sun sings along to every word. Charging through a brief set of hits including “Again” and “A Couple Bandz,” the rapper makes it clear that his voice is voice is hoarse and almost gone, but he carries on with the set. He jumps down into the crowd and makes it rain cash money on the front row. “Trap Queen” is one of the biggest moments of the whole festival, with the crowd more than making up for the rapper’s faltering vocals.

4:36 pm: DJ Mustard sets the party off straight away with Kid Ink’s “Be Real.” Rifling through a set of party jams ranging from Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” to the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” the main stage crowd is lapping it up.

4:45 pm: Well, not the entire crowd. “This is stuff you can hear in any club,” gripes an unimpressed young woman about Mustard’s set as she takes off to see what else she can check out.

5:14 pm: Billed as DJ Mustard and Friends, the show sets off a flurry of rumors about supposed surprise guests. Kid Ink eventually comes out for a quick performance of “Show Me.”

5:36 pm: Jamie xx is digging deep for an eclectic DJ set on the Pink Stage, mixing classic New York vocal house with Chicago acid and more experimental sounds before wrapping up with his own solo track, “Loud Places,” featuring his band-mate in the xx, Romy Madley Croft.

6:06 pm: Manic rave-rap outfit Die Antwoord is bounding around the stage in brightly colored furry costumes to start their show, before rapper Ninja strips down to a pair of Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon trunks and his partner Yolandi Visser goes through as many costume changes as a brand-name pop star. The show’s highlight comes when actor/comedian Jack Black joins the band onstage in a powder blue velour tracksuit to show off some nifty dance moves and leap off the DJ platform right in sync with the music. “Ninja couldn’t get me the backstage pass,” Black joked from the stage. “So I had to climb the mother f---ing fence.”

6:49 pm: Canadian Dan Snaith (AKA Caribou) and his band churn out a dense, sprawling live techno sound that could be categorized as Underworld meets Carl Craig. It hits even harder than the outfit’s well-received 2014 full-length, Our Love. An audience of chin-stroking listeners and flailing dancers alike revel in the heady mix.

7:24 pm: Hudson Mohawke pummels the Purple Stage with dark and brutal beats. No matter how hard or punishing, his fans scream for more, resulting in a dark-lit dance party.

7:51 pm: Chromeo has evolved into a well-oiled electro-funk machine that could rock a festival crowd while asleep. Band members Dave 1 and P-Thugg are fully engaged for the HARD Summer crowd, cruising through hit tunes like “Bonafied Lovin’ (Tough Guys)” and “Sexy Socialite” as the sun sets over the HARDer Stage.

8:02 pm: Detroit house pioneer MK is rolling out his signature mix of rumbling bass lines and percolating melodies on the Pink Stage. It’s no wonder why he’s one of Disclosure’s favorite DJs.

8:26 pm: ILoveMakonnen is a brave artist, not only playing his biggest hit, “Tuesday,” towards the front of his set but also cutting it short to launch into “I Don’t Sell Molly No More.” The risk pays off, as the crowd packed at the front of the Purple Stage is apparently made up of far more than casual fans. Turning up as much for Drink More Water 5 mixtape tracks like “Whip It” as they do for “Tuesday,” their rapturous response inspire the L.A. native to call his HARD Summer set “a dream come true.”

9:49 pm: Diplo and Skrillex’s DJ super-group Jack U hit the stage like they have something to prove, despite being two of dance music’s most recognizable and successful producers working today. Blazing through remixes (Drake’s “Energy” and Beyonce’s “7/11”), original tracks (Major Lazer’s “Lean On”) and a guest spot from 2 Chainz, they kicked things up to an even more frenzied level with the surprise appearance of Justin Bieber, who joined the dynamic duo for the Jack U hit, “Where Are U Now,” to really put their stamp on the festival.

There’s definitely a level of irony that one of the country’s biggest underground-powered music festivals (this year’s sold-out event sold 130,000 tickets over two days) would be highlighted by a mega-star of Bieber’s magnitude. It’s a testament to the current state of popular music, where mixtape heroes and DJs and old-fashioned pop stars are on equal footing in the eyes of fans.

“Nowadays, people have a really open mind. Radio is really friendly to people who don’t have as much of a history there right now,” Diplo told me during a recent interview. “There are hits coming out of everywhere. I feel like our music is in that world, and we’re getting better at it.”

(Originally published on 8/3/2015)

(Chromeo Photo: Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)

HARD Summer 2015 Day 1 Recap: The Weeknd, Chemical Brothers & More Highlight Opening Night

“HARD Summer is not a rave. It’s a music festival.”

This wry but apt joke delivered by HARD founder Gary Richards (aka DJ Destructo) in the notorious promo video announcing the 2015 event has never been more apparent than this year.

Since the inaugural HARD event back in 2007, Richards and his squad have made it a decided point to craft lineups that not only dig deep into the dance music underground and current zeitgeist, but also stacked them with crowd-pleasing hip-hop acts to deliver a diversity and edge rarely found in similarly BPM-powered fests.

This year, HARD Summer scored a coup by landing The Weeknd to top the first night’s bill, along with dance music legends The Chemical Brothers next to young rap sensations like Rae Sremmurd and breakout U.K. synth-pop heroes Years & Years among the dozens of scheduled acts.

Set this year in the sprawling Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., the opening day of HARD Summer 2015 was not without its hiccups, but still provided plenty of highlights over the course of the festival’s first day of music.

4:10 p.m.: Emerging British dance-poppers Years & Years are 20 minutes late taking the HARDer outdoor stage, but make up for it with a charming and engaging set of their signature moody synth-driven songs. Lead singer Olly Alexander is sporting a fresh shock of bleached blond hair and is in strong voice as he leads the trio (augmented by a live drummer) through tracks like “Shine,” “Desire” and their biggest U.S. hit, “King.” With their debut album, Communion, already topping the U.K. charts, Years & Years seem more than ready to make an impact here in the States.

5:22 p.m.: Inside the sweltering Purple Stage (which, like the Green and Pink stages, are set in large freestanding buildings), a sweaty fan says he’s on the verge of passing out, despite draining three water bottles, which he holds up for inspection. While Sweater Beats is still playing, the crowd starts chanting “Young Thug,” who was originally scheduled to go on at 5:10. Apparently, they hadn’t seen his message on Twitter early in the day explaining that due to “unforeseen circumstances” he wouldn’t be performing. By the time the following act, Giraffage, takes the stage, the message is received as dejected Young Thug fans stream toward the exits.

6:09 p.m.: British duo Gorgon City is serving up classic ‘90s garage and poppy house, energizing the sun-drenched mob at the HARDer Stage with melodious hits like “Ready for Your Love” and “Go All Night.” Announcing it’s their first show with a live band, singer Lulu James shines with her strong vocals and engaging stage presence.

6:51 p.m.: “Total buzzkill, dude,” mutters a disgruntled fan at the main stage when Schoolboy Q still hasn’t taken the stage despite a scheduled 6:25 start time. While diehards hold out hope, a noticeable number of them start drifting toward the exits to see what else is going on.

6:56 p.m.: A huge contingent has shown up to see Odesza, with the Seattle duo returning the favor with a charged-up set of their dreamy, danceable pop songs including “Say My Name” and remixes augmented with the occasional trap drop to keep the crowd on their toes.

7:07 p.m.: “It is not my fault why I came onstage late,” Schoolboy Q gripes to the crowd when he finally appears wearing a bright green dashiki and a sad face. “It’s my management’s fault, my DJ’s fault and the people who run the band’s fault. I’m having a very bad day, so I need y’all to cheer me up,” he explained before launching into “Collard Greens.” Running through his hits “Hands on the Wheel” and “Studio,” the rapper salvages what’s left of his set time, and despite his dour mood gets the sizable crowd of fans who waited it out to bounce along to his beats.

7:55 p.m.: Originally billed as “DJ Question Mark,” the surprise act on the main stage was DJ Snake, who turned up the delighted masses with a whiplash set of high-energy party hits, tearing through builds and drops with abandon. Mixing songs at lightning speed, snippets of Flosstradamus’ “Moshpit” and Valentino Khan’s “Bloodsucker” were among the whirlwind of tracks he hurled at the crowd.

8:12 p.m.: The Weeknd’s breakout year marches on, with R&B’s new star pulling one of the biggest and most fired-up audiences of HARD Summer’s opening day to the relatively intimate confines of the HARDer Stage. Sound issues are noticeable from the start of his set, with pockets of the crowd chanting “Louder!” Rolling out fan favorites like “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls,” “The Morning” and Drake collaborations “Crew Love” and “The Zone,” the audience energy explodes with newer songs “The Hills” and especially “Can’t Feel My Face,” which adds an entirely new wrinkle to The Weeknd’s sexually-charged show. The moment is so electric that his set-ending Fifty Shades of Grey hit “Earned It” feels almost anticlimactic.

9:10 p.m.: Porter Robinson is eliciting all of the feels on the main stage with his future-retro video game soundtracks, drawing heavily from his latest album, Worlds, with tracks like “Sad Machine” and “Flicker,” complete with plenty of pyrotechnics and full-on fireworks.

9:23 p.m.: The bass line of Rae Sremmurd’s “No Type” can be heard blasting from an overstuffed Purple Stage, with a mob of fans clamoring around the building unable to get in due to capacity.

9:34 p.m.: Dance music OGs the Chemical Brothers set it off with “Hey Boy Hey Girl,” charging through a blistering and dynamic set that stands out among the day’s most satisfying sets. Picking through their extensive catalog, founding member Tom Rowlands (Ed Simons is not performing on this tour) fires up Chems classics “Out of Control,” “Setting Sun” and “Star Guitar” from behind banks of gear and fog machines and particularly dazzling visuals. They also drop in new songs from the recently released Born in the Echoes album, including “Go” and “EML Ritual.”

10:27 p.m.: Hometown hero/Snapchat star/meme master Dillon Francis packs the main stage area for the last set of the night, mixing a slew of massive Moombahton tracks to his faithful flock that dance and crowd-surf to every drop. Grabbing the microphone, he tells his fans, “I’m playing all of this Moombahton for you.” Cranking out fan favorites like “Not Butter” and surprises like a remix of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” he pumps so much bass through the system that the speakers toward the back of the crowd cut out during his set. The crowd’s energy doesn’t diminish at all, and the first day of HARD Summer 2015 ends on a high note.

(Originally published on 8/2/2015)

(Photo: Erik Voake) 

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

CD REVIEW: Kid Cudi, "Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager"

(G.O.O.D./Dream On/Universal Records) Kid Cudi is one of hip-hop’s most curious cases. Snapped up by Kanye West soon after releasing his first mixtape, Cudi’s debut album MAN ON THE MOON: THE END OF THE DAY sounded like an inspired spin-off of West’s own paradigm-pushing 808S & HEARTBREAK. All maudlin melodies, moody atmosphere and Cudi’s introspective lyrics made for a murky brew that played like Pink Floyd for indie hip-hop stoners. But it was Cudi’s real-life antics that thrust him into pop consciousness at large; from getting thrown off of Lady Gaga’s tour for punching a fan to his arrest in Manhattan over drug and disturbances charges, his bad behavior has become constant tabloid fodder. Cudi addresses all of that and more on his dense, confessional sequel MAN ON THE MOON II: THE LEGEND OF MR. RAGER. Completely opening the floodgates of his sound, this album is even more self-indulgent than his debut — but it’s also a much better record for it. Spreading 17 tracks over four “acts,” the album veers from an obvious Weezer homage (“Erase Me,” featuring Kanye West) to inspired collaborations like the aptly titled “MANIAC” featuring the distinctive guitar playing of alt-rock hero St. Vincent and a guest rap from underground rapper Cage. It’s a dark and nuanced collection that solidifies Cudi’s position as rap’s new reigning tortured soul and reluctant emo king.

(originally published on

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


(Star Trak/Interscope) The line on NOTHING is that Pharrell Williams and N.E.R.D scrapped a finished album and simply started over. In any case, the stark militaristic cover and blatant political overtones of the album make it clear that there’s a message to be found in the music. The juxtaposition of simple party jams like “Party People” (featuring a verse from rapper T.I.) next to “The Man,” a cynical observation on how to opiate the masses, speaks volumes, as do the spacey acid-blues rants (“It’s in the Air,” “Help Me”) and bouncy, Ben Folds-styled piano-pop meditations on success (“Victory”). The dreamily melodic but too brief “Inside the Clouds” is a “hidden” track on the end of “I’ve Seen the Light” (there is full-length version worth tracking down). Somehow, the collaboration with electronic pioneers Daft Punk (the plodding “Hypnotize You”) ends up sounding like a missed opportunity. But it’s album highlight “Life As a Fish” that brings it all together into a blissfully sublime moment that invokes classic ‘60s pop acts like the Association and Classics IV. NOTHING is ample proof that N.E.R.D are fully capable of delivering music with the same quirky inventiveness that made their 2001 debut IN SEARCH OF such an instant classic.

(Originally published on

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Die Antwoord, "$O$"

Is it real? Or is it a very elaborate hipster joke? Those are the questions that lingered around South African outfit Die Antwoord when they first crashed the scene. From their manic mélange of old-school rave rhythms to the colloquialism-filled rhymes of rappers Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, their sound and aesthetic is insistently unusual. Still, the band’s culture collision runs surprisingly deep. Alluding to such obscure sounds as hip-house beats, South African “zef” culture and the ruthless machismo of gangster rap, Die Antwoord is so anti-cool it veers perilously close to parody. Blending lyrics English with lyrics sung in the Afrikaans language, songs like “Evil Boy” could fill most underground dance floors, even though it’s about forced male circumcision on pubescent boys in certain South African tribes. This major label version of $O$ is an update on a free album the band distributed digitally in 2009. New songs like “In Your Face” find the band’s production style maturing without losing their signature lawless energy. While only time will tell if their appeal can transcend their current of-the-moment buzz, it’s safe to say that Die Antwoord is definitely no joke.

(Originally published on

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No Age, "Everything in Between"

In 2010, the term “punk rock” has evolved into myriad meanings, each one depending on who’s doing the defining. For LA noise-punk duo No Age, it represents a fiercely independent DIY ethos that permeates everything they do. On their third full-length (and second for indie giant Sub Pop), the duo continue to steadily expand their sonic palette while creating more of their emo-tinged slabs of deceptively melodic mayhem. From the sunny Beach Boys aesthetics of “Life Prowler” to the college-radio-at-4am whirr of “Glitter,” it would be easy to say this is the band’s most accessible release to date. But it would also be true: Glossier production values don’t detract from the songs’ sneering defiance, which is never too far from the music’s surface. No Age even flirt with getting downright pretty on tunes like the dreamy, My Bloody Valentine homage “Positive Amputation” and “Chem Trails,” which is reminiscent of classic Sonic Youth. Evolving without losing sight of their roots in now-famous all-ages LA club the Smell, No Age are rightful heroes for a new generation of emerging indie rockers eager to really go their own way.

(Originally published on

Soundgarden, "Telephantasm"

Soundgarden was always among the more intriguing outfits of the early ‘90s rock generation. Their dichotomy of being cool, brainy guys that could rock you as hard as any mob of meatheads put them in an exclusive class. Frontman Chris Cornell was blessed with a testosterone-charged yowl comparable to Robert Plant, and just as pretty. Kim Thayill’s textured guitar playing leaned toward the sublime and substantive over flash. But it Soundgarden's ability to craft tight, explosive songs that made them famous. This comprehensive retrospective concentrates on the big hits like “Black Hole Sun,” but mixes in a few fan favorites to keep it interesting — like “Hunted Down,” a caustic down-tuned roar from their early Sub Pop era, which already hints at their expansive potential. The draw here for fans both old and new is “Black Rain,” a monstrous, previously unreleased song from their fertile BADMOTORFINGER era. But track for track, TELEPHANTASM is a fitting testament to the legacy of these rock legends.

(Originally published on

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Philip Selway, "Familial"

It’s easy for the casual Radiohead listener to get lost in the cult of Thom Yorke. Of course, a band so potent is going to consist of more than just one musical prodigy, and Radiohead is no exception — but a solo record from the drummer of any band is still going elicit more than its fair share of groans and rolling eyes. All of which makes Phil Selway’s achingly graceful solo debut that much more surprising. Granted, opening tracks “By Some Miracle” and “Beyond Reason” both boast a subtle swing and ghostly vocals that will feel familiar to fans of Selway’s day job. But it’s not long before the production flourishes and implied beats give way to good old-fashioned singer-songwriter lamentations, highlighted by Selway's elegant singing style. Tastefully understated contributions from Lisa Germano and members of Selway’s most recent tour-mates Wilco blend right into the melancholy, occasionally heartbreaking collection. Songs like “Falling” even invoke images of classic Simon & Garfunkel. It’s somehow fitting that it turns out to be the drummer who provides the softer side of Radiohead. — Scott T. Sterling

(Originally published on

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

M.I.A., "/\/\/\Y/\"

(N.E.E.T./Interscope) It’s impossible to talk about M.I.A.’s music without discussing her drama; she’s made sure of that. But Maya Arulpragasam has always swaggered around the music world like the most braggadocios of rappers. Where she once applied an artistic stroke to her propaganda-laden dance-pop, M.I.A.’s latest finds her crudely flying two middle fingers in the face of the same fashionable media that made her a culture star. Less songs and more dense blasts of digital noise designed for maximum impact, /\/\/\Y/\ is beyond reactionary. Like Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music,” /\/\/\Y/\ challenges you to like it. Couching what few melodies she grudgingly tosses out in swaths of effects and bass, M.I.A. makes it clear that she’s not here for your love or your money (“Cuz I got it,” she brags on “XXXO”). Given the corrosive crunch of tracks like “Meds and Feds” down to the eye-taxing cover art and stylized album title, it seems like she’d rather annoy you anyway. Even the lovers’ rock of “It Takes A Muscle” and 22nd century girl-group pop of “Tell Me Why” are pointy enough to go down hard. /\/\/\Y/\ is also among the most genuinely entertaining major label releases of 2010. Go figure. (Originally published on