Charles Aaron



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    My Morning Jacket Deliver Brilliant Bonnaroo Set

    For generations in the South, one little-discussed ritual of youth has had a persistent influence -- the ceremonial cranking of southern rock (ironically or not) in your parents' car while driving to the laser light show. Kids emerge puffed up with Skynyrd's righteously surly swagger yet are immediately immersed in a futuristic fluorescent constellation, pulsing and swirling to Pink Floyd's melancholy soundscapes or the Who's explosive bluster. It can be convulsive and goofy and transcendent; and it's the closest corollary I can muster for My Morning Jacket's headlining set at Bonnaroo's What Stage on Friday night. In four previous Bonnaroo performances, MMJ earned a rep for three-and-a-half-hour barefoot hootenannies, producing some of the festival's more florid, riff-roaring memories.

  • Urge Overkill, 'Rock & Roll Submarine' (UO)

    Urge Overkill, 'Rock & Roll Submarine' (UO)

    Against looonnng odds, Urge Overkill's first album since 1995's pooch-screw Exit the Dragon isn't horrific, but considering the satiric/horrific chalk line they've always sloshed across, that's just semantics. The original alt-rock hucksters (sorry, Weiland!), who taught the Darkness how to snort serious rails of irony, are back with a sinister purpose. Calcifying their trademark lounge leer into a dead-eyed glare, singer-guitarists Nash Kato and Ed "King" Roeser ply curdled Bad Company riffs and a seedy, confessional air, serving up shit cocktails to anyone foolish enough to swallow '90s nostalgia. Scary.

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    'Mess With Texas' Megashow Helps Close out SXSW

    It was no stunner that Ted Leo, punk-ethos lifer and reluctant interlocutor in South By Southwest's music-industry minstrel show, provided the most cutting epilogue to this year's cluster of the fucked: "I'm not impressed with your desire to be the biggest in the bowl," he sang on "The Sword in the Stone," at the fifth MWTX (Mess With Texas) party in a dusty, bi-level trailer park in East Austin. "You'll still just be a little shit in a world that's just a big shithole." Despite the music biz scaling down, or maybe because of it, there was no shortage of smalltime hustlers scamperingg around Austin this year, trying to play the self-appointed mogul game. "The Sword in the Stone" wasn't the only song in his set that felt relevant to pressing issues.

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    SXSW's Best Foxy Girl Group: Puro Instinct

    As the Isley Brothers' cinematic wet kiss "Between the Sheets" faded down (at the buzzkillingly named Klub Krucial), Los Angeles indie-pop troupe Puro Instinct launched into their own hypnotic brand of bratty pillow talk. The band is led, and almost entirely defined, by the unavoidably blond swagger and Pretty Poison preociousness of the Kaplan sisters, Piper and Skylar.

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    The Strokes Cause Fireworks at Free SXSW Show

    Being partially jaded and partially giddy before the Strokes' free show at Auditorium Shores Stage Thursday night -- their second of the year supporting new album Angles and their first at South By Southwest since a 2001 showcase -- was a reasonable frame of mind. No band's music ever embodied those opposing emotions better, with singer Julian Casablancas' lopsided, slouching swagger alternatively mocking and clinging to his bandmates' exuberant edit of '90s lo-fi indie-rock.

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    LISTEN: 10 Post-Dubstep Artists Who Matter

    With the tense, negative-space drama of his eponymous debut album haunted by his own palpably vulnerable voice, James Blake has played the coy illusionist, transforming dubstep - perhaps the most doggedly hermetic dance music of the past decade - into a potentially open-ended haven for a new generation of singer-songwriters. Canny trick, sure.

  • Kurt Vile, 'Smoke Ring for My Halo' (Matador)

    Kurt Vile, 'Smoke Ring for My Halo' (Matador)

    Kurt Vile has rock's most believable sneer. When on his fourth album the Philly singer-songwriter confesses to being "a puppet to the man" and that his life's been "one long running gag," his voice slithers into every corner of defiance and resignation, earning your trust with that insistent lip-curl of brutal everydude humility. Having inhaled the obliquely fucked hauteur of the Stooges/Neil Young/ J Mascis axis, Vile frames his own more hushed musings with alternately anxious and serene guitar. But thanks to John Agnello's warm, enveloping production, Smoke Ring for My Halo feels almost suspenseful. "Christ was born / I was there," Vile intones, as if he's about to confide a mystery of the universe.

  • Joell Ortiz, 'Free Agent' (E One)

    Joell Ortiz, 'Free Agent' (E One)

    Brooklyn's Pillsbury corner boy (and Slaughterhouse member) pops fresh rhymes about project life's ills with such high-spirited, ingloriously precise detail that he renders voyeurism unseemly -- hence his limited commercial appeal. The title of this re-recorded version of his leaked second album (featuring a half-dozen new tracks) refers to a scrapped deal with Dr. Dre's Aftermath imprint, and Free Agent rolls its shoulders with a froggy local-hero smirk. Producers DJ Premier and Just Blaze, and guest bullies the L.O.X. and Fat Joe, fuel the pissy-staircase East Coast ambience.

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    Radiohead's 'King of Limbs': 9 Thoughts on 8 Tracks

    Editor's Note: Like the rest of the world, SPIN was surprised by the Feb. 18 release of King of Limbs, the new studio record from Radiohead, which was supposed to arrive Feb. 19. Our proper review is here, but while the album was still brand new, SPIN music editor Charles Aaron obliged the band's penchant for defying critics with unpredictably immediate release dates by framing the album in nine separate, nearly-Twitter-sized thoughts. Of all bands whose work the Internet has equipped us to respond to instantly, Radiohead is perhaps the most absurdly inappropriate. Everything the Yorke/Greenwood Think Tank produces is about instrumental/studio nuance and fractured/insinuated emotion that's difficult to place or understand or connect with on just a few listens.

  • Saigon, 'The Greatest Story Never Told' (Suburban Noize)

    Saigon, 'The Greatest Story Never Told' (Suburban Noize)

    To win in New York hip-hop, you gotta embody brash triumph against stacked odds; scrappy runners-up only earn affectionate shrugs. Burly Brooklyn ex-con Saigon once thought that he could win like Biggie or Jay-Z (or at least Jadakiss); but his label, Atlantic, balked, and tied up his 2007 debut album. Now freed, and executive produced by Just Blaze, Greatest Story pounds and sways with teary defiance, testifying for lives proscribed by broken homes, petty crime, and prison. It also boasts one of the aughts' fiercest nonhit singles, "Come on Baby" (which samples J. Geils and features Jay-Z). Saigon deserves more than a shrug.

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