Chris Martins



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    Smashing Pumpkins Lean on Classics in L.A.

    Quasar, /?kwâ?zär/, noun: 1. "A massive and extremely remote celestial object, emitting exceptionally large amounts of energy, and typically having a star-like image" (Google). 2. The name of the new song the Smashing Pumpkins opened with at their sold-out tour kickoff at Los Angeles' Wiltern Theatre. 3. Useful shorthand for describing Chicago alterna-rock legend Billy Corgan with (or without) his band. Freeze frame on a moment about an hour into the group's 20-odd-song set. They've just crushed a true-to-form resurrection of "Frail and Bedazzled" from 1994's b-sides collection Pisces Iscariot, closing with a fierce guitar duel that careened from thrashing jags into blistering harmonics out to transcendent squeal.

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    We Survived Odd Future's Insane U.S. Tour Kickoff

    San Diego's House of Blues was packed by 8 p.m., sold out and stuffed full of rowdy fans anticipating the arrival of Odd Future, there to kick off their first headlining North American tour. The stage was empty and the house music low, but that didn't stop anybody who wanted to from crowd-surfing, throwing shit and shouting like they were experiencing the apex of a Sex Pistols gig. Several chants were attempted -- Wolf Gang! Golf Wang! Free Earl! Fuck Chris Brown! Swag! -- often at the same time from different sections of the crowd.

  • Jens Lekman, 'An Argument With Myself' (Secretly Canadian)

    "Shut up! / No, you shut up!" sings fey Swedish popster Jens Lekman to/at himself on his new EP's title track. It's the first release since 2007's intensely precious masterstroke Night Falls Over Kortedala, and he seems conflicted. Said schizo musings are set to tropical guitar and percussion fit for Gloria Estefan's "Conga," while closer "So This Guy at My Office" sounds like Jonathan Richman covering Bob Marley -- feats of strange merit, but awkward fits for his detailed lyrical screeds. The real triumph is "Waiting for Kirsten," a bucolic strummer that turns a tale of stalking Ms. Dunst through Gothenburg into a treatise on free health care.

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    Das Racist Get Wild at Hometown Tour Kickoff

    Toward the end of Das Racist's sold-out hometown gig at New York City's Bowery Ballroom, on the eve of the release of the group's first commercial LP, Relax, something truly strange happened. Kool A.D. reclined into the crowd, rapped a verse from his back while doing a lap in his fans' hands, and was propped back up onstage as three male dancers scantily clad in fur and feathers arrived and executed some sort of tribal ballet to the jittery Bollywood beat of the new single, "Michael Jackson." It was goofy and impressive and more than a little awkward -- the latter part owing both to the suddenness of the act, and the fact that the men were black, dressed in aboriginal garb and dancing between Das Racist and a screen streaming footage of Blaxploitation archetype Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.

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    Kreayshawn and V-Nasty Crush Hollywood

    When the curtains opened on The Roxy's stage for Kreayshawn's sold-out Hollywood gig Saturday night, the already ecstatic audience was greeted with footage of the Oakland rapper's increasingly familiar face. Over a doom-dipped, chopped, and screwed version of her other web hit "Bumpin Bumpin" (a measly 3.4 million views compared to the 13.5 amassed by "Gucci Gucci"), her image chatted into the camera, mean-mugged, and grinned, and wore a handful of different expressions, jewels and hair styles all obviously aiming (pandering perhaps) for the iconic. No doubt for most of the crowd, this was the only way the YouTube star had previously existed: in 2-D, sometimes grainy, sometimes in focus, always oddly photogenic in a junk culture, ironic thrifting, general loudness kind of way.

  • Nero, 'Welcome Reality' (MTA)

    Nero, 'Welcome Reality' (MTA)

    "I don't know where we're going," coos Alana Watson on this English dubstep duo's single "Guilt"; but that's just a setup for the air-sucking dropout and explosion of ugly, bass-driven bluster that follows. Watson gives Nero's robotic skronk a rare injection of humanity, and the U.K. producers are smart enough to build most of their debut full-length around her husky voice, skipping the sampled spasticity of Skrillex in favor of Daft Punk's melodic big beat ("Doomsday"), '80s-inspired electro-pop ("Crush"), and stadium-sized mash-ups of squealing guitar and windy synths ("Me & You").

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    Breaking Out: Givers

    When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Givers singer Tiffany Lamson had just started her freshman year at the University of New Orleans. She'd moved away from Lafayette, Louisiana, where she'd sung in the church band (her father was the pastor), only to see her new apartment and all her belongings drowned in 15 feet of water. Fittingly, considering Givers' penchant for joyous pop, Lamson saw the experience as a positive. "It was awesome to be smacked in the face with that," she says. "It changes your perspective." It also helped start the band. Lamson's friend Taylor Guarisco, another Lafayette native, had been playing bass in zydeco ensembles. With school on hold and nowhere to live, the two returned home with little to do. So they started making music.

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    Red Hot Chili Peppers Rock Big Sur

    On Wednesday night, Red Hot Chili Peppers debuted new songs to an intimate audience under the stars in Big Sur, California. Their appearance at the Henry Miller Library was announced only three hours before the band took the stage, and it was free for the 300 lucky fans and friends who made it through the worn wooden gate. Rounded out by guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who replaced John Frusciante, as well as a percussionist and keyboardist, RHCP performed five songs from their long-awaited, Rick Rubin-produced tenth album I'm With You (due out August 30), interspersed with a handful of crowd-pleasing classics. "We got new songs, we got old songs in the deadhead redwoods out here," said Anthony Kiedis cooly, wearing a tuxedo jacket and an OFF! trucker cap. A towering pine behind him was lit by a pink strobe. The air smelled green and felt damp.

  • MellowHype, 'BlackenedWhite' (Fat Possum)

    "Odd Future wolves ain't some passive artists," ?raps Hodgy Beats on "Brain," and it's not a ?hollow boast. The Los ?Angeles crew may be anarchic and insular, but this duo have retooled their 2010 second album, BlackenedWhite, to solicit converts. Producer Left Brain breaks ground on bangers that stitch ambient electronica to cracked G-funk, while Hodgy sports the casual swag of Wiz Khalifa or Lil Wayne, with ?a less cringe-worthy sense of humor than his peers. Hell, the Tyler, the Creator -- featuring "F666 the Police" actually makes calling out the cops sound fun again.

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    Breaking Out: Sleeper Agent

    The story behind Sleeper Agent's raucous single "Get It Daddy" says a lot about the Kentucky rowdies. Singer-guitarist Tony "Tutone" Smith, 24, explains: "A friend of ours was having, um, intercourse with this ?really attractive girl he'd just met, when she yelled, 'Get it, daddy!' It weirded him out so bad he had ?to stop." Turning an in-joke into a raunchy sing-along is just one of the band's myriad charms. Smith and drummer Justin "Keyser" Wilson, 24, founded Sleeper Agent in 2008 as a way to earn bar money in their native Bowling Green. "It's a ?college town without much to do, so people show up no matter who's ?playing," says Smith. Meanwhile, his eventual female foil, Alex "Kidd" ?Kandel, was testing out her powerful pipes on Adele covers at local coffee shops.

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