Chris Martins

writer

Biography

  • 101213-gorillaz-1.jpg

    Live Show of the Year: Gorillaz

    Imagine witnessing hip-hoplegends De La Soul trading rhymes over the jabs and swells of a live string septet. Or Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori bopping around with the Clash's Paul Simonon and Mick Jones. Or the gaunt, sage face of Snoop Dogg, four stories tall and waxing philosophical from a massive screen suspended above a blazing brass section, plus the string septet, plus Simonon and Jones, and plus countless other joyous onstage noisemakers. "It's like a juggernaut once it starts," says Damon Albarn, musical mastermind behind Gorillaz. The peculiar pop project he and illustrator Jamie Hewlett founded 12 years ago in a shared London flat has grown from a virtual band of comic-book characters to a traveling spectacle of Barnumesque proportions. "There's no stopping it," says Albarn. "The magic is in the way it mesmerizes, brings you into its world." He's not exaggerating.

  • 101213-kroq-1.jpg

    Florence, Pumpkins, Black Keys Rock KROQ Xmas

    For 21 years, Los Angeles' alt-rock radio stalwart KROQ has thrown the holiday ball to end all. Set at the Gibson Amphitheater, which itself is seated within the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, the annual two-day gala is a destination trip for some and a local holiday for many. Perhaps unique to Almost Acoustic Christmas, festival organizers are, well, organized, turning talent around, quite literally, at an amazing pace thanks to a huge rotating stage. Set lists are kept tight and just about everyone's a potential headliner -- with 19 bands playing in less than 12 hours total, beer and bathroom breaks at strictly at your own risk.

  • Kanye West, 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' (Roc-A-Fella)

    Kanye West, 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' (Roc-A-Fella)

    After recording an album-length, Auto-Tuned sigh, Kanye West is ready to celebrate again, but not in the way we've come to expect. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy isn't idly titled. It's a sinister, orchestral, hugely grandiose affair that owes as much to the artist's self-aggrandizing ego as to the voracious id that would destroy it publicly. Exhibit A: West to album cover portraitist George Condo: "Look, I'ma let you finish, but can you make me look even douchier?" A princely narcissist among narcissists, West has never been afraid to marvel at, pose questions to, or generally bask in the inner folds of his psyche, but there was only one way to interpret the early message sent by "Runaway." He was calling himself an asshole, in the chorus of an epic, piano-driven, ear-worming single. Fantasy is filled with similar moments, as if West is working from a checklist of his faults.

  • 101112-das-racist-2.jpg

    Breaking Out: Das Racist

    Some groups want to be loved. Others aim to split public opinion. Das Racist take a third path. "We strive for alienation," says Himanshu Suri, a.k.a. Heems, the Brooklyn rap trio's talkiest member. "If we're just polarizing, then we're not very good at what we're trying to do." Exactly what it is Das Racist are trying to do has been debated since early 2009. That's when the goofily magnetic "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," Heems and fellow MC Victor "Kool A.D." Vazquez's track about dudes struggling to figure out which fast-food joint they're in, became an online sensation. The song inspired myriad covers and the video racked up more than a million YouTube and Vimeo plays.

  • The Russian Futurists, 'The Weight's on the Wheels' (Upper Class)

    The Russian Futurists, 'The Weight's on the Wheels' (Upper Class)

    On new single "Hoeing Weeds Sewing Seeds," Russian Futurists leader Matthew Hart swears "to repair things that are broke," and indeed, the song tunes his lo-fi to hi, stripping down the usual bedroom symphonics and cuing up the power synths. It's the sugary stuff that the Ontario popster has always aimed for, but it's not the only sound on his fourth album. There's Books-like cut-and-paste on "Walk With a Crutch" and a mix of AM radio glaze and new jack swing on "100 Shopping Days 'Til Christmas." Hart continues to experiment, ensuring that his wide smile never gets tiresome.

  • Blank Dogs, 'Land and Fixed' (Captured Tracks)

    Blank Dogs, 'Land and Fixed' (Captured Tracks)

    Brooklyn's Mike Sniper completes a proper metamorphosis with his third album, shedding the cocoon of skronk that enveloped his past to become, well, something quite beautiful. Opener "Goes By" gets right to it: an upbeat sound built from a bubbling bass line, handclaps, crisply rattling guitars, and sunny synth sequences. Sniper's voice still sags and drags, but Land and Fixed is remarkably feel-good, even when channeling the Cure via the Breakfast Club bounce of "Blurred Tonight" or Joy Division on cold-wave throbber "Collides." Simply put, another noisenik gets his wings.

  • Matt & Kim, 'Sidewalks' (Fader)

    Matt & Kim, 'Sidewalks' (Fader)

    Approaching a new Matt & Kim album is like driving up to the gates of a Christian summer camp -- the blithe, loving embrace that awaits is, to a nonbeliever, as creepy as it is alluring. But since 2009's Grand, the Brooklyn indie power couple have proven that the propulsive chutzpah of their live show can transform their recordings' synth-pop buoyancy. By way of studio bigness -- and even more sing-along choruses -- Sidewalks at last fully translates that in-person oomph. The unexpected tuba honk and Southern hip-hop swagger of first single "Cameras" isn't a red herring. Though Matt sticks to high, sugary melodies and Pollyannaish boasts -- "Shoe strings tend to break / But they tie back together great," on "Where You're Coming From" -- Sidewalks' best tracks trade Kim's punk drumming for handclaps, sleigh bells, and bassy kicks.

  • 101019-mt-desolation-1.jpg

    Keane Side Project Mt. Desolation Starts Tour

    On Monday night at Los Angeles' Hollywood Palladium, Mt. Desolation played its first U.S. gig ever -- the kickoff to the band's current tour, in part, opening for Mumford & Sons. But it was hardly the players' first trip stateside. As the plaid-spackled, sold-out crowd was aware, this was the Americana outfit founded by two members of the very English MOR act Keane. "Far from home, I been wanderin' on my own," sang Jesse Quin on the saloon stomper "Platform 7." That sentiment could've rung true for Mt. Desolation in all the wrong ways, but Quin and Tim Rice-Oxley, Keane's bassist and pianist, respectively, sounded perfectly at home performing their twangy originals.

  • 101011-chiddy-bang.jpg

    Breaking Out: Chiddy Bang

    Selling weed brownies to buy food at the dining hall, cutting class to be in the studio, and missing exams to play parties in New York City." That's how rapper Chidera "Chiddy" Anamege describes his college experience, which means it's a good thing he and Noah Beresin, a.k.a. Xaphoon Jones, the beat-making half of lovably cocksure Philly duo Chiddy Bang, found a nonacademic way to make higher learning count. Chiddy, 19, a former business major who developed his flow freestyling on the streets of Newark, New Jersey, and Xaphoon, 20, who worked as a gopher for local recording studios before pursuing a music industry degree, met as Drexel University freshmen in 2008.

  • 101008-the-cool-kids-1.jpg

    The Cool Kids Perform with Travis Barker

    If the crowd of Cool Kids fans and sneaker aficionados at Los Angeles' Music Box theater didn't see Travis Barker coming, it was because they still had their 3-D specs on. The pop-out video for the Barker/Cool Kids collaboration "Jump Down" had just been given its world premiere, and as the drop-down screen rose, the confetti cannons blasted. The Blink-182 drummer returned fire, in real life this time, as Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks ripped through the new song. It was a cherry moment, but all too brief. Though Barker's name was on the marquee outside, this would be his lone appearance, as a top-off to a strong set from the Chicago rap duo, who performed a handful of unreleased songs to the hungry audience. The video itself was less than stunning -- depicting a pretty mellow day in Venice Beach, and just barely 3-D -- and the three-hour lead-up included a lot of bad local rap.

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