• Foster The People

    Foster the People Settle for Modern-Pop Pastiche on the Bloated 'Supermodel'

    Raise your hand if you spent your 2011 Playa Del Carmen vacation driving up and down the Mexican Riviera listening to Foster the People's Torches. Anyone? Anyone? That was just me? OK, fine, but still: It was a pretty boss record, right? Not exactly something you're going to love and cherish for the rest of your days (no "Tenth Anniversary of Torches" features coming your way in 2021), but good the way a new Taco Bell menu item is good: old flavors re-imagined into something vibrantly new, art and science and focus groups collaborating on something spiritually empty yet delicious.Actually, I made up the focus-group thing; I have no idea if that happened. Still, it sounded like it did, given the record's perfectly balanced indie/dance/soul/pop equation.

  • Jay Z, Kanye West

    Jay Z and Kanye West's SXSW Concert Was Masterful but Predictable

    AUSTIN, Texas — Perhaps the biggest surprise about the Jay Z and Kanye West double-header at the Austin Music Hall on Wednesday night was its complete lack of surprises – no Beyoncé cameo, no Daft Punk appearance, no mention of a sequel to Watch the Throne, all of which were rumored. Not even the fact that Kanye was wearing a miniskirt was noteworthy: that shit's old hat by now. If I sound a little disappointed by the lack of bombshells, SXSW has only itself to blame. Over the years, the festival has conditioned us to expect the unexpected – Justin Timberlake has parachuted in, Lady Gaga is due to pop out of a giant Doritos bag any day now. Even Hova himself was a surprise guest the last time the duo performed here in 2011, during Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music showcase, for which Ye trotted out a full marching band.

  • Neil Young, Pono, SXSW

    Neil Young Pitches Pono Music Service at SXSW as Alternative to Digital 'Shit'

    When Neil Young tells you that there's something out of whack with the way you're listening to music, then you can't help but listen, which is what those of us who had assembled in the main hall of the Austin Convention Center were doing on Tuesday afternoon as the legendary rocker paced the stage, eerily resembling Steve Jobs during one of the Apple guru's famed keynotes."There was really something wrong," Young said, recounting the period in the '80s when the industry crossed over from analog to digital. "And it was that we were selling shit.

  • Skrillex at The Independent, San Francisco, February 3, 2014 / Photo by Tom Tomkinson

    Skrillex (and Dave Chappelle) Staged a Bay Area Takeover

  • Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon / Photo by Getty Images

    Sun Kil Moon Drop 5,000-Plus Words of Sad-Bastard Knowledge on the Balls-Out, All-In 'Benji'

    We already knew a decent amount about Mark Kozelek — the insanely prolific, inimitably morose frontman for the legendary Red House Painters and now Sun Kil Moon, a man whose oeuvre includes full-LP tributes to both AC/DC and Modest Mouse, who has acted in Steve Martin's Shopgirl and Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, who's not shy when it comes to expressing grievances about his critics or fans or ex-girlfriends — but now we really know him.We know which of his family members has died, and in two grisly cases, exactly how. We know his friends from the old neighborhood in Massillon, Ohio: Mark and Brett and Rick Stanyon. We know he's got a gut, and that lately his prostate's been buggin' him, that he pees too much, that his "first fuck" was a girl named Maryanne, that he loves his dad and is going to be inconsolable when his 76-year-old mom passes away.

  • Warpaint at Union Pool, Brooklyn, January 17, 2014 / Photo by Chad Kamenshine

    Warpaint Walk the Fine Line Between 'Hypnotic' and 'Snoozy' on Album No. 2

    The first and last time I saw Spiritualized — seated in the balcony of Hollywood's Palace Theatre on November 12, 1997, during the Ladies & Gentleman We Are Floating in Space tour — I fell asleep. My friends razzed me accordingly, and with good reason: This was freakin' Spiritualized in 1997, arguably at the height of their powers. How could anyone nod off in the presence of such next-level exploratory ambient shoegaze post-punk radicalness? All these years later, Warpaint's lovely and harrowing sophomore album suggests an answer: There is a fine line between sleep and hypnosis, between faded and fading, and if as a band you choose to exist on that line, you risk leaving your listeners dozing instead of dazed.Now, Warpaint, though a bit noodly and navel-gazing, are nonetheless well-respected. Formed in 2004, they gigged around L.A.

  • beats

    Is Beats Music All It's Cracked Up to Be?

    Imagine your favorite song; now ask yourself why it's your favorite. Some reasons are quantifiable — the musical key, the genre, the tempo, the release date, the instrumentation, and anything else you can train a computer to measure — and others aren't, such as what you were doing the first (or last) time you heard it. You also "discovered" that song, somehow — via the radio, via a blog, via friends and loved ones — and shared that discovery with friends and loved ones in turn. Let's call this whole shebang your experience of music, the process responsible for the emotional connection to this thing you love and cherish.Now guess what? That emotional connection — it's missing! You've lost it!

  • Chvrches at Fox Theater, Oakland, California, November 17, 2013 / Photo by Wilson Lee

    Preaching to the Converted: Chvrches Kick Off Tour in Oakland

  • Cut Copy / Photo by Michael Muller

    Cut Copy Indulge the Banal, Vapid Side of '90s House on the Constricting 'Free Your Mind'

    It's not a good sign when a band's new record reminds you of a band you used to really like, and it's the same band. It's been about two years since Cut Copy hit us with their third album, Zonoscope, a 2011 year-end favorite and rightly so: The thing was voracious and gleefully vertiginous, as likely to wink in the direction of Men at Work as at a peak-hour 21st-century dance floor. Moreover, it cemented this Australian outfit's rep as a synth-pop band par excellence, one that might eventually deserve a spot on the genre's Mount Rushmore alongside Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, and, I dunno, Erasure.But man, two years feels like a long time ago.Kinda sorta about cults or something, Free Your Mind takes nine jams and five tracks of trippy dialogue snippets to accomplish in 50 minutes what the Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds" did in eight, in 1990.

  • Cults perform at Capitol Hill Block Party 2013

    Cults' 'Static' Is a Forward-Thinking Breakup Record That Actually Respects Itself, and You

    It's hard to move forward if you can't make sense of the past, whatever set of events led you from love to loss: his night moves, her suspicious mind, someone's annoying back tattoo. Thus do NYC duo Cults find themselves stuck in the middle with us on their sophomore album, a dissolving-romance chronicle that refuses to let go: "I wind up all the old clocks / So I can say we never missed a beat."Get me out of here, take me back: That's breaking up in a nutshell, and Cults till this soil multiple ways. Take the sonics of Static. In the rearview mirror, there's the Wall of Sound familiar to fans of Cults' self-titled 2011 debut: reverberated, adenoidal vocals; twinkling bells and chimes; resplendent guitars; tremulous organs that evoke the Beach Boys; playful rhythms that evoke the beach.

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