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Author: "Kate B"

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Playing Dirty

Stephanie White and the Philth Harmonics

Stephanie White was one of the Top 21 female vocalists on American Idol season five, and though the New Jersey native didn’t make it as far as Taylor Hicks, it wasn’t for a lack of talent. White’s got the limber croon of a jazz chanteuse combined with a pop sensibility that makes her music appealing to the masses. With her band of merry musicians, the Philth Harmonics, the singer creates a gumbo of jazz, funk, ska, and even a little Caribbean. “Cheat On My BFFL” is a cautionary tale for jerk wads wrapped up in a party. The bass bubbles, the guitars strut, the horns bleat, and the girl sings a warning to men who mean her friends harm. Keep the party going with the sultry “Prove It” or the creeping jazz funk of “Trying To Dream For You.” Hey, Taylor Hickseat your heart out.

 

Divided We Fall

June Divided

The genesis story of June Divided isn’t that different from the vast majority of bands. Boy meets girl at college. Boy and girl write songs in dorm rooms. Boy and girl find drummer through Craigstlist; recruit college buddy on bass. But not every band immediately goes on to gigs at SXSW, Warped Tour, and mtvU. The velocity of June Divided’s career can be attributed to the band’s potent pop rock. Think Jimmy Eats world meets Thrice meets Paramore. On “Bullet” jagged guitars intersect with the candy-coated barb of singer Melissa Menago’s vocals. It’s a joyride through distortion and melody, meant to be cranked up and rocked out to. The adrenaline levels don’t dip in “Perfect Storm” where guitars are braided together, drums crash, and Menago’s plaintive voice reaches up into the firmament. “I think this might be the calm before the storm,” she sings. So do we.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Beyoncé remembers MJ on 3rd anniversary of death

Beyoncé may be a mom who moshes, but she’s also a mom who remembers. To honor the 3rd anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing, the singer posted a letter on her website, saying, “Michael Jackson changed me, and helped me to become the artist I am.” Read the whole thing here.

Lana Del Rey goes back to Camelot in “National Anthem”

In the video for “National Anthem,” Lana Del Rey reimagines what Camelot might be like if Jacqueline Kennedy got her nails did in Queens and JFK had more swag. The cinematic video features vintage looking shots of Del Rey and rapper A$AP Rocky sailing, playing on the beach with their children, and grinding on each other during cocktail receptions. Enjoy.

The Bad

Paris Hilton tries to DJ, fails

Paris Hilton debuted her new single, “Last Night” at a São Paulo club this week. But instead of playing the track, DJ Butterfingers played Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” Finally a real DJ stepped in to fix things while Hilton fist pumped a glitter mic. Somebody make it stop.

The Ugly

Nas pays tribute to failed marriage on new album cover

When Kelis and Nas split up back in 2009, all she left in the house was her wedding dress. Now Nas has used the frock as a prop on his album cover. Name of the record? “Life is Good.” Kelis responded that she thinks the cover is “awesome.” Now that’s how you play nice.

Ke$ha gets her lips inked

Do not, we repeat, DO NOT do as this tattoo instructs until you’ve gotten a tetanus shot.

Miscellany

 

Devil in the Details

Stateside

Stateside isn’t a band for the faint of heart. Made up of Mike Tarry, Chip Su, Jeff Meiers, Phil Zepeda, and Jeff Zager, the group crafts explosive hardcore that raises the hackles. “Bridges Worth Burning” combines serrated guitars, thunderous drums, and the guttural heaving of Tarry for polyrhythmic, bipolar screamo you can feel in your solar plexus. Like singers Mike Patton and Chester Bennington, Tarry tempers his barbaric bellows with melodic, plaintive singing. On “The Eve” surging guitars and drums create a tempest over which Tarry moans, “I’m wasting away.” But things aren’t always so bleak. “Make Your Move” is a motivational anthem about the city that never sleeps wrapped up in roiling guitars and semiautomatic drums. Maybe lyrics like “Broadway’s alive and calling me home” and hardcore make strange bedfellows, but even the devil gets to take a day off.

Early Risers

AM to AM

AM to AM is led by Will Tendy, a guitarist/songwriter/producer/engineer who’s manned the sound board for indie luminaries like Melissa Auf der Maur and Morningwood. But his skills at the console are just one of the many reasons AM to AM sounds so good. Tendy—along with bandmates Sarah Goldstone, Jonathan Schmidt, Peter Recine, and Derek McWilliams—builds dynamic, swaggering rockers layer by layer. “Spot of Light,” with its rhythmic lashings and high falsetto soul, makes for a jagged dance party. There’s a lot going on here—stomping drums, bluesy guitars, choppy keys, and big digital swaths of fuzz. But Tendy’s production chops bring all the elements working together for the common good. “Sew” and “Outline” set forth gunfire guitars, pummeling drums, and polyrhythms for intense, stylized melees. But if you want a kinder kind of lashing, skip to “Pop As Science” and see how one of their bubblier melodies can still hurt so good.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Justin Bieber’s Believe drops

Justin Bieber released his record Believe on Tuesday, which was immediately followed by an outbreak of Bieber fever. No one was safe, including Manhattan borough president Scott M. Stringer, who announced that Tuesday was to be known as “Justin Bieber Appreciation Day.” The ladies of The View and their teenage audience became faint when Biebs performed, and even Jimmy Fallon hallucinated a bit. Just in case you haven’t been infected, here’s the Biebs performing “Boyfriend” on The View.

Ryan Gosling sweats till he bleeds

Ermahgerd … Ryan Gosling in hammer pants thrusting his 10-year-old pelvis out to C + C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” … with his sister. Enjoy.

Soldier On

The Design

It takes a mighty presence to hold an arena-sized audience captive. And though Kat Robichaud, who fronts Raleigh-based band The Design, has spent the bulk of her career on smaller stages, she’s the kind of heavyweight performer who could shake the rafters of a stadium. Armed with a muscular contralto, the singer powers through theatrical rockers that harken back to the ‘80s. “Young America” is the soundtrack to defiance, a stomping gutter groove for those with their jaws firmly jutted out. But even protestors like to take things to the dance floor now and then, and “Sing, Girl, Sing” provides the chunky rock guitars, a funk bass line, and angular percussion to get things moving. Still, The Design is a band that thrives on dissent, and nowhere is their unrest more palatable than on “Burn”— a rallying cry sounded by syncopated drums and a salvo of gnarly guitars. “I will not be found wanting,” Robichaud warns. No, ma’am. Absolutely not.

Family Guyz

GoodGrandKidz

Life on the streets can make you grow up hard. But that’s no excuse not to be good to your grandmother. Chicago rap duo GoodGrandKidz, comprised of first cousins Adrian Boykin and E.J. Wilson, manage to go H.A.M. with no disrespect to their elders. In “BMF” they lay down the law, saying, “We the good grandkids but still some bad motherf—ers” over sighing synths and a trilling Spanish guitar loop. Good as they may be, they’ve got a little devil in them, proven by lyrics like, “OMG Jesus tweets? Tell him he should follow me.” “Midnight Dreamers” has the same haunting, jazzy vibe as Lupe Fiasco’s “Daydream,” complete with a powerhouse soul singer. But on “Much Higher” it’s The Doors’ “Light My Fire” that provides the inspiration. Over shrill blasts of brass the duo aim high, saying “I’m elevated like prayers.” Even if Jesus doesn’t follow them, you should.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Bonnaroo rocks again

Bonnaroo was this past weekend, and there were many moments that were to be expected: Radiohead was stunning, Eminem was fierce, Danzig tried to punch out a photographer. Then there were the surprises—The Root’s tribute to MCA, Alice Cooper performing “Born This Way” and, best of all, the return of D’Angelo. The R&B singer, who’s been out of the spotlight for 12 years, was introduced by ?uestlove during The Roots’ set, and took the audience through classics by Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, and Parliament. Watch him perform “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” below.

Glen Campbell, Josh Homme star in “A Better Place”

Glen Campbell’s video for “A Better Place” is nothing if not poignant. In it, the country singer, who is battling Alzheimer’s, flips through photos of his life, reminiscing about the good times as Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age hovers nearby. “A Better Place” is intended to be Campbell’s last video, and is the single off his final album Ghost On The Canvas. Just listen to the line “Some days I’m so confused Lord, my past gets in my way,” and try not to get teary-eyed. We failed.

The Bad

Lady Gaga strikes back

After being hit with a pole wielded by a backup dancer during her concert in Auckland and suffering a mild concussion and black eye, you’d think things get better for Lady Gaga. But NOOOOO, along comes Madonna with a couple of kicks to the singer while she’s down. Gaga responded to Madonna’s jabs during her Auckland concert—and she did it while PLAYING A KEYBOARD MOTORCYCLE, people! Check it out below. Oh, and Gaga, we think the black eye looks boss.

Coney Island high school bans patriotic song, not Bieber

George Washington is rolling over in his grave at this one. Greta Hawkins, principal of PS90 in Coney Island, banned kindergarteners from singing “Proud To Be An American” at their commencement ceremony, deeming the lyrics “too grown up.” But she let the class perform Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” naturally. You know, cause the lyrics “Are we an item / Girl quit playin’” are totally age-appropriate for a five year old.

The Ugly

Lauryn Hill in trouble for tax evasion

Did you want to know the whole story behind Lauryn Hill’s refusal to pay taxes for two years? Neither did we. But the singer felt compelled to write a meandering explanation on why she didn’t pay taxes on her $1.8 million income. If you feel like reading a bunch of bull, knock yourself out.

Kanye West chastises Dubliners

When Dubliners throw coins, Kanye West throws shade. The rapper stopped his show after discovering someone had thrown a coin up on stage, and then blamed the coin for messing up his flow, saying “Don’t throw no hard sh** onstage.” Yeah guys, only the soft variety, please.

Miscellany

Wild Things

Nemes

It’s no easy thing to be an original these days, but despite the bounty of artists out there, Nemes has managed to do just that. The Brighton, MA quintet has created a sound that takes listeners off the rails for a manic ride through blues, grass, and punk. On the swampy, junkyard environs of “Blues,” singers Dave Anthony and Josh Knowles bellow and bray over a squealing fiddle, declaring “Robert Johnson’s back and he walks in my shoes.” Even if their insidious blues mojo doesn’t literally raise the dead, it most definitely raises hackles. As guitars grind up clouds of distortion on “Beam in the Track,” a ukulele nimbly picks its way through. It’s that interplay between post-punk dissonance and old time music that makes Nemes akin to nothing else out there. But if you have to have a signpost, think of the band as a cross between Avett Brothers and Say Anything—a troupe of roughshod, wild-hearted melody makers with some serious amps.

 


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