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Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Is fun. Having Fun Yet?

First things first—while the official spelling of the band’s name is fun., with a lowercase “f” and a period at the end, the New York trio can not be held entirely accountable for the highly stylized nature of their moniker. According to multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dost, it was a decision born of pragmatism, not petulance. “We thought of the name ‘Ice Cream,’ but we all hated it,” he says of the name’s origin. “However, we liked what it made us think of, which was ‘fun.’ The period was added after another band called ‘fun’ asked us to distinguish ourselves from them in some way.”

But their name isn’t the only thing that might lead to misconceptions about fun.—there’s also their label, Fueled By Ramen, which is best known for bringing the world an avalanche of emo, with a roster encompassing Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Yellowcard, et al. But aside from a predilection for wearing their hearts on their sleeves, fun. possesses few of the musical traits one commonly associates with the emosphere. In fact, the group seems to stand apart from most of the pack when it comes to the current crop of high-profile indie-pop acts in general. Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Is fun. Having Fun Yet?’

Sound And Vision: Six Artists I Love Although I Know I’m Not Supposed To

Most of us probably would be loathe to admit it out loud, but we all have them: Singers and bands we love in spite of everybody else. They create music to our ears, while to those who consider themselves highbrow connoisseurs of cool, they’re incurably uncool. I’d call these acts “guilty pleasures,” but when it comes to the music I listen to, I don’t believe in shame.

Jennifer Lopez Don’t judge. And don’t write off Love?, Lopez’s 2011 pop comeback. It’s a lot better than the title. All these months after she debuted the video from her judge’s perch on American Idol, “On the Floor” still never fails to take me there, and “I’m Into You,” the follow-up single, deserved so much more than a No. 41 peak on Billboard’s Hot 100. The other day, my iPod landed on Lopez’s first hit, “If You Had My Love” (No. 1 in 1999), and I didn’t press skip. In fact, I hit repeat. Twice. Carp about her thin vocals all you want, but if you’re a pop fan and you say you haven’t gotten swept up in her groove at least once—most likely thanks to the aforementioned “On the Floor,” or  ”Jenny from the Block,” perhaps her greatest hit—I’d say you’re probably lying.

Enya Back in college I worked in a record store, and one day I faced an angry customer who had requested something similar to Enya and was recommended Kate Bush by one of my colleagues. She bought it, tried it, hated it. If only my clueless co-worker had known that nothing compares to Enya. She’s lumped into the new-age category—home of Yanni (yikes!)—and her songs often are dismissed as music for insomniacs because of it. But stay awake and listen: Her potpourri of Irish folk, choral music and gospel, with occasional flourishes of tribal and world music, sometimes tense, sometimes soothing, is so much more than anodyne pop.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Six Artists I Love Although I Know I’m Not Supposed To’

The Moonwalk For The Modern Age

Walk The Moon

There comes a time in life when you just gotta let go of your prejudgments and rock out to some keytar. Walk The Moon is dedicated to ushering in that time. Over and over again. The Cleveland band crafts soulful synth rock in the vein of XTC, ELO and Squeeze. It’s music that’s as stylish as it is reckless, inciting sweaty dance parties of youth in fedoras and skinny jeans. “Stone Cold Fox” is a kinetic theater of sighing stringed instruments, keytar zaps and heart attack drums. “Angeline” is a full-on party with a diverse cast of characters. The bass saunters sexily, the strings glide mournfully, and the keys cheerfully bubble over everything. Multiple personalities make for some killer art. However dysfunctional they may seem on paper, Walk The Moon’s protean melodies are always triumphant. Next time you want to throw down with some throw-back party music, you’ll know where to go.

Will the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 Right Old Wrongs Or Make New Ones?

Another year, another batch of deserving, long-overdue and not-so-worthy nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This cycle, the biggest mystery doesn’t involve the ones they omitted but the legend they finally got around to recognizing. After 22 years of eligibility, Neil Diamond made the short list for the first time.

What took them so long?

Steely Dan, John Mellencamp and ZZ Top—great acts all and all short of legendary— already have secured their Hall of Fame spots, and the powers that be in Cleveland are just getting around to noticing the glaring absence of Diamond? I love the video for “Legs” as much as any child of the ’80s, but in what universe does the ZZ Top songbook hold up to that of the guy who wrote such classics as “I’m a Believer,” “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” and “Red Red Wine”?

As for his fellow first-time nominee Bon Jovi (Alice Cooper, Donovan and Dr. John also made their short list debuts), sure they had a lot of hits and continue to sell respectably, but have they influenced any kid with a guitar and a song in his (or her) heart since hair metal went out of fashion? Oh, and where are the nods for Electric Light Orchestra and Roxy Music, a band that helped define ’70s glam rock while paving the way for the New Romantic movement led by super ’80s groups like Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran?

Did the ELO and Roxy nods go to LL Cool J, a surprise nominee (to me) who is barely in his 40s? He started out with a big bang in the mid ’80s for sure, and he was rap’s first solo star, but the quality of his output went into steep decline after “Mama Said Knock You Out,” as he became more hitmaker than visionary. Now he seems to have set aside his creative pretensions in favor of a comfortable middle age on prime-time TV as the star of NCIS: Los Angeles. Though he deserves to be demerited for going from gangsta to hack, I’d let him in over Bon Jovi and Donovan, but only if Beastie Boys, nominated for the second time, get in too.

The late Laura Nyro is also a return nominee for inclusion into the (mostly) boys club, and I’d say it’s time to let her in when the Class of 2011 inductees are announced in December and feted at the ceremony next March 14th. Ditto the queen of disco Donna Summer, a second-time nominee. But where pray tell are the nominations for Linda Ronstadt, who helped define mainstream rock in the ’70s and has been eligible since 1994, and Dionne Warwick, a ’60s legend without whom the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songbook might be just another bunch of songs? (Maybe the latter’s psychic friends can look into it.) Dusty Springfield had to die to get in in 1999. Let’s hope the Hall of Fame doesn’t make the same mistake (twice) again.

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.


Discourse & Dischord

The Good

The xx win the Mercury Prize

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Mercury Prize, it’s an annual music award for the best album from the UK and Ireland. This year it went to The xx—and in case you’re unfamiliar with them, they are a trio of black-clad musicians who write muted, muffled songs about desire. The group beat out Paul Weller, Villagers, Mumford & Sons and a slew of other excellent Brit rockers for the top honors, winning $31,000 and all sorts of indie cred.

Eminem and Jay-Z rock Motor City with friends

Hip hop equations rarely get better than this: Slim Shady plus Hova, 50 Cent, Drake, B.o.B., Jeezy and Dr. Dre equals one explosive, expletive-riddled, concert. It all went down in Detroit last week at Comerica Park, where 40,000 ecstatic fans showed up to welcome Eminem back to his hometown. Part one of the two-city Home and Home Tour, Eminem and Jay-Z will next hit Yankee Stadium on September 13-14 to show Hova’s native city some love.

The Bad

T.I. and wife arrested on felony drug charges

Fresh out of jail, rapper T.I. wasted no time breaking the law. Last week he and his new wife, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle were arrested on the Sunset Strip in L.A. after officers found controlled substances, including ecstasy, in their car after a routine traffic stop. Still on probation from his felony weapons charge last year, T.I. could go back to prison if convicted of drug possession. The king is back … in trouble.

Kanye West makes lengthy Twitter apology

Kanye West proved this week that he’s just as verbose with his apologies as he is with his self-glorification. The rapper took to Twitter to say “sahhry” for shutting down Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV VMA’s last year. Quoth Kanye “I wish I could talk to every hater face to face and change there [sic] opinion of me one conversation at a time. I wish they could accept that I’ve grown and only want to do good for the world. I want to help as many people as I can.” The series of Tweets ended with “I’m sorry Taylor.” We think contrite suits him, don’t you?

The Ugly

Morrissey insults 1.3 billion people


In an interview with The Guardian, rock legend Morrissey tapped into his inner (or maybe outer) xenophobe when discussing animal rights in China, igniting a media frenzy. Here’s the quote:

“Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can’t help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies.”

Hmm, not sure why anyone would be offended by his statement. And yes, that was sarcasm.

Miscellany

FROM THE CMJ RELAY ARCHIVES: OURSTAGE PICKS VOL. 5

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Welcome to our fifth installment featuring CMJ’s OurStage Staff Picks from the CMJ Relay Blog. CMJ is well known for their industry leading New Music Report magazine, which contains music reviews, artist news and interviews with the best artists being played on college radio.

Diet Kong

“Lines&lines”
Rock Channel
More grungy than the average electronic group, Diet Kong’s raspy, guitar-driven sound and echoed vocal effects produce a unique raw, unpolished blend of spastic dance rock.
RIYL:  IMA Robot, ELO, Wolfmother
WEBhttp://www.myspace.com/dietkong

Caveman Theory

“Funk Box”
Hip Hop Channel
In an age when rap groups seem like a glorified entourage, the lack of a “star” makes the whole greater.
RIYL: De La Soul, Dilated Peoples, A Tribe Called Quest
WEB: http://www.officialcavemen.com/

Tiny Specks of Many Things

“Hey Stargazer”
Electronic Channel
The solo project of one Colin Alexander is the sound of many things—a sprawling, textured atmosphere of synths, organs and field recordings; perhaps some specks too.
RIYL: Plaid, Mouse On Mars, Caribou
WEB: http://www.tinyspecksofmanythings.com/

 


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