Feature Review – Melissa Auf der Maur

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

The Vancouver Sun recently ran a feature on former Hole/Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, who is currently on tour promoting her second solo album/short film/graphic novel, “Out of Our Minds.” At the core of the feature is an interview with Auf der Maur, but writer Mike Devlin also covers the struggles she went through in trying to get her multimedia project off the ground.

Auf der Maur is the only person interviewed for the article. It is not specified whether the conversation took place in person or over the phone, but she was at her New York home for it. There does not appear to be much, if any, outside research; the text either paraphrases portions of the interview or supplies basic information one could easily glean from Auf der Maur’s official website.

I would like to have seen Devlin dive into less familiar territory–there have been a number of Auf der Maur features this year in conjunction with “Out of Our Minds” but few of them offer anything unique. I appreciate that the Hole and Smashing Pumpkins material is kept to a minimum since it’s been done to death elsewhere, but there is still some ground that hasn’t been adequately covered. What exactly inspired this project? What were the years of uncertainty like, unattached to a label while trying to bring an admittedly difficult concept to fruition? I want to know more about the project itself rather than the world around it.

The introduction reminds readers what Auf der Maur’s claim to fame is before giving a basic tease to invoke curiosity. It’s followed by two quote paragraphs where the singer openly comments on herself and her artistry. The next paragraph mentions the album’s recent release, showing why this feature is relevant. That leads to a paragraph about the challenging aspect of the project, transitioning to two more quotes, the latter about her past musical experiences. The next paragraph takes that quote to show how those adventures led to “Out of Our Minds” and further explains what the project is about.

After that, Devlin rapidly covers the many changes in Auf der Maur’s life since the project’s conception, from moving multiple times to leaving her record label. Much like the intro, this takes an unexpected twist to show how all of this was “best thing that could have happened” to Auf der Maur, explaining how via a quote. Finally, Devlin inserts the obligatory Hole and Smashing Pumpkins references but rather than the typical “This is why she did not take part in either band’s recent reunion” commentary, he allows her to discuss her future plans regarding this part of her history, not the history itself.

Listen to “The Key,” a standout track from “Out of Our Minds”:

Allo Darlin’s “My Heart Is A Drummer”

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if everything was made out of cardboard? Well, now you can. Pitchfork just released Allo Darlin’s new music video for the song “My Heart Is A Drummer,” and it involves cardboard houses and dancing heart-shaped people. Yes, it’s unusual but it’s also very entertaining. So, check it out here!

Ready for a Nirvana Reunion?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

No, Kurt Cobain hasn’t been reincarnated, but it’s the closest thing possible: Dave Grohl announced on a BBC radio show that Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic will be making a guest appearance on the next Foo Fighters album. To further increase the Nirvana quotient, guitarist Pat Smear, who played with that band in its final shows, is on board, as is producer Butch Vig, who helmed “Nevermind.” Grohl recently posted a new picture of Vig, Novoselic and himself on Twitter.

Anime Meets Movie Trailers

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

One of the more popular forms of the fan culture of anime in the United States is making their own Music Videos/Trailers. They all fall under the initials AMVs, short for Anime Music Videos. Setting footage of popular anime shows to Hollywood movie trailers is another popular part of the hobby.

What I’m gonna show you is one I particularly like that was made a year ago, using footage of ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ the popular Adult Swim show, mashed with the audio of the trailer of ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.’

Step In Some Stereogum

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Have you ever found yourself looking for a place to find new music that is a bit off the beaten path? Look no further than Stereogum.com. Stereogum came on the scene in 2002 and remains at the forefront of mp3 blogs. In addition to mp3’s you can also find music videos, photo galleries, and music news stories. Stereogum has also issued a number of tribute releases for free download.

CLICK HERE to check out “OKX”, a tribute marking the tenth anniversary of Radiohead’s “OK Computer” featuring bands like Vampire Weekend and the Cold War Kids.

Stereogum’s news stories are often clever, short and sweet, a characteristic that makes this site appealing in today’s ADD ridden society.  The majority of news stories are accompanied by a video or an mp3 by the band or artist the story is discussing. Stereogum often operates as an aggregate news site at times frequently linking to longer stories on music magazine sites like NME and Pitchfork. My favorite aspect of this site is the lists section. Here you can find lists compiled by Stereogum staff as well as other sites like Amazon, Spin, and Rolling Stone and artists like Morrissey.

CLICK HERE to see Stereogum’s list of their 69 Most Anticipated Albums of 2010.

One of the downsides of Stereogum is that it does not act enough as an independent news source. They do have a great selection of original content like their review section “Premature Evaluation” and their Op-Ed section. I feel that if they were to put a stronger focus on music news they would become even stronger than they already are. Another weakness of the site is that when navigating the site it is difficult to get back to their original content, which makes it seem like more of an aggregate site than it really is. They would benefit strongly from adding a side bar that links to “Premature Evaluation” and their other sections.

CLICK HERE to read the “Premature Evaluation” review of the forthcoming Kings of Leon album “Come Around Sundown.”

Unfortunately Stereogum does not accept freelance writers but here are a few stories that I would pitch if I could write for them:

1. I would with a feature that would be a pop music retrospective from 1980-2010.  In this story I would take a look at pop music over the last thirty years. The trends in pop music would be examined and evaluated to see what elements have stuck and which ones did not last that long. I would also include an aspect that covers the pop princesses of the 80’s like Madonna and the pop princesses of today like Katy Perry.

2. I would examine in an op-ed piece my theory that the popularity of pop-punk bands today stems from the late 90’s popularity of boy bands and how the teenage girls that currently swoon over bands like We The Kings or All Time Low today would be swooning over *NSync ten years ago.

3.  Lastly, I would write a feature that examines the rising popularity of pop-dance music from bands like Neon Trees and Phoenix and how the evolved from dance-punk bands that originated in the early 2000s like Death From Above 1979 and LCD Soundsystem.

The Beatles’ Best

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Although no respectable music collection is complete without the Beatles’ entire discography, tomorrow marks the reissue of two compilations that, taken together, provide a suitable slice of their catalog for casual fans. “1962-1966” and “1967-1970” serve as a beefier alternative to the “1” collection, including some of the band’s best album cuts and B-sides.

If you still haven’t gotten your Beatles fix, check out the recently reissued John Lennon solo catalog, along with the upcoming George Harrison/Ravi Shankar box set, the remastered Apple Records catalog and a deluxe release of Paul McCartney and Wings’ classic “Band on the Run.”

Website Review–Hearya

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Hearya, a Chicago-based online publication for indie music, provides indie music fans with everything they are looking for. At hearya, one can find tons of information on new albums and bands.

One of the best things about this site is that it is interactive. There is always a video or mp3 that follows after every post. The publication is set up in a no-frills blog style. Hearya says on their website that they give “indie music enthusiasts a destination to cut through the clutter when discovering new music.” And this is true. The website does not overwhelm you with too much information, and usually provides one or two posts a day about new music.

As for the style of writing, it is pretty creative. The writers provide the readers with a good sense of what the music sounds like without even listening to it first. But, the best part of all is that Hearya has a whole section dedicated to live music sessions. Yes, you get to hear live versions of your favorite songs. Hearya does these live sessions with many different indie bands from their own studio, and then shares these music sessions with the community. And an added bonus—the music can be sent right to your itunes library for free. It’s great to hear the bands in a more raw state, as if they are jamming out right in front of you. This is what makes Hearya unique, and, ultimately, a great place for indie music fans.

There are, however, a few weaknesses at Hearya. The site is not nearly as professional looking as other publications such as Pitchfork, which may turn some viewers away. Also, the website lacks a search bar so one can’t just look for a particular song or band to read about. But, these weaknesses are overshadowed by the strengths of this site.

If I were to contribute to the Hearya website, I would try and add an album review section so that viewers can go directly to the reviews and not have to search down the whole entire blog. Also, as there are new indie songs produced everyday, I would want to start a “Song Of The Day” section and write a small critique about a new song everyday. This would make Hearya even greater than it already is.

Check the website out here.

Bed Intruder Gets a Bit Out Of Hand

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Antoine Dodson“He’s climbing in your bedroom snatching your people up. . ”
– Antoine Dodson “Bed Intruder”

This summer the misfortune of Kelly Dodson became a viral hit on You Tube. What started as a news story about the attempted rape of Kelly was turned in to an Auto-tuned rap song. This incident, tragic as it is, has become one of the most hilarious songs out there. Leaves one to wonder, will the alleged Bed Intruder come seeking royalties for being the inspiration of the song?

CLICK HERE to see Antoine Dodson perform “Bed Intruder” live at the BET Awards.

All Time Low Hits the Road

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Semi-local band All Time Low (from Baltimore) is a week away from going back on the road, headlining a national tour.  The entire first week of shows is already sold out, but if you can you should check out their show in Towson, Md. on October 23rd. They are sure to be at their best playing to their hometown crowd!

Italy Goes Pop-Punk

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

An Italian band called NOTIMEFOR has been making a name for themselves in their home country for a while now, and with their catchy songs and popular music videos it’s only a matter of time before they reach the pop-punk scene here in the USA.  But do they have the talent to do what few European bands in the pop-punk genre have done and make a lasting impact on America?

Check out their Myspace to hear a couple of their songs and decide for yourself!