New Pornographers Demonstrate How Hope and Darkness Can Co-Exist in Music

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Mike Durham
New Pornographers' Neko Case and A.C. Newman

Crescent Ballroom was packed to the gills Monday night. A whole lot of mega-fans (and some less rabid admirers) of Canadian indie-pop-rockers New Pornographers gathered to see the band play a hearty set of more than 20 songs. The set mixed tunes from all the band's offerings from the past 14 years, including a bunch of tracks from their new release, Brill Bruisers -- their first in four years. This tour is extra special, as members Neko Case and Dan Bejar were able to break away from their other projects and join the rest of the members; sometimes the band tours without one or both.

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Is There Anything Better Than a Sad Clown Singing Pop Songs?

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David Stuart Photography
Puddles, the sad clown

Now's the chance to use that old-fashioned monogrammed hanky that's burning a hole in your dresser drawer or just grab a cheap box of tissues - - whatever suits you best for sopping up tears mixed of both laughter and desolation - - and spend the evening with Puddles Pity Party. Known as the "sad clown with the golden voice," Puddles is the stage name of Big Mike Geier, a multi-talented singer, actor and performance artist whose 6-foot, 8-inch stature, appropriately twisted sense of humor and majestic baritone voice command a room.

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Black Joe Lewis Injects Rock into His Soul For New Album

Categories: Up On Sun

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Black Joe Lewis

Popular conjecture claims that Black Joe Lewis started playing guitar simply to annoy his redneck co-worker at an Austin, Texas pawnshop. That's partially true -- he did purchase his first guitar there and played it in his down time -- but Lewis, seeing his friends in bands, had elected to fill his life with music. Despite the steady, but low-paying, job, he knew music was his true calling. Once he became proficient enough on the instrument, Lewis began performing with blues, punk, rock, funk and soul musicians -- anyone who'd have him. Forming his own band -- originally, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears -- he put those influences to good use. More recently, however, shedding the Honeybears, Lewis' sound has grown exponentially as allows those rawer elements of his past -- from feedback to deep fuzz, growling vocals to guttural howls -- shine through in Electric Slave, an album that leaves listeners breathless. Lewis says the progression from high-energy soul/funk act to psychedelic blues-rock warriors was a natural one. In fact, Lewis enjoys his "own original sound" so much, he's willing to forsake the past for what the present brings.

"It's exactly what we wanted it [to be]," he says. "It's music on the edge. ... I think this is the best stuff we've done."

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Weezer Finally Makes the Album Its Fans Have Been Waiting For

Categories: Up On Sun

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Has Weezer finally recorded a good album, after all these years?

You have to earn a Weezer fan's trust before he shows you his playlists. First, he'll make sure you aren't just parroting somebody else's post-Pinkerton decline narrative. He'll want to be sure you don't believe bassist Matt Sharp secretly wrote both of the band's two classic albums. He'll need to know that you have favorite outtakes and demos that never came out, not even on Rivers Cuomo's Alone records.

He'll want to know that you've thought -- over and over -- about how each of the seven albums the band's released since 2001 was lacking, not just in general but in its own particular way. Maladroit has great solos but the melodies are lifeless; Make Believe has heart but the production is sterile and the songs so short on words that they break into spontaneous ooh-ing choruses. The Red Album has high highs and low lows (mention "Miss Sweeney" and "Pig" here), and Hurley is competent but hardly a Weezer album at all. You shouldn't mention Raditude yet.

Talk like that for a while, let him know you're one of them, and then you'll finally see the dark side of his iTunes library: The albums he's invented because none of the real ones could satisfy him.

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Why Cassette Store Day Exists

Categories: Up On Sun

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In spring of last year, Stephen Rose shot an email to Jen Long and Matt Flag about an idea he had. Each of the three headed independent labels that release cassette tapes: Rose had SEXBEAT, Long ran Kissability and had a hand in Transgressive Records alongside Rose, and Flag oversaw Suplex Cassettes. Meeting his colleagues at a pub in Central London, Rose fleshed out his pitch: He wanted to create Cassette Store Day, a special date for music shops to promote cassette culture -- an idea playing on Record Store Day, the annual "holiday" established six years prior.

The trio began hammering out the logistics by throwing around questions: How could it be pulled off? Would it be a reflection of Record Store Day? Should they set up events for stores in London, or tell everyone around the world? How much time would they personally have to work on this? But at the idea's very core were bigger issues that needed to be resolved. "If I step back," recalls Flag, 33, "the first questions [were] probably, 'Is this a dumb idea? Is this even worth doing? Is this best left as one of those funny ideas you had in the pub on a Friday night or is it something that we should actually do?'"

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CSN Songs Have a "Scary" Relevancy Today, Graham Nash Says

Categories: Up On Sun

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Eleanor Stills
Neil Young had other plans the day of the shoot.

Numerous significant events occurred in 1974: President Richard Nixon imposed the 55 mile per hour speed limit. The Six Million Dollar Man debuted on TV. The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Patty Hearst, and Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth as the all-time home run hitter. It also marked the first (and possibly best) of many Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reunion tours.

And, to hear Graham Nash tell it, it was quite a tour.

"There was some great music played on that tour, and I wanted to show everyone what that was," he says during a current stop in North Carolina. Nash and C, S, and Y are highlighting the tour on a recently released box set containing 40 songs handpicked from those 30 concerts. Yet, because the final show was substandard, the original idea of quickly issuing a live album "got put on the back burner" for 40 years.

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Why You'll Have to Visit Arcosanti to Hear The Album Leaf

Categories: Up On Sun

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Jimmy LaVelle of The Album Leaf

By definition, an "album leaf" is a musical piece written in dedication to a friend or admirer to be inserted in their album or autograph book. Whether it was intentional or not, Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf has inserted his own leaves into his latest project.

The Album Leaf started in 1998 when LaValle experimented with electronic organs, synthesizers, and software controllers to produce rhythmic ambient music. His most popular album, In a Safe Place, launched him into the electronic music world.

Currently, LaValle and his band of collaborators are working in the studio to produce their fifth studio album, due out next year. But until then, LaValle teamed up with Michael Raines to produce a documentary about The Album Leaf's tour through China and Japan, called Beyond There.

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Slim Cessna's Auto Club's Music Filled with Sin and Sacramental Moonshine

Categories: Up On Sun

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Gary Isaacs
Slim Cessna's Auto Club

For as long as the folk songs of hillbillies and Appalachian wailers have been called "country songs," the genre has been the province of those tip-toeing between grace and damnation -- Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, the Louvin Brothers, and others for whom the pursuit of holiness often took a backseat to the pleasures of sin. For more than two decades, Slim Cessna's Auto Club has played country songs but expanded outward as well, incorporating elements of punk, rockabilly, gospel, and rocksteady, all the while evoking Christian dread, employing fire-and-brimstone wit, and singing bloody murder ballads.

In that time, the band has developed a reputation as a tremendous live act, and it's well deserved. Led by two frontmen, band namesake Slim Cessna and the wild-eyed Jay Munly, the group's shows feel like violent, apocalyptic hootenannies or gothic church services where the preachers have dipped into sacramental moonshine. (Yeah, that's not a thing, but watching Slim Cessna's Auto Club do what it does, you can imagine it is.)

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New Dragonforce Record Features Johnny Cash Cover, Guitar Solos Recorded on a Yacht

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Dragonforce website
Dragonforce in action

Dragonforce is a gateway drug to heavy metal for video game nerds. No, really -- I've seen it happen.

In the British band's 15-year span, they've been able to develop a sound that truly stands a part from any other band within the genres they're constantly rotated between. It's as if some festival organizer is scratching their head somewhere, saying "Well, they fit in with speed and power metal... but they've also got that hard rock ballad sound down... the fast-as-hell guitar arrangements are on par with technical death metal... and, uh, they also sound like the soundtrack to a retro video game. What's that called again; 'Nintendo metal'?"

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Blessed Be This Heavy Metal Union in the Valley of the Sun

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Stellar photography/Rudy Reilly Facebook
Rudy and Lori

When I saw this viral video the other week of the "most metal first dance at a wedding," I couldn't help but feel a little warm and fuzzy. The goth couple created a playlist that included song snippets from Grave Digger, Pantera, Devil Drive, Cannibal Corpse, Lamb of God and Rammstein.

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