Last week's massive earthquake in Haiti has horrified the world. All eyes seem to be on the small nation, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, as people watch a population that has had a the rawest of raw deals dealt to it suffer through even more tragedy and death. With possibly a hundred thousand dead, the outpouring of sympathy is to be expected. But amidst the Clooneys, Streeps and other Hollywood big-wigs trotting out their even bigger bucks, is there a voice missing? Where have we heard a single Haitian voice since this crisis began? In the midst of a gargantuan humanitarian crisis...
Vic Chesnutt couldn't be described as a "star." Most likely, he would have bristled at the term. First and foremost, he was a songwriter. And though he never reached the heights of fame and fortune, the seventeen albums he released during his twenty-year career earned him the undeniable respect of critics, fellow musicians, and just about anyone who heard his songs. When he died of an apparent suicide this past Christmas Day, he was a solid fixture in the underground and indie scenes.
If the last year of the "double-Os" is any indication, then the coming decade will be one of growing anger directed at the richest of the rich. By now it's hardly news that there is a palpable resentment for the Goldman Sachs execs or insurance honchos that lead the world into a crisis of mammoth proportions.
Make no mistake. When the ball drops this December 31st, there will be no shortage of music fans who will look back at this past year and say "damn, I'm glad that's over." Frankly put, 2009 was a rough year for music, a year simultaneously characterized by frustration and impatience. To be sure, the sense of hope and belief that characterized 2009's opening was reflected by a wave of music rooted in the optimism that people felt. It was no coincidence that many of the previous year's most interesting artists were ones that cheered the defeat of Bush-part-two and the ushering in the Obama...
Here they are: the best five releases of 2009! Perhaps it goes without saying that these records have, in one way or another, all the qualities we've seen throughout the list (viewable here andhere) that make each entry so urgent and relevant--only these top five have it in spades.
Progressing through the list (the first part of which can be viewedhere), the changes taking place in music become more apparent. The best releases of 2009 aren't just those that took the decay of post-recession society and made something interesting and relevant from them, but were those that started to pry away at the considerable limitations placed on music itself.
It's that time of year again: when every music rag, website and blog releases "the list." It's no mean task sifting through the countless notable CDs and sound-files that come our way every year and definitively naming "the best." Nonetheless, if music tells us something about the time and place we live in (and it does), then the top 25 releases of 2009 tell us how quickly the tectonic plates are shifting under our feet. Choosing this list wasn't just a mere exercise in taste--which, as the saying tells us, there is no accounting for.
"I'm not a betting man, but if I was, even I wouldn't bet on me winning." So says Blur drummer Dave Rowntree about running for British Parliament. Rowntree is set to run in the upcoming 2010 elections as the Labour Party's candidate in the Cities of London and Westminster constituency. The skin-man's candid pessimism might stem from the fact that this particular seat has been a safe Conservative haven for almost six decades.
Hip-hop fans knew what was coming in the wake of Derrion Albert's death in Chicago this past September. Here was the ultimate urban tragedy: a sixteen-year-old kid beaten to death in a blighted, neglected community. It's close to certain that the media wouldn't have caused such a stir had his death not been caught on tape. Alas, it was, and it was only a matter of time until the theatre of the absurd took root.
It seems like not too long ago (and in fact, it wasn't: only two years) that Radiohead sent a buzz through the music world by announcing they were releasing their new album In Rainbows as an online "pay what you can" scheme. Now, such an occurrence won't even bat an eyelash for most of us.
t's been a year since the world watched at Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. I remember sitting in a Chicago bar and hearing the crowd erupt into cathartic applause when the news was announced. Not only were eight years of Bush finally drawing to a close, not only was John "One Hundred More Years" McCain prevented from taking over, but a biracial man was elected in a country built on racism--and after running a campaign that appealed to the broad hunger for "change" in this country.
One could say that as goes U2, so goes capitalism. Few rock bands have provided so effective a bellweather for the health of the world economy than this one. In previous eras, any strong criticism of Saint Bono and his apostles was guaranteed to be met with a mix of shock and aversion: "But he does so much for the poor. Plus, he's such a good entertainer!"
Now, the possible decline of one of the world's biggest rock bands isn't just a matter of opinion--it's in the numbers.
Nowadays, the term "pop" stirs negative connotation among a great many music devotees. For some the word itself is little more than the sonic expression of everything that's wrong with the music industry--shallow, trite, and more or less divorced from anything having vaguely to do with reality.
“When you hear a song that is written in a way you never heard before, or you see a painting that is done in such a way that makes you go ‘wow, I never thought this shape and this color could go together,’ that opens a space in your mind and your soul that is equal to growth. You take that expansion and you apply it to everything else, and if you’re constantly thinking forward in that way, then change happens.”
It's no exaggeration to say that Pittsburgh was occupied territory when the G20 descended upon it late last month. Ostensibly, the 6,000 police and National Guards that patrolled the streets during the meetings were there to protect the rights of the people of Pittsburgh from the "violent radicals" who showed up to do little more than cause a ruckus.