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Riffer’s Delight: A Brief History of Shredding

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | May 18, 2011

At various points in history, it’s been de rigueur for guitar bands to rebel against the perceived snootiness of guitar noodling — trills and triplets with serif flourishes, seemingly playable by people with freakishly large and dexterous hands. For instance, Brit punks in the 1970s and ’80s, with ramshackle barre chords and studied sneers, were…

How Gang Gang Dance Learned to Live Forever

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | May 11, 2011

Gang Gang Dance is a New York art band in the tradition of our most iconic, descended from Talking Heads and Sonic Youth in both heart and borough. Of course they sound nothing like either, but they’re one of the few post-9/11, pre-third-term-Bloomberg bands left in Manhattan whose untethered experimentalism honestly captures our spirit and…

On Prodigy and His Infamous Life

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | May 4, 2011

Men lie, women lie, and money allows you to lie even easier, but poverty doesn’t lie. And Mobb Deep represents poverty. My plan was to literally rage against the machine. — Albert ‘Prodigy’ Johnson, My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy (with Laura Checkoway) One of Prodigy’s most compelling traits as a rapper has always…

Becoming Katy B

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | April 20, 2011

A little over one year ago, Katy B was a slight mystery. In Spring of 2010, the London songbird began popping up as the guest vocalist on tracks by producers orbiting Rinse FM, the then-pirate radio station known for blazing the newest trails in dance music. Materializing first on a cover of Inner City’s “Good…

Soundtrack Legend Alan Howarth on Horror, Hip Hop, and the Sonics of Fear

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | April 13, 2011

If dark hallways and creaky staircases terrify you, it might not be just because of some pseudo-Freudian fear of womb-exit — there might be some residual fear from the sounds of film composer Alan Howarth, who has been imbuing fright in the mundane for decades. As a sonic companion to revered filmmaker John Carpenter, he’s…

Radiohead: The World’s Most Likable Steampunks

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | March 30, 2011

The same day enterprising young code-wranglers were dismantling The New York Times’ $40 million paywall for 4Chan bragging rights and uninterrupted Mark Bittman, a rock band from Oxfordshire was quietly revisiting the quaint and plaintive art of the print broadsheet. Rewinding the concept of the ‘street team’ to the era in which diminuitive boys disseminated…

Love and Other Drugs: The Weeknd’s Altered-State R&B

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | March 23, 2011

Contemporary R&B is not generally aspiring to the arcane. For decades, it has identified with the emotional, vulnerable, political — the stuff of club quavering and lovemaking.  It rarely dips its toes into obscure territory, for a genre so vast and encompassing. There have certainly been dalliances with the weird — R. Kelly’s Trapped in the…

‘90s Nostalgia, Pearl Jam, and the Return of Drum n Bass

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | March 9, 2011

In 1995, a grunting, curly-headed Eddie Vedder banded together with fellow ‘90s man-scion Mike Watt and sang the lyric, The kids of today should defend themselves against the ‘70s. It was an impassioned treatise against becoming mesmerized by the halcyon nostalgia that prior generations had painted, and a call for youths to form their own…

Giggs, Grime, and the Last Gasps of Rap Regionalism

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | March 2, 2011

East vs. West, NYC vs. Dirty South, BX vs. The Bridge — in this inchoate century and its ever-spinning Web-whorl, real-world rap boundaries have been tanked. Yeah, rappers still rep where they’re from, but the new territories are the Internet vs. the Internet, where battalions of bedazzled e-warriors gather for binary gang wars over whose…

Their Blacks Crackle and Drag

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | February 23, 2011

In pouty Swedish vocalist Lykke Li’s latest video for “I Follow Rivers,” a hirsute man wanders determinedly across a barren plain, half-desert, half-tundra. Li, shrouded in complete quasi-burqa, trails him frantically, at one point tossing off her platforms so that she may chase him faster, bare feet against the snow be damned. On one hand,…