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Full-Spectrum Blues: The Self-Denial of James Blake

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | February 9, 2011

James Blake does not sound like he wants to party anymore. This is a drag, as just six months ago he seemed like England’s foremost fireworks salesman — a fun dude with a Loki streak, parlaying subbass-excavating mindsex and synth-chord magic tricks fit to dazzle both voracious eaters of electronic music and dabblers whose primary…

Docs of Perception: Visual Records and How We Hear Music

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | February 2, 2011

For better or for worse, so much of how we hear music is processed through how we perceive the musicians. For instance: Clean young Justin Bieber is never meant to be filmed or photographed in anything less than a crystal-clear, super-high resolution, so that we may fully understand and revel in the ungodly perfection of…

The Long Shadow of Kate Bush

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | January 26, 2011

Though not quite as elusive as Sade, the god Kate Bush is something like a unicorn in the music world. Breaks between her albums have felt like eons for megafans — four years between Hounds of Love and the Sensual World, four more ‘til The Red Shoes, and a punishing 12 more before the double…

Rap, R&B and Rave Juice

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | January 19, 2011

Kelis, as ever, was the harbinger. Trends pioneered by the deliciously attitudinal singer six years ago are still being jacked by pop starlets today, so when she ditched her signature inter-galactic R&B for an Ibiza-ready cabana trance album in early 2010, we should have known a sea change was coming. Partly co-written by dance-music magician Guetta…

Why Musical Miscegenation Still Causes Indie Rock Shock

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd | January 12, 2011

On January 6, Just Blaze tweeted the slang spelling of “that’s racist” to an apparent shut-in who was bewildered by the fact that his crates include a band of riotous electro-punks (Crystal Castles) and Italy’s finest big-room rave production duo (Crookers). The underlying premise, as Blaze apparently interpreted it, was that @Mickeus thinks it’s a…

Introducing Our New Riff City Blogger: Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

staff | January 10, 2011

We’re excited to announce that Riff City will return this week with a stellar new writer: Julianne Escobedo Shepherd. Julianne is AlterNet’s Culture Editor, and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer. Formerly the Executive Editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, The New York Times and various other magazines and Web sites. She will write about music,…

2010: The Rest Is Noise, So the Noise Must Rest

Nick Sylvester | December 22, 2010

1. This will be the last you hear from me for a while. I will always be grateful to Thirteen.org for letting me write this column. It’s become difficult to keep at it though. I don’t process enough new music to opine on a weekly basis. Of that new music, I haven’t been listening with…

Jared Ellison: DFA Records’ Vintage Synth Prodigy

Nick Sylvester | December 8, 2010

DFA Records, the West Village-based label of LCD Soundsystem, the Juan Maclean, Hot Chip and others, has a complicated romance with vintage synthesizers and analog equipment. Denizens of the label’s bunker studio believe that the old stuff just sounds better than the digital counterparts. Tracking down the right vintage gear is worth the price point.…

Ariel Pink Revisited

Nick Sylvester | November 10, 2010

Today I begin a project I’ve been meaning to for a while: relistening to albums I reviewed years ago, and reevaluating my opinions. It’ll be an occasional thing, or a mini-series, I can’t decide. What pushed me off the diving board here was a screening of Jackass 3D this past Sunday. A good friend of…

How To Dress Well, Or: When Songs Know They’re Records

Nick Sylvester | November 3, 2010

Listening to LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean” again, I remember how startled I was at first by the vocals. There seems to be a lot of space between James Murphy’s mouth and the microphone. He is still singing, and it is still the melody, but if most pop vocals are 95% voice and 5% room,…