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Hype, or something like it…

18 Jan

Local Houston musician, Ryan Montalvo, is at it again.

It hasn’t been long since the September release of his second full-length album, A Voice From The Crowd, but Montalvo doesn’t seem to be plagued with lack of creativity or commitment to his work.

 

Montalvo officially began writing new material for his third album, currently untitled, on December 3.

For more information, follow him on Facebook and Twitter. You can also download his first two albums via Bandcamp for free.

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Barely Blind hits MTV

21 Aug

As a native Texan, I know and follow many bands based in my home state. But when Barely Blind, one of my favorite up-and-coming acts, announced that they would be relocating to Los Angeles to start the next chapter of their journey, it was a bittersweet moment.

Now, with nearly ten years, three albums and countless live shows under their belt, the group has been featured on MTV’s “Fresh New Music” list for August. To be more exact, Barely Blind have landed the #7 spot behind the likes of Beyoncé, Norah Jones, and Brandy.

MTV is currently shining the spotlight on their most recently recorded music video for “Inner Child,” which was directed by Tyler Gorrell. The song is the first single off of their third album, Wilder Child of a Thousand Suns.

It’s always nice to see bands grow up and get a hold on the dream they’ve been chasing. It’s even better when you see it happen with a talented band you believe in, that’s been working their ass off since day one.

For more information on Barely Blind, including tour dates and (free!) music, visit their website, Facebook or Twitter. They even have one of those videos that will make you want to be in a band on their YouTube channel.

Is HBO’s newest comedy, Girls, racist?

12 Apr

If you have premium cable and frequent HBO, you’ve more than likely caught a commercial or two touting their newest comedy, Girls.

In short, Girls is the brain-child of writer/director/actress Lena Dunham, and follows the lives of four early twenty-somethings throughout the transitional period between college and being an adult. Yet while it’s filmed in New York City and covers topics like sex, having an identity crisis and a slew of shit jobs, it doesn’t seem to be this decade’s Sex and the City, even if that’s how HBO is looking at it.

With executive producer Judd Apatow behind the wheel of the train, Girls looks full of promise. So, why then, does it seem like the show is getting a bad wrap before it even airs?

Most critics aren’t bothered by the content, the acting or even the dialogue. What’s got everyone talking is the fact that Girls‘ main characters are all – wait for it – white girls.

As someone of mixed ethnicity (I myself am half White, half Hispanic), I’ll be honest when I say that even I didn’t notice it. And why is that, you might ask?

In the year 2012, I have grown up watching television shows that feature casts of mixed ethnicity, as I have also seen casts that revolve around an all-White family, an all-African America family and an all-Hispanic family. I’ve seen this in movies and even commercial advertising.  Hell, HBO’s recently-cancelled series Bored to Death featured a mainly white cast, and it was shot in New York City, but I never heard rumblings about “not enough minorities.” Sure, Jason Schwartzman is Jewish and comes from the Coppola blood-line, but does that make him any less white? And what about his co-stars, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danza? Are they not considered white?

So, why then, is Girls getting such backlash?

I honestly can’t answer this question. Many people are saying that it’s because they feel “under-represented,” or because, like Sarah Seltzer of The Jewish Daily Forward said in her article, “if Girls ends up being as good as the hype, then we shouldn’t be afraid to offer strong, but loving suggestions about its racial makeup.”

But do we really need to coddle the audience for them to “get” it? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but people don’t like music, television, or art because the creator is the same shade of tan. People attach themselves to ideas, and they laugh at jokes or cry when the curtain is drawn because it moves them and they relate to it.

Maybe Girls does need a dash of color thrown in to the mix, or maybe we need to stop criticizing everything put in front of us. I’ll admit that I’m always worried to discuss the topic of race, but that’s not because I’m afraid people will gasp at my racism. In fact, I don’t know anyone that’s a bigger advocate for equality across the board, but even the most accepting position on race can be the most complex to explain.

The way I see it, claiming that there is a certain formula that must be followed in order to “properly represent” minorities is still a form of racism. Characters shouldn’t be written as an after-thought, nor should the only reason they were created was to make sure nobody was left out.

It sounds to me that Americans are still putting too much emphasis on a person’s ethnic make-up in the name of being politically correct, and if that’s the case, I’d rather not be. It’d be one thing if Dunham had stated she intentionally left minorities out and then proceeded to give a reason based on racism, but she didn’t. The truth is, minority representation isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a math equation. Additionally, Dunham isn’t racist for having four White leads, just as Tyler Perry isn’t racist for having all African-American leads on For Better or For Worse.

Nona Willis Aronowitz, Associate Editor at GOOD said it well, that “if we acknowledge that the semi-autobiographical details are what make Dunham’s work great, we shouldn’t be demanding the show to appeal to and reflect every girl.”

The truth is that, nobody really knows whether or not Hispanic or African American women (or men of any ethnicity!) will appreciate this television show, because it doesn’t even air until Sunday, April 15. So here’s my suggestion: let’s wait and see how the audience really reacts to the show before we start pointing fingers in the name of “racism.”

Until then… Congratulations, Lena Dunham. I can’t wait to see what Girls is all about.

My Favorite Albums of 2011: Better Late Than Never

27 Dec

We all know it’s coming — the almost-dreaded “Best of” lists that flood magazine covers, blogs and other entertainment sites that revolve around music and music culture. While I’m sure a lot of outlets genuinely enjoyed the artists on their lists, I’m finding myself wondering why it was that some of the albums that made it on these lists actually did. Was it popular opinion? Money? Level of Fame? Or perhaps, did some of them actually deserve those spots?

Rather than waste anybody’s time on repeating the names of every band on every other list, I’ll be honest and tell you that these ten albums are the albums that I can’t stop listening to, and why I think you should listen to them as well. Some of them might be on the Top lists of every other outlet, but I doubt they’re in the top ten.

From my favorite bands to bands that I never listened to before this year, this list can also be named “Listen and Fall in Love with 2011” or “Ten Reasons Why 2011 Didn’t Suck for Music!” They were hard to put in

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Girls – Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Like most of us, an eclectic taste in music has spawned an appreciation for things that go beyond the realm of simply liking “rock” or “pop”. And if it weren’t for Girls’ third album, Christopher Owens might have never been able to show the world how Dwight Yoakum could positively influence the surf/chill rock genre. The album is a hit from start to finish, tackling issues of love and life on tracks like “Honey Bunny,” “Vomit” and “Die.” Other tracks, such as “My Ma” and “Forgiveness” help Owens find closure in his tortured past, while the album’s closing track, “Jaime Marie,” is easily one of the year’s most beautiful.

Chad VanGaalen -Diaper Island

Okkervil RiverI Am Very Far

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Mates of StateMountaintops
The mates of Mates got experimental with Mountaintops, earning them a place among the ranks of albums to be praised. The album flirts with sounds across the spectrum, and even pays one hell of an homage to Motown on “Total Serendipity.” However, what the band hasn’t been commended for often enough since the release of this is taking risks with their music and finding success in them. Songs like “Palamino” and “Maracas” flaunt Kori Gardner’s ability to ditch the organs and experiment with sounds found on synths and pianos, while vocal performances from both Gardner and drummer/husband Jason Hammel seem to have improved (although I admittedly love their voices no matter what.) The two slow things down on “Desire” and “Mistakes,” but all ten tracks on the album are unforgettable and catchy in their own right.

La Dispute Wildlife

DodosNo Color

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Bright EyesThe People’s Key
Conor Oberst is known for many things, but his unpredictability might be the one that keeps commentators on the edge of their seats. Previous releases left fans floored at changes in sound, and for the most part, people weren’t even aware that The People’s Key was being written until information on its release were publicized. However, perhaps the lack of pressure laid on Oberst are what allowed him to move forward and find ways to both get back to Bright Eyes, and seek out a new dimension to the music. Taking notes from Cassadaga, the album begins and ends with a deep, almost satanic voice before flowing into “Firewall,” setting a tone for Bright Eyes’ most mystical album to date. Still, songs like “Shell Games” mesh prior releases, while “Jejune Stars” drives the band into new, harder territories. However, the album as a whole feels more like an idea than others bring to mind. Where Oberst once felt like a sheep looking for his flock, songs like “Ladder Song” and “One for You, One for Me” make him seem like he’s tackling a single concept versus using us as his fleet of therapists. If you didn’t like Bright Eyes before, this is definitely recommended.

Peter, Bjorn and John – Gimme Some

Black Keys -El Camino

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Wild Flag Wild Flag
In recent times, a new wave of feminists are erupting into the public’s eye. Whether it’s from faulty politics or not isn’t really clear, but I’ll be damned if any of the ladies of Wild Flag aren’t given due recognition for bursting through the glass ceiling before Sarah Palin. Basically, Wild Flag is a supergroup that pulled members from Sleater Kinney, Helium and The Minders, and they’re reminding women what it’s like to rock the fuck out. Opening track “Romance” is an anthem for dancing around in your panties with a bottle of your favorite beer, while tracks like “Something Came Over Me” and “Glass Tambourine” are like a kiss on a busted lip – it’s punk with a slice of charm. However, the ladies travel from that fast, loud sound on “Boom” to an almost-Americana approach on “Racehorse” with guitar parts that require more than some simple chord progression. Crooning or not, Wild Flag proves that if you want a damn good rock album, sometimes you’ve got to hike up your skirt and bang it out yourself.

Check ‘Em Out: Claudia VS the Queen of Hearts

20 Apr


Scott Smallin

Myrtle Beach-based trio Claudia VS the Queen of Hearts have been working hard planning a string of shows over the coming months, and things have begun to pay off.

The band, which was started by lead singer Claudia Gregory (guitar/piano/synth), also includes Tara Taylor (percussion/viola) and Julia Royal (guitar/flute) who both contribute vocals.

The unsigned trio recently released a demo and are planning a small tour up the East Coast. What is even ore surprising and admirable is that Gregory is doing all of the work herself with help from band-mates Taylor and Royal.

“A DIY demo was so much work,” said Gregory, “but we will eventually release an album. I want to see if I can get a little more under my belt, first. Maybe some sponsors.”

The demo was recorded in Royal’s empty apartment between two air mattresses with a microphone and a “wall of blankets”.

“I borrowed some drums from a friend of mine, despite the fact that I’ve never played drums in my life and I ended up playing them on Blind Man,” said Gregory

The trio exude a wisdom older than their years, with layers of instrumentals that seem like a soundtrack for solitude. It’s easy to connect with Gregory’s voice, which is soft but full of emotion that packs a punch necessary to the more natural sound of the music. At times the music finds itself blurring genres; with psychedelic undertones, the music is a delightful mixture of soul and blues. However, the slower tempo and feminine, airy backing vocals blend everything together into a package that is rather enjoyable to listen to.

4/30 – Myrtle Beach, SC @ F.A.M.E Festival
5/9 – Savannah, GA @ The Wormhole
5/10 – Tampa, FL @ Sacred Grounds Coffee House
5/13 – Myrtle Beach, SC @ For What It’s Worth
5/23 – Wilmington, NC @ The Soapbox
5/31 – Atlanta, GA @ Smith’s Olde Bar
6/8 – Myrtle Beach, SC @ Fresh Brewed
(w/ Really Old Airplanes)
7/8 – Wilmington, NC @ Sea Turtle Arts Rescue Festival (S.T.A.R.)

For more information and to hear their music, visit their website, Myspace, or ‘Like’ them on Facebook.

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