Summer of '16: Fantastic Negrito's "Working Poor"

My new column is up at PopMatters. It's one of those survey-the-land kinds of pieces, reflecting on where we're at as a country. Specifically it considers Fantastic Negrito's song "Working Poor" from his new album The Last Days of Oakland and what the song does--not just what it's about.

I want to clarify that my interest in and examination of working-class music does not mean that I think those who do not work, or can't work, are lesser citizens. As the Clinton campaign ramps up, it continues to spread the centrist gospel that working people just try harder than those who don't work, and that those who don't work don't deserve much, if any, regard because...well, the implication is that they're lazy. The rhetoric would never outright state this, of course; it's too verboten, too "tacky" and non-inclusive. But Clinton's neoliberal policies negate or obscure the systemic ways in which the poor are made poorer. This pretty much captures it:

The idea that only people who work full-time shouldn't have to live in poverty is disgusting to me. I don't want to contribute to that already pervasive perspective, and I plan to address this in a future column.

Posted on July 14, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

Blind Engineer Announces New EP The Big Restless

Back in January, Blind Engineer (my band, my bae?) went "into the studio" to record and came out three days later into the sun with a bunch of songs. Six of them are going to be released on our new EP, The Big Restless, in late July.

We're putting the finishing touches on the album now, and also a release show TBA soon. In the meantime, here's the album cover and tracklist.

thebigrestlessbyblindengineer

1. Gone Too Long

2. Cross the Break

3. Hard Times Ain't Goin' Nowhere

4. Same Old Town

5. The Persuader

6. New Skin for Old Bones

Don't forget our show this Thursday night, June 30, at Big Room Bar (at CD 102.5's studios). Click here for more info.

I'll have more details about the EP in the near future. We also have about 6-7 songs for our full-length album recorded from those same sessions, and with any luck we'll have that out in early 2017. Thanks to Mingo Town Music!

Posted on June 29, 2016 and filed under Blind Engineer, Music, News.

PopMatters: The Flea-Market Music of the Felice Brothers

My new "Ties That Bind" column is up at PopMatters, this time around concerning The Felice Brothers' music which I lovingly think of as "flea-market music":

With the release of “Plunder”, there are now two new Felice Brothers singles in advance of the group’s forthcoming album, Life in the Dark. Both songs sound like they were made from a flea market. Not about a flea market, or at a flea market. From a flea market. Of it, born from it, cobbled together or fashioned from pearl-handled baby spoons, Amish clocks, weathered license plates, frayed copies of Life magazine, beat-up ukuleles, cigarette smoke, dried mud, and the lazy cacophony of hagglers, collectors, and weekend comedians. Neither song is dressed as kitsch or irony; they’re not dressed “as” anything. Each is simply the expendable, the boxed-up and unpacked, the well-handled, common, and priced-to-sell stuff of shopworn America that someone thinks ought to be worth something to somebody. And it is.

I was stuck on what to write about for a while, then heard "Aerosol Ball" and things clicked. "Plunder" came out while I was finishing the piece. Not much in the way of extended thoughts right now. It's all there.

Posted on June 15, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, News, Reviews.

This Week's EP

Once again I'm trying to keep my pencil sharp by reviewing single tracks from wherever, whenever, most of it fairly new unless otherwise stated. This time around I'm calling it "This Week's EP" because the EP is a lovable form: brief, intense in its focus compared to an LP, but spacious enough for some noodling around. The idea is that the included songs would fit on an EP. If that means six songs, or two, so be it. The point is to write this off-the-cuff, no planning, typos okay, lots of semi-colons, perhaps.

The endeavor to create a weekly update, or even any kind of regular update, on this site has failed before, and I expect it to fail again.

Track 1. "Complicated," Fitz and The Tantrums, from their new self-titled album (Elektra/WMG)

The zenith/nadir of indie pop in the sense of highly compressed synth-crunch made with the "spirit" of indie-rebellion-something-or-other, this song, on the heels of the band's single "HandClap," reminds me of the white-collar bar near the Short North Market called Brothers, a meat market kind of place I wandered into once years ago and will never wander into again. "Kissing like a car crash" is a good lyric, though. My rating: three half-smoked cigarette butts on a sidewalk.

Posted on June 10, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, This Week's EP.

Extended Thoughts on Prince: Never Stop Arguing

When Prince passed away on April 21, I knew that my next column at PopMatters would be about him. That column, "Prince: Never Stop Arguing," is up now. Read it before reading any of what's below.

The problem was that I didn't know what to say. For me, trying to write about Prince has been like trying to walk around an ocean. Where do you even think about beginning? I've been a Prince fan since I was thirteen and first heard Purple Rain. As a young musician I was blown away by his talent, his soul, his ambition, his dedication. I traded for bootleg tapes. When my truck was broken into one night, I was more pissed about the thief taking my Paradiso live CD than I was about the shattered window. I've been trying to write about Prince for years, either for a PopMatters column or something else; I have a few stalled essays, one dating back to the album 3121, one as recent as last year.

Posted on May 16, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

Documenting The Life of Pablo

My latest column at PopMatters has posted. It's about Kanye West's new album, The Life of Pablo, and its evolving nature. I was reading a recent essay by the philosopher Boris Groys concerning contemporary art and the internet, and something clicked. West's constant revising of his album has been treated like a novelty, so I wanted to dig a little deeper into what's going on.

You can read Groys' essay, "The Truth of Art," at the art journal e-flux here. My thanks to Matt Mitchem, my CCAD colleague, for hipping me to it. I've been reading a lot of Groys lately for my book of music criticism; one of the challenges for that book, and this PM column, is to think through what he's saying about visual art in regards to music.

I regret I didn't write more about The Life of Pablo's actual tracks, but it just wasn't in the cards given my subject. Maybe in an expanded version, or here on my site.

Posted on April 4, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism.

Day Late, Dollar Short

If I'm not updating the website, it means I'm busy, which is good, right?

Continuing developments goin' on in the background, but here in the foreground, my PopMatters column from last month about Donald Trump and propaganda music.

May have some announcements coming up. Blind Engineer continues its work on the EP; we're getting close to finishing it.

Posted on March 30, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism.

Blind Engineer This Friday

We're taking the stage again, this time Friday night, Feb. 26, at Cafe Bourbon Street opening for a great band out of Louisville, Dry Summers. Doors at 9, $5. Also w/a beamed gelling rose + undam and Faster Island. CBS is the best dive/rock bars in Columbus, and I mean that lovingly.

Check out Blind Engineer at Mingo Town Music. Like I said the other post, we recorded a bunch of songs just after the new year and we're working on getting them done. A handful of new songs, one or two we'll play Friday.

Posted on February 24, 2016 and filed under Music, The Blind Engineer.

Catching Up: Ties That Bind and More

My latest column at PopMatters is up: "Bruce Springsteen, 'The Ties That Bind,' the Working Class and Authenticity." Which pretty much explains what the column is about.

Also, I didn't post my previous column here. That one was part 2 of this series on working class music and focused on John Lennon's "Working Class Hero." Read it here.

In other news, The Blind Engineer went into the studio in early January. We came away with twelve songs recorded, five for an EP which is the top priority, the rest for a full album. With any luck they'll both be out in 2016. No titles yet.

A lot more going on behind the scenes but that's all the info for now.