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On the Record: Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, SOHN, Woods, Ingrid Michaelson, The Afghan Whigs, and Jessica Lea Mayfield

avey-tare-slasher-flicks-albumAvey Tare’s Slasher Flicks
Enter The Slasher House
Sounds Like:
Pretty much what you’d expect from the Animal Collective alum (maybe a little less pretentious); yes, there’s ominous darkness but the pretty pop synths and beats keep it cute.
Free Association: For the Williamsburg Halloween party that isn’t really about Halloween.
For Fans Of: Panda Bear/Stereolab + Ariel Pink, David Lynch x Mogwai, Sigur Ros, Blair Witch.

Sounds Like:
The debut of Vienna-raised Christopher Taylor is right on trend – capturing the UK soul of James Blake; the sensual R&B softness of Rhye; and the androgyny of Autre ne Veut.
Free Association: Feeding fuel to the fire: must go to London and find where these guys spin.
For Fans Of: Jamie Woon + Burial x Lana Del Rey, M83 x James Vincent McMorrow, sweet Euroscruff.

With Light and with Love
Sounds Like:
Brooklyn’s best freak folk and neo-psychedelic quartet put down the pipe to churn out their seventh stoner rock LP that draws heavily on classic rock touches like Crazy Horse.
Free Association: It’s pretty annoying when bands directly reference the Beatles – not here.
For Fans Of: Devendra Banhart x Mountain Goats + Cate Le Bon and the Dodos, couches in coach vans.

Ingrid-Michaelson-Lights-Out-2014-1200x1200Ingrid Michaelson
Lights Out
(Cabin 24/Mom + Pop)
Sounds Like:
Aww! The 34-year-old who’s been destroying the TV series soundtrack game for about ten years gives us her sixth and it’s as light and lovely and inoffensive as you’d imagine.
Free Association: Sara Bareilles’ toughest opponent for Cute Cotton Commercial Jingle supremacy.
For Fans Of: A Fine Frenzy/Feist/Carole King/Michelle Branch, beige, eggshell, taupe, big sun hats.

Whigs_cover_nobandThe Afghan Whigs
Do to the Beast
(Sub Pop)
Sounds Like:
They return after 16 years of silence with a great effort – a fantastically nasty mix of soul, grit, edge and heart; expertly-made hard rock that’s tempered by age but spiked with screams.
Free Association: Cincinnati is proud today! Legends of ‘90s Grunge mature with artistic grace.
For Fans Of: Morphine x Nirvana + Dinosaur Jr., Screaming Trees + Bob Mould, Soul Asylum.

JessLeaMayJessica Lea Mayfield
Make My Head Sing…
(ATO Records)
Sounds Like:
The young songwriter/shredder ditches Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) to work with her bassist husband for a wonderfully complex and rewarding LP drenched in country-fried feedback.
Free Association: The young pseudo-country lady rockers brigade just keeps growing in 2014.
For Fans Of: Laura Marling/Lisse x Lydia Loveless/Angel Olsen, languid and drowsy Marnie Stern.

A few things: Singles, shows and “she-mail”

Oh man! Robyn’s coming back, you guys. She and her boys Röyksopp have announced a mini-album ahead of their tour, both entitled Do It Again. Yesterday we got a snippet of “Monument,” the opening track for the May 26th release. And it is good. In a statement, the Norwegian DJ duo and producer homeboys to our Swedish Pop Princess, said: “This doesn’t sound like Röyksopp featuring Robyn, or Robyn produced by Röyksopp – it’s just something else entirely.” It’s also “rave-inspired” and “big thumping house.” Unfortunately, their tour doesn’t touch Philly but it’ll be nearby if you’re aggressive about it – namely August 20th at NYC’s Hudson River Park, or the following day, August 21st, at the Filene Arts (Wolf Trap) Center in Washington D.C.

Now, the other revelation in “thumping house music” is the dream team-up between Daphni and Owen Pallett. Details seem uncertain about the nature and potential future of the collaboration, which is primarily Dan Snaith (of both Caribou and Daphni fame) deftly employing the dancing, delicate violin work of the charming and Canadian mini-Andrew Bird. “Julia” and “Tiberius” are online now and, according to @CaribouBand, they’ll be available digitally and on vinyl before May. If you’re wondering, Pallett’s got a new record out on May 13th called In Conflict and, two days later, stops at Johnny Brenda’s. Did some digging, and couldn’t find but ONE live date for anything Dan Snaith/Daphni/Caribou, and that’s his Merge 25th Anniversary set in Chapel Hill in July.

You may have seen that the Flyers made the NHL playoffs? Well, Miley was kind enough to move her show up to Monday the 21st to avoid any conflicts of space use. That’s sweet of you, girl. The show’s been reportedly full of ridiculous props and outlandish stage antics. As of now, it seems like there are still tickets available (Comcasttix is being wonky, so the WFC box office could be worth a drive). P.S. Check back in on Wednesday for a Miley vs. Cher Diva Death Match. Cher’s at Wells Fargo later this month on the 28th.

Hey Steely Dan! Thanks for nothin’! Sheesh. Maybe because they booked the Mann last summer they feel like they’ve conquered the Philadelphia mountain? But their big announcement, of a HUGE national tour, lands everywhere but Philly: Erie, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem get PA stops, and Red Bank and Morristown get Jersey love. Feeling a little slighted over here.

But one that we are pumped about? Fleetwood Mac WITH Christine McVie! Oh man, this is going to be a show to remember. The only thing that sucks is that it’s in October and we have to wait six more months.

There sure has been a lot of Facebook ranting about LOGO’s decision to pull the line “You’ve Got She-mail” and to apologize for their perceived use of transphobic language. I touched on it in my LGBT feature earlier this month, but it’s been a weird language debate within the LGBTQA community ever since a March episode of RPDR brazenly (with willful silliness) employed the term “She-male” in less-than-thoughtful ways. There’ve been a ton of “think pieces” on it, with the most intriguing coming from Our Lady J for HuffPo, and it’s far too complex to unpack it here and now. From where I sit, comfortably in an office job where my sexuality and gender aren’t regularly called into question or scrutinized or ridiculed, there is far too much whining about the “overpolicing of language” (a phrase included in Our Lady J’s piece). Words can hurt. And even when you don’t MEAN for them to, they do; and it is indeed important that we continue to police our peers and friends’ use of words. We’ve learned over time that certain words are just not okay to use, and this RPDR lesson has taught us that “tranny” and “she-male” are hurtful words that shouldn’t be used, even if they’re used from drag queen to drag queen.

10 favorites from U Arts’ Art Unleashed 2014 exhibition, open through Tuesday

Chlose Sherman-PepeELY4print copy 2
Last night, I got the distinct pleasure of perusing the Art Unleashed 2014 collection; it’s essentially a huge art show, collecting work from current students, alums and faculty, where everything’s for sale—and it’s for a good cause: supporting the University’s Sam S. McKeel Promising Young Artists Scholarship Fund. The best part: It doesn’t just feature paintings. This is an excellent opportunity to acquire some high-end collectibles for your home at solid to not-astronomical prices.

One of the sweetest things about Art Unleashed is the variety of items you can purchase: there’s really tight jewelry, stunning sculpture and photography, perhaps in larger volume than paintings. The show’s open to the public in U Arts’ iconic red-doored Hamilton Hall, the building at 320 S. Broad Street, and it’s free. So even if you’re not buying, it’s a great cultural stroll. You’ll find that it’s not unlike a Barnes experience: There’s a pretty random mix of styles, often compactly-mounted alongside each other, with seemingly little rhyme or reason to the curation. You get what I’m saying.

It’s open from noon to 5 p.m., starting today, running through the 15th—and admission is free. I’m going to highlight some favorites that are still for sale. (There were lots of red dots marking “CLAIMED” status, and I’m pretty sure that come Tuesday, the good stuff’ll be gone!) I’ll just take you around the room in the way that I collected my favorites at the end of the night (check it online, if you like). Ready? Let’s go:

1. Samantha Moss (photo student, ‘14): “Forgot to Stop,” 8 x 10, $150
This is essentially a cool punk photo chick, from what I can surmise, as evidenced by a simple nasty kinetic rock moment printed on a block of metal. It puts you in a pit and manages to capture the beauty of terrifying catharsis.

Dyroff_Mistakes_012. Sean Dryoff (faculty, alumni, arts/printmaking): “A Mistake,” 20 x 24, $250
There’s something about this one; I think it was my favorite. The angle is just perfect—an easy mix of facing the camera and not at all. Clearly, there’s something in the coloring and the model that is compelling, but I don’t need him to turn around. I can see all that I need to from here.

3. Chloe Sherman-Pepe (alumni, photography ‘09): “Untitled #3,” 30 x 20, $410
These came as a series, and you can see the rest online, but this one was my favorite of hers. They’re very Grace Jones-painted-by-Keith Haring in a stark black and white palette, a series that gracefully and effortlessly captures movement (top, left).

4. You Ra Oh (student, painting ‘14): “Untitled,” 48 x 53, $700
Another favorite, this one’s huge and had great texture, listed as “cold wax, oil pastel, acrylic, charcoal, pencile on wood panel.” It has elements of maps and topography, and it’s an abstraction that distills both static, unmoving earth and undulating landscapes.

5. Angela Rio (illustration student ‘14): “Mental Health Awareness: Schizophrenia/Bipolar Disorder/Bulimia/OCD,” $800 each
These were incredible, a series of four boxes that could be considered small installations: shadow boxes that capture the essence of four mental health issues with exacting detail and artistic license. To know that this was made by an illustration student is kind of a marvel because they seem like all kinds of mediums conversing. They’re sold separately, it seems, and “OCD” is taken (top, right).

JFK6. Danny Gallego (student, painting ‘14): “JFK,” 18 x 24, $250
Another favorite: a magic mix of india ink and watercolor on paper that plays with Kennedy’s gender. Or sexuality. Or both. It’s a very Warholian Marilyn Monroe-inspired take on the handsome president, rouging his lips and shadowing his eyes. I would love this in my home.

7. Thomas Kelly (student, crafts ‘14): “#selfieawareness,” 24 x 60, $750
Perfectly capturing our of-the-moment obsession with photographing ourselves, this is a digitally-printed decal that puts a way-too-skinny white bitch in the center of a long, tall mirror taking an egregious selfie. She looks rail-thin and is even pouting a little. You want to kill her (and pull out your phone).

8. Shari Tobias (alumni, fine arts ‘90): “burka burka burka,” 20 x 17, $200
This one’s so fascinating that it pulls great worth from the work’s description: “performance art photograph, matte, frame.” Three women casually row boats in a public park not unlike Boston Commons, with only a little bit of face showing. It makes me think of the Gaga song, “Aura,” and also makes one think about a lot of things. Which is what good art does.

Newer Orleans9. Patrick Tumblety (alumni, film/digital video ‘07): “Newer Orleans,” 16 x 24, $100
There’s nothing brilliant about these; they’re just nice and affordable and would look really great in all kinds of homes and apartments. They’re nicely canvassed digital prints that capture color in vivid ways: New York Times at night, an exotic bird’s rare moment of stillness and, in my favorite, a gorgeous New Orleans house with a verdant double-decker porch.

10. Kevin McWilliams (alumni, photography ‘09): “Tomy, Philadelphia,” 20 x 24, $600
It’s hard to deny a brilliant portrait. McWilliams’ subject doesn’t seem particularly phased by the nature of posing or of being photographed. Tomy has a little bit of menace in his appearance, and yet the photo captures a little tenderness and perhaps a moment of guard-letting-down. It’s a piece of art that looks effortless, but you know that it isn’t.

On the Record: EMA, Todd Terje, Teebs, Dan Croll, Pure X, and S. Carey

The Future’s Void
(Matador Records)
Sounds Like:
Erika M. Anderson is back and it’s got a little more darkness, depth and mania than 2011’s Past Life Martyred Saints, which is a surprising accomplishment/rad achievement.
Free Association: A rising star in the strong, independent rock woman world does not disappoint.
For Fans Of: Kurt Cobain x Zola Jesus, Wild Flag + Gowns/Amps for Christ, Cat Power on amphetamines.

ToddTodd Terje
It’s Album Time
(Redeye Label)
Sounds Like:
The meaty, juicy debut from the Norwegian DJ/producer/remixer is a revelation – just in time for warm weather and rising libidos; rad disco-flavored electronic dance-outs.
Free Association: Though 2012’s “Inspector Norse” grabbed attention, this LPs got variety and depth.
For Fans Of: His boy Lindstrom, Classixx + Tensnake, Apparat/2 Bears/Caribou x summer and drugs.

Sounds Like:
A headphones masterpiece for 2014; the Prefuse 73 and Flying Lotus associate’s focus is on the intersection of synthetic and organic, plus a flirtation with world music.
Free Association: Finally! An electronic musician who’s obsessed with Koushik like it’s 2006.
For Fans Of: Boards of Canada x Panda Bear, Le Loup plus Yo La Tengo with rainsticks in kaftans.

dan_crollDan Croll
Sweet Disarray
Sounds Like:
This 23-year-old Brit’s debut is excellent and I’m hooked: playful melodies, smartly-written, of-the-moment but not trendy, joyous and celebratory; just super-fun.
Free Association: I’ve seen some hate and I wholeheartedly disagree – already given it five+ spins.
For Fans Of: Vampire Weekend x Beach House + Small Black, Tanlines/Cults + giving in to pleasure.

GD30OBH5.pdfPure X
(Fat Possum Records)
Sounds Like:
The gorgeously-drowsy and atmospheric blues pop trio from Austin delivers on its third with woozy guitars, languid ambience and sun-kissed sadness for late nights and long drives.
Free Association: Couldn’t tell you from experience, but these guys must really love barbiturates.
For Fans Of: Mac DeMarco + Real Estate x Kurt Vile, Woods with White Denim, guitar magic.

careyS. Carey
Range of Light
Sounds Like:
Sean Carey, Bon Iver’s drummer, delivers on his sophomore; characteristically heavy-but-pretty indie rock full of pastoral beauty (like on the cover!) and moody emotional tones.
Free Association: You can hear the badass drummer swirling around the tank of mature dad rock.
For Fans Of: Lost in the Trees x Megafaun + Volcano Choir, Grizzly Bear/Owen Pallett, sophisticated sadness.

Local writer and artist Natalie Hope McDonald on her First Friday reception for “Invented Surfaces”

The Road Home largeWinter in My Room lrg

Natalie Hope McDonald is secretly one of my favorite Philadelphians. Her social media presence is always just right: I “favorite” her Tweets, double-tap her Instagrams (@nataliehopemcdonald) and “like” her Facebook statuses and comments on the regular. She’s just one of those calming, mature artists in this city who seems genuinely engrossed in her work and uninterested in playing the tawdry game of attracting web traffic with shallow content. If there’s a story to be told, with pen or paint, she seems to take the task pretty seriously.

Well, she’s also a painter, and a talented one at that. In anticipation of tomorrow’s First Friday opening at Bluestone Gallery in Old City (142 N. Second St.), we were able to get a few questions answered to illuminate her process and paintings.

PW: I can already hear First Friday wanderers who wonder how color and composition abstractions tell a story—especially a personal one. How do you combat that? How would you explain to less-than-intuitive art consumers how personal experience can be gleaned from abstract paintings?
NATALIE HOPE MCDONALD: Abstraction actually offers an unrestricted means to tell a story or to convey thoughts or memories that might inspire a person in a less, well, linear way. It’s a bit like daydreaming when we drift from one thought to another. My paintings are collages of these feelings and ideas. They start off with a basic idea that becomes much more intensely personal as I paint, draw and carve away on the canvas. Practically speaking, it involves a lot of layering and color techniques. The experience of painting is a very solitary one. So for me, that lends itself to soul searching and an exploration into one’s own psyche.

I don’t paint to feel better, though there is satisfaction that comes from a finished piece. I paint because I have to. But I do think it provides a medium to explore sometimes more complex ideas and feelings in a way that can also become (ideally) an appealing composition. I use a lot of visual codes —lines, scribbles, words and numbers—that help tell the stories. They make sense to me. But I also find them to be visually exciting.

Can you say a little about the title inspirations? Where does “The Road Home” come from (Is it Stevens?) and what about “Winter in my Room” (above, L-R)? What’s the process like when inspiration from poetry becomes a painting?
Poetry is a big inspiration to me. I was thinking about Wallace Stevens’ work, which I had been rereading, as well as a regular trip I take back and forth to the town where I was born. For me, the title is both literal (I drive the same road back home) but also philosophical—and what it means to go back to where you come from. Can we ever go back? And if we do, how are we different? How is the place different? I’ve been spending a lot of time in my hometown lately and had been preoccupied by these thoughts as I painted for this show. I sometimes feel like a tourist there, while there are still so many places that remind me of what it was like growing up. There are also a lot of ghosts, people who meant so much to me who are now gone. The large piece in this show is aptly titled “Ghost Stories.” That could also be the title for this show, in a way.

“Winter in My Room” also has a two-fold meaning. I painted the piece when it was snowing, but I also considered what winter tends to symbolize, especially in poetry and literature—and how it relates to the chill or coldness that I was experiencing in my own life. I spent many months going through some personal challenges that left me wondering how one can reconcile sweeping inspiration with what’s required of me to be able to function comfortably in the “real world.” One can feel trapped, as in a room. But that place can also be quite comfortable because it’s so familiar, and it’s safe.

Has abstraction been an ongoing theme in your work? I’m a pretty huge fan of abstraction for the way that it allows for compositions to simply play with color and visual appeal; there’s a also sense of timelessness that I believe abstract painting can capture. What are your roots with the technique? Why does it appeal to you?
In many years, it has been an important theme. But I was trained, like many artists, to paint from real life in art classes. I think that foundation provided an important platform, if only to rebel against. I’m not sure I would have such an appreciation for line, texture, color and composition if not for understanding how they come together in order to completely tear them apart. I find abstraction to be much more challenging than any of the figurative work I had done in the past. Not only must it appeal compositionally, but it also needs to come from somewhere vastly more complex. I don’t simply look at a horse and paint a horse. Abstraction appeals to me because I can share things that I might not ordinarily share in any other way. I used it as a kind of code for years—for lovers and experiences that I wanted to keep personal. For example, if you take a look at some of Marsden Hartley’s portraits, they are collages of objects rather than images of a person’s face. He approached abstraction in a similar way. For him, it involved concealing his subjects. I value that same idea—especially in a world where privacy is harder to come by.

On the Record: Nickel Creek, Shakira, The Hold Steady, Tokyo Police Club, Boy George, and Thievery Corporation

nickel-creek-a-dotted-line-450Nickel Creek
A Dotted Line
Sounds Like:
Prog folk lives! If there’s one band that epitomizes the micro-genre it’d be this California trio, runnin’ 25 years strong now and their first in nine years is an outstanding resurgence.
Free Association: Sometimes bands go away and we miss them, but then they return with boss-ass records.
For Fans Of: Allison Krauss/Union Station x Bela Fleck + Dolly Parton, Del McCoury in Laurel Canyon.

Sounds Like:
The tenth from the Colombian and “The Voice” favorite is definitely of-the-moment with J. Lo-esque grabs at dancefloor hits and a well-known Rihanna collab, and it’s still not that awesome.
Free Association: She’s a great woman to ricochet through pop culture but her talents are seemingly finite.
For Fans Of: Ricky Martin x Paula Abdul, Nelly Furtado x Gloria Estefan, legit Latina pop heroes.

hold-steady-teeth-dreamsThe Hold Steady
Teeth Dreams
(Razor & Tie)
Sounds Like:
The Brooklyn outfit, led (primarily) by Craig Finn’s (often) monotonic and spoke-sang grumblings (he’s 42), returns with a mixed bag of punk, grunge, heartland and prog rock that’s pretty solid.
Free Association: Heaven is Whenever (2010) was rushed, they say? Kinda like that one better, though.
For Fans Of: Bruce Springsteen for Gaslight Anthem, Lucero x Ted Leo + Guided by Voices, BK dad rock.

TPC-Forcefield-608x608Tokyo Police Club
(Mom + Pop)
Sounds Like:
Pleasant but ultimately lightly cheesy indie rock from the Candian quartet’s third LP with proportionate amounts of shocking sophistication and alarmingly corny pop rock.
Free Association: At least they’re not the kind of band whose success you resent due to annoyingness.
For Fans Of: Tapes ‘n Tapes x French Kicks + Two Door Cinema Club/The Used, old Rilo Kiley.

boy-george-this-is-what-i-do-album-artBoy George
This Is What I Do
(Very Me Records)
Sounds Like:
His first original material in almost 20 years! The legend’s stateside release isn’t a miracle but there are some very pleasant dubbed out reggae-flavored blues pop gems in here.
Free Association: The 52-year-old’s had ups and downs – looks like he’s currently up and that’s nice.
For Fans Of: Simply Red + Lee “Scratch” Perry x George Michael, Fine Young Cannibals/Duran Duran.

thieverycorpThievery Corporation
(Esl Music)
Sounds Like:
The D.C.-based DJ duo’s seventh reveals a tone in its title; “saudade” is a Portuguese word for longing or melancholy from loss, but it’s not all bummers – this is excellent bossa nova blues.
Free Association: T.C. make great atmospheric noise, this just sounds like it’s from a Spanish widow.
For Fans Of: Groove Armada x Air/Tricky + Mark Farina, Bebel Gilberto makes mushroom jazz.

Let’s talk about Frankie Knuckles

He’s gone. Another legend who knows the secret. And this one’s a friend to the queer community but, in a much larger sense, a dear mentor to the many children who would grow up and grow inspired by his prowess in the studio, in the club, behind the 1s and 2s. The Bronx native is widely considered, if not the founder, the godfather of House music. He passed Sunday at the age of 59, seemingly after a struggle with Type II diabetes.

It seems unlikely that he knew it, but when Knuckles moved out to Chicago after studying textile design at FIT, he would alter the path of popular dance music through residencies at a couple clubs, just as disco was nearing its expiration date and club-goers were hungry for something a little more fresh. At the Warehouse (the legendary dance club from which the genre got its name, thanks to him), then at his own Power Plant, Knuckles honed his sound, and it became wildly popular. All the biggest clubs in the world would throb and sweat from his 4:4 beats and unrelenting bass lines.

We know now that most, if not all, of those venues are closed and have since been converted into markets, department stores, apartments, gyms and Starbucks. But they represented a golden age of the club: a place where folks of all walks of life, colors and sexualities went to straight-up let loose, see and be seen, and leave their problems on the packed dance-floor. Knuckles wasn’t famous for music videos, for an Instagram account or for spinning with a shirtless, rippling torso. It was because he had a knack for making music that made bodies move, period. That’s it—and that’s enough. His classic compositions, for himself and others, speak for themselves.

The acts that’ve taken notes from the master are too many to list. Certainly a few popular favorites with rabid fan bases would have a hard time denying Knuckles’ influence upon listening to “You Got The Love” (especially with Candi Staton’s iconic inflection), “Tears” or “Your Love/Baby Wants a Ride.” Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, Hercules and Love Affair, and Small Black are the young’ns that come to mind. Of course, his contemporaries, folks like Larry Levan and David Morales are better for having worked aside him. His House remixes for hot singles by Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson and Sounds of Blackness took those respective records—and the scores of club kids who twirled to them—to unimaginable heights, and if you push it a little further, Grace Jones, Erasure and Pet Shop Boys would be nowhere without him. And then there are assholes like Skrillex, Martin Solveig and Calvin Harris who’ve bastardized the genre.

Knuckles has won all kinds of awards, naturally, including a Grammy and accepting induction into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005. President Obama’s adopted hometown has even nodded to the musical genius by naming a stretch of Jefferson Street (between Jackson Blvd. and Madison St.) Frankie Knuckles Way and named August 25, 2004 Frankie Knuckles Day. That’s some presidential recognition—and Obama made it happen as an Illinois state senator.

So tonight, tomorrow night or this weekend, let’s all agree to dance and sweat it out in his memory. Cheers, Mr. Knuckles! And if there’s a heaven, let’s hope God’s got turntables and a drum machine—and you’ll be behind ‘em when we get there.

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