The Riff

Better Than Ikea: Junip

| Mon Dec. 6, 2010 6:00 AM EST

Junip, an astral-rock band from Gothenberg, Sweden, took a full decade to put together Fields, the debut album it released in September. The delay, suggests modest front man Jose Gonzalez—who initally became popular as a solo performer—was a matter of talent catching up with vision. "You could say we're not good enough musicians to make what we want to do," he told me.

Then there was the geographical factor. The band members have been preoccupied with projects that kept them scattered about—organist/moogist Tobias Winterkorn was teaching and building his personal studio, Gonzalez recording solo albums Veneer and In Our Nature; and drummer Elias Araya studying art in Finland and Norway. Practicing and recording were scheduled around periods of separation—and Fields was ultimately created out of samples spanning that decade—as Winterkorn puts it, "taking out the raisins from the cake to eat them."

In all that time, Junip played maybe a few dozen shows, but the band has already rocked more than 80 venues during its current whirlwind tour of the United States and Europe. I caught them recently at San Francisco's Independent, where singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten opened to the sold-out crowd. With her sensuous harmonium and sensitive lyrics, Van Etten made the venue seem small and intimate.

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Crudbump Music Videos, Part I: The Holidays (NSFW)

| Fri Dec. 3, 2010 2:46 AM EST

In the holiday spirit, here's a video. Nothing heavy, just a bearded dog-loving hipster named Drew and his synthesizer giving you his (NSFW) yuletide philosophy:

We'll bring you his other short (NSFW) video, "F*** You Snow" (notice a trend?), in a bit. The single's available on his website. The YouTube channel's got some other interesting videos, like "This Dog Is Awesome." Just watch at your own risk.

Julian Assange Sings! (And Raps!)

| Thu Dec. 2, 2010 7:21 PM EST

Over at McSweeney's, Ben Greeman has imagined some scenes from WikiLeaks! The Musical, in which a playground snub inspires the young Julian Assange to leak the impossible leak. In a moment that evokes both The Social Network and a Disney princess movie, Assange channels his frustrations and aspirations into song:

I'll dub myself Mendax
It means "noble liar."
I'll remake myself as a
High-tech town crier
When people attempt
To hide information
I will be the one
To compel revelation

In fact, the real-life Assange tried his hand at writing lyrics in 1995, when he penned "The Dan Farmer rap," a nerdy, profane, and homophobic rhyme about a rival digital security geek. Some selected verses, written under the handle "Proff":

I'm Dan Farmer, you can't fool me -
the only security consultant to be on MTV.

I've got long red hair - hey hands off man!
don't touch the locks of the mighty Dan.

AC/DC - from the front or from behind,
you can fuck my arse but you can't touch my mind.

Read the full rap after the jump. The Dan Farmer rap got mixed reviews, as Assange wrote a few days after its release: "[A]fter a rather hetic [sic] weak, I return to find my mail box stuffed with assorted flames, congratulations and occasional mis-directed but rational advice about my posting of 'The Dan Farmer rap'. Unfortunately flames outweighted the latter two categories by a 3:1 ratio—and I received a lot of endorsements." Though the rap was meant as good fun, he conceded that it might have been better to keep it…secret: "The DFR had been circulating in security circles for a week or so as an object of wry humor prior to its public release. In retrospect, this is probably where it should have stayed." Assange said his real mistake was assuming that a larger audience would appreciate his rhymes: "Such mistakes are ripe to happen when one is merry and full of wine in the wee hours of the morning."

Fortunately, Assange stuck to writing code. Though recently, he ventured into the studio for a cameo in an episode of the satirical Rap News, in which he attacked a rhyming rival who dared touch his hair. (Stick around until around 4:55.)

And for more Assange-inspired musical madness, check out MoJo cartoonist Mark Fiore's Disney-WikiLeaks mashup set to the tune of "It's a Small World."  

If You Read One "Burlesque" Review, Make it This One

| Thu Dec. 2, 2010 2:29 PM EST

Via Sasha, one of MoJo's Tumblr friends, our favorite 150 word summing-up of the Cher/Christina camp musical:

everything you think is going to happen in the movie does.  i mean EVERYTHING.  it is 200% predictable right down to Alan Cumming being in it. sarazona and i have a theory that he wasn’t even asked to be in it - he just like, smelled cabaret and showed up on set and it was far easier to just write him two lines and send him to a trailer than to have him escorted off set.

Mind you, this is from a positive review. Of a movie that's pulling a 35 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But the important thing is, Sasha pretty much nails it with Alan Cumming. He's like that creepy friend of yours who's perfectly harmless, yet still manages to freak the holy Christmas out of you by suddenly popping up breathing on your neck in a dark alley:

"Hi.""Hi." [Breathes.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


That
creepy. Still, like Burlesque itself, good luck not watching:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Alan Cumming
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor The Daily Show on Facebook

Black Harvard-Yale Alums = Gangbangers?

| Tue Nov. 30, 2010 7:00 AM EST

Racial profiling has hit the Ivy League. Again. A party for black Harvard and Yale alums at a Boston club was shut down last weekend because the club owner was afraid that a long line of black people outside could "attract the attention of local gangbangers."

It all started when a group of recent graduates sold advance tickets for a party at a new Boston club, Cure Lounge. When the night of the party came, club management claimed some of the folks waiting in line were "local gang bangers," despite the organizers' strict guest list. Management then demanded that every guest show student ID, which the organizers argued was impossible since alums usually don't carry their old student IDs around. Eventually, on the basis that a line of black people would attract the "wrong crowd" (no joke), the owners shut the entire club down. Michael Beal, one of the organizers of the party, wrote in an email apology to the guests that "regardless of our crowd representing the pinnacle of academic achievement as Harvard and Yale College alumni, Law, Medical, Business and PhD students, we were perceived as a threat because of our skin color." Sounds right on. (You can read Beal's email in its entirety here.)

Writing about all this over at the Grio, blogger Lori Adelman makes a great point:

This incident is more than about entrance to a party, or how infuriating it is for black ivy league alumni to be perceived as a "local gang-banger," or discriminated against by way of "visual affiliation" (see: skin color). In fact, it should serve as an opportunity for us to examine the ways in which we as a black community can and must view our struggles as more connected across lines of class and education, now more than ever before.

Agreed. Obviously racism is class- and education-blind, as last year's arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was just trying to get into his own house, confirmed. It's not just Gates: Ex-Harvard (and current Princeton) Prof. Cornel West has spoken to Tavis Smiley about being stopped and questioned by Harvard police while on his way to lectures, and black Harvard student groups picnicking on campus were recently questioned by campus police about their presence at the college. But as the Grio's Adelman points out:

Perhaps we might focus less on the offenders' inability to distinguish who deserves to be treated with dignity and fairness, and more on why there are criteria for such treatment in the first place.

Based on Cure Lounge's depreciating Yelp score and the calls from the blogosphere to boycott the place, it won't get away from the scandal unscathed. Too bad the same can't be said for racist institutions that target black folks who don't have degrees or money.

(h/t: Jezebel)

Anthology of Rap: The Unofficial Index

| Mon Nov. 29, 2010 6:35 AM EST

The much anticipated release of The Anthology of Rap has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start. The project, which features a foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr., has drawn criticism for the abundance of transcription errors—and in hip-hop, the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between, well, George Wallace and Gerald Wallace (an actual mistake in the book). That's a shame because, errors aside, it's an awesome compilation: 920 pages of some of the baddest, phattest, flyest tracks ever dropped.

And that, invariably, means plenty of preposterous pop-culture references. Unless you rolled with Junior M.A.F.I.A. back in the day or hail from Queensbridge, you're probably not included in this book. But plenty of totally random people (and things! and historical events!) are. So what exactly shakes like Smucker's grape jelly? What's the best way to hijack a space shuttle? And what does Nas really think about Calvin Coolidge? We've got you covered. Here's our unofficial, abridged political and pop-culture Anthology of Rap index.

Attila the Hun

  • is not LL Cool J, p. 216

Bambi

  • mad phatness of, p. 312

Bicentennial Celebration

  • boringness of, p. 419
  • similarities to Arsenio Hall Show, p. 419

 Booth, John Wilkes

  • as second-grade icon, p. 358

Bush, George H.W.

  • as real estate agent, p. 424
  • worth less than a bird in the hand, p. 424

Bush, George W.

  • a natural ass, p. 699
  • did 9/11, p. 751
  • not a Seminole Indian, p. 715
  • treatment of blacks relative to treatment of trash, p. 699

Clinton, Bill

  • hanging in strip club, p. 681
  • slanging crack, p. 485
  • smoking up, p. 681

Coolidge, Calvin

  • suspected black ancestry of, p. 469

Dahmer, Jeffery

  • consumption of dogs, p. 485
  • consumption of mail-order brides (hypothesized), p. 647

Etch-a-Sketch

  • as matter of life and death, p. 180

Falwell, Jerry

  • as funky dope musician, p. 136

Gandhi

  • as serial killer, p. 389

Goodyear Blimp

  • says "Ice Cube's a pimp," p. 426

McCain, John

Mephistopheles

  • as metaphor, p. 361

NASA

  • hijacking of space shuttle with a .38, p. 389

Nixon, Richard

  • wickedness relative to Ghostface Killah, p. 548

Nobel Peace Prize

  • awarded to Canibus, p. 352
  • passed up by Canibus, p. 352

Obama, Barack

  • as pen pal, p. 760
  • complexion of, p. 717
  • merits of putting on $5,000 bill, p. 717

Peloponnesian War

  • lack of respect for science or intellect, p. 159

Picasso, Pablo

  • similarities to Kool Moe Dee, p. 204

President

  • complexion of relative to a Maybach, p. 438
  • dead, p. 427
  • dead, with sprinkles, p. 428
  • fuckin' dead, p. 428
  • efforts to combat Chinese expansion, p. 755
  • Eric B. is, p. 170
  • future employment as, p 391
  • impeachment of, p. 255
  • is black, p. 715
  • is half-white, p. 438
  • never did shit for me, p. 716

Reagan, Nancy

  • sexual intimacy with, p. 298

Reagan, Ronald

  • employment of Too $hort as economic advisor, p. 298
  • selling cocaine in the White House, p. 298

Republicans

  • not fuckin' broke, p. 424
  • should be disabled, p. 341

Senators

  • getting high, p. 424

Shaft

  • shafting like, p. 223

Sharon, Ariel

  • odds of showing compassion relative to odds that Immortal Technique will stop blastin', p. 655

Smucker's

  • shaking jelly like, p. 530

Steve, Scuba

  • respiratory struggles of, p. 635

Swayze, Patrick

  • is Method Man, p. 539

Tastykake

  • as artificially flavored equivalent to Ol' Dirty Bastard's rhymes, p. 545

Truman, Harry S.

  • dapper as a rapper, p. 135

Tyson, Mike

  • Knocked-out like, p. 61
  • Knock you out like, p. 215

Voting

  • decision to spend dough on hoes instead of, p. 717

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Going Androidgenous With Janelle Monáe

| Mon Nov. 29, 2010 6:32 AM EST

The red-hot R&B revivalist Janelle Monáe takes cyborgs, and her career, pretty seriously. She's been compared to, among others, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and Prince. Which is an indication both of her talent—Sean "Puffy" Combs called her one of the most important signings of his career—and her wide range of influences, from Stevie Wonder to Salvador Dalí to Fritz Lang's silent film Metropolis (hence the cyborgs).

Monáe grew up doing musical theater in Kansas City and helped create the Atlanta-based Wondaland Arts Society, which released her first EP, Metropolis: The Chase Suite. Her next album continued the story of Cindi Mayweather, a time-traveling ArchAndroid sent to free the citizens of Metropolis from their dystopian world. Her songs might be viewed as a metaphor for race and gender discrimination—but Monáe also wants you to take them literally: She insists that they're a preemptive call for the equality of cyborgs. Even her usual outfit—saddle shoes, pompadour, tailored tux—is not so much an artistic statement as a practical move; tuxedos are a timeless look, she's said, and so a natural choice for a time-traveling robot. Most recently, her song "Without a Fight" appeared on the For Colored Girls soundtrack. We recently spoke with the cyberfunkstress about tuxedo politics, her journey to fame, and her favorite holiday music.

Mother Jones: Did you hear that Bradford Cox of Deerhunter is calling you the next David Bowie?

Janelle Monáe: No. I'm sure he meant well, but that isn't my goal. I like David Bowie though. I guess if I got a sex change, that could work out.

Teachers Respond to 'Waiting for Superman'

| Tue Nov. 23, 2010 8:15 PM EST

-Mark Murrmann, Mother Jones-Mark Murrmann, Mother JonesBy now, you've probably either seen or read reactions to the most controversial education documentary of the year, "Waiting for 'Superman'" (WFS) directed by Davis Guggenheim. (In case you missed the brouhaha, my favorite in-depth, opposing views on the film are here and here.)

I plan to spend a lot more time in the schools before I dig deeper into some of the claims in the documentary, but I am always skeptical of silver-bullet solutions. Meanwhile, I have been trying to rally some veteran public school teachers to go see WFS with me. So far, I haven't been able to find one taker. The teachers tell me they think it's an attack on them, and are boycotting it.

Turns out, Guggenheim also wants to hear from teachers. Last week, he put out a call in the form of a blog post on HuffPo, "Teachers: Tell Me What You Think," and got an earful. The interesting thing is that out of 87 comments, as of today, not one is positive. (Well, there is one, but that comment is clearly an advertisement.) All comment writers say that they are teachers, some with decades of experience, and there are some important points. I read through all comments, and here are a few excerpts that seemed representative of the main themes and sentiments.

So far, Guggenheim hasn't responded.

Have you seen "Waiting for 'Superman?'" Really curious to hear what MoJo readers think of it.
 

Girl Talk's Personal Mixtape

| Mon Nov. 22, 2010 6:48 AM EST

Gregg Gillis, better known by his DJ alias Girl Talk, has been a long-time favorite of hipsters and hip-hop enthusiasts. In performance, he hunches over his laptop, sweating and rocking rhythmically. By the end of his set, he’s invariably shirtless and surrounded by fans who are equally sweaty from all their booty popping, arm waving, and moshing. Girl Talk's distinctive style relies on the irreverent juxtaposition of pop sweethearts and public enemies—or new dogs and OGs—and the resulting mixes are are fresher than the sum of their parts. For example, his brand new CD, All Day, pits "Party in the USA" against "Robbin' Hoodz" to create a softer M.O.P. and a bad-ass version of Miley Cyrus. The album, now available for download, has thus far earned excellent accolades. We recently asked Gillis to reveal a few of his personal faves.

Mother Jones: What's your favorite release this year?

Girl Talk: Rick Ross' Teflon Don—it's heavy in many different ways.

Sasha Frere-Jones' Listening Pleasures

| Mon Nov. 22, 2010 6:45 AM EST

Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker's prolific pop-music critic, is about to get busier. Last week, the news broke that he had signed on as the new culture editor of The Daily, News Corporation's soon-to-debut iPad newspaper. For now, Frere-Jones, a musician in his own right and current member of the bands Piñata and Calvinist, continues to write—on race in American pop music and the end of hip-hop, among other volatile subjects—and to document his surroundings in photos he calls "barely photography." We caught up with Frere-Jones to quiz him about his current music faves and the perks of being one of the world's Top 30 critics.   

Mother Jones: What's your favorite new or upcoming release?