Cool DC Events: NPR’s Screening a Punk Doc

The impact of Dischord Records and its surrounding miniverse of hardcore and post-hardcore punk is enormous, and its influence is still felt today in D.C. and everywhere. For alternative music fans living in our nation’s capital, it is nearly a ritual to glorify D.C.’s past as a hotbed for a thriving, groundbreaking punk scene.

The latest artifact of this culture has surfaced in an in-depth documentary on the old scene, entitled “Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90).” Created by Scott Crawford, a zine publisher-turned-documentarian, the 90 minute film combines unique vintage concert footage with current-day interviews.

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In a great tip of the hat to the scene of old, NPR Music will be hosting a screening of this documentary in its DC office. According to their blog, Scott Crawford will appear after the screening on a panel along with Jim Saah, the film’s director of photography, as well as veteran DC punk Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Bad Religion) and moderated by Ally Schweitzer of WAMU.

The event is on Tuesday, May 5 at 7pm. Unfortunately, it’s already been fully sold out, but hopefully you know someone who can get you in! Otherwise, don’t fret. The Library has your back. Come by and ask about our great (and still building) collection of DC punk classic CDs and DVDs! You can celebrate the rich punk legacy of our city here with us.

AU Musical Events: The Antlers with Boon, 4/18

S-A,T-U-R, D-A-Y, hey! What are you doing this Saturday night, readers? Let me tell you exactly what.

You will, if you know what’s up, be attending WVAU’s spring concert! For those who don’t know, WVAU is American University’s very own student-run radio station. They broadcast from MGC and hold awesome campus events like this one. Also, they are the current holder of CMJ (College Music Journal)’s award for #1 student-run, internet-only radio station. Anyways they put on a decent-size concert every semester, highlighting artists from the world of independent music, in a series called “Capitol Punishment.”

This semester’s show features the Antlers, an indie rock band known for their deeply emotional and atmospheric style. Frontman Peter Silberman released solo projects under the name until 2009’s Hospice, the first full-band album by the Antlers, which garnered huge amounts of critical praise and devotion from fans for its intensely sad content and powerful sound. 2011’s sophomore album Burst Apart cooled the emotional jets (just a little) and added some more atmosphere, again very successful. On 2012’s Undersea EP and last year’s third album Familiars, the band have proven themselves to be experts in sonic texture, blending enormous atmospheres of guitar pedals and melancholy brass with beautiful melodies in a sweeping, nearly post-rock style. Their performance is sure to be hypnotic and moving.

Opening for them will be a group of AU students going by Boon (full disclosure: I am in Boon). This four-piece, composed of AU seniors Brendan Principato, Drew Sher, Luke Ramsey and myself, alternates dynamic, energetic tempos with more spacious instrumentals. At least I like to think so. Listen to Boon’s debut EP here!

And with a poster this cool, you know the event is going to rule!

The show begins tomorrow night at 8:30 in the SIS Founder’s room (which surprisingly can sustain a great concert!). It is free with AU ID, closed to the public, so no 30 year-old Tinder dates allowed. But that’s okay, because you will be able to cry out your loneliness in a room filled with feeling friends, all enjoying the beautiful music together in arms. See you there!

P.S. Here’s the facebook event.

So proud of our Grammy winning CD, St. Vincent!

So guess what, readers? We have, on our shelves, a Grammy winning album (in CD form). No, not the Beck album; we’re staying out of that debate. No, we’re talking about the best Alternative Music Album, aka St. Vincent’s self-titled fourth full length, and it is a BEAST.

This album is a well-deserved winner, the clear best choice of 2015’s nominations, and an example of an artist in her prime, and continuing to evolve. 2012’s Strange Mercy, her previous album, was the perfect crystallization of sounds she had been developing on her first two releases. St. Vincent is the logical next step, seeing her pursue a darker, funkier sound and a new, cult-leader alter ego (seen below on the album cover):

However, in her excitement at becoming a Grammy-winning artist, the artist formerly known as Annie Clark stepped out of her persona to write a sweet thank you note to all of her fans. It describes, briefly, her musical journey from the outset of becoming “St. Vincent” to the present day. Read it here: http://ilovestvincent.com/#news

She also held a brief interview with Pitchfork and a longer one with i-D immediately after her win, revealing her excited mood in the wake of such a triumph. While the Grammys often seem out-of-touch and archaic, this award shows that they still possess a shred of “with it.” We’ll see what they pick next year. Meanwhile, celebrate with St. Vincent by checking out her album and seeing what’s so special about it yourself!

Björk on Pitchfork, Björk on our shelves!

Not sure if you’ve been around the internet, but this interview that Pitchfork held with Björk has been making the rounds among those passionate about music & gender equality (two great things to care about, imo).

In this interview with P4k’s Jessica Hopper, Björk touches on several issues, all of which surrounding the release of her new album Vulnicura, out on One Little Indian. First of all, this album takes the role of Björk’s “breakup album.” For Björk, Vulnicura is a catharsis of the emotion of leaving her longtime partner. While all of Björk’s releases have contained songs touching on love and interpersonal relationships, this album narrows the scope, and the subject matter is now her love and her interpersonal relationships. It is far more personal than  her previous releases, and in this interview there are several times where the Icelandic artist begins to cry simply thinking about it.

While this alone would make for a great interview, Björk took it to the next level when beginning to discuss taking credit for her music. It seems that in the press release rollout for Vulnicura, co-producer Arca (a man) was given full credit for producing this album, while Björk had actually simply brought him in to collaborate at the end. While Arca tweeted about this attempting to rectify the error, this misinformation was still posted all over the internet.

Björk was upset by this but sadly not surprised, given that male collaborators had been unduly given credit for her ideas for her entire career. In this interview she laments the fact that female songwriters and artists often have credit for their music co-opted by male collaborators. With an album as personal as Vulnicura, it’s ridiculous that Björk wasn’t even given shared credit by many sites. Hopefully this interview will set off some sort of paradigm shift among music fans (and critics), and a mistake like that won’t plague Björk the next time she releases an album.

While we don’t have Vulnicura on CD (yet), we do have several Björk albums, her first three solo albums DebutPost and Homogenic and her most recent album Biophilia. If you’re inspired by this interview, come check ’em out!

Cool DC Events: DC Music Download’s 3rd birthday @ 9:30 Club

Welcome to February! A cold and dark month, February nonetheless manages to be a good month for birthdays. I bet you have a few friends with February birthdays. And then there’s all those presidents. Heck, even my birthday is in February! (No bias, I swear).

Another important birthday comes in February as well, that of DC Music Download, a music website that has become a large part of the D.C. scene, covering and supporting local bands in reviews and with events. This year, they’re celebrating their third birthday (an eternity in internet time), at none other than that classic D.C. venue, the 9:30 Club!

DC Music Download's Three Year Anniversary Show

This Saturday night (2/7/2015) at 7pm, the party begins with DJ Ayescold, known for the wide-ranging musical reference of her sets. After her comes Baby Bry Bry & The Apologists, a loudly emotional band of “lounge punks.” Next is a crew of punk veterans’ new project Loud Boyz, and closing the show are crucial local mainstays, the psych-rock band Paperhaus. These guys, who also own a house show of the same name, have supported the scene around them for years, and at this event the scene is paying them back with a record release show at the 9:30 club. Sure to be a moving event. There will also be a D.C. music photography exhibit present, anchoring the 3 year-old website as a part of its city’s legacy.

Anyways, it’s this Saturday, and tickets are $16. An extra cool twist is that $1 of each ticket purchase will go to supporting the D.C. Public Library’s Punk Archive! Which, you should know, we’re big fans of here. So do something cool with your Saturday night! Attend a “happening” event, see some cool music, and support the indie scene in D.C. at this great birthday party.

Sweet New Arrivals: Shadow & Simon

As you saw yesterday, we just procured a large batch of new CDs. I’d like to take this time to highlight two personal favorites. These two CDs are very different from each other but both are tremendously important to the development of popular music. Each represents both a perfection of style and a watershed moment, shaping the sound of their respective genres while representing the best each had to offer.

 

DJ Shadow – Endtroducing….. (1996)

As far as sample-based hip hop production goes, it’s hard to top this album. While other great albums preceding it made use of extensive, creative sampling (Paul’s Boutique, Three Feet High & Rising, It Takes A Nation Of Millions…, etc.), their producers used the samples to create a backdrop for the featured rapper. Endtroducing….. features no rapper, and relies on scores of samples to provide a thematic narrative. DJ Shadow’s creative chopping of drum breaks, sampled rap lyrics, atmospheric pieces and movie dialogue keeps the album interesting throughout.

What truly stands out about Endtroducing….., however, is its compositional ambition. The songs stretch out into epic, jazzy expanses, often far longer than a traditional hip hop record. In fact, this album was such a jump from the traditional use of samples and breaks that it led to the new genre of “trip hop,” sort of a bridge between ambient music, psychedelia and jazz, anchored by rap beats. On this album the line was forever blurred between hip hop grooves and avant-garde musical exploration, and we can thank it for a wealth of creative hip hop that has since followed.

 

Paul Simon – Graceland (1986)

Ah, Graceland. The sight of it in our “new CDs” pile gives me an intense feeling of joy, as this is one of the best pop albums I’ve ever heard and (probably) that was ever made. Suffering from a failing marriage and a commercial slump in the early 1980s, singer-songwriter Paul Simon was inspired by a cassette of South African music and went to the apartheid-stricken country to record with some of the musicians there. After this trip he returned to New York City and wandered the streets, composing an incredible set of soul-searching, heart bearing, romantic but realistic lyrics. These lyrics rest among Simon’s best, often surrealistic, fantastical or futuristic, but all managing to hit upon beautiful understatements on the trials and tribulations of interpersonal relationships. They form a uniquely American point of view that meshes strangely well with the African musical background.

And what a background it is! Unstoppable percussion grooves and liquid bass lines anchor exuberantly twinkling guitar runs, conjuring a dreamlike state. Often the vocalists of South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo sweep in, a tapestry of vocal timbre. These elements, previously unintroduced to American pop music, took Simon’s stellar set of lyrics to the next level, and paired with the occasional electronic drum kit and saxophone were able to create a pop sound that had never before been reached. Graceland truly represents the amazing possibilities of blending international pop styles, and it is a high watermark in pop musical history that has yet to be equaled- it’s hard to imagine such perfect chemistry occurring again.

Did I sell these well? Come check them out and see if they’re worth my hype. Or don’t, and I’ll keep listening to them during my shifts, it’s okay.

A Bunch of New CDs!

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Hello, hello, happy Thursday evening, hope it doesn’t find you too thirsty! Guess what, we’ve got a bunch of new CDs for you to check out for the weekend, all kinds of genres! I’ll be covering a couple of them in further detail tomorrow, but for now here’s a list.

NEW CDs

Jean Grae – The Attack of the Attacking Things – CD 1960

The Slits – Cut – CD 8287

Paul Simon – Graceland – CD 2365

DJ Shadow – Endtroducing – CD 2435

Aaliyah – One in a Million – CD 4473

Soli Chamber Ensemble – Música, Por Un Tiempo – CD 2504

Fort Worth Opera – With Blood, With Ink – CD 2270

Delfeayo Marsalis – The Last Southern Gentleman – CD 2273

The President’s Own United States Marine Band – Be Glad Then, America – CD 2100

Mason Bates – Stereo is King – CD 8288

Massilia Sound System – Massilia – CD 2097