Monthly Archives: August 2010

BTR Artists On Tour: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Uz Jsme Doma

For many of us, fall marks the end of carefree summer nights and the beginning of school. You may have to say goodbye to half-day Fridays and warm, sunny days, but there are a few things to look forward to. Many bands are gearing up for their fall tours. This month, we’ll see what Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Uz Jsme Doma are up to.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (SJDK) had a great summer this year. A whopping 20,000 people attended their free show at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. However, if you weren’t among the dancing masses that night (and why weren’t you?), you still have many opportunities to see this Brooklyn-based soul/funk show-stopper live.

This fall, SJDK is touring through the Midwest and Europe. They’ll be performing tunes from their recently released fourth album, I Learned The Hard Way. A crisp, smooth record that takes inspiration from Stax and Motown, this latest work takes SJDK’s neo-soul aesthetic to another level. Sharon’s voice crackles with emotion, and the Dap-Kings’ brass-heavy rhythms magnify her  passionate, soulful words.

SJDK is reminiscent of Sam Cooke, James Brown and Aretha Franklin, but they are a definitively modern phenomenon. Let Sharon teach you her moves and get seduced by the Dap-Kings powerful brass—and you might understand why over 20,000 people braved mosquitoes and simmering temperatures in a 7,000-person capacity venue. They’re just that good.

September 04 – Snowmass Townpark – Snowmass, CO
September 14 –  Puyallup Fair – Puyallup WA
September 17 – Buster’s, – Lexington, KY
September 18 – Minglewood Hall – Memphis TN
September 19 – The Pageant – St. Louis, MO
September 20 – The Blue Note –  Columbia, MO
September 21 – Midland Theatre –  Kansas City, MO
September 23 – The Showroom at Palladium – Dallas TX
September 24 – La Zona Rosa – Austin, TX
September 26 – Orpheum Theatre –  Phoenix, AZ
September 27 – The Lensic – Santa Fe, NM
September 28 – Ogden Theare –  Denver, CO
October 13 – Kaufleuten –  Zurich, Switzerland
October 14 – Les Docks –  Lausanne, Switzerland
October 15 – Nancy Jazz Pulsations – Nancy, France
October 16 – Live Music Hall – Koln, Germany
October 17 – Trix – Antwerpen, Belgium
October 19 – Huxley’s – Berlin, Germany
October 20 – Grosse Freiheit 36 – Hamburg, Germany
October 21 – WDR TV Rockpalast – Bonn, Germany
October 22 – Tonhalle – München, Germany
October 23 – Bloom – Mezzago, Italy
October 26 – Apolo – Barcelona, Spain
October 27 – Le Vigean – Bordeaux, France
October 28 – L’Olympic – Nantes, France
October 29 – La Cigale  – Paris, France
October 30 – Aeronef – Lille, France
November  1 – Paradiso – Amsterdam, Netherlands
November  3 – Roundhouse – London, UK
November  4 – The Ritz – Manchester, UK
November  5 – Queens Hall – Edinburgh, UK
November  6 – Tripod – Dublin, Ireland

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The four friends that make up The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (POBPAH) originally got together to perform at keyboardist Peggy Wang’s birthday blowout at a Brooklyn warehouse back in 2007. Since then, however, they’ve stayed together and started honing their pop repertoire.

Pains turns melancholy lyrics into upbeat, twee-pop tunes with wispy boy-girl vocals and fuzzy guitar riffs. Their tunes are refreshingly simple yet polished, catchy yet dark underneath. Taking inspiration from My Bloody Valentine and The Field Mice, Pains melds sugary sweet harmonies with hazy guitars and earnest vocals.

Since 2007, Pains has been working the Brooklyn indie scene and playing venues like Cake Shop and Dead Herring. Last year, they released two EPs on Slumberland Records. Stellar reviews and  critical acclaim from outlets like Pitchfork, Stereogum and The New York Times propelled the group out of the Brooklyn circuit, and now they’re gearing up for a tour this fall. They’ll be hitting up some key cities on the east cost (Brooklyn, Philly, Boston) before heading to the west coast.

Uz Jsme Doma

Uz Jsme Doma may be the strangest band you’ll encounter. The Czech prog-rock quintet has been around since 1985, when their punk-inspired music was considered illegal by the communist Czechoslovakia. Their membership has changed over the course of these past 25 years, but their music maintains its energetic, genre-bending spirit.

Uz Jsme Doma has received many labels over the years: intellectual punk, Slavic tone provocation, orchestral punk, ska, melodic avant garde and many others. In one way or another, each of these labels can be applied to the band. Though completely arranged as if they were classical compositions, their songs are so complex and full of tumultuous energy that you’d think they had to have been improvised. Shifts between time signatures and rhythms that accent off-beats and half-beats throw the melodies into dense, forceful chaos. Inundated with sixteenth notes, the tunes move at high-speed without stopping to catch a breath. In short, Uz Jsme Doma’s music is exhausting (in a good way).

Touring through Canada and the East coast this fall, Uz Jsme Doma is sure to be a fun, unforgettable live experience. They’ll be releasing their seventh album, Jeskyne, which, like all the others before it, is jam-packed with insatiable energy and a loyalty to the discord and freedom of punk rock.

Uz Jsme Doma LIVE!!!
September 23 – Daniel Street Club – Milford, CT
September 25 – Building 16 – Providence, RI
September 26 – Lesco – Montreal, Quebec, Canada
September 28 – Zaphod Beeblebox – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
September 29 – Sneaky Dee’s – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
September 30 – Bug Jar – Rochester, NY
October 1 – The Rock Shop – 249 4th Avenue – Brooklyn, NY
October 2 – 12th Annual Czech Street Festival – New York, NY
October 4 – Maxwell’s – Hoboken, NJ
October 5 – M Room – Philadelphia, PA
October 6 – Black Cat – Washington, DC
October 8 – Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH
Ocober 9 – Orion Sound Studios – Baltimore, MD

Link to this article:

– Ivana Ng

Artist of the Week: Lille

According to their Myspace page, the sole member of Lille is the pseudo-dragon from The NeverEnding Story. That is somehow fitting for the dreamy pop of Lille’s freshman endeavor Tall Shoulders. The five tracks on Lille’s EP are mix of whistling, ukulele, and dreamy vocals; poppy, but not cliche; “something borrowed,” but nothing trite.

In reality, Lille is not a giant pink-grey dragon. She is Grace Bellury, a pixie-ish teenager from Atlanta, Georgia who started her musical career plucking out tunes on a mandolin. She eventually switched instruments, choosing the ukulele as her main vessel of expression about two years ago. Lille claims that this switch was due partially to Beirut, and the rest to heartbreak. It’s odd that the ukulele– an instrument associated with upbeat beach-pop and overweight Hawaiians– is used to produce Lille’s melancholy tunes. But she makes it work, artfully layering her strumming and sad vocals with fast-paced beats, which make the entire experience bittersweet. It is not something that you could dance to, but not exactly something to cry to.

Lille’s influences are unsurprising. She claims to have been influenced lately by groups like Beach House and Best Coast, groups that both feature girl vocalists with similar dreamy tones. In addition, she cites the Beatles, Sufjan Stevens, and Harry Nilsson as significant influences, all of which are apparent in her melodic verses. Culturally, she names Tim Burton as a main influence, along with sadness in general.

There is very little information about Lille out in the media, which adds to the mystic allure of her pretty face and mournful lyrics. She recently signed onto Brooklyn’s Whale Heart Records, but has not released any tour dates, preferring for now to play small local shows.

Listen to BreakThru Radio all week long for tracks from Lille!

Link to this article:

– Calah Singleton

Set List: Via Berlin

Get your Euro on. DJ Katia’s (pronounced Kat-ee-ah) Tuesday afternoon program Via Berlin is a great reminder to all of us of the sometimes forgotten but always-eminent German music scene.

Tom Lüneburger

It may not be what you expect from a German program either. With New York City’s Electric Zoo Festival just around the corner, perhaps I had Euro-techno on my brain this morning. I intentionally delayed putting BTR on until I was awake enough to handle the electric sound I expected from a radio program featuring German music only. Tuning into DJ Katia’s show immediately nullified all those preconceptions. An extremely sweet and soft voice, with only a hint of a German accent, DJ Katia’s opening mic break is the perfect cream to my coffee. So are the first two tracks she plays, “Yesterday Is Gone” and “Good Intentions” by Tom Lüneburger. Maybe I shouldn’t be so presumptuous next time.

Even though the show is called “Via Berlin,” it is not only music from Berlin. Hamburg in the North, Cologne/Düsseldorf in the West, or Munich/Stuttgart in the South are also hot spots or ports for some of Germany’s best music scenes. “Since Berlin is quite a melting pot, you will find a lot of influences from all sorts of culture,” Katia tells me in an email.

The range of the music on her show does an excellent job to reach out to as many of these “influences” as possible. I ask her about the musical formula she puts into the show: “Generally, the show consists of an indie pop/rock/electronica mix with a focus on: a) electronic music (more or less), and b) singer/songwriters.” Katia goes on to describe herself as not “the biggest fan” of the electronica genre, but still recognizes it’s popularity and importance in German culture and the German music scene. “I’m under the impression that some kind of electronica-influenced style has become extremely popular in Germany. One could argue why that is and where it came from. I’ll just presume it might have been introduced by our neighbors in France.”

Zoe Leela

The history of German techno stretches further back then the dominant rise in the early 2000s even though it was around that time when it really started to make its mark on the globe. It was during the late 60s and early 70s when German musicians began to experiment with electronic/computer generated noise, calling the new sound “Krautrock.” Some bands of note from this period were Kraftwerk, Neu!, and Can and Faust. Yet there is no debating that the rapid rise of German’s techno scene as one of Europe’s (and the world’s for that matter) top producers of techno music happened just after the turn of the century. DJ Katia explains: “Acts and records out of the Ed Banger label environment (Daft Punk, Mr. Oizo, Feadz, etc.) were sort of a new generation of musicians and computer nerds around 2002/2003 who influenced an electro based style that has spread all over Europe. Now you have acts like Boys Noize or Modeselektor or Moderat in Berlin who are leading Electronica acts themselves. They have even gone on to found their own successful labels.”

DJ Katia feels that “Berlin, as a city itself, is to blame” in a way for the burgeoning singer/songwriter scene that is counterbalancing the well-known techno scene. Similar to New York, a lot of musicians (from all over the world, but mainly Europe) come to, and subsequently stay in, Berlin because of its vital scene with a lot of bars and clubs to play in and its very friendly and relaxed environment. “Most of all,” Katia contends, “it is because you (and your guitar) can survive easily in an extremely affordable city.”

Whatever it is that is happening in Berlin and the rest of Germany’s music scene seems to be working. The techno/dance is still dominating the world market, the singer/songwriters are improving and becoming more internationally known, and the Indie rock labels are continuing to find fresh, raw talent that separates them from the Euro-pop trash.

Make sure to check out DJ Katia’s eclectic German program Via Berlin to keep up with all that is happening from this centrally based European country.

Link to this article:

– Kory French

Review: Rescue Bird, Family Trees, Eternal Summers, Reading Rainbow & German Measles Play Brooklyn’s The Pyramids on Aug 12

Rescue Bird

Thursday night found my roommate, my boyfriend and I at Williamsburg’s latest large-scale DIY venue:  The Pyramids. This kind of performance space has recently popularized as the concert-goers’ hybrid, offering greater structure and accessibility than your best friend’s living room while retaining a more community-friendly, open platform than the average corporatized concert hall.

Brooklyn’s music scene in particular has been quick to embrace this event model, and Williamsburg’s convenient location coupled with waterfront warehouse real estate has made it the heart of many such spots. From Glasslands to The Bell House, DIY is itself on the verge of being too mainstream, but there’s still enough novelty in its grass-roots approach to ensure continued growth for a while longer.
As with any new direction though, there are losses suffered along with the gains that are made available. While the do-it-yourself ethic has opened a wider array of alternatives to artists in every aspect from production to performance to management, one has to wonder: what has it cost?

Overall, The Pyramids space lacks any unique quirks or characteristics, which I believe are fundamental to a successful venue environment. It’s a bit like attending a party in your high school friend’s parent’s basement: hot and windowless, with bare white walls and a makeshift bar that on Thursday boasted cheap whiskey, cheap vodka, and PBR.  A review of the show in Brooklyn Vegan repeatedly focused on the impressively clean bathrooms, which were absolutely an aspect to appreciate, especially in New York City.  But if that’s the best thing you have to say about a concert space… is it really about rock ‘n roll?

Thursday’s line-up started with a set from Brooklyn’s quartet Rescue Bird.  Fronted by lead singer Sarah Dyson, whose beautiful voice was trained in classical opera, these four women use accordion, piano, cello and ukulele to create charming folk rock that is harmonic and sweetly sad. There’s an old-world flavor to the lilt of their melodies with lyrics that invite close listening—something that Pyramids does not easily offer.

I saw them perform once before in a hair salon and, believe it or not, that venue’s personality suited the group better. Here, the delicacy of Rescue Bird’s sound was swallowed by the stifling box of a warehouse. Their set was brief and under-attended by a polite audience sitting cross-legged on the cement (or maybe they were just trying to stay as close as possible to the large floor fans that were the concert’s sole source of air circulation).

Eternal Summers

Following that was another Brooklyn band, Family Trees, whose MySpace page and samples lean heavily on a Beach Boys influence. But what compositional and vocal order is evident in their virtual presence seemed lost in transmission during live performance, resulting instead in sweaty sonic confusion.

The underwhelmed, overheated audience grew restless pretty quickly, but this changed when the energetic Roanoke, VA punk duo Eternal Summers took the floor. Their already avid indie following was evident as the evening’s first enthusiastic crowd gathered. Like many of their two-member peers, Eternal Summers create music with an edge of self-aware understatement which has become one this generation’s trademark forms of musical rebellion: deadpan punk. But they infused their blasé songs with full rock passion, drummer Daniel delivering a percussion performance so gymnastic that my roommate likened him to a hummingbird.  Signed to Kanine, the group has gained fast ground and been added to the camp of “clean” guitar mixed with ambient vocals, along with the likes of Beach House, Best Coast and Real Estate.

Hot on the trail of Eternal Summers were pal duo Reading Rainbow, who rocked their set Postal Service style, facing one another with Sarah on drums and Robbie on guitar. Soon to be opening for the likes of Frankie and the Outs and Dum Dum Girls, the Philly duo is yet another punk pairing. These two don’t fall quite as neatly into the aforementioned sandy category, retaining an essential core of sound that is edgier and more raw, less pop than garage.  Their set culminated in a riotous doubles play-off number with Eternal Summers, and the crowd reached its limply enthusiastic peak for the evening, muffled by bad ventilation and poor lighting.

The evening never fully realized as either a concert or as a party, in part due to a space that still feels make-shift and a line up that felt equally slap-dash with Rescue Bird entirely out of place. DIY might be a wonderful democratic tool, but in order to be successful in the professional arena, any undertaking still needs to be handled with careful thought, intention, and savvy.

Like the transition from posters plastered on dorm room walls with sticky-tack to the finesse of a nail and frame, a few extra steps can make a significant difference in the overall effect. For the college crowd, Pyramids makes a great casual weekday outing, but if it hopes to compete with the bigger dogs of Brooklyn’s concert scene there is work to be done.  We left the evening before it’s final act, German Measles, already feeling too hot and too old.

Link to this article:

– Britt Sondreal

Allison Kilkenny: Unreported – “It’s as if a nuclear apocolypse has gone off in the Gulf.”

There are a few new, developing BP-related stories that should greatly disturb any American who values openness and transparency in their democracy.

First, a chemist named Bob Naman claims samples he received from Orange Beach Alabama waters tested positive for the dangerous neurotoxin pesticide 2-butoxyethanol, the main ingredient of Corexit 9527A. The government has been claiming they discontinued the use of that version of Corexit in the Gulf. Now, Naman says he’s worried because BP called him and “threatened him.”

Next, Dr. Nyman of Louisiana State University, who began comparative tests early May to determine the impact of oil and the impact of Corexit laced oil on maritime life, says, while marine life may recover quickly from oil exposure, the same cannot be said about exposure to Corexit.

Large mammals were the least affected by the presence of oil, while the small bottom creatures, worms that are the food source for bottom feeders, were affected the most.

The conclusion was that an oil spill is disruptive to maritime life but does not negatively impact the seafood population on a permanent basis. The impact is temporary and can reverse and restore itself over a period of time.

The same cannot be said when natural waters contain a Corexit-oil mixture. Dr. Nyman’s studies show that the recovery period is twice or three times as long when maritime life is exposed to the toxic mixture of Corexit and oil. While the large mammals ultimately recover, the smaller fish population is reduced dramatically by 25% or more, depending on the concentration.

The bottom of the natural food chain however, does not recover and is killed in its entirety which affects all the bottom feeders in the Gulf of Mexico, including shrimp, crawfish, crabs and lobster.

Over at Counterpunch, Anne McClintock has a very good summary of the three vanishing acts playing out in the Gulf: the “disappearing” of oil courtesy of Corexit, the disappearing story in the media, and the disappearing of private contractors who are making a pretty penny helping BP and the Coast Guard keep a lid on the cover-up.

Previously, I have written about the absolutely absurd claim that the oil has magically disappeared thanks to the Corexit fairy. Corexit simply hid the problem by sinking the oil, and there is no good way to clean up oil that is sitting deep in the ocean. Marine scientists have reported finding enormous oil plumes that could still exist in the Gulf due to the cold temperatures of the water.

I recommend reading McClintock’s article in full, but I wanted to highlight this interaction with her source, a veteran named Steve who was hired to help in the clean-up effort.

“It’s as if a nuclear apocalypse has gone off in the Gulf,” he said. “The media is not telling the truth. No one is telling the truth. Let me tell you something. Yesterday on the beach where we work, my crew cleaned up seven hundred bags of oil. Today we went back and the beach was completely covered in oil, as if we had never been there. Today we carried away another seven hundred and fifty bags. Every day we clean up, then the tide brings it in again. The oil is everywhere, deep under the sand. Today I wanted to measure the oil, so I stuck my shovel into the sand and the oil was down there eight inches deep.”

Steve leaned in close, “Do you want to know how long my contract is to work down here?” he asked. “Three years.” His jaw muscles tightened as if he wanted to suck his words back into his mouth, but could not. “They are telling everyone it is not so bad, but clean-up will take many years. I am going to be here a long time.” Steve wiped a hand heavily over his eyes as if they were burning. “Let me tell you something. Today we saw three sharks washed up dead on the beach. The insides of their noses were black with oil. The membranes of their mouths were black with oil. Their eyes were black with oil.”

As I have repeatedly stressed, the full ramifications of this disaster won’t be understood for years. That’s why it’s so essential the media doesn’t buy the narrative that the crisis is over. Ever since they refused to allow workers to wear respirators during the clean-up, BP has been doing everything in its power to skirt liability for not only the oil volcano, but also the consequences of dumping two million gallons of experimental toxins into the ocean. They have bullied, intimidated, and used private contractors to suppress free and open media coverage of the unfolding events.

BP is now desperately trying to get the victims of the Gulf disaster to quickly sign away their legal rights in order to secure swift payment as opposed to dragging things out in a lengthy, expensive court war like the one Exxon victims had to (and continue to) endure.

All the right rich people want the Gulf squared in their rearview mirrors. The oil companies want to drill, and many politicians want the oil companies to stay happy so they can secure their donations come election time. The media is fatigued by the story, and eager to believe BP and state officials when they brushed off their hands and delivered the clarion call, “The End!”

Focusing on the unknown consequences of Corexit is bad PR. It’s bad for deep-sea oil drilling. It’s bad for the politicians that need oil corporation donations. In all honesty, it’s bad for the local fishing industry, too. And I feel for those poor men and women, who will suffer years of financial devastation because of the irresponsible actions by BP (another reason not to let BP off the legal hook.)

Of course, it’s also necessary to ask these questions. No one really understands the long-term consequences of Corexit. In fact, every day it becomes clearer and clearer that no one has any idea what this stuff is going to do to the food chain.

Link to this article:

– Allison Kilkenny

Liner Notes: A Skinny Little Thanks To Rolling Stone

In a meeting of the minds last week at BreakThru Radio headquarters in Chelsea,  New York one of the BTR interns read the letter that had been printed on the back of Rolling Stone Magazine’s last issue. The letter, titled “A Big Fat Thanks to Record Execs,” was actually a reprint of a stunt pulled by the magazine giant on October 28, 2002. Back then it was through The New York Times that they reached out, publishing the letter in a full-page ad in arguably the world’s most read newspaper. Here is the letter:

While the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) continues with its losing battle against P2P file-sharing, media Web sites, and bit torrents used by millions, it is Rolling Stone Magazine itself that I would like to address in this article, leaving the RIAA lawsuit editorials to legal blogs and tech-y sites.

To the people of Rolling Stone—tell me you see the irony in this overly sarcastic letter appearing on the back of a “music” magazine selling copies on the coattails of Katy Perry’s rack. The issue that featured the RIAA letter had a headline that read: “Sex, God, and Katy Perry.” Other articles featured on the cover were Michael Cera (not a musician), an Aerosmith comeback (really? that’s refreshing news to the music world), and Arcade Fire’s recent album success (okay, that’s a quality music story, but how can they be ignored?). Even Rolling Stone Magazine couldn’t overlook Arcade Fire; but notice how the band isn’t good enough to make the cover. Katy Perry is though. Clearly her album must be so much better.

The joke improves. The very next issue published (the current issue) features even more nudity on the cover and within the pages. This time it is the cast of True Blood who are naked and splashed with vampire blood on the cover. I mean, come on Rolling Stone, they don’t even have an album. At least Katy Perry attempts music. The headlines in this issue read: “They’re hot. They’re sexy. They’re undead: The Joy of Vampire Sex.”

The street cred of Rolling Stone Magazine as an accurate voice for the ever-morphing music industry began to flounder years ago. To be completely and utterly blunt: it’s become a fuckin’ joke! Their most recent issue features top stories with headlines like: “True Blood’s steamy Rolling Stone cover shoot.” It also includes an article called “Vampire State of Mind,” in which writer Peter Travers “breaks down the best and worst vampires of all time.” Along with, “Bono Storms Back,” a report on U2’s return to the stage after Bono’s back surgery.

Is this really the same magazine that sarcastically derided the RIAA, claiming that “[b]ecause of [them], millions of kids will stop wasting time listening to new music and seeking out new bands.” Are you kidding me? Maybe you should be asked a similar question. What have you done for new bands recently Rolling Stone?

Just look at the arrogant tone to the letter of discussion. While its message may be valid, its sender is questionable. RSM is more interested in naked photos of Katy Perry, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, and Alex Skarsgård than anything to do with the music industry, especially when it comes to “new music.” Under the music tab on, its featured articles are about Steven Tyler joining American Idol, a new Neil Young album, and a lawsuit between an LA clothing designer called “Material Girl” and Madonna for allowing her daughter to design under the same registered trademark. Slow down on the “new music” coverage Rolling Stone, these “millions of kids” can’t read it all fast enough.

The irony is that Rolling Stone Magazine is just as guilty for marring the music industry as the RIAA. They don’t give a shit about “new bands” anymore than major record labels do. They’re only purpose is to sell magazines. And what sells a magazine these days better than slutty photos of Katy Perry, interviews with True Blood cast members, and editorials on vampires.

The millions of kids referenced in the letter on the back cover don’t even read Rolling Stone. Why would they? Nothing in its pages appeals to them. Rolling Stone Magazine is nothing more than a prop to the college frat-boy bro who buys it so he can get laid. What college chick doesn’t want to sleep with the guy who is “into music” and reads Rolling Stone? The magazine has become an ornament on the beach at Spring Break right along with a straw cowboy hat and barbed-wire bicep tattoo. I could go on with the imagery, but you get my point. There is really only one thing left to do…

Link to this article:

– Kory French

New Album Releases: What We’re Listening To

Record release day means we are excited here at BTR! Time to give you a quick rundown of our favorite new releases.

White Magic
Tough Alliance

Eric Berglund of the Swedish band Tough Alliance has branched off on his own with his latest creation, White Magic. The album is an impressive solo endeavor that showcases his individual talents. Joined only by Sincerely Yours artist Kendal Johansson, Berglund takes a 28 minute stab at all things audible. With various string instruments, keyboard and katanas (yes he even employs the use of Japanese swords). The album’s opener “All Around” begins with high searing violins and echoing search-calls, vaporous in manner, beautiful melancholia plays adrift peacefully balanced drums beats.

Berglund lays down light danceable tracks that speak of lessons learned and the frustrations of love and life. Tracks like “Come With Me” and “Illuminata” manage to deliver clubby beats with ethereal overtones keeping things at once breezy and emphatic. An ambient purgation that floats vibrational crescendos throughout synthesized streets. White Magic is a futuristic classical menagerie finely-tuned into an ultimately cohesive work of art.

Modern Rituals

West Coast rocksters Chief met and formed at NYU but soon returned to their hometown Santa Monica, California to continue their musical venture. Their second studio album Modern Rituals is a testament to the usual culprits of song; heartache, pain, longing, and regret and they do a formidable job of it. The album is characterized by a lot of alt/folk rock with classic-rock underpinnings. Tracks like “Breaking Walls” are subdued reflections on lessons learned. While songs like “Summer’s Day” are indie-rock all the way, the album as a whole combines the crooning vocal styles of singer Evan Koga with various genres of Americana seamlessly.

The members of Chief collectively made the move across the country and back, consequently their music seems to have picked up a variety of well-informed musical comprehensions along the way. Their second album reveals their musical and thematic integrity, acquired no doubt from a diversity of influences.

While at times elements of the album come off as a little too remote and robotic all and all Modern Rituals comes together as a tight well-executed creation. Chief’s dexterous handling of pop and folk renders Modern Rituals an enticing proposition.

The Suburbs
Arcade Fire

Canadian hard-hitters Arcade Fire have hit a new impressive stride with their latest album The Suburbs. This is an album which, upon listening to from start to finish, appears to have been conceived as a whole in a manner considerably more studied than the band’s previous attempts. Its sequencing is self-aware, the contrast between fiery punk number “Month of May” and the following acoustic strum of “Wasted Hours” is the most prominent instance of how unlikely tracks are segued with uncommon skill. “City With No Children” is an interesting mix of light airy pop and persistent driving drum beats.

The Canadians third studio album speaks to emotional isolation both put upon and self-imposed, focusing on feelings of alienation and the realization of tainted dreams. The Suburbs is an impressive step up for Arcade Fire containing enough variety and maturity that it can be listened to repeatedly without tiring of it.

As always, listen to BreakThru Radio for the newest music.

Link to this article:

– Amanda Decker

AOTW: Phantogram

After paying their dues and opening for the likes of Ra Ra Riot and Yeasayer, Phantogram is finally headlining their own tour next month. As the electro-pop duo from Saratoga Springs, NY gears up for its US tour, which begins September 5th, the buzz just keeps getting louder. At the beginning of this year, their debut album Eyelid Movies was featured on NPR’s First Listen. And just last week, Canadian rapper k-os released a mixtape in which he samples their song “Mouthful of Diamonds.”

Phantogram is a self-proclaimed “street beat psych pop” duo. The band consists of a pair of childhood friends, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, who have known each other since junior high. They left their small town to pursue their respective creative endeavors—but when that didn’t pan out, the two returned home and found what they were looking for in each other.

Barthel’s keen ear for dance club beats and her luscious vocals give form to Carter’s dark lyrics and indie-pop melodies. They each approach the project with different influences—she, with a hip-hop sensibility and he, with an interest in French pop and indie electronica. The result is oddly irresistible. Phantogram’s dance rhythms, shoegaze lyrics and wispy vocals are romantic yet dark, refreshing yet haunting. Somehow, even the most mellow tunes inspire feet to tap and bodies to shake.

Barthel and Carter’s chemistry is undeniable, especially live onstage. They work well together, and they are clearly invested in the music. Barthel’s romantic, airy voice is the perfect match for Carter’s dark, bluesy lyrics. They make the contrast between hip-hop rhythms and indie melodies work.

Phantogram kicks off its first headline tour right after Labor Day at the North Coast Music Festival in Chicago. They’re also making pit stops at other festivals, including the Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati, OH and the Treasure Island Festival in San Francisco, CA. Whether they are playing shoegaze-y French pop or jazzy hip-hop, Phantogram promises to get your body moving.

Link to this article:

– Ivana Ng

Mosque Vs. State Videopoll: How Do New Yorkers Feel About the Ground Zero Mosque?

There’s been a lot of controversy over the Cordoba House, better known as “The Ground Zero Mosque.” Amidst that controversy there have been a number of polls that attempted to give a picture of whether New Yorkers were in support of, or against, the construction of the Muslim center, which is in such alarming proximity to the site of the greatest terrorist attack ever on American soil.

First–all the way back in June–we read that polls found Manhattanites to be in favor of the mosque, while residents of the outer boroughs were mostly against it. Staten Island, according to data, was most opposed to the mosque of the five boroughs. Taken as a whole, though, New York City was against the construction of the mosque, the polls said.

Then there was the Rasmussen Report, which surveyed voters from all over the country. That poll found that only 20% of Americans supported the mosque.  The media had a field day with that story. But the headlines were misleading: if you read the report, you would have found that only 20% of participants in the survey were following the story “very closely.” I could be reading this wrong, but what that says to me is: 80% of the people polled for this survey didn’t really know what they were talking about.

The Siena Research Institute conducted its own poll last week, and focused on New York State residents. The message was the same as Rasmussen’s: a small minority supported the construction of a Muslim Center at Park Place. This poll drew its data from 788 New York State residents from August 9-16. But the interesting part of the Siena poll was that a majority of people surveyed, even those in opposition to the mosque, recognized the constitutional right to build it.

So, to review: the country as a whole overwhelmingly opposes the Muslim Center at Ground Zero. The state of New York opposes it. Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn oppose it, and Manhattan favors it. These findings led Hendrik Hertzberg, writing for The New Yorker, to comment that opposition [to the mosque] is roughly proportional to distance.” Meaning, I guess, that the mosque’s most venomous opponents live in Alaska.

After reading all these polls and hearing comments and opinions and judgments from every major media outlet, newspaper, pundit, blogger, and politician, I decided to hear for myself what New Yorkers thought of the mosque. And so, this morning, I took the subway to Ground Zero and asked them.*

*This video includes at least one clip from every single person I spoke to.

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–Hunter Stuart

Black August: The Loudest Voice For Freedom

“Revolution starts with a plan,” announced Lah Tere of Rebel Diaz, host of the 13th Annual Black August Hip Hop Project in New York last Friday. “You are either fighting for freedom, or you are fighting for the elite.”

The house of the Highline Ballroom was completely filled that night with a crowd who’d gathered to be both entertained and enlightened by a new wave of societal betterment. Though the Black Panther movement isn’t nearly the point of contention it once was, the idealism and legacy it boldly erected continues to infiltrate a faction of social innovators in the consciousness of the American psyche.

This year’s Black August show, presented by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, was an assembly meant for empowerment, featuring an array of political speakers and performers, including underground rap artists Dead Prez, Pharaohe Monch and Sadat X, among others. In the past, musicians such as Erykah Badu, David Banner, Common, and The Roots have also lent their support. The stage was draped with a banner covered by the words “Self-Defense,” “Self-Respect” and “Self Determination” in bold and black. The night, intended to bring culture and politics together, was an extension of the original liberation drive set in motion in the ‘70s.

“The one thing Black August always celebrates is victory,” noted Lah Tere. “This is about teaching what we know to those who don’t…Do you want Assata to be free?”

‘Yes’, the crowd chanted and clapped: Free Assata.

The Assata in reference is freedom fighter, Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, who was imprisoned for nearly five years before escaping jail in 1979 and finding exile in Cuba. The reward for her capture currently stands at $1 million—a sum greater than two thirds of those on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Notably, most of the crimes she’s been charged with have been dismissed, and for those who hear her cry, she’s a hero. Of the handful who aided in her exit, one figure, Marilyn Buck, passed away earlier this month from cancer and was honored at the show.

“Marilyn Buck gave her life so Assata could be free,” exclaimed Lah Tere. “And the New York Times didn’t see fit to publish her obituary.”

The goal of the event was not only to remember those like Buck, who fought for freedom at any cost, but to create awareness surrounding injustice within the prison system and encourage social reform. Several freed prisoners were brought on stage to speak, and information was made available regarding those behind bars. Prison IDs of the incarcerated were handed out in pamphlets so that attendees could send letters of support and council.

“Lolita Brown pulled out a gun and shot for the liberation of Puerto Rico, and it was the people’s power that forced Jimmy Carter to grant her clemency,” another speaker reminded the crowd.

The concert came at ample timing given the prior week’s release of Michael Anthony Green, an African American man wrongly convicted of rape, who served 27 years in prison before his exoneration. This month also marked the first formal federal recognition of the discriminatory crack cocaine law, whereby a person convicted of possessing one gram of crack cocaine would receive the equivalent prison sentence as one holding 100 grams of powder. The law unfairly targeted minority communities—the main users of crack—and was amended by the Obama administration at the beginning of August.

Subsequently, police brutality was brought into the spotlight in July when a white Oakland cop got away on charges of involuntary manslaughter for the videotaped shooting of an unarmed black man in the subway. As a result, he received less time in jail than pro-football player Michael Vick did for killing a dog.

“We are here to resist oppression,” the stage leaders shouted at Black August, honoring the month when revolutionaries like Marcus Garvey and Harriet Tubman made an imprint on the world. “We cannot be stopped.  We will continue to organize; we will keep moving.”

The show took an arguably radical stance on the quest for civil rights by celebrating both nonviolent and violent “soldiers” like Buck, Brown and Sundiata Acoli, a member of the BLA, now serving life in prison for murdering a New Jersey police officer. It was a fervent testament to the ongoing Civil Rights Movement, still present, vocal, and determined to make a mark in today’s society.

“You’re only tame and humane if you stay within the lines,” Lah Tere quoted Acoli to the crowd. “You’re only free if you stand on your knees.”

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– Courtney Garcia