Author: Sam Chapman

The Divine Revelation of Raven Matthews

Raven Matthews. Photo by Ivan Mršić. There’s a lot of bullshit music floating around on the internet. The fact that any kid with a synthesizer and Soundcloud can produce and disseminate their work in an instant is incredible, but for every M. I. A. or Grimes that burst out of obscurity with groundbreaking sonic experimentalism, there is a veritable mountain of musical garbage to sort through. Sifting through so much crappy DIY music means that discovering a singular artist can seem like some kind of divine revelation. Such was the case with Raven Matthews. To be fair, I first...

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How Could You Possibly Be Disinterested In Tacocat?

Whenever we talk about aesthetic judgment, we’re gonna have to talk about Immanuel Kant. Even here, in an article about a Seattle punk band, there’s no ignoring the big, 18th century, German elephant in the room. In his Third Critique, Critique of Judgment, Kant outlined an aesthetic framework which has gone on to become one of the most influential in Western aesthetic philosophy. Whether or not they realize it, pretty much anyone who publicly passes judgment on a work of art owes a debt to Kant–this reviewer included. After all, what’s a concert write-up if not an aesthetic judgment...

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The Question of SOPHIE

Late on Sunday night, stumped on how to begin this concert review, I did what any truly great music critic would do in a time of need–I got on the internet. I found myself on YouTube, watching (for what I believe is the 3000th time) Madonna’s 1990 MTV performance of Vogue. In what would become one of her most iconic moments, Madonna appears onstage, dressed as Marie Antoinette in full Rococo paint and ball gown, surrounded by a cavalcade of dancers wearing cravats and hot pants. It doesn’t seem like anything wildly inventive or interesting, and in some ways...

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Kacey Musgraves Made Me Love Country

It’s often hard to like country. In the pantheon of American music it’s right up there with metal in the most-likely-to-get-sneered-at category. Truthfully, it’s not hard to understand why. There is a lot of terrible country music. A large chunk of mainstream country music tends to be overly-sentimental, deliberately folksy and dull. Country and conservative politics also often seem irrevocably married. For listeners who may feel may not agree with sentiments like “we’ll put a boot up your ass/ that’s the American way,” this can be understandably off-putting. When I was younger, I used to tell people that I...

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Local Music In A Global Age

In case you missed the memo, we live in an increasingly globalized world. No realm is safe–least of all music. In a lot of ways, this is a really good thing. The ease with which artists and culture creators can now create and share content, even across thousands of miles, is amazing and unprecedented. East African beats find their way into Caribbean soca, which in turn influences reggaeton and American hip-hop. Of course, globalization has drawbacks as well. The social and political implications are obvious, but the advent of the digital age has triggered seismic shifts in the realm...

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Le1f Live: I Could’ve Whirled Away Into Forever

Writing about live music in late 1980s New York, Kim Gordon once offered the observation that, “People pay to see others believe in themselves.” At the risk of disrespecting one of my greatest heroines, I think Ms. Gordon misses the point a bit. The joy of being an audience member does not lie merely in bearing witness to a performer’s singular charisma. We buy concert tickets, wait in lines in the rain and the sun, cram ourselves into tightly packed, dimly lit rooms full of stale air and cheap beer and weed smoke. We pay these prices and in...

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Three Minutes And Thirty-One Seconds

In music, as in life, beginnings are often the most exciting part. Every song, every album, every concert and performance and dance routine must begin somewhere. It could be the opening guitar riff of Purple Haze, the lazy bass and snare heralding Proud Mary, or Destiny’s Child’s assertion that they don’t think you can handle this. Some beginnings are more exciting than others though. Some music is so entirely hardwired into our emotional memory banks, so thoroughly entwined with our emotional cores, that just hearing the beginning is almost a spiritual experience. And so it was that I found...

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Make It Stop: The Illegitimacy Of The Grammy Awards

I don’t like the Grammys. I’ve known this for years, and I make no secret of it. When an institution bestows an award on the Baha Men but withholds from Patti Smith, Morrisey, Public Enemy, Bjork, Notorious B. I. G., Tupac, and Katy Perry, I have some doubts about legitimacy. Every year I promise myself that I won’t get my hopes up and every year I fail. This year was no exception. Can you blame me? When the list of nominees was released, it all looked so hopeful. Tame Impala! D’Angelo and Kacey Musgraves and Wilco?! And of course,...

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DoNormaal. She Will Explode.

It was 10pm on Saturday night. I got out of my car, waited for my friend to crush her Four Loko can underfoot, and walked into a house show in Fremont. The house was a nondescript two-story outfit that sometimes functions as a DIY venue. It was surrounded by the requisite gaggle of lanky, black-clad, twenty-somethings milling about, smoking, and lounging in the porch light. The performance space was in the basement. It was small and crowded, with black plastic covering the walls and speakers flanking a small corner where the performers would stand and play their beats through...

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Who Will Save Queer Hip-Hop?

There is a moment in the video for Wut, by New York rapper Le1f, that I feel we should discuss. In it, Le1f—understated in a jersey, athletic shorts and a gold chain—perches on the lap of a man. The man is muscular and white, his body coated in oil, his face obscured by a Pikachu mask. He doesn’t move as Le1f ferociously dips and twirls and gyrates on and around him. The man, we are given to understand, is only there as carnal furniture, a throne upon which Le1f may lounge and dance while he spits out verses like:...

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