Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged music


Before we jump into this it’s important to make something clear: Swanlights is both the title of Antony and the Johnsons’ latest album and a collection of Antony Hegarty’s artwork. Sure, all transgender musical geniuses shouldn’t be lumped together, but I like to think of Hegarty as a more psychically wounded, heartbroken, and unbedazzled Hedwig.

The Two Horses of Genghis Khan

When actor Urna Chahar-Tugchi was growing up, her grandmother showed her the hand-carved neck of an ancient violin—all that was left of a precious family heirloom. On it were a few words from a once-popular song called "The Two Horses of Genghis Khan." "No other song touches the soul of the Mongolian people like this one," Chahar-Tugchi says in Davaa Byambasuren’s powerful documentary, a tribute to cultural legacies called The Two Horses of Genghis Khan.

Cho Dependent

To call comedienne Margaret Cho’s latest endeavor, Cho Dependent, a comedy album seems like a disservice. Though songs like “Calling in Stoned” (featuring the ever-stoned Tommy Chong), “Your Dick,” and “Eat Shit and Die” do little for my argument, Cho Dependent is completely unlike her six previous comedy albums. This, my friends, is Cho’s foray into the music world, and a damn fine one at that.

Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women’s Music

In her critical study of later twentieth century women’s music festivals, Eileen Hayes sets the tone and identifies her intended audience in a trenchant dedication, which really serves as an effective epigraph for her book: _Some say feminism is dead. Others say black feminism stopped by but left in a hurry. A few claim that “women’s music” is dull; “Besides,” they say, “Bessie Smith is so last century.” Others don’t know any lesbians and would rather watch them on TV. It was chic to be lesbian—last year. They say you can’t be black, lesbian, and musical at the same time.

A l’Est avec Sonia Wieder-Atherton

Chantal Ackerman’s projects over the past forty years have secured her place in the international vanguard of film directors both male and female. Her films are widely known for experimenting with time and images while questioning their relationship to a film’s narrative. It’s no surprise that her film A l’Est avec Sonia Wieder-Atherton showed at the Barcelona International Woman’s Film Festival in June. In fifty-one minutes Ackerman attempts to show the power of music and the passion of the musician through images.

Black Pearl Sings! (6/18/2010)

With their current production, Black Pearl Sings!, InterAct Theatre brings a powerful story to the Mainstage of Philadelphia’s Adrienne. The intimate performance space, where third row is a mere six feet from the floor-level stage, helps one feel immersed in the story. Written by Frank Higgins and directed by Seth Rozin, the two-act play stars C. Kelly Wright as Alberta “Pearl” Johnson and Catharine K. Slusar as Susannah Mullally.

See What I'm Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary

See What I'm Saying is an irreverent yet important introduction between Deaf performers and a mainstream hearing audience. The film, which is open captioned, follows a year in the lives of four performers who make up a cross-section of the Deaf community in terms of art form, race, gender, and sexuality.

I Was the Jukebox

As a poet myself, it’s inspiring to come across a writer like Sandra Beasley. Not only is she highly talented, but she’s also a young, female poet who has already published two book-length collections and received national recognition and awards. In her latest collection, I Was the Jukebox, it’s easy to see why she’s so successful. From the first page to the ninetieth page Beasley blends refreshing imagery with unique diction. She mixes myth and modernity.

Troubled Water

Last night, I watched a really great film by Norwegian director Erik Poppe: Troubled Water. I don't really like movies and I don't watch them a lot. And now I know why. The simple reason is that very few movies are as good as this one. This is definitely not one of those sad Hollywood monstrosities that aim to prevent you from having a single thought by any means possible.

Afghan Star

One of my favorite bands, The Avett Brothers, have a lyric in one of their songs claiming, “May you never be embarrassed to sing.” Since viewing Havana Marking’s documentary, Afghan Star, this lyric has been on repeat in my brain, reminding me, as Afghan Star aptly illustrates, if embarrassment is all that we have to risk, the

Second Annual International Body Music Festival (12/5/2009)

Body Music is an inherently populist art form. You just need a body, your hands, your feet, your mouth, the ground, a sense of rhythm, or any of these elements in any combination. Body Music has been around forever, created and passed down through generations of people from all parts of the world, and often serves as an expression of freedom in the face of oppression. The Herbst Theater, on the other hand, is a fancy schmancy theater decorated in ornate European style, whose very architecture denotes class and spectacle.

Decibelle (10/15 -10/18/2009)

The Decibelle Music & Culture Festival was a mixed bag, so I’m going to break it down for you, Clint Eastwood style. The Good Me'Shell Ndegeocello is a blessing. My plus-one and I attended her 10 p.m.

Hiding in Hip Hop: On The Down Low in the Entertainment Industry—From Music to Hollywood

Terrance Dean opens his book, Hiding in Hip Hop, with two quotes, one from Ellen Degeneres, in which she states, “If it weren’t for blacks, Jews, and gays, there would be no Oscars.” The other was from The Bhagavad Gita: “It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with p

Limited Edition Demo

Pulling together some of the best feminist talent in dance music today, MEN should be requisite listening if you intend on moving forward in your life as a party-loving progressive. I understand that feminism is not always a celebration; I have often in my life been accused of being too serious. However, I like to shake it. A lot. It would be easy to write about my fan girl love for JD Samson.

New Universe

A few years back, when I was considerably less tied down by things like work, a couple of friends and I endeavored to take a road trip from Seattle to Aurora, Colorado. Something about Desolation Wilderness' New Universe reminds me about that trip. It was about 500 degrees outside, and my car didn't have air conditioning. We drove ninety-five miles an hour the whole way there and back with all four windows down.

Dear Science

Once upon a CMJ conference, I unexpectedly encountered TV On The Radio in concert. Crammed into what I think was the Bowery Ballroom, the eclectic men took the stage and took up their horns. The vision—and the music that followed—has haunted me for years. And yet, try as I might, I did not fall in love with Dear Science.

Feminism and Pop Culture

No matter how sophisticated you believe yourself to be, consuming pop culture is often inevitable in modern life. From reacting to coverage of major news events to understanding how advertising permeates our media landscape, chances are most self-identified feminists have considered how so-called low culture affects our perceptions of our selves and our world.

Musicfest Northwest (9/3-9/6/2008)

Now in its eighth year, Musicfest Northwest was held over three days in Portland, Oregon. Born from the ashes of the North by Northwest festival, MFNW is hosted by Portland’s less trendy, free weekly newspaper, the Willamette Week, and has grown rapidly since its inception, largely due to corporate sponsorship.

Decibelle (9/23 - 9/27/2008)

To quickly describe my feelings regarding Decibelle (formerly known as Estrojam), allow me to offer this scenario. Imagine a child describing FAO Schwartz, moments after she's visited the toy store for the first time: "There's so much to do! There's so much to see! I danced and laughed and cried! I met great people! It was the most fun I've had all summer!" I've been sitting in my laptop's glare for days, wondering how to articulate these gushing sentiments more eloquently before I finally realized that the festival doesn't deserve a dry critique.

True Norwegian Black Metal

Photographer Peter Beste spent seven years researching this book, including thirteen visits to Norway where he photographed and interviewed the musicians who are his subject. The result is a photojournalistic epic that looks and reads like crime fiction. The meat of _True Norwegian Black Metal _is the pictures, mostly black and white. Band members dress like demons or corpses, splattering their faces with black and white stage makeup. They wear bullet belts, spiked armbands, and rags or leather gear designed to look like burial garb or battle armor.

Plazm 28: Luck

Editors Jon Raymond, Tiffany Lee Brown, and Joshua Berger begin their opening epistle with the words, “It’s been nearly four years since an issue of Plazm last appeared . . .” As a follower of small press, I hadn’t realized how much time had passed! And I am heartened that after all this time, Plazm decided to print a new issue. It’s good to see them back. This issue was packed with interesting art and interviews. It’s difficult to pick a few highlights from a magazine brimming with fascinating work.

Take Off: American All-Girl Bands During WWII

To all naïve readers who still think Kathleen Hanna, Courtney Love or Liz Phair were doing anything new by boldly storming their way into previously male territory, may I suggest Tonya Bolden’s Take Off?


Once is a dreamy film set against the green-grey hues of wintry Dublin and accompanied by the plaintive music of that city's residents. The film's deceptively simple story centers around one of Ireland's unnamed poetic denizens, billed just as "guy," and played by wide-eyed Frames frontman Glen Hansard. He is a busker who croons longing songs, accompanied by a broken guitar, standing alone with his muse on a fancy shopping thoroughfare.

Venus Zine (Spring 2007)

Venus has come a long way from its inception more than a decade ago. In its current form, it bears little resemblance to the average zine. Instead, Venus is a refreshingly sophisticated publication — glossy enough to tempt more mainstream consumers into giving the pages a once-over, while still maintaining a feminist perspective. The latest issue is packed full of everything one might expect from a woman-centric publication, sans skeletal models and hetero-focused sex tips.

I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands

What do you call a cookbook that reads like poetry? What do you call a coffee table book that whets your appetite? You would call that book I Like Food, Food Tastes Good. Fully expecting a fun addition to my expansive and eclectic collection of cookbooks, I was delightfully surprised at the fun compiled between the pages of this book! Food writer Kara Zuaro knows a lot of musicians, and all musicians must eat! Whether they’re on the tour bus in their own kitchens, they’ve all got favorite recipes. Don’t expect the quick and boring Fried Bologna Sandwich here!

Love Your Abuser

Ever since watching a painfully tedious music set by a man and his computer opening for the Melvins a couple of years ago in Seattle, my appreciation for music constructed with little more than a laptop has been ambivalent, to say the least. The only thing saving his computerized set was the lead singer of Melt Banana, Yasuko Onuki, who danced gleefully in an oversized rabbit suit behind his skinny bouncing corduroy-encased rump. Lymbyc System, however, does not focus on fruity loops in the construction of their compositions.

So Much More

Anyone lucky enough to catch the usage of Brett Dennen’s song “There Is So Much More” on the November 9th episode of Grey’s Anatomy would probably have thought it was sung by some classic singer/songwriter that they should know, but simply could not place the name of.

Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook, Vol. 1

As a native Chicagoan, I was delighted when the Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook, Vol. 1 arrived. The work of nearly 50 years of lessons and learning felt warm and familiar in my hand. The songbook contains 23 classic songs performed by a variety of artistic talents, some nationally known; others are instructors at the school – with decades of performing experience.

Gorgeous Enormous

Carolyn AlRoy is a practicing therapist, and her day job obviously inspires some of her lyrics. For example, on the pensive “My First Mistake” she laments, “My first mistake was to make myself small, so that you wouldn’t be jealous at all.” But don’t be scared away from this gem of a pop album, as there are happier moments and a variety of styles.

Bedtime Prayers

I am not a heavy metal aficionado, although I did enjoy the more pop-oriented groups like Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard and Metallica in my high school and college years. A friend in a black metal band informs me that the vocal style that so turned me off this disc is typical of death metal, but that doesn’t make it any more palatable to the masses. Just because your sound is heavy doesn’t mean the vocalist shouldn’t sing and, hopefully, sing well.