Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part III: Occupying The Year Of The Woman Cliché In Hopes Of Blowing It Up

Kanye West at Occupy Wall Street; confused woman.
Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Hello all, and thanks! I'm honored to be here. Let's talk about the collapse of the global economy.

Or rather, let's not; as tempting as it is to link early 2011's glut of apocalyptic dance or late 2011's druggy numbness to financial panic or cultural malaise, you'd have to glibly ignore 99% of both music and the cultural moment. Even the arguments that almost worked didn't, like the reductive meme that Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne was just about being rich, not about the experience of being black and having become rich. And speaking of the 99%, it's far too soon to anoint any Occupy Wall Street anthem. (Sorry, Jonah, Miley's track is just a fanvid.) There's been music on the ground, of course, and there's an album coming out, but it's telling (of my now-bastardized Google Reader feed, if nothing else) that my main associations between music and Occupy are three things: the Radiohead non-concert that turned out to be a new-media bro's prank, the musicians whose Zuccotti cameos were probably out of good intent but in practice indistinguishable from photo ops, and the albums in Occupy's library, which was seized after the NYPD raids—alas, the cloud couldn't save it.

Nor can megastars—they're too busy mythologizing themselves to survive in lieu of those megasales. There are exceptions; candor in interviews and mega-megasales aside, you can't really call Adele a "celebrity," at least not using that term. (Contrary to rockist belief, this is not a selling point.) But take Rihanna, who's wearing herself out being better at this sort of thing than anyone else. Icky news stories? Out-ick them on Twitter! Gossip cackling about Chris Brown? Tease it in the "We Found Love" video! Moral guardians carping about being too sexy? Send racks of raunch down the Talk That Talk assembly line!

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Hey, Bono, Here Are Five Songs You Might Want To Consider For This "Song Lyrics Of Literary Excellence" Contest You're Judging

The New England branch of the literary society PEN has announced that it's bestowing its inaugural award for outstanding achievement in song lyrics in February (hat tip: Dave Bry/Maud Newton). Lyrics from all stripes of popular music can, of course, be utterly banal, but they can also employ words in ways that delight and confound, and it's somewhat heartening to see that music, after all these years of being a sort of also-ran in the pantheon of cultural forms that can double as High Art, is getting a little bit of shine for its most outstanding examples. The jury that will select the winner includes such musical luminaries as Bono, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello, and Paul Simon, and given that one of those people was responsible for committing the line "I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine/ I could see in the reflection/ A face staring back at me" to wax, it's not too much of a stretch to assume that suggestions from the peanut gallery are welcome. I asked some SOTC pals to pick their favorite potential contenders for this award; feel free to nominate your own in the comments.

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Seven Sets You Should See During CMJ Week: Main Attrakionz, EMA, Dierks Bentley, And More

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Main Attrakionz.

Sound of the City's staff has opinions about which bands to see at the CMJ festival, happening around the city this week. Here, Nick Murray offers his seven picks—well, six festival-affiliated artists and one dude who just happens to have a couple of NY-area shows this week. (Check out Maura Johnston's and Martika Finch's selections. too.)

This Providence-born producer hammers out beats that will make your feet move with a virtuosity that will make your jaw drop. After turning hip-hop heads' heads with his work on Cam'ron's Crime Pays and Dipset reunion single "Salute," AraabMUZIK has come into his own on this year's trance-influenced solo album Electronic Dream.
Where to catch him: Try the Saturday Blowout at Santos Party House, where he joins Main Attrakionz, Action Bronson, Elks, Trash Talk, and Kylesa in one of the week's most promising showcases.

Titus Andronicus
If you haven't discovered the bar punk, Eric Foner-with-power-chords bliss of The Monitor—the latest from New Jersey-and-proud quintet Titus Andronicus—by now, you should probably proceed directly to Glasslands tonight. If you're familiar with the record, go anyway; these days, the group rarely plays venues as intimate as this one.
Where to catch them: The band's only show this week happens tonight at 9 at Glasslands.

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The First Round Of CMJ Artists Has Been Announced

Wild Flag: Line up early for this one.
The megagroup Wild Flag, the bewitching EMA, and 4Knots alums Davila 666 are all on the first list of performers at this year's installment of the CMJ Music Marathon, the annual ritual of buzz-band-conferring and hype-coronation that in 2011 will spread itself out over the city's clubs and conference rooms from October 18 through October 22. Those of you interested in purchasing badges for the assortment of shows, panels, and networking opportunities—not to mention a chance at a swag bag—can get a discounted badge until August 29; the rest of us can debate What The Conference Means In The Internet Age at least through mid-October. Full list of bands playing showcases as of now (of course, there are more to come) below.

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Live: EMA's Wave Of Distortion Floods Mercury Lounge

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Surekha Ratnatunga

EMA w/Helado Negro
Mercury Lounge
Wednesday, July 20

Better than: Her Glasslands show a few hours later, I'm guessing.

EMA consists of Erika M. Anderson and three very talented backup musicians (including her sister, Nicole, on drums) and last night at the tiny Mercury Lounge they filled every spare inch of the room with sound. From the opening "Butterfly Knife" until the end of her set, walls of guitars, drums, keyboards, and dual violins (!) assaulted the crowd. And damn, if they didn't enjoy it. It's rare for a new act to get as much pop from an audience as EMA did, but that speaks both to the quality of her music and the charisma that she oozes while performing. Despite her album's gloomier themes and slow-paced tracks, Anderson was upbeat and energetic throughout.

The set hit on every song from EMA's debut Past Life Martyred Saints (except for "Coda," which she replaced with another, equally beautiful a cappella), and it hit hard. The brutal "Marked," which she prefaced by begging the audience to "not take... the wrong way," showcased Anderson's ability to be both menacing and pleading; set ender and crowd favorite "California" also shone, with the audience knowing every word and Anderson running around the stage, thrusting herself into the mic stand.

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Q&A: EMA's Erika M. Anderson On How To Shock People Using Stolen Classic-Rock Lyrics And Firing A Gun At Age 14

Categories: EMA, Interviews

William Rahilly
With her excellent debut Past Life Martyred Saints, former Gown Erika M. Anderson (a.k.a. EMA) has been causing quite a stir for dense sonics and harshly comic narratives that haven't been this critically acclaimed since the heyday of certain Seattlites. Or, if you let her tell it, Lou Reed. In advance of her two New York City shows, we asked her about weapons and breakfast.

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