She's Not There: WU LYF, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, And The Value Of Absence

Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Every year, ambitious young bands find new ways—fascinating, puerile, ingenious—to play the Internet, and in 2011, one of the most captivating, effective ways to do so involved near-silence. A cluster of breakthrough bands, WU LYF and Unknown Mortal Orchestra among them, caused a huge publicity ripple online by pointedly refusing to exist there—or deciding to have an online presence so cryptic as to frustrate any desire for even the most basic information. In this scenario, a band's lack of Google hits are a direct measure of its tantalizing mysteriousness. If the Internet is a musical instrument, this was its version of John Cage's "4:33."

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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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On John Forté's Cover of "Running Up That Hill," Which Exists

John Forte "Runnin Up That Hill" from The ICU on Vimeo.

Here we have everyone's favorite Drug War casualty/Bush pardon equating his seven-year prison bid with... whatever struggle Kate Bush is agonizing about on 1985's "Running Up That Hill." Thesis:

Are there men and women who deserve the second shot at life I was given on December 22, 2008, when I walked free from prison? Undoubtedly. Until they can run up roads, buildings, and hills, I will do it for them.

While we congratulate Forté on his excellent taste, we must admit that the official take on this cover here in the steadily collapsing SOTC homestead is "worse Wyclef." Lots of room for growth here. Stay away from "This Woman's Work." Thank you.