This Week's Five Best Concerts: Pistol Annies, Thrill Jockey, Austra, And More

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If you're thumbing through the print edition (God bless your soul), it's hard to miss the three pages of recommended events that open the issue. Because the internet makes those a little less obvious, here are our five picks for concerts this week.

Tomorrow, the Pistol Annies come to Midtown's Terminal 5, a long way from Brooklyn but closer than Long Island or New Jersey. Nick Murray writes:

As a solo artist, it took Texas native Miranda Lambert less than a decade to go from second runner-up on a country-themed Idol to the genre's queen bee, winning CMA album of the year for her 2009 return-to-form Revolution. Lately, however, her best music has been coming from retro-oriented supergroup Pistol Annies, which includes both Nashville journeywoman Ashley Monroe and songwriter Angaleena Presley, the pen behind recent hits including Ashton Shepherd's "Look It Up" and Lambert's own "Fastest Girl in Town." Tonight, the trio brings tunes like the self-explanatory "Hell on Heels" and "Bad Example" to Terminal 5, setting a bad example that all New Yorkers would do best to follow.


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The 17 Best Songs Of 2012 (So Far)

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Tomorrow is the last day of March, as you might already know, and it also marks the end of the first quarter of 2012. What better way to close out a three-month span than to size up its musical offerings via playlist? Below, please find the contents of my "2012 awesomeness" playlist, a running-all-year diary of the songs that have hit my ear in a particularly pleasurable way. Among the 17 bands on it are Tanlines, Pop. 1280, fun., and Pistol Annies!

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Pazz & Jop 2011: Alex Macpherson On Pistol Annies, PJ Harvey, And Why You Should Always Trust Diddy

To supplement this year's Pazz & Jop launch, Sound of the City asked a few critics to expand on the reasonings behind their voting. Here, the British critic Alex Macpherson finds protest music and love songs that were worth holding on to past the end of the calendar year.

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Every year, I cavil about the limitations of the Pazz & Jop ballot: the run-up to submitting mine traditionally comprises weeks of attempting to cram a week's worth of music into a ten-piece summation of my year that, like a suitcase on the eve of a holiday, resolutely refuses to expand to fit everything I need. On the other hand, having a mere 10 places at your disposal makes the process wonderfully Darwinian: the weakest contenders are weeded out ruthlessly. No room for those esoteric semi-favourites, it's about the music that formed an integral part of my life in 2011: Miguel's "Sure Thing", sneaking into my heart through sheer loving understatement; Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass", memorized entirely by July thanks to months of hearing it as a go-to house party anthem and trading lines with friends while on public transportation; Todd Terje's "Snooze 4 Love", for all those times on the dancefloor that the first hint of those arpeggios sent the crowd into raptures.

Too much solipsism makes for a pointless list: there were albums that seemed to capture something important about 2011 as a whole. The windswept incantations, elegiac tributes and weary trudges of PJ Harvey's Let England Shake dominated my winter—but her journalistic documentation of the suffering inflicted on ordinary people at the hands of governments also resonated strongly in a year when not just England but the world shook with protest. It seemed ironic that it should cement Harvey's position as part of the British rock establishment—the woman who had been an outsider heroine of my teenage years—but it was also appropriate that she wound up performing to two British prime ministers this year.

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Pazz & Jop 2011: Carol Cooper On Keny Arkana's Rebellion, Chart Pop's Disco Revivalism, And Voters' Fear Of Gospel

To supplement this year's Pazz & Jop launch, Sound of the City asked a few critics to expand on the reasonings behind their voting. This dispatch comes from Carol Cooper, whose ballot went far beyond the boundaries of the United States and its pop charts.

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These days American pop music sounds too fat and happy, so full of its own global importance that would-be anthems like "Born This Way" and "Run the World (Girls)" come across as insular and petulant, rather than triumphantly universal. Even their companion videos look more like carnival rides than artistic expression. Which is not to say that contrived artistry never works—the country scene is notorious for overthinking how certain singers, concepts, and songwriters might go together. Acts like the novelty trio Pistol Annies hit a sweet spot between humor and truth that brought to mind the Roches and inspired longing for the Dixie Chicks. Big & Rich, meanwhile, gave teens their own hip-hop hillbilly theme song with "Fake I.D.," replete with bluegrass fiddle and banjo riffs. I also love the typically country juxtaposition of soft voice/hard lyric as illustrated by Ronnie Dunn's mournful pragmatism on "Cost of Livin'" and Sunny Sweeney's deceptive bravado on "Drink Myself Single." It's hard for my r&b homegirls to match country candor when singing through so much routine signal processing, but Nicki Minaj's Rihanna-assisted "Fly" proves how sweet two bionic babes can sound once they unleash their inner TLC on the perfect power ballad.

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part I: Was 2011 The Worst Year For Music Ever?

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A number one song from 2011. Not really helping the year's case, this.
Welcome to the 2011 edition of the Sound of the City Year-End Critic Roundtable, an epistolary back-and-forth about the year in music between five observers of the medium: Tom Ewing; Eric Harvey; Nick Murray; Katherine St. Asaph, also of Popdust; and me. We'll be discussing the year in pop over the course of the next few days, in hopes that a few healthy arguments (nothing too knock-down, drag-out) ensue, and that even if we don't figure out any answers, we'll pose a couple of new questions as the calendar flips to 2012. As was the case last year, when music editor emeritus Rob Harvilla launched this initiative, we are totally ripping off Slate's Music Club, which is currently ensuing with five different music smarties. (Read 'em all!)

To start things off, I'll pose the question in the title, which spins off the query Rob posed at the close of 2010. That is to say: Was 2011 the worst year for music ever?

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Q&A: Pistol Annies On Three-Way Songwriting Sessions, Organic Groups, And Reeling In Elvis Fans

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Much of what you need to know about the Pistol Annies is encapsulated in this delightful couplet from their song "Lemon Drop": "I owe two dozen quarters to a washing machine before these clothes will ever really shine/ But I got me a man that just don't care if his little darling's got underwear."

Other things you should know about the sweet-and-sour trio: 1. Its members are the country superstar Miranda Lambert and two of her Nashville singer-songwriter pals, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. 2. The band's debut, Hell on Heels, is out this week. 3. It's great. We corralled the ladies in a Beverly Hills hotel room Monday afternoon for a chat.

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