Small Towns and Strangers: A Primer on Folk Opera

“Folk opera” sounds like an oxymoron; it conjures images of a campfire song circle performed by mezzo sopranos in a lavish theatre to a black-tie audience. But the “opera” in “folk opera” just refers to the presence of a storyline, which is pretty much the only constant in the genre. Defining a folk opera only exaggerates the impossibility of defining folk music in general, which has roots in so many musical traditions, cultures, and time periods. George Gershwin defined 1935’s Porgy and Bess as

Satanic Messages Found When Black Metal Played Forwards

WASHINGTON — Parental groups across the nation are growing concerned about a new recording technique known as “frontmasking,” in which satanic messages are conveyed when black metal albums are played normally, a watchdog organization confirmed.

“It’s no longer safe to let children listen to black metal: kids all over the country have been asking their parents why ‘some shithole whore has worms in her snatch.’ These are truly wicked times,” said Peg Portier, founder of the Children’s Center for

Boys For Pele by Tori Amos: It's Not About The Pig

When piano prodigy and singer-songwriter Tori Amos released Boys for Pele in January of 1996, all people could talk about was that photograph. In one picture from the album artwork, Amos sits inside what appears to be the same Louisiana farmhouse pictured on the album cover. There is a large window to her right, cut into six panes. Amos has a tired, distant look on her face, her red hair slightly dishevelled and falling to frame her face. One earring, on her right earlobe, is visible; otherwise,

The Fangasm: The Boatman's Call by Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

"I don’t believe in an interventionist God." Is there a bigger way to ante up an album than this opening line, the one Nick Cave uses on The Boatman’s Call? It’s the kind of opening line we would have had a field day with in my creative writing workshops. Like, what does the speaker believe in? What does the speaker’s disbelief have to do with the story we’re about to hear?

The answer to that question is: pretty much everything. The love songs that comprise the album come not from mere skeptici

Albums of Our Lives: Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports

I offer to sleep on the floor. “Be not silly!” Emily says. Her bed is stark white. So is everything else in her room except a mostly blue painting of a Romanesque woman that she had done.

It is summer, I am in graduate school, I am home for the summer. I am staying with my parents. Sometimes this does not go so well. The previous night, I got so angry that I shouted obscenities at some deer. I ask Emily if I can spend the night with her. She agrees, and when it’s time to sleep, she sets four or

The Friday Fangasm: Anna Calvi by Anna Calvi

The Independent’s Emily Mackay called Anna Calvi a “scary, scary lady.” Brian Eno called her “the biggest thing since Patti Smith.” What makes Calvi great is, no doubt, what also makes her scary to some. The bottomless warmth of her voice, her vein-tapping lyrics, her eclectic guitar techniques, and her flamenco costuming comprise the perfect storm. Above all, the staggering intensity of her music sets her apart from many of her peers.

Features | Anniversary | Celebrating The 30th Anniversary Of Glassworks By Philip Glass

On January 31, 2012, American composer Philip Glass celebrated his 75th birthday. His constantly evolving legacy is his music, which helped form the school of classical music we now know as minimalism, though he has since attempted to separate himself from that label. His legacy is also his prolific tenacity, his ability to merge high and low culture through Academy Award-nominated film scores, solo piano works, collaborations with other musicians, string quartets, and operas. His name and style

Seven Haunted Ladies of Folk Noir

Folk noir is a relatively recent term, but the style itself stretches far back to the earliest history of the blues. While there’s nothing codified about what instrumentation is necessary to make a song “folk noir,” the music is usually stripped down to just guitar and vocals. Lyrics are its most defining feature, full of dark imagery about ghosts, graves and dark nights of the human soul.

In different iterations of the blues, devil women and black snake men live alongside the narrator, who’s u

Jim Ellison of Material Issue - A Retrospective

Material Issue was one of us. They were three men who looked barely old enough to drive, let alone take their van and self-recorded albums across the country. They didn’t have managers or producers in the beginning, doing everything themselves. This was grass-roots music, and the music, too was ours. Material Issue had grown up with us. They weren’t ashamed of their Cheap Trick records. Rather, they legitimized that same 80s guitar sound into unforgettable riffs that decorated three-chord 90s so

Kevin Gilbert - Toy Matinee - Sheryl Crow

An unassuming piece of paper with a typewritten paragraph stuck to the front of Kevin Gilbert’s refrigerator in 1996. Titled “The Religion of Awe-ism,” Gilbert summed up his philosophy of life thusly: This thing is way bigger than I or anybody else on this planet can begin to know or comprehend, so we take in what we can, keep rubbing our eyes and trying to take in more of it, understand it when possible, learn from it at our own pace, forgive it and ourselves when we can’t do either, and look f

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