Tag Archives: Rock

Ten Artists Redefining the Sound of the Middle East

Arabic Rock

“I remember a distinct shift between bitching that there isn’t really a strong scene in Cairo, to realizing that we are the scene,” says Adham Zidan, a producer and musician based in Egypt’s sprawling capital. Zidan is one of many musicians who has helped build small but thriving scenes across the Middle East in recent years. From the political dancefloor ruminations of Lebanon’s Mashrou’ Leila to the moody guitar atmospheres of Jordan’s El Morabba3 to the genre-bending anthems of Egypt’s Cairokee, the region is home to numerous artists and bands who are setting their own definitions of rock music—drawing from Arabic folk, punk, psych, synthwave, and noise as sources of inspiration.

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Combo Chimbita’s Spirit-Assisted Tropical Futurism

Comobo Chimbita

Photos by Stephanie Orentas

The first time Carolina Oliveros sang with the other members of her band, Combo Chimbita, she felt a powerful ancestral spirit join them onstage. She calls this spirit Ahomale, and says that it has been with the band as a guiding presence ever since. “I feel like it’s a force that manifests in all of us every time we perform. I feel like it’s a feminine energy, but it can be many things that manifest in me. Not just when I sing, but when I dress, with my instruments and how I move,” she explains in Spanish, with drummer Dilemastronauta translating.

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Album of the Day: Reese McHenry, “No Dados”

The story of Reese McHenry’s struggles—of her stroke in 2008, followed by more strokes, followed by the loss of her job, followed by the loss of her home—is devastating. The powerhouse vocalist could barely speak, let alone sing. Performing was untenable. What followed was a half-dozen operations, the installing of a pacemaker, years devoted to addressing the atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. Maybe it’s overly sentimental to put too much on the rebuilding of a heart, but McHenry makes garage rock and soul for thick-skinned romantics: it just comes with the territory.

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Digawolf’s Bilingual, Indigenous Garage Rock

Digawolf

Yellowknife is the only bona fide city in Canada’s Northwest Territories; it counts around 20,000 residents—nearly half the territory’s population. A hundred kilometers north, on the upper reaches of Great Slave Lake, resides a community of about 2,000 called Behchoko, which is the capital of the Tlicho nation. These two locales, and all the places in between, are the home and beloved stomping grounds for Diga, guitarist and singer of Yellowknife-based rock outfit Digawolf.

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Hardcore Punk, Glitch Pop, Indie Rock and More

7 essentials

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums that were released between last Friday and this Friday, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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Album of the Day: Jeff Tweedy, “WARM”

Wilco may have set a high water mark for experimental Americana with 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and 2004’s A Ghost is Born, but frontman Jeff Tweedy has spent the intervening years slowly inching away from the abstract and obtuse elements of those LPs, in favor of more direct and explicit songwriting. WARM, his first album under his own name, marks the exceptional culmination of that approach. Written in the wake of his father’s passing, and as Tweedy enters his 50s, these deeply intimate and skeletal songs consider what it means to remain in the present, what it means to be a link in a family chain, and what it means to appreciate the joys of life even as darkness threatens to swallow us whole.

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Hidden Gems: Smoke, “Heaven on a Popsicle Stick”

hidden gemsIn our series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

Nearly 20 years have gone by since Benjamin Smoke (known to most solely by his first name) passed away. A fixture in Atlanta’s underground music scene who was openly and proudly gay, he counted Patti Smith and Michael Stipe among his fans, yet this cult figure has yet to receive mainstream acclaim. His idiosyncratic lyrics and achingly beautiful instrumentation juxtapose with the unconventional nature of his voice to create music so strangely intimate, it feels like it’s confiding its deepest, darkest secrets in you. Anyone wanting a glimpse into Bejamin’s one-of-a-kind creative mind should watch Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen’s haunting documentary, Benjamin Smoke, and listen to his band’s extremely worthwhile first album, Heaven on a Popsicle Stick.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Benjamin sounds like Tom Waits. Both musicians have gruff voices that creak like basement steps in a home that’s long been condemned; upon first listen, Heaven could easily pass for a lost Waits album. But the longer one sticks with the LP, the more personal and unique Benjamin’s voice becomes, both in terms of sound and message: who else would think to write a song about a photo of Luke Perry’s feet (the aptly-titled “Luke Perry’s Feet”), turning it into a stunningly poignant examination of the human condition? (“This glossy, brushed picture of Luke Perry’s feet keeps me on my toes, so to speak.”) What could be a novelty song about a ’90s teen idol becomes a wounded and brilliant ballad.

Though it was released five years prior to Benjamin’s death (and was followed by 1995’s Another Reason to Fast), Heaven feels, ultimately, like a musical postmortem. Benjamin lived with HIV and amphetamine addiction, before succumbing to liver failure as a result of Hepatitis C on January 29, 1999, a day after he turned 39. Make no mistake, this album hurts. He seems less preoccupied with the potential of the great beyond and more with the traumas of the here and now. The rich, baroque instrumentation, including cello and horns, amplifies, not distracts from, the pains Benjamin was experiencing, be they physical, emotional, or on another plane entirely. The tense strings and exuberant horns of opener “Hole” (in which he describes falling asleep, in love, and finally, into, a hole) evokes the sensation of being so wracked with problems, your only means of recreation is letting obsessive thoughts cycle through your mind incessantly. Even moments of joy aren’t so comforting. “These exciting, giddy moments, well, they’re hell to explain,” Benjamin laments on “Awake.” Album closer “Curtains” is an extended emotional tremor—a tearjerker if ever there was one. “Believe me, I had rather cry in my mirror and keep this to myself and drive far away from here until somehow I lose myself,” Benjamin confesses against plaintive banjo and strings that keep up with the dramatic intensity of his vocals, which sound like they’re self-immolating towards the end.

Heaven on a Popsicle Stick is an album that hits unexpectedly, its impact strong and multifaceted. The world it creates isn’t the happiest, but it’s one of an absolutely uncanny beauty.

-Brody Kenny

Daughters’ First Album in Eight Years is a Wild Clash of Styles and Personalities

Daughters

Photos by Reid Haithcock

Anyone lucky enough to have seen Rhode Island noise rock outfit Daughters before their break-up in 2009 bore witness to a remarkable spectacle. Whether it involved unruly crowds, bodily injury, public nudity, or hostile confrontations, Daughters’ live shows became the stuff of legend. Not coincidentally, their music itself captured a particular kind of danger, somewhere between the rebellion of punk rock and a kind of futuristic, dystopian nightmare, evoked via Nick Sadler’s piercing, otherworldly guitar effects. Daughters sounded like a band that absolutely did not give a fuck—and they were very good at it.  Continue reading