Music Features

Back from the country

Vashti Bunyan returns to dispel myths and make more great music
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At the end of our transatlantic phone conversation, I tell Vashti Bunyan to have a good night, and she tells me to have a good day. She's relaxed at home in Edinburgh, Scotland, where her friend Jenny Wright — whom the first track on the new album Lookaftering (Dicristina Stair) is dedicated to — is staying for a visit. "We really haven't seen each other at all over the last 30 years," Bunyan says when I first ask about Wright, not knowing that she's in fact sitting nearby. "She just happens to be staying with me right now! Read more »

Regaining consciousness

East Oakland rapper Ise Lyfe spreads the word, makes his mark
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"I want to be a mainstream artist," says East Oakland rapper and spoken word poet Ise Lyfe, discussing his rejection of the label "conscious rap." "I'm not trying to be some backpack cat performing in Davis. I want to be ..."
The 23-year-old trails off thoughtfully. "I think the only way to do it harder than Jay-Z is to have a real movement, something tangible that will effect change in the world through music. Read more »

Rock's black back pages

Black Fiction take us for a Ride
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Tim Cohen sits at a table cutting up playing cards.
The Black Fiction vocalist-guitarist-songwriter has convinced himself that the meaty torsos of every jack, queen, and king are spelling out something big. He flings the disembodied heads into a pile and arranges the stately bodies to spell out Black Fiction Ghost Ride. Across the table keyboardist Joe Roberts is gathering the heads. Read more »

Northern composure

Victoria's Shapes and Sizes unfold before our ears
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Four years ago, a high school junior named Britney Gallivan managed to fold a piece of paper in half 12 times, surpassing the eight-fold limit with a 4,000-foot-long piece of special toilet paper. For this girl, origami became more than paper frogs, cootie catchers, and hope-giving cranes. But those cranes are still essential. The four sprightly members of Shapes and Sizes do a lot of musical origami and showy unfolding on their self-titled debut. Read more »

This tune's for you

Catching up with What Made Milwaukee Famous
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We've all been there. You're entranced by some wonderful song that you can't live without, only to buy the album, hunker down to listen, and find it full of duds. Your purchase ... sucks. Read more »

Confessions of a Gofessional

Free mixtape by Team member Kaz Kyzah scores 7,000 downloads in first week
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Things move fast in rap. By the time their second album, World Premiere (Moedoe/Koch), dropped in April, the Team already had a new single, the "Hyphy Juice" remix, which now rivals "It's Getting Hot" as their biggest radio hit. Since then, Moedoe label head K.O.A.B. has inked a deal for Hyphy Juice, the energy drink he co-owns with the group, to be sold at 7-11 stores nationwide, while Team member Clyde Carson just signed as a solo act to Capitol Records. Read more »

Rage and resistance

The Coup's Boots Riley continues to challenge with the unapologetic Pick a Bigger Weapon
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"It's a whole different feeling on the East Coast." Raymond "Boots" Riley, Oakland's most famously outspoken rapper, is talking. The Coup, the group he's led for more than a decade, has just returned from a series of spring New York dates. Their latest album, Pick a Bigger Weapon (Epitaph), has just dropped. It's a good time to clock the distance between the coasts. "They've got a whole different code of language and lifestyle — and the same with the political energy that's there. It doesn't even translate," he says. Read more »

After the gold rush

The Dying Californian begins to live
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Lay up nearer, brother, nearer
For my limbs are growing cold
— "The Dying Californian"
A man's last testimony to his brother before perishing at sea, "The Dying Californian" is a mid-19th-century tune that documents the dark side of the Gold Rush. Read more »

Bitch's brew

All women, all noise - meet 16 Bitch Pile-Up
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San Francisco is full of a bunch of pussies. I'm sorry, it's not that I want to say these things. I feel strongly that a woman's vagina should never be used to describe something weak or negative. In fact I tend to correct people who use that word in such a way, being that I am shamelessly p.c. Read more »

Get the funk out of here

Transutf8g the hot Afrobeat of Fela Kuti at the Afrofunk Music Festival
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For more than 30 years, Afrobeat has been slowly grabbing ears in underground music circles like a revolutionary movement steadily arming itself for a coup d'état. Rawer than jazz, more organic than R&B, and as politically and socially relevant as hip-hop, this genre binds American styles to percussive African rhythms, chants, and 10-piece-plus horn-heavy orchestras. This is a high-energy music with the street appeal of blaxploitation grooves and the third-world desperation of reggae, a sound that is as mysterious and at times as daunting as the continent itself. Read more »