Notably Decent Indie Rock: Meet the Counterfactuals

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ToM Best of 2013 There’s something very charming about the thought of a band of philosopher-musicians. Enter the Counterfactuals, a band whose members hail from Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges in Northfield, Minnesota. Songwriter, vocalist, and rhythm guitarist Daniel Groll specializes in normative and biomedical ethics at Carleton. Lead guitarist and Carleton philosopher Jason Decker may be most entertainingly described in his own words: “After refusing to vacate his office, he was hired as a tenure track professor, starting in the fall of 2008.” Drummer Mike Fuerstein teaches at St. Olaf, where he tackles epistemological issues in politics and the sciences and makes time to take American … [Read more...]

Filtering Music through a ToM Lens

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"Starting with the affirmation of man/ I work myself backwards using cynicism," Mike Watt sings on the Minutemen's classic track "The Glory of Man." "I live sweat, I dream light years/ I am the tide - the rise and fall." For many of our writers individuals like Mike Watt and bands like the Shins or rap groups like Das Racist have served as a means to connect and filter our understanding of late 20th  and early 21st century culture and history. Needless to say it was a veritable red letter day when Watt tweeted at ToM regarding an article we had written about the band.  Undoubtedly, Watt remains a testament to the ethos of the hardcore punk movement—"Punk rock is an idea, not a musical … [Read more...]

Inauthentic Authenticity: Ian Svenonius and the Challenge of Indie Rock Satire in an MP3 World

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Saturday night, Washington D.C., a stone’s throw from one of D.C. hardcore’s central nodes and the playground of Nation of Ulysses (NOU) front man Ian Svenonius: the Embassy in Mt. Pleasant.  In the late 1980s and 1990s, Svenonius, NOU, and other D.C. punks used to gather at the Embassy to discuss music, politics, and agit prop, even serving as an ally to the Riot Grrrl movement when Kathleen Hanna and others left Washington for a sojourn to the capital in what for many, became a transformative experience.   Tonight, though, sitting in independent book store Politics and Prose and waiting for Svenonius to appear from on high to assault us with his latest philosophical tract, the shop hums … [Read more...]

Economic Hardcore: Remembering the Minutemen Nearly 30 Years Later

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[Editor's Note: For more on punk, hardcore, rap, hip hop, and other ToM music commentary see here] In 1984, British-born director Alex Cox released the now cult classic Repo Man.  The movie, influenced by punk rock and hardcore, filtered the sensibilities of those musical forms through film, illustrating a stark contrast with the commercialism of early 1980s Reaganite America.  White suburban punk Otto (Emilio Estevez) moves through the city as a newly minted repo man, repossessing vehicles his fellow Angelenos have failed to pay for.  While the movie takes aim at rampant consumerism and pokes fun at the aesthetics and tenets of punk and hardcore, it also left many critics impressed with … [Read more...]

Tropics of Meta’s Best of 2012

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It has been a big year for us at ToM, as we rebooted and redesigned the site back in March and welcomed many new contributors.  (Hi, Jude, Lauren, Maryann, Nick, Adam, John, Jonathyne, & co.)  We were also lucky to see several of our pieces circulated more broadly in the online world, such as Alex’s look at the politics of Atlanta’s Beltline, Ryan’s analysis of sexuality in the films of Wes Anderson, and our roundtable discussion of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.  Meanwhile, the manic, occasionally psychotic antics of the US election cycle prompted both mild laceration from our friend Clement, who covered the presidential conventions and debates, as well as the periodic spike in interest in … [Read more...]

Aimee Mann Is Not Pleased with Your Progress: Best of 2012 Part IV

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As part of ToM's Best of 2012 our contributors reflect on books, movies, music, and other pop culture stand-by's that they discovered this year, no matter when their source of inspiration originated.  Click here for parts 1, 2, and 3. Charmer seems like a deliberately inappropriate title for an Aimee Mann album; almost any record from her catalog could just as easily have been called Downer. Mann certainly plays the scold throughout her 2012 offering, in songs such as “Gumby” (“Don’t call me/You should call your daughter”), “Barfly” (“You won’t get high/you’ll only get down”), and “Labrador” (“I come back from more, but you laughed in my face and you rubbed it in”). It is like hearing … [Read more...]

Indie Rock Rhyme: A Look Back at the Year in Hip Hop

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Tired of these rappers, tired of these jackers Tired of these dances by these fucking backpackers And I'm sick of all these hipsters - A$AP Rocky, “Leaf” When A$AP Rocky released his mix tape in 2011, it became one of the soundtracks for the year. I remember hearing it bumping in DC’s Dupont Circle on the way up to the city’s hippie/hipster/young professional neighborhood Adams Morgan.  For all his apparent disdain for hipsters and backpackers, some of 2012’s best releases seem to be akin to counterparts in indie rock - the very genre A$AP’s Rocky’s villains inhabit.  While not entirely new, hip hop, like indie rock today, increasingly seems to be dividing into niches.  You still have … [Read more...]

The Relentless Pace of Hipsterdom: A Day at Pitchfork Music Festival Paris

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[Editor's note: Please welcome Greg Spivak to ToM.  All photos appearing here were taken by Mr. Spivak, we encourage you to click on them to see them at full size and resolution.] In French there is no equivalent for “hipster.” Recently the term has been adopted by the French press, with articles describing this American idea of “le hipster”; slowly, the word is starting to lose its italicized status as a new loan word along with les has-been, les best-of and les lifting (fine, the last is a strange Gallic deformation of "face-lift"). The closest the French come is the bobo, which, although coined by David Brooks, moved to, settled, and thrived in France -- talk shows speak endlessly of … [Read more...]

Sparkling Music for a Dishwater World: The Shins and the Limitations of the Indie Rock Narrative

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  In March, Columbia Records launched one of its major albums of 2012, the Shins’s Port of Morrow. In the five years that had elapsed since the last full-length Shins release, the band, which became one of rock’s standard bearers with three terrific albums for Sub Pop Records between 2001 and 2007, underwent significant changes. Although two original Shins appear briefly on Port of Morrow, band founder, songwriter, and leader James Mercer remains the only permanent member. In addition to the new line-up, Port of Morrow is the first Shins album distributed by a major label. Mercer and the revamped band have generated extraordinary interest in the record, participating in a … [Read more...]

“When She Talks, I Hear the Revolution”: Looking Back at the Riot Grrrl Revolt

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Anyone whose has a cable subscription to IFC probably recognizes Carrie Brownstein from her comedic stylings on the channel’s popular show Portlandia.  Yet, fewer may know that Brownstein currently plays guitar for Wild Flag or along with Corin Tucker founded seminal Pac NW rock group Sleater Kinney.  Formed in 1994, Sleater Kinney (the band functioned as a three piece and had three different drummers over the course of its existence) has often been pegged as part of the Riot Grrrl Movement.  However, if one reads Sara Marcus’s engaging Girls to the Front:  The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, Sleater Kinney appears to be the belated second wave of the movement, a culmination of its … [Read more...]

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