What Has Happened to Tyler the Creator?

Categories: Pop Life

Photo by Marco Torres
Tyler the Creator at SXSW's Fader Fort in 2011
This month, with a week between the announcement and the release, we were gifted with a surprise new album from Odd Future front man Tyler the Creator, his third in four years. Unfortunately, I wish this gift had come with a receipt.

Left to his own devices, given the creative freedom to do whatever he wants and still sell records, Tyler's returns have been diminishing steadily. Now, Cherry Bomb, his most ambitious artistic effort yet, represents the absolute nadir of Tyler's short career. What has happened to the most promising rap artist of 2009?

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A Pair of Unlikely 21st-Century Folk Heroes

Categories: Pop Life

Photo courtesy of 36D Management (Shinyribs)
Photo by Emma Tillman (Father John Misty)
Two of a kind: Shinyribs and Father John Misty
Two of the most buzzed-about records so far this year come from very different corners of the pop universe, but share a certain kinship. Both might safely fit under the umbrella of "Americana," but only at the outer extremes, with Bob Dylan likely their only common real ancestor. The first album in question, Father John Misty's I Love You, Honeybear, is a 21st-century recasting of the Laurel Canyon drawing-room dramas of the early-'70s perfected by the likes of Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne; while the other, Shinyribs' Okra Candy, hews to a path where Doug Sahm and Levon Helm did most of the brush-clearing.

Nevertheless, both performers, whose given names are J. Tillman and Kevin Russell, have created alter egos that have become fully realized characters in their own right, lifting the musicians responsible for them to unprecedented levels of success. Based on the passions both men have stirred up within their rapidly growing fan bases, you might even call them latter-day folk heroes.

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Jazmine Sullivan Shows How a True Church Girl Can Sing

Categories: Concerts, Pop Life

Photos by Ivan Guzman
Jazmine Sullivan
House of Blues
April 2, 2015

If I could get the guy who was standing behind me last night at the Jazmine Sullivan show to review the concert for me through his loud and excited remarks, I would, because there were some great ones. Alas, he is probably suffering from a pretty crippling hangover right about now, and besides, the review would probably only consist of comments like "YAS MA'AM, WITH YO BIG ASS!" or "THIS RIGHT HERE MY JAM! YAS!" So I guess I'll just have to describe the magic of Sullivan's performance last night myself and hope to capture the essence of her heart-wrenching vocals and stage presence in the same way.

I'm not one to throw around this compliment often, but Jazmine Sullivan has a God-given talent. After taking a four-year hiatus from the music industry because of an abusive relationship, the Philadelphia born-and-raised singer returned early this year with her sophomore album, Reality Show, and explained her re-emergence by saying that she "can't escape [her] calling."

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Debate Over Feminist Pop Stars Not Always So Simple

Categories: Pop Life

Self-avowed non-feminist Meghan Trainor performing at House of Blues in February
I have to be honest: as a male writing about feminism and the ever-changing landscape of women in music, I feel a bit apprehensive because there is a certain set of rules and moral guidelines I must not break.

For example, when I use the term "women in music," am I perpetuating a separate standard for female artists than male artists and totally going against the gender equality feminism is trying to achieve, or am I simply trying to talk specifically about musicians of the female sex? And is it bad that I only use female pop stars as examples in this article, or is it just that they are the ones who typically get asked about being feminists?

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Pentatonix's A Cappella Cool Proves the Future Is Now

Categories: Concerts, Pop Life

Photos by Ivan Guzman
Bayou Music Center
March 25, 2015

As Pentatonix performed to a filled Bayou Music Center on Wednesday night, they barely ever took their microphones from their faces. This wasn't because of nerves or lip-syncing (I would re-think my entire life) or anything of that sort, but simply due to the sheer volume of singing each member constantly had to do in order to make their sound what it is.

And after being taken aback multiple times last night by the mind-bending harmonies and brilliant arrangements of their cover songs, I'm more than content sacrificing some forced choreography break for the sheer vocal acumen that was delivered by the group. The only things Pentatonix's stage consists of is a set of stairs, some lights, and a screen to display graphics and whatnot, all of which shows a sort of something-out-of-nothing, cutting-the-fat philosophy that the a cappella group has maintained their entire career and seem to thrive off of.

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Dance Music May Rise and Fall, But Disco Donnie Is Here to Stay

Categories: Pop Life

Photo by Rucks/Courtesy of Magnum PR
UME 2014: Party in the wave pool!
The coming of Spring means a lot of things: warmer temperatures, better movies in theaters and the beginning of music-festival season. From now right until around the time that Fun Fun Fun Fest ends on a cold night in November, Texas is going to be packed with festivals almost every weekend.

In the realm of dance music, there's a lot to look forward to. Something Wicked may seem far away in October, but for those dance fans willing to road trip, there's plenty to be excited about right now, including Ultimate Music Experience 2015 down in South Padre.

It takes a lot of people to put on a festival these days, and if you've gone to your share of them in Texas, there's a name you may have seen over and over: Disco Donnie Presents. It's a company and it's a brand, but it's also a person. Yes, dance fans, Disco Donnie is real and he's doing his part to give you nights to remember.

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10 More Acts Who Could Take R. Kelly's FPSF Spot

Photo by Jim Bricker
Would an Arcade Fire "homecoming" make a suitable FPSF palate-cleanser?
Here it is almost two weeks later, and we're still talking about Free Press Summer Fest inviting controversial Chicago R&B star R. Kelly as one of this year's headliners. Until he is either stricken from the bill or takes the stage at Eleanor Tinsley Park June 6 or 7, the old PR saying "any press is good press" will continue to be in effect as Houstonians weigh in with as many opinions as there are colors in a rainbow.

But lest you think this is all a bunch of hype, have a look at the petition started by Girls Rock Camp Houston entitled "Cancel R. Kelly at FPSF 2015," which Tuesday afternoon was a little more than 100 signatures short of its goal of 800. We know we wrote about this very topic yesterday, and last week, but hey, it's a great story, and it's obviously not going away anytime soon. Today we wanted to open the floor and allow our music writers to offer their thoughts.

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A Statement From Mumford & Sons' Missing Banjo

Categories: Pop Life

Photo courtesy of Big Hassle Media
Not a banjo in sight...
Mumford & Sons have officially left the West London folk scene sound and entered into mainstream music with their newest single, "Believe." Today, members of their fan club received an email encouraging them to download their newest hit or to stream it on YouTube or Spotify, but to many of their fans' dismay, Banjo has left the band.

Apparently Banjo was not invited to participate in creating the group's newest album, Wilder Mind, which will be released by Glassnote Records in May. Instead, the instrument's strong presence has been replaced with an electric guitar to give the band a more popular sound that rivals the likes of Coldplay and Keane. After being involved with the band during both of their Grammy nominations, 2009's Sigh No More and 2012's Babel, which won album of the year, the dismissal of Banjo seems very sudden.

Mumford and Sons have reportedly said that the band did not want to make a Babel II, and that Wilder Mind would be a "significant departure" from their previous sound.

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L.A.'s the Sloths Crawl Back From the Grave

Categories: Playbill, Pop Life

Photos by Art Tavana
Written by Art Tavana/LA Weekly

Jason Voorhees' gimmick in Friday the 13th is that he never stays dead. He's the campy horror equivalent of '60s garage rock, back from the grave whenever we need knuckle-dragging escapism to tickle our prepubescent fancy.

In 1964, British Invasion-aping garage rock was sexing up the Sunset Strip, as clubs feverishly booked bands with a rudimentary training in the blues, and a master's understanding of how to turn rock standards into libido-boosting shakedowns. Beverly Hills High School's The Sloths were one of those bands.

Between 1964 and '66, the Sloths opened for the Doors, the Animals and Pink Floyd, and managed to release a crude, nearly improvised single, "Makin' Love," which was too sexy for mid-'60s radio. But by the summer '66, they were done; buried alive, it would seem, under the murky swamps of the hippie riots on the Strip, frequent LSD trips, and law school for original guitarist Jeff Briskin.

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Dwight Yoakam Sideman Brian Whelan Heads Off on His Own

Photo by Evan Lane
Brian Whelan in the studio
After four years of road-dogging with Dwight Yoakam's band, multi-instrumental utility man Brian Whelan has quit and struck out on his own. He rolls into McGonigel's Mucky Duck Saturday for a song swap with old Los Angeles running buddy and local songwriter extraordinaire Mike Stinson.

Whelan has a new album that he'll unveil later this year that rocks hard and occasionally opens a can of whup-ass on the Americana genre on a hard-charging tune called (...drum roll...) "Americana." In the lyrics, Whelan tells someone "you look great but you sound like shit."

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