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"Two thousand eleven was kind of like, you know, indie rap's first big year," Los Angeles rapper Open Mike Eagle told Up on the Sun in April. "The things that were seen more as interesting -- especially in terms of coverage of rap music -- were, like, acts that are very nontraditional. You got Danny Brown, Shabazz Palaces. There's a lot of attention given to those acts, plus Odd Future, Death Grips, etc."
He's right, but if 2011 was the year non-traditional rap stepped up, 2012 is the year it stepped out, getting funkier (Oddisee's People Hear What They See); more demented (Isaiah Toothtaker and Max B's Hood Internet-produced Toothy Wavy), and nihilistically claustrophobic (El-P's Cure 4 Cancer).
All the aforementioned descriptions work in describing Eagle's new record, the powerful and varied 4NML HSPTL. Featuring guests such as Serengeti, Nocando, and Danny Brown, Eagle sings snippets of Blink-182, dissects the financial crisis over vintage soul-jazz, and dips into softly sung avant-electronica with the self-lacerating and poignant "HSPTL."
In other words, it boldly pushes boundaries in a year when everyone is trying to push boundaries. "I don't know if you want to call it 'alternative' yet, but there's definitely momentum happening in that arena," Eagle says, discussing the market's reaction to adventours hip-hop. "But weirdly enough, there's still an industry barrier, in a sense; so it's not quite a youth meritocracy yet, but I think it's getting there. It definitely gives me more hope to continue doing my own thing." -- Jason P. Woodbury
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Virginia Woolf once said, "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds." Had Woolf been a teen with a 'zine during the late '70s or early '80s, she might have said the same about Joan Jett -- sans the whole "grave" part, since Jett is still very much alive. Instead of "the right to speak their minds," the literary figure could update it to "the right to plug in and rock out."
It's hard to overstate the scope of Jett's influence -- especially on the female rock musicians who followed. Courtney Love, L7, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and the Go-Gos all name her as an inspiration. Jett's four years leading her original group is currently being eulogized on the big screen in The Runaways. After the Runaways split, Jett went solo, but it wasn't until she formed the Blackhearts that she gained the acclaim she deserved and established her place in rock history.
A slew of Top 40 hits followed, including punkish classics "Bad Reputation" and "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." Even if the hit momentum waned, Jett built a substantial base of fans who sing along to her songs in bars and at karaoke nights across the globe. Drunken karaoke anthems aside, any girl who thinks rock 'n' roll's not just for boys should look to Jett as one of the matriarchs who carved the way. -- Erica K. Landau
William Fucking Reed is apparently hell-bent on monopolizing the weekends of the Valley's hipster crowd.
He's already the straw that stirs the drink during the exceedingly popular Friday-night mainstay Sticky Fingers, which draws trendy types by the hundreds to Bar Smith. And starting this weekend, Reed is launching another debaucherous dance night at The Rogue Bar, 423 North Scottsdale Road.
The infamous Scottsdale dive, which was home to his long-running weekly Shake!, will once again host a "motherfucking rock 'n' roll dance party" when he launches Rebel Yell on Saturday, July 7. Also described as a "nonstop punk rock cabaret," the affair will feature many of Reed's cohorts as resident DJs, such as Hoodwink, Queen Bitch, Adam Slade, and Ashley XOXO. Hosted by local fashionista Dani Dollhouse, the night will offer a musical milieu that include a mix of trashy rock 'n' roll variants, including punk, glam, metal, and garage, with some French pop and Britpop thrown in for good measure.
Naturally, there will be specials on PBR, as well as roaming photographers, giveaways, and plenty of drunken makeout sessions. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Putting a song over 10 minutes long on your debut full-length is masturbatory. Putting three songs that nearly hit the 10-minute mark on the record? That simply doesn't work, because listeners don't need much excuse to roll their eyes and shrug as they head off in more fashionable direction. (See: MGMT's Congratulations.) It's a different story for Cassiopeia. The Phoenix shoegazers don't specialize in cut-and-dried Death Cab for Cutie-style melodies. Instead, they paint spaced-out soundscapes that capture the imagination.
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On their debut, Cassiopeia tosses the expected whiny singer and swaps him/her for emotive guitar riffs that tell a story without melodrama. Maybe the approach led to the band's name, as the upward-gazing rockers clearly are inspired by the constellation named for the self-absorbed queen in Greek mythology. Song titles like "Stargazer," "The Ascension," and "The Highest Step on Earth" aren't exactly surprising, but the music is thoughtful and well-constructed. You could call it "space rock," but Cassiopeia skips the stoned hippie mindset for a more scientific approach. Call it the difference between astrology and astronomy. -- Christina Caldwell
La Mala Rodriguez may have runway-model looks, but she sounds more likely to break a heel off in your ass than strike a pose for you. The Spanish rapper is renowned in the Latin hip-hop scene for spitting rhymes with the smoothness of Ladybug Mecca and the ferocity of Ol' Dirty Bastard. Ladybug's 1990s jazz/hip-hop trio Digable Planets peaked around the time Rodriguez, 33, was laying the groundwork for her own music career in the rich musical landscape of Seville, Spain. Her exposure to flamenco styling and sultry Andalusian accent make for a unique and tasty concoction.
La Mala ("bad one") launched her career with the 2000 album Lujo Ibérico, which was bolstered by production by Spain's premier beat-makers Jota Mayúscula and Supernafamacho, as well as Rodriguez's catty wordplay. The record earned her plenty of attention, but she really raised eyebrows in 2003, with her video for "La Niña," about a drug-dealing little girl in Madrid. Rodriguez is set to drop a new record, Virginia, this year, but the U.S. market is just a bit behind the times, as she's just now bringing her "Dirty Bailarina" tour to the States (the record dropped in her native Spain in 2010). Still, we're happy for the chance to catch Rodriguez's subtle -- and not-so-subtle -- charms in concert. -- Anthony Sandoval