Travel Back to 1979 with Spanish Punks Juanita Y Los Feos

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(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 9/11/2014)

Name: Juanita Y Los Feos

Where They’re From: Madrid, Spain

When They Started: 2004

Genre: Punk

For Fans Of: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Futuro, Good Throb

Sounds Like: If young Siouxsie Sioux spoke fluent Spanish and took over the Buzzcocks

They say they started in 2004, but Juanita Y Los Feos could arguably be visitors from another decade. Their 2014 LP, Nueva Numancia is one big smorgasbord of punk and new wave nostalgia, a homage to some of the finest sounds from 1979. Spooky synthesizers collide with swift surf punk licks, keeping the album both brooding but catchy enough to bring Bela Lugosi back from the dead. The synth sometimes reeks of cheesy ’80s kitsch, but it’s totally forgivable in the intro to the hair-raising power pop jam that is “Revolución Caníbal” (Cannibal Revolution). “Devour,” warns Juanita, “or you will be eaten.”

Clamoring above the tangled frenzy of guitar and bass, Juanita stays front and center with her brisk yet damning diatribes. Her anger seeps outward in “Escupe en La Tumba” (Spit On The Grave), delivering harsh words for those who undid the good work of revolutionaries past. She descends into nihilism in “Noche Más Negra” (Blackest Night), discarding dreams of a bright future and resigning herself to the sweeping maelstrom of the music as she repeats, “Everything is dark.” Whether you’re looking to sulk in your bedroom or slam dance into your enemies, Los Feos’ latest album provides a soundtrack that’s palatable to just about any weirdo with a dark side.

Selector: Shonen Knife’s Naoko Yamano Shares Her Hard Rock Favorites

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(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 9/3/2014)

“When I finally got to see them live,” said Kurt Cobain, “I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert.” Over three decades since their very first show in Osaka’s Studio One, the legendary indie pop trio Shonen Knife has shared tours with Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Redd Kross. Now promoting their latest album, Overdrive on their North American tour, the band is on the verge of playing their 1000th show, which will take place September 16th in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Though they’re most famed for defying the early J-pop craze with their DIY garage rock aesthetics (and more importantly, songs about snacking, cats and boring desk jobs), the band takes a grittier turn in Overdrive. They make a detour down Route 1975 on their new single, “Bad Luck Song.” Vocalist/guitarist Naoko Yamano revs it up with some Joan Jett riffs, but serves up her vocals with the same sugar-coated simplicity she’s maintained for years.

Naoko says her actual Bad Luck Song is “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. “Every time I hear it something bad happens,” she says, “It’s not so serious, I just have minor bad luck– like missing the train.” She adds, “I went to see Robert Plant last week, at the Summer Sonic Music Festival in Osaka. I was happy he didn’t play ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ But he did play ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ I like that one.”

It may be a little strange to think the lead of a band like Shonen Knife would take an interest in classic rock, but she would beg to differ. “Their melodies are pop,” says Naoko, “It’s just hard.” And it’s a formula that works for her. After all, it was the band’s juxtaposition of twee and toughness that won the West over thirty years ago, when their debut album Burning Farm first charmed the gatekeepers of American indie stronghold, K Records. And despite a couple of lineup changes, including the departure of Naoko’s sister and drummer Atsuko Yamano, the anti-pop pluck of Shonen Knife is the gift that keeps on giving.

“Right now music in Japan is occupied by [J-pop] idols,” says Naoko. “I think there are more interesting bands in the Japanese underground. My favorite is Extruders, they’re very unique. Also Red Sneakers and Papa Lion. But I like the old stuff too, it’s still good.” We asked the iconic frontwoman to share some of her favorite hard rock jams with us below, from “Breaking The Law” to Bad Company.

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Album Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars, Lose, 2014

This arty New York band’s previous album, 2011’s Lenses Alien, was delirious indie-rock bedlam. The four-piece crew’s follow-up, reportedly written in response to the death of a friend, is just as anarchic. Handspringing between the rowdy folk-punk antics of “XR” and the sweetly sordid “Child Bride,” it’s a riveting elegy. Producer John Agnello (who has worked with acts including Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.) gives the album a stadiumcaliber sound, which frontman Joseph D’Agostino offsets with his sharp-edged falsetto, hacking violently against the orchestral current. The band hits even keel with the standout track “Chambers,” an Eighties-tinged throwback to both the Cars and the Cure. (3/5 stars)

Reviewed: Diana Fuentes’ Planeta Planetario

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(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 8/25/2014)

Bright-eyed and heavily decorated, singer-songwriter Diana Fuentes is well on her way to becoming Cuba’s next national treasure. She was practically bred for it, having been classically trained at competitive institutions like the Alejandro Garcia Caturla Conservatory of Music and the National Art School of Cuba. She subsequently spent 6 years singing with the prolific Afro-Cuban jazz fusion group, Síntesis, who scored a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Tropical Album in 2002.  Fuentes later went on to work with Afro-rocker and fellow Síntesis alumni X Alfonso, as well as iconic Cuban chanteuse and occasional Buena Vista Social Club member Omara Portuondo.

It’s plain to see that a young Renaissance woman like Fuentes is much too big of a deal to be contained in the Caribbean. So she struck a deal with Sony Music Latin, and with the help of her hubby and producer, Calle 13’s Visitante, her sophomore LP Planeta Planetario (Planet Planetarium) was born. As the follow up to her award-winning 2008 debut, Amargo Pero Dulce, (Bitter But Sweet), Planeta Planetario is Fuentes’ chance to experiment and truly break out of her bubble in the Tropics.

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It’s Good to Be Imelda May

(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 8/18/2014)

“Who here in the audience is Irish?”

Decked in a hip-hugging, striped pencil dress and crowned by her signature blond victory roll, Ireland’s most noted rockabilly revivalist Imelda May stands contrapposto under the hot lights of the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. It’s the first night of her band’s four-week-long North American tour. She beams as almost the entire crowd answers her question with resounding cheers.

“All right then,” she says, “Who here is not Irish?” Howls of pride could be heard from every corner of the room, but are modest compared to the previous eruption of applause. At a table nearby a man says, “Booo!” To which his date promptly elbows him in the arm. “Sorry!” he hisses. “Now, how many of you have ever been to Ireland?” Imelda asks. Save a few shy hollers, the room goes silent. “That’s okay,” Imelda says assuredly, “We’re all one big family!”

Family is quite a big deal for Imelda May. Born Imelda Mary Clabby, she grew up the youngest in a family of seven, crammed in a 2-bedroom house in Dublin with just one record player to share. While her parents favored old school staples like Judy Garland and Ray Ellis, her siblings constantly circulated everything from The Carpenters to The Specials and Meat Loaf (who she’s performed and collaborated with).

“I was raised with a big mixture of influences,” she says. “But I went crazy for early Elvis.” Although she appreciated David Bowie and Adam Ant like most teens in the 1980s, it was Elvis that inspired her to start a career in music. As a teen she landed her first paid gig singing a jingle for a local fish stick company, and soon after began slipping into jazz clubs to perform, despite the fact she was underage. Since then, she lays claim to a long list of honors; her second album, the self-produced Love Tattoo hit the#1 spot on Ireland’s album charts in 2009, and she boasts an impressive repertoire of guest performances with Wanda Jackson, Lou Reed, Jools Holland and Jeff Beck.

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Youth Against Fascism: 8 Artists Fighting the Good Fight

Nic Endo from Atari Teenage Riot. Photo Credit: Daniel Sims.

Nic Endo from Atari Teenage Riot. Photo Credit: Daniel Sims.


(Crossposted from MTV Iggy, 8/13/2014)

Unlike what your history teachers may have taught you in high school, the political ideology that brought you Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy did not end in the 1940s, nor is it solely the realm of foreign dictators in the Third World. With regards to national pride, what often starts with something as simple as love for one’s country can devolve into the widespread exclusion and control of those who don’t fit the “ideal” image of a citizen. In the UK, the far-right group English Defence League intimidates Muslim and immigrant communities through public marches, while others terrorize family-friendly music events. In the United States, police take over small-town Missouri with tear gas and M16s after an officer fatally shot a young man leaving a convenience store, and conservative talking head Ann Coulter suggests the US take the Israeli Defense Force’s tactics in Gaza to the Mexican border, where thousands of Mexican and Central American migrants are already dying or becoming incarcerated daily. In economically strained Greece, where the pitfalls of the European Union outweigh its benefits, ultranationalists Golden Dawn have swooped in to reap the rewards from rising levels of disillusionment. Nationalism is alive and well and it’s super scary.

But resistance against the burgeoning ranks of totalitarians and nationalists is growing too, and it isn’t limited to electoral politics and street actions. On the internet, journalists, activists and just plain regular folks take to Twitter to call attention to troubling political currents. In the the football fields, you can find punk favorites FC St. Pauli, the first football team in Germany to officially ban displays of right-wing, nationalist imagery in its stadium. Meanwhile, from the stages of outdoor festivals to the dimly lit basements of squats, musicians both old and new deliver moving speeches and performances in the name of unity and inclusion. Here are eight musicians who are using their music to help fortify the movement against fascism today.

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