Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution!

I recently emceed a very cool smart culture event for Blackberry's Playbook (digital tablet) at their pop-up shop in Chelsea. Not only did I conduct interviews with artist Peter Max, blues pianist Henry Butler, and indie band The Kin, but with two outstanding rock photographers -- Mick Rock and John Scarpati.

Mick is the more well-known of the two, having captured iconographic rock images from the late '60s through the '70s of Syd Barrett, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Queen, Sex Pistols, Blondie, and more. But John has done amazing work as well, just during a different time period on the West Coast, more specifically L.A. bands during the '80s. Many folks have seen his photos of Fishbone, The Cramps (image left), Jane's Addiction, Poison, L.A. Guns, Social Distortion, Redd Kross, et al. He did album covers, press photos, magazine shots, and more. He was one of them -- so much so that sometimes it meant losing money on some of his setups for outstanding photos.

Surf's Up! Hot Rock, Pop, Soul Singles for Summer 2012

While our managing editor Steve Holtje has done a bang-up job sharing phenomenal Jazz and Classical reviews, I thought I'd share some of my favorite new rock, pop, and soul picks for Summer 2012. It's time for BBQs and beach blanket bingo parties. Time to get your swag on, peoples.

"Radiator Sister" - The Mynabirds Generals (Saddle Creek)

nfectious, bubble-gum snappin' tunes abound on this sophomore long player from singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn. All aptly produced by Richard Swift, but for my limited ducats this iPod-friendly ditty is the bees-ness. Equal parts Bow Wow Wow and T.Rex, with its two-note piano hook. 

Crescent City Rewind

A few weeks ago my friend Sal lamented that he would miss his annual pilgrimage to JazzFest this year. (Thanks, economy.) I thought at the time, who cares, we've got plenty of culture right here in the Big Apple. Plus I'd spent a long JazzFest weekend in 2004 the year prior to Hurricane Katrina's devastation. But as I rewind through this past weekend in New Orleans as part of the collective that descends annually to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, I was struck by the undeniable and infectious vibe of the event.

Sprung! Favorite New Rock Singles for Early Spring 2012

Here's eleven of my favorite new rock tunes for your early spring listening pleasure. Take your allergy medicine and enjoy the melodic sunshine, people.

"Eskimo Kiss" The Kooks Junk of the Heart (Astralwerks)

Not sure why my fellow critics insist on dropping the "sounds like The Strokes" tag on these Brits. And some scribes have whined they aren't "edgy" enough. So what. I hear more of The Kinks and The La's as reference points. And to me, that's much better company if you love more pop in your rock. Case in point, the infectious ear candy of "Eskimo Kiss," my pick hit from their latest long player (LP). Currently on tour in the U.S. of A.

Auditorium's Nights Worth Living Preview

Today's a big day, at least in Spencer-land...Spencer Berger AKA Auditorium has finally released his new EP, NIGHTS WORTH LIVING.  If you'd like to hear a free stream of his earnest folk-pop effort (think unplugged Arthur Lee's Love) and/or share it with any other music lovers, here's the link:

Trust me, he's one of my favorite young artists and worth the effort. It's only a matter of time before more music fans will be held captive in much larger music venues.

The Minutes - "Secret History" - Free MP3

Tired of the same old alternative crap? Get yourself right with this hard-charging Dublin-based punk rock trio of Mark Austin (Vocals, Guitar), cousin Shane Kinsella (drums), and Tom Cosgrave (bass). They invested in some serious vintage amplification, honed their skills playing every dingy basement and back alley bar in Ireland that would have them, and have cemented a reputation as gig-thirsty monsters with tunes to match their impressive swagger. Audience interaction resembling the energy of hand to hand combat became the trademark of their shows and won them support slots with Supergrass, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and The Von Bondies. Their self-titled EP will released on February 14th via Model Citizen Records.

Download their infectious, blistering punk-rock stomp "Secret History" right here.

Some Music That Slipped through the Culture Cracks

As is the case every year, I start reading year-end lists posted by trusted peers/journalists and discover I've missed plenty of deserving culture. With the glut of films, music, theater, TV shows, books, et al. on numerous websites, TV screens, bookshelves, and periodicals, it's fairly easy. Truth be told, in addition to P.J. Harvey's much-deserved kudos, other women singers/songwriters/bands really stepped up their game this year, making many top ten year-end lists, and I missed out on discovering some of them. With that in mind, here's some additions to my 2011 year's end list.

Bah! Humbug? Grab Some New Music, Books, and Films!

Seems like the major labels will continue to mine the nostalgia angle with the hope that they can squeeze a few more ducats from aging music fans everywhere. Fine by me, if the music merits the "super-deluxe-never-before-heard-or-seen" treatment. And since I've been sucked into that black hole with the Dead, Stones, Rush, Hendrix, Jesus & Mary Chain, et al., I've missed some amazing music and culture this past year. No excuses now as I cram a full year's worth of culture down my gullet before Christmas. You can check out more of my favorite culture from 2011 in these Spring, Summer, and Fall articles.

Mia Doi Todd: Cosmic Ocean Ship (City Zen) - I was struck by her otherworldly vocals after copping her major label debut in 2002. Her ninth effort picks up where her critically acclaimed 2008 self-released effort Gea left off. And it's quite apparent that her time on the road opening for Jose Gonzalez informed the vibe on these worldbeat-infused folk-rock tunes. Perhaps we can expect a full-on collaboration sometime soon?