Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

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The week in Pop (& Hiss) and more

February 4, 2011 |  6:03 pm

Pop & Hiss strives to provide the best, most relevant and entertaining music coverage of the week. Hey, it's a goal, be nice. Sometimes we have some posts that hit the mark. Sometimes we don't and others do. Here's a quick look at some of the best of what Pop & Hiss and The Times had to offer this week, as well as some stuff we missed. 


From the ol' Pop & Hiss: 

Gentle men: The softer side of rock flourishes again. In the 1970s, it was America and Bread with the wispy vocals and gentle guitars. Now, Fleet Foxes and James Blunt have rediscovered soft rock. 

'They needed some Mexicans in there': Pop & Hiss premieres the Los Lobos theme to 'Rango'. By the time Los Lobos were brought in to contribute music to "Rango," band principal David Hidalgo estimates that there were already somewhere between 12 and 20 takes at the theme to Gore Verbinski's spaghetti western-like animated feature. It was composer Hans Zimmer, said Hidalgo, who admitted defeat at trying to craft authentic mariachi music. 

- Pop & Hiss premiere: 'Thrust,' from Alpha Pup's recent signing, Virtual Boy. Virtual Boy is the latest Alpha Pup act to emerge from the packed dance floors and earthquake bass of the Airliner. 

Five great White Stripes covers: Dylan, Beefheart, Son House and more. One of the best measures of a band's versatility is its ability to perform cover songs. 

John Barry, composer of iconic James Bond music, dies; highlights of an amazing musical life. The British-born composer not only helped define the feel of the Bond films but crafted music that served as a 1960s soundtrack to a new kind of jet-setting lifestyle. 

Game talks 'Purp & Patron' and 'The Hangover.' The Interscope-signed rapper has claimed in interviews that the tape has been downloaded more than 1 million times in just one week. Ernst & Young has yet to confirm.


- Pop & Hiss Album reviewsHot Club of Cowtown's 'What Makes Bob Holler'; Bobby Long's 'A Winter Tale'MEN's 'Talk About Body'Ricky Martin's 'Musica + Alma + Sexo'

New Johnny Cash biography coming from former Times music critic Robert Hilburn. Former Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn’s new  biography on Johnny Cash, “In Search of Johnny Cash,” will be published by Little, Brown and Co., the publisher of Peter Guralnick’s massive two-volume Elvis Presley biography, “Last Train to Memphis” and “Careless Love,” and Keith Richards’ recent autobiography, “Life.”

- Personal Playlist: Daft Punk gets ‘Congratulations.' Getting the French electronica experts of Daft Punk to open up about what music they're listening to these days is no mean feat.

- Pop & Hiss premiere: Lord Huron's 'Stranger.' Michigan-bred songwriter Benji Schneider records music under the moniker Lord Huron. He's so committed to the guise that he has requested that the press call him, "Lord" -- a hilariously bizarre move that wins him appreciation among lovers of aristocracy and Lord Finesse alike.  

On the charts: As sales hit constant new lows, where are the success stories? Adult singer-songwriter Amos Lee leads the U.S. pop charts this week, and though his 40,000 in sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan, mark a career best for the artist, the number will come with an asterisk.

From our dead-tree-media pals (a joke! we're all one happy family) at the Los Angeles Times:

Cold War Kids move toward the big time. The band has relocated to Los Angeles and, with 'Mine Is Yours,' is being heard 'Louder Than Ever.'

Arhoolie Records: In one ear and out to the world. Chris Strachwitz happened upon sounds that he loved. They became known as folk music. He just knew they needed to be recorded. A label was born.

Good stuff be elsewhere! 

- New York Times: Post-Minimalism and Folk Ballads Fuel a Composer. Like most composers, Julia Wolfe is often in two places at once psychically: working on new pieces (with working defined as anything from cogitating and experimenting to actually putting the notes on paper) but also seeing that the backlist is getting attention. 

- Chicago Tribune: Is Eminem finally safe enough to grab biggest Grammy prize? Remember the days when Eminem was considered an outlaw? Remember when a foul-mouthed, equal-opportunity offender sold gazillions of records while the industry that profited from his booby-trap rhymes squirmed?

- Stereogum: Beavis and Butt-head’s Best Video Commentary, in Celebration of Their Return. MTV officially announced the show would be part of its summer lineup during its new programming presentation. Very exciting! Even Justin Beiber is stoked, because I think he was conceived during an episode.

- Pitchfork: Review of Ride's 'Nowhere' [20th Anniversary Edition]. While Ride is often mentioned in tandem with MBV, its footprint owes more to its songwork than its sonics, and more to the way all four members clashed and combined. They weren't visionaries or titans; they were young writers with a taste for high volumes.

- The New Yorker: PJ Harvey’s desires. With PJ Harvey’s new album, “Let England Shake,” squinting is required. Furthermore, the guitarist and songwriter’s previous album, “White Chalk,” from 2007, was a strictly eyes-closed affair. 


Grammys-be-a-coming! Follow Awards Tracker for the latest news, as well as highlights from the Envelope's Producer's Roundtable, which featured video interviews with three of today's hottest producers: Alex da Kid, best known for Eminem and Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie" and B.o.B.'s "Airplanes"; Ari Levine of the production trio the Smeezingtons, whose 2010 smashes include Cee Lo Green's "[Forget] You" and Bruno Mars' (also a Smeezington) "Nothin' on You"; and RedOne, who's riding high as Lady Gaga's go-to producer ("Bad Romance," "Poker Face," "Alejandro").

Images: Top, Ricky Martin (Getty Images); Jack White (EPA) and "Rango" (Paramount Pictures). Middle, the Cold War Kids (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)