Assemblog: September 6, 2013

Published on September 6th, 2013 in: Assemblog |


New this week on Popshifter: Less Lee finds “much to celebrate” on Ty Segall’s Sleeper, compares Italian new wave compilation Mutazione to “an excellent mix tape made by a music-savvy friend”, and selects her top 20 picks for TIFF; Brad “nearly drowns” in the “radical” Deranged; I get down with “the legendary Barrence Whitfield” and his new album with the Savages, Dig Thy Savage Soul; Jeffrey waxes nostalgic over the Moody Blues; and Paul observes that pro wrestling “is as good a place as any for creativity”.

Our Fearless Leader is still guest-blogging for the Toronto International Film Festival. Do you think she’d notice if I turned the Assemblog into a carefully curated page of corgi gifs?



Music Review: Barrence Whitfield & The Savages, Dig Thy Savage Soul

Published on September 3rd, 2013 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, New Music Tuesday |

By Chelsea Spear


The legendary Barrence Whitfield cut a curious figure during Boston’s college rock boom of the ’80s. As the frontman for the Savages, Whitfield attracted a diverse audience with his raucous live shows. The man could rock a high noon set at a street fair like it was a tiny, sweaty juke joint, and his cover of “Stop Twistin’ My Arm” lit up left-of-the-dial rock stations like WBCN. Sadly, no recording studio could quite represent Whitfield’s talent and energy. The kindest thing one can say about the compressed, high-endy production on his previous albums is that he stayed away from synth charts and gated drums.

Whitfield’s shows with the Savages won him the Best Live Act award from the Boston Phoenix, and he frequently embarked on well-attended tours of Europe. In the past fifteen years or so, though, he’s remained more visible as a clerk at the Record Exchange in Salem, MA, than on the concert stage. With labels like Third Man, Dap-Tone, and Bloodshot releasing new material by R&B legends, an interest in new material from Whitfield seemed inevitable. And so it came to pass that the venerable Barrence Whitfield and the Savages would release Dig Thy Savage Soul, an all-new record, in 2013, showing listeners around the world how it’s done.


Music Review: The Copper Gamins, Los Niños de Cobre

Published on August 27th, 2013 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, New Music Tuesday, Reviews |

By Chelsea Spear


Critics sometimes use the phrase “more fun to talk about than to listen to” when describing an album that plays with new ideas and approaches to music. The inverse—that an album is more fun to listen to than to review or discuss—doesn’t come up as frequently. Los Niños de Cobre is an album that would live up to the inverse of that phrase. The qualities that make it compulsively listenable—its straightforward simplicity and the band members’ passion and skill—also make it an elusive subject for review. The Copper Gamins have created an album that makes an ideal soundtrack to long walks in the early-morning magic hour and humid, sleepless nights. When I listen to it, I feel as though I’m under a spell, but finding words to match the shimmering music on this disc is like chasing balls of mercury with my bare hands.


Music Review: Los Nuggetz: ’60s Garage and Psych From Latin America

Published on August 14th, 2013 in: Culture Shock, Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Chelsea Spear


If music is the universal language, then garage rock was a generational dialect of rebellion. Bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones inspired an infinite number of teenagers to take to their garages and annoy their parents with three chords and ten decibels. While American and British garage bands have been exhaustively exhumed and cataloged, their peers in Spain and South America have not received the same treatment . . . until now. Los Nuggetz, a four-disc compilation, showcases almost 100 bands that put out singles during garage rock’s peak period of 1964-1968.


DVD Review: The Hot Flashes

Published on August 13th, 2013 in: Comedy, DVD, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Feminism, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews |

By Chelsea Spear


On one level, The Hot Flashes is not a remarkable film. This chicken soup-comforting feature will play as well as a basic cable favorite as it did during its truncated theatrical release. The broad sports comedy follows a beleaguered basketball team made up of middle-aged women (hence the title) who play a series of games against the current high school champions to raise money for a travelling mammogram truck. The script hits all the Save the Cat high points, all but one of the narrative guns from the first act goes off in the third, and the movie leaves its audience on a plausible high note.

Though the film has an agreeably mainstream approach, The Hot Flashes is made with care and has a winningly self-aware quality that elevates it from standard seat- and schedule-filling fare. Director Susan Seidelman made her name on edgy, feminist-minded features like Smithereens and Desperately Seeking Susan, and the goodwill she earned on those films has granted her a good audience base.


Ticket Giveaway: Los Amigos Invisibles, Xenia Rubinos To Play Summer Splash Concert In New York, August 8

Published on July 29th, 2013 in: Music, Upcoming Events |

By Chelsea Spear


Do you like rock en español and boats? If so, we have just the show for you. Summer Splash Concert Cruise Series recently announced a show featuring a pair of Latin alternative artists with serious skill, vision, and creativity. Popshifter will be giving away a pair of tickets to a lucky New York reader. Keep reading for more details!


Book Review: Nice Guys Don’t Work in Hollywood, By Curtis Harrington

Published on July 11th, 2013 in: Book Reviews, Books, Current Faves, Movies |

By Chelsea Spear


Before Guy Maddin, there was Curtis Harrington. Like Maddin, Harrington made byzantine features that served as a love letter to early cinema at a time when it was mildly unfashionable to do so. He frequently cast dwarf actors and other nontraditional talents alongside the kinds of grandes dames that Hollywood forgot. His films incorporated outmoded narrative and technical elements that, when used well, could hypnotize audiences. Unlike Maddin, who is recognized by his peers as a true visionary, Harrington had worked his way through the studios during the New Hollywood era, when the kind of work he was doing was on its way out, and he never got the recognition he quite deserved.

Harrington’s posthumously published memoir Nice Guys Don’t Work in Hollywood reads a bit like history as told from the perspective of someone who had the talent and drive but not the aesthetic. Though Harrington would hate the phrase “lovable loser,” his point of view and self-deprecating sense of humor mitigate any pity one might feel towards his series of near misses.


Music Review: Bosnian Rainbows, Bosnian Rainbows

Published on June 25th, 2013 in: Current Faves, Feminism, Music, Music Reviews, New Music Tuesday, Reviews |

By Chelsea Spear


Remember the ’80s? Not the kitschified dayglo era of synthesizers and Patrick Nagel portraits, but the pre-Nirvana era of college radio, fly-by-night indie labels, and adventurous bands with eclectic influences. Bosnian Rainbows, a Latin alternative supergroup-of-sorts, exemplifies the magpie musical styles and willingness to experiment that made the previous generation’s proto-alternative bands so addictive.

Bosnian Rainbows trade in expansive, cinematic melodies, driven by curlicuing guitar riffs and strong arrangements. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the creative force behind the band, perfected these skills with his previous band, the Mars Volta. Reacting to what he saw as a dictatorial manner of producing and fronting a band, the guitarist opted for a more democratic experience with his next band.


Music Review: Dessa, Parts of Speech

Published on June 24th, 2013 in: Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Chelsea Spear


Performance poet Dessa burst on the scene in the mid-oughties with A Badly Broken Code, an inventive record that meshed the confrontational attitude of hip hop, the confessional qualities of poetry, and an appealingly rough-hewn production aesthetic. These seemingly disparate elements came together for an album that explored familial love, particularly Dessa’s relationship with her disabled younger brother. Her flow was unimpeachable, and she transitioned well between spitting triples and crooning verses. Her use of analog and toy instruments underscored these themes and gave the album a greater poignancy.

In the three years since A Badly Broken Code dropped, Dessa’s interest in exploring new genres and working with different styles of music is understandable. Parts of Speech represents a transition for Dessa: from the experimental rap style in which she made her name into a more traditional pop music idiom.


Music Review: Piñata Protest, El Valiente

Published on June 18th, 2013 in: Current Faves, Music, Music Reviews, New Music Tuesday, Reviews |

By Chelsea Spear


When I hit play on my demo copy of El Valiente, a series of brostep-style drops came out of my speakers. My heart sank. Had “los muy chingóns de Norteño Punk” gotten sidetracked by that most loathsome of EDM subgenres? One second and a long yip later, I realized I didn’t have to worry.

For the uninitiated, Piñata Protest has mastered a sound that blends the buzzing cacophony and shout-along choruses of punk with Norteño, an accordion-driven form of traditional Mexican music. While the two genres may seem at odds with one another, the fast tempos and slyly political lyrics for which Norteño is known play well with the exuberant energy of punk. It’s a wonder other bands haven’t tried this kind of you-got-your-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate crossover.