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Next Level : Professor Green

12 Oct


Twenty-six-year-old English grime rapper Professor Green, real name Stephen Paul Manderson, isn’t exactly “next level” in the sense that he’s an up-and-coming artist. Well, at least not in Europe. All three of his past singles have been raging the European charts since his debut album—which went gold in the U.K.—Alive Till I’m Dead, dropped in July on Virgin Records. What makes him “next level” here and now is his significant potential at a successful North American crossover. Said potential was confirmed when he further pushed grime rap into the European mainstream by infusing clever lyrics, pop, and a rather famous friend into his album.

Professor Green may be a high school dropout, but he has been schooling MCs in over 100 rap battles, including one in 2008 where he won £50,000. But life has not always been so easy for him. He was raised by his grandmother in the Northwold estate in Clapton, Hackney in East London in a strip, according to The Guardian, known as the Murder Mile. Also, not long after being signed to The Streets’ label, The Beats, the label went under in 2008. Then last year, two weeks after he had his neck adorned with a tattoo of the word “Lucky,” he was stabbed with a broken bottle in a bar fight where the tattoo lay. Not only that, but he is constantly pining over Jessica Alba… and she is married with child!

He may not be a professor either, but he sure seems to know how to get his social networking on as if he had accreditation in it. As a Facebook friend of Lily Allen, he casually mentioned he got the rights to the lyrics from the S.O.S. Band’s “Just Be Good to Me,” and she opted to briefly step out of retirement to sing the chorus of his “Just be Good to Green.” A tour opening for Allen subsequently followed. He is also an avid Twitter user, and in July he announced that his second full-length, Good Times, will be out next year.

His other two singles, “I Need You Tonight” featuring Ed Drewett, and “Monster” featuring Example, are as poppy as his song with Allen, but don’t let that fool you. The remainder of his album is very dark and introspective, whether recalling his former day job as a drug dealer, growing up in Hackney, or his relationships with exes and ex-labels.

Professor Green may have a lot going on, especially with his headlining European tour this fall, but in a recent interview he said the best thing about him was his new teeth. When asked what was wrong with his old teeth, he replied, “They looked like I tried to eat a TV.” Getting his teeth fixed is just one of the tasks from his to-do list on his old song “Before I Die,” where, in fact, you can see what trying to eat a TV looks like.


Posted by : Melissa Kim


Next Level : Tasseomancy

28 Sep

In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry and Ron flippantly read each other’s tealeaves for the first time during their Divination class. Then Professor Trelawney looks at Harry’s tealeaves. This could have been a good time for Rowling to give a little vocabulary lesson. For instance, the reading of tealeaves is also known as tasseomancy. But Rowling, naturally, must have been more concerned about her plotline because when Professor Trelawney reads Harry’s tealeaves, she then informs him that he’s going to die.

Tasseomancy is also known as Halifax’s neo-gothic folk twin sisters Sari & Romy Lightman. The sisters, formerly known as Ghost Bees since 2006, have rebranded themselves based on the name of their Ghost Bees EP, which was dedicated to their great-great-grandmother’s immigrant experience from Russia to Canada as a tea leaf reader.

Surely, tealeaves or no tealeaves, the telepathic Lightman twins could not have foreseen going from busking at Halifax’s farmer’s market for grocery money to being featured on La Blogotheque in August. Last winter, Tasseomancy recorded a full-length produced by Taylor Kirk of Timber Timbre. A release date has not been set, but they do have a 7’’, Healthy Hands, limited to 500 copies on pink vinyl on October 5 via Hype Lighter.

Whether or not Professor Trelawney is their great-great-grandmother has yet to be confirmed.

Tasseomancy’s 7’’ release party is at the Main Hall of the Toronto Australia New Zealand Club on October 5.

Posted by : Melissa Kim

Next Level : Les Sins

28 Sep

When Dirtbag first heard of Chaz Bundick and his glo-fi Toro Y Moi outfit, we knew we had found the official voice of 2010. However, we did not know that this voice was capable of making us feel simultaneously happy and sad so consistently.

First, there was the beautifully bittersweet album Causers of This. In our interview with Chaz, he revealed that many of the sappy songs were inspired by the same ex-girlfriend. One, “Talamak,” was about how the four-year relationship ended due to the erosion of time and distance, and another, “Fax Shadow,” is in regards to when she found someone new. But he wasn’t satisfied with ending the disclosure of details there. Not long after, Chaz told the Village Voice that not only was the girl he hugs at the 18-second mark in the Blessa music video his ex-girlfriend, but also that when he saw the footage for the first time, he “kind of teared up.”  If it’s any consolation, Paper magazine named him one of the most beautiful people of 2010, and there’s a legitimate reason why we’re talking about him right now (aside from presenting newfound facts where he’s hung up Madonna-style).

Now he has an additional moniker: Les Sins. His disco-house side-project—recorded last spring in his home studio—will make you want to roar, “Dancing is not a crime!” and then sob into your flask of gin. Case in point: the song “Lina,” which contains the refrain, “I thought you wouldn’t move out,” juxtaposed against flailing hips in white polyester pantsuits.

Les Sins is releasing a 12’’ on Nov. 9 via Carpark Records. However, Chaz will be touring his Toro y Moi songs this fall, and there’s no word when you can tell everyone that you going to a Les Sins show. In the meantime, your friends will most likely be asking why you developed a southern drawl when saying “lessons.”

Posted by : Melissa Kim

Next Level : Cosmetics

8 Sep

Captured Tracks has made 2010 pretty fucking amazing. It doesn’t take much to prove that point when every one of their artist have each shown a unique sense of musical direction, not to mention insane amounts of potential early on. This time around, the object of our musical affection comes in the form of Vancouver duo that’s music is sexy, dreamy, and nothing short of perfection.

Cosmetics consist of Nic and Aja, a young couple that both work in a fashion warehouse as their day jobs. Nic buys jewelry from wholesalers and Aja does Graphic Design. With the exception of their separate working courtiers, they’re pretty much always together.

Nic talks about their working relationship in a Vice Interview stating that :

” I always knew that if I was ever in a band, I wanted it to be a creative partnership like The Cramps. I would read about Lux Interior and Poison Ivy and be like, ‘That’s what I want.’ A really close partnership, not just going to band practice once a week, but working towards something every day, doing every aspect of it. So it’s an extension of our normal lives”.

Sounds like the recipe to success Nic. Enter Captured Tracks Records (aka 2010’s most consistent record label) and boom, here we are.

The band got picked up by the Brooklyn label in January, which immediately lead to the release of the Soft Skin/Black Leather Gloves 7”. Their sexy single Black Leather Gloves caught the attention of London producer Premier Rang, which lead to Cosmetics and Rang working on a remake of the track( They did the entire track with him via email, pretty awesome right ?) . Dancefloor ready, while retaining its spooking sound; the remake garnered the band some attention from our friends at Pitchfork, not to mention tons of other music critics and new fans.

After a spring tour with label mates Blank Dogs and their first taste of remix action for the Death On Plains single; Cosmetics released their second 7”, Sleepwalking/The Cries in July 2010. The single Sleepwalking has been causing quite a stir. From its rough, upbeat, disco vibe, to Ajas vocals channeling Coldwave queen, Virna Lindth; the song has definitely left music critics wondering what type of fire they’ll bring on their debut LP.

The band are featured in the current issue of Dazed and Confused(They also did an exclusive mixtape for Dazed Digital, which can be found here).

Cosmetics are currently touring, with more dates to be announced. Apparently their shows lead to fist fights and synths being pulled out being sets. Can’t wait!

Posted by : Max Mohenu

Next Level : Sun Araw

7 Sep

Twenty-six year old Cameron Stallones, a.k.a. neo-primitive post-modern psychadelia solo outfit Sun Araw, might just be the Hannah Montana of indie music. Yes, that’s right… he has the best of both worlds.

An aspiring filmmaker, he works as a film archivist at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Can we say, “convenient”? Stallones shares a cottage in California with his wife of four years and pet rabbit. The same cottage doubled as his writing and recording space for his July release: the 75-minute On Patrol on Not Not Fun Records. Unfortunately for our entertainment purposes, Stallones does not have to wear a wig to differentiate between his Hannah and Miley personas; although he is known for having a penchant for rocking trucker hats.

In fact, Stallones is a man of many hats in addition to film archiving, movie making, husband-being, and rabbit caretaking. He told LA Weekly he is a “font freak,” where Helvetica Neue is his favourite. In addition, Sun Araw was born as Stallones’ outlet for more material that his other, now defunct band Magic Lantern could not accommodate, where he acted as guitarist and vocalist.

Sun Araw’s meandering, quest-like tracks often lead the listener on a trail of ponderous self-discovery, like when a naïve teen watches a Harmony Korine movie for the first time. Therefore it is no surprise the composer of such revelations has solved the 21st-century-old conundrum: To what point is internet consumption? This is what he wisely and concisely told The Quietus:

“We’re in full ‘dawn of man’ mode right now… The mirror went live and we’re staring it deep in the face. The heart of the Narcissus myth that a lot of people forget is that Narcissus didn’t realize it was himself he was looking at. It wasn’t vanity, it was lack of awareness. The trick is to be alert.”

Posted by : Melissa Kim

Next Level : Gauntlet Hair

19 Aug

Gauntlet Hair. The inter-webs have been abuzz with chatter of them since April. We heard it’s because they snort lines with underage princesses in the White House. We also heard that we just made up that last part about snorting lines in order to exemplify how much buzz they are worthy of and have been receiving; not because of salacious scandal, but because of their bitching, albeit limited, rock-your-funk-out tunes.

The avant garage-pop duo is Andy R. and Craig Nice, best friends since age 15, of the small town of Lafayette, Colorado. They signed to Forest Family Records, the love child between Gorilla vs. Bear and Weekly Tape Deck born in March, and now Gauntlet Hair’s 7’’ is sold out.

Ryan Schreiber, Mr. Pitchfork himself, condemned their band name (“…it sounds like something people used to get diagnosed with in the 1820s when the docs were more creative”) in a track review of “I Was Thinking…” before congratulating them for their “delirious, fire-spewing stomper.”

As for the name, Andy R. took it from a cashier at a vintage shop who, for all intents and purposes, coined the term when referring to a picture of an odd man with a bowl cut. In a MySpace blog post, Andy explains, “Since [Craig and I] had known each other, our hairstyles were equally as intense along with our sense of fashion. We were constantly ridiculed over it throughout high school. It became a sort of bonding term of endearment between us. Gauntlet Hair is our own term for freedom of expression. What better name to title our musical project?”

And by the looks of Lady Gaga’s music video for “Alejandro,” intense bowl cuts are in like groupies on a guest-list. And although Gauntlet Hair could have rested their laurels on being the buzz-band of April 2k10, a full-length album is in the works; bowl-cuts not included.

Posted by : Melissa Kim

Next Level : The Pop Winds

13 Aug

To be honest, Montreal’s The Pop Winds initially caught our attention because their synth/drum machine/samples guy, Kyle Bennett, has a very trendy haircut. But then we looked again, and we realized that there is a saxophone player (?!) in this trio. And although they do not have any saxophone parts reminiscent of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” their Animal Collective-esque sound is worth pausing for.

Devon Welsh (guitar) and Austin Milne (saxophone) were roommates at McGill, and Bennett grew up with Welsh in Uxebridge, Ontario. The Pop Winds officially formed in April 2009, not long after Bennett matriculated into Concordia University’s electro-acoustics program.

According to their EP released in September, Understory, and their debut full-length album released in April on Arbutus Records, The Turquoise, Bennett is applying his studies of the compositional breakdown of sound as if he was being marked for it. And in the words of Nicki Minaj in her rap, “Itty Bitty Piggy,” this might make them “the baddest in the school, the baddest in the game;” where, yes, “baddest” is synonymous for “the most ridiculously awesome.”

And speaking of rappers, Canadian Cadence Weapon praised them for having “a unique band arrangement… that sounds unappealing on paper but coalesces nicely live and on record” in an article for The Mark News in December.

Another idea that perhaps does not sound so good on paper, yet The Pop Winds have implemented it anyways, is giving away whole EPs and albums for free (at least digitally). You can download the Understory EP here and The Turquoise album here.

In April, Welsh explained to Lookout, “We sort of had to do this. After a certain point, it’s going to be easier and more effective to get people to hear your music if you give it to them for free… A couple weeks after an album comes out, it’s everywhere on the Internet. It seems like the natural thing to do.”
Well, after hearing their poppy tune “Feel It,” we totally would have bought the album regardless, but we thank them for their generosity nonetheless.

The Pop Winds is playing at the Tiger Bar in Toronto on Wednesday, August 25th as part of their month-long cross-Canada tour.

Posted by : Melissa Kim