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Recognizing “Epic” Mumblecore

The 97-minute, 2016 film Free of Thought ends with John hunched over a sink in a dimly-lit kitchen. Through a doorframe, we see our protagonist doing the dishes and hear him whistling to himself: a quiet, unassuming moment almost all can relate to. What makes this particular, ostensibly-mundane scene so striking are the circumstances that led up to it. The film starts in Melbourne, Australia, where John is in a relationship with Mel. But by the film’s closing moments, John has become a habitual stoner, messily broke up with Mel and migrated to Montreal, Canada.

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TEST SPIN | Mitski — Be the Cowboy

It’s been two years since Mitski graced us with Puberty 2, a deep, thoughtful and powerful album that was so mesmerizing words will never do it justice. The Japanese-American artist has grown increasingly louder over the years, and now with her newest album, Be the Cowboy, she is louder than ever, making listeners feel emotions they didn’t know they were capable of. In the past, Mitski has consistently kept a rather slow, mostly acoustic and melancholic sound (save for the few bursts of lyrical and emotional impacts, i.e. the chorus in “Your Best American Girl”). In addition to keeping a consistent sound, Mitski keeps her lyrical style the same: emotional, deeply sad and lonesome lyrics that very often hit home and have listeners in tears just one song into her albums.

Mitski has never been scared to bare it all and be vulnerable, because it’s human. Women are too often told that being powerful and independent means that we have to meet certain superhuman expectations, such as immunity to negative emotions and heartbreak, as well as coldheartedness, all while being sexy.

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Spinning Singles: Girlpool, “Picturesong”

There has always been a certain magic to Girlpool. The bond that duo Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker share is unlike any other. Girlpool stands out due to their lack of a drummer: Cleo’s guitar chords and picking fit perfectly with Harmony’s bass — or vice versa when they trade off. Their vocal styles also seem to have been made for each other and are instantly identifiable. Their music was perfect already without a drummer.

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TEST SPIN: Iron & Wine — Beast Epic

Music critics (often) fall into two traps. The first is comparison. Lacking a way to describe lyrics, songwriting, production and so on, critics get tempted to compare. We write about how a musician conforms to or subverts their genre. We provide a catalog of suggested listening, a list of similar musicians.

(Cameron Pollack/Sun Photography Editor)

The Head and the Heart at the State Theater: The Past and Present of the Seattle Indie-Folk Outfit

The move from a small label to Warner Bros. for the Signs of Light album should leave no fan surprised that the stage production was as polished as the album’s established indie pop sound. Hanging lights and potted ferns were arranged across the stage, like a dreamy NYLON Mag photo shoot, and the draped reflective curtains in the back and twinkly lights atop the antique piano were impressive alone. An impressive light show weaved through the setlist, neon colors (sometimes a complimentary yellow over violet, but always bright) and floor lights always in motion created a stage your eyes couldn’t ignore. A disco ball was even added during the sixth song, and as Josiah and Jonathan crooned the last line of “Let’s be Still” the lights switched off right as the final chord was strummed, a beautiful quiet moment after long projections of light.

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GOLDFINE | Indie Rock is Girls: What Dave Longstreth Got Wrong About Indie Rock

As an arts writer, they tell you not to beat dead horses. We are told, when we get the keys to a one-bedroom flat of internet article space to dispose of our thoughts in, not to belabor on topics where debate is no longer generative; where a cultural consensus has been reached, or all viable arguments have been made. When Kim comes out with receipts incriminating Taylor for using Guys-Kanye-Called-Me-A-Bitch-Troops-Assemble feminism for personal gain, we are not supposed to shout into the crowded internet void about it, because the internet is a highly effective instrument that responds at hyper-speed to such events — and there are literally offices full of 20-something bloggers in every major city paid to sit around and wait for stuff like that to happen, and produce appropriately snarky takes on it. So, if you’re not one of those people paid to stare out at the internet and write that first “Taylor Lied and Here’s Why She’s The Whitest and Lamest Feminist Who Ever Lived, Who Gives Me Existential Doubt and Acid Reflux About The State of Feminism” article — don’t. I’ve shouted a lot about indie rock in the past few days.

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GOLDFINE | The Thriving Redefined Girl Power of Mitski

“Girl power” is a tainted term in our cultural vocabulary. It is infected probably first and foremost by the image of Gwen Stefani, bindi-clad, prostrating herself onstage in her “Just A Girl” music video whimpering “fuck you, I’m a girl,” or of Taylor Swift parading around with her #girlsquad of models/singers/very famous people, explaining to Twitter, (mainly when other women criticize her) how very important it is for “women to support each other.” The term, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness and individualism” has been largely debunked as a commercialized white feminist ideology, based on vague assertions of rights and equality, which ultimately boils down to imitating masculinity while still looking hot. So, while explicit performances of girl power like those of Stefani, Courtney Love, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and the Spice Girls — whose have-it-all, you-go-girl cultural feminist legacy was inherited by Swift and her peers — were subversive in the 90s and aughts, and will always be fun as hell to dance to, it has since become evident that these women’s girl power brands (remember kinderwhore?) were ultimately complicit with the relentless trivialization and eroticization of women within rock culture. In 2016, “girl power” in music is either obsolete, or begging for redefinition. The latter, I argue, is happening, and in an unlikely genre.

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TEST SPIN: Sonny Smith — Sees All Knows All

Everybody’s a loner bum. All of our ten dollar jackets have bead-black cigarette burns on the sleeves, and we all know how to strum a chord or two on somebody else’s pawn shop guitar. Our hair scraggles in matted insect homes down past our shoulders, and our crumbled asphalt stubble trickles day by sunscorched day into flowing deluges of little follicular lives emanating from dirtstained smiling faces. We’ve all got a thin, spine-worn volume of Bukowski’s poetry shoved haphazard into the ripping back pocket of our wrong-sized jeans. We all know how to write, and we like doing it, too.