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Stories by William Crain

El Ten Eleven and the Double-Neck Guitar

Double-neck guitars are inherently ridiculous. Did Jimmy Page really need to cart that gigantic Gibson EDS-1275 along on tour just so he could switch from 12-string to 6-string for the solo in “Stairway to Heaven”? ...

Beats and Samples: TV Girl

The first thing you notice about TV Girl is that it sounds old-fashioned and modern at the same time. Brad Petering and Trung Ngo piece their music together from digital beats and samples of old ...

Rob and Zach Do Pinback

When Rob Crow and Zach Smith formed Pinback in 1998, they quickly became one of the most-talked about San Diego bands in indie rock (even if they weren’t necessarily all that famous in San Diego). ...

Tennis at the Casbah

The past few years in indie music have belonged to bands such as Vampire Weekend, who celebrate the fashion and sensibilities of East Coast trust-fund kids. But in recent months, we’ve become aware of how ...

Chelsea Wolfe and the Apokalypsis

This year’s International Tournament of Witchy Women in Rock is entering its final phase, and the brackets are quickly narrowing. Florence Welch, of Florence & the Machine, has easily established herself as The New Stevie ...

Melt-Banana, with a Spice of Punk

Melt-Banana often sounds like an early ’80s hardcore 45 played at 78 rpm. At other times they sound like a hyperactive five-year-old playing a video game while a badger attacks a drum kit and an ...

Sharon Jones + the Dap-Kings

The past couple of years have seen a wealth of good records from Raphael Saadiq, Fitz & the Tantrums, Mayer Hawthorne, and others working in the style of ’60s and ’70s soul and funk. But ...

Real Estate Is Warm and Cozy

New Jersey band Real Estate plays mid-tempo songs with three or four chords strummed on an electric guitar with a vocalist who’s so laid back it might take you awhile to notice when the band ...

Ffunny Ffriends Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s music sounds as if it’s off an old cassette tape that sat warping in the sun on a dashboard before falling into a puddle. And it gets weirder the closer you listen ...

The Supergroup That Is Wild Flag

The all-woman lineup of Wild Flag consists of two of three members of Sleater-Kinney, along with the guitarist-singer of Helium and the keyboardist of the underappreciated Elephant 6 band the Minders. So, let’s face it: ...

War on Drugs Is Americana

You often hear the word “Americana” thrown around when music shows the influence of blues, folk, country, and old-time rock ’n’ roll. Those are all great ingredients, but why stop there? Why is jazz not ...

California Made EMA Boring

In the song “California,” Erika M. Anderson sings, “Fuck California, you made me boring.” It’s the lament of a Midwesterner who moved out West and did too much living, too fast and too young. Now ...

Blitzen Trapper: Taking It Easy Too Long

“I been taking it easy too long,” sings Eric Earley on Blitzen Trapper’s American Goldwing. Maybe he has, and that’s why Goldwing finds his Portland band rocking out much more than usual. Songs like “Street ...

Gary Condit Inspires Cymbals Eat Guitars Song

All through the summer of 2001, the news media fueled speculation that congressman Gary Condit, who represented the San Joaquin Valley, might have been involved with the disappearance of intern Chandra Levy — especially after ...

Release the Sunbird

When we last heard from Rogue Wave, the long-running Bay Area band headed by Zach Rogue, they were touring in support of Permalight. It was meant to be a comeback but felt more like a ...

George Lewis Jr., the Twin Shadow

George Lewis Jr., who performs under the name Twin Shadow, has a distinctive look: pompadour, mustache, clothes that are flashy but in a muted color palette. He has said he’s aiming for a style that ...

What About Us Handsome Furs?

Dan Boeckner has a great rock ’n’ roll voice, a craggy, croaking sound with a piercing tone on the top and some wavering vibrato on the low end. It sounds like a guy who’s shouting ...

Go with Me, Seapony

Seapony’s music is a classic indie-pop mix of jangling three-chord rhythm guitars, a clean, melodic lead guitar, a minimalistic drum machine, a barely noticeable bass, breathy, sleepy female vocals, and intentionally simple lyrics. The Seattle ...

Wooden Shjips: Enigmatic As Ever

Here’s what you’re supposed to do if you want to make it as a rock band: Record with big-name producers, build an online presence, tour constantly, work with the most buzzed-about record labels, partner with ...

Weezer Is Not Silly

Last year, Seattle rocker James Burns started a halfway-serious online campaign to raise $10 million to get Weezer to break up. He didn’t raise a lot of money, but he got a lot of attention, ...

Thurston Moore and Kurt Vile at the Casbah

When I first heard of Kurt Vile, I thought he must have taken his stage name in honor of Kurt Weill, the composer best known for The Threepenny Opera. (Weill’s name is pronounced “vile.”) I ...

F**ked Up Comes to Life

Toronto’s prolific Fucked Up is simultaneously the most punk rock and most un-punk rock band in the world. On the punk side, of course, there’s a name that’s unutterable on the radio or TV. There’s ...

Jeremy Messersmith, Gently

Jeremy Messersmith has a voice so gentle that it makes Elliott Smith sound like Tom Waits. It’s the kind of voice that’s made for lullabies, and I once saw Messersmith use it to charm a ...

The Generationals Do Actor-Caster

New Orleans is famous for its traditional jazz, funk, and R&B, not its indie pop. So it made some sense a couple of years ago when the city’s indie-pop duo Generationals appeared on the national ...

Sondre Lerche, circa 2011

The gifted Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche is not yet 30 years old, but he has spent most of the past decade trying to make a big breakthrough as a star in America. He’s tried his ...

tUnE-yArDs w h o k i l l

When Merrill Garbus records under the typographically difficult name tUnE-yArDs, she often builds her songs around a little ukulele, her remarkable voice, and looped samples. Loops are everywhere in music these days, of course, but ...

None Shall Pass: Aesop Rock

A few weeks ago, The New York Times had an interesting article about how white rappers had moved from being outsiders in hip-hop to being the people carrying the torch of the old school — ...

Young Widows: In and Out of Youth

Young Widows is a band from Louisville, Kentucky, and they play the kind of music that has kept their hometown on the indie-rock map since the days of Slint: moody, atmospheric, guitar-based stuff with vocals ...

Gayngs: Yaught Rock?

Retro-minded indie rockers have already mined almost every other era of pop history, and so many are now exploring late-’70s soft rock. You know the stuff: melodic, expertly produced, and oddly impersonal — Hall and ...

S. Carey at S. Bar

This story may be familiar to you: A few years ago, after some health problems and the breakups of both his band and his relationship, Justin Vernon spent a winter holed up in a cabin ...

Black Angels Dream Phosphene

Last week, I was putting together a playlist of post-’60s psychedelic songs from the likes of Apples in Stereo, Kelley Stoltz, Young Prisms, and the Lumerians. I wanted droning, distorted organ sounds, primitive drums and ...

Atmosphere and the Midwestern Hip-Hop Scene

“Say Shh...,” by Atmosphere, is a hip-hop anti-anthem: Instead of going the traditional route and boasting about the mean streets where he grew up, MC Slug raps about how his home, Minneapolis, is a good ...

TV on the Radio: Ponderous No More?

TV on the Radio is one of the most important bands of the past ten years, and, until recently, their music wouldn’t let you forget it. Too often, in the past, the band sounded ponderous. ...

Spectrum Can Go into a Trance

When fans try to explain Spacemen 3 to the uninitiated, they inevitably refer to the title of one of the many compilations of the band’s outtakes, Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To. ...

Yuck: Something Old Is New Again

Yuck is an exciting young London band whose songs often set distorted electric-guitar noise against understated vocals, sweet melodies, and loud-quiet-loud song structures. Does this sound familiar? To me, it sounds so much like 1991 ...

Hunx and his Punx: Too Young to Be in Love

The song “Good Kisser” by Hunx and his Punx has a chorus that goes, “I don’t think he’s gonna miss her/ Cuz I’m a really good kisser.” It’s dumb but irresistibly catchy. It’s a little ...

Sonny & the Sunsets Sandwitches with Earth Girl Helen Brown

Last year, Bay Area–artist Sonny Smith put on a gallery show in which he designed sleeves and labels for 7-inch singles by 100 imaginary bands. Smith, who’s also a singer and songwriter, recorded songs for ...

Sharon Van Etten: epic

I once watched an NPR video of Sharon Van Etten accompanied by a female backup singer. I didn’t know what Van Etten looked like, and before she started playing I assumed she would be the ...

Jake Shimabukuro on the Ukulele

My uncle Thad lives in a small town in western Kentucky. A few years ago, he was looking for videos online and came across what was then the most-popular clip on YouTube: a rendition of ...

Asobi Seksu Searches

Asobi Seksu came together in New York City in 2001 and spent the next few years refining a sound closely modeled on the so-called shoegazers of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Guitarist James Hanna ...

The Concretes Can’t Hurry Love

The Concretes came together in Stockholm in 1995 and made a modest splash in the United States when their song “You Can’t Hurry Love” showed up in Target commercials six or seven years ago. With ...

Crystal Castles: Distorted Pop

Crystal Castles is a Toronto duo that specializes in a kind of electronic pop that has been distorted to the point that listening to it is sometimes physically painful. That’s exactly the way their fans ...

Marnie Stern, Unusual Guitar Hero

Marnie Stern is an unusual kind of guitar hero. It’s not just that she’s a woman — that’s not so rare anymore. (As Stern points out in one song title, “Female Guitar Players Are the ...

We Think We Know Fol Chen

In many ways, things have never been better for music fans. Heard about a new band and you want to check them out? If you go on YouTube, you can probably find video of them ...

Eli “Paperboy” Reed: Come and Get It

Last summer, I went to one of those big radio-station concerts where a bunch of bands that don’t have a whole lot to do with each other share a stage. That was how I saw ...

Motörhead Is Beloved in Britain

In the United States, Motörhead is better known for T-shirts than for music, but in their native Britain the band has been a beloved cultural treasure for decades. Yes, “beloved cultural treasure” is a strange ...

Steel Train: Terrible Thrills

Steel Train came out of New Jersey six years ago when they signed to Drive-Thru — the same label that brought us emo acts Dashboard Confessional and New Found Glory — but it quickly became ...

Sweet Apple Has Pedigree

In some ways, Sweet Apple is just a good ’70s-style hard-rock band — the kind that puts naked girls on the CD cover but is clever enough to pose them in an homage to Roxy ...

TSOL Reunites Again

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I read a rave review of a just-released TSOL album in which the critic said something like, “This is where all the exciting music will be coming ...

Goofy Goth Burlesque with the Dresden Dolls

We live in the age of the geek, where no matter how obscure your pop-culture obsession, you can find a community of people on the internet which shares your passion. In the heyday of Deadheads, ...

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