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An Album for the End of the World: Twenty Favorite Songs from 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 20 December 2012 05:56

For the seventh year, I’ve compiled a selection of favorite songs from the past year and sequenced them into an album – something that can fit on an 80-minute CD, with no artists repeated from previous years and a limit of one song per artist.

This year’s edition features 20 tracks and is notably heavier and louder than any of the past six. Read nothing more into that than the possibility that my hearing is likely deteriorating now that I’m north of 40. (And don’t infer anything from the inclusion of two Swedish bands and another from Denmark, or my apparent weakness for the second songs of albums.)

Beyond the surface aggression, I’m imposing on my 2012 album an air of finality, both aesthetically and thematically. Whether it’s the violence promised and delivered by the Hives or the natural calamity of Alexandre Desplat or the seasonal metaphor of Max Richter or the self-loathing regret of Cloud Nothings or the ominous instrumental clouds of Goat, this sounds a bit like the world is ending. I’m pretty sure the planet as we know it will be here on December 22, but here’s a soundtrack for December 21 just in case some interpretations of the Mayan calendar prove correct.

The Hives, “My Time Is Coming.” There’s always been a threatening edge to the punkish garage rock of the Hives, but it’s always been obliterated by cheekiness, matching outfits, and a bright bluster that made it impossible to take anything at all seriously. Here, the title and chorus are far from earnest, but both the music and vocals carry something darker – not of getting one’s due but of seizing out of desperation and deprivation (“You see I grew up in a hole / Squeezing diamonds out of coal”). The reverb-heavy guitar and the quiet opening before detonation represent minor aesthetic developments for the Swedes, but the biggest change is how they tap into a rage that for once feels authentic.

“We Don’t Have a Backup Plan”: The Cerny Brothers, December 22 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 09:05

The Cerny Brothers

I first interviewed the Cerny brothers six years ago, back when Scott and Robert were college students at Northern Illinois University. They were then the electronic-rock duo Planning the Rebellion, and I called their debut album “shockingly mature and assured.”

Both of those things still apply, and you can add “ballsy” to mix.

Fronting their four-piece Cerny Brothers band, they’ll be performing at the Redstone Room on December 22 as part of a holiday trip to the family home in Sherrard, Illinois.

Based in Los Angeles and playing an aggressive brand of acoustic Americana, Scott (now 24 years old) and Robert (25) brim with both confidence and an understanding of how the music industry works. They have big dreams they went to L.A. to fulfill, but talking to them last week, they weren’t deluded about their chances, and they don’t expect success to come knocking on their door.

“We’ve always made music and movies,” Scott said of their move to California after college. “We just thought, ‘What’s the best place we could do both those things?’”

This is not one of those get-a-job-and-try-to-squeeze-in-our-passions-on-the-side things; they’re all-in with music. “We don’t have a backup plan,” Scott said. “Fail or succeed, we have literally one objective”: write songs, improve their live show, and “get good enough to a point where people can no longer ignore you. ... We’re getting very good at going into a room and turning people who don’t care about us into people that care about us.”

Turning an Appetizer Into a Meal: The Quad City Symphony, December 1 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 09:19

It should have been only a sampling – a taste of love, lust, delusions of grandeur, and jocular deception – but the Quad City Symphony on December 1 delivered a fast-paced, funny, and fully satisfying performance of Act III of Guiseppe Verdi’s opera Falstaff.

Last season, the Quad City Symphony’s Der Rosenkavalier excerpt was plagued by balance problems between the singers and orchestra and by dramatic incoherence – with neither a translation of the German libretto nor an explanation of the plot.

This year, Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith got it right logistically, educationally, and musically. Smith moved the instrumentalists upstage, opening up a large area in front of the orchestra that put the principal singers closer to the audience. The cast members had more room to move and act, sharpening the differences between their characters.

Even though the 30-plus members of Jon Hurty’s Quad City Choral Arts sat behind the orchestra, far from the dramatic action, the location made their sound appropriately ethereal when they took on the roles of sprites, nymphs, spirits, and ghostly apparitions.

The changes of staging also improved the balance between the singers and the orchestra. From its upstage position, the orchestra was easily heard yet never overwhelmed the singers.

Unearthing an Old Soul: Anna Ash, December 16 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 05:09

Anna Ash

The first impression of Anna Ash’s These Holy Days album is her distinctive, boldly quirky singing – soulful, pliable, and off-center, comfortable in breathy coos and pointed, high-pitched peaks. The title track features a piercing vibrato that’s ethereally visceral, both heavenly and a bit frightening. That’s the kind of voice that sounds like a natural extension of personality honed over a lifetime, an idiosyncratic instrument that nobody ever had the heart to constrain or correct.

But in a phone interview this week, Ash – who will be performing at Rozz-Tox on December 16 and recording a session the next day– revealed that she only discovered this marvel over the past five years, and she’s still exploring it.

“I didn’t really even know what my voice sounded like until I was like 19 or 20 years old,” she said. “ I was very shy about singing as a kid. I was never very good because I was so scared and so nervous.”

Not-So-Silent Nights: Holiday Concerts in the Quad Cities and Surrounding Areas PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 19 November 2012 06:00

Steven Curtis Chapman in the i wireless Center's 12 Gifts of ChristmasOur area’s roster of holiday-themed concerts, which began with November 17’s annual Holiday Pops at the i wireless Center, will continue at the Moline venue with November 30’s 12 Gifts of Christmas, a New Anthem presentation emceed by Lisa Whelchel of The Facts of Life fame and showcasing performances by, among others, contemporary Christian artists and Grammy Award winners Steven Curtis Chapman and Laura Story.

Those are impressive headliners. But when it comes to gifts of a musical nature, 12 is really low-balling it; the Quad Cities and its neighboring burgs will actually be hosting more than two dozen holiday concerts between November 30 and December 22, among them even more engagements featuring nationally beloved singers and musicians.

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