Jason Isbell's relationship with the South — like that of his former band, Drive-By Truckers — is complicated. An Alabama native, Isbell has continued to embrace his Southern identity since leaving the group in 2007 and embarking on a solo career. But what exactly does that Southern identity entail? Isbell's music, without a doubt, is steeped in the more simmering sounds of Americana, from country to soul to Southern rock.
So much of Ratatat's appeal lies in what it doesn't do: On the band's fifth album, Brooklynites Mike Stroud and Evan Mast built sleek, propulsive instrumentals using a spare palette of guitars, synthesizers and simple percussion in such a way that the music sounds both triumphant and understated. These are rock instrumentals that needn't overcompensate for their lack of words; they don't strain to be heard or scramble to stand out, but instead convey coolness that seems effortless.
When Amy Winehouse, the British musician who sang memorably about her refusal to go to rehab, died due to problems related to drugs, alcohol and bulimia in July 2011, she was nearly as famous for her personal struggles as she was for her music. Just 27, Winehouse had been tabloid fodder for years.
Tigercats, an East London pop band in the vein of Camera Obscura, released its second album, Mysteries, earlier this year. "Sleeping In The Backseat," the band's latest single, is bound to tug at a few heartstrings with its chorus of, "Lay your head next to mine."
Punk has always been hospitable to filth. Blood, sweat, spit, vomit, beer and hair gel from a melting fauxhawk — all are crucial to the movement. Punk embraces the taboo, the base and the precious, forcing all three into conversation. But that's not to say individual punks are inherently interested in being disgusting. Then again, sometimes they are, and write a whole song about it.
For anyone more interested in Amy Winehouse's music than in her martyrdom, the most shocking images in Asif Kapadia's new documentary Amy may not be the ones showing her strung out and terrifyingly thin at the end of her short life, nor those capturing her turn into serious addiction in filthy, paraphernalia-strewn rooms she shared with her enabler and eventual husband, Blake Fielder-Civil.