Musical Chairs – Jonah Matranga

Posted on August 5, 2011 – 10:17 PM | by Admin
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Though singer-songwriter/emo hero Jonah Matranga wasn’t born here and hasn’t lived in town for a long time, we still consider him an honorary Sacramentan. After all, his breakthrough band Far was formed here, cutting their teeth at local venues like the Cattle Club and Old I before moving on to fame and semi-fortune. Heck, his first solo recordings (initially called Songs I Hope My Mom Will Like) were eventually released under the title Songs from Sacramento. Jonah may have moved on to the big time, but we’ll always think of him as the long-haired, Led Zep-lovin’ receiving clerk at Tower Records’ Florin Road store.  Here’s his spin in the Musical Chair.

Britney Spears

Whenever I hear that latest Britney track (or it’s stuck in my head, which is pretty much constantly, lately), I don’t imagine a human being. I can’t imagine her actually in the recording studio hour after hour, one headphone off, a la “We Are The World,” going for that perfect take. I imagine her as a collection of bytes and samples, a projection. I imagine that they’ve amassed and organized every syllable, breath, inflection, in order of importance, and painstakingly arranged every hit in order to best manipulate the listener (first and foremost) and make any sense at all (least and leastmost). I’m making up words as I go along. It’s only fair.


This is really happening. There is a band in Japan, playing to click tracks to keep them in sync (pun unintended but welcomed). They are fronted by a larger-than-life hologram of a pop star. The shows are attended by many thousands of people. Armaggeddon it?




The Simon Cowell of Japan has done that evil genius one better and just made a group of constantly interchangeable people whose fate in the group is constantly in flux depending on their Like™ability. Pretty sneaky, sis. Just for fun, someone created a composite of various features of the most popular members and literally fashioned a new, if imaginary, member. She was in ads, getting voted on along with all the rest. Probably still is.

Neil Young -“Transformer Man”

The list of reasons for which I admire Neil Young to almost a mild mania is long and winding, and I’ll happily defend even the crappiest of crap he’s created. This one is easy, though. One of his kids is somewhere pretty far along the autism scale, totally non-verbal, I think. Neil and his awesome wife Pegi have been tireless in their search for gadgets that will help their son interact with the world more readily. On the way, Neil decided to make a record called Trans about these ideas, with these ideas. It was such a weird and wonderful concept adventure that it got him sued for not being enough like himself. If you’re an artist and that happens, it generally means you’re forward-thinking, curious, and therefore, awesome.



Cher – “Do You Believe?”

Cher can officially be called the grandmother of all this. That makes double-sense, since her enjoyment of, and/or addiction to plastic surgery is the perfect analog to all this digital blurring and deepening. I place the moment when her voice surrenders to the vocoder (3:20ish for the magic moment) in ‘Believe’ near the top of the list of most prescient and significant pop moments. All this doesn’t simply sicken me as much you might think. I’m careful about reflexively dismissing present-day pop culture happenings – the most reliable constant is one generation attacking the conventions of the next as being less authentic/healthy/whatever. I know that I just don’t get where this is going, this hologram-pop, but I know that it has been headed this way since forever. I like basking in its surreal glow, literally and figuratively. All will be revealed.

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