Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Spotlight: Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

"Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died of natural causes on Monday in Manhattan. He was 94. Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10, from college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama."
New York Times:
Peter Seeger was born in Manhattan on May 3, 1919, to Charles Seeger, a musicologist, and Constance de Clyver Edson Seeger, a concert violinist. His parents later divorced.

He began playing the ukulele while attending Avon Old Farms, a private boarding school in Connecticut. His father and his stepmother, the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, collected and transcribed rural American folk music, as did folklorists like John and Alan Lomax. He heard the five-string banjo, which would become his main instrument, when his father took him to a square-dance festival in North Carolina.

Young Pete became enthralled by rural traditions. “I liked the strident vocal tone of the singers, the vigorous dancing,” he is quoted as saying in “How Can I Keep From Singing,” a biography by David Dunaway. “The words of the songs had all the meat of life in them. Their humor had a bite, it was not trivial. Their tragedy was real, not sentimental.”

Planning to be a journalist, Mr. Seeger attended Harvard, where he founded a radical newspaper and joined the Young Communist League. After two years he dropped out and went to New York City, where Alan Lomax introduced him to the blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly. Lomax also helped Mr. Seeger find a job cataloging and transcribing music at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.

Mr. Seeger met Woody Guthrie, a songwriter who shared his love of vernacular music and agitprop ambitions, in 1940, when they performed at a benefit concert for migrant California workers. Traveling across the United States with Guthrie, Mr. Seeger picked up some of his style and repertory. He also hitchhiked and hopped freight trains by himself, learning and trading songs.

For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.

In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.

Mr. Seeger was a prime mover in the folk revival that transformed popular music in the 1950s. As a member of the Weavers, he sang hits including Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene” — which reached No. 1 — and “If I Had a Hammer,” which he wrote with the group’s Lee Hays. Another of Mr. Seeger’s songs, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” became an antiwar standard. And in 1965, the Byrds had a No. 1 hit with a folk-rock version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” Mr. Seeger’s setting of a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

In the 1980s and ‘90s Mr. Seeger toured regularly with Arlo Guthrie, Woody’s son, and continued to lead singalongs and perform benefit concerts. Recognition and awards arrived. He was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972, and in 1993 he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy Award. In 1994 he received a Kennedy Center Honor and, from President Bill Clinton, the National Medal of Arts, America’s highest arts honor, awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999 he traveled to Cuba to receive the Order of Félix Varela, Cuba’s highest cultural award, for his “humanistic and artistic work in defense of the environment and against racism.”

Mr. Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in the category of early influences, in 1996. Arlo Guthrie, who paid tribute at the ceremony, mentioned that the Weavers’ hit “Goodnight, Irene” had reached No. 1, only to add, “I can’t think of a single event in Pete’s life that is probably less important to him.” Mr. Seeger made no acceptance speech, but he did lead a singalong of “Goodnight, Irene,” flanked by Stevie Wonder, David Byrne and members of the Jefferson Airplane.

Mr. Seeger won Grammy Awards for best traditional folk album in 1997, for the album “Pete” and, in 2009, for the album “At 89.” He won a Grammy in the children’s music category in 2011 for “Tomorrow’s Children.”

Through the years, Mr. Seeger remained determinedly optimistic. “The key to the future of the world,” he said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

NFL Playoffs: Championship Round

Denver  26 : 16  New England
Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns Sunday on a pair of 7-minute drives to lead Denver to its first trip to the NFL title game in 15 years. Manning improved to 5-10 lifetime against Brady but is now 2-1 in the AFC title games. The Patriots (13-5) got only 64 yards rushing and most of Brady's 277 yards came after New England had fallen behind by 20. The Broncos (15-3) will play the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Seattle  23 : 17  San Francisco
Russell Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth down and Seattle's top-ranked defense forced two late turnovers, lifting the Seahawks to their second Super Bowl. It's the first trip to the big game for the Seahawks (15-3) since they lost to Pittsburgh after the 2005 season. The conference champs had the best records in the league, the first time the top seeds have gotten to the Super Bowl since 2009.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Spotlight: Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks (born May 31, 1991) is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. Raised in Harlem, New York, Banks pursued an interest in musical theatre at a young age, studying at the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts before dropping out to focus on her musical career. In late 2008, she adopted the pseudonym "Miss Bank$" and began releasing her music through MySpace, eventually being signed to XL Recordings at age 17.

Later signing to Interscope and Polydor Records, 2011 saw Banks rise in notability when she topped NME's Cool List for the year. On December 5, 2011, the BBC announced that Banks had been nominated for the Sound of 2012, where she ultimately finished third. Her debut single, "212" featuring Lazy Jay, was released on December 6, 2011, later becoming part of her EP 1991. She released her mixtape Fantasea in July 2012 and has since released the singles "Yung Rapunxel" and "ATM Jam" in anticipation for her upcoming debut studio album Broke with Expensive Taste, which is currently slated for a March 2014 release.

More information:
» Pitchfork: Azealia Banks, Busta Rhymes Remix Beyoncé's "Partition"
» SPIN: Azealia Banks, Missy Elliott Join M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls"

Sunday, January 12, 2014

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

Seattle  23 : 15  New Orleans
Marshawn Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, Steven Hauschka kicked three field goals in blustery conditions and Seattle's defense flustered Drew Brees and New Orleans. Seattle shut out the Saints in the first half, got Lynch's first 100-yard game since Week 10 of the regular season and received a spark from the brief return of Percy Harvin before he left with a concussion. Seattle last reached the conference title game in the 2005 playoffs.

New England  43 : 22  Indianapolis
LeGarrette Blount had four touchdown runs and the New England Patriots kept Andrew Luck from a second straight comeback win. Luck threw his third interception and the Patriots capitalized with Stevan Ridley's second touchdown run, a 1-yarder that finished the scoring with 11:12 left. The Colts (12-6) never led.

Carolina  10 : 23  San Francisco
The 49ers (14-4) held Cam Newton in check, intercepting him twice and sacking him four times while stopping the Panthers (12-5) twice on a 1-yard line. Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 passes for 196 yards, avenging his worst statistical performance of the season two months ago against the Panthers. Anquan Boldin had eight catches for 136 yards and Frank Gore ran for 84 yards on 17 carries for the 49ers , who'll travel to Seattle next Sunday looking for a return trip to the Super Bowl. San Francisco split two games with the Seahawks this season.

Denver  24 : 17  San Diego
Manning, who will likely win his record fifth NFL MVP award after his record-setting regular season, was masterful through the first 29 minutes of the first half as he led the Broncos to a 14-0 lead thanks to a pair of touchdown passes to Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker. The Broncos (14-3) will host the New England Patriots (13-4) on Sunday. Get ready for Brady vs. Manning once more.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jay Gruden Agrees to Five-Year Deal as Redskins Head Coach

Washington Post:
Gruden is a six-time Arena Bowl champion, four as quarterback of the Tampa Bay Storm and two as a coach with the Orlando Predators. He finished his playing career with 21,476 passing yards and 397 touchdowns and was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1999.

Washington Post:
When Jon Gruden got the Tampa Bay head coaching job in 2002, he invited Jay to join his staff (which included general manager Bruce Allen). Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris and tight ends coach Sean McVay also worked with Gruden in Tampa. For a number of years, Jay double-dipped – working for the Buccaneers from July to January, then moving down I-4 to work for the AFL’s Orlando Predators. For the first two seasons, he was simultaneously an NFL assistant coach and an AFL quarterback, before retiring from playing in 2004.

And when Jon was fired from Tampa Bay in 2008, and shortly thereafter the Arena League went on an extended hiatus, Jay latched on as offensive coordinator with the Florida Tuskers of the fledgling UFL — hired by then-head coach Jim Haslett — and assumed the head coaching job when Haslett left to be the Redskins’ defensive coordinator. In both seasons, the Tuskers played in the UFL title game.

His hiring in Cincinnati in 2011, as offensive coordinator on Marvin Lewis’s Bengals staff, coincided with the drafting of quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green. In each of their first three seasons, the Bengals made the AFC playoffs, but lost in the first round, including a 27-10 defeat at home to San Diego on Sunday. In Gruden’s three seasons there, the Bengals’ offense has risen from 18th to 12th to sixth in the NFL in points per game, gaining him a reputation as one of the game’s top young offensive minds.

Washington Post:
He was the sixth candidate known to have interviewed with the Redskins following offensive coordinators Darrell Bevell of the Seattle Seahawks and Jim Caldwell of the Baltimore Ravens, defensive coordinators Sean McDermott of the Carolina Panthers and Perry Fewell of the New York Giants, and Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.

The Redskins had planned to meet with Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin, but he reportedly was offered the coaching job at Penn State. The team also had sought interviews with offensive coordinators Ken Whisenhunt of the San Diego Chargers and Greg Roman of San Francisco 49ers, and defensive coordinators Mike Zimmer of the Bengals and Vic Fangio of the 49ers.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Secret Colours - "It Can't Be Simple"

Secret Colours aren't shy about their love of '60s psych-rock — for quick proof, check out "Blackbird (Only One)," a feedback-saturated groove from 2013's Peach LP. They proudly identify themselves as "the bastard seed of '60s psychedelia and '90s Britpop bloodlines" on their Facebook page. Now, almost a year later, the Chicago quartet have undergone a few lineup changes (singer-guitarist Tommy Evans and drummer Justin Frederick are the only current members who played on Peach), tightened their sound, teamed with producer Dan Duszunski, and recorded a pair of forthcoming EPs: Positive Distractions Part I, out February 4, and Positive Distractions Part II, due April 29.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Song of 2013: Daft Punk - "Get Lucky"

"Get Lucky" is a song by French house music duo Daft Punk, featuring Pharrell Williams and co-written with Nile Rodgers. It is the lead single from Daft Punk's fourth studio album, Random Access Memories. The single reached the top ten in the music charts of over 32 countries, and has sold more than 7.3 million copies as of September 2013.

Random Access Memories is the duo's most critically successful album to date, scoring 87/100 on Metacritic, as well as debuting at number one in twenty countries. The album received Grammy Award nominations for Album of the Year, Best Dance/Electronica Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards while lead single "Get Lucky" received nominations for Record of the Year and Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

NFL Playoffs: Wild Card Weekend

"A high-scoring game is expected Saturday night when the New Orleans Saints visit the Philadelphia Eagles. An Ice Bowl-like game is expected when the San Francisco 49ers visit the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Can the Indianapolis Colts repeat their 16-point win from Week 16 over Kansas City on Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium? Anything can happen in the San Diego-Cincinnati game Sunday."

Indianapolis 45 : 42 Kansas City
Andrew Luck threw four second-half touchdown passes and scored on a fumble recovery, leading the Indianapolis Colts from a four-TD deficit to an historic 45-44 comeback victory. It's only the second time in playoff history a team rallied from a deficit of 28 or more points to win, according to STATS. Buffalo trailed by 32 before beating Houston 41-38 in overtime in January 1993.

Philadelphia 24 : 26 New Orleans
Drew Brees threw for a touchdown, Mark Ingram rushed for 97 yards and another score, and Graham's three field goals sent the Saints (12-5) to Seattle for next Saturday's divisional playoff game against the NFC's top seed.

Cincinnati 10 : 27 San Diego
San Diego took advantage of Andy Dalton's three turnovers in the second half on Sunday, pulling away to a 27-10 victory that extended the Cincinnati Bengals' streak of playoff misery to 23 years and counting. Dalton now has a trilogy of bad playoff games. He fumbled and threw two interceptions in the second half, setting up San Diego's first playoff victory on the road in an open-air stadium since the 1994 AFC title game in Pittsburgh.

Green Bay 20 : 24 San Francisco
Phil Dawson kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired, and Colin Kaepernick threw for 227 yards and ran for another 98. Mason Crosby's 24-yard field goal tied it at 20 for the Packers (8-8-1) with 5:06 left before the 49ers' final drive. Kaepernick escaped a blitz on third-and-8 and scrambled for an 11-yard gain to the 27 with 1:13 left. Dawson nailed the winning kick five plays later.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

(L) Virginia Tech vs. UCLA in the Sun Bowl

USA Today:
Brett Hundley shredded Virginia Tech's fourth-ranked defense in the Sun Bowl. The UCLA quarterback had 86- and 7-yard touchdown runs and finished with 161 yards on 10 carries in the No. 17 Bruins' 42-12 victory over the Hokies on Tuesday. Hundley also completed 16 of 29 passes for 226 yards and two scores.

Hundley and UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt shared MVP honors. Zumwalt had 10 tackles and returned an interception 43 yards to set up a touchdown.

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech's career passing leader, left after taking a big hit along the UCLA sideline early in the second quarter. The hit resulted in a 15-yard penalty on the Bruins.

"It was tough to miss time on the field, the worst feeling of my career," Thomas said. "I would have rather you guys talk bad about me than miss time on the field. We were doing some good things on offense. I thought we were right on the verge of doing some good things."

The win in the first meeting between the teams allowed UCLA to post its first 10-win season since 2005, and helped the Bruins forget last season's 49-26 loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl.

Virginia Tech had its second-worst loss in a bowl game. Its worst was a 42-3 loss to North Carolina in the 1998 Gator Bowl. The 42 points the Hokies allowed were the second-most in a bowl game behind the 52 they gave up in a 52-49 loss to California in the 2003 Insight Bowl.

While the Hokies, making their 21st consecutive bowl appearance, were able to limit UCLA's running backs to 49 yards, they had no answer for Hundley, who repeatedly gouged them for big gainers on designed quarterback counters.

"UCLA made the plays it had to and you have to give them credit," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. "I was disappointed that we didn't execute better."

Daily Press:
After 27 seasons as Virginia Tech’s coach, Frank Beamer has been around long enough to know exactly where interested observers to his program will gravitate when spring practice begins in three months.

With a crushing 42-12 loss to No. 17 UCLA in the Sun Bowl serving as the last image of the 2013 season, Tech has questions to be answer in the backfield, and reliable starters to be discovered at linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, offensive guard and kicker.

Those aren’t the positions that will demand attention in the spring. It’s all about who takes over under center in the post-Logan Thomas era.

Beamer knows it, and he tried his best to head off the inevitable glare on his quarterback spot with post-Sun Bowl comments in support of Mark Leal — though Leal’s performance in relief of the injured Thomas in the Sun Bowl left a lot to be desired.

“Mark’s the next guy in line here,” said Beamer, whose team suffered its second-largest margin of defeat ever in a bowl, and surrendered the most points it has given up to a bowl opponent since a 52-49 loss to California in the 2003 Insight Bowl. “He had a couple of tough throws (against UCLA). You learn from that.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Mark. I’ve seen him too many times. I’ve seen him practice too many times. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guy.”

Leal, a 6-foot-1, 217-pound native of Greenacres, Fla., who will be a senior next season, completed just 12 of 25 passes for 130 yards and two interceptions against UCLA after Thomas left the game early in the second quarter with concussion-like symptoms. One interception was returned 24 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Myles Jack early in the fourth quarter, putting UCLA ahead 28-10.

Though Leal got the vote of confidence from Beamer, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler will evaluate Leal along with redshirt freshman Brenden Motley and incoming freshmen Andrew Ford and Chris Durkin.

Despite Thomas’ up-and-down performances, replacing him will be a tall order for Tech (8-5). Thomas threw 39 interceptions in his career, but he also leaves Tech as the school’s career leader in total offense (10,362 yards), touchdown passes (53), completions (693), passes (1,248) and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (24).

Tech did end up having the most productive trio of wide receivers in a single season in school history with Willie Byrn (51 catches for 660 yards and two touchdowns), Demitri Knowles (45 catches for 641 yards and three touchdowns) and Joshua Stanford (40 catches for 640 yards and a touchdown).

All three players are expected to be back next season, along with tight end Ryan Malleck (who missed the season with a shoulder injury) and Kalvin Cline (26 catches for 321 yards and two touchdowns).

Despite giving up 447 total yards to UCLA, including 197 rushing, Tech’s defense was as solid this season under coordinator Bud Foster as it has ever been. Tech is fifth in the nation in total defense (283.2 yards per game), ninth in passing defense (172.3 ypg), 10th in rushing defense (110.9 ypg) and 11th in scoring defense (19.3 points per game).

With defensive ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins, linebackers Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards and cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum leaving the program, and defensive tackle Luther Maddy and safety Kyshoen Jarrett contemplating the NFL, Foster will have to lean on new players.

Foster will be hard-pressed to find freshmen as effective as cornerbacks Kendall Fuller (team-high six interceptions) and Brandon Facyson (five interceptions) were this season, but several veterans and promising young players will need to step up.

More information:
» Washington Post: Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer contemplates his future
» Bleacher Report: Logan Thomas' Legacy at Virginia Tech