“The brashest, ballsiest, most beautiful women to ever step up to the mike,” screamed the strap-line on an article in GQ’s October issue (the US edition) that landed on my desk last week (you can see that I have seriously high-brow reading preferences). So, naturally, I went straight to page 175 to check out the story headlined, The 25 Sexiest Women in Rock. There were few surprises. It had everyone that you could think of. From the astonishing Tina Turner, who is 70 now and yet as sexy as she was 50 years ago, to Alexis Krauss, the tattoo-sleeved fourth grade teacher-turned-lead singer of the contemporary noise pop band, Sleigh Bells. Of course, there were other great women on the list: Marianne Faithfull, whose wild bohemian lifestyle and love-life in the sixties greatly overshadowed her patchy musical career; Cher, about whom there are unbelievable stories involving plastic surgery; Joan Jett, the edgy punk rock star, whose biopic was released this year (Dakota Fanning plays her in the film, by the way); and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and one of the reasons why I tolerated the band even after it shed its bluesy past and embraced playing-to-the-gallery pop.
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I don’t know why but a lot of the indie bands that I like are Scottish. I like the nervous anxiety of Frightened Rabbit, the shoe-gazing, understated sound of The Twilight Sad, the post-rock experimentation of Mogwai, the lo-fi appeal of Meursault, the irreverent playfulness of Dogs Die in Hot Cars, the cute yet edgy music of Belle and Sebastian, the instantly likeable pop of Camera Obscura…. I could go on. There’s nothing really common between all the Scottish bands that I like. Alright, there is. I like the quirky accent that is common between many of the vocalists of these bands—notably, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison and The Twilight Sad’s James Graham — but the music of each of these bands is not very similar.

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The first time I heard John Francis Anthony “Jaco” Pastorius III was when a friend handed me a pre-recorded Columbia Records cassette called Black Market by the jazz-rock fusion band, Weather Report. It was the late 1970s and my friend, a maverick sort of a guy who also was a classmate, predicted while handing over the tape that the bass guitarist on at least two tracks on the album would be like no one I’d ever heard before.
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After being rudely jolted by my latest credit card bill, I decided last week to put a stop to random purchases of music on the Internet. Buying on the web – especially when you’re buying downloads in mp3 or other digital formats – can become an addiction and god help you if you succumb to that. I looked at the entries on my credit card statement and wondered whether I was hurtling towards that kind of hell. So, I took the extreme step of cold turkey-ing my way out of any possibility of getting into such a trap. I would stop buying music off the Net, at least for a week, I told myself, and try to get my fix without spending a paisa. Of course, there was a caveat: I’d have to scrupulously ensure that every free download that found a place on my hard drive was kosher, i.e. 100 per cent legal. Read more

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