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Tame Impala's new record "Currents" currently stands as one of the year's best albums.
Tame Impala's new record "Currents" currently stands as one of the year's best albums.

The touching confusion of Tame Impala's "Currents"

Tame Impala’s newest album "Currents" drops today. A leaked version of the Australian band's third studio album was featured on NPR’s "First Listen," and it has been circulating the internet for a week now generating buzz. Pitchfork compared it to My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless," Radiohead's "Kid A" and Wilco's "Yankee Foxtrot Hotel," while The Guardian called it a "luscious new album."

But even without the hype, it is likely one of the best albums of the year.

"Currents" delves deeply into the inner turmoil of frontman Kevin Parker as he tries to draw connections between a dying romance, his musical career and his persona. Everything seems to be moving too fast for him to process, and he acknowledges the changes without ever being fully convinced of them.

The album starts with "Let it Happen" a tense introduction to the new music and mindset of "Currents." Parker, seemingly talking to himself, asks for the grace to accept life and just "Let it Happen." It starts out seemingly upbeat, but through careful use of repetition and dub, he creates dark, soulful bridge distinctly noted by the orchestral strings that cast a somber light to the psych-disco sound. The slow methodical repetition changing into a new unique sound that morphs and shifts back to a happier, upbeat sound. Parker is changing from "Lonerism" to "Currents." It’s a new direction, yet there is a hint of mourning.

Some of the songs like "Yes, I’m Changing," "Past Life" and the emotional core of the album, "Eventually," center on the last flames of a fading romance, but it’s often unclear whether these songs are addressing: Is it an ex-love, Parker’s fans or an older version of Parker himself? Is it even Parker doing the breaking-up in "Eventually"? Of course, that is not a technique new to any art form, but it adds to the general confusion which doubles as the soul-searching heart of the album.

Perhaps the most notable shift of the album is the transition away from the psychedelic landsc…

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Kulfi ice cream imported from "House of Spices" in New York.
Kulfi ice cream imported from "House of Spices" in New York.
Goat biryani from "Vanis Kitchen."
Goat biryani from "Vanis Kitchen."
"CocoMoon" Boba Tea and Vietnamese iced coffee from "Pho King."
"CocoMoon" Boba Tea and Vietnamese iced coffee from "Pho King."
Grilled pork banh mi from "Vanis Kitchen."
Grilled pork banh mi from "Vanis Kitchen."
An "Ang Moh" food vendor.
An "Ang Moh" food vendor.
People crowd the food vendors at Asia Fest.
People crowd the food vendors at Asia Fest.

Asia Fest serves up diversity

The OnMilwaukee.com Summer Festivals Guide is presented by Pick 'n Save, Where Wisconsin Saves on Groceries. Pick 'n Save is Wisconsin proud, and excited to help promote and feed the great Milwaukee summer that includes festivals and fun nearly every day. Click to save here!

Growing up, I never really thought much of the Asian community of Milwaukee; though, I thought often about the experience of Asian-Americans in the U.S. as compared to other ethnic groups. I certainly believe it to be somewhat different than that of other groups in America.

But I can only claim to be half-Asian. My father is a Texan, born and raised. He too felt the urge to migrate to greener pastures. He left his home state and eventually settled in Wisconsin.

But it’s funny to imagine any immigrant in Asia picking, of all the places in the U.S., Milwaukee as their next home city. I recognize it isn’t always by choice – and I certainly don’t mean any offense to Milwaukee – but with an Asian population of only 4.4% as of the 2008 census, Wisconsin has never struck me as a hub for incoming Asian immigrants. And yet, waves of incoming Bangladeshi, Hmong, Laotian, Asian Indian, and Chinese immigrants continue to arrive and make the Brew City their home.

So I decided to check out Milwaukee’s Asian community this weekend. I went with my mother to the first annual "Asia Fest" this weekend. She immigrated from Singapore to America in 1978. She met my father, bore two slightly ugly and very neurotic kids, and eventually settled in Wisconsin. I figured that there was no better place to bond and chat about our Asian heritage than at a Milwaukee Asian cultural festival.

In the past, Asian Moon festival, which was annually held at the Henry Maier Festival Park, was Milwaukee’s de facto Asian festival. It was often held early in the summer and seemed to be plagued by miserable luck. Whether it was bad weather or low attendance, the festival never seemed to gain much traction with the general…

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Talib takes over at Turner Hall.
Talib takes over at Turner Hall. (Photo: Benjamin Zick)

Turner Hall and turn tables: Kweli kicks crisp rhymes

As the medium of print seems to be slowly falling out favor in the 21st century, I have to admire hip-hop for what it is: sonic poetry. It is accessible, lyrical – by definition, I suppose – and it makes the beats and rhythms of poetry more vivid.

Even in the internet age of popular musical amateurism – in which college students in basements can churn out static-laden vocals over stale beats – there are still dedicated artists and true poets who dedicate themselves to the craft of hip-hop.

And, of course, Talib Kweli is one of the true hip-hop legends.

That is why I was so excited to see him perform live. Kweli’s main strength lies in the soundscape portraits he paints. It’s hard to believe that he can string together the dense lines of lyrics the way he does. Listening to his rhymes is the audial equivalent of a watching a Rube Goldberg contraption: words and phrases blend in unexpected and seemingly inconceivable ways that lead to a beautiful ending that leaves you stunned about the entire process. His songs are heady, cerebral and deeply personal.

The first opening act were the homegrown Milwaukee DJs from "True Skool." It is hard not to admire their dedication to hip-hop as they still spin vinyl records on old-school turn tables. The second act was "Space Invadas." They weren’t bad, but, to be honest, they weren’t terribly memorable. But the final opening act, "K’Valentine," nearly stole the show.

She has a voice similar to that of Nicky Minaj, but her lyrics were deadly serious, fiercely feminist and presented with stunning flow. Announcing herself as a Chicago native who was "anti-Chiraq" (a nickname combining "Chicago" and "Iraq" to suggest similar levels of gun violence in both), she launched into a lyrical tirade against the city’s violence that literally made me shiver.

After that power performance, I stood waiting for Kweli near the front of the stage. The ballroom was buzzing with excitement and the DJ was hyping up the crowd. I…

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The Grateful Dead performed for the last time as a group this weekend in Chicago.
The Grateful Dead performed for the last time as a group this weekend in Chicago. (Photo: Soldier Field Facebook)

A grand goodbye weekend to The Grateful Dead

Another phase of the big American adventure that is the Grateful Dead came to a close in Chicago over the weekend.

"Fare Thee Well" was billed as the final bunch of shows featuring the four remaining core members of the band, at least as a whole group. Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir were joined for the big sendoff by Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and Bruce Hornsby on piano.

A couple of warm-up shows in Santa Clara last weekend had expectations of long-time fans somewhat tempered, as the current lineup of the band seemed at times to be feeling out what their roles would be. Anastasio especially seemed reticent to step on the toes of the longstanding members when taking on the role that Jerry Garcia used to occupy in the jams, despite constant encouragement from the fans.

Any worries about the quality of the last three gigs were largely unfounded, though, as the band seemed renewed and ready to roll from the first notes on Friday. The band opened the Chicago run with "Box of Rain," not coincidentally the last song that the Dead played with Garcia at the same venue almost 20 years before. The rest of Friday's first set featured almost wall-to-wall fan favorites from the band's extensive catalog, including "Jack Straw," "Bertha," "The Wheel" and "The Music Never Stopped."

The band really hit their stride early in the second set Friday, though, when they dropped a couple of classic song combinations. A perfectly blended "Scarlet Begonias" and "Fire on the Mountain" really got the set cooking, with the former featuring some outstanding lead work from Anastasio. After taking the customary trips through drums and space and a positively melting "Playing in the Band" it seemed as though they might be content to end with "Let it Grow." Instead, they finished with another classic sequence, this time the three-part run of "Help on the Way," "Slipknot" and "Franklin's Tower." Capping off an amazing night was "Ripple," sel…

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