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“Welcome to the desert of the real,” says Morpheus as Neo awakens in a postapocalyptic landscape in “The Matrix.” But he could just as well be describing the state of music nowadays. The “real” in music has indeed become like a desert, depopulated and featureless as far as the eye can see.

So many bands and artists these days are manufactured to meet demographic needs, such as The Jonas Brothers and SMAP, or embrace theatrical artifice, like Lady Gaga or Ayumi Hamasaki. It all exists in the plastic bubble known as “entertainment,” and little makes it through that retains the pungent bite of real, lived experience.

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