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Tuesday, Nov 18, 2014
For its third and fourth tracks, Broken arms itself with a bludgeoning wall of sound, followed by silent, creeping dread

The drifting ambiance that fills out the closing seconds of “Wish” is a brief respite before the Broken EP continues on with its rage-fuelled march with “Last”. Take heed and prepare yourself before pressing the “Play” button: “Last” is loud. A seemingly impossibly huge wall of guitars slams against the ears the instant the song starts, and the onslaught scarcely relents until the track finishes.


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Friday, Nov 14, 2014
This week's Counterbalance serenades the weekend squire who just came out to mow his lawn. A pop-psych delight, or the only choo-choo train that was left out in the rain the day after Santa came? Let's find out.

Klinger: I’m just going to come right out and say it: The Monkees’ fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.. is a great album. I realize that the Monkees have never gotten their due as one of the all-time great pop acts. I get that the fact that they were formed to star in a TV comedy will forever be held against them. I even understand that when they do receive grudging praise from “serious” rock snobs, it’s more likely to be for their previous album Headquarters (mainly because they played most of the instruments themselves). I don’t care. Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.. is a great album, and one that I listen to with surprising regularity.


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Thursday, Nov 13, 2014
Dizraeli, Boho-hip-hop ranter and raver, has built up a steady following with his homespun grooves and twitchy raps.

As someone who has been willing to stir up a lot of shit, British rapper Dizraeli has been setting teeth on edge since his politicized hip-hop masterstroke Engurland (City Shanties) back in 2009. That album gave listeners a taste of the rapper’s ramshackled hip-hop, which fused elements as disparate as folk, Africana, spoken word, turntablism, and boho jazz.


A known wild card onstage (the artist once set a number of cars on fire for public amusement), Dizraeli is also in a minor movement of rappers who make strong appeals for social awareness, bridging the wide gap between the hedonistic throw-downs of club bangers and the invectives of social protest. His previous effort (with his band the Small Gods), explored the world outside his UK homeland after a trip to the Middle East region. An attempt to traverse cultural boundaries and dismantle stereotypes about “othered” cultures, Moving in the Dark (2013) no less captured the imagination with its message of social compassion and homebrewed grooves that were cooked and baked like homeopathic remedies.


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Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014
“This is the first day / Of my last days." Nine Inch Nails' 1992 EP begins by gradually building up tension, then releasing it in caustic (yet controlled) outbursts that earned the act a Grammy Award.

Even working within the constraints of the EP format’s short runtime, Trent Reznor takes pains to open Broken with a sense of occasion. The first track is “Pinion”, a scant one minute and three seconds of an ascending guitar pattern gradually increasing in volume. When described that way, it doesn’t sound very exciting. That’s because “Pinion” is meant to be listened to, preferably with headphones on in order to appreciate the ambient noises that are also percolating in the background, slowly building up body and dread. The guitars are heavily processed and most likely sampled—note the disjointed quality of the chords, which is audible evidence of digital cut-and-pasting.


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Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014
Nine Inch Nails' 1992 EP is half an hour of visceral, undiluted anger delivered through muscular, caustic guitars and Trent Reznor's anguished screams. It is concise, focused, and arguably the pinnacle of Nine Inch Nails' discography.

Trent Reznor: industrial auteur, Generation X icon, Grammy Award winner, lavishly-praised film composer, and, as of recent months, a first-year eligible entry on this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ballot. When Reznor was toiling late nights to piece together the first Nine Inch Nails album Pretty Hate Machine (1989), did he ever conceive that the angst-laden electronic/rock hybrid he was fashioning would immortalize him so? Whether he had or not, any dissection of a career that now spans a quarter of a century will surely confirm that the man has thoroughly earned it.


Through the popular music lens that typically views artists’ output in terms of albums and singles, Nine Inch Nails’ story starts with Pretty Hate Machine and them jumps five years later to The Downward Spiral (1994), Reznor’s ambitious magnum opus. Or to put it another way, the story moves from “Head Like a Hole” to “Closer” and “Hurt”, with little elaboration between. However, such a bare-bone narrative of the NIN story leaves out an essential chapter, one that’s easy for the uninformed skip over in the CD racks due to its slight six-item tracklist and therefore perceived inferior content-to-price value quotient.


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