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Monday, Apr 7, 2014
Diving into the first track on The Beach Boys Today!, we look at "Do You Wanna Dance", a re-interpretation of a 1958 Bobby Freeman song, and investigate the question of what exactly a Beach Boys song is.

This first track on The Beach Boys Today! is a cover of the 1958 Bobby Freeman song, “Do You Wanna Dance”. At first, this fact may seem ironic, as I stressed in my introduction that Today! raised Brian Wilson’s status as a “songwriter who deserved respect and admiration for his musical innovations”. But by opening the album with a cover, we are allowed to see more intimately what Wilson can really do with a song. Here, we have a reference point with the original, which can then be compared to the Beach Boys’ version, revealing Wilson’s’s skill as an arranger and interpreter more clearly.


Outside of the slap-back delay on the drums and an unusual false ending, there’s nothing particularly notable about the original 1958 recording (though it does feature a young Jerry Garcia on guitar, for whatever that’s worth). It’s a piano-driven rock track that features a standard I-IV-V chord progression, simple lyrics, and a loosely sung melody. The Beach Boys version, in contrast, is lushly orchestrated, tightly structured, and includes an instrumental bridge in a different key. Essentially, it sounds very little like the original version, and musicologist Philip Lambert notes that this track “highlights the difference between ‘a song covered by the Beach Boys’ and an existing song transformed into ‘a Beach Boys song’.”


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Friday, Apr 4, 2014
I gazed a gazeless stare. We walked a million hills. As the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death approaches, Counterbalance takes a look at Nirvana's landmark acoustic performance.

Mendelsohn: It seems surreal to me that Kurt Cobain thrust off his mortal coil 20 years ago. It might just be my inability to come to grips with my own age, but here we are, Klinger, two solid decades since Cobain’s death. In that time, the music industry has changed dramatically and I find myself wondering, would Cobain have been more comfortable in the music industry of today, where artists enjoy an unprecedented amount of creative freedom and independence thanks to niche labels and the slow decline of the major labels? Or would the pervasive nature of social media that lets the public directly scrutinize the artist’s each and every move made him feel even more uneasy than the unrelenting fame he seemed so unequipped to handle?


I don’t really want you to answer that question, and I’m sorry for waxing philosophic but I find myself thinking these things as I made my way through Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York. I am awed by the flashes of beauty on this record, a record I hadn’t listened to in nearly those 20 years, but going back to it now, it strikes me that this might have been Cobain writing his own eulogy. Here he is, stripping down his music, laying bare his influences, and the result is an enigmatic and enduring performance that bookends Nirvana’s short run.


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Thursday, Apr 3, 2014
This Canadian songsmith writes gorgeous music that is simultaneously lush and intimate, but that doesn't mean he still has some choice words about Frank Zappa, Rob Ford, and so much more.

If anything, Barzin Hosseini is a bit unassuming.


You see him, he’s very quiet about his ambitions, but you find out that his long-running musical project, simply called Barzin, has been putting out music for more than a decade now (having formed all the way back in 1995), and also learn of how this Canadian has produced records for the likes of Memoryhouse—all on top of releasing his own book of poetry—and this quiet character slowly comes into focus.


Yet if Barzin stands for anything, it’s assuredly for quality music, and his lush, lavish fourth album To Live Alone in That Long Summer manages to simultaneously sound sonically expansive even as it possesses the emotional intimacy of a home-recorded acoustic ballad. His production skills are very much in top form here, and songs like the tremolo lament “Lazy Summer” and the affecting “Stealing Beauty” only help further Barzin’s unique aesthetic.


Now, of course, Barzin tackles on the unique challenge that is PopMatters’ 20 Questions, here revealing an affinity for the radio DJ from Northern Exposure, sage advice learned from Frank Zappa lyrics, and has some choice yet reasonable words for his town’s mayor, Rob Ford ...


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Wednesday, Apr 2, 2014
A quarter century after the release of Doolittle and with a new record on the way, PopMatters looks at the 15 best songs from the Pixies' original go-round.

In May 1985 Frank Black (AKA Black Francis AKA Charles Thompson) had a decision to make—he was living in Puerto Rico, avoiding his classes, and decided that he needed to do something different. His options were either go to New Zealand to see Haley’s Comet or to Boston to start a band with his college buddy, Joey Santiago. He chose the latter and quickly added an electrical engineering student named David Lovering on drums and a bassist named Kim Deal when she was the sole respondent to a classified ad seeking someone with a fondness for Peter, Paul & Mary and Hüsker Dü. They were four fairly ordinary-looking people without much musical experience, but it’s not overstating things to say that as the Pixies they would go on to change the face of modern rock music.


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Tuesday, Apr 1, 2014
Dave Brockie forced GWAR fans to take absurdity very seriously. He gave hope to kids all over the world, suggesting that creativity, humor, and heavy metal might be infinitely more powerful than the stultifying, small-minded idiocy that they saw all around them.

I first came into contact with GWAR when I was about 13 years old. This would have been about 1993 when my friends and I somehow came across a copy of GWAR’s album America Must Be Destroyed in the only record store in the small town in Northern California where I grew up. This was the high era of grunge, and the music that we were listening to took itself very seriously. Like so many young kids, we looked to popular music for examples of the kinds of people we wanted to be. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Smashing Pumpkins suggested the possibility of channeling our feelings of awkward pre-teen alienation into something cool, or at least fashionable.


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