Klinger: The Great List, the compendium of critical hive-mindedness from which we still draw a good amount of inspiration, is a fascinating document, albeit one that demonstrates the extent to which critics the world over have fallen short in acknowledging some of your less traditionally cool genres. So while we spent the first couple years listening to way more trip-hop than I ever thought possible, country music, which is so ingrained in rock & roll’s DNA, has been all but ignored. In fact, the only artist to shatter the hayseed ceiling so far has been Johnny Cash, whose At Folsom Prison LP has been meandering around the back half of the 100s for years (it’s currently on the rise again, clocking in at No. 157). And for the record, I’m not counting Gram Parsons. Readers can go argue with me over on Facebook if they want.
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We’re kind of done with calling things “chillwave” at this point, right?
After all, the first wave of the bedroom-borne genre of synth-heavy midtempo dance-pop has already crested, even if some of its most notable acts, like Washed Out and especially Neon Indian, are still releasing large-scale albums to this day. Sure, you could argue that Toledo’s John Jagos, who records under the name Brothertiger, is of the same ilk, but even that wouldn’t be totally fair in the long run, as his soundscaping has been a kind that focuses less on tone and more on songcraft outright, nailing the hooks time and time again, which is part of the reason why he already has a sizable audience even after releasing his debut set, the excellent Golden Years, a mere three years ago.
Since then, he dropped sophomore disc Future Splendors in late 2014, and will follow that one up almost to the day with a third album slated for the end of 2015. Yet between recording and touring, Jagos keeps a level head to himself, focusing on making the best damn music possible, honing in on a sound that would work on both dancefloors and private pajama parties all the same. In answering PopMatters’ 20 Questions, Jagos reveals a lot about his influences, ranging from his love of Brian Eno to his obsession with Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair, to say nothing of the fact that he likes to wear “a baseball hat when I travel; I’m not sure why, but it just feels right.”
It’s been over six years since the last Most Serene Republic album proper, which is the kind of statement that seems to carry the typical critical arc of a band seeking redemption (“Now they’re back and better than ever, guys!”), but when you get right down to it, the six years between the group’s heavily melodic 2009 set ... And the Ever Expanding Universe and this year’s long-overdue Mediac were filled with a strange bit of turmoil.
Mendelsohn: It has been a while, Klinger, since I’ve made you listen to some sugary, flavor-of-the-month pop act with just enough critical cache to garner a little bit of acclaim outside of the Top 40. So when I happened upon Courtney Barnett’s debut Sometime I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, I thought I might as well force it upon your ears because it hit that soft pop spot in my head. But before you start to see shades of Haim, let me be the first to say that Barnett is not a pop diva in training, and while she does have a great ear for pop music, she also has an incredible sense of song craft. Coupled with lyrical material about nothing, in the same vein as Jerry Seinfeld’s show about nothing, it isn’t hard to see why this album is so well liked.
“Music is our strongest antidote to feelings of emptiness and disquiet.” So says Phil Jamieson, one of the founding members of Caspian, and truth be told, it’s hard to disagree with the man.
After all, although Caspian only formed back in 2003, the Massachusetts-bred post-rock collective have already carved out a unique niche for themselves as masters of multi-layered catharsis, their songs ranging from aggressive hard rockers to thickly melodic acoustic laments to experimental electronic pieces, and somehow, just somehow, they always manage to keep it together. In fact, in his 2010 review of the re-release of Caspian’s first two notable forays into the world, PopMatters’ own Zach Corsa summed the band up thusly: “To put it in so many words, if you had to point to one lasting document, one Exhibit A to testify for the validity and emotional power of the entire instrumental post-rock genre, then you’d be hard-pressed to pick a more winning example than Caspian’s brilliant The Four Trees.”