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Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014
"The Freshmen" defined them, but their pop songs since were mature and nuanced. With his band's first album in 13 years, Brian Vander Ark tells us what he thinks is the most tear-jerking scene from Frozen and just how long he can sustain a burp ...

Contrary to popular belief, Brian Vander Ark was never much of a rock guy.


Oh sure, he was the guitarist and lead singer for the Verve Pipe, who, in 1996-1997, dominated the airwaves with the inescapable, era-defining modern rock single known as “The Freshmen”, but in truth, Vander Ark was a pop purist at heart. Their 1999 follow-up to their breakthrough album Villains featured memorable pop-rock numbers like “Hero”, but by the time they released 2001’s supremely underrated Underneath, they brought on Fountains of Wayne frontman and noted pop-savant Adam Schlesinger as producer, and were focused on crafting pop songs in the most classical of senses. Their commercial prospects never matched the heights of “The Freshmen”, but while that song somewhat defined the band for some people, their hardcore fans knew that the band was capable of so much more.


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Monday, Jul 14, 2014
When you think of B-52's songs, you think fun, wacky, playful, bizarre. With "Dance This Mess Around", you get raw, emotionally charged, sultry, and ... the best song they ever wrote.

When people think of the B-52’s, they often think of fun, silly, and energetic party-pop songs, and for good reason: a great majority of the hits they’re remembered for fit this bill to a T, filled with call-and-response vocals and rather buoyant melodies. Sometimes they were goofy, sometimes they were a bit more traditional with their themes, but they were always a lot of people’s one-stop-shop for good times and fun rhymes.


However, what may arguably be the single greatest song they’ve ever created retains none of these features. “Dance This Mess Around” is filled with longing, a bit of rage, and a vibe that is downright sultry, the soundtrack to a late-night slowjam in a room lit by nothing but lava lamps. There has never been a B-52’s song quite like it, but, most distressingly, they never attempted to go after this vibe ever again.


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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
You give your hand to me, and then you say goodbye. I watch you walk away beside a lucky to never, never know the one who loves you so. Because you haven't listened to this week's Counterbalance. Ray Charles' 1962 landmark this week.

Klinger: The Great List, that mathematical compendium of critical rankings that has served as our lord and master for the past four years, is an incredible resource for both discovering musical milestones and inspiring beer-fueled arguments. It also helps point out certain blind spots in the critical canon. One of the main issues we see is that it doesn’t really get going until about the mid-‘60s when writing seriously about rock music first became an semi-legitimate profession. As a result, many of the forefathers and foremothers of rock ‘n’ roll have been given short shrift. The case of Ray Charles is a prime example.


Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which came out in 1962, marks Ray Charles’ first appearance on the Great List, clocking in at No. 240. That’s a respectable placement, but hardly befitting one of the architects of popular music. I’d do a lot more grumbling about that fact, but luckily for rock critics I’m too busy being enthralled by this masterpiece, which manages to do so much more than just apply Charles’ gospel-infused R&B to the country format. There’s a wealth of influences coming together here, and the end result is a brilliant, understated statement on the state of pop in 1962. But it may not immediately reveal itself right away. Or does it? Mendelsohn?


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Thursday, Jul 10, 2014
With summer officially arriving, K-pop in June was filled with huge comebacks from veteran artists like PSY and Taeyang as well as rookie groups like Got7 and the controversial solo debut from Hyomin.

Taeyang - “Eyes, Nose, Lips”


With so many comebacks and debuts going on, sometimes you have to take the risk and stand out with a piano-driven sentimental ballad (being sexy and shirtless in the music video helps too, but we’ll get to that). For his latest comeback, coinciding with his first full-length solo album in four year, Big Bang’s Taeyang has released “Eyes, Nose, Lips”, and made us all swoon. The tender break-up ballad starts with dramatic piano and follows Taeyang’s expressive crooning through confessional verses and a powerful chorus. He sings about his selfishness in their relationship and coming to terms with her leaving, remembering her “eyes, nose, and lips”. To top it all off, the song makes a cinematic modulation for the last chorus, really playing up the cheesy sentiment of the song.


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Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014
Whether you're at the beach or just hanging out in the backyard, these timeless summer classics are sure to make the summer sun shine a little bit brighter.

Except for a couple, most of the picks on this list are at least 20 years old. It takes a while for a song to become timeless. In this case, listeners often need a few summers to absorb a song in order to begin relating to it as a seasonal staple.


While the list incorporates some songs that most listeners would immediately associate with summer, there are a few that speak of the season without being obvious. In an effort to make the collection as varied as possible, well-known songs are included as well as a few that have flown under the radar over the years. This means there are a lot of big summer hits (e.g.: “Cruel Summer“ by Bananarama, “Summer Breeze“ by Seals and Croft, anything by the Beach Boys, “Under the Boardwalk“ by the Drifters, etc.) left off the list in order to make room for some lesser-known gems.


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