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Friday, Dec 5, 2014
The 498th most acclaimed album of all time was born in the desert, came on up from New Orleans. Captain Beefheart's startling 1967 debut album is this week's Counterbalance.

Klinger: The Great List, that mathemagical compendium of the critical hive mind that has served as our Counterbalance launch pad, offers a number of challenges to those who dare traverse its terrain, but I’d wager that no album is as fraught with peril as Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s Trout Mask Replica. Even those who now love the album often say that they found its off-key, off-beat, off-kilter ramblings to be completely impenetrable. And you and I certainly had our share of trouble wrapping our heads around it. Even so, it still sits solidly within the canon — statistically speaking, it’s the 59th most acclaimed album of all time. And maybe it’s my own inability to enjoy Trout Mask Replica that sent me digging into some of the Captain’s other works, and what led me to his debut album, 1967’s Safe As Milk. And call me a philistine, but Safe As Milk is, to my ears, vastly preferable.


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Thursday, Dec 4, 2014
The previous month in K-pop saw veteran artists go solo, rookie groups continue their hot streak, interesting collaborations, and a ton of solid music. It wasn't the most innovative month for the industry, but a lot of great execution regardless.

AOA – “Like a Cat”


“Like a Cat” is AOA’s third comeback this year, but that doesn’t mean we should expect anything new from the group. After the success of “Miniskirt”, the act’s collaboration with hit-maker Brave Brothers, FNC Entertainment and the girls have gone with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” method and continued to put out essentially the same song as a title track three times this year. Fortunately, it’s a pretty good song. Brave Brothers has become a bit of a parody of himself, relying on the same musical tropes and production techniques in his songs, but you can never deny that the end result is successful. “Like a Cat” has a strong groove and an undeniably catchy melody. Like many of his other songs, including AOA’s “Miniskirt” and “Short Hair”, “Like a Cat” features a prominent wordless vocal hook in the chorus that, as lazy as it is compositionally, is just irresistible. He does change it up a little here, though, by utilizing processed guitars instead of the jazzy organ chords he normally uses to drive the song.


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Wednesday, Dec 3, 2014
On Episode Six of Pop Unmuted, we discuss the effects of online music streaming and the postmodernism of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars's "Uptown Funk".

Pop Unmuted is a podcast dedicated to the in-depth discussion of pop music from varying academic and critical perspectives. On Episode Six, hosts Scott Interrante and Kurt Trowbridge are joined by music journalist Kira Grunenberg and University of Chicago Doctoral student Brad Spiers to discuss online music streaming and its affect on music consumption and the industry at large. Then they dissect Mark Ronson’s latest single featuring Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”, and the sociopolitical implications of the music industry’s postmodern retromania.


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Wednesday, Dec 3, 2014
These ten selections, some more obscure than others, are chosen to represent the songs where the British power trio was most focused, most locked-in, and most original.

In honor of Jack Bruce’s recent passing, and as a companion piece to my tribute to the late bassist, here’s my take on the ten best Cream songs. This list is offered with one caveat: it’s mostly going to avoid the ones everyone knows, so we’ll assume it’s more or less a given that the cream of Cream’s crop necessarily includes “Strange Brew”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses”, “Crossroads” and especially “Sunshine of Your Love”.


These ten selections, some more obscure than others, are chosen to represent the songs where Cream was most focused, most locked-in, and most original. As such, many of the trio’s blues covers or blues-influenced homages (whether more paint-by-numbers like “Spoonful” and “Rolling and Tumbling” or more inspired like “Born Under a Bad Sign”) don’t rise all the way to the top. When Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker were properly locked-in, they not only used the blues as a successful point of departure, but they carved out a unique—and oft-imitated but seldom matched—blend of psychedelia and proto-prog (the frenzied “Deserted Cities of the Heart” is a scorching hand grenade of a song, planting a signpost of where rock had come and where it was headed): they took the British Invasion’s obsession with blues masters as far as it could (should) go, using their power trio pyrotechnics to blend a distinct English sensibility (“Wrapping Paper”, “Mother’s Lament”) with a more American rock ‘n’ roll aggression, which itself was a triumph of traditional music combining blues and folk, along with a more experimental edge influenced by jazz and the avant-garde (“SWLABR”, “Those Were the Days”).


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Tuesday, Dec 2, 2014
As the final listed track on Broken, “Gave Up” is well-placed to serve as an encapsulation of the brief EP’s themes.

“Gave Up” is the final listed track on Broken, and in that position it’s well-placed to serve as an encapsulation of the brief EP’s themes. Though the record’s guitar-rock aggression can be empowering to listeners, Broken is really about the loss of control, and the frustration and self-reflection (How did I get to this point? Is it my fault? Do I deserve this?) that can flourish in such circumstances. Trent Reznor’s well-publicized struggles with his label at the time, TVT, are his obvious muses, yet his frustrations are never etched out in detail or specifics. Instead, Reznor opts for bruised proclamations that are succinct and memorable enough to enable them to be applied with universality.


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