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Thursday, Jan 29, 2015
Following their creative low point in 2011's Codes & Keys and shedding a band member, Death Cab for Cutie's first new song in years is promising, but not a whole lot else.

“There is beauty in a failure,” Ben Gibbard sings on “Black Sun”, the lead single from Death Cab for Cutie’s first album in nearly four years. His is a very pointed, observant statement, considering that he isn’t too far removed from having written the worst album of his career.

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Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015
“Martin, maybe one day you’ll find true love." ABC's sumptuous critique of romance is a masterful blend of disco, New Wave pop, and golden age Hollywood glamor.

Dance music is often accused of seemingly prizing escapist content over substance. That’s a critique based upon faulty expectations. “Substance”, that very thorny, very rockist notion tied to overall determinations of worth, is honestly not often required in such music. Dance music, after all, has a very basic goal it must achieve, and anything beyond facilitating a good time on the dancefloor is an expendable bonus.

However, that doesn’t mean dance music has to sacrifice intelligence or wit, or lyricism more nuanced than the most primal exaltations. Martin Fry’s excellence as a wordsmith is a hefty reason why I enjoy his band ABC’s 1982 album The Lexicon of Love so much. Though it lacks the gargantuan and obtuse experiments typically associated with concept albums, The Lexicon of Love is most assuredly such a specimen, for every aspect of its being is employed in the service of Fry’s bitter deconstruction of modern romance.

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Tuesday, Jan 27, 2015
Beginning today, PopMatters will be running the weekly interview series, Country Fried Rock, which features in-depth interviews with Americana artists. This time up is the Southern Gothic master Jim White and his foray into bluegrass.

Jim White‘s songwriting and visual art are some of the tangible fruits of his sometimes dark thoughts, but he is not the tortured Southern Gothic poet of his past. When Packway Handle Band (previously featured on Country Fried Rock HERE), sought White’s assistance in producing their new record, they ended up collaborating in a back and forth manner, with White sharing a trove of bluegrass songs he had written with the Packway Handle guys, and Packway Handle sharing their new songs with White—hence, Jim White Vs. Packway Handle Band on this new Yep Roc release. Do not pigeonhole what you think you know about Jim White, nor of the Packway Handle Band; they all are pushing their boundaries to move into new territory musically. White does not tour the US much, but catch a show, if you can, most likely in Europe, where he is a cult figure.

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Friday, Jan 23, 2015
Oo-ee-oo I look just like Buddy Holly. Oh-oh, and you're Mary Tyler Moore. I don't care what they say about the 352nd most acclaimed album anyway. I don't care bout that.

Mendelsohn: For the next round of Counterbalance, I picked two albums from 1994. One I listened to non-stop and the other I never bothered with. We will get to the record I loved dearly in my formative years, but this week we are going to talk about the record (and the band) I have managed to ignore for 20 years — Weezer and their self-titled debut (also known as The Blue Album).

Twenty years, Klinger. I’ve gotten this far without ever giving a second thought to Weezer. Sure, they have been a pop mainstay, somehow eking out record sales as the tastes have shifted from grunge, to boys bands, to pop divas, to garage rock, back to pop divas, etc., ad infinitum. Before this week, if you had asked me about Weezer I may answer would have been, “Yeah sure, Weezer, they are that band with those songs about Buddy Holly, Sweaters, Hash Pipes and Beans. Good for them.” And now I’m listening to The Blue Album and kind of cursing myself for not ignoring them for thirty years. But then, this record is on the Great List, sitting at a respectable no. 352.

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Thursday, Jan 22, 2015
Sufjan Stevens recently announced his first solo album in five years, Carrie & Lowell. This list of 11 of the best songs in his eclectic catalog is sure to get you back in the Sufjan mood.

Eclectic singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens recently announced his first solo album in five years, Carrie & Lowell. The album, which is named after his mother and step-father, is said to be a return to his folk roots, with songs about “life and death, love and loss, and the artist’s struggle to make sense of the beauty and ugliness of love.” Though Stevens has not been quiet for the past five years, releasing music with his side project Sisyphus as well as composing music for ballets and films, the promise of a new, 11-track solo album is an exciting one. This list of 11 songs is sure to get us back in the mood ahead of the March 31st release of Carrie & Lowell.

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