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by Corey Beasley

21 Feb 2011


“Bankrupt on Selling” is a rare breed in Modest Mouse’s gruff bestiary: an acoustic ballad. The Lonesome Crowded West previously had the acoustic guitar take the forefront on “Jesus Christ Was an Only Child”, but that track is just as raw and seething as the most plugged-in material on this record. “Bankrupt on Selling”, on the other hand, takes things into definitively different territory. Isaac Brock has written a few of these in his tenure—“Lives” from The Moon & Antarctica(2000) and the much-maligned “Blame It on the Tetons” from Good News for People Who Love Bad News(2004) come to mind. But where that Good News track teeters dangerously on the edge of tedium, “Bankrupt on Selling” manages its melancholy with an expert hand, making it one of the most moving songs on an album full of full-steam heartwrenchers.

Rarely one to use minor chords to carry the weight of his most lacerating lyrics, Brock indulges on “Bankrupt on Selling”. The song’s basic four-chord progression does use the minor key in the way typical of perpetually lachrymose singer-songwriters, but the resonance of the track rests in the other elements of its composition. Original guitarist Dann Gallucci provides an airy, subtle accompaniment to Brock’s foundation, his clean electric picking through the melody and supplementing it without overtaking the mix. In fact, Brock shoulders the whole brunt of the performance, without Eric Judy’s rhythmic counterpoints or Jeremiah Green’s busy drumming to provide support. He does so with grace, a word not often associated with Modest Mouse’s squall.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

18 Feb 2011


Mendelsohn: I think, out of all the albums we’ve talked about thus far, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon may loom the largest. It’s beloved, it’s reviled, it’s taken on a life of its own beyond that of its creators to represent some sort of cultural movement that involved panel vans with paintings of half-naked women riding Pegasus on the side of them. Commercially, it’s virtually unmatched but critically, it isn’t loved across the board. Thoughts?

Klinger: I’ve never liked this album.

I didn’t like it when my eighth-grade chums were trying to tell me how deep and heavy it is. I didn’t like it in college when it became inextricably paired with a damp towel across the bottom of a dorm room door. And while I’ve certainly mellowed in my disdain for it as I’ve come to realize that there are more important things in this world to be outraged by, I don’t especially like it now.

I’ve now listened to it several times in preparation for this piece, and about the best I can say about it is that sonically it’s quite impressive, making it far and away Alan Parsons’ finest achievement (sorry, I Robot).

Mendelsohn: Finally, an album you don’t like. Personally, I think Dark Side may be the perfect rock record. All killer—no filler! But before we get into that, I need some clarification. Is your disdain directed at just Dark Side or is it Pink Floyd in general?

Klinger: I’m the sort of person who thinks that Pink Floyd never fully recovered from losing Syd Barrett. But I do remember thinking “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” was fun when it was a hit—you know, because I was 11 and I thought school was boring. What does that say?

Since then, I’ve revisited most of their catalog, and I’m inclined to believe that most of their 1970s output is strictly for the bean bag chair. I realize this is something akin to rock heresy, but I don’t care. To my ears, Dark Side of the Moon lacks much in the way of punch. Oomph. Zazz.

by Evan Sawdey

17 Feb 2011


Photo: Jenny Jimenez

It’s time to say hello to Eric Elbogen—despite the fact that he’s been here for awhile.

Ever since he initially moved to New York to form his band Say Hi in 2002—which is mostly a solo project for all intents and purposes—Elbogen has managed to put out six well-regarded solo albums, his stature growing with each and every release.  His 2009 album Oohs & Ahhs, for example, managed to get songs featured in everything from Cadillac ads to Showtime television programs.  Now, with his seventh disc, Um, Uh Oh, Elbogen’s alter ego is poised to break wide open, and the single “Devil” has already been featured in the TV show Gossip Girl, exposing Say Hi to a much larger audience.

Elbogen’s unique home-spun sound feels right at home on Barsuk, and his expressive, perfectly imperfect voice might invite more than a few welcome comparisons to that of Arcade Fire’s Win Butler.  His songwriting abilities are as sharp as ever, and people merely need to hear Um, Uh Oh‘s album opener “Dots on Maps” to understand what the fuss is all about.  Taking time from his busy schedule, Elbogen managed to sit down with PopMatters to answer our famed 20 Questions, revealing how he’s still trying to be a badass drummer, why you don’t mess with the Stones, and how he wants to be remembered for his terrible jokes . . .

by Stefan Nickum

16 Feb 2011


Despite frequent outings for someone who’s barely 20, nothing could prepare Nicolas Jaar’s admirers or the general listening public for what he’s done on Space Is Only Noise. House is hardly anywhere to be found here, techno neither, though some of Jaar’s synth lines could certainly qualify. The tempos Jaar are working in are owed largely to hip-hop, and the rest of Jaar’s soundscapes are perplexing, disarming, and utterly dreamlike.

Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise (Circus Company)

As James Blake is gushed about by the critical cacophony, a different young wunderkind will likely be overlooked. Twenty-year-old Nicolas Jaar is at least as deceptively related to the electronic music community as Blake, his affiliation lying with house and techno rather than dubstep.  Each has taken bold sonic risks within these genres, and Jaar in particular is drawing on a musical palette that is noticeably rich with influences.

by Evan Sawdey

15 Feb 2011


To help figure out what “Born This Way” is, let’s first rule out exactly what it’s not.

First off, it is not the modern day “I Will Survive”, as Elton John so giddily claimed in his recent Rolling Stone interview. As tempting as it also is to write it off as a modern update of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” (as Rob Sheffield does here), it also doesn’t fill that role precisely, because its context is notably different (although, musically, it bears an unabashed similarity). 

Instead, what Sheffield does get right is that “Born This Way” finds its power and its force by digging deep into the heart of American disco: shamelessly straightforward pop music with only the slightest wink of self-importance. This is an empowerment anthem to be danced to, inclusive to all, specific to no one.  It will set clubs ablaze for the rest of 2011, soar to the top of the charts, and have an extravagantly over-the-top video as we’ve come to expect from Miss Gaga.

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