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Wednesday, Feb 3, 2010
Judging by the "Top Ten" list of hundreds of critics in Village Voice's Pazz and Jop Poll, Pitchfork is either really good, or critics are becoming really lazy.

Recently, the general “Who had the best album of 2009?” debate came to an end with the release of the Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll. For those unfamiliar, the poll comprises the “Top Ten” list of hundreds of music critics. Top honors went to Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion.


Animal Collective’s win wasn’t surprising. When Merriweather was released last January, critics all but anointed it an album of the year contender. But Village Voice contributor Chuck Eddy raised an interesting observation: Eight albums from the Pazz and Jop top ten list were also on Pitchfork‘s top ten list.


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Monday, Feb 1, 2010

“Seventeen and strung out on confusion”, Billie Joe Armstrong belts out the opening line of “Coming Clean” in a high, booming notes to immediately drive home the coming-of-age struggle the song concerns itself with. Tied to a guitar groove that emphasizes the upbeats of the rhythm, “Coming Clean” is a short track that barely makes it past the minute-and-a-half mark. Regardless of its brevity, it’s rightly considered one of the standout album cuts from Dookie, as Armstrong tackles the subject of sorting out one’s sexual identity in a concise, empowering manner.


Sure, there are no overt mentions of homosexuality in the song (the closest you get is the line “Skeletons come to life in my closet”), but Armstrong has made it clear in interviews that dealing with such desires during adolescence is what “Coming Clean” is about. Forgoing Armstrong’s typical self-effacements, “Coming Clean” is the only track on Dookie that can’t be described with the word “bratty”. The reason is simple: “Coming Clean” is intended as an affirmation, one that demands respect from others even if they unwilling to offer acceptance.


Tagged as: green day
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Monday, Feb 1, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

Bay Area songwriter/recording artist Francesca Lee and her producer Michael Winger  do a wise thing by highlighting Lee’s lovely, engaging voice in each tune on her new album, The Pieces Left. At first listen, Lee has the kind of almost-familiar voice that may remind listeners of artists they’ve heard before, but a more discerning listen reveals a unique, emotionally brave vocalist and songwriter who handles quite well the delicate task of evoking both strength and deeply felt passion, as well as vulnerability and thoughtful restraint—sometimes within a single song.


The daughter of a Polish mother and Japanese-born Korean father, Lee has been calibrating and fine-tuning her unique combination of influences and interests since high school, where, according to her press materials, she “kept to herself and wrote songs.” Since graduating from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (the college founded by Sir Paul McCartney) in 2002, she has been performing with her band, The New Believers, all over Northern California, making headway in major venues and broadcast outlets.


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Sunday, Jan 31, 2010

It won’t be long until the music industry hands out honors at the 52nd Grammy Awards ceremony. Sure, much of the annual hubbub surrounds the Best Song, Record, and Album categories (Will Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” trump both Beyonce’s “Halo” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”?  Discuss!). Let’s not forget that the Grammys have handed out an award for Best Short Form Music Video since 1984.  Music videos have been the one of the most important methods of disseminating new music to audiences for nearly 30 years (not to mention they’ve been works of art in their own right on countless occasions), but considering the award program structure the Grammys still treat them as mere afterthoughts.


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Thursday, Jan 28, 2010
Some artists are more than merely great. There are some artists that for a period of years, a period that is finite, consistently produced music that, it can be argued, far exceeded the work of their peers. For that brief period of time they were definitely Masters of the Form.

By the end of 1975 it was clear that the Parliament-Funkadelic funk mob, headed by its godfather George Clinton, was anything but an ordinary musical unit.  Clinton had overseen the recording of two albums in 1975, the second of which, Funkadelic’s Let’s Take It to the Stage, was a simultaneous slap in the face and kiss on the mouth of R&B music.  Featuring screaming guitars, subtle politics, and a sound that blurred the color lines, it made Funkadelic Masters of the Form, and in 1976, with the release of the classic Mothership Connection, Funkadelic’s sister-band Parliament joined them.


Clinton had playfully made fun of James Brown on the title track of Let’s Take It to the Stage, but in doing so he had done more than simply “taken him on”.  He had suggested that he was the new godfather; that his was the new funk, and he utilized many of Brown’s own foot soldiers to win a funk turf war that most music fans probably never saw coming.  In 1976, Parliament was a frighteningly fierce musical unit.  Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, on trombone and saxophone respectively, had joined their former JBs band mate Bootsy Collins.  They helped Clinton improve upon Parliament’s previous experiment, 1975’s Chocolate City, and record Mothership Connection—a bible of groove that changed the course of black music forever.


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