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by Sean McCarthy

25 Aug 2010


A general rule: It’s far harder to be an optimist than a cynic.

That rule easily applies to everyday life, but it especially reflects music. Looking over my music collection, I can roughly estimate the negative/morose CDs outnumber the wide-eyed, joyous ones by a margin of eight to one. As Jack Black’s character taught us in School of Rock, one of the best ways to write a song is to write about something that pisses you off.

The Call rarely wrote such music (with the exception of the band’s minor hit “The Walls Came Down”). In the height of the U2’s reign as idealistic rock icons, the Call was writing their own anthems. Peter Gabriel and Bono each professed their admiration for the band and with songs like “Let the Day Begin” and “I Still Believe” (which was featured in one of the iconic movies of the ‘80s, The Lost Boys). But while U2 embraced everything from the blues to irony and Peter Gabriel moved to more atmospheric compositions, the Call continued to record the same style of anthemic music.

by Evan Sawdey

24 Aug 2010


Joseph Michelini isn’t as much a survivor as he is an inspirer. 

Having been a long-standing staple of the New Jersey coffee house scene, Michelini wasn’t very content just sitting around while strumming acoustic laments for baristas.  Slowly he began introducing banjos and cellos into his set, and one man became three people, which soon became eight, which soon became River City Extension.

With a sound that seems to find a sweet spot that lies perfectly between Neutral Milk Hotel’s near-orchestral bombast and Modest Mouse’s popular brand of almost-cynicism, River City Extension makes full use of the various instruments at their disposal (cellos, trumpets, a djembe for Pete’s sake!), but never once plays them just for the sake of eclecticism.  On The Unmistakable Man—the group’s second full-length—the Extension swerves between acoustic ballads (“Today, I Feel Like I’m Evolving”) and piano-lead group sing-a-longs (“Holy Cross”) with remarkable ease, the whole disc feeling like a unified statement while never sacrificing the need for a storming pop hook.  It’s no wonder its live shows are as heralded as they are.

Shortly after the release of the band’s latest record, Michelini tackled PopMatters’ 20 Questions, revealing a deep-seated love of Paul Simon’s Graceland, the frustration over a stolen laptop filled with songs, and why life truly isn’t complete until you have heated toilet seats ...

by Jessy Krupa

24 Aug 2010


McCartney was a hit solo album for Paul McCartney, but none of its tracks were released as a single. McCartney was still under the British idea that singles are stand-alone songs, not contained in albums, so that they can be strung together occasionally on EPs or “greatest hits” albums. So in February of 1971, “Another Day”, with its B-side of “Oh Woman, Oh Why”, was released as a single. The songs would not be included on the upcoming Ram album, which was released about three months later.

“Another Day” began as a track that the Beatles worked on for possible release on what would be the Let It Be album, but after the band’s break-up, it turned into something else. Just as she had co-written “Man We Was Lonely” before, Linda McCartney also co-wrote “Another Day”. While posters promoting the single listed it as “written by Mr. and Mrs. McCartney” and the single itself was credited to Paul & Linda McCartney, others found that suspicious.

by Dylan Nelson

20 Aug 2010

Photo of Lee Perry (center) with Max Romeo (in white), by
Kim Gottlieb-Walker

The producer occupies a unique place in the crowded and intricate world of Jamaican music. Making sense of the countless singers, engineers, and instrumentalists who could be involved in any given song requires the kind of expertise enjoyed by few casual listeners, but in some cases the studio at which a recording was made is a convenient shortcut. The producer, after all, was frequently responsible for bringing the contributors together, as well as for creating the atmosphere of the record—a deciding factor in the message and the impact of reggae music. Auteurs like Joe Gibbs, Keith Hudson, and Augustus Pablo were the men who shaped a final product from the diverse forces guiding Jamaican music, forging an individual legacy from the talents of a host of musicians, songwriters, and engineers.

Lee “Scratch” Perry, the volatile, brilliant, and idiosyncratic man behind the Upsetters band and the Black Ark studio, tops them all. He played a pivotal role in the rise of groups and singers like Junior Murvin, the Congos, and the Wailers, and in the course of a long and passionate career he was a key player in pushing the bounds of expression to fashion dub and reggae itself from older forms. Forced to choose a single figure upon which to found an understanding of reggae in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Perry would not be a bad choice.

by Sean Murphy

19 Aug 2010


You may have heard: Gibson (the fine folks who bring us some of our best guitars) has recently announced its selections of what it deems the Top 50 Guitar Albums.

Now, as someone who writes about music, I am acutely aware that one person’s list is another person’s purgatory. Put simply, when it comes to matters of taste and ranking (a particularly combustible combination), there is no pleasing everyone. In fact, there is no pleasing anyone, since the list makers themselves are invariably disappointed or frustrated. When you are talking about the best of the best, it is like boiling the Pacific Ocean to get a handful of salt.

So, it is in the spirit of augmenting and not critiquing (though there are many items on their list I find a bit objectionable) that I offer up an alternative Top 10 with some (very) honorable mentions. To avoid redundancy, my list will not duplicate any of the ones already selected by Gibson. Fortunately, there are more than enough to go ‘round, and despite some genuine head-scratchers (there are many items on the company’s list I find offensive, aesthetically speaking), it’s silly to quibble too much with a list that features most (but certainly not all) of the usual suspects.

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