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by Jason Cook

20 Sep 2010

Mimicking the naming convention for Morricone’s opening track on the Exorcist II soundtrack, and irrespective of the 1955 American film of the same name, Ennio Morricone’s “Interrupted Melody (Suspended Sound)” is a simple, almost processional piece, a highlight of the composer’s encapsulate work on the soundtrack to Exorcist II: The Heretic. Considerate enough to run beneath the title sequence of a less conceptual film, its motif is repeated once more on the album, playing more slowly and with the earnest of a Disney film in “Interrupted Melody”.

Morricone’s naming convention, “(Suspended Sound)”—and, for “Regan’s Theme”, “(Floating Sound)”—seem to be implications of each respective piece’s dynamic timbre. “(Suspended Sound)” plays at a higher velocity, more within earshot of the listener. Its strings and slow piano are recorded and compressed at an almost pop-music level, sounding more literal and akin to something more fit for television. “Interrupted Melody” is cathartic and a logical antonymous motif to the shadow of Mike Oldefield’s “Tubular Bells” from the series’ first film.

by Zachary Houle

17 Sep 2010

Early in their career, Chicago proved themselves as being the masters of the double album. The first three of their records were double-length and their fourth, a live album, was a quadruple (!). By the time Chicago V rolled around in 1972, however, the group had resorted to issuing a long-player that was simply a single disc. It was as though they no longer wanted to be known as a sprawling jammy jazz rock band, but one that was more concerned with issuing concise statements (if not hit singles like “Saturday in the Park”) that could be found in ten or so tracks. The band had also exhausted much of their back pocket songs—Chicago had found that they had used up most of their material by the time they were preparing to make Chicago III even—and there were changes in the rock radio landscape, where FM stations were starting to become more formula-driven, making the double-album format feel not as liberating as it once was. There were changes, too, to the way that record companies paid royalties on songs by the time the early ‘70s rolled around: now they would only pay royalties based on copyright for ten songs per album. Ergo, Chicago really had no further financial incentive to keep on pumping out the doubles. As well, the band had chafed with their label over Chicago IV due to the manufacturing costs for pressing four discs, and it almost didn’t get released as a result.

However, Chicago IV would not be their last shot at making an album that sprawled across just one disc. The band would return to the format of the double album one final time with Chicago VII in 1974, which is a statement of both compromise and non-compromise. The compromise aspect came from within the band. At the time they were readying the record, the entire group had composed—and were playing live—a series of long jazzy instrumentals. Some members of the band were thus pushing for an album of jazz recordings. However, bassist and vocalist Peter Cetera as well as producer James William Guercio were sceptical of this approach, believing that an entire disc of jazz would be commercial suicide. After convening at Guercio’s Caribou recording studio in the wilds of Colorado, where the band had recorded Chicago VI after leaving behind what they felt were substandard recording studios in New York, Chicago reached a deal with itself. The group would include the jazz pieces, along with more pop-oriented songs. As it would turn out, the jazz would almost fill up one disc worth of material on the record, with the more commercially friendly standard pop songs the other.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

16 Sep 2010

Mendelsohn: I have nothing bad to say about this album. Nothing. But I will suck it up and do my job as a critic and start critiquing. I have two words for you, Klinger: “Yellow Submarine”. Without Ringo’s dystopian little gem about a magical place where we all live in submarines and no one ever lapses into a claustrophobic rage, Revolver may very well be the perfect album. Prove me wrong.

Klinger: A bold statement, Mendelsohn, and one that’s awfully hard to dispute. But let’s take a contrarian view here, if for no other reason than to generate some false controversy. After all, who doesn’t find the devil’s advocate delightful?

Even putting Ringo’s kiddie number aside, the individual songs on Revolver are actually kind of slight. McCartney offers up a soap opera melodrama, a pleasant little love song, a highly controversial ode to sunshine and a tune about weed. George bitches about having to pay taxes and messes around on a sitar. Lennon is the record’s MVP with two absolutely brilliant songs that would set the tone for the rest of the decade (“She Said, She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”), but even he ends up writing a love song to his dealer.

And I’ve never liked the cover, either. There, I said it.

by Dylan Nelson

15 Sep 2010

I love Lady Gaga. You can count my vote with the pro-Gaga factions in the cultural war. Everyone has an opinion; it’s all too much fun to join in the fray side-by-side with the likes of the intellectual and critical touchstone The Atlantic and the high-school-science-project, conspiracy-theory website The Vigilant Citizen, not to mention that haughty, freaky-folky mistress of song, Joanna Newsom. They’ve all gone on record in the past few months about the Gaga’s debatable cultural relevance. Is she the savior of pop? Is she the harbinger of the pop Armageddon? Is she a feminist or a brat? Or is she—is she?—a puppet of the Illuminati literally hell-bent on her mission to brainwash the masses?

Gaga has taken the world by storm in the past two years with a flood of hit singles, strange outfits, and stranger music videos. Her sense of fashion, fearsome ambition, and superstar status invite comparisons to Bowie, Bolan, and Madonna, but it’s hard to say (despite how much it is said) whether she’s an original blend or a regurgitated mixture of her influences. Maybe part of the reason everyone else is so confused about her image is that the singer herself seems uncertain of her motives. She embraces cheap escapism, but she has pretensions to high art. She claims her inspiration from adolescent heartbreak (and she appeals tremendously to that demographic) but her videos consciously employ controversial imagery and abstract, fragmented stories that repel literal interpretation.

by Joseph Fisher

15 Sep 2010

Two weeks ago, Pitchfork published its list of the top 200 hundred tracks of the 1990s.  The list is a fascinating read.  The selections are fairly well-balanced, and the emphasis on music videos, though unevenly explored in the capsule reviews, provides an interesting context for the various ways that music was consumed just over a decade ago.

As always, some of the tracks that made the cut were a bit bizarre.  For instance, giving props to something as flimsy as Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” (number 119) seems the rough equivalent of championing Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody”, which, we all know, is something that the P-fork folks would never do.  Similarly, Dinosaur Jr.’s “Start Choppin’” (number 93) is belittled in every way by “The Wagon”—and, even more so, by “Whatever’s Cool with Me”.  Also, as great as Elastica’s “Stutter” (number 98) might be, it’s really difficult to hear that song as anything more than this track’s echo (that might not be an anachronism depending on where you were when “Stutter” was actually released as a single, and when Elastica was released as an album).

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article