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by Stephen Rowland

19 Oct 2010


According to the definition from the king of genre explanations, allmusic.com, adult alternative is “a smooth, melodic, radio-friendly style that packaged alternative’s mellower side for wider consumption”. Some mainstays of the genre include Jeff Buckley, late-era Goo Goo Dolls, my beloved Crowded House, my personal deity Aimee Mann, and—give me a moment to vomit in my mouth a bit—Dave Matthews Band. I suppose it’s adult contemporary with an edge. The three artists profiled here are undoubtedly part of this movement, and while it seems unfair to pigeonhole them into something for adults, genres exist for a reason and I’m not going to cry over it.

My first experience with bona fide adult alternative was David Gray’s “White Ladder” in 2000, when I was 18 years old. Growing up a punk rocker, and still considering myself one to a certain extent, I felt that my sheer enjoyment of that record was somewhat traitorous. But punk rock, God bless it, can be a limited genre that doesn’t take kindly to other genres, and the older I got, the more I found myself branching out, exploring more and more different types of music, and finding excellence everywhere. I no longer should, and I no longer do, feel any guilt. We should never limit ourselves, because art is subjective, and beauty can be found everywhere.

by Jason Cook

18 Oct 2010


All the while “His Dark Exotica” has run, there have been short analyses of Ennio Morricone and his work on Exorcist II: The Heretic in the various contexts in which the music is played and intended. Now, as the series nears its penultimate piece, there is the question of the film’s actual theme. This theme (a culmination of the various tracks that precede its midway appearance on the film’s soundtrack) is memorable, to say the least. In under three minutes, one hears the coda from “Rite of Magic” and “Great Bird in the Sky”. There’s the strange glossolalia of “Little Afro Flemish Mass”, and frantic chanted tempo of “Magic and Ecstasy”. Strong are the staccato exotica whip cracks, marimba sequences, and African drumming. It’s as if Morricone, in this piece, and to counter the previous film’s minimalist theme by Mike Oldfield, has given us everything, pouring into his simple modulation the weird keys that progress through the even weirder film for which he composed.

“Pazuzu (Theme From Exorcist II)” is about channeling. The track does not play prominently in the film. Rather, it emerges in aural corners and suggests all the witchery, locust-vision, and demonic possession that Regan and crew play out on the screen. It isn’t the theme of a blockbuster or even a considerable hit. It’s the sound of something too far gone for mainstream anything. It’s the certain sound of a demon, Pazuzu, and the way he rides the teeth of the wind.

by Stephen Rowland

15 Oct 2010


Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue seemed the best place to start because it is probably the best album that will appear in this series. That, and it haunts me to my core. It is not easy for me to listen to this record.

The strangest thing is, after shedding pretty much all of the classic Beach Boys sound, after coming into his own and releasing a near-masterpiece, Dennis hated this record (Brian Wilson loved it, by the way). It took him nearly seven years to complete, so my question is: why spend almost a decade creating something you would come to loathe? That’s what marriage is for.  And another question, Dennis (R.I.P.): what exactly is wrong with it?

After the release of Pacific Ocean Blue in 1977, Wilson was extremely excited about his next record, entitled Bamboo or Bambu (no mooks like me can seem to agree). But then he died, and it was never released. Bootlegs exist, but again, nobody can seem to agree on the proper track order, which tracks would’ve been on the actual album (there are about 20 or more floating around)—maybe one day I’ll get it together and try to give my quintet an impression of what could’ve been. My confusion still lingers, however, because he barely wrote any of the songs on Bamboo/u and a lot of them ended up on the Beach Boys’ much-maligned L.A. (Light Album). More to come on that one.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

14 Oct 2010


Klinger: Well, we’ve been told that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important album ever and that it’s over-primped, over-cooked, and over-rated. It’s an insubstantial tea-and-crumpets trifle that changed the face of rock forever.

Here’s an illustrative example: In 1974, the UK magazine NME ranked Sgt. Pepper at number one on its Greatest Albums of All-Time. When they published a similar poll in 1985, the album didn’t make the Top 100. Such is the duality of Sgt. Pepper.

Mendelsohn: I understand the duality. Sometimes I would listen to Sgt. Pepper and be blown away, other times it would be a bit of a ho-hum affair. Listening to it again for this project, I’m slightly underwhelmed (on the upside, I’m listening to the remastered mono version of the album and it sounds completely different than I remember). But where did all the rock go?

Klinger: I picked up the stereo remaster a while back, so I did recently experience a Pepper epiphany. It is one album, though, that I’ve so fully internalized that it took something as dramatic as the remastering to kick me out of my comfort zone.

But you can’t find the rock? This is a statement that I find to be a bafflement.

by Nathan Pensky

13 Oct 2010


That the quality of Weezer’s musical production has been in steady decline since the 1996 release of Pinkerton has been fairly well established. The Quorum of Pre-teen Girls that make up the band’s current fan base may have different things to say about it, but to more critical ears, or even just those who happen to enjoy loud music and ‘90s nostalgia, Weezer’s segue into the pop mainstream has been deeply disappointing.

However, in some ways, the pop cultural cluelessness represented in Weezer’s post-Pinkerton work speaks loudly for the authenticity of its contribution to the greater nerd aesthetic. The band’s late musical awkwardness draws interesting parallels to the social awkwardness of nerds everywhere, and as nerd-dom itself has undergone unsettling changes in the last ten years, similar changes in Weezer’s music somewhat validates its original positioning within that tradition. Weezer fans’ disappointment with the group’s recent albums may have less to do with how the band has changed than with how nerds everywhere have changed, Rivers Cuomo included. Even if Weezer’s newer music has no value in its own right, it may somewhat authenticate one particularly culturally important aspect of their first two albums, even solidify their rightful place with other nerd-friendly bands like Devo and They Might Be Giants.

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