Latest Blog Posts

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

9 Sep 2010


The Canon. The Greatest Albums of All Time. For decades, they’ve been analyzed, ranked, charted and graphed—so much so that a Swedish statistician has developed a mathematical formula to enumerate them for posterity at Acclaimedmusic.net. But after so many years and so many lists and so many spirited arguments in pubs and record shops around the world, one question remains: do these critics’ darlings really hold up, or are they just hyped up?

Enter Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger. For years, Mendelsohn and Klinger toiled through a tag-team article called Counterbalance, hashing out the relative merits of new releases for their local Chicken Dinner Newspaper. But that was a long time ago—before the economy crashed, sending their frivolous Arts & Entertainment section down in flames.

After wandering in the wilderness, lost and directionless, Mendelsohn and Klinger have returned to take on their most challenging assignment: the Greatest Albums of All Time. They begin with the Granddaddy of Them All—the Beach Boys’ 1966 opus Pet Sounds. Hang on to your ego!

by Sean Murphy

8 Sep 2010


The year 1959 was a watershed for jazz music (arguably the greatest single year for jazz in all history—which is saying a lot). Here’s a taste: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, and Charles Mingus’ Ah Um. That is like the holy trinity of jazz music, all from the same year. But in the not-so-silent shadows a young, relatively unknown alto saxophonist was poised to cause a stir that still reverberates today: Ornette Coleman, who created the provocatively titled The Shape of Jazz to Come.

Kind of Blue is correctly celebrated for establishing modal music and as a genuine evolution from bop and post-bop; Giant Steps is the apotheosis of the “sheets of sound” that John Coltrane had been practicing and perfecting for a decade; Ah Um is an encyclopedic history of jazz music, covering everyone and everything from Jelly Roll Morton to Duke Ellington. Each of those albums were immediately embraced, and remain recognized as genuine milestones today. But The Shape of Jazz to Come was incendiary and complicated; it inspired as much resistance as it did inspiration. Some folks (Mingus included) bristled that it was all so much sound and fury, signifying…little. But what Coleman (along with trumpet player Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins—representing as solid a quartet as any that have made music, ever) achieved was, arguably, the most significant advancement since Charlie Parker hit the scene.

by Evan Sawdey

7 Sep 2010


Photo: Junko Otsubo

Adam Pierce is one cat that’s tough to peg.

First off, the Mice Parade mastermind has had an extensive recording history, starting his Mice Parade project (who put out their first album back in 1998) while still finding time to perform with artists like the Swirlies, HiM, and múm. Pierce has also set up Bubble Core Records, which has had a hand in virtually every Mice Parade album since the group’s inception, along with having put out albums by the Notwist, Philip Jeck, and more. 

Yet Mice Parade remains Pierce’s baby, and what makes the band so good is its lack of adherence to typical indie norms.  Mixing a post-rock aesthetic with modern folk guitars and a distinctive worldbeat influence, Mice Parade is extremely hard to pigeonhole, and its latest album—What It Means to Be Left-Handed—only adds to the groups fantastic allure, mixing out-and-out guitar rock numbers with electronic experiments and exotic acoustic guitar flourishes, sounding defiantly sprawling and thematically unified at the exact same time.  It’s a thrilling listen wherein no two songs sound even remotely the same.

by Jason Cook

7 Sep 2010


It’s difficult to mention anything musically related to The Exorcist series without first recalling prog-meister Mike Oldfield and what his theme from “Tubular Bells” did for the series’ antecedent entry. Oldfield’s excerpt did something honest for the horror genre; it delivered a clear mood, one clear of the tense strings that mired many soundtracks then to-date. Ennio Morricone, prolific trafficker in beautifully sleazy lounge and synth-funky giallo soundtracks in the 1970s, did something different for the Exorcist series’ second entry: he brought us clever smatterings of Les Baxter; he brought us surf-jazz funk, he brought us atonal clusters. The man brought everything he could bring.

Morricone’s name is not quite a household one, but his music, through its influence, reuse, or appearance in Grammy-winning soundtracks, is instantly recallable and nearly a filmic entity unto itself. Recently, Morricone’s music was sourced for use in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and other films. And just over ten years after Morricone’s landmark work on The Good, the Bad & the Ugly and the rest of the Dollars trilogy, he wrote music for John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), featuring a vinyl-only release often shadowed by Morricone’s thin margin of spaghetti western work.

by Dylan Nelson

3 Sep 2010


Throughout 1976, as Lee Perry was working with the likes of Max Romeo, Gregory Isaacs, and Dennis Brown decrying the violence and instability of Jamaican politics and the harsh injustices of Jamaican society, he was also collaborating with a young man named Junior Murvin on what would become one of the most famous statements of protest and solidarity in reggae history. “Police and Thieves” resounded across the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. In England, the song struck home with an oppressed immigrant population recently traumatized by the outbreak of violence at the Notting Hill Carnival in London; in the United States it made inroads with a progressive demographic still learning about the potency of the little island’s musical tradition. “Police and Thieves” is instantly recognizable: if you haven’t heard the album cut in context, you’ve heard the Clash’s punk version or the soundtracked clip from the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

As always, though, this international reggae hit is rooted firmly in Jamaica. The song, and the album which followed, were products of the same circumstances that spurred forth War Ina Babylon, and the two records have an analogous message and tone, not to mention having enjoyed similarly illustrious and influential careers after their releases. Murvin and Romeo also invite comparison as singers—both men did an album at the Black Ark Studio that would come to define their careers. Murvin would work with the eccentric producer again in the ‘80s, but both vocalists have spent decades capitalizing on their Perry-produced recordings. Both benefited tremendously, one thinks, from the guidance of Lee Perry.  It would seem that in 1976, the Black Ark was the place to be for an aspiring singer.

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