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Monday, Apr 7, 2014
Diving into the first track on The Beach Boys Today!, we look at "Do You Wanna Dance", a re-interpretation of a 1958 Bobby Freeman song, and investigate the question of what exactly a Beach Boys song is.

This first track on The Beach Boys Today! is a cover of the 1958 Bobby Freeman song, “Do You Wanna Dance”. At first, this fact may seem ironic, as I stressed in my introduction that Today! raised Brian Wilson’s status as a “songwriter who deserved respect and admiration for his musical innovations”. But by opening the album with a cover, we are allowed to see more intimately what Wilson can really do with a song. Here, we have a reference point with the original, which can then be compared to the Beach Boys’ version, revealing Wilson’s’s skill as an arranger and interpreter more clearly.


Outside of the slap-back delay on the drums and an unusual false ending, there’s nothing particularly notable about the original 1958 recording (though it does feature a young Jerry Garcia on guitar, for whatever that’s worth). It’s a piano-driven rock track that features a standard I-IV-V chord progression, simple lyrics, and a loosely sung melody. The Beach Boys version, in contrast, is lushly orchestrated, tightly structured, and includes an instrumental bridge in a different key. Essentially, it sounds very little like the original version, and musicologist Philip Lambert notes that this track “highlights the difference between ‘a song covered by the Beach Boys’ and an existing song transformed into ‘a Beach Boys song’.”


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Monday, Mar 31, 2014
The often overlooked The Beach Boys Today! (1965) finds Brian Wilson and the rest of the band embracing the sophisticated musical experimentation we would later find on Pet Sounds while retaining the catchy accessibility of their early surf and car songs.

In the 1960s, there was a band that changed the way popular music was made forever. They challenged conventional ideas regarding harmony, form, and instrumentation in pop music. They innovated the way the recording studio could be used as an instrument just as crucially as a guitar or a piano. They stretched genres and blended styles while still churning out catchy hits that are as beloved today as they were when they were released. No, I’m not talking about the Beatles, I’m talking about America’s own: the Beach Boys.


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Monday, Mar 17, 2014
“Internal Landscapes” forces you to reflect on those you’ve lost, not just in terms of their absence, but in terms of what you shared with them when they were alive.

Over the past seven weeks, I’ve explored how and why Anathema’s latest opus, Weather Systems, is the most beautiful and touching album I’ve ever heard. Every one of its first eight sections is a luscious commentary on the sorrows and hopes that affect the human spirit. Be it the vast power of “The Gathering of the Clouds”, the universal truth of the “Untouchable” duo, or the crushing duality of “The Storm Before the Calm”, Weather Systems proves its immeasurable worth with each declaration. However, none of these efforts match the overwhelming emotion, reliability, and magnificence of the record’s last track, “Internal Landscapes”. A final reflection on the bond we shared with those who’ve left us, it’s among the most powerful pieces of music I’ve yet experienced. In fact, it’s one of only two songs that have literally left me frozen in place, speechless and shedding tears (the other being “Heartattack in a Layby” by Porcupine Tree).


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Monday, Mar 10, 2014
The penultimate track on "Weather Systems" is astoundingly powerful and dynamic.

Anathema has battered quite an emotional storm thus far on Weather Systems; each of the previous seven songs has managed to capture an aspect of the human condition with a level of confidence, beauty, and truth that is simply astounding. As you’d expect, the eighth (and second to last) track, “The Lost Child”, is another wonderful mesh of power, delicacy, poeticism, and raw sentiment. In a way, it’s the most surreal yet universal contribution to the record.


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Monday, Mar 3, 2014
Anathema goes for a more straightforward (though no less involving) approach on the seventh track from Weather Systems.

Looking back over the previous six tracks on Weather Systems, you’ll notice several exceptional examples of how Anathema uses the chaotic imbalance of nature to serve as a metaphor for the spectrum of human emotion. However, the record also has several great songs that stray from this idea, such as “The Beginning and the End”. In fact, it’s the first entry since “Untouchable Pt. II” to do this; however, this lack of overt thematic connection, as well as its relatively clear-cut approach, doesn’t damage its power or relevancy in the collection. Really, it’s one of the most plaintive and riveting pieces the group has ever crafted.


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