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by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

11 Jan 2016


Editor’s Note: This article was published on 14 January 2011.

Klinger: I gotta be honest with you, Mendelsohn. For years, I operated under the assumption that the only Bowie you really needed were the Changesonebowie and Changestwobowie compilations. Bowie just seemed like one of those artists for whom the hits told the story. That’s not a dig, either; I was inclined to lump CCR and Sly in there, too. But I was under the impression that anything beyond the FM playlists was strictly for people who showed up at parties wearing glittery unitards.

Eventually I came around and recognized that there’s a lot going on in Bowie’s deep catalog (I think it was Station to Station that did it for me, or maybe Hunky Dory), but even so, if you had played The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars for me during that time, I’m not entirely sure you would have changed my mind.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

8 Jan 2016


Mendelsohn: The Decemberists have a unique gift, Klinger. They are able to take a myriad of disparate genres, thematic material, diverse ideas and turn it into a cohesive work of art. And I’m not talking a little genre-bending or obscure references. The group’s 2006 album The Crane Wife is chock-full of historical and literary references ranging, in no particular order, from a Japanese fairy tale, tales of death and love lost covering the last 300 years — including a trip to colonial times, the Civil War and a modern day forbidden love not unlike Romeo and Juliet. There are also a songs about an an Ulster loyalist group from the 1970s, the World War II siege of Leningrad, and another one detailing a well-planned heist of unnamed goods. All of this is splayed out over some combination for folk rock, prog rock, plain old rock rock and some sweet pop thrown in for good measure. The Crane Wife is also the band’s debut on a major label, marking a shift from being indie darlings with a penchant for folk ditties to major-label players pushing a very diverse set of influences into the mainstream.

And, if that wasn’t enough, The Crane Wife comes off as a cohesive set, loosely connected through lyrical material yet widely divergent from start to finish. Maybe the most impressive part of the entire affair is that this album comes off as meticulously put together but never plays down to the listener who might have no idea what the Colin Meloy, the lead singer and songwriter of the band, is referencing at any given moment. I hope you were paying attention, Klinger, there will be a quiz later.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

18 Dec 2015


Klinger: So I forget why exactly, but awhile back I was looking over the Great List’s breakdown of the most acclaimed albums of 1985. (was I reliving my high school days? researching Tears for Fears? pretending I was working? Theories abound.) Anywho, I noticed something fascinating. One of the most acclaimed albums from that year was a 22-year-old live recording from Sam Cooke, Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963. Digging a little deeper, I was suddenly reading reviews that suggest this album was actually superior to James Brown’s Live at the Apollo  which is a strong statement to say the least. My world suddenly seemed topsy turvy. Old timey records were on the Pazz & Jop Poll. Critics were besmirching the Godfather of Soul himself. Dogs and cats were cohabitating. My intriguedness grew. I needed to lie down.

Before I did, I pulled the CD off the shelf. I hadn’t really sat down and listened to Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 in years, but Mrs. Klinger has informed on several occasions that if she ever had access to a time machine, her first order of business would be to prevent Sam Cooke’s murder. Sometimes her love for Sam Cooke makes me uncomfortable. Regardless, after one listen I immediately understood why this album resonated so much with critics in 1985. I’m prepared to go on at length about it here 30 years later. After this week of intensive listening, I’m sure you’re ready to go on as well. So let’s compare notes. Go on, Mendelsohn.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

4 Dec 2015


Mendelsohn: I still have a little bit of a new music addiction, Klinger. There is nothing like getting a new record and being blown away by something I have never heard before. In reality, though, nothing sounds new anymore. After nearly a decade of Counterbalance, half of which we spent wandering the wilderness of the Great List, my brain has been trained to see through the wall of sound and start to dissect the influence behind each and every note. Some days I find the experience to be enlightening. Some days it can be crushing as it sucks the joy out of the simple experience of hearing new music. But then, that is the yin and yang of music, nay, of life itself. Pardon me for waxing philosophic, but I’ve been listening to Tame Impala’s newest record Currents and the psychedelic pop licks are starting to melt my brain.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

20 Nov 2015


Klinger: The Great List, the compendium of critical hive-mindedness from which we still draw a good amount of inspiration, is a fascinating document, albeit one that demonstrates the extent to which critics the world over have fallen short in acknowledging some of your less traditionally cool genres. So while we spent the first couple years listening to way more trip-hop than I ever thought possible, country music, which is so ingrained in rock & roll’s DNA, has been all but ignored. In fact, the only artist to shatter the hayseed ceiling so far has been Johnny Cash, whose At Folsom Prison LP has been meandering around the back half of the 100s for years (it’s currently on the rise again, clocking in at No. 157). And for the record, I’m not counting Gram Parsons. Readers can go argue with me over on Facebook if they want.

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