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Friday, Jun 27, 2014
I can feel this week's album's energy from two planets away. I got my drink, I got my music, I will share it, but today I'm yelling. Yelling about a 2012 hip-hop breakthrough and the subject of this week's Counterbalance, that is.

Mendelsohn: We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last couple of years. But we have yet to talk about an album like Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 release Good Kid M.A.A.D. City. This album was ranked number two for the year, behind Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, and currently sits at number 397 on the Great List (which seems unfairly low, but what do I know?). There is a cinematic quality to this record, one that exceeds even the best concept albums that rock ‘n’ roll had to offer — namely the Who’s Tommy and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Those two albums seem almost silly in nature compared to the stark realities and self-awareness of Lamar’s vision. The incredible storytelling and unmatched lyricism has left me at a loss for words, Klinger. Where do you begin with an album as deeply layered as Good Kid M.A.A.D. City?  Hip-hop albums have been few and far between on the Great List, and while I enjoy hip-hop and am happy to see it slowly working toward its rightful position next to rock ‘n’roll on the List, I can’t help but feel completely overwhelmed by the breadth of material on this record.


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Friday, Jun 20, 2014
You should know compared to people on a global scale our kind has had it relatively easy. Jason Isbell gets that -- and a lot more as well. His 2013 release is this week’s Counterbalance.

Klinger: As much as we music nerds like to praise our rock stars for their untamed excesses, weaving their tales of substance-fueled debauchery into the grand narrative of pop mythology, we don’t often spend much time thinking about the realities of the lifestyle. For all the talk about Led Zeppelin’s mud sharks or Sid Vicious’ bad night at the Chelsea Hotel or Fleetwood Mac’s coked-out romantic recriminations, it’s easy to forget that these are the actions of actual people, who had to wake up the next morning and look at themselves in the mirror. Jason Isbell, former partner in the songwriting triumvirate Drive-By Truckers, has crafted an incredible new album, Southeastern, that chronicles the aftermath of people’s excesses, especially his own. It also reveals him to be a songwriter of uncommon depth and humanity.


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Friday, Jun 13, 2014
This week’s Counterbalance looks at a 2004 release from a relatively obscure Columbus band, hoping to gain an understanding of acclaim and success from a somewhat different perspective.

Mendelsohn: A couple of weeks ago, when we were talking about the Japandroids, we briefly talked about the fickle nature of the music business and just how much luck it takes to break a band upon the public consciousness. This week, I present you with the Tough and Lovely and their 2004 record Born of the Stars. The Tough and Lovely were an outfit out of Columbus, Ohio, who released an EP and two albums before, I can only assume, moving on to other things. They popped up on the tail end of the garage rock revival, and, for my money, released some of the best music to come out of the movement in the mid-2000s. I saw the Tough and Lovely play in a dingy bar in my hometown nearly a decade ago — a dingy bar that I grew up in and where I witnessed some of the most memorable concerts of my young life — a dingy bar that no longer exists, wiped out in the name of urban renewal. The Tough and Lovely were one of the last concerts I saw in that bar and while this piece isn’t an ode to that rathole my friends and I used to hang out in, it does fit into the nostalgia I feel whenever I pull out Born of the Stars.


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Friday, Jun 6, 2014
Hey, how you doing. Sorry you can't get through. Why don't you leave your name and number and I'll get back to you. In the meantime, a 1991 hip-hop milestone is the week's Counterbalance. You could read that.

Klinger: A couple months ago, the news broke that venerable hip-hop artists De La Soul were offering up their entire catalog for download free of charge. Because De La Soul’s albums are, of course, chock full of samples, some of which are buried so deeply that it would take a sonic archaeologist to sort it all out, placing them on iTunes would present copyright headaches that could stretch out for decades and singlehandedly employ all of the nation’s attorneys. Offering them free of charge neatly sidestepped the issue—at least for the time being. Needless to say, not only did my dial-up modem get quite the workout, but the news also led to an inevitable flurry of internet thinkpieces about De La Soul and their place in hip-hop history.


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Friday, May 30, 2014
Long lit up tonight and still drinking. Don't we have anything to live for? Well of course we do, but till they come true, we're drinking — and listening to this 2012 blast from Japandroids.

Mendelsohn: I’m fascinated by the sheer amount of luck it takes to make it in the music world. Not only do bands have to be good at what you do, they also have to get people to notice them, then like them, then tell other people who have a less discerning taste in music to like them as well. That sort of proposition is even harder these days with the demise of the gatekeepers, the removal of critics from their seats on high, and the overabundance of stimulation waiting to assault the senses at every turn, both in the real and digital worlds.


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