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by AJ Ramirez

5 Apr 2011

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the suicide of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, so in tribute to Mr. Unwilling Voice of a Generation I’d like to briefly draw attention to one of his group’s underappreciated gems. Specifically, I’m talking about the first brand-new release the grunge trio unleashed upon the world after conquering the mainstream with its blockbuster second album Nevermind—a song the group elected to issue on indie label Touch & Go as a split single with Texas noise rockers the Jesus Lizard.

It’s wonderfully perverse that Nirvana put out “Oh, the Guilt” in such a manner. Prior to the single’s February 1993 release, Nirvanamania was still riding high, as evidenced by the Christmastime arrival of the rarities collection Incesticide to satiate fans eagerly awaiting a new studio album. So what did the group follow that with? A rarity!  The single had a worldwide pressing of 200,000 copies (only a fraction of the million-plus sales “Smells Like Teen Spirit” racked up in the United States alone), with many of them issued as vinyl records, then considered a dead format by all but the tiniest of labels.  It’s now widely available due to its inclusion on the 2004 box set With the Lights Out, but in case you haven’t had the opportunity or drive to scour through three dense discs of odds-and-ends to uncover it, it’s high time you learned that “Oh, the Guilt” is one ripping piece of scuzz-filled rock

by Zachary Williams

15 Mar 2011

Bud Powell was one of, if not the, greatest jazz pianists we’ve ever known. Most likely, you’ve never heard of him. The man they called ”the Charlie Parker of the piano” had his career damaged by many unfortunate events. The most disheartening were at the hands of the police. At age 20, a drunken Powell was brutally beaten by cops going far beyond the acceptable call of duty. Following the incident, Powell was institutionalized for several months.

Later in life, a marijuana bust was perhaps the last straw. According to his NPR’s Jazz Profiles: “In 1951, Powell was arrested with Thelonious Monk for drug possession. Charges against Bud were dropped, but he was sent to a psychiatric hospital for a year and a half. Finally, it all caught up to Powell and his life took a turn from which he would never fully recover”.

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 AJ Ramirez

25 Jun 2010

If you ever have a sit-down conversation with me about music, you’ll pick up sooner or later that I have a major jones for ‘80s R&B. It’s what I grew up on before I discovered rock music in the mid-1990: slick production, high-energy arrangements, and flat-out funktacular grooves. No slow jams for me: I like my R&B to sound like the soundtrack for the most happening house party ever.

I’m always open to encountering underrated gems from that period, and I was suitably impressed when a friend played me Marcus Miller’s underappreciated funk jam “My Best Friend’s Girlfriend” (which peaked at number 36 on the Billboard Club Play chart in 1984). Admittedly, the song isn’t without its faults. Bathed in a production that sounds extremely dated, the song relies on a synthesized melody line with an atrocious tone, while Miller audibly strains as he attempts to high certain notes. Taken at face value, it’s actually kind of a cheesy song. However, Marcus Miller isn’t just your average glossed-up ‘80s funkateer. Miller has had an extensive decades-spanning career largely rooted in the jazz sphere, working both as a solo artist and in collaboration with heroes like Miles Davis. Miller has some serious chops as a performer and as an arranger, proving it with this uptempo blast that practically digs into the listener with its infectious hooks.

The point where “My Best Friend’s Girlfriend” really starts to work its magic is when it hits the prechorus, where the agonized Miller sings the line “And the way she looks into my arms / Lets me know she wants me” in a staccato ascending melodic figure. That staccato motif is then utilized in chorus, injecting it with a fist-pumping energy that surges in search of release. With a chorus like that, I don’t care if if Miller piles on all the dated synth fills he wants. The 12” vinyl single mix is good, but it’s the album version from Miller’s self-titled 1984 effort that really deserves to be tracked down.

by Henry Guyer

17 Jun 2010

I forget sometimes, sitting in my little studio apartment, the lives that go on directly beyond my four whitewashed walls. Then, later on, leaning over the balcony the first day the sun makes its remarkable summer comeback, I meet my neighbors for a short conversation that lasts just as long as our encounters in the hallway or in the elevator. Alone, I wonder what they are really like. What they do and what they think; how they survive and make sense of everything.

I imagine that this is what Charles Spearin (founding member of Do Make Say Think and multi-instrumentalist for Broken Social Scene) must have thought many times before he started The Happiness Project. Simply put, The Happiness Project uses the inflections of ordinary human speech as a springboard to compose music. On the surface, it is music and performance art, but beneath the sounds lurks a microcosm of modern urban life.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article