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Wednesday, Nov 9, 2011
New Order's debut album, Movement, celebrates its 30th birthday this month. To celebrate, we're counting down the classic group's 15 best tracks.

New Order’s debut album, Movement (1981), celebrates its 30th birthday on November 13th, 2011. In its initial 13-year run, the quartet, hailing from Salford, England, and the nearby Manchester-based Factory Records scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, accomplished something typically English and quaint: it changed the face of rock music. Guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris decided to keep making music together after the dissolution of their previous group, post-punk heroes Joy Division, following the 1980 suicide of frontman Ian Curtis. The trio picked up keyboardist Gillian Gilbert and moved Sumner to an uneasy position as lead vocalist, but initially found it difficult to impress the same critics and fans that so adored Joy Division. Movement displays a band still indebted to its former selves, exploring Joy Division’s dark, seething sound without pushing it much forward.


However, the album has aged remarkably well, and critics and fans alike have come to regard it as a classic. By the time New Order released its second record, Power, Corruption & Lies (1983), the band had found its own footing: a largely synth-driven, kick-drum-fueled affair, Power (and the non-album cut that preceded it, “Blue Monday”, which became the best-selling single in 12” format in the UK’s history) gave the group its first real commercial and critical breakthrough. Looking back now, New Order’s sound defines the landscape of 1980s’ popular rock for many ears, its danceable rhythms and quick, clean melodies inspiring a slew of paler imitators then and a new onslaught of dance-punk bands in this past decade.


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Wednesday, Nov 2, 2011
by PopMatters Staff
The Occupy Everything movement continues to grow and build strength. Here are 20 of the highlights from our 2007 protest songs series that remain as relevant as ever and could well be a soundtrack for our times.

Check out the full series, “PopMatters Picks: Say It Loud! 65 Great Protest Songs”.


 
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, 4th Movement (1824)


Whether Beethoven’s adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy” was actually intended as any sort of protest remains open to debate—the origins of the theory seem to center on an editor’s footnote in a novel called Das Musikfest by Robert Griepenkerl. Still, that Schiller wrote his ode to freedom and subsequently switched it to joy for fear of retribution from a Prussian government that was hardly welcoming to revolutionary thinkers, remains an attractive theory. That Beethoven would choose to incorporate such a text at the same time Metternich’s Carlsbad Decrees were suppressing artists in the German Confederacy certainly seems a bold statement addressing such oppression. The European Union’s 1971 adoption of the work as the European Anthem would seem to take the wind out of the sails of any revolutionary power it once had, but the late ‘80s would resurrect its power as a protest song. “Ode to Joy” was broadcast in Tiananmen Square during the famous protests of 1989 and its performance conducted by Leonard Bernstein at the fall of the Berlin Wall later that year (with “joy” changed to “freedom”— freude to freiheit) reaffirmed the revolutionary power of Beethoven’s masterpiece. Even if Beethoven’s intent was simply to express the wonder of living, the joy he felt at being able to continue composing even though by then he was completely deaf, he would likely be pleased at the powerful meaning ascribed to his magnum opus.—Mike Schiller


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Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011
The Hold Steady's music represents a delightfully perverse amalgamation of the Rolling Stones’ unbridled sexuality, Jack Kerouac’s open-road spirit, and the Replacement’s independent sensibility. No doubt, any of these 10 songs would make a great “gateway drug” for anyone interested in discovering the charms of the group for the first time.

Brooklyn’s the Hold Steady has become one of the hardest working, critically-acclaimed live indie rock bands of the past decide. Its concerts are characterized by frontman Craig Finn’s infectiously energetic delivery style and the band’s magical, classic rock-infused chemistry. The Hold Steady’s music represents a delightfully perverse amalgamation of the Rolling Stones’ unbridled sexuality, Jack Kerouac’s open-road spirit, and the Replacement’s independent sensibility. While the group’s live shows are often venerated to a sacred level above itss five studio LPs, the astonishing performances wouldn’t be possible without a prodigious collection of skillfully constructed songs.


Listed below you will find ten songs that represent the Hold Steady’s straightforward yet contagiously energetic sensibility. Each of these tunes stands out not only as a staple at Hold Steady concerts (with one or two notable exceptions), but also as the most memorable moments in the band’s varied recorded catalog. No doubt, any of these ten songs would make a great “gateway drug” for anyone interested in discovering the charms of the group for the first time. Happy listening!


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Wednesday, Oct 19, 2011
As a complement to PopMatters' "Nevermind Nostalgia" retrospective on music in 1991, Sound Affects takes at look at a partial selection of the year's hip-hop highlights that lean more towards beats production than the era’s increasingly popular gangsta genre.

The year 1991 was one of astonishing riches in hip-hop, landing (depending somewhat on your definition) somewhere in the middle of the genre’s “golden age”. Building on the innovations of Marley Marl, Ced Gee, and others, the producers of the early ‘90s—among them Pete Rock, Diamond D, Large Professor, and DJ Premier—built complex sample-based productions and drew from a palette that included increasingly obscure soul jazz, jazz-funk, and R&B cuts—and did so in an atmosphere of ferocious innovation and competition. At the same time the gangsta genre narrowed hip-hop’s militant political street ethic—epitomized previously by politically conscious stances of Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy, among others—but the resulting controversy took the genre to a wider market.


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Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011
One author's farewell ranking of the top 10 R.E.M. LPs illustrates that some albums that were monster hits have not aged especially well, while another album entitled Monster has, and that the usual suspects remain indelible after all these years.

R.E.M.’s recent announcement that it is officially calling it quits has resulted in a predictable and appropriate outpouring of respect and appreciation. While some older school fans may have stopped acknowledging the band following drummer Bill Berry’s 1997 departure, some folks from the younger generation might not have realized how long R.E.M. had been around. Impossible as it may be to believe, “Losing My Religion” was a smash hit two full decades ago. With the benefit of hindsight, we can break R.E.M.’s career into three rough periods: the underground I,R.S. Records years, the Warner Bros. “wonder years”, and the post-Berry output. Out of respect for the post-Berry content, we won’t need to damn the band’s last five efforts with faint praise. While difficult (if enjoyable) to rank the band’s ten best recordings, it should surprise few folks that the albums after 1997 don’t make the cut. Some albums that were monster hits have not aged especially well; another album entitled Monster has. The usual suspects remain indelible after all these years. Here is my brief overview of R.E.M.’s enduring legacy.


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