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Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011
As a precursor to PopMatters' upcoming retrospective on music in 1991, Sound Affects takes at look at 15 pivotal tracks from the year where dance music's potential to amaze seemed boundless.

The late, great Tony Wilson of Factory Records fame reckoned contemporary music revolutions occurred every 13 years: the Beatles’ first album was released in 1963; after which in 1976, punk kicked off; then 13 years later, in 1989, dance music came up smiling. Aside from the fact Wilson’s theory ran aground shortly after—otherwise, 2002 should have been something amazing; well, better than Britney Spears’ Crossroads—I would argue any attention paid to dance music would best be spent on 1991.


For those 12 glorious apex months, dance music’s potential to amaze seemed boundless. In part because, after Acid’s Big Bang and the outward formation of what was fast becoming a dance universe all to itself, so many bright new worlds of possibility began to sparkle, ripe for exploration. In 1991, the dance music scene was so much to do with that the brilliance of The New: the thrill of fresh and exciting styles, new and instant possibilities realised. No doubt because it was an underground scene—totally self-sufficient, and unhindered by the big-wheels-turn-slowly scheduling processes of the mainstream music industry. What was a thought on a Monday, was a tune on a Tuesday, pressed, circulated, played out and well on the way to being a must-hear by Friday. The majority of all this only made possible by the creative application of sampling and sequencers and the lax (but soon to contract) state of general copyright law.


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Wednesday, Sep 7, 2011
With the upcoming September 27th release of Wilco's The Whole Love, the band’s eighth studio record, it's worth going back and revisiting the group’s impressive discography.

Wilco, perhaps more than any alternative rock band of the past couple years, has taken its listeners on a wild, unexpected journey through a confluence of diverse musical styles. From its earliest days as an offshoot of alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo, to its dabbling with influences from noise rock, Krautrock, orchestra pop, and experimental jazz, to the folksy, simple songs from more recent albums earning the group the derogatory label “daddy rock”, Jeff Tweedy and company are always full of surprises. The band’s lineup has changed frequently and reveals a group constantly pushing itself into uncharted musical territory.


The journey began with A.M., the band’s 1995 debut record, which retained much of the group’’s alt-country roots. With Being There (1996), Wilco’s experimental side was already showing on such tracks as “Misunderstood” and “Sunken Treasure”, though classic rock and roots music were still obvious influences. On Summerteeth (1999) the group expanded its sound exponentially.  It was clear that the band members, especially guitarist/keyboardist Jay Bennett, had fallen under the spell of Brian Wilson-style orchestral pop. String sections, unconventional percussion, and complex keyboard songs peppered this collection of pop songs.


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Thursday, Sep 1, 2011
PopMatters begins a new series examining at the widespread emergence of music video in the 1980s. From major artists like the Clash, David Bowie, and U2 to less famous brethren such as Haysi Fantayzee and Grandmaster Caz, these are the unsung videos from that decade that might have missed your attention the first time around.

From the moment MTV first went on the air on 1 August 1981 with the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star”, the 1980s have come to be defined by iconic music videos. Mention music television, and one conjures up a motley cast of characters indelibly stamped in one’s noggin: slackster buskers-in-overalls (“Come on Eileen”), renaissance faire revelers (“Safety Dance”), creepy android stowaway chicks (“I Ran”), or an even creepier boy singing for his supper to a jury in blackface, making jazz hands gestures (“Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”) . The new video medium was an inflection point for modern pop music, launching the careers of the camera-savvy (Duran Duran, Madonna, Billy Idol), providing veteran musicians with an opportunity to shine (Robert Palmer, Dire Straits), and allowing even the most accomplished artists to ascend to new heights (Michael Jackson, Tina Turner).


Thanks to the ubiquity of social media, the music video has vaulted from curiosity to shiny new toy to killer app, an artist-controlled platform for launching talent into mass consciousness, judging by the overnight success of growing numbers of YouTube sensations. In future weeks, we will take a look at the seminal decade when music videos first emerged, the ‘80s, including a look at iconic videos, the most over-the-top and lo-fi productions, and those creations that, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, have either stood the test of time, or have aged not so well.


This list will take a look at unsung videos from that decade. The videos spotlighted here find their way on the list either because they might have missed your attention the first time around or they merit further attention. They include lost hits, videos that made a critical contribution but never received their proper due, as well as overlooked deeper cuts from popular artists.


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Thursday, Aug 25, 2011
On the eve of her 12th studio album Night of Hunters, we take a trip through her Amos' catalogue to discern her 10 best tracks. To like Tori is to LOVE Tori -- even if you hate what she’s become.

There are very few artists who manage to maintain a rabid and loyal fanbase such as Tori Amos. To like Tori is to LOVE Tori—even if you hate what she’s become. Those who refer to themselves as “Toriphiles” (I know), are an opinionated bunch, who love to speculate on the intricacies of her career—why she released this album, and why these songs have remained unheard, etc.  What’s really interesting about her fanbase is that they rarely (if ever) agree with each other about what is considered Amos’ seminal work. There is never a consensus, and there is rarely respect for each others’ differing opinions.  Taking three steps back though, you can examine the patterns inherent in her fanbase and realize that there are common running threads throughout the discussions of what makes Amos so great.


Amos’ fans also love to make lists. You can venture on to ANY Tori Amos forum site and read the endless threads that ask fans to organize the musician’s catalogue from best to worst—filtered through some interesting categories such as: “Five Best Harpsichord Songs”, or “Favourite Unreleased B-Sides”. So, a Top Ten list is nothing new for this group.  Instead, this list is intended as a brief introduction for non-fans—those who haven’t been spoiled by the odd quirkiness that Tori Amos can often exude making her less accessible to the mainstream public.  It is meant for those who have always wanted to know more about Tori Amos, but didn’t know where to start.


Tagged as: list this, tori amos
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Wednesday, Aug 17, 2011
RHCP has unquestionably produced some of the most memorable and influential rock songs of the past couple decades. On the occasion of the band's new album I’m With You debuting this month, it’s worth revisiting the Chili Peppers’ extensive catalog.

Few bands from the alternative era have not only survived, but thrived, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Los Angeles group formed in 1983 and featured original members Anthony Kiedis (vocals), Flea (bass), Hillel Slovak (guitar), and Jack Irons (drums). Slovak tragically died of a heroin overdose in 1988, after which Irons also left the band. Slovak and Irons were ultimately replaced with John Frusciante (guitar) and Chad Smith (drums). The group’s first three albums, Red Hot Chili Peppers(1984), Freaky Styley(1985), and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan(1987), helped the group gain an underground following, yet failed to break through to the mainstream. These records did establish the Chili Peppers’ signature early sound, though, funky grooves coupled with a punk rock attitude. Mother’s Milk (1989) garnered critical praise for the mature, introspective nature of tracks like “Higher Ground” and “Knock Me Down”. 


With the Rick Rubin-produced Blood Sugar Sex Magik(1991), the Red Hot Chili Peppers became rock stars for the masses. The confessional single “Under the Bridge” reached the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became one of the defining alternative rock songs of the 1990s. Guitarist John Frusciante, not keen to deal with the band’s newfound stardom, abruptly left the group and was replaced by former Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. While their next album, One Hot Minute(1995), was a commercial success, its downtrodden lyrics and pseudo-psychedelic guitar sounds failed to impress critics. After Navarro’s departure from the group, the Chili Peppers were on the brink of splitting up. In 1998, though, Frusciante, fresh out of rehab, agreed to rejoin the band. Californication(1999) was the Chili Pepper’s big comeback, with three #1 Modern Rock singles and widespread critical acclaim. The album was more melodic and thematically unified than previous efforts. By the Way(2002) spawned five hit singles and saw the band continue their lyrical approach. The album was notable for the increased artistic presence of Frusciante, with the musician often layering multiple guitar parts and writing string arrangements for several songs. The band’s most recent effort, Stadium Arcadium(2006), was their most sprawling record to date, a two-disc set which spawned multiple hits.


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