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Thursday, Oct 6, 2011
In this second installment of Sound Affects' retrospective of music videos from the 1980s, we focus on 20 promos that have, remarkably, stood the test of time.

In the first part of our series spotlighting music videos in the 1980s, we took a look at some of the more unsung clips from the era. The dawning of this artistic platform was an exciting time for all involved: musicians, video directors, artists—diving head first into a new medium with little in the way of definitive standards. Working against a tabula rasa, and with low barriers to entry, the possibilities were endless. As we peer over into a mineshaft of archived content, we find a lot of quality work that held up well, and others that… um, well, you be the judge. There are a number of items that factor into a video’s obsolescence.


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Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011
Amidst all the laudatory goodwill being sent R.E.M.'s way in the wake of its breakup last week, not everyone is convinced they should give a hoot in the first place. Here are ten songs that might change your mind.

Amidst the deluge of news coverage about the disbandment of R.E.M. last week, one fact has made itself widely-known: not everyone gives a damn. Though the mainstream and music press have largely treated the event with measured reflection and affectionate eulogizing, trawling through comment sections of dozens of R.E.M. breakup articles I have come across a surprisingly large collection of voices that either relish this development, go out of their way to indicate that they could care less, or enquire what the big deal ever was. In my own tribute marking the demise of the group, I examined the logical reasons why these attitudes exist. Still, it’s kind of strange seeing how polarizing R.E.M. and its output has become, especially given that 15 years ago these guys appeared to be universally beloved.


Ok, so maybe you’ve never fathomed why R.E.M. has been at times held in such reverence because rock critics for eons have insisted you start by listening to Murmur or Automatic for the People all the way through to (in their view) properly savor these totemic works, and the experience instead left you bored out of your mind. Or maybe your knowledge of the group is casual, and your exposure by osmosis to “Losing My Religion” or “Man on the Moon” has left you uninterested in exploring further. In the hopes of correcting the (in my view) largely mishandled advocacy of the alt-rock band’s catalog, I have assembled this handy 10-track introduction to R.E.M. No, this is not a list of the absolute best or most “important” R.E.M. songs ever; it’s not even meant to give you a full, nuanced picture of the group. What this is is a collection of 10 rather strong tracks—both the atypical and the defining—that are likely grab your ear instantly or act as accessible gateways to the ensemble’s more idiosyncratic qualities. If you’re still not sold on the group by the end, that’s absolutely fine—no one should tell you what you can and can’t like. But at the very least, hopefully afterward you might have a better idea of what the fuss has been about all these years.


Tagged as: list this, r.e.m.
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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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