Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 21, 2011
Today, the intersection of dance music and rock music seems only natural. However, the process has been in the making for decades, and this list provides an introduction to ten of the best albums this genre combination has to offer.

Rock music has come a long way, you know. Charting the evolution of the genre, mapping its seemingly infinite offshoots and hyphenated mini-trends—these would be full time jobs, lifelong careers. Rock twists around with soul, bops along with funk, embraces pop, and (often horrifically) flirts with rap and hip-hop. All of this hybridity speaks to rock ‘n’ roll’s revolutionary spirit, its classic refusal to work cleanly within established borders. Of course, these experiments often come with plenty of controversy among fans and critics alike; when rock, for example, hooks up with the sheen and pulse of dance music, many people are historically just as likely to stare awkwardly at the floor or flee the room as they are to start shimmying. Those who stick around and are willing to get their blood moving have been—for decades now—rewarded with some of the best, most exciting, and most inventive popular music of the 20th and 21st centuries. Today, dance and rock have become so intricately involved with one another that it almost seems beside the point to mention their pairing—look at LCD Soundsystem, for example, who made recent headlines by playing its final show at the legendary Madison Square Garden, a rare feat for an indie dance-rock band with little radio play.


The days when disco and the Bee Gees represented all that is evil to the rock world are long over. To celebrate, here’s a list of ten essential dance-rock albums. There are plenty of worthy records and bands not included here (apologies to ESG, Dinosaur L, and Depeche Mode, to start), so read on and make your own list in the comments section. Get those hips moving.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Jul 13, 2011
The final Harry Potter film is upon us, so why not spin these magic-tinged tunes to commemorate the occasion?

The supreme pop culture manifestation of magic-making for many, the Harry Potter phenomenon reaches its cinematic conclusion this month with the release of The Deathly Hallows, Part 2. Although the pop culture juggernaut certainly has served as a source of inspiration for those in the musical milieu in recent years (look no further than the emergence of J.K. Rowling-quoting “wizard rock” acts like Harry and the Potters), both the light and dark arts have infused certain pop music lyrics for decades.  There were magic-referencing tunes to be found here and there going back to the birth of rock and earlier (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ signature tune “I Put a Spell on You”, for instance), but wizardry truly found a home in music during the late ‘60s hippie heyday, when mind-expanding experimentalism and generational struggles resulted in a widespread of popularization of mysticism (be it Eastern, Celtic, or an indiscriminate hodgepodge of various sources) and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien among young people.  Psychedelic rockers happily embraced magical concerns, and following in their footsteps their offspring in the heavy metal and progressive rock genres devoted themselves to otherworldly explorations of ancient powers and pagan tales on a fairly regular basis, up to and including referencing their favorite fantasy novels in their verses and on record sleeve artwork.


So with all that in mind, here’s five recommended tunes about virtuous spellcasters and evil conjurors, ranging from the 1960s to the 21st century. I have elected to skip over anything that’s directly informed by the Tolkien bibliography, for material available on that topic from the 1960s alone could spawn its own list (why director Peter Jackson never put any Led Zeppelin songs in his Lord of the Rings films, I’ll never understand).  No, wizardry in general is the focus here, and whether it’s viewed as manifestation of light or a tool of wickedness, it’s bound to inspire recordings to try an capture a little of that sorcerous essence.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Jul 7, 2011
With the 25th anniversary deluxe edition of the band's fourth album Lifes Rich Pageant due out soon, here's a look at the top videos R.E.M. made during its tenure on I.R.S. Records.

During its tenure on I.R.S. Records between 1982 and 1987, R.E.M. practically invented the language for alternative rock music videos. Rebuking the style and flash of the first MTV generation, in those years the Athens, Georgia quartet produced beguiling videos (often directed by singer Michael Stipe) to accompany its singles and a select few album cuts that were more art films than pop promos, relying on Super 8 footage, film negatives, montage editing, altered speeds, and other low-cost film-making techniques instead of clichéd plastic-looking sexy models and lip-synced performances to capture the rustic mystery of its music in visual form. Although the look of those vintage R.E.M. clips was admittedly dependent on limited resources, the band and the directors made laudably skillful use of what was available to them, resulting in timeless efforts that are on par artistically with the most acclaimed promos (be they big-budget technical spectacles or similarly clever DIY affairs) from that or any other era.


Tagged as: r.e.m.
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Jul 1, 2011
To celebrate the 25th birthday of the Smiths' masterful album The Queen Is Dead, PopMatters presents a list of the top 13 tracks by the legendary English quartet.

The Smiths, together for a mere five years (1982 to 1987), managed to change the face of rock music and inspired a cult of fandom unmatched since Beatlemania. Formed in Manchester, England, vocalist Steven Patrick Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr wrote most of the group’s material, joined by bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce. The band debuted with its eponymous first record in 1984, an album that introduced Morrissey’s distinctive croon and confessional lyrics to the world, as well as his brilliant partnership with Marr’s ear for melody. Meat Is Murder (1985) marked the Smiths’ greatest commercial success, and its follow-up, The Queen Is Dead (1986), is generally regarded as the band’s masterpiece. The following year saw the release of the group’s final proper LP, Strangeways, Here We Come, a more experimental and muscular album. Several compilation albums—Hatful of Hollow (1984), The World Won’t Listen (1987), and Louder Than Bombs (1987)—collect the band’s stellar non-album tracks, many of which are among the Smiths’ most famous and beloved material.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Jun 22, 2011
When he wasn’t collaborating with wife Linda, working in Wings, doing a duet, or disguised as the Fireman, Paul McCartney was going at it alone post-Beatles. In honor of his 69th birthday and the recent reissues of McCartney and McCartney II, here’s a look at his best solo work.

It’s hard not to get technical when discussing Paul McCartney’s music. When talking over the idea of this list with my editor, I quickly realized how an article called “Paul McCartney’s Best Songs” just couldn’t be done. First, there were songs like “Yesterday”, when he was the only Beatle playing on a Beatles song. Then there were all of those great Wings (AKA Paul McCartney & Wings) songs ranging from “Band on the Run” to “Silly Love Songs”. There were also all of his collaborations, with wife Linda McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Carl Perkins, Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello, Steve Miller, Ringo Starr, and more. And let’s not forget his electronic experiments/rocking under the guise of the Fireman. However, when we really get down to it, McCartney has released 14 solo albums so far, and that’s quite an accomplishment.


Most discussions on Paul’s best work overlook most of these gems in his discography, but in light of the recent reissues of McCartney (1970) and McCartney II (1980), now is the perfect time to change that. With the exception of McCartney, most of his solo work dates from 1980 onward, so let’s count down 41 years of highlights!


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.