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Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014
A coffee house fixture in Los Angeles, Beck nearly got lost in the deluge of alt-rockers with his left-field hit "Loser". Then his follow-up album put him in the category of musical visionary. Ranging from barely-contained chaotic works to seamless masterpieces, here are his ten best efforts.

When “Loser” broke in 1994, alt-rock was still sorting through the deluge of acts major labels pounced on in the post-Nirvana landscape. If anyone predicted they could tell which acts were going on to lasting careers (e.g. Radiohead, Sheryl Crow) and which acts were destined for footnote ‘90s relic status (e.g. Soup Dragons, Candlebox), they were lying.


That’s what made Beck‘s biography so intriguing. On first listen, “Loser” was as much a novelty song as Deadeye Dick’s “New Age Girl”. But repeated listens of his breakthrough album Mellow Gold showed an artist who sounded like he took all of the signature sounds of Los Angeles (punk, Latino-infused rock, hip-hop, and folk) and put them in a slow cooker and turned it on “low” for about 12 hours.


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Thursday, Feb 13, 2014
During a week where you're bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Valentine’s week is saturated with ads for ridiculously overpriced roses and chocolates that you’re supposed to buy your significant other to prove you love them at least for one day a year. It’s also a holiday that obviously excludes those who are single, or those who are still trying to pick up the pieces of a pervious relationship. Some of the greatest albums have been born from this exact scenario.


The most famous of these albums have backstories as interesting as the music. Be it a musician who retreated into the woods of Wisconsin, an artist who chose to follow-up a mega-selling blockbuster with a decidedly unanthematic look at a disintegrating relationship, or a group of musicians who were breaking up with one another under a haze of cocaine, these albums provide the soundtrack to that other side of love.


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Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014
When I think about romance, only one name comes to mind: Ja Rule. What other artist so delicately crafts his words of affection? What other artist has such a unique and hauntingly beautiful perspective on romance? Yes, we are joking.

Valentine’s Day is coming up this week. Call me a sap, but I love this holiday. Even when I don’t have a significant other, I find myself swept up in the romantic sentiments, gloriously bad romantic comedies, and boxes of chocolate (To: Me, From: Me). But what do I love more than anything on Valentine’s Day? Love songs, of course! And when I was asked to put together a list of songs for Valentine’s Day, only one name came to mind: rapper Ja Rule.


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Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014
There's been a recent trend of pop songs that specifically criticize pop music and pop culture, where pop stars seem to be trying to distance themselves from pop... while still being pop.

Satire has a long history in music. From medieval troubadours to Randy Newman, music has been a great vehicle for political and social criticism. But lately, I’ve noticed a trend of pop songs that specifically criticize pop music and pop culture. Songs that are unabashedly pop while attacking unabashedly pop music. These songs have their cake and eat it too, and maybe that’s another layer of intentional satire. Whether it’s the subtle parody of hedonistic culture of Ke$ha or the direct criticism in Lorde’s “Royals”, pop stars seem to be trying to distance themselves from pop… while still being pop. Call it a symptom of the age of irony or a sign that pop has gotten so vapid that even its practitioners want it to change, it’s an interesting phenomenon either way.


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Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014
With the very fine new album Rave Tapes out this month, PopMatters looks back on Mogwai's rich career by picking 13 of the finest songs from the full span of the post-rock band's work.

Back in the ‘90s some writers started calling a fairly unrelated clutch of bands “post-rock”, a genre name no more or less sensible or grandiose than most of them. While the term was originally intended to refer to any act that was somehow advancing past the boundaries of rock music without, err, becoming some other genre, it quickly calcified into pretty much referring to guitar-based bands that specialized in long, instrumental songs that often built to huge crescendos. Like many minor genres, it described plenty of wonderful music but was as notable for how the notable acts in the field refused to just play, well, post-rock.


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