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Tuesday, Jul 2, 2013
As Hov readies the release of Magna Carta Holy Grail, it's time to take a look at the 20 best songs his career has offered so far.

To try and nail down a list of the best Jay-Z songs is kind of like trying to nail down a list of Michael Jordan’s best moments on a basketball court. Moments—not dunks, not passes, not shots, not highlights—moments. Because much like his roundball peer, the man born Shawn Carter has built his empire not by merely showcasing his exceptional rhyming skills; rather he has set himself apart by making forward-looking, awe-inspiring, never-been-done-before revelatory choices (lest we be remembered who was the first artist to pen Auto-tune’s obituary with any amount of success) that has helped lead a personalized sense of transcendence throughout all of hip-hop.


He’s been the first rapper to age gracefully, the one who embraced a preconceived ageism within a subculture by confronting it head on, proclaiming “30 was the new 20” without anyone even remotely challenging as much. He took one of the most electrifying beefs the medium has ever seen (with Nas) and turned it into a lucrative business proposition, proving first-hand that it can be wise to swallow our pride every now and then. And now, to top it all off, he’s developed a sports agency, signing some of the most celebrated athletes American sport currently offers at breakneck speed, reminding us all that his mind wanders far beyond the realm of simple beats and complicated words.


Tagged as: hip-hop, jay-z, list this
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Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013
In anticipation and celebration of Exile in Guyville’s 20th anniversary, Sound Affects shares its picks for the top five Girly Sound tracks, the record that formed the blueprint for Exile and later portions of Liz Phair's output.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Liz Phair’s landmark debut Exile in Guyville, a record that kicked ass, took names, and set the alternative rock scene ablaze. Critics unanimously adored it, sales (for an indie release in a YouTube-less age) were considerable, and legions of listeners (male and female alike), found themselves dumbfounded and touched at the blistering precision of Phair’s observations and insights into the peaks and valleys of sex, love, success (or lack thereof), and growing up. Like a clairvoyant’s crystal ball, Phair saw all, knew all, and was always transparent—sometimes painfully so.


Guyville also holds the distinction of being one of the most expertly subversive albums of all time, Phair cleverly skewering those emotionally fickle music men who would later join the chorus in singing her praises. On some of the LP’s more cherished tunes, she crassly lamented her desire to be some beautiful, longhaired hipster boy’s “blowjob queen” (“Flower”); masterfully captured the awkwardness of the one-night stand (“Fuck and Run”); and brilliantly revised old-hat domestic mundanity by dropping lines such as “It’s true that I stole your lighter / And it’s also true that I lost the map / But when you said that I wasn’t worth talking to / I had to take your word on that” (“Divorce Song”) or “Take out the garbage on Tuesday nights / Seems like the small things are the only things I’ll fight” (“Gunshy”).


Tagged as: list this, liz phair
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Wednesday, Jun 12, 2013
You're so vain but this song is about you.

It’s an awkward feeling when you overhear your friends talking about you. Sometimes it’s a deliberate barb, a calculated sentence dropped by an ex-lover into the ears of your mutual friends. You might hear someone ranting about you when they think that you’re out of earshot. Or, as in Courtney Love’s case, you receive a notice that your enemy Dave Grohl has asked a court to evaluate your mental condition.


Imagine if that song is a number one hit single—and you’re the famous who inspired that single.


Here are eight songs that are veiled dedications to another famous person. The Beatles air their grievances. Amy Winehouse pines after Nas. Joan Baez reflects on her unsuccessful fling with “the unwashed phenomenon”. And Carrie Fisher advises that if you can have Paul Simon write a song about you, go for it.


As always, we encourage you to add to this list in the comments section.


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Wednesday, May 29, 2013
To celebrate the National's new record, Trouble Will Find Me, we count down frontman Matt Berninger's best lyrics.

There are plenty of bands living in Brooklyn, but most of them don’t headline the new 19,000-seat Barclays Center when they play a hometown show. And most of them definitely don’t do it while their frontman croons a lyric like, “It’s a common fetish / For a doting man / To ballerina on the coffee table / Cock in hand.” The National does both. You can’t read a press piece about the band and its fantastic new record, Trouble Will Find Me, without reading about the glacial pace of the National’s success—it took almost 15 years of workhorse touring, much of it in obscurity, for the group to become indie rock’s current father figures. The band’s music, as most of those articles will also note, isn’t revolutionary or particularly flashy in its own right, just thoroughly well-composed and painstakingly crafted to the point where seamlessness can be mistaken for something staid by listeners without much of an attention span.


The real draw, the thing that sets the National apart as a subtly subversive and calmly brilliant band, is in Matt Berninger’s lyrics. (And, yes, the rich baritone that delivers them.) While most of his similarly successful peers—who shall remain nameless—are writing ENGL101 screeds that translate to “The suburbs, they’re bad!” or taking a quick break from self-pleasuring to rhyme balaclava with horchata, Berninger’s lyrics marry razorwire wit, plainspoken clarity, and evocative surrealisms to create a voice at once immediately relatable and pleasantly mysterious. Choosing his best lyrical work is a game in subjectivity, but I’ve tried to pick songs that stand out from start to finish. Leave your own favorite lines in the comments thread.


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Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Some fans may prefer the slow-baked emotional trouncing of the band's early years, while others may prefer the fuzz and buzz of its rockier mid-era riots. Either way, Cathedral was a hugely influential band then, and will remain so long into the future. Here are five formidable (and ear-splitting) reasons to mourn Cathedral's passing.

When singer Lee Dorrian exited UK-based grindcore pioneer Napalm Death in the late ‘80s, few would have predicted his next musical venture would so drastically reduce the tempo and ramp up the theatrics. Dorrian, who had grown disillusioned with punk and death metal at the time, formed doom legend Cathedral in 1989 with bassist Mark Griffiths and guitarist Gary ‘Gaz’ Jennings. The band members’ love of bands such as Black Sabbath, Candlemass and Pentagram, as well as a host of other ‘60s and ‘70s cult rockers, provided the original spark. Twenty or so years and nine albums later, Cathedral announced that it was set to extinguish that flame, bowing out after its tenth studio album, this year’s The Last Spire.


It’s enormously sad to see Cathedral cease, although, given the group’s predilection for mournful suites, that’s all very apt. The band was still making vital, passionate music—in fact, Cathedral’s last few albums have been among the best of its career. However, there’s a great deal of goodwill and acceptance surrounding what would otherwise be a tragic event. Respect for Dorrian is assured due to his role as overlord of highly regarded UK label Rise Above, and there’s comfort to be found in the fact that Cathedral has called a halt to proceedings when it wanted to, before diminishing creative returns tainted the band’s prodigious legacy.


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