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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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Wednesday, May 8, 2013
As a young man, Billy Bragg reinvented punk rock with songs as fiercely political as they were emotional. Three decades after he released his first album, PopMatters counts down his ten best outings from those early years.

At this point Billy Bragg is more than just a musician; he’s an institution. The past 15 years have seen him become an author, political commentator, and de facto curator/proselytizer of the Woody Guthrie legacy, in addition to his own musical output. Given his current status as a beloved, NPR-friendly raconteur in America and “national treasure” back in England, it’s hard to remember a time when Bragg was a divisive figure who invented his own brand of scrappy folk-punk that was equal parts love songs and socialism. Bragg’s latest album, March’s Tooth & Nail continues in the mold of his recent albums featuring lots of the upbeat, soulful roots music that has increasingly dominated his records since 1996’s William Bloke. His early career however, sounded much different.

Following the dissolution of his first band, Riff Raff, and a brief stint in the British Army, Bragg burst onto the scene as a solo musician with little more than his heavily accented voice and a slightly-distorted guitar on 1983’s mini-album, Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs. Spy, which set the template for his early work. The following year he released a proper full-length, Brewing Up with Billy Bragg, which added only occasional production touches to his stark guitar songs. He expanded his sound further on his “difficult third album”, Talking with the Taxman About Poetry in 1986 which was his first top ten album in the UK. Workers Playtime (1988) was his breakup album, which saw also Bragg finally cave in and actually bring drums into the mix. Finally, in 1991 he released his pop masterpiece, Don’t Try This at Home. Recorded with an all-star cast including members of the Smiths, R.E.M., and Kirsty MacColl, the record gave him his highest-charting single, got him on Late Night with David Letterman, and allowed him to tour the world with a full band in tow. It also marked the end of his early work, as he would take five years off from recording after Don’t Try This at Home and would return to the studio a husband and father with new responsibilities and concerns.

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