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Friday, Jul 20, 2012
As the World's Greatest Detective is set to triumph at the box office yet again this weekend with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, Sound Affects shines a Bat-Signal on one of the most essential components of any Batman film or TV series -- the music.

From his inception, Batman has always been a very cinematic character. Though borne of and forever linked to the comic book medium, his early exploits drew liberally from filmic inspirations ranging from noir to German Expressionism to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, cribbing their odd camera angles and generous shadows to convey, drama, dread, and excitement on the four-color page. So it should be no surprise that more than any of his superhero peers, Batman has become an icon on both the big and small screens, one who has starred in everything from low-budget serials to summer blockbusters to stylized animated adventures.

As the masked vigilante is poised to conquer movie screens worldwide once again this week with the release of the much-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, Sound Affects would like to shine a Bat-Signal on one particularly essential component of any Batman film or TV series—the music. Be it strum und drang orchestrations or the latest pop sounds, the music that accompanies the Caped Crusader’s extra-comic exploits has always played a key role in crafting the right atmosphere, upping the stakes, and punctuating the narrative developments—not to mention the on-screen fisticuffs. Quibble all you want with the make-up of the final list (Hans Zimmer’s formless and indistinct score for the Christopher Nolan films is nowhere in sight, and Shirley Walker’s character motifs for Batman: The Animated Series would assuredly have numbers 11 and up all sewn up if this article was doubled in size). But if you are going to take anything away from this countdown, it should be confirmation that Batman, perhaps more than any modern fictional hero, has proven to be a steady source of inspiration for a wildly divergent array of great theme music for well over half a century.

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Friday, Jul 13, 2012
PopMatters celebrates the polymaths who have devoted their life's work to a multitude of artistic endeavours and in turn, emphatically etched their own legend in the annuals of underground metal. This is a list of the genre's most influential bands/artists in existence today. Kneel in reverence; the Gods are amongst us...

Creating stone-cold classic slabs of musical might, crafting iconic album art, harnessing the raw energy of others and becoming the medium through which musical visions become realised, rampaging through a number of decades while re-imagining original musical intent, providing a sanctuary for the promotion and distribution of passionate music, and inventing a sound and inspiring a movement. All of these actions have been masterfully accomplished in one form or another by the musicians listed below. The results of these accomplishments should not be overlooked, for they have had a significant impact on the growing popularity of underground metal over the years.

In light of this, the life’s efforts of the following artists and bands need to be honoured, and their influence demands further recognition and praise. In this digital age where music and art have become transient, and where fame is characterised by the celebration of idiocies and lack of talent, the underground and the following creative thinkers provide a satisfying counterculture. For every ten commercially manufactured pop cretins, one iconoclast ariseth. For those who want substance and something substantial to hit you in the gut and heart simultaneously, the work of the following will change your life. For those who have been forever affected by the depth of soul their work contains, this piece is a long overdue acknowledgement of the gifts they have given us. This is a proclamation of individuality and artistry.

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Tuesday, Jul 3, 2012
As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

As punks might insist, Independence Day in the United States is not a time simply to recall the intent of the American founders in blind, passive faith stirred by clichés, but a time to wrestle with agitation and unease, dissent and antithetical body politics, that have stirred this country from the soapbox tirades of Thomas Paine and Emma Goldman to the modern media subversion of Noam Chomsky and Jello Biafra.

The American experience is honeycombed with diverse forms of recalcitrance, which is why the country is such a noble experiment in liberty and justice, though these traits fall short periodically. These songs don’t necessarily symbolize transgression or sedition; instead, they symbolize a yearning to speak openly and freely about the system binding us together as a whole, despite different places of origin, creeds, ethnicity, worldviews, and ideologies. America grows strong and steady, ripe and democratic, when people speak frankly about the issues making their hearts boil. These songs represent stirring dissatisfaction with the status quo, including the endless trivial pursuits of masses ignoring the loopholes and pitfalls of the American dream.

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Wednesday, Jun 27, 2012
To commemorate Paul McCartney's 70th birthday this past week, here is a list of one writer's favorite songs from each proper Beatles album.

Paul McCartney is, no matter where you stand on rock music, the Beatles or list-making, indisputably one of the best—and most important—popular musicians of the last century. Our artistic landscape would be inconceivably altered without his work, and the myriad minds he inspired.

I have written many (many) words about the Beatles, and before I’m done I will undoubtedly write many more. The Beatles are like the sea or the sky; they are there, life is impossible to imagine (or live) without them, so they must be recognized and celebrated. A little is never enough.

To commemorate Macca’s 70th birthday this past week, rather than write (too many) more words, I figured an appropriate way to pay tribute was by selecting my favorite song of his from each proper Beatles album (note: not the ones I necessarily think are the best; just the ones I personally like the most, the ones that have given me ceaseless joy over the decades).

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Thursday, Jun 21, 2012
For three decades, punk's not-so-secret weapon -- pioneering women -- have shaped the sonic template and bristling attitude of underground music's teeming core.

Picking and honing down a Top Ten list is never easy, especially when grappling with previously under-documented subjects like women in punk. Though women co-pioneered the genre, forming the indelible face and sound of the underground singing for the likes of the Bags, the Avengers, X-Ray Sex, Blondie, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, majority-female bands have often slipped beneath the radar of many critics, pollsters, and everyday fans. My plan here wasn’t to list a definitive “must-have” compendium of records to seize and sell but to foster discussions about key, even breathtaking bands armed with desire and dedication.

Parameters do shape the choices. Some bands seem overly obscure (Neo Boys, Dishrags, Pink Section), a touch too mainstream (Go-Go’s, Donnas, Hole, and Pandoras), glam or hard rock (Runaways, L7), or disco and dance-oriented (the Gossip, currently with eight million YouTube watchers). Those bands, I argue, are superlative, despite not appearing on the list.

Other inclusions might have stirred accusations of nepotism; for instance, half of the Mydolls—art-core Texans that have conjured poetic and stylized underground music since 1978—play in a band with me. So, I decided not to cross that line.  Furthermore, I attempted to reconcile a cross-section of genres, which may not satisfy all readers. The annoyed ones should scribble their own lists, or even better, jump-start bands and fanzines to keep the Do-It-Yourself ethos alive and well.

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