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

 
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Friday, Aug 15, 2014
There are no more summer lifeguard jobs. There are no more art museums to guard. The lab is out of white lab coats, because there are no more slides and microscopes. But there always careers talking about this week's Counterbalance album.

Mendelsohn: At one point in my life I had an insane addiction to new music. I would go through five or more albums a week, searching for that next great record. Downloading, buying, or using my media connections to get my hands on anything I could. If I it wasn’t new music, I wasn’t interested. And then we took on the Great List and my listening habits did a complete 180. New music was replaced by “old” music as we systematically moved through the Great List. I’ve been doing a little to catch up, trying not to fall into my old habits. So when I started seeing pieces on Parquet Courts’ new record, Sunbathing Animal, all of which mentioned the phenomenal quality of their previous record Light Up Gold, my interested was piqued. Old Mendelsohn would have just went out and picked up Sunbathing Animal, leaving Light Up Gold and their debut American Specialties for later, if ever. But if the Great List has taught me anything, it is to respect the organic development of music and appreciate where a band has been and where they could go.


So this week, we are listening to Parquet Courts’ second album. I haven’t listened to their new album yet — It’s sitting on my desk, Klinger, just waiting like a Christmas present — or their first album that nobody talks about (probably for good reason?). But first, we have to talk about Light Up Gold.


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Thursday, Aug 14, 2014
Woodstock ’94 sometimes gets lost in pack. But here are five of those performances worth revisiting from the now 20-year-old event.

Woodstock ’94 sometimes gets lost in pack. It obviously didn’t — and could never have — carried as much weight as the original, which in 1969 blazed a trail for modern music festivals and left us with a wealth of unforgettable performances. Nor did it digress into the nightmarish, post-apocalyptic hellhole that Woodstock ’99 did. In some ways, 20 years later, Woodstock ’94—which took place on August 13th and 14th—seems like an afterthought. But, when you dig into it deeper, it hit the sweet spot between the classic-rockers/folk-revivalists/returning-veterans and the names that were then at the forefront of popular music. They even got Bob Dylan, who turned down a spot at Woodstock ’69, to perform. In honor of the middle brother Woodstock’s 20th birthday, we decided to remember five great performances that are worth revisiting/discovering, and are readily available in their entirety.


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Monday, Aug 11, 2014
There are no vocal overdubs, no excessive instrumentation, and a relatively straightforward lyrical slant. In short, it shouldn't be a B-52's song ... but that's part of the charm as to why it is an essential one.

As of right now, we’re seven tracks in to this Between the Grooves series exploring the B-52’s lightning-in-a-bottle debut. They’ve used kitsch, grit, sex, and smarts to get our attention, taking us to alien worlds and undersea bikini parties alike, all while committing to their performances wholeheartedly while giving us hints and teases of real human emotion underneath the wackiness of it all.


With “Hero Worship”, however, the Athens quintet give us what may be their most direct, cohesive song to date.


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Friday, Aug 8, 2014
Hello there, ladies and gentlemen. Hello there, ladies and gents. Are you ready to rock? Because Cheap Trick’s classic 1979 live album is this week’s Counterbalance. Surrender. But don’t give yourself away.

Klinger: By the late 1970s rock had become big business, and the emergence of the live album is a perfect example of the way that popular music had gone from being a cottage industry to being a regular industry. Nowadays, the live album is seen as a delightful little bonus for the fans and completists, but back in the satin-jacketed ’70s it provided an opportunity for bands to cross over into the mainstream. Peter Frampton had been something of a journeyman musician for about a decade before Frampton Comes Alive made him a heartthrob and radio staple. Kiss’s first few albums were largely ignored until Alive made them jukebox (and lunchbox) heroes. And of course Cheap Trick were more or less a quirky road band until they tapped into their rabid Japanese following and made the album At Budokan.


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Thursday, Aug 7, 2014
The Busta Rhymes-aided "Swagger Wagon" advertisement is getting all sorts of negative attention for Toyota. Yet is it racist, or just typifying an emerging trend of cultural insensitivity?

Toyota has been blasting out a lot of videos on its YouTube channel to promote its forthcoming 2015 Sienna, all in an attempt to try and make a good solid viral campaign, going with everything from fathers having conversations/getting pep talks from the vehicle to kids pretending they’re in their own action movie. It’s actually a nice way to kind of “road test” (forgive the puns) ads to see what reaction is before buying slots from advertisers, which costs far more money than actually making the clips themselves.


Yet no one is talking about those previously-mentioned ads at the moment. Right now, everyone is talking about the “Swagger Wagon” ... and if the entire video is actually racist.


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