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by Dylan Nelson

15 Sep 2010


I love Lady Gaga. You can count my vote with the pro-Gaga factions in the cultural war. Everyone has an opinion; it’s all too much fun to join in the fray side-by-side with the likes of the intellectual and critical touchstone The Atlantic and the high-school-science-project, conspiracy-theory website The Vigilant Citizen, not to mention that haughty, freaky-folky mistress of song, Joanna Newsom. They’ve all gone on record in the past few months about the Gaga’s debatable cultural relevance. Is she the savior of pop? Is she the harbinger of the pop Armageddon? Is she a feminist or a brat? Or is she—is she?—a puppet of the Illuminati literally hell-bent on her mission to brainwash the masses?

Gaga has taken the world by storm in the past two years with a flood of hit singles, strange outfits, and stranger music videos. Her sense of fashion, fearsome ambition, and superstar status invite comparisons to Bowie, Bolan, and Madonna, but it’s hard to say (despite how much it is said) whether she’s an original blend or a regurgitated mixture of her influences. Maybe part of the reason everyone else is so confused about her image is that the singer herself seems uncertain of her motives. She embraces cheap escapism, but she has pretensions to high art. She claims her inspiration from adolescent heartbreak (and she appeals tremendously to that demographic) but her videos consciously employ controversial imagery and abstract, fragmented stories that repel literal interpretation.

by Andy Johnson

11 Aug 2010


“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. Wise words, and ones that spring to mind when I think of receiving parcels of review discs in the post. Since I’ve been reviewing records, I’ve grown accustomed—almost addicted—to the kind of anticipation these packages bring when they drop through the letterbox. It’s rarely the case that there’s something specific I’ve asked to hear, so that doesn’t explain it. No, more often than not, I choose to be given random selections, each cache bringing with it a slim but ever-present possibility that something special might come my way. Occasionally “special” means something I hear which, while never going to set the world aflame, I immediately forge a strong personal attachment to, not just in terms of liking a record, but also somehow beginning to feel almost connected to it. In September 2008, Foreign Slippers’ debut EP Oh Death was one such example.

by Sean Murphy

12 May 2010


When it comes to art in general and music in particular, entirely too many people are very American in their tastes: they know what they like and they like what they know. And there’s nothing wrong with that, since what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Also, let’s face it, the only thing possibly more annoying than some yahoo proselytizing their religion on your doorstep is some jackass getting in your grill about how evolved or enviable his or her musical tastes happen to be. Life is way too short, for all involved.

On the other hand, back in the day we were obliged to talk about music using only words. Now there is YouTube! If you can’t believe everything you read, you can always have faith in what you hear; the ears never lie. Not when it comes to music. Not when it comes to jazz music.

But how to talk about jazz music? Well, perhaps it’s better to determine how not to talk about jazz music. Hearing is believing. That’s it. And if you hear something that speaks to you, keep listening. Whatever effort you put in will be immeasurably rewarded. But first, eradicate cliché. Possibly the most despicable myth (that, fortunately doesn’t seem as widespread today, perhaps –sigh– because less people talk or care about jazz music in 2010) is one I found myself ceaselessly rebutting back in the bad old days. You know which one: that lazy, anecdotally innacurate and often racist assumption that all jazz artists are (or at least were) heroin addicts. That’s like saying all pro athletes are steroid abusers. Oh wait…

by AJ Ramirez

22 Apr 2010


Throughout the course of its storied career, Blur more often than not seemed to be playing a role. While the Britpop group’s incarnations as faux-Cockney punters (circa Parklife) and as the British Pavement (Blur) are most often hailed as the band’s high water marks, Blur’s early dabbling in the top trends of the British indie scene at the start of the 1990s—Madchester and shoegaze—on its 1991 debut Leisure is often referred to in less affectionate terms, if at all. In spite of the lack of love for that period, consensus is clear that the record yielded at least one top tune, “There’s No Other Way”, a groovy genre workout that outdid some of the better attempts at crafting danceable Madchester singles by actual Mancunian bands.

by Crispin Kott

20 Apr 2010


Credibility is apparently a big deal in the music journo biz. I get that, at least in theory. I mean, I know why I’m supposed to take shit at face value and not let myself fall in love. But the whole reason I got into this mess in the first place was because I’m a fan and I get all emotional about music, and then I get all verbose and that just leads to trouble.

I love Damon Albarn.

There, I said it. It feels kind of good to get it out there, like therapy. Or exorcism.

I know it’s uncool or whatever to admit to having a musical crush on someone, but screw it. I love Damon Albarn. I love his vocals, both languid and falsetto, his enthusiasm for music of all shapes and sizes. I love that ridiculous gold tooth.

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