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Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013
There are plenty of popular musical trends swirling around in 2013, but perhaps none more unexpected or wonderful as the disco revival. From R. Kelly's Write Me Back to Arcade Fire's Reflektor, the new-disco trend has grabbed hold of R&B, pop, dance music, and indie rock, but why?

I remember February of 2012 very well, thanks to two seemingly unrelated songs. Though I didn’t know it at the time, these songs were signs of big things to come. Big, groovy things to come. Or, to be more specific, come back.


The first song was “Share My Love”, by R. Kelly. The song, melodically, lyrically, and sonically, could have easily been mistaken for a 1974 Barry White song if it weren’t for Kellz’s distinctive tenor. It’s disco through-and-through. But after 2010’s Love Letter, an album dedicated to recreating Motown and early soul music, this dip into ‘70s disco from R. Kelly wasn’t too surprising. The album which followed, Write Me Back, continued the disco of “Share My Love” and also included ‘70s soul and rock ‘n’ roll elements, but surely this was a novelty. It was R. Kelly making a ‘70s record, mostly because he could. It wasn’t a call to arms for every pop, R&B, and indie artist to start making disco, was it?


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Thursday, Sep 26, 2013
With the release of Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album, AM, we can now definitely confirm that they are a brand new band. What happened to those teenagers that represented youth and were once the voice of a generation? Have they changed that much since then?

It’s not news that Arctic Monkeys have gone through a great metamorphosis since their boom in the UK music scene back in 2005. When they released Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not—a title that reflected adolescence’s rebelliousness—they seemed to be young boys just like any of us. With their ordinary clothes and electrifying riffs, nobody would have expected that they would someday become real rock stars.


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Thursday, Aug 15, 2013
As Gaga and Perry go toe-to-leopard-print-toe, it's obvious which diva comes out on top. Shame then that neither track are indicative of either artist's actual strengths ...

Oh it’s a catfight, ladies and gents.


Much like Blur vs. Oasis, Kanye vs. 50 Cent, and Justin Bieber vs. common sense, the media is more than ready to hype up a battle of the pop divas, as Katy Perry’s remarkably hackneyed sing-by-numbers anthem “Roar” was unleashed to radio just days before Lady Gaga decided to debut “Applause”, both of them lead singles from their hugely anticipated albums.


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Thursday, Aug 8, 2013
Joseph Fisher examines the controversy over Rolling Stone's Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cover issue, as well as the lack of response from the indie music publishing world.

I stood in the aisle at One Stop News for quite some time before I decided to purchase the 1 August 2013 edition of Rolling Stone, the issue with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (“Jahar”) on the cover.  Though I spent most of my teenage years in a small, weathered mill town outside of Worcester, Massachusetts, I readily identify as a Bostonian. My father grew up in South Boston; my mother grew up in Jamaica Plain. I was born in Quincy (“Qwinzee”) Hospital and spent the first few years of my life traveling back and forth to various family houses all over the South Shore.


Back in the early 2000s, I bandited the Boston Marathon, running a respectable, if totally unofficial, time for my first marathon. On that day, my future wife waited for me mere feet away from the finish line. 


Over the past decade, my wife has become quite the runner herself. She has been lucky enough to complete several marathons (I always seem to get injured beforehand). As a result, I have spent many, many mornings waiting at finish lines for her. My wife consistently runs her marathons broadly between 4:20:00 and 4:50:00. Had she been running the 2013 Boston Marathon, I would have been waiting for her, most likely at the finish line, most likely when the bombs went off. That was, and remains, a chilling thought.


So, petulant as it might sound, this Rolling Stone cover felt personal to me. And I took it personally.


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Wednesday, Jun 5, 2013
The biggest surprise of Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City is that it's a deeply God-haunted album, with Ezra Koenig posing some questions that don't have answers.

On Vampire Weekend’s first two LPs, lead singer and lyricist Ezra Koenig name-dropped Lil’ Jon, Peter Gabriel, and Jackson Crowder (identity not important) more times than he did God. In fact, Koenig’s lone reference to the divine was merely colloquial in nature: On “I Stand Corrected”, he sings, “Lord knows I haven’t tried”. That hardly counts. Though memorable, Koenig’s lyrical concerns back then didn’t register as all that weighty or ruminative. They instead had the mark of privileged, idle-time eccentricity, e.g. punctuation distinctions, sartorial refinement, and milky Spanish beverages. What came to the fore through such imagery, especially on the band’s eponymous debut, was a vivid sense of place. Fleshed-out themes weren’t a priority.


On this count, Vampire Weekend’s newly released third record—far and away its best—is a much different and more interesting animal. Though Koenig hasn’t jettisoned his colorful and digressive wordplay, Modern Vampires of the City comes through as a very theme-driven collection of songs. Both the sunny Ivy League provincialism of the band’s debut and the confident post-undergraduate worldliness of Contra are in the rear-view. In their place: aging, death, and the Man Upstairs, the last of these perhaps most overtly. Modern Vampires of the City is indeed a deeply God-haunted work, with song titles that include “Unbelievers”, “Everlasting Arms”, “Worship You”, and “Ya Hey” (think “Yahweh”). Now Koenig doesn’t give any indication he himself is a believer (more often just the opposite), but there is a recurring sense of engagement with God throughout the album, a sense of wrestling with the implications and impossibilities of faith. By accident or, more likely, by design, this builds and builds until Koenig puts everything on the table and addresses God directly.


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