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Music

Why I Love My Chemical Romance

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mall-Rock

I get a lot of flack for loving My Chemical Romance. As a 37-year-old woman who runs with a decidedly indie-rock-snob crowd, there is no end to the taunts when someone spots The Black Parade in between the Mudhoney and New Pornographers CDs. Not for nothing is there little mention of MCR on PopMatters, and not even the release that broke them worldwide, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, rates a review. "Real" music fans simply do not acknowledge such adolescent pablum, and rarely will they even deign to ridicule it. Mall-rock, they call it. Any band with bags full of Warner Brothers' money behind it, that can fill stadiums with teenagers the world over and sell T-shirts hand over fist at Hot Topic, forfeits any right to serious appraisal. Even my hairstylist calls them My Chemical Tightpants.

So what happened to me? I heard "Helena" on the radio back when it was released in 2004, and found the chorus stuck in my head at all hours of the day and night. Later on, a friend, whose indie rock cred is airtight in my book, divulged (gasp!) that she was a fan. I bought the aforementioned Three Cheers, and that was all she wrote. I bought a car over a year ago that's never seen another disc in slot #3 of it's stereo. I have to wrestle with my nine-year-old son and my four-year-old daughter over who gets to wear which My Chem shirt on any given day.

What can I say? I am just a sucker for hyper-literate nerd-boys whose idea of the ultimate band is the Misfits fronted by Morrissey. Boys who don't have a cynical bone in their collective body, and who wear their (great) influences on their sleeves, along with a deadly earnest and sincere desire to save people's lives with their unabashed message of hope. Singer Gerard Way's well-publicized triumph over depression, alcoholism and addiction does more for his legion of fans steering clear of drugs than a thousand "Just Say No" campaigns ever could.

Add to this an effortless ability to construct perfect pop choruses and guitar chops to choke a horse, a penchant for way-over-the-top theatricality, and a guest appearance by LIZA MINNELLI (on The Black Parade track "Mama")... and you will know what has reduced me to a puddle of fangirl on the floor. I await their forthcoming CD, as yet untitled but tentatively scheduled for release in early 2010, with great anticipation and frequent visits to the band's website for progress reports. Something tells me I won't have to fight any fellow PopMatters contributors for dibs on that review.

So yeah, I drank the Kool-Aid. I went and became a rabid Alkaline Trio fan not long after discovering My Chem. Taking Back Sunday, too. Hopeless!

However, I am listening to the new Deer Tick CD as I write this, so all is not lost.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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