Sound
No Comeback

No Comeback

When I saw the coupon in my social media feed, I just had to buy the new Sleater-Kinney album at Best Buy. It’s hard to imagine a more incongruous place to procure the return of those darlings of middle-aged — and usually white — music critics. But that’s why it felt so necessary. I needed to be reminded of the world the band had warned us about. More»

Islamic Noise

Islamic Noise

Characterized by waves upon waves of feedback, atonal beats, and strange sounding squelches and squeals, power electronics is purposely and unapologetically abrasive, even more so than most noise music, of which it is a subgenre. To listen is to be immersed. Without that tonality, that rhythm, there is often little for the listener to grab onto but what is being put forward, thematically. More»

The Bandwidth of Culture

The Bandwidth of Culture

“I need more bandwidth!” After hours of being so deeply engrossed in his Minecraft dominion that he had barely acknowledged anyone else in the room, my brilliant nine-year-old nephew stomped his feet on the floor and shouted this demand at his parents, smiling but serious. To him, it was an entirely reasonable request. But I couldn’t help but regard it as a wry commentary on our cultural moment. More»

My Top Ten Musical Anxieties of 2014

My Top Ten Musical Anxieties of 2014

It’s that time of year again. I’m being bombarded by Top Ten/Twenty/Fifty/Hundred music lists. I suppose that, as someone with a background in music scholarship and as a fairly seasoned critic, I should view them with wry amusement – sometimes scoffing at other critics’ choices, sometimes sagely agreeing. But that’s never been how I react to them. More»

Anti-Communist Jazz

Anti-Communist Jazz

It’s taken as a truism that “foreigners” love America. They just don’t particularly like the US. That is, American cultural exports are often popular the world over, even in places where the United States isn’t popular. Acutely aware of this disjuncture, Washington has often sought to use cultural diplomacy to close this gap, pitching its movies and music in order to win over its critics. More»

Between Hype and Pastries

Between Hype and Pastries

The problem with New York City is that it has to live up to itself. New Yorkers constantly have to prove they are worthy and, at the same time, make enough cash to survive. Don’t get me wrong. Portland’s timber industry has never been saintly. But there’s just less at stake in lumberjack posturing here, and there’s more time for humanity behind the nose rings than in Williamsburg. More»

Tears For Fears Appear

Tears For Fears Appear

Portland’s south waterfront venue was open, though Tears For Fears weren’t due to play for another seven hours. The main stage was flanked by industrial sized mesh banners of Captain Pabst who bears, at least at that scale, an uncanny resemblance to Colonel Sanders. If it is Pabst, there’s no sign of him on the cans, although Project Pabst did provide festival-themed PBR souvenir cans complete with the Project unicorn for an investment of a mere $4. More»

Before Tears for Fears

Before Tears for Fears

One of the great overlooked virtues of filling our lives with apps is the ease of using any API-equipped public transportation system. Yes, there will be times when having a car parked next to your white picket fence is the best way of picking up the kids from four different locations, and bring them home early enough to start cooking dinner before your wife comes home. More»

Hunting for Tears For Fears in Portland

Hunting for Tears For Fears in Portland

I was heading to Portland, Oregon — America’s hipster haven — to take in the inaugural Project Pabst, a weekend-long music festival from the makers of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Despite Pabst Brewing Company’s recent sale to a Russian owner, PBR, the post-ironic beer ne plus ultra, seemed perfectly suited to Portland. More»

The Future is Spaceape

The Future is Spaceape

Fuck this. If I wasn’t writing on this tablet, the ink on these letters would be bleeding down the page from my tears, which right now are seeping underneath the keyboard, no doubt causing a malfunction in the circuit board, certain to kill this piece of shit by tomorrow. But whatever More»

The Dark Side of Prog

The Dark Side of Prog

Progressive rock was not the sole province of British hippie bands like Yes, and the self-indulgent noodling of ‘virtuoso’ groups such as Emerson Lake and Palmer. It was also identified with artists like Ian Anderson, and his band Jethro Tull, who, while no slouches in the hair department, trafficked in barbed literary diatribes, and dense, More»

The Past-Perfect Thing

The Past-Perfect Thing

It made me feel sad, seeing the “perfect thing” reduced to such a pedestrian function. Impersonally repurposed, devoid of caché, the antithesis of the iPod’s glory years. Worse still, it had been caged next to instructions on how to use it, as if the average consumer would have forgotten, in stark contrast to the portable phonograph displayed by the cash register for Record Store Day. More»