Few bands have a more problematic relation to novelty than Gang of Four. Persistently critical of postmodern capitalism’s relentless search for new sources of income, they still repudiated the nostalgia that has so often beset the modern Left, embracing electronic dance music when most of their fellow travelers looked down on anything that deviated from classic rock instrumentation. But that move looks a lot different now than it did in the early 1980s. (More…)

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…)

The spiraling space-funk at the heart of Gardens & Villa’s Dunes could only be called “Echosassy.” The album’s fifth track is the mesmerizing template for Gardens & Villa’s sound, a synth-rock that knows its history, with more than a subtle allegiance to the sci-fi notion of retro-futurism. (More…)

Some songwriters are city planners, always seeking out new spaces for their muse. Some are interior designers, redecorating the same rooms on record after record. And some, like the Dum Dum Girls’ Dee Dee prefer to sit and stare at the same four walls, discerning what was there all along. Her band’s new album Too True is no departure. But that’s precisely what makes it good. (More…)

Sometimes it’s easy to tell when a band will be worth seeing live. But the first time I saw Deerhunter, I wasn’t expecting much. While I had long enjoyed their albums, they seemed too dependent on a particular “processed” sound to translate to a concert venue. Was I ever wrong. When my friend suddenly took me by the hand and led me towards the stage, my critical distance disintegrated in seconds. (More…)

It was finally dark. The days were still hot here in the desert. But once the mountain became a silhouette, the temperature dropped quickly. My daughter and I were delighted by this first hint of winter, the reward that seemed impossibly remote in the middle of another too-hot October. (More…)

Tom Waits’ new album, Bad As Me takes a swig and passes the bottle to the characters he’s hollered at and grumbled about for nearly forty years. We have: black sheep that families pay to never come home, the time-battered woman sitting at the bar after closing time, SRO hermits, and escapists who chase their fantasies on the highway until their rusted wheels fall off. (More…)

Joy and rage, as each new generation bangs up against its own possibilities and the world as it is, are what gives rock music its energy and power. This is why first albums are rarely surpassed, why corporate pop is such a betrayal, and why listening to Sir Michael Philip Jagger failing to get satisfaction aged 65 is less authentic than it was in 1965. (More…)

To wear armor at all is to need protection, to fear wounds beyond what the body can sustain. So when that armor begins to fail, the resulting vulnerability is so much worse than an unguarded safety. On his sixth album under the Crooked Fingers name, Eric Bachmann takes a songwriting trip into a state of such startling vulnerability that it’s hard to count all the wounds contained in its 11 songs. (More…)

Twenty minutes into 1991: The Year Punk Broke, Dave Markey’s ragged documentary of a European tour featuring Sonic Youth, Nirvana and assorted other “alternative” acts, Thurston Moore conducts an impromptu interview with a group of fans. They appear to be in the 18-24 range, what Americans call “college age.” (More…)

I’ve already listened to all of Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks’ new album Mirror Traffic twice, first in the car, on my hundred-minute drive back from Phoenix, and again on my home stereo, before my thinking about it starts to find traction. Part of me is glad that the songs are shorter and less solo-inclined than was the case on Mirror Traffic’s predecessors. But even the gravel strewn across their surface — a missed beat here, a splash of distortion there — doesn’t diminish their slipperiness. I have to proceed with care. (More…)

I logged thousands of hours as a college radio DJ in the early 1980s, and have spun in clubs every once in a while since. House mixing is alien to me. I don’t like to extend songs, or blend them seamlessly. I want to slam different things together and mix them up, but still make sense. I want dynamics, not sameness. (More…)