One year after Brett Kavanaugh: ‘They just make it feel better—until they do not’

Apparently this happened last week: The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday filed a motion for summary judgment in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit aimed at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) controversial supplemental background check on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This means the FBI wants the case, initiated byContinue reading “One year after Brett Kavanaugh: ‘They just make it feel better—until they do not’”

History repeats the old conceits: Ranking 1982 Pazz and Jop winners

Studying the thirty albums I ranked this year, I see no organizing principle beyond offering bouquets to boomer icons (Reed, Fagen, Richard and Linda Thompson, Gaye, even McCartney below my sights) who recorded solid or better material after punk and disco retreated to subbacultcha. If the unexpected top ten triumph of Joe Jackson’s Night andContinue reading “History repeats the old conceits: Ranking 1982 Pazz and Jop winners”

I gave up looking for a reason: Ranking 1981 Pazz and Jop winners

In a rather docile if not narcoleptic pop year, these albums represent a exotic island of sorts where popular entries (Tattoo You, Ghost in the Machine, Street Songs, Beauty and the Beat), semi-popular entries (Sandinista!, Controversy) and the dawn of the college era’s signposts (Talk Talk Talk, Wha’ppen?) compete with X, The Blasters, the NevilleContinue reading “I gave up looking for a reason: Ranking 1981 Pazz and Jop winners”

Ranking Pazz & Jop 1980

Peak post-punk, peak rock-influenced-by-post-punk, 1980 represents another P&J apex. At least a dozen of the best category are culminations, unsurpassed debuts, and miracles of sleekness and rhythmic smarts. I won’t say much because the albums speak for themselves. Listening to Bill Callahan’s Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest and his delight that he married a GoodContinue reading “Ranking Pazz & Jop 1980”

Very bad things: ‘The Lighthouse’ is a dim, grueling horror flick

In her review of the John Boorman WWII picture Hell in the Pacific (1968), Pauline Kael asked, “Haven’t you always longed for a movie full of Toshiro Mifune grunting and Lee Marvin muttering to himself?” The Lighthouse is almost two hours of Willem Dafoe grunting and Robert Pattinson muttering to themselves. Robert Eggers’ follow-up toContinue reading “Very bad things: ‘The Lighthouse’ is a dim, grueling horror flick”

Home is I don’t know: Ranking 1979 Pazz & Jop winners

The year when disco went splat had the acts below jiggling in a danse macabre. Credit stagflation, the audience, drugs, and their personal stages, for Talking Heads, Michael Jackson, Marianne Faithfull, Blondie, Van Morrison, and many others went as bonkers as Lindsey Buckingham did on Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk (and he had to ply his bandmatesContinue reading “Home is I don’t know: Ranking 1979 Pazz & Jop winners”

Ranking 1978 Pazz and Jop winners

In the year when New Wave started crossing over The Clash, Elvis Costello, and Talking Heads created the holy-shit-the-second-album template whereby a band realizes on the promises of a debut, often with songs written at the same time as the debut’s. This puts them in a most uncomfortable position the third go-round, although The ClashContinue reading “Ranking 1978 Pazz and Jop winners”

You’re not the one: The best albums of the 2010s

In the 2010s, during the waning of my fourth decade, the self-representation of female R&B and country artists fascinated me. The honesty of the posing interested me more than the sincere sincerity of their male peers. Facts are facts, as I show. I hope this explains the top thirty, arranged like my singles list byContinue reading “You’re not the one: The best albums of the 2010s”

Ranking 1977 Pazz and Jop winners

ImImp The revolution arrived, and when the smoke cleared no women had joined the battle lines — no women on this list who qualified as punks, which means, right, the McGarrigles, Christine McVie, and Stevie Nicks don’t count. Patti Smith charted two years earlier, and apparently not enough male critics had heard Blondie. So whatContinue reading “Ranking 1977 Pazz and Jop winners”

The effort to suppress student voting

College students voted in 2018. I know this because Florida International University allowed for a polling station in one of its buildings. But we can’t have students voting because they tend to skew Democratic. The headline example is in New Hampshire. There, a Republican-backed law took effect this fall requiring newly registered voters who driveContinue reading “The effort to suppress student voting”

Ranking 1976 Pazz and Jop winners

My least favorite Stevie Wonder major phase record and least favorite Steely Dan album finished in the top ten the year the Nixon era officially ended. Blue Oyster Cult’s strong finish for releasing a denser Mott album was the biggest surprise, no less than male critics going ga-ga over the McGarrigle sisters and apparently forgivingContinue reading “Ranking 1976 Pazz and Jop winners”