‘It was just music and the baths, music and the baths’

What I like about Cowley’s instrumentals is how their bleeps and spiky melodies evoke a chintzy anonymity — the anonymity of sex in The Anvil; I can smell the sweat and mung. Reviewing Patrick Cowley’s journals, “a voraciously readable historical document” released at the same time as a comp called Mechanical Fantasy Box, Rich JuzwiakContinue reading “‘It was just music and the baths, music and the baths’”

Ranking Pazz & Jop winners 1975

Two albums apiece by Bobby Zimmerman and Neil Young, both killers; two Roxy Music albums, with the one released in 1974 with the semi-nudie pics breaking top ten; a country album in my top five that breathes hellfire; Caribbean rhythms signifying on their own without Enoch Powell fan Eric Clapton’s blandishments — another solid year.Continue reading “Ranking Pazz & Jop winners 1975”

Ranking Louis Malle’s feature films

After his initial success at the height of le nouvelle vague, the French lost interest in Louis Malle when he turned to English-language subjects that surpassed his achievements in his homeland (his documentary achievements require their own thread). Lacombe, Lucien remains one of the best WWII films, as tense as Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of ShadowsContinue reading “Ranking Louis Malle’s feature films”

Ranking Pazz & Jop Critics Poll 1974

For three years Pazz & Jop went into suspension. Then it returned with these selections. A strong year — how on earth could peak Roxy Music, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder (on his least appreciated major phase album), and, uh, Bryan Ferry compete with the year’s most winning and most influential breakthrough. I mean, of course,Continue reading “Ranking Pazz & Jop Critics Poll 1974”

Ranking Pazz & Jop 1971 — Critic Picks

The inauguration of The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll showed the remains of the post-sixties consensus regnant. John Lennon, George Harrison, yes, and Sly Stone, Procol Harum, and Van Morrison. But, to my surprise, Hunky Dory appeared — was the album available in local record shoppes? With this ranking and Blue we see theContinue reading “Ranking Pazz & Jop 1971 — Critic Picks”

I put my love on top: the best songs of the 2010s

Fifteen years ago I became a semi-regular contributor to the long defunct Stylus Magazine’s The Singles Jukebox, run by the unflappable William B. Swygart. After the site stopped publication in 2007, TSJ remained in limbo until Edward Okulicz took control. Since 2010, I’ve contributed what must be a couple thousand blurbs, rarely more than aContinue reading “I put my love on top: the best songs of the 2010s”

Ranking Wire’s discography

No class of ’77 band showed such little interest in what commercial success meant. Jeez, even the Mekons recorded The Mekons Rock ‘n Roll in 1999. Wire didn’t try. Their synth pop experiments of the High Reagan and Poppy Bush Era came closest only because the era met their severity. Then they disappeared again andContinue reading “Ranking Wire’s discography”

Singles 10/18

This looked like a dismal week until Samthing Soweto’s shimmery thing wouldn’t leave my head. If I lived in cooler climes, I’d say it’s a perfect Song of the Summer; instead, I live four miles south of Doral, saved a G7 conference. Click on links for full reviews. Samthing Soweto ft. Shasha, DJ Maphorisa &Continue reading “Singles 10/18”

If I joined the social whirl: The best of Scott Walker

In the last two years, peaking after his death, I’ve explored the late Scott Engel’s discography. Lacunae in my knowledge remain: the string of post-Scott 4 albums (‘Til the Band Comes In, The Moviegoer, the country-tinged We Had It All, etc), Bish Bosch, for example. In a paradox he spent a career embodying, I hadContinue reading “If I joined the social whirl: The best of Scott Walker”

Ranking Queen’s studio albums

The accepted wisdom has decreed that Queen recorded no great albums, but they recorded several good ones, so I hope my readers accept this valuation. Sheer Heart Attack comes closest to making that mark; their only U.S. #1 The Game does too, thanks to “Dragon Attack,” “Save Me,” the title track, “Need Your Loving Tonight,”Continue reading “Ranking Queen’s studio albums”

Nostalgia makes Pedro Almodóvar soft in ‘Pain and Glory’

The natural light in Pedro Almodóvar’s eighth collaboration with Antonio Banderas has a fullness, especially when cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine focuses on the deep greens of trees in gardens and the dust-caked sunlight of rural Spain. The choice makes sense for what publicists and the director himself have called his most autobiographical or, worse, “personal”Continue reading “Nostalgia makes Pedro Almodóvar soft in ‘Pain and Glory’”

Ranking Van Morrison’s albums 1969-1995

Thanks to Brad Nelson, I gave Van Morrison’s 1980s the dive it deserved. I heard songs of unusual placidity, and to my ears placidity only looks that way if you stare at a pond for a few seconds before the ripples, darting dragonflies, and snapping fish emerge. Poetic Champions Compose in particular stands out asContinue reading “Ranking Van Morrison’s albums 1969-1995”