The best drum breaks, solos, and moments in rock

Replaying “Cattle and Cane” this morning, I marveled anew at what Lindy Morrison had gotten away with. By drumming in what amounted to 11/4 time (a bar of 5, followed by 2, then 4, according to my poor ears), she turned fellow Go-Between Grant McLennan’s folk song into caffeinated post-punk that won’t stop to lingerContinue reading “The best drum breaks, solos, and moments in rock”

Eucharist: ‘It keeps drawing you in’

A non-believer who acknowledges the pull of ritual, I balked as a young man at the Catholic Church’s mixed messaging. For a faith so committed to the resonance of symbols, it failed to explain transubstantiation in terms that would inspire people not to believe in their own eyes. A Communion wafer, consecrated or not, stillContinue reading “Eucharist: ‘It keeps drawing you in’”

The best last-minute additions to albums

“We’d already finished the Listen Like Thieves album but Chris Thomas (the producer) told us there was still no ‘hit.’ We left the studio that night knowing we had one day left and we had to deliver ‘a hit.’ Talk about pressure. The band’s performance on that track is amazing. We absolutely nailed it.”

Let my habits form the shapes of days: The best of The Mountain Goats: 2017-2021

The number of albums released by John Darnielle since 2017 demands a second list. With the addition of Matt Douglas as a full member, a Mountain Goats song can boast woodwind colors as delights in themselves as well as filigrees which mirror the wry, faintly sad introspection of Darnielle’s characters. Jon Wurster’s beats and PeterContinue reading “Let my habits form the shapes of days: The best of The Mountain Goats: 2017-2021”

Ranking #29 singles, U.S. edition: 1988-1995

It’s 1991, son, and “Pop Goes the Weasel” took advantage of any avenue for insouciant rap like what 3rd Bass offered, especially when it sampled “Sledgehammer.” Hence my affection for this survey, in which Basia’s cool-crisp sophisti-pop hit shares space with R.E.M. and Mary J. Blige at their most empathetic and an 808-heavy hit thatContinue reading “Ranking #29 singles, U.S. edition: 1988-1995”

Singles 6/26

During a dull week, Jorja Smith’s increased confidence gives “Bussdown” its erratic power. It was the kind of week when the precision of “Don’t Go Putting Wishes in My Head” distracted me when the same precision would’ve tempted me like a Negroni at 5:30 p.m. Before the Trump era I’d have admired the audacity ofContinue reading “Singles 6/26”

‘Well, it’s my body until you’re 18.’”

The citizens most privy to evidence-based conclusions have proven most resistant to vaccinations and most vulnerable to false information. Health care workers have resisted vaccines; thousands of mothers believe the COVID vaccine will lead to infertility. Because humankind remains a species that extraterrestrials may vaporize to rid the Milky Way of our pathological cruelty, IContinue reading “‘Well, it’s my body until you’re 18.’””

Songs peaking at #10: 1990-1994

Is there a point to despising “Cherry Pie”? A lousy song, for sure: a “Pour Some Sugar on Me” rip that substitutes yelling for hummable guitar parts, production gewgaws, and the dregs of British glam stomp-a-long. But this era, in which Soundscan reflected the ballooning interest in hip-hop and hip-hop-infused R&B, made Warrant look likeContinue reading “Songs peaking at #10: 1990-1994”

Screenings #49

The concern with process, his curiosity about domestic politics, and the delight in listening to pompous but goodhearted blowhards pontificate fuse with a production design that avoids Merchant Ivory mummery coalesce into Mike Leigh’s best entertainment. Watching Topsy-Turvy for the third time last Wednesday confirmed its place as a comfort film.

Nobody loves no one: The best of Chris Isaak 1985-1995

A singer with a strongly framed bulldog’s jaw and a beauty as stolidly lacquered as his songs, Chris Isaak was born at the right time: old enough for an audience that didn’t need to own Duane Eddy or Ricky Nelson LPs and certainly not their passion. He can sing ballads and rockers. He’s a goodContinue reading “Nobody loves no one: The best of Chris Isaak 1985-1995”