To dominate the impossible in your life: Paul Simon’s ‘The Rhythm of the Saints’

In a career defined by well-behaved albums, The Rhythm of the Saint‘s was the quietest, best behaved album of Paul Simon’s career to date. Three years after the popular and critical success of Graceland, Simon actually did the expected thing after a career spent confounding fans: he traveled to another foreign country and recorded someContinue reading “To dominate the impossible in your life: Paul Simon’s ‘The Rhythm of the Saints’”

When we dead awaken: George Michael’s ‘Older’

The first difference listeners will note is with George Michael’s voice. Gone are the generous swoops that signaled his commitment to the material and the performance: the arias in “Careless Whisper,” “One More Try,” “Praying for Time,” his cover sof Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and Adamski-Seal’s “Killer,” the latter released a mere two and aContinue reading “When we dead awaken: George Michael’s ‘Older’”

I’ve got interviews!

In the middle of my journey I’ve turned into a reporter. A weakness for New Age mush failing to obscure a talent for flattering divas-in-need and divas-to-be, Narada Michael Walden has flitted from the Mahavishnu Orchestra to a drumming stint in Journey while working with Aretha, Whitney, and Mariah Carey in between. I spoke toContinue reading “I’ve got interviews!”

On Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ 25 years later

Released in July 1997, Radiohead’s third album coincided with the rise of fan boys on AOL chat rooms to marshal support for a suite of grunting and in places intentionally misshapen songs that delineated a dystopia few were seeing, pre-millennium tension notwithstanding. I lived in London that summer, and I’d hear “Paranoid Android” in taxisContinue reading “On Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ 25 years later”

I was just frontin’: The best Pharrell Williams productions

Re-listening to the Kelis and Ludacris tracks on my list, I thought, “Holy shit, the early 2000s sound as date stamped as Nick Rhodes’ Minimoog on ‘Hungry Like the Wolf.’” So long as he confines the falsetto to brief punctuative bursts, Pharrell is a welcome presence on singles, an expert synthesist of Bad-era Michael JacksonContinue reading “I was just frontin’: The best Pharrell Williams productions”

Affectionately choosing the moment: Jorge Ben Jor

A member of the Brazilian generation that produced the febrile imaginings of Gilberto Gil, Maria Bethania, Tom Ze, Milton Nascimento, and Caetano Veloso, the former Jorge Duílio Lima Menezes perfected a vigorously strummed bossa nova variant inflected with samba. Jor reigned as a first-class bandleader whose songs gallop toward destinations suggested by the melodies andContinue reading “Affectionately choosing the moment: Jorge Ben Jor”

Coping: The Weeknd and Earl Sweatshirt

The Weeknd – Dawn FM When Abel Tesfaye lapses into his conception of an English accent on “Gasoline,” ignore the reflex to mock. Silly and ear-pricking, bad English accents have served as channels through which dance performers have absorbed the legacy of a generation of UK mopesters and miserabilists. The Human League’s Phil Oakey isContinue reading “Coping: The Weeknd and Earl Sweatshirt”

Ronnie Spector — RIP

Blessed with a voice whose appetite — for love, religion, more love — never saw its vigor dimmed, the greatest of the early ’60s singers acquired the wisdom of an adult while keeping the ebullience of an adolescent. The Ronettes’ catalog remains astonishing: with the help of producer/scourge Phil Spector, Ronnie and her mates gaveContinue reading “Ronnie Spector — RIP”

November reading

“By my values,” he writes, “the thesis of this book is an American tragedy,” Jefferson Cowie writes in The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics . The forty-year period during which New Deal politics dominated American civil life, Cowie writes, happened under world-historic conditions whose consequences rattled leaders on theContinue reading “November reading”

Art’s in pop culture, in me: The best of Lady Gaga

Remember those turn-of-the decade articles about Lady Gaga as an artist of singular recombinant power? She was supposed to be that generation’s Madonna. I didn’t hear it — not in her uneven albums or increasingly blah singles, which sported hooks and a sense of themselves as events without establishing themselves as usurpers. Nevertheless, she ownedContinue reading “Art’s in pop culture, in me: The best of Lady Gaga”