R.E.M’s ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’ twenty-five years later

I have no idea whether Michael Stipe reveres Joni Mitchell as much as Patti Smith. Maybe he doesn’t. Listening to New Adventures in Hi-Fi summons Hejira, Mitchell’s 1976 album about flight — what she called the refuge of the road. The wide-openness comes through in the arrangements. The percussive hardness of Mitchell’s guitar keeps theContinue reading “R.E.M’s ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’ twenty-five years later”

I’m on a lonely road that leads to nowhere: The best songs about the weekend

“The problem of leisure/What to do for pleasure,” Gang of Four wondered in 1979, echoing Theodor Adorno’s trenchant several decades earlier in “Free Time”. “The reason why people can actually do little with their free time is that the truncation of their imagination deprives them of the faculty which made the state of freedom pleasurableContinue reading “I’m on a lonely road that leads to nowhere: The best songs about the weekend”

Situation no win: What modern rock looked like in September 1991

Chart-watching listeners, note: after Nirvana exploded, Sept. 28, 1991’s modern rock top five would look like an Archaeopteryx skeleton. A couple years before programmers responded to the impact, “modern rock” had enough currency before “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for my top forty station to block program a Sunday night segment.”The Post-Modern Music Show,” they calledContinue reading “Situation no win: What modern rock looked like in September 1991”

Kacey Musgraves, Ka, Lindsey Buckingham

Kacey Musgraves – Star-Crossed To explain my indifference to her last album, I blamed “the half-life of winsomeness.” Whereupon Golden Hour went on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year ten months later. On Star-Crossed winsomeness joins the ranks of the undead. Fifteen pearly, gleaming quasi-pop songs arranged as a cycle about theContinue reading “Kacey Musgraves, Ka, Lindsey Buckingham”

The best song intros

Listening to Ron Carter’s bass part on “Excursions” for the 200th time on a plane last week, I envisaged a project whereby I looped the introductions to favorite songs, forever. Some of these below are brief. The most fraught and delicious ones (“I Need a Lover,” “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” “Mother of Pearl”) haveContinue reading “The best song intros”

My asset’s grown while yours have dropped: The best of Squeeze

Poets of the twilight hour, of the stuffed ashtray; celebrants of the wrinkled sheet, of coffee-stained pillows; minions of hangovers and hairs of the dog. For a few years after New Wave’s commercial peak Squeeze found an audience of college students who delighted in the band’s smarts; for a while these smarts meant musical asContinue reading “My asset’s grown while yours have dropped: The best of Squeeze”

The best albums of the year since Pitchfork’s start

Here’s my contribution to the Pitchfork thing asking for the best albums released since the site’s inception. I haven’t tried retroactively aligning with history; these are the albums I submitted to Pazz & Jop since my first ballot in 2003, before which I contributed top tens to the Miami Herald and my college newpaper. PulpContinue reading “The best albums of the year since Pitchfork’s start”

Biz Markie — RIP

I listened to Vanilla Ice’s third single tonight, at the risk of gangrene. “I Love You” courted bathos. That’s the only mode he knew. In the same year Marcel Theo Hall showed contemporaries how to take a worn scenario — a crush insisting on a platonic relationship — into a terribly sung, beautifully wrapped scenario.Continue reading “Biz Markie — RIP”