Articles in the Reviews Category

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March 14th, 2018 | Comments Off on Intertextual Orientation: The Pop Palimpsest | Category: Reviews
Intertextual Orientation: <em>The Pop Palimpsest</em>

During my undergraduate days, my friends and I used to play a silly game. Whenever a situation or topic came up and they pointed to me, I would attempt to recite a relevant rap lyric. Sometimes it was a stretch to get Ice-T or the Beastie Boys to fit a late-night Waffle House run, but I was rarely stumped.
As Gorham and Gilligan (2006) put it, “media allusions represent an important way in which audiences make use of the cultural products around them to form relationships with others and build community …

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February 17th, 2018 | Comments Off on Media Literacy: Curing the Common Code | Category: Reviews
Media Literacy: Curing the Common Code

“Media literacy” is as socially contested a term as they come. Its meaning of has been debated at least as far back as 1933 (see Tyner, 2010).It’s not difficult to make the case that Marshall McLuhan‘s work in the main was about media literacy. Not to mention Howard Rheingold‘s lengthy and thorough work on new media and social media literacy.

So much has changed and changed hands since McLuhan left us. The computer moved from business and industry to the home and finally to every place and pocket available. In Coding …

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January 24th, 2018 | Comments Off on The Alterity of Cool | Category: Reviews
The Alterity of Cool

William Melvin Kelley’s debut novel, A Different Drummer (Doubleday, 1962), imagines a different America, one where a slave revolt reconfigured the civil war and the nation thereafter. Three weeks before its release, Kelley flipped the term “woke” into its current common parlance in a New York Times Op-Ed piece. His central point was that the African Diaspora was responsible for the cool, “beatnik” slang of the time. One could say the same for hip-hop slang now. Some of it stays in predominantly hip-hop contexts, but quite a lot of it …

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December 02nd, 2017 | Comments Off on Top Records, 2017 | Category: Reviews
Top Records, 2017

This has been another year of change for me. I’m finding more and more difficult to see how others stagnate as they age. Maybe others see me some kind of way, but one place that tendency is evident is in the music we listen to: I am constantly finding new and exciting sounds. Whether it’s seeing Street Sects open for my dudes dälek at Beat Kitchen in Chicago, or EMA, Sleaford Mods, Moor Mother, and Sturgill Simpson making me rethink the very concept of genre, there’s always someone pushing things …

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March 06th, 2017 | Comments Off on The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train | Category: Reviews
The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train

I often make a distinction between my favorite bands and the bands I think are the best. Unwound is one of the few bands for which that distinction means nothing: They are both one of my all-time favorite bands and one of the best to ever do it. Unwound have now been apart longer than they were together, but every time I listen to one of their records, I am reminded just how great they were. Numero Group’s extensive new boxset leaves no doubt that they still deserve more attention.
Having …

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December 29th, 2016 | Comments Off on Firing the Canon: Read This, Not That! | Category: Essays, Reviews
Firing the Canon: Read This, Not That!

I know you have your giftcards handy, and you’re looking for something new to read. In these times, I often think about books everyone’s supposed to read. I’ve read some of them. Many are damn good and on the list for a reason, but some need to be avoided like carbs or fat or sugar. So, in the tradition of Eat This, Not That!, here are a few of my recommendations:
Instead of the whiney tedium of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (William Morrow, 1974), read …

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December 07th, 2016 | Comments Off on Five Fives: Top 25 Records, 2016 | Category: Reviews
Five Fives: Top 25 Records, 2016

2016 was a year of monster releases from veterans and relative newcomers alike. Weirdly, three of the top five were neatly stacked side by side. N-bands Nails, Neurosis, and Nothing put out three of my most-listened-to and most revered records. My friends and heroes, emcess/producers Aesop Rock and dälek round out The Five Best. It’s not a huge drop off from there, but these were definitely my five favorites. Let’s run them down along with the other worthy candidates in five sets of five: The Five Best, Five More, The Five …

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August 01st, 2016 | Comments Off on Genre Trouble: Post-Rock and Other Lost Sounds | Category: Reviews
Genre Trouble: Post-Rock and Other Lost Sounds

Even with a space seemingly cut out for them by a family of description-defying groups, ready-made genres, and audiences lying in wait, some sounds still just seem to don’t fit anywhere. As I wrote previously about another post-something band, when genre-specific adjectives fail, we grasp at significant exemplars from the past to describe new sounds. Following Straw (1991), Josh Gunn (1999) calls this “canonization” (p. 42): The synecdochical use of a band’s name for a genre is analogous to our using metaphors, similes, and other figurative language when literal terms fall …

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December 10th, 2015 | Comments Off on Top 20 Records, 2015 | Category: Reviews
Top 20 Records, 2015

With all the beautiful debuts, great returns, and stellar collaborations this year, I’m still baffled by people who complain about the current state of music. I couldn’t even cover all of 2015’s great releases, but here are the ones I listened to and loved the most.
Unless otherwise noted, each album is linked to its Bandcamp page so you can have a listen and support the artists, if you are so inclined.

Deafheaven New Bermuda (ANTI-): Let’s not kid ourselves, when a band does a record as good as Sunbather (Deathwish, 2013), …

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November 18th, 2015 | Comments Off on Pseudonymity, Anonymity, and Obfuscation | Category: Reviews
Pseudonymity, Anonymity, and Obfuscation

Ever get creeped-out when Facebook automatically recognizes you or one of your friends in a photo? Facial recognition has been around for ages, but it’s starting to get disturbingly adept. There are haircuts and makeup tactics that can trick such cameras and software into not recognizing your face as a face, like the “ugly shirt” in William Gibson‘s Spook Country (2008). Obfuscation is akin to masking your identity without wearing a mask.

I loathe the phrase “hiding in plain sight,” but there’s no better way to easily describe the practice. “It’s a …