“They Gotta Catch Me if They Want Me to Hang”: Back in Black Turns 40

“I’m a rolling thunder, pouring rain / I’m coming on like a hurricane / My lightning’s flashing across the sky / You’re only young, but you’re gonna die…” It’s fitting that AC/DC’s magnum opus begins with an apocalyptic line that echoes the self-mythologizing blues lyrics of Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf. After all, the Australian […]

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50 Years of Heavy Metal

The sound of a torrential downpour. The slow tolling of a church bell. The unsettling, three-note tritone riff sequence that embodied the mythical diabolus in musica: G, G, C#. “What is this that stands before me? Figure in black which points at me. Turn ’round quick and start to run. Find out I’m the chosen […]

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The 2019 Album of the Year

Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Polydor/Interscope) Back in the mid-2010s I attended a panel discussion whose topic was something to the effect of, “Why are there no classic albums anymore, and what makes a true classic album?” There was a lot of good discussion, but the conversation kept drifting away from the crux of […]

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The 2019 Track of the Year

Charly Bliss, “Chatroom” Like so many great rock and pop songs, Charly Bliss’s gloriously hooky “Chatroom” is rooted in dark subject matter. According to singer/guitarist Eva Hendricks, the song was written in the wake of being sexually assaulted, in which blinding rage steadily morphs into empowering joy. Featuring verses that seethe with anger (“Everybody knows […]

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The Best Tracks of 2019, #2

2. Lana Del Rey, “Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – but I Have It” From the very beginning – that being “Video Games” – Lana Del Rey crafted one of the more unique styles of the decade, but although my admiration for her has been steadily growing over […]

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The Best Albums of 2019, #2

2. FKA twigs, Magdalene (Young Turks) Although it was completely understandable that it took Tahliah Barnett five years to put out a full-length follow-up to 2014’s LP1 – she experienced a crushing end to her long-term relationship and then underwent surgery to have six fibroid tumours removed from her uterus – the music world was […]

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The Best Albums of 2019, #3

3. Opeth, In Cauda Venenum (Nuclear Blast) When Opeth decided to eschew the extreme metal element of their sound after 2008’s Watershed in favor of a more progressive rock-oriented approach, it angered a lot of their obsessive fans. Ten years and four albums later, those fans are still whining that Mikael Åkerfeldt doesn’t growl his […]

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The Best Tracks of 2019, #3

3. Bille Eilish, “Bad Guy” As predicted – and orchestrated, skeptics will say – Billie Eilish absolutely blew the hell up in 2019, and when the 17 year-old released her debut album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? in March, the first song to grab listeners by the throat was the murky, confrontational […]

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The Best Albums of 2019, #4

4. Tool, Fear Inoculum (Tool Dissectional) Back in 2006, a veritable lifetime ago, I reviewed Tool’s sixth album. I wasn’t overly fond of, if I can recall. Coming five years after the triumphant Lateralus, 10,000 Days had its great moments but I found it far too drawn out, too meandering to warrant a full recommendation, […]

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The Best Tracks of 2019, #4

4. Weyes Blood, “Everyday” “True love is making a comeback,” sings Natalie Mering on the pretty single “Everyday”. “For only half because the rest just feel bad.” That dynamic between the happy and the miserable drives the song, which sounds so much like a Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition that it feels familiar as soon as […]

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The Best Albums of 2019, #5

5. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising (Sub Pop) Singer-songwriter Natalie Mering had been building toward something big over the course of her first three albums under the Weyes Blood moniker, but in spite of whatever expectations people might have had, nothing could have prepared them for the blindsiding grandeur of Titanic Rising. A combination of […]

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The Best Tracks of 2019, #5

5. Sleater-Kinney, “Hurry on Home” For a band as confrontational as Sleater-Kinney, they never really opened up as much as they did on the first single from their daring album The Center Won’t Hold. On the direct, minimalist-yet-noisy “Hurry on Home”, Carrie Brownstein exudes self-confidence, singing, “You know I’m dress down-able, uptown-able, hair grab-able, grand […]

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The Best Albums of 2019, #6

6. Jenny Hval, The Practice of Love (Sacred Bones) For an artist as daring and non-traditional as Jenny Hval, to see her tackling a theme as banal as love is enough to make one do a double-take. She even addressed the seeming incongruity in a press release. “Love as a theme in art has been […]

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The Best Tracks of 2019, #6

6. FKA twigs, “Sad Day” Of course the one track on FKA twigs’ stupendous second full-length album that won me over the most was the one that is most indebted to Kate Bush. As soon as the track’s clattering beats come in underneath her plaintive singing (Skrillex was a co-producer) it echoes side two of […]

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