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Nathan Stevens has contributed to PopMatters and Spectrum Culture. He and I are both avowed fans of the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. He celebrated Christmas growing up; I didn’t. But it turns out A Charlie Brown Christmas speaks to us in similar ways, and that just speaks to the magic of this great album. Here are our respective reviews, which I’ve included as the second installment in my ongoing Faves series.  Nathan Stevens: Music is attached to a majority of my childhood memories. Singing in church choirs on Christmas eve, listening to James Taylor as my Dad baked cookies, my Mom and…

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I recently reviewed the reissue of Bruce Haack’s The Electric Lucifer for Spectrum Culture. I understand why the Canadian label Telephone Explosion decided to reissue it; it’s one of the first psych-rock albums to exploit the then-largely-untapped power of the synthesizer, and early synth music is all the rage these days. But Lucifer is also something far more dated and embarrassing: a peace-and-love album from the ‘60s, where “powerlove” is the only force powerful enough to defeat evil. Now that liberal pop culture has become more aware than ever how complex the underlying issues fueling inequality truly are, I don’t think anyone reading…

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I’ve decided to start regularly posting reviews of albums I consider among my favorites, seeing as most of the sites I write and have written for emphasize timeliness. I’ve written a few retrospective reviews for Spectrum Culture on albums like Prince’s Black Album and Biosphere’s Substrata, but the opportunity to do so doesn’t come around much. These reviews come out of bursts of love and inspiration. This is my first one, of Parliament’s Motor-Booty Affair. ______ “This fish tale begins where most fish tails end.” George Clinton is a funny motherfucker. It’s hard to imagine anyone in pop better at absurd one-liners (“lemme slide a…

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One of my roommates got this great poster for our living room, and it’s given me a lot to think about. 1. The placement of the band members is pretty much perfect. Han’s gotta be the lead guitarist, and every rock band needs a big, tall, strong, silent bassist like Vader. Luke, as the hero-but-not-hero of the movie, is perfect as the overcompensating rhythm guitarist. Leia is the singer, which maybe has something to do with the stereotype that women don’t/can’t play instruments, but then again everyone else fits their instruments so well that I’m not too mad. 2.I have…

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In Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street – which came to Netflix this month – there’s a scene where the young sailor Anthony goes undercover as a wigmaker to smuggle his lover out of a women’s asylum. You see, wigmakers in those days (at least according to the movie and the Stephen Sondheim musical it’s adapted from) went to bedlam to get hair for their latest projects. We see a friendly-looking doctor leading Anthony through a darkened hallway. Quickly we see that each room in the asylum is divvied up by hair color, and clusters of brunettes…

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We can never know everything. It’s impossible. As we gaze into forests and walk through city streets, we wonder what’s hidden deep in those woods, why those lights deep in the facades of giant city towers are still on at four in the morning, and we accept we’ll probably never know. We have no reason to know, and we have other things to do. Surely some language must have a word at that sense of regret we feel that what we will have explored, done, learned, and known by the time we die is silly compared to the incomprehensible, awe-inspiring…

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I was about 13 or 14 when I discovered the great Japanese band Boris. I found them through their primary influence the Melvins, whom I discovered through Daniel Bukszpan’s Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal – a funny and well-written book I bought more for the pictures and design than the actual music. Yes, I previewed many of the bands Bukszpan championed on iTunes and even bought a track or two from the ones I liked (my limited budget of five bucks per week for downloads prevented me from ever buying full albums, and I was hip on neither Torrent nor streaming). But I…

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“The idea is to fill up Facebook with music, breaking the monotony of ugly politics and negative news. The people who ‘like’ this post will be given a letter of a musician, band or artist and you should post a video of this, including this text on your timeline.” I’ve seen this chain-letter post a lot on Facebook lately. I understand the sentiment. There are a lot of ugly politics and negative news going around, enough that 2016’s already been termed the “Summer of Shit.” Hardly a day goes by without something earth-shatteringly horrible going on, bridged by endless discussion….

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Desiigner’s “Panda”: it sounds a lot like Future, and it’s the biggest mistaken-identity meme since that UB40 song everyone still thinks is Bob Marley. The fact that “Panda” has charted infinitesimally higher than anything Future’s done – yes, even “Jumpman” – adds more fuel to the fire. But “Panda,” both in terms of its structure and what makes it ultimately work, is distinct enough from anything Future’s done as to make it a bit of a stretch to call it a ripoff. For one, “Panda” is more virile than the bulk of Future’s work. Future’s big talent is to make…

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Anyone put off in the least by the term “new age” would do well to check out Laraaji. The man’s work and philosophy are firmly new age – for decades, the man born Edward Gordon made a living selling tapes to meditation centers and hosting workshops on the power of laughter. His albums have names like Unicorns In Paradise and Connecting With The Inner Healer Through Music, and half of the latter album is a guided meditation where Laraaji intones platitudes in a sonorous bass voice that would make Morgan Freeman jealous. He’s not here to apologize or make compromises. But Laraaji’s music…

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