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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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The tyranny of PBR&B is coming to an end. For too long has this term haunted discussions of music that pushes the boundaries of contemporary R&B. The term is eschewed by nearly all. But Wikipedia gave it a second life. The genre – if you could call it that, seeing as perfectly conventional acts like PartyNextDoor and Bryson Tiller get saddled with it too – has been referred to as “PBR&B” on Wikipedia for nearly half a decade. I’ve changed it to “alternative R&B” many times only to find it changed back the next day with a warning in my…

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The term “baroque pop” can apply to a great number of things: the harpsichord-assisted pure pop of the Left Banke, the Zen abstractions of Brian Wilson, the quirky piano pop of Regina Spektor, the orchestral indie of Ra Ra Riot. The desires of three different people who click the “List of baroque pop artists” page on Wikipedia are likely to be very different. For me, I want baroque pop to bend my mind. I want music that aims for transcendence and puts behind all notion of good taste and accessibility in doing so. I want music that smothers itself in…

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I was raised on classic rock and classic rock radio. But anyone who knows me well knows I have a lot of issues with the very rock ideal I was raised on. Rock is conservative, macho, and generally hostile to anyone who isn’t a white, straight male despite having been indisputably invented by African Americans, many queer and female. It holds up a standard of authenticity that ultimately praises fakeness as long as your fake-out is rootsy and manly enough. And, frankly, most classic rock sucks aside from a few established institutions (the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Stones, Zeppelin, Prince,…

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I’ve decided to stop doing Top 50 lists. For the last few years, I’ve obsessively compiled a Top 50 albums list throughout the year. But I’ve always had a hard time quantifying the albums down in the lower reaches, those I like and admire but have just enough of a gripe with to make me not want to regularly listen to them. A lot of these albums I never wrote about and thus was unable to give them the slavish attention I give those I review. So the bottom recesses of my Top 50 albums list fills up with albums…

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Vladislav Delay, born Sasu Ripatti, is one of the most underrated contemporary ambient artists. He’s never gotten rave reviews, largely because critics are still hoping for something else that sounds like his 2000 masterpiece Vocalcity, released as Luomo. Vocalcity certainly deserves every bit of its praise, but Delay’s wealth of ambient albums are not to be overlooked, and some rival Vocalcity in terms of quality. Here’s a quickie guide to his ambient work. (I’ll examine his Luomo and Uusitalo projects in another entry.) Ele (1999). Spanning three songs in sixty-six minutes, Ele has the longest track average of any Delay album…

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