The Church of the Pop Fringe

The Florida panhandle is an uncanny realm. True Detective’s first season, the one about the unsolved murders of young women in a southern delta community, was filmed some 500 miles dead west, but its unsettling story feels like it could have happened here. Murky swamps and endless backwoods. Antler horns and big tent church revivals. A sense of something untamed and primordial. Floridians say it’s the only place where you travel north to go to the Deep South.

Ethel Cain was born and shaped in a small town called Perry within these confines. The twenty-three year old singer/songwriter recently relocated…


A curious concert spectacle

Right up until the moment the big guy punches me, the show is actually quite enjoyable.

It’s my second time seeing M83 at Boston’s House of Blues in just five months. On both occasions, synthesizer wunderkind Anthony Gonzalez and his bandmates deliver exhilarating, laser-precise performances, bursting with optimism.

But this time around, the quartet possesses something more intangible — an unmistakable air of assurance. In between last November and this May, M83 has played sixty-something shows (including a huge gig at Coachella) and established the kind of stage presence that matches their music’s epic sweep. …


What you prefer may depend on the order in which you heard it

Our debate took ten years to unfold, but it was over in ten words.

“I’m not saying you’re wrong. I just believe something different.”

Before I explain, let’s get one thing straight: Siamese Dream is peak form Smashing Pumpkins. This is not debatable. No alternative facts allowed. The Chicago alt-rockers 1993 magnum opus sported not just big hits but enough street-cred righteousness to royally piss off Stephen Malkmus, the era’s gatekeeper of hipster cool. It was the band at their biggest, brightest, and most emotionally technicolor. …


An obsessive’s compendium

The ubiquitous crush of technology, climate change, a resurgence of fascism, the dread of isolation — Radiohead’s music has foreshadowed and survived it all. The British rock Emeriti are the closest living, breathing thing we have to the pop music royalty of the Beatles. They’re tunesmiths, sonic warlocks, unapologetic experimentalists, a band that obtained commercial success without ever abandoning its critical edge. They’ve even done something the Beatles never could do. They’ve grown old together.

Thankfully, Thom Yorkes’s solo excursions into brooding EDM (The Eraser or Anima) and Johnny Greenwood’s neck hair-raising film scores for Paul Thomas Anderson films (There…


We could all learn a lesson or two by avoiding the hot take.

In his book “Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” the technologist, scholar, and humanist Jaron Lanier offers ten reasons for trying the unthinkable and taking a luddite’s approach to connecting online — just don’t do it.

He strikes a tenor similar to the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma by citing the sinister power of Facebook, Twitter, and Google algorithms while arguing that social networks conversely destroy our capacity for empathy, undermine truth, and render what we have to say effectively meaningless. …


Shades of Computer Blue

(Note: In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 quarantine began and everything else stopped. Live concerts stopped. The world stopped. I wrote this piece during the first couple of months of the pandemic. The isolation was just sinking in. A year later, it still rings true. Now, more than ever, the memory of live music is worth preserving.)

Prince played a show to 40,000 people in my hometown last week. And I missed it.

Yes, I’m aware the performance occurred some 35 years ago. But it felt live, like something communal and immediate, because the Prince Estate had just released a…


Ten musicians who helped us pass the time in an interminable year

10–6 | 5–1

5. Moses Sumney
Grae

Whether lying nude on his album cover or standing six-foot three at a video shoot spattered in glitter, Moses Sumney’s physical form exudes a canonical masculinity—charismatic, chiseled, and imposing. It makes his examinations of sexual identity and non-binary gender on double album Grae all the more intriguing. The fluidity of these twenty songs—coalescing somewhere between folk, electro-soul, and avant-garde indie rock—mirrors the 29-year old Ghanian-American’s existence in liminal space. In a world climate of polarization, Sumney remains imperturbably inbetween.

His skyscraping…


Ten musicians who helped us pass the time in an interminable year

It seems contradictory to even place those two words within earshot of each other: “Best” and “2020.” The fight for racial justice hit a painful cultural flashpoint, we sweated out presidential election results for ̶d̶a̶y̶s̶,̶ ̶w̶e̶e̶k̶s̶,̶ months, and the entire planet holed up during a pandemic. Toilet paper became woeful currency. So much of 2020 felt like looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves at our disheveled worst — work from home hair, mask breath, or the hollow-eyed expression of a 3rd-grade substitute teacher drafted into emergency service…


Waxahatchee’s reflective, sober soundtrack for quarantine times

The one constant for Waxahatchee has always been Katie Crutchfield’s voice. That is to say, her literal one — a sweet, wise-beyond-its-years tenor that is half clarion call and half frayed edge — and metaphorical one: the messages she bears of wry disillusionment, brash exuberance, and the surety that hard-earned epiphanies lie hidden in between.

Over whispery lo-fi folk or grunge-inflected rock, Waxahatchee romanticizes despair in an opaque way that indie music fans find comforting. “We will find a way to be lonely any chance we get/ And I’ll keep having dreams about…


The 20 most important artists (and 10 other essential songs) of the 2010's.

20–16 . 15–11 . 10–6 . 5–1 . & 10 more songs

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti — “Round and Round” (2010)

Like its creator Ariel Rosenberg, “Round and Round” doesn’t play by the rules. It’s 70’s AM pop-radio nostalgia before the modern era of vinyl retromania was ever in fashion. It chucks traditional songwriting norms out the window, containing one verse, two bridges, a chorus for an outro, and a non-sequitur interlude where Rosenberg answers the phone. …

Jeff Goodwin

Music writer at ludditestereo.com, user experience guy, proud bumbling dad.

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