The Mixologist: S&N Singles Club, Vol. 1

By Antony. The “Binge and Purge” series over at AV Club inspired these Singles Club mixes. Josh Modell, a music writer for the site, has amassed a 2,000-CD collection. He’s decided in 2016 that’s too many. His assessment of the records he’s keeping and those he’s tossing is sentimental and humorous, revealing something about how we age with our musical tastes. I passed it around to a few of the S&N writers, and from that sprung the Singles Club challenge:

Compile a playlist of songs from artists or albums that you, once upon a time, had some affection for, but which you now can reduce to a single song without ever missing the rest. Continue reading

The Stagediver: Ryan Adams Acoustic Show @ The Lincoln Theater, Washington, DC

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By Spencer. I wanted to write a review of Ryan Adams’s sold-out acoustic show at DC’s Lincoln Theater. It was probably a fantastic show, and you’d think I’d be more sure of that considering I was there and all. But instead of writing about Ryan Adams, I really have no other option but to write about “that guy.” You know the one I’m talking about, because you’ve probably seen him at many a concert yourself. He’s the guy who decides he’s going to dance wildly with his arms flailing around for the entire show, bumping and jostling anyone in a ten-foot radius. He’s the guy who wandered in from the year 1994 to start a mosh pit, when everyone else just wants to listen. He’s the guy who can’t stop checking his cell phone in a darkened room, or the guy who goes for ten beer runs, or the guy who thinks everyone came to hear his voice instead of, you know, the person whose name is on the ticket. And if you were sitting anywhere near Row S, Seat 17, in the upper left balcony last night, you know exactly which guy I’m talking about. Continue reading

The Mixologist: You Want The Sun

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By Spencer. Last week, we gave you our picks for some of music’s best early summer releases. And staying with the spirit of the season, they were heavy on pop, hip-hop, upbeat rock—you know, fun stuff. This week, we’re back with a monster-sized mix for you, and we’re keeping with that vibe. So enjoy this sampling of synthpop from the likes of Niki & The Dove, Christine And The Queens, Ladyhawke, and Blood Orange; upbeat blues from Margaret Glaspy and Julie Rhodes; breezy acoustic music from Roo Panes, Whitney, Sarah Jarosz, and The Lumineers; and of course, a few random curveballs. You know you want it. Continue reading

The Consumer: S&N’s Early Summer Picks

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By Spencer. The music media is already caught up in the game of trying to crown the “song of the summer.” But summer music doesn’t all have to be fluff. And ambitious music can still be plenty of fun. You’ll hear that theme across a lot of our early summer music picks, which feature hip-hop and R&B from the likes of Chance The Rapper and Gallant; synthpop courtesy of Ladyhawke and Niki & The Dove; uptempo rock from Car Seat Headrest and The Kills; the mellower sounds of Case/Lang/Viers, Sarah Jarosz, and Gregory Alan Isakov; and whatever the hell box the music of Blood Orange belongs in. Continue reading

The Projects: The Vintage Collector, Vol. 1

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By Spencer. Last year, I became part of the problem. After years of rolling my eyes at them, I’m now one of those assholes who buys records on vinyl. Naturally, such a complete reversal of everything a man stands for could have only one explanation: it happened because of a girl. But while that quirky hipster artiste is long since out of my life, the way I listen to music is forever changed thanks to the phenomenal sound I heard from her record player one night. A few notes of Otis Redding through a proper turntable and speakers and I was hooked. So when I finally threw down the $300 for an Audio-Technica phonograph and started spending $20 a piece for albums I already owned in digital form, it made complete sense that I started with mostly vintage artists—Redding, Miles, Coltrane, Sinatra, The Beatles, Led Zep. Because as my record collection quickly expanded, I learned the first rule of vinyl is this: if it was recorded during the era when vinyl was still the predominant musical format, it really does sound better on vinyl. Continue reading

The Mixologist: The Road To California

image4By Antony & Spencer. This weekend, three of our S&N contributors got to catch up in person for the first time in years. The occasion was our editor Spencer’s very first trip to California. (Editor’s Note: Yes, I’m writing about myself in the third person, for reasons that will be obvious later). Spencer is very much aware that it is inexcusable for this to have taken so long, especially now that the trip is over and he’s discovered just how much he loves the West Coast lifestyle. After a multi-day tour of Los Angeles that was (unsurprisingly) heavy on Hollywood history, Spencer’s trip gave him the chance to reunite with longtime friends and S&N contributors Mark and Antony over very large beers at San Diego’s Biergarten and Modern Times, where we talked music, dating, parenthood, tacos, and a whole lot more. And in honor of the trip, Antony compiled a little travel music for Spencer—who couldn’t pass up on sharing with the rest of you. (As you can see, these joint postings cause a lot of awkward drafting issues. Don’t complain, you’re getting free music). Continue reading

The Critic: Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool

radiohead--a-moon-shaped-poolBy Spencer. After a flurry of a week that started with mysterious leaflets mailed to fans with the message, “we know where you live,” followed a few days later by not one but two surprise music videos, we suddenly have a brand new Radiohead album. Its title, revealed only a few minutes before Sunday’s digital release through the band’s website, is A Moon Shaped Pool. And in the best surprise of this week-long rollout, it turns out that this is easily the best work of art Radiohead have achieved since Kid A. But in a twist no one could have predicted, the most groundbreaking thing about the album is how listenable it is. For a band whose style has so often flirted with the eccentric, whose entire identity is defined by their two decades as the standard-bearers for experimental music, A Moon Shaped Pool is a left turn of another kind: it’s just a collection of gorgeous sounds. Continue reading

The Consumer: March & April Picks

By Spencer. After a slow start, 2016 is finally delivering some great new music. So today we’re featuring a giant-size collection of March and April releases from old favorites and new revelations across every genre: Margo Price, Sturgill Simpson, Natalie Royal, The Range, Kevin Morby, Matt Corby, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, The Lumineers (pictured above), and Parker Millsap. Continue reading

The Stagediver: Smashing Pumpkins In Plainsong @ The Lincoln Theater, Washington, DC

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By Spencer. When Billy Corgan announced that the Smashing Pumpkins would be doing a special acoustic tour of small, intimate theater venues called In Plainsong, I was intrigued. When he announced Jimmy Chamberlain would be returning on drums, I was sold. The Pumpkins were my favorite band growing up. They were my very first rock concert (way back in 1994). This would be my fourth time seeing them live, but my first since their initial breakup in 2001. It was a chance to reconnect with all the teenage angst that Billy Corgan so perfectly voiced during the 90s. But just like I have grown in the years since, so have the Pumpkins—and the “acoustic-electro” concept behind this show would be a chance to see them in a newer, more mature light. Continue reading

The Mixologist: Back In The Old Country

By Spencer. A recent article in GQ Magazine profiled three country artists who are shaking up the Nashville establishment: Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Sturgill Simpson. We’ve raved about all three on S&N, but the truth is, they’re just the tip of the spear. There are dozens of other songwriters out there defying the cheap conventions of Nashville country. You know what I’m taking about—hokey, jokey, manufactured pop songs about sexy tractors and beer-drinking horses, dressed up in a little steel guitar and just enough contrived twang to appeal to the goatee-wearing NASCAR crowd. It’s this brand of “bro country” that has given the genre a bad name among music lovers, turning a once-thriving strain of quintessentially American art into a punchline (at least outside of the South).

Then came Chris Stapleton, who struck a major blow last year when his album, Traveller, came out of nowhere to sweep the 2015 Country Music Awards—taking down more established (and embarrassing) mainstays like Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, and Jason Aldean along the way. It was hailed as a possible turning point for country music after years of decline. Meanwhile, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell have each enjoyed adulation even among the indie rock press for recent albums that re-embraced a truer songwriting and a more faithful devotion to vintage country sounds. Continue reading

The Mixologist: I Will Love The Twenty-First Century

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By Antony. So I wrote a rant about the evils of nostalgia and then deleted it. For me, there’s nothing worse than finding myself in a public place and realizing that they’re playing the 90s Nostalgia Channel—or whatever Sirius XM, Beats, or Spotify call their versions. They cater to the walking dead. Those who stopped growing two decades ago. If your music taste has stagnated, I consider that a moral failure. Continue reading

The Consumer: January & February Picks

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By Spencer. The first couple months of 2016 were a little slow on breakout albums, and I’ve frankly been playing catch-up on a few things. However, as I think back over my listening habits so far this year, there are a handful of new releases I seem to keep coming back to. They’re growers—albums that may not grab you right away, but that reward repeated listens. And if past experience is any guide, these growers often end up being my favorite albums in the long run; past examples include Radiohead’s first three discs, Ryan Adams’s Gold, Travis’s The Man Who, Arcade Fire’s Funeral, Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and pretty much the entire collected works of PJ Harvey. So while it may be too soon to put any of these new releases in that illustrious company, keep an ear out. Continue reading

The Projects: Great Music Moments In Film History, Vol. 1

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By Spencer. As a website devoted to both music and film, there’s an obvious cross-section we’ve been ignoring up until now. Sure, we once featured some movie musicals that don’t suck, but that’s only the most glaringly obvious marriage of music and film. Today, we kick off a series devoted to another kind of on-screen music moment: those stand-out instances where the song just makes the scene, where it perfectly captures the mood or plays an integral role in the development of the story. Where music takes over the movie at a crucial point and accomplishes what no bit of dialogue ever could. These are the moments when song and script combine effortlessly to form an unforgettable movie memory. Continue reading

The Mixologist: Fears & Hopes

By Spencer. There’s a somewhat pedestrian album by British one-hit-wonders Keane called Hopes And Fears. And while compiling the tracks for this latest edition of The Mixologist, it occurred to me that Keane got their album title completely backwards. As these eleven songs exploring all the unexpected little complications of love attest, fears often come ahead of hopes. Sure, there are magic hours and maybe even thoughts of diamonds right from the start. But as Miya Folick says, “nothing ever ends the way you thought it would when you started.” And there are all those annoying little questions that start to intrude. Will this end in heartbreak? Is she still afraid of the ghosts of her past? Is he only telling me what I want to hear? Will I end up just another cautionary tale? Is it just dumb to put yourself out there like this? How much is too much? Continue reading

The Historian: The Forefathers Of The Modern Rock Album

Image-1(2)By Spencer. Bear with me here. When you see that headline, you’re probably not expecting to see black-and-white pictures of a few guys your grandparents used to listen to. But as in all things musical, the origins of what you know and love today started way before the sounds you recognize. To borrow a metaphor popular with great minds ranging from Isaac Newton to Oasis, greatness is achieved by standing on the shoulders of giants. And while The Beatles may mark the point in time where rock truly entered the album era—and by that, I mean the era in which music was no longer consumed predominantly as popular singles but was now thought of as a collection of songs intended to represent a coherent artistic statement greater than the sum of its parts—we often forget that The Beatles had the benefit of the creative and technical innovations of a few artists who were slowly walking us in the direction of the album concept at least a generation earlier. This is a look at the decidedly non-rock artists who forged the modern rock album. Continue reading

The Year In Music 2015: S&N’s Songs Of 2015

By The S&N Staff. As part of our year-end festivities at S&N, we’ve gotten together and voted on our favorite individual tracks of the year. As with all things, democracy yielded a diversity of opinions! And yet after a couple of rounds of balloting, we all found ourselves gravitating toward the same songs. So check out our Spotify playlist, featuring favorite tracks from Alabama Shakes, Kendrick Lamar, Leon Bridges, Houndmouth, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Courtney Barnett, Jason Isbell, Hop Along, Beach Slang, and plenty more. Special thanks to our friend Hendricks for putting this playlist together. Enjoy, and happy holidays! Continue reading

The Year In Music 2015: Jason’s Picks

popsBy Jason. While there was so much good music to choose from in 2015, three albums came out of nowhere to dominate my listening for the year. I enjoyed the hell out of this year’s releases from some familiar artists, like Josh Ritter’s Sermon On The Rocks, Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free, The Dead Weather’s Dodge And Burn, and Noah Gundersen’s Carry The Ghost. But I expected to. The three albums that really got to me, however, were from artists with which I had no prior connection. Continue reading

The Critic: Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams

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By Antony. The world only stops for Adele. When most artists release an album, it disperses across various media outlets, climbs the iTunes download chart, and then, more than likely, disappears into the informational oblivion of the internet. Even a band as big as Coldplay is at risk of this happening to them.

Even as we continue turning art into information-packets, I knew the release of Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams would be for me a small community event. The very same internet that destroys history also enables one to keep in touch with friends near and far. As I put on the new Coldplay on Friday, December 4th, I imagined three of my friends doing the same wherever they are.  Continue reading

The Year In Music 2015: Antony’s Picks

hansardBy Antony. This year I didn’t fall in love with many albums, but when I did, that album dominated my listening for weeks upon weeks and colored the life I was living. Glen Hansard’s Didn’t He Ramble is set to become the auditory anchor to late 2015. My wife and I went to see him perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in early November. It was truly a religious experience for me. Hansard and his band spent half the show unplugged from the amps because the venue’s acoustics were so good—like a campfire with several thousand people. The fiddle player’s solo at the end of “McCormick’s Wall” was absolutely arresting. The show didn’t change me; it confirmed everything I’ve come to know and believe. Continue reading

The Year In Music 2015: Spencer’s Picks

barnettBy Spencer. It’s my favorite time of year again—time for each of S&N’s contributors to weigh in on their favorite music and movies of 2015. If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know we rarely agree on much. But this year, I suspect we’re going to see a lot of the same suspects popping up—at least in the area of music, where a few artists managed to establish themselves to near-universal acclaim. One of those artists is Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett, who earned some moderate buzz in 2014 with her impressive live show and her offbeat release, The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas, and has now followed it up in 2015 with a full album of irreverent worldplay and post-grunge riffage that, in my opinion and no doubt many others, is the album of the year. Continue reading

The Projects: The Essential 90s Albums, #5-1

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By The S&N Staff. All things must end. And even though it took almost as long to count down our favorite albums of the 90s as it did to actually make it through the 90s, we’re finally ready to give you our top five. While it should come as no surprise that bands like Nirvana and Radiohead top out our list, you just may be surprised at which order they placed once the final votes were tallied. Continue reading

The Mixologist: Solidarité

paris4By Spencer. I don’t profess to be an expert on French music by any means. But with the events of Friday night, I imagine a lot of us who have visited or lived in Paris can’t help but feel the need for a moment of reflection. The motto of our predecessor site, After The Radio, was “music softens walls”—which is something I’d like to believe now more than ever. And though it seems naive to think that music could ever truly “heal” in the sense that the people of Paris need in these particular days, maybe at least it can soften the pain, if not the walls that lead to tragedies like this. So if you’re in need of a little softening, I hope you’ll take solace in this playlist, featuring landmark French artists like Edith Piaf, Django Reinhardt, Françoise Hardy, Claude Debussy, Daft Punk, Phoenix, and of course the father-and-daughter pair of Serge and Charlotte Gainsbourg—along with a few tributes to the City of Lights from closer to home. And of course we had to include a little parting shot from a certain band whose music will now forever be an act of defiance to those who would try to drag us down into the darkness with them. Liberté, égalité, fraternité, solidarité…. Continue reading

The Consumer: The New Monsters Of Classic Metal

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By Spencer. A year ago, I declared that rock was officially dead. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t bands out there fighting the good fight, though. Maybe it’s my recent reintroduction to vinyl talking, but I’ve been on kind of a classic metal awakening lately. Not glam metal or death metal, but the true roots of metal, back when it first sprung loose from hard rock—I’m talking bands like Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Kiss, and of course, Led Zeppelin. (Though I still insist that it’s a crime to categorize Led Zeppelin first and foremost as a metal band, since their music completely transcended that genre). This brand of early metal gives you the best of both worlds: the darkness and attitude that eclipses mere rock, and the melody, songcraft, humor, and simple fun that were missing from later metal.

But before you accuse me of living in the past, this edition of The Consumer takes a look at a few bands that are reviving that classic metal sound in the here and now. Continue reading

The Projects: The Essential 90s Albums, #10-6

flannel2By The S&N Staff. Over the past few months, S&N has been counting down our list of the essential 90s albums. So far, we’ve seen historic albums from Nine Inch Nails, Biggie, Green Day, Beastie Boys, Counting Crows, Rage Against The Machine, Oasis, and plenty of others. Today, we finally reach the top 10, and it should comes as no surprise that there’s hip-hop, nerd rock, and of course, plenty of grunge. We start with a band better known for their 80s output—and a 1992 masterpiece that may (or may not) be their best work. Continue reading

The Critic: Josh Ritter’s Sermon On The Rocks

JRSermonBy Spencer. Americana should be a thing of the past by now. I mean, it obviously is a thing of the past, literally speaking. But the fad that kicked into overdrive six years ago with Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers should have burned itself out by now. (Hell, if you listen to Mumford’s latest album, 2015’s lackluster Wilder Mind, it’s pretty clear even they have moved on—even if that was a mistake). The shame of it is, there are those who never were part of the fad, who were doing this kind of music simply because they loved it, because it spoke to them and spoke through them. They were there long before the hipsters took hold of it and made it part of a broader aesthetic movement of ironic handlebar mustaches, mason jar cocktails, and reclaimed hardwood decor. Josh Ritter should by all rights be the face of Americana—he’s been doing it since his 1999 debut, and for a three-album stretch that included 2006’s The Animal Years, 2007’s The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter, and 2010’s So Runs The World Away, he did it better than just about anyone. Back this week with Sermon On The Rocks, Ritter is lyrically laying claim to that mantle once again, even as his sound takes a few bold steps beyond all that. Continue reading

The Consumer: September Picks

By Spencer. September was full of so many big releases, I’m still working my way through them all. So while we very well may have more to say about The Dead Weather, Gary Clark, Jr., Foals, Beach House, Joan Shelley, CHVRCHES, Patty Griffin, Silversun Pickups, and plenty of others, today’s edition of The Consumer is a progress report of sorts on several artists who have been longtime favorites of the site. We start with Glen Hansard. Continue reading