Category Archives: Music

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rock and Roll

By Erin Coulehan 

People loved rock and roll long before Joan Jett made an anthem about it in 1982. The genre was born through traditionally African American musical styles and adapted to suit a different audience — a whiter audience. Rock and roll as we know (and love) it drew influence from jazz, gospel, country, and R&B to popularize in the late 1940s and 1950s, and was set on fire by bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. According to Yale-educated music historian Lorenzo Candelaria at the University of Texas at El Paso, audience is what initially distinguished rock and roll from rhythm and blues. Simply put, “rhythm and blues refers to music that was marketed to a black audience; rock and roll refers to music directed at a white audience.” Continue reading

There’s a Theory I’ve Got Cooking: An Interview with John Rossiter of Young Jesus

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein 

Los Angeles-based alt-rock band Young Jesus has been through many iterations; it started as a high school band in the suburbs of Chicago, did a Red Bull-sponsored tour, went acoustic for an album, and then transformed into its current formation. A band of far-out sounds, 10-minute-plus songs that could be described as soundscapes, and live shows full of improvisation, Young Jesus resonates as both expansive and personal. Continue reading

Connections, Collage, and Citation in the Work of Lana Del Rey and Maggie Nelson

By Niina Pollari

These days, Lana Del Rey records every interview she does as a mode of self-protection against publications taking things she says out of context. The anxiety of citation has caused Del Rey to take major precautions; and yet, her new album Lust for Life is brimming with references, even more than her previous albums, from its title all the way to its final, Radiohead-riffing manifesto. Though they may not be attributed as citations, they are easily recognizable as pop canon: there are direct lyrical callouts to “Tiny Dancer,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and many more. The album also nods toward genres: the motorcycle revving at the beginning of the title track is straight out of teenage tragedy ballads like “Leader of the Pack.” How does the fact of Del Rey’s concern with citation, and with being cited correctly herself, reconcile with her borrowings from pop? Continue reading

The Joshua Tree Aesthetic: How the Mojave Yucca Became a Symbol of Music Video Feminism

By Julia Sizek

Lovers should seek out Joshua Tree for their next tryst, claims Ariana Grande’s music video. Her 2016 Grammy-nominated video for “Into You” traces a pop star’s illicit liaison with her bodyguard. They ride a motorcycle to a 1950s-style motel with joshua trees dotting the background, and Grande throws away her fame and celebrity boyfriend for a weekend of anonymity in the Mojave Desert. Continue reading

The Everydayness With Jonny Fritz

By Jesse Montgomery

Country is probably the most self-obsessed form of popular American music. It turns its own history over and over in its head, venerating its heroes and commenting on its progressions and digressions, its failure to live up to the myths the tradition has created. As a genre, it’s rivaled only by rap in its tendency to sing about itself and its evolution, to take itself as its own subject and find the emotional resonance of something like a style or a tradition. Waylon Jennings classic song “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” was a lament that country music had given itself over to glitzy self-delusion: “Lord it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar. Where do we take it from here? Rhinestone suits and new shiny cars. It’s been the same way for years.” But it’s also a song filled with guilt as the singer knows he too is leading the genre into new terrain, further and further from Hank Williams and country’s roots: “Lord, I’ve seen the world, with a five-piece band. Looking at the back side of me. Singing my songs, and one of his now and then. But I don’t think Hank done ’em this way, no. I don’t think Hank done ’em this way.”“Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” is a song about change, new sounds and new attitudes, but the progress that Waylon is singing about is only visible if it’s framed by a tradition which makes that change legible. Continue reading

How Music Reveals the Pitfalls — and Possibilities — of Patriotism

By Rachel Kraus

With 4th of July around the corner, I have found myself wondering how we sustain pride in our country during a most complicated time for America. “The Star Spangled Banner” still makes me feeling something, but no amount of O say can you sees and fireworks can erase a morose outlook on our political reality and future. Continue reading

What Did He Write and When Did He Write It?: Mozart’s Requiem

By Glen Roven

In anticipation of the National Chorale’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem, his monumental final work, thoughts of Wolfgang were swirling in my head. I thought of that scene in Amadeus, where Mozart, dying from some unknown disease, is coerced by his frenemy Salieri into dictating his Requiem note by note, so that the sure-to-be-forgotten Salieri can pass it off as his own, thereby securing a place in history as the author of at least one masterpiece. Continue reading

Un-treasured Time: A Conversation with Phil Elverum

By Cypress Marrs

In my mind, Phil Elverum is a man who needs no introduction.

I met Phil probably in 1997. I would have been four or five and he, a teenager, was recording music in K Records’ Dub Narcotic Studio, which, as it happened, was across the hall from my artist mother’s studio. As I was scurrying around the building’s dusty halls and trying to make shoes out of construction paper, Phil was recording atmospheric songs on a 16-track about landscape and longing. Continue reading

Leonard Cohen’s Art of Losing

By Oksana Maksymchuk

In a 1959 letter to Canadian publisher Jack McClellan, a 25-year old Leonard Cohen characterized his audience as “inner-directed adolescents, lovers in all degrees of anguish, disappointed Platonists, pornography-peepers, hair-handed monks and Popists, French-Canadian intellectuals, unpublished writers, curious musicians etc., all that holy following of my Art.” After he turned to songwriting and the circle of his admirers grew ever wider, the description remained surprisingly accurate. What bonds the groups on Cohen’s list is the sense of striving, an underlying — and mostly inarticulate — need. The 1960s, when Cohen emerged, was, after all, a moment for movements, and Cohen’s witty catalog suggested that even the misfits — scattered in their idiosyncratic pursuits — would have a movement of their own. Continue reading