A nice tribute at the NPR to the 500,000 Americans that have died from Covid-19 - the National radio presents live stories of some of the victims and their favourite songs. Check out the sad collection - here.

A great read in the Quietus about the legendary singer-songwriter Jake Thackray: "When an attempt is made by the artist to self-mythologise or distance themselves from biography, a la Tom Waits or Frida Kahlo, I see it as becoming part of the work. For someone who worked so hard to distance himself from attention, it seems fitting to give a summation of Jake Thackray’s music through his life. Indeed, his work often ended up echoing or anticipating what he later became".

Black Sabbath

A thought-provoking article in Loudwire about the age rock musicians were at when they wrote their classic albums/songs. All Black Sabbath members were at the age of 20/21 when they wrote their debut, Kurt Cobain was 23 in 1990 when he wrote Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', as old as equally left-handed Jimi Hendrix was when he wrote 'Are You Experienced'. Metallica were 21, 22, and 23 when they wrote their masterpiece 'Master of Puppets', while Silverchair members, at the time of their multiplatinum debut 'Frogstomp', were just children - 14 years old!

Enjoying the idea of it in lockdown
February 19, 2021

Artists choose their favourite depictions of nightclubs in culture

Guardian made a nice little survey among artists and its writers about descriptions of night-clubs in art. Róisín Murphy chose the party scene in Paolo Sorrentino’s 'The Great Beauty', as well as Elaine Constantine's 'Northern Soul' which turned out well because the director taught the teenagers in the movie how to dance. The G's film critic Peter Bradshaw chose the sex/nightclub scene from 'Mektoub, My Love' by Abdellatif Kechiche. Music critic Alexis Petridis thinks that the one is the description of "the feeling of chemically enhanced, musically driven transcendence" from 'The Sparsholt Affair' novel by Alan Hollinghurst.

A lovely text by Mark Richardson about how music that old people had listened to in the past affects them when they're old. He played his father one of his favourite songs from his youth: "He smiled at first and sang along for a moment, and then his face went blank. It seemed as if he were pulling away from the present, letting the sound bypass his consciousness and arrive at some far reach of his brain, a place where it had been printed a half-century ago and then left alone".

The rebel child
February 15, 2021

Cowpunk - how punk met country

"Cowpunk is a reaction against conventional country, yet embodies some of its distant and deepest traits; likewise, it is also a reaction against punk, yet manifests as one of its purest expressions" - PopMatters writes about the common ground the two seemingly distant genres have found some 40 years ago.

Birthday flag
February 14, 2021

Ten points of entry to Henry Rollins' career

"Rollins' body, fortified with heavy weights and tattooed totems, became a vessel for the message of his music, which is that there is nothing glorious about being broken but there is dignity to be found in the bearing of it and consolation in the knowledge that it's not borne alone" - the Quietus writes in the lovely birthday card for the punk icon who turned 60 this weekend. The Q chooses 10 songs as points of entry to Henry Rollins' music.

Love will list us apart
February 12, 2021

A different kind of list: 14 asexual anthems for Valentine's

Mitski

"There has been almost no dialogue about how asexuality is being explored - whether intentionally or through subtext - in song lyrics. That’s why I’ve been keeping a list of songs that have strong asexual themes" - them.'s Isabel Corp writes in her post about "fourteen songs that folks on the asexual spectrum can enjoy on February 14". There are 'Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)' by Kate Bush, 'A Pearl' by Mitski, 'Dry' by PJ Harvey, 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' by Joy Division...

Happy Singeltine
February 12, 2021

Billboard lists 50 top love songs of all time

Billboard made a list of the 50 biggest love songs of all time, based on their chart position. It's mostly ballads, and the earliest entry on the list is 1958's 'To Know Him Is to Love Him' by the Teddy Bears. It seems love isn't really much of a thing lately - the newest entry on this list is 2011's 'We Found Love' by Rihanna.

Order in chaos
February 11, 2021

The 45 best hyperpop songs of all time

Slayyyter

"Born of the internet on dark mode, hyperpop is all the sugary sweet appeal of mainstream pop but soaked in steroids – a garish reflection of the all-you-can-eat hunger of the material world... Too much is never enough" - The Forty-Five says in their introduction of an impossible task - ranking hyperpop's 45 best tracks. The list ends with Danny L Harle, starts with Sophie, with 100 Gecs, Charlie XCX, Slayyyter, and many more in between.

SpotiFarm
February 10, 2021

How to become a millionaire on Spotify?

Just a very funny article in Vice about how to become a millionaire on Spotify by playing your music on your own computer, or rather on a lot of computers. You need 30-second songs - once a track is 30 seconds in, it counts as a stream. Continuously streaming 30-second songs for 24-hours on one computer nets you £7.89 per day. You need those songs to be played all day, every day, for a year, on 360 computers, and at the end of that year – you’ll have earned over £1,000,000 in streams! Genius; well, at least in theory.

In 1989, Norweigan pop sensation A-ha's singer Morten Harket and keyboardist Magne Furuholmen brought back from Switzerland to Norway something rarely seen back then - an electric car. Once in Oslo, A-ha boys started breaking the rules with the car: parking it illegally, driving it in bus lanes and blowing through toll booths without paying, sending a message that people should be allowed to drive electric cars - which weren’t classified for registration in Norway at the time - and, in fact, should be exempt from tolls, parking fees and bus lane restrictions for doing so. Harket's antics, heavily covered by the press, kicked off the country’s EV revolution - the following year, the government began implementing incentives for driving EVs, many of them closely resembling those that had been highlighted by the A-ha bandmates’ joyride. Last year, over half of all cars sold in Norway in 2020 were fully electric. Reasons to be Cheerful tells the whole nice story.

A nice little story in the Washington Post about a Paul O'Sullivan from the US who searched for other Paul O'Sullivans on the internet, sent friend requests to some, only to find out there were others who were music-lovers. The four of them - two from the US, one from the UK, and one other from the Netherlands formed a band 2016, and in December 2020 they released an EP 'Internet Famous: A Retrospective'. Didn't really have much of a choice about their name - The Paul O'Sullivan Band.

Want your time, and want it now!
January 22, 2021

MIDiA: Music has developed an attention dependency

"The attention economy is becoming a malign force for culture. Consumption is holding culture hostage" - Music Industry Blog writes in an interesting post about how the very nature is being changed due to ways we consume it - "artists and labels are locked in a race to increase the volume and velocity of music they put out... And because music attention spans are shortening, no sooner has the listener’s attention been grabbed, then it is lost again due to the next new track. In the attention economy’s volume and velocity game, the streaming platform is a hungry beast that is perpetually hungry. Each new song is just another bit of calorific input to sate its appetite".

A funny text in Stereogum by a former amateur skater Loren DiBlasi about how nu-metal is entering figure skating, written after US pairs team Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier performed a stellar short program to the tune of Linkin Park’s signature nu-metal hit 'In The End'. There were other metal figure-skating mash-ups, like yet another Linkin Park song, 'The Catalyst', and Disturbed's cover of 'Sound of Silence'. So, what's the point of it: "In figure skating, like in nu-metal, there are very few second chances. Like Mike Shinoda ecstatically rapping across a supernatural desert of broken dreams or Alexa Knierim being launched into the heavens in a gravity defying triple twist, it’s all about pushing through pain and doubt to seize the moment".

Guardian has a suggestion to turn our living-rooms into clubs with a selection of the 10 best remixes that reach as far as 1982. The list starts with Donna Summer's motor-disco 'I Feel Love' expanded to 15 minutes of techno psychedelia by Patrick Cowley, and finishes with Prince's 'I Wanna Be Your Lover' tweaked by Dimitri from Paris to part-live part-club disco-bomb.

Long live the album!
January 17, 2021

An essay: Album's not dead

Treblezine doesn't agree with The New York Times' pop music critic statement that the album is dead, here's why: "What too many 'album is dead' arguments seem to ignore is that the consumer has a choice in this—it’s easier to be a passive listener and let the machine feed you what it thinks you want, but we can choose to be better listeners and more actively engage with music on a deeper level. The song might be the primary unit of popular music, but an album can tell a larger story—perhaps not literally, but the best of them still serve to transport you away from the mundane and into a self-contained world that’s worth exploring repeatedly". Funny thing is, Caramanica made a list of best albums of the year - in 2020 as well 🙂

"Carolyn Franklin has been mostly overlooked, known – if at all – for a few songwriting credits. Her life and career as a songwriter, backing vocalist and solo artist, though cut short, is one of frustrated opportunity, hidden identity and fantastic accomplishment" - Guardian writes about Aretha Franklin's little sister, who could have been at least as equally big because she had left behind "a passionate, soulful body of work that deserves wider attention and recognition". She died in 1988, aged 43.

The Knack

A lovely article in the New York Times about songs named after real people like Dolly Parton’s 'Jolene', Kinks' 'Lola', Sting's 'Roxanne'... Dave McCabe's 'Valerie' was inspired by Valerie Star, a makeup artist, who dated the singer, but the song was popularised after Amy Winehouse recorded her version. Ms. Star thinks “it was a brilliant song, and I loved everything about it. It described that moment in my life and those trials and tribulations that I had gone through in the most quintessential way". Sharona Alperin was the subject of the Knack’s 1979 hit 'My Sharona' - band's singer Doug Fieger wrote it as a love letter to her and got her thanks to the song. When she decided to leave him it was because of the "my" part of the song - "when we broke up it was time to be my Sharona”.

The first breath
January 07, 2021

The best classical music written for the flute

The flute is one of humanity’s oldest ways of producing a beautiful sound, and it is based on the most fundamental sign of life: breath - New York Times writes in their introduction of a selection of the best classical compositions written for the flute.

Discovery lane
December 08, 2020

The best old music discovered this year

Gilda Radner

On the first anniversary of Tone Glow’s Substack iteration, its 30 writers write on the songs and albums and people that they have just discovered this year, and that mean something to them. There are some familiar names like Sade, Sleep, Grateful Dead, and Abba, as well some lesser-known like Judee Sill, Takagi Masakatsu, Gilda Radner (better-known as an actress), and Luc Ferrari. Go through it - here.

Spin is celebrating their 35th anniversary with a list of 35 most influential artists since 1985, with Nirvana taking the top spot because - "these days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a rock band or any modern artist — that’s not inspired in some way by that rowdy trio from Seattle". Lower down the list, among the Top 10, there are Prince, Madonna, N.W.A., Nine Inch Nails, 2Pac, Run DMC, R.E.M., Public Enemy, and Rage Against The Machine.

Guardian explored how fatherhood affected careers of male musicians, and how they dealt with it. UK rapper Ghetts says that when he had his daughter eight years ago, he “wasn’t as financially secure as I am now, so I panicked. It was like, ‘Wow, I’m going to be responsible for another human being.’ So it threw me into being more busy, if anything”. Similarly, Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard cites his breadwinner role - his children “get upset when I am about to go away”, but they “understand my job provides a good lifestyle for them where we have the things that we want”. As for logistics, Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne brought his newborn on tour, similar to Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, while Ghetts solves his fatherly duties by “speeding back during the night” after shows, and then “doing the school run in the morning”.

"YouTube famously hinges on an algorithm that guesses viewers' interests to keep them clicking and viewing" - Ars Technica writes about the unexpected rise in popularity of Japanese 1980s ambient music, thanks to the video social network. The most famous upload of them all came in 2017, when a video of the 1984 city pop song 'Plastic Love' by Mariya Takeuchi became "mind-bogglingly popular. It has 45 million views today, along with an Olympic swimming pool's worth of fan art, vaporwave remixes, and memes".

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