Category: Music

A toast, and a warning, from Alice Cooper’s Hollywood Vampires

Halloween comes early this year thanks to everyone’s favorite shock-rocking, snake-handling, perennially decapitated, thoughtfully Christian crypt keeper Alice Cooper. Along with Johnny Depp and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Cooper has assembled the super-est of supergroups to offer a loving yet chilling parody of rock-and-roll excess. The self-titled debut album by Hollywood Vampires is here - trick or treat…  [more]

Community vs. Cult of Personality (or 3 days at TIFF)

I met Sharon Jones at the Toronto International Film Festival last week. Well, at least I met her through Miss Sharon Jones!, a documentary about the contemporary soul/funk singer, with whom I had been woefully unfamiliar. Jones is a force. Like her hero James Brown, she has indomitable energy as a singer, dancer and band leader, especially in her live performances with her backup musicians, The Dap Kings. The…  [more]

Lamenting along with Iron Maiden

Few bands have the legacy and longevity of Iron Maiden. Forty years and 16 studio albums in, the British sextet continues to prove that they’re one of the most hard-working and ambitious heavy metal acts around. And nothing shouts ambitious like a double-disc album. As such, The Book of Souls stands out in Iron Maiden’s catalogue as a formal departure from their trademark, punchy bursts of metal. The…  [more]

The perilous pleasure of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion

With the release of Emotion, a bubble gum triumph with an (unintentionally) existential dark side, Carly Rae Jepsen makes a credible grab for Taylor Swift’s pop princess tiara. With the support of a certified “who’s who” of today’s hottest writers and producers, Jepsen emerges as a force with which to be reckoned. Emotion is one of the more sonically sophisticated and layered records of…  [more]

Love & Mercy: the spiritual haunting of a musical genius

As vapid summer pop music and mindless popcorn flicks reign supreme on the charts, a quiet little film called Love & Mercy explores the heart and mind of one of the most important musical artists of the last century. Brian Wilson - who ironically helped to perfect surf music, one of the most excellently shallow forms of pop ever invented - took a major creative and spiritual left turn when he stopped touring…  [more]

Joy Williams and the redemption of Venus

The last time Joy Williams released a solo album she was a blond purveyor of effervescent Christian pop. A career reboot led to a surprising wave of commercial and critical success as half of the alt-country/neo-folk act The Civil Wars, followed by the equally surprising crash and burn of that Grammy Award-winning duo. Now Williams is back with a lushly produced, highly arranged solo album called Venus. There has…  [more]

The faithful eclecticism of Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface

After a well-earned and slow rise to indie prominence with their 2013 LP Vessel, Twenty One Pilots just blew up the charts with a No. 1 album called Blurryface. Anyone even remotely interested in modern music with soul should be paying attention. Band members Tyler Joseph (vocals, keyboards) and Josh Dun (drums) have proven that genre rules are meant to be broken and that melodic and lyrical precision still have a…  [more]

Mumford & Sons’ milder Wilder Mind

So yeah, Mumford & Sons have ditched the prospector clothes and the acoustic instrumentation for Wilder Mind. It’s hardly surprising, either. Babel took the band’s trademark arena folk to unsustainable heights and, as with post-Rattle and Hum U2, it was time for the poster boys of populist Americana to dream it all up again. Unlike their Irish forebearers, however, these sons seem to have lost the…  [more]

Audiophiles and spiritual fidelity

Audiophiles seem to be having their moment in the cultural sun. Neil Young’s PonoPlayer, which purports to recreate the experience of vinyl LPs, has turned heads, even as numerous articles aim to debunk the idea that vinyl sounds better. In fact, several corresponding arguments are conflating technical, psychological, emotional and even spiritual ideas surrounding the value of music and the concept of fidelity.…  [more]

Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell: sorrow in the shadow of the cross

Sufjan Stevens has so thoroughly inhabited his own creative space over the last 15 years that future critics likely will append the suffix “esque” to his given name. Where else can you find complex, understated, folk music with swirling mythological, environmental, Christological and psychosexual underpinnings? Stevens’ exceedingly rich musical prowess is prodded ever forward by the best kind of…  [more]

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