Video Vault 97: Nick Cave

It’s rare that artists release works that rank among their most accomplished decades-deep into their career. Chalk it up to rock n’ roll culture’s “better to burn out than fade away” mentality, or finite creative reserves if you will. Regardless, the trend makes the moments where a pinnacle arrives late in the game worthy of lionization. Scott Walker’s recent bursts of avant insanity and the noise rock ecclesiasticism found on the last string of Swans albums comprise strong examples. Enter Nick Cave, who has never wanted for strong material in his almost four decades as a musician. Perhaps…

33 Things: March Edition

Every month, we will compile the best, weirdest, most interesting music and sound news from the past 30 days and serve it up to you in one handy, easy to digest list. May we present 33 Things that happened in March. This list is brought to you by our 33 1/3 intern, Mike Doub.  This month saw the release of our latest 33 1/3 title, Blondie’s Parallel Lines. Authored by Kembrew McLeod, the book details Blondie’s efforts to straddle the line between the mainstream and the underground, and their success in exposing the fraudulent…

Video Vault 96: Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell was released one year ago yesterday, and while some albums lose their luster over time, this one remains stunningly, painfully intimate to this day. The record details Stevens’ troubled relationship with his mother, and also marks his return to a more traditional folk sound. Full of intricate guitar picking and ghostly vocals, listening to Carrie & Lowell is like bearing witness to one person’s beautifully rendered emotional wreckage. Few songs still get to me on the 100th listen like first single “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross,” although it might not…

Video Vault 94: Joanna Newsom

Is it weird that last year’s Divers might be my favorite Joanna Newsom album? There’s stiff competition for that title, to be sure. Newsom’s debut, The Milk-Eyed Mender, is more singular, and the subsequent Ys and Have One on Me boast more formal ambition. On her fourth album, though, Newsom’s approach is much more inviting for the uninitiated. Barring the 7-minute title-track, the songs on Divers are manageable in length (no 17-minute epics about skin this time around) and among her most sonically approachable. It’s a winning tact for an auteur whose work can sometimes be intimidatingly conceptual. That’s not to say Divers is lacking in grandeur, however;…

Video Vault 91: Fever Ray

Enigmatic brother-sister duo The Knife called it quits two years ago, and the 10-year anniversary of their seminal Silent Shout has the defunct group on my mind lately. Their brand of moody, broody electro-pop has been oft-imitated since that album — artists like Zola Jesus and iamamiwhoami exhibit Knife-like fingerprints in their music — though no one ever did it quite so well. More impressive still, Karin and Olof Dreijer used their bangers as Trojan horses, protests against social norms nestled within. The Knife would never again package their MO so accessibly. Seven years after Silent Shout the group…

A New Chapter for 33 1/3

Dear Readers, 2016 is going to be one of the best years in 33 1/3 history. I say that with confidence because I’ve read all 210,000 words of the seven volumes that will be released this year. In March, you’ll be able to get your hands on Kembrew McLeod’s stunning re-framing of 1970s New York in Blondie’s Parallel Lines. You’ll get an intimate portrait of one of the 20th century’s most important bands in Buzz Poole’s volume on The Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead. There’s Rolf Potts’s volume on the Geto Boys’ eponymous album…

Listening Party: J Dilla’s Donuts

10 years ago last Sunday, producer’s producer J Dilla – born James Dewitt Yancey – released his swan song, Donuts. If you’re at all plugged into the music blogosphere, you may have heard a thing or two about this anniversary. A triumph of analog and the art of sampling, Donuts has been categorized posthumously as Yancey’s masterpiece (a lofty distinction for an artist whose production credits include songs for A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and Common). That Yancey recorded the album from a hospital bed and passed away three days after its…

Everything You Need to Know About The Super Mario Bros Book

Got 42 minutes to spare? Listen to the Modern Vinyl podcast with 33 1/3 author Andrew Schartmann. Andrew’s knowledge of video game music is staggering and the interviewer here has done his homework. Their shared knowledge here is a joy to listen to. When I first came across Andrew’s 33 1/3 pitch I was hesitant to include it in the series because the Super Mario Bros soundtrack isn’t really an album and it was never pressed on vinyl (yet now appearing on the Modern Vinyl podcast!). I took a chance…

On Bowie

Yesterday we lost one of the greats. A very special human who dazzled us with his music and inspired millions of weirdos to step into the sun. The music press has responded with an outpouring of eulogies and hundreds of thousands of words recounting the amazing life of a true artist. My earliest memory of Bowie is of a Christmas morning. I was five and the evening before my parents had taken me to a party. While we were out, burglars had smashed one of the windows in our mostly…

An Interview with 33 1/3 Author Michael Stewart Foley on San Francisco, hardcore, and the Dead Kennedys

One of the most recent editions to the the 33 1/3 series, Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, is also one of the series’ most investigative works. Author Michael Stewart Foley approaches the album anthropologically, detailing environmental influences on Fresh Fruit as well as the sociopolitical and interpersonal factors that led to its genesis. Last month Foley discussed his book with interviewer David Ensminger for the Houston Press, which led to a further exploration of the Dead Kennedys’ history and influence (He also sat down with 33 1/3 for a similar chat, which you can read here). It’s…