From the East Village to Shibuya: A Tale of Two Record Stores

Martin Roberts, author of Cornelius’s Fantasma, on the central role that record stores played in his life. Like so many other stories about pop music fandom, this one begins with a record store. In 1995, a tiny record store opened on West 4th Street in Manhattan, literally across the street from Tower Records’ flagship megastore. Issuing a warning to its giant neighbor, Other Music, as it was pointedly named, specialized in musical genres not available at Tower Records, from Krautrock to free jazz to noise music. By the time I…

D’Angelo’s Age of “Soulquarius” – Part One

Faith Pennick, author of D’Angelo’s Voodoo, on the role that astrology plays in making music Some people dismiss astrology—the analysis of personality and human behavior based on the “sun sign” under which a person is born. But in the late 1990s, a group of striving, nonconforming musicians came together to share ideas and push each other to higher heights. Christened the Soulquarians, this unofficial collective bore enduring music as its fruit, including D’Angelo’s Voodoo, of which I wrote about for the “33 1/3” series. The Soulquarians were formed by D’Angelo, drummer/co-songwriter…

Voodoo: Live from New York

Faith Pennick, author of D’Angelo’s Voodoo, on seeing D’Angelo perform for the first time. Live performances are like power outlets to me. I can plug in and share that surge of electricity the band or singer brings song after song. I had never seen D’Angelo on stage prior to the Voodoo tour.  A good friend in Brooklyn invited me to see him at Radio City Music Hall in March 2000. I was curious about what D’Angelo would be like in concert, and how songs from his just-released album would resonate in…

Catching the Spirit

Faith Pennick, author of D’Angelo’s Voodoo, on how gospel music inspired D’Angelo’s critical acclaim. Like many African American singers who hail from the South, D’Angelo’s foundation is laid in gospel music. Much has been said and written about his R&B influences: artists like Marvin Gaye, Sly and the Family Stone, and his North Star: Prince. But without gospel music, D’Angelo simply would not be D’Angelo. As a child, Michael Archer sang and played keyboards in his father’s and grandfather’s churches in and near his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. He contemplated staying…

The 33 1/3 B-sides Week, Day 4: Royale with Cheese

Today is the last day of our B-sides author takeover, and we’re ending with a short and sweet essay by Evie Nagy, author of Devo’s Freedom of Choice. Her chapter in The 33 1/3 B-sides is all about Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction. Below, she talks about why the soundtrack has stuck with her for so many years… If you’re a writer, there’s a good chance you have an essay or two that you’ve been writing in your head for years, but for one reason or another have…

The 33 1/3 B-sides Week, Day 3: Cupid & Psyche 85

Below you’ll find an interview between Dan LeRoy, author of The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, and now of the B-sides chapter on Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche 85, and Scritti Politti frontman himself, Green Gartside! They discuss how it feels to listen to your own music, having Sir Elton John as a fan, and Gartside’s new music. All manner of albums are touted as influential, as difference-makers, as revolutionary. I submit that there are few that have had such audible influence on music as Scritti Politti’s Cupid and Psyche ’85.…

The 33 1/3 B-sides Week, Day 2: Debbie Gibson and Waking Hours

Back in 2006, Alex Green wrote his 33 1/3, The Stone Roses’ The Stone Roses, one of our earlier 33 1/3’s that made the series what it is. Today, he writes about his fantasy romance with Debbie Gibson, and how Del Amitri’s Waking Hours pulled him back to reality. I didn’t know that my essay on Del Amitri’s Waking Hours would coincide with the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, but as I started writing and researching for the piece, that round number emerged and the whole affair seemed auspicious…

33 1/3 B-sides Week, Day 1: Welcome to the B-sides!

This week is publication week for The 33 1/3 B-sides! We’ve been anxiously awaiting this book for a while now, and we cannot wait for everyone to read it. Throughout this week, we will be sharing some blog posts from the contributors of the book (all past 33 1/3 authors) discussing the albums that they still dream about today. Below, D. Gilson and Will Stockton introduce us to The 33 1/3 B-Sides… This is the week we welcome into the world The 33 1/3 B-sides: New Essays by 33 1/3…

33 1/3’s are for students, too!

A few years ago, we posted some excerpts of undergraduate essays that discuss 33 1/3s. We love seeing our 33 1/3s in classrooms, so we decided to post some more! Below you will find the beginnings of three undergraduate student papers. Samantha Bennett is a senior lecturer in the School of Music at the Australian National University, and author of her very own 33 1/3, Siouxsie and the Banshee’s Peepshow! These excerpts come from Professor Bennett’s “Popular Music: In Culture and in Context” class, and make for very interesting reads. Do…

Woman Crush Wednesday: Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe is our pick for this week’s Woman Crush Wednesday. 33 1/3 will publish a book on Monáe’s The ArchAndroid in 2021. It has been a time of triumph for Janelle Monáe. Last year, Billboard named her trailblazer of the year for their Women in Music awards. This year, Monáe will star in a biographical film about Harriet Tubman that is already generating Oscar buzz. Her album Dirty Computer was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2018. It quickly became a queer anthem, one that fits into…