SPIN’s 300 Best Albums of the Last 30 Years

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I went big for this, taking on 30 of the 300 albums. Click through this hulking document for my posts on (in alphabetical order, no spoilers): Arcade Fire, At the Drive-In, Beastie Boys, Beck, Belle & Sebastian, Björk, Bright Eyes, Broken Social Scene, Clipse, Cloud Nothings, Dirty Projectors, the Flaming Lips, the Fugees, Frank Ocean, GZA, Interpol, Jimmy Eat World, Justin Timberlake, the Microphones, My Bloody Valentine, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pixies, Portishead, the Postal Service, Radiohead, TV on the Radio, the Unicorns, Vampire Weekend, the xx, and Wilco. So many of my all-time favorites in here, and so many I’d never had the chance to write about.

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Fearing & Loathing Music’s Biggest Awards Nights

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Whatever you think “going to the Grammys” means, we guarantee it’s less glamorous and more bizarre than what you’re imagining. At least for most of the press, who sit in small room adjacent to the ceremony, watching the thing on TVs and praying that a famous person will make a wrong turn and wind up on our measly little stage with a microphone miraculously in hand.

And it’s not just Music’s Biggest Night. In the awards season bridging 2012 to 2013, I attended the MTV Video Music Awards, the American Music Awards, and, yes, the Grammys, and my surreal behind-the-scenes experience wound up the stuff of an unexpected trilogy. In 2014, I returned to the Grammys just to make sure its was still weird (spoiler alert: it was). Continue reading

The Best of Coachella 2012 Weekend One: M83, Jeff Mangum, Hologram Tupac, Refused, A$AP Rocky, At the Drive-In, Death Grips, Azealia Banks and more…

It was Aural Standards’ ninth Coachella (and tenth, counting Weekend Two), but it may have been our most memorable yet. While Sacramento’s Death Grips left a deep, seeping impression in our minds (boot-shaped) and Hologram Tupac enjoys a second life as a lasting meme, it was the reunions that did us in. Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come are two of our favorite albums of all time (At the Drive-In’s Relationship of Command flies high on that list as well), but never did we imagine we’d witness those songs performed live by the folks who actually made ’em (NMH auteur Jeff Mangum was billed as a solo act). Cheers to the folks at Goldenvoice for throwing scads of money at the problem until it resolved itself. Here are our five faves from each of the first three days. Below is a list of what we covered with excerpted bits. Click on the DAY to read full reviews at SPIN.

FRIDAY
1. Refused: thick, primal slabs of punk that seemed to rattle the scaffolding…
2. Death Grips: Run DMC meets Aerosmith, cranked on incredibly foul PCP…
3. M83: doors opening infinitely to bigger and bigger doors, a galactic gasp…
4. Frank Ocean: for the line about Coachella, the screams were deafening…
5. The Rapture: rogue groups of get-down circles spilling from the sides…

SATURDAY
1. Jeff Mangum: he opened his mouth and for 50 minutes, we were his…
2. Flying Lotus:  a wild genre-crushing journey, heady but head-knocking…
3. Black Lips:  Cole dropped trou and executed a searing solo with, well…
4. Azealia Banks: fast-rapping and boasting over minimal sub-bass rumble…
5. A$AP Rocky:  a perfect storm of N.W.A., Public Enemy and Bone Thugs…

SUNDAY
1. Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg: who rose from below the stage but Tupac himself…
2. At the Drive-In: a high-octane inferno of post-hardcore mania…
3. AraabMUZIK: conducting a symphony of melody, effects and percussion…
4. Le Butcherettes: she ran out into the field, arms out like an airplane…
5. Gotye: the massive human traffic jam stretched 50 yards in every direction…

Tomorrow, we get caught up with Weekend Two.

Mandatory Pop Culture Tattoos

In which A.V. Club readers ask us: “Congress has passed a law requiring all people to get a pop-culture-related tattoo. What would you get and why?” Check out the entire list here. My response excerpted below …

Do we get tax breaks for already being branded? I’ve got four tattoos so far, and they’re all music-related. Here’s the inventory: Left wrist, inside: A cartoonized teardrop with legs, the latter making up the “LL” in the words circling it, “WE ALL TRY.” That’s a reference to the Frank Ocean song that really truly helped me contextualize my recent divorce (the teardrop dripping down from the ring hand, signifying loss, gangsta-style). Left bicep, outside: A Keith Haring-style bottle of booze and vinyl record holding hands and walking, the logo for a retired L.A. experimental music night dubbed “Calling All Kids,” which was named for the Arthur Russell song. Left wrist, inside: A pen-drawn character with the words “funny ha ha” coming out of his mouth in loopy cursive. It was inspired partly by cLOUDDEAD lyrics and custom-drawn for me by Yoni Wolf of WHY? and cLOUDDEAD. Right shoulder, outside: A super badass skull woodcut piece lifted from the cover of a dusty old classical record I picked up that happened to be Hector Berlioz’ 1830 opium-fueled opus, Symphonie Fantastique, an incredibly trippy piece that Leonard Bernstein acknowledged as the birth of psychedelia in music. (I lucked out on the justification behind that one.) So, yes, obviously my next tattoo is gonna be a “#HIPSTER” tramp stamp.

Pop Culture Resolutions and Anticipations for 2012: From Matthew Dear to Murakami to Mr. Show

Thanks to the Internet’s love affair with The List, turning over a new leaf into a new year has become, shall we say, blogally laborious. That said, I’ve yet to meet the pop culture freak or geek who would walk away from a chance to tally his or her bests or worsts in a public, numbered format. We’ve given you a few fond looks back at 2011 (Best Songs, Best Moments, Best Discovery … we’ve even had our own wildly would-be hit single mentioned in The Village Voice’s annual Pazz and Jop Poll), but it’s time to start looking forward, a month into this thing called 2012. Without further ado, check out our Pop Culture Resolutions, as well as three of the records we’re most looking forward to hearing in the new year (numbers 34, 54 and 55), both via The A.V. Club.