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The Return of 12 By...

  If you were to time travel back to 2008, I'm sure one of the first things you'd do, besides voting for Obama again, is to visit your favorite blog, 3 Minutes and 49 Seconds . And what you'd find there are a bunch of entries in a feature called " 12 by... ".  The idea behind "12 by..." was to distill a musical artist's career into 12 songs. Usually these were artists who had released a few albums but hadn't yet put out a greatest hits. And why did it have to be 12 songs, specifically? Well, James Taylor's 1976 Greatest Hits album, which so perfectly captured his career to that point, had exactly 12 songs.   I wrote 26 "12 by" entries in 2008, and three more at various times since. It recently struck me just how out-of-date many of those lists are. It's been 13 years, after all, and as you might guess, in that time, most of the artists I wrote about have released more music. In fact, on average they've released around 4 new
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Why Weezer is the Definitive Gen X Band

I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout my g-g-g-generation.   One of the more fascinating side effects of the ever-intensifying culture wars is the emergence of generational mud-slinging battle between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Social media has played the role of both venue and promotor, and news outlets have done their best to cheer it on. As a member of the cohort that's situated between the two factions - Generation X - and thus removed from the fray, I've regarded this as an amusing sideshow in the never-ending circus of nauseating Internet discourse. The most illuminating part to me is how the conflict, and various reports about it, consistently omits the existence the generation between these two, and how very appropriate that is.   Now I'll start with the disclaimer that I'm well aware that no group of people is homogeneous. Generation X encompasses many different personality types, cultural experiences, economic realities, and a possible 15-year age difference (Gen Xers

20 From 2020

Every year since 2003 (coincidentally, the year I started this blog), I've made a compilation of some of my favorite songs of the year. I love the act of compiling and ordering, finding songs that speak to one another lyrically and that flow together seamlessly.  In order for the mixes to have longevity, I've typically avoided choosing too many songs that lyrically reflect the events of the year. That's gotten harder every year since 2016, and I was initially worried 2020 was going to be the tipping point. This year's mix might have looked a lot different if the presidential election had gone the other way. It would have certainly been more angry and despairing, and would have included such topical songs as Ben Folds's "2020," Ben Gibbard's "Proxima B," and Sloan's "Silence Trumps Lies." All good tunes, but I'm not sure how much I'll want to revisit them. Thankfully, instead, we have a mix with a variety of moods and cov

Big Bad Eddie (Is Sweet Edward Now)

I wasn't surprised this week when I heard the news that Eddie Van Halen had left our mortal realm. For one, 2020 has been such a parade of awful news that nothing terrible is shocking anymore. For another, I knew Eddie had been reckoning with cancer for a long time. And for yet another, we're all just visitors here, but Eddie was especially so. We were lucky to get him for as long as we did. * With the inordinate number of monumental musicians we've lost since David Bowie's death in January 2016, it feels like my music writing has been approximately 75% eulogies. These essays have developed a predictable formula wherein I detail my personal history with that person's music. I fear the familiarity of that risks diminishing their impact, so for Eddie I wanted to honor his sense of innovation with my own. But there's a reason that formula came about. Ever since I was a teenager, the primary goal of my writing has been discovery. In the process of writing, I learn w

Adam Schlesinger, Fountains of Wayne, and Me

Ah shit. That was my first reaction when my friend Dave texted me the news yesterday that Adam Schlesinger had died after contracting COVID-19. . Though he had a wide and varied career as a film/TV/theater composer ( That Thing You Do and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend ) and worked as a producer (weirdly often, it was with artists I already loved such as They Might Be Giants, The Monkees , and  Motion City Soundtrack ), for me the beginning and end will always be Fountains of Wayne. I was hip to them almost from the start. Their first album came out in the fall of 1996, when I was a sophomore in college. I'd gotten a job at the campus radio station, which gave me access to a vast library of promotional CDs. Most of these went ignored, as the program manager had very narrow tastes (basically if it wasn't in top 10 on the CMJ charts he didn't touch it). I must have read about Fountains of Wayne in a magazine, and doubtless said magazine used the magic words "power pop"

2019 In Review

It's that certain time of year when everyone starts naming "the best" things from the past 12 months. I used quotations because of course best is a subjective concept, and even where there's critical consensus it's often a case of monkey-see-monkey-do. So end-of-year (or end-of-decade) lists are not any definitive mark of quality.  Then why make one? Well, mostly I like having an archive to look back on. But more broadly, end-of-year lists are a great way to discover something new. Especially now that music is so easy to access - via YouTube or a streaming service - you can give an album a full listen without paying for it directly. You no longer have to buy blindly, or make a judgement call based on a series of 30-second clips or after standing at a listening booth in a record store for an uncomfortable amount of time (like I used to do).  So, here are the albums I enjoyed the most in 2019: Get Up Kids - Problems Carly Rae Jepsen - Dedicated

Catching Up: 2013 - 2018

Once upon a time one of my favorite things to do on this blog was to unveil my end-of-the-year top ten. It started off as a complicated affair with multiple categories. As time went on it simplified, later becoming not a top ten but a modest list of albums I was happy to have spent my money on. As my attention moved away from the blog, I stopped the tradition altogether. I haven't posted - or even made - a year-end list since 2012. I also used to post the artwork and tracklist for my annual year-end mix, and I have also been remiss in that for the past six years. So, in an attempt to make up for lost time, here's are some freshly-prepared year-end lists and a cataloging of the mixes I made each year. 2013 Jimmy Eat World - Damage Pearl Jam -  Lightning Bolt Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City mix: 1) Jimmy Eat World - "I Will Steal You Back" 2) Ra Ra Riot - "That Much" 3) Divine Fits - "Chained to Lov