Acoustic Sounds

Music Reviews: Pop

Social scientists will likely spend years analyzing Taylor Swift’s retained meteoric success, but the primary cause seems very simple: pure narcissism. Swift’s music is almost entirely about her, from her perspective only; in both her music and her public presence, those around her (lovers, friends, enemies) are secondary to her and how she feels, their proximity or distance meant to prove something favorable about her. In the age of main character syndrome, Swift’s... Read More

The past few decades have brought an array of New Order compilation albums, yet 1987’s Substance, the original New Order singles compilation, still reigns supreme. In a time when “greatest hits” releases are mostly obsolete, there are several reasons for this. One is that New Order were (are?) primarily a singles band who released their best work as five- to eight-minute 12” singles. Older fans’ nostalgia for Substance is also a factor, but most importantly, Substance... Read More

Yen Records encapsulated bubble-era Japan’s artistic experimentation at a mainstream-adjacent level, though some artists never took off. Among them was Tamao Koike, whose new CD TAMAO - Complete Yen Years documents her short-lived '80s attempt at techno-kayō stardom. Partially produced by Yellow Magic Orchestra, Koike's music deserves rediscovery.

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genre Pop Techno-kayō Synthpop format CD

It's few and far between for a song by an unknown artist with no label distribution to premiere on television. When “Jar of Hearts” premiered on "So You Think You Can Dance" in June 2010, the stars aligned for Christina Perri. The Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter penned the song amidst a breakup with a former flame, longing to piece together what was no longer salvageable. Its hook-heavy arrangement and universal lyrical sentiment struck a chord in... Read More

genre Pop Singer-Songwriter format Vinyl

In 2022, one in every 25 vinyl LPs sold in the US was a Taylor Swift record. That’s 1.7 million LP sales across her catalog last year, almost 945,000 of which came from her latest album, Midnights. Swift’s vinyl success not only represents her continuing fame, but also her smart marketing tactics and ability to still sell albums. Midnights comes in four cover variants, which with the associated wall mount forms, on the back, a clock. To many artists and consumers,... Read More

(This review originally appeared in Issue 5/6, Winter 1995/96. A 25th Anniversary double vinyl LP issued by Omnivore with new liner notes and three previously unissued outtakes is currently available—see clickthrough at page bottom).When I was a child, I had a middle-aged second cousin Sophie who lived in far away California. She came to visit one cold New York winter in the late 1950s, bearing crates of tissue wrapped oranges, and jellies and jams from a place with a... Read More

What is pop music? A never-ending cycle of repackaging the past? Or a portal to infinite possibilities? High art, or insipid, assembly-line bubblegum confections? What if it’s all of the above?Charli XCX’s 2017 mixtape Pop 2 decides that pop music can be anything and everything—or at least, that’s the meaning that many have assigned to it. After her prospective third studio album proved too much a logistical hurdle to release (only for all the tracks to leak), within... Read More

Sparks, the duo of brothers Russell and Ron Mael is a true chameleons in the world of art-pop. Over decades, Sparks has musically shape-shifted through the realms of glam rock, disco, new wave, electronic music and chamber pop. Refusing to stick to one singular musical identity, Sparks kept a brave artistic face as music trends came and went. Thanks to Edgar Wright's documentary, a fresh demographic exposed to The Sparks Brothers are now beginning to appreciate... Read More

genre Pop Art Pop format Vinyl

In 2023, Serge Gainsbourg is possibly more controversial than he’s been since his 1991 death from a second heart attack at age 62. The upcoming museum opening of the artist’s Paris home, at 5 bis rue de Verneuil, sparked more than a few debates: can we still listen to the album about pedophilia made by a 42-year-old man with appearances by his 24-year-old girlfriend? Is it alright that he made a song with his then-12-year-old daughter about incest? Does anyone even... Read More

Barbra Streisand has garnered virtually every accolade, tribute, award, and honor it’s possible for a great popular artist to get: ten Grammys, nine Golden Globes, five Emmys, two Oscars, and a Tony, not to mention four Peabody Awards, the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts, and France’s Légion d'honneur. Her albums have been reshuffled, remastered, and reconfigured with almost... Read More

genre Pop Broadway format Vinyl

What do you get when you combine acoustic singer-songwriter qualities with the electronic and infectious beat of the dancefloor? You might find something similar to the German duo of childhood friends, Clemens Rehbein and Phillipp Dausch who go by the moniker Milky Chance. This review may be your introduction to the band—if so, then Willkommen!—but Milky Chance have existed for about a decade and have just released their seventh full-length, Living in a Haze on their... Read More

“I’m losing my edge…to the art school Brooklynites in little jackets… and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered 80s.”When a then-32-year-old James Murphy uttered that line on LCD Soundsystem’s 2002 debut single “Losing My Edge,” it was about the millennial hipsters taking over New York City, recycling culture and fashion from a quarter-century before. Unlike their aesthetic predecessors, they didn’t have to work hard to find anything; they were “internet seekers who... Read More

As post-pandemic supply chain issues continue and the vinyl market shifts towards younger buyers with tighter budgets, slightly expanded $50-60 commemorative packages have taken focus over the elaborate anniversary box set. The 10th anniversary edition of Daft Punk's inescapable Random Access Memories, retailing at $50, includes a newer lacquer cut of the original album plus a new bonus disc with 35 minutes of “unreleased demos and outtakes.”

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genre Pop Disco Electronic format Vinyl

After a failed Netflix deal to put Gorillaz cartoon band members into a full length film, Damon Albarn and illustrator Jamie Hewlett regroup under a slick pop banner to deliver album number eight with the help of mega-producer Greg Kurstin.

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Rather than writing the usual written review of this extensive, well-produced and brilliantly curated set, I chose a video review to better show the box and associated records. The set includes a double LP containing the Painted From Memory collaboration spread to 3 sides. Side 4 contains selected songs from the never fully realized Bacharach/Costello musical Taken From Life performed by various artists including Cassandra Wilson and Bill Frisell, Audra Mae and of... Read More

genre Pop Pop Rock format Vinyl

It’s been over a month since drummer and pop songwriter extraordinaire Yukihiro Takahashi passed away at age 70, though acknowledging it still feels weird. It wasn’t unexpected—he was treated for brain tumors, and related pneumonia caught him in the end—but for 50 years, Takahashi never really slowed down and always seemed focus on what was next. Between his solo material, his work in Yellow Magic Orchestra and Sketch Show, other gigs like the Sadistic Mika Band, or... Read More

genre Pop Electropop Synthpop format Vinyl