The Ten Biggest Pop Culture Disappointments of 2011

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With the end of the year approaching, it’s time to look back on the the things that 2011 brought us. I’ll be doing some “best of” posts later, but before we can unwrap our presents under the tree, we have to count the lumps of coal in our stockings.

I’ll remember 2011 for lots of great things: the stellar third season of Parks and Recreation; the hilariously vulgar Bridesmaids; the best album of Matthew Good’s solo career, Lights of Endangered Species; the phrase “Trent Reznor, Academy Award winner” becoming unironic. But unfortunately, I’m also going to remember it for the ways in which it disappointed me. We’ll take a look at the ten biggest pop culture disappointments of 2011 after the jump. More

The Chuckles Backlash

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A couple of months have gone by since dredg’s most recent studio album, Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy, was released, and response to it, both from fans and critics, has been negative. dredg has gone from one of the art rock scene’s most respected bands to its laughingstock, and they may have ruined their chances of ever hitting it big.

As is the case with any shift towards a more “mainstream” sound, Chuckles has engendered accusations of “selling out,” or at the very least, abandoning what made the band great in the first place. With Dan the Automator in the producer’s seat, dredg jettisoned the rich textures and complex instrumentation for which they had become known, replacing those aspects of their music with stripped-down electronic sounds and programmed beats. To many fans, that is not a recipe for success.

But other fans have asserted that if dredg were a more popular band to begin with, then Chuckles would have been much better received. At first, their claim appears ludicrous; a bad album is a bad album, plain and simple. But upon further reflection, the claim does have an element of truth. If Chuckles had reached a wider audience, the chances that it would have found a receptive group of listeners would have been higher. Moreover, the album would have reached more mainstream critics, some of whom have a tendency not to evaluate new releases against the strength of a band’s previous work. There is even a curious precedent that supports this theory: No Doubt’s Rock Steady. More

Album Review: dredg – Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy

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Some things just don’t go together: dill pickles and ice cream; dress shirts and sweatpants; glassblowing and nudism. Well, you can add dredg and Dan the Automator to that list. dredg’s fifth studio album, the puzzlingly-titled Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy, is an awkward affair. With hip-hop producer Dan the Automator at the helm, the expansive, cinematic quality of previous dredg albums is gone. Instead, the music adopts a Miike-Snow-meets-Intimacy-era-Bloc-Party vibe, burying itself under a mess of zippy electronics and programmed beats, providing a jarring contrast to Gavin Hayes’ soaring vocals. It’s almost as if someone decided to test what would happen if an art rock band were forced to record an electropop album. The result is that Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy sounds more like an interesting thought experiment brought to life, rather than a legitimate, serious album. More

5 Awesome Songs: Vol. 14, “Earthy” Songs

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You know the kind of songs I’m talking about: songs with deep guitars; vaguely bluesy or folksy songs; songs that sound like they were built from the earth. But rather than featuring a list full of Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young songs, here are 5 “earthy” songs by bands that don’t typically dabble in such music. More

5 Awesome Songs, Vol. 4: Gettin’ Proggy Wit It

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I like a lot of recent progressive rock. I may not have delved deeply into the works of Yes or Genesis, but I enjoy a good lengthy song when I hear one. I’ve compiled a list of 5 of my favourite progressive rock songs. You might not think that they qualify as “progressive,” but that’s alright. I guarantee that they’re great. More