Music I Liked in 2012

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2012 was an odd year for me. The music I liked in 2012 wasn’t necessarily music that was released in 2012. This past year, I dug back into a few artist’s back catalogues and discovered albums that I had missed. So I’m going to divide this entry into two sections: albums from previous years and albums from 2012. More

The Ten Biggest Pop Culture Disappointments of 2012

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Looking back at the year’s disappointments has become somewhat of a tradition for this blog (if you can count doing something for two years running as a “tradition”). While I’ve made a post about my favourite TV shows of the year, and I’ve got posts about my favourite music and video games of the year on the way, I think it’s worthwhile to remember some of this year’s disappointments. Some had the potential to be good but fell short. Others were just plain terrible. So without further ado, here are the ten biggest pop culture disappointments of 2012. More

Album Review: No Doubt – Push and Shove

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The other day, when I was walking down the street, I saw a poster for Kevin James’ upcoming film, Here Comes the Boom. My first thought was, “Really?” At this point, I’m sure that James had made millions from his various movie and TV roles; he didn’t need to make that movie. Yet, something compels him to make mediocre crowd-pleaser after mediocre crowd-pleaser. Nobody is begging for a new Kevin James flick, yet one still exists.

On the other hand, fans of No Doubt have been clamouring for a new album for 11 years. But similarly to Here Comes the Boom, Push and Shove didn’t need to happen. Lead singer Gwen Stefani is obviously an international pop superstar and fashion icon, but the other members of the band have done well for themselves too. Bassist Tony Kanal has gone into songwriting and producing. Drummer Adrian Young has become a prolific session musician. Guitarist Tom Dumont hasn’t been super-busy since Rock Steady was released back in 2001, but he did produce an album, and he has an electronic side project. The only reason Push and Shove happened was because the band really, really wanted to get back together and do it for the love of making music with each other.

The problem is that pouring love into a project doesn’t guarantee quality, and that’s where Push and Shove has another similarity to Kevin James movies. I’m sure James loves what he does, but at this point, he’s the king of cinematic mediocrity. And I’m sure No Doubt loves what they do, but Push and Shove is disappointing and mediocre in the extreme, not good enough or bad enough to be interesting. However, unlike Kevin James movies, it had the potential to be interesting, to be something truly special, which makes it all the more disappointing. More

What I’ve Been Reading: September 30, 2012

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A fully-loaded What I’ve Been Reading this week. The good kind of fully-loaded. Not like Herbie. More

Things I’m Most Looking Forward To In 2012

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2012 is in full swing now, and it might be the final year of humanity’s existence! While we count down the days to our certain doom, we still have plenty of stuff to look forward to. Apparently, the people who make music, movies, TV, books, and games haven’t received the memo about the end of the world. That’s all for the best, I suppose. I’m not spending my last year of existence in a panic. No way. I’m going to live it up and enjoy these fine things that 2012 will bring: More

Relisten: No Doubt – Return of Saturn

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It’s often said that the best music is timeless. Some of the worst songs can reach the top of charts (*cough* “Thong Song” *cough*), but they ultimately disappear in a puff of smoke as if they had never existed in the first place. Good music has longevity. It’s the kind of music that speaks to the masses, that gets passed down from generation to generation.

No Doubt’s Return of Saturn, released in 2000, is the very antithesis of that kind of music. Instead of speaking to the masses, it engages in introspection. The music is raw and at times aggressive, which can be alienating. It can’t even be considered a compendium of the of the turn of the millennium’s zeitgeist, to be examined later for historical purposes; its sound is defiantly anachronistic, falling somewhere between new wave and post-grunge: too old to be modern, too young to be retro.

For those reasons, Return of Saturn won’t be what endures decades from now once No Doubt has stopped making music. The band will instead be remembered for hits like “Just A Girl” and “Hey Baby.” Unfortunately, posterity will overlook this gem of an album, its subject matter a rarity in popular music: an embarrassingly honest series of confessions about life and love from a mildly depressed woman on the cusp of her thirties. 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