[selected features]

I Hope We Both Die: How The Mountain Goats Wrote The Ultimate Anthem To Dysfunction
NPR • American Anthem • 2018

The plan was to give these damaged characters the broad stage they seemed to be yearning for. "I would really dwell on their desolation," Darnielle explained, "and have them celebrating the hard, ugly parts of the time before divorce." With a tinkling piano riff and a bobbing rhythm, "No Children" announces itself as the centerpiece of that story, as one character simultaneously vents frustration, admits defeat and revels in failure from the very first lines: "I hope that our few remaining friends / Give up on trying to save us.” // Keep Reading //

Analog For The People: Synth Master Tatsuya Takahashi On Engineering Fun
NPR • The Record • 2017

On the basement level, tucked between pristine stage pianos and vintage analog noisemakers, was a strange and beautiful object from which I couldn't tear myself away. I'm no keyboard player, but nor was this like any keyboard I'd ever seen: its face a muted silver, dotted with rubber knobs pleasing to the touch, the control panel curved slightly upward as if to say, c'mere, you. In one corner was a postage stamp-sized screen on which an animated line danced when I pressed down a key, the pattern changing as I tested buttons and sliders one by one. // Keep Reading //

Children Of The Con: Tegan And Sara's Decade Of Influence
NPR • All Songs Considered • 2017

Featuring the session-band equivalent of a fantasy sports team, The Con didn't sound like anything going in indie rock or mainstream pop. A companion documentary, filled with eye-opening insights into the process (Did you know the shaker on "Back In Your Head" is actually a jar of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds?) portrayed the Quins and their collaborators as disciplined professionals at work. People noticed: Critical writing about the duo began to spend less time on identity bullet points and more on dissecting the art — including the lyrics, which carried nested metaphors for marriage equality and sexual self-discovery, if one was inclined to listen for them. // Keep Reading //

Join The Black Parade: My Chemical Romance And The Politics Of Taste
NPR • The Record • 2016

My Chemical Romance had come out of nowhere with 2004's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, an album born of hardcore but ringed with enough melody and melancholy that all stripes of emo and pop-punk buffs could find themselves in it, too. The record had hits, it had hooks, and it had reach, especially once the cinematic visuals for "Helena" and "The Ghost of You" found their way to MTV. Crucially, it also had a sense of humor — see the video for "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," in which freaks-versus-jocks teen comedies are skewered with note-perfect precision. Three Cheers was really, really good, and that was a problem for me. // Keep Reading //

Being Aaron Burr: Leslie Odom Jr.'s Year Of Empathy
NPR • The Record • 2015

He was a fan of In The Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda's previous musical and in Odom's mind a clear descendant of Rent and Def Poetry Jam, towering totems of his own youth. He'd heard a little about the new show, too — a video of Miranda rapping an early excerpt to a crowd that included a freshly elected President Obama had since made the rounds. But on that day, sitting in the stands of an unadorned black-box theater, watching actors in plain clothes trace the broad outlines of an incomplete script, he witnessed something for which he felt thoroughly unprepared. // Keep Reading //

Review: Carly Rae Jepsen, "Run Away With Me" (Patrick Stump Remix)
NPR • Songs We Love • 2016

This is a great time to remind everyone that after the rise of Justin but before the dawn of Zayn, the world heard from another Top 40 boy wonder who'd decided he was ready for his R&B close-up. If you haven't, take a second to watch this one-minute clip that quietly surfaced on Vimeo in early 2010, a time when album teasers hadn't quite found their place in the viral toolkit. It was a moment of promise for those who knew, amid all the derision and dismissal, that the chubby kid from Fall Out Boy was actually a dynamite singer and arranger. If "mature" listeners wouldn't accept Patrick Stump as he was, maybe it was time for a makeover. // Keep Reading //

Music, The Food of Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’
NPR • The Record • 2013

Until it happens, we can’t truly imagine what it's like to see someone we care about nearing death. It remains an abstraction, kept at arm's length, too terrible to reckon with until we have no choice. Amour, in its spareness, mostly denies us that detachment: There's no pinprick violin to warn us when something's wrong and certainly no pop song rolling under the end credits to reassure us that it's all been a show. It's only when music enters the characters' lives, granting them a brief reprieve from their troubles, that we are allowed the same relief. // Keep Reading //

‘Mellon Collie’ Mystery Girl: The Story Behind An Iconic Album Cover
NPR • The Record • 2012

A collage artist, John Craig had spent most of his career doing editorial commissions for magazines; here, he worked from Billy Corgan's scribbled notes and crude sketches, most of which arrived via fax. Craig made other illustrations that appear throughout the album's packaging — animals smoking pipes, suns and moons with faces, wayward children walking eerie dreamscapes — all with a vaguely antique quality. But the cover image, of a girl adrift on a celestial raft, was the simplest and the most indelible. // Keep Reading //