Category Archives: Music/Popular Culture

The Best CDs of 1998

1998 was probably the oddest in the several years I have been doing a Top 10 list. For starters, a lot of the best stuff I heard came from new or relatively new artists. A lot of the more established artists I admire didn’t release anything in 1998, so that’s probably part of the reason, but I also suspect I’m reacting to a music landscape that’s shifting beneath us. We’ve been waiting for the Next Big Thing for a while now, and as we wait mainline sounds grow increasing stale.

The Next Big Thing hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m starting to hear a number of Next Medium-Sized Things that are really excellent, and while the genres vary widely – from Trance to Trip-Hop to Dreampop – what it all seems to have in common is a broad rethinking of the structure and convention of popular sound. (Yes, I know – a lot of this has been around for a while. But I’ve never worried a lot about being on the avant garde cutting edge – I prefer to let things grow a bit and then catch them right about the time they set their sights on a larger audience.)

Not everything on this year’s list is new and innovative, but if you could drag yourself away from the wasteland that AlternHit Radio has become – and it was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? – 1998 was a pretty good year.

So here’s my Top 10, and a few worthy honorable mentions. Same rules this year as last year – the list may contain discs released in 1997 that for one reason or another didn’t hit my radar screen until this year.

1: Space Team Electra – The Vortex Flower Continue reading The Best CDs of 1998


The Best CDs of 1997

This was the hardest time I’ve ever had trying to put my year-end list together. Maybe I’m not being “critical” enough or something, but I liked a lot of music this year.

Also, I decided to change my format a bit. Every year I do my Top Ten, then spend the first two months of the following year finding music that would have been on my list. No list is ever complete, of course – none of us has time to listen to even a percent of what we “ought” to listen to – and this is also a function of an R&R industry which simply sucks at getting music before us in a timely fashion.

So this year, instead of rating the best of 1997, I’m rating the best of 1997 that I found so far, as well as the best of 1996 that I found since last year’s list. Basically, it’s the best of 1996-7 that hit my personal radar screen in 1997.

This also makes the job harder, since now there’s twice as much music I want to applaud here. As such, I won’t be doing a Top Ten this year – it’s a Top 25. And if I had the time, I’d do a Top 50 – like I said, I got a lot of good stuff this year, and the difference between #10 and #25 isn’t as great as usual. Feel free to move on anytime you get bored.

So, here’s the list:

1. World Party, Egyptology Continue reading The Best CDs of 1997

“The Fly” on the Stage: Readings and Misreadings of the “New” U2

A Paper Presented to the Music Area of The Popular Culture Association
April 13, 1995

Samuel R. Smith
Center for Mass Media Research
University of Colorado

Up through The Unforgettable Fire (1984) U2 were generally regarded as relentless critics of political repression and religious/ethnic violence, especially as practiced by warring Protestant and Catholic factions in Northern Ireland. They had established themselves by this point as arguably the most socially-conscious band in rock history. Their human rights sympathies found expression in affiliation with groups like Band-Aid and Amnesty International; their enthusiastic participation (along with like-minded “message” rockers Sting and Peter Gabriel) was key to the success of Amnesty International’s mid-1980s promotional tours. They were also enthusiastic participants in other politically- oriented projects – Live Aid and Little Steven’s Artists Against Apartheid are two which spring immediately to mind. Continue reading “The Fly” on the Stage: Readings and Misreadings of the “New” U2

Looking at a Small Picture: Death of a Statistic

November, 1989

It’s a cruel crazy beautiful world
One day when you wake up I will have to say goodbye
It’s your world so live in it

-Johnny Clegg

On Tuesday, November 20 – two days before Thanksgiving – Robert Lewis, Jr., 34, was knifed to death in the parking lot of the Burlington Coat Factory in Raleigh, where he worked.

The man charged with the murder, Robert Leon Hill, is the estranged husband of one of Bobby’s co-workers. Hill apparently thought his wife and Bobby were romantically involved, but authorities have no evidence that this was the case. Continue reading Looking at a Small Picture: Death of a Statistic