Sonic Taxonomy: ’90s Eurocheese

Social networks and global economics of scale have since flattened the world –- Europe’s pop turned more soul-conscious, America’s more synth-conscious, and most everybody’s wound up occupying watered-down middle ground. But back in the ‘90s, before MySpace and iTunes (or Friendster and Napster even), continental Europe was free to be a happily clueless bubblegum island… Continue reading Sonic Taxonomy: ’90s Eurocheese

Sonic Taxonomy: Oz Rock

As connoisseurs of marsupials and platypi have always known, evolution in Australia happens in a parallel manner to elsewhere — but sort of upside down, occasionally even laying eggs. So an American trying to sum up Australian rock history in just eight albums is probably about as foolhardy as if, well, an Aussie tried to… Continue reading Sonic Taxonomy: Oz Rock

Sonic Taxonomy: Ze Records

By the end of the ‘70s, disco was turning rockier (think Prince, or Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”) new wave was turning dancier (think the B-52s, or Ian Dury’s “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”) and both musics were realizing they had more in common than they thought – and while they were at it, maybe… Continue reading Sonic Taxonomy: Ze Records

Yacht Rock Essentials

Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees (Columbia, 1976) Leisure-suited hot-tub funk from a Jann Wenner protegé and future restaurateur dancing the squeakiest-clean “dirty lowdown” around. Lido misses the boat; Boz watches the harbor lights; backing band turns into Toto. Steely Dan Aja (ABC, 1977) Agoraphobic beatnik geniuses hooked on crossword-puzzle lyrics and bebop go the cocktail-rock route,… Continue reading Yacht Rock Essentials

Sonic Taxonomy: 21st Century Teen-Pop Soundtracks

This recurring Spin column, devoted every month to a different genre as its genres grew increasingly super-specific with time, was initially called “Essentials” when it ran in the physical magazine. But so little space was allotted for it then that I was rarely if ever able to fit my voice in; the columns felt squeezed… Continue reading Sonic Taxonomy: 21st Century Teen-Pop Soundtracks

Sonic Taxonomy: We Are Also the Robots

Kraftwerk envisioned popular music’s future, and it was a future in which you didn’t have to sweat much or get dirt under your fingernails or master organic instruments, a future free of manual labor and manual dexterity, a future of looped repetition and sleek Teutonic technology and robotic computers. Then their future came true. In… Continue reading Sonic Taxonomy: We Are Also the Robots