• Kanye West performing 'Blood on the Leaves' at the VMAs

    Kanye West's Masked 'Yeezus' Tour Opener in Seattle Brushes Off Idea of 'A Fun Night Out'

    Kanye West shows are where audiences get to watch a great artist in his element and enable a great artist's cranky delusions. On Saturday night, Seattle's Key Arena was the first stop on Kanye's first full-on solo tour in close to five years. It was not without hiccups. The show's opener, Kendrick Lamar, was scheduled to start at 8 p.m.; the doors didn't open until almost 9 ("hurry up with my damn arena!"); and it was nearly 11:30 by the time Kanye finally hit the stage, to chants of "YEE-ZUS! YEE-ZUS! YEE-ZUS!"Or, rather, everyone figured (correctly) that the figure that hit the stage was Kanye: It was a guy with his general build, but wearing a sparkly black mask that concealed his entire head.

  • Swans / Photo by Rebecca Smeyne

    Anti-YouTube Movement of the Year: Long Songs

    The received wisdom is that popular music is the province of short attention spans, which are only getting shorter: Listeners only care about callout hooks; albums are obsolete now that they're purchased one song at a time and played on shuffle; and we’re all channel-surfing from YouTube video to YouTube video. As so often happens, the received wisdom was not exactly right.If you're going to listen to a lot of this year's most critically acclaimed music, you're not going to be able to do it in three-minute snippets — 2012 was a year of grand-scale songs and albums whose length was (mostly) a symptom of focused ambition rather than of lazy excess: Frank Ocean's ten-minute channel ORANGE centerpiece "Pyramids," Swans' two-hour double-CD The Seer, and beyond. Scott Walker, Neil Young, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor all released songs that proudly crossed the 20-minute mark.

  • Robin Gibb / Photo by Getty Images

    Robin Gibb, RIP: Hear the Bee Gee's Legacy in 15 Tracks

    Robin Gibb, who died after a lengthy fight with cancer on May 20, spent most of his career as the member of the Bee Gees who sang but didn't (often) play instruments. In the early years of the band, he was the lead vocalist on most of the fragile, emotionally raw ballads that made the Brothers' name; once the disco explosion hit in the mid-'70s, he usually played a supporting role to Barry Gibb, the group's powerhouse falsetto, guitarist, and chief songwriter. But his pure, controlled high tenor voice was almost always part of the Bee Gees' mix, and he had a sideline as a solo artist, too. Here are some of the songs that show off his gifts best. THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT TRACKS "New York Mining Disaster 1941" (1967) Robin's first great vocal showcase was inspired by a Welsh mining disaster, despite its title (which is nowhere in its lyrics).

  • Donna Summer / Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

    Donna Summer, RIP: Hear Her Legacy in 15 Tracks

    Donna Summer, who passed away today after a lengthy battle with cancer, was best known as a disco singer, of course, but she had a remarkable and very long career. She had dance hits in five straight decades; she hit the pop Hot 100 32 times. And her biggest songs altered the course of pop music permanently. Here's an overview of the best of her music, and some of the songs she inspired. THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT TRACKS "Love to Love You Baby" (1975) Summer had already been recording for four years with no particular success outside the Netherlands when she collaborated with producers Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder on this epic 17-minute song. It's an impossibly lush disco track, in which Summer's Marilyn Monroe-inspired pillow talk (some of it improvised) alternates with her orgasmic groans and laughs and with surges of orchestration.

  • Whitney Houston, R.I.P.: Hear Her Legacy in 15 Tracks

    Whitney Houston, R.I.P.: Hear Her Legacy in 15 Tracks

    When Whitney Houston died prematurely over the weekend in a Los Angeles hotel, we didn't just lose a pop singer — we lost a true diva, one of the strongest vocalists of our generation. Take a look back at 15 hits, detours, and other songs that owe her gratitude to grasp the full impact of the Voice.

  • Stephen Malkmus / Photo by John Clark

    The SPIN Interview: Stephen Malkmus

    Over the course of two decades, Stephen Malkmus has traded Pavement's inscrutable, self-reflexive wordplay for marathon prog-guitar solos. "I'm just not that much into words lately," he says. Yet he speaks to us anyway. For most of the '90s, Stephen Malkmus may have been the perpetually smirking face of indie rock. Pavement, the quintet he formed in his hometown of Stockton, California, with fellow singer/guitarist Scott Kannberg, became the figureheads of a scene, as passionate about elegantly formed pop songs as they were about noise, chaos, and diffidence. When they broke up in 1999, Malkmus stepped back from the spotlight a bit — "It seems like someone else's world now," he says of the band's glory days — and formed the Jicks.

  • 0801_panel.jpg

    Panel Surfers

    If you've read enough comic books, the opening scene from The Umbrella Academy's first issue doesn't seem all that unusual: A tank-size pro wrestler wallops an interterrestrial squid with an atomic elbow, which then causes 43 women around the world to spontaneously give birth to superhero babies. Surreal and bizarre, yes, but par for the course in the feverish, physics-defying universe of men in tights. The real surprise may come in the credits: The series is written by Gerard Way, frontman for My Chemical Romance. Way has never made a secret of his fascination with vigilante crime fighters and mind-controlling mutants: He worked at a comic-book store in New Jersey, studied at Manhattan's School of Visual Arts, and interned at DC Comics before forming MCR in 2001.

  • Days of the Leak

    On the afternoon of May 30, Jack White called Chicago radio station Q101 in a very bad mood. The White Stripes' frontman was in Spain at the time, but he'd gotten word that the station's DJ Electra had played the band's Icky Thump in its entirety a couple of hours earlier. The album wasn't scheduled to be released for another three weeks, and now a murky copy that somebody recorded off the radio was racing around the Internet. So White called Electra to chew her out for "messing up the entire music business" and for leaking his record, even though it had obviously leaked already -- that's how Q101 got it. The station's music director, Brett "Spike" Eskin, says that a fan from his DJ days in Philadelphia had sent him a link to a file of Icky Thump, which somebody -- no one's saying who -- had uploaded to the file-sharing transfer service YouSendIt.

  • Love Is All, 'Nine Times That Same Song' (What's Your Rupture)

    Love Is All singer Josephine Olausson wants to get your attention, even if that means getting in your face. On the Swedish quintet's debut album, she's right up front, bouncing and yelling; between her squeal-and-yip delivery and earnest Swedish accent, she ends up in the sexy/nutty zone, somewhere between Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O and Bow Wow Wow's Annabella Lwin. The rest of the band (including the best-integrated punk-rock-saxophone since X-Ray Spex, another reference point) sounds enormous but far away, sailing on an ocean of reverb, like a barbarous dance-punk horde that's sent Olausson ahead with a message: Pogo or flee. It's a challenge to make out what exactly she's squeaking about, but closer study reveals two major themes to Love Is All's ESL lyrics.

  • Grizzly Bear, 'Horn of Plenty + The Remixes' (Kanine)

    Grizzly Bear's 2004 debut, Horn of Plenty, seemed to have spontaneously congealed under a decomposing log in the middle of an enchanted forest where the elves were too exhausted to dance. Distant, dreamy, blurred into a Robitussin haze, the Brooklyn group's songs were barely more than a few vague lines and some slow, chiming, delicately mysterious guitar or piano. On the rare occasions when Edward Droste's purring was intelligible, he was almost always singing about inactivity and abject romantic desperation: "I keep a service bell by my bed for you" is about as proactive as this band ever got. And beats?

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