• Smashing Pumpkins, 'Oceania' (Martha's Music/EMI)

    He was right about Pavement, y'know. Insufferable, self-righteous, whiny, and megalomaniacal as Billy Corgan can be, let's give him that. It is possible to adore both bands and still regard the notorious, gratuitous Smashing Pumpkins diss on Pavement's 1994 anti-hit "Range Life" — "I could really give a fuck," it famously concludes, though the key phrase is the ambivalence of "I/they don't have no function" — as cheap, snotty, class-bully-masquerading-as-class-clown cruelty, ambitious men who cynically refused to appear ambitious deriding an ambitious man whose band earnestly put out a double album called Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Cheap, feigned-apathy posturing. A dick move. Clown verse, bro. And Billy has never stopped bitching about it. About anything. For nearly 20 years.

  • Aaron Freeman / C Flanigan/Getty

    Ween's Aaron Freeman on 'Sober Ninjas' and the Song That Made Him Cry

    "As my music evolves, I want to get more and more adult contemporary." An odd pronouncement coming from Aaron Freeman — a.k.a., Gene Ween, one-half of indomitable shape-shifting pranksters Ween, the funniest (and possibly best) rock band of the past several decades — and yet it makes total sense. Ween, currently on indefinite hiatus (Freeman's cohort, Mickey Melchiondo, a.k.a. Dean Ween, is really into fishing these days), have done everything: magnificent arena metal ("Dr. Rock"), uncouth country ("Piss Up a Rope"), Beavis-befuddling experimental infamy ("Push th' Little Daisies"), David Sanborn-assisted smooth jazz ("Your Party"), you name it.

  • Screaming Females / Photo by Eirik Lande

    The Battle of the Sexes: Screaming Females and the Men

    You will never truly grasp the majesty of Marissa Paternoster until you look deep into her eyes as she solos, which, yeah, good luck with that, even under ideal circumstances. There's her face-obscuring, bang-overhang bowl cut to contend with, for starters (don't worry, she smiles occasionally, this isn't a sullen teenager thing), not to mention that she's, like, 5'1" (maybe), so unless the stage is yea-high you can forget about getting a glimpse of her at all. Still, it's worth all the effort and frustration, because watching Marissa Paternoster solo in person is amazing. Let's try it on record first, though, just for fun. The first eruption comes precisely 1:42 into "It All Means Nothing," the leadoff track on the fifth full-length from New Brunswick, New Jersey's finest garage-punk trio, the Screaming Females, ruled by Paternoster with an iron fist and serpentine fingers.

  • Screaming Females, 'Ugly' (Don Giovanni Records)

    You will never truly grasp the majesty of Marissa Paternoster until you look deeply into her eyes as she solos, which, yeah, good luck with that, even under ideal circumstances. There's her face-obscuring, bang-overhang bowl cut to contend with, for starters (don't worry, she smiles occasionally, this isn't a sullen teenager thing), not to mention that she's, like, 5'1" maybe, so unless the stage is yea high you can forget about laying eyes on her at all. This is all worth the effort and frustration, though, because watching Marissa Paternoster solo in person is amazing. Let's try it on record first, though, just for fun.

  • The Men

    The Men, 'Open Your Heart' (Sacred Bones)

    For hardcore (or post-hardcore) Brooklyn DIY types — their lives a jumble of comically seedy underground shows held in basement dungeons, dank warehouses, condemned lofts, wisely abandoned storefronts, and so forth — no sound is so elusive and fantastical as actual crickets, no sight as wondrous as the sky’s own stars. You long for that stuff, eventually, no matter how urban and cosmopolitan you fancy yourself. Everybody's going to the country, as the song goes, if only for a day trip — even the dudes really into Jesus Lizard. We join the Men, now, in their temporarily-back-to-nature moment. You may have met this thoughtfully violent quartet in 2011, via their feral, abstract-expressionist breakthrough full-length Leave Home, which comes closest to aurally conjuring up the possibly-already-on-fire Williamsburg cavern where music like this was meant to be heard.

  • Dierks Bentley, 'Home' (Capitol Nashville)

    Affable, raspy country bro reports that beer is awesome, freedom ain't free, and "Diamonds Make Babies." So true.

  • Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne Noise Pop

    Flaming Lips Play Full 'Soft Bulletin,' Initiate Confetti Orgy at Noise Pop

    The Flaming Lips Bimbo’s 365 Club San Francisco, CA Tuesday, February 21, 2012 Yes to the confetti cannons; no to the dudes in bear suits. Yes to the overzealous smoke machine; no to the Wayne Coyne-sized hamster ball. Verily, the Flaming Lips attempted to go relatively minimal for this relatively small club gig, playing their 1999 cartoon-psych masterpiece The Soft Bulletin in full using only the bare essentials. Plus, y'know, a green-alien-skinned harp, a gong encrusted with epileptic neon lights, and a noisy interlude wherein Coyne brandished giant laser hands. Even after stripping down considerably, they had plenty of gaudy, exuberant layers left. Pity their roadies.

  • Lana Del Rey, 'Born to Die' (Interscope)

    Lana Del Rey, 'Born to Die' (Interscope)

    Read the review, then check out Deconstructing Lana Del Rey: untangling the year's most divisive new artist. "Bob Dylan" is not his real name. The "Ramones" were not related. "Sun Ra" was from Alabama, not Saturn. The Strokes' dads are not plumbers. "Rick Ross"... look, we don't have time for this. Yes, Internet, and God bless you for devoting most of the past half-year exclusively to pointing this out, Lana Del Rey is a pose, a persona, a version 2.0, at least, the contrivance of a messy, wayward, unformed, aspiring pop star rummaging through closets and clutching at borrowed pearls. Desperate to be what she thinks you want her to be. Calculated, malleable, untrustworthy, fumbling indelicately for "her" voice or a voice that's "real." As the Bard wrote: "I can change / I can change / I can change / I can change / If it makes you fall in love." Eat it, Lizzy Grant. We got you.

  • Craig Finn, 'Clear Heart Full Eyes' (Vagrant)

    Craig Finn, 'Clear Heart Full Eyes' (Vagrant)

    You can only cheerfully bark the refrain "Gonna walk around / Gonna walk around / Gonna walk around and drink" so long before your feet get tired, your poor liver gives out, and the rest of the kids at the party wander off and get jobs and stop being, well, kids. Which is the point at which Craig Finn's career truly started. Over five exhilarating albums as the thirtysomething toga-party-preacher frontman for Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis classic-rock poets laureate the Hold Steady (plus three earlier, even seedier & surlier efforts with Minneapolis' Lifter Puller), Finn has riffed and raged and enraptured, an erudite torrent of carnality and Catholicism combining the cheap, intoxicating thrill of a keg stand with the fervor of the Sermon on the Mount. The Saturday night/Sunday morning dichotomy made (mild-mannered, bespectacled) flesh.

  • 111221-rb-lead.png

    SPIN's 20 Best R&B Albums of 2011

    For much of 2011, arguing about what is and isn't R&B appeared to be more fun than actually listening to R&B (however you personally defined it). But it turns out that was all just an illusion. Here are 20 terrific records that could start arguments, and end them. SPIN's Best of 2011: -- One Fucked Up Year: SPIN's Best of 2011 Issue -- SPIN's 50 Best Albums of 2011 -- SPIN's 20 Best Songs of 2011 -- SPIN's 40 Best Rap Albums of 2011 -- SPIN's 10 Best Reissues of 2011 -- SPIN's 25 Best Live Photos of 2011 -- Endless Bummer: 30 Ways 2011 Was a Drag 20. Ledisi, Pieces of Me Like that cute, self-assured little girl from the movie Airplane, she takes her coffee hot and dark, like her men.

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