Music Reviews

The Empire Strikes Bach

Algorithms and copyright laws are stealing music from all of us

Sony has claimed that it owns the copyright for the works of Johann Sebastian Bach—more than 1,100 of them. Now, you might think the fact that Bach died in 1750 would put his music safely in the public domain, seeing as how it's 178 years out of copyright (under the American system of author's death plus 70 years). But there the story was, appearing in several news accounts this past week, all prompted by a Boing Boing report about how "you can't play Bach on Youtube" without getting served with a takedown notice. Even the jazz historian Ted Gioia, as sane a music critic as exists these days, was prompted to tweet "Sony says they own his compositions."

What’s Your Politics? What’s Your Religion?

Review: 'God's Favorite Customer' by Father John Misty

Josh Tillman has been praying in public under his haha-just-goofing-doesn't-mean-anything-promise Father John Misty moniker for six years now, but never more openly than in his latest album, 'God's Favorite Customer'. The confessional is waiting and there are 10 lush songs to get through owning all the ways he's made sacred love profane, with invitation for our souls to get naked, too. He's hurt his wife, Emma; he has hurt himself; and, Jesus, the Almighty, He won't leave Tillman the hell alone.

Athens and Yeezy

Close reading the works of Kanye West

Kanye West broke the already broken brains of Twitter yesterday when he indicated a certain degree of "dragon energy" sympathy for President Donald Trump and Trump agreed. He tweeted a picture of his signed MAGA hat, too, poo-pooed Obama's legacy, and also expressed a desire to hang out with everyone's favorite Tolkien-loving Bond villain, Peter Thiel. That's just a bit of West's hot content that prompted Rolling Stone to call his online activities "a real threat," and he hasn't let up.

No Question, These Dogs Can Bark

'The Hillbilly Thomists' live in concert

Objection 1. It seems that a handful of Dominican friars (two handfuls on the album) should not be a bestselling bluegrass band. Bluegrass is Protestant stuff, soulful songs for whitewashed independent Baptist churches and big homey kitchens and not Latin nerds in white habits in Northeast D.C.

Matthew Walther’s Favorite Song

Feature: Why Judy Collins's 'Wild Mountain Thyme' is the best thing ever put on wax

Judy CollinsI have never met anyone else who owns Judy Collins's debut album. Fans prefer her lusher mid-'60s records, which are indeed some of the best pop-folk LPs of all time. Even though I value it more than any other record I own, I will concede that Maid of Constant Sorrow is mostly a forgettable affair. Its value lies with one song, the third cut on side one, her recording of "Wild Mountain Thyme."

The Two Best Early ’70s Occult Lady Folk Singers

Feature: Why Judee Sill and Carolanne Pegg make me question my fear of witches

Carolanne SillsI'm more than a little terrified of witches. So far from thinking that they are a harmless bunch of dorks playing around with tarot cards and soothing crystals, I agree with Fr. Montague Summers that the witch is "an evil liver: a social pest and parasite: the devotee of a loathly and obscene creed: an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes: a member of a powerful secret organization inimical to Church and State: a blasphemer in word and deed." So what if they think that The Wheel and The Chariot are only symbols of natural forces? Satan doesn't care.

The Joke Is on Us

Review: 'Pure Comedy,' Father John Misty

It was distressing to discover, after another round of breathless hype, something very unwelcome about the new album Pure Comedy: Father John Misty has turned into Billy Joel.

Everything You Need to Know About Pink Floyd

Pop Life: Pink Floyd went way, way downhill starting with ‘Wish You Were Here’

The Floyd made a decent amount of good music in their first decade and a half of existence. Separating the worthy from the much larger amount of totally awful, unlistenable stuff is a dirty job, one I'm happy to do so long as I get paid.

The Music of Meaning

Review: Ted Gioia, 'How to Listen to Jazz'

Amid the cacophony of the past year, one paean to improvised order emerged from the pen of music critic Ted Gioia. That book, How to Listen to Jazz, deserves your undivided engagement. Ultimately, Gioia tells you not only how to listen to jazz, but why.