Aly & Aj - Potential Break-up Song

“This is the potential break-up song/ our album needs just one.”

The latest addition to my pop arsenal: a weapon for the conversion cause. Understand, it’s not that my tastes don’t span the depths of the Dixie Chicks back-catalogue and scale the dizzy heights of the Hold Steady, but I’ve got an agenda to push, and Okkervil River won’t cut it on my mixes (glorious as they well may be). No, sometimes I’m out to win over indie hearts and minds, and that means the big guns—the songs that will tempt even the most devoted ones away from their solemn guitars and towards the shiny pop light. I need gateway tracks, and god, does this deliver.

Effervescence is in short supply right now, what with Rihanna’s painstakingly precise beats and hellogoodbye’s careful sincerity, but Aly & AJ somehow muster utter effortlessness in every breezy line. The sisters have thankfully jettisoned that earnest Christian rock phase, now we get delightfully shallow MTV movies, blonde poses and oh, what a song! As irreverent as it is irresistible, this is an ice-cream dream: gone in an instant, leaving only the fleeting memory of a breathy chorus, that lala-ed melody, a faint Spice Girls aftertaste. So the vocoders may be heavy, the lyrics light—you know by now that I care not.

Another pop convert singing my tune is another battle won.


This Aint A Scene, It's A Goddamn Marketplace

Emo takes the mall-kids, American parents wring hands in fear.

This month’s J14 magazine features nine pictures of Pete Wentz. On the cover and in side-bars; slotted between High School Musical 2 previews and cute back-to-school make-up tips, the Fall Out Boy bassist is the latest tween dream heartthrob—skinny denim and all. For a publication whose target audience maxes out at thirteen, a full-page feature on guyliner and the hotties who wear it (Brendan Urie! Gerard Way!) isn’t just a way to fill space in their super summer issue, it’s a declaration of emo’s transformation. What once was the soundtrack to sincere guitar-strumming boys, and then loner disaffection has been reinvented yet again as a merch-orientated, socially networked, mainstream phenomenon—with Wentz as the ultimate poster-boy....

For more, read my article on the new Collected Voices blog.


The Thermals - Pillar of Salt

I went West. Like so many before me, and so many after, I packed up a bag and headed out to find something more than this complacency, more than this lull of contentment. Sometimes you make your plans, but sometimes you just snap—running before you can change your mind or think about the dozen ways this could fall apart, because there’s a chance it might not. Just a chance.

So I went West, to lily-edged lakes and quaint clapboard coastline, to sparkling cityscapes and sound. To skeezy loft dance-parties and hot friendship and possibility; cocktails, ice cream, slow-rolled movie nights. To a book deal.

I’m back (for now), but you can hear it, can’t you? The buoyant melody yelled on a 2am highway, that crashing rhythm refusing to drop below eighty. Skidding faster, a flash in your veins. This song is a tale of running, taking everything precious and making it out while you’re still alive. It may only be your heart winding down, but if it’s all you’ve got, it’s enough.