Musicophilia offers insight into the science of music

A book about the neuroscience of the brain might sound daunting and unapproachable, but Oliver Sacks's 2007 novel, Musicophilia is a collection of genuinely fascinating stories about the brain's reaction to music. It's too bad it took three years to actually get around to reading it (look at the cover -- not our fault), because it left us wondering where these people have gone to, what's happened to them, and what, if anything, Sacks has learned since.

The book is essentially a collection of smaller essays that range from the opening tale of a man who is struck by lightning and suddenly seized with the relentless desire to play piano to people who suffer from musical hallucinations. In between are discussions of Williams Syndrome, music therapy, brain scans of professional musicians and other sometimes troubling/sometimes rewarding stories.

More »

Read this book: How to Wreck a Nice Beach


I've been obsessed with the vocoder for a long time. From the first time I heard Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" to watching Clockwork Orange in high school -- the sound has fascinated and amused me to no end. Until last week, I didn't know Dave Tompkins' book, How to Wreck a Nice Beach, which details the history of the vocoder from a music critic's point of view, even existed. Naturally, when I became aware of its existence, I picked the book up as quickly as possible.

More »

Catching The Heart is a Drum Machine on the second rotation

The first time The Heart is a Drum Machine caught my eye was sometime in March when it popped up on my Netflix Instant queue. It looked interesting -- but I quickly moved on to something else -- probably something with explosions or monsters or some obscure foreign film that put me to sleep. Either way, it took a few months for it to pop back into my sight, and this time I latched onto it and spent some time with it -- which I'm happy to report was well worth my and time deserves yours as well.

More »

Sorry, Amnesiac, you were way ahead of us

thom yorke.jpg

I was fifteen when I heard Radiohead's OK Computer for the first time. This was shortly after seeing "Karma Police" on MTV and knowing I had to have the album right away. Like Pablo Honey, OK Computer was straightforward enough for my undeveloped palette, but the band had also gotten noticeably artsier, and in spite of the essentially hook-based songs, it was different than the other stuff that was getting play then (Think: Limp Bizkit -- no, wait, don't).

More »

Finally taking a look at Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life

It's probably no secret at this point we're a bunch of dorks, nerds and geeks here, and luckily, every once and while these tendencies happen to collide with our love for music. Such is the case with Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life, a graphic novel released last year by Fantagraphics.

If you were to ask me my favorite things in life, my response would probably be multi-media art, rock and roll and history. Why I didn't pick this book up sooner is still beyond me. I've loved comic books since I was a kid, when my Dad and I would venture off to the store together, often times with him walking away with bigger stacks than me. Giraffes chronicles the story of Bruce Paley through the summer of love up to the age of punk rock. It's a personal lesson in history, love, redemption and all that other crap we look for in a good story -- all that, and it's a lovingly illustrated graphic novel that breathes characterization and intrigue from the first page to the last.

More »

Why The Core is one of the best-worst movies around

First off, I'm not a film critic by any means. I can rarely talk about the effect a movie had on me after I watch it -- my thought process is binary and simple: The movie is good or bad. However, there are a few movies I can't help but find inexplicable, stupid enjoyment in -- one of these is National Treasure. The other I recently found out was The Core.

More »

Whoops, forgot about this amazing Outkast album

In the year 2000, I heard my first Outkast album, Stankonia. You'll have to excuse my sheltered existence -- being a small-time kid from a small mountain town didn't exactly lend itself to being on the cutting edge.

More »

New found love for the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St.


I'm a Rolling Stones fan. But I'm not the world's biggest Rolling Stones fan. I'm not a fanatic, and I'm certainly not a bastion of Rolling Stones related knowledge. Up until Tuesday, I owned four Rolling Stones records: Now!, 12 X 5, Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request [editor's note: WTF?! Seriously, Thorin?]. I'm well aware there are a few more good ones in there, but I somehow managed to go my entire life without ever listening to Exile on Main St., until I picked up the re-master.

More »

Giving Massive Attack's Mezzanine another shot


I never really got into Massive Attack. Actually, to be honest, most of the '90s downtempo/trip-hop stuff always eluded me for one reason or another. It always felt so goofy, so bland, so near-new-age. Perhaps this just was my own association. But after actually enjoying Heligoland I decided it was high time to give their catalog another shot. I chose Mezzanine as a start not because of its critical reception, so much as it's the album I'd always heard at parties, at stores and in cars.

More »

A hater takes another look at Pink Floyd's "Live in Pompeii"

I hate Pink Floyd. Absolutely! I hate the black light posters in high school bedrooms. I hate the sound, the look, the fans and everything else about the band. If you were ever curious of knowing what my personal version of hell was, it would be Pink Floyd. Well, maybe Bob Marley, too.

Before you even bother to ask: No, I have to real rational explanation for why I loathe this band so much -- maybe it was too many long car rides with Pink Floyd as a kid. Maybe I was beaten as a child by Roger Waters. Doesn't really matter at this point. Fact is, nobody's going to change my mind, so don't bother.

More »