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The blues never die: Music Maker 25 celebrates the South’s legacy of traditional music

(12/01/19 5:00am)

Many people know North Carolina for its beaches, its barbecue or its college basketball, but it’s likely that fewer know the state for its rich musical heritage. The list of artists hailing from North Carolina spans decades and musical traditions, and it includes jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, guitar pioneer Elizabeth Cotten, banjo player Earl Scruggs and legendary singer Nina Simone — just to name a few.

Crate-digging in the age of Spotify

(10/24/19 4:00am)

I tend to discover music in one of two ways: either from the usual cycle of new releases and album reviews, or from a chance trip down the rabbit hole of Spotify’s related-artists feature. The second option seems to make up more and more of my listening habits these days, and it’s remarkably fruitful — by the end of a feverish two-hour span I may have compiled an entire playlist dedicated to a single subgenre, and the endless doors opened by each artist within that subgenre mean it might be weeks, or months, before that particular phase is through. And even then, I still feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the music that’s out there.

What comes after certainty

(09/05/19 4:00am)

There is invariably a point near the end of every summer when, freed from the helpful bounds of the workweek, the days begin to bleed into one another. Sometimes it’s in July, sometimes later in August, but up to this point in my life I’ve rarely gone through a summer without that familiar period of limbo, when the only responsibilities are the ones you give yourself.

Vampire Weekend makes a satisfying return with the sprawling ‘Father of the Bride’

(05/10/19 7:26pm)

It’s been a busy six years for Ezra Koenig. In the time since his band released the critically-acclaimed “Modern Vampires of the City” in 2013, the frontman has hosted his own radio show on Beats 1, wrote and produced a Netflix anime series, had a child, stumped for Bernie Sanders, nabbed a production credit on Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and seemingly everything in between. The one thing missing? Another Vampire Weekend album, whose progress — as documented in spurts by Koenig since he hinted at the working title “Mitsubishi Macchiato” back in 2016 — lurched from 80 percent to “94.5 percent” and finally to 100 percent over the span of the last three years. Not since Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” has the wait for an album provoked so much anticipation. 

A review of Marvin Bagley III’s mixtape 'The Calm Before the Storm'

(04/15/19 12:00pm)

In his lone season in a Duke uniform, Marvin Bagley III had some of the best single-season statistics in Duke history, scoring the most points ever by a freshman at the time and posting the first-ever 30-point, 20-rebound game in the Coach K era. But it turns out those aren’t the only records he’s dropping.

Why Lil Nas X's 'Old Town Road' doesn’t need the country charts

(04/09/19 4:00am)

Nearly 16 years ago, OutKast released “Hey Ya!,” a single that stands as one of the biggest hits of the new millennium. For all its ubiquity today, though, “Hey Ya!” was deceptively revolutionary: Blending an acoustic guitar-driven hook with a funk bassline, rapped breakdowns and an atypical time signature, the song seemed to signal a new dawn for genre — or, rather, the lack thereof. Writing at the end of the decade for Pitchfork, music critic Douglas Wolk observed, “It seemed like the walls between rock and R&B and hip-hop were about to topple and from then on there would just be this enormous pool of popular music that everyone could swim around in.”

Shut up and play the hits

(03/19/19 4:00am)

My first introduction to the album format came through three records that, to many people, don’t even qualify as “albums,” in the strictest sense of the word: The Beach Boys’ “The Greatest Hits – Volume 1: 20 Good Vibrations,” The Monkees’ “The Essentials” and Squeeze’s “Singles – 45’s and Under.” With their bloated tracklists and curious obsession with the en dash, each of these titles has the designation not as an album but as a greatest-hits compilation, that dreaded domain of aging artists and cash-strapped labels.

Student app lets users discover new music through their friends' tastes

(03/06/19 5:10am)

If you use a music streaming service like Spotify, then chances are you have come across mixes tailored to your listening habits — whether it’s “New Music Friday,” “Discover Weekly” or “Tastebreakers.” For many listeners, these algorithmically-generated playlists are one of the only options for discovering new music. 

Recess roundtable: Why criticism?

(02/24/19 5:00am)

Much discussion has erupted in recent weeks regarding the (purportedly) fading necessity of reviews. In an age of discontinued Netflix-star-ratings, Amazon top customer reviewers and enraged YouTubers, the long-form reviews of movies, books or music that once dominated newspapers are increasingly seen as antiquated or downright ignorant. Ahead of the Oscars on Sunday, staff writer Joel Kohen, culture editor Will Atkinson and design editor Nina Wilder chimed in with their opinions as to why thorough media criticism still deserves a place at the table of today’s journalism.

Where to start with twee pop this Valentine’s Day

(02/13/19 5:00am)

When it comes time to assemble Valentine’s Day-themed playlists every year, I’m often struck at just how easy it is to ascribe “love song” status to nearly any piece of pop music: Love, heartbreak and all their variations probably account for a good 50 percent of pop — from “Be My Baby” all the way down to “thank u, next” — and for the rest, it isn’t too difficult to draw the line.

Blackspace and FTMF Talent celebrate Durham's black history in MLK Day show

(01/16/19 5:35am)

On Feb. 16, 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Durham’s White Rock Baptist Church — one of five trips he would ultimately make to the city. The speech, delivered to a standing-room-only crowd of an estimated 1,200 people, came just days after four students had initiated a sit-in at Greensboro, N.C.’s Woolworth department store, in what would become one of the most influential protests of the civil rights movement.

From K-Pop to Shakespeare: This semester’s most intriguing arts-related courses

(01/10/19 5:00am)

Although bookbagging has come and gone, some students spend the first couple weeks of the new semester continuing to shop for courses. Whether you’re considering dropping that chemistry lecture or just want to keep courses on your radar for a future ALP credit, here are some of the most interesting arts-related courses that started on Wednesday.

From the culture desk: The top albums of 2018

(12/12/18 5:30am)

Last week, Recess released its staff picks for the best culture of 2018. As usual, though, I couldn't help forming a list of my own — so here are a handful of the best albums I was listening to this year. Of course, this list is by no means an exhaustive sample of all the great music released this year (that's part of the fun of lists), but take it as an entry point into the various genres and trends defining popular music in 2018.