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As 2019 comes to a close, it’s time to look back on the year in music. As always, it’s nearly impossible to condense 12 months of releases into an exhaustive list, and major albums from Lana Del Rey, Solange, Angel Olsen, Bon Iver and more made 2019 especially difficult to narrow down — much less to rank.
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.
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.
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.
In Recess’ “In Retrospect” column, writers revisit pop culture from the past. Today, Managing Editor Will Atkinson looks at the legacy of Patrick Cowley, one of disco’s overlooked pioneers.
After a long break, we're back with the newest episode of “Reel to Reel,” Recess’s pop culture podcast. For the next few weeks, Recess editor Nina Wilder and managing editor Will Atkinson will discuss a different theme, with Nina bringing picks from cinema and Will bringing picks from the music world.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the faculty adviser for the Duke University Cricket Club, Arya Roy has often reserved the Central Campus turf field for the club’s practices.
At the end of each year going back at least to early high school, I’ve compiled a master playlist of my favorite songs of the year. Early on, as the aspiring music critic I was (at least in my head), these tended to be attempts at the definitive “best-of” list, the rankings dictated as much by what I felt I should enjoy as by what I actually did.
Over the summer, I attended a screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s music documentary “Junun,” which featured a Q&A with the director himself along with some of his co-conspirators in the making of the film. Among them was Jonny Greenwood, who has become Anderson’s chosen composer, responsible for the scores for “There Will Be Blood,” “Inherent Vice” and, most recently, “Phantom Thread.”
In the course he teaches, “Introduction to Performing Arts Management & Entrepreneurship,” Eric Oberstein, Trinity ‘07, mentors Duke students in putting together the resources for a creative project, creating an ideal environment for artists and connecting with a network of alumni in the arts.