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The limits and paradoxes of pop culture’s liberalism

(02/08/17 5:00am)

The last presidential election seemed to open a rift within the pop culture community. On the one hand, we saw a reality-television show host rise to power in no small part due to his celebrity status. On the other, we witnessed the combined forces of Beyoncé, Jay-Z and a whole host of entertainers stand for his rival. Never before has the liberal skew of pop culture seemed more apparent. Never before, too, has its politics seemed more contradictory—President Trump, after all, has long been a pop culture icon.

Recess reviews: 'La La Land' examines space between dream and reality

(01/11/17 5:00am)

When the world last saw the handiwork of Damien Chazelle, it was in an exhilarating, ten-plus-minute drum performance that capped off 2014’s “Whiplash.” The extended tension and release of that final scene, buoyed by a restless camera, stood out as the undoubted highlight of the film, and it showed Chazelle’s unique capabilities as a director. When given the chance to let the music take over, he does not disappoint.

Forty years of The Regulator Bookshop, a day at a time

(12/07/16 5:01am)

Shortly before the American Revolution, a group of farmers in central North Carolina organized in protest of unfair taxation by colonial officials. They brought their fight to the governor in the form of a petition. He did not respond kindly. A battle ensued between the farmers and colonial troops, ending in the shooting or hanging deaths of most of the farmers, who called themselves the “Regulators.”

Guided by Voices proves it’s still got it, kind of

(11/16/16 5:00am)

Sometime early in middle school I got it into my head that I wanted to be a rock star, or something close to it, and I signed up for guitar lessons. Every Wednesday evening, my older brother drove me to the music shop on the back side of a strip mall where, for thirty minutes at a time, I attempted to wrap my hands around a bar chord. As I would soon learn, being a rock star takes time, calluses and (preferably) a post-pubescent vocal range. Within a couple months, I was done. (Update: I am a competent guitar player these days. Do you know “Wonderwall”?)

'Here’s to guitar music': A farewell to summer with Hoops and Whitney

(10/12/16 4:00am)

Seen in a live setting, Whitney looks almost inside-out. At the front of the stage, where rock convention suggests the lead singer should be standing with guitar in hand, Julien Ehrlich sits hunched over a drum set, a coat draped over his shoulders and a microphone dangling from above. The guitars, keyboard and trumpet that complete Whitney’s live roster take a back seat to Ehrlich, who acts as both lead singer and drummer—an unconventional combination, to say the least.

Small Town Records reaches out with jam sessions

(10/12/16 4:00am)

A few minutes before 8 p.m. Thursday evening, a small congregation had formed around the door of Small Town Records. Guitar cases and keyboards leaned against the walls, their owners patiently awaiting the chance to put them to use. It was explained that no one present had a key to the studio; the only person who did was running a bit late—and understandably so, as the student-run record label is housed in the bowels of the Bryan Center, behind more than a few right turns and double doors. I’m lucky I found my own way there.

The Marketplaylist, or: how I learned to stop worrying and love pop

(09/21/16 4:00am)

In my four weeks at Duke, I’ve sometimes been asked what has surprised me about the place, what I didn’t expect to experience. This exercise in soul-searching typically comes once the perfunctory which dorm and what major questions have been exhausted, when a short pause and a cursory glance around the bus reveal that, yes, there are still three more stops left in this conversation.