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Codeine: Dessau

The White Birch, ca. 1899 Stephen Immerwahr: I first saw Thomas Wilmer Dewing’s The White Birch in 1990 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and loved it immediately. The two female figures float silently in a violent blue-green cloud and they seem overcome, lost. This reserved and stylized depiction of nature and oblivion was my kind of thing, and when it was time for the second Codeine record, I knew […]

todaySeptember 2, 2022 1

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It Came From the Sky: The Mind of Laraaji

Few places changed as much as New York between the years of 1978, when the roaring tenure of mayor Ed Koch began, and 1990, the start of the considerably less-inspiring Rudy Giulianni era. New York was a national bellwether and a place of cautionary tales, a wellspring of new ideas brilliant and horrific, a city that seemed to rewrite its history and future with each passing moment. Hip hop fomented […]

todayApril 14, 2022 2

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Virtuosity from Yugoslavia: The Story of Branko Mataja

  Branko Mataja (1923-2000) was born in the small costal town of Bekar, then part of Dalmatia, now Croatia. Shortly after that, Branko's family relocated 500km east to the Yugoslavian capital city of Belgrade. It was there, tinkering under the glass kitchen table in his parents' tiny home, that ten-year-old Branko Mataja built his first guitar.  The second world war came to Yugoslavia when Axis occupiers arrived in April of […]

todayApril 8, 2022 4

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Indescribably Epic: The Tale of Bedhead

Bedhead began with two brothers—the Kadanes. Bubba two years older than Matt, they were from Wichita Falls, a small city in Texas about 120 miles northwest of Dallas. The town offered a suburban mix of Dazed and Confused-slash-Breakfast Club conformity/non-conformity infused with an element of whatever it is that makes Texas a state of mind as much as a state.  In part because their father loved playing the drums, the […]

todayApril 8, 2022 4

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Carlos “Caribe” Ruiz and his Orquestra La Solución

Tucked away on Chicago’s near North Side, the Puerto Rican Congress of Mutual Aid has held its ground at the same three-lot West North Avenue space for more than four decades. The Congress, founded at a time when the city’s now-affluent Wicker Park neighborhood was still a haven for drug dealers and gang members, stands as the last bastion of cultural diversity in the ward, though you’d never register it […]

todayApril 8, 2022 1

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Syl Johnson: Complete Mythology

“I wanna be somebody so bad, but you keep on putting your foot on me.”  To hear him tell it, Syl Johnson could have been as big as James Brown or Al Green. #1 on the charts, top billing on the marquee, Hall of Fame inductions, tearful tributes... all within his reach, and yet never in his hands. Something, someone, and sometimes—if you believe his lyrics—the sole of a shoe […]

todayApril 8, 2022

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Wee: Let Me Take My Brain (And Put It In Yours)

Lamont Dixon’s sketch on the back cover of this album says just as much about Norman Whiteside as the songs contained herein. An eyes-skyward dreamer whose ambition and talent were constricted only by what could be found in his wallet, Whiteside’s journey from the runways of Columbus, Ohio to the baggage hull at Ross Correctional Institute in nearby Chillicothe are all presciently conveyed in the hastily drawn felt tip sketch. […]

todayApril 8, 2022 1

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Alan Dunham: Notes From The Underground

It’s 1979 in Glens Falls, New York, and 18-year-old Alan Dunham hurries down the stairs into the basement of his folks’ home — his laboratory. As per usual, he’s got a new song running through his head, one of many that would eventually make up his solo debut, Flying Alone. This isn’t your average basement, however. It’s more of a rec room situation, with carpeting on the floor and acoustical […]

todayApril 8, 2022 5

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Shira Small: Eternal Line

Recorded in 1974 under the auspices of a senior project at a small Quaker boarding school in Newtown, Pennsylvania, “Eternal Life” is the product of Shira Small’s four years away from the Wagner Projects in East Harlem. In Harlem, Small grew up imitating Ray Charles, the Temptations, Ella Fitzgerald—and Joni Mitchell. “When I was younger, I could do a great Joni Mitchell imitation,” Small remembered. “I used to really nail it.”   […]

todayApril 8, 2022 2

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