Chad Parkhill

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Killings

Radical Honesty

EMA’s The Future’s Void

Published by Killings, 23 April 2014. Original post. EMA by Erica M. Anderson.

Erica M. Anderson’s recently released second solo album, The Future’s Void, has been for the most part well-received by critics—albeit with some caveats. Most have praised the way she has maintained her songwriting identity despite shifting from the folk/blues/noise rock of her debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, to a 90s-influenced mélange of post-grunge and industrial pop (à la Nine Inch Nails). The bone of contention seems to be that The Future’s Void is understood as tackling a Big Theme—namely, our relationship to internet technologies—and is therefore pushing a Message, in contrast to the supposedly message-less Past Life Martyred Saints.

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Do Music Critics Need Music Theory?

Published by Killings, 9 April 2014. Original post. Woodcut of Pythagoras from Theorica musicae by Franchino Gaffurio (1492).

Canadian musician Owen Pallett—the man who arranged the strings on Arcade Fire’s albums, co-wrote the soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Her, and has a bunch of wonderful solo albums—can now add another feather to his cap: that of an engaging music writer. His recent series of three essays for Slate, each aiming to explain the appeal of a well-known pop song through music theory, tackles some relatively dry subject matter with impressive brio.

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Drips, Leaks, and Spurts

Published by Killings, 26 March 2014. Original post. Todd Terje by Lei Yang (Creative Commons).

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a state of perpetual excitement—musically speaking, that is. First came tUnE-yArDs’ new song, ‘Water Fountain’, a joyous, riotous explosion of colour and movement. Then Swans released ‘A Little God in My Hands’, a seven-minute epic of a track that chases a noisy, transcendent ecstasy. Finally, Todd Terje released his collaboration with Bryan Ferry: a cover of Robert Palmer’s ‘Johnny and Mary’ that ramps up the latent sadness of the original into something surprisingly moving.

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Singing Out

Published by Killings, 12 March 2014. Original post. Merilai Lilburn from Lilburn family photo collection.

My maternal grandmother, Merilai Lilburn, recently died in a nursing home in Katikati, New Zealand, of complications arising from pneumonia. She was 82 years old. At the time of her death, I and the other members of our extended family based in Australia were flying to Auckland from our homes on Australia’s east coast, trying to arrive in Katikati in time to bid her a final farewell. We didn’t make it, but this mad dash to Katikati did have the effect of drawing together a geographically atomised family for close to a week of mourning and funeral preparation.

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Something Rich and Strange

Beck, Sea Change and Morning Phase

Published by Killings, 26 February 2014. Original post. Beck by Peter Hapak.

Few artists are as burdened by their pasts as Beck Hansen. The man responsible for ‘Loser’ released three albums’ worth of material (Stereopathetic Soulmanure, Mellow Gold and One Foot in the Grave) in the year after it first hit the airwaves, as if to prove that he had been working at this music caper for a very long time and was, by extension, no one-hit wonder. While none of those albums became the cornerstone of his career, their sheer musical variety demonstrated something that has become a truism when talking about Beck’s output: namely, that he’s not an easy man to pin down.

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The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be

Daft Punk, Nostalgia, and Musical Conservatism

Published by Killings, 12 February 2014. Original post.   Daft Punk by katharina_z (Creative Commons).

There’s no reason not to be very happy for Daft Punk right now. The French production duo, who have been making music since 1993, recently won five awards at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards—including both Album of the Year (for Random Access Memories) and Record of the Year (for ‘Get Lucky’). They also demonstrated exactly why they deserved the accolades by putting on a phenomenal live performance with Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers, and Stevie Wonder: a medley of ‘Get Lucky’, Chic’s ‘Le Freak’, and Wonder’s ‘Another Star’. Over two decades of hard work and perseverance by a group twice removed from the mainstream (by both nationality and musical genre) finally rewarded on the music industry’s night of nights—how could you not feel good about that?

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That Kind of Racism Just Ain’t for Us

Lorde’s ‘Royals’ and Offence Criticism

Published by Killings, 29 January 2014. Original post. Lorde by Stephen Sloggett (Creative Commons).

One of the most widely-read and influential pieces of music criticism in 2013 was not written by a music critic—its author possesses a master’s degree in sexuality and public health, works in the field of reproductive justice, and had written little about music before the blog post in question was published. Despite this, Verónica Bayetti Flores’s post entitled ‘Wow, that Lorde song Royals is racist’—which argues that ‘Royals’ is “deeply racist” because its singer doesn’t care for a list racially-charged signifiers of material wealth—not only (in the words of its author) “BLEW. UP.” but also set the frame through which Lorde’s song ‘Royals’ would thenceforth be analysed, inspiring an endless series of rebuttals along the lines of ‘Nah, that Lorde song “Royals” isn’t racist’.

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The Slaughter to Come

Reading and Watching The Counselor

Published by Killings, 14 November 2013. Original post. Detail from The Counselor (2013).

Early in Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay The Counselor, a diamond dealer reflects on an issue that directly relates to Ridley Scott’s film version of the same screenplay. “The crown and the pavilion may be well cut each in itself and yet stand alien to one another,” he says of a poorly-cut diamond the titular Counselor is inspecting. “Once the first facet is cut there can be no going back. What was meant to be a union remains forever untrue and we see a troubling truth that the forms of our undertakings are complete at their beginnings. For good or ill.” Those who have seen the film may be surprised by these lines: if they were ever uttered, they ended up on the cutting-room floor, perhaps because they invite an unkind comparison between the misshapen diamond and Scott’s film. Like the diamond, both the script and the production (led by some of Hollywood’s most valuable A-listers) is well-cut, but each stands alien to the other.

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Banger

Five Surprising Dancefloor Sensations

Published as a five-part series by Killings, 12 March–6 August 2013. Original posts: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five. Technics 1200 by Rick Harrison (Creative Commons).

Bahumutsi Drama Group, ‘To the Comrades (PB edit)’

  Bahumutsi Drama Group, ‘To the Comrades (PB edit)’ (2009).

Over the past few years, the phenomenon of disco edits—fuelled by young dance music producers who want to cut their teeth by reworking previously existing songs—has been through a boom-and-bust cycle. What started off as a means of tweaking unknown songs from the archives for contemporary audiences has become something of a farce, with producers either not looking very far into those archives (see Soul Clap’s excellent edit of Jamie Foxx’s ‘Extravaganza’, the lustre of which is dimmed by the fact that ‘Extravaganza’ was barely five years old when Soul Clap applied the scalpel) or doing abominable things to well-known pop songs (if you must hear an example, then this edit of ‘Love Shack’ will suffice). This is something of a shame, though, because a good disco edit can act as a conduit between the past and present, startling us by making new connections and remapping our musical universes. For example, did you know that Cat Stevens made a weird cosmic disco track called ‘Was Dog a Doughnut’? Pilooski’s edit of the track does more than make it palatable for contemporary dancefloors; it also makes us rethink an artist whose work, by and large, has been unfortunately reduced to the shorthand ‘70s folkie; converted to Islam’.

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“Worst. Review. Ever.”

On the Pillorying of Jessica Andrews

Published by Killings, 12 February 2013. Original post. My Bloody Valentine by Greg Dunlap (Creative Commons).

Every writer writes because they want their work to be read—and in the brave new world of digital publishing, this desire takes the specific form of wanting to ‘go viral’. Virality can seem so arbitrary, so why shouldn’t a young writer pin their hopes on a piece of theirs hitting the right cultural nerve at the right time, and dream of watching the hits and Twitter mentions roll in?

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