Ryan Foley

Ryan Foley

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Mr. Misery: Why Nick Drake Lives On

Liverpool musican Pete Wylie allegedly coined the term optimisery. Definition: The feeling of wanting to fall in love, but knowing the heartbreak that arrives with it. It's an apt sniglet to describe those individuals stumbling through the fragile hedgerows and into the gracefully darkened, blue-smoky garden of English folk artist Nick Drake.

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Joy Division: In the Studio with Martin Hannett

What makes the Joy Division mythos similarly captivating and difficult to penetrate is it's dominated by three genius spirits, each one threatening to consume the other.

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Tricky and the Muse

Vivisecting Tricky's body of work means calling on gender theorists, postmodern feminists, and even Sigmund Freud (if he could overcome the alleged tone-deafness). The Bristol, England artist fills the void created by his mother's death (she committed suicide when he was four) through lyrical and stylistic transvestitism, tinkering with gender-specific language, and drawing from creativity reliant on male/female symbiosis.

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Keep Watching the Stars: Astralwerks Gives Air's Moon Safari the 10th-Birthday Treatment

Air's Moon Safari would knock Marcel Proust's dick in the dirt. The distinguished French author would fete the equally distinguished French pop-men for the group's association with one of his pet concepts: involuntary memory. Rather, both Proust and Air explore the idea that everyday life can evoke pure recollections of one's past without conscious effort.

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Somebody Loves Them: Portishead's Back Together

Bristol, England, has been bestowed with nicknames like "Slackersville, UK." It's a graveyard for ambition, we're told, a place where residents take awhile to climb out of bed in the morning. Some say the locals operate on "spliff time."

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Girls, Aloud: A New Shangri-Las Compilation Reminds Pop Tarts How It's Really Done

This month Cleopatra Records offers some important aid in resuscitating the girl-group genre. The new compilation Leader of the Pack highlights the career of the inimitable Shangri-Las.

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Los Campesinos!: Hold on Now, Youngster ...

The debut EP by Los Campesinos!, Sticking Fingers into Sockets, noodled its way onto an infinity of 2007 best-of ballots. Colorful aural confetti like "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives" addressed the schism between artist and audience, and tickled various pop fancies.

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Mahjongg: Kontpab

Mahjongg's webspace prose reads like passages from a rave manifesto ("make love energy," "spawn a soundtrack for a new community," etc.). But Kontpab's multilayer tapestries of detuned synthesizers, piercing drum ripostes, and abrasive, effects-laden vocals are hardly elevating or unifying.

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Another Side of Page and Plant

Robert Plant once ad-libbed, "Does anybody remember laughter?" during a live go-'round of Led Zeppelin's radio-worn, double-headed guitar epic "Stairway to Heaven." The quip laid into general rock-deity ennui: Plant in painted-on denim atop his own Mount Doom, surveying what's been conquered and then vocalizing his surprise at finding it all so ... prosaic.

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Go Folk Yourself: Fairport Convention's Lasting Influence

"Come all ye rolling minstrels," invited Sandy Denny in the 1969 Fairport Convention ditty "Come All Ye." "And together we will try/To rouse the spirit of the earth/And move the rolling sky."

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Natural Mystic: Hip-O's Van Morrison Compilation Shows the Songsmith Planted Firmly on Neutral Turf

From one stylistic perch or another, Northern Ireland's pop stalwarts have examined the violence between the region's Nationalist and Unionist communities: the Divine Comedy with "Sunrise," the Undertones ("It's Going to Happen"), Stiff Little Fingers (Inflammable Material), Phil Coulter ("The Town I Loved So Well").

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Spiritualized: Songs in A&E

The title of the latest effort by Spiritualized is a play on accident and emergency ward, a place where the group's songwriter and main man, Jason Pierce, spent nearly a month in 2005. That he was shriveled and bed-ridden from bilateral pneumonia, not from shooting junk into an eyeball, is rather telling.

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The Libertines: Time for Heroes - The Best of the Libertines

Pete Doherty can skim a police blotter and place tiny red check marks next to all possible offenses. What crime hasn't our gack-obsessed, Coleridge-invoking roue committed?

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Tripping on Madchester ... Smile! Acid House Is Back

Raver graybeards are dusting off beanie hats and swallowing the first two tablets — the Happy Mondays' Bummed: Collector's Edition (Rhino) and Paul Oakenfold's Greatest Hits & Remixes (New State) — of what's sure to be an intoxicating yearlong revival.