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Ariel Swartley


  • Gaucho

    The thing you begin to notice, listening to Steely Dan's songs, is that no one ever answers anyone. For all the talk — and their latest album, Gaucho, is as compulsively chatty as dinnertime on death row — there's no conversation. Whoever keeps asking, "Who is that guacho, amigo?" might as well be talking to […]

    • Music
  • Emotional Rescue

    Like the thermographic photos of the Rolling Stones on the album cover, Emotional Rescue is a portfolio of burned-out cases and fire trails. High-contrast patterns of familiar outlines and blackened patches where the heat has burned and gone, these photographs — like pictures of corpses from some holocaust — are practically unrecognizable. As far as […]

    • Music
  • Damn The Torpedoes

    Damn the Torpedoes is the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album we've all been waiting for — that is, if we were all Tom Petty fans, which we would be if there were any justice in the world, live shows for all, free records everywhere and rockin' radio. Mostly justice. Songs like "I Need to […]

    • Music
  • Stardust

    When country singers go back to their roots, the album's usually called Amazing Grace, but Willie Nelson's never been known for his orthodoxy. Instead of hymns, he's giving us ten of the best from popular classicists like George and Ira Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Irving Berlin. Still, Stardust traces Nelson's musical family tree more convincingly […]

    • Music
  • Hejira

    It is the tug of war between the symbolist and the siren that makes Joni Mitchell's albums alternately alluring and forbidding. On the one hand she is the most ruthlessly analytical member of the music-as-therapy songwriting school, and often her songs seem intent only on making private sense of her own experience. On the other […]

    • Music
  • Blue Moves

    When another performer might have bared his chest and strutted onstage in trousers tighter than White House security, Elton John capered in clown suits and hid behind his glasses. There was something engagingly sly about the self-mocking caption on Rock of the Westies: "Elton John — a boring little musician … prone to getting fat […]

    • Music