Pentatonic Ponderings: More of That, Please


By Allen


I watch Almost Famous every year that I get the chance. I’ve been doing this since I was 15 or so, when it was first recommended to me by one of the editors of the now-defunct film website, Screened. If you’ve followed this site for a while, you know I really, REALLY like that movie. On my latest rewatch, I picked up on a whole new theme in the film that’s buried under all the nostalgia and rock music; longing. Specifically, the longing for a particular type of music, and how it feels to let a small clip of sound influence and change your life. Anna Paquin’s character sums this up in the screencap I’m using as the thumbnail; it does hurt, and it can be simultaneously isolating and inviting to feel like you’re the only person that feeds off of a particular piece of music. 2015 has been an incredible year of music, and I’ve easily listened to more full albums this year than ever before. Some of my favorite songs this year have that perfect, enchanting couple of seconds of sound that make me feel like everything is okay, and I’d like to share them with the world, and maybe we can all come to appreciate each other’s “silly little piece of music”.

Track 1: “Celebrate” by Metric (


We’re talking about the synth hit here. If you want my favorite instance of it in the track, it’s at 2:26. Metric’s been my favorite band since I first heard Synthetica in high school, so I started out as a fan of their synth-pop rebranding before going back and exploring their more rock-influenced roots. Shifting genres so drastically is a bold and polarizing decision, but it worked for Metric because they kept the core of what makes them special; an incredible concert sound and personal lyrics that have inspired millions. “Celebrate” is all about grasping at the opportunities in life while they’re still available to you. When Haines hits that synth note, it’s time to dance right then and there. The song almost grinds to a halt every time the synth kicks in, like the rest of the chorus is moving out of the way. It’s a powerful statement: “Here we are, this is what our sound is now.” Nobody wants to sit and wait.

Track 2: “Clearest Blue” by Chvrches (


I have gone on record to the official Chvrches Twitter account saying that I will cry if I ever get to hear “Clearest Blue” live in concert. It’s the type of song that attracts that sort of response, with an emotional buildup that is so intense that it, like Paquin’s character says in Almost Famous, almost hurts. It’s a long, intense two minutes and twelve seconds into “Clearest Blue” before the song stands out from so many other Chvrches songs. Their latest album, Every Open Eye, has been criticized for sticking fairly close to their previous work in terms of song structure, but “Clearest Blue” proves this wrong. Even a minute in, a careful listener can notice the addition of different instrumentation and faster pace. “Holding on tightly to the side/Never quite learning why” is exactly how I felt the first time I heard this song. You feel it coming, you feel your pulse racing. And right as the drop is about to start, we become Mayberry in the song, trying to push this track away as yet another dull, chorus-focused pop song. But then it happens. 2:16 into “Clearest Blue” is the singular where I knew that this was an incredible year for music. I was genuinely shaking the first time I heard it, and it’s quite the fun little game for me to show it to other people and watch their reactions. This is the kind of music that really stings when it’s over.

Track 3: “Seeing Stars” by BØRNS (


Known by many as “the guy who wrote the song in that Hulu ad” and “Taylor Swift’s friend”, Garrett Borns established himself this year as an incredible voice in pop music. Although “Electric Love” is probably his most well-known song, “Seeing Stars” delivers much more in terms of the satisfaction we’re looking for in this list. Right from the start, the synth is overpowering and, most importantly, fast. Just when you think that’s just going to be the intro, it becomes the chorus. So simple, just a few notes, and it carries the entire song. I’ve found Borns to be fantastic music for cardio exercise, because rhythm like that keeps you from letting up for even a second.

Track 4: “Sunday Candy” by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment (


Chance the Rapper refuses to let up after having released Acid Rap, a 2013 mixtape that was so good, so incredibly memorable, that it put him on the map of modern hip-hop. “Sunday Candy” is a song off of Surf, an album he did with his rap/soul music collective The Social Experiment over the summer, and it represents a big step forward in hip-hop. The part we’re going to specifically close read here is the first verse and chorus. Chance raps about his grandmother, and how her cooking, spirituality, and tenacity make her his biggest inspiration. Jamila Woods absolutely makes this track though, and her chanting of “Rain down Zion/It’s gonna rain” layered over a velvety baritone AND Chance’s rapping? It’s awe-inspiring, it brightens up a bad day, it…I’m dancing to it right now, and it’s not even playing. Good music can do that to you, if you meet it halfway.

Track 5: “Run Away With Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen (


SYNTH HORNS, Y’ALL. Who would’ve thought Carly Rae Jepsen could make such a knockout comback after seemingly peaking with her 2012 summer hit “Call Me Maybe”? Emotion is all-around an amazing album, filled with breezy pop tracks that I’m not ashamed to say I’ll be bumping in the car for months to come. The running thread of the album for me was “Let’s do some pop music you already know and love, and throw something special in there”. That’s the synth horns in “Run Away With Me”. I’ve never heard anything like them, and coupled with the thumping bass running through the whole song and the hollow, almost gunshot-like drum hit before the chorus, you’ve got the formula for an incredibly memorable pop chorus that shows Jepsen’s range and reminds me why I fell in love with pop music.


Honest to goodness, I didn’t plan for all of these tracks to be so synth-heavy, but that’s really just what I’m into these days. The criteria for what sounds and songs fit into this article’s theme is intentionally broad, and different for each person. Listen back specifically to songs that have gotten stuck in your head recently, and try to isolate which part, be it some random instrumentation or a lovely falsetto, you’ll know what you’re listening for. Take that, play it over and over again, and make a playlist out of all the songs that do it for you. Here are some of the songs I added to a playlist for this article that didn’t make the cut, but have the same satisfying feel to them:

“Should Have Known Better” by Sufjan Stevens:

“Baby Blue” by Action Bronson and Chance the Rapper:

“Duct Tape Heart” by Barenaked Ladies:

“New Americana” by Halsey:


Three By Three: Fictional Deities

Fictional DeitiesThe Category

Bow down before us, for we are Pop Modern, and we have brought this world’s reckoning! Your doom has come in the form of this week’s Three By Three, a list, etched in stone (and then typed, of course, we do all our drafts on granite slabs) and brought down from the mount to list for you the greatest fictional deities to grace the pop cultural landscape. So kneel, mortals, kneel and pray that this article drops the whole religious zealot thing, since it’s really not working for anybody.

The Choices


Russell Hammond from Almost FamousI’ll take any opportunity to talk about Almost Famous, even if it means stretching the definition of a deity. True, Crudup’s run-down rocker character only refers to himself as a golden god in one scene, but he gives off the aura of a man who sees beyond his peers. This is especially true because of how he addresses the protagonist, William Miller. Talking down to him just because he’s young and part of the “evil press monster” that constantly hound rockstars and their ilk, Hammond’s initial buffer zone of anger and pretentiousness quickly comes down as he gets to know William, and the true musician inside is laid to bare.

Raiden from the Mortal Kombat series: My favorite thing about Raiden isn’t his crazy lightning eyes, or his razor-sharp hat, or his awesome fatalities. No, it’s his willingness to stoop down to the very battlefield from which souls are offered to him, and duke it out as a mortal with the rest of the fighters, that makes him such a great god. Without reading up on his backstory or playing through the single player modes, one could go their entire life without realizing that they’ve been playing as a god among men (and women!). Raiden’s the whole package; chaotically good, magically-endowed, humble, and his ability to make limbs fly apart with lightning from his fingers makes him a huge hit with the ladies.

R’hllor from A Song of Ice and Fire: Now here’s a fictional deity that is properly worshipped and sacrificed to. Something about the blind obedience characters like Melisandre have to this mysterious lord is fascinating, like how listening to a friend talk about their Canadian girlfriend is really silly until she shows up and is super hot. While the endless conflict between R’hllor and his counterpart god of darkness are referenced frequently in the first few books, it isn’t until readers learn just what his powers can do that he truly becomes a threat. Without going into too many spoilers, worshiping the Lord of Light (who I’ll now call “R Dawg”) can allow people to cheat the rules of the real world. But it’s all handled with such a deft touch that marks the entire series, and it goes a long way to making readers feel like the actions taken by his sworn followers are justified. And seeing characters like Thoros of Myr change their entire lifestyle to better serve his holy hotness is both terrifying and incredible.


Arceus from the Pokémon series: For those of you who don’t have a degree in fictional theology, Arceus is the creator of the Pokémon universe. He manipulated the cosmos to give rise to life, starting with the gods of time, space, knowledge, emotion, and willpower. Having finished his work, he went into a deep sleep to last forever. Until you capture him of course. True to the Pokémon spirit, Arceus, who is technically a Pokémon, can be captured in a Pokéball and subjugated to your will, as you battle other people who don’t have gods on their side.

Anoia from the Discworld series: In the Discworld series, gods are a product of beliefs. When people truly believe in a god, a god will appear, and the more people who believe, the stronger the god is. Anoia used to be one of the many gods of volcanoes, but after a publicized incident, she became the Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers, and offerings to her can unstick even the most unholy of drawers.

Sheogorath from the Elder Scrolls series: Sheogorath is the Daedric Lord of madness. An older man with a grey goatee, he is prone to mania and dementia, teetering between psychopathic rage, and inane ramblings. The most mercurial of the Daedric lords, Sheogorath is also the Daedric Lord of order Jyggalag. His witty banter and randomness makes him an intentionally hilarious character, with a thick Gaelic accent to add a sense of charm.


Galactus from the Marvel Universe: Now, if you want to pull hairs, Galactus is more of an incredibly powerful alien than a deity, but anybody who devours worlds for a living deserves to be on this list. I’m not saying that I particularly like Galactus stories, or the ones where he comes to Earth anyway. In fact, I think it’s lazy and convenient to say “Uh-oh, it’s that planet-eating guy that’s gonna eat our planet!” and have that be the driving force of the story. What I do like about him, though, is that he represents the crazier, outer-space side of Marvel continuity, which is equal parts weird and awesome. Also, Galactus is easily the purplest, best-dressed deity out there.

Cthulhu from The Call of CthulhuThis monstrous poster boy of Lovecraftian horror has inspired countless stories and games, and for good reason. Sure, it may seem like Cthulhu is up there with Galactus in the category of world-eating plot devices, but whereas Galactus plots often end with heroes triumphing over insurmountable odds, Cthulhu plots usually end with someone being driven mad by the thought of their insignificance and imminent death. Cthulhu is a world-destroying badass, and in stories like The Call of Cthulhu, readers see what it would actually be like to have one of those poised to devour everything.

The Robot Devil from FuturamaA lighter choice, but still just as terrifying and evil. Futurama deserves recognition for the way it handles the Christian faith: God is some kind of space computer and the Devil is a wacky robot voiced by Hank Azaria. The Robot Devil is one of the more hilarious Futurama side characters, and he’s been heavily featured in some of the best episodes of the series, like “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings,” where Fry and the Robot Devil trade hands and hilarity ensues.

The Conclusion

Is our ramshackle pantheon unfit for your worship? Irreverent rage slowly bubbling in your guts? Insane with frustration that your chosen deity has not received its due? Instead of seething and conducting secret rituals in your underground shrine, insert yourself into the comments section. Inspire us all with the benedictions of your favorite fictional deity.

Frames of Preference: Almost Famous

Almost FamousI’ve always thought that Frames of Preference would just be our way of showcasing some of the more beautiful or cool pieces of scenery in our favorite things here at Pop Modern, but this scene from 2000’s Almost Famous, directed by Cameron Crowe, just needs to be seen by as many people as possible. As Kate Hudson’s wonderful Penny Lane character leans in towards the plucky young William Miller and whispers “You are home.”, he realizes that his journey with up-and-coming rock band Stillwater is more than just a school project. The film deals with such heavy themes as discovering one’s self, journalistic integrity, and expressing feelings through music in a way that shows just how connected to the 60s and 70s rock music movement Cameron Crowe really is and was.