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PROMO CORNER: Nightmarathon’s “Waiting Room”

Occasionally, I’ll receive music promo into my inbox. Occasionally, I’ll write about it.

Nightmarathons – “Waiting Room”

Huh, it turns out I’m still not sick of bands that sound like Iron Chic. Who knew?

Look, if you wanted to poke holes in this, you could. This manner of group-singing anthema is about as well-worn a trope as pop punk has going (though I’ve never heard it described the way it is here, as “Hot Water Music meets Piebald,” which, goddamn if that isn’t right on the money). For a song that runs three-and-a-half minutes long, there isn’t really much “there” there. It has the same problem Bridge and Tunnel has always had in my view: fist-pumping build ups that go no where, like a roller-coaster that climbs only to run flat for a few hundred feet.

But, honestly, fuck all that. It’s a swelling sing-along about thinking about one’s past in the face of an uncertain future. I’m not inclined to pick this band’s particular nits. This shit works, Nightmarathons are working it, and it works on me. See you when the record comes out on March 29, boys.

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The Oldest Things About Me, March 2019

1) I love the New York Times Cooking section: Could probably extend this whole line item to “I love the New York Times,” but that’s not specifically “old” so much as it is, i don’t know, “coastal elite?”

Anyway, the Cooking section: Can’t get enough of it. I subscribe the newsletter and look forward to it every Friday. I save recipes in the little digital recipe box. I make the ones that look easy for a weeknight. I have opinions on what their recipes call for in terms of aromatics and fats. I’ve considered leaving comments on recipes saying as such. Truly, some very Old shit.


2) I have to wear my pants higher up on my torso than is fashionable: I’m getting fat as shit and this is a consequence. You know who else does this, besides the fat? The Old. Someone should write a blog about that.

3) Tinnitus: Just a little ringing, just in my left ear, every now and again. I see here that it can be a symptom of a circulatory system disorder, so now I’ll be worried about that all day.


4) I go to bed at 9:30: Only god can judge me, you cowards.


5) My baseline perspective going in to any new music is “I am not going to like this”: Congrats to Protomartyr, the only new-ish band who is good, according to me, an Old person.

6) My thumb hurts sometimes for no real reason: No, I will not be seeing a doctor about this. Yes, my decision to eschew medical assistance does make me somewhat young.

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2018 Culture Lists

Top Albums of 2018

Reprinted here sans the emotional manipulation. For the spelling error-riddled original, go here.

30) Lemuria’s Recreational Hate, which completed the band’s transformation from emo-revival to do-it-all indie rock marathon runners.

29) Shame’s Songs of Praise, for it’s youthful acidity.

28) Cloud Nothings’ Last Building Burning, for its consistency.

27) Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, for it’s swiss army country.

26) Booji Boys’ Weekend Rocker, for overcoming it’s UK origins with a true Midwestern sensibility to punk creation.

25) Turnstile’s Time and Space, for sounding like Snapcase.

24) War on Women’s Capture the Flag, for doing the exact same shit it did last time.

23) Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, for it’s legitimization of Takeoff.

22) Culture Abuse’s Bay Dream, for brining well-intentioned stonerism back to indie rock.

21) Robyn’s Honey, for it’s oddball Sega Genisis-ass songs and it’s bold decision to reject any sort of would-be gay anthem.

20) Titus Andronicus’ A Productive Cough, for giving fans something to talk about 30 years from now, ala Tunnel of Love.

19) Alkaline Trio’s Is This Thing Cursed?, for overcoming its embarassing name and the last decade of AK3 records by being good.

18) Young Jesus’ The Whole Thing is Just There, for being the intersection of Built to Spill, Okkerville River and Bright Eyes.

17) Ought’s Room Inside the World, for being the aught’s best answer to The Talking Heads, still.

16) Mike Pace and the Child Actors’ Smooth Sailing, for sounding like either Elton John or Billy Joel depending on how many glasses of red wine you’ve had.

15) Iceage’s Beyondless, for being bottomless, venereal glam-punk ejaculate.

14) Hurry’s Every Little Thought, for being the intersection of Yo La Tengo and R.E.M.

13) Future’s BEASTMODE2, for what will we all do when these racks are blue?

12) Foxing’s Nearer my God, for trying to take emo to the U2 house.

11) Deafheaven’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, for being a Fucked Up album.

10) Playboi Cardi’s Die Lit, for being rap’s answer to post-rock.

9) The Dirty Nil’s Master Volume, for making high-minded butt rock in a world that fears such crotch-forward works.

8) IDLES’ Joy as an Act of Resistance, for it’s middle-aged acidity.

7) The Sidekicks’ Happiness Hours, a band you will all regret not paying attention to when the inevitable revival comes.

6) Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s How to: Friendship, Love, Freefall, for sounding like Modest Mouse, Band of Horses and rap.

5) Screaming Females’ All at Once, for making their rock opera.

4) Fucked Up’s Dose your Dreams, for making their second rock opera.

3) Hot Snakes’ Jericho Sirens, for it’s bottomless bottom and it’s ancient acidity.

2) Pusha T’s Daytona, for justifying all the noise made by Kanye West in 2018.

1) Restorations’ LP5000, because we’re all tired and here’s a way to get through it.

Meagan’s Top Music of the Year:

“I was gestating all year, so I wasn’t really paying attention. What came out this year? Cardi B, I didn’t like that single. I didn’t even hear ‘Thank You, Next,’  I think this makes me officially 100 years old. ‘Baby Shark?’ There were several Drake songs that I liked. ‘I’m Upset,’ but only in the context of my daughter.” – Meagan, who should blog.

Top 20 Songs of the Year:

Excluding songs from the AOTY list for simplicity sake.

20) Superchunk – Break the Glass

19) Pool Radio – norton

18) Lil Wayne – Mona Lisa (ft. Kendrick Lamar)

17) Kevin Gates – Find you Again

16) Jeff Rosenstock – Yr Throat

15) Salad Boys – Psych Slasher

14) Te Go! Team – Mayday

13) Typhoon – Rorschach

12) Professor Caveman – Babies

11) The Men – Rose on Top of the World

10) JOBS – Path

9) Nine Inch Nails – Over and Out

8) Soccer Mommy – Clean

7) The Hold Steady – Confusion in the Marketplace

6) The Body – Ten Times a Day, Every Day, a Stranger

5) Barely March – Thinking Emoji

4) Lil Baby – Yes Indeed (ft. Drake)

3) Protomartyr – Wheel of Fortune

2) Drake – Nice for What

1) Car Seat Headrest – Bodys

Top Movies of 2018

5) Black Panther because, beyond that “What are THOSES!?!” joke that will age like yogurt, it’s fun.

4) A Quiet Place because, besides being a trojan horse response to Get Out, it’s horrifyingly quiet.

3) Mission Impossible: Fallout, because Tom Cruise crashes a helicopter onto a guy.

2) Widows, because it was more about grief and debt than anything else.

1) Annihilation, because the last 20 minutes were as insane as anything I’ve seen on screen since I was a teenager and I fell asleep during From Hell.

Top Concerts Attended in 2018

5) Professor Caveman / Americanadian at the PhilaMoca, because Flynn told a joke that makes me laugh when I think about it now and because Professor Caveman played this song.

4) The Lawrence Arms at Baltimore SoundStage, because they really did sound better in Baltimore than Philadelphia.

3) Protomartyr / Preoccupations at The Foundry, because I read A Prayer for Owen Meany between sets and woman hit on me (bonus reason: Preoccupations redeemed themselves before my very eyes).

2) The Hold Steady at Union Transfer, because I drank too much and felt like I was 22 for a second.

1) Latterman at Boot and Saddle, because it was a long time coming and it felt incredible.

Top Books Read in 2018

10) The Passage by Justin Cronin, because more writers should graduate from the Iowa Writers Workshop then make genre fiction.

9) Queenpin by Megan Abbott, because I want to live inside the dialog from this female-forward noir potboiler.

8) Borne by Jeff Vandermeer, because more fairy tale should revolve around complete environmental collapse.

7) Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, because it’s hard enough to tell one compelling story, let alone six.

6) The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, because it outlines the dangers of turning into a bug (someone will throw an apple at you!).

5) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, because it has, weirdly enough, a cheerful ending.

4) A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, because it rewards the idea – and the skepticism – of faith.

3) The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder, because dudes are absurd and our rituals should be chronicled for the humor they possess.

2) Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, because it heard you like greek choruses, so it put a greek chorus in your greek chorus.

1) My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, because you should never trust a boy who drives a cool car.

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The Top 30 Albums of 2018 (Sudden Death and Credit Card Debt)

30) Lemuria – Recreational Hate

2018 is the year of Sudden Death and Credit Card Debt. It’s a little joke I make to my wife when we buy something we can’t afford in the moment, a little mantra I say to myself after I’ve discovered someone that I love has died. It’s not a fair or hopeful slogan, but it’s the correct one.

29) Shame – Songs of Praise

I was driving in Delaware, somewhere south of Wilmington, making small talk with two relative strangers on the way to a retreat, when I found out Jim had died. Sam called to tell me and my first reaction was silence. It was an experience I’d get to be on the other side of soon enough.

28) Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning

Here are some facts: We became friends working in the food service department at LaSalle University the summer between my sophomore and junior year. We spent our summer in a small office, on the clock 35 hours a week, playing NES emulators, drinking whiskey and cokes out of paper cups and listening to music. I’ve never wanted to impress a friend the way I wanted to impress him. Spending time with him was stepping into a world outside my own, one populated with artistic, intelligent people who always had something clever to say, a smart joke to make. I felt hopelessly outmatched, terrified at being found out, thrilled to be there.

27) Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

He had wild, curly red hair and a baby face. He was an incredible athlete who smoked constantly. He was a brilliant mind with a real joy for the dumbest possible jokes. He was a wildly talented musician who seemed to never find the thing to satisfy his muses. He loved projects, love to stretch his legs with different styles and instruments. His widow compiled a website with all the recorded music of his she could find. You should listen to it. I haven’t been able to yet.

26) Booji Boys – Weekend Rocker

There are parts of Jim’s story that don’t feel like mine to tell, parts that I am not equipped to tell. People get hurt when the information isn’t correct, and I was never in a position to be that close to the truth. We were close friends for a two-year stretch, but I was never his closest friend. My last email from him is dated February 1, 2018. I was telling him about the band HOLY. They reminded me of Of Montreal. Jim was big into Of Montreal in 2007.

25) Turnstile – Time and Space

Sometime in the Spring, a mass was held for Jim. I had missed the first round of remembrances. I sat in the back and cried to myself. I nodded to a mutual friend whose eye I caught. I didn’t talk to his widow. I didn’t stick around to speak to the family or catch up with faces I recognized from college. I didn’t know how to say that I was sorry I couldn’t keep him close to me. I didn’t know how to measure my own sorrow at his passing against those who were much closer to him, who had kept him in his life while I had let our friendship die on the vine. I felt like a fraud. Who was I to mourn this death, he who could not be bothered to make the effort beyond the occasional email and coffee once every 18 months? It felt gaudy and self-serving to be there. Like I wanted to be seen taking it.

24) War on Women – Capture the Flag

This is what happens, isn’t it? You grow and you grow apart. You move to different parts of town, different towns altogether. You meet people and maybe you fall in love, or not. You try to build a life, and maybe that effort means other parts of your life fall away. How do people do it? How do people do well enough by themselves to also do well by others? Some things you take for granted. The price is sneaking out of a funeral mass in a suit that’s too small because of a shame you cannot articulate.

23) Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

If I could say something to him now, it’d be this: You were kind to me in a very lonely time. You brought me into your circle and made me feel like I belonged, even when I was certain I did not. You were more capable and talented than you knew. You were too good for the city job you had, too good to not be more well-known, too good to bump around with me. You were a gift and I love you, even if I cannot keep you in my life.

22) Culture Abuse – Bay Dream

Meagan and I spent the bulk of 2018 preparing for the birth of our daughter. There were books to read, classes to take, schedules to maintain, diets to watch, lists to make, blogs to skim, cute clothes to buy, serious health issues to obsess over, rooms to paint, fights to have, and waiting, endless waiting, to be done. And, of course, always, money to be saved.

21) Robyn – Honey

If I had to place myself on a scale somewhere between “absentee father of an out-of-class affair in Victorian times” and “wet dream of progressive partnership,” I suppose I’d fall somewhere right of center during Meagan’s pregnancy, but not by much. I read some of the books, but not all of them. I attended the classes and took notes, but inserted myself into matters that did not warrant my opinion (Here is free advice for all you would-be dads out there: When your wife talks about what kind of pain management strategy she wants during birth, keep your opinions to yourself). The only place I felt particularly capable in child preparation was finances. We saved like motherfuckers, mostly because I was draconian and irritating about every paycheck. There were spreadsheets, initial savings projections, more spreadsheets, updated projections. I knew where every nickel went from January through August. Lost the thread in late August. That’s when my grandmother had the stroke that would kill her. That’s when my baby was born.

20) Titus Andronicus – Productive Cough

(A brief aside: For a person already predisposed to retreating into himself and not keeping up his relationships, going through a pregnancy really allows you to lean into your indulgences. There was no event, no gathering, no social requirement I could not escape from once evoking the pregnancy the excuse. It was my golden parachute to selfishly indulge my worst character trait in the name of “being a good partner.” Even when it was legitimate, it was a little illegitimate.)

19) Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?

I’m stalling. When I tell you my grandmother was the patriarch of my family, there’s no way you can understand what I mean. I can give you the raw numbers – 12 children, 34 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, countless discarded boyfriends and girlfriends, old friends and new – but unless you’ve crowded into a tent off a dining room or danced to Journey in a wedding hall surrounded, literally, by family lined three-deep, you can’t really understand the tribal strength that the Adams family generates, can’t understand how she was at the center of it, its beating heart, for so many decades.

18) Young Jesus – The Whole Thing is Just There

This is the kind of thing that would get cut from the first draft of a short story in creative writing class, but that does not make it any less true. When I was very little and we would go to visit my grandparents in Clifton Park, New York, I used to sit on the floor next to the tv so I could face them. Their chairs, placed side-by-side to face the TV, looked like thrones to me. My grandfather, drinking in his recliner and my grandmother, knitting in her high-back chair, looked like royalty. Like the king and queen of a tiny, loud, crashing, swirling serfdom. I felt proud to show fealty.

17) Ought – Room Inside the World

And, look, you wouldn’t have to go far to find someone who’d buy that royalty shit. My grandmother was beloved everywhere she went. She made a friend of everyone, be it at the church, at my grandfather’s club, the beach she frequented most of her adult life, the pool clubs she would swim at, or any wedding she was (obviously, because how could you not) invite her to. She was a common denominator, a thing upon which all parties could agree. Even late into her life, when she needed much more help to get around that she let on, when she had to be ushered out of events because the burden of seeing person after person who wanted to talk to her weighed her down, she always had an audience. There was always someone waiting to tell her a joke, or make her mad, or gossip about something happening. She always wanted to hear it, no matter what it was, even when it exhausted her.

16) Mike Pace and the Child Actors – Smooth Sailing

Later in her life, every conversation between the two of us felt like an inside joke to me, like she and I were wise to something that everyone else wasn’t up on. I don’t know if she was that way with everyone, but this octogenarian made me feel incredibly cool.

15) Iceage – Beyondless

When I was 10 or 11, I told her that I felt guilty all the time and I didn’t know why. “It’s because you’re a good catholic,” she told me. I didn’t understand how funny she was then. I miss her humor now. She was a religious woman, but she was also a pragmatist. One of my favorite stories is about how, while sitting with a number of my unwed and, frankly, young female cousins, she said that she wanted great-grandbabies at any cost. “I don’t care how I get them,” she said, as my cousins shrank with embarrassment,” I just want to see them.” She never got to meet Evie, but she got to meet Rose, Gwen, Jack, Henry, Robin and James. She got her wish. She usually did.

14) Hurry – Every Little Thought

Her stroke was as sudden and unexpected as a stroke can be for a woman nearing 90. My parents called me, told me that people were coming to the hospital. Meagan was 9 months pregnant. She stayed behind, told me to go. I was horrified to leave, horrified at the notion of staying. I rented the first car I could, ended up paying $300 for it. I would have paid ten times as much. I drove north, thinking of nothing. Every one of her children was there, nearly all of her grandchildren, at her bedside, working in shifts to sit with her while machines kept her alive. At a certain point, her children all went away to discuss next steps. I sat next to my cousin Theresa in the waiting room, sweaty and greasy with grief, and felt such pride in my father and his siblings, so blessed to have this special thing, such love for this collection of Irish catholic drinkers and sinners, so unsure of what this meant for our family, such sorrow for their loss. I didn’t think much of my own.

13) Future – BEASTMODE2

Privacy is hard to come by in the Adams family. My father cleared people out the next morning to give me a few minutes alone with my grandmother. I told her about my daughter, about what her name was going to be (a closely-guarded secret at that point), told her that I loved her. Then I left, because I had a family of my own about to start. I don’t doubt my decision, not for a second, but I cannot think of one without the other, at least not now.

12) Foxing – Nearer my God

Her children decided to get lunch one day, and she took that moment to pass on. My dad called it her final Irish Goodbye. He says it fits her, and I know he’s right. A few days earlier, that same day all the children of the queen assembled in the makeshift court, my cousin-in-law Amy went into labor. Even at the end, Nancy was getting great grandchildren, not caring how.

11) Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

I need you to know how blessed I am, how much I love my life, how much joy it brings me. My daughter, Evelyn Adams Ingerson – named after her grandmother, the first new Ingerson in nearly 30 years – was born on September 10, 2018, after an induction process that took nearly 24 hours to complete. Her arrival was like falling in love; slowly then all at once. I was in shock when I saw her for the first time. I felt complete love and completely over my head. I watched Meagan hold her seconds after her birth and felt deeply, profoundly, that we were totally fucked, but that we would figure it out. We’d created the room for a family long before Evie arrived, and I knew we’d make it. After all, we’d read (most) of the books.

10) Playboi Carti – Die Lit

We’re three months in now. Evie is starting to explore her world. She is grabbing things, babbling a ton. She smiles now, and it makes me feel like something is exploding inside of my chest every time it happens. I’m home with here on leave of absence now, living on one paycheck, letting the nest egg I obsessed over carry us through into January, letting the credit card debt pile up as it needs to. It’s important only as a means to support this tiny human who looks so confused all the time, who knows nothing except the two blobs that feed and hold her. We’re putting her into daycare in January when I go back to work, a four-month-old to fend for herself with kind strangers. Right now, the debt seems more than fair. I’d take ten times as much if it meant spending all my days with her, watching her learn and grow.

9) IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance

We were putting Evie to bed when my father called me, so I didn’t pick up. When he texted me, I knew something was wrong. He never texted. I wasn’t sure his phone even had the settings required to send messages. I sat in the guest room of my house while Meagan put Evie to sleep, and found out that Jared had died. He was 32 years old. My age.

8) The Dirty Nil – Master Volume

People get hurt when the information isn’t correct. A lot of people have reached out to me asking how Jared died. Ask anyone in my family how it happened, you’ll probably get a slightly different answer. The most simple and true answer is that it is a tragedy. There are things I can’t tell you here, now. Buy me a drink sometime.

7) Rainbow Kitten Surprise – How To: Friend, Love, Freefall

Some facts: Jared was my oldest, closest, and best friend. I am hard-pressed to think of a piece of my life untouched by him. He was a polymath unburdened by any traditional sense of what a boy or man should be. It freed him up to be something new and special. He was talented beyond belief at any art he attempted. Even his madcap work with hasily pasted images via Microsoft paint were inspired. He was quick to hug, quicker to laugh. He never made anyone else the butt of his jokes, and had broad enough shoulders to carry bein the butt of others. He never made anyone feel they were unwelcome or unwanted. He was married to a patient, strong and compassionate woman whose grief I cannot even begin to give shape to. He died on December 3, 2018. He left behind two loving parents, four adoring sisters, a widow, a family that saw him as second son, an uncle who saw him as a seventh brother, two cousins who saw him as a fourth brother, an untold number of fans and admirers, and me.

6) Sidekicks – Happiness Hours

Processing my grief at Jared’s death will take me the rest of my life. It will be like eating a submarine. It will happen in small, shattering bites, and the remains will move through me like metal until either I or it are finished. My first instinct was to preserve as much of his writing as I could, as much of his music as I could. He published a million little things on scattered blogs and tumblrs throughout his life. I was blessed to read most of them, lucky enough that he shared them with me so I knew where to find him. I set about preserving things he deleted, things he probably forgot about, whatever I could think to find. Because, I could not bear the idea of these things disappearing more than they already had. There was so much of him, everywhere and he was so brilliant, always, I could not lose any of it having already lost him. Because to die is to fade, and Jared cannot fade. Something my brother Chris told me is that we have to start putting our stores about him, with him, down on paper now, because we are going to start forgetting. And I cannot take that.

5) Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams

How’s this for a fucked-up thought: I wonder what his year-end list would have looked like. I wonder what the rest of his Orlando Boys project would have sounded like. I wonder what he would have listened to in 2019, what he would have read, what he would have watched, what he would have written. He feels so incomplete to me that it breaks my heart to think about, like an entire planet was wiped out in an instant (Alderaan shit, Jared would have liked it). In the back of my mind, I wonder if I’m so focused on missing these little things because focusing on missing the big thing – the boy I used to play in the words with, the teen I used to tell crushes about, the college student I used to make jokes with, the young man I used to call on the phone while working at the deli, and who would call me while he was selling green energy, the man I would talk to for hours – literally hours! – on the phone with to discuss politics and inevitable dystopian outcomes – hurts too much. I want these little things, because enough little things add up to the whole person. Because these little things were blessings, missives from a brilliant mind I could never understand, only appreciate, broadcasts from another world.

4) Screaming Females – All at Once

My heart breaks for his widow. It breaks for his parents. For his sisters. I cannot stop thinking of them.

3) Pusha T – Daytona

I sent you a message on Slack last week, Jared. I know you’ll never read it, but a part of me hoped the green light next to your name would light up and you’d respond back. Even though there was a visit, then a wake, then food at the church, then another wake period, then a mass, then the weight of your casket and the bend of the wood beneath my feet, then another lunch at the church, then visiting your grave the next morning, then taking the train to New York to help pack up your apartment, even though I’ve written this and rewritten it, trying to explain the impossibility of this hurt, the impossibility of going on with the rest of my life without you, how selfish these feelings seem compared to what your family must be feeling, how selfish these feelings are to my wife who needs a partner and my daughter who needs a father (you used to call her “Nathanne,” remember that?); even still, right now, part of me cannot help but think this is all some mistake..

2) Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens

I’ve never seen so many people at a viewing. People flew in from across the country for you, Jman. Kate and Ken came in from the Northwest. Sam, Brett, Pat, Nick, Joe and Michelle drove up from Philly. Hundreds – no shit, it must have been hundreds – of others from St. Rose and Rhinebeck and the Cobra Club and Long Island and parts unknown came to see you. The only common denominator that we were your friends., that we loved you. You’d have to scour the earth to find a soul who’d say a sour word about you. You were everyone’s favorite. At all times, the village would raise up around you, to carry you on its shoulders. You were impossible. You were beautiful.

1) Restorations – LP5000

There’s no lesson. There’s no narrative. There are hurts, and the hope that time and community will heal them. There is the urge to retreat from others into yourself in the face of a dying world, a dying that happens slowly then all at once. There is the opposite impulse to resist that retreat, to continue to gather with the village, for everyone else if not for yourself. What I do know is that Jim, Nancy and Jared would want me to share myself with other people, even when it hurts to do so. I know they’d be thrilled at the thought of great-grandchildren, new friends, saving old writings and songs so there’s always a piece to hold on to. Even now, in the waning hours of this year of Sudden Death and Credit Card debt, when I have never felt less, there is a child upstairs waiting to see me tomorrow. She is beautiful, she is new, and she has so much to learn.

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100 Words: The Dirty Nil’s Master Volume

Great rock & roll has the mindless immortality of a teenager getting drunk for the first time. It’s going to live forever and conquer everything it sees. Master Volume has the braindead confidence of a truly great rock record. Its subjects are traditional; its riffs anything but. It reminds of Motorhead in its ability to bridge the genre’s sub classifications. There are songs about women, about good times, about too many good times. It borders on hardcore riff-pornography. It is not so insecure as to deny itself the pleasures of butt-rock. It’s too well constructed to be afraid of fun.

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100 Words: Lala Lala’s The Lamb

Let us be done with reverb as the primary artistic driver of modern alternative rock. To be fair, The Lamb reveals itself to be a hooky, well-written alt-rock album of modest aims and restricted dynamism – closer to Colleen Green than Snail Mail. Still, I won’t fault anyone who only finds another “big mood” sad-alt album of mid-tempo guitar strumming malaise in a marketplace inexplicably saturated yet yearning for more. The good stuff is in the middle here; “Dropout” sounds like Camera Obscura, “The Flu” is sunnier by half than the rest of the pack. One wishes the pallet was different.

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100 Words: JOBS’ Log On For The Free Chance To Log On For Free

I do not have the lexicon to understand JOBS’ Log On For The Free Chance To Log On For Free on anything more than its surface. The band describes itself as “music made by students,” and boy is it. A good portion sounds like the background to an Avant-Garde art installation. Other parts sound like metal for jazbos. Smack in the middle is “The Path,” which works heartstrings in the same sideways manner that peak Liars does. It overwhelms; later revealing itself as the wild creativity of three dudes. That headfake makes it worth looking at, maybe even staying.

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100 Words: Fucked Up’s Dose Your Dreams

What you take from Dose Your Dreams will depend heavily on how you feel about prog-punk as an enterprise. The real thrill here – beyond the usual center-of-gut howling and sunrise guitar solos – is hearing the band explore the distance between power-pop hardcore, new-wave mod rock and back. Depending on where you stand, it’s either no distance or a minor miracle. Ever since David Comes to Life, Fucked Up has sounded like a band that could do anything, go anywhere. If Dose Your Dreams is promise made real (it is), it’s also the band’s logical endpoint. Where else can one go?

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100 Words: Restorations’ LP5000

Many big-ticket post-Trump rock records leave me cold. LP5000 soars. The difference is perception.

The post-hardcore champions channel anthems for the new working class. Backs broken not by factories but by computer chairs. Loneliness driven not by love but a flattening of people down to shouted, easily-muted sentences. I’d buy the “post-collegiate Springsteen” criticism if the revolution wasn’t already in our pockets. Restorations knows this and spends its limited time pondering the cause, not the symptom.

In short, we’re pulling away. Restorations and LP5000 makes a strong case for bringing ourselves back to the table and dealing with each other.

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100 Words: Kevin Gates’ Luca Brasi 3

Luca Brasi 3 is an exercise in moderation.

In a time when over-indexing on being sad is a reasonable career decision (see Vert, Lil Uzi or Tentacion, XXX), Gates’ options to spend his time goon-rapping over post-trap horrorcore beats with his usual dexterity and ear for melody, exploring life’s rich emotional tapestry. As much has he pines for old lovers (“Shoulda”), he draws joy from knuckleheading (“Shakin Back). For every moment of missing his partner (“Find You Again”), he’s out here sucking toes (“Me Too”). It’s all works because it reflects the ups and downs of life, his or yours.

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A List of Things to be Banned

Best to listen to this song while reading. Alternatively, this is my submission for a “We Didn’t Start the Fire” update.

  • News articles about movie trailers
  • “The Internet Reacts to X” as content
  • Bad-faith behavior isolationism in the pursuit of flattening issues
  • Battle Royal-style video games
  • Books with “Girl / Girls” in the title
  • Infant clothing that references dating
  • Cable news commentary shows
  • Second-degree body shaming
  • Undercover Boss
  • Those without conference call etiquette
  • Leaderless meetings
  • Under-funding libraries
  • Coverage of Twitter feeds
  • Sympathy for influencers
  • Paid subscriber videos
  • Public apologies
  • Willful misunderstanding of events
  • “If one, then all” thinking
  • The Boston Red Sox
  • Newspaper cartoonists

 

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Come See About “Queen”

There is a thing that Nicky Minaj will do on her albums. That thing is this: Somewhere in the middle-back of the record, she’ll stash a straightforward, minimal-rapping pop song as some kind of potential fourth-single offering to whatever bubblegum Top-40 radio stations still remain. This song is usually a more mature take on Minaj’s persona, a dash of humanity added to a Queen of Sex cannibal covered in an armor of candy-colored accessories.

This song – and, really, it is always the same song – is usually somewhere on the spectrum between “fine” and “good.” On Queen, it takes the form of “Come See About Me,” and it becomes good by context alone.

Divorced from all online and media discourse about the roll out of Minaj’s fourth album, Queen is a noticeably defensive album. You can hear Minaj retreating into her New York bona fides, reaching for an East Coast no-fucks-given attitude, not quite getting it (“Barbie Dreams” and “Coco Chanel,” both songs channeling New York hardheadedness in direct, obvious ways). She references other rappers having their raps written for them, which is a decidedly curious reference in the face of how her high-profile boyfriend lost a famous beef on those same grounds. Nothing on the record is outright bad (outside “Majesty,” her collaboration with Eminem, which is more exhausting than you think it is), but a lot of it feels very concerned with the haters the test purports to not be bothered by.

So, in the midst of all that, as the cap to a late-album run of good-to-great songs comes “Come See About Me,” a refreshingly simple pop song that appears downright effortless in the face of all this obvious effort. It’s a love-lorn number about two people who weren’t right for each other when they were together, but might be right together now. “It can’t always be about me,” Minaj sings, contradicting the album’s 19 other songs, “I just hope it’s not too late.” Here, the insecurity is focused and channeled, the questions it asks acknowledged and considered.

Divorced from the rest of Queen, it’s probably a more boring, less revelatory song, and I would never go so far as to suggest that Minaj would be better served if she focused on this gear of her musical muse. As it sits “Come See About Me” is a grace note on an album that doesn’t come by grace very easily.

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Let Us Not Celebrate the Opening of a New Target

Target has opened a new location in Philadelphia.

I guess I should start here: As a person who used to work in the online news world, I understand what it feels like to stand over a bottomless pit and be told “fill that in.” You will throw quite literally anything you can find in there, because your paycheck depends on it. So I don’t reallyfault the local news organizations for covering the opening of this business as robustly as they have.

What does “robust” look like in this case? Four different stories on four different publications in the last two days. Does that count as “robust?” Is, perhaps, this more an issue of my Feedly calibration or how much time I spend online than it is some larger sentiment about the state of the city? Very likely.

I say all that to say this: If one accepts the premise that a city is offers different benefits and personality than a suburban or a rural setting, let us not celebrate that one is becoming more like the others. I understand why a Target is coming to Northern Liberties, and I understand why the people who live there might be excited about it. Namely, because the people who move into Northern Liberties want to live in the suburbs in the first place, but they are unwilling to part with whatever cultural cache comes with living in that particular “over” neighborhood (that is, at least, until their children reach 6th grade age. Then they’ll be in Montco or Delco faster than you can say “but the public schools are so scary”). If they’re glad that they’ll have access to a giant high-end 7-Eleven, more power to them. If you want a Target, might I suggest that you go live near a Target?

It’s not even like there aren’t already two Targets in town! Shit, I live 10 minutes away from one and probably visit it once a month.

I don’t really know what gripe is. I guess I think it is wack to be excited about a new department store opening up. It feels very un-Philly.

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A Brief Thought on Following Politics

Paying attention to only the juicy, messy stuff is not so much being informed as it is following gossip. I am on record (as of right now, at least) believing that we have elected an incredibly stupid asshole to the highest office in the land. I get a little endorphin hit any time someone from his circus tent of sycophants is made out to be a slime ball. It makes me feel good, if only for a minute.

I say this to myself and to you as well; That stuff is fun, but it is meaningless. Focusing on that stuff like it’s what matters, or like it is what will save me, is a waste of time and resources. Voting and phone calls and knocking doors will save me, and it will take years. Paying attention to the gossip helps no one and saps strength from the true nightmares that require my attention.

I am not going to buy that Omarosa book, even though I think I would be delighted by it.

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Possible Causes For the Hand Foot and Mouth Disease I Have Contracted as a 32-Year-Old Man

Ranked from least to most likely.

4) I, without knowing it, have been a member of the New York Mets for at least the past few months.

3) There was not enough chlorine in the public pool last Saturday. I’d like to take a moment to praise the public pool near my house. The last hour of every day of pool operation is “adult swim,” which is something I used to loathe as a child but now cannot imagine going to the pool without. Since this pool is staffed by teenagers and run by the city, I assumed that adult swim would be poorly enforced. I was wrong as hell! My wife and I got to the pool two minutes before adult swim, just in time to witness a mass exodus of soggy pre-teens. We got to bob around for 45 minutes on a hot day with no one around but other adults. That shit ruled. Everyone who can should go to the public pool. Unless it is the cause of weird sores on your mouth, in which case maybe don’t. I feel it is also important to point out that I did not, at any point, open my mouth in the pool, which is for sure something I used to do as a child and I cannot believe I didn’t get some kind of rickets for kids.

2) I am a coal miner from West Virginia and it is 1921. The company has cut back on my script and I cannot afford a tincture for my weird blotchy sores, nore can I afford to take time off, lest young Dominic be sent in my place. Dominic is only eight, but hands are hands in the eyes of the company. Soon, the rest of the workers have caught my extremely-contagious disease, causing us all to be fired from the mine. Scabs are brought in to replace us. We unite and are ultimately slain by the company-hired Pinkertons who are brought in to quell our unionizing.

1) One of the horrible children of my coworkers has delivered it to their immune parent, only for my beautiful, perfect, not-immune body to fall victim to this bullshit illness. Hand Foot and Mouth disease basically makes it feel like you’ve burned your mouth on pizza. That burn lasts for (going on) three days. I suggest you not get it.

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Yogurt Rankings

  1. Fage 5% with honey
  2. Fage 5%
  3. Noosa
  4. Siggi’s
  5. Fage 2%
  6. Stonyfield
  7. Fage 0%
  8. Chobani
  9. Oikos
  10. Dannon Light & Fit
  11. Dannimals
  12. Any yogurt with candy in it
  13. Any yogurt based on a cereal
  14. Go-Gurt

Congrats to Fage 5% with honey. All votes are his.

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Best Music 2018 (v.5)

Blogging is easy when you take creativity out of the mix. Click the links to get to a song. Playlists are the purview of the machines now.

CULTURE ABUSE – BAY DREAM

Weezer + Wavves – self-loathing – weed = Culture Abuse. Handsome rock music for the young and fun, and those who are intimidated by the young and fun.

THE SIDEKICKS – HAPPINESS HOURS

We’re gonna look at the Sidekicks in 20 years the way we look at the Replacements now. Our children are going to ask why more people weren’t paying attention, and we’ll have to tell our kids “I wasn’t there.” Our kids are going to look at us differently after that. Your kids will, anyway. Listen to the fucking Sidekicks, please.

SCREAMING FEMALES – ALL AT ONCE

Screaming Females became a 70s prog rock colossus so gradually that I hardly noticed until I was 40 minutes in to All At Once. What’s strange is that it doesn’t seem strange.

HOT SNAKES – JERICHO SIRENS

There are only two good kinds of rock music: The kind that wants to party with you and the kind that hates you. This is the best version of the latter.

WAR ON WOMEN – CAPTURE THE FLAG

We’re never not going to need War on Women, and while that’s great for my ears, it sucks for my soul.

PROTOMARTYR – CONSOLATION

Just when you thought it was bad, Protomartyr shows up to remind you that it’s much, much worse than you thought.

ICEAGE – BEYONDLESS

The Celebration Rock podcast knocked these guys for “sounding like they have a great record collection,” which is the kind of polite burn all criticism should strive for. I get that. I also get swallowed into a black hole when Beyondless hits.

PUSHA T – DAYTONA

A few albums ago, Pusha said he just wants to sell dope forever. I want that for him, too.

PLAYBOI CARDI – DIE LIT

Big mood, as the kids say.

JOHN PRINE – THE TREE OF FORGIVENESS

The only grace I’ve found in 2018 comes from a 70-year-old man who sound like what God’s love probably feels like.

THE NEXT 10:

Titus Androincus – A Productive Cough
Shame – Songs of Praise
Holy –  All These Worlds Are Yours
Salad Boys – This is Glue
Turnstile – Time and Space
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Nathan Flake – Sunder
The Get Up Kids – Kicker
Tove Stryke – Sway
Teyanna Taylor – KTSE

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2018 Q1 Supurlatives

I think I’ve only really listened to rock albums this first three months of the year. Leaning into my dad-rock future, I guess.

Slightly Overrated, Still Good Album: Superchunk’s What a Time to be Alive

On the one hand, What a Time to be Alive has some of the fastest, catchiest songs of the new Superchunk era. On the other hand, I have real concerns about how well Trump-era music sounds 10 years from now. Someone’s got to take the long view on this shit.

Runner up: Jeff Rosenstock’s Post-

See above; add ambient experiments. Me, I don’t mind ’em, but I’m also in the bag for Rosenstock (and I really like Stars of LID).

Best Good Times Rock Song: “I’ll Make You Sorry” by Screaming Females

This is how you do riffs without being all dick-wagging about it.

Runner up: “Death Camp Fantasy” by Hot Snakes

Admittedly, you’ll have to stretch the meaning of “good times” to make this one work.

Best Sad Times Rock Song: “Number One (In New York)” by Titus Andronicus

A Productive Cough is a ponderous album that I have conflicted thoughts about (it sounds like a mid-era Springsteen-tired-of-working-with-the-E-Street-Band record, which I think is ultimately a good thing, going by the arc of history, but doesn’t necessarily make it an essential album for anyone but the true obsessives). That said, if Titus Andronicus is playing anything from this album at a live show a decade from now, it’ll be “Number One (In New York),” and that is because it rules.

Runner up: “Take Everything” by Ought

Most songs that have parts that sound like air-raid sirens are pretty well in tune with the bad times.

Top 5 Albums of the First Three Months of 2018 in no Particular Order:

Lemuria – Recreational Hate
Shame – Songs of Praise
Salad Boys – This is Glue
Turnstile – Time & Space
Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens

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Regarding the 2018 Hot Snakes Record

When I was younger, I wanted poetry. It was not enough that the music I listened to delivered viscerally. I needed food for the soul! I needed wisdom, as plainspoken as it was forceful in its impact! I needed magic, goddamn you!

A really great thing about the continued slide into calm, welcome irrelevance is that nonsense like that just does not matter past a certain point. You will hear so much wisdom, so much of it plainspoken, that by the fifth time it passes through your brain, you will realize that it is just the same shit from a different horse.

What sticks, though, once that need for a life-changing mantra or a deeply meaningful tattoo, is the shit that pummels you. Volume is undefeated. Riffs cannot be stopped, because theirs the violent poetry of math, not words or ideology. What is ideology when a brick is coming at you? Charm will not stop the brick, only your body will. What matters is not what whispered to you. What matters are the bruises, and the ability to receive them, over and over again.

Jericho Sirens is an excellent record.

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Haiku Reviews: Smarch Weather

Jeff Rosenstock – Post
All these post-Trump songs,
How will they age? What becomes
of them when we’re healed?

Lemuria – Recreational Hate
Like everyone else:
Lemuria hits thirty,
leaves the past behind.

awakebutstillinbed – what people call low self​-​esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you
Emo waves, they come
crash and soak the supple ground,
leave nothing behind.

Typhoon – Offerings
Come of age in the
time of Funeral and co,
this is what you get.

HOLY – All These Worlds Are Yours
Sometimes, it feels good
to relax and lean against
a big wall of sound.

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Top Loaf

I got a text from Joe last night reminded me that the Archers of Loaf released a live album semi-recently. That album, Curse of the Loaf, is an excellent listen. In keeping with the theme of “feeding this blog fumes by writing about the past,” I present the top 5 best Archers of Loaf songs, as I see them right now.

5) Greatest of All Time (from Vee Vee) – Speaking from experience, this is a great song for small rock bands / indie rock casualties.

4) Harnessed in Slums (from Vee Vee) – I don’t know, man. Some songs just resonate on the right frequency. The punctuated hits in the “We! / Want! / Waste!” sections still land, 1,000 listens later. If nothing else, the song is a triumph of snare drum.

3) Plumb Line (from Icky Mettle) – Mantras don’t come too much better than “She’s an indie rocker / nothing’s going to stop her.”

2) Web in Front (From Icky Mettle) – If you know an Archers of Loaf song, it’s this one. There’s a reason for that.

1) Chumming the Ocean (from All the Nation’s Airports) – Most of Archers of Loaf’s discography is about forcing sour, minor-chord noise into pop-rock songs. “Chumming the Ocean” stands out for taking that sourness and directing from the inside out. It’s an unsettling, affecting song that goes down like water and sits like food poisoning.

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Albums by the Dismemberment Plan, Explained

! (1996) – Power without intention or understanding. Power for power’s sake.

The Dismemberment Plan is Terrified (1997) – Smart, cutting bitterness as a coping mechanism for heartbreak.

Emergency & I (1999) – Being lonely, and seeing that loneliness reflected in one’s surroundings.

Change (2001) – Being lonely, and – understanding that it can be observed but never really explained – finding solace in the personal.

Uncanny Valley (2013) – Being content.

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Culture Thoughts – February 19

Reactions to things I heard / saw / read recently.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The central conceit of this Margret Atwood co-signed fiction: Women develop a power that allows them to manipulate electrical currents. It starts in teenagers but spreads to adults. A lot can be done with it but mostly, it is used to shock. It immediately restructures the power dynamics between men and women. Parts of the story feel very close to the bone (Libertarian reactions, “Men’s Rights” movements), parts feel half-baked and far-fetched (God shows up for a while), parts of it are horrifying (two chapters taking place in a collapsing country are grizzly stuff).  The central premise sustains, even as the plotting and writing ebb and flow. The post-scrip is the book in miniature; Provocative, funny, scary, thoughtful.

Rating: Zero Nates

Blank Panther, Directed by Ryan Coogler

The opening fight scenes are incoherent and difficult to follow. The connective tissue between the villain’s plan and his motivations are flimsy in the moment (they sink in a bit more after reflection). Mileage may vary on one-liners and meme references.

These are the nits and they’ve been picked. Black Panther is one of, if not the best stand-alone Marvel movie. The first half of the movie is James Bond, the second half is Lord of the Rings. Both halves are lively, fun, and felt fully. There’s complexity about family and what it means to share oneself with the world, if you want it, but there’s also good chase scenes, fight scenes, war scenes and jokes. The latter would have been enough.

Rating: One Nate Up

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This Valentine’s Day, Why Not Visit Franz Ferdinand’s Horny Disco?

If you have any context for Franz Ferdinand, it is probably as also-ran Strokes rockers. You probably see them as I once saw them, a branch of second-wave would-be rock saviors from the  early aughts.

It was not until I saw Franz Ferdinand live a few years ago that I had the following realization: This band fucks. The evidence is thus:

1) The members of the band are handsome as hell, in a skinny, Scottish, grew-up-in-suits-listening-to-Massive-Attack kind of way. They look like dudes who grew up stealing the American girlfriends studying abroad.

2) The show I attended (at The Tower Theater in Philadelphia) was as full of horny moms (and embarrassed tweens) as any place I have ever been.

3) Revisiting the band’s albums in this context, they never really deserved to be smashed in with the late-rising Alt-rock they got roped into. Their music is much more indebted to disco and dance music than it is to, say, New Order or whatever. Ignore the first 30 seconds of the band’s two biggest hits and you’re looking at full-on boogie music.

Anyway, there’s a new Franz Ferdinand album out now and, while it is by no means the horniest thing the band has ever produced, it is still a hot-sex time. Spend some time with it today, I suggest.

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FutureBlogSexWords

Before he was canceled for the dual sins of producing a bad commercial and presiding over a medium-to-boring Super Bowl halftime performance, Justin Timberlake was the center puppet on the cover of No Strings Attached. He was the most obvious and easiest crush for the eight-grade girls of St. Charles Borromeo catholic school. He was a curly-haired dancer who was either obviously being held back by the aging boy-band conceit or so magnetic and charming as to suggest depth.

When he was working with the future-looking producers of his day to be positioned as the white suburban Michael Jackson, the white people of the suburbs didn’t know any better. Outside of a few people who were arguing about Jay-Z versus Nas, talking about Three 6 Mafia album skits or listening to praise music, Upstate New York’s prism into black music was through white performers. The pathway to rap was through Limp Bizkit. The pathway to R&B was through Timberlake.

Maybe there wasn’t a lexicon for it. Maybe the underlying talent behind the mimicry was enough to fool this small slice of the world. Either way, no one in Rochester was complaining when “SexyBack” powered awkward high school dances.

The smartest thing Timberlake did was go away. An argument can be made that he left at the height of his powers. It is fact to say that he ended a critically-acclaimed album cycle by walking away from music. He acted, he golfed, he let his legacy grow even as his songs faded. It’s impossible to do this now, but; Put yourself back into a 2011 mindset. See how many Timberlake songs you could name. You’d feel like there was a deep bench of hits, even if all you could come back with was “Cry Me a River” and “Rock Your Body.” Maybe “Senorita,” if you are my wife. By turning off the tap, Timberlake left a giant. The memory of his influence was enough to confirm it.

Where would Man of the Woods be if not for The 20/20 Experience, an album that confused length with depth (and one that might have been as much contract requirement as it was anything else)? Where would it be if not for “Take Back the Night,” a song about dancing that takes its name from a well-known sexual violence prevention organization? Where would it be if not for that song from Trolls that sounds like Bruno Mars? Where would it be if there wasn’t a track-record of corniness and tone deafness trailing it?

Maybe in the exact same spot. Maybe we’d be in a place to praise a sentiment like Man of the Woods as the re-emergence of a once-beloved titan of the pre-woke world. Maybe Timberlake has always been like this. Worth noting: The album opened at number one on the Billboard chart.

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The Coffee is Burning

In one of the many possible realities, there is a hall of records that keeps track of all the literary, narrative-driven music ever written and recorded.

In that unlikely museum inhabiting that pocket universe, there is a plaque commemorating the achievement’s of La Disptue’s 2014 album, Rooms of the House. This was my seventh favorite album of 2014. In the years since, it has moved into the top three. When we close the door on this decade, I imagine it will be among my most cherished.

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Old Hotness, New Hotness, February 3

Something good from last decade, something good from this year.

Old Hotness: “Lamb and the Lion” by the Mae Shi

Years later, I still don’t know for sure how much of the Mae Shi is worship music and how much is biblical inspiration. I fondly recall my friend Stu hipping me to this band, in a moment when cacophonous art-punk projects were all the rage. There was a time when I wanted all my music to sound like this. “Run To Your Grave” off this same album also goes.

New Hotness: “Psych Slasher” by Salad Boys

My mind is broken. I can no longer determine what is “punk” music and what is “faster-than-average rock music that is not too distorted.” Maybe it doesn’t matter. Anyway, this lil’ rager from Salad Boys is a party. The strings underlying the song remind me of the mid 2000s, when it seemed more permissible to have that kind of chocolate in your indie-rock peanut butter. Sounds like Toy Guitar or The Marked Man, only made by boys in sweaters.

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A Brief Word on the Super Bowl

oto-welcome-northeast-philadelphia_photo-laura-kicey-940x540

The last time the Eagles were in the Super Bowl, I was a freshman in college. I remember watching the game with my roommate James in our dorm room at La Salle.

I lived on a college campus and was very invested in being sad, so I don’t have a good recollection on what the city’s overall vibe and mood were during the run-up to the game. I remember James freaking out when the Eagles lost. I remember this one guy allegedly got his ass kicked; He was always walking around campus in a Patriots jersey and he – according to rumor – went out in the quad to celebrate and was summarily stomped out by a bunch of angry Eagles teens.

14 years later, I still live in Philly and people are losing their fucking minds about the Super Bowl. Every street corner is selling Eagles shirts. Schools are playing the Eagles fight song over the PA. My work is, as I type this sentence, hosting an Eagles pep rally on the fourth floor of my building.

As a guy who swore off football, I find it a little tedious. Mostly, I am struck by how … calm it has all seemed. It’s a lot, sure, but it feels very in keeping with how a city celebrating a Super Bowl should operate. People are crazed, but they are a polite, excited crazed, which is not usually the type of crazed I associate with my adopted hometown.

The real test, I suppose, is what comes after the game. I don’t know which outcome I fear more. I don’t know which outcome would give the city its best chance to showcase itself. In the shadow of the weekend, I’ve been think a lot about this Op-Ed in Philly Mag. It suggests that Philly’s identity as a little brother city is starting to go away. Whatever happens, I’m interested to see how we look come Monday.

Me, I’m missing the game. I’ll be in Baltimore on Sunday. I’m seeing Waitress. Should be a good show.

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Content Nausea

For the last eight years, across three different companies, my job has been to sit in front of a computer and type things. Each year, this Parquet Courts song more accurately describes the experience of being Very Online.

This song is the Meet Me in the Bathroom this decade deserves.

Hope you’re all having a nice day online.

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Highlights from A Wikipedia Article on a Bear

Salute to Jared. Find your own personal favorite moments.

Highlights include:

  • Robert RedfordMorgan FreemanJohn CandyDan AykroydDaryl HannahAnnette BeningEthan HawkeSteven SeagalTchéky KaryoBrad PittAlec BaldwinTrevor Howard, and Anthony Hopkins all appeared in films opposite Bart.” – The phrasing, “appeared in films opposite Bart,” is so beautiful to me. Whoever wrote this clearly thought that Bart was a thespian equal to fucking Morgan Freeman. Who could forget the famous movie where Steven Seagal and the bear partnered up to fight train terrorists?
  • “All of them were reportedly impressed with how well he was trained.” – Source needed on this one.
  •  “According to Lynne Seus, “Tony Hopkins was absolutely brilliant with Bart…He acknowledged and respected him like a fellow actor.” – Just two titans of the craft, transforming before our very eyes.
  • “Due to a recurrence of the cancer and Bart’s refusal to take pain medication …” – The suggestion that bears can make decisions about their own treatment options has far-reaching effects on human / animal relationships and the insurance industry at large.
  • “he was euthanized on May 10, 2000, at the age of 23.” – Physician-assist suicide has claimed so many of our finest bear actors.

  • Bart the Bear 2, an unrelated Alaskan brown bear cub born in 2000 and adopted by Doug and Lynne Seus shortly before Bart’s death, was named for Bart and has sometimes been called “Little Bart”. – An impossible legacy to live up to, especially when your name literally has the number two in it like a movie sequel. I’ll bet Bart the Bear 2 writes great poetry.
  • Occupation: Bear Actor – He sure was.
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Old Hotness, New Hotness, January 30, 2018

Something good from last decade, something good from this year.

Old Hotness: “Old White Lincoln” by The Gaslight Anthem

I have a long, proud history of obsessing with bands only to completely abandon them a few years later. The Gaslight Anthem are central in this history.

I listened to The ’59 Sound on a long car ride earlier this month. The eventual criticisms that would unravel the band’s hold on culture are obvious in retrospect (anachronism bordering on Neo-Luddism, Springsteen worship to the nth degree), but songs like “Old White Lincoln” still nail the chemistry of young love 10 years later; Everything matters and you’re nostalgic for the life you’re living. I was totally justified in thinking this band was going to save rock and roll.

New Hotness: “Tasteless” by Shame

This might be a product of age, but I find myself gravitating toward music that hates me. The more acid, the better. “Tasteless” is, in some ways, a betrayal of post-punk. After all, it’s a genre about the suggestion of violence, not the act itself. It’s a thriller, not a slasher. Shame are big on showing you the knife then sticking it in. If “I like you better when you’re not around” isn’t the new anthem for 2018, I don’t know what is. Songs of Praise is the mean-spirited chaser to Gaslight Anthem’s sugary birthday shot.

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Bus Parenting, Reviewed

The place: The 60 bus, somewhere between Frankford Avenue and Broad Street, Philadelphia.

The actors:

  • A small child, estimated age between 7 and 11
  • A women, late 40s, estimated but not confirmed to be the child’s mother
  • Two other small children, between the ages of 6 and 12

The crime: Based on context clues, the child was responsible for the entire group catching a later bus than intended, resulting in a late arrival to school.

The punishments, both threatened and delivered, listed from least to most ruthless: 

6) No phone for your birthday – What’s a pre-tween need a phone for, anyway?

5) No Xbox for your birthday – This one hurts, but the kid’s friend probably has an Xbox he can use in the meantime. Plus, it might not even be an actual Xbox; It could be anything from a Playstation Vita to an Oculus Rift. Parents use works like “Xbox” as a stand-in for “video game system,” because parents do not have the same sense of brand loyalty that young people do. I’m about three years away from doing this myself.

4) Open-handed slap on the head (x3) – I saw this one happen in real time. Kid didn’t seemed phased. No judgement.

3) “I’m coming to school with you today to make sure you do your work” – Now we’re getting somewhere. On the one hand, it seems very unlikely that the woman has the free time to just roll up to a fourth-grade class room and watch her son do work. Furthermore, I doubt any teacher would let that fly without at least a phone call or something.

On the other hand, can you even imagine how embarrassing it would be to have your mom come sit in your classroom for the day? How on-edge you would be? How mercilessly your piers would roast you? How long it could potentially take for people to forget that happened? My skin is crawling.

2) No cake on your birthday – This is the kind of shit that sticks with a person. Forget the gifts, not getting cake is akin to outright forgetting one’s birthday. I’d be sad about this for years.

1) “You’re moving in with Diamond.” – I mean … I don’t know how late this crew was for their bus, but to be so late that someone has to move out? That’s very fucking late.

Thoughts: No phone and no Xbox are worthy punishments for tardiness, especially if the birthday is forthcoming. “I’m coming to school with you” is a great threat to not follow through on, as long as it strikes appropriate fear. I don’t love the open-hand hitting. No cake is borderline. “You have to move out” is overkill and seems designed to hurt. We aren’t always our best people.

Judgement: The punishments do not fit the crime. I deem that the child does not have to live with Diamond and should be given cake. All other punishments stand.

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The Leanover

 

Spotify is a suspect music discovery service, but it did hip me to Life Without Buildings via one of the endless playlists it places in between me and my 10,000th playback of Baroness.

Anyway “The Leanover” is the kind of song that many traditionalists (people who like songs to make sense) will reject outright. The lyrics, such as they are, are either beat poetry or well-placed gibberish. This song makes me feel young. It reminds me of what it felt like to have a crush on someone in high school. He’s a shaker, baby. Happy Friday.

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Moments of Cowardice: Side Mirror

A couple of things come to mind here.

  • Picture a street. Picture parking on that street; Cars, all facing one direction, parked on both sides. A block-wide playground on one side, a bunch of row houses on the other. It was in this setting that I saw, about eight years ago, what I have always assumed was a drunk driver slowly drift into a line of cars parked along the street. The only thing that stopped the car was that it eventually got too jammed up against some unlucky soul’s Jetta. It was so bad that the driver had put the car in reverse before speeding off. That little scene affected at least three cars, but it might have been as many as five.
  • When I was somewhere between 10 and 13, I thought I broke someone’s side mirror getting out of the passenger seat of my Mom’s car. My parents made me wait in the church parking lot for whoever’s car it was so I could confess. Turns out, the dude’s mirror was broken before I had gotten there. He’d just been driving around with it like that. I was relieved not to have COMMITTED A SIN, which was very big for me at that time. I’m sure my parents were relieved at not having to pay for someone’s mirror. I wonder if that shamed whichever churchgoer it was to get their shit fixed.
  • I once had my mirror knocked off outside my house. That shit cost about $350 to fix. To this day, I cannot fathom how mirrors are that expensive.

Anyway, here’s the story I logged in to tell:

Back when my wife and I were first dating, we were driving around my Graduate Hospital neighborhood, looking for some place to park. I pulled down a narrow street that sometimes had spots on the weekend, went a little too recklessly down the street and clipped someone’s mirror.

I can’t remember specifically what I did. I definitely broke the glass and I might have knocked the side mirror all the way off. I remember it was loud and obvious and made my now-wife jump.

(“I think you hit that person’s mirror” has to be somewhere on some list of Very Unhelpful Things To Be Told. I’ve hit maybe three mirrors in my life and was never not aware of it.)

This was dicey. The woman who is now my wife was not all that close to me when this happened. We had been dating, but we had not been together all that long when this happened. It is possible we were not even “official” yet. Had I been alone, I 100% would have driven off without any thought (there would have been a fair amount of guilt, but not enough to, you know, do the responsible thing. Sorry, my parents and God), but I was with someone who I wanted a relationship with. This was more than an act of inattentive property damage. This was a test of my moral standing as a man in the eyes of someone I wanted to have sex with.

I weight all these options in a few seconds and, because I didn’t want to bone things up with my now-wife, I ended up leaving a note with my phone number under their windshield. As we drove off, she said this:

“Wow, you’re way better than me. I would have just driven off and not told anyone.”

It is good that we’re married now. Never heard from that person whose mirror I smashed. If you’er out there: My bad, and we’re past the statute of limitations.

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Moments of Cowardice: Elevator Button

A few months back, I was taking the elevator from the first floor of my office building to the third floor, where my desk is. It was late in the afternoon and I do not remember what I was doing on the first floor. I might have just been walking around, which is something I find myself doing more and more as an office drone.

(Let us set aside the fact taking an elevator from the first floor to the third floor as an able-bodied young man who could stand to lose a few pounds is its own small moment of cowardice.)

The elevator arrived. I stepped into it. I looked at the “close doors” button. I thought about pressing the “close doors” button. I pressed the button right below the “close doors” button; The “alarm” button.

I have never had occasion to press the “alarm” button in an elevator before, so maybe I was justified in being as surprised as I was at what happened next. Then again, it is a button that says “alarm” on it, so maybe I am an idiot.

The bell sounded less like a warning  and more like a shrill, metal-on-metal bell that I associate with high school movies or the freight elevator at my former office building. It wasn’t unpleasant, taken on its own. It was, however, loud as all hell.

I do not know what the right thing to do in that situation is. I know what the wrong thing to do it, because I did it. I walked out of the still-open elevator and proceeded down the hall toward the furthest stairwell and did not look back. I assume the bell was eventually turned off.

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Decade of Deacon

On a whim, I checked out Dan Deacon’s Twitter feed and saw that he was playing a show at – of all places – The Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday, January 26. I immediately pinged my wife about going without thinking. Because, as I reflect on it, Deacon’s music has been an unlikely constant in my life for the last decade.

Consider these facts:

  • I have purchased, in one form or another, four of Deacon’s albums; Spiderman of the Rings, Bromst, America and Gliss Riffer
  • Back when such things were possible, I downloaded Deacon’s “Wish List” mix-tape to my iPod
  • If pressed, I would probably count two of his songs on some list of my all-time favorite songs (“Snookered” from Bromst and “When I Was Done Dying” from Gliss Riffer).
  • When I saw that he was playing the PMA – Not Philamoca, not Underground Arts, not Boot and Saddle, but the fucking place where they keep Rodins and shit – my viseral, thoughtless, gut reaction was “Good for him.”

Playing places like the PMA always feels like the direction that Deacon was meant to go in, feels like the goal he’s been pushing for since he got Pitchfork’d into my lap in 2007 (shout out Jim Feighan). As much as early descriptions of Deacon’s work leaned on things like “freaky” and “neon” to describe the proceedings, he’s always struck me less as a guy trying to make party sounds and more like a conductor trying to build something. His best stuff always pushes for more than a bass drop or an easy thrill (not that he doesn’t excel at that, too). Deacon has things to say about death, life, the places he lives and the people he lives with. His medium is sound. That makes him sound pretentious, but the end effect is anything but.

I can’t square my punk rock past with my decade-long appreciation for Deacon. He’s the least-likely of all the artists I capped hard for back in the day to still be on my radar. And yet, here I am, buying tickets to a performance at a museum. Run for your life, Deacon.

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My Destroyed Brain, Part 1

When I use the bathroom at work, I involuntarily stick my hand in my pocket to get my phone. Being in front of urinal or sitting on the toilet is like Pavlov’s dog’s bell. Even if my experience isn’t going to last more than a few dozen sections, I will still grab for my phone to check Twitter, or Instagram, or Slack, or to read an article, or to visit one of the five websites I seem to visit.

All bathrooms are disgusting, but bathrooms at large office buildings are especially disgusting. This is no place for a phone. I will only be in the bathroom, doing what I am doing, for five minutes at the absolute most. There is not enough time for a phone. What am I looking for, in these moments? Distraction from pee?

It is tempting to blame this on Social Media, since Twitter and Instagram are the programs I find myself gravitating for, but the reality is that the blame lies, in part, with two parties: The tiny computer I have on me at all times, and myself. I should not have allowed myself to be programmed to need a phone to piss.

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10 Years Later, the Kids Still Don’t Stand a Chance

I caught a nasty bit of nostalgia today and created myself a very good Spotify playlist of every Hot Club de Paris song. I refuse to stop listening to it, so I cannot really rank the songs on Vampire Weekend’s self-title debut album based on anything more than my fading recollections of them from whenever the last time I listened.

January 2018 is the 10-year anniversary of that album, which doesn’t feel right. As they sit in my mind now, Vampire Weekend are one of the premier indie rock bands of the modern era. It feels like they’ve been around for more than a decade, so large do they loom over my musical experience.

I can recall finding their first record a pleasant, somewhat cloying listen. It found me in my last semester of college, deep into hip hop and punk music. I argued with people about if they were good or not. I remember one of my good friends, Joe, telling me that he thought it was a Paul Simon ripoff, which is a line I repeated to everyone despite never listening to Paul Simon. I made fun of my friend Mandy, who rode hard for “One (Blake’s Got a New Face).”

Subsequent Vampire Weekend records have been excellent, cementing them as one of my favorites. I don’t revisit Vampire Weekend much. Not sure why that is, looking at the track list now. This thing is a murderer’s row of hits. It’s a little like that first Killers record in terms of 50/50 ratio between “stone cold hits” and “completely forgettable songs.” That’s not the worst place to be.

I am confident this is the correct order of their quality, from first to last:

  1. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  2. The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance
  3. A-Punk
  4. Walcott
  5. Oxford Comma
  6. I Stand Corrected
  7. Campus
  8. Mansard Roof
  9. M97
  10. One (Blake’s Got a New Face)
  11. Bryn

 

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How Low Does the Balance on a Gift Card Have to be Before Throwing it Away?

The question, as I see it, is really “how long is one willing to draw out a transaction for minimal savings?”

Setting matters. Getting coffee and breakfast from a Dunkin Donuts (or Dunkin Donuts-adjacent establishment) in the morning before work comes with more potential for being in a rush and, therefore, being less willing to give someone two cards to swipe. Or, god forbid, a card to swipe, then a cash exchange once the updated exact amount of the exchange has been determined.

I hate to admit it, but status matters, too. Maybe not everyone would feel a shallow-but-consistent shame if the cashier at Macy’s announced loud enough for the  three people behind you in line that, after your gift card, that Joe Boxer 3-pack of patterned briefs is going to cost $12.36 instead of $15, but that splinter stings all the same for those who slide it into their fingers.

What are we willing to give up? What are we willing to share? How much do we trust others? These are the questions one must deal with in mid-January, in the fallout of gift card season.

Anyway, the answer is: 50 cents for food gift cards, $5 for clothes gift cards. For online purchases, all bets are off. Take a screen-shot of the 4 cents off and post it to Facebook. Make a little joke about it. Your aunt will love it.

 

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Very Short Review: Richie Nice’s Almost Like the Movies

a4053171590_10Artist: Richie Nice
Album: Almost Like the Movies
Year: 2017
Bandcamp

Writing a song like “Will You Be?,” with its chorus of “will you be / will you be my girlfriend,” is a tricky enough proposition that many would not dare attempt it. Asking a question like that in song is a tightrope. There are a thousand little ways it can land flat; One might sound too childish, too leering, too needy, too sincere, too, too, too. To his immense credit, Richie Nice knocks it out of the park.

“Will You Be?” is the standout track on Nice’s Almost Like the Movies, a five-song EP of power-pop that’s as pleasant as anything the Lemonheads ever put out in the 90s. It’s a lovesick little record, full of running to doorsteps in the rain and walking with lovers in the sun. Things play sweet the whole time, with the only suggestion of teeth coming when someone threatens Nice’s record player (“Some things are not yours to hold / your goddamn love is getting old”). Unabashed romanticism is a rough look to pull off without sounding childish. Nice comes off like an old soul, giving hormones some dignity.

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Very Short Review: Slenko & McKeys Atone Lower

a0711854508_10Artist: Slenko & McKeys
Album: Atone Lower
Year: 2017
Bandcamp

Speaking for no man but myself, the thing that keeps me coming back to Godspeed! You Black Emperor records is the way that band channels the idea of being crushed by something large and unstoppable and delivers it into my headphones. Its music feels like living through the prologue of disaster fiction. It is Fallout without the humor.

Slenko & McKeys don’t have that same grandiose sense of scope, but they’re playing in the same sandbox. Over the course of 45 minutes, broken up into three functionally-nameless tracks, Atone Lower blows apart elements of folk, blues rock and noise, reforming it into a post-rock landscape that distorts Americana into a controlled chaos. A lot of this comes from the guitar tones the group plays with, but the duo deserve credit for their smaller-scale ambitions, intentional or not. There’s only so big and blown-out music can sound with just a drum and a guitar.

If there’s a way to write about this stuff without devolving into purple fiction, I haven’t found it. This record made me think of ghost towns, prairie dust, walking miles without seeing another living thing. It made me feel dusty and isolated. It was great.

Atone Lower will be available on cassette on Monday, November 20, 2017

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Very Short Review: Castle Black’s Trapped Under All You Know

a3228193631_10Artist: Castle Black
Album: Trapped Under All You Know
Year: 2017
Bandcamp

Trapped Under All You Know‘s best track is “Blind Curtain,” a four-and-a-half minute argument that Castle Black could be the dirtbag Sleater-Kinney that I didn’t realize I’ve been looking for.

It’s a guitar-driven song on a guitar-driven EP, but the real take away is the interplay between singers Leigh Celent and Lisa Low. Their call and response on “Rise” is another highlight.

Back to “Blind Curtain,” though. The song’s biggest weapon is groove. For an EP produced with a classic rock sound in mind, the track works not because of volume, but because of time and repetition. It drives without pounding, it moves smoothly. It creates a place. It sounds like a car ride with someone attractive in a leather jacket who will likely screw you over. You will see it coming and stick around anyway. At its best, Castle Black makes you want to stay.

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Very Short Review: Overwinter’s Condor

a0404793720_10Artist: Overwinter
Album: Condor
Year: 2017
Bandcamp

If there’s an easy through-line to point to on Overwinter’s Condor it’s a preoccupation with trip-hop. Elements of the genre’s hallmarks are scattered throughout the record’s five songs. It’s most obvious in queasy bump of “Colours” and the easy groove of “Not Mine,” the latter of which plays like the fruit of the Massive Attack tree. Elsewhere, the record’s title track and closer “Let Go” sound inspired by someone listening to Mark Ronson underwater. “Apostle” is spooky dance hall on budget.

Condor is better that it looks on paper. Besides an ear for lush production, Overwinter projects a gentle predatory control over the proceedings. Her voice rides on top of these songs, never rising above or submitting to the production. She is controlled, but purposefully so. Like a bird of prey, maybe. The record will be, I hope, more of a clearing of the throat than a statement of purpose. She has a great ear. I’m excited to hear what she’ll do with her voice.

 

 

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Bad Chain Pizza, Worst to First

Seems like a good time to update this list, apropos of nothing.

Papa John’s – As if garlic sauce and a jalapeno can mask the truth of this sponge-crust, chunky cheese, pond scum flatbread.

Domino’s – Being the go-to food option to prevent alcohol poisoning only gets you so far in my book.

Cici’s Pizza – It will make you ill, but quantity matters.

Pizza Hut – If you can find one with a lunch buffet and you aren’t worried about your health, friend, you are in the money.

Little Caesars – We’re all going to die anyway.

Sabarro – The greasiest pizza known to man and I could eat it every day for the rest of my life and not feel a single twinge of regret.

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Very Short Review: Kings of Freon

a0752113678_10Artist: Kings of Freon
Album: See, There’s your Problem and Fridge Over Troubled Water
Year: 2017
Bandcamp
Bandcamp

Even in the grand tradition of alternative rock smart-asses,  Kings of Freon are a special, specific kind of goofy.

Near as I can figure after listening to the band’s two 2017 releases, See, There’s Your Problem and Fridge Over Troubled Water, the gimmick is that the Kings of Freon are two refrigerator repairmen / salesmen, who write songs about the problems of (and solutions provided by) refrigerators. Both EPs open with faux-commercials for their services (“Radio Spot” off Fridge Over Troubled Water is the better of the two, if only for the delightful Hoagiemouth). Song titles include “That’s an Oven” (turns out that’s a kind of anti-refrigerator), “Plug it In” and “(Your Fridge Is) Out of Gas.”

Mileage on this kind of nonsense will vary, and if that was all the Kings of Freon brought to their “fridgepunk” shtick, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Like the best class clowns, Kings of Freon back up their act with tight, creative songs. “Baking Soda” has the kind of effortless gutiar lead and pogo bounce that launched a thousand Chicago alt-punk bands. “Big Freon” rumbles like early 90s Superchunk. “Ice Cube” is loose, rowdy earworm punk.

If you want to get uppity about a band using such hooky, stomping songs to sing about refrigerators, that’s your right. The rest of us will be over here, throwing the horns and perfectly preserving our food. Service rock, indeed.

 

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Very Short Review: Kewku Collins’s Grey

600x600bfArtist: Kewku Collins
Album: Grey
Year: 2017
Soundcloud

The obvious argument to make against Grey is that it can’t overcome its influences. “Things I know” comes out the gate sounding like a discarded b-side from the second half of Yeezus. One of the album’s highlights is an unexpectedly faithful cover of “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. If you wanted to come with “Cudi cloud” digs, I wouldn’t rush to argue.

At the risk of damning with faint praise, Kewku Collins’ greatest strength is that he’s an easy hang. Grey‘s   best songs come with enough quirks to charm its way past the obvious digs; The extended “uuhhhhh” on “Dec 25,” the singer-songwriter pastoral glitch production on “Youaintshit (Shine On)” which makes him sound like rap-game Bon Iver, the distorted self-adlibs on “jump.i.” Also, shouts out for turning “Maps” into a cloud-rap song that honors the original.

If you can’t hear more than a collection of influences in Grey, you’re missing the point. Kweku Collins is playing with legos, using familiar piece to create something all his own. Maybe this collection of songs isn’t the finished product. It’s certainly interesting enough to want him to keep building.

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Stranger Things vs Ready Player One

My wife and I saw Blade Runner 2049 last Sunday. A brief review: Having never seen the first one (I know), I thought the sequel was great. This might be because I am too stupid to understand the larger questions the movie is playing with (as several reviews have led to me to believe), but it also might be because it takes place in a world I wanted to spend time in, which is a hallmark of the best sci-fi stories.

We also saw a trailer for Ready Player One. You probably already know that Ready Player One is a movie based on the book of the same name, telling the story of a young nerd who saves the universe, gets the girl and becomes impossibly rich based on his encyclopedic knowledge of specific 80s pop culture.

I’m not particularly interested in dog-piling on a book that rivals The Big Bang Theory in its portrayal and co-opting of “nerd culture” (though please take some time and spin through some reviews yourself). Nor do I care to speculate on the potential commercial or creative success of the movie (the trailer looks … true to the book, at least?). What I am interested in the the idea of the world at the margins of sci-fi stories, and how those worlds can prop up even the most out-right obvious or plagiarized stories.

Here’s a hot take to illustrate my point: Stranger Things and Ready Player One are guilty of the same crimes. Both are blatant, hyper-homages to the culture of the 80s. Both synthesis recognizable plot structures and story beats from the creative leaders of the era they’re aping (Stephen King and John Carpenter for Stranger Things, Spielberg for Ready Player One). Both focus on  characters who are little more than audience ciphers and archetypes (The only memorable character from Stranger Things is Eleven, don’t @ me or lie to yourself).

To say that setting and suggestion of world are the only things that separate these two pieces of fiction would be obtuse. Stranger Things has more style and charm on its worst day than Ready Player One can ever muster. But, it’s worth noting that one of these stories takes place in world that one might actual want to visit. Stranger Things‘ Hawthorne might just be an amalgam of Derry, Maine and Twin Peaks, Washington, but the show does enough work of creating a larger world for its story to inhabit that it  grounds the spooky goings-on. Getting to see the middle school, the diner at the edge of the woods, the basements of various houses, the cul-de-sacs and streets that the kids ride their bike on; These things make the story feel more lived-in, more worth exploring, because there are stakes behind and beyond what the Upsidedown is or what weird worms that one kid is puking up. Stranger Things feels like it takes place somewhere, and that’s part of what makes me want to care about it.

That level of world-building never factors in to Ready Player One, partially because 90 percent of the story takes place in a virtual reality meant to recreate the video games and movies that the author and its main character idolize (This is a story in which one of the main plot points is having the ability to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail word for word. It is a very bad book). There are hints as a world gone awry, but only hints: The story opens with a description of the outskirts of Oklahoma City in which trailers are stacked on top of each other like skyscrapers to house the poor. This gives some small idea of how badly the world has gone sideways, why society needs to escape into its virtual reality, but it is abandoned as soon as the cyber adventure / reference-a-thon kicks into drive within the first 20 pages of the story. We spend so much time escaping with the main character, we don’t get enough of a picture to justify what we’re escaping from.

The best sci-fi gives people a reason to care. Knowing that Blade Runner 2049 takes place in a world in which “ecological collapse” has ruined all farms and turned San Diego into a trash dump / child labor camp informs how we feel about its characters. We want them to find hope and success, partial because the world is so hopeless. We want the dorks from Stranger Things to reunite with their families because there is a suggestion of home to be obtained, the idea that they are being kept from something. A sense of place, a world worth visiting, can do a lot to redeem and elevate sci-fi above its story.

So, in summary: Blade Runner 2049 is good. Ready Player One the book is bad. Ready Player One the movie also looks like it will be bad. Maybe Stranger Things season two will be good.

PROMO CORNER: Blushh’s “All My Friends”

Occasionally, I’ll receive music promo into my inbox. Occasionally, I’ll write about it.

Blushh – “All My Friends”

When did all indie rock start to sound like this? More accurately, when did all indie rock that gets considered and covered by music publications start to sound like this?

So, here’s what we have. We have a female-fronted rock outfit singing about negative feelings. We have a band, described via promo, as “fuzzy guitar pop,” which really just means “it sounds like the Rentals,” plugging away with a guitar lead that echoes the vocal melody. We have lyrics about missing ones friends, about disconnection.

Promo tells me this was the product of living 20 miles away from ones friends, which, boohoo, try living in update New York. This must be a decidedly Los Angeles issue. I cannot connect with the problem of “someone lives 30 minutes away from me.” Like many things that popular now, it sounds like Weezer, or at least spiritually indebted to Weezer.

Blushhh does not need my support. They’ve got Taco Bell’s backing. They’ve got SXSW dates. They’re opening for Joy Formidable. Their full-length, whenever it comes out, will receive 3.5 stars from the right places. They will career for an album or two, regardless of what I say. Hell, I didn’t even get this song straight away, I was redirected to Stereogum. The future, at least the next 18 months of it, is secure for Blushh.

So I will say this: There are always other songs, there are always other bands. I wish them favorable LA traffic patterns.


The Tyranny of Small Bones and Warm Skin

Here’s something They don’t tell you about having a kid: You’re going to worry about breaking their fingers and toes.

Well, maybe They don’t tell you this. They might tell you this, but I wouldn’t know. My wife is the one who read all the blog posts and downloaded all the apps in the run-up to our daughter’s birth. I went full Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor and read half a book before deciding that I’d either figure it out on the fly or Google as I went. I didn’t expect to be such an obvious, stereotypical partner, but life is full of surprises.

Anyway, fingers and toes. That’s the stuff that’ll give you anxiety. You might worry, the way I do, that your kid is watching too much television, or that your sleep regimen is built on a house of soggy matchsticks, or that your stubbornness on strict feeding times will lead your child to grow up and look like Simon Birch, but those long game, late-payoff anxieties are a hill of beans compared to the Operation-like focus you’ll bring to putting on socks. 

Because the thing is this: You learn pretty quickly on that babies, even little babies, are built to last. You will be told this by parents and grandparents and people with children and the well-meaning idiots in your life, but you won’t really know it in the marrow of your bones until the first time you bonk the back of your kid’s head on the changing table and they act like nothing happens, or the first time you bounce the kid a little too hard and their neck whips around like a crash test dummy in an early 2000s Ford Windstar commercial and nothing happens after that. Then you’ll remember those smarty-pants dorks who foretold this moment, and you’ll concede that, huh, they were right. 

Not the fingers and the toes, those. Handling those requires the light touch of moving a robin’s egg from nest to nest. These little extremities are almost translucent – almost fucking theoretical! – for the first several weeks.

And socks, Jesus the socks. Never thought I’d be a guy with strong opinions on socks, but now that I’m responsible for a small human that cannot take care of itself in the slightest, I demand a mountain of warm, thick socks that will grip the baby’s lower shins without hurting her. Because what if her feet get cold? What will happen to her (nothing)? What will happen to me (nothing)? How will this affect her development (it won’t)? How will this affect our long term relationship (it won’t)? My baby needs socks (debatable)! 

And herein lies the real evil of the whole situation. I need the socks, because I care so much about this idiot baby that I do not want her to be uncomfortable in the slightest, and I fear that my mania to prevent even a moment of suffering will lead me to go full Of Mice and Men and break one of her little digits.

All of this is so dumb, really. There’s nothing you can do to a two-month-old in the normal course of taking care of her that’s going to really make a lick of difference later in life, save anything specifically supervillainous like throwing her off a cliff or dropping her into a fire. Even if you happen to break a baby toe or a pinky finger because you were jamming the socks on too fast or getting a little too confident with the mittens, the baby isn’t going to remember it when they become a human down the road. To them, it’ll be a funny story of parental ignorance they can tell to dunk on their old, washed caregivers.

But, even two months in, who needs the additional stress of having broken a baby’s bone? Who needs that very real guilt piled atop the theoretical guilts to come? My advice to you is this: Go slow with the socks and the mittens. You will have enough to worry about, even if none of it really matters.