Weekly recap: March 2, 2018

I made a few things in the last week, here they are:

“Crying Baby Karaoke: A New Lullaby Canon”

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I mean, does anybody ever say they like lullabies? Do we ever experience nostalgia for them? We are soothed by them, forget about them, and then later use them to soothe our own children. Lullabies are at the bottom of the barrel of culture that is intended for children. We complain about being forced to endure kid’s entertainment, but what if we excised it out of our children’s lives?
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I’m a pop culture glutton and I wonder how this will be passed along to my children. I catch myself fantasizing about my child knowing all the cinematic classics, ripping through the children’s literary canon, being able to namedrop Miles Davis, A Tribe Called Quest, and Courtney Barnett, having a favorite Sondheim show and lyric, puling off comedic bits and wordplay, being a slight history buff who’s politically literate, playing baseball while being able to site his favorite player’s year by year WAR, and advocating for social justice issues while preparing chilaquiles that inspired him when we went to the taqueria the night before. Oh and he should also have his own unique interests and personality.

Right now all he wants to do is put stuff in his mouth–which is great.

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Jacob and Taylor are back to talk about what’s good!

In What’s Happening What’s Up they talk about the Queer Eye reboot on Netflix, as well as the latest film from Ex Machina director Alex Garland, Annihilation, out now!

WEEKLY RECS

Taylor Rec #1:

Curling at the Winter Olympics…

I also tweeted out my favorite acting performances in the movies from 2017. Here they are:
Actor:
     1. Daniel Kuluuya, Get Out
     2. Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
     3. Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread

Actress:

  1. Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  2. Brooklyn Prince, The Florida Project
  3. Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread

Supporting Actress:

  1. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
  2. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  3. Elizabeth Marvel, The Meyerowitz Stories

Supporting Actor

  1. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  2. Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer
  3. Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name

Best Songs of 2017 pt. I (100-76)

The best of the year coverage continues. See 150-101 here.

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Listen to it on Apple Music. 

Listen to it on Spotify.

100. Mount Eerie “Ravens”

Mount Eerie’s latest album is all about the death of his wife, an absolutely devastating reflection on grief, moving on, and raising his daughter alone. Here he nakedly details his life, poetically baring his life and the melancholy that accompanies loss.

99. SZA “Prom”

98. Gang of Youths “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane”

This is the greatest The National song not written by The National, a 7 minute anthem that acts like a warm cup of tea, the lyrics wrapping you up like an affectionate embrace. “Do not let this thing you got go to waste / Do not let your heart be dismayed / It’s here by some random disclosure of grace / From some vascular, great thing / Let your life grow strong and sweet to the taste / ‘Cause the odds are completely insane / Do not let your spirit wane.”

97. The War on Drugs “Clean Living”

96. Chastity Belt “Caught in a Lie”

95. No Thank You “Juicy J”

94. Camp Cope “Keep Growing”

A break up leads to a self-confident declaration of independence in this guitar driven jam. Singer Georgia Maq takes ownership of herself against the patriarchy, singing “I’ll keep growing my hair out / Even when you’re not around / No it’s not for you”.

93. Feist “I Wish I Didn’t Miss You”

92. The Weather Station “Complicit”

91. Big Thief “Objects”

Big Thief’s “Objects” is an intricate rock song, guided by Adrianne Lenker’s airy vocals, and a heavy bass line that is almost funky in the way it moves the song forward.

90. Aminè “Heebiejeebies (feat. Kehlani)”

Technically a bonus track from Aminè’s debut album Good For You, “Heebiejeebies” captures the positive good-hearted vibes that Aminè brings (also see “Slide” below). Here he and Kehlani offer up a delightful ballad that is reminiscent of all those first love feelings.

89. Blue Hawaii “Belong to Myself”

Blue Hawaii make dreamy indie pop that actually feels quite radio ready, it’s as catchy as any Top 40 radio hit out there, while also offering interesting instrumentation.

88. Gucci Mane “I Get the Bag (feat. Migos)” (and also “Slippery” by Migos).

Gucci Mane based this track on a song from Migos Culture (“Slippery”), invited Migos in to rap new verses on it, and elevated an already good song to a better one.

87. Makthaverskan “Leda”

86. Downtown Boys “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas)”

85. The National “Carin at the Liquor Store”

84. Phoenix “Goodbye Soleil”

83. The Shins “Half a Million”

82. BROCKHAMPTON “CHICK”

81. Aminè “Slide”

80. Cardi B “Bodak Yellow”

YOUR GIRL CARDI B SURPASSED A MEDIOCRE T-SWIFT HIT TO HAVE THE #1 TRACK IN THE COUNTRY. Straight fire.

79. Perfume Genius “Valley”

78. Sampha “Kora Sings”

77. Chastity Belt “Different Now”

76. Mozzy & Gunplay “Gangland (feat. E Mozzy)”

Christian Music Tales II: Transcendant Nothing

We used to hang out at this place called The Underground Cafe all the time. It was a music venue located at a church in the suburbs of Sacramento, a ministry for the church to attract youth and attract them it did.

My teenage years saw me slowly listening to faster and heavier music, my parents would only let me listen to Christian bands, luckily there was a plethora of record labels to choose from–Tooth and Nail, Solid State, Facedown, Mono vs. Stereo, Flicker, Floodgate–all Christian based alternative music producers. I soon discovered that all these bands I loved would tour locally and my town was surprisingly a hit place to come–The Underground one of the most featured venues.

The Underground experiment was actually pretty successful, as far as being hip goes (not sure how effective of a ministry it was). Black adorned teens with swooping hair cuts formed long lines waiting to get into shows, several dozens showing up just to hang out on a daily basis. This suburb church actually turned into such a mish-mash of counter culture that my parents were reluctant to let me go to shows on a continuous basis.

Waking Ashland, a piano driven pop-rock Tooth and Nail signed outfit was playing one weekend (everyone click on that link, it will take you to a PureVolume page). I decided to go, though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the band, my friends were going though so I chose to (this one perhaps?)

Again it was a battle between my parents to let me go, but the band was positive enough, supposedly Christian (we can talk about this more on another future post) and so I went. My friend’s mom was going to pick us up at the end–we didn’t have our licenses yet.

The show was amazing, Waking Ashland and the supporting bands that played before them were all great and I had a really good time. In my memory I remember them playing a song and it being absolutely beautiful. I closed my eyes in a moment of transcendence–even worship. Their songs, even if not explicitly religious, had taken me to a spiritual level.

When the show ended, we left, my friend realizing he had missed a bunch of calls from his mom who had been waiting outside. It went a little later than expected and she was not happy. Apparently as she sat there, sitting in the church parking lot she had witnessed kids doing things that she did not like. The kids who always hung out outside The Underground were notorious for smoking, drinking, and cursing and she had seen that and maybe more (I never got the full story).

Not only was she mad, but she had told my parents what she saw and when I got home, we had a long discussion about all of it. Near-accusatory marks were made about the church, my friends, and me. There was a lot of pain and questioning on both sides, my parents wondering what I had gotten myself into and me wondering why they didn’t trust me.

But I think the confusion rose beyond that for me. Here I was feeling as if I had had this amazing spiritual and Godly moment only to have it crushed down in talk about curfew, wrong and right, and that type of music. I was experiencing something good, without leaving the confines of conservative doctrine (at least personally) and all of that was thrown under the bus.

I desired the honesty and authenticity that the lyrics of those in the Christian alternative music scene brought. The music was fun and aggressive, but fairly positive and conservative in worldview, at least comparatively. It meant a lot to me to be able to share in those moments of emotion, while still coming around to an ultimate belief about truth and God and life. Yet somehow in all of the structures of fundamentalism and “Growing Kids God’s Way” and “safe for the whole family” there wasn’t enough space to allow for this to exist. The lines were blurred, questioning if safety was the greatest value to come out of the faith and what exactly was God’s way.

This Christian alternative scene that I found myself a part of pushed back against these norms–at least for certain pieces of time in certain people’s lives–finding themselves caught between the expectations of a clean Christianity and a larger desire to follow God. I don’t think that either side really ended up okay and the struggle between both sides really was a bloodbath, damaging those–who, like me–found themselves looking heavenward only to have it flipped upside down in moments of fear.

Best of January 2015 Playlist

A playlist of the best songs from January for your listening pleasure.

Sleater-Kinney “Price Tag”

I talked about this release a little bit last week, this song–the album opener–is lead by Corin Tucker’s aggressive vocals as she attacks the song, a repeated riff lines the background, and the drums pound away. The song touches on the cost of getting things for cheap–probably music most of all.

The Decemberists “Philomena”

The latest album by The Decemberists seemed mediocre at best upon first listen, but “Philomena”‘s pure and relentless folk poppiness is a real heart melter. It’s doo-wop stylings are a great throwback, even if it doesn’t hide it’s impure intentions as well as songs from that era did.

Panda Bear “Crosswords”

Noah Benjamin Lennox’s work in Animal Collective and as Panda Bear is divisive–it’s often eclectic and experimental, but Lennox is capable of creating amazing melodies, often being compared to Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame. Here, Lennox creates a dreamy melody backed by the psychadelic samplings he’s known for.

Kanye West with Paul McCartney “Only One”

This song is perhaps more famous for the memes about McCartney that it inspired after its New Year’s release date, but Kanye’s return to stripped down auto-tune is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a song about his daughter, from the perspective of his mother and though Kanye is known partially for his sincerity, he’s never made anything as beautifully honest as this.

Rihanna with Kanye West and Paul McCartney

Apparently Kanye and McCartney are making a tour around pop music this year and so far the results have been wonderful. Rihanna’s song is stripped down, lead by an acoustic guitar, giving it a sense of importance and honesty that again hits this sort of beautiful note. The song is pretty simple lyrically, which–because of the way it is presented musically–actually makes it work quite well. There is a world where this song is backed by some sort of David Guetta EDM beat and this world is awful; I’m giving credit to McCartney–who I assumed made the musical decisions here–for putting this thing together.

Joey BADA$$ “Christ Conscious”

This track features BADA$$ going hard–I know I’m not the typical crowd for a song like this, the sort of braggadocio that a lot of hip hop is known for–but BADA$$ absolutely goes for it here. The song is essentially three minutes of him (explicitly) telling the listener that he uses the mic like a gun, slaying people everywhere.

Top 75 Songs of 2014 Part III (20-1)

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This is it, the top 20 songs of the year! Apologies to Hospitality and to d’angelo both of whom made albums I didn’t listen to until the last week or so which I find really excellent. You can see here that most of my tastes lean toward hip-hop and punk tinged indie rock, so prepare to see a lot of that. I don’t really have any wide reflections on the musical year, I’ll let the list speak for itself. Enjoy!

Check out parts One and Two

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

20. Chance the Rapper “Wonderful Everyday”

Chance only released a couple of songs this year, but this is the one that fully captured my attention–a fairly straightforward cover of the theme song from Arthur. Featuring no rapping at all, its greatness comes from the way that it builds upon itself slowly with its near a cappella musical stylings.

19. J Cole “Be Free”

J Cole released this song in the response to the Michael Brown tragedy and the aftermath of what happened in Ferguson. Another rapper that chooses to sing instead of rap and it creates a raw and emotional tone, filled with lament that cannot be expressed through lyrics alone.

18. Ex Hex “Don’t Wanna Lose”

A pretty straight forward rock song with a female fronted punk/garage vibe that keeps moving infectiously. It’s the perfect album opener.

17. FKA Twigs “Pendulum”

Dark and broody, Twigs’ slowed down artsy pop is catchy in its own unique way, this song takes a while building before it gets to the payoff but when it does every second of the previous tension was worth it.

16. Tune-Yards “Time of Dark”

Merrill Garbus shows off her lung capacity here proving that she not only excels at being eclectic, but that she also has big pipes.

15. FKA Twigs “Kicks”

The album closer proved to be my favorite, she truly excels at building up the atmosphere of a song while quietly inserting her voice into it breaking through in its own quiet way.

14. The Hotelier “An Introduction to the Album” (explicit)

An album opener whose title does not live up to its pop-punk epic-ness. A song that was truly built to be sung along to live every poetic word shouted out. Lyrically the song is unique by using the last word of each verse to start the next one. This song encapsulates all the emotion, passion, and angst that comes with pop-punk and emo and is truly great.

13. Wild Beasts “Wanderlust”

Indie rock and electronic at its finest, another song that rides on atmosphere with its dark and almost creepy feel.

12. Jungle “Busy Earnin'”

Pure joy; an EDM take on old funk jams, Jungle may not nail it every time, but here they certainly do.

11. Isaiah Rashad w/Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q “Shot You Down” (explicit)

The 7 minute version absolutely crushes it with all three rappers crushing their verses. The chorus isn’t as good as the rapping but after each rapper is done it doesn’t matter.

10. Taylor Swift “Blank Space”

I talked about this before, but it really is the best song to be released this year. The T-Swift album as a whole is overrated, but this song is pure sugar.

9. Joyce Manor “Falling in Love Again”

This song would have been my high school jam, number one on my mixtapes for the girl I had a crush on, there’s no doubt about it.

8. Vince Staples “Blue Suede” (explicit)

Staples’ combines one of the best beats of the year with a song about violence that is also a sort of ode to the classic rock ‘n roll tune–it works on every level.

7. Makthaverskan “Antabus” (explicit)

A fast, driving punk song in which the Swedish punks tell off whoever this song was intended for with a forceful use of F-bombs.

6. Rick Ross w/Kanye West and Big Sean “Sanctified” (explicit)

Using a Gospel song for not so holy means, these three confess what their true desires are, but ultimately Kanye is transcendent in his own Kanye way.

5. Iceage “The Lord’s Favorite”

A sort of hardcore song done in a slack-jawed alt-country manner. The song probably deserves to be blasted in a dusty bar, but works just as well coming through your laptop speakers.

4. Run the Jewels “Blockbuster Night Part 1” (explicit)

I don’t know if there was another song out there that got me more hyped when listening to it. Killer Mike and el-p absolutely devastate the listener here. The song is only 2:32 which is too short, but honestly I don’t think I could handle another verse–it would slay me.

3. Makthaverskan “Asleep”

The band has two main influences: 80’s pop and punk rock; here they show off that 80’s influence going heavy on the synths.

2. The War on Drugs “Red Eyes”

“Red Eyes” is that song you listen to after the party is over. It’s catchy enough, but laid back and calming to the point that it’s like the wind coming on a hot summer day.

1. Cloud Nothings “I’m Not Part of Me”

This was my favorite song at the halfway point and it has stuck at the top ever since. At its core it’s an ‘I’m over this’ track, from the opening verse “it’s over now”, Dylan Baldi expresses that he has moved on in the most wonderful way. It’s an empowering song, but to say this gets away from what makes it so great, which is that it is a wonderful rock song.

Top 75 Songs of 2014 (75-51)

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This is the first of a three part countdown of the best songs of the year.

(Note: Not every song is for every person, there may be some songs that you consider innapropriate; I do not recommend everything that I like for everyone. Proceed with your own discretion.)

75. Lupe Fiasco “Deliver”

Lupe’s track about the pizza man not being willing to deliver to the ghetto is a great track for our current climate, it does lose points for all the mentioning it does of various pizza places.

74. Lost in the Trees “Rites”

73. Sohn “Artifice”

72. Norma Jean Martine “No Gold”

https://soundcloud.com/norma-jean-martine/no-gold

A great indie pop song, a singer that likely deserves more attention.

71. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days”

70. Jenny Lewis “Slippery Slopes”

69. Schoolboy Q “Collard Greens”

The best track from Q’s album, which I liked not loved, it’s got Kendrick who elevates just about anything he is on.

68. The Notwist “Kong”

67. Cloud Nothings “Psychic Trauma”

66. Sharon Van Etten “Taking Chances”

65. A Sunny Day in Glasgow “In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing”

Heard this band described as a bunch of school band nerds coming together to make music with a punk-tinge. That fits this sorta catchy sort of chaotic orchestral track.

64. Howler “Don’t Wanna”

Howler makes great beach rock/punk for slackers everywhere. This song assures the listener that they have the autonomy to do whatever they want, the greatest line being a battle between “you don’t have to listen to The Smith’s if you don’t want to” and “you don’t even have to date girls if you don’t want to”.

63. Sia “Chandelier”

62. Manchester Orchestra “The Ocean” (from “Hope”)

From the acoustic version of their album “Cope” which was released a few months later, the song is changed completely into a piano led ballad relying on Hull’s voice entirely–which is really the best part of the band.

61. The War on Drugs “Burning”

60. White Lung “Drown With the Monster”

59. Cymbals Eat Guitars “Child Bride”

58. Sharon Van Etten “I Love You But I’m Lost”

Van Etten’s album is filled with love long lost songs and this one expresses her feelings completely as she mourns her own failures in love.

57. Lykke Li “Sleeping Alone”

56. The War on Drugs “Eyes to the Wind”

55. Iceage “Forever”

54. Manchester Orchestra “Girl Harbor”

53. Cloud Nothings “Now Hear In”

52. Joyce Manor “Christmas Card”

51. Parkay Quartz “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth”

The side project of Parquet Courts (who you will see on plenty of upcoming lists) that features most of the original band. This song could actually fit perfectly on a Courts record, as a slow stripped down song that slowly builds.

What Kind of Music do You Like? (A Guide)

In the never ending world of small talk and social formalities, simple get-to-know you questions are always asked. It starts with the necessities, gradually deepening either to the point that you realize you have no interest in speaking with this person on a deeper level or to where a genuine relationship is formed. In the midst of this social sparring, right at the point when your cheeks are starting to hurt from overemphasizing reactions to the other’s answers, is when the question is often asked. This question has haunted me for years. It is one that camouflages itself as an ally, but stabs you in the back in its near impossibility to answer. Yes it is posed after “where are you from?” and much before “what are you doing tomorrow?”, it is one that is specific, but general; it is “what kind of music do you like?”

For some of you, this may seem like nothing at all. A quick “oh a little bit of everything” or “whatever’s on the radio” or “everything except country and screamo” may suffice and this thread will be over. But for those of us who are music fans, pop culture fiends, who have paid less than 50 bucks for a concert ticket, or actually bought music at a store, this question becomes the 8 ball just waiting to be knocked into a pocket.

As soon as the last word of the question is uttered, panic floods into the mind. It’s like that scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie has finally reached Santa’s lap and has been asked what he wants for Christmas; his mind goes blank and he screws the whole thing up! You want to say something, anything, but every single band you ever liked has been locked away and the key has gone missing. Only the easiest answers come to mind, “uh… rock. Yeah I listen to a lot of rock” (ROCK!?!? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! ROCK!?!?)

Once you’ve gotten around the panic attack of again being asked this question and again not having an answer for it, the tricky part comes; figuring out how to shape the best answer for maximum impact. Does this person have a genuine interest in music and is looking to discuss your tastes with you? Is this person just asking you as a conversation starter? Is this a kind of person you should be vague with?

Discovering their intention is the best way to figure out your answer. If they don’t really like music all that much then starting with a broad answer and describing more specific artists and genres is usually a good way to be engaging without being snobbish. If you want to be snobbish then go all in with whatever you are most knowledgeable about, whether it be Christian emo bands, 60’s jazz, or psychedelic rock and you are sure to scare them off. 

The most important part about this is getting the desired amount of engagement out of the conversation with the other person. Again, gauging the intention is an important first step, next is testing the waters. For our purposes we will assume that the other is someone who is fairly interested and knowledgeable about music, but certainly not the experts like we are. You want throw out something and see the other’s reaction to it. If you throw out “I like hip-hop” and the other person just goes “oh”, then there is no real reason to keep talking about it and it is probably best to change artists or genres. If they pull out a “like who?” or a “which era?” or even a “really?” (though they are certainly judging you at that point, but hey no shame) then you are ready to go deeper.

At this time, you probably want to throw out some more well known artists that you like to listen to. It’s best to do this in 3’s, getting vaguer and to the core of what you like with each artist listed (if you don’t like vague, lesser known artists, you’ve probably stopped reading). Here are some genre examples:

Jazz: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus

Hip-Hop: Kanye West, Drake, Killer Mike

Emo: Jimmy Eat World, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jets to Brazil

R&B: Usher, Frank Ocean, Miguel

Indie Rock: Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Tame Impala

Punk: Blink-182, The Ramones, The Descendents

If any of these ring a bell to your conversation partner, expanding on albums or concert experiences becomes appropriate. If not, other genres or artists can be named. 

In order that you don’t get stuck in the previously mentioned rut of not being able to think of any sort of music there are a couple of other quick potential go-to’s: consistents and new faves. 

The consistents are bands or musicians that you can listen to at almost anytime. These tend to be broad, crowd pleasing artists though not necessarily bad ones. The Beatles or Beach Boys are always safe ways to buy yourself more time to think of more specific people. 

New faves is self-explanatory and can be introduced by saying “Oh, lately I’ve been really into…” this allows you to be able to list whatever has been on your iPod or record player last before this conversation. This can even be combined with consistents and our genre rule of 3 like this:

“I love Bob Dylan, he’s one of my all time faves, but lately I’ve been listening to a lot of folk music like The Avett Brothers…Fleet Foxes…Kurt Vile”. 

Probably the most important thing is throwing bait out for the other person to grab and continue the conversation, going deeper into the meaning and memories that music inspires. Perhaps the relationship will grow, the rhetoric will change; “what kind of music do you like” evolves into “hey, I really think you’ll like…” as mixtapes and playlists are swapped, really, isn’t this what we all want?