Sunday, January 01, 2017

Together Song: 2016




So... this past year...

Let's move forward and build together.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goofy Kicking Donald Duck: 2016 Words

Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district
(Credit: jrfcohn)

Words I Read
Ratfucked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy
David Daley
Liberals love to be right, Conservatives love to win. Liberals, read this to understand what you're up against.

The Wretched of the Earth
Frantz Fanon
Good way to start every year.
Timothy Snyder
Expands on many of the beats in Bloodlands.

Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Vol. 3
Jiro Kuwata
Because no American version would do B and R like this.

The Sandman (Volumes 1-5)
Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, et. al.
First volume is incredibly strong, becomes a bit more hit or just-plain-good with every other volume. 

The Eye of the Prophet
Kahlil Gibran
That Brooklyn high school brought me here. Poetic explorations of faith. Lovely.

Perry Anderson
Spoiler alert: this ain't about Rio 2016.

Neapolitan Novels
Elena Ferrante
Whoo, what a rollercoaster. These stories scream cinematic melodrama, but Lenu and Lina sparkle with the full brilliance of life's beauties and imperfections. Even in translation the writing sparkles. My generation's Madame Bovary.

bell hooks
Making levity out of Lemonade.

Saga of the Swamp Thing
Alan Moore, John Bissette, et. al.
Swamp Thing as the walking conscience of our environment, reminding us of our sins while selflessly protecting us. Finally, a Moore tale I am fully on board with.

Black Panther and World of Wakanda
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze; Roxane Gay, Afua Richardson
You know what time it is w/ Coates and Gay, so you shouldn't be surprised that they're writing the shit out of these titles. Art's not bad either.

Mariana Leung
And then La La Land happened, as if to put an emphasis on the point.

Understanding Mass Incarceration
James William Kilgore
Thanks again, The 13th.

Chris Heath
Public grieving in glossy format. I suppose he would have liked it this way.

Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism
bell hooks
Should probably start and end every year with bell.

Words I Read to the Kid (that I can support reading to him over and over)
This Land is Your Land
Woody Guthrie and Kathy Jakobsen

Winnie-The-Pooh
A.A. Milne

Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night
Peter Spier

おとぎれっしゃしゅっぱつしんこう!
間瀬, なおかた

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed
Karla Kuskin

言葉図鑑
五味太郎

日本の昔ばなし20話
西本鶏介

I Love You! A Bushel and a Peck
Frank Loesser

Hilda and the Stone Forest
Luke Pearson

Furious George Goes Bananas
Michael Rex

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Clear Eyes: 2016 Sights



Moonlight
The “Hello Stranger” scene made me feel like a freshman again, but the whole movie is fantastic. Aching story that expands in depth as Little grows into Chiron and up to Black. Beautifully paced and shot like Ozu or Hsiou-hsien.

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry (Met Breuer)
Reunited and it feels so good. What a treat to see all these works together. You wan' know how good is this show? Marshall's selections from the Met's collection is the art equivalent of a mixtape. And the Rythm Mastr pieces are next door. Major thing happening here.

아가씨 (The Handmaiden)
Why isn't this playing everywhere?

君の名は (Your Name)
Why isn't one of the highest-grossing films in Japanese cinema not playing everywhere?

The 13th
Visual Cliff’s Notes of The New Jim Crow. Required watching for the new school heads, and a supplementary to-do list for those knee-deep in the game.

Roots
Sometimes the best sequels are the ones you least expect. No, not that one. Or that one. No, not that one either. Bringing back this seminal mini-series was the only essential rewind.

Fences
Pittsburgh is a frequent character in August Wilson's plays, but I never clearly felt it in Fences.  Denzel does a fantastic job in the film bringing the city to the surface. He also finds a nice balance of this exterior world and the yard that is the heart of the play, the home that Troy Maxson feels trapped inside of and that everyone else attempts to build and expand. The reunion of the Broadway cast (with the exception of Cory and Raynell) really sells this film, but the true highlight isn't even Washington's meta-rife performance, but the killer Viola Davis. She breathes visceral pain, truth and reality into Rose. Troy by design eats up all the oxygen in every scene, so it's easy to overlook Wilson's acutely sensitive take on Rose. When Rose gets a chance to blow, Davis makes sure everyone remembers that Troy does not get the last word. Troy didn't fall over and die one day; Davis/Rose ended his reign of terror.

O.J. Made in America
And sometimes the best miniseries are superficially about the topics you have the least interest in revisiting. Edelman rightly avoids the procedural aspects of the trial and instead focuses on the racial divide it aggravated. The People v. O.J. Simpson gets the lion’s share of the pop attention—rightly so for that Rick James snap—but MIA.

What Happened, Miss Simone?
Let’s not speak on that other film. Or, maybe we should. Because so much of what Garbus does right here—allowing her subject to speak for herself—is why that other film was so wrong. Better still is that Garbus doesn't try to answer the titular question.

Lady Snowblood: The Criterion Collection
How the fuck did I miss this?

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Donate to PBS.

Atlanta
Denzealots refer to Denzel as having Denzelishness. In a similar vein the bulk of Donald Glover's pop persona can be described by a certain Donaldishness. Frankly, it's nice to see it grow the fuck up. The tension between youth, aspiration, race, and the plain awkward is in full bloom in Atlanta.

Agnes Martin (Guggenheim)
The West always finds a way to reach me, even out here. I've only seen a handful of her works at LACMA, so seeing Wright's spiral filled with her spirit was pure manna.

Hell or High Water
Glad to see Ben Foster putting that Lone Survivor training to good use. It makes that entire MacGyver scene semi-plausible. Oh. And calling out banks for taking advantage of clients makes the casting of Chris Pine as a blue collar brain a shade believable.

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Goin' Thru It: 2016 Sounds



Born in 2016
Boosie’s mixtapes, particularly In My Feelings (Goin’ Thru It), Out My Feelings in My Past and Thug Talk
Music version of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet? The poetic has always been personal for Boosie, but even by his standards 2016 was quite the roller-coaster ride.

Stewart Lee Content Provider...
...is both in-progress and being performed in the UK, but the snatches I've caught are a reminder of how much truth we ascribe to a clever story. Quick, someone label him, “Most Dangerous Comedian!”

David Bowie Blackstar
(Columbia; 8 January)
‘Til the end Bowie led some of the finest combo cavalries. Tony Visconti and Donny McCaslin helped send him off in style.

Future Purple Reign 
(Freebandz; 16 January)
Future and Metro kicked off the year by wooing us into the purp mud. And then we spent the next 12 months sinking into the muck. How prescient.

KING We Are KING
(KING Creative; 5 February)
*Sigh*, I miss Los Angeles. The album's Grammy nomination is one of the few times I'll big-up the commercial nod, if only for moving people past the perception that the city's sound is simply that of an Aryan surfer's affects. On its own the album is pure synth shimmer and glitter. Their voices aren't half-bad either.

Lil Uzi Vert “Money Longer
(Generation Now/Atlantic; 6 February)
Pure fluff, but catchy as shit.

Kanye “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”, “Ultralight Beam,” “30 Hours
(Def Jam; 13 February)
There are some other songs on TLOP that I like, but this entire album is such a fucking mess I find myself mostly returning to this trio. “Father” is the rap equivalent of “Heroes and Villains” or Bitches Brew-era Miles: confrontational cut-and-paste. Noz already joked about “Ultralight” being a Chano track. On the real it belongs on Coloring Book. And “30 Hours” is the closest Kanye has come to returning to his collegiate flow, which answers “I Love Kanye,” I suppose.

Dae Dae “Wat U Mean (Aye, Aye, Aye)” 
(Nitti Beatz; 18 February)
You know you've made it when Sir Foster plays you at a Hawks game.

Yo Gotti “Law
(Epic; 19 February)
Sorta makes up for “Down in the DM.”

Ezale “Day Ones
(self-released; 16 March)
I love crate digging, but obscure samples can also make a TLOP. Which is why California consistently comes through with party music that’s both live and listenable. Funky fresh, y’all.

M.I.A. “OLA / Foreign Friend
(self-released; 17 March) 
I guess this was the year of Lion King references? Between this and having co-workers old enough to unironically like Rugrats, the yout' are reminding me I'm old again.

Savages
Irving Plaza, New York, 28 March
My cousin chatted me up about them. Fay Milton drums with a remarkable balance of strength and light-handedness, like she was surfing. And someone needs to make a gif of Ayşe Hassan bobbing her head from side to side; such calm amidst the band's chaos.

Susumu Yokota (横田進) Acid Mt. Fuji (Reissue)
(Sublime; 6 April)
Picked this up during the summer while in Tokyo. Really got into him in a hard way after listening to Symbol. His range was incredible. The title is a tip-off to what he's doing here. Hard to hate on a 303.

James Blake “I Need a Forest Fire” (Feat. Bon Iver) and Bon Iver 22, A Million
(Polydor; 6 May)
(Jagjaguwar; 30 September) 
Two works from simpaticos bookending both sides of the summer. Pushing all the right boundaries in pop.

Chance the Rapper “No Problems” (Feat. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne)
(self-released; 13 May)
I thought the '90s had been mined enough for pop to move on to '00s nostalgia. Kudos to ‘Ye and Chano digging up 90s gospel-hop. I can’t wait for that Mary Mary retro throwback.

Autechre elseq 1-5
(Warp; 19 May)
Thankfully not everyone thinks a synth is soothing.

Tyshawn Sorey The Inner Spectrum of Variables
(Pi; 3 June)
I'm still trying to make time to see Sorey live, because I need to witness his group's refined ability to sculpt sonic space. For now, his recordings will have to do.

Roy Haynes
Central Park Summerstage, New York, 4 June

The Kid's first jazz concert in the pouring rain, picnicking on Chit's sweet potato palya.

Sangam: Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain, Eric Harland
Town Hall, New York, 11 June
These three play together with a breath-taking ease and symbiosis.

Laura Mvula The Dreaming Room
(RCA; 17 June)
I'm less into this than Sing to the Moon, but the thinking behind each record is drastically different. There are some incredibly nuanced dance jams here.

YG Still Brazy
(Def Jam; 17 June)
It’s so-so, but I’m mostly surprised that he turned out such a singularly focused album. It’s angry, it slaps and it still hits pretty hard.

Blood Orange Freetown Sound
(Domino; 28 June)
This was a great year for Arthur Russell (blessings, Tom; your hard work will be appreciated by the masses now), but Hynes has done a splendid job carrying the torch.

Charlie Parker Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes
(Verve; 1 July)
Growing up I was one of those kids that learned Bird solos. So this comp is pretty nuts because it shows his recording process. You hear solos start, stop, evolve. It's all remarkable. Drove the Kid kinda nuts listening to this during a car ride, but it was worth it.

Gucci Mane “All My Children”
(Atlantic; 22 July)
Everybody Looking has a few better cuts, but “All My Children” stands out for Gucci un-ironically naming this song after the long-running soap opera. Combined with his inscrutable accent at the end of verse 1, the levity is welcome on an otherwise surprisingly humorless album.

Sextina Aquafina “Get Dat Fetus, Kill Dat Fetus
(Netflix; 22 July)
I don’t get Netflix’s soundtrack strategy. No one needs the score to House of Cards.

Hari Kondabolu Mainstream American Comic and W. Kamau Bell Semi-Prominent Negro
(Kill Rock Stars; 22 July and 30 September) 
Kondabolu and Bell’s twin gifts of comic wit and political curiosity were especially helpful navigating this year's election. Their Politically Reactive podcast was the obvious channel for the NPR-leaning, but their albums helped pull the lens back to macro.

Narcos, Volume 1 and Volume 2 (More Music from the Netflix Original Series)
(Lakeshore; 5 August and 28 October)
I checked out of this series after the Season One, but I didn’t forget the loads of Discos Fuentes. There’s also a smattering of exotica from across South and Central America, all pretty tough.

Exploded View Exploded View
(Sacred Bones; 18 August)
The perfect balance of space, echo, noise and pop.

Frank Ocean Endless
(Def Jam; 19 August)
Remember the day before Blond(s)? I like it better. No ambiguity in the spelling.

Andre 3000 “Solo (Reprise)” on that Frank album 
(s/t; 20 August)
Three Stacks doing that Body Work. That “working too hard” punchline alone makes me forget about Bey and Kendrick being on this album.

Ali Siddiq Damaged Goods
(Comedy Central, 16 September)
"My apple has fell and rolled across the street."

Maria Bamford 20%
(Comedy Central, 23 September)
At one point Bamfoo makes reference to a psychiatrist watching past footage of the comedienne “with a lot more make-up and much better material.” Sure, she has her classics, but Bamford's work only gets stronger and stronger.

Solange A Seat at the Table
(Columbia; 30 September)
Really, about half the record.

Shirley Collins Lodestar
(Domino; 4 November)
I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that Stewart Lee reminded me of the wonder of Collins. Her Folk Roots, New Routes album w/ Davy Graham has been in rotation for a minute, but I'd focused mostly on the guitar work. Shirley's voice is, of course, magical, so exploring her body of work has been enriching (more on that below). So, no, I'm not a long-time fan who waited decades for her return. But I can appreciate the road she traveled to get to Lodestar. Her delicately fractured voice aptly captured the fragility of this year.

A Tribe Called Quest “The Space Program
(Epic; 11 November)
I'm happy with this album because a childhood hero got a dying wish granted: to record one last time with his day ones. However, Phife isn't on the bulk of the album; Jarobi and others from the Tribe community stepped up in a big way, but count the bars: Malik is barely there. Which makes those snippets so special. Glad to see his brothers finally get it together one more time.
  
Seu Jorge
Town Hall, New York, 11 December
Paid my respects to Bowie shortly after his death, but big surprise the grief was still there at year's end. Combined with Jorge's announcement that his father had also passed away recently, the show felt heavy in the best way possible.

Jams that didn't come out this year, but I listened to because if we're making arbitrary lists about things that happened in a given year, why not make more arbitrary lists. And this is more-or-less in chronological order from when in the year I listened to these the most.
Andrew Ashong Flowers
(Sound Signature; 2012)
Prettiest things could sour / When the seasons change / Shit don't smell like flowers / Sunshine turns to rain”

David Bowie Heathen, VH1 Storytellers, Scary Monsters
(ISO/Columbia, EMI, RCA; 2002, 1999, 1980)
These were my go-tos in the aftermath.

Asa-Chang and Junray 影の無いヒト
(Commmons; 2009)
My post-OOIOO chillout soundtrack.

Lemon Jelly '64-'95
(XL Recordings; 2005)
Found this in the floor of a homie's car. Had actually been looking for this record for a while, haha.

Jackie Chain Bruce Lean Chronicles 2
(2013)
“Trippin'” and “Climax” for the one-two combo.

Mac Mall Illegal Business?
(Young Black Brotha; 1993)
Yup, still slaps.

Sir Douglas Quintet “Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day
(1969)
Heard Frank Black cover this during a radio session on KCRW years ago and instantly fell in love with the song. Learned it to play for the Kid.

Suzanne Vega 99.9F°
(A&M; 1992)
I'm still trying to wrap my head around this record. So many unexpected twists and turns.

Vulpess “Me Gusta Ser Una Zorra
(Dos Rombos Discos; 1983)
This actually rocks harder than the Stooges.

Joyce Feminina
(EMI; 1980)
Does Joyce have Joni-level recognition in Brasil? She deserves it.

Noré Davis Home Game
(Rooftop Comedy; 2014)
Sisbro. Classic.

Pastor Troy We Ready - I Declare War
(Madd Society; 1999)
This must have been the point in the year when I started to get a little upset.

Iggy Pop Zombie Birdhouse
(Animal; 1982)
My gripe with the Berlin albums is that Bowie's involvement gives the albums an orderliness that doesn't always suit Iggy. “Run Like a Villain” feels like Pop manically escaping the lab environment and jumping back into the loving arms of chaos.

Beth Stelling Simply the Beth
(Comedy Dynamics; 2015)
2 Dope Queens brought me here.

Joni Mitchell The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
(Asylum; 1975)
In particular the demos for this record which outline the brilliance of these songs.

John Coltrane Offering: Live at Temple University
(Resonance/Impulse; 2014 reissue)
Still digging this 1966 show. All that Kamasi talk got me thinking about Trane again, I suppose.

Prince the-you-know-what-with-like-fifty-plus-hours-of-unreleased-material and One Nite Alone... Live! and The Undertaker and “prpl b-sides”
In any given year there should be no justification necessary for listening to Prince. Of course this year was a bit different. These are the sides I kept returning to.

The Gladiators “Bongo Red,” “Boy in Long Pants,” “Beautiful Locks
(Studio One; 1974, 1974 and ?)
Big tunes. All Tuff.

David Holland Quartet Conference of the Birds
(ECM; 1973)
Fantastic reed work from Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers, the two folks that attracted me to this record, but Barry Altschul's drum/percussion work and Holland's bass playing are phenomenal.

Super Furry Animals Ice Hockey Hair EP
(Creation; 1998)
Finally saw these chaps live. Good clean fun.

(Gasatanka; 1984)
I still don't comprehend the jump from Born Innocent to this, but geez. I listened to “Deuce” a lot this year, probably as some form of therapy. The McDonald bros. were also top-of-mind because I read the Keith Morris memoir My Damage.

The Gories Houserockin'
(Wanghead; 1989)
More therapy music.

Jazmine Sullivan Reality Show
(RCA; 2015)
No good reason for not listening to this sooner. Hard-as-hell singer with Salaam Remi production? Make em say...

Soulsonic Force Zulu Nation: Cosmic Force, Soulsonic And Donald D
(1979?)
Well, all kinds of conflicted feelings about anything Bam-related. Still one of many classic tapes from that era.

(Beggars Banquet; 1984 and 1985)
More catch-up. Special thanks to the librarian at the Mulberry Branch who told me some funny stories of seeing them live and gave me some recommendations I'm still tracking down.

Shirley Collins The Power of the True Love Knot; Shirley and Dolly Collins Anthems in Eden
(Polydor and Harvest; 1968 and 1969)
This is a musicologist's dream. Well-researched tunes with cracking arrangements performed by ace players. And then Collins knocks every tune out the park. Brilliant.

(Heavy on the Grind; 2014)
I'm still catching up, will probably get to the D-Boy Diaries in the next year or two.

Max Frost and the Troopers Shape of Things to Come
(Tower; 1968)
Considering how much I love Pryor, I'm surprised this flew under my radar. He has a small role in this mess of a movie, but it's a funny artifact with a pretty cool soundtrack.

Volcano Choir Unmap and Repave
(Jagjaguwar; 2009 and 2013)
Like a lot of parents I have to find music that works for the family. Shimmering guitars awash in echo works for this bunch.

(Priority; 1995)
Always revisiting my youth, I suppose.

(Thump; 2001)
Where else does Brenda and the Tabulations' “Dry Your Eyes” sit so comfortably next to Rodney O and Joe Cooley's “This is For the Homies?”

(Rhino; 2009)
And then here's the whiter side of Los Angeles, haha.

The Scientists Blood Red River
(Au Go Go; 1983)
Thanks to Numero, The Scientists are having a nice second look. Personally, I thank idon'tkaren for pointing my attention towards Australia. Lots of good stuff from across the years, but this mini-album has been stuck in my craw for a while.

Alicia Hall Moran HEAVY BLUE
(self-released; 2015)
Thank The 13th for hipping me to her.

Bobby Hutcherson Stick-Up!
(Blue Note; 1968)
I heard this back at KALX, but for some reason never came around to picking up a copy. One of the baddest motherfuckers. Really miss him.

Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Library Selection
(Ring Sounds; 2015)
I really don't get why this record is a Japan-only release.

Cocteau Twins “Sugar Hiccup” (12” Version)
(4AD; 1983)
Can you feel me curling inward?

Pauline Oliveros
After Don Buchla's death, I finally came around to checking out Oliveros' seminal work from various points in her career. The early tape stuff is ill, but the late '80s/early '90s work (Roots of the Moment, Deep Listening, Crone Music) is really engrossing. So sad to have missed hearing her in-person.

Mort Garson Mother Earth's Plantasia
(Homewood; 1976)
Chumma put me up on this shortly after Oliveros' passing. I hear a strong connection between Garson and Jean-Jacques Perrey. A fitting way to cap off an exceptionally shitty year for synth pioneers.

Leonard Cohen “Dance Me to the End of Love” and The Future
(Columbia; 1984 and 1992)
Ready to die.

The Kid's Playlist
Hank Williams The Complete Hank Williams (minus the preachy Luke the Drifter cuts)
Bill Callahan/Smog
“Everything Sesame” (i.e., Sing the AlphabetGrover Sings the BluesThe Count CountsThe Year of Roosevelt Franklin)
OutKast Aquemini
Moonrise Kingdom soundtrack
The Muppet Movie soundtrack
山野さと子 “ドラえもんのうた
Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie Folkways: The Original Vision
Sir Douglas Quintet/Doug Sahm
Nick Lowe “Half a Boy And Half a Man
Gloria Ann Taylor
John Holt “Ali Baba
Brother Soul “Cookies
Scissor Sisters “I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
The Kid's music camp CDs, particularly an all-horn performance of “St. Thomas”
Mac DeMarco Another One and Salad Days
First two Happy End/ハッピー・エンド  albums
ドリーミング それいけ!アンパンマン ベストヒット’16 
Max Romeo “Three Blind Mice
Jeremy Zmuda “I Never
Harry Belafonte “Cocoanut Woman
The Skates s/t
DJ Quik Rhythm-Al-ism (Clean)
Charles Lloyd and Billy Higgins Hyperion with Higgins
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Julie Andrews “Do-Re-Mi

Shit the Kid told me to turn off. And that I agreed to turn off.
D.R.A.M. "Broccoli

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Thursday, December 08, 2016

LINER NOTES: Faces


 



Faces playlist.

Physiognomy may be a "beautiful pseudoscience," but in popular music the face is still seen as a key platform for translating one's innermost feelings. Numerous songs sing the face's praises, while others use the face to deflect the unwanted. In other words, the face reigns supreme as the gateway to a musical soul.

In a stroke of convenient coincidence, the weather in New York chilled considerably the week of our December LINER NOTES, so every attendee arrived ready to crawl out from under layers of coats and hats to take a peek at our model's mug.

We started by dropping the spotlight firmly on the evening's theme. Ronson's retro soul take on "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" is all breaks and triumphant horns, an energetic rallying cry for an open window to a person's soul. It's also the only palatable way to listen to an otherwise dreadful Coldplay dud. Egg on my face for not knowing this until recently. Such is the advantage of replacing Chris Martin with a horn section.

To keep us warm we followed this fuzzy vein of celebrating the face. Little Richard gave a full-throated endorsement of his baby's. The Who—temporarily changing names to The High Numbers—took pride in being the sartorial face of the Mod nation. Later in the evening we devoted an entire section to artists ranging from Chris Elliott to Angel Olsen admiring the loveliest visages.

Of course the face can communicate any number of thoughts. 3rd Bass and KMD found two opportunities to expound on the different ways to brush off a sucker with a choice gas face. Lily Allen smiled through the pain of her ex's infidelities, but Mariah and Missy couldn't even be bothered to give a smile or a smirk to keep the unwanted out of sight, out of mind. Baby Washington gets the A for confronting her problems head-on, practically licking her lips at the chance to call out her basic bitch.
    
Rounding out the set were two pet project jams celebrating the face's ability to communicate. Thank Gerald Levert for many things, particularly the discovery of The Rude Boys. I can't name another song from the quartet, but they SLAY their only hit, "Written All Over Your Face," by bringing the line—"Just smile for me / it's better than any word I've ever heard"—to life, whooping and vamping to an orgiastic climax in the song's back-half. Arthur Russell moved on from the Loose Joints moniker with the quickness, but not before crafting the classic late-night seduction, "It It All Over My Face?"

This isn't the first time we've covered the face and there's plenty more to explore, so expect a return to this theme soon...

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