Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Change Them Gears


...and a year-end summary.


2014 Listicles: Reading Edition

Didn't know Shadowcat is Jewish

School's done, I can read again
Tim O’Brien
The Things They Carried
“I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening truth.” (179)

Alice Munro
Lives of Girls and Women
Ok, I'm starting to get those jokes now.

Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Case for Reparations,” Atlantic Monthly

Michelle Alexander
The New Jim Crow
Also essential, particularly in light of 2014. Understanding how the judicial, law enforcement and prison system all work together is necessary to begin having an intelligent conversation about our current state of affairs.

Octavia Butler
I'm on board to read more Butler.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Half of a Yellow Sun
I went on an Adichie stretch to get caught up. Half was my favorite, mostly for its attempt to capture a pretty under-reported (in the West) historic event. The bibliography is probably more important than the book, though.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“In America, tribalism is alive and well. There are four kinds--class, ideology, region, and race...Second, ideology. Liberals and conservatives. They don’t merely disagree on political issues, each side believes the other is evil. Intermarriage is discouraged and on the rare occasion that it happens, is considered remarkable…” (227-8)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Purple Hibiscus

Stanley “Tookie” Williams
Blue Rage, Black Redemption
Williams is filled with contradictions. Survival is a vested interest, yet his resolve is self-destructive. There is an explicit understanding of the circumstances that allows him to stay in the cycle of violence, in spite of the extraordinary opportunities he is offered.

Preston Lauterbach
The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll
A bit too casual for my tastes, but essential subject matter.

Glenn Greenwald
No Place to Hide
The director’s commentary to the NSA leaks.

X-Men: Volume 6, Days of Future Past, Phoenix Rising, Dark Phoenix Saga
Forgot I never sat and read all these books at once because I could never afford to as a kid.

X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills
Why wasn't this made into a movie?

X-Men: Fall of the Mutants, vol. 1 & 2
We don’t need to talk about the main X- titles -- we need to talk about New Mutants. What was the thinking behind this title? I take that back. The branding is very clear. It’s just a poor and bizarre choice. If the known demographic of the X- titles is pre-teen and capable of grappling with weighty, angsty issues, why would a teen-directed title like New Mutants deal with fluff like clothes and dating… through the voice of a middle-aged writer? What a bizarre title. Now I can see clearly what I disliked about this title as a kid.

X-Men: Mutant Massacre
This one was simply about nostalgia.

Totally didn’t live up to my expectation. I loved the character. And I long admired Arthur Adams. There are a lot of interesting, weird turns in his back story (and I definitely want to dig into Ann Nocenti’s other work), but I’m kinda glad I never had the dough to get this mini-series. It’s a bit disorganized and light. I suppose that’s the character’s MO?

The Avengers Epic Collection, Volume 9, 1976-1977, The Final Threat
Whoa, pretty glad I was into the X- titles. Kinda lame in comparison.

The Walking Dead: Compendium 2
Reinforces my feeling that I'm glad the show and books are diverging, even if only slightly. The different storylines and pacing are form appropriate.

Bob Newhart
I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!

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2014 Listicles: Vision Edition

Tiombe Lockhart - “Can’t Get Enough
She my BEY, IMHO.

Todd TerjeLeisure Suit Preben
Scandinavian Tim & Eric.

Mr. Oizo “HAM
Or, just go for made-in-America Eric.

Jenny Lewis “Just One of the Guys
The entire album is good, if you’re into that ‘70s AOR/Fleetwood Mac/’70s coke vibe. I’ll direct you to The Toast for the specific explanation of this video.

Basement Jaxx “Never Say Never
Well, they said 2014 was the year of ass.

Neko Case and Kelly Hogan “These Aren’t The Droids
Or, maybe it’s still 2013. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates @ The City Club of Cleveland, 8/22/14
“Love is not telling people what they want to hear… a mature love... (of country) has to have as its component seeing people straight.” (it appears the whole talk has been replaced with this 2-minute clip on YouTube)

Film/TV from this year that I saw and would watch again
and Stardust Memories were favorites when I was in high school, so I haven’t paid meta commentaries too much mind of late. And a meta commentary from the actor’s -- pardon me, celebrity’s -- perspective? This film should have been one big red flag, but turned out to be the one film in recent memory that I have watched repeatedly and gotten more from with each viewing. Smart acting and filmmaking, great style and structure and an entertaining story. And there’s still a Hollywood ending! What’s not to like?

I appreciate the more focused approach to biopics than the reductive, comprehensive approach. Selma wasn’t as essential as I thought it would be, but provides a fairly helpful greatest hits overview of a seminal moment in the Civil Rights Movement and American history. There are more accurate media depictions of these events, namely PBS’s essential Eyes on the Prize, but trawling through YouTube for past PBS content is not everyone’s MO, so little hands for Selma’s efforts in reinforcing the importance of protest, strategic activism, political legislation, legal legwork, and media spectacle. My quibbles are more stylistic. Mainly that a film that purports to uphold the importance of the people and mass movements, it relies heavily on Hollywood conventions like the close-up and history through the actions of specific individuals. Also, considering the importance of public media in this event, it was unfortunate that actual footage was scarcely incorporated (the spattering of footage at the close of the film only highlighted the fact that this was Hollywood dressing the part of the Civil Rights Movement). For example, the reenactment of the first attempt to cross the Pettus Bridge was heart-wrenching, but would have been devastating if paired or substituted completely with the actual footage. Frankly, slow-mo and dramatic framing has nothing on raw, actual footage. Yes, these are pretty petty comments, but also are the sorts of details that separate a good film from an essential one.

Under the Skin
I am not a Scarlett Johansson fan, but g-d if she hasn’t had a solid run of recent films/roles. Her voice and presence was suitably all-encompassing in Her. Her Black Widow in Winter Soldier finally came into her own. Her character in Lucy was entertaining. And her portrayal of the main character in Under the Skin was a genuine delight. On the surface, the film is like good Species. In truth, it’s a fascinating portrayal of learning and our insecurities and fears. And Mica Levi’s soundtrack is The Shining level good.

Silicon Valley
Office Space jokes needed an update. Thank goodness for the scrum cracks. 

Broad City
King of the world” remains hilarious.

Nathan For You
Has any show both externally refracted and interally pushed media culture in such a literal way? Maybe Nathan Fielder should have taken over the Colbert Report?

Andy Daly’s got range, spanning from the cheerful cuckold Terrence Cutler to the dozen or so psychotic characters he brings to life on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast. Perhaps the throughline between all his characters is a put-upon/on-the-edge quality that is both empathetically familiar and grotesquely abhorrent. The skit-like structure of Review plays to the strengths of his scattershot imagination as he gets to push his character in new ways through different challenges/tasks/reviews. However, each review subtly builds on the prior, so the progression from pancakes to space makes complete sense. Never has watching a man methodically dismantle his life in the name of sharing an opinion been more delightful.

Top Five’s jail scene
The filmis a bit scattershot, but Rock lands a handful of solid shots. The centerpiece of the trailer is hardly the centerpiece of the film. The bachelor party scene easily trumps that scene, mostly because of Rock’s clear comfort with his actual homies (though Goldberg’s presence was a bit surprising, considering she’s from another comic generation). The Uprize scenes are a welcome reminder of The Chris Rock Show’s finer moments. But the real centerpiece is a near throwaway line for the true hip-hop head slash historic comic cinemaphile (and, in case there is any doubt, yes, X deserves a place in Top Five conversations). 

Film/TV I caught up on or revisited. And liked (again).
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Ellen Burstyn in A Woman Under the Influence. Except those two films came out the same year. Word…? 

Can’t go wrong with Cronenberg.

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench 
Whiplash is getting a lot of press, but I’m into Chazelle’s precocious debut. Almost makes me want to be twentysomething again. Almost. 

Stations of the Elevated
Along with Black Power Mixtape, I suppose Euro takes on Black America could occupy their own sub-genre of filmmaking. Nevertheless, this film focuses more on the aesthetics of graffiti. The results are priceless. A necessary time capsule.

Pacific Rim
Fun rock-em-sock-em.

Jesus, what an extravagant budget.

Crimson Kimono
Along with The Exiles, this Fuller gem contains a necessary look at mid-century Los Angeles. Cross-cultural conflicts in an under-appreciated architectural wonder (Downtown).

Worth watching for Tom Hardy’s acting. Really. Like, watching emotions shift like shadows being cast across a face and all that type of shit.

Not the one with the put-upon, chubby guy dealing with his out-of-control neighbors, but the other one with the put-upon, chubby guy dealing with his out-of-control neighbors. I can see why this film did not make the pantheon Blues Brothers-Animal House pantheon, but it’s arguably more fascinating to watch than either.

Diary of a Chambermaid
I thought I had seen the original before. Kinda worth it for Meredith Burgess, but I’ll stick with Jeanne Moreau. 

Damn, Fassbender goes all in.

“There was no question whether I was a part of the black community… I got pulled over by cops when I was walking… All black people are part of the black community. You don’t have to do anything -- you’re black. So. That was comforting (laughs).” ~ Santi “Steve” Holley, Ann Arbor, MI

Films I saw that are a reminder I need to stop watching shit for conversation's sake 
The Wolf of Wall Street
Not as bad as thought it would be, but just plain, fucking boring. And unnecessary. And a solid reminder that I don’t need to watch Scorcese films anymore.

Magic Mike
Also boring. And unnecessary.

Lone Survivor, End of Watch, etc.
The hyperfocus on realism through style does a disturbing job of obscuring narrative leaps and poor ethics. The narrative changes to Luttrell’s account were unnecessary and ridiculous. And End of Watch really has nothing to say besides that cops can be bros. What a disservice.

Captain Phillips

Wreck-it Ralph
For billing itself as a video game nostalgia flick, it spends a lot of time dwelling on candy nostalgia.

Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer
I’ll take the knock on this one because its shittiness was hardly a surprise. A case where curiosity shouldn’t be indulged.

Not as weird as I thought it would be.

The Counselor
Oh yeah, I also don’t need to watch Ridley Scott films anymore.

Transformers & The Hobbit series
Not even worth it for conversation’s sake. Because there’s no conversation to be had.

Really, go fuck yourself.

Films I’ll have to catch up onBoyhood
Goodbye to Language
The Babadook
Kindergarten Teacher
Concerning Violence

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2014 Listicles: Sound Edition

I’ve been on a steady march towards becoming the next Editor-in-Chief of Dad, so we can drop any pretense of these lists being models of cool journalistic research. They’re simply things the few things I glommed on to over the course of the year.

Catchy tunes from this year
Metro Boomin “Chanel Vintage” (Feat. Future and Young Thug)

Migos “Ounces
2008 greatness (Zaytoven) + 2013 greatness (Metro Boomin) = 2014 greatness.

Lil Durk “Party” (Feat. Young Thug)
Ladies and gentlemen, here’s your 2014 wedding anthem.

Shy Glizzy “Awwsome
Captures the last couple years pretty well.

Future “Benz Friend” (Feat. Andre 3000)
“Move That Dope” and “My Momma” should be on this list, if it weren’t for those fucking horrible guestlist. I’m still lukewarm on “Benz Friend” as a whole, but still hard for Stacks’ verse. And over Organized Noize? Can’t front.

Michael Jackson “Love Never Felt So Good
Remember this record? Sure, Paul Anka is on it. And it doesn’t break any new ground. But it sure beats Akon and Kanye West “duets” or any of that garbage.

DJ Quik “Trapped on the Tracks
Keeping alive the lineage of great train tracks.

Run the Jewels “Jeopardy
Killer Mike’s juiced-up opening (“I’m going to bang this bitch the fuck out!”) is my favorite part. I’m not as excited about this LP as most -- doesn’t cover different sonic ground the first LP didn’t already cover, and, welp, didn’t need El-P to convince me of Killa’s talent -- but I appreciate any song that gives Mike Bigga nearly 2 minutes to just go off.

De La Soul “Goes With The Word
Not even my favorite song off the Smell the D.A.I.S.Y. torrent LP, but probably best current example of why Dave and Pos remain in my Top 5. Very few MCs dance around the beat with such command. Sure, there’s little sonic novelty to their laid-back approach, but it’s like listening to an old hand blow something wonderful while leaning back at the end of a cutting session.

Future Islands “Seasons (Waiting On You)
Eh, it’s the current generation’s New Order. And it’s catchy even without the GIFs.

See, Ariana Grande isn’t the only one who has handlers with a firm grasp on that nostalgia aesthetic. 

Solid albums from this year you'll see on other lists
Theo Parrish American Intelligence
I’m getting older, Theo’s getting older. Hence, there’re joints for the club, as well as the headphones.

D’Angelo And The Vanguard Black Messiah
Plays real well alongside Voodoo. Lots of lovely harmonic ideas and effects. Mostly a wonder for simply existing. We wanted it for so long, it actually exists, and it’s damn fonky.

Azealia Banks Broke With Expensive Taste
As much as that Hot 97 interview brought back a necessary conversation that we never seem to complete, the ridiculous fallout is a distraction. Broke is a beast of a record. Best Beastie-esque mixtape record in a minute.

Flying Lotus You’re Dead!
Not a big departure from Until the Quiet Comes. Actually, not a big departure from Thundercat’s Apocalypse. Can’t front b/c I’m more into the proggy shit than the light-show shit he has to do in concert these days. Perfect for keeping kids off my lawn. 

St. Vincent St. Vincent
Been a while since I’ve encountered an artists where I like each new album more than the last. Constantly challenging herself to balance pushing boundaries and fitting within popular norms. And one of the best live acts out now. Annie, Prince is still alive, please stop gunning for his seat.

Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire For No Witness
I'm a sucker for dirty guitars playing along with little else.

Todd Barry The Crowd Work Tour
Aziz’s crowd work in the lead up to his most recent tour was a great reminder of the wealth of material that can be dug up from an audience. However, Aziz sells humor constantly with his delivery. Barry is a master to watch as he patiently and confidently allows broken psyches to gradually unfold. 

My Brightest Diamond This Is My Hand
Any working parent should aspire to this level of quality productivity. 

Solid albums from this year you may not see on other lists
Hari Kondabolu Waiting for 2042
All killer, no filler. 

Altered Tapes reworks
Ok, they're not an album. But, I’m that age. 

Old tunes I bumped
Underdog Edits Box Set
Jesus, Trident, I’m still going through all these. May we open up our own Paradise Garage Redux?

Cool Breeze “Watch for the Hook”
Couldn’t stop listening to this after hearing about the OutKast reunion show in Atlanta. A boy can wish, right?

Eightball and MJG “Listen to the Lyrics”
I was really determined to include them in my Duos setlist. Wrong crowd.

Mantronix and Just-Ice
Drum machines and lyric lickin’.

Malcolm’s 1963 Debate With James Baldwin
They weren’t that far from each other, in the end.

Spice 1 AmeriKKKa's Nightmare
Forgot about the ragga influence. 

Public Enemy b-sides, c. It Takes a Nation… and Fear of Black Planet
Yes, I’m happy about the reissues.

Low Profile We’re In This Together
Brutal cuts. And WC sounds nice.

Tuff Crew Phanjam
After spending time in Philly, had to dust this off.

Daft Punk will never make pop as cool as Yasutaka Nakata.

Tony! Toni! Toné! House of Music
My grown and sexy shit.

Bumpy Knuckles “Part of My Life”
My college radio shit. 

Arrested Development soundtrack
Shit for my kid and me.

A Janet Jackson compilation
Solid bangers. Reminder to play her out more often.

Tracy + The Plastics
It’s been 10 years??

Faye Wong’s “Random Thoughts” and “Know Oneself and Each Other”
The influence of the Cocteau Twins is all over her Random Thoughts album, but the covers are really something else.

Tim Hecker Ravedeath, 1972 
I think I wrote a capsule review of this, but I came back around to his shit when he did that Red Bull thing.

The Apples in Stereo - first three albums
Prepping for a wedding reminded to dig into this band. What a wonder. Though I think I’m on team Hilarie.

CCR “Suzie Q”
Those drums kick so lovely... 

Anita O’Day At Mister Kelly’s
One wedding kicked up a lot of memories. I saw O’Day at the Derby shortly before she passed with this same friend. Late career O’Day obviously had a very different voice and range, but her charm and command was intact. I still swoon thinking about that night.

Rick Springfield’s “Comic Book Heroes”
Rivers Cuomo wishes he could write angsty nerd shit on this level.

Cannonball Adderley Country Preacher
Best rap album.

Steve Reich “Six Marimbas” and Susumu Yokota’s Symbol
Yet another instrument to learn.

Anna Calvi One Breath
I think Eno mentioned this in an interview, so I picked it up. Good, heavy rock.

Aldo Ciccolini’s Erik Satie albums
A classical gateway.

The Krzysztof Penderecki pieces from The Shining soundtrack
Pairs nicely with Mica Levi.

Gary Numan I, Assassin
While waiting for that new D’Angelo, I got down with some vintage Pino.

Montana Orchestra “It Looks Like Love (Feat. Goody Goody) (Club 89 Remix)”
I used to play out the original Goody Goody version a lot, so I had forgotten how much I loved this joint. I still prefer the original, but this was a novel way to revisit it.

The unreleased shit on Eddie Murphy’s 1997 Greatest Comedy Hits
Not great or essential, but this is a sign how much I’m fiending for new Eddie Murphy stand-up. The bit about being buried in platforms is pretty great visually.

Andre Nickatina Conversation With A Devil - CR 3 (Cocaine Raps 3) 
Solid slangin’ shit.

Henry Threadgill Very Very Circus Carry The Day
My NPR shit.

Jimmy Giuffre The Jimmy Giuffre 3
Thanks, Pops.

Most tolerable wedding songs
Pharrell “Happy (Cousin Cole Reggae Version)”
2NE1 “Happy”
Mark Ronson “Uptown Funk"

Best Digs
Saafir’s The Hit List (and two armfulls of hip-hop) for 50 cents
Because CDs are the new tapes. But better.

Claudine Longet’s Claudine 
Not a great record, but priceless for a cover that quickly became the kid’s first crush.

Chet Baker/Gerry Mulligan’s The Complete Pacific Jazz and Capitol Recordings
Copped this set at a steal. And in perfect condition, too. Gotta thank Pops for turning me on to this, because this level of chill is not my norm. I’ll always have a soft spot for Gerry, though; he was my first professional concert introduction to jazz.

Ramnad Krishnan’s Vidwan 
A random browse through NYPL’s catalogs turned up this seminal Carnatic recording. What takes this over-the-top is that my buddy’s pops, Jon “Higgins Bhagavatar” Higgins, wrote the liners. Not even a couple weeks later, I found the original LP, along with another Krishnan joint (also with liners from Higgins). 

Most Redundant Dig
Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia (Deluxe Edition) 
I have this record, but due in part to a high school memory of not being able to afford this album, in addition to a vague feeling that it would be nice to have the instrumentals on CD, I picked this up. I know. 

The Kid’s Top SpinsCat Stevens Harold and Maude Soundtrack
Bob Dylan “Little Sadie”
Crayon Pop “빠빠빠 2.0 (Bar Bar Bar 2.0)”
Ocean 11 “Housewive’s Choice”
Keith Hudson
Lee Perry 
Redbone “Come and Get Your Love” 
Arrested Development soundtrack 
Fantastic Mr. Fox soundtrack
Kate Bush Hounds of Love
Dusty Springfield

Shows that I went to
Cibo Matto @ Brooklyn Bowl (March 8)
Strangely not as nostalgic as I thought it would be. They played a fair amount of new material. And the old stuff sounded tweaked with the current line-up and gear. Almost forgot: Buffalo Daughter opened! And they burned! 

Chappelle @ Radio City Music Hall (June 22)
Pretty different than seeing him at the Punchline or those small spots in Oakland in the ‘90s, but what a well-deserved house for DC. Caught him on a night with Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings. I could have done without them. Slight preference for one of the music nights, but got tickets before those shows were announced. And the focus was tightly on Chappelle. Really beautiful, gifted comedian. 

OOIOO @ Rough Trade (July 18)
Second-best show, hands down. Tore up their new LP, Gamel, along with some older nuggets. 

My Brightest Diamond @ Bowery Ballroom (September 25)
Best show. Also, the most music-packed concert I’d been to in quite a while. As soon as Doe Paoro finished her opening set, Batala NYC took the floor for about 45 minutes of rump shakin’ and drum routines. The drum corp also helped Shara & co. kick off the MBD portion of the evening by providing the percussive meat behind This Is My Hand lead single, “Pressure.” What’s more impressive is that Worden kept up the energy and momentum. 

Shows that should be on the above list, but I either got sick or fell asleep and missed 
Bill Callahan @ some Bowery Presents venue
Totally forgot I had these tickets.

Paradise Garage block party

Mahmoud Ahmed in Red Hook
Kid got me sick, dog ate my homework…

Angel Olsen @ Roulette
I tried calling and couldn’t get through. Visited Roulette, only to find out the tickets were being handled through Bowery Presents. Promptly forgot to follow-up and shit sold out.

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