Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Made a new one of these, FYI. Also, am blogging today (and every Wednesday until further notice) at Idolator.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This is always kind of fascinating and depressing at the same time. I think mine has been No. 25 every single time they've done this. I should hope for that kind of consistency elsewhere.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A note to the Scrabble copyright claimant(s): Your new "app" may be advertised as in beta, but no one is going to want the real thing at this rate. I thought it was charming the first few minutes I played around with it; I started 20 games to test-drive the thing, and just as I suspected only a handful have even responded. But the ones that have and I have already started bitching in the chat boxes about it. It's obtuse. Nobody--nobody--gives anything resembling a shit now about Flash. Similarly, when my word is worth a measly six points on its own I do not need a fucking
light show because a vowel brushed a double-word. And I am the fucking king of needing a light show. But not here. Please, God, not fucking here.

You know why Scrabulous was, easily, the greatest app since iTunes? Because it didn't obtrude into your life. It was compact and quick; it needed no introduction to anyone who grew up in an English-speaking household (not to mention endless translations), and as soon as it became available everybody joined in instantly. There really was something in the air when it hit: for a moment it was the de rigueur question--how many games are you currently playing?--that met up with its pop-cult likenesses (Lil Wayne, Dark Knight) over the water cooler. Keeping in mind that SNL veered completely into sketches set in boardrooms, and that this wasn't good for it long-term even if the late-'80s/early-'90s crew could make hay with it sometimes.

Here's one they could have done: the corporate honchos whose prime product got shipped to market at least a year early and with the manufacturer's logo taken off. Panic is midair. Voices are raised within reason, but everybody's testy because they simply didn't have any idea it was going to happen. Blame is brought up but rejected as a means of dealing with this. Then a design guy happens upon the project and asks if he can try some stuff out, he's just learning the ropes and would appreciate the shot at making anything, like, move in 3D and shit. An eyebrow lifts. Design guy would work his magic. And everybody's monitor freezes.

I eagerly signed up for official Scrabble because I figured it was my good karma to, after all these months of binging on play. Not that I think the corporate dudes much care about that, but I like to hope my writing will someday take its place in someone's pantheon, and I wouldn't mind getting credit should some brain spasm uniquely mine end up making someone else rich down the line. So I gave credit, 20 games' worth. Unless big, swift, decimating changes are made, that's all I'm going to pursue for now.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I just realized the below could be the start of a meme. So let it be, by whoever wants to take it up. The meme: Overshare something with the blogosphere. Come on, bloggers, you know you can do it! And want to! And already are!

Geeks overshare as a matter of course. It’s what makes us geeks. We want to collect lots of knowledge and experience and talk about it all night. That’s our birthright. Obviously you don’t always make friends that way, but in the real world the friends you make that way are the ones you tend to stay with forever.

I don’t follow blog beef anymore, and I have almost no relationship with the New York literary world, so-called. I barely even qualify as a former Gawker employee; beyond the Idolator editors I maybe met three people who were involved with it on a day-to-day basis, maybe twice at the most. So I have little real idea what goes on with anyone’s irritation level when it comes to some recent, much-linked stuff I won’t bother to link myself. It reminds me, if anything, of the kinds of arguments I used to preoccupy myself with on ILM, arguments I look back on now with a mixture of dismissal and embarrassment. Not that I’m passing judgment: argue about whatever you want, it can be invigorating. I just think there are better horse races to be found.

But oversharing: I’ve definitely done that. Especially when I was in my early 20s. Some people I’m still in touch with were around for that, and they’ve politely refused to bring it up in my company, for which I thank them. I was neurotic and needed attention badly. I had ideas but they were intermingled with bullshit--usually not consciously, but consciously often enough that I could kid myself I knew what I was doing. I had some idea, sure, and some of that writing holds up OK. But I wouldn’t want to republish anything I wrote before 1999, especially some of the stuff that went into the New York Press, like the awfully-written first draft of my review of the second Cibo Matto album, an arrogant-prick fiesta that Dolan called me up and gave me a stern lecture about when I turned it in. At the time I was mad about him saying, “Those jokes aren’t funny.” I hadn’t intended them as jokes. Remembering that makes the memory worse, because while I was right about the album being dull, my broadside was classic off-the-mark superciliousness. It’s a memory I like to forget, but for some reason feel like committing to the public record. Like I said, oversharing.

There was a period where I was far too careful in my writing, around my first go-round with the Seattle Weekly. I had been so slapdash early on (facile, able to write a review in the time it took to listen to the record, many times a review you could sensibly publish, and sometimes they were printed like that), and that was hit-or-miss, so when I got out west and had time on my hands and an office I had a key to (a beautiful office, I miss the physical space of the Weekly far more than anything) I could really sit and sweat things out. I would refuse to type out the first thing that came to mind; I didn’t want to overshare. Well, OK, that’s just me shoehorning in our opening gambit where it doesn’t fit. But I wanted every word to be my own. I figured out that Dolan would rewrite everything he didn’t hear a voice in, which early on when I was trying to connect the dots meant he did a lot of rewriting. I knew the only way to publish something entirely of my own was to make it entirely my own--to phrase things inalterably, to at least attempt to make the words jump, and jump where I told them to jump.

That’s what you don’t see much of in blogs or post-blog writing: a sense that the writer has to clear an obstacle, to work at saying what s/he is trying to really say instead of just setting down the first thing and thinking you can move on. As one-note as I find much young-urbanite prose, you can tell it’s been through the wringer. (This post, if it isn’t already obvious, hasn’t been. C’est la vie.) I read Lavinia Greenlaw’s piece in the new Believer music issue and felt like I was on a high wire. It was absolutely taut on the page; I hurtled through it but made sure to stop to re-read lines. Her conclusions were both obvious and not. (Too often writers, including me, settle for one or the other.) It contained no excess. I felt like my eyes were dancing; my brain, too. You simply don’t get that from many blogs, even the blogs I read religiously.

Tha Carter III, which I’m deliberately getting to late since I don’t need to worry about deadlines or reputation regarding it, sounds pretty amazing to me on two listens. The most convincing write-ups of it so far have tended to discuss its flaws in detail, like Jess in Salon, but what struck me is that it flows and coheres like an album. Sure, it’s an uneven goddamned mess. It’s an uneven goddamned mess that flows and coheres like an album. Those don’t happen so often. And the music! I wasn’t expecting such a range. Don’t ask why: maybe I figured the zillion freestyles were letting off steam; I hadn’t considered that he was probably listening to his sources very carefully, which is my fault for underestimating him and his for such a profusion of output in the first place. Who, producing that much, has time to stop and think about it? That’s how I felt, anyway, and yeah, that’s pretty arrogant, isn’t it? Critical arrogance is a pet peeve of mine, especially because I know I fall prey to it all too often. It doesn’t usually make its way into print, but it’s there, and I try to avoid it.

In my defense, though, I simply can’t believe it doesn’t take Wayne at least a little while to come up with his best stuff. I don’t think he just hoists microphone and rambles it out uncut on the spot--he's a writer, and I know how writing can be. Chemical enhancement can help (it is now, cough cough), but still, that’d have to be a LOT of punch-ins for Da Drought 3 to sound that good if he were simply winging it, and it doesn’t really sound like that. I know it’s endemic to the hip-hop faithful to silently bow to the figure who kills it without even writing anything down, and I love Wayne too, in my limited way. But I wish it weren’t so heavily romanticized--that’s why I’m not part of the hip-hop faithful. (I romanticize the hell out of the things closest to my heart, too, so I’m not making fun of anyone, just delineating my own limits of taste and formal appreciation. You know?)

I got an assignment a while back to review Noze’s Songs on the Rocks for Flavorpill. I enjoyed the album a lot and said so, and in the past few days, as I’ve been cleaning out my hard drive (my room, then my head will be next), I started listening to it again. The last one was sort of odd; I wasn’t concentrating very hard on it and began to feel annoyed, wondering why I’d rated it so highly. Now, tonight, I have it on again, and it’s glorious. I understand it better now--partly because this is an album you need time with, and to hear spaced apart. It’s not a casual album, nor is it the kind you can become genuinely obsessed with. That’s an odd basis for a work to seem extraordinary, but so it is with Songs on the Rocks.

What I’ve realized is how extremely indebted it is to Herbert. Not dance floor Herbert, whose Secondhand Sounds is one of the sturdiest arguments I know that packagings of two-and-a-half hours of beats and variations has its own secret canon, a canon that stands with anyone’s. I mean that Noze borrow heavily from album Herbert--the guy who made Around the House and Bodily Functions and Scale, the guy whose signature is so immediately his own he went and formalized his methodology in a manifesto. I don’t think he was looking for copycats, though--and no, Noze aren’t copycats, not exactly. What they take from him isn’t methodology (maybe, though I sincerely doubt it, especially not with that singing) so much as a certain set of tastes: beats lean but still very present, fine-mist atmosphere (both Herbert and Noze are apparently allergic to reverb), very simple piano lines that allow everything to breathe but still remain strong guides through the proceedings. He no doubt helped teach them how to hear, but you get the idea they’d have arrived somewhere like it even without his example.

What really works for me now in a way it didn’t before is the singing. Particularly the gruff singing. I don’t know much about these guys, and while it’s lazy not to just look it up, the small mystery my ignorance provides is rather enjoyable, so don’t judge me too harshly, please. But there’s a guy who sounds like a cross between Eugene Hutz and (especially) Tom Waits, with a soupcon of Oscar the Grouch on top of it. What I didn’t know until this time around is that what he’s singing is often very good. I don’t look to dance albums for lyrics, but I’m always happy to find them there.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I wrote about the new Hold Steady album for Salon.

Holy fucking shit.

Did anyone in the Congo ever spray-paint "Franco Is God"? They should've.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I don't write about this stuff because it's kind of boring, but the main, major thing I've been doing in Seattle lately is missing my girlfriend. A six-page letter, written at various times, arrived today, and I think I like it more than any of the records I mention in the two previous posts. Sorry, it's personal. Thanks for understanding.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

As promised. I've been very out of the loop, albums-wise. Last year, most of my free listening time (meaning when I wasn't listening for the purpose of writing a piece) was taken up by albums; now it's taken up by singles-etc. I really have gotten into writing It's a Hit in a big way; in a sense, I spend far more time listening to stuff for it than I do anything else, and as a result I've been really lax about playing new albums. (A handful of well-regarded titles from earlier this year are still in their shrinkwrap, including Vampire Weekend.) But the ones I like I like a lot. Twenty is a pretty good number for a half-year, even if by some lights I'm cheating to do it: I did considered not including any RA Podcasts or Daytrotter Sessions (technically EPs but like the American-not-British charts anything with four songs or more on my albums lists), but I've gotten too much pleasure from a handful to do that. I think it's also notable that the Tracks list doesn't contain anything from seven of these albums, even though they're plainly excerptable. That will be rectified in the second-half-of-year tally, but still: I can't think of a more bipolar year in terms of my own listening, where albums and singles/tracks don't really meet up too much. Strange.

ALBUMS (first half of 2008)
1. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Vol. 1: Fourth World War (Universal Motown)
2. Portishead, Third (Mercury)
3. Hercules and Love Affair (DFA/Mute)
4. Flying Lotus, Los Angeles (Warp)
5. Etran Finatawa, Desert Crossroads (Riverboat)
6. Seun Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80 (Disorient)
7. Spoon, Daytrotter Session (Daytrotter)
8. Noze, Songs on the Rocks (Get Physical)
9. Girl Talk, Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)
10. Ellen Allien, Boogybytes Vol. 04 (Bpitch Control)
11. Todd Barry, From Heaven (Comedy Central)
12. Kalabrese, RA Podcast 89 (Resident Advisor)
13. Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis, Two Men with the Blues (Blue Note)
14. Quiet Village, Silent Movie (K7)
15. Four Tet, RA Podcast 102 (Resident Advisor)
16. Blood on the Wall, Liferz (The Social Registry)
17. Tokyo Police Club, Elephant Shell (Saddle Creek)
18. Fuse Presents Adam Beyer (N.E.W.S.)
19. Orchestra Baobab, Made in Dakar (World Circuit)
20. Alex Moulton, Exodus (Expansion Team)

Just under the cut: The Teenagers, Reality Check (Merok)
Need to listen to more: Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West); Robert Hood, Fabric 39 (Fabric)

I’m not Nate--I’m nowhere near as organized. This was going to be the year I stayed on top of stuff. Naturally, it’s also the year I spent a month traveling by train across the U.S. Obviously there’s a ton of stuff missing here--I could have bolstered the list to 100 if I’d relistened more before composing it, and a gift from Nate in May by itself features a number of things I could have used. And god knows how many albums I haven’t gotten to yet or, in the case of many I like a great deal, haven’t cherry-picked from yet. But this list tells it like it sort of is. Obviously, the order’s not permanent. Albums this weekend.

75 TRACKS, 2008 (first half)
1. Lloyd ft. Lil Wayne, “Girls Around the World” (IG/Universal)
2. The Whitest Boy Alive, “Golden Cage (Fred Falke Remix)” (Modular)
3. Dear Jayne, “Rain” (Music Line)
4. Hotstylz ft. Yung Joc, “Lookin Boy (Clean)” (Swag Team/Jive)
5. The Juan MacLean, “Happy House (Original)” (DFA)
6. Etran Finatawa, “Asistan” (Riverboat)
7. The-Dream ft. Rihanna, “Livin' a Lie” (Def Jam)
8. Alphabeat, “Fascination” (Copenhagen/EMI)
9. Reba McEntire & Kenny Chesney, “Every Other Weekend” (MCA Nashville)
10. Clinic, “Coda” (Domino)
11. The Mole, “Baby You're the One” (Wagon Repair)
12. Kylie Minogue, “In My Arms” (EMI)
13. Santogold, “Your Voice” (RCRD LBL)
14. Lele, “Breakfast” (Magnetron)
15. Spoon, “Peace Like a River (Daytrotter Session)” (Daytrotter)
16. Burial, “Archangel (Boy 8-Bit's Simple Remix)” (MP3)
17. Born Ruffians, “I Need a Life (Four Tet Remix)” (Warp)
18. Hercules & Love Affair, “Blind (Frankie Knuckles Remix)” (DFA)
19. Benga & Coki, “Night (Geeneus Remix)” (Tempa)
20. Zomby, “Spliff Dub (Rustie Remix)” (Hyperdub)
21. Invisible Conga People, “Cable Dazed” (Italians Do It Better)
22. Johnny Foreigner, “Our Bipolar Friends” (Best Before)
23. Soulja Boy Tell'em, “Yahhh!” (Collipark)
24. Luke Bryan, “Country Man” (Capitol Nashville)
25. Guillaume and the Coutu Dumonts, “Les Gans (Philip Sherburne Remix)” (Musique Risquée)
26. Spoon, “Don't You Evah (Ted Leo's I Want It Hotter Remix)” (Merge)
27. Erykah Badu, “The Cell” (Universal Motown)
28. Big Boi ft. Raekwon & Andre 3000, “Royal Flush” (MP3)
29. Blood on the Wall, “Acid Fight” (The Social Registry)
30. The B-52’s, “Eyes Wide Open” (Astralwerks)
31. Kelley Polar, “Entropy Reigns (Pearson and Usher's Second Law Instrumental)” (Environ)
32. Seun Kuti & Fela's Egypt 80, “Think Africa” (Disorient)
33. The Night Marchers, “Who's Lady R U?” (Vagrant)
34. Portishead, “Silence” (Mercury)
35. Surkin, “Next of Kin (Todd Edwards Re-Kindled Mix)” (Institubes)
36. Yves Larock, “Zookey (Lift Your Leg Up) (Bob Sinclar Africanism Remix)” (Tommy Boy)
37. Jay-Z vs. Public Enemy, “Roc Boys (THOSE MFs Remix)” (MP3)
38. Adele, “Cold Shoulder” (XL)
39. The Long Blondes, “Guilt (Pantha Du Prince Remix)” (Rough Trade)
40. Al Green, “Thought It Out” (Blue Note)
41. DJ Q ft. MC Bonez, “You Wot (Wideboys Bassline Remix)” (Ministry of Sound)
42. The Lodger, “The Good Old Days” (Bad Sneakers)
43. Lightning Head, “Bokoor Sound Special” (Lion’s Head)
44. Dop, “Merci” (Orac)
45. The Raveonettes, “You Want the Candy” (Vice)
46. Mariah Carey, “I'm That Chick” (Interscope)
47. Moby, “I Love to Move in Here” (Mute)
48. The Thermals, “Everything Thermals (Daytrotter Session)” (Daytrotter)
49. Sascha Dive, “Annihilating Rhythm” (Drumpoet Community)
50. DJ Donna Summer, “Sweet-Assed Child O’ Mine” (MP3)
51. Awesome Color, “Eyes of Light” (Ecstatic Peace!)
52. Capone-n-Noreaga, “Sexual Seduction Freestyle” (MP3)
53. The Futureheads, “Radio Heart” (Nul)
54. Fake Blood, “Mars” (Cheap Thrills)
55. Girl Talk, “Still Here” (Illegal Art)
56. Guy Noir, “Flex” (Resopal Schallware)
57. Mary J. Blige ft. Lil Wayne, “Just Fine (Remix)” (Geffen)
58. Drive-By Truckers, “That Man I Shot” (New West)
59. Plantlife, “Time Traveller” (Decon)
60. Jill Scott, “My Love” (Hidden Beach)
61. Be Your Own Pet, “Creepy Crawl” (Ecstatic Peace!)
62. Let’s Wrestle, “I Won't Lie to You” (Stolen)
63. Gnarls Barkley, “Run” (Downtown)
64. Williams, “Love on a Real Train (Version By Studio)” (Love Triangle/Information)
65. Raheem DeVaughn, “Customer” (Jive)
66. Quasi, “Never Coming Back Again (Daytrotter Session)” (Daytrotter)
67. Grind Mode, “I'm So High” (Universal)
68. Rodriguez Jr., “Soledad” (Leena)
69. Lawrence, “Sweeping the Stars” (Mule Electronic)
70. Dop, “Cum with Me” (Milnormodern)
71. Pitto, “Sexvibe” (Arearemote)
72. The Bug ft. Warrior Queen, “Poison Dart (South Rakkas Crew Remix)” (Hyperdub)
73. Ricardo Villalobos, “Enfants (Chants)” (Sei Es Drum)
74. The Teenagers, “Feeling Better” (Merok)
75. Hot Chip, “We’re Looking for a Lot of Love” (DFA)

Footage from Metropolis that's been missing for 80 years has been found in Buenos Aires. I've never seen Metropolis, so the idea of seeing it for the first time in its intended state (even if it takes a couple years) is kind of exciting.