The 20 Best Pop Radio Hits of 2016

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Last week was the rap list, and now we continue with year's overview of pop radio (in previous years: 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015). Here's the Spotify playlist.

1. DNCE - "Cake By The Ocean"
#2 Mainstream Top 40, #9 Hot 100
In a year in which the coronation of Nick Jonas as a major solo star faltered badly, the only JoBro that scored a top 10 hit was Joe, whose band DNCE's debut single became a goofy sex euphemism sleeper hit with incredible chart longevity -- it lasted 46 weeks on the Hot 100, longer than any hit this year besides Twenty One Pilots' "Stressed Out," despite only peaking at #9.

2. MNEK & Zara Larsson - "Never Forget You"
#5 Mainstream Top 40, #13 Hot 100
A couple of Euros with weird voices heretofore unknown in the States came out of nowhere with a song that sounded like a lot of American pop but just a little faster, and a little more earnest than anyone from here could probably get away with these days.

3. Bruno Mars - "24K Magic"
#5 Mainstream Top 40, #4 Hot 100
You can't really call a top 5 hit a flop, but "24K Magic" is arguably underperforming given the fact that it's a de facto sequel to the biggest hit of the decade. and the first 2 singles from both of Bruno's previous albums went to #1. But in any event, I appreciate Bruno going whole hog on this Roger Troutman aesthetic and launching a whole album and tour with it.

4. Chainsmokers f/ Daya - "Don't Let Me Down"
#1 Mainstream Top 40, #3 Hot 100
2016 was a year most non-R&B pop superstars ("proper pop" or whatever euphemism you wanna use for white singers) didn't release albums or performed below expectations (cough Gaga cough), leaving a production duo previously known for the crude misogynist 2014 novelty hit "#Selfie" to become the unlikely rulers of Top 40 by pivoting cynically toward earnest EDM power ballads sung by less established young female singers. "Don't Let Me Down" was the best of their 3 blockbuster hits of the year, although it was also the one that sounded the most like a Rihject.

5. Hailee Steinfeld & Grey f/ Zedd "Starving"
#9 Mainstream Top 40, #12 Hot 100
Even some of this year's pop hits that weren't by The Chainsmokers sounded like they were. Between her starring role in the excellent teen film Edge Of Seventeen and her first top 20 hit, Hailee Steinfeld might have pushed the door open this year for an increasingly rare duel career on the radio and in Hollywood.

6. James Bay - "Let It Go"
#8 Mainstream Top 40, #16 Hot 100
James Bay is a British guy in a stupid looking hat, but his forlorn ballad really grew on me and became one of those songs I looked forward to as a quiet moment in otherwise bright loud Top 40 playlists. Of course, many stations played a remix with a cheesy reggae beat added to it, but I much preferred the original.

7. Kungs vs. Cookin' On 3 Burners - "This Girl"
#15 Mainstream Top 40, #26 Hot 100
Speaking of songs remixed for maximum radio play, "This Girl" was kind of this year's version of OMI's "Cheerleader," a years-old minor hit in its homeland that went global thanks to a trendy 'tropical house' edit. In most years, an international dance hit sung by an Australian woman named Kylie would be Minogue, but this time it was Kylie Auldist, who sang on the original 2009 version of "This Girl" by the Aussie soul trio Cookin' On 3 Burners before a French DJ got ahold of it.

8. Ariana Grande - "Into You"
#7 Mainstream Top 40, #13 Hot 100
Ariana Grande faltered in her initial attempt to carry on the momentum of 2014's blockbuster My Everything with last year's haplessly awful "Focus." She came back better with this year's Dangerous Woman singles but it kinda felt like the wind was out of her sails and even a big Max Martin banger didn't quite do as well as it should've.

9. Fifth Harmony f/ Ty Dolla $ign - "Work From Home"
#1 Mainstream Top 40, #4 Hot 100
"Work From Home" is probably the dumbest pop song this year that I actually enjoyed, and that's even before sentient urban slang word cloud Ty Dolla $ign shows up to say "bae" and "juug" and "finesse."

10. Troye Sivan - "Youth"
#18 Mainstream Top 40, #23 Hot 100
An Australia-based queer actor and YouTube vlogger mewling "my youth! my youth!" is probably the most emblematic of how the young are more obsessed with proclaiming their youth than ever before, but as a song, it works.

11. Flume f/ Kai - "Never Be Like You"
#11 Mainstream Top 40, #20 Hot 100
Yet another Australian in a very Australia-heavy (yet virtually Iggy-free) year of pop radio, Flume's breakthrough was like an arty version of a Chainsmokers power ballad, with the producer basically playing a drum solo over the whole big pretty vocal.

12. Flo Rida - "My House"
#1 Mainstream Top 40, #4 Hot 100
Flo Rida's 10th multi-platinum single continued his reign as the definitive generic Top 40 rapper of the iTunes era and now, the streaming era as well. The twist this time, though, was that he rapped over an "Impeach The President" drum break that made Flo rida of all people sound more like '90s hip hop than anything on rap radio this year.

13. Justin Timberlake - "Can't Stop The Feeling!"
#1 Mainstream Top 40, #1 Hot 100
Justin Timberlake has been washed for a long, long time, but it took a while for people to come to terms with it, since he only released albums one year out of the last 10 years and many were kind of in denial about how bad they were. But his reunion with Max Martin, for the first time since the N Sync days, was charmingly cheesy in a way "Suit & Tie" wasn't, and featured the great dirty bass sound Martin has been using on "Into You" and other productions this year.

14. Daya - "Hide Away"
#7 Mainstream Top 40, #23 Hot 100
I often got this song confused with the Chainsmokers' hit "Roses" even before Daya appeared on another Chainsmokers single, but this little sleeper hit has really retained its charm in the year since I first heard it.

15. Chainsmokers f/ Halsey - "Closer"
#1 Mainstream Top 40, #1 Hot 100
The biggest song of the year, by The Chainsmokers or anyone else, actually features one half of the group, Andrew Taggert, singing on the first half before he hands it off to the more capable Halsey, and it's cloying and syrupy and features a weird shout out to listening to Blink 182's "I Miss You," but it grew on me, and I'm kinda glad that something dethroned "One Dance" as the longest reigning #1 of the year.

16. Ariana Grande - "Dangerous Woman"
#4 Mainstream Top 40, #8 Hot 100
Ariana Grande's insistence that she could pull off a grown up femme fatale image overhaul while still wearing animal ears was really one of 2016's most entertaining lost causes.

17. Zayn - "Pillowtalk"
#1 Mainstream Top 40, #1 Hot 100
Released a full year after Zayn's exit from One Direction, following a series of magazine profiles that positioned him as a cutting edge alt R&B trailblazer in the making, "Pillowtalk" sounded faintly ridiculous. But after hearing how much worse the rest of his album is, I can respect "Pillowtalk" as pretty much the best he had to offer.

18. Ellie Goulding - "Something In The Way You Move"
#13 Mainstream Top 40, #43 Hot 100
I feel like a reverse bellwether for Ellie Goulding singles, the more I like them, the worse they perform on the charts. Shame there wasn't a Fifty Shades movie for them to tie this one into to give it a boost.

19. Maroon 5 f/ Kendrick Lamar - "Don't Wanna Know"
#7 Mainstream Top 40, #8 Hot 100
Kendrick Lamar has been collaborating with pop stars and doing corporate endorsements like any seriously famous rapper for the entire 4 years that he's been a seriously famous rapper, and people still act shocked that he's not walking around in a monk robe and subsisting on bread and water. This is a good stupid Top 40 song with a good stupid Top 40 guest rap.

20. Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello - "I Know What You Did Last Summer"
#10 Mainstream Top 40, #20 Hot 100
Shawn Mendes, whose stardom was to Vine as Justin Bieber's was to YouTube in terms of legitimizing the video site as a launching pad for pop singers, reached new heights in 2016 just as Twitter was deciding to shut Vine down. I like this song, but for as long as I hear Shawn Mendes on the radio, I will feel bitter that his career outlasted Vine.

The 10 Worst Pop Radio Hits of 2016:
1. Justin Bieber - "Love Yourself"
2. Mike Posner - "I Took A Pill In Ibiza"
3. Lukas Graham - "7 Years"
4. Adele - "When We Were Young"
5. The Weeknd f/ Daft Punk - "Starboy"
6. Lady Gaga - "Perfect Illusion"
7. Charlie Puth f/ Selena Gomez - "We Don't Talk Anymore"
8. Selena Gomez - "Same Old Love"
9. Selena Gomez - "Hands To Myself"
10. Kiiara - "Gold"

Sunday, December 04, 2016

I made playlists of Young Thug's best music of 2016 and Future's best of 2016 for The Dowsers. I also have Spotify playlists of the best of the 2016 output of some of the other most prolific rappers of the year who released multiple projects: Boosie Badazz, Gucci Mane, and 2 Chainz.

Monthly Report: November 2016 Albums

Friday, December 02, 2016

1. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
Phife's death really hit me hard earlier this year, maybe moreso than any other musician that passed in 2016. But I was never hanging on for a new Tribe album, it always seemed like a pipe dream and I was content to just wait for Q-Tip to make a new solo album. So it's really a wonderful surprise to get this album, and hear Phife rap one last time and still have that spring in his step. And Jarobi, who was a minor presence on the group's first album and then basically absent but frequently namechecked as an honorary member for the rest of Tribe's '90s run, actually raps several verses on We Got It and is really dope, it makes me wonder what me missed out on when his verses for Low End Theory were left off the album. The production on this album is really what makes it special, though, "Space Program" and "Solid Wall of Sound" sound amazing. Listening to this album at the end of that awful election week was really one of the most emotional experiences I've had with music in a while. I released my own album in November, but this Tribe record is probably my musical highlight of the month anyway.

2. Dawn Richard - Redemption
It's been really exciting and fascinating to watch Dawn Richard's solo career unfold over the past 6 years, from A Tell Tale Heart to now. Blackheart really bowled me over as her most creative and ambitious album to date, and Redemption kind of continues that sound. It's gorgeous and otherworldly and unpredictable, but in terms of the strength of the songs, it kind of feels to me like a solid but lesser sequel much like I thought Goldenheart was the lesser sequel to Armor On. There are some jams on here, though, the stretch in the second half, "Lazarus" and "Tyrant" and "Vines" in particular.

3. Bruno Mars - 24K Magic
There's nothing like making the biggest single of the decade to bolster your confidence in a creative direction, and 24K Magic feels very much like Bruno Mars taking the success of "Uptown Funk" as a cue to go whole hog on playful pastiches of the '80s and '90s R&B and funk. I loved the title track right off the bat, and I appreciate that he made a 33-minute album that's so light on its feet, but I miss the variety and less campy songwriting of Unorthodox Jukebox a little. That New Jack Swing groove on "Finesse" is great, though.

As much as I love "Cake By The Ocean," I didn't necessarily expect much from DNCE's album, and was pleasantly surprised that it's almost as enjoyable a retro funk confection as the Bruno Mars record. There is a stretch in the middle where it takes an unfortunate dip into Smashmouth territory, but for the most part it's pretty killer.

5. E-40 - The D-Boy Diary
For the 6th time just in this decade, E-40 has released over 100 minutes of music at once. In fact, this time it's 158 minutes. There's really not any rapper that any of us need that much music from, but I respect that a vet who's pioneered and perfected a regional sound is still churning it out at this level at 49 years old. The first guest verse on the album is G-Eazy, but other than that there are no missteps, and the second disc is stronger than the first.

6. Body/Head - No Waves
Kim Gordon has probably made the least music outside of Sonic Youth, both during the band's run and since their split about 5 years ago -- in a way I think she's the one who really required the context of Sonic Youth to thrive and create with such a rich musical legacy for her unusual voice and lyrics, although I always had a soft spot for Free Kitten. But I'm always curious to hear what she can do, and Body/Head is a project with Bill Nace, two guitars with no rhythm section and occasional vocals, very noisy and drawn out but with occasionally flashes of intensity.

7. Boosie Badazz - Happy Thanksgiving And Merry Christmas
Boosie released 5 solo albums (plus one with C-Murder) in the first half of 2016, and talked about the possibility of keeping up that monthly pace for the entire year, but ended up slowing down for the last few months, which is fine since I'm still processing all the music he's already put out. But I was pleasantly surprised that he got one more out before the end of the year, with a festive title and cover but mostly the same old bleak Boosie music.

8. Dae Dae & London On Da Track - The DefAnition
London On Da Track is by far one of my favorite rap producers of the past few years, and I'm still bitter that Young Thug passed on the opportunity to make the first Slime Season with all London beats (although I could at least easily make a playlist of Thug/London songs). So surprisingly, the first Atlanta rapper to do a full project with London is Dae Dae, a newer dude with a couple of radio hits this year (neither of which was produced by London). Dae Dae doesn't have a whole lot of personality but he can write, this record is pretty solid.

9. E - E
This is a new Thrill Jockey band featuring Thalia Zedek, really nice little loud propulsive rock record, digging it a little more that Zedek's last solo record that came out in August.

10. Tinashe - Nightride
I was a pretty big fan of Tinashe's major label debut Aquarius and most of the underperforming singles released in advance of her planned follow-up Joyride. But after that project was delayed many times, her label RCA released a "surprise" "mixtape" under the title Nightride which features some of her more downtempo recent singles ("Company," "Ride Of Your Life," "Party Favors") but not the uptempo ones ("Player," "Superlove"). It's a pretty shrewd way to get some of that music out there while still holding out hope that they can launch Joyride as a big dance pop album, but I don't know if it actually works out that well musically to kind of sequester Tinashe's tumblr trip hop side into its own record, it's all pretty low energy and lacks the variety of Aquarius. Also, I got pretty mad at this record on the 2nd listen when I realized she really said "got money comin', that's a Forbesgasm," though.

Worst Album of the Month: The Weeknd - Starboy
As someone who hated The Weeknd's "important" early work and half-heartedly enjoyed his crossover pop move last year, I was optimistic that he would continue to at least be tolerable, but this album is really garbage. He's always reminded me of those kids on YouTube who cover rap songs in solemn falsetto but now he's increasingly writing his own awful punchlines like "David Carradine, I'ma die when I cum" and "got a sweet Asian chick, she go low mane." I thought this album was doomed to be another Kiss Land but for some reason it actually seems to be connecting almost as much as the last one.

The 20 Best Rap Radio Hits of 2016.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

I've been doing this for 5 years now (see 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015), so you know how it goes. Here's the Spotify playlist.

1. Chance The Rapper f/ 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne "No Problem"
#1 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #43 Hot 100
Much like Rich Homie Quan had last year's biggest rap radio hit on an indie label, there's been an impressive amount of radio hits in 2015 without a major label behind them, including #1, #2 and #10 on this list. But what struck me most about the biggest of those songs is that it opens with Chance The Rapper openly threatening any major label that stands in his way (apparently Def Jam blocked a Big Sean verse from appearing on Coloring Book, which is a net positive, but whatever). And then the song ends with a rapper who's made hundreds of millions of dollars for major labels pleading for the release of his long-shelved album, which is probably the best possible advertisement for Chance's DIY business model.

2. Young M.A "OOOUUU"
#2 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #19 Hot 100
At the beginning of the year, I thought the minor airplay of The Internet's "Girl" and Gizzle's verse on Puff Daddy's "You Could Be My Lover" might represent some new visibility and acceptance of queer women on urban radio, not knowing that someone as uproarious and brash as Young M.A would kick in the door rapping about her strap-on in heavy rotation a few months later. Even though her big hit jacks the flow of another New York rapper's breakthrough song from a couple years earlier, Bobby Shmurda, "OOOUUU" still feels as fresh and unexpected now as it did the first time I heard it in June, a few weeks before its national buzz picked up. And I knew it was one of my favorite beats of the year when I felt offended by the bad replica beat Nicki Minaj used for her freestyle.

3. Kevin Gates - "Really Really"
#16 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #46 Hot 100
Translating the popularity of a steady trickle of mixtapes and singles into a blockbuster album is biggest career hurdle facing southern rappers these days, and Atlantic's patient rollout for Islah is a model of how to do it right. "Really Really" was hanging around the Hot 100 for months and going platinum even before it went to radio as the follow-up to "2 Phones," and even if it wasn't as big a hit as I wanted it to be, it still felt like one of those perfect crossover anthems like T.I. used to make.

4. Young Greatness - "Moolah"
#11 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #85 Hot 100
I think my biggest surprise of 2016 is that Jazze Pha came out of nowhere with one of my favorite beats. Where has that dude been all those years?

5. DJ Khaled f/ Drake - "For Free"
#2 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #13 Hot 100
Drake is the biggest rapper of the decade and this year he released his biggest album, but there was a little cognitive dissonance in that for the first time in his career, the 4 most popular songs on the album were ones he sang on. And most of the rap songs on Views were really just not fun at all and were responsible for the album's muted critical reception. So a goofy 2-minute sex rap that Drake tossed to DJ Khaled to throw ad libs on ended up being by far his most memorably moment as a rapper in 2016, because he actually sounded like he was having fun and trying a different kind of beat.

6. O.T. Genasis f/ Young Dolph - "Cut It"
#4 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #35 Hot 100
O.T. Genasis is an odd artist: a rapper from Long Beach who came up under the wing of Busta Rhymes and makes the most cartoonish caricature of trap music in the world. But after "Coco" sounded like an obvious one hit wonder, he came back with a bigger and much better song that grudgingly earned my respect, and continued Young Dolph's run of memorable guest verses that are bigger than any of his solo singles.

7. Young Thug - "Best Friend"
#8 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #45 Hot 100
Although "Best Friend" was one of the clear breakouts of Young Thug's flood of summer 2015 music, 300 took their sweet time promoting it to radio and finally gave him his first solo platinum single.

8. Rae Sremmurd f/ Gucci Mane - "Black Beatles"
#1 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #1 Hot 100
After SremmLife's staggering run of 5 platinum singles, Rae Sremmurd's second album got off to a slow start with 2 singles that failed to connect and had SremmLife 2 looking like it would go down as rap's Pinkerton. And then, "Black Beatles" started the climb the charts, and the viral "mannequin challenge" gave the song that extra boost to turn it into a crossover smash. But I think my favorite thing about this song is that it features one of Gucci Mane's best recent verses and him having his first #1 kind of puts a perfect cap on his 2016 comeback.

9. D.R.A.M. f/ Lil Yachty - "Broccoli"
#1 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #5 Hot 100
In this post-Drake world where every rapper sings and every singer raps, it's hard to know exactly where to situate some of these songs when I do genre-based lists. So I make judgment calls like that Dreezy is a rapper who sang on her biggest hit, and D.R.A.M. is a singer who rapped on his biggest hit. All year, even before they appeared on the XXL Freshmen issue cover, Lil Yachty was one of the 4 horsemen of the 2016 rap generation gap apocalypse along with Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage and Kodak Black. But while those guys are still slowly creeping into light rotation on radio, Yachty's "Broccoli" feature became the first real serious hit out of that group, but I would still say that I prefer D.R.A.M.'s verse, which I identify with very strongly because I too define prosperity by how often I can eat a nova lox bagel.

10. YFN Lucci f/ Migos and Trouble "Key To The Streets"
#11 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #70 Hot 100
"Key To The Streets" is not the best possible breakthrough song for YFN Lucci because I suspect that a lot of people just hear Quavo's voice and assume that the other prominent voice on the song is one of the other Migos. But it's also an effective signature for Lucci in the sense that all of his best songs are forlorn-sounding piano ballads.

11. Dae Dae - "Wat U Mean (Aye, Aye, Aye)"
#7 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #66 Hot 100
"Wat U Mean" features probably the best opening bars of any of these songs, I just love the way Dae Dae lays into his flow before the drums kick in. And as a boring old dad it's kind of nice to have a rap hit that is very plainly just about working hard to feed your family.

12. Fat Joe and Remy Ma featuring French Montana - "All The Way Up"
#7 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #27 Hot 100
Much like Gucci on "Black Beatles," I think my favorite thing about "All The Way Up" is that it helped revive Remy Ma's post-prison rap career after it looked like she might just settle into a VH1 reality show career purgatory.

13. Future - "Wicked"
#6 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #41 Hot 100
In further proof that mixtape rappers really have no idea what songs will connect and when, "Wicked" was tossed out on Future's free January mixtape Purple Reign and then became a bigger hit than anything on the chart-topping February album EVOL, so it was eventually tacked onto the end of the album.

14. Yo Gotti f/ E-40 - "Law"
#6 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #79 Hot 100
A couple years Jay-Z's senior, E-40 is the oldest rapper who still has new music on the radio, with a run of guest verses on hits by Big Sean, Ty Dolla $ign and Yo Gotti, and two of his biggest later solo singles ("Function" and "Choices") were certified platinum this year. But I mostly like "Law" because it kind of got back to what Yo Gotti excels at, after he had the biggest song of his career with a goofy "ten Instagram commandments" song about social media etiquette.

15. Amine - "Caroline"
#27 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #12 Hot 100
I had no idea what to make of this song at first, but I like it more every time I hear it, and I feel like it's still on its way to getting much bigger.

16. DJ Luke Nasty - "Might Be"
#4 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #78 Hot 100
Anderson Paak is one of the more buzzed about new artists of 2016, but while he's still waiting on his own first radio hit, another artist basically jacked the beat and hook of a song from one of his indie albums and rode it to heavy rotation. It's kind of fucked, but I still like Luke Nasty's version of "Might Be" as much as Paak's, if not more.

17. Kevin Gates - "2 Phones"
#5 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #17 Hot 100
Brittany "Starrah" Hazzard is the 2016 MVP you probably haven't heard of, co-writing Kevin Gates's biggest hit as well as Rihanna's "Needed Me," Dreezy's "Body," Drake's "Fake Love," and a shitload of other hot songs. Don't sleep.

18. Travi$ Scott and Young Thug f/ Quavo - "Pick Up The Phone"
#16 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #43 Hot 100
Another Starrah hook, which Travi$ Scott was canny enough to rescue from the growing pile of potential hits in Young Thug's vault.

19. Curren$y f/ Lil Wayne and August Alsina - "Bottom Of The Bottle"
#14 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, #97 Hot 100
15 years after Curren$y started his career with post-peak No Limit and a full decade after he had one minor hit with Young Money and jumped ship before it became a star factory, Curren$y reunited with Lil Wayne and landed the biggest radio song of his career. It doesn't really represent much of what's made him a respected cult star, but it's a catchy little song.

20. Plies - "Ran Off On The Plug Twice"
#27 R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay
True story: the teleprompting company I work for does a lot of work with Ritz Carlton's parent company, Marriott, and I found myself at the Ritz Carlton HQ in Chevy Chase, Maryland with their chief officer of sales and marketing right around the time "Ritz Carlton" by Plies was blowing up. I asked him if he'd heard the song and he replied "oh, we know about it" with the weary tone that gave me the impression they knew they could neither stop the song nor capitalize on "wanna fuck me, baby, pull up at the Ritz Carlton." In the end, though, Plies changed the song title to one of the lines in the verses that went viral, which maybe gave that guy a little less of a headache.

The 10 Worst Rap Radio Hits of 2016: 
1. Desiigner - "Panda"
2. Wale - "My PYT"
3. ScHoolboy Q f/ Kanye West - "THat Part"
4. Lil Dicky f/ Fetty Wap and Rich Homie Quan - "Save Dat Money"
5. DJ Khaled f/ Nicki Minaj, August Alsina, Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Jeremih, and Future - "Do You Mind"
6. MadeinTYO - "Uber Everywhere"
7. A$AP Ferg f/ Future - "New Level"
8. TK N Cash - "3 Times In A Row"
9. Fetty Wap - "Wake Up"
10. Lil Yachty - "1 Night"

Muscle Memory Liner Notes, Part 1

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I released Western Blot's debut album Muscle Memory in November, so here are some notes on the recording process, song by song.

Track 1: ETC

There are a couple of stupid jokes embedded in the first song on Muscle Memory. One is that "ETC" is an acronym for the lyric "entirely too comfortable" and not the abbreviation for "et cetera," And of course "etc." would be a counterintuitive phrase to put at the beginning of something (and I'd never make a song with that title because there's no topping R. Kelly's "Etcetera").

There's also some semi-intentional bitter irony in opening the album with the lyric "patience is a virtue, well lately I don't know about that" because of just how long this record took to put together and release. It was always a strong candidate for the first track on the album, and as the years dragged on, it seemed right to open the record with a song about procrastination and missed opportunities. The recording of Muscle Memory spanned pretty much my entire twenties -- there's a bit on the album I recorded at 19, and we finished it up a bit after I turned 30. But it wasn't an epic Chinese Democracy effort of hundreds of hours of recording, there was a lot of just accumulating ideas here and there, letting them sit for a couple years, then coming back to them until they became real songs.

I've been intent on making music since I was 10 or 11 years old, when my mom's house got MTV and I went crazy for Guns 'N Roses and Pearl Jam, started playing percussion in school band, and filling notebooks with "lyrics" (I didn't have music to go with the words, but I was always writing words for "songs" with verses and choruses, never thought of it as poetry, and of course for many years most of it was hilariously bad). I got my first drum kit at 13 (and the kick drum from that set is what I still use today and played throughout Muscle Memory), and soon started playing in bands with my brother and friends. But we mostly just jammed or learned covers, and I learned that it's hard to really write songs from behind a drum set. I once threw my "lyric" notebook open for my bandmates to try and use but nothing ever really came of it.

I loved drumming and didn't particularly want to learn guitar, so in my teens I started to think that what I really needed was a keyboard. I'd start to love what a lot of new wave and classic rock bands had done with synths in the '70s and also some of the contemporary indie and punk bands were starting to use synths more at the time in the '90s, so for Christmas one year in high school I asked for a keyboard and my mom got me a Casio. And, like the kick drum I got at 13, that Casio is still what I use all the time and play all over Muscle Memory.

I got a Tascam 4-track in college and started to just record a lot of little keyboard ideas and just let them pile up. "ETC" was one of the first things I came up with where I had 2 different parts that I realized would fit together as a verse and a chorus. Around the same time, I wrote a draft of the chorus lyrics in one of my Towson University notebooks, but it would be years before I thought to put those words to that music. For a long time I just kept recording instrumental demos and writing lyrics but not really putting together music and lyrics successfully or recording my voice at all, I knew I wanted to write songs with lyrics but didn't particularly want to sing.

Around that time I befriended Mat Schulman (now Mat Leffler-Schulman), who was a few years older than me and finished college around the time I started college. We loved a lot of the same bands and went to shows together, he had a fan website for Soul Coughing and we went and saw them before they broke up, and he was a Prince fanatic who turned me onto a lot of Prince stuff I'd never heard before. Like me, Mat was a drummer who played in guitar bands but also dabbled in synths, and he made 3 albums under the name Mons full of weird spacey Brian Eno/Trans Am experiments with synths and drum machines. So I was really inspired by that and would make Mat tapes of my demos and made plans with him to record my stuff with him.

So around the time I was finishing college and playing drums in a weird metal band called Zuul, every few weekends I'd put my drums and my keyboard in my car and go down to Takoma Park and record with Mat at Olympus Mons Studio, which was in his basement. We recorded instrumental tracks for about a dozen songs, some were just just drums or drums and a single synth line, some were pretty complete arrangements. And then Mat moved into a new house with his wife Emily, and so we made a CD of rough mixes of those tracks before he packed up the studio

After we mixed down those Takoma Park demos, Mat ended up not setting his studio back up in the next house he moved into, and we didn't work on music again for a few years. I focused on writing about music and my freelancing career started to take off, so that took up a lot of the time I used to spend on making music. And then, Mat and his wife Emily decided to move to Baltimore and start a studio in Charles Village, and Mobtown Studios was born. I helped them paint some of the rooms, helped out with PR and various Mobtown projects and was really excited for them to get involved in the Baltimore scene and for Mat to realize one of his longtime ambitions. And eventually, after Mat got settled in at the studio and made it a viable business, he invited me to finish my record at a real studio.

We kept some of the Takoma Park recordings and kept adding to them for the final Muscle Memory tracks, but "ETC" was one song where we basically scrapped the entire Takoma Park version and started over. The original was pretty much the same without the intro and with minor differences in the outro, but it was a few clicks slower, mostly because I was really married to this syncopated bassline that wouldn't have worked at a higher tempo, and wound up with something that really sounded kind of slack and subdued compared to some of the other songs. I have a habit of trying to make songs as fast as they can be without them being so fast they feel rushed or fall apart, and one of the few times I didn't do that, it didn't work out, so louder and faster was generally the guiding principle for this project.

So at Mobtown we started it from scratch, and I kind of had a eureka moment with the drums and came up with the snare fills on the chorus that give it this cool push and pull to the rhythm, and figured out a new bassline that worked well with the faster tempo. And it was one of the songs where Mat let me run the Casio through an amp and then mic'd the amp for the bassline to give it a nice dirty sound. My goal with the record was to really make a bombastic guitar rock album with no guitars, which meant always figuring out how to use distortion and mixing to give synthesizers the same kind of noisy attack that you get very easily with electric guitars, and Mat was really instrumental in making that a reality. I remember one day he put some filters on the synths in "ETC," which are most or all just my cheap Casio, and suddenly everything just popped so much more than it did the day I recorded it.

Mat listens to more instrumental music than I do, so I don't know if he ever really cared if I added vocals to the songs, but it was always my ultimate goal, and I write so much about rap that he kinda wondered if I was gonna put MCs on the song, but I always wanted it to be a rock record with sung vocals. And since I had very little ability or inclination to sing on the record myself, I settled on the idea to kind of make it a patchwork of different voices, and started thinking about local people from Baltimore bands that I might be able to ask.

I was working on a story about the short-lived Baltimore venue Lo-Fi Social Club once when I stopped by and one of the bands that was playing that night was called Vinny Vegas. And I was immediately struck by how great their singer's voice was, because even if you see a lot of awesome bands in tiny clubs, vocals are really their strong suit, so that always stands out. And I picked up an EP they had at the show. So when I was thinking of singers for the record, they came to mind, and I looked up their singer, Scott Siskind, and sent him an e-mail. "ETC" was really one of the easier songs on the album for me to sing and I could've used my own voice on it, but I knew it could be better with someone else on it (at one point we tried Andy Shankman on the song but didn't finish recording him, but he's sung it live many times now and sounds a lot more comfortable with it now than he did in the studio that day).

We recorded both of Scott's appearances on the album in the same night, and "Child Of Divorce" was kind of the delicate challenging one that we had to figure out first before moving on to the somewhat easier "ETC." I didn't write anything in the way of harmonies, but he ended up coming up with a great little backing harmony to add to the bridge. It's an odd song, vocally -- the first verse and the second verse each have a completely different meter and rhyme scheme, and the pre-chorus is an odd number of measures -- but Scott is so good and just nailed it.

The keyboard intro was one of the last things I recorded for the album. For a long time the song just started just hammering down on that one piano chord, kind of in homage to the beginning of the first Ben Folds Five record but also to the way a lot of old Neptunes productions would open with the first note of the song repeating 4 times. But as "ETC" became the clear candidate for the first song on the album, I felt like it needed something else at the beginning, so I took three bars from the pre-chorus melody and turned into an intro, kind of thinking of the way Bruce Springsteen's "10th Avenue Freeze-Out" opens with the horn riff from the bridge, and the way the E Street Band will stretch out and repeat that intro in concert, which I've been trying to do more and more with the "ETC" intro when we play it live.

Movie Diary

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

a) Spectre
So much of the press around this movie was about how Daniel Craig was openly was sick of playing James Bond that I kind of expected him to to just sullenly sleepwalk through the role and drag the entire thing down. So I was surprised that the moments of levity in Spectre are as effective as any of the Craig films, and that the whole thing is fun in kind of an on-the-nose way -- it opens with a bad guy toasting "to death!" and there is something inevitable yet totally justified and appreciated about Christoph Waltz being a bond villain and Monica Bellucci being a Bond girl.

b) Mr. Right
It's been over 20 years since Pulp Fiction inspired a wave of darkly humorous movies about the inner lives of hitmen, and for some reason it's still happening to some degree. This one is written by Max Landis, perhaps doomed by his name to forever make inferior "edgy" millennial versions of movies by previous generations, and is at least animated by spirited Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell performances before it kind of collapses into a far less charming Grosse Pointe Blank thing.

c) By The Sea
The Pitt-Jolie union began with them co-starring in a light, sexy movie about a faltering marriage, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and then it ended with a drab, depressing movie about a faltering marriage. I think they should've just made a sequel.

d) Creed
It still blows my mind that Wallace from "The Wire" is a bona fide movie star, I feel weirdly proud of Michael B. Jordan, just watching his career blossom into moments like Creed. I have a passing affection for Rocky movies and a weariness of boxing movies in general, but this movie really did a great job of breathing some new life into the familiar tropes of both, and by the end I was on the edge of my seat seeing how the final fight would end, they really shot and choreographed that fight incredibly well.

e) Sicario
Emily Blunt is maybe my favorite movie star out right now, and I thought it was badass that she got to star in this movie after producers had tried to change the screenplay's protagonist from a woman to a man. That said, outside of a couple of pretty gripping scenes, I didn't think much of it. 

f) Grandma
I enjoyed what a deliberately small scale, intimate movie this is -- it runs less than 80 minutes and basically covers one day in the life of 2 characters. And between this and "Grace And Frankie," Lily Tomlin is having a good run of playing lovably cantankerous hippie grandmothers. 

g) The D Train
I didn't even hear of this movie until I watched it on cable, but apparently last year it had "the 15th worst opening for a wide release film of all time." I thought I was just watching this amiable, unremarkable comedy about a high school reunion, with Jack Black playing the insecure nerd and James Marsden as the cool jock, but then in the first act it kind of took a surprising twist when they fuck. Unfortunately the rest of the movie kind of fails to really do or say anything funny or substantial about that plot point and it just becomes this weird flailing movie that is neither a regressive gay panic comedy nor a love story or really much of anything. 

h) The World According To Garp
A few years ago I read the John Irving novel and had kind of a love/hate relationship with it and often thought about how such a deliberately overstuffed book must've made for a strange movie. So it was interesting to finally watch it. I really never could visualize Robin Williams as Garp, though, and really very little of the casting worked for me, I definitely prefer the book, even if I still have issues with the book. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Last night I went to the "Stand For Standing Rock" benefit at DAR Constitution Hall and saw Dave Matthews, Graham Nash, Neko Case and Ledisi perform, and wrote about it for Rolling Stone.

(photo by Kyle Gustafson)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Western Blot's debut album Muscle Memory is out on Bandcamp today. I worked on this album on and off for many years, playing every instrument and writing the lyrics, some of which were sung by folks from various Baltimore bands (Andy Shankman of Jumpcuts, Kathleen Wilson of Thee Lexington Arrows, Scott Siskind of Vinny Vegas, and Shawna Potter of War On Women). My old friend Mat-Leffler-Schulman recorded, mixed, and co-produced the record at Mobtown Studios, and the album artwork features sculptures made by Donald Edwards, photographed by my wife, Jennifer German-Shipley. This was a big passion project that I've waited a long time to share with people, I hope you check it out.

The album release party is on December 9 at Reverb.

TV Diary

Monday, November 21, 2016

a) "Search Party" 
I'm not a fan of TBS's whole thing of piggybacking on the Netflix "bingewatching" trend of making whole seasons of shows available all at once. But they put "Search Party" on demand today and I had a day off so I ended up watching about half the season, it's pretty good. They go a little thick on the 'annoying NYC millennials' thing in the pilot -- in the first five minutes of the show, the characters go to brunch, tweet, and play ukulele. But after they settle into the mystery that drives the plot, it becomes pretty fun. I liked John Early's episode of "The Characters" so it's cool to see him get a big role like this, he's responsible for a lot of the show's biggest laughs, and Alia Shawkat is kind of a perfect straight man for all the odd things going on. and always has great hair and adorable outfits.

b) "Undercover"
I watched the first episode of the 6-part BBC miniseries about a lawyer trying to exonerate a death row inmate, it was pretty bleak, don't know if I'll go back to it.

c) "Good Behavior"
I feel like this is one of those shows about a brilliant, creative character, in this case a con artist, that actually needs some brilliant, creative writing to actually work, and the pilot really just failed to pull that off.

d) "Mars"
This show's mix of documentary and dramatization is interesting, and it is exciting to think about the idea that humans could be going to Mars in our lifetime. But the dramatized parts mostly felt like a less compelling version of that Matt Damon movie.

e) "The Crown"
As period pieces become more and more common on television and the production values and attention to detail become lavish and impressive, I have a harder and harder time giving a damn about how well a show can depict 1947 England or whatever. John Lithgow as Wiston Churchill is a good choice, though.

f) "Stan Against Evil"
I love John C. McGinley and always thought he deserved to have a bright career in comedy after being improbably great in "Scrubs" all those years. So I'm pleased that, after a couple years on that stupid "Ground Floor" show, he's finally wound up with a promising star vehicle, created by Dana Gould (an underrated standup and a staff writer from the silver age of "The Simpsons"). The first couple episodes have gotten off to an odd, slow start but it's starting to grow on me as they give McGinley more dialogue, and it kinda feels like this show is doing a better job of translating the tone of the Evil Dead movies to a series than "Ash vs Evil Dead" itself.

g) "Jon Glaser Loves Gear"
This is a show on TruTV where Jon Glaser basically satirizes reality shows about cool guys doing cool adventurous stuff, so of course there's a lot of meta jokes and awkwardness and arguing. I enjoyed it, but not necessarily something I'm in a rush to keep watching.

h) "Desus and Mero"
It's weird as a Twitter user to be, I guess, proud of these guys for climbing out of the social media cesspool and becoming actual TV stars? I was skeptical when they did crap like "Guy Code" but it obviously worked because they ended up with their own show on Viceland. It's pretty good, something that I can flip over to if both "The Daily Show" and "Conan" are on commercial breaks. But I can never shake the feeling that Desus could actually write or create something really good if he wasn't glued to all these improv-driven projects with a less creative partner who tweets and speaks in all caps.

i) "Wolf Creek"
The 2005 film Wolf Creek was an extremely grisly, frightening horror flick about a killer in the Australian outback, one place where you can really genuinely might not be able to run for help. It was a memorable movie, but turning it into a series, with John Jarratt reprising his role as the killer, is kind of an unpleasant idea since it asks you to just live in that bleak world for a while instead of visiting it for a couple hours. He kills a whole family, including a child, in the first few scenes of the show, and then it kind of becomes about this girl looking for him and trying to avenge her family, which is a good way to turn it into a series, but I dunno, I'm not real into it.

j) "Timeless"
With all the high concept sci-fi shows thriving on TV right now, I guess a time machine show is inevitable. But this just a goofy NBC show where they go back to famous moments in history, and the pilot where they go back to the Hindenburg explosion had some really paltry visual effects. It's nice to see Malcolm Barrett from "Better Off Ted" in a network show again, but he has to play the black guy who goes back in time to the more racist past and it's just really uncomfortable how they wink at that idea as kind of a comedic device.

k) "Westworld"
I like this show but I'm also kinda treating it like "Lost," where I'm just watching and taking the story one scene at a time and letting the internet obsessives come up with their theories of where it's all headed. I am kind of impressed by how much they've been able to make me empathize with the characters that are robots, although I guess it helps that they have such a high caliber cast. Every time there's an extremely emotional scene with the hosts, I think about whether the dramatic score is actually being played for the guests to hear, like a video game. It's nice to see Jimmi Simpson get a meaty role in something this high profile, been rooting for the dude since "Breakout Kings."

l) "The Exorcist"
I liked this show from the beginning but was skeptical that it would ever grip me as much as the movie. But in the last few episodes it really grabbed me, even before the big reveal that the story basically takes place in the same narrative as the film and isn't a 'reboot' after all. Hannah Kasulka is doing a great job with the role of the possessed girl, the scenes where she has visions of 'The Salesman' are creepy as hell (although I miss 'Captain Howdy' being the nickname for the demon).

m) "Speechless"
I found this show likable right away, but more and more I think it's becoming one of the most laugh-out-loud new comedies this fall, Minnie Driver and John Ross Bowie are really becoming one of those great sets of sitcom parents that are hilarious and inappropriate but also seem like real, genuine caring parents.

n) "The Good Place"
Another one of my favorite new shows that's been coming along well, the reveal with Manny Jacinto's character really kinda injected a grew new dynamic into the show when I wasn't sure how much mileage they'd get out of the initial dynamic between the characters.

o) "Red Oaks" 
I watched the whole first season of this last year and it left very little impression, so I thought I'd dip my toe in for the 2nd season, but it's still just incredibly an unfunny bag of '80s coming-of-age cliches. Even starting out the new season in Paris didn't really change any of that. It's weird that Steven Soderbergh, Hal Hartley and David Gordon Greene are involved with something this cheesy and bland.

p) "You're The Worst" 
The third season just wrapped up, and I like the way they kinda brought things to a head with the 3 couples on the show in the finale. But the really impressive episode was the one before that, which took place in a wedding and had several really long uninterrupted shots of the camera following multiple characters from room to room, it was really one of the more ambitious things I've seen a comedy do lately. Also I'm glad that Kether Donohue is finally getting some of the press she deserves. 

q) "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
I enjoyed the undercover plot at the beginning of the season, but I'm glad they didn't draw it out too long and are back to 'normal.' That night where "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "New Girl" both had crossover episodes with each other was pretty pointless and anticlimactic, though. I guess the bar for sitcom crossover episodes is not very high, though.

r) "Drunk History"
This season has been pretty good, I'm so glad they brought Paget Brewster back, she's really one of their best drunk storytellers.

s) "American Horror Story"
This was the first season of "American Horror Story" that I actually finished, and I kinda wish I hadn't. I had a feeling that the narrator/reenactment structure would eventually have a twist, but once they did it halfway through the season, the whole thing got way less interesting to me and just turned into a "Blair Witch" found footage horror thing, and then the finale was just a barrage of stupid meta jokes.

t) "Shameless"
After 6 seasons that each ran from January to April every year, Showtime decided to speed up the "Shameless" schedule and put season 7 on in the fall. I think it's kind of a terrible idea, an aging show that's running out of ideas should probably take more time between seasons to put more thought into it or make you miss it instead of going back-to-back, but oh well. I just kinda watch it out of habit at this point. I'm almost bummed they passed up a chance to finally kill William H. Macy's character, I don't know how much more ridiculous and evil they can make him.

u) "Saturday Night Live"
I'm kinda torn between staying pissed at "SNL" for having Trump host last year and becoming a part of this whole awful effort to normalize his hateful candidacy and wanting Alec Baldwin to keep coming on the show and pissing Trump off. The Dave Chappelle episode was pretty great, but the whole thing with Hillary Clinton singing Leonard Cohen was just the corniest zeitgeist mashup ever.

Monthly Report: November 2016 Singles

Thursday, November 17, 2016

1. Mary J. Blige - "Thick Of It"
Mary J. has had so many signature songs that are either about her personal heartbreaks or the triumphant moments when she overcomes the drama that I've wondered if people have developed an unhealthy attitude about, like, celebrating her misfortune. And that seemed to be confirmed recently by the extremely creepy way many reacted to the news of her divorce, and how much that seemed to drum up interest around her new single. But it is her best single in a while, with DJ Camper bringing a bit of the regal sound of his biggest hit, Tamar Braxton's "Love And War," to a cathartic Jazmine Sullivan lyric. Here's the playlist of favorite 2016 singles that I add to every month.

2. OneRepublic - "Kids"
I have begrudging respect for Ryan Tedder, I tend to think of him as an adult contempo hack, but he's written a fair number of songs I really enjoy, including a few OneRepublic hits. I kinda wish he'd given this song to someone better, but it works with his voice.

3. Zara Larsson - "Ain't My Fault"
Zara Larsson of Sweden has released nothing but bangers this year, I don't even know how much I like her voice but I can't knock her track record. This song is produced by MNEK, her British duet partner from her breakthrough "Never Forget You," but it feels a little more in step with U.S. pop, almost like it could be a Rihject.

4. Fifth Harmony - "That's My Girl"
I'm glad this got picked as a single, that stupid watered down Mad Cobra interpolation was a lousy choice for the last single. Like most Fifth Harmony songs, it feels somehow behind the times, but it makes a good use of one of those once-trendy horn loops that helped propel "Worth It" up the charts.

5. Maxwell - "1990x"
I'm still kinda coming to grips with just how much I like blackSUMMERS'night but this song has grown on me a lot, he's really mining an interesting mix of 'live' elements and synths, the drums just sound fantastic.

6. Young Thug - "Digits"
I almost always prefer Young Thug when he's produced by London On Da Track, and so I was gratified that this Slime Season 3 track started to get some radio spins after the release of the London--free JEFFERY.

7. Niall Horan - "This Town"
One Direction has kind of split into these factions of the obvious solo stars (Zayn and Harry) and the capable songwriters who seem to be maneuvering more into a behind-the-scenes role (Liam and Louis), and I wasn't sure where Niall would fall into that. So I was pleasantly surprised that he released a solo single, which captures a lot of the charm of downtempo folky One Direction, even if he's really not one of my favorite voices and I miss the harmonies the group would've brought to this.

8. The Struts - "Put Your Money On Me"
British rock is so proudly stagnant that I almost kind of respect how shameless bands like The Struts are, who seem to pick up right where Australia's Jet left off in making lazy but catchy glammy riff rock.

9. Pitbull f/ Flo Rida and Lunchmoney Lewis - "Greenlight"
For nearly a decade, Pitbull and Flo Rida have been these kind of parallel Florida titans of pop rap blockbusters, but the first time they released a single together, 2013's "Can't Believe It," it surprisingly flopped, and this second time together doesn't seem to be doing much better. I like this one, though, it has a nice bassline.

10. Colbie Caillat - "Goldmine"
A couple weeks ago, I heard two new songs called "Goldmine" in the same day, and really liked both of them. One was by Jeezy, one was by Colbie Caillat.

Worst Single of the Month: Judah & The Lion - "Take It All Back"
I twisted up my face in skepticism the first time I heard this song, which opens with banjos and mandolins over a drum machine. And then I got to the second verse, where the guy actually sings "The people, they're dancin' along, they're dancin' along to the mando and some sort of hip hop beat" and it became legendarily awful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On December 9th I'm gonna have a Western Blot album release party at Reverb in Baltimore, and one of my other bands Golden Beat will also play. The Western Blot single "Sore Winners" is out now, album on the way soon.

Movie Diary

Monday, November 14, 2016

a) The Witch
This was well made and, like any worthwhile horror movie, had a tense score that elevated a few tense scenes from eerie to spine-tingling. But I felt like the movie's restraint and dedication to realism and historical accuracy ultimately didn't serve it that well as horror, and it ultimately felt kind of dry and bleak and uncomfortable in its violence, which I'm sure was deliberate but just didn't work for me.

b) How To Be Single
This is one of those breezy romantic comedies that is far too aware of rom-com conventions but ends up simply cataloging them more than inverting or satirizing or commenting on them. Probably the closest thing it gets to being funny is the Anders Holm/Alison Brie plot, but even there Holm basically plays Barney Stinson.

c) Tumbledown
A pretty charming dramedy with Rebecca Hall as the widow of a beloved folk singer and Jason Sudeikis as a guy writing a book about her husband. The movie dealt pretty interestingly with the intellectualized cult of death in popular music and how fucked up it is for the people who have to actually deal with such a death, but it also managed to be fairly light and charming, with Joe Manganiello doing a terrible Australian accent.

d) Carol
I've never been a huge Cate Blanchett fan but this was definitely a movie that she carried with considerable force (and wasn't in service of an otherwise shitty movie like Blue Jasmine). After a while it kinda felt like a rambling melodrama, though, I admired it more than I really felt it.

e) Joy
I feel like I will forever be watching David O. Russell movies and trying to figure out if he's talented or a hack or something in between. But I think what I realized watching this and (the much better but still not worth its acclaim) American Hustle is that he's a filmmaker who loves the sound of people arguing but doesn't know how to write dialogue that actually justifies or redeems all the loud yelling scenes. The fact that this was kind of a lavish biopic about a lady who sold a mop on QVC kind of made it intriguing and unique but I felt like the movie's marketing that tried to vaguely sell it as a more generically inspiring story really flattened the best parts, which actually got into the nuts and bolts of her success.

f) Shaun The Sheep
I just love everything Aardman Animations does, my son has watched the "Shaun The Sheep" series a ton and the movie did a great job of kind of stretching out the show's charm over a feature-length story. 

g) Everyone's Hero
Really weird movie my kid watched on TV that I never remember coming out in theaters, where a kid befriends a talking baseball (voiced by Rob Reiner) and a talking bat (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg). Who gave this the green light? 

Monday, November 07, 2016

My latest playlists for The Dowsers: Mary J. Blige rap collaborations, an overview of all 4 of Meek Mill's Dreamchasers mixtapes, and the best of D.R.A.M.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

The debut 4-song EP by my new band Woodfir is up on Bandcamp now. I played a show with Reda and Tim's old band Blood Horses a couple years ago, and Tim and I had been playing together and working on music for a while, which initially took the shape of the short-lived Maris Vera, which played one show last year, and now Woodfir. These are the first 4 songs we've finished, recorded and mixed by Doug Bartholomew and mastered by Mat Leffler-Schulman. I'm proud of it, I feel like each song is pretty distinct from each other. We played our first public performance last night, at a birthday party in Baltimore, and our first 'official' show should be happening soon.