Monday, September 30, 2013

I wrote on the Baltimore City Paper site about how R&B singer CJ Hilton, who I interviewed a few years ago, released the independent album This Is Me in August and has released an additional 20-something other new songs on Soundcloud in the weeks since then.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I reviewed the new J. Roddy Walston & The Business album, Essential Tremors, for the Mobtown Studios site.

Friday, September 27, 2013

I reviewed Drake's Nothing Was The Same for the Baltimore City Paper.

Monthly Report: September 2013 Singles

Thursday, September 26, 2013

1. Rich Homie Quan - "Type of Way"
Sometimes I delay putting a song in this space because it feels like I might need to give it the #1 spot but I’m not sure or totally ready yet, and I’ve been doing that with this song for a while so it feels like it’s been out forever, even though it’s just now peaking on national charts. Just a tremendous record, obviously, but what’s cool is that the verses have seeped in and become as indispensable as the hook. I love how at the end of the song, all the really memorably ad libs from the verse come back, played out like a highlight reel: “I know you do! Don’t look like that! Thank you lord! Leggo leggo!” Pretty much all the songs from these posts every month this year are on my favorite 2013 singles Spotify playlist, by the way. 

2. Ylvis - "The Fox"
I tend not to be a huge fan of funny viral videos birthing chart hits, the whole “Harlem Shake” thing was awful, “Gangnam Style” was not bad but wore out its welcome pretty quickly, lot of other stuff was just kinda dumb. But I kinda love “The Fox,” most of all because it’s pretty much a full-on pop song that happens to be comedic without being an overt parody of dance pop – like, it’s amazing that Stargate produced, it might actually be the best thing they’ve done in two or three years. I’ve just watched this so many times, and I still love it. I’ve also been going back and playing the hell out of the handful of previous Ylvis songs that were in English, particularly “Someone Like Me,” “Stonehenge” and “Jan Egeland.” I also like that "The Fox" kind of reminds me of "Bring In The Katz." 

3. Tegan And Sara - "Closer"
I always look at the new Billboard charts every Thursday, and lately one of my favorite things has been to see two songs slowly climb up the Pop Songs chart that were released months and months ago and made only a brief blip on the Alternative charts, so I figured they already missed their chance to be big radio hits: this, and Paramore’s “Still Into You.” I already put the Paramore song in this space a few months ago, but never did with this when it was new because the Tegan And Sara album had just come out and it kinda felt like one of many equally great songs. Hearing it on its own, though, it really is powerful and singular. And it’s fun seeing them sing it with Taylor Swift in the live YouTube that is probably what kickstarted the song’s chart revival. 

4. Pearl Jam - "Mind Your Manners"
For twenty years now, I’ve been eagerly anticipating lead singles from Pearl Jam albums, sometimes thrilled with what I hear but just as often confounded or disappointed. One of those songs that I didn’t know what to make of at first, but have since come to love, is “Spin The Black Circle,” which is what “Mind Your Manners” has frequently been compared to. But what I actually like best about “Mind Your Manners” is the big melodic refrain that kinda comes out of nowhere and sounds nothing like “Spin,” which more and more feels like the payoff for a song that would otherwise feel like a lame retread. I remember the second or third time I heard it on the radio, I couldn’t place the intro right away and thought it was one of the songs off the last Soundgarden album, which is funny just because of how rarely a Pearl Jam song could be mistaken for a Soundgarden song, despite all their common ground. 

5. Sevyn Streeter - "It Won't Stop"
I wouldn’t put this on the level of Sevyn’s first hit, the super underappreciate “I Like It,” but it’s pretty great, one of those handful of mainstream productions the last few years that has made me a little lenient on my long held ‘Diplo is the worst’ stance – I actually like it more than Usher’s “Climax,” which this clearly uses as kind of a template while having a much warmer, less histrionic overall sound. I’m annoyed that there’s now a remix with Chris Brown that has supplanted the original on a lot of radio playlists, but oh well, hopefully it gets her album released. 

6. Kanye West f/ Charlie Wilson - "Bound 2"
It’s probably too little too late to redeem the project’s rep as a commercial bomb, but I’m glad that Kanye has finally released one of the more accessible songs off of Yeezus as a single. It was probably in part just done because his kid had just been born, but I feel like the lack of a conventional singles campaign was almost like a cop-out, like he made this album about challenging his audience, and then made no effort to put any songs on the radio where a huge amount of his audience has always connected with his audience. And I don’t buy that this song is almost like an apologetically traditional Kanye soul beat track at the end of an otherwise forward-thinking album, the whole thing is just put together in a cool and unique way, with abrupt cuts like the “uh huh honey” sample in keeping with the rest of the album. And Charlie Wilson belting “just grind somebody, no leavin’ this party with nobody to love” over a seasick fuzz bass hum is just the greatest.

7. Big Sean - "Fire"
What has really helped raise my opinion of Yeezus over the course of the summer has been the abundance of Diet Kanye albums by J. Cole and Wale and especially Big Sean, who literally got a lot of beats that were probably meant for Yeezus but passed on for being too Kanye-by-numbers, including this song. I do like this song a lot, though, it’s pretty close to an ideal Big Sean song, with such a huge-sounding production from DJ Camper, trying on a different sound than the near-identical tracks he did for big R&B singles earlier in the year (Tamar Braxton’s “Love And War” and Keyshia Cole’s “Trust And Believe”). I realize this isn't a radio single yet, but it seems like it really should be, really is a clear highlight of Hall of Fame, which is pretty short on both hits and highlights. 

8. Prince - "Breakfast Can Wait"
I feel like a lot of people just completely shit on everything new from Prince, and while a lot of it deserves to be dismissed, I think it’s pretty easy to find the really enjoyable stuff he still turns out pretty regularly. This song, when it initially leaked earlier this year, instantly struck me as one of the best things he’s done in a while, so I was really happy when it was officially released as a single last month, definitely deserves to be in the small canon of really awesome later singles like “Call My Name” and “Black Sweat.”

9. Beware of Darkness - "Howl"
There’s been some nice heavy bluesy songs on rock radio lately like this and Nico Vega’s “Beast,” not as exciting as, say, Dead Sara, but a lot better than that turgid Black Keys bullshit. 

10. Atlas Genius - "If So"
Atlas Genius’s first big single, “Trojans,” was one of the worst of the ubiquitous songs on alt-rock radio this year by interchangeable mealy-mouthed new bands. So I didn’t expect to like the follow-up so much, which isn’t hugely different but just has a good solid hook and an instrumental bridge that feels so massive that it probably could’ve been the foundation of its own hit song. 

Worst Single of the Month: Eminem - "Berzerk"
Eminem dropping a Rick Rubin-produced Beastie Boys-sampling single, for an album that will reportedly feature Macklemore and Iggy Azalea, is some creepy white rap supremacy wagon circling, in a year when we've kinda had enough of that, if you ask me. But the real reason that this song sucks is that his voice still goes into that high whiny register that he never really used before "Not Afraid," and despite the sound of the track breaking with Eminem lead single tradition, it's still basically another song loaded up with corny pop culture jokes about the Kardashians and incredibly dated references to K-Fed, of all people. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Complex recently did a list of the top 10 rappers of the last 5 years, and I contributed a couple of lengthy essays about J. Cole and recent era Lil Wayne.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I wrote a feature about Dunson in this week's Baltimore City Paper. Also wrote a Rap Sheet column and The Short List in the same issue.

The 2013 Remix Report Card, Vol. 6

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Commas (Remix)" by L.E.P. Bogus Boys featuring Young Jeezy, T.I., Ma$e and Spenzo
This is a pretty generic song that has taken the very generic course of having Wayne on the original with T.I. and Jeezy taking his place on the remix. This track briefly kicked up some dust for T.I. dissing Gucci by name (more or less) in his verse, but in the weeks since then the prospect of a one-on-one beef got forgotten in Gucci's Twitter massacre. T.I.'s actually verse actually feels kind of sleepy and anti-climactic as the closing verse though. The original had the odd distinction of featuring Ma$e only on the hook with some ad libs, but here he gets a verse and it's pretty good. I always love hearing Jeezy on these kinds of revved-up beats, though.
Best Verse: Jeezy
Overall Grade: B-

"Crickets (Remix)" by Drop City Yacht Club featuring T.I. and Jeremih
This was a pretty goofy minor pop rap hit way earlier in the year, so I'm not sure why a T.I. remix just finally came out now. He sounds good on the beat doing his R&B Tip thing, but I don't know why he'd bother doing that kind of song if it isn't for his own single, it's not like this is gonna get mix show burn. If you don't know the track, it's worth checking at least the first Drop City Yacht Club verse to see how terrible it is.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C+

"Entertainment (Remix)" by Sean Paul featuring Nicki Minaj,  Juicy J, and 2 Chainz
Hilarious flop single from a few months ago where Sean Paul yells "girl you need a spaaaaaaanking" over a trap beat with Juicy J and 2 Chainz verses, now remixed with a Nicki verse thrown in for good measure. It's actually good, particular for the first high profile punchline about Miguel at the Billboard Awards. Actually, Juicy and Tity's verses are good, too, this song would be pretty dope if the Sean Paul parts weren't so garbage.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

"F.D.B. (Remix)" by Young Dro featuring French Montana, T.I., Trinidad James and DJ Drama or B.o.B, Wale, and Chief Keef
One of the more surprising developments in radio rap this year has been that Young Dro scored his biggest solo radio hit in 7 years with a song where the chorus is "fuck dat bitch." And I guess that was exciting enough for Dro and Grand Hustle for them to do two separate remix, with two different grab bags of guests from pretty much the same pool of mid-level mainstream MCs, and Dro spazzes out with a whole new flow. Tip follows suit with a similar doubletime, but it's a little more commonplace for him. Wale, Trinidad and B.o.B are all their usual tame boring bullshit, and then the Keef verse sounds like it was recorded on a wax cylinder. I thought maybe it was a hastily tacked-on mixtape verse, but there's actually a Young Dro interview where he talks about Keef being on the official remix, so I guess that's really what the remix sounds like?
Best Verse: Young Dro
Overall Grade: C+

"Feds Watching (Remix)" by 2 Chainz featuring Lil Wayne and T.I.
I don't know if this is an official remix per set, since it was debuted on Dedication 5, but unlike all the other tracks on the tape, it included Tity's verse from the original, and these guys were all just on tour so it makes sense that they'd do this remix as a trio, so I'm counting it. Great record, seems to sound better with every passing week that it's out, and I was definitely hoping it'd get a big remix, but this is a little anti-climactic, Weezy in particular drops one of the worst verses on a tape that's pretty dull to begin with, and T.I. is just okay.
Best Verse: T.I.
Overall Grade: D

"It Won't Stop (Remix)" by Sevyn Streeter featuring Chris Brown
This song was really dope to begin with, so throwing goddamn Chris Brown on the remix was pretty unnecessary (although probably inevitable, since he signed Sevyn). It's not bad as a duet, but I'm already getting annoyed at some of the radio stations that had recently picked up on the song starting to default to the remix.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"Life Round Here (Remix)" by James Blake featuring Chance The Rapper
I just listened to the original for the first time before putting on the remix, lol British popular music is such a heinous shitshow now, what the fuck even IS this garbage? Chance has been growing on me the last few months, but he's not so great on this as to salvage a near unlistenable song.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"Mula (Remix)" by Big Sean featuring Meek Mill, 2 Chainz and Earlly Mac
I guess this was the big song off Sean's mixtape last year but I never heard the shit, until the remix on his album. Going from French to Meek and 2 Chainz is a trade up, at least, but I don't think much of the song in any incarnation. Meek's verse is pretty short but is a nice little shot of energy in one of those otherwise turgid Young Chop tracks. Sean improves on his verse from the original, too. His verse ain't bad, but what the fuck is an Earlly Mac?
Best Verse: Meek Mill
Overall Grade: B

"Royals (Remix)" by Lorde featuring The Weeknd
I feel like this is personally trolling me, one of my least favorite figures in popular music remixing one of my least favorite pop hits of the year. It's kinda bland and inoffensive as remixes go, though.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"She Tried (Remix)" by N.O.R.E. featuring Lil Wayne, Birdman and Ja Rule
This song is notable in that the part of horrible sex raps that are in every Lil Wayne verse these days are in the chorus and entire concept of this song. This remix is notable for Ja Rule putting way too much effort into crafting an actually decently impressive verse on a remix of a terrible non-hit song.
Best Verse: Ja Rule
Overall Grade: B

"Twerk It (Remix)" by Busta Rhymes featuring Vybz Kartel, Ne-Yo, T.I., Jeremih and French Montana
I already wrote about the Nicki Minaj remix in this space, but that ended up being the version they pushed to radio and shot a video for, shitty as it was, so now here's the big posse cut remix. Looking at this lineup, Ne-Yo is probably a safe bet for the low point, but he's actually the high point, putting all these harmonies on the second half of his verse and taking it to this surprising place. Jeremih, who's always had a nice little island lilt in his voice, just kinda half-asses it, on the other hand. But Vybz and Tip are dope and even French doesn't embarrass himself too badly, considering how awkward he sounded on "Freaks."
Best Verse: Ne-Yo
Overall Grade: B

"Trying To Be Cool (Remix)" by Phoenix featuring R. Kelly
I can't stand this band, so them being the band that ropes Kells in on his rock festival run reaching out to the alt crowd. This is nice, though, he turns one of their aimless songs into something catchy and almost Hall & Oates-ish. At the end, Kells comes very close to rhyming 'Phoenix' with 'remix' like Fall Out Boy does in the song "Phoenix."
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B-

"V.S.O.P. (Remix)" by K. Michelle featuring Young Jeezy
This song is my motherfucking jam and when the chorus gets going it really bumps like a rap song for a couple bars, and it sounds cool with Jeezy but it's not like he takes it to another level or anything, just a nice little intro verse tacked on.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

Friday, September 20, 2013

I wrote a little Complex piece about the 10 best summers in hip hop history.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The 2013 Best of Baltimore issue of the City Paper is out this week, and I helped with picking and writing about some of the Arts and Entertainment winners. Also wrote The Short List as usual.

Monthly Report: August 2013 Albums

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

1. Juicy J - Stay Trippy
I already said most of what I have to say about this in my City Paper review, but this really is just an incredibly listenable record in the classic Three 6 Mafia mold a lot of the time. Even the guests don't really fuck up the flow too much, it's not like Wale or Wiz Khalifa is any worse than Crunchy Black or Lil Wyte, just a little further out of the HCP aesthetic than I'd like. I hope this record has a ton of singles, "Scholarship" needs to be on the radio. Here's my running Spotify playlist of 2013 albums I listen to, btw.

2. Superchunk - I Hate Music
After geeking out on Superchunk's back catalog it's nice to have some new songs that already feel like future mixtape staples. Mac's raspy autumnal aging punk later Portastatic songwriting style locks together with the Superchunk sound a little better here than it did on Majesty Shredding, and it still all kind of zips by in that lighter-than-air way their albums usually do, no matter how weighty it gets. "Breaking Down" is probably my favorite at the moment, although the advance singles "FOH" and "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" just keep sounding better and better. Jon Wurster remains one of my favorite drummers in rock music.

3. K. Michelle - Rebellious Soul
Also reviewed this album, although I think I spent so much time on the big picture context of the record that I didn't talk enough about the songs on here, which are pretty great, "Pay My Bills" and "Sometimes."

4. Weiss / Cameron / Hill - Drumgasm
As a rock drummer nerd who doesn't necessarily think rock drummers need to do anything outside of a rock band context, I was cautiously interested in this project, where three of them just go nuts in an all-percussion improv freakout. But I've always been a big fan of Matt Cameron and Janet Weiss as drummers, and I've never really cottoned to any of Zach Hill's projects but he's clearly talented, and this really turns out to be a fun indulgent feast of rhythms and textures. I just wish you could watch them recording this and really pick up on who's playing what and how the dynamics between them worked.

5. Jay Wyse - Wyse Thoughts Wise Journey 2
I already wrote about this a little but Jay Wyse is a local Baltimore dude who I think has some potential, this has a pretty mainstream of-the-moment sound but he really puts a personal spin on things without getting boring or Drake-y.

6. Height With Friends - Height With Friends Versus Dynamic Sounds
Height is another Baltimore rapper, who I've known and interviewed many times, and last time I sat down with him he told me about this album he had in the works that sounded really interesting. The 3 previous Height With Friends albums all kinda have the same sound, but this one is just completely on some other shit, kinda mimicking classic live tapes of early hip hop performers, lots of old beats and breaks and call-and-response flows with 'live' vocal reverb. It could easily have been kinda cheesy or overcooked, but I feel like they did just enough with the concept to make it unique and not just a pious retro move. It's not totally factually faithful, either -- "Baltimore Highlands PAL Center '78 Part One" samples a Billy Squier track that wasn't released until 1980 and he shouts out a bunch of fast food chains that didn't exist in the '70s on "Pinecone Park '79." But that kind of shows how they're just having fun with the idea and not trying to just recreate the past.

7. Speed On The Beat - Songs For... (The Rebirth and Evolution of the Modern Male)
I wrote about the lead single from this Baltimore dude's album a few months ago, without really being too familiar with his previous work. He has a whole 'no-fi' angle which I find interesting, I tend to like when music has a cheap or distorted sound that's deliberate and stylized, but he really goes to such extremes with it, right down to the vocal takes being really sloppy and rough, that it can get to be a little hard to take over the course of an hour. Some cool moments here and there, though.

8. Jinxxx - Authentic Exposure
More Baltimore rap! Jinxxx is a female MC who sent me some e-mails about her stuff, definitely will check for her stuff in the future but hopefully later she'll have better production values, some of the beats on this just sound dated and generic. And while she has a good voice, the actual vocals sound like they were recorded on the worst mic ever, and not in a way that sounds like a stylistic decision that enhances the music at all. "Hello" is a good joint.

9. Rico Love - Discrete Luxury EP
Rico is one of those R&B songwriter dudes who never seemed that driven to have a career as an artist instead of just writing hits for other singers like The-Dream or whatever, so I was surprised to see that Bad Boy released a solo EP. He raps on a lot of it in a very deliberately Ma$e-like voice and cadence, which is pretty goofy, but overall the tracks sound pretty good. I wish Tiara Thomas's guest spot wasn't just her rapping too, but I'm curious to see what her project turns out like since he signed her.

10. TGT - Three Kings
Speaking of hilarious rapping by R&B singers, the first track on this album 'features' Tyrese's alter ego Black Ty. I guess these guys are kind of doing a throwback to LSG, but in the modern day context it's almost like an R&B Slaughterhouse to pool the resources of these guys who aren't individually as big a draw anymore. R&B posse cuts are kind of weird, though, and while I'm a fan of Tank's solo hits, his shortcomings as a vocalist kinda show up more when he's next to Tyese and especially Ginuwine, who just spazzes out on every song. Not a great project but probably better than it has a right to be.

Worst Album of the Month: AlunaGeorge - Body Music
I am generally pretty good about staying away from critically celebrated quasi R&B because that shit is just not for me and I know it. But after a critic I generally trust on R&B called this the best R&B album of 2013, I decided to try and give it a shot, and nope, nope, not having it. It's even worse than a lot of a lot of other wannabe Aaliyah stuff out there because the singer basically sounds like Ellie Goulding, maybe with even less soul. If it was just marketed as the offbrand Kylie Minogue kinda thing it really is, though, I probably wouldn't mind it as much. But they just keep working the R&B angle, and there's a bonus track where they cover "This Is How We Do It" that is basically my idea of hell.

TV Diary

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

a) "The Bridge"
I'm a few episodes behind on this show but I really like it, in that way where my overall perception of the show will definitely be colored by how well they finish the season and am just enjoying the ride for now. The concept is laid on a little thick but great overall look and mood and cast, some nice weird twists. Diane Kruger's whole character and her way of playing it, I dunno, I have issues with it, but it's at least an interesting performance to put at the center of a show like this.

b) "The Writers' Room"
Cool idea for a show, I feel sometimes like the discussion is a little surface-area and it could stand to be even nerdier and more nuts-and-bolts, but I still appreciate that they're doing a show like this at all. I haven't seen a lot of it but the "New Girl" and "Breaking Bad" episodes are pretty cool.

c) Behind The Candelabra
I feel like this movie was on a very precarious edge of being kind of realistic and unvarnished and embracing the inherent camp and comedy of the subject matter, sometimes in ways that felt kind of brilliant and sometimes in ways that was really strange and uncomfortable. Love the random but perfectly executed small character actor and comedian roles that Soderbergh has been filling up his more recent movies with.

d) "Ray Donovan" 
The pilot gave me enough interest to keep going throughout the season, but I think I'm just about fed up with this stupid show and all its weird collisions of different tones and John Voight talking about twerking and all that nonsense.

e) "Suits"
This is still one of my favorite shows on TV, just a great cast and smart writing without trying to reinvent the wheel or anything. This season felt a little more serious than usual, in the past there's been a better balance of levity, but it still has a good snappy rhythm, and they haven't been afraid to keep changing the relationships between the characters and not let it get repetitive or stale.

f) "Rizzoli & Isles"
I feel especially bad about the guy on this show killing himself because it was really a thankless role, I can't remember anything about dude. It's all about Isles, though, I love Isles.

g) "NTSF:SD:SUV::"
I was never as big on this show as "Childrens Hospital," but I think I almost have to watch it more now because of the new Scottish girl in the cast. It actually is funny, though, just not as much my style.

h) "Childrens Hospital"
This is still great, although increasingly it feels like they've done everything they can do within the actual hospital concept and just abandon it completely as much as possible, which was really funny when done sparingly in the earlier seasons, but now just seems a bit overdone.

i) "Breaking Bad"
I've always been kind of a "Breaking Bad" skeptic, but now that things are really getting to the end I have to admit I'm more interested in how it'll all end. The last episode that was directed by Rian Johnson was pretty sick.

j) "Sons Of Anarchy"
The last season put me through such a ringer with so much awful stuff happening that I'm kind of bracing myself for this show to top itself again. That didn't happen in the season premiere, which was almost kind of a relief, but the way it ended was kinda crazy and I'm sure lots more will happen from there. Mostly I'm just psyched that Donal Logue's character from last season will have a larger role this time. We'll never get "Terriers" back but it's something.

k) "The Venture Bros."
The new season was too damn short, but still just one of my favorite shows ever, such incredibly dense joke writing, can't wait to get these episodes on DVD and pore over them.

l) "Futurama"
Have always been kind of ambivalent about this show, so while I thought the later Comedy Central seasons had some good moments I'm not sad to see it go. The last episode kinda tried to cut the sentimentality with some gore, which I kind of admire but mostly thought it was both gross and cheesy instead of both affecting and irreverent like they were going for. I mean, I just do not care about Fry and Leela's relationship, does that really have to be what everything always comes back to?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I reviewed the Tamar Braxton and K. Michelle albums for the Baltimore City Paper.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
This week's Short List.

Elvis Costello: The Deep Album Cuts Box Set

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Last month, I made up an imaginary Superchunk box set in anticipation of their new album, partly because they'll probably never have a real one. With Elvis Costello's album with The Roots, Wise Up Ghost, which is pretty good, out next week, I thought I'd be a good time to do another series of mixes, although obviously Elvis Costello already has some box sets out there. The idea I'd always had, though, was to divide up his output by decade -- not necessarily all in chronological order, just lumped together so that I can dart around each period and draw connections. That thought appealed to me because it gives ample room for the 3 albums he made in the last 3 years of the '70s that remain his best and most popular work, but I've always found a lot to enjoy in the less heralded '90s and 21st century work that a lot of fans tuned out for that it'd be fun to highlight (and the '80s is of course an embarrassment of riches, his busiest and most varied decade of work).

This collection is also part of my deep album cuts series, because while Costello is critically respected as an 'album artist,' he's always been an ace singles artist no matter how well he's actually doing on the pop charts. So even his widely acknowledged masterpieces are sometimes overshadowed by their hits, while many of his later albums are still mostly known for one or two well selected singles that end up representing them on the endless procession of best-of compilations.

Elvis Costello: The Deep Album Cuts Box Set

Disc 1: The 1970s (Spotify playlist)
1. Mystery Dance
2. No Dancing
3. You Belong To Me
4. Green Shirt
5. Living In Paradise
6. Pay It Back
7. Radio Sweetheart
8. Miracle Man
9. Wednesday Week
10. Two Little Hitlers
11. This Year's Girl
12. Big Tears
13. Tiny Steps
14. Stranger In The House
15. Crawling To The USA
16. Talking In The Dark
17. Party Girl
18. Hand In Hand
19. Welcome To The Working Week
20. No Action
21. Clean Money
22. Goon Squad
23. Blame It On Cain
24. The Beat
25. Big Boys
26. Lipstick Vogue
27. Waiting For The End Of The World

Disc 2: The 1980s (Spotify playlist)
1. King Horse
2. I Hope You're Happy Now
3. New Lace Sleeves
4. Secondary Modern
5. Jack Of All Parades
6. Crimes Of Paris
7. Tramp The Dirt Down
8. Almost Blue
9. Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down
10. The Greatest Thing
11. Worthless Thing
12. Black And White World
13. ...And In Every Home
14. Uncomplicated
15. The Imposter
16. Big Sister's Clothes
17. Tears Before Bedtime
18. American Without Tears
19. Love For Tender
20. You'll Never Be A Man
21. Blue Chair
22. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
23. Home Truth
24. I'll Wear It Proudly

Disc 3: The 1990s (Spotify playlist)
1. Rocking Horse Road
2. Jacksons, Monk And Rowe
3. Why Can't A Man Stand Alone?
4. Couldn't Call it Unexpected No. 4
5. The Long Division
6. Pony St.
7. Shallow Grave
8. How To Be Dumb
9. Clown Strike
10. This House Is Empty Now
11. Please Stay
12. Painted From Memory
13. Still Too Soon To Know
14. Starting To Come To Me
15. Sweet Pear
16. Tears At The Birthday Party
17. Just About Glad
18. I Want To Vanish
19. I Still Have That Other Girl

Disc 4: The 2000s (Spotify playlist)
1. Bedlam
2. Spooky Girlfriend
3. Turpentine
4. I Dreamed of My Old Lover
5. The Sharpest Thorn
6. Country Darkness
7. Dissolve
8. Drum And Bone
9. Button My Lip
10. My Little Blue Window
11. The Sharpest Thorn
12. The Court
13. She Handed Me A Mirror
14. Ascension Day
15. For The Stars
16. You Left Me In The Dark
17. The Judgement
18. My Three Songs
19. Episode of Blonde
20. The Delivery Man
21. The River In Reverse

The '70s playlist was the easiest to make because I know all that music by heart, having bought his first three albums in sequence pretty closely together when I was 16-17 years old. That was a huge formative experience for me, and it was also by that point the late '90s, so he already had a large catalog to work through. And I ended up jumping around and finding a lot to enjoy in the later albums without having too much anxiety about the fact that he'd never again be as exciting or consisting as he was in the first three years of his career. The 1980s are obviously his busiest decade, just an insane embarrassment of riches from 9 albums, most of them well revered and even the worst of them possessing some jams. I'd actually never made time to sit through all of Goodbye Cruel World before this, and I have to say I quite like it -- more than Punch The Clock, and probably more than the majority of the albums since.

Having gotten into Elvis Costello when All This Useless Beauty and Painted From Memory were recent, I have a soft spot for those records, particularly the latter, which I think is probably his best album of the last two decades. Aside from the Bacharach album, I'd generally gotten used to the typical attitude of checking in with Costello for the 'rock' albums and avoiding the overly ambitious genre exercises and collaborative albums, which in retrospect seems like a mistake -- I really enjoyed listening to the albums with The Brodsky Quartet and Allen Toussaint and so on, picking out highlights. When I Was Cruel was always an uneven, overhyped album with some great moments, and now I enjoy it more for its drum machine and loop experiments, his last flirtation with modern sounds and grooves for about a decade before this album with The Roots. The Delivery Man is pretty great, but it was followed by diminishing returns of several similarly rustic and rural-sounding records, as if he'd finally settled into just exploring one direction instead of darting around from one extreme to another. In that sense, Wise Up Ghost is pretty exciting, just to hear the old dude still trying some new things after 35 years. Hopefully I'll have enough of this decade's output to do a 5th playlist someday.

Monday, September 09, 2013

I wrote about Kane Mayfield's new three-part song "A3C" on the Baltimore City Paper site.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

I reviewed the new Juicy J and Goodie Mob albums on the City Paper site, as kind of a study in contrasts between two very different southern rap comeback records.

Movie Diary

Friday, September 06, 2013

a) Save The Date
This is the kind of fidgety ambling indie dramedy that I'd probably hate, or at least put up my defenses against, if it wasn't full of people I love watching like Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie and Martin Starr. But a charming cast goes a long way, and without it being too overly dramatic it ended up being kind of a good acting showcase for people that usually do straight up comedy. Still kind of a 'pointless indie flick about hipsters' (complete with wolf band jokes!), but it felt lived in and realistic enough without going for any kind of labored mumblecore realism.

b) For A Good Time, Call...
I liked that this was essentially a sex comedy written by a woman that ended up being more about friendship than anything else. Basically, it managed to hit the right notes of being sincere but also raunchy and funny in all the ways that something like Zack And Miri Make A Porno, failed to be. Which was a comparison that occurred to before I even realized how many people it had in common (the writer/star, Lauren Miller, was briefly in that movie, and her husband Seth Rogen makes a cameo in this one, as does Kevin Smith).

c) Friends With Kids
This is another comedy written (and directed) by a woman, one that seems like it's trying to do something unique, but ends up falling into some really familiar, predictable rom-com conventions. As good as the cast is, it feels like most everybody is kind of wasted in it, especially Adam Scott, who is usually good at being an unsympathetic dick but kinda rings hollow here, while still managing to not be very likable by the end when you're supposed to actually root for his relationship. But I was never really a fan of Jennifer Westfeldt's previous movie Kissing Jessica Stein, anyway, so my hopes weren't high.

d) Project X
I started to watch this, but it only reminded me how little patience I've ever had for teenage boys, even when I was one, so I suppose it was realistic in that regard.

e) One For The Money
I know I'm supposed to hate Katherine Heigl and her movies but I just don't, I love these cheesy flicks. And when you add in her as a brunette with some curls, man, I'm there. It was a little painful to watch her play this Italian chick from Jersey, but I liked that as an action movie it was kind of purposefully clumsy, that the point was that she was a novice, it worked.

f) Thor
Like with Captain America, I had no desire to watch this until I saw The Avengers, and while it was nice to get some background on the character, it actually kinda made this movie more boring to see it second, since the scale felt smaller. It was kinda decent and entertaining, though, I'll check for the sequel.

g) Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story
I have an internet video player thing hooked up to my TV that has a bunch of movie services, some of which are usefully and some of which have tons of random stuff I've never heard of, and one night I was browsing around and found some interesting music movies, including this one. I really loved Morphine and think they were one of the most unique and fascinating bands, so this was fun just to watch for all the footage and interviews. But I dunno if it was particularly well made or provided much illumination into Sandman's life -- if anything it just made him and where his music came from even more appealingly enigmatic.

h) Big Night
I've always thought Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub were a couple of the best character actors out there and knew they had this really well regarded movie together that I'd never seen, so it was fun to finally see it, totally lived up to my expectations, so many great performances in this movie.

i) Miller's Crossing
Another movie I'd known by its reputation for a long time but, despite being a big Coens fan and seeing most of their other movies, had never caught it before. One thing that crossed my mind, seeing Buscemi in this, is how much more I'd probably enjoy "Boardwalk Empire" if the Coens were involved instead of Scorsese. It's also interesting to watch in light of some of their more serious, Oscar-nominated films, in that it has some of that impish humor of my favorite Coens flicks, but is also incredibly violent in a way that doesn't take the violence lightly, that leaves you gasping in horror rather than laughing it off.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

I wrote a fun little list for Complex Magazine of songs about college.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

My dance/club music column, BPM, is in this week's Baltimore City Paper, along with The Short List as usual.

My Favorite Songs of Each Year, 1950-2013

Monday, September 02, 2013

One day last month, I noticed that my Twitter account had gotten up to 1,950 followers, so I decided to tweet a YouTube link to my favorite song of 1950, and keep doing that every time I got a new follower until I got up to 2,013. When it was all done, I put them into a Spotify playlist:

1950: Ella Fitzgerald with Ellis Larkins - "How Long Has This Been Going On?"
1951: Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats – “Rocket 88”
1952: Kitty Wells – “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”
1953: Big Mama Thornton – “Hound Dog”
1954: The Four Aces – “Three Coins In The Fountain”
1955: Chuck Berry – “Maybellene”
1956: Harry Belafonte – “Day O (The Banana Boat Song)”
1957: Buddy Holly – “That’ll Be The Day”
1958: Cannonball Adderley – “Autumn Leaves”
1959: George Jones – “White Lightning”
1960: John Coltrane – “Naima”
1961: Etta James – “At Last”
1962: Bobby “Boris” Pickett – “The Monster Mash”
1963: The Beatles – “She Loves You”*
1964: The Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go?”
1965: Petula Clark – “Downtown”
1966: The Who – “A Quick One, While He’s Away”
1967: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Manic Depression”
1968: The Rolling Stones – “No Expectations”
1969: Led Zeppelin – “Ramble On”*
1970: Simon & Garfunkel – “Cecilia”
1971: Al Green – “Tired Of Being Alone”
1972: Little Feat – “Easy To Slip”
1973: Bruce Springsteen – “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”
1974: Pink Floyd – “Time”
1975: Willie Nelson – “Hands On The Wheel”
1976: Thin Lizzy – “Cowboy Song”
1977: Steely Dan – “Deacon Blues”
1978: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea”
1979: The B-52s – “Rock Lobster”
1980: The Pretenders – “The Wait”
1981: Queen and David Bowie – “Under Pressure”
1982: Dexys Midnight Runners – “Come On Eileen”
1983: Michael Jackson – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”
1984: Van Halen – “Panama”
1985: Tears For Fears – “Head Over Heels”
1986: Peter Gabriel – “Sledgehammer”*
1987: Prince – “Adore”
1988: Slick Rick – “Children’s Story”
1989: De La Soul – “Me, Myself & I”
1990: Bel Biv Devoe – “Poison”
1991: Pearl Jam – “Porch”
1992: Sonic Youth – “Theresa’s Sound World”
1993: Nirvana – “Serve The Servants”
1994: The Notorious B.I.G. – “Respect”
1995: The Geraldine Fibbers – “Lilybelle”*
1996: Jay-Z – “Can I Live”
1997: Trans Am – “Carboforce”
1998: Aaliyah – “Are You That Somebody?”*
1999: Destiny’s Child – “Bills, Bills, Bills”
2000: M.O.P. – “Ante Up (Robbing-Hoodz Theory)”
2001: Ted Leo/Pharmacists – “Timorous Me”
2002: Kylie Minogue – “Love At First Sight”
2003: Kenna – “Siren”
2004: Kelly Clarkson – “Since U Been Gone”
2005: My Chemical Romance – “Helena”
2006: Ciara – “Promise”
2007: R. Kelly featuring T.I. and T-Pain – “I’m A Flirt (Remix)”
2008: Erykah Badu – “Master Teacher”
2009: Maxwell – “Pretty Wings”
2010: Butch Walker and the Black Widows – “She Likes Hair Bands”
2011: Miguel – “Sure Thing”
2012: Meek Mill – “Dreams & Nightmares”
2013: Paramore – “Grow Up”

* songs not available on Spotify

Some of these years, I could've picked any number of songs depending on how I felt that day, and some of them I would always say the same song. In any event this was just a fun exercise, I tried not to think too much about it.