Thursday, December 18, 2014

Zero Year Vintage: Track of 2014 (1-15)

Since I'm no longer reviewing materials in any official capacity, I've been hearing more one off tracks than albums, so many of these may make their way over to the album list.  However, there's also something thrilling about hearing many of these without context- back to the mixtape early to a certain extent.  Hope you enjoy them too.  More to come...

1. Wave Racer- "Streamers"

2. Fatima Al Qadiri- "The Star Spangled Banner"

3. FKA Twigs- "Two Weeks"

4. Schoolboy Q feat Kendrick Lamar- "Collard Greens"

5. A.G. Cook- "Beautiful"

6. Paula Temple- "Deathvox"

7. Gazelle Twin- "Belly of the Beast"

8. CHVRCHES- "Dead Air"

9. DJ Paypal- "FM Blast

10. Bloom- "The Menagerie"

11. MESH- "Scythians"

12. St. Vincent- "Birth in Reverse"

13. Ynfynyt Scroll- "Drone Warfare"

14.  SD Laika- "Meshes"

15.  Charli XCX- "Boom Clap"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Zero Year Vintage: Top Albums of 2014

1 FKA Twigs FKA Twigs
2 Mr. Mitch Parallel Memories
3 Gazelle Twin Unflesh
4 Various Next Life (Teklike tribute LP)
5 Starfoxxx Baby I'm off Drugs and I'm Ready 
to Marry You
6 Egyptrixx A/B Til Infinity
7 SD Laika That's Harikiri
8 Traxman Da Mind of Traxman 2
9 Burial Hex The Hierophant
10 Ekoplekz Unfidelity
11 Various Cambiare (Opal Tapes sampler)
12 Rome Fortune Small World/Beautiful Pimp II
13 The Bug Angels and Demons
14 Arca Xen
15 Run the Jewels RTJ2
16 Liars Mess
17 Retic Subculture Logic
18 Fatima Al Qadiri Asiatisch
19 Death Grips Niggas on the Moon
20 Aphex Twin Syro

Monday, December 15, 2014

TV Party: 8 Favorites from 2014

True Detective- A critique of men by men, not necessarily for men, but its problematic use of gender makes it a tricky one to champion.  But even with such a massive blinder (the women on the show basically fill in for male perceptions of them, though they frustrate these preconceived notions at every turn), it really is that good.  Plus the narrative's indebtedness to weird fiction, philosophical negation, and unbelievably erudite cinematism make it utterly unique on the broadcast landscape. 

The Americans- A riposte to both the Reagan era nuclear suburban dream and the Bush II "Hate us for our freedom" doctrine, the show would be worth it for these two alone.  Rarely is a show this overtly political, and on point to boot about the forgotten/scrubbed part of the historical recent past. Yet, the performances and storylines are also expertly executed and full of pathos.  Plenty of shows/films like this are also want to use the kids as props, a stand-in for peril, but for the Americans the children are not only the stakes but the battleground as well; the generation trapped between sides shielded by secrecy from forming their own opinions or allegiances. 

Informericals- Too Many Cooks- An art film masquerading as meme masquerading as horror film masquerading as an in-joke masquerading as an 80s sitcom masquerading as a...

Orange is the New Black- The best thing this show ever did was veer the focus of the story away from Piper, making it now a show not only about the female experience (a rare occurrence on TV) but other marginalized groups as well.  

Hannibal- It's still unbelievable that there's a show like this on a major network.  Not because of its pornographic celebration of violence as a thing of beauty, its detectives in each episode acting in full Situationist mode as art critics to the crime scene.  No, this seems a natural progression from the CSI era.  What's more brutally shocking is the way the show refuses to outright condemn these acts.  With Hannibal as the show's hero, it moral core is completely amoral and Will Graham's potential transformation into his nemesis (as part of his "therapy") throughout Season 2 was perhaps the most uncomfortable and fascinating of any character arc on TV (and way more ashen gray than Walter White's).  For what it's worth, an entire essay could also be penned on how it's the most vegetarian show on television as well.

Brooklyn Nine Nine- Community did alright in its return after the "gas leak" year, but the era for innovative comedy seems to have ended on the networks.  Luckily, there was Brooklyn 99, which, if not wholly originally was at least reliably hilarious each and every episode.  Also nice to see a show where the characters all like and respect one another in the post David Brent comedic landscape.

Last Week with John Oliver- In a perfect world, a 14 minute dissection of an issue's major bullet points and a few of its nuances would not be an "epic rant" to appear like clockwork in social media the next day, but rather "news".  You wouldn't need jokes and comic interludes to get people to watch or pay attention.  A decent #longreads will take you one or two hours.  A book will engross you for a week or more.  Taught to tease out our mediated information in blipvert increments though, the hunger for a more complete diagnostic than a news ticker or a twitter feed is large.  What we have televisually to fill that void is John Oliver, who luckily has a knack for explaining things in a way that is concise, accessible, and rational, without ever cheapening the stakes or cynically dismissing those working diligently to mend or reject, like many of Oliver's former colleagues so often do.

Louie- In a sense, the criticism that arose out of this season of Louie superceded the programming itself.  Season 4 goes dark, multiple times, and is mostly about Louie's failure, and often outright refusal, to understand women.  This most explicitly takes shape in the "Elevator" series where he falls for a woman whose language he literally cannot comprehend, who is trying repeatedly to let him down gently.   Then, there's grisly ending of "Pamela pt 1" where Louie goes out to do standup and talks frankly about the oppression of women, comes home and puts his children to bed in typical "good dad" mode, and then proceeds to pursue Pamela against her will.   The second two acts find the two connecting at long last, without speaking a word of what from the women's perspective could only be described as an attempted sexual assault.  Uncomfortable viewing for sure.  Was it a comment on how most would-be-rapists are not frothing evildoers hiding in the shadows, but people we know, even "good men", who are just too frustrated and broken to attempt to contemplate a woman's autonomy?  Or that it's a few simple steps from that aggressive male type (in "Elevator", a sexually frustrated Louie breaks a piano when he thinks he has been rejected) before he descends into complete horror?  Or maybe Louie, like his idol and somewhat fallen mentor Woody Allen, just isn't capable of recognizing that he can't make decisions for his mate (he is convinced Pamela still has feelings for him, but she keeps saying she doesn't and insults his manhood to boot)?

Perhaps time will tell if I'm giving Louie a pass for allowing this kind of ambiguity on an issue which has finally risen to the public spotlight the crisis calls for.   Louie may have said that "men are the greatest threat to women"  in his 2013 Oh My God comedy special, but he also seems to be giving explicit instructions throughout Season 4 to not trust him.  In the post-Cosby world, the world needs a voice willing to admit that the divisions that separate comedians from their audience is not some PC brigade unwilling to find the humor, but comedians unwilling to approach rough situations with anything but.  Louie continues to be groundbreaking for the ways in which it admits to itself that the laughline is not the ultimate achievement when living in a tragic world, but that there can be comedy in it sometimes too.

Slightly Falling Off the Wagon, but Worth the Effort:

American Horror Story, Community, Key & Peele, Mad Men

Consistent and Good, or somewhat inconsistent but frequently great:

Fargo, Game of Thrones, Helix, Veep, You're The Worst