Ahead on Differential

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Here's a bit of Derek lore for you: during my senior year of high school, no piece of writing had a greater influence on me than J. Eric Smith's collected March of the Mellotrons series. Not a novelist or a poet, but some guy in Albany with some spicy takes about Jethro Tull.

Smith, a blogger and self-avowed internet old-timer, had a few of these musical brackets up on his website at the time, and in retrospect was way ahead of the curve in the field of pop-culture bracketology, a trend which would crest towards the tail end of the 2000s and is having a bit of a renaissance now. Smith was, like a lot of my pre-YouTube guys, just someone with specific interests and perspectives, written for benefit of anyone who happened to land on their page. So a very hearty shout-out to him, to George Starostin, to Andrew Lampert of the Cosmic Baseball Association, to the wiped-clean-from-the-face-of-the-web Emergency League!, for doing your things. This is the internet I aspire to recreate in my own small way.

OK, that's enough weird soapboxing for one post.

So why was this prog rock bracket so important to yours truly? Among other things, it was my first exposure to a lot of "expansion pack" progressive rock, like Caravan's In the Land of Grey and Pink and Steven Hackett's Voyage of the Acolyte. But it's the form that has stayed with me ever since. My back pages are full of these brackets: the two Dim the House Lights Tournaments of Films, the Middlebrow Madness podcast, even the backburnered Ebert Cup on this very blog. Plus, I love writing them!

So why lo-fi hip hop then? Like many, when I want music to write to, I'll often throw on some low-impact instrumental music as background noise, so I'm a fan of the genre . But it recently occurred to me that, beyond a few favourites I know by name, I can't contextualize any of it. The world of lo-fi hip hop is a constellation of obscure Bandcamps run by bedroom producers and Ableton artisans that have a clear vocabulary but, due to the way the work is consumed, not a clear voice. I am, in a way, trying to view the quintessential "playlist" musical form through the dead lens of the "album." This is my way of paying closer attention to something that, by accident or design, is relegated to the background.

All right, time for methodology.

  1. I've limited the field to albums from 2010 to 2019. This eliminates a bunch of the genre's foundational documents, including Nujabes's Spiritual State, J Dilla's Donuts, and Madlib's Beat Konducta series. I built this bracket with the intention on focusing on the first and second waves of performers that came in the wake of these guys, and not the progenitors themselves. But those records wouldn't have made the final cut anyways because...

  2. Only albums labelled as "Lo-Fi Hip Hop" on RateYourMusic were included in the final 64. Donuts, Spiritual State, and the Beat Konducta albums are all classified under the parent label of "Instrumental Hip-Hop," and we could argue about whether or not to include them (or, for that matter, more purely downtempo or plunderphonics albums) until the cows come home, but I needed to draw the line somewhere. So I have put my faith in the RYM hive mind to help populate the bracket. Also, seedings were determined by album ranking on RYM (as of 21 May 2020), and no artist could have more than four credits in the tournament.

  3. While part of this exercise is finding exemplary version of the form, I also want to find performers and records pushing the form forward or pulling them in strange, interesting directions. The genre goes down easy by design, so I'm looking for cool wrinkles in arrangement and production. Having vinyl crackles, clean jazz guitars, and a sturdy, square beat is all well and good, but if you also have some squiggly synths, some woodblock, or harmonizing clarinets or whatever? You'll do very well in this tournament.

  4. I am not a music historian, or music writer, or even all that smart, really. I'm just a curious enthusiast. And as with all media criticism, this whole thing is ultimately just my opinion. Any and all of my takes should be taken with heaping piles of salt. But know this: lo-fi hip hop is such a high-floor genre that there's a good chance I'm going to like 95% of the albums here.

  5. To preserve the spirit of the March Madness-style bracket: no reseeds, baby!

That said, here are our participants!

DILLA REGIONAL (1) Knxwledge, Skr∆wberries​.​Funr∆isrs Vol​. ​3 (2010) vs. (16) Engelwood, Boardwalk Bumps (2018) (8) moow, I Can't Tell You How Much It Hurts (2017) vs. (9) tomppabeats, Arcade (2017) (4) Wun Two, Rio (2014) v. (13) The Deli, Encounters (2017) (5) Birocratic, Beets 3 (2015) v. (12) NIKK BLVKK, Last Light (2017) (2) Saib., Bebop (2017) v. (15) Eevee, Eevee Beat Tape 01 (2016) (7) City Girl, Celestial Angel (2018) v. (10) Nitsua, Dayscape (2015) (3) jinsang, Confessions (2017) v. (14) Desired, Nineteen (2017) (6) glue70, After School (2016) v. (11) A L E X, Growing Up, Vol. 2 (2018)

NUJABES REGIONAL (1) Knxwledge, Kauliflower (2013) v. (16) Coubo, Selcouth (2015) (8) leon, re:treat (2018) v. (9) El Jazzy Chavo, Redirections (2018) (4) A L E X, Growing Up, Vol. 1 (2017) v. (13) Brrd / Wodoo Wolcan, Brrd / Wodoo Wolcan (2013) (5) potsu, ivy league (2019) v. (12) Saib., Around the World (2016) (2) Fanso, Música para Lagartos (2018) v. (15) Wun Two & CoryaYo, Waves (2015) (7) bsd.u, [Late Night Bumps] (2013) v. (10) jinsang & SwuM., Blossoms (2019) (3) City Girl, Neon Impasse (2018) v. (14) Eevee, Eevee Beat Tape 04 (2017) (6) Mndsgn, Exts (2012) v. (11) Nymano, Romance (2016)

MADLIB REGIONAL (1) tomppabeats, Harbour (2016) v. (16) barnes blvd., Last Summer (2018) (8) Fanso, Acid House (2015) v. (9) Outmind, champloo.lp (2013) (4) City Girl, Somnolent Nova (2019) v. (13) Greaf, Faceless (2017) (5) Birocratic, Beets 4 (2017) v. (12) Eevee, Eevee Beat Tape 02 (2017) (2) jinsang, Solitude. (2016) v. (15) Keys n Krates, A Beat Tape for Your Friends (2019) (7) FloFilz, Cenário (2016) vs. (10) Negroman, Negroman (2016) (3) Mounika, How Are You? (2017) v. (14) Knxwledge, relevnt​.​b​/​sdeLP._ (2013) (6) bsd.u, pook (2017) v. (11) Nymano, Short Stories (2015)

SHADOW REGIONAL (1) potsu, Just Friends (2018) vs. (16) Greaf, Looking Back (2014) (8) TMCT, Snow Beach Vol. 01 (2014) v. (9) Blackfist, World Manumission Defense (2019) (4) Andrew Huang, Lo-Fi (2017) v. (13) Eevee, Eevee Beat Tape 05 (2017) (5) City Girl, Snow Rose (2017) v. (12) Joey Pecoraro, Tired Boy (2017) (2) jinsang, Life (2016) vs. (15) Engelwood, Hotel Wood (2017) (7) Blackfist, Strapped 4 Survival (2018) vs. (10) Limes, Fresh Squeezed (2016) (3) Sam Wise, Winter Chill (2016) vs. (14) bsd.u, [late night bumps 2] (2017) (6) Saib., Sailing (2018) v. (11) AceMo, Boarders (2014)

Watch this space for the results from the Dilla Regional. Let the games begin!

#music #bracket

I don't say this lightly the man, the myth, the legend

Steve Dalkowski, a man who threw baseballs fast enough to scare Ted Williams and wildly enough to never make it to the majors, has passed away at the age of 80. He wasn't a stud athlete or a Hall of Famer, but the myth of his laser-like fastball made him a cult figure to people like me, people who are enamoured with the mythopoetic aura of baseball. And for my money, Dalko is the most mythopoetic figure in a sport teeming with them. The raw talent, the demons, the tall tales that may very well be true. Hell, I even wrote a poem about him back in October.

His stat lines boggle the mind: over nine seasons bouncing around the minors, we went 46-80, struck out 1,324 batters (that's an absurd 12.5 K/9 for those playing the home game) and walked 1,236 (an even more absurd 11.6 BB/9). He would routinely throw 200-plus pitches in a game and, people swear, still threw harder than Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, anybody. Writer/director Ron Shelton, who wrote about Dalko in 2009 for the Los Angeles Times, partially modelled Bull Durham's Nuke LaLoosh on the legendarily wild lefty.

He was a tragic figure. The magical arm that got him the nickname “White Lightning” went limp as he was about to make the jump to the Baltimore Orioles in 1963. Tommy John surgery was still a decade away at this point, so he never got his form back, hit the bottle, and more or less drifted for 30 years after he hung up his cleats in 1966. He couldn't remember most of that time because of alcohol-induced dementia.

The tale of Steve Dalkowski is mighty and sad, and I suggest you read every word written on him. There's a 1970 Sports Illustrated article by Pat Jordan that I recommend you start with, and this part near the end cuts right to why Dalko is an enduring figure in baseball lore:

Steve Dalkowski's real fame lies not in any list of statistics or legends but in all those low minor league towns like Wellsville and Leesburgand Yakima and Stockton, where young players still struggle toward the major leagues. To these minor-leaguers Dalkowski always symbolized every frustration and elation they had ever felt. His successes and failures were theirs and, though he failed, they looked with pride on that, too. Because his failure was not one of deficiency, but rather of excess. He was too fast. His ball moved too much. His talent was too superhuman. In a way, Dalkowski's failure softened the grimness of their own possible failure. [x]

#obit #baseball

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Sometimes when I'm bored at work, I pull up YouTube and start listening to a jazz fusion or City Pop album from the 70s or 80s, and just let the algorithm chain 40-minute blocks of sweet grooves. Here was the map for my latest journey.

Yuji Ohno, Cosmos (1981): Smooth. widescreen lava-lamp jazz with a few funkier, disco-styled numbers.

Masayoshi Takanaka, Alone (1981): The good shit. Tight, funky, furious. I've spoken highly of Takanaka's 1977 album An Insatiable High in an older post.

Hiromasa Suzuki – High-Flying (1976): The deepest, slimiest grooves of this particular quartet of albums.

Shigeo Sekito – Special Sound Series Vol. 2 (1975): Kind of an outlier. A loungy jazz record whose lead instrument is the Electone, which was Yamaha's line of electronic organs, that contains covers of “Yesterday” and “A Whiter Shade of Pale?” Kitschy? A little. Groovy? You bet your ass. Mac DeMarco is a fan.

#music

Last night I watched Jodie Mack's excellent Dusty Stacks of Mom: The Poster Project (elevator pitch: experimental stop-motion documentary about the rise and fall of a poster shop run by the director's mom and the history of the poster as cultural object, all set to a charming lo-fi rewrite of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon). I got to thinking about the decontextualization and recontextualization of pop imagery, of posters as contemporary icons; the Scarface posters used in Dusty Snacks of Mom mean something very different than a Scarface poster on a dorm room wall. The movie destroys the image and warps the soundtrack to shed light on both not as works of art, but as commodities.

Which got me thinking about Ways of Seeing. The 1972 BBC series hosted by John Berger is nearly 50 years old, but has lost none of its freshness and power. Having posters front of mind while rewatching it proved resonant. In the second episode, Berger breaks down the tradition of the classical nude, whose subjects Berger says “seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself.” The same can be applied to cheesecake posters. The fourth and final episode concerns the imagery of advertising (which is what poster is, ultimately, extending the tendrils of brand awareness one dorm wall at a time), whose chief purpose is, in Berger's words, manufacturing glamour.

blog_20200104

Says Berger in the preamble to the final episode:

Where do they exist, these fabulous rewards and objects and people? Where do they belong to? Here, there, or nowhere? They come with us everywhere. We take them away in our minds. We see them in our dreams.

#tv #movies #criticism

blog_20200102

On a recent episode of Back to Work, there was a passing mention of The Hacker's Diet, which more or less boils down weight loss to an engineering problem. Weight and calories are numbers, and getting one number to another is just math. This was part of a discussion of finding a “hook” to make a habit stick. I got to thinking about long-term goals in a wider sense, and was struck by the idea of maintaining a trend.

Per Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

[John] Walker presents techniques for Excel-aided or paper-and- pencil data smoothing to allow the dieter to adjust the diet for themselves using the long-term trend and to not be discouraged by short-term fluctuations based on water retention or other factors.

The success or failure of any one given day is almost beside the point. Fucked up your routine? No sweat. Overate? It's all good. Didn't write enough? You'll get 'em tomorrow. You're playing the long game. The ultimate goal is to maintain the trend. The immediate result matters way less than your deliberate efforts.

We just started a new decade, and I can see the trend bear fruit. In 2010, I was 22 and a dumbass. Now it's 2020, I'm still a dumbass, but I have two degrees under my belt1, I'm a kinder person than I was, and I'm a better writer to boot. Days and months and years do add up, even if they are non-consecutive.

Maintain the trend.

1: This doesn't mean anything per se, I'm just proud of the work I did in school.

#meta

  1. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say the pivot to poetry was the biggest event of the year for me. I got disillusioned with the grind of trying to be a film writer (I can't begin to imagine the grind of actually being a film writer) and wanted to write something for fun. So I gave poetry a shot. I started in the summer, wrote 31 poems in October, and I haven't looked back since.

  2. I also gave flash fiction a try.

  3. My podcast Middlebrow Madness, which I do with my pal Isabelle. We are two very different flavours of cinephile, and it's always a blast talking with her about the ins and outs of why a movie did or didn't work.

  4. The pod's conceit (the IMDb Top 250 fed through a single-elimination bracket) gave me the chance to rewatch several masterpieces this year: Seven Samurai, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Chinatown, Perfect Blue, North by Northwest, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  5. Jank City. Against all odds, my playgroup's dollar-store Magic: The Gathering draft (which I more or less run solo) has become something of an Event, drawing in more and more people into our ridiculous shenanigans. We have lore, a championship title lineage, feuds, and a Money in the Bank-style briefcase that has yet to be cashed in. It's great.

  6. The launch of the Criterion Channel, which continuously spoils us rotten with some of most brilliant and awesome movies of all time.

  7. The ongoing saga of Dim the House Lights, the little film-crit concern that could.

  8. The continuing excellence of SB Nation's Jon Bois. There was the search for the saddest punt in the world. There was The Bob Emergency, which was my favourite documentary of 2019 (the chapters on Bob Gibson and Bob Beamon alone are worth the price of admission). There's Fumble Dimension, his new collaboration with Kofie Yeobah (who also wrote the brilliant essay “Can a team of 25 Ichiros win the World Series?”. And there's the ongoing, slightly retooled, still excellent Dorktown, co-hosted by Alex Rubenstein.

  9. You know what? I'll just plug the rest of SB Nation here, especially their YouTube channel. Check out this episode of Rewinder, where they do a kayfabe deep dive into the closing moments of Space Jam.

  10. Fuck it, one more: SB Nation's Twitter thread of the best sports GIFs of the decade.

  11. Desert Bus 2019. Every November I take a week off work and live on west coast time to follow LoadingReadyRun's 160-hour-plus stream-a-thon, buzzer to buzzer.

  12. The aforementioned LoadingReadyRun had a banner year in 2019, thanks in no small part to Road Quest, an ambitious short-form series whose elevator pitch is more or less “Top Gear, but wholesome.”

  13. All Fantasy Everything. Still the podcast I look forward to the most every week. One of the few Patreons I donate to. Listening to Ian, David, and Sean go on a national tour this year was fantastic. Some of my favourite drafts from this year: road trips, things you yell after you dunk on someone, lies we tell ourselves, things to do on a rainy day, and bucket lists.

  14. The YouTube output of Bailey Fakelastname, aka Foolish Baseball. His Baseball Bits show is fun, charming stat-wonk stuff. As a long-suffering Expos fan, I appreciated his plea to elect Larry Walker to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

  15. The Fantasia International Film Festival, the best god damn film festival on Earth. I got to see Phantom of the Paradise at the Imperial with Paul Williams in attendance. I also caught the beautiful restoration of the 1981 psychedelic classic Son of the White Mare and anime godhead Masaaki Yuasa's lastest Ride Your Wave.

  16. I saw this at Fantasia last year, but it only went wide this year: Relaxer. Joel Potrykus is one of the brightest, boldest voices in American indie cinema right now, and this might very well be this sweaty, sticky, milk-puke masterpiece. A Herculean physical performance by Joshua Burge. Awesome score by Neon Indian.

  17. Olivia Colman's Oscar speech.

  18. Upgraded my phone to a fancy-schmancy iPhone XR.

  19. Krispy Kreme opening a downtown location in Montreal, directly across the street from the local game store my Magic playgroup calls home. The Original Glazed might be the perfect donut. I ate many of them this year.

  20. Kawhi Lenoard and the Toronto Raptors bringing the hardware home.

  21. This Twitter thread of crazy Vince McMahon stories.

  22. Tokyo's Friday Night Plans and their cover of ur-City Pop jam “Plastic Love”.

  23. City Pop's eternal summer. By all accounts, City Pop proper died in the 1990s, but that hasn't stopped this ongoing resurgence the genre is having. Between intrepid YouTubers uploading LP rips and being used as the raw materials for vaporwave and future funk, City Pop is still in the midst of its moment. I wrote up six albums I felt were key to the genre in its heyday.

  24. Light in the Attic Records. This awesome Seattle label has reissued tons of classic and obscure country, folk, blues, R&B, and soul albums, plus avant-garde curios, film scores, and two of the best proto-ambient/New Age compliations I've ever heard. Oh, and they also released an awesome City Pop compliation called Pacific Breeze.

  25. The Lighthouse. A+ psychosexual chiller, funnier than I had anticipated. Both Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe go hard. Robert Eggers is the real deal.

  26. A full decade with my girlfriend Steph.

  27. For The New York Times, Jessa Crispin on Instagram, aphorisms, and the legend Dril.

  28. Hbomberguy revisits Transformers: The Movie as a grown-up and talks about nostalgia as a prism.

  29. Bringing my turntable out from storage. It still sounds like shit, but I'm working on it.

  30. For The Believer, Molly Brodak on Tim Heidecker.

  31. Speaking of Tim Heidecker, his LP What the Brokenhearted Do... is a great 70s-flavoured singer-songwriter album, like Warren Zevon or Harry Nilsson, but more fucked-up.

  32. The movie-centric podcasts from The Ringer, especially The Rewatchables. I'm kind of enamoured with the idea of a “cable canon” (i.e. movies that play really well at 3pm on a Sunday), and there's a lot of overlap between movies I would include in that particular canon and the movies they cover here. Chris Ryan 4 prez.

  33. Discovering the work of Bay Area power pop genius Tony Molina. I must have listened to “Nothing I Can Say” 300 times this year, because it's everything I want in a song compressed into 71 seconds. His rarities comp Songs from San Mateo County was one of my favourite albums of the year.

  34. I fell off the Pokémon train a while ago, but I was not immune to Wooloo Fever.

  35. Pivoting to poetry means reading more poetry, and one of the first people whose work I got acquainted with Kenneth Koch. His Selected Poems (edited by the homie Ron Padgett) was one of the best things I read all year. “The Art of Poetry” is about as good as a mission statement gets.

  36. Knives Out. Basically Rian Johnson's Clue, or his crack at a contemporary Agatha Christie story. A rip-roaring good time made all the better by Daniel Craig's goofy Southern drawl. Proves that there are few pleasures out there like listening to someone unspool a whodunit in the home stretch.

  37. Getting a promotion at work.

  38. A little live French-language comedy podcast called 70%. Imagine a local cable access variety show spliced with the more subversive and absurd tendencies of the best of late-night talk shows, but set at a bar in Rosemont and released as a podcast.

  39. Doing an escape room for the first time at Ezkapaz.

  40. RIP David Berman. That Purple Mountains album is now one of the great bittersweet musical documents of all time.

  41. Spotify's Cosmic Country playlist.

  42. Uncut Gems. I had high hopes for this one after Good Time topped my list of favourite movies in 2017, and boy did they come through. This movie is a nerve-eroding two-hour-long shouting match between all parties involved, and I could have watched it for another five. Adam Sandler doing some career-best work. Awesome score by Daniel “Oneohtrix Point Never” Lopatin. FYC Julia Fox. FYC Lakeith Stanfield. FYC Eric Bogosian. FYC Mike Francesa. FYC fuckin' everybody in this.

  43. The QAnon Anonymous podcast, an absurd political podcast for our absurd political climate.

  44. Covering the U.S. Open for work and watching Bianca Andreescu ascend to the highest ranks of tennisdom.

  45. Sturgill Simspon's Sound and Fury. A hard zag from his last two records. This time he channels Mad Max, Eliminator-era ZZ Top, and just a little bit of Black Mountain's synth revisionism and feeds his superior songwriting skills through those filters. My favourite record of the year.

  46. Re-upping my membership to the cult of Road House.

  47. The work of Jia Tolentino, who is uniquely perceptive about our cultural moment because she writes about it from the eye of the hurricane. Trick Mirror is required reading, and her New Yorker essays have a very high hit rate.

  48. Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing, a user's guide to navigating a splintering world devoid of decompression. Pair with Trick Mirror to have your very soul sand-blasted.

  49. Reading my poems in from of actual-ass human beings at the Argo and at the Accent Open Mic reading series.

  50. The Irishman. A master stares down the barrel. Grand and masterful. Death and legacy. “Who are you protecting?”

  51. Related: the Martin Scorsese-Marvel feud (Vox's Alex Abad-Santos has a pretty good breakdown of the whole ordeal here). His op-ed in the Times was great reading.

  52. Christopher McQuarrie's Twitter thread (archived here by No Film School) about getting started, applying ass to chair, and “playing the lottery.” Key quote: “The secret to knowledge is doing and failing – often and painfully – and letting everyone see.”

  53. The work of Austin Kleon. Keep Going was a key read this year. His blog is one of my favourite places to go when I'm feeling stuck. His newsletter is a joy. Hell, I nicked the idea for these lists from him! I owe that guy a beer, maybe several beers.

  54. Untitled Goose Game. Sometimes all you need in life is to honk at a motherfucker and steal his hat while Debussy plays.

  55. Parasite. Rhymes with Bong Joon-ho's previous film Snowpiercer, another bugfuck class-struggle whatsit. Only this time, it's operating as a dark-comic tightrope thriller. Galvanizing and infuriating. The odds-on favourite for title belt for this year.

  56. Dumping an aging, bloating iTunes for MediaMonkey.

  57. My friend Karen's newsletter Don't Threaten Me With a Good Lifetime, where she breaks down Lifetime movies in agonizing, hilarious detail.

  58. The Merlin Mann Podcast Universe, the load-bearing beam of my podcast feed: Back to Work, Do By Friday, Reconcilable Differences, and Roderick on the Line.

  59. People Dancing to Steely Dan.

  60. Speaking of, there was a mini Steely Dan retro at Pitchfork in November, which, as a dad rock lifer, I can appreciate. I quite liked Amanda Petrusich on Aja and Alex Pappademas on Gaucho.

  61. Live pro wrestling at a gay bar downtown.

  62. My beard and my temples have started to gray, so I'm taking baby steps towards becoming a silver fox, which sort of rules.

  63. The work of William Matthews, especially his poetry collection Time and Money. Some favourites: “The Bear at the Dump” and “Mingus at the Showplace” from Time and Money, and “In Memory of the Utah Stars” and “Foul Shots: A Clinic” from Rising and Falling.

  64. Seeing my friend Noah rip it up on clarinet live with Montreal-via-Ottawa rock band The Maximum Chill.

  65. Pivoting from Slack to Discord. Can't abide having the archives behind a paywall.

  66. The Bon Appétit YouTube channel. I jammed all the Gourmet Makes videos over the holidays.

  67. Werner Herzog x WrestleMania. “A poet must not avert his eyes.” Bonus Herzog content: the great man on his favourite cat videos.

  68. John Carpenter's weed-dad sci-fi opus Dark Star turned 45. I wrote it up here.

  69. Inspired by the case of a post office that shut down due to a snake infestation, my pal Justin made a zine called The Snake Post Office Post, which features a poem by yours truly.

  70. My friend Carl's poem about Vincent D'Onofrio.

  71. A Hidden Life. Beauty and despair, faith and cruelty. No one does it like Terrence Malick. James Newton howard brings the thunder.

  72. My coworker Emmanuel gamely rapping his way through Die Antwoord's “Enter the Ninja” at a karaoke dive bar in Villeray.

  73. Saying “fuck it” and buying a bright red Dickies suit and cuting off the shins. The “shoveralls” were thus born.

  74. The Suspense Is Killing Us. Three guys affiliated with the world's largest video store talk about trashy thrillers from the 80s and 90s. Probably the best podcast to debut this year.

  75. Playing Magic: The Gathering and crushing Palm Bays with the homies (because White Claw hasn't crossed the border yet).

  76. My Mastodon instance laserdisc.party trucks on!

  77. I joined a sports-themed Mastodon instance that my friend Thomas started, allpro.social.

  78. Related to the last: allpro watching the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros in the World Series together.

  79. Me and Steph's annual-ish summer jaunt to Toronto.

  80. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I am in the tank for Quentin, that much is known, but this shaggy-dog hangout movie/love letter to late-60s L.A. plays like his Inherent Vice. His best since Inglourious Basterds.

  81. Every year, there's one album I'm familiar with in passing that I get stuck on, listen to on repeat, and induct into my personal pantheon. And this year, that honour goes to the Clientele's Strange Geometry. Congratulations, fellas!

  82. Divided by Darkness, the latest from Phoenix metalheads Spirit Adrift. which filled a Preistess-shaped hole in my heart with it's NWOBHM worship, Thin Lizzy worship, soaring triumphant chorus worship. Riff city, baby.

  83. The video work of Adam Neely, an NYC-based bassist and YouTube. I'm kind of a music theory dunce, but his videos are approachable and the non-theory stuff, especially the vlogs detailing the life of a gigging musician, are fascinating. The video that hooked me was the one where he recounted his worst musical trainwreck, where he and his bandmates eviscerated “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

  84. Make Do. A small podcast about the up and downs of making art.

  85. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. In a perfect world, the first entry in a trilogy sets up the world, the second entry expands the world, and the third entry subverts its rules. All three John Wick movies excel at each level. The superlative action franchise of the century continues.

  86. Jenny Lewis's On the Line. Rock album as liminal space. The chief vibe on this one is “I'm not drunk I'm sad (okay I'm a little drunk).”

  87. Ad Astra. What's the worse thing to be stuck in, unable to reach out from: the vacuum of space or inside your own head? Or: in space, no one can hear your abandonment issues. It's plays like an artier, sadder version of The Martian. Max Richter with the big assist on this one.

  88. Strand of Oaks's Eraserland. Giant, shimmering, weary heartland rock, pulling from a similar tetxtural well as fellow Philedelphians (and perennial Derek favourite) the War on Drugs.

  89. Reacquainting myself with the work of Richard Hugo. I bought his collection Making Certain It Goes On and his essay collection The Triggering Town and hoovered both of them. I read “Degrees of Grey in Philipsburg” at an open mic. I watched a documentary about his life. He was a working stiff for most of his 30s and only published his first book at age 38. I pull a lot of water from this particular well.

  90. Men I Trust's Oncle Jazz, the Montreal album of the year, a beefy, slinky, chill-as-shit post-vaporjazz dream-pop missive, 70 whole minutes of it. Drowning in a sea of reverb and hushed vocals. Sounds like having been awake for 30 hours in a city that's not your own. Amazing stuff.

  91. New kitchen appliances. My microwave was from the 1990s, so I was due.

  92. Sunn O)))'s Life Metal. Riffs like ziggurats meant to be played so loud your bones hum.

  93. The work of A. R. Ammons. By turns funny and cosmic, looking at nature with the eye of a biologist and the I devoured his Selected Poems (the Library of America coming in clutch again), and especially loved the excerpts from Tape for the Turn of the Year, which was typed on a roll of adding machine paper, and Garbage, an epic about the natural world and our place in it.

  94. Danny Brown's uknowhatimsayin¿, an inventive and kaleidascopic rap record. Brown might be the funniest MC currently working. The cameos by Run the Jewels and JPEGMAFIA don't hurt either.

  95. All Elite Wrestling, making good on the promise of All In last year. Chris Jericho's run as champion here bolsters his own claim that he's the GOAT.

  96. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds's Ghosteen. I made the mistake of listening to this beautiful, heartbreaking record at work. Word of advice: wait until you leave to office to jam a song like “Waiting for You”.

  97. Alita: Battle Angel. “Cyberpunk anime Rollerball” is the easiest sell of all time.

  98. Camino 84's Yacht Rock Breaks 2. Exactly what it says on the tin. Smooth as shit.

  99. Shout out to Ron Padgett. I read and loved Alone and Not Alone, and look forward to cracking open Big Cabin. Now that I think about it, the pivot to poetry might have been preipitated by his work on Jim Jarmusch's brilliant film Paterson.

  100. The teaming-up of director Jesse V. Johnson and actor Scott Adkins. Their work together this year, the DTV Action Movie All-Star Game that is Triple Threat and the gnarly, purple revenge jam Avengement, are both splendid additions to the disreputable action canon. There is currently no more fecund partnership in action cinema.

#top100

Illustration: Hiroshi Nagai

The awesome record label Light in the Attic has just released Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1976-1986, a compilation of (mostly) City Pop, the Japanese answer to the American “West Coast” sound of the late 70s and early 80s. It's a bright, fizzy brew of fusion, R&B, disco, AOR, funk, and exotica, tailor-made for cruising the city streets in your sweet Toyota Supra. And bedroom producers take note: this is where the raw materials of vaporwave and future funk come from.

A friend of mine asked me for a primer, so I obliged, and I thought I'd share it with all of you. One note: I didn't leave your favourite album off this list on purpose.

Tatsuro Yamashita, For You (1982) – There's no two ways about it: Tats is the king of City Pop. His first band Sugar Babe laid the groundwork for the genre with their album Songs. His collab with Tin Pan Alley alumni Shigeru Suzuki and Haruomi Hosono (who was also in Yellow Magic Orchestra) called Pacific brought in the sun-kissed exotica haze and the jazz-fusion chops. Dude also really loves old American R&B and the Beach Boys, so you know, hooks for days. For You is breezy and lithe and packed tight with bright melodies, but this slot could have just as well gone to the albums that bookend this one, 1980's Ride on Time and 1983's Melodies.

Makoto Matsushita, First Light (1981) – Matsushita is a hot shit guitar player and founding member of AB'S (who are on the more fusion-y side of the City Pop continuum). His first solo record is some smooth Miami Vice shit; more than any other record here, this sounds how a humid night in the big city feels. Matsushita's solo stuff gets more involved and proggier from here on out, so there's plenty of weird nuggets to discover, but First Light is his best and grooviest record, and maybe the most melancholic piece of work on this list.

Hiroshi Sato featuring Wendy Matthews, Awakening (1982) – Sato is a keyboard wizard, probably best known for his synth-funk-fusion album Orient. Matthews is a Montreal-born Australian singer who was kind of a big deal down under in the early 90s. This album is more in the smooth jazz/adult contemporary corner of the City Pop graph, but it's so weird in places. There's like... a weird vampy blues instrumental and a Beatles cover as well? In any case, this is my favourite Sato album, all Linn drums and slinky arrangements and keyboard flourishes. Imagine if Diamond Life was made in L.A. instead of London, and swap out everything but the electric guitar for synths and drum machines.

Seaside Lovers, Memories in Beach House (1983) – Another Sato project. This was a one-off record with Akira Inoue and Masataka Matsutoya released as part of the CBS/Sony Sound Image Series (as was the aforementioned Pacific and the pretty good fusion album New York). Lots of fluttering melodicas, aqueous piano, and awesome 80s gated drums on this one. Probably the moodiest of the records I have listed here on account of the unique synthetic timbre of the whole thing.

Toshiki Kadomatsu – Weekend Fly to the Sun (1982) – If I'm being honest with myself, any of Kadomatsu's 80s albums could have made the cut here, but this one gets the thumbs up from me because, in addition to being punchy and fun as hell, it's functionally a concept album about looking forward to the end of the work week so you can get away for the weekend. Also “Rush Hour” is one of the best “What a Fool Believes” ripoffs I've ever heard.

Taeko Ohnuki, Mignonne (1978) – Ohnuki was in Sugar Babe with Yamashita, and her output is more in the jazz-pop/sophisti-pop/Steely Dan-lite corner of City Pop. Of all the records here, this is the one I've spent the least amount of time with, so I don't have anything super clever or incisive to say about it. It's just great.

#music #citypop #picksix

(These are <500-character micro-stories that I wrote a while back for funsies. -DG)

I. LIMINAL

“It's not technically tomorrow unless we go to bed.”

You squeeze my hand as you say that. I feel like we're in suspended animation. The city air is nippy. Moonlight is barely eking through an oil-slick sky. Hucksters on the hotel TV are hawking jasper jewellery that “filters your blood.”

In this moment we are gods. Our domain is the liminal space between today and tomorrow, and it is infinite as long as our eyes stay open. And so I squeeze back.

II. HASHBROWNS

“Any last words?”

“A few, you rat bastard. I know a hypocrite when I see one, and you chip-chewing charlatans are a prime specimen. Are we not equals under God? Do we not prefer our starches crispy? You know not our joy because you know not the communion of the breakfast table!

And know this! Though you may subject us to the vilest tortures in the King's arsenal until we cease to be, we are mere mortals. Hashbrowns are eternal!”

“Take him away.”

III. OUTSIDER

Paul looked unkempt and unassuming, like an Old Navy ad on a bad day. The line to get in was empty save for the menhir of a doorman. Paul stood in front of him got out his phone. He checked his fly and queued up a song. He began to shimmy. He worked his way from a pedestrian shuffle into a vigorous full-body krump over the course of all 3:24 of “Super Freak.” The doorman then looked him over and extended his hand.

“Welcome to the Outsider.”

IV. ASTER

No one remembered all the rules. Sure, they remembered the broad strokes: swing at the ball, get it in the hole. But the finer points of it were lost to time. So eventually were the justifications for game's grip on the real estate. And so it went. Where once were little tire treads and manicured swaths of grass now stood a sea of sunflowers and asters. Kids were playing by the pond until sundown, trading theories as to what all those weird eggs were.

V. PHLEBOTOMY

He cracked his knuckles and pointed down the barrel of the camera.

“So lemme tell you one last thing, brother. It's not a matter of if I toss you from the top of the cage onto the debris-strewn canvas at Weaponmania XIII, it's a matter of when. And when you land, and every shard and splinter on the mat gives you a lil' backyard phlebotomy, I will cover you, the ref will tap 1-2-3, and then I'll smack your ugly goddamn mug for good measure.”

VI. GHOUL

The professor scanned the full, quiet room and scratched their horn with the claw of their index.

“I know some of you are intimidated. Or afraid. Or ill at ease. Whatever you want to call it. And if you think I can't tell, well, I can 100% tell. I've been doing this a long time. I've seen thousands of beings walk the halls of Ghoul School. And the best piece of advice I can give you about fear is…”

Their horns began to glow.

”...use it.”

VII. JUSTICE

“So here we have Justice reversed. So…”

“So what does that mean? Actually don't answer that. Please first answer why Justice is a ref in your deck.

“Seemed like an easy call. Enforcing the rules, force of order, objectivity, so on and so forth.”

“But aren't the rules written by a hired committee? Don't refs make bad calls and fuck up and what not? What I'm saying is that refs are the cops of sports.”

“You just answered your own questions.”

VIII. IRIDESCENT

“This should do it.”

She had spent years acquiring every piece of gear she thought would repeat the results. What was in the room when it happened? Oscillators, gyroscopes, magnets, other stuff she had since forgotten, because even a photographic memory fades. While she stared at the wall of knobs, a tiny, iridescent tear in the fabric of the Universe appeared. It hummed. She started to well up.

“Hey there. It's been a while.”

IX. BEREFT

Many express joy at the exploits of Fancy Hal Dancy, and because of this I weep. For he is a scalawag, a scoundrel! Bereft of honour! Bereft of decency! And as sure as the Sun will rise tomorrow, he will be bereft of this belt! The day he will be fit to hoist gold in victory will be a day of reckoning, because no just God would allow such a creature to be an exemplar of any sort! And if you disagree, well, I'll see you in the ring at Pugnamania!

X. ULTRACREPIDARIAN

“You misplayed your last turn.”

“What?”

“You misplayed. Here.”

“Who the fuck are you?”

“Just saying.”

“Just saying, huh? Well I'm just saying you should use that very smart big boy brain of yours to reconsider needling strangers, how about that?”

”...”

“I don't know you, and I certainly don't want to know you now, you ultracrepidarian fuck! Now leave me be.”

She set her tiles out on the board.

“JETtISON. That's 194 points.”

XI. HUBCAP

The Hall of Famer faced his onlookers.

“Well, it kind of started like all these things do, with play. My brother and I … let's just say we weren't a family of means, so we had to make our own fun. We lived by a scrap yard and we just sort of took to huckin' hubcaps at the old fence post in the back there, and we just … never stopped, really. We both went off to school, joined the Ultimate club and, as they say, the rest his history. Now we're here.”

XII. GOBLIN

All my life, I was told the fear cellar goblins, that if I ever poked around down there, that they'd leap out of the shadows and yank all the hair from my body to make decorative blankets. But as I got older and as my mind sharpened, the muffled din I heard from the cellar revealed itself for what it was: a plea for help, a call to action, the rumbling cant of those driven underground.

They are not monsters, but allies. And now, we fight.

#fiction

Between putting out great in-depth videos about interpersonal beefing and hosting the work of the brilliant Jon Bois, SB Nation currently runs one of my favourite YouTube channels. Their Rewinder series, which contextualizes seismic moments in sports history, is consistently entertaining and informative (episodes include the 2008 Wimbledon men's final, the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, and, uh, Mark Sanchez's butt fumble). It's great stuff even if you're sports-agnostic.

This time around, in the spirit of April Fools' Day, SB Nation writer Seth Rosenthal does a deep kayfabe dive on Michael Jordan's climactic game-winning dunk from the 1996 blockbuster Space Jam (a movie I 100% wore out the tape of as a nine-year-old). High points include a critique of the players the Nerdlucks stole skills from (no Shaq? no Hakeem?), a reconsidering of Marvin the Martian's alleged impartiality as referee, and the folding of real-life events into the machinations of Space Jam's deeply silly, deeply crass plot. Rosenthal is a good writer, so good in fact that at several points in the video I forgot that it was a goof.

Come on and slam

This video actually pairs up nicely with an episode of one of my favourite podcasts, Blank Check with Griffin and David, where they discuss Space Jam in depth as the dumbfounding cultural artifact that it is.

Also... Michael Jordan kind of looks like a wax sculpture of Michael Jordan on this poster.

(via SB Nation on YouTube)

#youtube #movies #sports

The man, the myth, the legend

We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We're kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.

Roger Ebert, one of my film-crit heroes, died six years ago today. I owe Roger more than I care to admit. He was the first person I encountered who looked at movies as art objects. He wrote with warmth, clarity, and respect for the medium. He was smart and persuasive even when I disagreed with his conclusions (and seriously, if you're not locking horns with your heroes on a semi-regular basis, what the hell are you even doing?). He taught me to trust my gut. His work will always be a resource and an inspiration to me.

I really, really miss having him around.

#movies #obit