When I look back at my 2012 list, and how great that year in music was, it’s probably not surprising that 2013 seemed to be a year of disappointments. That’s not to say it was a year of bad music. But while making this list, I found myself remembering music I really liked and looking it up only to find out it was from 2012. Or even worse, scrolling down a list of music releases and coming across records I completely forgot about. That phenomenon is the main reason I say it was a year of disappointments, because those records I had completely forgotten about, in many cases, were from artists that I really like, if not love. Kanye, Fuck Buttons, Daft Punk, Nick Cave, Boards of Canada, Mount Kimbie, James Blake, My Bloody Valentine for god’s sake, and on and on. They weren’t bad records, exactly. I just sort of forgot about them. They never dug in. (Okay, some of them were bad records)
The upside is that, all those records were bumped out of my listening attention by a lot of totally out of the blue stuff, which may say something about my tastes shuffling about, or about the ongoing splintering of musical genre and variety. In any event, only 4 of my the 15 favorite records of 2013 were by musicians I had ever listened to before this year. That’s pretty cool. And before I completely write off my standby favorite artists, there were a few that delivered well beyond my wildest hopes. Read More
I was an easily scared child. When I was really young, like the 4 to 6 range, my family used to go to drive-in movies on the weekends. To keep families happy, each screen usually had a double-feature, with a family friendly early movie and a less family friendly late movie for when the kids went to sleep. But even the family friendly movies scared me. I remember being frightened by The Incredible Shrinking Woman starring Lily Tomlin. E.T., Howard the Duck, Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters scared the shit out of me. Since normal movies scared me so much, I was definitely not allowed to watch horror movies for most of my childhood, nor did I want to watch them. My only exposure to scary movies was to walk through the horror aisles of video stores to catch glimpses of old, trashy VHS covers, but never picking the boxes up. Read More
This year I made a Top 15 List instead of a Top 10 list, a decision I stand by because of the sheer volume of great music this year. Not only that, the Top 5 was crowded by the same big guns across so many people's year end lists. As a result, the 6-15 for most people are a lot more interesting than the top five. For example, it's impossible to ignore Frank Ocean, but it would also be a shame for me to not mention Neneh Cherry and The Thing. So 15 it is. It was a really great year in music for me, best I can remember since 2007 and 2001 before that. And there are so many that I had to leave off that I’m considering making a second wild card list, because there were about a dozen amazing records that weren’t favorites but were just weird or interesting or thought-provoking in ways the music listed here is not. Dan Deacon, Dirty Projectors, Converge, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Death Grips, Miguel, on and on. But here are my favorites. Read More
Kerouac was cool because had no idea he was, Dennis Miller once said. That may be true, but James Murphy is painfully aware of how cool he is, and often isn’t, and that somehow makes him about as cool as it gets.
Murphy has become an iconic, unlikely rock star in recent years as the driving force behind the dance-punk act LCD Soundsystem, mixing a unique blend of nostalgia, rock geek obsession, and hyper self-awareness, all set to brilliant electronic beats. Then, right at the band’s peak, he decided to call it quits. Read More
An underground comic book artist at heart, it’s clear that Adrian Tomine isn’t quite comfortable in the role of highbrow magazine illustrator. And a Sacramento-born Californian at heart, he isn’t entirely comfortable identifying as a New Yorker either. And yet, he’s achieved a great deal of notoriety and success as both. Tomine (pronounced toh-mi-neh) just finished a book tour in support of his new collection of beloved illustrations for The New Yorker from the past decade. While he’s spent the greater part of his career focused on his excellent comic Optic Nerve since he was a high school zinester, the overwhelming majority of attention his work receives is in response to his body of work as an illustrator for the esteemed (let’s face it, worshipped) The New Yorker magazine. Read More
From 2001 to 2004, I created one mixtape every two months, compiling the best of the music I had been listening to at the time. The idea, inspired by a Cameron Crowe interview, was to make a diary in music that you can look back on years down the line, and be transported back to the period of your life through the songs you were listening to. And it’s fun listening, and you can share with friends, etc. My rules were pretty basic: I would pull together 10 songs from each month and load them on to one 80 minute CD. I usually started with an audio or comedy clip and bisected the mix with another to mark the start of the second month. Read More
Having never experienced a true computer emergency, it’s been easy to consider myself immune from them. It’s like how I had never missed a flight until I was almost 30, and thought I had some kind of superpower. But once I did, both miss a flight and have a computer emergency, it was the closest thing I think I’ve ever been to a survival situation. Which isn’t to demean people who face true physical danger in the world, but a statement to how my digital self has become a part of my identity to the point that a threat to my computer is a threat to myself. Earlier in the week, I packed up the corpse of my three-year-old MacBook and took it to the Apple Store in Back Bay around noon. I wrapped my external hard drive, which had everything I have in life, digitally speaking, backed up on it, in an old t-shirt. I entered a three-level store that looks like Spielberg’s Minority Report. All transparent or frosted plastic and glass. Brushed aluminum. Read More
The most immediately notable thing about this 1960 issue of Popular Science I picked up a vintage market is the smell. It smells, heavily, of chlorine. Not just chlorine, it smells like an indoor whirlpool Jacuzzi, like filmy chlorinated water and aqua blue PVC, with a vinyl cover holding down vapors that make the nose and eyes burn.
The smell isn’t relevant to the content, and it’s specific to this one water-damaged copy. But it’s a fitting smell, and it conjures images of spilled martinis, one-piece bathing suits and foamy wet chest hair. Consumer products awash in chemicals and exciting new compounds, promising joy and leisure. Read More
Buzz Rickson’s Black MA-1 Bomber Jacket Cayce Pollard, brand-phobic coolhunter at the center of Pattern Recognition, adores her Japanese-made replica of a standard issue U.S. Air Force flying jacket.
The Rickson’s is a fanatical museum-grade replica of a U.S. MA-1 flying jacket, as purely functional and iconic a garment as the previous century produced…Cayce’s MA-1 trumps any attempt at minimalism, the Rickson’s having been created by Japanese obsessives driven by passions having nothing at all to do with anything remotely like fashion…It is an imitation more real somehow than that which it emulates.
The Rickson’s is a quite real jacket, emblematic for Gibson of the almost religious craftsmanship of Japanese garment makers. Buzz Rickson’s is, in fact, a Japanese clothing company founded in 1993 that specializes in replica vintage flight jackets, one of which is the MA-1. Read More
I've been wanting to start a Tumblr about a particular topic as a hobby because I have such an overabundance of free time. Nothing was really striking me, but I've been reading "Zero History" by William Gibson, and I remembered, particularly in his newer novels, how dense they are with references. Some are real, some are not real, some of them are right on the brink of being real. I remember when I saw Gibson do a reading for the release of the new book, and during the Q&A, he was asked about the potential of hyperlinks in ebooks. He sort of shrugged at the idea, but answered that, since the Internet became widespread, when he writes, he doesn't feel the need to explain everything he mentions. It's as though novels are now are somewhat suspended in a cloud of information readily at the fingertips of almost every reader.
Fifty pages in and I found myself on the subway, googling references on my phone to see if he made it up or if it's a real thing that's out there. Also in his newer novels, he writes in present day. Gibson is noted as saying "The future is here — it's just not evenly distributed." His books are filled with existing items that are on the very fringe of awareness, or on the brink of becoming mainstream. It makes for a participatory reading experience, and it's a reason he's one of my favorite authors.
And so, the Tumblr. The very geeky Tumblr. For now known as Blue Ant after the corporate identity of eccentric, wealthy puppet-master Hubertus Bigend, whose curiosity drives the events of Gibson's most recent three novels. In it, I'll pick some little item mentioned in the book and explore the story behind it. It will be fun. And it will let me write little pieces about cool things. The general topics will be fashion, marketing, computing, design, corporate espionage, all great stuff even if you have no clue who William Gibson is.
I'll repost stuff on the website. Here's the inaugural post: Read More