Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

Every (Hipster) Music Critic’s Year-End Top 10 List Explained

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Upon reading this article on the predictability of year-end top 10 lists, I decided to make my own. Because someone called-out Pitchfork (and me) for being as predictable as the year-end top 10 lists referred to in that article.

10. Any self-respecting egoitst music critic is going to pick his/her personal favorite as #1. Also, Mumford & Suns is a hipster Dave Matthews Band, and fuck them. There I said it.

9. If the author didn’t understand Four Tet’s latest record, then there is little hope for him as a music critic, because it’s not dense. He’s dense.

8. This is America, and it’s OK to hate on other countries (ironically, of course). So, fuck foreign records. Exception: British bands. Because we speak their language.

7. What an amateur. Any self-respecting hipster music critic will not include any breakout successes. Rather, they will deride the bands’ rise to the top and declare them to be uncool sell-outs. “Arcade Fire? Yeah, they used to be cool, back when they were unknown and in that one Apple commercial.”

6. Obama is president. Hipsters don’t have to go on pretending to like hip-hop anymore. It’s a post-racial world.

5. The old-timer records belong further down the list because they’re only even on the list for irony’s sake. Everybody knows a good hipster has no sense of history. What’s history? Huh? Fuck history, that’s what.

4. Yes, Kanye West does deserve his own spot, despite hip-hop having no place on a modern hipster music critic’s top 10 list. Because Kanye transcends hip-hop. His beautiful dark twisted fantasy is our beautiful dark twisted fantasy. He speaks to us. He understands us.

3. This is the slot for the obvious sub-mainstream hit, actually, the one that almost made it, but didn’t. Because bands who almost sell-out but have to lick their wounds and come crawling back to college radio are the best. Oh, MGMT, it’s nice to have you back.

2. This is the spot for whichever album everyone else chose as #1, obviously. Let’s call this spot “Your Favorite Record is Only my #2 Pick”.

1. And finally, a good hipster music critic is going to put his/her personal favorite here. This is for the album that he/she either a) lost his/her virginity to, b) listened to the most while being high, c) listened to while sitting on the hood of a car looking at the night sky and musing or just pretending to be in a John Hughes movie or something. For example: 2008–M83, 2009–Animal Collective, and 2010–Beach House.

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Day Sixty Eight | Planet Earth

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Tonight was the end of the road for the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, and truly the end of an era for fans of sci-fi and good television alike. Specifically, fans of good hi-def television, actually, since the latter half of the episode was filled with enough eye-poppingly beautiful HD shots of planet Earth (is that a spoiler?) to make you think you’re watching the Planet Earth mini-series.

I think the finale really made the closing arguments on Battlestar Galactica’s eternal recurrence plot line, and left me feeling like I’d just seen the Matrix trilogy. The end is the beginning is the end, and all that.

I just wish the show didn’t have to end just yet. Fortunately, while the series might be over, the universe in which it exists isn’t, and we’ll be treated to a prequel-ish TV movie and a prequel series soon enough.

Albums Best Heard Together: Drums Not Dead and Deceit

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Liars has become a darling of the indie world, especially after their 2006 record, Drums Not Dead—look no further than Pitchfork Media’s glowing review for confirmation. Their drum-based, drone-filled sound doesn’t make for an easy listen, and sounds nothing like the hacks that fill the indie landscape lately. Drums Not Dead is almost perfect, but it’s also been done before.

Album art for This Heat-Deceit (1981)Album cover for Liars-Drums Not Dead (2006)

See, while you’ve probably already heard of Liars (the band opened for Radiohead during their 2008 North American tour), it’s much less likely that you’ve ever heard of This Heat. And Liars’ entire sound is essentially the application of a fresh coat of paint on a 1981 masterpiece by the name of Deceit.

Rather than accuse Liars of ripping off the forgotten 70s-era post-punk band This Heat, I choose to believe that Liars is paying homage to This Heat unless I find out otherwise. If you’ve heard Deceit, you’ll find Drums Not Dead definitely comes from the same place. Both records open with un-threatening, almost peaceful tracks, then pull the rug out and launch into tracks filled with menacing drum lines, screaming, and a caustic, off-balance feel that continues through the remainder of each.

That’s not to say that either record is a chore to listen to. On Deceit: “Cenotaph”, with its Joy Division-esque sound, would have made a fine single in 1981 (less so today; maybe on satellite radio), “Makeshift Swahili” is the most punk-like track on the record, and “A New Kind of Water” morphs from a beautiful, droning anthem into a proper rock song. And on Drums Not Dead, “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack” is likely to be a signature Liars song for a while—when I saw them open for Radiohead in West Palm Beach, it was their set opener. “Drums Gets a Glimpse” is a slower, pretty track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Broken Social Scene record.

It’s interesting that where I heard a little of This Heat’s contemporaries such as Can and Joy Division (and on one track, perhaps Dead Can Dance) in their record, I heard a little of Liars’ own contemporaries such as (in addition to Broken Social Scene) The Microphones, and Radiohead. The only track I’m not sure about is Drums Not Dead‘s closer, “To Hold You, Drum”, which comes off embarrassingly like a carbon copy of Deceit‘s sound. While the rest of the record stays far enough away from This Heat’s sound for Liars to come off as merely on the same wavelength as This Heat, this track implies that the band merely listened to Deceit on repeat while they were dreaming up ideas for new tracks.

As I’ve said, I choose to believe otherwise. Give both a listen. But be warned: Deceit has been out of print for a while, so it’s basically impossible to find at retail stores and difficult to find at download sites.

Must-have app: Dashwire

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Dashwire logoIf you have a Windows Mobile phone and an unlimited data plan, you have to get Dashwire like, yesterday. If you’re using anything else and/or don’t have an unlimited data plan, then I’m sorry.

Dashwire, recently out of private beta, lives as an app on your WinMo 5 or 6 phone (Symbian and BlackBerry support on the way) and dutifully sends out almost everything to the other half of this equation, a web app that lets you manage your phone from your computer. The data gets synced over the air automatically, so you know that nearly everything on your phone is also available on the web.

Backup to the Dashwire Cloud

Dashwire will pick up and sync your photos, your text messages, your contacts, your ringtones, even your call history and voicemail (via Callwave). And it syncs almost frighteningly fast: I had the web app open, and received a phone call; by the time I hung up perhaps a minute later, the call was already displayed in my call history on the Dashwire web app.

Dashwire screenshot

Web2.0 for your Phone

Dashwire doesn’t stop there, even though as an online backup for your phone alone, it would already kick ass. No, Dashwire gives you the whole web2.0 social networking aspect, like any good web app would. When you set your status on your phone through the Dashwire app, it sends the status update to your Facebook and Twitter status (and I’m sure more services are in the pipeline). Your phone gets its own little profile page, with a stream of all the photos and video you’ve shot posted up as a tumblelog. And you can view your text messages like an instant messaging conversation, a la iChat/iPhone. You can also send text messages or Skype any of your contacts from the Dashwire web app, as well as share anything with your contacts.

Verdict: Awesome Squared

So far, I’m in love. Dashwire has that feeling of something that does everything just right. The last time I was so smitten with a service was Google’s GrandCentral, which I still use constantly. Hell, it’s replaced my phone number. Did I forget to mention that Dashwire, like GrandCentral is completely free? It basically does 90% of Apple’s MobileMe service, except it costs nothing. Read: Killer app.

One final note: Apparently, Microsoft is already on the list of investors. And the start-up behind Dashwire just happens to be in Seattle. With Danger (the folks behind the Sidekick) in their company, I immediately thought that adding Dashwire to the Sidekick would be nothing short of perfect. If Dashwire can get their “cloud” to sync back to Outlook over the air, then, I’ll be in mobile heaven.

Clover (in Florida)

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

If you haven’t heard of the Clover, you aren’t a coffee snob; and if you aren’t a coffee snob, then you won’t care, and this post is not for you. That said, if you’ve already had a cup of coffee from a Clover, then consider yourself both lucky and in the vanguard. Very few cafes already have this wonderful piece of equipment. How few? See this screenshot from Clover’s website:

Map of locations with Clover coffee maker

Look toward Florida and you’ll see that only one coffee house in the entire state makes the list. It just happened to be in the Metro West area of Orlando, not far from me. Which meant I had to pay a visit.

Credit where credit due: My friend and ex-coworker at Starbucks, Lisa, made this find. And she blasted into the Starbucks where I was sitting and told me to drop whatever I was doing and join her on a mission. A mission to find an amazing cup of coffee. A mission which was very successful.

The place with the Clover machine

The Coffee Tasting

First, we tried a cup of Brazil Fazenda Cachoeria da Grama Cup of Excellence, which got a whopping 92 from Coffee Review. To give you an idea what this means, only one Starbucks coffee ever got a 90 from Coffee Review (Serena Organic Blend, in 2004). So, these are fantastic coffees. In the first cup, I tasted honey, something I’d never tasted in a coffee before. A bit of lemon, and a bunch of cedar, followed by this distinct honey taste and a tea-like herbal bent that I love in coffee. It went down smooth, and it tasted crisp and refreshing. Fantastic.

Our second cup was Esmeralda Especial Panama, which got a 94. Esmeralda was stronger, with more lemon and floral notes, and another surprising taste: menthol. Yes, menthol. I did not taste it at first, to my disappointment, since it was clearly mentioned in the review. Then, Long, long after I had finished the cup, it finally hit me, and it was like nothing I’ve tasted in a coffee. What a kick.

The Machine

What about the machine itself? Well, a lot depends on the person operating it, but it’s mostly automated, so the chance of screwing it up aren’t any greater than the chance of screwing up a French Press. The Clover works something like an automated, reverse press: instead of leaving all the grinds sitting at the bottom and pressing down, the grinds get ejected out the top of the machine when the cup is finished.

We got to the Clover-equipped coffee house just 15 minutes before it closed for the day, and had to rush things. This means I’ll be coming back for a more thorough look at the Clover.

Wii: No Gamers Allowed

Friday, April 11th, 2008

I have a confession: I’ve never beaten a Wii game. Despite lining up at midnight and purchasing the Wii on launch night, I have never played through to the end of a single of my Wii games. I blame Nintendo for ignoring the rules of crafting a solid entertainment experience; namely, you need to retain the player’s interest throughout the entire plot, not just the first hour of game play.

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To the Fives: WP2.5 and FF3b5

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

I just finished upgrading my WordPress install to version 2.5, and it’s as fresh as the name of its new theme (hint: It’s called “Fresh”). Everything about it feels right. Installing or upgrading WordPress used to be something like getting Ubuntu to play nice with Broadcom Wi-Fi cards on a laptop (read: pain in the ass). Not today. No, today, upgrading from WP 2.1 to 2.5 consisted of me:

  • Exporting all of my posts
  • Copying over my plug-in and upload folders
  • Replacing the WordPress directory with the new ones I downloaded
  • Running the included upgrade.php script

Easy as pie for nerds.

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Two Stu.dicio.us Weeks

Friday, September 8th, 2006

I have a hard time paying attention. It might just be a geek ailment caused by too much stimulation, or I might have A.D.D. Either way, I’m an awful note-taker, and computers have only made my notes worse. When I heard about stu.dicio.us and saw its minimalist interface, I signed up right away. Now, I’ve been using stu.dico.us for two weeks for all my lecture notes and here’s what I think of it so far.

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Location, Location, Location

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

If you’ve ever found yourself in an unfamiliar locale wandering around looking for a gas station, a good place to eat, or something to do, then the notion of location-based services is great. Unfortunately, it’s an idea whose time hasn’t quite come. Or has it? (more…)

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Radiohead's New Material

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

In the words of one Pitchfork Media reviewer, “If you’re waiting for these guys to finally fuck-up something royal, keep waiting. They’re unbacklashable”. After all the critical acclaim of OK Computer back in 1997, no one could have imagined that Radiohead would survive the inevitable backlash. Radiohead didn’t just survive it; they came back with a recording session that spawned two not-especially-radio-friendly but absolutely top-notch albums. (more…)

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