Shit I Actually Liked in 2016 – Part Two

redemption and self-love that are not always easy and proof that we are all much more complex than we let on.

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It’s 9:03 on a Monday morning. I don’t have work for a while. The bank account is quickly draining. I should pay bills this week too. The world is literally a mess and it’s not just in Exene Cervenka’s kiss, though we should all be so lucky. Right? Whatever. America is a failure and all we have left is escapism, which is probably going to be abandoned en mass is we don’t all want to live in a fascist regime. Shit. We’re so fucked.

As such, I am truly afraid that enjoyment of making and in taking art for the sake of art is now gone. 2016 is the last gasp of a trend we’ve been on since World War II in terms of consumption for consumptions sake and production for production sake. Which isn’t to say people should stop creating what they feel and believe or tell the stories they want to tell no matter how cosmetic they may be. But who’s really going to have time for the superficial when the fuck heads are shouting everything down with fear tactics?

Which is hard because for someone who likes sadness music more than the battle hymns of revolution, I really enjoyed the depressed adults making music arc that 2016 was. Maybe it was all these people tapping into a darker fear and bleak reality lying under the surface, but a lot of sad shit came out this year and I was way into.

Creative Adult is one of the most Joy Division bands out there that doesn’t really sound like Joy Divison. There Fear of Life LP is simply brilliant. It’s also British as fuck with out feeling derivative. The classic Marshall tones, the distinct, mournful bass lines and drums that sound like they were taken from a Lush album make Fear of Life perhaps one of the best albums to sink into before the end of the world comes. Singer Scott Williams haunting voice, buried just at the perfect Steve Albini levels and nearly indistinguishable are the perfect cry for help.

As a Washington DC expat I am always pleased when new bands from there tickle my fancy. I’m totally stoked that there is a great burgeoning hardcore scene once again in the nation’s capital but it’s old friends who really blew me away. I had the pleasure of hosting Big Hush this summer and our little dusty town was not disappointed. Also washed out in fuzz their new EP Whose Your Smoking Spirit is aptly titled and beautifully executed. All of the instruments and vocals sound like they are being played behind a wall with the occasional wailing guitar. Vocals and harmonies are so fragmented and well placed as to sound almost accidental but heavenly at the same time. Bad Moves has also won my heart with their self titled 4 song endeavor. Both bands have left me wanting more. DC’s never been a town known for its singing, but the harmonies and supplemental vocals on this enrich the great pop song writing. I can’t stop listening to “The Verge”. Four songs is just not enough, but these two EP’s together makes for an enjoyable and extended listening experience.

It pains me how much of a fan of Self Defense Family I am. But it’s true. Patrick Kindlon has been one of my favorite lyricists over the last few years and on the last several singles and EP’s he’s been exceptional in his personal, confessional narratives. On Colicky, their final offering of the year, he gets supper into letting himself loose on the wax and behind him is a band unhinged from their past. The repetitiveness and Lungfish worship is still present, but form and exploration have also taken over. And fuck if the epic ender “Brittany Murphy in 8 Mile” isn’t about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. Benny and Chris are both dicks though.

On the heavier side of things veterans Darkthrone released another banger in Arctic Thunder. Black Metal as a genre was rather humorous and never really reached the levels artistically and aesthetically that it should have. But the duo from Norway, one of the early progenies of the scene are still making great records. They have largely abandoned tenants and rules of the Black Metal Coven and instead just tried to make great metal albums. This year’s work is no different and it even has traces of their original sound.

The return of Planes Mistaken for Stars is one that also personally warmed my heart. The Denver quartet remains one of the most haunting bands I listen to. So when Prey finally emerged this year, I could not have been more pleased. The band hasn’t skipped a beat in their ten-year hiatus. Prey stacks up to their legacy and in many ways even exceeds some of it. Gared sounds just as desperate and broken as always and the songs are punishing to fatal degrees. Bands who reunite or reemerge for a second go rarely capture their former glory, but hopefully this is the beginning of another trip back to hell that we can all be dragged along with.

My final entry for music in 2016 is of course the great voice of Canada, John K. Samson. His Winter Wheat album is the perfect soundtrack for these cold mornings as fall descends into winter and the world crumbles underneath us. But don’t listen to “Virtue at Rest” because you will cry. But thanks John for another album to give me some sense of comfort that sadness doesn’t always have to be a struggle and we can do beautiful things to get by.

In terms of books, I did a piss poor job of reading this year. I didn’t read a single piece of fiction all the way through, though I started plenty of classics. But Baldwin and Rushdie and Fitzgerald just didn’t really do it for me. But it was a good year to read about music. I found a few memoirs disappointing in their execution but two tales I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed considering I was skeptical of both. Larry Livermore, the once bright and quirky king of pop punk relived his experiences of the rise and fall of Lookout! Records in How to Ru(i)n A Record Label. Once being a young, suburban punk, Lookout! played an central role in my love for the poppier sides of punk. Green Day and Operation Ivy and those damn Crimpshrine records were on constant rotation in my various Sony Walkmen. Reading the story of their simple rise and unfortunate and greedy downfall (despite putting out great Ted Leo and Pretty Girls Make Graves albums) was heartbreaking. Something that did not have to be was and pop punk suffered as a result. On another part of that spectrum is the band NOFX and their tell all The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories was easily the best book on music I’ve ever read and perhaps one of the most punctuated stories about success that’s ever been written. The California Quartet are not known for being anything other than dick head goofballs, but this biography characterizes the real people behind this band. It’s hard to have respect for Fat Mike and crew sometimes because his songs and antics are childish at best, but after reading this book I can honestly say that I am on his side, even if I can’t defend all of his choices. This is a book about hurt and pain and the attempts at redemption and self-love that are not always easy and proof that we are all much more complex than we let on.

So, that’s my 2016 in quick narrative form. There was more great shit, but this is what stood out for me. Uh, yeah, whatever. This is a terrible ending and I am going to jump ship now before I cause more damage. Peace.

This may be all there is

Friday is a slow day on the internet anyway. I may not get to posting anything for this day. I want to. I am working on my stack of reviews here, but I actually have some work this week and well frankly Sims 3 and Until The Light Takes Us are calling my name. So instead, enjoy this picture of this frog I found on HowStuffWorks.com

Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit

Agalloch
Marrow of the Spirit
Profound Lore

Black Metal is a very confusing genre of music. Firstly, the music is often very brilliant, very beautiful and very cinematic. For me, I consider most black metal musicians to be composers. While the music is driven by a great deal of emotion, very powerful emotions in fact, the best of the genre’s music comes from very trained players. The corpse paint, the growling vocals, the Satan and Death stuff, that reminds me of Halloween. Which is fine. I like horror, I guess just not so much in my music all the time.

The United States is not at the forefront of Black Metal. For those who are just finding this genre here on this blog, #1 sorry for that, but Black Metal gets its origins mostly from Norway and the other Nordic countries where darkness reigns supreme. It’s a very odd genre that includes Odinists, Naturists, Satanists and idiots. The lyrics contain lots of elements of fantasy and history and can sometimes be very awesome and  sometimes be stupid and ignorant. It doesn’t help when really amazing music, like Burzum for example, is created by hateful, murders. I tread very carefully around Black Metal, but luckily for me, in 2010, Agalloch, a band from Portland, Oregon put out a fucking amazing album with Marrow of the Spirit.

As the genre goes, Agalloch is actually one of the older, still active Black Metal bands. Formed in 1995, I was first introduced to them when I good friend gave me a copy of Ashes Against The Grain. I went pretty fucking nuts for the music on that album and when vocalist John Haughm actually sings, Agalloch is downright beautiful. It helps that they stretched outside the even expansive genre of Black Metal and heavy metal too. Their music was greater than most bands, creating epic feelings in each passage. I was pretty into it. The cookie monster vocals however, seemed very ill placed and poorly executed. I wished that Haughm would just sing because his voice is amazing. Ashes Against the Grain is great, but it fell out of rotation.

Marrow of the Spirit is a whole other animal. It’s six songs and sixty minutes. This is a monumental album, the size of which can not be imagined. It is the soundtrack to my reoccurring nightmares that are filled with massive landscapes of junkyard statues that block the skies. This album exceeds mere genre descriptions or academic music speak and every moment of it counts. Agalloch has not just put the various genre’s of metal on notice, it’s put everyone on notice.

This time around, Haughm’s growly vocals fit so nicely with the music, hints of actual harmony exist and they blend within the blasting double kick drums and frantic riffing that make up the heavier parts of the songs. But the music grows and includes post-rock elements that wouldn’t be far off on Russian Circles albums or in the middle of an Explosions in the Sky passage. And that in lies the beauty of Marrow of the Spirit, is that it has powerful movements that fall into soft sweeping movements that build into great, big, anthmatic movements. All undercut by a crisp and clean amount of guitar work that is just stunning.

Agalloch is finding it self creating music that is often sold to a certain type of person, white males in their teens and twenties, as most music today is sold to. But even narrow marketing budgets that have to count in a shitty economy can not contain just how great an album this is. Even NPR, the bastion for 30something liberal fuck heads  gave this album a glowing review and included it on their top 50 of 2010. This isn’t some hipster move on their part either. Marrow Of the Spirit is a genuine piece of modern art, beautiful and terrifying and grand the way great art should be. Agalloch is deserving of a wider audience outside of metal subgenre  ghettos and into a greater context.

It’s Snowing On My Blog (Shit I Hate About Hip Hop)

Yo, I kinda lied about not posting every day this week. I didn’t plan on it, but then I posted that shit about Too Many Daves and well, I didn’t want to have a break in the day. I have some updates and shit for some other posts and stuff at least through Monday of next week and have most of my year-end shit written up. I also hope to drop science about the new Agalloch album by the end of the shit. And you know maybe a few more things. I don’t have shit planned for 2011 yet and that’s kinda fucking with me, but I am about to move across the country so, such is life.

Anyway, in the interest of keeping your attention I thought I would do what I do best and that is rant my idiotic head off. So, be for warned, there is no forethought to what you are about to read. But, I was over at another website and saw this picture of Solja Boi or whatever the fuck that idiot, no talent ass clown’s name is.  I just got really pissed looking at it. So aside from my other, normal bashes on Hip Hop (I hate the players, I love the game so fuck off) I figured I would go off on some shit. This won’t be about sexism or violence or guns or any of the really, really stupid shit those idiots do, just other things that I hate that no one else seems bothered by.

Face Tattoos – Face Tattoos are a bad idea in general. I mean, tattoos are pretty  stupid. I have over 20 myself and all of them are dumb, poorly thought out ideas. Most of them look really good and the artists that did them are awesome. But over all, they are an indication of bad life choices on my part. That’s not going to stop me from getting even more stupid tattoos on my body over time, but it doesn’t change the fact that one of the best ways to make your self look like an idiot is to have someone permanently draw on your skin. Having said that, this trend of pseudo-millionaires getting really weird shit tattooed on their faces is alarming in its stupidity. I saw one dude that had the Los Angeles Dodgers logo etched on his check. You know, I’m just waiting for a kid who is really into hip-hop and really good at science to do that shit to his face and not get into MIT. Seriously, hip-hop nation cut it out.

FuturismThere is this new trend, I think we can blame that no talent ass clown will.i.am for it, where suddenly everyone is all like a futuristic robot or a time traveler or some other such futuristic being. I can’t completely articulate why this bothers me. Mostly I think it’s just because I find shit like Black Eyed Peas so disingenuous and all this other stuff that’s followed in their wake just makes me sad.

The Continuation of Gold Teeth “GRILLS” – Look, I’m not sure about this, but I think that moron Lil’ Wayne has like platinum fangs or some shit in his mouth still. Dude, that was incredibly stupid when the Flava Flav did that fifteen years ago. It’s still really silly man. You look like Halloween is 365 days a year and much like corpse paint on the black metal guys, that mouth full of whatever makes me have a real hard time taking you seriously or being intimidated by you. I’m not sure what I am supposed to think. You look like a clown. Yea dude, I just put you on some Juggalo Level Type Shit.

Bad SamplingThis is a bit more esoteric gripe. The art of the sample is a tricky one. I realize that the foundation of hip hop music is based on the sample. Now, that’s kind of cool to an extent, but with so much technology around to create new sounds and further manipulate those sounds, the sample seems kind of weak. Not totally, but what I hate is a bad sample. It’s been a while since I’ve keyed in on anything as atrocious as MIA’s sample of the Clash which made me want to punch her in the uterus while pregnant that shit was so offensive. Then fucking Kanye rips “21st Century Schizoid Man” by fucking KING CRIMSON? Look, I know I freak out on Kanye way too much for my own good on this stupid blog, but really, how can a dude who samples that shit in such a song killing, unsmooth way get praised to GENIUS LEVELS. If  are going to sample, especially from classic rock, which is not easy to do, make sure that shit is seamless. Otherwise, you just sound like you have no musical context and no fucking idea what you are doing. Which clearly Kanye, you don’t.

Me Bitching About Kanye – I get it dude, you hate Kanye and it pisses you off that no one else seems to share your point of view even though you have strong arguments for why you think that dude is an over-hyped, undeserving ass clown. But seriously, this is turning into some hatred-of-Twiglight level craziness here, friend. I know you need to fixate yr disgust for humanity on something, but this Kanye nonsense is getting old. It’s the holiday season, put on some Black Metal, drink a cup of decaf and just chill the fuck out.

Well, I sure feel better now. I hope we can all get past this now and move on to something more constructive. We aim to provide enough distraction from your life to make the misery of the mundane ebb just a bit. Maybe, just maybe we can make the world a better place. Peace to you.