Caprese Style Chicken
South Beach Living (Kraft)
I’ll just put this in the most blunt terms possible: I succumbed to an irresistible urge to listen to Snow Patrol’s Final Straw. Was I looking to put the finishing touches on the seduction of the sort of traditionally attractive woman who attended a large state university and is entry-level alt enough for my tastes? If it was, you’d be the first to know. Likewise, I succumbed to an irresistible urge to listen to Death From Above 1979’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. Did I get dumped by that woman and feel the need to nurse my heartbreak while still being a coked-out asshole? If it was, you’d be the first to know.
Essentially, they’re both examples in what’s become a fairly obvious problem in my ability to cope with the unstoppable movement of time: I’m pretty much nostalgic for just about anything associated with 2004 at pretty much at all times. Mostly because a scant few months of that year allowed me to put an actual valuation on my life: approximately $3 million.
How did I come up with this number? I’ll spare you the mathematics, but essentially, that’s a rough estimate of how much money I’d need (not accounting for inflation) to live my life in a perfectly content manner until I tap out. I made a determination about the yearly requirement based on the ridiculous pittance you get paid as an entry-level worker in the entertainment industry. That wage you earn for about half your career is supposed to serve as some sort of inspiration for you to work as hard as humanly possible so you get ridiculously overpaid for the other half. Me? Even I thought Pusha’s “a half a mil’ in twenties” line was ridiculous because if any of my industry friends in my age range were making $50k in 2010, they were without a doubt the richest one in the crew - and we pretty much all had been promoted by that point. If I can thank my old jobs for anything, it was essentially relieving me of the college and law school brainwashing that if I couldn’t afford to send my kid back to either of those institutions, I’d never be happy. Fuck, excitement to me is finding out grapes are $.96 a pound and I could spring for a Banana Republic work shirt that’s not on sale.
But I guess that was just an extension of what was happening while I was taking “jobs” in law school. Indulge me: I took a job as a Kaplan LSAT instructor in Athens, partly because I needed to stay in Georgia to establish state residency before my tuition for next year was determined and I didn’t have the money to grab an apartment in Atlanta. That said, the latter’s a moot point since I was pretty much unemployable after 1L anyway because outside of moderately impressive grades and zero in-state job connections, I was best known amongst my classmates for having the funniest blog and getting spotted by my Contracts professor drinking a 40 while tailgating before a crucial UGA/Middle Tennessee State game. It’s not like I was turning down Jones Day on account of a couple hundred dollars worth of rent.
And as is the case with my favorite kind of job, it required enough effort and time commitment to give my day some sort of structure but it was the kind of work I never had to take home with me - quittin’ time was quittin’ time. Most importantly, the work I actually did required so little of me because it was basically an advanced version of Jewish overnight camp: i.e., rich parents overpaying thousands of dollars for a program to essentially give themselves time away from their kids for the summer. Moreover, the kids don’t want to be there, and the staff doesn’t really give a shit either because they know they’re getting jerked on salary. This is how future lawyers are born.
So between that and individual LSAT tutoring (which more or less consisted of me having hourlong conversations about UGA Law’s social life with this girl who had no business even considering law school), I’d have my mornings properly taken care of. At which point, I could hang my hat up from four hours of backbreaking labor, enjoy a couple Lean Pockets, go to Ramsey Gym and lament the fact that none of the cute undergrads go there in the summer, at which point I’d likely come home, call up my friends who were still in town during the summer and hit up the sort of bar where an entire pitcher of Blue Moon is less expensive than a single glass of it in Los Angeles. Or, failing that, fix myself a signature “Gamma Phi Spring Formal”-cup full of Bacardi Razz and diet Sprite, enjoy the NHL and/or NBA playoffs and blog about how amazing A Grand Don’t Come For Free is.
That’s living, innit? And I suppose what I find most frightening about my own life is that most of my dreams are actually pretty achievable - just allow me a relatively stress-free gig that mostly allows my own hours and makes enough so that I can pay my bills, and perhaps one day, one a sporty coupe so I can toss my Saturn off a cliff, “November Rain”-style and then immediately play a guitar solo on a Les Paul, “November Rain”-style. Because I’d definitely would’ve bought one of those jumpoffs too.
In that context, I found the creeping suspicion that being some sort of writer would allow me that kind of lifestyle, and hell, wasn’t I capable of this sort of thing? In college, I was the subject of a war of words between the daily paper and the weekly alt-mag because I apparently didn’t realize it was taboo to write for them both. It’s not like that was my intention: I just needed an outlet that let me use curse words. Nonetheless, I knew what it was like to be in demand so long as I didn’t mind not getting paid or really being read by anyone other than myself. Hey, getting published was enough, right? This prepared me for a couple years at Stylus.
Only problem was…how the fuck does someone become a writer when everyone you know is either a lawyer or an accountant telling you to do anything other than be a lawyer or accountant? As far as I was concerned, writing for Rolling Stone or whatever was like having a job at Plan 9 or Schoolkids or whatever your preferred college town record store was: borne of antisocial, lifelong music consumption and a hiring process that was essentially a Stonecutters-like proposition where you were either born into it or got the gig because you saved someone’s life, preferably from the Egg Council.
I never have much fun getting into bull sessions about who “influenced” me as a music writer, because I’ve never purposefully read any Lester Bangs or what have you, and Robert Christgau mostly reminds me of the sort of shit writers I try my hardest to avoid in real life. Other than anyone who’s handed out a sub-2.5 grade at Pitchfork, my “influences” I suppose are Chuck Klosterman and Rob Sheffield, only because I was havin’ nervous breakdowns like, “these writers that much better than me?” So yeah, “wow, these guys write like I would with the jokes and all, except I can do THAT way fucking better" is essentially my mission statement.
And you know what? All that shit felt like it was achievable come 2004, a year which I regard in the same manner as Rolling Stone does 1969, as NME does 1977 and Okayplayer does 1988. My mans ‘n’ ‘em Joey laid it out real smooth at Straight Bangin’in a much, much, much more timely fashion, but it’s really the same experience. It wasn’t so much that it was a time for bold and innovative thinking, though there was a lot of that. But it was more that these voices were being heard in a way that transcended the idea of “blogger” as “lone gunman” and something legitimate, something that would result in a post with 50 comments ending up being the greatest success any of us would ever achieve.
It came from several fronts, but I suppose the prelude: As much as I disagreed or thought Pitchfork overdid it back then, I no doubt at least appreciated that we were no longer in a world where the only rap records indie kids could talk about were, like, the latest thing from De La Soul or Atmosphere. Just look at the difference between the 2003 and the 2004 year-end list. You think if that sea change didn’t occur, I’d be pitching the new Sheek Louch record and potentially getting paid to write about it?
Of course, the reason this entire thing is being written in the first place is due to the untimely, but still sorta timely shuttering of FreeDarko. It’s been tough for me to endure my favorite sports blogs carking out in the past couple of years, even though godbody dudes from those years like EDSBS and MGoBlog are still going strong: FireJoeMorgan is still missed badly though I don’t fault them for gettin’ that Parks & Recreation cake and I guess when Fanhouse “died”/got sold to Sporting News, a publication which I assume is about as prevalent on newsstands as Beckett, it wasn’t unlike the narrative of Dismemberment Plan’s “Face Of The Earth” (via something they heard about Michael Jordan’s ex-girlfriend drowning in high school): it’s not like we were married, it was three or four months. Okay, actually it was more like three years, and I had to give them credit where credit’s due: if it wasn’t for Fanhouse bringing me on from the get-go in 2006, I wouldn’t have been able to lie about being someone you could reliably expect rent from as a tenant because I “worked for AOL.” Even though the money I made from each post couldn’t purchase 65% of the items on Chipotle’s menu.
As far as trying to express what made FreeDarko great…what can I really say that hasn’t been done already? Well, I suppose that I consider them to be something of a Sonic Youth-like figure in the game - which is not to say they encapsulate everything completely irritating about New York’s art scene or that they’ve only been responsible for about 15 minutes of material I find to be legitimately enjoyable. But it’s more that they’re something of a patron saint of the “underground” or “alternative” means of journalism - others may have blown up bigger, but they were always at the center, a place where the stuff I wanted to read about - indie rock, hip-hop, sports, academia, politics, whatever - usually strewn about in divergent fields, came to find a center. And in the manner than SY would bring noise acts along as their openers on tour, pretty much any writer, regardless of how difficult or abrasive or daunting they may have been, always felt embiggened by the FreeDarko stamp of approval.
And pretty much every time we correspond as people with real names like Ian Cohen and Bethlehem Shoals, there’s a mutual lament that I never contributed anything to FreeDarko…as Sexy Results!. It’s a completely understandable distinction to make, and if there’s any reason it never came to pass, it’s on my end. If there’s anything for the guys to take away from this, it’s that I simply never even attempted to contribute because it’s the one major influence on my writing where I thought, “wow, they write like I do…but I can’t do THIS way fucking better."
I’ll try to create an encomium to FreeDarko the best way I know how - by going in, Sexy Results! style. Meaning, all kinds of mildly knowledgable sports talk. Meaning, all kinds of scattered record reviews that span the gamut of hip-hop and indie as if I know deep down I need to post them here for posterity because no one’s paying me.
But most pointedly, it’s a complete ripoff of the most popular Sexy Results! post ever, that joint which compared college football teams to rappers and is probably so badly outdated, I won’t even link to it - just looking at it will overcome the joy I once felt at receiving laudatory emails from the likes of Tucker Max.
So yeah, was thinking about my NBA Playoff preview. Was thinking about a Status Ain’t Hood-style Quarterly Report, but then I realized by the time I was done, an entire third of the year had passed. Decided to just throw them both together, as it the following is somehow more “convenient” for the reader. Fuck it, light up, light up as if you had a choice.
Lupe Fiasco- Lasers
I suppose this isn’t the best way to introduce a statement that the music and athletic quality of these comparisons aren’t 1:1. Because with all due respect to Theophilus London (which is to say, none at all), Lasers is definitely the worst record I’ve spent any significant amount of time with in 2011. And I suppose its likeness with the Cavs is that it’s a distinct kind of terrible that’s not even funny because they’re trying so hard.
But more to the point, I know Lupe’s heard a couple of Modest Mouse records, so if he ever meets up with Dan Gilbert, those two can chop it up about “how it took a lot of work to be the ass I am/and I’m really damn sure that anyone can easily equally fuck you over.” Because really, aren’t Lasers and the 2010-2011 Cleveland Cavaliers just master classes in taking an L, two bald-faced examples of some guy who deals with emotions like bitches taking advantage over a captive, sizable and pretty much pitiable audience?
And yeah, each got their short-lived victory: Lasers sold something like 200k in its first week, which is like, Disturbed numbers (that’s why you’re the judge and I’m the law-talkin’ guy) and leaves open the question of whether Lupe’s followers are just that loyal or, worse, that the Atlantic execs were right all along. Likewise, the Cavaliers beat the Heat at home when the smarter thing to do would just completely tank so they could have a better shot at what could be the new LeBron. Yeah, whatever…as if having the first crack at the top prospects in the 2011 NBA Draft is any better than having the first crack at a fire Skylar Green hook.
Gunplay- Inglorious Bastard
Combine Kevin Love’s media presence with Michael Beasley’s drug use and you essentially end up with this interview.
But on the real, despite the fact that Inglorious Bastard, the only example of a rap mixtape spelling something correctly by spelling something else wrong, is awesome and the Timberwolves are most certainly not at least in a W/L sense, they both provide me with a kind of enjoyment that really transcends any sort of discussion about whether it’s “legit” or is likely to result in anything worthwhile down the line.
I suppose if we can get Flockaveli in this day and age from someone who was essentially Gucci Mane’s bodyguard and puts his career in the hands of someone whose business sense got her fired by Gucci Mane, it stands to reason that we might get an actual release of any kind for someone who’s under the wing of Rick Ross, whose relationship with reality is about as dysfunctional of that as David Kahn’s.
Likewise, the T-Wolves have a cast of characters that are just incredibly easy to love as long as you put no stake whatsoever in having it translate to tangible on-court success. I mean, would Darko rather be underpaid or overrated? Somehow he’s both! And Beasley is mostly proof that scoring 20 ppg on a terrible team isn’t much of a greater achievement than rushing for 1,000 yards in a season. Plus, how can you not love that Miami essentially gave a #2 draft pick away after two years because they were convinced that even hanging out with quite possibly the three most “these guys aren’t cool enough to do drugs” superstars in the NBA wouldn’t be able to keep him off that purp/boy/Birdman?
The Weeknd- House Of Balloons
The Kings are staking their future on Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins - who spent a single year respectively at Memphis and Kentucky and yet somehow managed to distinguish themselves as “wow, these guys sure don’t have much respect for the integrity of college basketball” guys. Meanwhile, The Weeknd were the tipping point for inspiring the term “PBR&B” and boast lyrics like “I got her wetter than a wetnap” and the hilariously Hedberg-ian “they say ‘I heard he do drugs now’/they heard wrong, I been on ‘em for a minute now.” Which is to say, that are both are fucking awesome to behold, but do we really feel good about that?
And besides, in light of their current financial woes, wouldn’t you assume that the typical Tuesday night in the life of the Maloof brothers followed the basic plotline of “Glass Table Girls” to a sniper-precise extent?
Of course, the talking points regarding these two are almost entirely external at this point, and they both regard their impingement on a territory that’s not properly theirs, as if 99% of the country could actually give a fuck. But while you might say trying to horn in on the Orange County TV market doesn’t have much to do with a bunch of Beach House-sampling dudes trying to horn in on urban radio, truth is, I can’t say whether Anaheim or R&B are both deserving of that fate for being equally softbatch.
On a sidenote, if I were the Junior Boys, I’d push up the release date of the new record so they can piggyback off PBR&B’s momentum and reintroduce themselves as O.G. Jew godfathers of the genre on some Ariel Pink shit.
Vivian Girls - Share The Joy
I guess you could envision the impending demise of what we’ve grown used to with these two, but the wheels falling off like this? Pretty much the only way to keep me interested. Certainly, Stephen Jenkins would have to talk you down from the kind of freefall of Jerry Sloan to Ty Corbin; meanwhile, sounding like you recorded on a broken Tascam 4-track to having dude from Woods produce your album is…well about the same if you really think about it. I guess my attempt to present inverse scenarios failed me, but ironically, each of those situations pretty much exposed how the parties involved have absolutely no fucking clue what they’re doing once the veil of secrecy has been lifted.
And I guess Ali Koehler is the Deron Williams in this situation, even if she looks like she could knock around Al Jefferson in the paint. Okay, fine…I know Al Jefferson’s defense and Kickball Katy could probably hit him up for a double double too. But, shit…when the Nets and Best Coast sound like safe havens from whence you came, I think that’s a damn good sign you need to get the fuck out of Dodge.
New York Knicks
The Strokes- Angles
Is there really anything more damaging than the idea that everyone’s better off when New York’s relevant? It applies to basically anything, but it’s even more pronounced in the subjects we’re tackling here because no matter the forum, the passion and knowledge of the fans always outstrips the merit of what they’re actually passionate about. If you ever doubt me, spend a few hours checking out CMJ showcases and prove that you didn’t end up purchasing a firearm.
As far as the Knicks go, I realize that they were never completely irrelevant no matter how bad they were; I gotta thank the media’s NYC bias for that, because without it, I wouldn’t have been able to talk about how much Lady Sovereign sucks by bringing up Jerome James. But you realize the last time the Knicks were a threat, legitimate or otherwise to cause damage in the playoffs, they hitched their hopes on the likes of John Starks, Charles Smith and Allan Houston. I mean, real talk: the NBA ca. 1994 was essentially the Pearl Jam to the NBA ca. 1970’s KISS: slower, uglier, more depressing, lower scoring and really every bit as vapid come to think of it. Now I all I need to find out is that Nick Anderson and ‘em were so shaky on the free throw line because he was off that boy-boy.
The sitch with the Strokes isn’t that much different; remember when Is This It? came out in 2001 and everything fucking changed? Of course not, because the sort of publications that were telling you about the New Rock Revolution and such clung to the Strokes for dear life in large part because they didn’t change a fucking thing. You remember the turn of the century, right? Hip-hop, teen-pop, nu-metal and post-Pinkerton emo were running shit, U2 hadn’t released a new record since Pop and Pearl Jam was still touring behind motherfucking Yield. Bad enough for Rolling Stone and I can’t imagine it was much fun at NME when Doves, Turin Brakes and jj72 were poppin’ off. I’ll throw it over to Dom P. to handle the rest of it, but long story short, I think we saw from Oasis that a lot of lazy scribes have no problem declaring a band that sounds like a quarter-century prior and stands completely still on stage the most exciting act in the world provided they look the part. And unlike Liam, Julian’s never clapped at Roc-A-Wear - what good is dude really?
Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of love for This Is It?; in 2001, it was the only record besides I Get Wet and The Blueprint that my friends and I could mostly agree upon. That and subsequently Elvis’ #1 because we always listened to “Now Or Never” remembering that one time in Vegas, he shit his pants while hitting that climactic high note and explaining backstage, “whoop, let one go there.” And also, 12 Gauge’s “Dunky Butt” for different but no less valid reasons.
And so here both are with their “big comeback,” borne of not much else than a narrative suggesting we’re all ready for it, even if it overlooks the obvious - i.e., that Amare, ‘Melo and D’Antoni have been responsible for about zero meaningful playoff wins while the same people expecting Chauncey to step up are probably still excited for Detox, and on the flipside, “11th Dimension” is pretty much the only thing that whole band has fucked with since 2003 that’s worth a shit. Except for Drew Barrymore, I suppose.I mean, I’m used to the idea that we’re supposed to hold these guys in awe because of a half-hour of near-perfect music that captured a certain New York essence. Hell, it’s what Nas has based the past decades of his career upon, except he wrote “Oochie Wally”; what has Julian done for us?
Smith Westerns- Dye It Blonde
They appeared to have a headstart on the competition leading up to the new year. The Wiz had the #1 pick, Smith Westerns had “Weekend.” Fortunately, the #1 pick turned out to be John Wall, which I suppose is as cushy as getting the first BNM of the new year. But for all the nice little revelations (“All Die Young” = JaVale McGee, i.e., who knew they had it in them?) their complete fade from public consciousness over the past couple of months makes me wonder how long we can attribute their struggles to youth before we realize they’re actually going to kinda suck for quite some time.
New Jersey Nets
Puro Instinct- Headbangers In Ecstasy
Another big candidate to make a splash in ‘10-‘11, in large part because in terms of buzz dollars, Gorilla Vs. Bear is the churnalist music blog equivalent of Mikhail Prokhorov, willing to make it thunderstorm regardless of how suspect its recipients really are. So while indie fans awaited Headbangers In Ecstasy expecting something like LeBron or ‘Melo, in the end, the record itself was the sonic equivalent of watching Johann Petro and Travis Outlaw take the floor.
And yet, somehow they found an unexpected boost of relevancy, since Headbangersgetting a 5.8 at Pitchfork was apparently a bigger shock to the blog world than Deron Williams getting traded under the cover of night; all of a sudden, my prediction that 90% of Hipster Runoff’s 2011 coverage would be based on Puro Instinct at least startedto come true, and no shortage of low-level Los Angeles blogs took me to task for having the nerve to deviate from a plan where they get to call firsties on a future BNM. Of course, the odds of that shit resulting in any coverage of Puro Instinct centering around their music as opposed to about as hot as every other college girl currently browsing the Century City Westfield is about as good as Deron sticking around.
Lykke Li- Wounded Rhymes
A lot of people seem to have a vested interest in seeing them succeed, but they either need to decide to actually be good or just suck outright. Because this sort of lukewarm acceptability is just not cutting it while I’m still somehow supposed to care.
Antlers- Burst Apart
I can cope with these guys not being good in a way that allows them to be taken seriously, but why don’t I like them when they seemingly have every intention in crashing my wheelhouse? I’d long gotten over my animosity towards the Raptors borne of the 2001 Playoffs when they appeared to be fucking with David Stern’s money by having every intention to beat AI’s Sixers in the Conference Finals. Fortunately, Sung Tongs came three years too later for VC, and his decision making was more along the lines of a dude seriously vibing out to Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished.
Anyways, weren’t these guys supposed to be some of sort of Canadian, off-brand version of the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns for a hot minute? And wouldn’t that have been enough to be a #2 seed in the Eastern Conference up until two years ago?
It’s in the same manner I expected Hospice to be some sort of non-Canadian, off-brand version of Funeral for a hot minute before it became the record that’s be. Can’t say I’ve heard the whole of Burst Apart yet, but judging from “Parentheses,” they’re stuntin’ in that post-OK Computer alt-rock way where bands like Our Lady Peace and Live would pop mad shit about the “electronica” influence in their new concept albums and the ”Climbing Up The Walls” drums were essentially everyone’s “When The Levee Breaks.” That’s about as good a look as these Oliver Miller classics the Raptors were rockin’ around that time.
Golden State Warriors
Cam’ron & Vado- Gunz n’ Butta
Man, I wish their moment would last forever - no one really gave a shit whether it was “good for the game,” it was all fuck-you swag and no substance whatsoever and it was fun as hell because everyone who was on board felt that they spoke directly to us. This year, they actually managed to be somewhat decent in spite of themselves: I suppose that there’s a Monta Ellis/Stephen Curry dynamic between Cam and Vado, in that one’s hungrier but the other’s clearly better if not more disinterested and Araabmusik is Keith Smart, some well-meaning up-and-comer who wants to rebrand the team as more of a lunchpail type. Of course, we’d all be happier if we had the original Heatmaker Don Nelson loungin’ in a Hawaiian shirt letting them essentially play Rucker-style.
Battles- Gloss Drop
Though they both liked to stunt like they were truly a team affair, let’s be real: when we found out their perceived leader was headed elsewhere, you thought it’d all go to complete shit right? And really, the ‘08 version of the Nuggets really did have aMirrored feel to it, just the purest form of hyperathletic, crowd-pleasing, badassathleticism given freedom to do whatever the hell they wanted, structure or traditionalism be damned. I’d go so far as to say Chris Andersen was the equivalent of John Stanier’s crash cymbal, employed sparingly but oh man does the crowd go apeshit when they do their thing.
But now that the initial excitement has died down in the proving that they can actually make it without their multimedia stars, don’t you miss the unlimited ceiling? What are they now? Respectively, a team likely stuck between a 6 seed and the 12th pick in the draft for the foreseeable future and the most high-profile math-rock/prog band in the indiesphere. Are those really fates you’d wish upon anybody?
EMA- Past Life Martyred Saints
Was hoping the playoff seedings broke a little differently so I could drive home further how they Grizz can get down with a song that starts “fuck California, you made me boring.” Nah, but you couldn’t get me to predicted that as of April 14, 2011, these are the joints I’m most excited about in their respective fields because they’re actually dangerous in a palpable and meaningful way - which is to say, that both these fields are prone to chalk and its big ticket items coming from a mile away. You spend your time with these two and you have no idea what they’re capable of - are “what’s it like to be small town and gay?,” “twenty kisses with a butterfly knife” and “I almost threw up on the spot” EMA lyrics or trash talk from a Grizzlies shootaround? (pre-Battier)
Then again, I’ve heard people compare EMA to both Liz Phair and Cat Power, meaning I have as much confidence in her translating to a bigger stage as I do in a team led by Zach Randolph and OJ Mayo.
TV On The Radio- Nine Types Of Light
Liking these dudes really made you feel better about yourself, didn’t it? Between Yao and Shane Battier and Luis Scola, you got the sort of multi-racial, cultured and craft-intensive vibe that probably should’ve been lent to the Nets so as to make the move to Brooklyn all the more smooth. Not to mention a supposed nerd genius (that’s Morey, not Adelman) working behind the scenes to make shit go smoothly and becoming a very in-demand near-celebrity.
Except the nerd genius has made a whole lot of questionable moves, key parts of the franchise are either unconcerned or out of commission and if I were Tunde, I’d approach record making in a manner similar to Aaron Brooks…except “I was in a movie with Anne Hathaway” is a little more justifiable than being Sixth Man of the Year if you’re gonna pull the “y’all can’t tell me shit” card.
Anyways, they’re in this really disappointing “good enough, but not really great” rut where they don’t belong and they need to blow this shit up posthaste.
Wale via Maybach Music Group- Self Made
It’s sort of amazing how their humble, ethics-based style was seen as a huge tonic to the bored and bloated kingpins that ruled the middle of the decade considering how years worth of awful personnel decisions and public emasculations have left them a shell of their former selves. I don’t care if they’re under new ownership and they’re trying to restructure as a youthful firebrand: it’s gonna take years to clean up this Superfund site.
Saigon- The Greatest Story Never Told
Quite frankly, the shock of realizing that the Pacers somehow clinched a spot in the playoffs with at least a week left in the season can’t compare to stopping by at Metacritic and finding out that The Greatest Story Never Told has a score usually reserved for Loretta Lynn and African roots records. And while I suppose it’s nice to throw their respective followers a bone - for the past few years, Pacers fans and the “bring New York back/real hip-hop, sonn” crowd have been equally cute in their hopeless cause - how can you really get excited for something that has absolutely no fucking future?
Cold Cave- Cherish The Light Years
Man, I had high hopes for these dudes not just for the public, but for my own selfish devices. First off, even if he’s the NBA’s most ardent embodiment of the “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, even if you miss like 85% of those you do” mindset that I carry over to video games of all sports, I admire how Brandon Jennings opened the door for other dudes who realize what utter bullshit college basketball is to choose their own adventure overseas. I mean, I went to college and was immediately homesick, stressed and getting my ass kicked at basketball.
If we’re going to compound all that with the ignominy of not knowing how to talk to the women in a particular locale, I’d prefer it to be due to my inability to speak Italian rather than not being in a fraternity that isn’t southern enough. Also, seriously hope Jeremy Tyler’s mom has a sticker of an Israeli flag on the back window of a Volvo or something to stunt on all those moms with weak shit like “UCLA” or “Skidmore.”
I’m also rooting for Andrew Bogut because I feel that will karmically align me so that I’ll never even accidentally have to watch video of his injury and I fucks with Drew Gooden because he’s the evolutionary Joe Smith to me, or, if we’re still fucking with MLB-NBA exchange, the basketball Heathcliff Slocumb; i.e., the season doesn’t really begin until I somehow find out he’s still playing.
And let’s not forget John Salmons. As a basketball player, I don’t really have much use for him - he’s not really FreeDarko and he’s not really NotFreeDarko either, he just is the kind of guy who’ll give you a PPG in the high teens and never be better than the third best option on a team that advances past the second round. But none of that takes into account that him and I are both graduates of the Plymouth-Whitemarsh class of ‘98, thanks to some very, very questionable redestricting and living arrangements that made our rivalry with neighboring Norristown a lot more interesting. I can’t remember whether that can of pepper spray got released in the gym before or after he transferred to PW, but I’ll always remember the cops being there in full force instead of solving the more pressing issues in my hometown, i.e., stopping underage beer purchases at Franzone’s Pizza and shoplifting at the local WaWa.
Funny thing is that his status at the NBA level is some sort of hyperspeed version of what he was in high school, which is to say he would’ve been my third choice had you asked about our 1997 STATE CHAMPS TEAM!!! “who’s going to the NBA?” I thought Abdul Collier had a shot because had a real Malik Rose swag about him, or Gene Shipley, who was 6’10” and was apparently a total laugh riot in swim class (in the pool, not in the locker room, you naughty motherfucker).
I guess it’s a pretty big deal to be a Miami recruit - and you could tell he thought so, considering his high school yearbook quote was, and I am NOT making this up - “ALL THE GIRLS WHO LIKE ME CALL ME,” while also saying something about how everyone should keep their shoes white. But no one really seemed to make much of it, then the dude grew about 5 or 6 inches in college and all of a sudden was a 6’7” dude who could handle the rock. But really, as I said, his NBA guise is kind of similar to that of his P-W days, in that you can win a championship…provided he’s like the third or fourth scoring option. Not a guy you sign to his biggest contract ever after he’s passed 30 and destined to spend 85% of it on Bill Simmons’ “Most Untradeable” list.
But yeah, I wasn’t mad about being probably the #2 most famous graduate of PW’s class of 1998, but now thanks to this dude, and mind you, I used to have playdates with this kid when I was like 6 and we had AP classes together, I imagine I’m stuck at #3 now for a loooooong time.
Cold Cave? Yeah, why not. Like the Bucks, they were sorta slept-on a while back but not really ready for next-level exposure. But then, they hit everyone off with a total heater out of nowhere (“The Great Pan Is Dead”/last year’s playoffs) that led me to believe that they were 2011’s breakout squad. I was pumped for this shit because my mans Andrew Gaerig called it “Macho Cure,” which highly paid publicists have never come up with despite being paid good money to think of catchy phrases that will automatically make me listen to their shit. You don’t think someone like myself who owns two AFI records isn’t going immediately ignore your email if you throw “Macho Cure” in there?
But I started to feel unsure of myself when I passed “Great Pan” over to Tal and he said “it sounds like AFI,” which I suppose isn’t the sort of thing paid music writers use as a compliment. And sure, maybe Wes Eisold’s lyrics don’t brick as much as the Bucks do with their jumpshots, but even I sorta elide over how “U.S.A.” probably never should be used as an audible lyric. And I guess the relentless compression of this thing is an homage to the browbeating coaching style of Scott Skiles. And now…well, I’m left to wonder whether I’m the only one who sees the true awesomeness in it or whether I’m just blinded to the fact that it might kinda suck and I should’ve seen it coming a mile away.
Death Cab For Cutie- Codes And Keys
"Love is watching someone you love die." Or, "we slide from top to bottom then we turn and climb again." Or, "destroy this mock shrine, ‘cause it’s so tired."
But as long as the same guy’s at the controls, I really give them a fighting chance. I mean, they’re basically ageless and what other indie guy has a life that can actually be meaningfully compared with that of Steve Nash? I suppose other than Bill Callahan, for whom the entire point of his recent NYT profile was just for Ben Ratliff to shout “bitches on deck.”
Sure, Nash is eight digits and running in the salary department, but if I’m to believeRipped, I’m fairly certain Gibbard was a millionaire before Narrow Stairs. Nash won two MVPs and may or may not have fucked around and got a triple double and later simply fucked Elizabeth Hurley in the same night. Gibbard made Transatlanticism and wifed up Zooey Deschanel. Steve Nash has to work with Vince Carter. Meanwhile, I’m fairly certain dude with the oval-shaped head never intentionally fucked up his bass parts so he could fired and join Tapes n Tapes or some shit. Your call.
Portland Trail Blazers
Thursday- No Devolucion
You’re lying if you don’t believe everyone would be way more excited about what these guys are bringing to the table in ‘11 if it wasn’t for the stigma attached to the name, or the fact that their hardcore fans are so intense, they’re almost impossible to take seriously. I mean, “screamo” is regarded in the same manner as Greg Oden or Brandon Roy’s knees, i.e., it’s almost laughably pathetic how much pain these youngsters want us to believe they’re going through.
And yet, even with all the bullshit that’s befallen them either internally or externally, they’ve managed to evolve and this time, they’ve reinvented themselves into a leaner, meaner and more versatile unit than they’ve ever been - in this example, the Gerard Wallace trade is similar to getting Dave Fridmann back as a producer, i.e., I figured it wouldn’t make a difference considering how I figured their spirit would be broken from years of slumming with also-rans, but shit…I’m loving how vital they’ve become.
FWIW, if the Deftones released an album this year, I could’ve been talking about them.
Los Angeles Clippers
Gang Gang Dance- Eye Contact
In part because I suppose the Clippers deserve the band that gave us “House Jam.” And in part because I get the feeling that having a beer with Donald Sterling would be as much fun as having a beer with Gang Gang Dance.
But mostly because I’m currently sitting on an unzipped promo of Eye Contact and I’m feeling the same way about it as I do about the Clippers in their current iteration: there’s simply no middle ground in what will become of them. We’ve been fooled by the Clippers before, but is there any doubt that Blake Griffin is undoubtedly the greatest to ever don the uniform? And what about Eric Gordon? Is he top ten already?
On the one hand, “Glass Jar” is fucking ridiculous and any record that starts with an awesome 11-minute song is already at the level of Presence and can only go up from there. On the other, Liz Bougatsos seems like the kind of BK repper who would’ve showed up to a party in 2006 dressed up like some AmApp Steve Nicks only to talk your ear off about Lil’ Wayne mixtapes. This could really go either way.
(update: I bit. If Eye Contact is any indication, the Clippers will somehow land Chris Paul soon)
New Orleans Hornets
Toro y Moi- Underneath The Pine
What happens when your scene’s savior is seemingly motivated by the desire to get the fuck out as soon as possible? Suppose it’s sorta insensitive to evoke the word “chillwave” in reference to the NO, but whatever.
Big K.R.I.T.- Return Of 4Eva
I know they’ve got their fans, but I never seem to meet them in person. Maybe I just need to move back to Georgia. I dig their homage to the iller Atlanta squads of the ’90s, but for whatever reason, they always try too hard to downplay the flash and prove some sort of Average Joe mentality- too much Doc Rivers/Bun B, not enough ‘Nique/Pimp C, nahmean?
My Morning Jacket- Circuital
Jim James’ vocals do remind me of Dwight Howard - cartoonishly powerful and yet also simply cartoonish - youthful, exuberant, all big toothy smiles. It’s to the point where you wonder just how much artificial enhancement are involved, though I’d say no one ever got kicked out of rock n’ roll for abusing silo reverb. Or actual drugs, I suppose.
Now if both would only realize that they fuck up every time they decide to do something other than letting their superpower dominate and trying to outthink themselves. And I guess it’s only right to invoke Evil Urges when it comes to Otis Smith’s decision to trade for Vince Carter, to trade for Gilbert Arenas, to sign paychecks that make J.J. Redick a millionaire.
I guess it’s only right that my favorite team and my favorite record link up not in the least because both have youthful pluck to spare and go at least ten-deep with no real superstar, go-to option. I wouldn’t make the case that they’re the best, but they essentially find themselves in this spot because of how I spent my ’90s, i.e., in Philadelphia spending every waking hour not in school watching MTV. Was talking with da god Marc Hogan about this record a while back and he said one of those precious things that can only be understood by two professional music writers: “hey, you remember Cajun Dance Party?” Well, no…not really, but from what I can tell, in the post-Arctic Monkeys world, they were Elton Brand’s fat ass sitting on the bench while Eddie Jordan somehow tried to convince himself teaching Thad Young and Louis Williams the Princeton offense as if that catered to their strengths at all.
On a side note, perhaps the most galling thing I’ve ever said in the face of slightly older indie rock writers is that the Get Up Kids version of “Alec Eiffel” is superior to that of the Pixies. (It is). Second is that Yuck is actually something I enjoy more than any Dinosaur Jr. or Superchunk record. You gotta realize it’s nothing more than me showing my age; by the time I was ready to learn about bands like Dinosaur Jr., my entry was “Feel The Pain,” which is really as much proof as “Buddy Holly” or “Sabotage” that Spike Jonze got famous in the mid-90’s making amazing videos for fucking awful songs.
tUnE-yArDs- w h o k i l l
Undeniably talented, unbelievably fucking annoying. And you know they’re going to take any accolades as a mandate for more of the same, which is positively frightening after what happened on Monday.
It’s actually pretty apt that we have a Sixers/Heat thing going on here because that whole totally likable/strident browbeating dynamic plays out in between these two records in a 90’s sense. But this is the sort of ’90s “college rock” experience filtered through, like, Higher Learning and that one person in class who loved to identify as an overachiever by raising their hand even though there was clearly two minutes left, and mostly confused being outspoken and opinionated for being intelligent.
I mean, I’ve got love for “Circles” (though I’d say Strong Bad’s song of the same name is superior), but does anyone really miss Soul Coughing, Bran Van 3000 or all that other “quirky” alt-rock that seemed to rise up post-Beck and invariably involve stupid hats and half-raps? Listen to “Esso” or “Gangsta” and tell me that shit couldn’t pass for Geggy Tah or “Lucas With The Lid Off.”
Also, I’m to understand dude who plays bass on this record is Merrill Garbus’ kept man, which…damn. He even gets called out on “Powa” for not hittin’ it right, that he’s gotta give ol’ girl backshots because he can’t make her worries that she’s not even “unconventionally attractive” enough from the front. I mean, I used to think Tony Kanal was the biggest simp on the bass, but at least that was prime-era Gwen Stefani. I think we’ll see another dude hit .400 because tUnE-bAsS gets topped on this front.
Since I’m rambling and I suppose I could’ve summed shit up with “hey, you ever wish Dirty Projectors sounded more like Ani DiFranco?” or “sure, a female Xiu Xiu would be nice” or “aw, maybe the Fiery Furnaces weren’t that bad,” I should probably get the core of the problem here, so I’m going to quote some lyrics and we’ll all play a game of “Merrill Garbus or Anthony Kiedis?”
"Es-so, es-so puddin’ pie/and es-so es-so do or die"
"I got a mellowship/I got a fellowship/I got a non-stop ‘yo swan’ hello chip."
"What’s a boy to do if he’ll never be a rasta/singing from his heart but he’ll never be a rasta."
"She stuck my butt with her big black stick/I said, ‘what’s up, now suck my dick.’"
Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Radiohead- The King Of Limbs
Because it’s incredibly likely that Dirk has a nickname that’s totally badass in German and translates in Babelfish to something way fruitier like “King of Limbs.” Because you can’t figure out whether this one-man show is by choice or by necessity. Because it’s only a matter of time before Mark Cuban institutes a “pay what you think we deserve” ticket-pricing scale. Because you look at what’s been accomplished thus far in 2011 and get the unshakeable feeling that if this is it, they’ve still managed to disappoint themselves and ourselves. And because they’ve either been begrudgingly accepted as pretty good when all is considered or total fool’s gold that’s getting by on rep alone.
Panda Bear- Tomboy
Let’s face it: they’re good, they’ll probably stick around longer than you think, but truth be told, you’re kinda over them. I suppose that’s partially (or totally) a result of the most prominent voices in their respective fields following their every move, particularly as they try to recreate a pretty magical set of circumstances from a few years back.
But ultimately, there’s just a chemistry problem. I get a lot of KG, Ray-Ray and Paul Pierce from Panda Bear: the steadying homebody, adored by purists. And I suppose that Avey might be Rondo and Perkins: mentally youthful, every bit as capable of transcendance, but more erratic, a guy who creates on the fly. And maybe Geologist is Troy Murphy in that no one can say for certain what the fuck he actually does anymore.
Problem is, even the Panda/Big 3 model has been copied to various lengths of success by others because it’s the easier route, when you take all the other stuff out of the equation, it just feels like the wearied resignation of guys who’ve never gotten a long-enough break and are buckling under expectations. I mean, those banners in the rafters might seem like a weightier albatross than than the O’Neals, but is it really any more daunting than having to follow up a record that inspired nearly 85% of the bullshit mp3’s that fill my inbox on a day-to-day basis?
Oklahoma City Thunder
Tyler, The Creator- Goblin
Man, people really want these guys to come out on top, no? The talent and chemistry is undeniable, and you really feel like they haven’t even began to scratch the surface yet because they haven’t totally infiltrated the larger market as a whole: XL and Fat Possum aren’t exactly the New York/LA/Chicago of the record industry, nahmean?
Yet, what really strikes me is that a large part of the appeal here is that pretty much any level of fan can feel like an early adapter who somehow is personally responsiblefor willing them to their current status. Having spent a lot of time around native Baltimoreans when the Ravens won the Super Bowl, I gotta say: that’s some powerful shit right there, especially when just about every expansion team or relocated franchise probably isn’t going to compete for a championship for a looooooong time. We saw from the powerful blog rock movement of 2005-2006 that dumb motherfuckers are willing to attach themselves to just about anything if they think calling “firsties” will somehow pay off. It’s abundantly clear that Goblin will probably be the real deal, so it’s pretty hilarious to see who’s coming out of the woodwork here, every bit as much as my B-more reppers rocking Dilfer throwbacks.
I guess it’s tough to reconcile the whole rape/murder/etc. thing - Tyler and ‘em rap about it, whereas it only really applies to the Thunder in terms of Clay Bennett and David Stern’s treatment of the city of Seattle. But for all the viciousness, they’re still kids: I’ve heard that OFWGKTA’s tour manager sometimes is up until 4 AM…because the dudes just want to stay up watching reality TV and eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Can’t you imagine Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant doing that shit? Not James Harden, though - word is he talked his way onto several guest sessions onEmbryonic after convincing Wayne Coyne he was a grizzled bluesman who appreciated those nude pics of his wife.
Anyways, I wonder if Dizzee Rascal is feeling like the Neneh Cherry to Tyler’s M.I.A.
Can you be Most Improved and MVP in the same year? I wasn’t totally sold on either of these cats for the past couple of years since one had no inside presence and the other had nothing but inside presence. Is it coincidence that Carlos Boozer sounds like the name of a dude who might do sax session work on Kaputt or that the sound of the record itself might’ve been something Joakim Noah might’ve been listening to as a young half-black youth in his father’s NYC swagtorium?
Larry O’Brien, MVP? All sounds like a dream to me.
San Antonio Spurs
Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues
People really seem to resent these dudes being champs a few years back - not cool enough, not transcendant, the sort of thing enjoyed by squares. Here’s the messed-up thing…in 2011, they’re actually better than they used to be. Problem is, they find themselves sorta being overlooked in light of more compelling alternatives that ask the question, “really, is their ability for everyone to play their role in flawless harmony really all that special?” Actually, yes - just look at how rare it is for it to be actually pulled off with any sort of success.
And I know that the whole thing about not being a snowflake unique amongst other snowflakes was taken directly from a Greg Popovich sitdown with Glenn Robinson.
Los Angeles Lakers
James Blake- James Blake
I suppose this choice was pretty easy even if an obvious joke about being related to Steve Blake has absolutely no basis in reality - these guys are for the true frontrunners. For one thing, I’ve heard James Blake out of passing cars (not particularly swagged out to have “I Never Learnt To Share” blasting out of your Mini Cooper at a red light), at the local Postal Works where I get charged out the ass to use a fax machine. Moreover, James Blake seems like a real Lakers kind of dude, because his interviews tend to have all the warmth of your typical Kobe Q&A and as one of the few dudes in indie rock that look like they could post up Win Butler, he’s got the build to give spell Bynum if a stiff breeze hits him again.
But yeah, they’re grounded in fundamentals, have a good combination of youth and experience and feel like a vanguard. So yeah, these dudes have it all…but is that all there is?
Naturally, this brings us to the discussion of the most 2004 frozen food I can think of (we’re still Icy On Purpose, determined to do everything in our power to avoid goin’ viral). It’s actually somewhat relevant seeing as how South Beach Living products came in at #2 on my second most-popular Sexy Results! post, the very much not-immortal Frozen Food Power Rankings.
If that sounds somewhat self-deprecating, it shouldn’t. I certainly do realize the cultural penetration of Sexy Results!, if only because it’s confirmed many of my own pet theories. One of which is: even if I had anything remotely close to a female readership, I am 100% positive nothing I’ve ever written has made anyone think, “wow, wonder what sex with that guy would be like. Only one way to find out!” So fortunately, I’ve never even really been tempted to use anything related to my writing as some sort of pickup line, so I can stick with random shit I culled from rap lyrics, “have you ever had sex with a pharaoh?,” “you must’ve heard about the bitches I beat up in my home,” shit like that.
Because without fail, any time I get introduced to a woman as “Ian,” and the contextual clues lead her to ask, “Ian Cohen?” it’s almost certain that this woman does not have a high opinion of me. Unless she had a particularly damaging relationship with someone who played in Airborne Toxic Event. Anyways, she remembered me not for what I could only have assumed were world-renowned reviews of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin or Skull Gang, but “he’s the guy who did the freezer food rankings.” Obviously, this is not a conversation I feel like answering a lot of follow-up questions. I’m embarrassed enough by shit I wrote, like, a week ago. Start talking about 2005 stuff, and my mom might as well show up with a tape of my Bar Mitzvah.
So, back to them there rankings, you could chalk their performance up my thinking that South Beach Living had this shit all figured out - since I imagine it being a loss leader for the breakfast bars, books and so forth, Wal-Mart would sell these things for, like $2 a pop…which was actually cheaper than the actual cheap shit. But a huge thing it understood was a three-part hierarchy of guilt when one chooses to consume a frozen entree. The first is “well, this isn’t horrible for me.” That applies to just about anything more nutritionally beneficial than a Hungry Man XXL, which I think is only on the market to guide buyers to everything else in the frozen food section. Someone check on the scandalous Swanson/Stouffer’s collusion, thx.
The second tier is “well, I recognize this is healthy enough to alleviate the guilt I’ll feel when I inevitably chase this down with a huge bag of pretzels because I’m not full at all." About 95% of this stuff stops right there. But SBL takes it to rarefied air where it’s not just healthy, but health food. Just look at that slogan: “A Nutritious Way To Help Satisfy Hunger.” When you’re sitting down for lunch, is that the sort of thing that crosses the mind of anyone who doesn’t go to the gym twice a day? This isn’t eating, this is a 22 Hotchkiss in the war against hunger!!! Protein!!! Less than 300 calories!!! PINE NUTS!!!
And don’t discount the pine nuts, because I can’t think of a more obvious way for a frozen entree to show it was made with love, even if they’re actually precisely-chopped peanuts for all I know. But all in all, it not only appealed to me as someone who tailored his entire diet to balancing out the damage Blue Moon caused to one’s waistline, but it also gave the impression that if you plated it, that it would actually look like “real” food.
But the “reality” it provided was the same sort of Uncanny Valley vibe I got from the “high-end” stuff my freshman year dining hall would serve: turkey tettrazini, shepherd’s pie, kung pao chicken, essentially things that I would leave the place smelling like for the entire day (in retrospect, could it have been that and not my heroic consumption of Bacardi Limon that stunted my growth in the romantic arts?). Only now, you got about 1/5th of the portion, and you couldn’t go to the frogurt station and treat yourself to a chocolate/strawberry swirl joint that was 45% frogurt, 55% gummi bears. Hey, you do you.
And then, sometime around 2005 or so, the shit just seemingly up and disappeared. Much like Pot Pie Express, more proof that people like me can’t have nice things. But I’m not sure I even miss it all that much, even if I can still remember the sort of pungent tomato aroma of this thing fresh out of the oven. But I also get it mixed it with something similar but far more rank that emanated from the apartment downstairs from where I lived fourth year of college whenever the African dudes were cooking. But it was cool, they came up one night when we were having a party and enjoyed their share of Keystone, so I’ll just assume it goes well with curry if I ever get asked.
And I guess that ambivalence really does define that 2004-ish era to me. I mean, for all I miss about it, I can just pull out the Agent Orange that kills any creeping weeds of nostalgia, whether it’s remembering that if it didn’t involve Hillshire Farms turkey kielbasa or a Foreman Grill, I probably couldn’t cook it (not that they don’t still play an important part of the show, they’re just not the leads). Or that I was incredibly drunk at a Georgia/Tennessee football game, and for reasons only known to myself, I stumbled out of Sanford Stadium sometime in the third quarter and proceeded to scour downtown Athens for a record store that had the just-released Nonesuch version ofSMiLE Three hours later, I came to at my friend’s apartment screaming, “what the fuck do you mean we lost?!!?” The next day I actually listened to SMiLE and decided it was fucking awful.
Or, more succinctly, it was a mere seven years ago that I momentarily thoughtBlueberry Boat was a more worthwhile possession than $18. It takes a firm background in remembrance, people.
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- openapplev said: Some stretches, but OKC/Tyler is perfect on every level.
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- jamiesoncox said: Your comparing of the Toronto Raptors to the Antlers was (unfortunately) the highlight of the Raptors’ 2010-2011 season. AND we have the #3 pick in what is the worst draft since 2000, maybe longer. Playoffs sounds like a dream to me.
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