December 31, 2007


Today at Slate, John Dickerson has a piece on "How Edwards tries to emasculate Obama". The article is a perfect example of one of my hobbyhorses: the role that discourses of gender and authenticity play in contemporary U.S. political campaigns and media coverage of the candidates. There will undoubtedly be many similarly themed articles in the coming year, and I'll try to post them whenever I come across one. In this instance, Dickerson relates the Edwards campaign's use of the word "nice" in describing Obama, arguing that it is an attempt to emasculate the candidate.
Edwards has been pitching himself as a fighter for quite some time ... but in the final week, he and his campaign are increasingly highlighting a secondary argument: that Obama is too nice to be one, too. Nice is an emasculating epithet that gains additional potency because the heart of Obama's message is about conciliation and bringing people together. "Senator Obama talks a nice talk," said Elizabeth Edwards on the Today Show, "but John is the real warrior in this race." Link
The subtext at play is that attacking a candidate's masculinity is in fact akin to attacking his authenticity. The connection of the feminine, or at least the non-masculine, with notions of artifice is as old as western civilization, as is the equation of masculine traits with the traits desirable in a political leader. Thus, in characterizing Obama as "nice", Edwards is calling his masculinity and authenticity both into question. Of course, Edwards hasn't always been made out to be the manliest candidate, either:


batter spreads

Batter Blaster commercial

A post on Boing Boing just reminded me of this new space-age food product. Though the commercial is kind of jokey, Batter Blaster is real, and looks pretty awesome. It's currently only available on the west coast and at Meijer, a department store in the MI, IN, OH area. Remind me to tell Colleen to buy some while she's home. My favorite part about the commercial is how the "now" era is set to a track that is a total Stone Roses rip-off.

Stone Roses - Love Spreads

The we eat what we like guide to New Year's Eve

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(image: total we eat what we like original)

If you're like me, you're stuck in the Pioneer Valley with no NYE plans: Thurston and Kim haven't called, Mascis will probably be in bed by 7:30, and there aren't even any sweet local music & burrito venues. Here then, for your convenient perusal, are a few suggestions for ways to while away the hours, minutes, and seconds until the ball on top of the Hotel Northampton rises on 2008.

At 6:15 there will be fireworks shooting off of the downtown parking garage. It's a salute to fireworks, Northampton style.

Watch all eight episodes of The Assistant, get nostalgic for four years ago.
Andy Dick's website has posted the entire one season run of The Assistant, a sort-of-fake-but-also-real reality show spoof that ran on MTV in 2004. While occasionally funny, the most interesting element is how innocent it seems compared to MTVs more recent run of reality programming. There are no groan-worthy double entendres, no contestants trying to give themselves away for sex, and while the show's situations and talking-head interviews may be contrived and/or scripted, they seem thousands of times more natural than those on Next or Parental Control. Unlike the cast of the Real World, the contestants - most in their early 20s - come across as extremely earnest, more eager to win the coveted position of "Personal Assistant to Andy Dick" than to play any of reality TV's archetypal characters.

8-Track Porn Party
Over the course of the year, the audio curio blog Dinosaur Gardens has posted a number of digital recordings taken from '70s era "adult 8-tracks". Lacking any visual element, stories with names like The Lustful Sexlife of a Perverted Nympho Housewife, Apartment #69, Suck and Screw Orgy, and Fornicating Female Freaks rely heavily on blue language, over the top imagery, and play-by-play narration. While I have trouble imagining how anyone could have found these erotic 35 years ago, the dated, actorly voices serve as unsettling reminders that these women are either grandmothers or dead by now.

So 2007
There is also a Radiohead webcast, if you're not completely over them already.

December 29, 2007

Favorite Albums of 2007

20 - Liars - Liars
19 - Chikita Violenta - The Stars & Suns Sessions
18 - Marnie Stern - In Advance of the Broken Arm
17 - Thurston Moore - Trees Outside the Academy
16 - LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

15 - Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum
14 - Kevin Drew - Spirit If...
13 - Panda Bear - Person Pitch
12 - Times New Viking - Presents the Paisley Reich
11 - Celebration - The Modern Tribe

10 - Deerhunter - Fluorescent Gray EP

I feel the same as Elliott regarding EPs; this album is only 4 songs, and they're all awesome. ALL KILLER NO FILLER.

9 - Alcest - Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde

The distance from black metal to ambient new-age is closer than you think.

8 - Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

On the list by virtue of how much I played it in the first half of the year. I think I let the backlash get to me a little bit - I still can't listen to "Keep the Car Running" without hearing John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band - but it would be a mistake to let the hate sully your enjoyment of the big, awe-inspiring sound and sweet neo-Gorey aesthetic.

7 - Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities - Lucas

Brooklyn-by-way-of-Oberlin weirdos follow up the electro/Prince inflected Git by nestling comfortably into the new Brooklyn sound epitomized by artists like Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors.

6 - Aa - gAame

I like drums and yelling, particularly when the yelling doesn't even consist of recognizable words. This has a lot that.

5 - St. Vincent - Marry Me

4 great songs and about 7 unnecessary ones, but they're pleasant enough to let the former carry the album.

4 - Parts & Labor - Mapmaker

RIDICULOUS PUMMELING DRUMS. Colleen says this album sounds like the 90s. I don't know what that means. I don't think she does either.

3 - The National - Boxer

A set of capable rock songs evocative of (post)modern urban life, elevated by Bryan Devendorf's sweet, unexpected drumming.

2 - Battles - Mirrored

I don't think I can come up with anything new to say about this album. It's a pleasant surprise that it seems to have been received so well, even outside of the usual suspects (it made Time Magazine's list).

1 - Dirty Projectors - Rise Above

I've still never listened to Black Flag's Damaged in it's entirety, and I'd never listened to a single song before hearing Rise Above, but it didn't matter. The "reimagination" concept certainly makes this a more intellectually interesting album, but it would be silly to say it has any effect on the listening experience, or the music itself. I've never particularly been a fan of lyrics as much as the overall sound of music: I don't care how great Bob Dylan's lyrics are, his music just doesn't appeal to me. By reappropriating the words of others, Dave Longstreth seems to have found a way around the problem of writing new lyrics (his last full-length consisted of his own lyrics from earlier albums combined with selections from Don Henley's lyrics), and he has the musical genius to back it up. In the hands of most others, the concept would likely have come off as trite and corny, but when paired with Longstreth's compositions, it sounds natural, organic, authentic. Is it really though? Does it matter?

December 10, 2007

Favorite Songs of 2007

Angels of Light

30 - Angels of Light, "We Are Him"
29 - The New Pornographers, "Mutiny I Promise You"
28 - Battles, "Leyendecker (DJ EMZ Remix Featuring Joell Ortiz)"
27 - Jens Lekman, "The Opposite of Hallelujah"
26 - Against Me!, "Thrash Unreal"

R. Kelly vs. Broken Social Scene

25 - R. Kelly vs. Broken Social Scene (ABX Remix), "I'm a Flirt (Shoreline)"
24 - Kevin Drew, "Farewell to the Pressure Kids"
23 - Thurston Moore, "Fri/End"
22 - Chikita Violenta, "Laydown"
21 - Black Moth Super Rainbow, "Sun Lips"

Panda Bear

20 - Panda Bear, "Comfy in Nautica"
19 - Sufjan Stevens, "In the Words of the Governor"
18 - St. Vincent, "Now, Now"
17 - Arcade Fire, "No Cars Go"
16 - Times New Viking, "Teenage Lust!"

Parts & Labor

15 - Parts & Labor, "Vision of Repair"
14 - Marnie Stern, "Every Single Line Means Something"
13 - Celebration, "Evergreen"
12 - Aa, "Manshake"
11 - Klaxons, "Golden Skans"

10 - LCD Soundsystem, "Someone Great"

9 - Muscles, "Ice Cream"

8 - Fall Out Boy, "The Take Over, The Break's Over"

7 - St. Vincent, "The Apocalypse Song"

6 - Grizzly Bear, "Little Brother (Electric)"

5 - Liars, "Houseclouds"

4 - Dirty Projectors, "New New Attitude"

3 - Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities, "What They Said"

2 - M.I.A., "Paper Planes"

1 - LCD Soundsystem, "All My Friends"

December 9, 2007

Favorite Live Shows of 2007

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Dirty Projectors @ Middle East, Cambridge, MA 12/5/2007

10 - My Brightest Diamond - Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA
9 - Damo Suzuki - AS220, Providence, RI
8 - The National - Pearl Street Ballroom, Northampton, MA - October 10
7 - Black Moth Super Rainbow - AS220, Providence, RI
6 - Deerhunter - AS220, Providence, RI
5 - Thurston Moore - Pleasant Street Theater, Northampton, MA
4 - Grizzly Bear - Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA - February 2
2 (tie) - Dirty Projectors - Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA - December 5
2 (tie) - Battles - AS220, Providence, RI - April 6
1 - Kevin Drew & Broken Social Scene Myspace Secret Show - TT The Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA - August 28

Most Disappointing Live Performances

2 - Blonde Redhead - Pearl Street Ballroom, Northampton, MA
1 - Cat Power - Pearl Street Ballroom, Northampton, MA

Best Performance, Non-music Category

Michael Showalter - Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA

Best Venue (also Best Burritos, Quesadillas, Butts, etc.)

AS220 - Providence, RI

Honorable Mentions:

Best Chubby Indie Guitar God on Drums
Witch - Tinder Box & The Loft, Brattleboro, VT (J Mascis!)

Best Opening Act
Nat Baldwin (opening for Dirty Projectors) - Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA

Who thought it was a good idea to have a hip-hop show in Western MA?
Clipse - Pearl Street Ballroom, Northampton, MA

Ubiquitous Providence Faux-British Accented Synth-Pop Revivalists
Triange Forest - AS220, Providence, RI