Thursday, December 18, 2003

The last couple of days, I've been looking at a whole lot of best-of-the-year lists. I loves me some best-of-the-year lists. I love the complete futility of the whole endeavor, the idea that we can quantify art and reduce the things that we love to math. And I guess I should begin to address the fact that I sort of love math, despite years and years of telling myself otherwise.

One thing that's occurred to me when looking at the best-of-the-year lists this year: I am totally ready. I'm ready to take it to that next level. I'm a good fucking writer. A lot of the people who write for nationally recognized websites or magazines or whatever are not as good as I am. Some of them are pretty good or OK or crap. I'm better than those guys. There are still a whole lot of people much, much better than me (some of them have blogs, and some of those blogs are linked over there to the left), but that doesn't mean I'm not ready. I've been kind of afraid of advancing lately, not letting myself believe that I can write on the level of the big dogs. I'm too young or inexperienced or whatever. But I'm getting older now; some of the people who write for the Voice are younger than me. (How old is Jess Harvell? He might be younger than me.) It's about time I start sending out clips or apply to write at Pitchfork. I'm there. I can do this.

The City Paper year-end top ten is out now. I don't quite get it. I haven't even heard half these albums. I'm glad The Black Album got the top honors, rather than the main consensus candidates like Elephant or Speakerboxx/The Love Below, which are OK but not great. But Little Brother? The Twilight Singers? Sean Paul? Best albums of the year? I dunno, dudes. The Sean Paul and R. Kelly albums have great, phenomenal, amazing singles, but they also have a lot of shit. I haven't bothered with Stephen Malkmus or the Twilight Singers because both of them had boring first albums. Nothing I've read about the Drive-By Truckers convinces me that they'd even remotely appeal to me. I like how anachronistic the list is, but wow, City Paper writers agreed on just about nothing this year. I suppose I'll have to pick up that Little Brother album, though.

Also in this week's City Paper, the top ten local records. I wrote the blurbs for half the list, but I didn't order them. I like Cex's Being Ridden better than any of the records in the top ten, but we still don't get to write about Rjyan because of his old City Paper connection. And "Uncle Fucker" is a lot of fun, but I wouldn't put it above Lungfish.

One list I quite like: Pitchfork's Top 50 singles. There's a lot of great songs on here. My computer won't pick up ILM anymore, which sucks; I'd love to see the inevitable thread that this list inspired.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I've been way lazy the past couple of days, watching TV and nothing else. The point has been made millions of times, but how great are DVDs? How absurdly, addictive, compulsively, acquisitively collectible? And I don't even own too many. But there's this new series (I think it's called Directors' Label) that's putting out DVDs of the collected works of all these music video directors, and I just got the Spike Jonze one. Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham also have editions out, but I'll have to wait until after Christmas to cop those cuz I need the dough. But I've been enjoying the living hell out of the Spike Jonze joint.

The first thing I did was put the "play all videos" feature on without checking the listing so that each new video would be a surprise. Turned out great. A whole lot of "oh shit, I totally forgot about this one" moments. Jonze's videos are gimmicky (which is pretty much inherent in the form) and slapsticky (which isn't so much), but what really strikes me about them is their warmth. There are so many great moments that just sort of flood you with good feelings that eclipse all the techniques and nudges and high-concept stuff, like Bjork's smile at the end of "It's All So Quiet" and the way the kid who plays Biggie perfectly mimics Biggie's mannerisms in the "Sky's the Limit" video. I'm not expecting to see this sort of warmth in Gondry's or Cunningham's videos. Jonze is just way more humane. And my new favorite video, like, ever might be the Pharcyde's "Drop", the backwards one. The concept is so simple, but it creates its own visual logic and grammar, and it ends up being totally compelling to watch. And Jonze and the group take such obvious enthusiasm in the whole endeavor, so once again the thing doesn't lose touch with its humanity.

I've also been watching the Ben Stiller Show DVD that my friend Evan lent me. I can only just remember the show; I was maybe 11 when the show first aired, and I didn't get most of the jokes. But that show holds up a lot better now than even Mr. Show. The Melrose Heights parodies are amazing, and now they seem like the template for Zoolander.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Saddam Hussein has been captured, which completely blows my mind. I'm shocked and sort of heartened that he wasn't just straight-up killed like his sons were. I'm less happy about what this means to the election, though I'm sure the luster will have faded by November, especially if the occupation continues to go nowhere. And Joe Lieberman is straight-up being a contemptuous dick with all his I-told-you-so garbage. He may yet end up spoiling this election by defecting to the Republican side and endorsing Bush or some such thing. I don't know. This isn't a political blog. But still. Mind blown.

Bridget and I saw Adult on Friday night, and I was way impressed. They came off as seriously intense, almost industrial. And the light setup was great; the girl (forget her name) was lit from below in red, which looked totally demonic. I was worried they'd seem completely detached, and they didn't at all. They're one of those bands that I don't consider to be a favorite or anything but that I find myself listening to fairly often at work. They've got this tension that really sounds great on shitty Tuesday mornings when I'm too tired to be at work. Some guy named Electronicat opened, and I liked his music a lot (dense, fuzzy shoegazer electro, maybe, with guitars), but the guy's stage presence was ridiculous and embarrassing. It's not enough to climb up on the balcony or whatever when you spend half the show playing with your laptop. Dude needs a hypeman or something.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Sometimes it's a great idea to listen to albums you loved in 8th grade. Rediscovering Pearl Jam's Vs. last year felt like a total triumph. But this morning I decided to dig up my cassette copy of Therapy?'s Troublegum, which was clearly not a good idea. Wow, is that album ever crap. It's all snarling bad-guy biker guitars and absolutely ludicrous aren't-I-bad lyrics. Peep these howlers: "The world is fucked / And so am I!" "Heaven kicked you out / You wouldn't wear a tie!" Plus: "I want to crawl up inside you and die!" Ew, yo. Some of the music (mostly the part where they're I guess trying to sound like the Ramones) sounds way emo, too. And I still don't understand the question mark.

Right now I'm cleansing my palette by listening to L'Trimm's Drop That Bottom, which is pretty great. One thing I can't figure out: L'Trimm was from Florida, right? But Bunny has a total Long Island accent. Is that supposed to be some sort of sexy put-on? Or is the Jewish retiree population down there really that huge?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I went to the City Paper Christmas party Christmas party Tuesday night, conveniently held a couple of blocks from my apartment, upstairs at the Ottobar. Rjyan Kidwell was there - he used to write for the CP - and we talked about music and such for a while. It was good to see him, but other than that the party was kind of a weird time. Apparently I don't know 95% of the people involved in the production of the City Paper, and 95% of them don't know each other either. Everyone was clumping together in groups of two or three. And my stomach was feeling all queasy and gross, which wasn't helped by all the free beer I drank (But still, free beer!)

Because of the aforementioned queasy feeling, I called in sick yesterday and just totally went cold lazy all day. Didn't do the dishes or make the bed or anything. Just laid up on my ass and played NBA Live 2003 and watched the third season of Mr. Show, which isn't that funny when you're sitting by yourself and watching like five episodes at once. In fact, I kinda ODed on pure laziness, and it wasn't all that fun, but I do feel nicely rested and relatively unqueasy today.

Every year, the City Paper does a mini-Pazz&Jop poll of its music writers. I just saw the final top 10, and it's a weird one. I won't leak the list, but I will say that only two of my top 10 made it in. And my top ten is:
1. Postal Service - Give Up
2. Grand Buffet - Pittsburgh Hearts
3. Jay-Z - The Black Album
4. The Rapture - Echoes
5. Rancid - Indestructible
6. Spiritualized - Amazing Grace
7. Atmosphere - Seven's Travels
8. Bubba Sparxxx - Deliverance
9. Richard X - Presents His X-Factor
10. Fannypack - So Stylistic
I'm pretty happy with the list, but I'm kinda bummed by the lack of girls. I bumped 50 Cent for Fannypack to address the problem (and I probably do like the Fannypack album better than the 50 Cent one), but it's still an overwhelmingly male list, and I don't exactly consider myself an overwhelmingly male listener, if that makes sense. Until a couple of days before the list was due, I was convinced This is Not a Test would come in and wreck the list; I was way disappointed by how perfunctory and uninspired that record sounds.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

I'm kind of embarrassed and self-conscious about doing a blog. Like, who am I? Will anyone notice? Who wants to read whatever I end up writing? Will it make me a better writer? Is this just pure solipsism at work? I guess I'll find out eventually. I really like the idea of a blogosphere (though I don't much like that word) where writers discuss, argue, and pontificate passionately and articulately, and I know this thing exists, but I don't really know how to break into it. I want in. This is me elbowing my way in. And I'm a big dude, so make room.

OK, so this is the first time I've ever tried to do anything like this. I hope it's good. I don't know anything about HTML, and I guess I'll have to learn. I'm pretty disoriented.

Promises: no emoticons.