I rewatched George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead last week and all I could think of was Michael Brown, Vonderrick Myer, and the epidemic of police brutality happening in the country. It all seemed particularly perverse because the current big deal zombie thing is The Walking Dead WHICH HAS A RACIST AS A HERO ON IT. So, I wrote about it. Some other words about Night of the Living Dead’s connection to living theater and Leroi Jones’ Dutchman. Also rant I ended up cutting: John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 is pretty much a remake of Night of the Living Dead, it just replaces zombies with gang members and the country house with a police precinct.
This week’s No Trivia column (delayed from the usual Friday posting because it is also in the Baltimore City Paper’s print edition this week) talks about how Lor Scoota’s “Bird Flu” was turned into a song about Orioles fever. There are also words about local radio host Sam Sessa who presented an all-white list of “Baltimore rising stars” to an NPR show and rapper/club vocalist/friend of mine Abdu Ali calling him out for it.
Reviewed the new one from Rome Fortune, one of my favorites. I made some Kanye comparisons in this one that’ll probably stick in some people’s craws (understandably so), but this is definitely Rome getting bigger, sounding less comfortable, and hungrier. He was in my head a character actor type of rapper but he sounds like he wants to be a big deal here. I’d like him to be a big deal too.
For the Baltimore City Paper, I reviewed guitarist Jon Camp’s excellent album, Earwig. It’s one of my favorites of the year and is like some kind of missing link between Chet Atkins and John Fahey or something. It runs just 11 modest minutes and explores different guitar sounds and evokes different eras of rock. It’s tough to explain, but it’s really something special.
Reviewed that new Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, and Birdman mixtape all the kids are talking about. Rich Homie Quan steals the thing, Birdman raps awesomely a few times (and pronounces “toilet” as “terlet”), and Young Thug, well, I feel like he’s kinda smoothing his weirdness out and working too much though he’s still totally insane. But at this point, I do not have high hopes for the guy. Who knows, man.
An essay about my favorite band Screaming Females with some words on guitar patriarchy, why even as a dude I’m sick of dudes, and a big long list of shout-outs at the end, to Nicki Minaj, Amanda Petrusich, Madeleine Holden, Dana Murphy and U+Nfest, and more.
The second installment of Lee Gardner and I’s streaming and home video column is up. He reviewed Vengeance Is Mine, which is out in a new transfer to DVD/Blu-Ray and I reviewed Homefront, starring Jason Statham which is currently streaming on Netflix.
This week’s No Trivia column is about TT The Artist being sampled on Jennifer Lopez’s “Booty” and what that means and how the industry strips the underground for parts these days; with some additional words on Chrissy Vasquez’s “Tim and Eric”-like flyers and Ryan Bair and 15 year old kid from the county who made a Yngie-meets-Mick-Barr metal album.
This week’s column talks about the songs I heard the most coming out of car stereos, apartment windows, etc. in Baltimore and pairs it with a few anomalies that caught my ears. Includes, The Delfonics, Lor Scoota, Shy Glizzy, I Love Makonnen, Geeshie Wiley, Young Moose x 2, and Priests!
Who? Because it isn’t my job to cover rap all day anymore, I’ve really been just giving a shit about what I want to give a shit about or what interests me, so a lot of these guys are going under my radar. Right now it feels good but my guess is it’ll start to bug me to be a little lost. Do I need to listen to the Mick Jenkins mixtape? Tell me why, please.
My column this week is about my local radio station 92Q’s Labor Day weekend DJ mixes, particularly hearing Ma$e’s “Breath, Stretch, Shake,” and how it provided a glimmer of hope that things are not so bad and not totally corporate-controlled. Also, my picks for the best songs and albums for August.
So, Lee Gardner and I are doing a streaming and home video column for the Baltimore City Paper's Film section. First edition features Lee on Locke and me on The Battered Bastards of Baseball. Both are worth watching.
best albums of the decade "so far" lol b / w view of pitchfork's list
Mostly, I’m not sure why they didn’t wait until the end of 2015 to do it and then have it span 2010-2014? Like it doesn’t even encompass all of the first half of the decade because the cut off is middle of 2014 when this thing was published. My guess is that maybe Beats Music came to them with like some ad money and were like “come up with a list and we’ll give you this dough” which is how lots of things work these days and it’s fine that they work this way, but that is how they work these days sometimes so it is worth considering. I wish they had just paid every writer to write a say, 800 word essay on their favorites with a personal essay bend to it and that’ve been the focus with a numbers-crunch of 100 songs/albums, with maybe blurbs for the top 10 songs and albums and that’s it. I feel like this list being so formal and properly rolled out was odd. Something more personal and writer-centric would’ve made a lot of sense.
My bigger issue with this list though is that it seems like Pitchfork already trying to craft the 2010s canon or whatever, which is scary and silly and boorishly misreads the temporal, impermanent fun of “…so far” lists and feels like a desperate move from a website that’s losing its firm hold on tastemaking because the writing kind of stinks in a not-compelling way these days and the site is clearly ungoverned and lacks a vision. But hey, that’s just one loudmouth who wrote for them for awhile and then was kinda annoyed and grossed out by how they ran things and rolled out when I got better gigs, so hey, take my opinion with a very grainy grain of salt.
As for decade so far for me…I don’t know man, here’s 15 that come to mind. Fairly boring and predictable, really. What happens to one’s brain when you’re asked to weigh in and go all big picture? It’s like you can’t help but play it safe…
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
B L A C K I E, GEN
Screaming Females, Ugly
Matthew Herbert, One Pig
Clams Casino, Instrumentals
Jim O’Rourke, All Kinds of People/ Love Burt Bacharach
Sort of a sequel to last week’s "Thoughts on Ferguson" column: on watching the streams from Ferguson, watching the Boiler Room “Bmore Club” special and reading too much into Rod Lee’s “Dance My Pain Away” and TT The Artist’s “weak as bitch” chant, and Schwarz’s brilliant protest song, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
I wrote a review for Baltimore City Paper of Michael Kimball’s book on the arcade game Galaga/abuse memoir/low-key thesis on the slant rhymes of Gucci Mane, Drake, and more. This book is so great and very moving and I tried to be even like 10% as brave in my review as Kimball is in his book so I talked about some fuck shit from my own life. Check out Kimball’s Big Ray and Dear Everybody as well.
A review of Jess Row’s ambitious novel Your Face In Mine, a kitchen sink speculative fiction novel about racial reassignment surgery. I really liked the first 100 pages or so and I admire Row’s balls, but it starts to really lose the map in the most frustrating way: by getting distracted by the same solipsistic crap that mars most contemporary American fiction. There’s a brilliant pulpy book somewhere in these 400 pages, though.
Writing for the Internet Without Losing Your Soul #1: Hand in very clean copy.
This will be the first in a series of posted-whenever-I-feel-like-it thoughts on writing for the Internet. If you have something you’d like to ask me about writing for the Internet, send me a Tumblr ‘Ask’ and make it clear you’re asking as part of this “Writing for the Internet Without Losing Your Soul” thing. Or send me an email (email@example.com) and I’ll try and address your question/comment here. Let’s share ideas and complaints and advice.
These days, I am the Music/Film/Special Issues Editor at the Baltimore City Paper. After freelancing for seven years, I am on the opposite side of things, assigning articles, helping good articles become great, trying my best to teach young writers how things work so we have more good writers out there, and all of that. I am learning a lot. It’s wonderful. As you might imagine, I also end up with a lot of thoughts and opinions on writing and editing and I end up talking these things out with my coworkers and our amazing interns and writers both young and old and I think some of this stuff is worth sharing.
So, let’s get started: EDIT YER SHIT DUMMY.
The most frustrating thing I see online is copy just being dumped onto the Internet untouched. The writer files to the editor, and because the editor is busy with a million things or because they are not actually an editor so much as an assigner and perhaps, curator, they throw the article online and that’s that. This has to end but of course, it isn’t going to end and it’s only going to get worse. In "Everyone Their Own Editor" by John E. McIntyre, the Baltimore Sun writer discusses the way in which corporate shitlords that own all newspapers and magazines and websites are actually doing away with copy editors. The point is editing is up to you, the writer. You have to be your own editor before you file it to the editor. That’s fucked, but that’s how it goes.
The way I learned to write better was through editing. Editors sending copy back with notes and demanding changes or just pointing out things that I shouldn’t do or places in a piece where I cheated or insincere ways I presented my argument was very helpful. I also learned by filing a piece and then seeing what was changed between my copy and the copy that ended up online or in-print. I took note of those changes. I didn’t get mad at them or view it as my words being bastardized or some bullshit because I knew I was a fairly smart but still very green writer. Related: A post I wrote a while ago titled "On Being Edited (And How to Not Be a Big Fucking Baby About It)."
After the break, you can read one of the worst things I’ve ever filed. There are lot of reasons why: In June, I was working full-time at both City Paper and SPIN, so my time was crunched and my brain was fried, and I just didn’t have the time to focus on things like I usually did and maybe should’ve said no to the assignment. Not to mention, the evening I was editing this one last time (it was already about 9 hours late), these like 19 year-old art kids came over to my apartment to give my partner a tattoo? So I was super distracted. And if I’m being honest, I also on some level knew that Grayson Currin my editor, the best editor I’ve ever worked with, would probably clean my piece up a whole lot and if not, he’d at least give me some real talk about how badly I fucked it up and tell me how to fix it, and either way, the piece would be improved. I was being lazy. I’m sorry, dude.
But I think it’s instructive to see how a pretty weak piece was turned into a pretty strong piece thanks to good, attentive editing. And if this is going to be a thing where I inevitably call people out for being bad at writing or editing from time to time, I should start with my own shittiness. So yeah, here’s the version that ran in the Independent Weekly, in print and online: "Sage Francis helped launch a self-serious revolution, but he let it beat him, too"
Below the cut, the weak-azz version I filed. Make note of how Grayson fixed it. Then realize most editors don’t do that anymore.
Because of Mike Brown’s murder and the subsequent events in Ferguson, I couldn’t bring myself to write a proper music column this week, it just seemed pointless and gross (it was going to be something about music biopics and my dream biopics, see?). Instead, I wrote about Ferguson and still ended up writing about music a little (Lil Boosie, Young Moose, Kneel Knaris).
Lil Boosie plays the Baltimore Arena this weekend, which is pretty nuts. I wrote an essay about how much Baltimore loves Boosie, his legal troubles, the silly Eddie Conway vs. Lil Boosie Facebook meme, and two Boosie-indebted Baltimore rappers, Lor Scoota and Young Moose who are also opening for him at the show.
This week’s No Trivia column (now over at the Baltimore City Paper) discusses big deal local musicians leaving the scene: Why they do that, why they sort of have to do it, etc. Specifically, it’s through the lens of one of my favorite rappers and good friend Abdu Ali’s exist.
Now that I’m over at City Paper, I’ve moved the um, No Trivia “brand” or whatever over for a weekly column. This week’s is very Baltimore-centric (this won’t always be the case), with thoughts on “scene”: Bmore bros, club music, Young Moose, and more. Also, my favorite album and singles of July. Please read this!
Went to see Wye Oak’s outdoor show on Saturday evening, with Wume and Matmos. Matmos were incredible, Wye Oak were Wye Oak, and the people there were mostly terrible. Also, some thoughts on guitar music, forever on the verge of extinction. Matmos’ whole set is on YouTube by the way. Part three where they did the packing tape trick is right here if you wanna check it out.
I reviewed club producer and DJ James Nasty’s Calvert Street EP for the Baltimore City Paper. There’s a song called “Do It” on here that’s sort of like a supercut of post-2000s club awesomness and a weird mumbly track that samples Elephant Man. Also, a cocaine anecdote! Also cocaine is for dickheads.
Got a chance to review Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard for the Baltimore City Paper (it plays at the Charles Theater as part of their revival series this week). I talked about the dead monkey, how dreamy William Holden is, and how Norma Desmond’s the only sympathetic character, really. My job is pretty cool because I get to write about old ass movies like this sometimes.
In this week’s Baltimore City Paper, a profile I wrote on the very funny, very smart, and very complicated punk-roots band Bobby E. Lee & the Sympathizers who sounds like Dock Boggs covering the Minutemen. And check out this Jackass-esque video of them burning a Confederate flag.
do you think Kanye will leave rap altogether and be a Contemporary Classical/avant garde now?
G-d, I hope not. Kanye is doing “avant garde” the way that like Mos Def and Andre 3K have tried to do rock n’ roll and it’s rough to hear: all cheap signifiers and shortcuts. Kanye’s a maximalist. He is not an innovator but rather a good fusionist and curator and handler of lots of moving parts it’s a shame everyone was hoodwinked by the half-assedness of Yeezus (by the way, the number of places I’ve been, cars I’ve been in, parties I’ve attended where Yeezus is put in enthusiastically and then turned off about halfway through sits around 10) and so, it seems like he’s going to continue in that direction….