Archive for April, 2010

Friday Afternoon Music: Kate Nash’s “Do-Wah-Doo”
April 23, 2010

This is what solid, upbeat pop looks like:

-Production that tries harder than the average generic oomp-tsk oomp-tsk synth and bass, and actually incorporates analog instrumentation.

-A singer who writes her own songs and plays some of her own instruments.

-Also a singer who isn’t afraid to show a little vulnerability and expand her lyrical palette beyond “I’m at the club, I’m awesome” territory.

-And in general, music that is the point of the music video, rather than ancillary to the opportunity to show off a bunch of wacky, skimpy costumes and reinforce the singer’s brand.

Thus concludes today’s cranky old man rant.

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Breaking Down Breaking Bad
April 23, 2010

The unbearable anxiety of chemistry teacher/meth dealer Walter White’s life has been proven a nice respite from my own finals/graduation/job hunting anxiety lately, so I’ve written up a short tribute to the show’s surprisingly soothing qualities over at NYU Local.

Seriously, if you haven’t watched it yet, you should. I wouldn’t rank it alongside the Mad Men/Sopranos/The Wire holy trinity of artistic merit, but as far as straightforward thrilling storytelling goes, this is top-notch. Beyond the shows I just mentioned, I’m not used to seeing TV crime thrillers that privilege verisimilitude over TV logic this flagrantly, or have this consistently excellent a cast.

links for 2010-04-22
April 22, 2010

Heaven is Whenever
April 22, 2010

It pains me to say it, but The Hold Steady is in a slump. Stay Positive was alright, but nowhere near on par with either of the two prior albums. Keyboardist Franz Nicolay departed after that album, and while I was sad to go, I was cautiously hopeful that the personnel change would shake up the band’s formula a little bit and make them try something fresh.

No such luck. In their new album, Heaven is Whenever, it’s the same band minus one guy, both for better and worse. A couple of the songs are serious rockers (see “Rock Problems” above), but mostly the old formula is starting to show serious signs of strain. On Stay Positive, Tad Kubler’s guitar solos were absolutely majestic (re: “Lord, I’m Discouraged”), but here it seems like he’s painted himself into a stylistic corner that echoes the band’s larger woes.

At least Craig Finn is taking his lyrics in new directions. There’s been a definite progression from Lifter Puller to early Hold Steady to current Hold Steady, with Finn’s persona going from panicked burnout to wiser older brother telling you a story about his more messed up days, to cool uncle giving you some friendly advice. Nowhere is this more obvious than on “Soft in the Center” (“You gotta get yourself right, kid”) and “Hurricane J” (“I don’t want you to settle/ I want you to grow.”).

Telling, a big chunk of the album–including the aforementioned “Rock Problems,” and the subpar “The Smidge”–is about ennui. “Now we never going dancing / ’cause we’re not really moving,” Finn sings on the latter song, and I have to say, I know the feeling. The heart-pounding, fist-pumping exuberance is just mostly absent this time around, although god knows the guys are trying. And every once and a while, like on the penultimate song, “Our Whole Lives,” something special breaks through. These guys are still the best meat-and-potatoes rock band going, but they need to get themselves right.

How It’s Gonna End
April 21, 2010

If you aren’t a Lost nerd, you should probably skip this post. I’ve been holding off, but I had to do at least one.

It’s nice to see Lost is done with the obligatory wheel-spinning and set-up that characterizes the first two acts of most of its seasons. A lot of the preemptive criticism for the final season revolved around the question: “How are they gonna cram in all those answers?” But of course, the answers are sort of beside the point, and what’s been bothering me instead is what usually bothers me for the first few episodes of one of this show’s seasons: not a whole lot was happening, and there was a sense they were just pushing the pieces around until they finally had everything organized enough to kick-start the actual plot.

About the answers we’ve gotten: Despite some missteps (like in the Hurley episode, when Jack spilled his entire character motivation to Hurley in one neat paragraph and Michael explained explicitly what the whispers are exactly 30 seconds after anyone paying attention had already figured it out) they writers have been doing a pretty good job at dropping enough hints for us to figure out the answers for ourselves, and proceeding with the real business, which is the character stuff. Without it ever being spelled out to us, I think we’re starting to get a good sense of what the rules of the game are, and, ultimately, what the show’s about. It casts everything before in a new light, and renews my faith that, yeah, the writers actually had a plan all along.

This is a show about a group of characters who are each struggling to master some kind of inner darkness. Fake-Locke exploits that darkness to his own ends, and now that he’s done it with all of the characters to some degree or another, they are all stuck “on his side.” Jacob’s could try to pull them back, but it wouldn’t really count; he’s trying to demonstrate a point about how these people have the capacity for good, and for him to prove his point they have to demonstrate that capacity on their own. My guess is the remaining for episodes are going to be about how they pull together to do that.

links for 2010-04-20
April 20, 2010

My Friends Are Doing Really Cool Stuff
April 20, 2010

Two great graphic design guys at the New School–main man eternal Erik Carter and Andrew “Famous Andrew” Mahon–just launched a new site. You’ll be hearing more from these guys in the future.

Also, Nicole He plays the ukelele really well.

And congrats to Alyssa Rosenberg for her new gig with Washingtonian Magazine. Incidentally, check out her most recent post, which I consider the final word on the whole “Liz Lemon is TV-ugly, by which I mean stunningly gorgeous by any reasonable standard” thing.

UPDATE: While I’m at it, I might as well extend belated congratulations to my friend Joe Coscarelli for getting hired by the Village Voice.

Obama’s Fuck You Nominee
April 20, 2010

A friend of the blog–on a listserv that’s de facto OFT, but if he reads this and gives me permission I’ll update with his real name–wrote that he hopes that Obama nominates an unabashedly liberal “fuck you” candidate to the Supreme Court and dares the GOP to filibuster. After all, while Republicans are currently calling a filibuster “unlikely,” it’s so hardwired into their current political strategy that Mitch McConnell and co. are likely filibustering in their sleep, in the shower, in the car on the way to work, etc. It’s only “unlikely” because Obama hasn’t named a nominee yet, but once he does, the folks on the other side of the aisle will decide, much to their sorrow, that said nominee is to the left of Noam Chomsky, loves terrorists, and must be stopped at all costs.

Since no compromise is possible with the modern Republican Party, might as well forget about a compromise nomination. And Obama, to his credit, seems to have finally mastered his compulsive conciliatory tendencies.

If I had to guess, I’d say that this will make the confirmation process easier, not harder. The Republicans will likely present a united opposition no matter what, but a strong liberal pick will at least energize the Democratic base, which in turn will put more pressure on the Democrats to hew to the party line in response. And if the Republicans know that the first choice, if defeated, will be replaced by one even more liberal, and so on, then eventually one of them will waver.

links for 2010-04-19
April 19, 2010

Someone Should Hire Me to Do Work Stuff
April 18, 2010

Introduction (EDITED)
On June 25, I will complete the last of my coursework at NYU and leave college with a B.A. in Philosophy. June 26 is what I’m trying to figure out right now. My tentative plans are to move from Brooklyn to Washington D.C., but that is far from set in stone, and I would be happy to move to any decently sized metropolitan area provided there is a good enough job waiting for me there.

Basically what I’m looking for is a job in journalism/communications for a cause or organization I can believe in. Time commitment and salary are of no object to me, provided I remain somewhere above the poverty line; the biggest thing for me is finding a place where my skills will be put to good use. I’m a really strong, passionate writer and communicator, I have a ton of journalism and new media experience, and I’ve got a pretty deep, sophisticated understanding of politics and public policy, among other things.

More details below. Thanks to friend and editor Jess Roy for inspiration.
(more…)

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