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Cat Power — Wanderer

If a new album from Fred Thomas wasn’t enough, the news that Chan Mar­shall will be releas­ing her first record in six years made my week. I’m not usu­al­ly crazy about album trail­ers but I’ll make an excep­tion for Cat Pow­er. She’s one of those artists I don’t know I need until I hear it. The Great­est still haunts me twelve years lat­er. Now I just need some­thing to dis­tract me from the fact that this won’t be out until Octo­ber.

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Fred Thomas — Good Times Are Gone Again

I saw Fred Thomas open for Eleanor Fried­berg­er last year at Third Man Records down­town. His ver­bose indie pop on last year’s Chang­er caught me com­plete­ly off guard. How had I over­looked an artist whose music so res­onat­ed with me? “Open Let­ter to For­ev­er” is the per­fect mix of poignan­cy and com­e­dy. It’s a song that makes me smile every time I hear it.

Yes­ter­day, Fred’s first sin­gle from After­ing debuted at The Fad­er. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album in Sep­tem­ber.

How to Defeat the Infinite Scroll

We all stare into the infi­nite scroll. Sure, it was once a ques­tion­able UI solu­tion that cre­at­ed an even more dubi­ous UX for sur­fac­ing con­tent on web­sites — don’t like what’s on the menu, well, what if that menu were end­less — now defines how we con­sume con­tent online, inter­rupt­ed only occa­sion­al­ly as the time­line lags. It’s an exhaust­ing, indis­crim­i­nate way to inter­act with media, but what’s the alter­na­tive? We lit­er­al­ly look at mobile devices hun­dreds if not thou­sands of times a day and the social web waits to scratch an itch our brains have to be con­stant­ly enter­tained.

Ever since the elec­tion, I’ve striv­en — unsuc­cess­ful­ly- to change my media diet. As some­one who con­sumes a ton of con­tent that streams through my var­i­ous time­lines for pro­fes­sion­al rea­sons, I’m try­ing to be more mind­ful of and inten­tion­al about my media con­sump­tion and the habits that enable it.

I’ve long admired Jason Kottke’s work and late­ly I’ve appre­ci­at­ed how he’s doc­u­ment­ed his media diet in much the same way one might keep a food jour­nal. Here’s a recent exam­ple.

To that end, I’ve com­piled a list of things I’m engag­ing on pur­pose!

Listening

  • Yo La Ten­go — There’s a Riot Going On. Seri­ous­ly just what the doc­tor ordered to start an unsea­son­ably cold spring. I didn’t think they’d match the bril­liance of Fade, but this is a great coda on a won­der­ful career.
  • Stephen Malk­mus and the Jicks — Sparkle Hard. Ever since I heard the first sin­gle, “Mid­dle Amer­i­ca,” which sounds like it would fit com­fort­ably on Ter­ror Twi­light, yet still sounds fresh.
  • The Breed­ers — All Nerve. Ugh I know this has been very “Remem­ber the 90s” but the new Breed­ers has so much atti­tude! “Ner­vous Mary” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
  • Kamasi Wash­ing­ton — Heav­en and Earth. A per­fect­ly defi­ant record. It’s how I start Sun­day morn­ing in 2018.

Reading

  • Abbott. Sal­adin Ahmed’s phan­tas­magoric thriller set in the ‘70s about a Detroit reporter inves­ti­gat­ing mur­ders in Cass Cor­ri­dor is reminscent of Lau­ren Bewkes’ fan­tas­tic nov­el, Bro­ken Mon­sters, but less nou­veau Detroit.
  • Red­dit. I remem­ber when Red­dit was cas­ti­gat­ed as being the internet’s cesspool, but now the notion of self-mod­er­at­ed com­mu­ni­ties that you can vis­it inten­tion­al­ly feels pret­ty great.

Watching

  • Every­thing trail and ultra run­ning, start­ing with The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats Its Young. The Barkley Marathons aren’t an insane race, they’re an exis­ten­tial cri­sis. A friend of mine from high school went this year to observe the race and he wit­nessed its bru­tal majesty first­hand. There were no fin­ish­ers this year. Check out The Year Barkley Won in Trail Run­ner Mag­a­zine, too.
  • Baby­lon BerlinJason wrote a bit about the music here, but I was pos­i­tive­ly spell­bound over 16 45-minute long episodes. “Zu Asche, Zu Staub” is a show­stop­per. Baby­lon Berlin is thrilling and punc­tu­at­ed by fan­tas­tic song and dance num­bers.
  • The 2018 Philadel­phia Phillies. I’ve been bull­ish on the Phillies’ rebuild, but had not expect­ed them to lead the NL East in the first half. I also didn’t expect the Braves to be at the door so quick­ly either.

I’ll try to update this on a quar­ter­ly basis. How do you man­age your cul­tur­al con­sump­tion habits?

Royal Trux at El Club

 

Let’s fake our way through Bad Blood for John.”

Neil Michael Hager­ty was try­ing des­per­ate­ly to get through a gor­geous, dis­as­trous set at El Club’s first birth­day par­ty with a Roy­al Trux clas­sic, ded­i­cat­ing it to Neg­a­tive Approach’s John Bran­non, the first son of Detroit hard­core. Hagerty’s band­mate Jen­nifer Her­re­ma had spent most of the show seat­ed or lay­ing down onstage, join­ing in on vocals spo­rad­i­cal­ly.

It was every­thing I’d imag­ine it would be and more. Thrilled to see them back togeth­er again and back out on the road.

Grails — Deep Snow II

I met Grails in Fish­town, before or after a show upstairs at the old Cir­cle of Hope on Frank­ford, I don’t quite remem­ber. The show itself was phe­nom­e­nal. They were out in sup­port of  2007’s Black Tar Prophe­cies Vol 1–3, a col­lec­tion I real­ly enjoyed and a sound NPR Music’s Lars Gotrich describes as “doomy Amer­i­cana.”

He’s not wrong. After I heard, Earth’s great 2005 album Hex: Or Print­ing in the Infer­nal Method, I was intox­i­cat­ed by this sound. For the unini­ti­at­ed, imag­ine an instru­men­tal sound­track to True Detec­tive Sea­son 1. For me, it was a coun­ter­point to what had start­ed to frus­trate me about freak folk pop­u­lar at the time.

The guys them­selves were real­ly great. I planned to inter­view them, but Fish­town Tav­ern was way too loud, so we end­ed up talk­ing about music and shout­ing at each oth­er like the reg­u­lars. I’d lat­er catch them when they came through on sub­se­quent tours and was sur­prised to see Emil Amos’ hold­ing down the drums for the mighty Om.

Chal­ice Hym­nal, their first record since 2011, is out in a few weeks. Check­ing out the new tunes on Tem­po­rary Residence’s Sound­cloud, it’s a depar­ture from that doomy Amer­i­cana sound. The title track has ele­ments of dub that were com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed.

Deep Snow II” is more of the fore­bod­ing pas­toral I fell in love with when I first heard the band. It’s less witchy and more space rock than the stuff they were doing 10 years ago, but it’s famil­iar in its tone and mood.

If there’s some­thing I espe­cial­ly love about 2017 musi­cal­ly, it’s that so many of the bands I loved as a music crit­ic are get­ting back togeth­er and mak­ing fan­tas­tic music. Grails are no excep­tion.