My Summer Media Diet

I haven’t writ­ten one of these in a while, but now that sum­mer has near­ly wrapped up, it felt like as good a time as any to cov­er the music, TV, movies, games and books that have cap­tured my atten­tion when I’m not ful­ly immersed in Tik­Tok or my job search.


  • We Want Every­thing, by Nan­ni Balestri­ni — The eas­i­est way to mar­ket a book to me is to have even the most ten­u­ous con­nec­tion to Rachel Kush­n­er. She men­tioned this book in her essay col­lec­tion The Hard Crowd and I’m not sur­prised that I found it an engross­ing account of how indus­tri­al­iza­tion affect­ed Italy in the ’60s. As we as a soci­ety come to grips with the impact AI may have on our lives and our liveli­hoods, this was a brac­ing read about work­ers try­ing to main­tain some con­trol over how they work and how that trans­lates to their abil­i­ty to live.
  • Folk Music: A Bob Dylan Biog­ra­phy in Sev­en Songs, by Greil Mar­cus — Some­times I real­ly miss the late glo­ry days of music crit­i­cism as seen in alt week­lies. That kind of writ­ing seems even more gnom­ic now than it did then. The ref­er­ences are often even more obscure now, but in the hands of a mas­ter of the form, all the more won­der­ful. I don’t know if I’ve real­ly got­ten to know Dylan bet­ter as I work through this book, but the kalei­do­scop­ic por­tray­al match­es the sev­er­al Dylans he’s been through­out his long career. Did­n’t hurt that Rachel Kush­n­er had a blurb on the inner jacket.
  • Board­walk of Dreams, by Bryant Simon — This is so good I wrote the author an email. I’ve longed for a great piece of urban polit­i­cal econ­o­my about the arc of Atlantic City, and this is it. Bet­ter still, Simon does a fan­tas­tic job of out­lin­ing how the dynam­ics that shaped Atlantic City are per­ti­nent for any city that’s been trans­formed from an indus­tri­al cen­ter into a tourist play­ground. The com­mon thread of how pub­lic spaces are cre­at­ed and for whom illus­trates not only how the Board­walk scenes can be con­nect­ed to the casi­nos, but by the tran­si­tive prop­er­ty, how vibrant down­towns con­nect to sub­ur­ban malls. If you’ve spent any mean­ing­ful amount of time in Atlantic City as my fam­i­ly has vis­it­ing friends on the sound end of town, this will help you under­stand what real­ly hap­pened there and why. He also just shared a Jason Isbell inter­view con­duct­ed by Cap­i­tal Moves author Jef­fer­son Cowie and I’m just smitten.
  • Red­dit. I’m the last per­son on Earth to get lost here. I final­ly fig­ured out how to make it work for me now that I’m not spend­ing time refresh­ing Twit­ter. I get far more enjoy­ment out of it than I ever did most social media. What if forums were the answer the entire time?


  • Bar­bie — Felt like we had to see it in the the­ater. Helen wore a pink dress and I wore the “sun­ny side up” Pave­ment t‑shirt. I loved so much about it, but felt like for all the talk about dis­man­tling the patri­archy, we spent a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of time reha­bil­i­tat­ing the men. It was a fun movie, but I think I want­ed more Ghost World than it could offer.
  • The Bear — Is this the only pres­tige TV I like? Maybe! “Fish­es” and “Forks” were stand­out episodes, but the whole show evolved this sea­son into some­thing more than anoth­er fre­net­ic, trou­bling restau­rant dram­e­dy. Also, Oliv­er Platt rules.
  • What We Do in the Shad­ows — I did­n’t love S4, with baby Col­in Robin­son danc­ing around, but the show seri­ous­ly bounced back in S5 and com­plete­ly pulled me back in just when I thought I might let go. “The Cam­paign” is to Col­in Robin­son what “Forks” was for Richie.
  • Cut­ter’s Way – 20 years ago I was a video store clerk respon­si­ble for main­tain­ing the Amer­i­can actors por­tion of the store. I can’t tell you how the VHS box for Cut­ter’s Way taunt­ed me all these years, along­side Hack­man’s Night Moves and Keach’s Fat City. I dust­ed all of them, but nev­er watched them. Now all three are stream­ing on Cri­te­ri­on Chan­nel togeth­er and after watch­ing Cut­ter’s Way, it’s time I address this over­sight. If I learned any­thing from my time behind the counter at TLA Video, it was that some movies are, well, just a vibe, and this is no excep­tion. The dis­il­lu­sion­ment, much like in We Want Every­thing, just res­onates so pow­er­ful­ly in the cen­tral con­flict and the char­ac­ters are well-developed.


  • Yo La Ten­go — This Stu­pid World. There’s lit­er­al­ly noth­ing to say about this band that has­n’t already been said. They’re one of a hand­ful of bands that con­sis­tent­ly pro­duces music that I know I’ll enjoy before I’ve lis­tened and they’ve been doing it for decades. This album is no excep­tion, but you already knew that.
  • Mix­cloud. It’s the best music dis­cov­ery app for me, hands down.
  • This Andy Beta mix that was just shared via his Sub­stack this morning.
  • Indiecast. This is the clos­est I get to music crit­i­cism dra­ma near­ly 13 years since last writ­ing about music for mon­ey. It’s as close as I want to get, I think. Steve and Ian are the Siskel and Ebert of 40-some­thing crit­ics and at a time when so much music crit­i­cism has real­ly focused on fan ser­vice, they offer up indif­fer­ence as a refresh­ing coun­ter­point to all that.
  • Jok­er­men & Nev­er End­ing Sto­ries. More Hyden! I’ve loved Jok­er­men, but NES may be my new favorite. The inter­play between the guys is just fan­tas­tic and height­ens my appre­ci­a­tion for Bob and all the sil­ly things he’s done through­out the years.
  • WRTI. What a gem this radio sta­tion is. It was there the entire time. I should’ve been lis­ten­ing since before I got to col­lege, but glad I start­ed now.
  • WFMU. I’ve long aspired to sup­port the sta­tion and I’m glad I final­ly did. Jesse Jarnow’s The Frow Show was a gate­way to so much great music and the broad­er net­work does not dis­ap­point in that regard either.


  • Assas­s­in’s Creed Val­hal­la. I think I’ve spent the last two years play­ing Assas­s­in’s Creed Val­hal­la. It’s equal parts embar­rass­ing and enthralling. I have lit­er­al­ly no friends play­ing this game, but I fell in love with all the Viking back­sto­ry thanks to liv­ing in Scan­di­navia 30 years ago. The sto­ry was real­ly sat­is­fy­ing, so much so that I actu­al­ly com­plet­ed the game and can’t stop wan­der­ing around the coun­try­side. I can’t wait for Mirage to hit.
  • Starfield. I haven’t start­ed play­ing yet, but I’m hop­ing this game cures me of my Assas­s­in’s Creed Val­hal­la habit!

Another Hex-mas Miracle

I can’t remem­ber if I’ve ever been able to lis­ten to as much of Jon Solomon’s 25-hour #WPRBX­mas as I did this year. It was fan­tas­tic as usu­al and pro­duced some great quotes from my sister-in-law.

But the real Christ­mas mag­ic hap­pened on Christ­mas Day, as the Fall set wrapped up with the debut of Chica­go Now’s Hex-mas Enduc­tion Hour.

When I tell you I could­n’t buy it fast enough. I was spell­bound from the open­ing notes of “The Christ­mas­si­cal.” A must for any Fall fan!

My Year in Music

Dan Bejar

It’s Decem­ber 30th, I’ve sub­mit­ted my for­mal fake P&J bal­lot and I’m lis­ten­ing to the new Emma Swift album and hav­ing regrets. A music crit­ic’s work is nev­er done!

It’s been a hard year but I was per­son­al­ly soothed by all the great music that came out this year. For the first time in my expe­ri­ence as a music enthu­si­ast, I had a list of 100+ albums that I enjoyed so much I might have includ­ed them in a top ten. I had top tens of scuzzy rock, jam, folk, coun­try, jazz, ambient/new age and more. I have a defen­si­ble top five albums by guys named Jeff! As much as we suf­fered in quar­an­tine, through a dif­fi­cult move to a famil­iar place that isn’t yet home again, music was a balm.

My favorites this year fall com­fort­ably into what you might call “head music.” I found myself return­ing time and again to psych, ambi­ent and jazz ver­sus try­ing to focus on lyrics and hooks. That said, my album of the year was Destroy­er’s “Have We Met.” It fit the year too per­fect­ly and coin­ci­den­tal­ly was the last show I saw this year and my last in Detroit. It was per­fect and bit­ter­sweet. Eleanor Fried­berg­er opened. I prob­a­bly saw her play Detroit in the last 6 years more than any oth­er artist. I get emo­tion­al think­ing about it.

Even in 2020’s dark­est moments, there was always a record to lis­ten to. These were my favorites, in alpha­bet­i­cal order:

  1. Arbor Labor Union — New Petal Instants
  2. Arboure­tum — Let It All In
  3. Autechre — SIGN
  4. Bar­ry Walk­er Jr. — Shoul­da Zenith
  5. Beau­ty Pill — Please Advise
  6. Ben Sere­tan — Youth Pastoral
  7. Bill Fay — Count­less Branches
  8. Bill Nace — Both
  9. Blitzen Trap­per — Holy Smokes Future Jokes
  10. Bob Dylan — Rough and Row­dy Ways
  11. Bon­ny Light Horse­man — s/t
  12. Brigid Daw­son and the Moth­ers Net­work — Bal­let of Apes
  13. Bruce Horns­by — Non-Secure Connection
  14. Bruce Spring­steen — Let­ter to You
  15. Buck Cur­ran — No Love Is Sorrow
  16. Bul­ly — SUGAREGG
  17. Carl Stone — Stolen Car
  18. Char­lie Kaplan — Sunday
  19. Chris Forsyth with Gar­cia Peo­ples — Peo­ples Motel Band (Live)
  20. Chro­mat­ics — Fad­ed Now
  21. Chronophage — Th’pig’kiss’d Album
  22. Cir­cles Around the Sun — s/t
  23. Con­stant Smiles — Control
  24. Con­tain­er — Scramblers
  25. Coun­try West­erns — s/t
  26. David Grubbs & Taku Una­mi — Comet Meta
  27. David Nance — Staunch Honey
  28. The Dead C — Unknowns
  29. Death Val­ley Girls — Under the Spell of Joy
  30. Deep Sea Div­er — Impos­si­ble Weight
  31. Deep Space Duo — Spacetones
  32. Deer­hoof — Future Teenage Cave Artists
  33. Destroy­er — Have We Met
  34. Dezron Dou­glas & Brandee Younger — Force Majeure
  35. Dog­wood Tales — Clos­est Thing to Heaven
  36. The Dream Syn­di­cate — The Uni­verse Inside
  37. Earth­e­ater — Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin
  38. Eli Win­ter — Unbecoming
  39. Elkhorn — The Storm Sessions
  40. Emma Swift — Blonde on the Tracks
  41. Ezra Fein­berg — Recum­bent Speech
  42. FACS — Void Moments
  43. Fire-Toolz — Rain­bow Bridge
  44. Flat Worms — Antarctica
  45. Fuzz — III
  46. Gar­cia Peo­ples — Night­cap at Wits’ End
  47. Greg Dul­li — Ran­dom Desire
  48. Guardian Sin­gles — s/t
  49. Guid­ed By Voic­es — Mir­rored Aztec/Surrender Your Pop­py Field/Styles We Paid For
  50. Gunn-Truscin­s­ki Duo — Soundkeeper
  51. Gwenifer Ray­mond — Strange Lights over Garth Mountain
  52. Hailu Mer­gia — Yene Mircha
  53. HAIM — Women in Music Pt III
  54. Heather Trost — Petrichor
  55. Heathered Pearls — Cast
  56. House­hold Gods — Palace Intrigue
  57. The Howl­ing Hex — Knuck­le­ball Express
  58. Imag­i­nary Soft­woods — Annu­al Flow­ers in Color
  59. Irre­versible Entan­gle­ments — Who Sent You?
  60. Jack­ie Lynn — Jacqueline
  61. James Elk­ing­ton — Ever-Rov­ing Eye
  62. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit — Reunions
  63. Jeff Park­er — Suite for Max Brown
  64. Jeff Rosen­stock — NO DREAM
  65. Jeff Swan­son — Fathoms
  66. Jeff Tweedy — Love Is The King
  67. Jef­frey Sil­ver­stein — You Become the Mountain
  68. Jen­nifer Cas­tle — Monarch Season
  69. Jere­my Cun­ning­ham — The Weath­er Up There
  70. Jess Williamson — Sorceress
  71. Jessie Ware — What’s Your Pleasure?
  72. Joe West­er­lund — Rever­ies in the Rift
  73. Joe Wong — Nite Creatures
  74. Jor­dan Reyes — Sand Like Stardust
  75. Josh John­son — Free­dom Exercise
  76. Khru­ang­bin — Mordechai
  77. Kneel­ing in Piss — Tour De Force
  78. Lam­b­chop — Trip
  79. Laraa­ji — Moon Piano/Sun Piano
  80. Lews­berg — In This House
  81. Lithics — Tow­er of Age
  82. Litur­gy — Ori­gin of the Alimonies
  83. Loma — Don’t Shy Away
  84. Loose Koozies — Feel a Bit Free
  85. Mapache — From Lib­er­ty Street
  86. Mary Halvor­son­’s Code Girl — Art­less­ly Falling
  87. Mary Lat­ti­more — Sil­ver Ladders
  88. Masa­ki Batoh — Smile Jesus Loves You
  89. Mele­nas — Dias Raros
  90. Mike Polizze — Long Lost Solace Find
  91. Moor Moth­er — Cir­cuit City
  92. Moss­es — T.V. Sun
  93. The Moun­tain Goats — Songs for Pierre Chuvin
  94. Mute Duo — Lapse in Passage
  95. Muzz — s/t
  96. Myth­ic Sun­ship — Chang­ing Shapes
  97. Nap Eyes — Snap­shot of a Beginner
  98. Nar­row Head — 12th House Rock
  99. Nathan Sals­burg — Landwerk
  100. The Necks — Three
  101. Noth­ing — The Great Dismal
  102. Obnox — Sav­age Raygun
  103. Oh Sees — Metamorphosed/Panther Rotate/Protean Threat
  104. Oliv­er Coates — skins n slime
  105. Olivia Awbrey — Dis­hon­or­able Harvest
  106. Oneo­htrix Point Nev­er — Mag­ic Oneo­htrix Point Never
  107. Optic Sink — s/t
  108. Pacif­ic Range — High Upon the Mountain
  109. Pall­bear­er — For­got­ten Days
  110. Phish — Sig­ma Oasis
  111. Phoebe Bridgers — Punisher
  112. Pro­tomar­tyr — Ulti­mate Suc­cess Today
  113. Psy­chic Tem­ple — Hous­es of the Holy
  114. Quin Kirch­n­er — The Shad­ows and the Light
  115. Rat­boys — Print­er’s Devil
  116. Rob Dob­son — New Dystopia
  117. Robert Haigh — Black Sarabande
  118. Roger Eno & Bri­an Eno — Mix­ing Colours
  119. Ron Miles — Rain­bow Sign
  120. Root­less — Docile Cobras
  121. Rose City Band — Summerlong
  122. Sal­ly Anne Mor­gan — Thread
  123. Sam Gen­del — Satin Doll
  124. Sam Prekop — Comma
  125. Shaba­ka and the Ances­tors — We Are Sent Here By History
  126. Sil­ver Scrolls — Music for Walks
  127. Sir Richard Bish­op — Oneir­ic Formulary
  128. Six Organs of Admit­tance — Com­pan­ion Rises
  129. Soc­cer Mom­my — col­or theory
  130. The Soft Pink Truth — Shall We Go On Sin­ning So That Grace May Increase?
  131. Stephen Malk­mus — Tra­di­tion­al Techniques
  132. The Strokes — The New Abnormal
  133. Sun Ra Arkestra — Swirling
  134. Sun­watch­ers — Oh Yeah?
  135. SUSS — Promise
  136. Teng­ger — Nomad
  137. Ter­ry Allen & The Pan­han­dle Mys­tery Band — Just Like Moby Dick
  138. These New Puri­tans — Hid­den [MMXX]
  139. Tid­i­ane Thi­am — Siftorde
  140. Trees Speak — Ohms/Shadow Forms
  141. Trum­mors — Dropout City
  142. U.S. Girls — Heavy Light
  143. Wast­ed Shirt — Fun­gus II
  144. William Tyler — Music from First Cow
  145. Windy & Carl — Alle­giance and Conviction
  146. Xetas — The Cypher
  147. Zachary Cale — False Spring

We Don’t Deserve The New Pornographers

I wrote this about the New Pornog­ra­phers in 2017. It still holds up. Their new record is fab­u­lous. You should lis­ten to it if you haven’t already! I’m still wrestling with why I ever took a break from them in the first place.

A big part of why I tuned out on the New Pornog­ra­phers was around the time “Chal­lengers” was released. It got a 6.0 from Pitch­fork and my mem­o­ry of that album at the time was just that it lacked the unsus­tain­able punch of their ear­li­er records. Carl talked to Tom Scharpling about this right before he released “Shut Down the Streets” and it was deeply affect­ing for all the rea­sons you can imagine.

Carl revived that thread with a series of tweets. and it’s kind of delight­ful through the wincing.

Flash for­ward and the band is tour­ing and doing press on their new record, “In the Morse Code of the Brake Lights.” New­man has been curat­ing amaz­ing pow­er pop on Twit­ter and shar­ing gems like this cov­er of a brand new GBV song in case you won­dered why we real­ly don’t deserve a band this good.

Spend some time with their new album and their cat­a­log now that it’s get­ting cold­er and you’re stuck indoors. 

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.