August 01st, 2016 | Category: Headline, Reviews
Genre Trouble: Post-Rock and Other Lost Sounds

Even with a space seemingly cut out for them by a family of description-defying groups, ready-made genres, and audiences lying in wait, some sounds still just seem to don’t fit anywhere. As I wrote previously about another post-something band, when genre-specific adjectives fail, we grasp at significant exemplars from the past to describe new sounds. Following Straw (1991), Josh Gunn (1999) calls this “canonization” (p. 42): The synecdochical use of a band’s name for a genre is analogous to our using metaphors, similes, and other figurative language when literal terms fall …

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June 21st, 2016 | Category: Reading Lists
Summer Reading List, 2016

If you’re like me, you haven’t even read all of last year’s recommendations, but here’s another great pile of pages to read! This year’s list boasts contributions from newcomers Rita Raley, Gerfried Ambrosch, Pat Cadigan, Emily Empel, Alexander Weheliye, André Carrington, Douglas Lain, Christina Henry, Alfie Bown, Charles Mudede, and Joseph Nechvatal, as well as veteran listers Janet Murray, Lance Strate, Peter Lunenfeld, Ashley Crawford, Lily Brewer, Dave Allen, Rick Moody, Alex Burns, Patrick Barber, Michael Schandorf, and myself.
As always unless otherwise noted, titles and covers link to the book at …

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December 20th, 2015 | Category: Essays
Cultural Scripts: Now or Narrow

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece about the death of the mainstream in which I quote my friend Mark Wieman describing the long tail as longer and fatter than ever. In that same piece I state, “…what happens when we don’t share any of it anymore? Narrowcasting and narrowcatching, as each of us burrows further down into our own interests, we have less of them in common as a whole. The mainstream has become less of a stream and more of a mist.” As this creeping fragmentation continues, …

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December 10th, 2015 | Category: Reviews
Top 20 Records, 2015

With all the beautiful debuts, great returns, and stellar collaborations this year, I’m still baffled by people who complain about the current state of music. I couldn’t even cover all of 2015’s great releases, but here are the ones I listened to and loved the most.
Unless otherwise noted, each album is linked to its Bandcamp page so you can have a listen and support the artists, if you are so inclined.

Deafheaven New Bermuda (ANTI-): Let’s not kid ourselves, when a band does a record as good as Sunbather (Deathwish, 2013), …

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November 18th, 2015 | Category: Reviews
Pseudonymity, Anonymity, and Obfuscation

Ever get creeped-out when Facebook automatically recognizes you or one of your friends in a photo? Facial recognition has been around for ages, but it’s starting to get disturbingly adept. There are haircuts and makeup tactics that can trick such cameras and software into not recognizing your face as a face, like the “ugly shirt” in William Gibson‘s Spook Country (2008). Obfuscation is akin to masking your identity without wearing a mask.

I loathe the phrase “hiding in plain sight,” but there’s no better way to easily describe the practice. “It’s a …

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