Articles in the Reviews Category

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March 06th, 2017 | Comments Off on The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train | Category: Reviews
The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train

I often make a distinction between my favorite bands and the bands I think are the best. Unwound is one of the few bands for which that distinction means nothing: They are both one of my all-time favorite bands and one of the best to ever do it. Unwound have now been apart longer than they were together, but every time I listen to one of their records, I am reminded just how great they were. Numero Group’s extensive new boxset leaves no doubt that they still deserve more attention.
Having …

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December 29th, 2016 | No Comment | Category: Essays, Reviews
Firing the Canon: Read This, Not That!

I know you have your giftcards handy, and you’re looking for something new to read. In these times, I often think about books everyone’s supposed to read. I’ve read some of them. Many are damn good and on the list for a reason, but some need to be avoided like carbs or fat or sugar. So, in the tradition of Eat This, Not That!, here are a few of my recommendations:
Instead of the whiney tedium of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (William Morrow, 1974), read …

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December 07th, 2016 | Comments Off on Five Fives: Top 25 Records, 2016 | Category: Reviews
Five Fives: Top 25 Records, 2016

2016 was a year of monster releases from veterans and relative newcomers alike. Weirdly, three of the top five were neatly stacked side by side. N-bands Nails, Neurosis, and Nothing put out three of my most-listened-to and most revered records. My friends and heroes, emcess/producers Aesop Rock and dälek round out The Five Best. It’s not a huge drop off from there, but these were definitely my five favorites. Let’s run them down along with the other worthy candidates in five sets of five: The Five Best, Five More, The Five …

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August 01st, 2016 | No Comment | Category: 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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December 10th, 2015 | Comments Off on Top 20 Records, 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 | Comments Off on Pseudonymity, Anonymity, and Obfuscation | 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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November 12th, 2015 | Comments Off on Otherworldly Weirdness on Our Own World | Category: Reviews
Otherworldly Weirdness on Our Own World

The human brain’s relationship with reality is fickle at best. The slightest ripple in our expectations can send us off one of many available edges. In his book, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (Hippocampus Press, 2011), Thomas Ligotti paraphrases Peter Wessel Zapffe, writing,
Consciousness is connected to the human brain in a way that makes the world appear to us as it appears and makes us appear to ourselves as we appear–that is, as ‘selves’ or as ‘persons’ strung together by memories, sensations, emotions, and so on (p. 25).
When the …

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October 10th, 2015 | Comments Off on Crimes of the Clock: The Crooked Corridor of Timecrimes | Category: Essays, Reviews
Crimes of the Clock: The Crooked Corridor of <em>Timecrimes</em>

The time-travel trope, if employed well, never seems to wear thin. Several of my favorite narratives — Donnie Darko (2001), Primer (2004), Source Code (2011), and The Shining Girls (2013), to name a few — all involve time travel to some extent. “Part of the fascination of time travel concerns the stark paradoxes that threaten as soon as travel into the past is considered,” writes theoretical physicist Paul Davies (2001). “Perhaps causal loops can be made self-consistent. Perhaps reality consists of multiple universes” (pp. 123-124). These thought experiments are rife …

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October 06th, 2015 | Comments Off on From the Bottom: Deafheaven’s New Bermuda | Category: Reviews
From the Bottom: Deafheaven’s <em>New Bermuda</em>

I noticed a long time ago that my favorite bands never seem to fit neatly into an existing genre. They all sit on the lines between the categories. From my junior-high days listening to Oingo Boingo all the way up to the most recent string including Milemarker, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, and The Mars Volta. Each one of these bands came from the spaces in between and provided me with exactly what I needed at the time. The band doing that right now is …

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July 31st, 2015 | Comments Off on Metropolis of Memories | Category: Reviews
Metropolis of Memories

Each time we move to a new city, we make memories as the city slowly takes shape in our minds. Every new place we locate (e.g., the closest grocery store, the post office, rendezvous points with friends, etc.) is a new point on the map. Wayfinding a new city is an experience you can never get back. Once you are familiar with the space or place, it’s gone. Since moving out on my own, I’ve gravitated toward cities: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Austin, Atlanta, Chicago. Externalized memories built …