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25 November 2010

Thxgiving, 3 portraits, pointless anecdote


Five years ago was a crazy time. Lots of artists I knew on the cusp of this and that. Above is one of the boys, below is ma’ boy, and after the jump is the boy — all of them in photos from half a decade ago, long before anyone cared.

The reason they do it is not for thanks. It’s for something else…

And what I’m here to do now is say thanks, for the opportunity to follow a creative path in life. Please use this opportunity to do the same, k?

I think of today, Thanksgiving, as the only real American holiday. When I was a kid of 5 and 10 years old, the crew I rolled with — if you’d call it that — was heterodox to the point of Little Rascals-like absurdity, well, a sort of dark absurdity. There was an Italian kid who got beat by his father; a Sikh Indian kid, turban and all; another white ethnic kid of uncertain derivation whose dad worked on an assembly line and blew his money gambling in Atlantic City; and an African-American Jahovah’s Witness kid named Clifton.

As I recall, even Clifton got to celebrate Thanksgiving. (Halloween & birthdays he sat out.) And there’s something very wonderful about that.
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12 July 2010

That’s me on television aka Nuit Brooklyn @ Les Nuits de Fourvière 2010

The National, Dirty Projectors, Sharon Jones & St. Vincent all shared a stage earlier tonight (Central European Summer Time) at Les Nuits de Fourvière, a two-month long, multidisciplinary arts festival that happens every year in Lyon, France, about four hours Southeast of Paris by car.

This summer one of the festival’s artistic directors, Marc Cardonnel — his official title is Conseiller Artistique (tres chic!) — visited my neighborhood to get some more background on a night he’d booked dedicated to the musical life of our borough. Point being his crew filmed my interpretive waxations on the subject, wherein I trace the distinctions between Dirty Projectors (representing younger Brooklyn), The National (representing bourgie Brooklyn — pronounced boo-zhee and not really French), and Sharon Jones (i.e. real Brooklyn as in, like, she lived in Rockaway for awhile which is, to be frank, actually in Queens).

St. Vincent is nice and all but she’s more or less from Texas.

Also they made my hair look terrible:

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14 December 2009

You’ve got indie rock in my hip-hop: stray thoughts about a Kid Cudi video & misreadings of the Great Gatsby

gatsby
(Image via University of South Carolina F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary website.)

All over the land you can hear hipsters saying, “You’ve got hip-hop in my indie rock,” and all over the hip-hop nation, they are saying in return “You’ve got indie rock in my hip-hop.” I’ve been meaning to write a bold, brilliant essayistic statement about this phenomenon. I’ve even collected a ton of articles about it to reference. But, hey, I’ve had bills to pay, checks to cash, et. cetera.

A nice summary statement of the phenomenon, though, can be extrapolated from viewing this new video by Kid Cudi, featuring the musical skills of indie rock(ish) darlings MGMT and Ratatat.


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2 November 2009

What happened to Robert Hilburn’s rock’n’roll heroes?

hilburnlennon

I have a soft spot in my heart for Los Angeles Times emeritus pop critic Robert Hilburn. Back when I spent more time writing about music than enabling its makers to make a career at it, Bob was kind enough to invite me to the newspaper’s dining hall for a pep talk. He eventually commissioned me to write a handful of articles for the paper and provided some general life encouragement, but I was less thankful for his professional assistance than for his being. His sunny, angst-free demeanor and real enthusiasm for the soundtrack of his life was clear and real. He provided a ray of light at the end of the long tunnel that is freelancer life.

But what is Hilburn’s legacy as a critic? I have mixed feelings. His Wikipedia entry gives a good summary of his critical philosophy. (Unlike many pop critics he definitely had one.):

    If you took away as few as four dozen artists from that endless row of dominoes, rock would have collapsed as an art form. Imagine your record collection without Bob Dylan, the Beatles or U2. Because of that, he felt one of the main challenges of a critic was to focus on those musicians who contributed to expanding that art form.

This approach has its problems, however, which this summary also articulates.

    In search of those artists, [Hilburn] says he frequently ended up writing about false promises; artists who ran out of ideas, self-destructed or compromised their music in hopes of wider sales. But he was also fortunate enough to connect with the most important artists of the rock era.

Basically there was something about Bob’s warm, humanistic approach to music appreciation that caused him to vacillate between getting hoodwinked by hype and falling in love with his subjects.

Well, Bob — having accepted a buyout from the LA Times in 2005 — has spent the last few years writing a book, the just published Corn Flakes with John Lennon: And Other Tales from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Life, and that’s led to some deeper analysis of how useful his critical approach is circa 2009.
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28 September 2009

Late night television

dpzmeetquestlove
There have been two Dirty Projectors performances on late night television in September, their highest profile appearances to date. Earlier this month, they did David Letterman on CBS. Earlier today, Jimmy Fallon on NBC. The band debuted a new song there. You’re going to love it.

Sometimes, though, the backstage magic is as powerful than the on-stage magic. In the photograph above you can see Questlove from Fallon’s house band, The Roots, holding an iPhone. Without further adieu, here’s what he shot with it:
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