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Dec. 29th, 2015

01:59 pm - 2015 GRINDS PAST IN THE CEASELESS WASH OF TIME, ALSO THERE WERE SONGS

If there's a better argument for the tenuous, virtual nature of consciousness than the simultaneous distance of events not long ago and closeness of events distant, I don't know what it is. What I'm trying to say, is, didn't I just write one of these? Weren't you and I just here, only moments ago? But also going through this there were albums I realised I had discovered, enjoyed, exhausted and forgotten in barely a year - so when did that happen?

There are a lot of albums in the 'honourable mentions' category this year: I do not apologise. There was a bunch of good music, and you should listen to all of it, because there will be a quiz. I just partitioned out the ones I felt like writing about, with all the usual caveats (no order, not just this year, no liability in case of injury or death, all that.)

Do with it what you will. Listen to the albums. Cut the words up and make a rude poem about me. Contemplate your insignificance in the face of the void. It's up to you! Isn't the Internet fun?

Loyalty - The Weather Station
In retrospect, I suspect this album will come to have a nostalgic haze to it - every strum and muted piano chord will drop me straight back into slow winter weekend afternoons in unit 3, or long drives back from Thredbo with the sun dropping over the foothills. Hell, it already does that. There hasn't been an album I've lived so deeply for a long, long time, to the point that I don't have any distance on it any more: is it really as perfect as I think it is? Is the happiness and peace I feel an effect of the album, or just of its associations? No one seems to be talking about it at all, but it's unambiguously my favourite album of this year, which is a thing I say very rarely. So - basically listen to it and agree with me, is what I'm saying.

In Colour - Jamie XX
Is this on here basically on the strength of how perfect 'I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)' is? Yes. Mostly. I mean, the rest of the album is pretty good, sure, but let's talk about how amazing the swinging bells that bounce off the dancehall beat are, or how Young Thug squeezes everything good about his flow in and leaves all the noodly, inscrutable shit on the table. 'Gosh' is fine too, you know! The rest of it is a great IDM album, and then Good Times is just this insanely addictive banger that I listened to every afternoon for a fortnight straight. That's all I need.

Summertime '06 - Vince Staples
This snuck up on me. I don't know if it even sounds that good on headphones: when I really felt it was pumping on the speakers one night over the stove, where the volume helps your body feel how the beat and that moody bassline sits right in the pocket - listen to 'Norf Norf' at full volume and you'll feel me, it's like someone rapping over the sound of a train interchange, and somehow it's just - compulsive. The political consciousness doesn't hurt, either. Kendrick is on this list too, but Summertime is the direct sequel to good kid that he didn't make.

The Great New Wonderful - TIron & Ayomari
Your milage may vary on this one - I think part of the attraction for me was how diametrically opposed to all the retread DJ Mustard bullshit rap that saturated basically all of 2015. Where those songs are all hard, electronic edges and the same three beats, Wonderful is physical, weird and noodly - full of hand percussion, squirrelly live instrumental hooks and layers of found sound. Eventually the murky concept album vibe wears a little thin, but the flow is great and the richness of the sound makes up for it (and you can always skip the intermissions.) I guess the closest comparison would be Outkast? I mean, that's unfair, but it's also not totally inaccurate.

90059 - Jay Rock
This shit craaaaaaaacks. TDE turns it up again - I know I literally just wrote an ode to instrumental weirdo rap and this is the exact opposite of that, but how can you turn it down when it's so good? There's nothing unusual or particularly innovative about 90059 but Jay Rock is leaning so damn hard into it, and the rest of TDE showing up to help him out doesn't hurt either. But you get the sense that it's not a Drake showing up to stunt on a newbie situation - Jay, Kendrick and the rest of Black Hippy feed off each other's energy, especially in tracks like Vice City, where they compete to make the most of an odd flow. Just a good, solid hip hop record.

Éthiopiques - Mulatu Astatke
Instead of me writing about this amazing piece of jazz history, I invite you to understand via contemplation of this video of a bulldog surfing for four continuous minutes, set to 'Tezeta (Nostalgia)':

The Great Mixtape - Sampa The Great
Nick says this album is 'too technical'. Don't listen to that guy. I mean, it is technical, absolutely - voices and takes are constantly crossing each other, swamped in dense, fuzzy instrumental samples. But Sampa is killer and it sounds so good for an ostensible mixtape - I think of it as the mirror image of Great New Wonderful, but much more sample-oriented. People who know me know I love this weird, dense, murky shit. Maybe you will as well?

To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar
I think this album might actually be too Good? Its Goodness makes it almost unapproachable. Where ...mad city was instantly classic in its crossover of banging singles and noodly concept stuff intermingled perfectly, Kendrick leans into the latter real hard: reconstructed conversations with Tupac and Jesus, songs recorded (seemingly) mid-breakdown, all drowned in swirly funk. I'd still recommend this to anyone who'd listen, but I've cooled on it since the beginning of the year. The best, best song (Blacker The Berry) is buried up the back of the album, like he's uninterested in going that hard any more - but an album with that just song would make this list, and Butterfly overflows with ideas and hooks beside.

If You're Reading This It's Too Late - Drake
Do I need to sell you on this? Is it really necessary? It’s not even a ‘proper album’ (that’s lost in contractual slog, presumably) and still Drake blows it wide open - in fact, in some ways I like this one better than Nothing Was The Same - it’s front-heavy but every single song up to 6 God is a banger in it’s own right, and having them back to back is a rollercoaster. It’s full of dumb hooks that’ll stay in your head for days (“With my WOES!”) and - look, I don’t even want to keep talking about it. You’ve probably heard it. Noooo tellllin’.

Black Messiah - D'Angelo
Yeah, this came out this year! I was surprised, too - I think I went through a whole process of encounter, confusion, acceptance, interest and declining use before March was out - like Butterfly, it’s in some ways too good - so dense, twisty and capital-G Groovy that it forms an impenetrable wall of sound. Half of the time D’Angelo’s voice is multitracked into a a harmonic wall, and the songs rise and fall between snappy, barely-there beats and rushes of guitar noise. Still, if you haven’t listened to it, you owe it to yourself.

It Follows (Original Soundtrack) - Disasterpiece
I’m shit, and don’t watch nearly enough films to justify a film version of this list, but if I did It Follows would definitely be on it - and just listening to the mordant, synthy score is enough to still make me curl up in stress and check the windows for strange figures walking directly towards me. Why do I keep listening to it? I don’t know. It’s like picking a scab - deliciously painful. But it’s objectively beautiful, and a lesson in tension and release which has a character all of its own.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS, EVERY SINGLE ONE

I wanted to write about almost all of these, I really did, but the list was getting out of control and I had to finish it before, you know, 2015 was actually over.

Mount The Air - The Unthanks
Sprained Ankle - Julien Baker
First Contact - The Speed Of Sound In Seawater
Policy - Wil Butler
The Heart Is A Monster - Failure
Jackrabbit - San Fermin
Wrought Iron - Nancy Elizabeth
Mr Wonderful - Action Bronson
1989 - Ryan Adams
Runners In The Nerved World - The Sidekicks
Art Angels - Grimes
Riot Boi - Le1f
Shadow of a Doubt - Freddie Gibbs
Painted Shut - Hop Along
Beat The Champ - Mountain Goats
Kintsugi - Death Cab For Cutie
Shrines - Purity Ring
Back To The Woods - Angel Haze

Nov. 13th, 2015

12:13 pm

I dreamt last night about a friend I haven't seen in a long time - for the first time in years, the dream wasn't coloured with anger and disappointment.

In the dream, we had been housemates for years but hadn't spoken the whole time. Somehow, we had managed to avoid interacting with each other almost entirely. We were both working on publishing books - I was slaving over an anthology I was laboriously putting together by hand, individually stitching beautifully handwritten pages into a book. I'd been working eleven hours a day on this collection, and I was exhausted. (In retrospect, being exhausted while actually asleep seems remarkably unfair.)

I don't remember now how it happened exactly - the details are falling away from me even now. We were in my room? Or hers? The debris of publishing was everywhere - broken stationery, clipped paper hanging on makeshift clothesline string across the ceiling. It was unintentional, or maybe we were both too exhausted to avoid each other properly. Either way, I asked how she was, like it was a question we asked each other all the time.

"Exhausted," she said. "This book is killing me. How are you?"

"The same. I'm so, so tired..."

I felt a strange warmth, like seeing a dear friend for the first time in years. We both smiled.

Time shifted and she had moved out of the house to a converted car shed across the street, with a ceiling and yard strung with old fairy lights. We sat outside at night drinking and laughing, and the sky above was a rich gradient of blue dotted with yellow, like out of a picture book for children.

Oct. 23rd, 2015

08:34 am - trying something 'new'

When I was young I believed in radical change. I really believed that it was possible to go from here to there in great bounds - that the world could be changed in great meaningful ways all at once, that levers could be pulled that would make everything different overnight. Problems could be beheld by a keen eye and eradicated by recognition - that knowing what was wrong was enough to make things better, or even that it was possible to hold total knowledge about the broken things of the earth.

That feeling still lives in me - a bad science fiction ghost who haunts me at meetings, cackling at developers going over problems I have (in my head?) described to them 10 times before. He brays at managers who bleat about the essential impossibility of everything; he excoriates people who behold bent and misshapen pieces of the world and shrug. "Everything can be fixed," he yells in his manic high voice. "Nothing is beyond the application of sufficient force: personality, thought or otherwise!"

I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if people can see him in my pupils, reaching out to slap them and call them names.

But I know better than him these days - the world is not a delicate machine with hidden levers waiting for the curious and sufficiently strong of limb. Every thing in the world has its own horrible inertia, held by equilibrium resisting full description: involving yourself adds another term to that balance of forces that provokes equal and opposite reactions to maintain stability. Chesterson wasn't totally wrong about the fences, but it's more like beholding a mountain and thinking you can push it over just there. The longer the mountain has been there, the more perfectly it may be suited to its environment: as usual, Warren Ellis is there way before me:

"While I am gone: consider the stone cairns on the ground floor of our tower. Consider the stones as the visible manifestations of Blind Time. The stones cannot perceive us in any way. In a hundred generations of human life, they only grow more perfect. The stones matter more to the universe than you do. Even to a stone, you are nothing."

Jun. 13th, 2015

12:41 pm

"We’ve been talking for twenty years about the internet revolution and the digital revolution of gathering more information than we ever thought possible and the communications revolution and yet apparently we remain so isolated from each other in our thinking that some billionaire fetus in San Francisco can say the words “wearable shirt” and not be immediately murdered for the good of the gene pool."

-Warren Ellis, 'Cunning Plans'

Dec. 14th, 2014

11:33 am - MATT HAS A DEVICE THAT ACCESSES SONGS AND HE USES IT SOME TIMES 2014

I've got to be real, first up: I have no idea what the best records of this year were. Actually, that's not new, but I don't even have a really clear idea of what my favourite albums were this year, and thank god I've never committed to actually ordering the goddamn things cardinally.

So the following isn't even really my favourites of 2014, it's more like: "Here's a bunch of albums I listened to and didn't hate this year, and how I felt about them.” Sometimes they are not even albums that came out in 2014. Hopefully it is some use, psychic or actual, to you otherwise - it's the Internet, go read a Buzzfeed list about cats or something, no one will notice. As always, there is no theory or logic to the ordering: it's just a constellation of stuff, floating in HTML.

Nikki-Nack - tune yards / This Is My Hand - My Brightest Diamond

I'm grouping these two because I'm just going to say the same thing about them: minorly-beloved indie pop artist makes another album that is basically like their usual output, but nevertheless a good Ol' time for everybody. The Album is knotty but at the same time good-natured and kind of mystical about the human condition in hippie way, with lots of clattering rhythms, abrupt turns and multitracked vocal slabs. If you are not convinced of the basic merits of the project if making an album like that, you're unlikely to be convinced, but if you are: lucky you, two great examples came out in the same year!

There's something dark and off in the heart of My Brightest Diamond, under all the whimsy - a kind of fragility? - that stops me from finding her obnoxious, and when they are on point her songs build towards a nervous, tense climax, like listening to someone uncover a repressed memory with every-increasing frantic energy.

Honest - Future

Outside of RtJ, I had to try really hard to listen to a good rap album this year. Did anyone else find this? Maybe I was just spoilt by the embarrassment of riches that was 2014, but it was a little bleak. Anyway. I'm throwing shade at Future here, which he only sort of deserves, especially since he's a funny guy with an album that sounds great, the inheritor of that Watch The Throne/Cruel Summer/Pusha T crown of a compulsively listenable hour of modern commercial rap music. You'll sing Move That Dope forever, and not because by the end you'll have heard the title phrase a billion times. And I still think the title track is hilarious, even if I may or may not be supposed to. I like to imagine what the Future album where he decided to lie to us instead of being Honest, which might have been an even better album.

The Voyager - Jenny Lewis

Sometimes I come into things way later than would be ‘cool’ to do so. Like Jenny Lewis: I gave zero fucks about her albums and Rilo Kiley, which would have been very on-point times to be into Jenny Lewis. But then she releases this huge chunk of ferociously unapologetic MOR and I put my head up and go “Oh! Yes, I could listen to this all the time!” Thus, I am the world’s greatest dork. But come on: this album is hooky enough to be banned by international fishing treaties. It’s all mid-tempo big slashes of deep-reverbed guitars over wire-tight drums and goofy keys. Maybe I’m just nostalgic about the Californian rock of my parent’s CD collection, but I have all kinds of time for it. I think I liked that Fountains of Wayne album, so there’s really no saving me, just please drive on.

Home, like noplace is there - The Hotelier

Awkward things to admit: even though this album is stunningly, immediately beautiful (just press play on the first song) I have not listened to it nearly as much as it deserves. Possibly, like Benji, it's just too fucking much to take in repeatedly. Even if you don't have much affection for post-hardcore, listen to 'An Introduction to the Album' and try not cry, which is impossible. The rest you may not have much milage with, but this is probably the one album this year that has that air of impeccable greatness around it - almost everything is in the right place, from the transitions from tinkle to slamming distortion, to the ragged-to-the-edge-of-exhaustion twisty vocals. A worthy successor to the great albums of the mid-2000s wave of emo, not least for including someone yelling “your funeral” really loudly.

Sun Kil Moon - Benji

I almost forgot to mention this one! I think it might be because I have unconsciously tried to repress the memory of its existence. I can't think of an album I've ever turned off because it would be inappropriate and worrying to start weeping on the way to work. Everywhere where Kozelek once was allusive and mysterious he’s now direct the point of agony - the lyrics achieve a kind of anti-poetry, like Raymond Carver set to bell-like guitars. It’s dorky, sometimes (lines like “I gotta give and get some hugs”, or the song ‘I Love My Dad’, which is exactly what it says on the label) but somehow it works way, way better than it should, to the point where, like me, you will find yourself on the edge of tears at 8:30am in the morning.

You're Dead! - Flying Lotus

I'm actually surprised I haven't seen this one going around more - Tulett, FlyLo made a concept album at the intersection of rap music and weirdo free jazz and it's not your favourite thing ever? I clearly don't understand human beings. Anyway. Lotus has always been a little - inscrutable to me, and I’ve never found a way into his objectively interesting but kind of intimidating albums.  But zoomed in on one genre it makes a lot more sense. Plus, it has a shit-hot Kendrick verse on it, a man for whom frenetic double-time bass guitar breakdowns are called 'Tuesday'. It's super weird and spacey - but, still dedicated to replicating faithfully the organic sound of Rhodes and guitars skittering around the mix like water on a hot plate. Cerebral in the best way.

Cliva Demo - Isiah Rashad

So you really wanted there to be a new K-Dot album this year, but there wasn’t. This was not the year of hip-hop blockbusters, because apparently the whole upper stratum is saving their powder for 2015. In the meantime, here’s a cloudy, chilled tape from one of his minor labelmates that will do just fine - he doesn’t have that genius, but let the title track wash over you and let all your worries about that drift. If I had someone who wanted to hang out with me on Saturday afternoons listening to rap music and drinking beers, this is what I’d put on, but since I don’t, I’ll just imagine that on the train instead.

My Grandma's Basement - Jarred Benton

To be upfront - there’s a bunch of really, really dumb and offensive shit in here - Benton gets the comparison to Tyler The Creator out of the way about thirty seconds in, because he knows you’ll be thinking it, but really he’s just another branch off the tree from Eminem and the like - you’ll get what I mean once you reach the bit where he says he’s “weird” and promises to “glue pubes to his face to make a beard”. It’s kind of minor (see note about rap blockbusters) but Benton’s way better, technically than almost all the rappers he’s competing with this year, and turning this on was a relief, just to hear someone actually putting their back into it after endless lazy bullshit. I do think his producer’s drop kind of sounds like something off a Turquoise Jeep song though, which is not something you should aim for, Kato.

Run The Jewels II - Run The Jewels

And then just when you thought there’d be nothing to bring us together as rap-listening public, El-P and Killer Mike kindly provided us a record we could all get as excited about as Mike sounds like on the intro. No one makes songs that hit as hard as RtJ do - we can only give thanks that they realised that the magic alchemy of R.A.P. Music was way better than either of their solo work combined, and worked at least two albums out of that realisation. This album is honestly about a billion times better, technically and sonically, than anything in else in its genre this year. Its victory feels almost a little boring, somehow. Still. You don’t get a passing grade in 2014 if you haven’t pressed play on this one at least a couple times.

The Double EP - Courtney Barnett

OK, I admit it, the caveat about non-2014ness is really just for this album, which was 2013, but who’s going to stop me? You certainly can’t. I had sat on ‘Avant Gardener’ for a long time, then came back to it one afternoon and realised: “This is an incredible song, and it sounds basically like the Inner West set to guitars. I wonder if the rest is as good?” If you listened to Barnett last year, you know the spoiler here is “Yup.” ‘Avant’ is still the best song about early-20s hungover gardening disasters, 'History Eraser’ has a planet-sized hook, and that’s just two songs off this techically-album. I have a high bar for jangly guitar noises, so you know it’s fucking killer.

Clark - Clark

There was a point late this year where I went looking for albums and somehow came back with only electronica, like every other genre had just decided to cede the week entirely. There were some “eh” records from then (yeah, I’m looking at you, Celestial Shore, Flatland) and albums who I probably want to like in abstract more than I do in practice (‘Let’s Cry And Do Pushups At The Same Time’ really is a hell of an album title) but the one that snuck up on me as work music was Clark - dark, gloomy and pulsing, it’s all the best instincts of the Warp artists and none of the shitty ones (one day I may appreciate Oneohtrix Point Never, but probably NEVER HA /exit stage left, raining dollars) I’m getting distracted here. Here’s what it’s like: Clark splits the difference between mordant bloops and huge, distant blasts of noise from the back of a cave somewhere. Analytically, I can’t really tell you why some electronica bores me shitless and some I can listen to for weeks, but this is firmly in the latter category.

What Am I Going To Do With Everything I Know EP - The Weather Station

This album has no right to be so damned beautiful. What is new about it? Nothing, seemingly, it sounds like folk music heard in snatches in the distance, like songs you’ve already heard in some distant but indistinct pleasant memory. But it’s so perfectly put together, and somehow she has written down the problem almost every person my age has and made it the name of her EP. It’s not even an album. It’s just a goddamned EP. It’s only 17 minutes long, which makes the fact that I’ve had it on for hours on end even more remarkable. Eventually, I decide reluctantly that I should probably listen to something else, at some point.

More Than Any Other Day - Ought

When I first heard this album, I thought, "Oh Christ, not another fucking crew-cutted white boy taking time off licking his poster of Ian Curtis to Yelp! In a! Serious! Way! and play the guitar like the mating call of a high-voltage transformer or malfunctioning fiber-optic cable. Get thee from my sight!" I still think this way about Total Control, because fuck that sound, but actually Ought are more like a funny, slightly less autistic The Fall, maybe? It's hard to immediately feel the beauty the songs, especially since they sometimes sound like a punk band by way of Battles, but don't be like me and wait for them to sneak up on you - listen to 'More Than Any Other Day', be still, let it happen, and then realise two minutes in you're listening to an amazing, off-kilter anthem about trying summon the energy to be a normal goddamned human being, which is a state I feel a deep personal connection to.

Honorable Mentions:

(These are albums I either didn't listen to enough to have a real opinion about them, or I don't quite like them enough to write a whole paragraph. They're probably still good, though.)

Pianos Become Teeth - Keep You

Caribou - Our Love

Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness Of Dancers

Steve Gunn - Way Out Weather

Tricky - Adrian Thaws

Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams

Strand Of Oaks - HEAL

Braid - No Coast (!!!)

Lana Del Ray - Ultraviolence

Owen Pallet - In Conflict

White Lung - Deep Fantasy

The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream

Oct. 21st, 2014

03:43 pm - one that hovered over the rest of nature in blithe autonomy

This isn't what I use this for, but god, it's the only place this thought could possibly go. So.

I had a work problem, which went something like this: I have a very large table of values with lots of metadata associated with them (let's call it ANIMAL SIZE, with data NAME and LOCATION.) There could, in some instances, be up to five different ANIMAL SIZES with the same NAME and LOCATION. What I wanted to do, was to ordinally rank the animal sizes 1-5, starting from the smallest ANIMAL SIZE first. Oh, and this is all in Excel, of course. How the heck to do that?

The obvious way would be to use the SMALL function. Except SMALL only works on an array - there's no such thing as SMALLIF. OR IS THERE.

There are two parts to this problem:
1. Apply SMALL to a subset of a column without editing the column
2. Then apply 1-5 to each value, from smallest to largest

I can take no responsibility if this is a terrible solution. It's what I came up with in an hour and a half.

So:

1. Judicious use of 'array formulas' (entering CNTL-SHIFT-ENTER instead of ENTER when completing a formula) and IF statements does the work here. Turns out IF can be used to select a subset of an array using something else, like so:

IF(NAME.a=NAME,ANIMAL SIZE) \\NAME.a here is the name in the row

This, combined with an array formula, will return all the ANIMAL SIZEs where the NAME is the same as the NAME of that row (i.e NAME.a) You can do this recursively, so:

IF(NAME.a=NAME,IF(LOCATION.a=LOCATION,ANIMAL SIZE)) \\for future reference, this will be called SUBSETTER

Will break it down to just where the NAME and LOCATION are the same as that row. Presumably you could do this as many times as Excel will let you.


So we've now created a virtual subset of a subset using nothing but formulas, how to rank them?

To do this, I used the SMALL formula. Basically, SMALL(array,k) returns the k-th smallest value in an array. My mad solution was as follows:

1. Check if ANIMAL SIZE is the 1st smallest in the SUBSETTER'd array. If it is, return 1, otherwise
2. Check if ANIMAL SIZE is the 2nd smallest in SUBSETTER'd array. Return 2, otherwise...
And so forth. You get the drift. What this actually looks like is:

IF(
ANIMAL SIZE.a=SMALL(SUBSETTER,1),1,
IF(ANIMAL SIZA.a=SMALL(SUBSETTER,2),2,
... etc.)

It's complicated-seeming, but only because it has hella moving parts. You can do this as many times as Excel will let you create IF formulas, keeping in mind that each SUBSETTER is two IFs by itself, and also that if it gets too large you will be staring into the void of madness. I did it to 5! And I was not completely insane by the end, although close.


I realise this is completely off-tone for this blog, but you know who cares? Not me! Everyone has to deal! The... no people who are reading this these days!

Apr. 2nd, 2014

09:13 am

"The whole time, the whole of my twenties, I had a sense that I was doing the wrong thing, but I couldn't have told you what the right thing was - except possibly it was the opposite of whatever I was doing."

- Sheila Heti, 'From My Diaries' ( N+1 #18)

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Jan. 21st, 2014

12:48 pm - capital at the end of the world

The world moves more and more. We walked around Milan, shocked at every cornice. The signs of discontent where everywhere, but I was distant from them - revolutions seemed more pointless than ever, since who would they be for? Why so much bleeding for a thing that merely sets its opposite in motion; to scratch at millions for the possibility of a alien-better future for others? I read somewhere that the end of the world was a fantasy of the middle class that represented the collision of law and debt - a conflagration that would force one to submit to the other. Who would it be for? Who was any of it for, anyway?

I used to struggle, in the soul-well-staring of university academics, with the idea that perhaps there wasn't anything called 'willpower': that by the time the thought 'get out of bed' translated into a sudden movement upwards, outwards, that all the necessary preparations had already been made, chemicals percolating slowly through days of torpor, the universe arranged just so between smells and sounds and persons so that your 'decision' is just a rationalisation for why your body awoke that day and not another.

Revolutions feel as little like that as well - single breaks rationalised after the fact, gathering together and covering over a vast tracery of compound movements and opportunistic feints into one vector pointing in the wrong direction. Never mind that all the necessary groundwork has happened months before, everywhere one chose not too look, where it will only be obvious years later once idealism has given way to the cynical, exhausted limits of resources and easy routes out.

You end up with weird fatalistic determinism. Everything that happens was always going to happen, and all your movements within that happening where just the bouncing of a pebble on a vast flow of soil borne ceaselessly downhill. It's not the fatalism of any God, conspiracy or motive force: that would imply a point of intercession. It's just that the vector is bigger than you, moreover, you are a product of that vector, an expression of its mindless intent, an amplified pattern in fluctuating solar energy. It would be kind to say that thought was a passenger on that wave. It's hard to maintain that optimism.

Before the French Revolution, I read, revolution was conceived like an earthquake - you could be blamed for preparing poorly, but the basic condition was unpredictable, uncontrollable and out of anyone's hands. State apparatus rose and fell on nothing more knowable than waves far out to sea. The Enlightenment, it said, gave revolution a teleology; gave it handholds where the determined revolutionary could dig his hands in and drag the change in one direction or another. Before then, 'revolutionary' was a meaningless term, like describing someone as being in charge of clouds.

In Milan every corner called for 10-point plans and 90s Anarchy! symbols, even the banker's districts - or perhaps especially the banker's districts. I tried to imagine an Italy that gave in to their demands and drew a blank.

I think about how reactionary conspiracy theorists point to the fact that 80% of the Communist party platform from the early 1900s having now been implemented as proof that modern society is 'communist', and how the same logic works equally well to describe the country as 'reactionary', and how in time with enough machines and enough productivity all our weird dreams and demands might become true, simultaneously, and how that might not describe a politics so much as all of them, simultaneously, pointing out to nowhere or one big collapse. But there are no Barbarians left, and no one is going to come roaring out of the east to kick teetering structures into the dust.

What does Calvinist capitalism look like once production outraces any demand? Isn't this the source of the 'Well, they have washing machines, they can't be poor' antagonism. Doesn't, given enough time, the whole thing make itself obsolete? If that's not the point of it, of 'rising living standards', then what is? Would we punish people eventually not because there is any lack of resources but because we must, because without a morality play the whole thing seems wasted? I imagine a vast elderly human edifice at the edge of time that needs nothing, but enacts vast plays of human avarice and downfall with ritual precision; fortunes rising and falling according to old and wasted almanacs that dole out punishment and luck as an immutable and predictable pattern. A vast rat maze in the shape of a brain, a reward-punishment circuit on the scale of a species flickering in the dark like a dying pulsar.

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Dec. 10th, 2013

06:46 pm - MATT LOVES SONG 2013

Like every year, January is both a billion light years away and also, I'm pretty sure, just yesterday. But here is a list! Because we are human, and lists are a kind of story we tell ourselves. It has no ordering beyond intuition, and no claims to authority or comprehensiveness beyond my own life on trains and other transportation mechanisms, and maybe not even that. It is about something, although I couldn't possibly say what.

This is the year I started using Spotify. See if you can tell how it has changed my listening habits! What fun! What insight! What!

Kanye West - Yeezus
What do I need to tell you, person who is likely to be reading this, about Yeezus? You already know. You already heard. It was a huge, floating cube like Gondry told us - but a weaponised geometry, every edge sanded down to a bleeding edge, moving at unpredictable and lethal speeds. Where 'Dark...' went big, 'Yeezus' is precise. I don't like every song on here, which is par the course for 'Ye, but when it is good it is very good, and it's good over and over and over.

Pusha T - My Name is My Name
At last! All hail King Push, finally off shitty sidetracks into regionalism to drop his best verses in a long time onto the best Kanye album this year that 'Ye only vocoder-mumbled on. It's so good - the beats snap and crack like the best of 'Hell Hath...', Pusha sounds like he's putting in more work than he has in a long time, doubling down on sinister basslines and rolling syllables around snare drums. Ah. Not for people who can't see through the subject matter, but as always, no one can make scales and keys sound as good as T.

Danny Brown - Old
Danny Brown! That Danny fucking Brown! I am very predictable in my hip-hop choices this year, but maybe that's because there were so many thick as hell hiphop releases this year, of which my view is barely a glimpse of. 'Old' extends the range of 'XXX', as it should, without sacrificing anything of the raw energy of the Danny that brutally murdered every MC he dropped a track with in 2012. It turns back and forth between a murky soul sound and last year's ugly synth riot. It's so good. If you didn't like Danny at first, this record is closer to him making detente with the unconvinced, without being worse in any way.

Drake - Nothing Was The Same
Another record that's not perfect in every second, especially in its guest verses (someone should really just have sent Big Sean home, especially after he clearly stopped giving a shit about where the beat was) But as always it just sounds so gooooood, doesn't it? Go listen to the bit where Tuscan Leather kicks in properly, or the breakdown on Come Thru - it's a record that's not afraid to be about as weirdly progressive as a gigantic rap record can be. I always think that Drake looks like a goofy outsider in his own rap videos, even when he's surrounded by the trappings of rap wealth, and that sense has always been the best thing about him, even as his albums become greater and greater money torrents.

Speedy Oritz - Major Arcana
This year's Indie Rock Record No One Gives A Shit About That Matt Loves, because apparently there's a quota. 'Arcana' was this year's distillation of 90's crunch and wind, full of twisty dissonance and thick breakdowns. Plus the lyrics are great, in that very specific bleeding-on-the-mic that I am literally incapable of getting bored of. "My mouth is a factory for every toxic part of speech I spew." I can't! I just can't! I have no critical distance on this shit, I'm afraid.

James Blake - Overgrown
'James Blake' buried occasional stark moments of beauty in otherwise difficult, Interesting sonic experimentalism. Overgrown isn't so much different as it is like watching a half-submerged mountain rise ominously from the sea - the peak ("Retrograde") is even more staggeringly beautiful, but the surrounding album solidifies those experiments into little heartaches of their own. I don't rank albums, but if I did...

Villagers - {Awayland}
I thought this was a quiet, folky record, which you could easily mistake it for, but once you hit Earthly Pleasures you realise (like I did when I put it on at the background at a dinner) that it has a noisy muscle to it, that big orchestral underlayer and harsh guitar turns, like a kind of twee, more in-tune Bright Eyes circa 'The Story Is In The Ground...'. I come to think of this one as a continuation of the project in that era of BE, taking it to a weirder, more surreal place, but with the same pain and politics mixed up in one.

Neko Case - The Worse Things Get...
Case's albums used to be, for me, in a category of indie rock that was inexplicably the target of consistent love from critics despite never really being that 'dramatically' impressive. Then I listened to 'Middle Cyclone', and I realised that was the point. There's nothing earthshaking about this MORish indie record, and nevertheless it is near-flawless in execution and repeatedly devastating - culminating in the acapella takedown of "Near Midnight, Honolulu" but excellent on every other side. Like Bill Callahan, Case gets deeper and deeper to some simple perfect thing with each record.

HAIM - Days Are Gone
I feel like this another one of those "I don't need to tell you" albums, maybe? God, I hope so. Pop music so tightly wound into the groove it practically defines the expression 'in the pocket', like the world’s best 80s cover band from an alternate universe with a whole selection of songs you’ve never heard of that nevertheless… sort… of… sound familiar… I’m not exactly the world’s leading proponent of nostalgia-ism in music but when it sounds so right, why resist?

Everything Everything - Arc
Imagine if someone did the Futureheads thing in a less aggravating way! Imagine if Foals was less self-consciously middlebrow! I don't have a lot of time for a great swath of NME's project to put a guitar in the hands of every underweight Englishman and make him play something the ruined adjective 'angular' can be applied to - but this is a serious mess of tight drumming, vocal turns and the determined application of a guitar pedal collection. Long live the Great Radiohead Army.

Honourable mentions:
Underground Lovers - Weekend,
A$AP Rocky - LONG.LIVE.A$AP,
J. Cole - Born Sinner,
Midlake - Antiphon,
Into It. Over It. - Intersections,
Omar Souleyman - Wenu Wenu,
Tal National - Kaani,
The Drones - I See Seaweed,
Bill Callahan - Dream River
The National - Trouble Will Find Me
The soundtrack to Drinking Buddies (which made me grudgingly enjoy Foxygen songs, an achievement in itself)
Rick Ross - “Bugatti"

-matt

Oct. 1st, 2013

08:14 am

MONDAYS

1.

He is buried up to his neck in sand. The sun gleams off his bald plate, which is spotty and red from exposure. I set alight a large metal canister of a gelatinous, flammable material and slowly pour the contents onto his head. The material drips, flickering, onto his skin, accompanied by futile, jerky thrashing and screaming. When the material reaches the remainder of his hair it flares briefly, and he somehow screams louder. The screaming stops when the material enters his ears and mouth. At his point, his skull begins to sag like wet paper.

2.

We are in a large, well-attended meeting. He is sitting opposite to me, reading aloud a list several pages long. When he goes to turn to the third page of largely irrelevant points, I begin to emit a horrible keening sound and launch myself over the desk, forcibly inserting my hands through his shirt into the flesh below the sternum. In one rough, jagged motion, I tear open his ribcage and with one free hand pull free his beating heart. Blood flies erratically in all directions. Several people start yelling incoherently, others attempt to hide under the table. Still making the same keening noise, I begin to bash his drooling organ against the whiteboard until it is a red, chunky smear.

3.

We are discussing a matter over the phone. Pretending to be listening, I replace my mouth with a high frequency noise generator. His hands involuntarily clutch the phone as his eyes roll back in his head and his ears begin to bleed. There is a rattling noise and then a snap as his body begins to shake so violently in his chair that the mechanisms shatter. His colleagues turn around just in time to see his face and hands turn the bright livid purple of blood straining against skin before he bursts like an overfilled ballon. Blood spurts in random directions and his eyes fly explosively outwards to lodge in a light fitting.

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