Ranking Vampire Weekend albums

So much twaddle written about Vampire Weekend at the start of the Obama era, as if those intelligent demurrals hadn’t read Edith Wharton, Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh; it’s as if they hadn’t listened to Pet Shop Boys. Below I’ve tried explaining how the band arranges music that adduces their curiosity about the sociopolitical backgrounds of their characters. It’s funny in 2018 thinking how we could’ve accused Vampire Weekend of celebrating vapidity when the Trump era has shown incuriosity aligned with vapidity produces dangerous legislation. But I’ll leave these musings for my Gillum-DeSantis postsContinue reading

Singles 10/19

My 7 for Pistol Annies’ first single in five years reflects my loyalty — it’s okay. Better is Ariana Grande’s single, her best yet from an estimable album.

The Gaga-Cooper single inspired sharp crosstalk, as usual.

Click on links for full reviews.

Ariana Grande – Breathin (7)
Pistol Annies – Got My Name Changed Back (7)
Got7 – Lullaby (6)
Leslie Grace, Becky G, & CNCO – Díganle (Tainy remix) (6)
French Montana ft. Drake – No Stylist (4)
Diamond Platnumz x Lava Lava x Mbosso – Jibebe (4)
Lil Wayne ft. Kendrick Lamar – Mona Lisa (4)
Lil Mosey – Noticed (3)
Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – Shallow (3)
Rita Ora – Let You Love Me (3)
NF – Lie (1)
Sigala, Ella Eyre & Meghan Trainor ft. French Montana – Just Got Paid (1)

‘Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits’

Remember these halcyon days?

Mr. Trump is now the leading candidate for president in the Republican primary, which has traditionally been dominated by hopefuls eager to show how deeply conservative they are on social issues like gay rights and marriage.

But Mr. Trump is far more accepting of sexual minorities than his party’s leaders have been. On Thursday, he startled some Republicans by saying on NBC’s “Today” show that he opposed a recently passed North Carolina law that prohibits people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to the gender they were born with, striking down a Charlotte ordinance.

Two and a half years later, the same newspaper publishes the following revelations:

Now the Department of Health and Human Services is spearheading an effort to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive government financial assistance, according to a memo obtained by The New York Times….

…“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves — surgically or otherwise — as a gender other than the one they were born into.

There is no reason for this other than spite: the Trump administration will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to wipe the memory of Barack Hussein Obama. Yet even if Obama had ignored the transgender population the political appointees in the Trump Justice Department and Department of Education would’ve done the same. A President Rubio or President Jeb! too.

Wipe them out.

Ranking Spoon albums

Why I love these fucking Austinites mystifies me — listeners older than me will dismiss them as minor artists whose continuous refinements wipe them from existence. To my ears Spoon are the sultriest mofos in American college rock. I can’t explain how Britt Daniel’s chalky, high, comically white timbre has erotic force unless I pair it with his rhythm guitar. Forget Pavement — these guys are the elegant bachelors. The secret of Jim Eno’s I-am-a-machine patterns and Rob Pope’s mixed-high bass lines isn’t even concentration: it’s, to quote Bob Christgau about New Order, timing and rapport. I get how they can bore, but Daniel can’t bore me as a singer-guitarist.  Continue reading

Ranking Velvet Underground albums

I like to think the Velvets taught me to be free — that it was alright. Whatever you wanted, it was alright. This meant that they realized the hippie dream in which Crosby, Stills and Nash and a hundred of their execrable imitators reveled. We queer folk who see the Stonewall riot as the apotheosis of a decade spent forcing the country to come to terms with what the Johnson administration and the Warren Court had wrought — well, we love the Velvets for it, and I forgave Lou Reed many things, including unfortunate sartorial decisions. Continue reading

Rashod Ollison — RIP

Doing research for my 2018 MoPOP Pop Conference paper on Angela Winbush, I found the following bit published two years earlier:

It’s a shame the St. Louis native, who’s a successful producer, arranger, songwriter and musician in addition to being a powerhouse vocalist with a five-octave range, isn’t more well-known outside of R&B. But some of the fault lies with Winbush. Steeped in the holy waters of gospel, like many soul sisters who preceded her, her style was perhaps too black. And given the culture erasure of the Reagan era, that was too much.

“The cultural erasure of the Reagan era” — a phrase fraught with significance. So vehemently do we despise the GOP and Donald Trump that we have allowed media elites on cable shows to use Ronald Reagan’s appropriation of John Winthrop’s figure the city on a hill as an example of What We Have Lost; so swiftly do we mythologize our presidents that the evil is oft interred with their bones. To millions of gay men and black Americans, the white straight dudes who endorsed an assault on state and federal power lived in a beautiful city on a hill; the rest of us were condemned to shacks at the foot of the hill.

Not until a week before the conference did I understand that the author of this Winbush piece would sit on my panel — beside me. This intimidated me. Reading a paper on the power of Chaka Khan, Rashod Ollison seduced the crowd from the moment he played a clip of her marvelous hit with Rufus, “You Got the Love”; he held their attention with the precision of his insights, read in a silken purr that rumbled when confronted by an obscenity. Black and gay, Rashod Ollison, the columnist and reporter who died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma two days ago, could not be bullshitted. I sensed he would not bullshit me either. After my presentation, he looked me in the eye, nodded, and mumbled, “Thank you.” I demurred. He said, “Now I’m goin’ back to my room to blast me some Angela.”

Other tributes have praised Rashod’s warmth and the depths of his commitment to music as soul power. Because she gave us permission to “dream and build,” Aretha Franklin “will always be a revolutionary act,” he wrote two months ago about the R&B and gospel singer-pianist. A life like Rashod Ollison’s was also a revolutionary act. Men like Rashod don’t wear out their recti muscles looking for cities on a hill — they make do with what they have, describing it as ruthlessly as their imaginations allow.

Ten more items to embrace on dark days

Self-explanatory as usual. However, distinguishing amateur from professional harmonica playing flummoxes me. Most noises sound beautiful in the right contexts.

1. Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks
2. Lips against facial hair
3. Cheap blue ballpoint pens
4. Target T-shirts
5. Amateur harmonica playing
6. Elizabeth Bishop
7. Spiral notebook journals
8. Solitary swimming
9. Claire Denis
10. Boat shoes

Ranking Missy Elliott albums

What a marvelous Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott had at the turn of the 2000s. For a rapper-singer often called a singles artist, every one of her albums has tracks that put her thing down, flip it and reverse it (The Cookbook, to which I’ve never warmed and I haven’t mentioned here, has “Meltdown,” rubbery smut that fans don’t often cite).

I rank five of her albums.

Continue reading

Ten more things to hate with delight

Why not continue a list I can double and treble?

1. Self-empowerment
2. Salad dressings
3. Kanye defenders after 2010
4. Ernest Hemingway after 1926
5. Christoph Waltz
6. Rum and Coke
7. “I listen to everything except country”
8. Taking the elevator up/down one story if you don’t have a disability
9. Political reporters
10. Discussing an artist’s intentions