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Best of 2020 (long) 

2020 *sigh*

With the dissolution of 2hrs of commuting 5 days a week I didn't spend as many hours dedicated to listening this year. In some ways this helped the rankings because anything I felt compelled to spin more than once or twice ended up in the top 10. But as the year went on, I was surprised to see just how much new music I had taken in.

Nothing particularly surprising, except that KRS-One sent a new record out to die *today*. It's a real shame the marketing is nonexistent and the production is terrible because it showcases probably his best emceeing since the 90s. The man needs a producer who can keep up and a label willing to actually tell people when he releases something.

Here are some thoughts on my top five:

The Avalanches' 3rd record is confusing. It's too long. It largely wastes huge guest talents like Johnny Marr and Neneh Cherry. The kitchen-sink sampling is present but the goofy humour is gone. But once I stopped trying to hear Since I Left You, the album's melancholia opened up to me, sophisticated and welcoming.

I discovered mxmtoon this year, and boy oh boy what a force this young artist is. Dawn in particular is tremendous, hopeful and embracing and hiding legit pop hooks. "no faker" is going to be a stadium anthem some day.

Deborah Jordan was another new discovery for me in 2020. See in the Dark starts so quiet you might miss it: lilting piano, strings and electronic washes over a warm, round bass. Then the vocals come in overdubbed into wonky jazz changes and the whole record falls into a laid-back groove so deep it never recovers. Tasty.

Everything you've heard about Fetch the Bolt Cutters is true. It's a landmark record, funny and mean and heartbreaking and inspiring. Fiona Apple is one of the greatest songwriters of our times.

The Beths' sophomore record received mixed reviews for its airy, open songs, but I think this was largely due to a mistake in sequencing; repeated listens reveal a rich, sumptuous record as acerbic and sad as FMHM but with a new depth.
Truth be told Fetch the Bolt Cutters is probably a superior artistic statement but the Beths are just too much fun.

20 KRS-One - Between the Protests
19 Subsonic Eye - Bedroom Sessions
18 Rufus Wainwright - Unfollow the Rules
17 IDLES - Ultra Mono
16 the Lemon Twigs - Songs for the General Public
15 R.A.P. Ferreira - purple moonlight pages
14 Sigur Rós - Odin's Raven Magic
13 Bumper - Pop Songs 2020
12 DJ Python - Mas Amable
11 Squarepusher - Be Up a Hello
10 Elvis Costello - Hey Clockface
09 Lamb - The Secret of Letting Go (Deluxe)
08 Sufjan Stevens - Ascension
07 Sloan - B Sides Win vol 1. 1992-1997
06 Lisa Gerrard, Genesis Orchestra & Yordan Kamdzhalov - Górecki Symphony No. 3: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs
05 Avalanches - We Will Always Love You
04 mxmtoon - Dawn / Dusk
03 Deborah Jordan - See in the Dark
02 Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters
01 the Beths - Jump Rope Gazers

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Best of 2019 

2019 was a bit of a let-down, frankly. Highly anticipated records from the likes of Piroshka, BLUKE, DJ Shadow and 808 State I found solid but underwhelming, while others from Beck, Esperanza Spalding and the Who were entirely forgettable. After last year's embarrassment of riches the field seems especially thin.

The story is not all bad, though. My year was mostly dominated by small records and idiosyncratic artists: Jonathan Something's sophmore outing proved he was no fluke, flying the freak-folk flag high for all to see. Aerial View's debut for Epitaph found the youngsters deftly threading the needle between surf and power pop, their hearts full of angst and yearning. And the aptly named dumb released the stupidest, jangliest nerd punk record I've heard in years and I absolutely love it.

But looming over these tiny things like a collossus is my record of the year, Devin Townsend's Empath. Heavy Devy's first since dispanding DTP is his most personal, introspective and nakedly ambitious work to date. For all its kitchen sink bombast, its overflowing musical ideas, Empath is the intimate story of a man attempting to reconnect with himself and the world, and it is a massive achievement.

10 808 State - Transmission Suite
09 Spielbergs - This is Not the End
08 Sleater-Kinney - the Center Won't Hold
07 Moonchild - Little Ghost
06 The Future Sound of London - YAGE 2019
05 the Dollyrots - Daydream Explosion
04 Ariel View - Until My Lungs Are Clear
03 dumb - Club Nites
02 Jonathan Something - Art So Small You Can Hardly See It
01 Devin Townsend - Empath

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Evilchili's Album of the Year! (Long) 

Sweet Zombie Jesus what a year for new music. I bought more 2018 releases in 2018 than I have bought new music in a long while. Partly this is due to blatant cheating: John Zorn and Brian Eno both released massive box sets, and They Might Be Giants dropped three albums (!), two in December. But also surprising releases came from places I didn't expect: a new
Spiritualized record! A new David Byrne record! Dead Can Dance! Dirty Goddamned Computer! Oh, and a lost Coltrane record, because down is up and up is down.

2018 is remarkable for another reason, too: artists at the top of their game *decades* in. Sloan, TMBG, Yo La Tengo, David Byrne and Paul Simon all turned out records as good as anything they've ever done. At this point I don't expect
Sloan to ever record a bad *song*, nevermind a bad record.

But my pick for Evilchili's Album of the Year goes not to any reliable stalwart companion, but to a New Zealand four-piece whose rise to the top of my list was from first listen utterly inevitable. The Beths' debut, Future Me Hates Me, clocks in at just 39 minutes but packs a tremendous sun-drenched power-pop wallop. It ticks all my boxes: boy-girl harmonies, loud guitars, sad, clever lyrics on major chords (and handclaps provided by Yrs Chili). It is,
simply speaking, my favourite record this year and possibly of several years.

Here's my complete Top 10:

01 the Beths - Future Me Hates Me
02 Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
03 Aphex Twin - Collapse EP
04 Metric - Art of Doubt
05 They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun
06 Sloan - 12
07 CHRVCHES - Love is Dead
08 Subsonic Eye - Dive Into
09 St. Vincent - MassEducation
10 Busdriver - Electricity is On Our Side

Honorable Mentions:

David Byrne - American Utopia
Paul Simon - In the Blue Light
They Might Be Giants - the Escape Team
They Might Be Giants - My Murdered Remains
Dead Can Dance - Dionysus
Yo La Tengo - There's a Riot Going On
John Coltrane - Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
Brian Eno - 77 Million Paintings (Music for Installations)
the Herbalizer - Bring Out the Sound
Ben Caplan - Old Stock
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
Elvis Costello - Look Now
Gnostic Trio - Netzach (John Zorn: Book Bari'ah Vol. 7)
Secret Chiefs 3 - Malkhut (John Zorn: Book Bari'ah, Vol. 10)
the Orb - No Sounds are Out of Bounds

Saint Etienne's new record _I’ve Been Trying to Tell You_ raises complicated feelings for me.

On first listen it presents as a laudanum-drenched, half-melted cassette vaporwave pastiche. But this is no ironic, sterile texture-making; this is a work steeped in a difficult, revisionist memory of a 90s futurism that never really existed.

Listening to this record feels like remembering Screamadelica all wrong. It should be a joyous excess, an overwhelming freedom, with its playful samples, the sound collages, the blips of melody recalling the Orb's Star 6&789 or droning sonic washes of BoC's Everything You Do is a Balloon. But there's a melancholia at work here. Your nostalgia is hollow, it says. You may remember that snare sound, those snatches of lyrics, that droning sample, but that bliss you associated with those sources, the glorious potential of thumping bass and close-quarters sweat? Well it wasn't really like that, ultimately, was it? There was always the next day's come down. The next long commute to work. The little losses and compromises and betrayals that add up to a life.

Imagine standing in a museum, regarding some small artefact of England's Chill-Out era perfectly preserved under a bell jar. A man is next to you in a tailored grey suit that matches the hair at his temples. His face weathered and grim. "We got it all wrong in the end though, didn't we," he sighs.

cw: ec 

That look when your dad is the DM and rolls a nat 20.

evilchili boosted

But when it really worked, playing the Last of Us Part II made me question whether I wanted the experience of playing it at all, in a metaecho of the on-screen characters' own internal conflicts. It was an ambivalent sort of fun. A problematic fun. It's going to stay with me the way Spec Ops: The Line stayed with me, I think.

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The Last of Us is now a big deal IP and we'll undoubtedly be seeing more of it (I don't know what to think about the coming multiplayer). It doesn't surprise me that a game so transparent in its attempts to make the player experience the wrath, the loss, and the self-hatred of its protagonists resonated with folks. I think there's some catharsis at work here, and some voyeurism, and spectacle layered atop a refined but basic game loop that is crunchy and satisfying.

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Finished parts 1 and 2 and I have a lot of feels about that second game. It's a remarkable achievement and a surprisingly daring artistic work for a AAA effort with the associated budget and risk. It was a little too long. had a few too many endings. But rarely does a game traffic in the complexities of wrath, hate, and empathy to this degree, and with such deftness. It wasn't wholly successful, but it's telling that the zombie horror sequences were the palette cleansers.

The party is well into their dungeon crawl beneath the Palace of Ice, seat of power of the Feywild Unseelie Court and the lair of the Queen of Winter. It was a rollicking good time that included Gelatinous Ice Cubes, leaping oozes, pit traps, and dinosaurs.

Session Summary:
froghat.club/posts/episode_88_

Gelatinous Ice Cube:

froghat.club/beastiary/gelatin

Listening to Sting's _My Songs_, a collection of greatest hits bafflingly fucked up in the studio in an attempt to appeal to... I'm not sure who, exactly. Apparently the goal was to make the tracks sound more modern?

I wonder how long it's been since anyone told Sting "This is a stupid idea and to pursue it would diminish a tower of song almost unparalleled in pop music?" because I think he needed to be told at least once more.

He replaced Omar Hakim with programming.

All my favourite records are 30 years old. On the other hand, all my favourite records are getting anniversary edition remasters.

aaand now instead of getting ready for bed I'm listening to the entirety of Soul Cages

evilchili boosted

On the other hand this set I cast from leftover resin used for a terrain project cleaned up real nice.

So here's a weird thing. A d12 that I cast months ago cracked and leaked uncured resin all over while sitting in a container. Fortunately the set was in its own box so the blast radius was limited, but I've never seen this happen before.

First day of school [rant, covid] 

School bus driver shortage means kids will be up to 2hrs late to school, every day, for the concievable future. We were informed of this 12 hours before the first pickup. We're supposed to go to the stop an hour later than scheduled and wait for up to an hour for a pickup.

After care transportation is going to drop 2nd and 3rd graders several blocks from the actual after care location and have them walk unattended, crossing a major throughfare.

The transportation department is apparently just a bunch of rabid howler monkeys flinging shit at each other. I empathize with employee shortages. I absolutely do not empathsize with announcing this with no notice the night before bussing is supposed to start.

We were already concerned about covid exposure of in-person learning and bus rides. But now I have to pull them out out after care for their own safety, *and* I will probably have to spend 2hrs ferrying them to and from school on the city bus, risking more exposure, and god knows how I'm going to get them home every day once my wife starts commuting.

"This test will probably pass if I just cast the variable into a data type with more precision." -- me, just now, doomed.

happy moon festival! [cw food] 

I love me some moon cakes. shared this one with the boys who were agreed that it was tasty, and they'll were unlikely to want more of the were brownies available, which, okay. But more for me!

forgot the Last of Us went through Pittsburgh. gettin the feels again

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