Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brews for Ale

I am fascinated with and enjoy beer.  As a result, I have started another blog where my friends and I can talk about it.

Beers for Ale is it's name.  If you are interested in the topic or just feel like reading more of my opinions hop on over and check it out.  Have something you want to share yourself?  Let me know and maybe you can post.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

KiD CuDi, Please Impress Me

Kid Cudi has released a another album.  I still don't know what to think.  A handful of songs on his original mixtape hinted much promise, but few tracks on his first two commercial releases live up, especially since "Day 'N' Nite" was on the mixtape first.  I really like some of his songs, but his albums as whole pieces of work have yet to truly impress me.  I know a lot of people have issues with the reviewers at Pitchfork, but their reviews of Man on the Moon and the cleverly named Man on the Moon II actually manage to sum up how I feel pretty well.

"Man on the Moon: The End of the Day, was a modest commercial success but a mortifying creative face-plant, a compilation of the most two-dimensional art-school-kid clich├ęs (I'm sad, I'm stoned, I'm deep) imaginable" - Jayson Greene, Pitchfork Review, November 18, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Expanded Horizons

Every year, the University of Michigan planning program puts on Expanded Horizons.  It is a 5 day break from classes and takes many of the first year planning students on a trip to explore some city withing driving distance of Ann Arbor - all for a class credit (assuming we manage to participate and turn in a short paper when requested).

I returned from this one week ago.  Our destination this was Philadelphia, PA (which has a ridiculous number of one-way streets)!

Last Wednesday morning the planning students crammed onto a bus for our 11 hour ride to the City of Brotherly Love.  The trip went like most long rides and all of us were relieved when we finally arrived at our hotel: A Holiday Inn Express right in the center city.  After settling in, we went to wander downtown a little to grab some dinner and drinks.

On Thursday morning, we met up with the director of the Preservation Alliance, piled onto our bus again, and took a tour of the city learning everything we wanted to know about Philadelphia.  We went past Independence Hall, through Society Hill, Temple University, and many other places (some pretty sketchy).

After our tour, we went to Reading Terminal Market for lunch.  An indoor farmer's market, Reading had just about every kind of food you could want and was simply a unique place with many different people wandering its crowded paths.

In the afternoon we began splitting into groups, which went to various organizations throughout the city, to see what kind of planning-related activities were happening.  My first one was Greensgrow urban agriculture.  Like any urban agriculture project, Greensgrow was doing a lot with sustainability, education and outreach, and supplying healthy, locally grown foods via the market and the CSA (which includes some kind of protein with the vegetables each week).  However, it was interesting to learn that they did not start out of the local foods movement or for social justice issues, but rather as a way to simply use vacant land.

The farm is located on the site of a former factory that polluted the ground with many heavy metals and is an EPA-classified brownfield.  To "fix" the site, it was covered over by a concrete slab, so none of the farming is actually done in the ground of that site.  The first farming they did was for-profit hydroponic lettuce, which was sold to high-end restaurants in downtown Philadelphia.  Eventually they moved in the direction to where they are now as they responded to the needs of the neighborhood and added a nursery and market, etc.

Much of what they sell is grown above the concrete in raised beds within greenhouse structures or is purchased from other local farmers to distribute in the neighborhood.  They are just beginning to break even on the food growing side of their enterprise, but have been able to rake in money from selling flowers and other plants from the nursery to cover expenses.

On Thursday night, we held a social event and met up with a bunch of planning students from UPenn (Ivy Leaguers!) at the bar.

Friday was a continuation of meeting various organizations, and in the morning I went to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.  Here we learned about how they are working to make Philadelphia more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.  Various types of bike lanes are being implemented and we walked down to look at one that included a buffer zone between drivers and riders.

Another project was the conversion of parking meters into bike racks.  As the city converts to parking kiosks for entire blocks of spaces and the old meters are removed, the poles are left behind and places to lock bikes to are being bolted on.  Other projects included larger bicycle trail systems and general education for drivers, riders, and pedestrians.

In the afternoon was my final session.  A group of us walked down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and talked with the executive director of the Fairmount Parks system (who has a niece that went to Calvin).  We began at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where Rocky ran up the steps and ended down near city hall.  Along the way we learned about the green space, traffic concerns, and current construction projects.  There are a couple of new and remodeled museums along the way as well as many other civic buildings such as the library.  It is quite the historic stretch of road: created as Philadelphia's ChampsElysees during the City Beautiful movement.

If I had to pick a session I didn't go to, but wished I had it would be Postgreen ... or Interface Studios: joint creators of the LEED Gold or Platinum, 100k home.

We spent Friday night bowling and socializing.  Making sure we got to know all the people who went on the trip - another purpose of such a trip.  Many of us ended up walking to the Piazza at Schmidt's, a development by Tower Investments - where a number of others went for one of their sessions.

Later in the night, a number of us decided it would be cool to head over the Delaware river to Camden, NJ - one of America's most dangerous cities.  Probably not the best idea ever.  The place seemed like a literal ghost town, and after talking to some police officers who said we were a "huge red flag" we went back to where we came from.

Saturday morning we did some community service work cleaning up parks and a business district.  We disposed of trash, raked, weeded, mulched, etc.

That afternoon, a number of us went to Tony Luke's to get cheesesteaks and then ended up at the bar to watch the Michigan-Indiana football game with the Alumni Club of Philadelphia.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip that allowed me to see a different city, learn quite a bit, and get to know my classmates a lot better.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Generic Indie Music

I love music.  I love indie music, but so much of the indie music scene, while good, is boring - put me to sleep boring.  There is a time for that music and I appreciate it, but why would anyone just listen to that and nothing else?  Generic indie music seems to lack the variety and flair that makes music so interesting.

Interesting at least to me.  That is why I still listen to Top 40.  It's catchy and keeps the eyes open.

I'll listen to your indie music because its good, but if given a choice you'll probably find me listening to hip hop or something with a little electronica tossed in.*

*Said hip hop and electronica usually fall under the umbrella terms of alternative or indie (since it now apparently refers to everything).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mountains and Beer

I spent the first week of this month in Colorado with a couple of friends.  I got to visit some breweries and drink some good beer, as well as do some hiking and cliff jumping.  And, even though we didn't summit La Plata it was still an extremely enjoyable time away from home and work.

Here are some of the few pictures I managed to take (minus Lefthand, credit to Jordan for that one):

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some Thoughts on Alternative Hip Hop

Two nights ago I attended the final day of Rock the Rapids. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much.  It was hosted by WSNX and included such fantastic acts as Baby Bash, Aaron Fresh, and Shontelle.  Those were mediocre performances that I expected, and many people enjoyed them and the Top 40 power they employ.  The low point was definitely when Cody Simpson, the next reincarnation of Justin Bieber, performed.  He is younger than our favorite 15 year old Canadian and happens to hail from Australia.  He can't sing very well - at least not without auto-tune, and he didn't even impress when playing the guitar on the song he wrote that "meant a lot to him".  Perhaps, but I'm not going to trust a 14-ish year old kid about love.

Good thing we had some good people to sit by, and our buddy Michael - the concession kid - coming by to throw ice at us in the heat.  Yeah, this concert happened to be outdoors at 5/3 Ball Park on just about the hottest day Grand Rapids has seen in a while.

Now for the redeeming factors.  Headliner B.o.B. and an early performance by Chiddy Bang managed to make the concert entirely worth the $10.45 that tickets cost.  Both of these artists happen to fall under the label of "Alternative Hip Hop", which is kind of an umbrella term for artists making hip hop outside of traditional stereotypes in beats and lyrics.  Kanye West is probably one of the biggest names in the alternative hip hop and has pulled it into the mainstream.

Kid Cudi is another artist to note, and although it didn't get great reviews from places like Pitchfork, his debut album is solid. Cudi managed to team up with other artists like MGMT and Ratatat giving a unique sound to his album.  An appreciation and use of indie musicians has increased in alternative hip hop.  In his mixtape, Cudi sampled Band of Horses and he has also used Vampire Weekend.

B.o.B. and Chiddy Bang are similar to this.  B.o.B. has largely stuck to his own material, but also used and changed up some Vampire Weekend in his song "The Kids".  He has also strayed from straight rapping and does some of his own guitar playing and crosses into indie/rock at times.  This was the major complaint from Pitchfork reviewers and a reason for the mediocre review for B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray.  I like the cross over - he doesn't restrict himself to the hip hop genre; however, he is best at rapping and at times that is missing.

Chiddy Bang is even more exciting.  Chiddy Bang is made up of two guys creating a fusion genre of hip hop and electronica using sampling.  Many of the samples are from alternative or indie sources.  For example the following are all used in Chiddy Bang songs: Ratatat, Notorious B.I.G., Passion Pit, Belle and Sebastian, MGMT, Sufjan Stevens, Hot Chip, Gorillaz, La Roux, and Major Lazer.

No matter how mediocre Pitchfork reviews groups like these, I think I'll continue to listen.  They are catchy and make things interesting by exploring sound and crossing boundaries.  Now, just to wait for the new Kanye album, which according to Spinner features a collaboration with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

Like a skit on the Chiddy Bang mixtape, The Swelly Express, says: It's like rap, but not rap.  I love it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In Defense of Calvin College

A couple of weeks ago I went to the bar with a friend and met up with his sister and a co-worker of his.  During the course of conversation it was brought up that I would be attending graduate school for urban planning, something my friend's sister though was pretty cool as did his co-worker.

Having a few drinks, the co-worker decided to rant to me a little about dumb street design and poor planning from the last few decades, which I heartily joined in on.  He wondered how I got into the whole urban planning thing, especially for someone from Calvin College, so I told him about being a geography major and taking an introductory course in planning while at Calvin.

This happened to be when the conversation shifted a little.  Having apparently attended Calvin for a while, the co-worker was surprised Calvin offered a planning course, and made the quick conclusion that it was probably one of the few good classes the college offers (he took philosophy classes).

His distaste for Calvin continued to be shown by talking about how Calvin abandoned it's campus in the city for the suburban real estate it currently occupies.  In some ways I agree with those sentiments, but we shouldn't direct the heat solely upon the school.

Calvin had grown beyond what the old campus could sustain and badly needed to undergo some kind of expansion.  Given that fact, they expanded to a location where the land was available.  We shouldn't fault them on jumping at such an opportunity, especially since suburbanization was the name of the game when these events took place.  It was not the school, but rather an entrenched societal ideal that came more into play.  Also worth mentioning is the fact that the former campus "in the city" was almost outside of the city.

To look back with disgust, I think, is inappropriate.  Instead, we should look at what is happening in the present and for the future.  Progress is happening.

Calvin has increased its presence in the downtown area with the creation of the (106) South Division Art Gallery.  The school has also begun to subsidize bus rides on the Rapid making them cheaper for students.  Unfortunately, there are many complaints to these.  The main one I see is that Calvin is not doing enough and should be doing more, such as fully subsidizing the Rapid so it is free and not just cheap.  I'm in the camp that says Calvin should do more too, but we can't just complain.  I think it really boils down to the administration and policy makers moving slowly and cautiously, which in many ways is quite admirable.  A lot of thought has to go into such decisions.

I also don't think we should compare Calvin to Grand Valley.  A lot of the arguments for making the Rapid free center on the fact that GVSU does it for their students.  Many differences should be noted.  First, GVSU is much larger than Calvin, although this is probably not that important in the grand scheme.  Next, there is actually a legitimate reason to offer free service to GVSU students: they have a campus downtown and often take classes there and out in Allendale and need a way to get between campuses easily.  Calvin doesn't have that issue.  Most students either live on campus or nearby, so there is no necessary reason to give free rides.  The closet comparison to Calvin would be Aquinas.  Aquinas only has one campus, albeit closer into town, and they offer a discounted rate of 40 cents.  This is comparable to Calvin's 50 cent fares.

Other reasons abound for Calvin (and Aquinas) to hop on board with free fares, and I would love to see that happen.  I think it is most important to realize that people at Calvin actually care about these kind of issues and some progress is evident.  It is also important to continue to pursue various avenues and push for quicker implementation of positive policies.

Finally, we should be grateful for what Calvin is as a respectable educational institution that is actually moving (however slowly) into greater harmony with the city.  At least we're not Davenport, who just recently abandoned their downtown campus for one out in the sticks by M-6.

Rant out. Good night.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"More Complete" Streets

A short blurb in today’s Grand Rapids Press informed me that federal transportation spending on bicycling and walking doubled from $600 million to $1.2 billion between 2008 and 2009.  To say the least, I’m a fan.

This and some other recent conversation and reading have led to this post.  In it I’ll wander around some topics that are interesting to my future-urban-planner nerd-ism.  Enjoy!

As oil continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, we should recognize even clearer than ever that we need to move beyond petroleum (As even BP tells us).  Now, I understand that bicycling and walking cannot replace all the uses of an automobile, but we should embrace alternatives to our car culture that relies on a finite resource.

Alternative methods to powering cars aside (any major changes are probably a ways out yet); by funding bicycling and walking projects we can work more immediately on the situation at hand.

This is by no means just about energy.  In fact, it might be least about energy.  By investing in “complete streets” that embrace cyclists and pedestrians we can make our cities more hospitable for those who elect to use those methods of getting around.  In some areas, walking or cycling is just plain insane.  28th street is a good example of such a place.  5 lanes wide with a 40+ mph speed limit and sidewalks few and far between it is a nightmare to maneuver around without an automobile of some kind.

The good news is that funding for pedestrians is becoming more apparent even along 28th.  By simple observation one can notice that for the last few months MDOT has been cutting in and paving a sidewalk between Division and Kalamazoo Avenue.  The project is accompanied by a road resurfacing.  There is also similar construction along Chicago Drive.  While I will remain skeptical of its possibilities to bring in new pedestrians to such a desolate landscape, it definitely creates a more hospitable and safe environment.  This is something I think Wyoming and Kentwood need in order to retain, and more importantly attract, businesses along that section of road.

Complete streets are also making headlines across Michigan with new legislation that was recently passed by the state House 84-22.  It was referred to the state Senate Transportation Committee.  If made into law, the bill would require all cities, villages, and townships in the state to include bicycle and pedestrian routes whenever road construction takes place.  Some exceptions do exist.

This is an exciting promotion of non-automobile travel.  Some cities are even ahead of the curve too, and this is apparent here in West Michigan as well.  Grand Rapids repaved a wretched section of Lake Drive this past spring and as a result the sidewalk was repaved and on-street bicycle lanes added. 

Even Grandville is hopping on the bandwagon with a project it first started back in 2004.  The city plans to use a complete streets type formula to improve its traditional downtown district at the intersection of Chicago Drive and Wilson.  Right now, two through lanes travel in each direction, the sidewalk is just plain concrete, and there are overhead utilities.  The center two lanes pretty much only get used for left turns and simply cause back-ups.  The plan would create a left turn lane and have a single through lane in each direction, relocate utility lines, and use remaining space to create on-street parking.

One question that I have overheard from my grandpa and his neighbors is “How do they plan to fit that all in the current right-of-way?”  The answer: you don’t.  There are 44 feet to work with currently.  Two 11 foot through lanes and a 10 foot turn lane use up 32 feet.  The remaining 12 feet is too little to accommodate parking on both sides of the road because you need 16 feet to do so.  The solution is to cut two feet into the sidewalk on each side.  People who pose this question do so because they are skeptical about narrowing the sidewalk, especially since the plan is to enhance the pedestrian experience.  The narrowing of the sidewalk is, in my opinion, absolutely fine.  There really wouldn’t be much loss of walking space anyway because the current utility poles push pedestrians away from the road’s edge.  On top of that, the sidewalk is quite wide along that section of Chicago Drive and parked cars also manage to create a safety barrier that “protects” pedestrians.  At the very least it makes them feel safer.

The only issue I might take up with the project is the omission of bicycle lanes, but with the restrictions that are being dealt with, I’ll take the street parking over a bicycle lane.

Overall, I am impressed with the direction that the country and especially West Michigan is headed.  I love the complete streets ideal.  I am interested to see these changes as they occur and what the economic and other results happen to be.  I also hope to see other things happen as well: more public transit opportunities, alternative fuel sources, and new energy policy.  For the time being I’ll continue to hypocritically drive my car and work to increase my bicycle usage.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Future of Urbanism

Today (yesterday), I attended the second day of a conference entitled "Future of Urbanism" at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  It was hosted by the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning (TCAUP).  The conference brought together many different architects, planners, and others from around the world to talk about where our urban future is heading.  Here is a little rundown:

The opening panel of the day talked about Urban and Regional Ecologies, and the discussion that followed had a lot to do with the importance of social/environmental justice.  They also emphasized the importance of having a situational awareness when creating regulations and approaching things with a new spatial perspective.  The latter of which I was happy about because of the emphasis on geographic knowledge that a spatial perspective requires.  We can call all of this "spatial justice".

The future of urbanism needs to be one that incorporates multiple disciplines.  One of the panelists proclaimed "Architecture, left on its own, will cannibalize us all."

The second group of speakers for the day spoke on MEGACITY / shrinking city.  This obviously took the form of two perspectives.  One looked at rapidly expanding cities in the world, particularly those in developing regions such as Africa and China, while the other side looked at the cities of the American Rust Belt, such as Cleveland and Detroit.  The goal was to think through how cities handle rapid development or how they deal with significant decline.

The speakers on the shrinking city were especially interesting to me, since I wrote a paper on Detroit last semester that suggested how it might be able to handle its situation by reducing its footprint.  I chose to look further into the topic after reading an article from TIME magazine, and recently Detroit Mayor Dave Bing began working toward something quite similar.

One of the speakers, Myron Orfield, is a law professor at the University of Minnesota, among other things.  He touched on the subject of urban policy and who makes it.  The general theme is political fragmentation and the average American has 7 governmental bodies above them working on policy issues (county, city/township, school district, and various special districts like watersheds).  Various harms result because of this fragmentation: sprawl, segregation, and inequalities.  He cited the examples of Portland, OR and the Twin Cities as ways to solve these problems with effective regional organization.

The other speaker on the shrinking city was the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, Jay Williams.  His perspective on how to fix problems associated with decline and try to reverse the fall was very insightful.

The third panel was on the topic "Urban Imaginary" and how we construct visual narratives that increase connectivity with the city in order to further understand a future urbanism.  Here there were a lot of great examples of GIS in practice.  Making urban form and the visualization of urban phenomena into something of an art form or connecting and aggregating photos from Flickr to a map based on geographic coordinates and descriptive tags.  Another part of this was the Copenhagen Wheel, which can probably be best described by paying a visit to the site.

I think the final piece to this panel (which was really the middle) is super interesting.  Marshall Brown, from the Illinois Institute of Technology, talked about architecture and urbanism as mashup.  He went through a history of mashup itself that culminated with DJ Dangermouse's The Grey Album and connected it to a cut, copy, and paste version of design that integrates multiple ideas in order to pull together an already heterogeneous cityscape.  Also, we must not confuse mashup with collage because mashup takes a lot of thought to put together an 'original' design instead of just throwing stuff together.

Something he said: "STEAL EVERYTHING"

Finally, the last session was on New Public Spaces and how new social media has affected the material city.

This is a very cursory review of what caught my attention the most.  In no way did I flesh out most of the details, and I would recommend checking out the TCAUP YouTube site to catch the video of some or all of the talks when they get posted in April.  In the meantime, they have video from their Future of Design conference that happened back in October for those interested.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rock the Bells: Quality Hip-Hop?

This past summer I had another opportunity to work in Colorado, and, as a result, had another opportunity to attend a concert at Red Rocks natural amphitheater.  The previous summer I had seen R.E.M. with Modest Mouse and the National.

For the early part of the summer, I was looking forward to seeing Death Cab for Cutie with Andrew Bird and Ra Ra Riot.  However, over the course of looking at other shows and talking with people I worked with, I decided to go see Rock the Bells instead.  Rock the Bells touts itself as a "World-Class Hip-Hop Platform" and is substantially different than the typical indie and rock based concerts I normally find myself at.  I wanted to break away from some norms and expand my viewing of hip-hop some more (I had seen Lupe Fiasco and K'naan before).

Rock the Bells is a festival series that began in 2004 and travels to multiple locations around the world each summer.  Previous headliners have included the Wu-Tang Clan, Rage Against the Machine, and A Tribe Called Quest.  This year was headlined by Nas & Damian Marley in anticipation of their upcoming album Distant Relatives.  Other big acts on tour included Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, Common, and the Roots.

Unfortunately, not all acts perform at each venue, and the show in Denver was one of the smaller shows on the tour.  Only Nas & Damian Marley, of the acts I listed, performed, and other acts I was interested in, such as K'naan and Sage Francis, I missed out on.  There was a positive of this, which was a decently priced ticket for 8 hours of live music, and there were still a lot of great acts to see.

Hip-hop and rap music always has certain ideas and stereotypes attached to it, and Rock the Bells showed that, in some cases, stereotypes can be totally true, but also totally false.  These following acts showed me both the positives and negatives of hip-hop culture.

The show began with some smooth rhymes from the Knux, representing New Orleans and the indier side of the genre, and Chali 2Na (pictured above) of Jurassic 5.  At this point, I was really excited for where the show would go, even if I didn't know the music of every artist.

Following these two sets, one of the show's hosts, Supernatural showed the crowd some of his mind-blowing freestyle skills, making up rhymes about objects the crowd gave him on the spot.

Next up was the group Slaughterhouse, which is made up of four different rap artists (Royce da 5'9", Crooked I, Joe Budden, and Joell Ortiz) from around the country (Detroit, Long Beach, Jersey City, and Brooklyn).  This set was the first lapse of quality that I saw in the show.  While each rapper could spit like the best, they didn't seem to be on the same page, and Joe Budden seemed more interested in smoking than participating.  I'll try not to speculate what his issue was.

The other host for the night, KRS-One, righted the ship again by educating the audience about emceeing and the work they do.  To quote: "Rap is something we do.  Hip-hop is something we live."

While the Wu-Tang clan was not present this year in its entirety, a number of its members were on tour.  The privilege of addressing the Denver crowd was GZA, and he showed why the Wu-Tang clan is continually invited to perform for Rock the Bells.

One of my favorite sets of the night came next, with the reunion of Reflection Eternal.  Consisting of Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek, Reflection Eternal was only matched, in my opinion, by Nas & Damian Marley.

Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek perform as Reflection Eternal

Following up Reflection Eternal was Tech N9ne.  Tech N9ne was the obvious reason why most of the crowd came to Rock the Bells and many were decked out in baggy clothes, wearing bandannas, and painted with tribal face paint just like their favorite artist.  I did enjoy his set, which he performed with label-mates Krizz Kaliko and Kutt Calhoun.  It was full of energy and the precision of his speedy delivery was stunning.  However, after his set was done, he proceeded to encourage women in the crowd to flash the rest of the audience, claiming it was something he promised to the festival promoters.  This kind of treatment toward women promoted by some hip-hop artists is one stereotype that I was extremely disappointed to see, especially after such an enjoyable set, musically.

Tech N9ne performs at Rock the Bells 2009 in Denver, CO

Now it was time for some of the bigger names to reveal themselves.  First up was Big Boi, one half of the group Outkast.  He performed a solid set with hits such as "So Fresh, So Clean" and some of his newer, solo material.

Big Boi on stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Next was Busta Rhymes, who knocked the crowd out with his up-tempo performance, but, like Tech N9ne, let off some negative vibes by using derogatory remarks and obscene gestures on stage.

Finally, it was time for Nas & Damian Marley, and they did not disappoint.  Nas was up first with some solo material, including "Hip Hop is Dead".  Eventually, Marley joined in and the two performed together on some tracks, even covering Bob Marley's track "One Love".  Marley followed in a set of his own with some quality reggae music.  To end the night, Nas came back out and the two showed what kind of sound Distant Relatives might have.

Nas and Damian Marley performing at Rock the Bells

Rock the Bells was definitely a different experience compared to seeing R.E.M. or Death Cab for Cutie, and I'm glad that I exited my box to see this show.  Most of the performers had top-notch lyrical quality and excelled at what they did.  Unfortunately, at an event like this, the negative stereotypes and associations with hip-hop still exist, even outside of the mainstream.  But, based on the majority of the artists I saw at Rock the Bells, there is a level that exists beyond the misogyny and dumbed down lyrics that plagues most mainstream lyrical hip-hop and rap found on the local top 40 radio station.  I can only hope that artists continue to shoot for this higher level of quality I saw on display (for the most part) at Rock the Bells.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stuck on Repeat, for Better or Worse

Ripping an idea from The War on Pop and a series called "Repeat Offenders" I have decided to list some songs that I have been listening to a lot over the last couple of weeks.

The first two songs have gotten some playtime in a large part because of my recent reading of the Pitchfork Media Top 100 Tracks of 2009, part of their Year in Music. The other four have just been played a lot, and, in some cases, probably far too much so.

Phoenix - "1901"
Some may recognize this from a Cadillac car commercial.

Fuck Buttons - "Surf Solar"
The best in synth-noize rock since, well, Fuck Buttons.  Penguins are a plus too.

MGMT - "Kids"
Hearing this song some time ago is probably the only reason I had for checking MGMT at all, and I'm so happy I did.

Guru Josh Project - "Infinity 2008"
Heard this song while spending a month in the Netherlands about a year ago.  There is something about the whole European house and techno music thing that gets me.

Ke$ha - "TiK ToK"
This is where I run into the problem of overplaying something, but this song is just so catchy.  It is top 40 for a reason, right?

Lupe Fiasco feat. Nikki Jean - "Hip-Hop Saved My Life"
Competes with "Dumb it Down" for my favorite song on "The Cool".

EDIT: I compiled the songs on YouTube into a playlist. Seen here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Running Blindly into the Blogosphere

Finally, I am getting around to doing this whole blogging thing. I hope this will become a medium where I can share my thoughts and the inner workings of my brain. You know, what everyone's blog seems to be for.

I have ripped off the band Modest Mouse for my blog title and it would seem that I'm not alone in doing so; however, I think it fits my general purpose. In sharing my thoughts, I am trying to thin the wall that may exist between me and you, the reader. Maybe that wall can be broken through as time goes on.