That's Not Officially for Sale
Ghost World is on Criterion!!!!!


Vive le Sénégal!

Thanks to the front-to-back fantastic Rough Guide to the Music of West Africa, my love of Afro-pop has fully been rekindled, not least Orchestra Baobab and their reunion masterpiece Specialist in All Styles and Youssou N'Dour's astonishing Egypt, two of the best records of the twenty-first century. The video above, from a concert earlier this year, very seriously begs the question: Is this the world's greatest band?


This ain't for the best / My reputation's never been worse...

Even if I'll always prefer her first three records (and especially the self-titled debut), there's no denying that Taylor 2.0 has her own distinctive charms, and this is the most impressive Taylor 2.0 record yet. When it's good, it's awfully good; reputation's six or seven best songs would hold their own with the six or seven best songs on any recent pop record or, for that matter, any Taylor 1.0 record. That's in part because she sounds altogether more confident in her reinvented persona (never more so than on "Ready for It?" and "I Did Something Bad") than she did on Red or 1989, but in part, too, because, persona aside, she actually hasn't reinvented as much as she lets on: going back to "Our Song" and "Tim McGraw," her greatest strength has always been her laserlike specificity as a songwriter, capturing very particular people, situations, moments, feelings more impeccably, and sometimes devastatingly, than any of her contemporaries. By contrast, she's at her worst when she goes for deep/cryptic/vague, especially when her 2.0 sonics aren't good enough to bail her out. That's why "Look What You Made Me Do" is probably the worst song she's ever released (and seemed like a dreadful portent for the record it was meant to preview). And it's why "Delicate" is her best track in years; and "Gorgeous" and "Call It What You Want" are nearly as terrific. These three, in particular, are perfect adaptations of New Taylor's of-the-moment pop palette to what she's always done best. With more songs as good as these, maybe I won't always prefer Old Taylor.


Just What I Was Feeling at the Time

01. The current NBA season I honestly can't remember a more thoroughly enjoyable time to be an avid pro basketball fan, in terms of the enormity and diversity of talent league-wide, interesting teams, brewing rivalries, and, as a bonus, the bountiful supply of high-quality writing available on All Things NBA, from general profile pieces to stats-heavy analysis to in-depth reports on PB&J preferences. Also, for last night's Raptors/Hornets game, Drake joined the on-air commentators for the entire 2nd half (minus a washroom break)! After the game, he even interviewed Kyle Lowry!

02. Super Dark Times I like Stranger Times plenty and found the new IT much better than expected. But this minor-key masterpiece is a perfect antidote to the resurgence of the cute, clever group of preteen/teenaged boys riding around suburbia on their bikes genre, as, by contrast, these teen boys are much more realistic and naturalistic: kind of dumb, awkward, and gross, not either angelic figures (as in Gus Van Sant, though there are good aesthetic comparisons to be made with Paranoid Park and, to a lesser extent, Elephant) nor lovable, wisecracking misfits engaging in precocious rapport that's funny yet ultimately reassuring to adults. And while it's set in the mid-90s, and does a good, relatively subtle job of evoking that time (when I was about the same age as these kids...), it's not awash in rose-colored nostalgia or rapid-fire period references. It's really one of the best, and most disturbing, dramatic representations of (white, male) teenaged awkwardness and anxiety I've ever seen. It left me shook!

03. On the Beach at Night Alone Hong Sang-soo's latest is one of his very best and Kim Min-hee's performance might be the most impactful I've seen all year; in retrospect, this makes me appreciate Claire's Camera more, as a kind of de facto companion piece.

04. Low in High School Better than World Peace... and Years of Refusal, hence his best in a decade-plus. Roughly half of it sounds surprising (in mostly good ways), the other half sounds exactly the way diehard Moz fans want it to sound.

05. Utopia Fewer surprises (though some), but never ever dull. She remains incapable of making a less-than-very-good record.

06. She's Gotta Have It We're only two episodes in, but this feels like a direct equivalent to Twin Peaks: The Return: Netflix clearly gave Spike Lee the same free rein that Showtime gave Lynch, and the results feel like the maximum-possible iterations of their respective aesthetics.

07. Brock Boeser Reason to believe.
The year's most important piece of film criticism is also one of the best essays on Culture Right Now, full-stop.


"It's fun putting your name in songs!"

Another terrific throwback--here, not just a revisiting but a reimagining--and Miley remembers her words better than Aly & AJ do.


Also This

Is it clear that I'm excited? Though the fact that their forthcoming album is called 10 Years--shockingly, the amount of time elapsed since their last one--kind of makes me feel old. Tempus fugit!

Anyway, Aly and AJ were excellent. As a refresher:

Exhibit A: "Potential Breakup Song" (in its original form)

Exhibit B: "Bullseye"

Exhibit C: "Blush" (their best ballad, which still sounds flawless)

They were well and truly at the vanguard of 2000s teenpop. Around that period, I spent a lot of time and words championing them, Amy Diamond, early Miley Cyrus (!), early Taylor Swift (!!), and Girls Aloud (not teenpop strictly speaking, but its regal godmothers). A decade on, most of it has held up pretty well!


2000s Teenpop Lives (kind of)!

Aly & AJ are back! With a terrific new single! And with a video by Alex Ross Perry, no less. (Also, Teresa just noticed that all-grown-up Aly plays Liv's roommate on iZombie, which blew my mind more than it probably should have.) Now, I'm actively pulling for an Amy Diamond comeback!


Ready to Wear

I like this second Reputation single much more than the first one, and better still when I pretend that it's not a Taylor Swift song at all--but, say, a new Selena Gomez album track, or by some up-and-coming pop ingenue with whom I'm as yet unfamiliar. My lack of interest in Swift-as-Celebrity-Person is equalled by my continuing affection for her first three records, and, to a lesser extent, her full-pop-turn stuff, sans "-country" qualifier. But this is fun and hooky, and where the debut single felt anonymous while purporting to be "personal," this quick-on-its-heels follow-up is unambiguously anonymous, which at least accommodates more flexibility in how we can listen to it. Which is to say, I won't mind hearing it play in clothing stores, etc. from now till the new year.

[Edit, later, same day: Actually, I really just like this, maybe a lot, and especially the slightly drawn-out, just slightly stressed vowel sounds: "see," "do" "dreams."]


KD is a Moz Fan

Who knew?! But Jon Hamm (supposedly) isn't.


This piece by Nate Silver perfectly captures the current state of the NBA, and the narrow path to win within it.


Holy Shit!

After, perhaps, the most quintessentially "Twin Peaks'y" episode of the reboot thus far (i.e., the episode most reminiscent of the original series and its "quirky" charms), the new one might be the most radical hour of American TV ever, and, really, as radical as anything Lynch has done in any medium. It's also, I think, the most legibly "religious"--Christian and otherwise--thing Lynch has made to date. Granted, I have an inclination to read things in a theological/allegorical light, but: the Lazarus-like resurrection of Bad Cooper; the nuclear testing ushering in a new, sinister Age of Man, making new forms of evil possible (like a Tree of Life building to the miraculous birth of Bob!) and/or opening up our world to primordial evils lying in wait, in some other dimension, of which the Black Lodge is a part; Laura Palmer emerging from the (God)head of the Giant and then sent forth into the world; the tramp's message over the radio, which sounded like some cryptic utterance of Jesus, marked out in red lettering; the young woman ostensibly "impregnated" not by her suitor but by some abomination spawned from the nuclear test; the very idea of the atomic/nuclear technology itself being dangerously, even apocalyptically transgressive, in the sense of humans using a kind of modern alchemy to effect destruction and death on a wholly unprecedented scale, in contrast to the previous ages of the world, wherein it was assumed that only G/god(s) could end worlds.

Also: Nine Inch Nails, the Middle School Me's favorite band!




1. Katy Perry is really funny and appealing in this. I love how she acts out her lyrics!
2. This is a reminder that she has so many good songs (and some of her very best songs didn't even make it into this).
3. Taylor Swift has made better front-to-back albums (especially her first three), but single for single--the relative strength of their best-possible greatest hits compilations--they're pretty evenly matched, which makes their feud much more interesting.
4. I wasn't sure how I felt about the two new tracks when she performed them on SNL last weekend, but they're both growing on me fast.


(Un)happy Birthday

In honor of Moz turning 58 (yesterday), here are my 58 favorite Morrissey or Smiths songs.

01. “Now My Heart Is Full”
02. “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”
03. “What She Said”
04. “Suedehead”
05. “The Queen Is Dead”
06. “Speedway”
07. “Half a Person”
08. “Nowhere Fast”
09. “Pretty Girls Make Graves”
10. “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby”
11. “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”
12. “Bigmouth Strikes Again”
13. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”
14. “Cemetry Gates”
15. “You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side”
16. “Still Ill”
17. “I Know It’s Over”
18. “Hand in Glove”
19. “A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours”
20. “Hold on to Your Friends”
21. “Every Day Is Like Sunday”
22. “Meat Is Murder”
23. “Girl Afraid”
24. “Panic”
25. “First of the Gang to Die”
26. “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get”
27. “This Charming Man”
28. “William, It Was Really Nothing”
30. “I Want the One I Can’t Have”
31. “Ask”
32. “How Soon Is Now?”
33. “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish”
33. “I Just Want to See the Boy Happy”
34. “You Have Killed Me”
35. “Is It Really So Strange?”
36. “What Difference Does It Make?”
37. “These Things Take Time”
38. “Reel Around the Fountain”
39. “That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
40. “Never Had No One Ever”
41. “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others”
42. “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”
43. “Ganglord”
44. “The Youngest Was the Most Loved”
45. “Alma Matters”
46. “Handsome Devil”
47. “Girlfriend in a Coma”
48. “Vicar in a Tutu”
49. “Unhappy Birthday”
50. “This Night Has Opened My Eyes”
51. “Irish Blood, English Heart”
52. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”
53. “Spring-Heeled Jim”
54. “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”
55. “I Will See You in Far off Places”
56. “Shoplifters of the World Unite”
57. “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”
58. “Istanbul”


Four More

The hits just keep coming.

01. Twin Peaks: The Return Holy shit.
02. Master of None, season 2 Stellar when topical, amiable enough when it settles on romantic comedy.
03. King Charles III (BBC Two) Terrific as these things go, and great fun, with a superb lead performance.
04. Vancouver: No Fixed Address Better as a discussion-starter than as a diagnosis, conflating, as it does, phenomena that are (arguably) not directly related; vital in Vancouver, still significant beyond our fair city.


Twenty Seventeen

Things I like so far this year, roughly in order of enthusiasm:

01. Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life
02. The Lost City of Z
03. Get Out
04. the NBA playoffs
05. Riverdale and Jughead, Vol. 2
06. More Life
07. Re-listening to old Cat Power records
08. Sleater-Kinney, Live in Paris
09. The Handmaid's Tale TV show
10. Free Fire
11. Song to Song


The relatively rough quality of this 22-year-old (!) video of Falconetti-in-flannel-era Chan Marshall doing "Rockets" only makes it more endearing. I thought of this when we saw Mitski play a couple months ago (great show, but too short). 90s Cat Power seems to the prototype for her aesthetic.