We talk a lot about the things we like here, but sometimes I don’t think we share them enough. To help remedy that, I’ve decided to start posting a monthly (or perhaps weekly) series of playlists called “Smash Cuts.” A compilation of cool tunes old and new, each Smash Cuts playlist will have some sort of theme to go along with it. This month’s is “Real Cute.” To add a nice personal touch, I wrote up the track listing in my own handwriting. Just in case you don’t feel like deciphering my scrawl, the playlist is embedded below. I suppose we should at some point make a Smash Cut Magazine Spotify account, but until then, I’ll use my personal one. Feel free to follow me for more music playlists and updates.
AGGGGGHHHHH. There’s just too much to do. We still haven’t even finished our Best of 2013 coverage (which I promise will come soon). I promised to do better this year and I still intend to follow through on that promise, even though it might take me a little longer than I hoped. That being said, something we can’t procrastinate any longer on is Oscar predictions. This Sunday night those little golden guys will find a home and it’s our job to tell you who will win. I’m not even certain why predicting the Oscars matters so much in the film community, but for some reason it does. Previously we’ve only done our predictions, but this year, I think I’m going to include my picks from film overall last year for who should win. Consider it a teaser for our Best Movies of 2013. – Nathan
(Just for your information, I didn’t see Gravity. Or Dallas Buyers’ Club.)
Will win: 12 Years A Slave
Should win: The Wolf of Wall Street (note: this doesn’t mean it was my favorite movie from last year. I’m not ready to make that call.)
By Alec Lindner
Ten years ago Monday, the Mountain Goats, a North Carolina based indie-rock band fronted by and sometimes solely consisting of singer/songwriter John Darnielle, released We Shall All Be Healed, one of their most unloved albums. This cool reception is certainly due in part to the album’s unfortunate chronological placement in the Mountain Goats’ catalogue; the album was proceeded by Tallahassee, a fan favorite that marked the band’s important transition to recording in a traditional studio rather than Darnielle’s famous Panasonic boombox, and followed by The Sunset Tree, an autobiographical album often considered by fans to be the band’s overall finest. However, the album itself is simply an odd outlier compared to the rest of the band’s oeuvre. A semi-fictional chronicle of Darnielle’s youth as a methamphetamine addict, the album is grimier and more jagged than anything else in the Goats’ catalogue. This is not to say the album is necessarily darker than previous efforts; John’s nihilistic proclamation on Healed’s “Palmcorder Yajna” that “if anybody comes into our room while we’re asleep, I hope they incinerate everybody in it” doesn’t beat out Tallahassee’s male protagonist promising his wife that “you are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand” in terms of sheer abject misery. The difference lies in Healed’s absolute unhingedness. There was at least some meaning behind the actions and lyrics of Darnielle’s previous protagonists; the seven people populating All Hail West Texas were broken, but they were at least making efforts to heal themselves; likewise, Tallahassee’s Alpha Couple may be destroying each other, but at the very least their codependence and dysfunction were based in a recognizable sense of love for each other. The images and characters presented in We Shall All Be Healed are without meaning and without hope; while there are at least recognizable reasons the protagonists in Tallahassee act as they do, Healed presents a scene of pure chaos. Its protagonists have disintegrated to the point where their actions and feelings are no longer comprehensible. The Mountain Goats’ fandom is based largely on its fans’ identification and empathy toward the characters expressed in the band’s songs, and while it’s easy to feel alienated and weird like the teenage subjects of “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” or to scream along to Darnielle’s desperate hope for a better future in “This Year,” it is much harder to feel a kinship with a meth addict obsessing over scores of old electrical equipment and forgotten caches of makeup.
We’d like to welcome aboard new contributor, Nick Kivi, who’ll be giving us music reviews and the ilk. Check out his first below!
By Nick Kivi
Andrew St. James sings songs about a coastline I’ve never seen. He says himself that he sings about “everyday people, only acknowledged by the first ten minutes of the nightly news.” He’s painting a picture of the West Coast in the Information Age, where technology has fixed almost every problem except how to stop your dreams from being ripped out from under you. It’s a picture that’s steeped in melancholy, where even the bright Pacific sun can’t evaporate the blues and withdrawal and heartbreak, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t paint it pretty.
By Nathan Smith
The anniversaries keep slipping by me. I logged onto WordPress yesterday to post a new article, only to be informed by a little blip on the top of my screen that it was our second birthday. In commemoration of our first birthday this time last year, I listed a bunch of our accomplishments, and I thought about doing that again this time around, but I don’t think I should do that again. I could tell you how many Facebook likes we have or who is following us on twitter or how many people have come to the handful of events we’ve put on, but I’m not certain how much of that matters. Those are all someone else’s markers of success and that’s not what I want to talk about tonight.
Since the beginning of 2013, we’ve done a lot. But we’ve also been slacking off a bit. Some of that is out of my hands; I’m in college now and running this thing ain’t as easy as it used to be. In the last half of 2013, I barely wrote anything for the blog. As we picked back up for “Best of” season, I realized how much I missed writing down my thoughts. It’s an outlet I had taken for granted. This blog, in a way, brings me some kind of peace. Through the sharing of culture, I’m able to express emotions and feelings I might not be able to normally. So tonight I come to you with a renewed sense of dedication. I’m going to step up my game in 2014. We’re going to step up our game in 2014. I want this to be our best year yet and I’m determined to hit the ground running.
There are a lot of people I need to thank. So many that I can’t remember all of them. But most of all, I’d like to thank you. Our beloved audience. Our cherished readers. You mean a whole heck of a lot to us. I just want you to know that.
Here’s to a great year, folks.
20. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind: You may or may not know this, but actually Nathan and I interviewed Cut Copy at Mountain Oasis. It was one of the most educating/embarrassing moments I’ve had. When we walked into the VIP room where they were doing the interviews we saw the two main members of the band being interviewed by SPIN magazine (or now just the website I guess, I don’t know, SPIN sucks). Once the band was done the two members just walked off. The manager of Cut Copy then walked up to us and asked us if we were who she thought we were (we were), and then proceeded to introduce us to a man neither one of us had ever seen. My dumbass immediately said that we were supposed to be interviewing Cut Copy. The man then went on to tell us he was the bassist for Cut Copy and if it wasn’t for Nathan I would have just looked like an ass. Regardless, Free Your Mind is an amazing record that really captured a lot of the feelings that the bassist explained to us in the interview which you can find here. – Jake White
We’re happy to introduce a new series from contributor Kai Perrignon. As he explains in the introduction, “Random Picks” will take him on a journey through Netflix’s Random Picks section. Enjoy! – N
By Kai Perrignon
Like many Americans, I use Netflix to stave off my increasingly rampart feelings of loneliness. As a tool for that use, it works quite well. Sure, Netflix doesn’t have a large selection of “classic” films; stolen Hulu Plus accounts provide me with access to the Criterion Collection. What Netflix does have, however, is a strong selection of newer indie films. Netflix is a home for Joe Swanberg and Andrew Bujalski, and I love it for that.
But let me be honest with you- sometimes, Netflix just doesn’t get me. I sometimes look at the “Top Picks for Kai” section, and I’m just flabbergasted. The last four things that I watched on Netflix were Room 237, Berberian Sound Studio, Gimme the Loot, and an episode of Maron. The other day, my “Top Picks” included three Scooby Doo movies, Bratz Go to Paris, and Movie 43.
When I read that list, I lost all hope in Movie-Suggestion-Algorithms. How could they be this poor? I could no longer trust them.
So algorithms be damned. If I’m going to watch a movie I don’t specifically seek out, I’ll let Quantum Mechanics decide.
Welcome to the Random Picks section of Netlfix.
30. Brave Bird – Maybe You, No One Else Worth It: I’ll remember 2013 as the year I discovered many of the modern genres that grew out of punk – screamo, post-hardcore, and especially emo. In a year that’s been particularly good for the genre, Brave Bird’s debut LP has been one of the best releases. The Michiganians practice the same breed of hyperactive twinkle-punk as the now-defunct Snowing, albeit with some added vocal patience. Plenty of modern emo bands have range, but few are as effective at opposite ends of the spectrum as Brave Bird are on Maybe You, No One Else Worth It, which kicks off with the sugar-rush of “Too Late Now” and closes with an acoustic number in “I’ll See You At the Ring of Fire” that’s as effective as a closer as it is a reminder that “emo” is short for “emotional.” – Jack Evans
We’d like to give a big welcome to new contributor Will Coe. He’ll be writing about really whatever he feels like, but he definitely knows what he’s talking about when it comes to this post’s topic- electronic and house music. – Nathan
By Will Coe
Amidst the many perils and challenges of this past year, the world looked to EDM as a reason to get hyped and forget whatever horrible tragedy was currently happening. 2013 saw a host of producers calling back to little-known sub genres of the 90s and early 2000s while still attempting to look forward musically. We saw the gradual rise of elements of jungle & garage into the mainstream and the varied results of America’s continued reaction to the influx of European dance music onto their radio dials and Facebook pages. This is a list of the dance tracks I thought best exemplified electronic music in 2013.
Our Best of 2013 coverage continues today with the next installment of the best albums of last year. What do you think about our list so far and what do you hope to see in the next three installments? Let us know in the comments below. Find #50-#40 here.
39. Baths – Obsidian: My favorite part of this record is how it contradicts Baths’ first. The first has sad undertones, while the feelings felt in Obsidian are a lot more projected. – Jake White