So many of the iconic shows we grow up with end up seeming dated and dumb when we view them as adults. The Adventures Of Pete And Pete is not one of those shows. Seriously, if anything, it’s better in hindsight. When you’re a little kid, the character of Nona’s dad is nothing more than an overprotective square, but watch it as an adult and — holy shit that’s Iggy Pop! It was all so perfect: school bullies with personas better than some Bond villains; Steve Buscemi as school guidance counselor; Michael Stipe selling Sludgesicles; and especially the excellent opening theme song by Polaris.
The TV miniseries Cosmos, both in its O.G. Carl Sagan form and its rebooted Neil DeGrasse Tyson iteration, works, if you want it to, as a smart science lesson for kids. It’s a lionization of the iconoclasts, throughout history, who helped us understand now the universe works, and an approachable science-fictony way to teach science facts without making kids feel like they’re in class. But neither one became a stoner favorite by explaining scientific concepts to kids. They do that, sure, but they also work on a blow-your-fucking-mind level, mostly by pointing out the tiny infinitesimal place that we occupy within the larger universe — a larger universe that, for all we know, is just one speck in a universe of universes. Watching Cosmos is, among other things, an exercise in challenging your imagination by making yourself feel as small as possible. Another way to do that same thing: Spend some time with Clearing The Path To Ascend, the new album from the Portland doom metal band Yob, which is practically a universe unto itself. You can’t just throw Clearing The Path on and go about your day. It’s an album that forces you to enter a deep-concentration zone where you stop thinking about where one song ends and another begins, where you become a bug trapped in its amber.
Made In America has always struck me as an odd festival. In these still early years for the event, it’s a somewhat small entity. Two days as opposed to others’ four or five, or others’ double weekends; four stages in somewhat close quarters on a shut-down Benjamin Franklin Parkway; a lineup of a size where, somehow, you don’t really have to worry about significant conflicts between artists you want to see. But, of course, it has a bigger pedigree — you know, Jay Z, but also the fact that it’s got big old Budweiser logos emblazoned everywhere. For a young festival, it has had some seriously major acts involved, and this year they expanded to Los Angeles. This was my first year attending Made In America, and while I imagine the powers behind it could drive it into someday being one of the big monolithic festivals, one of those that serve as a major marking point in the summer’s trajectory, for the moment it felt refreshingly local and sensible to navigate. It didn’t need to be too much of an extravaganza.
Several reviewers compared Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city to James Joyce’s modernist novel Ulysses, in that both of them chronicled the twists and turns of a day in the life of a young urbanite. The comparison wasn’t lost on Adam Diehl, a professor at Georgia Regents University, who built an entire English course using Lamar’s album as a prism to explore other similar stories in film and literature. As USA Today reports, “Good Kids, Mad Cities” will touch on works by Joyce, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Spike Lee among others. Here’s how the course is described at the university’s website:
Taking its name from Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 album, this course will examine the role of urban living on the development of young people. In Kendrick’s case, “the streets sure to release the worst side of my best” (Lamar 58). By studying and analyzing various literature, films, and K. Dot’s album, we will consider what effects our characters’ surroundings have on who they become as adults. The cities we will be visiting, in our imaginations, are Dublin, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Assignments will include a substantial research paper, stemming from the topics inherent in our texts; students should also expect other writing assignments, such as short papers and online discussion posts.
Sounds like fun. Good idea, Adam Diehl!
The first song we heard from Cloud Castle Lake’s upcoming Dandelion EP, “Sync,” reminded me of Sigur Rós at their most celebratory. “A Wolf Howling,” the second Dandelion song the Dublin band are sharing, exists in the same wheelhouse, but the way it casts Daniel McAuley’s falsetto against a churning minor-key groove is closer to latter-day Radiohead — like “Where I End And You Begin” if it had been on The King Of Limbs. I’m also hearing traces of Wild Beasts in the song’s sweeping post-rock drama. It doesn’t change my sense that Cloud Castle Lake have yet to develop an identity of their own, but it also doesn’t sway me from believing that this borrowed composite they’re currently rocking is potent anyway.
Ryan Lott, aka Son Lux, is probably best known for his work with Sisyphus — the strange rap project in which he collaborates with Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti — but like his Sisyphus bandmates, Lott moves all around the style spectrum. Recently, Lott composed a piano piece for a Gillette ad, in which he also appears. In the ad, Lott plays a keyboard that’s rigged to 88 razors, which then hit the keys of the piano with their handles (which then would trigger the hammers to hit the strings, in case you were wondering how pianos work without the addition of Gillette razors). It’s a kind of ridiculous concept, but still … watching him play that weird contraption is pretty cool. Watch it below.
Happyness, the British trio we named a Band To Watch on the strength of their wistful music and mischievous lyrics, have a new EP called Anything I Do Is Alright out this week. It’s essentially a UK single for the title track featuring two B-sides. We already heard “You Come To Kill Me?” Now here’s the chilled-out “When You Wake Up” below.
All the videos from UK trio Fujiya & Miyagi’s new album, Artificial Sweeteners, have felt like science projects. There was the lab-made goofiness of the title track clip, as well as the neon light show of “Flaws.” The band’s newest video, for “Acid To My Alkaline,” messes with primary colors; it feels like you’re watching one of those old red-and-blue 3D movies, but without the glasses. It’s a weird video, but the song’s chemical obsessions make for a pretty sweet sentiment: An acid and an alkaline together would balance each other to form water. Watch the video below.