Apr 7 2014

Quarterly Review – January-March 2014

against me

Once every three months I list the best of what I heard in albums/songs/remixes for the quarter. I do this to personally keep up with all the awesome music I hear, as it ultimately helps me at the end of the year when I do my overall listing for the previous twelve months. I also do it to introduce you cool cats to tunes you may have missed independently.

Note: Due to waning interest on my part and lack of decent output in my opinion, the remixes list has been discontinued. However, I have increased the Downloads list from 20 to 40. I will probably regret this from quarter to quarter, but that’s how it stands currently.

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

Feb 23 2014

Five Albums That Changed My Life – Pork Soda

primus pork soda

And so continues a series of posts I started back in May, and while the first entry is probably more culturally significant, this addition still has a special place in my heart, if only for its musical impact. Most people know me as an avid appreciator of music of all kinds, but particularly indie and alternative styles. I keep that as general and vague as I can, because honestly that has been the only constant description dealing with my evolution into studying, criticizing, and even enjoying (!) pop culture and its music counterpart. There are bands and artists I’ve remained loyal to, regardless of output, kind of like a sports team fandom, really. Most of these come from my adolescence, and of course Les Claypool and Primus fit that bill. These are bands that are admittedly, just a bit before my time, but I nevertheless identify with what someone my age would deem “older brother” music. I was into the sounds of grunge, 90′s punk, stuff that was wearing off on the masses by the time I became cognizant of what year it was and what was popular. And this is primarily because of my cousin Joe.

Joe is now married and has a kid, which in my mind makes him much older than I am because I don’t have those things, even though he’s my senior by merely six years. So yeah, he essentially served as the older brother I didn’t have. But he was only around at Christmas, so that was when I got a taste of what it was like to be a teenager and like teenager stuff and watch PG-13 movies and hear his stories about going to concerts and kissing girls and seeing Tool like 7 times in Mesa and all that jazz. It was an exciting growth period for me. It probably had already begun to formulate, as I had discovered Z93, the local Top 40 station, the summer before, much to the chagrin of my mother, who always wanted me to like only country music (sorry, Mom). But it reached its apex during December 1996, and eventually progressed into listening to FM90, the college station, and sneaking views of MTV and South Park, and going to loud rock concerts on my own, and becoming the unjustified music snob I am today. It’s all Joe’s, and Les Claypool’s, fault.

Joe would sleep in my room on the top of my blue (or was it red?) bunk bed over the holidays, and one day while playing Super Nintendo I began listening to whatever Joe was blaring from the top bunk through his headphones utilizing a Sony Walkmen that was way more hi-tech than mine. It sounded….well, strange. Joe eagerly let me put the headphones on, started the track over, and this is what I heard.

And this was my first taste of alternative rock. Ever. Before that, I was all about Dwight Yoakam and Coolio. This opened a whole new dimension of music I only vaguely knew about, and I wanted more. Now, admittedly, Primus is a weird, weird band, so my first exposure to modern rock was probably outside the box (I remember watching an awards show a few months later and witnessing Live and Collective Soul win awards and wondering why they sounded so….safe). So Joe let me listen to Rage Against the Machine, and Weezer, and Tool, and the Deftones, and Toadies, and all these bands I still love today because they have a special place in my heart and were honestly bands that changed my life. And they’re all pretty different in their own way, but they all had something I had never experienced before. We spent hours in my bedroom that Christmas playing video games and listening to rock music, and it was glorious. And then I went out and bought Pork Soda, and Evil Empire, and Adrenaline, and Undertow, and Rubberneck, and the Blue Album, with my Christmas money. Within two years, I had every album from all those bands, and a whole lot more. By next Christmas, I was talking Primus trivia with Joe like I was a veteran who had seen them at Lollapalooza in ’94.

The albums I’ve named are mainly time capsules now, including Pork Soda; some have claimed their place in Important 90′s Albums lists, some are merely footnotes in a memorable rock band’s catalogue. But these albums, and this time period, are timeless to me. Nowadays, we see a sweeping abundance of love for the 90′s, everything adoring the decade I already knew was cool. Culture has a tendency to love things that turn twenty years old, but by the time they’re thirty, they might as well be forgotten. And some of these acts are going strong after hiatuses, some are doing one-off reunions, some are long gone, never to return. But I still love them all, whether inactive or a different incarnation or producing comparable mediocrity. Because of Christmas 1996 and my cousin Joe. Because that time was a huge musical transformation for me, which in my world means a huge transformation in general. And it all began sitting on a bunk bed in my childhood bedroom, wearing oversized headphones and hearing a bass guitar make sounds I’d never heard before from any contraption, musical or otherwise. And even today, when my taste has progressed, along with most people’s, into heavy electronics and hip-hop, this music from a decade I’m blissfully stuck in still sounds new. ┬áMusic I still adore, and blare just as loudly.

Bookmark and Share

Jan 10 2014

Top 50 Albums of 2013

50. Party Supplies – Tough Love

Party-Supplies-Tough-Love-Fools-Gold

Turns out this NYC duo doesn’t just make beats for Action Bronson. No one can argue that electro-pop is all the rage nowadays, so for Party Supplies to step in and join the fray might seem risky at first. But the glorious discovery of Tough Love is these guys might be competent and capable of almost anything. One listen to “Beautiful Girl” and you’ll be converted to Party Supplies’ new sound fairly easily.

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

Jan 9 2014

Top 200 Tracks of 2013

Below you will find my favorite 200 tracks of the past year, with a nifty Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure. There seems to be an unusually large amount of songs still not available on the service, however, and those tracks have Soundcloud/Youtube embeds after the jump within the complete list. Enjoy!

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

Jan 8 2014

Top 20 Remixes of 2013

Ciara-Charm-Woman-1-1080x1920

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

Jan 7 2014

Quarterly Review – October-December 2013

Once every three months I list the best of what I heard in albums/songs/remixes for the quarter. I do this to personally keep up with all the awesome music I hear, as it ultimately helps me at the end of the year when I do my overall listing for the previous twelve months. I also do it to introduce you cool cats to tunes you may have missed independently.

HAIM

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

Jan 6 2014

Year In Review: 2013

Who says 13 is unlucky?

This year, culturally speaking, was a major improvement upon the last year overall. This usually happens after a year containing a dearth of quality music, television, and movies. Not that 2012 was abysmal, by all means, but let’s just say this year’s lists were A LOT harder to make. As a whole, a large bulk of content you’ll find on this year’s best-of will likely stand the test of time a bit better than the material we were fed last year.

Also, I graduated from grad school, got a job at Facebook, made new friends, and things are swell more or less. There were ups and downs, and there is a long list of resolutions, and you know, things happened. 2013 was a moderate success. If it was a failure, I’d probably have more to write about, frankly.

So, without further ado, I welcome you to Culture Greyhound’s Year in Review for 2013, a year of very high highs and very low lows, a year of mediocrity and boring disappointment, a year of mind-blowing excellence. You know, a year.

Schedule:

Tuesday: Quarterly Review
Wednesday: Top 20 Remixes
Thursday: Top 200 Tracks
Friday: Top 50 Albums

On a final note, I would like to remind everyone about my always-streaming Internet radio station, Culture Greyhound Radio, which I add music to every week, new and old. Tune in!

That’s it. Happy New Year, everyone!

Bookmark and Share

Oct 9 2013

Quarterly Review – July-September 2013

Once every three months I list the best of what I heard in albums/songs/remixes for the quarter. I do this to personally keep up with all the awesome music I hear, as it ultimately helps me at the end of the year when I do my overall listing for the previous twelve months. I also do it to introduce you cool cats to tunes you may have missed independently.

Drake

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

Aug 26 2013

Tales of Junior High Vindication: An Essay About Why I Am Smart

It was probably 1999. Or the year 2000. 9/11 had not happened yet, I know that much. I was definitely in middle school/junior high. Once a week, I would venture over to Mr. Mayhew’s classroom for Gifted and Talented, or GT, which was some kind of special class for kids that were excelling at….creativity or something. I don’t know if you had this in your middle school program, but it basically seemed like a separation of the “smarter” kids from the “dumber” ones. I would, in hindsight, argue that this distinction was completely subjective and probably based on the teachers’ opinions; there are likely people that were in GT that were not gifted or talented at anything at this formative period in their lives, so GT is a bit of a misnomer, and I hope they still don’t call it that. A title like “Gifted and Talented” would probably go to a kid’s head, as would the exclusion of such a title. It probably went to my head, which is likely a contributing factor why I’m such a smug jerk now. Also, I don’t remember a single minority student in GT, and I was in GT for however long a kid was allowed to be in it, which I think was something like grades 3-8. So that’s notable, I think.

I loved GT because it got me away from regular classwork and it usually meant school was almost done for the day. We would work on creative projects or have lengthy discussions about current events. Mr. Mayhew was great at leading discussion. Overall, he was a great teacher. I had him for history and science classes as well, and the guy knew his shit. He was one of the few male teachers I had post-elementary that wasn’t a coach and wasn’t half-assing it or just reading an outline out of a textbook. He was a real teacher who gave a crap whether his students were learning. And he was cool too. On a GT field trip, he let a few of the boys, including myself, go into an R-rated movie, as long as he chaperoned. The movie was The Matrix. He wanted to see it too, I could tell, though he was pretty good at maintaining the “authority figure” role. He’d probably be up in my Best Pre-College Teachers list. Undergrad and graduate professors get their own list, of course, because they have an unfair advantage for a number of reasons.

I remember having a lengthy conversation with him about how the Matrix and the story of Jesus had similar storylines (Mr. Mayhew was very active in our youth groups and bible summer camps as a counselor and chaperone). This now seems obvious, and became so overwrought as the sequels came out that by the time the final one was released, I felt like it was just a predictable afterthought that Neo would die to save mankind. Because, you know, Jesus did that too. At the time, though, it was a revelation for me to discover thematic connections in cinema, even if they were pretty blatantly influenced by the most retold story of all time. I guess the summary of this entire paragraph is that the Matrix trilogy was an overwhelming disappointment and I still don’t think I’m over that.

Also, by that time no one was interested in my observant plot connections, because Passion of the Christ had been released, and who needs subtle narrative references when you can get your point across by showing a guy getting beat to death for three hours and call it a movie?

ANYWAY…..

So yeah, Mr. Mayhew was great. GT was great. But one day in GT, Mr. Mayhew made me very angry. Of course, he didn’t know it at the time. He probably still doesn’t know it. He may never know. No one knew it, because I was likely silent for the remainder of the class. I was likely seething.

The topic of discussion for this particular class was the Top 5 Inventions of All Time. Pretty broad, right? I suppose the parameters for qualification would be an invention that was a significant catalyst for society; it changed lifestyle, commerce, and everyday activities for the better and almost universally. This invention probably didn’t have to ignite this change overnight, but as time went on, and technology improved, the impact of this invention could not be ignored.

Many inventions immediately come to mind, and many were said in the discussion: the light bulb, the cotton gin, the telephone, the printing press, the wheel, the compass, penicillin. We weren’t really trying to make a solidified list, just discussing which inventions would be up for debate.

As the conversation progressed, I finally had thought of one no one had said. I immediately shot my hand up and was called by Mr. Mayhew. “How about the Internet?” I exclaimed proudly.

Mr. Mayhew chuckled, shook his head, dismissively said, “no,” and took the next suggestion.

I sat there, my mouth agape. Did he not want to hear my argument for the Internet? Why wasn’t this even being nominated? I wasn’t even saying it was in the final five, just that it was definitely up for consideration. I’d had the Internet at my parents’ house for about two years at that point, and it had completely changed my life. I had learned how to build websites, discover music easily, and create content. If this was happening for a 13-year-old in a small Texas town with a dial-up connection, who could disagree bigger things weren’t happening elsewhere?

Of course, this was, as I’ve said, 1999 or 2000 or whatever. The idea of the Internet completely transforming our lives was maybe far-fetched, especially for a guy in his forties who, as far as I could remember, didn’t even have a computer in his classroom. But maybe not just for him. Our school likely didn’t have Internet at this time. The word Google likely wasn’t a big thing yet. I doubt anyone in my class had a Myspace, myself included. CNN’s website looked like this, and that was considered pretty awesome. Who would’ve imagined what the Internet would become? How could anyone envision it?

Well I did. I did, Mr. Mayhew. At the time, I envisioned the Internet completely turning the world upside down. Commerce, business, communication, information, copyright, everything would be changed and modified because of this new technology. I remember broadcasting my first online radio station via Shoutcast on Winamp and thinking, “How is this legal?” I had already discovered Napster, which wasn’t an unknown entity at this point. How could anyone not see that this would forever threaten the notion of traditional intellectual property laws? How could anyone not see that our cell phones were inevitably going to get better to the point of having the Internet with us everywhere we go? Was it really so far fetched to believe, at the very least, our Internet connections were going to improve, that we could do decent comparison shopping and have our purchases delivered to us without ever leaving the house, that we would be able to connect with friends and relatives thousands of miles away within seconds at no additional charge?

Maybe it was from watching too many futuristic movies, maybe it was my fascination with Napster and the fact that I could listen to an alternative radio station in Atlanta in my parents’ living room, that I could continue to have lengthy conversations with a girl I met at summer camp. But I felt like the Internet would live up to its potential, that it would be bigger than Mr. Mayhew or anyone else in that GT class thought. I remember thinking that walking home, that I would be vindicated, that in ten years they would all see, that my suggestion wouldn’t be chuckled and dismissed outright. “They’ll see!” I probably screamed at the West Texas sky, my adolescent fists raised like some overdramatic villain from a Toonami cartoon. “They’ll all see! I shall be avenged!”

Of course, over a decade after this moment, the Internet is regularly a consideration when discussing the most important inventions of all time. What do we use every time a cashier swipes our credit card? When we pay our taxes or bills? When we check the score of the Cowboys game? When we want to know what’s happening in Egypt? When we purchase mutual funds? When we want to know how many US Presidents have been impeached? When we book a flight or plan a family vacation? When we want to find out what our high school sweetheart has been up to? When we want to compare the costs of Samsung TVs to Panasonic TVs before buying one? For some of these, there is still a brick-and-mortar method. But why make the trek when you can do it at your kitchen table in seconds?

And the funny thing is we don’t really think about how different life was in 1999. Because it doesn’t seem that long ago. The presidency of Bill Clinton and the scare of Y2K and the screech of a 56K modem and the popularity of Limp Bizkit don’t seem like far removed ideas. But technology has made 1999 primitive. We’ve had a cultural wave of 90′s nostalgia lately, culminating in NSYNC’s 60-second reunion at the VMAs last night. I suppose this post was inspired originally by a gif-heavy nostalgia trip from Buzzfeed called 25 Things That Were Totally Normal in 1999. I generally hate Buzzfeed and their “articles,” but they are great at what they do, which is garnering a shit-ton of pageviews through common interests and gifs. The relevancy lifespan of a typical Buzzfeed article is usually about a day, but I guess you could argue the same about an episode of the Daily Show, so whatever.

Then I started thinking about this piece of idealistic wisdom from Jim Carrey’s manic Chip Douglas in The Cable Guy, ideas that sounded exciting in 1996, but are typical uses of the Internet and interactive television in 2013.

Maybe it was this pearl of wisdom, that I had memorized verbatim, in a movie Carrey was paid an eight-figure salary for, that Ben Stiller directed, with supporting roles from millennium A-listers Owen Wilson and Jack Black, that I still think is Carrey’s most underrated role. Maybe it was this idea that compelled me to believe that in ten years the entire idea of the Internet would shift rapidly from fun time-killer to necessary workflow component. I guarantee if Mr. Mayhew were still teaching today, he would have a pretty sweet computer in his classroom. Probably an iMac.

So what is the purpose of this post? Two things:

1) I’m feeling pretty nostalgic lately, I guess, and gettting old, and not coping with it well.
2) I was totally right about the Internet, Mr. Mayhew. 13-year-old me would like a word with you.

Bookmark and Share

Aug 1 2013

Introducing Culture Greyhound Radio

Hello all,

Today is my 27th birthday. If you don’t know, now you know. In lieu of this amazing, incredible, revolutionary, historical milestone, I am sharing with you a pet project of mine I’ve been working on since March. Although I’m not sure if you’ll have any interest in it after about ten minutes, just know that I enjoy it very much, and that was the intended purpose. If you also enjoy it, hooray! We should be friends.

Culture Greyhound Radio is an Internet radio station broadcasting live from my dining room table on a dusted-off, stickered Toshiba that was just sitting in my closet for about three years. For you radio nerds, I’m currently rocking the latest, licensed version of SAM Broadcaster, my hosting is provided by ViaStreaming, and I’m legally broadcasting under royalty licensing coverage via Loudcity. That’s right. It’s legit. Musicians are getting paid, yo!

I’ve got a lot of programming and production things planned for the station, but for now, it’s playing a pretty current-heavy playlist rotation structure. As far as the music goes, I’m pretty thrilled with it, and I hope you like it too. Know that suggestions and comments are accepted and considered, but most likely ignored. It’s not that I don’t love you, I do, but if I don’t dig a track, it’s not going to play. This is not KTXT reincarnated, this is not KISS FM, this is not The Llano Idea, this is not WOXY 3.0. This is Ben’s station, and likely the only person in the world who will absolutely 100% love it is Ben. That said, criticism is welcome and encouraged.

Listen here on this ugly, soon-to-be changed Loudcity page (I’m required by law to send you here, and the picture as of this point is my cat, who is cute, yes, but if anyone wants to generously design a logo for me, that would be great). Additionally, I’m working on a page for the station, which you can find at the top of this page in the menu. To use an old-school-Geocities-Internet term, it’s currently Under Construction (insert stick figure with a hard hat on here).

Birthdays are a reason to celebrate, and although I’m keeping the festivities pretty low-key this year due to some current soul-searching and whatnot, nothing lifts my spirits like music: listening to it, writing about it, talking about it, sharing it. And music goes hand-in-hand with another one of my passions: radio. So the logical conclusion here is to connect the two and share it with you, and I truly hope you enjoy it. And thanks for listening.

Bookmark and Share