Wedding on the Hudson

“Why did we come to this wedding anyway.”

“Because it’s my family. We’d do the same for yours.”

Jose sat draped in a chair. His back curved downward so that the corners of his suit brushed the ground when he moved. He fiddled with his buttons.

Across from him Guadalupe shot a look. She reached out and grabbed his hand. Her fingers tearing his away from the buttons and locking together. She rested her free hand on his thigh.

He said, “I’m just being honest with you.”

His hand pulled away from hers in infinite small movements. Jose imagined the slow creeping of his hand back toward his chest and imagined the tightening of her grasp.

She scowled.

Jose felt his heart quicken. “Look Lupe there’s still time. We can still make it to that secluded spot in Maine I mentioned to you. To be alone. With each other.”

She shook her head, “Let’s dance.”

Jose sighed. He hated dancing. The dance floor made him feel like he was being watched. Members of her family observing him and noting his inability to perform certain moves. Noting his inadequacies so that later he could be told what he had done wrong. Or worse what he had failed to do right. None of that mattered anymore. He knew that no one was going to record his flailing and post it online. Caught in between a polka and a slow dance with Guadalupe he knew that no one would have ever uploaded him to YouTube anyway. That wasn’t how her family got you. Jose tripped over his left foot. The song died down and he caught himself before falling to the ground. He had been rambling to himself. Better to be dead then spend the rest of his life paranoid. Guadalupe reached her arm around his back and pulled him closer. He didn’t feel like killing himself and he wasn’t suicidal. That wasn’t why he was thinking about death. He looked at Guadalupe and promised that he wasn’t feeling suicidal without saying anything to her.

Everyone was feeling suicidal lately, he thought.

They danced like hipsters: over exaggerating their movements, generally pretending that their bodies were ironic canvassas for enjoyment, before collapsing into each other laughing. Guadalupe vamped. Jose stepped to the beat. They ran over to Guadalupe’s cousin John who was DJing. They babbled out of breath a music request. John nodded his head and then played something else instead.

Salsa came on and the older generation made their way to the dance floor. Jose suggested the open bar, but Guadalupe cupped her stomach.

“You can’t drink when you’re pregnant,” she scolded him.

“I don’t think that’s going to matter Lupe,” he said. He regretted, but hadn’t been able to keep his mouth shut lately.

“That’s not how responsibility works Jose. We got pregnant, so we’re having this baby,” she said.

“I know how responsibility works Guadalupe. I’m not suggesting we have an abortion. I’m suggesting the world is going to end before you have a chance to give birth to the baby.”

Tears were in the corners of her eyes and Jose reached inward to give her a hug. She resisted but he pulled her in and whispered in her ear, “Okay, we’re doing this.”

Then: “No one else knows you’re pregnant. If you want one drink your body can metabolize the alcohol and prevent it from affecting the fetus. You’re okay.”

Guadalupe let one gigantic sob wreck into his chest and then pulled her mouth so that it covered his. She kissed him deeply and with affection, a public kiss like their first as a married couple in St. John the Redeemer Church. The photographer had insisted they kiss repeatedly for the best shot. Guadalupe’s father had murmured while the photographer directed, trying to communicate with Guadalupe.

“Okay one passionate kiss, really lean in,” the photographer had said.

Her father had cleared his throat, “Lupe this isn’t appropriate in a church.”

People were dying. What had started out as the flu had started to grow more virulent. Over the course of a year the population of the United States had been cut in half. Most people had moved outward away from cities in an effort to be by themselves, to be away from other possible carriers. Jose had accumulated newspaper clippings from the major publications and shared them with Guadalupe. New York Times had written a long and rambling edition lamenting the end of the human race. On page 13A a small column from a lunatic scientist had declared it was safer to put distance between large cities. “Gigantic pools of incubation,” the quack had said. Jose had wanted to move away from the New York City area, farther at least than Westchester County, but Guadalupe wouldn’t leave her family.

“No one reads newspapers anymore. And this edition is clearly lunatic ravings,” Guadalupe had said.

Jose’s hand hovered over Guadalupe’s belly, but she pushed it away.

“Don’t give anyone ideas.”

Around them the family was in various states of shock. They had been a good Catholic family, but their faith had varied from fear mongering and constant prayer to outright apostasy. Tios and Tias cradled liquor bottles or children.

Guadalupe and Jose danced  but felt the night turning sour. Their breaths grew hurried. Guadalupe began openly weeping on the dance floor and pushed her head into Jose’s shoulder to hide her tears.

The music was modernized, the setting was altered from royalty and the rich, to Mexican family members who had scrounged together to throw one last wedding. Streamers spilled from the rafters of the country club that they had found with a working generator, papeles picados that some Tia had hidden away from her own wedding. The papeles  browned around the edges and looked worn. Children leapt and tried their best to knock them loose. People were dying.

At the door, two Tios stood with pilfered semi-automatic weapons, not using the weapons but standing in a way that showed they knew how to if anyone crashed the party. They didn’t know how to and had never fired a gun before in their lives.

A break in the music and a homemade cake was wheeled out to the center of the dance floor. Mateo in his dead father’s suit — the flu–and Pancha in her grandmother’s dress–who died in a retirement home at 95 unable to recognize her relatives when they came and visited her– stumbled out with a knife held jointly. They were drunk and giggling. Mateo stumbled for a second and Pancha caught him with a hand to his shoulder. Mateo’s eyes were red around the edges and his nose looked raw, he stifled a cough.

Jose couldn’t watch Mateo pretend he wasn’t sick. He turned to Guadalupe and grabbed her hand. “Can we go outside?”

Guadalupe nodded and he pulled her out into the brisk night. The golf course overlooked a slice of the Hudson River and the Palisades of New Jersey. Distantly from the very top of the cliffs a lone light shone fiercely.

“This wedding is just drawing attention to what some people don’t have,” Jose said.

Guadalupe squeezed his hand, “Don’t think about what’s happening anymore. That’s the point of this wedding too. I know you wanted to run. I know that I’m the only thing stopping you. Wouldn’t you rather die together?”

Jose shook his head, “Mateo is sick. Can people catch the flu if they’re in the same ballroom as someone who has it?”

Guadalupe sighed, “I don’t know. It’s complicated.”

Jose sat looking at the moon casting its bright light onto the water. He hadn’t wanted children so soon, and then hadn’t wanted to get pregnant at all after the first million people had died. There wasn’t a point at loving something that never stood a chance to live. Their child would either die along with Guadalupe or grow up even more fractured from its family than Jose was from his. Unless what it grew up with was the idea that solitude was the normal way of life.

Jose still loved Guadalupe though and it was easy to forget that the world was hard and that things were changing faster than he had time to catch up with while they were making love. She had told him that she was pregnant and they had both cried.

“Everyone in there tonight isn’t going to make it right?” Jose said mostly to himself. Guadalupe leaned her head on his shoulder.

“This baby is my hope,” she said and pulled his hand so it rested on her barely showing bump, “this baby wants to live.”

Jose shook his head and looked over at this wife. Across the water he imagined their life as it would have progressed before the epidemic, and then in his hand over her belly he imagined that same life flourishing now. His knuckles hurt from punching her brother.

“You made the right choice,” he said.

She shook her head at him.

“I wanted a chance to see everyone before…” Guadalupe stopped and started to sob. Her tears hit the back of his hand and he gasped for words. He let his head fall onto hers and forgot how to comfort her.

Inside the party erupted in good cheer as Pancha threw the bouquet and it landed on the floor. People were sitting and catching their breath, admiring the drunken show that Pancha and Mateo were making while trying to feed each other cake.

“No No No” : New Music from Beirut

There’s a special place in my heart for upbeat music that is lyrically depressing. That’s what I like to think of as melancholy pop. With new single “No No No”, what can only be a desperate cry against the world’s relentless onslaught of shit, Beirut delivers with a musically cheerful song that elevates moods, releases those dopamines, and makes you forget that he’s basically singing about personal tragedy.

On Amitav Ghosh’s “The Shadow Lines” + Intro to Reparations

When Magda was going back to her desk, she heard Denise say: See you outside, little wog.

Through 64 pages of Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines the reader is taken on a seemingly post racial back and forth between Calcutta and London. The hints of racial inequality are deeply hidden, obscured by the benevolence at which an upstart Pakistani family is taken in by a Marxist/Leninist London family. When the illusion is finally cracked by the shedding of a story of discrimination, the permissive term of wog and the bullying and beating of the female Ila, we’re made to know that this racial tension has been present throughout the novel.

Nig-nog, she said, filthy little nig-nog, and she stuck her fist into Magda’s mouth. Then she swung her hand back again. Magda shut her eyes, covered her face and waited. There was nothing else she could do; Denise was too strong for her.

The harassment story is told second hand, as if happening to a pretend daughter of Ila and the main character/narrator, and then ends with a fabrication. Ila is saved by the blonde haired boy, the epitome of white savior, the de facto stand in for England. Later in the novel she marries her blonde savior, a validation of her citizenship status that was a clash between the traditional values of the narrator’s grandmother and her new found English liberation. Her English symbol turns out to be a collector of foreign and wayward women and her marriage is revealed to be a sham. Could Ghosh so easily have meant this to be an extended metaphor for England’s relationship to its colonies abroad. England acting as the benefactor and granting English citizenship to any person willing to sacrifice their own cultural identity while doing the same for many other countries.

I’m concerned with the reaction that the harassment elicits in me (as a non Indian minority in the United States) and how this reaction stems from a similar place of discomfort to Azealia Bank’s call for full monetary reparations for the years of subjugation and slavery in the United States.

My own position as a Mexican/Indigenous minority in the United States, with anecdotal evidence such as the use of the term wetback/mojado by similar racial background teachers growing up, and the deep socioeconomic inequality in the borderlands between the United States and Mexico give me both a relation to verbal racist discrimination and systemic racist discrimination.

It took those people a long time to build that country; hundreds of years, years and years of war and bloodshed. Everyone who lives there has earned his right to be there with blood: with their brother’s blood and their father’s blood and their son’s blood. They know they’re a nation because they’ve drawn their borders with blood.

I. Borders don’t exist

Mexicans in the United States are asked to forfeit their cultural identity and align themselves with historical heroes who were not their cultural and ethnic forebears. The Rio Grande Valley in Texas was home to not simply one geographic and historical dispute but two. First begins the colonization of the Texas region of Mexico by racist and entitled Americans under the lead of Stephen F. Austin. These Americans squatted on land previously owned, coerced Mexican landowners to abandon land disputes through violent action, and then insisted upon their right to slave labor in direct violation of Mexico’s law. This dispute lead to increased migration from the United States in violation of the quota established by Mexico, and to the eventual war that would grant Texas independence.  This Texan independence is venerated as part of the state curriculum, taught to all backgrounds as a necessary break from the despotic tradition of the Mexican government. They were not allowed to practice and thus the white Americans had to take arms. Proof of this veneration can also be seen in the memorializing of the Alamo in San Antonio and the dialogue surrounding the battle. The Mexicans are seen as a demonic hoard, the Americans are heroes dying in battle and entombed in Catholic churches for ages and ages.

Following the independence from Mexico, a border dispute arises over the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. The United States enters into the war, marches down to Mexico city with the motive of capturing more land for their manifest destiny, and forces the Mexican government to hand over a large part of their northern territories. Though problematic, the claiming of land by one government from another government seems valid under the auspices of war. The issue develops under the Mexican citizens, who are not of European descent and speak Spanish rather than the Protestant and Northeastern English, that remain in the now United States. Laws are passed, in English, that force them from their land and negate any title claims that they have. They are de facto naturalized so that that United States government can initially legitimize their land titles, and then through inability to reassert the claim to the US government, the claims are passed to white American squatters.

Along the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande the Texas Rangers, who also have a museum in their honor in San Antonio, are employed to harassing Mexican landowners. The Texas Rangers often kidnap and murder Mexican male farmers, in order to apply pressure to the widowers and eventual grasp the land. This overt hacienda system continues until the 1960s when two men protesting the lack of non-white leadership in the majority Mexican Rio Grande Valley are accused of breaking out of jail and then lynched in punishment. The truth being they were detained for their protest, severely beaten by countless policemen, and then lynched as an example.

In 2015, the Rio Grande Valley is home to some of the poorest counties in the United States. Though things may be changing. In addition to the border checkpoint at the border there are two checkpoint stations where brown skinned people are asked to verify their citizenship “Are you an American citizen?” before passing into the rest of the United States. Anecdote: My father was once pulled over when driving my brother, myself, my two cousins, and my young aunt to school by a border patrol agent and asked if everyone in the car was legal. With passport in hand, myself and my Filipina wife have been asked by BP agents if we were American citizens. 

Though sitting on the border with Mexico and now requiring a passport to pass between the two countries– but only when returning to the United States, to enter into Mexico all you need is a quarter for the bridge– the border has never been along the Rio Grande river. Citizens of the RGV are ostracized politically and culturally by both sides. One only has to read Gloria Anzaldua’s La Frontera to know that citizens of the RGV are neither Mexican nor American.

Enclave groups though can reach a level of surface acceptance by making a space welcome for each other. As the circle gets larger, minorities have an easier grasp of aligning with each other and against a common oppressor. I am light skinned. In the Rio Grande Valley I was more often than not the white kid. Immediately upon entering NYU my place of origin, Mexican last name, and possible accent marked me as Hispanic. Beyond NYC I am able to feel solidarity with people of color facing oppression across the globe, which I have several times, most recently in Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.  Ghosh talks about exclusion and the xenophobic tactics that the majority employs to marginalize communities of color. Ghosh talks about proving citizenship and the steps that people of color take to reinforce their fervent nationalism at the expense of their own cultural identity, and the appropriation that sometimes occurs when aligning oneself with the majority, to be a part of that historical fight and to shed the literal blood that signifies otherness to belong to the adopted country.

Mexicans helped build the United States, but are given no credit but as oppressors, they have continually earned their right to be in the United States and to do what Eduardo Galleano says in Las Venas Abiertas de Latina America, to label themselves Americans alongside those of European descent but are a distant other, not inhabiting the world of modernity but neither the third world of aide and suffering.

The geopolitical border attempts to erase a history of genocidal actions against mestizo and indigenous populations living in the Rio Grande Valley, to erase the socioeconomic differences between whites in power and people of color in poverty, and to guilt and entrap those using any of the dearth of social services in a welfare-queen stereotype.


Hart of Dixie S04 : E02


Finally we see the amazing doctor Zoe Hart chide herself for being stupid about her romantic involvements. How can a female doctor be so unaware of her own cycle to get pregnant from a one night stand. And a broken condom is hardly believable. Or maybe hormones are ruling the day.

At least we get the charming Asian-American actor Ian Anthony Dale continuing his winning ways during his blog post interview by carefully finishing the end of what must have been a “you are a racist, namaste to you,” retort. But George and Levon continue to fight for the affections of Lemon, though neither has shown that they want to be with Lemon for any special reason other than because they can’t have her and because the other wants her. How would you even forget about being left at the altar? Do you just shrug your shoulders, pop the other person in the shoulder and say “oh you.”

And does anyone care to have a Paula Deen racist because of the time in which she grew up in (bullshit) around anywhere anymore. The response to Cricket’s recent turn to lesbianism is straight up bigoted South, and though it allows for a good burn in return, it’s tiring to see the rich white Southern gentry continue to work their way into the plot.

The episode seemed to have a shift in the writing style. Before where it dipped into reinforcing tired stereotypes of Southerners, this time the episode poked fun at the boring romantic circles. Zoe is accosted by a bunch of teenage girls reminding her about her failed relationships and she’s uncomfortable. Then she has to give a sex talk to those same girls who are texting about her love life. George is rebuffed at the flower shop for being a lothario, and Lemon gives Wade advice about winning Zoe over but immediately launches into it because she knows what problems he’s having.

The reveal of Henry Dalton being involved with someone else other than Lemon first feels like the constant neutering of Asian males as the romantic lead, but it turns out that he’s constantly wooing the woman that he loves. Score for 1) Asian males being allowed to love and be the lead and 2) representing the statistically least common interracial couple. Doing things right.

The episode ends with big reveals that keep the show moving away from endless love triangles, Zoe deciding to exclude Wade from the baby raising, George and Lavon deepening their relationship. Things are looking up.

What’s with people drinking beer to get drunk though? That’s hard liquor you’re after.

Hart of Dixie : Season 4 Ep 1

In other words the return of Hart of Dixie and the can’t look away quality. Why am I still watching this show? Is it because antebellum has charm– feels the basis for a large part of Apple Pie Americana that both those firmly entrenched in their citizenship and those looking out aspire to– those accents are overwhelming. Is it because Rachel Bilsen is supposed to be performing as an East Coast elite transplanted to a small Southern town where her biases can run wild.

Well jokes on Zoe Hart. For all her East Coast education and career aspirations, our intrepid doctor has found herself pregnant because of a reckless one night stand over a boy that she has just gone crazy over. (I have extolled the virtue of this show to my wife, and the first episode of the season I tried to get her caught up and found myself mostly repeating, “Zoe was in love with George, and George was engaged to Lemon, but that didn’t work out and Lemon was secretly in love with Levon, but AB fell in love with Levon…”) The whole episode was a run down of romantic entanglements.

Lemon is using a handsome half-Asian doctor to fool her grandmother into leaving her alone. Wade and Zoe are going back and forth with their love proclamations because they’re both afraid of getting hurt. George and Levon are competing, just with themselves, through a thinly veiled fire department ruse, to see who can win over Lemon. Who cares that the situation could be resolved just having a conversation with Lemon about who she wants to be with, if anyone, it’s not like Lemon doesn’t have a choice…. oh wait because her grandmother is forcing her onto cruises where there are eligible men for her to date. Okay so she has no choice but she couldn’t do wrong picking George the town lawyer… who left her at the altar. Or she could pick Levon who she loves and has loved and is the mayor of the town… oh but he’s black.

Which brings me to the final piece of tragedy that is Hart of Dixie. What started as a promising look at East Coast stereotyping, women working in sexist and patriarchal professions and towns, and of course how Southern charm isn’t just staid and racist, has devolved into a soap opera with unwed pregnancies forcing decisions, meddlesome grandmothers who seem enlightened and charming on the surface but deep down you know they’re secretly racist, and Lesbians being asked “So how long have you been attracted to me?”

Hopefully this season wraps up the series without too many forays into how backward, sexist, racist, and irresponsible Southern people are.

I am not hungry.

Why do we lie about our eating habits? Why do we pretend that we don’t enjoy shitty high calorie food and drinks? That we don’t sometimes get so depressed that we eat entire quarts of ice cream. That sometimes we were so thirsty for both water and sugar that we bought 2 L sodas just for ourselves and we drank them completely and in one sitting.

When we’re asked so frequently how we ate we don’t remember the gorge but instead we remember the famine. But why lie about consumption habits, why feel shame about the things that kept us hungry in the past, or the ways in which we act to ensure we aren’t hungry in the future?

Last night walking home I heard a man talking into his phone saying,”All I’ve had today is a chicken wing and some fries. That’s all. Just a wing and some fries.”

He repeated it multiple times and it was the clear focus of his conversation. In Brooklyn and in Queens, I’ve often wondered if the person next to me in the bodega or fried chicken restaurant is spending their last dollar. Is that soda they’re grabbing the last attempt at sugar for the week/month/indeterminate time? How many times have I been in the same situation? Knowing that my bank account had an impossibly low number 2.29, and I was going to buy one thing from Duane Reade and hope that I could make it until I had more.

In what ways am I hoarding calories because I’m worried that there will be none further down the line?

Why do our conversations revolve around this lie about food? When my parents call me the first thing they ask is “have you eaten today?” And I lie and tell them that I have eaten, that I will eat, or that I am in a state of comfort because I am perfectly taking care of myself and they don’t need to see the large amount of plastic bottles of which I ashamed that I have accrued because I’m living in an attic and I have no access to a kitchen? That I have troubles recycling because of the anxiety of knowing the shitty life choices that I’m making. That poverty is my fault, that my inability to save money and eat regularly is further my fault, and that the only thing I can do to fix it is completely reevaluate my life and aspire to something that feels increasingly foreign, increasingly distant.

When my parents call they ask me “why do you feel the need to run so much?”

Only after they’ve asked me, “Did you eat today?”

Five Albums I Overlooked

Happy Holidays from RUN DMC

I’ve found that I use end of year lists not for arguing over the merit of who deserves to be number one but instead as a treasure chest of new artists that I may not have heard of or albums that I completely forgot I was supposed to check up on. I love end of the years lists, I do not appreciate review sites that think they’re above writing real lists because haha it’s funnier to make a joke list (fucking Vice).

I made both my contributions to year end lists contain the same albums. At I wrote about my continued obsession with The Preatures and the Rural Alberta Advantage, my respect for Run the Jewels, and newfound love for The Generationals (because I didn’t like Heza) and Pillar Point (because I miss Throw Me the Statue when I let myself feel). And then over at I went boring instead of revolutionary and I turned in my 160 characters for Run the Jewels and The Preatures, both bands that deserve repeated mention.

Then searching through I noticed the albums that I left off: left off because I worry that I will be judged about loving an EP as my favorite of the year or because I completely forgot it happened this year. I would bet, but am not willing to look into it, that most of my best of albums came out in the latter half of the year. So here are 5 additional albums that I apologize for leaving out:

1. Teen Men – Apartment In the City

Look this album is free so just get it for that reason. More than that Teen Men are creative within pop, a genre that usually has so many record label restrictions that by the end you’re left with a mish mosh of a song. Apartment in the City was a delightful four-piece story that felt lighthearted while at the same time exploring melancholy topics (such as hiding records so as not to get in trouble). The constant shtick of the band about questioning whether or not you’re a teen man is more than just funny joshing about maturity levels, it’s about reveling in the period of your life when you could explore different feelings, different sonics, and be unashamed about your music choices. Apartment in the City was the brilliance of the Taylor Swift demo’s that were included on the deluxe edition before Ryan Tedder ruined it by making it generic pop. But instead of going back to listen to T.Swift share some love for this indie band.

2. Caught a Ghost – Human Nature

The first time I heard Caught a Ghost I turned to my girlfriend (texted) and told her that I discovered the greatest Los Angeles band she never saw. This is a running joke between us because she spent a year in Los Angeles and I’m fiercely defensive of NYC (if you want to get on my radar LA bands move to NYC). The joke was brought out in me though because when bands blend genres, or challenge the music scene by doing something different in an original way, they catch my attention. Human Nature is soul music if soul music had a continued narrative. Earlier in the year I interviewed Eli “Paperboy” Reed and I felt that he was trying to revive soul & gospel by tacking on that terrible prefix neo and leaving it at that. Every music genre has evolved and picked up where the previous decade left off, so why does soul have to gather up this meaningless prefix. Caught a Ghost makes deeply emphatic soul music, haunting in it’s deliberateness. They’re music is new but carries a weight of previous work.

3. COOKIES – Music For Touching

I have no idea how to touch people. I get uncomfortable when someone leans in for a hug, I note when an overly touching coworker places their hand on the small of my back so that they can pass behind me, and despite coming from Spanish culture I am incredibly nervous before leaning in for a nice to meet you cheek kiss. For that reason I’m drawn to music that so easily explains what is usually a individual experience in a universal way. COOKIES made music that explained touching to me in a romantic and heartfelt way, never losing sight of the line between incredible intimacy and R. Kelly everything is sexual. The songs on Music For Touching were longing, desiring, fulfilled, anticipatory, melancholy, but always suggesting that love is in the million ways that humans interact and touch each other.

4. Awkwafina – Yellow Ranger

2015 is going to be the year that I get back into hip-hop. 2014 was a good year for hip hop but it was overshadowed by all the crazy and fancy beef that happened. Last December I was excited for another Roots album, and then I completely forgot that happened until I read Questlove’s book and it popped back into my head. Hip hop was exciting not because of the constant drama between Iggy Azalea (wrote about that before other people) and Azealia Banks– who cares who had the better album people might say. That got the conversation started and Awkwafina should be part of the conversation. I still wonder about her content, her latest song on MTV’s Girl Code makes me think that Asian rappers who are rapping from experience are going to be representing pretty typical suburban experiences and privilege, but her clever deconstructions on “My Vag” and “Queef” songs that lift up female genitalia and bodily function, the questioning on “Yellow Ranger” give me hope that Awkwafina will lean away from fart joke rap and toward social conscious rap with humor.

5. Little Daylight – Hello Memory

I waited so long for this album. I saw Little Daylight open up for Charli XCX in Spring 2013, and I patiently waited for an album. They performed their hit song “Overdose” on The Late Show with Seth Meyers and I patiently waited for an album. And then I saw them again at Firefly Festival and Governors Ball, and there was still nothing. “Name In Lights” and “Overdose” were bombastic electropop tunes, just waiting to usher in a perfect album. And then of course the album came and it was glorious and gloriously over listened to, so that I had to slap my hand away to remind myself to diversify. The album was every bit as good as the lead singles, loud and exuberant electropop with a thrashing dance middle and even louder vocals.

Big Freedia But There’s More I Want to Ask

Big Freedia over at Quip

That’s out of the way. A brief history of my interaction with Big Freedia includes:

  • Discovering her as a guest vocalist on a Spank Rock track (here) wherein she discusses “pussy popping”
  • Discovering that she was performing at an Afropunk show (here) and subsequently being told by my girlfriend that she was going to suffer from heat stroke if we didn’t leave Commodore Berry soon.
  • Lamenting the lack of interview request before Big Freedia became the twerk ambassador
  • Being 20 minutes late for the big twerk in record in New York City
  • Noting the big twerk in record in New Orleans
  • Researching interviews for the interview I finally got which ended up being a possible segment on the reality show, which limited the interview to 8 minutes and tongue tied the more aggressive questions I may have had

Which leads up to the production of the Quip interview which I consider to be a formulaic flop. There’s nothing in there that couldn’t be had anywhere else, except a shout out to Glasslands which everyone is sad that they’re closing. (They were on Girls! How can this be happening? Why can’t you save our favorite venue Allison Williams!?) The questions are interesting if I just pushed them a little farther.

How do you listen to bounce when you can’t be dancing = How has bounce become accessible by your exposure and by releasing a record of original music that melds the bombastic Freedia style with studio production.

You just have to be dancing, cleaning, or when you want to get turnt up. = The music is evocative. Even if you’re not dancing, or in no position to dance, it creates in you the desire to get up and move your body. There’s nothing limiting about your space or comfort, it just asks you to be a little proactive and add more movement to your life.

How do you create such female friendly spaces around sexually explicit songs = You’ve said that you aren’t Rick Ross, that you want to create a space for women to dance without some man getting up in their space, etc etc but you’re singing about popping pussies, and you even said the music was sexual (here). And I’m not saying that I don’t feel that strong female presence but maybe explain it to me a little bit.

We’re making music for the dance floor not the bedroom, and people just need to understand that. = (Okay so this may have been the most frustrating answer because honestly you can’t go back on saying that the music and dance style is sexual and then say shit like this. You have to explain it.) It’s about shifting the conversation away from trying to police women’s body by saying “oh she’s being so sexual,” and instead saying “why are men acting like they want to rape a woman because she’s sexually expressing herself in public. This isn’t the bedroom where mutual consent has been given, this is the dance floor and she just wants to shake her butt.”

That’s it. There was a question I asked about Spank Rock, who I will hound until I get an interview with, but she basically said what I’d been thinking anyway. Spank Rock is awesome to work with, and most people get a sense of confusion because he’s a skinny little black boy and he’s making aggressive music.

Songs for Getting Over Zooey Deschanel


It isn’t because anyone was wrong in the relationship, or for ending it. It’s because there was perfection in a relationship between an indie melancholy folk hero and the sugar retropop quirky girl heroine. It’s because their marriage imbued so many of ours lives with purpose. The musically talented gets the pretty girl and the musically talented gets the pretty boy is the storyline we all wanted to believe in.

In honor of Ben Gibbard’s birthday and the clear love that he experienced when married to the adorable Zooey D, I give you the top five songs for getting over Zooey Deschanel.

There was a time when Ben was lacing up his sneakers and going out for long runs with only the sound of his wife in his ears. Instead of She & Him the rest of us are running to the first track in the playlist.

1. Transatlantacism – The Reflective Stage

Long distance runners know it isn’t all about the fast songs. Like with love it’s the slow build that gets you in a groove and makes logging kilometers that much easier. Things have just ended–“I’m standing on the surface of a perforated sphere when the water filled every hole”– and every thought is about the relationship, remembering every detail, every incident that brought you to where you are. Until finally you’re shouting “I need you so much closer! I need you so much closer!” The song crescendos in cacophony as you finally give up.

2. I’ll Follow You Into the Dark – Love is Dead

Ben isn’t singing about the actual death of a person, but the moment when love dies in a relationship. It’s the perfect introspection, where do you go when the feelings you once had are gone, you try looking for them and instead finding yourself slipping into depression. “Just our hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a spark,” but the waiting is pointless and so our hero just “follow(s) you (love) into the dark (depression).” Okay it’s a stretch, but damn this video is so depressing and it needs more views.

3. You Can Do Better – Acceptance

“I’m starting to feel that we stayed together out of fear of dying alone,” and there’s an odd joy in owning up to the failure and moving beyond. The moment is profound and jangly, music swells, and epiphanies abound, “sometimes I think of leaving but I know I never will, because you can do better than me but I can’t do better than you.” It’s short and it’s sweet but it’s the revelation that hurts the most because love is filled with so much respect and support for the heart of the person you love but it has no time for your own once you get heart broken.

4. Home Is a Fire – Nostalgia after Acceptance

Everything is the same but nothing is the same. Home is where the heart is and in loving situations it resides with someone else, so what happens when they take it with you? “Home, home is a fire, a burning reminder, of how we belong, love… with walls built up around us, the bricks make me nervous, they’re only so strong love.” Going back to the beginning to reexamine once again why everything was the way that it was and what remains to be salvaged among the debris of a broken home.

5. Tiny Vessels – The Fuck You Stage

At the Beacon Theater in New York City a couple years ago my girlfriend and I saw Death Cab for Cutie. When Ben began this song there was a magical moment brewing and when he launched into “you’re beautiful, but you don’t mean a thing to me” a telepathic moment was shared between my girlfriend, myself, and Ben Gibbard. We were on his side in that moment and felt the aching of his heart, “you can get through this,” we whispered, and we clasped our hands so tight that we thought our own hearts would explode for fear of disappointing this man.

But happy birthday, it’s all in the past. It’s not the same we all know, because getting two presents on Christmas, whether it’s the exceptional Codes & Keys or the (mostly) excellent New Girl, it just isn’t the same without having everyone together. Because it’s Ben Gibbard, and damn maybe it’s okay to be sad for a little while.



Craft Spells Interview


It’s rare that interviews go the way that I want them to when I have limited time with the artist. But then I find someone who is extremely introspective, thoughtful about not only the process of creating music, but also their own process and space.

Justin Vallesteros’ Interview was that quick 7 minute perfect moment. It was initially difficult to get a hold of him because Warsaw in Brooklyn is a loud venue. You can watch soccer before the sets, enjoy a braut, or head into a designated section to drink but it is always loud. When I did catch him we went outside to take a smoke break.

True confession about a lot of my writing and interview interests: I like artists who are doing different and unique styles even if I don’t like their music. I respect them for that challenge of exploring without the safety net. I’m also extremely interested in people of color who are successfully creating. I preference them because as a kid growing up in a largely Hispanic neighborhood with largely Hispanic culture and family life, the aspirations that I was pushed toward were primarily family and then distantly science and engineering. Bands and groups of POCs give that hope that despite your situation you can try something different.

In this case though, from one halfie to another (Justin is half Filipino) I had a little bit of fun pronouncing his name the way that it should be pronounced and then being corrected with the comment “it’s a small town in Spain.” He told me a little bit about growing up the son of a DJ, how infected his early music stylings were with certain music, and the love story between his Filipino father and European mother.

More importantly he was able to engage and talk about his art in a short amount of time. I’ve seen other interviews where his answers are similar, as the questions are, and normally I would be upset that some other site was getting the attention, but it’s mostly Justin here just being a smart guy.

He also told me that Pitchfork could go fuck itself. So there’s that.

Father’s Day, Baseball, & Things You Don’t Expect When You Aren’t In America

In 2004 my father and I started listening to Houston Astros baseball together. At this point we’d moved out of what we lovingly referred to as “the shack” and into the mobile home that was my grandparents until they moved into the city. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why they moved out. It could be because my Tia, and their youngest, had just gotten quickly married out of high school and more quickly pregnant and they just couldn’t be apart. Or it could be because an accusation of sexual molestation had been made against my brother and it disrupted whatever tenuous relationship was in place between the three families, my father’s, my Tia L., and my Abuelo and Abuela, living on the same acre.

We lived 2 miles outside of the small town of Hargil (home to Gloria Anzaldua), 15 miles outside of Edinburg, in the county of Hidalgo, in the Rio Grande Valley, on the border with Mexico in Texas.  Though we’re on the Texas side of the border, each highway that moves north eventually bottlenecks into a border patrol checkpoint as you exit the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). Hidalgo is one of the top 10 poorest counties in the country. Two of the other five counties in the RGV are also on that list. McAllen, Edinburg’s sister city, has been in the New York Times for the reportedly high costs of healthcare. Raymondville, another small city in the RGV, has been in Rolling Stone for the amount of immigration detention centers that have sprouted over the last decade. In the RGV the news is bad.

In 2004 my parents were out of work. My father had been living with a disability for the past five years and was unable to work. My mother was in and out of part time jobs, and was trapped inside a Catch-22 system. If she worked and made a certain amount of money (not enough) her husband’s health insurance would be cut along with his disability pension.

For the entire year and until I graduated high school and moved to New York City for college we would live through periods of having electricity and not having electricity. As a family we would spend time outdoors until it got too dark, go inside and then go into our separate bedrooms, turn on kerosene lamps and be alone. My mother and brother always went in first. Outside we attached two ends of a stripped electrical cord onto the car battery and listened to Milo Hamilton and the Houston Astros.

I don’t know if my father still loves the Astros, but that season I became a lifelong fan. It was an up and down season, the Astros would go on a winning streak and pull into one or two games out of the wildcard or the division lead. Then they would lose back to back series and fall out of contention. Up until the end of the season I listened patiently and with expectation as the Astros ping ponged the standings. That season they didn’t make the playoffs, but the next one they would. And somehow I caught the playoff game that went into extra innings and was saved by late inning heroics and multiple homeruns.

The Astros taught me about being unsuccessful though. They thought me about how things don’t go your way but you can’t give up on your family no matter the circumstances. It wasn’t poverty that taught me how to survive, poverty made me bitter more often than not, poverty made my stomach empty and my views on life disillusioned. It was listening to the Astros with my father, hoping they’d turn it around go on a magnificent run and make the playoffs.

Even if after three straight 100-loss seasons I never quit on the team. It’s good to see the losers winning. It’s good to see a team over performing what everyone ahs said they would.

The RGV can turn it around if it doesn’t give up on its roots and its culture. The xenophobia towards Mexican immigrants is ignorant and displaced. There is a reason the Clintons grew by canvassing in the RGV along the border. It’s potential that they saw, and potential that keeps so many people consistently going back, whether in actuality or in writing or in self reflection, because despite being mired in a streak of losing, we can all really turn it around and exceed expectations. My father felt it with me those late nights, and even if things haven’t gotten better for any of us, they’re slowly improving just like the Astros. We will get there.

How Solid Is Your Box? : Animated Short Sketch

Setting: A Monogamous Relationship

Characters: 1 Male / 1 Female

We find two characters trapped inside a closed box. The box is transparent but the edges are solid lines. The characters can exit and enter when they want but they must do it by pressing against their respective edge like a door. At times each person takes a moment to turn their back on the other. And at times their backs are touching or separated by inches.

In the beginning our two characters have separate boxes in dash outline. They move freely out of their own boxes into a void and then back in. For whatever reason our two characters begin to move closer together. As they decide to move closer, they begin to occupy the same box, but their edges are still fluid and they’re able to enter and exit as they please. They can both occupy the space, coexist, or the box can go empty.

As time progresses our lines become definite and doors are attached to each end. Now instead of being able to move indiscriminately through the box, each character prefers to stay in more than go out. Infidelity, happening to our characters, happens when a back is turned.

Turning backs represents a blind faith in the solidity of the box and a faith in the others choice to stay in the box even when attention is not present. Our characters are unhappy. While one has a turned back the other steps out and visits the incomplete box of another, bringing that neighbor closer. Longer periods of turned backs (absence) results in double infidelity, the other partner also begins to step out.

Finally the extra characters are invited into the original intimate box behind the backs of the original characters. Space becomes tighter and even though each character is more intimately thrust together, it is a paranoid tightness of trying to look over the others shoulder.


Hart of Dixie

Girl is just not interested in Wade's attempt to dress up to impress her

I didn’t start out on Wade Kinsella’s side and I definitely didn’t start Hart of Dixie thinking it would have the main character Zoe Hart reduced to a blubbering mess of hormones. Zoe Hart first season was about becoming successful enough to rock a prestigious fellowship in New York City. Her career path only momentarily diverted because of “lack of experience”, which makes any post grad groan, and the need to bring her character into conflict by superimposing her prissy East Coast sensibility onto the small Southern town of Blue Bell, Alabama. While in Blue Bell she falls for the local lawyer (only lawyer?) and destroys his marriage, has a fling with the local lothario and breaks his heart.

The third and current season found our characters dealing with the aftermath and developing as people into fully functioning adults who don’t constantly think about their soul mates and have fulfilling activities outside of lust and love. Wade Kinsella is the owner of the oddly charming and popular Rammer Jammer, because the unequivocally Southern boy needs to discover that what makes him driven is marketing what makes him attractive (and attractive to Zoe Hart), the lawyer has actually recovered enough to be a lawyer again (no change here: George just gets to be George again), and Zoe Hart is working as an associate in the practice she used to own and buying a house with the love of her life. Despite the fact that we don’t get to see much medical practicing by the esteemed Dr. Hart and that even with a love of her life it feels as if any placeholder could be the love of her life. Joel, the writer and equally Zoe Hart obnoxious about the novelty of the South, doesn’t put up a fight in the season finale when Zoe declares her love for Wade. He gives in without a fight, no protests, and proclaims that he will forever be her best friend. These two almost bought a house. Too easy there Joel, love of your life stuff doesn’t quite work this way.

There's apparently a motif of pouring food on Wade in this show

The real problem with the season finale and why I’ve come around to the Wade Kinsella character is this: Zoe wanted nothing to do with him until he proved that he was successful by her standard. Socioeconomic class doesn’t get discussed often enough in the United States. Even when it does it’s readily dismissed by the throwaway phrase “class warfare.” In Hart of Dixie, even though it’s never said, Wade Kinsella comes from working class to poverty and Zoe Hart come from upper class privilege. Wade is representative of the more common level of poverty that exists in the Southern United States, complete with trailer home living ex-wife and alcoholic good for nothing father, and Zoe comes from East Coast elite prep-school, ivy league educated, even when she discovers her Southern roots they’re a successful doctor. The flimsy premise of the show is summed up in the disparity between the two characters. Wade is initially depicted as lacking motivation and drive; he’s the bartender at the Rammer Jammer with no interest in changing. His actions are impulsive and without hesitation– he sleeps around with just about every woman in Blue Bell. Whereas Zoe is using Blue Bell as a stop gap for her career, she can’t bring herself to date the local lawyer because he lacks worldliness (or because of his own brief stint in New York City), the love of her life options his book into a movie, and she stays on in Blue Bell because if she didn’t practice medicine she would absolutely lose it.

Wade and Zoe date. Wade then swears off sleeping with multiple women and cheap thrills. Wade wins a large sum of money and is able to purchase a stake of ownership in the Rammer Jammer. He cheats on Zoe and their relationship ends when she heads back to New York City. Here’s what’s not being said: Wade’s behavior must be influenced by the family relationship in which he was raised. His father doesn’t have aptitude or ambition; Wade is able to hold down a steady job, a steady job in which he’s surrounded constantly by the alcohol that undid his father. Wade’s mother is absent. Wade’s father lives somewhat abstractedly in the woods; Wade has held constant tenancy with the mayor of Blue Bell. In poverty and working class situations, where families are living paycheck to paycheck, there is a tendency to move frequently. If you can’t afford the rent in one home/apartment, then you move into another one where you think you can for a little while, but poor decisions force you to move again. It’s a cycle that gets repeated and creates a sense of inconsistency. Inconsistency is extremely disturbing to children, it motivates lower grades in school and poor behavior outside of it ie low aptitude and impulsive decisions which Wade displays by only being a bartender and one night stands. Wade has provided consistency for himself though in keeping the same home. Further Wade was able to prove to himself that it wasn’t talent that was lacking in keeping him from success; it was merely application.

Back to the season three finale: Wade has developed the Rammer Jammer into a cultural hub of Blue Bell. He’s even found ways to coral extremely hip bands to come play the bar (if anyone wants to fill in the blanks here in the comments I would appreciate it my music mind skips over country and won’t hold it) including The Head and the Heart and Miner. He has begun dating a woman who has a son from a previous marriage (nevermind that it’s Zoe’s cousin) and is displaying the emotional maturity to comfortably start a family and his life. Wade has overcome the personality habits imbued by the low standards of his father and is in a position to be both happy and successful.

Zoe has begun to fill her life with meaningless dalliances and matchmaking while completely ignoring her practice. What has become of our aspiring Manhattanite? What has become of the woman who wanted to come to a Southern town and make an impact with her medical skill? Nothing. She wanders about trying to set x up with y, including her former lover George the lawyer with the woman whose wedding her affair ruined. Zoe though is solidly stubborn and confident (the personality traits that her upraising has probably imbued upon her c.f. her mother). She does what she wants and she does it when she wants.


Finally, Wade is given a chance to further market the only thing that has made him successful– his Southernness, by a woman from Atlanta who is looking to turn the Rammer Jammer into a national chain. (Wasn’t this a story line on House of Cards? I remember Southern food and a troubled individual who had only his excellent food to offer with a deal that eventually didn’t fall into place.) Wade has exceeded his own initial expectations already by turning his bad habits into an emotional maturity that allows him to potentially fall in love, by successfully running the Rammer Jammer and expanding upon its success, and now he has the opportunity to go above and beyond that. The poor Southern boy has finally met the standard of the upper middle class surburbanite and is worthy of her declaration of love.

Wade turns down the offer and the budding romance between the two is left up for discussion as the season comes to an end. What Hart of Dixie is ignoring in the force romance between Zoe and Wade and why Wade is ultimately the compassionate character of the show is this: poverty is hard to overcome and statistically the growth across generations is slight (an increase in 5% or so in relative income) thus standards of success should be measured relative to the person’s socioeconomic place and what that offered them in terms of advancement ie poor kids often go to poor schools and have less examples of success or mentors available to offer guidance navigating entry into college and advancement. Zoe’s growing infatuation with Wade’s growing success is shallow and ignores the dignity of Wade’s struggle and success.

Hart of Dixie should be reaching to tell an often ignored story, a story that would inevitably imbue the show with deeper characterization, provide the touch of authenticity that they’re reaching for with the inclusion of Wade Kinsella’s character, and mold the poor boy/rich girl plotline into something with substance. Interacting with people different than us and with different backgrounds, allows us to experience variation and grow in understanding, not to ignorantly hold them up to the same standard and mold as the one we come with.

I’m rooting for Wade Kinsella to uphold his own dignity and avoid the trap of falling for someone who loves who he could be and absolutely not who he is. I’m rooting for Zoe to have even a moment of introspection and realize that what appeals to her about Blue Bell is something authentic rather than a cultural and economic slumming.

(I’m of course ignoring the role that race plays on socioeconimc status and unfortunately there is almost no place for it in a piece about Hart of Dixie because it appears that there is only one black person in the whole town. The mayor. Everyone else who is black is somehow connected to mayor ie the former high school sweetheart’s father.)

“I’m a fancy bitch, but I’m ratchet”



The struggle is real for white rappers and the narrative is forming around how hard it is for them to break into the hip hop scene. Struggle is a common thread in hip hop, you wouldn’t have the boastfulness of Jay-Z if it wasn’t for the struggle with selling dope that helped him dominate the game; “Straight Outta Compton” exploded on the scene because it was visceral and real; Kendrick Lamar’s successful mixtape “Section 80” was a concept album detailing the socioeconomic conditions of living in slums. Even eventual commercially successful indie rap artist Macklemore has the “first successful independent release to make it to the top of iTunes” story to accompany his game.

Iggy Azalea, a white female rapper, has already entertained the questions of how being white has made it harder for her to break into the scene, how being a female has led to violations at her concerts, and the inevitable talk about her “ass game.” She has latched onto race as her compelling narrative. Inside of her music her lyrics are mentions (and in some cases homage, “Fancy” begins with what has to be a reference to Nikky Minaj’s shocking opening verse on “Monster”) to how difficult it has been to be white. Her answers to criticism are often times post-racial color blind phrases: “The narrative that I can tell, is not the narrative that someone like Angel Haze can, and I would never try to. I can do a video parodying Clueless and she can’t.” Angel Haze, a friend according to Azalea, has released a mixtape where she discusses being sexually abused as a child over Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet.”

“First things first I’m the realest,” Iggy begins on “Fancy” in the call and response defensiveness that pervades hip hop. She has to signify that she’s not just a novelty as a white female rapper, she feels the need to defend her own perceived status as a minority within hip hop. We need the struggle and we need to be reminded that her struggle isn’t to be dismissed for her art to be more than mainstream. Focusing on the race issue though positions Iggy in a comparative position, her struggle must be held up against what she’s struggling against (“still stunting how you love that/got the whole world asking how I does that”) and what she’s struggling against is that a minority dominated genre is having difficulty accepting her. This becomes her most common theme: space needs to be made so that more white rappers can successfully infiltrate the scene. It’s too hard for them right now. What Iggy (and Macklemore) don’t understand is that their race makes them both more marketable and more palatable, their success is easier not harder because the target audience (what brings in money) is not hip hop purists who are going to bristle at her race, but the suburban kids who fuel consumption.

It’s hard to get a sense of what Iggy’s actual struggle to be successful was and whether that did include struggles with poverty, sexual abuse, or situations beyond her control. The closest intimacy that’s given is the repeated lyrics “no money, no family/sixteen in the middle of Miami,” an allusion made in both “Don’t Need Y’all” and “Work” (quite possibly the most genuine song on The New Classic.) She scrubbed floors, worked three jobs to pay for a plane ticket to fly to Miami at the age of 16 after failing out of her schooling, and when working on her albums had to sleep in the studio. This is the compelling struggle, not the allusions to how difficult the game is. Her attitude is rubbing against critics who will either never accept her narrative as compelling because she isn’t black or will only accept it when she stops pretending like being white made it hard for her to tell her story.

Iggy Azalea is talented though, and much of the criticism is leveled at the shame that her talent can’t be directed in a more socially conscientious fashion. Her music videos are filled with excellent examples of how struggle for females to make money, to achieve success, is filled with objectification and sexually compromising positions. Amanda Blank’s work with Spank Rock (and her lone solo album) are excellent examples of positive female charged sexuality, employed in a way that empowers females rather than continues the trope of objectification. Iggy Azalea should not need to answers questions, somewhat uncomfortably, about how her “ass game” has helped to soothe critics who don’t think she can be in rap or about her bedroom style and where she falls on the porn star spectrum. Again it’s “Work” that begins with “walk a mile in these Louboutins/they don’t wear these shits where I’m from.” It’s an immediate illusion to her socioeconomic class (probably not wealthy) and the expectations heaped on her because of her gender. Her best line, “Valley girls giving blowjobs for Louboutins/What you call that?/Head over heels,” discusses the extreme desperation (and depravity) that women feel to achieve a certain material level. Iggy’s best lines are describing the ways in which women are pushed to commodify their bodies to achieve advancement or material gain.

Iggy Azalea clearly has promise with her heaps of talent. The problem of comparing narratives won’t prevent her from achieving sales, or from people talking about how good she is, or what she’s proving. It will make some listeners bristle, relegate her to the “guilty pleasure” pile of their music collection, or turn them off completely because she reminds them of their own immaturity. After listening to her latest album The New Classic, I should not want to use the word “swag” ironically.


Talking with Musicians

Eli Paperboy Reed Setlist

There’s a struggle that I have when writing up interviews with musicians. Leslie Simon, whose book Geek Girls Unite I recently finished (and was disappointed by), believes that music writing should be a way to give fangirls and boys an insight into their favorite musicians. I disagree and have gotten many of my pop culture ideas from Chuck Klosterman instead.

But first, I recently had the chance to talk with Eli “Paperboy” Reed, and something really strange happened. After seeing his show, I was taken aback by his passion–the sheer amount of himself that he left on stage. Here’s the review. Eli seemed to like the review, whereas I thought that I was being critical. I was again taken aback by his talent, but also left the concert feeling that it would be hard for him to achieve mainstream success.

America holds close the things that it feels it invented: hip hop is often a key to assimilation for new immigrants and a source of constant debate, jazz seems to be untouchable and the same with soul and bluegrass. The genre title of “neo” is appended to the front so as not to offend the purists, and that’s a short-sighted curmudgeon-ly approach to music. Eli Reed is a throwback because he makes soul music, but an innovator in that he makes soul music if we allowed the genre to evolve.

In the show review, I talked about the critic who panned Madonna early in her career. I want Eli Reed to be that for me because of the sheer earnestness with which he approaches music. I wrote, basically, that I wanted him to be successful but didn’t think that he would be.

In contrast, the interview received less attention. In the Interview, I tried to talk about the difficulty of mainstream progress for pigeon-holed musicians. I wanted to convey a sense of moving forward without losing an identity. I wasn’t merely interested in asking Eli what kind of girl he would date (the wedding ring at the show suggests that’s already been answered regardless) I wanted to explore the musician.

I’m still learning how to write musically, but I’m worried that I’m taking a misstep by trying to write cultural pieces rather than relying on the easy “first concert, embarrassing moment, inspirations.”


Austin Texas Glasslands Brooklyn Part 2

Photo courtesy RobotMojo

A problem with concerts constantly arises. You’re standing on your feet for the duration of an entire show, most often two sets, or in the case of overloaded Glasslands shows on Wednesday nights you’re standing through four bands. This inevitably makes you tired, and sometimes irritable, and sometimes the band doesn’t live up to the expectation of your obsession or fails to overcome your tired feet. This is a real thing. (See for example a Small Black show I attended where they didn’t go on until midnight, on a weekday. This was the second time that I’d seen the band, so of course I knew what to expect, but they were completely dwarfed by the large stage and disappointing.)

You’re tired, you’ve just spent twenty minutes playing a hipster game of who have you seen and where have you seen them. And then a performer takes the stage with just his guitar and a looping pedal. Normally this is an interesting combination because it forces musicians to try harder to be engaging, to show they aren’t just music nerds on stage doing things that they only find cool. This was unfortunately the latter and the set droned on.

At one point he started talking about feeling like Neil Young. He questioned the audience and asked if they could hold their cellphones up, put a lighter up in the air, to complete the illusion and he was greeted with complete silence. The song was “Cortez the Killer”:

It exhausted the rest of what I had left, and I did not enjoy the Spoon set because in my head over and over again I heard:

“My feet hurt. When is this going to be over.”

“Oh here’s that song but damn my feet hurt.”

“Did I mention that my legs are killing me?” “No. Just your feet.” “I’m clearly not thinking straight anymore.”

Glasslands in Brooklyn, New York has a factor that overcomes this, and I’m not entirely sure how they do it. I’ve seen two bands that played near or at midnight (three if you count Rural Alberta Advantage but that’s a gimme band, they aren’t ever going to play poorly.) Each time it’s been a packed set on a Wednesday night, four bands playing. 15 minutes between sets waiting for the setup. The crowd dwindling. And each time it was the last band that interrupted my self loathing. First it was a Starlight Girls show, which then prompted me to go see Kate Nash just for their opener, and then it was Teen Men.

I’ve written about them ecstatically for Quip Magazine already here, because it’s frustrating already that they have only released two videos and one song. They were at home at Glasslands, a DIY venue that creatively uses PVC pipes and multicolored lights to create an atmosphere conducive to indie rock (I saw you in Girls, don’t think the open mic did you justice how cool you are) and before that a mass of fluffy cloud that seemed to rain down sonic joy. Teen Men woke me up, kept me from feeling the dreaded urge to sit down during the concert.

And that’s the problem with long shows and meeting up with expectations. Including an entertainment aspect to a live show makes it easier to get through four bands or more. Spoon didn’t do this, they went out like a rock band and expected the stamina to be there, because they were a rock band. Teen Men, Starlight Girls, and almost every time I’ve been to Glasslands give that extra push to provide quality entertainment and create an atmosphere that keeps you up and excited.

Pillar Point Alternate Interview Format

Pillar Point

Here’s what posted over at Quip. Getting Intimate with Scott Reitherman

I’m often told that my style, my syntax and structure are confusing, but I’m not overly happy with the end result over at Quip. Here’s what I originally had, confusion and all.

 TMTS Moonbeams album cover

Getting Intimate with Scott Reitherman

Scott Reitherman’s work in Throw Me the Statue (his previous band) and Pillar Point (his current band) is a discourse between melancholy lyrics and jubilant instrumentation. Out recently, the new project and new album, self-titled for easier digestion, is a dance music reflection on the feeling of isolation that can occasionally spring up while on social media.

The record is synth heavy and beat driven, a storm of electronic instruments with Scott’s voice providing the intimate human shape. “If anyone keeps you here/it has to be me/see the arms spread wide,” he sings on “Black Hole” later suggesting that the heart can feel like a black hole in your chest.

Pillar Point captures disconnect and attempts to drive the feeling away with dance. “Give me touch/give me life support,” Scott sings on “Touch”, a track dripping with feel good vibes disguising the straightforward plea in the lyrics. While Scott sings about distance the music literally compels foreign and strange bodies together, an experience of relieving tension that the all surrounding social media we participate in seems to fail to do. “Give me love/give me touch.” Feeling isolated with music that is driving our bodies closer together, he’s creating intimacy.

There are echoes of the baroque pop of Throw Me the Statue. “Curious of You,” toes the line, with strong guitar work, jangling synths and the even tempered drums, and a mention of “Patrice”, which any audiophile can hope is a callback to the “Patti” of “Young Sensualists.” There is a narrative between the two bands, even if just Scott’s voice, as if both fit into the oeuvre of work being created.

SH: What shaped the theme for the album?

SR: I wasn’t referring to the actual tools but more the social media that permeates our life, ways that we are increasingly distanced from each other. We’re aware with what’s going on with each other’s lives to such a large extent without actually being closer, or any more intimate.

It was a real reality for me, going through tough times, feeling lonely, and logging onto Facebook to alleviate that pain, whether or not in a conscious way. And logging on is something everyone does, a microact in the middle of your day, trying to find some kind of relief, a massaging of that loneliness.

SH: Pillar Point is a dance album. Dance music usually brings us together. What made you decide against the baroque pop you’d been doing before and into dance?

SR: The thinking of moving towards a dance album. There was this cathartic feeling when I danced to pop and dance music which I really respect, I wanted to create that thing within my own music as a way to process and deal with the feelings that I was experiencing. I also knew that when I played a tune with a dance beat to it there would be an immediate reaction from the crowd. I wanted to be less cryptic, less coded and really connect with the people coming to the shows and the people listening to the record. Hopefully there is a moment of shared participation and it creates a really nice show and moments in life.

 SH: Why Pillar Point instead of Throw Me the Statue?

SR: I guess I felt that it was fundamentally different enough that it felt like a completely new phase in my life. There is a pretty strong thread of DNA that connects the 2 projects, but It would have seemed disingenuous to call it the TMTS record.

SH: What was the project like at the early stages?

When I started breaking ground on the recordings for this batch of music a couple of years ago, I talked about the direction with Charlie Smith who produced this record with me. We knew that I wanted to make it more synth oriented and with elements of dance music in it. Without having the name on our minds, we knew we were embarking on a project that could shapeshift into something different than we’d done before. At the beginning we were making recordings because it was time to make new recordings.

The new album is an expression of intimacy with booty shaking. Dance music is the flailing about we often experience in life, but much sweatier and much more fun. Download Pillar Point’s self-titled release now.



Austin Texas Glasslands New York Part 1

Here’s a roundup of things floating around that I’ve written:

:Brownstudy – Life Well Lived Album Review for Quip Mag

Best praise I've received yet
Up Late with Teen Men Concert Review for Quip Mag

I traveled all day to see Spoon at Stubbs BBQ in Austin, Texas on July 11, 2009. We were coming up from Edinburg, Texas and decided instead of wasting money staying over an extra night, that we would do it all in one day.

Preparing for Spoon is an easy task. Their music had been saturating pop culture, the lead singer had just lent himself to the successful film “Stranger Than Fiction,” and my obsession with Kelly Clarkson brought the similar sounding “All I Ever Wanted” which I forced my friend to listen to on the car ride. You shouldn’t ever need to defend love for Kelly Clarkson but — maybe because of her often high school girl problem lyrics — I’ve always stopped and discussed her pop prowess with anyone who’ll listen. My love for Kelly Clarkson came with the death of Dimebag Darell, guitarist for Pantera and not a band I listened to but a band I was interested in, and Rolling Stone’s highlighting of musicians creating special flying V guitars to raise money for some cause in his name. Kelly adamantly professed her love for Pantera, but then again all Texans seem to stick up for each other.

Excited for their Kelly Clarkson song, excited for a band I’d nominally listened to but my first ever concert in Austin and at the historic Stubb’s BBQ, we filtered in to the large open amphitheater.

For some background into what happened next, and a phenomena that happens with all self respecting music nerds and hipsters, I’d just spent a year in New York City. My first concert was supposed to be Cloud Cult at the Bowery Ballroom but I let an unimportant person convince me not to go. I’d just snobbily dismissed Lupe Fiasco, moshed to Pharell, and even bumped into a person from the Rio Grande Valley, where I grew up, at a Noah and the Whale concert. I moved to New York City for university and studied music instead by wasting time and money at concerts. My friend had evidently done the same but in Austin, with her own set of her friends. The difference between NYC and the rest of the country (with the possible exception of Los Angeles) is that you can see a million bands for less than 20 dollars, and should never see a band that you would have to pay more than 30 dollars for. There are music nerds who participate in expensive festival culture.

One friend leaned over and began the conversation: “Oh I saw Phoenix at Sasquatch last year.”

“They played Central Park.” (Though I wouldn’t see them until they played the Barclays Center — “Peep that mess Jay-Z call a stadium”. Shame on me, I know.)

“Caught the Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Bell House in New York though.”

“Cool they were at Bonnaroo.”

“Did you see them?”


Reapeat ad infinitum.

Secret Colours & Music Attention Span


There is a new review up at Quip (here) of a band from Chicago named Secret Colours. While I did enjoy the Positive Distractions Part I EP , I found it difficult to talk about outside of the single “It’s Can’t Be Simple.” The song is Elvis Costello for a modern era, an update of classic rock that we grew up listening to, but filtered through the Millennial attention span.

A note on attention span, filtered through my own ADD span. Buzz can do so much for bands now that the internet is so pervasive. It’s no longer coveted just to put something out there, but you have to constantly promote, and make sure that the product that you’re creating is engaging enough to warrant continued attention. For music writers, that’s hard because we’re constantly looking for the next Buzz, the next piece of music that is going to blow us away. I found that recently in Young Father’s new EP (and was sad that I couldn’t just review the entire album.) So each new album has to carry over for a month for me to proclaim it as obsession worthy. I have to be able to imagine myself listening to the same songs for longer than a month, or in some rotation with everything else that I’m being bombarded with. I’m sure this can be misinterpreted in a way that bemoans my lack of attention, my constant searching for the next big thing, but instead I like to think about it in terms of the volume of consumption we should be allowed. I like Secret Colours, I want them to produce more music, I’m interested enough to follow up with them.

I had this same thought with the new release of Awkwafina’s Yellow Ranger [Explicit]. I was disappointed by her album, not because it wasn’t good, but because it felt like had she taken a little bit more time to refine it would have been better. But, it is good, and I support her because it’s good, and I want more to come out of it. The beats especially are fantastic. Often, artistic people, and the general populous, resent others of similar age who are becoming successful, and instead I’d like to propose that we support and acclaim instead.

Social Anxiety at the Rock Show

They're making me anxious

His face is so close to mine. Doesn’t he realize that his slight glance, possibly towards other persons in the crowd, possibly towards the giant man with the beard who is dancing like nobody is watching, instead looks like he’s trying to catch my attention, and then press his check into mine. The girl he is with also pressed her way to an uncomfortable position, warranting my turned shoulder, the learned response of “must not touch her chest, in any way” except that in her haste to get by she just pushes herself against me.

The Rural Alberta Advantage onstage is an explosion of emotion with surprisingly intimate lyrics. “Our love is strong/While my hearts still pumping blood,” ends their ode to summer, creating both a feeling of eternal romance, but the slap in the face of mortality. Being introverted or living with social anxiety means that you spend a lot of time with your thoughts; that you form strong connections to the relationships that you do establish; that what others might see as melodrama is instead a truth that you refuse to waver from. Music often facilitates that connection: what you’re listening to in the comfort of your own established space is connecting on a deep level, and in a way that it doesn’t for anyone else. Good music, like the Rural Alberta Advantage, lends itself to overthinking.

Concerts are occasions to share a connection with artists and to see the authenticity behind recorded performance. Will this emotion ring true in person? Will the band hold up the same connection while playing instruments live? Will this person beside me notice any smell from my body, a phantom smell, or even one that exists but is usually so imperceptible that I don’t notice it myself, but oh now instead of standing so close he’s moved a little farther away, there must be something wrong with me. Or even the more common: I’m enjoying this, even if I’m not waving my arms around or bellowing the lyrics, this is where I most want to be. I hope that people don’t think I’m just a depressed introvert who shouldn’t be allowed to stand so close to the front.

For this reason concerts are contradictions: you want to be there, you even feel very strongly that you have to be there, but your personal space will be invaded, your movements will be scrutinized, the person next to you who is unabashed in their dancing will probably wonder why you aren’t.

You will wonder, what do I do with my hands? Do I move them like this? Do I look stupid? At least the music is playing.

Young Fathers “Get Up”

Young Fathers

First listen I thought “What is this?”

I sometimes take album review assignments without listening to the band at all, and in some cases I get situations like my Anya Marina review, where I thought she sounded like too many people and not enough like Anya Marina.

Young Fathers instead struck me as a combination of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and TV on the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain but with the sensibility or talent to remain Young Fathers I’m not going to repeat myself with what I said in the review but they are amazing. Well worth picking up their entire discography but definitely the full length that is coming out the end of January.

Instead I want to expand on the difference between good and great that Stephen King brings up in his non fiction On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft. The difference in music is usually what happens on the first listen. Some bands elicit a middling reaction, not falling in the hate or love category. Bangerz does this for me, as does most pop: I didn’t hate it, and it was good enough that I wanted to listen to it again. Contrasting that with Red by Taylor Swift which I listened to once and then was done with it. After repeated listens I found myself trying to create theories as to why it was good, why it wasn’t an overproduced just for money album. Then carefully listening to lyrics and trying to find hints of parody — hints of intelligence really. Because pop is a difficult game, and often it seems that writers are more obsessed with music than musicians (more on this in a later piece I’m doing with the band Hey Anna.)

Emailing Questlove


Mr. Amir “Questlove” Thompson,

As an NYU alum it pained me to see that your course was going to be offered after I’d already graduated, so soon after. And I just want to open this email by saying that your class, though well intended, is wasted on NYU students. (Sophomore year I was hanging out with some friends, and for whatever reason someone’s mention of dollar bills prompted me to blurt out, “Cream it, the money, dollar dollar bill ya’ll.” I got stares back. That’s not even an obscure line, that’s the line everybody knows.)

I work for a non-profit in the South Bronx that provides mentoring and tutoring to boys in grades 4th through 12th grade. I began work in January of 2013 and was immediately excited to expose these kids to social theory, Fanon, Bulosan, Ansaldua, etc because I thought if any place needed to hear this kind of passion and anger it was the South Bronx. Instead we continued to push an outdated curriculum on them, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Greeks. I have nothing against bringing philosophy to high school kids, I think it’s even necessary, but that’s the type of curriculum they’ll be exposed to in college. High School should be a time to show them that their culture also has value, that they can articulate arguments using what they know.

I also was hesitant to introduce them to music and culture that is at times “vulgar.” Then I read Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat, and I realized that I’m not giving these kid’s enough credit or doing enough for them. In terms of “bad words” these kids are already using them or hearing them, and it’s condescending to censor that from them. An open discussion, the knowledge that their adult teachers listen to this music, use these words, would work far better to showing them that they aren’t pariahs. Huang made his own way, challenging people who tried to box him in, blending his love for hip-hop with his Chinese upbringing. The kids need a contemporary crash course on what’s good in music, on what Marvin Gaye was talking about when his brother got back from Vietnam, why Janelle Monae is still referencing him when she says “I’m tired of Marvin askin’ me what’s going”.

There is something here for them, the birthplace of rap is down the street from our program, there’s no reason you (Questlove) can’t come once a week, once a month, once and tell these kids what’s happening.

1:36 AM 7 train to flushing

7 train

I’m writing “shut the fuck up” on my phone in hopes that the belligerent woman on the phone will take a moment between sobs, her nose impossibly filled by now and her voice broken when she pleads —”I don’t have a problem. I don’t know what to do. I know I’m stronger than this but I’m fucking destroyed.”—take a second from her car wide pleas and notice these words in connection with her disturbance, and her situation will get bleaker. Instead of her own problems, necessary and forcefully interrupting her late night present, she’ll self consciously battle the addition of public shame, to having been reduced to public tears and worse to elicit no sympathy. I’m writing “shut the fuck up” on my phone and instead meaning: “hang up the phone and give your sorrow a rest. It’s nearly morning and you don’t need this. Are you okay? How can you be better? Is there anything we, your community when you started this public display, can do to help you? It’s late stop crying.”

It Takes a lot to be a Teen Men


Finally Teen Men have shown their maturation and released their full length LP. The album is a mix of previously released tunes “Hiding Records”, “The Sea, The Sea”, “It’s All Rushing Back”, and “Rene”, and previously unheard tracks that round out the experience. In celebration of being able to port the, sometimes bizarre, live performance onto their favorite music players, walkmens, vinyl record players, kids are hashtagging #TeenMen to show their support. To the dismay of parents they’re openly ripping off their shirts and displaying their passion for the new album.

Much of the album is accompanied by jaunty keyboard chords and light plucking guitar riffs that create an introspective but fun (!) mood. “Hiding Records” is the promising opening that begins with eerie carnival clown laughter and continues with a merry go round guitar melody. The vocals are falsetto to monotone, capturing a motif of the album: the themes are big grand and dangerous, but the delivery is resigned. “With you I feel so dangerous,” the singer laments an awakening to the impact of banned records. The album feels like a return to music, a rediscovery of what motivates the artist to make music. There are albums about being in love with a girl, and then there are perfect albums about being in love with the music that makes us fall in love with the girl.

“Adventure Kids” is another standout track. “We might have to lose control… I might have to beat my chest/to try to make it start again,” capturing the duality of the album, bold proclamations about moving in new directions, beating the chest in unbridled passion, only to recapture that passion and get the heart beating again. The drum beat underneath is constant, the guitar and keyboard build and complement the melancholic vocals, and the track brings resignation to action.