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I don’t like the “Fireman’s Prayer.” I think it’s overly gendered and a little heavy-handed. Don’t even get me started on “Fireman’s” or “children and wife” or “[ful]fill” or, well, I did this on my own. At any rate, here’s the original:

When I am called to duty, God
whenever flames may rage,
give me the strength to save some life
Whatever be its age.

Help me to embrace a little child
before it’s too late,
or some older person
from the horror of that fate.

Enable me to be alert
and hear the weakest shout,
and quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out.

I want to fill my calling
and give the best in me,
to guard my neighbor
and protect his property.

And if according to my fate
I am to lose my life,
Please bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife.

So here’s a different version where I went for the same sentiment, though seem to have kept some of the more cringe-worthy rhymes. Oh well, first drafts, I guess.

When the tones go off,
Give me the strength,
Give me the focus,
Give me the will,
Give me the resources I need
To be where I need to be,
To dodge that which harms me,
To protect life and property,
To get back to friends and family.

A little less, but still feels a little cringy — maybe I’ll give it another crack sometime. All right, make good decisions out there.

We want them to know when to be an asshole. But to steadfastly refuse to be the guy who blocks the door in the subway car, or who refuses to merge on the highway, or who picks on waitresses, or who sends enraged e-mails, or who talks shit anonymously online.

Esquire, “How to Build a Man,” October 2014

Everyone take a deep breath, delete the “we finally killed English” joke from your Facebook wall, and stop making terrible “literally” jokes1.

From my understanding of the news breaking, the main culprit is Gizmodo’s post2 on the subject, though one of their sources seems to have nailed it. But before I get to the latter, let’s talk about the former. Here’s how the first sentence starts:

Grammar loving folks who love to point out where commas should be inserted instead of periods and how semi-colons are both simultaneously underused and overused, should pick up their red pens, furrowed brows and pitchforks at the fact that the definition of literally is literally no longer the literal definition of literally.

Son, that’s not how you spell “Grammar-loving,” I don’t know how to pick up furrowed brows, that first comma doesn’t belong there3, and maybe “because of” or “in response to” but definitely not “at.” Sure, it’s not a grammar thing, but “the fact that” is excessive and I guess if you’re going for heavy-handed, you’ve got to just really drive that home at the end of a sentence, right?

At any rate, where that bit’s terrible, the other link from The Week also points out that despite adding the terribly disheartening new definition, Merriam-Webster4 also “added the disclaimer that ‘Since some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1, it has been frequently criticized as a misuse. Instead, the use is pure hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary.'” Those beautiful, brilliant bastards.

Let me give you an example of another word I think is straight-up stupid. Try this video where an editor from Merriam-Webster explains that irregardless is both a word and a word that people will think you are stupid for using.

So what’s changed is that Merriam-Webster has finally expanded literally’s definition in the second, hyperbolic sense so that when people inevitably look it up, they will know that it is technically the wrong way to use it. They will finally understand that it is both a word and a word that, if used in the hyperbolic sense, people will think you are stupid for using.

Stay literate out there, amigos.

1. Things like “We literally killed English today” or the entire miserable Gizmodo post. While you’re here, I should also mention that he misspelled “make-believe” and “more so” in the second paragraph as well as “humans'” in the final sentence.
2. This is how it appeared on 8/15/2013. I doubt they’ll correct any of it, but, you know, that’s what it said before they edited it (if they do).
3. I am aware of the irony of this clause.
4. This is the industry standard. I used to test apps for a living, but the M-W app is the only one I use every single day.

Full Albums:

  • Driver Friendly, Chase the White Whale and Bury a Dream
  • Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak
  • The Lonely Island, Incredibad
  • Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Mecca & The Soul Brother
  • Schoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions
  • The Strokes, Comedown Machine1
  • Rhye, Woman2
  • Inc., real world3
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Specter at the Feast4
  • FIDLAR, FIDLAR5
  • Bonobo, Black Sands6
  • Sean Price, Mic Tyson7
  • J-Love, Pardon My Intrusion8
  • Large Professor, Main Source9
  • Main Source, Breaking Atoms10
  • The Knife, Shaking the Habitual11
  • Alt-J, An Awesome Wave12
  • The Gap Band, 20th Century Master: Best of The Gap Band13
  • Marcos Valle, Previsão Do Tempo14
  • Atoms for Peace, AMOK15
  • Charlie Wilson, Love, Charlie16
  • David Bowie, The Next Day17
  • How to Destroy Angels, Welcome oblivion18
  • The Men, New Moon19
  • The Replacements, Songs for Slim20
  • Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Get Up!21
  • Autre Ne Veut, Anxiety22
  • Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse23
  • Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience24
  • Big K.R.I.T., Big K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and King Remembered in Time25
  • Tuxedo, Tuxedo EP26
  • Kendrick Lamar, YHNIC27
  • Jessie Ware, Devotion
  • Fall Out Boy, Folie A Deux and Save Rock and Roll28
  • Eric Clapton, Old Sock29
  • DJ Koze, Amygdala30
  • Boz Scaggs, Memphis31
  • Ghostface Killah, 12 Reasons to Die32

Random Excellence:

  • Wiz Khalifa, “Never Been”
  • Pharoahe Monch, “Simon Says”
  • Nas, “Get Down”
  • At the Drive-In, “One-Armed Scissor”
  • Ludacris, “Grew up a Screw Up”
  • The Roots, “The Fire”
  • Saves the Day, “Nightingale”
  • Thin Lizzy, “Dedication”
  • Tom Vek, “Too Bad”
  • Wu-Tang Clan vs. The Beatles, “Clientele Kidd”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • The Lonely Island, “Lazy Sunday”
  • Schoolboy Q, “Blessed” and “Light Years Ahead (Sky High)”
  • David Banner, “Slow Down”
  • Warren Zevon, “Lawyers, Guns and Money”

Reviews:

1. My girlfriend and I were listening and decided that this is two separate bands. It’s The Strokes form five years ago battling what The Strokes would sound like if they were actually a band in the eighties. It’s very weird to alternate between those two bands, though it’s clear both are talented. Perhaps the hardest thing to reconcile is that most everyone agrees they’d just be better of if they made more music like The Strokes from 12 years ago. But this is it, so get into it.

2. Absolutely blew my mind that this is a man singing. It’s a soft, beautiful album that has all the touches of a woman, despite the whole it’s-really-a-guy-singing thing.

3. I wasn’t into it. Too much whispery business. I gotta try it again because I listened to a lot of similar stuff that I loved, but somehow this one slipped through the cracks.

4. These guys. What a delight. I liked their previous album a little bit more because they were talking about Hades more, but this still had enough to get me headbanging. Or slow headbanging.

5. I’m fairly sure I already wrote the best review of these guys when I recommended a song or two to a friend with the endorsement: “This band is the tits.”

6. They’re kind of like a jazzier Roots without Black Thought. Of course, they’re a very different band, but they obviously share a lot of rap, jazz, and funk influences. A different, but excellent band.

7. There are all these stickers in New York that say “Sean Price can f*ckin rap.” That’s it. So I looked this album up. Honestly, though, I couldn’t really get past the beats to hear if he could really rap. I’ve heard him rap over good beats before, so I had a hint, but this was just painful.

8. No, sir, I do not. Here’s the thing: I found this guy because Rolling Stone seemed to be recommending a new Ghostface Killah song on Spotify. Trying to play that song resulted in playback featuring Ghostface, J-Love, and Theodore Unit. Which actually turned out really well: the beats were good and the song was interesting, so I figured he was just a producer like Statik Slektah and it wouldn’t hurt to look into some of his other stuff. So I queued up some stuff with guest rappers and liked the majority of it. So then I dived right in to this album. All of a sudden, production wasn’t as consistent and Mr. Love was rhyming.

9. Here’s what I’ve been looking for. I imagine this is what people lose their mind about when they drink old wines, except in reverse order. It’s a newer album with whiffs of the classics. I read up on this guy a little, because I was listening to “Get Down” and “The Chase Pt. II”–something sparked in the back of my mind reminded me that I’d heard he’d edited Nas’ Illmatic and the shout-out from Q-Tip was too important to ignore. So I looked him up. I mean, the guy’s a nineties-rap legend and it sucks that he’s had so many problems with labels. I can’t understand why, though. Dude knows what he’s doing.

10. It sounds just like a Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth album. It’s more of the above and just as enjoyable.

11. Hey, if you’re like me and you love their greatest hit, “Heartbeats,” you’ll hate this album because it sounds nothing like that.

12. My girlfriend almost didn’t recommend this to me because she thought I wouldn’t like it, maybe find it too folksy or something. Luckily for both of us, she was wrong. I personally feel like the title describes the songs’ pacing, moving from catchier indie to slower and often more heartfelt songs.

13. I looked this one up because Charlie Wilson had a new album, and was pleasantly surprised to find out just how funky The Gap Band was. But they were also surprisingly mellow and R&B heavy. Which obviously laid the groundwork for his new all-R&B album.

14. Rolling Stone described this as his seminal work, his funkiest album, but I have to admit it was kid of difficult to listen to. I assume it’s because of the Portuguese language barrier, but I also wasn’t entirely hooked on, well, the hooks. Maybe two songs really stuck out, but barely.

15. What a complete surprise in terms of content. Looking at all the puzzle pieces–Flea, Thom Yorke, etc.–some of the music kind of falls into place, but the sum is definitely something greater than the parts.

16. I can’t help but be suspicious–just a little–that all that vibrato is AutoTune. I mean, the dude’s had pipes for decades, but why so much vibrato all of a sudden? That’s really the only complaint I have for an otherwise consistent and consistently excellent album.

17. A friend and I were talking about how Bowie’s legacy is probably in his singles. Somehow every album feels like a classic, but you can still summarize every album with just two or three singles. So it’s a great album and great to have him back, but the strongest thing here is definitely his single.

18. I was pretty much convinced Trent Reznor wasn’t going to make music anymore. Parallels with NIN are mostly in lyrical content (lightly), pacing (sometimes), and atmospheric elements. It’s not as industrial, but it’s definitely engaging.

19. I don’t think I like anything about this. They were kind of sold as a folk band going punk, but they sounded…like I don’t want to listen to them.

20. I absolutely love “Radio Hook Word Hit,” but the rest of the EP didn’t grab me in the same way. I mean, new ‘Mats is better than no ‘Mats.

21. The title track is far and away the best song, but this one just churns along at an excellently steady, bluesy pace. Now I guess I have to dig into Musselwhite’s back catalog because, good gravy, that guy sure knows what’s up.

22. When I was living on the Lower East Side posters with this album cover were everywhere. Since I knew nothing about it, I walked past without caring–but oh my goodness, what a mistake. this guy’s made easily some of the better modern R&B out there right now.

23. So this is supposed to deal a lot with the inner psyche, but it sounded to me more like feeding Jimi Hendrix too much acid and forcing him to use a broken fuzz pedal stuck in the on position while a keyboardist jazz solos for an hour.

24. The easy reviews talk a lot about this being the missing piece between his first and third albums. Or that songs are long. Or that he’s fancier. But what I hear a lot of is dedication to his relationships and probably some songs in new of editing, both lyrically and musically. I keep thinking about the Large Professor stuff, like a lot could have been edited down to make room to expand on other ideas. Of course, love’s a frequent topic for him and he’s made nods to drugs before, but the album dives deeper on all fronts. It’s an almost paradoxical focus that’s healthy but perhaps winding or long-winded. That said, the kid’s still got it.

25. Something about naming a mixtape after what he spelled out in “The Vent” feels like a giveaway. And maybe it’s just my version, but the treble seems too high. It didn’t have the same feel of some of his better work, like instant classics. But maybe it just needs another run-through with higher bass settings.

26. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

27. This mixtape’s like seeing a young wizard way before his prime, using spells other people made. I couldn’t get into it because the songs reminded me too much of the originals.

28. They’ve been moving toward scream-free stadium rock awhile, but it feels like they forgot some of the other keys to their success. They don’t have the same amount of clever wordplay that made you want to sing along–even though they still want you to sing along.

29. I can’t believe it either, but the only song I really liked was “Gotta Get Over.” He has great guests (Chaka Kahn!), but the only thing that grabbed me were this song’s horn lines, guitar riffs, choruses, and excellent lyrics.

30. Pitchfork flipped their wigs for this one, but I really only might’ve liked a quarter of it. It’s borderline EDM, but it also walks the line of soulful dance music.

31. I was surprised by the depth of his soul, but I guess I didn’t need to be, considering his long-standing career as a respected blues musician.

32. All homeboy does is speak the illest alphabets like he tha Rosetta Stone of tha hospital, b.

Comment:

The iPod sagas continued; not only did I lose my iPod but I also found it. It somehow dropped out of my jacket pocket at a Williamsburg dance hall without the headphones and someone picked it up, held on to it, and my friend went by a week later to pick it up. So there’s at least a little faith I regained that month.

But the goodness doesn’t stop there: I saw Schoolboy Q in concert. He scheduled two shows that night, showed up an hour after the second show was supposed to start, and forgot lyrics to the first three songs because he was too high. But the guy can still put on a show. He poked fun at TDE and crowd members, rapped charismatically despite admitting to being winded, and confessed that he couldn’t be happier that people like us have helped him finally have a career after decades of really dark shit. That’s when he leaned into “Blessed,” which put that song in a new light for me because hooboy, I don’t think I realized it until he rapped the second verse, but I guess I was in a pretty dark place at the time. You probably would have been too if you’d had to watch those three terrible, terrible acts. But that’s over and if you need anything, then I’m ridin’.

“But Playboy, at its best, wasn’t just an artifact of its time. It helped make us who we are. Yes, Hefner’s magazine was a Rorschach test. It was also a stick in your eye. ‘It had lightning bolds coming out of it,’ Jimmy Jellinek says. For sixty years, Playboy has been on the right side of history–on sex, birth control, civil rights, AIDS, gay marriage, war, social tolerance, personal liberty–while also serving as a vehicle for that history. But it wasn’t Playboy, really. It wasn’t the brand or the rabbit. It was him. It is him. And without him, it will be no more.”

–Chris Jones, “The Perfect Life of Hugh Hefner,” Esquire Vo. 159, No. 4

When I think about what reading and writing mean to me, I always think of the word trust.

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction or poetry or whatever, the relationship between reader and writer is based on a foundation of trust. You hate the sentences, you find a nugget of wisdom, you pen the greatest clause you’ve ever elucidated, you craft the funniest set of puns anyone you know has ever seen–there’s nothing fucking more to it. Both sides of the relationship rely on everyone trusting each other that what they meant is exactly what’s on the page. There could be thirteen or thirty different levels of metaphor involved, but it’s all there because the author has entrusted whatever’s there to the reader.

Which is why taking edits is a difficult but welcome experience. I know full well I miss something in any essay I write, be it an error, a subconscious double entendre, and so on. Maybe my content doesn’t perfectly align with the publication, or maybe I’m still cursing inappropriately like a sailor. So something gets tweaked to improve it until there’s a cohesive piece of material that presents all the pieces you need to put the puzzle together.

Anytime I start reading a novel, that’s what it feels like: settling in as the author starts placing puzzle pieces in front of me, slowly adding enough for me to grasp the entire picture.

And that’s the challenge of editing and copyediting I’ve always enjoyed: the author and I aren’t ready to engage with our readership because we haven’t set everything in place. It’s a kind of silent, hidden craft that painstakingly ensures things like format or spelling don’t distract or confuse, only enhance.

The details matter or there is no trust. If we can’t spell correctly, use an en dash correctly, or whatever the issue may be, then why would you give a shit about anything we write about? We obviously don’t care about getting the words right, so why would you believe any of the content is right?

And sure, no one bats a thousand, but the places that care frequently publish corrections. They still want your trust. A correction is at the very least an apology acknowledging that there was a mistake and we will make sure it never happens again (or as little as possible). We’re staying vigilant because our goal is to provide content you can trust.

And if a company doesn’t trust their readers, I don’t want to work for them.

Full Albums:

  • Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  • Big K.R.I.T., Return of 4eva
  • Friendly Fires, Pala
  • The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America
  • Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
  • Left Lane Cruiser, Bring Yo’ Ass to the Table
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  • Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
  • The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St.
  • Schoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions
  • The-Dream, Love Vs. Money
  • The Weeknd, House of Balloons
  • Free Energy, Love Sign1
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away2
  • Iceage, You’re Nothing3
  • Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob4
  • Solange, True5
  • Toro Y Moi, Anything in Return6
  • New Order, Lost Sirens7
  • Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold8
  • The Lumineers, The Lumineers9
  • Local Natives, Hummingbird9
  • Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic10
  • Drake, Thank Me Later

Random Excellence:

  • Wiz Khalifa, “Never Been”
  • Usher, “’40′”
  • A Tribe Called Quest, “The Chase, Part 2”
  • Thin Lizzy, “The Boys Are Back in Town”
  • Asher Roth, “Charlie Chaplin”
  • B.B. King, “The Thrill Is Gone”11
  • Barry White, “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit Longer, Baby”
  • Coheed & Cambria, “Feathers”
  • Daft Punk, “Arena”
  • Interpol, “Lights”
  • Joe Bonamassa, “Story of a Quarryman”
  • Method Man, “Bring the Pain”
  • Money Making Jam Boys, “Friday Night Street Fever”
  • Notorious B.I.G., “Gimme the Loot”
  • Otis Redding, “Satisfaction”
  • Seasick Steve, “Back in the Doghouse”
  • Steve Winwood, “Split Decision”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Usher, “There Goes My Baby”
  • Big K.R.I.T., “Hometown Hero (Remix Feat. Yelawolf)”
  • Childish Gambino, “We Ain’t Them”
  • Drake, “Up All Night”12

Reviews:

1. A lot of the critics seemed to be a little hard on these bros. I think they made another album similar to their last one. Which is to say, they made another album that sounds like uprooted seventies bubblegum rock. It’s not the greatest album out there, but it sure sounds pretty.

2. Maybe it’s because I was listening while working on something that required a lot of focus, but not a lot of this album grabbed me like Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! did. Well, “Finishing Jubilee Street” did, but there was a definite split between the two albums–they’re both just as smart, I just couldn’t get into this music as much.

3. For some reason, it sounds like it’s the kind of thing that would normally be right up my alley, but I didn’t like a single song on here. They kept coming really close, but I think I found their music aggressively grating and difficult to listen to. Which isn’t to say they’re bad: a ton of people seem to love them, but I know I can’t.

4. After getting “Walking with a Ghost” and many subsequent remixes beaten into my head by Victoria’s Secret and many other places, I completely expected this to be total bullshit and way too much hype. Which is probably for the best because it blew me right off my feet. I guess I should have already known they can write the shit out of a catchy hook, but it was just such a relief to have the kind of music backing them that makes me actually want to listen to them a lot, but perhaps finally without the difficulties associated with Vickie’s or too many acoustic guitars.

5. I’m about to swim upstream on this one and I don’t like it. I know people consider her the indie Beyoncé, but I can’t see it (besides the whole family thing). From lyrics to beats, it didn’t grab me like her older sister or all the Tweets and reviews told me it was supposed to. “Didn’t Let Me Down” was the highlight for me, but not enough to justify perpetuating the hypefest.

6. I’ve shitted on Toro Y Moi a lot before, I’ll admit it. The guy’s been the master of making entire albums with just one song I actually enjoy and another 10 that come only kind of close. But, counterintuitively, his worst-reviewed album is the one I enjoy most. The experimentation feels like it’s finally solidifying into something more cohesive, something with a closer eye for both songs and consistency.

7. Apparently this is a collection of the songs cut from their last album; not that I could really tell. What I heard was a solid band making some nifty beats that I very nearly got out of my seat to dance to. But compared to their body of work, it’s just an okay band. If anything, this is the gateway drug for their biggest hits.

8. Like Iceage, these bros had the punk street credit I’m normally attracted two with the kinds of riffs that, sadly unlike Iceage, actually captured my interest. It’s a headbanging, creative, catchy good time.

9. I had an interview recently where my (potential) employers asked what kind of music I like. I explained my affinity for rap, rock, indie, and other sorts of things like that, but I stumbled a little when trying to explain this current trend I’ve been noticing that I can’t stand. I was thinking mostly of a Mumford and Sons music video I’d recently seen, but I’d also just listened to these two bands and unintentionally grouped them together. When I described the style as a sort of indie-country thing, they understood what I meant and seemed to agree it’s been increasing in popularity. I honestly can’t even tell these two bands apart. If I had to name the band for any of these songs in order to keep breathing, I’d probably gladly be balled up in the fetal position on the ground, suffocating–likely in the hopes that that at least could make the noises stop. Don’t get me wrong, I know these bands are in the middle of their salad days, I just could not be bothered with the motherfuckers, even after they eventually get tossed, yo.

10. This might be the best new album I listened to in a month. The modern roots are equally Tame Impala and Free Energy, but every listen also hearkens right back to bands like The Jimi Hendrix Experience or Black Sabbath and so on. The 21st Century label seems like mislabeling, but that’s just the line they walk: is it new, is it old, is it somewhere in between? Doesn’t matter so long as the songs keep coming.

11. Oh, the drums and bass on this song. Eh, for that matter, everything on this song. It’s a little over six minutes, but sometimes I think if anyone could replicate all the noises and pitches going on here, I’d never need to listen to new music. I have an uncle who lives in the Hamptons and always has music on; whenever I’m there, I sometimes have this nagging feeling in the back of my head that that’s one of the things that I missed out on in my youth, or that it’s something I want to have when I’ve settled down. And whenever this song comes on, it seems to fit the profile of songs I’d be able to listen to for an entire day, if not weeks and months and years.

12. You know what? If he just made songs like this all the time, I think we’d all finally be able to tolerate him.

Comment:

Most of my worldly possessions are in storage, I’m living in a friend’s room while she’s out of town (well she just landed here, but I have the room for the rest of the month), and I’m a part-time employee for a company that went to SXSW without me.

I mean, things are rough right now, but let’s examine some of the bits and pieces. Even my friends who actually live in Austin have a hard time with South By, probably because it’s a sudden onslaught of people trying to soak in all the culture they want to absorb at normal rates. Then add the fact that every year, some company’s app is predicted to be the next up-and-coming thing you can’t live without. But last year’s highlight was an app called Highlight that sucked a lot–it was basically Foursquare combined with the kind of creepiness that makes me cringe and a battery-draining power that could shut down a nuclear power plant. Luckily, this year’s event didn’t seem to have a raging app that everyone couldn’t live without, but the Austin I know and love still involves more friends, less creepiness, and less out-of-proportion hype. I don’t really need to be there during SXSW.

Then with the first two items, this is probably as close as I’ll get to living like a Buddhist monk for a while. Granted, I formatted a hard drive in my girlfriend’s computer that enabled me to (at this very moment) type on a Macbook a friend gave me. That translates to two laptops (one Mac, one Windows), an iPod, an iPad, an iPhone, a bunch of clothes, bags, dress shoes, paperwork, etc. So it’s not really the most Buddhist life you can imagine, it’s just…close. The distractions are minimal and the objectives are focused. I have deadlines and a wedding to fly to (in Austin, no less!) tomorrow. I’m a paring knife: honed for accuracy and aimed only at whatever I need to cut the fuck up.

Stay sharp out there, amigos.

I’d like to apologize profusely. Not only is this entirely a month late, but I feel like the Spotify nature of it’s immediately transparent. Spotify’s completely changed the way I listen to music. I don’t actually own a lot of the music I listened to this year and would normally add to this playlist. And, though this is fairly counterintuitive considering the playlist’s lateness, I was in a rush to finish with music I actually owned, so there’s a lot of repeat artists and definitely as much music on there as I probably could fit.

So now that I’ve totally undersold this collection and continued the trend of presenting and mailing this late, here’s your Dia Del Valentin ’13. It might come as a surprise that even with recurring artists and a (legally) limited selection, I feel like I actually did more thinking about this year’s playlist than last year’s. Nestle into those headphones.

1. Buzzcocks, “Why Can’t I Touch It?”
2. Big Boi, “CPU”
3. The Replacements, “Androgynous”
4. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Same Love”
5. Driver Friendly, “Do Whatever You Want”
6. Big Boi, “Apple of My Eye”
7. Mayer Hawthorne, “Can’t Stop (Dam Funk Remix)”
8. Jessie Ware, “Running”
9. Miguel, “The Thrill”
10. Schoolboy Q, “Sex Drive”
11. Terius Nash, “Ghetto”
12. Miguel, “Use Me”
13. T.Rex, “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”
14. Foster the People, “I Would Do Anything for You”
15. Usher, “There Goes My Baby”
16. Beyoncé, “Love on Top”
17. Jessie Ware, “Night Light”

The Search. 1-2: They’re both starkly different songs–one is a kind of punk anthem and the other is modern rap referring extensively to Internet culture–but they both talk about the same thing. The narrators in both songs don’t have a real connection to this world, don’t really know what it is that they’re looking for. Perhaps all they really know is that they’re looking for some kind of connection.

Understanding. 3-4: Whether it’s homosexuality or two kids cross-dressing, it doesn’t fucking matter, just so long as it’s love. What you see isn’t as important as two people in love.

Here it Comes. 5-9: This section’s sort of bookended with two songs with the same understanding that two people are falling for each other with a gooey core of “Oh, I think I’m super attracted to you.” But first of all, the lines “I think I can take it standing up/I want your tongue, your heart, your lies” and “Things were easier when we believed we couldn’t die;/well, we still got time./Let’s carve some fucking stars from the sky./No, we’re not dying, ’cause we got a lot to say” felt like a perfect transition from the Understanding section, the acceptance that there’s a lot of challenges ahead, but it’ll be much more entertaining with a companion. I think the rest of the songs in this section not only mirror that but also build on it until “Running” and “The Thrill” actually set things into motion.

Anticipation by Car Light. 9-10: These songs belong more to the sections before and after, but it’s the mutual use of woody imagery that also pairs them together.

The Physical Realm. 10-13: It’s graphic. I mean, I almost added some other songs in there, but I already grossed myself out with some of Big Sean’s rhymes and some of the stuff the lady with the pretty voice says on “Sex Drive.” They say the kind of things that we all do, but probably really shouldn’t be talking about like they do. But everything here’s still a bunch of dope-ass beats.

Significant Other. 14-17: It’s two brand-new-significant-other-style songs followed by two ballads about a solid relationship. A lot of buildup to settle smoothly in something far less explicit than its immediate predecessors and far more assured than all the predecessors. A happy ending for an era of uncertainty.

I finally upgraded my primary gaming system, just in time for Sony to cancel PS2 production and for the PS4 hype to start ramping up into full gear. I put it off for a long time, but it’s been absolutely amazing, perhaps particularly since I’ve caught up to roughly seven years of technology in one sitting. But I’m still not going to get a PS4 for quite some time.

For under $300, I bought a PS3 with 250 GB and complimentary copies of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Eve: Dust 514. I didn’t even have to sit around in fear of the next upgrade, knowing full well that Sony would do what it always does and release a second version that is smaller, more powerful, and full of more goodies–I just went to the store and it was already there waiting for me, complete with a couple of games. And, sure, it also came with a 30-day trial membership for the PlayStation network, but if reading any kind of tech news in the last two years has taught me anything, I already know better than to join what appears to be the world’s favorite network for stealing my billing information.

But here’s one of my favorite things: it plays new games, boasts backward compatibility, and plays BluRay discs. The first two things aren’t the most exciting thing ever, but remember the fight between HDDVD and BluRay? It sounds like the Great War our parents fought over VHS and Beta by now, but this battle’s not only already been settled for me but also even solidifies the argument for a PS3 over an XBOX 360 (and the Wii U was never an option because my phone is already my handheld screen). Don’t get me wrong, I love the Halo series as much as the next preteen who knows more curse words than I do, but if I have to buy a console and a player when I could just buy the whole package–as well as stream Netflix–then why bother doing anything but rejoin Sony’s ranks? Furthermore, does anyone expect the PS4 to invent, I dunno, PrpleRay or DubbleBluRay or something?

Most importantly, though, consider the games. GameStop has FallOut 3 for $5. A game that quite literally changed my life costs about the same as my lunch and entertains me for probably about 200 times as long. The same thing goes for tons of well-established games with solid reviews and huge fan bases–I probably won’t be the world’s most preeminent expert on these newfangled Call of Duty games, but I’ll sure be able to catch up on proven hits and favorites (What’s this shiny Bioshock thing I’ve heard tell about? It’s $20 at GameStop, might as well check it out) while keeping a whole lot more money in my pocket.

All told, waiting until Halo 6, the slimline PS4, or the XBOX 1080 Special Tony Hawk Edition have been out for a while before you rush to get a new console just might prove to be a worthy investment. They’re only guaranteed to refine your console of choice, and none of the games are going anywhere (like that spare cash burning a hole in your pocket). It’s been pretty much the most enjoyable gaming I’ve had in years, and there’s no reason to expect it won’t be a similar experience five, seven years from now for either of us.

Unless Kinect gets co-opted by Skynet, I guess. In which case, I’ll be camped out in Vault 101.

Full Albums:

  • Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  • Friendly Fires, Pala
  • Left Lane Cruiser, Junkyard Speed Ball and Bring Yo’ Ass to the Table
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  • The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St.

Random Excellence:

  • Fitz and the Tantrums, “MoneyGrabber”1
  • Trae the Truth, “I’m On”
  • Led Zeppelin, “Celebration Day”
  • The Hold Steady, “The Swish” and “Stay Positive”
  • Method Man, “Meth Vs. Chef”
  • Meth, Ghost and Rae, “Gunshowers”
  • Fall Out Boy, “Pavlove”
  • Sly & the Family Stone, “Everyday People”
  • Queens of the Stone Age, “Misfit Love”
  • Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, “On and On” and “It’s Like That”
  • Nas, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”
  • Incubus, “Privilege”
  • Daft Punk, “Derezzed” and “End of Line”
  • The Clash, “Clampdown”
  • Bruce Springsteen, “Murder Incorporated”
  • The Afghan Whigs, “Magazine”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Mayer Hawthorne, “Can’t Stop (Dam-Funk Remix)”
  • Big K.R.I.T., “Hometown Hero (Remix Feat. Yelawolf)”
  • Terius Nash, “Rolex Music”

Reviews:

1. Two of my girlfriend’s coworkers had a going-away party at a new place in the West Village called Houston Hall. I’d known the place was opening since she and her coworkers tend to frequent a place next door called the Brooklyneer. Never mind my constant confusion with the “Hewston”/”Howston” pronunciation debate, but, as a man from Texas, I sort of expected it to be another small little Manhattan bar and was taken aback when I walked through the second set of doors. Even the Thrillist photos I’d seen the day before didn’t do it justice. The place is huge.

And it was exciting, too. Packed to the gills, waitresses in German wear, custom-brewed German-style beers in large steins, and so on. Everything I’m supposed to love. But the more time I spent there, the more times security teams asked me to move around, the more people bumped into me, the less I could hear my own friends talking over the din, the more I realized I kind of hated the place.

Some of my fellow revelers pointed out the frustrations we were all having with the place might come from the shiny newness of it all, that it might get better with time. Which kind of makes sense, but I don’t really expect it to get any less packed, particularly at night time.

Roughly around the beginning of that conversation, this song came on. It might have been the only thing that helped me release some of my reservations about the place and be willing to take a second look at the place. Because if their taste in music can be this excellent, maybe it’s not their fault. It’s only one song, but maybe they’re on the right track, just temporarily delayed by some of the wrong clientele.

Comment:

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I think my new policy of exercising without my iPod in my hand seems to have saved its life. It’s already survived longer than all the other ones I’ve had, so maybe I can keep this dream alive. The iPod dream, not the hand dream.

In related news, working solely on this prehistoric laptop can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare. Luckily, a friend donated an old MacBook, which I’ve already installed a new hard drive in. The only challenge left on that front is finding the proper OS X materials since he didn’t have his on hand, but I’m looking forward the newness.

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