Author Archives: jesusgaray

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The Post Millennial Top Five Albums of 2016

This year’s been rather crappy, no? People dying, authoritarian rising, all that jazz. Still, there were enough tunes throughout these 366 days that I could put up my yearly list. So, onwards with the Top 5 (would love to know your favorite albums from this year, btw).

Rihanna – Anti

The best way to describe Anti is that it’s Rihanna’s mirror, a subdued personal whisper with her best vocal work to date. There is the kind of Rihanna you expect from in “Work” and its ability to spill dancehall into the club. But this is a full-listen album. What starts with the electro-cool of “Consideration” ends with the intimacy in the ballad “Closer to You”. The ride between is Rihanna is her badass and vulnerable par excellence worth a good listen.

Anti is a departure to her normal work, that’s undeniable. There’s electro-R&B cuts like “Needed Me” and “Desperado” There’s also the ambition in putting a Tame Impala song on the album and melding it into superbly in “Same Ol’ Mistakes”.

Favorite Song: “Love on the Brain” pushes Rihanna’s voice to her full potential. The spirit of doo-wop and heartbreak conjure this constant shift between a vulnerable hush and despondent howl.

Flume – Skin

His debut was vibrant, the soundtrack of nighttime wonderland and the festival grounds rumbling with sonic glee. Skin brings Flume into another territory, a richer sound that uses the mix of garage, pop and hip-hop sensibilities, making a richer sound than can be expected from a dance album. It’s ethereal and glitchy at times (“Take A Chance”), and brusque and dreamlike in others (“Wall Fuck”).

He takes R&B-infused bass and uses it to make a glitched-out love song in “Say It”. A proof of that previously mentioned juxtaposition is in Kučka’s quiet by hypnotic voice mixed with Vince Staple’s verses in “Smoke & Retribution”.

Favorite Song: “Never Be Like You” is Flume’s attempt at an R&B jam mastered to its finest point. Kai’s voice moves between breathless and immediate, bringing her lyrics of forgiveness the right levels it needs.

 

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

So many hip-hop albums were already crowned AOTY by the time ATCQ released We Got It From Here… but it’s fashionably late release still went toe-to-toe with some of the biggest albums of the year. It’s tough to make a rap album with the bloated socially conscious rap scene that exists today. Q-Tip, Jarobi White and the late Phife Dawg were not held back by this and still made song after song that mirrored the topics of black America over Q-Tip’s signature beats.

And the beats are interesting. They’re modern but are still made from the DNA of the golden age of hip-hop. Does it make it dated? Perhaps, but compare the work on a song like “Melatonin”, which has a vibe similar to those from previous albums, to “Solid Wall of Sound,” which meshes Elton John and Jack White into this trippy space filled with pseudo-patois rhymes. There are so many songs that retain the spirit the group has had since its beginning but don’t sound like they’re phoning it in.

Favorite Song: “We The People…” is perfect “fuck your gentrification” hip-hop. I can sound a bit on-the-nose but that’s the way Tribe’s always been. Q-Tip and Phife trade verses laying out the problems people of color have are having at the moment, over a simple drum-and-bass ride, and it works so goddamn well.

Savages – Adore Life 

Never has an album talk about the vulnerability of love sound like it’ll kick you in the face. The London quartet laid bare what it means to love and live as a woman in this world but in a harsh, somber sound. They’re love songs set to the tune of the roses on fire.

Jehnny Beth’s pervasive goth-like haunting captures the dark romanticism, while Gemma Thompson’s and Ayse Hassan’s post-punk burn provide the engine for Adore Life‘s ominous voice. Fay Milton’s drum work brings the necessary urgency on songs like “Evil” and “Sad Person”.

Favorite Song: “The Answer” is love distilled in chaotic form. It starts with a seething riff and Beth’s wail of “If you don’t love me…” before unleashing a volley of violent drums and relentless lyrics on the inquisition of passion. Love is the answer, but the question is turbulent.

David Bowie – Blackstar

Danny Brown, whose album is on my honorable mentions, said something regarding Blackstar that we both share. He said how Bowie died to make the album it scared him. That wasn’t the case for me. I found it beautiful that David Bowie left the Earth on his terms, leaving one last statement and version of himself that we had never seen.

We’d seen the alien, the Berliner, the pop star, the modern reinventor, the elder statesman. On Blackstar we are in the private room with Bowie the Phantom Ascendant. You can hear that on the title track and in his voice throughout. There’s a particularly haunting part on the outro to “Dollar Days” where Bowie says “I’m dying to…” in repetition. In retrospect, it has a stronger meaning we should keep to our hearts.

Favorite Song: “Lazarus” was amazing for two reasons. First, of course, it’s the perfect swan song of a man comfortable with his coming end. Second, it actually makes jazz rock sound modern and relevant.

Honorable Mentions

Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall

A Tribe Called Red – We Are the Halluci Nation

Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

Frank Ocean – Blonde

Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3

 

 

 

My New Weapons For NaNoWriMo

Quick blog post. Doing the NaNoWriMo thing again, going to crash and burn most likely, but there is one thing that has helped me in the two weeks prior to it.

The first is my main addiction which is of course Tumblr. The scene is…interesting at times, especially because I really feel out of place from it a lot of the time. And that’s what keeps me coming back – looking into a petri dish of social commentary, fandom and assorted nonsense that’s intriguing to me. So, that’s where I’m getting my inspiration from.

Second has to do with the thing I started two weeks ago. I’ve been working for a client that has me working at breakneck speeds for writing articles. At first I didn’t really think I could write a 500+ word  article in under 1-2 hours but apparently I can? and I’m getting faster – I wrote one under 40 minutes in sheer panic of the deadline yesterday.

So, that means, under concentration, I can hit the 1667-a-day pace for the 50,000 goal this month in about….6 hours. But, because the closest thing to research I’m using is riffing off Tumblr, it really won’t take that long.

I wrote 400 words when I woke up this morning, actually. From 4 Tumblr posts, completely dismantled to fit the narrative. All in…what, half an hour? This might work, maybe.

Expect updates. Happy writing.

 

Best Cosplay of NYCC 2016

My favorite part about any convention is the sartorial lengths a fan will take during the event. I sadly didn’t hit my normal numbers due to illness but I still had a lot of success. There were some pics that got a lot of love on my Tumblr and IG – here are some of them.

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Tiny Tina from Borderlands (cosplayer – Labinak)

 

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Chairface Chippendale

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The Morrigan (Badb)

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Spidey and Spider-Gwen (Cosplayers: Sierra Serious)

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D.Va 

 

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Rick & Morty

 

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Jessie & James (Cosplayer: Elizabeth Hansen)

 

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Cruella de Vil (Cosplayer: Olga Turka)

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Emperor Trump

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Scarlet Spider

 

 

 

No Two Brains

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I went to visit my cousin in Philadelphia a week ago. As a way to stimulate my little nephew we took him to the Franklin Institute. He was asleep for most of our time there,  to our amusement, which gave us more time to enjoy the exhibitions engaging to both children and adults.

Halfway through our tour, we made it to the exhibition pertaining to the brain and all its processes. I spent a lot of time in there, given my condition with seizures. I couldn’t help myself from spending quality time in there, like I have in other brain exhibits. I had to fill that need to see what’s inside me, or better yet what’s the part that’s defective.It’s the parietal lobe, to my best knowledge, that’s affected. It may be the temporal but I’m not sure, it’s been years since I’ve gone through the medical reports.

There was one particular spot of the exhibit that was caught my attention, so much so that it triggered my instincts quickly. It was a physical representation of the neural pathways of the brain, but in this lit-up trip of a display that was climbable. So naturally, I climbed in.

 

 

It was clearly meant for smaller frames, but I said “fuck it” and went through the ordeal. As I pass through, I recalled all the times I’d think of how those rogue sparks in my head would start my seizures. Would they look like the way I’m latching onto the net, its steel a representation of neurons?

I stood at the top for a few minutes, looking down and wondering at the irony of having a seizure within the maze – I didn’t, thankfully. When I came down, I had a sense of relief and understanding, in that while I know metaphysically I was just completely up my ass at that moment, I saw what it felt to be the defect. And I didn’t hate it for that one moment.

 

What I say when it falls apart (A Staggered Acrostic)

(original post in my tumblr)

See, the path is one of loathing –

a hellish endeavor in holding hands

our angelic internal voices collapsing

while trumped up signs lead to the brink.

Feeling tremors never felt so cathartic,

a shade of ecstatic, one step from the

eschaton, a reveal worth division.

Is this a forced escape? No, the torsion

makes the way so detached I feel free

 

The Haiku Mixtape – Deconstructed (Part 2)

To continue my thought process of the first year of Haiku Mixtape (I’ve decided to continue the mixtape) here’s the next ten-plus one more.

Legend  of Chavo Guerrero – This is the first request haiku, from my good friend Rob. Now, I’m not a big Mountain Goats fan, but I do like wrestling and a challenge, so I used those two and created something from it. I like what I made, even if it might now be my strongest work.

Stack-O-Lee – The movie is mega-forgettable (I only watched it once) but man, what a version of the blues classic. Read the haiku, and while you do imagine Samuel L. Jackson crawling out a sludge with that guitar and playing that song. It works, doesn’t it?

Party And Bullshit – I posted this around my brother’s birthday, so this is a present of sorts. This is straight up a description of the parties he’d throw in the basement back in high school. No-nonsense Write What You Know on this one, my people.

Dimed Out – We begin the 2015 Top 5 songs haiku now (you can read the review here). I played with how I saw the album as a whole, the Titus Andronicus shows I’ve been to (hence the mosh pit reference) and our kindred Jersey attitude.

The Hills –  Fun fact: he just won two Guinness World Records! And the best part is that one gets the help from a song that is low-key about cocaine! This haiku, however, comes from the single that conveys the darkness in his mixtapes upgraded for a wider audience. I just listened to the song, and let it wash over me until it became my own words.

Lionsong – Bjork’s break-up song warrants a break-up haiku, I thought. The use of “cage” came for the chorus, from this idea that formed in my head of someone trying to come out of one.

Artangels – I remember when I was writing this one while listening to the song  and really enjoying the process, you know? It’s so saccharine but Grimes takes it to a place that’s not too tired, so it inspired me. The chorus uses French, so I went along with doing the same.

How Much A Dollar Cost – This haiku is a summation of the story Kendrick Lamar’s tells in this song. I know people are fans of the other ones, but there so many  powerful words in this one – it has this vibe of a gospel or parable. That was what I tried to convey here.

Run Away With Me – A nice switch from the previous haiku. Carly Rae Jepsen’s song was a mix of 80s nostalgia with her want to escape, hence why I used that word and “retro”.

Silent Shout – I’ve wanted to write this for a long time – It’s one of my favorite Winter Songs. There’s multiple versions of this, and even when I was in Photoshop mode, I wrote a new one on the spot that I felt described the song and how I feel when I hear it.

Interlude Haiku – David Bowie – This was sadly my first Interlude poem after Bowie died. I played with the fonts to show the man’s genius in changing styles. I put in two references (Earthling  and pale duke as a nod to the Thin White Duke), and in the background I placed an cropped part of his distinctive eyes as drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz.

 

 

The Haiku Mixtape– Deconstructed (Part 1)

Deconstruct1I’m nearing the end of the Haiku Mixtape project, so I thought that it would be a good idea if I put down the notes on each  haiku. This idea came up partly as a way to see how an explanation would look like in writing, and as a way to show people how the sausage is made to those whose who are working on poetry of their own. I just wanna cover ten from the first eleven haiku ( I already deconstructed one in a previous post).

Ziggy Stardust  It took me a few weeks of figuring out what song would start the project. Any mixtape has to start strong, and I decided the late great David Bowie was the best choice.The inspiration primarily came from the image of Ziggy, of course, and part of the lyrics (“when the kids killed the man…”)

Austere  The Joy Formidable is a Welsh indie rock band. I heard about them years ago through an incredibly-ancient Idolator blog post, and I like that, despite their overall pop sound, they still had a kick to them. Hence why I ended it with the word roar.

Pearls Girl – I had some words to a longer free-verse poem inspired by this Underworld song – I never finished it, and I didn’t like it. I played around with it this time for the mixtape, and made this instead. I think I might go back to the original, who knows.

I Don’t Care (I Love It) – There’s a personal story to why I chose this song that I won’t get into unless we’re friends. The narrative in the haiku give a general idea of what happened, and added a bit of flair ( the smashing/crashed internal rhyme).

She’s Lost Control – Fun fact: Ian Curtis had epilepsy, which affected his dancing on-stage. This haiku goes straight to the point, to the lyrics, because, hey, I gotta deal with it too. And it would feel really cheap if I’d do it any other way.

Flight Of The Feathered Serpent – The imagery of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of wind and learning, is very cool. That was the sole inspiration of the haiku sprinkled with the sonic sprawl of the song.

Beetlebum – I saw Blur live with friends at Madison Square Garden that week. This is my favorite song by the band, and the lyrics just hit me. Used the word Britannia to do a syllabic extension to Britpop, so to speak.

Bela Lugosi’s Dead – The Halloween haiku, obviously. There is no way I won’t say no to a good goth song as my choice for this, my favorite of holidays. Imagery of people wearing black and vampires stuck in my head when I started the writing process.

Teenage Crime – I found this Adrian Lux song on Spotify, and I quite liked it. Nice simple house beat, a coy voice with sparse lyrics that fit. Brought out memories to a lot of old clubbing days that lasted ’til morning.

Her Fantasy – This one is slightly inspired by the music video and combined it with inspiration born from the lyrics in Dear’s baritone delivery. I also used the album cover for the mixtape background. After I finished it I spent a night of watching Kenneth Anger movies.

Pull The Sheets

Early morning, pain
but it excites me,
recalls the ultra
violence, dancing
between the lanes
the night before  –

 

I pulled away from
you, the neon and
the diseased fun
all over my body.
God, this peep
show creeps into
a drugged slumber.

Pull the sheets
go, blindfold me
until the afternoon

 

[originally from my Tumblr]

Poem 6/7/16

New tricks and light strobes seize me,

drag me far but keep me in a fugue state –

I want to keep lying, trust me, this is what

I am meant to be – protean in the club,

the last human dancing on a barren floor,

uncompromising – my feet never stay bored

and my mind slides, spins along with yours