When I was in high school, my introduction to good hip-hop came from a guy on a high school debate forum that saw a bunch of teenage white dudes into Immortal Technique and tried to turn them on to something a little smarter. He put together a couple of mixtapes that turned me (and a bunch of other folks) on to the transgressive, political power of hip-hop. Those mixtapes - titled Exhibit A and Exhibit B - were lost to me several hard drives ago. I’ve put together a similar introduction for a friend - here is Exhibit C.
posted late. this is what finals madness is like:
1) godspeed you! black emperor - nervous, sad, poor (excerpt)
2) el-p - up all night
3) dj rashad - pass that shit
4) arcade fire - it’s never over (oh orpheus)
5) spring awakening original cast - totally fucked
6) lightning bolt - dracula mountain
7) death grips - birds
8) talking heads - the great curve
9) gnarls barkley - crazy
10) david bowie - unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed
I found this playlist I made at the end of undergrad. Appropriate for my last semester of law school.
RECORDS OF THE YEAR: 2013
10. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels
9. Savages - Silence Yourself
8. Julianna Barwick - Nepenthe
7. Kanye West - Yeezus
6. Drake - Nothing Was The Same
5. Rhye - Woman
4. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
3. Typhoon - White Lighter
2. Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap
1. Death Grips - Government Plates
National Cat Day inspired me to finish this mixtape about cats I was making for a good friend that took care of Ada over the summer.
1) walk off the earth - a hard rain’s gonna fall (bob dylan cover)
2) julianna barwick - the magic place
3) volcano choir - tiderays
4) youth lagoon - 17
5) rhye - open
6) daughter - youth
7) the six parts seven - everything wrong is right again
8) john maus - hey moon
9) the antlers - bear
10) no age - miner
11) fleet foxes - sun giant
Best albums of 2012:
Great genre records:
Flying Lotus - Until the Quiet Comes
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend!
Burial - Kindred EP
The Men - Open Your Heart
Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
Grimes - Visions
Beach House - Bloom
Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
The Eastern Sea - Plague
Matthew Dear - Beams
Purity Ring - Shrines
Delta Spirit - Delta Spirit
Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel…
Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
It is 2 AM and I got maybe two hours of sleep last night and I haven’t eaten anything resembling a real meal in three and a half days. But I just got home from what I think is my fifth Mountain Goats show and all my body is capable of doing is writing about it.
A couple of friends that’d planned on going to the show bailed at the last minute and I invited along another friend that had heard no Mountain Goats before today, and he came. I did not know what to expect; the Mountain Goats are not a band one casually gets into. They are a band that grabs you by the throat and the only way to get them out is to shout their lyrics as loudly as you can, wherever you may be.
The newcomer left mid-show, but I who have been grabbed by the throat can tell you this: the Mountain Goats do a live show that is nothing short of transcendent. They open with some tracks off the new record, and the crowd listens in hushed awe for a while before joining in on every word a few songs in.
The band transitions to some songs from The Sunset Tree, and John Darnielle (the band’s frontman and songwriter) explains that the songs are about the rush of conflicting emotions that happens when the person that has abused you dies. I think about law school and imagine that this is how I will feel in a year and a half. I shout along.
The middle of the set, as is custom, is a mini solo set with just John and his guitar. He starts out this section with Absolute Lithops Effect, an obscure, mopey track from a record that came out before my thirteenth birthday. The crowd is silent, every eye watching in rapt attention. He opens another song with a brief monologue about an emergency room trip in Sweden for chest pains. The doctor told John that he had Lutheran’s disease, because he felt as though he had to pay now for the things he had done in the past. John explained to the doctor that he was Catholic, to which the doctor replied, “But they are the same thing.” I look over at my best friend, also named John. He grew up Lutheran, I grew up Catholic. We share a laugh.
Eventually the band comes back. A few songs later John introduces them one by one before returning to himself and finishing with, “and I am Jacques Lacan, and this song is called ‘In Memory of Satan’.” They rip through a few more songs before ending their set. The first track of the encore is “San Bernardino”, a warm number about a couple welcoming their first child into the world. The song is different than on the record, and it’s been long enough since I’ve heard it last that I can’t quite recall what it’s titled despite knowing every word by heart. It’s the feeling of coming home after college and seeing an old high school friend whose face looks completely different but still retains some intangible familiarity. The encore ends with “This Year”, the anthem of of all my Decembers. I am in the waning days of what I will probably look back on as the worst six months of my life, but for a moment I am shouting “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me” and nothing in the world can take that determination away from me.
After the show, I head to the merch table to get something signed. As I wait in line, I hear John talking with fans about the very first Mountain Goats show I ever saw, four years ago in Austin. I remember that show for John’s performance of “Moon over Goldsboro” in his solo set - a sparse, desperate song that simply wouldn’t work live without an entirely silent audience. You could have heard a pin drop, and to this day it remains one of my most memorable moments at a show. John recalls this performance several times as I wait in line, and it touches me that he remembers it so well despite having played a couple hundred shows since then.
Standing in line, I am going over in my head all the things I want to say to John when I meet him. I want to tell him I appreciate that he gives shout outs to Amy Grant, one of my mother’s favorite artists to play in the car when I was young. I want to tell him about how I got my sister into The Mountain Goats, about how I’d been asked to write her a letter with some advice and some scripture for a Catholic retreat she went on and how I, since I don’t know much scripture, used Mountain Goats verses instead. I want to tell him thanks for the show and for all his music has meant to me over the years.
As I step up to meet him, I smile and hand him the item I’d like signed. My heart is pounding and I’m sure it’s rattling the thick jacket I’m wearing. I open my mouth to say something and all I can manage is a thanks. I move to shake his hand, and he holds it in his for a moment instead, thanking me back. And in that moment, I have all I need.
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