June 19, 2010


“I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.”

This should keep you busy while I take a couple days off:

Click through for more of Hans Van der Meer's amazing photos of European football pitches

Click through for more of Hans Van der Meer's amazing photos of European football pitches

Classic; see below

Thanks Zach; related article below


Bluechips & Theory:

  • Jonathan Jones on Anish Kapoor and Damien Hirst.
  • Chuck Close: Life. As with art, music, film, etc., I hate reading book reviews instead of the books themselves, but sometimes secondary sources suffice… at least until I can justify throwing down $25 for it
  • Danto, part two—I’m still ambivalent about his definition of art as “embodied meaning,” which I first encountered a few years ago, but this is a good place to start if you’re not familiar with his work (which I can’t say that I am).


  • In accord with the New York Times review, I found Bravo’s “Work of Art” surprisingly watchable, living up to its pseudo-Warholian premise more than the SJP branding and Bravo production tropes might suggest. (I was mostly curious because I met Trong, pictured above, a few days prior.) If nothing else, “Work of Art” affirms that artists’ egos are particularly suited for the magnifying glass of reality television.
  • Hyperallergic looks at the show inside and out. The former article wisely points out that the reality TV formula of themed ‘challenges’ all but precludes any possibility of artistic growth, as well as the insular—if idealized—working conditions. In other words, it’s hard to take the show for a window into the art world (not that “Top Chef” does any better) when television necessarily imposes a distance between life and work.
  • I’ve never watched “Project Runway,” but apparently WSJ does, drawing parallels between the two shows in their recap of the first episode.
  • GQ talks to Bill Powers (“Work of Art” judge & NYC gallerist)
  • Related: The current state of the Brooklyn Museum (where the winner of “Work of Art” will get a solo show).
  • Inverted: Googleheim?

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May 27, 2010

M.I.A. in the Times

UPDATE: Maya responds; more info at Daily Swarm.

Another: Nylon has an excerpt of their forthcoming interview with M.I.A. Highbrow: Mike Barthel validates her artistic merit (despite her bitter Twitter) very nicely. Lowbrow: there’s a video to go with those photos (but at least it’s only a fraction of the length of her last pointless video.)

Lynn Hirschberg profiled M.I.A. (née Maya Arulpragasam) for the New York Times Magazine this week. To be perfectly honest, it’s not all that interesting; you could easily get away with reading the first and last bits without missing much (in fact, to facilitate the skimming process, I’ve culled a few choice quotes, below). However, I appreciate that Hirschberg picks at the seams of Maya’s authenticity—the piece is rather unsympathetic to her (purportedly) superficial politics and unremarkable artistic gifts, spinning M.I.A. as a cloying cultural mash-up—without straying far from the empirical vignettes that constitute Maya’s sweet new life as a 34-year-old (!) mom in L.A.

In other words, Maya has mastered the art of knowingness with the sort of pop prescience commonly ascribed to the likes of Madonna or Lady Gaga. Although Hirschberg plays the Madonna card rather early, she withholds the inevitable Gaga comparison until the end of the article—a little late, in my opinion, though it’s probably in the best interest of reader and writer alike to ignore Gaga’s long shadow for as long as possible. However, to Hirschberg’s credit, I completely agree with her assessment of the video for “Born Free”: “exploitative and hollow,” “seemingly designed to be banned on YouTube,”  and “at best, politically naïve.”

That said, I’m still a fan, and I’m looking forward to the new album. If the profile itself is a little labored, Ryan McGinley’s photos for the Times are a romp. Apologies in advance for the decontextualized and admittedly pointed quotes.


I’m tone deaf and not very musical, but I like dancing, if that counts.



Maya is postmodern: she can’t really make music or art that well, but she’s better than anyone at putting crazy ideas into motion. She knows how to manipulate, how to withhold, how to get what she wants.



If I was a terrorist, I wouldn’t be wearing American clothing.



Maya is a mixture of black American culture, Sri Lankan culture, art, fashion. We mix it up well here [in England] and sell it back.

–Richard Russell of XL Recordings.


Maya has ideas that can’t be physically done. She wants this sound or that sound — the tracks already exist in her head. In the end, she has a plan for everything.



Pop stars should be pretty.

–Romain Gavras (who directed the video for “Born Free”).


I’d like to turn censorship into fashion.



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May 13, 2010

Sleigh Bells

If you don’t know, now you know: Sleigh Bells are the latest product of blogosphere hype machinery, and at the risk of fanning the flames, I’ll echo everyone from my friend Sean (who has a nominal claim to their rise, since he booked their second gig back in October) to the New York Times in praise of the Brooklyn duo.


Despite Sean’s best attempt to get me to see them last fall, I didn’t end up at that show (I should have known better after his last tip on the Drums), but between CMJ and SXSW, Sleigh Bells blew up: they played to a sold-out crowd at Ridgewood Masonic Temple on Tuesday to mark the release their debut album Treats. I was lucky enough to have bought my ticket before M.I.A.’s unannounced guest appearance at smaller gig last Friday, which surely spurred ticket sales over the weekend.

The Sundelles’ surf/garage stylings was merely a diversion and I was curious about Cults, who are on the fast track to blowing up, but I was mostly looking forward to my first Sleigh Bells experience and they didn’t disappoint. There’s not much to the performance itself but it’s as good a time as one might have at a concert, and I completely agree with Matthew Perpetua’s excellent appraisal of Sleigh Bells at Tuesday’s show:

Like the music itself, the show is elemental and assertive, simple enough to be obvious, though novel enough to make you wonder why no one has ever really done it quite like this before.

–Matthew Perpetua, Devil Horns Best Friends, Fluxblog, May 12 2010

To Perpetua’s list of adjectives, I would add: visceral, immediate and cathartic; apocalyptic yet ultimately triumphant. It’s pop, punk and hip-hop, compressed to the limit of listenability, which somehow makes it all the more appealing… or overhyped, depending on your point of view.


As for the music itself, Alexis’s vocals strike me as more riot-grrl than M.I.A., though affinity is clear: those drum-machine-gun beats could turn a ghettoblaster into a Future Weapon, while Derek’s SG delivers more hardcore riffage than most indie kids would dare (he previously shredded for Poison the Well).

Even so, the sonic assault scarcely belies the sheer catchiness of the tunes, and Treats is the first party album of the summer whether you like it or not. Sleigh Bells are the band of the moment, and frankly there’s nothing wrong with that.

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April 27, 2010

M.I.A. – Born Free

The video for M.I.A.’s “Born Free”—an ultraviolent, parabolic, hyperbolic crusade—stormed the buzzosphere over the weekend, hot on the heels of my most recent mu$ic post.

The song is a thrilling, aggressive, hardcore electric anthem and heavily samples “Ghost Rider” by Suicide (ca. 1977, buy MP3 here). As my friend Clayton wonders aloud, perhaps the lyrics “America America is killing its youth” in the Suicide song influenced the visuals in the M.I.A. video.

Boing Boing

Incendiary political statement or crass PR stunt? Either way, we’re a long way from the fun/intelligence dichotomy: the overly gritty dystopian realism strikes me as a slightly-too-desperate bid for artistic credibility, if not authenticity in itself. At best, the short film is visceral to the extent that it is powerful yet reductive; at worst, it blurs the line between senseless and pointless.

UPDATE: Animal on the reference points; Diplo on the production.

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April 23, 2010

Pop Mu$ic

Ke$ha made a minor PR spla$h in the blog ocean (a drop in the Photobucket?) with a mediocre-to-bad performance on $NL last week (I’ll spare you the clips, but you can find them here). Yet pop pundits from across the internets have come to her defen$e, speculating that the “not dumb” pop$tar/rapper will eventually command some kind long-term po$t-reinvention cult following. In other words, we can already fondly look back at the passable Uffie-meets-Gaga single “TiK ToK,” because $he’s charting a path back to Na$hville.

Fred Falke transforms the bubbly electro party jam into a disco-funk banger, which I like about as much as the original (i.e. I’ve heard worse):

» Ke$ha – TiK ToK (Fred Falke Remix Radio Edit) (3:55) – 6MB mp3 @ 208kbps

Ke$ha in Interview Magazine; via Buzzfeed

Ke$ha in Interview Magazine; via Buzzfeed

Of course, Ke$ha is almost willfully eclipsed by the mega-ego of Lady Gaga’s hair alone, to say nothing of the Celebrity Incarnate herself. Indeed, insofar as Stefanie Germanotta’s alter ego represents pop-cultural cynosure the world over, she is regarded as a symbol (or symptom) of postmodernity, the subject and object of an ever-growing body of meta-commentary… not to mention a shitload of YouTube covers. There’s the usual conspiracy theories and folk psychological drivel, not to mention the sort of cultural criticism that is slightly too smart for its own good, namely Mark Dery’s recent ‘rockist’ retort to Sasha Frere-Jones’ review of Gaga from a year ago. (My own analysis, below, is decidedly less clever.)

Dery’s dissection of Lady Gaga and her (purportedly) apocryphal brilliance is worth reading, though I should caution that it’s on the heavy side: in a brief riposte from the pro-Gaga camp,* one commenter characterizes [Lord] Dery’s essay as “ridiculous long, very smart, [and] very namedroppy.” As far as I can tell, it comes down to a matter of whether fun and intelligence are mutually exclusive.

Read the rest of this entry »

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January 12, 2010


This is yet another version of Assorted Links, culled from newspapers and blogs.

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