Gary’s Year-End Review 2014

Posted on by Gary in Everything, Year End Reviews | Leave a comment


There are few things more alarming then the sudden realization that you’ve become desensitized by something that was a constant worry, an adrenaline-inducing rush, or a simple unadulterated joy. Then again, this is what powers change, renewal, and some times, regression. So, with that off-kilter note, in this year-end review I will collect a few items where the old is new, the new is again old, and rings of retro is drawn around the world. Onward with the never-ending sushi conveyor belt…

Songs/Albums
In some sense, I take quite a negative/evolutionary approach to my music collection - whatever survives rounds of deletion regimes becomes a “favorite song”; and favorite album is simply one that escapes the Trash Can onslaught with the most number of tracks intact. That happens to be alt-J’s This Is All Yours and Anamanaguchi’s Endless Fantasy (which was actually out 2013) this year. The entire method, of course, leaves a systematic imprint on the collection: potential run-ins with music that I can’t immediately relate to, and was merely to confused/ambivalent about which to press the delete button. Be that as it may, both these albums contain real gems. alt-J’s cover of “Lovely Day” (Bill Withers) actually threw me back to dig up the original. They are polar opposite takes on the same tune – one nonchalant, idealistically ignorant while the other passive-aggressively defiant – each distinctly the product of their times. Another good track on the same album is “Every Other Freckle”, which would sound immediately familiar to anyone who has listened to their first album.

During SxSW 2014, one of the highlights that I didn’t detail (after rightly realizing the probable lack of general interest) is Anamanaguchi’s set at the Karma Lounge. Let’s just say that “moshing” with chiptune/anime nerds is a strangely civil affair where your personal bubbles interfere to the extent of a Venn diagram of the agreeable topics between the Democrats and Republicans, even if the music is going at a ludicrous-speed and 120 dB. Relative to the other 20 odd tracks on Endless Fantasy, “John Hughes” actually proceeds at a conservative pace, if you can believe it. But it did motivate me to read about the late director and re-watch Home Alone. With Christmas fast-approaching, that’s not even a remote stretch.

 

1x1.trans Garys Year End Review 2014

Documentary
The oil prices are crashing (and Richard Branson wants you to believe OPEC is dropping prices because they need to starve renewable technologies of cash). CDC fears perpetual ebola (and scientists are still talking about the semantics in “gain-of-function” as it applies to genetically boosted uber viruses). The ocean off Maine is so warm that blue crabs from Maryland now live there (let’s not forget that Maryland is south of the Mason-Dixon line and therefore THE SOUTH). So what else could you be doom and gloom about? After shedding the above external fears, you can turn to the internal dichotomies of human nature! It’s elementary, my good chum. I reviewed the Watchers of the Sky this past April during HotDocs. I still wholeheartedly recommend it. To summarize – it is about genocide, how we never learn, and have apparently shown little capacity to change in the 20th century even while some keep hoping we do. If you’re not already shuttering your DVD collection from a tsunami of tears, at least refrain from watching it with your whole family during the holidays while the neighbors’ kids are carolling outside the door. That would be a HUGE buzz-kill. Compartmentalize your ability to empathize and “festivate” (which would go perfectly well with a genocidal Dalek on a T-shirt), then watch.

 

1x1.trans Garys Year End Review 2014

Science stuff
2014 marks the first time I heard the term black hole and “white hole” used simultaneously in a scientific context. How? Apparently, back in 1964, someone thought that if it’s impossible to exit a black hole, somewhere there must also exist another “-hole” that is impossible to enter. And thus the white hole was born. Putting aside the fact that such a description would be preposterously scandalous if read in Einstein’s time, for 50 years everyone thought that even black holes were only theoretical. Now that we know they are not, physicists have been on the trail of black holes’ illusive white counterparts, and ideas abound as to how to find/create such a spacetime oddity. Among others, one idea popularized by the show “Strip the Cosmos” claims that a wormhole connects a black- and white-hole together and finding/maintaining one would finally satisfy our sci-fi fantasy of traveling faster than the speed of light. Unfortunately, the show then went to great lengths to describe how to build two gigantic balls in order to maintain a wormhole – too weird. At the other, SLIGHTLY more mathematically sound end of the spectrum, two physicists suggest that black-holes could basically invert and turn into a white-hole. Look, I didn’t make any of this stuff up. I merely reorganized the flow to make it a more interesting read. If at any point you have the slightest doubt that I’m simply cobbling together terminologies to saturate PM with smut and politically incorrect play-on-words, I would only say that 1) you might not be wrong, and 2) science is much more colorful than most people would allow.

 

1x1.trans Garys Year End Review 2014

Game
Disclaimer: I haven’t played Dragon Age: Inquisition.
For most people that would probably have been enough information to disregard this paragraph. But not only is Dragon Age not the lone, popular, heavy hitter this year, it would also be quite useless for me to recapitulate what has been said the umpteenth time elsewhere. What I will recommend is Divinity: Original Sin. Developed by Larian Studio from Belgium, DOS has been the most interesting daily time-sink I’ve crawled-out-of if only to step right back into the quicksilver 8 hrs and 2 meals later. Sure, DOS has a somewhat compelling story. Yes, there is character development, skill-tree progression, dialogue depth, humor, all that jazz. But that’s where BioWare really shines. DOS’ isn’t visibly great in those dimensions compare to even Dragon Age Origins. It is, however, a turn-based, stats-driven, hands-off RPG in the truest sense. Basically, if you believe in punishing tactical chess matches where you are almost always out-numbered and out-gunned, then this will be a Christmas treat. While the game softens toward the end, the steep learning curve at beginning to mid-game was the real selling point. There are two games in recent memory where scouring the land and constructing plans simply to level-up was absolutely necessary – this, and Dark Souls. You see, the game opens and leaves you alone just as quickly. You are the wildebeests that feeds itself to the lion pride every 2 minutes as you attempt to move about on a big map. And surprises are aplenty: standing in water? Instant death by electrocution; covered by toxic sludge? Instant death by chemical explosions; far away from the Boss enemy and behind a smoke screen? Instant death by crushing due to teleportation of the 800 lb invisible Boss above your head. The ever-so-faint hope of victory while you stare down the last drop of blood in your last surviving character can be maddening. Add to this the fact that character death (at least early on) is practically permanent, you can rightly question how this game is ”fun” if not only in the sadistic sense. But if we look back to the golden days: NES’ Ghosts and Goblins was categorically unfair; DragonQuest 7 on PlayStation almost turned me into a volcano in the opening battle; and let’s not forget the Demon/Dark Souls games. These are no more chances to earn nerdy bragging rights than they are a projection of the never ending, revolving nature of fashion/trends. So, support an indie game company and give it a shot. And get your TV/PC an insurance policy.

That concludes the lecture for 2014. Have fun doing none of the things I recommended!

2014 in Review: Ricky’s Favorite albums

Posted on by Ricky in Rickys Random Articles | Leave a comment

1x1.trans 2014 in Review: Rickys Favorite albums

This year, I lost the plot.

Mainly, I just worked way too much. As a result, my typical time spent with music reduced severely and is starting to induce a semi mid life crisis. Personal feeling asides, I did get to listen to a few albums this year and in no particular order, here are some of my favorites.

War on Drugs – Lost in the Dreams
I can’t even name one song off this album, but I listen to it all the time. It reminds me of a chiller time and also summer. I love albums that remind me of summer.

Lykki Li – That really sad record
Totally forgot what that album was called, but it was super sad and super awesome. I listened to it non-stop when it first came out and I still put it on regularly today. It really sucks that Lykke Li had to go through such heartbreak, but man does it make for phenomenal art.

Jessie Ware – Her second album
I remember when I first heard Jessie Ware and me and my friend Jessica were discussing her track and thought it was kinda meh. How wrong we were! Ware’s first album was great and she continues to build on it with her new album. Maybe it’s nostalgia but she has got that classic 90′s R&B sound that many singers try to imitate but few succeed. It’s just gorgeous pop music.

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Parquet Courts released two albums this year, the second one I have yet to really engage with but the first one was an album I was constantly listening to this summer. The album was exactly how I like meetings at work – short, to the point and sweet. The album reminded me a lot of late 90′s college rock, but Parquet Court combines that with good vocal hooks that ab adds just that much more to it.

Caribou – Our Love
First album in four years and Dan Snaith has not lost a step. The album’s first track Can’t Do Without You is one of the best tracks of the year and it should definitely be on the Polaris list for next year. It’s a complex electronic album that abandons a lot of conventional EDM tricks and will only grow with time.

Alvvays
It only took one album for Molly Rankin to surge to the top of the Rankin family power rankings. A great poppy debut record from the Canadian group had everyone’s panties in a bunch and for a great reason – great jangly beachy pop tracks like the ones that dominate this album are hard to find. Combine that with Rankin’s icy cool distant vocals and it makes the album that much cooler. A no brainer record that is probably on everyone’s best of.

Tennis – Ritual in Repeat
Sometimes the best summer albums get released in the fall. Tennis is a band who’s sound is pretty refined by now, but like a sushi chef who is dedicated to his craft, the band only seems to improve with each iteration.

Manic Street Preachers – Futurology
Manics seem to come up with a new record every year in recent times but Futurology took them in a drastically new direction from 2013′s Rewind the Film and the results were amazing. Inspired by Kraut rock and glam pop, Futurology has a freshness from the Welsh trio that would normally seem rare for a band with so many albums under their belt. I was kind of stunned when it wasn’t nominated for the Mercury Prize. I thought it was a good bet to win it when this record first came out. But then again, Talvin Singh won over Manics in 1999 so I guess a snub should not be all that surprising.

There were a few more I enjoyed, but I am too tired to write about them.
St. Vincent
New Pornos
Spoon
Warpaint
TV on the Radio

An Interview With B Side Shuffle

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1x1.trans An Interview With B Side Shuffle

The Panic Manual sat down for a pre-show interview with B Side Shuffle members Jasper Drisko, Carter Jones, Geoff Browning, and Nik Sus before they take (and dominate) the stage with White Ford Bronco at DC’s venerated 9:30 Club on Friday, December 19:

No better place to start than the beginning! Can you tell me a little about how you guys teamed up, why you’ve made Washington DC your home, and where your name comes from?

GEOFF BROWNING: In 2009, I moved to DC to work in the House. This was right after the financial crisis, and there were a lot of big legislative fights going on – it was an intense time to be here. The year before that, though, I had been completely captivated by my first trips to Bonnaroo and the All Good Festival. My heart was really drawn to that world. But it felt oddly incompatible with this one. And I assumed the two would never really jive.

That all changed when my friend Corinne Baker convinced me to reconsider. Guitars came out of their cases for the first time since high school. Eventually I wrote a song and played it at Barney Frank’s wedding. That same week, I ran into Jasper at a reunion in Vermont. Then we started trying out bandmates. Then Corinne booked us our first show. Then we met Carter. Then Nik found his way to us, blew us away in his tryout, and convinced us we needed a lead guitar player rather than a keys player. Then a real-life Rube Goldberg machine of amazing events happened, and we started playing shows all over the place. And now we’re playing a sold-out 9:30 Club for the second time this year. It’s kind of crazy.

I think there were a few extra steps in between, involving jello shots, figure skating, and Carter dressing up like Sesame Street characters. But I can say this definitively: the B Side Shuffle is an elaborate mating dance performed by penguins at the North Pole, which Jasper discovered when he was working on his Ph.D. in penguinomics. He has published several scholarly articles about it. And he knows how magnets work.

So here’s a fun fact. When I Google B Side Shuffle the first hits have taglines that include “B Side Shuffle is a highly collaborative, good-times musical collective”; “It’s more than just music – it’s an experience”; and “B Side Shuffle are one of the most exciting and kinetic up-and-coming bands hailing from Washington DC.” Awesome all around. Combining this Internet commentary with the fact that you’ve played our District’s most-revered 9:30Club three times in 2014 makes me think you guys are on to something good. Can you tell me a bit about these shows and what you think has prompted all this super positive commentary?

JASPER DRISKO: I think “good-times” is a key phrase there. Every time we play, we try to put on a really fun, energetic, engaging show for everyone who comes to see us. We’re doing this because we love music and we love playing our music for others. So when we’re on stage, we’re just having a ton of fun sharing that music with the world, and I think the audience really picks up on that and responds to it.

NIK SUS: It’s been a true honor to play 9:30 twice this year already, and now a third time. Over the years, I’ve seen some of my musical heroes grace that stage, so it’s surreal being up there. Each of our shows there in 2014 has been very different, too. Needless to say, we’re really excited to close out the year with a sold-out show at 9:30. We’re bringing a full horn section and have some surprises in store that we think the crowd is gonna love.

Speaking of the 9:30 Club and all that is the DC music scene, let’s hear a bit about how you see the Capitol City’s music landscape and where you find yourself fitting in among the musical crowd. Are there any specific venues where you really feel at home?

NIK SUS: I think we’re able to fit ourselves into a variety of musical settings. Indie crowd, professional crowd, jam crowd, whatever. We just want to get the music out there and for people to have a good time. One stage I feel really comfortable on in DC is Rock and Roll Hotel. It’s the definitive rock club. Intimate, great sound, intense crowd energy. Love the staff, too.

CARTER JONES: This city has very eclectic musical tastes: from jazz to punk, indie rock and gogo – there’s a local band to fit the tastes of pretty much everyone in DC. We see ourselves and our music as a reflection of that diverse listenership. Just like this city, we try to bring all of those influences together in each of our songs to make something that appeals to the differences among us.

Maybe 9:30 Club will feel like home eventually after a few more shows there, but I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch. I still get chills every time I set foot on that stage. And that’s unlikely to change.

Your newest album Farmalade is great. I love how diverse the sounds are, while remaining cohesive and true to the B Side Shuffle ethos. (I especially love Gauntlet.) What is the process in putting together such an ambitious work? Do you take on specific roles or is it more of an artistic free-for-all?

JASPER DRISKO: It’s a long process, very collaborative and democratic. It really started about six months before we even set out to record on the farm, with actually writing the songs. Then we played them all summer and really developed each one of them, tweaking things as we went along, seeing how the audiences responded, giving each other feedback about what we liked and didn’t like, and getting more comfortable with them. When fall came around, we felt ready to put them down. We spend an amazing weekend on the farm doing basic tracking, and then another few months putting the finishing touches on. It took a whole team of awesome, creative people, more than just the guys in the band, all working together to create the final product. I think we are all really happy with how it came out.

Looking ahead, what’s after Farmalade? What types of plans are you crafting for 2015?

NIK SUS: Look for some live releases, some brand new material, studio releases, and bigger festival appearances. B Side plans our moves strategically. I’m looking forward to working on new songs. In a busy band like ours, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of generating new material, yet it’s the most important thing you can do to keep the train moving.

CARTER JONES: Writing new songs and giving them a chance to fully form. We have lots of new songs already written, but the process is now about filling in the gaps and leading the songs to become the best they can be. That takes making more time to write and jam out new parts rather than just rehearsing for shows. The writing and songcrafting is where the real fun is for me.

You’ve had several awesome partnerships with other, mostly local, musicians (Frank Mitchell of Thievery Corporation, Jason Hann from the String Cheese Incident and Washington DC based saxophonist Ron Holloway as well as Danny Davis and Mario from Yellow Dubmarine). How do you identify possible partners? Can you give us a high-level idea of what that type of partnered collaboration looks like (is it structured? Impromptu? More or less challenging than keeping the creativity to the band alone?)? Is it a learning experience for you or more an exchange of ideas?

JASPER DRISKO: First off, I just want to say that having a drum duel/breakdown/jam with Jason Hann was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. It was an amazing experience to get to play with such a prominent and accomplished musician, but also someone who was extremely cool and down to earth. We had a ton of fun on stage without ever having met before and then after the show I talked to him and he was just a really nice guy too. I’ll never forget that experience.

NIK SUS: Have to give a big shout out to our horn section, which is anchored by Will Sautter (alto sax) and a recurring cast of players including Danny (trumpet), Mario (tenor sax), Frank (tenor sax). This is the first band I’ve worked extensively with horns and it’s actually helped me grow a lot as a musician. It definitely takes a lot of work to do the arrangements, but once you get there, it’s amazing how a well-orchestrated horn section can breathe new life into a song. All around it’s been a game changer, and I’m glad we’re moving in that direction.

The sit-ins have ranged from being meticulously planned to impromptu. When Danny joins us, he usually has everything charted out and it’s very polished and structured. But other sit-ins are completely spontaneous, like the one with the Ron Holloway. He was the artist-in-residence at a great festival we played this past summer in West Virginia, the Mad Tea Party Jam. In the middle of our set and seemingly out of nowhere, our buddy Marc Worden rides up to the stage in a golf cart with Ron and we’re like “What? YES.” He jumped on stage and killed it, of course.

GEOFF BROWNING: In each one of those cases, the circumstances were different. But each was amazing for its own reasons. Frank Mitchell has been part of the Thievery Corporation team for a long time. His sax-slaying skills are mindboggling, and he has a very distinct style. He has been playing and practicing with us a lot recently. Ron Holloway has played with literally everyone—the Allman Brothers Band, Dizzy Gillespie, Government Mule, Gil Scott-Heron, you name it. It’s a privilege to play with these guys, and they each a lot of lessons to impart on younguns like us.

As for how it effects our creativity, it’s always a net positive. We always learn something, and it’s really exciting to think these people actually want to play with us. Sometimes when Frank’s ripping a solo, I almost forget I’m on stage and not in the audience, because he just has such a mastery of sound, and I’m rocking along so hard with my ear monitors. We’ll be playing more with him in 2015 for sure.

What is the question (and corresponding answer) you most wish interviewers would ask?

CARTER JONES: A perennial favorite question for me is “What are you currently spinning/listening to?”

To answer my own question: Lettuce, The Pimps of Joytime, Moon Taxi, Opeth’s latest album “Pale Communion,” and Blood Orange – just to name a few.

NIK SUS: You know when you find a band you really like and you dig deep into their catalog and want to tell all your friends about them? For me, both Tame Impala and White Denim fit that description. Also Chromeo and St. Vincent put out killer albums in 2014.

GEOFF BROWNING: There have been a couple times where we played with a band, and I got to know them, then got into their music afterwards. It’s cool, you can almost hear people’s personalities reflected in their songs. Tauk, Moon Taxi, Big Something, the Revivalists, and ELM come to mind in this category. Also, Rubblebucket is amazing. And Tune Yards. And the Daktaris.

CHRISTMAS BONUS CONTEST: Win Vinyl/CD of She & Him’s Classic

Posted on by Ricky in Contests | Leave a comment

1x1.trans CHRISTMAS BONUS CONTEST: Win Vinyl/CD of She & Hims Classic

Hard to believe She & Him have been around for six years now. I guess it really isn’t a side project after all. I’m not sure if this is purely a cash grab or M. Ward just doesn’t feel like writing anymore songs but Classics is their latest record featuring covers of some of your grandparents favorite classics. Still, there is something there with the duo and the album is once again, entirely pleasant and something that you can easily give away to some excitement at Secret Santas or whatever.

You know what? You can win this album as well, thanks to our friends at With a Bullet promotion. To win, do one of three things!

1. Retweet this tweet and follow our twitter account
2. Like us on Facebook and comment on this post
3. Email panic@panicmanual.com with the subject “Im dreaming of a She & Him Christmas” (include mailing address).

Canadians only.

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