OK Go and the Revival of Music Video Culture

It was late on a Friday, and I was hanging out with my parents in Gastonia, NC.  They asked me I had seen the zero-gravity video on the plane. I had indeed seen reports of OK Go’s latest viral clip in my Facebook feed and other online news sources—having seen a few of their quite clever setpieces before I figured the new video would probably have a cool gimmick all its own, but I had not bothered to check it out (much as I heard roiling, boiling controversy about Bey and Kendrick the same week without actually seeing what caused all the ruckus). But it was kind of cool to sit with my mom and stepdad and see them enthused about new music—and more than that, to see an utterly daring, … [Read more...]

Floridian America Redux?: Wicker Park, Hipsterdom, and Neo-Bohemia

“Creative people have always gravitated to certain kinds of communities such as the Left Bank in Paris or New York’s Greenwich Village,” wrote Richard Florida in his ubiquitously referenced The Rise of the Creative Class. “Such communities provide the stimulation, diversity, and richness of experiences that are the wellsprings of creativity. Now more of us are looking for the same thing.”[1] With his 2002 work, Florida staked his claim as an iconic New Economy urbanist and laid out a vision for urban growth in the new century that if not completely accurate rings true in many ways.  In general, more jobs would be based on “creative” or intellectual, knowledge-based skills rather than the … [Read more...]

Star Wars: The Han Solo of Wilco Albums?

The advantage of surprise can overcome a multitude of sins; poor planning, mediocre workmanship, sloppy execution, they can all be forgiven when one is presented with a gift of unexpectedness. Other times a pleasant surprise can be just that: pleasant, enjoyable, and well crafted. Though obviously not the world-altering shot in the dark that was Beyonce’s self-titled 2013 release, Wilco delivered an album that feels as natural as the hot summer breeze it floated in on but remains as memorable as that first music festival you attended in high school. For sure, some observers will scoff. Star Wars is the musical manna of a band in its twilight, they will suggest; the Grateful Dead for aging … [Read more...]

Too Much to Choose From: Searching for Inspiration in Asheville

Asheville is an Appalachian Shangri-La. This year-round resort town, tucked between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, draws a funky mix of New Agers, fleece-clad mountain bikers, antiques lovers and old-time farmers. And what's there not to like? Charming yet surprisingly cosmopolitan for a town of about 73,000, Asheville has a Southern appeal all its own. There are lazy cafes and buzzing bistros, Art Deco skyscrapers and arcades reminiscent of Paris, kayaking and biodiesel cooperatives and one of the world's largest private homes — the Biltmore Estate, a French Renaissance-style mansion with 250 rooms. No wonder so many locals first started out as tourists. -- New York Times “Freak … [Read more...]

Filtering Music through a ToM Lens

"Starting with the affirmation of man/ I work myself backwards using cynicism," Mike Watt sings on the Minutemen's classic track "The Glory of Man." "I live sweat, I dream light years/ I am the tide - the rise and fall." For many of our writers individuals like Mike Watt and bands like the Shins or rap groups like Das Racist have served as a means to connect and filter our understanding of late 20th  and early 21st century culture and history. Needless to say it was a veritable red letter day when Watt tweeted at ToM regarding an article we had written about the band.  Undoubtedly, Watt remains a testament to the ethos of the hardcore punk movement—"Punk rock is an idea, not a musical … [Read more...]

An MLS Moment: What the Chivas USA Controversy Tells Us About the State of US Soccer

In a recent podcast for Grantland, Roger Bennett and Roger Davies reflected on Major League Soccer’s (MLS) current fortunes. After nearly two decades, they argued, the league had made it through the leanest years intact, financially healthy, and ready to expand its market share. Indeed, soccer remains one of the nation’s most popular youth sports and perhaps more importantly, among 17 – 24 year olds, as was widely reported last year, soccer ranks second just behind American football in popularity. Undoubtedly, as evidenced by their recent success in the English Premiership (EPL), American players, most of them former or current MLS standouts, have become increasingly common. From grunge era … [Read more...]

Between Adolescence and Adulthood: How Girls and Toro y Moi Capture Our Awkward 20s

“We were kids acting way too old Hidden somewhere in the back room Now we got it and it's just us Now I, wanna, keep it, forever” - “Day One” from Toro y Moi’s Anything in Return Aaaahhhhhhh the twenties. Looking back, the corresponding victories of your first taste of adulthood can be the sweetest but the failures can also be the most disappointing. Dropping the ball while fumbling through the process of “finding oneself” stings that much more because, well, you haven’t figured it out; to paraphrase Fugazi, you spend your time hoping that every slip’s not a slide. This tension makes Lena Dunham’s Girls exciting. “There’s something thrilling and familiar about watching people so trapped … [Read more...]

Inauthentic Authenticity: Ian Svenonius and the Challenge of Indie Rock Satire in an MP3 World

Saturday night, Washington D.C., a stone’s throw from one of D.C. hardcore’s central nodes and the playground of Nation of Ulysses (NOU) front man Ian Svenonius: the Embassy in Mt. Pleasant.  In the late 1980s and 1990s, Svenonius, NOU, and other D.C. punks used to gather at the Embassy to discuss music, politics, and agit prop, even serving as an ally to the Riot Grrrl movement when Kathleen Hanna and others left Washington for a sojourn to the capital in what for many, became a transformative experience.   Tonight, though, sitting in independent book store Politics and Prose and waiting for Svenonius to appear from on high to assault us with his latest philosophical tract, the shop hums … [Read more...]

Tropics of Meta’s Best of 2012

It has been a big year for us at ToM, as we rebooted and redesigned the site back in March and welcomed many new contributors.  (Hi, Jude, Lauren, Maryann, Nick, Adam, John, Jonathyne, & co.)  We were also lucky to see several of our pieces circulated more broadly in the online world, such as Alex’s look at the politics of Atlanta’s Beltline, Ryan’s analysis of sexuality in the films of Wes Anderson, and our roundtable discussion of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.  Meanwhile, the manic, occasionally psychotic antics of the US election cycle prompted both mild laceration from our friend Clement, who covered the presidential conventions and debates, as well as the periodic spike in interest in … [Read more...]

Requiem for a Heems: An Obit for Das Racist

On Monday, Salon informed the public that one of rap’s most innovative groups had agreed to call it quits. That’s right, Himanshu Suri (Heems) told audience members in Munich on Sunday night that the fat lady had sung. “You guys wanna know the secret?” Heems teased. “Alright, so I’m going to do some Das Racist songs, but Das Racist is breaking up and we’re not a band anymore.” It all started with a massive joke.  Das Racist amassed Internet buzz and notoriety with the 2008 hit “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” in which Heems and Victor Vazquez (Kool AD) shout “I’m at the Pizza Hut!  I’m at the Taco Bell!” over an infectious beat and 80s video game zips and zaps.  The song relates the … [Read more...]