Out with Hipster Food, In with Hipster… Balls

November 3, 2011

I heard once, and now I forgot where, that hipsterism is officially dead: All hipsters have just become foodies.

That’s the kind of sweeping statement that begs to be analyzed (see: The Atlantic article on such things).  It’s the kind of hyperbole you just have to sink your teeth into.  Anyway, after thinking hard about it for maybe two minutes, I have to disagree.

I can say, with all confidence, that food is not the next bastion of hipsterdom — it is, quite obviously, sports.  Think about it — if you were to to unfairly generalize hipster character traits the top of the list would have to be a love of irony, unapologetic geekiness, a carefully cultivated appreciation of  pop culture, and a finely-tuned sense nostalgia.  All of these things, to me, point directly to sports.

Example #1

Here is a group of three names: Malcolm Gladwell, Dave Eggers, and Chuck Klosterman.  If someone told you they were collaborating on a project together, what would you think it would be?  A youth literary fundraiser? A roundtable on the plight of self-awareness in literature?  A celebrity somolier app for your iPad?  All these things seem more likely than the truth, which is that they are all editors at Bill Simmons’ ESPN-backed sports blog Grantland. Gladwell, Eggers and Klosterman — THE TRIUMVIRATE OF COFFEESHOP NAMECHECKINGall with a profound passion for sport.  Also, check out Simmons’ recent podcast with John Walsh that focused solely on another hipster idol /sports fiend, Hunter Thompson.

Example #2

Hipsters strive to let you know that they appreciate something you love on a much deeper level than you do — doing so validates that their passion is more authentic than yours.  They also like to geek out.  This is why hipsters love sabermetrics — it’s an way to say, “Yes, I enjoy this too, but my enjoyment of this is considerably deeper and more rewarding than yours.”  This same argument has been made about everything from The Velvet Underground to The Muppets.  And don’t get me going about Moneyball, or the fact that Moneyball was adapted by Aaron Sorkin.  Everybody was jazzed about that one.  The only bigger announcement for the hipster world would’ve been if Noah Baumbach directed a rotoscoped version of Kafka on the Shore.

Example #3

Nostalgia is the lifeblood of the hipster.  Everything you find in the attic that was packed up as a kid — it is now gold.  Because the past = youth = innocence = authenticity.  Sun-faded photos of kids on big wheels are the stuff of indie EPs!  Parent’s gigantic plastic reading glasses are  urban fashion de rigueur.  That old replica jersey of Will Clark?! YES!  Do you have that Dream Team T-shirt? That shit is TIGHT. It is FOR REAL!  Wear it to LOLLA!

Okay.  I doth protest too much.  I like sports.  I like Moneyball.  I listen to Bill Simmons all the time.  I may talk about football on this blog more than anything else.  That said, I welcome the emergence of sports fanaticism as something that both jocks and art kids can love. Could I just throw out there that I even tried to start an Indie Rock fantasy league?  True Story.

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Style Points

March 9, 2010

It’s dated now, but I felt like posting it here.  Originally on Third Coast Digest…  (alternate headlines were going to be either “Rocky: On Ice”, or “Subject to Style”)

American League versus National League. Lakers versus Celtics. The Greatest Show on Turf versus the 4-3. As all sports fans will ponder at some point, “Am I a purist, or am I a spectator?” Do you live to watch practice pay off in victory, or crave the unpredictability that raw athleticism can bring to sport? While who wins and who loses is recorded forever in the box score, a sports fan lives to discuss the game well past when it’s recorded in an almanac.

In an argument that will eternally rage, I now add figure skaters Russian Evgeni Plushenko and American Evan Lysacek into this list of diametrical opposition. At first glance, they have all the great traits of classic rivals — Johnson/Bird, Bjorn/McEnroe, Balboa/Drago — but has there ever been a stranger pair of rivals than at last night’s Olympic skate-off?

This is what was so intriguing: Skating scores are weighted based not only on what is achieved, but on how it is achieved. What we saw last night is two athletes performing the same required feats, but receiving a different score — as a rule. In the weird world of professional skating, this is how it works. Plushenko, the mulleted graceless athlete versus Lysacek, a slick-coiffed ice-dramatist are on equal footing. It’s such a strange, unique situation.

Imagine footballer Chad Ochocinco’s post-TD antics yielding him a favorable .3 point edge to sneak in front of a mundane Dallas Clark hand-the-football-to-the-ref celebration. Or Curt Schilling’s edgy sock decoration eeking out a nail-biting World Series game.

The question remains: Is it a “sport” if a game is subjectively scored, or worse yet, scored only by the well-informed elite? One would argue “no” if a golfer’s exaggerated fist-pump would take a stroke off their total. Meanwhile, mogul skiiers, gymnasts, all X-sporters and perhaps even the BCS would have to emphatically disagree.

The arguments will continue to rage, but as Plushenko’s mullet whirls as he lands his patented quadruple axle, and Lysacek glides by be-feathered in a Vera Wang onesie, ask yourself: Does rewarding dramatics devalue sports, or is it just the honest admission that we watch sports for the entertainment, not just the final score?


2006 Albums of the Year, Late As Usual

January 28, 2007

Top Albums 2006

Ahhhh! It’s the obligatory “end of year list,” and obligatorily posted late, by moi. Okay. I would like to mention that I can only rank albums that I’ve actually listened to. Here’s 10 (+5) albums from 2006 I’ve listened to a lot and have actual insight on:

Preface: In keeping with the concept of the Arctic Monkeys’ debut “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not” I will say that The Arctic Monkeys are good, and that they deserve to make any and every “top 10” list.

1. Hot Chip, Hot ChipThe Warning

Oh Man. You can’t hate on this CD. This is the kind of record that changes people opinion on a “sort” of music. I.E., my friend Jimmy’s 30-something pseudomentor Chad (that’s his real name). Chad said something like… “I really like that ‘Hot. Chip’ song. Even though it’s kind of, ‘dancey’.” Join the club Chadly! The LP is just too catchy, too poppy, too funky, too damn fun to categorically deny because of dudes with keyboards and silly mustaches.

Free mp3: “And I Was A Boy From School”

2. The Hold SteadyBoys And Girls In America

Everyone’s afraid to put this album at number 1. It SHOULD be. (Hypocrite warning). This is an album I would recommend, without hesitation, to anyone. It’s a straight-ahead rock n roll album… which I thought didn’t exist anymore. I thought every band needed some sort of concept, prepackaged backstory, or clever nod to whatever retro-trend in the band is aping. The Hold Steady has straight-up rock swagger that reminds me most immediately of Guided By Voices. But the content… oh my… the tales Craig Finn talk/sings are wonderful. They’re the kind of personal/universal “‘member when?” youth stories everyone relates to even if you’ve done nothing of the sort: Betting on ponies, drinking, smoking, troubled kids, raging parties, first loves. All of them done in this anthemic, Glory Days-meets-Chuck Klosterman type storytelling. Indifferent to cliché, Finn’s immediate literature reference, “…There are times when I think Sal Paradise was right,” sets a tone for a terrific and shambling LP.

Free mp3: “Killer Parties”

3. Junior BoysSo This Is Goodbye

This is a sexin’ album. It’s an album by and for th’ sexin. I didn’t think Junior Boys would be able to top their previous release, Junior Boys – Last Exit, but they did… well… he did… as one half of The J.B. left before this album got made. Yet another reason why the band can’t be mentioned without a casual name-drop of sonic frères’ m83. This stuff blows m83 out of the water. Transcendental, groovy, electronic but deeply soulful, the understated crooning (and sometimes just cool breathing) of hit single  “In The Morning” would have to be my favorite single of the year.

Free mp3: “In The Morning”

4. HeadlightsKill Them With Kindness

“Kind of a new record slipped into a list old safe ones… verrry PUSSY!”. Ha. Guilty. I got this record very late in the year, but, as Last.FM would testify, I’m enjoying very very much. Nothing exciting has come out of champaign, IL since, ohhhh… Braid, until now. I’m a sucker for girl/boy vocals, and this was THE album for me in the last few months. Think Stars (especially Amy Milian-like vocals, minus all the fatalistic/melancholic/depressive lovesickness, then sprinkle with a few exciting influences… occasional Mates of State keyboard fun, some navelgaze dabbling, a track that reminds me a bit of Broken Social Scene, and that standard “We’re twee But We’ll Include One Adorable Techno Track To Show We Can Do It” song. (Ahem, Belle and Sebastian – Electronic Renaissance, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir – Topsy Turvy). Check ‘em out.

Free mp3: “Owl Eyes”

5. The Radio Dept.Pet Grief

Tim (The Muttering Retreats) turned me on to these guys. What a fabulous album. It’s this kind of new wave revivalism that makes me despise legwarmers and oversized belts a little less. It’s tough not to “influence pick” on the album, but it wonderfully re-creates a poppy The Jesus and Mary Chain thang in a haze of keyboards and drones and looooooooove.

Free mp3: “Against The Tide”

6. DecemberistsThe Crane Wife

Mad props for jumping to a major label and putting out an uncompromised LP, especially 10+ minute song sagas. Though, Castaways & Cutouts and Her Majesty… are still my personal favorites, Colin Meloy & Co went from your libraries favorite chamber pop band to a synth-soloing Genesis-nodding pop/progrock hybrid — quite a feat. And a little unsettling.

Free mp3: “Sons & Daughters”

7. The PipettesWe Are the Pipettes

I think, technically, this album hasn’t been released in the U.S. yet. I don’t care. Good music travels fast. Records labels can’t control product if the fanbase or buzz is large enough. The Pipettes bring back that girl group era to modern-times, a-lah Camera Obscura, but where C.O. delivers wispy lovelorn tunes with some occasional twang, The Pipettes have style, sass, swagger (and handclaps) to spare. The Pipettes – Your Kisses are Wasted on Meis a gem among an album filled with…well… other gems. The only downside is that the “we all have slightly different personalities and dress in polka-dots” seems suspiciously like a marketing ploy, you really can’t hate on these girls. 1 year from now, the re-united The White Stripes will have the Pipettes open for them. I predict it… it will come true.

8. Isobel Campbell & Mark LaneganBallad of the Broken Seas

When Isobel left Belle and Sebastian I was 95% sure her success would nearly match that of Looper. I picture, mid-Storytelling tour, Stuart Murdoch turns to Isobel on the tour bus and “Oi, Ah quite like your voice eeen that, buh eeets a bit wyrd, ya know, that one song you du, ‘The Sunrise Song’, eh?” Isobel promptly gives Stu’ the finger, jumps off the bus with a small, adorable, Scottish-looking suitcase, meets Mark Lanegan in a cowboy bar near the airport, and after a weekend in a motel, they decide to record an album. Isobel then flutters her eyes, forgets Mark for 3+ years and gives him a ring when she gets board spooning her cello.

Free mp3: “(Do You Wanna) Come Walk With Me”

9. TV on the RadioReturn To Cookie Mountain

Good, solid album, and a welcome return after a disappointing debut LP. I feel this one was a bit over buzzed, but it’s still incredible. A good listen, all the way through, the standout being the rollicking, driving assualt of “Wolf Like Me”. It’s SO hard to tell people there’s an indie band who combines, art-punk, trip-hop and Peter Gabriel and have them still pay attention to you. But, the word’s out on them, there will have to be no convincing.

Free mp3: “Wolf Like Me”

10. IslandsReturn to the Sea

Who woulda thunk it??? Especially now that all The Unicorns are dead. Turn the weirdness level down about two-notches, and what appears but yet another fabulous pop band out of Canadia. But to be honest, I kind of miss the previous weirdness levels, but their beginnings of silly instrumentation, deliberately incomplete songs structures, and childish deliveries allowed the .666Unicorns to flank the standard pop-rock formula and conquer all. Now… about Th’ Corn Gang.

Free mp3: “Jogging Gorgeous Summer”

Honorable Mentions:
11. Belle and SebastianThe Life Pursuit
Free mp3: “White Collar Boy”

12. Sufjan StevensThe Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from Illinois Album

13. Jenny Lewis With The Watson TwinsRabbit Fur Coat
Free mp3: “Rise Up With Fists”

14. José GonzálezStay In The Shade

15. Camera ObscuraLet’s Get out of This Country
Free mp3: “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”

Mad shoutouts to an indie kids’ savior: The Hype Machine.

And the blogs I stole mp3’s from:
http://skyscraperlife.blogspot.com/
http://www.girlpants.org/  (not making this one up, promise)
http://res1999.blogspot.com/
http://www.michaelmieler.com/blog/ Mike Went West
http://timedoor.textdriven.com Timedoor
http://tracemyface.blogspot.com/ Red Blondehead
http://www.blogotheque.net/sommaire.php3 La Blagotheque