All Posts in Tangents

December 29, 2014 - 1 comment.

Top 5 Albums (That I Bought) This Year: 2014 Edition


It's always interesting to look back at the music that I listened to in the past twelve months what overlaps stand out. As you might imagine, my choices aren't premeditated, but often follow some similar patterns. Indeed some things never change: lots of pretty loud, pretty fast, and slightly experimental music.

2014 was definitely a year for straight-up Rock 'n' Roll. Despite rumors of its death, the genre saw several releases come out this past year that felt really alive and interesting. They combined some of the best references to the past, with some new licks and new tricks; something that rock has always done really well. Most importantly, artists keep exploring the boundaries of the rock sound.

One major connection through most of my picks is this strong connection—and reference to—musical history. In all cases, however, it doesn't manifest in nostalgia, but really a celebration tempered by recontextualization. Taking that one element that was successful for another artist or prevalent at another time, and recycling it to work in a current context.

As in previous years, most of these albums are pretty loud, but I didn't really hit on anything particularly heavy that I fell in love with this year. For whatever reason, I didn't listen to much metal over the past year or so. The tempo stayed high though while the running time stayed short, with the average song length clocking in around the 2:45 mark.

The final interesting thing to note: all of these records are releases by relatively seasoned artists. It's harder to find those amazing début artists, but I'm having trouble recalling a new artist that really grabbed my attention this year.

With all that perspective, let's kick off the list of this year's hits with my absolute favorite:

tUnE-yArDs - nikki nack

As infatuated as I was their previous record, W H O K I L L, I'm really entranced by this record. Indeed, it is more polished, more heavily layered, and the end I think more enduring release. The loops and quirky lyrics are still there, but gone is the hipster ukulele and the super low-fi approach. Instead the band has grown both in number and aural range to create a more robust sound, adding in more of a Caribbean flavor to its African beats. It's a bigger album in all respects than previous effort, but thankfully it feels like an evolution instead of a departure.

Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal

Few bands of recent memory have grown in reputation so quickly as Parquet Courts. Taking the usual trappings of a garage band, they've really refined it the sound to a smoothly running machine that churns out catchy track after catchy track. They'll lure you in with stupid lyrics and hand claps, then the next verse drop pure poetry wrapped in a wall of sonic feedback static. A more magical recipe for success I can't imagine.

Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World

I couldn't be happier that DFA1979 didn't fall into the pit of other "One Hit Wonders", but instead of returned from their hiatus with a really killer album. It's still really loud and really fast, but sandpaper to the eardrums feeling has abated somewhat. Even though I loved that with their first album, I really don't miss it here. In its place is songwriting that has stepped up a couple notches. Sure, there's still the lyrics celebrating the fast life, but there's also a real attempt at narrative storytelling, such as on the track, "White is red."

Ex Hex - Rips

With an album title like that, it's not easy to avoid cliché descriptors, but this really is a tight collection of songs. While I haven't read any discussion of this band without the mention of their front woman Mary Timony, I can't help but feel that she's just one of the strong creative forces behind these tracks. Blending super catchy choruses with an unrelenting pace, it's hard not to tap your foot and bounce your head from start to finish.

Jack White - Lazaretto

To be totally honest, this last spot was a tie for a while between Lazaretto, Ty Segall's Manipulator, and Bass Drum of Death's Rip This. What tipped the scales was ultimately the feeling that I get while listening to this album: it's just plain fun. I think Jack White has written better songs, and I enjoyed Blunderbuss a bit more, but what is really on display here is his virtuosity. He jumps from traditional Blues licks to hard rock, from folk to country and everything in between. In the end, it feels like he's just playing for himself and letting us all hang out and listen, which it turns out is a really good time.


That puts a bow on it for 2014. If you haven't listened to any of these tunes before, check out the full playlist of everything below. And by all means, if there's something that I should've checked out (and loved) in 2014, drop a line on Twitter and let me know.

January 1, 2014 - 3 comments

Top 5 Albums (That I Bought) This Year: 2013 Edition


It was definitely an unusual year in music for me. For whatever reason, I bought about half of the music that I usually do. As a result, I scrambled to round-up a list of my favorites for this year, but before I get into it, a few thoughts.

One of the factors contributing to declining purchase rates is most likely an increased reliance on Spotify for my music playing. I don't rely on it to be my main music library, though I do use it to listen to albums before buying. In some cases, this has made me more wary of purchasing, whereas in the past I have committed with a few short 30 second listens. I'm not sure if that means that my purchases have generally been of higher quality, but it has allowed me to listen to music in a more impulsive and free manner, which is a good thing. I also went to a few concerts of bands what I hadn't heard about previous to discovering them on Spotify. Long-term, I haven't decided if this is a good or a bad thing, but certainly a change in pattern and something to be aware of.

Another reason is that I'm seeing a certain change—both in my musical tastes and in the musical zeitgeist. Musical genres are much less of a "thing" these days, but there is a palpable sense of nostalgia to a lot of the music that is being released. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself since what is old is always becoming new again. What's really popular now reminds me of a lot of the key movements from music that was popular when I was really young or a teenager (grunge, digital synths, "indie") but feels like it has gone through the grinder and fermented with time. Sometimes it seems like I've heard the song before, but then I realize that it's all new. I will say that running through a lot of the music that I've been interested in has had a certain amount of dissonance running through it, which probably has some reflection of the times. Not a sense of outward anger, but there's just the sense that something isn't quite right and a lingering feeling of unrest.

With those thoughts in mind, I decided to cut my list down to the top 5 albums that I bought this year. Here's the run-down:

OutRun by Kavinsky

It shouldn't be surprising that an album titled "OutRun" would reference late '80s, early '90s video games. This album could easily have been run through a Midi processor and been the soundtrack for an NES game. That definitely touches something from my childhood, but the unrelenting pace is what keeps me hooked. It's also exemplary of the type of electronic music that I'm increasing drawn to, and want to explore more of in the future.

Reflektor by Arcade Fire

This one is everybody's favorite album this year. It's crazy how many Top 10 (…Top 50, Top 100) lists I've seen this on. I'm really surprised that I liked it as much as I do, especially considering the fact that I've never really liked another Arcade Fire record. Maybe it's because this is a rather unusual release, and the fact that it feels like several different records all tossed in the blender until something magical comes out. At times, it feels like three of my favorite records: The Clash's Sandinista, Paul Simon's Graceland, and LCD Soundsystem's s/t. The mixed whole is really an album that I think I'll keep back to for quite a while.

Bass Drum of Death by Bass Drum of Death

Where Reflektor feels complex, layered, intellectual, and collagey, BDOD feels simple, straight-forward, and fun. Sometimes this really just fits the bill, that it seems that's all these guys are trying to do. I managed to see these guys live, and their live show is just as fun. This is a great spin for getting psyched and just going for it.

Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Another weird one, I was a bit on the fence about including this album. I've been a die-hard fan of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs since the Fever To Tell days, and their releases have been flagging a bit, in my opinion. The last album, It's Blitz, stripped out a lot of the angst from previous efforts, but it seemed to me that a lot of the passion got lost along the way. Mosquito brought a lot of that back in, with some more variety, but a little bit more inconsistency as well. The title track is more than a little corny, and not in a good way, but the other tracks range from solid to great. Even the slower songs keep things interesting with evocative, emotive passages that play a much different spectrum than the band usually does.

Silence Yourself by Savages

Somehow I missed this one when it first came out, so I was a little late to the party. It's been on heavy rotation though. Occasionally—but not to heavily—indebted to the Riot Grrl sound, each of these eleven tracks blister with fury and distortion. There are also some dark psych overtones that leave me with the feeling that these girls spent more time listening to Black Sabbath and Television than Sleater Kinney.

The Wrap-up

There are definitely some commonalities in my picks, but I'll let you make judgements for yourself on what those really are. I've included a playlist embed below, so hit me up if you dig any of these tracks. I'm interested to see how this next year develops with my musical tastes and purchasing habits, with doubtless more Spotify listening.

July 19, 2013 - Comments Off on Artcrank Boston 2013

Artcrank Boston 2013


I'm honored and privileged to be asked to take part in the first Boston appearance of the popular Artcrank series of art poster show. If you're not familiar, Artcrank works with local artists to create limited edition prints that celebrate cycling culture. Then they throw a fantastic party, and make the prints available for a very reasonable cost, as well as a few other items. A chunk of the proceeds go to a local charity, and lots of people go home with great bike art prints.

It's going to be a fun night filled jam-packed with biking awesomeness. What's not to love? If you make it, stop by and say "Hi."

Here's the details on the opening:

Where: Fourth Wall Project, 132 Brookline Ave., Boston MA
When: Saturday, July 20th, 5pm–11pm (that's tomorrow)
More info

July 18, 2013 - Comments Off on Nursery Rhyme

Nursery Rhyme


I've long been fascinated with the origin of language, specifically colloquialisms that lose their original meaning but are still used in common speech. "Pop goes the weasel" is phrase that began as Cockney rhyming slag the meant "pawn the coat." It turns out that the cheery-sounding nursery rhyme is actually about being down on your luck, selling your clothes and going to the pub. Who knew?

If you're not so down on your luck, you can purchase a print here.

July 18, 2013 - Comments Off on The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Dark Knight Rises 03

Being a comicbook nerd for years, I was extremely excited for the Dark Knight Rises to come out. I made this poster to celebrate its release.

July 18, 2013 - Comments Off on Veggie BBQ

Veggie BBQ


As a vegetarian, one often feels left out of the BBQ party. Of course, there's always the tofu burger.

If you can sympathize, I'd be obliged if you purchased a print.

July 18, 2013 - Comments Off on Megatron 2012

Megatron 2012


How long would Megatron keep trying to defeat the Autobots? It seems like it would only be a matter of time before he decided to go through official channels.

January 9, 2013 - Comments Off on Let’s Talk About Web Type

Let’s Talk About Web Type


I'm going to be giving a little talk on "web type"—or web fonts if you prefer—to the ABCD W3 group at Harvard University on Wednesday, January 16th at 3:30.

The talk will cover a quick primer on type, and then dive into using web fonts on your projects. I'll go into how to implement them, as well as some issues you might run in to along the way. I'll also talk about some aesthetic considerations that you should keep in mind to help your type look great. Then finally, I'll touch on some of the interesting things being done with web type, and what the future may hold.

The talk is open to the public, you just have to RSVP via the website. Here's the link to do so, as well as for more information: ABCD W3 Harvard

I hope to see you there.

December 22, 2012 - Comments Off on Top 10 Albums (That I Bought) This Year 2012

Top 10 Albums (That I Bought) This Year 2012

Best Albums of 2012

For everybody new to this here blog, you should know that I like music. A lot. I've also been recapping my favorite albums of the year for the past few years. Sure, everybody does one of these things, but they're fun to do, so why not? Amiright? So let's get to it. In no particular order, here are my favorite long players from the past year with a bit of a video preview.

1. s/t

by Delta Spirit

I actually purchased this album by mistake. I thought that it was another band that I had heard before, but as it turned out, I really liked this album. The whole album keeps a fairly steady pace, but traverses a broad emotional spectrum. It seems like these guys have started to get some real media attention, and hopefully they keep putting out great tracks.

2. Yellow & Green

by Baroness

As much as I should like Baroness (I really dig heavy-but-not-brutal metal), their previous efforts always fell really flat for me. This album is their least "metal" of their entire catalogue, which finds the band stretching out and trying new stuff here, and I guess that is what was missing for me. Add to that the fact that the delux packaging of the album has beautiful design and illustration, it's a win-win.

3. Holograms

by The Holograms

I caught one of their tracks on WMBR, and had to check out this whole album. The track ABC City is straight up killer, and the whole album has a Class of ’76 with synths vibe. Must be something up there in the water in Sweden, because they've produced some of the most interesting punk bands between the recent Ice Age and the classics Refused as well as Randy.

4. Hypnotic Nights

by JEFF The Brotherhood

Coming straight off the success of "We are the Champions" last year, I had high expectations for JTB with this album. At first listen, I was a bit lukewarm on it, but then the second time around, it really caught me. Like the previous record, it's generally straight-forward minimalist rock and roll, but the brothers really take it a step further on this one. A bit headier and certainly more dynamic, they even include a few choice covers at the end.


by Liars

Liars have made a name for themselves playing spazzed-out noise rock with high concept themes. With this record they take a major left turn into electronic music, and I think that it really works. While the instrumentation is a departure, as is the song structure, this still sounds like a Liars album. It's almost like a Liars synth cover band, but it totally works to convey vivid emotions and feeling.

6. Sports EP

by Speedy Ortiz

Western Mass is turning into a bit of an Indie hotbed, and Speedy Ortiz is at the top of the heap for me. While the band name isn't the best, for some reason I couldn't get these simple tracks out of my head. They have that very sincere feeling with sparse arrangement that really works for me. Their rawness is much of their charm, and you can pick a demo album up on their Bandcamp for free.

7. Fresh Kills Vol. 1

by Night Birds

What would it sound like if the classic OC hardcore band, Adolescents, covered their peers, Agent Orange? It turns out that it takes a band from Brooklyn to tell you, and man does it sound fantastic. Each of these songs blister with a sense of urgency and vitality. Music to skate to.

8. Apocryphon

by The Sword

Since their first album, I've been a huge fan of The Sword. Somehow their second album upped the ante, though its follow-up dropped the ball. None of the songs really stuck for me, and it seemed like there wasn't a standout track to anchor the whole thing to. The good news is that they are back and really ripping with this album. Great heavy riffs backing lyrics of medieval mysticism. Perfect.

9. Blunderbuss

by Jack White

With so many different projects, you wouldn't think that Jack White could pull it all together in one package that made sense. He has collaborated with so many interesting musicians and created classic tracks that sounds so unique, but with elements the remain constant throughout his catalog. This album sounds like White's music—all of it. It jumps around from style to style, but is built on a basis of guitar-driven rock music. Jack White continues to prove that there's no-one else like him in music.

10. Twins

by Ty Segall

The young Mr. Segall is one prodigious dude. Just this year he has released an album, a few EPs and had songs on a bunch of comps. He's taking a page from Jay Reatard's book in more than one way—just hopefully not the last page. Heavily influenced by garage rock, you'll also hear a lot of ’90s Alternative, old-school Punk and even some Metal riffs on this particular record. Even though I picked this up late in the year, I can tell that it's going to have a lot of staying power, and I'm pretty psyched to see what this guy does next.

Wrap It Up.

So that's it. The year in music that stuck with me. Hopefully you found some new musicians to check out, and feel free to throw out some things that I might have missed.