Follow Friday: Jeff Rosenstock

October 23, 2015

This is part of Dudes Brunch’s “Follow Friday” series. A weekly bio of someone or something you should be paying attention to.


 

If you don’t know who Jeff Rosenstock is, and you call yourself a punk fan, it’s time you got educated.

Rosenstock is the former frontman/mastermind of Bomb the Music Industry (BTMI), an infamous DIY ska/pop-punk band active from 2004-2014. BTMI’s sound is an upbeat and (slightly) experimental melding of electronics, folk instrumentation and the traditional pop-punk/power-pop sound you might associate with Weezer. Their name and approach went hand-in-hand, creating numerous comparisons to Dudes Brunch favorite Fugazi. Like the DC legends, BTMI played only all-ages shows with a maximum ticket price of $10; however, BTMI intentionally gave away their albums for free online.  This practice was almost certainly a catalyst for their international buzz as well as their inclusion in popular TV shows such as Weeds and The Office.

Throughout Bomb The Music Industry, Rosenstock was also active in a side project called The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, which was a more traditional Third-Wave Ska band. Expect a ton of horns, and lyrics that sound like a really really pissed off version of Reel Big Fish. This is prime skanking territory right here. Rosenstock also released a handful of singles and EPs with pop side-project Kudrow and electronic(?) trio Pegasuses-XL. Seriously, dude was busy.

Towards the end of BTMI Rosenstock released his first solo record “I Look Like Shit”. He followed it up with the incredible “We Cool?” this past year, which Anthony Fantano gave an 8/10, that may be the most fun you’ll ever have being miserable. His sound is intentionally sloppy, yet energetic and his lyrics ponder drinking alone, settling down and death in an interesting light.

Rosenstock’s not stopping there though. He has yet another side-project, with Chris Farren of Fake Problems, called Antarctigo Vespucci. Farren takes lead vocal duty here, though there’s a decent amount of Rosenstock’s characteristic screaming in the background. Calling Antarctigo Vespucci an acoustic act would be an over-simplification, but in comparison to BTMI these records feel like an episode of MTV Unplugged. Their latest “full-length” (clocking in at 25 minutes long) features an impressive array of 1980’s synths that feel right at home in Rosenstock’s pop-cultural stew. The record caught the attention of Stereogum, who named Antarctigo Vespucci one of the best new bands of 2015.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries?list=PLrFvCewEJhyXmZaiii_qkWlhCc3ZSvjrg]

If you’re a punk fan you probably know where this is going. One guy in four different bands, he must be running a label. You’re right! Jeff Rosenstock has been running Quote Unquote Records, the first purely donations based DIY label since 2006, releasing his own projects and those of his friends in other DIY acts such as The Taxpayers. No joke, every single album I’ve mentioned in this article is available for FREE on Quote Unquote’s website. Just chip in and support Jeff and friends if you decide you like his stuff. I’m pretty sure you will.

I’ve been following Jeff Rosenstock since Tyler showed me Bomb The Music Industry back in 2010 or 2011. I’m consistently impressed with his output and moved by his lyrics. I cannot recommend his entire body of work enough. If you’ve listened, let me know what you think. What’s your favorite Rosenstock project? Have you seen any of his bands live?

September Apple Event 2015 Recap

September 9, 2015

Apple Event September 2015

That’s right kids! It’s time to spend all of your parents’ money on new screens for whiling away all of your spare time with.

I’ll walk you through all of the changes and updates in bullet points below so you can stop reading and rush out to spend that money when pre-orders open on Friday.


iPhone 6s/6s Plus

The latest edition of the ubiquitious smartphone looks exactly like the last one…on the surface.

  • 3D Touch is a new feature that detects how hard you press on your phone.
  • This is an “S” update, which means the new phones have better cameras.
  • Touch ID is faster.
  • The phone is generally faster.
  • They cost the same as the iPhone 6 models did until today (starting at $199).
    • All iPhone 6 models have gone down $100.
    • The iPhone 5s is now a free upgrade device.
  • See below for subscription pricing awesomeness….
  • Ships September 25

iPhone Upgrade Program

The cell phone business just changed big time.

  • You can now subscribe to new iPhones directly from Apple.
  • You set it up at the Apple Store.
  • You pay a monthly rate (starting at $16/month) on 24 month loan.
  • You have the option to get a new phone each year when they’re announced.
    • Upgrading mid-cycle would most likely mean paying the balance of your loan.
  • You can use it on any carrier.
  • Your phone is always covered by an Apple Care+ Warranty.

Apple TV

Apple’s set-top box has been updated for the first time in years, and it’s a doozy.

  • Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, MLB and more are baked in.
  • All services are searchable in one search box and with Siri.
  • The remote is half iPhone, half wiimote.
  • You can shop and play Guitar Hero on it.
  • It actually looks like a decent rival to the Chromecast.
  • Two sizes and prices; 32 gb for $149 or 64 gb for $199.
    • Not bad, but don’t expect to put your whole library on one just yet.
  • Ships in October

iPad Pro

The iPad is finally going to work. Like for real this time.

  • Twice the size of any other iPad. Space for  a full size keyboard on-screen.
  • Can run new Microsoft Office, including side-by-side multi-tasking.
    • Microsoft actually had a rep on-stage to show this off and it was weird.
  • Has a new suite of Adobe apps to compliment existing ones for all of you creative types.
    • Adobe actually had a rep on-stage to show this off and it was weird.
  • It has a stylus! Well, it’s actually called the Apple Pencil. (additional $99)
  • It has a keyboard! (additional $169)
  • It starts at $799 and goes up based on storage space.
    • If this seems high, consider the fact that it costs less than a Macbook Pro with both accessories and has comparable power with better graphics.
  • Ships in November

Apple Watch

It has a new operating system and some new cases, but it’s basically the same thing.

  • It comes in gold and rose gold.
  • It has new bands including some designer ones.
  • There’s a silver and red Product RED version.
  • The new OS allows for more third-party apps that will be great for medicine and also Facebook Messenger (if you’re into that).
  • It’s available now and costs the same as existing Watches (starting at $349).

iOS 9

The updated operating system will be available for iPhone 4s and up on September 16th as a free upgrade.

  • Siri is Proactive. Basically she’s tracking more about you to do more.
  • Search now goes into your apps and pulls information out.
  • Mail is a little nicer.
  • Notes is a lot nicer.
  • Also, iCloud storage is getting cheaper with a starting price of $0.99/month for 50 GB.

And One Republic was there…..yeah….

So that’s all you missed if you weren’t fan-boying it up like I was this afternoon. Apple will still take all of your money anyway.

Six Ways to Survive the Gaslight Anthem Hiatus

August 7, 2015

This post originally appeared on the blog for my pop culture podcast Dudes Brunch.

If you haven’t heard, I’m really sorry to inform you that The Gaslight Anthem are going on indefinite hiatus. Don’t buzz your pompadour and cover up your anchor tats just yet. In their announcement the band said this is not a permanent break. They plan to come back to TGA after spending some time on other projects.

I believe we can get through this. We will survive this hiatus. And we’re going to do it together. So, here are a few ideas of things to fill that old white Lincoln shaped hole in your heart for a few months:

1) Listen to the back catalog

When was the last time you honestly listened to “The ’59 Sound” from front-to-back? Do you even have “Sink or Swim” in your library? Can you harmonize with the chorus on “The Andy Diamond Church Street Choir”? If you answered “No” to any of those questions, I’d say it’s about time you boned up on the back catalog of our favorite retro Jersey punks. Five albums of material takes a lot longer to appreciate than you think. I find new things to love on every listen.

Recently I’ve been re-visiting “American Slang”. I think I kind of glossed over this record when it came out for various reasons. The songwriting here is some of my favorite work Fallon has done. In particular, “The Queen of Lower Chelsea” tells a succinct and moving story in a classic ballad form. Take this record on the road with you. You won’t regret it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jURoIytNuvQ]

 

2) Check out side projects Molly & The Zombies and The Horrible Crowes


A lot of people don’t realize the guys in Gaslight have side projects because they’ve released albums so steadily over the past few years. Brian Fallon has two, each with a slightly different (yet recognizable) sound.

Molly and the Zombies is Fallon’s folky project with guitarist Brian McGee of Plow United, former Ryan Adams and the Cardinals bassist Catherine Popper of Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, and Randy Schrager who drums for the Scissor Sisters. The songwriting is characteristic of Fallon, with allusions to hearts, daggers, dangerous women and drunken nights. The tempos are slower and the instrumentation lighter, making it a band you’re parents might actually understand.’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgsc7nRFUOU

Continuing his love of early American music, Fallon dons a zoot suit in performances with The Horrible Crowes. This blues-inspired act is primarily Fallon and his guitar tech, Ian Perkins with a rotating cast of touring musicians. Their music is markedly slower than either of Fallon’s other projects, and closer to a Tennessee blues than you might expect from a Jersey Boy.

 

3) See Brian Fallon solo

Brian Fallon does occasionally release solo music and perform on his own. There have been rumors that his first move during the hiatus will be a round of US dates, but I’m not holding my breath. If it happens though, I highly recommend heading out to see him. Fallon’s stage presence is impressive even without a band behind him.

 

4) Show some love to Sammy Kay and Northcote


Sammy Kay and Northcote both opened for Gaslight Anthem on some dates of their recent US tour supporting “Get Hurt”. They’ve been on a couple of other tours with the group and play a similar gritty Americana style rock’n’roll. Sammy is from TGA’s home state of New Jersey and has a delivery pretty similar to Brian Fallon’s. His latest record “Sammy Kay & the Fourth Street Singers” is a rollicking good time. And he’s super engaged and personable on Twitter.

Northcote are a bit more acoustic than The Gaslight Anthem, but that’s in no way a bad thing. They rely heavily on vocal harmonies, which produces a last call sing-along vibe on many songs. They seem like the sort of band you play on the jukebox at the bar around 1:00 AM.

 

5) Wear your Tiger Cuts gear


Tiger Cuts
Alex Levine, The Gaslight Anthem’s bassist, has a number of non-musical passions. He’s a barber, a wrestling fan and now a clothing designer. His brand Tiger Cuts recently released their second collection of vintage tattoo and barbering inspired shirts and apparel. He and his business partner tour around to various festivals cutting hair, giving tattoos and selling clothes.

Tiger Cuts recently opened up a US warehouse, meaning you can finally buy their gear without having it shipped from the UK. That means lower prices for you, and faster turnaround times. And I can say, as a Tiger Cuts wearer, that they make awesome clothes that’ll look great around your office on casual friday or out at the bar with your dudes.

 

6) Familiarize yourself with The Boss


Whether they’ll admit to it or not, our favorite retro Jersey rockets take a lot of cues from their home state hero Bruce Springsteen. Their song structures are similar, they write about a similar sort of Americana and they use a lot of the effects Bruce used to make his music sound timeless. His voice is powerful like Brian Fallon’s and his songwriting ja top notch, even if the production is occasionally a bit dated.

The Boss has a truly daunting back catalog. The album’s you’ve heard of already (“Born in the USA” & “Born to Run”) are a good place to start though. Apple music also has a good Intro to Bruce Springsteen playlist if you’ve jumped ship from Spotify.

We’re all going to miss the Jukebox Romeos while they’re away, but in the meantime there are plenty of related projects and bands to keep you busy. What will you be listening to in place of The Gaslight Anthem?

Intro to Ben Folds

August 5, 2015

This post originally appeared on the blog for my pop culture podcast Dudes Brunch.

Ben Folds: pianist, a capella enthusiast, photographer and nerdy music industry figure. With a over 20 years of piano driven alt-pop records, a stint as a game show judge and a campaign to save an aging recording studio Mr. Folds’ career can be a bit daunting to the non-fan. So, as a massive fan, I’ve put together a crash course in the piano crashing and genre smashing world of Benjamin Scott Folds.

Ben Folds grew up in Winston-Salem North Carolina, where he picked up his southern accent and listened to a lot of AM Radio. He was especially interested in singer-songwriters including Elton John and Billy Joel. He was particularly fascinated, during one stage with Neil Sedaka, as he explains below:

Folds started his first band, Majosha, in the late 80’s who attained regional popularity with their four-song EP “Party Time; Five songs About Jesus”. Majosha broke up after releasing a full-length LP (“Shut Up and Listen to Majosha“). Many songs from this period appeared on subsequent Ben Folds releases. Folds spent some time as a session drummer in Nashville before attending the University of Miami for music. However, he broke his hand the night before his percussion studio final in a bar fight. The next day, after being told he couldn’t postpone the final, Folds threw his drumset into a pond and dropped out of school. He was (and is) one credit shy of graduating.

After college, Ben Folds formed a trio with Robert Sledge (bass) and Darren Jesse (drums) in North Carolina. Continuing his penchant for misleading names, the trio became the Ben Folds Five. They released their self-titled album of “punk rock for sissies” in 1995, which spawned the singles “Philosophy” and “Underground”. Their sophomore album “Whatever and Ever Amen” proved to be their breakout album, due largely to the song “Brick”. Only after the song left the charts did Folds begin explaining it’s subject matter:

The trio’s third album “The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner” is a tribute to the first man to summit Mt. Everest, though none of its songs are explicitly about him. The opener, “Narcolepsy”, is about an actual disorder where people simply fall asleep when confronted with extreme emotions; and how Folds believes a lot of men have a similar reaction. The live favorite “Army” tells the story of a dropout who realizes he can’t make it in the armed forces, or fast food. The horn break in the middle of the song is
frequently performed a capella by audiences during live shows, with Folds directing.

Ben Folds Five broke up in the late 90’s, prompting Folds to embark on a successful solo career. During the early portion of his solo career, Folds became known for writing songs in the third person. In fact, half of his debut solo record “Rockin’ the Suburbs” is written in the third-person. He explains, below, that he does this to create intimacy or to write about himself without being “emotionally lewd”.

At an early solo show in Chicago, a fan yelled “Rock this Bitch!” at Folds in between songs. This created a live tradition, where the audience may (once per show) heckle Folds into rocking this bitch. Each night he will perform an improvised song around the phrase, regardless of accompaniment. Once he even created an improvised piece with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth.

Folds experimented with the release of his music during the early days of iTunes, releasing singles and EPs in regular intervals to determine which packages of songs seemed the easiest for fans to digest. The songs from this period, which are gathered on the SupperSunnySpeedGraphic LP, include some of his most eccentric songwriting and a few notable covers. His cover of Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” from 2005, was an early viral hit. Since then he has regularly included piano covers of vulgar pop songs in his live sets and as bonus tracks on various releases.

Touring before the release of his 2008 solo album “Way To Normal,” Folds fell of a stage in Hiroshima and sustained a concussion. During treatment, the delirious Folds asked his doctor if the scans of his brain could show whether or not he was gay. The incident became the basis of the album’s opening track: “Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)”. As albums were beginning to leak to peer-to-peer networks around this time, Folds and his band created entirely different songs using the titles of the album’s track listing and “leaked” this version online prior to the release. He occasionally performs these false versions to this day.

After hearing a cover of “Brick” by the Ohio University Leading Tones, Ben Folds produced an album of his greatest hits performed by university a capella groups from across the country. He has been known to include a capella groups as part of his stage show when visiting universities since.

In the early 2010s Folds frequently popped up in music news circles for odd projects. In 2010, users of ChatRoulette suspected he was masquerading as “Merten,” a user who would appear on-screen in a grey hoodie and sing improvised songs about other users. Folds dismissed the rumors, and then performed a tribute to Merten during a live-set using a webcam mounted on his piano. In April 2011, Folds collaborated with Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman and Damian Kulash as 8in8 to write, record, and produce eight songs in eight hours. And in 2014, he spearheaded a successful campaign to save the historic RCA Studio A in Nashville from demolition.

Outside of music, Ben Folds is a semi-professional photographer. He collects film cameras and has a dark room in his home, where he develops photos that he sells as a side business. He was a judge on a few seasons of NBC’s a capella singing competition “The Sing Off,” where he frequently used musical terms that he would have to explain to contestants, viewers and fellow judges. He also frequently participates in fundraisers for music education, and raises awareness on Twitter about people who #FlossNToss (using disposable dental flossers and then dropping them in public places).

Ben Folds Five reunited in 2011 and released “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” in 2012. After touring for this album Folds composed and performed a concerto for piano and orchestra. The piece will be released as part of his upcoming album “So There” along with eight new “chamber rock” songs recorded with the yMusic sextet.

Ben Folds’ bizarre side projects, strange collaborations and unique songwriting have created a twenty-plus year career of pleasant surprises. His back catalog is as varied as it is large, yet his fans are generally completists. His writing style is extremely verbose, yet nearly always relatable. And his piano playing is some of the best in contemporary pop music. For an easy-to-swallow introduction to his music, click below to listen to our “Intro to Ben Folds” playlist. And let us know in the comments what your favorite Ben Folds project has been.

April Alt-Rock Releases 2015

May 4, 2015

April always seems to be a good month for alt-rock releases, no matter what year it is. I think this probably because festival season is right around the corner and most bands need material to tour under at Bonaroo, Lollapalooza, et al. And so, I’ve put together a round-up of noteworthy alt-rock releases from last month for you, in hopes that maybe it’ll save you some of the time I lost to these albums:

 “New Glow” by Matt & Kim

New Glow by Matt & KimThe brooklyn synth-pop duo return with their most diverse full-length yet. Buzz leading up to this album paid a lot of attention to the (somewhat) more personal songwriting and the types of synths used. Personally, I really enjoyed this album like I enjoy any other Matt & Kim album: as 40ish minutes of pointless fun. I like Matt & Kim the most when they’re being outrageously simple and irreverent, and there is plenty of that here. “Make A Mess” is one of the most childishly catch (in a good way) songs you’ll hear this year. “Get It” is an absolute blast both live and on-record. However, the striking track here is the closing ballad, “I See Ya”. Here Matt sings about the interpersonal damage that six years of non-stop touring can cause. And for the first time, I actually really empathize with and am moved by a slow song on what would otherwise be a non-stop party of an album.

“Kindred” by Passion Pit

Kindred by Passion PitIt’s 1985! How can I tell? Well, besides the literal subtitles of some of these tracks, the synth leads throughout this album feel like they’re as old as most of the members of Passion Pit. A lot of people are probably going to call this album a pastiche or unnecessary nostalgia. And that was my first impression too. However, much like their 2013 album “Gossamer”, “Kindred” packs a hidden sadness into its lyrics that can be extremely effective at times (“All I Want”) and a bit sappy at times (“My Brother Taught Me How To Swim”). This album packs some emotional punch for a summer alt-rock outing, but I do somewhat question its overall staying power.

“The Magic Whip” by Blur

The Magic Whip by BlurFull disclosure: I’ve never liked Blur enough to listen to one of their full-lengths before now. I had a copy of their greatest hits for a while, and I’ve enjoyed Damon Albarn’s solo/collaborative work, but I just couldn’t really bring myself to dig Blur. So, when they reunited I promised myself I’d at least try out their new album, “The Miracle Whip”. Lo and behold, I enjoyed it for about five songs and then got bored, just like I have with every other Blur album.

I don’t know what it is about them. By any and all standards I should like this band. They’re playing in genre I really enjoy, and I appreciate their musical talent. I even really enjoy Albarn’s songwriting (at times). There’s just something about them that feels extremely bland to me. It could be that they established the type of alt-rock they’re playing in the late 90s and early 2000s, and I’m just used to their imitators. I don’t think that’s what it is though. I think Blur just live up to their name. All of their songs blur together, and result in a mediocre hour of generic guitar based rock music.

“New Year” (EP) by A Silent Film

new-yearThough they’re not a huge group on the scene by any regard, I’m always excited when A Silent Film put out something new. I typically describe them to people as “Coldplay with more cred.” They play a similiar sort of piano/synth driven symphonic alt-rock with very catchy poppy song-structure. Their latest EP sees a slight improvement in their songwriting, but the focus here seems to be more on instrumentation. There are lot more electronics and synths on these tracks than we heard on previous releases. And that’s not a bad thing. I just do sort of miss the pounding strings of their first record (see “Julie June”) during some of the more repetitive pre-choruses here. All in all, a nice set of songs to hold us over until the next full-length.

Various Singles by Brandon Flowers

The Desired Effect by Brandon FlowersIf Passion Pit hasn’t convinced you that this summer will be an eighties revival, then Brandon Flowers absolutely will. The Killers’ front-man’s  new solo effort looks like the sort of thing you’d expect Rex Manning or Rick Astley to put out, and that’s just talking about the cover art. We’ve gotten three singles from “The Desired Effect” so far, and if that desired effect is a strange nostalgia for a decade you didn’t experience then he’s definitely achieving it. These are some catchy tracks. There’s no doubt that Brandon Flowers can write a powerful chorus or a crescendoing verse. The creative direction here (or lack thereof) is just a bit confusing. I get the feeling that this album, much like his last solo record, will be a bunch of tracks just outside of The Killers aesthetic that all feel like they written years apart from one another. I like a couple of them individually, but I don’t think they’ll cohere well as an album.

Various Singles by Twenty One Pilots

Blurryface by Twenty One PilotsTwenty One Pilots, being an Ohio band, have a special place in my heart. And when their lead-off single for “Blurryface” was a banger (as much of one as they can write anyway) titled “Fairly Local” I was already sold. Geographic allegiances aside though, we now have three tracks from this record available online and I’ve been impressed by all of them. The duo’s breakthrough album “Vessel” felt extremely earnest and a bit sloppy at points, but these tracks feel a bit more polished without sacrificing their trademark angsty energy. I’m impressed by how these two manage to make such passionate music in an accessible format around some fairly intense themes. “Stressed Out” sounds like something I’d hear coming from car windows this summer, even though its about an identity crisis. I’m pumped for this record, and I’m excited to see the band live for the first time in June.

Various Singles by Mumford & Sons

Wilder Mind by Mumford and SonsAfter seeing a fair amount of pop-chart success with their sophomore LP “Babel”, it isn’t very surprising that Mumford & Sons are transitioning to a less folk-inspired sound for the new record. We got three singles from “Wilder Mind” this April, and each of them has been more electric and poppy than the last. The anthemic “Believe” sounds like a track Coldplay would have made last year, were they not on tour. “The Wolf” has driving electric guitars and bass that still manage to feel a bit boring, despite their fast tempo. Even the ‘ballad’ of these three tracks, “Snake Eyes”, has more electric than acoustic guitar on it. Mumford & Sons are obviously trying to make a bold statement about their new aesthetic as quickly as possible. This isn’t surprising, given the negative critical reception they’ve received recently for staying at the surface level of a trend they helped to establish. I’m honestly not convinced that shifting styles was a great move for them either though. These songs aren’t bad, but they stay close to the surface. Marcus Mumford is a talented songwriter, but he and his band seem to be more concerned with commercial radio success and iTunes sales figures than doing these songs the creative justice they deserve.

 

Those are the releases I spent the most time with this April. What did you think of these albums and singles? Who are you excited to see on the festival circuit this summer?

Meerkat & Tworlds; Real-Time Voyeurism

March 7, 2015

This post originally appeared as an article on Medium under the title “Live From Anywhere, It’s Other People’s Lives”.

Do you remember the first season you watched almost every episode of Saturday Night Live? If you can’t remember such a time, you should probably set your DVR to record NBC at 11:29 before you read any further.

Think back on the first time you saw a cast member break, or a musical guest curse on screen or the tragedy of tragedies a boom mic leaning too far into the shot. What made these moments significant? The fact that they happened live, or at least on a 5–7 second tape delay.

We in the tech/social industry have been captivated by the live event over the last few years. The Grammys, the Super Bowl and major news events become the “best” times to be a member of the Twitterati. Until recently though, we haven’t had a very good way to experience the rush of shared live experience for micro events.

Meerkat Screenshot

The end of a Meerkat stream hosted by my friend Zack.

Matt Mazzeo wrote a great piece this week on this called “Concurrence”. In it he argues that the proliferation of smartphones and the rapid adoption of video streaming app Meerkat are going to make concurrent experience a more ubiquitous part of our constantly connected lives. And I think he’s absolutely right.

The difference this time around though, is the types of experiences we’re going to be sharing. In the last 36 hours I’ve used Meerkat to watch behind-the-scenes coverage of a video shoot, an intimate acoustic performance from someone’s hotel room and footage of a friend’s younger sister playing. These are, for the most part, spontaneous events captured quickly for a captive audience of people emotionally invested in the host. Technical quality is decreased, but emotional effect is increased dramatically.

On the other side of the same coin is the new app Tworlds, in which users from around the world share unedited snapshots of the minutiae of daily life. All you have to do is choose from one of the hashtags offered (i.e. #food, #work, #WOW) and then take a photo. Your photo is instantly placed in a diptych with another user’s. You have no control over who you get, and you don’t get any information on them except what city they’re in at the moment.

A diptych from Tworlds, that I posted when I read about Harrison Ford’s plane crash.

The thing both of these apps offer is a concurrent, synchronous and voyeuristic experience in an age of disconnected, asynchronous and exhibitionist online communication. Meerkat and Tworlds let us peak into other peoples’ lives as if looking through window, rather than reading their old letters. And as Isaac Brock (of Modest Mouse fame) once said, “Other people’s lives are interesting because they ain’t mine.”

I’m excited to see how people use these apps in the coming months; whether its sharing their kids’ first steps with family in real time on Meerkat, or learning about other peoples’ procrastination habits on Tworlds. Mostly though, I’m excited to see social networks that rely on the emotional connection we have to other people through the rapid presentation of raw unfiltered content, just like the first time we saw someone break character behind the Weekend Update desk.

Gather ‘Round the Brunch Table

February 24, 2015
Dudes' Brunch Podcast

This past weekend I finally got over a serious Brain Crack problem and launched a project that I’ve been contemplating for years now. I gathered three friends from my hometown, all of whom are just as addicted to the internet as I am, and together we launched a podcast.

Our creation, Dudes’ Brunch, is based upon actual brunches I had during my days as an undergraduate. My friends and I would gather for brunch on Sundays and share stories from our weeks; cool things we’d seen or read, dumb things we heard people say on the street and so on.

Dudes' Brunch Podcast

The podcast follows a similar format, with each panelist brining one piece of culture for the group to learn about and discuss each week. Topics thus far have included ‘Weird Twitter’, the definition of The Millennial Generation, music reviews, and how much Jack White loves guacamole.

I’m thrilled to be able to finally bring this project to the world, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us. These gentlemen have been crucial to my view of contemporary culture for the better part of a decade now, and I hope they’ll be just as informative and entertaining to all of you.

We record our episodes on a live-streamed Google Hangout each Sunday. You can find info on live-streams and find links to recorded episodes via our YouTube Channel, Twitter and Facebook. If you want to try the show out, you can watch the latest episode (and our back catalog) below, after the jump.

“Popular” Alternative

January 29, 2015

This post originally appeared as an article on Medium.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend (@TDRdesigns) and I were having coffee, and he asked me if there was any point in trying to keep up with popular alternative music anymore. Besides the fact, that this phrase was kind of an oxymoron, I told him that I didn’t think there was. I said that we had always been more interested in “interesting music” than whatever the trendy ‘alternative’ sound of the moment had been. And while that’s probably true, I was definitely wrong about the first part.

One of the best things about popular or ‘popular alternative’ music, is its exuberance. Sure, the technical skill of DJ Shadow and the juxtaposition of orchestras and sampling on a Hybrid record are cool, but there’s something about a fun catchy song. It reminds you not to take life too seriously. And I think that’s what I’ve been doing recently.

There’s so much attention paid, in some circles, to what’s innovative or interesting that we forget the things that are just purely enjoyable. Those things have just as much, if not more value than our critically acclaimed art house films and indie darling bands. And I wish I had remembered that a bit more often as I went through college. I wish I’d gone to see more action movies, watched a bit more TV and maybe even listened to a few more radio hits (but only a few).

Those of us who work in the media seem to be particularly likely to fall into this overly pretentious seriousness. We tell ourselves that we’ve consumed so much culture; we must be above some of it. We argue that it’s a necessary filtering system for retaining our sanity and free time. Yet, many of us miss things the masses fall in love with because we were too busy trying to find the next award winner, or worse evangelizing about something “you’ve probably never heard of.”

This isn’t to say that we should all quickly buy a Chief Keef album on iTunes in order to be more relevant. There is still a lot of bad “popular” culture out there, and consuming it is generally a waste of time. Some of the popular content of today is fairly sophisticated, and quite uplifting. We all ought to take a minute to at least look at the charts more often, try out the new Taylor Swift single, and maybe join our younger siblings and parents in the sing-along.

Pretension has its place, as does popularity. I’m not trying to argue against taste or the arbiters thereof. I’m just realizing that much of our “critically acclaimed” or “interesting” culture isn’t very fun. And if we’re not having a bit of fun once in a while, it becomes very easy to become a jaded culture of bloggers who don’t get out enough.

Men Actually Are on Pinterest

September 19, 2014
Taylor's Pinterest

Taylor's PinterestAs I’ve been stepping up my game on Pinterest recently I’ve noticed myself talking about the platform more and more in casual conversation. What’s striking me about these conversations is that about half of the people I talk to are surprised to find out I’m even on Pinterest. “Oh, you’re on Pinterest and you’re a guy? It must be just because you’re going to work in Social Media right?” When I started pinning, I definitely would have said that was why. And there really weren’t all that many other men there. I’m growing to love Pinterest though, and I’m noticing more and men pinning alongside me. Here are a few reasons why I think men actually are on Pinterest, and why we’re going to see more male Pinners in the coming months.

 

Camera Collecting on PinterestCollectors

Collecting may not be as common a pass-time as it was a few decades ago (think baseball cards and comic books), but those of us who still collect love showing off our collections and researching new items online. There are dedicated sites for some of the more involved collections like Discogs for records and Deckbox for Magic The Gathering cards, but Pinterest is a great place for casual collectors. It’s image heavy format and board-based organization system makes it great for organizing and displaying your collection. As I mentioned above, I’ve got a wish list board for my record collection that way I can remember exactly what I’m shopping for when I hit up the record store. Try searching for your collection (or one you want to start), I guarantee you’ll be overwhelmed with things you wish you had, as I was when I looked at some vintage camera collections the other day.

Men’s Fashion

It may just be me, but it seems like there is much more interest in men’s fashion this year than in previous years, and Pinterest is a no-brainer for finding and sharing all sorts of fashion related content. From GQ and Esquire to lesser known (but equally interesting) curators who got their start online, Pinterest is full of great fashion inspiration for men of all types and dress codes. I personally am following more and more fashion related boards since I realized that my wardrobe has been getting pretty monochromatic and boring. Sure, many of us don’t have the money for the designer brands that often get pinned, but a lot of those styles are available at a much lower price point if you know how to strategically search on Amazon.

Subway Map Guide found on PinterestDesign & Creatives

I’ve been gradually redesigning this site in between homework assignments and job applications; nearly all of my inspiration for this process has come from design work I’ve discovered on Pinterest. UX/UI Design boards abound on Pinterest, as do print and publication design boards which serve as equally great motivators for designing. Some of these boards will even link to free backgrounds, typefaces and other design resources. I constantly recommend boards to my web designer friends who are typically blown away by the resources they’ve been missing. The art and design communities on Pinterest actually remind me a lot of the early days of Tumblr, when it was primarily used for sharing inspiration images as well. I think Pinterest has held the attention of artists and designers longer than Tumblr did because of its categorization features and more powerful search. I just hope they keep building on this foundation even though it may not be as easy to monetize as some of the more retail oriented communities.

Wish List 3.0

Remember going through the Sears and Toys ‘R Us catalogs as a kid and circling all of the things you wanted your parents to get you? A lot of the appeal of Pinterest is that it is pretty much the same process, just more social. And Pinterest has more cool toys and gift ideas than all of those catalogs combined thanks to the eclectic interests of its users. Whether you’re building your own wish list or brainstorming ideas for friends and family, Pinterest is an excellent gift planning tool, and I can’t believe more men don’t use it just for this reason. My dad, for example, is extremely difficult to buy gifts for, but I keep a stash of nerdy tech gifts on one of my Pinboards when I’m shopping for his birthday and Father’s Day each year. I’m even considering sending a Pinboard as my list of gift preferences during the holidays this year instead of my family’s traditional Amazon Wish Lists.

Revolution by Example; Idealism vs. Pragmatism in DIY Punk

August 28, 2014
Crass' Logo

During Spring Semester 2014 I had the awesome opportunity to work on an independent study with one of my favorite professors at Ohio University. Prof. Mattson studies cultural history now, but he was involved in the activism associated with the hardcore punk scene in Washington DC during the 1980s. The Punk Movement has always been a side passion of mine, and so the opportunity to get to know Prof. Mattson and study under him was excellent.

Crass' LogoOver the course of the semester I researched DIY in Punk, and various approaches to it. Eventually I settled on a comparison of idealistic and pragmatic approaches to DIY represented by Crass and Dischord Records respectively. As Dischord is based out of DC I got a lot of great advice from Mattson during the research process as well as some insightful anecdotes about the individuals I was reading about. Shortly after completing the paper, as far as the course and the university were concerned, I reached out to Penny Rimbaud of Crass who agreed to a phone interview.

And so I spent an hour on the phone with a Punk legend, discussing his understanding of his own legacy, the motivations behind the radical actions Crass took during their career and even his two near misses at meeting John Lennon. Rimbaud was extremely polite and very down to Earth, he refused to admit that Crass failed at what they were after just because the large-scale rebellion they were interested in hasn’t happened yet. Most of all, he was very interested in preserving the documents of Crass’s legacy so that those of us who weren’t alive at the time can still understand what their work was about.

The paper I wrote, “Revolution by Example: Idealism vs. Pragmatism in DIY Punk” has been accepted for presentation this Fall at the Midwest Pop Cultural Association Conference, and I’m very excited to share my research with a larger audience. I’m fascinated by The Punk Movement because I believe that the technologies available to us today make possible the sorts of grassroots organizing and impactful personal expression that Punk was so interested in. That’s why I can’t wait to share the stories of figures like Penny Rimbaud and Crass, who may be lesser known to the mainstream, but were instrumental in developing the way we think about DIY, Punk and cultural expression as a whole.

Click here to read “Revolution by Example” and please let me know what you think.