Friday, December 13, 2013

Arctic Monkeys: AM. Review Sketch

year: 2013 

tones of: the black keys, red hot chili peppers, the beatles, the strokes, coldplay, the white stripes

genre samples: blues, rock n roll, soul, psychedelic rock, punk, lo-fi rock, garage rock

music: marching, bombastic, busy, drumming, big, winding, jangling, cruising, lazy, swirling, mellow 

favs: do you wanna know?, r u mine?, one for the road, arabella, no. 1 party anthem, why'd you only call me when you're high?, knee socks

nb: if you're anything like me, it's been a minute since you've really liked a rock album so give this a couple of spins. feels like a maturation of that early 2000s "post-punk/garage rock revival".

score: 8/10 (and the first half of this is just really on point)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Book Review

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Author: Friedrich Nietzsche (with introduction by R.J. Hollingdale)

Length: 336 pages (plus a 35 page introduction)

What is It: Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a philosophical novel about destruction and power - the destruction of religious tenets and common morality, and the redistribution of that power to the self. Presented in parable form, Friedrich Nietzsche instructs us on how to overcome these societal limitations and become a Superman*. The work, as told through a solitary prophet named Zarathustra, is loosely constructed in four parts which are subdivided into chapters, subtitles, and progressions. 

What's SaidEarth is heaven. God is dead. There is only man. Man is a bridge to the Superman. He must be overcome. Will to power** is what elevates man beyond himself to become a Superman. Your spirit wants and needs freedom (from religion and conventional morality) to create its own will. Fear, cowardice, and laziness created the gods and an afterlife. "Good" and "Evil" were created by and for those with their own will to power agenda. Freedom from this demands creation. The highest virtue is creating virtue. In order to create you must be willing to destroy - but first you must love. Love of life should be your highest hope. Your passions should be your virtues. There is no single truth, only individual truth. Embrace solitude - all great things flow from it and away from crowds. Learn to love one's self and not go roaming. All men are not equal, the best want to rule. If you cannot create and obey your own self, you will be commanded. So accept the burden of greatness, find the inner strength to overcome your restrictions, and create for yourself. Moderation is mediocrity. The only way to live life is to view it as an eternal recurrenceWhat is failure in the face of the future where so much is still possible?

What's TrueNietzsche has tremendous wit and a sharp tongue (prompting many high laughter and cringe worthy moments). Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a rejection of Nietzsche's religious upbringing and philosophical knowledge. Obvious structural references include The Bible and Plato. Parable form makes this a much lighter read than many other philosophical works. Language and style still take a while to get used to. Nietzsche repeats himself frequently - this could have been much more tightly written. It is clear Nietzsche recognizes and upholds the supreme power of the individual over the state, over leaders, and over the masses. To him poets are superficial, priests live for and promote death, and other philosophers tell people what they want to hear. Thus, the meaning of life - to continually overcome one's self and become greater and greater - is inward. Success at this is joy. The Superman loves life so much and masters it so well that he is willing to live the same one over and over again.  

So What: This is a book for everyone. In its simplest formThus Spoke Zarathustra is a motivational masterpiece extolling the virtues of a better you. Nietzsche wants to you become your best self and walks you past all pitfalls and doubts. He wants you to be free to create your own life, make mistakes along the way, laugh when you fail, and enjoy it all the while, because this is the only thing we know we get for sure.

Final Word: Definite Read

*Ladies, I apologize on Nietzsche's behalf for the domineeringly male focused view of this text.
** Will to power is a central theme for Nietzsche and it is many things: the desire for control over your life - the need to create and set its meaning; the pursuit of power and the removal of fear (i.e., lack of power); the desire to assert yourself; your inner qualities; your self as creator and master; your truth.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jhene Aiko: Sail Out. Review Sketch

year: 2013 

tones of: the weeknd, colbie caillat (esp. on bed peace), miguel, drake

genre samples: r&b, hip hop, pop, dub

music: smooth, relaxing, dark, brooding, chill, nostalgic, intimate, peaceful, creeping, moody

lyrics: honest, vulnerable, angst, real, love and loss, painful, therapeutic, naked, raw, exposed, smart

favs: bed peace, the worst, comfort inn ending (freestyle)

nb: her name is pronounced [Juh-nay Ai-eeko], and this is just an EP. her LP is due out sometime next year.

score: 8/10

Monday, November 4, 2013

Startup Standouts: Runnable


Runnable is attempting to create a one stop, searchable library of full stack code for discovering, running, editing, embedding, and sharing code blocks -  in any language, for any developer.

Location: Palo Alto
Size: < 10 people
Funding: $2M Seed
Founders: Yash Kumar (CEO/Founder) 

Why it stands out: 
- attempts to make modular / plug and play programming much more accessible and prevalent
- an organized, searchable, testable environment potentially makes programming faster for professionals, hackers, and possibly  even amateurs
- seems ideal for helping intermediate level programmers move beyond the entry level skills taught on most educational programming sites
- founder's experience in collaborative software and extensive background in all sides of web development bodes well for user experience and core product

Friday, October 25, 2013

Run The Jewels. Run The Jewels. Review Sketch

year: 2013 

tones of: outkast, el-p (his solo productions), fat joe (tell me he and el-p don't sound alike), goodie mob

genre samples: hip hop, trap rap, southern rap, electronica

music: dark, bouncy, menacing, alarming, fast, distorted, hard, mean, heavy, furious, rattling

lyrics: disrespectful, playful, random, improvisational, cartoonish, stylized, crazy, aggressive, bizarre, violent, braggadocious

favs: run the jewels, 36 chains, DDFH, sea legs, job well done, a christmas fucking miracle

nb: these dudes don't get the respect they deserve. Killer Mike is a supreme lyricist (see R.A.P. Music) and El-P has been pushing monstrous electro beats long before Yeezus (see Cancer 4 Cure). 

score: 8/10

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chance The Rapper: Acid Rap. Review Sketch

year: 2013 

tones of: lil wayne, anthony hamilton, kanye west, eminem, wyclef jean, the streets, musiq soulchild, john legend, madlib, kid cudi

genre samples: hip hop, jazz, soul, electronica, r&b, gospel

music: warm, chill, smooth, light, relaxed, bouncy, joyous, summerish

lyrics: humorous, fun, light, thoughtful, quirkytherapeutic, playful, witty, real, drug infused

flow: sporadic, versatile, unmetered, spoken word poet, stream of consciousness, scraggly

favs: good ass intro, pusha man, cocoa butter kisses, juice, lost, interlude, acid rap

best guest: noname gypsy (on "lost")

nb: this is one of the most refreshingly varied and non-stereotypical rap offerings of the year (hence the many artists he reminds me of). simply a great mixtape. you can find it on soundcloud here.

score: 8/10

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pusha T: My Name Is My Name. Review Sketch

year: 2013

tones of:  kanye west, clipse, cruel summer, ma$e (on let me love you)

genre samples:  hip hop, trap rap, electronica, boom bap, gangsta rap

music: minimalist, bare bones, direct, maniacal, driving, dark, sparse

lyrics: intricate, street, multilayered, hard, focused, gritty, real, dense, druggy

flow: consistent, menacing, wordsmith, versatile, smooth, new god flow

favs: king push, numbers on the board, sweet serenade (whoo!), suicide (that beat), 40 acres (poetry), nosetalgia (real talk), pain

nb: this is essentially an "anti-Drake" album full of hard beats and hard talk. get your duffle bag boy on.

score: 8/10 (in pusha's own words #mydopedontspoil)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Drake: Nothing Was The Same. Review Sketch

year: 2013

tones of: shlohmo, kanye west, kid cudi

genre samples: r&b, electronica, hip hop, jazz, pop

music: moody, dark, cloudy, ominoussmoky, serious, bass ridden, spiraling, murky, mysterious

lyrics:  intimate, honest, thoughtful, anxious, female-obsessed, longing, regretful, personal, cerebral, shallow

flow: fluid, flexible, experimental

favs: tuscan leather (so focused and technical), furthest thing, worst behaviour (bananas), from time, hold on we're going home (pure pop craftiness), too much, pound cake/paris morton music, the motion

nb: be warned. this album is heavily r&b drake. it is also strongly elevated by producer, noah shabib. in fact, if i were 40, i would have pulled what ryan lewis did to macklemore on the heist: "put my name on the cover!"

score: 7.5/10 (no classic, but solid addition to the discography)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Disclosure: Settle. Review Sketch

year: 2013

tones of: sbtrkt, jessie ware, burial

genre samples: house, disco, electronica, dance, r&b, garage, pop

music: warm, rippling, sprightly, playful, emotive, fluid, high energy, sparkling, dance infused, charismatic, bright, bouncing, infectious, wavvy

favs: when a fire starts to burn, latch, white noise, stimulation, you & me, january, help me lose my mind

nb: this is very much a pop album (vocals, lyrics, song structure) as it is an electronic one

score: 8/10

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jay-Z: Magna Carta Holy Grail. Review Sketch

year: 2013

tones of: jay-z, kayne west, kid cudi

genre samples: hip hop, trap music, r&b, dubstep, rock n roll 

music: spacious, modern, sparse, detailed, futuristic, unpredictable, artistic, banging, up tempo

lyrics: serious, focused, ambitious, professional, measured, luxurious, all business, solid

favs: picasso baby, 
f*kwithmeyouknowigotit (straight up banger), f.u.t.w. (lyrical quality), somewhereinamerica, jay z blue, nickels and dimes

note: this reminds me of the black album. solid lyrics and elite, forward thinking beats. arguably not as compelling overall as kanye's yeezus, but nearly as good.

score: 7.5/10

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Guns, Germs, And Steel: Book Review

Author: Jared Diamond 

Length(425 pages, plus a 15 page afterword)

What is It: Guns, Germs, And Steel is a theory on the evolution of society - not in terms of biological or evolutionary differences but in terms of geographical and sociological differences. GGS attempts to answer the question: "Why did history unfold differently on different continents?" The author goes beyond proximate forces like trade, technology, and societal organization to uncover what he defines as "ultimate causes".  Diamond does this by exploring a broader view of world history (beyond Europe, The Middle East, and North Africa), by studying smaller time scales (hundreds to thousands of years instead of the last 13,000) and by analyzing natural experiments (history of the Polynesian migration) in order to better identify, isolate, and understand these ultimate causes on a global scale.

What's Said: Geographical differences in the local availability of wild plants and animals were key driving forces in societal development. The orientation of the continental axes (east to west like in Euroasia is better than north to south like in The Americas & Africa) created stark differences in climate, biodiversity, and idea diffusion. Human migration led to the mass extinction of domesticable animals on most other continents besides Euroasia. The caloric efficiency of food production was the source of the gradual shift from hunter-gathering to farming. Farming affects population density by requiring settlement, necessitating storage, providing seasonal downtime, and supporting higher birthrates. Excess food production contributed to the permissibility of specialization, innovation, and kleptocracy. Bureaucratic organization becomes necessary because of limits to communal decision making, inefficiencies in pairwise economic exchange, increasingly difficult conflict resolution, and resource constraints. Writing was created to record food production and to protect systemic administration - not to support public expression. Religion and patriotism provided the shared ideology and motivation for citizens to sacrifice their lives and self interests on behalf statehoods, which was a radical break from the human social contract. Euroasia's conquest of much of the world (and not the other way around) was due to the separate trajectory of all these causes and evolutions.

What's TrueEuroasia is the world's largest landmass and one of its most ecologically diverse landscapes. Localities distributed across latitudes are very similar in terms of seasons, time, temperature, habitats, and diseases compared to longitudinal axesThe efficiency of farming is 10-100 times that of hunter-gathering. Food production (wheat, pea, olives) arose the earliest in Southwest Asia (Near East/Fertile Crescent), around 8500 BC. Only a very small minority of wild plants and animals have been domesticated for food. A dozen plant species account for over 80% of the modern world's crops, and less than 15% of wild animals are domesticable (18% Euroasia, 4% in America, 0% in Africa)Domesticating animals depends on their diet, growth rate, disposition, social structure, and captive reproduction. Domesticating plants depends on fruit size, dispersal mechanism, taste, fleshiness, oiliness, yield, fiber length, and reproduction. Eurasian culture likely yielded more calories and organization per person on average than Native American culture. Large scale deadly diseases (smallpox, measles, flu) evolved through the mutations of germs during animal domestication and is almost exclusive to large dense populations of social animals like humans and livestock. More Native Americans died from Eurasian germs than European guns and swords (over 95%). Archeological evidence suggests that North America was occupied by 20M local natives upon Columbus' arrival rather the 1M often cited. 

So What
The writing in Guns, Germs, And Steel is cumbersome at times, but given the breadth and depth of the material and the objective this can be forgiven. GGS paints a new picture of global civilization that is completely independent of the need for one race to be superior than another other - an astounding theoretical feat. This is not just an academic exercise, however. GGS is instead, a practical and political guide to the driving forces behind many of the historical legacies that still shape our geopolitical landscape today. The approach that Diamond takes is methodical, and I agree that more work should be done to adapt the methods of hard sciences into the study of history.

Final Word: Very Enlightening Read

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kanye West: Yeezus. Review Sketch

year: 2013

tones of: crystal castles, death grips, kid cudi

genre samples: glitch hop, minimal techno, indie electronica, gary glitter (on black skinhead), hip hop

music: jarring, spacious, moody, stark, minimalist, ominous, forward, pounding, dark, soulful, rhythmic

lyrics: scattered, unfiltered, careless, frustrated, honest, disrespectful, defiant, poignant, nostalgic, self centered, weak, blunt, flippant, exhausted

favs: i am a god (minus the croissants), new slaves, hold my liquor, blood on the leaves, bound 2

note: yeezy had another classic on his hands here. RIDICULOUS production, but the overall lyrical content is underwhelming. still a very solid album though.

score: 8/10

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Youth Lagoon: Wondrous Bughouse. Review Sketch

year: 2013

tones of: the flaming lips, the beatles (sgt. pepper style)

genre samples: indie-rock, psych pop

music: expansive, personal, intimate, radiant, enveloping, vibrating, sonic, slow, prodding, sonorous, hazy, mystical, sparkling

lyrics: paranoia, mortality, loneliness, trust, abandonment, darkness, illness, instability

favs: through mind and back, mute, pelican man (beauifully bleak lyrics), raspberry cane

note: not many specific songs stand out here, but the ambiance they all produce is this album's greatness.

score: 8/10

Monday, June 3, 2013

Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of The City. Review Sketch

year: 2013

tones of: the shins, paul simon, the beatles

genre samples: indie-rock, world music, punk

music: sedate, busy, slow, sombre, quick, ominous, compact, calming, heavy, abrupt, marching

lyrics: dark, disenchanted, spiritual, futility, slow, sad, mortality, life, depressed, thoughtful

favs: obvious bicycle, unbelievers, step, diane young, don't lie, hannah hunt, ya hey

note: if your band name is vampire weekend, using "vampire" again in an album title is a bit much, no? and this from a band full of columbia language arts majors. tsk tsk.

score: 8.5/10 (the first half of this is simply incredible)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Daft Punk: Random Access Memories. Review Sketch

year: 2013

tones of: george clinton, scissor sisters, the flaming lips, david bowie, elton john

genre samples: disco, house, progressive rock, funk, psychedelic rock, movie/show/stadium sounds

music: fun, meticulous, robotic, dreamy, danceable, retro, light, ernest, big, kaleidoscopic, fromage, diverse

favs: give life back to music, instant crush, lose yourself to dance (despite the cheese), get lucky*, beyond, fragments of time, doin' it right, contact

note: apparently this was produced using NOT one sample? - almost unbelievable, but definitely impressive.

bonus: *i like this get lucky version without pharrell much better

score: 8/10 (rounded up)

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Long Distance Poem


She reminds me of the summer
When all about is blinding white and frozen
Do you deserve the warmth you wonder
When the seasons have said you didn't

Fate brought her to me by chance
I do hope that choice brings her back again
Earlier and often
For longer and later
Dismissing any physical restraints of nature
That conspire to keep us apart

Because my heart begins to beat
Through sparkling rays of her light, heat
Reflections in the pool of water at my feet
I just need a few more days, weeks 
To figure out how to get her not to leave

Shlohmo: Bad Vibes. Review Sketch

year: 2011

tones of: flying lotus, four tet

genre samples: house, r&b, glitch hop, techno, indie-electronica

music: dark, simple, spacey, light, tinkering, warm, slow, building, jazzy, ambient, nostalgic, serious

favs: places, anywhere but here, sink, i can't see you i'm dead, get out, your stupid face, seriously, same time

cover: the cover art comes off abstract at first, but it's really just the artist standing to the left of a kitchen sink (probably his own since he took the photo himself) with an image of leaves projected all over the background. pretty cool stuff.

score: 8.5/10