The archive of the old hardlikealgebra.com

Category: lists




Read the rest of this entry »


30 Days in April: Day 30

For the thirtieth day of my project, I was tossing around a few ideas, but nothing really felt right until Erin sarted suggesting a list of 30…somethings.  She was suggesting funny things, kind of as a joke, but I liked this idea.  A lot of the work that’s important to me influences the work that I am doing, and I like spreading the word about folks because some stuff is just freaking cool.  For me, it’s never about being a snob or knowing more than other people, it’s about sharing the art that really gets to me.  The dude who runs Hype Machine describes himself with ths bio: “I wake up in the morning to get people excited about music.” Would that we could all be so lucky. Anyway, I give you (with links when I have time to add them):

in no particular order 

01. Jenny Holzer
02. On Kawara
03. Steve Almond
04. Chuck Klosterman
05. Amanda Petrusich
06. Donald Judd
07. Carl Andre
08. Dan Flavin
09. Bruce Nauman
10. David Horowitz
11. Miranda July (esp. her stories, and this)
12. Mierle Laderman Ukeles, (specifically, Handshake Ritual)
13. John Cage (esp. Lecture on Nothing)
14. Phillip Glass
15. Laurie Anderson
16. Christo and Jeanne-Claude
17. Kerry James Marshall (esp. this painting)
18. Matthew Barney
19. Andrea Zittel
20. Superamas
21. Walter De Maria
22. The Neo-Futurists
23. The San Francisco Mime Troupe
24. David Horvitz
25. Jeff Tweedy
26. Dick Higgins
27. Vito Acconci
28. Robert Rauschenberg
29. Barbara Kruger
30. Mike Daisey

There are more! There have to be more. If you know me well, you probably know people that I would have wanted to include better than I do! These are the ones that came to mind with the assistance of just a few books and references. There’s so much more out there, and I didn’t include Eddie, Ben, Nicole, or any of the other artists that I actualy know in real life, in my life. Feel free to leave comments with great artists that I left out.

Thanks for coming along this journey with me. I plan that there will be more to come around here.



There’s this band called Vampire Weekend and they must have the Midas Touch or something equally legendary cuz man oh man, they appear to have the biggest blog uproar since, like, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (or at least since Black Kids). Weirdly enough, I actually got to write about them back in July, when they were just a band playing through at a local show that now I wish even more that I had seen. I can honestly say this means that I am not a trend setter, but at the very least, sort of the Stone Temple Pilots to VW’s Pearl Jam (which is far different than Pearl Jam’s VD, for the record)(don’t spread that rumor)(or maybe, do?).

And here’s why you should listen to them.

1. Okay, fine. It’s played out, but if you listened to music in the last 20 years or so, your reference point for African music (other than David Byrne’s solo stuff)(but we are talking about enjoyability factor) is Paul Simon’s Graceland. This band cannot escape the comparison. That means they are great listening, people.

2. You will be glad when you set your old-ass iPod shuffle to, er, shuffle, and they come up randomly.

3. “Who gives a fuck about the oxford comma?” –Vampire Weekend, “Oxford Comma”

4. They are the only thing that appears when I search for “Vampire” in iTunes.*

5. Even with all the hype around the album that come out on January 29th, they still have good songs available on their site for free.

6. The seem to be smart young lads that talk about the class stuff that could come up due to their sound. [link via]

7. They’re just fun! Y’know? FUN.

Anyway, check them out. You have now become the Bush to my STP.

Portlanders take note: they play the best venue in the world on March 25th. Who’s with me?

*weekend has a few more hits, which reflects our culture’s Protestant ethic, and might someday be another post, though it’s not likely.


Vampire Weekend (includes downloads and streams and such!)
Music is the only thing good about Myspace
Vampire Weekend on Daytrotter
“A Punk” video on YouTube
NPR/KEXP Interview and performance (thanks, Smer!)

Top Ten Albums of 2007

Much has been made of the fact that most music fans have been moving towards singles rather than albums in the past few years. I didn’t notice how much this had affected my own listening until I sat down to make a top five list for the Mercury (which, sadly, never actually ran). When I looked at the list of albums that would make the top five cut, I realized that I had to cut a lot of albums that had great songs but that I didn’t really listen entirely. It made it easier to pick a top five, but also made me realize that I really needed to make a singles list, too.

For ya’ll though, I expanded to a top ten. Here goes, in reverse/countdown order:

10. Eleni Mandell, Miracle of Five. 2007 was the year I began writing about music for a living, and this was the first great discovery that resulted. Like Suzanne Vega, her lyrics get better the more you pay attention; like Laura Gibson, her singing brings to mind a warming fire on a chilly day. Mandell’s fire has a bit more smoldering, sultry sass than Gibson’s, though, and when she sings about the “Make-Out King” in her bed, you might just wish you could be such royalty.

9. Band of Horses, Cease to Begin. I can add to the pile of “doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but that’s cool” reviews, and mostly move on. However! They deserve props for titling a song “Detlef Schrempf,” ’cause seriously, who remembers the NBA’s best German anymore? The fact that it’s a beautiful song with the lines “you say you’re gonna go, then be careful/And watch how you treat every living soul” makes it even better.

8. The Besnard Lakes, The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse. Go to el.bo.ws or Hype Machine or whatever and find the song “Devastation.” Crank that shit and tell me that it doesn’t combine the best moments of every single rock song that ever made you feel like nothing in the world mattered but that song, while also reminding you that you actually kinda love Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” despite that band’s penchant for douchebaggery. And maybe they whine a bit too much sometimes, but who else can make “what a fucking pile of shit” sound SO AWESOME?

7. MC Frontalot, Secrets From the Future. The moment I realized I could sing the entire hook of the amazing opening title track was the moment I realized that this guy could end up being the next generation’s DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. That’s a compliment, mind you. This album has some flaws, but “I Hate Your Blog” and “It Is Pitch Dark” more than make up for a song about a dude with Asperger’s.

6. Stars of the Lid, And Their Refinement of the Decline. A beautiful album before you even listen to the music, this triple-vinyl chock-full of Eno-esque ambience apparently puts my hyphens into overdrive. So here are a few more: hilariously-titled (pretty songs should never be named, “December Hunting for Vegetarian Fuckface”), maximizingly-minimal, mood-creating, calm-inducing, well-conceived.

5. The Shins, Wincing the Night Away. I know full well that sometimes I’m cranky about music. If you’ve met me, you’d know that I still hate Björk, I don’t know why “Handshake Drugs” made it onto a million Wilco releases, and I’ll never get why anyone likes anything Morrisey has ever done. This year though, we can mark as The Year I Finally Got The Shins. I blame it on “Red Rabbits,” with a side order of “Sea Legs.” These songs are just weird, and I LOVE THEM.

4. Suzanne Vega, Beauty & Crime. Seriously, she could have released “New York is a Woman” as an “album” and it would still make my top ten because I can’t get over the beauty of lines like, “New York City spread herself before you/with her bangles and her spangles and her stars.” The rest of the album mines territory familiar to her fans, such the 99.9 F° style of “Unbound” or the sparse, folky “Edith Wharton’s Figurines.” In a year when I discovered a lot of amazing female singer-songwriters, it was fun to realize that Vega laid the groundwork for my discoveries.

3. St. Vincent, Marry Me. I love me some surprises, and one of my favorite ways to discover new bands in the last few years has been checking out the opening bands I’m about to see. St. Vincent, the work of one Annie Clark, was recommended by a co-worker and it turned out that she was opening for The National, a band I saw for this first time this year. Her live show’s energy and chaos underscored just how boring those boys were that night, but let’s focus on the album. Marry Me continues to excite me in the way that most great albums do: I discover something new each time out, and I find myself gradually liking songs I hated (particularly “Your Lips Are Red,” though it still grates soemtimes). As I moved on from early favorites (“Now, Now”) to new loves (“Marry Me”), I knew: it’s just that good.

2. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky. Whichever album got you into Wilco is probably your favorite. It’s probably due to their style-shifting tendencies. Regardless, I fall prey to this, too, and so every time a new album rolls around, I compare it to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and it loses. With Sky, Wilco consciously went the way of The Band, playing all the parts in the same room without a lot of overdubs. They totally pull it off here–a testament to their talent–and it makes for an album that feels a bit like a cozy blanket on a rainy day. That said, bed linens aren’t typically that exciting–though certainly underappreciated–and sometimes this album slides too far into Dad Rock for me. I won’t join the jerks who whisper about Tweedy being better when he wasn’t sober–this is a guy’s life, after all–but as a long-time Wilco fan, I do miss the blistering Tweedy guitar-rage.

1. matt pond PA, Last Light. The folks over at Pitchfork don’t seem to like Matt Pond’s crew, and I’m not sure why. Last Light was the album I listened to the most and the closest, and that makes it my album of the year. It was a sing-along favorite right from the opening, title track (“As the shadows will fall and run/ They will run, they will run, they will run”), and “I wish you would say/When I fuck up that it’s okay,” from “Sunlight,” still rings true. The piano-driven “People Have a Way” is tailor-made for a Ben Folds fan like me. Get this album and help me figure out how to make sure that Pond doesn’t stay overlooked for long.

Thanks for checking in. There’s a lot more to come with this new endeavor!


I wrote about some of these folks for the Mercury.  The links, for interested parties:

Eleni Mandell
matt pond PA
MC Frontalot
Suzanne Vega