C2C ~ Tetra
C2C seems to have come out of nowhere but it’s the group name of 4 accomplished French DJ’s. C2C is the rare combo of easily-digestible radio-friendly electronica that still has enough complexity to have a long shelf-life. With a different vocalist on nearly every track and plenty of soulful samples, this album is diverse and energetic. Highly recommended.
found in May, 2013
Obsessed with Little Dragon
I’m way late to the Little Dragon party, even though I raved about the lead singer Yukimi Nagano’s appearance on the Gorillaz 2010 track “Empire Ants”. But even after I fell in love with the Calyx and Teebee remix of Little Man, I still didn’t check them out. Finally I got my hands on several albums, Machine Dreams and Ritual Union. Initially not wowed, these albums languished in my iTunes library for several weeks before I finally started to warm up to them. The hooks are subtle, but they’re there. And once you’re hooked, you’re hooked for good.
found in February, 2013
CSS ~ La Liberacion
La Liberacion may be a pop album, but CSS is and always will be strikingly original. For this most recent release, CSS’ sound has been carefully produced and mastered, and seems poised for radio play. As a radio-hater myself, I don’t know what exactly radio producers deem worthy of airtime, but I know what I like, and this album I definitely like.
The same simple hooks that made the Violent Femmes a permanent fixture in pop culture are what you’ll find in La Liberacion, but with a very endearing punk edge and eurotrash beat. There are plenty of hits, but among my favorites are Echo of Love, Red Alert and Hits Me Like a Rock.
found in September, 2011
Kraak & Smaak ~ Discography
Recently stepping into Spotify, a friend told me to check out Kraak & Smaak. It instantly agreed with me, and the more I listened, the more I liked. After several weeks of listening on Spotify and enduring the most annoying ads ever (there’s no such thing as hiring voice talent at Spotify), I decided to buy the whole damn discography. Every single album is a straight-through listen, without skipping tracks.
The trio from the Netherlands blends funk, jazz, electro and house beats into a weird electronic amalgam that’s delightful, and always changing. There’s some hip hop, big beat, meringue and more mixed in. Since I’ve discovered them, I’ve become a Kraak & Smaak evangelist. What are you waiting for, you could be listening to Kraak & Smaak right now.
found in August, 2011
Metric ~ Fantasies
After hearing the song “Help I’m Alive” in the closing credits of Defendor, I scrambled to find a paper and pen to write down the name of the song. A short search later, I found Metric, and downloaded the album from Amazon. The band uses simple, clean guitar riffs and the blazing vocals of Emily Haines in a way that kind of reminds me of U2. The singer definitely reminds me of Minuit. This band is not to be missed.
found in September, 2010
Steve Jobs ~ Walter Isaacson
The Steve Jobs book was more than a biography, it was a story. From a bare-foot acid-dropping kid to Tech mogul. From abandoned child to abandoning father. From getting ousted from Apple to becoming Apple’s savior.
For me it was just as interesting to see the inception of silicon valley’s most behemoth companies – Apple only one of them – start from such humble beginnings, and cross paths so many times. But history aside, it was like watching a hero save the day over and over again in the book when Jobs would come in as say something like, “Fuck this, let’s show them what a tablet can really be” – then turn everything around, and get everything right.
Steve Jobs led a life in relentless pursuit of creating the best products, and defined himself and his company as being at the intersection of technology and liberal arts. He was never a philanthopist, but he spawned new industries and made a dent in the universe. Anyone, whether a fan-boy or not would enjoy this book. And like any good Steve Jobs story, it’s got an “oh, and one more thing” at the end.
finished in May, 2012
Fall of Giants ~ Ken Follet
I learned more about world history reading Fall of Giants than I can remember from school. In fact, I don’t think there’s a better way to learn history than to read historical fiction.
This book follows characters from around the globe and through their varied perspectives, traces world history from 1913, to 1923, including World War I from start to finish, womens’ suffrage in Britain, and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. In true Ken Follett fashion, the book is soaked with love affairs, which helps bring the history to life.
The overall theme of the book is the rise of the working class, and the fall of wealthy aristocrats. It’s one thing to look at history, and see all that’s changed. But it’s another to see how it affected people, from the poorest to the richest, and it gave me chills on more than one occasion. It’s amazing how far the human race has come in a short 100 years.
finished in March, 2011
Survivor ~ Chuck Palahniuk
Survivor is one of those books that is nothing you expected. Palahniuk uses a unique writing style that delivers deadpan humor and heavy satire. Dark themes like suicide and death are explored. It can be a little depressing at times, but you can’t help but be drawn in by all of the unexpected events that occur in the book.
Told in first-person, this is the story of a survivor of a suicidal religious cult. Cared for by a government program, the protaganist, Tender Branson is placed in a job, and provided a new life. Life goes on uneventfully, until he meets Fertility Hollis. From there, nothing and everything go as planned, in a tragic story saturated with symbolism and rife with satire of modern American life.
finished in June, 2010
In Defense of Food ~ Michael Pollan
I’ve been a fan of Michael Pollan ever since I heard him interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR some years back. They talked about his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which brought to light many things I had never considered about food, and encouraged us to foster a better relationship with the food we eat.
2007′s In Defense of Food goes a step further, exploring what food to eat. It’s a question a whole industry has sprung up to answer. But IDoF raises questions about food most of us have never considered.
For instance, the degree to which our government influences what we eat. One example of this are government subsidies that make corn and soy cheaper to buy than they are to produce- which floods the market with cheap corn syrup and soybean oil. This enables highly processed, unhealthy food to be cheaper than fruits and vegetables.
Pollan singles out the “Western diet” as a cause for most of the maladies that are unique to the western world- diabetes, cancer, obesity, hypertension, and stroke. He points to those cheap sugars and fats lacking in nutrition as the cause-
A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished, two characteristics seldom found in the same body in the long natural history of our species.
And the thing is, it all makes very good sense. Without summarizing the book, Pollan makes a case for the importance of foods as a whole, rather than the nutrients we generally value them for, and a case against the nutrient injected processed foods that dominate an American diet.
He finishes with no hard rules for what to eat but some very good rules of thumb such as, “Shake the hand that feeds you” and “Pay more, eat less”. Pollan points out that in 1960, Americans spent 17.5% of their income on food and 5.2% on health care. Today we spend about 10% on food and 16% on health care. What does this say about the quality of food we’re eating?
In all, In Defense of Food is an excellent evaluation of how we eat as Americans, and how we should eat. Look for Pollan’s next book, Food Rules in January.
finished in December, 2009
The Art of War ~ Sun Tzu
The Art of War has been adapted to all sorts of training and self-help books, but the original is quite literally a guide to conducting war… in Asia, circa 6th century B.C.E. The book consists by and large of clearly stated guidelines for war. There are many simple statements like this:
When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse.
And there are more conceptual principles such as this:
Do not interfere with an army that is returning home because a man whose heart is set on returning home will fight to the death against any attempt to bar his way, and is therefore too dangerous and opponent to be tackled.
When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. This does not mean that the enemy is allowed to escape. The object is to make him believe that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his fighting with the courage of dispair.
I believe these principles transcend the scope of just ancient warfare. Many of the principles in the book appear simple and obvious, but upon examination of the United State’s war history, you have to wonder if some of these principles weren’t ingored, how our history may have been changed.
finished in November, 2009