Titus Andronicus, the best damn rock band in Jersey or anywhere else for the matter, announced its latest album Thursday – a 29-track, 93-minute opus titled The Most Lamentable Tragedy based on frontman Patrick Stickles’s manic depression. With the album announcement came a new song, “Dimed Out”, a three-minute blast of mania and defiance that sprints to its conclusion, never stopping for air. I cannot wait to lose my shit to “Dimed Out” when Titus Andronicus play a five-night residency at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn this July. Tickets are on-sale for $10. Yes! $10! Rock and roll gods, I tell ya!
Retro soul artist/high-waisted pants enthusiast Leon Bridges’s debut album, Coming Home, will not be carried at Starbucks when it drops June 23. The Seattle coffee chain stopped carrying CDs earlier this year. Otherwise, Bridges would make a perfect candidate for a “fresh and new” artist whose music goes down easy with your overpriced, sugar-laden coffee drink. Forget that the 25-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, owns a top-secret teleportation device that allows him to travel between 1966 and the present without any ill effects.
On Thursday, Bridges officially released his fourth song, “River”, and all snark aside, don’t be surprised if it leaves you slack-jawed and misty-eyed when you hear it. It’s the kind of song that would sound good in a park, in a church, in a car with the windows down, pretty much anywhere you can imagine. Bridges could be this year’s Sam Smith (or yesteryear’s Sam Cooke). I know, I know. It sounds too good to be true: the idea of a black man, not a white man, stealing the sound of the black ghosts of R&B past and becoming famous for it. (Couldn’t put the snark aside for long, it seems.)
The defining pop culture statement about Baltimore’s reaction to Freddie Gray’s April 19 death in police custody – in a year that will be defined by such repeated and senseless acts of institutional racism – came almost two months before this heinous tour made “Charm City” its latest stop.
Kendrick Lamar’s single “The Blacker The Berry” presented a narrator awake to how little those in power cared about his life as a black man, and the frustration and anger inherent in such a realization. The narrator of “The Blacker The Berry” and Baltimore are marching hand in hand this week, it occurred to me as I watched and read reports of peaceful protests and riots occurring in the wake of the 25-year-old Gray’s death.
Baltimore, a once great American industrial city decimated by corporate outsourcing and the phony War On Drugs, now stands at attention, eyes open to the long festering injustice at its doorstep.
Below is an examination of Baltimore’s upheaval and unrest viewed through the prism of “The Blacker The Berry”. It’s worth noting that while Lamar’s narrator refers to himself as a hypocrite throughout the song I view this as a storytelling device the artist employs to provoke thought about the senselessness of black-on-black crime in the face of such an oppressive, corrupt and hateful society. This descriptor by no means disqualifies the narrator’s point of view.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Two Frenchmen adorned in glitzy robot costumes, a Canadian sporting a massive mouse head and a washed-up American sex goddess take the stage for a press conference announcing a new artist-owned, high-fidelity music streaming service. R&B star Alicia Keys manages to trump them all – Daft Punk, Deadmau5 and Madonna – in terms of sheer ridiculousness and unintentional humor while not wearing a disguise of any kind.
Oh, wait. This isn’t a joke. This actually happened last week.
In my 20s I spent most of my meager journalist earnings attending concerts, in shitty dives, stadiums and sun-soaked festivals across America. So much money, in fact, that I depleted my savings account, my mom reminded me on a quarterly basis. That’s neither here nor there. It dawned on me at age 30 someone else should provide me free tickets, in order to sustain my concert habits. So far, so good in 2015.
That brings me to two shows I’ve attended/reviewed in the past 10 days.
New York City’s first taste of spring arrives today in the form of 60-degree temperatures. Until yesterday snow piled on the edge of the city’s sidewalks. 2015 is still in its infancy but it is shaping up as a monster music year. Below are my favorite tracks so far from major artists like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Alabama Shakes to personal faves like And And And, Aero Flynn and Phony Ppl. Read through my Favorite Songs of 2015 (1st Quarter edition) list and listen to the songs on my Spotify playlist below.
Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 56 titled “Denying McDonald’s Temptation in NYC” explores McDonald’s and temptation in the land of a 1,000 real food choices.
The eyes of adults and children alike converged on the elementary-aged girl swinging a thin stick in the room’s center. Some cheered while others snapped photos as she struck a weak, glancing blow against the pinata, a blow incapable of exposing its deepest high fructose corn syrup secrets. I resumed walking along the slick, slush-covered pavement after witnessing this McDonald’s birthday party scene through the restaurant’s window.
I never received a McDonald’s birthday party as a kid growing up along south Louisiana’s bayous. I did once witness a friend of a friend bring a candle to a McDonald’s date when we were in middle school. My high school quiz bowl team’s short bus stopped at McDonald’s en route to each successive televised trivia massacre in which we participated. Years later, I arrived at the realization eating 20 chicken nuggets and diving in a ball pit is not the best way to stimulate brain flow.
You changed. I changed. We both fell down. Think of this as my version of “London Bridges” for sad and soon-to-be single adults.
The concept of change is integral to relationships, in both how we connect with our significant other and artists we adore. Accept each other’s changes and your relationship grows. Fail to do so and the relationship will disintegrate at best, implode at worst.
Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 55 titled “Bury My Heart in a Concrete Jungle: Long-Distance Relationships in NYC” examines how the city’s transportation logjam creates relationship hurdles.
The world has a long-distance love affair with New York City, as evidenced by the tens of millions of visitors it attracts each year. The city’s residents, meanwhile, have long-distance relationships with each other. Examine a map of the five boroughs absent of any knowledge about New York’s clogged transportation arteries and you would wonder how this is possible. Manhattan, the borough I called home the longest amount of time, stretches only 13 miles from Marble Hill to South Ferry. Almost anywhere else that is no more than a 20-minute car ride, 30 minutes at most. In Manhattan cars are often not part of the equation. The travel time quotient is extended due to several factors when you take public transportation – wait times for connecting trains and buses, additional time for walking, stalled trains and investigations, etc. If only owning a car in this city were practical. If only, if only, if only.
Long-distance relationships in NYC are almost inevitable unless you live with your partner, live on the same train line, or live in the same neighborhood. I learned this my rookie winter in the city, much to my chagrin. As for living in a different borough than your special someone my advice is to invest in an unlimited call and text plan and pray one of you finds an affordable apartment in the other’s borough. What? You think the G train is gonna save your Brooklyn/Queens relationship? The G train laughs at your relationship!
Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 54 titled “A Different New York Stage” looks at how homeless subway riders’ pleas for help raise difficult questions in the greatest city in the world.
While riding the uptown 6 train into Spanish Harlem on a nightly basis this past summer I encountered three, four, maybe five beggars in a single 25-minute train ride. These people, most often men, laid bare their circumstances with hints of shame and desperation, trudged through the car afterward seeking a dollar, spare change, or a smile, and then opened and closed the door between one car and the next, to repeat this process with a new group. This sequence happened in the minute it took for the train to trade one stop for another. Soon, a new person took my car’s moving stage, the circumstances different but no less shitty.
Feeling the need to reevaluate your station in life? Stare into the eyes of a homeless person/impromptu public speaker riding the subway. It’s humbling and horrifying, if you stop to look up from your phone. Life’s fragility, in all its unpredictable forms, comes into focus. You realize the gap between you and them is small. At least I have on many occasions.