Sufjan Stevens

Favorite Albums 2015

A late winter bus ride through the rolling, tree-lined hills of Appalachia not only introduced me to my two favorite albums in 2015 but confronted me with thoughts of pain and healing, injustice and equality while seated next to a stranger for hours on end. One album brought tears as I pondered the mortality of everyone I loved and my complicated feelings about the West Coast. The other brought anger – and a sense of awe – as it tackled racial inequality from a place of undefeated strength and joy.

2015 featured the aforementioned albums from Sufjan Stevens and Kendrick Lamar plus so many more I loved. Here are my Favorite Albums 2015 listed in descending order.

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Cajun Tomato

Blizzards > Hurricanes

This morning under overcast skies, gray and white mounds of snow act as clustered barricades separating the street and sidewalk in Astoria. The street corners offer pedestrians an unholy slush for their troubles. Mighty Jonas dumped almost 27 inches of snow on NYC this weekend – maybe the most pleasant 27 inches of snow ever.  The near-record blizzard’s principle lesson, for me as a bayou native and blizzard neophyte, remains: Blizzards > Hurricanes.

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Four Thoughts On Macklemore’s “White Privilege II”

Grammy thief and alleged rapper Macklemore’s “White Privilege II” released today is perhaps the most Macklemore thing since, well, the last thing he did that made me roll my eyes. Once upon a time, when I lived in Portland and before the Heist became the de rigeur hip-hop album for people who don’t like the genre – I used to like him. I know, I should be forced to tell everyone I meet this – like some kind of good taste offender.

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At the Drive-In

Relationship of Skepticism: On the Latest At the Drive-In Reunion

In high school, I was the weird kid staring out the window on the bus to baseball games listening to At the Drive-In, the seminal Tex-Mex punk band that imploded shortly after releasing Relationship of Command. Frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s indecipherable screams soundtracked those rides along the bayou as I dreamed of baseball glory, a zit-free face, a girlfriend, escape from the bayou … all the typical small town high school loser shit. Bixler’s unhinged passion and urgency born of mysterious origin, err drugs, introduced me to punk. AtD-I’s performance of “One Armed Scissor” on Conan introduced me to live music. It’s hard to overstate how important seeing Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez lose their shit on TV was for me as a kid growing up in an artless, economically depressed, one stoplight town. It transformed my worldview.

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Live Review: Aurora’s Voice, Hands Grab Attention in NYC

Seconds into her industry showcase at The Box in lower Manhattan Wednesday night, Norwegian teen songstress Aurora grimaced then halted her first song, “Runaway.” No errant guitar note – nor pink stage light, as the audience learned before song No. 2 – would distract the petite 19-year-old blonde as she wove intricate tales of escape, belonging, and sanctuary with her at turns delicate and demonstrative voice backed by soft guitar and drums. Her frantic, oft times jerky hand and arm flourishes buffered her song’s theatrics, ping-ponging between the gestures of a coked-up orchestra conductor, a street dice player with an OCD pre-throw ritual, and an electric chair victim. OK, maybe that last example is hyperbole.

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2015 Favorite Concerts

Surviving in New York City is hard enough without a concert addiction and Ticketmaster fees bleeding you dry. In 2015, I caught over 50 shows in NYC, and more importantly did not go broke in the process. One day I will bore my grandchildren with the tale.

Below is my 2015 Favorite Concerts list, the fruit of many lengthy rides on the N/Q, G, L, and 7 trains. Special shout-out to Mixologi and Spectrum Culture for sending me to shows in 2015.

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Prayer Won’t Save America From Its Mass Shootings Epidemic

I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian environment surrounded by people who swore upon the power of prayer. My mother, who I love and respect deeply, has a powerful testimony about prayer in her own life. I, on the other hand, never took to prayer.  Maybe I didn’t clinch my hands tight enough or shut my eyes hard enough or speak the optimized words, in order to hear God. The act itself felt like bargaining with some psychic reserve I sought out in hopes of a loan or a fix rather than a communion with the creator of the universe. In church, as a child, I often found myself looking around the room as others prayed. What were they seeking and would they find it, I wondered.

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Les Miles

Fire Les Miles Saga Defies All Rational Thought

“I’ve gotta say, I am irrationally excited about a man in my woefully poor home state keeping his $4 mil per year job. #GeauxTigers” ~ Me on Twitter last night after LSU AD Joe Alleva announced Coach Les Miles would keep his job after reports to the contrary the past few weeks.

As a Louisiana native, I watched the Les Miles saga unfold throughout the day Saturday with an interest and obsession I would imagine people in newly democratized countries feel on their first election day. In the early morning, I took note as the TV demagogues denounced LSU officials for wanting to fire a coach with a national title and a 77-percent winning percentage, not to mention a $15-million buyout. As the day progressed, I gorged on stories and rumors Miles might keep his job, contrary to earlier leaks, if he defeated Texas A&M later that night. I followed Saturday’s game with a mix of fear, anxiety and ultimately pride, as LSU secured a victory with a punishing eight-minute, clock-killing, will-breaking drive. Yet, I had no idea what result the final polls, so to speak, would yield for Miles.

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Bill Bratton

The Most Likely Target: Living With the Threat of Terrorism in NYC

Last night as I walked through Chelsea Market’s narrow strip of shops, past a bakery, a charcuterie, and a clothing pop-up, a disconcerting question grabbed my mind. Where is the nearest exit? Twin bolts of urgency and paranoia thundered from the deep recesses of my subconscious. To my left, down a ramp, a door to 15th Street stood a 20-yard dash away. The thought of a situation where I would need to dash to the door seemed absurd, and yet somehow it didn’t. People walked past me, talking, observing the art on the walls. Others sat eating. No one made any sudden or loud movements. I continued on my mission to find my parents an anniversary card. The thought of sprinting, while under attack, disappeared all together as I stared at books I wished to buy.

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From the bayou to NYC and beyond, cher.

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