Category Archives: Classixx

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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Kendrick Lamar

2015 Favorite Song Nominees

It’s mid-October, cold weather is a-comin’ and I am unprepared mentally, physically, spiritually, etc. Surprise, surprise. As a means of blocking out the coming winter and ignoring other pressing matters, today I’ve decided to write about 15 songs – my 2015 Favorite Song Nominees, for lack of a better phrase – that will certainly factor prominently on my year-end list.

Songs are listed in alphabetical order according to title. With one notable exception I elected to limit myself to one song per artist Below,. I’ve included my Faves 2015 Spotify playlist, featuring these 15 songs and many, many others. Enjoy!

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True Detective Season 2 Episode 1: 10 Thoughts

True Detective's real hero: Colin Farrell's 'stache.

True Detective’s real hero: Colin Farrell’s ‘stache.

Noted New Jersey nihilist, uh former journalist, Lloyd Nelson suggested I write about the second season of HBO’s True Detective for shits, giggles and page views. Told me, I would have to pay him for his next good idea. Alas, I am waiting for the hedge fund millions to roll in, not to mention Good Idea Numero Dos, before I fork over any bit coin.

In the weeks leading up to its premiere, the True Detective Season Two Kinda Sucks narrative became all the rage among critical types. Stories circled about creator Nic Pizzolato’s insufferable auteur act, this season’s lack of compelling characters and its predilection for flyover shots of L.A. instead of anything plot-related. This critical piling on served as a stark contrast to the critical love fest that showered Season One.

It’s too early to brand the show DOA. I mean, Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle from the first season is not coming to save it with his unique brand of nihilism but Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro, he of the impressive ‘stache and bolo tie collection, will find me and break my face if I write this season off too soon. Ah, yes. Living in fear of crooked police. That’s not anything we’ve heard about in 2015.

Here’s 10 thoughts from True Detective Season 2 Episode 1 ranging from the inane to the profound (uh, maybe not). Here’s a good time to stop reading if you haven’t watched the episode because spoilers will rear their heads.

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Dear South Carolina: Remove the Confederate Flag ASAP

Photo credit: Charleston Post and Courier.

Photo credit: Charleston Post and Courier.

As pieces of cloth go the Confederate flag is a reprehensible piece of seditious shit, a treasonous, blood-soaked embodiment of fear, ignorance and hate and an example of man’s most brutish tendencies winning over his shared humanity. Those who argue for the flag’s tradition, heritage and rebel spirit 150 years after the South lost the Civil War are, in essence, vouching for the enslavement, murder and torture that occurred in the flag’s name. This includes the cowards who call themselves leaders in the state of South Carolina.

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Favorite Albums 2015 Halftime Edition

On Carrie and Lowell, Sufjan's search for meaning in the wake of his estranged mom's death is arguably his finest work in a superlative career.

On Carrie and Lowell, Sufjan’s search for meaning in the wake of his estranged mom’s death is arguably his finest work in a superlative career.

Today marks the third and final installment of Listicles Week – my Favorite Albums 2015 Halftime Edition. Be sure to check out my Favorite Concerts and Favorite Songs lists too.

2015 will be remembered in music critic circles as the Twenty-Teens best year, I predict. Yeah, only half the year is in the books but what a half-year. Sufjan Stevens and Kendrick Lamar dropped classics, Sleater-Kinney and Bjork returned with a vengeance and Alabama Shakes, Florence + The Machine and Drake cemented their commercial standing with critically adored records. Plus Courtney Barnett and Leon Bridges performed like seasoned vets not album rooks.

And the year’s second half looks filthy. The promise of scheduled releases from personal faves Disclosure, Frank Ocean, Jason Isbell, Miguel, Tame Impala and Titus Andronicus (to name a few) in the next few months are making my ears salivate – yes, that’s a thing.

That’s one way of saying I might have to rip up my Favorite Albums 2015 Halftime Edition list in short order. For the time being these are my favorite albums released thus far.

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Favorite Songs 2015 Halftime Edition

Where does Kendrick Lamar rank on the list? Photo Credit: Henning Heide

Where does Kendrick Lamar rank on the list? Photo Credit: Henning Heide

Today is Part Two of Listicles Week featuring my Favorite Songs 2015 Halftime Edition. Tomorrow I will name my favorite albums of 2015 (so far).

Below are my 40 favorite songs of 2015 (so far). At the bottom you’ll find a Spotify playlist featuring most of the songs. Also, be sure to check out my Favorite Concerts 2015 Halftime Edition too. Enjoy!

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Favorite Concerts 2015 Halftime Edition

His skills with the mic, both singing into it and upheaving it, earned soul goodwill ambassador Charles Bradley a spot on my Favorite Concerts 2015 Halftime Edition. Photo: CajunTomato

His skills with the mic, both singing into it and upheaving it, earned soul goodwill ambassador Charles Bradley a spot on my Favorite Concerts 2015 Halftime Edition. Photo: CajunTomato

Listicles Week starts today with my Favorite Concerts 2015 Halftime Edition – a list comprised solely of NYC shows I’ve attended for free (the only kind of shows I’ve seen this year). I will drop my Favorite Songs and Albums of 2015 later this week.

In the meantime here are my 10 favorite concert performances of the year listed in alphabetical order according to the artist’s first name. Click the performer’s name to read my original review. Enjoy!

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Middle America Hates My Household

The lower Manhattan skyline, as seen from the Staten Island ferry, is much more beautiful than my front door. Photo cred: Me.

The lower Manhattan skyline, as seen from the Staten Island ferry, is much more beautiful than my front door. Photo cred: Me.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 57 titled “Middle America Hates My Household” riffs on a thought I had the other day while watching my landlord show me to open our new door lock.

Middle America hates my household, is terrified of it, wants to bomb and shame its inhabitants. OK, I admit maybe not my literal address in Queens, but rather people who look like the men, women and children who reside in our narrow slice of a two-story brick rowhouse, worship the same old gods as them and obsessively watch and critique RuPaul’s Drag Race like them.

This epiphany struck me last week while watching my landlord’s step-by-step tutorial on how to open our new front door lock. Just press in on the door as you turn the key, Mohammad repeated, loudly, as if reciting winning lotto numbers. I stared at the crown of his bald brown head, gray and black hairs cloaking the sides, as he pressed on the door. The wooden door opened and I saw his door in front of me, a square piece of cloth with Arabic written on it hanging in the door’s center. Truth is, I kind of hated Mohammad at that instant too. Not because he was Muslim, but because he believed me incapable of opening his new lock – the one he purchased after the old lock stopped turning and locked me inside the house. I nodded when he asked me if I understood his teachings, walked through the open front door and inserted my keys into the inside door to the left of his – the one to the upstairs where my gay dance choreographer roommate and I reside.

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“The Blacker The Berry” and Baltimore

Kendrick Lamar's message in "The Blacker The Berry" continues to speak volumes as Baltimore reacts to Freddie Gray's death.

Kendrick Lamar’s message in “The Blacker The Berry” continues to speak volumes as Baltimore reacts to Freddie Gray’s death.

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.

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Why Tidal Will Fail

Alicia Keys attempting to brainwash people on Tidal while actually brainwashing herself.  Photo credit: Someone other than me.

Alicia Keys attempting to brainwash people on Tidal while actually brainwashing herself. Photo credit: Someone other than me.

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.

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