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Category Archives: Hedonism

The Chanukah Story That Could Have Been – Jewish Link of New Jersey

Posted: December 20, 2019 at 7:41 pm

Chanukah is when we tap into the spiritual debate between the Jews and the Greeks, as the Greeks specifically attempted to destroy our spiritual way of life. They aimed to cut off our connection with Hashem and replace it with the worship of the natural, physical world. Yavan means quicksand in Hebrew: The Greeks sought to drown us in their secular culture, replacing spirituality with atheism and hedonism. The midrash says that the Greeks attempted to darken our eyes, hichshichu et eineichem (Bereishit Rabbah 2:4). Darkness represents a lack of clarity, the inability to perceive true form. This was the Greek attack on the Jewish people: a distortion of truth, a darkening of knowledge and perception. For this reason, the Jewish people went to war against the mighty Greek army, and to this day we carry on that fight against Greek culture, a culture that we view as damaging and antithetical to Judaism.

However, if we take a deeper look into Jewish literature, we find a strikingly different picture of the Greek nation and their culture. In Parshat Noach, Noach blesses his two sons, Shem and Yefet, with a seemingly peculiar bracha: Yaft Elokim lYefet, vyishkon bohalei Shem (Bereishit 9:27): Hashem will grant beauty to Yefet, and he will dwell within the tents of Shem. Yefet is the precursor to the Greeks, and Shem to the Jews. This seems to paint the Greeks in a positive light, as a beautiful nation fitting to dwell within the framework and boundaries of Judaism. In a similar vein, the Gemara (Megillah 9b) states that despite the general prohibition of translating the Torah into different languages, it is permissible to translate the Torah into Greek because it is a beautiful language. According to both of these sources, it seems as though Greek culture does not contradict Judaism, but is meant in some way to complement it, harmonizing with Jewish ideology. How can we understand this contradiction? In order to explain it, we must first develop a deep spiritual principle.

How do we understand and perceive Hashem? Is Hashem within time and space, limited to this world alone, as Pantheists believe? Or is Hashem completely transcendent, beyond time, space and this physical world, as many of the ancient philosophers believed?

The Jewish approach, as explained by the Rambam, Maharal, Ramchal and others, is a beautifully nuanced blend of these two approaches. Hashem is transcendent, completely beyond our physical world of time and space, and yet He is also immanent, within our physical world. This principle applies to all spirituality; we believe that the spiritual and transcendent is deeply connected to the limited and physical world. In other words, our physical world is a projection and emanation of a deeper, spiritual reality. This is the meaning behind the famous midrash, Istaklah boraita, ubara alma (Bereishit Rabbah 1:1), Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world. This means that the physical world is an emanation and expression of the Torah, the spiritual root of existence. To give an analogy, imagine a projector: the image you see on the screen is emanating from the projector. The projector and film are the source, the image on the screen is the expression.

Thus, we are able to understand and experience the spiritual through the physical, as the two are intrinsically connected. If youre wondering how to understand this concept, consider the way other human beings experience, relate to and understand you. All they have ever seen is your physical body. Theyve never seen your thoughts, your consciousness or your emotions. The only way they can understand you is by relating to how you express yourself and your internal world through your physical body: your words, actions, facial expressions and body language.

The same is true regarding our experience of Hashem and the spiritual. We cant see spirituality, only physicality. We must therefore use the physical to connect back to the spiritual root.

The Greeks sought to uproot this Jewish perspective, to detach the physical world from its higher root. They claimed that human beings have no connection to anything higher than the physical world itself, and that its therefore impossible to connect to Hashem. As the Ramban explains (Vayikra 16:8), the Greeks believed only that which the human intellect could grasp. Anything that requires spiritual sensitivity, that goes beyond rational proofs alone, was dismissed as false. Even the Greek gods were glorified humansas anything that transcended the physical, human world was dismissed. In essence, the Greeks served themselves.

The Jewish approach is much more nuanced. We embrace human intellect and reason, but are aware of a realm that transcends it. We recognize the wisdom of science, medicine, psychology, mathematics and other forms of madda, but also recognize a higher form of wisdom, the Torah. As the Vilna Gaon explains, where logic and human intellect ends, Jewish wisdom begins. The logic behind this principle is based on the aforementioned idea: the physical world is an expression of the spiritual world. Just as the physical world stems from a higher spiritual realm, physical wisdom is an expression of a higher form of wisdom, the Torah. While the wisdom of madda is true, it stems from a higher truth, the Torah. Torah Umadda means that Torah is the absolute foundation and root, and madda is its physical expression.

The ideal is for the physical wisdom of the Greeks and Yefet to be within the tent of Shem. For science and madda to be in harmony with Torah. The problem occurred only once the Greeks denied the existence of anything beyond their independent intellectual wisdom. This was the battle of Chanukah. The Greeks tried to destroy the Torah, which contradicted their ideology, and the Jews were forced to fight for their beliefs, to defend their spiritual connection with Hashem and the transcendent wisdom of Torah.

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Top 10 photography shows of 2019 | Culture – The Guardian

Posted: at 7:41 pm

10Eamonn Doyle: Made in Dublin

Photo London, Somerset HouseAlongside his creative collaborators production designer Niall Sweeney and sound artist David Donohoe Irish photographer Eamonn Doyle created an ambitious nine-screen projection for Photo London. It was an immersive experience that threatened to overwhelm, but, once surrendered to, unfolded to its visceral soundtrack at a furious pace. Looming figures flitted across the viewers vision in constantly unfolding juxtapositions, making Doyles native city seem more Ballardian than Joycean.

Marian Goodman, LondonA long-awaited major London show for Nan Goldin, her first since the Whitechapel Gallery retrospective in 2002, Sirens is shadowed by her recent addiction to Oxycontin and the direct action anti-Sackler activism she has embraced since her recovery. Two of her new works, Sirens and the viscerally unsettling slideshow Memory Lost, draw deeply on lived experience. The latter in particular uses her signature diaristic approach to explore memory, mourning, death and dislocation. Tough, heartbreaking and utterly compelling. On until 11 January. Read the full review.

Tate Modern, LondonAn ambitious, sprawling and constantly surprising retrospective of an artist too long considered in the reflective light of Pablo Picasso, with whom she had a turbulent relationship. Her career began in earnest in 1932, when Henriette Markovitch, painter, became Dora Maar, photographer. The creative trajectory that followed took her from fashion to portraiture to street photography and on into surrealist-inspired experiments in photomontage and camera-less photography. An expansive portrait of a restless spirit. On until 15 March. Read the full review.

Tate Britain, LondonBritains most famous living photographer drew the crowds to Tate Britain for this expansive retrospective, drawn from an archive that stretches back 60 years. Best known for his war photography, the show reminded us of the wealth of other defining documentary images from closer to home: post-war working class life in Londons East End, the declining landscapes of the industrial north, poverty and homeless in the capital. Comprising over 250 photographs, all hand-printed by McCullin in his darkroom, it was a celebration of, and an elegy for, a time when photojournalism and documentary photography indelibly shaped our view of the world. Read the full review.

Les Rencontres dArlesOn the back of her acclaimed first book, Ex-Voto, which merged landscapes of contemporary sites of religious pilgrimage with starkly haunting portraits of latter-day pilgrims, the young English artist won the Audience Award at Arles for The Faithful. Here, the central subject of stark monochrome prints and a quietly compelling film was a young Orthodox nun named Vera, who works with captive wild horses in a convent in rural Belarus. The end result was another austere and affecting exploration of contemporary religious devotion.

Jeu de Paume, ParisPeter Hujars reputation has risen steadily since his death in 1987, his often deftly composed portraits possessed of an acutely intimate undertow. Hujar came of age in the downtown art scene in New York, his creative life bookended by two defining cultural moments: the Stonewall riots in 1969 and the Aids crisis of the 1980s. He once described his approach as uncomplicated, direct photographs of complicated and difficult subjects. They include avant-garde artists, gay activists, intellectuals and drag queens; among the most celebrated are a reclining Susan Sontag and, posing languorously on her deathbed, Warhol superstar Candy Darling. On until 19 January.

Hayward Gallery, LondonDevoted to the formative years in which Diane Arbus honed her dark vision, In the Beginning showed how her sensibility and signature style a crucial shift from 35mm to square format took shape on the streets of New York. Around two thirds of the 100 plus prints on view had not been seen before in the UK; what they revealed was a precocious talent for the eccentric and the perverse, whether tattooed strong men, circus performers, self-styled outsiders or passing strangers. Still unsettling, still singular. Read the full review.

The Photographers Gallery, LondonFor all their quiet stillness, Dave Heaths portraits possess an intensity that is by turns melancholic and unsettling. In that most exuberant of decades, the 60s, Heath emerged almost unseen as a master of solitude and introspection. His images, as this deftly-curated exhibition highlighted, instil a thoughtful silence in the space around them. An illuminating survey of a quiet American photographer who was a master of mood and sequence.

National Portrait Gallery, LondonA long overdue British retrospective showed the full range of Shermans work, from the iconic early series Untitled Film Stills (1977-80) to the more elaborately constructed Sex Pictures, which still shock in terms of their sheer grotesquery. She is a conceptual shapeshifter, whose one brilliant idea turning the camera on her transformed self in order to exaggerate and illuminate myriad female archetypes is one of the most fascinating creative journeys of our time. Read the full review.

Les Rencontres dArlesIn the 1970s and 80s, self-taught Czech photographer Libue Jarcovjkov relentlessly chronicled her wild life during a time of political repression. The results, shot in edgy monochrome, were one of the revelations of this years Arles photo festival. Jarcovjkovs diaristic approach brilliantly captures the low rent hedonism and self destructiveness of a semi-clandestine bohemian milieu. But there is something energetic, even joyful, in her laying bare of her own reckless life. Often, she is her own subject, the captions a kind of defiantly nihilist manifesto: I understand nothing and dont care. Life is pelting along too fast to understand. Im rarely sober. Elsewhere, she shot on the nocturnal streets and in dive bars, parties and scuzzy bedrooms, capturing the long nights and hungover days of a repressive, and thus doggedly dissolute, time in her homeland. Uncompromising and grittily poetic, Evokativ took me by complete surprise and stayed with me for days afterwards.

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Top 10 photography shows of 2019 | Culture - The Guardian

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The Spaceship of the Imagination Makes Spirits Bright – Nashville Scene

Posted: at 7:41 pm

Personally, I identify with the Grinch. And yet, I find these waning weeks of December particularly festive if for no other reason than they signal that the whole crass consumerist schmegegge of Christmas is on its way out. In spite of all that, local seasonal synth ensemble The Spaceship of the Imaginations annual untraditional take on the Christmas pageant was an apt reminder theres an undeniable joy lurking beneath the hype. This years cast and crew offered quite possibly the most lit time to be had inside a church outside of Kanye Wests Sunday Service.

Though the synth-band-turned-performance-troupe doesnt have an affiliation with Trinity United Methodist Church, this is the third year that the sanctuary (through its Trinity Community Commons program) has hosted local piano man, keyboard wiz and SOTI orchestrator Matt Rowland and his Carl Sagan-inspired group. This years production, whose opening night I saw Thursday, marks the 11th year Rowland has convened his group. Hes assembled an increasingly more elaborate cast of familiar faces from the various local arts and music scenes. They pooled their talents for yet another absurdist, slightly psychedelic and wholly entertaining original stage production.

I unfortunately missed last years epic multimedia showcase Krampus Gone Wild which I understand included multiple green-screen sequences. This year, the technology was dialed way back, but the production (with a cast and crew of 28) wasnt poorer for it. Many of the players doubled as puppeteers something Werner Herzog might be proud of expanding the cast to something like 35 characters as the black-clad crew of stagehands hustled diligently between scenes to swap out sets. For the first time, the vast majority of the music was original compositions. There were literally no dull moments in this impressive three-hour opus (complete with intermission, of course).

Jessica Claus, Frosty the Snowman and Aurora the Polar BearPhoto: Laura E. Partain

This years show, Ms. Claus Saves Christmas, picks up after Krampus Gone Wild. As the show opens, we find Santas former wife Jessica Claus (ace singer Keshia Bailey), still recovering from their split and trying to put her life back together in her hometown of Paducah, Ky., aka The Pitiful Pad or The Dirty Ducah, after 150-odd years at the North Pole. Meanwhile, the half-goat, half-demon European folk legend Krampus (Seth Pomeroy, a pillar of Nashvilles stand-up and sketch comedy scene) had indeed gone wild, abandoning the now-canceled Christmas holiday in favor of an eternal summer of reckless hedonism.

The world mourns the loss, while Krampus, conspiring with his sidekick and hype-man Elfy and a couple of suits from Coca-Cola, embarks on a rap career. (The beats are genuinely dope, while Krampus bars are good-bad on an MST3K level and delivered with pitch-perfect swaggering gusto.) Soon, its clear that it will be up to Ms. C. and a lovable, ragtag group of North Pole loyalists a pair of reindeer, a couple gung-ho elves, a polar bear, an adorable snow couple to get Christmas back on track.

Was the production flawless? Nah. Acting styles meshed with mixed success, lines were flubbed, marks were missed and character was often broken by fits of laughter. But when a cast is having this much fun onstage, the spirit is infectious, which is ultimately the point. Rowland and his electro quartet laid an increasingly mean and funky flavor on traditional holiday tunes, and the show culminated in a candle-lit, audience-participatory chorus of Silent Night.

As a curmudgeonly holiday hater, I felt a little tricked as I found myself holding a tiny flame inside a church while swaying to a classic carol. However, with my face still sore from laughing through most of the last few hours, how could I gripe in the wake of this inspiringly DIY spectacle and wholly Nashville tradition? The Spaceship of the Imagination has landed on a universal translation of the holiday spirit. They continue to subvert any superficial or moral objections with an undeniably fun and impressive expression of goodwill.

You've got two more chances to see the show, tonight and Saturday. Tickets are $20 and available in advance. Below, check out photos from opening night by Laura E. Partain.

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The Raiders franchise will never be the same after their move from Oakland – ClutchPoints

Posted: at 7:41 pm

The NFL is all about money and the Oakland Raiders are making a financial decision by moving to Las Vegas. However, their decision could end up being a big mistake that may hurt the franchise forever.

After moving to Las Vegas, it will mark the second time that the Raiders have moved out of Oakland with the first being to Los Angeles. Of course, the Raiders later decided to move back to Oakland after their stint in Los Angeles. If the Raiders are smart, they will decide to follow suit after relocating to Las Vegas and get back to Oakland as soon as possible.

The biggest issue for the Raiders is they are leaving behind their most loyal fans. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum isnt a great NFL stadium, but that was part of the lure of the team. Going into the black hole was something no team wanted to do, and they had one of the best home-field advantages in all of football. Dieter Kurtenbach of The Mercury News put the issues with moving to Las Vegas best.

Raiders fans comprise the only fanbase in sports that can rightly call itself a nation. Such is their nomadic history, their decentralization, and devotion to the squad. Raiders fans will travel from the Bay, from Los Angeles (where there are still millions of fans), and everywhere else the first few years in the desert.

But I dont think that will last long.

Theyll go. Theyll see it. And after that, theyll stay home. Televisions are pretty great these days.

And why go back? There will be no tailgating scene in Las Vegas; they didnt build enough parking lots. No Black Hole in the stadium, either; that might scare off tourists.

This new stadium couldnt be a starker departure from the Coliseum. The Coliseum was a den of hedonism for the common man. It was featureless and amenity-free, a place youd go only if you were so into football and drinking that youd forget the home team played only one playoff game in the last 17 years.

Raiders fans supported their team no matter if the team had 12 wins or two wins. In Las Vegas, its going to be hard to find that same type of loyalty and fans will quickly turn. Its worth noting, Las Vegas is also a great travel city so there will be plenty of fans from other cities flying in to see their favorite team.

After the first couple of seasons, dont be shocked if Raiders home games resemble how some of the Los Angeles Chargers home games have appeared the last couple of seasons with many fans of the away team in attendance.

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The Raiders franchise will never be the same after their move from Oakland - ClutchPoints

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Kurtenbach: The Raiders are leaving behind a fanbase with a passion you cannot buy – East Bay Times

Posted: at 7:41 pm

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OAKLAND We are long past the point of fighting the inevitable, of forlorn thoughts of what could have no, what should have been.

The Raiders are gone.

They havent packed up yet the team facility in Alameda will be operational for a few more weeks but Sundays game, a 20-16 last-minute loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, marked the final moment that the Raiders belonged to Oakland, the symbolic end of an era.

They soon will soon fill up some boxes, put them in trucks, and head to Las Vegas to a new stadium, a new team facility, and what they think will be a brighter, more lucrative future.

But in that 560-mile move, the Raiders will be leaving their soul behind.

Things in Nevada will never be as good as they were in Oakland. At best, it will be a novelty in a city that has endless entertainment options.

And Ill bet dollars to cents that in a few years the Raiders will be the ones pushing forlorn thoughts what could have no, what should have been.

The Raiders have been fixing to leave Oakland for so long that no one not even those who booed them off the field Sunday and showered them with bottles can blame the team for finally exiting. The citys pension crisis and performative politics combined with Mark Davis leadership of the franchise created impossible barriers to an East Bay future for the Raiders, and when the state of Nevada likely duped offered nearly a billion dollars and the NFL agreed to back the move in a more-than-emotional capacity, the relocation to the desert became a no-brainer.

The NFL is big business after all, and in Las Vegas, the Raiders who reportedly ranked last in the league in revenue this past season will no longer be the leagues pauper.

Davis, who will be able to keep the family business in the family, is thrilled, though tact required him to push mixed feelings in public for the next few weeks. The NFL is thrilled, too. The cartels little-brother franchise will soon be able to live on its own, and the league will have access to Las Vegas for big events. All Roger Goodell had to do was co-sign a loan. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

The Raiders new Las Vegas stadium is being pushed as a place to see and to be seen.

Raiders fans comprise the only fanbase in sports that can rightly call itself a nation. Such is their nomadic history, their decentralization, and devotion to the squad. Raiders fans will travel from the Bay, from Los Angeles (where there are still millions of fans), and everywhere else the first few years in the desert.

But I dont think that will last long.

Theyll go. Theyll see it. And after that, theyll stay home. Televisions are pretty great these days.

And why go back? There will be no tailgating scene in Las Vegas; they didnt build enough parking lots. No Black Hole in the stadium, either; that might scare off tourists.

This new stadium couldnt be a starker departure from the Coliseum. The Coliseum was a den of hedonism for the common man. It was featureless and amenity-free, a place youd go only if you were so into football and drinking that youd forget the home team played only one playoff game in the last 17 years.

No, this new stadium will be a den of hedonism for a different clientele the whales of Las Vegas. The new digs will be full of the club levels, VIP seats, and luxury experiences that have left the 50-yard-line seats at Levis Stadium empty and a good chunk of fans in bunkers (away from the poors) at Chase Center. The Raiders dont want blue-collar in Las Vegas, they want the fans in the upper deck to be blue with envy.

Anecdotally, it seems as if the die-hard Raiders fans who would come to all eight (thats the one preseason and seven regular-season) home games at the Coliseum are going to make the trip to Vegas once, maybe twice a year.

Eventually, people will stop making trips even that infrequently.

The money that was usually spent on gas, meat for the grill, and beer (and a bottle of something hard to pass around the tailgate) will be spent at the casino. How many Saturday night crap-outs will have to happen before those field trips to Vegas become more and more infrequent?

Meanwhile, the new local market is smaller than Sacramento. But Im sure it will make up the difference, though (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

The Raiders move to Las Vegas has all the makings of a second Chargers debacle. The Bolts have played 16 road games a year since moving to Los Angeles, and the Rams arent doing much better. But the NFL is scrambling to figure out how to solve that problem now theyre inviting a second problem to form.

The Coliseum wasnt even filled for Sundays final game and that was with the tarp still on Mt. Davis.

Once the novelty of the new Vegas digs wears off once whats left of the fanbase visits the desert I expect that there will be plentyof Broncos orange, Chiefs red, and whatever-the-visiting-fanbases color is in Las Vegas. Itll be a blast of a field trip for them.

The success of the NHLs Vegas Golden Knights, who sell out the 17,000-plus seats at T-Mobile Arena 41 nights (but mostly weeknights) a season, is often cited as a reason why the Raiders will be successful in Nevada. But I dont think that analysis is taking into account that the Knights were first to market (a huge advantage in any business), were wildly successful the first year in town (making the Stanley Cup Final), and that new Raiders stadium holds nearly four times the people and will be used mostly on Sunday afternoons.

Have you ever been in Las Vegas on a Sunday afternoon? Its a somber scene with people heading to the airport and a few trying to win back what was lost. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The kind of fans who would show up to this East Bay dump might have dwindled in number over the years, but you cant say that those who stuck around didnt care. They cared more than any of us could know.

It was the kind of passion, the kind of devotion, you cant buy.

But now the team is gone and the traditions and rituals that came with watching them here the things that made a Raiders game the last bastion of old-school football culture will have nowhere to be channeled. The Raiders just wont be The Raiders anymore.

Try as they might, theyll never be able to recreate what they had here.


Kurtenbach: The Raiders are leaving behind a fanbase with a passion you cannot buy - East Bay Times

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Three Months in the Holiday Trenches at LLBean – Down East

Posted: December 13, 2019 at 2:17 pm

By Charles OddleifsonLast fall, I moved back to Maine from Texas, exhausted by the heat and hedonism of that sunny land. The day after I arrived, I took a walk at Thorne Head Preserve in Bath and felt my soul returning to me by way of the hard granite, the dripping pine trees, and the light rain falling across the Kennebec: my spiritual geography welcomed me home. But I also needed coins in my pocket, so I decided to apply for seasonal work at L.L.Bean.

The Freeport-based retailer experiences a surge of business in the month or two leading up to Christmas, hiring a small army of temporary workers to keep backlogs down and customers happy. Jobs were available in three areas: retail, phones, and warehouse. The first two involved dealing directly with customers. The last did not, and so I opted for the last.

On my first day, I arrived in the darkness at 6 a.m. and was escorted to a classroom on the first floor of the warehouse, where 17 other students and I were to be trained as returns processors. In this role, I would open packages sent back to L.L.Bean from far and wide: Dunkirk, Indiana; Wahoo, Nebraska; Belchertown, Massachusetts. My job was to find out who the customer was, what they were returning, what they wanted, and how to dispose of returned items appropriately. During training, our instructor wheeled out racks of garments and shoes, each of which we meticulously examined for flaws. Later, we learned how to distinguish shades of blue denim. One day, we looked at various postmarks and discussed how to categorize them. Another day, we learned how to fold clothes properly. Jeans were easy, bathrobes we dreaded.

Despite the thorough instruction, my college-educated ego was quickly humbled. What to do with a package that is all at once a split order, a fulfillment error, and a questionable return? Other complexities were interpretive: A customer writes, Needed a size 7. Does that suggest the customer no longer needs a size 7? Or, because ignoring a customers request is more egregious than fulfilling a nonexistent one, should I go ahead and ship a size 7 as a replacement?

Despite the thorough instruction, my college-educated ego was quickly humbled.

In all things, our bible was the L.L.Bean site index, an online encyclopedia of procedures to deal with any contingency. What to do if a customer sends an outline of her foot in lieu of a size request? Consult the site index. What to do if you find a stink bug inside the package? Look up insects in the site index and you will be instructed to stay calm, squash the insect, dispose in the trash, and continue to process as a regular return. Such detail was reassuring.

During my two weeks of training, I got to know my peers, whom I mentally divided into two groups. The first were the lost youth, people in their 20s or early 30s who didnt quite know what they were doing with their lives. That was my camp. The second group consisted of retirees who were working at L.L.Bean more or less because their spouses wanted them out of the house.

From the first group, I befriended a bright University of Maine engineering grad, an accountant fleeing Connecticut, and a former Marine from Hawaii who had recently moved to Maine to be near his wifes family. From the second group, I befriended a woman who ran her own pickle and jam business and whose products were in high demand, grossing her $20,000 in the previous year.

When my fellow Beanie babies and I finally moved up to the cavernous main floor of the warehouse, filled with hubbub and cranking conveyor belts, I felt like a puppy let outside for the first time, blinking in the bright new world. For us, this new world consisted of desks equipped with a small arsenal of brushes, lint rollers, tape dispensers, boxes, and bags, past which three stacked conveyor belts ceaselessly brought us packages and took away cardboard and spruced-up returned items. Whenever we finished with a package, a new one would inevitably be trundling past, ready for our attention. The overall effect was, to quote the poet Seamus Heaney, a hurry through which known and strange things pass.

She showed me her employee number, assigned sequentially to new hires: 2,572. Mine was 145,650.

Inside the packages we found misplaced scissors, rolls of tape, corkscrews, headphones, slips of paper inscribed with mysterious numbers, rogue Lands End apparel, and once, an entire landline telephone, all of which we dutifully bagged up and returned to the customers who had accidentally sent them. The best were letters from customers, sometimes addressed Dear Bean, five-paragraph persuasive essays, beautifully composed, explaining why the L.L.Bean size medium is not a true medium or why their husband cannot wear such pants. A certain Clinton Leopold Goldstone informed me that the zipper of his new jacket opens without provocation. Most sensational was a winter jacket that had been sliced cleanly down the back, as if by a razor blade. A note from the customer explained that her son had been wearing the jacket when he had fallen on the ice and been knocked unconscious. When he was found, he was near death from hypothermia, but the L.L.Bean jacket had kept him warm enough to save his life. The slice had been made by paramedics cutting off his clothes.

As we neared Christmas, snow fell and I enjoyed retiring at break time to the glass-enclosed cafeteria to sip coffee and look out at the white-cloaked hemlock trees. But the gears of war churned on. In early December, we had a facility-wide meeting. The Black Friday stats were in: huge numbers, making November the most profitable month for the company in decades. More sales, however, meant more returns, and we braced ourselves for the coming deluge. In December, we were already seeing the kind of backlogs that usually happen only in January: more than 100,000 packages in the building, waiting to be processed. Every day, nine UPS tractor-trailers backed up to our building. We had biweekly meetings intended to whip us into frenzies of productivity, and hourly reports over loudspeakers announced our progress in meeting daily goals. Workdays became nine hours long (twelve, if you wanted more overtime), and we often worked through weekends. No longer Beanie babies, my comrades and I were now each processing upwards of 30 packages per hour.

The best were letters from customers, sometimes addressed Dear Bean, five-paragraph persuasive essays, beautifully composed, explaining why the L.L.Bean size medium is not a true medium or why their husband cannot wear such pants.

It helped that we were surrounded by full-timers, veterans of this peak season. A woman across the aisle from me had worked at Beans on and off for 42 years. Her first job, at 16, was operating a crank-powered photocopier shed had to wear a smock to prevent ink from splashing onto her clothes. She showed me her employee number, assigned sequentially to new hires: 2,572. Mine was 145,650. We got talking about how her husband loves baking. The next morning, I found a delicious brownie on my desk. Other full-timers were just as kind and helpful. If theyre reading this, they know who they are.

By late January, the worst had passed, and we were back to eight-hour days. With my last day approaching, I was preparing to leave Maine again, this time to see family in distant Tasmania. In some ways, I was glad to be leaving Beans. The work had grown monotonous, and it had so permeated my subconscious that I reflexively named the types of plaid worn by those around me: Black Watch, Grey Stewart, Royal Stewart Tartan, Dress Gordon. When I opened a package of new pants at home, my first instinct was to check the pockets for tissues left by previous customers.

But I was grateful to Beans for the three months Id spent there for reminding me what it feels like to be part of a team and for introducing me to Mainers, old and new, who welcomed me back to my home.

When I left the warehouse on my last day, the air was mild and the sun bright, so I returned to Thorne Head, this time wearing the L.L.Bean jacket and boots I had bought with my employee discount. Instead of rain on the Kennebec, I watched the ice, moving in massive floes down from Merrymeeting Bay like packages on a conveyor.

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Three Months in the Holiday Trenches at LLBean - Down East

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Mowalola Launches Her Anarchic London Exhibition With the Help of Skepta and Yves Tumor – Vogue

Posted: at 2:17 pm

At the beginning of Mowalola Ogunlesis first runway show, staged back in January as part of Londons Fashion East incubator program, a tannoy call repeated Mowalola over a throbbing electro beat and pulsing, strobe-like lights. It was a bold statement of intent: establishing from the get-go the culture clash that fostered her creative outlook, and her place at the center of it. The eye-popping colors, treated leathers, and spray-painted patterns harkened back to her childhood in Lagos, Nigeria, while the boys with exposed chests in hip-skimming bumsters and girls in dangerously low-cut tops placed it smack bang in todays London. The flamboyant, sexed-up outfits arent just about provocation, either: they reflect the pageantry of the British capitals burgeoning club nights for queer people of color that Ogunlesi found herself immersed in after moving to the city from a boarding school in the Surrey countryside at 18.

And while this story of cultural cross-pollination is very much Ogunlesis to tell, with her first exhibition, titled Silent Madness, shes opening up the infectious energy of this nocturnal hedonism to a wider audience. I was an artist before I was a designer, and Ive always wanted to make something bigger than just a runway show, says Ogunlesi of the exhibition, which opened on Friday at NOW Gallery in Greenwich, London. When I had this opportunity, I knew I wanted to make my own version of a Renaissance painting, but in real life. For the installations premise, I started with the three things that inspire me most: music, film, and people. And then I just created the idea of Silent Madness, this sense that somethings happening around you, but you dont know what it is, its just chaotic.

While her past collections have involved plenty of teamworknotably with South African photographer Lea Colombo, whose erotic images were screen printed onto the backs of leather jackets, and stylist Ib KamaraSilent Madnesss riotous, multimedia spectacle features more ambitious collaborations. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a punk band of mannequins with nails studded into their skulls, wearing bodysuits covered in the signature Mowalola print of stenciled spray paint, and their instruments covered in sludgy black tar. (Produced with set designer Thomas Petherick, the psychedelic patterns speak to her time at Central Saint Martins, where Ogunlesi specialized in textile design.)

Across the space, video screens flicker with hellish visions of writhing bodies captured in brash, solarized color, as if filmed through an infrared lens; the footage was produced in collaboration with photographer and Comme des Garons collaborator Jordan Hemingway and art director Jamie Andrew Reid. Another film, directed by filmmaker Aidan Zamiri, sees Ogunlesi herself with claw-like fingernails scream and give the fish-eye camera the middle fingerrecalling one of the sinister sirens from a 90s Hype Williams music videobefore stomping her kitten heels over a willing male victim. Its as dangerous and subversively sexy as it sounds.

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M. Night Shyamalan and Servant creator Tony Basgallop talk twists, binge watching and the scene many networks "would never show" -…

Posted: at 2:16 pm

For the first time in six years, M. Night Shyamalan's back on television. The writer/director, best known for The Sixth Sense and the Unbreakable trilogy, acts as an executive producer on the Apple TV+ series Servant, a creepy horror story that centres on a couple who are dealing with the loss of their son. The twist? Their coping mechanism is to mollycoddle a terrifying baby doll, going as far as to get a nanny to look after the "child". And, as you would expect from Shyamalan, there's something even stranger at play.

GamesRadar+sat down with Shyamalan and Servant creator Tony Basgallop to talk about their new thriller, the pair discussing twists, binge watching, and how deliberately limiting yourself can help enhance your story. Oh, and that eel scene from the premiere. If you've seen the episode, then you'll know the one. The Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

Warning: major spoilers for the first three episodes of Servant below.

GamesRadar+: The first thing that really struck me about Servant is how claustrophobic it is; we never really leave the Turner house. Almost like a play. As a writer and a director, what were your inspirations for that?

Tony Basgallop: From my point of view, theres something interesting about storytelling when you give yourself those restrictions. You cant approach things in traditional ways. If you limit yourself, you have to find creative ways to bring story through the door. And thats challenging.

As a writer, Im always looking for that type of a challenge; something Can I think differently? Also, my training ground was on [BBC soap] EastEnders. As you know, you get the Queen Vic and three standing sets. You choose your sets up front and thats what you got for the week. So, I wanted to go back there as I felt that was a very creative period of my career to be restricted in that way to have to find solutions to something.

Thats the half-an-hour format. I dont think it quite would work in an hour. But half hour? With just a few sets? Youre right, it creates that play-like feeling where you just have to think different. That for me was the exciting bit of it.

M. Night Shyamalan: Well, I believe in the theory of incompleteness in storytelling. So, theres obviously other ways to think about storytelling: to dazzle, to [gasp], your jaw drops with what you see. My brain doesnt work that way. Mine does work with incompleteness. You make the audience finish the conversation. They picture the world outside that building, they picture what their work is like and where they came from. You keep just a window and they can only see through this window into this house and thats it.

For me I grew up with The Twilight Zone. Their minimalism and their lack of budget and everything worked greatly in their favour. If they had more money, and were more ambitious and tried all these other things we wouldnt be talking about them. They would have shown us too much, did too much. But they had to insinuate what was outside that storytelling still to this day bothers us because we became a part of that storytelling. Youre a part of the art form when you tell it like that. You finish the story. It becomes a much more visceral thing for you. Were saying its a restriction but really were limiting our palette.

M. Night, you directed the premiere. What was the most uncomfortable scene for you to direct?

MS: Its not going to be the one that youre thinking of. For me, its the two ladies in the bathtub when shes rubbing her breast to release the tension. Thats what our show can offer that nobody has ever offered, in my opinion. Youve never seen that scene before, right? Its weird, its uncomfortable, its sexual, its innocent, its beautiful. Its an aspect of being a woman that I have not even thought about as a guy. To watch these two women, for Leanne to cross the line like that it tells you something about her character as well and where its going.

When we shot it, too, the actors said Wow, that is insanely powerful. You cant even put your finger on what genre that is Im amazed Apple let us do that scene! [laughs]

TB: That was the scene that, when I was writing, I thought this is the show I want to make. It was always like Who is going to buy this? There were many, many networks that would never show that scene. It was always the challenge Im doing something thats quite risky here, are we going to find the right people here? No one ever asked me to take it out

Was there anything like that, where you had to rein yourself in?

MS: No, they left us alone. But if they say something, they might say Are you sure you need that? Yeah, we need it. But I didnt even get that question on that scene, which is amazing.

TB: Its a tender scene. Its a beautiful moment. But if you view it in the wrong way, then its not. I think thats kind of the point of the show.

MS: Its very raw. And I hope we have more of those.

Talking of sensitive or taboo subject matters, as a writer, how do you approach a topic like losing a child, in terms of research and making sure it comes to the screen in a thoughtful way?

TB: Researching this, we are dealing with characters who do the wrong thing. So, research will always tell you what the correct thing will be. This is the quick fix, the paper it over version that these characters are going to search for. They want everything, and they want everything now. The same goes for healing.

It felt like researching too deeply into this would have been a huge mistake. I wanted to know what is your gut reaction to dealing with this kind of a loss. Ive known people who have similar types of loss I think the more uncomfortable it is, the more I want to write it. The point where it becomes I dont know how Im going to do this is where it becomes a really interesting thing to write. The moment I can see it before sitting down theres no point writing it. Its written itself.

Particularly with some of the stuff we did with [Servant] and what Night was directing, it was the most uncomfortable stuff Ive written.

Thinking about uncomfortable scenes, the one that sticks out in my mind is the eel scene where its nailed to a chopping board. I was eating at the time, not the best idea! Talk us through that, from the initial idea to the execution.

TB: The idea for me: I went to catering college when I was young and I was going to be a chef. I was 17 years old and my first week in catering college they brought out a live eel and taught us how to skin and kill an eel. It stayed with me. So, when I was writing this, I was trying to draw on those experiences. Knowing I was writing a chef, what is my experience? It felt like Ive got to show someone this.

Thematically, it fits in with the story where its both dead and alive at the same time. Again, its one of those scenes where it just hits so many different marks that I was looking for. Also, to reveal Leannes you think this girl is impenetrable and you show herself that she cannot cope with. By that you see her innocence and naivety. Its that real-life experience that you sometimes throw them in because theyre so great.

MS: That particular scene is fun and visceral, but very metaphoric. Something thats passed away but still alive. Its an illusion is it still alive? All these things which is very much what the actual show is about. Its a great extension of the hedonism of the house. It seems like garish indifference to important things. That theyre living in this ghoulish way.

TB: Theyre so nonchalant. Dorothy is eating a croissant, drinking coffee and shes asking questions about Leanne: Have you eaten eel before? No, because they do it every week. Because its not unusual.

MS: As the show progresses, youll see Leanne learning about his family and seeing some not-so-great aspects about them.

One of the big debates going on at the moment, especially with other streaming services, is weekly releases vs. the all-at-once binge model. Where do you stand on that side of the argument?

MS: I feel strongly that everyone wants to binge. So, you dont do that. Especially with the mystery.

Are you not a binger?

MS: No. You should binge things that arent meant to be thought about. If its a Doritos bag, go ahead and have as many chips as you want. But if its The Sopranos, I want to wait until Sunday, I want to think about what it means and I want to yearn for it. It becomes a part of your life more.

In our particular case, ours is a mystery so at least for the first group of people that see it the first 10 weeks or whatever it is youre forced to watch it at a certain pace. Those people will tell the world we loved it, we didnt love it, or whatever. Theyll have the strongest connection to it. Some of the reporters have binged the whole thing in two days. You can do that, but did they really live with episode four and episode nine? Did you feel it? Or did you eat so much? Just like anything, if you eat a tonne of it, youre going to forget.

Im trying to think of a streaming service where you remember a particular episode. More to the point, that I can say Hey, even shows you love, do you remember Stranger Things episode five of the first season? No, you dont.

I want to be part of the conversation as long as possible. Because its a mystery, you want people to be at the watercooler going I think its this. Or shes crazy. Or its not true. Or the devil did it. Let them do that or talk about the eel before I show you the next eel.

The theory of how we landed on, we said give them three episodes over the holidays to really get the meat of it then force them to watch once a week. But we did talk about doing one episode a week, that kind of thing.

I want to talk about twists. Episode one has the end twist with Jericho coming back to life and replacing the doll what makes a good twist?

MS: I never think of it like that the word twist. Because it sounds so much like our intention, our endgame. In the end, I guess its like its more of a realisation, when youre inherently in the genre of thriller, which is essentially like a mystery theres going to be an answer to the mystery. Theres going to be more clues. Its a drop of information essentially. So, the character is learning a certain amount of information that they didnt expect. Thats the genre were in.

A twist is almost like, gotcha! and it was intended in a way that feels very calculated. Especially when youre doing point-of-view-driven storytelling. That makes it so youre very limited about whats going on outside this room, why we brought you here, that kind of thing. The audience is already on the edge. Why they are on the edge is because they dont have enough information.

TB: Personally, when I see twists, when they work you realise the story works on two levels. The way you watched it initially is fantastic, then you reveal something and you could have seen it another way. This is very much with the show. For me, theres always been two clear ways you can view the show. You can lean towards the miracle or you can lean towards the crime. Youre asking the audience to bring a part of themselves to that story. Do you want to see the good or do you want to see the bad here? It will work on both levels. Thats what weve worked very hard on. Its never one thing. That doesnt make it a twist. It just means its up to your interpretation.

Servant has already been picked up for a second season. While you cant talk specifics, youve said you have 60 episodes already planned out what can we expect? Will it be a continuation or an anthology?

MS: Its not an anthology. That was originally something we were noodling way in its early stages, but we decided to do it as one story.

When we pick 60 [episodes] were just picking an arbitrary neighbourhood in terms of form In the world of where were aiming, were just aiming in that ballpark structurally. So, if we pretend its six seasons, you know at the end of the second season its the end of that first act. So, the form of the show can shift.

Its fun to see [the] landmarks to aim for. When you see shows where you know they dont have their landmarks, you can feel it. You think youre getting freedom by doing that but youre unconsciously screwing yourself because youre going to add this, and add that. You have to think of an answer after the fact, after all these things have been done and added.

TB: I dont look at it in terms of how far can we push the story, I look at it in terms of how far can the characters grow. I can look at it through Leannes eyes: we meet an 18 year-old-girl moving into the big city. I want to take that character to the point where she makes all the mistakes that she needs to make, she grows to the point where she needs to grow.

A new episode of Servant releases every Friday on Apple TV+

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Best Albums Of The 2010s: 30 Classics That Defined The Decade – uDiscover Music

Posted: at 2:16 pm

How do you take stock of a decade? In its peaks and valleys, or the grey areas in between? In the 2010s, music became a benchmark for culture: it reflected the seismic shifts, the unease surrounding our increasing reliance on technology, the political unrest and the shrinking of the worlds borders. Just as some people wondered if music still had relevance, the creative spirit found a way to bounce back. The best albums of the 2010s, then, not only define the decade, they chart an artistic rebirth.

The 2010s were a time of great transition and breaking down of conventions. Hip-hop became pop music, while R&B resurfaced with fresh voices. Pop got personal and rock was no longer a monolithic genre, splintering into tiny factions to suit every taste. EDM rose and fell, new icons emerged and old ones re-established themselves.

This list of the 30 best albums of the 2010s could easily be 200 entries long, but weve focused on those records that have truly defined the decade: works by the trailblazers, the disruptors and the torchbearers in popular culture.

Think weve missed some of your best albums of the 2010s? Let us know in the comments section, below.

Listen to the best 2010s music on Spotify, and scroll down for our 30 best albums of the 2010s.

Ask anyone to name the most exciting new voice in hip-hop right now and theyll all give you the same answer: Tierra Whack. While the 2010s saw the return of the female MC (Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj), Whack operates outside of the hypersexualised scene, preferring to sit in the margins, creating an experimental collection of vignettes on her debut album. This 15-song set of minute-long songs is either very punk or just economical. You be the judge.Check out: Whack World

Theres a kind of blinding optimism on Teenage Dream makes you wonder: when did we all stop being this happy? Katy Perrys sophomore release cemented her status as a global pop star, and managed to capture the youthful feeling of invisibility on heartfelt anthems like Firework, Teenage Dream and Last Friday Night (TGIF). An instant classic if there ever was one.Check out: Firework

Technology has not only globalised pop music but has connected todays generation with folk music traditions. Taking 200 years worth of flamenco history and fusing it with trap-R&B is truly a 21st-century invention, and Rosalas sophomore effort, El Mal Querer, is one of the most gorgeous and experimental albums of the 2010s.Check out: Malamente (Cap.1: Augurio)

Anyone following in music in the 2010s is sure to have a Pavlovian response to the opening synth lines to Grimes Oblivion. Both the song and its parent album, Visions, were the perfect distillation of the kind of bedroom experimentation embarked on by a generation with endless influences just a keystroke away and enough speedball energy drinks to fuel them. IDM meets pop meets industrial on Claire Bouchers breakthrough album, which found her inviting us into her manic pixie dreamworld full of endless loops and layers.Check out: Oblivion

Most musical trends dont fit into tidy units of measured decades they ebb and flow, spilling into the next era. Billie Eilish may be the last new pop star of the decade, but her debut album is firmly pointed towards the future. A product of SoundCloud trap and earnest bedroom-pop, Eilish is the latest artist to carry the torch of youth culture, but, unlike her predecessors, she only answers to herself.Check out: bad guy

When The Weeknd made his mysterious entrance in 2011, with his debut mixtape, House Of Balloons, it felt like contraband. Before the Drake co-sign, before people even knew his name, the man born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye was just a spectre who fused Siouxsie And The Banshees samples with tales of drugs, debauchery and a haunting falsetto. His brand of otherworldly R&B and narcoticised production would become the blueprint for R&B well into the decade.Check out: What You Need

If the early 00s were about a rock renaissance, the 2010s were about peak poptimism. While critics started to take the genre more seriously, artists stepped up to the plate to deliver pop with purpose. Case in point: Lady Gagas Born This Way. The album is both retro-inspired and future-minded a metaphor for the decade as a whole. Gagas unabashed excess and anthems of inclusiveness marked a pivotal moment in pop music.Check out: Born This Way

As one decade opened, the bastions of the previous decade closed-up shop. Electro-dance-punk outfit LCD Soundsystem bade their fans and New Yorks once-thriving indie scene goodbye with their final album, capped by a historic run at Madison Square Garden. This Is Happening was full of send-offs (Home), wistful dance-pop numbers (Dance Yrself Clean) and nostalgia for the present (I Can Change).Check out: Dance Yrself Clean

If anyones responsible for the kind of genre-subversion that pervaded the 2010s, it was James Blake. With his tender torch songs and synth soundscapes, the dubstep DJ turned singer-songwriter wrote the kind of melancholic pop that comforted club kids and introverts alike. After a string of buzzworthy EPs, Blake emerged with his 2011 self-titled debut, putting his transcendent voice on display and carving out his own genre: electronica-soul.Check out: Limit To Your Love

Picking up the mantle of jilted torch singer after Amy Winehouse died, Adeles blue-eyed soul was just as essential to the 2010s as anything by the pop stars who were experimenting with form. Her traditionalist pop followed in the footsteps of other great UK songstresses like Dusty Springfield and Petula Clark, but communal heartbreak cuts across generations, and 21 has become the biggest-selling album of the 21st Century to date.Check out: Someone Like You

A post-recession record if there ever was one, The Suburbs may have acutely captured the kind of unease that lingered in the air following the 2008 financial crisis, but Arcade Fire also prophesied the anxiety-ridden 2010s. Many returned to their family homes following the crash, but the suburbs were always an empty promise. This time, the band turned their collective focus away from mortality and looked inward, towards suburban ennui: By the time the first bombs fell, we were already bored. Man were they right.Check out: The Suburbs

When Beach House first staked their claim on pop culture, the 00s was a breeding ground for lo-fi, chillwave rock, but 2010s Teen Dream remains their defining moment. With their lush arrangements and Victoria Legrands layered vocals, Beach House moved out of the bedroom pop scene and onto the stage.Check out: Zebra

After the Knowles sisters unleashed their personal manifestos in 2016, it was only a matter of time before Jay Z would reveal his own innermost feelings. As the elder statesman of hip-hop and one of the successful business moguls to date, many had written him out of the game. With 4:44, however, Jay Z eschewed the posturing and braggadocio of his heyday, recording an intensely personal record of love, regret and repentance.Check out: 4:44

Following a long line of female country artists who broke into the pop mainstream, Kacey Musgraves became the kind of upstart the genre needed, with her mould-breaking, Grammy-winning album Golden Hour. As one of Nashvilles finest singer-songwriters, Mugraves applies a knack for lyrical detail to a sweeping country album that spans pop, rock and disco.Check out: Rainbow

When Lana Del Rey first landed, in 2012, she was an enigmatic figure with pin-up looks and narcotised torch songs, and Born To Diewas the album that launched a thousand think pieces. Rigorous online discourse about authenticity, personas and personal appearance surrounded her debut album, yet Lana Del Rey foresaw the future of pop music. Her bold pastiche of Americana, filtered through nostalgia and her beguiling voice, launched the sad girl pop subgenre, and while her latest effort, Norman F__king Rockwell, may be her strongest yet, Born To Die and standout song Video Games is what set everything in motion.Check out: Video Games

As the 2010s marched forward, technology, which seemed to be bringing people together, began to create gulfs between them. No one understood this better than Kevin Parker (Tame Impala). Moving away from his guitar-driven earlier work, the studio wizard used psychedelic synths, samples and ambient sounds as his new sonic palette, creating introspective anthems that spoke to a generation on his album Lonerism.Check out: Feels Like We Only Go Backwards

It had been nearly 15 years since DAngelo blessed the world with his neo-soul masterpiece Voodoo, but on his 2014 follow-up, Black Messiah, he proved it was well worth the wait. While Voodoo was sensual and loose, Black Messiah kept things tight: a lesson in groove and R&B fusion, thanks to his Vanguard band. Arriving in the thick of the Black Lives Matter movement, Black Messiah tapped into the eras cultural zeitgeist, delivering the salvation we needed.Check out: Sugah Daddy

Rihanna has always been one of pops biggest risk-takers, but on her eighth studio album, ANTi, she truly broke away from the pop industrial complex. Sure, there were dancehall jams (Work), but she also dabbled in doo-wop (Love On The Brain) and 80s sleazy synth-rock (Kiss It Better). I got to do things my own way, darling, she declared on Consideration and it paid off. Anti became the first album from black female artist to spend 200 weeks on the Billboard 200.Check out: Love On The Brain

Just as critics decried the death of rock following its early 00s revival, St Vincent led the charge of female rock heroes, demonstrating her axe playing and songwriting prowess on Strange Mercy. Her enigmatic vocals and creative arrangements had been evident on her previous releases, but it wasnt until her third album that she fully unleashed her powers.Check out: Cruel

Rocks original chameleon left us with one of his most daring collections of music, shaking up the status quo as if were 1976 all over again. Arriving just two days before his passing, saw David Bowie remain adventurous to the end, eschewing his rock roots and delivering an exploratory jazz-fusion record that became the perfect farewell to five decades worth of history-making music.Check out: Lazurus

Long before he became Blood Orange, Dev Hynes sonic fingerprints were all over the emerging pop scene of the 2010s. Writing and producing for artists like Solange and Sky Ferreira, Hynes was the go-to man for late-night vibey records and slinky jams a sound that would reach its logical conclusion on Cupid Deluxe. As an homage to the people, places and sounds of the queer dance scene of 80s New York, Cupid Deluxe takes the kitchen-sink approach, melding a bit of disco, soul and R&B to create the new hybrid pop sound that would dominate the decade.Check out: Time Will Tell

With her bubblegum-pop teen icon days behind her, Robyn reinvented herself in 2010 with Body Talk. Developing from a mini-album trilogy, Body Talk proved dance music was anything but disposable; finding humanity on the dancefloor, it tapped into feelings of loneliness and escapism. With a knack for melody, Robyn delivered an electro-pop album so good it would take eight years for her to release a follow-up.Check out: Dancing On My Own

To be honest, most of Taylor Swifts discography would rightly belong on this list. Since her crossover pop hit Red, in 2012, she delivered a string of classic pop albums through the 2010s, with a lyrical wit that few possess. But out of all of Swifts post-country albums, 1989remains her most fully realised: the moment when she fully clinched the pop throne.Check out: Blank Space

No longer beholden to the benchmarks of the past, the 2010s saw more pop stars getting personal and taking risks, all thanks to Beyonc. Following the albums release, the term lemonade has become shorthand for pop artists releasing their personal concept records their own lemonades. Following her culture-shifting visual album Beyonc, Lemonade was more than a break-up album, it was a declaration of war that played out on an accompanying 65-minute film that only Beyonc could pull off.Check out: Formation

In many ways, the 2010s was the decade that Drake built: a ten-year victory lap that started with Thank Me Later(2010) and ended with Scorpion (2018), but it was with Take Carethat Drake showed his true colours, creating the template for the vulnerable hip-hop star. Drake wasnt the first rapper to sing on record, but he was the first rap-pop star, absorbing every genre that lay before him.Check out: Marvins Room

Before Billie Eilish came along, Lorde was the most famous teenager in the world, thanks to her all-conquering debut album, Pure Heroine, released when she was just 16. In the years that followed, the Kiwi star spawned many emulators, but she would eclipse them all with her sophomore effort, Melodrama, a coming-of-age record that captures in vivid detail all the joys and heartaches of navigating adulthood.Check out: Green Light

The 2010s was a tumultuous decade, to say the least, and only a handful of artists successfully managed to channel the eras political unrest while creating a sense of hope at the same time. Solanges A Seat At The Table didnt just shift the culture, it ignited a movement. With her celebration of black womanhood and black empowerment, Solange earned a seat at the table of power while inspiring countless others to demand theirs. Even as the album bore the weight of a nation on its shoulders, it still sounded impossibly light.Check out: Cranes In The Sky

Kanyes ego has been both his biggest strength and his biggest weakness, but it serves him well on his ambitious opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Following a self-imposed mini-hiatus, West doubled down on his vices and created an ode to excess and hedonism. Casting a critical eye on both America and himself, he offered a a toast for the a__holes while bringing some friends along for the ride. Stacked with A-list appearances by Nicki Minaj (on her scene-stealing Monster verse), Pusha T (Runaway), Kid Cudi and Raekwon (Gorgeous), MBDTF set the scene for a flood of classic hip-hop albums in the 2010s.Check out: Runaway

After proving himself a master storyteller on his major label debut album, Good Kid, mAAd City, Kendrick Lamar delivered another musical deep-dive into the black experience with To Pimp A Butterfly. A stunning assimilation of jazz, funk, hip-hop and African music, Butterfly offered the kind of boundless vision the decade was waiting for.Check out: Alright

R&B experienced some of its biggest-ever shifts during the 2010s, as radio started to dwindle and the genres tight constrictions gave way to what would be coined alt-R&B. Frank Ocean was one of the key architects of this sea change, both in sound and lyrical context: though he avoided the genres traditional vocal, Oceans sentiments were no less impassioned. channel ORANGE is a slow-burn, but its full of rich details. Ocean brought a sense of fluidity to the genre, occupying a variety of characters points of view and, in turn, delivering a fresh perspective: his own. As one of the first openly gay artists in hip-hop and R&B, Ocean ignited a self-reckoning in modern pop music.Check out: Thinkin Bout You

Looking for more? Discover the full story behind a transformative decade in music.

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Best Albums Of The 2010s: 30 Classics That Defined The Decade - uDiscover Music

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Jordan Blum’s Top 10 Albums of 2019 – Metal

Posted: at 2:16 pm

As usual, my favorite metal albums of 2019 represent a mix of longtime favorite artists and acts that I'd previously never heard of (but who absolutely deserve the spotlight). Anyone who's read my writing before will not be surprised by my top choicesespecially my #1 pick, as much of a fanboy as it may make me seemwhile the later selections came out of nowhere and blew me away (including one band whose latest colors turned me into a fan despite none of their earlier collections leaving any impression).

As always, I'm curious to knowyour favorites of 2019, so please share them in the comments below!

Californian progressive metal septet Artificial Language introduced themselves masterfully with their unforgettable first venture, 2017's The Observer. Thankfully, its follow-up, Now We Sleep, finds them doing an even better job of evoking titans like Karnivool, Native Construct, Between the Buried and Me, and especially Leprous while also upholding their own identity. Right away, the effort defies the dreaded "sophomore slump" by making "The Back of My Mind" a towering display of unfaltering determination that veers away from its initially tranquil and organic impetus to offer a stampede of lustrously uncontrollable melodies and music. While much of the remaining set maintains that persona, other tracksnamely, "Pulses" "The Wild Haunt," and "Trail of Lights"achieve for a more meditative and atmospheric environment. Also, the title track finishes the disc with support from guest singer Michael Lessard (The Contortionist), whose softer tone complements the lower and richer register of lead vocalist Shay Lewis exceedingly well. Although they're only two records in, Artificial Language are already climbing to the top of today's most indispensable progressive metal bands, and Now We Sleep is a must-hear for fans of the style.

As impressive as their first two collections were,An Embarrassmentof Riches is surely The Night Watch's greatest trek thus far. After all, the Canadian instrumental progressive metal quartet (violinist Evan Runge, bassist Matthew Cowan, guitarist Nathanael Larochette, and percussionist/pianist Daniel Mollema) push themselves further than ever to craft emotional and cinematic narratives through expansive journeys of dynamic sound." In particular, its combustible influx of acoustic guitar decorations, symphonic heft, and general playfulness means that it's always unpredictable yet welcoming. Starter "Land Ho!" conveys the mounting tension of the album's conceptan explorer who's forced to face an overwhelmingly perilous situation without being crushed by the weight of their own doubt and lonelinesswhile also incorporating Pirate-esque cheers and sea shanty antics. Later, "Mendoza" is more introspective, delicate, and patient, whereas the two-part "The Summit" alone packs a plethora of variety, technicality, and allure. There's also Dance of the Mountain People, a danceable and jazzy number with appealing interlocking vocal harmonies and a clear nod (intentional or not) to the theme of The Addams Family. Clearly, An Embarrassment of Richesis charmingly self-aware and captivatingly daring and demanding at the same time.

Boston's Wilderun have a stupendous formula that commonly fuses classical, folk, metal, and rock into staggeringly dramatic and vibrant concoctions. Thankfully, Veil of Imagination totally capitalizes on those idiosyncratic elements. It even works as a continuous seventy-minute piece, never letting up from its relentlessly colorful clusters of genre-melding fineness. By its nature, Veil of Imagination is difficult to highlight in segments. That said, its glorious trajectory contains some very remarkable features. For one thing, it starts and finishes with spoken narration, automatically gives it weighty continuity and purpose. Likewise, the gentle evolution of "The Unimaginable Zero Summer"from an acoustic ballad with bucolic strings into absolute progressive death metal theatrics and back againis exceptional. Afterward, "Sleeping Ambassadors of the Sun" makes great use of piano and operatic chants within its tidal wave of minimalist monologues and roomy complex hedonism. Then, lavish instrumental "Scentless Core (Budding)" uses a larger scope of classical timbres prior to the turbulently hectic yet accessible "The Tyranny of Imagination". All in all, Veil of Imagination validates the fact that some of the most notable progressive music comes from relative newcomers.

If Im being honest, I could never get into Baronessthat is, until Gold & Grey. For some reason, this one instantly and continuously struck a chord with me. The addition of guitarist/backing vocalist Gina Gleason is certainly a major factor, as she adds plenty of engaging nuances to flesh out the formula. Likewise, the forceful drive, subtly intricate musicianship, and sheer hookiness of songs like opener Front Toward Enemy, Throw Me an Anchor, Borderlines, and Seasons make them instantly unforgettable. Naturally, lighter and/or more emotional and ornamented inclusions"Im Already Gone, Tourniquet, and Id Do Anythingwonderfully reveal Baroness wider range. What elevates Gold & Grey even further, though, are the interludes and transitions that help foreshadow and/or connect pieces, suggesting a more seamless sequence. For instance, the brief Sevens is basically an unassuming hypnotic loop of wavering piano notes, whereas Anchors Lament cleverly sets up its successor with a mix of bellowing chants, modest strings, and a descending piano progression that wouldnt feel out of place on a Pineapple Thief record. Far more than just a raucous rocker, Gold & Grey is a work of art.

Touted as "the biggest production and musical departure we've done" by Leprous frontman Einar Solberg, Pitfalls moves significantly away from their heavier roots and toward sweeping synths and faint moodiness. That's not to say that it's a lesser effort compared to its precursors; rather, it's a winning concession between the qualities fans love and a crucial need to innovate. Primarily, it finds Solberg openly dealing with his battle with anxiety and depression. Therefore, tracks like the intensely fragile "Below" and the irksome heavenly "Alleviate" give listeners a front-row seat to his stunningly pure pain. There's a more robotic but danceable charm to "I Lose Hope" and "Be My Throne"; conversely, "Observe the Train" is pacifyingly quiet, "At the Bottom" swells with morose strings and bursts of angelic annoyance, and "Foreigner" rests upon striking guitar work. As a result, Pitfalls may just be the thematically darkest and most worthwhile record Leprous has done.

Norwegian progressive/black/folk metal outfit Borknagar deserves to be a household name. For nearly twenty-five years, they've resourcefully combined hellish and angelic passages within abundantly precise instrumental twists and turns. While 2016's Winter Thrice remains immensely popular among fans, its frostier and more focused successor, True North, likely tops it. Bassist Simen "I.C.S. Vortex" Hestns takes up vocal duties once again, aiding the dynamo of icily emotive splendor. "Thunderous" establishes the record's vibe with hysterical rhythms, guttural outcries, cascading clean verses, and piercing guitar lines. It does a great job of showcasing Borknagar's fluid and compressed approach to majestic temperamental shifts, a trademark that's also present on later standouts like the more keyboard-driven "Up North", "Mount Rapture", and "The Fire that Burns." Along the way, the sparser "Lights" requires you to sing along, "Wild Father's Heart" soothes with sophisticated rustic tapestries and remorseful songwriting, "Into the White" impresses due to its mesmeric stacked singing, and the tribal "Voices" is a calming and succulent way to finish. Really, True Northis a perfect introduction to Borknagar.

American quintet Periphery's knack for mixing djent, symphonic atmospheres, climbing melodies, self-reflective bridges, and weird textural coverings makes them an essential part of modern progressive metal. While Periphery IV: Hail Stan doesn't outright surpass its closest predecessorsthe two-partJuggernautandPeriphery III: Select Difficultyit's still a gratifying demonstration of Periphery fortes that any fan of the style will adore. At nearly seventeen-minutes in length, opener "Reptile" is an epic onto itself, with the band's textbook harshness and transcendental beauty ruthlessly intertwined. Its chorus is also very strong, and the same can be said for the outright demonic"Chvrch Bvrner" and the purifying "Sentient Glow." In-between, "Garden in the Bones" is dynamically decorated with wonderfully engaging timbres, "Crush" paints a modestly straightforward metal method in sleek electronic beats before suddenly morphing into a cinematic symphony, and "It's Only Smiles" is complex yet almost radio-friendly. From start to finish, then, Periphery IV: Hail Stanstillrepresents the peak of Periphery's prowess.

New Jersey septet Thank You Scientist's first two records2012's Maps of Non-Existent Placesand 2016'sStranger Heads Prevailsold them as masters implementing silly antics and high-pitched hooks into frenetically fun orchestral prog rock/metal and jazz fusion. Undoubtedly, however, their third venture, Terraformer, tops them in every way. For nearly ninety minutes, Terraformer astounds and intimidates, with instrumental starter "Wrinkle" offering a youthful explosion of intersecting horns, percussion, guitars, and more to welcome you in. Next, "FXMLDR" acts as a bipolar assault that sees catchy melodies and tasteful lulls permeating Mars Volta-esque structural madness. Beyond them, "Everyday Ghosts" embodies their treasurably irreverent songwriting, "Birdwatching" is a majorly luscious break from the chaos, and the concluding title track is amazing for its percussive tricks alone. Inarguably, Terraformeris the best example yet of why Thank You Scientist are the best at what they do.

Opeth's move away from progressive death metaland toward a retro '70s prog rock/jazz fusion aestheticduring the 2010s has left many longtime listeners unhappy. Despite In Cauda Venenum (their first to be recorded in both English and Swedish) feeling very much connected to its three nearest predecessors, its apparitional essence and gothic fury also make it seem like a throwback to the heights of their 2000s output. Thus, it should please diehard fans in ways that Heritage, Pale Communion, and Sorceress didn't. Its ghostly core is immediately apparent, with prelude "Garden of Earthly Delights" offering a chilling collage of choral chants, rising organ tones, programmed beats, church bells, whistles, and children's banter. Afterward, "Charlatan," "Dignity", and "Heart in Hand" encompass the compositional twists and melodic punches you'd expect from Opeth this decade. In contrast, "Lovelorn Crime" and "Continuum" are two of mastermind Mikael kerfeldt's most beautiful ballads ever, whereas "Universal Truth" is a sublimely orchestrated acoustic reflection with bizarre rhythmic changes and "The Garroter" presents pleasantly nightmarish jazziness. If not for 2014's Pale Communion, In Cauda Venenum would undoubtedly be Opeth's greatest album in a decade.

Few artists are more colorfully wide-ranging, bold, and consistent than Canadian virtuoso Devin Townsend, and in many ways, Empath is the full realization of his genius: a wildly multifaceted and all-encompassing look back on his career thus far. From beginning to end, it serves as an essential existential examination within a terrifically wild blend of styles. Specifically, the countrified grit of "Borderlands" evokes Casualties of Cool, "Hear Me" captures the comical viciousness of Deconstruction, "Evermore" houses the dense pop-rock glory of Addicted and Epicloud, and "Genesis" is itself a celebration of genre-shifts. Sure, his sardonic playfulness is definitely here, but it's his emotionally resonant introspection that reigns supreme. Tracks like "Spirits Will Collide", "Why?", and the ingeniously multifaceted epic closer, "Singularity", find him beautifully surveying self-doubt, hope, love, and other relatable issues. Thus, Empath is equally rewarding for its madcap musical cohesion as it is for its catharses about mental struggles.

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Jordan Blum's Top 10 Albums of 2019 - Metal

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