Thursday, August 19, 2021

Building The Modern Alternative Canon

If we had enough cash laying around, we'd love to invest in the construction of two new formats of streaming and FM stations -- two formats whose absense from the larger cultural dialogue has left us feeling a depressing void of sorts.

These two formats are "alternative rock" and "alternative pop." And no, neither of these currently exists in any form despite Billboard or Spotify's current definition of "alternative." There is virtually no hub for anyone seeking easy access to either.

Considering the definition of "alternative" as it applies to music genre descriptors...

1. In its originally intended primary definition as a genre or subgenre descriptor, the term refers to its broadest definition as "any music outside of the popular mainstream."

2. Its 2nd definition might have been its most widely used. Popularized between the early to mid '90s, the word "alternative" as a standalone genre refers to a "artists eliglble for commercial radio airplay that stylistically derive from non-mainstream artists or genres, or artists who had previously spent a prolonged era of their career resting outside of the mainstream."

It's this 2nd definition that helps explain how Z100 and similar Top 40 stations, between the 3 year stretch of mid-1993 to mid-1996, could get away with adopting a decent fraction of their playlists from Buzz Clips or the more "alternative" areas of the loud rock spectrum, and still accurately use the descriptor even though Z100 was and still is as mainstream as radio gets. Browsing their top spins of 1995, we right away notice "Cordoroy" by Pearl Jam at #4, "Plowed" by Sponge at #12, and "Sick of Myself" by Matthew Sweet at #26. These are tracks that don't necessarily scream "the mid '90s equivalent of Imagine Dragons" as much as something like, say Dave Matthews Band, spun all throughout that year alongside Mariah Carey, Crystal Waters, and Madonna.

We're not opposed to fluid genre descriptors that evolve over time. But the definition of "alternative" as it currently applies to Billboard charts, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM, playlisting, etc, has never felt quite so intertwined with the mainstream. A decent 90% of it directly derives sonically from some combination of The Black Keys, The Arcade Fire's "Wake Up," and The Shins' Wincing The Night Away -- the exact combination currently exploited by Imagine Dragons, et al (not to mention soundalikes used in commercials for brands like Jeep, Cadillac, Red Lobster, Target, etc).

Bearing this in mind, a true rock-centered alternative should primarily feature artists who don't sound anything like the afforementioned few.

And just the same, we're incapable of understanding why there's no hub centered around beloved acclaimed pop artists like Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX, or Kim Petras, nor can we understand how so many #1 hits from black artists have been continually excluded from the past 7 years of Sirius and iHeart's Top 40 playlists. Granted, there was certainly a racist divide on Top 40 stations throughout the '90s, with "Gangsta's Paradise" (also from '95) as probably the best example from that entire decade. That said, it was nothing like this, when a track as ubiquitous and beloved as "Old Town Road" barely recieved spins on any of Ryan Seacrest's syndicated iHeart shows.

We threw together these two lists to offer a proposed shift in the modern canon that we're certain will get ignored. Year after year, we keep growing more fearful that so many great tracks from the past decade will inevitably get lost in the noise and forgotten. And all the while, we're growing more sad to hear grossly inaccurate repeated insistance about the death of rock and the current lack of excitement in modern pop singles.

In other words, we're frustrated that we keep getting "ok boomer" thrown in our faces, when the reality of the situation is that we've been paying painfully close attention.

The 7-year mark is entirely arbitrary, but we felt a stylistic shift of sorts that began just before Fall 2014, so we went with it. These both represent August 2014 to the present:

Modern Alternative Rock Canon

1. Turnstile "Mystery"
2. Big Thief "Not"
3. Mindforce "Excalibur"
4. Windhand "Grey Garden"
5. Palehound "Healthier Folk"
6. Alex G "Proud"
7. Fury "Angels Over Berlin"
8. Surface To Air Missive "Get In The Truck"
9. Guided By Voices "Overloaded"
10. Flasher "Who's Got Time"
11. Paramore "Hard Times"
12. Power Trip "Executioner's Tax"
13. The Chats "Smoko"
14. Homeshake "Heat"
15. Dilly Dally "Purple Rage"
16. Kevin Krauter "Pretty Boy"
17. Soccer Mommy "Circle The Drain"
18. Two Inch Astronaut "Foulbrood"
19. Sleep "Marijuanaut's Theme"
20. Rosali "Pour Over Ice"
21. Ovlov "Halfway Fine"
22. Beak> "We Can Go"
23. Jocko "Muddy Waters"
24. Mitski "My Body's Made Of Crushed Little Stars"
25. Aye Nako "Particle Mace"
26. Good Morning "Warned You"
27. Turnstile "Holiday"
28. Big Thief "UFOF"
29. Negative Scanner "Shoplifter"
30. Chris Brokaw "The Heart of Human Trafficking"
31. Otoboke Beaver "Love Is Short"
32. Hatchie "Obsessed"
33. The Rubs "Wrong Right Girl"
34. Ex Hex "Don't Wanna Lose"
35. Curse Word "Big Fingers"
36. No Age "Send Me"
37. Charly Bliss "Glitter"
38. Young Guv "Every Flower I See"
39. Rihanna "Same Ol' Mistakes"
40. Hum "Step Into You"
41. Ringo Deathstarr "Heavy Metal Suicide"
42. Sheer Mag "What You Want"
43. Sweeping Promises "Hunger For A Way Out"
44. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats "Runaway Girls"
45. Two Inch Astronaut "Good Behavior"
46. Angel Olsen "Shut Up Kiss Me"
47. Beak> "Brean Down"
48. Narrow Head "Night Tryst"
49. Weezer "King of the World"
50. Stove "Dusty Weather"
51. Geronimo! "Spitting In The Ocean"
52. Skating Polly "Hail Mary"
53. Unknown Mortal Orchestra "American Guilt"
54. Glitterer "Destiny"
55. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile "Over Everything"
56. Drug Church "But Does It Work"
57. Maneka "Never Nowhere"
58. Code Orange "Bleeding In The Blur"
59. Yuck "Hold Me Closer"
60. Surface To Air Missive "Going Out"
61. Tenement "I'm Your Super Glue"
62. Whitney "No Woman"
63. Three Knee Deep "Hackin Of Da Mindz"
64. 100 Gecs "Money Machine"
65. Nilufer Yanya "In Your Head"
66. Turnstile "I Don't Wanna Be Blind"
67. Horisont "Electrical"
68. Tame Impala "Stranger In Moscow"
69. Pissed Jeans "Ignorecam"
70. Big Ups "Meet Where We Are"
71. Shellac "Dude Incredible"
72. No Age "Popper"
73. Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie "In My World"
74. Home Blitz "Final Decay"
75. Nnamdi "Rage"
76. I Hate Sex "I Fucking Hate Sports"
77. Doe "My Friends"
78. Ringo Deathstarr "Once Upon A Freak"
79. The Rubs "Impossible Dream"
80. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou "Hollywood"
81. Rolling Blackouts CF "Talking Straight"
82. Nudie Mag "She's A Star"
83. Masterpiece Machine "Rotting Fruit"
84. Two Inch Astronaut "Andy's Progress Report"
85. Xetas "The Gaze"
86. Bartees Strange "Boomer"
87. Beach House "Lemon Glow"
88. Potty Mouth "Long Haul"
89. Lil Peep "Awful Things"
90. MGMT "In The Afternoon"
91. Holy Serpent "For No One"
92. Jason Loewenstein "Machinery"
93. Silicone Prairie "Song For The Eagles To Sing"
94. Machine Gun Kelly "Bloody Valentine"
95. Satan's Satyrs "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby"
96. David Bowie "Killing A Little Time"
97. CCR Headcleaner "Tear Down The Wall"
98. Lumpy & The Dumpers "Flush Em"
99. Parquet Courts "Wide Awake"
100. Slipknot "Spiders"
101. Superheaven "I've Been Bored"

Modern Alternative Pop Canon

1. Rihanna "Needed Me"
2. Maren Morris "80s Mercedes"
3. Kanye West f/ Kendrick Lamar "No More Parties In LA"
4. Fetty Wap "Trap Queen"
5. Carly Rae Jepsen "Boy Problems"
6. Kacey Musgraves "High Horse"
7. D'Angelo "1000 Deaths"
8. Rihanna f/ Drake "Work"
9. Charli XCX "Boys"
10. Ariana Grande "Thank U Next"
11. Kendrick Lamar "King Kunta"
12. Playboi Carti "Magnolia"
13. Ella Mai "Boo'd Up"
14. Danny Brown "Combat"
15. Pop Smoke "Dior"
16. Drake "Hotline Bling"
17. Valee "Womp Womp"
18. Ty Dolla Sign f/ Babyface "Solid"
19. DaBaby f/ Offset "Babysitter"
20. Solange "Cranes In The Sky"
21. Jennifer Lopez f/ French Montana "I Luh Ya Papi"
22. Migos f/ Lil Uzi Vert "Bad and Boujiee"
23. Rae Sremmurd "Black Beatles"
24. Sedona "More Love"
25. Carly Rae Jepsen "Emotion"
26. Ariana Grande "No Tears Left To Cry"
27. Taylor Swift "Style"
28. Janet Jackson "No Sleeep"
29. Disclosure f/ Fatoumata Diawara "Douha"
30. Tkay Maidza "U-Huh"
31. Rihanna "Bitch Better Have My Money"
32. Maren Morris "My Church"
33. A Tribe Called Quest f/ Elton John & Busta Rhymes "Solid Wall of Sound"
34. Mahmundi "Imagen"
35. Vic Mensa "Down On My Luck"
36. Tinashe f/ Schoolboy Q "2 On"
37. Kim Petras "I Don't Want it At All"
38. Domo Genesis f/ Anderson Paak "Dapper"
39. Kevin Gates "2 Phones"
40. Nick Jonas "Jealous"
41. Chance The Rapper f/ Knox Fortune "All Night"
42. Lil Uzi Vert "XO Tour Lif3"
43. DNCE "Cake By The Ocean"
44. Drake & Future "Big Rings"
45. Steve Lacy "Playground"
46. Ariana Grande f/ The Weeknd "Love Me Harder"
47. Thundercat "Dragonball Durag"
48. Miguel "The Valley"
49. Ty Dolla Sign f/ Jagged Edge "Straight Up"
50. Joey Purp f/ Chance The Rapper "Girls At"
51. Lil Mosey "Blueberry Faygo"
52. Dej Loaf "Try Me"
53. Nnamdi "Let Go Of My Ego"
54. Lil Yachty "Bring It Back"
55. Denzel Curry "Ricky"
56. Mason Ramsey "Famous"
57. Rihanna "Sex With Me"
58. Rico Nasty "Block List"
59. Lil B "Wasup Jojo"
60. Loona / Odd Eye Circle "Girl Front"
61. Charli XCX "Enemy"
62. Dornik "Stand In Your Line"
63. Prettymuch f/ French Montana "No More"
64. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib "Thuggin'"
65. 6ix9ine f/ Fetty Wap "KEKE"
66. Yaeji "Drink I'm Sippin On"
67. Roddy Ricch "The Box"
68. Schoolboy Q f/ BJ The Chicago Kid "Studio"
69. Willow "Wait A Minute"
70. Jorja Smith x Preditah "On My Mind"
71. Hatchie "Without A Blush"
72. Little Mix "Black Magic"
73. Missy Elliott f/ Pharrell "WTF"
74. The 1975 "If You're Too Shy Let Me Know"
75. Migos "T-Shirt"
76. Lil Yachty "Lady In Yellow"
77. Carly Rae Jepsen "Run Away With Me"
78. Tyler The Creator "What's Good"
79. Dua Lipa "Levitating"
80. Thundercat "Them Changes"
81. Grimes "My Name Is Dark"
82. Nelly Furtado "Magic"
83. The Weeknd "Can't Feel My Face"
84. The Boyboy West Coast "U Was At The Club"
85. Lizzo "Boys"
86. Kanye West "Lift Yourself"
87. Bali Baby "Backseat"
88. Lil B "Ride (Hold Up)"
89. DaBaby "Suge"
90. Lil Nas X "Old Town Road"
91. CZ Wang "Just Off Wave"
92. Stefflon Don "Lil Bitch (Intro)"
93. YG "Gimmie Got Shot"
94. Kodak Black "When Vultures Cry"
95. Kids See Ghosts "4th Dimension"
96. Romy "Lifetime"
97. Drake "0 to 100 / The Catchup"
98. Sheck Wes "Mo Bamba"
99. Billie Eilish "Bad Guy"
100. Travis Scott "Sicko Mode"
101. RMR "Rascal"

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

2020 Movies

Did you watch a lot of movies in 2020?

We did. We watched like over 300 movies since lockdown. Shit was dope.

It was cool because we didn't have to "play catch up" in December to have a more complete picture of the year's best films (like what usually happens). For the first and possibly only time in history, everything was very easy to find from home.

Also cool: Quality films were consumed more widely than usual, because the $700 million blockbusters were all like "yo we are not putting our shit out in 2020." Again, for the first time since the '70s or '80s (and possibly for the last time ever), the indies and the more understated story-driven or character-driven movies have officially established themselves as modern examples that can still generate lots of attention. It's no longer impossible to get people to watch stuff without CGI.

If Letterboxd was any indication, the circumstances also somewhat enhanced both casual and hardcore film nerds' broader perceptions of 2019's true greatness. As of this moment, Parasite, Midsommar, Joker, and Knives Out are still in the "Popular This Week" section, and have barely budged since their release dates. Not far behind were frequent appearances from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Uncut Gems, Jojo Rabbit, The Lighthouse, and 1917. (Closer to its release, we incorrectly assumed Promising Young Woman would become one of these, but guess not!)

Since January of last year, we watched about 50 movies from 2020 -- probably a few more if you count all the shorts and the long-form episodic documentaries. Here's our favorites from last year. We don't know why it took us until now to post them.

Follow us on Letterboxd at We changed it since last year.

Top Movies Of 2020
1. Possessor
2. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
3. The Assistant
4. What Did Jack Do?
5. The Vast of Night
6. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
7. Sound of Metal
8. The Wolf of Snow Hollow
9. First Cow
10. Boys State
11. She Dies Tomorrow
12. The Three Men You Meet at Night

You Cannot Kill David Arquette
Psycho Goreman (Show your kids this '90s-Nickelodeon gross-out)
The Trial of the Chicago 7
All In: The Fight for Democracy

So Bad It's Good...
Only two this year, but got damn they're amazing...
Money Plane (Directed by a Lawrence brother)
Verotika (Directed by Danzig)

Non-Music Documentaries Ordered...
1. Boys State
2. You Cannot Kill David Arquette
3. All In: The Fight for Democracy
4. Class Action Park (Probably only placed this high for nostalgic reasons.)
5. This is Paris
6/7. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
6/7. Jasper Mall (These feel like part of an extended universe.)
8. Feels Good Man
9. Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren Stimpy Story
10. Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind (Tom Delonge talks about aliens)
11. The Social Dilemma (Informative movie for dumbasses)

Music Documentaries Ordered...
All of them are good. We thought we watched more of these but guess not.
1. Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero
2. Beastie Boys Story
3. The Go-go's
4. The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart

Sometimes film festivals will sneak in older shorts, so we stretched it back a couple years.
John Wilson's Vimeo account is a true internet gem, btw.
1. What Did Jack Do?
2. The Three Men You Meet at Night
3. 8:46
4. How to Live with Regret (2018)
5. Bam & Rawls Grab A Slice (2019)
Goldman v Silverman (Safdie brothers short)
Great Choice (2017)
If Anything Happens I Love You (Lyric video Oscarbait bullshit)

Other 2020 Stuff We Tagged On Letterboxd...
These are ordered...
The Last Dance (Da Bulls On Netflix, Michael Jordan memes, etc)
Eric Andre: Legalize Everything
An American Pickle
An Evening with Tim Heidecker
Bill & Ted Face The Music (Worst song of the year tho)
The Lovebirds
The Invisible Man
Uncle Peckerhead
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Clinton crime family propaganda)
I'm Thinking Of Ending Things (Trite pretentious dogshit tbh)
Palm Springs (People liked this)

Buncha bullshit...
1. My Valentine
2. Unhinged
3. The Social Dilemma
4. Color Out Of Shape
5. Come To Daddy