Prior to May’s release of Owl Pharoah, G.O.O.D. Music affiliate Travi$ Scott’s pedigree mainly consisted of a couple down-the-roster production credits on last year’s label compilation, Cruel Summer. When Yeezus dropped in June, Scott’s name again appeared on a few key tracks—“New Slaves,” notably—though it probably would’ve been hard to spot among the 66 other collaborators. (Fun fact: Yeezus tracks average 5.7 producers.) Listen to Owl Pharoah and Yeezus back-to-back, though, and you should immediately notice a kinship between young Travi$ Scott and recent-vintage Kanye West. Scott’s album doesn’t get as anywhere near as polemic as West’s, but many of the production ticks showcased on Owl Pharoah—the demonic vocal manipulations, the gnarly bass spillage, the dancehall samples—have analogues on Yeezus. For most of his career, Kanye has cannibalized new production trends like an evil queen eating village girls’ lungs and livers to stay young. Considering the rumors that the original version of Yeezus was scrapped and replaced in a flurry of activity in the weeks before its release, it would be fun to believe that Kanye heard Owl Pharoah in May and quickly made new plans for his forthcoming album. The truth is probably that West and Scott just share similar affections (like puns; Scott tends to spit ‘Ye-esque lines like, “All the freaky models in the lobby, it's so obvious that they lobbyist.”) Still, the high points on Owl Pharoah (“Upper Echelon,” “Hell of a Night”) make Travi$ and Kanye’s relationship one to watch, even if it’s nothing more than a hands-off mentorship. If it turns into more than that, we could be witnessing the birth of the Baby Yeezus. -MB
Groomed as a capital-P Pop star from age 15, Sky Ferreira has instead become a paradigm-shifter, whether consciously (appearing naked on the cover of her debut album) or not (getting booked for heroin possession). When a pop-star-in-waiting reaches bad-girl notoriety in some circles—in this case the small, concentric ones of the music nerd Internet—the usual corresponding move is to make music owning your troubles and reframing them as badass choices (cf. Miley Cyrus). On Night Time, My Time, Ferreira goes the other way. The album cover sets the tone by depicting her nude, drenched and shuddering on the other side of a shower door, as if being stalked. After a second, you notice that there’s no steam on the glass, just drops of water – so the shower’s been off and she’s been standing there, cornered and vulnerable, for a while. The record itself is driven by a very Joan Jett- or Sleigh Bells-like contrast between juvenilia and steely guitars and drums (and a lot of synths-that-sound-like-guitars). This is still at all times a commercial-leaning pop album, but with songs like “I Blame Myself” and “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay),” it’s hard to shake that cover image, and the idea that Sky Ferreira is taking control of her own branding while being honest about exactly cornered and vulnerable she feels while doing it. -MB
I think one of my favorite developments in music has to be the way that there's this popular strand that can easily (and accurately) be described as both "heavy" and "metal", but none of us seem willing to just put those two words right next to one another, the way sweet Lord Baphomet intended. Sunbather-the second album from Scrabble expansion pack enthusiast Deafheaven-ended up on so many people's radar in spite of a nation's unwillingness to properly categorize it, and it's no surprise way. It's immediate, impervious music, a series of lengthy tracks (with some breathing room tracks interpersed throughout) that never feels as long as the full hour it is two seconds shy of being. You know what? It's a true headbangers ball! (No apology is forthcoming.) -TS
I can’t be the only one who felt disappointed James Blake’s turn toward soupy-piano-plus-#drops on his subsequent albums. I’m picking on the dude, but the stunning CMYK EP arrived in the middle of a period that found dubstep artists stumbling away from the dystopic abyss the genre found itself chest-deep in, and—along with other benchmark singles like Girl Unit’s “Wut,” Guido’s “Beautiful Complication,” and Jacques Greene’s “(Baby I Don’t Know) What You Want”—crystalized the soulful alternative. The exciting thing about James Blake was that he seemed best equipped to bring the budding R&B-dubstep hybrid to album length. That didn’t happen, at least not in the way I’d hoped.
To my mind, the artist that has picked up the torch left by James Blake has been Travis Stewart, who produces under the aliases Sepalcure and Machinedrum. Sepalcure is the silkier project, a refined and upbeat summation of the Burial-style floaty-voices strain of dubstep, whereas ambitious ideas on Machinedrum albums often smash up against one another in disruptive ways. The 2011 album Room(s) fucked around with R&B from the perspective of bass, much like CMYK did. Machinedrum followed it with “SXLND,” which took a harder run at incorporating dancehall into an already multifaceted sound. “SXLND” is in many ways Stewart’s peak, a vital summary of the Machinedrum sound. It only seems right, then, that whatever would come next would regress from those heights. What I didn’t expect, and what makes 2013’s Vapor City so compelling, is that Stewart takes the various threads he’d been following—dancehall, R&B, floaty voices, the whole bag of tricks—and plunges them right back into the dystopic abyss that dubstep had been trying to squirm out from; a black hole, having nothing left to consume, eating itself. -MB
One of the most remarkable aspects of experimental music like Dirty Beaches is the way its influences can be found leaking into ones experience despite the total lack of casual connection. You have to go and read to find out that Drifters and Love is the Devil (the two song suites combined on this 2013 release) are described by their creator in terms that make it seem like a theoretical travelougue, but after you do, it's as if your own feelings have been labeled--a light gets turned on. Of course that's what this is like, this sonic plod, this burbling clickbox disintegration. It's a person--some guy, some girl, but young--orbiting and penetrating, searching. At times like a white noise machine, even the vocals--full throated mutters and sneering, nasalized cries of surprise--can sneak up on you, sprawling goosebumps down your arms like a liquid has been spilled. It's moments like that where the blush comes, because that's when you remember that this isn't your life being lived, it's his. You just got busted singing along. -TS
Chess referencing, a low toned gravel, smart, efficient sampling, Night's Gambit is an album that initially feels like that Liquid Swords follow-up nobody ever really gave us, and that initial feeling is one that recurs, especially on the moments when a prominent film sample (more than a few of which arrive from another 90's stalwart, Boaz Yakin's Fresh). But that's just a feeling, one that doesn't work with the narrative of the Wu-Tang fan-tape. A GZA album never sounded this lonely. A song like "Our Father"--three minutes of near spoken word, punctuated by a Bronx drawled "our faaather" and little evidence that Ka needs oxygen, with music that sounds like a wooden xylophone--doesn't really sound like anything in commercial hip-hop. You can't dance to it, you don't really move your flesh, it's just presented, the way the Red Dragon might show a blind woman his "work" via abstract backrub and powerpoint. Here it is: my parents. Here it is: my past. Here it is: our failure. It's moody, expressive work--never anger, never cloying. Just a series of observations, delivered over a battlefield. -TS
Although the tumultuous last few years that have faced Queens of the Stone Age don't make their presence explicitly known on the band's first new album in six years, that title isn't totally out of left field. One of the most refined--a better word might be "codified"--installations of what Josh Homme and company have been releasing through various line-ups over the last 15 years, Clockwork's investment in the politics of guarantees is wall to wall. This is exactly what you'd expect a Queens of the Stone Age album to sound like--powerful, machinist guitar work and Homme's hollowed out vocals, chords that delight within themselves and their precise explosions (some of these songs sound like roller coasters--upside down, but on a track) and drums; fist-pumpers, drums that seem to emanate outside of the music, inside the listener, drumming that sandwiches one between. It's an album of extreme reliability, coming from a band that faced off against death, drugs, more death. And the collapse of the music industry, of course. Whatever vein Homme has tapped into, it's a rich one. -TS
A snarling testament to a musical life spurred by individual muse-hunting, presented in the same what-a-goddamned-voice shitkickers she's brought with her for since the glorious 90's when she was categorized as alt-country and everybody still bought CD's, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You has about as much in common with the music it's been released alongside that it's in practice more sensible to think of it as coming from an alternate dimension. Absent are the back-and-forths of authenticity discussion or the who-am-I postures of contemporary artists confused by the date on the calendar, in their place is the latest chapter of a woman whose career would probably best be described by whoever it is that figures out the trajectory of Renaissance painting when they're lining up a gallery show--these are songs, sure, but they're also structural pieces of music, written against others. Revisiting tempo and pacing of previous work, but in service of a more intense commitment to choices previously touched upon (as has been consistently noted in both the Oh Get Real "I'm A Man" coupled with the steadfast refusal to embrace motherhood as sanctification.), The Wore Things Get is an album that stands as reminder that while high art may be difficult to talk about, it can be pretty easy to recognize.-TS
The critical embrace of Haim might be the final dagger in the heart of rockism. There is nothing in Days Are Gone that is even remotely hip (that is, in the way that we associate hip with those who have a deeper sense of the world earned by struggling, the artistes, the poor) other than the fact that it is, in spite of itself, hip. On the surface, all of Haim’s musical touchstones are the exact types of musicians derided by critics for their lack of authenticity—Mark Knopfler and his Americanisms; the Eagles and their Californianisms; Wilson-Phillips and their patchouli. The last time a group with this little (for lack of a better word) musical credibility was embraced on this level was Vampire Weekend, and they at least had the fact that they were a rock band on their side. So what—other than the formal delights of Haim’s musicianship, the guitar licks and the harmonies and such, which, if we’re being honest, are the same sorts of formal delights that were always present in the Eagles’ music and Dire Straights’ music and early 90s chart-pop, as well—is it that makes the cool kids gravitate toward Haim? Here’s my bet: Everything on Days Are Gone reeks of confidence and defiance; everything is “forever” and “I will” and “don’t do that shit” (paraphrasing). Even the confessions of inadequacy—“I fumbled when it came down to the wire”—have the tenor of someone laughing at their past mistakes, not living through current ones. Maybe that’s Haim’s source of inauthenticity—that they’re so self-aware they even take ownership over their faults. Maybe that self-awareness could never exist. But confidence is alluring. Defiance is infectious. And when someone is whispering in your ear that they’ll “keep running if you come my way,” your impulse is usually going to be to chase after them. –MB
Kevin Gates songs are so streamlined and straightforward that you’d tune them out if it weren’t for the gravity—from both Gates’ slightly-AutoTuned baritone, which is as sternum-rattling as the bass in his songs, and his subject matter, a take on the where-I’m-from mythos so acute and direct that it has the same blunt effect on your solar plexus. He is the kind of rapper who would have been a regional star in a different era. In this one, he’s a craftsman who’s been a fringe presence forever—incarcerated for a couple years at the same time as his friend Lil Boosie; rumored to be a ghost writer—getting a small light shined upon him after years of grinding out mixtapes. He’s like Big K.R.I.T. with almost zero pop appeal, aside from that twinge of vocal effect that got him mistaken a few times for a Future wannabe. Gates’ strength is his unadorned storytelling (if you put 10 horses in a room with 10 typewriters it would take them about 10 minutes to come up with “Thinking With My Dick”), which is exactly what might get him overlooked, until you get broadsided by one of his lyrical mosaics, like this one from “4:30 am”: “gums hurtin’ from an old bullet/ in front of a toilet while hunched over/ puking all of my insides/ stab wound from an old friend/ well at that time we were close friends/ they say I killed him in cold blood.” -MB
San Francisco’s Sonny Smith has been operating from his own little corner of the universe for a while now. His primary outlet, Sonny & the Sunsets, could be lumped in with a handful of garage rock bands like King Tuff, Nude Beach, or Royal Headache—bands that favor scrappy songwriting over the abrasive guitar wrangling of guys like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. But Smith sets himself apart from his aesthetic peers with structural innovation. His first album was a series of one-act plays. A couple years ago, he had 100 different artists design covers to fictional singles by 100 different fictional bands (Hazel Shep, South East Land Otter Champs, The Fuckeroos), then wrote music for each of those singles, A-side and B-side, based on the covers those artists created. While the recent Sonny & the Sunsets albums aren’t as high concept, Smith has a way of allowing the musical conceits to reflect the subject matter. For example, on 2012’s Longtime Companion, Smith dealt with the aftermath of a breakup through an album of melancholy country music. Written in the aftermath of a close friend’s murder, Antenna to the Afterworld is even more complex. Set to science fiction-influenced new wave, Smith takes on the persona of a space being visiting Earth for the first time. He encounters a number of outcast women—a sword swallower on “Mutilator,” a fellow space creature (with a cyborg husband) on “Green Blood,” a homeless girl on “Girl on the Street.” An alien falling for a human is a well-worn metaphor for the confusion and anxiety of love, but in from Sonny’s point of view, everyone is equally foreign to everyone else; each person is fascinating, but unknowable. Even his antennae to the afterworld, his magical portal into understanding death, results in him watching comet trails in the quiet night. At the end of “Green Blood” someone asks what happened to his alien girl. “I don’t know,” he says. “But I miss her. I really do.” -MB
Although history will never starve for want to one man acoustic albums, it was nice of Jason Isbell to pull one back from that dragon's mouth, apparently due to boredom on the part of himself and his producer. In its place came Southeastern, a delivery device for multiple variations on road album staples--loneliness, exhuastion, the requisites of repetition. Standing atop the tried and true formula is Isbell's voice, lucidly turning the troubles of the traveling singer into plainspoken bits of emotional accuracy. It's the sort of sincerity that seems to so often elude the attempt for same, fractional moments of time that hearken toward universality. Nobody wants to be sleep alone. Everybody wants to have someone they never get out of bed with. Nobody wants to die in a shitty motel. It's bald, but it's not obvious, and it's nostalgiac, but it's not cliched. -TS
There are two elements of Jon Hopkins’ Immunity that make it sound like a breakthrough. The first is its snarl. The album is paced by a few of the languid, vaporous tracks you’d expect from a guy known to this point for being Imogen Heap’s keyboard player, composing ambient film scores and tracks that were, literally, Coldplay-worthy. Yet those ambient tracks are simply table-settings for a collection of buzzing, rattling, relentless techno—and to sound relentless within a genre known for its relentlessness is no easy feat. “Collider”, for example, sounds like Andy Stott’s “Lost and Found” with the haunting voices sublimated, the tempo ratcheted, and the wavelengths taking frequent trips into the red, as if Hopkins plugged in everything in the studio only halfway. I’ve seen Immunity compared to James Holden’s The Idiots Are Winning from 2006 (Holden put out The Inheritors this year, an album that stacks up well against Immunity, but chooses sprawl over Hopkins’ compact precision.) The comparison is apt when it comes to their shared love of static and hiss, but where Immunity blows Idiots out of the water is that the songs groove. That’s the second thing that makes Immunity sound like a breakthrough to my ears—many of these tracks have actual swing to them, something that for a long time has seemed antithetical to techno. And it’s not like the grooves here sound like they’re just transplanted from other genres (like they do on, say, Machinedrum’s Vapor City). They sound like a natural evolution that has come from within the genre, not outside of it. The videos for Immunity’s “Collider” and “Open Eye Signal” are widescreen personal journeys by outcasts in desolate places—a perfect reflection of Immunity’s sound. In each video, we feel the protagonists have gained some deep insight from their travels. Hopkins’ career may have begun in service to others—as a composer, or keyboardist—but it’s easy to imagine his peers finding insight in his journey to becoming a sonic innovator. –MB
Wondering why you're looking at a 2013 music list in March of 2014? Look no further then here--this has been the hold up. A review, originally written in the mean streets of Philadelphia (and I do mean "mean", as many businesses and homeowners in Philadelphia refuse to salt their fucking sidewalks, also, two people froze to death), was eaten by the typepad interface. It ate a couple of other ones as well--guess which ones!--but they were easily rebuilt. This one however has proved elusive, and as I look down the barrel of a tight schedule growing tighter, I have little faith that there's more to come. And sure, there's a case to be made for some type of Long.Live.A$AP critique that incorporates the jaw-dropping arrogance that is a blogger who refuses to just hash out some run-on sentences full of hyperbole and bewildering metaphor detailing why this one rap album is better than the other rap albums--never forget, A$AP didn't exactly meet his deadlines delivering this one, and he certainly worked up a fervor in the promises department--but maybe it's better to honor another TFO legacy, which is that thing where I, your obedient pal, dicks around for way longer than he should, only to jerk off some turkey so he can put another baby to bed. See you in 9 months, motherfuckers. (This was the best rap album of 2013.)-TS
Before the 2013 season, Classixx profiled as a down-the-roster DFA player—without hearing the music their very name could be read as an ironic comment on the quality of the work. It’s like naming your kid Mookie. There’s already been a Mookie, guy. Maybe if Classixx showed up every day with a first-one-in-the-building/last-one-out mentality, they could work their way up to being a strong fourth outfielder. But, even with LCD Soundsystem’s retirement, it just didn’t seem like there were enough spots on DFA’s major league roster for Classixx to expect anything more than a September cup of coffee. Of course, nobody told that to Classixx, who came to play in 2013 with a strong, five-tool debut album. Hanging Gardens firmly places Classixx among the other “surprise” prospects that were consistently overshadowed by their peers before getting called up and breaking out in a major way—players like Panda Bear, Ghostface Killah, or Feist, who we’d have never suspected would have the individual careers they’ve had. Now, you could argue that Hanging Gardens is purely a product of the rich DFA system, or that Classixx were simply in the right place at the right time. But there’s no denying that Classixx stepped up to the plate and provided exactly what DFA listeners needed from them—wry electro-disco that gave us at least five fantastic—dare I say classic?—top plays, and even more surprises, like the tribute to 80s DJ cuts, “I’ll Get You.” There’s competition in the division from Disclosure and Daft Punk, but in this year’s crowded field I’d take the consistency of Classixx over the others’ high points every time. Can Classixx repeat their 2013 performance? Or will this be the young upstart’s career year? History tells us to expect some regression, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if we spent the next ten years talking about Classixx as a perennial All Star. -MB
One of the more affectionately received albums of the year is also one of its most progressive, a gauntlet thrown down for charm and beauty--albeit of the scuzzy, three day growth variety. A hybrid of the jangly school of long take noodling and deregulated basement beats married together by guys who might have been working to access their own high school memories (only your local Floyd fan knows for sure), Psychic can at times take on the quality that 90's era trance and Brian Eno acolytes aimed for: music as brain plastering lacquer, a sound that seals the crevice between neural pathways. At times it can be dazed to the point of 70's space rock, at other times it's sort-of-a-Beverly-Hills-Cop-sample is so on the nose that you start to blush. Songs like "The Only Shrine I've Seen"--one of the album's strongest tracks--plays like something the Sabotage-era Beastie Boys would have released as an instrumental track, whereas Darkside chooses to squeak the phrase "she can't surprise you anymore", leaving one to wonder if those words necessarily mean anything, or if they were just chosen because of the way they complimented the synthesizer. It's a microcosm of the album's range--an establishment of tone and beat, the flavor of its particular haze--only to transition through three or more complete shifts. Some of the change is deft and indistinct, moves so clean that its hard to catch, whereas others are just blunt and (dishonestly) clumsy, a switch as abrupt as someone cutting off the power. It's an album that absolutely nobody else could have made, and we were all the better for its arrival. And yes: they make you earn it. -TS
There's no way to really shock a Kanye West fan at this point--he's trained us too well, it's impossible to know from day to day, or week to week, what he's going to do next. He's a total live wire, what the guys on It's Always Sunny would describe as a "wildcat", which is part of the reason--besides racism--why he's often talked about in the media with eyebrows raised. And yet it isn't his TMZ inch-makers that make him so exciting, in fact, it's that aspect of his persona that (due to its toxicity) can be so blinding. The excitement of Kanye's unpredictiablity is in his music, in the way he's able to operate in that sphere of listenability while still appearing schizophrenically improvisitary. This is a guy who exerts such absolute control over his output even while its made under deadline adn gun, while still lacing it with meme-ready jokes that feel as off the cuff as anything. (Compare "hurry up with my damn croissants" to any rap skit--all of which are intended to be high-larious--ever made.) Coming off the four-cornered perfection of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the dismal oh-wellness of Watch The Throne, Yeezus read like an unprotected sawblade, complete with pre-release parties where the volume was so loud that music critics ended up leaving the venue so that they could better hear it outside the building. And across the street. What they heard was like a cocktail of hostility, a mix of nitro and psychopathy, trundled up with 90's style Ministry. Like Twisted Fantasy, an album that showed how Kanye could as effectively promote an album through Twitter as Death Row once could with MTV, part of Yeezus' appeal was the ease with which Kanye monopolized attention--only this time, it was with an album whose only potential singles where pitch black rage and--eventually--unabashed long-take sleaze. -TS
When America reached its Vampire Weekend saturation point in 2008, the band's detractors harped on two things: their appropriation of African rhythms, and the images of these Ivy League-grads dressed in collared shirts and boat shoes. The juxtaposition of those things (along with the fact that listeners rarely consider self-awareness as a potential element in music and PR) subtly suggested that Vampire Weekend were a pro-White Privilege band. Lead-singer Ezra Koenig name-checking Louis Vuitton and Lil' Jon in his lyrics didn't help. It put upon him the stink of the hipster, the lowest of all cultural hijackers. Koenig and Vampire Weekend occupied a niche that no other "cool" band had taken seriously, which might explain why they initially got mistaken for The Bloodhound Gang or Dynamite Hack.
My biggest complaint about Vampire Weekend at the time was that their songs were delightful but flimsy. I preferred the B-side to their first single, the ska-influenced "Ladies of Cambridge," to any of the tracks on their debut album, because it hinted at a wealth of emotion beneath the preppy affectations. Culminating in the line, "When you left my room to go to the kitchen/ I imagined that you were dead/ A morbid streak runs through the whole of my family/ But for you I would put it to rest," "Ladies of Cambridge" poetically nailed the upper middle class's malaise and fear of mortality, the two subjects the band seemed destined to explore. When they announced their second album by rhyming "horchata" with "balaclava," I became convinced that Vampire Weekend had reached stasis, caught up in misidentifying its own strengths, and we were in line for years of diminishing returns, albeit moderately delightful ones.
I often wonder how Modern Vampires of the City would have been received as a debut. So much of the intellectual joy I find in it is discovering that the Vampire Weekend we heard in 2008 has matured without ditching any of the traits that made them intriguing in the first place. The African rhythms and Koenig's buzzwords have morphed from affectations into vocabulary, used to draw nuance out of life's tiniest joys and fears - co-dependence, travel, religion, and, yes, malaise and mortality. Koening's arch self-awareness still sneaks through (I can't be the only person who associates Providence and Phoenix, "Hannah Hunt"'s road trip bookends, with Whiteness despite those cities' actual diversity), but he has evolved into a deeply empathetic lyricist and narrator. And, since the aesthetic tent poles of maturity and empathy sound about as exciting as a collection of Raymond Carver short stories, the whole album is tricked out with an array of goofy studio effects and vocal manipulations, which should make it sound incredibly dated in a couple years. Brazenly time-stamping one's art might seem puzzling, but it speaks to the same fearlessness the band showed when it burst onto a lower-class-credibility-obsessed scene wearing cardigans and Oxford shirts. When you're making a delicate, death- (and taxes-) obsessed album that also happens to be the best work of your career, fearlessness isn't a bad pretense to have. -MB
Even if he’s not the guy on the Amygdala cover riding his reindeer through the hills, it’s easy to picture DJ Koze as the weirdo amongst his Kompakt affiliates. My favorite recent trick of his occurs on a 2012 remix of Herbert’s “You Saw It All.” The German producer senses a bit of drag underneath the original’s twitchiness, and turns it into a loping, falling-over-itself shuffle with a chorus built around what sounds like—and this is the kicker—a goat’s bray. The track even forecasted the “goats who sound like humans” YouTube meme that made the rounds in 2013. In swiping an esoteric bit of nature-quirk that’s probably been floating around for thousands of years, it deftly illustrates one of the keys to Amygdala and DJ Koze’s oeuvre: techno doesn’t have to be futuristic to be forward-thinking. That’s counterintuitive in a genre founded upon technological obsession, but Amygdala feels more interested in a primeval dance party in a canyon than a contemporary one in a warehouse. Of course, like the goat sounds, it could all just be Apocrypha, an illusion created by the elements Koze builds around—chimes, woodwinds, nostalgia—and the sense that he could pull anything at any time from a seemingly endless wellspring of oddball sounds. The framework is close to what you’d expect if you’ve heard even a single Kompakt release in the last 12 years, with some surprises—“Marilyn Whirlwind,” for example, sounds like someone incessantly pounding the strings on an unplugged bass guitar—and a ton more hooks. Matthew Dear shows up on two of the album’s best tracks, both ballad-ish laments, while Ada’s guest spot on “Homesick” pays tribute to staying home from work and listening to records—a common sentiment amongst us Brooklyn analogs, but anathema to the very genre Koze’s working in. Techno was a sound created in anticipation of the technological future. But in 2013 the technology had long since taken over, just like 1983 expected. Amygdala—named, by the way, after a part of the brain that processes memory and emotion—uses the tools of the “future” to create something both defiant and nostalgic, two qualities that rather accurately define the present. -MB