Benji is not only one of the best albums of the year so far; it might be the best album Mark Kozelek has ever released. But in Benji, Mark Kozelek, the weary-voiced troubador and bearer of bad news, released an album chock full of personal facts about his concerns for his mother’s health, his sex life, and his midlife crisis. His set at Pitchfork was so laden with vocal reverb (sounding like an off-key Jim James) that you truly could not hear anything he was saying. It was almost as if Kozelek was too embarrassed to reveal anything anymore, so he hid behind three walls of sound and instead told some uncomfortable racial jokes (he joked about how white his crowd was before singling out the lone black person in the crowd and declaring himself “comfortable with black people”). When Kozelek finally exited his chair (his band members remained seated), he delivered “By the Time That I Awoke” standing up and awkwardly pacing back and forth, all with the stage presence of a first-spelling-bee middle schooler. One of the most anticipated sets of the festival was a total bust.

Sun Kil Moon is named the Most Disappointing Set of Pitchfork Music Festival 2014 by Frontier Psychiatrist. Photo by Matt Meschede. Read more superlatives and festival coverage here.

Here’s what I know: The kids in the mosh pit had a great time. A couple of them lost their glasses, or a water bottle, but everyone seemed to recover the things that were most important. A few of them got up on top of the crowd, and stayed up. On the edge of the pit, where I was, the energy was jolting, if not violent; people kept revolving through the collapsable pocket of empty space that separated the two groups, stomping and stricken with determination, stumbling out, catching their breath, and plastered with enormous smiles. Perfect Pussy was the engine of all of this, and they played tight music that was filthy with fuzz. Their combustion had to come from somewhere else—the stage was quiet before they showed up, and it was quiet again when they left—but wherever they found it, it was draining. It was hot out, and the set was short. At one point, lead singer Meredith Graves, who spent most of the show throwing all of herself into her microphone, seemed to cry. We were moving, and then we were still. Only as we turned to go did I realize that I couldn’t remember, or simply, never actually heard a single one of the words that Graves had put out into the world. //Josh Kopin

Perfect Pussy named Best Totally Unintelligible Set of Pitchfork Music Festival 2014 by Frontier Psychiatrist. Photo by Matt Meschede. Read more superlatives and fest coverage here.

Even when his microphone was unfortunately not on during the opening lines of “Dream House”, Deafheaven’s George Clarke had the facial expression of a mass murderer. As a performer, he was easily the most intense of the festival. Waving his hands and fingers like an EDM crowdgoer and twisting his body like ‘Yonce, Clarke is the metal version of Future Islands’ Samuel Herring. Never cracking a smile, Clarke’s presence was intimidating enough to distract you from a strange set only about half-filled with Sunbather tracks, some of which were, unfortunately, recorded interludes.

Deafheaven is named the Most Serious Set of Pitchfork Music Festival 2014 by Frontier Psychiatrist. Photo by Matt Meschede. Read more superlatives from this year here.

Ceremony @ Rock & Roll Hotel, DC
July 21, 2014

Monday night or not, I had to head down to the Rock & Roll Hotel for Bay Area hardcore-turned-post-punkers Ceremony. Matador opened the door for many non-punks to partake in the passion and brutality when they signed the group in 2011, eventually releasing 2012’s confounding but effective Zoo. But digging a band on record, does not make one prepared for what happens in person. Fortunately, I knew what I was getting into: their 2012 show at The Borg Ward remains the scariest show I’ve ever attended, in the best way. I can’t say the same for others in the crowd.

They opened with a sweet unreleased post-punk jam, all melancholy-like. Singer Ross Farrar, with his shirt tucked in and high-waisted jeans pulled up to his rib cage, crooned with purpose as the hardcore kids swayed, dismayed but not discouraged. With the final chords barely rung, the five-piece thrashed into a deep cut from 2008’s brutal Still Nothing Moves You—15 head-exploding tirades in a never-ending 21 minutes. Oh shit.

"Thunder and lightning protect me from God/I won’t be skull fucked by faith/I am the upside down cross"

The half-empty R&R Hotel split into two groups: people who didn’t want to get punched in the face, and punchers. Much of my life has been in the former camp, despite a lifelong love of punk rock. I’ve learned to enjoy the catharsis and spectacle in my own safe bubble. I watched Farrar fight from stage like he was standing atop Helm’s Deep—the Uruk-hai in this case were instead branded with black Xs and dropped off by their parents. Among the mob, I spotted a familiar fedora: NPR’s Bob Boilen, snapping pictures dangerously close to the madness.

I see Boilen at shows all the time. His oft-updated Instagram page is filled with excellent shots of great shows in DC, a healthy mix of touring and local acts; a Boilen sighting is a local version of MTV’s BUZZWORTHY tag, for better or worse. As any photographer will advise, closeness is key to getting a good picture. On the other hand, at least a dozen six foot angry white males were rocketing across the floor in an odd combination of figure skating and Street Fighter. So, fuck that.

As the band prepared another new jam, just as pensive and reserved as the opener, two older punks (and pricks, might I add) started an impromptu game of hardcore Red Rover, in which the players sprint across the diameter of the pit until they’re stopped by an immovable object, be it structural or human. It’s a territorial tantrum, like the bullies at the dog park, lacking the necessary action by an owner to control their rowdy pup. Despite the big-ass, dreadlocked bouncer in the center of the floor, I saw several audience members get rocked by our less than courteous audience peers, Boilen among them. He handled it well; laughed it off to his neighbor, planted for another go-around, and still took a few more photos. That’s dedication. A tip of my tumblr hat to you, Mr. Tiny Desk.

The show was great, all things considered, but criminally short. Still, in just about 30 minutes, Ceremony managed to pack a full set’s worth of blast beats, shirt rips and sore throats. And I came home unscathed. A successful Monday night. // Peter Lillis

Read all our coverage of Ceremony here.

I was struck last week with a sudden and unmistakable urge for a piña colada–a drink that I probably have not considered for several years. Time slipped away and in an instant I was reminded of that first silken, refreshing gulp of an icy piña colada. And then I obviously had to read through the lyrics of Jimmy Buffett’s infamous ode to the creamy cocktail. I did not know it had an actual plotline!  One that’s borderline sweet, borderline wacky. Perhaps a little like the piña colada itself?!

To be sure, the ingredients you need for this beachside beverage can be bought at most corner bodegas. Canned pineapple juice, canned coconut milk, and ice (and maybe a paper umbrella) are all you need to be on your way to getting caught in the rain–and liking it.

Frontier Psychiatrist shows you how to make the perfect homemade piña colada. Read recipe here.

I like boxes, because a lot of good things come in boxes—things like chocolates and speaker cabinets, a combination I highly recommend when it comes to enjoying box set albums. The word itself, “box set” is a shortened version of the fuller expression “boxed set”—a set of contents packaged in a box. Using space to curate content, box sets attempt to answer important questions. How should artistic content be experienced? And in what order? How does additional content add to the image of the artist? Why is this box better than no box? Hence the thrill of unboxing—you experience discovery in very interesting ways. That is why music box sets, generally speaking, contain extensive printed material, such as booklets, posters, and multiple discs of exclusive content (like DVDs) aimed at the fan bases of artists. It is a way to re-present the artist anew to an already familiar audience. This way, the true fan gets to know the artist more deeply and expansively than your average listener, especially considering the extensive liner notes, unreleased materials, and behind-the-scenes videos that accompany so many box set releases. Box sets also signify an important milestone in an artist’s career by providing the fan with a kind of retrospective look that contextualizes the artist and his or her oeuvres. [read more]

New-ish contributor Kekeli Sumah discusses the box set for Actress’ 4th LP, Ghettoville, available now on Ninja Tune and Werkdiscs. Art by William Stein. Design by Inventory Studio. Images courtesy of Hard Format.

FP: That’s awesome. On the first song, “Losing to the Dark”, you sing in the chorus, “I can’t/I won’t live like this forever.” I think I at first thought of it as a kind of defeated statement, but really, is it more a cry of refusal?

KG: It’s definitely, “I refuse to.” That’s the mood I was going for. That was the song about my past. This album is definitely about new beginnings. There are some songs on there that kind of dabble into how bad things were, but in general, the tone shows that things are better now. I had to start with that song because that’s an example of “bad times before,” and then it gets into happier times throughout the album.

FP: Is this album more personal than [La Sera’s last album] Sees the Light?

KG: I think this album is definitely the most personal. This was way more honest. I tried to feel my feelings more. The last two records were more general and vague about my feelings, and this one’s like, “This is specifically what I’m pissed about!,” and, “This is specifically what I’m happy about!”

Katy Goodman talks to Frontier Psychiatrist about the newest record from La Sera, Hour of the Dawn. Read more here.

(Source: hardlyartrecords, via iamkatygoodman)


July 23, 1885: 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant, Dies at Age 63

On this day in 1885, 18th President of the United States and Civil War hero, Ulysses S. Grant, died at Mount McGregor, New York, at the age of 63 from throat cancer.

Grant served in the Mexican-American War and was a Union general in the Civil War before serving two terms as president.  Shortly before his death, he finished writing two memoirs  with the help of his publisher, Mark Twain.

Check out these pro- and anti-Grant political cartoons from American Experience’s “Ulysses S. Grant.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If you read the Goodreads reviews of Green Girl, you will notice the polarizing nature of Kate Zambreno’s recently re-released novel. It is a love-or-hate book. I am writing this review because I loved it. People hate it because they found it unrelatable, or that “not much happens,” though that should never dissuade someone from liking a book. Couldn’t the same argument be said about a Steve Reich composition or a Rothko painting? Couldn’t one say everything happens in their minimal pieces? But Zambreno didn’t create a minimal work of literature. Green Girl is literature that screams and stabs. It’s sordid and sincere. Where some see nothing, I see a profound use of negative space that supplements the existential crisis in which Zambreno’s protagonist, Ruth, an American expat in London who sells perfume, is absorbed.

The newest work of author Kate Zambreno is a polarizing, engrossing account of “the girl behind the counter;” an inhabitant of the so-called “negative space.” Green Girl reviewed here.

This abstraction of the relationship between violence and archaic feminine home life allows Sarloutte to touch in the viewer a different sense of the act occurring, the substance of what is in front of us. We love to snuggle with a blanket, turn on our favorite show and escape into a world of fantasy portrayed, more so now than ever as our devices enable constant access. But there is flesh beneath and beyond, everyday seeking at the very least another meal, at the very worst the blood of another in pursuit of power.

Such color combinations and painterly realism are by no means easy. While not as skillfully bewildering as Chuck Close (is anyone?), the way that Sarloutte is able to render a photorealistic face, hand, suit jacket, an anatomic heart, surgeon’s mask and more using thread is impressive. Looking through the “Broderies” section of her website, over time her skill developed from simple square-by-square matrices into the large focal piece of her thesis show, Pour l’honneur. En Toute Inutilite.

French artist Julie Sarloutte combines television and embroidery, carefully stitching together multicolored, painterly portraits of action heroes and leading characters in dramatic scenes taken off the screen. Read our full analysis of her work here.