My favorite albums of 1st quarter 2017

I just got done tweeting out my list of 14 albums I really enjoyed in the first three months of 2017. Here it is in Storify form, for easy consumption:

My favorite albums of 1st quarter 2017

I also saw some movies in 2016

In compiling this list, I fairly quickly gave up on putting things in any sort of ranked order. Instead, I have three broad sections: Movies I truly enjoyed & would highly recommend, movies that were an excellent way to pass some time, and movies that I saw but wouldn’t necessarily recommend wholeheartedly. Here, then, are those sections, with no concrete ordering within them:

Movies I truly enjoyed & would highly recommend

The Fits
The VVitch
Kate Plays Christine
A Bigger Splash
Midnight Special
10 Cloverfield Lane
Green Room

(I would especially recommend doing a double feature of Jackie and Kate Plays Christine; likewise with Midnight Special and 10 Cloverfield Lane)

Movies that were an excellent way to pass some time

In Order of Disappearance
Rogue One
The Lobster
City of Gold
Deepwater Horizon
Swiss Army Man
Hell or High Water
Don’t Think Twice

Movies that I saw but wouldn’t necessarily recommend wholeheartedly

Author: The JT LeRoy Story
Love and Friendship
Off the Rails
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
By Sidney Lumet
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You
Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

Note that at least half of the movies in the above category are perfectly fine. They’re just not memorable enough to make me want to urge you to rush out and see them. I guess it’s also worth mentioning that, except for certain extenuating circumstances, we generally don’t go see anything that has below around a 68 metascore on

I wish I had the stamina to blurb all of these, or even the top 10. I figure, though, that unlike my favorite albums, you’re probably more likely to have already read, or at least be able to find, ample blurbage about all of these.

There should be a fourth category: Movies that I likely would have loved, had I been given the opportunity to see them. Sigh.

I also saw some movies in 2016

My favorite albums of 2016

Not to be confused with “the best” albums of 2016. I didn’t hear everything that was released in 2016. Heck, over at Bandcamp, they said that something like 11,000 vaporwave albums were released in 2016 alone. Not that I listen to vaporwave. But the same could probably be said of any number of genres.

So the only claim I can make is that I probably listened to all or part of ~300 albums in 2016, and these are the ones that truly stuck with me:

A Giant Dog – Pile

No record had more spins in the car, or the office, or the headphones, than this one. My only theories about why this isn’t topping every list in America are that (a) critics apparently draw conclusions based on band name & album cover art without bothering to listen, or (b) America hates fun.

Horseback – Dead Ringers

What is Horseback, exactly? Occasionally black metal; nearly always a meditative examination of tone, texture, space, drone. Whatever you thought it was before, this album forces yet another expansion. The most beautiful album I heard this year.

Rebar – Rebar

This album was recorded ~20 years ago; I’ve had a CD-R copy of it for most of that time. But it was only in 2016 that the members of this greatest of all Greensboro bands finally got around to mastering & releasing it, in all of its woozy glory. Remarkable “indie-rock” played at all the wrong speeds.

Al Riggs – Breakdowner and the Hungry Months

Al released three full albums and a half-dozen singles in 2016, and they were all excellent. Why did I pick this one to highlight? Probably because the leadoff track, “Hungry Months,” still gives me chills every time I hear it.

Body Games – Damager+

Bandcamp is awash in electronic music, but there are precious few artists with this level of talent at melding beats, melodies, wrenching samples, and the human singing voice. I can’t understand why this isn’t huge. Maybe people are scared of how it makes them feel?

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic

Sophomore outing from this astonishingly great Philly band. Imagine everything good about 90s grunge (& post-grunge Alternative) but with all the tedious boring stuff (boy singers, guitar solos, multiple verses, instrumental bridges) stripped away. 11 songs, 18 minutes.

Davidians – City Trends

Three former members of the greatest NC hardcore band of all time (Double Negative) join forces with midwestern transplant Colin Swanson-White, whose mindblowing guitar playing is simultaneously not hardcore & yet totally hardcore. Big hollowbody guitar, judicious application of weird flanging & chorus effects, shitloads of whammy bar.

SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages

This Salt Lake City doom band finally perfected their sound — centered around two stereo-panned violins & three majestic women’s voices — on this, their third album. It’s “metal,” unapologetically, but if you’re a casual music fan, it’s probably utterly unlike what you think “metal” sounds like.

Zeal and Ardor – Devil is Fine

A thought experiment — ersatz field recordings of [satanic-seeming] faux black spirituals & chain-gang songs, melded with black metal instrumentation — turns out to work so well that it becomes one of the great albums of 2016. Which has subsequently been mostly removed from Bandcamp, leaving just a couple of songs behind.

Flock of Dimes – If You See Me, Say Yes

Flock of Dimes is Jenn (Wye Oak) Wasner’s solo side-project; this is their debut album. Though Jenn’s rep is as a great guitarist, the instrumentation here is dominated by synths. But the featured sound throughout is Jenn’s glorious voice. Lyrically & metrically the vocal lines are pretty complex, even as they’re backed by synth tracks that are by turns lush-n-simple, blippy, and/or occasionally K-pop or Afropop influenced. It’s rare for the backing music to simply support her voice & mimic the vocal melody, which makes this a far more interesting & repeat-worthy album than it might initially appear to be. It’s pretty clear that Jenn has spent a lot of time with Joni Mitchell’s 70s and 80s catalog, in the best possible sense.

Bubbling under, as the chart ppl used to say:

Angel Olsen – My Woman
Radiant Beings of Light – Carnatio
Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
Liquid Asset – Colony Denied
Holder’s Scar – Public Acid
Goat – Requiem
Howls of Ebb – Cursus Impasse
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
Ian William Craig – Zugzwang for Fostex
Sarah Louise – Solo Acoustic Vol. 12
Krallice – Prelapsarian
Year of the Cobra – In the Shadows Below
Chateau – Moons Over the Slaughter

This year I tried something new, compiling lists quarterly, and tweeting them out. I managed to remember to storify the first two quarters, but failed to do so for the third, so I’ll just post those lists here in one place. I don’t have easy answers as to why some things made a quarterly list but didn’t stick with me — taste is a fickle thing, and so is longevity. Looking back, I do think my final list skews towards the 2nd half of the year — an artifact of my always seeking out something new, I suppose.

First Quarter:

Savages – Adore Life
Al Riggs – Breakdowner & the Hungry Months
Professor Toon – Take Notes
Blursome – Age
The Astounds – The Astounds
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
Ian William Craig – Zugzwang for Fostex
Body Games – Damager
Naked Naps – The Middle

Second Quarter:

Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC – Blues from WHAT
Colin Stetson – SORROW: a reimagining of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony
Dogs Eyes – Measure the Earth
Konvoi – S/T
A Giant Dog – Pile
Zeal and Ardor – Devil is Fine
Phatlynx – Loosen Yer Belt!
Rebar – Rebar
Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust
Liquid Asset – Colony Denied
Howls of Ebb – Cursus Impasse
Al Riggs – Blue Mornings

Third Quarter:

Al Riggs – Night Freedom
Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
Horseback – Dead Ringers
Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
See Gulls – Curtain Call
SubRosa – For This We Fought The Battle of Ages
Magpie Feast – To Keep It All Spinning
Dex Romweber – Carrboro
Sylvan Esso – “Radio”
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Flock of Dimes – If You See Me, Say Yes

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to extrapolate what my fourth-quarter list would look like.

Finally, if you really like lists, I just posted the WXDU Top 101 NC Releases of 2016 over at that website. That list is compiled by adding up plays by all WXDU DJs, so it’s far more than just a reflection of my personal tastes, although I did review + add over 70% of the albums listed.

My favorite albums of 2016

A thing I didn’t expect to be writing 20 years ago

20 years ago (today!) I sent the following email to the ch-scene mailing list:

So, what’d you do over the holidays? Well, I made an website: [ . . . ]

And, most fun, a page of picks for the week or two upcoming. This is in direct response to Alec Vance saying “so-and-so would never write that Rebar are playing this Friday.” So WE’RE going to write that. And since it is perhaps (a) impractical, due to UseNet, and (b) unfair, due to various factors, to make folks sift through dozens of posts looking for something to do, we’re gonna put it on the WWW.

That website I made was the first version of what shortly thereafter came to be known as No, I can’t believe I’ve been doing that website for that long either.

That initial website was all hand-coded HTML, and was hideously ugly. No, really:

(The current design was completed in like 2000, maybe 2001. I have literally barely touched the template since then.)

Anyway. The basic concept hasn’t changed: Show listings for the Triangle. Minus the blues lawyers, the cover bands, and the open-mic nights. My filter has gotten looser & tighter from time to time over the years, but overall the concept has been to hopefully only list shows that I at least wouldn’t walk out of in disgust.

When I started this project, my main inducement was the realization that I was occasionally missing great shows because I literally hadn’t known they were happening. In 1997, the primary method for show-promotion was flyers stapled onto those kiosks along Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. Very few of the local venues had websites, and in those pre-CMS days, updating a website with calendar entries was for the most part a manual endeavor.

So I would wander up & down Franklin Street, jotting down upcoming shows, and then go home & compile a list that I’d update every week or so.

Which is basically what I still do today, minus the walking. I still visit every venue website myself, copy/paste likely shows into a master list, and then input them into my custom CMS, which uses a database that has been accruing since January 1, 2000 — which is why I can, say, list off nearly every show the $2 Pistols have played locally in the past 16 years:

Band Name Show Date Venue
$2 Pistols 2012-06-03 Haw River Ballroom
$2 Pistols 2011-05-20 The Garage
$2 Pistols 2008-02-22 Broad Street Cafe
$2 Pistols 2008-02-08 Berkeley Cafe
$2 Pistols 2007-12-08 Local 506
$2 Pistols 2007-11-10 Hideaway BBQ
$2 Pistols 2007-09-29 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2007-02-23 Hideaway BBQ
$2 Pistols 2006-12-15 The Cave
$2 Pistols 2006-11-19 Bickett Gallery
$2 Pistols 2006-10-13 The Garage
$2 Pistols 2006-02-24 Local 506
$2 Pistols 2005-12-09 The Garage
$2 Pistols 2005-09-25 Lincoln Theater
$2 Pistols 2005-09-10 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2005-02-19 Ooh La Latte
$2 Pistols 2005-01-14 Raleigh Music Hall
$2 Pistols 2004-12-17 The Cave
$2 Pistols 2004-11-19 Local 506
$2 Pistols 2004-09-09 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2004-05-21 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2004-01-24 Go! Studios Rm. 4
$2 Pistols 2003-12-12 The Cave
$2 Pistols 2003-11-23 Retail
$2 Pistols 2003-07-12 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2003-06-27 Kings
$2 Pistols 2003-05-31 Go! Studios Rm. 4
$2 Pistols 2002-12-31 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2002-11-09 Kings
$2 Pistols 2002-09-06 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2002-07-19 The Basement
$2 Pistols 2002-01-11 Kings
$2 Pistols 2001-12-13 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2001-09-22 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2001-08-31 Fowler’s Gourmet
$2 Pistols 2001-07-06 Local 506
$2 Pistols 2001-06-16 Humble Pie
$2 Pistols 2001-05-19 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2001-05-06 WXDU 88.7 FM
$2 Pistols 2001-02-17 Humble Pie
$2 Pistols 2001-01-27 Go! Studios Rm. 4
$2 Pistols 2000-03-24 Humble Pie

Good times.

Over the years I’ve added (and dropped) features; some are still there, zombie-like, having largely been untouched for a decade. Others are definitively gone. Still others, such as the daily tweets, have been hugely successful. Seriously, follow the site on Twitter. Over 3000 other people already do.

Why do I still do this, after [literally!] 20 years? Because nobody else is doing something quite like it. Sure, there are other sites with show listings — but they’re either too broad (like I said, I’m not here for cover bands & open mics, sorry) or too narrow.

Years ago I also ran, with some friends, a site called It was movie listings for the Triangle. Super simple concept. Huge amounts of work involved (again, at the time, all the data entry was painfully manual). We killed that sucker without much hesitation once we realized that Google Movies did everything we did, but better & more accurately.

So this is my invitation to anyone interested: do what I’m doing with, at least as well (or preferably better), and I’ll gladly retire. But I’m not holding my breath. This is a pretty niche market at this point.

One final note: for the first 20 years of its existence, my site was hosted — for free! — by the good people at That is no longer the case. After sticking with them through name changes, major hardware upgrades, intermittent periods of instability, etc, I finally bailed because I realized that I could no longer bear to be hosted on the same site that gives Eric Raymond a platform for his paranoid, anti-feminist, gun-nut rantings. So I left. No hard feelings.

A thing I didn’t expect to be writing 20 years ago

Durham Restaurants Holiday Closures

This isn’t comprehensive — it’s primarily focused on the downtown area, and it only contains info for restaurants where I feel fairly confident that the info I have is accurate.

But so yeah, here’s a link to a google spreadsheet of some Durham restaurants & which days they’ll be closed over the next few days. Enjoy.

Durham Restaurants Holiday Closures

What game is the Charlotte City Council playing?

It was pointed out today by journalists in Charlotte that the Charlotte City Council did not, in fact, repeal all of the provisions of their non-discrimination ordinance, as part of the deal struck to gain the repeal of HB2.

I wasn’t privy to the details of that deal — and all I have seen online is various secondhand interpretations. But here’s what I can say, definitively, about what Charlotte’s City Council did & did not do.

The resolution they passed on 12/19 contains the following salient provisions:

Section 2: Having been preempted and invalidated by S.L. 2016-3, Article III of Chapter 12, subsections (1) and (2) of Sec 12-81, and Sec 12-82 are hereby removed from the City Code.

Section 4: Having been preempted and invalidated by S.L. 2016-3, subsection (i) of Sec 22-31 are hereby removed from the City Code.

Section 5: This ordinance shall be effective upon adoption. However, should S.L. 2016-3 not be repealed in its entirety by December 31, 2016, this ordinance shall not be valid.

That’s all very well and good, EXCEPT for the fact that the original Charlotte ordinance that triggered the whole HB2 kerfuffle in the first place also amended the following sections of the Charlotte City Code, which they didn’t change back yesterday:

Article V, Chapter 2, sections 2-151, 2-152, 2-153, 2-166, 2-167 (these all dealing with the city’s ability to insert non-discrimination clauses into contracts with city vendors, and to refuse to contract with vendors who discriminate, including on the basis of gender identity)

Article II, Chapter 12, sections 12-27, 12-29 (giving the community relations committee the ability to report on & provide guidance on reducing discrimination, including on the basis of gender identity)

Another interesting detail: the original March ordinance DELETED Article III, Chapter 12, Sec 12-59, which read in full:

Sec.  12-59.  Prohibited  sex  discrimination.
(a)  It  shall  be  unlawful  to  deny  a  person,  because  of  sex,  the  full  and  equal  enjoyment of  the  goods,  services,  facilities,  privileges,  advantages, or accommodations  of  a  restaurant,  hotel,  or motel.
(b)  This  section  shall  not  apply  to  the  following:
(1)  Restrooms,  shower rooms,  bathhouses  and  similar  facilities which are in their nature distinctly  private.
(2)  YMCA,  YWCA  and  similar  types  of  dormitory  lodging  facilities.
(3)  A  private  club  or  other  establishment not,  in fact,  open to the public.

The City Code used to prohibit sex discrimination in restaurants, hotels & motels, *except* for restrooms — but when the Council passed their resolution in March, they deleted that part. It wasn’t replaced explicitly, but it was replaced generally by the language that was inserted throughout section 12, specifically in 12-58:

Sec.  12-58.  -Prohibited  acts.  (a)  It  shall  be  unlawful  to  deny  any  person  the  full  and  equal  enjoyment  of  the  goods,  services,  facilities,  privileges,  advantages,  and  accommodations  of  a  place  of  public  accommodation  because  of  race,  color,  religion,  sex,  marital  status,  familial  status,  sexual  orientation,  gender  identity,  gender  expression,  or  national  origin.

The italicized part: “sex,  marital  status,  familial  status,  sexual  orientation,  gender  identity,  gender  expression” is what was added throughout the section to broaden their non-discrimination language.

So they replaced a single sex-based carve-out in 12-59 for restaurants, hotels, & motels (that had a restroom exception) with a broad prohibition against all manner of sex & gender discrimination in public accommodations, which had no restroom exception. Which was a big part of the issue that triggered HB2.

Then yesterday they repealed the entirety of their non-discrimination code in Chapter 12, including the legacy stuff about race, color, religion, or national origin.

I see a couple of issues here. First, as I pointed out at the top, they didn’t repeal all of the code that they passed in March. This may or may not be a sticking point in the deal that they struck.

Second, in repealing all of Article III, Chapter 12, they essentially repealed all of their non-discrimination language from their City Code. Do they plan to go back and restore it in January? And if so, will they restore the restroom & shower room exception that was stricken back in March, along with it?

I feel like there is another shoe waiting to drop, particularly since the 12/19 resolution also contains the following paragraph:

WHEREAS, in the event that the North Carolina General Assembly grants or restores the authority of the City to enact ordinances on the matters that were the subject of the preempted and invalidated ordinances, the City Council could enact new ordinances.

You can read the Charlotte municipal code to your heart’s content here.

What game is the Charlotte City Council playing?

My fave Bandcamp-sourced albums of 2016 (that didn’t make their list)

This is NOT my top-whatever of 2016; look for that in early January. But the awesome folks at Bandcamp put together a top-100, so I felt compelled to review my Bandcamp collection & compare my faves with theirs.

This, therefore, is my top 14 albums that I bought from Bandcamp in 2016 but which didn’t make their top-100 list, in no particular order:

Ian William Craig – Zugzwang for Fostex –

Body Games – Damager+ –

Colin Stetson – Sorrow –

Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC – Blues from WHAT –

MAKE – Pilgrimage of Loathing –

Horseback – Dead Ringers –

Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust –

Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows –

al riggs – Breakdowner and the Hungry Months –

Mannequin Pussy – Romantic –

A Giant Dog – Pile –

Year of the Cobra – In the Shadows Below –

Davidians – City Trends –

Holder’s Scar – Public Acid –

And these are my top 2 albums that I bought from Bandcamp in 2016 that *did* make their top-100 list, also in no particular order:

Oranssi Pazuzu – Varahtelija –

Sub Rosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages –

My fave Bandcamp-sourced albums of 2016 (that didn’t make their list)