Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bloomsday '16 Recap

Mural of Joyce's everyman Leopold Bloom at Blooms Hotel Temple Bar in Dublin.

This year for Bloomsday I had the privilege of participating in an event at Austin's finest independent bookstore Malvern Books on 29th Street and Guadalupe. There was homemade genuine Irish food made by Irish people, a cluster of fellow humans who have read and loved Ulysses, some yapping by yours truly about the intricacies in James Joyce's most famous book, and passages introduced and read aloud by a half dozen different people including the store's owner Joe hilariously rendering the bizarre opening of the Oxen of the Sun episode. (Video below.)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Scenes from a Winter Day in Manhattan

Some shots of New York scenes, most prominently some of my favorite art from MOMA, taken during my last trip there during Christmas 2015, as I clean up my phone in preparation for my upcoming return to NYC in a few days.

I love weird trees.

New Kevlaar 7 single "Glorious Chemist" (produced by Bronze Nazareth)

First single off the upcoming album A Beautiful Soul from the late Kevlaar 7, fully produced by his brother Bronze Nazareth.

"I hear fury on mandolins/ Can I live?"

Full album to be released on Kevlaar's birthday, May 27th.

This is the story told by a raw, hardened, remarkable voice, wailing away with pain. Part of the morbid appeal of 'A Beautiful Soul' is that Kevlaar 7 sounds like he’s aware his time is short. It’s deeply unsettling, listening to someone who would transition in the midst of recording. This unearths the true tragedy: Unlike his first solo albums and his work with The Wisemen, on A Beautiful Soul, for the first time, Kevlaar was teaming with Bronze Nazareth on production, and performing material that he, and no one else, wanted to record. He never sounded so free.

RIP to the Legend K7.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

MLB 2016 Predictions

MLB teams are as tightly clustered as ever. (art by Chenglor55)

Predicting baseball has become harder than ever. This is a good thing. It's more fun to watch it all unfold when you have no idea which team might suddenly start firing on all cylinders and plow through everyone.

Trying to predict what the final results will be in six months from now, with so many variables in between, is also a fool's errand. But we do it because it's fun to talk about, read about, and write about baseball.

What I've gathered here are more like expectations than predictions. A key part of this, though, is that after doing so many of these over the years, it is not just an expectation but a certainty that some of these predictions will be very, very wrong. There will be injuries, there will be sudden performance dropoffs, there will be midseason trades that transform mediocre teams into contenders, there will be breakout stars and broken legs and torn UCLs. There will be lots of unforeseen events between now and October.

But this is how we like to talk about baseball when the season starts. We make predictions.

As usual, I'm starting off with Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection system, noting the PECOTA win projection for each team and then choosing an over/under on that number. I will also rank the teams in each division and pick two Wild Card teams in each league.

First, a quick word on the difference in expectations between the two leagues.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Album Review(s): THE YEAR OF BRONZE

"Still standing, unweathered Bronze monolith"
- Lord Jessiah

Here in Austin, Texas the SXSW festival kicks off this weekend. It was almost exactly a year ago that I got to meet up with my old friend M-Eighty in the heart of the SXSW madness to hang out (along with Tash from the Alkaholiks providing comic relief) in order to receive an exclusive listening session of the then-soon-to-be-released album from Canibus & Bronze Nazareth, Time Flys, Life Dies...Phoenix Rise (written about here last year).

That album would end up being the opening salvo in an impressive series of Bronze-produced full-length releases that dropped in the ensuing months. Further solidifying his status as a 21st century successor to RZA, Bronze the heavy instrumentalist out of Detroit crafted four different LPs in 2015, each with its own consistent, cohesive sound, essence and theme while even placing the spotlight on individual members of his group to the give them some shine. Aside from the Canibus LP and a collaboration with Killarmy legend Dom Pachino, in 2015 Bronze produced each of the debut solo albums for members of his Wisemen crew Illah Dayz and Salute.

That's four albums in a twelve month span (five if you count Bronze's solo project from November 2014, Thought for Food Volume 3). It was truly The Year of Bronze.

This prolific output also occurred in the aftermath of Bronze losing his brother and close collaborator Kevlaar 7 who departed the physical due to complications from a blood disorder in December 2014. Listening to the albums that make up The Year of Bronze, one continually gets a sense that it was all a dedication to Kevlaar. (#DoingItForKev) Many of The Year's best songs are ones Bronze spent ample time mixing and mastering his brother's verses and microphone presence on. Posthumously released Kevlaar verses and beats (every single one of them dope) played an important part in The Year of Bronze, as we will see.

Even after releasing four albums of undeniably towering quality throughout the year, Bronze continued to get a raw deal from the hip hop press. Aside from some discussion of the Canibus project (and reviews by the prolific writer Sunez Allah), the hip hop media as a whole mostly ignored The Year of Bronze. In contrast, Bronze's colleague Cilvaringz received consistent press throughout the year for the gimmick of producing a Wu-Tang album that the world will likely never hear. The Cilvaringz vs. Bronze Nazareth debate for best producer is a close one, but while Cilvaringz in his career has made one album, a few features, and an overhyped record that will likely never escape the clutches of our world's Lex Luthor, Bronze served the people four full-length albums in 2015 alone.

The super producer with the overflowing resumé is also a fierce lyricist whose abstract angled bars consistently reveal the architect brain behind the beats he's built a reputation for. While The Year of Bronze was a showcase of the latest efforts from hip hop's premier beat maker, throughout the albums he orchestrated, Bronze also got to step into the booth and shred it up with his rhymes a few times.

What follows is a walkthrough of The Year of Bronze, highlighting its best moments while especially taking note of the role played by the late Kevlaar 7 throughout.

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