Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Beer and Music, Music and Beer 2021

There's still no commute, but at least the kids are back in physical school (knock on wood), which affords me more time to listen, headphones or not. I've got Buffalo 66 on DVD, hit the lights, it's the 2021 music and beer list!  

1) The Armed - Ultrapop: This album sounds like everything, all at once, which makes sense because their might be 19 people credited on this album. Think a post-hardcore XTRMNATOR and you're getting closer.

2) Iceage - Seek Shelter: It's kind of scary how good this group has gotten and their principal lyricist is just 30. Post-punk, and somehow getting a bit "Brittier."

3) The War on Drugs - I Don't Live Here Anymore: It's not as good as the last one, but it's still pretty fucking good. What Granduciel has done over the past 3-4 albums, updating the corporate rock sounds of the 1980s in the service of his own nostalgia and memories, is so impressive, both musically and as a meta-narrative. 

4) Ethereal Shroud - Trisagion: When an album gestates for 15 years, and takes 12 months across home studios on two continents--during a pandemic--to record, it better be worth the wait. Well, it's epic as fuck and you should listen to it

5) Idles - Crawler: A most welcome return to form for this band. I wrote this about 2018's Brutalism and it applies here: "A sneering, searing piece of post-punk that's alternately witty and too clever by half, propelled by near-industrial drumming."

6) Sadness - Rain Chamber: What is it? Like that song at the end of True Romance, turned inside out, mutated into orchestral dream pop, blackgaze, ambient, a Polyphonic Spree song, and more. Fucking magnificent. They dropped like 3 other albums this year that are worth a listen, too. 

7) Chubby and the Gang: The Mutt's Nutts: Yes, it does feel dumb to type out these band and album names, but listen to tracks like "Life on the Bayou" and you'll see that this group is dead serious. A winning mix of early '80s-influenced punk and hardcore. Get in the pit! Or, yanno, don't. 

8) Lucy Dacus - Home Video: "Thumbs" is an absolutely gutting song. One of the best lyricists in the business. 

9) Gruff Rhys - Seeking New Gods: I'd like a new Furries album as much as anyone, but if Rhys is going to put out solo stuff this good then everyone can take their time. A bit more rock action on this release compared to others, which is nice. 

10) Wednesday - Twin Plagues: My favorite shoegaze album of the year marries guitar squalls with some Roger Moutenot-esque wistful indie and alt-country.

I also enjoyed:

Ellende - Triebe: They, uh, got bored during the pandemic and revisited an album from 2014. These reworked versions are better. Much better. Loud-quiet-loud dynamics where post-rock meets atmospheric black metal.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - G-d's Pee AT STATE'S END!: They almost sound happy towards the end of this one, which is odd. Look around, what's to be happy about???

Koldovstvo - Ни царя, ни бога: I think they're Russian, and of all the atmospheric, doomy metal I listened to this year, this album is the most atmospheric, thanks to chanting I don't understand. It's pay what you want, so get lost in it. 

Uncommon Weather - The Reds, Pinks, and Purples: Your sad-bastard-bedroom-pop album of the year. 

Violet Cold - Empire of Love: Progressive both politically and musically, this is nominally a black metal album, but has a banjo lead on "Working Class" and chopped and screwed Houston-style rapping on another track. Dementedly joyous fun

Singles: Chvrches and Robert Smith, How Not to Drown; Tyler the Creator, Lumberjack; Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen, Like I Used To; Kanye West featuring Jay Electronica and Jadakiss, Jesus Lord pt 2; Parquet Courts, Walking at a Downtown Pace; Ducks Ltd, 18 Cigarettes. 

Cheers to: 

Your Old Droog, whose Space Bar is probably my favorite rap album of the year, plus... he's Jewish! The Alchemist had a pretty good year on the production side of things, too. 

Quicksand, for being my first indoor concert since early 2020, and for "Phase 90," easily the best post-hardcore song about trying to get into a book. 

Wet Leg, for dropping two clever singles, with a The-Breeders-meet-The-Violent-Femmes vibe.

Des Demonas, for their 17-minute Cure for Love EP. All killer, no filler.

What a great year it was for rauchbier, that smoky, slightly sweet collection of styles where malted barley is dried via wood fires, thus picking up some of the smoke flavor. Both Dovetail's (IL) and Suarez's (NY) excellent versions were available because those breweries ship to DC, and Port City's seasonal Rauch Marzen was excellent, as usual. At one point in my fridge I had those, plus Von Trapp's Torsten (VT), Wolf's Ridge Buchenrauch (OH), Halfway Crooks Smoked Helles (GA), Fox Farm's The Cabin Smoked Helles, Notch Rauchbier (MA), Montclair and Mack's collaboration Fume (NJ), and Commonwealth's Grodziskie-style Puff (VA). What a time to be alive.

If you're looking for an introduction, maybe Wheatland Spring will make another batch of Reunion, their "smoke-kissed" lager that is a training wheels version of a rauchbier. 

Beers, the locals:

Pic via Dynasty

I'm not going to choose between Dynasty's 838 Irish-style Dry Stout, perfectly to style, and Other Half/Rothaus Zipfeltännle Pilsner for my favorite beers of the year. Guinness is kinda sorta local now, but the former is your replacement. I wish it were year-round. As for the latter, if you told me this was the best lager ever made in the District I wouldn't argue and I hope Other Half's Ivy City location makes it again. I've been lobbying a few of the brewers already. Elsewhere, in alphabetical order...

3 Stars Munich-style Dunkel - There's nothing flashy about it, just a beer you can drink three of from one of the newer lager programs in the area. 

Dogfish Head Barrel-Aged 120 Minute IPA - I can't hang with the original, but this IPA/barleywine/old ale gets mellowed by blending a Sam Adams Utopia barrel-aged version and a Sagamore Spirit rye barrel version. A great beer for a bottle share.

Elder Pine 10 Plato Pivo - Elder Pine's yearly entry into the best beers in the area; hopefully in 2022 I can have it on a side pour in their brewery. 

Other Half Jumbo Slice Double IPA - I was let down by a lot of the hazies coming out of this IPA factory for the first few months. This one, canned on 12/30/2020, tasted the most like those coming out of their original NYC location. 

Silver Branch/Right Proper Edge of Time Rice Lager - Two of my favorites making an adjunct lager together? I'm all in! 

Streetcar 82 Don't Throw Away That Xmas Tree! - A late contender, this IPA is brewed with 1.5 pounds of spruce tips per barrel (!!!), creating a piney, herbal, dank IPA. 

Triple Crossing Precursor Hallertau Blanc - A German lager base and then egregiously hopped with Hallertau Blanc for a nice kick of white wine and herbal notes, all while retaining that crispness you know and love. 

Wheatland Spring East Crib Lager - Is this the best Crib? Maybe!

Further afield: 

Keeping Together - We Are Not the Counterculture: Pretty cool of Anxo to bring these in. I'm partial to this 6% ABV mixed fermentation saison brewed with wildflower honey, but like Pokemon you should catch 'em all. Anxo is also selling Garden Path's The Spontaneous Ferment, a blend of saisons aged up to 3 years, continuing the ex-Jester King theme. 

Rothaus Marzen - The best of the 'fests this year. Glad it made an appearance locally. 

Tripping Animals One Tom Triple IPA - I don't usually put hazies on this list, let alone a triple one, but this beer stopped a few of us in our tracks at a beer share. Orange juice (from Citra), lime (that's Motueka), a little dankness,... really well put together. 

Troeg's When in Doubt Helles Lager - I bought a six-pack, drank a can, then bought a case.

Wild East Little Patience - I bought two cans, drank one, then came back for a six-pack of this 10 Plato Czech-style Pils. 

Here's hoping I'm able to get on a train, with headphones, and work in person at some point in the new year. As of now I don't see any signs of having a commute in early 2022, which means more time for  beer, to start. We'll see. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Resilience in all its Forms: Libraries in the Anthropocene

Resilience has multiple meanings and multiple uses across disciplines, and the portability of this term can cause confusion. This is certainly the case for Rory Litwin, who organized a colloquium, Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene, the weekend of May 13 and 14, 2017. Litwin and other conference organizers, whom I thank for their hard work in putting together a necessary and fascinating weekend of discussion, accepted a panel from Scarlet Galvan, Eamon Tewell, and myself, in which we explore connections between uses of "resilience." We are not the first group of scholars to attempt this. Indeed, the American Library Association's Center for the Future of Libraries notes connections between resilience as a preparation for coming climate, economic, and societal disruptions as well as something that may be asked of individuals. 

This crude schematic may shed some light on my thinking. 

The Center's webpage for Resilience approvingly cites a National Academies paper on the topic (PDF), quoting "Resilient communities would plan and build in ways that would reduce disaster losses, rather than waiting for a disaster to occur and paying for it afterward," and a Rockerfeller Foundation initiative that defines resilience as "the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience." 

I do not view it as a stretch to note that in that first quote the onus is on communities to become resilient and any inability to do so would ultimately be the fault of the community. "Why were you not resilient enough," one might ask following an exogenous shock. The second quote is explicit that people, as individuals, are expected to be resilient in the face of sudden changes. For many workers, capitalism itself is the exogenous shock, an imposition from above that is to be, at best, negotiated and mitigated on unequal terms. 

“Libraries may find themselves competing for funding with resilient programs or initiatives, especially in an increasingly limited pool of government spending,” notes the Center. The competition over scarce resources will, as it always has been, be balanced on the back of workers. The rich can escape to New Zealand and ride out a climate apocalypse, while the poor of today are labeled “looters” for surviving hurricanes, or freeze to death or die of carbon monoxide poisoning in “once in a century” weather events that now happen once a decade. 

“If organized in advance, and with training in advance, the library can be a center for improving community resilience,” notes The U.S. National Commission on Library and Information Sciences. What is not mentioned is the staffing and funding necessary to prepare. Library workers will be asked to do more with less, as they were during Hurricane Katrina (PDF) in 2005, and to, as Robin James puts it, perform resilience

Though Litwin and conference organizers accepted our panel, Litwin’s since-deleted twitter account singled out my portion of the presentation in particular, noting resentment over using the “conference as an opportunity to present an unrelated paper that critiqued a central idea in environmentalism by a kind of insinuation of a conceptual connection without spelling one out.” These tweets from the Litwin Books account have been deleted as well. Litwin’s critique of our presentation came to a head during a question and answer period, viewable at about the 1:31:00 mark.


Evidently this answer to Litwin’s question-cum-comment was unsatisfactory, given that three-and-a-half years later it became a topic of debate on social media. None of us owes Litwin a more in-depth response; we produced this scholarship and stand by it.

The anthropocene is marked by humans changing a planet, terraforming it with concrete roads, dams, buildings, embattlements, and other structures, as well as altering the planet’s atmosphere through deforestation and greenhouse gas production, among other means. Rising sea levels, changing climates, and increased resource scarcity are some of the products of this epoch. I do not think it is possible to separate what is being asked of communities, to be resilient, from what capital asks of workers. For both, we are to take what is coming, to take reactive measures that are sold to us as proactive ones. The resiliency that communities must show in the face of climate change and other disruptions cannot be separated from the capitalism that has caused these changes and brought about the anthropocene.

Elsewhere on this topic: Academic Libraries and the False Promises of Resiliency and Scarlet’s A short revisiting of resilience