Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Da Club

There was a time when I viewed my annual year-in-review post with a kind of disconnected irony. I did it slyly. Wryly. Because it was easy and expected. But, somewhere along the line, all that changed. And I blame YTCracker.

You see, last year I recognized YT for his creative output, his dedication to craft and his undeniable hustle, and it's hard to go back to casual yearly observances after crowning a "Nerd o' the Year" like that.

Thus, from the very earliest moments of 2009, I have been taking notes. I have, to turn a phrase, been making a list and checking it twice, so as to discern who's been nerdy and nice. And this year's seen a number of notable ups, as well as a few downs.

Early in January, that bastion of mystical geekery, the Wizrocklopedia, changed hands. Lizz stepped down to pursue other artistic avenues, leaving Dinah and Freya to captain the ship. Suffice it to say they have kept the old 'Pedia spirit alive, while summarily injecting their own unique energies. Likewise, my pal Anthony launched a staggering array of VGM projects from his own Game Music 4 All, before eventually re-launching the site itself as a bigger, better entity.

Heavy-hitters like YT and Random continued to spit fire with nerdy projects all their own throughout '09, while artists like Shael Riley, Schaffer the Darklord, Epic-1 and Dual Core released what can undeniably be termed the finest albums of their respective careers. And lest we forget the amazing showing from Wheelie Cyberman's first post-Optimus project Supercommuter.

Musically-speaking, 2009 was a banner year for nerds across the board! For the community itself, however, things were rocky at best.

While events like Nerdapalooza, Nerd Invasion and PAX sought to further strengthen nerd solidarity, we still managed to busy ourselves with petty in-fighting. Even as mc chris once again found himself warming to the nerdcore audience (if not the term itself), MC Lars proudly proclaimed that nerdcore was dead. And while we worked ourselves into a collective lather regarding the nature, future and overall health of nerdcore-proper, misfits at large similarly dissected the culture itself. Yes, my friends, 2009 will long be remembered by our kind as the year that many decided that geeks and nerds had become two wholly different animals.

As such, 2009 also came to be the year in which I finally realized the transient, fragile nature of our nomenclature. Rather than attempt to use nerd culture as a galvanizing force, an inspired outreach engineered to embrace our fellow dorks, we reduced it to a set of buzzwords and house rules. Nerdcore wasn't a style that one could apply at will to his music or even a catch-all reference employed to proudly display one's quirky intelligence; it was a genre that you either fully bought into for an easy aesthetic crutch, or avoided like the plague so as not to be associated with those deemed less talented than yourself. Nerd and geek, likewise, couldn’t suffice as equal self-identifiers for the champions of overzealous passion, and instead became a pair of ill-tempered camps: one a slave to the mainstream's pet "geek chic" and the other a casteless cadre of social inepts.

In short, while we moved forward with music, this year we took a step backward with regard to heavy-handed bullshit doctrine.

And while I could easily preach on the ills of nerd-on-nerd violence – including my own unfortunate contributions to the blight – for another thousand words, I will instead jump from my soapbox to extend a congratulatory hand to those who truly wowed me in 2009.

As I said, I've kept a mental tally of geeky highpoints over the past 12 months, and, though it surely belies my obsessive-compulsive nature, I have seen an odd pattern emerge from my findings. In fact, I found a distinct thread that runs through many of my favorite artists and releases of 2009.

Surely no one can deny that a banner year was had by UK chiptuner Superpowerless. Not only was he the winner of an illustrious MTV/Vodaphone contest in early March that afforded him the opportunity to have a single and a music video professionally produced, but Oliver also went on to expand his musical horizons further into the realm of geeky folk-rock. Still, somehow, amongst public touring and personal experimentation, Superpowerless managed to continually release a positively staggering array of new tunes. Truly he is one of the most prolific individuals in our midst!

The same can be said for the mysterious artist that we know as KABUTO THE PYTHON, who, much like YTCracker back in '08, supplemented his own phenomenal yearly output with a nigh ridiculous number of cameos. Under various guises – Beefy once famously referred to him as "the Hannah Montana of nerdcore" – KABUTO has been involved, on one level or another, with nearly every notable geeky hip-hop release of the year.

And while established acts like Superpowerless and KABUTO have continued to rip shit up, notable newcomer Dr. Awkward quickly proved himself more than capable of spitting fire on par with nerdcore's best and brightest. His Next Gen EP was, to put it bluntly, a thing of beauty, a release as literate and self-aware as it was fiercely powerful. As a result, the listener response was equally astounding, on par with the rapidly-developing ZeaLouS1 fandom of '06.

Though the more astute among you have already connected the dots, let me explicitly state that the common theme here is Scrub Club. Over the past year, Scrub Club Records has shown remarkable growth and foresight, along the way bringing each of the aforementioned trio into the fold as well as well as longtime favorites like The Ranger, Benjamin Bear and Z1 himself. But Scrub Club has done so much more.

By embracing Superpowerless, the net label's first distinctly non-hip-hop artist, MadHatter and company sent a message that the Club was open to trailblazers of all striped, regardless of established musical dogma. If it is tuneful and nerdy, Scrub Club welcomes it with open arms.

Most recently, Hatter brought on board Seattle's Southside – winner of my own coveted See-Motherfuckers-I-Told-You-They-Was-Dope Award (originally bestowed to the legendary Schaffer the Darklord) – via an online contest designed to help rappers hone their craft. This, it seems, further elevated the Scrub Club mission by using its already community-centered focus to foster give-and-take between new and existing artists. In essence, they abandoned the a who is best mindset still plaguing much of the musical community at large in favor of asking: how can we all benefit from each other's specialized strengths and experiences?

For years I have spoken about cross-pollination, about the power of true community, artistic outreach and shared ideas, and I am thrilled to say that these are the ideals I see reflected in Scrub Club. Though their methods may seem strange – the "no dough" motto seems to be particularly disconcerting to some outsiders – they have coalesced into a genuine musical family, and I anxiously anticipate what's to come lumbering from the cornfields in 2010.

Along Came a Spider

I should, by rights, be wrapping up my year-end post this afternoon, but instead I have paused to pass on a nerdy public service announcement.

Yesterday I heard some whisperings on Twitter regarding Jeanne Robinson, wife of sci-fi author Spider Robinson, and her delicate health. I didn't actually know the extent of the Geek Family Robinson's woes until my pal Church pointed me toward this post from Matthew Sanborn Smith, which spelled out the problems and what the StarShipSofa online literary community is doing to try to alleviate some of them.

Matthew, for those who missed it, recently gave me and Church a nice shout-out on his podcast, Beware the Hairy Mango, and StarShipSofa is very much a geek lit hub in its own right. In short, this is another case of us simply trying to help our own.

Here's the skinny from Church:

SF author Spider Robinson and his wife have encountered some difficulties. From Spider's blog:

Earlier his year a brilliant surgeon, Dr. Andresz Busczowski, helped Jeanne Robinson beat back a rare and virulent form of biliary cancer. But it’s so rare even he can’t say how much time he‘s bought her, how soon it might recur—and her latest blood tests have been so discouraging they’ve now decided she needs to start chemotherapy as soon as possible. Besides the prescription drugs to counteract the chemotherapy, she needs special therapies and supplements, counseling, and extensive diet and lifestyle changes, to reduce her stress level and the strain on her liver to as close to zero as possible. All those things are expensive...and like many artists today the Robinsons were already running on fumes financially.

By way of Matthew S. Smith, we learn that StarShipSofa, a podcast that has featured Spider's work in the past, has put together an ebook by Larry Santoro (another SSS favorite) with 100% of the proceeds going to the Robinsons. And it's only five bucks. The catch? You have to order it before the year is out. So you should go do that. Sooner is better...

Disclaimer: SSS has put out a rare Z/Church collaboration in the distant past.

So there you have it. Considering some of the things my own clan has been through over the past 12 months, projects like this hit especially close to home, and if you've got a spare 5 bucks I would consider it a personal favor if you'd use it to pick up Santoro's charity ebook. There's only about 12 hours left before the deal disappears forever, so act now.

Think of how good you'll feel knowing that you ending 2009 by supporting nerds in need!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nerd News in Brief

Why the hell am I the only person using the "geek rock" tag? Seriously. Church recently mentioned that if you use it as a filter it makes it looks like Technorati has a damn Hipster, please! category!

I think that's my New Year's resolution: get other people using the phrase geek rock.

Come on, say it with me now. Geek. Rock.

Doesn't that feel good?
  • Nekkid Nerds: For some of you, there is no higher form of art than a group of nudists in Star Trek themed body paint. Those people are encouraged to click this link. Though probably not while they're at work.
  • Nerd Girl, I Don't Deserve You: You know what we haven’t talked about in a while? geek girls. Thankfully, Autostraddle is there to pick up the slack. As Church points out, blogger Taylor manages to work in the usuals (Tina Fey and Felicia Day) as well as some new candidates (like Rachel Maddow).
  • Very Stimulating: Also from Church comes this link the Seattle Times recent interview with geeky hip-hop pioneer Paul Barman. Read up and get schooled.
  • Exterminate!: Meanwhile, Matt has found a new hero. UK crafter Rob Bosher has built his own life-size Dalek. Powered by an electric wheelchair, this bad boy works via remote control and can even bark poorly digitized orders at unwitting humans.
  • Totally ReTARDIS: Tracy V. Wilson over at How Stuff Works has uncovered a great secret. I am talking some Dan Brown shit here, folks. Apparently Wesley Crusher is a Time Lord!
  • Official Beer of the Empire: What's weirder than a Doctor Who-related Star Trek revlation? Storm Trooper-themed beer.
  • Gabe, Tycho & Dave: Ever wanted to create your own web comic? Well, Dave "The Knave" White has got you covered. His recent session at Podcamp Pittsburgh covers all the basics, especially with regards to technical, behind-the-scenes issues.
  • Because Canadians are Just Better: Sure you've seen nerdy burlesque shows and geeky stand-up routines, but have you seen them in the same place? If you have, you probably live in Toronto. Or you are Schaffer the Darklord.
  • Las Mascaras: Speaking of Schaffer, Coolzey, who guested on STD's recent release, is preparing to drop his new album The Honey late next month. In the meantime, peep the video for "Look." It features ladies and luchadores. And lady luchadores!
  • Paranoid Android: Lately I've been thinking of upgrading to an Android phone. Turns out that our own MC Frontalot was an early G1 adopter, and he recently sang the praises of the device over at Android and Me.
  • Too Many Summers: Wizard Rock aficionado Dinah has made public a demo by WRock group Standing In Line. The release, originally handed out at Wrockstock in very limited quantities, is for personal listening only, so download it and add some more magic to your collection.
  • Science, Every Day: Did you know my boy funky49 has become the official nerdcore rapper of science? I mean, after repping MOSI and now Fermilab, he's really only got one place to go: outer space!
  • Hope Aboard My Starship: My high school chum Brooks directed me to this Gizmodo piece from Joseph Shoer, a Ph.D. candidate in aerospace engineering, about the physics of space battles. It's a lengthy and fascinating geek out concerning theoretical combat.
  • In Space: Earlier this month, Game Music 4 All Records released its very first EP. Challenge!, by Scottish chiptune musician Comptroller, is an outer space adventure aboard an LSDJ-fueled rocket ship. Come along.
  • On the Fly: On the subject of chiptunes, nerdy ally Jonny Nero is positively aflutter about the NESynth virtual synthesizer for the iPhone. Here's why.
  • To the Nines: And I can't talk about chip music without plugging the latest from the great Videogame Orchestra. VGO's Werk is available from Treble Death System for the super-low price of nothing. Get on that shit!
  • Intervention: I would like to applaud Mike Damanskis for finally bringing Yoshi's bulimia to light. He needs our support now more than ever.
  • Grassroots: Excited for Mega Man 10? Of course you are. But think of how much more exciting it would be if the game featured our old pal Mega Ran! It just so happens that there's an online petition for that.
  • Heart and Soul: MC Lars cares about your health and well being. That's why he released "Be the Beat" in association with the American Heart Association. Can a song teach you CPR? Give it a listen and decide for yourself.
  • Romantical: Face it; you need more romance in your life. A hard copy of Ultraklystron's Romance Language 2, that is. But he's only selling them through year's end, so act fast!
  • Mash-tastic: It wouldn't be December without a bevy of mash-up best-ofs. Currently, my two faves are DJ Earworm's annual meta-mash "United States of Pop" and the Best of Bootie 2009 collection. Collect 'em all!
  • Great White Wyrm: Hipster, please! would like to officially welcome the first of what will surely be many I Fight Dragons tattoos. Big ups to Ben Ruberg for going all fanboy on our collective ass. IFD fans will also want to peep Chronicles of the Nerds' recent video interview with Brian and crew.
  • You Can't Kill a Symbol: In other YouTubery, Church tells me that Key of Awesome has put out a musical interpretation of The Dark Knight. Alfred is the shit.
  • Stars and Angels: Closing out the final Nerd News in Brief of 2009 is a bit of Star Wars music. It's "Shut Up & Party" by Pseudo Rebels, and it’s a club banger that harnesses the power of the Force.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 80: The Uplift Mofo Party Planner

In all honesty, I am rather glad to see 2009 go. It has been a truly nasty year. An outright bastard!

But I will concede that it has seen its fair share of top-shelf music. Surely no one can deny the subtle charms of Songs from the Pit or good-natured fan service that is Jokey Jingles.

The great music has come fast and hard in 2009, and, try as I might, a gaggle of excellent songs managed to elude me until this, the last moments of the year. So sit back and enjoy a collection of year-ending ditties sure to please.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 80: The Uplift Mofo Party Planner [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 57.9 MB Running Time: 1:03:15

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Should old acquaintance be forgot, but theme songs remembered forever.

Track 1: Southside – "Runnin' Low"

Looking forward to 2010, I am positively giddy imagining what will come from the Scrub Club camp!

Z's 1st interlude: "Though admittedly not as low as the late Patrick Swayze."

2009 = weirdest celebrity deaths ever!

Track 2: One Republic – "Secrets (feat. Former Fat Boys)"

Apparently the YouTube vid for this track was pulled down right after $ucksex posted it. Not sure how a free fan remix is a threat to one's intellectual copyright, but what the fuck do I know.

Track 3: The Office dialog / YTCracker – "Underground Sewer"

Chrono Nurga is another amazing freebie from the Mighty YTCracker. Go snag it.

Track 4: Philip T. Ridlin – "Mario Kart Love Song"

This track has been sitting in my collection for months. I think it was the first song I tagged specifically for this episode.

Track 5: Schaffer the Darklord – "The Other Devil"

Manslaughterer is an amazing LP, and this is easily my favorite track on the whole album.

Track 6: Heroes dialog / Elfonso – "Parody Us"

Big up to my brother T.Y.T. the White Shinobi for capturing that Heroes clip for me. Where would we be without our friends?

Track 7: Shael Riley and the Double Ice Backfire – "Asian Kids Have All the Best Moves (Solo Piano)"

There's something about Shael's songwriting that has always appealed to me. After months of soul searching I have decided it hinges on his lyrical vantage point. Shael always writes in the voice of exquisitely flawed humanity.

Track 8: Saskrotch – "Warming Up"

Seriously, if I gave an award for best album title, Saskrotch would win.

Track 9: Supercommuter– "Itty Bitty Pigeons (Klopfenpop Mix)"

Much love to both Klopfenpop and Supercommuter for letting me include this joint. I can not wait to hear more such remixes!

Z"s 2nd interlude: "But enough of my sentimental melancholy."

Sorry if my interludes are a bit of a downer this time around.

Track 10: The Reborn Identity – "Here Comes Your Man, Finally"

CeCe Peniston has the word "penis" right there in her name. I'm just sayin'.

Track 11: Uncle Monsterface – "Like a Prayer"

I have been on Marty and Dan to get me a studio version of this song for ages!

Track 12: Allister – "Fraggle Rawk"

Between Matt Ryd, Kanye and Allister, there is a lot of Chi-Town in this episode.

Track 13: Dale Chase – "Sniped"

Truly the Queen of the Douche Nukers and inventor of the Atheist Cock Punch deserves no less.

Track 14: My Parents' Favorite Music – "ALLYOURBASEMENT"

MPFM fill a very important niche in the nerdcore ecosystem. Steffo makes enjoyable, smile-inducing music like no other.

Track 15: Carl Sagan – "Glorious Dawn (Cosmos Remix feat. Stephen Hawking)"

This Symphony of Science project was that rare YouTube sensation that genuinely lived up to the hype.

Track 16: Matt Ryd – "Poker Face"

Matt joins Shael and Glenn Case in the holy triad of solo singer-songwriters that make me painfully envious of their talent.

Z's final interlude: "So thanks for that."

It sounds cliché, but I genuinely mean it; having you guys listen to and comment on this podcast really adds a new dimension to the experience. It makes it positively therapeutic for me.

Track 17: djBC – "Everybody's Everyday Girl" / A message from YTCracker
YTCracker is all about the science. Even now he is in his secret lab cooking up a cure for wackness.

I've still got a proper year-end post in the works, but let me go ahead and preemptively thank everyone who helped make Radio Free Hipster possible this year.

Thanks to Antisoc, my longtime host, supporter and friend. And much love to all those who guested on this show (like my boys Matt and Church) and who asked me to sit in on theirs (What up, Jarvis!)

The most sincerest of thank yous go out to all the artists that let me share their songs on the podcast, especially those who went out of their way to send me the new hotness. And I graciously bow to all those who didn't clear me using their tunes, but were still nice enough not to sue me.

And, once again, I really wanna say how much I appreciate all of y'all listening, commenting, requesting songs and suggesting new artists. The internet is a big, scary place, but you always make me feel welcome and appreciated.

You truly kept me safe, sane and entertained throughout a turbulent 2009.