The troubling history of the crack epidemic in Lower Manhattan: A video

In digging through my storage unit over the holidays, I came across a VHS tape featuring a set of news stories from 1987 about a protest march in the NoHo area of NYC.

Residents were protesting the ‘invasion’ of crackheads and crack dealers into their once safe neighborhood. They ‘didnt feel safe’ and ‘these people should be locked up’ They demanded a larger police presence and the arrest of addicts and dealers alike.

Knowing what we know about the racial sources of the crack epidemic, I find this to be a severely depressing glimpse into the many ways that the powers that be manage to pit us against each other and ignore systemic oppression, as well as the state of race relations in NYC in the 1980s.

NoHo is now one of the most chic, sought after and expensive blocks in the whole city. I should know, I grew up there (and you can see me in some of the news footage as a kid on a bike). I remember very distinctly feeling quite ambivalent about the protest, as even back then I felt that addiction should be treated as a medical issue.

I hope this video is enlightening.

Music I’m Digging Friday: new Freelance Whales!

There’s something really important about having a balance of production and consumption in life.  Whenever I find myself too much on either side of that ratio, my life takes a stagnant turn.  Thusfar in 2012, between Deeper Context needing a bit of a revamp and our move to Atlanta taking up a lot of my mental energies, the balance has taken a turn for the worse.  I know I’m not the most prolific blogger, but I’d like to be sharing more with you.

I used to do a music podcast called Sounds From My Drawers, which some of y’all may have listened to.

As with many things, life started getting in the way of that production, and it turned out to not be as fun as I thought it would be.  I’m thinking about bringing it back with a partner, since the back-and-forth of music geeks is something that can make for compelling listening.

In the meantime, for the sake of people who sometimes ask me for new music recommendations, and in order to start putting more content out there into the world (which I’ve slacked on lately, and am really feeling the effects of), this is the first of what I’m committing to do as a weekly post.  Behold, “Music I’m Digging Friday!” (because Music Monday is too much alliteration for me).

This Week: Freelance Whales – “Spitting Image

I’m a big fan of a certain brand of indie pop, which is typically filed under ‘baroque pop’.  Music that fills the room, with delicate, unusual-for-pop-music instrument combinations (things like cello, violin, flute, etc) is a welcome respite from the slick robotic pop of the 2000s and 2010s (not that I’m not also a fan of robotic pop, of course).

Bands like Camera Obscura, The Helio Sequence, The Format (now better known as Fun.), and yes even Florence + The Machine (their first album, anyway) are never far from my iPod.

Freelance Whales is in a similar vein, featuring la-la-y overdubbed-to-sound-like-a-small-amateur-choir backing vocals and joyful melodies.

This song would be great for a giddy montage.  Their second album comes out in October.

This Track Discovered via:
Learn More: Official Site | Facebook | SoundCloud

My Top 10 Albums of 2011

I’ve done my “top 10 albums of the year” every year since 1999 (Ever since we made it an official tradition at TVT Records).  It’s a great way to keep track of and remember the music that made a difference to me throughout my life.

Of course, a few problems arise whenever one is making lists, and I’d like to list some of those here:

  • Inevitably, as others release their lists, I will find myself panicked around December 15th when there are an additional 40-50 albums that I’ve never heard of that others say were their favorites that I have to listen to before finalizing my list.
  • No matter what I do, I will realize 5 minutes after I hit “send” that I forgot an album I loved in favor of one I really liked but haven’t gone back and listened to that much.
  • In February I will hear an album I completely missed out on but would have been on my list.

I keep all my lists here on the site (yes, RSS readers, you will have to actually click through), and I’ve helpfully created Spotify playlists for all the albums that are available for each year (because I love you!).

So without further ado, here’s the final Top 10 of 2011 list. (you can see the unedited version in the sidebar)

You can also Listen on Spotify.

In no particular order:

A.A. Bondy – Believers (Fat Possum) – Late contender, but totally glad I didn’t miss this one.  Moody indie/garagey rock and balladry from the former Verbena singer.
Marcin Wasilewski Trio – Faithful (ECM) – Delightful melancholic european jazz.
Frivolous – Meteorology (Cadenza) – Clever and playful tropical jazzy IDM-y house music
Dustin O’Halloran – Lumiere (FatCat) – Mournful, lovely, cinematic piano + string ensemble (featuring the ACME Ensemble, who guested on the latest Grizzly Bear and Owen Pallett records) from the composer of Marie Antoinette
Peter Bradley Adams – Between Us (Mishara) – My favorite guy-with-guitar album of the year.
Ezekiel Honig – Folding In On Itself (Type) – Organic, found sounds, intimate, rhythmic, pulsing, wood-y (not wooden). My favorite from the uniformly excellent Type label (sorry, Nils Frahm)
Noah and the Whale – Last Night on Earth (Mercury) – My favorite ecstatic pop/indie/rock album of the year (think random strings and brass). Wears its Tom Petty influence on its sleeve.
Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky) – Just epic. The “biggest” record here.
Ellie Goulding – Lights (Polydor) – My favorite pure dance-pop album of the year.  Great synths (sorry chillwave).
Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow (ANTI-) – The sexiest she’s ever been. The sexiest Stephen Fry has ever been. There’s a song about seducing and bedding a snowman.  Yeah.
Mountains – Air Museum (Thrill Jockey) – The best electronic droney post-rock album of the year.
Ari Hest – Sunset over Hope Street – His best since “Someone to Tell”, but i didn’t end up going back to it much
Dela – Translation Lost (Drink Water Music) – My favorite hip-hop album of the year
Sarah Jarosz – Follow Me Down (Sugar Hill) – Who thought that a bluegrass album could make the list? Not I, but the songwriting is super strong.
Does It Offend You, Yeah – Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You (Cooking Vinyl) – Great stoopid party album. (Sorry, Justice)
Starfucker – Reptilians (Polyvinyl) – Another 80s-synth influenced pop album. Very fun but didn’t have the replay value to keep it on the list)
Arnaud Rebotini – Someone Gave Me Religion (Blackstrobe Records) – 1/2 of Black Strobe delivers one of the most interesting IDM-y house records of the year. Worth it for the 13 minute shiny

M83 – Like a “Kim and Jessie” covers record that just won’t end.

Bill Hicks: The Master

Bill Hicks
Image via Wikipedia

Bill Hicks was (and is still) one of the sharpest minds in comedy of all time.  From religion to politics to drugs to sex, his acid tongue deconstructed the hypocrisy and conveyed a sharp anger about life that was just as thought-provoking as it was hilarious.

Here’s Bill at the peak of his powers on “One Night Stand”

[via The Naked Gord Program]

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