10 Ways to Stay Hip

A weekly reference on cultural production to keep your mind fresh and your limbs loose.

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Okay, I’m sorry, this list is a day late, but sometimes when you’re in Los Angeles, heavy drinking gets in the way of blogging. I’ve only been in town a few short hours, so in fact this Top Ten will have little to do with this pubescent metropolis, and actually, there’s still a couple things to mention from my trip last week to New York. Sorry, LA; New York still wins.

10. Community Service, Indie 103.1, Fridays 10pm – 12 midnight
Alright, here’s one cool thing in LA. Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan, otherwise known as the Crystal Method, have become possibly America’s most knowledgeable purveyors of progressive breaks. Their Friday night show manages to push the envelope with new sounds while keeping it friendly with the goofy, geeky banter of the hosts.

9. The Ponys“1209 Seminary” (from Turn the Lights Out on Matador)
Robert Christgau seemed to kind of dis the new Ponys album (but, wow, it still gets three stars, like everything else in Rolling Stone) and while I don’t think this Chicago four-piece is necessarily rewriting the rule book, their Sonic Youth-y alt-rock reminds me of why I got into radio in the first place.

8. Paul Wall “I’m Throwed” (from Get Money, Stay True on Atlantic)

While this doesn’t compare to the majestic “Sittin’ Sideways,” the Houston rapper is still making weird, weird tunes. Is that a car alarm? What is that? How do I get to be a hip-hop superstar so I can use, like, truck-backing-up noises for a smash hit single?

7. Mark Ronson “Stop Me” (from the forthcoming album Version)
This UK DJ and producer has made a name by covering current hits in quirky, often soulful styles, and while this version of the Smiths’ 1987 swan song won’t replace the original, it does recontextualize it as a kind of “new standard,” reminding us of how spine-tinglingly brilliant the Smiths were even as they were falling apart. “I still love you/Only slightly less than I used to” – God almighty, and this is like a third-tier Smiths song!!

6. Charlotte Hatherley“I Want You to Know” (from the forthcoming album The Deep Blue)
If you ask me, Ash were one of the most underrated bands of the last 15 years. Thanks for asking. Now their guitarist emerges from the background with a sound that’s slightly more mature, somewhere between Belly and the Pixies. Nice.

5. Basement Jaxx“Make Me Sweat”
While last year’s Crazy Itch Radio was a bit of a disappointment (and with many critics saying Timbaland is doing their thing better than they are) the Jaxx remind us of their genius by tossing off this throwaway single, a straightforward, stomping number that throws the ball back in Timbo’s court.

4. 30 Rock (Thursdays on NBC)
I put a bunch of the most recent episodes on the iPod for my flight back from NYC, and it almost made the overcrowded, delayed, crying-child-filled flight bearable. It seemed like the show got off to a bit of a rough start, but at this point, the most bizarre, hilarious stuff comes rolling out effortlessly – the one where they’re trying and repeatedly failing to defuse an apparently anti-American slipup by one of their cast (whoops, swastika sparklers!) continually shocked me with what they were getting away with.

3. Jeff Wall, MOMA, New York (through May 14th)
This exhibit of the artist’s large-scale back-lit photographs of oddly staged landscapes and weird “dead zones” are clearly modern, but strangely elegant, and after walking through the video-wall overload of Times Square, unexpectedly traditionalist. While I’m not enough of an art student to know the paintings he’s often referencing, the scenes depict ugliness beautifully, like 1993’s A Sudden Gust of Wind, where pink papers fly into the air over a polluted canal.

2. DJ Khaled“We Takin’ Over”
Via Sasha Frere-Jones’ blog, it’s a South florida rapper with track that sounds like just like how I imagine Florida feels like (I’ve never been) – an uptempo freestyle beat, and over the top of it, a high-speed slippery vocal that makes it all sound so, so easy.

1. LCD Soundsystem, live at the Bowery, New York City, Saturday, March 31st
Is James Murphy the indie rock James Brown? Like the late funk soul brother’s music, LCD’s spare funkiness requires absolute precision, and while Murphy comes off like a geeky, easygoing slacker, he’s obviously a brilliant vocalist and musician, as well as a whip-cracking band leader. Stepping over for a stage-left drum-pad solo during “Tribulations,” he hit the syncopated claps with such exactitude, I thought it was just a drum machine at first; and his goofy yelps during “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” were always right on the octave. He said he had the flu, but I never noticed.

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