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  • Top 50 Albums of 2017

    Feature Article, List, Music Comments

    On January 8, 2018 • By

     

    What an insane year. Looking back on 2017, I doubt it will make anyone’s “Top 10 Years of All Time” list (and if it does, you should probably cut off all communication with them). You know why and I know why. It was chaos with the worst parts of humanity being normalized day-by-day. But as 2016 ended, there was a chorus of folks speaking out about how this time period of extreme pressure could produce some great art. And dammit, they were right.

    Now, with regards to music, how much did the events of 2016 (and part of this year) influence the albums released in 2017? It’s  hard to say but it FEELS like it had at least some sort of measurable effect (I imagine 2018’s crop of albums will be far more up front about it). Regardless, some fantastic art was created here, no matter where the inspiration came from. And man, was there a LOT of great music made in 2017. In fact, there is such an abundance that this was the first year where I pretty much had to throw in the towel with the idea of listening to EVERY GREAT ALBUM released. In the past, it was more or less manageable – meaning, I could at least listen to all of the “big ones” and check out highly praised new recommendations. But this time, it was too much and that is a great problem to have.

    It’s a bit of an annoyance when I hear people say “there’s no more good music being made” because it reveals more about that person than the actual realm of music we’re experiencing right now. You only have to barely dig to find some jewels here. Not only are there the standard music reviews you can find in magazines (you still buy those, right?) and at online websites, but Spotify and Tidal have some amaaaaazing playlists that constantly introduce you to incredible artists you’ve never heard of before. Sure, the radio isn’t much help these days with finding your new favorite singer, but the internet has you covered.

    I’m not sure why, but this year gave me a feeling of flexibility and fluidity. Perhaps it’s the constantly evolving nature of our culture, the whirlwind barrage of news or the shifting centers of power when it comes to technology; nothing seems set in stone. Things can be changed on a whim. Empires can be toppled overnight. Heroes can emerge in a flash. With that in mind, I lifted my completionist urges to listen to every.single.album and let it all flow around me. This means that, yes, there are some big albums I haven’t listened to yet – some of which are in the top 10 lists of big music sites. When I get to them, I may edit this list below.

    So anyways, here it is – my 50 favorite albums of 2017.

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    50.) Migos – Culture

    49.) Omar Souleyman – To Syria, With Love

    48.) James Vincent McMorrow – True Care

    47.) Foxygen – Hang

    46.) Anohni – Paradise

    45.) Goldfrapp – Silver Eye

    44.) Thundercat – Drunk

    43.) Death From Above – Outrage! Is Now

    42.) Brand New – Science Fiction

    41.) Algiers – The Underside of Power

    40.) Queens of the Stone Age – Villains

    39.) The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

    38.) EMA – Exile in the Outer Ring

    37.) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Tourist

    36.) Real Estate – In Mind

    35.) Lupe Fiasco – Drogas Light

    34.) Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound

    33.) The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

    32.) Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

    31.) Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular

    30.) Jay Som – Everybody Works

    29.) Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 – Star Stuff

    28.) Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister – Planetarium

    27.) Spoon – Hot Thoughts

    26.) Kelela – Take Me Apart

    25.) Perfume Genius – No Shape

    24.) Arcade Fire – Everything Now

    23.) Throwing Snow – Embers

    22.) Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog

    21.) Feist – Pleasure

    20.) Beach House – B-Sides and Rarities

    19.) Slowdive – Slowdive

    18.) Phoenix – Ti Amo

    17.) Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

    16.) Father John Misty – Pure comedy

    15.) Paramore – After Laughter

    14.) Jay-Z – 4:44

    13.) Arca – Arca

    12.) Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

    11.) The National – Sleep Well Beast

    10.) St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

    9.) Kesha – Rainbow

    8.) Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

    7.) Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up

    6.) The XX – I See You

    5.) LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

    4.) Passion Pit – A Tremendous Sea of Love

    3.) Lorde – Melodrama

    2.) Blanck Mass – World Eater

    1.) Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

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  • Read My New Short Story – “Nova: The Last Dogoon” For Free

    Comic Books, Feature Article, Original Comics Comments

    On December 1, 2017 • By

     

    Hello there fellow humans of the Earth!

    This year has been quite a busy one for me. I’ve been doing projects left and right, pretty much non-stop. As such, these projects are now starting to get released at a pretty rapid rate which is super exciting for me. I feel like I’ve been telling people all year about the new stuff I’ve been doing without much to show for it.

    One of those projects is a short story I wrote called “The Last Dogoon” for the Novaverses fan-fiction series. Novaverses is a “What If?” style collection of stories that all focus on Nova – an amazing character from the Marvel Universe. You might remember the Nova Corps from the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie (especially the scenes that took place on Xandar). Nova is a big part of that world and he has some excellent stories in the comic world.

    Having been a fan of Nova and his story for quite some time, I was delighted to create my own alternate-universe tale starring Richard Rider, one of the more popular characters to be called Nova. My story – “The Last Dogoon” – is an action/comedy that focuses on a very unusual distress call involving a thought-to-be-extinct alien dog with wings. This story is collected in the second volume of Novaverses. Best of all – it’s available for FREE online!

    Click here to download Novaverses Vol. 2 and read “The Last Dogoon”!

    I hope you all enjoy it because I truly loved creating it. Be sure to read the other stories included in Novaverses – you can read every issue by going here.

    I must also give major shoutouts to others who have written Nova that inspired me – Marv Wolfman (creator of Nova), Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Sean Ryan, Jeff Loveless and Ramon K. Perez.

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  • Top 50 Albums of 2016

    Feature Article, List, Music Comments

    On January 6, 2017 • By

    savages the band live

     

    Well here we are once again – another year passed as we are hurled into the unknown future. 2016 has been an absolute whirlwind for everyone involved, there’s no questioning that. But what’s great is, no matter what challenges we face, no matter how much hope is lost or how bleak certain parts of the future look, we can always depend on great art to be released. And many times, chaos in the world can breed our most beloved works.

    As I look back on 2016, I’ve come to realize that music is probably the art form I consume the most. I am usually working day and night on film projects so I don’t get to catch as many movies as I would like (this is something I want to change in 2017). When I get a few hours free before I go to bed, it’s hard to convince myself to spend it leisurely when I know there is so much work I have left to do. This is also the reason why I don’t get to read too many books, even though I LOVE reading (despite the fact that I’m a bit of a slow reader). But music has a portability that movies and books often don’t. I can take it anywhere, which allows me to soak in sounds no matter what I’m doing. (Yes, I know I could do audiobooks like this too but I’m not a huge audiobook fan. I like highlighting stuff and flipping back and forth)

    This is why I think music is such a bigger part of our lives than many people realize. It’s everywhere you go; it’s all over TV, movies, it’s in grocery stores, clothing shops, restaurants. And speaking of “everywhere you go”, 2016 may be the year where streaming reached its pivotal turning point. Streaming has exploded and I don’t think there’s any going back, for better or worse. The good news is that paid subscriptions have risen a ton within the last year. The bad news is, artists are still paid tiny fractions of what they should be earning. The other bad news is the amount of downloads has decreased considerably. The streaming paradigm says something about our cultural philosophies as a whole – we want access to everything, all the time, everywhere we go. Even if that means not actually owning the songs.

    On some levels, it’s hard to argue against that model strictly speaking from the point of view of the consumer. You pay a monthly fee and get access to millions of songs that you can play wherever you go, as much as you want. And the monthly fee is usually less than the cost of one single album. It’s cheap and convenient – which is what practically every consumer wants. I imagine streaming is only going to get bigger so I hope the royalty rates for artists continue to climb.

    But anywaysssss….enough of that, let’s get to business. As always, I want to make it clear that these are my PERSONAL FAVORITES and I’m not saying these are the undisputed, objectively best albums of 2016. These are MY top albums, plain and simple, that adhere to my musical tastes. The good news is, I have a pretty decent taste in music so no bullshit will be found here – that I can guarantee. And although I put them in a certain order, you must understand that every single one of these albums is fantastic. The number 50 album on this list is better than most of the music I heard last year so please, give every album on this list a chance.

    Here we go!

    50. Holy Wave – Freaks of Nurture
    49. Eureka California – Versus
    48. Seth Bogart – Seth Bogart
    47. Chance the rapper – Coloring Book
    46. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
    45. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
    44. Empire of the Sun – Two Vines
    43. Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness
    42. Deakin – Sleep Cycle
    41. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
    40. Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
    39. Night Moves – Pennied Days
    38. Porches – Pool
    37. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
    36. Young Thug – Jeffrey
    35. Maxwell – blackSUMMER’Snight
    34. Local Natives – Sunlit Youth
    33. ANOHNI – hopelessness
    32. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
    31. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
    30. Woods – City Sun Eater In The River of Light
    29. of Montreal – Innocence Reaches
    28. MMOTHS – Luneworks
    27. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack
    26. Crystal Castles – Amnesty (I)
    25. Julianna Barwick – Will
    24. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy
    23. Vince Staples – Prima Donna
    22. White Lung – Paradise
    21. Frank Ocean – Blonde
    20. Angel Olsen – My Woman
    19. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
    18. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP
    17. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
    16. Peter, Bjorn and John – Breakin Point
    15. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
    14. Holy Fuck – Congrats
    13. M83 – Junk
    12. Beyonce – Lemonade
    11. Paul Jebanasam – Continuum
    10. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
    9. Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town
    8. JEFF the Brotherhood – Zone
    7. Bon Iver – 22, a Million
    6. Solange – A Seat at the Table
    5. The Avalanches – Wildflower
    4. Ra Ra Riot – Need Your Light
    3. Yeasayer – Amen & Goodbye
    2. David Bowie – Blackstar
    1. Savages – Adore Life

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  • Leo & Zulma’s Wedding – New Photography

    Feature Article, Photography Comments

    On January 2, 2017 • By

    Hey everyone!

    Two of my great friends got married recently &  I took a few shots of them at their wedding. I wanted to share some of my favorite photos of them.

    It gave me a chance to do some experimenting with colors in Lightroom – which has become my new go-to photography editing program. I shot this on digital, which has presented new challenges to me since I’m so used to shooting on medium format film. Instead of trying to get my digital photography to look like my film photography, I’ve been looking at ways to make my digital work have a unique look all to its own. It certainly requires more work but it’s a lot of fun.

    I hope you guys enjoy – and congrats again to Leo & Zulma!

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  • Listen to My Original Score for “Silas”

    Feature Article, Original Music Comments

    On June 20, 2016 • By

    A few weeks ago, a film called Silas came out online. The film was written/directed by Bralyn Stokes – and I happened to do the original score for it! Well, if you watched the movie and are interested in listening to the score on its own – here you go!

    Up above is the isolated original score for the film. Turn your speakers way up, turn off the lights, light some incense and just let the sounds wash over your soul. At least, that’s how I imagine everyone will listen to it. Enjoy! And as always, let me know what you think! Find me on Twitter (username = ryanestabrooks) or message me on Facebook!

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